#Interview – Ein Startup, das HR-Teams hilft “die besten Teams aufzubauen”


Hinter dem jungen Kölner Startup Recscout verbirgt sich eine digitale Recruiting-Plattform. “Wir helfen den HR-Teams über Referenzen, Regulierungen, Transparenz und im Einklang mit den Personalberater:innen die besten Teams aufzubauen”, sagt Timo König, der das Unternehmen gemeinsam mit Sajad Ghawami und Kevin Manski gegründet hat. Die Rheinländer sehen sich mit ihrem Konzept im Wettbewerb mit “anderen technologisch betriebenen Recruiting-Plattformen, die HR-Teams von Firmen mit wechselbereiten Kandidat:innen zusammenbringen”.

Aus Sicht der Recscout-Macher gehe dabei “allerdings ein besonders begehrter Teil an Kandidat:innen verloren. Nämlich die Kandidat:innen, die noch gar nicht wissen, ob sie zum Wechseln bereit sind und sich auf solchen Plattformen gar nicht erst zur Verfügung stellen”. Im Interview mit deutsche-startups.de stellt Recscout-Gründer König das Konzept hinter seinem Startup einmal ganz ausführlich vor.

Wie würdest Du Deiner Großmutter Recscout erklären?
Oma schau‘, du suchst eine Pflegekraft? Aber du weißt nicht, wo du suchen sollst und wem du vertrauen kannst. Zudem kannst du nur gering einordnen, ob die nötigen Fähigkeiten vorhanden sind. Wir bieten dir eine Online-Plattform, über die du die beste Berater:in mit der Suche einer Pflegekraft finden, beauftragen und verwalten kannst. Komplett kostenfrei. So kannst du deine ideale Pfleger:in einstellen. So wie dir, geht es dort draußen auch den vielen HR-Teams unserer wunderbaren Firmenlandschaft. Wir helfen den HR-Teams über Referenzen, Regulierungen, Transparenz und im Einklang mit den Personalberater:innen die besten Teams aufzubauen. Und weißt du Oma, auch die Personalberater:innen haben Vorteile. Sie können sich und ihre Stärken unabhängig von Raum und Zeit auf der Plattform präsentieren und ihre Arbeit mit Referenzen belegen. So erhalten sie über Recscout ganz einfach neue Aufträge. Es gewinnen also beide Seiten.

Welches Problem genau wollt Ihr mit Recscout lösen?
Wir alle haben die Arbeit zwischen Firmen und Personalberater:innen erlebt. Von der Akquise über die Geschäftsanbahnung und Auftragserteilung bis hin zum Abschluss gibt es viele Stolpersteine. Mit ein klein wenig Technologie und Daten lassen sich die Meisten zur Seite schubsen. Oft haben wir erlebt, dass fähige Personalberater:innen bei Akquisetelefonaten abgewimmelt werden, obwohl sie eine perfekte Kandidat:in startbereit hätten und eine schnelle Stellenbesetzung ist für Firmen enorm wichtig. Hier stehen dann oft sehr alte Rahmenverträge oder schlicht die – oft berechtigte – Skepsis der HRler:innen entgegen, da sie am Tag zig Akquise-Anrufe zu “bekämpfen” haben. Selbst ehemalige Personalberater:innen, die jetzt auf Seiten der HR-Teams arbeiten, haben Probleme damit, die richtigen Personalberater:innen zu finden, ihnen zu vertrauen und zur Unterstützung zu beauftragen. Bei den Aufträgen geht es ja auch um eine Menge Geld. In der nahen Vergangenheit haben Personalberater:innen für eine Besetzung im Schnitt 27.000 Euro in Rechnung gestellt. Wir wollen Recscout zusammen mit den Personalberater:innen und deren Ideen weiterentwickeln. Ähnlich wie für Vermieter:innen bei AirBnb, ist Recscout als Community eine gewinnbringende Ergänzung der bestehenden Vertriebskanäle. Recscout ist wohl das erste Tool, was den Personalberater:innen passiv Anfragen generiert, ohne das die Personalberater:innen selbst aktiv werden müssen. Zudem haben die Berater:innen über Recscout einen extra Vorteil! So kann eine Berater:in, statt rein telefonisch, wohl den gleichen Auftrag über Recscout gar Committed und mit Anzahlung annehmen, da über Recscout Referenzen und Stärken direkt valide präsentiert werden. So ist es für die Personalberater:in leichter, über Recscout bezahlte Aufträge zu generieren. Zudem vergeben HR-Teams ihre Aufträge sicher gerne in einem vertraulichen Umfeld. Wir wollen mit Recscout die Plattform bieten, auf der HR-Teams und Personalberater:innen schnell und effizient zueinander finden. Dann macht die Arbeit auch einen riesen Spaß. Unsere Vision ist es, dass eine Firma global und zugeschnitten auf die individuelle Vakanz die besten Personalberater:in beauftragen kann – egal ob für einen Standort in Deutschland oder in den USA.

Jede Woche entstehen dutzende neue Startups, warum wird ausgerechnet Recscout ein Erfolg?
Der Zeitpunkt, das Team und die Technologie. Zeitlich steht die Personalberater-Branche besser da als vor Corona. Personalberatungen suchen händeringend nach eigenen Mitarbeiter:innen, um all die zum Wechsel bereiten Kandidat:innen bei hochinteressanten Firmen platzieren zu können. Stellenausschreibungen spezialisieren sich laufend und gefragte Fachkräfte sind auch bei ihren aktuellen Arbeitgeber:innen heiß begehrt. Hier sind erfahrene Personalberater:innen gefragt, die den Firmen beim Aufbau starker Teams unterstützend zur Seite stehen, die richtigen Experten finden, ansprechen und von einem Wechsel überzeugen können. Hier bedarf es an Fachwissen, Überzeugungskraft und Gespür. Unser Team setzt sich aus erfahrenen Gründer:innen, Entwickler:innen, Personalberater:innen, Unternehmensberater:innen und HR-Business Partnern:innen zusammen. Recscout ist mein viertes Startup und dieses Team ist etwas besonderes. Denn wir vereinen die verschiedenen Ansichten und Ansprüche an Recruiting-Prozesse und digitale Lösungen. Es ist fabelhaft zu sehen, wenn die Kollegen ein spezialisiertes Wissen anbieten können, von dem man selbst vielleicht mal “gehört” hat. Neben den fachlichen Bausteinen haben wir individuelle Charaktere im Team, die ihre unterschiedlichen Impulse, Gedanken und Ideen selbstbewusst in unser Produkt einfließen lassen. Jeder tritt für seinen Schwerpunkt ein und zeitgleich arbeiten alle zielgerichtet an einer Vision. Die Technologie von Recscout bietet einen Mix aus eigener Entwicklung und technologischen Produkten von starken Partner:innen. Zum Beispiel setzen wir Technologie von Partner:innen im Bereich Payment, Video-Calls und Dokumentenverwaltung ein. Wir selbst bauen an neuen Features, die HR-Teams und Berater:innen noch enger zusammenrücken lassen. Zum Beispiel bauen wir unseren Chat aus, damit beide Parteien hier Aufträge per Klick vergeben, verwalten und abschließen können.

Wer sind eure Konkurrenten?
Unseren Wettbewerb sehen wir bei anderen technologisch betriebenen Recruiting-Plattformen, die HR-Teams von Firmen mit wechselbereiten Kandidat:innen zusammenbringen. Aus unserer Sicht geht hier allerdings ein besonders begehrter Teil an Kandidat:innen verloren. Nämlich die Kandidat:innen, die noch gar nicht wissen, ob sie zum Wechseln bereit sind und sich auf solchen Plattformen gar nicht erst zur Verfügung stellen. Zudem wird eine rein technisch betriebene Plattform diese Kandidat:innen auch nicht von einer neuen Aufgabe überzeugen können, wo soll diese da auch in der Kommunikation ansetzen, der Faktor “Mensch” fehlt. Hier bedarf es den Einsatz, der Personalberater. Wir werden unseren Personalberater:innen auch die Möglichkeit stellen, dass sie über ihr Portfolio an Kandidat:innen mit Firmen in die Gespräche kommen können, da steht dann das Matching zwischen HR-Teams von Firmen und der Kandidat:innen im Vordergrund aber dahinter bleiben die Personalberater:innen, die die Prozesse steuern.

Wo steht Recscout in einem Jahr?
In einem Jahr wollen wir im Schnitt 30 Stellen im Monat erfolgreich besetzen. Das Team wird mit weiteren Entwickler:innen und talentierten kreativen Sales-Kolleg:innen ausgebaut und die Plattform mit geplanten Features ergänzt. In unserer Mission möchten wir den Milestone von 50-60 regelmäßig aktiven Auftraggeber:innen erreichen und die nächste Finanzierungsrunde vorbereiten. Liebend gerne würden wir den Aspekt der Community weiter entwickeln und beispielsweise vermittelte Kandidat:innen an ihren neuen Arbeitsplätzen besuchen und von ihrer neuen Aufgabe erzählen lassen.

Reden wir zudem noch über den Standort Köln. Wenn es um Startups in Deutschland geht, richtet sich der Blick sofort nach Berlin. Was spricht für Köln als Startup-Standort?
Etwa 2011 bin ich mit ersten Startup-Aktivitäten in Köln gestartet. Seit dem hat sich wirklich einiges getan. In 2015 waren mein Mitgründer und ich (damals im Rahmen der SHOPPEN APP, vergleichbar mit Gorillas, Flink etc. im Bereich Einzelhandel) zur Eröffnung der „Internetwoche Köln“ im Rathaus eingeladen. Es war ein feines Event, bei dem wir sicher noch den Altersschnitt gesprengt haben. Dieses Gefühl von „Selbstverständlichkeit“, „es ist klar, was wir hier machen und wir wollen etwas bewirken“ war noch nicht immer greifbar. Eher ein Gefühl von „abtasten“. Das war mein subjektives Gefühl. Heute sind Startups nicht mehr nur ein Buzzword, sondern sie werden ernst genommen und haben mittlerweile eine grundsolide Basis in Köln. Ein Gedanke in der Hinsicht ist zum Beispiel “Köln Business” und Antje Lienert. In meiner letzten Tätigkeit stand ich vereinzelnd mit ihr in Kontakt und erlebe, wie dieses Netzwerk und der Input / Outcome drum herum täglich wächst und dabei authentisch, ehrlich und nicht wie „wir machen mal Startup“ wirkt. Zudem gibt es mittlerweile zig Co-Working Spaces, Events und Messen in Köln. Von den stets beeindruckenden Gründerinnen vom Okandada Space oder David Wohde, der den WeWork in Köln mit aufgebaut hat, kommen Impulse, Ideen usw. die Synergien und einen echten Startup-Cosmos schaffen, der ein „Miteinander“ spüren lässt. Das zieht dann natürlich auch die vielen Talente der Universitäten und Hochschulen an. So lassen sich diese für die Startups begeistern und erhöhen mit ihren Skills die Qualität der einzelnen Produkte. Es treffen also eine prächtig entwickelte Grundbasis, eine wachsende Kultur, Talente, eine lebhafte Stadt und zu guter letzt eine starke Medienlandschaft aufeinander. Berlin ist als Hauptstadt und der starken internationalen Ausrichtung der erste Spot, die Championsleague im Sinne von Investitionen und Strahlkraft. Das ist auch völlig in Ordnung. Witzig, eigentlich ist Berlin mittlerweile „wie ein Konzern“. Aufgrund der schieren Größe, dem Wettbewerb um die gleichen Talente und Investoren sind einige Prozesse vermutlich nicht mehr so flexibel, wie sie in unserem „Startup-Dorf Köln“ sein können.

Was fehlt in Köln noch?
Vielleicht die gemeinsame Überzeugung, mit Mut und Willen etwas GROSSES schaffen zu können und die Risiken dazu einzugehen. Es gibt in Köln sicherlich Startups, die mit einem mutigen und stark wachsenden Team und passenden Investoren „die Welt erobern können“. Ganz vereinfacht geträumt, würden wir X Euros in RECSCOUT und die Entwicklungs- / Sales-Aktivitäten investieren, warum sollten wir nicht Anfang des neuen Jahres in Europa tätig sein und allen betreffenden Firmen ein bestmögliches Teambuilding ermöglichen können? Das ist bitte mit einem Zwinkern zu verstehen.

Zum Schluss Recscout Du drei Wünsche frei: Was wünscht Du Dir für den Startup-Standort Köln?
Mut zum Risiko in Deutschland. Hier schaue ich manchmal neidisch in Richtung Holland, Skandinavien oder noch weiter Richtung Westen, hier lassen sich bestens die „deutschen“ Erfolgsgeschichten von #Postmates #Shopify aufweisen. Mit dem nötigen Mut des Umfelds hätten sie sich wohl auch hier prächtig entwickeln können. Nicht alles bis ins letzte Detail proven lassen und hinterfragen, sondern starten, machen und anpassen. Die Grundlage von RECSCOUT steht, das Modell und die Strategie lassen sich in verschiedene Richtungen anpassen, ohne sich in der thematischen Ausrichtung zu verändern. Global wollen wohl alle Firmen die eigenen Mitarbeiter-Teams bestmöglich ausbauen. Das ist die Mission. Solche Modelle gibt es sicher in jeder Branche. Mein dritter Wunsch ist, dass die ersten beiden erhört werden.

Durchstarten in Köln – #Koelnbusiness

In unserem Themenschwerpunkt Köln werfen wir einen genaueren Blick auf das Startup-Ökosystem der Rheinmetropole. Wie sind dort die Voraussetzungen für Gründerinnen und Gründer, wie sieht es mit Investitionen aus und welche Startups machen gerade von sich reden? Mehr als 550 Startups haben Köln mittlerweile zu ihrer Basis gemacht. Mit zahlreichen potenziellen Investoren, Coworking-Spaces, Messen und Netzwerkevents bietet Köln ein spannendes Umfeld für junge Unternehmen. Diese Rubrik wird unterstützt von der KölnBusiness Wirtschaftsförderung. #Koelnbusiness auf LinkedInFacebook und Instagram.

KoelnBusiness

Foto (oben): Recscout

#aktuell, #brandneu, #hr, #interview, #koln, #recscout

The Station: Apple car shakeup, how Sept. 11 changed travel, and a pledge from airlines

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 readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

Twenty years and one week ago, I was riding the monorail system at the Newark airport and pointed to the twin skyscrapers looming in the distance. “I can’t believe you’ve never been to the top of the World Trade Center,” I said to my then fiancé and now husband. Days later, I would walk into a restaurant in a Slovenian town and see a report on the TV about a plane crashing into one of those towers. Like so many of us, we spent the rest of that day watching the news and wondering what would happen next.

In all, four aircraft were hijacked the morning of September 11, two of which crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth in a field in Pennsylvania. In all, 2,996 people were killed.

The September 11 terrorist attacks triggered a series of events that would change the world forever, including how we move about it. My September 6, 2001 flight to Newark and then onto to Europe was the last time I would experience what now seems unimaginable: getting to an airport less than 45 minutes before my plane took off.

My trip home from Europe provided a forecast of what air travel would look and feel like, although some measures like when we were separately interviewed two different times prior to boarding, ended up being temporary.

Within months of my arrival home, passenger screening and security at airports would be handled by a new federal agency called the Transportation Security Administration. Security wasn’t the only aspect of air travel that changed.

The airline industry experienced skyrocketing losses that sparked a wave of cost-cutting, new fees for travelers and consolidation. According to the GAO, the U.S. airline industry lost $23 billion between 2001 and 2003 and some of the nation’s biggest airlines including USAir and United Airlines filed for bankruptcy.

The airline industry would suffer financial losses during the Great Recession of 2008, causing more bankruptcies and consolidation. Today, most domestic flights are controlled by four airlines: American, Delta, Southwest and United.

After recovering and stringing together a few years of profitability, the airline industry (and how we travel) would get hit again: this time from the COVID-19 pandemic.

p.s. Thanks to co-worker and cybersecurity editor Zack Whittaker for the photo (featured as the main image for the post) he snapped yesterday.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

We’ve talked before about the possibilities of shared micromobility to help cities create more equitable and accessible transit ecosystems. Shared operators have expanded this idea to support activism.

Agencies and operators provided free or discounted trips for demonstrators to get to events, according to the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association’s 2020 report on the state of the shared micromobility industry, Many even donated or fundraised for racial justice nonprofits.

Not only are they aiding the fight on the ground, the report also shows that nearly three-quarters of all operators stated that diversity was a part of every hiring decision, and 69 percent reported that women and POC are represented at all levels of the organization.

Operator update

Lime is back in Oakland with 500 scooters and plans to scale up to 1,000 over the coming weeks. The company pulled out of the city last year during the pandemic. This time, it’s focusing on “Communities of Concern” as designated by the city, and will deploy half its fleet to these neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved by transportation.

Tier is hooking up with Irish computer vision startup Luna. Tier is adding Luna’s cameras and smart city technology to its shared e-scooter fleets across Europe and the Middle East. To handle the increase in work, Luna is hiring 15 new staffers to cover computer vision/AI, hardware, IoT and project management roles in Ireland. Interestingly, the partnership comes from an Ireland trade mission to Germany to better understand how the two countries could work together within the e-mobility and automotive industry. Luna just recently launched a pilot with Voi in England, and Ford-backed micromobility operator Spin is slowly pushing out Drover AI’s similar tech on scooters in the United States.

Speaking of Voi, the Swedish company is working with the UK government’s Kickstart Scheme to help create jobs for people ages 16 to 24 years old on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Voi is recruiting 25 young people across the country to work as Warehouse Operatives and Fleet Specialists. The young ones will be ensured a job for at least six months and will hopefully learn a thing or two about a growing transport industry.

Bird has tweaked its branding. It recently announced its scooters and bikes will now be made in “Electric Sky” blue, as opposed to its black, white and silver color scheme. The color evokes eco-friendly transportation, clear skies and cheerful days. It’s reminiscent of Revel’s blue mopeds and Swapfiets’ bikes.

Taking liberties with the term “micromobility”

Chinese EV maker Xpeng says it’s going to make a robot unicorn for children to ride. The quadruped will navigate multiple types of terrain, recognize objects and provide “emotional interaction.” The robot pulls from Xpeng’s experiences with AI and automated driving development. The rendering looks cute and soft, for a metal beast, but the horn could be a bit longer IMO. Bonus: it’s not creepy-looking like Xiaomi’s robot dog.

Dutch startup Squad Mobility has introduced details for its small, low-cost electric city car that’s equipped with solar panels which drip feed the battery throughout the day. The company hopes to come out with a prototype for the solar-assisted quadricycle by October this year and begin deliveries by the end of next year. While it would be a fun passenger vehicle for city folks, the end game is to get in good with one of the car-sharing or shared micromobility operators and sell fleets of the Squad car for shared use.

At the Munich Motor Show, BMW revealed a couple of electric bike concepts that look pretty wicked. The Motorrad Vision AMBY looks like a motorcycle, but is probably more along the class of off-road motorbike, complete with fat tires and a seat-to-footrest ratio that brings to mind all the shredding that can be had. The i Vision AMBY is more of a traditional road e-bike, but maybe one that’s inspired by Back to the Future, such is its retrofuturistic vibe and, I’ll say it, postal service-beige frame.

ADAS in scooters

The desire to keep shared electric scooters off sidewalks has driven the development of advanced technology in the micromobility industry. Once the province of geofencing, scooter companies are so eager to get a leg up on the competition that they’re now implementing technology similar to advanced driver assistance systems usually found in cars. Check out my story in Extra Crunch that digs into this trend.

Micromobility America event

The folks who write our other favorite micromobility newsletter are going to be hosting a micromobility event in the SF Bay Area. On September 23, a range of experts, founders, investors and builders will be sharing top insights about the world of lightweight electric vehicles and their potential to disrupt transportation, including:
Brazilian racing driver Lucas Di Grassi, American entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, senior writer at Wired Lauren Goode, analyst and founder of the term “micromobility” Horace Dediu

Register now, if you still can. Space is limited.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Investors continue to sink money into ride-hailing companies. Cao Cao Mobility, the ride-hailing unit of Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings, is the latest example.

The company raised $589 million (RMB 3.8 billion) in a Series B round led by Suzhou Xiangcheng Financial Holding Group, an investment company backed by the Xiangcheng district government of Suzhou. Suzhou High-Speed Rail New City Group and three other state-controlled enterprises also participated.

The raise brings the company’s total funding to around $773.2 million (RMB 5 billion).

As TechCrunch reporter Rebecca Bellan notes, Cao Cao is positioned for further growth and a larger market share, as long as the Chinese government believes the company is operating fairly. Its competitors Didi Global and Amap have come under increased government scrutiny that has hurt their business, while giving Cao Cao a boost.

A cybersecurity investigation prompted the Chinese government to temporarily remove Didi Global from Chinese app stores. As a result, Cao Cao, which is currently available in 62 cities in China, saw ride volume increase 32% in July.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Accure, the Aachen, Germany-based battery safety software company raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Blue Bear Capital. Capnamic Ventures and 42CAP also participated.

BP Ventures, the investing arm of oil and gas giant BP, made a €10 million ($11.9 million) investment in Ryd, a German in-car digital payments provider. The funds will be used to help Ryd expand its service into international markets and build out its offering.

Delhivery, the Indian logistics firm, courted Lee Fixel’s Addition as an investor before its expected IPO in the next two quarters: The Gurgaon-headquartered firm disclosed in a regulatory filing that Addition invested $76.4 million in the startup as part of a Series I round. Delihivery hasn’t disclosed the total raise or other investors.

Delimobil, the Russian car sharing company, has chosen banks to organize its IPO listing and is seeking to raise around $ 350 million, Reuters reported.

Skydweller Aero, the U.S.-Spanish aerospace startup, received an additional $8 million in oversubscribed funding led by Leonardo S.p.A, Marlinspike Capital and Advection Growth Capital. The funds were added to its Series A round, which had previously reached $32 million. The company said it has also partnered with Palantir Technologies to use its Foundry analytics platform to process information at-scale and onboard the aircraft designed for telecommunications, government operations and emergency services.

Tritium Holdings, the Australian developer of DC fast-charging technology for electric vehicles, raised A$40 million  ($29.4 million) from the investment arm of Cigna.

WattE, a company trying to develop a network of truck stops and run a fleet of 12,000 electric trucks to share, will receive a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission. The grant is for the construction of the state’s first electric truck stop. The company also recently closed a $6 million Series A round led by Canon Equity.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear things. But I’m not selfish. Let me share what the little birds are telling me.

You likely spotted the widespread coverage, including by TechCrunch, that Ford Motor hired Doug Field, the engineering executive who was VP of Apple’s special projects team and its secret, not-very-secret car program.

Field, who also once worked as senior vice president of engineering at Tesla, was named as Ford’s chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. Soon after the news broke, reports came out that Kevin Lynch, who led development on the Apple Watch, had taken over Field’s role on the car project.

All of this had TC readers wondering (at least according to my DMs and emails) whether Apple’s car program was at risk. I reached out to some folks and one source told me that Apple employees were in Korea meeting with battery manufacturers as early as last week, which suggests that the game is on. You might recall, The Korea Times reported back in early August a team from Apple was visiting battery manufacturers LG Chem, SK, and Hanwha as part of “early talks.”

It seems those talks are still happening.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to policy corner! Big news out of the aviation industry this week, as major airlines pledged to make 3 billion gallons of “sustainable aviation fuel” available to aircraft carriers by 2030, in line with a federal goal of reducing aviation emissions by 20% by the start of the next decade.

The announcement was made by industry group Airlines for America (A4A), whose members include United Airlines, Delta, American Airlines and Southwest. The group had previously set a target of 2 billion gallons by 2030 back in March. (Also yesterday, United made a separate announcement that it would purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from startup Alder Fuels, pending certain conditions are met. Check out my story on the deal here.

A4A stressed the importance of federal action to support the development of SAF, including a “blender” tax credit for SAF mixed with conventional fuel and public-private research partnerships into SAF tech.

But this would be just the beginning, if President Joe Biden has his say; his administration wants a “fully zero-carbon aviation sector by 2050,” according to a White House fact sheet released Thursday. Aviation accounts for 11% of the country’s transportation-related emissions, the fact sheet says. Plus, while 3 billion gallons of fuel certainly sounds like a lot, a United spokesperson told TechCrunch that the airline consumes around 4 billion annually, and the White House says demand overall could be as high as 35 billion gallons per year by 2050.

To meet that demand, Biden said he is seeking that SAF incentives be included in the $3.5 trillion spending bill currently being debated by Congress, including a tax credit and $4.3 billion earmarked for funding SAF projects.

It’s important to note two things: one, as it currently stands, SAF is more expensive than conventional jet fuel, itself a considerable cost for airlines. Two, the above goals on behalf of the airlines are non-binding, voluntary agreements. Taken together, that means (in my humble opinion) that a tax incentive or something like it will be necessary for SAF to achieve cost parity with conventional fuel — and for airlines to actually adopt it.


The other policy items that caught my eye this week come from the great state of New York. The first is out of New York City, which set a target to install 40,000 public Level 2 chargers and 6,000 DC fast chargers by 2030. This buildout, outlined in the Department of Transportation’s EV plan, will be necessary for the city to reach its target of being fully carbon neutral by 2050.

Finally, the New York State House signed a bill into law requiring all passenger vehicles sold in-state to be zero-emission by 2035, making it the second state (after California) to introduce a set deadline to phase out internal combustion engine cars. It’s hard to know whether this is the start of a sea change in state policy or whether NY and California are anomalies, but I can see this type of legislation becoming more popular in the coming years.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Anthony Levandowski, the controversial and presidentially pardoned autonomous vehicle technology engineer, sat down with The Information for an interview that included details about his company’s pivot from big rigs to dump trucks.

Aurora co-founder Sterling Anderson laid out the autonomous vehicle company’s development process in a blog post this week. Aurora collaborated with half a dozen OEMs and has integrated its self-driving system into eight distinct vehicle platforms. Anderson wrote that the outcome “is a highly refined Driver-vehicle interface and a structured process for the design, development, and launch of vehicles designed for it that we call the Aurora Driver Development Program.” Side note: Aurora has made its Pittsburgh office its official headquarters.

Intel subsidiary Mobileye and rental car giant Sixt SE announced plans to launch a robotaxi service in Munich next year. As I noted in my article, the robotaxi service will leverage all of Intel’s, and more specifically Mobileye’s, assets that have been in development or purchased in recent years, including the $900 million acquisition in 2020 of Moovit, an Israeli startup that analyzes urban traffic patterns and provides transportation recommendations with a focus on public transit.

Through the partnership, riders will be able to access the robotaxi service via the Moovit app. The service will also be offered through Sixt’s mobility ONE app, which gives customers the ability to hail a ride, rent, share or subscribe to vehicles. Caveat: this won’t be a large-scale service in the beginning; it will start small and operate similarly to other early rider programs first modeled by nuTonomy and Waymo.

WeRide, a Chinese autonomous vehicle technology company, unveiled its first cargo van. The company said it will work with Chinese automobile manufacturer Jiangling Motors and Chinese express delivery company ZTO Express to commercialize its first self-driving van at scale. The “robovans” will be based on JMC’s battery electric vehicle model with a fully redundant vehicle platform, combined with WeRide’s full-stack software and hardware autonomous driving (AD) solutions.

Electric vehicles (and batteries)

GM extended a shutdown at its Orion Assembly Plant by another two weeks due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV safety recall. GM said the extended downtime at the Orion plant will last through September 20. Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan has been shut down since August 23.

Ford has hired six senior-level executives to its newly minted commercial vehicles and services business unit as the automaker prepares to bring to market the E-Transit cargo van and the F-150 Lightning Pro pickup truck — two electric vehicles it’s betting will become commercial customers’ new workhorses.

Sila Nanotechnologies’ next-generation battery technology made its commercial product debut in the new Whoop fitness tracker, a milestone that caps a decade of research and development by the Silicon Valley startup. This matters because Sila Nano has joint battery ventures with BMW and Daimler to produce batteries containing the company’s silicon-anode technology, with the goal of going to market in the automotive industry by 2025.

Solid Power, a battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, is preparing to start pilot production of its solid state batteries early next year. A new production facility will be dedicated to manufacturing a sulfide-based solid electrolyte material and pilot production of its commercial-grade, 100 ampere battery cells. Those pouch cells are expected to go to Ford and BMW for automotive testing in early 2022.

Meet Squad Mobility and learn about its vision of the perfect urban vehicle. Here’s a hint: it’s small, cheap, electric and includes solar.

Tesla set the official record for electric vehicles at Nürburgring with a Tesla “Model S Plaid,” that driven by Andreas Simonsen circumnavigated the 20.8-kilometre. (12.9-mile) Nordschleife loop in 7:35.579, according to a statement from the motorsports complex.

Toyota Motor said it will oppose a proposal by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to give union-made electric vehicles in the United States an additional $4,500 tax incentive, Reuters reported. The company said the proposal discriminates “against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize.”

Volta Trucks, a full-electric commercial vehicle manufacturer, said its first vehicles will be manufactured in Steyr, Austria, by Steyr Automotive, formerly MAN Truck and Bus Austria.

Delivery and sharing

DoorDash, Caviar, Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates and Uber Eats have sued the City of New York over a law that would permanently limit the amount of commissions the apps can charge restaurants to use their services. The companies are seeking an injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing the legislation, unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Plentywaka co-founder and CEO Onyeka Akumah was interviewed by TechCrunch as part of its ongoing founders Q&A series.

Misc. stuff

Hyundai Motor Group laid out its hydrogen strategy, announcing it will provide hydrogen fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028. Hyundai’s goal is to achieve cost competitiveness comparable to that of EV batteries by 2030. The company also shared details about its high-performance, rear-wheel drive hydrogen sports car, the Vision FK, with a targeted range of 373 miles. Hyundai did not share when the vehicle would go into production.

GM unveiled the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado, a full-sized pickup truck that received a major technology upgrade, including its hands-free Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system and an infotainment system with embedded Google services, as well as an overhauled interior.

David Zipper wrote a piece for Slate examining the growing problem of infotainment systems.

#airlines, #anthony-levandowski, #apple, #apple-car, #automotive, #bmw, #cao-cao-mobility, #caviar, #delta-airlines, #doordash, #ford, #grubhub, #intel, #mobileye, #postmates, #seamless, #tesla, #transportation, #united-airlines

How Uber plans to rebound from massive Q2 losses stemming from driver incentives

Uber’s second quarter earnings revealed greater than expected losses, in large part due to the company’s massive $250 million stimulus package launched in April to incentivize drivers back onto the app after a pandemic-induced shortage. 

The company reported a loss of $509 million before EBITDA. For comparison, Lyft reported a positive adjusted EBITDA in the quarter at $23.8 million the day before. Uber’s losses point to a larger problem facing the app-based ride-hailing industry: The triple threat of lagging driver supply, the cost of attracting them, and the Covid-19 Delta variant looming in the periphery. 

“Drivers increasingly want to get back on the road,” said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi during the earnings call on Wednesday. “In June, 60% of inactive drivers told us they intended to start driving again within a month. That’s up from 40% in April. And 90% of drivers told us they expect to come back by September. We’re also beginning to see marketplace metrics revert to normalcy in several markets with surge levels and wait times back to nearly normal in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix. But in major cities like New York, San Francisco and LA, demand continues to outpace supply and prices in late times remain above our comfort levels.”

Khosrowshahi said Uber is expecting the driver momentum that has been picking up over the last few months to continue, even as Uber tapers off its “post-pandemic” incentives for drivers. But the thing is, the pandemic is far from over. Only 50% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and the CDC has said the highly contagious Delta variant has caused between 80% and 87% of all U.S. Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks of July. Many computer models predict case counts will peak sometime between mid-August and early September, bringing as many as 450,000 daily cases.

Lockdowns haven’t been the only things causing driver shortages: Drivers don’t want to risk their lives during a pandemic for what is often argued to be meager pay. Uber’s losses and attempts to attract more drivers also come as the company is back on stage as a potential threat to gig workers’ labor rights. Uber is part of a coalition of app-based ride-hailing and on-demand delivery companies that filed a petition this week to introduce a ballot measure in Massachusetts that would define drivers as independent contractors, not employees – similar to what happened last year in California with Proposition 22.

“I took the incentives that they used to get people back, and I think most drivers that have any brains did the same,” an Uber driver called Jay who’s been driving since 2013 told TechCrunch. “And once the incentives ran out, I stopped driving, because I’m losing money when I drive for them now. They have cut the rates so low that it doesn’t make any sense anymore to work for them, and that’s why people are having such a hard time getting an Uber. You have these disgustingly out of touch billionaires running this company into the ground.” 

Despite these setbacks, Khosrowshahi – presumably one of the “out of touch billionaires” Jay references – went on to assure investors that Uber expects to achieve total company EBITDA profitability by the end of the year. Uber is hoping its investments in what it calls the “earner experience” will help retain workers. 

“From doubling down on our app quality to targeted and personalized reengagement campaigns, to completely redesigning our onboarding flow to make it easier and faster than ever to earn safely, to rolling out unique programs like free language learning from Rosetta Stone, or free tuition with ASU, our earner Super App is unique in the depth and breadth of earnings opportunities we can offer drivers and couriers globally,” he said.

If mobility continues to take a hit, as it has recently in cities like Sydney, Australia due to persistent lockdowns, Khosrowshahi says Uber can fall back on its other businesses, like freight, Uber Eats and courier service. Khosrowshahi said there’s been a trend of Uber Eats and courier orders increasing as rides decrease.

Last November, Uber acquired online food delivery app Postmates, which the company says has resulted in nearly 5 million additional consumers, 160,000 couriers and over 25,000 merchants migrating from Postmates to Uber Eats, as well as helping Uber establish itself as a category leader in Los Angeles and New York City.

Uber has also expanded into new verticals recently like grocery, convenience and alcohol delivery, with U.S. gross bookings in June nearly tripling from December 2020 levels and doubling in the U.K. and France.

“The differentiator that we have is the audience and the Uber platform,” said Khosrowshahi. “We were actually one of the latest players to build up a delivery business, and we built it based on the Uber brand, the marketplace-matching technology that we have, the pricing technology, routing, etc[…] We’ve got bigger datasets than anyone else. We’re able to train our algorithms over much larger global data points versus our competitors, which allow us to build a matching, routing, incentives, marketing engine that is more personalized and just has greater capabilities than anyone else.”

Khosrowshahi also noted that the company has ops teams on the ground in every market so it can understand the right inventory per marketplace.

“It all translates into: Lower cost of customer acquisition, higher lifetime value, lower overheads and greater tech capabilities. That’s the differentiator.”

Aside from hitting its EBITDA goals by Q4, Khosrowshahi said Uber expects total company gross bookings to be between $22 and $24 billion, and total company adjusted EBITDA to be better than a loss of $100 million for Q3.

#labor-rights, #postmates, #transportation, #uber, #uber-eats

Yummy raises $4M, aims to be ‘super app of Venezuela’

Yummy, a Venezuela-based delivery app on a mission to create the super app for the country, announced Friday it raised $4 million in funding to expand its dark store delivery operations across Latin America.

Funding backers included Y Combinator, Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen, Canary, Hustle Fund, Necessary Ventures and the co-founders of TaskUs. The total investment includes pre-seeding capital raised in 2020.

“This appears to be a contrarian bet, but Yummy has quickly become the No. 1 super app in Venezuela and proven that the team can scale the business in a difficult territory,” Mateen said in a statement. “Now Vicente and the rest of the Yummy team will expand into more traditional markets with the necessary experience and support to overcome inevitable challenges that they will face.”

Vicente Zavarce, Yummy’s founder and CEO, launched the company in 2020 and is currently part of Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort. Born in Venezuela, Zavarce came to the U.S. for school and stayed to work in growth marketing at Postmates, Wayfair and Getaround before starting Yummy. Zavarce was a remote CEO over the past year, stuck in the U.S. due to travel restrictions, but said he is making the most of it.

Yummy’s app can be downloaded for free, and the company charges a delivery fee or merchant fee. In contrast to some of his food delivery competitors, Zavarce told TechCrunch Yummy’s fees are “the lowest in the market” so they do not affect the merchant’s ability to use the app.

Yummy order heat map. Image Credits: Yummy

The company is pulling together additional key components for its super app strategy, which includes launching a ridesharing vertical this year. Yummy has already connected more than 1,200 merchants with hundreds of thousands of customers.

And, over the past year the company completed more than 600,000 deliveries of food, groceries, alcohol and shopping. It reached $1 million in monthly gross merchandise volume while also growing 38% in revenue month over month.

Over the past eight years, the political and economic challenges faced by the country have led to its recent adoption of the U.S. dollar, Zavarce said. In some cases up to 70% of transactions are happening in dollars on the ground. He said this has protected the business against hyperinflation and ultimately created the opportunity for startups to begin operating in Venezuela.

Because of that, combined with more consumer technology innovation over the past decade, Zavarce said there is no reason why Venezuela should not have the best last-mile logistics. It’s there that Yummy has an opportunity to connect multiple vertices into a super app with little to no competition.

“Eventually, other players will enter, but because we have a super app, we already have an amazing frequency of usage,” he added. “We also already have exclusivity with 60% of the food delivery marketplace, which has enabled us to build a moat around the market. We believe we are the right people to execute on this and feel it is our responsibility to do it.”

Plans for the new funding include user acquisition — the company has close to 200,000 registered users already — and to expand in Peru and Chile by August. At the same time, Zavarce will spend some of that capital to attract more users across Venezuela. He also expects to be in Ecuador and Bolivia by the end of the year.

 

#canary, #ecommerce, #food, #food-delivery, #funding, #hustle-fund, #justin-mateen, #latin-america, #mobile, #postmates, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #tinder, #venture-capital, #y-combinator, #yummy

If you pay an emotional labor fee, Postdates will get your stuff from your ex

Yesterday, the team behind the parody Amazon Dating delivered us Postdates. It’s like Postmates, but for getting your stuff back from your ex.

Postdates looks like the actual Postmates website – you can select a type of relationship (“casually dated,” “lived together,” “one night stand,” etc.) like it’s a type of restaurant. Then, you can choose from preset items to retrieve (concert tickets if you were friendzoned, family heirlooms if you were divorced) or add a custom item. Delivery starts at $25 in LA and $30 in NY, along with an additional emotional labor fee of $3.99. Yes, you can actually use this service if you’re in one of these two cities, but Postdates isn’t here to stay — it’s a pop-up business. Or, as Postdates “founder” Ani Acopian puts it, “It’s kind of like watching a ‘Black Mirror’ episode, but it’s your real life.”

You might remember Elon Musk’s failed comedy start-up/”intergalactic media empire” Thud, which aimed to create immersive digital experiences that blurred the lines between what’s real and fake. Or, you might not remember Thud, since it failed spectacularly and wasn’t very funny. Postdates struck the satire gold that Elon Musk dreamed of with Thud, only they did it without $2 million dollars in funding from one of the richest men in the world.

TechCrunch talked to conceptual artist Ani Acopian, producer Suzy Shinn, and product developer Brian Wagner to get the low-down on just how legit Postdates is.

TechCrunch: Why Postdates? How did the idea come about?

Suzy Shinn: At the start of quarantine when everything was falling apart, Ani and I made ScrubHub, like PornHub for hand washing. We raised $50,000 for charity.

Ani Acopian: I think we had this creative juice inside of us that we wanted to find an outlet for.

SS: Then, we had the Postdates idea, and we actually tried to get investors and artists to fund it, because we were like… This is going to cost something, we want to make it real and actually function. No one wanted anything to do with it, because they were like, “What’s the return?”

AA: And we were like, “Well, the return is that it’s a vibe.”

SS: No one wanted anything to do with us funding-wise, so we built it ourselves.

TC: So, you can actually use this?

AA: Yeah, we partnered with two local courier companies, Gourmet Runner in LA and Airpals in New York. We wanted to make sure we work with people that treat their workers right.

SS: You can put in a request, and the ex has to consent obviously and be like, “Yeah, I have this stuff for you, I’ll put it outside,” and our couriers have Postdates bags that we give to them. But legitimately, you can use it in both of those cities as long as you’re not sending a cat, or a child, or alcohol, or drugs, or something that won’t fit in a bag.

AA: We spent a lot of time on the workflow to make sure no addresses are shared, that everyone’s consenting to be involved, and we’re trying to keep it no-contact, so we’re asking people to put stuff on their door handle. You’re not charged until your ex accepts the order.

TC: You just launched yesterday, but have people actually been using the service so far?

Brian Wagner: We had some people who would post a screenshot in response to Ani’s tweet and be like, “Oh snap, I actually got Postdated by my ex!”

SS: There’s about 30 to 40 pending requests, and we’ve gotten a handful that just as of this morning have been delivered successfully.

TC: Do you think this could be a viable business?

AA: Not everything needs to be a viable business. I would actually be… not surprised, but upset if this actually became a thing, because I don’t think the world needs that level of stuff, but I think we’re pretty much already there. All you can do is hold the mirror up.

TC: As satire, what are you trying to say with Postdates?

SS: I think in the tech world, it seems like all of these tech startups get crazy amounts of funding, and they spend so much money, and they take themselves so seriously. The three of us, with the help of our friends, were able to do this, and we didn’t need $13 million in funding or five years. But we were staying up until like 5 AM, and we were like, “Can we hire someone to help us?” but we were like, “No, we can’t pay.”

BW: Especially with the rise of the gig economy, we’ve seen some positives and some pretty serious negatives, especially during quarantine. It helps people get the things that they need, but also, a lot of workers aren’t being paid fairly and don’t have health insurance. So there’s a sentiment a lot more often now that a lot of tech is redistributing labor, and you’re just paying for people to be moved around. So in a way, we’re sort of like… We’ve redistributed emotional labor here.

TC: There’s an emotional labor tax on the site, yeah.

BW: There’s a bit of poking fun of that, saying how far will we go in terms of actually moving labor along for money. Will people pay for someone else to deal with the emotional handling of a situation?

TC: How did Postdates build upon Amazon Dating?

AA: We’ve made two parody sites now, and we wanted to take that to the next level and make it experiential. It’s kind of like watching a Black Mirror episode, but it’s your real life.

SS: What is the literal price you will pay not to see someone? This is a real thing that happens all the time — my friends will be like, “I broke up with my girlfriend, I need you to go get my stuff,” and I’m like, “I don’t want to go get your stuff.”

AA: I don’t think we should outsource it, though.

TC: So you don’t think we should outsource it, but also, you made Postdates.

AA: I think that’s the whole…

TC: That’s the joke.

AA: Yeah.

TC: What does it say about startup culture to make a product that you don’t think should exist?

SS: Startups are so, so serious, there’s no humor in it, and they think it’s going to last forever. Well, we’re doing the opposite.  We’re going to make this last a couple of weeks for a limited time only, and then we’re gonna take it away. But we would love to keep doing these, making something where art meets tech meets entertainment.

BW: Companies and experiences can just be fun. They don’t have to be a billion dollar idea, they don’t have to be something that’s going to go on Shark Tank. Imagine us entering Shark Tank…

#amazon, #ani-acopian, #apps, #elon-musk, #films, #health-insurance, #new-york, #postmates, #producer

Uber to become the sole owner of grocery delivery startup Cornershop

Uber has reached a deal to become the sole owner of Latin American delivery startup Cornershop, just one year after acquiring a majority stake in the company. The ride-hailing giant said in a regulatory filing Monday that it will purchase the remaining 47% interest in Cornershop in exchange for 29 million shares. The transaction is expected to close in July.

Uber announced in 2019 plans to take a majority ownership in Cornershop. That transaction wasn’t completed until the third quarter of 2020 other than in Mexico, which closed in January 2021. This latest agreement, which was reached June 18 and reported Monday, will make Cornershop a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber. The deal is a logical next-step in the Uber-Cornershop relationship, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The deal suggests Uber’s bullishness in delivery hasn’t waned. With Cornershop as wholly owned subsidiary, Uber can beef up its grocery delivery options, a service made popular during the pandemic. The company started offering grocery delivery in select cities across Latin America, Canada and the U.S. last summer after it acquired Postmates in a deal valued at $2.65 billion. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement that the company’s grocery and new verticals business has exceeded a $3 billion annual bookings run rate for this year.

“That’s why we’re excited to deepen our commitment to the team at Cornershop and to support their vision as they scale globally,” he added. “Together, we will double down on the strategy of bringing same-day grocery delivery to the Uber platform worldwide.”

Cornershop, which is headquartered in Chile, was founded in 2015 by Oskar Hjertonsson, Daniel Undurraga and Juan Pablo Cuevas. The company expanded its operations to eight countries up and down the Americas, including Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, the U.S. and Canada. The company raised $31.7 million over four rounds of funding from investors that include Accel and Jackson Square Ventures.

Uber wasn’t the only grocery service with its eyes on Cornershop; the startup was supposed to be acquired by Walmart in a $225 million deal, but it ultimately fell through after Mexican antitrust regulators blocked the deal from moving forward. It is unclear whether this deal will be subject to the same risks.

Uber faces stiff competition from grocery retailers themselves, many of whom offer delivery through partnering with startups like DoorDash or Favor Fleet.

TechCrunch has reached out to Cornershop for comment. We will update the story if they respond.

The story has been updated to include Uber’s comments.

#apps, #cornershop, #dara-khosrowshahi, #exit, #grocery-delivery, #postmates, #startups, #tc, #uber

Android announces six new features, emphasizing safety and accessibility

Android shared information today about six features that will roll out this summer. Some of these are just quality of life upgrades, like starring text messages to easily find them later, or getting contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions depending on what you’re typing. But other aspects of this update emphasize security, safety, and accessibility.

Last summer, Google added a feature on Android that basically uses your phone as a seismometer to create “the world’s largest earthquake detection network.” The system is free, and since testing in California, it’s also launched in New Zealand and Greece. Now, Google will introduce this feature in Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The company says that they’ll continue expanding the feature this year, prioritizing countries with the highest earthquake risk.

Image Credits: Google

Google is also expanding on another feature released last year, which made Google Assistant compatible with Android apps. In the initial update, apps were supported like Spotify, Snapchat, Twitter, Walmart, Discord, Etsy, MyFitnessPal, Mint, Nike Adapt, Nike Run Club, eBay, Kroger, Postmates, and Wayfair. Today’s update mentioned apps like eBay, Yahoo! Finance, Strava, and Capital One. These features are comparable to Apple’s support of Siri with iOS apps, which includes the ability to open apps, perform tasks, and record a custom command.

When it comes to accessibility, Google is ramping up its gaze detection feature, which is now in beta. Gaze detection allows people to ask Voice Access to only respond when they’re looking at their screen, allowing people to naturally move between talking with friends and using their phone. Now, Voice Access will also have enhanced password input — when it detects a password field, it will allow you to input letters, numbers, and symbols by saying “capital P” or “dollar sign,” for example, making it easier for users to more quickly enter this sensitive information. In October, Google Assistant became available on gaze-powered accessible devices, and in the same month, Google researchers debuted a demo that made it so people using sign language could be identified as the “active speaker” in video calls. Apple doesn’t have a comparable gaze detection feature yet that’s widely available, though they acquired SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), an eye-tracking firm, in 2017. So, hopefully similar accessibility features will be in the works at Apple, especially as Google continues to build out theirs.

Today’s Android update also lets Android Auto users customize more of their experience. Now, you can set your launcher screen from your phone, set dark mode manually, and more easily browse content on media apps with an A-Z scroll bar and “back to top” button. Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Messages will now be compatible on the launch screen – proceed with caution and don’t drive distracted – and EV charging, parking, and navigation apps will now be available for use.

#android, #apps, #assistant, #california, #computing, #ebay, #etsy, #google, #google-assistant, #google-now, #google-play, #greece, #kazakhstan, #kroger, #mobile-linux, #myfitnesspal, #new-zealand, #nike, #operating-systems, #philippines, #postmates, #siri, #smartphones, #snapchat, #software, #spotify, #turkey, #walmart, #wayfair, #whatsapp, #yahoo

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

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

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

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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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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