Apples and Ubers


March 14, 2019

Today, Uber’s spending millions a month in the AV race, and Spotify bobs for Apple, but first…
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America’s most downloaded e-commerce app last year was Wish, not Amazon

Wish, a San Francisco-based e-commerce company, was the most-downloaded e-commerce app worldwide in 2018 — and it is now the 3rd-largest e-commerce marketplace in the world by sales.

Amazon, the king of kombucha, dominates upscale e-commerce with Whole Foods and other big brands. But, on the other hand, Wish scoops up the discounted leftovers, selling generic goods from China to bargain shoppers — and it seems to be working.

Undercutting Amazon… is that an oxymoron?

Amazon is famous for undercutting competitors with rock-bottom prices. But as Amazon has grown, it has rolled out premium features to attract consumers to its pricey annual Prime membership

And, as Amazon has prioritized “Prime” cuts, Wish has doubled down on the e-commerce equivalent of hotdogs — Grade D, but edible, bargains.

Wish’s products are confusingly cheap: Sweaters cost $2, smartphones sell for $27, and knockoff Apple Watches go for $9 a pop.

The ‘Oriental Trading’ of the e-commerce era

The granddaddy of gimmicky wholesale, Oriental Trading, has made money for 9 decades by selling popular low-quality imports from Japan at high volumes in the US (in case you forgot, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns Oriental Trading). 

Wish’s business model takes a glossy page right out of OT’s glossy catalog: Wish pumps inexpensive, usually Chinese-made products to American buyers — offering cheap stuff to consumers and oodles of consumers to retailers.

The average Wish shopper scrolls through 600-700 items before making a purchase, and 80% of Wish buyers return to make a 2nd purchase.

So… can Wish take on Amazon?

For now, yes. Wish is growing faster than its e-commerce competitors thanks to aggressive marketing: Wish is in the middle of a 3-year, $30m deal to sponsor the Lakers (the company loses $190m annually).

But the company struggles with quality control (it culls 8m products every week) and competition (Facebook’s beefing up its sales products and Amazon recently launched its own ‘Bargain finds’ section).

Wish’s goods may arrive weeks late, broken, and counterfeit. But for now, the world’s biggest dropshipper looks like it will keep on shipping away at its e-commerce competition.

A dropship off the old block
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  Top news

Spotify files complaint against Apple for its rotten app-store tax

Frustrated by the steep 30% commission that Apple skims off each app-store purchase, Spotify filed a complaint with the notoriously hard-core European regulators. 

Rabbithole: Past attempts to slice Apple’s pie have failed.

Uber is losing money on AVs — but so is everyone else

A report points out that Uber’s self-driving program loses $20m/month. But in the scheme of things, that’s par for an expensive course: Last year, GM-Cruise lost $728m and Ford lost $674m — both more than Uber.

Rabbithole: Uber loses money on more than just AVs.

Ryft raises $3.6m to improve virtual product placement

The startup creates technology to place virtual (branded) objects in movies, commercials, and TV scenes. Get ready to see a whole lot more Coca-Cola cans in a whole lot more places.

Rabbithole: The many applications of AR.

Media unions are baaack

Employees at Gimlet Media, the podcast startup Spotify recently acquired, joined a union. Due to instability, new media employees including Vox, Vice, HuffPo, and BuzzFeed have all unionized.

Rabbithole: Spotify goes all in on podcasting.

Dick’s Sporting Goods removes guns from 125 stores

Dick’s will replace guns with other sporting goods at 125 of its roughly 700  locations starting in August due to declining sales, which haven’t rebounded from last year’s tragic Parkland shooting (which involved a Dick’s gun).

Rabbithole: Gunmakers are starting to fire blanks.

Indian vehicle-sharing biz Drivezy raises $100m

Drivezy boosted ride volume 43% in the past 3 months and plans to expand to the US. Since 2x as many Indians cruise on 2 wheels instead of 4, Drivezy plans to double its motorbike fleet by the end of the month.

Rabbithole: The rideshare biz looks different across the globe.

Digital insurance provider Acko raises $65m

Speaking of Indian startups raising cash… Acko, an Indian startup that offers digital-first personal and business insurance, has grand plans to dominate India’s “underpenetrated insurance sector.”

Rabbithole: Indian startups raise money that once went to China.

Newsela raises $50m to digitize school textbooks

The NY-based startup makes digital textbooks on English, science, math, and social science for 20m kids in grades K-12 (just last month, textbook maker Pearson sold its K-12 division to a PE company to pay its bills).

Rabbithole: ‘Kidtech’ is so hot right now.

In other markets

Africa’s first tech unicorn, Jumia, files to hit the global market

Pan-African e-commerce company, Jumia, filed for an IPO on the NYSE yesterday. The filing, according to SEC documents, is for $100m, but estimates from Renaissance Capital show it could seek to raise 5x that amount.

If all goes well, this could mark the first African tech company to go public on a global exchange.

The Amazon of Africa

Founded in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2012, Jumia now operates multiple online verticals — including a payment platform and a delivery service for trucks — in 14 African countries including Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Egypt.

In 2016, Jumia became the first African startup unicorn — and in 2018 it processed more than 13m packages and garnered over 81k active sellers on its platform.

While a report from Jumia investor Rocket Internet shows improving revenue — around $105m in 2017, up 11% from 2016 — Jumia is not yet profitable, reporting losses north of $135m in that same time frame.

But, B2C continues to struggle

McKinsey & Company projects consumer spending on the continent to reach $2.1T by 2025, which naturally serves as an industrial-grade magnet to VC investors interested in tapping budding markets.

But, even better for Jumia, its move to go public comes at a time when B2C businesses are falling in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation, and largest economy — setting Jumia up to be the leading e-commerce company in Africa.

» E-commerce aint just Amazon
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Less money, more rewards? That puts Divvy & Tripactions right up there with Mike & Ike and Ben & Jerry for “pairings we can get behind”. 

(Fewer cavities, too.) 

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