Shopify & Walmart come for Darth Bezos

...and iRobot is WFH winning
June 16th

Initiating 'Desert Clean' setting on Roomba 9000

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Hey Snackers,

Tweet of the week: "Did I miss anything?" A man just emerged from a 75-day solitary retreat in the woods of Vermont. Logs onto Twitter. Promptly slinks back into the woods.

Markets inched up Monday, with Big Tech companies leading the charge.


Shopify and Walmart team up to take on Amazon: the 3rd-Party Seller Wars

The Rebel Alliance... Shopify's corona-conomy MO: keep your friends close, and your would-be enemies closer. The out-of-the-box ecommerce platform partnered with Facebook in May to power Instagram "Shops." Now Shopify is teaming up with Walmart to integrate with its 3rd-party seller platform, Walmart Marketplace.

  • Quid pro quo: Shopify's approved small business sellers get access to Walmart's 120M monthly customers. Walmart gets a cut of sales and a more diverse/robust product offering without the product grunt work.
  • The ultimate goal?: Take on the Amazon Empire, which controls legions of sellers (and 300M global customers).

Own the market, not the booth... Amazon and Walmart provide sellers a platform to hawk goods on — but they don't actually have to source/provide all the goods you see on their websites. It's like owning a Farmers Market lot, then taking a cut of each booth's food/bev sales:

  • Marketplace is a “strategic priority” for Walmart. Businesses are moving online faster than ever. Even OG eBay's stock recently hit an all-time high.
  • Walmart's ecommerce biz grew 74% last quarter. Marketplace sales grew faster than sales of Walmart's very own products.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend"... It's The Art of War, applied to business. Ecommerce platforms that aren't Amazon are teaming up with one goal in mind: fight Amazon together. Standing up against the forces of Darth Bezos might lead to more surprising partnerships.


Airbnb will try to measure (then tackle) racial discrimination on its platform

Shine a light... on racial bias. Like many other platforms, Airbnb has not been free from implicit (and explicit) discrimination. The rental booking platform connects guests and hosts. Unfortunately, some users get turned down for no other reason than their name and the color of their skin.

  • Since 2016, Airbnb has removed 1.3M users for "declining to treat others without bias." It also added an objective Instant Booking feature and profile pic protections (your photo isn't shown until a host confirms the booking).
  • Enter "Project Lighthouse": Now, Airbnb is collecting data on user behaviors to measure discrimination. The project is in partnership with Color of Change, America's largest online racial justice org.

Airbnb's problem is harder to solve... Hotels are required to accept any paying customer if there's a vacancy. Hospitality platforms like Airbnb can't force hosts to accept a person into their house.

  • That's why data is key — the info Airbnb collects will help it measure bias, so that it can then tweak its products/features to fight it.
  • Think: Emphasizing guests' ratings over pictures or informing users of selection patterns that could potentially be discriminatory.
  • Privacy: Airbnb is working with privacy experts to help ensure that the data collected isn't associated with individual accounts.

If Airbnb can help solve this, other gig companies could too... Bias is also a problem for other gig-like platforms (where users can accept/reject a person for no reason). Airbnb has pledged to publish the data and policies that come out of Project Lighthouse. We're thinking this could help Airbnb's buddies like Uber, Wag, and TaskRabbit reduce discrimination, too.


iRobot sweeps up strong Roomba sales — it could be Big Tech's partner in grime (fighting)

Not the Will Smith movie... iRobot is a rare publicly-traded, consumer-facing robot company. It's famous for birthing the Roomba (aka, the world's 1st self-driving vacuum). And it just rolled its way across the floor to give us a casual update:

  • "Substantially stronger than expected": iRobot's quarterly sales. They're now expected tp be around $265M, up from the previous forecast of less than $193M.
  • "True partners": In grime-fighting. People are staying home more, so floors are getting dirtier. Throw in a global pandemic, and you've got a cleaning-obsessed market.

Time is more valuable than money... That's the philosophical conclusion we extrapolated from Roomba sales. The premium $900 Roomba Series is selling better than the $250 basic version. People are working from home, caring for kids, and cooking 10 meals a day — that's a reason to splurge on the most efficient automated vacuum option. The one task you can delegate.


Hot takeaway — iRobot should get itself acquired... Its $2.3B market value is 1/4 of a Lyft. While the stock is up 70% for the year, it's still down 35% from its all-time iRobotic high. iRobot's business revolves around a single, popular product line that could be easily tossed into a corporate shopping cart. An Amazon-owned iRobot could throw in some Alexa to entertain you while it cleans.

What else we're Snackin'
  • Nom: Burger King adds Impossible Foods' meatless sausage to its breakfast menu with "The Impossible Croissan’wich" (sounds like a Connecticut town).
  • Boring: Wynn Resorts asks Elon Musk's Boring Company to build high-speed tunnels from its hotels to the Vegas Convention Center.
  • Fly: Honeywell launches a drone unit to get in early on air taxis and drone delivery — it thinks the market will be worth $120B by 2030.
  • Looney: AT&T looks to sell its Warner Bros. gaming division for around $4B — EA and Activision Blizzard are interested.
  • Gassy: Oil giant BP makes a $17.5B write-down of its assets, as it expects oil prices to stay low for a long time.

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The Snacks Daily Podcast

We're looking at who else could acquire iRobot — Google could complement its Nest acquisition, while Apple always appreciates a tech gadget it can up-sell.

Tune into our absurdly digestible pod for more on who we wish would buy iRobot.

  • Consumer spending report for May
  • Earnings expected from Oracle and Groupon

Disclosure: Authors of this Snacks own shares of Shopify and Amazon

ID: 1217006

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