You can now take your Amazon returns to all Kohl’s stores


This post is by Frederic Lardinois from TechCrunch


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It’s one thing to be able to get everything delivered to your doorstep, it’s another to then have to actually have to leave your home, brace the elements and return those things that just didn’t work out (or work at all). Typically, that means a run to your local FedEx or UPS store. For the last two years, Amazon and department store chain Kohl’s had a limited partnership that allowed you to bring your return to 100 Kohl’s stores across the country. Today, the two companies announced that they’d expand this program to all 1,150 Kohl’s locations in the U.S.

Only last month, Kohl’s and Amazon also announced that the store would start carrying Amazon products in about 200 of its stores. In a few stores, Kohl’s also features a special “Amazon Smart Home Experience.” If Amazon ever bought Kohl’s, nobody would be all that surprised, I

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Amazon expands partnership with retail company Casino Group in France


This post is by Romain Dillet from TechCrunch


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Casino Group and Amazon announced that they're expanding their partnership in France. In particular, there will be Amazon lockers in 1,000 supermarkets and smaller grocery stores across France.

Casino Group partnered with Amazon last year to launch Monoprix on Amazon Prime Now. Prime members in Paris can order groceries and other products you'd regularly find in Monoprix supermarkets and get them delivered in just a couple of hours.

And it sounds like this offering is working well as you'll find Monoprix on Prime Now in other big cities in France.

In addition to Monoprix, Casino Group is adding Casino-branded items to Amazon as well as wine sourced by Casino. It's unclear if those products will be limited to Prime Now or not.

Amazon will take advantage of Casino Group’s large network of stores to add Amazon lockers in 1,000 locations. If you live near a Monoprix, Monop’, Géant, Hyper Casino,

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Digging into key takeaways from our 2019 Robotics+AI Sessions Event


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater and Lucas Matney shared their key takeaways from our Robotics+AI Sessions event at UC Berkeley last week.

The event was filled with panels, demos and intimate discussions with key robotics and deep learning founders, executives and technologists. Brian and Lucas discuss which companies excited them most, as well as which verticals have the most exciting growth prospects in the robotics world.

“This is the second [robotics event] in a row that was done at Berkeley where people really know the events; they respect it, they trust it and we’re able to get really, I would say far and away the top names in robotics. It was honestly a room full of all-stars.

I think our Disrupt events are definitely skewed towards investors and

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Amazon opens Key delivery to garages


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Starting today, Amazon can drop off packages to your garage. Assuming, of course, you’re cool with that. The massively multiplayer online retailer just expanded its Key delivery options to include garages, a feature it announced at the beginning of the year at CES.

Customers will have to opt-in, of course. And the whole thing requires a specific kind of garage door that uses myQ technology. Coincidentally (not really, though), the company’s offering a deal on the myQ Smart Garage Hub right now, which makes doors Key compatible.

Once that’s squared, eligible Amazon Prime customers can tick the “In-Garage delivery” box at check-out. The Key app can also be used to remotely monitor the status of the door.

Amazon’s also using the occasion to announce that Key is available for customers in a number of new cities, including Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Fresno, Calif.; Grand Rapids, Mich.;

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$44M-funded Omni pivots from storage to rentals via retailers


This post is by Josh Constine from TechCrunch


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Omni simply couldn’t scale storing stuff in giant warehouses while dropping it and off picking it up from people on demand. Storage was designed to bootstrap Omni into peer-to-peer rentals of the goods in its care. But now it’s found a better way by partnering with retailers which will host and rent out goods for Omni that users will pick up themselves.

With that strategy, Omni is now formally pivoting from storage alongside its expansion from San Francisco and Portland into Los Angeles and New York. In SF and its new markets starting today, users can rent GoPros, strollers, drills, guitars, and more for pickup and dropoff at 100 local storefronts which will receive 80 percent of the revenue while Omni keeps 20 percent.

“Storage was always meant to supply a rentals marketplace. We launched storage in an Uber-for everything era and now it’s no secret that physical operations are

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Google & Amazon reach an agreement to bring their streaming apps to each others’ platforms


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Google and Amazon are burying the hatchet to better serve users of their respective streaming video platforms, the companies announced this morning. In the months ahead, the official YouTube app will come to Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition smart TVs, while the Prime Video app will come to Chromecast and other devices with Chromecast built-in.

Prime Video will also become broadly available across the Android TV partner ecosystem, and YouTube’s sister apps — YouTube TV and YouTube Kids — will come to Fire TV later in the year.

Google says YouTube users on Fire TV will be able to sign in, have full access to their library, and play videos in 4K HDR at 60 fps on supported devices.

Prime Video app users, meanwhile, will be able to stream from the Prime Video catalog, including Amazon’s original programming, 4K videos, and access their Prime Video Channel subscriptions.

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Amazon China to close local marketplace and place more focus on cross-border


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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Amazon has finally given up the fight with Chinese online shopping giants to capture the domestic market. On Thursday, the Seattle-based ecommerce company announced it will shut down its marketplace on Amazon.cn, which connects mainland Chinese buyers and sellers, while other units of its local venture will stay intact.

“We are working closely with our sellers to ensure a smooth transition and to continue to deliver the best customer experience possible,” an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch, adding that this segment of the business will end on July 18.

The partial retreat, first reported by Reuters and Bloomberg, is indicative of the relentless ecommerce race in China where Alibaba and JD.com dominate, with newcomer Pinduoduo closing on the incumbents’ heels.

But this is hardly the end of Amazon’s China story. The American giant has over the years attracted waves of cross-border sellers, many of whom have hailed from

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3 pieces of advice in Jeff Bezos’ Shareholder Letter


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


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In my previous post, I urged you all to take a moment and make some price comparisons before buying from Amazon, which is no longer the cheapest or the best place to buy stuff. Other options are equally convenient — it not as fast — especially when it comes to returning stuff that isn’t up to scratch.

However, in the process of writing that post, I ended up spending a lot of time reading (and re-reading) Jeff Bezos’ letter to Amazon shareholders. Here is some wisdom that can apply to all types of organizations – teams, small startups, partnerships, and large groups.

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Amazon launches a certification program for Alexa skill developers


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Developers building voice-enabled applications for Amazon Echo and other Alexa-powered devices will now have a new way to validate their abilities, with Amazon’s launch of a new AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Speciality certification. This is the first time Amazon has offered a certification program for Alexa developers, the company says.

Certification programs are standard in the technology industry — and AWS already offers a training program and certifications of its own that allow organizations to identify professionals with cloud expertise and an understanding of AWS.

The new Alexa certification will be a speciality within the AWS program, and will validate those with an understanding of all aspects of Alexa voice app development.

This includes the more practical matters — like how to develop, test, validate and troubleshoot skills, the use of the Alexa Developer Console, how to manage skill operations and lifecycles, and more. But it will also

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Amazon UnPrimed


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


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Bloomberg noticed that Amazon’s retail growth is slowing, especially as brick-and-mortar merchants have stepped up their digital game. Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged that in his latest shareholder letter. “It’s hard to explain the slowdown in Amazon’s merchandise sales growth,” Bloomberg wondered in their story. I don’t know about the larger macro reasons, but I have my story to share.

I have been a life long Prime customer, and am definitely happy to pay for the premium of getting whatever I want within 48 hour time frame. Prime Now is great. However, lately, I have started to order less and less from Amazon. Just as I have shifted most of my search away from Google, I am not sure I want Amazon to have complete control over my shopping habits. So instead, I am being more unfaithful to Bezos’ bodega.

Additionally, Amazon has lost its core value proposition — it Continue reading “Amazon UnPrimed”

Logitech’s new remote ditches the touchscreen for Alexa


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Logitech has a long history of serving AV nerds with its advanced line of universal remotes. In an age of eight million set top boxes, dongles and video on demand services, the Harmony line has done a good job streamlining users’ needs into a single device.

As the name suggests, the Harmony Express isn’t designed for as serious a crowd as its predecessors. In fact, the new remote skips the more advanced stuff like touchscreens, in order to let Alexa do the heavy lifting.

Amazon’s smart assistant can be used to perform your standard array of tasks, like turning devices on and off, launching apps and going to specific channels. You can also do all of the regular non-remote Alexa stuff, like listening to news and controlling smart home devices. There’s a built-in mic and speaker, so you can converse with the assistant.

It’s a bit of a gamble. You

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JD founder cautions logistics business must tighten belt


This post is by Rita Liao from TechCrunch


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Alibaba’s arch-foe JD.com has long prided itself on owning and controlling its logistics services: couriers are treated as in-house staff and paid a basic income. But that will end soon as costs keep piling up for the ecommerce giant.

In an internal letter sent to the staff on Monday, JD founder and chief executive Richard Liu said the company will scrap basic salary for couriers as net loss amounted to 2.8 billion yuan ($420 million) in 2018 at JD’s logistics unit.

“The main reason is we had too few orders externally and too high a cost internally,” said Liu. “You all know that the last two years have been quite difficult for the company. We have been in the loss for more than ten years. If losses continue, JD Logistics only has two years of runway left with its capital raised.”

“I don’t think any of our

JD Logistics

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Smart speakers installed base to top 200 million by year end


This post is by Sarah Perez from TechCrunch


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Smart speakers’ global installed base is on track to top 200 million by the end of this year, according to a report out today from analysts at Canalys. Specifically, the firm forecasts the installed base will grow by 82.4 percent from 114 million units in 2018 to 207.9 million in 2019. The U.S. will continue to lead in terms of smart speaker adoption, but a good portion of this year’s growth will also come from East Asian markets –  particularly China, the report says.

The firm estimates 166 percent year-over-year growth in the installed base for smart speakers in mainland China this year – going from 22.5 million units in 2018 to 59.9 million in 2019 – to reach 13 percent smart speaker penetration in the region. That’s compared with 46 percent growth in the U.S.

The market for China will also look much

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Get ready for a new era of personalized entertainment


This post is by Jonathan Shieber from TechCrunch


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New machine learning technologies, user interfaces and automated content creation techniques are going to expand the personalization of storytelling beyond algorithmically generated news feeds and content recommendation.

The next wave will be software-generated narratives that are tailored to the tastes and sentiments of a consumer.

Concretely, it means that your digital footprint, personal preferences and context unlock alternative features in the content itself, be it a news article, live video or a hit series on your streaming service.

The title contains different experiences for different people.

From smart recommendations to smarter content

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Amazon teams with FIRST for robotics education grants


This post is by Brian Heater from TechCrunch


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Earlier this week, Amazon confirmed that it would be acquiring Canvas, a little known Colorado based startup that creates autonomous driving systems for warehouse fulfillment. It’s the latest in a long line of moves that finds the company looking seriously at automation for the future of retail plans.

Last year, the company announced the launch of Amazon Future Engineer, a program designed facilitate STEM education in classrooms. To help launch the program, Amazon is with STEM non-profit FIRST to create a series of robotics grants specifically targeted underrepresented populations.

The plan kicks off with 100 schools in 21 states, starting in fall of this year. The program features support for FIRST robotics teams and teacher education, along with an additional $10,0000 in funding and a tour of local fulfillment centers. The company says it currently has more than 100,000 robots deployed across its warehouses.

“Amazon is helping FIRST in

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African e-commerce startup Jumia’s shares open at $14.50 in NYSE IPO


This post is by Jake Bright from TechCrunch


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Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia listed on the New York Stock Exchange today, with shares beginning trading at $14.50 under ticker symbol JMIA. This comes four weeks after CEO Sacha Poignonnec confirmed the IPO to TechCrunch and Jumia filed SEC documents.

With the public offering, Jumia becomes the first startup from Africa to list on a major global exchange.

In an updated SEC filing, Jumia indicated it is offering 13,500,000 ADR shares, for an opening price spread of $13 to $16 per share, representing 17.6 percent of all company shares. The IPO could raise up to $216 million for the internet venture.

Since the original announcement (and reflected in the latest SEC docs), Mastercard Europe pre-purchased $50 million in Jumia ordinary shares.

The IPO creates another milestone for Jumia. The company became the first African startup unicorn in 2016, achieving a $1 billion valuation after a funding round

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Prevent Amazon From Eavesdropping On Your Alexa Conversations


This post is by Brendan Hesse from Lifehacker


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Fun fact: Snippets of your Alexa conversations may be heard and read by thousands of Amazon employees. According to recent reports, Amazon has an international team of employees who work to help Alexa better understand your many commands and develop new ways for the AI to interact with users. This requires them to…

Read more…

WTF is Baillie Gifford?


This post is by Arman Tabatabai from TechCrunch


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The SoftBank Vision Fund has been screaming from the venture headlines the last few months, driven by eye-popping rounds (and valuations!) into some of the most notable startups around the world. Yet, SoftBank isn’t the only player rapidly buying up the cap tables of top startups. Indeed, another firm, more than a century old, has been fighting for that late-stage equity crown.

Baillie Gifford .

… Who the what?

When our fintech contributor Gregg Schoenberg interviewed Charles Plowden, the firm’s joint senior partner, about the firm’s prodigious investing, we realized that we have never gone in-depth on one of the most influential investors in Silicon Valley. So here goes.

Baillie Gifford is a 110-year-old asset management firm based out of Edinburgh, Scotland, and has long had a penchant for pre-IPO tech companies. The firm was an early investor into some

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Baillie Gifford’s Charles Plowden on 110 years of investing


This post is by Gregg Schoenberg from TechCrunch


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“It is our contention that the investment industry may be experiencing a peak of its own, in this case the point of the maximum rate at which it extracts value from its clients’ assets. Let’s call it Peak Gravy.” That’s a recent quote from Tom Coutts, who is one of a few dozen partners at Baillie Gifford (See Arman Tabatabai’s profile here). It’s also typical of the provocative sentiments offered by this band of fund managers who are based in Edinburgh, but scour the world looking for opportunities.

In an effort to distinguish its world view, the firm has introduced the somewhat eyebrow-raising tagline, “We’re actual investors.” For many US technology observers, though, Baillie Gifford is known for its investments in unicorns. But as Extra Crunch’s executive editor Danny Crichton and I found out in a recent conversation with Charles Plowden (one

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DHL launches Africa eShop app for global retailers to sell into Africa


This post is by Jake Bright from TechCrunch


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DHL is launching an e-commerce app called DHL Africa eShop for global retailers to sell goods to Africa’s consumers markets.

The platform goes live today and brings more than 200 U.S. and UK retailers—from Nieman Marcus to Carters—online in 11 African markets: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Malawi, Botswana, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

DHL Africa eShop will operate using startup MallforAfrica.com’s white label service, Link Commerce. Payment methods will include local fintech options, such as Nigeria’s Paga and Kenya’s M-Pesa.

The announcement comes as e-commerce in Africa has seen some ups and downs—with online sales startup Jumia announcing an IPO, while several Africa digital retail ventures have recently faltered.

DHL Africa eShop takes advantage of shipping giant’s existing delivery structure on the continent, able to get goods to doorsteps near and far through its DHL Express shipping, tracking, and courier service.

DHL’s partner for

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