E-commerce tracking platform AfterShip raises $66M led by Tiger Global

AfterShip launched in 2012 to help online sellers track packages across different carriers, but since then it has built a suite of data analytics tools covering almost every step of the shopping experience, from email marketing to customer retention. The Hong Kong-headquartered startup announced today it has raised a $66 million Series B led by Tiger Global, with participation from Hillhouse Capital’s GL Ventures.

AfterShip’s last round of funding was a $1 million Series A in 2014. Co-founder Andrew Chan told TechCrunch that the company has been profitable since its launch and grew mainly through word-of-mouth referrals and partnerships, like a Shopify integration, that boosted its profile. But the company recently added a sales team and will use its latest capital on international hiring for sales and customer support. It also plans to launch new products and expand further in the United States, where about 70% of AfterShip’s customers are located.

The company’s software enables sellers to track shipments made through more than 740 carriers and handles more than 6 billion shipments each year. AfterShip’s partners with about10,000 companies, including some of the biggest names in e-commerce: Shopify (where it is used by 50,000 merchants), Magento, Squarespace, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Groupon, Rakuten, Wish and retail brands like Dyson and Inditex.

A branded shipment tracking page and email created with AfterShip's software

A branded shipment tracking page and email created with AfterShip’s software

AfterShip’s core product is its shipment tracking platform, but it also makes apps for shoppers, including self-service returns and package tracking, and sales and marketing tools for merchants that let them get more use out of data from shipments. Chan explained that package tracking is also a user engagement tool for sellers that lets them show more product recommendations and promotions to shoppers. AfterShip’s tools enables merchants to create their own branded tracking pages and notifications. Other features allow them to track the performance of different carriers, create email marketing campaigns and increase customer retention.

Its CRM capabilities help AfterShip differentiate from other shipment tracking aggregator providers.

“When we think of our vision, we look at what Salesforce is doing, but is there an e-commerce Salesforce that can cover more topics for sales people to use,” Chan said.

In press statement, Pangfei Wang, global partner at Tiger Global, said, “AfterShip leads the charge in making the shipping process more transparent and reliable for consumers and companies alike. As growth in e-commerce spirals ever upward, we are excited to partner with AfterShip and its leadership team as they continue to advance technology in this critical and expanding industry.”

#aftership, #asia, #ecommerce, #ecommerce-fulfillment, #fulfillment, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #logistics, #startups, #tc


Saltbox raises $10.6M to help booming e-commerce stores store their goods

E-commerce is booming, but among the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs of online businesses are finding a place to store the items they are selling and dealing with the logistics of operating.

Tyler Scriven, Maxwell Bonnie and Paul D’Arrigo co-founded Saltbox in an effort to solve that problem.

The trio came up with a unique “co-warehousing” model that provides space for small businesses and e-commerce merchants to operate as well as store and ship goods, all under one roof. Beyond the physical offering, Saltbox offers integrated logistics services as well as amenities such as the rental of equipment and packing stations and access to items such as forklifts. There are no leases and tenants have the flexibility to scale up or down based on their needs.

“We’re in that sweet spot between co-working and raw warehouse space,” said CEO Scriven, a former Palantir executive and Techstars managing director.

Saltbox opened its first facility — a 27,000-square-foot location — in its home base of Atlanta in late 2019, filling it within two months. It recently opened its second facility, a 66,000-square-foot location, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that is currently about 40% occupied. The company plans to end 2021 with eight locations, in particular eyeing the Denver, Seattle and Los Angeles markets. Saltbox has locations slated to come online as large as 110,000 square feet, according to Scriven.

The startup was founded on the premise that the need for “co-warehousing and SMB-centric logistics enablement solutions” has become a major problem for many new businesses that rely on online retail platforms to sell their goods, noted Scriven. Many of those companies are limited to self-storage and mini-warehouse facilities for storing their inventory, which can be expensive and inconvenient. 

Scriven personally met with challenges when starting his own e-commerce business, True Glory Brands, a retailer of multicultural hair and beauty products.

“We became aware of the lack of physical workspace for SMBs engaged in commerce,” Scriven told TechCrunch. “If you are in the market looking for 10,000 square feet of industrial warehouse space, you are effectively pushed to the fringes of the real estate ecosystem and then the entrepreneurial ecosystem at large. This is costing companies in significant but untold ways.”

Now, Saltbox has completed a $10.6 million Series A round of financing led by Palo Alto-based Playground Global that included participation from XYZ Venture Capital and proptech-focused Wilshire Lane Partners in addition to existing backers Village Capital and MetaProp. The company plans to use its new capital primarily to expand into new markets.

The company’s customers are typically SMB e-commerce merchants “generating anywhere from $50,000 to $10 million a year in revenue,” according to Scriven.

He emphasizes that the company’s value prop is “quite different” from a traditional flex office/co-working space.

“Our members are reliant upon us to support critical workflows,” Scriven said. 

Besides e-commerce occupants, many service-based businesses are users of Saltbox’s offering, he said, such as those providing janitorial services or that need space for physical equipment. The company offers all-inclusive pricing models that include access to loading docks and a photography studio, for example, in addition to utilities and Wi-Fi.

Image Credits: Saltbox

Image Credits: Saltbox

The company secures its properties with a mix of buying and leasing by partnering with institutional real estate investors.

“These partners are acquiring assets and in most cases, are funding the entirety of capital improvements by entering into management or revenue share agreements to operate those properties,” Scriven said. He said the model is intentionally different from that of “notable flex space operators.”

“We have obviously followed those stories very closely and done our best to learn from their experiences,” he added. 

Investor Adam Demuyakor, co-founder and managing partner of Wilshire Lane Partners, said his firm was impressed with the company’s ability to “structure excellent real estate deals” to help them continue to expand nationally.

He also believes Saltbox is “extremely well-positioned to help power and enable the next generation of great direct to consumer brands.”

Playground Global General Partner Laurie Yoler said the startup provides a “purpose-built alternative” for small businesses that have been fulfilling orders out of garages and self-storage units.

Saltbox recently hired Zubin Canteenwalla  to serve as its chief operating offer. He joined Saltbox from Industrious, an operator co-working spaces, where he was SVP of Real Estate. Prior to Industrious, he was EVP of Operations at Common, a flexible residential living brand, where he led the property management and community engagement teams.

#atlanta, #business, #dallas, #denver, #e-commerce, #logistics, #los-angeles, #marketing, #model, #online-shopping, #palantir, #palo-alto, #paul, #playground-global, #proptech, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #saltbox, #seattle, #self-storage, #startups, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #techstars, #village-capital, #warehouse, #wilshire-lane-partners


Mexican unicorn Kavak raises a $485M Series D at a $4B valuation.

Kavak, the Mexican startup that’s disrupted the used car market in Mexico and Argentina, today announced its Series D of $485 million, which now values the company at $4 billion. This round more than triples their previous valuation of $1.15 billion, which established them as a unicorn just a couple of months ago in October of 2020. Kavak is now one of the top five highest-valued startups in Latin America.

The round was led by D1 Capital Partners, Founders Fund, Ribbit, and BOND, and brings Kavak’s total capital raised to date to more than $900 million. Kavak recently soft-launched in Brazil, and this new round of funding will be used to build out the Brazilian market and beyond, said Carlos García Ottati, Kavak’s CEO and Co-Founder. The company plans to do a full launch in Brazil in the next 60 days, García said, and we can expect to see Kavak in markets outside Latin America in the next 24 months, he added.

“We were built to solve emerging market problems,” García said.

Kavak, which was founded in 2016, is an online marketplace that aims to bring transparency, security, and access to financing to the used car market. The company also offers its own financing through its fintech arm, Kavak Capital, and counts more than 2,500 employees and 20 logistics and reconditioning hubs in Mexico and Argentina.

“In Latin America, 90% of the [used car] transactions are informal, which leads to a 40% fraud rate,” said García, who experienced these challenges first-hand when he moved to Mexico from Colombia a couple of years ago and bought a used car. 

“My budget allowed me to buy a used car, but there was no infrastructure around it. It took me 6 months to buy the car, and then the car had legal and mechanical issues and I lost most of my money,” he said. Kavak buys cars from individuals, refurbishes them, and offers warranties to buyers.

“Instead of buying a new car, they can buy a better car that still has all the warranties. It’s a really aspirational process,” said García. The company, which really amounts to four companies in one given its areas of focus, was built to be comprehensive by design in order to meet the various gaps in the market, García said.

“When you’re building a business here [Latin America], you need to build several businesses because so many things are broken,” he said. That’s why the financing option, for example, has been a key to their success, according to García.

Financing has traditionally been hard to come by in Brazil, and as García said, the used car market lacks infrastructure there, too. That being said, Brazil is Latin America’s fintech hub, and the space has been made leaps and bounds over the last 7-10 years with companies such as Nubank, PagSeguro, Creditas, PicPay, and others leading the way. As a result, credit cards and loans are more widely available today in the region, offering competition for Kavak Capital. While Kavak has localized some of its product for the Brazilian market — namely building out a Portuguese language version of the app and website — García said the markets are very similar.

“In Brazil, you still have the same problems that you have in Mexico, but Brazil is a little more developed, especially in fintech, which is light years ahead of Mexico,” he said.

With the Brazilian product heading to the races, García said they already have plans for other regions, though he declined to name them.

“80% of people in emerging markets don’t have access to a car,” García said of the global market size. “We want to go into big markets where customers are facing similar problems and where Kavak can really change their lives,” he added.

#apps, #argentina, #articles, #automotive, #brazil, #colombia, #creditas, #d1-capital-partners, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-technology, #financing, #founders-fund, #funding, #latin-america, #logistics, #mexico, #nubank, #online-lending, #online-marketplace, #pagseguro, #recent-funding, #series-d, #startups, #transportation, #unicorn, #used-cars


Nuvocargo raises $12M to digitize the freight logistics industry

Despite hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of goods flowing across the U.S.-Mexican border each year, the freight industry has remained analog — each side of the border offering up its own maze of bureaucracy.

Nuvocargo, a digital logistics platform for cross-border trade, is trying to modernize the process. The company offers an all-in-one service that rolls freight forwarding, customs brokerage, cargo insurance and even trade financing into one UI-friendly software and app. Housing all of these services under one app makes it easier for companies to track their supply chain and gives customs and logistics teams access to more centralized information, according to Nuvocargo CEO Deepak Chhugani.

“And you just have one single audit trail in case something goes wrong,” Chhugani told TechCrunch, adding that the process helps reduce or eliminate the extra costs that come with a high administrative overhead. It also lets customers take a high-level look at their operations from within a single interface, he said.

Chhugani likened the experience to something like UberEats, which offers customers the ability to easily track food orders from restaurant to home.

“Just imagine, because you are dealing with so many different parties, you lose visibility on what’s going on. If you want a snapshot of – what did I spend end-to-end? – you actually have to go through all these email chains or faxes or texts with different providers,” Chhugani explained. “Some of them might be in another country. So [Nuvocargo] just creates more visibility throughout the process, from where the goods literally are to visibility around your finances.”

But Nuvocargo is thinking beyond the actual movement of goods. The company is also starting to offer customs brokerage, comprehensive cross-border cargo insurance, and factoring, or short-term account receivable finance. The last of these solves an especially difficult pain point for trucking companies, who sometimes must wait up to net-90 days to be paid.

The approach has caught investors’ eyes: nearly one year after announcing it had raised a $5.3 million seed round, the company has closed on a $12 million Series A funding led by QED Investors and with injections from David Velez, Michael Ronen, Raymond Tonsing, FJ Labs and Clocktower. Investors NFX and ALLVP, which participated in the previous round, also participated.

The “holy grail” of their new offerings, as Chhugani called it, is trade financing. Because Nuvocargo will already have a relationship with companies, including an understanding of credit and fraud risk, its hope is that it can offer financial products at a competitive rate.

This is what attracted QED Investors, a firm that typically focuses on financial technology rather than logistics and trucking.

“After speaking with [Deepak] and seeing the connection points and parallels between what we were looking at in e-commerce and the challenges of actually getting goods across border, the fintech spark went off in my own head,” Lauren Connolley Morton, a Partner at QED, said in an interview with TechCrunch. “The opportunities for factoring, for lending, for insuring goods are all very much right up our alley.”

Although Chhugani declined to disclose Nuvocargo’s valuation after this most recent round of funding, it’s clear there is plenty of room to grow into the logistics industry’s huge and seemingly disaggregated value chain.

#logistics, #nuvocargo, #qed-investors, #series-a, #transportation


ABB and AWS team up to create an EV fleet management platform

Swiss automation and technology company ABB has announced a collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a cloud-based EV fleet management platform that it hopes will hasten the electrification of fleets. The platform, which the company says will help operators maintain business continuity as they switch to electric, will roll out in the second half of 2021.

This announcement comes after a wave of major delivery companies pledged to electrify their fleets. Amazon already has a number of Rivian-sourced electric delivery vans on the streets of California and plans to have 10,000 more operational by this year; UPS ordered 10,000 electric vans from Arrival for its fleet; 20% of DHL’s fleet is already electric; and FedEx plans to electrify its entire fleet by 2040. A 2020 McKinsey report predicted commercial and passenger fleets in the U.S. could include as many as eight million EVs by 2030, compared with fewer than 5,000 in 2018. That’s about 10 to 15% of all fleet vehicles.

“We want to make EV adoption easier and more scalable for fleets,” Frank Muehlon, president of ABB’s e-mobility division, told TechCrunch. “To power progress, the industry must bring together the best minds and adopt an entrepreneurial approach to product development.” 

ABB brings experience in e-mobility solutions, energy management and charging technology to the table, which will combine with AWS’s cloud and software to make a single-view platform that can be tailored to whichever company is using it. Companies will be able to monitor things like charge planning, EV maintenance status, and route optimization based on the time of day, weather and use patterns. Muehlon said they’ll work with customers to explore ways to use existing data from fleets for faster implementation.

The platform will be hosted on the AWS cloud, which means that it can scale anywhere AWS is available, which so far includes in 25 regions globally.

The platform will be hardware-agnostic, meaning any type of EV or charger can work with it. Integration of software into specific EV fleets will depend on the fleet’s level of access to third-party asset management systems and onboard EV telematics, but the platform will support a layered feature approach, wherein each layer provides more accurate vehicle data. Muehlon says this makes for a more seamless interface than existing third-party charging management software, which don’t have the technology or the flexibility to work with the total breadth of EV models and charging infrastructure. 

“Not only do fleet managers have to contend with the speed of development in charging technology, but they also need real-time vehicle and charging status information, access to charging infrastructures and information for hands-on maintenance,” said Muehlon. “This new real-time EV fleet management solution will set new standards in the world of electric mobility for global fleet operators and help them realize improved operations.”

This software is aimed at depot and commercial fleets, as well as public infrastructure fleets. Muehlon declined to specify any specific EV operators or customers lined up to use this new technology, but he did say there are “several pilots underway” which will “enable us to ensure that we are developing market-ready solutions for all kinds of fleets.” 

#abb, #amazon, #amazon-web-services, #automotive, #aws, #electric-delivery-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #ev, #logistics, #shipping, #transportation


This is Boston Dynamics’ next commercial robot

Boston Dynamics’ transition from a decades-long research robotics firm to a company that productizes and sells hardware has been a fascinating one to watch. There have been some tough lessons along the way, including the very real lesson that at the end of the day, most robots in the world will be deployed for mundane tasks.

Sure, the company will continue to court the public with fun viral videos of its technology dancing to the oldies, but when it comes to actually selling robotics, the targets continue to be the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs we humans just don’t want to do. Or, as I’ve been putting it for a while now, robotics are — more often than not — cool technology performing decidedly uncool tasks.

Spot has found most of its success as an inspection robot. The quadruped has been deployed to oil rigs, nuclear plants and other places where most people would rather limit their time, given a choice. That takes care of the dangerous part of the three Ds, and you could make a reasonable argument that the company’s second commercially available robot is going after the dull bit.

Image Credits: Boston Dynamics

I’m guessing you don’t need me to cite a bunch of statistics about how massive an industry shipping and logistics is. And with so many orders moving online, things are only growing. There’s a reason, after all, so many robotics companies — including Locus, Fetch and Berkshire Grey — are devoting their entire operation to this sort of automation. As the CEO of Locus told me recently, everyone is looking for the technology that will help them compete with Amazon and its massive robotics army.

Stretch (currently a prototype) is the long-promised commercial version of Handle, a robot the company introduced via viral YouTube video a little over four years ago. In its earliest form, the wheeled robot was an extremely versatile robot with an impressive ability to maintain balance while gliding and taking on different obstacles. The robot also picked up a 100-pound crate. Little did we realize at the time that would become the foundational element of its future evolution.

In fact, Handle’s box lifting dates back even further, to a video featuring the company’s humanoid robot, Atlas. “We showed some box moving, among other things. And it got a lot of interest from people in warehouses,” Boston Dynamics VP of Product Engineering Kevin Blankespoor tells TechCrunch. “They actually wanted Atlas to come work for them. We really thought we could design a much more simple robot that could tackle a warehouse task. There’s where Handle was born. It really split off of the Atlas project at that point.”

Blankespoor says Handle was born out of the company’s long-standing desire to combine wheels with legs, forming the basis of some early experimentation with designing a robot that could help move objects in a warehouse setting.

Image Credits: Boston Dynamics

“We started experimenting with customers with Handle in warehouses. He did a couple of different tasks. The first was unloading pallets, which was pretty good. The second application was unloading trucks. Handle could do that, but it did it pretty slowly. It’s a tight space, it had to maneuver a lot and it was too slow.”

A 2019 video titled, “Handle Robot Reimagined for Logistics,” shows the wheeled robot outfitted with a large top-mounted arm and a gripper comprised of a series of suction cups. In the video, a pair of robots work in tandem, moving boxes from one pallet to another. But images of Stretch showcase how dramatically Boston Dynamics has rethought the robot in order to make it commercially viable.

Most immediately apparent is the loss of Handle’s two large wheels. In their place is a large black platform. “The mobile base is in the bottom,” Blankespoor says. “It is designed to be the size of a pallet, so it can maneuver wherever a pallet can in the warehouse.”

The unit still has wheels, though they’re far less prominent. The two wheels are now four, hidden under the corners of the base. They move in any direction, allowing for a broad range of movement and relatively tight turns for a robot of its size. Also included is a “perception mast” to the side of the arm, effectively serving as the unit’s eyes for autonomous movement and picking.

Image Credits: Boston Dynamics

The robot was designed by Boston Dynamics’ warehouse division — now numbering around 100 people. That includes those employees the company picked up as part of its Kinema Systems acquisition, back in 2019. The San Francisco-based company’s 3D vision technology has been incorporated here, as well, to improve Stretch’s picking.

Early applications include truck unloading and order building (effectively combining goods onto a single pallet). Future applications include truck loading, as well, though this is still early stages for the tech. The nature of the system is more plug and play than ground-up automation from companies like Berkshire-Grey. The company is also working to make it compatible with other warehouse systems.

Boston Dynamics plans to build the first units over the summer and will make Stretch available for sale next year. The company’s not ready to talk pricing yet, but Blankespoor says it will be “comparable to a traditional robotic system that you see in factories where you have the robot bolted to the floor.”

#boston-dynamics, #logistics, #robotics, #stretch


Backed by YC, Vendease is building Amazon Prime for restaurants in Africa

For small and mid-sized restaurants in Nigeria and most of Africa, food procurement can be a complex process to manage. The system is such that a business can easily run out of money or have considerable savings. Most restaurants don’t have access to deal directly with farms to get better deals because they lack the staffing to chase them. Besides, they also don’t have the aggregation pull as single entities to directly get good value from the farms.

Nigerian startup Vendease solves this problem by building a marketplace that allows restaurants to buy directly from farms and food manufacturers.

The company was founded by Tunde Kara, Olumide Fayankin, Gatumi Aliyu, and Wale Oyepeju. The idea for Vendease came when founders who have been friends for more than five years noticed their favorite restaurants in cities like Lagos and Accra shutting down. Inquisitive, they asked the owners who were acquaintances why, and the problems boiled down to the unreliable and expensive nature of food procurement in the cities.

Some months later they saw a hotel manager openly complain to a vendor about the unsteady supply of produce the hotel was getting. It sparked an idea in the founders’ minds.

The established processes involved staff or a contract employee going to the market or using third-party vendors. The founders saw that these processes were often unreliable from the two unrelated events, and restaurants lost a lot of money from price inflation and bad produce.

“We thought to ourselves that if restaurant owners and hotel managers have these problems, let us actually do some research and find out if it is a problem we can solve, scale and make money while doing it,” Kara said to TechCrunch.

At the time, Kara, the CEO, and Fayankin, the COO, held the respective positions at a Pan-African media consulting company called RED Media. Aliyu, the chief product officer (CPO), also held a similar role at another Lagos and San Francisco-based, YC-backed startup, 54gene. Oyepeju, the CTO, was working on a couple of technology projects for corporates.

Before Vendease, they had founded an adtech startup for ride-hailing companies, which didn’t survive for long. So this was another shot at another entrepreneurial journey, and after two and half months of iteration, the founders decided to launch the company in January 2020. They also closed an undisclosed pre-seed round to kickstart operations. 

On its website, it is described as “a procurement platform that provides a transparent process for hotels and restaurants to get the best quality products at the best possible price.” But Kara has a more fanciful description: The Amazon Prime for restaurants in Africa.

Customers can order anything ranging from bread to grains and meat to vegetables on the website. The order notification goes to the farms or food manufacturers, gets processed, and delivery is done within 24 hours. 

“Why we call ourselves that is because we are deliberate about fulfilling our orders to restaurants and hotels in less than 24 hours. As most of us know, this is similar to how Amazon Prime prioritizes delivery,” he commented.

The speed and timely manner in which Vendease carries out its operations are such that it currently completes 80% of on-time and one-time deliveries across all orders.

Image Credits: Vendease

To further highlight how effective the company has been thus far, Kara claims that a good number of the 100 businesses using Vendease went from procuring only one type of produce to 80% of their catalog in two months.

As much as Vendease helps restaurants a lot, it also looks out for the vendors and farmers involved in the supply chain. Typically it takes two to three months for these set of customers to get the payments and this happens because restaurants and hotels take too long to balance their books before making payments. In effect, farmers and vendors mark up their prices to mitigate losses, making products more expensive for restaurants and hotels

While growing up, Kara and Fayankin were on both sides of the vicious cycle. Growing up on a farm and helping his parents with livestock and crop care, Kara knows what it means to be owed for a long time.

“Those experiences help fuel what I do right now. Then, we had a problem selling our products and most times we ended up consuming them because we didn’t have enough off-takers. Even when you did, they’ll owe for six months. And this problem still exists to date.”

On the other side of the marketplace is Olumide, who grew up in a hotel and restaurant business. He runs and handles procurement activities and his experience is vital to how Vendease handles issues around unreliable and expensive supply of food produce. But now they are helping these customers reduce the waiting time to days.

Although they would’ve wanted to solve these problems earlier, their careers strayed toward media and energy. However, it has brought them back, and they’re solving additional problems they didn’t recognise in the past. They soon figured that customers couldn’t track most of their orders and be certain of what they got alongside the supply and cost issues.

Vendease has built all that to help these businesses digitize, track and automate their procurement and inventory management processes. It also helps with logistics, warehousing, quality control and financing where restaurants can buy goods and pay later.

In the next five years, the one-year-old company wants to be the operating system for food supplies in Africa. Kara talks of plans to expand to other African cities in the coming months but is tight-lipped on the names. As Demo Day approaches, the team will be looking to raise some money and follows Egypt’s Breadfast as the only restaurant-focused companies from Africa (although they have very different business models) that the accelerator has funded.

#africa, #amazon-prime, #food, #lagos, #logistics, #restaurant, #startups, #tc, #vendease


Amazon begins testing its Rivian electric delivery vans in San Francisco

Amazon is expanding customer deliveries via electric cargo vehicle to San Francisco, making the Bay Area the second of 16 total cities the company expects to bring its Rivian-sourced EVs to in 2021. 

San Francisco’s unique terrain and climate were a couple of the reasons Amazon said it chose the city for its second round of testing. Its EVs, which were designed and built in partnership with Rivian, can last up to 150 miles on a single charge. 

Amazon began testing its electric delivery van in Los Angeles in early February as part of its Climate Pledge, which involves the purchase of 100,000 custom electric delivery vehicles. The company first unveiled the vans last October, and has said it aims to have 10,000 of the vehicles operational by next year. 

Bay Area deliveries will initially come out of Amazon’s station in Richmond, California, just one of the many delivery stations the e-commerce giant is redesigning to service its new fleet of EVs. A recent $200 million investment into a new delivery station in the heart of San Francisco signals Amazon’s push to significantly increase deliveries in the city. 

“From what we’ve seen, this is one of the fastest modern commercial electrification programs, and we’re incredibly proud of that,” said Ross Rachey, director of Amazon’s global fleet and products in a statement.

Amazon isn’t the only company to recognize the logic behind electrifying delivery fleets for short trips within cities: DHL says zero-emission vehicles already make up 20% of its fleet, UPS has placed an order for 10,000 EVs and FedEx has pledged to replace 100% of its fleet with electric vehicles by 2040. 

#amazon, #automotive, #delivery, #electric-vehicles, #evs, #logistics, #rivian, #tc, #transportation


Jobandtalent takes $120M from Softbank to enter the US market

Spain’s Jobandtalent, a digital temp staffing agency startup which operates a dual-sided platform that matches temps with employers needing casual labor in sectors like ecommerce, warehousing, logistics and manufacturing, has grabbed €100 million (~$120M) in Series D funding from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2.

Previous investors — including Atomico, Seek, DN Capital, InfraVia, Quadrille, Kibo and FJ Labs — also participated in the round.

The new raise fast-follows a $108M top up to Jobandtalent’s Series C round, which we reported on back in January. In total, the company has raised a total of €310M (just under $370M) since being founded back in 2009.

Today Jobandtalent is also announcing a ~$100M (€83M) in debt financing from BlackRock.

The startup tells us the mix of debt and equity will help it step on the gas and accelerate growth of its marketplace faster than if it took in less capital at this point, as well as enabling it to plough more resource into its product and tech development.

On the tech side its platform uses learning algorithms to match temps with jobs — speeding the hiring process up. It also offers a CRM for employers which bakes in analytics for tracking workforce performance in real time — which it says can help them monitor workplace satisfaction, reduce attrition and track metrics such as absences and late arrivals.

For temps there’s the promise of steadier and easy to obtain shift work — as Jobandtalent streamlines job application admin and payroll into a one-stop shop, and it suggests its marketplace/workforce-as-a-service model can provide temps with continuous employment (i.e. through consecutive temp roles).

Its marketing also talks in terms of offering these workers a level of job security and benefits typically associated with full time employment — such as pensions, sick and holiday pay, health insurance (in some markets) and training courses.

With the new Series D funds in the bank Jobandtalent is preparing to enter the U.S. market “in the next year”, per co-CEO and co-founder, Juan Urdiales — expanding out from the eight markets it’s currently operating in (namely: Spain, the UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Mexico, Colombia, and Portugal).

He confirms it’s also now eyeing entering two more markets in Europe: Italy and the Netherlands.

“We are not yet seeing any competitor operating in the US at large scale and in multiple states in the verticals where we operate (e-commerce, logistics, etc). This is one of the reasons why we believe that we have a great opportunity there,” Urdiales tells TechCrunch.

“The U.S. can be a very difficult market to break into. However, we are starting to see more and more European companies going to the U.S. and being successful (Spotify, Klarna, Adyen, etc),” he adds.

“We believe that in our case, after having operated our model in Europe with high standards on labour rights and complex regulatory environments, we are in a great position to launch our platform in the US and offer a great value proposition to workers and employers there.”

Jobandtalent’s platform will offer temps equivalent perks and benefits in the U.S. as it offers elsewhere, per Urdiales.

“The perks and benefits offered into our marketplace meet the same principles everywhere, all of them aim to bring to the workers a similar status as a permanent worker, with the same type of benefits and perks,” he says, adding: “There are some adaptations in every country to do this, and it would be the same with the US.”

In the past year Jobandtalent says that more than 80,000 workers have used its marketplace to find temporary roles (its website says it has 10M+ registered users) — while more than 850 companies, including the likes of XPO, Ceva Logistics, eBay, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Bayer and Santander, have used its platform to locate temp workers.

The startup’s revenue run rate has grown from €5M in 2016 to €500M in 2020 — which it says has resulted in a positive EBITDA. It also touts a growth rate of over 100% year on year.

Commenting in a statement, Yanni Pipilis, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, said: “Jobandtalent is addressing a crucial challenge facing the modern workforce — how to balance flexibility with high quality, reliable job opportunities. The company has developed a data-driven platform that has a track record of providing high fulfilment and low attrition staffing for businesses with temporary roles to fill, while securing income stability and benefits for workers. We are incredibly excited to partner with Juan, Felipe and the team on the next phase of the company’s growth.”

Asked about its decision to take funding from SoftBank for the Series D — and whether it was largely about the scale the investor could offer or whether Jobandtalent also sees potential synergies with other SoftBank portfolio companies (in sectors like logistics) — Urdiales also tells us: “We believe the Vision Fund team can add a lot of value to the company in this new stage of our growth as they have a lot of experience with companies of our size. We can learn a lot from the companies and management teams that they have invested in over the past few years. They have an entrepreneurial mindset and a clear vision on how technology and AI is going to disrupt many industries, and we share the same vision around our category.”


#blackrock, #europe, #fundings-exits, #hiring, #job-marketplace, #jobandtalent, #logistics, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #tc


Egypt’s customer engagement platform for F&B brands in MENA, Koinz, raises $4.8M seed

As the restaurant industry across different cities was massively hit by the pandemic-induced lockdowns last year, food aggregator platforms helped by driving online customers to them.

Koinz is one such startup in Egypt. Its value for food and beverages brands before, during and after the lockdowns has bagged the startup a $4.8 million seed round.

Founded in 2018 by Hussein Momtaz, Ahmed Said, and Abdullah Al Khalidi, Koinz set out to solve two major problems in Egypt’s food aggregation industry.

The offline and online food and restaurant experience in the country are totally separate. Most food aggregators who deal with delivery tend to focus on the online customer, and there’s no sophisticated experience for the offline customer.

Next, the unit economics of the food aggregation industry is quite challenging. According to Momtaz, the startup’s CEO, the food aggregation industry usually takes about 25%-30% average commission from F&B players for business to start to make sense.

“This is not because they want to squeeze money from the hands of restaurants or brands,” Momtaz said to TechCrunch. “But the cost of acquiring customers and retaining them for the food aggregator itself is very high; that’s why they need very high commissions from the brands or restaurants.”

This is where Koinz comes in. The company developed a mobile app for takeout and delivery orders that manages offline customer experiences while delivering an engagement platform to manage loyalty programs, customer feedback and analytics about the online and offline customer base.

Abdullah Al Khalidi (CRO), Hussein Momtaz (CEO), and Ahmed Said (CTO)

Online food experience for Koinz customers is like a treasure hunt, and Momtaz claims the company’s business model has cracked the industry’s unit economics. This, alongside providing brands with insights, differentiates the platform from other aggregators and makes its customer acquisition cost and retention cost 60% less than most of them.

Here’s how the platform works. When customers visit a brand using for the first time, they collect their phone numbers and store them in the application. The customers, on the other hand, get points for making orders via text message. After various restaurant visits and making orders, they accumulate enough points. They’ll need to download the Koinz mobile application to redeem them, thereby converting these offline customers to online ones.

Furthermore, these offline customers can now discover new places to eat, read and leave reviews, and order delivery or takeout.

“None of the small or big brands in the region had something like this before. The offline customer is like a ghost. He walks into the brands, takes his orders, and leaves without the brands knowing anything about him. Koinz is changing that,” the CEO remarked.

Building its platform this way, Koinz tries to be different from other online aggregators that erode restaurant owners’ profit margins while delivering limited customer access and interaction. How? By collecting real-time data and leveraging a digital rewarding system designed to drive customers to deepen their relationship with restaurants.

Image Credits: Koinz

Brands can configure their gifts lists and determine what customers can redeem their points for. For instance, customers in an Egyptian restaurant called Buffalo Burger can exchange 68 points for a Diablo Fries Medium; or wait till they get to 160 points to get a Mozzarella Sticks Medium; or 236 points for a Double Diggler.

Similarly, every brand has its own configuration. A customer cannot get points in Buffalo Burger and redeem them at Burger King. Koinz charges subscriptions to the brands for its engagement and feedback platform and collects commission whenever an order is made via its platform, which varies across its markets.

Because of its original business model, Koinz had to iterate several times. Before using phone numbers to collect customers’ information, the company used QR codes and NFC tags. Momtaz says this was highly ineffective, and the move to phone numbers helped skyrocket its growth and value.

The six-man team back in 2018 is now 80, and the platform, which is basically powering the growth of restaurants in the Middle East, claims to have had up to 4 million consumers earn points on its platform. These consumers have redeemed almost 300,000 rewards, while almost 800,000 customers have left reviews.

Since launching in Egypt, Koinz has expanded to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Like Egypt, these markets have similar dynamics and demographics. They have also witnessed one of the highest rates of new or increased users in online deliveries — restaurant products and groceries — during the pandemic.

Besides, consumers in the Middle East are outpacing the global appetite in food delivery, with 64% ordering in at least once a week compared to 40% made by global consumers. And with the fast-food industry in MENA was estimated at nearly $31 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach nearly $60 billion by 2025, there’s so much room for Koinz to grow in the region. Momtaz says the company is also considering a move to Sub-Saharan Africa in the nearest future despite them having distinct demographics.

Entrepreneur and investor Justin Mateen led this seed round. Since leaving Tinder in 2014, Mateen has been an active investor in early-stage companies. Koinz is his first investment in the MENA region. According to him, Koinz’s ability to allow food and beverages brands to understand their customers’ needs and simultaneously increase their profit margins was one of the reasons he invested in the Egyptian-based startup.

“The company’s unique business model will continue to scale as the food delivery space evolves. Hussein’s drive and excitement for what the team is building are what convinced me to lead a round in the Middle East for the first time,” Mateen added.

African-focused VC 4DX Ventures and strategic angel investors from Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia participated as well.

Peter Orth, co-founder and managing director of the firm, said of the investment that with restaurants in the region suffering under the traditional aggregator model, especially during the pandemic, Koinz has quickly become a win-win for both consumers and restaurant owners across the Middle East.

As the three-year-old company plans to use the capital to hire more talent and fuel its expansion across the Middle East, Matten and Orth will join its board of directors.

Early Stage is the premier ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion.

#africa, #ecommerce, #egypt, #food, #food-delivery, #funding, #logistics, #startups, #tc


Indonesian logistics startup SiCepat raises $170 million Series B

SiCepat, an end-to-end logistics startup in Indonesia, announced today it has raised a $170 million Series B funding round. Founded in 2014 to provide last-mile deliveries for small merchants, the company has since expanded to serve large e-commerce platforms, too. Its services now also cover warehousing and fulfillment, middle-mile logistics and online distribution.

Investors in SiCepat’s Series B include Falcon House Partners; Kejora Capital; DEG (the German Development Finance Institution); Telkom Indonesia’s investment arm MDI Ventures; Indies Capital; Temasek Holdings subsidiary Pavilion Capital; Tri Hill; and Daiwa Securities. The company’s last funding announcement was a $50 million Series A in April 2019.

In a press statement, The Kim Hai, founder and chief executive officer of SiCepat’s parent company Onstar Express, said the funding will be used to “further fortify SiCepat’s position as the leading end-to-end logistics service provider in the Indonesian market and potentially to explore expansion to other markets in Southeast Asia.” SiCepat claims to be profitable already and that it was able to fulfill more than 1.4 million packages per day in 2020.

The logistics industry in Indonesia is highly fragmented, which means higher costs for businesses. At the same time, demand for deliveries is increasing thanks to the growth of e-commerce, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SiCepat is one of several Indonesian startups that have raised funding recently to make the supply chain and logistics infrastructure more efficient. For example, earlier this week, supply chain SaaS provider Advotics announced a $2.75 million round. Other notable startups in the space include Kargo, founded by a former Uber Asia executive, and Waresix.

SiCepat focuses in particular on e-commerce and social commerce, or people who sell goods through their social media networks. In statement, Kejora Capital managing partner Sebastian Togelang, said the Indonesian e-commerce market is expected to grow at five-year compounded annual growth rate of 21%, reaching $82 billion by 2025.

“We believe SiCepat is ideally positioned to serve customers from e-commerce giants to uprising social commerce players which contribute an estimated 25% to the total digital commerce economy,” he added.

#asia, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #last-mile-delivery, #logistics, #sicepat, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc


Flextock is a YC-backed e-commerce fulfillment provider for Africa and the Middle East

When merchants launch their e-commerce businesses, they can easily manage the end-to-end operations in the early stages. But as they begin to grow, managing their own operations, from warehousing and logistics to delivery and cash collection, can become difficult. This can prevent them from scaling effectively despite having a steady inflow of demand.

Now, there’s a need to offload some of this workload. This is where e-commerce fulfillment services come in handy.

Today, Flextock, one such company providing this service to businesses and consumers in Egypt, is announcing that it is part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 batch. Founded by Mohamed Mossaad and Enas Siam in September 2020, the Egyptian company launched in stealth this January.

According to COO Siam, the founders noticed that as e-commerce activities in the Middle East and North African regions accelerated due to the pandemic, merchants were left overwhelmed with the volume of orders they received.

“We saw it as an opportunity to build a tech-enabled platform to be able to help anyone that wanted to grow their own independent brand or store,” she told TechCrunch. “We wanted them to focus on their products and marketing while leaving the supply chain and logistics bit to us, which we do through our end-to-end proprietary software.”

Mossaad, the company’s CEO, describes Flextock as a tech-enabled fulfillment provider. When merchants sign up to the platform, they send their products to one of the company’s fulfillment centers. Flextock takes the whole catalog and tags the products for tracking purposes. Then, integration is made between Flextock and any online store they use, be it Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix and Odoo, among others

As orders are made, Flextock packages and ships the products from the fulfillment center to the customers. Flextock doesn’t own any delivery vehicles, so to achieve this, the company partners with existing logistics companies in Egypt. This model has helped the startup to create a marketplace for different last-mile delivery companies in the country.

Image Credits: Flextock

There’s also a dashboard for these merchants to track each order, get more visibility into their shipping process and know how well their products sell.

Flextock makes money on a per-order basis. That means the merchants on the platform pay a flat fee that changes with respect to the volume of products moved.

Mossaad says that since the company beta launched in January with more than 20 businesses, it has been growing 50% week on week. It has also completed over 300,000 orders across 28 cities in the country.

According to the CEO, Flextock is the first end-to-end fulfillment service in Egypt. And in a market that will likely see more competition in the next couple of years, Mossaad thinks Flextock has the opportunity to become the market leader.

Behind this rationale is that the six-month-old startup is backed by Y Combinator and has also raised $850,000 which is just the first part of its million-dollar pre-seed round that will close sometime this year.

“We were able to very quickly get the acceptance of YC given the size of the opportunity we are focused on. We believe that commerce is expected to change in the Middle East and Africa, and Flextock is going to be at the forefront of powering this next generation of commerce,” he said.

The founders combine a wealth of corporate experience and a strong track record of scaling tech startups in the MENA region.

L-R: Mohamed Mossaad (CEO) and Enas Siam (COO)

Siam started her career managing supply operations at Nestle across the Middle East and North Africa. Later, she became the General Manager of Careem Bus, a mass-transit service and Uber subsidiary, where she helped build the product from scratch and grew it to 150,000 monthly rides in a year.

Mossaad, on the other hand, has worked on multiple turnarounds across different African countries during his time at Bain & Company. He joined Egyptian online food delivery platform, Elmenus, as Chief Strategy Officer. He helped scale the company’s revenues 5x in less than a year and was instrumental to its $8 million Series B round.

The CEO says Flextock has its sights on other African and Middle Eastern markets — specifically Saudi Arabia — and the plan is to provide its services to over 1 million businesses in these regions over the next decade.

“We are on a mission to enable more than 1 million merchants in Africa and the Middle East to sell online without carrying out the hassle of running their own operations. We are well-positioned to do that, and hopefully, we will be able to achieve that in a record time.”

#africa, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #egypt, #logistics, #middle-east, #startups, #tc


Indonesian supply chain startup Advotics raises $2.75M led by East Ventures

The rapid growth of e-commerce in Indonesia, especially during the pandemic, is placing increasing demands on its supply chain infrastructure. But the country’s logistics industry is highly fragmented, with companies usually relying on multiple providers for one shipment, and many warehouses are still concentrated around major cities. Advotics wants to help with software to make the whole supply chain easier to track, and recently closed a $2.75 million funding round led by East Ventures.

Founded in 2016 by Boris Sanjaya, Hendi Chandi and Jeffry Tani, Advotics currently counts more than 70 clients, ranging from individual resellers to large corporations like Exxonmobil, Danone, Reckitt Benckiser, Sampoerna, Kalbe and Mulia Group.

According to research institution Statistics Indonesia, there are about 5 million small and medium-sized manufacturers in Indonesia. They use a supply chain with 15 million small to mid-sized distributors and about 288,000 large distribution companies. This fragmentation means higher expenses, with Report Linker estimating that logistics costs range between 25% to 30% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product.

To help make logistics more efficient for its clients, Advotics offers SaaS solutions to monitor almost their entire supply and logistics chain, from warehouse inventory to generating delivery routes for drivers. It includes a product digitalization feature that uses QR codes to track products and prevent counterfeiting. The company’s new funding will be used to launch a online-to-offline system for SMEs and grow its sales team.

Advotics is among several tech startups that are taking different approaches to tackle Indonesia’s logistics infrastructure. For example, Shipper wants to give sellers access to “Amazon-level logistics,” while Logisly is focused on digitizing truck shipments. Waresix recently acquired Trukita to connect businesses to shippers and truck shipment platform Kargo’s backers include Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick.

#advotics, #asia, #ecommerce, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #logistics, #southeast-asia, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc


Rainmaking launches Motion Ventures to boost innovation in the maritime industry

A new fund has launched, with backing from the Singaporean government, to support tech innovation for the maritime industry. Called Motion Ventures, it is targeting $30 million SGD (about $22.8 million USD) and has completed its first close, with Wilhelmsen, one of the world’s largest maritime networks, and logistics company HHLA as anchor investors.

Motion Ventures was launched by Rainmaking, the venture building and investment firm that runs accelerator program Startupbootcamp, and will jointly invest in startups with SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of government agency Enterprise Singapore.

SEEDS Capital announced in June 2020 that it plans to invest $50 million SGD in maritime startups, with the goal of creating more resilient supply chains and fixing issues underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shaun Hon, general partner at Motion Ventures and director at Rainmaking, told TechCrunch that the fund plans to invest in around 20 early-stage startups focused on AI, machine learning and automation, with check sizes ranging between $500,000 SGD to $2 million SGD.

“We’ve got our eyes on some of the maritime value chain’s biggest challenges including decarbonization, supply chain resilience and improving safety. In most cases, the technology to address the industry’s issues already exists, but the missing link is figuring out how to apply these solutions in the corporate context,” Hon said.

“That’s what Motion Ventures aims to address,” he added. “If we can bring a consortium of industry adopters together to connect with entrepreneurs early in the process, we’re setting everyone up with the best chance to succeed.”

In addition to capital, Motion Ventures plans to partner startups with well-established maritime firms like Wilhelmsen to help them commercialize and integrate their technology into supply chains. For mentorship, Motion Ventures’ startups will also have access to Ocean Ventures Alliance, which was launched by Rainmaking in November 2020, and now includes more than 40 maritime value chain industry leaders.

#asia, #fundings-exits, #logistics, #maritime, #motion-ventures, #rainmaking, #seeds-capital, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #supply-chain, #tc


Locus Robotics has raised a $150M Series E

Massachusetts-based Locus Robotics today announced a $150 million Series E. The round, led by Tiger Global Management and Bond, brings the firm’s total to around $250 to date, and values the robotics company at $1 billion. Locus is notable for a more modular and flexible solution for automating warehouses than many of its competitors (see: Berkshire Grey). The company essentially leases out robotic fleet for organizes looking to automate logistics.

“We can change the wings on the plane while it’s flying,” CEO Rick Faulk tells TechCrunch. Basically no one else can do that. Companies want flexible automation. They don’t want to bolt anything to the floor. If you’re a third-party logistics company and you have a two, three, four-year contract, the last thing you want to do is invest $25-$50 million to buy a massive solution, bolt it to the floor and be locked into all of this upfront expense.”

The company currently has some 4,000 robots deployed across 80 sites. Roughly 80% of its deployments are in the U.S., with the remaining 20% in Europe. Part of this massive funding round will go toward expanding international operations, including a bigger push into the EU, as well as the APAC region, where it presently doesn’t have much of a footprint.

The company will also be investing in R&D, sales and marketing and increasing its current headcount of 165 by 75 in the coming year.

The pandemic is clearly a driver in interest around this brand of automation, with more companies looking toward robotics for help.

“COVID has put a spike in the growth of online ordering, clearly, and that spike is probably a four to five year jump,” says Faulk. “If you look at the trend of e-commerce, it’s been on a steady upward tick. It was about 11% last year and COVID put a spike up to 16/17%. We think that genie’s out of the bottle, and it’s not going back any time soon.”

The funding round also points to a company that seemingly has no desire to be acquired by a larger name, akin to Kiva Systems’ transformation into Amazon Robotics.

“We have no interest in being acquired,” the CEO says. “We think we can build the most and greatest value by operating independently. There are investors that want to invest in helping everyone that’s not named ‘Amazon’ compete.”

#bond, #funding, #locus-robotics, #logistics, #recent-funding, #robotics, #startups, #tiger-global-management


Uber vet raises $5.2M for blue-collar logistics marketplace

After working as a general manager for Uber in Nevada, Jason Radisson realized the need for a way to connect blue-collar workers to companies looking to employ them.

So in late 2018, the idea for Shift One — a marketplace aimed at pairing workers and employers — was born. The startup is focused on last-mile logistics and delivery, e-commerce fulfillment and large-scale event management.

Since formally launching in 2019, Shift One has grown to have 25,000 workers on its platform — many of whom it says were unemployed at the time of hire. And it has about 50 clients in the U.S. and Colombia, including Amazon, NASCAR, Weee!, Mensajeros Urbanos and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

It matches employers with workers, and also helps them with tasks such as time, taxes, attendance, productivity and work-order management.

To help it grow and further expand its reach, Shift One just raised a $5.2 million seed round led by City Light Capital, with participation from K50 Ventures, Ventura Investments and Human Ventures, as well as Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen’s JAM fund and angel Felipe Villamarin.

On the operations side, all of Shift One’s original team either worked for Uber or Lyft, according to founder and CEO Radisson. The early technical team were all previously Uber employees.

Radisson says the impetus behind starting the company was the desire “to correct and improve some of the things in Gig 1.0.”

“We wanted it to be more balanced for workers, and break some negative flywheels where people were cycling through a lot of logistics jobs and not getting paid well,” he told TechCrunch. “We wanted to give them stability.”

At the same time, Radisson said, he knew that companies on the logistics side were struggling to find good workers. Shift One works with a range of skill levels, from entry-level employees to supervisors and warehouse managers.

Knowing that many logistics workers are used to working as contract employees with no benefits, Shift One gives all the workers on its platform full benefits with “low contributions” from the first day of hire. It also provides them with checking accounts and debit cards.

“A lot of these workers are unbanked and didn’t have the ability to even get a paycheck,” Radisson said.

It also aims to give them “full schedules” and have them work on whole teams as much as possible.

“It’s part of our value prop that our teams are cohesive and really high functioning,” he added.

Until now, San Francisco-based Shift One has been bootstrapped. It is “slightly” profitable and has been re-investing that money into growing the business. It saw its revenue climb by tenfold in 2020 from an admittedly “small base.” The startup has offices in Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Bogotá and Bucharest. 

Looking ahead, it plans to use its new capital to expand into new markets (it’s currently operating in about 12 states), boost its headcount of 20 and accelerate its tech roadmap.

“In the last four to five months, we’ve moved very strong into last mile” as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, Radisson said. “We want to give opportunities to millions that didn’t go to college and that have seen stagnant wages for years. We want to give them opportunities to get ahead.”

JAM Fund principal and Tinder co-founder Mateen believes Shift One is turning the labor problem of “adverse selection” on its head.

“Gig work has been defined by seasonality and availability — neither are particularly good for workers,” he said. 

Even Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has thoughts, pointing out that blue-collar jobs have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

With Shift One, “workers receive fairly compensated jobs with the opportunity to grow and develop,” he said in a written statement. “Companies get access to a steady, predictable source of high-quality labor. And Miami benefits from the virtuous circle of higher employment and strong local businesses.”

#city-light-capital, #francis-suarez, #funding, #jam-fund, #jason-radisson, #justin-mateen, #labor, #logistics, #recent-funding, #shift-one, #startups, #uber


LA-based Metropolis raises $41 million to upgrade parking infrastructure

Metropolis is a new Los Angeles-based startup that’s looking to compete with BMW-owned ParkMobile for a slice of the automated parking lot management market.

Upgrading ParkMobile’s license plate-based service with a computer vision based system that recognizes cars as they enter and leave garages has been Metropolis’ mission since founder and chief executive Alex Israel first formed the business back in 2017.

Israel, a serial entrepreneur, has spent decades thinking about parking. His last company, ParkMe, was sold to Inrix back in 2015. And it was with those earnings and experience that Israel went back to the drawing board to develop a new kind of parking payment and management service.

Now, the company is ready for its closeup, announcing not only its launch, but $41 million in financing the company raised from investors including the real estate managers Starwood and RXR Realty; Dick Costolo’s 01 Advisors; Dragoneer; former Facebook employees Sam Lessin and Kevin Colleran’s Slow Ventures; Dan Doctoroff, the head of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs initiative; and NBA All star and early stage investor, Baron Davis. 

According to Alex Israel, the parking payment application is the foundation for a bigger business empire that hopes to reimagine parking spaces as hubs for a broad array of urban mobility services.

In this, the company’s goals aren’t dissimilar from the Florida-based startup, REEF, which has its own spin on what to do with the existing infrastructure and footprint created by urban parking spaces. And REEF’s $700 million round of funding from last year shows there’s a lot of money to be made — or at least spent — in a parking lot.

Unlike REEF, Metropolis will remain focused on mobility, according to Israel. “How does parking change over the next 20 years as mobility shifts?” he asked. And he’s hoping that Metropolis will provide an answer. 

The company is hoping to use its latest funding to expand its footprint to over 600 locations over the course of the next year. In all, Metropolis has raised $60 million since it was formed back in 2017.

While the computer vision and machine learning technology will serve as the company’s beachhead into parking lots, services like cleaning, charging, storage and logistics could all be part and parcel of the Metropolis offering going forward, Israel said. “We become the integrator [and] we also in some cases become the direct service provider,” Israel said.

The company already has 10,000 parking spots that it’s managing for big real estate owners, and Israel expects more property managers to flood to its service.

“[Big property owners] are not thinking about the infrastructure requirements that allow for the seamless access to these facilities,” Israel said. His technology can allow buildings to capture more value through other services like dynamic pricing and yield optimization as well.

“Metropolis is finding the highest and best use whether that be scooter charging, scooter storage, fleet storage, fleet logistics, or sorting,” Israel said.  


#advisors, #alphabet, #bmw, #charging, #cleaning, #dan-doctoroff, #dick-costolo, #dynamic-pricing, #facebook, #florida, #head, #inrix, #israel, #logistics, #los-angeles, #machine-learning-technology, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #parking, #parkme, #reef, #sam-lessin, #serial-entrepreneur, #storage, #tc, #transport


New York’s David Energy has raised $4.1 million to ‘build the Standard Oil of renewable energy’

“We intend to build the Standard Oil of renewable energy,” said James McGinniss, the co-founder and chief executive of David Energy, in a statement announcing the company’s new $19 million seed round of debt and equity funding. 

McGinniss’ company is aiming to boost renewable energy adoption and slash energy usage in the built environment by creating a service that operates on both sides of the energy marketplace.

The company combines energy management services for commercial buildings through the software it has developed with the ability to sell energy directly to customers in an effort to reduce the energy consumption and the attendant carbon footprint of the built environment.

The company’s software, Mycor, leverages building demand data and the assets that the building has at its disposal to shift user energy consumption to the times when renewable power is most available, and cheapest. 

It’s a novel approach to an old idea of creating environmental benefits by reducing energy consumption. Using its technology, David Energy tracks both the market price of energy and the energy usage by the buildings it manages. The company sells energy to customers at a fixed price and then uses its windows into energy markets and energy demand to make money off of the difference in power pricing.

That’s why the company needed to raise $15 million in a monthly revolving credit facility from Hartree Partners. So it could pay for the power its customers have bought upfront.

Image Credit: Getty Images

There are a number of tailwinds supporting the growth of a business like David Energy right now. Given the massive amounts of money that are being earmarked for energy conservation and energy efficiency upgrades, companies like David, which promise to manage energy consumption to reduce demand, are going to be huge beneficiaries.

“Looking at the macro shift and the attention being paid to things like battery storage and micro grids we do feel like we’re launching this at the perfect time,” said McGinniss. “We’re offering [customers] market rates and then rebating the savings back to them. They’re getting the software with a market energy supply contract and they are getting the savings back. It’s is bringing that whole bundled package together really brings it all together.”

In addition to the credit facility, the company also raised $4.1 million in venture financing from investors led by Equal Ventures and including Operator Partners, Box Group, Greycroft, Sandeep Jain and Xuan Yong of RigUp, returning angel investor Kiran Bhatraju of Arcadia, and Jason Jacobs’ recently launched My Climate Journey Collective, an early-stage climate tech fund. 

“Renewable energy generators are fundamentally different in their variable, distributed, and digitally-native nature compared to their fossil fuel predecessors while customer loads like heating and driving are shifting to electricity consumption from gas. The sands of market power are shifting and incumbents are poorly-positioned to adapt to evolving customer needs, so there’s a massive opportunity for us to capitalize.” 

Founded by McGinniss, Brian Maxwell and Ahmed Salman, David Energy raised $1.5 million in pre-seed financing back in March 2020.

As the company expands, its relationship with Hartree, an energy and commodities trading desk, will become even more important. As the startup noted, Hartree is the gateway that David needs to transact with energy markets. The trader provides a balance sheet for working capital to purchase energy on behalf of David’s customers.


“Renewables are causing fundamental shifts in energy markets, and new models and tools need to emerge,” said Dinkar Bhatia, Co-Head of North American Power at Hartree Partners. “James and the team have identified a significant opportunity in the market and have the right strategy to execute. Hartree is excited to be a commodity partner with David Energy on the launch of the new smart retail platform and is looking forward to helping make DE Supply the premier retailer in the market.”

David now has retail electricity licenses in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and is looking to expand around the country.

“David energy stands to reinvent the way that hundreds of billions of dollars a year in energy are consumed,” said Equal Ventures investor Rick Zullo. “Business model creativity and finding ways to change user behavior with new models is just as important if not more important than the technology innovation itself.”

Zullo said his firm pitched David Energy on leading the round after years of looking for a commercial renewable energy startup. The core insight was finding a service that could appeal not to the new construction that already is working with top-of-the-line energy management systems, but with the millions of square feet that aren’t adopting the latest and greatest energy management systems.

“Finding something that will go and bring this to the mass market was something we had been on the hunt for really since the inception of Equal Ventures,” said Zullo.

The innovation that made David attractive was the business model. “There is a landscape of hundreds of dead companies,” Zullo said. “What they did was find a way to subsidize the service. They give away at low or no cost and move that in with line items. The partnership with Partree gives them the opportunity to be the cheapest and also the best for you and the highest margin regional energy provider in the market.”

#articles, #box-group, #energy, #energy-conservation, #energy-consumption, #energy-efficiency, #energy-industry, #energy-management, #equal-ventures, #greycroft, #logistics, #massachusetts, #new-jersey, #new-york, #operator-partners, #partner, #premier, #renewable-energy, #rick-zullo, #tc, #trader


Cajoo promises grocery deliveries in 15 minutes

Meet Cajoo, a new French startup that has raised a $7.3 million (€6 million) funding round. The company wants to make it easier to order groceries from your phone and receive them 15 minutes later. It is launching in Paris today.

“I left Bolt around mid-August and I’m launching a company with two co-founders focused on 15-minute deliveries,” co-founder and CEO Henri Capoul told me. Thanks to his experience at Bolt, he probably knows a thing or two about logistics and operating a marketplace at scale. Guillaume Luscan and Jeremy Gotteland are the two other co-founders.

What makes Cajoo different from what’s out there? In France, there’s no Instacart or pure player in the grocery delivering space. Instead, many supermarket chains already offer deliveries. You can order from their website or app and get your groceries the next day or two days later.

Some retailers are trying to speed things up a bit, such as Carrefour with its Livraison Express service and Monoprix with Monoprix Plus. Amazon can also deliver some groceries through its Amazon Prime Now sub-service. It can take 30 minutes, an hour or even two hours before receiving your order though.

But people want things now, as the success of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and others has shown. I think impatience is unsustainable because of unit economics, labor laws, the impact on small shops and cities. And yet, it seems likely that there’s enough demand for Cajoo.

The startup wants to differentiate itself with a full-stack approach. Cajoo operates its own micro-fulfillment centers. It has its own inventory of products. It manages the fleet of delivery people as much as possible. And, of course, it sells directly to customers.

Glovo offered grocery deliveries from your local grocery store. But the company pulled back from the French market a few weeks ago. It seems like it couldn’t generate big enough margins by buying from stores directly.

On Cajoo, you’ll find anything you could find in a local grocery store — pasta, shampoo, candies, you name it. You’ll be able to order wine, beer and snack — Uber proved that it can be a lucrative segment with its acquisition of Drizly for $1.1 billion.

And it is launching today in Paris in the 9th arrondissement and around. Overall, Cajoo thinks it’ll require ten micro-fulfillment centers to cover Paris and it’s going to take a few months.

Cajoo is also benefiting from the current economic crisis as there are a ton of empty stores, empty garages, small warehouses that are currently waiting for a new owner.

“The differentiating factor of our model is that we offer products at market price. It’s the same price as a Monoprix or Carrefour Express store with delivery fees under €2,” Capoul said.

The company doesn’t plan to generate most of its revenue from delivery fees. Those are minimum fees so that you don’t order one item at a time. Instead, the company will get margins from products themselves, like any retailer.

Frst and XAnge are leading the seed round with the two co-founders of Chauffeur-Privé (later rebranded as Kapten) also participating.

I asked about the company’s plans when it comes to delivery staff. As Gurvan Kristanadjaja reported for Libération last year, there are some serious issues with contractors working for food delivery companies in France. For instance, a significant portion of Frichti’s delivery people were illegal immigrants. Some riders on Deliveroo or Uber Eats also rent their accounts to illegal immigrants.

Capoul told me that it is going to hire some employees to handle deliveries and give them electric bikes. But the company will also work with partners — both contracting companies and freelancers.

“We don’t want to have the same standards as Deliveroo or Uber Eats. Recruiting the right delivery people, making sure that they have work permits are important topics,” Capoul said. Each micro-fulfillment centers will also have a restroom and a place to wait for the next order.

It’s going to be important to see whether Cajoo manages to keep high standards over the long run as the service gets more popular. At least, the service is starting with the right mindset.

Image Credits: Cajoo

#apps, #cajoo, #delivery, #europe, #france-newsletter, #logistics, #startups, #tc


COVID-19 revealed the fragility of supply chains

Early in the pandemic, it was apparent that there would be worldwide lockdowns of varying degrees. So naturally, there was a run on toilet paper (and to a lesser extent, paper towels and tissues). Stores suddenly found themselves sold out of one of the most basic conveniences consumed by humans.

We had never seen this level of preparation, and the supply chains were not ready. They were still moving at the speed of business-as-usual, creating a gap between supply and demand.

Sliding further into the pandemic, this supply issue for basic goods shifted to the front-line workers who were stretching the safe limits of their personal protective equipment (PPE). This exposed the effect of a sudden change of demand in supply chains. Companies began to repurpose their production to produce protection equipment and hand sanitizer. Some to make a quick profit, others to fill a need in the supply chain.

It is time for companies and entire industries to rethink and transform their global supply chain models — in close collaboration with governments.

Governments and corporations were scrambling. There were spreadsheets floating around with offers from potential suppliers.

During this period, it was difficult to get an overview of the entire market, as quality, vendor search and price fluctuations caused general chaos. It was near impossible to track the origin of production, receive any information about any data related to the quality controls of production facilities. The market was flooded with bad products, fakes and so on. Think pieces started to appear with a beginner’s guide to supply chain structure.

Consumers began to understand that the system as it stood was not built for this type of upheaval.

Corporate sourcing strategies have been challenged

We have clearly witnessed that companies have little control of the supply chains. Normally most companies only have a moderately competent risk plan for tier one suppliers. We can only assume that this is why most of us are going without an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 this holiday season. These are not products that are built with components from one source; there are multiple components and materials that go into creating one of these machines.

From the refining process of the outer materials, to the dyeing colors, plastic elements and the need to have low-cost production sites in low-cost countries, all contribute to possible delays in production when things are not moving as they should be. De-constructing a gaming console reveals an extremely complicated matrix of companies, processes, materials and countries.

If we had direct visibility into the journey of each component in a gaming console as a sort of smart-representation exposing all the materials, people involved, companies and locations, we would be able to pinpoint inefficiencies in the supply chain.

All these materials and components find their way in the supply chain, but their stories get lost along the way. That specific data is not available, and thus both companies and countries are struggling to create effective risk plans for world events that throw the supply chain into chaos. Currently, there is a revolution happening under the radar of most people, enabled by distributed ledger technologies (blockchain) to bring such transparency into the supply chains.

Identify your vulnerabilities

Understanding where the risks lie so that companies can protect themselves may require a lot of digging. It entails going far beyond the first and second tiers and mapping full supply chains, including distribution facilities and transportation hubs. This is time-consuming and expensive, which explains why most major firms have focused their attention only on strategic direct suppliers that account for large amounts of their expenditures.

But a surprise disruption that brings a business to a halt can be much more costly than a deep look into a supply chain.

The goal of the mapping process should be to categorize suppliers as low, medium, or high risk and build appropriate mitigation strategies. But this approach is only possible if we can access the data generated by different suppliers at any tier in the supply chain — and we can trust this data for analysis.

The aim is to have early warnings of delays or disruptions, allowing for either the diversification of sources or the stockpiling of key materials or items. Of course, that is all speculative as we have a vaccine rolling out, only months after running out of toilet paper.

Pandemic and the vaccine and supply chains

What we thought was a global and free market was challenged this year. Medical companies experienced a lack of capability to source some core ingredients, such as active ingredients in headache pills produced in India. Everything became a national fight to secure needed goods for one’s own country — a trend also enhanced by the increased nationalism and protectionism in trade. The need for control and visibility into supply chains was apparent and also became a priority for governments and not only the private sector.

With the rollout of a vaccine (or several vaccines), we not only will see the issues presented above in the sense of risk, control of sourcing and process, but quality and responsibility as well. From fakes to already active cyberattacks targeting a very specific point of the supply chain process (vaccines must be shipped and held at a certain temperature) we’re seeing the need for decentralized logistic systems that tell the story of every touch point in production. But none of this will matter if governments cannot manage their own supply chain needs, as we’re already seeing.

It is possible that lessons will be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is time for companies and entire industries to rethink and transform their global supply chain models — in close collaboration with governments. One thing is for sure, the pandemic has already exposed the vulnerabilities of many organizations, especially those who have a solid dependence on global sourcing for raw or finished materials.

The good news is that new supply chain technologies are emerging that will heighten visibility across supply chains, reducing risk and creating an infrastructure that can handle the volatility of the next pandemic. The application of distributed ledger technology has already proven to be useful as a solution to ensure accountability and trust in the data provided along the supply chain. Digital supply networks will slowly replace linear supply chain models, breaking down functional silos to create end-to-end visibility, collaboration, agility and optimization.

That is good news for the future, especially since we’re all experts in supply chain logistics after nearly a year of working from home, stockpiling toilet paper and clicking refresh to hopefully add one of the not-nearly-enough gaming consoles to our cart.

#column, #covid-19, #logistics, #supply-chain, #supply-chain-management, #supply-chains


On-demand logistics company Lalamove gets $515 million Series E

Lalamove will extend its network to cover more small Chinese cities after raising $515 million in Series E funding, the on-demand logistics company announced on its site. The round was led by Sequoia Capital China, with participation from Hillhouse Capital and Shunwei Capital. All three are returning investors.

According to Crunchbase data, this brings Lalamove’s total raised so far to about $976.5 million. The company’s last funding announcement was in February 2019, when it hit unicorn status with a Series D of $300 million.

Bloomberg reported last week that Lalamove was seeking at least $500 million in new funding at $8 billion valuation, or four times what it raised at least year.

Founded in 2013 for on-demand deliveries within the same city, Lalamove has since grown its business to include freight services, enterprise logistics, moving and vehicle rental. In addition to 352 cities in mainland China, Lalamove also operates in Hong Kong (where it launched), Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. The company entered the United States for the first time in October, and currently claims about 480,000 monthly active drivers and 7.2 million monthly active users.

Part of its Series D had been earmarked to expand into India, but Lalamove was among 43 apps that were banned by the government, citing cybersecurity concerns.

In its announcement, Lalamove CEO Shing Chow said its Series E will be used to enter more fourth- and fifth-tier Chinese cities, adding “we believe the mobile internet’s transformation of China’s logistics industry is far from over.”

Other companies that have recently raised significant funding rounds for their logistics operations in China include Manbang and YTO.

Lalamove’s (known in Chinese as Huolala) Series E announcement said the company experienced a 93% drop in shipment volume at the beginning of the year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has experienced a strong rebound, with order volume up 82% year-over-year even before Double 11.

#asia, #china, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #lalamove, #logistics, #on-demand-delivery, #startups, #tc


Waresix acquires Trukita to connect more of Indonesia’s fragmented logistics chain

Andree Susanto, CEO and co-founder of Waresix, left, with Ady Bangun, CEO and co-founder of Trukita

Andree Susanto, CEO and co-founder of Waresix, left, with Ady Bangun, CEO and co-founder of Trukita

Waresix, one of Indonesia’s largest logistics startups, has acquired Trukita, a company that focuses on the “first mile.” The term refers to the part of the supply chain where goods are transported from ports to warehouses.

While Waresix’s platform digitizes all parts of the supply and logistics chain, its current focus is on mid-mile logistics services, or transportation from warehouses to distributors. Trukita has an extended network of over 10,000 trucks, and the combination of the two companies means it is “now one of the largest logistics technology providers in Indonesia,” said co-founder and chief executive officer Andree Susanto. Both Waresix and Trukita operate by connecting businesses to shipper and warehouses, and the acquisition will enable them to lower customer costs.

Waresix, which recently announced it raised $100 million in funding over the past year from investors like EV Growth, Jungle Ventures and SoftBank Ventures Asia, works with more than 375 warehouses and 40,000 trucks across Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country. It currently serves more than 100 cities.

Indonesia’s geography creates unique challenges for logistics companies, especially those operating outside of major cities, because it is an archipelago made up of more than 17,500 islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited. This means supply chains often span ships, trucks and several warehouses before goods make it to their final destination. The high costs of logistics has a sizable impact on Indonesia’s economy and the government is currently engaged in an initiative to develop more infrastructure, integrate databases and simplify export-import licensing.

Indonesia’s complicated logistics landscape has given rise to startups like Waresix, Kargo and Ritase, which focus on removing middlemen, managing shipments in real-time and using data analytics to uncover inefficienies in the supply chain.

Trukita was founded in 2017, and its investors include Astra International, EverHaüs and Plug and Play.


#asia, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #logistics, #southeast-asia, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc, #trukita, #waresix


Dash Systems raises $8M for precision-airdrops-as-a-service at distant and disaster stricken destinations

Now more than ever both the importance and limitations of the global delivery infrastructure are on full display. But while Amazon and others try to speed up last mile delivery using drones, Dash Systems hopes to expedite the middle mile — with military-inspired airdrops putting pallets of parcels down at their penultimate destinations, even in the most inaccessible of locations.

Air-based delivery generally consists of four steps. First, an item is taken from the warehouse to the airport. Second, it goes by well-packed large cargo planes from there to another major hub, say from New York to Los Angeles. Third, a truck or smaller plane takes these to their regional destination, a sorting or distribution facility. Fourth, they go out on the familiar delivery trucks and end up on your doorstep.

It’s that third step that Joel Ifill, founder and CEO of Dash, felt could be improved. With an engineering background and experience building guided bombs for the military, he felt that there was an opportunity to apply some of the military’s point-to-point approach to the commercial sector. Why do you need to land at all?

“We should be able to do one-day deliveries anywhere in the world,” he told TechCrunch. “And when I say anywhere, I mean like the tip of Alaska. We’re already using airplanes, why do we have to have a billion dollar airport to get it there?”

The problem, he said, is that the military style of delivery (for airdrops, anyway, not smart bombs) isn’t particularly precise: “Great for storming the coast of Normandy, but not for landing in the parking lot of a post office. We thought we could engineer a solution that was both precise and useful on a commercial basis.”

What they came up with is perhaps best thought of as skydiving packages that can be dropped at multiple destinations in a single flight. “We call them pods,” Ifill said. “They have control surfaces and a tail kit, and then a method of slowing down and landing. It’s a turnkey solution you can load in the back of any plane.”

Each pod can handle about 50 pounds of payload right now, which isn’t very much in the cargo world, but of course there can be as many of them as you want loaded in there.

But the pods are only part of the equation. The company is taking over a whole segment, and that means telling the pilot exactly where to go. The team focused on making it as simple as possible so very little training was required — all the pilot needs to do is get to the coordinates indicated by the system. And because there’s no need to land, the plane can deliver pods over a huge range. The Dash system calculates the best route and the pods, upon being released at their appointed coordinates, will get themselves where they need to go.

The hope is that this will simplify the middle mile situation where slow ground vehicles or costly, fuel-guzzling aircraft are the only options. My concern that the whole concept sounded a bit expensive was met with understanding from Ifill and Bryan Miller, the company’s COO and chief pilot, who also has a a background in military air operations and engineering.

“Air cargo isn’t an intuitively understandable space,” Ifill admitted. “It accounts for less than half a percent of shipped weight, but a third of shipping income. It’s primary value proposition is speed, not efficiency. The average utilization of cargo craft is less than 50 percent.”

Image Credits: Dash

“The rural use case is easy to get,” said Miller, noting the difficulty and delays of delivering to rural communities in Alaska. Getting from the airport in Anchorage to a small post office in the bush is a huge challenge, but if planes could take off from Anchorage and just drop a pallet each on five small airports or helipads, that reduces perhaps dozens of hours of driving — if the roads are even open — to a single flight. And it’s a relatively safe and cheap one at that because you cut down on takeoffs and landings at airports where any number of Alaska’s charms may be in play: fog, ice, moose, wind, and all the rest.

But the there are lots of other places in the lower 48, Miller noted, that can’t get Amazon’s 2-day delivery, for example, because the infrastructure simply isn’t there to complete the four steps listed above in that timeframe. But if the Prime packages went on a plane from SFO that would otherwise be only half full, and gets dropped on the roof of a FedEx center on the way to the Petaluma airport, it saves everyone time and money.

Commercial contracts are all well and good, but the idea actually got its start in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, where in Puerto Rico, Ifill said, people had gone nearly two weeks without any deliveries because the communications infrastructure was so devastated. “We had to hike in with a satellite phone to ask the mayor what they needed,” he said, but actual delivery was a 45 minute flight from San Juan. If commercial air drops had been part of the existing system, it could have made things a lot easier.

So the company will continue pursuing the use case of helping reach destinations rendered temporarily inaccessible by disasters — but the main thing that will make it a successful business is augmenting the existing setup to make remote locations easier to deliver to. Ifill didn’t seem to think that going up against giants like FedEx and UPS was a problem.

“No new delivery lane has ever made an old one go out of business,” he said. This may very well increase their business. “We’re competing against the status quo — we don’t have a patent on gravity or throwing things out of airplanes, but to my knowledge we’re the farthest along.”

“We don’t want to own any aircraft,” said Miller. “We want to collaborate with all the companies already out there.”

Amazingly, the regulatory piece is not a big deal. You would think that dropping heavy items from airplanes near residences would be hard to get a permit for, but it’s actually all included in existing regulations. The pods aren’t considered drones, crucially, so they don’t have to register as such. So far they’ve dropped 5,000 pounds of cargo in their Alaka pilot flights.

The $8 million seed round was led by 8VC, with participation from Tusk Venture Partners, Loup Ventures, Trust Ventures, Perot Jain, and MiLA Capital. It should help scale the team, Ifill said, and further develop the deployment and pod tech, which is functional but far from finalized. They already are looking at some commercial and government contracts for their first customers — as you can imagine, despite the military doing this for years, it’s a useful tool have available to some remote outpost or facility.

You can learn a bit more about Dash in the video below.

Dash Mission Video from Dash Systems on Vimeo.

#aerospace, #airdrops, #dash, #funding, #fundings-exits, #logistics, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc


Hong Kong-based Pickupp makes logistics more affordable for e-commerce sellers

Logistics startup co-founder and chief executive officer Crystal Pang

Logistics startup co-founder and chief executive officer Crystal Pang

Logistics is one of the biggest challenges in e-commerce, especially for smaller merchants. Pickupp helps them compete in the on-demand economy with flexible, customizable delivery services. Based in Hong Kong, Pickupp also operates in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, and claims it can save clients an average of about 28% in logistic costs.

Pickupp is able to do this with an asset-light business model. Instead of operating warehouses or its own fleets, it partners with logistics companies and uses proprietary software to make delivering batches of orders more efficient.

The company, which currently serves about 10,000 e-commerce merchants, announced last month it closed an undisclosed amount in Series A funding from Vision Plus Capital, Alibaba Enterpreneurs Fund, Cyperport Macro Fund, Swire Properties New Ventures and SparkLabs Taipei.

Pickupp currently offers three kinds of door-to-door delivery services: on-demand couriers who deliver within a four hour window, same day deliveries, and one to three day deliveries. It can also customize logistics and last-minute delivery solutions for businesses.

In Singapore, Pickupp runs its own e-commerce platform. Called Shop On Pickupp, the platform enables merchants to move more of their retail operations online and has been used to digitize marketplaces like the Shilin Singapore Night Market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before starting Pickupp, co-founder and chief executive officer Crystal Pang, a software engineer by training, was part of the team that launched Uber in Hong Kong in 2014.

“Around that time, I started looking into logistics, because I found out a lot of merchants were trying to use Uber cars to deliver other stuff, anything but people,” she said.

But unlike delivery services, merchants couldn’t bargain with Uber drivers—for example, negotiating discounted fees if they were able to wait longer for a vehicle. “That’s the gist of logistics, because everyone wants to get part of those cost savings,” Pang said. Sensing a market opportunity, Pang began using her software engineering background to think of a solution.

Pickupp was founded in December 2016 and began operating the next year. When it launched, Pickupp already had formidable rivals like Gogovan and Lalamove. But since those companies focused mainly on on-demand, point-to-point delivery, Pang saw an opportunity to tackle other parts of the supply chain.

“How we see ourselves compared to other logistics companies is that we fulfill all these e-commerce needs. We behave like a logistics company, but we don’t need to own anything. So we perform the function of a traditional logistics company, which in this area is SF Express or Ninja Van, that lease warehouses and operate their own fleets, but Pickupp choses a lightweight asset approach to getting it done,” she said.

Pickupp positions itself more as a data and tech company, Pang added.

“You can almost imagine us as a monitoring system,” she said. Pickupp partners with sorting facilities, cross-border freight forwarders and delivery vehicles, and gives merchants visibility into where orders are along the supply chain.

Its system keeps costs down by predicting when and where available delivery people will be available, so it can match them with batches of orders. This also prevents bottlenecks during demand spikes and makes sure couriers are used at the most capacity possible, which is especially important for holidays and major shopping events like Double Eleven and Black Friday.

One of Pickupp’s advantages is that its system is designed to be flexible so it can scale into new Asian markets quickly. Pang told TechCrunch that the round will be used to add more services, and invest in machine learning, predictive analytics and understanding customer purchasing behavior. The company also plans to expand into up to five new Asian markets over the next three years.

#asia, #delivery, #e-commerce, #fundings-exits, #hong-kong, #logistics, #on-demand, #pickupp, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc


Tive nabs $12M Series A to track shipment conditions in real time

Tive, a Boston-based startup, is building a hardware and software platform to help track the conditions of a shipment like say food or medicine to make sure it is stored under the proper conditions as it moves from farm or factory to market. Today, the company announced a $12 million Series A.

RRE Ventures led the round with help from new investor Two Sigma Ventures and existing investors NextView Ventures, Hyperplane Ventures, One Way Ventures, Fathom Ventures and other unnamed individuals. The company has now raised close to $17 million, according to Crunchbase data.

Tive helps companies all over the world track their shipments in a very specific way,” company co-founder and CEO Krenar Komoni told me. Using a tracking device the company created, customers can press a button, place the tracker on a palette or in a container, and it begins transmitting shipment data like temperature, shock, light exposure, humidity and location data in real time to ensure that the shipment is moving safely to market under proper conditions.

He said that they are the first company to create single-use 5G trackers, meaning the shipping company doesn’t have to worry about managing, maintaining, recharging or returning them (although they encourage that by giving a discount for future orders on returned items).

Tive tracker over computer displaying tracking data software.

Tive hardware tracker and data tracking software. Image Credit: Tive

The approach seems to be working. Komoni reports that revenue has grown 570% in 2020 as the product-market fit has become more acute with digitization hitting the supply chain in a big way. He says that in particular customers and investors like the company’s full-stack approach.

“What’s interesting […] and why we are resonating with customers and also why investors like it, is because we’re providing the full stack, meaning the hardware, the software, the platform and the APIs to major transportation management systems,” Komoni explained.

The company has 22 employees and expects to double that number in 2021. As he grows the company, Komoni says that as an immigrant founder, he’s particularly sensitive to diversity and inclusion.

“I’m an immigrant myself. I grew up in Kosovo, came to the US when I was 17 years old, went to high school here in Vermont. I’m a US citizen, but part of who I am is being open to different cultures and different nationalities. It’s just part of my nature,” he says.

The company was founded in 2015 and its facilities are in Boston. It has continued shipping devices throughout the pandemic, and that has meant figuring out how to operate in a safe way with some employees in the building. He expects the company will have more employees operating out of the office as we move past the pandemic. He also has an engineering operation in Kosovo.

#enterprise, #funding, #logistics, #recent-funding, #rre-ventures, #shipping, #startups, #tc, #tive


E-commerce fulfillment platform Shippit raises $22.2 million led by Tiger Global

Shippit, a Sydney, Australia-based e-commerce logistics platform, will expand in Southeast Asia after closing a $30 million AUD (about $22.2 million USD) Series B led by Tiger Global, with participation from Jason Lenga. Founded in 2014, Shippit’s technology automates tasks related to order fulfillment, including finding the best carrier for an order, tracking packages and handling returns.

The company’s Series B, which brings its total raised since 2017 to $41 million AUD, will be used to expand in Southeast Asia and double its total team by hiring 100 new people, including 50 software developers.

Shippit says it currently handles five million deliveries a month in Australia from thousands of retailers, including Sephora, Target, Big W and Temple & Webster. The company launched in Singapore in May, followed by Malaysia in August.

“Southeast Asia is predicted to be the world’s largest e-commerce market in the next five years, and the addressable market for us in Southeast Asia alone is already five times the size of Australia and twice the size of the U.S.,” co-founder and co-chief executive officer William On told TechCrunch.

Shippit is considering expansion into the Philippines and Indonesia, too, and expects its Southeast Asian business to grow 100% year-over-year for the next three years at minimum.

Shippit’s Australian operations have also seen a threefold incraese in delivery volumes over the past twelve months, On added.

The increase in online sales combined with instability in the supply and logistics chain during COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of software like Shippit. E-commerce in the Asia-Pacific was already growing quickly before the pandemic hit, with Forrester forecasting online retail sales in the region to grow from $1.5 trillion in 2019 to $2.5 trillion in 2024, at a compound annual growth rate of 11.3%.

Other startups in the same space include ShipStation, EasyShip and Shippo. Shippit’s competitive strategy is to make online fulfillment as simple as possible for merchants, On said, with features like allowing the integration of online shopping carts with its allocation engine, which automatically picks the best carrier option for an order.

#asia, #australia, #e-commerce, #fundings-exits, #logistics, #shippit, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc


Singapore’s government launches blockchain innovation program with $8.9 million in funding

A group of Singaporean government agencies is launching a new research program for blockchain technology with $12 million SGD (about $8.9 million USD) in funding. Called the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Programme (SBIP), the project is a collaboration between Enterprise Singapore, Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation Singapore. It has support from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank and financial regulator.

SBIP’s funding comes from the National Research Foundation, and will be used to develop, commercialize and encourage the adoption of blockchain technology by companies. The program will first focus on the use of blockchain in trade, logistics and the supply chain.

According to a press release, the program “will engage close to 75 companies” over the next three years. It is already working with Dimuto, a global supply chain platform, to use blockchain technology to trace perishables with the goal of improving farmers’ creditworthiness.

The program’s other plans include finding ways to help blockchain systems and networks collaborate with one another, and growing the blockchain sector’s talent pool.

While companies ranging from startups to giants like IBM have been exploring the use of blockchain technology to create more transparent and cohesive supply chains for years, the issue has become more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted vulnerabilities in international logistics and supply chains.

In a statement, Peter Ong, the chairman of Enterprise Singapore, said “COVID-19 has emphasized the need for trusted and reliable business systems in the new digital world. Blockchain technology helps embed trust in applications spanning logistics and supply chains, trade financing to digital identities and credentials.”

Singapore’s government is positioning itself as a partner to blockchain developers and companies, with the goal of becoming a “crypto hub” that is more open to the technology than other countries. Other blockchain-related government initiatives include the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Project Ubin. Launched in 2016, Project Ubin announced in July that its multi-currency payments network had proved its commercial potential after tests with more than 40 companies.

#asia, #blockchain, #enterprise-singapore, #infocomm-media-development-authority, #logistics, #monetary-authority-of-singapore, #national-research-foundation, #singapore, #singapore-blockchain-innovation-programme, #southeast-asia, #supply-chain, #tc


Alibaba and Ethiopian Airlines to launch cold chain exporting China’s COVID vaccines

China has pledged that it would be sharing its COVID-19 vaccines with other countries, especially those with which it has close ties. While the country is not ready to deploy its vaccines internationally, it is gearing up the infrastructure for mass distribution.

This week, Alibaba announced that it has struck a partnership with Ethiopian Airlines to introduce a cold chain capable of transporting temperature-sensitive medicines from China to the rest of the world. The air freight will depart from Shenzhen Airport, which Alibaba says houses China’s first cross-border medical cold chain facility, twice a week to countries via Dubai and Addis Ababa.

“As soon as the vaccines are ready, we will have the capabilities to transport them,” a Cainiao spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Shenzhen is the home base of SF Express, another major logistics operator in China that has also been working on storing and shipping vaccines.

The Alibaba route is carried out by the firm’s logistics arm Cainiao, which operates in over 200 countries and regions. It’s certified by the International Air Transport Association to fly Covid-19 vaccines, which normally need to be stored at low temperatures. Cabins will contain temperature-controlled monitors, for instance, and Ethiopia’s cargo terminal comes with facilities that can be adjusted between -23°C and 25°C, or -9.4°F and 77°F.

“The launch of the cold chain air freight has further bolstered our global logistics capabilities and allow us to offer a one-stop solution for the global distribution of medical products such as the COVID-19 vaccines,” said James Zhao, general manager of Cainiao’s international supply chain unit.

China is a major exporter of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s logistics giants, from Cainiao to SF Express, all promptly introduced programs specifically for shipping medical relief items.

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