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Main article: Take out

Topics from 1 to 5 | in all: 5

Glovo is opening a tech hub in Poland after gobbling a local food delivery rival

16:08 | 6 November

Barcelona-based on-demand delivery startup Glovo is beefing up its engineering capacity by opening a second tech hub, its first in Poland — with an initial plan to hire 40 additional engineers and have a total of 50 tech and product experts working predominantly out of its Warsaw office.

Glovo says it expects the Polish engineering hub to make up half of its technology capacity in time. It will have a main focus on developing user-facing features for its marketplace product and for partners operating on the platform, it adds.

It also has plans for further expansion of the facility down the line — and an overarching roadmap for its business of a 300-strong engineering team to support building out its on-demand service offering.

Its pitch is “everything” delivered on-demand, from fast food to groceries or pharmaceuticals, so long as it’s small and light enough to be handled by one of the couriers picking up jobs on its platform.

While there’s little doubt that fast food makes up the bulk of Glovo orders right now the startup has been trying to push into online grocery deliveries, to compete with giants like Amazon — including setting up its own warehouses capable of fulfilling orders within 20 minutes, 24 hours a day. (It calls these ‘dark supermarkets’ SuperGlovo — ‘super’ meaning ‘supermarket’ in Spanish. Though its ‘dark’ model has also attracted attention from Barcelona City Council for lacking a correct permit.)

In August Spanish media reported that Glovo had itself been shopping — picking up Polish food delivery platform, Pizza Portal, for an acquisition price-tag that’s billed as up to €35M (~$39M).

Glovo raised a $169M Series D back in April which included investment from Drake, owner of global pizza franchise Papa John’s — giving it the means and the motive to gobble smaller rivals in the food delivery space.

Poland being one of its existing markets in Europe. (Albeit Pizza Portal offers various types of fast food for delivery, not just pizza.)

In all, Glovo operates in more than 20 countries at this stage, though its densest markets of operation remain its home market of Spain and also Italy.

In Poland it operates in just eight cities — so the Pizza Portal acquisition looks intended to beef up its footprint there, with the latter slated as the largest food-service platform in the market — even as Glovo doubles down on expanding its engineering capacity by tapping up local tech talent.

At the same time, competition for on-demand delivery, and especially food delivery, remains fierce in Europe where a number of players — including the likes of Deliveroo, JustEat and Uber Eats, are battling it out for territory. And, in some instances, consuming each other to carve out a bigger share of lunch in key markets.

Where Glovo doesn’t operate in Europe highlights some of that ongoing food fight, with no offering in Germany or the UK, for instance. Its regional strategy focuses on the South and East. It has also been building up an international business, opening in markets in LatAm and the Middle East and Africa.

Scaling fast is certainly core to Glovo’s playbook, though. It says it launched in a new city every four days on average last year, while the 2015-founded startup now employs over 1,300 people in all.

Glovo founder Oscar Pierre will be joining us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin in December to chat about growing an on-demand delivery business — you can find out more about Disrupt conference passes here

 


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Dropbox is shuttering Hackpad, the collaborative document service it bought in 2014

13:29 | 26 April

Cloud sharing giant Dropbox announced this week it will shutter document collaboration service Hackpad, which it acquired way back in 2014, next month.

Unlike the usual (and inevitable) demise of a promising software startup following a corporate acquisition — ahem Microsoft; on at least two occasions — Dropbox deserves credit for letting Hackpad live on. Not only did it open source the service in 2015, allowing its community to build on top of it, but Hackpad (and its team) is the driving force behind the recently launched Dropbox Paper app.

“I’m so grateful for all the enthusiasm and feedback from the Hackpad community over the last several years, and I’m excited to share what’s coming next,” Igor Kofman, who founded Hackpad and now leads the Dropbox Paper team, wrote in a note.

“That feedback has been really helpful for designing Dropbox Paper — a product inspired by the Hackpad community,” he added.

Hackpad will close for good on July 19. All Hackpad notes are set to automatically migrate to Dropbox Paper before that date, but users can opt to do that now: either direct to Paper or via a zip file. Alternatively, they can opt out of the transition altogether, which will mean that their data will be deleted forever when the service is switched off.

Hackpad was backed by Y Combinator and, prior to its acquisition, it counted the likes of Airbnb, Stripe and Upworthy among its customer base. The service was a favorite for taking notes at conferences and events due to its ease of use and real-time aspects, but it was also well suited to company wikis, personal note-taking, classroom notes and more. It initially served as the inspiration for Dropbox Notes, a service that was first beta tested in 2014 and eventually morphed into Paper.

Featured Image: download.net.pl/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-ND 2.0 LICENSE

 


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Forget flying cars — passenger drones are the future

05:00 | 29 January

In the July 1924 issue of Popular Science, “Ace of Aces” fighter pilot E.V. Rickenbacker told readers to expect “Flying Autos in 20 Years.” Rickenbacker’s flying car would have retractable 12.5-foot wings, a sea-worthy hull and wheels to cruise America’s growing network of highways.

Ninety-three years later, personal cars remain land-bound. But Rickenbacker’s car-like plane still dominates our idea of what a flying car should be. That expectation — ingrained in decades of pop culture and copied by real technologists — has held back innovation.

The winning “flying car” is going to be a passenger drone, and you won’t find it cruising the highways. It will fly only and blend the best of autonomous driving technologies, ridesharing software and drone engineering. And it will hit the friendly skies soon, perhaps within 10 years. The conventional flying car is a dead-end, but the barriers to passenger drones are all surmountable.

The easy part

If you expected to zip around the skies in your personal flying car, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. If every rider had to fly 40 hours to earn an FAA-approved Private Pilot license, there would be no market. The passenger drone must be fully automated, and that is easier than it sounds.

Tesla, Google, Uber and other autonomous car makers are within three to five years of commercializing self-driving cars that require no human oversight. All the machine learning algorithms, sensors and safety systems from that effort will serve passenger drones equally well, if not better. Compared to cars, drones will face fewer unpredictable obstacles in the sky and have far more options for evading accidents.

Let’s give passenger drones some airspace and shift the way we think about personal mobility.

The ridesharing software from companies like Uber and Lyft will be crucial, as well. Besides island-buying billionaires, no one will own passenger drones because they will be prohibitively expensive. Instead, the drones will be offered in taxi or ridesharing services. The Uber and Lyft apps are just what we need for passenger drones. The rider will tap to book a drone, which will fly to the pickup location, land and take off vertically and then fly to the requested address.

The other “easy” but dicey part of passenger drones is the vehicle design. Most of us have seen either the U.S. military’s winged Predator drones or the tiny quadcopter drones flown by enthusiasts at parks. For passengers, what we need is a blend — a large quadcopter with fixed wings that can sustain flight with a heavy load yet maneuver in cluttered urban environments. It might resemble a larger version of the newest Amazon delivery drone.

The hard part

Passenger-drone development is further along than many people realize. In June 2016, the Chinese firm EHang received clearance from Nevada to test the world’s first passenger drone. The Guardian reports that the drone can fly at up to 11,500 feet at 63 mph, but only for 23 minutes. Uber believes that Uber Elevate, an on-demand air transportation service, is achievable within a decade. Its fleet of electric Vertical Take-off and Landing aircraft (VTOLs) would resemble Lilium Aviation’s jet, which just raised a $10 million Series A. Soon enough, drone makers like DJI, 3D Robotics, Hubsan and even Amazon may put their own passenger vehicles in the race.

These companies will run into two main barriers:

Charging. Currently, battery life is the biggest hurdle for drone makers that wish to increase flight times. A breakthrough in battery technology is no guarantee, but no reason to wait.

Passenger drones will simply need infrastructure for mid-air charging. LaserMotive, a Seattle-based wireless charging startup, shows promise here. Back in 2012, they ran an experiment with Lockheed Martin to extend the flight time of the Stalker Unmanned Aerial System. Their “laser power beaming” kept the drone in flight by targeting lasers at photovoltaic cells (i.e. solar panels) mounted on the vehicle. They sustained flight for 48 hours, marking a 2,400 percent improvement over the usual flight time.

Beaming high-energy lasers into the skies sounds sketchy, but not if drone infrastructure minimizes and compartmentalizes accidents. Cities could designate drone highways and restrict laser charging to those aerial thoroughfares. mid-air charging would drastically extend flight times and flights per day, as drones would never have to land for charging.

Regulation. Unfortunately, the FAA has been slow to address the drone industry’s call for comprehensive regulations. The existing rules, updated by the FAA in August 2016, insist that drones must be within line of sight and must always be controlled by a live operator. They will strangle further innovation — at least in the U.S.

Other countries have welcomed autonomous drones with open arms. For example, Delft, a city in the Netherlands, has agreed to host the first fully autonomous drone network, complete with docking stations and drone rentals. Moreover, Flirtey and Domino’s chose New Zealand for the world’s first commercial drone delivery service because of the country’s friendly regulations. They airlifted the first pizza to customers on November 16.

The U.S. could make a comeback by testing passenger drones with emergency services. Regulators could clear ambulance and search-and-rescue drones for life-and-death situations. In cases of cardiac arrest, for instance, victims need treatment within six minutes for a chance at survival. For people who live in New York, where the average ambulance response time was over 12 minutes in 2015, why not deploy a paramedic and a defibrillator in a drone? Why not take a risk on saving people who would have no chance otherwise? Such trial cases could break down regulatory resistance to autonomous drones.

A better symbol of progress

Movies, books and TV shows have set the expectation that innovators would, eventually, deliver personal flying vehicles. Although many discount this as mere science fiction, the truth is we’re almost there.

While we won’t get the archetypal flying car that E.V. Rickenbacker imagined, we will get something even better. Passenger drones could save Americans from spending 6.9 billion hours per year stuck in traffic. More importantly, emergency passenger drones could prevent thousands of needless deaths. Let’s give passenger drones some airspace and shift the way we think about personal mobility.

Featured Image: gerenme/Getty Images

 


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