Chinese sellers on Amazon in hot demand by VCs and e-commerce roll-ups

Chinese merchants selling on Amazon are having a moment. The scruffy exporters are used to roaming about suburban factory areas and dealing with constant cash flow strain, but suddenly they find themselves having coffee with top Chinese venture capital firms and investment representatives from internet giants, who come with big checks to hunt down the next Shein or Anker. While VCs can provide the money for them to scale quickly, many lack the expertise to help on the strategic side.

This is where brand aggregators can put their retail know-how to work. Also called roll-ups, these companies go around acquiring promising e-commmerce brands for operational synergies. After taking off in the United States, Europe, and lately Southeast Asia, it has also quietly landed in China, where traditional white-label manufacturers are trying to move up the value chain and establish their own brand presence.

The latest roll-up to enter China is Berlin Brands Group (BBG), which aims to buy “dozens of” brands in the country over the next few years, its founder and CEO Peter Chaljawski told TechCrunch. This will significantly boost the German company’s existing portfolio of 14 brands.

The move came on the back of BBG’s $240 million funding raised from debt and its announcement to commit $300 million on its balance sheet to buying up companies. The firm opted for debt in part because it has been profitable since its inception. The recent funding won’t be its last round and it may use other financial instruments in the future, said the founder.

Chaljawski doesn’t see VC and corporate investors as direct competitors in the hunt for brands. “There are tens of thousands of sellers in China that generate significant revenue on Amazon. I think the VC money applies to some of them, and the roll-up model applies also to only some of them. But ‘some’ is a very, very big number.”

BBG is no stranger to China. The 15-year-old company has been relying on Chinese manufacturers to make its kitchenware, gardening tools, sports gear and other home appliances, with 90% of its products still made in the country today. For the new brand buy-out initiative, it’s hiring dozens of staff in Shenzhen, which Chalijawski dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Amazon,” referring to the southern city’s key role in global export, manufacturing, and increasingly, design.

Amazon alternative

BBG hopes to offer a new way for Chinese consumer products to scale in Europe and the U.S. beyond being an anonymous brand on Amazon. Sellers may want to break free of the American behemoth to seize more control over consumer data, but building a direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand is no small feat.

Many merchants that are good at operating Amazon third-party businesses lack the infrastructure to go beyond Amazon, like an in-house logistics system, said the founder. In Europe, BBG manages 120,000 square meters of fulfillment centers, allowing it to shed dependence on Amazon.

Chinese brands may also want to find Amazon alternatives in Europe, where the e-commerce landscape is a lot more fragmented than that in the U.S, noted Chaljawski.

“If you look at the U.S., Amazon is dominant. If you look at Europe, Amazon only has 10% of the market share of online retail. So 90% is beyond Amazon. In the Netherlands, you have platforms like Bol. In Poland, you have Allegro, and in France, you have other dominant players.”

To bridge the gap for international brands targeting Europe, BBG operates close to 20 D2C web stores in major European countries, aside from selling on Amazon. Its sales growth in the U.S. has also been in full steam. Currently, over 60% of the firm’s revenues come from non-Amazon channels.

BBG is already in advanced negotiations with “some brands” in China but cannot disclose their names at this stage.

#amazon, #asia, #berlin-brands-group, #brand, #china, #consumer-products, #e-commerce, #e-commerce-aggregator, #ecommerce, #europe, #manufacturing, #online-retail, #online-shopping, #retailers, #roll-ups, #shenzhen, #tc

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What Are We Going to Wear?

Predicting the future is a huge part of retail. Trend forecasters are back at it, eyes more on TikTok than the runway, adapting to a reality no one could have predicted.

#ann-inc, #bloomingdales, #brooks-brothers, #e-commerce, #fashion-and-apparel, #j-crew-group, #macys-inc, #madewell, #nordstrom-inc, #npd-group-inc, #proms, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #rent-the-runway, #shopping-and-retail

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To win post-pandemic, startups need remote-first growth teams

Growth leaders used to build key relationships across a company while working together in a real-life office. Those relationships could carry over through the pandemic, but let’s say you’re a new company and you’re remote-first.

How do you build this complex collaboration from scratch?

Growth marketer and investor Susan Su tells us that the solution is not just more software tools. In the interview below, she says that after the pandemic, startup founders will need to develop a mentality that places growth at the center of company strategy.

Consultants and agencies can be great additions to this effort, especially if they have previously solved the types of problems you face. (In fact, TechCrunch is asking founders who have worked with growth marketers to share a recommendation in this survey. We’ll use your answers to find more experts to interview.)

Su is currently the head of portfolio strategy for Sound Ventures, previously a growth leader at Stripe and the first hire at Reforge. She also shared a few thoughts on market opportunities after the pandemic in the full interview below. E-commerce is mainstream for good, she says, even as we all try to step away from screens more often. However, many social and mobile sectors are mature, and it’s going to be even harder for startups to compete as real-world activities absorb more time.

Don’t forget: Susan Su will also appear at our Early Stage virtual event on July 8 (and answer questions directly).

How are you seeing startups manage changes in user engagement as more people exit pandemic lockdowns and adjust their daily lives?

As we exit the pandemic, I expect that we’ll see a natural and obvious spike in some consumer activity that will roll up to midsized businesses and enterprises. Just like with the onset of the pandemic, we’ll see uneven results across sectors:

E-commerce boomed during the pandemic but was really an augmentation of an already-accelerating trend towards digital commerce and streamlined logistics. I don’t think we backtrack from e-commerce because habit formation around online shopping has been building for years; we would be backtracking to an age long before 2020, and that’s not going to happen.

New social-mobile experiences also boomed during the pandemic, but there’s still a valid question around whether 15 months or so is enough time to become part of the ingrained infrastructure of daily life. We are living in an age of mature platforms, so every new service is stealing time away from an existing service. As with pre-pandemic growth, their success rests upon fast-accumulating network effects and great, sticky core product experience. Now that we have parks, friends and dinners out calling to us again, it’s a real test of how compelling some of these new value propositions really are, and whether they can continue to demonstrate their relevance in a more hybridized online-offline world.

That said, the pandemic was an enormous constraint on human society and [the] economy, and these kinds of constraints often breed innovation that doesn’t go away. We will evolve, but we can never go back. It sounds cheesy but it’s true.

Some aspects of the pandemic, like remote work, appear to have radically changed certain industries. How will these societal changes impact how the typical startup thinks about growth?

Growth will always be growth — that is, a process of iterative experimentation to identify and solve customer problems, and then scale those solutions in order to reach and convert bigger and bigger audiences. Platform changes like iOS 14 or Facebook’s periodic algorithm adjustments will have a bigger impact in the near term on the technical functioning of growth, and these aren’t specifically pandemic-related.

One area to watch is how growth teams are built and operated. Growth is a horizontal function that touches many different parts of the org, including product, engineering, marketing, comms and design. Many startup teams have already been working with collaboration tools even while they sat in the same office, but growth is about more than just using tools. The most effective growth leaders succeed by building relationships across the organization; it’s like the fable of Stone Soup — you’re creating this meal that will feed everyone, but you also need each person to bring a pinch of salt, or a dash of pepper, or one carrot, and that requires socialization and relationship-building. I’ll be very interested to see how new growth leaders onboard remote-only teams and what approaches they take to this “networking” need within the function.

From the days of growth hacking on social platforms, growth marketing is now an established part of the world. But it’s not necessarily the main expertise of a startup founder, even if it needs to be. So, how should they think about addressing growth marketing in 2021? What are the essentials they should do in their roles?

Every founder needs to have a growth mentality. They don’t need to memorize all the right buttons to push in an ads dashboard, but they need to be familiar and comfortable with the core work of gap-finding. That said, founders are by definition entrepreneurial — their company exists because they saw an opportunity that no one else did, and this is the fundamental work of growth as well.

Founders will fail if they adopt a mentality that someone else can or should do it for them. The founder’s job is to supply ambition and opinions, and then magnetize high-quality talent to come and pull the levers and bring their creative vision to life. There are many people who can do growth marketing — that is, they know how the platforms work, they understand the rules and the playbooks. But there are very few who can come up with truly visionary strategies that change the game altogether — those people become founders, and those companies become household names. So for a founder, I’d say the most important growth work is to continue to know your market and customer better than anyone else in the whole world, have an opinion about what’s missing, and work to bring the best talent to come in alongside you and be a thought partner, not just a button pusher.

With limited resources, how should early-stage companies think about what to focus on?

This is going to depend on the goals of your company. Are you planning to raise money and need to demonstrate certain KPIs? Are you bootstrapping and need to keep the lights on? Resources should always be allocated to the most strategic purposes, with the longest-term view you can afford. For some companies, this could mean forgoing revenue to focus on viral or word-of-mouth-driven user acquisition to demonstrate to future investors that there’s something special here. For other companies, perhaps in lower volume categories like enterprise, it’s about bringing a few strategic logos into the family as a signal to later customers and other stakeholders, including future employees and investors.

One thing that early-stage companies should always be focused on is building a top-shelf employer brand. You will only ever be as good as the talent you attract to your company, and interestingly growth can actually play a role in this. The best designers, engineers and product people are often flowing towards the companies that have the best growth. In that way, it’s a highly strategic role and function.

What do startups continue to get wrong?

You can’t truly outsource growth or any other core function; you can’t tack on customer acquisition after product development. At the end of the day, if you really think about it, all a company is, is a customer-acquisition engine. This needs to be core; wake up every day and think about growth, not just to hit revenue or user KPIs, but to build the company that the best people are clamoring to work at. It’s not about finding someone sufficient to solve your near-term problems; it’s about framing problems in a way that’s so compelling to the most creative, hardest working people so that they can’t get it out of their heads. Go for talent moonshots, and figure out how to close them. The rest will fall in line from there.

When should a founder feel comfortable getting help from an outside expert or agency?

Anytime. Agencies are great. They are an extension of your talent, and the best agencies aren’t selling you — they have to be sold on your problem because they have their pick of companies just like yours. That’s the agency or outside expert you want to work with, because they’ll have a priceless perspective from the other best-in-class founders and teams they’ve worked with that they can bring to your challenge. Any agency can run Facebook ads (it’s not rocket science), but you want to find the team that’s solved the gnarliest problems for your hero companies. Then you’ll get not just an ads manager, but a teacher.

 

#collaboration-tools, #digital-marketing, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #entrepreneurship, #growth-hacking, #growth-marketing, #startups, #susan-su, #tc

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Ukrainian police arrest multiple Clop ransomware gang suspects

Multiple suspects believed to be linked to the Clop ransomware gang have been detained in Ukraine after a joint operation from law enforcement agencies in Ukraine, South Korea, and the United States.

The Cyber Police Department of the National Police of Ukraine confirmed that six arrests were made after searches at 21 residences in the capital Kyiv and nearby regions. While it’s unclear whether the defendants are affiliates or core developers of the ransomware operation, they are accused of running a “double extortion” scheme, in which victims who refuse to pay the ransom are threatened with the leak of data stolen from their networks prior to their files being encrypted.

“It was established that six defendants carried out attacks of malicious software such as ‘ransomware’ on the servers of American and [South] Korean companies,” alleged Ukraine’s national police force in a statement.

The police also seized equipment from the alleged Clop ransomware gang, said to behind total financial damages of about $500 million. This includes computer equipment, several cars — including a Tesla and Mercedes, and 5 million Ukrainian Hryvnia (around $185,000) in cash. The authorities also claim to have successfully shut down the server infrastructure used by the gang members to launch previous attacks.

“Together, law enforcement has managed to shut down the infrastructure from which the virus spreads and block channels for legalizing criminally acquired cryptocurrencies,” the statement added.

These attacks first began in February 2019, when the group attacked four Korean companies and encrypted 810 internal services and personal computers. Since, Clop — often styled as “Cl0p” — has been linked to a number of high-profile ransomware attacks. These include the breach of U.S. pharmaceutical giant ExecuPharm in April 2020 and the attack on South Korean e-commerce giant E-Land in November that forced the retailer to close almost half of its stores.

Clop is also linked to the ransomware attack and data breach at Accellion, which saw hackers exploit flaws in the IT provider’s File Transfer Appliance (FTA) software to steal data from dozens of its customers. Victims of this breach include Singaporean telecom Singtel, law firm Jones Day, grocery store chain Kroger, and cybersecurity firm Qualys.

At the time of writing, the dark web portal that Clop uses to share stolen data is still up and running, although it hasn’t been updated for several weeks. However, law enforcement typically replaces the targets’ website with their own logo in the event of a successful takedown, which suggests that members of the gang could still be active.

“The Cl0p operation has been used to disrupt and extort organizations globally in a variety of sectors including telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, aerospace, and technology,” said John Hultquist, vice president of analysis at Mandiant’s threat intelligence unit. “The actor FIN11 has been strongly associated with this operation, which has included both ransomware and extortion, but it is unclear if the arrests included FIN11 actors or others who may also be associated with the operation.”

Hultquist said the efforts of the Ukrainian police “are a reminder that the country is a strong partner for the U.S. in the fight against cybercrime and authorities there are making the effort to deny criminals a safe harbor.”

The alleged perpetrators face up to eight years in prison on charges of unauthorized interference in the work of computers, automated systems, computer networks, or telecommunications networks and laundering property obtained by criminal means.

News of the arrests comes as international law enforcement turns up the heat on ransomware gangs. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had seized most of the ransom paid to members of DarkSide by Colonial Pipeline.

#aerospace, #colonial-pipeline, #crime, #cybercrime, #e-commerce, #extortion, #government, #kroger, #law, #law-enforcement, #malware, #mandiant, #oil-and-gas, #pharmaceuticals, #qualys, #ransomware, #security, #security-breaches, #singtel, #south-korea, #telecommunications, #tesla, #ukraine, #united-states

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Shopify expands its one-click checkout, Shop Pay, to any merchant on Facebook or Google

E-commerce platform Shopify announced this morning its one-click checkout service known as Shop Pay will become available to any U.S. merchant that sells on Facebook or Google — even if they don’t use Shopify’s software to power their online stores. That makes Shop Pay the first Shopify product offered to non-Shopify merchants, the company notes.

First introduced at its developer conference in 2017, Shop Pay is similar to other instant checkout solutions that offer an easier way to pay online by reducing the number of fields a customer has to fill out during the checkout process. The service remembers and encrypts the customer’s information, so consumers can check out with just a tap when shopping online and, as of recently, even pay for purchase in installments, thanks to a partnership with Affirm.

Shopify in February had expanded Shop Pay to Facebook and Instagram, in partnership with Facebook, but it only worked for existing Shopify merchants selling on those social platforms at the time. In May, Google announced at its I/O developer conference it was partnering with Shopify on an online shopping expansion that would give Shopify’s more than 1.7 million merchants the ability to reach customers through Google Search and other “shopping journeys” that began through other Google properties like Search, Maps, Images, Lens, and YouTube.

The company declined to share how many of its 1.7 million merchants are already available on Facebook or Google today, but said they are two of the most popular channels.

Following today’s announcement, other merchants will also have the option to adopt Shop Pay for their own Facebook or Google stores. While how many will actually do so is yet unknown, Shopify notes that every day 1.8 billion people log onto Facebook and a billion shopping sessions take place across Google.

The company also touted Shop Pay’s advantages, including its 70% faster checkout than a typical checkout offers, with a 1.72x higher conversion rate — meaning fewer abandoned charts.

For consumers, the advantage of using Shop Pay over a traditional checkout, beyond the speed, is its integration with Shopify’s mobile app, Shop, which organizes and tracks your online orders across merchants, including Amazon,  so you can see when orders are arriving or quickly ask questions and manage returns.

To date, the Shop app has tracked over 430 million orders, the company says.

Over time, the Shop app can also customize a feed including users’ favorite stores to point to other recommendations, including those from local merchants. Shopify confirmed that the Shop app will be able to track the Shop Pay-enabled orders from the non-Shopify merchants.

“Since launching, Shop Pay has set the standard for checkout experiences, facilitating more than $24 billion in orders,” noted Shopify VP, Carl Rivera, who heads Product for Shop. “According to studies, cart abandonment averages 70%, with nearly 20% occurring because of a complicated checkout process. Shop Pay makes that process fast and simple, and the expansion to all merchants selling on Facebook and Google is a mission-critical step in bringing a best-in-class checkout to every consumer, every merchant, every platform, and every device,” he added.

The expansion could be a notable challenge to other payment mechanisms, including PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and those offered by the platforms themselves, thanks to Shopify’s growing traction with merchants — one analysis gives its platform a 23% market share in the U.S — combined with the popularity of the Shop app, now the No. 3 Shopping app on the App Store.

The news follows yesterday’s confirmation that Shopify has taken a significant stake in payments giant Stripe, the backbone of the Shop Pay service, as well as Shopify’s partner on merchant services, including bank accounts and debit cards.

Shopify says the Shop Pay service will be enabled for all U.S. merchants selling on Facebook in the “coming months,” and will roll out to all merchants on Google by late 2021.

 

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #facebook, #google, #merchant-services, #mobile-payments, #online-shopping, #online-stores, #partner, #shop, #shopify, #shopping, #stripe, #tc, #united-states

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Out of the Pandemic, a New Marketplace for Native Ingredients

The owners of Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace aim to build one of the most comprehensive shops of its kind.

#cooking-and-cookbooks, #e-commerce, #food, #indigenous-people, #native-americans, #tocabe-indigenous-marketplace

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Amazon, eBay fight legislation that would unmask third-party sellers

Boxes move along a conveyor belt at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

Enlarge / Boxes move along a conveyor belt at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey. (credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Amazon and a who’s who of online-only retailers are trying to kill proposed federal and state legislation that would make the companies disclose contact information for third-party sellers.

The bills would force Amazon and others to verify the identities of third-party sellers and provide consumers with ways to contact the stores. The proposed legislation is pitting brick-and-mortar retailers—including Home Depot, Walgreens, and JC Penney, which support the bills—against online retailers like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Poshmark, and others, which argue that the legislation would harm small sellers. 

The bills come as brick-and-mortar retailers lost ground to online retailers throughout the pandemic—in 2020, 20 percent of consumer retail purchases were made online, compared with about 14 percent in 2019. But the legislation is also being proposed in response to a slew of counterfeit, stolen, and dangerous items that have appeared on marketplace sites. 

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#amazon, #e-commerce, #ebay, #policy

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The fintech endgame: New supercompanies combine the best of software and financials

If money is the ultimate commodity, how can fintechs — which sell money, move money or sell insurance against monetary loss — build products that remain differentiated and create lasting value over time?

And why are so many software companies — which already boast highly differentiated offerings and serve huge markets— moving to offer financial services embedded within their products?

A new and attractive hybrid category of company is emerging at the intersection of software and financial services, creating buzz in the investment and entrepreneurial communities, as we discussed at our “Fintech: The Endgame” virtual conference and accompanying report this week.

These specialized companies — in some cases, software companies that also process payments and hold funds on behalf of their customers, and in others, financial-first companies that integrate workflow and features more reminiscent of software companies — combine some of the best attributes of both categories.

Image Credits: Battery Ventures

From software, they design for strong user engagement linked to helpful, intuitive products that drive retention over the long term. From financials, they draw on the ability to earn revenues indexed to the growth of a customer’s business.

Fintech is poised to revolutionize financial services, both through reinventing existing products and driving new business models as financial services become more pervasive within other sectors.

The powerful combination of these two models is rapidly driving both public and private market value as investors grant these “super” companies premium valuations — in the public sphere, nearly twice the median multiple of pure software companies, according to a Battery analysis.

The near-perfect example of this phenomenon is Shopify, the company that made its name selling software to help business owners launch and manage online stores. Despite achieving notable scale with this original SaaS product, Shopify today makes twice as much revenue from payments as it does from software by enabling those business owners to accept credit card payments and acting as its own payment processor.

The combination of a software solution indexed to e-commerce growth, combined with a profitable payments stream growing even faster than its software revenues, has investors granting Shopify a 31x multiple on its forward revenues, according to CapIQ data as of May 26.

How should we value these fintech companies, anyway?

Before even talking about how investors should value these hybrid companies, it’s worth making the point that in both private and public markets, fintechs have been notoriously hard to value, fomenting controversy and debate in the investment community.

#banking-as-a-service, #column, #customer-service-software, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #ec-fintech, #enterprise, #finance, #financial-services, #insurance, #tc, #venture-capital

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Messenger adds Venmo-like QR codes for person-to-person payments in the U.S.

This spring, Facebook confirmed it was testing Venmo-like QR codes for person-to-person payments inside its app in the U.S. Today, the company announced those codes are now launching publicly to all U.S. users, allowing anyone to send or request money through Facebook Pay — even if they’re not Facebook friends.

The QR codes work similarly to those found in other payment apps, like Venmo.

The feature can be found under the “Facebook Pay” section in Messenger’s settings, accessed by tapping on your profile icon at the top left of the screen. Here, you’ll be presented with your personalized QR code which looks much like a regular QR code except that it features your profile icon in the middle.

Underneath, you’ll be shown your personal Facebook Pay UR which is in the format of “https://m.me/pay/UserName.” This can also be copied and sent to other users when you’re requesting a payment.

Facebook notes that the codes will work between any U.S. Messenger users, and won’t require a separate payment app or any sort of contact entry or upload process to get started.

Users who want to be able to send and receive money in Messenger have to be at least 18 years old, and will have to have a Visa or Mastercard debit card, a PayPal account or one of the supported prepaid cards or government-issued cards, in order to use the payments feature. They’ll also need to set their preferred currency to U.S. dollars in the app.

After setup is complete, you can choose which payment method you want as your default and optionally protect payments behind a PIN code of your choosing.

The QR code is also available from the Facebook Pay section of the main Facebook app, in a carousel at the top of the screen.

Facebook Pay first launched in November 2019, as a way to establish a payment system that extends across the company’s apps for not just person-to-person payments, but also other features, like donations, Stars, and e-commerce, among other things. Though the QR codes take cues from Venmo and others, the service as it stands today is not necessarily a rival to payment apps because Facebook partners with PayPal as one of the supported payment methods.

However, although the payments experience is separate from Facebook’s cryptocurrency walletNovi, that’s something that could perhaps change in the future.

Image Credits: Facebook

The feature was introduced alongside a few other Messenger updates, including a new Quick Reply bar that makes it easier to respond to a photo or video without having to return to the main chat thread. Facebook also added new chat themes including one for Olivia Rodrigo fans, another for World Oceans Day, and one that promotes the new F9 movie.

 

#apps, #cryptocurrencies, #e-commerce, #facebook, #facebook-messenger, #finance, #messenger, #mobile, #mobile-payments, #online-payments, #paypal, #qr-code, #social-media, #software, #technology, #united-states, #venmo

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RSA spins off fraud and risk intelligence unit as Outseer

RSA Security has spun out its fraud and risk intelligence business into a standalone company called Outseer that will double down on payment security tools amid an “unprecedented” rise in fraudulent transactions.

Led by CEO Reed Taussig, who was appointed head of RSA’s Anti-Fraud Business Unit last year after previously serving as CEO of ThreatMetrix, the new company will focus solely on fraud detection and management and payments authentication services.

Outseer will continue to operate under the RSA umbrella and will inherit three core services, which are already used by more than 6,000 financial institutions, from the company: Outseer Fraud Manager (formerly RSA Adaptive Authentication), a risk-based account monitoring service; 3-D Secure (formerly Adaptive Authentication for eCommerce), a card-not-present and digital payment authentication mapping service; and FraudAction, which detects and takes down phishing sites, dodgy apps and fraudulent social media pages.

Outseer says its product portfolio is supported by deep investments in data and science, including a global network of verified fraud and transaction data, and a risk engine that the company claims delivers 95% fraud detection rates.

Commenting on the spinout, Taussig said: “Outseer is the culmination of decades of science-driven innovation in anti-fraud and payments authentication solutions. As the digital economy continues to deepen, the Outseer mission to liberate the world from transactional fraud is essential. Our role as a revenue enabler for the global economy will only strengthen as every digital business continues to scale.”

RSA, meanwhile, will continue to focus on integrated risk management and security products, including Archer for risk management, NetWitness for threat detection and response, and SecureID for identity and access management (IAM) capabilities.

The spinout comes less than a year after private equity firm Symphony Technology Group (STG), which recently bought FireEye’s product business for $1.2 billion, acquired RSA Security from Dell Technologies for more than $2 billion. Dell had previously acquired RSA as part of its purchase of EMC in 2016.

It also comes amid a huge rise in online fraud fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Trade Commission said in March that more than 217,000 Americans had filed a coronavirus-related fraud report since January 2020, with losses to COVID-linked fraud totaling $382 million. Similarly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fielded 542,300 fraud complaints in 2020, a 54% increase over 2019.

RSA said that with the COVID-19 pandemic having fueled “unprecedented” growth in fraudulent transactions, Outseer will focus its innovation on payments authentication, mapping to the EMV 3-D Secure 2.x payment standard, and incorporating new technology integrations across the payments and commerce ecosystem. 

“Outseer’s reason for being isn’t just focused on eliminating payments and account fraud,” Taussig added. “These fraudulent transactions are often the pretext for more sinister drug and human trafficking, terrorism, and other nefarious behavior. Outseer has the ability to help make the world a safer place.”

Valuation information for Outseer was not disclosed, nor were headcount figures mentioned in the spinout announcement. Outseer didn’t immediately respond to TechCrunch’s request for more information. 

#3-d, #access-management, #articles, #ceo, #consumer-financial-protection-bureau, #crime, #deception, #e-commerce, #emc, #emv, #federal-trade-commission, #fireeye, #fraud, #head, #identity-theft, #online-fraud, #payments, #phishing, #risk-management, #rsa-security, #security, #symphony-technology-group, #threatmetrix

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BukuWarung, a fintech for Indonesian MSMEs, scores $60M Series A led by Valar and Goodwater

BukuWarung, a fintech focused on Indonesia’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), announced today it has raised a $60 million Series A. The oversubscribed round was led by Valar Ventures, marking the firm’s first investment in Indonesia, and Goodwater Capital. The Jakarta-based startup claims this is the largest Series A round ever raised by a startup focused on services for MSMEs. BukuWarung did not disclose its valuation, but sources tell TechCrunch it is estimated to be between $225 million to $250 million.

Other participants included returning backers and angel investors like Aldi Haryopratomo, former chief executive officer of payment gateway GoPay, Klarna co-founder Victor Jacobsson and partners from SoftBank and Trihill Capital.

Founded in 2019, BukuWarung’s target market is the more than 60 million MSMEs in Indonesia, according to data from the Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs. These businesses contribute about 61% of the country’s gross domestic product and employ 97% of its workforce.

BukuWarung’s services, including digital payments, inventory management, bulk transactions and a Shopify-like e-commerce platform called Tokoko, are designed to digitize merchants that previously did most of their business offline (many of its clients started taking online orders during the COVID-19 pandemic). It is building what it describes as an “operating system” for MSMEs and currently claims more than 6.5 million registered merchant in 750 Indonesian cities, with most in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas. It says it has processed about $1.4 billion in annualized payments so far, and is on track to process over $10 billion in annualized payments by 2022.

BukuWarung’s new round brings its total funding to $80 million. The company says its growth in users and payment volumes has been capital efficient, and that more than 90% of its funds raised have not been spent. It plans to add more MSME-focused financial services, including lending, savings and insurance, to its platform.

BukuWarung’s new funding announcement comes four months after its previous one, and less than a month after competitor BukuKas disclosed it had raised a $50 million Series B. Both started out as digital bookkeeping apps for MSMEs before expanding into financial services and e-commerce tools.

When asked how BukuWarung plans to continue differentiating from BukuKas, co-founder and CEO Abhinay Peddisetty told TechCrunch, “We don’t see this space as a winner takes all, our focus is on building the best products for MSMEs as proven by our execution on our payments and accounting, shown by massive growth in payments TPV as we’re 10x bigger than the nearest player in this space.”

He added, “We have already run successful lending experiments with partners in fintech and banks and are on track to monetize our merchants backed by our deep payments, accounting and other data that we collect.”

BukuWarung’s new funding will be used to double its current workforce of 150, located in Indonesia, Singapore and India, to 300 and develop BukuWarung’s accounting, digital payments and commerce products, including a payments infrastructure that will include QR payments and other services.

#apps, #asia, #bukuwarung, #digital-bookkeeping, #e-commerce, #finance, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #msmes, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Tech Shakes Up the Supermarket

Technology is changing our lives in one of the most ordinary places in America.

#e-commerce, #instacart, #supermarkets-and-grocery-stores

0

Instagram adds affiliate and shop features for creators

As Apple hosts their annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Instagram and Facebook chose this moment to pilot their first-ever Creator Week. This three-day event is geared toward aspiring and emerging digital creators, complete with 9:45 AM virtual DJ sets and panels on “Algorithm Mythbusting” and raising “zillions for a nonprofit you care about.”

During the first day of the event, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement introducing new ways for creators to make money. In the coming months, Instagram will start testing a native affiliate tool, which allows creators to recommend products available on checkout, share them with followers and earn commissions for sales their posts drive. When creators make these posts, the text “eligible for commission” will appear beneath their username in the same way that sponsored content labels appear.

Available immediately, creators will be able to link their shops to their personal profiles, not just business ones. By the end of the year, eligible creators in the U.S. will be able to partner with one of Instagram’s merchandise partners (Bravado/UMG, Fanjoy, Represent and Spring) to drop exclusive product launches on the app.

During live Instagram videos, viewers can tip creators by sending them a Badge, which costs between $0.99 and $4.99. Facebook Gaming has a similar feature called Stars, in which one Star is valued at $0.01. Starting this week, creators can earn bonuses for accomplishing certain challenges, like going live with another account. In a promotional image, for example, Facebook offers a bonus of $150 for creators who earn 5,000 Stars, the equivalent of $50.

“To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.”

Image Credits: Instagram

These updates mark the latest push by Instagram toward affiliate marketing and in-app shopping, like its redesigned Instagram Shop and Shopping in Reels, which debuted within the last year.

“Our goal is to be the best platform for creators like you to make a living. And if you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply — across Facebook and Instagram — and then earn money for your work,” Zuckerberg added during Creator Week.

Creators may be drawn to experiment with these affiliate and shop features, since for now, they won’t lose a cut of their profits to Instagram. But platforms like TikTok and YouTube offer monetization strategies that extend beyond e-commerce.

Last July, TikTok announced its $200 million TikTok Creator Fund, which allows popular posters to earn money from their videos. It’s unclear exactly how TikTok determines how much money to dole out, but it depends on the number of views, engaged views and other factors. In August 2020, the YouTuber-turned-TikToker Hank Green estimated that he would bring home about $700 from 20,000,000 TikTok views in one month, averaging to about 3.5 cents per 1,000 views.

Meanwhile, YouTube announced a $100 million fund last month for top creators on YouTube Shorts, its TikTok competitor. The platform pointed out that over the last three years it has paid $30 billion to content creators. Snapchat has been paying $1 million per day to creators on their own TikTok competitor, Spotlight.

For users who don’t have millions of followers, these creator funds might not pay the rent. Still, it offers an income stream based on views, outside of e-commerce or viewer tips. For now, Instagram can’t say the same.

#conference, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #instagram, #mark-zuckerberg, #online-events, #partner, #social, #software, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #video-hosting, #youtube

0

Pinterest adds a Shopping List feature to round up your saved products

Pinterest has long positioned itself a source for inspiration that could ultimately lead to online purchases. And over the years, it has worked on features to better connect consumers with the products and services they want to buy, like shoppable pins, visual search, AR try-on, product recommendations, and more. Today, the company is rolling out another feature aimed at turning users’ saved Pins into purchases: a shopping list.

The new Pinterest Shopping list feature saves all your Product Pins in one place, so when you’re ready to purchase you won’t have to hunt around through your saved Pins and Boards to find the products you had been considering. Here, you’ll find the information you need, including an item’s price, reviews, and shipping info in an even grid so you can compare products and make decisions.

The feature, however, isn’t just an organizational tool — Pinterest says it will also send out notifications if the items you’ve saved have dropped in price — which could encourage users to make the purchase.

The Shopping List is available on your Profile page above your other boards, and will include the shoppable items you’ve saved as well as items you’ve recently viewed. When you’re ready to buy, you can click on the pin to visit the retailer’s website to complete the transaction — giving Pinterest the credit for the referral, of course.

The feature will launch first in the U.S. and U.K., and will later roll out to Australia, Canada, France and Germany later in the year, Pinterest says.

Alongside the Shopping List, Pinterest today is also expanding merchant tools with the debut of its Verified Merchant Program in the U.K., Australia, Canada, France and Germany, plus a merchant storefront on profile feature, and new product tagging in Australia, Canada, France and Germany. Launched last year, the Verified Merchant Program offers retailers a way to sign up for a manual review to determine if they meet Pinterest’s qualifications for high-quality customer service experiences. If so, they receive a blue checkmark on their profile as a signal to consumers that they’re a trustworthy retailer.

Image Credits: Pinterest

In addition, the company is today launching a special two-week long Shopping Spotlight called “The Goods by Pinterest,” which offers users access to limited edition items sold by DTC brands including Brooklinen, Outdoor Voices, Clare Paint, Olive & June, and Maude. And it’s running a “Shop the mood” campaign offering curated trends from its annual report, “Pinterest Predicts.”

Though Pinterest notes its users, on average, outspend non-users by 2x every month and have a 85% larger basket size, the way people want to shop online is rapidly changing.

Historically an image-centric idea board of sorts, Pinterest may be left behind as more consumers — and particularly younger shoppers — begin to more heavily rely on shopping via video (both recorded and live), including through influencer-driven content across platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Pinterest has only more recently expanded into this area, with the launch of video-first “Idea Pins” last month aimed at creators, and a test of livestreamed creator events around the same time.

The new launches follow a Pinterest earnings beat in April on both EPS and revenue (11 cents vs 7 cents expected, and $485M vs $474M expected), but slowing user growth. The company reported 478 million monthly active users versus the 480.5 million expected, causing the stock to drop 10% after the report came out. The company blamed the decline in user growth and user engagement on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, as consumers began to spend less time online.

With the new additions, Pinterest wants to better ensure those users who are on its site are not just idly browsing, but actually checking out.

#digital-media, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #online-purchases, #online-shopping, #pinterest, #products, #shopping, #visual-search

0

99 minutos, Mexico’s last mile delivery startup, raises a $40M Series B

In 2014 Alexis Patjane was at a local hookah bar in Mexico City with some friends and the bar ran out of tobacco. They thought maybe they could buy some online and have it delivered to the bar in real-time, but it turns out that service didn’t exist.

At the time, Patjane was running a food truck-making business, which was responsible for about 80% of all the food trucks in Mexico, so he had experience doing business in the region.

A couple of weeks later, to solve the instant delivery problem he had faced at the hookah bar, Patjane launched 99 minutos, a website that sold products and delivered them within 99 minutes, hence the name.

Today, 99 minutos announced a $40 million Series B from Prosus and Kaszek Ventures which it plans to use to grow its business in Latin America. 

The company currently operates within 40 major markets across Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Peru and offers four services: less than 99 minutes delivery, same-day delivery, next-day delivery, and CO2-free delivery. 

What started as an e-commerce company with fast delivery quickly became a last-mile delivery service for other e-commerce companies.

“We started to build the API connections and plug-ins, and any e-commerce could add our delivery service to their business,” Patjane told TechCrunch.

99 minutos makes money by charging the customer a flat fee for delivery and then offering the driver a flat rate as well, but today, the volume is so large on each route, that it’s become very lucrative.

“We ship about 60-80 packages per route,” Patjane said, and from the consumer’s perspective, the delivery app works similarly to Waze. “You can pause the delivery, you can change the address. You can say, “Oh, I’m not at home, I’m at the Starbucks on the corner, can you drop it off there?”’ he added.

Patjane said that initially, the company offered delivery only within Mexico City, but it quickly grew to offer its services between cities and now operates between 21 cities in Mexico.

“E-commerce is growing quickly in Latin America, but it is still [the] early days. E-commerce penetration in Latin America is at 6%, while China is reaching 30% and the U.S. is at 20%,” the company said in a statement.

“When we hear big e-commerce players saying that 99 minutos is ‘their most reliable partner’ and that they are ‘the provider with the most potential,’ it tells us that the team is executing extremely well and is on a path to disrupt e-commerce delivery in Latin America,” said Banafsheh Fathieh, Head of Americas Investments at Prosus Ventures.

Part of the funds will also be to speed up their city-to-city deliveries. “We’ll be doing same day [delivery] from city to city and will be using small aircraft to connect the cities,” Patjane said.

#api, #business, #chile, #colombia, #delivery, #distribution, #driver, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #food-trucks, #funding, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #logistics, #mexico, #mexico-city, #prosus-ventures, #tc, #united-states

0

Amazon Battles Mukesh Ambani for India’s E-Commerce Future

The American company sees big potential in the country’s nascent e-commerce market. Both sides view a troubled grocery store chain as the key to success.

#amazon-com-inc, #ambani-mukesh-d, #antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #big-bazaar-future-retail-ltd, #computers-and-the-internet, #e-commerce, #foreign-investments, #future-group, #india, #mergers-acquisitions-and-divestitures, #reliance-industries, #shopping-and-retail, #supermarkets-and-grocery-stores

0

At Grocery Stores, It’s Hard Work Picking Your Online Order

The technology needed to fulfill orders is costly for stores, and the workers who pick items off the shelves often feel the pressure of being tracked.

#delivery-services, #e-commerce, #instacart, #kroger-company, #labor-and-jobs, #shopping-and-retail, #supermarkets-and-grocery-stores, #wearable-computing

0

#DealMonitor #SPECIAL – Investmentrunde statt Exit: Flink sammelt 240 Millionen ein


Investmentrunde statt Exit/Fusion: Prosus, Bond und Mubadala Capital investieren 240 Millionen US-Dollar in den jungen Flash-Supermarkt Flink. “Gleichzeitig wurde mit der REWE Group eine strategische Partnerschaft vereinbart”, teilt das Unternehmen mit. Der junge Flash-Supermarkt Flink, der Lebensmittel in 10 Minuten liefert, ging in der aktuellen Milliardenschlacht im Boom-Segment zuletzt etwas unter. Wettbewerber Gorillas sammelte kürzlich 244 Millionen ein und stieg sogar zum Unicorn auf.

Gorillas bemühte sich zuletzt – wie im Insider-Podcast berichtet – auch um eine Übernahme von Flink. Ebenso waren Getir und goPuff an einer Übernahme des jungen Unternehmens interessiert. Target Global und die Alt-Investoren Northzone, Cherry Ventures und TriplePoint Capital investierten zuletzt zwar beachtliche 52 Millionen US-Dollar in Flink, im Reigen der großen Anbieter war dies aber bisher vergleichsweise wenig Kapital. Mit der neuen Investmentrunde holt Flink nun massiv auf. Wobei Gorillas längst bis zu 1 Milliarde Kapital im Markt sucht.

Und auch der türkische Wettbewerber Getir, der derzeit nach Deutschland drängt, gibt weiter Vollgas. Gerade verkündete das Unternehmen eine weitere Investmentrunde: Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital, Silver Lake, DisruptAD und Mubadala Investment Company sowie ein “großer amerikanischer Vermögensverwalter” investieren 550 Millionen US-Dollar in das Unternehmen. Die Bewertung liegt bei 7,5 Milliarden Dollar. Seit Anfang des Jahres sind somit “fast eine Milliarde Dollar in Getir geflossen”.

Hinter dem Flink stecken vor allem Christoph Cordes (Fashion4Home, Home24), Oliver Merkel (Bain & Company) und Julian Dames (Ex-Foodora). Derzeit ist die Jungfirma in in 18 Städten unterwegs. “Die Verbraucher lieben den neuen Service und zeigen eine hohe Loyalität – viele bestellen bereits zweimal pro Woche oder öfter”, heißt es in der Presseaussendung zum neuen Investmentrunde.

Insider-Podcast #103 – Flink

Tipp5 Dinge, die jeder über das ganz schnelle Unicorn Gorillas wissen sollte

Startup-Jobs: Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Herausforderung? In der unserer Jobbörse findet Ihr Stellenanzeigen von Startups und Unternehmen.

Foto (oben): Flink

#aktuell, #e-commerce, #flink, #quick-commerce, #venture-capital

0

Architect Capital brings alternative capital to the early stage with new $100M fund

Early-stage startups are increasingly looking for alternative ways to access capital, meaning not every company wants to raise money from VCs or take on debt.

In recent years, a flurry of startups have emerged to give companies other options. (Think Pipe, for example.)

And today, San Francisco-based Architect Capital is a new firm that is launching with over $100 million in funds to serve as an “asset-based lender” to “high-growth,” early-stage tech companies. Specifically, the new firm aims to provide non-dilutive or less-dilutive financing options to asset-rich fintech, e-commerce and SaaS companies in the U.S. and Latin America, but with an emphasis on the latter. The region, Architect maintains, does not have a plethora of institutional financing available against assets.

The firm is not out to replace traditional venture capital or venture debt, emphasizes founder and CEO James Sagan, but rather to offer asset-based products that will complement them.

For some context, Sagan is no stranger to the startup world, having co-founded and served as managing partner of Arc Labs, an early-stage credit fund focused on lending to technology-enabled businesses. He’s been investing in Latin America for years, and recognized the need for new forms of financing to fund “novel and underappreciated assets.”

Also, he believes the region is home to “the most prominent fintech ecosystem in the world.”

To Sagan, traditional forms of equity and debt financing in the venture world are vital for things like growing headcount, but he believes they are “not engineered to support the growth of a company’s underlying financial products.”

“VC is highly dilutive and should be used for ROI activities such as hiring engineers and building great teams,” Sagan told TechCrunch. “It’s expensive to use equity to fund assets. Equity should not be put in a loan book. We’ll fund the loan book.”

Image Credits: Architect Capital founder James Sagan / Architect Capital

Architect’s goal is to provide “tailored and less dilutive funding,” especially to companies that produce repeatable revenues, such as SaaS and subscription businesses. 

Sagan said he first discovered the strategy in 2015 when he was working for a multifamily office that was lending against a bunch of traditional assets.

“A colleague and good friend of mine started a business and raised some equity and venture debt, but he couldn’t find the asset-specific financing for the receivables he was generating,” Sagan recalls. “He was lending to small businesses and needed asset-specific financing against those receivables.”

Venture debt doesn’t really work for receivables-based lending because venture debt shops typically are underwriting assets, or rather, underwriting the quality of the investors in the company, Sagan believes.

“So we really tailor our underwriting towards those assets themselves right and those assets range from unsecured consumer receivables to secure small business receivables to real estate,” he told TechCrunch. “Essentially, we’re providing an additional instrument for asset-heavy businesses that will allow them to scale in a way that venture debt will not.”

Architect’s LPs are mostly large institutions, as opposed to traditional high net worth individuals. The firm’s average check size will land at around $10 million to $15 million.

“Our portfolio allocation is more concentrated in general,” Sagan said. “We expect to grow our AUM (assets under management) pretty precipitously.”

Architect Capital has invested in six companies since inception, including PayJoy, a company that delivers consumer financing and smartphone technology to customers in emerging markets; Forum Brands, a U.S.-based e-commerce marketplace aggregator; and ADDI, a fintech that aims to give Colombian consumers access to fair and affordable credit through point-of-sale-financing that recently raised $65 million.

#architect-capital, #corporate-finance, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #funding, #latin-america, #money, #private-equity, #real-estate, #saas, #san-francisco, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #venture-debt

0

Little Black Door launches app on iOS/Android allowing women to share wardrobes, online and off

Our relationship with fashion has changed, not just because of the pandemic. Months in lockdown means people are probably more aware of their fashion purchases and how they consume, given its been such a long time without socialising. But the oft-talked about ‘Clueless wardrobe’ which would allow women to both see into their collections, as well as share and potentially borrow from friends, has yet to go mainstream. Now a UK startup aims to change this.

The Little Black door app, previously in closed beta, has just launched on the Apple iOS store here and on Android.

The app allows women to share the content of their wardrobes, in an Instagram-like manner by creating collections (“Lookbooks”), as well as curating their private wardrobe for their own use, with a focus on premium and luxury fashion. Women, says LBD, can “see, style and share”, as well as borrow clothes offline, and resell them.

The Lookbook feature allows women to share wardrobes collections with friends or followers in a controlled way, a feature that lets users borrow from each other.

Co-founder Lexi Willetts tells me: “We’d simply gotten to a point where we didn’t know what fashion we owned, given that almost every other area of life allows this. Most fashion can be easily dash-boarded on our phones – we couldn’t understand why our wardrobe wasn’t! Equally the effort required to list an item on resale was also super hard.”

Willetts and co-founder Marina Pengilly came up with the app when they realized they could make as much as £30,000 a year reselling their luxury clothes and accessories online. LBD is going after four key trends: the rise of resale (Depop etc); rentals like Rent the Runway; AI in e-commerce; and re-receipts.

Users upload their wardrobe by taking a photo of an item. The app will then recognize the item using computer vision. Lookbooks showcasing fashion collections, new and old also have an “I have this” button, allowing users to add items to their own wardrobes, or add as they buy automatically via links to retailers.

Another key feature allows users to see into their own wardrobes to see what they have, and, crucially, see how much they’ve spent, and own, in value.

Users can also create a Lookbook, not unlike on Pinterest, which can be shared with friends or a wider fashion community in a public or private group-controlled way. Lookbooks can be shared with a user’s network to allow them to see your style, or borrow the outfit in real life. As well as this, LBD itself also curates a feed of fashion/lifestyle news and surveys.

Willetts says partnerships with retailers and supplier deals for sales and fashion repairs are also in the offing.

LBD competes with the ‘Save Your Wardrobe’ app.

But is pushing the fact that it places a greater emphasis on sharing the wardrobe as well also allowing people to borrow items, with this focus on premium and luxury fashion – ADD …this is a truly social wardrobe.

The business model is likely to be a Premium version that unlocks extra features, affiliate revenues, advertising, and resale commissions.

Disclosure: Mike Butcher was an early, informal, adviser.

#android, #apple, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #co-founder, #culture, #e-commerce, #europe, #fashion, #instagram, #mike-butcher, #modeling, #pinterest, #tc, #united-kingdom, #wardrobe

0

Etsy is buying the fashion resale app Depop for $1.6 billion.

The acquisition is the latest to underscore the skyrocketing popularity of secondhand fashion platforms amid the pandemic.

#boston-consulting-group, #depop-mobile-app, #e-commerce, #etsy-inc, #europe, #fashion-and-apparel, #generation-z, #mergers-acquisitions-and-divestitures, #poshmark-inc, #silverman-joshua-g, #thredup, #venture-capital, #vinted-uab

0

How China’s Tencent Avoided an Antitrust Push, For Now.

Tencent’s popularity may help it avoid trouble with Beijing. But its vast power could still squelch innovation in the world’s largest online market.

#antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #beijing-bytedance-technology-co-ltd, #china, #computers-and-the-internet, #e-commerce, #entrepreneurship, #fines-penalties, #instant-messaging, #meituan, #mobile-applications, #politics-and-government, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #social-media, #tencent-holdings-ltd, #venture-capital

0

Goldman Sachs leads $202M investment in project44, doubling its valuation to $1.2B in a matter of months

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted a lot in the world, and supply chains are no exception. 

A number of applications that aim to solve workflow challenges across the supply chain exist. But getting real-time access to information from transportation providers has remained somewhat elusive for shippers and logistics companies alike. 

Enter Project44. The 7-year-old Chicago-based company has built an API-based platform that it  says acts as “the connective tissue” between transportation providers, third-party logistics companies, shippers and the systems. Using predictive analytics, the platform provides crucial real-time information such as estimated time of arrivals (ETAs).

“Supply chains have undergone an incredible amount of change – there has never been a greater need for agility, resiliency, and the ability to rapidly respond to changes across the supply chain,” said Jason Duboe, the company’s Chief Growth Officer.

And now, project44 announced it has raised $202 million in a Series E funding round led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Emergence Capital. Girteka and Lineage Logistics also participated in the financing, which gives project44 a post-money valuation of $1.2 billion. That doubles the company’s valuation at the time of its Insight Partners-led $100 million Series D in December.

The raise is quite possibly the largest investment in the supply chain visibility space to date.

Project44 is one of those refreshingly transparent private companies that gives insight into its financials. This month, the company says it crossed $50 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR), which is up 100% year over year. It has more than 600 customers including some of the world’s largest brands such as Amazon, Walmart, Nestle, Starbucks, Unilever, Lenovo and P&G. Customers hail from a variety of industries including CPG, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, pharma, and chemical.

Over the last year, the pandemic created a number of supply chain disruptions, underscoring the importance of technologies that help provide visibility into supply chain operations. Project44 said it worked hard to help customers to mitigate “relentless volatility, bottlenecks, and logistics breakdowns,” including during the Suez Canal incident where a cargo ship got stuck for days.

Looking ahead, Project44 plans to use its new capital in part to continue its global expansion. Project44 recently announced its expansion into China and has plans to grow in the Asia-Pacific, Australia/New Zealand and Latin American markets, according to Duboe.

We are also going to continue to invest heavily in our carrier products to enable more participation and engagement from the transportation community that desires a stronger digital experience to improve efficiency and experience for their customers,” he told TechCrunch. The company also aims to expand its artificial intelligence (AI) and data science capabilities and broaden sales and marketing reach globally.

Last week, project44 announced its acquisition of ClearMetal, a San Francisco-based supply chain planning software company that focuses on international freight visibility, predictive planning and overall customer experience. WIth the buy, Duboe said  project44 will now have two contracts with Amazon: road and ocean. 

“Project44 will power what they are chasing,” he added.

And in March, the company also acquired Ocean Insights to expand its ocean offerings.

Will Chen, a managing director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, believes that project44 is unique in its scope of network coverage across geographies and modes of transport.  

“Most competitors predominantly focus on over-the-road visibility and primarily serve one region, whereas project44 is a truly global business that provides end-to-end visibility across their customers’ entire supply chain,” he said.

Goldman Sachs Asset Management, noted project44 CEO and founder Jett McCandless, will help the company grow not only by providing capital but through its network and resources.

#amazon, #api, #articles, #artificial-intelligence, #asia-pacific, #australia, #business, #chicago, #chief, #china, #clearmetal, #companies, #e-commerce, #emergence-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #insight-partners, #lenovo, #logistics, #manufacturing, #nestle, #new-zealand, #officer, #pg, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #starbucks, #startup, #startups, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #transportation, #unilever, #venture-capital, #walmart

0

Instacart speeds up grocery orders with ‘Priority Delivery’ option

Instacart is speeding up grocery delivery. The company announced today it’s debuting a faster delivery service, “Priority Delivery,” in select markets across the U.S. and Canada, with the aim of attracting customers who would have otherwise quickly run to the store for their smaller orders or more urgent demands. At launch, the service will operate in several larger U.S. metros, and will offer deliveries in as fast as 30 minutes, the company says. Instacart is also expanding other speedier delivery services, including 45-minute and 60-minute options, to more cities and retailers in the months to come.

Today, many customers use Instacart to order their larger, weekly or monthly grocery orders, but still run to the store when they need a smaller number of items — like ingredients for tonight’s meal, for example. The new Priority Delivery wants to be an alternative to these shorter trips, effectively becoming the grocery delivery alternative to using a store’s express lane checkout.

In the markets where Priority Delivery is live, it will be indicated by supported retailers in the Instacart app with a lightning bolt icon that notes the expected delivery time, like “30 minutes or less.” Customers will also be given the option to choose Priority during checkout, instead of Standard delivery or a scheduled time, if they prefer.

The company tells us there’s not an item limit nor minimum on these types of orders. However, shorter requests — like milk, a few bags of chips, and a couple of bottles of wine, for instance — will be fulfilled faster than orders where the customer is requesting speciality deli items, a pickup from a bakery, or has a larger basket size.

When the basket size grows larger or the order becomes more complicated, the app will update to display that the 30-minute window is no longer available and display the new delivery time.

Instacart hasn’t yet finalized its pricing for the service, but Priority Delivery will carry an upcharge of some kind. However, the company tells us the fee will be “small” and “incremental,” and will likely be dynamic based on market considerations. It notes that the different delivery options and their associated fees and taxes are displayed during checkout, so there are no surprises.

Initially, Priority Delivery will be available in 5 cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, across more than 300 store locations, including grocers and speciality retailers. It plans to roll out the service to more markets and retailers over time.

“We know that no two grocery shops are created equal – whether it’s a bulk buy for the week ahead or just a few ingredients for tonight’s dinner – so we’re launching new features that support the many ways people shop for their groceries today,” noted Daniel Danker, Vice President of Product at Instacart, in a statement about the launch. “For many customers, every minute counts when they’re in a pinch and need something in a hurry. With today’s launch of Priority Delivery, we’re redefining the ‘quick run to the store’ and bringing the grocery express lane online for customers,” he added.

In addition, Instacart will expand access to 45-minute and 60-minute delivery options to more cities across the U.S., allowing consumers other options for faster delivery, even if the Priority service is not available.

The move to increase delivery speeds across its footprint could help Instacart better compete with grocery delivery rivals, like Walmart and Amazon’s grocery businesses, as well as Target-owned Shipt.

It also shortly follows Amazon’s announcement last week that it would be shutting down its standalone Prime Now delivery app and website, to instead direct shoppers who want faster delivery on groceries to the Amazon app and website. However, in Amazon’s case, it’s promising 2-hour delivery windows on both Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods; not as low as 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Walmart’s membership-based delivery service, Walmart+, doesn’t currently guarantee same-day delivery even for its paying subscribers, as its time slots are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Among the big names, that leaves Shipt  — which offers same-day delivery, but not necessarily in 30 minutes.

The update may also make Instacart more competitive with other types of fast delivery businesses which don’t don’t serve grocery retailers — like goPuff’s ‘instant needs’ delivery service, Uber Eats Essentials, or DoorDash, which last year expanded to include convenience store items — including things like chips, ice cream, spices, packaged foods, and others that might have otherwise made for a quick store trip.

Instacart’s new service is rolling out now to customers in supported markets.

#apps, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #food-delivery, #grocery, #grocery-store, #instacart, #retailers, #united-states

0

Wayflyer raises $76M to provide ‘revenue-based’ financing to e-commerce merchants

Wayflyer, a revenue-based financing platform for e-commerce merchants, has raised $76 million in a Series A funding round led by Left Lane Capital.

“Partners” of DST Global, QED Investors, Speedinvest and Zinal Growth — the family office of Guillaume Pousaz (founder of Checkout.com) — also put money in the round. The raise comes just after Wayflyer raised $100 million in debt funding to support its cash advance product, and 14 months after the Dublin, Ireland-based startup launched its first product.

With an e-commerce boom fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayflyer is the latest in a group of startups focused on the space that has attracted investor interest as of late. The company aims to help e-commerce merchants “unlock growth” by giving them access to working capital (from $10,000 up to $20 million) so they can improve cash flow and drive sales. For example, more cash can help these merchants do things like buy more inventory in bulk so they can meet customer demand and save money. 

In a nutshell, Wayflyer uses analytics and sends merchants cash to make inventory purchases or investments in their business. Those merchants then repay Wayflyer using a percentage of their revenue until the money is paid back (plus a fee charged for the cash advance). So essentially, the merchants are using their revenue to get financing, hence the term revenue-based financing. The advantage, Wayflyer says, is that companies make repayments as a percentage of their sales. So if they have a slow month, they will pay back less. So, there’s more flexibility involved than with other mechanisms such as traditional bank loans.

Co-founder Aidan Corbett believes that in a crowded space, Wayflyer’s use of big data gives it an edge over competitors.

Corbett and former VC Jack Pierse spun Wayflyer out of a marketing analytics company that Corbett had also started, called Conjura, in September 2019.

“Jack came to me and said, ‘You should stop using our marketing analytics engine to do these big enterprise SaaS solutions, and instead use them to underwrite e-commerce businesses for short-term finance,’ ” Corbett recalls.

And so he did.

“We just had our heads down and started repurposing the platform for it to be an underwriting platform,” Corbett said. It launched in April 2020, doing about $600,000 in advances at the time. In March of 2021, Wayflyer did about $36 million in advances.

“So, it’s been a pretty aggressive kind of growth,” Corbett said.

Over the past six months alone, the company has seen its business grow 290% as it has deployed over $150 million of funding across 10 markets with a focus on the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia. About 75% of its customers are U.S. based.

Wayflyer plans to use its new capital toward product development and global expansion with the goal of entering “multiple” new markets in the coming months. The company recently opened a sales office in Atlanta, and also has locations in the U.K., the Netherlands and Spain.

To Corbett, the company’s offering is more compelling than buy now, pay later solutions for consumers for example, in that it is funding the merchant directly and able to add services on top of that.

“There’s a lot more opportunity for companies like ourselves to differentiate because essentially, we focus on the merchants. And when we underwrite the merchant by getting data from the merchant, there’s a lot of additional services that you can put in on top,” Corbett explained. “Whereas with buy now, pay later, you get information on the consumer, and there’s not as much room to add additional services on top.”

For example, if a business requests an advance and either is not approved for one, or doesn’t choose to take it, Wayflyer’s analytics platform is free to anybody who signs up to help them optimize their marketing spend.

“This is a critical driver of value for e-commerce businesses. If you can’t acquire customers at a reasonable price, you’re not going to be around very long. And a lot of early-stage e-commerce businesses struggle with that,” Corbett said.

It also can pair up a merchant with a marketing analytics “specialist” to analyze its marketing performance or an inventory “specialist” to look at the current terms and price a business is getting from a supplier.

“Our focus from the very beginning is really supporting the merchants, not just providing them with working capital,” Corbett said.  

Another way the company claims to be different is in how it deploys funds. As mentioned above, merchants can pay the money back at varied terms, depending on how sales are going. The company makes money by charging a principal on advances, and then a “remittance rate” on revenues until the total amount is paid back.

“We tend to be more flexible than competition in this way,” Corbett said. “Also, some competitors will pay invoices on merchants’ behalf or give them a pre-charged card to use on advertising spend,” Corbett said. “We always give cash into a merchant’s account.” 

Wayflyer recently inked an agreement with Adobe Commerce, a partnership it said would provide a new channel to further amplify its growth with the goal of funding 8,000 e-commerce businesses in the first year of the partnership.

For his part, Left Lane Capital Partner Dan Ahrens said that his firm was impressed by Wayflyer’s “nuanced understanding of what will drive value for their clients.”

“The team’s focus, specialization, and deep analytical expertise within the e-commerce market also drives superior underwriting,” he told TechCrunch. “Their explosive growth has not come about by taking on undue risk. We are big believers that their underwriting will only improve with scale, and that Wayflyer will be able to compound its competitive advantages over time.”

As mentioned, this is an increasingly crowded space. Earlier this month, Settle announced it had raised $15 million in a Series A funding round led by Kleiner Perkins to give e-commerce and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies access to non-dilutive capital.

#adobe, #atlanta, #australia, #bank, #checkout-com, #distribution, #dst-global, #dublin, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #guillaume-pousaz, #ireland, #kleiner-perkins, #left-lane-capital, #merchant, #netherlands, #qed-investors, #recent-funding, #spain, #startup, #startups, #tc, #underwriting, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #wayflyer

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Poparazzi hypes itself to the top of the App Store

If Instagram’s photo tagging feature was spun out into its own app, you’d have the viral sensation Poparazzi, now the No. 1 app on the App Store. The new social networking app, from the same folks behind TTYL and others, lets you create a social profile that only your friends can post photos to — in other words, making your friends your own ‘paparazzi.’ To its credit, the new app has perfectly executed on a series of choices designed to fuel day one growth — from its pre-launch TikTok hype cycle to drive App Store pre-orders to its post-launch social buzz, including favorable tweets by its backers. But the app has also traded user privacy in some cases to amplify network effects in its bid for the Top Charts, which is a risky move in terms of its long-term staying power.

The company positions Poparazzi as a sort of anti-Instagram, rebelling against today’s social feeds filled with edited photos, too many selfies, and “seemingly effortless perfection.” People’s real lives are made up of many unperfect moments that are worthy of being captured and shared, too, a company blog post explains.

This manifesto hits the right notes at the right time. User demand for less performative social media has been steadily growing for years — particularly as younger, Gen Z users wake up to the manipulations by tech giants. We’ve already seen a number of startups try to siphon users away from Instagram using similar rallying cries, including MinutiaeVeroDayflashOggl, and more recently, the once-buzzy Dispo and the under-the-radar Herd.

Even Facebook has woken up to consumer demand on this front, with its plan to roll out new features that allow Facebook and Instagram users to remove the Like counts from their posts and their feeds.

Poparazzi hasn’t necessarily innovated in terms of its core idea — after all, tagging users in photos has existed for years. In fact, it was one of the first viral effects introduced by Facebook in its earlier days.

Instead, Poparazzi hit the top of the charts by carefully executing on growth strategies that ensured a rocket ship-style launch.

@poparazziappcomment it! ##greenscreen ##poparazziapp ##positivity ##foryoupage♬ Milkshake – BBY Kodie

The company began gathering pre-launch buzz by driving demand via TikTok — a platform that’s already helped mint App Store hits like the mobile game High Heels. TikTok’s powers are still often underestimated, even though its potential for to send apps up the Top Charts have successfully boosted downloads for a number of mobile businesses, including TikTok sister app CapCut and e-commerce app Shein, for example.

And Poparazzi didn’t just build demand on TikTok — it actually captured it by pointing users to its App Store pre-orders page via the link in its bio. By the time launch day rolled around, it had a gaggle of Gen Z users ready and willing to give Poparazzi a try.

The app launches with a clever onboarding screen that uses haptics to buzz and vibrate your phone while the intro video plays. This is unusual enough that users will talk and post about how cool it was — another potential means of generating organic growth through word-of-mouth.

After getting you riled up with excitement, Poparazzi eases you into its bigger data grab.

First, it signs up and authenticates users through a phone number. Despite Apple’s App Store policy, which requires it, there is no privacy-focused option to use “Sign In with Apple,” which allows users to protect their identity. That would have limited Poparazzi’s growth potential versus its phone number and address book access approach.

It then presents you with a screen where it asks for permission to access to your Camera (an obvious necessity), Contacts (wait, all of them?), and permission to send you Notifications. This is where things start to get more dicey. The app, like Clubhouse once did, demands a full address book upload. This is unnecessary in terms of an app’s usability, as there are plenty of other ways to add friends on social media — like by scanning each other’s QR code, typing in a username directly, or performing a search.

But gaining access someone’s full Contacts database lets Poparazzi skip having to build out features for the privacy-minded. It can simply match your stored phone numbers with those it has on file from user signups and create an instant friend graph.

As you complete each permission, Poparazzi rewards you with green checkmarks. In fact, even if you deny the permission being asked, the green check appears. This may confuse users as to whether whether they’ve accidently given the app access.

While you can “deny” the Address Book upload — a request met with a tsk tsk of a pop-up message — Poparazzi literally only works with friends, it warns you — you can’t avoid being found by other Poparazzi users who have your phone number stored in their phone.

When users sign up, the app matches their address book to the phone number it has on file and then — boom! — new users are instantly following the existing users. And if any other friends have signed up before you, they’ll be following you as soon as you log in the first time.

In other words, there’s no manual curation of a “friend graph” here. The expectation is that your address book is your friend graph, and Poparazzi is just duplicating it.

Of course, this isn’t always an accurate presentation of reality.

Many younger people, and particularly women, have the phone numbers of abusers, stalkers and exes stored in their phone’s Contacts. By doing so, they can leverage the phone’s built-in tools to block the unwanted calls and texts from that person. But because Poparazzi automatically matches people by phone number, abusers could gain immediate access to the user profiles of the people they’re trying to harass or hurt.

Sure, this is an edge case. But it’s a non-trivial one.

It’s a well-documented problem, too — and one that had plagued Clubhouse, which similarly required full address book uploads during its early growth phase. It’s a terrible strategy to become the norm, and one that does not appear to have created a lasting near-term lock-in for Clubhouse. It’s also not a new tactic. Mobile social network Path tried address book uploads nearly a decade ago and almost everyone at the time agreed this was not a good idea.

As carefully designed as Poparazzi is — (it’s even a blue icon — a color that denotes trustworthiness!) — it’s likely the company intentionally chose the trade off. It’s forgoing some aspects of user privacy and safety in favor of the network effects that come from having an instant friend graph.

The rest of the app then pushes you to grow that friend graph further and engage with other users. Your profile will remain bare unless you can convince someone to upload photos of you. A SnapKit integration lets you beg for photo tags over on Snapchat. And if you can’t get enough of your friends to tag you in photos, then you may find yourself drawn to the setting “Allow Pops from Everyone,” instead of just “People You Approve.”

There’s no world in which letting “everyone” upload photos to a social media profile doesn’t invite abuse at some point, but Poparazzi is clearly hedging its bets here. It likely knows it won’t have to deal with the fallout of these choices until further down the road — after it’s filled out its network with millions of disgruntled Instagram users, that is.

Dozens of other growth hacks are spread throughout the app, too, from multiple pushes to invite friends scattered throughout the app to a very Snapchatt-y “Top Poparazzi” section that will incentivize best friends to keep up their posting streaks.

It’s a clever bag of tricks. And though the app does not offer comments or followers counts, it isn’t being much of an “anti-Instagram” when it comes to chasing clout. The posts — which can turn into looping GIFs if you snap a few in a row — may be more “authentic” and unedited than those on Instagram; but Poparazzi uses react to posts with a range of emojis and how many reactions a post receives is shown publicly.

For beta testers featured on the explore page, reactions can be in the hundreds or thousands — effectively establishing a bar for Pop influence.

Finally, users you follow have permission to post photos, but if you unfollow them — a sure sign that you no longer want them to be in your poparazzi squad — they can still post to your profile. As it turns out, your squad is managed under a separate setting under “Allow Pops From.” That could lead to trouble. At the very least, it would be nice to see the app asking users if they also want to remove the unfollowed account’s permission to post to your profile at the time of the unfollow.

Overall, the app can be fun — especially if you’re in the young, carefree demographic it caters to. Its friend-centric and ironically anti-glam stance is promising as well. But additional privacy controls and the ability to join the service in a way that offers far more granular control of your friend graph in order to boost anti-abuse protections would be welcome additions. 

TechCrunch tried to reach Poparazzi’s team to gain their perspective on the app’s design and growth strategy, but did not hear back. (We understand they’re heads down for the time being.) We understand, per SignalFire’s Josh Constine and our own confirmation, that Floodgate has invested in the startup, as has former TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Bonatsos’ Dream Machine and Weekend Fund.

#alexia-bonatsos, #app-store, #apple, #apps, #clubhouse, #computing, #e-commerce, #facebook, #freeware, #instagram, #internet-culture, #josh-constine, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #snapchat, #social-media, #software, #startups, #tc, #tiktok

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Italy’s Commerce Layer raises $16M led by Coatue for its headless commerce platform

“Headless” commerce — a set of tools that companies can use with their own customized front ends to build apps for selling goods and services — have become a huge business, not just because companies are seeing a bigger demand than ever before for people buying online, but because those companies are generally more focused in their own strategies around how and what they want to present to the world.

Today, one of the companies building headless tools is announcing a round of funding as it continues to expand its business.

Commerce Layer, which provides a set of APIs for businesses to build e-commerce apps with their own, customized front ends, has raised $16 million — money that it will be using to continue expanding its business and adding more commerce tools into its API library.

Currently Commerce Layer provides tools to build your own mobile, wearable and voice apps, point of sale solutions, subscriptions, and multi-vendor commerce models (as you might have in a marketplace), along with services like building your own shopping carts and turning print catalogues into interactive, “shoppable” digital experiences.

Filippo Conforti, the CEO and co-founder, said it plans to bring in a lot of new features. On the roadmap are new developer dashboard, a command-line interface (CLI) and order management system, and a hosted checkout application, metrics API, a reporting application, and better support for subscription and marketplace models.

This latest Series B round is being led by Coatue Management, with general partner Caryn Marooney (who has led comms at Facebook, among many other high-ranking comms roles) taking a seat on Commerce Layer’s board. Previous investors Benchmark and Mango Capital also participated. Benchmark led Commerce Layer’s Series A about a year ago.

That round came at a very key moment for the startup. Based just outside of Florence, Italy, and coming just on the heels of the first rush of Covid-19 cases in Europe — where for a time Italy was the epicenter of the pandemic — it was an early sign not just of how startups were able to keep working, but how investors were willing to back the best of them, even in times of uncertainty.

It also turned out that e-commerce became one of the big stories out of 2020, as more consumers went to digital channels to shop at a time when they couldn’t go to stores as easily, if at all.

That has definitely had a knock-on effect for Commerce Layer. Conforti told me that the company saw its revenues grow 6x in the last year — albeit it was starting from a small place, with only six customers on its books back in May 2020. It now has around 26 businesses using its tools, he said, including Chilly’s, Brioni, SumUp, Paradox Interactive and Coca Cola Embonor (a company that works under a Coca Cola license to make and distribute drinks in Chile and Bolivia).

The interesting thing about “headless” platforms is that they are becoming a much bigger part of the equation whe it comes to building and running e-commerce experiences. That seems to be a sign not just of how the sector continues to mature in terms of retailers and how they are looking for more than a plug-and-play, one-size-fits-most approach in their own strategies. It also speaks to the growing range of permutations of how and where people sell today, and the need for tools to address that.

While Commercetools is one of the bigger “headless” commerce providers, and whose founder even coined the term “headless commerce”, there are a number of others now building tools to help companies build more unique e-commerce experiences, including the likes of Spryker, Swell, Fabric, Chord, and Shogun. Even Shopify has stepped into the fray with Shopify Plus.

“eCommerce has become core to our everyday lives. As a result, big brands and enterprises need better ways to shift from retail and build exceptional online storefronts. We believe that Commerce Layer is building the API platform for this new category, and we’re incredibly proud to join them in pursuing their ambitious and exciting vision,” said Marooney in a statement.

#commerce-layer, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #europe, #headless, #headless-commerce

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SpotOn raises $125M in a16z-led Series D, triples valuation to $1.875B

Certain industries were hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others, especially in its early days.

Small businesses, including retailers and restaurants, were negatively impacted by lockdowns and the resulting closures. They had to adapt quickly to survive. If they didn’t use much technology before, they were suddenly being forced to, as so many things shifted to digital last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For companies like SpotOn, it was a pivotal moment. 

The startup, which provides software and payments for restaurants and SMBs, had to step up to help the businesses it serves. Not only for their sake, but its own.

“We really took a hard look at what was happening to our clients. And we realized we needed to pivot, just to be able to support them,” co-CEO and co-founder Matt Hyman recalls. “We had to make a decision because our revenues also were taking a big hit, just like our clients were. Rather than lay off staff or require salary deductions, we stayed true to our core values and just kept plugging away.”

All that “plugging away” has paid off. Today, SpotOn announced it has achieved unicorn status with a $125 million Series D funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

Existing backers DST Global, 01 Advisors, Dragoneer Investment Group and Franklin Templeton also participated in the financing, in addition to new investor Mubadala Investment Company. 

Notably, the round triples the company’s valuation to $1.875 billion compared to its $625 million valuation at the time of its Series C raise last September. It also marks San Francisco-based SpotOn’s third funding event since March 2020, and brings the startup’s total funding to $328 million since its 2017 inception.

Its efforts have also led to impressive growth for the company, which has seen its revenue triple since February 2020, according to Hyman.

Put simply, SpotOn is taking on the likes of Square in the payments space. But the company says its offering extends beyond traditional payment processing and point-of-sale (POS) software. Its platform aims to give SMBs the ability to run their businesses “from building a brand to taking payments and everything in-between.” SpotOn’s goal is to be a “one-stop shop” by incorporating tools that include things such as custom website development, scheduling software, marketing, appointment scheduling, review management, analytics and digital loyalty.

When the pandemic hit, SpotOn ramped up and rolled out 400 “new product innovations,” Hyman said. It also did things like waive $1.5 million in fees (it’s a SaaS business, so for several months it waived its monthly fee, for example, for its integrated restaurant management system). It also acquired a company, SeatNinja, so that it could expand its offering.

“Because a lot of these businesses had to go digital literally overnight, we built a free website for them all,” Hyman said. SpotOn also did things like offer commission-free online ordering for restaurants and helped retail merchants update their websites for e-commerce. “Obviously these businesses were resilient,” Hyman said. “But such efforts also created a lot of loyalty.” 

Today, more than 30,000 businesses use SpotOn’s platform, according to Hyman, with nearly 8,000 of those signing on this year. The company expects that number to triple by year’s end.

Currently, its customers are split about 60% retail and 40% restaurants, but the restaurant side of its business is growing rapidly, according to Hyman.

The reason for that, the company believes, is while restaurants initially rushed to add online ordering for delivery or curbside pickup, they soon realized they “wanted a more affordable and more integrated solution.”

Image Credits: SpotOn co-founders Zach Hyman, Doron Friedman and Matt Hyman / SpotOn

What makes SpotOn so appealing to its customers, Hyman said, is the fact that it offers an integrated platform so that businesses that use it can save “thousands of dollars” in payments and software fees to multiple, “à la carte” vendors. But it also can integrate with other platforms if needed.

In addition to growing its customer base and revenue, SpotOn has also boosted its headcount to about 1,250 employees (from 850 in March of 2020). Those employees are spread across its offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Mexico City, Mexico and Krakow, Poland.

SpotOn is not currently profitable, which Hyman says is “by choice.”

“We could be cash flow positive technically whenever we choose to be. Right now we’re just so focused on product innovation and talent to exceed the needs of our clients,” he said. “We chose the capital plan so that we could really just double down on what’s working so well.”

The new capital will go toward further accelerating product development and expanding its market presence.

“We’re doubling down on our single integrated restaurant management system,” Hyman said. 

The raise marks the first time that a16z has put money in the startup, although General Partner David George told TechCrunch he was familiar with co-founders Matt Hyman and Zach Hyman through mutual friends.

George estimates that about 80% of restaurants and SMBs use legacy solutions “that are clunky and outdated, and not very customer friendly.” The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more of these businesses seeking digital options.

“We think we’re in the very early days in the transition [to digital], and the opportunity is massive,” he told TechCrunch. “We believe we’re at the tipping point of a big tech replacement cycle for restaurant and small business software, and at the very early stages of this transition to modern cloud-native solutions.”

George was also effusive in his praise for how SpotOn has executed over the past 14 months.

“There are companies that build great products, and companies that can build great sales teams. And there are companies that offer really great customer service,” he said. “It’s rare that you find two of those and extremely rare to find all three of those as we have in SpotOn.”

#advisors, #andreessen-horowitz, #business-software, #chicago, #cloud, #denver, #detroit, #dragoneer-investment-group, #dst-global, #e-commerce, #finance, #fintech, #franklin-templeton, #fundings-exits, #krakow, #mexico, #mexico-city, #mubadala-investment-company, #olo, #payment-processing, #payments, #point-of-sale, #poland, #recent-funding, #saas, #san-francisco, #series-c, #spoton, #startup, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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Instagram launches a new section for shopping product drops

Instagram today announced it’s adding a new feature to help connect online shoppers to product drops through its app. Drops, which are a newer e-commerce trend, help sellers create buzz for forthcoming products in the days and weeks leading up to their availability. The products themselves are often only available in limited supplies or for a short period of time, increasing demand.

On Instagram, drops will now have their own destination inside the app at the top of the Shop tab, where consumers can discover, browse and shop all the latest product launches as well as view upcoming launches. Shoppers can also sign up to receive reminders about products they’re interested in from here, and look through products and collections from other drops that recently took place on Instagram.

Image Credits: screenshot of Drops on Instagram

Like other online shopping offered through Instagram, consumers can make their Drops purchases directly in the Instagram app itself via Checkout on Instagram, not by visiting third-party websites. This model will eventually allow Instagram to collect fees on purchases — something that’s become a more important part of Facebook and Instagram’s overall business model in the wake of Apple’s privacy crackdown on iOS apps that impacts Facebook’s ad revenues.

However, Instagram has temporarily waived its selling fees to both help businesses who are recovering from the last year of Covid. The move will also help it to gain ground in online shopping against new competitors, including TikTok.

Brands on Instagram had already been running drops before today, following Instagram’s release of a product reminders feature back in 2019 that allowed consumers to get notified when an item they were interested in became available for purchase. To date, brands across fashion, beauty, streetwear and others have leveraged the feature, the company says, including Hill House Home, Dragun Beauty, adidas, and others.

The new Drops location simply organizes the product launches in one place to make it easier to browse and shop. Instagram tells us it’s curating the featured drops in this section. To be considered, brands need to use the product launch feature which is available to businesses on Checkout with Instagram.

At launch, some of the drops available include today’s Drake x NOCTA ‘Cardinal Stock’ collection and upcoming drops like Wren + Glory hand-painted summer collection and Charlotte Tilbury Exclusive Pillow Talk Lips & Dreams Lashes Kit. This week, there are five total drops available. This number will vary from week to week as Instagram continues to test the new feature, the company tells us.

Image Credits: screenshot of Drops on Instagram

On an individual brand’s page inside Drops, consumers can view info like when the product became available, pricing, and other item details. They can also bookmark the item to add it to a wishlist or share the drop with a friend through Instagram’s direct messaging feature. From the top of the Drops page, users can return to their Cart or Wishlist at any time to complete the checkout — assuming they aren’t too late, of course.

In addition, the brand’s Live shopping can be scheduled to align with their product drop. When the brand goes live for a drop, there’s an on-screen countdown and confetti animation when the product becomes available.

The new feature is currently only available in the Instagram app in the U.S., and only on mobile devices (iOS and Android), not the web.

#apps, #brands, #drops, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #facebook, #flash-sales, #instagram, #mobile, #mobile-shopping, #online-shopping, #retailers, #shopping, #shops, #social, #social-media, #social-shopping, #united-states

0

Apple’s App Store Fees Are Too High

Apple doesn’t deserve 30 percent of all the money people spend in the App Store.

#apple-inc, #computer-and-video-games, #computers-and-the-internet, #cook-timothy-d, #e-commerce, #fortnite-video-game, #gonzalez-rogers-yvonne-1965, #mobile-applications, #smartphones, #software

0

A New Crop in Pennsylvania: Warehouses

Huge facilities have sprouted up in and around the Lehigh Valley, fueled by the astonishing growth of e-commerce. Some residents say the area’s landscape and long-term economic health could be threatened.

#allentown-pa, #bethlehem-steel-co, #e-commerce, #factories-and-manufacturing, #labor-and-jobs, #pennsylvania, #prologis-inc, #shopping-and-retail, #trucks-and-trucking, #workplace-hazards-and-violations

0

Extra Crunch roundup: Lordstown Motors’ woes, how co-CEOs work, Brian Chesky interview

Lordstown Motors released its Q1 earnings yesterday, and the electric vehicle manufacturer is facing a few challenges.

Expenses were higher than expected, it plans to slash production by about 50%, and the company reported zero revenue and a net loss of $125 million. Oh, it also needs more capital.

“But there’s more to the Lordstown mess than merely a single bad quarter,” writes Alex Wilhelm. “Lordstown’s earnings mess and the resulting dissonance with its own predictions are notable on their own, but they also point to what could be shifting sentiment regarding SPAC combinations.”

In light of the company’s lackluster earnings report (and a pending SEC investigation), Alex unpacks the company’s Q1, “but don’t think that we’re only singling out one company; others fit the bill, and more will in time.”

May 27 Clubhouse chat: How to ensure data quality in the era of Big Data

TC unwind chat with Ron Miller and Patrik Liu Tran

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Join TechCrunch reporter Ron Miller and Patrik Liu Tran, co-founder and CEO of automated real-time data validation and quality monitoring platform Validio, on Thursday, May 27 at 9 a.m. PDT/noon EDT for a Clubhouse chat about ensuring data quality in the era of Big Data.

The world produces 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily, but modern data infrastructure still lacks solutions for monitoring data quality and data validation.

Among other topics, they’ll discuss the build versus buy debate, how to better understand data failures, and why traditional methods for identifying data failures are no longer operational.

Click here to join the conversation.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch; have a great week!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist


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