Blog of the website «TechCrunch» Прогноз погоды

People

John Smith

John Smith, 49

Joined: 28 January 2014

Interests: No data

Jonnathan Coleman

Jonnathan Coleman, 32

Joined: 18 June 2014

About myself: You may say I'm a dreamer

Interests: Snowboarding, Cycling, Beer

Andrey II

Andrey II, 41

Joined: 08 January 2014

Interests: No data

David

David

Joined: 05 August 2014

Interests: No data

David Markham

David Markham, 65

Joined: 13 November 2014

Interests: No data

Michelle Li

Michelle Li, 41

Joined: 13 August 2014

Interests: No data

Max Almenas

Max Almenas, 53

Joined: 10 August 2014

Interests: No data

29Jan

29Jan, 32

Joined: 29 January 2014

Interests: No data

s82 s82

s82 s82, 26

Joined: 16 April 2014

Interests: No data

Wicca

Wicca, 37

Joined: 18 June 2014

Interests: No data

Phebe Paul

Phebe Paul, 27

Joined: 08 September 2014

Interests: No data

Артем Ступаков

Артем Ступаков, 93

Joined: 29 January 2014

About myself: Радуюсь жизни!

Interests: No data

sergei jkovlev

sergei jkovlev, 59

Joined: 03 November 2019

Interests: музыка, кино, автомобили

Алексей Гено

Алексей Гено, 8

Joined: 25 June 2015

About myself: Хай

Interests: Интерес1daasdfasf, http://apple.com

technetonlines

technetonlines

Joined: 24 January 2019

Interests: No data



Main article: Lyft

<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 603

Lyft ramps up self-driving program

03:12 | 29 February

A year ago, Lyft submitted a report to the California Department of Motor Vehicles that summed up its 2018 autonomous vehicle testing activity in a single, short paragraph.

“Lyft Inc. did not operate any vehicles in autonomous mode on California public roads during the reporting period,” the letter read. “As such, Lyft Inc. has no autonomous mode disengagements to report.”

The 2019 data tells a different story. Lyft had 19 autonomous vehicles testing on public roads in California in 2019, according to data released earlier this week by the CA DMV. Those 19 vehicles, which operated during the reporting period of December 2018 to November 2019, drove nearly 43,000 miles in autonomous mode.

The report is the latest sign that Lyft is trying to ramp up its self-driving vehicle program known as Level 5. 

The CA DMV, the agency that regulates autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in the state, requires companies to submit an annual report that includes data such as total AV miles driven and number of vehicles. It also requires companies to report “disengagements,” a term that describes each time a self-driving vehicle disengages out of autonomous mode either because its technology failed or a human safety driver took manual control for safety reasons.

That’s still far below established AV developers such as Cruise and Waymo, which accumulated 831,000 and 1.45 million autonomous miles, respectively. And it makes up just a tiny sliver of the total autonomous miles racked up by the 36 companies that tested on public roads in 2019.

The total number of autonomous miles driven in 2019 rose 40%, to more than 2.87 million, thanks largely to a notable uptick in public on-road testing by Baidu, Cruise, Pony.ai, Waymo and Zoox. While the number of companies with testing permits grew to 60 in 2019, the percentage of companies actually testing on public roads fell to about 58%. In 2018, about 62% of the 48 companies that held permits tested on public roads.

Other companies scaled back public testing in California. Some moved public testing outside of California, others retracted due to the high cost. Others said they were opting to place great emphasis on simulation.

Still, the report shows Lyft is doing more than partnering with autonomous vehicle companies like Aptiv . Lyft and Aptiv launched a robotaxi pilot in January 2018 in Las Vegas. The program, which puts Aptiv vehicles on Lyft’s ride-hailing network, surpassed 100,000 rides this month. Human safety drivers are always behind the wheel and the vehicles do not drive autonomously in parking lots and hotel lobby areas.

Lyft’s Level 5 program — a nod to the SAE automated driving level that means the vehicle handles all driving in all conditions — was launched in July 2017. Today, Level 5 employs more than 400 employees in the U.S., Munich and London.

Testing on public roads in California began in November 2018 with a pilot program in Palo Alto that provided rides to Lyft employees in Palo Alto. The pilot provided on-demand rides set on fixed routes such as traveling between the Lyft office and Caltrain.

Since then, the company has expanded the scope and geography of the pilot. By late 2019, Lyft was driving four times more autonomous miles per quarter than it was six months prior.

Lyft is also testing on a dedicated closed-course track in East Palo Alto that it opened in November 2019. The company told TechCrunch it uses this facility, which can be changed to include intersections, traffic lights and merges, as test software prior to putting its vehicles on public roads.

 


0

Facebook Messenger ditches Discover, downplaying chat bots

22:26 | 28 February

Chat bots were central to Facebook Messenger’s strategy three years ago. Now they’re being hidden from view in the app along with games and businesses. Facebook Messenger is removing the Discover tab this week as it focuses on speed and simplicity instead of broad utility like China’s WeChat.

The changes are part of a larger Messenger redesign that reorients the People tab around Stories as Facebook continues to try to dominate the ephemeral social media format it copied from Snapchat. The People tab now defaults to a full-screen sub-tab of friends’ Stories, and requires a tap over to the Active sub tab to see which friends are online now.

The changes could push users to spend more time visually communicating with friends and consuming content than exploring chat bots for shopping, connecting with businesses, and playing games. That in turn could help Facebook earn more money from Messenger since it’s now showing Stories ads.

TechCrunch was tipped off to the redesign by social media director Jeff Higgins who provided us with extensive screenshots of the update. These show the absence of Discover tab, the switch to just Chat and People tabs, and the People sub-tabs for Stories and Active. We poked around some more and noticed the Instant Games and Transportation options missing from the chat composer’s utility tray. That formerly offered quick Uber and Lyft hailing. Messenger’s M Suggestions also no longer recommend the Transportation feature.

When we asked Messenger about the changes, a spokesperson confirmed that this redesign will start rolling out in the next week, removing Discover and splitting the People tab. They noted that Facebook had announced last August that it planned to eventually axe Discover, and that the added emphasis on Stories was motivated by users’ affinity for the ephemeral social media format. They also told us that Transportation was removed in late 2017, and Instant Games’ removal from the composer is part of the migration to Facebook Gaming announced last July.

A look at the old Messenger Discover tab that’s being removed

Chat bots, businesses, and games are being hidden, but not completely banished from Messenger. They’ll still be accessible if users purposefully seek them through the Messenger search bar, Pages and ads on Facebook, buttons to start conversations on businesses’ websites, and m.me URL that create QR codes which open to business accounts in Messenger. The spokesperson diplomatically claimed that businesses are still an important part of Messenger.

But without promotion via Discover, businesses will have to rely on their owned or paid marketing channels to gain traction for their chat bots. That could discourage them from building on the Messenger platform.

The Rise And Fall Of Facebook Chat Bots

The update feels like the end of a four-year era for Facebook. Back in 2016, it saw artificially intelligent chat bots as a way for businesses to scalably communicate with people, deliver customer service, and push ecommerce. But when it launched the chat bot platform at its F8 conference that year, it arrived half-baked.

The typing-based semantic user interfaces were confusing, the AI necessary to make chat bots seem human or at least reliably understand their human conversation partners hadn’t evolved yet, and several of the launch partner bots like Poncho The Weather Cat were laughably useless. The public soured on the idea of chat bots, and attempts to improve them felt insufficient.

Messenger launched Discover in 2017 in hopes that free promotion and visibility might convince developers to invest in building better chatbots. Yet by early 2018 even Facebook was backpedaling, shelving its plan to build out a full-service AI personal assistant called M that you could ask to do anything. Instead, it’d merely make AI suggestions of different Messenger features to use like Stickers or reminders based on what you typed. Then it announced last year that it would move Instant Games out of Messenger and into Facebook’s dedicated Gaming tab.

A laughably bad interaction with old Messenger chat bot Poncho The Weather Cat

Now with Discover disappearing, Messenger seems to be surrendering the fight to become a WeChat-style monolithic utility. In China, WeCat serves not just as a messaging app but a way to make payments, hail a taxi, book flights, top up your mobile data, get a loan, find housing, or shop at businesses via mini programs.

But while that centralized all-in-one style fit Chinese culture, Western markets have experienced more of an unbundling with different apps emerging to handle each of these use cases. Facebook’s constant privacy scandals and increasing anti-trust scrutiny also inhibited this approach with Messenger. Users and the US government weren’t ready to trust Facebook to handle so much of our daily lives. Facebook Messenger also has to jockey with competition like iMessage and Snapchat that could undercut it if it gets too bloated.

So now Messenger is going in the opposite direction. It’s becoming more WhatsApp-like — simple, speedy, and centered around peer-to-peer communication. Visual communication through Stories, with replies to them delivered as messages, feels like a natural extension of this focus while conveniently offering a path to monetization. If Messenger can be the best-in-class place to chat, unencumbered by promotion of chat bots and businesses, users might stay locked into the Facebook ecosystem.

 


0

Online learning marketplace Udemy raises $50M at a $2B valuation from Japanese publisher Benesse

15:00 | 19 February

The internet has, for better or worse, become the default platform for people seeking information, and today one of the companies leveraging that to deliver educational content has raised some funding to fuel its next stage of growth. Udemy, which provides a marketplace offering some 150,000 different online learning courses from business analytics through to ukulele lessons, has picked up $50 million from a single investor, Benesse Holdings, the Japan-based educational publisher that has been Udemy’s partner in the country. The investment values Udemy at $2 billion post-money, it said.

This is a big jump since the startup last raised money, a $60 million round in 2016 that valued it at around $710 million (according to PitchBook data). With this round, Udemay has raised around $130 million in funding.

The plan will be to use the funding to expand all of Udemy’s business, which includes a vast array of courses for consumers that can be purchased a la carte — to date used by some 50 million students; as well as enterprise services, where Udemy works with companies like Adidas, General Mills, Toyota, Wipro, Pinterest and Lyft and others — 5,000 in all — to develop and administer subscription-based professional development courses. Udemy’s president Darren Shimkus describes this as a “Netflix-style” model, where users are presented with a dashboard listing a range of courses that they can take on demand.

Udemy will also be looking at improving how courses are delivered, as well as consider new areas it might move into more deeply to fit what Shimkus described as the biggest challenge for the company, and for the global workforce overall:

“The biggest challenge is for learners is to figure out what skills are emerging, what they can do to compete best in the global market,” he said. “We’re in a world that’s changing so quickly that skills that were valued just three or four years ago are no longer relevant. People are confused and don’t know what they should be learning.” That’s a challenge that also stands for businesses, he added, which are trying to work out what he described as their “three to five year human capital roadmap.”

The investment will also include a specific boost for Udemy’s international operations, starting with Japan but extending also to other markets where Udemy has seen strong growth, such as Brazil and India.

“We’ve worked closely with Benesse for several years, and this investment is a testament to the strength of our relationship and the opportunity ahead of us,” said Gregg Coccari, CEO of Udemy, in a statement. “Udemy is on a mission to improve lives through learning, and so is Benesse. 2020 will be a milestone year where we serve millions more students and enable thousands of businesses and governments to upskill their employees. This growth wouldn’t be possible without our expert instructors who partner with us every step of the way as we build this business.”

Benesse’s business spans instructional materials for children through to courses for adults both online and in in-person training centers — one of the better-known brands that it owns is Berlitz, which operates both virtual courses as well as a network of physical schools — and Udemy has been developing content alongside Benesse both in Japanese as well as English, Shimkus said, targeting both consumer and business markets.

“Access to the latest workplace skills is crucial for success everywhere, including Japan; and Udemy is the world’s largest marketplace enabling professional transformation. With this partnership, we envision a world where more people can continue to learn continuously throughout their lives,” said Tamotsu Adachi, Representative Director, President and CEO of Benesse Holdings Inc., in a statement. “Udemy and Benesse are incredibly synergistic businesses. This investment is the next progression in our business relationship and demonstrates our confidence in what we can accomplish together.”

Udemy’s expansion comes at a time when online education overall has generally continued to grow, although not without bumps.

Among those that compete at least in part with it, Coursera last year announced a $103 million round of funding at a $1 billion+ valuation and made its first acquisition to expand how it teaches programming and other computer science subjects. And in Asia, Byju’s in India is now valued at $8 billion after a quick succession of large growth rounds. We’ve also heard that Age of Learning, which quietly raised at a $1 billion valuation in 2016, is also gearing up for another round.

On the other hand, not all is rosy. Another big name in online learning, Udacity (not to be confused with Udemy), laid off 20% of its workforce amid a larger restructuring; and further afield, Kano — which merges online learning with DIY hardware kits — has also laid off and restructured in recent months. Meanwhile, we don’t seem to hear much these days from LinkedIn Learning, another would-be competitor that was rebranded Lynda.com after it was acquired by the social networking site (itself owned by Microsoft).

Unlike Coursera and others that aim for full degrees that are potentially aiming to disrupt higher education, Udemy focuses on short courses, either simply for the student’s own interest, or potentially for certifications from organizations that either help administer the courses or “own” the subject in question (for example, Cisco for networking certifications, or Microsoft regarding one of its software packages, or the PMI for a course related to project management).

Those courses are delivered by individuals who form the other half of Udemy’s two-sided marketplace. In the 10 years that it’s been in business, Udemy has worked with some 57,000 instructors to develop courses, and in the marketplace model, Shimkus told TechCrunch that those instructors have been netted $350 million in payments to date. (He would not disclose Udemy’s cut on those courses, nor whether the company is currently profitable.)

The company has a lot of areas that it has yet to tackle that present opportunities for how it might evolve. Working with enterprises but with a large base of consumer usage, there is, for example, a lot of scope to develop more data analytics about what is used, what is popular, and how to tailor courses in a better way to fit those models to improve outcomes and engagement. Another area potentially could see Udemy moving deeper into specific subject areas like language learning, where it offers some courses today but has a lot of scope for growing, particularly leaning on what Benesse has with Berlitz. To date, Udemy has made no acquisitions, but that is also an area that Shimkus said could be an option.

 


0

New Early Stage speakers to talk fundraising strategies, growth marketing and PR

19:44 | 18 February

TC Early Stage SF goes down on April 28, and we are getting pretty damn excited about it!

The show will bring together 50+ experts across startup core competencies, such as fundraising, operations and marketing. We’ll hear from VCs on how to create the perfect pitch deck and how to identify the right investors for you. We’ll hear from lawyers on how to navigate the immigration process when hiring, and how to negotiate the cap table. And we’ll hear from growth hackers on how to build a high-performance SEO engine, and PR experts on how to tell your brand’s story.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Today, I’m pleased to announce four more breakout sessions.


Lo Toney

Toney is the founding managing partner of Plexo Capital, which was incubated and spun out from GV. Before Plexo, Toney was a partner with Comcast Ventures, where he led the Catalyst Fund, and then moved to GV where he focused on marketplace, mobile and consumer products. Toney also has operational experience, having served as the GM of Zynga Poker, the company’s largest franchise at the time.

Think Like a PM for VC Pitch Success

Your pitchdeck is not just a reflection of your business, it’s a product unto itself. Your startup’s success, and avoiding the end of your runway, depends on the conversion rate of that product. Hear from Plexo Capital founding partner Lo Toney about how thinking like a PM when crafting your pitch deck can produce outstanding results.


Krystina Rubino and Lindsay Piper Shaw

Shaw and Rubino are marketing consultants for Right Side Up, a growth marketing consultancy. Prior to Right Side Up, Shaw scaled podcast campaigns for brands like quip, Lyft and Texture, and has worked with brands like McDonald’s, Honda, ampm, and Tempur Sealy. Rubino has worked with companies across all stages and sizes, including Advil, DoorDash, P&G, Lyft and Stitch Fix.

Why You Need Podcasts in Your Growth Marketing Mix

Podcast advertising is widely viewed as a nascent medium, but smart companies know it can be a powerful channel in their marketing mix. Opportunity is ripe — get in early and you can own the medium, box out competitors and catapult your growth. Krystina Rubino and Lindsay Piper Shaw have launched and scaled successful podcast ad campaigns for early-stage startups and household name brands and will be sharing their strategies for companies to succeed in this often misunderstood channel.


Jake Saper

Jake Saper, the son of serial co-founders, has been obsessed with entrepreneurialism from a young age. His origin in venture capital started at Kleiner Perkins, and he moved on to become a partner at Emergence in 2014, where he became a Kauffman Fellow. He serves on the boards of Textio, Guru, Ironclad, DroneDeploy, and Vymo, and his self-described “nerdy love” of frameworks has only grown over the years.

When It Comes to Fundraising, Timing Is Everything

There are some shockingly common timing mistakes founders make that can turn an otherwise successful fundraise into a failure. We’ll talk through how to avoid them and how to sequence efforts from the time you close your seed to ensure you find the right partner (at the right price!) for Series A and beyond.


April Conyers

Conyers has been in the communications industry for 15 years, currently serving as the senior director of Corporate Communications at Postmates . Before Postmates, Conyers served as a VP at Brew PR, working with clients like Automattic, NetSuite, Oracle, Doctor on Demand and about.me. During that time, she also found herself on BI’s “The 50 Best Public Relations People In The Tech Industry In 2014” list.

The Media Is Misunderstood, But Your Company Shouldn’t Be

With the media industry in a state of flux, navigating the process of telling your story can be confusing and overwhelming. Hear from Postmates Senior Director of Corporate Communication April Conyers on how startups should think about PR, and how to get your message across in a hectic media landscape.


Early Stage SF goes down on April 28, with more than 50 breakout sessions to choose from. However, don’t worry about missing a breakout session, because transcripts from each will be available to show attendees. And most of the folks leading the breakout sessions have agreed to hang at the show for at least half the day and participate in CrunchMatch, TechCrunch’s great app to connect founders and investors based on shared interests.

Here’s the fine print. Each of the 50+ breakout sessions is limited to around 100 attendees. We expect a lot more attendees, of course, so signups for each session are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Buy your ticket today and you can sign up for the breakouts we are announcing today, as well as those already announced. Pass holders will also receive 24-hour advance notice before we announce the next batch. (And yes, you can “drop” a breakout session in favor of a new one, in the event there is a schedule conflict.)

So get your TC Early Stage: San Francisco pass today, and get the inside track on the sessions we announced today, as well as the ones to be announced in the coming weeks.

Possible sponsor? Hit us up right here.

 


0

Profitability expectations ding Lyft despite better-than-expected growth

03:05 | 12 February

Hello and welcome back to our regular look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

This afternoon we’re digging into Lyft’s earnings results, unpacking the company’s performance, the market’s expectations and why shares in the American ride-hailing giant are off in after-hours trading.

Lyft’s earnings — following Uber’s own results that promised investors a quicker-than-anticipated path to (adjusted) profits — and the market’s reaction to its performance, provide a good frame for evaluating investors’ appetite for profits against growth. It’s a topic that’s important for startup founders and private-market investors alike.

Our investigation today is contentedly straightforward. We’ll start with the big numbers, drill into comparative performance and then weigh what the market is telling us.

Lyft’s key Q4 2019 results

In the fourth quarter of 2019, Lyft’s revenue came in at $1.017 billion, a gain of 52% compared to its year-ago result of $669.5 million. Sticking to the growth side of things, the company’s “active rider” count rose from 18.59 million to 22.91 million from Q4 2018 to Q4 2019, a gain of 23%. Lyft’s active riders also spent 23% more year-over-year, reaching $44.40 in the final quarter of last year.

Turning to losses, Lyft’s net loss (a metric that includes all costs) was $356.0 million in the quarter, a sharply worse result than its $248.9 million net loss in Q4 2018. The company’s adjusted net loss, however, was $121.4 million, an improvement from its year-ago $238.5 million adjusted net loss.

Turning to adjusted EBITDA, a heavily adjusted profit metric, Lyft lost $130.7 million in Q4 2019, an improvement on its Q4 2018 adjusted EBITDA loss of $251.1 million.

Investors had expected Lyft to report just $985.8 million in revenue and an adjusted EBITDA loss of $163.2 million. The street had also anticipated 100,000 fewer active riders and slightly slimmer revenue per active rider. So, Lyft beat expectations regarding growth, user count and health and for adjusted losses.

And yet Lyft’s shares are off over 4% in after-hours trading. While Lyft’s stock has recovered from lows set in October, 2019, the company’s equity is now more than $20 down from its IPO price, taking into account its post-earnings movement.

Why Lyft’s stock should fall after beating expectations and not changing its profit forecast might appear a bit confusing. It’s not.

Damn you, Uber

 


0

Aptiv’s self-driving cars have given 100,000 paid rides on the Lyft app

14:00 | 11 February

What started out as a temporary pilot project to test a robotaxi service in Las Vegas has turned into a multi-year partnership between self-driving software company Aptiv and Lyft and a new milestone that suggests the operation is ramping up.

The companies announced Tuesday that they’ve given 100,000 paid rides in Aptiv’s self-driving vehicles via the Lyft app.

“To our knowledge this is the largest open-to-the-public commercial pilot,” Aptiv Autonomous Mobility President Karl Iagnemma said in a recent interview. “To me this partnership is a great example of the next-generation ecosystem at work.”

The milestone has a few important caveats. Aptiv’s self-driving vehicles — which initially began with BMW 5 series — have a human safety driver behind the wheel to take over if needed. The human driver operates the vehicle manually in parking lots and hotel lobby areas. 

The program, even if with those human safety drivers behind the wheel, has proven invaluable to the companies, according to Iagnemma and Jody Kelman, who leads the self-driving platform team at Lyft.

“We’ve got something here,” Kelman said. “This is really a blueprint for what future mobility partnerships can look like.”

Companies in this so-called “race” to commercially deploy on-demand ride-hailing services using self-driving vehicles must master more than the technical bits. Fleet management, real-time routing, and designing an approachable user interface are just a few critical components needed to operate a profitable robotaxi service.

The program has taught Aptiv how to “get and keep a fleet of autonomous vehicles on the road and keep them highly utilized,” Iagnemma said, later adding that this project positions Lyft and Aptiv to be major winners in this space. The companies also learned how to work with various regulatory bodies, in this case, with the city of Las Vegas, Clark County and the region’s transit authority.

Lyft and Aptiv first launched the pilot in January 2018 as a one-week experiment and then announced plans to extend the program. The program surpassed 5,000 self-driving rides by August and jumped to more than 25,000 paid autonomous rides by December 2018, all while maintaining an average passenger rating of 4.95 out of five stars, Aptiv said at the time. 

By May 2019, the companies reported they had given more than 50,000 paid self-driving rides in Las Vegas.

Aptiv’s investment in Las Vegas expanded as those ridership numbers grew. The company opened in December 2018 a 130,000-square-foot technical center in the city to house its fleet of autonomous vehicles as well as an engineering team dedicated to research and development of software and hardware systems, validation and mapping.

 


0

Unpacking Uber’s new profitability promise

21:11 | 7 February

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Yesterday Uber reported its Q4 2019 financial performance. Today, following the news, shares of the ride-hailing giant are up over 9%, pushing Uber’s stock above $40 per share. While Uber’s shares are still under its $45-per-share IPO price, the company’s earnings report appears to indicate that there may be an end in sight for Uber’s infamous losses.

After promising to reach adjusted profitability in 2021, Uber made a better pledge yesterday to generate a loose form of profit in Q4 2020, earlier than it or investors previously anticipated.

This morning, we’re going to quickly skim Uber’s results, unpack the profitability promise to understand if what the company promised today is impressive or not and wrap with a note on cash burn and more traditional profit definitions to frame the news.

If Uber has turned the corner on profitability, the halo effect from the good news could prove a boon to other on-demand companies, especially the private cohort who are struggling to combat a narrative that when it comes to making money, they are all forecast and no follow-through.

Results

 


0

Lyft confirms 90 layoffs as it targets profitability

22:29 | 29 January

Shares of popular American ride-hailing giant Lyft are off 3% today in regular trading after the New York Times reported that the company would cut some staff. TechCrunch confirmed with the company that 90 individuals are expected to be impacted by the changes.

In a statement, the company said that it has “carefully evaluated the resources we need to achieve our 2020 business goals, and the restructuring of some of our teams reflects that. We are still growing rapidly and plan to hire more than 1,000 new employees this year.”

Lyft has been under pressure along with industry peer Uber to show a path to profitability after a history of cash burn and unprofitability.

During its most recent earnings report, Q3 2019, Lyft said that it expects “to be profitable on an adjusted EBITDA basis in the fourth quarter of 2021,” earlier than previously expected. The company’s shares have traded under its IPO price since its debut; worth $72 per share when it went public, Lyft is worth a little more than $47 per share today.

It is not clear where Lyft is cutting staff. Its comment uses the word “teams,” implying that more than one group could be impacted.

Uber, Lyft’s chief domestic rival, also cut staff in recent months. A host of other so-called “unicorn” companies have also reduced their staffing in recent quarters as investors, both public and private, have changed their mood towards losses — gone are the days when expensive, unprofitable growth was hailed as bold. Today, revenue growth stapled to rapidly shrinking unprofitability or even profits is in vogue.

And Lyft, with promises on the board to reach adjusted profitability inside the next eight quarters, has a clock ticking next to its income statement.

 


0

Opera and the firm short-selling its stock (alleging Africa fintech abuses) weigh in

09:12 | 23 January

Internet services company Opera has come under a short-sell assault based on allegations of predatory lending practices by its fintech products in Africa.

Hindenburg Research issued a report claiming (among other things) that Opera’s finance products in Nigeria and Kenya have run afoul of prudent consumer practices and Google Play Store rules for lending apps.

Hindenburg — which is based in NYC and managed by financial analyst Nate Anderson — went on to suggest Opera’s U.S. listed stock was grossly overvalued.

That’s a primer on the key info, though there are several additional shades of the who, why, and where of this story to break down, before getting to what Opera and Hindenburg had to say.

A good start is Opera’s ownership and scope. Founded in Norway, the company is an internet services provider, largely centered around its Opera browser.

Opera was acquired in 2016 for $600 million by a consortium of Chinese investors, led by current Opera CEO Yahui Zhou.

Two years later, Opera went public in an IPO on NASDAQ, where its shares currently trade.

Web Broswers Africa 2019 Opera

Though Opera’s web platform isn’t widely used in the U.S. — where it has less than 1% of the browser market — it has been number-one in Africa, and more recently a distant second to Chrome, according to StatCounter.

On the back of its browser popularity, Opera went on an African venture-spree in 2019, introducing a suite of products and startup verticals in Nigeria and Kenya, with intent to scale more broadly across the continent.

In Nigeria these include motorcycle ride-hail service ORide and delivery app OFood.

Central to these services are Opera’s fintech apps: OPay in Nigeria and OKash and Opesa in Kenya — which offer payment and lending options.

Fintech focused VC and startups have been at the center of a decade long tech-boom in several core economies in Africa, namely Kenya and Nigeria.

In 2019 Opera led a wave of Chinese VC in African fintech, including $170 million in two rounds to its OPay payments service in Nigeria.

Opera’s fintech products in Africa (as well as Opera’s Cashbean in India) are at the core of Hindenburg Research’s brief and short-sell position. 

The crux of the Hindenburg report is that due to the declining market-share of its browser business, Opera has pivoted to products generating revenue from predatory short-term loans in Africa and India at interest rates of 365 to 876%, so Hindenburg claims.

The firm’s reporting goes on to claim Opera’s payment products in Nigeria and Kenya are afoul of Google rules.

“Opera’s short-term loan business appears to be…in violation of the Google Play Store’s policies on short-term and misleading lending apps…we think this entire line of business is at risk of…being severely curtailed when Google notices and ultimately takes corrective action,” the report says.

Based on this, Hindenburg suggested Opera’s stock should trade at around $2.50, around a 70% discount to Opera’s $9 share-price before the report was released on January 16.

Hindenburg also disclosed the firm would short Opera.

Founder Nate Anderson confirmed to TechCrunch Hindenburg continues to hold short positions in Opera’s stock — which means the firm could benefit financially from declines in Opera’s share value. The company’s stock dropped some 18% the day the report was published.

On motivations for the brief, “Technology has catalyzed numerous positive changes in Africa, but we do not think this is one of them,” he said.

“This report identified issues relating to one company, but what we think will soon become apparent is that in the absence of effective local regulation, predatory lending is becoming pervasive across Africa and Asia…proliferated via mobile apps,” Anderson added.

While the bulk of Hindenburg’s critique was centered on Opera, Anderson also took aim at Google.

“Google has become the primary facilitator of these predatory lending apps by virtue of Android’s dominance in these markets. Ultimately, our hope is that Google steps up and addresses the bigger issue here,” he said.

TechCrunch has an open inquiry into Google on the matter. In the meantime, Opera’s apps in Nigeria and Kenya are still available on GooglePlay, according to Opera and a cursory browse of the site.

For its part, Opera issued a rebuttal to Hindenburg and offered some input to TechCrunch through a spokesperson.

In a company statement opera said, “We have carefully reviewed the report published by the short seller and the accusations it put forward, and our conclusion is very clear: the report contains unsubstantiated statements, numerous errors, and misleading conclusions regarding our business and events related to Opera.”

Opera added it had proper banking licenses in Kenyan or Nigeria. “We believe we are in compliance with all local regulations,” said a spokesperson.

TechCrunch asked Hindenburg’s Nate Anderson if the firm had contacted local regulators related to its allegations. “We reached out to the Kenyan DCI three times before publication and have not heard back,” he said.

As it pertains to Africa’s startup scene, there’ll be several things to follow surrounding the Opera, Hindenburg affair.

The first is how it may impact Opera’s business moves in Africa. The company is engaged in competition with other startups across payments, ride-hail, and several other verticals in Nigeria and Kenya. Being accused of predatory lending, depending on where things go (or don’t) with the Hindenburg allegations, could put a dent in brand-equity.

There’s also the open question of if/how Google and regulators in Kenya and Nigeria could respond. Contrary to some perceptions, fintech regulation isn’t non-existent in both countries, neither are regulators totally ineffective.

Kenya passed a new data-privacy law in November and Nigeria recently established guidelines for mobile-money banking licenses in the country, after a lengthy Central Bank review of best digital finance practices.

Nigerian regulators demonstrated they are no pushovers with foreign entities, when they slapped a $3.9 billion fine on MTN over a regulatory breach in 2015 and threatened to eject the South African mobile-operator from the country.

As for short-sellers in African tech, they are a relatively new thing, largely because there are so few startups that have gone on to IPO.

In 2019, Citron Research head and activist short-seller Andrew Left — notable for shorting Lyft and Tesla — took short positions in African e-commerce company Jumia, after dropping a report accusing the company of securities fraud. Jumia’s share-price plummeted over 50% and has only recently begun to recover.

As of Wednesday, there were signs Opera may be shaking off Hindenburg’s report — at least in the market — as the company’s shares had rebounded to $7.35.

 


0

Mobileye takes aim at Waymo

00:39 | 16 January

Mobileye has built a multi-billion-dollar business supplying automakers with computer vision technology that powers advanced driver assistance systems. It’s a business that last year generated nearly $1 billion in sales for the company. Today, 54 million vehicles on the road are using Mobileye’s computer vision technology.

In 2018, the company made what many considered a bold and risky move when it expanded its focus beyond being a mere supplier to becoming a robotaxi operator. The upshot: Mobileye wants to compete directly with the likes of Waymo and other big players aiming to deploy commercial robotaxi services.

TechCrunch sat down with Amnon Shashua, Mobileye’s president and CEO and Intel senior vice president, to find out why and how — yep, acquisitions are in the future — the company will hit its mark.

 


0
<< Back Forward >>
Topics from 1 to 10 | in all: 603

Site search


Last comments

Walmart retreats from its UK Asda business to hone its focus on competing with Amazon
Peter Short
Good luck
Peter Short

Evolve Foundation launches a $100 million fund to find startups working to relieve human suffering
Peter Short
Money will give hope
Peter Short

Boeing will build DARPA’s XS-1 experimental spaceplane
Peter Short
Great
Peter Short

Is a “robot tax” really an “innovation penalty”?
Peter Short
It need to be taxed also any organic substance ie food than is used as a calorie transfer needs tax…
Peter Short

Twitter Is Testing A Dedicated GIF Button On Mobile
Peter Short
Sounds great Facebook got a button a few years ago
Then it disappeared Twitter needs a bottom maybe…
Peter Short

Apple’s Next iPhone Rumored To Debut On September 9th
Peter Short
Looks like a nice cycle of a round year;)
Peter Short

AncestryDNA And Google’s Calico Team Up To Study Genetic Longevity
Peter Short
I'm still fascinated by DNA though I favour pure chemistry what could be
Offered is for future gen…
Peter Short

U.K. Push For Better Broadband For Startups
Verg Matthews
There has to an email option icon to send to the clowns in MTNL ... the govt of India's service pro…
Verg Matthews

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short

CrunchWeek: Apple Makes Music, Oculus Aims For Mainstream, Twitter CEO Shakeup
Peter Short
Noted Google maybe grooming Twitter as a partner in Social Media but with whistle blowing coming to…
Peter Short