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Equity transcribed: Is the tech press too positive in its coverage of startups?

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Brex, Equity podcast, paul graham, SoFi, TC, Uber | 0 comments

Welcome back the latest transcribed edition of Equity, the TechCrunch podcast that takes a closer look at the startup headlines from the week.

Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm kick this week off by discussing comments on Twitter made by Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham about the tech press. They then took a look at Uber’s first-quarter numbers, Brex raising, SoFi raising (and entering talks to buy the naming rights for the upcoming Los Angeles Rams stadium) and a lot more.

Here’s a sample:

Alex: Uber’s expectations were low. They had set, in their last S-1/A, these figures out and they came in the middle of revenue and loss expectations. I think the phrase is priced in, and that’s an odd place to be.

Kate: Yeah. It’s good that they came in on expectations. Lyft, you remember, had losses that were way, way, way higher than expected. But I would just say bottom line is, none of these companies, particularly I’m thinking of like Uber, Pinterest and Lyft, which are just recent unicorns to have gone public that are not enterprise software businesses. Is that they’re not profitable, and they’re not really showing clear paths to profitability yet. So, it’s just a little bit like, well, not looking so hot.

Alex: Just a little bit more about this. Because I know people aren’t going to go read the earnings reports because it’s boring. But if you dig into it, gross bookings rose 34% year over year. But adjusted net rev only grew 14%. Which means that of that new gross bookings, Uber’s take rate probably went down a little bit. Which implies that probably Uber Eats grew a lot and Uber’s percent cut of that revenue is smaller. So, the gross bookings growth looks great, but it doesn’t translate.

Click play below to have a listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

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Alex: If you’re looking to sell your private company stock, SharesPost has a solution for you. With more than 4 billion in company approved transactions, SharesPost is the leading marketplace for private company shares. To learn more, visit us at sharespost.com/equity.

Kate: Hello, and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital focus podcast. I’m back this week with Crunchbase news Editor in Chief, Alex Wilhelm Hey Alex, how’s it going?

Alex: Things are good. It’s cold out in the East Coast. But I’m more excited to hear about things on your end because you are in the new TechCrunch podcast studio. What is it like?


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Zoom, housing affordability, Mailchimp, Yext, and Uber

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in housing, Luckin Coffee, Lyft, Mailchimp, The Extra Crunch Daily, Uber, yext, zoom | 0 comments

Conference call with CEO Eric Yuan of newly-IPOd Zoom

Since we first started Extra Crunch three months ago (my, time flies), we’ve been offering members live conference calls with our reporters. This week, we are trying something new and bringing a guest aboard.

TechCrunch’s SF-based startup and venture capital reporter Kate Clark is going to talk today with Eric Yuan, who founded video conferencing startup Zoom that just went public last month, making Yuan a very happy man.

Come armed with your questions or send them in to Arman Tabatabai. Instructions for joining the call will be mailed to members about an hour in advance, so check your inboxes.

Housing affordability market map

Dan Wu, a regtech and legaltech evangelist, published a great series of market maps on the housing affordability space this week on Extra Crunch, covering more than 200+ companies and organizations. He looks at spaces as diverse as property management, land acquisition, group developers, and new financial asset classes.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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EC-exclusive interview with Tim Cook, Slacklash, and tech inclusion

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Amazon Web Services, app developers, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Deezer, Geoff Cook, Google, Groupon, IBM, Kate Clark, kidbox, Matthew Panzarino, Microsoft, om malik, San Francisco, The Extra Crunch Daily, Tim Cook, Travis Kalanick, True Ventures, Uber, WeWork | 0 comments

An EC-exclusive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook

TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino traveled to Florida this week to talk with Tim Cook about Apple’s developer education initiatives and also meet with high school developer Liam Rosenfeld of Lyman High School. Apple wants to attract the next set of app developers like Liam into the Xcode world, and the company is building a more ambitious strategy to do so going forward:

But that conversation with Liam does bring up some questions, and I ask Cook whether the thinks that there are more viable pathways to coding, especially for people with non-standard education or backgrounds.

“I don’t think a four year degree is necessary to be proficient at coding,” says Cook. “I think that’s an old, traditional view. What we found out is that if we can get coding in in the early grades and have a progression of difficulty over the tenure of somebody’s high school years, by the time you graduate kids like Liam, as an example of this, they’re already writing apps that could be put on the App Store.”

Against the Slacklash

TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans often writes on developer tools and productivity (see, for example, his Extra Crunch overview of the headless CMS space). Now, he sets his sights on Slack, and finds the product … much better and more productive than many would have you believe, and offers tips for maximizing its value:


Source: The Tech Crunch

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India’s most popular services are becoming super apps

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Apps, Asia, China, Cloud, Developer, Facebook, Finance, Flipkart, Food, Foodpanda, Gaana, Gaming, grab, haptik, hike, India, MakeMyTrip, Media, Microsoft, microsoft garage, Mobile, Mukesh Ambani, mx player, payments, Paytm, paytm mall, reliance jio, saavn, SnapDeal, Social, Startups, Tapzo, Tencent, Times Internet, Transportation, Truecaller, Uber, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, WeChat | 0 comments

Truecaller, an app that helps users screen strangers and robocallers, will soon allow users in India, its largest market, to borrow up to a few hundred dollars.

The crediting option will be the fourth feature the nine-year-old app adds to its service in the last two years. So far it has added to the service the ability to text, record phone calls and mobile payment features, some of which are only available to users in India. Of the 140 million daily active users of Truecaller, 100 million live in India.

The story of the ever-growing ambition of Truecaller illustrates an interesting phase in India’s internet market that is seeing a number of companies mold their single-functioning app into multi-functioning so-called super apps.

Inspired by China

This may sound familiar. Truecaller and others are trying to replicate Tencent’s playbook. The Chinese tech giant’s WeChat, an app that began life as a messaging service, has become a one-stop solution for a range of features — gaming, payments, social commerce and publishing platform — in recent years.

WeChat has become such a dominant player in the Chinese internet ecosystem that it is effectively serving as an operating system and getting away with it. The service maintains its own app store that hosts mini apps and lets users tip authors. This has put it at odds with Apple, though the iPhone-maker has little choice but to make peace with it.

For all its dominance in China, WeChat has struggled to gain traction in India and elsewhere. But its model today is prominently on display in other markets. Grab and Go-Jek in Southeast Asian markets are best known for their ride-hailing services, but have begun to offer a range of other features, including food delivery, entertainment, digital payments, financial services and healthcare.

The proliferation of low-cost smartphones and mobile data in India, thanks in part to Google and Facebook, has helped tens of millions of Indians come online in recent years, with mobile the dominant platform. The number of internet users has already exceeded 500 million in India, up from some 350 million in mid-2015. According to some estimates, India may have north of 625 million users by year-end.

This has fueled the global image of India, which is both the fastest growing internet and smartphone market. Naturally, local apps in India, and those from international firms that operate here, are beginning to replicate WeChat’s model.

Founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Paytm Vijay Shekhar Sharma speaks during the launch of Paytm payments Bank at a function in New Delhi on November 28, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN)

Leading that pack is Paytm, the popular homegrown mobile wallet service that’s valued at $18 billion and has been heavily backed by Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that rivals Tencent and crucially missed the mobile messaging wave in China.

Commanding attention

In recent years, the Paytm app has taken a leaf from China with additions that include the ability to text merchants; book movie, flight and train tickets; and buy shoes, books and just about anything from its e-commerce arm Paytm Mall . It also has added a number of mini games to the app. The company said earlier this month that more than 30 million users are engaging with its games.

Why bother with diversifying your app’s offering? Well, for Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm, the question is why shouldn’t you? If your app serves a certain number of transactions (or engagements) in a day, you have a good shot at disrupting many businesses that generate fewer transactions, he told TechCrunch in an interview.

At the end of the day, companies want to garner as much attention of a user as they can, said Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner of research and advisory firm Convergence Catalyst.

“This is similar to how cable networks such as Fox and Star have built various channels with a wide range of programming to create enough hooks for users to stick around,” Kolla said.

“The agenda for these apps is to hold people’s attention and monopolize a user’s activities on their mobile devices,” he added, explaining that higher engagement in an app translates to higher revenue from advertising.

Paytm’s Sharma agrees. “Payment is the moat. You can offer a range of things including content, entertainment, lifestyle, commerce and financial services around it,” he told TechCrunch. “Now that’s a business model… payment itself can’t make you money.”

Big companies follow suit

Other businesses have taken note. Flipkart -owned payment app PhonePe, which claims to have 150 million active users, today hosts a number of mini apps. Some of those include services for ride-hailing service Ola, hotel booking service Oyo and travel booking service MakeMyTrip.

Paytm (the first two images from left) and PhonePe offer a range of services that are integrated into their payments apps

What works for PhonePe is that its core business — payments — has amassed enough users, Himanshu Gupta, former associate director of marketing and growth for WeChat in India, told TechCrunch. He added that unlike e-commerce giant Snapdeal, which attempted to offer similar offerings back in the day, PhonePe has tighter integration with other services, and is built using modern architecture that gives users almost native app experiences inside mini apps.

When you talk about strategy for Flipkart, the homegrown e-commerce giant acquired by Walmart last year for a cool $16 billion, chances are arch rival Amazon is also hatching similar plans, and that’s indeed the case for super apps.

In India, Amazon offers its customers a range of payment features such as the ability to pay phone bills and cable subscription through its Amazon Pay service. The company last year acquired Indian startup Tapzo, an app that offers integration with popular services such as Uber, Ola, Swiggy and Zomato, to boost Pay’s business in the nation.

Another U.S. giant, Microsoft, is also aboard the super train. The Redmond-based company has added a slew of new features to SMS Organizer, an app born out of its Microsoft Garage initiative in India. What began as a texting app that can screen spam messages and help users keep track of important SMSs recently partnered with education board CBSE in India to deliver exam results of 10th and 12th grade students.

This year, the SMS Organizer app added an option to track live train schedules through a partnership with Indian Railways, and there’s support for speech-to-text. It also offers personalized discount coupons from a range of companies, giving users an incentive to check the app more often.

Like in other markets, Google and Facebook hold a dominant position in India. More than 95% of smartphones sold in India run the Android operating system. There is no viable local — or otherwise — alternative to Search, Gmail and YouTube, which counts India as its fastest growing market. But Google hasn’t necessarily made any push to significantly expand the scope of any of its offerings in India.

India is the biggest market for WhatsApp, and Facebook’s marquee app too has more than 250 million users in the nation. WhatsApp launched a pilot payments program in India in early 2018, but is yet to get clearance from the government for a nationwide rollout. (It isn’t happening for at least another two months, a person familiar with the matter said.) In the meanwhile, Facebook appears to be hatching a WeChatization of Messenger, albeit that app is not so big in India.

Ride-hailing service Ola too, like Grab and Go-Jek, plans to add financial services such as credit to the platform this year, a source familiar with the company’s plans told TechCrunch.

“We have an abundance of data about our users. We know how much money they spend on rides, how often they frequent the city and how often they order from restaurants. It makes perfect sense to give them these valued-added features,” the person said. Ola has already branched out of transport after it acquired food delivery startup Foodpanda in late 2017, but it hasn’t yet made major waves in financial services despite giving its Ola Money service its own dedicated app.

The company positioned Ola Money as a super app, expanded its features through acquisition and tie ups with other players and offered discounts and cashbacks. But it remains behind Paytm, PhonePe and Google Pay, all of which are also offering discounts to customers.

Integrated entertainment

Super apps indeed come in all shapes and sizes, beyond core services like payment and transportation — the strategy is showing up in apps and services that entertain India’s internet population.

MX Player, a video playback app with more than 175 million users in India that was acquired by Times Internet for some $140 million last year, has big ambitions. Last year, it introduced a video streaming service to bolster its app to grow beyond merely being a repository. It has already commissioned the production of several original shows.

In recent months, it has also integrated Gaana, the largest local music streaming app that is also owned by Times Internet. Now its parent company, which rivals Google and Facebook on some fronts, is planning to add mini games to MX Player, a person familiar with the matter said, to give it additional reach and appeal.

Some of these apps, especially those that have amassed tens of millions of users, have a real shot at diversifying their offerings, analyst Kolla said. There is a bar of entry, though. A huge user base that engages with a product on a daily basis is a must for any company if it is to explore chasing the super app status, he added.

Indeed, there are examples of companies that had the vision to see the benefits of super apps but simply couldn’t muster the requisite user base. As mentioned, Snapdeal tried and failed at expanding its app’s offerings. Messaging service Hike, which was valued at more than $1 billion two years ago and includes WeChat parent Tencent among its investors, added games and other features to its app, but ultimately saw poor engagement. Its new strategy is the reverse: to break its app into multiple pieces.

“In 2019, we continue to double down on both social and content but we’re going to do it with an evolved approach. We’re going to do it across multiple apps. That means, in 2019 we’re going to go from building a super app that encompasses everything, to Multiple Apps solving one thing really well. Yes, we’re unbundling Hike,” Kavin Mittal, founder and CEO of Hike, wrote in an update published earlier this year.

And Reliance Jio, of course

For the rest, the race is still on, but there are big horses waiting to enter to add further competition.

Reliance Jio, a subsidiary of conglomerate Reliance Industry that is owned by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is planning to introduce a super app that will host more than 100 features, according to a person familiar with the matter. Local media first reported the development.

It will be fascinating to see how that works out. Reliance Jio, which almost single-handedly disrupted the telecom industry in India with its low-cost data plans and free voice calls, has amassed tens of millions of users on the bouquet of apps that it offers at no additional cost to Jio subscribers.

Beyond that diverse selection of homespun apps, Reliance has also taken an M&A-based approach to assemble the pieces of its super app strategy.

It bought music streaming service Saavn last year and quickly integrated it with its own music app JioMusic. Last month, it acquired Haptik, a startup that develops “conversational” platforms and virtual assistants, in a deal worth more than $100 million. It already has the user bases required. JioTV, an app that offers access to over 500 TV channels; and JioNews, an app that additionally offers hundreds of magazines and newspapers, routinely appear among the top apps in Google Play Store.

India’s super app revolution is in its early days, but the trend is surely one to keep an eye on as the country moves into its next chapter of internet usage.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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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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A brief history of Uber’s bumpy road to an IPO

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Alphabet, Anthony Levandowski, Arizona, California, carsharing, Colorado, Commuting, driver, Emil Michael, equal employment opportunity commission, executive, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, Google, Lyft, pandodaily, Sarah Lacy, self-driving car, TC, transport, Travis Kalanick, Uber, Uber Startup, waymo | 0 comments

It’s been nine years since UberCab made its first appearance on the WordPress pages of this website. In the ensuing years, the startup has grown from an upstart looking to upend the taxi cab cartels, to a juggernaut that has its hands in every form of transportation and logistics service it can think of.

In the process, Uber has done some things that might give (and in fact has given) some shareholders pause.

From its first pitch deck to this historic public offering, TechCrunch has covered the über startup that has defined the post-financial-crisis era of consumer venture investing.

Here are some of the things that shouldn’t get swept into the dustbin of Uber’s history as the company makes its debut as a public company.

  • In 2014 Uber used a tool called “God View” to track the movements of passengers and shared those details publicly.At the time, the company was worth a cool $18.2 billion, and was already on the road to success (an almost pre-ordained journey given the company’s investors and capitalization), but even then, it could not get out of the way of its darker impulses.
  • A former executive of the company, Emil Michael, suggested that Uber should investigate journalists who were critical of the company and its business practices (including PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy).
  • As it expanded internationally, Uber came under fire for lax hiring practices for its drivers. In India, the company was banned in New Delhi, after a convicted sex offender was arrested on suspicion of raping a female passenger.
  • Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission opened an investigation into the company for gender discrimination around hiring and salaries for women at the company. Uber’s problems with harassment were famously documented by former employee Susan Fowler in a blog post that helped spur a reckoning for the tech sector.
  • Uber has been forced to pay fines for its inability to keep passenger and driver information private. The company has agreed to 20 years of privacy audits and has paid a fine to settle a case that was opened by the Federal Trade Commission dating back to 2017.
  • While Uber was not found to be criminally liable in the death of an Arizona pedestrian that was struck and killed by a self-driving car from the company’s fleet, it remains the only company with an autonomous vehicle involved in the death of a pedestrian.
  • Beyond its problems with federal regulators, Uber has also had problems adhering to local laws. In Colorado, Uber was fined nearly $10 million for not adhering to the state’s requirements regarding background checks of its drivers.
  • Uber was also sued by other companies. Notably, it was involved in a lengthy and messy trade secret dispute with Alphabet’s onetime self-driving car unit, Waymo. That was for picking up former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski and some know-how that the former Alphabet exec allegedly acquired improperly before heading out the door.
  • Uber even had dueling lawsuits going between and among its executives and major shareholders. When Travis Kalanick was ousted by the Uber board, the decision reverberated through its boardroom. As part of that battle for control, Benchmark, an early investor in Uber sued the company’s founder and former chief executive,  Travis Kalanick for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Uber’s chief people officer, Liane Hornsey was forced to resign following a previously unreported investigation into her alleged systematic dismissals of racial discrimination complaints within Uber.
  • Lawsuits against the company not only dealt with its treatment of gender and race issues, but also for accessibility problems with the ride-hailing service. The company was sued for allegedly violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.
  • The ride-hailing service also isn’t free from legal woes in international markets. Earlier this year, the company paid around $3 million to settle charges that Uber had violated local laws by operating in the country illegally.
  • Finally, the company’s lax driver screening policies have led to multiple reports of assault by drivers of Uber passengers. Uber recently ended the policy of forcing those women to engage in mandatory arbitration proceedings to adjudicate those claims.
  • Not even the drivers who form the core of Uber’s service are happy with the company. On the eve of its public offering, a strike in cities across the country brought their complaints squarely in front of the company’s executive team right before the public offering, which was set to make them millions.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Uber’s first day as a public company didn’t go so well

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in carsharing, Commuting, economy, Finance, Fundings & Exits, initial public offering, money, Transportation, Uber, Uber IPO, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Ouch. Yikes. Oof. Sigh.

Those are some of the friendlier phrases I imagine came out of the mouths of bankers, investors, executives and really anyone who has been paying close attention to Uber’s road to the stock markets today when the company debuted on the New York Stock Exchange below its initial public offering price.

The ride-hailing business (NYSE: UBER), previously valued at $72 billion by venture capitalists, priced its stock at $45 apiece for a valuation of $82.4 billion on Thursday. It began trading this morning at $42 apiece, only to close even lower at $41.57, or down 7.6% from its IPO price.

Still, the IPO was successful enough for Uber. The business now has $8.1 billion on its balance sheet to invest in growth and, ideally, transform into a profitable business.

Anyone who expected Uber to climb past $100 billion at its IPO is surely disappointed. And those who projected a valuation of some $120 billion, well, they’re probably feeling pretty dumb. Nonetheless, Uber’s new market cap makes its exit one of the most valuable in history, and represents a landmark event for tech, mobility and the gig economy at large.

Where the stock will go from here, who knows. Lyft, as we’ve observed, has taken quite a hit since it completed an IPO in March. The Uber competitor is currently trading at a higher price than Uber: $51 per share with a market cap of about $14.6 billion. Its stock has fallen all week long, however, after the company posted losses of more than $1 billion in the first quarter of 2019.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Uber’s trading debut: who was (and wasn’t) at the opening bell

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Apps, Automotive, carsharing, Dara Khosrowshahi, Exit, Expedia, Garrett Camp, Rachel Holt, Startups, thuan pham, Transportation, Travis Kalanick, Uber, Uber IPO, vmware | 0 comments

Uber finally made its debut Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, ending its decade-long journey from startup to publicly traded company.

So far, it’s been a ho-hum beginning, with shares opening at $42, down from the IPO price. The share price is hovering just under $44.

Thirteen people, including executives, early employees, drivers and customers, were on the balcony for the historic bell ringing that opened the markets Friday. Noticeable absentees were co-founder Garrett Camp and former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was ousted from the company in June 2017 after a string of scandals around Uber’s business practices.

Kalanick, who still sits on the board and has an 8.6% stake in Uber, wasn’t part of the opening bell ceremony. However, Kalanick and Camp were both at the NYSE for the event.

Here is who participated in the opening bell ceremony.

The bell ringer

Austin Geidt, who rang the bell, was employee No. 4 when she started as an intern in 2010, and is one of Uber’s earliest employees.

Geidt joined Uber in 2010 and has since worked in numerous positions at the company. She led Uber’s expansion in hundreds of new cities and dozens of new countries. Geidt now heads up strategy for Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, the unit working on autonomous vehicles.

Executives

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stood next to Geidt at the opening of the market Friday. Khosrowshahi joined Uber in 2017 after Kalanick resigned and the board launched an extensive search for an executive who could change the culture at the company and prepare it for an eventual IPO.

Khosrowshahi was the CEO of Expedia before joining Uber. Khosrowshahi gave a one-year update on his time at Uber during TechCrunch Disrupt in September 2018.

Uber CTO Thuan Pham has been with the company since 2013. Prior to coming to Uber, Pham was vice president of engineering at VMware.

Rachel Holt, vice president and head of New Mobility, was also on hand. Holt has worked at Uber since October 2011, when the company was live in just three cities. In May 2016, she became VP and regional general manager of Uber’s operations in the U.S. and Canada.

She was promoted to head up new mobility in June 2018. She’s responsible for the ramp-up and onboarding of additional mobility services, including public transit integration, scooters, car rentals and bikes.

Rachel Holt (Getty Images)

Other executives included Pierre-Dimitry Gore-Coty and Andrew MacDonald, both vice presidents and regional general managers at Uber, as well as Jason Droege, a vice president who heads up Uber Eats.

Droege, who joined Uber in 2014, has the official title of head of UberEverything. This is the team that created the food delivery service Uber Eats, which now operates in 35 countries.

Drivers

Uber had five drivers on hand for the opening bell, who represented different services and geographies.

Among the drivers were:

  • Jerry Bruner, a Los Angeles-based driver who is a military veteran and former professional golfer. Bruner has completed more than 30,000 Uber trips.
  • Tiffany Hanna, a military veteran, is based out of Springfield, Missouri. Hanna is a truck driver who uses the Uber Freight carrier app. 
  • Jonelle Bain, a New York-based driver. Uber, which shared the bios of the drivers, said Bain is taking coding classes and plans to become a software engineer.
  • Onur Kerey is a driver based out of London. Kerey is deaf. According to his bio, “He doesn’t let his disability get in the way of his passion for driving or connecting with others.”
  • J. Alexander Palacio Sanchez is based in Australia and has been driving with Uber since 2015. His true passion is acting, according to Uber, and at the urging of his riders, he auditioned for the role of Kevin in “The Heights” — and landed it.

Customers

One customer, Elise Wu, also participated in the opening bell. Wu owns Kampai, a family of restaurants in France that serves affordable cuisine made available for delivery through Uber Eats.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Singapore’s Grain, a profitable food delivery startup, pulls in $10M for expansion

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Asia, bangkok, Cento Ventures, ceo, Deliveroo, Food, food delivery, Foodpanda, funding, Fundings & Exits, grain, Honestbee, Impossible foods, munchery, online food ordering, openspace ventures, Singapore, Southeast Asia, Spotify, Startup company, TC, Thailand, transport, Travis Kalanick, Uber, United States, websites, world wide web | 0 comments

Cloud kitchens are the big thing in food delivery, with ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s new business one contender in that space, with Asia, and particularly Southeast Asia, a major focus. Despite the newcomers, a more established startup from Singapore has raised a large bowl of cash to go after regional expansion.

Founded in 2014, Grain specializes in clean food while it takes a different approach to Kalanick’s CloudKitchens or food delivery services like Deliveroo, FoodPanda or GrabFood.

It adopted a cloud kitchen model — utilizing unwanted real estate as kitchens, with delivery services for output — but used it for its own operations. So while CloudKitchens and others rent their space to F&B companies as a cheaper way to make food for their on-demand delivery customers, Grain works with its own chefs, menu and delivery team. A so-called ‘full stack’ model if you can stand the cliched tech phrase.

Finally, Grain is also profitable. The new round has it shooting for growth — more on that below — but the startup was profitable last year, CEO and co-founder Yi Sung Yong told TechCrunch.

Now it is reaping the rewards of a model that keeps it in control of its product, unlike others that are complicated by a chain that includes the restaurant and a delivery person.

We previously wrote about Grain when it raised a $1.7 million Series A back in 2016 and today it announced a $10 million Series B which is led by Thailand’s Singha Ventures, the VC arm of the beer brand. A bevy of other investors took part, including Genesis Alternative Ventures, Sass Corp, K2 Global — run by serial investor Ozi Amanat who has backed Impossible Foods, Spotify and Uber among others — FoodXervices and Majuven. Existing investors Openspace Ventures, Raging Bull — from Thai Express founder Ivan Lee — and Cento Ventures participated.

The round includes venture debt, as well as equity, and it is worth noting that the family office of the owners of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf — Sassoon Investment Corporation — was involved.

Grain covers individual food as well as buffets in Singapore

Three years is a long gap between the two deals — Openspace and Cento have even rebranded during the intervening period — and the ride has been an eventful one. During those years, Sung said the business had come close to running out of capital before it doubled down on the fundamentals before the precarious runway capital ran out.

In fact, he said, the company — which now has over 100 staff — was fully prepared to self-sustain.

“We didn’t think of raising a Series B,” he explained in an interview. “Instead, we focused on the business and getting profitable… we thought that we can’t depend entirely on investors.”

And, ladies and gentleman, the irony of that is that VCs very much like a business that can self-sustain — it shows a model is proven — and investing in a startup that doesn’t need capital can be attractive.

Ultimately, though, profitability is seen as sexy today — particularly in the meal space where countless U.S. startups has shuttered including Munchery and Sprig — but the focus meant that Grain had to shelve its expansion plans. It then went through soul-searching times in 2017 when a spoilt curry saw 20 customers get food poisoning.

Sung declined to comment directly on that incident, but he said that company today has developed the “infrastructure” to scale its business across the board, and that very much includes quality control.

Grain co-founder and CEO Yi Sung Yong [Image via LinkedIn]

Grain currently delivers “thousands” of meals per day in Singapore, its sole market, with eight-figures in sales per year, he said. Last year, growth was 200 percent, Sung continued, and now is the time to look overseas. With Singha, the Grain CEO said the company has “everything we need to launch in Bangkok.”

Thailand — which Malaysia-based rival Dahamakan picked for its first expansion — is the only new launch on the table, but Sung said that could change.

“If things move faster, we’ll expand to more cities, maybe one per year,” he said. “But we need to get our brand, our food and our service right first.”

One part of that may be securing better deals for raw ingredients and food from suppliers. Grain is expanding its ‘hub’ kitchens — outposts placed strategically around town to serve customers faster — and growing its fleet of trucks, which are retrofitted with warmers and chillers for deliveries to customers.

Grain’s journey is proof that startups in the region will go through trials and tribulations, but being able to bolt down the fundamentals and reduce burn rate is crucial in the event that things go awry. Just look to grocery startup Honestbee, also based in Singapore, for evidence of what happens when costs are allowed to pile up.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Uber prices IPO at $45 per share, raises $8.1B

Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Finance, Fundings & Exits, IPO, TC, Transportation, Uber, Uber IPO | 0 comments

Uber has set its initial public offering at $45 per share, per reports, raising $8.1 billion in the process.

The price, which falls at the low end of Uber’s planned range, values Uber at $82.4 billion. Uber confirmed the price in a press release Thursday afternoon.

The pricing comes one day after drivers all over the world went on strike, with drivers in San Francisco protesting right outside the company’s headquarters.

Uber filed for its IPO last month, reporting 2018 revenues of $11.27 billion, net income of $997 million and adjusted EBITDA losses of $1.85 billion. Though, we knew this thanks to Uber’s previous disclosures of its financials.

But this is not the first time we’ve seen Uber’s financials. Over the last couple of years, Uber has willingly disclosed many of these numbers. Its last report as a private company came in February when Uber disclosed $3 billion in Q4 2018 revenue, with rising operating losses.

From ridesharing specifically, Uber’s revenues increased from $3.5 billion in 2016 to $9.2 billion in 2018, with gross bookings hitting $41.5 billion last year from ridesharing products.

Competitor Lyft filed its S-1 documents in March, showing nearly $1 billion in 2018 losses and revenues of $2.1 billion. It reported $8.1 billion in booking, covering 30.7 million riders and 1.9 million drivers. About a week later, Lyft set a range of $62 to $68 for its IPO, seeking to raise up to $2.1 billion. Since its debut on the Nasdaq, Lyft’s stock has suffered after skyrocketing nearly 10% on day one. Lyft is currently trading about 20% below its IPO.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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