May 13, 2020

A deal that could turn the tables in food delivery

May 13, 2020
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One of the more uplifting trends we’ve heard about during… :::gestures at everything:::… is that animal shelters are emptying out because so many people are fostering pets or giving them forever homes. One dog food brand is making it even easier — Pedigree is teaming up with local shelters on dog adoptions over Zoom.

We’d rate most Zoom meetings a 2/10 on a good day — but we might have to give these a 10.

Food for Thought

Uber wants to swallow Grubhub, and a deal could reshape the meal-delivery biz

Hope you’re hungry for some food-delivery news, because Tuesday brought a huge helping: Uber is trying to acquire Grubhub in an all-stock takeover that could turn the tables in a hyper-competitive market.

It’s not a done deal. But in the coming days, Uber’s board is expected to review a Grubhub proposal that would give each ’hub shareholder 2.15 Uber shares for each Grubhub share, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Bloomberg said an agreement could happen as soon as this month.

Here are 4 takeaways to whet your appetite

1️⃣ The deal could give Uber a leg up on DoorDash. As of March, DoorDash owned the biggest slice of the food-delivery pie, at 42% of the market. The would-be partners came next, with Grubhub at 28% and Uber Eats at 20%.

2️⃣ It could amplify the recent growth of Uber Eats. Food delivery has given Uber heartburn in the past — it’s a money pit, and competition is tight. The company has pulled out of some markets to concentrate on areas where it can be the big cheese. 

The deal could make food delivery — a rare bright spot for Uber in a grim 1st quarter — shine brighter.

3️⃣ Ride hailing is stalled, so Uber’s making moves elsewhere. The Verge points out that Uber recently made a big investment in the scooter company Lime, in which Lime absorbed Uber’s scooter-and-bike biz, Jump.

4️⃣ It may be the 1st major food-delivery domino to fall. The biggest names in food delivery have played with the idea of mergers before, but nothing ever came out of the oven. The pandemic could change that. 

PitchBook analyst Asad Hussain told Protocol: “The wave of food delivery consolidation in North America is finally here, and we expect it to continue in the coming months.”

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Office Debates

Nobody loves a good argument more than we do. Help us settle some office squabbles by taking part in a few of our most heated conversations — like this recent one, which sparked a solid 2 hours of discussion:

Also: What’s the best way to eat a Pop-Tart? What should you do when you finish cooking — do the dishes right away or leave them in the sink?

Fill out this form to send us your takes, and watch this space for highlights of the best responses.

Stalk Markets

It turns out running an ‘Amazon for Animal Crossing’ is very hard

Jeff Bezos, beware: A 25-year-old software engineer is coming for your buy buttons. Last month, Daniel Luu launched Nookazon, an ecommerce store with a layout that looks a lot like its real-life counterpart.

Nookazon is named for Tom Nook, a raccoon and general-store owner who wields a near-total monopoly over the game’s banking system.

Within Animal Crossing, the only way to trade is to coordinate with friends, but Nookazon helps total strangers swap goods. 

Nookazon sellers offer up coveted amber fossils, fruit-shaped dresses, regular fruit, or anthropomorphic villagers. Customers place bids either through the website or on the messaging platform Discord. 

It has taken off: Nookazon now averages 7m+ views a day.

But Nookazon is facing startup growing pains 

Let’s start with funding. Luu bootstraps the site and its team of 33 developers and moderators on ~$5k/month in donations.

He’s also had to make hard choices about which sellers, exactly, are allowed to stay on the site — something that has not come easily to the real-life Amazon, either.

Sellers reported as scammers get flagged on the site, but Luu has decided not to kick them off entirely. 

Even raccoon monetary theory is complicated

Luu expected Nookazon customers to trade in bells — the game’s primary currency — but they’re so easy to generate that there’s more than a trivial risk of bell inflation.

So Nookazoners are trying other commodities, like Nook Miles Tickets — airline miles that let users jet off to abandoned islands — as currency. That means Luu is spending a lot of his time thinking about monetary policy. And you thought Zuck’s crypto project was complicated.

What do you do when the value of the currency changes so rapidly? Luu has settled on calculating price averages from across the site. 

Nookazon’s all-virtual, no-wait shipping times would make any tech giant feverish. But in one main area, Bezos has Nook & Co. beat: There’s no trace of a Nookazon Prime.

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You keep hearing it over and over from your money-savvy friends: “Now is actually a great time to invest!” 

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Alone, Together

‘Squad shopping’ could be the next take on tech-enabled togetherness

Bored quaran-teens, rejoice: The mall may be a memory of the Before Times, but a new social platform wants to bring back the time-honored tradition of shopping with your squad.

Because Clothes With Friends beats Words With Friends

As Vogue Business explains, a former L’Oréal brand manager wanted to help people shop online with others in their networks.

All it takes is a browser extension: Install Squadded Shopping Party, visit a supporting brand’s online store, invite all your friends, and settle in for some retail group therapy.

If you’re wondering how a brand might benefit: Group buying is especially popular in China, and it turns out that peer purchasing pressure is definitely a thing.

People are more likely to buy something if they have a friend around to confirm that yes, those jeans make your ass look amazing.

We may be home, but we’re not alone

Squadded Shopping Party is just the latest effort to connect us isolated humans through shared virtual experiences. Spotify just gave music lovers group listening controls, and film buffs have Netflix Party

There’s even something for the nerdy teen who’d rather study than hit the mall: the silent Zoom call.

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The Hustle Says

CROSSNET was bootstrapped with just $20K and made a couple million in 2019. Is it a tech company? Nah, even better — it’s a 4-way volleyball game

Who wants to squeeze into a tiny room these days? No one. Use the Meeting Owl — 360-degree panoramic video so your team can spread out when you return to the office.*

The 2020 Paypal upgrade you need to know: This browser extension that automatically gets you better prices just about anywhere that you shop online. Try it now (you’re welcome).*

*This is a sponsored post.

Bot Ballads

Dutch AI is coming for the Billboard charts

Want to feel old? The hottest new musical genre is Eurovision Technofear — and it’s brought to you by an unholy mix of ABBA, algorithms, and Reddit threads.

Eurovision — the global song competition that gave rise to Celine Dion — was canceled this year for the first time since 1956. So a Dutch broadcaster organized a contest for algorithmically generated bangers called the “AI Song Contest.” It got weird.

Spotify mood playlists can’t top koala synth 

A team of Dutch academics — Can AI Kick It — fed its AI models 250 Eurovision classics, plus a sampling of Reddit posts to generate the lyrics.

The result? Anarchy. The AI cobbled together a pop song that the Dutch team called “atonal and creepy” and that featured such gems as “kill the government, kill the system.”

Meanwhile, an AI entry from Australia produced a chorus peppered with koala and kookaburra sounds — a genre the team took to calling “koala synth.” And late Tuesday afternoon, the global public crowned “koala synth” the winner. 

DJs aren’t shaking in their booths yet

Plenty of people are hyping AI-produced music, but the tech still isn’t quite… there. Anyone who has made the mistake of streaming one of virtual influencer Lil Miquela’s deluge of singles knows that AI still lacks the lyricist’s gene.

A Sony algorithm in 2016 spit out a song called “Daddy’s Car,” with memorable lines like “In daddy’s car, it sounds so good / like something new, it turns me on.”

To the credit of the Eurovision engineers, they’re standing behind their creations. The Dutch team did enter its anti-government screed into the AI Song Contest — but one student on the team told Ars Technica, “We do not condone these lyrics!”

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Snippets

🏡 Twitter will allow some employees to work from home permanently.

📈 This checks out: Pajama sales are going crazy, while purchases of pants and bras are on the decline.

📽 Even in a pandemic, the world’s last Blockbuster Video store is still standing.

🌍 We get it: A site that collects coronavirus stats grew so fast that it saw 1B+ visits in April — more than LinkedIn had.

🐜 We don’t get it: A Facebook group where people pretend to be ants has grown to 1.7M+ members.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

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