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Lime scooters are live in Paris

19:24 | 22 June

Lime is the hot new thing in San Francisco, but will it work in other countries? The company just launched its electric scooter service in Paris.

This isn’t the first European city as Lime is also operating in Berlin, Bremen, Frankfurt and Zurich. But it’s a significant launch as alternative mobility solutions have all been trying to grab some market share in Paris.

Yesterday, you could see 200 scooters in the South East of Paris ready to be deployed. Lime plans to expand its fleet over time. Every day, the company will collect all the scooters at 9 PM to recharge them and put them back on the streets at 5 AM.

Between October and January, four bike-sharing services launched in Paris — GoBee Bike, Obike, Ofo and Mobike. GoBee Bike has left the market since then because it was underfunded and suffering from too much competition.

But Mobike and Ofo seem to be doing really well, especially if you compare it to the docked bikes — Vélib is more or less broken right now. Vélib started in 2007, years before cities like New York and London adopted a bike-sharing system. That’s why Parisians have had enough time to get familiar with the idea of sharing a bike with other members.

And then, there is Cityscoot and Coup, two electric scooter services (motorcycles, not standing scooters). They’re more expensive but quite popular, especially for longer distances.

It leaves Lime in an awkward position. I tried a Lime earlier today and wasn’t convinced it was the right solution for Paris. First, it’s quite expensive. You pay €1 to unlock it and then €0.15 per minute. A 20-minute ride costs €4 for instance. This is more expensive than 20 minutes on a Cityscoot, and less expensive than 20 minutes using Coup.

But it’s way more expensive than 20 minutes on an Ofo bike, which costs €0.50. I’m not convinced people are willing to pay eight times as much for everyday rides. Public transport options are also much more efficient in Paris than in San Francisco.

Paris is also much more difficult to navigate on a Lime scooter than San Francisco. There are speed bumps made out of paving stones and narrow streets. In addition to that, you can’t brake abruptly because you’re just standing on a scooter. I had to brake constantly in order to overcome those obstacles.

And yet, cities will need many different options to replace cars. There won’t be just one thing. People will use a multitude of transportation methods, from bikes to Lime scooters to electric motorcycle scooters. Now let’s see if Lime scooters won’t end up in the Seine.



Union wins right to challenge Deliveroo on human rights grounds

14:56 | 15 June

The UK High Court has granted a union permission to challenge Deliveroo’s opposition to collective bargaining for its couriers on human rights grounds.

The IWGB union argues that couriers for the restaurant food delivery company should be classed as workers — who would then have basic employment rights such as the minimum wage, holiday pay and collective bargaining rights. Rights that gig economy business models are typically structured to avoid being saddled with.

Last year the union challenged Deliveroo’s employment classification of couriers. But a tribunal, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), ruled the couriers could not be considered workers — finding they were independent contractors on the grounds that they had a genuine right to find a substitute to do their job for them.

Today the High Court partially lifted a legal block by granting permission for the union to seek a judicial review of the CAC ruling on human rights grounds.

Although the judge only gave permission for a judicial review on “limited grounds”, relating to whether certain categories of self-employed individuals should have the ability to unionize.

“We have been given permission to argue that Deliveroo is breaching the human rights of our members. This is no longer an employment rights matter, this is a human rights matter,” a union rep said outside court after the ruling.

BREAKING NEWS: High Court overturns previous decision and grants IWGB permission to proceed with its case against Deliveroo!!! ‍⚖️✊⚡pic.twitter.com/I5vyPBtPmL

— IWGB (@IWGBunion)

“The IWGB was granted permission on the basis of its human rights argument to the effect that Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights means the British collective bargaining laws need to be applied in a way which covers Deliveroo Riders. If won, the case will have massive ramifications for the so-called ‘gig-economy’ and human rights in the UK,” the union added in a statement.

Collective bargaining rights for independent workers certainly could change the gig economy power game.

In 2016, for example, a group of Deliveroo couriers in London organized protests and strikes, after the company tried to impose a new pricing model. And Deliveroo stepped back from doing so after those protests.

Commenting on the High Court decision today, a Deliveroo spokesperson said: “The court has allowed a limited challenge on human rights grounds. Deliveroo has long argued that the self-employed should have access to greater protections, and we welcome any debate on how that can best be achieved.”

On the wider workers rights front, the union had argued the CAC erred in the facts and a matter of law when it ruled that the substitution clause in Deliveroo’s contract was genuine and therefore sufficient to make the couriers independent contractors. Though the High Court judge was evidently not swayed.

The union has been crowdfunding its challenge to Deliveroo via the Crowdjustice platform — and has raised just under half of the £50k target so far. However it appears that the 

 for the case, as the union had hoped.

The union had also sought to challenge the tribunal judgement by making referral to the Supreme Court’s decision this week against Pimlico Plumbers — another gig economy platform rights case — but Deliveroo points out the judge deemed that “not arguable”.

“The decision was reached having considered the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the Pimlico Plumbers case, and emphatically rejects the union’s challenge based on this judgment,” said a spokesperson.

“Today’s decision has clearly upheld the central finding of the CAC, which is that Deliveroo riders are self-employed. This is good news for Deliveroo riders who value the ability to choose when and where to work.”

In the UK a group of Uber drivers successfully challenged the company’s classification of them as self-employed at a tribunal in 2016, going on to defend the decision against Uber’s first appeal.

And, in that case, although Uber continues to appeal the tribunal ruling, the company has pretty steadily been expanding the insurance products it offers drivers in the region.

Meanwhile the UK government is conducting a review of employment law to take account of tech-fueled shifts in work — and with the stated aim of expanding rights to more working people.



China’s Didi Chuxing continues its international expansion with Australia launch

06:03 | 15 June

Didi Chuxing, China’s dominant ride-hailing company, is continuing its international expansion after it announced plans to launch in Australia this month.

The company — which bought Uber’s China business in 2016 — said it will begin serving customers in Melbourne from June 25 following a month-long trial period in Geelong, a neighboring city that’s 75km away. The business will be run by a Didi subsidiary in Australia and it plans to offer “a series of welcome packages to both drivers and riders” — aka discounts and promotions, no doubt. It began signing up drivers on June 1, the company added.

The Australia launch will again put Didi in direct competition with Uber, but that is becoming increasingly common, and also Ola which counts Didi as an investor — more on that below. This move follows forays into Taiwan, Mexico and Brazil this year as Didi has finally expanded beyond its China-based empire.

Didi raised $4 billion in December to develop AI, general technology and to fund international expansion and it has taken a variety of routes to doing the latter. This Australia launch is organic, with Didi developing its own team, while in Taiwan it has used a franchise model and it went into Brazil via acquisition, snapping up local Uber-rival 99 at a valuation of $1 billion.

It is also set to enter Japan where it has teamed up with investor SoftBank on a joint-venture.

“In 2018, Didi will continue to cultivate markets in Latin America, Australia and Japan. We are confident a combination of world-class transportation AI technology and deep local expertise will bring a better experience to overseas markets,” the company added in a statement.

This international expansion has also brought a new level of confusion since Didi has cultivated relationships with other ride-hailing companies across the world while also expanding its own presence internationally.

The Uber deal brought with it a stock swap — turning Didi and Uber from competitors into stakeholders — and the Chinese company has also backed Grab in Southeast Asia, Lyft in the U.S., Ola in India, Careem in the Middle East and — most recentlyTaxify, which covers Europe and Africa.

In the case of Australia, Didi will come up against both Uber and Ola, with the India firm currently present in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney via an expansion made earlier this year. Uber vs Didi is to be expected — that’s a complicated relationship — but in taking on Ola (so soon after it came to Australia), Didi is competing directly with a company that it funded via an investment deal for the first time.

That might be a small insight into Didi’s relationship with Ola. Unlike Grab, which has seen Didi follow-on its investments, the Chinese firm sat out Ola’s most recent fundraising last year despite making an investment in the company back in 2015.

Ola declined to comment. Didi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its new rivalry with Ola Down Under.

The move into Australia comes at a time when Didi is under intense pressure following the death of a passenger uses its ‘Hitch’ service last month.

The company suspended the Hitch service — which allows groups people who are headed in the same direction together — and removed a number of features while limiting its operations to day-time only. This week, it said it would resume night-time rides but only for drivers picking up passengers of the sex.



Managed By Q acquires NVS to offer space planning and project management

16:27 | 13 June

Managed by Q, the office management platform based out of NYC, today announced its acquisition of NVS.

Founded by Jason Havens in 2011, NVS is an office space planning and project management service, helping businesses plan their moves or office redesigns from start to finish. The company helps connect with a network of brokers, architects, interior designers, etc. and manage the project on behalf of their clients to ensure it stays on schedule and doesn’t end up costing more than expected.

For Managed by Q, NVS provides an added service layer for existing clients, and has the opportunity to bring new clients into the Managed by Q fold.

This marks Managed by Q’s second acquisition, as the company acquired task management software provider Hivy in September 2017.

Managed by Q, founded in 2014, has raised more than $70 million by providing software to help office managers do their job. From IT support to cleaning to office supplies, Managed by Q offers a centralized ‘operating system’ that connects office managers to various vendors and services.

The acquisition of NVS helps broaden Q’s product portfolio, while bringing in yet another revenue stream. NVS already has a proven record of success, serving more than 100 clients including big names like CBS Radio, the NBA Players Association, Glossier, Grovo, and Intent Media.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Teran confirmed that the entire NVS team would be joining MBQ as part of the deal.



Deliveroo fattens its market presence by opening to restaurants that do deliveries

14:38 | 13 June

Restaurant food delivery startup Deliveroo is taking the next logical step to expand its business by opening up to restaurants that have their own delivery fleets — thereby also expanding the food choices it can offer its couch-loving users.

Next month the company will launch the new service, called Marketplace+, in seven of its markets — onboarding restaurants that do their own food deliveries to its platform, and offering them the ability to tap into Deliveroo’s network of riders to extend their delivery services and support faster delivery times if they choose (it says restaurants will be able to “choose for themselves how best to offer delivery” but the impact on, for example, existing delivery fleet staff employed by larger food chains remains to be seen).

Commenting on the launch in a statement, Deliveroo CEO and co-founder Will Shu said: “Today we are unveiling the next big step in our plan to offer customers an even greater choice of restaurants, at a greater range of prices while continually improving service. That’s why we introduced delivery-only kitchens, bringing new, exciting restaurants to new areas. It’s why we invested in new restaurant brands to boost innovation, and it’s why today we are giving restaurants with their own fleets of riders the chance to be on our platform and to use our rider network whenever they need it.

“This is a major development for the company that will mean thousands of new restaurants delivering new orders to new customers and it’s part of our mission to become the definitive food company.”

The Marketplace+ service is being rolled out globally across all Devliveroo’s markets this year, but will launch first in July in Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong and the UK and Ireland.

The company says it’s expecting Marketplace+ to bring more than 5,000 additional restaurants into its UK app by the end of the year — which would be a 50% increased on the 10,000 current available.

The move will also expand where it’s able to offer a service in the market, saying it will add 50 new towns and cities in the UK by the end of the year.

It also expects that, within a year, it will be able to reach an additional 6 million UK customers. (It says it’s already profitable in the whole of the UK market, and notes that its core service achieved growth of 650% globally in 2017.)

Explaining why it’s able to onboard thousands more restaurants via the expansion to its marketplace, Deliveroo says this is as a consequence of building up what it dubs “its own extensive delivery network of 35,000 riders worldwide and 15,000 riders in the UK”.

Albeit, none of those riders are considered employees by the company.

Rather, like many gig economy platforms, Deliveroo classes the riders who deliver its product as self-employed contractors. And this type of classification is under increasing legal pressure in European markets such as the UK — where the government is currently reviewing employment law to take account of tech-fueled shifts in work.

Just today the UK’s supreme court backed a rights challenge by a ‘self-employed’ plumber who had solely worked for six years for Pimlico Plumbers — supporting an earlier employment tribunal decision that he is entitled to workers rights.

Uber has also faced a similar tribunal decision related to its classification of drivers as self-employed, and is continuing to appeal.

So while Deliveroo is loudly touting business growth and expansion, as it prepares to plug thousands more restaurants into its platform, another aspect of gig economy businesses which is also set to fatten substantially — yet which none of these companies are shouting loudly about — are the associated costs of doing this kind of business once all the ‘self-employed’ people who actually deliver the product are judged to be workers.

Then these platform businesses will be picking up the bill for all those service delivering workers’ rights.

And in the UK at least the courts have been setting clear direction on that front — and feeding the government’s review of employment law.



Southeast Asia’s Grab lands $1B from Toyota at a $10B valuation

05:48 | 13 June

Grab, the ride-hailing firm that acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia business earlier this year, is raising a new round of funding and it just announced that it will be led by Toyota, which is committing $1 billion in capital. The deal values Grab at $10 billion, a source close to the company told TechCrunch.

In return for its capital, Toyota will also get a board seat and the opportunity to place an executive within Grab’s team. Grab said it plans to work with its new investor “to create a more efficient transport network that will ease traffic congestion in Southeast Asia’s megacities” and help its drivers increase their income. In particular, that will involve close collaboration with the Toyota Mobility Service Platform (MSPF), which is working on areas such as user-based insurance, new types of financial packages and predictive car maintenance.

“Going forward, together with Grab, we will develop services that are more attractive, safe and secure for our customers in Southeast Asia,” said Toyota executive vice president Shigeki Tomoyama in a statement.

Toyota put money into Grab via its Next Technology Fund last year, but this time around the capital comes directly from the parent company. Hyundai is another automotive firm that has backed Grab.

The new round follows a $2.5 billion investment that was jointly led by SoftBank and China’s Didi, two long-time investors put an initial $2 billion up for the round last year. That round quietly closed at the start of 2018, Grab has confirmed but so far it hasn’t said who put up the additional money.

The company’s valuation had been $6 billion but, unsurprisingly since the Uber deal, it has jumped by a further $4 billion based on Toyota’s investment.

Grab now claims over 100 million downloads of its app across eight countries in Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and more. The firm said its annual revenue run rate has now surpassed $1 billion, although it declined to provide profit or loss numbers.

While it did remove Uber from the region by acquiring its business — although the deal didn’t go as smoothly as had planned — that exit prompted new entrants to jump into the region with Indonesia’s Go-Jek, in particular, looking like the key foe. Go-Jek, which is valued at some $4.5 billion, recently announced plans to expand to four new markets having itself raised a significant $1.5 billion round.

Aside from competition, Singapore-based Grab has kept its busy in recent years expanding its services from point-to-point taxis and private car hailing to include mobile payments, food delivery and dock-less bicycles. Earlier this month it officially unveiled Grab Ventures, a unit focused on helping building out an ecosystem through investment and mentoring.

Grab Ventures is not a VC arm, but it does plan to make 8-10 investments over the next two years while it will also open an accelerator program for “growth-stage” startups — although that doesn’t include equity investments for cash. The division will also focus on incubating new business ideas, which include its recently launched Grab Cycles product which aggregates on-demand bikes from a range of companies.



Airbnb CEO said company will ‘be ready to IPO next year’ but might not

22:01 | 30 May

Airbnb brings in billions of dollars of revenue annually and is profitable on an EBITDA basis, so many wonder if and when the home-sharing company will go public. At the Code Conference today, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said the company will “be ready to IPO next year, but I don’t know if we will.”

He added that he wants to make sure it’s a major benefit to the company when Airbnb does go public. Following some more probing, Chesky said he has “no issues with [going public] at all. It could happen.”

Meanwhile, Airbnb has been struggling from a regulatory standpoint since at least 2010. Specifically, San Francisco and New York are two of the most difficult cities from a regulatory standpoint, Chesky said.

In New York, for example, there has been a standstill since 2010. At this point, Chesky said he expects it to take a few more years to overcome the challenge in New York.

“It doesn’t seem like the end is in sight with that challenge,” Chesky said. That challenge, Chesky said, involves the hotel industry and unions that “have galvanized people in these perpetual battles.”

Another general critique of Airbnb is its effect on rising rent costs and displacement. Chesky added that if it was simply a business decision, “it probably wouldn’t be worth it to stay there” in New York. But Chesky said there are hosts who have come to rely on Airbnb to earn income.

At Code, Chesky also touted Airbnb’s experiences product and how it’s growing 10x faster than its homes product. Airbnb Experiences sees 1.5 million bookings a year, Chesky said. Experiences, which Airbnb started testing in 2014 and officially launched in 2016, is Airbnb’s product that helps travelers find things to do in cities throughout the world.

When it first launched, Airbnb didn’t verify the experiences, but after some bad experiences, Airbnb has started verifying them.

“They’re doing incredibly well,” Chesky said. He added that the “experience economy” is growing and “there will probably be a massive economy around experiences.”



Uber’s European rival Taxify raises $175M led by Daimler at a $1B valuation

08:05 | 30 May

There’s a new unicorn in the global ride-hailing space after Taxify, a startup born in Estonia that does battle with Uber across Europe and Africa, closed $175 million in new funding that takes it valuation to the $1 billion mark.

Daimler, the German automotive giant which owns Mercedes-Benz among other things, led the round. The investment also featured participation from new backers Europe-based Korelya Capital and Taavet Hinrikus, founder of billion-dollar Estonian fintech startup Transferwise. Taxify said that China’s Didi Chuxing was among the returning investors to join.

The company said it plans to deploy the capital to develop its technology and make further expansions in Europe and Asia.

Beyond its automotive business, Daimler has taken a role in ride-hailing already. Its investments in the space include the acquisition of car-sharing business car2Go and German car-pooling startup Flinc, while it has put money into Europe-based car-pooling company Via and Turo, another car-sharing service which took on Daimler’s rival service Croove. More widely, Daimler and BMW consolidated their mobility businesses — which include parking apps, charging solutions, ride-hailing and more — in a consolidation move made in March of this year. Now, added to that, Daimler will take a seat on the Taxify board.

Given its extensive interest in mobility, it makes sense that Daimler is backing Taxify, which has emerged as the main contender battling Uber in Europe and Africa, while it has also forayed into Australia, too. Surprisingly, the round is the first major fundraising moment for Taxify, which had raised just €2 million ($2.4 million) prior to Didi’s undisclosed investment last year.

“We’re on a mission to build the future of mobility, and it’s great to have the support of investors like Daimler and Didi,” said CEO and co-founder Markus Villig in a statement. “This is just the beginning as more and more people give up on car ownership and opt for on-demand transportation.”

The ride-sharing space has homogenized somewhat in recent years with most companies offer the same services, so against that backdrop Taxify has something of a unique story. The startup was founded in Estonia in 2013 — the home of tech giant Skype — but brothers Markus Villig, then 19 years old, and his brother Martin, who had worked for Skype.

Villig junior is now just 24 years old which makes him one of the youngest heads of a billion-dollar company in the world, although OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal is slightly younger and led a unicorn at an even younger age. Still, it’s quite an achievement.

His original vision was to build a service for his native Estonia using money borrowed from his parents, but that vision expanded and the service is now present in over 25 countries, predominantly in Europe and Africa. Markus Villig said today that the company has more than 100,000 drivers and over 10 million users, a big jump on the 2.5 million users it claimed back in August. Villig added that Taxify’s ride volumes grew ten-fold last year, although he did not provide a raw figure.

Taxify CEO and co-founder Markus Villig

Markus has explained in the past that Taxify’s strategy focuses on being the second mover, most often behind Uber .

“We go into markets where ride-sharing is already a proven concept… we come in and we improve on that by having just cheaper commissions and giving more back to the riders and drivers. We don’t want to get into this regulatory troubles and be wasting millions in lobby battles,” he told Bloomberg in an interview last year.

A key moment for Taxify was snagging investment from Didi Chuxing, the Chinese firm that acquired Uber’s China business and removed it from the country.

Didi backed Taxify via an undisclosed “eight-figure U.S. dollar sum” in August 2016 but, beyond capital, gave it access to its network of knowledge and experience, particularly around operations.

This kind of deal is common for Didi, which raised a $4 billion investment at the end of last year for expansion purposes and has backed Uber rivals across the world with capital and mentoring. Didi’s investments include Lyft in the U.S., Grab in Southeast Asia (which recently bought out Uber’s local business), Ola in India, Careem in the Middle East and 99 in Brazil, which Didi itself acquired in January 2018 for its first international expansion move.



Grab launches a food delivery service in Southeast Asia

10:30 | 28 May

Fresh from completing its acquisition of Uber’s Southeast Asia business, ride-hailing firm Grab has officially launched its food delivery business — GrabFood — today.

The service is already available in beta in a handful of countries, including Thailand, but now it is available in Singapore (Grab HQ) with plans to reach Grab’s core six markets in Southeast Asia in the coming months. As part of its acquisition of Uber Southeast Asia, Grab took charge of UberEats in the region and moved its merchants and customer base to GrabFood before shuttering the Uber service.

GrabFood is available as a standalone app in Singapore, but in countries where Grab offers motorbikes on-demand the service is integrated into the core Grab app. The service will compete against the likes of Deliveroo, FoodPanda, Go-Jek’s GoFood, and others.

The GrabFood service is also tied to Grab’s rewards and loyalty program — GrabRewards — and customers can use cash, cards or GrabPay to pay for their orders. Two notable features allow customers schedule orders in advance while there is also no minimum spend on orders.

Grab announced a deal to buy rival Uber’s local business in March, although the deal itself doesn’t seem to have progressed quite as smoothly as expected. As TechCrunch reported last month, a mixture of regulatory concerns, disgruntled employees scheduled to transition to Grab and consumer concern at the lack of competition have weighed on what is Grab’s coming-of-age moment.

Nonetheless, Grab said in a statement that its move into food delivery is an important part of its strategy to develop “an interconnected ecosystem of consumer services to make the everyday lives of people easier.”

Removing Uber may have made that goal more realistic, but Grab will face competition regionally after Go-Jek, the market leader in Indonesia that’s backed by the likes of Google and Tencent, confirmed plans to expand to four new markets imminently. Go-Jek is putting $500 million behind that expansion, which it said will be modeled on a partner approach that gives local founding teams full control of the business in each new country.

Rather than standing still, Grab is reported to be raising $1 billion in fresh funding at a valuation of $10 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. That would represent a significant increase on the $6 billion valuation that Grab commanded when it gobbled up $2 billion from SoftBank and China’s Didi Chuxing last July.

Go-Jek, meanwhile, recently raised around $1.5 billion from a list of investors that include Tencent, JD.com, Google, Allianz, Meituan and Singapore-based funds GIC and Temasek.



And the winner of Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech is… Wingly

21:27 | 24 May

At the very beginning, there were 15 startups. After a morning of incredibly fierce competition, we now have a winner.

Startups participating in the Startup Battlefield have all been hand-picked to participate in our highly competitive startup competition. They all presented in front of multiple groups of VCs and tech leaders serving as judges for a chance to win €25,000 and an all-expense paid trip for two to San Francisco to participate in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch’s flagship event, Disrupt SF 2018.

After many deliberations, TechCrunch editors pored over the judges’ notes and narrowed the list down to five finalists: Glowee, IOV, Mapify, Wakeo and Wingly.

These startups made their way to the finale to demo in front of our final panel of judges, which included: Brent Hoberman (Founders Factory), Liron Azrielant (Meron Capital), Keld van Schreven (KR1), Roxanne Varza (Station F), Yann de Vries (Atomico) and Matthew Panzarino (TechCrunch).

And now, meet the Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech winner.

Winner: Wingly

Wingly is a flight-sharing platform that connects pilots and passengers. Private pilots can add flights they have planned, then potential passengers can book them.

Runner-Up: IOV

IOV is building a decentralized DNS for blockchains. By implementing the Blockchain Communication Protocol, the IOV Wallet will be the first wallet that can receive and exchange any kind of cryptocurrency from a single address of value.


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