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Starbucks challenger Luckin’s fundraising spree continues with $150M investment – TechCrunch

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Coffee startup Luckin is continuing its fundraising spree as it sets its sight on becoming an alternative to Starbucks in China.

The a-year-and-a-half old company announced on Thursday that it closed a Series B-plus raise totaling $150 million. The fresh proceeds valued Luckin at $2.9 billion post-money, up from $2.2 billion just four months ago.

While many question Luckin’s cash-fueled expansion, Blackrock, which owns a 6.58 percent stake in Starbucks, shows its confidence in the Chinese startup by pumping $125 million through its private equity fund into Luckin’s new round.

With that, the New York-based investment firm has its bet on two contrasting models for China’s coffee consumption. While Starbucks zeroes in on the brick-and-mortar experience, Luckin is a network of last-mile coffee delivery centers plus places for people to pick up orders and sit down targeting busy white-collar workers.

In a move that would amp up its battle with Luckin, Starbucks teamed up with Alibaba’s food delivery unit Ele.me last August to put hot and cold drinks in people’s hands.

Luckin did not disclose how it will spend the fresh capital infusion, but the pace at which it’s raising suggests the startup is in dire need of cash. The new round arrived less than a year after it secured a $200 million Series A in July and another $200 million from a Series B in December.

Indeed, Luckin founder Qian Zhiya, a former executive at auto rental firm Car Inc, confessed the company burned through $150 million within just six months from launching. A big chunk of money had gone to shelling out deep discounts for consumers, while the coffee challenger’s offline expansion was as cash-intensive.

As of late, Luckin has opened 2,000 outlets consisting of small prep kitchens, pickup stations and cafes in 22 Chinese cities, up from 1,700 locations reached in December. That gives Luckin less than eight months to fulfill its ambition of becoming the “biggest coffee chain in China by the number of outlets run and cups sold.” The goal is to top 4,500 outlets by the end of 2019.

Starbucks, which made its foray into China 20 years ago, has also been aggressively putting up storefronts. It currently runs 3,600 stores across 150 cities in China, up from 3,300 last May.

When it comes to actual people using the service, Starbucks still enjoys a huge lead. The Luckin app that allows one to order and pay has 650 thousand unique downloads in March, data from research firm iResearch shows. Starbucks’s app is more than four times its size with 2.81 million unique downloads from the same period.

Other investors who joined in on Luckin’s latest round included existing backers such as Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, Chinese government-controlled China International Capital Corporation, Dazheng Capital and Joy Capital, whose founding partner Liu Erhai sits on Luckin’s board.

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The Big Differences Between The Crypto Exchanges Explained

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Perhaps the first thing that a trader will look for when evaluating investment platforms is the fee structure. Fees are common across trading avenues, and understanding the inherent costs that come along with placing trades, holding assets, and transferring funds into and out of brokerage accounts is essential to making smart decisions throughout the investment experience.

The Motley Fool reports that Gemini (as of July 2022) provides trading services at a slightly lower rate than Coinbase (a maximum of 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively). The fee structures are very similar, and each platform uses alternative cost bases depending on whether you will be trading with the basic or advanced interface. At the core of investing (and earning a profit for your efforts) is the raw calculation of profit. Your margin will always be affected by the fees that are taken off the top, so understanding what those costs are and how they are assessed is critical. In this regard, Gemini comes out a nose ahead.

However, fee structure isn’t everything. While Coinbase might charge a slightly inflated fee to use the platform to perform cryptocurrency operations, the Coinbase trade deck supports more than twice as many cryptocurrency coins than Gemini. CryptoVantage notes that stablecoins have retained value better than the typical altcoin in the current bear marketplace, meaning there may be an opportunity for greater growth figures among some of the lesser-known or smaller crypto assets out there. If this resonates with you, Coinbase may be your only option for gaining access.

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This Apple-1 Computer Is The Most Expensive In The World

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While it might have been a “working computer,” it certainly wasn’t complete, and it looked nothing like what we expect a fully functioning computer to look like today. The first Apple-1s were basically just a fully assembled circuit board with 60 or so microchips. The end user still had to provide the “case, power supply transformers, power switch, ASCII keyboard, and composite video display” (via Jeffry Norman’s History of Information). Thankfully, the Apple-1 was selling at a computer hobbyist store where someone could purchase all of those things separately — American consumerism at its finest. 

Over the years, several computers from the first batch of 200 Apple-1s have sold at auction. Each is unique because, after their initial sale, they were customized by each owner. In November 2021, the “Chaffey College” Apple-1, named because it was initially purchased by a professor at the college, sold for $400,000. In March 2020, RR Auction sold one for $458,711. In May 2019, Christie’s sold one for $459,000. Christie’s reportedly sold one signed by Steve Wozniak in 2013 for $387,750, and Charitybuzz sold another for $815,000 in August 2016.

Yet, none of those were the priciest Apple on the tree.

In October 2014, the Henry Ford Museum paid $905,000 for what amounted to a “vintage keyboard with pre-7400-series military specification chips, a vintage Sanyo monitor, a custom power supply in a wooden box, as well as two vintage tape-decks.” After what was described by Bonhams as “fierce competition with a bidder on the telephone,” the final sale price ended at nearly twice the estimate going into the auction. That kind of money puts a whole new spin on the idiom, “How ’bout them apples?”

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Elon Musk’s Tesla Optimus Robot Actually Works

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What’s arguably more interesting is what’s going on inside. Optimus uses the same self-driving computer as Autopilot in Tesla’s electric cars relies upon. It also trains itself using the same processes that Autopilot does on the roads. The development platform uses “semi off-the-shelf actuators,” Musk says. The battery is in the center of the robot’s torso, with 2.3 kWh capacity. That should be enough for a full day’s work, Tesla says.

The goal, Musk says, is a robot that can liberate a human workforce. He’s predicting “maybe a two order of magnitude potential improvement in economic output” by replacing human workers with Optimus.

As to whether that’s something, long term, people actually want, Musk pointed out that Tesla being a publicly traded company means it’ll be down to shareholders to decide. “The public controls Tesla, and I think that’s a good thing,” the CEO explained. “Because if I go crazy, you can fire me.”

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