food delivery

Leak reveals Uber’s $9.99 unlimited delivery Eats Pass

Posted by | Apps, food, food delivery, Mobile, payments, postmates unlimited, TC, Transportation, Uber, Uber Eats Pass | No Comments

What’s the cord-cutting equivalent to ditching your kitchen? Uber’s upcoming subscription to unlimited free food delivery. Uber is preparing to launch the $9.99 per month Uber Eats Pass, according to code hidden in Uber’s Android app.

The subscription would waive Uber’s service fee that’s typically 15% of your order cost. Given that’s often $5 or more, users stand to save a lot if they order in frequently. But Uber could still earn money on menu item markups, cover costs with a flat order fee that protects against someone ordering a single taco, and, most importantly, build loyalty and scale at a time of intense food delivery competition.

The Uber Eats Pass was first spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, the notorious reverse-engineering specialist who’s become a frequent TechCrunch tipster. She managed to generate screenshots from Uber’s Android app code that reveals a prototype of the feature. “Get free delivery, any restaurant, any time,” it says, showing the amount of money you could save or already saved.

An Uber spokesperson did not dispute the legitimacy of the findings and told TechCrunch, “We’re always thinking about new ways to enhance the Eats experience.” They declined to provide further details, which could hint that a launch is imminent but some details are still subject to change. For now we don’t know exactly which perks come with an Eats Pass or where it will be launching first.

At $9.99 per month, the Uber Eats Pass would cost the same and work similarly to Postmates Unlimited and DoorDash DashPass. If they all seem like good deals, you see why they’re less about immediate revenue and more about customer lock-in. You’re a lot less likely to order GrubHub or Caviar if you’ve already pre-paid to cover your Uber Eats delivery costs. And whichever apps emerge from this battle will have instituted the scale and steady behavior to raise prices or just enjoy large lifetime value from each subscriber.

Exploring new business opportunities could help perk up Uber’s share price, which closed at $41.50 today, two weeks after IPOing at an opening price of $42. There are fears that intense competition across both ridesharing and food delivery could make for an expensive road ahead for the newly public company. Any way it can gain an edge on its rivals’ users from straying to them is important. The logistics giant is already experimenting with allowing restaurants to offer discounts in exchange for promoted placement in the app, which is the first step to Uber becoming an ads company, where businesses pay for extra exposure.

If Uber combined Eats Pass with its car service subscription Ride Passes, you have the foundation for a sort of Uber Prime experience — one where you pay an upfront subscription fee that scores you perks and discounts but also makes you likely to spend a lot more on Uber. That bundle could be even more central to Uber than Amazon, which has few direct rivals in the west. People will need to eat and get around for the foreseeable future. Subsidizing loyalty now could be costly in the short-term, but poise Uber for years of lucrative business down the line.

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Kiwi’s food delivery bots are rolling out to 12 more colleges

Posted by | artificial intelligence, berkeley skydeck, food delivery, Gadgets, hardware, Kiwibot, robotics, robots, Skydeck, SkyDeck accelerator, Startups, TC, Transportation | No Comments

If you’re a student at UC Berkeley, the diminutive rolling robots from Kiwi are probably a familiar sight by now, trundling along with a burrito inside to deliver to a dorm or apartment building. Now students at a dozen more campuses will be able to join this great, lazy future of robotic delivery as Kiwi expands to them with a clever student-run model.

Speaking recently at TechCrunch’s Robotics + AI Session at the Berkeley campus, Kiwi’s Felipe Chavez and Sasha Iatsenia discussed the success of their burgeoning business and the way they planned to take it national.

In case you’re not aware of the Kiwi model, it’s basically this: When you place an order online with a participating restaurant, you have the option of delivery via Kiwi. If you so choose, one of the company’s fleet of knee-high robots with insulated, locking storage compartments will swing by the place, your order is put within, and it brings it to your front door (or as close as it can reasonably get). You can even watch the last bit live from the robot’s perspective as it rolls up to your place.

The robots are what Kiwi calls “semi-autonomous.” This means that although they can navigate most sidewalks and avoid pedestrians, each has a human monitoring it and setting waypoints for it to follow, on average every five seconds. Iatsenia told me that they’d tried going full autonomous and that it worked… most of the time. But most of the time isn’t good enough for a commercial service, so they’ve got humans in the loop. They’re working on improving autonomy, but for now this is how it is.

That the robots are being controlled in some fashion by a team of people in Colombia (from where the co-founders hail) does take a considerable amount of the futurism out of this endeavor, but on reflection it’s kind of a natural evolution of the existing delivery infrastructure. After all, someone has to drive the car that brings you your food, as well. And in reality, most AI is operated or informed directly or indirectly by actual people.

That those drivers are in South America operating multiple vehicles at a time is a technological advance over your average delivery vehicle — though it must be said that there is an unsavory air of offshoring labor to save money on wages. That said, few people shed tears over the wages earned by the Chinese assemblers who put together our smartphones and laptops, or the garbage pickers who separate your poorly sorted recycling. The global labor economy is a complicated one, and the company is making jobs in the place it was at least partly born.

Whatever the method, Kiwi has traction: it’s done more than 35,000 deliveries at an increasing rate since it started two years ago (now up to over 10,000 per month) and the model seems to have proven itself. Customers are happy, they get stuff delivered more than ever once they get the app and there are fewer and fewer incidents where a robot is kicked over or, you know, catches on fire. Notably, the founders said onstage, the community has really adopted the little vehicles, and should one overturn or be otherwise interfered with, it’s often set on its way soon after by a passerby.

Iatsenia and Chavez think the model is ready to push out to other campuses, where a similar effort will have to take place — but rather than do it themselves by raising millions and hiring staff all over the country, they’re trusting the robotics-loving student groups at other universities to help out.

For a small and low-cash startup like Kiwi, it would be risky to overextend by taking on a major round and using that to scale up. They started as robotics enthusiasts looking to bring something like this to their campus, so why can’t they help others do the same?

So the team looked at dozens of universities, narrowing them down by factors important to robotic delivery: layout, density, commercial corridors, demographics and so on. Ultimately they arrived at the following list:

  • Northern Illinois University
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Purdue University
  • Texas A&M
  • Parsons
  • Cornell
  • East Tennessee State University
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Stanford
  • Harvard
  • NYU
  • Rutgers

What they’re doing is reaching out to robotics clubs and student groups at those colleges to see who wants to take partial ownership of Kiwi administration out there. Maintenance and deployment would still be handled by Berkeley students, but the student clubs would go through a certification process and then do the local work, like a capsized bot and on-site issues with customers and restaurants.

“We are exploring several options to work with students down the road, including rev share,” Iatsenia told me. “It depends on the campus.”

So far they’ve sent 40 robots to the 12 campuses listed and will be rolling out operations as the programs move forward on their own time. If you’re not one of the unis listed, don’t worry — if this goes the way Kiwi plans, it sounds like you can expect further expansion soon.

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Chinese app developers have invaded India

Posted by | alibaba, Android, Apps, Asia, bytedance, China, Flash, food delivery, india, oppo, Paytm, sensor tower, SnapDeal, Tencent, tiktok, WeChat, Xiaomi | No Comments

If you’ve conquered China, then India — the world’s second-largest country based on population — is the obvious next port of call, and that’s exactly what has happened in the world of consumer apps.

Following the lead of Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi and Oppo, which have dominated mobile sales in India for some time, the content behind the touchscreen glass in India is increasingly now from China, too. That’s according to a report from FactorDaily, which found that 44 of the top 100 Android apps in India were developed by Chinese companies, up from just 18 one year prior. (The focus is on Android because it is the overwhelming choice of operating system among India’s estimated 500 million internet users.)

The list of top Chinese apps includes major names like ByteDance, the world’s highest-valued startup, which offers TikTok and local language news app Helo in India, and Alibaba’s UCbrowser, as well as lesser-known quantities like Tencent-backed NewsDog and quiet-yet-prolific streaming app maker Bigo.

Citing data from Sensor Tower, the report found that five of the top 10 Android apps in India are from China, up from just two at the end of 2017.

For anyone who has been watching the Indian technology scene in recent years, this “Chinese app store invasion” will be of little surprise, although the speed of change has been unexpected.

China’s two biggest companies, Alibaba and Tencent, have poured significant amounts into promising Indian startups in recent years, setting the stage for others to follow suit and move into India in search of growth.

Alibaba bought into Snapdeal and Paytm via multi-hundred-million-dollar investments in 2015, and the pace has only quickened since then. In 2017, Tencent invested in Gaana (music streaming) and Swiggy (food delivery) in major deals, having backed Byju’s (education) and Ola (ride-hailing) the year prior. The pair also launched local cloud computing services inside India last year.

Beyond those two, Xiaomi has gone beyond selling phones to back local companies and develop local services for its customers.

That local approach appears to have been the key for those app makers which have found success in India. Rather than taking a very rigid approach like Chinese messaging app WeChat — owned by Tencent, which failed in India — the likes of ByteDance have developed local teams and, in some cases, entirely local apps dedicated to India. With the next hundreds of millions of internet users in India tipped to come from more rural parts of the country, vernacular languages, local content and voice-enabled tech are some of the key strategies that, like their phone-making cousins, Chinese app developers will need to focus on to ensure that they aren’t just a flash in the pan in India.

You can read more at FactorDaily.

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Uber Eats test lets restaurants trade discounts for ranking boost

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Apps, eCommerce, food, food delivery, Logistics, Mobile, payments, Startups, TC, Uber, Uber Eats | No Comments

Uber Eats has effectively invented its own native ad unit. Uber confirmed to TechCrunch that a test quietly running in markets around India allows restaurants to bundle several food items together and sell them at a discounted price in exchange for promoted placement by Uber Eats in a featured section of local “Specials.” In some cases, restaurants foot the cost of the discount, while in others Uber pays for the discounts.

The Uber Specials feature demonstrates the massive leverage awarded to food delivery apps that aggregate restaurants. Users often come to Uber Eats and its competitors without a specific restaurant in mind. Uber can then point those customers to whichever food supplier it prefers. The suppliers in turn will increasingly compete for the favor of the aggregators — not just in terms of food quality, speed and review scores, but also in terms of discounts. The aggregators will win users if they offer the best deals; creating a network effect makes restaurants more keen to play ball.

TechCrunch first learned of Uber’s ambitions in the space from a mock-up of the Promoted Items Value Section feature spotted in its app by mobile researcher and frequent TC tipster Jane Manchun Wong. The fictional food items included “Best Beer” that “is made from only the finest gutter swill” and “Weird Fries” that “will so utterly decimate your sense of good food that you will be permanently reduced to a whimpering shell of your former self!” This jokey text that seemingly was never meant for public viewing also noted that the fries are so good you should “throw all your other food in the garbage right now!” Uber assured us these weren’t real.

But what it did confirm is that the discounts for promoted placement test is live in India. “We’re always experimenting with ways to make it easier to find your favorite foods on Uber Eats,, according to a statement provided by an Uber spokesperson.

The feature allows restaurants to create a bundled meal at a certain price point, such as a chicken sandwich, french fries and a drink at a price that’s less than the sum of its parts. The company tells me the goal is to take the friction out of ordering by giving people pre-set meals at a better price prominently available in the app. Attracting more customers that have plenty of other options could offset the discount. Businesses could also use it to bundle high-margin items, like soft drinks, with meals, or to get rid of overstock.

Ben Thompson’s aggregation theory describes how power accrues to aggregators that match supply with demand

It’s already common for restaurants to make “specials” out of food they have too much of. That butternut squash ravioli might only be featured because they can’t get rid of it. In that sense, you could think of Uber Specials as the inverse of surge pricing. When supply is too high, restaurants can offer discounts to gain more demand. It’s also not far off from Google Search’s keyword ads where business pay for more visibility.

Uber wouldn’t discuss whether it plans to bring the strategy to other markets, but it makes sense to assume it’s considering expansion. Done wrong, it could look a bit like Uber Eats is pressuring restaurants to surrender discounts if they want to be discoverable inside its app. If restaurants within Uber Eats get into heated competition to offer discounts, it could drive down their profits. But done right, Specials could look like a triple-win. Restaurants can offload surplus and bundle in high-margin items while scoring new customers from enhanced placement, customers get cheaper food options and Uber Eats becomes people’s go-to app for easy-to-order discounted meals.

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DoorDash raises another $250M, nearly triples valuation to $4B

Posted by | DoorDash, food delivery, Mobile, Recent Funding, Startups, tony xu | No Comments

Food delivery startup DoorDash announced this afternoon that it has raised $250 million, just five months since the company announced a $535 million round.

Why raise more money so soon? CEO Tony Xu told Axios that he wasn’t actively looking for additional investment, but was open to investor interest because it could help the company expand more quickly. (Maybe he’ll have more to say about those plans at Disrupt SF next month.)

The new funding was led by Coatue Management and DST Global. It sounds like the terms were pretty appealing too, with the valuation growing from $1.4 billion to $4 billion.

In a blog post, the company said it’s had a good 2018, with deliveries increasing 250 percent year-over-year, restaurant chains like Chipotle and IHOP signing up and last week’s launch of the DashPass subscription service, where you can pay $9.99 per month to get unlimited free deliveries.

“As we grow, we will stay true to our values and our mission of connecting people with possibility  —  and, trust us, we’re just getting started,” DoorDash wrote.

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Meal ingredient delivery service Blue Apron is the next big consumer IPO

Posted by | Blue Apron, Earnings, Finance, food delivery, Gadgets, IPO, Mobile, Startups, TC | No Comments

 Amidst an array of enterprise companies that have jumped on the IPO bandwagon following Snap’s successful IPO (aside from its more recent whiff of an earnings report), Blue Apron appears to be the next major consumer IPO. That’s important, because it continues the tone that both enterprise and consumer companies see an opportunity to go public. Read More

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JoyRun, a food delivery app with a twist, raises $8.5 million

Posted by | Apps, Floodgate, food, food delivery, Fundings & Exits, josh goldman, JoyRun, Manish Rathi, Mobile, mobile apps, Norwest, peer to peer, series A funding, Startups, TC, Venture Capital | No Comments

 A Santa Clara, Calif. startup called JoyRun has raised about $10 million in Series A and seed funding for its peer-to-peer food and drinks delivery app. It may be hard to believe that VCs are still putting money into food delivery concepts that don’t involve self-driving cars, robots or drones. What’s new about JoyRun is not so much technology as business model innovation. Read More

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NFL’s Drew Brees backs Waitr to make takeout easy in anytown USA

Posted by | Chris Meaux, Drew Brees, food, food delivery, foodtech, funding, Fundings & Exits, Louisiana startup, Mobile, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Restaurants, Startups, TC, Venture Capital, venture funding, Waitr, WaitrApp | No Comments

 Food delivery startups abound in the U.S., but few of them deliver to customers in “second cities” and smaller towns. From early pioneers like Grubhub to newer services like DoorDash, food delivery businesses have tended to focus on urban areas with a high concentration of restaurants and people who frequently order takeout. Now, New Orleans Saints Quarterback, philanthropist… Read More

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UberEATS fires up surge pricing for deliveries in some U.S. cities

Posted by | Apps, Ben Dreier, Caviar, DoorDash, food, food delivery, Mobile, on-demand, Postmates, surge pricing, TC, Transportation, Uber, ubereats | No Comments

tip your uber driver UberEATS customers already have the ease-of-use of Uber’s mobile app for food ordering and delivery. Now they’re getting the surge pricing that Uber’s earlier ride-hailing service is known for, as well. In a blog post entitled “Delivery at Uber speed, even when it’s busy,” the company announced today that surge pricing would hit select U.S. cities. In… Read More

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SpoonRocket shuts down amongst on-demand apocalypse

Posted by | Apps, eCommerce, food delivery, Fundings & Exits, Mobile, on-demand, spoonrocket, Sprig, Startups, TC | No Comments

spoonrocket-closed SpoonRocket informed its investors it’s shutting down its on-demand pre-made meal delivery service after failing to raise the necessary capital to continue operations.
[Update: Co-founder Steven Hsiao confirmed SpoonRocket’s shut down. The company published a goodbye blog post saying it will transition customers to competitor Sprig, which is offering SpoonRocket users a $10… Read More

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