Indonesian e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak raises $50M

The chances are you may be familiar with Tokopedia, especially after it commanded a $7 billion valuation last November when it raised $1.1 billion from investors like Alibaba and SoftBank’s Vision Fund, but fewer people outside of Indonesia are aware of another sizable local online retail unicorn: Bukalapak.

Smaller than Tokopedia in size, the company is valued at $1 billion — it became Indonesia’s fourth unicorn one year ago. The country, which is Southeast Asia’s largest economy and has a population of over 260 million, also counts Tokopedia, Go-Jek and Traveloka in the billion-dollar club.

Founded in 2010, Bukalapak claims an impressive two million orders per day and 50 million registered users. On the seller side, it said its core e-commerce business covers products from four million SMEs, 500,000 kiosk vendors and 700,000 ‘independent’ micro-businesses in Indonesia. Bukalapak means ‘open a stall’ in Indonesia’s Bahasa language, and anyone can open a shopfront on the platform.

This week, Bukalapak landed another notable funding milestone after it raised $50 million Series D round from the Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund, a joint vehicle operated by Korean mutual fund Mirae Asset and Naver, the firm whose businesses include popular messaging service Line. This is the first time Bukalapak has disclosed the size of an investment in its business, although it did not give an updated valuation. The startup counts Alibaba’s Ant Financial, Indonesia telco Emtek, Sequoia India and Singaporean sovereign fund GIC among its existing backers.

Bukalapak is one of Indonesia’s leading online commerce platforms with four million registered users, a claimed two million daily transactions and a valuation of more than $1 billion

Bukalapak said it plans to use its new funds to grow opportunities for its SME retail partners and build out its tech platform, that’s likely to mean digital services such as insurance and a mobile wallet.

The company made a major push last year to partner with local ‘warung’ kiosk store retailers — who sell items much like street vendors — in a bit to differentiate itself from Tokopedia, which is much like Alibaba’s Taobao service for Indonesia, and develop an offering for consumers.

Beyond its e-commerce marketplace, Bukalapak also offers streaming and fintech products.

Walmart adds four grocery delivery partners

Walmart has partnered with Point Pickup, Skipcart, AxleHire and Roadie to expand its grocery delivery program across four states. Walmart’s grocery delivery is currently available in more than 800 stores, and plans to be in 800 more this year.

To use Walmart’s delivery program, customers go online, place an order and then select a delivery window. From there, Walmart’s personal shoppers select your items and then pass it off to a Walmart delivery partner.

Customers likely won’t notice, or care, which delivery partner shows up to the door with their groceries. All that matters, and all that Walmart is trying to do, is get you your food in a timely manner, wherever you are.

“Customers love our Grocery Delivery service,” Walmart SVP of Digital Operations Tom Ward said in a press release. “As they are busy managing jobs, soccer practice, dance lessons and social schedules we are on a mission to do more than keep a little extra money in their pockets. With the help of these new delivery partners, we’re making grocery shopping even easier by bringing the everyday low prices of Walmart right to the front door of customers.”

Other Walmart grocery delivery partners include Postmates, Deliv, DoorDash and others.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud updates keep us shopping with AI-fueled APIs

As people increasingly use their mobile phones and other devices to shop, it has become imperative for vendors to improve the shopping experience, making it as simple as possible, given the small footprint. One way to do that is using artificial intelligence. Today, Salesforce announced some AI-enhanced APIs designed to keep us engaged as shoppers.

For starters, the company wants to keep you shopping. That means providing an intelligent recommendation engine. If you searched for a particular jacket, you might like these similar styles, or this scarf and gloves. That’s fairly basic as shopping experiences go, but Salesforce didn’t stop there. It’s letting developers embed this ability to recommend products in any app whether that’s maps, social or mobile.

That means shopping recommendations could pop up anywhere developers think it makes sense like on your maps app. Whether consumers see this as a positive thing, Salesforce says when you add intelligence to the shopping experience, it increases sales anywhere from 7-16 percent, so however you feel about it, it seems to be working.

The company also wants to make it simple to shop. Instead of entering a long faceted search as has been the traditional way of shopping in the past — footwear, men’s, sneakers, red — you can take a picture of a sneaker (or anything you like) and the visual search algorithm should recognize it and make recommendations based on that picture. It reduces data entry for users, which is typically a pain on the mobile device, even if it has been simplified by checkboxes.

Salesforce has also made inventory availability as a service, allowing shoppers to know exactly where the item they want is available in the world. If they want to pick up in-store that day, it shows where the store is on a map and could even embed that into your ride-sharing app to indicate exactly where you want to go. The idea is to create this seamless experience between consumer desire and purchase.

Finally, Salesforce has added some goodies to make developers happy too including the ability to browse the Salesforce API library and find the ones that make most sense for what they are creating. This includes code snippets to get started. It may not seem like a big deal, but as companies the size of Salesforce increase their API capabilities (especially with the Mulesoft acquisition), it’s harder to know what’s available. The company has also created a sandboxing capability to let developers experiment and build capabilities with these APIs in a safe way.

The basis of Commerce Cloud is Demandware, the company Salesforce acquired two years ago for $2.8 billion. Salesforce’s intelligence platform is called Einstein. In spite of its attempt to personify the technology, it’s really about bringing artificial intelligence across the Salesforce platform of products, as it has with today’s API announcements.

That GoFundMe to build a border wall is issuing $20 million in refunds

A Trump-inspired GoFundMe campaign that raised $20 million to ostensibly to build a wall on the southern U.S. border will refund every cent. Run by Brian Kolfage, a veteran with a track record of questionable business practices, the project defied all logistical considerations with its proposal for a “simple and straightforward” plan to build the wall. That didn’t stop the fund from attracting the attention of 337,559 donors at the time of writing.

Surprising perhaps no one beyond its donors, the campaign collided with reality, with Kolfage coming to the realization that “the federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon” given that there is no actual mechanism through which it could do so. On the campaign page, Kolfage newly disclosed his plans to form a nonprofit, “We Build The Wall, Inc.” that would hold onto the donations until the federal government is able to accept them or until all of the donors eventually forget the project altogether.

Initially, donors were told that their money would be refunded if the goal for the project was not met. On December 22, the project’s language changed, removing any mention of refunds if the goal was not met. With that, the project appears to have run afoul of GoFundMe’s policies.

Kolfage claims that he has formed an advisory board that features war privatization enthusiast and brother of the Secretary of Education Erik Prince and the also ethically questionable former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who lost his race this past November.

While Kolfage might be in good company, it sounds like GoFundMe will be automatically handing back every bit of the $20 million he raised before getting called out changing the terms of the campaign. Donors who still want their money to go to Kolfage will need to opt in specifically.

“If a donor does not want a refund, and they want their donation to go to the new organization, they must proactively elect to redirect their donation to that organization,” GoFundMe told The Hill. “If they do not take that step, they will automatically receive a full refund.”

That GoFundMe to build a border wall is issuing $20 million in refunds

A Trump-inspired GoFundMe campaign that raised $20 million to ostensibly to build a wall on the southern U.S. border will refund every cent. Run by Brian Kolfage, a veteran with a track record of questionable business practices, the project defied all logistical considerations with its proposal for a “simple and straightforward” plan to build the wall. That didn’t stop the fund from attracting the attention of 337,559 donors at the time of writing.

Surprising perhaps no one beyond its donors, the campaign collided with reality, with Kolfage coming to the realization that “the federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon” given that there is no actual mechanism through which it could do so. On the campaign page, Kolfage newly disclosed his plans to form a nonprofit, “We Build The Wall, Inc.” that would hold onto the donations until the federal government is able to accept them or until all of the donors eventually forget the project altogether.

Initially, donors were told that their money would be refunded if the goal for the project was not met. On December 22, the project’s language changed, removing any mention of refunds if the goal was not met. With that, the project appears to have run afoul of GoFundMe’s policies.

Kolfage claims that he has formed an advisory board that features war privatization enthusiast and brother of the Secretary of Education Erik Prince and the also ethically questionable former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who lost his race this past November.

While Kolfage might be in good company, it sounds like GoFundMe will be automatically handing back every bit of the $20 million he raised before getting called out changing the terms of the campaign. Donors who still want their money to go to Kolfage will need to opt in specifically.

“If a donor does not want a refund, and they want their donation to go to the new organization, they must proactively elect to redirect their donation to that organization,” GoFundMe told The Hill. “If they do not take that step, they will automatically receive a full refund.”

Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

The Amazon boogie-man has every retailer scrambling for ways to fight back. But the cost and effort to install cameras all over the ceiling or into every shelf could block stores from entering the autonomous shopping era. Caper Labs wants to make eliminating checkout lines as easy as replacing their shopping carts while offering a more familiar experience for customers.

The startup makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, but it’s finalizing the technology to automatically scan items you drop in thanks to three cameras and a weight sensor. The company claims people already buy 18 percent more per visit after stores are equipped with its carts.

Caper’s cart

Today, Caper is revealing that it’s raised a total of $3 million including a $2.15 million seed round led by prestigious First Round Capital and joined by food-focused angels like Instacart co-founder Max Mullen, Plated co-founder Nick Taranto, Jet’s Jetblack shopping concierge co-founder Jenny Fleiss, plus Y Combinator. Caper is now in two retailer in the NYC area, though it plans to use the cash to expand to more and develop a smart shopping basket for smaller stores.

“If you walked in to a grocery store 100 years ago versus today, nothing has really changed” says Caper co-founder and CEO Lindon Gao. “It doesn’t make sense that you can order a cab with your phone or go book a hotel with your phone, but you can’t use your phone to make a payment and leave the store. You still have to stand in line.”

Autonomous retail is going to be a race. $50 million-funded Standard Cognition, ex-Pandora CTO Will Glaser’s Grabango, and scrappier startups like Zippin and Inokyo are all building ceiling and shelf-based camera systems to help merchants keep up with Amazon Go’s expanding empire of cashierless stores. But Caper’s plug-and-play cart-based system might be able to leapfrog its competitors if its easier for shops to set up.

Caper combines image recognition and a weight sensor to identify items without a barcode scan

“I don’t have an altruistic reason to care about retail, but I really want to put a dent in the universe and I think retail is severely under-innovated” Gao candidly remarked. Most founders try to spin a “super hero origin story” about why they’re the right person for the job. For Gao, chasing autonomous retail is just good business. He built is first startup in gaming commerce at age 14. The jewelry company he launched at 19 still operates. He went on to become an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan but “I always felt like I was more of a startup guy.”

Caper was actually a pivot from his previous entry to the space called QueueHop that made cashierless apparel security tags that unlocked when you paid. But during Y Combinator, he discovered how tough it’d be to scale a product that require a complete rethinking of a merchant’s operations flow. So Gao hoofed it around NYC to talk to 150 merchants and discover what they really wanted. The cart was the answer.

Caper co-founder and CEO Lindon Gao

V1 of Caper’s cart lets people scan their items’ barcodes and pay on the cart with a credit card swipe or Apple/Android Pay tap with their receipt emailed to them. But each time they scan, the cart is actually taking 120 photos and precisely weighing the items to train Caper’s machine vision algorithms in what Gao likens to how Tesla is inching towards self-driving.

Soon, Caper wants to go entirely scanless, and sections of its two pilot stores already use the technology. The cameras on the cart will use image recognition matched with weight sensor to identify what you toss in your cart. You shop just like normal but then just pay and leave with no line. Caper pulls in a store’s existing security feed to help detect shoplifting, which could be a bigger risk than with ceiling and shelf camera systems, but Gao says it hasn’t been a problem yet. He woudn’t reveal the price of the carts but said “they’re not that much more expensive than a standard shopping cart. To outfit a store it should be comparable to the price of implementing traditional self-checkout.” Shops buy the carts outright and pay a technology subscriptions but get free hardware upgrades.

Caper hopes to deliver three big benefits to merchants. First, they’ll be able to repurpose cashier labor to assist customers so they buy more and keep shelves stocked, though eventually this technology is likely to eliminate a lot of jobs. Second, the ease and affordable cost of transitioning means businesses will be able to recoup their investment and grow revenues as shoppers buy more. And third, Caper wants to share data its carts collect on routes through the store, shelves customers hover in front of, and more with its retail partners so they can optimize their layouts.

Caper’s screen tracks items you add to the cart and can surface discounts and recommendations

One big advantage over its ceiling and shelf camera competitors is that Caper’s cart can promote deals on nearby or related items. In the future, it plans to add recommendations based on what’s on your cart to help you fill out recipes. ‘Threw some chips in the cart? Here’s where to find the guacamole that’s on sale.’ A smaller hand-held smart basket could broaden Caper’s appeal beyond grocers amongst littler shops.

Gao says that with merchants already seeing sales growth from the carts, what keeps him up at night is handling Caper’s supply chain since the product requires a ton of different component manufacturers. The startup has to move fast if it wants to be what introduces Main Street to autonomous retail. But no matter what gadgets it builds in, Caper must keep sight of the real-world stress their tech will undergo. Gao concludes “We’re basically building a robot here. The carts need to be durable. They need to resist heat, vibration, rain, people slamming them around. We’re building our shopping cart like a tank.”

Moon-bound billionaire supplants nugget lover’s most retweeted tweet

A Japanese billionaire who’s paying Elon Musk to fly him around the Moon, assuming all goes to plan with SpaceX’s giant metal phallus, has bought himself a rather different ride in the meanwhile.

The BBC reports that Yusaku Maezawa has elbowed aside nugget-loving U.S. teen, Carter Wilkerson, to bag the title of most retweeted tweet by promising to give away 100 million yen (just under $1M) in cash if people RT the tweet.

His 5 million+ Twitter followers probably helped too.

At the time of writing Maezawa’s January 5 tweet has ~4.6M RTs (and counting), beating out Wilkerson’s April 2017 tweet pleading for free chicken nuggets which now has circa 3.6M RTs.

Sorry kid.

Of course it’s not a fair fight. Wilkerson had just 138 Twitter followers to provide native uplift when his brief plea for “Nuggs” went viral.

Prior to Wilkerson, the world record retweeted tweet was a celebrity group selfie.

So we can add something else to the list of things money can buy (fine art; a ticket to the moon; faux popularity).

In true entrepreneur spirit, Maezawa, founder of Japanese online clothing retailer Zozo, is using his puffed up profile (i.e. as the man who Musk might fly to the moon) to drum up business for his clothing business.

Clearly he’s hoping to get more than just a trip to outer space for the “lot of money” he’s paying Musk for the chance to play lunar tourist. So the key lesson is demand the moon and back folks.

Hence the world’s most retweeted tweet now promotes a Spring sale. Late stage capitalism eat yer heart out.

We can at least be thankful the tweet wasn’t crypto related. After all, given the Musk connection, that sort of spam would have been rather more typical.

Amazon debuts Showroom, a visual shopping experience for home furnishings

Amazon just over a year ago launched its first in-home furniture brands, with private labels Rivet and Stone & Beam. This past fall, it began experimenting with a new, more visual way to shop for furniture and other merchandise with its Pinterest-like recommendation service Scout. Now, Amazon is venturing further into home furnishings with the debut of Amazon Showroom, a visual design tool that allows you to place furniture into a virtual living room, customize the décor, then shop the look.

The retailer didn’t formally announce the launch of Amazon Showroom, but a spokesperson confirmed it’s a recent test that’s now available on Amazon.com and in the Amazon mobile app.

You can access it from the “Accounts & Lists” drop-down on the web; the Home, Garden & Pets department on the web; or the Home & Kitchen department on the mobile app.

Currently, the new feature is focused on helping Amazon shoppers put together a living room. In a virtual setting, you can make adjustments to the wall color and the flooring, then swap out each item in the space with one of your own choosing — including the sofa, coffee table, chair, end table, lamp, rug and even the art on the wall.

To do so, click on the piece in question, then pick another from the right-side panel where a scrollable list of options are available, along with their prices. This selection can be filtered by a number of factors, as well, like price, style, color, material, brand and star rating.

Not surprisingly, Amazon’s own home furnishing brands are heavily featured here.

As you work on your project, you can save your room design to pull up later. And you can save more than one room design, if you’re trying to decide between different styles. When satisfied, an “Add to cart” button lets you place all into your cart for checkout with just one click.

Amazon Showroom — a name that’s almost a cruel reference to Amazon’s ability to turn brick-and-mortar stores into showrooms for online shoppers — isn’t the retailer’s first attempt at helping shoppers visualize items in their home ahead of purchase. The company also launched an AR shopping feature in its app in 2017, which allows you to place a virtual item in your camera view to see how it goes in your own room. That can be useful if shopping for a single item, but less so when designing a complete room.

Home furnishings is still an emerging category for online retail, not only because they’re hard to visualize, but also because heavy items are expensive to ship. However, major retailers see the potential in this growing market.

Walmart, for example, launched a new home shopping site for furniture and décor last year, which features its own in-house brands and more visual, editorial-style imagery. It has also snapped up other home furnishing and décor retailers, including Hayneedle and recently, Art.com, and is building its own visual search.

Amazon confirmed the launch of Showroom in a statement.

The retailer wouldn’t say when the feature debuted, exactly, but a Twitter account was tweeting links to a pre-production site earlier in December. It’s also unclear at this time if Amazon Showroom was built entirely in-house.

“Amazon Showroom is a new way for customers to visualize their home furnishing purchases when shopping online,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Amazon Showroom presents customers with a virtual living room, where they can customize the décor and furniture selection providing the ability to visually compare to scale representations of furniture items together in a room to determine how an item will fit with the style of a room and work with other complimentary pieces. The result is a photorealistic rendering of a room that answers the question: ‘How will this all look together?’,” they said.

The feature is live for all customers on the web and in the Amazon app.

Report: Amazon is planning a Whole Foods expansion to benefit Prime Now

Amazon is planning a Whole Foods expansion in the U.S., according to a report by The Wall Street Journal published this weekend. The goal is to put more customers within the range of Amazon’s two-hour Prime Now delivery service, including those in suburban areas outside cities, as well as those in regions where the grocer has yet to establish a presence.

Currently, Amazon’s Prime Now delivery service offers two-hour delivery in over 60 U.S. cities, and thirty minute-plus grocery pickup in nearly 30 cities. Amazon is planning to expand those services to almost all its 475 Whole Foods stores, the report said, citing sources.

The retailer will also continue to use perks for Prime members to acquire and retain customers, much as it does today.

Because of its lack of a brick-and-mortar footprint, many U.S. consumers living in the outskirts of cities or in more rural areas don’t have access to Amazon’s Prime Now two-hour delivery service. However, they do have access to Walmart stores, which today offering their own online grocery shopping service with pickup and delivery options in a number of markets.

Walmart says that 140 million customers shop its stores weekly, and 90 percent of Americans today live within 10 miles of one of its locations. That makes it a significant challenger to Amazon in terms of offering fast delivery and pickup options. It also doesn’t require an annual membership.

Other companies are competing with Amazon on same-day delivery, too, including Instacart and Target’s Shipt. Target is also rolling out a curbside pickup service called Drive Up, and is planning to expand Shipt’s assortment and reach in 2019.

The WSJ report didn’t confirm store locations, but did note Amazon was scouting retail spaces in parts of Idaho, southern Utah and Wyoming. Some of these were slightly larger than average Whole Foods stores, at 45,000 sq ft. – which hints at their ability to operate as a hub for delivery and pickup, in addition to being a traditional grocery store.

 

New e-commerce restrictions in India just ruined Christmas for Amazon and Walmart

The Indian government is playing the role of festive party pooper for Walmart and Amazon after it announced new regulations that look set to impede the U.S. duo’s efforts to grow their businesses in India.

Online commerce in the country is tipped to surpass $100 billion per year by 2022 up from $35 billion today as more Indians come online, according to a report co-authored by PwC. But 2019 could be a very different year after an update to the country’s policy for foreign direct investment (FDI) appeared to end the practice of discounts, exclusive sales and more.

The three main takeaways from the new policy, which will go live on February 1, are a ban on exclusive sales, the outlawing of retailers selling products on platforms they count as investors, and restrictions on discounts and cashback.

Those first two clauses are pretty clear and will have a significant impact on Amazon — which has pumped some $5 billion into India — and Walmart, which forked out $16 billion to buy India-based Flipkart.

Both online retailers have been able to make a splash by tying up with brands for exclusive online sales, particularly in the smartphone space where, for example, Amazon has worked with Xiaomi and Flipkart has collaborated with Oppo. The new guideline would appear to end that practice, while adding further restrictions to complicate relationships with vendors. From February, brands will be forbidden from selling more than 25 percent of their sales via any single e-commerce marketplace.

Walmart bought Flipkart for $16 billion, but already both founders of the Indian company have left [Photo by AFP/Getty Images]

Beyond restricting companies like Oppo — Xiaomi prioritizes its own Mi.com site for sales — that 25 percent ruling is a headache for Amazon, which operates a number of joint ventures with Indian retailers. Those JVs were designed to circumvent a 2016 ruling that prevented foreign e-commerce businesses from owning inventory, but now they seem outlawed.

Cloudtail India (a 49:51 JV between Amazon and Catamaran Ventures) is Amazon’s biggest seller while another major one is Appario Retail, a collaboration with Patni Group. Together, both sell more than 25 percent of product on Amazon, use exclusive deals and are part-owned by Amazon. That’s three strikes.

Those rules will have Amazon and Walmart-Flipkart working to find alternatives, but there’s more with restrictions on discounts and cashback offers, which could massively cramp the appeal of online commerce, which has been to undercut brick and mortar retailers with heavy subsidies.

Here’s the relevant part of the note:

E-commerce entities providing marketplace will not directly or indirectly influence the sale price of goods or services and shall maintain level playing field…

Cash back provided by group companies of marketplace entity to buyers shall be fair and non-discriminatory.

Exactly what constitutes a “level playing field” or “fair” may be open to interpretation, but clearly this update gives offline retailers a route to protest pricing on online retail sites.

The first thought is that these new updates are focused on the core business model tenants that make e-commerce what it is today.

“It will kill competition and there will be nothing for online retailers to differentiate on,” Amarjeet Singh, a partner at KPMG, href="https://qz.com/india/1508340/indias-new-e-commerce-fdi-rules-may-hurt-amazon-flipkart/"> told Quartz in a comment.

The new regulation is widely seen as a response to concerns from smaller sellers, who feel marginalized and powerless compared to larger organizations. Now, with capital-intensive policies such as discounts, exclusive sales relationships and strategic investment off the table, smaller players will gain a foothold and be able to do more from e-commerce, that’s according to Kunal Bahl, CEO of Snapdeal — a niche e-commerce firm that once competed head-to-head with Flipkart and Amazon.

It’s shaping up to be a very different year for e-commerce in India in 2019.