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India sets rules for commissions, surge pricing for Uber and Ola

Ride-hailing firms such as Ola and Uber can only draw a fee of up to 20% on ride fares in India, New Delhi said in guidelines on Friday, a new setback for the SoftBank-backed firms already struggling to improve their finances in the key overseas market.
The guidelines, which for the first time bring modern-age app-based ride-hailing firms under a regulatory framework in the country, also put a cap on the so-called surge pricing, the fare Uber and Ola charge during hours when their services see peak demands.
According to the guidelines, Ola and Uber — and any other app-operated, ride-hailing firm — …

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Uber refused permission to dismiss 11 staff at its EMEA HQ

Uber has been refused permission to dismiss 11 people at its EMEA headquarters in Amsterdam by the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), the ride hailing company has confirmed.

The affected individuals did not take up an earlier severance offer as part of wider Uber layoffs earlier this year.

Uber announced major global layoffs of around 15% of its workforce in May — which included around 200 staff based in Amsterdam — blaming the cuts on changes to demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Late last week, Dutch newspaper NRC reported that Uber had been refused permission to fire the staff as the UWV had found there were no grounds for dismissal.

Per its report, affected Uber employees had faced pressure to accept Uber’s severance offer — saying they were disconnected from its internal systems the day after being informed of termination via Zoom video call and were then sent daily reminders to accept dismissal with Uber telling them ‘their position was ceasing to exist’.

Dutch law requires employers to obtain approval from the UWV for planned redundancies. But the majority of the affected staff in this instance accepted its severance offer before the agency had made a decision. Local press reports suggest many of those affected were expats — who may have been unaware of their labor rights under Dutch law.

We reached out to Uber with questions — and a company spokesperson sent us this statement:

Earlier this year we made the difficult decision to reduce our global headcount due to the dramatic impact of the pandemic, and the unpredictable nature of any eventual recovery. The headcount reductions in our EMEA Headquarters in Amsterdam are part of those efforts.

Uber also told us it does not agree with the UWV’s decision to refuse permission for it to dismiss the 11 employees who had not accepted severance, adding that it will review the decision before determining how to proceed.

It said the severance packages offered to the ~200 affected employees included at least 2.5 months of salary, health benefits to the end of the year, outplacement/recruitment support and additional support for Uber-sponsored visa holders.

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Uber in talks to sell ATG self-driving unit to Aurora

Eighteen months ago, Uber’s self-driving car unit, Uber Advanced Technologies Group, was valued at $7.25 billion following a $1 billion investment from Toyota, DENSO and SoftBank’s Vision Fund. Now, it’s up for sale and a competing autonomous vehicle technology startup is in talks with Uber to buy it, according to three sources familiar with the deal.

Aurora Innovation, the startup founded by three veterans of the autonomous vehicle industry who led programs at Google, Tesla and Uber, is in negotiations to buy Uber ATG. Terms of the deal are still unknown, but sources say the two companies have been in talks since October and it is far along in the process.

An Uber spokesperson declined to comment, citing that the company’s general policy is not to comment on these sorts of inquiries. An Aurora spokesperson said it doesn’t comment on speculation.

The talks could falter. But if successful, they have the potential to triple Aurora’s headcount and allow Uber to unload an expensive long-term play that has sustained several controversies in its short life.

Uber has ‘been shopping’

Shedding Uber ATG would follow a string of spin-offs or other deals in recent months that has narrowed Uber’s focus and costs into core areas of ride-hailing and delivery. Two years ago, Uber’s business model could be described as an “all of the above approach,” a bet on generating revenue from all forms of transportation, including ride-hailing, micromobility, logistics, package and food delivery and someday even autonomous robotaxis.

That strategy has changed since Uber went public and has further accelerated as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the economy and fundamentally changed how people live. In the past 11 months, Uber has dumped shared micromobility unit Jump, sold a stake in its growing but still unprofitable logistics arm, Uber Freight and acquired Postmates. (The Postmates acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2020).

Uber ATG has been the company’s last big, expensive holding. Uber ATG holds a lot of long-term promise and high present-day costs; Uber reported in November that ATG and “other technologies” (which includes Uber Elevate) had a net loss of $303 million in the nine months that ended September 30, 2020. In its S-1 document, Uber said it incurred $457 million of research and development expenses for its ATG and “other Technology Programs” initiatives.

Four sources within the industry told TechCrunch that Uber “has been shopping” ATG to several companies, including automakers this year. Sources have also told TechCrunch that Uber ATG was facing a potential down round, which might have been an additional motivator behind the talks with Aurora.

Aurora, which was founded in 2017, is focused on building the full self-driving stack, the underlying technology that will allow vehicles to navigate highways and city streets without a human driver behind the wheel. Aurora has attracted attention and investment from high-profile venture firms, management firms and corporations such as Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Amazon and T. Rowe Price, in part because of its founders Sterling Anderson, Drew Bagnell and Chris Urmson.

Urmson led the former Google self-driving project before it spun out to become the Alphabet business Waymo. Anderson is best known for leading the development and launch of the Tesla Model X and the automaker’s Autopilot program. Bagnell, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon, helped launch Uber’s efforts in autonomy, ultimately heading the autonomy and perception team at the Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

Aurora has grown from a small upstart to a company with 600 employees and operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pittsburgh, Texas and Bozeman, Montana, home of Blackmore, the lidar company it acquired in 2019. About 12% of Aurora’s current workforce previously worked at Uber, according to records on LinkedIn.

Despite that growth, Aurora is still dwarfed by Uber ATG, the self-driving subsidiary that is majority owned by Uber. Uber ATG has more than 1,200 employees with operations in several locations, including Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. Uber holds an 86.2% stake (on a fully diluted basis) in Uber ATG, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Its investors hold a combined stake of 13.8% in Uber ATG.

Uber’s public leap into autonomous vehicle technology began in earnest in early 2015 when the company announced a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Center. The agreement to work on developing driverless car technology resulted in Uber poaching dozens of NREC researchers and scientists. A year later, with the beginnings of an in-house AV development program, Uber, then led by co-founder Travis Kalanick, acquired a self-driving truck startup called Otto.

The acquisition was troubled almost from the start. Otto was founded earlier that year by one of Google’s star engineers, Anthony Levandowski, along with three other Google veterans: Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette. Uber acquired Otto less than eight months later.

Two months after the acquisition, Google made two arbitration demands against Levandowski and Ron. Uber wasn’t a party to either arbitration. While the arbitrations played out, Waymo separately filed a lawsuit against Uber in February 2017 for trade secret theft and patent infringement. Waymo alleged in the suit, which went to trial but ended in a settlement in 2018, that Levandowski stole trade secrets, which were then used by Uber.

Under the settlement, Uber agreed not to incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement that included 0.34% of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. That was calculated at the time to be about $244.8 million in Uber equity.

In the early days of the Otto acquisition, Uber estimated it could have 75,000 autonomous vehicles on the road by 2019 and be operating driverless taxi services in 13 cities by 2022, according to court documents unsealed and first reported on by TechCrunch. To reach those ambitious goals, the ride-hailing company was spending $20 million a month on developing self-driving technologies.

Uber never came close to hitting those targets, a mission that was derailed by technical hurdles as well as the lawsuit with Waymo, its troubled relationship with Lewandowski and the fatal crash in March 2018 involving one of its self-driving test vehicles in Tempe, Arizona.

Uber halted all testing following the crash and has been slowly ramping up its more public-facing operations over the past 18 months. The expensive undertaking of developing autonomous vehicles prompted Uber to spin out the company in spring 2019 after it closed $1 billion in funding from Toyota, auto parts maker Denso and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

The spin-out, which occurred about one month before Uber’s debut as a publicly traded company, had been the subject of speculation for months. It was seen as a way for Uber to share the expensive load with other investors and allow it to focus on its core competencies and nearer-term profit goals.

What Aurora gains

Troubles aside, Uber ATG has two important and critical features that make it attractive to Aurora: talent and Toyota.

The Japanese car giant had already invested $500 million into Uber prior to the 2019 injection of cash. At the time, the two companies announced their intention to bring pilot-scale deployments of automated Toyota Sienna-based ridesharing vehicles to the Uber ridesharing network in 2021, “leveraging the strengths of Uber ATG’s self-driving technology alongside the Toyota Guardian advanced safety support system.”

The 2019 investment into the Uber ATG unit deepened Toyota’s relationship with the company.

“While Uber was facing off against Waymo in the trade secrets lawsuit, Aurora launched with a bang. Within 18 months, Auora had secured several kinds of partnerships with Hyundai, Byton and VW Group. Some have fizzled, while there have been new gains, notably with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The musical chair-like changes underscores the sheer number of hopeful players in the self-driving business — a market that is still full of commercial and technical unknowns — and the fickleness of incumbent car makers in search of the best tech and deal.”

VW Group, which had touted its Aurora partnership in January 2018, confirmed to TechCrunch in June 2019 that “activities under our partnership have been concluded.” VW Group ultimately put its capital behind Argo AI, another autonomous vehicle technology developer that had locked up backing and a customer deal with Ford.

While Hyundai does have a minority stake in Aurora, it also went ahead and locked in a joint venture in fall 2019 with autonomous driving technology company Aptiv. Under the deal with Aptiv, both parties took a 50% ownership stake in the new joint company that is now called Motional. The combined investment in Motional from both companies will total $4 billion in aggregate value (including the value of combined engineering services, R&D and IP).

Still, Aurora has had its wins. The company raised $530 million last spring in a Series B round led by Sequoia with “significant investment” from Amazon and T. Rowe Price. Aurora’s post-money valuation at the time was $2.5 billion. More recently, sources in the industry say that Aurora is abuzz with activity, particularly around the office of David Maday, the company’s new vice president of business development who led General Motors’ corporate development and mergers and acquisitions team for 21 years.

Aurora has always stated that its full driving stack — the combined suite of software and hardware that provides the brains for an AV — would be vehicle-agnostic, but some of its early testing and partnerships suggested it was focused on robotaxi applications, not logistics. Aurora started talking more openly last year about applying its technology to long-haul trucking and has become more bullish on that application, particularly following its Blackmore acquisition.

Aurora announced in July 2020 that it was expanding into Texas and planned to test commercial routes in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area with a mix of Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Class 8 trucks. A small fleet of Pacificas were expected to arrive first. The trucks will be on the road in Texas by the end of the year, according to the company.

The Jump precedent

What’s unclear is how an acquisition of Uber ATG might be structured; and more importantly, if it will retain any interest in the enterprise. Even with the expected depletion in Uber ATG’s valuation, it would be seemingly out-of-range for Aurora unless it was able to secure additional outside investment or structure the deal in a way that would allow Uber to keep some equity. 

There is precedent for the latter. Earlier this year, Uber led a $170 million investment round into Lime. As part of the complex arrangement, Uber offloaded Jump, the bike and scooter-sharing unit, to Lime.

Rumors that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was keen to get rid of Uber ATG have popped up from time to time in the past year. But as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Khosrowshahi and other executives began to focus on its core competency of ride-hailing and double down on delivery. In addition to its micromobility unit and the Uber Freight spin-off, it has divested itself internationally of a number of regional operations that were proving too costly to grow in competition with strong local rivals.

It was on the heels of the Jump deal that interest in selling off Uber ATG ramped up, according to two sources.

One investor in the industry described it as an interesting Plan B for Uber, a deal that would allow the company to take ATG off the books, while potentially getting to benefit from a little upside.

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Lyft sees ride revenues recover by nearly 50% in just three months

Shares of Lyft are riding high, popping more than 7% in after-hours trading today after the American ride-hailing giant reported its Q3 earnings.

Lyft, which competes with Uber for rideshare, reported revenues of $499.7 million in the third-quarter, a 48% drop from the $955.6 million in the same year-ago period. That lackluster result is still a 47% improvement over last quarter when Lyft reported $339.3 million in revenue. That’s good?

Investors were heartened by the improvement and Lyft’s ability to beat analysts revenue expectations of $486.45 million. The company’s net loss of $1.46 per share was worse than expected, but investors appeared more bullish than bearish, buying up Lyft equity and boosting its value after the company’s earnings report.

Lyft’s quarter is a story of year-over-year declines and sequential-quarter gains. On that theme, the company’s active riders fell 44% compared to the year-ago quarter, and rose 44% compared to Q2 2020. Its revenue per active rider fell 7% compared to Q3 2019, but rose 2% from the sequentially preceding period.

Like Uber, Lyft is enjoying patience from investors as it digs its way out from a ride-hailing market pummeled by COVID-19; Uber has enjoyed a delivery business and international operations to buffer its ride revenue declines. Lyft, which is focused on the U.S. market and lacks a delivery program like Uber, has been more impacted by the domestic market.

Rising COVID-19 cases and ratcheting lockdowns could threaten Lyft’s recovery. Still, its core economics are not falling to pieces despite the pandemic. In Q3 2020, Lyft’s contribution margin — a metric that is akin to an adjusted gross margin result — was 49.8%. In the year-ago quarter it was 50.1%.

Lyft will return as long as ride volume recovers. Lyft’s next big hurdle is profitability. The company is still on track to achieve adjusted EBITDA profitability by the fourth quarter of 2021, even with a slower recovery, Logan Green said during the company’s earnings call Tuesday, adding that Lyft is taking an extremely disciplined approach to increase its operating leverage. Lyft is positioned to achieve that profitability goal with about 30% fewer rides than what was required when it originally issued its Q4 2021 profitability target last fall, Green said.

Lyft wrapped Q3 with $2.5 billion in cash and equivalents. Its operations have consumed $1.1 billion in cash so far this year, up around $156 million in the third quarter. At $50 million a month, Lyft has lots of room to get back to more pedestrian losses, and year-over-year growth.

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Human Capital: The gig economy in a post-Prop 22 world

Welcome back to Human Capital and congrats on making it through one of the hardest weeks of the longest year.

Now that the Associated Press has called the election in favor of Joe Biden, it should be good news for DEI practitioners, who expressed some worry they’d be out of a job if Trump was allowed to continue on his path of destruction.

Meanwhile, over in California, the Uber and Lyft -backed gig worker ballot measure, Prop 22, passed. We’ll get into what that all means and the implications moving forward.

Human Capital is a weekly newsletter that lands in subscribers’ inbox every Friday at 1 p.m. PT. Sign up here to receive it.

Gig workers will continue being independent contractors in CA

As y’all may have seen by now, the Uber and Lyft-backed gig worker measure, Proposition 22, passed in California

The current count is 58.4% in favor of Prop 22 and 41.6% in opposition. Below, you can see how mostly counties in Northern California along the coast drove the opposition. 

That means gig workers will continue to be classified as independent contractors in the state. It also essentially makes these gig companies exempt from AB-5, the gig worker bill that went into law at the beginning of the year. Lastly, it means we can expect these gig companies, which spent $205 million on the ballot measure, to seek similar legislation in other states.

“To get Prop 22 passed, gig companies — which have yet to turn a profit — spent a historic $205 million on their campaign, effectively creating a political template for future anti-democratic, corporate law-making,” Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of AI Now Institute and Veena Dubal, professor of law at the University of California, Hastings, wrote.

On Uber’s earnings call this week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company would “more loudly advocate for laws like Prop 22” throughout the U.S. and worldwide.

Meanwhile, labor groups are already planning their next steps forward. Partnerships for Working Families, for example, is considering potentially lobbying the hopeful Biden administration’s Department of Labor for better federal laws for worker classification, according to Cal Matters. Other options entail suing for issues around worker’s compensation requirements or the ⅞ supermajority needed to amend Prop 22.

Below are statements issued over the past couple of days from interested parties.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to drivers: “With this vote, drivers and delivery people will get what so many of you have been asking for: access to benefits and protections, while maintaining the flexibility and independence you want and deserve.

The future of independent work is more secure because so many drivers like you spoke up and made your voice heard—and voters across the state listened.”

Lyft Chief Policy Officer Anthony Foxx: “California voters have spoken, and they stood with more than a million drivers who clearly said they want independence plus benefits. Prop 22 is now the first law in the nation requiring health, disability and earnings benefits for gig workers. Lyft stands ready to work with all interested parties, including drivers, labor unions and policymakers, to build a stronger safety net for gig workers in the U.S.”

DoorDash CEO Tony Xu: Passing Prop 22 is a big win for Dashers, merchants, customers, and communities. Californians sided with drivers, recognizing the importance of flexible work and the critical need to extend new benefits and protections to drivers like Dashers

Gig Workers Rising: “Billionaire corporations just hijacked the ballot measure system in California by spending millions to mislead voters. The victory of Prop 22, the most expensive ballot measure in U.S. history, is a loss for our democracy that could open the door to other attempts by corporations to write their own laws.” 

Gig Workers Collective: “Our organizing has always been untraditional since we aren’t classified as employees and don’t have the legal protections to organize or unionize, but we still found a way to build worker power and fight back. We’re disappointed in tonight’s outcome, especially because this campaign’s success is based on lies and fear-mongering. Companies shouldn’t be able to buy elections. But we’re still dedicated to our cause and ready to continue our fight.” 

DEI professionals hope for a Biden administration

Uber Chief Diversity Officer Bo Young Lee said on Twitter that for many DEI professionals, “the results of the election will impact how we do our jobs and may even impact if we have jobs in the long term.”

Now that Biden is the presumptive president, the change in the administration will likely mean a change in the executive order banning types of diversity training for federal contractors.

Late last month, three civil rights groups filed a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s execute order. That suit came after Microsoft disclosed that the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs contacted the company regarding its racial justice and diversity commitments made in June.

Shine app founder talks mental health for Black people and people of color

Shine app co-founders Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey

On this week’s episode of Mixtape, we spoke with Shine app founder Marah Lidey about mental health. We spoke about the psychological and physiological manifestations of racism, the adverse effects of 2020 and how Black death isn’t new, but it’s finally getting global attention.

“Nothing necessarily new is happening with Black people dying in the streets,” Lidey said. “[Black people] all know that. But when all of your friends and co-workers become aware in this very new way and want to understand and want to share and want to ask you questions and you’re watching this play out at this national level and you’re bombarded at the global level, right I mean, this is in our DNA. Our cells were in the cells of those people who were enslaved.”’

You can check out the full conversation here.

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Provizio closes $6.2M seed round for its car safety platform using sensors and AI

Provizio, a combination hardware and software startup with technology to improve car safety, has closed a seed investment round of $6.2million. Investors include Bobby Hambrick (the founder of Autonomous Stuff); the founders of Movidius; the European Innovation Council (EIC); ACT Venture Capital.

The startup has a “five-dimensional” sensory platform that — it says — perceives, predicts and prevents car accidents in real time and beyond the line-of-sight. Its “Accident Prevention Technology Platform” combines proprietary vision sensors, machine learning and radar with ultra-long range and foresight capabilities to prevent collisions at high speed and in all weather conditions, says the company. The Provizio team is made up of experts in robotics, AI and vision and radar sensor development.

Barry Lunn, CEO of Provizio said: “One point three five road deaths to zero drives everything we do at Provizio. We have put together an incredible team that is growing daily. AI is the future of automotive accident prevention and Provizio 5D radars with AI on-the-edge are the first step towards that goal.”

Also involved in Provizio is Dr. Scott Thayer and Prof. Jeff Mishler, formally of Carnegie Mellon robotics, famous for developing early autonomous technologies for Google / Waymo, Argo, Aurora and Uber.

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Tech stocks rip higher on Election Day

Tech stocks shot higher as American voters went to the polls, the gains coming far ahead of results that could indicate who will win the presidency.

American stocks broadly rose, with the S&P 500 index rising just over 2% while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is up just under 2%. SaaS and cloud-focused shares are up a slimmer 1.8% as of the time of writing.

That 2% bump might seem negligible, but consider the past month. The Nasdaq was down just over 8% from all-time highs at the start of trading today. That makes today’s gains worth around a fourth of the gap from its recent declines back to record levels. The Nasdaq fell more than 10% from its recent peak before starting to recover in late-October, making today’s rally part of a developing upward trend.

Depending on how one reads the polling tea leaves, the gains could be read as an endorsement of either candidate’s platform.

Today’s stock market moves come on the back of an uneven technology earnings cycle, with major tech companies swallowing lumps, while some smaller industry players like Five9 rode COVID-19 tailwinds to strong results. Netflix, Intel, Apple, and others struggled to impress investors. Indeed, the domestic stock market’s reaction to earnings beats has been muted this cycle, in contrast to other areas; it appears that American equities were priced to surpass expectations.

For tech, today’s rebound is welcome, possible helping pave the way for a rash of IPO filings that are expected before the year’s end. Airbnb, DoorDash, and others are still candidates for flotation this year.

Certain share prices, notably those of Uber and Lyft, were already on the rise Monday on investor confidence that California voters will pass Proposition 22. The ballot measure, if approved, will exempt the ride-sharing companies from a new California law that forces gig economy workers to be classified as employees rather than contractors.

Pulling back for a moment, Uber’s share price is still down about 3.87% from one month ago. But it’s been recovering, with a pop in the past two days. Uber’s share price closed 2% higher Monday and is now up about 2.7% in trading today. Lyft has experienced an even larger bump with share prices rising 5.67% on Monday. Lyft shares are up 6.39% in midday trading today.

The stakes are high for Uber and Lyft this Election Day. If Proposition 22 fails, the companies say they will have to change their business models. Both companies have threatened temporary shutdowns in the state if forced to comply with the new California law. For now it seems, investors believe Uber and Lyft will be able to continue to operate as they always have.

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Human Capital: Uber Eats hit with claims of ‘reverse racism’

Nellie Peshkov, formerly Reddit’s VP of People and Culture, is now Chief People Officer. Her appointment to the C-suite is part of the much-needed, growing trend of tech companies elevating employees focused on diversity and inclusion to the highest leadership ranks.

Uber Eats hit with claims of “reverse racism”

Uber said it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Uber Eats made this change in June, following racial justice protests around the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Uber Eats said it wanted to make it easier for customers to support Black-owned businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To qualify, the restaurant must be a small or medium-sized business and, therefore, not part of a franchise. In contrast, delivery fees are still in place for other restaurants.

In one of these claims, viewed by TechCrunch, a customer says Uber Eats violates the Unruh civil Rights Act by “charging discriminatory delivery fees based on race (of the business owner).” That claim seeks $12,000 as well as a permanent injunction that would prevent Uber from continuing to offer free delivery from Black-owned restaurants.

Uber driver claims rating system is racially biased
Uber is no stranger to lawsuits, so this one shouldn’t come as a surprise. Uber is now facing a lawsuit regarding its customer ratings and how the company deactivates drivers whose ratings fall below a certain threshold. The suit alleges the system “constitues race discrimination, as it is widely recognized that customer evaluations of workers are frequently racially biased.”

In a statement to NPR, Uber called the suit “flimsy” and said “ridesharing has greatly reduced bias for both drivers and riders, who now have fairer, more equitable access to work and transportation than ever before.”

Yes on Prop 22 gets another $3.75 million influx of cash
DoorDash put in an additional $3.75 million into the Yes on 22 campaign, according to a late contribution filing. Proposition 22 is the California ballot measure that aims to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors.

The latest influx of cash brought Yes on 22’s total contributions north of $200 million. As of October 14, the campaign had raised $189 million. But thanks to a number of late contributions, the total put toward Yes on 22 comes out to about $202,955,106.38, or, $203 million.

Prop 22 hit the most-funded California ballot measure long ago, but it’s now surpassed the $200 million mark.

TechCrunch Sessions: Justice is back

I am pleased to announce TechCrunch Sessions: Justice is officially happening again! Save the date for March 3, 2021.

We’ll explore inclusive hiring, access to funding for Black, Latinx and Indigenous people, and workplace tools to foster inclusion and belonging. We’ll also examine the experiences of gig workers and formerly incarcerated people who are often left out of Silicon Valley’s wealth cycle. Rounding out the program will be a discussion about the role of venture capital in creating a more inclusive tech ecosystem. We’ll discuss all of that and more at TC Sessions: Justice.

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Uber Eats faces discrimination allegations over free delivery from Black-owned restaurants

Uber says it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for some Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Uber Eats made this change in June, following racial justice protests around the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Uber Eats said it wanted to make it easier for customers to support Black-owned businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To qualify, the restaurant must be a small or medium-sized business and, therefore, not part of a franchise. In contrast, delivery fees are still in place for other restaurants.

In one of these claims, viewed by TechCrunch, a customer alleges Uber Eats violates the Unruh civil Rights Act by “charging discriminatory delivery fees based on race (of the business owner).” That claim seeks $12,000 as well as a permanent injunction that would prevent Uber from continuing to offer free delivery from Black-owned restaurants.

“We’re proud to support black-owned businesses with this initiative, as we know they’ve disproportionately been impacted by the health crisis,” Uber spokesperson Meghan Casserly said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We heard loud and clear from consumers this was a feature they wanted—and we’ll continue to make it a priority.”

The website soliciting customers says eligible people can make up to $4,000 in compensation if they have paid a delivery fee in California since June 4, 2020.

The arbitration demands are not super surprising, given that Sen. Ted Cruz said he expected Uber to face discrimination lawsuits from restaurants without Black ownership.

It’s also worth noting that the representative for the customer listed in the complaint is Consovoy McCarthy, whose partners include President Donald Trump lawyer William Consovoy and others.

TechCrunch has reached out to Consovoy McCarthy and will update this story if we hear back.

These complaints are reminiscent of one Microsoft is facing, though not at as high of a level. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor essentially accused Microsoft of “reverse racism” (not a real thing) for committing to hire more Black people at its predominantly white company.

Meanwhile, this is just one of many legal battles Uber is facing these days. On the worker side of Uber’s business, a California appeals court judge recently upheld a ruling granting a preliminary injunction to force both Uber and Lyft to reclassify their workers as employees. However, that has yet to go into effect. That means all eyes are on Proposition 22, a California ballot measure backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart that seeks to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors.

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Daily Crunch: Uber and Lyft defeated again in court

A California court weighs in as Prop. 22 looms, Google removes popular apps over data collection practices and the Senate subpoenas Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg. This is your Daily Crunch for October 23, 2020.

The big story: Uber and Lyft defeated again in court

A California appeals court ruled that yes, a new state law applies to Uber and Lyft drivers, meaning that they must be classified as employees, rather than independent contractors. The judge ruled that contrary to the rideshare companies’ arguments, any financial harm does not “rise to the level of irreparable harm.”

However, the decision will not take effect for 30 days — suggesting that the real determining factor will be Proposition 22, a statewide ballot measure backed by Uber and Lyft that would keep drivers as contractors while guaranteeing things like minimum compensation and healthcare subsidies.

“This ruling makes it more urgent than ever for voters to stand with drivers and vote yes on Prop. 22,” a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The tech giants

Google removes 3 Android apps for children, with 20M+ downloads between them, over data collection violations — Researchers at the International Digital Accountability Council found that a trio of popular and seemingly innocent-looking apps aimed at younger users were violating Google’s data collection policies.

Huawei reports slowing growth as its operations ‘face significant challenges’ — The full impact of U.S. trade restrictions hasn’t been realized yet, because the government has granted Huawei several waivers.

Senate subpoenas could force Zuckerberg and Dorsey to testify on New York Post controversy — The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of issuing subpoenas for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Quibi says it will shut down in early December — A newly published support page on the Quibi site says streaming will end “on or about December 1, 2020.”

mmhmm, Phil Libin’s new startup, acquires Memix to add enhanced filters to its video presentation toolkit — Memix has built a series of filters you can apply to videos to change the lighting, the details in the background or across the whole screen.

Nordic challenger bank Lunar raises €40M Series C, plans to enter the ‘buy now, pay later’ space — Lunar started out as a personal finance manager app but acquired a full banking license in 2019.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

Here’s how fast a few dozen startups grew in Q3 2020 — This is as close to private company earnings reports as we can manage.

The short, strange life of Quibi — Everything you need to know about the Quibi story, all in one place.

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

Everything else

France rebrands contact-tracing app in an effort to boost downloads — France’s contact-tracing app has been updated and is now called TousAntiCovid, which means “everyone against Covid.”

Representatives propose bill limiting presidential internet ‘kill switch’ — The bill would limit the president’s ability to shut down the internet at will.

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