China’s Pinduoduo raises $1.1 billion in private share placement

Chinese e-commerce firm Pinduoduo said on Tuesday it had raised $1.1 billion in a private share placement that will enable its further expansion and allow it to capture “additional opportunities” during the times of uncertainty.

The Nasdaq-listed firm said some of its long-term investors financed the deal. The investors were granted newly issued Class A ordinary shares of Pinduoduo representing approximately 2.8% of the company’s total outstanding shares.

The capital raise comes weeks after the Shanghai-based company said it was bracing for losses due to the coronavirus outbreak. The firm’s fourth-quarter revenue growth fell short of expectations.

Pinduoduo, which competes with giant Alibaba, has grown rapidly in recent years after gamifying the shopping experience that allows customers to team up to buy anything from smartphones to fruits.

But the firm’s marketing — promotions and discount coupons — has also widened its losses. In Q4 2019, Pinduoduo reported a loss of about $250 million on revenue of $1.5 billion.

“Pinduoduo surpassed 1 trillion yuan in annual gross merchandise value (GMV) in less than five years, and we are confident that we will see robust growth beyond our current 585 million user base,” said David Liu, VP of Strategy at Pinduoduo, said in a statement.

“The extra funding gives us the strategic flexibility to capture opportunities to further benefit our users, as we bring interactive experiences, such as our new live-streaming features, and wider variety of value-for-money products to them,” he added.

As with e-commerce firms in other parts of the world, Pinduoduo in recent months has focused on fulfilling low-cost protective gear and everyday essentials over everything else.

Rebecca Minkoff has some advice for e-commerce companies right now

When Rebecca Minkoff first moved to New York City, the then-18-year-old was making $4.75 an hour.

“I just kept working for this designer and someone was telling me what to do every day. I just didn’t like that. And I thought if I’m going to work as hard, it’s going to be for myself and I want to call my own shots,” she said. “I didn’t want to be told what to do, frankly.”

Self-employment for Minkoff turned out just fine; in 2001, she redesigned the iconic “I Love New York” shirt and it appeared on The Tonight Show. After a shout-out from Jay Leno, Minkoff spent the next eight months making T-shirts on the floor of her apartment and quit her job to start designing full time.

We caught up with Minkoff to learn more about how she grew her brand into a global fashion company with the help of her brother, her problem with the unicorn mentality and why she thinks the “invisible barrier” is the future of retail tech.

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

TechCrunch: What gave you the energy and drive to become an entrepreneur?

Rebecca Minkoff: Long story. My mom would sell these cast covers, like decorative covers for people with broken arms at the flea market. And I was like, I am going to have a booth here. So I made all these tie-dye shirts and no one bought anything but it was just this idea of like, I can make something I can sell. My mom always taught that. When I wanted a dress, she taught me how to sew a dress instead of buying the dress. And so, I just got this bug for creating things out of nothing.

The constant thread was, “I’m not going to pay for this. You’re going to learn how to do it.”

As the U.S. shuts down, StockX’s business is booming, says its CEO

StockX, the high-flying resale marketplace that connects buyers and sellers of sneakers, streetwear, handbags and other collectible items who agree on pricing, has seen its fortune rise along with the $6 billion global sneaker resale market, which is part of the broader $100 billion sneaker category. In fact, the company, which was assigned a billion-dollar-plus valuation last year, says $1 billion worth of merchandise was sold through its platform last year.

The big question is whether StockX can maintain its momentum. Not only are other rivals biting at the heels of the five-year-old, Detroit-based outfit, which has raised roughly $160 million from investors, but some believe the streetwear “bubble” is on the verge of bursting. Add to the mix a pandemic that’s putting millions of people out of work (and in some cases jeopardizing the health of those still showing up), and you might assume that answer is no.

Yet in an online event earlier this week hosted by this editor and conducted by Erin Griffith of the New York Times, StockX CEO Scott Cutler insisted that the exact opposite is true. By his telling, business is booming. In fact, perhaps unsurprisingly, he argued that StockX looks more durable than the traditional public market right now, and he’s well-acquainted with the latter, having earlier spent nine years as an executive with the New York Stock Exchange. (Cutler was also formerly an executive at eBay and StubHub.)

Below is part of their talk, edited lightly for length.

Griffith kicked off the interview by giving Cutler a chance to describe in his own words how StockX works.

“So if you’re a buyer of sneakers, you’ve got choices as to where you want to do that you could go to Nike or Adidas, you could go to a retailer . . . There are other marketplaces like eBay, as an example, where one person has an item to sell, and you would match and try and find that one person [who will buy it at their price] and that would be a unique peer-to-peer-based experience.”

“The difference for Stock x is that typically those items that are the most sought-after things from a retailer or brand and are never available at that retailer or brand. They’re released online, or they’re released in a store, and they and they vanish immediately. . . So as a buyer, you come into the experience knowing largely that you want a particular product. And we give you the opportunity to either buy that at the lowest price somebody is willing to sell that for, or put a bid out and say, ‘This is what I’m interested in paying for this product.’

“If you’re a seller, you don’t have to create a seller rating. You don’t have to create a profile. You don’t have to create a listing. You simply have something to sell, it’s in our catalog. And you either sell it at the highest price that somebody is willing to bid . .  . or you ask and say, ‘This is what I’m willing to sell this item for.’ So it’s a very much a trading market much like oil and commodities and equities, but in sneakers and collectible items.”

She asked who is driving the marketplace and whether that might be a small number of power users.

“Seventy-five percent of our customers are under the age of 35. And that customer is a now a wide demographic, I would say two years ago, it was defined in sneakers as a “sneakerhead,” meaning somebody that collected sneakers and bought and sell sneakers specifically. But today, that demographic, if you looked at millennials and Gen Z, as an example, 40% of them would define themselves as sneakerheads, and so that’s male and female, and this demographic is around the world. We have customers in over 170 countries and territories.”

Cutler went on to say that StockX is very well-positioned because, unlike with a lot of goods that people might find through Amazon or a Google search and thus compete on some level with them, StockX is itself the “first” shopping destination for most of its customers.

“Even the brands can’t provide access to [what’s for sale at StockX].  So that consumer comes to us as a first destination; they don’t go to those brands to shop to shop . . . That means that we have an incredible opportunity then to deliver exactly what that customer wants at the beginning of the journey, which is very rare in e-commerce, to be that first point of destination.”

Naturally, Griffith asked how the virus has impacted StockX’s bottom line. Cutler said it’s been “great for our business and growth.”

“The recent events over the last couple of months has been a benefit to our business. We’ve had more and more traffic and buyers coming to our site because in some respects, traditional retail in some geographies is not available. We thought we’ve always been a marketplace of scarcity, but now you can’t actually go into a real retail location, so you’re coming to StockX. So on the one hand, it’s been great for our for our business and for our growth.”

Cutler also acknowledged that to accommodate that growth, StockX needs people in the warehouses where sellers send goods so that StockX can authenticate them before shipping out to buyers. He said that StockX has “people in those centers that are coming to work right now, even in places like New Jersey that are certainly impacted.” He called it a “balancing” act of trying to ensure its team members feel “safe” while continuing to operate its business at scale around the world.

As for how, exactly, StockX is ensuring these employees are safe, he said that StockX is “operating under all of the local rules and regulations that we have in all the different places where we operate.” As an added sweetener, he said the company recently gave a “spot bonus” and increased the salaries of employees at its authentication centers by 25%.

And what happens if the warehouses are ordered to shut down or employees begin showing up with the virus? Griffith asked what StockX’s backup plan entailed.

Here, Cutler noted the company’s multiple authentication centers, saying that “in the event that we have to reroute traffic from one authentication center to the other, we will do that. We’ve been operating that way.” (He also said that business continuity planning is currently a “stand-up every single day [wherein] we go through site safety and security and any incidents that come up and we’re making decisions as a team every day on some of that routing logic.”)

Not last, Griffith wondered what kinds of conversations StockX’s venture investors are having with the company given everyone’s focus right now on belt-tightening. ((StockX is backed by DST Global, General Atlantic, GGV Capital Battery Ventures, and GV, among others.)

Cutler acknowledged that the “future, in some respects, is uncertain for many of us, in that you don’t know how long this is going to last.” He said that as the company looks to the future, it’s trying to factor in “different scenarios of macro shifts in demand, macro shifts in the supply chains that we think are going to be actually quite short-lived.” He said that in China, for example, where many supply chain factories went down this winter, many are back up to 80% or 90% of their previous capacity, adding that “depedinng on how this plays out here in the U.S. and in Europe, it could either be a very quick recovery —  or we have to be prepared for scenario where this could be extended for some time.”

Asked if StockX is recession-proof should the downturn last (Griffith noted that some of the pricier sneakers on the platform are “selling for thousands of dollars”), Cutler suggested that he hopes so for the sake of the businesses run off its platform. 

Said Cutler, “For a lot of our sellers, you have to appreciate that our they depend on StockX for their livelihood. They actually may be running a very sophisticated business that is selling sometimes thousands of pairs of sneakers every single day to [maybe] a student who’s using StockX to fund their education. So it’s it is really important that we remain up and operational because we’re providing a livelihood for those for those individuals.”

Cutler then compared StockX to the public equities markets, insisting that they aren’t so different and that, to his mind, StockX might even be the safer bet right now.

“We actually have buyers who see this time as a market opportunity and see the price of a rare Jordan 1 [shoe] that’s maybe coming down, and they say, ‘Hey, this is short lived,’ much like somebody may say, ‘Hey, the market is off a little.’

“They’re putting their money in sneakers,” Cutler continued, adding: “My portfolio right now in sneakers is still up on the year. That’s more than I can say about the S&P.”

Inside Udaan’s push to digitize India’s B2B retail market

During a recent visit, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella reiterated his company’s commitment to India and revealed a new fund to help SaaS startups in the country.

And then Nadella and Anant Maheshwari, president of Microsoft India, discussed the success story of B2B platform Udaan in three separate onstage public appearances.

Headquartered in Bangalore, Udaan is a business-to-business e-commerce marketplace founded by former Flipkart executives Amod Malviya, Vaibhav Gupta and Sujeet Kumar. The startup used Microsoft’s free Azure credits to scale in its early days; as in some other markets, Microsoft, Amazon and Google offer free cloud credits in bulk to early, promising Indian startups in a bid to onboard them and see if their solutions could be relevant to other clients down the road.

More often than not, these bets don’t work, but sometimes they pay off. Udaan, valued at about $2.7 billion after raising nearly $900 million from investors like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Tencent Holdings, GGV Capital and Hillhouse Capital, has become one of Microsoft India’s biggest clients in the last three years.

Udaan was founded in 2016 at the tail end of India’s e-commerce frenzy, when scores of startups that had attempted to build business-to-consumer online shopping platforms were conceding defeat.

At the time, very few players — like Power2SME and Moglix (industrial products) and Bizongo (packaging for businesses) — were looking at the business-to-business market in India.

Udaan is valued at about $2.7B after raising nearly $900M from investors like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Tencent Holdings, GGV Capital and Hillhouse Capital and has become one of Microsoft India’s biggest clients.

But despite venturing into a road less traveled, Udaan had ambitious dreams. The startup was building its own logistics network, a herculean task that even Flipkart and Amazon avoided to a certain measure for years, yet it was reaching an audience that had never sold online.

Target pauses plans for grocery pickup amid COVID-19 outbreak

Target is pausing its plans to offer curbside pick-up of groceries and alcoholic beverages, citing the COVID-19 outbreak as the key factor in its decision to delay the launch. Although groceries via Order Pickup and Drive Up would be valuable services at a time when people are being asked to distance themselves from others to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Target says it won’t have time to train employees on these new processes right now.

Like many retailers and grocers, Target is impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, which is significantly changing the way people shop. People are more likely to buy in bulk to minimize trips to the store. And many are panic-buying critical supplies, like toilet paper. Target says it’s seen a sustained surge in both traffic and sales, particularly in food and beverage and other household essentials, like cleaning supplies and baby products. Other categories, including apparel and accessories, have slowed.

The launch of any new system or process takes time to adjust to, even when there’s ample time to train. But Target staff today is working at increased levels — its March sales are 20% higher than March of last year, as a  point of comparison.

Like everywhere, Target also faces staffing concerns as people scramble to figure out childcare when schools are closed. It will have to reassess employee schedules on the fly, as staff leaves unexpectedly when they or a family member gets sick. There have also been a small number of cases where Target employees themselves have tested positive for the virus. And as the outbreak spreads, more will likely be exposed, given their continual contact with the public.

To address these concerns, Target is cleaning its stores regularly, promoting social distancing, wiping down carts, adding signage to guide guests, cleaning checklanes after each transaction, and more. It’s also stopping in-store returns for three weeks, but will honor later returns when the ban is lifted, as a result. And it’s pausing its small-format store openings and remodels planned for this year — shifting those to 2021, given the chaos around its business today.

To assist employees, Target announced that it’s investing more than $300 million in added wages, a new paid leave program, bonus payouts and relief fund contributions.

Though Target won’t roll out curbside fresh grocery pickup now, it continues to operate the grocery delivery business Shipt. This and other grocery delivery services are booming due to the outbreak. Instacart this week said it was hiring 300,000 more full-service shoppers due to coronavirus. Walmart, CVS, Amazon, and other U.S. employers are hiring more than 800,000 new workers due to the COVID-19 impacts.

ClassPass now offers live streamed workouts for those house-bound by coronavirus

ClassPass, the fitness platform that connects gym-goers with the right studio/fitness class, has today announced that it’s dusting off its shuttered video product in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. With some tweaks.

ClassPass studio partners will today be able to offer live streamed classes on the platform. ClassPass has set up a system that allows these partners to set their own prices, date and time, and share a link to the streaming platform of their choice for their class, whether it be Instagram Live, Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitch, etc.

CEO Fritz Lanman said that the company, which has raised more than $500 million, is well capitalized to weather the metaphorical storm. However, ClassPass’s success relies on the health of its 30,000 studio partners, 90 percent of whom have closed their physical locations indefinitely across 30 countries.

With the new offering, studios will be able to keep offering their classes to a market in which demand for live-streamed or at-home workouts is skyrocketing.

Moreover, ClassPass will not be generating any revenue from these live streamed classes until June 1. In other words, 100 percent of the revenue from these live streamed classes will go towards the studios and wellness partners.

ClassPass launched a live video streaming product in March of 2018. The product was a sizable investment from the company, which set up a full broadcasting studio in Brooklyn. ClassPass Live, as it was called, also required users to have a ClassPass Live subscription, which came with a heart rate monitor for users to track their progress.

ClassPass Live eventually shuttered as the company reorganized its priorities to focus on global expansion and its corporate program. However, thousands of workouts from that product (in both video and audio form) have remained on the app for subscribers as an on-demand workout from home option.

Those video and audio workouts are now available for free to anyone who is signed in to the ClassPass app. For the live streamed workouts from studio partners, ClassPass users will need to use their in-app credits to purchase those classes. That said, they do not have to be a subscriber — users can simply purchase credits a la carte in the app and use them towards classes.

Existing ClassPass users will notice that their credits have been rolled over since the coronavirus pandemic has been keeping folks at home.

So far, 500 studios have been onboarded to start providing live streamed workouts and classes.

Asked if this video business could become the permanent, primary business for the company, Lanman said that it’s possible, but unlikely.

“Frankly, we already did this experiment,” said Lanman. “When we did ClassPass Live, customers said this is incredible, high quality stuff. That it’s a great experience. But you cannot yet replicate the real world experience digitally. The ambience. The immersiveness (sic). The sense of community.”

He said that in the future, people will want some offline offerings across a variety of things.

“Our job as a platform company is not to take an overly prescriptive point of view as to what’s best for each individual customer,” said Lanman. “Our job is to give partners a choice around how they want to merchandize and curate different experiences across offline, video, audio, one to many, one to one, etc. And then, we need to allow customers to choose how they want to allocate their time and their budget between offline and digital.”

Alongside the launch of ClassPass’s live video workout product, the company is also introducing other initiatives to help the fitness industry during this pandemic.

The first is a Partner Relief Fund, which allows users to donate to their favorite studios right from within the app. Moreover, ClassPass will match all donations up to $1 million.

The company is also calling on governments across the globe, via a change.org petition, to offer immediate financial assistance, alongside rent, loan and tax relief, for fitness businesses in particular. Thus far, the petition has signatures from Joey Gonzalez (Barry’s Bootcamp CEO), Andy Stenzler (Rumble CEO), Travis Frenzel (Flywheel Sports CEO) and more.

Cazoo, the used-car sales portal, raises another $116M

The rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic has put a freeze on many in-person sales and transactions for goods and services, so in what might be a sign of the times for funding in the startup world, today a company in the UK that’s been building a portal to carry out car sales in the virtual world is announcing a large fundraise.

Cazoo, a startup modelled on the Vroom/Beepi-type model that buys in used cars and then sells them online and delivers to your door, today is announcing that it has raised £100 million ($116 million), funding that it plans to use to continue expanding its business. The company has now raised £180 million since first being founded 18 months ago.

“It’s clear that UK consumers are ready to buy cars online in a convenient, hassle-free way,” said Alex Chesterman, Founder & CEO of Cazoo, in a statement. “Cars are an important form of transport for many in our society, whether conducting deliveries or getting to essential jobs and we want to ensure that those who need one can continue to get one. This new round of funding is a strong signal from investors of the scale of the opportunity. Our mission is to deliver the best experience for car buyers across the UK by delivering better selection, value, convenience and quality. That mission is now also focused on keeping consumers safe by not having to leave their homes to buy a car. We are also looking at how Cazoo can help other organisations move essential supplies around the country via our fleet of car transporters in these difficult times.”

This round is being led by DMG Ventures with General Catalyst, CNP (Groupe Frère), Mubadala Capital, Octopus Ventures, Eight Roads Ventures and Stride.VC also participating.

Cazoo has so far not revealed its valuation, except to tell us that it is a “significant uplift to our previous rounds.” PitchBook notes that as of September 2019 its valuation was around $220 million, which on a basic straight curve would put its valuation now at around $336 million, but possibly more considering what the company said when I asked.

It may seem like a crazy time to be raising money for a startup — much less one that is not only focused on vehicles to get people around at a time when governments the world over are urging people to stay at home; but one that is passing used vehicles from one owner to another at a time when people don’t fully understand how the coronavirus infection spreads, and how long it might last on surfaces and in enclosed spaces (like cars).

There are a few reasons for why it did, it seems.

The first of these is the business of Cazoo itself: it notes that in the first three months of commercial operations, it has had £20 million in sales, which seems to point to a strong trajectory of growth (at least up to now).

That’s before we consider some of the other challenges that startups in this space have seen because of the difficulties of balancing costly inventories and executing on sales and deliveries at strong enough margins without burning a lot of cash: at its heart it’s an interesting business model and someone will eventually get it right.

In addition to that, there is the pedigree of the startup. Cazoo is founded by Alex Chesterman, a repeat entrepreneur who first founded film rental/streaming service LoveFilm (which was thought of as ‘the Netflix of Europe’) and then sold it to Amazon, where it became a cornerstone of its Prime Video operation, making the £200 million price it paid for it sound like a song.

Then he founded and eventually sold the property sales and rental portal Zoopla (for £3 billion, to Silver Lake).

No company can operate right now in a bubble separate from what is happening around the coronavirus pandemic, and the same very much goes for Cazoo.

The FAQ’s on the company’s site cut right to the chase in trying to reassure customers about how vehicles are sold and delivered at the moment. The company says that it “fully reconditions” all its vehicles before selling and delivering them, and the handover process is now being done “at a safe distance” to protect both customers and employees.

“As with other retail marketplaces, the current Coronavirus situation is accelerating the shift from offline to online transactions given its unique delivery proposition,” it added.

It’s also taking the very specific step of not carrying out any deliveries to people who are self-isolating, although as with many of the measures that are being put in place, a lot of the execution is down to personal willpower and judgement.

“If you are self-isolating due to being in contact with someone with the virus or you are unwell or in an at-risk group, we’re currently unable to make the delivery for your safety and the safety of our Delivery Specialists,” it notes.

“We will put your order on hold until we can rearrange a suitable delivery time and you won’t be charged for rescheduling. If you have chosen to self-isolate, have no symptoms and are not in a group at risk then the delivery can still go ahead. Our handovers will take place from a safe distance and our Delivery Specialists will wear personal protective equipment to keep you both safe. They’ll also remain outside of your car whilst they talk you through the features.”

It’s hard to tell right now what the next three (or more…) months are going to look like in the UK, as well as the world, economy, so we may well be seeing a lot of rounds coming up specifically from VCs betting not just on businesses that have a chance of faring well in the current climate, but those that are strong enough that you don’t want to see them disappear and so are throwing them lifelines of runway and support. Many will fall into both of those camps, hopefully.

“We are very excited to continue to support Alex and the team at Cazoo. The pace of what they’ve achieved and the level of adoption they’ve seen in the first few months since launch is remarkable,” said Manuel Lopo de Carvalho of DMG Ventures in a statement. “With almost 8 million used car transactions a year in the UK, there is a clear opportunity to provide a more convenient way to buy a car and shift part of the market online.”

Amazon donates $1 million to D.C. organizations helping those impacted by COVID-19 outbreak

Amazon announced this morning it’s making a $1 million donation that will be split among four Washington D.C. region community foundations that are working to support vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 crisis. The groups, ACT for AlexandriaArlington Community FoundationCommunity Foundation for Northern Virginia and the Greater Washington Community Foundation, will each use a portion of the million dollars as flexible funds that will go towards food, housing and shelter, and emergency assistance.

Amazon only months ago received approval for its plans for HQ2 in Arlington County, Virginia, which is why it’s focusing its relief efforts on this area. It has also been preparing for the HQ expansion by hiring hundreds of workers, with the goal of hiring 1,000 by the end of this year and 25,000 by 2030.

The foundations receiving the donations from Amazon will focus on those who are most impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, including hourly workers, the homeless, and the elderly.

In addition, Amazon is providing cash and other support to five food banks in the D.C. area, including Capital Area Food BankDC Central KitchenArlington Food Access CenterMartha’s Table, and Central Union Mission. Martha’s Table will also use the donation to provide gift cards, diapers, wipes, baby formula, and cash directly to enrolled families. Central Union Mission will use the funds towards continuing to provide shelter, hot meals, and services to more than 170 people each night. And other groups will use the funds to support pop-up food distribution sites and pay their staff, who are typically volunteers, to ensure the operations may continue.

The donation is one of now several Amazon has made since the COVD-19 health crisis hit. It has also created a $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to help Seattle-area small businesses with the economic hardships they’re facing during the outbreak. And it’s contributed $1 million to a new Seattle Foundation fun for community members affected by COVID-19; it’s subsidized two months of rent on buildings Amazon owns; it announced a $25 million relief fund for its network of independent Amazon Flex drivers; it donated $50,000 worth of supplies to a temporary quarantine housing; and it’s continuing to pay hourly staff in its offices.

Amazon is one of the few businesses that’s growing amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as consumers are staying away from stores and shopping for household necessitates and groceries online. On Monday, Amazon said it would hire 100,000 more workers to help meet this surge in demand.

“The Washington, D.C. area is our new home, and we must rally together to support our neighbors during this difficult time for our region and around the world,” said Jay Carney, Amazon SVP, Global Corporate Affairs, in a statement shared today about the new D.C. area donation. “In addition to making sure our Amazon customers can get the essentials they need, we will support our community partners who are doing life-saving work. Amazon’s $1 million donation to these four community groups will provide fast, flexible support to those who need it most and encourage a wave of additional community donations during this unprecedented time.”

Amazon makes its same-day delivery service faster in select U.S. cities

Amazon this morning announced another step it’s taken to speed up same-day deliveries. The company has installed what it’s calling “mini-fulfillment centers” closer to where customers live in select U.S. markets, including Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, and Dallas. The new facilities allow Amazon to reduce same-day delivery times down to just a few hours for Prime members in those areas.

Shoppers will be able to order from up to 3 million items across dozens of categories, where they’re marked as “Today by.” This is slightly different from how other same-day services operate, as they require you to fill a cart and pick a time slot for delivery. Prime members will instead be able to view how quickly a given item can arrive on their doorstep as they’re browsing Amazon.com.

This also allows customers to shop throughout the day, rather than having to hop online in the morning to reserve an afternoon or evening time slot, for example. In addition, Amazon says Prime members can order as late as midnight to receive packages on their doorstep by the next morning by choosing the “overnight by 8 AM” delivery option. In these cases, drivers will arrive between 4:30 AM and 8 AM — meaning packages will arrive before customers have to leave for work, in some cases.

Amazon touts, too, that having facilities closer to customers will help it to reduce its carbon footprint as drivers won’t have to travel as far in order to make their deliveries. The company claims it will help reduce aircraft transport as well, and provide more delivery jobs — including via its crowd-sourced Amazon Flex program.

The move is meant to help Amazon better compete against rivals like Walmart and Target, both of which leverage their local stores to make online ordering, followed by either curbside pickup or delivery, more convenient for customers. Walmart, for example, has a store within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. That’s been one of its competitive advantages against Amazon, which has many of its fulfillment centers located outside the cities they serve. This has been particularly helpful when it comes to competing in online grocery, which later forced Amazon to snap up Whole Foods in order to have square footage closer to its customers.

Amazon said last year it was working to reduce the delay on Prime shipping, promising it would bring Prime from 2-day delivery down to just one. By placing mini-fulfillment centers in local markets, it’s taking steps to being able to serve Prime members even more quickly.

Today, Amazon offers same-day delivery to Prime members on orders over $35 or with a $2.99 delivery fee for orders under $35. Amazon’s existing same-day service, Prime Now only offers 20,000 items for same-day delivery, by comparison, making this a significant expansion of Amazon’s same-day capabilities. An annual subscription to Prime offers 2-day delivery of over 100 million items for $119 per year. Last month, Amazon said it had grown its subscriber base to over 150 million members.

Daily Crunch: DoorDash files to go public

DoorDash prepares to go public, Roblox raises $150 million and Reddit’s CEO takes aim at TikTok. Here’s your Daily Crunch for February 27, 2020.

1. DoorDash, the $13B on-demand food delivery startup, says it has confidentially filed for an IPO

The company said that its Form S-1 (a draft registration statement) was filed with the SEC and is now being reviewed. It did not say how many shares it would potentially sell, nor the price range for the IPO, nor what the timing of its next steps would be.

The timing of the news underscores just how cash-intensive the on-demand food delivery business can be. DoorDash closed its latest round, for $700 million at a $13 billion valuation, in November of last year.

2. Roblox raises $150M Series G, led by Andreessen Horowitz, now valued at $4B

The funding comes at a period of significant growth for the gaming platform. Just last summer, it was being visited by 100 million users, topping Minecraft, and its developer community of over 2 million actives earned $110 million in 2019.

3. Reddit CEO: TikTok is ‘fundamentally parasitic’

At the Social 2030 conference, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman pushed back hard on the notion that Silicon Valley startups had something to learn from TikTok, saying, “Maybe I’m going to regret this, but I can’t even get to that level of thinking with them. Because I look at that app as so fundamentally parasitic, that it’s always listening, the fingerprinting technology they use is truly terrifying, and I could not bring myself to install an app like that on my phone.”

4. Apple to begin online sales in India this year, open first retail store in 2021

For a decade, Apple has solely relied on third-party sellers, stores and marketplaces to sell its products in India. That will begin to change this year.

5. What virtual worlds in the coming multiverse era will look like

In Part 3 of our virtual worlds series, we imagine what the experience of these new social environments will feel like. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Dahmakan, a Malaysian ‘full-stack’ food delivery startup, raises $18M Series B

Launched by former executives from Foodpanda, Dahmakan was the first Malaysian startup to participate in Y Combinator’s startup accelerator program. Operational costs for food delivery companies are notoriously high, but Dahmakan is among several startups that use “cloud” kitchens, located closer to customers, to reduce delivery costs.

7. Vice President Mike Pence will lead the US response to the COVID-19 outbreak

In a press conference, President Donald Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to the COVID-19 outbreak that has spread through Europe, Asia and Latin America. The new coronavirus strain has infected about 81,000 people around the world, killed 3,000 and wrought havoc on the global economy.

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