As people eat out less, food delivery startups surge
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On this bleak morning for the market and the world due to the coronavirus, I’m choosing to accentuate the positive:
- The CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, last week suggested that a downturn in the company’s rides business due to coronavirus-caused macroeconomic headwinds could be partly balanced by increased orders for its surging food-delivery unit, Uber Eats. He also trumpeted Uber’s acquisition of Cornershop, a grocery delivery company in several Latin American markets and Canada.
- Uber isn’t the only business to think delivery will thrive when people are confined to their homes. Shares of Meituan in China have surged as the company has responded to demand there. Publicly traded Grubhub in the U.S., which has faced a withering assault from funny-money-funded competitors, also has revived. (Quartz had a good overview of this.) The point here isn’t so much to celebrate profiteering during a tragedy as to highlight examples of a dynamic market that responds to unanticipated needs.
- Similarwise, much has already been made of the newfound popularity of Zoom Video Communications in a time when travel has been severely restricted. As it happens, the CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, will speak tomorrow night at a Fortune Brainstorm Tech dinner in San Francisco. (Hugs and hand shaking are off limits.) We invited Yuan to speak just before the crisis hit U.S shores and only because the company has been one of the few successful recent tech IPOs. We’ll let you know what he says.
- In China, a product called DingTalk has also exploded in use due to the confinement of so many workers. This review is less than flattering about DingTalk but interesting all the same. DingTalk, by the way, is owned by Alibaba and began as a response to the success of WeChat, owned by Tencent. I visited the DingTalk development team in Hangzhou in 2018, which seems like a lifetime ago.
- I had been wondering if improved hygiene would lead not only to slowed transmission of the novel coronavirus but also a decrease in common flu cases. It turns out that public health officials in Japan think that’s exactly what is happening. A decrease in influenza, which Donald Trump recently learned is a consistent killer, would be a silver lining in this global tragedy.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.
Uncontained. As the number of infected cases confirmed in the U.S. passed 500 over the weekend, fallout from the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread. Organizers of the South by Southwest arts and technology festival called off the event on Friday. Apple joined other major California tech companies in asking most employees to work from home. Meanwhile, with federal virus-testing efforts flailing, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is rolling out its own tests for Seattle-area residents.
Innocent bystander. Feel like your location privacy data doesn't matter much? Tell that to Zachary McCoy of Gainesville, Florida. He became a suspect in a burglary because location data from Google put him near the invaded home around the time of the crime. “I was using an app to see how many miles I rode my bike and now it was putting me at the scene of the crime," McCoy told NBC News. "And I was the lead suspect.” Prosecutors eventually dropped McCoy as a suspect. Privacy still matters in Australia, though. Regulators there filed a lawsuit against Facebook over data shared with Cambridge Analytica five years ago.
A new way in. Following the discovery last week of a security flaw in Intel processors, another group of researchers announced they had found a different vulnerability in chips from Advanced Micro Devices.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
As Adam mentioned, food delivery services like Uber Eats may be benefiting from an increase in usage due to the current coronavirus outbreak. Former Fortune writer Erin Griffith, now at the New York Times, has a timely profile of a competitor in that market: DoorDash. She explains the startup's one big problem it must address if it wants to go public:
Of all the issues hanging over DoorDash, the most pressing is whether it can turn a profit. On this, [DoorDash CEO Tony] Xu pointed to DoorDash’s past. Until recently, he said, the start-up was so scrappy that it did not serve its employees elaborate snack spreads and he personally delivered meals in a beat-up Honda. DoorDash turned a profit in certain cities.
“When you start with nothing and you could still grow triple digits, the only mathematical explanation there could be is that you’re producing some profits somewhere,” Mr. Xu said.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
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Connected vehicles will make our roads safer—but only with regulators’ help By Michael Moskowitz
SoftBank Vision Fund Chief Rajeev Misra says time will disprove his critics By Polina Marinova
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Germany’s freedom from speed limits may be running out of road By Steve Perlberg
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BEFORE YOU GO
Douglas Adams' brilliant science fiction spoof The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy first aired as a BBC radio broadcast on March 8, 1978. That means Sunday was the 42nd anniversary of the show, a critical number that, in the series, Adams jokingly determined was the answer to life, the universe, and everything. BBC replayed the original episodes, and the script and subsequent novels Adams wrote have also been reprinted in new editions. Worth a look if you're in need of some lighter fare to divert you from today's headlines.