A number of app developers building third-party screen time trackers and parental control applications are worried that Apple’s increased scrutiny of their apps in recent weeks is not a coincidence. With Apple’s launch of iOS 12, the company has implemented its own built-in screen time tracking tools and controls. Not long after, developers’ third-party screen time apps came under increased review from Apple, and, in some cases, rejections and removals from the App Store.
The impacted developers have been using a variety of methods to track screen time, as there has not been any official means of tracking this data. This included the use of background location, VPNs and MDM-based solutions, and sometimes a combination of methods.
A small crowd of a half-dozen or so developers began to discuss their troubles amongst themselves over the past couple of months. But not all wanted to go on record. After all, publicly criticizing Apple is not something many developers feel comfortable doing, especially when their business is at risk.
However, a few did take to their company blogs to report their troubles when they thought they had reached the end of the road.
In October, for example, the digital detox app called Mute publicly announced its removal from the App Store around the same time that many other screen time tracking apps had been put on notice.
Then three-year-old screen time app Space did the same after its removal from the App Store in November.
They were not alone. Several others, which did not want to be quoted, were also facing rejections.
Some of the developers, we understand, were told they were in violation of App Store developer guideline 2.5.4, which specifies when multitasking apps are allowed to use background location. Specifically, developers were told they were “misusing background location mode for purposes other than location-related features.”
Others were told their app violated developer guideline 2.5.1, which references using public APIs in an unapproved manner.
And others, still, were told the way they’ve implemented screen time and parental controls was no longer permitted.
Above: Space on iOS
In an odd turn of events, after Space and Mute published on their public company blogs to complain, they received a call from Apple and had their apps reinstated on the App Store.
The Apple reps asked the companies about how they handled data privacy, and reminded them they must have a customer-facing feature that requires location-based services in order to legitimize their use of such an approach, they reported.
“We are of course hugely grateful that Apple has chosen to continue to allow our business to operate,” said Space CEO Georgina Powell.
But these were not isolated incidents. Across the third-party screen time app industry, apps were coming under review — in some cases, after operating for years without incident.
Above: Moment app on iOS
But at the same time, some apps were getting a pass — as if Apple is making its decisions on a one-off basis.
For example, an app called Moment — which TechCrunch has covered a few times over the past four years and has been featured by Apple — also received a call from Apple, we learned.
Apple had some questions for Moment, which they answered to Apple’s satisfaction. The app was not removed or threatened.
Asked if they were concerned at all about the increased scrutiny, Moment’s creator Kevin Holesh responded, “I do feel confident about Moment’s future after talking to Apple.” But he added he’s now “mostly watching to see how things play out with this issue going forward.”
The makers of the screen time app solution and hardware device Circle with Disney is also unaffected, we were told. (But then, imagine the consumer backlash if your $99 home network device just stopped working.)
Though not all apps were getting the boot, it seemed, Apple did seem to have a problem with screen time apps that took advantage of mobile device management (MDM) and/or VPNs to operate.
For example, the developer behind Kidslox had implemented a combination of MDM and a VPN for screen time and parental controls. The app tracks the time the device is connected to the VPN for screen time, which Apple said it could no longer do.
Kidslox CEO Viktor Yevpak tried to explain a VPN was necessary for more than just screen time. The app also includes a feature that checks websites against a blacklist to allow for kids to safely browse when they were connected through the VPN.
“I said, there has to be a middle ground, because you’re pretty much killing the entire company,” Yevpak told TechCrunch, recalling his conversations with Apple’s app review. “We have over 30 people working on it, and you’re us telling us to shut down,” he had told them.
After several rejections of updates to Kidslox’ year-old app, the developer finally took to the company blog to also call out Apple for what it believed was the “systematic destruction” of the third-party screen time management industry.
Like many we spoke to, he’s highly suspicious about the timing of Apple’s review, given that iOS 12’s screen time feature has just launched.
Kidslox remains available on the App Store today but its updates are not being approved. Yevpak says the company has been discussing ways to pivot the business, as it seems its time is up.
Apple, of course, never intended for VPNs to be used for screen time tracking or parental controls, nor did it want the enterprise-focused MDM technology to be implemented in consumer-based apps. And by permitting its use to date in apps like these, Apple had given up control over how its devices can be used by consumers.
But its policies have not matched up with its App Store approvals. Apple has greenlit — and it has been directly aware of — screen time apps using MDM in ways that violated its guidelines for years.
Above: OurPact’s app rules allow parents to block apps
One case in point is OurPact (specifically, its OurPact Jr. product), an app that leverages MDM technology to allow parents to control if and when kids can use certain apps on their phone, block texting, filter the web and much more. Its apps — one designed for the parent and the other for the child — have been live for four years. OurPact now says that Apple will no longer allow the company to use MDM for its purposes.
“Our team has received confirmation from Apple that managing application access and content outside of iOS Screen Time will not be permitted in the Apple device ecosystem,” says Amir Moussavian of OurPact parent company Eturi Corp., in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “It’s incredibly disappointing that Apple is choosing to dissolve the iOS parental control market at a time when childhood and adolescent screen time management is finally being understood as a necessity.”
The company says its OurPact Jr. app, the app designed for the child’s device, is impacted by the change. But its parent app will continue to operate.
Apple’s permissiveness to allow these “rule-breaking” apps signaled to developers entering the screen time space anew that MDM was being tacitly approved in these scenarios, even if Apple’s own terms and agreements said otherwise.
Developer Andrew Armour of ACTIVATE Fitness said he decided to implement MDM for a screen time management solution for iOS after seeing many other developers already had been doing the same thing for years, he told TechCrunch.
“I have sunk my entire life savings into the development of this mobile application to provide families with a solution to better regulate and manage screen time and at the same time promote physical activity,” Armour said, speaking about his app’s App Store rejection. “After two years of hard work and determination, my entrepreneurial journey to introduce ACTIVATE Fitness to the world has come to an end due to an Apple rejection in a flawed and unfair review process,” he lamented.
Apple could choose to release an official Screen Time API or carve out exceptions for screen time apps that use MDM or other technologies. Its decision to instead put the entire third-party industry on notice after rolling out its own screen time solution, however, seems to indicate it now wants to control the experience of monitoring screen time usage on iOS, and not leave it up to these third parties.
At the end of the day, the decision is bad for consumers because Apple’s solution doesn’t offer many of the features of the MDM-based solutions focused on parental controls. For example, parents using third-party screen time solutions can hide certain apps from kids’ homescreens and control when those apps function.
Apple declined to comment on the matter.
But sources familiar with Apple’s thinking dismissed this as being some sort of targeted crackdown against third-party screen time apps. Rather, the pushback developers received was part of Apple’s ongoing app review process, they said, and noted that the rules these apps violate have been in place for years.
That’s a fair point. Apple can opt to enforce its rules at any time, and building apps in violation of those rules is never a great idea — especially when developers are knowingly taking advantage of technologies in ways they had to know Apple never intended.
That being said, a decision to purge the App Store of third-party screen time and parental control apps is one that may come across to the impacted end users of these apps as being in poor taste.
In recent months, big tech companies — including the likes of Facebook and Google — have been made aware of the addictive nature of our devices and the apps we use and the negative effects on our mental health. They have all been rolling out solutions to counter this problem. For Apple to be seen as tamping down on the very apps that have been trying to battle these problems for years — before Silicon Valley took notice — is not a great look.
The storied 911 will not be immune from Porsche’s electrification plans and that could be a good thing. The car company’s CEO recently told Autocar that the hybrid 911 “will be the most powerful 911 we’ve ever had; 700 bhp might be possible.” Count me in (as long as someone buys it for me). Porsche already makes 911 models above the 700 mark so it’s likely… Read More
We’ve known for a while now that Google Assistant (the company’s voice-powered AI, à la Siri or Alexa) would eventually be built right into Google Maps. They announced as much at Google I/O 2018, noting at the time that they were aiming for a summer launch.
It didn’t happen by summer, but Google says it’s happening today. An update should be rolling out shortly, enabling Assistant within Google Maps on both Android and iOS.
While it’s hitting both platforms, it’ll be a bit more capable on Android — which makes sense, of course, as Google has a whole lot more control over things on their own turf. Assistant in Google Maps on both iOS and Android will let you control navigation, reply to texts (complete with auto-punctuation, which is a neat new trick) and control music. On Android, it’ll also be able to tap in and send messages through WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Viber, Telegram and other third-party offerings.
While Google Assistant has been on iOS for a while, accessing it required users to go out of their way to download the app — a step not everyone would necessarily take. With this move, it’s going to be front and center in an app that millions upon millions of iOS users already use.
Elon Musk seems not only intent on burning all the goodwill he earned for trying to help last week’s Thai cave rescue, but rolling around in its ashes, too. In a series of extraordinarily offensive, now deleted tweets, the SpaceX and Tesla CEO called a British diver who participated in last week’s dangerous rescue mission a “pedo guy,” adding in another tweet “bet ya a signed dollar it’s true.” (Update: Vern Unsworth, the diver, said to reporters at the cave site that he is considering legal action against Musk. James Anderson, a partner at investment firm Baillie Gifford, one of Tesla’s biggest shareholders, also told the Guardian “I intend to convey my–predictable I trust–feelings to the company tomorrow.”)
[Screenshots taken by Jon Russell, TechCrunch’s very own British expat guy who lives in Thailand (sus).]
Musk’s tantrum was triggered by an interview Unsworth gave CNN International last Friday, in which he called the small submarine Musk had SpaceX engineers build a “PR stunt” and said Musk could stick it “where it hurts.” Though the submarine was intended to help the 12 boys stranded with their soccer coach navigate flooded cave passageways, Unsworth, who helped plan the rescue operation and recruited other cave diving experts, said it “had absolutely no chance of working.”
Unworth added that Musk “had no conception of what the cave passage was like. The submarine, I believe, was about 5 foot 6 long, rigid, so it wouldn’t have gone round corners or round any obstacles. It wouldn’t hadn’t have made the first 50 meters into the cave from the dive start point.” When the reporter mentioned that Musk had gone into the cave on Tuesday, Unsworth said he was “asked to leave very quickly. And so he should have been.”
The rescue mission, made even more challenging by monsoon season, claimed the life of a Thai Navy seal before all boys were saved last week.
This is not the first time that Musk has clashed with a member of the cave rescue team. As confirmation came in that the last group of boys and their coach had been freed on July 10, the head of the rescue mission, Narongsak Osatanakorn, told reporters that “although [Musk’s] technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission.”
In response, Musk dismissed the credentials of Ostanakorn, who led the joint command center coordinating the operation and is former acting governor of Chiang Rai, the province where the cave is located. In a tweet he said Ostanakorn was “described inaccurately as ‘rescue chief'” and “is not the subject matter expert” (the Columbus Dispatch reports that Ostanakorn holds a Master’s degree from Ohio State University, where he studied geodetic engineering and surveying).
Though Musk’s tweet about Ostanakorn was sharply criticized, many still gave him credit for his efforts. After all, engineering a submarine in a few days to save a group of children is an impressive and laudable feat. While Musk is known for going on strange Twitter rants, however, his attack on Unsworth is in an entirely different stratosphere. In addition to defaming Unsworth in a particularly heinous way, the implication that a British diver would only go to Thailand, one of the world’s top diving destinations, for child sex tourism is problematic and arguably racist, as many have pointed out.
Elon Musk implying that British expats who live in Thailand are all kiddie fiddlers?Erm… wow… isn’t that kind of a little bit racist?
— Robert Percy (@astweetedbyRP) July 15, 2018
Sure, Elon Musk calling a diver who help rescue 12 boys a ‘pedo’ just because he lives in Thailand is insulting, inflammatory and borderline libelous, but let’s not forget that it is also horrifically racist.
— Bay Area for Bernie (@BayArea4Bernie) July 15, 2018
He didn’t just call the British rescuer in Thailand a pedophile. He called him a pedophile because he couldn’t imagine another reason for a white guy to be in Thailand. Which is a false assumption. Sometimes white guys visit Thailand to show off their useless submarines.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) July 15, 2018
TechCrunch has contacted SpaceX for comment on Musk’s remarks. When asked if his tweets violate Twitter’s terms of service against defamatory content and harassment, a spokesperson sent this statement to TechCrunch: “Tweets and accounts are reviewed against the Twitter Rules and if a violation is found, action is taken.”
Mobile ticketing app TodayTix is getting into the show production business with the launch of a new program called TodayTix Presents.
While TodayTix is sometimes described as the mobile version of the TKTS booth where you can pick up last-minute tickets to Broadway shows, CEO Brian Fenty said that he sees the service’s real competitors as “anything you can do with your night, outside of work — that’s Netflix and ‘Orange is the New Black,’ that’s post-season baseball, that’s a pitcher of margarita.”
At the same time, Fenty said after driving a total of $250 million in sales and to 4.6 million customers, the company has built a rich trove of data about people’s cultural interests. So with that in mind, it made sense for TodayTix to follow Netflix’s footsteps with “the same ethos that they had, to develop and to nurture programming and content that’s intimately connected to what users and what customers want to see.”
This doesn’t mean TodayTix is going to be producing spectacular Broadway productions. Instead, Fenty pointed to the TodayTix Live concert in Brooklyn last month as the first of these shows.
That concert, which celebrated TodayTix’s five-year anniversary and was hosted by Darren Criss, featured (mostly) Broadway stars like Matthew Morrison and Ariana Debose, who (mostly) performed pop standards.
Fenty said future TodayTix Live events won’t follow the exact same format, but the idea is to continue featuring popular artists in intimate settings — he compared it to “MTV Unplugged.” In fact, he suggested that with 300 attendees, last month’s concert was about as big as these shows will get.
And because these are small, one-off events, Fenty said they’re not competitive with the big shows that TodayTix works with.
“[Our partners] are doing longform, high-budget, highly developed shows that take years to develop and are fully baked,” he said. “Really what TodayTix Presents is supposed to be is a work-in-progress, an intimate way to see an artist.”
TodayTix already has plans for another New York City event in November, and then two in December. Fenty said “the cadence should roughly be a few events per quarter to start,” and that there will be shows across the service’s 13 markets.
Divido, the consumer finance platform that lets you take out credit at the point of purchase to help spread the cost of buying new things, has raised $15 million in Series A funding.
Leading the round is Dawn Capital, and DN Capital, with participation from Mastercard, American Express Ventures and a number of previous investors. Renier Lemmens, who previously served as Chief Executive Officer of PayPal EMEA and was an executive at Barclays, has also been appointed as chairman.
Launched in late 2015, London-based Divido currently works with over 1,000 partners to enable them to offer B2C and B2B finance to their customers at checkout. This includes being able to spread the cost of any product or service over a period of time by providing instant access to credit at the point of purchase, either online and in-store.
However, where the company differentiates from the likes of Klarna is that Divido doesn’t provide the line of credit itself or work with a single lender, instead operating a marketplace model. This sees lenders compete to offer the most suitable credit.
The broader pitch is that Divido’s consumer finance at the point of sale leads to up to 20 percent more sales for retailers, more lending for banks and more transactions for payment partners. The company’s clients include Mercedes-Benz, BNP Paribas Shopify.
Explains Christer Holloman, CEO of Divido, in a statement: “Proactive retailers know they have to try new initiatives to grow sales. Offering customers the option to pay later doesn’t just increase footfall and eyeballs, but it also raises average order values and conversion rates. And what’s good for the retailers is also good for the lenders who are providing this credit, and the intermediaries that facilitate the transactions”.
Meanwhile, Divido says the injection of capital will be used for global expansion. The platform is currently available in the U.K., Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Nordics, and the U.S., and the company wants to be in 10 more countries by the end of 2019. Divido is also pivoting to licence its platform to banks and lenders via a service called “Powered by Divido”. This will let partners white label its technology to provide finance services to their customers.
Stitch Fix, one of last year’s high-profile IPOs, has had a bumpy ride for the past few quarters — but it blew out expectations this afternoon for its most recent quarter, and the stock went absolutely nuts.
There’s also a ton of news coming out from the company today, including the hire of a new chief marketing officer as well as the launch of Stitch Fix Kids. All this is pretty good timing because the company appears to be cramming everything into one announcement that is serving as a very pleasant surprise to Wall Street, which is looking for as many signals as it can get that the subscription e-commerce company will end up as one of the more successful IPO stories. Shares of the company are up more than 14 percent after the release came out, where the company beat out expectations that Wall Street set across the board — which, while not the best barometer, serves as a somewhat public barometer as well as what helps determine whether or not it can lock up the best talent.
However, following the announcement, Stitch Fix’s stock came back down to Earth and is up around 4 percent.
Here’s the final line for the company:
Q3 Revenue: $316.7 million, compared to $306.4 million in estimates from Wall Street and up 29 percent year-over-year.
Q3 Earnings: 9 cents per share, compared to 3 cents per share in estimates from Wall Street.
Q4 Revenue Guidance: $310 million to $320 million, compared to Wall Street estimates of around $314 million.
Cost of goods sold: $178.5 million, up from $139.7 million in Q3 last year.
Gross Margin: 43.6 percent, up from 43 percent in Q3 last year.
Advertising spend: $25.2 million, up from $21.3 million in Q3 last year.
Active clients: 2.7 million, up 30 percent year-over-year (2.5 million last quarter).
Q3 Net income: $9.5 million ($12.4 million in adjusted EBITDA).
Stitch Fix Kids will carry sizes 2T to 14, which will be across a diverse range of aesthetics “to give kids the freedom to express themselves in clothing that they feel great wearing,” the company said. Those Fixes will include 8 to 12 items that include market and exclusive brands. Stitch Fix launched Stitch Fix Plus in February last year.
“Our new Stitch Fix Kids offering is a testament to the scalability of our platform,” CEO and founder Katrina Lake said in a statement accompanying the release. “We’re excited for Stitch Fix to style everyone in the family and to create an effortless way for parents to shop for themselves and their children. Our goal is to provide unique, affordable kids clothing in a wide range of styles, giving our littlest clients the freedom to express themselves in clothing that they love and feel great wearing.”
Stitch Fix was widely considered a successful IPO last year, though it faced some challenges over the course of the front of the year. But as it’s expanded into new lines of subscriptions, its customer base still clearly continues to grow, and the company is still finding newer areas to expand — including the upcoming launch of Kids that it announced today. Like many recent IPOs, Wall Street is likely going to look for continued growth in terms of its core business (meaning, subscribers), but Stitch Fix is showing that it’s able to not set cash on fire as fresh IPOs sometimes do.
Stitch Fix’s new CMO, Deirdre Findlay, comes to the company from Google, where she oversaw the Google Home hardware products, which included Home and Chromecast. Prior to that, Findlay has a pretty extensive history in marketing across a wide variety of verticals beyond just tech, including working with Whirlpool Brands, Allstate Insurance, MillerCoors and Kaiser Permanente, the company said. While Stitch Fix is a digitally native company, it’s not exactly an explicit tech company and requires expertise outside of the realm of just the typical tech marketing talent — so getting someone with a pretty robust background like that would be important as it continues to expand into new areas of growth.
Instacart has tapped Postmates to offer better delivery services during peak hours in a San Francisco pilot.
While Instacart will still handle all the shopping for its customers, it will hand off some deliveries to Postmates at times when there is high demand on the Instacart platform.
Postmates, obviously, has offered delivery-as-a-service for merchants and brands since its inception, and some of those brands, such as Walmart, offer their own delivery services. But this marks the first time that Postmates has offered delivery-as-a-service to a business that itself is already a delivery service.
This comes at a time when the grocery space is at an inflection point. Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition of Whole Foods has spurred a race to offer quick and convenient grocery delivery from a number of the bigger players, such as Target and Walmart. On top of that, the grocery industry is highly fragmented, offering a huge opportunity for the catch-all of Instacart’s service.
But quantity means almost nothing without quality, and Instacart’s pilot with Postmates is meant to ensure that delivery times don’t lag in the late morning and early afternoon, when most Instacart orders are set to be delivered.
Instacart’s Northwest General Manager Michelle McRae explained that there is a load balance involved in the partnership with Postmates.
“Like many on-demand services, Instacart sees demand peaks on certain days and at certain times,” said McRae. “The pilot is a way to offer delivery during peak hours and utilize Postmates delivery staff at times where Postmates would be most underutilized. Instacart users overwhelmingly prefer mid-morning and mid-afternoon, where is different from when people want hot, prepared food.”
McRae also stressed that the pilot would not affect current Instacart shoppers or delivery contractors, as Postmates is simply offering delivery capacity during peak demand times.
Perhaps more interesting, Postmates sees a big opportunity to work with on-demand services in offering extra delivery either at or below the cost of hiring more delivery people.
“We definitely see this as a bigger part of Postmates’ future,” said Postmates SVP Dan Mosher. “Most brands are moving toward a world where they want to provide quick convenient delivery but they don’t have the capabilities. As we scale, we have the delivery density to drive economics in a really cost-effective way, not only to restaurants and retailers but to other on-demand services as well.”
He added that enterprise delivery services will never eclipse Postmates’ direct-to-consumer business.
The pilot is currently only going down in San Francisco, but Instacart said that it is considering expanding it to other geographies and other delivery services as the pilot continues. The deal is not exclusive, as Postmates is currently working with Walmart to help deliver their groceries to customers.
When you’ve got leverage, don’t be afraid to use it. That’s been Google’s modus operandi in the news and publishing world over the last year or so as it has pushed its AMP platform, funding various news-related ventures that may put it ahead, and nourished its personalized Chrome tabs on mobile. The latter, as Nieman Labs notes, grew 2,100 percent in 2017.
You may have noticed, since Chrome is a popular mobile browser and this setting is on by default, but the “Articles for You” appear automatically in every new tab, showing you a bunch of articles the company thinks you’d like. And it’s gone from driving 15 million article views to a staggering 341 million over the last year.
In late 2016, when Google announced the product, I described it as “polluting” the otherwise useful new tab page. I also don’t like the idea of being served news when I’m not actively looking for it — I understand that when I visit Google News (and I do) that my browser history (among other things) is being scoured to determine which categories and stories I’ll see. I also understand that everything I do on the site, as on every Google site, is being entered into its great data engine in order to improve its profile of me.
Like I said, when I visit a Google site, I expect that. But a browser is supposed to be a tool, not a private platform, and the idea that every tab I open is another data point and another opportunity for Google to foist its algorithms on me is rankling.
It has unsavory forebears. Remember Internet Explorer 6, which came with MSN.com as the default homepage? That incredible positioning drove so much traffic that, for years after (and indeed today), it drove disgusting amounts of traffic to anything it featured. But that traffic was tainted: you knew that firehose was in great part clicks from senior citizens who thought MSN was the entire internet.
Of course the generated pages for individual users aren’t the concentrated fire of a link on a major portal, but they are subject to Google approval and, of course, the requisite ranking bonus for AMP content. Can’t forget that!
But wherever you see the news first, that’s your news provider. And you can’t get much earlier than “as soon as you open a new tab.” That’s pretty much the ultimate positioning advantage.
Just how this amazing growth occurred is unclear. If there’s been any word of mouth, I missed it. “Have you tried scrolling down? The news is just right there!” It seems unlikely. My guess would be that the feature has been steadily rolling out in new regions, opting in new users who occasionally scroll down and see these stories.
And unlike many other news distribution platforms, there isn’t much for publishers or sites like this one to learn about it. How are stories qualified for inclusion? Is there overlap with Google News stuff? What’s shown if people aren’t signed in? I’ve asked Google for further info.
Do you, like me, dislike the idea that every time you open a tab — not just when you use its services — Google uses it as an opportunity to monetize you, however indirectly? Fortunately, and I may say consistent with Google’s user-friendliness in this type of thing, you can turn it off quite easily — on iOS, anyway.
Open the menu at the top right of any tab and hit settings. There should be a “Suggested articles” toggle — disable that and you’re done. While you’re at it, you might just head into Privacy and disable search and site suggestions and usage data.
On Android? You’ll have to dig into the app’s flags and toggle the hidden setting there. Not as user-friendly.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That explains a coming-together between two startups today after Jet.com announced it will give beleaguered Blue Apron a leg-up by introducing its meal kits for customers in New York.
The deal will an initially rotating selection of four meal kits from Blue Apron made available as part of Jet’s ‘City Grocery’ experience. The kits — which will rotate every six weeks — will be available for same-day or next-day order in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, as well as Jersey City and Hoboken.
Jet — which is the first e-tailer partner for Blue Apron — said the kits are designed specifically for its customers based on “extensive feedback” based around what they want to eat, how they want to make it, etc. As a part of that focus, all of the kits take less than 30 minutes to prepare.
The initial selection includes the following:
Seared Steaks & Peperonata with Fregola Sarda Pasta & Grana Padano Cheese (2 servings, 28 oz) – $22.99
Dukkah-Spiced Beef & Couscous with Tahini-Dressed Broccoli (2 servings, 41 oz.) – $20.99
Togarashi Popcorn Chicken with Sweet Chili Slaw & Jasmine Rice (2 servings, 32 oz.) – $18.99
Italian Farro Bowl with Roasted Vegetables & Mozzarella (2 servings, 32 oz.) – $16.99
“We are delighted to be the first e-retailer to offer the Blue Apron on-demand kits, kicking off in NYC,” said Jet President Simon Belsham in a statement. “Adding the on-demand kits to our newly launched City Grocery experience provides another layer of convenient services and products that helps make people’s lives easier, and it’s a great example of how Jet will continue to differentiate itself.”
That was echoed by Brad Dickerson, who become CEO late last year. Dickerson hinted that the company has more planned for its “channel expansion strategy.”
Despite going public in June, 2017 was a tough year for Blue Apron.
The company listed at $10 per share after originally hoping to go public between $15 and $17. But, more significantly, Amazon threw a spanner in the works when it purchased Whole Foods just days before Blue Apron’s debut, giving investors concerned the alliance would negatively impact the company, piling on more doubt that had surfaced around the viability of its customer retention strategy.
Things have only gotten worse for Blue Apron since then, with its shares currently valued at just $1.14 as of the close of market on Friday. But there is some positive sentiment around the Jet deal with the share price up nearly 22 percent in pre-trading, according to Yahoo Finance.
Cyril Ebersweiler is co-founder and managing partner of HAX, and a general partner at SOSV.
More posts by this contributor
What every startup founder should know about exits
70 years of VC innovation
Benjamin Joffe is a partner at HAX.
More posts by this contributor
What every startup founder should know about exits
70 years of VC innovation
John Chambers, Chairman Emeritus of Cisco (now founder of JC2 Ventures), knows a thing or two about tech acquisitions: he bet his career on a first one in ’93, and went on to complete 180 M&As during his 20 years tenure.
His latest message for large corporations is an alarm bell. In a fireside chat at the HAX M&A Masterclass that followed the publication of his book: Connecting the Dots: Lessons for Leadership in a Startup World, Chambers issued a clear warning: learn about tech M&As or the future might happen without you.
Here are the key lessons to take away (video and transcript are here):
1. M&As Are A Vaccine Against Irrelevance
When stepping down from Cisco in 2015, John Chambers said that 40% of companies will be dead in 10 years. And 10 years might now be conservative.
It took about 20 years to Amazon to challenge WalMart, barely 10 to Airbnb with hotels and to Uber with taxis and car ownership. The next wave might just take 4–5 years. Since no company can invent everything — even Apple or Google buy startups routinely — you’ll need to either buy or partner seriously with startups (more on that later).
2. Tech Is Entering Every Sector
‘Every company you’ll acquire over this next decade will probably be indirectly or directly a tech company’, said Chambers.
Non-tech companies need to get up to speed on how to work with tech, and startups. Many of the corp dev executives who attended our last event were not from tech.
I met recently power tool companies from US and Europe . They had just set up CVC arms. They were looking into acquisitions, saying ‘we don’t know software’. They’d better tackle that M&A learning curve quickly!
Where do you fit the software?
3. Your Customers Can Tell You What To Buy
There was only one Steve Jobs, who just knew what to build. For others, your customers will might you what to buy. Listen to them and pay special attention to market transitions to buy next generation products.
Like Chambers experienced early in his career at IBM with mainframes, and at Wang Laboratories with mini-computers, missing a critical shift might be the end of you! The corollary for startups is: do something cool for key customers of a corporate, and you’ll get on their radar in no time!
4. Pick The Right Match
“When you buy a company, everything is negotiable except strategy and culture”, said Chambers.
Oracle has mastered takeovers but for most others, acquisitions can fail due to a poor alignment of vision for the industry and each company’s role, cultural mismatch, geographic distance or lack of integration of systems (once you scale your number of acquisitions, having different divisions or subsidiaries use different software will make your CFO insane).
There is generally more than one possible M&A target, and Cisco often walked away from potential buys for the above reasons. It also developed efficient processes: ‘I used to view process at bureaucracy, but process done right can give you speed that others cannot match’, Chambers added.
Are they customer-focused and share their success with their employees?
5. Build Your Playbook(s)
Back in the 90’s tech M&As were often failures. Chambers and his team researched why and built Cisco’s playbook, then tweaked it for 2 decades. According to Chambers, most of it can apply to other companies. So save yourself some time and costly attempts by getting his book 😉
Interestingly, they approached the leadership transition in the same way: they studied what made them work or fail, and made it as smooth as could be when John stepped down in 2015.
6. Do Your Homework
One common trait of experienced corp dev teams is the amount of work they put in before they approach a startup.
Not only are they aware of many through their own research, their customers, business units, CVC arms or the media, but also via extensive networks, including with VC firms.
Like investors, you’re only as good as your deal flow. Corp devs then model the value a startup might bring, and pay the right price for it (more on this below).
7. Pay For What The Value Is To You
A hot startup can command a high price, but is it worth it for you?
If it offers no complementarity or synergies, it might in fact be of negative value. On the opposite, the current revenue of a startup might be irrelevant if you can blow their product through your channels and make it 10x or 100x.
The company Chambers bought in ’93 for close to US$100million only had US$10 million in revenue. It paid off in droves.
8. Keep The Talent
When you buy a tech company, you must try and keep the talent — especially founders, emotional leaders and engineers.
Understand ‘Leaders Currency’: Track record, Trust and Relationships. So involve your HR team to answer key questions and help define attractive career paths within your organization for the acquired teams. If you fail to do so, people will leave or underperform, and you will not get the new products you hope for.
At Cisco, about 1/3 of the top leadership came from internal promotions, 1/3 from recruiting and 1/3 from acquisitions. At peak it likely had about 100 former CEOs on payroll!
9. Expect Some Failures
Despite its stellar track record, about 1/3 of Cisco’s were failures. Reasons may vary, and some might be caused by market changes. When it decided to shut down Flip Video within 2 years after its $590 million acquisition: Apple had just added cloud video capabilities, it was game over.
Expect them, learn from them, and be ready to cut losses and, ideally, redeploy people.
10. In The Future, M&As Might Not Be Enough
As the pace of innovation accelerates, and top talent joins startups rather than large companies, startups might become threats faster than you can buy them.
Chambers suggested that the next-level skill to develop is the ability to form strategic partnerships very early on with startups, such as this recent JV between Boeing and the much smaller 5-year-old A.I. startup SparkCognitionfor urban aerial mobility.
Joint Ventures Between Startups And Corporates Might Become More Common
Thanks to speakers, participants and supporters of this Masterclass series, in particular: Natasha Ligai (Logitech), Todd Neville (IBM), Christina LaMontagne(Johnson & Johnson), Anne Samak de la Cerda (former CFO, Withings), Dan Fairfax, (former CFO, Brocade), Amanda Zamurs and Larry Chu (Goodwin), Kate Whitcomb and Ethan Haigh (HAX).
Those Galaxy Note 9 rumors have been coming fast and furious in recent weeks, and now we know why. Samsung just sent out invites for its next big event in New York City, and its beloved phablet seems all but guaranteed to show up. The timeframe certainly lines up.
The pen-enabled device was first announced at IFA back in 2011, and while the company has moved away from the trade show toward its own stage in recent years, announcements have more or less stayed within that August/September timeframe. And holding the event on August 9, well, that’s likely more than just a numerological coincidence. As if all that weren’t confirmation enough, the handset appears to have also recently passed through the FCC (alongside the Tab S3 tablet), a surefire sign that it’s just over the horizon.
The phone was the subject of a big leak earlier this week, which hinted at an update to the line’s iconic S Pen stylus. Exact details are pretty thin at the moment, though one leaker called it “the biggest update” in the peripheral’s history, for what that’s worth. And the close up shot on this morning’s invites do appear to confirm a focus on the stylus. Samsung has refined the S Pen’s writing system in the seven years since the first device was announced, but it’s largely taken a back seat to things like screen design and camera specs.
Otherwise, however, Note 9 reports paint a picture of fairly minor upgrades over the Note 8, with plenty of features cribbed from the S9 announced back in February at Mobile World Congress.