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LinkedIn Brings Its ‘Open for Business’ Feature to India (and the Rest of the World)

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Microsoft-owned professional networking platform LinkedIn on Monday launched “Open for Business” in India — a feature that allows freelancers and small business owners to add their services to their LinkedIn profiles.

Initially rolled out in the US in July, the feature is now live in India and rest of the world and is a way for freelancers and small businesses to indicate they are “open for business”.

Acording to the company, this feature underlines its commitment to supporting small and medium businesses (SMBs) and freelancers across the world.

“With 660 million members and 30 million companies on the platform across the world, LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to help freelancers and small businesses be more productive and successful, whether they are based in Dubai or Dundee (Scotland),” Allen Blue, Co-founder and VP of Product Management, LinkedIn, said in a statement.

Based on the company’s research, small businesses are found to rely heavily on word of mouth, in order to bring in new customers.

“Open for Business” aims to digitise this word of mouth concept by making it easy for members to find, message, and provide references to each other.

With over 60 million users, India is LinkedIn’s fastest-growing and largest market outside the US.

The company last month rolled out a ‘Made in India’ feature called ‘Events’ that allows members to create and attend events directly on both the app as well the web globally.

The USP of the product is the ability to enable safe online conversations and offline events.



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Rivian has dropped its cheapest trim level due to low customer demand – TechCrunch

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Rivian is discontinuing the cheapest trim level of its all-electric truck and SUV known as the Explore package due to low demand, according to emails sent this week to customers.

The company said in the email, which was first cited in the Rivian Owners Forum, that customers  with a pre-order for the Explore package will need to reconfigure to the Adventure trim by September 1 or have their pre-order cancelled. Rivian also issued information on its customer support page that explains why it cancelled the package and what customers’ options are.

For customers who pre-ordered the Explore trim, the change means an increase of about $5,500. The base Adventure package, which includes a dual-motor and standard battery pack that gets more than 260 miles of range, starts at $73,000.

“In order to deliver as many vehicles as possible, we have made the decision to discontinue the Explore Package. We realize this news is unexpected and apologize for how it impacts your plans,” the email said.

A few customers on the forum expressed their anger at the changes. It’s unclear if Rivian will lose existing customers due to the change. Although with a reported backlog of orders, it may not matter. As of June 30, 2022, Rivian’s net R1 preorder backlog was about 98,000 from consumers in the U.S. and Canada, according to its second-quarter letter to shareholders.

The company initially launched its R1T truck and R1S SUV with two packages. The Explore was intended as the entry-level package and the Adventure was the higher priced trim that offered more features.

Rivian said in the email that it expected a large number of customers would choose Explore. It turns out, they have not.

“To date, only a small percentage of customers have chosen this configuration, with the vast majority selecting the Adventure trim. By focusing on the Adventure trim package, we’re able to streamline our supply chain and ultimately deliver vehicles more quickly,” the email stated.

Rivian has made other price changes this year that caused temporary outrage among customers.

In March 2022, Rivian raised the price of its R1T pickup by 17% and R1S SUV by about 20% in an effort to adjust to inflationary pressure, increases in the cost of raw materials and parts as well as a prolonged chip shortage. Those price increases initially included customers who had put down deposits.

CEO RJ Scaringe walked back those plans after public backlash and issued a press release that promised customers who placed their preorder for either vehicle prior to March 1 that their original price will be honored. He also offered to restore any preorders from customers who cancelled as a result of the planned change.

That price change was supposed to be part of Rivian’s broader plan to introduce a new dual-motor version of the truck and SUV in 2024. That new propulsion system includes motors designed and manufactured by Rivian.

The company  first introduced the R1T and R1S in 2018 as all-wheel drive EVs equipped with a quad-motor system that pumped up the horsepower and torque and helped the startup stand out. The base price of the quad-motor R1T and R1S were originally $67,500 and $70,000 respectively.

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What happens when a Black founder is ousted? – TechCrunch

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To play on a Langston Hughes poem — what happens to a Black founder ousted? Are they forgotten, like words on the tip of one’s tongue? Or revered like a deity and then thrown to the sun?

The topic is often awkward to ponder and layered in its probe since the reasons for a Black founder’s booting are shrouded in unknown intentions:

A Black founder could have messed up severely – but is the retaliation fair? Is it harsher than what their white counterparts would have received?

A Black founder could encounter an accusation – but was it doused in microaggressive anger?

Would things have unfolded in the way they did if the founder was white?

Each time a Black founder is removed from or criticized at their company, apprehension arises around figuring out what happened. This makes such conversations hard.

“It is in our best interest to operate with the understanding that our mistakes cost more, hurt more, and are rarely forgiven.” Oladosu Teyibo, founder of Analog Teams

For example, news broke last week that Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, was fired from the organization she spent decades building. The reception was mixed. Founders who spoke to TechCrunch agreed that the employees who alleged misconduct by Bryant were right to speak out; they also said the board of BGC was too swift in Bryant’s ousting and denied her proper due process.

“Two things can be true at the same time,” Minda Harts, a consultant on equity and inclusion, told TechCrunch regarding the BGC situation. “All involved deserved better.”

Aside from Bryant, there have been a few high-profile cases of Black founders being ousted from their organizations. Marceau Michel was recently removed from his venture fund Black Founders Matter for matters still publicly undisclosed. Brian Brackeen was shown the door at his company, Kairos, in 2018, with the board citing “willful misconduct.” Other founder situations have flown under the radar; many are still too afraid to speak out.

What is known is that when Black founders are lost, the entire community suffers.

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Zūm founder strikes balance between accessibility and a massive logistics network – TechCrunch

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Zūm’s mission is simple – to introduce student transportation that is reliable, efficient, sustainable and transparent.

To achieve the feat of modernizing an incredibly outdated, stuck-in-the-mud system, Zūm relies on cloud-based analytics software to create an agile bus routing system with real-time visibility for schools and parents. The startup also uses a diverse fleet that includes buses, vans and cars that it distributes based on specific use cases. For example, kids who live on busier routes will be assigned to school buses, and those who are slightly more remote will be sent vans or cars to increase overall efficiency.

When we last talked to Ritu Narayan, Zūm’s founder, the startup had just won a $150 million contract to modernize student transportation at the San Francisco Unified School District and was working on a plan to transform its fleet of electric school buses into a virtual power plant to provide backup energy to the grid.

“Zūm is a very recession-proof business. No matter what, kids are going to go to school every day, whether there’s a recession or inflation.” Zūm founder Ritu Narayan

Since then, Zūm has signed a $68 million contract with Seattle Public Schools and a $400 million contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District to bring their outdated busing systems into 2022 and beyond. The company also closed a $130 million Series D led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, bringing its total funding to more than $200 million, and set a goal to have a 100% electrified fleet of buses, vans and cars by 2025.

We sat down with Narayan to catch up on the past year and talk about how to bring on top tech talent, how growth-stage startups can attract next-level investors, and how to pick a recession-proof business.

Editor’s note: The following interview, part of an ongoing series with founders who are building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: Zūm has had some impressive new executive hires lately — it looks like you’ve poached from the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Uber and Netflix. Do you have any tips for other startups looking to attract top tech talent?

Ritu Narayan: The No. 1 thing is the focus on the mission and the purpose. The business that we are disrupting is a pretty old business. It has been around for 80 to 100 years with not much change. So when looking for potential hires, we just map out very clearly what change Zūm is bringing. We believe everybody has faced some kind of school bus story, whether they got bullied on the bus or maybe didn’t have access to one and had to walk. It’s such a part of people’s lives, that when we actually explain our mission and founding story, people are very much able to relate.

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