It is an unconventional story even for the Bay Area. Sheltr was founded in November 2018, with a seed round in May and the acquisition by Hippo Insurance closing by end of October. In just a year the company went from 0 to serving thousands of people, non-trivial revenue and was sold at profit for investors & employees. I was lucky to join as an Angel Investor around April.

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The founders, Praveen Chekuri and Andrew Wynn, are worth a separate article each. In short, after spending a year at Instacart, Praveen went on to work on a few early ideas with Justin Kan and later worked on mobile and growth at Houseparty. I knew him as a sharp and super fast learning colleague, who stood out as being very goal-oriented and always keeping an eye on business metrics and opportunities. Andrew had a remarkable career at Instacart, where he came to head Catalog — a crucial part of the company. At the same time, Andrew’s is an athlete, who continuously impresses me on Strava and who once swam 22 miles from Catalina Island to Long Beach. …


I love the story that in 1850s gold prospectors abandoned so many ships in the harbor in San Francisco that the city had no better use of ships than to sink them for landfill. The heist for gold was so high that as soon as gold miners arrived at the harbor, they would leave the ships behind and rush inland. It was time for ambition — miners would either get rich or die trying and there was no time to waste. In my mind, the startup scene in San Francisco still breathes the air of Gold Rush.

This is not fiction, San Francisco was indeed built on ships. …


Congrats to everyone, who made the Uber the phenomena it became! IPO is a strange milestone, but it will make the company stronger, as it gets more transparency and better access to credit. Also, congrats to many, who got more financially independent after taking a chance on a startup years ago!

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I haven’t been around for too long but wanted to thank Paul Holden, Ryan McKillen and Jordan Bonnet, who’ve taken a chance on an immigrant with a passion for Android as a platform. I am proud of adding some folks back in Vilnius, Lithuania to Uber Engineering team. Kudos to Oliver Nicholas and Curtis Chambers, who took the chance on hiring talent in Eastern Europe.


The last autumn my team grew from 5 to 11 engineers. In order to onboard new engineers effectively, I wrote down my values, expectations, and process, so that I could use it as a first meeting script. Given it worked quite well, I decided to share it wider.

The script is in full below

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What do I value the most?

  • Always have an answer to “Why project? Why this way? Why this scope?”. For an engineer making the right trade-off is half of the job. Being busy is not the desired outcome, so it important to take into account the project objective, timeline, implementation alternatives.
  • Autonomy — when everyone is a one-person startup. I appreciate when people take responsibility and love to empower them. …


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In late 2017 in San Francisco, it felt like Uber had already lost against Lyft. My pool rides were lonely, cars started to smell bad and ETAs were getting longer. During Christmas holidays I spent some time thinking about the next few years for Uber. What does the future hold for the company?

For context, 2017 was horrible for Uber and created an opportunity for competitors. Every one of them doubled down on subsidies to grab market share, while Uber was fighting 10+ litigations, was taunted for horrible culture and running without a CEO, COO or CFO. …


At Instacart, Solve for the Customer is our first and most important value. Recently we took a month to improve the accessibility of our Android app and serve a wider range of customers.

Navigation & Focus

Shopping for groceries involves doing quite a few searches, browsing stores and “virtual aisles” as well as finding the best coupons. To enable blind & visually impaired users to confidently navigate our app, we ended up implementing the following tactic:

  1. Keyboard & accessibility navigation (TalkBack) focus should be consistent
  2. On a new screen focus should always be on a toolbar or a header
  3. Screen title or content description has to be read through…


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Selecting a good default saves user time and mental effort. In e-commerce, payment information, billing and shipping address are mandatory and filling them up during checkout or sign-up is annoying for the consumer and results in conversion drop-offs. …


Hong Kong is nothing you had expected. They drive on the left, commute in two level busses, use British plugs. You were flying to Asia, but landed in London.

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Hong Kong knows how to party. Go out for one drink, come back at 5 am. In Hong Kong parties are grand, international, hungry and lush. Clubs with the best lights, million dollar interior. When in Hong Kong, get Moët & Chandon. A fortune is spent on champagne every hour in roof top bars. CÉ LA VIE. You promise yourself to remember nights in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong you book a hostel, but find yourself at a Oriental Bazaar, in a Kowloon Walled City. “Hashish, Marihuana, my friend. Rolex, naked body naked massage, my friend. Cheap, my friend”. The building has 20 floors and you find your room only thanks to the boy-singh. …


Income inequality has become a heated topic: Paul Graham wrote Refragmentation and Economic Inequality, Mark Suster joined. However, it felt that none of the VCs dug deep enough to the root of the issue or came up with anything really helpful to understand inequality well.

ForeignAffairs in their Jan/Feb issue have had a much better coverage of the topic.

A theory of equality needs to focus on the structure of society. …


When we first added Google Plus Login to Instacart Android app, we saw 40% of users jumping on it to sign-in and sign-up. Since then we were on the lookout for opportunities to make this flow better. After getting an early access to new Google Login SDK (as part of 8.30 Play Services) three weeks ago, we revisited the implementation, drastically improving UX and making it even faster than before.

No additional permissions

First of all, new Google Login SDK doesn’t require for application to get GET_ACCOUNTS runtime permission from user, which greatly simplifies the flow on Android M.

Faster and secure login

Early on, we decided that users shouldn’t remember how did they create their accounts with us (email, Facebook or Google). Using Google or Facebook, we would obtain user’s email, check it against our database and if account with such email already exists, we would login user into an existing…

About

Maksim Golivkin

Engineering Manager @ Instacart, ex- Uber, ex- Kiva Systems

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