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I’m feeling nostalgic these days. Maybe it’s because the beginning of baseball season swells my heart with all those clichéd feelings of hope springing eternal. Perhaps like skeptical journalists everywhere I can’t help but experience just a wee bit of schadenfreude over haughty technology companies at least temporarily getting their comeuppance. (Strunk and White counseled against the use of foreign languages where English suffices; I think I’m on firm ground here.) Or it could just be that I’m looking forward to spring break next week.
Three items that have fed my nostalgia.
This week I met for the first time Bastian Lehmann, the confident German-born CEO of Postmates, an on-demand delivery company. He told me the category his company has helped re-create ceased to exist when Kosmo went out of business during the first dot-com bubble. Ah, Kozmo. I remember you well. And your category mate Webvan too. Those were good times. Among the ways Postmates and its competitors are different is that their Uber-like driver/contractors don’t cost them much money. What hasn’t changed: Lehmann reports that pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are a popular delivery item.
I also noted the demise of Lytro, an extravagantly funded startup that tried commercializing something called a light-field camera. In Lytro’s salad days, 2011, founder and CEO Ren Ng demonstrated the company’s product at Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colo. It was the runaway hit of the conference—and also, if memory serves, where Ng met Andreessen Horowitz’s Jeff Jordan, who would invest in the company. Ng told me a charming story in Aspen about how Steve Jobs had recently rung him up to ask for a demo, something Jobs was wont to do. Now the Apple founder and this once-promising startup are both gone.
Lastly, a non-technology story that nevertheless hinges on science—or at least pseudoscience. McDonald’s announced this week that its U.K. stores will phase out plastic straws, the bete noire (there I go again) of environmentalists. The very first big story I worked on, for a trade publication called Plastics News, was about McDonald’s doing away with the polystyrene “clamshell” burger container. It replaced it with a coated paper wrapper that wasn’t recyclable and didn’t keep the food as warm. I couldn’t find any of my old stories, but check out the name of the Washington Post staff writer who contributed to this article. This reference is going to make her feel nostalgic too.
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In yesterday’s Data Sheet, I mistakenly included Google Ventures in the list of firms that had backed Shyp. They had not. My apologies for the error.