I’ve spent a lot of the last month trying to understand Luckin Coffee. I’ve untangled how the convenience-focused upstart was built with money from a network with arguably a few too many personal interests at stake and explained the rationale behind questionable freebies and discounts.

I’ve been asked whether Luckin could ever make a profit and become a sustainable business. It’s an interesting dinner party question, but I think Luckin’s story is more than an individual company’s boom and potential bust—it represents a wave of aggressive startups bringing the online world’s “go big or go home” approach to physical assets.

In this article, the third and final of a three-part Luckin series, I’ll explain the bigger issues that will stick with us whether or not the company ever breaks even.

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Michael Norris

Michael Norris is a TechNode contributor and Research and Strategy lead at AgencyChina. He focuses on how culture, technology, and digital trends affect industry and business. Michael is a TechNode Insider.