Join us Thursday 6/8 for a Mobility & Delivery Tech Happy Hour. As part of LA Tech Week, we’re delighted to gather builders, technologists, policy practitioners, media and investors for a fun evening meetup by Venice Beach. Stop in for a free drink, stay for amazing conversations with the industry’s best and brightest. Thanks to our partners at Everee for their support of this event.
Checking In on Instant Delivery
Few sectors have had a tougher 12 months than rapid grocery delivery, buffeted by cooling investor sentiments, tightening regulations, and fickle consumer interest; the past few weeks have seen no respite for the battered industry.
In Amsterdam, the city council passed a ban on dark stores in residential neighborhoods, throwing a wrench in the hyper local distribution system that powers quick commerce. Other European cities like Paris and Barcelona have enacted similar bans, making European operations a much trickier proposition for the likes of Getir and Flink.
Things aren’t looking too much hotter in South America, where the industry thought that lower labor costs might make the economics more palatable. Uber-owned Cornershop trimmed 250 employees, with the biggest cuts happening in Chile. Other evidence suggests that if 15-minute delivery is going to “make it” as a sector, it’ll largely be on the backs of couriers; operators in the UK are moving from using employees towards contractors, after policymakers decided not to tighten regulations.
The chart below sums up the industry’s freefall, as app downloads have plummeted from Q1 ‘22 (Purple) to Q1 ’23 (Blue.) While some declines could be expected as new customers become repeat customers (and don’t need to redownload the app as they chase new customer incentives) - the long list of failed quick commerce companies suggest this is more than just a quirk with the data. RIP Gorillas, Blok, Weezy, Fancy, Cajoo, Yababa…
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
Decongesting congestion pricing: The plan to add a congestion pricing charge to motorists looking to enter Manhattan (south of 60th St.) is inching ahead, after receiving the Feds’ blessing. Beyond making the streets far more livable, the program would pump an estimated $1 billion a year into the beleaguered MTA. Some outlets are calling this the first congestion pricing in the country, but that’s not strictly true: motorists on a number of highways (including in the NY region) are already used to paying higher tolls during periods of peak demand. This would be the first domestic program to apply the tolls to an entire cordon, however. Best not to make the program sound unnecessarily alien and untested, lest more grandstanding politicians from the other side of the river try to kill it…
Uber & Lyft: Uber unveiled a slew of new features at its annual Go-Get event. Chief among them are family and teen accounts, car seats, group grocery orders, and a particularly neat new way to order cars by calling a toll-free number. Over at Lyft, it looks like the (pool) party is over, as the company is axing its pioneering shared ride service. That’s likely a symptom of larger issues at the company; if the network had enough supply and demand it should be possible to link similarly-routed trips together in a way that works out financially for each party.
As California goes, so goes the nation… New evidence suggests that California’s tougher environmental regulations for delivery trucks are having an impact outside the Golden State. Not only are other states (and provinces) adopting California’s zero emissions rules, but fleet operators are realizing that it’s worth it to bite the bullet and invest in vehicles that will be OK to operate in both “clean” and “dirty” markets. This should come as no surprise, the exact same thing happened two decades ago with passenger cars.
The notion powering motion(al): While most autonomous delivery startups stick to sidewalks, thinking that their small size and defined operating environment give them a leg up, Hyundai and Aptiv-backed Motional counters that by being able to balance demand for both ridehail and delivery, they’re the ones with a competitive edge. The company’s Senior Director of Business Development shares more insights, exclusively at OttOmate.
Scooters want to be good neighbors! Bird, Lime, Spin and Superpedestrian just unveiled a set of 10 recommendations that they hope all micromobility operators, and the cities they serve, will abide by. Points include limiting the number of operators in a market, tying fleet size to population count, ensuring city franchises last at least 3 years, keeping fees reasonable, using open standards like MDS and GBFS, and more. In totally unrelated news, German scooter operator Tier is looking to snap up ailing competitor Bolt.
Cali curbs 🤙 European traffic-counter Telraam is headed to SF, as the City by the Bay looks to quantify how safe (or not) its slow streets are. At the state level, AB 645 is bogged down, as Assemblymembers Chris Holden and Anthony Rendon are keeping the bill - which would OK traffic safety cameras - from leaving the Appropriations Committee. And down in San Diego, a key thoroughfare in the popular Gaslamp Quarter is being converted to pedestrian-only from noon to 2 AM every day.
Dropping like a freeze-dried stone: The meal-kit business has seen better days, as consumers no longer seem so hot to have a bundle of frozen ingredients delivered to them once a week. The overall “ship-to-home” meal-kit category fell a whopping 19% year over year. That grim outlook caused Nestle to shutter its Freshly division, which shareholders are now suing over the contention that the food giant failed to pay required earnouts.
E-bike subsidies go statewide: Denver’s pioneering e-bike subsidy program has proven to be a hit, as the city’s rebate ($300-500 for most residents, up to $1400 for those on a limited income or with disabilities) continues to run through its cash allocation month after month. Now a similar program is headed to the rest of the state, starting in 2024. The amount of the subsidy is weirdly contingent on the state’s economic growth, which sounds like a legalese that legislators would never dare apply to something like cars.
International curb appeal: Vianova and public transport operator RATP are teaming up to study activity across Paris’ curbs. Expect to see cameras and sensors deployed across 4,700 vehicles. And down under in Canberra, city leaders are looking to follow Dutch street-design principles in a bid to cut down on traffic violence.
Of maps and mian: What’s the best way to get new users to engage with your struggling mapping platform? Throw in more goodies for foodies, of course! Apple is taking that note, as it launches “Let’s Eat” guides in LA, NYC, and London. With all respect to Nando’s and naan, we can think of a few places that probably should have receive this honor before Old Blighty…
A few more (sausage) links: Oscar Mayer rebrands the Wienermobile - how’s that for automotive news! Amazon isn’t giving up on groceries quite yet. Nuro cuts staff to focus on R&D. Wayfair looks to shave last mile delivery costs. Yelp teams up with Toast and Google. Bird’s sinking stock an albatross for the whole industry. Un-Link-ed: Seattle’s transit expansion running late. What’s in a name? GM rebrands its fleet electrification solutions as “Envolve.” New data on foodtech valuations. Seeing more clunkers on the road? You’re not alone… Model this: why doesn't China have property taxes?
Ciao for now!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew
There has been some localised pushback to new dark stores in London too, where the dark store required change of use for the property. Happened near me in North West London where an isolated pub/cafe in a residential street was converted on an assumed permitted development rights basis to dark store, and then lost an enforcement action stating they needed to apply for change of use, then were told they were unlikely to get the change of use.