Backflip offers an easier way to turn used electronics into cold, hard cash

Mike Barile spent two years and racked up nearly $20,000 in credit card debt to bring his first startup, Backflip, to life.

The former management consultant had spent years toiling in the startup grind, first at Uber, then, after taking a coding academy bootcamp through AppAcademy (where Barile met his co-founder, Adam Foosaner), at Google and at a failed cryptocurrency startup.

Burned by the crypto experience, Barile was casting about for his next thing, and trying to find a way to scrape up some rent money, when he hit on the idea for Backflip. The experience of selling electronics online was still shady and Barile and Foosaner thought there had to be a better way.

That way became Backflip. It offers customers cash on delivery for their used electronics — anything from Androids to Xboxes and Apple devices to Gameboys.

When I first started working on backflip back in March 2019, I met this kid named Chris and he wanted to buy some of my old iPhones. He had been a student at USF and as a side hustle he started buying used devices and would refurbish them and then either sell them himself or sell them to an official reseller,” said Barile. “Chris started making so much money he dropped out of school. That was a holy shit moment. He can make a lot of money doing this and he’s doing a really good thing.”

The problem, said Barile, was safety. “He’s got all these devices he’s acquiring paying cash for and he’s driving all around town… Everyone who works in the [refurbish and resell] industry has at least one story about getting robbed at gunpoint.”

Backflip solved that problem by being the intermediary between buyers and sellers and taking a small commission for managing the transaction.

The company raised its first money at the end of 2019, but before that, Foosaner and Barile lived off of credit and used electronics.

So far, Backflip has facilitated the exchange of roughly 3,000 devices. The company handles everything from wiping a device and ensuring its quality to finding a buyer for the electronics. The company pays out roughly $150 per device and has deposited a little over $500,000 with users of the service, according to data provided by the company.

“We did all sorts of stuff to get our first few users,” said Barile. We posted ads on Facebook Marketplace and Craiglist. We started experimenting at the end of the summer with the most bare bones mobile app kind of thing. At that point it was just Adam and I,” Barile said.

Starting now, Backflip is working with UPS stores to provide in-person drop-off and packaging centers for the used electronics. Over time, Barile sees those services expanding to offer cash on delivery. “The experience will be similar to an Amazon return,” he said. “Except we’ll be paying you.”

Currently about half of the company’s inventory is used handsets and mobile devices, but Barile said that could drop to a third of inventory as word spreads about the hundred-odd pieces of electronics that Backflip is willing to

“Unlike other resale options, Backflip prioritizes the user’s time and convenience,” said Foosaner in a statement. “Forget the back-and-forth of negotiating over price and scheduling a meetup. We’re here to do all the work for the seller and make sure they get paid fairly and quickly. Backflip users can know that they’re getting the most for their devices without having to do anything other than bring them to The UPS Store or box them up at home.”

The connection to the refurbishing community started early for Barile, whose mother had a side business called “Stone Cottage Workshop” where she was flipping refurbished furniture on eBay and at local thrift stores near Barile’s bucolic New Jersey hometown.

“We want to build the Amazon of making things disappear from your apartment,” Barile said. 

#amazon, #apple-inc, #e-waste, #ebay, #electronics, #google, #mobile-devices, #tc, #uber

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Mercado Libre taps Pachama to monitor and manage its $8 million investment in Latin American rainforest restoration

Mercado Libre, one of the largest e-commerce and financial services company from Latin America by market cap, has selected the startup and Y Combinator alumni Pachama as its strategic partner in developing projects to restore ecosystems in Latin America.

The selection of Pachama is part of a program initiated by Mercado Libre, Latin America’s answer to Amazon, which is called Regenera America. The $8 million that Mercado Libre is investing will be in two reforestation projects: the “Mantiqueira Conservation Project”, organized under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy and the “Corridors of Live Project”, designed and implemented by the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas.

Both projects will focus on the reforestation of over three thosuand hectares, through natural regeneration and planting over 1 million trees, restoring biodiversity corridors and protecting hydrological basins in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, the two companies said in a statement.

Pachama will provide satellite and machine learning technologies to verify and monitor the carbon sequestration produced by the sweeping reforestation efforts in a deal which leapfrogs Mercado Libre ahead of Microsoft as the young startup’s largest customer.

Software tools provided by Pachama will also increase the efficiency and transparency of the actual reforestation efforts on the ground, the companies said in a joint statement.

The deal between the two companies, and Mercado Libre’s big buy was announced earlier today at a press conference in Argentina and the agreement marks the first time Mercado Libre has tapped money from a recently issued $400 million Sustainability Bond that was designed to finance projects of what the e-commerce giant called “triple impact” in the Latin American region. The bond was issued by JP Morgan and BNP Paribas.

“We’re taking our first steps. We have always tried to do things the hard way and go to the core of problems. We have had a very interesting debate internally about when is the right time to start buying carbon offsets and carbon credits but we also realize that the … getting up and running of projects that generate carbon credits in Latin America was potentially even more of a challenging situation and more of a longterm solution,” said Mercado Libre chief financial officer Pedro Arnt.

“This is a building block of a longer term strategy thinking through not just what we can do for the next two or three years,” Arnt said. 

The Regenera America project has four pieces, Arnt said: measuring and reporting emissions internally for the company; buying clean energy for the company’s operations; providing electric vehicles for its own fleet and assisting its last mile and logistics partners in electrifying their own transportation; and the development of reforestation efforts across Latin America.

“This is setting up an example for more traditional industries across Latin America,” said Diego Saez-Gil, the co-founder and chief executive of Pachama. MercadoLibre is the largest company by market cap in Latin America and serves as a standard bearer for the forward thinking businesses in the region, he said. “Latin America is one of the biggest holders of biodiversity and carbon stocks in the world, and should be playing a more active role in climate mitigation.”

It’s a big step for Pachama as well. The deal marks the first time the young company has involved itself in project origination and provide a new revenue stream to compliment its existing lines of business.

“We are incredibly excited to start helping new reforestation projects get off the ground that have the capabilities to plant millions of trees and remove millions tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. If we are to solve climate change we need more projects like these to start as soon as possible,” said Saez-Gil in a statement. “We are confident that technologies such as AI and satellite imagery are key to scaling these efforts with high integrity, efficiency and transparency. Partnering with world-class organizations such as Mercado Libre, The Nature Conservancy and IPE for our first projects represents an incredible opportunity for us.” 

#argentina, #artificial-intelligence, #biology, #bnp-paribas, #brazil, #chief-financial-officer, #clean-energy, #diego-saez-gil, #e-commerce, #ebay, #electric-vehicles, #jp-morgan, #latin-america, #mercado-libre, #mercadolibre, #microsoft, #nature-conservancy, #pachama, #partner, #paypal, #satellite-imagery, #tc, #y-combinator

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Version 2 of Google’s Flutter toolkit adds support for desktop and web apps

At an online event, Google today announced Flutter 2, the newest version of its open-source UI toolkit for building portable apps. While Flutter started out with a focus on mobile when it first launched two years ago, it spread its wings in recent years and with version 2, Flutter now supports web and desktop apps out of the box. With that, Flutter users can now use the same codebase to build apps for iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux and the web.

“The big thing that justifies the major version number shift is, of course, the availability of web and desktop support,” Flutter product lead Tim Sneath told me. “And that’s just a fairly profound pivot. It’s rare for products that you suddenly have all these additional endpoints.”

Image Credits: Google

He noted that because of Flutter’s open-source nature, web and desktop support had been “cooking in the open” for a while, so the addition of these endpoints isn’t a surprise. A lot of that work in getting these new platforms ready for the 2.0 release involved getting the performance up to par on these new platforms.

It’s worth noting, though, that Flutter desktop support is still behind an early-release flag in Flutter’s stable release channel and Google says developers should think of it as a “beta snapshot.” Web support, however, has transitioned from beta to stable and has become just another target for building apps with Flutter.

Image Credits: Google

On the web platform, specifically, Sneath noted that the team deliberately started out with a very standard, DOM-centric approach. But while that worked fine, it also meant performance was held back by that, especially for more advanced features. Over the course of the last year or so, the team started working on what it calls Canvas Kit. This WebAssembly-based project takes the same Skia graphics engine that powers Android and Chrome itself and makes it available to web apps.

“What that’s meant is that we can now essentially bypass the core HTML — sort of the document-centric parts of the web platform — and really use the app-centric parts of the web platform without leaving [behind] things like auto-complete of text or passwords and all the things that keep the web feeling very unique,” Sneath said.

Image Credits: Google

On the desktop, Google is announcing that Canonical is going all-in on Flutter and making it the default choice of all its future desktop and mobile apps.

Microsoft, too, is expanding its support for Flutter and working with Google on Windows support for Flutter. Given Microsoft’s interest in Android, that’s maybe no huge surprise, and indeed, Microsoft today is releasing contributions to the Flutter engine to help support foldable Android devices.

In total, Google notes, there are now over 15,000 packages for Flutter and Dart from companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Huawei, Alibaba, eBay and Square.

As always, there are dozen of other smaller updates to Flutter in this update, too.

Looking ahead, Sneath noted that the Flutter team plans to spend more time on Flutter as a framework for embedded devices and other somewhat non-traditional platforms. He also noted that the team is interested in how Flutter can help power ambient computing experiences.

“As we think about the ambient computing worlds where there are these core premises behind the ambient computing aspects — things like: can it be searched easily? Can people make money off of the apps that they build and do it in a responsible way? We’re building support for those kinds of services. Better analytics, better ads frameworks, connectivity into things like Firebase and Google Cloud, so that people can not just take advantage of Flutter but the broader ecosystem services that Google provides,” Sneath explained.

#android, #chrome-os, #developer, #ebay, #flutter, #google, #linux, #macos, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #software, #tc, #web-apps, #web-development, #web-programming

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EBay and Adevinta to sell UK sites Gumtree, Motors.co.uk and Shpock to get their $9.2B deal past regulators

After inking a $9.2 billion deal to merge their classifieds businesses last year, eBay and Norway’s Adevinta have announced a deal to sell off three popular web properties in the UK to get the deal cleared by local regulators, the Competition Markets Authority. The companies plan to sell off Adevina-owned Shpock, and eBay-owned Gumtree and Motors.co.uk — three UK sites that let individuals sell used goods and find/offer services — with the transactions expected to be completed in time for eBay and Adevinta to complete their bigger deal in Q2 2021, pending final regulatory approvals.

“EBay and Adevinta remain excited about the proposed combination of Adevinta and eBay Classifieds Group and now target closing the transaction in Q2 2021, subject to final ratification of the remedies execution plan by the CMA and receipt of outstanding regulatory approval in Austria,” the companies said in a joint statement.

The companies have not yet said whether they plan to sell them in a single package or to independent buyers, but a spokesperson for Adevinta said that it’s likely that the CMA will give another update in 2-4 weeks. She declined to give a price range for the properties.

But in the statement from the companies, eBay said that Gumtree and Motors, which form its UK classifieds business, account for less than 10% of its consolidated revenues ($10.3 billion last year); and Adevinta said that Shpock revenues make up less than 1% of its consolidated revenues (which were about $80 million in the last 12 months). Adevinta is the majority owner of Norwegian publisher Schibsted, among other businesses.

The CMA provisionally has said that it would support the deal if the sale of the three properties gets completed.

“The CMA considers that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the undertakings offered by Adevinta and eBay, or a modified version of them, might be accepted by the CMA under the Enterprise Act 2002,” it noted in a brief update (which was dated 2 March, 2020, although I think that was a typo).

The divestment decision comes as a result of the CMA last month announcing that the deal raised competition concerns as is.

“It is important that people have choice when it comes to selling items they no longer require or searching for a bargain online, and that they can enjoy competitive fees and services,” said CMA’s Joel Bamford, Senior Director of Mergers, in a statement. “There is a realistic chance that without this deal Gumtree and Shpock would have been direct competitors to eBay, which is by far the biggest player in this market. This is the latest in a series of merger probes by the CMA involving large digital companies, where we are thoroughly examining deals to ensure that competition is not restricted, and consumers’ interests are protected.”

Interestingly, one of those other deals also involves eBay, indirectly. Another asset that eBay sold off as part of its wider divestment efforts aiming to streamline its business was selling secondary ticket market company Stubhub to Viagogo in a $4 billion deal. That acquisition closed last year, but then the merger was investigated by the CMA, which last month ordered Viagogo to divest the company’s business outside of North America. It’s a crushing blow when you consider that events have fallen off a virtual cliff (literally and figuratively).

Turning back to Gumtree, Shpock and Motors.co.uk, even if those sites are a relatively small part of eBay and Adevinta’s wider business revenue-wise, collectively they form a very popular option for people looking to buy or sell used goods or hire people for service jobs in the UK. I’ve been a regular user of both in my time, to sell and buy items, and to advertise for/discover several excellent au pairs. Coincidentally, people also use them to resell tickets.

It’s notable that the CMA didn’t consider Facebook, or any others, big enough yet to be seen as viable competitors in that market. It will be worth watching to see how and if that changes though. With deals like last week’s $191 million fundraise for Wallapop, and Facebook’s persistent Marketplace efforts, it is clear that there is still business to be found in classified listings, both as a standalone enterprise, or as something that creates stickiness for users to hang around for other services and advertising alongside them.

#adevinta, #ebay, #ecommerce, #europe, #fundings-exits, #gumtree, #ma, #schibsted, #shpock

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After lockdowns boost gaming marketplace Eneba, it raises $8M from Practica and InReach

Eneba, a marketplace for gamers that sells games and other products, has raised a $8M round of funding from Practica Capital and InReach Ventures. The funding is described as a ‘combination’ of a Seed and Series A round. Also participating in the funding for the Lithuanian startup was FJ Labs and a group of Angel investors including Mantas Mikuckas, COO of Vinted. The investment highlights once again the strength of the Baltics region as tech ecosystem, after Lithuania produced its first Unicorn in the shape of Vinted, and Estonia’s added Pipedrive to its unicorns list.

With the increased shift to digital entertainment during the pandemic, the startup has managed to garner much more US traffic. Launched in 2018 by two Lithuanian school friends, Vytis Uogintas and Žygimantas Mikšta, Eneba says it has attracted 26 million unique users because of its security features, ‘one-click to buy’ gamer experience and fingerprinting technology. The site also optimizes its localized gaming experiences to show locally trending gaming products. Eneba’s platform is designed to reduce risky transactions, simplifies the refunding process, and deals with fraud threats.

Co-founder and CMO, Žygimantas Mikšta said: “We had a lot of new users coming to Eneba during these uncertain times. While it was extremely satisfying to see our numbers increasing tenfold, there was a challenge to meet the demand. To better reflect our user numbers, we had to quickly expand our team to 130.”

Security has risen up the agenda in online gaming as virtual goods and services connected to games can be highly susceptible to fraud or theft. Although it competes with outlets like Amazon, eBay, and retailers like Gamestop, Game.co.uk, Eneba think they’ve found a better, tailored online pre/post-buying experience for gamers, while addressing the risk problems for sellers and buyers in the gaming world.

Donatas Keras, partner at Practica Capital said: “We are thrilled to be backing Vytis and Žygimantas. We’ve been impressed by their ability to execute at such speed as their company quickly scales, and to drive an incredible product with a unique value proposition for gamers.”

Co-founder of InReach Ventures, Roberto Bonanzinga, said: “In Europe we have a tradition of building successful companies in the gaming space. We are very excited to have discovered Eneba thanks to our AI platform when the company was unknown and under the radar. We have been extremely impressed by what the founders have been able to build in such a short amount of time.”

#amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #co-founder, #companies, #coo, #ebay, #estonia, #europe, #fj-labs, #game-co-uk, #gamestop, #inreach-ventures, #lithuania, #online-gaming, #partner, #pipedrive, #retailers, #tc, #unicorn, #united-states, #vinted

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eBay takes a bite at StockX and GOAT with sneaker authentication for sales $100+ in the U.S.

eBay is announcing today that it’s going to start authenticating sneaker sales over $100 in the U.S. This is a clear bite into the dominance of StockX and GOAT in the limited sneaker universe.

The authentication will be done by Sneaker Con, the company that runs, well, Sneaker Con. Founded by Yu-Ming Wu and Hayden Sharitt, Sneaker Con was infused with cash by Visionary Private Equity Group in 2018. They provide a well known and influential backer in the sneakerhead community that should provide a solid signal for buyers and sellers. It’s a good choice.

The quick story here is that eBay’s rep for authentic merch is, uh, not great — especially the sneaker universe where fakes can be virtually indistinguishable from authentic items. Though the brands themselves have toyed with different ways to authenticate from NFC tags to blockchain solutions, the counterfeiters have kept up with those various methods too and clone them quickly. About the only way to guarantee authenticity is to get the product in hand and have them examined by people trained to spot fakes. In some cases that spotting can be as granular as counting the number of stitches thrown in between two segments of a shoe, or observing the glue pattern of a midsole joint.

The program sounds pretty much the same as the others on the market.

  • Proof of Authentication: Upon receiving the sneakers, the independent authenticator confirms
    they are consistent with the listing title, description, and images, and then performs a multi-point
    physical authentication inspection. An eBay tag, guaranteeing its authenticity is attached to the
    sneakers to finalize the process, driving confidence in the collectibility and resale value.
  • Third-Party Authentication: eBay has partnered with industry leader Sneaker Con to create a
    new state-of-the-art facility – leveraging the top authenticators in the industry, a robust checklist
    of product specifications, and best-in-class processes to ensure accuracy and efficiency. With
    rigorous inspection of the box, shoe, and accessories, the authentication underscores eBay’s
    commitment to giving shoppers exactly what they want.
  • Verified Returns: For sellers who choose to offer returns, eBay’s sneaker authentication
    program ensures the exact item initially sold is returned to the seller, via a verified returns
    process. Returns are shipped back directly to the authentication center, where the third-party
    experts verify each item and its condition before returning to the seller.

eBay’s reluctance to spin up an person-in-the-middle authentication program allowed a gap for StockX and GOAT to thrive, offering authentication for new and, in GOAT’s case, even pre-owned sneakers. The eBay authentication tags even look like those offered by the two players. eBay had already launched its Authenticity Guarantee for watches over $2,000 (StockX also sells watches.)

The power of authenticity, of course, is what drives the booming secondary market, where shoes can be limited to thousands of pairs or even dozens of pairs per release. Sneaker culture, which was born on the basketball court and driven largely by Black athletes, musicians and icons, is now squarely mainstream and very big business. eBay has been slow to move here but has significant resources and already does brisk sneaker business with 6 million sneakers sold in 2019.

One note here is that this may drive higher margin business for eBay because higher end sales in the $500+ range are harder to justify on eBay where authenticity was not guaranteed. eBay was likely already capturing a decent portion of the lower end market but now has a chance to grab some of the fattier meat.

StockX and GOAT have advantages still, even with authentication now a commodity feature. They are purpose driven with a collector in view, and they have significant mindshare in the community. But if eBay is able to rescue its reputation for questionable sneaker transactions (I was once shipped a pair of socks and a literal brick in an eBay transaction gone bad) and incredibly poor seller support (eBay sides with the buyer in the vast majority of disputes, even obvious con jobs) then it could pose a serious threat here.

My hope is that the faster movers here will take this as an opportunity to really revamp their product experiences. Both StockX and GOAT have been relatively stagnant on the app and website front for a while, offering some intriguing yet incremental innovation — but not dramatically overhauling their product.

#authentication, #collecting, #consumer-goods, #culture, #ebay, #fashion, #sneaker, #stockx, #tc, #united-states

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Crypto exchange Bitpanda closes $52M Series A from Valar Ventures, backed by Peter Thiel

Bitpanda, a crypto assets platform, has closed a $52 million Series A funding round form Valar Ventures, a venture capital firm backed by Peter Thiel. Vienna-based VC Speedinvest also participated, alongside other unnamed investors. Claiming 1.3 million users, Bitpanda has previously been trading digital assets and tokenizing precious metals.

The Vienna-based company will use the cash to expand internationally. It expanded to France, Spain and Turkey in 2020 and plans to enter additional European markets this year and next. It has 300 employees.

Essentially, Bitpanda is a crypto exchange which can support other kinds of assets in a tokenized form. To date, it’s not very well known or used in the Crypto world.

What this represents is an interesting move by a crypto exchange, effectively expanding into real-world assets. At the other end of the spectrum, platforms like eToro, Robinhood and Revolut, which came from traditional assets world, and are now adding Crypto world assets. Eventually, the two will meet, in some shape or form.

Bitpanda is a centralized exchange with its own infrastructure, and is not running on a public blockchain. Other centralized exchanges include Coinbase, Kraken, Binance, Kucoin and Huobi.

As part of the investment, Valar Ventures founding partner, Andrew McCormack, will also join Bitpanda’s board. McCormack was previously with PayPal in its early years and supported Peter Thiel during its IPO and eventual sale to eBay in 2002. Valar has previously invested in European fintechs including Transferwise and the Germany-based digital bank, N26.

#binance, #coinbase, #ebay, #etoro, #europe, #finance, #france, #kraken, #mobile-payments, #money, #n26, #online-payments, #paypal, #peter-thiel, #revolut, #spain, #tc, #transferwise, #turkey, #valar-ventures, #venture-capital, #vienna

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Ex-eBay employees to plead guilty in “bloody pig mask” cyberstalking case

A bloody pig mask purchased on Amazon.

Enlarge / A bloody pig mask allegedly mailed to cyberstalking victims by then-eBay employees. (credit: FBI)

Four former eBay employees are expected to plead guilty to charges that they led a cyberstalking campaign against an online newsletter’s editor and publisher. In June, federal officials announced charges and said the harassment campaign “included sending the couple anonymous, threatening messages, disturbing deliveries—including a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath, and a bloody pig [Halloween] mask—and conducting covert surveillance of the victims.”

The four people who are scheduled to plead guilty are Stephanie Popp, eBay’s former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC); Veronica Zea, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the GIC; and Brian Gilbert, a former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team.

A hearing for a “waiver of indictment and plea to information” is scheduled for October 8, according to an entry in the court docket yesterday. The upcoming guilty pleas were also announced on Twitter by the US Attorney’s office in Massachusetts. The case is in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

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#ebay, #policy

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Willow, the startup making the wearable breast pump, raises $55 million

Willow, the startup company making a new, wearable, breast pump for women, is capping off a frenetic 2020 with $55 million in fresh funding as it looks to expand its product line to more offerings for new mothers.

The company is coming off a year which saw sales increase, and Laura Chambers, the former eBay and Airbnb manager, take over as chief executive and now, with the new capital, it expects to be bringing new products to market beyond the breast pump in 2021.

A March 2020 report from Frost & Sullivan put the total size of the femtech market, including technologies for mothers, at just over $1 billion with growth rates of 12.9%. So the category is small, but growing quickly as more tools come in to provide services in what is a woefully underinvested sector. Indeed, the $155 million that Willow has raised to date puts the company among the upper echelon of women’s health investments.

Contrast that figure with Ro, the storied health brand that launched its subscription medication service for erectile dysfunction with an $88 million investment round.

For women who breast feed, the problems associated with pumping can be legion.

“A lot of women talk about how it’s almost like the pump runs their life,” Naomi Kelman, the founder and former CEO of Willow, told TechCrunch. “Everyone is told, if you don’t breastfeed or pump on a regular basis, your [breastmilk] supply goes down and then breastfeeding is finished for you.”

That’s why startup companies like Willow and Naya Health, as well as established companies like Medela and Lansinoh are developing technologies to not only make pumping breast milk more efficient, but also provide more comfort and dignity to users.

“Through our longstanding relationship with Willow, we’ve been able to see the true impact they have had in helping mom’s balance motherhood in a modern world,” said Josh Makower, Willow’s co-founder and chairman of the company’s board, as well as a General Partner at Willow investor, NEA, in a statement. “Willow is thriving and growing to meet the needs of all moms during these unique times, and we are proud to be a partner in advancing innovation in the femtech field.”

With Chambers at the helm, and the $55 million in new financing in hand from investors led by NEA, Meritech Capital Partners, and including Lightstone Ventures along with new investor Perceptive Advisors, Willow will be doing far more than just making breast pumps and will be looking to expand its footprint to international markets.

“The first problem we wanted solve was pumping and the wonderful wearable mobile pump. That was always product number one. There’s more innovation we can do around pumping. Moms would love us to support them with more hardware and more software,” Chambers said. We’re also working with moms to figure out where else they need support. Mothers are remarkably unsupported in their motherhood journey. We are working with moms to figure out what’s important for them and we’re building that.”

#airbnb, #breast-pump, #ebay, #femtech, #health, #laura-chambers, #meritech-capital-partners, #naya-health, #nea, #perceptive-advisors, #tc, #willow

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Your iPhone copy of Fortnite is about to become worthless

That soon-to-be-useless <em>Fortnite</em> icon has been worth a lot of money to some eBay buyers in recent days.

Enlarge / That soon-to-be-useless Fortnite icon has been worth a lot of money to some eBay buyers in recent days. (credit: eBay)

Since Apple pulled Fortnite down from the iOS App Store earlier this month, some eBay users have apparently paid thousands of dollars for iPhones that had a playable, pre-installed copy of the game. Starting tomorrow, though, those devices will be no different from any other iPhones.

“Apple is blocking Fortnite updates and new installs on the App Store and has said they will terminate our ability to develop Fortnite for Apple devices,” Epic wrote in an FAQ update this morning. “As a result, Fortnite’s newly released Chapter 2 – Season 4 update (v14.00), will not release on iOS and macOS on August 27.”

In other words, because the game’s online servers require the latest version to be installed, Fortnite will finally be fully unplayable on iOS devices starting Thursday. Android users will still be able to install and play the latest update by downloading it directly from Epic or from The Samsung Galaxy Store on compatible devices.

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#apple, #ebay, #epic, #fortnite, #gaming-culture

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With technology to perfect product pitches in digital marketplaces Pattern raises $52 million

Pattern, a Lehi, Utah-based reseller that offers large and small brands a way to optimize their sales on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Google Shopping, has raised $52 million in growth funding, the company said.

The money, from Ainge Advisory and KSV Global, will be used to expand the company’s business worldwide.

Founded in 2013, the e-commerce reseller uses analytics to lock down market specific keywords in advertising and has managed to reach a run-rate that should see it hit $500 million in annual revenue by the end of 2020, according to Pattern co-founder and chief investment officer, Melanie Alder.

Brands like Nestle, Pandora, Panasonic, Zebra and Skechers sell their goods to Pattern in an effort to juice sales on digital marketplaces.

“Pattern represents our brands in the US, across Europe, and in select markets in Asia, selling for us on global marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart, Tmall, and JD as well as building and managing three of our direct-to-consumer sites,” said Kyle Bliffert, CEO and president of Atrium Innovations, a Nestle Health Science company, in a statement. “The global e-commerce growth we have experienced by leveraging Pattern’s expertise is extraordinary.”

Pattern places bets on where a product is likely to receive the most attention using specific keywords, according to the company’s chief executive, Dave Wright. The company buys products from its brand partners and then sells them widely across marketplaces in the US, Europe and Asia. These markets represent $2.7 trillion in total sales and Wright expects it to reach $7 trillion by 2024.

As Wright noted, a majority of searchers for sales begin on Amazon . The company just opened its eighteenth location in Germany. Pattern has grown sales for brands from $3 million to $26 million and the company makes money off of the margin on the sales of products. With the new funding, the company intends to expand into other geographies like Japan and India.

Wright says his company addresses one of the fundamental problems with advertising technology — the proliferation of tools hasn’t meant better optimization for most brands, because they’re teams aren’t equipped to specialize.

While there may be hundreds of different advertising and marketing folks working at a company, each company may have hundreds of brands that it sells and the dedicated teams to specific brands may only have one or two  people on staff.

“Data makes all the difference,” said co-founder and CEO Dave Wright. “I’ve spent the bulk of my career in data science and data management, and our ability to detect and act on ‘patterns’ on ecommerce platforms has allowed the brands we represent to be incredibly successful.”

#amazon, #asia, #brand, #data-management, #e-commerce, #ebay, #europe, #germany, #google, #india, #japan, #nestle, #panasonic, #retailers, #tc, #tmall, #united-states, #utah, #walmart, #zebra

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eBay reportedly getting close to selling its classified-ads unit to Adevinta

eBay is reportedly getting close to a deal to sell its classified-ads business to Adevinta, a Norwegian company that runs online marketplaces across Europe and Latin America. According to a Wall Street Journal report, if the negotiations are successful, a cash and stock deal could be announced as soon as Monday. The transaction is expected to value eBay’s classified business at about $8 billion.

The Wall Street Journal first reported in February that eBay was planning to sell off its classifieds business, with prospective buyers named at that time including private equity firms TPG and Blackstone Group, Naspers, and German publisher Axel Springer SE.

More recently, Prosus NV, an Amsterdam-based investment firm that is controlled by Naspers, emerged as a contender, but Bloomberg reported over the weekend that negotiations hit a bump because eBay wants to maintain a stake in the classifieds business after selling it.

Activist shareholders Elliot Management and Starboard Value LP have pushed eBay to sell off non-core business units to focus on its marketplace, resulting in the sale of StubHub to viagogo for more than $4 billion last year and the appointment of a new chief executive officer.

Ebay’s classifieds division operates mostly outside of the United States, including in Canada, Europe, Africa, Australia and Mexico. If Adevinta ends up acquiring it, it can expand its international portfolio of peer-to-peer e-commerce platforms.

An Adevinta representative told TechCrunch the company had no comment on the reported negotiations. TechCrunch has also reached out to eBay.

Ebay said in its last quarterly earnings report, issued in April, that it was “explor[ing] potential value-creating alternatives for its Classifieds business, is holding active discussions with multiple parties and anticipates having an update by the middle of the year.”

During the first quarter of this year, eBay’s main marketplace business generated $2.1 billion in revenue, down, while its classifieds business saw $248 million in revenue. In 2019, the classifieds business made $1.1 billion in revenue, versus $7.6 billion for eBay Marketplace, which is weathering competition from larger online rivals like Amazon.

#adevinta, #classifieds, #ebay, #ecommerce, #europe, #fundings-exits, #marketplace, #norway, #tc

0

Hong Kong fintech Qupital partners with eBay to provide financing for sellers

Qupital, a trade financing platform, announced today that it will partner with eBay as one of its officially recommended Hong Kong financing service providers. In today’s announcement, Qupital said it will provide offshore financing services, including working capital, to eBay sellers in China through QiaoYiDai, its main product.

The agreement with eBay means Qupital will be able to monitor the real-time data of eBay sellers who apply for their services, which the fintech startup says will enable it to assess credit applications within three days, on average, and settle drawdown requests in less than a day.

Founded in 2016 and based in Hong Kong, Qupital raised a $15 million Series A last year led by strategic investor CreditEase FinTech Investment Fund, with participation from Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund and MindWorks Ventures.

Qupital is one of a growing roster of fintech companies in Asia—Aspire and First Circle are a couple other examples—that provide loans, credit lines and services to online sellers, SMBs and other businesses who often have trouble obtaining working capital from traditional lenders like banks.

Instead of relying on financial statements, these companies use data analytics to assess creditworthiness. In QiaoYiDai’s case, this means looking at “e-commerce statistics and big data, including the credibility of [applicants’] online shops, historical transaction data, rating data, refund and exchange rates of goods, among a plethora of other data points,” Qupital said in its announcement.

On average, Qiaoyidai provides an average credit limit of $150,000, with a maximum credit line of up to $1.5 million for qualifying sellers.

More e-commerce vendors in China are turning to social media as their main channels for reaching buyers (for example, Alibaba has partnerships with Weibo and Douyin and rival JD.com recently struck a strategic partnership with Kuaishou, while TikTok began testing social commerce last year), and having quick, integrated access to financing tools may convince vendors to stick with legacy e-commerce platforms like eBay, especially for cross-border sellers.

#asia, #china, #cross-border, #ebay, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #qupital, #startups, #tc

0

Affirming the position of tech advocates, Supreme Court overturns Trump’s termination of DACA

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that President Donald Trump’s administration unlawfully ended the federal policy providing temporary legal status for immigrants who came to the country as children.

The decision, issued Thursday, called the termination of the Obama-era policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals “arbitrary and capricious.” As a result of its ruling, nearly 640,000 people living in the United States are now temporarily protected from deportation.

While a blow to the Trump Administration, the ruling is sure to be hailed nearly unanimously by the tech industry and its leaders, who had come out strongly in favor of the policy in the days leading up to its termination by the current President and his advisors.

At the beginning of 2018, many of tech’s most prominent executives, including the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google, joined more than 100 American business leaders in signing an open letter asking Congress to take action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program before it expired in March.

Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Sundar Pichai who made a full throated defense of the policy and pleaded with Congress to pass legislation ensuring that Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and were granted approval by the program, can continue to live and work in the country without risk of deportation.

At the time, those executives said the decision to end the program could potentially cost the U.S. economy as much as $215 billion.

In a 2017 tweet, Tim Cook noted that Apple employed roughly 250 of the company’s employees were “Dreamers”.

The list of tech executives who came out to support the DACA initiative is long. It included: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Brad Smith, the president and chief legal officer of Microsoft; Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman; and CEOs or other leading executives of AT&T, Dropbox, Upwork, Cisco Systems, Salesforce.com, LinkedIn, Intel, Warby Parker, Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Box, Twitter, PayPal, Code.org, Lyft, Etsy, AdRoll, eBay, StitchCrew, SurveyMonkey, DoorDash, Verizon (the parent company of Verizon Media Group, which owns TechCrunch).

At the heart of the court’s ruling is the majority view that Department of Homeland Security officials didn’t provide a strong enough reason to terminate the program in September 2017. Now, the issue of immigration status gets punted back to the White House and Congress to address.

As the Boston Globe noted in a recent article, the majority decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts did not determine whether the Obama-era policy or its revocation were correct, just that the DHS didn’t make a strong enough case to end the policy.

“We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Roberts wrote. 

While the ruling from the Supreme Court is some good news for the population of “dreamers,” the question of their citizenship status in the country is far from settled. And the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has basically consisted of freezing as much of the nation’s immigration apparatus as possible.

An Executive Order in late April froze the green card process for would-be immigrants, and the administration was rumored to be considering a ban on temporary workers under H1-B visas as well.

The President has, indeed, ramped up the crackdown with strict border control policies and other measures to curb both legal and illegal immigration. 

More than 800,000 people joined the workforce as a result of the 2012 program crafted by the Obama administration. DACA allows anyone under 30 to apply for protection from deportation or legal action on their immigration cases if they were younger than 16 when they were brought to the US, had not committed a crime, and were either working or in school.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the President tweeted “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”

 

 

#adroll, #advisors, #airbnb, #amazon, #apple, #att, #brad-smith, #cisco-systems, #congress, #donald-trump, #doordash, #ebay, #etsy, #facebook, #ginni-rometty, #google, #hewlett-packard-enterprise, #ibm, #immigration, #intel, #jeff-bezos, #linkedin, #lyft, #mark-zuckerberg, #meg-whitman, #microsoft, #obama, #paypal, #president, #salesforce-com, #sundar-pichai, #supreme-court, #tc, #techcrunch, #tim-cook, #trump-administration, #twitter, #u-s-government, #uber, #united-states, #upwork, #verizon-media-group, #white-house

0

eBay execs sent roaches and “bloody pig mask” to harass journalists, feds say

A bloody pig mask purchased on Amazon.

Enlarge / A bloody pig mask allegedly mailed to cyberstalking victims by then-eBay employees. (credit: FBI)

Six former eBay employees were “charged with leading a cyberstalking campaign” against a newsletter editor and publisher, which “included sending the couple anonymous, threatening messages, disturbing deliveries—including a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath, and a bloody pig mask—and conducting covert surveillance of the victims,” the US Department of Justice and US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced today.

James Baugh, 45, is eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, 48, is eBay’s former director of global resiliency—both were arrested today and charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Each charge “carr[ies] a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution,” the DOJ said.

The bloody pig mask was a Halloween mask and shipped via Amazon.com, a court document said. The mask arrived at the victims’ home the same day one of the victims “received an email reporting that a ‘Preserved Fetal Pig’ had been ordered online to be sent to the Victims’ house,” the document said. A few days later, the victims “received a box of cockroaches” that was purchased from a roach breeder and seller.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#ebay, #policy

0

US attorney details eBay employees’ harassment campaign, including live roaches and a pig fetus

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling held a press conference this morning detailing ongoing investigations into a bizarre alleged cyberstalking campaign against a couple based in Natick, Massachusetts. Six former eBay employees face charges in connection with the events targeting a writer and her husband.

The targeted writer published a blog sometimes critical of eBay and other e-commerce sites. In apparent retaliation, executives and other staff members allegedly hatched a targeted harassment campaign that included setting up fake social network accounts and a string of upsetting deliveries that reads like the prop list from a “Hellraiser” sequel.

According to Lelling, “The boxes included: fly larvae and live spiders; a box of live cockroaches; a sympathy wreath on the occasion of a dead loved one; a book of advice on how to survive the death of a spouse; pornography mailed to their neighbors but in the couple’s names; a Halloween mask featuring the face of a bloody pig and a pig fetus that was ordered but after an inquiry from the supplier thankfully was never sent.”

Two former executives were charged this morning, along with four other employees; eBay acknowledged the situation in a press release this morning. The company was quick to explain that neither it nor any current employees have been indicted. Those involved have since been fired. EBay says it held off on addressing the situation publicly, so as to not interfere with the ongoing investigation.

From Lelling’s description, however, the situation appears to go even higher. He explained that the actions were not rogue. Instead, “the directive to do something about this goes pretty high up the chain within eBay.”

In fact, the situation appears to have played a role in Devin Wenig’s decision to step down from the company back in September. While not disclosed in the original announcement for the reasons mentioned above, eBay notes:

The Company noted that the internal investigation also examined what role, if any, the Company’s CEO at the time of the incident, Devin Wenig, may have had in this matter. The internal investigation found that, while Mr. Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband. However, as the Company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure from the Company.

#ebay, #ecommerce

0

‘The money is still there,’ says APX managing director Jörg Rheinboldt

APX is an early-stage accelerator in Berlin, but it’s not quite your average accelerator — it’s essentially a joint venture between giant European publishing house Axel Springer and Porsche, the German automaker. Earlier this month, we sat down with APX managing director Jörg Rheinboldt to discuss what makes APX different and how it’s weathering the coronavirus pandemic.

Rheinboldt has quite a bit of experience as both an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded Alando.de, which was acquired by eBay in 1999 and donation platform betterplace.org in 2007. In 2013, he became CEO of Axel Springer Plug and Play and during his time as an investor, he put money into companies like N26, Zizoo, Blogfoster and Careship.

“We started APX because Plug and Play wanted to become more of a platform for matchmaking between startups and corporates,” Rheinboldt said when I asked him about the project’s origin. “We, the team, enjoyed investing in early-stage companies a lot and Axel Springer also enjoyed investing in early-stage startups a lot. So we decided to stop investing in new companies Axel Springer Plug and Play. We had invested in 102 companies — and focus[ed] on finding interesting teams to invest in with a new company that we needed to found.”

Image Credits: Dominik Tryba

Rheinboldt took this discussion to his boss, Mathias Döpfner, the current CEO of Axel Springer, who encouraged him to find another shareholder. “If it’s only us, you might have to do what we want — and maybe you don’t want that,” he said Döpfner told him. In looking for a partner, Rheinboldt approached the Porsche family, which he had met at some of his previous investor events. The family was looking to diversify its portfolio, so after a few more meetings, including a presentation at Porsche’s leadership summit, the two companies decided to get into this business together.

One interesting thing Rheinboldt noted — and this isn’t so much about the Porsche family as a general observation — is that family offices are often resistant to getting into venture capital, at least in Germany.

#9, #albums, #axel-springer, #belarus, #berlin, #careship, #ceo, #ebay, #entrepreneur, #europe, #extra-crunch, #films, #funding, #germany, #it, #market-analysis, #n26, #play, #plug-and-play, #poland, #porsche, #romania, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #zizoo

0

Omidyar-backed Spero Ventures invests in Mexico City’s Mati, a startup pitching ID-verification

Spero Ventures, the venture capital firm backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has gone to Mexico City for its latest investment, backing the identity verification technology developer Mati.

Launched in San Francisco, the two co-founders Filip Victor and Amaury Soviche, decided to relocate to Mexico because of its proximity to big, untapped markets in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia.

“After developing the technology in San Francisco, we chose to start commercially in Latin America. It has been the perfect petri dish for us: the markets here, especially in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, are very exciting. These countries have the highest payments fraud rates in the world, which makes their identity issues the most interesting,” said Victor in a statement.

The rise of a new generation of fintech startup across Latin America creates a unique opportunity for Mati in a number of markets — and so does a new generation of financial services regulations, the company said. “We view the fintech regulations sweeping across LatAm as an opportunity to help a lot of promising fintechs and marketplaces get to the next level”, Victor said.

Already working across three countries, with operations in Mexico City, St. Petersburg, and San Francisco, Mati is an example of the global scope that even very early stage companies can now achieve.

Identity verification is at the core of much of the modern gig economy and much of the social networking defining life during a pandemic.

The company said it will use the capital investment — it would not disclose the amount of money it raised — to continue product development and expand its geographic footprint.

The scope of the identity verification problem is what brought Spero to the table to discuss an investment, according to a statement from Shripriya Mahesh, the founding partner at Spero.

“For us, identity is foundational to scaling the vast array of gig economy, fintech, social, and commerce platforms that represent our collective future of work,” Mahesh said. “The ability to have safe and trusted interactions at an unprecedented scale, especially with people in places where national identity infrastructure is limited, will create opportunities and global connections we can’t yet even forecast.”

#brazil, #colombia, #ebay, #economy, #financial-technology, #fintech-startup, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #partner, #pierre-omidyar, #san-francisco, #social-networking, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Nigeria’s Helium Health raises $10M Series A for Africa expansion

Nigerian startup Helium Health sits in a good position during a difficult period, according to its co-founder.

The Lagos based healthtech venture is in the black, has batted away acquisition offers, and just raised a $10 million Series A round, CEO Adegoke Olubusi told TechCrunch.

The startup offers a product suit that digitizes data, formalizes monetization and enables telemedicine for health care systems in Nigeria, Liberia, and Ghana.

Helium plans to use the latest funding round to hire and expand to North and East Africa, including Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Morocco, Olubusi confirmed on a call.

He co-founded the startup in 2016 — with Dimeji Sofowora and Tito Ovia — to bring better delivery of medical services in Nigeria and broader Africa.

“It’s really about tackling three core problems that we see in the healthcare sector in Africa: inefficiency, fragmentation and a lack of data,” said Olubusi.

When he and co-founders Sofowora and Oviato set out doing research for Helium, they noted a data desert on medical info across the continent’s healthcare infrastructure.

“We figured out very quickly that that is a long term problem to solve. And the best way to get the data and access to it is to give simple technology to the providers and let them use it to make their lives more efficient.”

Helium Health has since developed several core product areas for healthcare entities with application for providers, payment, patients, and partners.

It offers tech solutions and developer resources for administration, medical records and financial management. Helium Health has digital payment and credit products for hospitals and insurance providers.

As part of the latest financing, the startup is launching several new products — such as the MyHelium Patient app to facilitate appointments and information sharing between healthcare providers and citizens.

Images Credits: Helium Health

Helium also accelerated deployment of a telemedicine platform in response to the coronavirus hitting Nigeria and the lockdowns that ensued.

“In the last three weeks since we launched we’ve had roughly 360 hospitals sign up, and they’ve had thousands of [online] visits already,” Olubusi said.

Helium Health generates revenues by charging percentages and fees on its products, services and accompanying transactions. Current clients include several hospitals in the West Africa region, such as Paelon Memorial in Lagos.

Helium Health’s model got the attention of the startup’s $10 million Series A backers and Silicon Valley accelerator Y-Combinator — which accepted the startup into its spring 2017 batch.

Global Ventures and Africa Healthcare Masterfund co-led the investment with participation that included Tencent and additional Y-Combinator support.

Global Ventures General Partner Noor Sweid confirmed the Dubai based fund’s co-lead of the round and that the firm will take a Helium Health board seat.

The path of the startup’s CEO —  Adegoke Olubusi — to tech founder passed through the U.S. and traditional corporate roles. He went to Maryland in 2014 to complete an advanced degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University, then did a stint at Goldman Sachs before landing positions in big tech with eBay and PayPal.

Olubusi found work with big corporates less than stimulating and gravitated to forming his own company and returning to Nigeria.

“When I was at eBay and Goldman I was really bored and I wanted to do something more challenging,” he said. “We thought, ‘why don’t we pick a problem that is a long-term problem in Africa,’” Olubusi explained.

Helium Health founders (L to R) Dimeji Sofowora, Tito Ovia, and Adegoke Olubusi: Image Credits: Helium Health

The founder believes the products Helium Health creates can improve the poor health care stats in countries such as Nigeria — which stands as Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.

Nigeria also ranked 142nd out of 195 countries on health performance indicators in The Lancet’s 2018 Healthcare Access and Quality Index.

On the dismal stats, “We need more properly run hospitals, and we need more profitable hospitals, health systems and health care providers,” said Olubusi.

Better monetization and organization of hospitals could lure more doctors back to African countries, he believes.

“Half my family are doctors but none of them practice in Nigeria. Everyone’s practicing all over the place, but Nigeria,” Olubusi said.

The founder also sees a more digitized and data driven health care sector as something that can draw more entrepreneurs to African healthtech. Compared to dominant sectors, such as fintech, health related startups in Africa gain a small percentage of the continent’s annual VC haul — only 9.3% by Partech’s 2019 stats.

“There are people who want to invest in the market but they can’t…and founders can’t really tackle a healthcare problem because they don’t know what’s going on,” he said.

As for his venture, Olubusi expects growth even given the precarious economic outlook COVID-19 is creating for countries, such as Nigeria — which is expected to enter recession this year.

The coronavirus and lockdowns are shining a light on the country’s healthcare inadequacies (according to Helium Health’s CEO) that people can’t ignore, including the elite.

“This is the first time they can’t get on their jet and leave so they have to go to the hospitals we have. The system was neglected for the last few decades because people had that [previous] option,” said Olubusi.

“I’m hoping this coronavirus crisis will be a period that forces everyone to rethink what we’re doing [on healthcare].”

That could lead to more business for Helium Health.

The startup doesn’t release financial information but has positive net income. “We do generate revenues in millions of dollars and are profitable,” Olubusi said.

Helium Health has received acquisition offers, but declined them, according to its CEO. Olubusi and team intend to grow the venture to the point where it can list on a major global exchange.

“We know this is the kind of business we can take public, without having to sell,” he said.

#africa, #african-business, #african-tech, #ceo, #chemistry, #co-founder, #covid-19, #dubai, #east-africa, #ebay, #economy, #finance, #financial-management, #ghana, #goldman, #goldman-sachs, #health-systems, #healthcare, #helium, #kenya, #lagos, #maryland, #morocco, #nigeria, #north-africa, #partech, #paypal, #rwanda, #series-a, #startup-company, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #techcrunch, #telemedicine, #tencent, #uganda, #united-states, #y-combinator

0

Africa Roundup: Visa connects to M-Pesa, Flutterwave enters e-commerce

It seems the demand for Safaricom’s M-Pesa payment product never eases. Since its 2007 launch in Kenya, the fintech app has commanded over 70% of the mobile money market in that country. When COVID-19 hit the East African nation of 53 million in March, the Kenyan Central Bank turned to M-Pesa as a public health tool to reduce use of cash.

And last month, one of the world’s financial services giants — Visa — connected M-Pesa to its global network.

Visa and Safaricom — which is Kenya’s largest telecom and operator of M-Pesa — announced a partnership on payments and tech.

The arrangement opens up M-Pesa’s own extensive financial services network in East Africa to Visa’s global merchant and card network across 200 countries.

The companies will also collaborate “on development of products that will support digital payments for M-Pesa customers.” The partnership is still subject to regulatory approval.

The details remain vague, but the payment providers also said they will use the collaboration to facilitate e-commerce.

Images Credits: Getty Images

On a continent that is still home to the largest share of the world’s unbanked population, Kenya has one of the highest mobile-money penetration rates in the world. This is largely due to the dominance of M-Pesa in the country, which has 24.5 million customers and a network of 176,000 agents.

As we detailed in ExtraCrunch, Visa has been on a VC and partnership spree with African fintech companies. The global financial services giant has named working with the continent’s payments startups as core to its Africa expansion strategy.

One of those fintech ventures Visa has teamed up with, Flutterwave, launched an e-commerce product in April. The San Francisco and Lagos-based B2B payments company announced Flutterwave Store, a portal for African merchants to create digital shops to sell online.

The product is less Amazon  and more eBay — with no inventory or warehouse requirements. Flutterwave insists the move doesn’t represent any shift away from its core payments business.

The company accelerated the development of Flutterwave Store in response to COVID-19, which has brought restrictive measures to SMEs and traders operating in Africa’s largest economies.

After creating a profile, users can showcase inventory and link up to a payment option. For pickup and delivery, Flutterwave Store operates through existing third party logistics providers, such as Sendy in Kenya and Sendbox in Nigeria.

The service will start in 15 African countries and the only fees Flutterwave will charge (for now) are on payments. Otherwise, it’s free for SMEs to create an online storefront and for buyers and sellers to transact goods.

While the initiative is born out of the spread of coronavirus cases in Africa, it will continue beyond the pandemic. And Flutterwave’s CEO Olugbenga Agboola — aka GB — is adamant Flutterwave Store is not a pivot for the Y-Cominator backed fintech company.

“It’s not a direction change. We’re still a B2B payment infrastructure company. We are not moving into becoming an online retailer, and no we’re not looking to become Jumia,” he told TechCrunch .

In early stage startup activity, a relatively new company — Okra — has created a unique platform that allows it to generate revenue on both sides of the fintech aisle.

Founded in June 2019 by Nigerians Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside, the company refers to itself as a “super-connector API” with a platform that links bank accounts to third party applications.

Okra’s clients include fintech startups and large financial institutions in Nigeria. The company got the attention of TLcom Capital — a $71 million Africa focused VC firm —that backed Okra with $1 million in pre-seed funding. The Nigerian startup is using the funds to hire and expand to new markets in Africa, most likely Kenya .

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch               

#africa, #africa-roundup, #amazon, #api, #ceo, #david-peterside, #e-commerce, #east-africa, #ebay, #economy, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech-startup, #flutterwave, #genomics, #kenya, #lagos, #m-pesa, #money, #nigeria, #okra, #olugbenga-agboola, #online-retailer, #safaricom, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #tc, #techcrunch, #tlcom-capital, #visa, #vodafone

0

African fintech firm Flutterwave launches SME e-commerce portal

San Francisco and Lagos-based fintech startup Flutterwave has launched Flutterwave Store, a portal for African merchants to create digital shops to sell online.

The product is less Amazon and more eBay — with no inventory or warehouse requirements. Flutterwave insists the move doesn’t represent any shift away from its core payments business.

The company accelerated the development of Flutterwave Store in response to COVID-19, which has brought restrictive measures to SMEs and traders operating in Africa’s largest economies.

After creating a profile, users can showcase inventory and link up to a payment option. For pickup and delivery, Flutterwave Store operates through existing third party logistics providers, such as Sendy in Kenya and Sendbox in Nigeria.

The service will start in 15 African countries and the only fees Flutterwave will charge (for now) are on payments. Otherwise, it’s free for SMEs to create an online storefront and for buyers and sellers to transact goods.

While the initiative is born out of the spread of coronavirus cases in Africa, it will continue beyond the pandemic. And Flutterwave’s CEO Olugbenga Agboola — aka GB — is adamant Flutterwave Store is not a pivot for the fintech company, which is an alum of Silicon Valley accelerator Y-Combinator.

“It’s not a direction change. We’re still a B2B payment infrastructure company. We are not moving into becoming an online retailer, and no we’re not looking to become Jumia,” GB told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Flutterwave

He was referring to Africa’s largest e-commerce company, which operates in 11 countries and listed in an NYSE IPO last year.

Flutterwave has a very different business than the continent’s big e-commerce players and plans to stick with it, according to GB.

When it comes to reach, VC and partnerships, the startup is one of the more connected and visible operating in Africa’s tech ecosystem. The Nigerian-founded venture’s main business is providing B2B payments services for companies operating in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.

Launched in 2016, Flutterwave allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber and Booking.com.

In 2019, Flutterwave processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion, according to company data. Over the last 12 months the startup has been on a tear of investment, product and partnership activity.

In July 2019, Flutterwave joined forces with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China.

The Alipay collaboration followed one between Flutterwave and Visa to launch a consumer payment product for Africa, called GetBarter.

Then in January of this year, the startup raised a $35 million Series B round and announced a partnership with Worldpay FIS for payments in Africa.

On the potential for Flutterwave Store, there’s certainly a large pool of traders and small businesses across Africa that could appreciate the opportunity to take their businesses online. The IFC has estimated that SMEs make up 90% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s business serving the region’s one-billion people.

Flutterwave confirmed Flutterwave Store’s initial 15 countries will include Africa’s top economies and population countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

Those markets already have a number of players driving digital commerce, including options for small businesses to post their wares online. Jumia’s Jumia Marketplace allows vendors register on its platform and use the company’s resources to do online retail.

Facebook has made a push into Africa that includes its overall push to get more users to sell on Facebook Marketplace. The social media giant now offers the service in Nigeria — with 200 million people and the continent’s largest economy.

GB Flutterwave disrupt

Flutterwave CEO GB, Image Credits: TechCrunch

eBay has not yet gone live in Africa with its business to consumer website, that allows any cottage industry to create a storefront. The American company does have an arrangement with e-commerce startup MallforAfrica.com for limited sales of African goods on eBay’s U.S. shopping site.

On where Flutterwave’s new product fits into Africa’s online sales space, CEO GB says Flutterwave Store will maintain a niche focus on mom and pop type businesses.

“The goal is not be become like eBay, that’s advocating for everybody. We’re just giving small merchants the infrastructure to create an online store at zero cost right from scratch,” he said.

That’s something Flutterwave expects to be useful to Africa’s SMEs through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

#africa, #african-business, #african-tech, #alibaba, #alibaba-group, #alipay, #amazon, #booking-com, #ceo, #china, #companies, #covid-19, #e-commerce, #ebay, #economy, #fintech-startup, #flutterwave, #ghana, #jumia, #kenya, #lagos, #mallforafrica-com, #nigeria, #olugbenga-agboola, #online-payments, #online-retailer, #online-shopping, #rocket-internet, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #techcrunch, #uber, #united-states, #worldpay, #ycombinator

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eBay Q1 reports sales of $2.374B, active buyers up to 174M in wake of COVID-19

After a quarter in which eBay, tussling with an activist investor, completed the sell-off of its ticketing business StubHub for $4 billion and saw appointed a new CEO after its previous one departed, while also weathering waves of surging demand and dodgy supply resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, today the e-commerce company reported its Q1 earnings after the close of markets.

The company reported revenues of $2.374 billion, down 2% on a year ago, with earnings per share of $0.64 on a GAAP basis and $0.77 non-GAAP, on a continuing operations basis.

This was a mixed result. Analysts on average were expecting $2.38 billion in revenues on earnings per share of $0.72. Ebay itself was expecting sales of between $2.55 billion and $2.60 billion, with GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $0.50 – $0.53 and non-GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $0.70 – $0.73. 

In other words, eBay missed on sales in terms of analyst average projections, beat their expectations on EPS, and beat both of its own internal targets.

At the time of writing, eBay’s stock was down 7 cents in after-hours trading.

“During these unprecedented times, I am extremely proud of how our team has come together to support one another, our buyers and sellers, our communities and the business,” said Scott Schenkel, eBay’s interim CEO, in the earnings statement. “As we look at Q1, I am pleased that we delivered on all of our commitments for the quarter, with key metrics such as Buyers, GMV and Revenue performing at or better than our expectations. Over the past several months, we have remained focused and clear-eyed about the strategic direction of the company and have driven substantial changes to position the business for sustainable and profitable long-term growth.”

“I appreciate the team’s hard work in the first quarter and their efforts to maintain focus amid so many factors affecting the business and the industry,” said Jamie Iannone, the new permanent CEO that it headhunted from Walmart, in a separate statement. “I’m thrilled to return to eBay this week as CEO and I look forward to building on the positive momentum in the business, continuing to evolve the Company’s strategy and maximizing value for our shareholders.”

As expected, the company — like other e-commerce giants — has seen a boost in buyer demand from the throngs of consumers who are currently being ordered to stay at home, but who still need to buy things, and specifically try to source items that they’re finding a challenge to find in more local stores. eBay noted that active buyers are up by 2% and now total 174 million global active buyers.

Despite that, however, gross merchandise volume (GMV, or total sales volume before any cuts are taken) was $21.3 billion, down 1% on an as-reported basis. We might assume that the decline might have been significantly steeper without the current climate, or that it has at least offset other kinds of declines.

Ebay is on a long-term plan to improve what it keeps from that GMV by way of implementing managed payments, which basically means that it’s handling the payment process for transactions itself.

This comes by way of a deal eBay struck with Adyen some time ago, which replaced a payments agreement it had with former subsidiary PayPal that became less lucrative after PayPal was divested during a previous activist investor tussle.

Managed payments is still a relatively small part of pie for eBay, accounting for a mere $3 billion of GMV for 32,000+ sellers. But it’s expanding, eBay said: it’s being turned on in the U.K., Canada and Australia in July.

Meanwhile, Marketplace — the main eBay business, that is — generated $2.1 billion of revenue, down 1%, while Classifieds saw $248 million of revenue, down 3%.

That Classifieds business is on the block as part of the company’s wider efforts to restructure. “eBay continues to explore potential value-creating alternatives for its Classifieds business, is holding active discussions with multiple parties, and anticipates having an update by the middle of the year,” the company noted. 

The company also handed out $4.0 billion in share buybacks, repurchasing almost 98 million shares, part of a share repurchase plan that will be completed later this year.

However, even with those positives, there is a cloud hanging over many e-commerce businesses, even those that are seeing strong demand.

The reason for this is that the economy is very shaky right now, and we don’t fully know what the coming months will hold, in terms of public health, government rules on how we can move, whether we will have jobs and money to spend. And all of that is playing into how companies like eBay will perform under its new CEO and continuing pressure from its activist investors.

With all that in mind, Ebay also updated its guidance for the next quarter and reiterated figures for the full year. Q2, it expects, will have revenues of between $2.38 billion and $2.48 billion, with GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $0.50$0.57 and non-GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $0.73$0.80.

The full-year figures are unchanged at between $9.56 billion and $9.76 billion, with GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $2.20$2.30 and non-GAAP earnings per diluted share from continuing operations in the range of $3.00$3.10.

“Given the dynamic environment, we are not revising our full year revenue and EPS estimates,” the company notes. “This guidance reflects management’s expectations for operational performance and the impacts seen in both of our Marketplaces and Classifieds platforms to date, but given the uncertainty surrounding the extent and duration of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to predict what may result as shelter-in-place guidelines are eased and lifted and how global consumer demand, the effects of COVID-19 on the general economy, seller inventory and advertising spending may evolve over time.”

More to come.

#earnings, #ebay, #ecommerce, #finance

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Extra Crunch Live: Join Roelof Botha for a live Q&A on May 6 at 2pm ET/11am PT

23andMe. MongoDB. Eventbrite. Evernote. Bird. Square . Tumblr. Unity. YouTube. Xoom.

Roelof Botha has had a seat on each of these companies’ boards, but his list of investments is much, much longer.

The Sequoia partner and managing director is legendary in Silicon Valley and the broader tech world, and we’re very excited that he’s joining us for an upcoming episode of Extra Crunch Live that will air on Wednesday, May 6th at 2pm ET/11am PT. Extra Crunch members may join the Zoom call or view the broadcast live (or on demand) on YouTube. If you’re not already a member, you can join here.

Before Botha graduated from Stanford, he had joined the ranks of the PayPal mafia, serving as the fintech startup’s director of corporate development. He climbed the ranks to vice president of finance and was eventually named CFO in 2001. He was just 28 went PayPal went public in 2002.

Following PayPal’s sale to eBay, Botha left the company to join Sequoia Capital in January of 2003; since then, he has been investing in some of the world’s fastest-rising startups.

Botha has been on Forbes’ Midas List every year since 2008 and was ranked third in 2020. He led Sequoia’s investments in companies like Instagram, YouTube and Square and is one of the most respected voices in tech and venture capital alike.

With the coronavirus thrashing the economy and forcing quick adaptation from the tech sector and beyond, Botha can provide a unique look at what comes next for tech and offer advice to startups that are trying to chart a course through a storm that has no end in sight.

We’ll ask Botha how he’s advising his own portfolio companies, any decision-making frameworks he suggests for business leaders who find themselves between a rock and a hard place and his general outlook on VC appetite over the next six to twelve months. There will also be plenty of time for questions from the audience, so come prepared.

You can find the Zoom info below.

Botha joins an incredible list of speakers joining us on Extra Crunch Live, including Kirsten Green, Mark Cuban and Hunter Walk. We’ll be announcing new speakers soon, so stay tuned!

#ebay, #events, #extra-crunch, #extra-crunch-live, #fintech-startup, #paypal, #paypal-mafia, #roelof-botha, #sequoia-capital, #square, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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eBay names Walmart exec Jamie Iannone CEO

Half a year after Devin Wenig stepped down as CEO, eBay is finally ready to name a permanent replacement. Following an appointment from the company’s board of directors, Jamie Iannone will step into the role as head of the company, effective April 27. The executive was also elected to eBay’s board.

Most recently, Iannone served as the COO of Walmart’s eCommerce division, having only been appointed the give a few months prior. Previously, he held a number of high profile executive gigs under the Walmart umbrella, including serving as the CEO of SamsClub.com. Other jobs include a four year stint at Barnes & Noble’s digital division (including Nook) and eight years as at eBay.

“In my previous experience with the company, I developed a deep appreciation for what makes eBay so special. eBay’s success has always been rooted in its robust C2C platform,” Iannone said in a release. “I believe the company has tremendous opportunities to capitalize on this foundation, innovate for the future and grow its ecosystem. I look forward to working with our global teams to enhance buyer experiences and provide more capabilities that will help small businesses sustain and grow. I will focus on continuing to evolve the company’s strategy while delivering on eBay’s commitment to maximize long-term shareholder value.”

Even more pressing than shareholder value at the moment (insofar as anything can be more pressing than shareholder value) is the company’s response to the on-going COVID-19 crisis. In late-March, eBay announced a crackdown on price gouging, and more recently, a waiving of seller fees to help struggling brick and mortars shift to a new, online selling paradigm. As with many other aspects of life, online retail is expected to be profoundly transformed by the global pandemic for some time to come. 

#ebay, #ecommerce, #hiring

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eBay bans sale of masks and hand sanitizer over gouging concerns

Man wears mask

Enlarge (credit: Nopphon Pattanasri / EyeEm)

eBay is banning the sale of a number of items related to the novel coronavirus outbreak after rising prices raised concerns about price gouging.

The online auction giant says that “effective immediately” it will “block new listings and start to remove listings” that offer “masks including N95/N100 and surgical masks.” Hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes will also be banned.

eBay says these listings “may violate applicable US laws or regulations, eBay policies, and exhibit unfair pricing behavior for our buyers.” Several states have anti-gouging laws prohibiting big price increases in a time of emergency.

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#covid-19, #ebay, #gouging, #policy

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ONWARD: KEINE HALBEN SACHEN – Tolles Fan- Paket ersteigern

Die Hauptfigur der Geschichte ist Ian, ein Elf, dessen Vater noch vor seiner Geburt starb TOP-eBay-Auktion: Ersteigern Sie zum Kino-Start von ONWARD: KEINE HALBEN SACHEN ein tolles Fan-Paket.
Foto: PR

#animations-film, #auktionen, #ebay, #ein-herz-fur-kinder, #headlines, #herz-fur-kinder, #hilfsorganisationen, #kino, #kinofilme, #kinostarts, #kinotrailer

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MALEFICENT – Tolles Fan-Paket ersteigern

Oscar-Preisträgerin Angelina Jolie kehrt als geheimnisvolle dunkle Fee zurück Ersteigern Sie zum Heimkino-Start von MALEFICENT: MÄCHTE DER FINSTERNIS ein tolles Fan-Paket.
Foto: PR

#auktionen, #ebay, #ein-herz-fur-kinder, #fantasy, #headlines, #herz-fur-kinder, #hilfsorganisationen, #jolie-angelina, #kino, #kinofilme, #kinostarts, #kinotrailer

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THE GENTLEMEN – Tolles Fan- Paket ersteigern

Der Film begeistert mit Charlie Hunnam, Matthew McConaughey und vielen bekannten Gesichtern TOP-eBay-Auktion: Ersteigern Sie zum Kino-Start von THE GENTLEMEN ein tolles Fan-Paket.
Foto: PR

#auktionen, #ebay, #ein-herz-fur-kinder, #film-komodie, #headlines, #herz-fur-kinder, #hilfsorganisationen, #kino, #kinofilme, #kinostarts, #kinotrailer

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