To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.
Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for August 16, 2021. While the world deals with myriad issues, we’re sticking to our usual remit. Hugs and love to everyone, and here’s hoping for a better tomorrow. — Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
- How Nuro is taking on Google, the world: The race to build commercial-ready self-driving cars is big, well funded and competitive. And companies are taking diverging paths in their approach to the autonomous driving question. Nuro is one such company, and TechCrunch has the inside scoop in our latest EC-1. Enjoy!
- Tesla under investigation for Autopilot crashes: Speaking of self-driving cars, Tesla’s efforts on the project are in the spotlight after a number of collisions between the company’s cars and parked first-responder vehicles. Tesla’s diver assistance program appears to be the culprit. How you feel about the inquiry will depend on whether you hold Tesla stock, but the situation underscores just how hard it is to get self-driving, full or not, to work in the wild.
- Chime, Carta and Discord: As U.S. unicorns raise new mega-rounds, or work to close their next epic funding round, TechCrunch wondered what the rash of startups worth $10 billion or more could mean for startups earlier in their lifecycle. The news is good for startups and their founders alike.
- Guilded sells to Roblox: Microsoft failed to acquire Discord, but Roblox didn’t miss when it came to Guilded. Admittedly, Guilded is a far smaller company than Discord, but the two startups play in the same space, so the Roblox deal really does matter. The market for gamer chat apps is probably big enough to support a few players, but Roblox, flush with cash, was more than happy to pony up for Guilded, which raised just over $10 million while private.
- Tropic raises $25M for better software procurement: The pandemic taught the world that software gets paid for. Why? Because without it business literally stops. Software companies did well during the pandemic thanks to the centrality to regular operations that their business enjoyed. But no one wants to overpay. That’s where Tropic comes in — and now the startup that wants to help others spend less on software has $25 million to play with.
- Shopistry raises $2M for better headless commerce: We are presuming that this startup’s name is pronounced SHOP-istry, else it would make little sense. Regardless, Shopistry is building a modular e-commerce service that it thinks is better than other headless e-commerce services. It has pretty big competition in BigCommerce and Shopify, but those companies were also once wee startups.
- BrainQ wants to transform stroke rehab: At-home stroke therapy startup BrainQ has racked up a $40 million round, TechCrunch wrote today. What does its hardware do? It “stimulates the damaged part of the brain and promotes self-repair,” and does so with enough impact that it secured “a Breakthrough Device certification from the FDA.” I mean, that’s super cool.
- How Amanda DoAmaral built Fiveable: Today on the Found podcast, TechCrunch has a real treat: “Hear how DoAmaral took her dissatisfaction with an inadequate system and turned that into the motivation to build a venture-scale business outside of it.”
The Nuro EC-1
In 2010, Google’s autonomous vehicle project placed self-driving cars on Bay Area streets and freeways, but practical applications were thought to be at least a decade away.
The futurists were right on schedule: In 2020, Mountain View-based Nuro was testing its second-generation R2 robotic vehicle, the first to earn a federal exemption to operate an autonomous vehicle.
By the time Nuro raised $940 million for its Series B, it had already partnered with companies like CVS, Walmart and Domino’s to use the R2 for last-mile deliveries.
But before Nuro could even consider reaching product-market fit, its founders had to overcome technological challenges, win over regulators and strike partnerships with a range of consumer-facing companies.
“Neither JZ nor I think of ourselves as classic entrepreneurs or that starting a company is something we had to do in our lives,” says co-founder Dave Ferguson. “It was much more the result of soul searching and trying to figure out what is the biggest possible impact that we could have.”
Part 1: How Google’s self-driving car project accidentally spawned its robotic delivery rival
Part 2: Why regulators love Nuro’s self-driving delivery vehicles
Part 3: How Nuro became the robotic face of Domino’s
Part 4: Here’s what the inevitable friendly neighborhood robot invasion looks like
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
- Soon everyone will be able to verify their Tinder date: After initially rolling out in Japan back in 2019, Tinder intends to roll out ID verification for all of its users around the world in coming quarters. Frankly, this sounds like a good idea, and one that could improve the app’s overall safety. Our only question is how it took this long for Tinder to get to.
- Cisco buys Epsagon: U.S. tech company Cisco has plonked down around $500 million for Israeli app monitoring company Epsagon. Sure, Israel is best known for its cybersecurity work, but that doesn’t mean that the country is one-note. The deal didn’t appear to move Cisco’s stock, which eased modestly during a generally lackluster day for technology shares. Still, we don’t see this size of deal as often as we once did, it feels, so we wanted to highlight it.
- Do you want more privacy breaches? This is how you get more privacy breaches. That’s my takeaway from news that Pearson is paying a $1 million fine for a 2018 breach that leaked millions of student records, one that it failed to mention to investors. The SEC agreed to the settlement. Next they’ll fine Exxon $47.29 for lying about climate change.
TechCrunch Experts: Growth Marketing
Are you all caught up on last week’s coverage of growth marketing? If not, read it here.
TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.
Join Danny Crichton on Thursday, August 19, at 2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EDT for a Twitter Spaces interview with Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, author of “Choose Possibility: Take Risks and Thrive (Even When You Fail).”