Walmart+, the retailer’s lower cost alternative to Amazon Prime offering same-day delivery of groceries and other items, is making its service more appealing with today’s launch of a new perk. The company says that starting on Friday, December 4, it will remove the $35 shipping minimum on orders from Walmart.com for its members. However, this doesn’t apply to the same-day orders of groceries or other items fulfilled by Walmart stores, but rather online shopping where orders are placed through Walmart’s traditional e-commerce channels.
That means there’s no longer a minimum order requirement on the next-day and …
A French administration in charge of consumer rights and fraud has investigated on Wish, the mobile e-commerce platform that recently filed to go public. While the company generated $1.9 billion in revenue in 2019, the French administration believes Wish could be selling products, such as sneakers and perfumes, with images incorrectly showing the logos of famous brands.
In addition to those wrongly labeled products, the administration says Wish pretends products are on sale while they aren’t. The platform could be displaying -70%, -80% or -90% on some products even though the original price is completely made up.
The administration in charge …
Black Friday — the day that launched 1,000 other shopping holidays — may have lost its place as the “start” of the Christmas shopping season by now (it gets bigger and earlier with each passing year). But the day after Thanksgiving still pulls in a crowd of buyers looking for a bargain and remains a major bellwether for tracking how sales will progress in what is the most important period for the retail and commerce sector.
This year saw growth, but at the low end of the predicted range.
Adobe, which is following online sales in real-time at 80 of the top 100 retailers in …
Meet Bigblue, a French startup that just raised a $3.6 million seed round (€3 million) to build an end-to-end fulfillment solution in Europe. If you sell products on your own website and across multiple marketplaces, you can use Bigblue to handle everything that happens after a transaction.
Bigblue doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it partners with existing logistics companies so that you only have to manage one relationship with Bigblue. It means that Bigblue works with several fulfillment centers to store your products as well as multiple shipping carriers.
Essentially, Bigblue lets you improve the experience for your customers. …
FoodBoss aims to be something like Kayak for online food ordering — the place where you can search across different service and apps to find the lowest prices and fastest delivery times.
One limitation, however, is the fact that the service was limited to third-party services like Uber Eats and Postmates, with no way to order from the restaurant itself — until recently, with the launch of a new feature called Restaurant Direct.
FoodBoss co-founder and CEO Michael DiBenedetto said that restaurants are placing an increasing emphasis on accepting delivery and pickup orders directly, both to save on the fees they pay to third-party services, and also to have a direct relationship with their customers.
“The main problem is they spent all this money to build out the [ordering] infrastructure, but they don’t necessarily know that they have to spend marketing dollars to drive consumers to their site or app,” DiBenedetto said. “That’s where we’re really helping.”
Image Credits: FoodBoss
Restaurant Direct may present some additional technical hurdles, because it will require FoodBoss to integrate with a variety of ordering systems. DiBenedetto said the company will be connecting through APIs in some cases and can also work directly with restaurant IT departments.
He emphasized that FoodBoss will remain agnostic about how you order — the goal is just to show you all the options, and to highlight the ordering method that best matches your priorities.
“At FoodBoss, we’re focused on making sure we’re helping third parties and [restaurants] have a lower overall marketing cost,” DiBenedetto continued. “Everybody wants to be profitable on delivery.”
The first restaurant available through Restaurant Direct is Lou Malnati’s in Chicago, with plans to add Sbarro in multiple markets next year. In a statement, Lou Malnati’s president, Heather Stege, said, “The challenge for restaurants is being able to serve customers through the users preferred channels, while still providing them with exceptional food. FoodBoss helps simplify that by offering multiple options, including our own, to attract customers.”
You wait ages for foot scanning startups to help with the tricky fit issue that troubles online shoe shopping and then two come along at once: Launching today in time for Black Friday sprees is Xesto — which like Neatsy, which we wrote about earlier today, also makes use of the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera to generate individual 3D foot models for shoe size recommendations.
The Canadian startup hasn’t always been focused on feet. It has a long-standing research collaboration with the University of Toronto, alma mater of its CEO and co-founder Sophie Howe (its other co-founder and chief scientist, Afiny Akdemir, is also pursuing a Math PhD there) — and was actually founded back in 2015 to explore business ideas in human computer interaction.
But Howe tells us it moved into mobile sizing shortly after the 2017 launch of the iPhone X — which added a 3D depth camera to Apple’s smartphone. Since then Apple has added the sensor to additional iPhone models, pushing it within reach of a larger swathe of iOS users. So you can see why startups are spying a virtual fit opportunity here.
“This summer I had an aha! moment when my boyfriend saw a pair of fancy shoes on a deep discount online and thought they would be a great gift. He couldn’t remember my foot length at the time, and knew I didn’t own that brand so he couldn’t have gone through my closet to find my size,” says Howe. “I realized in that moment shoes as gifts are uncommon because they’re so hard to get correct because of size, and no one likes returning and exchanging gifts. When I’ve bought shoes for him in the past, I’ve had to ruin the surprise by calling him – and I’m not the only one. I realized in talking with friends this was a feature they all wanted without even knowing it… Shoes have such a cult status in wardrobes and it is time to unlock their gifting potential!”
Howe slid into this TechCrunch writer’s DMs with the eye-catching claim that Xesto’s foot-scanning technology is more accurate than Neatsy’s — sending a Xesto scan of her foot compared to Neatsy’s measure of it to back up the boast. (Aka: “We are under 1.5 mm accuracy. We compared against Neatsy right now and they are about 1.5 cm off of the true size of the app,” as she put it.)
Another big difference is Xesto isn’t selling any shoes itself. Nor is it interested in just sneakers; its shoe-type agnostic. If you can put it on your feet it wants to help you find the right fit, is the idea.
Right now the app is focused on the foot scanning process and the resulting 3D foot models — showing shoppers their feet in a 3D point cloud view, another photorealistic view as well as providing granular foot measurements.
There’s also a neat feature that lets you share your foot scans so, for example, a person who doesn’t have their own depth sensing iPhone could ask to borrow a friend’s to capture and takeaway scans of their own feet.
Helping people who want to be bought (correctly fitting) shoes as gifts is the main reason they’ve added foot scan sharing, per Howe — who notes shoppers can create and store multiple foot profiles on an account “for ease of group shopping”.
“Xesto is solving two problems: Buying shoes [online] for yourself, and buying shoes for someone else,” she tells TechCrunch. “Problem 1: When you buy shoes online, you might be unfamiliar with your size in the brand or model. If you’ve never bought from a brand before, it is very risky to make a purchase because there is very limited context in selecting your size. With many brands you translate your size yourself.
“Problem 2: People don’t only buy shoes for themselves. We enable gift and family purchasing (within a household or remote!) by sharing profiles.”
Xesto is doing its size predictions based on comparing a user’s (<1.5mm accurate) foot measurements to brands’ official sizing guidelines — with more than 150 shoe brands currently supported.
Howe says it plans to incorporate customer feedback into these predictions — including by analyzing online reviews where people tend to specify if a particular shoe sizes larger or smaller than expected. So it’s hoping to be able to keep honing the model’s accuracy.
“What we do is remove the uncertainty of finding your size by taking your 3D foot dimensions and correlate that to the brands sizes (or shoe model, if we have them),” she says. “We use the brands size guides and customer feedback to make the size recommendations. We have over 150 brands currently supported and are continuously adding more brands and models. We also recommend if you have extra wide feet you read reviews to see if you need to size up (until we have all that data robustly gathered).”
Asked about the competitive landscape, given all this foot scanning action, Howe admits there’s a number of approaches trying to help with virtual shoe fit — such as comparative brand sizing recommendations or even foot scanning with pieces of paper. But she argues Xesto has an edge because of the high level of detail of its 3D scans — and on account of its social sharing feature. Aka this is an app to make foot scans you can send your bestie for shopping keepsies.
“What we do that is unique is only use 3D depth data and computer vision to create a 3D scan of the foot with under 1.5mm accuracy (unmatched as far as we’ve seen) in only a few minutes,” she argues. “We don’t ask you any information about your feet, or to use a reference object. We make size recommendations based on your feet alone, then let you share them seamlessly with loved ones. Size sharing is a unique feature we haven’t seen in the sizing space that we’re incredibly excited about (not only because we will get more shoes as gifts :D).”
Xesto’s iOS app is free for shoppers to download. It’s also entirely free to create and share your foot scan in glorious 3D point cloud — and will remain so according to Howe. The team’s monetization plan is focused on building out partnerships with retailers, which is on the slate for 2021.
“Right now we’re not taking any revenue but next year we will be announcing partnerships where we work directly within brands ecosystems,” she says, adding: “[We wanted to offer] the app to customers in time for Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. In 2021, we are launching some exciting initiatives in partnership with brands. But the app will always be free for shoppers!”
Since being founded around five years ago, Howe says Xesto has raised a pre-seed round from angel investors and secured national advanced research grants, as well as taking in some revenue over its lifetime. The team has one patent granted and one pending for their technologies, she adds.
Farmstead, a startup that operates an online grocery business while also selling software to other grocers, is announcing that it has raised $7.9 million in Series A funding.
While there’s been plenty of demand for grocery delivery this year, the major players like Instacart are making purchases and deliveries from existing supermarkets. Farmstead co-founder and CEO Pradeep Elankumaran said that this model puts a big constraint on the number of possible deliveries, which is why you may be struggling to get a delivery slot.
There have been fewer success stories around the Farmstead approach, where a company sells groceries from its own warehouse (and in Farmstead’s case, employs its own warehouse staff and drivers).
In fact, Elankumaran said that when the company started in 2016, “The warehouse model was incredibly unattractive to everyone else,” because of the operational headaches and expenses.
To address these issues, Elankumaran said Farmstead has built software to “re-orchestrate” warehouse operations and make them more efficient. The startup says it’s been able to reduce food waste by 3-4x, while also serving thousands of orders per day across a 50-mile radius, with no delivery fees, from each warehouse “hub.” In fact, in the startup’s first market of San Francisco, Farmstead is supposedly “marching towards profitability, and we’re very close at this point.”
Image Credits: Farmstead
Next up: Geographic expansion, starting in North Carolina, with Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham (where Farmstead just opened its wait list). Elankumaran said he’s hoping to launch between 15 and 30 new markets in the next 12 months.
“A better way of putting it is: Two years ago we were not ready [to expand], and right now we are ready,” he said.
In addition, Farmstead has started selling its Grocery OS software to other grocery businesses that want to move online. Elankumaran said that in some cases, the grocer may simply buy the software, while in others, Farmstead could also work with them to operate the warehouse. Either way, he said the key is the need to “fork the demand,” so that offline shoppers are going to one store, while online orders are being fulfilled from a separate location.
“You cannot get this industry online unless the capacity increases,” he said.
Elankumaran also said that while it can cost $10 million of dollars to open a new supermarket location, Farmstead can launch a hub in four to six weeks, at a cost of $100,000.
As for whether grocery stores have any hesitation about buying software from a potential competitor, Elankumaran said that the opposite is true — they trust Farmstead more because of “the fact that we’re not a B2B software company that has not operated a grocery store.”
Farmstead has now raised a total of $14.7 million. The Series A was led by Aidenlair Capital, with participation from Y Combinator, Gelt VC, Duro, Maple VC, Heron Rock, 19 York, Red Dog Capital and others.
Reliance Retail has acquired a majority stake in furniture and decor platform Urban Ladder, making a broader push into e-commerce as the largest retail chain in India gears up to fight Amazon and Flipkart.
In a filing to the local stock exchange, Reliance Retail said it had acquired a 96% stake in Urban Ladder for about $24.43 million. The Indian retail giant, which retains the option to acquire the remainder stake in the seven-and-a-half-years-old startup, said it has proposed to invest up to $10.06 million more in Urban Ladder by December 2023.
The startup had raised about $115 million from Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, Steadview Capital, and MIT and other investors, according to Crunchbase and Tracxn. In the financial year that ended in March, the Indian startup reported a loss of $6.63 million on a turnover of $58.2 million.
Reliance Retail said (PDF) the investment “will further enable the group’s digital and new commerce initiatives and widen the bouquet of consumer products provided by the group, while enhancing user engagement and experience across its retail offerings.”
Our all-hands-on-deck coverage of DoorDash’s S-1 is a good illustration of Extra Crunch’s mission: timely analysis of current and future technology trends that serves founders and investors. We have a talented team, and as today’s coverage shows, they’re just as good as they are fast.
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“Error number one (and two) is to raise the wrong amount of money and to do it at the wrong time,” he says. “They can also put all their eggs in one basket too early. I made that mistake.”
You can find business writing that explores best practices anywhere, which is why we hunt down stories that are firmly rooted in data or personal experience (which includes success and failure).
How COVID-19 accelerated DoorDash’s business
Image Credits: DoorDash
The coronavirus pandemic looms large in DoorDash’s S-1 filing.
According to the food-delivery platform, “58% of all adults and 70% of millennials say that they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago,” and “the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated these trends.”
As in other sectors, the pandemic didn’t wave a magic wand — instead, it hastened trends that were already in play: consumers love convenience, which means DoorDash’s gross order volume and revenue were tracking well before the virus started to shape our lives.
“It’s your call on how to balance the factors and decide whether or not to buy into the IPO, but this one is going to be big,” writes Alex Wilhelm in a supplemental edition of today’s The Exchange.
The VC and founder winners of DoorDash’s IPO
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 05: DoorDash CEO Tony Xu speaks onstage during Day 1 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at Moscone Center on September 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
None of us knew DoorDash would release its S-1 filing today, but Danny Crichton jumped on the story “so we can see who is raking in the returns on the country’s delivery startup champion.”
After estimating the value of the respective ownership stakes held by DoorDash’s four co-founders, he turned to the investors who participated in rounds seed through Series H.
Some growth funds are about to look very good after this IPO, and each founder is looking at hundreds of millions, he found.
But even so, their diminished haul of about $1.3 billion is “a sign of just how much dilution the co-founders took given the sheer amount of capital the company fundraised over its life.”
Fintech VC keeps getting later, larger and more expensive
Investors sent stacks of cash to late-stage fintech companies in Q3 2020, but these sizable rounds may also point to shrinking opportunities for early-stage firms, reports Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s edition of The Exchange.
2020 could be a record year for fintech VC in Europe and North America, but are these “huge late-stage dollars” actually “a dampener for new fintech startups trying to get off the ground?”
Accelerators embrace change forced by pandemic
Devin Coldewey interviewed the leaders of three startup accelerators to learn more about the adaptations they’ve made in recent months:
David Brown, founder and CEO, Techstars
Cyril Ebersweiler, founder HAX, venture partner at SOSV
Due to travel bans, shelter-in-place orders and other unknowns, they’ve all shifted to virtual. But accelerators are intensive programs designed to indoctrinate founders and elicit brutally honest feedback in real time.
Despite the sudden shift, that boot-camp mindset is still in effect, Devin reports.
“Cutting out the commute time in a busy city leaves founders with more time for workshops, mentor matchmaking, pitch practice and other important sessions,” said Fernandez. “Everybody just has more flexibility and tranquility.”
Said Ebersweiler: “People are for some reason more participative and have more feedback than physically — it’s pretty strange.”
Greylock’s Asheem Chandna on ‘shifting left’ in cybersecurity and the future of enterprise startups
Image Credits: Greylock
In a recent interview with Greylock partner Asheem Chandna, Managing Editor Danny Crichton asked him about the buzz around no-code platforms and what’s happening in early-stage enterprise startups before segueing into a discussion about “shift left” security:
“Every organization today wants to bring software to market faster, but they also want to make software more secure,” said Chandna.
“There is a genuine interest today in making the software more secure, so there’s this concept of shift left — bake security into the software.”
Square and PayPal earnings bring good (and bad) news for fintech startups
In California, non-competition agreements can’t be enforced and a court has ruled that customer contact lists aren’t trade secrets.
That doesn’t mean salespeople who switch jobs can start soliciting their former customers on their first day at the new gig, however.
Before you jump ship — or hire a salesperson who already has — read this overview of California’s trade secret laws.
“Even without litigation, a former employer can significantly hamper a departing salesperson’s career,” says Nick Saenz, a partner at Lewis & Llewellyn LLP, who focuses on employment and trade secret issues.
As public investors reprice edtech bets, what’s ahead for the hot startup sector?
Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch
News of a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine appeared to drive down prices of the three best-known publicly traded edtech companies: 2U, Chegg and Kahoot saw declines of about 20%, 10% and 9%, respectively after the report.
Are COVID-19 tailwinds dissipating, or did the market make a correction because “edtech has been categorically overhyped in recent months?”
Dear Sophie: What does a Biden win for tech immigration?
Image Credits: Sophie Alcorn
What does President-elect Biden’s victory mean for U.S. immigration and immigration reform?
I’m in tech in SF and have a lot of friends who are immigrant founders, along with many international teammates at my tech company. What can we look forward to?
A coalition of 135 startups and tech companies with services in verticals including travel, accommodation and jobs have written to the European Commission to urge antitrust action against Google — warning that swift enforcement is needed or some of their businesses may not survive.
The letter has been inked by veteran Internet players such as Booking.com, Expedia, Kayak, Opentable, Tripadvisor and Yelp, co-signing along with a raft of (mostly) smaller European startups across all three verticals.
A further 30 co-signatories are business associations and organizations in related and other areas such as media/publishing — making for a total of 165 entities calling for Google to face swift antitrust banhammers.
A European Commission spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch it’s received the Google critics’ letter — saying it will reply “in due course”.
‘Not competing on the merits’
While there have been complaints on this front before — the Commission has said it’s been hearing rumblings of discontent in the travel segment since for years at this point — a growing coalition of businesses (including some based in the US) are bandying together to pressure the EU antitrust chief to clip Google’s wings — with, for example, jobs-related businesses joining the travel startups whose complaints we reported on recently.
Reuters, which obtained the letter earlier, reports that the coalition is the largest ever to complain in concert to the EU’s competition division.
The group argues Google is unfairly leveraging its dominant position in Internet search to grab marketshare in the verticals where they operate — pointing to a feature Google displays at the top of search results (called ‘OneBoxes’) where it points Internet users to its own services, simultaneously steering them away from rival services.
The Commission is considering limiting such self-preferencing in forthcoming legislative proposals that it wants to apply to dominant ‘gatekeeper’ Internet platforms — which Google would presumably be classified as.
For, now, though no such ex ante regulation exists — and the coalition argues the Commission needs to pull its finger out and flex its existing antitrust powers to stop Google’s market abuse before its too late for their businesses.
“Google’s technical integration of its own specialised search services into its near monopoly general search service continues to constitute a clear abuse of dominance,” they argue in the letter to Vestager.
“Like no service before, Google has amassed data and content relevant for competition on such markets at the expense of others – us,” they go on. “Google did not achieve its position on any such market by competing on the merits. Rather, there is now global consensus that Google gained unjustified advantages through preferentially treating its own services within its general search results pages by displaying various forms of grouped specialised search results.”
A similar complaint about Google unfairly pushing its own services at the expense of rivals’ can be found in the US Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against it, filed just last month — which is doubtless giving succour to Google complainants to redouble their efforts in Europe.
Back in 2017, the Commission found Google to be a dominant company in Internet search. Under EU law this means it has a responsibility not to apply the same types of infringing behavior identified in the Google Shopping case in any other business vertical, regardless of its marketshare.
But while, on her watch, Google has faced enforcement over its Shopping search (2017), Android mobile OS (2018) and AdSense search ad brokering business (2019), antitrust complainants say the regulatory action has done nothing to dislodge the tech giant’s dominance and restore competition to those specific markets or elsewhere.
“The Commission’s Google Search (Shopping) decision of 27 June 2017 (was supposed to) set a precedent that Google is not permitted to promote its own services within the search results pages of its dominant general search service. However, as of today, the decision did not lead to Google changing anything meaningful,” the coalition argues in the letter dated November 12, 2020.
The Commission contends its Shopping decision has let to a significant increase in the rate of display of offers from competitors to Google in its Shopping units (up 73.5%), also pointing to a rate of near parity between Google offers on Shopping units getting clicks and rivals’ offers being clicked on. However, if Google is compensating for losing out on (some) marketshare in Shopping searches by dialling up its marketshare in other verticals (such as travel and jobs) that’s hardly going to sum to a balanced and effective antitrust remedy.
It’s also interesting to note that the signatures on the latest letter include the Foundem CEO: aka the original shopping comparison engine complainant in the Google Shopping case.
In further remarks today, the Commission spokesperson told us: “We continue to carefully monitor the market with a view to assessing the effectiveness of the remedies,” adding: “Shopping is just one of the specialised search services that Google offers. The decision we took in June 2017 gives us a framework to look also at other specialised search services, such as Google jobs and local search. Our preliminary investigation on this is ongoing.”
On the Commission’s forthcoming Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act package, the coalition suggests a lack of action to rein in abusive behavior by Google now risks making it impossible for those future regulations to correct such practices.
“If, in the pending competition investigations, the Commission accepts Google’s current conduct as ‘equal treatment’, this creates the risk of pre-defining and hence devaluing the meaning of any future legislative ban on self-preferencing,” they warn, adding that: “Competition and innovation will continue to be stifled, simply because the necessary measures to counter the further anti-competitive expansion are not taken right now.”
Additionally, they argue that a legislative process is simply too slow to be used as an antitrust corrective measure — leaving their businesses at risk of not surviving Google in the meanwhile.
“While a targeted regulation of digital gatekeepers may help in the long run, the Commission should first use its existing tools to enforce the Shopping precedent and ensure equal treatment within Google’s general search results pages,” they urge, adding that they generally welcome the Commission plan to regulate “dominant general search engines” but emphasize speed is of the essence.
“We face the imminent risk of being disintermediated by Google. Many of us may not have the strength and resources to wait until such regulation really takes effect,” they add. “Action is required now. If Google were allowed to continue the anti-competitive favouring of its own specialised search services until any meaningful regulation takes effect, our services will continue to lack traffic, data and the opportunity to innovate on the merits. Until then, our businesses continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle – providing benefits to Google’s competing services while rendering our own services obsolete in the long run.”
Asked for its response to the group’s criticism of its business practices, a Google spokesperson send this statement: “People expect Google to give them the most relevant, high quality search results that they can trust. They do not expect us to preference specific companies or commercial rivals over others, or to stop launching helpful services which create more choice and competition for Europeans.”