Instacart shopper activist group asks customers to delete the app until demands for better conditions are met

Yesterday, the Gig Workers Collective — representing a body of about 13,000 Instacart shoppers — launched a #DeleteInstacart campaign, urging customers to delete the Instacart app as a show of solidarity with workers advocating for better treatment. The collective of shoppers asked that customers refrain from reinstalling the app until five demands are met. They are asking to be paid by individual order, not by a batch of orders; to re-introduce item-based commissions; to ensure the rating system doesn’t punish shoppers for issues beyond their control; to provide occupational death benefits; and to make the default tip at least 10%, up from the current 5% default.

“We’re deeply committed to creating the best possible experience for our shopper community. Over the past several years, this unwavering commitment has led us to introduce new features, policies, offerings, and support for shoppers — significantly improving the shopper experience and resulting in the highest shopper sentiment in company history. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve invested in countless new measures to support the health and safety of the shopper community. We take shopper feedback very seriously and remain committed to listening to and using that feedback to improve their experience,” Instacart said in a statement provided to TechCrunch.

Instacart employs 500,000 shoppers, the company said, up from 200,000 before a pandemic-driven hiring spree. The company told TechCrunch that its payment structure has not changed since February 2019. That month, the company faced a class-action lawsuit over its practice of subsidizing wages with tips — Instacart had previously instituted a $10 earning minimum per order, but on small orders that totaled less than $10, customer tips would subsidize the rest of the cost (so, if a customer bought $8 of food and tipped $3, the customer would receive $10 plus $1 in tips, rather than the $10 minimum plus a $3 tip). Former CEO Apoorva Mehta wrote an apology to shoppers and affirmed that tips should always be separate from employee compensation, and Instacart retroactively compensated shoppers whose tips were included in minimums.

A Gig Workers Collective lead organizer and Instacart shopper, Willy Solis said that he was hopeful workers’ concerns would be met when Fidji Simo took over as Instacart CEO in August. Since then, the company set up an inbox for shoppers to send messages to a VP or CEO. Instacart said that Simo has been regularly conversing with shoppers about their experiences on the job, but Solis said that shoppers don’t feel like their concerns are being heard.

“While we had hope, there seems to be a disconnect from what she’s saying publicly and what she’s actually doing,” Solis told TechCrunch.

On her first day as CEO, Simo wrote an open letter to Instacart shoppers asking for feedback. In response, the Gig Workers Collective outlined the same five demands that they shared again yesterday, posing them as dire issues that needed to be addressed. But the collective said their letter was ignored, and shoppers’ emails to Simo were met with canned responses.

“Each time the company gives us one thing, they take something else away,” the Gig Workers Collective wrote. When former CEO Mehta apologized for subsidizing wages with tip money, Instacart changed the minimum order payment from $10 to a range between $7 and $10 per batch, which can contain up to three orders. The issue of batch order payment has become a key part of the Gig Workers Collective’s demands.

“If we shopped a single order, the base pay would be $7, but if we shopped three orders at once, the base pay would be $7 for the lot. Instead of a shopper fulfilling three orders for a total of $30 base, we now do it for $7 base,” the collective wrote in their post today. “This is effectively a 76% cut to base pay, and is unacceptable.”

Shoppers can see what payment is offered before they accept a batch. But Solis told TechCrunch that there is “no rhyme or reason” to the way orders are batched.

“You would think that they would be in the same geographic location that you’re delivering to, but they’re not,” he said. “It can be totally different parts of the city, so you have to drive east for one and west for the other.”

Instacart said that batching orders makes it possible for shoppers to earn three separate tips, and that the $7 base is a minimum that is adjusted based on time, effort, items, mileage, and other factors. But tipping is another hot issue for organizers.

“We rely on tips heavily,” Solis said. “Without tips, a large majority of orders that we take are not beneficial or profitable for us.”

The default tip on Instacart is set at 5%, which means customers must manually select a higher tip. Organizers want Instacart to make the default tip 10%. Instacart told TechCrunch that tipping is encouraged, but not required. Though the default tip is 5%, the company said, if a user chooses a different tip percentage, then that percentage will become the default for their following order. So, if a customer tips 15% on their first order, for example, then their second order will default to a 15% tip instead of a 5% tip.

The collective is also demanding occupational death benefits due to the risk of shoppers’ work during the coronavirus pandemic; even beyond that, one Instacart shopper Lynn Murray was killed in a mass shooting while on the job. But Instacart does offer coronavirus protections to its shoppers, as well as shopper injury protection, which is inclusive of accidental death benefits. For example, if a part-time employee or full-service shopper is diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in mandatory isolation, they can receive up to 14 days’ pay. Accrued sick pay is also available to in-store shoppers; pay is determined by the shopper’s average daily earnings. Instacart also provides a vaccine support stipend, enabling workers to take time off to get vaccinated, and offers access to free telemedicine and safety supplies. But in May 2020, the Gig Workers Collective alleged that a shopper who was on a ventilator was denied payment and healthcare under Instacart’s COVID-19 policy. Instacart reaffirmed to TechCrunch that since March 2020, shoppers have been able to receive up to 14 days’ pay if they have COVID-19 or are in mandatory isolation.

But some of shoppers’ health benefits were only extended after the Gig Workers Collective staged an emergency walkout on March 30, 2020. At the time, the collective said Instacart didn’t provide PPE or sick pay to people who had a doctor’s note urging them not to be on the job (for example, people who were quarantined due to an exposure).

Instacart didn’t indicate to TechCrunch that it has any plans to address the Gig Workers Collective’s demands. As Instacart considers going public, Solis thinks now is a good time to take shoppers’ demands to the next level by asking customers to boycott the service.

“People that speak out against us taking action will say things like, ‘You know, if you don’t want to do this, get another job,’” Solis said. “But the problem is that this work is so exploitative that if somebody doesn’t take a stand, then the next person in line is going to be exploited. Together, we gain so much power and traction by collectively speaking out.”

#activism, #apoorva-mehta, #apps, #ceo, #economy, #fidji-simo, #food, #gig, #gig-workers, #healthcare, #instacart, #labor, #telemedicine, #vp

Former Instacart CFO Sagar Sanghvi joins Accel as its newest partner

Instacart‘s chief financial officer Sagar Sanghvi has departed from the on-demand grocery delivery company after nearly six years and is returning to his investing roots. Specifically, Sanghvi has joined Accel as a partner focused on global growth-stage consumer and enterprise investments.

Prior to becoming CFO of Instacart, Sanghvi served as the company’s vice president of finance and strategy. Interestingly, when he became CFO of Instacart in 2019, he was succeeding Ravi Gupta, who left the company to join Sequoia Capital as a partner on its growth team.

Sanghvi and Gupta worked together as investors at KKR (after Sanghvi had worked as an analyst for Goldman Sachs), so it is notable they are following similar career paths of first working in finance and then becoming operators before transitioning into VC roles. Both joined Instacart in 2015. And Gupta is the one who introduced Sanghvi to Accel’s Miles Clements years ago.

When Sanghvi joined Instacart, it had approximately 300 employees. By the time he’d left earlier this year, it had more than 1,500.

“I’ve been through quite the roller coaster of ups and downs along the way. It was the classic Silicon Valley journey. During my time there, a few crazy things happened,” he told TechCrunch. “ Amazon bought Whole Foods. We experienced the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, which led to an amazing wave of demand. It was an interesting time to be navigating the company.”

And while Sanghvi says he would definitely rather see a business be smaller “than have COVID happen to the world,” it was a time where he learned a lot in helping grow the company.

One of the things Sanghvi worked on during his time at Instacart was a $200 million venture round in October 2020 that valued the company at $17.7 billion. (Since then it raised another $265 million at a $39 billion valuation.) In fact, during his tenure, the company raised more than $2 billion.

But now, Sanghvi will be the one investing in other companies’ rounds — out of Accel’s Palo Alto office.

While his Instacart experience is clearly relevant to the consumer space, Sanghvi said he’ll be working with not just consumer-focused startups, but also a lot of enterprise solutions.

“One of the things that drew me to Miles and the team was the experience and success Accel as a firm has had investing in all different types of companies within the technology sector and so I’m hoping to diversify my experience,” he told TechCrunch.

Clements praised what he described as Sanghvi’s “humility and versatility.”

“He’s done everything from raising $2 billion of capital to being in the minutiae of evaluating back office automation software. He has led a company that is on its way to being an iconic consumer brand, but he’s also been a media investor at KKR,” Clements said. “He guided Instacart through some massive recent fundraises but only because he has also helped navigate through some previous existential challenges. So he brings a lot of natural empathy to founders and entrepreneurs.”

For his part, Sanghvi is eager to start investing as part of the Accel team.

When deciding to move to the venture world, he said, he was looking for a “very well-known brand” that invested across at all stages. He found that in Accel, he said.

“One of the things that was important to me was to find the type of people who really care about the success of companies, and in every person I met at Accel, I could see they took that responsibility very seriously,” Sanghvi told TechCrunch.

He officially started in his new role last week, so he’s actively scoping out investments as I type.

#accel, #cfo, #instacart, #personnel, #sagar-sanghvi, #startups, #venture-capital

Why bringing you emergency toothpaste could be big business

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

This is our Wednesday show, where we niche down to a single topic. This time ’round we took a look into the world of on-demand delivery in Europe, with an especial focus on the so-called “instant” grocery sector, and delivered convenience items. To help Natasha and Danny and Alex get through the subject, we lassoed TechCrunch alum and present-day VP at Zapp, a company in the sector under discussion, Steve O’Hear to chat with us.

We spent time chatting through the following:

  • Recent news from the sector, including that Turkey’s Getir has just raised a bucket of new capital, and that Weezy is looking to exit; the latter item wound up being important we got around to discussing consolidation in the space.
  • Steve gave us an overview of Zapp, and how its approach to infra could help its economics.
  • We chatted about GoPuff and its economic fortunes, which in fundraising terms are solid, even if questions regarding future profitability are still in play.
  • And regarding the ever-present pandemic question, Steve was bullish on consumer behavior staying where it is if — when? — the COVID-19 pandemic eventually leaves us.

We are back on Friday! Chat then!

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

#convenience, #equity, #equity-podcast, #europe, #getir, #gopuff, #grocery-delivery, #instacart, #instant-delivery, #on-demand-delivery, #tc, #weezy, #zapp

Glovo bags two grocery picking and delivery startups

More startup swapping in the food delivery space: Spain’s Glovo, an on-demand delivery platform which operates a network of dark stores focused on urban convenience shopping, is pushing deeper into planned grocery shopping — announcing the acquisition of two regional ‘Instacart-style’ grocery picking and delivery startups, Madrid-based Lola Market and Portugal’s Mercadão.

Terms of the acquisitions are not being disclosed.

2015-founded Lola Market had raised around €3M, per Crunchbase. It’s not clear how much Portugal’s Mercadão — which was founded in 2018 — had raised over its shorter run.

Glovo, meanwhile, raised a meaty $528M Series F back in April — but quickly splurged $208M to pick up three food delivery brands from rival Delivery Hero in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Spanish on-demand delivery platform is facing challenges to its model on home turf where the government has applied a labor reform aimed at delivery workers in the gig economy.

The reform, agreed earlier this year, came into application last month — recognizing delivery platform riders as employees, or at least on paper.

Glovo responded by imposing a new self-employment model on the vast majority of riders on its platform, hiring only around a fifth. So the scene looks set for legal challenges in its home market.

At the European Union level, lawmakers are also eyeing how to improve conditions for platform workers — and could come with pan-EU legislation that has wider implications for the business models of regional players like Glovo.

Ongoing regulatory challenges over employment classification and algorithmic management of workers in the gig economy may offer some context for Glovo’s expanding interest in grocery purchasing in Europe, where it has been building out a network of dark stores to power what it calls ‘Q-commerce’ (aka, quick urban convenience shopping).

As well as for its recently announced international expansion in Africa, where it has said it will be doubling down investment over the next 12 months.

But also the challenge of hitting profitability for pure on-demand food delivery looks like a sizeable piece of the puzzle here driving consolidation.

By adding players in the supermarket and retail outlet picking delivery space, Glovo expands its coverage of shoppers’ needs — and can nudge users to spend more by being able to cross-sell them on planned purchases (such as the weekly grocery shop), as well as what it bills as “emergency essentials” and “fast action convenience” powered by the more limited inventory it can offer in its city center dark stores.

Both Lola Market and Mercadão’s brand identities will be retained, per Glovo, which also says they will operate independently — led by Gonçalo Soares da Costa, CEO of Mercadão.

It touts the acquisitions as strengthening its competitive position in Europe in “key markets” — going on to suggest it will add grocery picking and delivery across its entire market footprint, with an initial expansion planned for Poland and Italy.

Also today it said its Q-Commerce division is “on track” to reach an annual Gross Transaction Value (GTV) of more than €300M this year — adding that it expects that to more than triple by the end of 2022, projecting it will surpass a run rate of €1BN.

Commenting on its latest acquisitions in a statement, Oscar Pierre, CEO and co-founder of Glovo, added: “We see huge potential in the on-demand groceries marketplace and both companies are strong local players in their respective markets, and further strengthen our Q-Commerce offering.

“With Lola Market and Mercadão on board, we can build stronger partnerships with retailers, offer our users big-basket purchases and provide a more complete service. These acquisitions represent a significant step forward for us, as we’re now able to cover all of the main purchasing considerations for groceries customers, making Glovo a one-stop-shop for e-groceries.”

#apps, #delivery-hero, #delivery-startups, #e-groceries, #europe, #food, #food-delivery, #glovo, #grocery-store, #instacart, #madrid, #online-food-ordering, #oscar-pierre, #portugal, #spain

GrubMarket gobbles up $120M at a $1B+ pre-money valuation to take on the grocery supply chain

When people talk about “online food delivery” services, chances are that they’ll think of the Uber Eats, Instacarts and Getirs of this world. But today a startup that’s tackling a different aspect of the market — addressing the supply chain that subsequently turns the wheels of the bigger food distribution machine — is announcing a big round of funding as it continues to grow.

GrubMarket, which provides software and services that help link up and manage relationships between food suppliers and their customers — which can include wholesalers and other distributors, markets and supermarkets, delivery startups, restaurants, and consumers — has picked up $120 million in a Series E round of funding.

The funding is coming from a wide mix of investors. Liberty Street Funds, Walleye Capital, Japan Post Capital, Joseph Stone Capital, Pegasus Tech Ventures, Tech Pioneers Fund are among the new backers, who are being joined by existing investors Celtic House Asia Partners, INP Capital, Reimagined Ventures, Moringa Capital Management, and others, along with other unnamed participants

Mike Xu, GrubMarket’s founder and CEO (pictured, above), tells me that the company is currently profitable in a big way. It’s now at a $1 billion annualized run-rate, having grown revenues 300% over last year, with some markets like New York growing even more (it went from less than $10 million ARR to $100 million+).

With operations currently in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, and some 40 warehouses nationwide. GrubMarket had a pre-money valuation of over $1 billion, and now it will be looking to grow even more, both in terms of territory and in terms of tech, moving ahead in a market that is largely absent from competitors.

“We are still the first mover in this space,” Xu said when I asked him in an interview about rivals. “No one else is doing consolidation on the supply chain side as we are. We are trying to consolidate the American food supply chain through software technologies, while also trying to find the best solutions in this space.”

(And for some context, the $1 billion+ valuation is more than double GrubMarket’s valuation in October 2020, when it raised $60 million at a $500 million post-money valuation.)

Longer term, the plan will be to look at an IPO provisionally filing the paperwork by summer 2022, Xu added.

GrubMarket got its start several years ago as one of many companies looking to provide a more efficient farm-to-table service. Tapping into a growing consumer interest in higher quality, and more traceable food, it saw an opportunity to build a platform to link up producers to the consumers, restaurants and grocery stores that were buying their products. (Grocery stores, incidentally, might be independent operations, or something much bigger: one of GrubMarket’s biggest customers is Whole Foods, which uses GrubMarket for produce supply in certain regions of the U.S. It is currently is the company’s biggest customer.)

As we wrote last year, GrubMarket — like many other grocery delivery services — found that the pandemic initially provided a big fillip, and a big rush of demand, from that consumer side of the business, as more people turned to internet-based ordering and delivery services to offset the fact that many stores were closed, or they simply wanted to curtail the amount of shopping they were doing in-person to slow the spread of Covid-19.

But fast forward to today, while the startup still serves consumers, this is currently not the primary part of its business. Instead, it’s B2B2C, serving companies that in turn serve consumers. Xu says that overall, demand from consumers has dropped off considerably compared to a year ago.

“We think that restaurant re-openings have meant more people are dining out again and spending less time at home,” Xu said, ” and also they can go back to physical grocery stores, so they are not as interested as they were before in buying raw ingredients online. I don’t want to offend other food tech companies, but I think many of them will be seeing the same. I think B2C is really going to slow down going forward.”

The opening for GrubMarket has been not just positioning itself as a middleman between producers and buyers, but to do so by way of technology and consolidating what has been a very regionalized and fragmented market up to now.

GrubMarket has snapped up no less than 40 companies in the last three years. While some of these have been to help it expand geographically (it made 10 acquisitions in the Los Angeles area alone), many have also been made to double down on technology.

These have included the likes of Farmigo, once a Disrupt Battlefield contender that pivoted into becoming a software provider to CSAs (an area that GrubMarket sees a lot of opportunity), as well as software to help farms manage their business staffing, insurance and more: Pacific Farm Management is an example of the latter.

GrubMarket’s own in-house software, WholesaleWare, a cloud-based service for farmers and other food producers, saw its sales grow 3,500% over the last year, and it is now managing more than $4 billion in wholesale and retail activity across the U.S. and Canada.

There will be obvious ways to extend what GrubHub does deeper into the needs of its customers on the purchasing end, but this is in many ways also a very crowded market. (And not just crowded, but crowded with big companies. Just today, Toast, the company that builds software for restaurants, filed for a $717 million IPO at potentially a $16.5 billion valuation.) So instead, GrubHub will continue to focus on what has been a more overlooked aspect, that of the suppliers.

“I am focused on the food supply chain,” Xu said. “Operators in the food supply chain business most of the time don’t have any access to software and e-commerce technology. But we are not just a lightweight online ordering system. We do a lot of heavyweight lifting around inventory management, pricing and customer relations, and even HR management for wholesales and distributors.” That will also mean, longer term, that GrubMarket will likely also start to explore connected hardware to help those customers, too: robotics for picking and moving items are on that agenda, Xu said.

“GrubMarket has built a profitable, high-growth business underpinned by its best-in-class technology platform that’s reinventing how businesses access healthy, fresh foods,” said Jack Litowitz, director of strategic investments at Reimagined Ventures, in a statement. “We’re proud to support GrubMarket as it continues to expand into new regions and grow its WholesaleWare 2.0 software platform. At Reimagined Ventures, we always seek to invest in businesses that are disrupting inefficient industries in innovative ways. Mike Xu and the GrubMarket team have built one of these businesses. We’re excited to back their vision and work in making the food supply chain more efficient.”

“GrubMarket is transforming the trillion-dollar food distribution industry with unprecedented speed by implementing advanced digital solutions and operational discipline. The company’s scale, growth, and profitability are extraordinarily impressive. Pegasus is delighted and honored to be part of GrubMarket’s exciting journey ahead,” added Bill Reichert, partner at Pegasus Tech Ventures.

#arizona, #california, #canada, #ceo, #connecticut, #digital-solutions, #farmigo, #food, #food-delivery, #food-supply-chain, #funding, #georgia, #grocery-store, #grubhub, #grubmarket, #instacart, #japan-post-capital, #los-angeles, #massachusetts, #michigan, #mike-xu, #missouri, #new-jersey, #new-york, #olo, #online-food-delivery, #online-food-ordering, #oregon, #partner, #pegasus-tech-ventures, #pennsylvania, #reimagined-ventures, #retailers, #software, #software-platform, #supply-chain, #texas, #uber-eats, #united-states, #washington, #whole-foods

Equity Monday: Women’s employment drops, as Delta’s drama continues

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

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff to catch up on weekend news and prep for the days ahead. We’re here on Tuesday this week since us folks in the United States had off for labor day. You can follow the show on Twitter here, and while you’re at it, throw me a follow too.

  • Jobs report: Over the weekend, the US government posted the Jobs Report. It wasn’t ideal, with a sharp drop in percentage of women rejoining the workforce. I give you the startup angle, and talk about a somewhat poetic unicorn.
  • Instacart, meet Instagram: WSJ reports that new Instacart CEO Fidji Simo is expanding the grocery delivery store’s consumer-product advertising business, with a goal of hitting $1 billion in revenue next year. I riff on why this makes sense and what challenges the business make come up against.
  • Behemoths, beware: The largest Series A within Africa just closed, and it’s not even close. Wave is taking on telecom-led mobile money, now with four-big name backers. It’s not the only startup trying to take on a behemoth. I also gave a shout out to Glass, which wants to take on Instagram as a new go-to destination for photographers to share their content.

And that’s a wrap. I have a fun edtech piece coming out on Extra Crunch this week, so keep your eyes out for it.

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

#africa, #equity, #equity-monday, #fintech, #glass, #instacart, #instagram, #jobs-report, #tc, #wave

Massachussetts AG greenlights Uber, Lyft-backed gig worker ballot initiative

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey gave a coalition of app-based service providers like Uber and Lyft the go-ahead to start collecting signatures needed to put a proposed ballot measure before voters that would define drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

Backers of the initiative, which is essentially a MA version of Proposition 22, would need to gather tens of thousands of signatures for the measure to make it to the November 2022 ballot. Despite the fact that last year Healey filed a lawsuit that challenged Uber and Lyft’s classifications of drivers as contractors who are therefore not entitled to benefits like sick leave, overtime or minimum wage, on Wednesday, the AG certified the current measure met constitutional requirements.

The news comes nearly two weeks after a superior court judged ruled California’s Prop 22, which was passed in 2020, unconstitutional. The union-backed Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights urged Healey to reject the measure under the same grounds, and told Reuters that it is considering suing to challenge the measure.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Independent Work, the coalition of members including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart, filed the petition for this ballot initiative last month, a move that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he thinks is “the right move.” The proposed initiative would also allow drivers to earn a minimum of $18 per hour in 2023 before tips and provide those who work for at least 15 hours per week with healthcare stipends. Drivers would also be guaranteed at least 26 cents per mile to cover vehicle upkeep and gas.

The coalition has until December 1 to collect and file 80,239 signatures from voters. If they miss that deadline, they can gather an additional 13,374 signatures by July 6, 2022 to get the initiative on the ballot.

#doordash, #gig-workers, #independent-contractors, #instacart, #lawsuit, #lyft, #massachusetts-attorney-general-maura-healey, #massachussetts, #prop-22, #transportation, #uber

Point Pickup acquires e-commerce platform GrocerKey for $42M to allow for same-day delivery

Point Pickup Technologies, a last-mile delivery service, has acquired white label e-commerce platform GrocerKey for $42 million, according to the company. With the acquisition, Point Pickup now allows retailers to offer same-day delivery, from purchase to fulfillment to delivery, under their own brand name, rather than under third parties like Instacart.

Instacart made a killing delivering groceries and goods for retailers during the coronavirus pandemic, with a generated revenue of $1.5 billion in 2020 and $35 billion worth of sales. The company has an estimated 9.6 million active users and over 500,000 “shoppers” who pick up and deliver goods. 

New entrants to the same-day delivery space are cropping up, which aligns with the expected growth of the industry to $20.36 billion by 2027, according to Allied Market Research. But companies like Amazon and Instacart that perform this service and host a delivery marketplace get far more than sales revenues – they also get all the customer data. 

Tom Fiorita, founder and CEO of Point Pickup, says retailers should have a right to own that data themselves. The acquisition of GrocerKey, which brings on board the company’s front-end consumer-facing sales engine and predictive analytics, puts the data and brand recognition back in the retailer’s hands. 

“If you are a customer of Instacart, you pay them a subscription, they own your buying habits, your credit cards, your data,” Fiorita told TechCrunch. “Instacart was a big thing during COVID because no one had delivery. So now retailers woke up and said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t just have an Instacart-like marketplace be selling my goods. I don’t know who my customers are, I don’t have their credit cards or data.’ And you know data runs the world now.”

Another recent, if not smaller, entrant to the space is Canadian startup Tyltgo, which operates under a similar model to what Point Pickup is now offering via GrocerKey’s technology. In both cases, the buyer goes directly onto the merchant’s platform and places the order through them, so it feels like they’re interacting with the brand they purchased from. And on Tuesday, Walmart also announced a new white-label delivery service that would allow other merchants to tap into its own delivery platform to get orders to their customers.

Fiorita founded Point Pickup in 2015 as a reaction to Amazon’s increased omnipotence with the noble, if not naive, mission to “save local America.” Walmart and Kroger, two of the largest grocery retailers in the U.S., are Point Pickup’s top customers, alongside other nationwide retailers like Albertsons, Giant Eagle and more. But Fiorita believes the service his company is offering will be even more impactful when it starts to work its way down to the mid-sized and small- to medium-sized businesses. 

“We built this not only to survive against Amazon or Instacart, but because these small businesses need this for their survival,” Fiorita said. “These companies will no longer survive if they continue to allow other companies to sell their merchandise and to own their customer, including the data, the advertising, the CPG dollars and everything.”

Point Pickup offers deliveries of everything from grocery to general merchandise, pharmacy and oversized delivery. It has a network of 350,000 gig economy drivers across 25,000 ZIP codes in all 50 states. 

Since the company’s network of drivers, who often pick and pack the products for the customer as well as deliver the goods, comprises all gig workers with their own vehicles, Point Pickup doesn’t have a clear picture of the percentage of its fleet that’s electric or hybrid. Fiorita speculates it’s probably on par with nationwide rates, if not higher. A recent Pew Research report found that 7% of Americans say they own an EV or hybrid. 

Fiorita said that the type of car drivers own is taken into account during recruitment and that the company is looking for ways to incentivize drivers to buy less polluting vehicles. He also said Point Pickup is a vehicle-agnostic platform, meaning it’s piloting other delivery vessels like drones and autonomous robots.

To compete with the big dogs in the space like Amazon and Walmart, both of which are either testing or already have in place electric delivery vans, Point Pickup will have to also make efforts to beef up its strategy in the carbon emissions space.

#albertsons, #amazon, #delivery, #ecommerce, #instacart, #online-shopping, #point-pickup, #retailers, #same-day-delivery, #transportation, #tyltgo, #united-states, #walmart

Shipt’s new feature pairs members with their favorite, 5-star shoppers

Target’s same-day delivery service Shipt is launching a new feature that will pair customers with their favorite shoppers on future orders. This “Preferred Shoppers” feature will be available as a membership-only perk at no extra charge, offering customers a more reliable shopping experience, where more of their orders are directed towards people they already known and trust to do a good job.

The feature arrives at a time when the online grocery delivery market is booming due to the pandemic. But this market shift has also led to a number of newer shoppers joining the gig economy who don’t have the same level of experience as others. Today, you’ll come across some shoppers who excel at picking quality items, making great substitutions, and staying in close communication with their customers. Others, meanwhile, are checking out before you even have time to respond to their text about the product replacements they’ve made or the refunds they’ve put through. That can leave consumers feeling like online grocery shopping is an unreliable experience.

The Preferred Shoppers feature aims to change that.

As Shipt explains, customers who rate their shopper with five stars after their order is complete will be presented with the option to add the shopper to their Preferred Shoppers list. If the shopper accepts this request, they’ll be prioritized to shop for those customers in the future. (If the shopper declines, however, that won’t be shown the customer.) This list can be edited at any time, and if a customer downrates a shopper on a future order, they’ll be removed.

Image Credits: Shipt

The feature was developed in response to feedback from both shoppers and Shipt regulars, the company says. Consumers, in particular, had been asking for a way to be paired with their favorite shoppers who they already trusted to handle their orders correctly. But until now, whether or not that shopper would be available to grab the customer’s order was left mostly up to chance. The shopper would have had to see the order come in as it arrived, then grab it before someone else did.

During early tests, which included the Detroit metro, Shipt found the feature impacted its own bottom line and increased shoppers’ tips. Without providing specific metrics, the company said that customers using the feature would order more often and would rate their experience highly. Shoppers also benefitted because they were now serving customers who valued their work and who were expressing their appreciation with a larger tip.

“The more often a shopper shops for a customer, the more they learn about that customer’s wants and needs and are able to deliver a tailored shopping experience,” said Karl Varsanyi, Chief Experience & Product Officer at Shipt, in a statement. “Preferred Shoppers helps customers get the exceptional service they enjoy again and again,” he added.

The feature could also motivate shoppers to focus on building up a quality clientele, so they had a better shot at being assigned orders from customers they enjoyed working with and where they could expect to see higher tips. Over time, as customers add more shoppers to their Preferred Shopper list, the likelihood of being paired with a highly-rated shopper would improve, too. This could perhaps help to address some gig workers complaints over their work being undervalued, where bonuses are placed out of reach and customers are stingy with tips.

The idea for personal shoppers is not new. A startup called Dumpling has been developing a platform that allows gig economy workers to transition their clients off apps like Shipt and Instacart to a service where shoppers set their own rates and get to keep all their tips. But many consumers aren’t aware of Dumpling unless a shopper they know markets the service to them directly and usage of Dumpling isn’t free. In addition, while Shipt offers delivery from a number of top retailers, being owned by Target has other advantages. The service is now integrated into Target’s own website and mobile app, and Target products aren’t marked up on an individual basis, like you’d see on other services.

Currently, Shipt’s membership is $99 per year, offering free delivery on all orders over $35. The Preferred Shoppers feature will be made available to all U.S. members, starting today.

#e-commerce, #ecommerce, #instacart, #marketing, #merchandising, #online-shopping, #personal-shopper, #retail, #retailers, #shipt, #shopping, #target, #united-states

Sequoia, Jay-Z, Will Smith back Landis’ $165M debt, equity round toward making homeownership accessible to everyone

Homeownership is one of the key components to building intergenerational wealth, and Landis is working to make that a reality for renters.

U.S. homeownership rates in 2020 were about 65.8% according to Statista. The rate reached its peak of 69.2% in 2004 before falling sharply due to the economic recession of 2007-2009. The rate reached 63.7% in 2016 before steadily going back up.

To continue with its mission, Landis raised $165 million in a combination of debt and Series A equity funding. Sequoia Capital led the round and was joined by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation venture investment arm Arrive, Will Smith’s Dreamers VC and existing investor Signia Venture Partners. A group of founders also invested in the company, including those from Plaid, Cash App, Ethos, Instacart, Front, Flatiron Health and Tango. This latest funding brings Landis’ total debt and equity raised to date to $182 million.

“Landis helps families take their very first steps toward homeownership,” Roelof Botha, partner at Sequoia, said in a written statement. “By focusing on financial literacy and individualized coaching, we are giving everyone the opportunity to own their home, increasing financial inclusion and equality in America. Our technology is particularly relevant to those with low-to-moderate income who have been neglected by traditional financial solutions.”

Cyril Berdugo and Tom Petit founded Landis in 2018 and told TechCrunch that the idea for the company came after witnessing renters losing money, by, for example, paying $1,700 per month to live in a home where, based on its value, a mortgage would be $1,000 per month.

The New York-based fintech company receives referrals from real estate agents and mortgage lenders to work with prospective homeowners, who are typically unable to qualify for a mortgage due to poor credit, lack of down payment savings or debt.

It uses its underwriting technology to determine if the client will be able to afford a mortgage in the next 12 to 24 months. If so, Landis gives the client a budget to pick a property, and will purchase the home and rent it to the client, who will then work toward saving money and building a stronger financial footing to get to mortgage-readiness.

Berdugo and Petit don’t see their relationship with renters as a typical landlord-renter one, but instead as a partnership. Clients have also taught the pair that school districts matter in where they purchase a home and setting their children up for equal success is important.

“Our clients are more motivated than typical renters and really want to hang on, improve their savings, and it is working,” Petit said. “They are so much more successful. We also feel it when they call and ask for advice and even try to beat their deadlines.”

Berdugo did not disclose the round’s debt versus equity breakdown, or go into specifics about growth metrics, but did say the driver for the funding round was to expand into new states, add to Landis’ headcount and improve user experience.

The company is already operating in 29 cities in 11 states and plans to increase that to 20 states by next year. Berdugo and Petit target states where the impact will be greatest, like where rents are higher than they should be.

In addition to the funding announcement, Landis said it opened up access to its Landis Homeownership Coach mobile app for free to everyone with an iPhone. The app provides a dashboard view of credit, down payment savings and debt, with insights and actions for clients toward reaching their goal of qualifying for a mortgage.

“Inequality to financial literacy and financial services are related,” Berdugo said. “People with low-to-moderate income don’t have access to services that wealthier people have, and we are trying to bridge that gap by providing financial literacy and services to get them mortgage ready.”

#apps, #cyril-berdugo, #dreamers-vc, #flatiron-health, #funding, #instacart, #jay-z, #landis, #mortgage, #online-lending, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #roc-nation, #roelof-botha, #sequoia-capital, #signia-venture-partners, #startups, #tc, #tom-petit, #venture-capital, #will-smith

Last-mile delivery in Latin America is ready to take off

In the United States, same-day and next-day Amazon Prime deliveries have become the de facto standard in e-commerce. People want convenience and instant gratification, evidenced by the fact that an astonishing ~45% of U.S. consumers are Amazon Prime members.

Most major retailers are scrambling to catch up to Amazon by partnering with last-mile delivery startups. Walmart has become a major investor in Cruise for autonomous-vehicle deliveries, and Target acquired Shipt and Deliv last-mile delivery startups to increase its delivery speed. Costco partnered with Instacart for same-day deliveries, and even Domino’s Pizza has jumped in by partnering with Nuro for last-mile delivery using autonomous vehicles.

E-commerce in LatAm has taken off at a compound annual industry growth rate of 16% over the past five years.

The holdout: Latin America

Venture capitalists have been investing heavily in last-mile delivery over the past five years on a global scale, but Latin America (LatAm) has lagged behind. Over $11 billion has been invested globally in last-mile logistics over the past decade, but Latin America only saw about $1 billion over the same period (Source: PitchBook and WIND Ventures research).

Within this, only about $300 million was in Spanish-speaking Latin America — a surprisingly small amount for a region that has 110 million more consumers than in the U.S.

Brazil-based Loggi accounts for about 60% of last-mile VC investment in Latin America, but it only operates in Brazil. That leaves major Spanish countries like Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina without a leading independent last-mile logistics company.

In these countries, about 60% of the last-mile delivery market is dominated by small, informal companies or independent drivers using their own trucks. This results in inefficiencies due to a lack of technologies such as route optimization as well as a lack of operating scale. These issues are quickly becoming more pronounced as e-commerce in LatAm has taken off at a compound annual industry growth rate of 16% over the past five years.

Retailers are missing an opportunity to give customers what they want. Customers today expect free, reliable same- or next-day delivery — on-time, all the time, and without damage or theft. All of these are challenging in LatAm. Theft, in particular, is a significant problem, because unprofessional drivers often steal products out for delivery and then sell them for a profit. Cost is a problem, too, because free same- and next-day deliveries are simply not available in many places.

Operational and technological roadblocks abound

Why does Latin America lag when it comes to the last mile? First, traditional LatAm e-commerce delivery involves multiple time-consuming steps: Products are picked up from the retailer, delivered to a cross-dock, distributed to a warehouse, delivered to a second cross-dock, and then finally delivered to the customer.

By comparison, modern delivery operations are much simpler. Products are picked up from the retailer, delivered to a cross-dock, and then delivered directly to the customer. There’s no need for warehousing and an extra pre-warehouse cross-dock.

And those are just the operational challenges. Lack of technology also plays a significant role. Most delivery coordination and routing in LatAm are still done via a spreadsheet or pen and paper.

Dispatchers have to manually pick up a phone to call drivers and dispatch them. In the U.S., computerized optimization algorithms dramatically cut both delivery cost and time by automatically finding the most efficient route (e.g., packing the most deliveries possible on a truck along the route) and automatically dispatching the driver that can most efficiently complete the route based on current location, capacity and experience with the route. These algorithms are almost unheard of in the Latin America retail logistics sector.

Major retail brands are the last-mile catalyst

#amazon, #amazon-prime, #argentina, #brazil, #chile, #colombia, #column, #costco, #doordash, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-latin-america-and-caribbean, #ec-manufacturing-and-supply-chain, #ecommerce, #food-delivery, #instacart, #latin-america, #logistics, #lyft, #mercado-libre, #mexico, #nuro, #startups, #transportation, #uber, #walmart

Powered by local stores, JOKR joins the 15 min grocery race with a $170M Series A

“We are true believers in the fact that the world needs a new Amazon, a better one, a more sustainable one, one that appreciates local areas and products.” It’s quite one thing to claim you are out to replace Amazon (just as its founder goes into space), but Ralf Wenzel, Founder and CEO of JOKR, certainly believes his company might have a shot. And he’s raising plenty of money to aim at that goal.

Today the fast-growing grocery and retail delivery platform has closed a whopping $170 million Series A funding round. The round comes three months after the company started operations in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. JOKR’s team consists of people who created both foodpanda and Delivery Hero, so from the outside at least, they have the chops to build a big business.

The round was led by Led by GGV Capital, Balderton Capital, and Tiger Global Management. It was joined by Activant Capital, Greycroft, Fabrice Grinda’s FJ Labs, as well as Latin America’s tech-specialized VC firms Kaszek and Monashees, as did HV Capital, the first institutional investor.

Based out of New York, where it launched last month JOKR plans to roll out across cities in the U.S., Latin America and Europe. Right now it’s live in nine cities, across Latin American countries, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, as well as Poland and Austria in Europe.

Wenzel said: “The investment we announced today will empower us to continue our expansion at an unprecedented rate as we continue to build JOKR into the premier platform for a new generation of online shopping, with instant delivery, a focus on local product offerings and more sustainable delivery and supply chains. We are proud to be able to partner with such a distinguished group of international tech investors to help us seize the enormous opportunity in front of us.”

JOKR’s pitch is that it enables small local businesses to sell their goods, sourced from other local businesses, via the platform, thus expanding their reach without the need for complex logistics and delivery networks on their own. But that local aspect also builds sustainability into the model.

Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, and newly appointed member of JOKR’s board said: “Ralf has put together an all-star team for food delivery that will transform the retail supply chain. The combination of food delivery experience and the sophisticated data capabilities that optimizes inventory allocation and dispatch, set JOKR apart. We look forward to working with the team on their mission to make retail more instant, more democratic, and more sustainable.”

JOKR is joining other fast-delivery grocery providers like Gorillas and Getir in providing a 15 minute delivery time for supermarket and convenience products, pharmaceuticals, but also ‘exclusive’ local products that are not available in regular supermarkets. Although, so far, it only has an app on Google Play.

Speaking at an interview with me Wenzel said: “We are close to the equivalent of Instacart, strongly grocery focused. Our offering is significantly broader than the ones of Gorillas because we’re not only focusing on convenience and all kinds of different grocery categories, we’re getting closer to a supermarket offering, so the biggest competing element would be the traditional supermarkets, the offline supermarkets, as well as online grocery propositions. We are vertically integrating and hence procuring directly, cutting out middlemen and building our own distribution warehouses.”

#activant-capital, #amazon, #austria, #balderton-capital, #brazil, #ceo, #colombia, #delivery-hero, #distribution, #europe, #food-delivery, #foodpanda, #getir, #ggv-capital, #gorillas, #grocery-store, #hans-tung, #hv-capital, #instacart, #jokr, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #mexico, #new-york, #online-food-ordering, #online-shopping, #peru, #pharmaceuticals, #poland, #premier, #ralf-wenzel, #retailers, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #united-states

Instacart hires Facebook executive as new CEO ahead of expected IPO

Instacart has appointed Facebook executive Fidji Simo as its new CEO, just seven months after she joined the grocery delivery company’s board of directors. Simo, formerly the vice president and head of the Facebook app, will replace Instacart founder and current CEO Apoorva Mehta on August 2. Mehta will transition to executive chairman of the board, per a statement from Instacart.

Instacart declined on behalf of Simo for request to provide further comment.

Women of color chief executives at the forefront of billion-dollar businesses are still an unfortunately rare occurrence. Simo is the co-founder of Women in Product, a nonprofit organization that works to empower women in product management, as well as advance and advocate for women’s careers in tech. The transition marks that Facebook has lost one of its few female leaders, and Instacart has a new energy as it plans to increase its head count by 50% in 2021.

The departure of Mehta from his role so close to an expected IPO is as notable as it is rare. Mehta founded Instacart 10 years ago, incubating it through Y Combinator’s 2012 summer batch to its most recent valuation of $39 billion.

The pandemic spotlighted Instacart’s purpose, as millions of people around the world faced quarantines and limited in-person interactions, including trips to the grocery store. The increased consumer spending on for-delivery services led Instacart to hire hundreds of thousands of workers, as well as launch same-day delivery on a variety of products beyond avocados — including electronics, sports equipment and prescription medicine

The growth hasn’t come without controversy. Instacart joined Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates as major backers for Proposition 22, a measure that would classify gig workers as independent contractors, limiting the types of benefits that they could receive. Prop 22 eventually passed, which could be seen as beneficial to Instacart executives and detrimental to the shoppers who make the deliveries. The event happened after years of protests, class-action lawsuits over wages and tipping debacles in which Instacart was scrutinized for unfair policies toward its shoppers.

Simo obviously has experience working at controversial companies, thanks to her decade at Facebook. Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg replied to Simo’s announcement in a comment on the platform.

“Fidji — I’m immensely grateful for the impact you’ve had on Facebook over the last 10 years,” Sandberg wrote. “You’ve worn so many hats leading the Facebook App — all while advocating for gender equality in the tech community. I’m so proud to see where you’re headed. Cheering you on!”

Instacart describes Simo as a “core driver of Facebook’s mobile monetization strategy” and the leader behind the architecture of Facebook’s advertising business. The executive helped scale Facebook as it grew from 1,000 to 100,000 employees, and through its transition to the public markets — experience that may mesh well with Instacart’s ambitions to eventually go public.

Her rise to chief executive comes as the pandemic winds down and parts of the world begin to reopen, which will likely signal a new chapter about how Instacart conducts business and faces new challenges on how the business stays relevant.

#apoorva-mehta, #fidji-simo, #instacart, #tc

Walmart’s AI is getting smarter about grocery delivery

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we shop, especially when it comes to groceries. Grocery delivery apps experienced a record number of downloads in March 2020, and by the following month, Walmart Grocery (which is now integrated into the Walmart app) surpassed Amazon as the No. 1 shopping app on both Google Play and the App Store. But even as pandemic restrictions have eased, consumers are still using ordering groceries for delivery or pickup more frequently than they were pre-pandemic.

As Walmart’s grocery delivery services have continued to boom, posing competition to companies like Amazon and Instacart, the tech that Walmart uses has expanded too. Today, Walmart shared information about how it’s training its AI to make smarter substitutions in online grocery orders.

Bringing this technology to grocery delivery isn’t novel by any means. Last May, Walmart reported how it used to AI to determine eligibility for its Express delivery service, which was brand new at the time. A year into the United States’ coronavirus outbreak, Instacart engineers reported that they crunched “petabytes daily to predict what will be on grocery shelves and even how long it will take to find parking.”

So what makes Walmart’s AI for grocery substitutions unique? According to Srini Venkatesan, an Executive Vice President at Walmart Global Tech, it’s the sheer quantity of data that Walmart can use to teach its AI. Over 200 million people shop at Walmart in-store and online each week for more than 150,000 different grocery products. The AI uses that data to predict consumer behavior, preferences, and needs.

“The tech we built uses deep learning AI to consider hundreds of variables — size, type, brand, price, aggregate shopper data, individual customer preference, current inventory and more — in real time to determine the best next available item,” explained Venkatesan. “It then preemptively asks the customer to approve the substituted item or let us know they don’t want it, an important signal that’s fed back into our learning algorithms to improve the accuracy of future recommendations.”

Image Credits: Walmart

Rather than asking a Personal Shopper to make a quick decision about how to substitute for cherry yogurt (do you get a different flavor from the same brand, the same flavor from a more expensive brand, and so on), the AI makes that choice for them. Walmart started developing this algorithm last year, and in the time since, customer acceptance of substitutions has improved.

“We were at about 90% before this algorithm rolled out,” said Venkatesan. “We are now around 97% to 98%.”

In the last year, Walmart doubled its number of Personal Shoppers to over 170,000 workers. About 3,750 stores are enabled for order pickup, and 3,000 stores are enabled for delivery, which covers 68% of the population. Earlier this year, Walmart dropped the $35 order minimum on its Express delivery service, a competitor to Amazon’s Prime Now.

#amazon, #artificial-intelligence, #ecommerce, #express, #food, #grocery-delivery, #instacart, #online-grocery, #personal-shopper, #prime-now, #retailers, #srini-venkatesan, #united-states, #walmart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can we say? Good luck?

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

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

Figure raises $7.5M to help startup employees better understand their compensation

The topic of compensation has historically been a delicate one that has left many people — especially startup employees — wondering just what drives what can feel like random decisions around pay and equity.

Last June, software engineers (and housemates) Miles Hobby and Geoffrey Tisserand set about trying to solve the problem for companies by developing a data-driven platform that aims to help companies structure their compensation plans and transparently communicate them to candidates.

Now today, the startup behind that platform, Figure, announced it has raised $7.5 million in seed funding led by CRV. Bling Capital, Better Tomorrow Ventures and Garage Capital also participated in the financing, along with angel investors such as AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant, Jason Calacanis, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and other executives based in Silicon Valley.

The startup has amassed a client list that includes other startups such as fintechs Brex and NerdWallet and AI-powered fitness company Tempo. 

Put simply, Hobby and Tisserand’s mission is to improve workflows and transparency around pay, particularly equity. The pair had both worked at startups themselves (Uber and Instacart, respectively) and ended up leaving money on the table when they left those companies because no one had properly explained to them what their equity, which changed at every valuation, meant.  

Figure co-founders and co-CEOs Miles Hobby and Geoffrey Tisserand. Image Credits: Figure

So, one of their goals was to create a solution that would provide a user-friendly explanation of what a person’s equity stake really means, from tax implications to whether or not they have to buy the stock and/or hold onto it.

“I’ve gone through the job search process many times before and there’s all these complex legal documents to understand why you’re getting 10,000 stock options, but obviously we knew the vast majority of people have no idea how that works,” Tisserand told TechCrunch. “We saw an opportunity there to help companies actually convey the value to their candidates while also making them aware of the potential risks of owning something that’s so illiquid.”

Image Credits: Figure

Another goal of Figure’s is to help create a more fair and balanced process about decisions around pay and equity so that there’s less inequality out there. Pointedly, it aims to remove some of the biases that exist around those decisions by systematizing the process.

“We saw a void in this kind of context around equity…and knew that there had to be a better way for companies to structure, manage and explain their compensation plans,” Hobby said.

To Hobby and Tisserand, Figure is designed to help stop instances of implicit bias.

“Compensation should be based on the work that you’re doing, and not gender or ethnic background,” Tisserand told TechCrunch. “We’re trying to give that context and remove biases. So, we’re trying to help at two different stages –– to surface inequities that already exist and make sure there are no anomalies, and then to help stop them before they can exist.”

Figure also aims to give companies the tools to educate candidates and employees on their total compensation — including equity, salary, benefits and bonuses — in a “straightforward and user-friendly” way. For example, it can create custom offer letters that interactively detail a candidate’s compensation.

“Our goal is for Figure to become an operating system for compensation, where a company can encode their compensation philosophy into our system, and we help them determine their job architecture, compensation bands and offer numbers while monitoring their compensation health to provide adjustment suggestions when needed,” Hobby said.

Post-hire, Figure’s compensation management system “helps keep everything running smoothly.”

Anna Khan, general partner of enterprise software at CRV, is joining Figure’s board as part of the funding. The decision to back the startup was in part personal, she said.

“I’d been investing in software for eight years and was alarmed that no one was building anything around pay equity when it comes to how we’re paid, why we’re paid what we’re paid and on how to build equity long term,” Khan told TechCrunch. “Unfortunately, discussions around compensation and equity still happen behind closed doors and this extends into workflow around compensation — equally broken — with manual leveling, old data and large pay inequities.”

The company plans to use its new capital to expand its product offerings and scale its organization.

#angellist, #anna-khan, #artificial-intelligence, #better-tomorrow-ventures, #bling-capital, #crv, #economy, #enterprise-software, #entrepreneurship, #figure, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hiring, #instacart, #jason-calacanis, #naval-ravikant, #operating-system, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #reddit, #silicon-valley, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #steve-huffman, #talent, #uber, #venture-capital

The gig is up on 21st-century exploitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil’s Loft adds $100M to its accounts, $700M to its valuation in a single month

Nearly exactly one month ago, digital real estate platform Loft announced it had closed on $425 million in Series D funding led by New York-based D1 Capital Partners. The round included participation from a mix of new and existing investors such as DST, Tiger Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Fifth Wall and QED, among many others.

At the time, Loft was valued at $2.2 billion, a huge jump from its being just near unicorn territory in January 2020. The round marked one of the largest ever for a Brazilian startup.

Now, today, São Paulo-based Loft has announced an extension to that round with the closing of $100 million in additional funding that values the company at $2.9 billion. This means that the 3-year-old startup has increased its valuation by $700 million in a matter of weeks.

Baillie Gifford led the Series D-2 round, which also included participation from Tarsadia, Flight Deck, Caffeinated and others. Individuals also put money in the extension, including the founders of Better (Zach Frenkel), GoPuff, Instacart, Kavak and Sweetgreen.

Loft has seen great success in its efforts to serve as a “one-stop shop” for Brazilians to help them manage the home buying and selling process. 

Image courtesy of Loft

In 2020, Loft saw the number of listings on its site increase “10 to 15 times,” according to co-founder and co-CEO Mate Pencz. Today, the company actively maintains more than 13,000 property listings in approximately 130 regions across São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, partnering with more than 30,000 brokers. Not only are more people open to transacting digitally, more people are looking to buy versus rent in the country.

“We did more than 6x YoY growth with many thousands of transactions over the course of 2020,” Pencz told TechCrunch at the time of the company’s last raise. “We’re now growing into the many tens of thousands, and soon hundreds of thousands, of active listings.”

The decision to raise more capital so soon was due to a variety of factors. For one, Loft has received “overwhelming investor interest” even after “a very, very oversubscribed main round,” Pencz said.

“We have seen a continued acceleration in our market share growth, especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the two markets we currently operate in,” he added. “We saw an opportunity to grow even faster with additional capital.”

Pencz also pointed out that Baillie Gifford has relatively large minimum check size requirements, which led to the extension being conducted at a higher price and increased the total round size “by quite a bit to be able to accommodate them.”

While the company was less forthcoming about its financials as of late, it told me last year that it had notched “over $150 million in annualized revenues in its first full year of operation” via more than 1,000 transactions.

The company’s revenues and GMV (gross merchandise value) “increased significantly” in 2020, according to Pencz, who declined to provide more specifics. He did say those figures are “multiples higher from where they were,” and that Loft has “a very clear horizon to profitability.”

Pencz and Florian Hagenbuch founded Loft in early 2018 and today serve as its co-CEOs. The aim of the platform, in the company’s words, is “bringing Latin American real estate into the e-commerce age by developing online alternatives to analogue legacy processes and leveraging data to create transparency in highly opaque markets.” The U.S. real estate tech company with the closest model to Loft’s is probably Zillow, according to Pencz.

In the United States, prospective buyers and sellers have the benefit of MLSs, which in the words of the National Association of Realtors, are private databases that are created, maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property. Loft itself spent years and many dollars in creating its own such databases for the Brazilian market. Besides helping people buy and sell homes, it offers services around insurance, renovations and rentals.

In 2020, Loft also entered the mortgage business by acquiring one of the largest mortgage brokerage businesses in Brazil. The startup now ranks among the top-three mortgage originators in the country, according to Pencz. When it comes to helping people apply for mortgages, he likened Loft to U.S.-based Better.com.

This latest financing brings Loft’s total funding raised to an impressive $800 million. Other backers include Brazil’s Canary and a group of high-profile angel investors such as Max Levchin of Affirm and PayPal, Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and David Vélez, CEO and founder of Brazilian fintech Nubank. In addition, Loft has also raised more than $100 million in debt financing through a series of publicly listed real estate funds.

Loft plans to use its new capital in part to expand across Brazil and eventually in Latin America and beyond. The company is also planning to explore more M&A opportunities.

This article was updated post-publication to reflect accurate investor information

#andreessen-horowitz, #baillie-gifford, #better-mortgage, #better-com, #brazil, #co-founder, #d1-capital-partners, #david-velez, #dst, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #instacart, #instagram, #joe-lonsdale, #latin-america, #loft, #max-levchin, #mike-krieger, #money, #new-york, #nubank, #palantir, #paypal, #proptech, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startup, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zillow

Tech in the Post-Pandemic World

Assessing its future, both the bad and the good.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #doordash-mobile-app, #e-commerce, #google-inc, #innovation, #instacart, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #rna-ribonucleic-acid, #shopping-and-retail, #vaccination-and-immunization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grocery startup Mercato spilled years of data, but didn’t tell its customers

A security lapse at online grocery delivery startup Mercato exposed tens of thousands of customer orders, TechCrunch has learned.

A person with knowledge of the incident told TechCrunch that the incident happened in January after one of the company’s cloud storage buckets, hosted on Amazon’s cloud, was left open and unprotected.

The company fixed the data spill, but has not yet alerted its customers.

Mercato was founded in 2015 and helps over a thousand smaller grocers and specialty food stores get online for pickup or delivery, without having to sign up for delivery services like Instacart or Amazon Fresh. Mercato operates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, where the company is headquartered.

TechCrunch obtained a copy of the exposed data and verified a portion of the records by matching names and addresses against known existing accounts and public records. The data set contained more than 70,000 orders dating between September 2015 and November 2019, and included customer names and email addresses, home addresses, and order details. Each record also had the user’s IP address of the device they used to place the order.

The data set also included the personal data and order details of company executives.

It’s not clear how the security lapse happened since storage buckets on Amazon’s cloud are private by default, or when the company learned of the exposure.

Companies are required to disclose data breaches or security lapses to state attorneys-general, but no notices have been published where they are required by law, such as California. The data set had more than 1,800 residents in California, more than three times the number needed to trigger mandatory disclosure under the state’s data breach notification laws.

It’s also not known if Mercato disclosed the incident to investors ahead of its $26 million Series A raise earlier this month. Velvet Sea Ventures, which led the round, did not respond to emails requesting comment.

In a statement, Mercato chief executive Bobby Brannigan confirmed the incident but declined to answer our questions, citing an ongoing investigation.

“We are conducting a complete audit using a third party and will be contacting the individuals who have been affected. We are confident that no credit card data was accessed because we do not store those details on our servers. We will continually inform all authoritative bodies and stakeholders, including investors, regarding the findings of our audit and any steps needed to remedy this situation,” said Brannigan.


Know something, say something. Send tips securely over Signal and WhatsApp to +1 646-755-8849. You can also send files or documents using our SecureDrop. Learn more

#amazon, #boston, #california, #chicago, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #cloud-storage, #computer-security, #computing, #data-breach, #data-security, #ecommerce, #food, #instacart, #los-angeles, #mercato, #new-york, #security, #technology, #united-states, #velvet-sea-ventures

Google promises better 3D maps

Google is announcing a handful of major updates to Google Maps today that range from bringing its Live View AR directions indoors to adding weather data to its maps, but the most tantalizing news — which in typical Google fashion doesn’t have an ETA just yet — is that Google plans to bring a vastly improved 3D layer to Google maps.

Using photogrammetry, the same technology that also allows Microsoft’s Flight Simulator to render large swaths of the world in detail, Google is also building a model of the world for its Maps service.

“We’re going to continue to improve that technology that helps us fuse together the billions of aerials, StreetView and satellite images that we have to really help us move from that flat 2D map to a more accurate 3D model than we’ve ever had. And be able to do that more quickly. And to bring more detail to it than we’ve ever been able to do before,” Dane Glasgow, Google’s VP for Geo Product Experience, said in a press event ahead of today’s announcement. He noted that this 3D layer will allow the company to visualize all its data in new and interesting ways.

Image Credits: Google

How exactly this will play out in reality remains to be seen, but Glasgow showed off a new 3D route preview, for example, with all of the typically mapping data overlayed on top of the 3D map.

Glasgow also noted that this technology will allow Google to parse out small features like stoplights and building addresses, which in turn will result in better directions.

“We also think that the 3D imagery will allow us to visualize a lot of new information and data overlaid on top, you know, everything from helpful information like traffic or accidents, transit delays, crowdedness — there’s lots of potential here to bring new information,” he explained.

Image Credits: Google

As for the more immediate future, Google announced a handful of new features today that are all going to roll out in the coming months. Indoor Live View is the flashiest of these. Google’s existing AR Live View walking directions currently only work outdoors, but thanks to some advances in its technology to recognize where exactly you are (even without a good GPS signal), the company is now able to bring this indoors. This feature is already live in some malls in the U.S. in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, but in the coming months, it’ll come to select airports, malls and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich as well (just in time for vaccines to arrive and travel to — maybe — rebound). Because Google is able to locate you by comparing the images around you to its database, it can also tell what floor you are on and hence guide you to your gate at the Zurich airport, for example (though in my experience, there are few places with better signage than airports…).

Also new are layers for weather data (but not weather radar) and air quality in Google Maps. The weather layer will be available globally on Android and iOS in the coming months, with the air quality layer only launching for Australia, India and the U.S. at first.

Image Credits: Google

Talking about air quality, Google Maps will also get a new eco-friendly routing option that lets you pick the driving route that produces the least CO2 (coming to Android and iOS later this year), and it will finally feature support for low emission zones, a feature of many a European City. Low emission zones on Google Maps will launch in June in Germany, France, Spain and the UK on Android and iOS. More countries will follow later.

And to bring this all together, Google will update its directions interface to show you all of the possible modes of transportations and routing options, prioritized based on your own preferences, as well as based on what’s popular in the city you are in (think he subway in NYC or bike-sharing in Portland).

Also new are more integrated options for curbside grocery pickups in partnership with Instacart and Albertsons, if that’s your thing.

And there you have it. As is so often the case with Google’s announcement, the most exciting new features the company showed off don’t have an ETA and may never launch, but until then you can hold yourself over by getting your weather forecasts on Google Maps.

#albertsons, #android, #artificial-intelligence, #australia, #chicago, #computing, #eta, #france, #germany, #google, #google-search, #google-maps, #gps, #india, #instacart, #los-angeles, #maps, #newark, #operating-systems, #portland, #san-francisco, #san-jose, #seattle, #software, #spain, #tokyo, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #zurich

The Station: Another Uber spinout is born and EVs dominate SPACs

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox

Hi friends and new readers, welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.

Our transportation desk is taking shape. Two new reporters, Aria Alamalhodaei and Rebecca Bellan started Monday and have already provided some new and interesting coverage. Tamara Warren, a former editor at the Verge who has been writing about automotive and tech for two decades, reviewed the Aston Martin DBX. This week, Abigail Basset, a World Car Juror former CNN producer who writes about cars, tech, business — pretty much everything — break down the new VW ID. 4.

We’re just getting started. Vamos.

Please help welcome them and follow them on Twitter and maybe even drop them a DM. You can find them @RebeccaBellan and Aria over @breadfrom.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

Scooter clutter has prompted a number of entrepreneurs to start companies, all aiming to solve the problem. Tortoise has its repositioning software, companies like Swiftmile offer docking stations that also charge scooters.

But what about a solution that works across brands? Paris aims to find out.

The city is testing universal charging infrastructure for electric scooters in a pilot project that will kick off in the second quarter of this year. DUCKT, which was awarded the pilot, will install 150 dock and charge points that can be plugged into bus stations and street lighting to provide the power source.

DUCKT was one of 15 companies that were named Urban Innovation District winners. Each winner is testing a different urban project in the 13th arrondissement. The competition, which is run by Paris & Co.’s urban innovation lab, includes pilots focused on food waste, rainwater collection, revegetation and waterproofing as well as several mobility projects. Ezymob will test a mobile app that helps visually impaired people navigate public transit, Mobilypod is launching a subscription-based cargo bike service and bike shelters and the LaCroix Lab is piloting 4SafeMobilities, a system designed to streamline traffic at intersections and pedestrian crossings.


Meanwhile, Porsche is taking its electrification ambitions to two wheels. The German automaker unveiled this week two electric bikes alongside the global debut of the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo, the latest variant to its EV flagship. These bikes cost between $8,000 and more than $10,000 — prices one might expect from the luxury performance brand.

Deal of the week

money the station

Forget the “deal of the week.” How about we take a stroll down memory lane and look at all the deals of 2020? CB Insights, released March 3 its State of Mobility report that looks at 2020 investment data and trends surrounding all things transportation.

The upshot: The COVID-19 pandemic did help push total funding down 5% year-over-year to $27.19 billion, although CB Insights saw recovery in the second half of the year. There were 522 deals, a 21% drop from the previous year.

Total funding only tells part of the story though. If 2020 will be known for anything — aside from the whole global pandemic thing — it’ll be for the incredible number of SPAC deals across auto and mobility. There were 107 exits last year with 22 of them from startups going public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition, or “blank check” company. Having trouble gauging if that’s a big deal? Here’s some help: there were five auto and mobility SPACs between 2015 and 2019. Five. Electric vehicle companies and those with technology that supports EVs made up 68% of those SPAC deals in 2020.

The SPAC spree isn’t stopping either with Joby Aviation, Hellbiz and Otonomo are just a few that have reached merger agreements and will go public in 2021.

Electric vehicle tech and autonomous vehicle tech both reached peaks in 2020. EV tech companies raised $12.8 billion across 193 deals, while AVs brought in $7.3 billion across 105 deals, according to CB Insights. It’s worth noting that the AV industry appears to be maturing — at least in a funding perspective — with the average deal size rising 16.8% from the previous year to $104 million.

Connected car tech and auto commerce both saw dips in funding last year. For the second straight year, connected car tech saw a drop in funding and total number of deals. Funding plummeted 52% to $1 billion in 2020 compared to the previous year. CB Insights said the drop is because connectivity solutions have been widely adopted and investors have shifted their attention and money to other areas of auto tech such as electrification and autonomy.

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, bike and scooter companies saw funding rise 52% year-over-year to $2.4 billion in 2020. That’s still below funding seen in those heady days of 2017 and 2018 when scooters won over the hearts and minds of investors. Scooter and bike companies raked in $3.2 billion in 2017 and $4.9 billion in 2018.

And finally, funding to shared mobility companies (MaaS) fell 20% in 2020 to $6.3 billion across 116 deals.

Other deals that got my attention …

Aero, a startup backed by Garrett Camp’s startup studio Expa, raised $20 million in Series A funding round led by Keyframe Capital, with Keyframe’s chief investment officer John Rapaport joining the Aero board. Cyrus Capital Partners and Expa also participated.

Boom Supersonic, the aerospace startup building supersonic jets, landed a strategic investment from American Express Ventures. The funds will be used for the development of the company’s flagship product, the supersonic airliner Overture.

Fluid Truck,  a Denver-based app-based platform that lets users make short-term rentals of commercial vehicles, raised $63 million in a Series A funding round. The truck sharing platform is aimed at mid-mile and last-mile delivery companies, which use it to remotely manage an on-demand rental fleet via web or mobile app. Private equity firm Bison Capital led the round, with participation from Ingka Investments (part of Ingka Group, the main Ikea retailer), Sumitomo Corporation of Americas and Fluid Vehicle Owners.

Instacart, the n-demand grocery delivery platform, raised $265 million in funding from existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, D1 Capital Partners and others. The new funding pushed the company’s valuation to $39 billion — more than double its $17.7 billion valuation when it raised $200 million just six months ago.

As TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington writes: What’s behind the massive increase in the value investors are willing to ascribe to the business? Put simply, the pandemic. Last year, Instacart announced three separate raises, including a $225 million round in June, followed by a $100 million round in July. The rapid sequence of venture capital injections were likely designed to fuel growth as demand for grocery delivery services surged while people attempted to quarantine or generally spend less time frequenting high-traffic social environments like grocery stores.

Loggi Tecnologia, the Brazilian delivery company backed by SoftBank and Microsoft Corp., raised 1.15 billion reais ($205 million) in a round led by CapSur Capital, Bloomberg reported. The company is now valued close to $2 billion.

Rollick, the online powersports, RV and boat buying marketplace, raised $8.5 million in a funding round that included investors Sandbox Insurtech Ventures, TechNexus Venture Collaborative, Dallas Venture Capital, Alumni Ventures, and London Technology Club. Existing investors LiveOak Venture Partners, Silverton Partners, Autotech Ventures, ManchesterStory, Anthem Venture Partners and Capital Factory also participated.

Volocopter, a startup out of southern Germany that has been building and testing electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, raised €200 million (about $241 million) in a Series D round of funding. New investors include funds managed by BlackRock, global infrastructure company Atlantia SpA., Avala Capital; Tier 1 supplier Continental AG, Japan’s NTT via its venture capital arm, Tokyo Century and multiple family offices.. Volocopter also said that all of its existing investors — a list that includes Geely, Daimler, DB Schenker, Intel Capital, btov Partners, Team Europe and Klocke Holding and more — also contributed to the round.

Alongside its aircraft, Volocopter has also been building a business case in which its vessels will be used in a taxi-style fleet in urban areas. CEO Florian Reuter told TechCrunch editor Ingrid Lunden that live services are now two years out for the two vehicle models it has been developing.

Policy salmagundi

the station electric vehicles1

Policy: it’s what for dinner.

I’m trying out a new, semi-regular section in the newsletter that will cover notable legislative activity around electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, public transit and personal mobility.

This week, let’s head on over to California, where State Sen. Dave Min introduced a bill that would require all autonomous vehicles to also be zero emission by 2025. The bill was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group says it doesn’t want to see future means of transportation married to the technology of the past. Proponents point out the potential for AVs to either help or hurt attempts to cut emissions.

While the amendment is in line with the state’s goals to reduce emissions, it also adds a wrinkle to the plans of any AV developer that doesn’t currently use electric vehicles. Cruise and Zoox, for instance, only use electric vehicles. AV giant Waymo and numerous others use a mix of vehicles, notably the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan.

As Rebecca Bellan notes in her article, this proposed bill is in its infancy stages, so there are plenty of opportunities for it to be quashed.

The responses from the industry offered up the kind of political neutrality that aims to placate everyone. My interpretation of the various comments and statements — both on record and more informal on background chatter — is that work will soon begin to modify the language of the proposed bill to be more accommodating to the industry while hanging onto its original intent. That might mean pushing the deadline, adding hybrids and creating an exception for long-haul trucks.


Meanwhile, over in the land of passenger electric vehicles, work is underway to pass laws that would allow direct sales in at least eight states. Passage of such legislation would clear the way for EV giants like Tesla, along with newcomers Lucid and Rivian, which have yet to bring a vehicle to market, to sell directly to consumers.

Tesla, Rivian and other EV entrants are working together to pass these laws. Industry alliances are not unheard of on issues in which all the parties stand to benefit. Tesla’s cooperation is notable because it would end its monopoly on direct sales in some states.

Notable reads and other tidbits

the-station-delivery

Here are a few other stories that are worth sharing.

Aston Martin CEO Tobias Moers’ interview with Automotive News Europe is a complementary side dish to Tamara Warren’s review of the DBX.

Postmates X, the robotics division of the on-demand delivery startup that Uber acquired last year for $2.65 billion, has officially spun out as an independent company called Serve Robotics. (Y’all might recall I previously reported that a deal was being shopped to investors.)

Serve Robotics raised seed funding in a round led by venture capital firm Neo. Other investors included Uber as well as Lee Jacobs and Cyan Banister’s Long Journey Ventures, Western Technology Investment, Scott Banister, Farhad Mohit and Postmates co-founders Bastian Lehmann and Sean Plaice.

Tesla is closing its forums and launching a new social media platform called the Tesla Engagement Platform. The move has raised the ire of a community of its most ardent supporters.

Tortoise landed another deal, this time with Albertsons Companies, the grocery giant that owns Safeway and Jewel-Osco. Albertson said it has launched a pilot program that will test grocery delivery using remote-controlled delivery robots developed Tortoise. The pilot will start at two Safeway locations in Northern California, although Tortoise co-founder and president Dmitry Shevelenko said if successful, he expects the pilot to continue to scale to other stores in the state and possibly throughout the West Coast.

Toyota Motor said it plans to sell 500 billion yen ($4.7 billion) in “Woven Planet Bonds” to fund a variety of renewable energy and transportation projects, including  assisted mobility vehicles, and increased use of 

Volkswagen said it plans to launch an electric sedan in 2026. The company said that the vehicle, dubbed Project Trinity, will set “new standards” with its charging speed, battery range, and in other technology, Car and Driver reported.

Volvo Cars said it will only make and sell all-electric vehicles by 2030 as part of a broader transformation of the automaker that will include shifting sales online. The announcement was tied to the launch of the C40 Recharge, a low-slung crossover based on the company’s CMA vehicle platform.

#aston-martin, #automotive, #electric-cars, #instacart, #postmates, #tc, #tesla, #transportation, #volocopter, #volvo