Devastation from Hurricane Ida’s remnants stretched deep into New Jersey, forcing residents and officials to address “a new reality.”
After the company said it would no longer sell its ice cream in the occupied territories, New Jersey invoked a law that prohibits public investments in companies that engage in boycotts.
When people talk about “online food delivery” services, chances are that they’ll think of the Uber Eats, Instacarts and Getirs of this world. But today a startup that’s tackling a different aspect of the market — addressing the supply chain that subsequently turns the wheels of the bigger food distribution machine — is announcing a big round of funding as it continues to grow.
GrubMarket, which provides software and services that help link up and manage relationships between food suppliers and their customers — which can include wholesalers and other distributors, markets and supermarkets, delivery startups, restaurants, and consumers — has picked up $120 million in a Series E round of funding.
The funding is coming from a wide mix of investors. Liberty Street Funds, Walleye Capital, Japan Post Capital, Joseph Stone Capital, Pegasus Tech Ventures, Tech Pioneers Fund are among the new backers, who are being joined by existing investors Celtic House Asia Partners, INP Capital, Reimagined Ventures, Moringa Capital Management, and others, along with other unnamed participants
Mike Xu, GrubMarket’s founder and CEO (pictured, above), tells me that the company is currently profitable in a big way. It’s now at a $1 billion annualized run-rate, having grown revenues 300% over last year, with some markets like New York growing even more (it went from less than $10 million ARR to $100 million+).
With operations currently in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, and some 40 warehouses nationwide. GrubMarket had a pre-money valuation of over $1 billion, and now it will be looking to grow even more, both in terms of territory and in terms of tech, moving ahead in a market that is largely absent from competitors.
“We are still the first mover in this space,” Xu said when I asked him in an interview about rivals. “No one else is doing consolidation on the supply chain side as we are. We are trying to consolidate the American food supply chain through software technologies, while also trying to find the best solutions in this space.”
(And for some context, the $1 billion+ valuation is more than double GrubMarket’s valuation in October 2020, when it raised $60 million at a $500 million post-money valuation.)
Longer term, the plan will be to look at an IPO provisionally filing the paperwork by summer 2022, Xu added.
GrubMarket got its start several years ago as one of many companies looking to provide a more efficient farm-to-table service. Tapping into a growing consumer interest in higher quality, and more traceable food, it saw an opportunity to build a platform to link up producers to the consumers, restaurants and grocery stores that were buying their products. (Grocery stores, incidentally, might be independent operations, or something much bigger: one of GrubMarket’s biggest customers is Whole Foods, which uses GrubMarket for produce supply in certain regions of the U.S. It is currently is the company’s biggest customer.)
As we wrote last year, GrubMarket — like many other grocery delivery services — found that the pandemic initially provided a big fillip, and a big rush of demand, from that consumer side of the business, as more people turned to internet-based ordering and delivery services to offset the fact that many stores were closed, or they simply wanted to curtail the amount of shopping they were doing in-person to slow the spread of Covid-19.
But fast forward to today, while the startup still serves consumers, this is currently not the primary part of its business. Instead, it’s B2B2C, serving companies that in turn serve consumers. Xu says that overall, demand from consumers has dropped off considerably compared to a year ago.
“We think that restaurant re-openings have meant more people are dining out again and spending less time at home,” Xu said, ” and also they can go back to physical grocery stores, so they are not as interested as they were before in buying raw ingredients online. I don’t want to offend other food tech companies, but I think many of them will be seeing the same. I think B2C is really going to slow down going forward.”
The opening for GrubMarket has been not just positioning itself as a middleman between producers and buyers, but to do so by way of technology and consolidating what has been a very regionalized and fragmented market up to now.
GrubMarket has snapped up no less than 40 companies in the last three years. While some of these have been to help it expand geographically (it made 10 acquisitions in the Los Angeles area alone), many have also been made to double down on technology.
These have included the likes of Farmigo, once a Disrupt Battlefield contender that pivoted into becoming a software provider to CSAs (an area that GrubMarket sees a lot of opportunity), as well as software to help farms manage their business staffing, insurance and more: Pacific Farm Management is an example of the latter.
GrubMarket’s own in-house software, WholesaleWare, a cloud-based service for farmers and other food producers, saw its sales grow 3,500% over the last year, and it is now managing more than $4 billion in wholesale and retail activity across the U.S. and Canada.
There will be obvious ways to extend what GrubHub does deeper into the needs of its customers on the purchasing end, but this is in many ways also a very crowded market. (And not just crowded, but crowded with big companies. Just today, Toast, the company that builds software for restaurants, filed for a $717 million IPO at potentially a $16.5 billion valuation.) So instead, GrubHub will continue to focus on what has been a more overlooked aspect, that of the suppliers.
“I am focused on the food supply chain,” Xu said. “Operators in the food supply chain business most of the time don’t have any access to software and e-commerce technology. But we are not just a lightweight online ordering system. We do a lot of heavyweight lifting around inventory management, pricing and customer relations, and even HR management for wholesales and distributors.” That will also mean, longer term, that GrubMarket will likely also start to explore connected hardware to help those customers, too: robotics for picking and moving items are on that agenda, Xu said.
“GrubMarket has built a profitable, high-growth business underpinned by its best-in-class technology platform that’s reinventing how businesses access healthy, fresh foods,” said Jack Litowitz, director of strategic investments at Reimagined Ventures, in a statement. “We’re proud to support GrubMarket as it continues to expand into new regions and grow its WholesaleWare 2.0 software platform. At Reimagined Ventures, we always seek to invest in businesses that are disrupting inefficient industries in innovative ways. Mike Xu and the GrubMarket team have built one of these businesses. We’re excited to back their vision and work in making the food supply chain more efficient.”
“GrubMarket is transforming the trillion-dollar food distribution industry with unprecedented speed by implementing advanced digital solutions and operational discipline. The company’s scale, growth, and profitability are extraordinarily impressive. Pegasus is delighted and honored to be part of GrubMarket’s exciting journey ahead,” added Bill Reichert, partner at Pegasus Tech Ventures.
Most flood coverage is offered through a federal program, though some insurers offer extra insurance for sump pump failure.
For the defending New Jersey field-hockey state champions, last year was a season of frustration and loss — and this year’s tryouts are a chance to rebuild
“The nation and the world are in peril,” the president said during a stop in a hard-hit borough of New York City. “And that’s not hyperbole. That is a fact.”
“The nation and the world are in peril,” President Biden said after touring storm damage in New York and Jersey. “And that’s not hyperbole. That is a fact.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York has estimated the state suffered at least $50 million in damages.
The president will visit hard-hit areas in New York and New Jersey, as residents call for more serious action on climate change.
Hurricane Ida killed at least 25 people in New Jersey — more fatalities than in any other state — as the monster storm whipped its way onto the Gulf Coast and tore north to New England.
The storm’s victims included at least 15 people in New York State and 23 in New Jersey. Some died as waters inundated their basement homes.
Keith Pinto was working at a beach on the Jersey Shore when lightning struck, killing him and injuring other lifeguards and beachgoers.
Transit agencies in the New York City region are having to reinvent their railroads to adapt to the shift away from going to the office every day.
The spotted lanternfly, an invasive species from Asia, is a voracious plant-eater and public nuisance that could cost state economies hundreds of millions of dollars.
When he was admitted to the hospital, David Lat was one of a dozen New Yorkers there with Covid. When he finally left, the city was on lockdown. He’s made some changes since then.
How much is your palm print worth? If you ask Amazon, it’s about $10 in promotional credit if you enroll your palm prints in its checkout-free stores and link it to your Amazon account.
Last year, Amazon introduced its new biometric palm print scanners, Amazon One, so customers can pay for goods in some stores by waving their palm prints over one of these scanners. By February, the company expanded its palm scanners to other Amazon grocery, book and 4-star stores across Seattle.
Amazon has since expanded its biometric scanning technology to its stores across the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Texas.
The retail and cloud giant says its palm scanning hardware “captures the minute characteristics of your palm — both surface-area details like lines and ridges as well as subcutaneous features such as vein patterns — to create your palm signature,” which is then stored in the cloud and used to confirm your identity when you’re in one of its stores.
What’s Amazon doing with this data exactly? Your palm print on its own might not do much — though Amazon says it uses an unspecified “subset” of anonymous palm data to improve the technology. But by linking it to your Amazon account, Amazon can use the data it collects, like shopping history, to target ads, offers, and recommendations to you over time.
Amazon also says it stores palm data indefinitely, unless you choose to delete the data once there are no outstanding transactions left, or if you don’t use the feature for two years.
While the idea of contactlessly scanning your palm print to pay for goods during a pandemic might seem like a novel idea, it’s one to be met with caution and skepticism given Amazon’s past efforts in developing biometric technology. Amazon’s controversial facial recognition technology, which it historically sold to police and law enforcement, was the subject of lawsuits that allege the company violated state laws that bar the use of personal biometric data without permission.
“The dystopian future of science fiction is now. It’s horrifying that Amazon is asking people to sell their bodies, but it’s even worse that people are doing it for such a low price,” said Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of the New York-based Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, in an email to TechCrunch.
“Biometric data is one of the only ways that companies and governments can track us permanently. You can change your name, you can change your Social Security number, but you can’t change your palm print. The more we normalize these tactics, the harder they will be coming to escape. If we don’t try to line in the sand here, I am very fearful what our future will look like,” said Cahn.
When reached, an Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.
A local judge ordered a New Jersey woman to take down political banners over obscenity complaints, setting up a First Amendment fight.
A mute swan, beloved by some, was set to be euthanized after wildlife officials deemed him dangerously aggressive. Then something unexpected happened.
A group of 37 attorneys general filed a second major multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Google Wednesday, accusing the company of abusing its market power to stifle competitors and forcing consumers into in-app payments that grant the company a hefty cut.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is co-leading the suit alongside with the Tennessee, North Carolina and Utah attorneys general. The bipartisan coalition represents 36 U.S. states, including California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Colorado and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.
“Through its illegal conduct, the company has ensured that hundreds of millions of Android users turn to Google, and only Google, for the millions of applications they may choose to download to their phones and tablets,” James said in a press release. “Worse yet, Google is squeezing the lifeblood out of millions of small businesses that are only seeking to compete.”
In December, 35 states filed a separate antitrust suit against Google, alleging that the company engaged in illegal behavior to maintain a monopoly on the search business. The Justice Department filed its own antitrust case focused on search last October.
In the new lawsuit, embedded below, the bipartisan coalition of states allege that Google uses “misleading” security warnings to keep consumers and developers within its walled app garden, the Google Play store. But the fees that Google collects from Android app developers are likely the meat of the case.
“Not only has Google acted unlawfully to block potential rivals from competing with its Google Play Store, it has profited by improperly locking app developers and consumers into its own payment processing system and then charging high fees,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine said.
Like Apple, Google herds all app payment processing into its own service, Google Play Billing, and reaps the rewards: a 30 percent cut of all payments. Much of the criticism here is a case that could — and likely will — be made against Apple, which exerts even more control over its own app ecosystem. Google doesn’t have an iMessage equivalent exclusive app that keeps users locked in in quite the same way.
While the lawsuit discusses Google’s “monopoly power” in the app marketplace, the elephant in the room is Apple — Google’s thriving direct competitor in the mobile software space. The lawsuit argues that consumers face pressure to stay locked into the Android ecosystem, but on the Android side at least, much of that is ultimately familiarity and sunk costs. The argument on the Apple side of the equation here is likely much stronger.
The din over tech giants squeezing app developers with high mobile payment fees is just getting louder. The new multi-state lawsuit is the latest beat, but the topic has been white hot since Epic took Apple to court over its desire to bypass Apple’s fees by accepting mobile payments outside the App Store. When Epic set up a workaround, Apple kicked it out of the App Store and Epic Games v. Apple was born.
The Justice Department is reportedly already interested in Apple’s own app store practices, along with many state AGs who could launch a separate suit against the company at any time.
Edward Cagney Mathews was recorded hurling racist harassment and challenging people to “come see me.” On Monday, his neighbors did just that, staging a protest outside his home.
By the end of the decade, New Jersey’s beaches are set to have a view of something other than crashing waves. The state is pushing for aggressive development of offshore wind, having already approved a 1.1 GW wind farm. Yesterday, the state more than doubled its planned projects, reaching agreements that will let two additional 1 GW+ wind farms go into the waters off the southern portion of the state.
Perhaps as significant in the long run, both projects include an agreement that will see critical components of the wind farm assembled in a New Jersey port that the state is promoting as a hub for future offshore wind developments.
A multinational effort
The earlier agreement New Jersey put into place was for a project called Ocean Wind, a joint project between the state’s major utility, PSE&G, and the Danish energy developer Ørsted, a major player in offshore wind. One of the projects approved yesterday is Ocean Wind II, which plans for another 1.1 GW of capacity supplied by using GE’s Halide X turbines. These projects will be sited to the east of Cape May, the southernmost part of the state.
The transportation secretary said building a new rail link under the Hudson River is critical to the economy far beyond the region.
A lawsuit that she filed in New Jersey is testing the First Amendment limits of religious freedom.
A year after the pandemic canceled a nearly 50-year-old tradition, a New Jersey Catholic school brought back a mandatory hike across the Appalachian Trail.
No rest for the citizens.
Rental and condo buildings have increased the amount of shared work spaces and also introduced private offices and conference rooms.
A New Jersey school district, criticized for renaming the day for Indigenous people, eliminated the names of all holidays. It might undo that, too.
When restaurants closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the nationwide market for oysters cratered. That’s not the end of the story.
The judge, Zahid N. Quraishi of New Jersey, said after his selection by President Biden, “Candidly, I would prefer to be the hundredth, if not the thousandth.”
Jack Ciattarelli won New Jersey’s Republican primary and will face Philip D. Murphy, the Democratic incumbent, in November.
He faced fraud charges when he left the Reagan administration, but a jury acquitted him, leaving him to ask, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
Rental applications will no longer ask about criminal convictions, and landlords’ use of background checks will be limited.
After four years of stalling by the Trump administration, officials in Washington approved the $11.6 billion project for federal funding.
Eight men were charged in federal court with burglarizing 50 homes in four states after identifying the residents as Asian.
Eight men were charged in federal court with burglarizing 50 homes in four states after identifying the residents as Asian.
Cannabis corporations are rushing to meet what is expected to be a “tidal wave” of demand in New York and New Jersey.
Cannabis corporations are rushing to meet what is expected to be a “tidal wave” of demand in New York and New Jersey.
The city reopened hesitantly, as New Yorkers balanced caution with a desire to embrace the freedom of prepandemic life.
Since the pandemic has driven home renovation costs up, how about some secondhand ways to save some money?
Federal agents descended on the massive temple in Robbinsville, N.J., as a lawsuit claimed low-caste men had been lured from India to work for about $1 an hour.
With Europe’s vaccine campaign stymied, the Madrid-based author, along with his husband and children, boarded a plane for the U.S. “The act of taking matters into one’s own hands,” he writes, “can feel daunting.”
The pandemic has made New Jersey Transit unrecognizable.
As the oldest of 12 children, Bunim Laskin spent much of his teen years looking for ways to help keep his siblings entertained. Noticing that a neighbor’s pool was often empty, Laskin reached out to ask if his family could use her pool. To make it worth her while, he suggested that they could help cover her expenses for maintaining the pool.
Soon after, five other families had made the same arrangement with her and the pool owner had six families covering 25% of her expenses. This meant that the neighbor was actually making money off her pool. The arrangement sparked a business idea in Laskin’s mind. At the age of 20, he founded Swimply, a marketplace for homeowners to rent out their underutilized pools to local swimmers, with Asher Weinberger.
The Cedarhurst, New York-based company launched a beta in 2018, starting with four pools in the New Jersey area.
“We used Google Earth to find houses, and then knocked on 80 doors with a pool,” Laskin recalls. “We got to 100 pools organically. Word of mouth really helped us grow.” The site was pretty bare bones, he admits, with potential customers only able to view photos of the pools and connect with the pool owner by phone.
That year, Swimply did around 400 reservations and raised $1.2 million from friends and family.
In 2019, Swimply launched what he describes as a “proper” website and app with an automated platform. It grew “4 to 5 times” that year, again mostly organically. In an episode that aired in March 2020, the company appeared on Shark Tank but went home without a deal.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Swimply, Laskin said, pivoted right into the pandemic.
“We were the perfect solution for people when the world was falling on its head,” he said. The company restructured its offering to ensure that pool owners did not have to interact with guests. “It was the perfect, contact-free, self-serve experience to hang out and be with people you quarantined with.”
The CDC then came out to say that it was safe to swim because chlorine could help kill the virus, and that proved to be a big boon to its business.
“On one end, it was a way for people to have a normal day and on the other, it helped give owners a way to earn an income, at a time when many people were being affected financially,” Laskin told TechCrunch.
Business took off in 2020 with revenue growing 4,000% and now Swimply is announcing a $10 million Series A round. Norwest Venture Partners led the financing, which also included participation from Trust Ventures and a number of angel investors such as Poshmark founder and CEO Manish Chandra; Rob Chesnut, former general counsel and chief ethics officer at Airbnb; Ancestry.com CEO Deborah Liu and Michael Curtis.
Swimply is now operating in a total of 125 U.S. markets, two markets in Canada and five markets in Australia. It plans to use its new capital in part to expand into new markets and toward product development.
The way it works is pretty straightforward. Swimply simply connects homeowners that have underutilized backyard spaces and pools with those seeking a way to gather, cool off or exercise, for example. People or families can rent pools by the hour, ranging in price from $15 to $60 per hour (at an average of $45/hour) depending on the amenities. New markets that Swimply has recently expanded to include Portland, Oregon; Raleigh, NC and the California cities of Oakland, San Luis Obispo and Los Gatos.
“The shifting mindset from younger generations about ownership is a huge contributor to increased growth of the Swimply marketplace,” said co-founder Weinberger, who serves as Swimply’s COO. “Swimming is the third most popular activity for adults and number one for children, and yet no other company has tackled the aquatic space to make swimming more affordable and accessible…until now.”
While the company declined to provide hard revenue figures, Laskin said Swimply was seeing “7 digits a month in revenue” and 15,000 to 20,000 reservations a month. Families represent the most popular reservation.
“People can book and pay through our platform, and only 20% of hosts ever meet their guests,” Laskin said. “We’re enabling a new kind of consumer behavior with what we’re doing.”
The company is planning to use its new capital to also rebuild much of its tech infrastructure and boost its customer support team to be more “readily available.”
It is also now offering a complimentary up to $1 million worth of insurance per booking for liability as well as $10,000.
Swimply has a little over 20 employees, up 10 times from 2 people in December of 2020. It plans to double that number over the next few months.
The company’s model has proven quite lucrative for some owners, according to Laskin.
“Last year, there were some owners who earned $10,000 a month. One owner in Denver earned $50,000 last year and he had signed up toward the end of the summer. He should make over $100,000 this year,” Lasken projects.
Its only criteria is that owners offer a clean pool. Eighty five percent of hosts offer restrooms as well. If they don’t, they are limited to one-hour reservations with a max of five guests. Swimply has also partnered with local pool companies, and if they pay one of its owners a visit and certify that pool, that owner gets a badge on the site “so guests get an additional level of security,” Laskin said.
Ed Yip of Norwest Venture Partners admits that when he first heard of the concept of Swimply, he “didn’t know what to make of it.”
But the more he heard about it, the more excited he got.
“This is the holy grail for a consumer investor. We’re not changing consumer behavior, but rather productize the experience and make it safer and easier on both sides,” Yip told TechCrunch.
What also gets the investor excited is the potential for Swimply beyond just swimming pools in the future.
“We’re seeing a ton of demand from hosts wanting to list hot tubs and tennis courts, for example,” Yip said. “So this can turn into a marketplace for shared outdoor resources and that’s a huge market opportunity that adds value on both sides.”
Indeed, the concept of monetizing underutilized space is a growing concept. Earlier this year, we reported on Neighbor, which operates a self-storage marketplace, raising $53 million in a Series B round of funding. Neighbor’s unique model aims to repurpose under-utilized or vacant space — whether it be a person’s basement or the empty floor of an office building — and turn it into storage.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will reopen in two weeks, and some residents are exhilarated, while others are dubious.
State employees who get vaccinated in Maryland are eligible for a $100 payment, while Detroit is giving out $50 prepaid debit cards to those who give someone a ride to a vaccine site.
A Rutgers Law student repeated an epithet from a legal case, and now Black students at the New Jersey school are calling for a policy on slurs — and apologies.
The New Jersey high school teacher, Howard Zlotkin, has been suspended with pay after appearing to target Black students in an online class.
Ms. Gaynor, best known for the disco hits “I Will Survive” and “Never Can Say Goodbye,” is listing the two-story home in Green Brook, N.J., for $1.249 million.
Two New Jersey towns, Rutherford and Secaucus, are five miles apart. Students with autism in Rutherford have gotten far more in-person instruction.
The justices contemplate expanding arms rights in the wake of mass shootings.