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Equity Shot: Judging Uber’s less-than-grand opening day

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in alex wilhelm, carsharing, China, Commuting, Equity podcast, initial public offering, Kate Clark, Lyft, Postmates, Startups, TC, TechCrunch, transport, Uber, unicorn, United States, Venture Capital | 0 comments

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

We are back, as promised. Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm re-convened today to discuss the latest from the Uber IPO. Namely that it opened down, and then kept falling.

A few questions spring to mind. Why did Uber lose ground? Was it the company’s fault? Was it simply the macro market? Was it something else altogether? What we do know is that Uber’s pricing wasn’t what we were expecting and its first day was not smooth.

There are a whole bunch of reasons why Uber went out the way it did. Firstly, the stock market has had a rough week. That, coupled with rising U.S.-China tensions made this week one of the worst of the year for Uber’s monstrous IPO.

But, to make all that clear, we ran back through some history, recalled some key Lyft stats, and more.

We don’t know what’s next but we will be keeping a close watch, specifically on the next cohort of unicorn companies ready to IPO (Postmates, hi!).

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Meet the 19 startups in AngelPad’s 12th batch

Posted by on Mar 13, 2019 in Accelerator, Adidas, Amazon, angelpad, Apple, Carine Magescas, caterpillar, citi, Cvent, DroneDeploy, law firms, mopub, New York City, Oscar, periscope data, Pipedrive, Postmates, Real Estate, sephora, Stanford University, Startups, Tesla, thomas korte, twitch, Twitter, Venture Capital, Zum | 0 comments

AngelPad just wrapped the 12th run of its months-long New York City startup accelerator. For the second time, the program didn’t culminate in a demo day; rather, the 19 participating startups were given pre-arranged one-on-one meetings with venture capital investors late last week.

AngelPad co-founders Thomas Korte and Carine Magescas did away with the demo day tradition last year after nearly a decade operating AngelPad, which is responsible for mentoring startups including Postmates, Twitter-acquired Mopub, Pipedrive, Periscope Data, Zum and DroneDeploy.

“Demo days are great ways for accelerators to expose a large number of companies to a lot of investors, but we don’t think it is the most productive way,” Korte told TechCrunch last year. Competing accelerator Y Combinator has purportedly considered their eliminating demo day as well, though sources close to YC deny this. The firm cut its investor day, a similar opportunity for investors to schedule meetings with individual startups, “after analyzing its effectiveness” last year.

Feedback to AngelPad’s choice to forego demo day has been positive, Korte tells TechCrunch, with startup CEOs breathing a sigh of relief they aren’t forced to pitch to a large crowd with no promise of investment.

AngelPad invests $120,000 in each of its companies. Here’s a closer look at its latest batch:

LotSpot is a parking management tool for universities, parks and malls. The company installs cameras at the entrances and exits of customer parking lots and autonomously tracks lot occupancy as cars enter and exit. The LotSpot founders are Stanford University Innovation Fellows with backgrounds in engineering and sales.

Twic is a discretionary benefits management platform that helps businesses offer wellness benefits at a lower cost. The tool assists human resources professionals in selecting vendors, monitoring benefits usage and managing reimbursements with a digital wallet. Twic customers include Twitch and Oscar. The company’s current ARR is $265,000.

Zeal is an enterprise contract automation platform that helps sales teams manage custom routine agreements, like NDAs, independently and efficiently. The startup is currently working on test implementations with Amazon, Citi and Cvent. The founders are attorneys and management consultants who previously led sales and legal strategy at AXIOM.

ChargingLedger works with energy grid operators to optimize electric grid usage with smart charging technology for electric vehicles. The company’s paid pilot program is launching this month.

Piio, focused on SEO, helps companies boost their web presence with technology that optimizes website speed and performance based on user behavior, location, device, platform and connection speed. Currently, Piio is working with JomaShop and e-commerce retailers. Its ARR is $90,000.

Duality.ai is a QA platform for autonomous vehicles. It leverages human testers and simulation environments to accelerate time-to-market for AV sidewalk, cars and trucks. Its founders include engineers and designers from Caterpillar, Pixar and Apple. Its two first beta customers generated an ARR of $100,000.

COMUNITYmade partners with local manufacturers to sell their own brand of premium sneakers made in Los Angeles. The company has attracted brands, including Adidas, for collaborations. The founders are alums of Asics and Toms.

Spacey is a millennial-focused art-buying platform. The company sells limited-edition collections of fine-art prints at affordable prices and offers offline membership experiences, as well as a program for brand ambassadors with large social followings.

LegalPassage saves lawyers time with business process automation software for law firms. The company focuses on litigation, specifically class action and personal injury. The founder is a litigation attorney, former adjunct professor of law at UC Hastings and a past chair of the Family Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Revetize helps local businesses boost revenue by managing reputation, encouraging referrals and increasing repeat business. The startup, headquartered in Utah, has an ARR of $220,000.

House of gigs helps people find short-term work near them, offering “employee-like” services and benefits to those freelancers and gig workers. The startup has 90,000 members. The San Francisco and Berlin-based founders previously worked together at a VC-backed HR startup.

MetaRouter provides fast, flexible and secure data routing. The cloud-based on-prem platform has reached an ARR of $250,000, with customers like HomeDepot and Sephora already signed on.

RamenHero offers a meal kit service for authentic gourmet ramen

RamenHero offers a meal kit for authentic gourmet ramen. The startup launched in 2018 and has roughly 1,700 customers and $125,000 in revenue. The startup’s founder, a serial entrepreneur, graduated from a culinary ramen school in Japan.

ByteRyde is insurance for autonomous vehicles, specifically Tesla Model 3s, taking into account the safety feature of self-driving cars.

Foresite.ai provides commercial real estate investors a real-time platform for data analysis and visualization of location-based trends.

PieSlice is a blockchain-based equity issuance and management platform that helps create fully compliant digital tokens that represent equity in a company. The founder is a former trader and stockbroker turned professional poker player.

Aitivity is a security hardware company that is developing a scalable blockchain algorithm for enterprises, specifically for IoT usage.

SmartAlto, a SaaS platform with $190,000 ARR, nurtures real estate leads. The company pairs agents with digital assistants to help the agents show more homes.

FunnelFox works with sales teams to help them spend less time on customer research, pipeline management and reporting. The AI-enabled platform has reached an ARR of $75,000 with customers including Botify and Paddle.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Food delivery service Postmates confidentially files to go public

Posted by on Feb 7, 2019 in Food, Fundings & Exits, IPO, Postmates, TC, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Shortly after closing a $100 million pre-IPO round, food delivery business Postmates has confidentially filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an upcoming public offering, Bloomberg first reported and the company confirmed in a blog post.

The company will debut on the stock exchange at a more than $1.85 billion valuation — the valuation it garnered with its $100 million round in January. In total, Postmates has raised $681 million in venture capital funding from investors, including Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital and Slow Ventures.

The eight-year-old company has tapped JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its upcoming float.

Postmates, which competes with several large players in the food delivery space, including Uber Eats and DoorDash, says it completes 5 million deliveries per month and is reportedly expected to record $400 million in revenue in 2018 on food sales of $1.2 billion.

Currently, it operates in more than 550 cities, recently tacking on another 100 markets to reach an additional 50 million customers.

Postmates is next in a long line of tech unicorns planning to make the leap into the public markets in 2019. Slack most recently filed confidentially to exit, following Lyft and Uber, which similarly submitted private SEC documents at the tail-end of 2018.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Asian food delivery startup Chowbus raises $4M

Posted by on Jan 24, 2019 in chef, chief executive officer, DoorDash, Fika Ventures, FJ Labs, Food, food delivery, funding, greycroft partners, grubhub, munchery, Postmates, Startups, Uber, Uber Eats, Venture Capital | 0 comments

When one food delivery startup fails, another gets funded.

Chowbus, an Asian food ordering platform headquartered in Chicago, has brought in a $4 million “seed” funding led by Greycroft Partners and FJ Labs, with participation from Hyde Park Angels and Fika Ventures. The startup, aware of the challenges that plague startups in this space, says offering exclusive access to restaurants and eliminating service fees sets it apart from big-name competitors like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates.

The Chowbus platform focuses on meals rather than restaurants. While scrolling through the mobile app, a user is connected to various independent restaurants depending on what particular dish they’re seeking. Chowbus says only a small portion of the restaurants on its platform, 15 percent, are also available on Grubhub and Uber Eats. 

The app is currently available in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Champaign, Ill. and Lansing, Mich. With the new investment, which brings Chowbus’ total raised to just over $5 million, the startup will launch in up to 20 additional markets. Eventually, Chowbus says it will expand into other cuisines, too, beginning with Mexican and Italian. 

Chowbus was founded in 2016 by chief executive officer Linxin Wen and chief technology officer Suyu Zhang.

“When I first came to the U.S. five years ago, I found most restaurants I really liked [weren’t] on Grubhub nor other major delivery platforms and the delivery fees were quite high,” Wen told TechCrunch. “So I thought, maybe I can build a platform to support these restaurants,”

TechCrunch chatted with Wen and Zhang on Tuesday, the day after Munchery announced it was shutting down its prepared meal delivery business. Naturally, I asked the founders what made them think Chowbus can survive in an already crowded market, dominated by the likes of Uber.

“The central kitchen model doesn’t work; the cost is too high,” Zhang said, referring to Munchery’s business model, which prepared food for its meal service in-house rather than sourcing through local restaurants.

“We don’t own the kitchen or the chef, we just take advantage of the resources and help restaurants make more money,” Wen added. “The food delivery space is really huge and growing so quick.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Startups Weekly: Will Trump ruin the unicorn IPOs of our dreams?

Posted by on Jan 12, 2019 in aurora, BlackRock, Facebook, First Round Capital, funding, goodwater capital, Insight Venture Partners, Lyft, Magic Leap, money, Mr Jeff, Pinterest, Postmates, romain dillet, sequoia capital, Softbank, Startups, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Uber, Valentin Stalf, Venture Capital | 0 comments

The government shutdown entered its 21st day on Friday, upping concerns of potentially long-lasting impacts on the U.S. stock market. Private market investors around the country applauded when Uber finally filed documents with the SEC to go public. Others were giddy to hear Lyft, Pinterest, Postmates and Slack (via a direct listing, according to the latest reports) were likely to IPO in 2019, too.

Unfortunately, floats that seemed imminent may not actually surface until the second half of 2019 — that is unless President Donald Trump and other political leaders are able to reach an agreement on the federal budget ASAP.  This week, we explored the government’s shutdown’s connection to tech IPOs, recounted the demise of a well-funded AR project and introduced readers to an AI-enabled self-checkout shopping cart.

1. Postmates gets pre-IPO cash

The company, an early entrant to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, raised what will likely be its last round of private capital. The $100 million cash infusion was led by BlackRock and valued Postmates at $1.85 billion, up from the $1.2 billion valuation it garnered with its unicorn round in 2018.

2. Uber’s IPO may not be as eye-popping as we expected

To be fair, I don’t think many of us really believed the ride-hailing giant could debut with a $120 billion initial market cap. And can speculate on Uber’s valuation for days (the latest reports estimate a $90 billion IPO), but ultimately Wall Street will determine just how high Uber will fly. For now, all we can do is sit and wait for the company to relinquish its S-1 to the masses.

3. Deal of the week

N26, a German fintech startup, raised $300 million in a round led by Insight Venture Partners at a $2.7 billion valuation. TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet spoke with co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf about the company’s global investors, financials and what the future holds for N26.

4. On the market

Bird is in the process of raising an additional $300 million on a flat pre-money valuation of $2 billion. The e-scooter startup has already raised a ton of capital in a very short time and a fresh financing would come at a time when many investors are losing faith in scooter startups’ claims to be the solution to the problem of last-mile transportation, as companies in the space display poor unit economics, faulty batteries and a general air of undependability. Plus, Aurora, the developer of a full-stack self-driving software system for automobile manufacturers, is raising at least $500 million in equity funding at more than a $2 billion valuation in a round expected to be led by new investor Sequoia Capital.


Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets


5. A unicorn’s deal downsizes

WeWork, a co-working giant backed with billions, had planned on securing a $16 billion investment from existing backer SoftBank . Well, that’s not exactly what happened. And, oh yeah, they rebranded.

6. A startup collapses

After 20 long years, augmented reality glasses pioneer ODG has been left with just a skeleton crew after acquisition deals from Facebook and Magic Leap fell through. Here’s a story of a startup with $58 million in venture capital backing that failed to deliver on its promises.

7. Data point

Seed activity for U.S. startups has declined for the fourth straight year, as median deal sizes increased at every stage of venture capital.

8. Meanwhile, in startup land…

This week edtech startup Emeritus, a U.S.-Indian company that partners with universities to offer digital courses, landed a $40 million Series C round led by Sequoia India. Badi, which uses an algorithm to help millennials find roommates, brought in a $30 million Series B led by Goodwater Capital. And Mr Jeff, an on-demand laundry service startup, bagged a $12 million Series A.

9. Finally, Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

The startup, which makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, has revealed a total of $3 million, including a $2.15 million seed round led by First Round Capital .

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Source: The Tech Crunch

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In emerging markets there are no copycats, just budding entrepreneurs

Posted by on Dec 17, 2018 in Amazon, Business, business incubators, chef, Column, eBay, economy, entrepreneurship, Flipkart, founder, Innovation, Kickstarter, oliver samwer, Postmates, Private Equity, Rocket Internet, stanford, Startup company, Startups, Uber, United States | 0 comments

Every year I teach an MBA course at Stanford about the exciting opportunities for tech investors and entrepreneurs in developing economies. When we designed the syllabus back in 2013, Rocket Internet was still firing on all cylinders on four continents. The unapologetic machine built to copy big American internet companies created billions of dollars for the Samwer brothers and its backers. During Rocket’s golden years, the best startups in the developing economies seemed to inevitably have an original reference in Silicon Valley.

Accordingly, we added a class about the opportunity of replicating business models to seize this information arbitrage. Call it the second-mover advantage.

Despite my conviction about the model, the copycat word  —  short for replicating startups and attached to these ventures  —  annoyed me from the start. More than a term to describe a straightforward recipe to launch, I see it as an unconscious way to belittle an entire group of hard-charging founders and investors.

Indeed, while in foreign eyes, we have been building a Mexican Kickstarter, a Middle Eastern Uber, an Indian Amazon or a Colombian Postmates, I argue visionary founders are taking a simple idea that already exists and creating new worlds.

On the internet, there are Einsteins and there are Bob the Builders. I’m Bob the Builder. Oliver Samwer, founder of Rocket Internet

Gateway to entrepreneurship

While impact is the final goal, founders can approach the journey in different ways. The most common approach in the startup world is to use the business method, or more pompously, the design thinking methodology. “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution,” mentors keep telling a succession of startup clusters in acceleration programs. The best and “leanest” way to product market fit is by starting small then keep iterating the solution until you nail it.

A second way to start is favored by engineers and scientists: Take a new promising technology or a forgotten molecule, then find a big problem. Keep iterating until you find a problem worth solving, like a hammer looking for a nail.

A third way is starting like painters create, building skills by copying classics, or like a new chef cooks by starting with iconic recipes: replicate a proven idea and iterate until you find traction.

Until a few years ago it was ostensibly the only way to scale in developing economies. The model helped raise local capital from risk-averse investors who needed reassurance. The playbook to scale was unfolding a couple of years ahead and served as a guide to founders without previous startup experience and no local role models. The potential acquirer was identified and sometimes contacted in advance. Founders weren’t crazy and investors weren’t dumb.

Replicating a business model has served in emerging ecosystems as the gateway to entrepreneurship and venture investing.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/A_Marga

Riding the next wave

According to conventional wisdom, new ecosystems around the world grow through the following three stages, be them in developing economies or more developed countries. First, local and foreign entrepreneurs replicate successful models focused on local markets. Then as the ecosystem evolves, founders start applying existing technologies to solve local problems. Finally, as the tech space matures, new technologies begin to flourish.

In my opinion, those stages never happen sequentially as stated by ecosystem observers. Successful startups that started with a foreign inspiration can outgrow the master. If they are not bought into submission by the first mover, some of the most famous copycats reinvented the original and made it better: Mercado Libre is much more relevant in the e-commerce space than eBay . Flipkart is hardly an Amazon, not to mention WeChat. These companies are in turn some of the most prolific tech innovators on the globe. Truly ecosystems evolve organically in unique ways reflecting their history, geopolitical environment, economic structure and cultural features.

Two ways to defend the status quo: “It’s been done before” and “It’s never been done before.” –Thibault @Kpaxs

In defense of talent

Recently, it’s hard to hear American observers use the word copycat to describe any American company. After all, Guilt replicated VentesPrivees and Lime, Chinese dockless bike sharing and many more examples. All American startups are treated as innovators while the rest as mere followers.

Recently, Chinese or Indian startups seem to be given the benefit of the doubt regarding their originality. Is it because these regions have become more innovative? Maybe. But it’s also because these ecosystems have gained the respect of Silicon Valley. Indeed, Chinese consumer tech surpassed decisively the U.S. as the most important country in terms of investments.

So here’s my humble suggestion to our wealthier and more accomplished colleagues: stop using the c-word with founders. It’s offensive. Most probably, these founders are facing more challenges to build their companies and lower odds for success that the first mover. If anything, they have more merit than the originals.

As for founders, when they call you a me-too, remember all teams started somewhere, somehow. In fact, most started like Bob the Builder before turning into Einsteins. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you start. You can start by applying a new technology or protocol. You can start with a problem you feel passionate about. You can start by replicating a business model. It doesn’t really matter if you take a big swing at the future and trust you will figure out how to make it happen. It doesn’t matter what label they use while you change the world for the better.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Robot couriers scoop up early-stage cash

Posted by on Dec 1, 2018 in bots, Column, Daimler, DoorDash, estonia, food delivery, nuro, Postmates, robot, Robotics, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, starship technologies, TC, Tencent, Toyota AI Ventures, waymo | 0 comments

Much of the last couple of decades of innovation has centered around finding ways to get what we want without leaving the sofa.

So far, online ordering and on-demand delivery have allowed us to largely accomplish this goal. Just point, click and wait. But there’s one catch: Delivery people. We can never all lie around ordering pizzas if someone still has to deliver them.

Enter robots. In tech-futurist circles, it’s pretty commonplace to hear predictions about how some medley of autonomous vehicles and AI-enabled bots will take over doorstep deliveries in the coming years. They’ll bring us takeout, drop off our packages and displace lots of humans who currently make a living doing these things.

If this vision does become reality, there’s a strong chance it’ll largely be due to a handful of early-stage startups currently working to roboticize last-mile delivery. Below, we take a look at who they are, what they’re doing, who’s backing them and where they’re setting up shop.

The players

Crunchbase data unearthed at least eight companies in the robot delivery space with headquarters or operations in North America that have secured seed or early-stage funding in the past couple of years.

They range from heavily funded startups to lean seed-stage operations. Silicon Valley-based Nuro, an autonomous delivery startup founded by former engineers at Alphabet’s Waymo, is the most heavily funded, having raised $92 million to date. Others have raised a few million.

In the chart below, we look at key players, ranked by funding to date, along with their locations and key investors.

Who’s your backer?

While startups may be paving the way for robot delivery, they’re not doing so alone. One of the ways larger enterprises are keeping a toehold in the space is through backing and partnering with early-stage startups. They’re joining a long list of prominent seed and venture investors also eagerly eyeing the sector.

The list of larger corporate investors includes Germany’s Daimler, the lead investor in Starship Technologies. China’s Tencent, meanwhile, is backing San Francisco-based Marble, while Toyota AI Ventures has invested in Boxbot.

As for partnering, takeout food delivery services seem to be the most active users of robot couriers.

Starship, whose bot has been described as a slow-moving, medium-sized cooler on six wheels, is making particularly strong inroads in takeout. The San Francisco- and Estonia-based company, launched by Skype founders Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla, is teaming up with DoorDash and Postmates in parts of California and Washington, DC. It’s also working with the Domino’s pizza chain in Germany and the Netherlands.

Robby Technologies, another maker of cute, six-wheeled bots, has also been partnering with Postmates in parts of Los Angeles. And Marble, which is branding its boxy bots as “your friendly neighborhood robot,” teamed up last year for a trial with Yelp in San Francisco.

San Francisco Bay Area dominates

While their visions of world domination are necessarily global, the robot delivery talent pool remains rather local.

Six of the eight seed- and early-stage startups tracked by Crunchbase are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the remaining two have some operations in the region.

Why is this? Partly, there’s a concentration of talent in the area, with key engineering staff coming from larger local companies like Uber, Tesla and Waymo . Plus, of course, there’s a ready supply of investor capital, which bot startups presumably will need as they scale.

Silicon Valley and San Francisco, known for scarce and astronomically expensive housing, are also geographies in which employers struggle to find people to deliver stuff at prevailing wages to the hordes of tech workers toiling at projects like designing robots to replace them.

That said, the region isn’t entirely friendly territory for slow-moving sidewalk robots. In San Francisco, already home to absurdly steep streets and sidewalks crowded with humans and discarded scooters, city legislators voted to ban delivery robots from most places and severely restrict them in areas where permitted.

The rise of the pizza delivery robot manager

But while San Francisco may be wary of a delivery robot invasion, other geographies, including nearby Berkeley, Calif., where startup Kiwi Campus operates, have been more welcoming.

In the process, they’re creating an interesting new set of robot overseer jobs that could shed some light on the future of last-mile delivery employment.

For some startups in early trial mode, robot wrangling jobs involve shadowing bots and making sure they carry out their assigned duties without travails.

Remote robot management is also a thing and will likely see the sharpest growth. Starship, for instance, relies on operators in Estonia to track and manage bots as they make their deliveries in faraway countries.

For now, it’s too early to tell whether monitoring and controlling hordes of delivery bots will provide better pay and working conditions than old-fashioned human delivery jobs.

At least, however, much of it could theoretically be done while lying on the sofa.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Walmart acquiring Shopify is no longer a laughable idea

Posted by on Jul 19, 2018 in Amazon, AWS, bigcommerce, Bonobos, Canada, Column, Demandware, DoorDash, eBay, eCommerce, Flipkart, IBM, India, modcloth, NetSuite, oracle, Postmates, prestashop, Shopify, TC, Tesla, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Walmart | 0 comments

As competition between Walmart and Amazon intensifies, the acquisition of Shopify’s merchant marketplace may be the boost that the Walton family’s juggernaut needs to move ahead.

In May this year, Amazon published its small business impact report, in which it disclosed there are 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses that make a million dollars or more in sales on its platform.

Amazon boasts about 5 million third-party sellers on its marketplace today, with an estimated 100,000 sellers hopping on-board every month.

At 100,000 sellers a month over the next five years, there could be an estimated 11 million sellers on Amazon’s marketplace by 2023.

E-commerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse estimates Amazon’s gross merchandise volume, or GMV, for 2018 at $280 billion, set to triple over a five-year period, concluding that the marketplace contribution to Amazon’s GMV would surpass 70 percent by 2023.

Combined with Prime and FBA, this high-level picture sounds like Amazon can afford to not worry about its marketplace. But an uneasy trend seems to simmer within its 5 million cohort. Looking at Feedvisor’s survey of Amazon marketplace merchants from 2017 and 2018 and some interesting trends surface. 

Marketplace merchants are looking to keep their advertising costs low and are worried about rising fees on the Seattle-based company’s e-commerce platform. They’re also concerned about competition coming from Amazon as it continues to launch its own brands. Indeed, 60 percent of merchants told Feedvisor in 2017 that they planned to diversify to other channels. Walmart emerged as the most preferred channel, followed very closely by Shopify and eBay. 

About 10 percent of those surveyed in 2017 were making a million dollars or more in annual sales. A year on, this figure is up to 19 percent. One can tell where these first-time millionaires are heading when we see that Walmart today supports 9 percent more Amazon merchants than it did in 2017.

In its pursuit for parity with Amazon, Walmart has clearly overtaken eBay in merchant preference. The latter supports 12 percent fewer Amazon merchants today than it did in 2017, and is closely trailed by Shopify and Jet.com.

Shopify is one of Canada’s biggest tech success stories

Can Walmart afford to be conservative?

Walmart’s marketplace has 18,000 sellers, 36 percent of whom make at least $2 million in sales — all of whom sell on Amazon!

With its e-commerce business struggling to see gains since 2016, when it acquired Jet.com, Walmart has recently been making the waves with its string of partnerships and acquisitions. In May, it announced that it was partnering with Postmates and DoorDash for expanding its last-mile delivery of online groceries.

In what seemed to be a rebuttal to Amazon’s private label push, Walmart acquired Bonobos, Shoebuy, ModCloth and Moosejaw. It also announced in May that it was adding four fashion brands to its kitty.

While it continues to be hard-fisted about who sells on its marketplace, a trend seems to be emerging wherein Walmart is not just competing with Amazon but is also striving to bring reputed retail brands under its banner and is attempting to re-shape consumer perception of it being low-price and inexpensive.

Walmart may be second in line to Amazon, but it has its cons. Its process to qualify a third-party seller is more stringent. Sellers need to request an invitation to join and must fulfill certain quality requirements pertaining to product mix, price point and fulfillment.

Unable to differentiate among millions of sellers on Amazon and faced with rigorous screening from Walmart, the best bet for Amazon’s third-party sellers to diversify seems to be to set up their own store.

They can either create their own website or set up a store on an e-commerce platform like Magento or Shopify .

Shopify — the network is bigger than the software

Shopify, the e-commerce platform for small and medium-sized businesses, isn’t too far behind eBay and Walmart in merchant preference.

A seller can set up her own store on Shopify’s basic version for as little as $29 a month. It also has a premium version (for a $2,000 monthly fee) called Shopify Plus aimed at enterprise-level sellers and wholesalers. An estimated 3,600 merchants have already bought into Shopify Plus; among them are popular logos such as Tesla, Kylie Cosmetics and Budweiser.

Shopify has an estimated 600,000 merchants on its e-commerce platform and has seen its merchant base grow annually in excess of 100 percent since 2014.

What particularly makes Shopify attractive — and gives it an upper hand over marketplaces like Walmart — is its third-party network of developers, photographers, digital marketers and designers that merchants can leverage for their business. Shopify today is a more turnkey platform than Walmart! Of all digital commerce revenues in 2017 — totaling $2.3 trillion — Shopify sellers’ GMV was 1 percent, worth $26 billion, which shows just how important Shopify is next to Walmart.

Analysts are betting big for the next 10 years despite its recent volatility in stock price.

Around the same time, when Amazon published its small business impact report, Shopify announced that it would open a brick-and-mortar store in the U.S. by the end of summer this year to provide in-person advice and consulting services to its customers.

Such a showroom would also provide Shopify the opportunity to cross-sell its hardware products to merchants who are looking to go brick-and-mortar.

For these reasons, Shopify will continue to attract more merchants and will become more important in the days to come and, as it does, it will get noticed by the big players — Amazon and Walmart.

Shopify and Amazon share history

Shopify partnered with Amazon in 2015 as its preferred migration partner for webstore merchants. Many Shopify merchants already sell on Amazon; they have the option to use Amazon’s FBA and Payment gateway. And more than 50 percent of Shopify’s 3,600-odd “Plus” merchants sell on Amazon, as opposed to less than 1 percent who sell on Walmart.

Clearly, the preference for Walmart.com is abysmal among Shopify merchants.

At a market cap of $17 billion, Shopify can be acquired by Amazon without much hassle. While this may not be in Amazon’s cards considering the call it took four years ago to shut its webstore business and the ease with which it gets inbound interest from the long-tail e-commerce companies (which forms 90 percent of the independent e-commerce companies base), Walmart should start figuring Shopify into its strategic plans.

When your competition is Amazon, nothing is enough

In its SEC filings for the fiscal year ended January 2018, Walmart said that it is looking to increase investments in grocery and technology. Much of Walmart’s moves in these spaces continue to come across as reactive responses to Amazon:

  • Recently, in its overseas battle against Amazon, Walmart acquired a 77 percent stake in India’s Flipkart for $16 billion.
  • In what could be seen as a long overdue answer to AWS, it revealed its own cloud network.
  • It has also kickstarted efforts to take on Amazon Go. With FBA and Prime seeming invincible, Walmart will never be able to catch up to the giant. But, it can prove to be a serious rival if it decides to acquire Shopify.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Why Shopify?

The non-Amazon destination

Today, eBay has more Amazon merchants on its platform than Walmart does. However, Walmart is picking up pace and is evidently becoming more attractive.

Between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of Amazon sellers on eBay reduced from 65 percent to 52 percent. At the same time, Walmart and Jet.com combined saw an increase from 17 percent to 25 percent.

Given 2018’s stats, if Shopify were to become Walmart-owned, about 42 percent of Amazon’s sellers today, would be selling via either Walmart, Jet or Shopify. This would bring the difference between eBay and Walmart (Jet and Shopify included) down to 10 percent, in turn narrowing the competition gap between Walmart and Amazon.

Interestingly, there were rumors in 2017 that eBay was planning to acquire Shopify. The stocks reacted positively but there were no signs that eBay was interested in such an acquisition.

The perfect complement

The fundamental difference between Walmart and Shopify is that the former is a marketplace while the latter is an e-commerce platform.

It is hard for a seller with no distinct brand identity to differentiate herself on a marketplace unlike on a platform. As revenue channels, they are both necessary for a merchant’s omnichannel strategy.

While Amazon will rule the roost in the marketplace arena for a long time to come, merchants should start betting on Shopify. This acquisition will be an opportunity for Walmart to write its story in a market that Amazon tried and quit.

Shopify does not get you shoppers and Walmart does not get you the support services. As a combined entity, their value proposition becomes very compelling.

The apparent weakness is an actual strength

Shopify is not without faults. As with all e-commerce platforms, the majority of their e-commerce merchants are long-tail with little to no revenue. But critics, including Andrew Left of Citron Research, fail to understand that long-tail is sort of a deal pipeline to identify sellers who are likely to grow and contribute significantly to the revenue.

A study of Shopify’s marketplace will validate their claim that the merchants are there for the value of a “one-stop platform and extended services” and not just for Facebook data of their shoppers.

As Brian Stoffel put it in his article, “The moat is strong and growing, even as recent protests have tested the company.”

Shopify’s long-tail merchant base isn’t a weakness. It’s the pipeline that Walmart should value. It could be Walmart’s answer to Amazon’s merchant acquisition spree.

The neighborhood store is actually a Shopify Store

Shopify is an e-commerce platform provider but that’s no reason to dismiss it as a competitive threat to Walmart. Both target merchants are focused on making them sell online, albeit differently.

Walmart handpicks merchants. Shopify doesn’t.

Walmart is a legacy brand and has a perception problem in the market. Shopify is a born millennial, like Jet.

Walmart is competing with Amazon on multiple fronts. Amazon closed its webstore business and switched to an integration with Shopify!

Walmart has no equivalent to FBA. Shopify’s merchants can opt to have their merchandise fulfilled by Amazon.

Brett Andress of KeyBanc Capital Markets drives home the importance of Shopify — “Emerging brands on Shopify are getting larger, and more established brands are gravitating to Shopify to be more nimble.”

While Walmart continues to shop for private label brands in a bid to throw a new spin on its brand identity, it needs to look a few yards away. There are 600,000 of them. Either Walmart could hope for them to come list on its marketplace someday or make itself the very technology that powers their business.

Shopify is known for its ability to attract e-commerce merchants. Its tools — like the name generator, domain name generator, to name a few — are subtle retention hacks to get intending sellers hooked onto its platform. Should a seller decide to sell her business, Shopify has an exchange on which she can list her store for sale. On the partner front, developers, marketers and designers have helped create many success stories, while writing their own. Overall, it seems like the stickiness is here to stay.

With e-commerce still 12 percent of global retail trade and with an expected growth rate of 47 percent over the next three years, Shopify is well-positioned to capture a lot of the e-commerce upside. The neighborhood grocer is now more likely to open on Shopify or sell on Amazon than at the neighborhood. This is also why it makes sense for Walmart to acquire one of the two default portals of entry into e-commerce.

To compete with Amazon, it needs to make moves that shift the ground beneath the foot and a Shopify acquisition could be one of those bets still open.

Can Walmart afford it?

The retail analysts’ consensus is that Walmart needs to expand its e-commerce base, as the default for the younger demographic shopper is still Amazon. Walmart’s marketplace strategy, so far, hasn’t been about becoming that default.

Shopify is a credible option to expand its e-commerce base. Shopify was recently chided by activist investors like Andrew Left for being over-reliant on the top 10 percent of the merchant base.

There are about 4,500 e-commerce companies with $100 million-plus revenue out there and Shopify’s entry into the enterprise commerce market is a reactionary response to the inherent weakness in its own business model (of over-reliance on mid-market and long-tail e-commerce companies). The problem for Shopify and to an equal extent Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce and PrestaShop is that the enterprise e-commerce is the territory of Hybris, Demandware, NetSuite etc.

The tough phase for Shopify would be when its mid-market cash cow customers migrate to Hybris or WebSphere or Demandware. It has to backfill from its growing long tail unless it competes head-on with IBM, Adobe, Oracle NetSuite, Demandware or Hybris. This is one of the reasons Magento aligned with Adobe.

The problem for Walmart in making this acquisition though is Wall Street’s view that it’s a mature business with steady returns. Amazon, on the other hand, continues to treat e-commerce as a business which is in its Day 1.

You could observe the pressures Walmart has had in the past. It took Walmart over two years to finally pull the lever on the Flipkart deal, which is going to drain billions from its cash reserves (notwithstanding the revolving credit of $5 billion it has raised to fund the deal).

With the current market cap of $17 billion, Shopify isn’t pocket change. But for reasons mentioned above, Shopify’s growth will be tested. Expanding GMV of existing merchants is easier than conquering the enterprise market, especially if it aligns with Walmart.

Walmart’s cash reserves are less than $10 billion, making it a relatively expensive pursuit likely needing a leveraged buyout, and the market isn’t new to such deals. Amazon, on the other hand, has $265 billion to deploy, but it’s a buy that it doesn’t need. And that sums up Walmart’s predicament as a challenger to Amazon.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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