The #8meals app from Habits of Waste helps people cut back on meaty meals to save the planet

Earth Day may have come and gone, but with apps like #8meals from the non-profit Habits of Waste, anyone can try and do their part to help reduce deforestation and rising greenhouse gas emissions by cutting meat out of their diets for just 8 meals a week.

The app, which was created by Habits of Waste founder Sheila Morovati along with the development shop Digital Pomegranate, gives users a way to schedule which meals of theirs will be meatless and offers recipe suggestions for what to eat to help them stick to their goals.

For Morovati, the #8meals app is only the latest in a series of initiatives that are meant to cut down on waste and consumption. Morovati’s journey to environmental advocacy began with a program to redistribute used crayons from restaurants to schools in the Southern California region.

That program, called Crayon Collection, has redirected over 20 million crayons from landfills, but Morovati’s non-profit push to reduce waste didn’t end there.

The Habits of Waste organization also launched the #cutoutcutlery campaign, which convinced Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash to change their default settings to make customers opt-in to receive plastic cutlery. It’s a way to reduce the nearly 40 billion plastic utensils that are thrown away each year, according to the Habits of Waste website.

“We decided to create a whole new arm which is cut out cutlery and eight meals. Trying to shift societal mindset is my goal,” said Morovati. 

Meanwhile, the number of meat replacements available to consumers continues to expand. Everyone from Post Cereal to Anheuser Busch is trying to make a play for replacements to proteins sourced from animals. That’s not to mention the billions raised by companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat to sell replacements direct to consumers.

Going meatless, even for a few meals a week, can make a huge difference for planetary health (and human health). That’s because animal agriculture is responsible for more than 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide — and it contributes to deforestation.

“I always think about this fake person that I’ve created in my mind and I call him Mr. Joe Barbecue,” Morovati said during a YouTube interview with self-described superfood guru, Darien Olien, earlier this year. “How can we get Mr. Joe Barbecue to be on board? Is it possible to tell him to go fully vegan? I don’t think so. Not yet. But I think if we introduce it with eight meals a week, maybe even Mr. Joe Barbecue will be willing to go there and understand it and try it and open up the door a crack to invite people in who may not be willing to do this.”

#cutlery, #doordash, #earth-day, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #grubhub, #postmates, #tc, #uber-eats, #websites

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Google spinoff Cartken and REEF Technologies launch Miami’s first delivery robots

Self-driving and robotics startup Cartken has partnered with REEF Technologies, a startup that operates parking lots and neighborhood hubs, to bring self-driving delivery robots to the streets of downtown Miami.

With this announcement, Cartken officially comes out of stealth mode. The company, founded by ex-Google engineers and colleagues behind the unrequited Bookbot, was formed to develop market-ready tech in self-driving, AI-powered robotics and delivery operations in 2019, but the team has kept operations under wraps until now. This is Cartken’s first large deployment of self-driving robots on sidewalks.

After a few test months, the REEF-branded electric-powered robots are now delivering dinner orders from REEF’s network of delivery-only kitchens to people located within a 3/4-mile radius in downtown Miami. The robots, which are insulated and thus can preserve the heat of a plate of spaghetti or other hot food, are pre-stationed at designated logistics hubs and dispatched with orders for delivery as the food is prepared.

“We want to show how future-forward Miami can be,” Matt Lindenberger, REEF’s chief technology officer, told TechCrunch. “This is a great chance to show off the capabilities of the tech. The combination of us having a big presence in Miami, the fact that there are a lot of challenges around congestion as Covid subsides, still shows a really good environment where we can show how this tech can work.”

Lindenberg said Miami is a great place to start, but it’s just the beginning, with potential for the Cartken robots to be used for REEF’s other last-mile delivery businesses. Currently, only two restaurant delivery robots are operating in Miami, but Lindenberger said the company is planning to expand further into the city and outward into Fort Lauderdale, as well as other large metros the company operates in, such as Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and eventually New York.

Lindenberger is hoping the presence of robots in the streets can act as a “force multiplier” allowing them to scale while maintaining quality of service in a cost-effective way.

“We’re seeing an explosion in deliveries right now in a post-pandemic world and we foresee that to continue, so these types of no-contact, zero-emission automation techniques are really critical,” he said.

Cartken’s robots are powered by a combination of machine learning and rules-based programming to react to every situation that could occur, even if that just means safely stopping and asking for help, Christian Bersch, CEO of Cartken, told TechCrunch. REEF would have supervisors on site to remotely control the robot if needed, a caveat that was included in the 2017 legislation that allowed for the operation of self-driving delivery robots in Florida.

“The technology at the end of the day is very similar to that of a self-driving car,” said Bersch. “The robot is seeing the environment, planning around obstacles like pedestrians or lampposts. If there’s an unknown situation, someone can help the robot out safely because it can stop on a dime. But it’s important to also have that level of autonomy on the robot because it can react in a split second, faster than anybody remotely could, if something happens like someone jumps in front of it.”

REEF marks specific operating areas on the map for the robots and Cartken tweaks the configuration for the city, accounting for specific situations a robot might need to deal with, so that when the robots are given a delivery address, they can make moves and operate like any other delivery driver. Only this driver has an LTE connection and is constantly updating its location so REEF can integrate it into its fleet management capabilities.

Image Credits: REEF/Cartken

Eventually, Lindenberger said, they’re hoping to be able to offer the option for customers to choose robot delivery on the major food delivery platforms REEF works with like Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash or GrubHub. Customers would receive a text when the robot arrives so they could go outside and meet it. However, the tech is not quite there yet.

Currently the robots only make it street-level, and then the food is passed off to a human who delivers it directly to the door, which is a service that most customers prefer. Navigating into an apartment complex and to a customer’s unit is difficult for a robot to manage just yet, and many customers aren’t quite ready to interact directly with a robot. 

“It’s an interim step, but this was a path for us to move forward quickly with the technology without having any other boundaries,” said Lindenberger. “Like with any new tech, you want to take it in steps. So a super important step which we’ve now taken and works very well is the ability to dispatch robots within a certain radius and know that they’re going to arrive there. That in and of itself is a huge step and it allows us to learn what kind of challenges you have in terms of that very last step. Then we can begin to work with Cartken to solve that last piece. It’s a big step just being able to do this automation.”

#artificial-intelligence, #atlanta, #automotive, #cartken, #ceo, #chief-technology-officer, #dallas, #doordash, #driver, #fleet-management, #florida, #food, #google, #grubhub, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #miami, #new-york, #postmates, #reef-technologies, #robot, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #tc, #transportation

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

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

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

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

We’re just getting started. Vamos.

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

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

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

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

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

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


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

Deal of the week

money the station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other deals that got my attention …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Policy salmagundi

the station electric vehicles1

Policy: it’s what for dinner.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Notable reads and other tidbits

the-station-delivery

Here are a few other stories that are worth sharing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gig companies fear a worker shortage, despite a recession

Gig companies fear a worker shortage, despite a recession

Enlarge (credit: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Unemployment in the US remains stubbornly high at 6.3 percent. Job growth has stalled, with 9.6 million fewer jobs in January than the same month a year earlier. But gig companies say they’re having trouble finding people to drive, pick up, and deliver for them.

“I’m worried about one thing going into the second half of the year: Are we going to have enough drivers to meet the demand that we’re going to have?” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told an analyst last month. DoorDash chief financial officer Prabir Adarkar called the situation “a tale of two cities,” with hordes of new customers racing to order takeoutbut fewer drivers offering to deliver it. DoorDash orders more than tripled in the last part of 2020, compared with the same period a year earlier.

The looming driver shortage confounds executives’ predictions. “With record unemployment, we expect driver supply to outstrip rider demand” for the “foreseeable future,” Lyft CEO Logan Green said in May. For a time early in the pandemic, Lyft blocked new drivers from signing up. It was understandable, because today’s tech gig companies were born during the Great Recession. They benefited from a deep pool of workers newly outfitted with smartphones and suddenly in need of supplemental income.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#doordash, #gig-economy, #pandemic, #policy, #postmates, #uber

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Uber spins out delivery robot startup as Serve Robotics

Postmates X, the robotics division of the on-demand delivery startup that Uber acquired last year for $2.65 billion, has officially spun out as an independent company called Serve Robotics.

TechCrunch reported in January that a deal was being shopped to investors.

Serve Robotics, a name taken from the autonomous sidewalk delivery bot that was developed and piloted by Postmates X, has raised seed funding in a round led by venture capital firm Neo. Other investors included Uber as well as Lee Jacobs and Cyan Banister’s Long Journey Ventures, Western Technology Investment, Scott Banister, Farhad Mohit and Postmates co-founders Bastian Lehmann and Sean Plaice.

Serve Robotics didn’t share specifics of the funding except to confirm that the round, which will be a Series A, has not been completed yet. Funding a spin out can occur in phases, with the first tranche used for the initial launch and the rest of the round closing once IP has been transferred.

The new company will be run by Ali Kashani, who headed up Postmates X. Other co-founders include Dmitry Demeshchuk, the first engineer who joined the Serve team at Postmates and MJ Chun, who previously led product at Anki, has been heading up product strategy at Serve. The company is launching with 60 employees with headquarters in San Francisco and offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver, Canada.

Serve Robotics Uber Postmates

Image Credits: Serve Robotics

“While self-driving cars remove the driver, robotic delivery eliminates the car itself and makes deliveries sustainable and accessible to all,” said Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics. “Over the next two decades, new mobility robots will enter every aspect of our lives–first moving food, then everything else.”

Postmates’ exploration into sidewalk delivery bots began in earnest in 2017 after the company quietly acquired Kashani’s startup Lox Inc. As head of Postmates X, Kashani set out to answer the question: why move two-pound burritos with two-ton cars? Postmates revealed its first Serve autonomous delivery bot in December 2018. A second generation — with an identical design but different lidar sensors and few other upgrades — emerged in summer 2019 ahead of its planned commercial launch in Los Angeles.

The company’s mission to design, develop, and operate delivery robots specialized in navigating sidewalks will continue, albeit with an eye towards expansion. Serve will continue its delivery operations in Los Angeles. It plans to ramp up research and development in the San Francisco Bay area and expand its market reach through new partnerships.

The spin out is consistent with Uber’s aim to narrow the focus of its business on ride-hailing and delivery in a push towards profitability. This strategy began to take shape after Uber’s public market debut in May 2019 and accelerated last year as the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on the ride-hailing company. Two years ago, Uber had enterprises across the transportation landscape, from ride-hailing and micromobility to logistics, public transit, food delivery and futuristic bets like autonomous vehicles and air taxis. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has dismantled the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach as he pushes the company toward profitability.

In 2020, Uber offloaded shared scooter and bike unit Jump in a complex deal with Lime, sold a stake worth $500 million in its logistics spinoff Uber Freight and rid itself of its autonomous vehicle unit Uber ATG and its air taxi play Uber Elevate. Aurora acquired Uber ATG in a deal that had a similar structure to the Jump-Lime transaction. Aurora didn’t pay cash for Uber ATG. Instead, Uber handed over its equity in ATG and invested $400 million into Aurora, which gave it a 26% stake in the combined company. In a similarly crafted deal, Uber Elevate was sold to Joby Aviation in December.

#automotive, #postmates, #serve-robotics, #tc, #uber

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Equity Monday: Clubhouse, Taboola, and why the SPAC wave will get worse

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

This is Equity Monday,  our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here — and make sure to check out last week’s main ep, which was super-packed and a real treat.

This morning the news was heavy, so here’s your rundown to get you into the show:

Hugs, and we are back Thursday, if not before. Stay safe!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#chamath, #clubhouse, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #imvu, #postmates, #pula, #spac, #startups, #taboola, #uber, #wolt

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Uber planning to spin out Postmates’ delivery robot arm

Another Uber spinout is in the works.

Postmates X, the robotics division of the on-demand delivery startup that Uber acquired last year for $2.65 billion, is seeking investors in its bid to become a separate company, according to several people familiar with the plans.

The startup is being referred to as Serve Robotics, a nod to the yellow and black-emblazoned autonomous sidewalk delivery bot that was developed and piloted by Postmates X. The Serve robot, which recently partnered with Pink Dot Stores for deliveries in West Hollywood, will likely be the centerpiece of the new startup.

Uber declined to comment.

Under the deal, which is being shopped to investors, the company would be run by Ali Kashani, who heads up Postmates X and leads the Serve program. Anthony Armenta would lead the startup’s software efforts and Aaron Leiba would be in charge of hardware — keeping the same positions they hold at Postmates X.

Uber would retain an ownership stake in Serve Robotics and maintain a commercial agreement with the startup. Serve would get the IP and assets in exchange. Uber is in discussions to retain about a 25% stake in the new startup, according to one source familiar with the deal.

There is not a legal entity — as of yet — named Serve Robotics. However, a website domain serverobotics.com was registered January 6.

Uber’s path to profits

The spinoff would be in line with Uber’s streamlined business strategy that began to take shape after its public market debut in May 2019 and accelerated last year as the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on the ride-hailing company. Two years ago, Uber had enterprises across the transportation landscape from ride-hailing and micromobility to logistics, public transit, food delivery and futuristic bets like autonomous vehicles and air taxis. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has dismantled the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach as he pushes the company towards profitability.

In 2020, Uber offloaded shared scooter and bike unit Jump in a complex deal with Lime, sold a stake worth $500 million in its logistics spin off Uber Freight and rid itself of its autonomous vehicle unit Uber ATG and its air taxi play Uber Elevate.

Aurora acquired Uber ATG in a deal that had a similar structure to the Jump-Lime transaction. Aurora didn’t pay cash for Uber ATG. Instead, Uber handed over its equity in ATG and invested $400 million into Aurora, which gave it a 26% stake in the combined company,

In a similarly crafted deal, Uber Elevate was sold to Joby Aviation in December.

Delivery remained the one area that Uber has invested in. The company, seeing an opportunity as demand skyrocketed for its Uber Eats delivery service, started looking for an acquisition to strengthen its position. Uber tried and failed to buy Grubhub, losing out to European heavyweight Just Eat Takeaway.

Uber landed on Postmates and in July 2020 agreed to buy the delivery startup in an all-stock deal valued at $2.65 billion. The deal closed in December.

Serve, the friendly robot

Postmates’ exploration into sidewalk delivery bots began in earnest in 2017 after the company quietly acquired Kashani’s startup Lox Inc. As head of Postmates X, the company’s R&D arm, Kashani set out to answer the question: ‘why move two-pound burritos with two-ton cars?’

Postmates revealed its first Serve autonomous delivery bot in December 2018. A second-generation — with an identical design but different lidar sensors and few other upgrades — emerged in summer 2019 ahead of its planned commercial launch in Los Angeles.

merchant loading serve

Instead of working with a partner, Postmates used its own delivery data to form the foundation of how it would design and deploy a sidewalk bot, according to comments Kashani made during TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 event in October.

“When you look at the data and see that over half of deliveries are within a short distance it becomes a no brainer — these robots can actually complete them,” Kashani said at the time in reference to the application of autonomous delivery bots for delivery.

The Postmates X used historical delivery data from the company to develop a simulation, which was then used in the design of the Serve bot. It helped the team determine what battery life would be needed and the size of the cargo hold, among other features.

The bot only represented a sliver of Postmates’ delivery business. However, the company has seen an increase interest in the bot in Los Angeles and San Francisco — the two cities where it commercially operates — as COVID-19 fueled demand for contactless delivery.

Kashani noted back in October that the bots had completed thousands of deliveries in Los Angeles and was preparing to expand into the city’s West Hollywood enclave. That expansion launched late last year with a twist. The Serve robots were changed to a bright pink to match the signature color of the Pink Dot stores.

#aurora-innovation, #automotive, #postmates, #transportation, #uber

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Tiger Global is raising a new $3.75 billion venture fund, one year after closing its last

According to a recent letter sent to its investors, Tiger Global Management, the New York-based investing powerhouse, is raising a new $3.75 billion venture fund called Tiger Private Investment Partners XIV that it expects to close in March.

The fund is Tiger Global’s 13th venture fund, despite its title — the partners might be superstitious — and it comes hot on the heels of the firm’s 12th venture fund, closed exactly a year ago, also with $3.75 billion in capital commitments.

A spokesperson for the firm declined to comment on the letter or Tiger Global’s broader fundraising strategy when reached this morning.

It’s a lot of capital to target, even amid a sea of enormous new venture vehicles. New Enterprise Associates closed its newest fund with $3.6 billion last year. Lightspeed Venture Partners soon after announced $4 billion across three funds. Andreessen Horowitz, the youngest of the three firms, announced in November it had closed a pair of funds totaling $4.5 billion.

At the same time, Tiger Global has seemingly has a strong case to potential limited partners. Last year alone, numerous of its portfolio companies either went public or was acquired.

Yatsen Holding, the nearly five-year-old parent company of China-based cosmetics giant Perfect Diary, went public in November and is now valued at $14 billion. (Tiger Global’s ownership stake didn’t merit a mention on the company’s regulatory filing.)

Tiger Global also quietly invested in the cloud-based data warehousing outfit Snowflake and, while again, it didn’t have a big enough stake to be included in the company’s S-1, even a tiny ownership percentage would be valuable, given that Snowflake is now valued at $85 billion.

And Tiger Global backed Root insurance, a nearly six-year-old, Columbus, Oh.-based insurance company that went public in November and currently boasts a market cap of $5.3 billion. Tiger owned 10.3% sailing into the offering.

As for M&A, Tiger Global saw at least three of its companies swallowed by bigger tech companies during 2020, including Postmates’s all-stock sale to Uber for $2.65 billion; Credit Karma’s $7 billion sale in cash and stock to Intuit; and the sale of Kustomer, which focused on customer service platforms and chatbots, for $1 billion to Facebook.

Tiger Global, whose roots are in hedge fund management, launched its private equity business in 2003, spearheaded by Chase Coleman, who’d previously worked for hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson at Tiger Management; Scott Shleifer, who joined the firm in 2002 after spending three years with the Blackstone Group; and, soon after, Lee Fixel, who joined the firm in 2006.

Shleifer focused on China; Fixel focused on India, and the rest of the firm’s support team (it now has 22 investing professionals on staff) helped find deals in Brazil and Russia  before beginning to focus more aggressively on opportunities in the U.S.

Every investing decision was eventually made by each of the three. Fixel left in 2019 to launch his own investment firm, Addition. Now Shleifer and Coleman are the firm’s sole decision-makers.

Whether the firm replaces Fixel is an open question. Tiger Global is known for grooming investors within its operations rather than hiring outsiders, so a new top lieutenant would almost surely come from its current team.

In the meantime, the firm’s private equity arm — which has written everything from Series A checks (Warby Parker) to checks in the multiple hundreds of millions of dollars — is currently managing assets of $30 million, compared with the $49 billion that Tiger Global is managing more broadly.

A year ago, Tiger Global, which employs 100 people altogether, was reportedly managing $36.2 billion in assets.

According to the outfit’s investor letter, the firm’s gross internal rate of return across its 12 previous funds is 32%, while its net IRR is 24%.

Tiger Global’s investors include a mix of sovereign wealth funds, foundations, endowments, pensions, and its own employees, who are collectively believed to be the firm’s biggest investors at this point.

Some of Tiger Global’s biggest wins to date have include a $200 million bet on the e-commerce giant JD.com that produced a $5 billion for the firm. According to the WSJ, it also cleared more than $1 billion on the Chinese online-services platform Meituan Dianping, which went public in 2018.

Tiger Global also reportedly reaped $3 billion from majority sale of India’s Flipkart to Walmart in 2018,  though the Indian government has more recently been trying to recover $1.9 billion from the firm, claiming it has outstanding tax dues on the sale of its share in the company.

Not last, Tiger Global owned nearly 20% of the connected fitness company Peloton at the time of its 2019 IPO (a deal that Fixel reportedly brought to the table, along with Flipkart).

Peloton, valued by private investors at $4 billion before doubling immediately in value as a publicly traded company, now boasts a market cap of $48.6 billion.

Tiger Global has invested its current fund in roughly 50 companies over the last 12 months. Among its newest bets is Blend, an eight-year-old, San Francisco-based digital lending platform that yesterday announced $300 million in Series G funding, including from Coatue, at a post-money valuation of $3.3 billion.

It also led the newly announced $450 million Series C round for Checkout.com, an eight-year-old, London-based online payments platform that is now valued at $15 billion. And it wrote a follow-on check to Cockroach Labs, the nearly six-year-old, New York-based distributed SQL database that just raised $160 million in Series E funding at a $2 billion valuation, just eight months after raising an $86.6 million Series D round.

Another of its newest, biggest bets centers on the online education platform Zuowebang, in China. Back in June, Tiger Global co-led a $750 million Series E round in the company.

Last month, it was back again, co-leading a $1.6 billion round in the distance-learning company.

Pictured: Scott Shleifer, managing director of Tiger Global Management LLC, right, speaks with an attendee during the UJA-Federation of New York Wall Street Dinner in New York, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. 

#chime, #credit-karma, #flipkart, #kustomer, #lee-fixel, #peloton, #postmates, #recent-funding, #snowflake, #startups, #sumo-logic, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #venture-capital

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A roundup of recent unicorn news

So much for a December news slowdown.

The last few days have been so chock-a-block with news from a host of unicorns, we’ve all fallen behind. This morning, The Exchange is going into summary mode to help us better understand the full scope of recent unicorn activity.

Why unicorns? It would be fun to noodle on early-stage news — Salut raised $1.25 million this week and BuildBuddy picked up $3.15 million — but as we’re in the midst of an IPO cycle and 2021 could have even more public debuts than 2020, we have to keep current on unicorn updates.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch, or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


What will we cover, then? We’ll go back to Stripe’s possible new round and new valuation. We’ll touch on DoorDash and Airbnb’s expected IPO pricing, along with what we’ve learned from C3.ai’s own S-1 filings. There’s also Gainsight to talk about and the Slack -Salesforce deal.

That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s also recent news from Coinbase, Tanium, Postmates, Olive, Scale AI, Sinch, Gitlab and Kustomer. Then there are rounds for HungryPanda, Flock Freight and Flexe that might make them unicorns — or something rather close. (Update: Also Bizzabo, apparently.)

You can see why it all feels a little overwhelming. But don’t worry, we can get caught up together. Let’s go!

A cavalcade of unicorn updates

There’s no way to make it through all of this news in a reasonable number of words without employing bullet points. Out of respect for your time, I’ll be brief. That said, each of the following news items is worth digging into further if it catches your fancy.

Financial news

  • C3.ai dropped an initial pricing range for its IPO. Given how far the company’s growth has slowed, C3.ai’s comfortable expected IPO valuation underscores how interested public markets are in software and tech shops. As far as a bellwether public offering, we have our eyes fixed on C3 and its expected debut that should come next week.
  • DoorDash also released an initial price range this week with a valuation that could stretch to $32 billion on a fully-diluted basis. Simpler share counts give the company a valuation of between $23.8 billion and $27 billion at its $75 to $85 per share price target. Regardless of how you prefer to calculate market caps of public companies, DoorDash is expected to see a huge valuation bump in its debut. That’s great news for its investors and employees alike.
  • Stripe could be worth $100 billion in its next fundraise. We don’t have new gross payment volume data from the company, but its top line has to be in the billions given what we knew a while back. Why doesn’t Stripe go public? The only good answer to that question is, I reckon, that it is investing in some super complicated stuff that won’t pay off for a while, so it’s taking its time to set up for an even more glorious future as a public company. If it is just being shy, I’ll be cross.
  • Airbnb is back, baby! That’s pretty much all you need to know. In more granular detail, the company’s valuation could stretch to $35 billion in its IPO, though if you don’t count unexercised options and the like, the numbers run between $26.2 billion to $30.1 billion. No matter: The company’s IPO will be executed at a multiple of its mid-crisis valuation and can only be viewed as an impending fundraising success story. I have zero idea how the company will trade after floating, but Airbnb is about to raise quite a lot of much cheaper capital than it managed earlier in the year.

    #coinbase, #fundings-exits, #ma, #postmates, #slack, #tc, #the-exchange, #venture-capital

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Uber officially completes Postmates acquisition

Uber today announced the official completion of its Postmates acquisition deal, which it announced originally back in July. The all-stock deal, valued at around $2.65 billion at the time of its disclosure, sees Postmates join Uber, while continuing to operate as a separate service with its own branding and front-end – while some backend operations, including a shared pool of drivers, will merge.

Uber detailed some of its further thinking around the newly combined companies and what that will mean for the businesses they work with in a new blog post. The company posited the move as of benefit to the merchant population they work with, and alongside the official closure announced a new initiative to encourage and gather customer feedback on the merchant side.

They’re calling it a “regional listening exercise” to be run beginning next year, wherein they’ll work with local restaurant associations and chambers of commerce to hear concerns from local business owners in their own communities. This sounds similar in design to Uber’s prior efforts to focus on driver feedback from a couple of years ago in order to improve the way it works with that side of its double-sided marketplace.

Focusing on the needs of its merchant population is doubly important given the current global pandemic, which has seen Uber Eats emerge as even more of a key infrastructure component in the food service and grocery industries as people seek more delivery options in order to better comply with stay-at-home orders and other public safety recommendations.

#apps, #california, #companies, #driver, #food-service, #ma, #online-food-ordering, #postmates, #tc, #uber, #websites

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CA ballot measure that keeps gig workers as independent contractors is projected to pass

Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash — the major backers of California’s Proposition 22 — are getting their way. The proposition, which will keep gig workers classified as independent contractors, is projected to pass. The Associated Press called the race with 67% of precincts partially reporting.

At the time of publication, 58.2% of voters (more than 6.3 million people) voted for Prop 22, while 41.5% of voters (about 4.5 million people) voted against it.

The ballot measure will implement an earnings guarantee of at least 120% of minimum wage while on the job, 30 cents per engaged miles for expenses, a healthcare stipend, occupational accident insurance for on-the-job injuries, protection against discrimination and sexual harassment, and automobile accident and liability insurance. It’s worth noting that those earnings guarantees and reimbursement for expenses only reflect a driver’s engaged time, and does not account for the time spent in between rides or deliveries.

Proponents of Prop 22 claimed their win late Tuesday night when about 57% of the votes were accounted for. Meanwhile, some opponents of the measure conceded.

“We’re disappointed in tonight’s outcome, especially because this campaign’s success is based on lies and fear-mongering,” Gig Workers Collective wrote in a blog post. “Companies shouldn’t be able to buy elections. But we’re still dedicated to our cause and ready to continue our fight.”

The folks over at Gig Workers Rising also said the fight is far from over.

“This battle is but a stepping stone towards our continued fight to get gig workers the rights, benefits, and dignified working conditions they deserve,” Gig Workers Rising said in a statement.

Prop 22 was primarily backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates . Last week, DoorDash put in an additional $3.75 million into the Yes on 22 campaign, according to a late contribution filing. Then, on Monday, Uber put in an additional $1 million. That influx of cash brought Yes on 22’s total contributions to around $205 million. All that funding makes Proposition 22 the most expensive ballot measure in California since 1999.

On the other side, major donors in opposition of Prop 22 included Service Employees International Union, United Food & Commercial Workers and International Brotherhood of Teamsters. One gig worker, Vanessa Bain, recently told TechCrunch,

“The reality is that, you know, it establishes a dangerous precedent to allow companies to write their own labor laws,” Vanessa Bain, a gig worker and organizer at Gig Workers Collective, recently told TechCrunch. “This policy was created to unilaterally benefit companies at the detriment of workers.”

The creation of Prop 22 was a direct response to the legalization of AB-5, the gig worker bill that makes it harder for the likes of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig economy companies to classify their workers as 1099 independent contractors.

AB-5 helps to ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits by requiring employers to apply the ABC test. According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in work of some independently established trade or other similar business.

Currently, Uber and Lyft are in the midst of a lawsuit regarding AB-5 brought forth in May by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. They argued Uber and Lyft gain an unfair and unlawful competitive advantage by misclassifying workers as independent contractors. Then, in June, the plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction seeking the court to force Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers.

In August, a judge granted the preliminary injunction. Uber and Lyft appealed the decision, but the appeals court last month affirmed the decision from the lower court. However, the decision will be stayed for 30 days after the court issues the remittitur, which the court has yet to do. Meanwhile, both Uber and Lyft previously said they were looking at their appeal options.

Throughout the case, Uber and Lyft have argued that reclassifying their drivers as employees would cause irreparable harm to the companies. In the ruling last month, the judge said neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and that their respective financial burdens “do not rise to the level of irreparable harm.”

But now that Prop 22 is projected to pass, this lawsuit has far less legal ground to stand on. It’s also worth noting that Uber has previously said it may pursue similar legislation in other states.

The California Secretary of State began releasing partial election results from the state’s 58 counties at 8 p.m. PT. However, do not expect a final count tonight, or even tomorrow. That’s partly due to the fact that California accepts absentee ballots postmarked no later than Nov. 3, 2020. Meanwhile, county elections officials have until Dec. 1, 2020 to report final results.

#doordash, #gig-workers, #instacart, #labor, #lyft, #postmates, #prop-22, #tc, #uber

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The Station: Waymo makes it safety case, AV partnerships abound and the rising cost of FSD

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

Welcome back to The Station, a newsletter dedicated to all the present and future ways people and packages move from Point A to Point B.

It was a busy week in the world of transportation, particularly around automated vehicle technology. Let’s get to it.

Email me anytime at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

the station scooter1a

New York is one of the last big scooter markets yet to be decided. The city released October 30 a “Request for Expressions of Interest” for its pilot scooter program as well as a separate request for companies that provide ancillary services to the electric scooter industry, such as data aggregation and analysis, on-street charging and parking vendors, safe-riding training courses as well as scooter collection and impound services.

This officially kicks off the process to determine what companies will receive permits to operate in the city. It promises to be a competitive battle for one of the most coveted markets in the world. In the hours after the city released its RFEIs, I received a number of emails with statements from scooter companies, each one touting its experience, focus on safety and business strategy.

Some important decisions from the city have yet to be determined, or at least shared with the public such as exactly where the scooters will be allowed and what requirements will be placed on the companies that want to operate there. We know Manhattan is out as scooters are not allowed. That leaves four other boroughs, including Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

Meanwhile, in the ebike world …

Harley-Davidson electric bike

Image Credits: Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson announced that it has spun out a new business dedicated to electric bicycles and plans to bring its first line of products to market in spring 2021.

The pedal assist electric bicycle company is being launched amid a booming e-bike industry fueled by growing demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global e-bicycle market was estimated to be over $15 billion in 2019 and projected to grow at an annual rate of more than 6% from 2020 to 2025. The demand is there; might this be how Harley-Davidson connects with the next-generation of customers?

The new business, called Serial 1 Cycle Company, started as a project within the motorcycle manufacturer’s product development center. The name comes from “Serial Number One,” the nickname for Harley-Davidson’s oldest-known motorcycle.

Deal of the week

money the station

Fisker Inc. became the latest in a group of speculative electric vehicle startups to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. Fisker had announced back in July — and right after raising $50 milion from investors — that it had reached an agreement to merge with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by an affiliate of Apollo Global Management Inc.

The merger closed this week and Fisker made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Its first day of trading was Friday and pop went the shares, closing up 13%. It’s important to note that Fisker isn’t generating any revenue and doesn’t have a vehicle in production yet, although it did recently lock in a manufacturing agreement with Magna to build its first vehicle, the Ocean SUV. Fisker has said it will begin to deliver the Ocean SUV in 2022.

Henrik Fisker, the famous car designer and founder of the company, tweeted this week figures on reservations of the Ocean, which he pegged at 8,871. My big questions are how many vehicles does Fisker need to make and sell to break even, or dare I say, turn a profit? Is 9,000 vehicles enough? And will these reservations convert into actual sales? (a screenshot below of Fisker’s reservation figures)

Fisker Inc. reservations Ocean

Image Credits: Fisker Inc.

 

Other deals that caught our attention … 

Continental took a minority stake into lidar develop Aeye. The companies didn’t disclose what “minority stake” means. However, the folks at Aeye were able to say that its the company’s largest Tier 1 investor to-date, and it’s a multi-faceted partnership that brings together a joint team of about 300 lidar engineers to develop and industrialize the long-range lidar product. The investment follows news that Aeye has appointed its president Blair LaCorte to the CEO position. Jon Lauckner, formerly CTO at GM, Dr. Bernd Gottschalk, an automotive executive and consultant who served on Daimler AG’s board and is the founder and managing partner of automotive consultancy AutoValue,
Frank Petznick, the executive vice president of advanced driver assistance systems at Continental and Keith Dierkx, a longtime IBM executive, also joined Aeye’s advisory board last month.

Hermeus, a startup aiming to build a Mach 5 aircraft capable of making the trip from New York to London in just 90 minutes, raised $16 million in a Series A round led by Canaan Partners. Existing investors Khosla Ventures, Bling Capital and the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund also participated in the round.

Outrider, a startup that developed a system of autonomous yard trucks, has raised $65 million in funding just eight months after coming out of stealth. The Series B round was led by Koch Disruptive Technologies and brings its total funding raised to $118 million. Other existing investors increased their investments, including NEA, 8VC and Prologis Ventures. New investors included Henry Crown and Company and Evolv Ventures.

Root Inc., the Ohio-based auto insurance platform, raised $724 million through its U.S. initial public offering. The company sold 24.2 million shares at $27 each — above the marketed range of $22 to $25 a share. The company also raised $500 million through sales of common shares to Dragoneer Investment Group and Silver Lake, according to an SEC filing.

Ryder System, the shipping, logistics, and truck rental company, launched a $50 million venture fund. TechCrunch’s Jonathan Shieber digs into why.

WiTricity closed a $34 million investment round led by Stage 1 Ventures with participation from Air Waves Wireless Electricity and a strategic investment by Mitsubishi Corporation through its U.S. subsidiary, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas). WiTricity said the funds will be used to continue wireless power platform development, expand its intellectual property portfolio, and capitalize on the commercial momentum for wireless charging for electric vehicles.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

Typically, my “little bird” section is dedicated to vetted and multi-sourced tidbits that have yet to be reported out. This week is a bit different. I’m going to tap into my experience of reporting on and observing the AV industry, throw in a little reading of the Twitter tea leaves and make a prediction of what I believe is going to be one of the more interesting partnerships.

My big prediction in 2020 is. …. automated vehicle technology startup Voyage and electric vehicle startup and newly public company Canoo will partner on a vehicle. There I said it. Done. How could I dare be so bold? Let’s just say I’ve seen lots of love between Voyage and Canoo; to me it seems like more than just admiration. ;D

canoo voyage twitter

Image Credits: Twitter screenshot

In actual publicly announced news, Voyage said it is teaming up with First Transit to deploy and operate robotaxis in communities like The Villages. Voyage has been testing and giving rides (with a human safety driver behind the wheel) in the senior community the Villages for some time now. Meanwhile, First Transit has six decades of experience as a transportation company.

Oliver Cameron, founder and CEO of Voyage, explained why the company partnered with First Transit in a recent tweet (there’s also a blog post). He wrote, “Robotaxis are a new business in many ways, but many of the challenges within have already been solved by tried-and-tested players (like  @FirstTransit). So, why not partner instead of reinventing the wheel?”

Expect more partnerships between the companies developing the technology and those that have experience in transportation operations. We saw another example of these kind of AV-operator partnerships this week. Motional, the Hyundai-Aptiv joint venture, and on-demand shuttle startup Via announced plans to launch a shared robotaxi service for the public in a U.S. city in the first half of 2021. The companies said the aim is to develop a “blueprint” for on-demand shared robotaxis and learn how these driverless vehicles can be integrated into mass transit.

Waymo makes its safety case

the station autonomous vehicles1

While I was on vacation, Waymo dropped a massive amount of data on its autonomous vehicle operations in Phoenix, Arizona. This data dump offers insight into more than just the number of crashes — 18 — or near misses — 29 — over the past 20 months. It provides the first real detailed look at Waymo’s automated system and operations.

The company published two papers detailing its safety methodologies and readiness as well as public road safety performance data, which analyzes the miles Waymo has driven on public roads in Arizona. The first paper digs into its three layered approach to safety, which includes the hardware, the automated driving system behavior and operations.

I’m still reading through the papers and will add more thoughts on this soon, but in the meantime here are my two big takeaways.

  1. Waymo is finally providing a detailed answer to questions I have asked the company, including its CTO Dmitri Dolgov, which is “how safe is safe enough?” and “how do you know when it is safe enough?”
  2. Automated vehicle technology companies are starting to compete on transparency.

Notable reads and other tidbits

the-station-delivery

Here are a few other items were noting.

Daimler Trucks and Waymo announced a partnership to build an autonomous version of the Freightliner Cascadia truck. This is Waymo’s first deal in the freight business. Then a few days later, Daimler Trucks announced it had invested in lidar developer Luminar as part of a broader partnership to produce autonomous trucks capable of navigating highways without a human driver behind the wheel.

These deals are the latest action by the German manufacturer to move away from robotaxis and shared mobility and instead focus on how automated vehicle technology can be applied to freight.

Grab and Marriott International announced a partnership that will cover the hospitality giant’s dining businesses in six Southeast Asian countries: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. Instead of room bookings, the Marriott International deal with Grab focuses on about 600 restaurants and bars at its properties in the six Southeast Asian countries, which will start being added to GrabFood’s on-demand delivery platform in November.

Postmates is now rolling out what could be the biggest update to the company’s service in a long time. The company is adding a retail option for users — starting in Los Angeles — to shop local stores and for local merchants to set up a virtual on-demand storefront in the app. Postmates users will be able to shop local merchants listed in the company’s new retail tab in the Postmates app called, appropriately, “Shop.”

Scott Painter, the founder of used-vehicle subscription service Fair, has been working quietly to raise money and launch a new software-as-a-service platform to help subscription providers achieve scale and become profitable, Automotive News reported. Painter stepped down as Fair’s CEO last year. His new company will be called NextCar.

Tesla raised the price of its FSD software (short for “full self-driving, and no it’s not self driving) to $10,000. The FSD package, which owners can opt for, has been steadily rising over the past year. The price increase comes just a few days after the company started to roll out a beta version of the software update. To be clear, FSD is not what the industry or even the federal agency NHTSA defines as Level 4 autonomy per standards defined by SAE International. Tesla vehicles with FSD require supervision at all times and a human driver must be ready to take over — and if you’ve seen any of the videos, welp yeah they need to take over. Level 4 under SAE standards require no driver intervention in certain conditions.

Uber said it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for some Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Uber is also facing another legal challenge in Europe related to algorithmic decision making. The App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) has filed a case with a court in the Netherlands seeking to challenge the ride hailing company’s practice of ‘robo-firing’ — aka the use of automated systems to identify fraudulent activity and terminate drivers based on that analysis.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #electric-vehicles, #luminar, #postmates, #tc, #tesla, #uber, #waymo

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Spying a pivot to ghost kitchens, Softbank’s second Vision Fund pours $120 million into Ordermark

“We’re building a decentralized ghost kitchen,” is a sentence that could launch a thousand investor calls, and Alex Canter, the chief executive officer behind Ordermark, knows it.

The 29 year-old CEO has, indeed, built a decentralized ghost kitchen — and managed to convince Softbank’s latest Vision Fund to invest in a $120 million round for that the company announced today.

“We have uncovered an opportunity to help drive more orders into restaurants through this offering we have called Nextbite,” Canter said. “Nextbite is a portfolio of delivery-only restaurant brands that exist only on UberEats, DoorDash, and Postmates.”

After hearing about Nextbite, Softbank actually didn’t take much convincing.

Investors from the latest Vision Fund first reached out to Canter shortly after the company announced its last round of funding in 2019. Canter had just begun experimenting with Nextbite at the time, but now the business is driving a huge chunk of the company’s revenues and could account for a large percentage of the company’s total business in the coming year.

“We believe Ordermark’s leading technology platform and innovative virtual restaurant concepts are transforming the restaurant industry,” said Jeff Housenbold, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “Alex and the Ordermark team have a deep understanding of the challenges that independent restaurants face. We are excited to support their mission to help independent restaurants optimize online ordering and generate incremental revenue from under-utilized kitchens.”

It’s an interesting pivot for a company that began as a centralized hub for restaurants to manage all of the online delivery orders coming in through various delivery services like GrubHub, Postmates and Uber Eats .

Canter is no stranger to the restaurant business. His family owns one of Los Angeles’ most famous delicatessens, the eponymous Canters, and Ordermark apocryphally started as a way to manage the restaurant’s own back-of-the-house chaos caused by a profusion of delivery service orders.

Now, instead of becoming the proprietor of one restaurant brand, Canter is running 15 of them. Unlike Cloud Kitchens, Kitchen United or Reef, Ordermark isn’t building or operating new kitchens. Instead, the company relies on the unused kitchen capacity of restaurants that the company has vetted to act as its quasi-franchisees.

Ordermark logos for some of the company’s delivery-only restaurant concepts. Image Credit: Ordermark

While most of the restaurant concepts have been developed internally, Ordermark isn’t above the occasional celebrity sponsorship. Its Nextbite service has partnered with Wiz Khalifa on a delivery-only restaurant called HotBox by Wiz, featuring “stoner-friendly munchies”.

The first brand Canter launched was The Grilled Cheese Society, which took advantage of unused kitchens at places like a Los Angeles nightclub and mom-and-pop restaurants across the East Coast to build out a footprint that now covers 100 locations nationwide.

It’s perhaps the growth of the HotBox brand that shows what kind of growth Nextbite could promote. Since the brand’s launch in early October, it has grown to a footprint that will reach 50 cities by the end of the month, according to Canter.

In some ways, Nextbite couldn’t exist without Ordermark’s delivery aggregation technology. “The way that Ordermark’s technology is designed, not only can we aggregate online orders into the device, but we can aggregate multiple brands into the device.”

For restaurants that sign up to be fulfillment partners for the Nextbite brands, there are few additional upfront costs and a fair bit of upside, according to Canter. Restaurants are making 30% margin on every order they take for one of Ordermark’s brands, Canter said.

To become a part of Nextbite’s network of restaurants the business has to be vetted by Ordermark. The company takes cues on what kinds of restaurants are performing well in different regions and develops a menu that is suited to match those trends. For instance, Nextbite recently launched a hot chicken sandwich brand after seeing the item rise in popularity on different digital delivery services.

Restaurants are chosen that can match the menu style of the delivery-only brand that Ordermark’s Nextbite business creates.

Behind those menus is Guy Simsiman, a Denver-based chef who is in charge of developing new menus for the company.

“We’re building things that we know can scale and we do a lot of upfront vetting to find the right types of fulfillment partners,” said Canter. “When a restaurant signs up to become a fulfillment partner, we’re vetting them and training them on what they need to do to … We’re guiding them to become fulfillment partners for these concepts. There’s a whole bunch of training that happens. Then there’s secret shopping and review monitoring to monitor quality.”

While Nextbite may be the future of Ordermark’s business, its overall health looks solid. The company is about to cross $1 billion worth of orders processed through its system.

“We are laser focused right now on helping our restaurants survive COVID and the best way we can do that is by doubling down on the incremental revenues of the Nextbite business,” said Canter when asked where the company’s emphasis would be going forward.

Nextbite is something we’ve been developing for a while now. We took it to market at the end of last year prior to COVID. When COVID kicked in every restaurant in America needed to be more creative. People were looking for alternative ways to supplement the loss in foot traffic,” he said. Nextbite provided an answer.

#america, #business, #ceo, #chef, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #covid, #delivery-services, #denver, #doordash, #east-coast, #grubhub, #jeff-housenbold, #laser, #los-angeles, #managing-partner, #menu, #online-food-ordering, #ordermark, #postmates, #restaurant, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #vision-fund, #websites, #wiz

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Postmates is launching a new retail delivery feature as brick and mortar stores face 14% drop in sales

Postmates is now rolling out what could be the biggest update to the company’s service in a long time — adding a retail option for users to shop local stores and for local merchants to set up a virtual on-demand storefront in the app.

Starting in Los Angeles — and building on yesterday’s test run pop-up shop with the Los Angeles Rams — Postmates users will be able to shop local merchants listed in the company’s new retail tab in the Postmates app called, appropriately, “shop”.

It’s the first public launch of a new initiative headed up by Mike Buckley, a veteran Nike exec who Postmates poached in August to become the company’s senior vice president of business. At Nike, Buckley served as the vice president of digital commerce operations and new business models.

While Postmates has made some small steps in retail delivery (primarily electronics), Buckley said the new service greatly expands that footprint. Shops available to willing Los Angeles customers to cover everything from home goods, cosmetics, and clothes to even vinyl records.

Buckley said the company decided to launch its efforts in Los Angeles, because it was a market where Postmates had a good penetration of delivery workers and big market. “We wanted to create an experience where, as a consumer, if you went there you would feel there’s good coverage,” Buckley said. “Most of the LA metro area will have access to the tab. We started the test in Venice Beach in Abbott Kinney… that’s where you’d find the best coverage.. We have reasonable coverage throughout broader urban LA.”

Postmates new senior vice president of retail, Mike Buckley. Image Credit: Postmates

At launch, there will be nearly fifty retailers on the site including shops like Buck Mason, Le Labo, Parachute Home, the Venice Beach boutique, Coutula 12th Tribe, Timbuk2, Zadig & Voltaire, Supervinyl and Urbanic.  

Retailers can decide how many products they want to sell through the app, and the main goal, according to Buckley is to see what kind of products resonate with consumers for delivery.

For local merchants who have been hit hard by the lockdown orders put in place as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on-demand delivery options from Postmates could create a new line to wary would-be shoppers that still don’t feel like braving the checkout line at a small boutique.

As case counts spike in the U.S. the prospect of a return to lockdown looms large for some regions. That could have an impact on retail sales that were already projected to be dismal.

In fact, the online analytics service eMarketer projected a 10.5% decline in total US retail sales this year, and a 14.0% drop in brick-and-mortar sales… even before the second wave of the pandemic began surging in the U.S. earlier this month.

The new on-demand option could also provide retailers with another avenue to lure customer through timed flash sales, exclusive “drops” to Postmates users, and other retailing tricks that were Buckley’s stock and trade at Nike.

“That’s absolutely one of the ways we think we can drive engagement to these merchants and create calls to action with these merchants,” Buckley said. 

In some ways, the move into consumer retail shopping takes Postmates back to its earliest days, when the service allowed users to demand delivery of almost anything. “I think about this continuing… the company’s original vision of anything anytime anywhere… They had an aspiration to deliver all kinds of different products and food became the killer app given the frequency,” Buckley said. 

The ‘Shop’ button is going live for Los Angeles residents and will be restricted to Los Angeles throughout the fourth quarter before a wider rollout in the first quarter of 2021. Buckley expects the new service to be phased in at other big metro areas across the Southwest first before hitting markets on the East Coast. 

Within the Postmates ‘Shop’ tab shops will be able to sell their inventory and showcase products with configurable catalogues including high resolution images. Shops can also offer customers a choice between on-demand delivery, in-store pickup, or non-contact curbside pickup.

Delivery and service fees will apply to the shopping experience, but Postmates unlimited subscribers will get free delivery, according to the company.

“This year, COVID really changed the landscape of how we purchase essentials, spend time recreationally, and even how we treat ourselves,” said Heather DeLeon, Director of Sales, Anastasia Beverly Hills, one of the retailers using the new service, in a statement. “Shop is such an interesting opportunity because it lets people get their hands on our products in a completely new and exciting way.”

#electronics, #food, #los-angeles, #nike, #online-shopping, #postmates, #retail, #shopping, #tc

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LA Rams, Fanatics and Postmates coordinate on an on-demand pop-up

Postmates, now a division of Uber, is diving deeper into the world of on-demand retail and its partnership with the National Football League.

The company, working alongside Fanatics and the Los Angeles Rams is launching a pop-up shop Monday for fans to buy gear directly through the delivery service.

The store is coordinated with the first Monday Night Football game being played at the Rams SoFi stadium.
Postmates will be delivering Rams merchandise through the collaboration with Fanatics starting at 10 in the morning Pacific and running through kickoff.

In September, the company announced that it was the first official on-demand food delivery partner for the NFL. A designation that means a multi-year sponsorship for some of the biggest sporting events in the U.S. including the Super Bowl.

“Fans will be watching NFL football this season from their couch more than ever before, so teaming up with Postmates as the first official on-demand food delivery partner of the NFL was a perfect combination,” Asamoah said at the time of the NFL partnership announcement. “We’re excited for Postmates to bring an NFL experience directly to our fans’ doorsteps throughout the season and around the year.”

The deal marks the first time that the company would deliver t-shirts, hats, caps, and other branded Rams clothing and accessories to an audience. The Rams pop-up is a natural extension of the relationship between the franchise and Postmates, which began earlier in October.

As part of the deal there will be 15 different products on sale for men, women, and children priced between $30 and $100, similar to the prices that fans would expect to see from Fanatics’ online shop.

Postmates will be delivering to Downtown, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Silverlake, Echo Park, and Los Feliz in Los Angeles. And there’s no delivery fee.
As merchandisers bring different kinds of retail experiences to consumers no longer willing to brave a brick and mortar store, expect to see more of these kinds of online-to-offline, on-demand shopping options where stores partner with delivery services to bring the instant gratification customers crave to their doorstep.

 

#california, #fanatics, #food, #los-angeles-rams, #national-football-league, #nfl, #online-food-ordering, #partner, #postmates, #tc, #uber, #united-states

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Quarantine drives interest in autonomous delivery, but it’s still miles from mainstream

The prospect of truly zero contact delivery seems closer — and more important — than ever with the pandemic changing how we think of last mile logistics. Autonomous delivery executives from FedEx, Postmates, and Refraction AI joined us to talk about the emerging field at TechCrunch Mobility 2020.

FedEx VP of Advanced Technology and Innovation Rebecca Yeung explained why the logistics giant felt that it was time to double down on its experiments in the area of autonomy.

“COVID brought the term ‘contactless’ — before that not many people are talking about contactless; Now it’s almost a preferred way of us delivering,” she said. “So we see, from government to consumers, open mindedness about, maybe in the future you would have everything delivered to you through autonomous means, and that’s the preferred way.”

“If you looked up Postmates robots on Twitter or Instagram, people are always kind of questioning, what is this? What is it doing? Everything changed overnight with COVID, where people would see the robot and immediately understand, oh, this is for contactless delivery,” said Postmates VP of special projects Ali Kashani. “Everything suddenly made sense.”

He also explained how the seeming constraints of a robotic platform specific to food delivery made the engineering process, if not easier, at least naturally bounded by the data they’d collected.

“It’s kind of one of the advantages of being so close to the market, we can use data from our platform to drive certain decisions, because you don’t want to over-engineer you also don’t want to under-engineer,” Kashani said. “We actually developed simulations that would put robots in any location in the country on some date in the past. It would tell us, how many deliveries did this robot do? How many hours was it outside? How many miles did it travel? And it would use that information to decide exactly what kind of battery life do we need? Does it need to carry drinks? How many drink holders should it have to cover 99% of deliveries?”

Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CTO of Refraction AI, noted that the pandemic has raised interest and demand, but also highlighted where things need to move forward in different ways.

“Obviously no one wants a global pandemic, but it has certainly energized this industry and put more attention on it,” he said. “Everybody is excited, oh, we’re going to have contactless delivery, it’s going to be great. But I think there are some real challenges that need to be addressed as an industry to get there. One of them is social acceptance, the other’s regulation. That’s starting to change because of COVID. I’m hopeful that this is an inflection point, and that we really do see more serious investment in this, but also widespread deployment, so it’s not a tech demo that you get to see once in one place, but it actually begins to take over some sizable bit of the market.”

Yeung also emphasized the need for the infrastructure that supports these autonomous platforms: “Thinking about the future, commercial launch, you need the dynamic routing, you need the dispatch system, you need the user interface, you need a tracking interface. We see great synergy for us to leverage for all sorts of autonomous applications.”

In discussing the danger of replacing human workers with robots, Yeung and Kashani were sanguine, suggesting like others in the robotics industry that there would be a shift in labor but it won’t kill any jobs. Johnson-Roberson disagreed.

“I think we are going to be replacing jobs, and we need to face that head on,” he said. “I think it’s important that we reckon with that, that a lot of these decisions, they have a long history of not thinking through what hte human consequences will be. So I’m an advocate for saying, look, we’re replacing jobs. Let’s think as a society: How do we address that? How do we deal with it? I think that we could live in a future with more just, fairer jobs with health insurance, more benefits. But I don’t think it is going to look how it looks today.”

#artificial-intelligence, #autonomous-vehicles, #fedex, #food-delivery, #logistics, #postmates, #refraction-ai, #tc, #tc-sessions-mobility-2020

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Hear from Postmates, Refraction AI and FedEx about autonomous delivery at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020

Small startups and logistics giants alike are working on how to use automated vehicle technology and robotics for delivery. Some have even accelerated their efforts, with mixed results, as the COVID-19 pandemic drove up demand for delivery.

But is the world — or the tech — ready for the mainstream?

TechCrunch has tapped three experts from FedEx, Refraction AI and Postmates to join our virtual stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 to talk about the challenges and opportunities of using robots for delivery. TC Sessions: Mobility is a two-day conference scheduled for October 6 and October 7 that aims to bring together the best and brightest minds working on the future of transportation.

Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder of Refraction AI, Ali Kashani, the VP of Special Projects at Postmates and Rebecca Yeung, vice president of Advanced Technology & Innovation at FedEx will discuss the changing face of delivery, what it will take to make this technology commercially viable and whether the the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their strategy.

Johnson-Roberson’s company Refraction AI came out of stealth on our stage last year. The Midwest-based startup, which developed a delivery robot that uses the bike lane, and has been ramping up testing and operations in its home state of Michigan. Johnson-Roberson, has worked in robotic perception since the first DARPA grand challenge, is also associate professor of robotics at the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Kashani has co-founded several startups, including Lox, which was acquired by Postmates in 2017. When Kashani joined the company he launched Postmates X, which aimed to solve the economic and environmental dilemma of using vehicles to deliver food. His team came up with Serve, the robot that is now used to deliver food in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Yeung’s primary responsibility as VP of advanced technology is to accelerate innovation in the autonomous vehicles and robotics space and use it to improve FedEx’s operations and customer experience. Yeung has more than 20 years of experience in emerging technology, strategy, marketing, and business development. She is the lead officer for FedEx’s same-day robot known as Roxo. She also oversees key autonomous vehicle and robotics initiatives at the enterprise level, evaluating emerging technologies to inform R&D investments.

In case you hadn’t heard, TC Sessions: Mobility 2020 is virtual this year. The virtual version of TC Sessions: Mobility will bring all of what you’d expect from our in-person events, from the informative panels and provocative one-on-one interviews to the networking and this year, even a pitch-off session. This year, we’re also holding Q&A sessions following several of the panels, allowing ticketholders to submit questions to the panelists.

We want TC Sessions: Mobility to be accessible to as many people as possible and so we’ve created a range of pass levels to fit just about every budget. Prices start at $25 for the Expo ticket and students can attend for $50. We also have discounts for groups. Or buy an Early-Stage Startup Exhibitor Package to claim a spot in our expo before we run out of space!

#automotive, #events, #fedex, #postmates, #tc-sessions-mobility-2020, #transportation

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Postmates cuts losses in Q2 as it heads towards tie-up with Uber

Popular food delivery service Postmates is in the process of merging with Uber in a blockbuster $2.65 billion deal that would see it join forces with its food delivery competitor, Uber Eats. The deal remains under antitrust scrutiny, and has not yet been approved for closing. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2021.

However, a new SEC filing posted after hours this Friday gives us a glimpse into how Postmates is faring in the new world of global pandemics and sit-in dining closures across the United States.

Postmates posted a loss of just $32.2 million in Q2, compared to a loss of $73 million in Q1, nearly cutting its cash burning in half. That compares to Uber Eats’ results, which showed a loss of $286 million in the first quarter of 2020 and a loss of $232 million in the second quarter — an improvement of roughly 20%, according to Uber’s most recent financial reports.

Altogether, Postmates lost $105.2 million in the first half of 2020, compared to a loss of $239 million in the same period of 2019.

Uber through its filing today also disclosed the cap table for Postmates in full detail for the first time. On a fully-diluted basis, the largest shareholder in Postmates is Tiger Global, which owns 27.2% of the company. Following up is Founders Fund with 11.4%, Spark Capital with 6.9%, and GPI capital with 5.3%. At Uber’s $2.65 billion all-stock deal, that nets Tiger Global roughly $720 million and Founders Fund roughly $302 million, not including some stock preferences and dividends that certain owners of the company hold.

While Postmates and Uber continue to go through the antitrust review process at the federal level, the companies also face legal pressure in their own backyards. Uber noted in its filing today that it and Postmates face headwinds due to California’s AB5 bill, which is designed to give additional employment protections to freelance workers. However, the company notes that such litigation “may not, in and of itself, give rise to a right of either party to terminate the transaction.”

#founders-fund, #ma, #mobile, #postmates, #spark-capital, #tiger-global, #uber

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Leonardo DiCaprio takes a stake in Struck Capital to fund the future of LA’s tech ecosystem

Leonardo DiCaprio is making a significant commitment to the Los Angeles-based investment firm, Struck Capital, as part of the actor’s commitment to building LA into a tech development powerhouse.

It’s part of what Struck Capital founder Adam Struck called a vision of making Los Angeles “a leading hub for innovation to save the world.”

Struck Capital, which is currently investing out of a $55 million second fund, would not disclose the size of DiCaprio’s stake, but said that the investment is significant.

“Los Angeles has a creative and innovative spirit like nowhere else, and I’m excited to be investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders in my hometown,” said DiCaprio, in a statement.

DiCaprio has already made a number of investments in startup companies that have done very well for the Academy Award-winning actor. Two investments, the mattress retailer Casper and the meat alternative manufacturer, Beyond Meat, are now both publicly traded companies. In fact, Beyond Meat was one of the best performing public offerings of the last year.

And the two investments highlight themes of consumer innovation and sustainability that are a through-line across the startup commitments DiCaprio has made public, according to CrunchBase. Other investments include the lab grown diamond manufacturer, Diamond Foundry; the tea company promoting sustainable rainforest preservation, Runa Tea; recycling technology developer, Rubicon; the sustainable meal prep company, Love The Wild; and Magnus, an app that bills itself as a Shazam for art. DiCaprio is also investor in the Los Angeles-based ethically and sustainably focused financial services firm, Aspiration.

“He sees this as a way to support LA,” said Struck of DiCaprio’s commitment.

In addition to his commitment to the fund, DiCaprio will be making co-investments alongside the Struck Capital team. In fact, the actor has already investment in Raptor Maps, a company that uses drones to analyze the productivity and operations of solar farms.

“He chose us because he already appreciates our mandate,” said Struck. And while the firm may not be an impact investment fund by design, Struck said the company’s deals focus on financial inclusion, sustainability, and technological innovation as first principals. 

“I think, fundamentally, if a business is mission driven, they’re most likely going to acquire higher enterprise values and retain more talent,” Struck said.

Struck is now the fourth largest dedicated seed fund in Los Angeles, and has nearly $150 million in assets under management. Its portfolio companies include: Sendoso, ScratchPay, Mythical Games, and Brainbase and has backed and exited a number of later stage companies like Mojo Vision, Postmates, Nutanix, Latch, Grab, and Wunder Mobility.

“Alongside the team at Struck Capital we’re creating a community, where the next generation of LA’s leaders can grow their business, learn from one another, achieve their visions, and improve our world,” DiCaprio said in a statement.

#actors, #aspiration, #beyond-meat, #brainbase, #casper, #diamond-foundry, #economy, #finance, #impact-investing, #leonardo-dicaprio, #los-angeles, #louisiana, #mojo-vision, #nutanix, #postmates, #raptor-maps, #sendoso, #shazam, #struck-capital, #tc, #venture-capital, #wunder-mobility

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Postmates becomes the official on-demand food delivery partner of the NFL

The National Football League naming Postmates as its very first on-demand food delivery partner.

In this context, a partnership means a multi-year sponsorship, which also makes Postmates a sponsor of the Super Bowl. And as the season kicks off with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans, Postmates  a teaming up with the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes’ (through his foundation 15 And The Mahomies) and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, with each quarterback arranging for meal delivery to frontline health workers in their opponent’s home town.

This seems like a particularly appropriate year for a food delivery partnership, since most fans will be watching games from their home, rather than at a stadium or their local sports bar, as the NFL’s vice president of business development Nana-Yaw Asamoah noted in a statement.

“Fans will be watching NFL football this season from their couch more than ever before, so teaming up with Postmates as the first official on-demand food delivery partner of the NFL was a perfect combination,” Asamoah said.“We’re excited for Postmates to bring an NFL experience directly to our fans’ doorsteps throughout the season and around the year.”

Postmates previously partnered with individual Major League Baseball teams, including the Dodgers and the Yankees. The food delivery company is also being acquired by Uber, in a deal that’s expected to close next year.

 

#ecommerce, #mobile, #nfl, #postmates, #sports

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LA’s Kickback is a social shopping app that converts users into marketing channels through cash rewards

Frankie Bernstein, the Venice, Calif.-based serial entrepreneur, knows marketing.

At his last startup, Markett, Bernstein turned college students into brand ambassadors who were paid by the companies they repped for proselytizing about them on campuses.

Now he’s using that knowledge to launch Kickback on iOS and Android. It’s invite-only at this point, but the idea is that it uses company’s marketing budgets to create shopping rewards and incentives for app users. In the same way that Markett turned college students into advocates for apps like Uber and Lyft, Kickback will turn shoppers into brand ambassadors through its app.

In-app referrals and discounts for shopping are nothing new to the e-commerce world. In China, apps like Pinduoduo have turned into billion dollar businesses on the strength of referrals. Indeed, Pinduoduo recently raised $1.1 billion in funding to hit a valuation of nearly $100 billion.

It was only a matter of time before an American company tried to copy its success. Kickback — like most new apps these days — is invite-only.

Once past the waiting list, users get discounts on brands and can earn cash-back rewards when they shop or when they encourage their friends to buy something with the app.

So far brands on the app include Walmart, Sam’s Club, Nike, Alo Yoga, Reebok, Away, Planet Blue, Sonos, Winc, Postmates, Casper, Kate Somerville, Lacoste, Columbia. Users get discounts or cash rewards when they shop and earn “kickbacks” when they invite someone to shop using their discount code. Cash rewards can be withdrawn using PayPal, according to a statement.

“Our mission is to take the billions of dollars brands spend on advertising and put that money directly into the pockets of the people,” said Franky Bernstein, Founder and CEO of Kickback, in a statement. “Brands know the most powerful form of marketing is word of mouth. We like to say that people are 100% more likely to go on a first date, watch a movie or, in our case, try a new product or service if a friend tells them about it. People have always loved sharing their favorite products and services with their friends. Now with Kickback, they get paid for it.”

#android, #california, #ceo, #china, #columbia, #digital-marketing, #lacoste, #lyft, #markett, #nike, #paypal, #pinduoduo, #postmates, #reebok, #referral-marketing, #sams-club, #serial-entrepreneur, #sonos, #tc, #uber, #venice, #walmart

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Silicon Valley is built on immigrant innovation

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

We wound up having more to talk about than we had time for but we packed as much as we could into 34 minutes. So, climb aboard with Danny, Natasha, and myself for another episode of Equity.

Before we get into topics, a reminder that if you are signing up for Extra Crunch and want to save some money, the code “equity” is your friend. Alright, let’s get into it:

Whew! Past all that we had some fun, and, hopefully, were of some use. Hugs and chat Monday!

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

#doordash, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fundings-exits, #monkeylearn, #podcasts, #postmates, #startups, #tc

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Daily Crunch: Uber confirms Postmates acquisition

You may have noticed that The Daily Crunch is publishing about six hours later than usual. Do not be alarmed! We decided that sending the newsletter later in the day was a better fit for the TechCrunch news cycle — hopefully, there will be fewer days when we hit Publish and then groan when we see a giant story break five minutes later.

We’re also taking the opportunity to rethink the newsletter format. The mission hasn’t changed — the goal is to deliver the day’s big tech headlines in an email that you can read in just a couple of minutes. But we know that different readers are focused on different areas of TechCrunch’s coverage, so moving forward, The Daily Crunch will be organized to make it easier to find the news that interests you.

Without further ado: Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 6, 2020.

The big story: Uber confirms Postmates acquisition

The reports last week were true: Uber announced today that it’s acquiring Postmates in an all-stock deal worth $2.65 billion. It looks like the restaurant delivery market is consolidating — Uber previously tried to acquire Grubhub, which ended up selling to the European company Just Eat Takeaway instead. The company said Postmates will continue to operate as a standalone app, but tech and delivery operations will be consolidated.

Meanwhile, Alex Wilhelm took a close look at Uber’s finances to help Extra Crunch readers understand why the company’s stock is up today, arguing that the acquisition could help Uber Eats “grow more quickly while bringing down its losses as a percent of revenue.”

The tech giants

US tech giants halt Hong Kong police help — After the Chinese government has passed a new security law undermining protections for Hong Kong, both Facebook and Twitter said that they will no longer process demands for user data from Hong Kong authorities. (In Facebook’s case, this also applies to WhatsApp.)

Instagram Reels tested in India following TikTok’s ban — Instagram may be taking advantage of India’s decision to ban TikTok by expanding its Reels feature, which allows users to create 15-second videos set to music.

Intel to invest $253.5 million in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms — Intel joins General Atlantic, Facebook and Silver Lake as an investor in India’s top telecom operator.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Here’s a list of tech companies that the SBA says took PPP money — Bolt Mobility, Getaround, Luminar, Stackin, TuSimple and Velodyne all took loans of $150,000 or more from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. But confusingly, some of the firms on the list (including Bird and Index) denied taking any loans.

Sequoia announces $1.35 billion venture and growth funds for India and Southeast Asia — Sequoia Capital India made more than 50 investments in India last year, putting it ahead of any other VC firm in the country.

Payfazz gets $53 million to give more Indonesians access to financial services — This Indonesian startup offers a number of mobile financial services, including bill payments and loans.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Four views: Is edtech changing how we learn? — Devin Coldewey, Natasha Mascarenhas, Alex Wilhelm and Danny Crichton have thoughts about whether digital learning can make quality education more accessible, or will simply widen existing divides.

As COVID-19 surges, 3D printing is having a moment — 3D printing has fallen out of the spotlight over the past couple of years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, designed to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

‘Hamilton’ gives Disney+ a holiday weekend bump in US, with app downloads up 74% — That’s according to data from Apptopia.

Original Content podcast: ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ is a goofy delight — Every week, Darrell Etherington, Jordan Crook and I review the latest streaming movies and shows in a freewheeling discussion. In this episode, we were all pleasantly surprised by the new Will Ferrell movie on Netflix.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #fundings-exits, #postmates, #uber

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Uber plans to gobble up delivery rival Postmates in $2.6 billion deal

Bicycle couriers making deliveries to Uber Eats customers in São Paulo in April, 2019 (a year before the novel coronavirus pandemic).

Enlarge / Bicycle couriers making deliveries to Uber Eats customers in São Paulo in April, 2019 (a year before the novel coronavirus pandemic). (credit: Joel Carillet | Getty Images)

Uber is trying again to acquire a food delivery rival after it wiped out on its last attempt earlier this year. The company said today it plans chow down on Postmates in a deal valued at $2.6 billion.

The companies announced the all-stock transaction this morning. Uber said the companies’ businesses are “highly complementary,” as they have different customer bases in different parts of the country. Uber in its press release praised Postmates as “an early pioneer of ‘delivery-as-a-service,'” a truly spectacular buzzword jam for our era.

What Uber probably wants, though, is for someone to deliver it a profit. The company lost $2.9 billion in the first quarter of this year (period ending March 31), after losing $1.1 billion each in Q4 and Q3 and a whopping $5 billion in the quarter before that.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#antitrust, #biz-it, #competition, #delivery, #grubhub, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #policy, #postmates, #uber

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Why investors are cheering the Uber-Postmates deal

This morning as the markets rally, shares of Lyft are up 3% while Uber shares are up 6%.

Why is Uber so far ahead of Lyft, its domestic ride-hailing rival that is suffering from the same economic impacts? It appears that investors are heartened that Uber has closed its Postmates acquisition after both firms danced around each other for some time, leading to all sorts of leaks that wound up being not coming true.


The Exchange is a daily look at startups and the private markets for Extra Crunch subscribers; use code EXCHANGE to get full access and take 25% off your subscription


This explains why Uber investors are excited about Uber’s Postmates buy; what about the smaller company is making Uber shares so buoyant? Let’s take a walk through the numbers this morning.

If we reexamine Uber Eats’ recent growth, contrast it to Ubers Rides’ own growth, mix in Eats’ profitability improvements along with Postmates’ own financial results, we can start to see why public investors might be heartened by the deal.

Afterward, we’ll toss in a note about how Postmates may provide Uber some narrative ammunition heading into earnings. This exercise should be fun, and a good break from our recent IPO coverage. Let’s get into the numbers.

Growth, losses

In case you are behind, Uber is buying Postmates for $2.65 billion in an all-cash deal. Uber estimated that it would issue around 84 million shares to pay for the transaction. At its share price as of the time of writing, the deal is worth $2.72 billion at Uber’s newer share price. For reference, that price tag is about 4.8% of Uber’s current-moment market cap.

To understand why Uber would spend nearly 5% of its worth to buy a smaller rival, let’s remind ourselves of the performance of the group that it will plug into, namely Uber Eats.

From Uber’s Q1 2020 financial reporting, the following chart will ground our exploration, showing how Eats has performed in recent quarters:

Via Uber’s financial reporting. Q1 2019 on the left, Q1 2020 on the right.

#companies, #doordash, #extra-crunch, #food, #fundings-exits, #lyft, #market-analysis, #postmates, #startups, #tc, #techcrunch, #transport, #transportation, #uber

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Uber reportedly agrees to acquire Postmates for $2.65 billion

Uber has reportedly agreed to buy Postmates in an all-stock deal worth $2.65 billion. According to Bloomberg, the deal may be announced on Monday morning.

Like other travel- and transportation-related businesses, Uber’s ride-hailing segment has been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to shelter-in-place orders throughout the United States. On-demand delivery, however, has grown, with people relying on services like Uber Eats to get food without leaving their homes. According to its last earnings report, Uber’s ride-hailing gross bookings dropped, but its food delivery service saw gross sales growth of 54% during its first fiscal quarter.

According to previous reports, Uber made an offer to buy Grubhub, another on-demand delivery service, earlier this year, but after that deal fell through, it approached Postmates. Bloomberg reports that Uber and Postmates have actually talked on and off for about four years, but negotiations became more intense about a week ago.

Grubhub ended up being acquired by Just Eat Takeway in a deal worth $7.3 billion after its negotiations with Uber stalled.

With a valuation of $2.4 billion, Postmates is a smaller company than Grubhub. The company filed to go public in February 2019, but decided to hold off because of “choppy market” conditions.

If the deal goes through, the main competitors in the American food delivery market would be Uber Eats/Postmates versus Grubhub/Takeaway versus DoorDash.

In other countries, companies like Grab have also begun building out their on-demand delivery services to make up for losses from fewer ride-hailing bookings. For example, Grab responded to stay-at-home orders in Indonesia (its main market) and other Southeast Asian countries by re-deploying ride-hailing drivers to on-demand deliveries for food and essential items.

#acquisitions, #food-delivery, #fundings-exits, #on-demand-delivery, #postmates, #startups, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats

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As Uber hunts for a deal, can Postmates leverage an IPO?

It’s been a busy last 24 hours or so for on-demand delivery company Postmates. According to reporting, the company is reviving its IPO plans, possibly selling to Uber, or perhaps looking to go public with the help of a special purpose acquisition vehicle, also known as a SPAC.

For Postmates, a company caught somewhere between DoorDash’s cash-fueled rise and Uber’s ability to lose hundreds of millions on its Uber Eats delivery service every quarter, multiples options are likely welcome.

Postmates first filed to go public in early 2019, but its IPO failed to materialize. The company was also reported to be pursuing a sale in 2019 after it had filed to go public. An M&A exit also failed to appear.


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But 2020 is very different from 2019. With GrubHub’s bidding war behind us, Uber appears hungry for more volume, and the IPO market is surprisingly hot given the global pandemic. Postmates may have a number of viable options in front of it, instead of a continued grind as a private company.

The IPO market

So what to do?

Despite some blips, if Postmates has managed anything like revenue growth acceleration because people have been staying home and ordering more food and other goods, the company’s IPO story could prove attractive. And if so, the firm could perhaps best what a cash-burning company can afford to part with in an M&A transaction by going public.

Let’s check the tape. It’s a commonly known fact that the public markets have favored technology companies this year, especially software companies. For many venture-backed companies, this is great news. For Postmates, it’s a slightly different equation, as its margins won’t match those of software companies, nor will its revenue recur in a similar fashion.

But, there are IPOs from this year that we can point to featuring companies that also do not feature strong margins or recurring revenue that did great. So, there is an IPO path for venture-backed startups and unicorns to go public even if they are not software entities.

Vroom

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #extra-crunch, #food, #ipo, #market-analysis, #postmates, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange, #transportation, #uber, #vroom

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