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October 22, 2018
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Los Angeles

Lime is building its first scooter “lifestyle brand store” in LA

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How can Lime differentiate its scooters and bikes from the piles of Birds and Spins filling Los Angeles sidewalks? Apparently with a physical storefront where it can convince customers of the wonders of on-demand mobility. According to a job listing from Lime seeking a “Retail Store Manager”, the startup plans to open a “lifestyle brand store in Santa Monica” that “will place heavy importance on brand experience and customer engagement.”

It seems Lime will rent vehicles directly from the store given the full-time manager’s role includes “monitoring inventory levels” as well as daily operations, and employee recruiting. They’ll also be throwing live events to build Lime’s hype. Given the company is calling this a lifestyle store, the focus will likely be on showing how Lime’s scooters and bikes can become part of people’s lives and enhance their happiness, rather than on maximizing rental volume.

A rendering of Lime’s new office it’s buidling in San Francisco. The design could hint at what Lime wants to do with its retail store branding.

The listing was first spotted by Nathan Pope, a transportation researcher for consultancy Steer, and later by Cheddar’s Alex Heath. We’ve reached out to Lime and will update if we hear back from the company. Glassdoor shows that the store manager job was posted over 30 days ago, and the site estimates the potential salary at $41,000 to $74,000.

The sheer number of Lime scooters in Santa Monica where the store will arise is already staggering. Supply doesn’t seem to be bottleneck as it is in some other cities. Instead, it’s the fierce competition from hometown startups like local favorite Bird that Lime wants to overcome through brick-and-mortar marketing. Often times you’ll see scooters from Lime and Bird lined up right next to each other. And with similarly cheap pricing, the decision of which to use comes down to brand affinity. According to Apptopia, Bird’s monthly U.S. downloads surpassed Lime’s in July for the first time ever, despite Lime offering bikes as well as scooters.

There are plenty of people who still have never tried an on-demand electric scooter, and going through the process of renting, unlocking, and riding them might be daunting to some. If employees at a physical store can teach people that it’s not too difficult to jump aboard, Lime could become their default scooter. This of course comes with risks too, as electric scooters can be dangerous to the novice or uncoordinated. More aggressive in-person marketing might pull in users who were apprehensive about scooting for the right reason — concerns about safety.

As cities figure out how to best regulate scooters, I hope we see a focus on uptime aka how often the scooters actually function properly. It’s common in LA to rent a scooter, then discover the handlebar is loose or the acceleration is sluggish, end the ride, and rent another scooter from the same brand or a competitor in hopes of getting one that works right. I ditched several Lime scooters like this while in LA last week.

Regulators should inquire about what percentage of scooter company fleets are broken and what percentage of rides end within 90 seconds of starting, which is typically due to a malfunctioning vehicle. Cities could then award permits to companies that keep their fleets running, rather than that litter the streets with massive paper weights, or worse, vehicles that could crash and hurt people. Scooters are fun, cheap and therefore accessible to more people than Ubers, and reduce traffic. But unless startups like Lime put a bigger focus on helments and safe riding behavior, we could trade congestion on the roads for congestion in the emergency room.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Shopify opens its first brick-and-mortar space in Los Angeles

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Shopify, the provider of payment and logistics management software and services for retailers, has opened its first physical storefront in Los Angeles.

The first brick and mortar location for the Toronto-based company, is nestled in a warren of downtown Los Angeles boutique shops in a complex known as the Row DTLA.

For Shopify, Los Angeles is the ideal place to debut a physical storefront showing off the company’s new line of hardware products and the array of services it provides to businesses ranging from newly opened startups to $900 million juggernauts like the Kylie Cosmetics brand.

The city is one of the most dense conglomerations of Shopify customers with over 10,000 merchants using the company’s technologies in the greater Los Angeles area. 400 of those retailers have each earned over $1 million in gross merchandise volume.

In the Los Angeles space, which looks similar to an Apple store, patrons can expect to see demonstrations and tutorials of how Shopify’s tools and features work. Showrooms displaying the work that Shopify does with some of its close partners will also show how business owners can turn their product visions into actual businesses.

Like Apple, Shopify is staffing its store with experts on the platform who can walk new customers or would-be customers through whatever troubleshooting they may need. While also serving as a space to promote large and small vendors using its payment and supply management solution.

“Our new space in downtown LA is a physical manifestation of our dedication and commitment to making commerce better for everyone. We’re thrilled to be able to take our proven educational, support, and community initiatives and put them to work in an always-on capacity,” said Satish Kanwar, VP of Product at Shopify, in a statement. “We know that making more resources available to entrepreneurs, especially early on, makes them far more likely to succeed, and we’re happy to now be offering that through a brick-and-mortar experience in LA.”

Kanwar and Shopify chief operating officer, Harley Finkelstein, envision the new Los Angeles space as another way to support new and emerging retailers looking for tips on how to build their business in the best possible way.

“The path to being your own boss doesn’t need to be lonely or isolating,” said Finkelstein, in a statement. “With Shopify LA we wanted to create a hub where business owners can find support, inspiration, and community. Most importantly, entrepreneurs at all stages and of all sizes can learn together, have first access to our newest products, and propel their entrepreneurial dreams.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

FabFitFun expands its video reach with a new experiment in live programming

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The Los Angeles-based women’s subscription box and media business FabFitFun is expanding its video catalog with the launch of new live programming set to coincide with the launch of its latest seasonal box.

FabFitFun is creating a new slate of live programming which will air every day on its Facebook page from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific and is set to feature interactive product showcases, beauty demonstrations, DIY projects, and a game show.

It’s an expansion of video efforts that the company began last year with the launch of a new app for AppleTV and Amazon Fire.

FabFitFun also has been streaming live shows on its Facebook page; experimenting with subjects like sale previews, product showcases, and “Founder Chats” between its co-founder and editor-in-chief Katie Rosen Kitchens and various entrepreneurs. In early 2017, the company debuted its streaming FabFitFunTV, which includes shows focused on health and fitness, cooking, dating & relationships, and do it yourself projects.

The new slate of live programming will run from Sept. 24 to Oct. 5 and will include sneak peaks of the company’s Fall Edit Sale; industry experts for in-studio demos on fashion, beauty, fitness and hair; an expansion of the company’s produced FabFitFun TV content; and a game show called “the Fab Challenge”, where viewers can compete to win prizes.

With the push into live television, FabFitFun moves one step closer toward the vision of creating a millennial version of morning programming like the Today show or something like the Home Shopping Network . Daytime appointment television isn’t what it used to be, but the format does appeal to brands both historic and new.

“Initially we’re doing it in conjunction with the sales we have,” says Michael Broukhim, co-chief executive of FabFitFun. “The plan is to build on that. Make it more than just seasonal. Our goal is what is cheddar for women with commerce and community deeply integrated into it… As we learn about which formats are successful we’ll double down on those.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

VC firms of Kevin Durant and Snoop Dogg back Dutchie, a new cannabis delivery service

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Ross Lipson, the chief executive officer and co-founder of the on-demand marijuana and cannabis delivery service, Dutchie, had thought he was done with the online delivery business.

Instead, he’s launched a new delivery service that has just raised $3 million from Casa Verde Capital, the $45 million venture firm founded by hip hop impresario Snoop Dogg, and Kevin Durant’s Durant Company — among others — to take advantage of the growing demand for marijuana delivery.

It had been only five years since Lipson sold a food delivery business he spent a decade building when the inspiration for Dutchie came to him. And the idea was too compelling to shake.

Lipson was living in Bend, Ore., where he’d retired after selling his online food delivery business GrubCanada to JustEat, the European tech-enabled delivery giant, back in 2012.

Then, in 2015, after Oregon legalized recreational use of marijuana, Lipson began wondering if it wasn’t time to revisit the whole delivery space again.

For him, the conundrum for consumers looking to buy cannabis products was similar to the dilemma in-home diners faced when choosing what to eat. In the modern weed world (at least in places where marijuana is legal), consumers are so spoiled for choice they often go with a default option.

Before online delivery, ordering food meant turning to the neighborhood spot for everything from American to Ethiopian, Italian, Jamaican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Tibetan food. But with online delivery services, a whole city’s worth of restaurant options opened up to consumers (as long as they were in your delivery area).

The same, Lipson figured, was true of marijuana.

“We’re creating a tool that helps the user and consumer navigate the delivery space,” he said. “We’re educating the consumer to that buying experiences…. If you don’t have that online ordering tool in front of you you’re forced to choose a dispensary and take the information that that ‘budtender’ gives you, which is their personal preference.”

Right now, marijuana delivery is something of a land grab. In Los Angeles alone, services like Nugg, Ganjarunner, Kushfly, Eaze, HERB, Westside Organic, and Cannabis Express, all pitch delivery services for marijuana or cannabis infused products, oils and vapes to willing consumers.

Eaze, the biggest startup in the online delivery space, has raised at least $37 million to tackle the growing market for legal cannabis delivery since its launch in 2014.

Lipson, however, has seen this all before with food. He started Dutchie in 2017 (and yes, it is named after the song) in 2017 from Bend and has been slowly and steadily growing the business. The company signed on 50 dispensaries in Oregon to help prove out the product and just raised $3 million in a seed round from Casa Verde Capital, The Durant Company, Sinai Ventures and other angel investors.

The company currently operates in Oregon, Washington, and Michigan and is launching in Colorado, Nevada and California this month. It currently works with 100 dispensaries and has seen $2.5 million in gross merchandise volume in its first year of operations alone.

To further boost its expansion efforts, the company also signed an agreement with Canopy Rivers (the newly spun off investment and operating arm of $10 billion dollar Canadian cannabis company, Canopy Growth) to operate internationally in Canada. Asked why Lipson didn’t just try to float the business on the Toronto Stock Exchange to take advantage of the exuberance investors have for all things cannabis, the chief executive said he wanted to be more measured in his approach.

“There’s a lot of hype and speculation around the cannabis space especially in the public markets,” Lipson said. “It’s not a traditional way to go about a business of this size. We’re extremely excited and eager to partner with the investors that we did.”

With only 14 employees — many of whom work remotely — Lipson is hoping to roll out aggressively in the next few months across all states in which medical marijuana is legal as well and into Canada as well. 

“We’re priding ourselves on the concept of scalability,” says Lipson. Who’s relying on his co-founder, and brother, Zach, to help him execute. “That’s the underlying mantra of our strategy.”

That mantra of scalability was apparently what attracted Casa Verde, which took only two months to decide to lead the investment round into Lipson’s new venture. “I started talking to them four months ago,” Lipson said. “A month or two into it, they did the deal and took the lead and we’ve just been filling out the round with strategics.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Popbase helps YouTube stars build closer relationships with their fans

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Entertainment has changed. New platforms led by YouTube have emerged to change the dynamic of broadcast media — once dominated by the rigid programming of TV — while the internet has enabled new media stars to engage with their audiences in new, high-touch ways. Developments like live streaming, social media and more have made the stars of today more relatable and more easily reachable than those of yesteryear.

The easiest example to grasp is arguably the Kardashian family.

They dominate the media, have accrued millions of fans on social networks and have branched into retail, fashion, production and more. Their relationship with fans is 24/7 and, regardless of how you feel about the family, their popularity is a clear indicator of this new always-on connection between public figures and their fans.

A new startup is seizing on an opportunity to help up-and-coming online entertainers take a leaf out of that book and grow their relationships with fans.

Popbase is an app that operates almost like an interactive forum for new media.

The app is designed to take the relationship beyond videos and encourage a more interactive experience. Initially, that means trivia quizzes, exclusive content and news snippets — i.e. exclusive content clips for members — but the plan to go beyond that and enable games, augmented reality, collectibles and more.

While the primary goal is to help grow the fan-creator relationship, Popbase is also aimed at enabling YouTubers to monetize their brand through in-app purchases and advertising around content. Creators take a 60 percent cut of all revenue with the remainder going to Binary Bubbles, the Los Angeles-based startup behind the service. However, that revenue split can rise as high as 70 percent for creators when they “start doing really well,” according to Binary Bubbles CEO Lisa Wong.

In addition, there are incentives for referring others to the platform.

“YouTubers who aren’t as huge as PewDiePie [the star with 65 million subscribers] work very hard,” Wong told TechCrunch in an interview. “With Popbase, we are giving them a chance to gamify and monetize their YouTube content and personality.”

If you recall the once-wildly popular ‘The Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ app — which was reportedly grossing $200 million per year — Popbase’s strategy is to allow influencers with a more modest budget to tap its platform and offer some of those customized experiences for their audiences.

So far, Binary Bubbles has signed up five YouTubers — with a collective fan base of one million followers — and it is looking for more influencers with a following that sits between 10,000 and one million fans.

Popbase users can watch content with a virtual avatar of the YouTube creator

Wong, who spent over 25 years working in the video game industry for companies like Sony PlayStation and Activision, started Binary Bubbles in January 2017 alongside CTO Richard Weeks and CBDO Amit Tishler. Wong reconnected with Weeks — a programmer whose past employers include Lucas Art — when they both worked on an AR project, and the addition of Tishler, who is an artist/animator, rounded out the founding team.

The startup has raised around $145,000 to date, and it is targeting a total pre-seed round of $500,000.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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