Архив метки: San Francisco

Cloosiv gives local coffee shops a mobile ordering experience on par with the mega chains

Starbucks’ mobile ordering app has proven wildly popular for the company, with reports indicating that it had more users than the likes of Apple Pay or Google Pay last year. The convenience is just too alluring. When you’re late for work and forgot to eat, being able to order up a drink and a sandwich with a tap or two and have it ready for pick up by the time you pass the store seems sort of like magic.
But how can smaller coffee shops compete? Building and maintaining an app of your own is a massive endeavor — and that’s before you start trying to convince customers to install yet another app.
Cloosiv is aiming to take that simplified, tap-of-a-button mobile ordering approach and make it work for local coffee shops by bringing them all to one place. It highlights the nearby coffee shops that are part of the service, presents their menus and lets you tweak your drink to your liking before sending your order on its way. Tipping is handled through the app, and there’s a built-in rewards system to encourage people to keep coming back.
Cloosiv’s network of coffee shops isn’t huge yet; it’s up and running at just a couple of locations in San Francisco right now, and a quick glance at the in-app location map pins the nationwide total at a little shy of 200. The more that number grows, though, the more the concept makes sense. It becomes an everyone-versus-the-giant sort of thing.

As with Starbucks’ mobile ordering app, Cloosiv encourages users to pre-load money into a built-in wallet — the idea being that pre-loading means fewer credit card charges, which cuts back on processing fees for everyone. Unlike the big competition, however, users can make a one-off purchase without pre-loading the funds. There’s a 40 cent fee tacked onto those charges to cover processing, but the option is there.
I gave the app a spin in San Francisco last week, and it worked exactly as promised. I found a coffee shop (Coffee Mission) near BART, punched in my order as the train approached, and my drink was waiting for me by the time I made it out of the station.
Cloosiv’s Merchant app
As many (most?) coffee shops already have a tablet on the counter acting as the point of sales terminal, Cloosiv is focusing on integrating into what’s already in place. When an order comes in today, a sound plays as a notification banner drops down from the top of the screen; when an employee taps the banner, they’re bumped over to Cloosiv’s Merchant app where they can acknowledge orders or mark them as complete.
The next step for the company is tying all of this directly into the merchant apps that coffee shops are already using — they’re focusing on Square first, with plans to tie into things like Clover and Micros.
Cloosiv charges vendors a percentage of each sale, with that percentage going down as the number of orders goes up. The first 50 orders each month, for example, are charged a 12% fee; after 150 orders, that fee drops to 8%.
Cloosiv founder Tim Griffin tells me they’ve processed more than 35,000 orders so far, making up over $250,000 in revenue for the coffee shops they work with. He estimates that orders and gross volume are both growing by about 40% monthly. The company recently closed a small round with investors, including Lachy Groom (previously head of Issuing at Stripe) and Laura Behrens Wu (CEO of Shippo), and is part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2019 class.

Cloosiv gives local coffee shops a mobile ordering experience on par with the mega chains

Dropbox relaunches as an enterprise collaboration workspace

Dropbox is evolving from a file-storage system to an enterprise software portal, where you can coordinate work with your team. Today the company launches a new version of Dropbox that allows you to launch apps with shortcuts for G Suite and more, plus use built-in Slack message-sending and Zoom video calls. It lets you search across all your files on your device and inside your other enterprise tools, and communicate and comment on your team’s work. Dropbox is also becoming a task manager, with the ability to add notes and tag co-workers in to-do lists attached to files.
The new Dropbox launches today for all of its 13 million business users across 400,000 teams plus its consumer tiers. Users can opt-in here for early access and businesses can turn on early access in their admin panel. “The way we work is broken,” CEO Drew Houston said to cue up the company’s mission statement: “to design a more enlightened way of working.”

Dropbox seems to have realized that file storage by itself is a dying business. With storage prices dropping and any app being able to add their own storage system, it needed to move up the enterprise stack and become a portal that opens and organizes your other tools. Becoming the enterprise coordination layer is a smart strategy, and one that it seems Slack was happy to partner into rather than building itself.
As part of the update, Dropbox is launching a new desktop app for all users so it won’t have to live inside your Mac or Windows file system. When you click a file, you can see a preview and presence data about who has viewed it, who is currently and who has access.

The launch includes deep integrations with Slack, so you can comment on files from within Dropbox, and Zoom, so you can video chat without leaving the workspace. Web and enterprise app shortcuts relieve you from keeping all your other tools constantly open in other tabs. Dropbox’s revamped search tool lets you crawl across your computer’s file system and all your cloud storage across other productivity apps.

But what’s most important about today’s changes is that Dropbox is becoming a task-management app. Each file lets you type out descriptions, to-do lists and tag co-workers to assign them tasks. An Activity Feed per file shows comments and actions from co-workers so you don’t have to collaborate in a separate Google Doc or Slack channel.
When asked about how Dropbox decided who to partner with (Slack, Zoom) versus who to copy (Asana), VP of biz dev Billy Blau essentially dodged the question while citing the “shared ethos” of Dropbox’s partners.
Houston kicked off the San Francisco launch event by pointing out that it’s easier to find info from the public than our own company’s knowledge that’s scattered across our computers and the cloud. The “Finder” on our computers hasn’t evolved to embrace a post-download era. He described how people spend 60% of our office time on work about work, like organization and communication, instead of actually working — a marketing angle frequently used by task-management startup Asana that Dropbox is now competing with more directly. “We’re going to help you get a handle on all this ‘work about work,’ ” Dropbox writes. Yet Asana has been using that phrase as a core of its messaging since 2013.

Now Dropbox wants to be your file tree, your finder and your desktop for the cloud. The question is whether files are always the central unit of work that comments and tasks should be pegged to, or whether it should be the task and project at the center of attention with files attached.
It will take some savvy onboarding and persistence to retrain teams to see Dropbox as their workspace instead of their computer’s desktop or their browser. But if it can become the identity and collaboration layer that connects the fragmented enterprise software, it could outlive file storage and stay relevant as new office tools emerge.

Dropbox relaunches as an enterprise collaboration workspace

Nectar’s sonar bottle caps could save $50B in stolen booze

Bars lose 20% of their alcohol to overpours and “free” drinks for friends. That amounts to $50 billion per year in booze that mysteriously disappears, making life tough for every pub and restaurant. Nectar wants to solve that mystery with its ultrasound depth-sensing bottle caps that measure how much liquid is left in a bottle by measuring how long it takes a sonar pulse to bounce back. And now it’s bringing real-time pour tracking to beer with its gyroscopic taps. The result is that bar managers can determine who’s pouring too much or giving away drink, which promotions are working and when to reorder bottles without keeping too much stock on hand — and avoid wasting hours weighing or eyeballing the liquor level of their inventory.
Nectar’s solution to alcohol shrinkage has now attracted a $10 million Series A led by DragonCapital.vc and joined by former Campari chairman Gerry Ruvo, who will join the board. “Not a lot of technology has come to the bottle,” Nectar CEO Aayush Phumbhra says of ill-equipped bars and restaurants. “Liquor is their highest margin and highest cost item. If you don’t manage it efficiently, you go out of business.” Other solutions can look ugly to customers, forcibly restrict bartenders or take time and money to install and maintain. In contrast, Phumbhra tells me, “I care about solving deep problems by building a solution that doesn’t change behavior.”

Investors were eager to back the CEO, since he previously co-founded text book rental giant Chegg — another startup disrupting an aged market with tech. “I come from a pretty entrepreneurial family. No one in my family has ever worked for anyone else before,” Phumbhra says with a laugh. He saw an opportunity in the stunning revelation that the half-trillion-dollar on-premises alcohol business was plagued by missing booze and inconsistent ways to track it.
Typically at the end of a week or month, a bar manager will have staff painstakingly look at each bottle, try to guess what percent remains and mark it on a clipboard to be loaded into a spreadsheet later. While a little quicker, that’s very subjective and inaccurate. More advanced systems see every bottled weighed to see exactly how much is left. If they’re lucky, the scale connects to a computer, but they still have to punch in what brand of booze they’re sizing up. But the process can take many hours, which amounts to costly labor and infrequent data. None of these methods eliminate the manual measurement process or give real-time pour info.
So with $6 million in funding, Nectar launched in 2017 with its sonar bottle caps that look and operate like old-school pourers. When bars order them, they come pre-synced and labeled for certain bottle shapes like Patron or Jack Daniels. Their Bluetooth devices stay charged for a year and connect wirelessly to a base hub in the bar. With each pour, the sonar pulse determines how much is in the bottle and subtracts it from the previous measurement to record how much was doled out. And the startup’s new gyroscopic beer system is calibrated to deduce pour volume from the angle and time the tap is depressed without the need for a sensor to be installed (and repaired) inside the beer hose.
Bar managers can keep any eye on everything throughout the night with desktop, iOS and Android apps. They could instantly tell if a martini special is working based on how much gin across brands is being poured, ask bartenders to slow their pours if they’re creeping upwards in volume or give the green light to strong pours on weeknights to reward regular customers. “Some bars encourage overpours to get people to keep coming back,” says local San Francisco celebrity bartender Broke-Ass Stuart, who tells me pre-measured pourers can save owners money but cost servers tips.
Nectar now sells self-serve subscriptions to its hardware and software, with a 20-cap package costing $99 per month billed annually with free yearly replacements. It’s also got a free two-tap trial package, or a $399 per month enterprise subscription for 100 taps. Nectar is designed to complement bar point of sale systems. And if a bar just wants the software, Nectar just launched its PrecisionAudit app, where staff tap the current liquid level on a photo of each different bottle for more accurate eyeballing. It’s giving a discount rate of $29.99 per month on the first 1,000 orders.
After 2 million pours measured, the business is growing 200% quarter-over-quarter as bowling alley chains and stadiums sign up for pilots. The potential to change the booze business seduced investors like Tinder co-founders Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale and the founding family of the Modelo beer company. Next, Nectar is trying to invent a system for wine. That’s trickier, as its taps would need to be able to suck the air out of the bottles each night.
The big challenge will be convincing bars to change after tracking inventory the same way for decades. No one wants to deal with technical difficulties in a jam-packed bar. That’s partly why Nectar’s subscription doesn’t force owners to buy its hardware up front.
If Nectar can nail not only the tech but the bartender experience, it could pave a smoother path to hospitality entrepreneurship. Alcohol shrinkage is one factor leading to the rapid demise of many bars and restaurants. Plus, it could liberate bartenders from measuring bottles into the wee hours. As Phumbhra noted, “They’re coming in on weekends and working late. We want them to spend that time with their families and on customer service.”

Nectar’s sonar bottle caps could save $50B in stolen booze

What (we think) we know about the Samsung Galaxy S10

The Galaxy S10 will be revealed at an event in San Francisco on February 20. This much we know for sure. Samsung sent out invites for the event sporting a giant number a few weeks back. It’s clear the company’s looking to get out ahead of what should be a fairly action-packed Mobile World Congress this year. 
We know, too, that the event will be occasion for the company to talk up its forthcoming foldable. Samsung told up as much during its last developer conference — and for good measure, the invite also sported a large crease down the middle. The S10, however, will almost certainly be the real star of the show.

And in typical Samsung fashion, the new flagship has been leaking out like crazy since late last year. By now, it seems, we’ve seen handset from every conceivable angle. So here’s what we know — or, what we think we know, at least.
For starters, Samsung is skipping the notch altogether, jumping straight from skinny top bezel to pinhole cutout — what the company called its “Infinity O” display. It’s more or less the same as the one found on the recently revealed Galaxy A9 Pro. The S10+, meanwhile, will feature an oblong version of hole punch, seemingly in order to include a second front-facing camera.

Interestingly, there are believed to be three S10 models set to be announced on the 20th. You’ve got your standard S10 (6.1-inch), the S10 Plus (6.4-inch) and a budget version (5.8-inch), which will be something akin to Samsung’s take on the iPhone XR. Among other things, the product may be devoid of the curved screens that have become a mainstay for the Galaxy line.
With Samsung’s Note woes well in the rearview mirror, the company is reportedly amping up to once again boost the battery life, with the S10 sporting a 3,100mAh and the Plus carrying a whopping 4,100mAh. Huge if true.
Less surprising is the inclusion of the Snapdragon 855 — that’s going to power practically every non-iPhone flagship this year. Ditto for Android Pie. 5G is much less certain, however. While it’s true that Samsung has already announced that not one but two handset will arrive from the company sporting the next-gen cellular tech, we can’t say for sure whether the S10 will be among them.

That said, rumors about a Galaxy S10 X sporting the tech aren’t out of the real of possibility. That seems more likely than Samsung shoehorning it into the base model. After all, 5G won’t be hitting a saturation point this year. That could bring the number of S10 models up to four. 
Similarly, rumors around the headphone jack are all over the place. The latest images, however, seem to confirm that Samsung’s staying put on that one, steadfastly remaining one of the last flagships to sport the once ubiquitous port.

What (we think) we know about the Samsung Galaxy S10

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 work, frustrated homeowners who don’t know enough to set up the contractors for success, and frustrated contractors who have to come back multiple times.”

Setter is now available in Toronto and San Francisco, with seven-plus jobs booked per customer per year costing an average of over $500 each, with 70 percent repeat customers. With the fresh cash, it can grow into a household name in those cities, expand to new markets and hire up to build new products for clients and contractors.
I asked Laliberté why he cared to start Setter, and he told me “because human lives are made better when you can make essential human activities invisible.” Growing up, his mom wouldn’t let him buy video games or watch TV so he taught himself to code his own games and build his own toys. “I’d saved money to fix consoles and resell them, make beautiful foam swords for real live-action games, buy and resell headphones — anything that people around me wanted really!” he recalls, teaching him the value of taking the work out of other people’s lives.
Meanwhile, his co-founder David Steckel was building high-end homes for the wealthy when he discovered they often had ‘home managers’ that everyone would want but couldn’t afford. What if a startup let multiple homeowners share a manager? Laliberté says Steckel describes it as “I kid you not, the clouds parted, rays of sunlight began to shine through and angels started to sing.” Four days after getting the pitch from Steckel, Laliberté was moving to Toronto to co-found Setter.
Users fire up the app, browse a list of common services, get connected to a concierge over chat and tell them about their home maintenance needs while sending photos if necessary. The concierge then scours the best vendors and communicates the job in detail so things get done right the first time, on time. They come back in a few minutes with either a full price quote, or a diagnostic quote that gets refined after an in-home visit. Customers can schedule visits through the app, and stay in touch with their concierge to make sure everything is completed to their specifications.
The follow-through is what sets Setter apart from directory-style services like Yelp or Thumbtack . “Other companies either take your request and assign it to the next available contractor or simply share a list of available contractors and you need to complete everything yourself,” a Setter spokesperson tells me. They might start the job quicker, but you don’t always get exactly what you want. Everyone in the space will have to compete to source the best pros.

Though potentially less scalable than Thumbtack’s leaner approach, Setter is hoping for better retention as customers shift off of the Yellow Pages and random web searches. Thumbtack rocketed to a $1.2 billion valuation and had raised $273 million by 2015, some from Sequoia (presenting a curious potential conflict of interest). That same ascent may have lined up the investors behind Setter’s $2 million seed round from Sequoia, Hustle Fund and Avichal Garg last year. Today’s $10 million Series A also included Hustle Fund and Maple VC. 
The toughest challenge for Setter will be changing the status quo for how people shop for home improvement away from ruthless bargain hunting. It will have to educate users about the pitfalls and potential long-term costs of getting slapdash service. If Laliberté wants to fulfill his childhood mission, he’ll have to figure out how to make homeowners value satisfaction over the lowest sticker price.

Sequoia leads $10M round for home improvement negotiator Setter