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Steve's ITK: Loose lips


Steve's ITK

May 14 · Issue #24 · View online
Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.

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A rat in the kitchen
Opening thought: Loose lips don't always sink ships
I’ve always been fascinated by leaks to the media and, as a journalist who is occasionally the recipient of information that somebody wants made public that others perhaps don’t, I’m trained to begin by questioning the motivation.
For any information I receive, I give considerable thought to who the source is and, more importantly, who does the information being made public benefit or harm? It also has to pass the public interest and general newsworthiness test, before I invariably go in search for a second or third source. 
The biggest ‘leak’ this week in the U.K. was a draft of the Labour Party manifesto, which has arguably had the positive effect of keeping Labour in the news for more than 48 hours and with the focus being mostly on policy. Of course the media loves nothing but talking about itself, so (and quite rightly in this instance) there has also been quite a bit of coverage about who the leaker may have been and what they hoped to achieve.
Four main theories have been put forward:
1) It was somebody on the right wing of the party who wanted to undermine leader Jeremy Corbyn
2) It was somebody in Jeremy Corbyn’s team who wanted it to look like somebody on the right wing of the party was trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn
3) It was a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s PR team who had the quite brilliant strategy to generate an extra wave of coverage before the manifesto is unveiled officially next week
4) It was a stakeholder trying to influence the final draft of the manifesto by making it embarrassing to role back on a particular policy
My own take is that whilst number three is tempting, no PR would want to lose control of such an important press opportunity. If I had to guess, I’d gun for it being number one, even if the success on that front has been mixed.
To make sure you’re keeping up, ask yourself who may have leaked Deliveroo’s new driver contract, which, according to the report on Sky News, looks like it is significantly friendlier to riders and may finally skirt on the right side of recent regulatory and political scrutiny. I suspect, given that it reflects well on Deliveroo, you will have drawn the same conclusion as me
With regards to the tech industry, I’d argue that information being sometimes leaked, whatever the motivation, is actually a good thing.
At its best, it can bring much-needed transparency to what is still an alarmingly opaque industry, and at its most trivial it can bring a little light relief to those of us who work in tech.
But most of all it’s a sign that the ecosystem here in the U.K. and Europe has matured and is thriving. That includes the technology press, who, when we are on top of our game, provide important checks and balances. As one VC reminded me the other day, the media are an essential ingredient of any industry’s ecosystem.
When I first joined TechCrunch back in 2009 – aside from the fact that my sources in startup land were very limited – the ecosystem was so tiny that people were much more afraid to speak out, either off the record or on it. That, to the benefit of all of us, is no longer always the case.
Bonus: Which UK-based early-stage investor has a rat in the kitchen, quite literally? It’s ‘huge,’ according to sources who say that cohort members have affectionately dubbed it a pet, while others are a little “freaked” by what I’m told is a rather shy rodent, hence the lack of photographic evidence.
No need to jump ship quite yet though, unicorn founders of tomorrow: I understand pest control has already been in this week and are scheduled to return for additional sessions.
Things I wrote
After leaving Accel, Fred Destin is raising seed fund with Twenty Minute VC host Harry Stebbings
On-demand delivery startup Jinn locates $10M in further funding
On-demand road freight startup Ontruck pulls in $10M Series A led by Atomico and Idinvest
This dating app thinks your tweets are the key to finding love
Home cleaning space hasn’t quite dried up yet as Nordic startup Freska raises €2M
Ex-CEO of Just Eat joins VC firm 83North as General Partner
Equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs to launch secondary market
Izzy Wheels turns your wheelchair into a fashion statement
VentureFriends closes €20M fund to invest in Greek software startups
Decibel Insight scores $9M Series A for ‘digital experience analytics’ tech
Meet Relive, a startup that uses data to turn your outdoor activities into 3D animated videos
Closing thought: You know you've made it when...
… a startup bids on AdWords against a search for your name. That’s exactly what happened to me this week.
After I routinely googled ‘Steve O'Hear’ (like any self-respecting and self-absorbed journalist does), I was shown an ad taken out by Israeli AI startup Dokka who were clearly hoping to get my attention and, presumably, coverage on TechCrunch.
An advert that appeared alongside Google search results for "Steve O'Hear"
Did it work? Well, yes and no. It obviously did get my attention and I couldn’t resist tweeting about the incident, which solicited some interesting replies, but I haven’t covered the company – yet.
And to be totally honest, I’m not a fan of PR gimmicks. My immediate reaction was that they might just as easily email me, although a search of my in-box didn’t turn up anything. It’s also not the first time this kind of thing has happened.
A growth hacker called Aladdin ‘Happy’ once took out an ad on LinkedIn targeting tech journalists at leading publications asking if he could be introduced to me (you can read all about it here). Again, it didn’t lead to a story about his company but we have subsequently exchanged a few emails.
The strangest thing about seeing these kind of stunts is that I’m probably one of the least aloof and easiest tech journalists to get in touch with. But, as readers of ITK, you already knew that…
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Till next time,
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