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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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Extra Crunch Live: Join a live Q&A with Max Levchin today at 1pm PDT/4pm EDT

Money makes the world go round, as the saying goes. But how and where we spend it are still very much up for grabs.

One person who has been pondering that question and providing answers very successfully is Max Levchin, and we’re very excited to have him as our special guest today on Extra Crunch Live, where we’ll be interviewing him as well as taking questions from the audience.

Levchin could not be more central to the story of Silicon Valley’s rise, and the rise of fintech, in the last twenty years. As one of the co-founders of PayPal, he’s been at the center of how we use the internet to send and spend money from its earliest days. As the CEO of Affirm, one of the hottest fintech companies around today, you can safely say he’s still in the game and winning.

But wait! There’s more! All that’s just part of Max’s fintech credentials. He’s also currently the chairman of health tech startup Glow, and his past roles have included chairman of Yelp and member of the board of Yahoo, and much more.

We are living in truly crazy times today, with the pandemic impacting every aspect of our lives, no less our tech lives. Max’s track record and his own story as an immigrant building huge businesses in America make him a very compelling person to weigh in on all of that. So please join us to watch, and participate in the conversation.

Extra Crunch Live is open exclusively to Extra Crunch subscribers. If you’re not already an Extra Crunch member, you can join here. We have the whole schedule of Extra Crunch Live talks as well.

I’ll be in the interviewer’s chair, and I plan to grill Max on all things fintech and foundery — where financial tech startups are going, how they are faring now, what founders need to be thinking about and how to avoid big mistakes. I’m also really looking forward to what you, the audience, want to ask Max, too.

See you later for all the fun, Thursday August 6 at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT/8 p.m. GMT. The links are below the fold.

We hope to see you there!

(Side Note: You can check out all our past episodes of Extra Crunch Live right here.)

Details:

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ClassPass co-founder Sanjiv Sanghavi joins Arcadia, bringing consumer marketing savvy to clean energy

“Helping navigate the elusiveness of product market fit” is how Sanjiv Sanghavi, the co-founder of ClassPass and itinerant startup executive describes his roles at different companies. 

From ClassPass through Knotel, Sanghavi has shepherded several businesses to growth and over a billion dollar valuations, now he’s looking to bring that branding and marketing savvy to the world of renewable energy as the new chief product officer at Arcadia.

The company encourages renewable energy development by offsetting its customers’ electricity usage by buying an equivalent amount of renewable power or investing in renewable energy projects that provide renewable credits to offset fossil fuel usage.

Sanjiv Sanghavi, ClassPass co-founder and now chief product officer at Arcadia. Image Credit: Arcadia

We founded Arcadia to aggregate the power of consumer demand to fight climate change,” said Kiran Bhatraju, the founder and chief executive at Arcadia, in a statement. “Sanjiv’s deep knowledge of creating and building engaging consumer products will be crucial in the coming years to help us continue to build a world-class home energy experience that people love, and the planet needs.”

Sanghavi will be integral to Arcadia’s expansion into the northeast as it looks to grow its footprint across the United States.

Over the past six months Arcadia has steadily built out its presence across the Atlantic seaboard as it staffs its New York office. The company added a senior vice president of design who previously worked at DoorDash, WeWork, and PayPal, Josh Abrams, and is actively hiring. 

I was drawn to Arcadia because of its lasting power; I wanted to build something that would make an impact for generations,” said Sanghavi. “I believe that what Arcadia is doing is astounding — we’re building a bridge from the people who are generating renewable energy to those who want to do something good.”  

 The company has raised $70 million to date, according to Crunchbase, from investors including G2VP, BoxGroup, Wonder Ventures and Energy Impact Partners. 

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Facebook and PayPal invest in Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant GoJek

Facebook and PayPal have made investments in GoJek, joining Google and Tencent among other high-profile technology firms that have backed the five-year-old Southeast Asian ride-hailing startup that also offers food delivery and mobile payments.

Facebook, for which it is the first investment in an Indonesia-based firm, and PayPal did not disclose the size of their checks. GoJek told TechCrunch that Facebook and PayPal were participating in its ongoing Series F financing round, which brings it total raise-to-date to over $3 billion.

For Facebook, which in April invested in India’s top telecom operator Reliance Jio Platforms, backing GoJek unlocks a similar opportunity: Helping millions of small businesses — while finding a business model for WhatsApp, an advertisement-free instant messaging service it owns that is used by more than 2 billion users.

Matt Idema, chief operating officer at WhatsApp, said the company will work with “indispensable” GoJek to “bring millions of small businesses and the customers they serve into the largest digital economy in Southeast Asia.”

“The majority of small businesses in Indonesia rely on cash to operate due to the country’s large unbanked population. Digital payments are safer than cash, both for businesses and customers. And digital payments help more people participate in the economy and give businesses access to credit which is crucial for business growth,” he wrote in a blog post.

Indonesia is one of the biggest Asian markets for Facebook. In April, Reuters reported that the social juggernaut was in talks with local fintech firms to launch a mobile payments service in the country. Facebook said today the investment will “support Facebook and Gojek’s shared goal of empowering businesses and driving financial inclusion across the archipelago.”

PayPal, which last year invested in money lender Tala ahead of the startup’s launch in India, said Wednesday’s commercial partnership will enable the global payments giant to “significantly grow” its scope and scale in Southeast Asia.

“This new relationship is another positive step in our journey towards becoming the worldwide payments partner of choice, and helping to fuel global commerce by connecting the world’s leading marketplaces and payment networks,” PayPal said in a statement.

GoJek, which disclosed it had raised $1.2 billion in March to employees and was valued at about $10 billion, said it has amassed over 170 million users in Southeast Asia. The company, which competes with heavily-backed Singapore-headquartered Grab, said at the time that it had raised nearly $3 billion over the years.

“We have the opportunity to achieve something truly unique as we aim to help more businesses to digitise and ensure that many millions more consumers are enjoying the benefits that the digital economy can bring,” said Andre Soelistyo, who was appointed as co-chief executive of GoJek last year, in a statement. Gojek founder Nadiem Makarim resigns his top job at the firm to join Indonesian cabinet in October last year.

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Google switches its Shopping search service to mostly free listings

Google is making a change to its product search offering, meaning that unpaid listings picked by algorithm will dominate results displayed on the Google Shopping tab instead of mostly paid product listings.

In a blog post announcing the move, Bill Ready, president of Google’s commerce division, cited the coronavirus pandemic as a catalyst for Google to speed up a pre-existing plan to switch from Shopping results being determined by paid ad auction to mostly free listings.

Making Shopping listings free for merchants is one way the tech giant is looking to support struggling retailers through the COVID-19 crisis, he suggested.

“Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free product listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google,” wrote Ready. “With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.”

The expansion of free listings is slated to be completed by the end of April. Initially it will only take place in the U.S. — but Google says it intends to roll out the change globally before the end of the year.

While Google is packaging the change as a gesture to help cash-strapped retailers during a time of economic crisis, there’s no doubt the tech giant is also spying strategic opportunity to expand its role in e-commerce in the midst of a coronavirus-shaped boom.

With millions of people stuck at home, and scores of physical stores closed or with heavily restricted access, online shopping has seen huge uplift.

So far, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has been the most notable winner, adding a reported $24 billion to his personal wealth since the shutdown began — while ad giants like Google are facing heavy exposure to the crisis, as advertisers hunker down and rip up their 2020 marketing budgets.

If Google Shopping can start returning better results for products, and indeed results for more products, there’s an opportunity for the search giant to grow its share of shopping traffic and grab listings clicks from shoppers who might otherwise have run product queries directly on Amazon.

Google is also using the new free product listings feature as a value add “carrot” — to encourage advertisers to (keep) paying it for ads.

“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings,” is how Ready pitches the switch.

As SearchEngineLand points out, this is actually Google returning to its roots — given the first version of its Shopping service (which was then called Froogle) was also free to list.

The switch to purely paid came in 2012. Though the changes now will still see paid product listings slotted into the top of Google search results if users search for product keywords, as well as into the top of the Shopping tab. So Google isn’t giving up all product ad revenue.

In terms of how it works, existing users of Google’s Merchant Center and Shopping Ads who have already opted into the “surfaces across Google program” won’t have to do anything else — and may already be eligible to show products in what Google’s help center describes as “the unpaid experiences.”

Those needing to opt in can do so by selecting “Growth” and then “Manage programs” in the left nav menu and then choosing the “surfaces across Google” program card.

“You can also add products to your product feed, to make even more products discoverable in these free listings,” Google adds.

For new users of its Merchant Center it says it’s aiming to ramp up the onboarding process “over the coming weeks and months.” But presumably there may be some delay in getting access.

Accompanying the switch is a “new partnership” with PayPal — which Google says will allow merchants to link their accounts in order to “speed up our onboarding process and ensure we’re surfacing the highest quality results for our users.”

Existing partnerships to help merchants manage products and inventory, including those with Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce, are ongoing, it adds.

Google has been paying more attention to Shopping recently — with a major revamp of the service last year.

In 2019, it also merged its Google Express shopping service with Google Shopping, then sunset the Google Express brand. And it took on Pinterest’s visual search experience by integrating Google Lens into Google Shopping to guide customers to similar products as those in photos.

Like Amazon, Google leveraged personalization technology to create a homepage that’s unique to each shopper’s habits and purchases. And like Honey and other price-trackers, it can alert customers to potential savings. But to truly rival Amazon, Google Shopping has to be open to more retailers — and the pay-to-play route doesn’t allow for that, especially now as retailers face financial difficulties due to coronavirus lockdowns.

What’s not mentioned in Google’s blog post is that its Shopping service has faced antitrust intervention in the European Union, which slapped Google with a $2.7 billion fine back in 2017 — finding it had systematically given prominence to its own shopping comparison service in results while also demoting rival comparison shopping services.

The company later rolled out tweaks to the Shopping service in Europe that it said are intended to comply with the antitrust ruling, letting comparison services bid to be displayed in the ads displayed at the top of product related search results. Though rivals have continued to complain about the “remedy,” and the EU’s competition chief suggested last year that additional changes may be needed.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez contributed to this report

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Enlisted Late, Online Lenders Still Must Wait to Help Speed Up Stimulus

WASHINGTON — When the federal government opened its $349 billion small-business lending program last Friday, start-ups that specialize in giving such loans were eager to accept applications and send money to the restaurants, gyms and hair salons hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown.Yet these online lenders were locked out of the …

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Robots Welcome to Take Over, as Pandemic Accelerates Automation

The recycling industry was already struggling before the pandemic. Now, an increasing number of cities are suspending recycling services, partly out of fear that workers might contract the coronavirus from one another while sorting through used water bottles, food containers and boxes.One solution: Let robots do the job.Since the coronavirus took hold in the United States last month, AMP Robotics has seen a “significant” increase in orders for its robots that use artificial intelligence to sift through recycled material, weeding out trash.“Some facilities that were looking at getting one or two robots are now saying, ‘We need …

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One, A New Digital Bank Aimed At The Middle Class, Raises $17M Series A





One, a new neobank targeting the middle class, announced this morning it has raised $17 million in a Series A financing from Foundation Capital, Core Innovation Capital  and Obvious Ventures.
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The round brings One’s total raised since its January 2019 inception to $26 million. The startup, which …

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Startup founders are building companies on WhatsApp

Creating new firms and services easily and cheaply opens up the world

Lisa Enckell

8 hours

Lisa Enckell
Contributor

Lisa Enckell is a partner at Antler, an early-stage venture capital firm and startup generator.

In Asia, where I work as a partner at an early-stage VC, startups are regularly rolling out …

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Nvidia acquires data storage and management platform SwiftStack

Nvidia today announced that it has acquired SwiftStack, a software-centric data storage and management platform that supports public cloud, on-premises and edge deployments.

The company’s recent launches focused on improving its support for AI, high-performance computing and accelerated computing workloads, which is surely what Nvidia is most interested in here.

“Building AI supercomputers is exciting to the entire SwiftStack team,” says the company’s co-founder and CPO Joe Arnold in today’s announcement. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with the talented folks at NVIDIA and look forward to contributing to its world-leading accelerated computing solutions.”

The two companies did not disclose the price of the acquisition, but SwiftStack had previously raised about $23.6 million in Series A and B rounds led by Mayfield Fund and OpenView Venture Partners. Other investors include Storm Ventures and UMC Capital.

SwiftStack, which was founded in 2011, placed an early bet on OpenStack, the massive open-source project that aimed to give enterprises an AWS-like management experience in their own data centers. The company was one of the largest contributors to OpenStack’s Swift object storage platform and offered a number of services around this, though it seems like in recent years it has downplayed the OpenStack relationship as that platform’s popularity has fizzled in many verticals.

SwiftStack lists the likes of PayPal, Rogers, data center provider DC Blox, Snapfish and Verizon (TechCrunch’s parent company) on its customer page. Nvidia, too, is a customer.

SwiftStack notes that it team will continue to maintain an existing set of open source tools like Swift, ProxyFS, 1space and Controller.

“SwiftStack’s technology is already a key part of NVIDIA’s GPU-powered AI infrastructure, and this acquisition will strengthen what we do for you,” says Arnold.