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Drone Delivery Gets Heated
3PDs battle NYC, Uber + Domino's, DaaS webinar
Over at our sister publication OttOmate, we have an in-depth story on the brewing patent wars between a number of drone delivery companies. The battle seems not to be in the skies, but as usual, nearer to the curb. At issue is who invented the concept of a “drone delivery mailbox” - think Amazon Locker with a mini helipad on top.
The idea is of course that since not everyone has a huge yard to toss a package into, most customers will need a managed location to hold their purchases. Depending on who had the idea first, hundreds of millions in royalty payments are at stake. That is… if drone delivery ever truly takes off! Read on for the full story.
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Tune in next Tuesday at 10 AM Pacific / 1 PM Eastern for “Connecting the Dots in Delivery” — a lively conversation on the untapped potential of delivery as a service. I’m delighted to join Joyride’s Andrew Miles and Whizz’ Ksenia Proka for what is sure to be a stimulating discussion. Register now.
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
Heads hunted: There’s been a few interesting job transitions to note, as Lyft’s former head of rideshare, Ashwin Raj, heads to EzCater. While the company got its start coordinating catering for offices, post-pandemic it has become a full blown food marketplace, as employers look to spice up options in a lure to get workers back at HQ. Meanwhile, Uber’s CFO Nelson Chai is stepping down, in the most significant leadership shakeup since the company’s 2019 IPO. And Alto has a new VP of Growth, freshly delivered from DoorDash.
More like VanPoof! Maybe last week’s complaints about ebikes set off some sort of cosmic reaction: one-time industry giant (at least by funds raised) VanMoof has entered receivership, after weeks of wobbling. While their pricy bikes turned heads, the internet is rife with horror stories about maintenance and reliability issues. The downside of “smart” products is revealing itself, as customers fear their internet enabled bicycles and batteries might get bricked. Competitor Cowboy has released a tool to unlock the bikes, but the latter company has had funding challenges of its own.
A few nice curbs: In Chicago, outdoor dining is enlivening Clark Street, as CDOT reveals expanded plans for outdoor spaces. Not to be outdone, NYC’s public realm officer unveiled plans to improve the streetscape in a number of locales: including tony Fifth Ave. Planners there better be ready to dig in their heels, as the fight over an open street in the Upper West Side shows how recalcitrant NIMBYs can be even in the most transit-served neighborhoods. On the West Coast, Santa Monica unveiled Euro-style bike lanes, maybe the rest of the region will take a hint. On the macro level, business improvement districts are waking up to the idea that nice curbs will draw folks back to the area, meaning a new source of funds for upgrades might make itself available.
Remember taxis? Hong Kong is toughening driver penalties and increasing passenger occupancy limits in a bid to tame the unruly industry, which still looms relatively large in the dense metropolis. Across the quasi-border, Beijing OKed a large driverless taxi fleet in the capital city. Meanwhile, industry insiders are trashing the Saudi ridehail market as “fucking appalling” — we can’t imagine why that exact quote went unattributed…
3PDs duke it out! DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub and local-player Relay temporarily put aside their rivalry to fight a common foe: The Big Apple. The marketplaces are mad about a new minimum wage for delivery workers that was set to go into effect on Wednesday, which would have raised rates to $17.96 per active hour. The third party deliverers have won the first round, as a judge temporarily paused the pay raise from going into effect. In a razor thin margin industry, the real winners are the lawyers…
Prime time: What did you get for Amazon Prime Day? Collectively consumers shopped for an estimated $12.7 billion worth of goods at the Everything Store, as well as at other retailers running similar sales. Expect the roads to be extra congested with package deliveries for the next few weeks, even if analysts are disappointed that this year sales “only” rose 6.1%.
EVs pile up: No matter what the question, America’s answer tends to be “more cars!” But it looks like consumers are only so hungry for EVs, despite the increased incentives. Non-Tesla EV inventory currently sits at 92 days, compared to 54 for gas guzzlers. Given yoyoing supply chains and a hangover from new brands entering the market, this number should slowly correct. But wouldn’t it be better if we gave those wary consumers a non-driving alternative?
Uber Eats Domino’s: Domino’s was one of the last big brands to stay off of the third party delivery marketplaces, as it relied on its robust delivery network and strong brand presence to keep orders in-house. Now it’s struck a deal with Uber Eats, crowning the app its exclusive 3PD partner. That said, Domino’s will stick to delivering the pizza itself (despite a worker shortage) and is instead treating this more like a new marketing channel. While stock buyers see this as a big win for DPZ, this is also a big leg up for Uber Eats, as it gives consumers a reason to open its app first, as opposed to those of its familiar rivals.
Lock in those earnings: If the aforementioned lawsuit, as well as earlier news like DoorDash’s “earn by time” announcement, show anything — it’s that gig workers are wary about how spiky their earnings can be. A quick trip with a nice tip can be a true moneymaker, while an order that leaves them languishing at the takeout window followed by a long drive might effectively cost them more than they make. Solo has rolled out an interesting product to address that issue, a “Pay Guarantee” that estimates a worker’s upcoming rate, and offers scheduling nudges to improve what that number might be. Given that the user has to pay 25 cents per hour to “lock in” the rate - clever actuaries might note this is basically an insurance product.
Yadda yadda yadda, more links: WOWorks unveils seven new virtual brands, guess I’ll see you at “Spoon Me.” An IPO for water. Crowdfunding is back, as What3words raises a million pounds. NYC unveils composting plan, in latest bid to de-trash streets and curbs. SCAG gets $41.7M in grant money, seems content to spend way too much on studies and not action. Gov. Newsom signs bills to speed up infrastructure projects (design-build) and CEQA challenges (capped at 270 days.) CTA makes progress towards 100% accessibility, your move MTA! Hawaii set to be first state with NEVI-funded EV chargers. Moove raises $8M for vehicle financing in Africa. Job cuts down.
Until next week!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew