Uber partners with Cargo to help drivers make money by selling stuff to riders

Uber has teamed up with Cargo, a startup that makes it easy for rideshare drivers to sell goods to their passengers. Cargo works by giving drivers free boxes, filled with goods like gum, phone chargers and snacks, to sell to passengers from the center of the car console.

Cargo, which has partnered with brands like Kellogg’s, Starbucks and Mars Wrigley Confectionery, provides these boxes to drivers for free. The only requirement is that drivers must have at least a 4.7 rating and be relatively active on the platform, Cargo founder and CEO Jeff Cripe told TechCrunch.

Each Cargo box comes with both free samples and items for purchase. Drivers earn at least $1 per order, even if what the rider gets is free.

Starting today, Uber drivers in San Francisco and Los Angeles can pick up Cargo boxes at one of Uber’s driver support locations, called Greenlight Hubs. While this is an exclusive business partnership, Cargo will continue to let drivers sell its goods even if they don’t drive for Uber. 

Since launching in 2017, about 7,000 drivers have made more than $1 million. On an annual basis, drivers can earn an average of $1200 a year, while the top 10% of drivers make $3,600 a year in income. This seems like a great deal for drivers and also a way for Uber to attract and retain drivers.

As it stands today, customers request and pay for goods via Cargo’s mobile site, but down the road, Uber envisions integrating Cargo’s functionality into its app. To date, Cargo has raised $7.3 million in funding.

Even raises $40M to transform the working class to the savings class

The working class of the United States doesn’t get many breaks these days. It’s not just a function of low pay and long hours, but also the incredible uncertainty of income and expenses that makes surviving week-to-week so challenging. One in five Americans have a negative net wealth, even in an economy where the unemployment rate is the lowest in almost two decades. Banks, meanwhile, are actively dissuading the working class from banking with them, creating a permanent class of unbanked and underbanked citizens.

For Jon Schlossberg, CEO and co-founder of Even.com, improving the plight of ordinary Americans and their finances is a deeply personal and professional mission. And now that mission has a huge new bucket of capital behind it, with Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures leading a $40 million Series B round into the Oakland-based startup. Rabois is a return investor, having previously backed the company in its late 2014 seed round. With this latest round of capital, Even.com has now raised $50.5 million.

When Even.com first launched its eponymous app, the goal was to offer income smoothing for workers, helping them avoid usurious payday loans to make ends meet. Since that first launch several years ago, Schlossberg and his team learned that the only way to improve the finances for the working class is to help them budget better — ending the need for loans in the first place. “To do anything with your life, unless you are just born to the right family, you need to spend your money wisely, but we never teach you how to do that,” Schlossberg explained to me.

Last year, Even.com announced that it had stopped evening through its Pay Protection product. Instead, Schlossberg said that Even.com has evolved and wanted to “build a new kind of financial institution with products that fit your life.” It still has a feature it brands as Instapay, which allows users to request their earned pay in advance of their payday.

But Even.com is increasingly focused on improving the quality of its intelligent budgeting feature. Using artificial intelligence models honed over the past few years, the company now gives users of its Even app an “Okay to spend” figure that helps them think through their cash flow. By giving a predictive figure rather than a checking account balance, Even can help its users avoid sudden surprise expenses that can trigger the kind of financial death spiral that has become a familiar story in America. The company will also soon launch an automatic savings feature similar to Digit or Acorns that helps people build up regular savings.

Even’s Okay to spend feature gives insight into future cash flows before it is too late

While the company offers an increasingly comprehensive suite of financial tools, it has decided to avoid charging users specific use fees, opting instead for a subscription model. Schlossberg explained that “We are a mission-oriented company, but talk is cheap and where the rubber hits the road, it’s how you make money.” Even is free for users participating through partner employers, or $2.99 a month for individuals without a sponsor.

The company’s highest expense feature is Instapay due to underwriting, and so the company makes higher profits when fewer of its customers need access to payday credit. In other words, the better that its users budget, the fewer loans it will underwrite, and the more money the company makes. We are “directly incentivized to help people with their financial health,” Schlossberg noted.

Even has proven attractive to corporate customers, including Walmart, which partnered with the startup last December to offer its service to all 1.4 million employees at the retailer. Since the launch of that partnership, more than 200,000 Walmart employees regularly use the app, according to Even, and the typical active user checks their Okay to spend balance four times a week. A majority of active users have also taken out an Instapay through Even.

More interestingly, salaried employees at Walmart used the app slightly more than hourly workers, proving that just having a guaranteed income isn’t necessarily a panacea to financial trouble for many American households.

Even.com’s Series B round is all about expansion and growth for the company. Even intends to open an East Coast office this year, and intends to expand its product further into the Fortune 500 with partnerships similar to its Walmart deal. The company currently has 37 employees. In addition to Khosla, the startup raised funding from Valar Ventures, Allen & Company, Harrison Metal, SV Angel, Silicon Valley Bank and others.

Printrbot has shut down

Printrbot, a popular Kickstarter-backed 3D printer company, has shut down, leaving only a barebones website and little explanation. The founder, Brook Drumm, wrote that “Low sales led to hard decisions.”

“We will be forever grateful to all the people we met and served over the years,” he wrote. “Thank you all.”

Printrbot’s machines costs about $200 during the Kickstarter and Drumm created multiple add-ons including a belt for printing multiple objects.

Drumm also ran Vault Multimedia and appeared on Science Channel’s All-American Makers TV and a pastor. Drumm created his product after having trouble assembling an early Makerbot and finding the hardware and software difficult to use.

There is no clear information on future support or parts availability for current customers. I’ve reached out to the company for comment.

Sinemia drops prices for its movie ticket subscriptions, which now start a $3.99 per month

MoviePass competitor Sinemia is lowering prices on the already low-cost movie ticket subscription plans that it introduced earlier this year.

Its monthly prices are being cut by $1 across-the-board. The cheapest plan now costs $3.99 per month, which gets you one standard movie ticket for that month. The priciest one, which covers three tickets (and includes 3D, 4D and IMAX screens), now costs $13.99 per month.

Sinemia says it’s also offering discounts on its family plans, and on plans in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

You might think that this summer promotion (which ends on September 3) seems timed to take advantage of the negative publicity around MoviePass’ new “peak pricing” for popular movies, and Sinemia’s press release doesn’t exactly deny it — the release literally begins: “At a time when MoviePass is running surge pricing …”

Sinemia subscribers also benefit from being able to purchase tickets in advance. And unlike AMC’s Stubs A-List program, Sinemia isn’t limited to a specific theater chain.

One caveat is that these plans are billed annually, so you’ll be making a bigger commitment upfront. On the bright side, this presumably locks in the lower price for a full year.

“With the release of highly-anticipated summer blockbusters, and with seasonal temperatures hitting record highs, we want to provide moviegoers a more affordable way to see must-watch films and get a break from the heat,” said Sinemia founder and CEO Rifat Oguz in the release.

Apple reportedly confirms keyboard reliability fix in internal document

An internal Apple document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers and obtained by MacGénération and MacRumors confirms that there’s a membrane under the keyboard to “prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism”. This is the first time Apple acknowledges that the third generation butterfly keyboard tries to fix unreliability issues.

“The keyboard has a membrane under the keycaps to prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism. The procedure for the space bar replacement has also changed from the previous model,” the internal document says.

When Apple introduced the updated MacBook Pro, the company told everyone that the keyboard had been updated for quieter typing. But iFixit found out that the company actually added thin silicon barriers under each keycap.

It’s clear that Apple didn’t want to publicly state that there is a reliability issue with its recent 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro models. The company doesn’t want to fuel those lawsuits.

But if you’ve been using a MacBook Pro or a 12-inch MacBook, you know that the butterfly keyboard isn’t ideal. While some people love typing with it, the main issue is that it’s not reliable. Sometimes, keys become stuck, you can’t use a letter, or it inserts two letters every time you press that key.

Even worse, if you try to bring it to an Apple Store to get it fixed, it’s an expensive process that involves replacing a good chunk of the computer. Dust, sand or hair can render your computer unusable.

It’s still too early to say if the 2018 MacBook Pro is more reliable. But Apple needs to update the 12-inch MacBook right away because it’s outrageous that they still sell a laptop with a broken keyboard.

PureSec exits Beta to secure serverless code

PureSec, a startup out of Israel emerged from Beta today to provide a way to make serverless computing more secure.

Serverless computing reduces programming to writing functions, so that when a certain event happens, it triggers an automated action. The cloud vendor takes care of the underlying infrastructure and developers just write the code. It may sound like Shangri La for tech, but in reality there are still security concerns.

You might think that a process that lasts only milliseconds wouldn’t be subject to conventional kinds of attacks, but the fact is serverless functions are designed to take human checks and balances out of the equation, says company co-founder Ory Segal, and if you don’t set up the functions correctly you could be vulnerable.

As with any type of cloud security, there is a shared security model with serverless computing. On the vendor side, they ensure their data centers and systems are secure, but at the application level, it’s up to the developer. Certainly we have seen many instances where applications have been left exposed and data has leaked.

Segal says the function may be only a few lines of code triggering an action, but the action usually involves interacting with one or more external services. When that happens, there is an opportunity to manipulate the function and make it do something it wasn’t designed to do such as inject malicious code.

The product looks at your serverless code and lets you know which vulnerabilities you may have left exposed. It can even fix those problems for you if you wish. It also allows you to configure a security profile for your code from a dashboard and see a log of activity to track problems when they occur.

Screenshot: PureSec

Segal says when the company launched in 2016, it was just a couple of years after AWS launched its Lambda serverless product. At the time, it was not widely used or understood. Serverless computing remains very early in its development, but in order to grow it needs a set of underlying tools like security to really take off.

PureSec is built from the ground up to provide serverless security, and itself is built on top of serverless architecture. As Segal points out, traditional security products require underlying infrastructure to deploy something either on the server or network. With serverless architecture, there is no underlying architecture on which to deploy until event is triggered and the cloud provider figures out what compute, memory and storage is required to complete the process.

The company had been in Beta mode up until today and has raised $3 million in seed investment, according to Crunchbase. It has 11 employees based in Tel Aviv.