In latest big tech antitrust push, Germany’s FCO eyes Google News Showcase fine print

The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s very active competition authority, isn’t letting the grass grow under new powers it gained this year to tackle big tech: The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has just announced a third proceeding against Google.

The FCO’s latest competition probe looks very interesting as it’s targeting Google News Showcase — Google’s relatively recently launched product which curates a selection of third party publishers’ content to appear in story panels on Google News (and other Google properties), content for which the tech giant pays a licensing fee.

Google started cutting content licensing deals with publishers around the world for News Showcase last year, announcing a total pot of $1BN to fund the arrangements — with Germany one of the first markets where it inked deals.

However its motivation to pay publishers to licence their journalism is hardly pure.

It follows years of bitter accusations from media companies that Google is freeloading off their content. To which the tech giant routinely responded with stonewalling statements — saying it would never pay for content because that’s not how online aggregation works. It also tried to fob off the industry with a digital innovation fund (aka Google News Initiative) which distributes small grants and offers free workshops and product advice, seeking to frame publishers’ decimated business models as a failure of innovation, leaving Google’s adtech machine scot free to steamroller on.

Google’s stonewalling-plus-chicken-feeding approach worked to stave off regulatory action for a long time but eventually enough political pressure built up around the issue of media business models vs the online advertising duopoly that legislators started to make moves to try to address the power imbalance between traditional publishers and intermediating tech giants.

Most infamously in Australia, where lawmakers passed a news media bargaining code earlier this year.

Prior to its passage, both Facebook and Google, the twin targets for that law, warned the move could result in dire consequences — such as a total shut down of their products, reduced quality or even fees to use their services.

Nothing like that happened but lawmakers did agree to a last minute amendment — adding a two-month mediation period to the legislation which allows digital platforms and publishers to strike deals on their own before having to enter into forced arbitration.

Critics say that allows for the two tech giants to continue to set their own terms when dealmaking with publishers, leveraging market muscle to strike deals that may disproportionately benefit Australia’s largest media firms — and doing so without any external oversight and with no guarantees that the resulting content arrangements foster media diversity and plurality or even support quality journalism.

In the EU, lawmakers acted earlier — taking the controversial route of extending copyright to cover snippets of news content back in 2019.

Following on, France was among the first EU countries to transpose the provision into national law — and its competition watchdog quickly ordered Google to pay for news reuse back in 2020 after Google tried to wiggle out of the legislation by stopping displaying snippets in the market.

It responded to the competition authority’s order with more obfuscation, though, agreeing earlier this year to pay French publishers for linking to their content but also for their participation in News Showcase — bundling required-by-law payments (for news reuse) with content licensing deals of its own devising. And thereby making it difficult to understand the balance of mandatory payments vs commercial arrangements.

The problem with News Showcase is that these licensing arrangements are being done behind closed doors, in many cases ahead of relevant legislation and thus purely on Google’s terms — which means the initiative risks exacerbating concerns about the power imbalance between it and traditional publishers caught in a revenue bind as their business models have been massively disrupted by the switch to digital.

If Google suddenly offers some money for content, plenty of publishers might well jump — regardless of the terms. And perhaps especially because any publishers that hold out against licensing content to Google at the price it likes risk being disadvantaged by reduced visibility for their content, given Google’s dominance of the search market and content discoverability (via its ability to direct traffic to specific media properties, such as based on how prominently News Showcase content is displayed, for example).

The competition implications look clear.

But it’s still impressive that the Bundeskartellamt is spinning up an investigation into News Showcase so quickly.

The FCO said it’s acting on a complaint from Corint Media — looking at whether the announced integration of the Google News Showcase service into Google’s general search function is “likely to constitute self-preferencing or an impediment to the services offered by competing third parties”.

It also said it’s looking at whether contractual conditions include unreasonable terms (“to the detriment of the participating publishers”); and, in particular, “make it disproportionately difficult for them to enforce the ancillary copyright for press publishers introduced by the German Bundestag and Bundesrat in May 2021” — a reference to the transposed neighbouring right for news in the EU copyright reform.

So it will be examining the core issue of whether Google is trying to use News Showcase to undermine the new EU rights publishers gained under the copyright reform.

The FCO also said it wants to look at “how the conditions for access to Google’s News Showcase service are defined”.

Google launched the News Showcase in Germany on October 1 2020, with an initial 20 media companies participating — covering 50 publications. Although more have been added since.

Per the FCO, the News Showcase ‘story panels’ were initially integrated in the Google News app but can now also be found in Google News on the desktop. It also notes that Google has said the panels will soon also appear in the general Google search results — a move that will further dial up the competition dynamics around the product, given Google’s massive dominance of the search market in Europe.

Commenting on its proceeding in a statement, Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, said: “Cooperating with Google can be an attractive option for publishers and other news providers and offer consumers new or improved information services. However, it must be ensured that this will not result in discrimination between individual publishers. In addition, Google’s strong position in providing access to end customers must not lead to a situation where competing services offered by publishers or other news providers are squeezed out of the market. There must be an adequate balance between the rights and obligations of the content providers participating in Google’s programme.”

Google was contacted for comment on the FCO’s action — and it sent us this statement, attributed to spokesperson, Kay Oberbeck:

“Showcase is one of many ways Google supports journalism, building on products and funds that all publishers can benefit from. Showcase is an international licensing program for news — the selection of partners is based on objective and non-discriminatory criteria, and partner content is not given preference in the ranking of our results. We will cooperate fully with the German Competition Authority and look forward to answering their questions.”

The FCO’s scrutiny of Google News Showcase, follows hard on the heels of two other Google proceedings it opened last month, one to determine whether or not the tech giant meets the threshold of Germany’s new competition powers for tackling big tech — and another examining its data processing practices. Both remain ongoing.

The competition authority has also recently opened a proceeding into Amazon’s market dominance — and is also looking to extend another recent investigation of Facebook’s Oculus business, also by determining whether the social media giant’s business meets the threshold required under the new law.

The amendment to the German Competition Act came into force in January — giving the FCO greater powers to proactively impose conditions on large digital companies who are considered to be of “paramount significance for competition across markets” in order to pre-emptively control the risk of market abuse.

That it’s taking on so many proceedings in parallel against big tech shows it’s keen not to waste any time — putting itself in a position to come, as quickly as possible, with proactive interventions to address competitive problems caused by platform giants just as soon as it determines it can legally do that.

The Bundeskartellamt also has a pioneering case against Facebook’s ‘superprofiling’ on its desk — which links privacy abuse to competition concerns and could drastically limit the tech giant’s ability to profile users. That investigation and case has been ongoing for years but was recently referred to Europe’s top court for an interpretation of key legal questions.

 

#andreas-mundt, #artificial-intelligence, #australia, #companies, #digital-media, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #france, #germany, #google, #google-news-showcase, #media, #news-showcase, #policy, #president, #spokesperson, #websites, #world-wide-web

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Fresh out of YC, Houm raises $8M to improve the home rental and sales market in LatAm

As a longtime real estate developer based in Chile, Benjamin Labra was able to spot gaps in the buying and renting markets in Latin America. To meet demands, he started Houm, an all-in-one platform that helps homeowners rent and sell their properties in the region.

Fresh out of Y Combinator’s W21 cohort, today Houm announced an $8 million seed round. 

If you think the concept sounds like Brazil’s unicorn, QuintoAndar, it’s because Houm is very similar. While QuintoAndar dominates the Brazilian market, Houm operates in Chile, Mexico and Colombia, and aims to capture the rest of Spanish-speaking LatAm.

Think of Houm as a homeowner-run Zillow meets TaskRabbit. The company offers a marketplace run by the property owners themselves and cuts out the realtor by employing 200 freelancers who prepare the property for sale or to manage it.

Houmers, as they are called, go to the owner’s home, take photos and then help possible buyers or renters view the property. For their work, Houmers are compensated each time a home they worked on sells or gets rented.

However, Houm’s selling proposition isn’t just the ease of use it provides; instead, it also serves as a guarantor in my ways, making the buying process more accessible.

“In Colombia and Mexico, for someone to be your guarantor, they have to have a property that’s free of mortgage so it can be used as collateral,” Labra told TechCrunch.

On the flip side, the company also guarantees that renters will get paid every month, and if a tenant falters, Houm covers the cost. “You really have nothing to lose if you use Houm,” Labra said.

You can imagine that a company like Houm now has all sorts of data on the real estate market, especially around sales and rental prices. As a result, Houm uses this data in an algorithm that helps the homeowner determine a fair price for their property, but the listed price remains up to the owner.

The company, which was founded in 2018 and is based in Chile, now has about 200 full-time employees, in addition to their freelance team. While Labra declined to say how many active users it has, he said Houm is now showing a property every eight minutes.

The current funding round had no lead investor but includes Y Combinator, Goodwater Ventures, OneVC, Vast VC, Liquid2 and Myelin. The company plans to use the money to expand within the region, perfect its algorithm and generally speed up growth.

 

#brazil, #chile, #funding, #goodwater-ventures, #houm, #latin-america, #liquid2-ventures, #prop-tech, #property, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #startups, #taskrabbit, #websites, #y-combinator, #zillow

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Substack acquires team from community consulting startup People & Company

New media poster child Substack announced today that they’ve added a small community-building consultancy team to its ranks, acquiring the Brooklyn-based startup People & Company.

The small firm has been working with clients to build up their community efforts and its team will now be tasked with building up some of the newsletter company’s upstart efforts for writers in its network.

In a blog post, Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie said that the company had previously used the People & Co. team to consult on their fellowship and mentorship programs and that members of the team would now be working on a variety of new efforts from scaling programs to help writers with legal support and health insurance to community-guided projects like workshops and meetups to help crowdsource insights.

“These people are the best in the world at what they do, and now they’re not only working for Substack, but they’re also working for you,” McKenzie wrote.

Beyond Substack, previous partners with People & Company include Porsche AG, Nike and Surfrider.

Substack has been blazing ahead in recent months, adding new partners and raising cash as it aims to bring on more and more subscribers to its network. The firm shared back in late March that it had raised a $65 million round at a reported valuation around $650 million according earlier reporting by Axios.

#axios, #brooklyn, #co-founder, #crowdsource, #digital-media, #hamish-mckenzie, #health-insurance, #nike, #porsche-ag, #substack, #tc, #websites, #world-wide-web

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Armed with $160M in funding, LatAm’s Merama enters the e-commerce land grab

Merama, a five-month old e-commerce startup focused on Latin America, announced today that it has raised $60 million in seed and Series A funding and $100 million in debt.

The money was raised “at well over a $200 million valuation,” according to co-founder and CEO Sujay Tyle.  

“We are receiving significant inbound for a Series B already,” he said.

LatAm firms Valor Capital and Monashees Capital and U.K.-based Balderton Capital co-led the “massively oversubscribed” funding round, which also included participation from Silicon Valley-based TriplePoint Capital and the CEOs of four unicorns in Latin America, including Uala, Loggi, Rappi and Madeira Madeira. 

Tyle, Felipe Delgado, Olivier Scialom, Renato Andrade and Guilherme Nosralla started Merama in December 2020 with a vision to be the “largest and best-selling set of brands in Latin America.” The company has dual headquarters in Mexico City and São Paulo.

Merama partners with e-commerce product sellers in Latin America by purchasing a stake in the businesses and working with their teams to help them “exponentially” grow and boost their technology while providing them with nondilutive working capital. CEO Tyle describes the company’s model as “wildly different” from that of Thras.io, Perch and other similar companies such as Valoreo because it does not aggregate dozens of brands.

“We will work with very few brands over time, and only the best, and work with our entire team to scale and expand these few businesses,” Tyle told TechCrunch. “We’re more similar to The Hut Group in the EU.”

Merama expects to sell $100 million across the region this year, more than two times the year before. It is currently focused on Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Already, the company operates “very profitably,” according to Tyle. So the cash raised will go primarily toward partnering with more brands, investing in building its technology platform “to aid in the automation of several facets” of its partners’ brands and in working capital for product innovation and inventory purchases. 

The 42-person team is made up of e-commerce leaders from companies such as Amazon, Mercado Libre and Facebook, among others. Tyle knows a thing or two about growing and building new startups, having co-founded Frontier Car Group, which sold to OLX/Naspers for about $700 million in 2019. He is also currently a venture partner at Balderton. 

It’s a fact that Latin American e-commerce has boomed, particularly during the pandemic. Mexico was the fastest-growing e-commerce market in 2020 worldwide, yet is still in its infancy, Tyle said. Overall, the $85 billion e-commerce market in Latin America is growing rapidly, with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

“Merchants are seeing hypergrowth but still struggle with fundamental problems, which creates a ceiling in their potential,” Tyle told TechCrunch. “For example, they are unable to expand internationally, get reliable and cost-effective working capital and build technology tools to support their own online presence. This is where Merama comes in. We seek to give our partners an unfair advantage. When we decide to work with a team, it is because we believe they will be the de facto category leader and can become a $1 billion business on their own.”

Merama collaborates with e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Mercado Libre, and several executives from both companies have invested in the startup, as well.

Daniel Waterhouse, partner at Balderton Capital, says his firm sees “huge potential” in Merama.

“In our two decades scaling businesses in Europe, we have seen firsthand what defines eCommerce category leaders,” he said in a written statement. “What they have already achieved is breathtaking, and it is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Valor Capital founding partner Scott Sobel believes that creating superior products that connect with consumers is the first key challenge D2C companies face.

“That is why we like Merama’s approach to partnering with these established brands and provide them unparalleled support to scale their operations in an efficient way,” he added.

#amazon, #argentina, #balderton-capital, #brazil, #chile, #daniel-waterhouse, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #frontier-car-group, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #merama, #mercado-libre, #mercadolibre, #mexico, #mexico-city, #monashees-capital, #naspers, #olx, #paypal, #rappi, #recent-funding, #retailers, #sao-paulo, #silicon-valley, #startup, #startups, #sujay-tyle, #tc, #techcrunch, #the-hut-group, #triplepoint-capital, #unicorn, #valor-capital, #venture-capital, #websites

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Mighty Networks raises $50M to build a creator economy for the masses

Mighty Networks, a platform designed to give creators and brands a dedicated place to start and grow communities, has closed on $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Owl Ventures.

Ziff Capital Partners and LionTree Partners also participated in the financing, along with existing backers Intel Capital, Marie Forleo, Gretchen Rubin, Dan Rosensweig, Reid Hoffman, BBG Ventures and Lucas Venture Group. The investment brings Palo Alto-based Mighty Networks’ total raised since its 2017 inception to $67 million. 

Mighty Networks founder and CEO Gina Bianchini — who started the company with Tim Herby and Thomas Aaron — is no stranger to building nurturing environments for community building. Previously, she was the CEO and co-founder of Ning, where she led the company’s rapid growth to three million Ning Networks created and about 100 million users around the world in three years. 

With Mighty Networks, Bianchini’s goal is to build “a creator middle class” founded on community memberships, events and live online courses.  

“Basically we have a platform for people to create communities the way that they would create e-commerce stores,” she told TechCrunch. “So what Shopify has done for e-commerce, we’re doing for digital subscriptions and digital payments where the value is around a community that is mastering something interesting or important together, and not just content alone.”

The company’s flagship Business Plan product is aimed at new creators with the goal of giving them an easy way to get started with digital subscriptions, Bianchini said. Established brands, organizations and successful creators use the company’s Mighty Pro plan to get everything Mighty Networks offers on their own branded iOS, iPad and Android apps. 

Mighty Networks — which operates as a SaaS business — has seen impressive growth. In 2020, ARR climbed by “2.5x” while annual customer growth climbed by 200%. Customers are defined as paying creators who host their community, courses and events on their own Mighty Network. The company also saw a 400% annual growth in payments, or rather in subscriptions and payments where a creator or brand will sell a membership or an online course.

The pandemic was actually a boon to the business, as well as the fact that it launched live events last year.

“We were able to help many businesses quickly move online — from yoga studios to leadership speakers and consultants — and now that the world is coming back, they’ll be able to use the features that we’ve built into the platform from day one around finding members, events and groups near them, as well as making everything via not just the web but mobile apps,” Bianchini said.

One of the startup’s goals is to help people understand that they don’t need massive amounts of followers (such as 1 million followers on TikTok) to be successful creators. For example, a creator charging 30 people for a subscription that amounts to around $1,000 a year can still pull in $30,000 a year. So while it’s not huge, it’s certainly still substantial — hence the company’s intent to build a “creator middle class.”

Mighty Networks has more than 10,000 paying creators, brands and coaches today. Users include established creators and brands such as YouTube star Adriene Mishler, Xprize and Singularity University founder Peter Diamandis, author Luvvie Ajayi Jones, comedian Amanda Seales, Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso and brands such as the TED conference and wellness scheduling platform MINDBODY.

“Content alone will kill the creator economy,” Bianchini said. “We can’t build a thriving creator movement on an exhausting, unfair dynamic where content creators rent audiences from big tech platforms, are required to produce a never-ending stream of content and get paid pennies for it, if they get paid at all. Creators need to own their own community on the internet, where members meet each other and get results and transformation.” 

Owl Ventures Managing Director Amit Patel said his firm was impressed by Mighty Networks before it even met the company.

“No company in this space has more loyal, passionate believers, and when we saw firsthand that creators could successfully build paid communities and online courses on a Mighty Network with as few as 30 members, we wanted to be a part of unlocking this creator middle class for a million more creators,” Patel said in a written statement.

The company plans to use its new capital on product development across media types, payment options and expansion into new markets. 

Earlier this month, Pico, a New York startup that helps online creators and media companies make money and manage their customer data, announced that it had launched an upgraded platform and raised $6.5 million in new funding. Essentially, the company is building what it considers to be an operating system for the creator market.

#amit-patel, #android, #author, #bbg-ventures, #creator-economy, #dan-rosensweig, #e-commerce, #funding, #fundings-exits, #gina-bianchini, #intel-capital, #ios, #ipad, #mighty-networks, #mindbody, #ning, #online-courses, #owl-ventures, #palo-alto, #recent-funding, #reid-hoffman, #saas, #shopify, #singularity-university, #software, #startup, #startups, #venture-capital, #video-hosting, #websites, #youtube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Steady’s Adam Roseman and investor Emmalyn Shaw outline what worked (and what was missing) in the Series A deck

When it comes to Steady, the platform that helps hourly workers manage their income, maximize their income, and access deals on things like benefits and financial services, the strengths of the business are clear. But it took time for founder and CEO Adam Roseman to clearly define and communicate each of them in his quest for fundraising.

To date, Steady has raised just under $30 million with investors that include Loeb.nyc, Recruit Strategic Partners, Propel Ventures and Flourish Ventures. In fact, Flourish’s Emmalyn Shaw sits on the board, having led the company’s Series A round in 2018.

As a partner at a $500 million fintech fund, her expertise in not only how fintech companies should think about fundraising but what it takes for them to be successful is invaluable. Lucky for us, we got the chance to sit down with both Steady CEO Adam Roseman and Emmalyn Shaw for a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live.

The duo were gracious enough to walk us through Steady’s Series A deck, explaining the importance of highlighting the strengths of the business. They went into detail on how Steady was successful in that during that fundraising process, and what the company could have done differently to be more effectively.

Shaw and Roseman also gave some fantastic advice for founders during the Pitch Deck Teardown, wherein speakers give their expert feedback on decks submitted by the audience. (If you’d like to have your pitch deck featured on an episode of Extra Crunch Live, hit up this link.)

Relationships first

Roseman shared that the best investors are ones that not only understand the business but understand you as a founder and a person. He explained that he and Shaw had plenty of time to get to know each other before the Series A deal.

“I’ve been a part of businesses in the past as an entrepreneur and on boards where it’s been the worst situation, especially when they don’t understand your business,” said Roseman. “Flourish took the time to understand it through and through and was entirely aligned. That makes for the best long-term partnership.”

While it’s a cliche, it remains true that investors often place bets based on a team and not an idea or a product. But what exactly makes a great team or founder? According to Shaw, it’s about vision and passion.

“In Adam’s case, he has a direction connection to what Steady is trying to do,” said Shaw. “That makes a huge difference in terms of commitment because you have ups and downs. They bring experience in terms of understanding the space, how to penetrate and scale and a deep understanding of fintech.”

#adam-roseman, #ec-fintech, #ec-how-to, #ecl, #emmalyn-shaw, #extra-crunch-live, #flourish-ventures, #jordan-crook, #pitch-deck, #steady, #tc, #websites

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Microsoft is seeing a big spike in Web shell use

Microsoft is seeing a big spike in Web shell use

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Security personnel at Microsoft are seeing a big increase in the use of Web shells, the light-weight programs that hackers install so they can burrow further into compromised websites.

The average number of Web shells installed from August, 2020 to January of this year was 144,000, almost twice that for the same months in 2019 and 2020. The spike represents an acceleration in growth that the same Microsoft researchers saw throughout last year.

(credit: Microsoft)

A Swiss Army knife for hackers

The growth is a sign of just how useful and hard to detect these simple programs can be. A Web shell is an interface that allows hackers to execute standard commands on Web servers once the servers have been compromised. Web shells are built using Web-based programming languages such as PHP, JSP, or ASP. The command interfaces work much the way browsers do.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biz-it, #compromise, #hacking, #tech, #web-shell, #websites

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Reddit raises $250 million in Series E funding

Reddit has raised a new funding round, totalling $250 million. This is the company’s Series E round of financing, and it comes hot on the heels of renewed public attention on the site that has dubbed itself ‘the front page of the Internet,’ owing to the role the subreddit r/WallStreetBets played in the recent meteoric rise (and subsequent steep fall) of the value of GameStop stock. Reddit also ran a 5-second Super Bowl ad on Sunday, consisting of. a single static image that looked like a standard post on the network itself.

This is Reddit’s 16th year of operation, and the company has raised around $800 million to date, including a Tencent-led $300 million Series D in February, 2019. Today’s round including financing from “existing and new investors,” Reddit noted in a blog post in which it announced the funding. In the post, Reddit notes that the company felt “now was the right opportunity to make strategic investments in Reddit including video, advertising, consumer products and expanding into international markets.”

Reddit’s 5-second Super Bowl ad.

It’s unclear how the round came together exactly, but given the network’s time in the spotlight over the past few weeks, culminating in yesterday’s very brief, but also very memorable and high-profile ad, it seems likely it was at least finalized fast in order to help the company make the most of its time in the spotlight. In terms of what kind of specific moves Reddit could make with its new cash on hand, the blog post also namecheck its acquisition late last year of short video sharing platform Dubsmash, and announced plans to double its team over the course of this year with new hires.

Reddit’s long history has also included some significant tumult, and efforts to clean up its act in order to present a better face to advertisers, and to potential new community members. The network still struggles with balancing its commitments to fostering a home for a range of communities with the potential for hate speech and discrimination to take root within some of these, and it was also in the news earlier this year for finally banning controversial subreddit r/donaldtrump following “repeat´d policy violations” surrounding the attempted insurrection a the U.S. Capitol by a mob of domestic terrorists.

 

#apps, #consumer-products, #dubsmash, #funding, #gamestop, #like-button, #recent-funding, #reddit, #robinhood, #short-selling, #social, #software, #startups, #super-bowl, #tc, #websites, #wikis, #world-wide-web

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Google now gives you more information about the sites in your search results

Google regularly tweaks its search results pages and tries out new designs. It’s not that often, though, that it adds new features to those results, so when it does, it’s worth paying attention to.

Today, Google is adding a new menu item to virtually all search results in English in the U.S. on mobile, desktop and its Android Google app. This new link will provide searchers with more information about the site they are about to visit — and before they click on the actual link.

Clicking the new hamburger-style menu icon will pop up a new info panel with additional information about the site. These include a short description of what the site is about — taken from Wikipedia when available– and some data about whether the connection to the site is secure.

Image Credits: Google

For sites without a Wikipedia entry, Google will show when it first indexed the site and other data if it’s available.

There’s also a full link and a short line about whether it’s a native search result or an ad (which seems like a tacit admission that it’s too hard to distinguish ads from regular search results on Google). At the bottom of the pane, there are also links to your privacy settings and to an explainer about ‘how search works.’

Image Credits: Google

“When you search for information on Google, you probably often come across results from sources that you’re familiar with: major retailer websites, national news sites and more,” Google product manager JK Kearns writes in today’s announcement. “But there’s also a ton of great information on and services available from sites that you may not have come across before. And while you can always use Google to do some additional research about those sites, we’re working on a new way for you to find helpful info without having to do another search.”

This new feature will start rolling out today and as usual, it may take a while before you see it in your own search results.

Image Credits: Google

 

 

#android, #google, #google-search, #search, #search-engine, #search-results, #tc, #united-states, #websites

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Roblox raises at $29.5 billion valuation, readies for direct listing

Roblox is now one of the world’s most valuable private companies in the world after a monster Series H raise brings the social gaming platform a stratospheric $29.5 billion valuation. The company won’t be private for long, though.

The $520 million raise led by Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group is a significant cash influx for Roblox, which had previously raised just over $335 million from investors according to Crunchbase. The Investment Group of Santa Barbara, Warner Music Group, and a number of current investors, also participated in this round.

In February of 2020, the company closed a $150 million Series G led by Andreessen Horowitz which valued the company at $4 billion.

The gaming startup has initially planned an IPO in 2020, but after the major first day pops of DoorDash and Airbnb, the company leadership reconsidered their timeline, according to a report in Axios. Those major say-one share price pops left significant money on the table for the companies selling those shares, an outcome Roblox is likely looking to avoid. Today, the company also announced that it plans to enter the public markets via a direct listing.

Roblox’s 7x valuation multiple signals just how feverish public and private markets are for tech stocks. The valuation also highlights how investors foresee the company benefiting from pandemic trends which pushed more users online and towards social gaming platforms. In a 2019 prospectus, the company shared that it had 17.6 million users, now Roblox claims to have 31 million daily active users on its platform.

#airbnb, #altimeter-capital, #andreessen-horowitz, #computing, #crunchbase, #doordash, #dragoneer-investment-group, #gaming, #online-games, #roblox, #tc, #valuation, #video-gaming, #warner-music-group, #websites

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Uber officially completes Postmates acquisition

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

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

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

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

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

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Microsoft brings new shopping tools to its Edge browser

Microsoft announced a few updates to its Edge browser today that are all about shopping. In addition to expanding the price comparison feature the team announced last month, Edge can now also automatically find coupons for you. In addition, the company is launching a new shopping hub in its Bing search engine. The timing here is undoubtedly driven by the holiday shopping season — though this year, it feels like Black Friday-style deals already started weeks ago.

Image Credits: Microsoft

The potential usefulness of the price comparison tools is pretty obvious. I’ve found this always worked reasonably well in Edge Collections — though at times it could also be a frustrating experience because it just wouldn’t pull any data for items you saved from some sites. Now, with this price comparison running in the background all the time, you’ll see a new badge pop up in the URL bar that lets you open up the price comparison. And when you already found the best price, it’ll tell you that right away, too.

At least in the Edge Canary where this has been available for a little bit already, this was also hit and miss. It seems to work just fine when you shop on Amazon, for example, as long as there’s only one SKU of an item. If there are different colors, sizes or other options available, it doesn’t really seem to kick in, which is a bit frustrating.

Image Credits: Microsoft

The coupons feature, too, is a bit of a disappointment. It works more consistently and seems to pull data from most of the standard coupon sites (think RetailMeNot and Slickdeals), but all it does is show sitewide coupons. Since most coupons only apply to a limited set of items, clicking on the coupon badge quickly feels like a waste of time. To be fair, the team implemented a nifty feature where at checkout, Bing will try to apply all of the coupons it found. That could be a potential time- and money-saver. Given the close cooperation with the Bing team in other areas, this feels like an area of improvement, though. I turned it off.

Microsoft is also using today’s announcement to launch a new URL shortener in Edge. “Now, when you paste a link that you copied from the address bar, it will automatically convert from a long, nonsensical URL address to a short hyperlink with the website title. If you prefer the full URL, you can convert to plain text using the context menu,” Microsoft explains. I guess that makes sense in some scenarios. Most of the time, though, I just want the link (and no third-party in-between), so I hope this can easily be turned off, too.

#business, #coupon, #mass-media, #microsoft, #microsoft-bing, #retailmenot, #search-engine, #tc, #websites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fragomen, a law firm used by Google, confirms data breach

Immigration law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy has confirmed a data breach involving the personal information of current and former Google employees.

The New York-based law firm provides companies with employment verification screening services to determine if employees are eligible and authorized to work in the United States.

Every company operating in the United States is required to maintain a Form I-9 file on every employee to ensure that they are legally allowed to work and not subject to more restrictive immigration rules. But Form I-9 files can contain a ton of sensitive information, including government documents like passports, ID cards and driver’s licenses, and other personally identifiable data, making them a target for hackers and identity thieves.

But the law firm said it discovered last month that an unauthorized third-party accessed a file containing personal information on a “limited number” of current and former Google employees.

In a notice with the California attorney general’s office, Fragomen did not say what kind of data was accessed or how many Google employees were affected. Companies with more than 500 California residents affected by a breach are required to submit a notice with the state’s attorney general’s office.

Michael McNamara, a spokesperson for Fragomen, declined to say how many Google employees were affected by the breach.

A spokesperson for Google did not respond to a request for comment.

#attorney-general, #california, #data-breach, #google, #immigration-law, #security, #websites

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Gowalla is being resurrected as an augmented reality social app

Gowalla is coming back.

The startup, which longtime TechCrunch readers will likely recall, was an ambitious consumer social app that excited Silicon Valley investors but ultimately floundered in its quest to take on Foursquare before an eventual $3 million acquihire in 2011 brought the company’s talent to Facebook.

The story certainly seemed destined to end there, but founder Josh Williams tells TechCrunch that he has decided to revive the Gowalla name and build on its ultimate vision by leaning on augmented reality tech.

“I really don’t think [Gowalla’s vision] has been fully realized at all, which is why I still want to scratch this itch,” Williams tells TechCrunch. “It was frankly really difficult to see it shut down.”

After a stint at Facebook, another venture-backed startup and a few other gigs, Williams has reacquired the Gowalla name, and is resurrecting the company with the guidance of co-founder Patrick Piemonte, a former Apple interface designer who previously founded an AR startup called Mirage. The new company was incubated inside Form Capital, a small design-centric VC fund operated by Williams and Bobby Goodlatte .

Founders Patrick Piemonte (left) and Josh Williams (right). Image credit: Josh Williams.

Williams hopes that AR can bring the Gowalla brand new life.

Despite significant investment from Facebook, Apple and Google, augmented reality is still seen as a bit of a gamble with many proponents estimating mass adoption to be several years out. Apple’s ARKit developer platform has yielded few wins despite hefty investment and Pokémon Go — the space’s sole consumer smash hit — is growing old.

“The biggest AR experience out there is Pokémon Go, and it’s now over six years old,” Williams says. “It’s moved the space forward a lot but is still very early in terms of what we’re going to see.”

Williams was cryptic when it came to details for what exactly the new augmented reality platform would look like when it launches. He did specify that it will feel more like a gamified social app than a social game, though he also lists the Nintendo franchise Animal Crossing as one of the platform’s foundational inspirations.

A glimpse of the branding for the new Gowalla. Image credit: Josh Williams

“It’s not a game with bosses or missions or levels, but rather something that you can experience,” Williams says. “How do you blend augmented reality and location? How do you see the world through somebody else’s eyes?”

A location-based social platform will likely rely on users actually going places, and the pandemic has largely dictated the app’s launch timing. Today, Gowalla is launching a waitlist, Williams says the app itself will launch in beta “in a number of cities” sometime in the first-half of next year. The team is also trying something unique with a smaller paid beta group called the “Street Team,” which will give users paying a flat $49 fee early access to Gowalla as well as “VIP membership,” membership to a private Discord group and some branded swag. A dedicated Street Team app will also launch in December.

#apple, #arkit, #augmented-reality, #bobby-goodlatte, #co-founder, #facebook, #foursquare, #google, #gowalla, #josh-williams, #mirage, #nintendo, #operating-systems, #software, #tc, #techcrunch, #websites

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Google launches a slew of Search updates

Google today announced a number of improvements to its core search engine, with a strong focus on how the company is using AI to help its users. These include the ability to better answer questions with very specific answers, very broad questions and a new algorithm to better handle the typos in your queries. The company also announced updates to Google Lens and other Search-related tools. Most of these are meant to be useful but some are also just fun. You will now be able to hum a song and the Google Assistant will try to find the right song for you, for example.

As Google noted, 1 in 10 search queries is misspelled. The company already does a pretty good job dealing with those through its ‘did you mean’ feature. Now, the company is launching an improvement to this algorithm that uses a deep neural net with 680 million parameters to better understand the context of your search query.

Image Credits: Google

Another nifty new feature is an integration with various data sources, which were previously only available as part of Google’s Open Data Commons, into Search. Now, if you ask questions about something like “employment in Chicago,” Google’s Knowledge Graph will trigger and show you graphs with this data right on the Search results page.

Image Credits: Google

Another update the company announced today in its systems ability to index parts of pages to better answer niche queries like “how do I determine if my windows have UV glass?” The system can now point you right to a paragraph on a DIY forum. In total, this new system will improve about 7% of queries, Google said.

For broader questions, Google is now also using its AI system to better understand the nuances of what a page is about to better answer these queries.

Image Credits: Google

These days, a lot of content can be found in videos, too. Google is now using advanced computer recognition and speech recognition to tag key moments in videos — that’s something you can already find in Search these days, but this new algorithm should make that even easier, especially for videos where the creators haven’t already tagged the content.

Other updates include an update to Google Lens that lets you ask the app to read out a passage from a photo of a book — no matter the language. Lens can now also understand math formulas — and then show you step-by-step guides and videos to solve it. This doesn’t just work for math, but also chemistry, biology and physics.

Image Credits: Google

Given that the holiday shopping season is coming up, it’s maybe no surprise that Google also launched a number of updates to its shopping services. Specifically, the company is launching a new feature in Chrome and the Google App where you can now long-tap on any image and then find related products. And for the fashion-challenged, the service will also show you related items that tend to show up in related images.

If you’re shopping for a car, you will now also be able to get an AR view of them so you can see what they look like in your driveway.

Image Credits: Google

In Google Maps, you will now also be able to point at a restaurant or other local business when you are using the AR walking directions to see their opening hours, for example.

Another new Maps feature is that Google will now also show live busyness information right on the map, so you don’t have to specifically search for a place to see how busy it currently is. That’s a useful feature in 2020.

Image Credits: Google

During the event (or really, video premiere, because this is 2020), which was set to the most calming of music, Google’s head of search, Prabhakar Raghavan, also noted that its 2019 BERT update to the natural language understanding part of its Search system is now used for almost every query and available in more languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Arabic, German and Amharic. That’s part of the more than 3,600 updates the company made to its search product in 2019.

All of these announcements are happening against the backdrop of various governments looking into Google’s business practices, so it’s probably no surprise that the event also put an emphasis on Google’s privacy practices and that Raghavan regularly talked about “open access” and that Google Search is free for everyone and everywhere, with ranking policies applied “fairly” to all websites. I’m sure Yelp and other Google competitors wouldn’t quite agree with this last assertion.

#artificial-intelligence, #computing, #google, #google-search, #prabhakar-raghavan, #search-engine, #speech-recognition, #tc, #websites, #world-wide-web, #yelp

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Shogun raises $35M to help brands take on Amazon with faster and better sites of their own

E-commerce has boomed this year, with more businesses and shoppers than ever before turning to websites and apps as a safer, socially distanced alternative during the current global health pandemic. Today, a startup that has built a platform to help individual companies and brands design better websites is announcing a round of growth funding to help them step up to that challenge with faster and better designed interfaces.

Shogun, which lets companies build sites that sit on top of e-commerce back-ends like Shopify, Big Commerce or Magento to let them sell goods and services is today announcing that it has raised $35 million in funding after seeing its business growth 182% over the last year, with 15,000 companies — including Leesa, MVMT, Timbuk2 and Chubbies, as well as household Fortune 500 brands that it declines to name — now using Shogun’s tools, up 5,000 in the last eight months.

Finbarr Taylor, the CEO who co-founded the company with Nick Raushenbush, said that the startup plans to use the company to continue enhancing its two main products — Page Builder for bigger companies and agencies; and frontend, a headless commerce solution for smaller businesses — and to help improve its market strategy.

To date, much of the company’s growth has been organic, with a marketing team of two, and also only two sales people. “So it will be about scaling up those teams as well as our engineer and design and product teams, to deliver on the promises we made to our customers.”

The Series B is being led by Accel with participation from Initialized Capital, VMG Partners, and Y Combinator, and it also has a number of high-profile individuals in the round that speak to Shogun’s credibility in the worlds of e-commerce and web design, including Bryant Chou (CTO at Webflow), Mark Lavelle and Mark Lenhard (former CEO and SVP of Strategy at Magento, respectively), Alex O’Byrne (CEO of We Make Websites, a leading Shopify agency), Brian Grady (CEO of Gorilla Group, a leading Magento agency), and Romain Lapeyre (CEO of Gorgias).

Growth is one marker of how hot the market is for what Shogun is offering — in addition to Shogun’s own expanding list of users, it’s estimated by the company that there has been some $94 billion in extra sales online (beyond original projections, that is) since March globally — and another is the funding itself.

This the second round that the startup has raised in the short span of eight months: Shogun closed a $10 million Series A in February of this year led by Initialized (with participation also from YC and VMG).

And a third marker is the valuation. Taylor said that the company is valued in the “solid nine figures” but declined to say where in the regions of hundreds of millions of dollars that might be. For some context, the company was valued at $50 million in February, according to data from PitchBook.

Shogun’s news comes at a key moment in the world of e-commerce not just in terms of the wider macroeconomic trends, but in terms of who is making the wheels move. Amazon and other marketplaces have come to dominate how a lot of people are shopping online: after all, they offer one-stop shops for whatever you might want or need, free shipping, and a familiar interface. Similarly, social media platforms have made a play as a new kind of “store” of sorts, a place where brands already are interacting with would-be customers, and are now being given the tools to sell to them there as well.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story: brands and companies want to have their own space to present things how they want them to look, to better control the customer experience, and to make sure that they are not beholden to a third party (both physically and financially) for their online survival.

Yes, some consumers might only care about where they can get what they want for the cheapest price, but others know exactly what they want, or feel loyal to a specific company, and want to shop there without the rest of the noise, and there will always be a business opportunity in building stores for them, too.

And the predictability of the interface of a marketplace like Amazon, or a “shoppable” photo on Instagram, belies how frustratingly oblique it can also be at times. I don’t want to see 15 different Danish whisks at slightly different prices; I just want one that will arrive in one piece and not break after a month of use, leading me down a rabbit hole trying to find someone to provide a refund. Similarly, I may want to buy from a brand, but perhaps not the particular item that they’re serving me in a Story.

Shogun’s proposition to the companies it works with is to give them more choice and better speed after they have already made the decision to build their own “real estate” online using backends like Shopify’s.

The opportunity is that, even if an e-commerce business is seen as a “tech” play, that is not often its core competency.

“Merchants large and small are getting sick of maintaining their own tech stacks,” said Ethan Choi, a partner at Accel. While the platforms are getting ever more sophisticated by moving into areas like shipping and logistics alongside payments and inventory ordering and so on, they have yet to extend into web design. “Shopify only has like 15 templates,” he said. “There is no design control and you look like 1 of one million other sites.” At the same time, if you have the funds and energy to build a custom site, he added, “that is expensive and it can take a whole day to change just a piece of text.”

The speed is an issue that Shogun has identified and fixed in another way: Taylor says that with site speed being the most important aspect of converting a browser to a buyer, it’s providing the fastest page loading times to customers.

As with so many startup stories, Taylor and Raushenbush nearly stumbled on their gap in the market by accident. The pair were working at Y Combinator — Taylor, an engineer originally from Glasgow in Scotland, had been devising tools for YC to help it manage the huge inbound volume of applications it was receiving for its incubator. (Sidenote: one offshoot of that was the Startup School that the company created to better address working with startups on a more regional level: Taylor built that.)

As a side project, he and Nick had come up with a page builder based on Ruby on Rails. It wasn’t getting much traction, but a friend of Nick’s, who worked for an e-commerce agency, said that if the two could tweak it for building e-commerce pages specifically, his agency would use it and even pay them. “So we did,” he said. That eventually took off with more customers and more use, prompting them to eventually move to the other side of the organization, becoming part of a YC cohort and eventually striking out on their own.

Looking ahead, one particular focus for Shogun, Taylor said, will be to build more tools to improve mobile commerce — notable for typically accounting for 80% of all e-commerce browsing but only some 20% of sales.

#design, #ecommerce, #recent-funding, #shogun, #startups, #tc, #websites

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Boom! Hacked page on mobile phone website is stealing customers’ card data

A cartoon depicts a thief emerged from one computer and reaching onto the screen of another.

Enlarge / Computer hacker character stealing money online. Vector flat cartoon illustration (credit: GettyImages)

If you’re in the market for a new mobile phone plan, it’s best to avoid turning to Boom! Mobile. That is, unless you don’t mind your sensitive payment card data being sent to criminals in an attack that remained ongoing in the last few hours.

According to researchers from security firm Malwarebytes, Boom! Mobile’s boom.us website is infected with a malicious script that skims payment card data and sends it to a server under the control of a criminal group researchers have dubbed Fullz House. The malicious script is called by a single line that comprises mostly nonsense characters when viewed with the human eye.

(credit: Malwarebytes)

When decoded from Base64 format, the line translates to: paypal-debit[.]com/cdn/ga.js. The JavaScript code ga.js masquerades as a Google Analytics script at one of the many fraudulent domains operated by Fullz House members.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biz-it, #ecommerce, #payment-cards, #skimmers, #websites

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Google Meet and other Google services go down (Updated)

Google’s engineers aren’t having a good day today. This afternoon, a number of Google services went offline or are barely reachable. These services include Google Meet, Drive, Docs, Analytics, Classroom and Calendar, for example.

While Google’s own status dashboards don’t show any issues, we’re seeing reports from around the world from people who aren’t able to reach any of these services. Best we can tell, these issues started around 6pm PT.

It’s unusual for this number of Google services to go down at once. Usually, it’s only a single service that is affected. This time around, however, it’s clearly a far broader issue.

We’ve reached out to Google and will update this post once we hear more about what happened.

Update (6:30pm PT): and we’re back. It looks like most Google services are now recovering.

 

#analytics, #calendar, #classroom, #companies, #docs, #drive, #gmail, #google, #google-meet, #san-francisco-bay-area, #tc, #websites, #x

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After early-COVID layoffs, Hipcamp is buying competition, hiring

When shelter-in-place was first announced in the United States, most companies in the travel space saw bookings drop. Some shuttered. Hipcamp, a San Francisco-based startup that provides private land for people who want to go glamping or camping, found itself in a similar spot. (even though its entire sell is about getting you away from crowds).

“Bookings took a precipitous drop as people sheltered-in-place, and we actually encouraged people to cancel,” founder Alyssa Ravasio said in an interview. The startup conducted a round of layoffs back in April, citing ‘economic uncertainties.’ One employee tells TechCrunch that 60% of the company was laid off in two weeks. Hipcamp did not comment directly on the number of layoffs.

Months later, Hipcamp is in a far better spot. When stay-at-home orders lifted, bookings spiked with people eager to get outside, which the CDC says is a safer activity than being inside a place with less ventilation. Ravasio says that Hipcamp has even brought back some employees it originally laid off. The startup is currently hiring.

Off this new momentum, Hipcamp today announced that it has acquired Australia-based landsharing startup Youcamp, marking its first expansion into an international market. With the new business, Hipcamp will acquire Youcamp’s existing 50,000 listings, bringing its total to 420,000 listings.

Hipcamp declined to disclose the financials of the deal at this time.

Youcamp, founded by James Woodford, was born in New South Wales in 2013. Similar to Hipcamp, Youcamp worked to draw urban-based adults to the great outdoors. For its 7 years as an independent company, Youcamp racked up listings by working directly with private landowners.

Ravasio says she made her first big international bet in Australia partly because of revenue predictability.

“Expanding to the Southern Hemisphere also helps us account for natural seasonality with outdoor recreation. Between the US and Australia, it’s an endless summer,” the founder said.

The entire team at Youcamp will join Hipcamp, adding five to Hipcamp’s staff, bringing its employee base to a total of 35

Along with the acquisition announcement, Hipcamp shared that it is officially launching in Canada . The startup already had a number of Canadian hosts, but it will now increase the total by partnering directly with private landowners.

The company declined to share profitability or growth statistics, but instead pointing to aggregate usage numbers as some sort of cumulative revenue parallel. To date, Hipcamp has helped people spend 2.5 million nights outside across 6,000 hosts in the United States. Australia, and Canada.

In July 2019, Hipcamp got a tranche of new capital from investors, including but not limited to Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark, Slow Ventures, Marcy Ventures (co-founded by Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z) and Dreamers Fund (co-founded by Will Smith). The round valued the startup at $127 million.

Hipcamp, which has been dubbed by the New Yorker the ‘Airbnb of the outdoors’, is more optimistic than it was in March, as shown by this appetite for acquisition. The progress mirrors what we’re seeing out of the actual Airbnb, which has found bookings increasing year over year as people look to stay at properties for local holidays.

#airbnb, #alyssa-ravasio, #andreessen-horowitz, #australia, #canada, #economy, #hipcamp, #san-francisco, #sharing-economy, #shawn-carter, #slow-ventures, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #travel, #united-states, #vacation-rental, #websites, #will-smith

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Google’s grammar suggestions in Docs are now available in Spanish

If you regularly write in Spanish, you’ll be happy to hear that Google today announced that its neural network-powered grammar suggestions in its Docs online text editor are now available in Spanish, too. Just like with grammar suggestions for English, though, this feature will only be available for G Suite customers for now — but if you are a G Suite customer, it should be available now. Google says it plans to extend this feature to consumers and educational organizations in the future.

In addition, Google also today announced that Smart Compose, which tries to finish sentences for you, and spelling autocorrect will also come to Docs in Spanish later this year. Google also tells me that grammar suggestions for Spanish will soon come to Gmail as well, where support for English is already available today.

Google introduced its grammar suggestions for English last February (and it first announced it at Google Cloud Next in the middle of 2018). And while Docs had a grammar checker before, this new tool now uses an interesting machine learning approach based on the company’s experience in doing machine translations. That also means Google has to train a new neural network for every new language it supports.

We’ll likely see the company introduce additional languages in the not too distant future, but for now, English and Spanish are the only ones currently supported in Docs.

One nice feature here is that Google’s tool automatically knows what language you are writing in, so there’s no need to manually switch back and forth.

With Google, Microsoft and Grammarly now offering next-generation spell-checking and grammar tools, we’re seeing a lot more competition in this space than even a few months ago. Microsoft and Grammarly are taking a bit of a different approach, though, with extensions that work across applications (though Microsoft Editor only supports text fields across a select number of web apps so far). Microsoft Editor, it’s worth noting, also supports more than 20 languages in Word. All of them, though, only make their most advanced tools available to paying customers for the time being. Those neural networks don’t run themselves, after all.

#artificial-intelligence, #cloud-applications, #g-suite, #gmail, #google, #google-search, #machine-learning, #neural-network, #tc, #websites, #world-wide-web

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72 hours left to apply to Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020

Want to launch your early-stage startup in front of the largest Disrupt audience in history? The opportunity clock is ticking, and you have just 72 hours left for a chance to compete head-to-head against top startups from around the world at Disrupt 2020. Beat the deadline — apply to compete in Startup Battlefield before June 19 at 11:59 pm (PT).

This Startup Battlefield may be virtual, but there’s nothing virtual about the benefits to your startup. Exposure to a huge global audience means more investors, more media, more opportunity of every size and stripe. Then there’s the not-so-small matter of the $100,000 cash prize. Imagine what that could do for your bottom line. And let’s not forget the coveted Disrupt Cup and serious bragging rights. Those count, too.

Here’s how the virtual Startup Battlefield works. Applying to and competing in the Battlefield is free, and TechCrunch takes no equity. You’re eligible to apply if you can jump through these small hoops.

  • Your company is early stage
  • It has an MVP with a tech component (software, hardware or platform)
  • Your company has received minimal major media coverage

Every application we receive is thoroughly screened by the TechCrunch editorial team. They’re looking for creativity and game-changing potential, and they take the process Very. Seriously. The startups they select — typically between 15 and 20 — will compete virtually during Disrupt 2020, which runs from Sept. 14 – 18.

You never enter a battle arena without proper training, and all competing teams will have weeks of free coaching from the TechCrunch editorial team. It’s intense, but you’ll come out of the experience with a finely tuned demo, a boffo business model and killer presentation skills.

During round one, each Battlefield team gets six-minutes to pitch to a panel of judges (think top VCs and technologists). All that coaching comes in handy when, after your pitch, the judges grill you for another six minutes.

The judges then choose a handful of teams to move into the final round. On the last day of the virtual conference, the finalists pitch again to an entirely new set of judges. When the dust settles, only one outstanding startup will claim the title, the Disrupt Cup and $100,000.

Here’s the thing about Startup Battlefield. There may be only one champ, but every competing team receives massive world-wide exposure, tons of media and investor interest and a huge opportunity to take their business to the next level — even in these challenging times.

Want more perks? Buckle up.

Startup Battlefield competitors also get to exhibit in Digital Startup Alley, and they receive a bevy of benefits.

  • CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to set up virtual 1:1 meetings with investors, media or potential customers
  • Leading Voices Webinars: Hear top industry minds share their strategies for adapting and thriving during and after the pandemic. Startup Alley exhibitors get exclusive access to this webinar series.
  • A launch article posted on TechCrunch.com
  • A YouTube video promoted on TechCrunch.com
  • Free subscription to Extra Crunch.Free passes to future TechCrunch events

Competitors also join the ranks of the Startup Battlefield Alumni — this impressive group has collectively raised $9 billion and generated 115 exits. We’re talking companies like Vurb, Dropbox, GetAround, Mint, Yammer, Fitbit and many more. Talk about prime networking.

The deadline expires on June 19 at 11:59 pm (PT). You have just 72 hours left to apply to compete in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020. Don’t delay. Jump into the arena and grab this opportunity for all it’s worth.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #crunchmatch, #disrupt-2020, #dropbox, #economy, #fitbit, #getaround, #startup-battlefield-at-disrupt-sf-2020, #startup-company, #startups, #techcrunch, #verizon-media, #vurb, #websites, #yammer

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Founders: Land a video interview with TC

Looking for a way to get your early-stage startup the massive attention it deserves? Look no further. TechCrunch is highlighting over 30 companies at Disrupt SF. Selected companies will get a video interview with TC editorial that will be shared with the masses. One of the best ways to get in front of thousands of influencers is by exhibiting in Startup Alley during Disrupt 2020. An even better way is to exhibit for free. Take the first step and apply to be a TC Top Pick.

Applying is easy, but earning the TC Top Pick designation — well, not so much. Discerning TechCrunch editors scour every application searching for creative, potential-laden startups that spark the imagination. Each startup that joins the ranks of the TC Top Picks wins an interview on TechCrunch and a free Digital Startup Alley Package. That’s where the massive exposure comes into play. Everyone — investors, tech media, founders, devs, engineers, R&D folks and more — wants to meet and greet those who made the grade.

Ready to take your shot? Here’s what you need to know. You’re eligible to apply if your pre-Series A startup falls into one of the following categories:

Social Impact + Education, Space, Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning, Biotech + Healthtech, Enterprise + SaaS, Fintech, Mobility, Retail + E-commerce, Robotics, Hardware + IOT, and Security + Privacy.

TechCrunch editors will choose up to three startups in each category. Note the phrase “up to three.” They won’t fill the bucket without ample cause. What do you get with a Digital Startup Package? Plenty. For starters, it lets three people from your company exhibit from anywhere — remember, virtual Disrupt 2020 is a global event with a global audience. That’s huge.

You’ll demo like crazy — scheduling 1:1 video meetings with the previously mentioned masses — investors, media, potential customers, collaborators and the list goes on. Here’s more good news. You’ll have CrunchMatch, our AI-powered networking platform, to help make your networking easier and more efficient. The platform opens weeks ahead of Disrupt, giving you even more time to find and connect with people who can move your business forward.

Thanks to this next perk, the exposure you get as a TC Top Pick will stretch far beyond Disrupt. TechCrunch editors will create a video interview for each Top Pick startup and promote the videos across its social media platforms. It’s a long-term marketing tool you can use to pitch potential investors and clients.

Does your early-stage startup deserve massive attention? Take advantage of this massive opportunity to keep your startup on track and moving forward. Apply to be a TC Top Pick today.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #crunchmatch, #disrupt-2020, #diversity, #e-commerce, #early-stage, #economy, #founders, #healthtech, #machine-learning, #social-media-platforms, #startup-company, #startups, #tc-top-picks, #tech-media, #techcrunch, #verizon-media, #websites

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Twitter, Reddit challenge US rules forcing visa applicants to disclose their social media handles

Twitter and Reddit have filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging a U.S. government rule change compelling visa applicants to disclose their social media handles.

The lawsuit, brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Brennan Center for Justice, and law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, seeks to undo both the State Department’s requirement that visa applicants must disclose their social media handles prior to obtaining a U.S. visa, as well as related rules over the retention and dissemination of those records.

Last year, the State Department began asking visa applicants for their current and former social media usernames, a move that affects millions non-citizens applying to travel to the United States each year. The rule change was part of the Trump administration’s effort to expand its “enhanced” screening protocols. At the time, it was reported that the information would be used if the State Department determines that “such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting.”

In a filing supporting the lawsuit, both Twitter and Reddit said the social media policies “unquestionably chill a vast quantity of speech” and that the rules violate the First Amendment rights “to speak anonymously and associate privately.”

Twitter and Reddit, which collectively have more than 560 million users, said their users — many of which don’t use their real names on their platforms — are forced to “surrender their anonymity in order to travel to the United States,” which “violates the First Amendment rights to speak anonymously and associate privately.”

“Twitter and Reddit vigorously guard the right to speak anonymously for people on their platforms, and anonymous individuals correspondingly communicate on these platforms with the expectation that their identities will not be revealed without a specific showing of compelling need,” the brief said.

“That expectation allows the free exchange of ideas to flourish on these platforms.”

Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Twitter’s policy chief for the Americas, said the social media rule “infringes both of those rights and we are proud to lend our support on these critical legal issues.” Reddit’s general counsel Ben Lee called the rule a “intrusive overreach” by the government.

It’s not known how many, if any, visa applicants have been denied a visa because of their social media content. But since the social media rule went into effect, cases emerged of approved visa holders denied entry to the U.S. for other people’s social media postings. Ismail Ajjawi, a then 17-year-old freshman at Harvard University, was turned away at Boston Logan International Airport after U.S. border officials searched his phone after taking issue with social media postings of Ajjawi’s friends — and not his own.

Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, told TechCrunch at the time that Ajjawi’s case was not isolated. A week later, TechCrunch learned of another man who was denied entry to the U.S. because of a WhatsApp message sent by a distant acquaintance.

A spokesperson for the State Department did not immediately comment on news of the amicus brief.

#columbia-university, #crowdsourcing, #digital-media, #government, #policy, #privacy, #reddit, #security, #social-media, #spokesperson, #trump-administration, #twitter, #u-s-government, #united-states, #websites, #wikis, #world-wide-web

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Carry1st has $4M to invest in African mobile gaming

Gaming development startup Carry1st has raised a $2.5 million seed round led by CRE Venture Capital .

That brings the company’s total VC to $4 million, which Carry1st will deploy to support and invest in game publishing across Africa.

The startup — with offices in New York, Lagos, and South Africa — was co-founded in 2018 by Sierra Leonean Cordel Robbin-Coker, American Lucy Parry, and Zimbabwean software engineer Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu.

Robbin-Coker and Parry met while working in investment banking in New York, before forming Carry1st.

“I convinced her to avoid going to business school and instead come to South Africa to Cape Town,” Robbin-Coker told TechCrunch on a call.

“We launched with the idea that we wanted to bring the gaming industry…to the African continent.”

Carry1st looks to match gaming demand in Africa to the continent’s fast growing youth population, improving internet penetration and rapid smartphone adoption.

The startup has already launched two games as direct downloads from its site, Carry1st Trivia and Hyper!.

“In April, [Carry1st Trivia] did pretty well. It was the number one game in Nigeria, and Kenya for most of the year and did about one and a half million downloads.” Robbin-Coker said.

Carry1st Africa

Image Credit: Carry1st

The startup will use a portion of its latest round and overall capital to bring more unique content onto its platform. “In order to do that, you need cash…to help a developer finish a game or entice a strong game to work with you,” said Robbin-Coker.

The company will also expand its distribution channels, such as partnerships with mobile operators and the Carry1st Brand Ambassador program — a network of sales agents who promote and sell games across the continent.

The company will also invest in the gaming market and itself.

“We want to dedicate at least a million dollars to actually going out and acquiring users and scaling our user base. And then, the final piece is really around the tech platform that we’re looking to build,” said Robbin-Coker.

That entails creating multiple channels and revenue points to develop, distribute, and invest in games on the continent, he explained.

Image Credits: Carry1st

Robbin-Coker compared the Carry1st’s strategy in Africa as something similar to Sea: an Asia regional mobile entertainment distribution platform — publicly traded and partially owned by Tencent — that incubated the popular Fornite game.

“We’re looking to be the number one regional publisher of [gaming] content in the region…the publisher of record and the app store,” said Robbin-Coker.

That entails developing and distributing not only games originating from the continent, but also serving as channel for gaming content from other continents coming into Africa.

That generates a consistent revenue stream for the startup, Robbin-Coker explained, but also creates opportunities for big creative wins.

“It’s a hits driven business. A single studio will work and toil in obscurity for a decade and then they’ll make Candy Crush. And then that would be worth $6 billion, very quickly,” Carry1st’s CEO said.

He and his team will use a portion of their $4 million in VC to invest in that potential gaming success story in Africa.

The company’s co-founder Lucy Parry directs aspirants to the company’s homepage. “There’s a big blue button that says ‘Pitch Your Game’ at the bottom of our website.”

#africa, #african-tech, #app-store, #asia, #carry1st, #ceo, #co-founder, #cre-venture-capital, #digital-media, #gaming, #internet-penetration, #investment-banking, #lagos, #new-york, #nigeria, #smartphone, #south-africa, #tc, #tencent, #websites, #world-wide-web

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Security lapse at India’s Jio exposed coronavirus symptom checker results

Since the start of the outbreak, governments and companies have scrambled to develop apps and websites that can help users identify COVID-19 symptoms.

India’s largest cell network Jio, a subsidiary of Reliance, launched its coronavirus self-test symptom checker in late March, just before the Indian government imposed a strict nationwide lockdown to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. The symptom checker allows anyone to check their symptoms from their phone or Jio’s website to see if they may have become infected with COVID-19.

But a security lapse exposed one of the symptom checker’s core databases to the internet without a password, TechCrunch has found.

Jio’s coronavirus symptom checker. One of its databases exposed users’ responses. (Image: TechCrunch)

Security researcher Anurag Sen found the database on May 1, just after it was first exposed, and informed TechCrunch to notify the company. Jio quickly pulled the system offline after TechCrunch made contact. It’s not known if anyone else accessed the database.

“We have taken immediate action,” said Jio spokesperson Tushar Pania. “The logging server was for monitoring performance of our website, intended for the limited purpose of people doing a self-check to see if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

The database contains millions of logs and records starting April 17 through to the time that the database was pulled offline. Although the server contained a running log of website errors and other system messages, it also ingested vast numbers of user-generated self-test data. Each self-test was logged in the database and included a record of who took the test — such as “self” or a relative, their age, and their gender.

The data also included the person’s user agent, a small snippet of information about the user’s browser version and the operating system, often used to load the website properly but can also be used to track a user’s online activity.

The database also contains individual records of those who signed up to create a profile, allowing users to update their symptoms over time. These records contained the answers to each question asked by the symptom checker, including what symptoms they are experiencing, who they have been in contact with, and what health conditions they may have.

Some of the records also contained the user’s precise location, but only if the user allowed the symptom checker access to their browser or phone’s location data.

We’ve posted a redacted portion of one of the records below.

A redacted portion of the exposed database. (Image: TechCrunch)

From one sample of data we obtained, we found thousands of users’ precise geolocation from across India. TechCrunch was able to identify people’s homes using the latitude and longitude records found in the database.

Most of the location data is clustered around major cities, like Mumbai and Pune. TechCrunch also found users in the United Kingdom and North America.

The exposure could not come at a more critical time for the Indian telecoms giant. Last week Facebook invested $5.7 billion for a near-10% stake in Jio’s Platforms, valuing the Reliance subsidiary at about $66 billion.

Jio did not answer our follow-up questions, and the company did not say if it will inform those who used the symptom tracker of the security lapse.

#coronavirus, #database, #digital-media, #government, #india, #north-america, #operating-system, #privacy, #security, #spokesperson, #websites

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JustEat Takeaway $7.6B merger approved, pair pick up $756M in new funding

On the heels of Amazon getting approval from the competition authority to proceed with an investment leading a $575 million round for food delivery startup Deliveroo in the UK, two of Deliveroo’s biggest rivals got their own £6.2 billion merger approved, and they have subsequently picked up an extra $756 million to come out fighting.

Today, the competition watchdog in the UK officially gave a nod to the merger, originally valued at $10 billion but more currently valued at £6.2 billion, between UK’s JustEat and the Netherlands’ Takeaway.com. And along with that, the merged company announced that it had raised €700 million ($756 million) in new outside funding in the form of new shares and convertible bonds.

JustEat and Takeaway had already been respectively trading on the London and Netherlands stock exchanges — on LSE as ‘JET’ and on AMS as ‘TKWY’ — and they said they would use the capital and convertible bond issue to pay down debts, business development and other corporate purposes and potential acquisitions in what remains a very fragmented and crowded market for food delivery in Europe and elsewhere, despite the rapid scaling we’re seeing among some of the biggest players.

Specifically the pair said in their announcement that they would use the money to “partially pay down revolving credit facilities currently utilised by both Just Eat and Takeaway.com, for general corporate purposes as well as to provide the Company with financial flexibility to act on strategic opportunities which may arise.”

The two also noted that the placement is conditional on the two getting successfully admitted to trade as a merged company. They’ve made the application for this and it is expected to become effective on April 27.

The Competition and Markets Authority, meanwhile, noted that its decision was influenced by the fact that Takeaway.com had not been active in the UK market and “we are satisfied that there are no competition concerns.”

“Millions of people in the UK use online food platforms for takeaways and, where a merger could raise competition concerns, we have a duty to rigorously investigate whether customers could lose out. In this case, we carefully considered whether Takeaway.com could have re-entered the UK market in future, giving people more choice,” it said. “It was important we investigated this properly, but after gathering additional evidence which indicates this deal will not reduce competition, it is also the right decision to now clear the merger.”

The moves cap of a turbulent nine months for the two companies, which announced their intention to merge last year to bulk up against pricey competition from Uber Eats, Deliveroo (which itself was getting a huge cash injection and support from the mighty Amazon) and more. After the two announced their intentions to come together, Prosus (the tech holdings of Naspers) also made a protracted, hostile bid for JustEat.

Online food delivery services have been a popular business in the world of tech: three-sided marketplaces bring together restaurants, consumers who would rather stay home but still want to eat restaurant food, and an army of delivery people who largely work as contractors to shuttle between the other two — but their growth has come at high costs.

Heavy competition between a number of firms, and the overall unit economics of on-demand services, have meant that all of them need large sums of cash to grow and often survive while they slowly inch towards profitability. (And those that cannot raise that cash often fall by the wayside or are swallowed up in larger consolidation plays for economy of scale.)

The big question is how the current climate is going to affect that general model. Stay-at-home orders have been a huge boost for businesses that cater to people making transactions virtually, or staying at home; and food delivery services check both of those boxes.

At least in the short term, that has spelled major opportunity for all of them, and the most optimistic believe that even if that outsized surge abates when some of our COVID-19 restrictions get relaxed, it will leave in its place a permanent shift among consumer and business behaviour.

For its part, the CMA noted that “millions” of people in the UK are using take-out services and that it is trying to be more flexible and efficient during COVID-19 to enable more services to people.

“During the COVID-19 outbreak, the CMA is working with businesses where it can to be flexible – for example, by recognising that there may be delays in providing the information it needs to conduct investigations,” it said. “However, it is also trying to complete investigations efficiently at this time, wherever possible, to provide businesses with certainty. In this case, the CMA was able to publish its final decision 26 days ahead of the statutory deadline.”

 

#amazon, #collaborative-consumption, #companies, #competition-and-markets-authority, #deliveroo, #ecommerce, #europe, #food, #food-and-drink, #food-delivery, #just-eat, #justeat, #london, #naspers, #netherlands, #on-demand-services, #online-food-ordering, #take-out, #takeaway-com, #tc, #tcuk, #uber, #united-kingdom, #websites

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