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Extra Crunch roundup: The Nuro EC-1, early-stage growth tactics, understanding Salesforce+

·5-min read

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.

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."

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Across four articles, reporter Mark Harris (The Guardian, Wired, MIT Technology Review) explores Nuro's origins and operations, including the founders' decision to focus on creating autonomous delivery vehicles instead of entering the passenger EV market.

I've lived inside the San Francisco Bay Area bubble for most of my adult life, so it's interesting to see how people in Houston's Woodland Heights neighborhood react to seeing Nuro's R2 delivering pizza and prescriptions on a limited basis.

As one Redditor recently posted in r/houston: "With these self-driving cars, it's only a matter of time before a country song is written about a guy's truck leaving him."

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

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

Why fintechs are buying up legacy financial services companies

Image of a bank vault.
Image of a bank vault.

Image Credits: Peter Dazeley (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Why bother to beat the competition when you can buy them outright?

"It used to be that if you were a fintech startup or, for lack of a better term, a digitally native financial services business, you might be eyeing an acquisition from an incumbent in the industry," Ryan Lawler writes.

"But lately, fintech upstarts are the ones doing the acquiring."

Growth tactics that will jump-start your customer base

Image of a megaphone on a pink background with colorful balls in the air to represent marketing.
Image of a megaphone on a pink background with colorful balls in the air to represent marketing.

Image Credits: Jasmin Merdan (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

“With audiences spread out over so many platforms, reaching cult status requires some level of hacking,” Jenny Wang, a principal investor at Neo, writes in a guest column.

Covering everything from collecting user-generated content to launching splashy guerrilla marketing strategies that can take advantage of someone else's events, she shares several growth tactics for startups, plus the metrics required to track their success.

There could be more to the Salesforce+ video streaming service than meets the eye

Behind the scenes of video recording or filming online movie by 8K high definition digital camera and professional monitor. And flare lighting set up with film crew team in the studio production.
Behind the scenes of video recording or filming online movie by 8K high definition digital camera and professional monitor. And flare lighting set up with film crew team in the studio production.

Image Credits: ppengcreative / Getty Images

Salesforce announced last week that it plans to launch a video streaming service.

The industry analysts who enterprise reporter Ron Miller interviewed said the initiative has tremendous potential, but one noted that Salesforce will have to dig deep to compete in today's crowded media landscape.

Salesforce hasn't released details on the type of programming it plans to offer, but given its vast and diverse customer base, its options are many. Said Brent Leary of CRM Essentials:

“A customer could sponsor a show, advertise a show or possibly collaborate on a show. And have leads generated from the show [which could be] directly tied to the activity from those options and track ROI. And it’s all done on one platform. And the content lives on with ads living on with them.”

More companies should shift to a work-from-home model

An orange tabby kitten rests his paw on a hand as a person works from home
An orange tabby kitten rests his paw on a hand as a person works from home

Image Credits: Ann Schwede (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Karl Laughton, president and COO of Insightly, offers best practices for companies looking to make the move to a remote model.

“Employers are at a crucial crossroads when it comes to deciding where and how to let employers do their jobs,” he writes in a guest column. “There are those who will adopt the work-from-anywhere model and those who resist it.

“Those who resist it will likely struggle to keep employees.”

Early-stage benchmarks for young cybersecurity companies

3D illustration of a conceptual maze.
3D illustration of a conceptual maze.

Image Credits: Getty Images under a Olivier Le Moal (opens in a new window) license.

YL Ventures’ Yoav Leitersdorf and Michael Cortez lay out a roadmap for founders of early-stage cybersecurity companies that are heading toward unicorn status.

“The early days of any young startup decide how successful it can be, which is why we’ve developed a focused, value-add program to support cybersecurity founders during this most critical stage and maximize their potential in building market-leading companies,” they write in a guest column.

“It’s never too early to think big, and, with the right support, launch the next industry titan.”

The hyperactive late-stage market should keep the startup investing game afoot

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

Alex Wilhelm considers last week’s funding news from Carta, Chime and Discord and noodles on what the recent rounds mean for startups.

“Understanding why investors are so willing to buy minute stakes in dozens of private companies worth billions of dollars is key to grokking the crush of investment we see among younger technology startups.”

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