Papa’s got a brand new Shaq


March 25, 2019

Today, Russia wants to go solo, and Travis Kalanick’s fund goes global, but first…
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After an illustrious career in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal finally lands his dream job

Shaquille O’Neal really likes food — donuts, barbeque, his mom’s mac and cheese, all of it. 

Now, after nearly 27 years of hard, grueling, unsexy professional work as an NBA superstar (on and off the court), he’s finally doing what he was born to do.

Papa John’s announced on Friday that Shaquille O’Neal will take a seat as a board member and become the new face of the beleaguered brand, in hopes that the hall-of-famer can rejuve the struggling pizza chain’s image.

Pizza baked in controversy

Papa John’s has tried everything to wipe the cheesy stink of its founder, “Papa” John Schnatter, off its pizza-smeared face since 2017 when he first delivered a piping hot controversy pie.

First, he blamed disappointing sales on the NFL’s “poor” response to protests against police brutality (at the time, PJ’s was the NFL’s official pizza partner) — tanking stock 11%. 

Then, the cheese really bubbled after a group of white nationalists got mixed into the dough, deeming PJ’s ’za “the official pizza of the alt-right.” 

Papa John’s tried to let the bad press cool, but Schnatter really burnt the crust in May 2018 after using a racial epithet on an earnings call.

Schnatter was forced to resign from his role as chairman in July, but not before the company’s North American sales took a 7.3% nosedive in 2018 — with Papa John’s stock down 12% over the last year.

More than just a pretty face

Shaq has incredibly well-developed business acumen in the restaurant biz: He currently owns a Krispy Kreme franchise in Atlanta, a fried chicken restaurant in Vegas, and a Los Angeles fine dining establishment called “Shaquille’s” (he also previously owned 27 Five Guys franchises).

O’Neal, who initially approached Papa John’s, will serve as the board’s first African American director, as well as an investor in 9 Papa John’s restaurants around Atlanta.

The 3-year endorsement deal will net him $8.25m, paid half in cash and half in Papa John’s stock. That’s on top of the $5.8m on reimaging costs that the chain spent last year… Also, I am Kazaam.

Kazaam’s making it rain pizza again
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Keatz raises $13m to expand its cloud kitchen across Europe

Keatz, a restaurant-chain-without-any-restaurants that creates food exclusively for delivery, raised $13m to expand its network of “cloud kitchens” across Europe.

Thanks to the ongoing popularity of food delivery platforms like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Deliveroo, cloud kitchens are cropping up across the globe to crank out deliverable food.

‘Food made for delivery’

Keatz operates 8 separate food “brands” out of its shared kitchens, using Wi-Fi-connected convection ovens and a wide network of delivery platforms (Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Glovo, Just Eat, Delivery Hero and Takeaway) to deliver fresh eats fast.

Unlike its brick-and-mortar competitors, Keatz designs its dishes specifically for delivery instead of adapting sit-down dishes to prevent nightmare scenarios like (trigger warning) soggy french fries.

Keatz launched in 2016 and now operates 10 cloud kitchens in Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Cloudy with a chance of kitchens

Keatz is far from the only company with its kitchen in the clouds: Green Summit Group and CloudKitchens have launched similar collectives of ghost restaurants across the US.

Companies like Uber are actively encouraging the development of cloud kitchens to make sure their delivery drivers have enough burritos to drive around: Uber Eats uses its delivery data to partner with local restaurants to launch digital food brands.

The food delivery market is expected to grow from $35B to $365B by 2030.

» 2 is company, 3’s a cloud

Travis Kalanick’s VC helps fund a $7.6m seed round for Kargo

Travis Kalanick, the former Uber CEO, rolled out an Asian-investment VC fund last year. Now, he’s investing in a trucking and logistics company run by ex-Uber employee Tiger Fang (yes, that is a human person’s real name).

Kalanick’s company, titled 10100, took part in a $7.6m seed round for Kargo, an Indonesian trucking and logistics company that applies many of the same concepts behind Uber.

You know, “Uber for trucks,” babay.

But not totally… 

Fang told TechCrunch that, while its business does cater to customers ordering trucks using a mobile app or website, its scope is much wider because it works with truck operators rather than drivers themselves.

At Uber, Fang ramped up the company’s Southeast Asia operations, managing the company’s business in Chengdu (at one point the company’s busiest city based on daily trip volume). 

He started Kargo late last year after “months” of research, and this new round officially brings Kargo out of stealth.

No love for Sequoia Capital

10100 is participating, but the round is actually led by Sequoia India and Southeast Asia. But, being that Fang, and 50 of the Kargo employees are ex-uber Asia employees, Kalanick is in many ways the headline investor.

Kalanick reportedly agreed to invest last year when he visited Southeast Asia. Kargo plans to expand, but right now the focus is entirely on Indonesia — the world’s fourth-largest population.

» Kargo’ing for the gold

To put up a Silicon Curtain, Russia is testing out its own internet

In the next few days, Russia plans to unplug from the internet and run its own, independent network, “Runet.” 

To “turn off” the World Wide Web, Russia is building a brand-new system — from the cable to the domain — that could be a sneak-preview of a new, state-sponsored internet.

One does not simply ‘leave the internet’

Every time you watch a cat video, you’re using both a global network of physical infrastructure and also a shared set of global protocols (basically giant dictionaries that all computers reference).

So, to make its own internet, Russia will need to create its own network of servers — which must contain everything anyone in Russia wants to access — and also write its own new “dictionary.”

Russia has already developed its own domain name system (DNS) and started streamlining the nation’s physical cable exchanges so internet providers can screen out foreign memes.

So — why does Russia want its own internet again?

Russia is pursuing “sovereign internet” to eliminate reliance on global companies and foreign servers, many of which are in the US (a 2014 law already requires global social networks to store Russian data in Russia).

This is only a test. But if current “sovereign internet” legislation passes, Russian internet providers will be required to source their interwebs from Russia only — a precarious prospect that would give the Russian government centralized control over what Runet-surfers see.

» Boo-net
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