Report: Lyft picks JPMorgan to lead IPO in 2019

Report: Lyft picks JPMorgan to lead IPO in 2019

Lyft and Uber’s race to an IPO is heating up.

Lyft has selected JPMorgan Chase & Co. as the lead underwriter of its initial public offering along with Credit Suisse Group and Jefferies Group, the WSJ reported, citing “people familiar with the company’s plans.”

Lyft declined to comment.

Lyft is expected to file an IPO in the first half of 2019. Choosing an underwriter marks the next official step in the process. Meanwhile, Uber is making it’s own preparations.

Uber, which has received proposals from banks that placed its value as much as $120 billion, is also considering an early 2019 listing.

Some people familiar with the plan said Lyft’s valuation will exceed the $15.1 billion it was valued earlier this year. While Lyft’s value is still considerably lower than Uber’s, it’s on the upswing.

Lyft said in June 2018 that it raised an additional $600 million in a Series I financing round led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, pushing its post-money valuation to $15.1 billion. The valuation had more than doubled in a 14-month span.

Lyft has spent the past 18 months aggressively expanding into new U.S. cities, as well as into Canada and pursuing its autonomous vehicle ambitions. Lyft has increased its market share in the U.S. to 35 percent. In January 2017, Lyft had just 22 percent market share in the United States.

Lyft has raised $2.9 billion in primary capital since April 2017. In total, Lyft has raised $5.1 billion since its inception.


Source: Tech Crunch

US Senators push Canada to exclude Huawei from its 5G strategy

US Senators push Canada to exclude Huawei from its 5G strategy
American politicians aren't just nervous about having Huawei devices on their networks… they're worried about neighboring countries, too. Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio have sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him t…
Source: Engadget

International growth, primarily in China, fuels the VC market today

International growth, primarily in China, fuels the VC market today

The venture capital business model has gone global. VC is still an exclusive club of financiers, but now with worldwide scope and scale.

According to Crunchbase projections Crunchbase News reported in Q3 2018, worldwide VC deal and dollar volume each set new all-time records. In the U.S. and Canada, deal volume declined slightly from Q2 highs but growing deal sizes pushed total dollar volume to new heights.

Much of this global growth comes from markets outside the U.S. and Canada. A recent collaborative study between Startup Revolution and the Center for American Entrepreneurship indicates that Beijing, China was the city that contributed most to global growth in venture capital investment growth.

Here’s the geographic breakdown of projected deal volume over time. Note a somewhat choppy growth pattern in U.S. and Canadian deal volume, and compare that to a more consistent growth pattern in international deal volume. (For more about how and why Crunchbase makes these projections, check out the Methodology section at the end of the global report.)

In rapidly growing startup markets like China, venture deal volume is also at all-time highs, though venture dollar volume is down slightly.1 For the Asia-Pacific region as a whole, venture deal volume is up roughly 85 percent from the same time last year. Reported deal volume in China is up more than fourfold during the same period of time.

The rise of China’s venture market may be best seen from a city-level perspective. Below is a chart displaying the 10 most active startup cities in Q3, ranked by count of venture deals for each city as reported at the end of Q3. (The Methodology section of the global report also explains what “reported” data is and how it’s used.)

Of the top 10 cities displayed above, only three countries are represented. If it weren’t for the rest of Silicon Valley bolstering the Bay Area’s numbers, Beijing would beat out San Francisco in raw deal counts. (But, then again, Beijing is home to three times as many people as the entire Bay Area.)

Using deal and dollar volume as rough metrics for vivacity (if not necessarily health), this spread in VC activity could be seen as a good thing for the market as a whole. A rising tide of global VC activity lifts all startup markets, worldwide. However, much of that growth is still concentrated in just a few big markets.

The worldwide expansion and local reinterpretation of the Silicon Valley venture capital investment model is a phenomenon with which market participants (founders and funders alike) must reckon. Founders are responding by raising lots of money in ever-larger rounds, hoping that big investor checks are enough to buy large chunks of growing markets. Investors, in turn, are raising ever-larger funds to satiate these companies’ seemingly bottomless appetites for capital.

As in most mega-trends, participants who fail to adapt to changing market conditions will end up on the losing end of the market cycle.

  1. It should be noted that dollar volume declined mostly because Q2 numbers were skewed north by a $14 billion Series C round raised by Ant Financial. To this date, it’s the largest VC round ever closed.


Source: Tech Crunch

U.S. lawmakers warn Canada to keep Huawei out of its 5G plans

U.S. lawmakers warn Canada to keep Huawei out of its 5G plans

In a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio make a very public case that Canada should leave Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei out of its plans to build a next-generation mobile network.

“While Canada has strong telecommunication security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei,” the letter states. The senators warn Canada to “reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.”

The outcry comes after the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security dismissed security concerns regarding Huawei in comments last month. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is Canada’s designated federal agency tasked with cybersecurity.

Next generation 5G networks already pose a number of unique security challenges. Lawmakers caution that by allowing companies linked to the Chinese government to build 5G infrastructure, the U.S. and its close allies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.) would be inviting the fox to guard the henhouse.

As part of the Defense Authorization Act, passed in August, the U.S. government signed off on a law that forbids domestic agencies from using services or hardware made by Huawei and ZTE. A week later, Australia moved to block Huawei and ZTE from its own 5G buildout.

Due to the open nature of intelligence sharing between the U.S. and its closest allies, the Canadian government would be able to obtain knowledge of any specific threats that substantiate the U.S. posture toward the Chinese company. “We urge your government to seek additional information from the U.S. intelligence community,” the letter implores.


Source: Tech Crunch

Lime brings its electric scooter sharing to Canada

Lime brings its electric scooter sharing to Canada
Like it or not, the electric scooter sharing trend is heading north. Lime has launched the first e-scooter sharing pilot in Canada, giving residents in Waterloo, Ontario (aka BlackBerry's home turf) a chance to see what this two-wheeled transport opt…
Source: Engadget

Lime’s e-scooters are going to Canada

Lime’s e-scooters are going to Canada

Lime plans to release a small fleet of e-scooters in Waterloo, Ontario, in what will be the startup’s first scooter-share pilot program in Canada.

The dockless bike and scooter company has paired up with the University of Waterloo to facilitate the launch. Lime’s scooters will be the first of any startup-owned e-scooters to hit the pavement in Canada.

“Over the past several months, we have spent time in Waterloo to understand how our Lime-S e-scooters can help this progressive city reach its smart transportation goals,” Lime’s vice president of strategic development Andrew Savage said in a statement. “We are committed to meeting the unique needs of cities across Canada and are excited to continue expanding our global footprint.”

Lime didn’t say which other Canadian markets are next on the list.

It will be interesting to see how the scooters are received in Waterloo. According to a recent report from Canada’s The Globe and Mail, Toronto transportation leaders are hesitant to invite e-scooter startups to the city, which isn’t too surprising considering the drama that’s followed them in recent months. Toronto, still, as the largest city in Canada, is likely a very desirable market for the e-scooter startup trio: Lime, Bird and Spin.

This isn’t Lime’s first foray across borders. It launched its dockless bikes in Europe, specifically Frankfurt, Germany and Zurich, Switzerland, late last year and in June, the company debuted its scooters in Paris. The San Mateo-based company is now active in 100 markets across seven, soon-to-be-eight, countries.

Lime announced last week that it had recorded 11.5 million scooter and bike rides, just a few months after it surpassed the 6 million-ride mark. The company launched just over a year ago and has since raised $467 million in venture capital funding at a valuation north of $1 billion. Lime is backed by GV, Andreessen Horowitz, IVP, Section 32, GGV Capital and more.


Source: Tech Crunch

Canada launches fund to guarantee faster broadband in rural areas

Canada launches fund to guarantee faster broadband in rural areas
Canada's CRTC set an aggressive target for the minimum definition of broadband in rural areas, but now appears to have backed off a bit, at least to start. With the launch of the $750 million Broadband Fund, it has set the minimum speed at 25 Mbps do…
Source: Engadget

Juul, the popular e-cig startup under growing FDA scrutiny, says removing flavors is “on the table” among other things

Juul, the popular e-cig startup under growing FDA scrutiny, says removing flavors is “on the table” among other things

Juul has been on an incredible, and in some ways, nightmarish, ride this year. The three-year-old, San Francisco-based company has handily won 75 percent of the e-cigarette market in the U.S., thanks in large part to the sleek design of its nicotine vaporizer. It is reportedly on track to see at least $1 billion in revenue this year. And the company has capital to invest in its business, having sealed up a $1.2 billion round that it began raising in summer. Much of that money will be spent internationally, and no wonder. Roughly 95 percent of the world’s billion smokers live outside of the U.S.

Against the backdrop of this supercharged growth, dark clouds have gathered around the company as parents and regulators have grown concerned by its adoption by teenagers, many of whom might never even consider smoking a cigarette but are taking up nicotine vaping and “Juuling” specifically. In fact, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told an audience in New York yesterday that his agency is releasing data in November that will show year-over-year use among high schoolers has risen by at least 80 percent and that middle-school usage has grown, too. Gottlieb further warned that the agency might also eventually ban the sale of e-cigarettes online out of concern that they are being bought in bulk and acquired by minors.

Last night, at an industry event hosted in San Francisco by this editor, I sat down with Juul’s founders, Adam Bowen and James Monsees, who met while at Stanford and have teamed up to develop numerous vaporizer products over the years, including the popular Pax cannabis vaporizer and, more recently, to develop Juul, where they are currently CTO and chief product officer, respectively. Over the course of 30 minutes, we talked about the future of the company (they have secured more than 100 patents between them and have applied for many more), whether they would consider an acquisition offer from a tobacco company (the answer seemed to be yes), and why they don’t drop the most controversial feature of the Juul product: its variety of flavored e-cigarette liquids, which critics argue are attracting children but that Juul has long insisted is imperative to getting its target customer — adult smokers —- to switch to Juul.

We’ll have video of our conversation available at a later date. In the meantime, here are outtakes from our conversation, edited lightly for length.

TC: You see Juul as a technology company focused on harm reduction. But your product has been adopted by high school students in part, which has parents pissed and regulators worried, and this firestorm seems to grow worse by the day. How are you dealing with all of this on a personal level?

JM: Man, this is quite an experience, one that we never really knew if it was going to come to fruition or not, though I think we always expected that if this was going to work, it was going to be really hard. As smokers ourselves, we were really passionate about ending the combustible cigarette once and for all. There are a billion smokers globally, and the U.S. has 38 million smokers. We don’t see them as much here in the Valley. But I’m from St. Louis, and when I grew up, I was exposed to cigarettes and I think the story was somewhat the same for Adam. Half of long-term smokers will die of smoking-related diseases if we don’t do something about this. Unfortunately, along with that comes a lot of challenges . . . I think what we really didn’t expect was the unfortunate level of adoption by underage consumers, and that is definitely something that we now take on as our mantle to own.

TC: Before we get into this issue and the surrounding controversies, I hoped to pull back the curtain on your company, which is fascinating from a business perspective. How many employees do you have, and are they mostly in San Francisco?

JM:  We’re changing very rapidly. At the beginning of this year, we had about 225 employees and today we have about 1,100.

AB: Our biggest offices are in San Francisco, with offices in multiple cities in multiple countries, including in Israel. We just launched in Canada recently. And we’ll be launching several more [offices] this year.

TC: Didn’t Israel ban Juul?

AB: No. Israel imposed a restriction on the nicotine strength allowable for e-cigarettes, so that includes the 5 percent version of our product, which we currently sell in the U.S.,  but we have since switched to a reduced strength that is compliant with the now-effective limit [there].

TC: 1,100 is a lot of employees. What do they do?

JM: This is an incredibly complicated company, perhaps the most we’ve ever seen and perhaps the most that most of our investors have ever seen. I’m sure there are people in this room who either invest in or have started hardware companies, and [who know that] hardware is just hard.

We are a hardware company. We’re a hardware company that makes and sells millions of products a week. We’re a hardware company that has produced those products at incredibly high volume, all five of them, all of which we manufacture on equipment and tools that we built from scratch. We have to work with contract manufacturers and vendors that are selling us parts in the tens or hundreds of millions on a weekly or monthly basis. We have to do that in multiple countries around the world. We have to comply with regulatory guidelines in many, many different countries. We have to market our products as carefully and effectively as possible. We have to communicate publicly in as grown-up and responsible a fashion as possible.

I could keep going, but the point is we have an incredible diversity of employees. There’s just an amazing amount of cross-functional work that happens at the company.

TC: A story came out in Inc. today where an unnamed employee said the morale is actually very high, that employees really do believe that you never marketed to minors, and that they believe you’ll find a way to stem adoption by underage people. They also said they were ‘making money hand over fist.’ What do you think of those comments?

AB: I think morale is very high. People are energized and galvanized to continue working on this cause, which is providing smokers with a satisfying alternative and address the challenges that we face head on. People are really energized to address the issues like youth usage. So that is an accurate reflection of the vibe at the office right now.

TC: You already have more than 100 patents to your names. Does Juul become a holding company for much more than what is on the market currently? What’s next?

JM: The technologies that we’ve been building are incredibly powerful and could be deployed in other markets, there’s no doubt about that. Some of our patent filings cover some bases outside of the core areas that we’re really focused on right now, which is the elimination of smoking from the face of the earth. But the mission of this company is exactly that, to eliminate smoking. The reason that it is the mission is that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. And we’re very interested in that, I think, conceptually, intellectually, and it’s just kind of a fun mission to work on.

TC: You’ve already raised $1.2 billion, including from Tiger Global and Fidelity. Where do you go for future funding, given that VCs have vice clauses that preclude them from backing the company? Would you consider an IPO?

AB: Sure. Listing the company is certainly a possibility [as is] continuing to grow it privately. These are tactics that we can that we can employ. But really, we’re just focused on growth, both domestically and abroad. So that’s the primary use the proceeds from the most recent round raised. I mean, we have a ways to go just here in the U.S. We’re 75 percent of the e-cigarette market, which sounds like a lot, but we’re only 4 to 5 percent of the U.S. cigarette market. And that’s what we’re really out to displace. So we’re really just getting started here, and we’ve just scratched the surface outside of the U.S., where 95 percent of smokers live.

TC: And where you’re not dealing with the same regulatory issues as here, although I wonder if it’s going to be sort of a contagion, where people in other countries worry about their teenagers based on what they’re reading in the U.S. In fact, you’re reportedly embroiled right now in three lawsuits, including by a family who says their kid is addicted to your products. You didn’t market [to underage users], as far as you’re concerned. Do you feel at all culpable?

JM: Any under-age use of this product or any nicotine product is strictly unacceptable. And that is the challenge that we are more than happy to take on, and we’re excited to take them on. Frankly, I think this has been way too longstanding of an issue in the market.

And things are changing. We’re moving away from a stick that you light on fire and beginning to have the ability to apply technology solutions to a massive problem has existed for a really long time.

TC: At TechCrunch’s Disrupt event a couple of weeks ago, you talked about connecting Juuls to people’s phones, so that if someone were to leave their Juul behind but had their phone with them, someone else, a minor, couldn’t pick up that Juul and use it. But that seemed like a very unlikely scenario to me.

JM: That’s one of many examples of technologies we can use to deploy to reduce or eliminate these problems. We’ve been using that as sort of an illustrative example of many things because, look, we’re in the midst of conversations with the FDA. We believe very strongly that some of these technology solutions will be huge steps ahead of how this industry has been able to tackle these challenges in the past. But I don’t think at this moment, we’re ready to really talk about specific things.

TC:  I don’t know if Juul has suggested it, or it’s merely been suggested that Juul this, but what about creating geofences around schools so that kids can’t vape there? That seems like a no-brainer.

JM: Yeah, there was there was an article that speculated about this. That is one of many, many patents that have been filed publicly, and if you dig even further, you’ll see a whole bunch of exploration that we’ve done because we’ve been working on this issue for a long time. Unfortunately, the U.S. is unlikely at this moment to be the ground zero for the deployment of some of these youth prevention technologies because there’s a moratorium on new product introductions, but obviously that’s changing very rapidly, so if the opportunity for potentially the U.S. to move even more quickly [arises] . . . that would be tremendous.

TC: Do you feel like the FDA has been fair to you? It seems like you’ve been telling your story to the public, and the FDA has meanwhile been suggesting that it’s not getting the information that it needs from you.

AB: We’re trying to solve the same problem as the FDA actually. Our interests are really aligned in that they want to see smokers move to reduced risk products while minimizing the uptake by youth and other unintended consequences, and so do we. So it’s really a question of, how do we get there collectively. And we need to work with them.

TC: As you point out, you’re staring at a huge opportunity. Why don’t you just get rid of the flavored e-cigarette liquids, which is what the FDA hates the most? There’s much more evidence to suggest that flavor profiles entice children to use your product versus help adults switch over to your products.

JM: All options around the table. And that’s one of them.

Look, this issue has to be resolved. We mean that. We have absolutely no interest in any underage consumer ever using these products. It is detrimental to the mission of the company. We are not a major tobacco company. We have not saturated this market. We are less than 0.5 percent of the global tobacco market. And all of this upside will only be achieved if we create goodwill and stand out in contrast to the way tobacco companies have traditionally behaved.

Removing flavors is certainly on the table. But we have not seen evidence that there’s causation necessarily for flavors being a lead-in for underage consumers. Cigarettes have been a major problem for underage consumers for some time. What we do see strong evidence of internally is a much stronger correlation for adult consumers staying away from cigarettes as they move further from everything that reminds them of cigarettes in the first place, which includes the taste of cigarettes.

TC: How are you tracking the reasons that smokers are gravitating toward your products and staying? How can you say that it’s because of the flavors, versus them wanting to quit traditional cigarettes?

JM:  That is evidence that is amongst the many many many things that we will be sharing with the FDA.

TC: In the meantime, have you talked to the tobacco companies? Have you fielded any offers?

AB:  We know many folks in the tobacco industry but we’re very proudly independent and continue to grow the company independently.

JM: Obviously, the big concern for pretty much anyone, including us, is what does that mean to the mission of the company, to consider partnering with, working with, the major tobacco companies. We’ve done that in the past. Many, many years ago, we had a partnership with the third largest global tobacco company [which bought the trademark and IP for Monsees’ and Bowen’s earliest vaporizer, called Ploom]. Then we bought them out of the deal; we parted ways.

Look, if a partnership with a major tobacco company — if, frankly, any number of things that we could do, will accelerate the decline of adult smoking and improve the lives of consumers around the world, we would certainly consider it. We’re not necessarily convinced at this moment that that’s the move that would make that happen.

TC: Before you go, the FDA today also said it’s considering banning the online sale of e-cigarettes. How much would that impact your business?

AB: The majority of our sales are actually offline, though we still think that online is a an important route of access for adult smokers to get the product. Fortunately, there are very strict age-verification technologies you can employ, and we have the strictest in place, so it’s a matter that we think should be addressed just by employing very rigorous age verification, on our own site and by requiring that any e-commerce resellers we work with use those strict controls, as well.


Source: Tech Crunch

Amazon Music Unlimited is now available in Canada

Amazon Music Unlimited is now available in Canada
Today, Amazon announced the expansion of its Music Unlimited service to Canada. Listeners can sign up for a free 90-day trial; after that period has passed, Prime members will pay CDN $8 per month or CDN $79 per year to continue service. Non-Prime me…
Source: Engadget

DoorDash customers say their accounts have been hacked

DoorDash customers say their accounts have been hacked

Food delivery startup DoorDash has received dozens of complaints from customers who say their accounts have been hacked.

Dozens of people have tweeted at @DoorDash with complaints that their accounts had been improperly accessed and had fraudulent food deliveries charged to their account. In many cases, the hackers changed their email addresses so that the user could not regain access to their account until they contacted customer services. Yet, many said that they never got a response from DoorDash, or if they did, there was no resolution.

Several Reddit threads also point to similar complaints.

DoorDash is now a $4 billion company after raising $250 million last month, and serves more 1,000 cities across the U.S. and Canada.

After receiving a tip, TechCrunch contacted some of the affected customers.

Four people we spoke to who had tweeted or commented that their accounts had been hacked said that they had used their DoorDash password on other sites. Three people said they weren’t sure if they used their DoorDash password elsewhere.

But six people we spoke to said that their password was unique to DoorDash, and three confirmed they used a complicated password generated by a password manager.

DoorDash said that there has been no data breach and that the likely culprit was credential stuffing, in which hackers take lists of stolen usernames and passwords and try them on other sites that may use the same credentials.

Yet, when asked, DoorDash could not explain how six accounts with unique passwords were breached.

“We do not have any information to suggest that DoorDash has suffered a data breach,” said spokesperson Becky Sosnov in an email to TechCrunch. “To the contrary, based on the information available to us, including internal investigations, we have determined that the fraudulent activity reported by consumers resulted from credential stuffing.”

The victims that we spoke to said they used either the app or the website, or in some cases both. Some were only alerted when their credit cards contacted them about possible fraud.

“Simply makes no sense that so many people randomly had their accounts infiltrated for so much money at the same time,” said one victim.

If, as DoorDash claims, credential stuffing is the culprit, we asked if the company would improve its password policy, which currently only requires a minimum of eight characters. We found in our testing that a new user could enter “password” or “12345678” as their password — which have for years ranked in the top five worst passwords.

The company also would not say if it plans to roll out countermeasures to prevent credential stuffing, like two-factor authentication.


Source: Tech Crunch