Walmart’s Vudu adds Family Play feature so viewers can skip sex, violence and substance abuse – gpgmail


Vudu, the streaming service owned by Walmart, announced a new feature today that will make it easier for viewers to avoid sex and violence in movies.

Anyone who’s watched an R-rated movie on broadcast television or on an airplane is probably familiar with films that have been “edited for content,” but Vudu’s new Family Play option gives viewers more control over what they find objectionable.

Specifically, they can turn filters on and off for sex/nudity, violence, substance abuse and language. In the first three instances, Vudu will skip the relevant scenes, and in the case of strong language, it will mute the dialog. The feature is already supported in more than 500 films.

At an advertiser event in May, Vudu leaders suggested that they will stand out from the other streaming services by creating content that can be watched by entire families, with Senior Director Julian Franco declaring, “We’re not just going to be programming for Williamsburg and Silver Lake.”

It sounds like Vudu has similar ambitions for all its original content. In a blog post today, Vice President Scott Blanksteen wrote:

With so much content available and more people watching, what if we could also be a streaming service that provides a great, safe viewing environment for families? What if we could provide our customers the flexibility to ensure that content and the Vudu experience are appropriate for everyone in the family to watch, including the youngest of viewers – kids?

A streaming service called VidAngel ran into legal trouble (and eventually declared bankruptcy) a couple of years ago when it tried to sell movies that were edited to be family-friendly. However, where VidAngel was operating independently to decrypt and edit DVDs, Vudu told Variety that it’s working with the movie studios.

Vudu also says it’s partnering with advocacy group Common Sense Media to provide ratings and reviews “from a parent’s perspective,” and to create a kid-friendly viewing mode. And it’s launching its first original series today — a remake of “Mr. Mom,” with new episodes streaming every Thursday.


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Walmart Grocery is expanding its $98 per year ‘Delivery Unlimited’ subscription across the U.S. – gpgmail


Walmart is expanding its brand-new “Delivery Unlimited” grocery delivery membership program to more stores across the U.S., with plans to reach over 50% of the country by year-end. The new program allows regular grocery delivery customers to pay either an annual fee of $98 or $12.95 on a monthly basis instead of paying the usual $9.99 per delivery fee. These options make Walmart Grocery delivery more affordable for those who order at least twice a month or more.

The program also gives Walmart a better way to compete with rival grocery delivery services including Amazon Prime Now/Whole Foods, Instacart, and Shipt, all of which offer subscription memberships.

Shipt currently charges $99 annually, and Target recently announced a way for Shipt shoppers to pay a per-order fee of $9.99 for the first time, by way of a Shipt integration on Target.com. Instacart, meanwhile, cut its annual fee to $99 in November. Prime Now is the most expensive option at $119 per year, but includes all the perks of Amazon Prime’s broader membership program.

In June, gpgmail broke the news that Walmart’s Grocery Delivery Unlimited program was being trialed in Houston, Miami, Salt Lake City, and Tampa.

Those customers responded favorably, which is why the retailer decided to roll out the program to more U.S. markets.

Initially, that includes all 200 metro areas where Walmart Grocery Delivery is available today. By this fall, it will reach 1,400 stores. And by year-end, it will reach 1,600+ — or more than half the U.S.

The program doesn’t offer any other perks, beyond the savings for Walmart Grocery’s regular shoppers. However, it does have the advantage of locking customers into Walmart Grocery and increasing their return rates and loyalty.

Walmart’s Grocery business grown steadily over the years, and has become a favored alternative to higher-priced services like Instacart where the individual products are marked up as a means of generating revenue. Walmart, on the other hand, charges the same online as it does in stores — the only added cost is the delivery fee and tip. (Pickup is free).

Today, Walmart Grocery Pickup is offered at nearly 3,000 stores and Walmart employs more than 45,000 personal shoppers to fill its online grocery orders. Walmart Grocery Delivery, as noted, is on track for over 1,600 stores this year.

Unlike some grocery delivery businesses, Walmart doesn’t operate its own network of delivery professionals or independent contractors. Instead, Walmart partners with delivery providers across the U.S., including Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire, Roadie, Postmates, and DoorDash. It has also tried, then ended, relationships with Deliv, Uber, and Lyft.

“We’ve been investing in our online grocery business by quickly expanding our Grocery Pickup and Delivery
services. Delivery Unlimited is the next step in that journey,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president, Digital
Operations, Walmart U.S., in a statement about the launch. “By pairing our size and scale and these services we’re making Walmart the easiest place to shop. Combine that with the value we can provide, our customers can’t lose,” he said.

Last month, Walmart reported its 20th consecutive quarter of sales gains in the U.S., with $130.38 million in revenue, earnings per share of $1.27, and net income to $3.61 billion, beating expectations. It said at the time that e-commerce sales had grown 37% in the quarter, in large part because of the rollout of next-day delivery and same-day grocery delivery.

Delivery Unlimited will not replace the pay-per delivery fee — that will remain an option for those who don’t want to subscribe. Customers will be able to see if the service is available in the market by visiting the Walmart Grocery website.

 


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America’s largest companies push for federal online privacy laws to circumvent state regulatory efforts – gpgmail


As California moves ahead with what would be the most restrictive online privacy laws in the nation, the chief executives of some of the nation’s largest companies are taking their case to the nation’s capitol to plead for federal regulation.

Chief executives at Amazon, AT&T, Dell, Ford, IBM, Qualcomm, Walmart, and other leading financial services, manufacturing, and technology companies have issued an open letter to Congressional leadership pleading with them to take action on online privacy, through the pro-industry organization, The Business Roundtable.

“Now is the time for Congress to act and ensure that consumers are not faced with confusion about their rights and protections based on a patchwork of inconsistent state laws. Further, as the regulatory landscape becomes increasingly fragmented and more complex, U.S. innovation and global competitiveness in the digital economy are threatened,” the letter says.

The subtext to this call to action is the California privacy regulations that are set to take effect by the end of this year.

As we noted when the bill was passed last year there are a few key components of the California legislation including the following requirements:

  • Businesses must disclose what information they collect, what business purpose they do so for and any third parties they share that data with.

  • Businesses would be required to comply with official consumer requests to delete that data.

  • Consumers can opt out of their data being sold, and businesses can’t retaliate by changing the price or level of service.

  • Businesses can, however, offer “financial incentives” for being allowed to collect data.

  • California authorities are empowered to fine companies for violations.

There’s a reason why companies would push for federal regulation to supersede any initiatives from the states. It is more of a challenge for companies to adhere to a patchwork of different regulatory regimes at the state level. But it’s also true that companies, following the lead of automakers in California, could just adhere to the most stringent requirements which would clarify any confusion.

Indeed many of these companies are already complying with strict privacy regulations thanks to the passage of the GDPR in Europe.


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Uber has surveyed some drivers on small loans, suggesting financial products are coming – gpgmail


Back in June Uber went on a hiring spree in New York, hiring at least 100 fintech-oriented tech workers to ostensibly look at creating products to increase loyalty and engagement among users and drivers, including things like banking. Cue a flurry of speculation. It now looks like Uber is taking baby-steps towards building such a raft of products out, potentially by offering loans directly to drivers, according to a report from Recode/Vox.

The story is based on the emergence of an in-app survey which was sent to some drivers talking about a “new financial product” aimed at drivers “in a time of need.” The survey then went on to question drivers’ use of financing loans of $1,000 or less in the last three years. It asked “what amount are you most likely to request?” It then gave them options top pick from “Less than $100,” “Between $100 and $250,” “Between $250 and $500” and “More than $500.”

At this time there’s no indication of timing on a small loans product offering to drivers, and Uber has not publicly commented on the emergence of the survey’s existence.

However, Uber already has form in this space. It has offered cash advance programs to drivers in California and Michigan, although the company was criticised for what some called “pay-day loans”. It’s also offered leases on new cars to drivers in the past and currently offers a co-branded credit card with Visa and an Uber Cash digital wallet for riders.

Uber would not be alone in rolling out small cash loans to its workers, given given that large companies such as Walmart and others already offer lucrative payroll advances and loans to employees.

But the fact that it now has a very large FinTech team suggests this won’t the end of us hearing about Uber’s tentative moves into this space.


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Top VCs on the changing landscape for enterprise startups – gpgmail


Yesterday at gpgmail’s Enterprise event in San Francisco, we sat down with three venture capitalists who spend a lot of their time thinking about enterprise startups. We wanted to ask what trends they are seeing, what concerns they might have about the state of the market, and of course, how startups might persuade them to write out a check.

We covered a lot of ground with the investors — Jason Green of Emergence Capital, Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Ventures, and Maha Ibrahim of Canaan Partners — who told us, among other things, that startups shouldn’t expect a big M&A event right now, that there’s no first-mover advantage in the enterprise realm, and why grit may be the quality that ends up keeping a startup afloat.

On the growth of enterprise startups:

Jason Green: When we started Emergence 15 years ago, we saw maybe a few hundred startups a year, and we funded about five or six. Today, we see over 1,000 a year; we probably do deep diligence on 25.


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Why Walmart’s Flipkart is betting heavily on Hindi – gpgmail


To win India’s next 200 million internet users, e-commerce giant Flipkart wants to speak their language

Flipkart, the largest e-commerce platform in India, said Tuesday it has concluded the roll-out of a range of features to its shopping app in what is its biggest update in recent years.

Chief among these new features is access to Flipkart in Hindi language. Prior to the revamp of the app, Flipkart was available only in English, a language spoken by 10% of India’s 1.3 billion population.

Flipkart says it is hoping that the new features, which includes a video streaming service, would help it reach the next 200 million users in India.

The major bet on Hindi, a language spoken by more than 500 million people in India, illustrates a growing push from local and international companies operating in the country as they adapt their services and business models to go beyond the urban cities.

And that’s where much of the opportunity, which countless startups and companies have trumpeted to investors to successfully raise hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and venture capital in recent years, lies in the nation.


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Urbvan raises $9 million for its private shuttle service in Mexico – gpgmail


As cities in emerging markets grapple with increasingly traffic-clogged and dangerous streets, Urbvan, a startup providing private, high-end transportation shuttles in Mexico, has raised $9 million in a new round of financing.

Co-founded by Joao Matos Albino and Renato Picard, Urbvan is taking the reins from startups like the now-defunct Chariot and tailoring the business for the needs of emerging market ecosystems.

Hailing from Portugal, Albino arrived in Mexico City as a hire for the Rocket Internet startup Linio. Although Linio didn’t last, Albino stayed on in Mexico eventually landing a job working for the startup Mercadoni, which is where he met Picard.

The two men saw the initial success of Chariot as it launched from Y Combinator, but were also tracking companies like the Indian startup Shuttl.

“We wanted to make shared mobility more accessible and a little bit more efficient,” says Albino. “We studied the economics and we studied the market and we knew there was a huge urgency in the congested cities of  Latin America.”

Unlike the U.S. — and especially major cities like San Francisco and New York — where public transportation is viewed as relatively safe and efficient, the urban environment of Mexico City is seen as not safe by the white collar workers that comprise Urbvan’s principle clientele.

The company started operating back in 2016. At the time it had five vans that it leased and retrofitted to include amenities like wi-fi and plenty of space for a limited number of passengers. Since those early days the company has expanded significantly. It now claims over 15,000 monthly users and a fleet of 180 vans.

Urbvan optimized for safety as well as comfort, according to Albino. The company has deals with WeWork, Walmart and other retailers in Mexico City so that all . of the stops on t he route are protected and safe. The company also vets its drivers and provides them with additional training because of the expanded capacity of the vans.

Each van is also equipped with a panic button and cameras inside and outside of the van for additional monitoring.

Customers either pay $3 per ticket or sign up for a monthly pass that ranges from $100 to $130.

Financing for the company came from Kaszek Ventures and Angel Ventures with previous investor Mountain Nazca also participating.

For Albino, who went to India to observe Shuttl’s operations, the global market for these kinds of services is so large that there will be many winners in each geography.

“Each city is different and you need to adapt. The technology needs to be adaptable to the city’s concerns . and where it can . add more value,” says Albino. “The Indian market is super different from Latin America.. It’s a huge market with a lot of congestion… But the value proposition is a bit more basic [for Shuttl].”

Urbvan is currently operating in Mexico City and Monterrey, but has plans to expand into Guadalajara later this year.


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Walmart and Tesla are going to try and work things out – gpgmail


Walmart came out swinging earlier this week in a lawsuit that accused Tesla of breach of contract and gross negligence over problems with rooftop solar panel systems installed at the retail giant’s stores.

Now, just days later, the lawsuit has been placed on hold while the two companies try to reach an agreement that would keep the solar installations in place and put them back in service, according to a joint statement issued late Thursday night.

“Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed,” the statement read. “Together, we look forward to pursuing our mutual goal of a sustainable energy future. Above all else, both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely.”

Walmart hasn’t dropped the lawsuit. The complaint is still on file with New York state court. But the two parties are going to try and reach an agreement that would avoid a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which is aimed at Tesla’s energy unit that was formerly known as SolarCity, alleges that seven fires on Walmart rooftops were caused by the solar panel systems. Walmart asked Tesla to remove the solar panel systems on all 244 stores where they are currently installed and to pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels.

Now, a Walmart spokesperson said it is “actively working towards a resolution” with Tesla.

Neither Tesla or Walmart would explain the details of the negotiations.

The stakes are high for Tesla. Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk  announced a new rental offering for solar power in a bid to reboot the flagging renewable energy business.

Tesla’s share of the solar market has declined since its merger with SolarCity in 2016. In the second quarter Tesla deployed only 29 megawatts of new solar installations, while the number one and two providers of consumer solar, SunRun and Vivint Solar, installed 103 megawatts and 56 megawatts, respectively.

Tesla’s renewable energy business includes residential and commercial solar and energy storage products. The company also has a utility-scale energy product called Megapack. While Tesla still produces solar panels for residential use, much of its focus has been on developing its solar roof, which is comprised of tiles. It still operates a commercial business, which targets municipalities, schools, affordable housing, enterprise and agriculture and water districts as customers.

The company doesn’t provide a breakdown of its solar installations, making it difficult to determine if the commercial business is flat, falling or on the rise. Language in its latest 10-Q suggests Tesla is putting a renewed effort into its solar business.

Tesla said it’s working on revamping the customer service experience for solar products, according to the 10-Q. The company said while its retrofit solar system deployments have it expects they “will stabilize and grow in the second half of the year.”


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Walmart sues Tesla for negligence after multiple solar panel fires – gpgmail


Walmart is suing Tesla for breach of contract and gross negligence after rooftop solar panel systems on seven of the retailer’s stores caught fire, according to a filing.

Walmart said the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in New York state court, arose from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla and the solar panels it designed, installed and promised to promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores.”

Bloomberg was the first to report on the court filing. The lawsuit is aimed at Tesla Energy Operations, a division within the clean energy and electric vehicle automaker that was formerly known as SolarCity .

Tesla did not return a request for comment. A Walmart spokesperson said there was nothing else to add beyond the lawsuit filed Tuesday. gpgmail will update the article if Tesla responds.

Walmart has asked Tesla to remove solar panels from all 240 locations where they have been installed as well as pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels. The lawsuit points to several fires on the retailer’s rooftops that allegedly stem from Tesla solar panels.

The lawsuit states:

To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla. To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final “root cause” analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires described above. The number of defects, however, is overwhelming and plainly indicative of systemic, widespread failures by Tesla to meet the standard of care, as set forth in the governing contracts, as to the solar systems installed at Walmart’s stores.

Unsatisfied with Tesla’s actions, Walmart requested in May 2018 that the company disconnect all of the solar panel systems, according to the lawsuit. Tesla complied. However, Walmart alleges that another fire erupted even after the systems were disconnected.

 


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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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