Scandit raises $80M as COVID-19 drives demand for contactless deliveries

Enterprise barcode scanner company Scandit has closed an $80 million Series C round, led by Silicon Valley VC firm G2VP. Atomico, GV, Kreos, NGP Capital, Salesforce Ventures and Swisscom Ventures also participated in the round — which brings its total raised to date to $123M.

The Zurich-based firm offers a platform that combines computer vision and machine learning tech with barcode scanning, text recognition (OCR), object recognition and augmented reality which is designed for any camera-equipped smart device — from smartphones to drones, wearables (e.g. AR glasses for warehouse workers) and even robots.

Use-cases include mobile apps or websites for mobile shopping; self checkout; inventory management; proof of delivery; asset tracking and maintenance — including in healthcare where its tech can be used to power the scanning of patient IDs, samples, medication and supplies.

It bills its software as “unmatched” in terms of speed and accuracy, as well as the ability to scan in bad light; at any angle; and with damaged labels. Target industries include retail, healthcare, industrial/manufacturing, travel, transport & logistics and more.

The latest funding injection follows a $30M Series B round back in 2018. Since then Scandit says it’s tripled recurring revenues, more than doubling the number of blue-chip enterprise customers, and doubling the size of its global team.

Global customers for its tech include the likes of 7-Eleven, Alaska Airlines, Carrefour, DPD, FedEx, Instacart, Johns Hopkins Hospital, La Poste, Levi Strauss & Co, Mount Sinai Hospital and Toyota — with the company touting “tens of billions of scans” per year on 100+ million active devices at this stage of its business.

It says the new funding will go on further pressing on the gas to grow in new markets, including APAC and Latin America, as well as building out its footprint and ops in North America and Europe. Also on the slate: Funding more R&D to devise new ways for enterprises to transform their core business processes using computer vision and AR.

The need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated demand for mobile computer vision on personal smart devices, according to Scandit, which says customers are looking for ways to enable more contactless interactions.

Another demand spike it’s seeing is coming from the pandemic-related boom in ‘Click & Collect’ retail and “millions” of extra home deliveries — something its tech is well positioned to cater to because its scanning apps support BYOD (bring your own device), rather than requiring proprietary hardware.

“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the need for rapid digital transformation in these uncertain times, and the need to blend the physical and digital plays a crucial role,” said CEO Samuel Mueller in a statement. “Our new funding makes it possible for us to help even more enterprises to quickly adapt to the new demand for ‘contactless business’, and be better positioned to succeed, whatever the new normal is.”

Also commenting on the funding in a supporting statement, Ben Kortlang, general partner at G2VP, added: “Scandit’s platform puts an enterprise-grade scanning solution in the pocket of every employee and customer without requiring legacy hardware. This bridge between the physical and digital worlds will be increasingly critical as the world accelerates its shift to online purchasing and delivery, distributed supply chains and cashierless retail.”

USPS reportedly reassessing last-mile delivery deals with companies like Amazon

In a time when package deliveries are more essential than ever, the future of the United States Postal Service is very much in limbo. The president of the United States has waged a one-man war on America’s most-liked government agency, calling it a “joke” and insisting it raise prices before it receives the manner of bailout the White House has afforded to the airline and hotel industries.

The USPS’s contract with companies like Amazon has been a particular sore spot for Trump, who has had a longstanding beef with CEO Jeff Bezos. Trump has long accused the independent agency of giving the company sweetheart deals — an accusation the USPS has long denied.

Now, as the Postal Service attempts to reconcile with its future, it has reportedly sought to work with outside consulting firms to reassess its last-mile delivery contracts for the company, as well as parcel services like FedEx and UPS. The strategy was reported by The Washington Post, citing a half-dozen anonymous sources.

The moves come before Louis DeJoy steps into the role as postmaster general. DeJoy is a businessman who is a close ally of Trump’s, as well as the head of fundraising for the upcoming Republican National Convention in his home state of North Carolina. In short, he’s likely not the ideal person to have in charge if you’re looking to return to the USPS’s days as a thriving independent agency. Likely the Postal Service is looking to assess all possible options ahead of the change in leadership.

Neither the USPS nor the White House have commented on the reports.

India’s FarEye raises $25M to grow its logistics SaaS startup in international markets

More than 150 e-commerce and delivery companies globally use an Indian logistics startup’s service to work out the optimum way before they ship items to their customers. That startup, Noida-based FarEye, has raised $25 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprint in international markets.

M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, led the seven-year-old startup’s Series D financing round. Eight Roads Ventures, Honeywell Ventures, and existing investor SAIF Partners participated in the round, which pushes FarEye’s total raise-to-date to $40 million. (M12 began its investment journey in India last year.)

FarEye helps companies orchestrate, track, and optimize their logistics operations. Say you order a pizza from Domino’s, the eatery uses FarEye’s service, which integrates into the system it is using, to quickly inform the customer how long they need to wait for the food to reach them.

Behind the scenes, FarEye is helping Domino’s evaluate a plethora of moving pieces. How many delivery people are in the vicinity? Can it bundle a few orders? What’s the maximum number of items one can carry? How experienced is the delivery person? What’s the best route to reach the customer? And, would the restaurant need the same number of delivery people the following day?, explained Kushal Nahata, co-founder and chief executive of FarEye, in an interview with TechCrunch .

Gautam Kumar (left), Gaurav Srivastava (centre), and Kushal Nahata co-founded FarEye in 2013

“The level of digitization that logistics firms have made over the years remains minimal. The amount of visibility they have over their own delivery network is minimal. Forget what a customer should expect,” said Nahata, explaining the challenges the industry faces.

FarEye is addressing this by using AI to parse through more than a billion data points to identify the optimum solution. In the past one year, it has fine-tuned its algorithm to handle last-mile and long-haul deliveries to offer a full-suite of services to its clients.

The startup, which employs about 350 people, said it is already handling more than 10 million transactions a day. The more transactions it processes, the better its algorithm becomes, he said.

FarEye today has clients across several categories including transportation and logistics, retail (which includes grocery, furniture, and fashion), and FMCG in 20 nations. Some of these clients include Walmart, FedEx, DHL, Amway, Domino’s, Bluedart, Future Group, and J&J. Nahata said the startup will use the fresh capital to improve its predictive tech and grow its footprint in the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific region.

“We are solving certain problems for our customers today, but I feel we can solve much larger problems and help digitize the entire supply chain network,” he said.

As the coronavirus pandemic jeopardises grocery and e-commerce firms’ ability to timely deliver items to customers, FarEye said it is making Serve, one of its services that focuses on enabling movement of everyday essentials, free for any firm to use for more than a year.

“The global pandemic has accelerated the need for enterprises to scale their supply chain operations efficiently to meet the rising share of online deliveries. FarEye’s highly configurable last-mile and long-haul logistics platform has been validated by leading global enterprises across the 3PL, retail and manufacturing categories,” said Shweta Bhatia, a partner at Eight Roads Ventures, in a statement.

FarEye has been making money since day one, but Nahata said an IPO is not something on the table for the foreseeable future. “Our biggest focus right now is to grow,” he said.

Amazon’s third-party merchants are now barred from using FedEx Ground for Prime shipments

Third-party vendors were told by Amazon over the weekend that they are barred from using FedEx’s ground delivery services for Prime shipments. The Wall Street Journal reports that a message sent by Amazon to merchants on Sunday said the ban will last “until the delivery performance of these ship methods improves.” The e-commerce platform will still allow FedEx Ground for non-Prime shipments and FedEx Express, a faster but pricier option, for Prime.

Third-party sellers now account for more than half the products sold on Amazon.com and the company’s decision on FedEx’s ground delivery comes during the peak of the holiday shopping season. Over the summer, FedEx ended partnerships with Amazon to provide it with express air deliveries and ground shipments.

An Amazon spokesperson said that the company is managing cutoffs for delivery by Christmas and want to ensure that customers receive their packages on time. TechCrunch has also contacted FedEx for comment.

Both FedEx and UPS both experienced recent shipping delays, which they said were caused by record shipping volumes and weather issues.

Amazon has also been under scrutiny by federal antitrust regulators, with some complaints centered on whether or not it forces sellers to rely on its own logistics network. The company’s focus on its warehouse and delivery services, combined with its status as the largest online retailer in the U.S., has turned it into a major competitor against FedEx, UPS and the United States Postal Service.

A recent Morgan Stanley report estimates that Amazon is currently delivering about 46% of the items ordered through its U.S. site and predicts Amazon Logistics not only start providing shipments for non-Amazon orders, but overtake FedEx, UPS and the USPS in shipment volume by 2022.

FedEx robot sent packing by NYC

FedEx’s autonomous delivery bot got a cold reception from New York City officials.

After the company’s SameDay Bots — named Roxo — popped up on New York City streets last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio and transportation officials delivered a sharp response: Get out.

FedEx told TechCrunch that the bots were there for a preview party for its Small Business Saturday event and are not testing in New York. Even this promotional event was too much for city officials concerned with congestion and bots taking jobs from humans.

After reports of the bot sightings, the mayor tweeted that FedEx didn’t receive permission to deploy the robots; he also criticized the company for using a bot to perform a task that a New Yorker could do. The New York Department of Transportation has sent FedEx a cease-and-desist order to stop operations the bots,  which TechCrunch has viewed.

The letter informs FedEx that its bots violate several vehicle and traffic laws, including that motor vehicles are prohibited on sidewalks. Vehicles that receive approval to operate on sidewalks must receive a special exemption and be registered. 

FedEx has been experimenting with autonomous delivery bots. Postmates and Amazon also have been testing autonomous delivery robots.

FedEx first unveiled its SameDay Bot in February 2019. The company said at the time it planned to work with AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut,  Target, Walgreens and Walmart to figure out how autonomous robots might fit into its delivery business. The idea was for FedEx to provide a way for retailers to accept orders from nearby customers and deliver them by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day.

FedEx said its initials test would involve deliveries between selected FedEx Office locations. Ultimately, the FedEx bot will complement the FedEx SameDay City service, which operates in 32 markets and 1,900 cities.

The company has tested the bots in Memphis, Tennessee as well as Plano and Frisco, Texas and Manchester, New Hampshire, according to a spokesperson.

The underlying roots of the SameDay Bot is the iBot. The FedEx bot was developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp. and its founder Dean Kamen who invented the Segway  and iBot wheelchair.

DEKA built upon the power base of the iBot, an FDA-approved mobility device for the disabled population, to develop FedEx’s product.

The FedEx bot is equipped with sensing technology such as LiDAR and multiple cameras, which when combined with machine learning algorithms should allow the device to detect and avoid obstacles and plot a safe path, all while following the rules of the road (or sidewalk).

Looking to become the central hub for logistics management, Shipwell raises $35 million

Shipwell, the software platform for managing trucking logistics, has raised $35 million and is expanding its suite of services to become a full-service hub for logistics management. 

The new round led by Georgian Partners comes as the company has just expanded its suite of tracking and management tools to integrate with FedEx’s parcel shipping services. The company also is planning an expansion into ocean shipping in the coming months, according to chief executive Gregory Price.

The Austin-based company works with multiple service providers — including the logistics services unicorn Flexport — but operates as a marketplace for shippers to connect with freight companies and online tools to manage those shipments. In effect, the company is pitching to any retailer or outlet a version of the proprietary logistics management toolkit that has made Amazon so successful.

Since its last round of funding a year ago, Shipwell has grown to service more than 4,000 customers per month with supply chains spanning multiple geographies. The company now operates in Canada, Mexico and even across Europe.

With the new funding the company intends to open new offices in Chicago and expand to a second location in its home base of Austin.

The company has also launched a new application program interface that allows it to help manage logistics through other modes than just trucking. Price says the company has about 20 companies beta-testing the tool, which is set to launch publicly in November.

Alphabet’s Wing begins making first commercial drone deliveries in the U.S.

Alphabet -owned drone delivery spin-out Wing is starting to service U.S. customers, after becoming the first drone delivery company to get the federal go-ahead to do so earlier this year. Wing is working with FedEx Express and Walgreens on this pilot, and their first customers are Michael and Kelly Collver, who will get a “cough and cold pack,” which includes Tylenol, cough drops, facial tissues, Emergen-C and bottled water (do people who have colds need bottled water?).

The Collvers are receiving their package in Christianburg, Virginia, which is where Wing and Walgreens will run this inaugural pilot fo the drone delivery service. Walgreens gets a noteworthy credit in the bargain, becoming the first U.S. retailer to do a store-to-customer doorstep delivery via drone, while FedEx will be the first logistics provider to delivery a e-commerce drone delivery with a separate shipment.

Wing is also working with Virginia’s Sugar Magnolia, a retailer local to the state, and that part of the equation is focused on proving out how Wing and drone delivery can service last-mile e-commerce customers at their homes. Sugar Magnolia customers can get small items, including chocolates and paper goods, delivered directly to them via drone through the new pilot.

Wing drone delivery 3

Wing was able to do this with a new Air Carrier Certificate from the FAA that clears it for expanded service, specifically allowing Wing’s pilots to manage multiple aircraft flying without any human pilot on board at the same time, while providing service to the public.

It’s a big milestone when it comes to U.S.-based drone delivery, and another sign that people should get ready for these services to start to be a more regular fixture. Earlier this month, UPS also secured FAA approval to operate a commercial drone delivery service, so the trials will probably come fast and furious at this point – though widespread service is probably still quite a ways off as both regulators and operators look to learn from their first limited deployments.

Wing will test drone delivery in the US with Walgreens and FedEx

Wing, the drone delivery company that started its life within the Google X lab before spinning out into its own thing under the Alphabet umbrella, is prepping for takeoff.

The company announced this morning that it’s launching a test program in Virginia with Walgreens, FedEx and local retailer Sugar Magnolia.

As part of the program, Wing will be able to deliver kids’ snacks (goldfish, water, gummy bears and yogurt were mentioned as examples) and over-the-counter meds (like Tylenol or cough drops) from Walgreens, select packages from FedEx Express and sweets and stationary from Sugar Magnolia.

Alas, unless you’re one of the roughly 22,000 people in Christiansburg, Va. and happen to be in a neighborhood they’ve deemed eligible, you’re not going to be able to check it out just yet. Wing says the pilot program is limited to the small Montgomery County town for now as they work with locals to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The company declined to give any sort of timeline for when the program might expand to other parts of the U.S.

So how does it work?

When the customer places an order, one of Wing’s delivery drones heads for a pickup location. As Wing’s drones are only allowed to takeoff or land in specific locations, pickups and deliveries are handled via a tether, with the drone itself hovering about 20 feet in the air. Once at the pickup location, a tether is lowered and a human operator hooks the package onto the line. The drone winches the package into the air, secures it, and heads for its destination.

Once in flight, Wing says its drone cruises at about 60-70mph, with a range of about six miles each way. Once the drone arrives at the delivery location, the same tether line lowers the package. When the drone detects that the package has reached the ground, the package is released and the drone heads back home. All in all, Wing estimates they can make a delivery within about 10 minutes of a customer finalizing their order.

And if the tether gets stuck on something, or someone tries to grab it and tug it down? The drone is designed to detect the resistance and release the tether, dropping the line to the ground.

wing fedex

Wing says its drone can currently handle a payload of about 3 lbs, with the drone itself weighing roughly 10 lbs.

Wing won’t charge pilot program customers for delivery; customers will pay the store’s sticker price, and delivery during this test phase will be free.

Wing says the first deliveries should start next month.

Week in Review: Netflix’s big problem and Apple’s thinnest product yet

Hey. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about the Capital One breach and how Equifax taught us that irresponsible actions only affect companies in the PR department.


Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

The big story

Disney is going to eat Netflix’s lunch.

The content giant announced this week that when Disney+ launches, it will be shipping a $12.99 bundle that brings its Disney+ streaming service, ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu together into a single-pay package. That price brings those three services together for the same cost as Netflix and is $5 cheaper that what you would spend on each of the services individually.

This announcement from Disney comes after Netflix stuttered in its most recent earnings, missing big on its subscriber add while actually losing subscribers in the U.S.

Netflix isn’t the aggregator it once was; its library is consistently shifting, with original series taking the dominant position. As much as Netflix is spending on content, there’s simply no way that it can operate on the same plane as Disney, which has been making massive content buys and is circling around to snap up the market by acquiring its way into consumers’ homes.

Disney has slowly amassed control of Hulu through buying out various stakeholders, but now that it shifts the platform’s weight, it’s pretty clear that it will use it as a selling point for its time-honed in-house content, which it is still expanding.

The streaming wars have been raging for years, but as the services seem to become more like what they’ve replaced, Disney seems poised to take control.

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On to the rest of the week’s news.

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Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • Apple Card rolls out
    Months after its public debut, Apple has begun rolling out its Apple Card credit card. We got our hands on the new Apple Card app, so check out more about what it’s like here.
  • Amid a struggling smartphone market, Samsung introduces new flagships
    The smartphone market is in a low-key free fall, but there’s not much for hardware makers to do than keep innovating. Samsung announced the release of two new phones for its Note series, with new features including a time-of-flight 3D scanning camera, a larger size and… no headphone jack. Read more here.
  • FedEx ties up ground contract with Amazon
    As Amazon rapidly attempts to build out its own air fleet to compete with FedEx’s planes, FedEx confirmed this week that it’s ending its ground-delivery contract with Amazon. Read more here.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook could get fined billions more:
    [Facebook could face billions in potential damages as court rules facial recognition lawsuit can proceed]
  2. Instagram gets its own Cambridge Analytica:
    [Instagram ad partner secretly sucked up and tracked millions of users’ locations and stories]

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. My colleague Sarah Buhr had a few great conversations with VCs in the healthtech space and distilled some of their investment theses into a report.

What leading HealthTech VCs are investing in 

Why is tech still aiming for the healthcare industry? It seems full of endless regulatory hurdles or stories of misguided founders with no knowledge of the space, running headlong into it, only to fall on their faces…

It’s easy to shake our fists at fool-hardy founders hoping to cash in on an industry that cannot rely on the old motto “move fast and break things.” But it doesn’t have to be the code tech lives or dies by.

So which startups have the mojo to keep at it and rise to the top? Venture capitalists often get to see a lot before deciding to invest. So we asked a few of our favorite health VC’s to share their insights.

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we talked about how to raise funding in August, a month not typically known for ease of access to VCs, and my colleague Ron dove into the MapR fire sale that took place this week:

We’re excited to ramp up The Station, a new TechCrunch newsletter all about mobility. Each week, in addition to curating the biggest transportation news, Kirsten Korosec will provide analysis, original reporting and insider tips. Sign up here to get The Station in your inbox beginning this month.

FedEx ends ground-delivery contract with Amazon

FedEx is ending a partnership with Amazon to supply the ecommerce company with ground delivery shipping after its current contract ends this month, the company confirmed to Bloomberg. This is the second contract FedEx has allowed to end without renewal with Amazon, following a similar decision in June that covered only Express air shipments.

The new contract termination is more significant than the earlier one, in that it means FedEx will not be providing any last-mile delivery service for Amazon, the largest online retailer, in addition to its less sizeable Express air freight. FedEx previously said that Amazon actually makes up less than 1.3 percent of the shipper’s total revenue, as measured over the year that ended on December 31, 2018.

Amazon is expanding its own shipping capabilities considerably, adding more aircraft to its fleet, and deploying ground-based wheeled delivery robots for last-mile package transportation. The ecommerce giant also recently began its own Delivery Service Partner program to fund and support delivery startup businesses that can help address its need for logistics. It has increasingly relied on its own contracted last-mile delivery services in recent years, and also allocates more of this business to both UPS and USPS than to FedEx even outside its other offerings.

FedEx did explicitly point out that its Express contract ending had no impact on other aspects of its relationship with Amazon at the time, noting that its international and “other” business units (including ground) weren’t affected. The company also says it’s looking to capitalize on the demand for ecommerce outside of Amazon, and building its network intentionally to “serve thousands of retailers in the e-commerce space.”