India’s Meesho, which enables social commerce via WhatsApp, raises $50M

Meesho, a Bangalore-based social commerce startup, has closed a $50 million investment to grow its business in its Indian homeland ahead of future international expansion.

This Series C round means that Meesho, which graduated Y Combinator in 2016, has now raised three funding rounds in the past year. Its $3.4 million Series A came in October 2017 with an $11.5 million Series B closing in June of this year. That’s quite the rollercoaster and over the last year, Meesho has seen its top line revenue grow by over 100X so co-founder and CEO Vidit Aatrey told TechCrunch in an interview. This time around, the $50 million raise includes new investors Shunwei Capital from China, DST Partners and RPS Ventures, as well as returning backers Sequoia India, SAIF Partners, Venture Highway and Y Combinator. Meesho has adjusted its focus considerably since it graduated YC, and today it operates as
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Facebook opens its first small biz pop-up stores inside Macy’s

Facebook is bursting out of the ones and zeros into the physical realm with nine brick-and-mortar pop-up stores that will show off goods from 100 small business and online brands. Facebook organized the merchants to be part of The Market @ Macy’s, which first launched earlier this year to create temporary spaces for businesses. The merchants keep all their sales revenue with Facebook and Macy’s taking no revenue share, and they don’t have to pay the standard one-time fee to Macy’s for the space. The stores feature News Feed post-themed displays complete with like button imagery so it feels like you’re shopping Facebook in real life.

While Facebook doesn’t earn money directly from the stores, it could convince the small businesses and others like them to spend more on Facebook ads. Alongside recent tests of advanced Instagram analytics and instant Promote ads for Stories, Facebook wants to build a deeper
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Bonobos and Nike get their own branded shops on Walmart’s

Last year, Walmart acquired menswear site Bonobos for $310 million in cash. Now the retailer is adding the brand to a Walmart-owned website. A few days ago, Walmart opened up an online shop for Bonobos on its website, newly focused on serving urban shoppers, along with a dedicated shop for Nike apparel, footwear and accessories.

The Nike shop is a part of the company’s strategic partnership with the brand, announced in September, and provides Nike with its own fully branded experience on the site. In addition to the Nike items for running, training, and sportswear, Jet will also become an authorized sellers of select Nike and Converse products as a result of the deal. Meanwhile, the Bonobos shop features fall apparel and other classics, including things like stretch-washed chinos, brushed button downs, bomber jackets and Italian topcoats, the company says. These, too, will live in their own
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Amazon opens yet another retail store, this time in Berkeley, CA

Halloween’s over, that means retail is in full holiday mode. For Amazon, that also means a couple of new shipping offers and, apparently, the launch of a bunch of new brick and mortar locations. In September, the online giant opened a 4-Star Store in New York City, following it up with a Denver location last week.

The Verge notes that Amazon’s opening yet another location for its new retail strategy, this time in the East Bay. The Berkeley location follows the same model as its predecessors, only stocking products that have managed to score four stars or higher on the site. Naturally, that list also includes a bunch of Amazon’s own products, including Echo speakers and Fire tablets.

If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to actually experience some of those products in person — a phenomenon that’s become rarer and rarer in the age of online commerce. The retail

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UK to probe fairness of personalized pricing practices in online retail

The UK government has announced an investigation into personalized pricing practices in online retail following growing concerns that vulnerable consumers are at risk of price discrimination through the use of ecommerce technologies that vary prices for products such as cars, holidays and household goods via the use of personal data points.

The Competition Markets Authority (CMA) will also be involved in the research, which was announced yesterday. The government-commissioned research is intended to investigate how widespread the practice of personalized online pricing is; how businesses are applying it through different mediums like search engines, apps or comparison tools; and the extent to which it is preventing shoppers getting the best deals, the CMA said. Commenting in a statement, business secretary Greg Clark said: “UK businesses are leading the way in harnessing the power of new technologies and new ways of doing business, benefitting consumers and helping them save money. But we
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Amazon reportedly in ‘advanced talks’ to open HQ2 in Virginia

These sorts of major decision no doubt take some time. And, of course, Amazon is clearly milking the decision making process for all it’s worth as cities across the States roll out the red carpet. According to a new report from The Washington Post, however, the big news surrounding where the company opens its second headquarters may come sooner than later.

The Bezos-owned paper is reporting that the retail giant is in “advanced talks” with Crystal City, a neighborhood in North Virginia that lies just south of the Washington D.C. Those conversations are reportedly further along and “more detailed” than any of the other Amazon has had with fellow top contenders. Nearby metro stops and proximity to a major airport are all requirements that are fulfilled by Crystal City.

Among the topics broached during the talks are questions around building capacity and how quickly the company can start

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Sequoia leads $10M round for home improvement negotiator Setter

You probably don’t know how much it should cost to get your home’s windows washed, yard landscaped, or countertops replaced. But Setter does. The startup pairs you with a home improvement concierge familiar with all the vendors, prices, and common screwups that plague these jobs. Setter finds the best contractors across handiwork, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and more. It researches options, negotiates a bulk rate, and with its added markup you pay a competitive price with none of the hassle.

One of the most reliable startup investing strategies is looking at where people spend a ton of money but hate the experience. That makes home improvement a prime target for disruption, and attracted a $10 million Series A round for Setter co-led by Sequoia Capital and NFX. “The main issue is that contractors and homeowners speak different languages” Setter co-founder and CEO Guillaume Laliberté tells me, “which results in unclear scopes of
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Dynamic Yield, which builds Amazon-like personalisation for the rest of us, raises $38M

Amazon, one of the world’s largest companies, has transformed the face of commerce in part because it has managed to at once to be “The Everything Store” but still with a route into its sea of products that, for most users, surfaces what they might most want to see (and importantly buy or consume). That kind personalisation has become a goal not just for e-commerce companies, but for any organization running a digital business: users are constantly distracted, and when their attention is caught, they do not want to spend time figuring out what they most want.

Not every business is Amazon, though, so we are seeing a crop of startups emerging that are working on ways to help the rest of the digital world be just as optimised and personalised as Amazon is. Now one of them, an Israeli startup called Dynamic Yield has raised more money
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Alibaba cuts its revenue forecast as growth slackens

Alibaba’s long stretch of growth finally broke after the Chinese e-commerce giant reported somewhat underwhelming financial results for its Q2 2019 quarter.

The company fell short of market expectation as it rang up RMB 85.15 billion ($12.398 billion) in revenue during Q2 2019, coming in slightly below Bloomberg’s estimate of RMB86.58 billion, or $12.4 billion. The company has also cut its forecasted annual revenue target by four to six percent — within a range of RMB375 billion to RMB383 billion — although it did not provide an explanation for this adjustment. This is far from doom and gloom. The e-commerce giant’s revenue is still growing at a decent rate of 54 percent year-over-year, but this quarter marks the first time its revenue growth has fallen under 55 percent since its 3Q 2017 — that was some seven quarters ago in January 2017. The company posted a net income
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FabFitFun surpasses $200 million in revenue as it hits million-customer milestone

At least one million people will be receiving the next FabFitFun box as the Los Angeles company surpasses $200 million in revenue and continues its run as one of the startups to watch in the Los Angeles tech community. 

As it renews its focus on media — doubling down on new programming in a bid to reach further into repeatable revenue through subscriptions that encompass more than just retail — the company is trying to frame itself as more than just makeup and accessories in a box. “When we think of the potential behind the business … there are a few businesses in the world for whom membership is a no brainer. Netflix is, Spotify is and we think FabFitFun is a no brainer,” said Daniel Broukhim co-founder and co-chief executive of FabFitFun. 

The company’s

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Retail-as-a-service provider Leap raises $3M and launches first store

The past decade in retail has been the golden age of direct-to-consumer (D2C) and digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) that use the internet to communicate with customers, execute transactions, handle distribution and offer better economics.

But as small independent startups have scaled into unicorn territory and as countless brands have saturated digital channels, customer acquisition has gotten harder and costlier.  Companies are now trying to meet customers with different purchase habits by developing physical stores. 

However, building an effective brick-and-mortar presence can be expensive and risky for DNVBs, requiring resources outside their core competencies.  Chicago-based startup, Leap, is hoping to make it easier for digital brands to grow physical retail footprints without the typical risks of store development by taking care of the entire process for them.

Leap offers a full-service platform covering the complete life cycle of a brand’s brick-and-mortar launch.  In addition to owning the lease

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Snapchat’s PR firm sues influencer for not promoting Spectacles on Instagram

Influcencer marketing could get a lot more accountable if Snapchat’s PR firm wins this lawsuit. Snapchat hoped that social media stars promoting v2 of its Spectacles camera sunglasses on its biggest competitor could boost interest after it only sold 220,000 of v1 and had to take a $40 million write-off. Instead Snap comes off looking a little desperate to make Spectacles seem cool.

Snap Inc comissioned its public relations firm PR Consulting (real imaginative) to buy its an influencer marketing campaign on Instagram . The firm struck a deal with Grown-ish actor Luka Sabbat after he was seen cavorting with Kourtney Kardashian. Sabbat got paid $45,000 up front with the promise of another $15,000 to post himself donning Spectacles on Instagram. He was contracted to make one Instagram feed post and three Stories posts with him wearing Specs, plus be photographed wearing them in public at Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks.
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Scared to trade stocks? Titan algorithmically invests for you

Titan could put an end to stock market FOMO. The app chooses the best 20 stocks by scraping top hedge fund data, adds some shorts based on your personal risk profile and puts your money to work. No worrying about market fluctuations or constantly rebalancing your portfolio. You don’t have do anything, but can get smarter about stocks thanks to its in-app explanations and research reports. Titan wants to be the easiest way to invest in stocks for a mobile generation that wants an affordable coach to guide them through the market themselves.

“Our goal is to take things that aren’t accessible [in wealth management] and make them accessible, starting with hedge funds,” says Titan co-founder Joe Percoco. That potential to democratize one of the keys to financial mobility has won Titan a $2.5 million seed round from Y Combinator’s co-founder Paul Graham, president Sam Altman and partners including Gmail
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As stock rises on a slim earnings beat, eBay tells analysts to focus on payments and ads

Despite increasing competition from traditional retailers like Walmart and Target, which have invested heavily in e-commerce, and the whupping it’s routinely taking from Amazon among pure e-commerce companies, eBay the 20-year-old lumbering Pez dispenser of an e-tailer, keeps plugging along.

Now, as it manages to eke out another earnings win by matching analysts’ expectations, the company is telling the bankers that watch it to look to advertising and payments for its future growth. The company met analysts’ estimates of revenue totaling $2.65 billion, up from $2.41 billion in the year-ago period. That amounts to adjusted earnings of 56 cents per share, up from 48 cents per share in the year-ago period and beating analyst estimates of 54 cents per share. Profits for the company hit $720 million for the quarter. The news sent shares up over 4 percent in trading after the market closed on Tuesday. But more
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AmazonSmile has raised $100 million for charity

A little good press goes a long way for a company like Amazon. The company routinely gets knocked for things like warehouse conditions, tax breaks and impact on smaller retail outlets. AmazonSmile’s helped to counteract that a bit, raising money for legitimately good causes, skimmed off purchases from the site.

The online retail giant announced this morning that it’s made $100 million in charitable donations through the program, since launching almost exactly five years ago.

Amazon hasn’t broken down how much each participating charity has raised through the campaign, only that “hundreds of thousands of charities have been able to expand their meaningful work thanks to the donations they’ve received through AmazonSmile,” according to Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, Jeff Wilke.

Amazon’s also pumping up the incentives for this week. Purchases between now and November 2 will quality for a donation of five-percent of eligible products. That’s apparently around 10 times

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Blue Apron gets a much-needed boost with partnership

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That explains a coming-together between two startups today after announced it will give beleaguered Blue Apron a leg-up by introducing its meal kits for customers in New York.

The deal will an initially rotating selection of four meal kits from Blue Apron made available as part of Jet’s ‘City Grocery’ experience. The kits — which will rotate every six weeks — will be available for same-day or next-day order in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, as well as Jersey City and Hoboken. Jet — which is the first e-tailer partner for Blue Apron — said the kits are designed specifically for its customers based on “extensive feedback” based around what they want to eat, how they want to make it, etc. As a part of that focus, all of the kits take less than 30 minutes to prepare. The initial selection includes the
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Teikametrics raises $10M to optimize Amazon ads

Teikametrics is a Boston-based startup that helps retailers tackle the challenges of advertising on Amazon. Today, the company is announcing that it has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

CEO Alasdair McLean-Foreman said third-party sellers represent 60 percent of the transactions on Amazon. But they don’t have any real data science capabilities, so they need help advertise their goods in a way that maximizes profitability. “We are using big data to help sellers optimize for profitability,” McLean-Foreman said. He compared it to the work that Amazon has done “optimizing on the consumer side — all the advanced econometrics” to determine things like the price of Amazon Prime. “We’re on the other side. We’re helping sellers and brands.” That’s a very different challenge from optimizing Facebook ads to get the most clicks. McLean-Foreman argued that it’s not even something Amazon can do properly, because, “They don’t have critical information
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Confirmed: ShopRunner acquires Spring, raises $40M

ShopRunner chief executive Sam Yagan conquered the online dating world. Can he conquer the e-commerce world, too?

Hot off the heels of its first profitable year, ShopRunner is announcing its first infusion of venture funding under Yagan, an acquisition of the shopping app Spring and, sources tell TechCrunch, it’s readying a major overhaul to its mobile app, signaling what could be a new era for the company. Yagan, the co-founder of OkCupid, former CEO and vice chairman of The Match Group and managing director of the venture fund Corazon Capital joined ShopRunner in 2016 to test the waters of online retail. “If you look at founding OkCupid, running Match and incubating Tinder, arguably, I had my hands on the three most important dating businesses ever,” Yagan told TechCrunch. “Finally, I was like, ‘what else is there?’ I am either going to the grave as the online dating guy, or this
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Summersalt raises $6M for its direct-to-consumer line of eco-friendly swimsuits

Founders Fund has led the $6 million Series A for Summersalt, an early-stage e-commerce startup embracing the next-gen consumer’s penchant for inclusivity and affordability.

Headquartered in St. Louis, the 1-year old company sells swimsuits designed in-house with eco-friendly fabrics directly to consumers. Like other D2C brands, Summersalt cuts out the middlemen to give its customers access to its swimsuits for $95 or less. What sets it apart is its data-focused fit system. With a patent on recommending garments based on body type and consumer preference, it uses more than 10,000 scans of real women’s bodies and some 1.5 million measurements to create what it says are designer-quality garments. Co-founder and chief executive officer Lori Coulter designs all the swimsuits herself and sources the fabrics directly with factories in the U.S. and Asia. With the latest investment, Coulter says the company will launch a line of travel wear and expand
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Target launches free, 2-day shipping with no minimum purchase requirement

Take that, Amazon and Walmart. Target has just come out swinging with news that it’s launching free, two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items across its site without requiring a minimum purchase or an annual membership fee. This challenge to Amazon Prime comes at a time when Prime membership is at highest – Prime subscribers passed the 100 million milestone this April. But it also arrives at a time when Prime subscription prices are climbing and there’s an undercurrent of dissatisfaction over Prime’s 2-day deliveries that often turn into three days, four or more.

Unfortunately, however, Target’s free shipping is only a holiday perk, not a new policy. (At least, not yet.) Target says it’s launching the free, two-day shipping on November 1, and will extend the offer throughout the holiday season, wrapping on December 22. Before, this free shipping option was only available to Target REDcard holders,
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