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Quarantine drives interest in autonomous delivery, but it’s still miles from mainstream

The prospect of truly zero contact delivery seems closer — and more important — than ever with the pandemic changing how we think of last mile logistics. Autonomous delivery executives from FedEx, Postmates, and Refraction AI joined us to talk about the emerging field at TechCrunch Mobility 2020.

FedEx VP of Advanced Technology and Innovation Rebecca Yeung explained why the logistics giant felt that it was time to double down on its experiments in the area of autonomy.

“COVID brought the term ‘contactless’ — before that not many people are talking about contactless; Now it’s almost a preferred way of us delivering,” she said. “So we see, from government to consumers, open mindedness about, maybe in the future you would have everything delivered to you through autonomous means, and that’s the preferred way.”

“If you looked up Postmates robots on Twitter or Instagram, people are always kind of questioning, what is this? What is it doing? Everything changed overnight with COVID, where people would see the robot and immediately understand, oh, this is for contactless delivery,” said Postmates VP of special projects Ali Kashani. “Everything suddenly made sense.”

He also explained how the seeming constraints of a robotic platform specific to food delivery made the engineering process, if not easier, at least naturally bounded by the data they’d collected.

“It’s kind of one of the advantages of being so close to the market, we can use data from our platform to drive certain decisions, because you don’t want to over-engineer you also don’t want to under-engineer,” Kashani said. “We actually developed simulations that would put robots in any location in the country on some date in the past. It would tell us, how many deliveries did this robot do? How many hours was it outside? How many miles did it travel? And it would use that information to decide exactly what kind of battery life do we need? Does it need to carry drinks? How many drink holders should it have to cover 99% of deliveries?”

Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CTO of Refraction AI, noted that the pandemic has raised interest and demand, but also highlighted where things need to move forward in different ways.

“Obviously no one wants a global pandemic, but it has certainly energized this industry and put more attention on it,” he said. “Everybody is excited, oh, we’re going to have contactless delivery, it’s going to be great. But I think there are some real challenges that need to be addressed as an industry to get there. One of them is social acceptance, the other’s regulation. That’s starting to change because of COVID. I’m hopeful that this is an inflection point, and that we really do see more serious investment in this, but also widespread deployment, so it’s not a tech demo that you get to see once in one place, but it actually begins to take over some sizable bit of the market.”

Yeung also emphasized the need for the infrastructure that supports these autonomous platforms: “Thinking about the future, commercial launch, you need the dynamic routing, you need the dispatch system, you need the user interface, you need a tracking interface. We see great synergy for us to leverage for all sorts of autonomous applications.”

In discussing the danger of replacing human workers with robots, Yeung and Kashani were sanguine, suggesting like others in the robotics industry that there would be a shift in labor but it won’t kill any jobs. Johnson-Roberson disagreed.

“I think we are going to be replacing jobs, and we need to face that head on,” he said. “I think it’s important that we reckon with that, that a lot of these decisions, they have a long history of not thinking through what hte human consequences will be. So I’m an advocate for saying, look, we’re replacing jobs. Let’s think as a society: How do we address that? How do we deal with it? I think that we could live in a future with more just, fairer jobs with health insurance, more benefits. But I don’t think it is going to look how it looks today.”

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Daily Crunch: Venmo launches a credit card

Venmo’s first credit card is here, a former Amazon employee is arrested for fraud and we review the Nest Audio smart speaker. This is your Daily Crunch for October 5, 2020.

The big story: Venmo launches a credit card

PayPal -owned mobile payment app Venmo already offers a Mastercard-branded debit card, and it announced a year ago that it was planning to launch its first credit card as well. Today, it made good on that promise.

The Venmo Credit Card is a Visa card that offers personalized rewards and 3% cash back on eligible purchases. The cards come in five colors and include the user’s own Venmo QR code on the front.

Naturally, it also integrates with Venmo, allowing customers to track their spending and make payments from the mobile app. The card is currently available to select Venmo users, with plans to launch for the rest of the U.S. in the coming months.

The tech giants

Feds arrest former Amazon employee after company reported him to FBI for fraud — The company says it reported Vu Anh Nguyen to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in July 2020 over allegations of falsely issuing refunds for products ordered on Amazon .com to himself and his associates.

Nest Audio review — Brian Heater says it’s a welcome update to the Google Home.

Instagram expands shopping on IGTV, plans test of shopping on Reels — The product lets you watch a video, then purchase the featured product with a few taps.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Ola fails to get ride-hailing license renewed in London, says it will appeal and continues to operate — The India-based ride-hailing startup is not getting its Transport for London ride-hailing license renewed after failing to meet public safety requirements around licensing for drivers and vehicles.

Cooler Screens raises $80M to bring interactive screens into cooler aisles — Cooler Screens is led by co-founder and CEO Arsen Avakian, who previously was founder and CEO of Argo Tea.

GrubMarket raises $60M as food delivery stays center stage — The startup provides a platform for consumers to order produce and other food and home items for delivery, as well as a service supplying grocery stores, meal-kit companies and other food tech startups with products for resale.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Accel VCs Sonali De Rycker and Andrew Braccia say European deal pace is ‘incredibly active’ — De Rycker’s comments point to a future where there is no single center of startup gravity.

Two Kindred Capital partners discuss the firm’s focus and equitable venture model — The London-based VC, which backs early-stage founders in Europe and Israel, recently closed its second seed fund at £81 million.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Camera that will film a spacewalk in VR delivered to the International Space Station — The camera will be used to film a spacewalk in immersive, cinematic VR for the first time ever on an upcoming ISS astronaut mission.

Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘Away’ deftly balances space exploration and human drama — I worried that the show might be a bit too weepy and melodramatic, but I was wrong.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Indonesian cloud kitchen startup Yummy gets $12 million Series B led by SoftBank Ventures Asia

Yummy Corporation, which claims to be the largest cloud kitchen management company in Indonesia, has raised $12 million in Series B funding, led by SoftBank Ventures Asia. Co-founder and chief executive officer Mario Suntanu told TechCrunch that the capital will be used to expand into more major cities and on developing its tech platform, including data analytics.

Other participants in the round included returning investors Intudo Ventures and Sovereign’s Capital, and new backers Vectr Ventures, AppWorks, Quest Ventures, Coca Cola Amatil X and Palm Drive Capital. The Series B brings Yummy Corporation’s total raised so far to $19.5 million.

Launched in June 2019, Yummy Corporation’s network of cloud kitchens, called Yummykitchen, now includes more than 70 HACCP-certified facilities in Jakarta, Bandung and Medan. It partners with more than 50 food and beverage (F&B) companies, including major brands like Ismaya Group and Sour Sally Group.

During COVID-19 movement restrictions, Suntanu said Yummykitchen’s business showed “healthy growth” as people, confined mostly to their homes, ordered food for delivery. Funding will be used to get more partners, especially brands that want to digitize their operations and expand deliveries to cope with the continuing impact of COVID-19.

The number of cloud kitchens in Southeast Asia has grown quickly over the past year, driven by demand for food deliveries that began increasing even before the pandemic. But for F&B brands that rely on deliveries for a good part of their revenue, running their own kitchens and staff can be cost-prohibitive. Sharing cloud kitchens with other businesses can help increase their margins.

Other cloud kitchen startups serving Indonesia include Hangry and Everplate, but these companies and Yummy Corporation are all up against two major players: “super apps” Grab and Gojek, which both operate large networks of cloud kitchens that have the advantage of being integrated with their on-demand delivery services.

Suntanu said Yummy’s main edge compared to other cloud kitchens is that it also offers fully-managed location and kitchen operation services, in addition to kitchen facilities. This means Yummy’s partners, including restaurants and and F&B brands, don’t need to hire their own teams. Instead, food preparation and delivery is handled by Yummy’s workers. The company also provides its clients with a data analytics platform to help them with targeted ad campaigns and making their listings more visible on food delivery apps.

In a statement, Harris Yang, Souteast Asia associate at SoftBank Ventures Asia, said the firm invested in Yummy because “given the company’s strong expertise in the F&B industry and unique value proposition to brands, we believe that Yummy will continue to be the leader in this space. We are excited to support the team and help them scale their business in this emerging sector.”

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10 Berlin-based VCs discuss how COVID-19 has changed the landscape

A breeding ground for European entrepreneurs, Berlin has a knack for producing a lot of new startups: the city attracts top international, diverse talent, and it is packed with investors, events and accelerators. Also important: it’s a more affordable place to live and work when compared to many other cities in the region.

Berlin ranked 10th place in the 2019 Global Ecosystem Report, trailing behind only two other European cities: London and Paris. It’s home to unicorns such as N26, Zalando, HelloFresh and pioneers of the scene such as SoundCloud.

Top VCs include Earlybird, Point Nine, Project A, Rocket Internet, Holtzbrinck Ventures and accelerators such as Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator, hub:raum and The Family.

To get a sense of how the novel coronavirus has changed the landscape, we asked ten investors to give us an insight into their thinking during these pivotal times:

What trends are you most excited about investing in, generally?
Generally, we believe in a future in which we can leverage technology to free up humans from repetitive and tedious work and to empower them to shift their focus to what they consider more meaningful and impactful: that is creative and interpersonal activities. Thus, we are excited about founders working towards that future and finding answers across multiple industries, such as manufacturing or logistics, across all working-classes, and across different eras – before, during and after COVID.

What’s your latest, most exciting investment?
One of the recent additions of our new fund is Luminovo, a Munich-based company that develops a solution in the electronics industry to reduce the time and resources needed to go from an idea to a market-ready circuit board.

Are there startups that you wish you would see in the industry but don’t? What are some overlooked opportunities right now?
So far, we have only scratched the surface of the kind of efficiency gains that can potentially be achieved – particularly in industries that were considered to be boring and sluggish in the past, such as insurance or logistics. Even small improvements driven by technology can have a massive direct impact on P&L.

What are you looking for in your next investment, in general?
In general, we love to back visionary founders in the seed-stage that tap into giant industries with a high potential for digitization across Europe and the US.

Which areas are either oversaturated or would be too hard to compete in at this point for a new startup? What other types of products/services are you wary or concerned about?
COVID has sprung a myriad of companies in the communication and collaboration space into existence. While we believe in a future in which products and processes will be inherently remote-first, we will see a consolidation of that space that only allows for an oligopolistic market structure similar to how there is only one Zoom and Google Meet in the video communication space today.

How much are you focused on investing in your local ecosystem versus other startup hubs (or everywhere) in general? More than 50%? Less?
We have always considered ourselves as one of the few funds in Germany with a significant investment footprint both in Europe and the US. COVID has emphasized that we are able to invest entirely remotely and hence we will continue and even increase our activities across multiple hubs, such as Munich, Paris, or London.

Which industries in your city and region seem well-positioned to thrive, or not long-term? What are companies you are excited about (your portfolio or not), which founders?
Germany’s economy relies on wealthy traditional companies sitting on top of capital to be unlocked which new entrants can make use of. This has been true before 2020, and COVID will only demand more and accelerated innovation across these traditional industries ranging from automotive, manufacturing, to the chemical industry.

How should investors in other cities think about the overall investment climate and opportunities in your city?
Berlin and other German cities have consistently proven to develop and grow new leaders across multiple categories such as banking (N26), mobility (Flixbus and Lilium), or data analytics (Celonis). This is certainly driven by a mix of talents coming out of world-class educational institutions, the relative low cost of living in tech hubs, and large local incumbents with massive capital to invest and spend.

Do you expect to see a surge in more founders coming from geographies outside major cities in the years to come, with startup hubs losing people due to the pandemic and lingering concerns, plus the attraction of remote work?
While COVID has accelerated remote-first products and processes, we still believe that people will flock back to startup hubs such as Berlin or Munich, especially given the relatively low cost of living compared to other tech hubs like San Francisco. Nevertheless, we will continue to see an increasing number of companies scattered across multiple time zones building products that are inherently remote first, regardless where the general work environment will shift into.

Which industry segments that you invest in look weaker or more exposed to potential shifts in consumer and business behavior because of COVID-19? What are the opportunities startups may be able to tap into during these unprecedented times?
We are lucky in that our investment focus has been on sector verticals such as Logistics, Supply chain, manufacturing or the future of work, which have all captured significant tailwind from Covid.

How has COVID-19 impacted your investment strategy? What are the biggest worries of the founders in your portfolio? What is your advice to startups in your portfolio right now?
While our investment strategy on a high level will not change, we are putting longer sales cycles into consideration as potential customers of our portfolio companies now are focusing on capital efficiency which also holds true for our founders. Thus, we advise them to focus on extending the runway both by increasing capital efficiency as well as taking on additional funding.

Are you seeing “green shoots” regarding revenue growth, retention or other momentum in your portfolio as they adapt to the pandemic?
As our economy is still in the midst of dealing with the effects of COVID, it is too early to tell, but we definitely see positive indications driven by efforts of portfolio companies that could adapt quickly and shipped features catered to the current needs. One example is Personio, which extended their HR offerings with features that solve the need of customers who shifted to short-time work.

What is a moment that has given you hope in the last month or so? This can be professional, personal or a mix of the two.
What gave me hope was the cohesion of the German economy that fought together for solutions and support during these difficult times. One positive example was the German Startup Association that helped achieve additional governmental financial aid for German SMEs.

Any other thoughts you want to share with TechCrunch readers?
Similar to how the past financial crisis allowed companies such as Stripe or Shopify to become ubiquitous parts of our daily life, these unprecedented times now will also give birth to new forms and shapes in which new ideas will grow into large businesses and we are excited to partner up with founders willing to take a bet on that future.

Jorge Fonturbel, Target Global

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After losing Grubhub, Uber reportedly hails Postmates

Uber has reportedly made an offer to buy food delivery service Postmates, according to The New York Times.

According to the Times, the talks are still ongoing and the deal could fall through.

For those that have been paying attention to Uber, this appetite is not new, albeit consistent. A little over a month ago, the ride-hailing company was reportedly pursuing an acquisition of Grubhub,  another food delivery company. Grubhub was ultimately acquired by Just Eat Takeaway in a $7.3 billion deal, but only after the deal with Uber fell through over a variety of concerns.

Food delivery market has set to benefit largely from the COVID-19 pandemic, as stores remain shuttered or switch operations to takeout only. Latest earnings from the public ride-hailing company show that its ride-hailing business is slowing while its food delivery service is growing like hell. Gross bookings for Uber Eats last quarter were $4.68 billion.

So even though Uber still loses a ton of money ($2.94 billion including all costs), its Uber Eats growth is staggering. And the green shoots might be fueling some of this interest in other competitors.

Sources close to Uber told TechCrunch that regulatory concerns scuttled the company’s bid for GrubHub, but its chief executive later said the JustEat deal was better.

If regulatory concerns were an issue, Postmates may make a better fit.

With a valuation of $2.4 billion, Postmates is significantly smaller than Grubhub. And while the company filed to go public nearly 16 months ago, it held off eventually citing “choppy market” conditions.

So if Uber Eats and Postmates combined, the result would still be smaller than Doordash’s market hold, but would be competitive nonetheless. DoorDash, last valued at $13 billion, confidentially filed for an IPO nearly four months ago. 

Also, Postmates delivers more than just food.

If the merger goes through, the food delivery race would get refueled in an interesting way: Uber Eats and Postmates versus Grubhub and Takeaway versus DoorDash .

Postmates declined to comment on rumors or speculation. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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How Grab adapted after COVID-19 hit its ride-hailing business

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft. Grab, Southeast Asia’s largest ride-hailing company, has also been impacted, but the company has adapted by quickly transitioning many of its ride-hailing drivers to its on-demand delivery verticals and expanding services needed by customers during social distancing measures.

The company told TechCrunch that its ride-hailing drivers saw their incomes decrease by about a double-digit percentage in April 2020, compared to October 2019, in line with a double-digit drop in gross merchandise volume for Grab’s ride-hailing business in some markets. Between March and April, more than 149,000 Grab ride-hailing drivers switched to performing on-demand deliveries. In some markets, the transition was done very quickly. For example, in Malaysia, 18,000 drivers moved to delivery in a single day. The platform also saw an influx of new driver requests, many from people who had been laid off or furloughed, as well as merchants who needed a new way to make income.

Russell Cohen, Grab’s regional head of operations, told Extra Crunch that to redeploy driver capacity to delivery verticals, the company worked with governments in its eight markets to understand how different COVID-19 responses, including stay-at-home orders, affected on-demand logistics. Anticipating shifts in consumer behavior, it also started adding new services that will continue after the pandemic.

Quickly moving driver capacity from ride-hailing to on-demand delivery

Grab currently has about nine million “micro-entrepreneurs,” or what it calls the drivers, delivery, merchants and agents on its platform. Cohen says the company began to see an effect on ride-hailing and transportation patterns in January and February as flights out of China, and air travel in general, began to decrease. Then COVID-19 started to have a material impact on its ride-hailing business in March, with a sharp drop after countries began implementing stay-at-home orders.

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Latin America Roundup: Big rounds, big mergers and a $3.8M pandemic fund from Nubank

Despite the global panic caused by the current pandemic, startups in Latin America have continued to attract international capital. In April, Mexico’s Alphacredit, Colombia’s Frubana and Brazil’s CargoX were among those that raised particularly large rounds to support their growth during this challenging time. All three companies target markets that may have grown since the start of the pandemic, namely lending, food delivery and cargo delivery, respectively.

Alphacredit, a Mexican lending startup, raised a $100 million equity round from SoftBank and previous investors to continue to expand its digital banking services across Mexico. This round comes just months after the startup received a $125 million Series B round from SoftBank in January of this year. Alphacredit’s CEO explained that the round would enable the company to help clients during the current liquidity crisis, increasing financial inclusion in Mexico.

Meanwhile, fresh produce delivery platform Frubana raised a $25 million Series A led by GGV and Monashees, with support from SoftBank, Tiger Global and several other private investors. The startup delivers fresh produce to restaurants and small retailers directly from farmers across Colombia, and participated in Y Combinator in 2019.

Frubana has seen a boom in demand for its products since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. People have shied away from visiting large grocery stores, preferring to visit local mom-and-pop shops that receive the startup’s deliveries. Frubana raised $12 million in mid-2019 to help scale into Mexico and Brazil after it hit a monthly growth rate of 50% in the Colombian market. The startup’s founder, Fabián Gomez, started Frubana after serving as head of Expansion at Rappi, one of Latin America’s fastest-growing startups and Colombia’s first unicorn.

Finally, Brazil’s “Uber for Trucks,” CargoX raised an $80 million Series E round led by LGT Lightstone Latin America, with contributions from Valor Capital, Goldman Sachs and Farallon Capital. The startup has quietly grown to become one of the largest players in Brazil’s inefficient trucking industry, managing a fleet of nearly 400,000 truck drivers, without owning a single truck.

This investment brings CargoX’s total capital raised to $176 million and has enabled the company to launch a $5.6 million fund for the delivery of essential goods in Brazil during COVID-19. This fund will help CargoX keep drivers employed and ensure the proper delivery of essential goods like medication, food and cleaning products.

Nubank launches $3.8 million COVID-19 fund to support clients

Brazil’s largest neobank, Nubank, announced a $3.8 million (R$20 million) fund to help its clients survive the current pandemic. The fund also relies on partnerships with iFood, Rappi, Hospital Sírio-Libanês and Zenklub to help struggling clients access food, supplies, medical care and online psychological treatment throughout the pandemic.

Nubank will use the fund to grant credits to people who cannot leave their home, providing them with discounted groceries and free delivery service. Through the partnership with Hospital Sírio-Libanês, the neobank will pay for more than 1,000 free online consultations with doctors for its home-bound clients.

Nubank has more than 20 million clients across Brazil and Mexico, where it launched in 2019. CEO David Velez stated that he believed the fund could serve tens of thousands of people in need by the end of April. Customers who wished to receive these benefits were directed to reach out to Nubank via phone, email or chat to be connected with a representative who could grant the appropriate credits.

iFood merges with Domicilios to fight Rappi in its home territory

Brazil’s largest food deliverer, iFood, recently announced a partnership with Delivery Hero to merge with their Colombian subsidiary, Domicilios. The parties did not disclose the price of the deal but have shared that iFood is now the majority shareholder in Domicilios, holding 51% of the company.

IFood operates in Mexico and Colombia, as well as Brazil, but has struggled to gain traction in Spanish-speaking Latin America. This merger makes iFood geographically the largest food delivery company in the country, with more than 12,000 restaurants in its network. However, local last-mile delivery startup Rappi continues to dominate the market, using SoftBank backing to blitzscale across the region.

By comparison, iFood has focused on developing its technology, using artificial intelligence to improve the user experience across its platforms in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. Using these systems, iFood processes more than 26 million deliveries each month, helping restaurants across the region adapt to the new protocols caused by the virus and social-distancing policies. IFood hopes the merger will help provide a more competitive delivery service for Colombians, as well as helping boost growth for local restaurants.

News and Notes: Nuvocargo, Kueski, Magma Partners, SouSmile

Freight-forwarding startup Nuvocargo raised $5.3 million in seed funding to support the growth of its trade routes across the U.S.-Mexico border. Founded by Ecuadorian-born Deepak Chhugani in 2018, Nuvocargo has grown quickly since participating in Y Combinator, although this funding was their first institutional round. The round drew investors from both sides of the border, including Mexico’s ALLVP. Nuvocargo also marks the first investment by new partner Antonia Rojas Eing. Nuvocargo is working hard to ensure its truck drivers are safe as they continue to deliver essential supplies across the border through the pandemic.

Mexican online credit platform Kueski announced that it would lay off employees due to the economic crunch caused by COVID-19. Kueski provides microloans to more than 500,000 Mexicans and has been struggling financially as business slows during the pandemic. While Kueski did not disclose an official number, it is estimated that they laid off around 90 employees.

Latin American venture capital firm Magma Partners acquired Guadalajara-based accelerator Rampa Ventures to intensify its investments in Mexico. Rampa’s headquarters will serve as a Mexican base for Magma Partners as it continues to invest in the country, where it already has 12 startups in its portfolio. As a part of the deal, Rampa’s founder Mak Gutierrez will take over as CEO of Magma Partners’ internal agency, Magma Infrastructure, which helps startups grow and market themselves in the region.

The Brazilian direct to consumer dental tech startup SouSmile raised a $10 million Series A this month, closing the deal before investors began to show concerns about COVID-19. SouSmile uses 3D scanners to rapidly create invisible alignment devices for customers to provide them with affordable orthodontics for 60% cheaper than current models. This model has proved highly successful in Latin America, where access to orthodontics is quite low and cost-prohibitive.

Despite an impending global economic crisis, startup investment in Latin America showed signs of resilience in April. Startups in industries like delivery, healthcare and essential services have seen growth this month, and many are providing support to their customers and suppliers in this challenging time.

It is hard to predict what the world will look like for startups, let alone for anyone, by the end of next month. The resilience of Latin America’s startups provides hope that some businesses will bounce back and continue to support their customers throughout the global recovery from this pandemic.

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Uber Eats exits seven markets, transfers one as part of competitive retooling

Uber Eats is pulling out of a clutch of markets — shuttering its on-demand food offering in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine.

It’s also transferring its Uber Eats business operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem, its wholly owned ride-hailing subsidiary that’s mostly focused on the Middle East.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” it writes in a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

“These decisions were made as part of the Company’s ongoing strategy to be in first or second position in all Eats markets by leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others,” the filing adds.

An Uber spokesman said the changes are not related to the coronavirus pandemic but rather related to an ongoing “strategy of record” for the company to hold a first or second position in all Eats markets — which means it’s leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others.

Earlier this year, for example, Uber pulled the plug on its Eats offer in India — selling to local rival Zomato. Zomato and Swiggy hold the top two slots in the market. (As part of that deal Uber took a 9.99% stake in Zomato.)

Uber Eats rival, Glovo, also announced a series of exits at the start of this year — as part of its own competitive reconfiguration in a drive to cut losses and shoot for profitability. It too says its goal is to be the first or second platform in all markets where it operates.

The category is facing major questions about profitability — with now the added challenge of the coronavirus crisis. (Related: Another player in the space, Uk-based Deliveroo, confirmed a major round of layoffs last week.) tl;dr, on-demand unit economics don’t stack up unless you can command large enough marketshare so it looks like the competitive pack is thinning as it becomes clearer who’s winning where.

In a statement on the latest round of Eats exits, Uber said: “We have made the decision to discontinue Uber Eats in Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Uruguay, and to wind down the Eats app and transition operations to Careem in U.A.E. This continues our strategy of focusing our energy and resources on our top Eats markets around the world.”

The discontinued and transferred markets represented 1% of Eats’ Gross Bookings and 4% of Eats Adjusted EBITDA losses in Q1 2020, per Uber’s filing. 

“Consistent with our stated strategy, we will look to reinvest these savings in priority markets where we expect a better return on investment,” the filing adds. 

The Uber Eats spokesman told us that the exits do not sum to any change to the ‘more than 6,000 cities’ figure for the unit’s market footprint — which Uber reported earlier this year.

Asked which markets the company considers to be priorities going forward the spokesman did not respond. It’s also not clear whether or not Uber sought buyers for the shuttered units.

Per Uber’s filing, Eats operations will be fully discontinue in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine by June 4, 2020.

Uber Rides operations are not affected, it adds.

A source familiar with Uber also said the changes will allow the company to focus resources on new business lines — such as grocery and delivery.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the on-demand food delivery business as usual in many markets — with convenience-loving customers locked down at home so likely to be cooking more, and large numbers of restaurants closed (at least temporarily), putting a dent in the provider side of these platforms too.

At the same time there is a demand upside story in the groceries category. And last month Uber announced a tie-up with a major French supermarket, Carrefour, to expand its delivery offering nationwide. It also inked other grocery-related partnerships in Spain and Brazil.

Grocery delivery has been seeing a massive uptick as consumers look for ways to replenish their food cupboards while limiting infection risk.

While other types of deliveries — from pharmaceuticals to personal protective equipment — also potentially offer growth opportunities for on-demand logistics businesses, which is how many major food delivery platforms prefer to describe themselves.

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Uber Eats exits seven markets, transfers one as part of competitive retooling

Uber Eats is pulling out of a clutch of markets — shuttering its on-demand food offering in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine.

It’s also transferring its Uber Eats business operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Careem, its wholly owned ride-hailing subsidiary that’s mostly focused on the Middle East.

“Consumers and restaurants using the Uber Eats app in the UAE will be transitioned to the Careem platform in the coming weeks, after which the Uber Eats app will no longer be available,” it writes in a regulatory filing detailing the operational shifts.

“These decisions were made as part of the Company’s ongoing strategy to be in first or second position in all Eats markets by leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others,” the filing adds.

An Uber spokesman said the changes are not related to the coronavirus pandemic but rather related to an ongoing “strategy of record” for the company to hold a first or second position in all Eats markets — which means it’s leaning into investment in some countries while exiting others.

Earlier this year, for example, Uber pulled the plug on its Eats offer in India — selling to local rival Zomato. Zomato and Swiggy hold the top two slots in the market. (As part of that deal Uber took a 9.99% stake in Zomato.)

Uber Eats rival, Glovo, also announced a series of exits at the start of this year — as part of its own competitive reconfiguration in a drive to cut losses and shoot for profitability. It too says its goal is to be the first or second platform in all markets where it operates.

The category is facing major questions about profitability — with now the added challenge of the coronavirus crisis. (Related: Another player in the space, Uk-based Deliveroo, confirmed a major round of layoffs last week.) tl;dr, on-demand unit economics don’t stack up unless you can command large enough marketshare so it looks like the competitive pack is thinning as it becomes clearer who’s winning where.

In a statement on the latest round of Eats exits, Uber said: “We have made the decision to discontinue Uber Eats in Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and Uruguay, and to wind down the Eats app and transition operations to Careem in U.A.E. This continues our strategy of focusing our energy and resources on our top Eats markets around the world.”

The discontinued and transferred markets represented 1% of Eats’ Gross Bookings and 4% of Eats Adjusted EBITDA losses in Q1 2020, per Uber’s filing. 

“Consistent with our stated strategy, we will look to reinvest these savings in priority markets where we expect a better return on investment,” the filing adds. 

The Uber Eats spokesman told us that the exits do not sum to any change to the ‘more than 6,000 cities’ figure for the unit’s market footprint — which Uber reported earlier this year.

Asked which markets the company considers to be priorities going forward the spokesman did not respond. It’s also not clear whether or not Uber sought buyers for the shuttered units.

Per Uber’s filing, Eats operations will be fully discontinue in the Czech Republic, Egypt, Honduras, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and Ukraine by June 4, 2020.

Uber Rides operations are not affected, it adds.

A source familiar with Uber also said the changes will allow the company to focus resources on new business lines — such as grocery and delivery.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the on-demand food delivery business as usual in many markets — with convenience-loving customers locked down at home so likely to be cooking more, and large numbers of restaurants closed (at least temporarily), putting a dent in the provider side of these platforms too.

At the same time there is a demand upside story in the groceries category. And last month Uber announced a tie-up with a major French supermarket, Carrefour, to expand its delivery offering nationwide. It also inked other grocery-related partnerships in Spain and Brazil.

Grocery delivery has been seeing a massive uptick as consumers look for ways to replenish their food cupboards while limiting infection risk.

While other types of deliveries — from pharmaceuticals to personal protective equipment — also potentially offer growth opportunities for on-demand logistics businesses, which is how many major food delivery platforms prefer to describe themselves.

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Delivery Hero CEO shares what he’s learned about managing logistics during a pandemic

Food-delivery platforms are on the front lines during the coronavirus crisis, with major spikes in demand as communities are confined at home, likely with more time to cook than usual. And while some restaurants have opted to shut down, others have turned to takeout as a lifeline. Yet physical contact between suppliers, couriers and customers must be more tightly managed than ever to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The gig economy has also come under renewed scrutiny due to a lack of worker protections that have left many facing a stark choice between earning a living or sheltering in place. In the best of times, operating a delivery platform is a balancing act — and these are certainly not the best of times.

We talked to Delivery Hero CEO Niklas Östberg to find out what he’s learned about managing a global logistics business in the midst of a pandemic.

The Berlin-based company operates a variety of delivery brands across more than 40 markets and 300+ cities globally, employing 22,000 people directly — with a much larger army of self-employed platform workers who hit the streets and make the actual deliveries.

Food remains a core focus — Delivery Hero says it has some 500,000+ restaurants on its platform, making it the largest global food network outside of China — though in recent years it has branched out into other areas, including groceries and pharmaceuticals. An expansion that’s proven to be timely.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TechCrunch: How is the coronavirus impacting your business?

Niklas Östberg: It has an enormous amount of impact in different ways and different regions. We are heavily impacted in some areas, in some a little bit less. In some we have positive impact and in some negative.

What goes for almost everyone except for those who are under complete curfew is that the number of new customers have significantly increased.

We have a lot of new customer segments who didn’t order food before — they now urgently need food and they’ve realized the value of food delivery. And of course there are some [existing] customers who have changed their behavior — now they might not need it as much as before. But definitely one thing that is true for almost every market is that we get a lot of new users and we get a lot of new restaurants.

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