Postmates cuts its delivery fee if you join a group order


Postmates

A new feature from Postmates lets people who live close to each other score free food delivery. The popular food delivery app’s new “Party” feature groups together restaurant orders from customers who live in the same neighborhood. Hungry patrons can choose from a selection of trending restaurants that appear under the “Postmates Party” tab. They then have five minutes to join the “party” by completing an order at one of the select restaurants.

Postmate’s delivery fee ranges from $3.99 to $5.99, so omitting it could be a powerful driver for those who see the surcharge as a wasteful expense. Drivers with multiple orders could mean longer waits, but some may see the savings as worth the inconvenience. It’s unclear how omitting the delivery fee will impact Postmate drivers. Postmate drivers get paid based on a formula that takes into account the number of pick-ups and drop-offs they complete, the miles they drive, waiting time, and any tips they earn.

Postmate’s Party feature is similar to the Uber Eats Pool feature that debuted back in December. It allows Uber Eats customers to share a courier in exchange for $2 off of their order (or in some cases, free delivery.)

Postmates is only launching the Party feature in a select number of major cities. For now, you can use the Party feature in Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Phoenix, San Diego, Orange County and Philadelphia.

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Postmates’ newest feature is like Uber pool for food delivery

Postmates is launching a new feature called Postmates Party that lets customers within the same neighborhood pool their orders. In return, these customers get the food delivered for free, eliminating a major pinch point for potential Postmates users.

The feature illustrates how Postmates, one of the earlier entrants to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, is trying to remain competitive by appealing to price-sensitive customers.

Customers using the app can tap on the Postmates Party tab, which will show trending merchants that people in their neighborhood are ordering from at that exact moment. By joining the “party,” customers can share the delivery from popular restaurants and get free delivery.

For now, the company’s party feature will only be offered in a handful of the nearly 3,000 U.S. cities it currently operates in. The feature is now available in Chicago, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Orange County, Calif., and Philadelphia.

And there is an important caveat. The party feature has a five-minute time limit in which the customer must place their order to get the deal.

“We are driven by the vision of creating a logistics infrastructure that allows goods to move throughout a city at nearly zero cost to the consumer. Postmates Party is the latest innovation in on-demand delivery that will help us deliver on this vision,” Postmates CEO and co-founder Bastian Lehmann said in a statement. “Postmates Party is a fun way to give customers the option to save money by ordering from popular restaurants that people all around them are ordering from in real time.”

Earlier this year, Postmates raised an additional $100 million in equity funding at a $1.85 billion valuation.The round comes four months after the eight-year-old startup drove home a $300 million investment that knocked it into “unicorn” territory.

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FedEx’s new autonomous delivery bot has iBot wheelchair DNA

FedEx is a courier delivery and logistics company; and in 2019, that means it must also have an autonomous delivery bot.

The delivery services company, known for its overnight shipping, unveiled Wednesday an autonomous delivery device called SameDayBot. The bot, which will be tested this summer in select markets including FedEx’s hometown Memphis, is being developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp. and its founder Dean Kamen, who invented the Segway and iBot wheelchair.

FedEx is working with AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens and Walmart to figure out how this whole autonomous bot business might actually function. The idea, FedEx says, is 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.

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

The underlying roots of the SameDay Bot is the iBot, one of Kamen’s inventions. DEKA built upon the power base of the iBot, an FDA-approved mobility device for the disabled population, to develop FedEx’s product. And Kamen clearly sees this partnership with FedEx as another way to help push the iBot forward.

“The bot has unique capabilities that make it unlike other autonomous vehicles,” Kamen said. “We built upon the power base of the iBot, an advanced, FDA-approved, mobility device for the disabled population with more than 10 million hours of reliable, real-world operation. By leveraging this base in an additional application, we hope that the iBot will become even more accessible to those who need it for their own mobility.”

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, plot a safe path, all while following the rules of the road (or sidewalk).

FedEx says the proprietary technology is the secret sauce that makes the bot highly capable and allows it to navigate unpaved surfaces, curbs, and even steps for an extraordinary door-to-door delivery experience. That’s an important feature for businesses and their customers, who might not want or be physically able to fetch a package at the bottom of stairs.

FedEx’s move follows the march of other like-minded logistics and delivery companies such as PostMates and Amazon .

PostMates developed Serve, a new cooler-meet-autonomous-stroller. In January, Amazon took the wraps off its six-wheeled robot Scout. Then there are all the private companies developing autonomous delivery bots, including Nuro, Robby and Starship. 

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Asian food delivery startup Chowbus raises $4M

When one food delivery startup fails, another gets funded.

Chowbus, an Asian food ordering platform headquartered in Chicago, has brought in a $4 million “seed” funding led by Greycroft Partners and FJ Labs, with participation from Hyde Park Angels and Fika Ventures. The startup, aware of the challenges that plague startups in this space, says offering exclusive access to restaurants and eliminating service fees sets it apart from big-name competitors like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates.

The Chowbus platform focuses on meals rather than restaurants. While scrolling through the mobile app, a user is connected to various independent restaurants depending on what particular dish they’re seeking. Chowbus says only a small portion of the restaurants on its platform, 15 percent, are also available on Grubhub and Uber Eats. 

The app is currently available in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Champaign, Ill. and Lansing, Mich. With the new investment, which brings Chowbus’ total raised to just over $5 million, the startup will launch in up to 20 additional markets. Eventually, Chowbus says it will expand into other cuisines, too, beginning with Mexican and Italian. 

Chowbus was founded in 2016 by chief executive officer Linxin Wen and chief technology officer Suyu Zhang.

“When I first came to the U.S. five years ago, I found most restaurants I really liked [weren’t] on Grubhub nor other major delivery platforms and the delivery fees were quite high,” Wen told TechCrunch. “So I thought, maybe I can build a platform to support these restaurants,”

TechCrunch chatted with Wen and Zhang on Tuesday, the day after Munchery announced it was shutting down its prepared meal delivery business. Naturally, I asked the founders what made them think Chowbus can survive in an already crowded market, dominated by the likes of Uber.

“The central kitchen model doesn’t work; the cost is too high,” Zhang said, referring to Munchery’s business model, which prepared food for its meal service in-house rather than sourcing through local restaurants.

“We don’t own the kitchen or the chef, we just take advantage of the resources and help restaurants make more money,” Wen added. “The food delivery space is really huge and growing so quick.”

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Startups Weekly: Will Trump ruin the unicorn IPOs of our dreams?

The government shutdown entered its 21st day on Friday, upping concerns of potentially long-lasting impacts on the U.S. stock market. Private market investors around the country applauded when Uber finally filed documents with the SEC to go public. Others were giddy to hear Lyft, Pinterest, Postmates and Slack (via a direct listing, according to the latest reports) were likely to IPO in 2019, too.

Unfortunately, floats that seemed imminent may not actually surface until the second half of 2019 — that is unless President Donald Trump and other political leaders are able to reach an agreement on the federal budget ASAP.  This week, we explored the government’s shutdown’s connection to tech IPOs, recounted the demise of a well-funded AR project and introduced readers to an AI-enabled self-checkout shopping cart.

1. Postmates gets pre-IPO cash

The company, an early entrant to the billion-dollar food delivery wars, raised what will likely be its last round of private capital. The $100 million cash infusion was led by BlackRock and valued Postmates at $1.85 billion, up from the $1.2 billion valuation it garnered with its unicorn round in 2018.

2. Uber’s IPO may not be as eye-popping as we expected

To be fair, I don’t think many of us really believed the ride-hailing giant could debut with a $120 billion initial market cap. And can speculate on Uber’s valuation for days (the latest reports estimate a $90 billion IPO), but ultimately Wall Street will determine just how high Uber will fly. For now, all we can do is sit and wait for the company to relinquish its S-1 to the masses.

3. Deal of the week

N26, a German fintech startup, raised $300 million in a round led by Insight Venture Partners at a $2.7 billion valuation. TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet spoke with co-founder and CEO Valentin Stalf about the company’s global investors, financials and what the future holds for N26.

4. On the market

Bird is in the process of raising an additional $300 million on a flat pre-money valuation of $2 billion. The e-scooter startup has already raised a ton of capital in a very short time and a fresh financing would come at a time when many investors are losing faith in scooter startups’ claims to be the solution to the problem of last-mile transportation, as companies in the space display poor unit economics, faulty batteries and a general air of undependability. Plus, Aurora, the developer of a full-stack self-driving software system for automobile manufacturers, is raising at least $500 million in equity funding at more than a $2 billion valuation in a round expected to be led by new investor Sequoia Capital.


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5. A unicorn’s deal downsizes

WeWork, a co-working giant backed with billions, had planned on securing a $16 billion investment from existing backer SoftBank . Well, that’s not exactly what happened. And, oh yeah, they rebranded.

6. A startup collapses

After 20 long years, augmented reality glasses pioneer ODG has been left with just a skeleton crew after acquisition deals from Facebook and Magic Leap fell through. Here’s a story of a startup with $58 million in venture capital backing that failed to deliver on its promises.

7. Data point

Seed activity for U.S. startups has declined for the fourth straight year, as median deal sizes increased at every stage of venture capital.

8. Meanwhile, in startup land…

This week edtech startup Emeritus, a U.S.-Indian company that partners with universities to offer digital courses, landed a $40 million Series C round led by Sequoia India. Badi, which uses an algorithm to help millennials find roommates, brought in a $30 million Series B led by Goodwater Capital. And Mr Jeff, an on-demand laundry service startup, bagged a $12 million Series A.

9. Finally, Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

The startup, which makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, has revealed a total of $3 million, including a $2.15 million seed round led by First Round Capital .

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