Relevance is often tied to rarity. As a result, the first anything — whether a birthday, scientific feat or female vice president — comes with its own weight. Whether that pressure is warranted is a discussion in and of itself, but today, we’ll focus on the ripple effects of India’s first unicorn IPO: Zomato.
Food delivery startup Zomato, set to start trading public shares next week, has been labeled by journalists and industry experts as India’s biggest tech public offering to date. The company could be valued at up to $8.6 billion in its public debut, and early indications of investor interest were strong.
As my colleagues Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim put it in their column, the eventual performance of Zomato will be watched by Paytm and MobiKwik, two Indian fintech unicorns also looking to go public soon, the some 100 Indian unicorns, and, of course, returns-focused venture capitalists. The success of the startup could lead to more venture funding, exits down the road, and overall, highlight a milestone for growth investments amid legislative and regulatory tension.
While the pressure is on for Zomato not to get squashed by the public markets, it’s not simply baseless, anticipatory energy. Our on-the-ground reporter Manish Singh has religiously reported on all the signs that India has been building toward this event, from the early-stage startup fundraising frenzy to how engineers suddenly feel empowered to ask for more money thanks to an increase in demand.
A Zomato success may turn more investors to pay attention to the startup scene, but they will be playing catch-up: Indian startups have raised a record $10.46 billion in the first half of 2021, up from $4 billion during the same period last year, and $5.4 billion in the first half of 2019, data insight platform Tracxn told TC. For comparison, Indian startups had raised $11.6 billion in all of 2020.
The takeaway here, both in life and in startups, is that the first anything is rarely a result of a single decision. Often, if you look closely, a massive milestone is due to an amalgamation of different wins, successes, failures, and tinier milestones along the way. This doesn’t take away its title as the biggest tech startup to go public in India (relevant, and rare!) but it does suggest that ripple effects aren’t just a side effect of a financing event, but maybe the impetus of the IPO in the first place.
In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll get into emerging fund manager trends, as well as funding round advice that has nothing to do with closing a round. You can find me on Twitter @nmasc_ or listen to me as a co-host on Equity.
Emerge, then converge
The clip of closed funds led by diverse, emerging fund managers is unlike anything I’ve seen before. In the last week, Female Founders Fund closed $57 million for Fund III, Nasir Quadree announced one of the largest solo GP funds, Peter Boyce II is nearing a $40 million close for Stellation Capital and H Ventures landed a $10 million debut fund.
Here’s what to know: More and more established venture firms are turning to emerging managers for deal flow, and frankly, new partners, per my colleague Connie Loizos. Just this week, Initialized Partner scooped up Parul Singh from Founder Collective, making her a new partner at the firm. Don’t expect the trend to slow down anytime soon.
Your funding round isn’t special, but you may be
It may be easier to fundraise than it is to secure fundraising coverage. As we talked about in our recent Equity podcast, featuring special guest Forbes Senior Editor Alex Konrad, the bar for “the funding round story” has never been higher.
Here’s what to know: In order to stand out, founders need to be transparent about competition, their industry and leave those godforsaken preapproved quotes and talking points. We get into specific advice on the show, and how a numbing effect could hurt historically overlooked individuals.
For more fundraising advice:
- The TC Disrupt Agenda just went live. It’s a must-read line up and a must-attend event.
- Have you ever taken a cohort-based course from an edtech platform? I’m writing a story, so please e-mail if you’re open to chatting about your experience at one.
- Shout out to Christine Hall for recently joining the TC team. Follow her on Twitter. I’ll wait!
Across the week
Seen on TC
Seen on Extra Crunch
Thanks for reading along, everyone. Have a good weekend, and if you liked this newsletter, make sure to share it with at least one friend!
The pandemic effect is slowing – | #Tech
Welcome back to The TC Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by what the weekday Exchange column digs into, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.
Our work this week kicked off in China, dug into African startup activity, dealt with China once again, took a very deep dive into the Latin American startup ecosystem and wrapped with a second look at the Robinhood IPO. In other words, not much was really going on at all!
You may have been surprised to see Amazon’s stock fall off a cliff Friday. After all, the company posted huge revenue gains to just over $113 billion during the quarter. And AWS, its public cloud business, seemed to tick along nicely.
But investors had expected more growth and had priced the Seattle-based e-commerce player accordingly. When Amazon missed revenue expectations and projected Q3 2021 growth of “between 10% and 16% compared with third quarter 2020,” investors let go of its stock.
But as some in the financial press are noting, it’s not just Amazon that’s taking stick from investors. Etsy and eBay also fell this week. It appears that investors are anticipating that a period of turbocharged growth in e-commerce thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing at least, and may in fact be over. That means valuations are going to get reset at a host of companies, startups included.
Not that every company slowing down after the pandemic’s early phases is suffering, Duolingo managed a strong opening week as a public company despite slowing growth. But delta variant or not, the investing classes are changing their market framing. We’d be smart to keep that in mind.
It’s the products, stupid
Something that is stuck in my teeth this week is how much Robinhood has changed the game regarding consumer investing. Sure, this week was mostly about the company’s IPO and its somewhat relaxed early trading performance. But, buried in its final S-1/A filings is new evidence of Robinhood’s cultural impact.
At the top of the U.S. consumer investing unicorn’s filings is a pair of statistics. They look like this:
Dang, you are thinking, that’s a lot of funded accounts and monthly active users. But then again, those are March 31, 2021, numbers. They are out of date. In the same filing, Robinhood indicated that its June 30 quarter saw its funded accounts tally grow to 22.5 million. That’s 25% growth in a single quarter!
Naturally, there were a few things going on in the second quarter of this year that won’t happen again, but it’s still a bonkers result.
Early Robinhood investor Jan Hammer of Index sent over a comment in the wake of his investment’s public offering, arguing that the company is part of work being done by tech companies to shake up financial services. Companies like Robinhood, he wrote, are “not just a fresh coat of paint for the same old financial products.”
I think that is correct. And the point is pretty damning of incumbent players still in the market with dated websites and medium-grade mobile experiences. Can you imagine getting a Gen Zer to swap out Robinhood or eToro or M1 Finance for, I don’t know, John Hancock? The toothpaste, as they say, is not going back into the tube.
How might Fidelity and Vanguard convince Robinhood users to move to their services? Will they be able to, or has an entire generation of investors skipped the traditional finance players entirely? Robinhood bulls must think so, and I can’t really find it in me to fight the perspective.
I do not know how Robinhood will perform in the coming quarters, but it does feel — given the MAU numbers from Robinhood, AUM figures from M1 and so forth — that fintech startups stole several marches on your trusty 401(k) provider. A market that I am sure the fintechs will soon dig more deeply into.
More about Africa
Circling back to Africa, how about some July data? Our exploration of the continent’s strong H1 2021 performance stopped in June, so let’s add some data. Per Africa-watching publication The Big Deal, African startups raised $308 million across 71 deals in the quarter. That’s a run rate of around $3.7 billion. Or in simpler terms, African startups are still on pace for their best year ever when it comes to raising venture capital.
Hugs, and get vaccinated.
Instagram restricts teens’ accounts, Elon Musk criticizes App Store fees, Google Play’s new policies – | #Tech
Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TC series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.
The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.
Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year over year.
This Week in Apps will finally be a newsletter! It will launch on August 7. Sign up now!
Google Play updates its policies
Did you hear the one about Google Play banning sugar daddy dating apps? Google this week updated its terms to clarify that apps where users offer sex acts in exchange for money, or “sugar dating,” as the new terms state, are no longer allowed as of September 1, 2021.
Developers will have to disclose to users whether their app uses security practices like data encryption, whether it follows Google Play’s Families policy for apps aimed at kids, whether users have a choice in data sharing, whether the app’s safety section had been verified by a third party, and if the app allowed users to request data deletion at the time of uninstalling, among other things.
Apps that don’t disclose won’t be able to list or update until the problems are fixed.
The safety section wasn’t the only Google Play policy news to be announced this week.
Google also reminded developers that it was making a technical change to how advertising IDs work. Now, when users opt out of interest-based advertising or ads personalization, their advertising ID is removed and replaced with a string of zeros. The change, however, is a phased rollout, affecting apps running on Android 12 devices starting late 2021 and expanding to all apps running on devices that support Google Play in early 2022.
Google also said it will test a new feature that notifies developers and ad/analytics service providers of user opt-out preferences and is prohibiting linking persistent device identifiers to personal and sensitive user data or resettable device identifiers. Kids apps will also not be able to transmit an ad ID.
Another policy update includes a plan to close dormant accounts. Google says if the account is inactive or abandoned after a year, it will be closed. This will include accounts where the developer has never uploaded an app or accessed Google Play Console in a year.
Apple tries to fix the Safari mess
In response to feedback and complaints, Apple is clearly trying to fix some of the issues that arose from this change. It re-added a Share button to the tab bar and put additional controls under that menu. There’s also once again a reload button in the tab bar next to the domain name, though it’s a bit smaller, and a Reader Mode button will appear in the tab bar when Reader is available
On iPad, Safari also reverted back to the traditional separate row of tabs, instead of the new compact experience.
Elon Musk sides with Epic Games
Elon Musk sided with Fortnite maker Epic Games in the Apple App Store antitrust lawsuit, as the Tesla CEO tweeted on Friday that Apple’s App Store fees were “a de facto global tax on the Internet.” The lawsuit alleges Apple is abusing its platform power with how it commissions apps and in-app purchases on its App Store platform — fees that add up to big numbers for a game like Fortnite, which arguably doesn’t need an App Store for discovery, marketing, payments and distribution. But there’s no other way to sell to iOS users today. On Android, apps can at least be sideloaded. It’s not currently clear why Musk has decided to take a stand on the issue, as none of his companies’ apps are dramatically impacted by Apple’s fees at present.
Other Platform News (Apple & Google)
Apple announced plans to end support for a number of SiriKit intents and commands, including those that could impact major apps — like ride-sharing app Uber. In total, there are over 20 SiriKit intent domains that will be deprecated and no longer supported in new and existing OS releases, Apple says.
Apple tweaked the controversial iOS 15 Safari changes in the latest betas (iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, beta 4). The new Safari design had moved the tab bar (URL bar) to the bottom of the screen — a fairly radical change for one of the iPhone’s most used apps. It was meant to make the controls easier to reach but critics said that the change made other often used features — like the reload button or Reader Mode — harder to find and use, impacting the overall usability of the browser itself.
Google this week launched version 1.0 of Jetpack Compose, Android’s new, native UI toolkit aimed at helping developers build better apps faster. The tool had been in beta since March. The new production release is built to integrate with the Jetpack libraries developers already use, and offers an implementation of Material Design components and theming. New features include Compose Preview and Deploy Preview, which require Android Studio Arctic Fox, which is also out now in a stable release.
Google also announced the availability of the CarHardwareManager API via the Android for Cars App Library as part of Jetpack.
Twitter launched a U.S. e-commerce pilot test that will help determine the current appetite for online shopping on its platform. The test allows brands and businesses to feature a “Shop Module” with various products for sale at the top of their Professional Profile, a business-friendly version of a profile page with support for things like an address, hours, phone number and more. Users can click on the Shop Module to go to a retail website and transact. Early testers include Game Stop and Arden Cove. The feature itself is somewhat bare bones for now, as it’s really just an image that launches an in-app browser. That’s not enough to really compete with something like Instagram Shop or Shopify’s Shop and the integrated, native checkout experience those types of app offers.
Fintech giant Robinhood raised $2.1 billion in its IPO this week. The IPO valued the trading app at $31.8 billion, making it larger that traditional rivals like Charles Schwab, even though the offering priced at the bottom of its range. The stock dropped 8% during its first day’s trading, however. Robinhood now has 21.3 million MAUs.
PayPal during its second-quarter earnings call announced its new “super app” is now code-complete and ready to roll out. The app will feature early direct deposit, check cashing, high yield savings, budgeting tools, improved bill pay, crypto support, subscription management, buy now, pay later functionality, mobile commerce, and person-to-person messaging features. The latter hadn’t yet been announced and would allow users to chat outside of the payments process.
Code found in Apple’s Wallet app indicates that iOS 15 will require users to verify their identities by taking a selfie when they add their driver’s license or other state identification card to the iPhone.
Instagram announced a series of significant changes to how it handles the accounts of younger teens. The company says it will now default users to private accounts at sign-up if they’re under the age of 16 — or under 18 in certain locales, including in the EU. It will also push existing users under 16 to switch their account to private if they have not already done so. In addition, Instagram is rolling out new technology aimed at reducing unwanted contact from adults — like those who have already been blocked or reported by other teens — and it will change how advertisers can reach its teenage audience. The changes give the company a way to argue to regulators that it’s capable of self-policing as it attempts to roll out a version of Instagram to younger users under the age of 13.
Twitter rolls out an update to its live audio platform, Twitter Spaces, that will make it easier to share the audio room with others. Users will be able to compose a tweet right from the Space that links to the room and includes any accompanying hashtags. iOS users also received new guest management controls for hosts.
Snapchat resolved an outage that was stopping people from logging in on Thursday. Unlike other app blips, which fix themselves often without users’ awareness, Snap told users to manually update their app if the issues continued.
Snapchat also this week added a “My Places” feature to Snap Map, which allows users to log their favorite spots, share them with friends and find recommendations. The feature supports over 30 million businesses and allows Snap to differentiate its map from a utility like Google Maps or Apple Maps, because it’s about personal recommendations from people you know and trust: your friends.
Instagram added support for 60-second videos to its TikTok clone, Reels. Previously, only Reels of up to 30 seconds were supported. Sixty seconds is in line with other platforms like YouTube Shorts and Snapchat’s Spotlight. But TikTok is now inching into YouTube territory, as it recently expanded to support three-minute videos.
TikTok expanded its LIVE platform with a huge lineup of new features including the ability to go live with others, host Q&As, use moderators and improved keyword filters, and more. For viewers, TikTok is adding new discovery and viewing tools, including picture-in-picture mode and ways to jump to LIVE streams from the For You and Following feeds. Some markets, including the U.S. already had access to LIVE Events, but the feature is now expanding. Meanwhile, the co-host feature currently supports going live with one other creator, but TikTok says it’s now testing multiple hosts.
Discord launched a new feature, Threads, which will make it easier to read through longer conversations on busy servers. Now, any server with “Community” features enabled will be able to transform their messages into threaded conversations across mobile and desktop. The threads will be designated by their own subject name and can be created by selecting a new hashtag symbol that appears in the menu when hovering over messages or by pressing the + sign in the chat bar.
Pinterest shares dropped by more than 12% after the company reported its second-quarter earnings on Thursday. Despite beating on estimates with revenue of $613.2 million and earnings per share of 25 cents, investors were disappointed by the miss on user growth. The company reported monthly active user growth of just 9% to reach 454 million, when analysts were expecting 482 million. Pinterest blamed COVID impacts for the slowdown. The news follows Pinterest’s launch of new tools for creators to monetize their content, with Ideas Pins — the recently launched video-first format that lets creators show off their work. Now, creators can make their pins “shoppable” and take commissions on those purchases.
WhatsApp is testing support for higher image upload quality on iOS devices. The feature was discovered on WhatsApp’s TestFlight version for iOS but is not yet public and offers three options: auto, best quality or data saver.
Streaming & Entertainment
Spotify’s Clubhouse clone, Greenroom, is off to a slow start. The app has only been downloaded 140,000+ times on iOS and 100,000+ on Android, including installs from its earlier life as Locker Room, an app that Spotify acquired to move into live audio. Meanwhile, Spotify has 365 million monthly active users on its flagship streaming app.
Spotify also reported its Q2 earnings this week, where it posted a $23.6 million loss and failed to reach its forecast for total MAUs, despite growing MAUs 22% YOY to 365 million. It now has 165 million paying subscribers, which is up 20% YOY.
In a change to its app, Spotify added an attention-grabbing “What’s New” feed that offers personalized updates about new releases and new podcast episodes. The feature is available through a notification bell icon and uses a blue dot to indicate when there’s something new to see. Dots like this are a psychological hacks popularized by social apps like Facebook and Instagram to addict users, which could impact user engagement time on Spotify’s app.
Apple’s GarageBand app for iOS and iPadOS now lets you remix tracks from top artists and producers like Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga. There are also new Producer Packs with beats, loops and instruments created for GarageBand by top producers, including Boys Noize, Mark Lettieri, Oak Felder, Soulection, Take A Daytrip, Tom Misch and TRAKGIRL.
Google TV’s mobile app was updated with new services and personalized recommendations, following last fall’s launch of the Google TV user experience for Chromecast devices. The app now sports 16:9 widescreen movie and show posters, and added new providers Discovery+, Viki, Cartoon Network, PBS Kids, Boomerang, plus on-demand content from live TV services, including YouTube TV, Philo and fuboTV.
Epic Games announced that Fortnite will host another in-game event it’s calling the “Rift Tour,” which kicks off Friday, August 6 and runs through Sunday, August 8. What it hasn’t yet said is what the Rift Tour is, beyond a “musical journey into magical new realities” that will feature a “record-breaking superstar.”
Health & Fitness
Facebook’s Oculus division is exploring an integration of Oculus Workouts with Apple’s Health app, according to the app’s code. An integration would allow users to store their workout data in Health.
Usage of mobile video conferencing apps like Zoom grew by 150% in the first half of 2021, according to a report from Sensor Tower. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet saw a surge in usage, collectively climbing to nearly 21x higher than in H1 2019, the firm found.
Google Voice’s app was updated with a few refinements, including a way to see the reason for a missed call or dropped call, and an easy way to redial. iOS users can now show their Google Voice number as their caller ID when they get a calling through a forwarding number. Another change will allow users to delete multiple SMS messages at once.
Language learning app Duolingo raised $521 million in its U.S. IPO, priced above the marketed range. The company priced 5.1 million shared at $102, after first marketing them at $95 to $100.
Amazon this week rolled out an update to its Alexa iOS app that allows users to add an Alexa widget to their iOS homescreen. The widget lets you tap on a button to speak to the virtual assistant and issue commands. Watch out Siri! (Ha, just kidding.)
Google Maps also updated its iOS app this week to add support for a homescreen widget. There are two different widgets sizes to choose from — one that gives info like weather and traffic, while another is more of a shortcut to nearby places like gas stations, restaurants, work and home.
Google is working on a”Switch to Android” app for iOS users that will copy over data and apps from an iPhone to bring them to a new Android device. Apple already offers a similar app, called “Move to iOS” for Android users.
Parking app usage has popped to pre-pandemic levels, Apptopia reported. Apps in this space help users find availability in lots and garages nearby and facilitate payments. Browsing time in apps was up 57% YOY in July, and overall parking app usage is now 6.2% above Jan. 2020 pre-pandemic levels.
Moovit integrated Lime’s electric scooters, bikes and mopeds into its transit-planning app that’s live in 117 cities across 20 countries and continents, including the United States, South America, Australia and Europe.
Government & Policy
Tencent’s WeChat suspended new user registrations in China to comply with “relevant laws and regulations.” The move comes amid a broad crackdown on tech companies by Chinese regulators, related to data collection and other harmful practices.
Recently, China ordered Tencent and 13 other developers to fix problems related to pop-ups inside their apps, as part of the tech crackdown. The regulator also said it would tighten controls on misleading and explicit content used for marketing, and issued fines for offensive content to Tencent, Kuaishou and Alibaba.
Security & Privacy
Apple released patches for iOS, iPadOS and macOS to address a zero-day vulnerability that had been exploited in the wild. Apple said the exploit could exploit the vulnerability known as CVE-2021-30807 to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges on a vulnerable and unpatched device.
Google Play Protect failed an Android security test, according to a report from Bleeping Computer. The mobile threat protection solution ranked last out of 15 Android security apps tested over a span of six months, between January to June 2021.
💰 Product insights and analytics startup Pendo raised $150 million at a $2.6 billion valuation, ahead of its expected IPO. The round was led by B Capital, the firm from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and included new investor Silver Lake Waterman, alongside existing backers. Pendo’s platform helps companies gather data on how customers use their apps, including clients like Okta, Toast and others.
🤝 Twitter “acqui-hired” the team from subscription news app, Brief, who will now join Twitter’s Experience.org group, which works on Twitter Spaces and Explore. Brief had offered a non-biased news app that allowed you to get both sides of a story and all the necessary facts. Deal terms weren’t disclosed.
💰 Delivery app Gopuff confirmed its $1 billion fundraise at a $15 billion valuation, aimed at expanding its instant delivery service. TC previously reported the news when the Series H was still being closed.
💰 Indian travel app Ixigo raised $53 million (Rs 395 crore), prepping the business for a valuation of $750 million-$800 million for its upcoming IPO. The round was led by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC.
💰 Mobile-first digital wallet Valora native to the Celo network raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), a Celo backer, to become a global gateway to crypto.
💰 Crypto wallet company Eco, backed by a16z, raised $60 million in new funding led by Activant Capital and L Catterton. Eco offers a digital wallet with rewards and no fees, and has average deposits of around $6,000.
💰 Search API startup Algolia, which lets developers integrate real-time search in apps or websites, raised $150 million in Series D funding, valuing the business at $2.25 billion, post-money. The round was led by Lone Pine Capital. Algolia now has over 10,000 customers, including Slack, Stripe, Medium, Zendesk and Lacoste.
💰 Brain Technologies raised $50+ million for Natural, a natural language search engine and super app for iOS, which wants users to stop switching between apps to order food, groceries or go shopping. Backers include Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective, Goodwater Capital, Scott Cook and WTT Investment.
💰 Messaging app Element, built on the decentralized Matrix protocol, raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding. Investors include open-source R&D lab Protocol Labs and Metaplanet. a fund from Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, as well as past investors Automattic and Notion.
💰 Indonesia-based grocery app HappyFresh raised $65 million in Series D funding in a round led by Naver Financial Corporation and Gafina B.V. The app offers an Instacart-like grocery delivery service for parts of Asia, which today operates in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
💰 Indian D2C beauty brand MyGlamm, which sells products through an app and website, raised $71.3 million in Series C financing, from Amazon, Ascent Capital and Wipro.
Developer Kosta Eleftheriou may have taken on Apple in legal battles and on Twitter, as he points out the numerous app scams on the App Store, but that hasn’t stopped him from building new apps.
This week, Eleftheriou introduced Nanogram, a Telegram client app that works on the Apple Watch without needing an iPhone connection. Eleftheriou said he was inspired to build Nanogram because he wanted a Telegram app for his LTE Apple Watch and didn’t like the official version that didn’t provide “basic and reliable messaging functionality.” So he built his own app from scratch using the Telegram SDK, which allows you to send, receive and view all your messages and notifications right from your wrist — even if you don’t have your phone nearby. The app also supports Eleftheriou’s FlickType Swipe Keyboard for faster replies while on the go.
Eleftheriou notes the app doesn’t collect any personal information and requires an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, running watchOS 7 or later.
Lightricks’ Videoleap for Android
After seeing a 70% yearly increase for its iOS version, Lightricks brought its Videoleap app to the Google Play Store. The app has grown popular with online creators for offering professional quality editing tools on mobile, including those that let you apply artistic effects, mix videos with images, add text and layer transformations and more. The company says Videoleap users are now creating 35 million pieces of content per month, and 47% of users are exporting their creations to TikTok in pursuit of monetizing their content further. The app, like others from Lightricks (which also makes FaceTune and others), monetizes by way of in-app subscriptions.
Pittsburgh Google contractors ratify deal with HCL – | #Tech
Nearly two years ago, contractors for Google’s Pittsburgh operations voted to join the United Steelworkers union in a bid to secure more labor rights representation. It was an early example of a building union movement for tech workers across the spectrum. But as other hard-fought battles have been waged among blue and white collar workers alike, both sides have continued hashing out negotiations. This week, those have finally resulted in something more concrete.
The contract workers held out for what they believed to be similar treatment as others in the tech industry. At the time, it seemed Google was hoping to stay out of the fray with HCL Technologies, the consulting company that staffed the workers.
“We work with lots of partners, many of which have unionized workforces, and many of which don’t,” Google said following the initial union vote. “As with all our partners, whether HCL’s employees unionize or not is between them and their employer. We’ll continue to partner with HCL.”
According to the USW, the 65 Pittsburgh-based workers have ratified the contract with HCL. It’s a three-year-deal that covers working conditions, job security and wages, per a note from the union.
“After close to two years of hard work, patience and solidarity from our members at HCL, we are proud of what we achieved in this agreement,” USW President Tom Conway said in a release tied to the news. “More than ever, our struggle with HCL shows that all workers deserve the protections and benefits of a union contract.”
Last week, with the deal nearing completion, HCL said in a statement provided to The Verge, “Throughout this process, HCL has been actively engaged in meaningful and fair discussions with the USW in good faith. We have been steadfast in our commitment to respect our employees’ right to pursue unionization should they choose to do so.”
In a release issued by USW, however, bargaining committee member Renata Nelson notes some clear tension in the process. “After ignoring our concerns, HCL tried to prevent us from forming a union, and when it failed, the company dragged out the negotiating process while sending our jobs overseas in retaliation,” Parks said in the release. “Now, with a strong union and contract in place, we’re confident that our voices will be heard.”
We’ve reached out to Google for comment.
TuSimple’s self-driving truck network takes shape with Ryder partnership – | #Tech
TuSimple, the self-driving truck company that went public earlier this year, has partnered with Ryder as part of its plan to build out a freight network that will support its autonomous trucking operations.
Under the deal announced this week, Ryder’s fleet maintenance facilities will act as terminals for TuSimple’s freight network. TuSimple’s so-called AFN, or autonomous freight network, is a collection of shipping routes and terminals designed for autonomous trucking operations that will extend across the United States by 2024. UPS, which took a minority stake in TuSimple before it went public, carrier U.S. Xpress, Penske Truck Leasing and Berkshire Hathaway’s grocery and food service supply chain company McLane Inc. were the inaugural partners in the network.
TuSimple’s AFN involves four pieces that includes its self-driving trucks, digital mapped routes, freight terminals and a system that will let customers monitor autonomous trucking operations and track their shipments in real time.
Ryder’s facilities will primarily serve as strategic terminals where TuSimple trucks can receive maintenance and have sensors used in the self-driving system calibrated, if needed. In some cases, the terminals might be used as a transfer hub for a smaller operator that might want to pick up cargo. But this is not meant to be a hub-to-hub system where its customers would come and pick up freight, according to TuSimple President and CEO Cheng Lu.
“These trucks need to be serviceable and maintainable and they need to have higher uptime, which is what every carrier cares about regardless of whether it is autonomous or not,” Lu said.
Small shippers and carriers might use these terminals to pick up and drop off freight. However, Lu stressed that in most cases, especially for large-scale operators like UPS, TuSimple will take the freight directly to the customer’s distribution centers. The Ryder facilities work as nodes, or stops, on its network to allow TuSimple to reach more customers over a larger geographic area, Lu added.
The partnership will start gradually. TuSimple has 50 autonomous trucks in its fleet that — along with a human safety operator behind the wheel — transport freight for customers in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The partnership will initially use Ryder’s facilities in these areas and eventually expand to the company’s 500 maintenance facilities in the United States.
TuSimple said it expects to expand operations to the East Coast, carrying freight between Phoenix and Orlando later this year. TuSimple has about 25 new trucks on order, which will be added to the fleet once they become available.
Deliveroo could leave Spanish market ahead of on-demand labor reclassification – | #Tech
Deliveroo announced today that it is considering leaving the Spanish market, citing limited market share and a long road of investment with “highly uncertain long-term potential returns” on the horizon.
The company, an on-demand outfit based in the U.K., went public earlier in 2021. Its shares initially sagged, drawing concern about both the value of on-demand companies and tech concerns listing in London more broadly. However, shares of Deliveroo have since recovered, and the company’s second-quarter earnings report saw it raise its expected gross order volume growth expectations “from between 30% to 40% to between 50% to 60%.”
Given its rising growth expectations and improving public-market valuation, you may be surprised that Deliveroo is willing to leave any of the 12 markets in which it currently operates. In the case of Spain, it appears that Deliveroo is concerned that changes to local labor laws will make its operations more expensive in the country, which, given its modest market share, is not palatable.
Recall that Spain adopted a law in May — a law generally agreed to in March — requiring on-demand companies to hire their couriers. This is the sort of arrangement that on-demand companies in food delivery and ride-hailing have long fought; many on-demand companies are unprofitable without hiring couriers, and doing so could raise their costs. The possibility of worsened economics makes such changes to labor laws in any market a worry for startups and public companies alike that lean on freelance delivery workers.
Let’s parse the Deliveroo statement to better understand the company’s perspective. Here’s the introductory paragraph:
Deliveroo today announces that it proposes to consult on ending its operations in Spain. Deliveroo currently operates across 12 markets worldwide, with the vast majority of the Company’s gross transaction value (GTV) coming from markets where Deliveroo holds a #1 or #2 market position.
Translation: We’re probably leaving Spain. Most of our order volume comes from markets where we are in a leading position (the company competes with Uber Eats, Glovo and Just Eat in different markets). We are not in a leading position in Spain.
Spain represents less than 2% of Deliveroo’s GTV in H1 2021. The Company has determined that achieving and sustaining a top-tier market position in Spain would require a disproportionate level of investment with highly uncertain long-term potential returns that could impact the economic viability of the market for the Company.
Translation: Spain is a very small market for Deliveroo. To gain lots of market share in Spain would be very costly, and the company isn’t sure about the long-term profitability of the country’s business. This is where labor issues like this come into play — investing to gain market share in a country where your business is less profitable is hard to pencil out.
And according to El Pais, the decision by Deliveroo comes as it was up against a deadline regarding worker reclassification. That may have contributed to the timing of the announcement.
From this juncture, Deliveroo spends three paragraphs discussing how it will support workers in case it does leave the Spanish market. It closes with the following:
This proposal does not impact previously communicated full-year guidance on Group annual GTV growth and gross profit margin.
On-demand companies have made arguments over the years that changes to labor laws that would push more costs onto their plates in the form of hiring couriers — or simply paying them more — would make certain markets uneconomic and drive them away. Here, Deliveroo can follow through with an exit at essentially no cost, given how small its order volume is compared to its other 11 markets.
Robinhood’s CFO says it was ready to go public – | #Tech
But the company’s debut is not burning up the stock charts. What happened?
Robinhood priced at $38 per share this week, opened flat and closed its first day’s trading yesterday worth $34.82 per share, or a bit more than 8% underwater. The company posted a mixed picture today, falling early before recovering to breakeven in late-morning trading.
It wasn’t the debut that some expected Robinhood to have.
The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.
To close out the week, we’re not going to noodle on banned Chinese IPOs or do a full-week mega-round discussion. Instead, let’s parse some notes from a chat The Exchange had with Robinhood’s CFO about his company’s IPO and go over a few reasonable guesses as to why we’re not wondering how much money Robinhood left on the table by pricing its public offering lower than it closed on its first day.
Let’s not be dicks about it. The time for Twitter jokes was yesterday. We’ll put our thinking caps on this morning.
Why Robinhood went public when it did
Chatting with Robinhood CFO Jason Warnick earlier this week, we wanted to know why this was the right time for Robinhood to go public.
Now, no public company CEO or CFO will come out and directly say that they are going public because they think that they can defend — or extend — their most recent private valuation thanks to current market conditions.
Instead, execs on IPO day tend to deflect the question, pivoting to a well-oiled bon mot about how their public offering is a mere milestone on their company’s long-term trajectory. For some reason in our capitalist society, during an arch-capitalist event, by a for-profit company, leaders find it critical to downplay their IPO’s importance.1
With that in mind, Warnick did not say Robinhood went public because the IPO market has recently rewarded big-brand consumer tech companies like Airbnb and DoorDash with strong debuts. And he didn’t say that with tech shares near all-time highs and a taste for high-growth concerns, the company was likely set to enter a market that would be willing to price it at a valuation that it found attractive.
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