Category Archives: Uber

Postmates lines up another $100M ahead of IPO

Postmates, one of the earlier entrants to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, has raised an additional $100 million in equity funding at a $1.85 billion valuation, as first reported by Recode and confirmed to TechCrunch by Postmates. The round comes four months after the eight-year-old startup drove home a $300 million investment that finally knocked it into “unicorn” territory.

New investor BlackRock has joined the funding round alongside Tiger Global, which served as the lead investor of Postmates’ September financing. Led by co-founder and chief executive officer Bastian Lehmann, the company has garnered a total of $681 million in venture capital funding from investors, including Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital and Slow Ventures.

In line with several other tech unicorns, Postmates has begun prep for an initial public offering that could come this year, including tapping JPMorgan to advise the float. As Recode pointed out, the $100 million capital infusion was probably less of a necessary funding event but rather an opportunity for existing investors to liquidate stock ahead of an exit.

Postmates, which completes 3.5 million deliveries per month, reportedly expected to record $400 million in revenue in 2018 on food sales of $1.2 billion. The company has not confirmed that figure nor disclosed any other 2018 revenue numbers. The company currently operates in more than 500 cities, recently tacking on another 100 markets to reach an additional 50 million customers.

It will be interesting to see how Wall Street responds to a Postmates public listing. Though it was an early player in what has become an extremely crowded market, Postmates never emerged as the leader in food delivery. Now, with supergiants like Uber dominating via Uber Eats and SoftBank funneling loads of capital into Postmates competitor DoorDash, it shouldn’t count on an oversubscribed IPO.

Uber and Lyft apply for electric scooter permits in SF

Uber and Lyft have officially put their respective names into the electric scooter competition. Uber and Lyft are among the eleven companies that applied to operate an electric scooter sharing service within San Francisco city limits. The city, however, will only offer up to five companies permits to operate as part of a one-year test program.

Uber declined to comment but confirmed that it has applied for a permit via JUMP, the bike-share startup Uber acquired for about $200 million in April. Once Uber is cleared to operate electric scooters, the plan is to integrate them into the Uber app and continue fleshing out Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s vision for a full-fledged multi-modal transportation platform.

Lyft also confirmed to TechCrunch that the company applied for a permit, but declined to share any further details. Here’s the full list of companies that applied, via the SF Chronicle:

  1. Bird
  2. CycleHop
  3. JUMP via Uber
  4. Lime
  5. Lyft
  6. ofo
  7. Razor (yes, *that* Razor)
  8. Ridecell
  9. Scoot
  10.  Spin
  11.  USSCooter

San Francisco’s permit process came as a result of Bird, Lime and Spin deploying their electric scooters without permission in the city in March. As part of a new city law, which went into effect June 4, scooter companies are not able to operate their services in San Francisco without a permit. The SFMTA said it’s aiming to notify companies of their permit status by the end of June.

For more information about electric scooter regulation in San Francisco, be sure to check out my previous coverage.

These are the competitive pressures driving automakers to accelerate new tech adoption

The transformations that companies like Tesla, Uber and Lyft bring to the auto industry are changing more than just the ways car companies think about drivetrains and ownership, and its opening doors for new ways of thinking about the entire mobility industry.

That’s the word from some of Israel’s top investors from the stage at our TechCrunch Tel Aviv event.

Every aspect of the auto industry is being reshaped by technological innovation and it’s opening the traditionally closed supply chains that car makers have relied on for at least a century creating more opportunities for startup vendors in areas like sensors, software, services, and yes, even electrification.

For Michael Granoff, the founder of Maniv Mobility, Chemi Peres, the founder of PItango, and Yahal Zilka, the co-founder of Magma Venture Partners, there are at least four areas of opportunity for startups (especially startups hailing from Israel’s innovation nation) to penetrate the trillion dollar mobility market.

Artificial intelligence, new business models, electrification, and enabling sensor technologies are all areas where Israeli entrepreneurs have launched businesses, and they’re all technologies in high demand from established automakers and the upstarts that would challenge them.

“It’s not just automotive, but what Israel can bring to that,” says Zilka. “The big thing in automotive was the introduction of semiconductors. Over the next 15 to 20 years it’s going to be artificial intelligence.”

How those technologies come to market for mobility used to depend on an established supply chain, where tier 2 technology vendors would sell to tier 1 suppliers and then be integrated into the cars by the big brand original equipment manufacturers like Ford, GM, BMW, Daimler, Toyota, and the like.

Tesla’s entrance into the market and the competitive threats that Uber, Lyft, Gett and others pose to the entire automotive business model have pushed these companies to shake things up, making investments in technology for the automotive industry far more attractive.

“Only when your business is effected by the digital wave of internet and connectivity, only then do you start moving,” says Peres.

For Israel, that means a window has opened for enabling technologies like sensors, artificial intelligence, data processing, and new business models.

These new companies with names like Autofleet, otonomo, Innoviz Technologies, Oryx Vision, and Via are already establishing themselves as competitors or suppliers helping to transform the existing order. 

For Peres and the other investors, automakers should expect to see even more radical changes ahead as technologies push further transformations to industrial infrastructure, the urban environment and consumer demand.

“The old generation was that you create a production facility… [and] you create masses of products, but it’s going to be completely disrupted,” says Peres. “You’re going to have much less cars and cars are going to be much more sophisticated in their services.”

Cars, Peres says, are moving to the elevator pitch — where vehicles on streets are used like elevators in buildings. “It will eliminate ownership, reduce operational costs, reduce energy costs, and will be able to get a great service and save the over 1 million people that are killed every year and the 50 million people that are injured,” Peres says.

Those changes will impact more than just the auto industry. Manufacturing will be disrupted by additive manufacturing technologies, and, eventually, advancements in nanotechnology that will allow for self-assembling machines.

Eventually, these changes are going to force more action from regulators as they grapple with how to address the increasing demand that will come with cost depreciation, according to Granoff. 

“There’s going to be a pricing mechanism that is going to be required to modulate the use of roadways,” he says. 

For Peres, the future may not be the use of roadways at all. “It doesn’t need to be cars on roads. It can be flying robots,” says the Pitango co-founder.

No matter what the ultimate solution is, given the Israeli entrepreneurial ecosystem, it’s a good bet that at some level there’ll be Israeli technology behind the wheel of each innovation.

 

Order-ahead app Ritual picks up $70M to rethink the social office lunch break

While DoorDash, Postmates and other apps are looking to reimagine what the food delivery experience looks like, Ray Reddy says he wants to figure out what the next generation of a food court looks like. Sort of.

Reddy’s startup, Ritual, aims to remake the whole process of leaving your office and walking around five minutes to a nearby deli or cafe to pick up food for lunch. But Reddy and his founders Larry Stinson and Robert Kim wanted to focus first on getting that experience right for a single building that leaves to go pick up coffee or food — and has that daily ritual of getting lunch with the team, or something along those lines. The whole process boils down to an app for consumers to order food or drinks as well as have coworkers piggyback onto that order to create a more socialized experience around getting up and going around the corner for a snack. Ritual said it has raised a new $70 million round led by Georgian Partners, with existing investors Greylock Partners, Insight Ventures, and Mistral Venture Partners all participating.

“If we [couldn’t] build something that is compelling for the 300 people who work at this single building, it’s not gonna work period,” Redddy said. “That helped us define the problem narrowly. We thought, here are the 12 or 14 spots within a five minute walk of this building, let’s focus on simulating what would happen. Let’s not worry about financials or economics, let’s prove this works. Just like Uber’s a remote control for the real world, we viewed this in a similar way where ultimately the app is a remote control for a real world experience.”

Ritual’s main flow is probably something the typical user is accustomed to at this point when it comes to food. They pick a place they like, place an order for food (or coffee), and then go pick it up. But the whole background process involves not only getting restaurants on board with the specific things they want while still trying to calibrate a consistent experience that users at this point expect when it comes to ordering something online after being trained on that simplicity for years by Postmates, DoorDash, or even apps by companies like Starbucks.

But over the past year or so, the company has increasingly tuned itself to employees jumping aboard the same order when considering what to pick up for a snack or a meal. The whole process aims at emulating that experience of figuring out where you want to eat in a Slack channel or arguing over a Seamless order, and in the end whoever has time to run out and grab something will be able to bring things back for teammates (or, of course, everyone can leave at the same time). That whole process is called “piggybacking,” a feature the company introduced around 18 months ago. The company has around 44,500 teams using the app, Reddy said.

 

All this is aimed to help restaurants adapt to the same changes in user behavior that retail has seen in the past decade, Reddy said. Amazon trained users to buy things online, forcing retailers to shift their strategies, just as Postmates and DoorDash have trained users to order food delivery through apps and immediately have access to a ton of options. With all that comes more and more data, which has helped those industries slowly tune their models over time and try to keep up with the increase in demand that has come with reducing friction around the whole experience.

“What restaurants are seeing are right now the same challenges retailers saw 10 years ago,” Reddy said. “What does it mean to become omni-channel, how do you go from one customer segment to dealing with walk-ins plus digital orders. Retailers faced a lot of those challenges 10 years ago, they faced challenges around pricing, fulfillment, and how do they build new capabilities. They are dealing with a new source of demand, and fundamentally the problem was a lot of stores weren’t designed for accepting multi-channel origins.”

While an order-ahead app might be one way to connect online users to a physical location, there’s still plenty of work to do as most restaurants, coffee shops or typical stores aren’t tuned for a digital-first experience, Reddy said. That extends to even not having enough counter space to hold coffee cups that customers have ordered ahead of time, much less including things like NFC readers or QR codes — the latter of which has proved wildly popular and effective throughout Asia thanks to services like Alipay and WeChat. And that’s largely a result of iOS and Android, the main platforms in North America, not really doing a lot with QR codes for a very long time. Reddy said that North America was making some progress, especially when it came to NFC, but for now the company still has to figure out unique ways to connect users to those restaurants.

That can take a lot of different forms. While Ritual has to figure out how to create a seamless experience that covers a lot of different restaurants or shops, Reddy said the startup still has to offer those same stores some kind of control over the experience. That means giving those customers some value proposition beyond just telling them to sign up for another order-ahead app. Ritual, for example, lets restaurants who onboard Ritual customers themselves keep the full transaction for a purchase, while it takes a small slice off other transactions. That, in addition to other marketing options, helps restaurants control their own destiny, he said.

Of course, at its heart, it’s an order-ahead app — even with that social experience on top of it. And if you’ve ever looked at where to eat nearby with coworkers, you’ve probably checked Yelp or a few other places, and possibly even settled the argument with a giant order on an online ordering platform like DoorDash or Seamless. All these have already tapped that user experience, and it’s not clear if Ritual would be able to clear enough room should any one of them go after a similar experience while already having that customer and user relationship, in addition to being the spot customers go already. In the end, Reddy says that it’ll come down to users having a few apps, and hopes that by offering restaurants flexibility and focusing on the hyper-local idea of just a single office building will help build up that moat.

“The way that things have played out in Asia [with platforms like WeChat] is exactly striking the right balance between a platform and giving stores control,” Reddy said. “When you think of the consumer view, people — for the same reason you don’t have 10 retail apps — don’t have 10 food apps. You’re not gonna download an app for every neighborhood spot. It’s not that these apps are bad or don’t work well, people are just not gonna download 10 apps. There’s gonna be a handful of platforms people are going to use to access their neighborhoods. We have to have a unified platform, but give restaurant partners enough control, not only over being able to speak with their customers, but control for the look and feel of their storefront. That’s the middle ground we’re looking to find, which we think is a win for customers and our storefronts.”

Grab drivers in Southeast Asia are now convenience stores, too

Drivers of Southeast Asia-based Grab can now become mini convenience stores. That’s because the ride-hailing company, which bought out rival Uber’s local business earlier this year, has teamed up with U.S. startup Cargo to sell a selection of items to passengers during their ride.

New York-based Cargo claims it can help drivers earn up to $300 in additional wages per month by selling items like snacks, drinks, beauty items, phone chargers and more.

Drivers add a Cargo box which includes free samples and paid products to their car for free. (Refills are free, too.) They make a 25 commission on all paid sales, plus $1 every time a passenger places an order or free sample request via the Cargo website.

That’s about it.

Cargo has done deals with Lyft and Uber drivers in the U.S., but this marks its first move overseas. For now the partnership takes effect in Singapore but a Grab representative told TechCrunch that, all being well, it will expand across Southeast Asia, where Grab serves eight countries.

Cargo is targeting 100,000 cars this year, in January it claimed to have 2,500 cars on the road in New YOrk Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis, with 20,000 driver signups from all 50 states. The company raised $5.5 million this year to facilitate that growth.

The race to build autonomous delivery robots rolls on

It’s been a busy year in delivery robot land.

Starship Technologies sounded the starting gun to bring autonomous delivery vehicles to market with a $17.2 million round led by Daimler back in January 2017. Then in January this year the Mountain View, Calif.-based company Nuro, raised the curtain on its own vision for robo-delivery with a whopping $92 million in funding. Meanwhile, upstart Robomart has its own notion for delivery vehicles that it unveiled at CES. And not to be outdone, everyone’s favorite Chinese retail powerhouse, Alibaba, announced its own self-driving delivery vehicle.

Now, there’s Boxbot, the still-stealthy startup developing autonomous delivery somethings, which has picked up new cash as the race to build delivery bots rolls on.

Boxbot is a latecomer in the field. The Oakland-based company boasts impressive pedigrees from its founders — former Tesla engineer Austin Oehlerking and Mark Godwin, an entrepreneur who was working on improving logistics services through machine learning before he was acqui-hired by Uber.

As part of the new $7.5 million round, which was led by Artiman Ventures with participation from Toyota AI Ventures, Boxbot’s bulking up its executive team. The company poached Steve Sanchez from Amazon Logistics, where he was working on Amazon FlexAmazon’s crowdsourced delivery service.

The investment is also the first in an autonomous delivery company for Toyota AI Ventures, and one of at least five the firm has made since its launch in 2017.

For the last few years, automakers have spent several millions launching investment funds to tap startup expertise around technologies of autonomous vehicles.

In January, Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi launched the $1 billion Alliance Ventures fund to invest in new automotive technologies. The firm has made $50 million in commitments already to the Sinovation Ventures fund in China and the Maniv Mobility investment fund — focused on mobility — in Israel. Volvo has its own Cars Tech Fund, to invest in startups focused on new mobility technology and BMW is investing $500 million in autonomous vehicles through its iVentures fund.

These commitments are part of a broader acknowledgement from the world’s biggest automakers that their industry is changing faster than their internal research and development teams can address.

The delivery dilemma

Delivery is emerging as a crucial service in the new world of autonomous mobility. From the dream of autonomous long haul trucking to last mile delivery to personal transportation, companies are scrambling to develop new technology. McKinsey predicts that autonomous vehicles will make up 85% of last mile deliveries by 2025. That’s a huge slice of a massive market, that Toyota AI Ventures managing director Jim Adler called “a global problem that McKinsey & Company priced at more than $80 billion in 2016.”

With a market that large, there’s no wonder it’s so tantalizing a problem for automakers of all stripes to try and solve.

“Over the next few years, self-driving vehicles will transform the last-mile, making it cheaper to make deliveries and easier to receive them,” said Brian Wilcove, a partner at Artiman Ventures and investor in Boxbot.

And Toyota’s Adler sees Boxbot as an extension of the technologies that have solved the problem of autonomy inside warehouses at companies like Amazon.

“Logistics automation within warehouses has made remarkable progress in the last decade due to advances in robotics and automated interfaces that streamline interactions between human and supply chains. An inflection point came in 2012 when Amazon bought Kiva which put them on a path to automate their fulfillment centers,” Adler wrote in a blog post. “The same autonomous technologies (i.e., sensors, perception, prediction, planning) used to pack boxes in the warehouse are now being pressed into the service of delivering those packages that last mile to your door  — the most complex and expensive leg of the supply chain.”

 

Uber is looking at adding benefits and insurance for drivers

At the Code Conference tonight, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spoke about the company’s relationship with drivers, autonomous driving, uberEATS having a $6 billion bookings run rate, taking over as CEO and flying taxis, obviously.

Just this week, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent subpoenas to Uber and Lyft seeking information on driver pay, benefits and classification info. Uber wasn’t available for comment at the time, but now it seems that the company is looking at ways to offer benefits and insurance to drivers. Specifically, Uber is looking at an economically-sound way to offer drivers a benefits and insurance package so that “this can be a safer way of living,” Khosrowshahi said.

And despite what former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in the past about needing to get rid of the driver, Khosrowshahi said he disagrees.

“The face of Uber is the person sitting in the front seat,” Khosrowshahi said. He added that it usually is a man driving, but that he would “love to have more women sitting in the front seat” because it’s a “great form of employment.”

Still, Uber is moving ahead with autonomous driving. That’s in light of the fatal car accident in Tempe, Arizona involving one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles.

“We will get back on the road over the summer,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber also envisions licensing its technology — once it’s safe enough — to third-parties and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Despite the high-profile lawsuit between Uber and Waymo over self-driving car technology, Khosrowshahi said he’d welcome Waymo to put its cars into its network. Regarding Uber’s relationship with Waymo, Khosrowshahi said it’s “getting better.”

In addition to Uber’s core driver business and autonomous driving, it has several other things going on for it. One of those is uberEATS, which Khosrowshahi said has a $6 billion run rate, is growing 200 percent and is the biggest food delivery company in the world, with the exception of those in China.

Uber also recently acquired JUMP Bikes for about $200 million, launched UberRENT, announced a public transportation partnership with Masabi and is working on flying cars via its Elevate program.

Just like residential and buildings have gone three-dimensional, Khosrowshahi said, “you’re going to have to build a third-dimension in terms of transportation.”

For Uber, Elevate is its “big bet” on that third-dimension of transportation, he said. The big plan with all of these modes of transportations — whether that’s bike-sharing, ride-sharing, flight-sharing or whatnot — is to become a multi-modal transportation service.

“We want to be the Amazon for transportation,” Khosrowshahi said.

Earlier in the conversation, Khosrowshahi shed some light into how he had no idea he’d get the chief executive officer job at Uber. In fact, he said that while his wife thought he would get the job, he wasn’t as optimistic.

He also spoke about his relationship with Kalanick and how, early on, Khosrowshahi asked for space and Kalanick respected that.

“I consult with him the way I consult with the board,” Khosrowshahi said.

Moving forward, Khosrowshahi still has his eyes set on the second half of 2019 to go public.

“We’re on track,” he said.

Uber is looking at adding benefits and insurance for drivers

At the Code Conference tonight, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spoke about the company’s relationship with drivers, autonomous driving, uberEATS having a $6 billion bookings run rate, taking over as CEO and flying taxis, obviously.

Just this week, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent subpoenas to Uber and Lyft seeking information on driver pay, benefits and classification info. Uber wasn’t available for comment at the time, but now it seems that the company is looking at ways to offer benefits and insurance to drivers. Specifically, Uber is looking at an economically-sound way to offer drivers a benefits and insurance package so that “this can be a safer way of living,” Khosrowshahi said.

And despite what former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in the past about needing to get rid of the driver, Khosrowshahi said he disagrees.

“The face of Uber is the person sitting in the front seat,” Khosrowshahi said. He added that it usually is a man driving, but that he would “love to have more women sitting in the front seat” because it’s a “great form of employment.”

Still, Uber is moving ahead with autonomous driving. That’s in light of the fatal car accident in Tempe, Arizona involving one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles.

“We will get back on the road over the summer,” Khosrowshahi said.

Uber also envisions licensing its technology — once it’s safe enough — to third-parties and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Despite the high-profile lawsuit between Uber and Waymo over self-driving car technology, Khosrowshahi said he’d welcome Waymo to put its cars into its network. Regarding Uber’s relationship with Waymo, Khosrowshahi said it’s “getting better.”

In addition to Uber’s core driver business and autonomous driving, it has several other things going on for it. One of those is uberEATS, which Khosrowshahi said has a $6 billion run rate, is growing 200 percent and is the biggest food delivery company in the world, with the exception of those in China.

Uber also recently acquired JUMP Bikes for about $200 million, launched UberRENT, announced a public transportation partnership with Masabi and is working on flying cars via its Elevate program.

Just like residential and buildings have gone three-dimensional, Khosrowshahi said, “you’re going to have to build a third-dimension in terms of transportation.”

For Uber, Elevate is its “big bet” on that third-dimension of transportation, he said. The big plan with all of these modes of transportations — whether that’s bike-sharing, ride-sharing, flight-sharing or whatnot — is to become a multi-modal transportation service.

“We want to be the Amazon for transportation,” Khosrowshahi said.

Earlier in the conversation, Khosrowshahi shed some light into how he had no idea he’d get the chief executive officer job at Uber. In fact, he said that while his wife thought he would get the job, he wasn’t as optimistic.

He also spoke about his relationship with Kalanick and how, early on, Khosrowshahi asked for space and Kalanick respected that.

“I consult with him the way I consult with the board,” Khosrowshahi said.

Moving forward, Khosrowshahi still has his eyes set on the second half of 2019 to go public.

“We’re on track,” he said.

Uber’s First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month

Uber’s self-driving taxicabs will get their first certifiable test in Pittsburgh this month, with the semi-self-governing vehicles appointed indiscriminately to clients utilizing the organization’s application. As indicated by a report from Bloomberg, the test armada will comprise of altered Volvo XC90 SUVs, with every auto directed by a human in the driver’s seat (a lawful prerequisite) and in addition a co-pilot taking notes. The treks themselves will be free, with a tablet in the rearward sitting arrangement illuminating the traveler about the auto’s capacities.

Also Read ~ The 10 best Cars in the world right now

Pittsburgh has been the home of Uber’s self-driving aspirations since 2014, when the organization started its journey to poach engineers from the apply autonomy division of the city’s Carnegie Mellon University. By mid 2016, says Bloomberg, Uber had a group of many architects, roboticists, and mechanics at its Advanced Technologies Center. Self-driving test vehicles were soon spotted around the city, and in May the organization discharged its first authority photograph of a model vehicle — a changed Ford Fusion.

The organization has iterated rapidly from that point forward, and the current month’s sending of semi-self-sufficient vehicles to genuine (non-paying) clients is a critical stride.

Tesla’s Autopilot programming has been gradually expanding its usefulness for drivers (in spite of a deadly crash in July that is as of now being examined by the NHTSA), and Google’s self-driving armada has been experiencing broad testing, but with custom autos constrained to velocities of 25 miles for each hour.

In any case, with this test case program Uber is trying a simple form of its last vision for self-driving autos: to supplant its one million or more human drivers.

As Bloomberg reports, full self-governance for Uber’s vehicles is still a way off. Until further notice, administering architects will sit with “their fingertips on the wheel,” with tolls sounding when they have to take control of the auto — like on scaffolds, for instance. Volvo has so far conveyed a “modest bunch” of the self-driving test vehicles, with 100 due before the year’s over. The automaker likewise reported today that it has consented to a $300 million arrangement with Uber to build up a completely self-sufficient vehicle by 2021 — the same target set by Ford for its own self-driving auto, declared recently. The future, it appears, is going ahead quick.

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