Odd partners, fairly odd partners…


January 23, 2019

Industry behemoths Apple, Starbucks, and Toyota ink offbeat partnerships in the spirit of market domination.
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Two heads are better than one: Yesterday’s biggest partnerships 

Corporations helping corporations; when there are billions of dollars on the line, companies will do just about anything to get ahead of their respective markets.

Here are 3 quirky corporate partnerships that surfaced yesterday:

Yo Quiero online payments: Apple Pay expands to Taco Bell

Yesterday, Apple expanded its contactless payment system, Apple Pay, to Taco Bell. Apple Pay is now in 74 of the nation’s top 100 merchants.

According to VentureBeat, Taco Bell plans to debut the service in over 7k Taco Bells “in the next few months.” 

In other words, buying 4 Crunchwrap Supremes when you only needed one has never been easier.

Toyota and Panasonic get in battery bed together

Toyota and Panasonic will partner on a joint venture to develop electric vehicle batteries.

With Panasonic’s exclusive contract with Tesla in jeopardy, it will give the lagging Toyota a leg up in EV development.

According to Axios, as the already competitive EV market heats up, this is the latest sign of companies in the automotive industry car-pooling their resources to get ahead.

I like you a latte: Starbucks partners with Uber on delivery

The java all-star is joining forces with Uber to deliver coffee, snacks, and other items in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington DC over the next few weeks.

Uber Eats is currently the fastest-growing meal delivery service in the US, and Starbucks says that soon 95% of its menu will be on the UberEats App.

A force to be reckoned with
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TomTom sold its telematics business for $1B to focus on out-mapping Google

TomTom, the Dutch online mapping company known for its car-based GPS systems, sold its telematics (fleet management) division to tire-maker Bridgestone for a whopping $1.03B.

As the self-driving car era shifts into gear, TomTom wants to focus on in-car navigation systems to compete with its age-old nemesis: Google Maps.    

A geographic grudge-match against Google

After releasing the world’s first mass-market ‘personal navigation device’ in 2004, TomTom took off, hitting $65/share in 2007. But when Google released its Maps app in 2007, it turned every smartphone into a ‘personal navigation device.’ 

In just 2 years, TomTom’s stock fell below $3 per share. But, TomTom steered clear of disaster by shifting focus from consumers to ‘strategic’ partners, inking geo-data deals with Volkswagen, Toyota, and Apple. 

But the Google Reaper returned last year when Google signed Maps partnerships with Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi — and TomTom won’t get fooled twicetwice.

The dogfight for the dashboard

Unfortunately for TomTom, Google isn’t the only other dog in the fight: In 2015, Audi, BMW, and Daimler bought TomTom’s biggest location data rival, Here, from Nokia for $3.07B.

TomTom’s stock fell 6.2% after the Bridgestone announcement, and while TomTom plans to stay independent, now it seems like anything could happen.

After the sale, TomTom will pay out more than $800m to shareholders, keeping the nearly $200m remainder on hand to grow its core location technology business.

» TomTom keeps CalmCalm

The Pill Club raises $51m to eliminate ‘contraceptive deserts’ 

The Pill Club, a California-based startup that delivers birth control on demand (along with “chocolate and sample gift items”), raised $51m.   

Along with several other birth control delivery startups, The Pill Club wants to eliminate ‘contraceptive deserts.’

What are ‘contraceptive deserts?’

Of the 67m women between the ages of 13 and 44 in the US, 19m live in so-called contraceptive deserts — areas without easy access to public clinics that provide birth control. 

Other women’s health companies including Nurx, Maven, and Lemonaid are also working to expand birth control access, but their efforts are often frustrated by pharmacies influenced by local doctors, lawyers, and insurers.

So, to reduce the number of barriers to access, The Pill Club decided to bring its pharmacy in-house.

‘Pharm to mailbox’

It’s like ‘farm to table’ except, you know, with birth control drugs…

Unlike its birth control delivery competitors, The Pill Club prescribes birth control from its own in-house pharmacy so women don’t have to crack skulls at local pharmacies to get it.

It works in some places, but not everywhere: According to The Pill Club’s site, it can dispense birth control all 50 states, but it can only prescribe it in 34 states (and DC).

But, with funding that now totals $67.2m, The Pill Club plans to ultimately expand its prescription to all 50 states and roll out new health products for its customers. 

» The Lone Prescriber

Munchery closes after raising $125m, citing rotten revenue numbers

Meal delivery startup Munchery announced it will close its delivery doors after years of issues involving an ever-changing business model, reports of food waste, and massive layoffs.

A bite out of the bottom line

Founded in 2010, Munchery came out of the kitchen ready to cook, sling, and deliver high-quality meals to consumers. But, despite raising $125m (at a $300m valuation), the company struggled to stay afloat. 

Munchery tried everything to stabilize its revenue: It partnered with celebrity restaurateurs to add meal kits to its menu, brought in a subscription model — it even opened a shop inside a San Francisco BART station to win over the commuter crowd. 

But the company couldn’t get out of the weeds. Last year, it closed in all cities except San Francisco, laying off 30% of its workforce (257 employees).

The meal kit biz ain’t as tasty as it looks

Meal kit startups like Plated and Home Chef have kept their ovens on by selling to large grocers, but many Munchery competitors like SpoonRocket, Sprig, Chef’d, Maple, and Ando have all met their bitter end.

And the ones sticking around aren’t exactly appetizing for investors: Blue Apron, which went public in 2017, is currently trading at $1.40 per share.

With difficult margins, towering logistical and shipping costs, and an oversaturated market, the meal kit delivery model may have been best left in the fridge.

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