India’s Milkbasket in talks to raise over $50M – gpgmail


Milkbasket, a Gurugram-based micro-delivery startup, is in talks to close a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprints in milk, groceries, fruits, and vegetables delivery market that has attracted the attention of many in recent months including Amazon India.

The four-year-old startup is in advanced stages of talks with private equity funds to raise more than $50 million, up from $26 million it has secured to date, people familiar with the matter told gpgmail. The round, Series C, is likely to close within the next two months, they said. A Milkbasket spokesperson declined to comment.

Milkbasket, which operates in Bangalore, Gurugram, Noida, and Ghaziabad, and Hyderabad, allows users to order their daily supplies until midnight and delivers it in the early morning hours. It has also started a subscription service for users who need the same set of items delivered to them everyday.

In a recent interview with Indian newspaper Economic Times (paywalled), the startup executives said they are not trying to get items instantly to customers but focus on recurring supplies that need to reach people’s doorsteps at certain hours of the day, thereby mimicking how a traditional milkman and paperboy operate to lower delivery costs.

The startup, which focused on just delivering milk in its early years, is increasingly exploring new categories to enter, and might soon begin delivering prescribed medicine in some cities, one of the people said. Milk delivery is now a small portion of the startup’s business.

It competes with BigBasket and Grofers, both of which are heavily backed and locked in a fierce battle to gain market share. Many more startups are entering micro-delivery territory. Naspers and Tencent-backed Swiggy launched a new service called “Go” yesterday that will enable people in Bangalore to have anything delivered to them.

Google-backed Dunzo is also increasingly gaining popularity and slowly expanding to more cities across India. FreshToHome, a startup that delivers meat and vegetables, recently started to offer milk delivery in select places.

Last month, Amazon launched Fresh to offer fresh fruits and vegetables in parts of Bangalore. The company is increasingly expanding its fulfilment centers across the nation to offer its customers a wider selection of items, Siddharth Nambiar, Director of Prime Now in India, told gpgmail in a recent interview.

The foods and grocery market is growing in India. According to some estimates, it will reach $869 billion in sales in 2023, with digital-based services seen as an important vector for growth.


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Reefknot Investments launches $50 million fund to invest in logistics and supply chain startups – gpgmail


Reefknot Investments, a joint venture between Temasek, Singapore’s sovereign fund, and global logistics company Kuehne + Nagel, announced today the launch of a $50 million fund for logistics and supply chain startups. The firm is based in Singapore, but will look for companies around the world that are raising their Series A or B rounds.

Managing director Marc Dragon tells gpgmail that Reefknot will serve as a strategic investor in its portfolio companies, providing them with connections to partners that include EDBI, SGInnovate, Atlantic Bridge, Vertex Ventures, PSA unBoXed, Unilever Foundry and NUS Enterprise, in addition to Temasek and Kuehne + Nagel .

Dragon, a veteran of the supply chain and logistics industry, says Reefknot plans to invest in about six to eight startups. It is especially interested in companies that are using AI or deep mind tech, digital logistics and trade finance to solve problems that range from analyzing supply chain data and making forecasts to managing the risk of financing trade transactions. Data from Gartner shows that about half of global supply chain companies will use AI, advanced analytics or the Internet of Things in their operations by 2023.

“There is a high level of expectation from vendors that because of technology, there will be new methods to do analytics and planning, and greater visibility in terms of information and product, materials and goods flowing throughout the supply chain,” says Dragon.

Reefknot will also establish a think tank that will work with industry experts and government organizations on forums, research and exploring new logistics and supply chain business models that startups can bring into fruition.


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Frontier technologies are moving closer to the center of venture investment – gpgmail


As the technologies that were once considered science fiction become the purview of science, the venture capital firms that were once investing at the industry’s fringes are now finding themselves at the heart of the technology industry.

Investing in the commercialization of technologies like genetic engineering, quantum computing, digital avatars, augmented reality, new human-computer interfaces, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, robots, and space travel that were once considered “frontier” investments are now front-and-center priorities for many venture capital firms and the limited partners that back them.

Earlier this month, Lux Capital raised $1.1 billion across two funds that invest in just these kinds of companies. “[Limited partners] are now more interested in frontier tech than ever before,” said Bilal Zuberi, a partner with the firm.

He sees a few factors encouraging limited partners (the investors who provide financing for venture capital funds) to invest in the firms that are financing companies developing technologies that were once considered outside of the mainstream.


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DoorDash acquires autonomous driving startup Scotty Labs – gpgmail


DoorDash has been on an acquisition tear of late, with Scotty Labs as its latest target. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this comes after DoorDash acquired Caviar in a deal worth $410 million.

Scotty Labs, a tele-operations company that is working on technology to enable people to remotely control self-driving cars, raised a $6 million seed round from Gradient Ventures, with participation from Horizon Ventures and Hemi Ventures, last March. The startup had previously worked with Voyage for its self-driving cars in retirement communities.

“Our core belief at Scotty has always been that Autonomy + Remote Assistance is the future,” Scotty CEO Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote on Medium. “We have intentionally always considered ourselves to be the anti-hype company and focused intensely on developing core infrastructure and algorithms to ensure the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.”

Meanwhile, DoorDash quietly brought on the two co-founders from Lvl5, another company that had built tech to create high-resolution maps for autonomous driving using crowdsourced imagery and computer vision to merge and process the images. In April, Lvl5 announced it was shutting down after the acquisition.

Details of how Scotty Labs and Lvl5 will fit into DoorDash’s business are nonexistent, but you could imagine DoorDash using Scotty’s technologies to remotely control delivery robots or other types of autonomous vehicles.

“We’ll share more updates in the near future but for now, we’re really excited to be part of the amazing DoorDash family and looking forward to building something magical together,” Scotty Labs co-founder Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote on Medium.

From what we understand, the Lvl5 deal was more of an acqui-hire and did not include any of the maps that were built using the company’s technology. Instead, startup Mapillary obtained that trove of hundreds of millions of images.

DoorDash would not comment on what the new hires are working on, but through its robot pilots and partnership with GM, the startup has made no secret of its interest in exploring autonomous technology, specifically looking at how it can improve the cost and efficiency of deliveries, and it would make sense that it would also want to have in-house expertise to own and manage those projects.

DoorDash has experimented with delivery robots before. In 2017, DoorDash partnered with both Starship Technologies and Marble to test food delivery via robot. More recently, DoorDash announced a partnership with GM’s Cruise to test self-driving food delivery cars. DoorDash is also beefing up its in-house team of autonomous and navigation specialists.

This investment in autonomous tech through its acquisition of Scotty Labs and acqui-hire of the team from Lvl5 comes at a time when DoorDash says it is revamping its policies around driver wages.

The enthusiasm and potential of autonomous tech had led to startups creating literally dozens of interesting products that focus on different aspects of this field. But it will take a village to get this tech off the ground, which means that consolidation is inevitable.

DoorDash — operating on the principle of economies of scale — has been pretty aggressive in positioning itself as one of those consolidators. We have heard it tried to merge with Postmates. It bought Caviar this summer. And it has raised an absolute ton of money. In May, DoorDash raised a $400 million round, valuing it at $12.6 billion. Meanwhile, DoorDash’s main competitor, Postmates, is gearing up to go public this quarter. Just this month, the company received the first permit to deploy autonomous delivery bots in San Francisco.

As technology becomes a key way for the crowded arena of delivery startups to differentiate themselves, investing in its own autonomous tech R&D — by way of picking up some of these disparate startups that may have struggled to survive on their own — is one way for DoorDash to build out that tech cred.




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Nigerian logistics startup Kobo360 raises $30M backed by Goldman Sachs – gpgmail


Nigerian freight logistics startup Kobo360 has raised a $20 million Series A round led by Goldman Sachs and $10 million in working capital financing from Nigerian commercial banks.

The company — with an Uber -like app that connects truckers and companies to delivery services — will use the funds to upgrade its platform and expand to 10 new countries beyond current operating markets of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and Kenya.

Since its launch in Lagos in 2017, Kobo360 has continued to grow its product offerings, VC backing and  customer base. The startup claims a fleet of more than 10,000 drivers and trucks operating on its app. Top clients include Honeywell, Olam, Unilever, Dangote and DHL.

In addition to customer focus, founders Ife Oyodelo and Obi Azor have prioritized serving the startup’s drivers. They offer the company’s app in languages common to drivers, such as Hausa and Pidgin. 

Kobo360 also launched its own driver working capital finance program, KoPay, KoboSafe insurance product and KoboCare: a suite of driver services from HMO packages to family tuition assistance.

The startup is part of a growing e-logistics and transport space in Africa linking on-demand apps to mobile-based connectivity to move people and goods around the continent more effectively.

In the ride-hail space, global players such as Uber and Bolt are competing with each other and homegrown startups to digitize and capture revenues in the continent’s auto and motorcycle taxi markets.

In e-logistics freight delivery, two startups — Kobo360 and Lori Systems — have continued to compete tit for tat on investment, scale and expansion.

Kobo360 moved into Lori Systems’ HQ country Kenya last year. Lori Systems expanded into Nigeria in September of 2018.

Commercial research firm MarketLine estimated the value of Nigeria’s transportation sector in 2016 at $6 billion, with 99.4% comprising road freight.

Kobo360’s CEO Obi Azor told gpgmail the startup would make final decisions on the 10 new  countries by first quarter 2020.

As a cross-border freight service, the company looks to benefit from Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), signed this year by all the continent’s 54 countries to reduce barriers and friction on Pan-African commercial activity.

In addition to lower costs for Kobo360’s country to country freight movement, the startup expects to have a voice in AFCTA’s final implementation.

“We’re going to do some policy work through the IFC so we can help shape AFCTA. The key to the deal is really logistics, so if the logistics component doesn’t work out the deal isn’t going to work,” Azor said.

Kobo360 will use part of its $30 million funding to build out its Global Logistics Operating System —  GLOS for short — a blockchain-enabled platform that will help the company transition to more supply-chain services.

Kobo360 Product Shot Accept Trips

By Digest Africa’s latest ranking, Kobo360’s $20 million Series A is the 5th largest investment in an African startup this year, after Egyptian ride-hail company Svwl’s $42 million raise in June. Kobo360’s existing investors IFC, TLCom Capital and Y Combinator joined the round.

Goldman Sachs confirmed to gpgmail its lead on the Series A. Over the last several years the U.S. based finance firm’s Africa investments have included backing for e-commerce unicorn Jumia (which recently listed on the NYSE) and leading a $52 million investment in South African fintech startup Jumo in 2018.

Goldman Sachs’ Jules Frebault named Kobo360’s ability to scale quickly over a short period of time and use of tech to improve reliability and efficiency in Africa’s logistics ecosystem as a reason for leading the Series A.

“It’s also a business model that’s replicable across multiple geographies on the continent,” he told gpgmail on a call.

Kobo360 has a mind toward international expansion but expects to remain focused on Nigeria and Africa for now. “We’re definitely thinking global, we just want to make sure we close out our home market first, then we’ll start looking outside,” Azor said.

 


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Domino’s launches e-bike delivery to compete with UberEats, DoorDash – gpgmail


Domino’s will start using custom electric bikes for pizza delivery through a partnership with Rad Power Bikes, as it aims to become more competitive with on-demand apps like DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats.

Hundreds of e-bikes will be deployed across corporate-owned stores later this year in Baltimore, Houston, Miami and Salt Lake City, the company said Tuesday.

The e-bike announcement comes as Domino’s, which specializes in pizza, faces increasing competition from on-demand delivery apps like UberEats that offer customers far more choice. Domino’s could never offer enough menu options to compete with DoorDash or UberEats, but it can compete on service and delivery times.

The e-bikes are part of that plan. The company has also partnered with companies like Ford to test pizza delivery using autonomous vehicles. Earlier this summer, it launched a new pilot for self-driving pizza delivery in Houston in partnership with Nuro. Domino’s will use Nuro’s R2 vehicle, its second-generation autonomous electric test car, which will go into service later this year.

The e-bikes supplied by Rad Power Bikes are equipped with small integrated motors to assist with pedaling, and can run for 25 to 40 miles, depending on the user, before needing a recharge, according to the company. The bikes are equipped with lights in the front and back, reflective materials for driver safety and have a top assisted speed of 20 miles per hour.

Importantly, the e-bikes have been customized to hold pizza, drinks and sides. One e-bike can hold up to 12 large pizzas.

The company tested the e-bikes and discovered that service and delivery times improved, Tom Curtis, Domino’s executive vice president of corporate operations, said in the announcement. The e-bikes also opened up the labor pool for the company, allowing it to tap into candidates who might not have a car or driver’s license.

Some franchisee owners were already using e-bikes and found they are essential in hilly urban areas.

“While delivery on a traditional bike solved many of our traffic and parking issues, the hills in Seattle were tough on even our best cyclists,” Greg Keller, Seattle Domino’s franchisee said in a press release announcing the e-bike program. “E-bikes were a game-changer for us, and we’ve been delivering with them for three years now. We have been able to save money, provide better service, increase hiring and maintain a happy workforce.”


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Postmates to drop IPO filing next month – gpgmail


Postmates plans to make its IPO paperwork public in September, gpgmail has learned. Despite previous reports indicating the on-demand delivery company is seeking an M&A exit, sources close to the matter say Postmates is on track to go complete an initial public offering this year.

With the S-1 dropping in September, San Francisco-based Postmates is expected to debut on the stock exchange by the end of the third fiscal quarter of 2019. The company has tapped JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America Corp. as lead underwriters, Bloomberg previously reported, though other details of the float, including the size and price range of the proposed offering, have yet to be announced.

“We can’t comment on the IPO process and we don’t comment on rumor or speculation,” a Postmates spokesperson told gpgmail.

In February, Postmates confidentially filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO. Shortly after, Postmates held M&A talks with DoorDash, another food delivery unicorn, according to people familiar with the matter, but failed to come to mutually favorable terms. DoorDash declined to comment for this story.

Postmates has raised $681 million to date with its latest round coming in earlier this year at a $1.85 billion valuation. DoorDash, on the other hand, reached a $12.6 billion valuation in May with a $600 million Series G.

As Postmates gears up for its IPO, the food delivery business continues to consolidate. DoorDash last week purchased another food delivery service, Caviar, from Square in a deal worth $410 million. Uber is said to have considered buying Caviar, which had been looking for a buyer at least since 2016, according to Bloomberg.

DoorDash has been under heavy scrutiny as of late for the way it pays its drivers. Back in February, we reported how DoorDash offsets the amount it pays drivers with tips from customers. It wasn’t until after much backlash that DoorDash finally said it would change its policies. DoorDash has yet to implement the new policy.

How Postmates will fare on the public markets is up for debate. The billion-dollar company will go head-to-head with other public businesses in the space, including powerhouses Uber and Grubhub.

Uber last week shared disappointing second-quarter earnings. The company’s food delivery unit, UberEats, however, continues to grow at an impressive rate. UberEats did $3.39 billion in gross bookings last quarter with monthly active platform consumers (MAPCs) growing more than 140% year-over-year. Still, the unit is years away from profitability, Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC on Thursday.

Postmates’ updated IPO plans follow a report from Bloomberg that WeWork expects to make its IPO prospectus available in the next week. Eyes will be on both WeWork, which hopes to raise more than $3.5 billion, and Postmates, as the companies occupy two unproven categories.

Postmates follows Uber, Lyft, Pinterest and many others to the public markets in 2019, a year when many of Silicon Valley’s most notable unicorns finally decided to make the transition from private to public.

Postmates, founded in 2011 by Bastian Lehmann, is backed by Spark Capital, Founders Fund, Uncork Capital, Slow Ventures, Tiger Global, Blackrock and others.


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Calling all hardware startups! Apply to Hardware Battlefield @ TC Shenzhen – gpgmail


Got hardware? Well then, listen up, because our search continues for boundary-pushing, early-stage hardware startups to join us in Shenzhen, China for an epic opportunity; launch your startup on a global stage and compete in Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen on November 11-12.

Apply here to compete in TC Hardware Battlefield 2019. Why? It’s your chance to demo your product to the top investors and technologists in the world. Hardware Battlefield, cousin to Startup Battlefield, focuses exclusively on innovative hardware because, let’s face it, it’s the backbone of technology. From enterprise solutions to agtech advancements, medical devices to consumer product goods — hardware startups are in the international spotlight.

If you make the cut, you’ll compete against 15 of the world’s most innovative hardware makers for bragging rights, plenty of investor love, media exposure and $25,000 in equity-free cash. Just participating in a Battlefield can change the whole trajectory of your business in the best way possible.

We chose to bring our fifth Hardware Battlefield to Shenzhen because of its outstanding track record of supporting hardware startups. The city achieves this through a combination of accelerators, rapid prototyping and world-class manufacturing. What’s more, TC Hardware Battlefield 2019 takes place as part of the larger gpgmail Shenzhen that runs November 9-12.

Creativity and innovation no know boundaries, and that’s why we’re opening this competition to any early-stage hardware startup from any country. While we’ve seen amazing hardware in previous Battlefields — like robotic arms, food testing devices, malaria diagnostic tools, smart socks for diabetics and e-motorcycles, we can’t wait to see the next generation of hardware, so bring it on!

Meet the minimum requirements listed below, and we’ll consider your startup:

Here’s how Hardware Battlefield works. gpgmail editors vet every qualified application and pick 15 startups to compete. Those startups receive six rigorous weeks of free coaching. Forget stage fright. You’ll be prepped and ready to step into the spotlight.

Teams have six minutes to pitch and demo their products, which is immediately followed by an in-depth Q&A with the judges. If you make it to the final round, you’ll repeat the process in front of a new set of judges.

The judges will name one outstanding startup the Hardware Battlefield champion. Hoist the Battlefield Cup, claim those bragging rights and the $25,000. This nerve-wracking thrill-ride takes place in front of a live audience, and we capture the entire event on video and post it to our global audience on gpgmail.

Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen takes place on November 11-12. Don’t hide your hardware or miss your chance to show us — and the entire tech world — your startup magic. Apply to compete in TC Hardware Battlefield 2019, and join us in Shenzhen!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Hardware Battlefield at TC Shenzhen? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.


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Lessons from the hardware capital of the world – gpgmail


A week is obviously not enough time to truly understand a market as massive and fascinating as China. Hell, it’s not really even enough time to adjust to the 12-hour time difference from New York. That said, each of the three visits I’ve taken to the country in the past two years has yielded some useful insights into my role as hardware editor here at gpgmail.

Late last week, I got back from an eight-day trip to Shenzhen in the Guangdong Province of South China and nearby Hong Kong. In some respects, the cities are worlds apart, though a newly opened high-speed rail system has reduced the trip to 30 minutes. Customs issues aside, it’s the height of convenience. Though for political and cultural reasons I’ll not get into here, some have bemoaned the access it’s provided.

This particular visit was sort of a scouting trip. In November, gpgmail will be hosting its first Hardware Battlefield event in a couple of years. Previous events had been held at CES for reasons of easy access to young startups. This time out, however, we’ve opted to go straight to the source.

The birthplace of hardware


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