Shared electric scooters probably won’t return to SF until August

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is still reviewing the 12 applications from companies to operate electric scooters in the city. In early June, companies like Uber, Lime, Bird, Lyft and others applied for permits to operate electric scooter-share services in San Francisco. San Francisco’s permit process came as a result of Bird, Lime and Spin deploying their electric scooters without permission in the city in March. As part of a new city law, which went into effect June 4, scooter companies are not able to operate their services in San Francisco without a permit.

The SFMTA initially said it expected to make a decision about which five, if any, companies would receive permits by the end of June. Well, it’s now July and still no decision. The SFMTA expects to finalize its recommendations and documentation “in the coming weeks,” the SFMTA wrote in a blog post today. Once that’s done, the agency says it will work with companies to finalize and clarify the terms and conditions of the permit. The goal, according to the blog post, is to issue permits sometime in August.

As part of the 24-month pilot program, electric scooter companies selected to operate in the city will need to provide user education and insurance, share its detailed trip data with the city, have a privacy policy that protects user data, offer a low-income plan and operate in a to-be-approved service area. The city will allow no more than 2,500 electric scooters on the streets at any one time.

Despite the standstill in San Francisco, scooter companies are moving full force ahead, snatching up venture funding and partnering with larger players. Last week, Lime raised a $335 million round led by GV with participation from Uber. Late last month, Spin announced it’s closing a $125 million security token offering. That came shortly after electric scooter startup Bird raised a $300 million round led by Sequoia Capital.

For a breakdown of the ongoing scooter wars, be sure to read TC’s overview.

Bird now offers discounts to people with low incomes

Bird, the scooter startup that has raised more than $400 million in funding, has introduced a program geared toward low-income people in order to increase access to transportation. Called One Bird, the program eliminates the $1 fee to unlock a Bird so that the rider just has to pay 15 cents per minute.

“Everyone should have access to transportation that is accessible, affordable, and environmentally-friendly,” Bird CEO Travis VanderZanden said in a statement. “One Bird makes this a reality by providing a way for everyone to ride Birds in their city. We warmly welcome all new riders, and encourage our current eligible riders to enroll in the program, so together we can create a community with fewer cars, less traffic, and reduced carbon emissions.”

The program is live in every market where Bird operates, which includes cities like Atlanta, Austin, Santa Monica, Calif. and Washington, D.C. In order to sign up for One Bird, you have to either be enrolled in or eligible for a state or federal assistance program, like CalFresh, Medicaid, SNAP or a discounted utility bill. Eligible people can reach out to [email protected]bird .co to learn more.

Lime, a bike- and scooter-share startup, has a similar program. In May, Lime launched Lime Access to enable people who qualify for state or federal assistance programs to purchase 100 rides on pedal bikes for $5.

Increasing access to transportation has long been a talking point for companies like Uber, Lyft, Spin, Lime and Bird. In San Francisco, which still has yet to decide which companies will get to operate scooter services in the city, the Municipal Transportation Agency has asked companies to outline how they each plan to support people in low-income communities. For Bird, offering discounted rides appears to be one of its strategies.

You can read more about the scooter wars here.

Self-driving car startup Zoox is raising $500 million at a $3.2 billion valuation

Zoox, a once-secretive self-driving car startup, is closing a $500 million at a $3.2 billion post-money valuation, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Prior to the deal, Zoox was valued at $2.7 billion, Zoox confirmed to TechCrunch. The round, led by Mike Cannon-Brookes of Grok Ventures, brings its total amount of funding to $800 million.

Zoox’s plan, according to Bloomberg, is to publicly deploy autonomous vehicles by 2020 in the form of its own ride-hailing service. The cars themselves will be all-electric and fully autonomous. Meanwhile, ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft are also working on autonomous vehicles, as well as a number of other large players in the space.

Zoox, which turned four years old this month, is a 500-person company founded by Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson. In the meantime, head over to Bloomberg for the full rundown.

Apple emoji will soon include people with curly hair, white hair and superpowers

In honor of World Emoji Day (yes, that’s a thing), Apple is previewing some of its upcoming emoji. Later this year, Apple’s emoji set will feature people with a variety of hairstyles and colors, including curly hair, red hair and white hair. What you’re about to see are simply Apple’s take on emoji that were previously approved by the Unicode Consortium’s emoji subcommittee.

Folks with curly hair, rejoice!

Let’s hear it for the redheads

 

Like white on rice

 

No hair? No problem

Other fun emoji include a freezing face, peacock, mango, lobster, nazar amulet, superheroes and kangaroo.

Back in March, Apple proposed new emojis to represent people with disabilities in Unicode’s next batch of emoji. Then in May, Unicode announced some of the draft candidates for its next emoji release in Q1 2019 to include some of Apple’s proposed emoji, which featured a guide dog, an ear with a hearing aid and more. If you want to hear more about what goes into emoji approval, be sure to check out this interview with Jeremy Burge, vice-chair of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee.

 

Chowly is raising $5.8 million to help restaurants manage on-demand delivery orders

Chowly, a point-of-sale system for restaurants, has raised nearly $4.7 million, according to an SEC filing. The company is targeting a total raise of $5.8 million.

The round is led by MATH Venture Partners with participation from Valor Equity, Chicago Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners and others. Chowly had previously raised just $700,000 from MATH Venture Partners, Domenick Montanile and others.

Chowly aims to help restaurants better manage the influx of delivery orders they receive from a variety of services, such as Grubhub, Delivery.com and Chownow.

In May, Square launched a point-of-sale system for restaurants that integrates on-demand delivery platform Caviar. Down the road, Square said it envisions third-party applications from companies like Postmates, UberEats and DoorDash.

Come see Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at TC Disrupt

In the days of Uber 1.0, the ethos seemed to be about doing all the wrong things. Now, with former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at the helm, Uber is clearly on its way to becoming a sort of Expedia for transportation. Though, Khosrowshahi has previously likened Uber’s business to aligning more with the idea of an Amazon for transportation.

At TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in September, Khosrowshahi will join me to discuss Uber’s big plan to own the entire transportation experience for people, the highs and lows of his first year on the job, Uber’s upcoming initial public offering and much more.

Under Khosrowshahi’s leadership, Uber officially became a multi-modal transportation platform with its acquisition of JUMP Bikes for about $200 million, the launch of UberRENT and a public transportation partnership with Masabi.

Oh, and Uber is also working on electric scooters, as well as flying cars via its Elevate program. Just like residential and buildings have gone three-dimensional, Khosrowshahi said at a tech conference in May, “you’re going to have to build a third-dimension in terms of transportation.”

For Uber, Elevate is its “big bet” on that third-dimension of transportation, he said. The big plan with all of these modes of transportation — whether that’s bike sharing, electric scooter sharing, ride sharing, flight sharing or whatnot — is to become a multi-modal transportation service.

Under the leadership of Khosrowshahi, Uber also seems to be moving into an era where the company works with governments, instead of in spite of them. This is quite the 180 for Uber. Before the days of Khosrowshahi, Uber was reluctant to share data with cities. Now, Uber is expanding Movement, a platform that anonymizes and aggregates Uber data to map travel times, to 12 new cities across five continents. The intent is to help urban planners, local leaders and civic communities make more informed decisions.

While Khosrowshahi is making positive moves in a business direction, it’s worth noting the company is still in need of a chief financial officer, and there have been some high-level departures that have continued under his leadership. In June, for example, Uber’s chief brand officer, Bozoma Saint John, left a little after one year of joining the company.

At the time, Saint John told me that while “nothing horrible or terrible happened,” Uber’s corporate culture has not “righted itself 100 percent.” At Disrupt, Khosrowshahi and I will also discuss Uber’s corporate culture and what it’s going to take to fully recover from its 2017, which entailed reports of sexual harassment, mismanagement and a toxic work environment.

Tickets to Disrupt SF, which runs September 5 – September 7, are available here.

Coinbase CTO says the company is like a mullet

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is the go-to place for buying and exchanging cryptocurrencies — as long as you’re fine sticking to Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash. But Coinbase is actively looking at adding support for additional cryptocurrencies, Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan said at TechCrunch Sessions: Blockchain today in Zug, Switzerland.

In June, Coinbase announced it would expand its support for just four cryptocurrencies to five, to include Ethereum Classic (ETC) “in the coming months.” Earlier this year, Coinbase also announced its intent to add some ERC 20 tokens. 

And more is coming. While Srinivasan wouldn’t say which other cryptocurrency support is on Coinbase’s horizon, he said to “look for a lot of announcements over the months to come.”

Srinivasan also compared Coinbase to the mullet hairstyle — business in the front, party in the back.

“Coinbase is a mullet in the sense we interface with banks and governments and then there’s the crypto space,” Srinivasan said.

Coinbase’s general strategy with adding new cryptocurrencies to its platform is to maintain good relationships with banks, governments, and those in the crypto and blockchain spaces. In a sentence, Srinivasan said, Coinbase’s goal is “to mainstream cryptocurrency, to mainstream blockchain.”

In order to achieve that, he said, that requires maintaining good relationships on all sides. So before Coinbase begins support for a new cryptocurrency, he said, there needs to be notable growth and adoption.

“We’ll never be the earliest adopter, but we will be early adopters,” he said.

Ultimately, Srinivasan envisions Coinbase operating more algorithmically so that it will be easier to duplicate its processes for adding additional cryptocurrencies.

Srinivasan joined Coinbase in April as the cryptocurrency exchange’s first CTO following Coinbase’s $120 million+ acquisition of Earn.com, a blockchain-based paid email service co-founded by Srinivasan. Srinivasan is also a board member at Andreessen Horowitz.

Before selling to Coinbase, Srinivasan led Earn.com to profitability after turning it into a service that rewards people for answering emails and completing tasks. At the time of the acquisition, Earn.com was profitable with revenues at an eight-digit annual run rate.

As CTO, Srinivasan is also focused on educating the masses about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. That’s because there’s no formal K-12 or undergraduate education around this space that’s totally revolutionary, he said.

In terms of core fundamentals, Srinivasan said, he’s very bullish on blockchain technology. He noted how it’s ten times better than gold, international wire transfer and crowdfunding, and ten times better for the incorporation of a company and more.

“Combine all of those 10xes and you’ve improved these fundamental primitives and made them programmable and automatable.”

Electric scooter startup Spin is finalizing a $125 million security token offering

Spin, an electric scooter startup, is raising around $125 million via a blockchain-based security token offering (STO), Axios first reported and TechCrunch has independently learned. Spin, which declined to comment for this story, has previously raised just $8 million.

The idea with Spin’s security token offering is to raise money from accredited investors, who will then be entitled to a portion of the revenue from Spin’s electric scooter operations, according to a source close to Spin. Last year, initial coin offerings were the hot thing in the cryptocurrency space. Now, STOs are starting to emerge, given that they provide more security for potential investors. With STOs, investors can buy tokens that are linked to real-world financial instruments. In the case of Spin’s offering, the tokens are linked to its revenue.

Spin has been one of the more quiet scooter startups in the industry after announcing its expansion into scooters in February. This comes shortly after electric scooter startup Bird raised a $300 million round led by Sequoia Capital, and after reports of Lime raising $250 million led by GV.

Spin currently has a contract with electric scooter manufacturer Ninebot to purchase 30,000 scooters a month through the end of this year, according to a source. Bird, on the other hand, said in May it inked an exclusive deal with Ninebot for rights to the company’s supply of scooters. Clearly, that’s not true.

Spin had previously only operated a bike-share platform. Last August, Spin brought its stationless bike-share program to South San Francisco after launching in Seattle earlier that year. Then, in January, Spin unveiled its stationless electric bike. However, Spin is now solely focused on electric scooters, according to a source close to Spin.

Meanwhile, Spin and other electric scooter operators are currently awaiting word from the city of San Francisco regarding whether or not they can deploy their respective scooters in the city.

Tesla lays off roughly nine percent of workforce

Tesla has laid off about nine percent of its employees, Electrek first reported. This is part of the reorganization Musk talked about in May on the company’s quarterly earnings call. The layoffs reportedly started on Monday and will be made official at some point today.

Tesla, which also operates SolarCity, is only laying off salaried employees. Tesla isn’t letting go any production associates, as the company is trying to ramp up Model 3 production.

“We made these decisions by evaluating the criticality of each position, whether certain jobs could be done more efficiently and productively, and by assessing the specific skills and abilities of each individual in the company,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote to employees in an email obtained by TechCrunch. “As you know, we are also continuing to flatten our management structure to help us communicate better, eliminate bureaucracy and move faster.”

When Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016, its headcount increased to more than 30,000 employees. Toward the end of 2017, Tesla had around 37,000 employees.

In February, Tesla made a deal with Home Depot to sell the PowerWall and solar panels at 800 of Home Depot’s locations. But Tesla has reportedly not renewed its contract, which means the Tesla employees working at Home Depot won’t be needed anymore. Instead, Musk said in his email that they “will be offered the opportunity to move over to Tesla retail locations.”

The hope with the restructure is to get to profitability. Last quarter, Tesla reported record revenues along with record losses. In Q1 2018, Tesla’s net losses were a record $784.6 million ($4.19 per share).

Here’s the full email Musk wrote to staffers:

As described previously, we are conducting a comprehensive organizational restructuring across our whole company. Tesla has grown and evolved rapidly over the past several years, which has resulted in some duplication of roles and some job functions that, while they made sense in the past, are difficult to justify today.

As part of this effort, and the need to reduce costs and become profitable, we have made the difficult decision to let go of approximately 9% of our colleagues across the company. These cuts were almost entirely made from our salaried population and no production associates were included, so this will not affect our ability to reach Model 3 production targets in the coming months.

Given that Tesla has never made an annual profit in the almost 15 years since we have existed, profit is obviously not what motivates us. What drives us is our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable, clean energy, but we will never achieve that mission unless we eventually demonstrate that we can be sustainably profitable. That is a valid and fair criticism of Tesla’s history to date.

This week, we are informing those whose roles are impacted by this action. We made these decisions by evaluating the criticality of each position, whether certain jobs could be done more efficiently and productively, and by assessing the specific skills and abilities of each individual in the company. As you know, we are also continuing to flatten our management structure to help us communicate better, eliminate bureaucracy and move faster.

In addition to this company-wide restructuring, we’ve decided not to renew our residential sales agreement with Home Depot in order to focus our efforts on selling solar power in Tesla stores and online. The majority of Tesla employees working at Home Depot will be offered the opportunity to move over to Tesla retail locations.

I would like to thank everyone who is departing Tesla for their hard work over the years. I’m deeply grateful for your many contributions to our mission. It is very difficult to say goodbye. In order to minimize the impact, Tesla is providing significant salary and stock vesting (proportionate to length of service) to those we are letting go.

To be clear, Tesla will still continue to hire outstanding talent in critical roles as we move forward and there is still a significant need for additional production personnel. I also want to emphasize that we are making this hard decision now so that we never have to do this again.

To those who are departing, thank you for everything you’ve done for Tesla and we wish you well in your future opportunities. To those remaining, I would like to thank you in advance for the difficult job that remains ahead. We are a small company in one of the toughest and most competitive industries on Earth, where just staying alive, let alone growing, is a form of victory (Tesla and Ford remain the only American car companies who haven’t gone bankrupt). Yet, despite our tiny size, Tesla has already played a major role in moving the auto industry towards sustainable electric transport and moving the energy industry towards sustainable power generation and storage. We must continue to drive that forward for the good of the world.

 

Thanks,
Elon

Uber is looking to buy the bike-share company behind Citi Bike and Ford GoBike

Uber is reportedly looking into buying Motivate, the company that makes Ford GoBike’s in the San Francisco Bay Area and Citi Bike over on the East Coast. This comes following reports of Lyft getting close to purchasing Motivate in a $250 million deal.

Uber bought bike-share startup JUMP, a dockless, electric bike-share service, earlier this year, for about $250 million. In April, Motivate deployed electric bikes in San Francisco. Once JUMP’s 18-month pilot program with the city is up next June, we can expect to see companies like Motivate, Lime and others apply to deploy their own dockless bikes in the city.

I’ve reached out to Uber and will update this story if I hear back.

Just this week, both Uber and Lyft applied to deploy electric scooters in San Francisco. You can read more about that here.