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Roblox EC-1, immigration requirements doubling, grief in the workplace, and cannabis startups

The Roblox EC-1

Following in the wake of our deep profiles of Patreon and Niantic, we have our next EC-1 package, this time on children’s gaming platform Roblox . Extra Crunch writer Sherwood Morrison has covered gaming and startups for years, and he got an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the incredibly popular startup with interviews with many of the company’s principals. This is your weekend read.

How Roblox avoided the gaming graveyard and grew into a $2.5B company

In part one of this EC-1, Morrison looks at the origin story of Roblox, which has to be one of the most interesting I have read in some time. Founders Dave Baszucki and Erik Cassel first worked together on a physics simulation engine called Knowledge Revolution before founding Roblox in 2004 (then known as Dynablox).

Since those humble origins 15 years ago, Baszucki and his team have grown the company dramatically through a sequence of smart strategic moves that Morrison illuminates, eventually culminating in the company’s massive $150 million Series F venture capital round last year from Greylock and Tiger Global, valuing the company at a reported $2.5 billion. Roblox now has 90 million active users, tripling in just a few short years.

Digging into the Roblox growth strategy

Meanwhile, in part two of this EC-1, Morrison illuminates the challenges and opportunities facing Roblox in the years ahead as it looks to conquer a greater swath of the gaming market, or what Baszucki calls “human co-experience.”

First and foremost, Roblox has to expand internationally and capture a greater share of children’s entertainment. Then, the company wants to start to expand beyond its children’s gaming roots to reach other, older demographics. It has to do all this while also maintaining safety for its users and increasing the quality of its game engine against competitors like Unity and Unreal.

As Morrison writes:

If Roblox can continue to grow, it will serve as a guiding example for a whole new generation of companies. And if it continues to evolve, it may yet prove that human co-experience is more than a fever dream. A whole generation of companies failed to create immersive social environments — but in the space between games and chat, Roblox may yet prove that there’s a whole new social category waiting to be discovered.

Be sure to check out both parts, and if you haven’t already, be sure to read the Patreon EC-1 and the Niantic EC-1 as well for similar deep profiles of leading Silicon Valley startups.

Minimum investment for EB-5 investor green card expected to more than double

Immigrants make up a huge portion of Silicon Valley’s workers and investors. That’s why news that the Trump Administration is changing the eligibility for investor green cards is a huge story, particularly for immigrants from India.

Great teams, UBI, data retention policies, and Amazon HQ2

3 key secrets to building extraordinary teams

David Cancel, the CEO and founder of Drift, wrote a deep dive on how to think about finding and recruiting the kinds of people who build incredible startups. Among the factors he looks at:

Scrappiness (Importance: 35%)

The four most telling words a new hire can say: “I’ll figure it out.” If you find someone who says that (and can follow through on it), you know you’ve found someone with drive — someone who will plunge headfirst into any challenge and help move the company forward. But to clarify, the type of drive I look for in new hires is different from traditional ambition. Because traditionally ambitious people, while hard workers, tend to obsess over their own personal rise up the corporate ladder. They always have an eye on that next title change, from manager to director, director to VP, or VP to C-suite, and that influences how they perform. That’s why a decade ago, while running my previous company Performable, I added a new requirement to our job descriptions: “Scrappiness.” Today, it’s one of our leadership principles at Drift.

Scrappy people don’t rely on titles or defined sets of responsibilities. Instead, they do whatever it takes to get the job done, even when no one is looking, and even if the tasks they’re performing could be considered “beneath their title.”

Takeaways from F8 and Facebook’s next phase

We had a greatly informative conference call with our very own Josh Constine and Frederic Lardinois, who were checking in from Facebook’s F8 conference in San Jose this week. In case you weren’t able to join us, the transcript and audio have been posted for Extra Crunch members:

Bad PR ideas, esports, and the Valley’s talent poaching war

Sending severed heads, and even more PR DON’Ts

I wrote a “master list” of PR DON’Ts earlier this week, and now that list has nearly doubled as my fellow TechCrunch writers continued to experience even more bad behavior around pitches. So, here are another 12 things of what not to do when pitching a startup:

DON’T send severed heads of the writer you want to cover your story

Heads up! It’s weird to send someone’s cranium to them.

This is an odd one, but believe it or not, severed heads seem to roll into our office every couple of months thanks to the advent of 3D printing. Several of us in the New York TechCrunch office received these “gifts” in the past few days (see gifts next), and apparently, I now have a severed head resting on my desk that I get to dispose of on Monday.

Let’s think linearly on this one. Most journalists are writers and presumably understand metaphors. Heads were placed on pikes in the Middle Ages (and sadly, sometimes recently) as a warning to other group members about the risk of challenging whoever did the decapitation. Yes, it might get the attention of the person you are sending their head to, in the same way that burning them in effigy right in front of them can attract eyeballs.

Now, I get it — it’s a demo of something, and maybe it might even be funny for some. But, why take the risk that the recipient is going to see the reasonably obvious metaphorical connection? Use your noggin — no severed heads.

Why your CSO — not your CMO — should pitch your security startup

No one knows how to hire, plus brand design and African tech

Editor’s Note: No one knows how to hire

Hiring is the lifeblood of the world. Few people do truly singular work; instead, nearly every facet of our civilization is built by groups of humans (and increasingly machines) working in tandem.

Image by PeopleImages via Getty Images

That presents quite the puzzle though: if teamwork is so critical to the functioning of, well, everything, why are we so god awfully bad at building teams?

Minus a couple of high functioning teams of course, the evidence for team rot is all around us. Startups go bust when teams of two (i.e. founders) can’t make simple decisions about the future of their business. Large companies exsanguinate cash while their teams spend eons debating the minutia of a pixel in the checkout flow. At even larger scale, massive infrastructure projects like California’s HSR fail because the right people weren’t planning and building it (plus ten other issues of course).

How do we get this so wrong, so consistently?

The first reason, and the one most challenging to overcome, is that human endeavors are fundamentally built upon aspirations. A startup is a dream, no different than improving Excel’s formula editor or adding traffic signals to an intersection. Action cannot happen without aspiration, and so we tend to be far more optimistic with all facets of a plan before execution.