On-demand grocery startup Food Rocket launches in the Bay Area, goes up against delivery giants

On-demand grocery startups like Gorillas are invading Europe right now, but although on-demand-everything is kinda old-hat in the Bay Area, a new startup thinks it might just be able to do something new.

Food Rocket says it has raised a $2 million investment round from AltaIR Capital, Baring Vostok fund, and the AngelsDeck group of business angels, including Philipp Bashyan, of Russia’s Yonder, who has joined as an investor and advisor.

Yes, admittedly ok this tiny startup is competing with DoorDash, GoPuff, InstaCart and Amazon Fresh. Maybe let’s not into that…

Using the company’s mobile app, users can order fresh groceries, ready-to-eat meals, and household goods that will be delivered within 10-15 minutes, says the startup, which will be servicing SoMa, South Park, Mission Bay, Japantown, Hayes Valley, and others. The company hopes to open 150 ‘dark stores’ on the West Coast as part of its infrastructure.

Vitaly Aleksandrov, CEO, and co-founder of Food Rocket said: “The level of competition in this market in the U.S. is still manageable, which is why we have the opportunity to become leaders in the sphere of fast delivery of basic products and household goods. We aim to replace brick-and-mortar supermarkets and to change consumers’ current habits in regards to grocery shopping.”

What can we say? Good luck?

#advisor, #altair-capital, #amazon, #doordash, #europe, #gopuff, #gorillas, #grocery-store, #instacart, #online-food-ordering, #retailers, #russia, #tc, #united-states, #west-coast

0

Equity Monday: Dogecoin is passé, but student notes are big business

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

This weekend was all about memecoins. And I am sorry about that. But Equity doesn’t run the world, sadly, it merely notes what is going on:

  • Dogecoin dropped during Elon Musk’s SNL appearance. Which was somewhat ironic. Also there’s another memecoin that is skyrocketing.
  • Palantir, DoorDash, Airbnb, Alibaba will report earnings this week, amongst others.
  • Clubhouse is finally coming to Android. In the United States. By invite. So, if that’s you, congrats, welcome to the app.
  • A major cyberattack and ransom situation in the United States is a data point, yet again, that we’re woefully unprepared for cyber risk.
  • StuDocu raised $50 million which was cool, while Gojek raised another $300 million, which was the very opposite of surprising.
  • This week’s Extra Crunch Live is going to be really good. I will see you there!

It is going to be a busy week! Already since we recorded this show there’s more drama from Box, and more. Strap in!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#airbnb, #alibaba, #android, #clubhouse, #crypto, #cryptocurrency, #cyberattack, #dogecoin, #doordash, #elon-musk, #equity, #equity-monday, #equity-podcast, #gojek, #india, #palantir, #pipeline, #snl, #startups, #studocu, #tc

0

The gig is up on 21st-century exploitation

Today’s app-based or “gig” economy is frequently dressed up in talk about “modern innovation” and the “21st century of work.” This facade is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Precarious, contingent work is nothing new — we’ve always had jobs that are low-paying, insecure and dismissed as “unskilled.” Due to systemic racism and a historically exploitative economy, workers of color have always been, and continue to be, heavily concentrated in the most exploitative industries.

The only difference is that today, companies like Uber, DoorDash and Instacart claim they don’t have to play by the rules because they use digital apps to manage their workforce. Even as many of these tech giants remain unprofitable, they have been allowed for far too long to shirk responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can thrive on and off the job.

Even as many of these tech giants remain unprofitable, they have been allowed for far too long to shirk responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can thrive on and off the job.

Workers’ rights in the so-called gig economy are often positioned as a modern problem. But when we think about the problems faced by gig and app-based workers, who are predominantly people of color, we must learn from the past in order to move forward to a just economy.

The federal government has long failed to address widespread worker exploitation. Since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act, jobs like agricultural and domestic work, which were largely performed by workers of color, were carved out of labor rights and protections. The “independent contractors” of today, who are largely workers of color, fall into this same category of workers who have been excluded from labor laws. Combined, Black and Latinx workers make up less than 29% of the nation’s total workforce, but they comprise almost 42% of workers for app-based companies.

Gig companies argue that the drivers, delivery people, independent contractors and other workers who build their businesses, take direction from them and whose pay they set are millions of tiny businesses that do not need baseline benefits and protections. They do this in order to shield themselves from taking responsibility for their frontline workforce. Corporations then avoid paying basic costs like a minimum wage, healthcare, paid sick leave, compensation coverage and a litany of other essential benefits for their employees. For many workers, these conditions only serve to proliferate inequality nationwide and ultimately uphold a deeply flawed economy built upon worker exploitation and suffering.

App-based companies are the face of a larger, sinister trend. Over the last four decades, federal policies have greatly eroded the bargaining power of workers and concentrated more power in the hands of corporations and those who already have substantial wealth and power. This has perpetuated and worsened the racial wage and wealth gaps and contributed to the ever-increasing degradation of working conditions for too many.

It’s clear that, in order to build an economy that works for all people, “gig” and app-based companies cannot be allowed to exploit their workers under the guise of “innovation.” These companies claim their workers want to remain independent contractors, but what workers want is good pay, job security, flexibility and full rights under federal laws. This is a reasonable and just demand — and necessary to close generational gender and racial wealth gaps.

App-based companies are pouring significant resources into promoting government policies that prop up their worker exploitation model. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash Instacart and other app-based companies are loudly peddling misinformation in state legislatures, city councils and federal offices. Elected leaders at all levels need to recognize these policies for what they are — corporate efforts to rewrite the laws to benefit them — and reject the corporate interests behind the policies that carve out workers from universal protections.

Congress must also reject exclusions that lock people of color out of basic employment protections and pass legislation to extend protections to all workers, including app-based workers. The PRO Act is a great first step, which extends bargaining protections to workers who have been wrongly classified as “independent contractors” by their employers.

Across the country, app-based workers have organized to protect their health and safety and demand that their rights as workers be recognized and protected. Elected leaders cannot keep falling for corporate propaganda claiming a “21st-century” model. Work in the 21st century is still work; work that is organized on an app is still work.

We call on Congress to recognize the labor rights and protections of all workers and act boldly to ensure that app-based companies cannot block workers from equal rights in the name of “flexibility” and “innovation.”

#column, #congress, #doordash, #economy, #employment, #future-of-work, #gig-workers, #instacart, #labor, #lyft, #uber

0

Alchemy raises $80M at a $505M valuation to be the ‘AWS for blockchain’

Blockchain developer platform Alchemy announced today it has raised $80 million in a Series B round of funding led by Coatue and Addition, Lee Fixel’s new fund. The company previously raised a total of $15.5 million, so the latest financing brings its total raised to $95.5 million since it launched in 2017.

The latest round caught our attention for a few reasons.

First, the company, which describes itself as the backend technology behind the blockchain industry, went from public launch to a $505 million valuation in a matter of just eight months. During that time, Alchemy says it powered over $30 billion in transactions for tens of millions of users all over the world. Second, the startup says it also already powering the majority of the NFT industry.

And finally, its investors in the round include a high-profile mix of institutions and individuals such as DFJ Growth, K5 Global, the Chainsmokers, actor Jared Leto and the Glazer family (owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United). They joined existing backers including Yahoo co-founder and former CEO Jerry Yang, Pantera Capital, Coinbase, SignalFire, Samsung, Stanford University, Google chairman and Stanford University President John L. Hennessy, Charles Schwab, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and others.

Sources with inside knowledge of Alchemy’s operations tell TechCrunch that the company has already grown its business more than eightfold since it signed the Series B term sheet. They also said Alchemy had over $300 million of investor demand wanting to enter the round and is being inbounded to do another financing at “many times” the current valuation.

TechCrunch talked with Alchemy co-founders Nikil Viswanathan (CEO) and Joe Lau (CTO) about the raise and their passion for the startup’s mission was clear. As is its explosive growth.

“We realized that in order for space to thrive and build to its full potential, we needed to build a developer platform layer for blockchain,” Viswanathan told TechCrunch.

Alchemy’s goal is to be the starting place for developers considering to build a product on top of a blockchain or mainstream blockchain applications. Its developer platform aims to remove the complexity and costs of building infrastructure while improving applications through “necessary” developer tools.

The startup powers a range of transactions across nearly every blockchain vertical, including financial institutions, exchanges, billion-dollar decentralized finance projects and multinational organizations such as UNICEF. It has also quickly become the technology behind every major NFT platform, including Makersplace, OpenSea, Nifty Gateway, SuperRare and CryptoPunks.  

“Every time you open DoorDash, you’re using Amazon’s infrastructure,” Lau said. “Every time you interact with an NFT, you’re using Alchemy. It’s being powered by Alchemy underneath the hood.”

While the pair would not provide hard revenue figures, the company – which operates as a SaaS business – says it increased its revenue by 600% in 2020.

For inside players, Alchemy’s efforts are paving the way for the whole industry. 

“The cryptoeconomy is innovating faster than any technological movement that came before it, and Alchemy has been a key driver of that,” said Coinbase President and COO Emilie Choi. “Alchemy enables developers to build the rich ecosystem of applications necessary for mainstream blockchain adoption.”

Pantera Capital’s Paul Veradittakit describes Alchemy as “the Amazon Web Services (AWS) of the blockchain industry” that is “enabling the vision of a decentralized web.”

“While in Web 2.0, Microsoft, Apple and AWS are three of the most valuable companies in the world because they are the developer platform powering the computer and internet industries, Alchemy is primed to do the same for the blockchain,” he said.

The company believes the comparison to AWS is fair, noting that: “Just as AWS provides the platform that powers Uber, Netflix and much of the technology industry, Alchemy powers infrastructure for many large players in the blockchain industry.”

Alchemy plans to use its new capital to expand its developer platform to new blockchains, fuel global expansion and to open new offices in the U.S. and globally. The startup is based in San Francisco and is planning to open an office in New York.  

“We are going to use the funds to support new chains with our developer platform,” Viswanathan said. “We also expect to 5x the team this year.”

But to be clear, Alchemy prides itself on being lean and mean.

“We just went from 14 to 22 employees,” Lau said. “We have intentionally wanted to keep the team as small as possible.”

The blockchain space has been the subject of increased investor interest as of late.

In March, BlockFi, which describes itself a financial services company for crypto market investors, announced it had closed on a massive $350 million Series D funding that valued it at $3 billion. Also last month, Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis company, revealed the close of $100 million in Series D financing, which doubled its valuation to over $2 billion.

#alchemy, #amazon, #amazon-web-services, #apple, #articles, #bank, #bitcoin, #blockchain, #ceo, #chairman, #charles-schwab, #co-founder, #coinbase, #computing, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #cto, #decentralization, #dfj-growth, #doordash, #driver, #emilie-choi, #funding, #fundings-exits, #google, #jared-leto, #jerry-yang, #linkedin, #manchester-united, #microsoft, #netflix, #new-york, #nikil-viswanathan, #pantera-capital, #president, #recent-funding, #reid-hoffman, #saas, #samsung, #san-francisco, #stanford-university, #startup, #startups, #tc, #technology, #uber, #united-states, #venture-capital, #yahoo

0

DoorDash announces new pricing for restaurants, with commissions as low as 15%

DoorDash is announcing new pricing plans for the restaurants who use the platform for pickups and deliveries.

Before this, the company did not offer standardized pricing across restaurants. However, the question of how high delivery app fees might go (and how parsimonious the payments might be for restaurants as a result) prompted DoorDash to publish a long blog post about its fee structure last fall.

In fact, Oregon and Washington have passed caps on delivery fees, while lawmakers in California, New York and Texas have proposed similar caps. On a call with reporters to discuss the new pricing, DoorDash COO Christopher Payne denied that the company changed its pricing to appease lawmakers.

“This is not designed in response to legislation,” Payne said. “It’s designed in response to listening to restauranteurs and learning what they need.”

DoorDash now offers three plans to restaurants: DoorDash Basic, where restaurants only pay a 15% commission on deliveries, which shifts “a higher portion of the delivery cost to the customer” and supports a smaller delivery area; DoorDash Plus, where restaurants pay 25% to be part of DoorDash’s DashPass subscription program and get increased visibility in the DoorDash app; and DoorDash Premier, where restaurants pay 30% in exchange for the lowest customers fees, the largest delivery area and a growth guarantee of at least 20 orders per month across pickup, delivery and DoorDash-owned Caviar.

Across all plans, DoorDash says it will now charge only a 6% commission on pickup orders.

The company’s announcement includes statements from restaurant owners who are adopting the new plans. For example, here’s Sherry Copeland, owner of Jai Meals in Plano, Texas:

Jai Meals operates out of a local mall, so delivery has been an important part of how I have made up for lost income over the past year of dine-in closures. Despite this, my previous commission didn’t work for my business; it was hard to absorb that high of a cost, especially when delivery became a large percentage of my orders. With the Basic plan, I can offer delivery to customers, who increasingly enjoy the convenience delivery provides, but at a cost that is more aligned with my products, my goals and my customers’ needs.

Payne said these plans will become available to all restaurants on DoorDash today, although it may take up to five days for the new pricing to fully take effect.  He added that DoorDash has been testing these plans over the past few months and that “we believe this will have negligible impact — no impact, really — on our economics, nor on Dasher earnings.”

#doordash, #food, #food-delivery, #mobile

0

The #8meals app from Habits of Waste helps people cut back on meaty meals to save the planet

Earth Day may have come and gone, but with apps like #8meals from the non-profit Habits of Waste, anyone can try and do their part to help reduce deforestation and rising greenhouse gas emissions by cutting meat out of their diets for just 8 meals a week.

The app, which was created by Habits of Waste founder Sheila Morovati along with the development shop Digital Pomegranate, gives users a way to schedule which meals of theirs will be meatless and offers recipe suggestions for what to eat to help them stick to their goals.

For Morovati, the #8meals app is only the latest in a series of initiatives that are meant to cut down on waste and consumption. Morovati’s journey to environmental advocacy began with a program to redistribute used crayons from restaurants to schools in the Southern California region.

That program, called Crayon Collection, has redirected over 20 million crayons from landfills, but Morovati’s non-profit push to reduce waste didn’t end there.

The Habits of Waste organization also launched the #cutoutcutlery campaign, which convinced Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash to change their default settings to make customers opt-in to receive plastic cutlery. It’s a way to reduce the nearly 40 billion plastic utensils that are thrown away each year, according to the Habits of Waste website.

“We decided to create a whole new arm which is cut out cutlery and eight meals. Trying to shift societal mindset is my goal,” said Morovati. 

Meanwhile, the number of meat replacements available to consumers continues to expand. Everyone from Post Cereal to Anheuser Busch is trying to make a play for replacements to proteins sourced from animals. That’s not to mention the billions raised by companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat to sell replacements direct to consumers.

Going meatless, even for a few meals a week, can make a huge difference for planetary health (and human health). That’s because animal agriculture is responsible for more than 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide — and it contributes to deforestation.

“I always think about this fake person that I’ve created in my mind and I call him Mr. Joe Barbecue,” Morovati said during a YouTube interview with self-described superfood guru, Darien Olien, earlier this year. “How can we get Mr. Joe Barbecue to be on board? Is it possible to tell him to go fully vegan? I don’t think so. Not yet. But I think if we introduce it with eight meals a week, maybe even Mr. Joe Barbecue will be willing to go there and understand it and try it and open up the door a crack to invite people in who may not be willing to do this.”

#cutlery, #doordash, #earth-day, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #grubhub, #postmates, #tc, #uber-eats, #websites

0

Fraud prevention platform Sift raises $50M at over $1B valuation, eyes acquisitions

With the increase of digital transacting over the past year, cybercriminals have been having a field day.

In 2020, complaints of suspected internet crime surged by 61%, to 791,790, according to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report. Those crimes — ranging from personal and corporate data breaches to credit card fraud, phishing and identity theft — cost victims more than $4.2 billion.

For companies like Sift — which aims to predict and prevent fraud online even more quickly than cybercriminals adopt new tactics — that increase in crime also led to an increase in business.

Last year, the San Francisco-based company assessed risk on more than $250 billion in transactions, double from what it did in 2019. The company has over several hundred customers, including Twitter, Airbnb, Twilio, DoorDash, Wayfair and McDonald’s, as well a global data network of 70 billion events per month.

To meet the surge in demand, Sift said today it has raised $50 million in a funding round that values the company at over $1 billion. Insight Partners led the financing, which included participation from Union Square Ventures and Stripes.

While the company would not reveal hard revenue figures, President and CEO Marc Olesen said that business has tripled since he joined the company in June 2018. Sift was founded out of Y Combinator in 2011, and has raised a total of $157 million over its lifetime.

The company’s “Digital Trust & Safety” platform aims to help merchants not only fight all types of internet fraud and abuse, but to also “reduce friction” for legitimate customers. There’s a fine line apparently between looking out for a merchant and upsetting a customer who is legitimately trying to conduct a transaction.

Sift uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to automatically surmise whether an attempted transaction or interaction with a business online is authentic or potentially problematic.

Image Credits: Sift

One of the things the company has discovered is that fraudsters are often not working alone.

“Fraud vectors are no longer siloed. They are highly innovative and often working in concert,” Olesen said. “We’ve uncovered a number of fraud rings.”

Olesen shared a couple of examples of how the company thwarted fraud incidents last year. One recently involved money laundering through donation sites where fraudsters tested stolen debit and credit cards through fake donation sites at guest checkout.

“By making small donations to themselves, they laundered that money and at the same tested the validity of the stolen cards so they could use it on another site with significantly higher purchases,” he said. 

In another case, the company uncovered fraudsters using Telegram, a social media site, to make services available, such as food delivery, with stolen credentials.

The data that Sift has accumulated since its inception helps the company “act as the central nervous system for fraud teams.” Sift says that its models become more intelligent with every customer that it integrates.

Insight Partners Managing Director Jeff Lieberman, who is a Sift board member, said his firm initially invested in Sift in 2016 because even at that time, it was clear that online fraud was “rapidly growing.” It was growing not just in dollar amounts, he said, but in the number of methods cybercriminals used to steal from consumers and businesses.

Sift has a novel approach to fighting fraud that combines massive data sets with machine learning, and it has a track record of proving its value for hundreds of online businesses,” he wrote via email.

When Olesen and the Sift team started the recent process of fundraising, Insight actually approached them before they started talking to outside investors “because both the product and business fundamentals are so strong, and the growth opportunity is massive,” Lieberman added.

“With more businesses heavily investing in online channels, nearly every one of them needs a solution that can intelligently weed out fraud while ensuring a seamless experience for the 99% of transactions or actions that are legitimate,” he wrote. 

The company plans to use its new capital primarily to expand its product portfolio and to scale its product, engineering and sales teams.

Sift also recently tapped Eu-Gene Sung — who has worked in financial leadership roles at Integral Ad Science, BSE Global and McCann — to serve as its CFO.

As to whether or not that meant an IPO is in Sift’s future, Olesen said that Sung’s experience of taking companies through a growth phase such as what Sift is experiencing would be valuable. The company is also for the first time looking to potentially do some M&A.

“When we think about expanding our portfolio, it’s really a buy/build partner approach,” Olesen said.

#airbnb, #artificial-intelligence, #board-member, #credit-card, #credit-card-fraud, #crime, #crimes, #cybercrime, #doordash, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #food-delivery, #fraud, #funding, #fundings-exits, #identity-theft, #insight-partners, #jeff-lieberman, #machine-learning, #mcdonalds, #online-fraud, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #sift, #startup, #startups, #stripes, #tc, #twilio, #union-square-ventures, #wayfair, #y-combinator

0

Altman brothers lead B2B payment startup Routable’s $30M Series B

We all know the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption in a number of areas, particularly in the financial services space. Within financial services, there are few spaces hotter than B2B payments.

With a $120 trillion market size, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of fintechs focused on digitizing payments have been attracting investor interest. The latest is Routable, which has nabbed $30 million in a Series B raise that included participation from a slew of high-profile angel investors.

Unlike most raises, Routable didn’t raise the capital from a bunch of VC firms. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and former president of Y Combinator, and Jack Altman, CEO of Lattice, led the round. (The pair are brothers, in case you didn’t know.)

SoftBank-backed unicorn Flexport also participated, along with a number of angel investors, including Instacart co-founder Max Mullen, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie, Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff (who also started TIME Ventures),  DoorDash’s Gokul Rajaram, early Stripe employee turned angel Lachy Groom and Behance founder Scott Belsky.

The Series B comes just over eight months after Routable came out of stealth with a $12 million Series A.

CEO Omri Mor and CTO Tom Harel founded Routable in 2017 after previously working at marketplaces and recognizing the need for better internal tools for scaling business payments. They went through a Y Combinator batch and embarked on a process of interviewing hundreds of CFOs and finance leaders.

The pair found that the majority of the business payment tools that were out there were built for large companies with a low volume of business payments. 

After running enough customer development we identified a huge scramble to solve high-volume business payments, and that’s what we double down on,” Mor told TechCrunch. 

Routable’s mission is simple: to automate bill payment and invoicing processes (also known as accounts payables and accounts receivables), so that businesses can focus on scaling their core product offerings without worrying about payments.

“A business payment is more like moving a bill through Congress, where a consumer payment is more like a tweet,” Mor said. “We automate every step from purchase order to reconciliation and by extending an API, companies don’t have to build their own inner integration. We handle it, while helping them move their money faster.”

Since its August 2020 raise, Routable has seen its revenue grow by 380%, according to Mor. And last month alone, the company tripled its amount of new customers compared to the month prior. Customers include Snackpass, Ticketmaster and Re-Max, among others.

“We’ve been beating every quarter expectation for the past 18 months,” he told TechCrunch.

The company started out focused on the startup and SMB customer, but based on demand and feedback, is expanding into the enterprise space as well.

It has established integrations with QuickBooks, NetSuite and Xero and is looking to invest moving forward in integrating with Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics Workday and SAP. 

“A lot of our investment moving forward is to be able to bring that same level of automation and ease of use that we do for SMB and mid-market customers to the enterprise world,” Mor told TechCrunch.

Lead investor Sam Altman is in favor of that approach, noting that the recent booms in the gig and creator economies are leading to a big spike in the volume of both payments and payees.

“With the addition of enterprise capabilities, we think this can lead to an enormous business,” he said. 

The round brings Routable’s total raised to $46 million. The company has headquarters in San Francisco and Seattle with primarily a remote team. 

Sam Altman also told me that he was drawn to Routable after having experienced the pain of high-volume business payments himself and working with many startup founders who had experienced the same problem.

He was also impressed with the company’s engineering-forward approach.

“They can offer the best service by being embedded in a company’s flow of funds instead of the usual approach of just being an interface for moving money,” Altman said. 

With regard to the other investors, Mor said the decision to partner with founders of a number of prominent tech companies was intentional so that Routable could benefit from their “deep enterprise and high-growth experience.”

As mentioned above, the B2B payments space is white-hot. Earlier this year, Melio, which provides a platform for SMBs to pay other companies electronically using bank transfers, debit cards or credit — along with the option of cutting paper checks for recipients if that is what the recipients request — closed on $110 million in funding at a $1.3 billion valuation.

#aaron-levie, #airbnb, #altman, #b2b, #behance, #doordash, #finance, #financial-services, #flexport, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gokul-rajaram, #instacart, #jack-altman, #joe-gebbia, #lachy-groom, #lattice, #marc-benioff, #netsuite, #open-ai, #oracle, #payments, #president, #recent-funding, #routable, #salesforce, #sam-altman, #san-francisco, #scott-belsky, #seattle, #startups, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

0

Google spinoff Cartken and REEF Technologies launch Miami’s first delivery robots

Self-driving and robotics startup Cartken has partnered with REEF Technologies, a startup that operates parking lots and neighborhood hubs, to bring self-driving delivery robots to the streets of downtown Miami.

With this announcement, Cartken officially comes out of stealth mode. The company, founded by ex-Google engineers and colleagues behind the unrequited Bookbot, was formed to develop market-ready tech in self-driving, AI-powered robotics and delivery operations in 2019, but the team has kept operations under wraps until now. This is Cartken’s first large deployment of self-driving robots on sidewalks.

After a few test months, the REEF-branded electric-powered robots are now delivering dinner orders from REEF’s network of delivery-only kitchens to people located within a 3/4-mile radius in downtown Miami. The robots, which are insulated and thus can preserve the heat of a plate of spaghetti or other hot food, are pre-stationed at designated logistics hubs and dispatched with orders for delivery as the food is prepared.

“We want to show how future-forward Miami can be,” Matt Lindenberger, REEF’s chief technology officer, told TechCrunch. “This is a great chance to show off the capabilities of the tech. The combination of us having a big presence in Miami, the fact that there are a lot of challenges around congestion as Covid subsides, still shows a really good environment where we can show how this tech can work.”

Lindenberg said Miami is a great place to start, but it’s just the beginning, with potential for the Cartken robots to be used for REEF’s other last-mile delivery businesses. Currently, only two restaurant delivery robots are operating in Miami, but Lindenberger said the company is planning to expand further into the city and outward into Fort Lauderdale, as well as other large metros the company operates in, such as Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and eventually New York.

Lindenberger is hoping the presence of robots in the streets can act as a “force multiplier” allowing them to scale while maintaining quality of service in a cost-effective way.

“We’re seeing an explosion in deliveries right now in a post-pandemic world and we foresee that to continue, so these types of no-contact, zero-emission automation techniques are really critical,” he said.

Cartken’s robots are powered by a combination of machine learning and rules-based programming to react to every situation that could occur, even if that just means safely stopping and asking for help, Christian Bersch, CEO of Cartken, told TechCrunch. REEF would have supervisors on site to remotely control the robot if needed, a caveat that was included in the 2017 legislation that allowed for the operation of self-driving delivery robots in Florida.

“The technology at the end of the day is very similar to that of a self-driving car,” said Bersch. “The robot is seeing the environment, planning around obstacles like pedestrians or lampposts. If there’s an unknown situation, someone can help the robot out safely because it can stop on a dime. But it’s important to also have that level of autonomy on the robot because it can react in a split second, faster than anybody remotely could, if something happens like someone jumps in front of it.”

REEF marks specific operating areas on the map for the robots and Cartken tweaks the configuration for the city, accounting for specific situations a robot might need to deal with, so that when the robots are given a delivery address, they can make moves and operate like any other delivery driver. Only this driver has an LTE connection and is constantly updating its location so REEF can integrate it into its fleet management capabilities.

Image Credits: REEF/Cartken

Eventually, Lindenberger said, they’re hoping to be able to offer the option for customers to choose robot delivery on the major food delivery platforms REEF works with like Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash or GrubHub. Customers would receive a text when the robot arrives so they could go outside and meet it. However, the tech is not quite there yet.

Currently the robots only make it street-level, and then the food is passed off to a human who delivers it directly to the door, which is a service that most customers prefer. Navigating into an apartment complex and to a customer’s unit is difficult for a robot to manage just yet, and many customers aren’t quite ready to interact directly with a robot. 

“It’s an interim step, but this was a path for us to move forward quickly with the technology without having any other boundaries,” said Lindenberger. “Like with any new tech, you want to take it in steps. So a super important step which we’ve now taken and works very well is the ability to dispatch robots within a certain radius and know that they’re going to arrive there. That in and of itself is a huge step and it allows us to learn what kind of challenges you have in terms of that very last step. Then we can begin to work with Cartken to solve that last piece. It’s a big step just being able to do this automation.”

#artificial-intelligence, #atlanta, #automotive, #cartken, #ceo, #chief-technology-officer, #dallas, #doordash, #driver, #fleet-management, #florida, #food, #google, #grubhub, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #miami, #new-york, #postmates, #reef-technologies, #robot, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #tc, #transportation

0

Gig companies fear a worker shortage, despite a recession

Gig companies fear a worker shortage, despite a recession

Enlarge (credit: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Unemployment in the US remains stubbornly high at 6.3 percent. Job growth has stalled, with 9.6 million fewer jobs in January than the same month a year earlier. But gig companies say they’re having trouble finding people to drive, pick up, and deliver for them.

“I’m worried about one thing going into the second half of the year: Are we going to have enough drivers to meet the demand that we’re going to have?” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told an analyst last month. DoorDash chief financial officer Prabir Adarkar called the situation “a tale of two cities,” with hordes of new customers racing to order takeoutbut fewer drivers offering to deliver it. DoorDash orders more than tripled in the last part of 2020, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The looming driver shortage confounds executives’ predictions. “With record unemployment, we expect driver supply to outstrip rider demand” for the “foreseeable future,” Lyft CEO Logan Green said in May. For a time early in the pandemic, Lyft blocked new drivers from signing up. It was understandable, because today’s tech gig companies were born during the Great Recession. They benefited from a deep pool of workers newly outfitted with smartphones and suddenly in need of supplemental income.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#doordash, #gig-economy, #pandemic, #policy, #postmates, #uber

0

Does SoftBank have 20 more DoorDashes?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s biggest tech happenings. This week felt oddly comforting from a tech news perspective: Facebook is copying something, early-stage startup data is flawed enough to talk about and sweet DoorDash is buying robots for undisclosed sums.

So, here’s a rundown of the tech news we got into (as always, jokes aren’t previewed so you’ll have to listen to the actual show to get our critique and Award Winning Analysis*):

In good news, long-time Equity producer Chris Gates is back starting next week, which means we’ll have our biggest crew ever helping get the show put together. And, in other good news, there’s going to be more Equity than ever for you to hear. Coming soon.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

*OK, so not award-winning yet. But soon enough, because manifestation works.

#bumble, #doordash, #early-stage, #equity-podcast, #ethena, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #j-curve, #justo, #podcasts, #reddit, #softbank, #startups, #zeta

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Daily Crunch: DoorDash acquires Chowbotics

DoorDash acquires a salad-making robotics startup, Twitter confirms subscription plans and Tesla makes a big bet on bitcoin. This is your Daily Crunch for February 8, 2021.

The big story: DoorDash acquires Chowbotics

DoorDash has acquired the Bay Area startup behind Sally, a salad-making, vending machine-style robot that added contactless ordering last fall.

DoorDash says the acquisition will “improve consumer access to fresh and safe meals, and enhance our robust merchant offerings and logistics platform,” though it isn’t getting specific about how it plans to use Chowbotics’ tech in its delivery platform.

This continues exploratory work that DoorDash has done with robotics, for example with Starship Technologies to test delivery robots.

The tech giants

Twitter confirms plans to experiment with new models, like subscriptions, in 2021— The company confirmed that it’s researching and experimenting with new models, but declined to provide details.

Tesla buys $1.5B in bitcoin, may accept the cryptocurrency as payment in the future — As the news broke, the price of bitcoin instantly rose by around 7% to more than $40,000 per coin.

Amazon warehouse workers to begin historic vote to unionize — On Friday, the National Labor Relations Board rejected Amazon’s attempt to delay a union vote set to begin today.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Clubhouse is now blocked in China after a brief uncensored period — Thousands of Chinese users suddenly found themselves unable to access Clubhouse on early Monday evening.

WeWork is apparently doing better, not that SoftBank wants you to talk about that — Buried in the footnotes of SoftBank’s earnings report today is some good news related to WeWork.

Automattic acquires analytics company Parse.ly — Parse.ly is now part of WPVIP, the organization within Automattic that offers enterprise hosting and support to publishers and marketers, including TechCrunch.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Oscar Health’s IPO filing will test the venture-backed insurance model — While Oscar has shown a strong ability to raise private funds and scale revenues, it’s a deeply unprofitable enterprise.

Container security acquisitions increase as companies accelerate shift to cloud — Why is there so much M&A action now?

Two $50M-ish ARR companies talk growth and plans for the coming quarters — In this installment of Alex Wilhelm’s series, we look at SimpleNexus and PicsArt.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Silenced No More Act seeks to ban use of NDAs in situations involving harassment or discrimination — This proposed bill would expand the protections workers currently have through the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act, which went into effect in 2019.

MIT is building a ‘one-stop shop’ for 3D-printing robots — The university’s CSAIL department showcased “LaserFactory,” a new project that attempts to develop robotics, drones and other machines than can be fabricated as part of a one-stop shop.

Hasselblad X1D II 50C: out of the studio and into the streets — We took the $10,000 camera kit out for a socially distanced spin.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #doordash, #tc

0

DoorDash acquires salad-making robotics startup, Chowbotics

DoorDash is expanding its robotic footprint into the kitchen. The delivery service is set to acquire Chowbotics, a Bay Area-based robotics best known for its salad-making robot, Sally. TechCrunch has confirmed the acquisition, which was first noted by The Wall Street Journal.

“We have long admired the work that Chowbotics has done to increase access to fresh meals, with its groundbreaking robotics product and vision,” DoorDash co-founder Stanley Tang said in a comment offered to TechCrunch. “At DoorDash, we are always working to innovate and continue improving how we support our merchant partners and their success — and are excited to leverage this technology to do so in new ways. With the Chowbotics team on board, we can explore new use cases and customers, providing another service to help our merchants grow.”

Founded in 2014, Chowbotics has raised around $21 million to date, including an $11 million round back in 2018. The company’s vending machine-style salad bar robot was already well-positioned for the pandemic, removing a human element from the food preparation process — not to mention the fact that salad bars and buffets tend to be open air affairs. In October, the startup added a contactless feature to the robot, letting users order ahead of time, via app.

“Joining the DoorDash team unlocks new possibilities for Chowbotics and the technology that this team has built over the past seven years,” CEO Rick Wilmer said in a statement. “As the leader in food delivery and on-demand logistics, DoorDash has the unparalleled reach and expertise to help us grow and deploy our technology more broadly, so together, we can make fresh, nutritious food easy for more people.”

It’s not entirely clear how the company’s technology will fit into the delivery service’s current offering, though DoorDash notes it will “improve consumer access to fresh and safe meals, and enhance our robust merchant offerings and logistics platform.” It also remains to be seen whether Chowbotics will continue to operate as its own entity within the broader DoorDash. We’ve reached out for more insight.

“At DoorDash, we strive to become a merchant’s first call when they want to grow their business,” Tang said. “What excites us most about Chowbotics is that the team has developed a remarkable tool for helping merchants grow. Bringing Chowbotics’ technology into the DoorDash platform gives us a new opportunity to help merchants expand their current menu offerings and reach new customers in new markets — which is a fundamental part of our merchant-first approach to empowering local economies.”

DoorDash has been working with robotics companies for a number of years now. Perhaps the most prominent example is a partnership with Starship Technologies to explore food delivery robots. Though that technology has seen a fair number of roadblocks among local officials not eager to turn their sidewalks over to robots. The delivery company likens Chowbotics’ kiosk-style technology to its work with ghost kitchens, effectively serving as a conduit to help expand food options at local merchants – be it in store or through delivery. The former will likely be of more interest once the current pandemic is in the rear view.

Details of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

#chowbotics, #doordash, #hardware, #ma, #robotics

0

Roblox raises at $29.5 billion valuation, readies for direct listing

Roblox is now one of the world’s most valuable private companies in the world after a monster Series H raise brings the social gaming platform a stratospheric $29.5 billion valuation. The company won’t be private for long, though.

The $520 million raise led by Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group is a significant cash influx for Roblox, which had previously raised just over $335 million from investors according to Crunchbase. The Investment Group of Santa Barbara, Warner Music Group, and a number of current investors, also participated in this round.

In February of 2020, the company closed a $150 million Series G led by Andreessen Horowitz which valued the company at $4 billion.

The gaming startup has initially planned an IPO in 2020, but after the major first day pops of DoorDash and Airbnb, the company leadership reconsidered their timeline, according to a report in Axios. Those major say-one share price pops left significant money on the table for the companies selling those shares, an outcome Roblox is likely looking to avoid. Today, the company also announced that it plans to enter the public markets via a direct listing.

Roblox’s 7x valuation multiple signals just how feverish public and private markets are for tech stocks. The valuation also highlights how investors foresee the company benefiting from pandemic trends which pushed more users online and towards social gaming platforms. In a 2019 prospectus, the company shared that it had 17.6 million users, now Roblox claims to have 31 million daily active users on its platform.

#airbnb, #altimeter-capital, #andreessen-horowitz, #computing, #crunchbase, #doordash, #dragoneer-investment-group, #gaming, #online-games, #roblox, #tc, #valuation, #video-gaming, #warner-music-group, #websites

0

How to find your next VC

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange,weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Subscribe here

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

 

 

#airbnb, #braze, #doordash, #tc, #the-exchange

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Early DoorDash investor dismisses “froth” talk, says company could grow 10x from here

[The stunning debut of the food delivery company DoorDash on the public market this week has plenty of people puzzled. While undeniably fast-growing, the unprofitable delivery company that has come under fire numerous times over its employment practices, and its IPO, like that of other gig-economy companies, leaves a lot of economic issues unresolved.

So why is a company that lost $667 million in 2019 and $149 million in the first nine months of 2020 — during a period of hypergrowth because of the pandemic —  being valued at $55.8 billion by public market investors? Have they lost their minds?

Saar Gur thinks he has answers to such questions. Gur, a longtime general partner with the early-stage venture firm CRV, was able to write a check to DoorDash in its earliest rounds, including its seed, Series A and Series B financings, and he suggests the firm’s stake in the business will return multitudes of the CRV fund from which those checks came. In short, he’s very far from biased. However, in a call earlier today, he painted a picture of DoorDash wherein it not only becomes profitable but is 10 times larger than it is today based on how it evolves from here. Our conversation has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

TC: You wrote a seed check to DoorDash. Did you seek out the company or did the team pitch CRV?

SG: I went on this hunt, looking for Tony. [Rival delivery service] Postmates had started two-and-a-half to three years earlier, and I thought the founder was great [but I wasn’t sure about investing]. Another company, Fluc, was run by this very scrappy entrepreneur, Adam, who was getting some buzz in Palo Alto, and I was quite curious and met the team because we were in the food business and knew a lot of restaurant owners; my wife was a food entrepreneur and built this chain of homemade yogurt stores called Fraiche,

So I emailed my friend Misty, who was the general manager at the time of Oren’s Hummus on University Avenue [in Palo Alto[ and said, ‘We’re looking this company, Fluc, and we’d love to get your thoughts.’ And she said, ‘The team is Fluc is okay; their technology is better [than some others], but they don’t understand our problems in a way that’s truly helpful to us. You should talk to these kids out of Stanford at DoorDash.’

If there’s any skill in investing, it’s not just confirmation bias of investing in Fluc [whose founders later moved on] but we did like a hard pivot and chased down the DoorDash team. We met them at Fraiche in Palo Alto,  and from that moment, it’s like we were finishing each other’s sentences.

TC: What did you talk about?

SG: The team from day one just talked about building a logistics company. For example, they understood Oren’s Hummus, which at that time was quite popular but had limited front-of-house seating and a big kitchen in the back. And [cofounder and CEO] Tony [Xu] and [cofounder turned VC] Evan Moore said at the time said, we want to target customers of popular concepts that have limited [seating] and extra kitchen capacity, and to integrate directly with the kitchen so we don’t have to interact with front-of-the-house staff.

At the time, Postmates had pivoted from waiting in line to get you a iPhone to delivering food, including from Fraiche, but they would send someone to your store, place the order and wait. DoorDash instead put an iPad

TC: You’ve said that CRV missed out on Uber, that Travis Kalanick left your offices and headed over to Benchmark, where he told you right afterward that they wouldn’t let him leave until he signed a term sheet. Do you think Uber could or should have been DoorDash? I met with Travis in 2011, before DoorDash was founded, and he called Uber a logistics company and told me it would deliver food and a lot of other things. Given DoorDash’s dominant market share, do you think Uber waited too long to jump into deliveries? 

SG:  The original Uber was not at all about food; it was that ride hailing hadn’t changed. Its Series A deck was a picture of a guy holding his hand up and trying to hail a taxi, with no real vision about food — at least at least that’s my recollection. Over time, it became Uber for everything.

But in terms what happened, DoorDash launched in Palo Alto. A number of other companies were in San Francisco, and Tony and the team had to decide whether to launch in San Francisco as its next major city or whether to launch somewhere else. And after a number of discussions that I was a part of, they focused on San Jose. Most people don’t know, but San Jose is something like the 10th largest city in the United States and its layout is much more similar to other mid-tier cities and suburban America than it is to San Francisco. I think that was one key strategic decision. At the time, [larger rivals] GrubHub and Seamless had been proven [the model] in dense cities. It was really not obvious that it would work in San Jose or any suburb.

TC: Clearly, investors are excited about what DoorDash has built — so excited that its stock went crazy yesterday. Are you, like Bill Gurley, frustrated that money was left on the table by its underwriters? Do you think traditional IPOs are broken?

SG: I actually started my career at Lehman Brothers on the investment banking team, and so having seen the IPO process, while I can appreciate [frustration that a] company left some money on the table based on the pricing, the tactical challenge [is that] it’s very hard to predict. You know what the market will bear once it moves to retail investors.

What’s exciting to me is [that] DoorDash is raising money because they are just getting started. I do think this could be a $500 billion-plus company. There’s so much to be excited about. As for the capital-raising event, I think it’s hard for the bankers to know where it will land with the broader market, so I’m not as negative as maybe some others.

TC: Five-hundred billion dollars is a big number. How do you get there?

SG: Let’s just start with food delivery. DoorDash’s suburban market share has grown to more than 60% and its overall U.S. market share is over 52%, so they’ve won the market in food delivery. And if you look at the [Chinese shopping platform] Meituan and other global food delivery businesses, that alone paints a path where DoorDash should be [valued at] $100 billion, assuming they continue to execute on the path that they’re on.

But the bigger story to me that I think many folks don’t understand is, if you go back to U.S. Postal Service, it used to take two weeks to get a letter. Then FedEx launches and all of a sudden the, the mail seems slow. The [net promoter score] was really high for the USPS until FedEx launched, or [think of] dial-up [internet access] which was great until [we had] broadband.

What we’re seeing is that consumers prefer immediacy and this magic ability to press a button and have ice cream delivered in under 25 minutes or milk, and you start to layer [items on] from there. We’ve partnered with Macy’s in December, for example, so if you buy a shirt or a dress, you can now have it at your house in an hour. When you look at the infrastructure that DoorDash has built to deliver on that vision, that’s where this company looks more like Amazon .

That’s dreaming the dream, and that’s a very different business than ride-sharing and Uber’s core business.

TC: You’re comparing DoorDash to Amazon, which is a much more capital-intensive business with lots of hard assets. Do you see DoorDash moving in that direction? Relatedly, what kinds of acquisitions would DoorDash be potentially interested in making?

SG: The company is always focused on technology first. DoorDash Drive is a product that many people don’t understand but it powers merchants that don’t want to roll out their own delivery network. Say you go to Walmart.com and order a bunch of groceries. DoorDash is powering those deliveries. Macy’s wants to roll out one-hour delivery. DoorDash Drive is allowing them to do that. DoorDash also now has a product that’s purely like a SaaS business that enables larger chains that want to control the whole experience of delivery with their own drivers to do that. Jimmy Johns [a sandwich chain] is ow running its entire order and deliver business with their own drivers, using DoorDash software.

There are parts of DoorDash that are a true software business, just like AWS, and there are parts of it that are capital-intensive, like Dashmart [that rolled out this summer and which are convenience stores are owned and operated by DoorDash]. Will they buy 7-Eleven or something like that? We saw [deliver startup] goPuff acquire BevMo last month; it’s not out of the question that there might be a reason to do that. With Dashmart, they already can see a lot of stuff based on data that people want to have immediately.

You know, I guess related to the answer question, and I don’t even know what it stands for but I know Uber at some point was looking into ghost kitchens, maybe like hadn’t had a stake in one in France. Is that something that doordash would potentially get into the business of like owning and running these so that it can also just, and I apologize that I’m not better versed in this but I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s got sort of like close relationships or owns anything like that already.

TC: DoorDash has also ventured into the ghost kitchen market, opening a facility in Redwood City, south of San Francisco. Could this become a bigger initiative?

SG: I think it’s definitely in the zone. DoorDash can use data and say, you know, you don’t need to build another Long John Silver or Taco Bell [to get closer to some of your customers]; you use our Redwood City Kitchen.We can already show you the data that [highlights how] deliveries that might take an hour could be turned into 15 minutes. They’re really facilitating the revenue growth of these concepts.

There’s another set of entrepreneurs where they can use the data to say, for example, ‘Hey, there is no pizza restaurant in Palo Alto, so we’re just going to launch Saar’s Pizza Company to fill that hole and do it cost effectively because we don’t need to build a location out with seating and all the building codes involved serving customers in person.

TC: In the meantime, one reads stories of restaurateurs who complain about the fees involved in working with DoorDash.

SG: Having been a restaurant owner, I can tell you, even for my wife, who has a Wharton MBA, it’s very hard to keep track of all the numbers. You feel like everyone is screwing you; it’s just it’s really hard to run a small business. So it’s not based on great data or even if it is, if you view that DoorDash is adding incremental revenue, and if you understand the concept of marginal profit, then you should continue to sell things as you can make money on the margins of the food and you have the excess kitchen capacity. 

If you look, that’s why DoorDash has signed [roughly] 45 of the top 50 quick-service restaurants. Those are quantitative groups and they wouldn’t do it do it for as long as they have and invest in these partnerships if it wasn’t working.

But there’s always going to be a sticker shock.

TC: Regarding these quick-service restaurants and ghost kitchens, these systems are so efficient that the concern is that these mom-and-pop restaurants get wiped out. How do you think about that concern?

SG: I think we are social beings and we look for experiences [and] breaking bread with someone is not going away. I think smarter brands will — just like what we see in retail with physical locations and online locations — [be both offline and online]. Smarter concepts will understand how to build those brands across channels. And then I you know I still think that the Saisons of the world and the French Laundry will only continue to to do well post COVID as people look for these experiences of how to be together and share food, which is a passion of many folks.

TC: How does DoorDash itself become profitable? 

SG: If you check the facts, this summer the company was actually profitable. Not only that, they gave $120 million dollars, or they give credit, to other small businesses, in support of COVID, so had they not done that, they actually would have produced quite a bit of cash.

With run a company like DoorDash, you have to sell a big vision and be able to recruit, but you also need to be highly quantitative, and Tony has always been able to spit out numbers that are like accurate and set goals that are very quantitative. And while they they’re not profitable in the newer markets [because they are growing], they’ve got the cohorts to show you not only how they’re profitable in older markets but how their profitability expands over timein those markets. At any point, they could kind of slow their growth and become more profitable, but that’s not the playbook.

#amazon, #crv, #doordash, #ecommerce, #food, #fundings-exits, #ghost-kitchens, #ipo, #on-demand-delivery, #real-estate, #saar-gur, #sequoia-capital, #softbank-vision-fund, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Airbnb’s first-day pop caps off a stellar week for tech IPOs

After pricing above its raised range last night, Airbnb opened this morning at $146 per share, up around 115% to kick off its life as a public company.

The company is now worth $158 per share. Using its IPO share count inclusive of shares reserved for underwriters, the company is worth $95.1 billion, but on a fully diluted basis, including shares that could be exercised or awarded in the future, Airbnb is worth much more.

The home-sharing unicorn initially targeted $44 to $50 per share in its debut, later raising that range to $56 to $60 before pricing at at $68 per share. To open at such a premium is not shocking given how the debuts of DoorDash and C3.ai performed earlier in the week.

Taken as a trio, the companies’ amped public debut are stoking concerns of mispriced IPOs.

However, taken as a trio, the companies’ amped public debut are stoking concerns of mispriced IPOs and, at least in my head, public markets that are more enthusiastic than reasonable.1

The explosive debuts of the enterprise AI company, the home-sharing giant and the food-delivery leader were not the first IPOs of 2020 to set off fireworks when trading began. Snowflake, another megadebut, gained more than 100% in its first trading day, despite pricing above its own raised IPO price range.

What’s going on? Let’s use Snowflake as a prism through which we can figure it out. Lemonade, the summer insurtech IPO, will also provide some useful guidance.

Was Snowflake underpriced?

When Snowflake’s IPO went out with a thunderclap, it was more ammunition for critics of the traditional public offering. The company and its private investors had done so much work to get Snowflake to the public markets, complaints seemed to go, and then some idiot bankers mispriced its debut by 100%, rewarding their clients and screwing the company? Awful!

So went the argument. However, as I wrote at the time, leaning on the work of Forbes’ excellent reporting, Snowflake’s CEO was not fully bought into the concept:

Alex Konrad at Forbes — a good chap, follow him on Twitter here — caught up with Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman about the matter. He called the “chatter” that his company left money on the table “nonsense,” adding that he could have priced higher but that he “wanted to bring along the group of investors that [Snowflake] wanted, and [he] didn’t want to push them past the point where they really started to squeal.”

This is the “long-term investor” argument that you will hear on any call with a CEO on their IPO day. It goes like this: If you want long-term holders of the stock, you have to find a price that they will accept; that price may be different than what retail investors will pay when the company begins to trade. So, the gap, or pop, is fine as you are trading one thing for another.

#airbnb, #c3-ai, #doordash, #tc, #the-exchange

0

As several marketplace unicorns prepare IPOs, a VC digs into the data

The end of 2020 will be marked by a series of high-profile consumer technology IPOs. Among the companies on file are several marketplace businesses including home rental giant Airbnb, food delivery service DoorDash, grocery delivery company Instacart and the online shopping platform Wish.

Poshmark, a social commerce platform in which Menlo Ventures invested early, has also filed to go public. While the public market will soon assign value to these marketplace businesses, the dominance of these businesses underscores the strength of the marketplace business model. It’s interesting then, to dig into the numbers to understand the state of marketplace businesses today.

What to make of 2020?

Typically, we’d spend most of our time analyzing the most recent data. But, it will surprise no one that 2020 is an outlier. Thankfully, we don’t need to throw the data out. There are some interesting insights. The pandemic impacted businesses broadly, some boomed while others went bust. How the marketplace category fared varied from business to business, depending on the category.

The large public marketplaces continued to perform. If we look at the top 20 publicly traded marketplaces, we see that their combined market cap increased ~63% in 2020. This growth rate is lower than the ~99% growth of the 20 public SaaS leaders.

Not surprisingly companies like the video meeting platform Zoom and Shopify, a commerce platform that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products, benefitted from new dynamics introduced by the pandemic.

If we look at the top 20 publicly traded marketplaces, we see that their combined market cap increased ~63% in 2020.

Similarly, some of the largest public marketplaces, like Amazon, Etsy and Delivery Hero were boosted by changes in consumer behavior including spikes in online shopping and delivery.

Acquisition efficiencies increased with increased demand from consumers and merchants that resulted in favorable growth plus EBITDA pairing.

Take Etsy as an example: In the last quarter, it grew at a whopping 128% YoY compared to 32% the year before with EBITDA margin of 30% versus 15% from the year before.

But where some marketplace categories were propelled by COVID-19 tailwinds, categories like travel and fitness struggled against the headwinds created by the pandemic. This is where we saw some exciting innovation from startups — which tend to be more nimble than their public counterparts — adapted to the new normal. Take Classpass, which was originally conceived as a platform to connect gym goers with the right studio/fitness classes.

#airbnb, #column, #doordash, #initial-public-offering, #menlo-ventures, #online-shopping, #venture-capital

0

DoorDash, C3.ai skyrocket in public market debuts

Haters gonna hate, IPOs gonna pop.

That’s the story today as richly valued DoorDash and C3.ai, two American technology unicorns, saw their values skyrocket after they began trading today.

DoorDash shares are up just under 83% to $186.51. The company priced its IPO at $102 per share last night, ahead of its raised IPO range of $90 to $95 per share.

And as I write to you, shares of C3.ai are up an even sharper 151% to $105.58, after pricing at $42 per share earlier today. The company had raised its IPO range from $31 to $34 per share to $36 to $38 per share.

It appears that public investors are, again, more exuberant about the growth and profit prospects of select late-stage unicorns than private investors. Earlier this year DoorDash raised $400 million at a valuation of around $16 billion, for example.

Today on a non-diluted basis, the company is worth around $59 billion. That figure rises sharply if you include shares that could be created from the exercise of options and other forms of compensation.

TechCrunch is speaking with DoorDash’s CFO and the CEO of C3.ai later today.

For a passel of companies coming next, the day’s tidings are more than welcome. Airbnb may be able to secure a higher per-share price when it prices later today. And with Affirm and Upstart and Roblox and Wish quickly approaching their final IPO prices, the explosive early trading of today’s debuts could provide them with a boost as well.

Why are the two companies up so sharply? Your guess is as good as mine, but factors could include — as noted this morning — a boom in retail trading and a possibly constrained float, among other factors. Regardless, for both firms it has been a dream week, first raising more money than they likely anticipated, then receiving a rapturous welcome from public investors.

How should we understand the new valuations? It’s too soon to fully grok what is going on. More trading with more shares in motion will help clarify the two companies’ more stable value.

Until then we’re going to sit back and watch Yahoo Finance.

#airbnb, #c3-ai, #doordash, #roblox, #tc

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How DoorDash and C3.ai can defend their red-hot IPO valuations

Last night both DoorDash and C3.ai priced their IPOs above their raised ranges. In simpler terms, both companies provided the market with a target price interval. Then they both raised it and each priced higher than that raised target.

The IPO market, even as December races along and winter begins to bite, is red-hot.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


But while the new, higher valuations and strong cash hauls from their respective IPOs are great news, they each have a higher bar to cross when they begin to trade later today and over the next few weeks as the market settles on their real value.

This morning, ahead of Airbnb’s pricing later this afternoon — the home-sharing unicorn will begin trading tomorrow morning, provided all goes according to plan — let’s chat about what the markets are implying about both DoorDash and C3.ai, and what means that each must accomplish in the coming few quarters if they want to not only defend their newly-won valuations, but take them higher.

Let’s start by calculating new valuations and revenue multiples. This will be fun!

How to keep winning

Let’s kick off with DoorDash, the larger of the two IPOs.

After raising its IPO range from $75 to $85 per share, a price point that already appraised the company far above its final private valuation, DoorDash raised its range to $90 to $95 per share. Then it priced at $102.

The company has a non-diluted valuation of $32.4 billion at that price, a figure that rises as high as $38.4 billion if you include shares that currently exist as unexercised options and the like. For a company worth just $16 billion earlier this summer, its IPO price is a coup.

And given DoorDash’s huge consumer brand, the recent IPO climate, a possibly limited first-day float and the impact of a retail-investing boom, its shares may soar today.

But to defend its new valuation, pop or not, DoorDash has a steep road ahead of it. Investors have valued the firm as if it will not only defend its 2020 growth, but that it will continue to accrete new revenues even as the pandemic subsides as vaccines roll out in 2021.

Recall that COVID-19 took an already-growing DoorDash, accelerated its revenue growth and helping it drive operating leverage against its new scale; the company’s economics seem to improve with scale, a good thing, but one that might worry the more ursine amongst us if one expects consumers to order less food when it’s safer to go outside.

DoorDash is not the only COVID-accelerated company to receive a shiny, new, larger valuation during the pandemic. Robinhood and Instacart are further examples of the trend.

#airbnb, #artificial-intelligence, #c3-ai, #doordash, #food, #fundings-exits, #tc, #the-exchange

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Parrot Software has $1.2 million to grow its restaurant point-of-sale and management service in Mexico

The two founders of Parrot Software, Roberto Cebrián and David Villarreal, first met in high school in Monterrey, Mexico. In the eleven years since , both have pursued successful careers in the tech industry and became family (they’re brothers-in-law).

Now, they’re starting a new business together leveraging Cebrián’s experience running a point-of-sale company and Villarreal’s time working first at Uber and then at the high-growth, scooter and bike rental startup, Grin.

Cebrían’s experience founding the point-of-sale company S3 Software laid the foundation for Parrot Software, and its point of sale service to manage restaurant operations. 

Roberto has been in the industry for the past six or seven years,” said Villarreal. “And he was telling me that no one has been serving [restaurants] properly… Roberto pitched me the idea and I got super involved and decided to start the company.”

Parrot Software co-founders Roberto Cebrían and David Villarreal. Image Credit: Parrot Software

Like Toast in the U.S., Parrot  manages payments including online and payments and real-time ordering, along with integrations into services that can manage the back-end operations of a restaurant too, according to Villarreal. Those services include things like delivery software, accounting and loyalty systems.  

The company is already live in over 500 restaurants in Mexico and is used by chains including Cinnabon, Dairy Queen, Grupo Costeño, and Grupo Pangea.

Based in Monterrey, Mexico, the company has managed to attract a slew of high profile North American investors including Joe Montana’s Liquid2 Ventures, Foundation Capital, Superhuman angel fund, Toby Spinoza, the vice president of DoorDash, and Ed Baker, a product lead at Uber.

Since its launch, the company has managed to land contracts in 10 cities, with the largest presence in Northeastern Mexico, around Monterrey, said Villarreal.

The market for restaurant management software is large and growing. It’s a big category that’s expected to reach $6.94 billion in sales worldwide by 2025, according to a reporter from Grand View Research.

Investors in the U.S. market certainly believe in the potential opportunity for a business like Toast. That company has raised nearly $1 billion in funding from firms like Bessemer Venture Partners, the private equity firm TPG, and Tiger Global Management.

#bessemer-venture-partners, #doordash, #foundation-capital, #free-software, #grin, #mexico, #point-of-sale, #reporter, #software, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #trade, #uber, #united-states

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The IPO market looks hot as Airbnb and C3.ai raise price targets

So much for a December slowdown — this morning, Airbnb and C3.ai raised their IPO price ranges and we got early pricing information from Upstart and Wish.

This gives us a good amount of ground to cover. So, we’ll dig into Airbnb’s new price range first, working to understand how richly investors are valuing the American home-sharing unicorn. We’ll repeat the experiment with C3.ai, a company we find utterly fascinating. Then we’ll calculate valuation ranges for both Upstart, a consumer lending fintech, and Wish, an e-commerce giant, to see where they stand.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


There are other IPOs in the wings: We’re still waiting on early pricing information from Affirm and Roblox, and DoorDash raised its range last week.

The upcoming calendar is busy. C3.ai and DoorDash should price tomorrow and trade Wednesday. Airbnb should price Wednesday and trade Thursday. Upstart will price next Tuesday and trade the following day.

In normal times, we’d take each element of today’s IPO news fusillade and parse it in its own post. But we only have 10 fingers, so let’s double-time through the numbers and get to what matters while you drink coffee. To work!

Airbnb and C3.ai

Public investors are bidding shares of both Airbnb and C3.ai up ahead of their debuts.

This morning, C3.ai, a company that sells enterprise AI technology, raised its IPO price range from $31-$34 to $36-$38 per share. It both raised and tightened its range, the latter often happening as a company gets a better handle on where demand lies as it ramps toward final pricing and eventual trading.

There are two ways to calculate the company’s new valuation range. The first uses the company’s nondiluted, expected post-IPO share count of 98,655,627, a figure that includes a little more than 2 million shares reserved for underwriters. At that share count, C3.ai would be worth between $3.57 billion and $3.77 billion.

#affirm, #airbnb, #doordash, #exit, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #upstart, #wish

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Why does TechCrunch cover so many early-stage funding rounds?

Funding-round stories are TechCrunch’s bread and butter.

For early-stage companies, the fact that an investor has put thousands, millions (or billions) into an idea that will likely fail, and might never make money, is big news. That’s a story that we can tell every day.

From time to time, a debate pops up about the role of funding-round stories: Are financings the right metric to focus on? Should the trend be scratched and reinvented? After all, raising money is not indicative of making money. Let’s be real: news needs news to be published. There needs to be a tension, or a surprise, but most of all, a reason for the reader to keep reading.

It’s a healthy conversation, and one the Equity crew decided to discuss last Friday:

  • Alex Wilhelm: Funding rounds are largely rose-tinted trade journalism, but they’re worth writing
  • Danny Crichton: I hate funding announcements but write them anyway
  • Natasha Mascarenhas: The stories are so much more than the dollar signs

Alex: Funding rounds are rose-tinted trade journalism, but they’re worth covering

It’s easy to mock funding-round coverage: There are far more rounds than hands to write them, so the coverage is inherently partial; they are a poor milestone to use as a benchmark for growth; and coverage of the startup in question nearly always has an overly positive tilt, given that the piece in question centers around something that is a win for the company.

Yet, I still think they are worth writing and try to get to a few each week.

There are good reasons for doing so that run counter to the obvious complaints. Sure, there are more rounds than we could ever cover, but in theory we’re filtering as best we can for the most interesting, the furthest outlying and the trend-elucidating rounds that we can use as a light to better illuminate how the broader startup and technology worlds are changing.

I think TechCrunch does a reasonable job of picking the right companies to cover and we spend a good amount of time aggregating discrete funding events into trends. It’s super-hard work, as covering a single round is time-consuming and ultimately not incredibly well-read.

And yes, funding rounds are not really milestones to celebrate. The startup isn’t suddenly destined to win. Capital just means that the venture class has increased its wager on the startup generating more wealth for themselves and their backers, whom are largely already rich.

But trying to lever any information from private companies is an exercise in sadistic dentistry, and startups tend to open up the most around funding rounds. So, if you want to chat with a CEO on the record for half an hour, the next time their startup raises is probably your best chance.

And there is signal in a venture round. Someone felt strongly enough about the company’s prospects to inject it with more capital, making a funding event a reasonable signal that something is going on at the company.

Then there’s the issue of positive bias. All publications have a bias. TechCrunch has many biases, the most important and salutary of which is that we think that startups are cool. We do! Quickly-growing, private companies are inherently interesting and I came back to this publication in part so that I could keep writing about them. I am never bored.

So, yes, funding-round coverage tends to be a bit more on the positive side of balanced than I would like, but I balance that by becoming increasingly orthodox as a startup scales. When a young company raises its first few million, the chat with the CEO is her telling me about her small team, first customers and fitful progress.

By the time she raises a $50 million Series C, we’re talking gross margin expansion, YoY ARR growth and diversity metrics. Before she takes her unicorn public, I’m asking pressing questions about GAAP results, the public markets and what sort of external offers are coming in for the whole concern.

Being slightly optimistic about startups when they’re young is, then, tempered by increasing scrutiny as the company grows. That seems like a fair balance for the company and our readers.

So I won’t stop covering funding rounds. Even if I didn’t have this job I probably still would for my personal blog. I always learn something from high-growth companies; they have a window into the market that is dynamic and far from ossified. And early-stage founders tend to not be overly media-trained, so they are still interesting.

And sometimes something you write winds up changing the direction of a startup. That’s always a very weird and disconcerting feeling. But as this impact is nearly always good for the company in question, you’ve only accidentally made the lives of others a bit better for a short while. It’s not so harsh a sentence.

Danny: I hate funding announcements but write them anyway

Covering startups is one of the hardest news beats out there (trust me, I’m unbiased — I cover startups for a living).

If you cover the Senate, you report regularly on 100 individuals, their staffs and interactions. If you cover banking, you watch a handful of banks since no one gives a flying rat’s tushy about the industry’s middle market. There’s generally a limited scope in political and general business reporting where you know the key players and the key newsmakers.

In startups, you cover … everything. There are a couple of hot sectors that everyone is talking about … and then there is every other sector that might be the next hot sector, but no one has ever heard of it. It’s probably not important. But it might just be. That startup you talked to this week sounds boring. Four years later, it sells for $20 billion. The startup world is constantly changing, and unless you blow up your whole worldview on a regular basis, you’ll never keep up.

#doordash, #entrepreneurship, #funding-round, #fundings-exits, #private-equity, #startups, #unicorn

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DoorDash amps its IPO range ahead of blockbuster IPO

DoorDash filed a fresh S-1/A, providing the market with a new price range for its impending IPO.

The American food delivery unicorn now expects to debut at $90 to $95 per share, up from a previous range of $75 to $85. That’s a bump of 20% on the low end and 12% on the upper end of its IPO range.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


DoorDash still anticipates 317,656,521 shares outstanding after its IPO, giving the company a new, non-diluted valuation range between $28.6 billion and $30.2 billion. On a fully-diluted basis, the company’s valuation rises to more than $35 billion.

For the on-demand giant, the upgrade is enormously positive news. Not only will its valuation stretch even further above its most recent private price — around $16 billion, set this summer — but DoorDash will also raise even more money than it previously anticipated. That war chest will be welcome when a vaccine becomes widely available and food consumption habits could shift.

DoorDash will raise as much as $3.135 billion in its IPO, according to the filing.

After mulling over the company’s updated valuation from its new SEC filing, I’ve decided that there are three things worth calling out and discussing. Let’s get into them.

It’s Friday, so to make our analysis as easy as possible I’ve broken it into discreet sections for your perusal. Let’s go!

A path to profitability is important

DoorDash’s most profitable quarters that we are aware of were its two most recent. During the June 30 quarter, the company saw positive net income of $23 million off revenues of $675 million. In the September 30 quarter, on the back of even more revenue growth, DoorDash lost a modest $42 million against $879 million in top line.

Those two quarters contrast with the first quarter of 2020 when DoorDash lost a far-greater $129 million against a far-smaller revenue result of $362 million, and Q4 2019 when the figures were a $134 million loss and revenues of just $298 million.

#doordash, #ecommerce, #food, #online-food-ordering, #startup-company, #tc, #the-exchange, #unicorn

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DoorDash aims to add $11 billion to its valuation during public offering

This morning, DoorDash filed a new S-1 document, this time updating the market about the price it expects to command during its public offering. The food-delivery giant gave a range of $75 to $85 per share, which would revalue the company sharply higher than its final private price, set during a June Series H that valued DoorDash at $16 billion.

The company intends to sell 33 million shares, raising between $2.475 billion and $2.805 billion in the process. Notably, there are no shares set aside for its underwriting banks to buy at its IPO price.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


After the public offering, DoorDash expects to have 317,656,521 shares outstanding across various classes, giving it a valuation of between $23.8 billion and $27 billion at the two extremes of its IPO range, not counting shares that have not yet vested or are set aside for future employee compensation. CNBC calculates that the company could be worth up to $30 billion on a fully-diluted basis.

What matters more than the raw dollar amounts, however, is what we can learn from them. Let’s get into the guts of the valuation range and find out if it’s bullish or if we should anticipate DoorDash to raise its range before it goes public.

Valuations, ranges

The new DoorDash S-1/A filing, it doesn’t appear to contain new financial information, so we can keep our prior notes on the company’s health and performance in mind. Recall that we were generally impressed by DoorDash’s growth and its improving profitability.

Other on-demand food services are doing well: HungryPanda just raised $70 million, and on the back of Uber Eats’ growth — and optimism that its ride-hailing business will return with the market-readiness of strong COVID-19 vaccines — shares of Uber are at all-time highs.

So you can taste the optimism that DoorDash is riding as it looks to list. Given our take, you would be forgiven for presuming that DoorDash is targeting an aggressive price.

Is it?

#doordash, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #uber, #uber-eats

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All IPOs should be paid for in Robux

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is an all-time first for the show, it’s an Equity Leftovers. Which means that we’re not focusing on a single topic like we would in an Equity Shot. This is just, well, more Equity.

Danny and I and Chris got together to chat about a few things that we could not leave out:

And with this, our fourth episode in six days, we shall pause until Monday. Hugs from the Equity crew.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#doordash, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #robinhood, #roblox, #startups, #wish

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Extra Crunch roundup: A fistful of IPOs, Affirm’s Peloton problem, Zoom Apps and more

DoorDash, Affirm, Roblox, Airbnb, C3.ai and Wish all filed to go public in recent days, which means some venture capitalists are having the best week of their lives.

Tech companies that go public capture our imagination because they are literal happy endings. An Initial Public Offering is the promised land for startup pilgrims who may wander the desert for years seeking product-market fit. After all, the “I” in “ISO” stands for “incentive.”

A flurry of new S-1s in a single week forced me to rearrange our editorial calendar, but I didn’t mind; our 360-degree coverage let some of the air out of various hype balloons and uncovered several unique angles.

For example: I was familiar with Affirm, the service that lets consumers finance purchases, but I had no idea Peloton accounted for 30% of its total revenue in the last quarter.

“What happens if Peloton puts on the brakes?” I asked Alex Wilhelm as I edited his breakdown of Affirm’s S-1. We decided to use that as the subhead for his analysis.

The stories that follow are an overview of Extra Crunch from the last five days. Full articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.

Thank you very much for reading Extra Crunch this week; I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


What is Roblox worth?

Gaming company Roblox filed to go public yesterday afternoon, so Alex Wilhelm brought out a scalpel and dissected its S-1. Using his patented mathmagic, he analyzed Roblox’s fundraising history and reported revenue to estimate where its valuation might land.

Noting that “the public markets appear to be even more risk-on than the private world in 2020,” Alex pegged the number at “just a hair under $10 billion.”

What China’s fintech can teach the world

Alibaba Employees Pay For Meals With Face Recognition System

HANGZHOU, CHINA – JULY 31: An employee uses face recognition system on a self-service check-out machine to pay for her meals in a canteen at the headquarters of Alibaba Group on July 31, 2018 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China. The self-service check-out machine can calculate the price of meals quickly to save employees’ queuing time. (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images)

For all the hype about new forms of payment, the way I transact hasn’t been radically transformed in recent years — even in tech-centric San Francisco.

Sure, I use NFC card readers to tap and pay and tipped a street musician using Venmo last weekend. But my landlord still demands paper checks and there’s a tattered “CASH ONLY” taped to the register at my closest coffee shop.

In China, it’s a different story: Alibaba’s employee cafeteria uses facial recognition and AI to determine which foods a worker has selected and who to charge. Many consumers there use the same app to pay for utility bills, movie tickets and hamburgers.

“Today, nobody except Chinese people outside of China uses Alipay or WeChat Pay to pay for anything,” says finance researcher Martin Chorzempa. “So that’s a big unexplored side that I think is going to come into a lot of geopolitical risks.”

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration

Consumer lending service Affirm filed to go public on Wednesday evening, so Alex used Thursday’s column to unpack the company’s financials.

After reviewing Affirm’s profitability, revenue and the impact of COVID-19 on its bottom line, he asked (and answered) three questions:

  • What does Affirm’s loss rate on consumer loans look like?
  • Are its gross margins improving?
  • What does the unicorn have to say about contribution profit from its loans business?

If you didn’t make $1B this week, you are not doing VC right

Image Credits: XiXinXing (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

“The only thing more rare than a unicorn is an exited unicorn,” observes Managing Editor Danny Crichton, who looked back at Exitpalooza 2020 to answer “a simple question — who made the money?”

Covering each exit from the perspective of founders and investors, Danny makes it clear who’ll take home the largest slice of each pie. TL;DR? “Some really colossal winners among founders, and several venture firms walking home with billions of dollars in capital.

5 questions from Airbnb’s IPO filing

The S-1 Airbnb released at the start of the week provided insight into the home-rental platform’s core financials, but it also raised several questions about the company’s health and long-term viability, according to Alex Wilhelm:

  • How far did Airbnb’s bookings fall during Q1 and Q2?
  • How far have Airbnb’s bookings come back since?
  • Did local, long-term stays save Airbnb?
  • Has Airbnb ever really made money?
  • Is the company wealthy despite the pandemic?

Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost explains the strategy behind acquiring Spacemaker

Andrew Anagnost, President and CEO, Autodesk.

Andrew Anagnost, president and CEO, Autodesk.

Earlier this week, Autodesk announced its purchase of Spacemaker, a Norwegian firm that develops AI-supported software for urban development.

TechCrunch reporter Steve O’Hear interviewed Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost to learn more about the acquisition and asked why Autodesk paid $240 million for Spacemaker’s 115-person team and IP — especially when there were other startups closer to its Bay Area HQ.

“They’ve built a real, practical, usable application that helps a segment of our population use machine learning to really create better outcomes in a critical area, which is urban redevelopment and development,” said Anagnost.

“So it’s totally aligned with what we’re trying to do.”

Unpacking the C3.ai IPO filing

On Monday, Alex dove into the IPO filing for enterprise artificial intelligence company C3.ai.

After poring over its ownership structure, service offerings and its last two years of revenue, he asks and answers the question: “is the business itself any damn good?”

Is the internet advertising economy about to implode?

Image Credits: jayk7 / Getty Images

In his new book, “Subprime Attention Crisis,” writer/researcher Tim Hwang attempts to answer a question I’ve wondered about for years: does advertising actually work?

Managing Editor Danny Crichton interviewed Hwang to learn more about his thesis that there are parallels between today’s ad industry and the subprime mortgage crisis that helped spur the Great Recession.

So, are online ads effective?

“I think the companies are very reticent to give up the data that would allow you to find a really definitive answer to that question,” says Hwang.

Will Zoom Apps be the next hot startup platform?

Logos of companies in the Zoom Apps marketplace

Image Credits: Zoom

Even after much of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, we will still be using Zoom’s video-conferencing platform in great numbers.

That’s because Zoom isn’t just an app: it’s also a platform play for startups that add functionality using APIs, an SDK or chatbots that behave like smart assistants.

Enterprise reporter Ron Miller spoke to entrepreneurs and investors who are leveraging Zoom’s platform to build new applications with an eye on the future.

“By offering a platform to build applications that take advantage of the meeting software, it’s possible it could be a valuable new ecosystem for startups,” says Ron.

Will edtech empower or erase the need for higher education?

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Without an on-campus experience, many students (and their parents) are wondering how much value there is in attending classes via a laptop in a dormitory.

Even worse: Declining enrollment is leading many institutions to eliminate majors and find other ways to cut costs, like furloughing staff and cutting athletic programs.

Edtech solutions could fill the gap, but there’s no real consensus in higher education over which tools work best. Many colleges and universities are using a number of “third-party solutions to keep operations afloat,” reports Natasha Mascarenhas.

“It’s a stress test that could lead to a reckoning among edtech startups.”

3 growth tactics that helped us surpass Noom and Weight Watchers

3D rendering of TNT dynamite sticks in carton box on blue background. Explosive supplies. Dangerous cargo. Plotting terrorist attack. Image Credits: Gearstd / Getty Images.

I look for guest-written Extra Crunch stories that will help other entrepreneurs be more successful, which is why I routinely turn down submissions that seem overly promotional.

However, Henrik Torstensson (CEO and co-founder of Lifesum) submitted a post about the techniques he’s used to scale his nutrition app over the last three years. “It’s a strategy any startup can use, regardless of size or budget,” he writes.

According to Sensor Tower, Lifesum is growing almost twice as fast as Noon and Weight Watchers, so putting his company at the center of the story made sense.

Send in reviews of your favorite books for TechCrunch!

Image via Getty Images / Alexander Spatari

Every year, we ask TechCrunch reporters, VCs and our Extra Crunch readers to recommend their favorite books.

Have you read a book this year that you want to recommend? Send an email with the title and a brief explanation of why you enjoyed it to bookclub@techcrunch.com.

We’ll compile the suggestions and publish the list as we get closer to the holidays. These books don’t have to be published this calendar year — any book you read this year qualifies.

Please share your submissions by November 30.

Dear Sophie: Can an H-1B co-founder own a Delaware C Corp?

Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn

Dear Sophie:

My VC partner and I are working with 50/50 co-founders on their startup — let’s call it “NewCo.” We’re exploring pre-seed terms.

One founder is on a green card and already works there. The other founder is from India and is working on an H-1B at a large tech company.

Can the H-1B co-founder lead this company? What’s the timing to get everything squared away? If we make the investment we want them to hit the ground running.

— Diligent in Daly City

#affirm, #airbnb, #doordash, #entrepreneurship, #fundings-exits, #gaming, #roblox, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #wish

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