Day: March 29, 2019

Lyft investors are banking on self-driving cars, not ride-sharing


Lyft became the first ride-hailing app to go public on Friday, skyrocketing to a $23.4 billion valuation.

But don’t get too excited for drivers. Investments in Uber and Lyft are basically big bets on future products like autonomous vehicles, not the people behind the wheel. 

As we’ve seen, Lyft isn’t profitable. Last year it lost nearly $1 billion. So it’s not Lyft’s cash flow bringing in investors — it’s the company’s growth and the potential of its platform. 

“Wall Street is infamous for caring more about growth than profits,” said senior analyst Clement Thibault in an email. “Lyft is likely to get a pass on profitability if it can manage to continue its impressive growth streak.” Read more…

More about Ipo, Lyft, Ride Hailing Apps, Autonomous Vehicles, and Tech

Toast, the restaurant management platform, has raised $250M at a $2.7B valuation

Restaurant sales hit $825 billion last year in the U.S., but with margins averaging at only three to five percent per business, they’re always looking for an edge on efficiency and just generally running things in a smarter way. A startup called Toast, which has built a popular platform for restaurant management, has closed a hefty round of funding to double down on that opportunity to do that.

The company has raised $250 million on a valuation of $2.7 billion, money that it will use to invest in building technology to help restaurants with marketing, recruitment and operational efficiency, as well as start to think about expanding to more territories outside the U.S.

The basics of the funding were flagged earlier today by Prime Unicorn Index and we reached out to the company to confirm. It is being led by TCV and Tiger Global Management, with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners and T. Rowe Price Associates funds and other existing investors.

This Series E is a big bump up for the company: in its previous round in July 2018, the company was valued at $1.4 billion — partly the result of strong growth at the company. While it’s not disclosing revenue numbers or whether it is yet profitable, Toast currently serves tens of thousands of businesses — covering a range of sizes from independent venues to smaller chains — and in the last year tallied up transactions in the tens of billions of dollars, seeing growth of some 148 percent in its revenues, according to CFO Tim Barash.

The restaurant business represents a big opportunity for e-commerce companies, but there have been some notable stumbles where ambitions have not been met with success. Groupon, which spent several years acquiring and organically building a point of sale and restaurant management business, first drastically cut down and then finally called it quits and sold off its efforts, called Breadcrumb, in 2016. Amazon also pulled out of point of sale services (aimed at more than restaurants) and has in certain regions also pulled back on other restaurant efforts like its order management and delivery platform.

Barash said in an interview that he thinks the key to why Toast has steadily grown its business through all that is because a large proportion of its own employees — some 70 percent — have worked in the food service industry themselves.

“I was first a busboy, and then I worked in pizza delivery for years,” he said. “Seventy percent of our employees have worked at restaurants, including those in our product leadership, and that helps us understand the problem.”

Restaurants, as Barash points out, are complicated. “They are essentially manufacturers and retailers at the same time, all in one small physical footprint,” and so the key to building products for them is to understand that and the challenges they face in building and running those businesses.

And that’s before you consider the many other factors that can make restaurants a dicey game, from changing cuisine tastes, to changing eating habits — many get food delivered today — to the precariousness of the commercial real estate market and so much more.

The aim of Toast is to build tools to apply data science and orderly IT processes to address whichever of those variables that can be controlled by the restaurant.

Today, Toast’s products include point of sale services as well as reporting and analytics; display systems for kitchens; online ordering and delivery interfaces; and loyalty programs. It also builds its own hardware, which includes handheld order pads, payment and ordering terminals, self-service kiosks and displays for guests. It also offers links through to a network of some 100 partners, such as Grubhub for takeout food, when a restaurant does not cover those services or functions directly, to help stitch together services to work on its platform.

Tomorrow, the plan is to use the funding to enhance all of those with more advanced features that speak to some of the bigger issues and concerns Barash said its customers are voicing today.

That will include better and more services aimed at guest engagement and retention; better ways to recruit and keep people in an industry that has a high turnover of employees; and of course more tools to address how efficiently a business is operating to make it more profitable. The company has committed some $1 billion in the next five years to R&D to build more hardware and software.

Having access to this kind of tech and platform is a big deal, especially for independently owned places that hope to compete against bigger chains without having to compromise on their core competency: making unique and delicious food.

In the meantime, Barash said that while Toast itself is no stranger to approaches from larger players itself — he declined to say who but said many who have ambitions to do more business with the restaurant industry had approached it over the years — the company’s long-term vision is to grow bigger and remain its own boss.

It’s an ambition that has hit the spot with investors that have an appetite for high-growth businesses.

“At TCV, we invest in companies that have the potential to reshape entire industries. By providing restaurants of all sizes with access to innovative technology, Toast is leveling the playing field and leading the industry’s transition to the cloud,” said David Yuan, general partner at TCV, in a statement, who is joining the board with this round. “Our investment will enable Toast to extend their platform beyond point-of-sale and guest-facing technology, and in doing so, create a powerful SaaS platform with a superlative business model. We’re excited to partner with Toast as they accelerate the growth of the community they serve.”

11 Surprising Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to your mental and physical well-being. Few things are more frustrating than when you lay down, and you simply can’t go to sleep. We’re going outline several common but surprising reasons why you can’t sleep below.

You Have Blue-Light Insomnia

Experts (and maybe even your family) has repeated time and time again to turn off the electronics before you go to bed. If you don’t, you could fall victim to blue-light insomnia. Your electronic devices emit a blue light when you turn them on, and this could suppress your natural melatonin production. The bad news is, this can delay it even if you turn off your device three hours before bed. You can negate this by buying a pair of glasses that come specially designed to block blue light.

See Also: Preventing Blue Light-Related Health Problems

You Have an Old Mattress

old mattress

Ideally, you should consider replacing your mattress every 10 or 15 years at the maximum. Not having a comfortable mattress can make it difficult for you to get comfortable enough to drift off to sleep. This is often a silent culprit as we get so used to our old lumpy beds.
With the sheer variety of mattresses available to buy, you can pick out a mattress that is firm or soft enough to suit your needs. This can help you fall asleep quickly, not toss and turn, and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

See Also: 3 Negative Effects of Bad Mattresses You Need To Be Aware Of

You Had a Drink (or Two) Before Bed

Unfortunately for people who like to have a drink or two before bed, alcohol can induce insomnia and make it difficult for you to stay asleep. Alcohol can cause a rebound effect and result in a more fragmented and lighter sleeping pattern. You’ll want to limit your alcohol intake and stop drinking around three hours before you go to bed.

You Take Prescription Medications

Do you take diuretics for your blood pressure? If so, they can make you have to get up and go to the bathroom more during the night. If you take antidepressants, they can give you a boost of energy that keeps you up hours past your bedtime. Schedule a visit with your doctor and ask them for the best times to take your prescriptions. Make sure that these times don’t interfere with your sleep schedule.

You Routinely Take Naps

It’s natural for your energy levels to fall between two and three in the afternoon. This is when you experience the afternoon slump where all you want to do is nap. If you give in to the temptation and take a short nap, this can throw your sleep schedule off. If this sounds like you, try to schedule a little physical activity from two and three. Not only will you feel more energized, but it’ll wear you out for bedtime.

You Unknowingly Had Caffeine

food with caffeine

When you think of caffeine, coffee or soda are usually the two main things that come to mind. However, caffeine is in a lot of everyday foods and beverages that people don’t even realize. For example, chocolate and iced tea contain levels of caffeine. If you think this is why you can’t fall asleep, try cutting it out after you eat your lunch.

You’re Going Through Menopause

Menopause can wreak havoc on your entire body, and it can cause mental and physical problems. Nearly a quarter of women who are menopausal experience hot flashes. Waking up hot and sweaty is an unpleasant experience for anyone, and it can be hard to go back to sleep. Although it may not be feasible to stop your hot flashes, you can use a buckwheat pillow and sheets that wick moisture away.

You Have Poor Sleep Habits

Poor sleep habits can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling happy and refreshed. Maybe you don’t have a set bedtime, or you prefer nights to mornings. You can improve your sleep habits by setting a bedtime and sticking to it, cutting caffeine out in the early afternoon, wearing blue light glasses at night, and giving yourself some quiet time before bed to unwind.

You Sleep In On The Weekends

Yes, sleeping in on Saturdays and Sundays can feel amazing when you do it. However, it can throw your biological rhythm off. This can make it challenging to fall asleep Sunday night, and you can ruin your sleep schedule for the entire week. Instead of sleeping in, set your alarm for around the same time that you normally get up. You might hit the snooze button a few times, but you’ll feel better come Monday morning.

You Sleep With Your Pets

sleep with pets

Lots of people like to have their pets in their beds when they go to sleep. However, this can cause problems if you have an allergy or sensitivity to pet dander. Also, animals tend to be more active and move around during the night. If they’re in bed with you, they could disturb your sleep every time they move.

Your Pillow Gets Too Hot

Sleeping on a cool pillow can actually work to lower your core body temperature. As your body temperature drops, you’ll start to feel groggy. This can help you fall asleep much faster than you traditionally would, and you may even stay asleep longer. You can get a special cooling pillow or add an ice pack to your pillow.

The post 11 Surprising Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

Tencent-backed news app Qutoutiao nabs $171M from Alibaba

The race to give Chinese users their daily dose of news intensifies as Qutoutiao, a rival to TikTok parent Bytedance, net an installment of sizable backing.

Alibaba is injecting $171 million in a convertible loan to Qutoutiao, the three-year-old news and video aggregation startup, according to an announcement released Thursday. The transaction will convert into about 11.4 million shares of Qutoutiao at a price of $15 per American depositary shares, representing about 4 percent of Qutoutiao. The deal arrived just six months after Qutoutiao raised $84 million in a downsized initial public offering through Nasdaq.

TechCrunch has reached out Qutoutiao for more details on its new funding and will update the story if we hear back.

Qutoutiao, which means “Fun headlines” in Chinese, runs a news app that feeds users content based on their past habit and an e-book reading app for those with a longer attention span. The Shanghai-based company is among a handful of startups alongside ecommerce challenger Pinduoduo that are piling into the largely untapped, smaller cities outside China’s major urban centers of Beijing and Shanghai for growth.

The fresh capital will make Qutoutiao one of the unusual Chinese tech startups with backings from both Alibaba and Tencent, the arch-foes that compete in many realms. The other companies that have enjoyed fundings from both heavyweights include car-hailing service Didi Chuxing and youth-focused media company Bilibili.

Alibaba’s support is also a significant boost for Qutoutiao as it fights a relentless battle with Bytedance, a growing threat to China’s tech veterans. Unlike most of China’s emerging startups, Bytedance has not taken fundings from Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, collectively known as the “BAT” to acknowledge their dominance in the Chinese internet.

Bytedance has had a history of hostility with social media leader Tencent while it has been more pally with Alibaba the e-commerce giant, which agreed to facilitate ecommerce sales for Bytedance influencers.

Bytedance runs an empire of popular new media products that include short-form video app Douyin and news distribution platform Jinri Toutiao. TikTok, which is the international version of Douyin, is turning heads across the globe including in the United States and has reportedly spurred a Facebook clone.

Battling in the relentless Chinese market has come at huge costs for Qutoutiao, which sees itself spending heavily on marketing to collect and retain users. While its 2018 revenues jumped 484 percent to $440 million, net loss soared to $283 million in the year compared to just $14.3 million in the previous period. But the startup is ready to spend more as it works on a new app that could take on Douyin in China’s blossoming short-form video market.