Waymo self-driving cars head to Florida for rainy season – gpgmail


Waymo is taking some of its autonomous vehicles to Florida just in time for hurricane season to begin testing in heavy rain.

The move to Florida will focus on testing how its myriad of sensors hold up during the region’s rainy season as well as to collect data. All of the vehicles will be manually driven by trained drivers.

Waymo will bring both of its autonomous vehicles, the Chrysler Pacificas and a Jaguar I-Pace, to Naples and Miami, Florida for testing, according to a blog posted Tuesday. Miami is one of the wettest cities in the U.S., averaging 61.9 inches of rain annually.

The self-driving car company, which is a business under Alphabet, began testing its autonomous vehicles in and around Mountain View, Calif., before branching out to other cities and weather, including Novi, Michigan, Kirkland, Washington and San Francisco. But the bulk of the company’s activities have been in suburbs of Phoenix and around Mountain View — two places with lots of sun, and even blowing dust, in the case of Phoenix.

Waymo opened a technical center Chandler, Ariz. and started testing there in 2016. Since then the company has ramped up its testing and launched an early rider program in April 2017 as a step toward commercial deployment.

The company will spend the next several weeks driving on a closed course in Naples to test its sensor suite , which includes lidar, cameras and radar . Later in the month, Waymo plans to bring its vehicles to public roads in Miami. A few Waymo vehicles will be collecting data on highways between Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami.

Waymo is hardly the only autonomous vehicle company to take advantage of Florida’s AV friendly regulations. Ford and Argo AI, the self-driving company it backs, have had a presence in the Miami since early 2018. Argo AI began collecting data and mapping and has since expanded to testing in autonomous mode last summer.

Last year, Ford partnered with Walmart and Postmates to test the business of delivering goods like groceries and pet food using self-driving vehicles. The pilot project is focused on Miami-Dade County.

Self-driving trucks startup Starsky Robotics also is testing in Florida.


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Uncork Capital cracks open two new funds – gpgmail


Uncork Capital, the now 15-year-old, early-stage venture firm formerly known as SoftTech VC, has closed up two new pools of committed capital totaling $200 million: $100 million for its sixth early-stage fund, and $100 million for an “opportunity” fund so it can stuff a little more capital into those of its portfolio companies that start to break away from the pack.

The firm had closed its first opportunity fund with $50 million in mid 2016. It closed its fifth early-stage fund at the same time with $100 million.

We talked on Friday with Uncork founder Jeff Clavier about the firm, which is currently writing first checks that range from $750,000 to $2 million. He told us that as with Uncork’s most recent set of funds, the idea is to invest in roughly 35 companies across three years, taking 10 percent ownership on average, and up to 12 percent of a portfolio company when it is the lead investor.

Clavier also said that while fully half of the fund will go into startups that sell cloud software to businesses, Uncork plans to invest roughly 10 percent of the fund in consumer marketplaces; roughly 10 percent in hardware; roughly 20 percent in so-called frontier tech — whether it be augmented reality or virtual reality or space of robotics or blockchain-related deals; and roughly 10 percent in bioinformatics and synthetic biology.

That last area of interest is brand new to Uncork, so we asked if the firm — which counts Stephanie Palmeri and Andy McLoughlin as partners — was perhaps planning to hire a biotech investor. Clavier said that isn’t, that instead it will rely on external resources to help with due diligence and to learn along the way. “In the same way that I looked at 30 investments in space tech and invested in Loft Orbital [a company that’s assembling a constellation to carry payloads for customers who don’t want to operate their own satellites], my expectation is that I’ll look at a bunch of [synthetic bio] deals and we’ll end up with one or two,” he said.

Uncork has enjoyed a steady stream of exits in recent years, including, mostly newly, the sale of ad tech company Vungle for a reported $750 million last month to the private equity firm Blackstone. [Clavier declined to confirm or correct its sale price.]

Uncork is also an early investor in the food delivery company Postmates, which is reportedly on track to go public this year. And Uncork was an early backer in the email service startup SendGrid, which sold to the publicly traded communications platform Twilio earlier this last year for $3 billion in stock.

Some of the firm’s other high-profile bets include Fitbit, which went public in 2015; Brightroll, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2015; and Eventbrite, which went public last fall (though its shares almost immediately fell below their IPO price and have remained below it).

As for its first opportunity fund, the startup that has received the biggest check from Uncork — $5 million — is the fashion resale marketplace Poshmark, which is also reportedly eyeing an IPO in 2019.


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Postmates lands permit to test its Serve autonomous delivery robots in SF – gpgmail


Postmates has officially received the green light from the city of San Francisco to begin testing its Serve wheeled delivery robot on city streets, as first reported by the SF Chronicle and confirmed with Postmates by gpgmail. The on-demand delivery company told us last week that it expected the issuance of the permit to come through shortly after a conditional approval, and that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday this week.

The permit doesn’t cover the entire city — just a designated area of a number of blocks in and around Potrero Hill and the Inner Mission, but it will allow Postmates to begin testing up to three autonomous delivery robots at once, at speeds of up to 3 mph. Deliveries can only take place between 8 AM and 6:30 PM on weekdays, and a human has to be on hand within 30 feet of the vehicles while they’re operating. Still, it’s a start — and from a city regulatory environment that has had a somewhat rocky start with some less collaborative early pilots from other companies.

Autonomous delivery bot company Marble also has a permit application pending with the city’s Public Works department, and will look to test its own four-wheeled, sensor-equipped rolling delivery bots within the city soon, should it be granted similar testing approval.

Postmates revealed Serve last December, taking a more anthropomorphic approach to the vehicle’s overall design. Like many short-distance delivery robots of its ilk, it includes a lockable cargo container and screen-based user interface for eventual autonomous deliveries to customers. The competitive field for autonomous rolling delivery bots is growing continuously, with companies like Starship Technologies, Amazon and many more throwing their hats in the ring.


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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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Startups seek sperm… And venture capital backing – gpgmail


Hello and welcome back to Equity, gpgmail’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we were helmed by Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm, but those of you who love the show having guests on don’t despair. As we explain at the top, there’s a lot of folks coming on the show soon, many of whom you know by name.

But that’s to come, and we had a lot to chat through this week. Including, right from the jump, the latest gyrations in the stock market. Earlier this week tech stocks, and especially cloud and SaaS stocks, took a nosedive. Sentiment swung around later in the week when markets caught their breath and Lyft’s earnings went well. But the movement in highly-valued SaaS companies caught our eye. Perhaps if the market finally does correct, we’ll see growth stakes take the worst of it.

But it wasn’t all bad news on the show, a new app that raised $5 million caught Kate’s attention. It’s called Squad and it’s now backed by First Round Capital, the seed fund behind the likes of Uber . You can read Kate’s interview with the founder, Esther Crawford, here.

Next, we turned to two startups that are focused on male reproductive health. While we’ve covered startups focused on fertility before on the show, this is the first time we’ve delved into male-focused services that are designed to help men take part in conception. The news here is Dadi has raised another $5 million in venture capital funding. Legacy, the other male fertility company we discussed, is taking part in Y Combinator’s summer batch right now.

On the IPO-ish beat, we talked about Postmates which has a new stadium partnership, and, more importantly, permission to use cute robots to deliver things in San Francisco. After hearing about how small, rolling robots will handle last-mile deliveries for years, we’re excited for them to actually make it to market. In our view, technology of this sort won’t eliminate the need for human workers at on-demand shops, though they may replace some routine runs. Bring on the burrito robots.

We closed on Airbnb’s purchase of Urbandoor, yet another acquisition from the popular home-sharing company that will eventually go public. It has to, right? Perhaps Urbandoor will help unlock new revenues in the corporate travel space before we see an S-1. After all, Airbnb wants to debut with plenty of growth under its belt to help it meet valuation expectations. Adding revenue to its core business could be a good way to ensure that there’s new top-line to report.

More to come, including something special next week!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.




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Postmates lands first-ever permit to test sidewalk delivery robots in San Francisco – gpgmail


On-demand delivery business Postmates says it’s been granted the first-ever permit for sidewalk robotics operations in the city of San Francisco.

According to San Francisco Public Works, the permits are active for 180 days and authorize the testing of up to three autonomous delivery devices. We’ve reached out to the Public Works department for comment.

Postmates has since 2017 been working alongside San Francisco supervisor Norman Yee and labor and advocacy groups to develop a framework for sidewalk robotics. The issuance of the permit makes San Francisco one of the first cities to formally allow companies to test autonomous delivery robots under a new pilot program.

Previously, companies were testing autonomous robots in various San Francisco streets sans permits, until the city voted to ban street robots from testing without official government permits, akin to the electric-scooter saga of 2018.

“We’ve been eager to work directly with cities to seek a collaborative and inclusive approach to robotic deployment that respects our public rights of way, includes community input, and allows cities to develop thoughtful regulatory regimes,” a representative of Postmates said in a statement provided to gpgmail.

Postmates semi-autonomous sidewalk rover, Serve, was unveiled in December. Using cameras and lidar to navigate sidewalks, Serve can carry 50 pounds for up to 25 miles after one charge. Postmates has a human pilot remotely monitoring the Serve fleets and each rover has a “Help” button, touchscreen and video chat display for customers or passers-by to use if necessary. The company originally said they planned to roll out the bots in 2019, though no pilots have been officially announced yet.

Postmates semi-autonomous delivery robot, Serve

Postmates says they’ve made a number of changes to Serve in recent months, including implementing new lidar tech that’s smaller, more lightweight and durable, with zero-emission capabilities. Under Ken Kocienda, an Apple veteran that joined Postmates recently, the Serve team has also developed a new scripting language for animating Serve’s “eyes.”

“We are spending a lot of time going in and refining and inventing new ways that Serve can communicate,” Kocienda told gpgmail in an interview earlier this year. “We want to make it socially intelligent. We want people, when they see Serve going down the street, to smile at it and to be happy to see it there.”

According to documents provided by Postmates, another autonomous delivery company, Marble, was not granted a permit after labor union Teamsters said the startup lacked an adequate Labor Dispute statement in its permit application. Marble is a last-mile logistics business based in San Francisco. Last year, the company closed a $10 million round with support from Tencent, CrunchFund and others.

Postmates, for its part, is expected to go public later this year in a highly anticipated initial public offering. The business filed confidentially for its offering in February after lining up a $100 million pre-IPO financing that valued the business at $1.85 billion. Postmates is said to be simultaneously exploring an M&A exit, according to Recode, which recently wrote that Posmates has discussed a merger with DoorDash, another top food delivery provider.

In June, Postmates announced Google’s vice president of finance, Kristin Reinke, had joined its board of directors, a sign it was sticking to IPO plans.

Postmates is backed by Tiger Global, BlackRock, Spark Capital, Uncork Capital, Founders Fund, Slow Ventures and others.


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