100 Car2go Mercedes hijacked in Chicago crime spree

Car2go, free-floating car-sharing service owned by Daimler, temporarily shut down its service in Chicago on Wednesday after dozens of Mercedes-Benz vehicles were stolen using the app.

The Chicago Police Department was alerted by Car2Go that some of their vehicles may have been rented by deceptive or fraudulent means through a mobile  app, a spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement to TechCrunch.

The news was first reported via tweet by Brad Edwards, a reporter with CBS Chicago. Edwards reported that sources said that many of the vehicles were allegedly used to commit other crimes. CPD did not provide any details about how the vehicles were used and said the investigation was ongoing.

Car2go launched in Chicago last June, the first time in four years that the company added a U.S. city to its ranks. The car-sharing company lets customers rent out vehicles on a short-term basis. Daimler’s diminutive Smart cars were once the lone option for Car2go customers. The company has expanded its offerings in recent years and now offers Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA, as well as the two-door Smartfortwo vehicles.

CPD said 100 vehicles are still unaccounted for. It is believed that 50 vehicles, all of them Mercedes-Benz remain in the greater Chicago area. Police are questioning more than a dozen persons of interest.

CPD said it’s working with Car2go to determine whether there are any other vehicles whose locations cannot be accounted for.  At this time the recoveries appear to be isolated to the West Side, CPD said.

While the perpetrators appear to have gained access to the vehicles through “fraudulent means,” Car2go emphasized that no personal or confidential member information has been compromised.

TechCrunch received a tip from a user who received this “temporary pause in service” message when trying to use the app. Car2go confirmed the shut down and added that it will provide an update as soon as possible.

 

Car2go is going through a branding and organizational transition. Daimler  AG and BMW Group officially agreed to merge their urban mobility services into a single holding company back in March 2018 with a 50 percent stake each. In February, the companies announced plans to unify their services under five categories by creating five joint ventures — Reach Now, Charge Now, Park Now, Free Now and Share Now.

China’s grocery delivery battle heats up with Meituan’s entry

Fast, affordable food delivery service has been life-changing for many working Chinese, but some still prefer to whip up their own meals. These people may not have the time to pick up fresh ingredients from brick-and-mortar stores, so China’s startups and large companies are trying to make home-cooked meals more effortless for busy workers by sending vegetables and meats to apartment doors.

The fresh grocery sector in China recorded 4.93 trillion yuan ($730 billion) in total sales last year, growing steadily from 3.37 trillion yuan in 2012 according to data collected by Euromonitor and Hua Chuang Securities. Most of these transactions still happen inside wet markets and supermarkets, leaving online retail, which accounted for only 3 percent of total grocery sales in 2016, much room for growth.

Ecommerce leaders Alibaba and JD.com have already added grocery to their comprehensive online shopping malls, nestling in the market with more focused players like Tencent-backed MissFresh (每日优鲜), which has raised $1.4 billion to date. The field has just grown a little more crowded with new entrant Meituan, the Tencent-backed food delivery and hotel booking giant that raised $4.2 billion through a Hong Kong listing last year.

meituan grocery

Screenshots of the Meituan Maicai app / Image: Meituan Maicai

The service, which comes in a new app called “Meituan Maicai” or Meituan grocery shopping that’s separate from the company’s all-in-one app, set out in Shanghai in January before it muscled into Beijing last week. The move follows Meituan’s announcement in its mid-2018 financial report to get in on grocery delivery.

Meituan’s solution to take grocery the last mile is not too different from those of its peers. Users pick from its 1,500 stock keeping units ranging from yogurt to pork loin, fill their in-app shopping carts and pay via their phones, the firm told TechCrunch. Meituan then dispatches its delivery fleets to people’s doors in as little as 30 minutes.

The instant delivery is made possible by a satellite of physical “service stations” across neighborhoods that serve warehousing, packaging and delivering purposes. Placing offline hubs alongside customers also allows data-driven internet firms to optimize warehouse stocking based on local user preferences. For instance, people from an upscale residential area probably eat and shop differently from those in other parts of the city.

Meituan’s foray into grocery shopping further intensifies its battle with Alibaba to control how Chinese people eat. Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket has been running on a similar setup that uses its neighborhood stores as warehouses and fulfillment centers to facilitate 30-minute delivery within a three-kilometer radius. For years, Meituan’s food delivery arm has been going neck-and-neck with Ele.me, which Alibaba scooped up last year. More recently, Alibaba and Meituan are racing to get restaurants to sign up for their proprietary software, which can supposedly give owners more insights into diners and beef up customer engagement.

As part of its goal to be an “everything” app, Meituan has tried out many new initiatives in the lead-up to its initial public offering but was also quick to put them on hold. The firm acquired bike-sharing service Mobike last April only to shutter its operations across Asia in less than a year for cost-saving. Meituan also paused expansion on its much-anticipated ride-hailing business.

But grocery delivery appears to be closer to Meituan’s heart, the “eating” business, to put in its own words. Meituan is tapping its existing infrastructure to get the job done, for example, by summoning its food delivery drivers to serve the grocery service during peak hours. As the company noted in its earnings report last year, the grocery segment could leverage its “massive user base and existing world’s largest intra-city on-demand delivery network.”

Alibaba and Amazon move over, we visited JD’s connected grocery store in China

Tesla Model Y orders are now open

Customers can already place an order for the Tesla Model Y, a mid-sized crossover SUV that won’t go into production until 2020.

Tesla requires a $2,500 deposit to complete the order for the all-electric vehicle, according to information posted on its website. A disclaimer on the order form states that “production is expected to begin late next year.” Under that timeline, deliveries wouldn’t begin until late 2020 or possibly early 2021.

There are other clues on the order page, including that the seven-seat interior won’t be available until 2021. The Model Y will come standard as a five seater.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Model Y on Thursday night at the Tesla Design Studio in Los Angeles. During the presentation, Musk didn’t mention that customers could order the Model Y. That’s a departure from previous events, notably the Model 3 reveal in March 2016, which prompted thousands of people to put down $1,000 deposits.

The Model Y bears a striking resemblance to Model 3, and for good reason. The Model Y shares about 75 percent of the same parts as the Model 3.

The vehicle, which will come in a standard, long range, dual-motor all-wheel and performance variants, is larger than the Model 3, allowing it to accommodate seven people (for those who opt to pay the $3,000 up charge). The order page of the Model Y shows that it comes standard as a 5-seater. To get the 7-seater configuration, customers have to pay an additional $3,000.

The Model Y also sits higher than the Model 3, a distinction that is more obvious once you’re sitting inside. One of the most distinguishing differences is the Model Y has a panoramic roof.

The standard range version will start $39,000 and have 230 mile range. However, Tesla will first produce the performance, dual-motor and long range versions. Customers who want the standard range version of the Model Y will have to wait until at least spring 2021. The performance and dual motor variants will be able to travel 280 miles on a single charge, while the long-range version will, as it sounds, have the longest range at 300 miles.

All of the variants are designed to have the same kind of performance as its smaller sibling. The performance version of the Model Y will be able to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 150 mph.

But that kind of performance comes at a higher price. The performance version will start at $60,000. The dual motor variant will start at $51,000 and the base price of the long-range version will be $47,000.

The Tesla Model Y is a 300-mile range Model 3 doppelganger coming in fall 2020

At first glance, it appeared that Tesla Model 3 had a doppelganger.

After years of teasers and hints, Tesla CEO Elon Musk finally unveiled the Model Y, a mid-sized all-electric vehicle that is slated to hit the marketplace in fall 2020.

The Model Y bears a striking resemblance to Model 3. The vehicle, which will come in a standard, long range, dual-motor all-wheel and performance variants, is a bit larger than the Model 3, allowing it to accommodate seven people (for those who opt to pay the $3,000 up charge). It also sits slightly higher than the Model 3. One of the most distinguishing differences is that the Model Y has a panoramic roof.

And that’s where the differences start to fade away.

The Model Y has the same interior as the Model 3, including the same single 15-inch touchscreen interface as well as other features like the door handles.

The photo below is a Model 3. 

And now, the Model Y. Notice a slightly higher stance and shorter front end.

Other important specs

The standard range version will start $39,000 and have 230 mile range. However, Tesla will first produce the performance, dual-motor and long range versions. Customers who want the standard range version of the Model Y will have to wait until at least spring 2021. The performance and dual motor variants will be able to travel 280 miles on a single charge, while the long-range version will, as it sounds, have the longest range at 300 miles.

All of the variants are designed to have the same kind of performance as its smaller sibling. The performance version of the Model Y will be able to travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 150 mph.

But that kind of performance comes at a higher price. The performance version will start at $60,000. The dual motor variant will start at $51,000 and the base price of the long-range version will be $47,000.

Musk didn’t say where the Model Y would be produced, nor did he get into other details beyond the vehicle specs and a vague timeline.

He did provide a bullish forecast for the Model Y, stating towards the end of the event that he expects Y sales to exceed Model S and Model X combined. Tesla has sold more than 500,000 vehicles to date, including the Roadster, S, X and 3.

VW’s futuristic all-electric dune buggy embraces its 1960s’ roots

Volkswagen has added another member to its ever-expanding I.D. line of concept electric vehicles that’s meant to showcase the automaker’s electric future. This time it’s the I.D. Buggy, an all-electric dune buggy with some 1960s California subculture flair.

The I.D. Buggy, which made its global debut Monday at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show, is meant to show the versatility of the automaker’s modular electric drive toolkit chassis, or MEB. The MEB, which was introduced in 2016, is a flexible modular system — really a matrix of common parts — for producing electric vehicles that VW says make it more efficient and cost-effective.

For instance, the two-seater buggy can be converted to a 2+2-seater and an additional electric motor can be added to the front axle in order to make four-wheel drive possible, the company said. The modular design allows for the composite upper body to be detached from the MEB chassis, which VW argues will open up a “world of possibilities for third-party manufacturers, as the original Meyers Manx kit did for the first buggies.” The Meyers Manx kit was the creation of California engineer, boat builder and surfer Bruce Meyers who modified the original Volkswagen Beetle to make it suitable for desert racing. 

The I.D. Buggy is equipped with a a 62kWh lithium-ion battery and a 201-horsepower electric motor in the rear to give it an expected range of 155 miles on the WLTP cycle, the company said. There are no doors or a roof in the two-seater, which VW says gives drivers the “purest experience of classic beach cruising.”

The vehicle has three-dimensional oval LED headlights and taillights and an LED VW logo. The automaker also touts the buggy’s body that seems to “float above the chassis,” an effect achieved by how its painted.

Volkswagen has been showing off its I.D. line of concept electric vehicles for several years now.  And some of them are even going into production. There is the electric all-wheel drive microbus called I.D. Buzz, a futuristic take on the family camper van that VW introduced as a concept in 2017, the I.D. Vizzion self-driving sedan concept, and of course, the I.D. Crozz SUV concept that was first shown at the North American International Auto Show  last year.

The I.D. Crozz and I.D. Buzz are going into production. It’s not clear if the I.D. Buggy will ever be anything more than concept.

Earlier this year, VW announced plans to spend $800 million to expand a U.S. factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., that will produce the automaker’s next generation of electric vehicles.

VW’s Chattanooga expansion is just a piece of the automaker’s broader plan to move away from diesel in the wake of the emissions cheating scandal that erupted in 2015. The company is also building a European facility in Zwickau, Germany, set to begin EV production in 2019 and adding EV-production at facilities in Anting and Foshan, in China, in 2020, and in the German cities of Emden and Hanover by 2022.

The Tennessee factory (along with the other new facilities) will produce EVs using Volkswagen’s MEB chassis. Volkswagen of America says it will offer the first EV based on the MEB platform to customers in 2020. Electric vehicle production at the Tennessee site will begin in 2022.

Daimler and BMW invest $1.1 billion in urban mobility services

Daimler AG and BMW Group officially agreed to merge their urban mobility services into a single holding company back in March 2018 with a 50 percent stake each. And now, they want to unify their services under five categories by creating five joint ventures — Reach Now, Charge Now, Park Now, Free Now and Share Now.

Both automakers plan to invest $1.1 billion (€1 billion) to foster these urban mobility services over the coming years. There are already 60 million people using one of the 14 services currently available.

Let’s go through the details. Free Now is the name of the ride-hailing company, which includes mytaxi, Kapten, Clever Taxi and Beat. Those services combined operate in 130 cities in 17 countries. Hive, a new e-scooter company, is also part of Free Now.

mytaxi, a popular app that lets you hail a taxi from your phone, already sent an email to its customers saying that the company will rebrand its service to Free Now later this year. It’s unclear what’s going to happen to the other brands. Chauffeur-Privé recently rebranded to Kapten, so it sounds like apps and services won’t merge overnight.

Charge Now already exists and is a network of public charge points for electric cars. It provides a white label service for car manufacturers as well. So nothing is changing there.

Park Now combines an existing service called ParkNow (I know, it’s confusing), ParkMobile, RingGo and Park-line. As the names suggest, they all operate parking services.

Share Now is all about free-floating services. Daimler and BMW each had its own service, DriveNow and Car2Go; they’re now under the same roof.

The new Reach Now combines moovel with an existing service called ReachNow. This one is a bit weird as moovel lets you access various transportation methods from a single app. You can find your itinerary, and book and pay for various services through the app. The old ReachNow is different as it’s a ride-hailing service in Seattle and Portland.

That wasn’t easy to unpack. It’s clear that things are still moving and plans aren’t set in stone when it comes to integrations and brand simplification. Eventually, BMW CEO Harald Krüger hopes that all of those services will converge and form an end-to-end service.

“We have a clear vision: these five services will merge ever more closely to form a single mobility service portfolio with an all-electric, self-driving fleet of vehicles that charge and park autonomously and interconnect with the other modes of transport,” he said in the release.

While it sounds like a wild dream, it’s interesting to see that Daimler and BMW are both very serious about mobility services. They know that they can’t just be car manufacturers, and must expand beyond their traditional role.

It’s a competitive industry with well-funded giants, such as Uber and Didi. And if Daimler and BMW want to remain relevant, they need to invest and develop these services.

Daimler and BMW invest $1.1 billion in urban mobility services

Daimler AG and BMW Group officially agreed to merge their urban mobility services into a single holding company back in March 2018 with a 50 percent stake each. And now, they want to unify their services under five categories by creating five joint ventures — Reach Now, Charge Now, Park Now, Free Now and Share Now.

Both automakers plan to invest $1.1 billion (€1 billion) to foster these urban mobility services over the coming years. There are already 60 million people using one of the 14 services currently available.

Let’s go through the details. Free Now is the name of the ride-hailing company, which includes mytaxi, Kapten, Clever Taxi and Beat. Those services combined operate in 130 cities in 17 countries. Hive, a new e-scooter company, is also part of Free Now.

mytaxi, a popular app that lets you hail a taxi from your phone, already sent an email to its customers saying that the company will rebrand its service to Free Now later this year. It’s unclear what’s going to happen to the other brands. Chauffeur-Privé recently rebranded to Kapten, so it sounds like apps and services won’t merge overnight.

Charge Now already exists and is a network of public charge points for electric cars. It provides a white label service for car manufacturers as well. So nothing is changing there.

Park Now combines an existing service called ParkNow (I know, it’s confusing), ParkMobile, RingGo and Park-line. As the names suggest, they all operate parking services.

Share Now is all about free-floating services. Daimler and BMW each had its own service, DriveNow and Car2Go; they’re now under the same roof.

The new Reach Now combines moovel with an existing service called ReachNow. This one is a bit weird as moovel lets you access various transportation methods from a single app. You can find your itinerary, and book and pay for various services through the app. The old ReachNow is different as it’s a ride-hailing service in Seattle and Portland.

That wasn’t easy to unpack. It’s clear that things are still moving and plans aren’t set in stone when it comes to integrations and brand simplification. Eventually, BMW CEO Harald Krüger hopes that all of those services will converge and form an end-to-end service.

“We have a clear vision: these five services will merge ever more closely to form a single mobility service portfolio with an all-electric, self-driving fleet of vehicles that charge and park autonomously and interconnect with the other modes of transport,” he said in the release.

While it sounds like a wild dream, it’s interesting to see that Daimler and BMW are both very serious about mobility services. They know that they can’t just be car manufacturers, and must expand beyond their traditional role.

It’s a competitive industry with well-funded giants, such as Uber and Didi. And if Daimler and BMW want to remain relevant, they need to invest and develop these services.

Daimler and BMW invest $1.1 billion in urban mobility services

Daimler AG and BMW Group officially agreed to merge their urban mobility services into a single holding company back in March 2018 with a 50 percent stake each. And now, they want to unify their services under five categories by creating five joint ventures — Reach Now, Charge Now, Park Now, Free Now and Share Now.

Both automakers plan to invest $1.1 billion (€1 billion) to foster these urban mobility services over the coming years. There are already 60 million people using one of the 14 services currently available.

Let’s go through the details. Free Now is the name of the ride-hailing company, which includes mytaxi, Kapten, Clever Taxi and Beat. Those services combined operate in 130 cities in 17 countries. Hive, a new e-scooter company, is also part of Free Now.

mytaxi, a popular app that lets you hail a taxi from your phone, already sent an email to its customers saying that the company will rebrand its service to Free Now later this year. It’s unclear what’s going to happen to the other brands. Chauffeur-Privé recently rebranded to Kapten, so it sounds like apps and services won’t merge overnight.

Charge Now already exists and is a network of public charge points for electric cars. It provides a white label service for car manufacturers as well. So nothing is changing there.

Park Now combines an existing service called ParkNow (I know, it’s confusing), ParkMobile, RingGo and Park-line. As the names suggest, they all operate parking services.

Share Now is all about free-floating services. Daimler and BMW each had its own service, DriveNow and Car2Go; they’re now under the same roof.

The new Reach Now combines moovel with an existing service called ReachNow. This one is a bit weird as moovel lets you access various transportation methods from a single app. You can find your itinerary, and book and pay for various services through the app. The old ReachNow is different as it’s a ride-hailing service in Seattle and Portland.

That wasn’t easy to unpack. It’s clear that things are still moving and plans aren’t set in stone when it comes to integrations and brand simplification. Eventually, BMW CEO Harald Krüger hopes that all of those services will converge and form an end-to-end service.

“We have a clear vision: these five services will merge ever more closely to form a single mobility service portfolio with an all-electric, self-driving fleet of vehicles that charge and park autonomously and interconnect with the other modes of transport,” he said in the release.

While it sounds like a wild dream, it’s interesting to see that Daimler and BMW are both very serious about mobility services. They know that they can’t just be car manufacturers, and must expand beyond their traditional role.

It’s a competitive industry with well-funded giants, such as Uber and Didi. And if Daimler and BMW want to remain relevant, they need to invest and develop these services.

Can we ever evaluate technical debt?

Every couple of months, I talk to an entrepreneur who is interested in building a marketplace for buying and selling app businesses (i.e. the actual IP and ownership of an app or other piece of software). These markets always seem to suffer from a lack of liquidity, and one reason why is that it’s really hard to know how much technical debt is latent in a codebase.

First, the developer behind the codebase may not even be aware of the technical debt they have piled on. Second, until a software engineer really understands a codebase, they are almost certainly not in a position to answer a question on technical debt authoritatively. That makes it hard to get third-party opinions on anything but the most simple codebases.

This opaqueness isn’t unique to software though. We lack tools for understanding the maintenance quality of assets — physical or digital — across our economy. Even when we do perform maintenance or hire someone to do it for us, it can be hard to verify that the work was performed well. How long does it take for an auto mechanic to truly evaluate the maintenance of a used car?

I was thinking about this challenge of evaluating maintenance when I read this deep dive into the economics of old housing by Akron’s head of planning, Jason Segedy:

It has been suggested to me, on more than one occasion, that indebted, college-educated Millennials could be lured back to the city by selling them these old, poorly-maintained houses for $1.00, and having them “fix up the house.”

People who say this do not have a realistic idea of what “fixing up” an old house entails—neither in terms of the scope of the rehabilitation work that would be required, nor in terms of the level of skill, time, and/or money needed to do the work.

Even in a low cost-of-living market like ours, $40,000 houses are generally not a “good deal.” They are almost always a liability. They are a ticking time bomb of deferred maintenance. They are an albatross.

In his own case:

All told, I have spent $93,400 on improvements to this house over the past 15 years. This works out to an additional $502 per month, above what I was paying in mortgage, taxes, and insurance. When you add all of that together, the total monthly cost works out to $1,439.

[…]

The total monthly cost for the brand-new house? $1,444. Which comes out to exactly $5.00 per month more than my 72-year-old house.

Maintenance is the secret challenge of any asset, physical or digital. We have been talking about the Tappan Zee bridge here a bit this week, and maintenance played an outsized role in forcing New York to spend even more money on a new bridge. From Phil Plotch’s book Politics Across the Hudson:

However, he also recognized that the Authority probably put less money into the bridge after it decided to replace it. “When maintenance folks know that a capital project is under design and will soon deal with the problems they have been battling for years,” he said. “They often back down a bit and turn their attention and resources to other areas.”

That didn’t work out so well:

One of the reasons the Thruway Authority wanted to build a new bridge in the late 1990s was to avoid replacing the bridge’s deck. However, the environmental review process took so long that the authority had to spend $300 million dollars to do exactly that anyway — after five-foot-wide holes started opening up along the length of the bridge.

Back in the software world, we have gotten much better about quantifying test coverage over the years, but we still seem to lack any means by which to evaluate technical debt. And yet, technical debt from my limited experience is hugely determinative on how fast product features can be launched.

It would be hugely helpful to have some sort of reasonably accurate grading system that said “this codebase is really up-to-date and clean” versus “this codebase is radioactive and run away from it.” Right now, so much of product engineering seems to be making decisions in the dark and discovering software quagmires. There has to be a better way.

Why we can’t build anything? (Part 5?)

Image from Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit

Written by Arman Tabatabai

We’ve been obsessed with the infrastructure crisis in the U.S. lately and the question of “Why can’t we build anything?” In case you thought the California HSR shitshow was an isolated incident, think again.

Construction Dive provided some more details around the DOJ’s subpoena of the Honolulu High-Speed Rail Project (Honolulu Rail Transit) last week, which ordered the project leads to open up their books. Just like in California, after decades of debate, Hawaii’s project has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Today, the project holds an estimated cost of around $9-10 billion, compared to initial estimates of $3-4 billion, and some academics and industry specialists are even saying that number is more like $13 billion-plus. The court order came just after a state-led audit found that much of the cost overruns could be tied to poor contracting, planning and management practices — just as in California.

Given the similarities here, it’s possible we could see the federal government try and pull back the $1.6 billion it had earmarked for the project if it doesn’t like what it sees. Despite calls for infrastructure improvement, the feds seem to be taking a tougher stance on the use of fed funds for these projects.

Construction Dive also highlighted that the $650 million renovation of Denver International Airport’s Jeppesen Terminal was delayed indefinitely after operators found structural deficiencies in the concrete. Sound familiar? Maybe it’s because in just the last year we’ve seen “structural deficiencies” mar SF’s Transbay Terminal project and DC’s Metrorail extension. Denver’s reclamation project is expected to cost $1.8 billion in its entirety and is a year behind schedule after breaking ground less than nine months ago.

India’s general election might also determine Facebook’s future in the region

Westend61 via Getty Images

Written by Arman Tabatabai

India’s Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology announced it would be meeting with Facebook in early March to discuss “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social or online news media platforms.” The government has approached social media with a cautious eye ahead of the country’s huge upcoming elections, as concern over the use and misuse of social and messaging platforms in global elections becomes a hot-button issue.

The topic came up in our recent conversation with The Billionaire Raj author James Crabtree. He believes the election will be a hugely important period for social platforms in India. Having experienced a number of major historical scandals, India’s citizenry has a fairly harsh — albeit somewhat selective — view on corruption, and Crabtree believes that if Facebook or others were to face blame for any alleged misconduct, the potential fallout from a political, regulatory and public opinion standpoint could be devastating.

The prospect of such an outcome becomes even more alarming for foreign social companies as India has ticked up focus on data localization and movements towards a “national champion” policy that will increasingly favor domestic firms over external players.

I love triangulation negotiation

The trade kerfuffle between China and the U.S. is sort of just continuing at a glacial pace. Literally glaciers, because Greenland got involved over the past few months. Greenland power politics is very far afield of TC, but I wanted to point out one little nuance that offers a worthwhile lesson.

Greenland has wanted to upgrade its airports for some time (there are no roads between major cities in the sparsely populated but huge country). But Denmark, which Greenland is a constituent country, has rebuffed those requests; that is, until the Chinese got involved. From a WSJ article:

After Kalaallit Airports short-listed a Chinese construction firm to build the new airports, Denmark conveyed its alarm to the Pentagon. After Mr. Mattis got involved, Denmark’s government asked a consortium led by Danske Bank to help assemble an alternative financing package.

Officials in Greenland were pleasantly surprised by the terms. “Even Chinese funding is not as cheap as this,” Mr. Hansen said.

Plus this quote:

“He was not into it at all—until the Chinese showed interest,” said Aleqa Hammon, Greenland’s former prime minister, speaking of [Danish Prime Minister] Rasmussen.

This is how you negotiate! Get two larger adversaries lined up on either side of the line, and just start going back and forth between them. This works with Google and Facebook, Sequoia and Benchmark, or any other competitors. At some point, the game isn’t just a deal, it’s also the face-saving that comes from not losing to the competition.

Japan joining the trend of looser fundraising rules for growing companies

Written by Arman Tabatabai

Earlier this week, we talked about how security exchanges around the world were looking to loosen fundraising rules for young companies. The softening of these rules might be indicative of a wider trend, with Japan now proposing revised rules to make it easier for startups to fundraise through traditional brokerages and trade shares of listed companies. While the motivation here may not be to attract IPO deals like it seems to be in the U.S. and China, with the creation of more funding alternatives and with companies opting to stay out of the public markets for longer, national securities industries seem to be trying to brand themselves as the best venue for young companies to grow.

Obsessions

  • More discussion of megaprojects, infrastructure and “why can’t we build things?”
  • We are going to be talking India here, focused around the book “Billionaire Raj” by James Crabtree, who we just interviewed and will share more soon.
  • We have a lot to catch up on in the China world when the EC launch craziness dies down. Plus, we are covering The Next Factory of the World by Irene Yuan Sun.
  • Societal resilience and geoengineering are still top-of-mind.
  • Some more on metrics design and quantification.

Thanks

To every member of Extra Crunch: thank you. You allow us to get off the ad-laden media churn conveyor belt and spend quality time on amazing ideas, people, and companies. If I can ever be of assistance, hit reply, or send an email to danny@techcrunch.com.

This newsletter is written with the assistance of Arman Tabatabai from New York

Can we ever evaluate technical debt?

Every couple of months, I talk to an entrepreneur who is interested in building a marketplace for buying and selling app businesses (i.e. the actual IP and ownership of an app or other piece of software). These markets always seem to suffer from a lack of liquidity, and one reason why is that it’s really hard to know how much technical debt is latent in a codebase.

First, the developer behind the codebase may not even be aware of the technical debt they have piled on. Second, until a software engineer really understands a codebase, they are almost certainly not in a position to answer a question on technical debt authoritatively. That makes it hard to get third-party opinions on anything but the most simple codebases.

This opaqueness isn’t unique to software though. We lack tools for understanding the maintenance quality of assets — physical or digital — across our economy. Even when we do perform maintenance or hire someone to do it for us, it can be hard to verify that the work was performed well. How long does it take for an auto mechanic to truly evaluate the maintenance of a used car?

I was thinking about this challenge of evaluating maintenance when I read this deep dive into the economics of old housing by Akron’s head of planning, Jason Segedy:

It has been suggested to me, on more than one occasion, that indebted, college-educated Millennials could be lured back to the city by selling them these old, poorly-maintained houses for $1.00, and having them “fix up the house.”

People who say this do not have a realistic idea of what “fixing up” an old house entails—neither in terms of the scope of the rehabilitation work that would be required, nor in terms of the level of skill, time, and/or money needed to do the work.

Even in a low cost-of-living market like ours, $40,000 houses are generally not a “good deal.” They are almost always a liability. They are a ticking time bomb of deferred maintenance. They are an albatross.

In his own case:

All told, I have spent $93,400 on improvements to this house over the past 15 years. This works out to an additional $502 per month, above what I was paying in mortgage, taxes, and insurance. When you add all of that together, the total monthly cost works out to $1,439.

[…]

The total monthly cost for the brand-new house? $1,444. Which comes out to exactly $5.00 per month more than my 72-year-old house.

Maintenance is the secret challenge of any asset, physical or digital. We have been talking about the Tappan Zee bridge here a bit this week, and maintenance played an outsized role in forcing New York to spend even more money on a new bridge. From Phil Plotch’s book Politics Across the Hudson:

However, he also recognized that the Authority probably put less money into the bridge after it decided to replace it. “When maintenance folks know that a capital project is under design and will soon deal with the problems they have been battling for years,” he said. “They often back down a bit and turn their attention and resources to other areas.”

That didn’t work out so well:

One of the reasons the Thruway Authority wanted to build a new bridge in the late 1990s was to avoid replacing the bridge’s deck. However, the environmental review process took so long that the authority had to spend $300 million dollars to do exactly that anyway — after five-foot-wide holes started opening up along the length of the bridge.

Back in the software world, we have gotten much better about quantifying test coverage over the years, but we still seem to lack any means by which to evaluate technical debt. And yet, technical debt from my limited experience is hugely determinative on how fast product features can be launched.

It would be hugely helpful to have some sort of reasonably accurate grading system that said “this codebase is really up-to-date and clean” versus “this codebase is radioactive and run away from it.” Right now, so much of product engineering seems to be making decisions in the dark and discovering software quagmires. There has to be a better way.

Why we can’t build anything? (Part 5?)

Image from Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit

Written by Arman Tabatabai

We’ve been obsessed with the infrastructure crisis in the U.S. lately and the question of “Why can’t we build anything?” In case you thought the California HSR shitshow was an isolated incident, think again.

Construction Dive provided some more details around the DOJ’s subpoena of the Honolulu High-Speed Rail Project (Honolulu Rail Transit) last week, which ordered the project leads to open up their books. Just like in California, after decades of debate, Hawaii’s project has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Today, the project holds an estimated cost of around $9-10 billion, compared to initial estimates of $3-4 billion, and some academics and industry specialists are even saying that number is more like $13 billion-plus. The court order came just after a state-led audit found that much of the cost overruns could be tied to poor contracting, planning and management practices — just as in California.

Given the similarities here, it’s possible we could see the federal government try and pull back the $1.6 billion it had earmarked for the project if it doesn’t like what it sees. Despite calls for infrastructure improvement, the feds seem to be taking a tougher stance on the use of fed funds for these projects.

Construction Dive also highlighted that the $650 million renovation of Denver International Airport’s Jeppesen Terminal was delayed indefinitely after operators found structural deficiencies in the concrete. Sound familiar? Maybe it’s because in just the last year we’ve seen “structural deficiencies” mar SF’s Transbay Terminal project and DC’s Metrorail extension. Denver’s reclamation project is expected to cost $1.8 billion in its entirety and is a year behind schedule after breaking ground less than nine months ago.

India’s general election might also determine Facebook’s future in the region

Westend61 via Getty Images

Written by Arman Tabatabai

India’s Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology announced it would be meeting with Facebook in early March to discuss “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social or online news media platforms.” The government has approached social media with a cautious eye ahead of the country’s huge upcoming elections, as concern over the use and misuse of social and messaging platforms in global elections becomes a hot-button issue.

The topic came up in our recent conversation with The Billionaire Raj author James Crabtree. He believes the election will be a hugely important period for social platforms in India. Having experienced a number of major historical scandals, India’s citizenry has a fairly harsh — albeit somewhat selective — view on corruption, and Crabtree believes that if Facebook or others were to face blame for any alleged misconduct, the potential fallout from a political, regulatory and public opinion standpoint could be devastating.

The prospect of such an outcome becomes even more alarming for foreign social companies as India has ticked up focus on data localization and movements towards a “national champion” policy that will increasingly favor domestic firms over external players.

I love triangulation negotiation

The trade kerfuffle between China and the U.S. is sort of just continuing at a glacial pace. Literally glaciers, because Greenland got involved over the past few months. Greenland power politics is very far afield of TC, but I wanted to point out one little nuance that offers a worthwhile lesson.

Greenland has wanted to upgrade its airports for some time (there are no roads between major cities in the sparsely populated but huge country). But Denmark, which Greenland is a constituent country, has rebuffed those requests; that is, until the Chinese got involved. From a WSJ article:

After Kalaallit Airports short-listed a Chinese construction firm to build the new airports, Denmark conveyed its alarm to the Pentagon. After Mr. Mattis got involved, Denmark’s government asked a consortium led by Danske Bank to help assemble an alternative financing package.

Officials in Greenland were pleasantly surprised by the terms. “Even Chinese funding is not as cheap as this,” Mr. Hansen said.

Plus this quote:

“He was not into it at all—until the Chinese showed interest,” said Aleqa Hammon, Greenland’s former prime minister, speaking of [Danish Prime Minister] Rasmussen.

This is how you negotiate! Get two larger adversaries lined up on either side of the line, and just start going back and forth between them. This works with Google and Facebook, Sequoia and Benchmark, or any other competitors. At some point, the game isn’t just a deal, it’s also the face-saving that comes from not losing to the competition.

Japan joining the trend of looser fundraising rules for growing companies

Written by Arman Tabatabai

Earlier this week, we talked about how security exchanges around the world were looking to loosen fundraising rules for young companies. The softening of these rules might be indicative of a wider trend, with Japan now proposing revised rules to make it easier for startups to fundraise through traditional brokerages and trade shares of listed companies. While the motivation here may not be to attract IPO deals like it seems to be in the U.S. and China, with the creation of more funding alternatives and with companies opting to stay out of the public markets for longer, national securities industries seem to be trying to brand themselves as the best venue for young companies to grow.

Obsessions

  • More discussion of megaprojects, infrastructure and “why can’t we build things?”
  • We are going to be talking India here, focused around the book “Billionaire Raj” by James Crabtree, who we just interviewed and will share more soon.
  • We have a lot to catch up on in the China world when the EC launch craziness dies down. Plus, we are covering The Next Factory of the World by Irene Yuan Sun.
  • Societal resilience and geoengineering are still top-of-mind.
  • Some more on metrics design and quantification.

Thanks

To every member of Extra Crunch: thank you. You allow us to get off the ad-laden media churn conveyor belt and spend quality time on amazing ideas, people, and companies. If I can ever be of assistance, hit reply, or send an email to danny@techcrunch.com.

This newsletter is written with the assistance of Arman Tabatabai from New York