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Welcome back from the weekend. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Drone delivery startup Flirtey raised $16 million

What has Flirtey done? Last year, Flirtey generated a buzz in food and retail when its unmanned aerial vehicles began delivering Slurpees from 7/11 to thirsty denizens of Nevada. The startup has also flown pizzas to Dominos customers in New Zealand.

Who did they raise money from? VC’s are bullish on drone related tech and services, 95 drone tech companies raised equity funding rounds of at least $500,000 in 2016.

Flirtey’s Series A round was led by the company’s seed investors, Menlo Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures.

What will the funding be used for? Run more deliveries for its existing clients, and to get in front of new potential customers in retail in the US, New Zealand and later, in Japan.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Malaysia’s RHL Ventures invests in Beyonce backed Sidestep

Malaysia-based venture capital firm RHL Ventures has invested an undisclosed amount in US-based technology startup Sidestep Technologies Inc along with other A list co-investors in Hollywood.

What is Sidestep? Sidestep is a mobile commerce application with the slogan “Skip the Line” and creates a platform that allows their users to skip long queues during live music events when buying merchandise and other exclusive items.

What is RHL aiming to do now? Expand their investments further into Southeast Asia, meaning that Sidestep is their first foray into the west.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Recommended Reading: Retailers turn to Silicon Valley to attract customers

What’s the secret? Personalization “is the Holy Grail,” says Salesforce Commerce Cloud Chief Executive Jeff Barnett, who works with brands such as L’Oreal and Under Armour.

Amazon: Deep-pocketed Amazon has been investing in technologies like these for years, aiming to make it easy to find items and click buy. Tech providers are filling that gap for other traditional retailers that don’t necessarily have the means to do the same.

Nordstorm: The retailer is now piloting in-store beacon technology that will direct shoppers to express checkout lines or alert them when a fitting room opens up via an app on their phone with Bluetooth turned on.

 Read the rest of the story here.

2016 was a buzz year for drone crafts. The technology gained instant coverage across different industries and media sites as more companies created drones or were rumored to have one in the works.

Various logistics industry specialists also came out to assess the role of delivery drones in the landscape of logistics and last mile and predicted that drones have the potential to disrupt and reduce costs associated with traditional supply chain.

Logistics companies and retailers such as Amazon and Walmart have invested in pilot projects, but no drone has yet been commercialized. Logistics players such as DHL and Flirtey have successfully completed a few drone deliveries but are currently still in trial period.

With so much chatter in the drone conversation, which companies in our industry have actually shown progress in drone deliveries? We take a look:

1. DHL

Having operated a drone research project since 2013, DHL reportedly made a trip around a mountainous area in Bavaria, Germany area three times faster than cars with its “parcelcopter” in May 2016.

We have achieved a level of technical and procedural maturity to eventually allow for field trials in urban areas as well,” said DHL manager Jürgen Gerdes.

The delivery giant also reported to have built an automated system that can deliver packages such as medical supplies between two remote Bavarian villages. End-customers were able to visit a DHL “skyports” location where it stores the drones during the trial period in November 2016, insert their package into an allocated box and input a code that activates the drone.

DHL is also the first to apply to be a part of the mobile controlled UAV traffic research project, which will be effective this year.

 

2. Amazon

drone deliveries

Amazon already has a plane, a credit card, an employee-less grocery store so naturally the giant would have a drone delivery system they coin Prime Air. The company expects the drones to transport packages safely to customers within 30 minutes.

According to recent reports, Amazon has filmed for permission to run tests on experimental wireless communications technology – possibly to bolster Prime Air. Tests will take place at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle before moving to its customer service facility in Kennewick, Washington.

If the requested tests are indeed related to Prime Air, it highlights how serious Amazon is about implementing drone delivery on a large scale. The senior manager of Amazon’s drone delivery service is Neil Woodward, a retired astronaut, and is listed as the primary contact on documents submitted by Amazon to the Federal Communications Commission regarding base stations for the wireless comms technology.

3. UPS

UPS made headlines in October 2016 when the package delivery giant sent a drone to deliver an asthma inhaler to a children’s summer camp on an island just off Massachusetts in the US.

According to UPS, the company is focusing on using drones to fly in remote locations to deliver emergency supplies. A more widespread delivery service is years away into the future.

 

 

4. Diamler

Diamler, the manufacturer of Mercedes Benz has been taking very active strides in drone innovation this past year. From its drone-equipped delivery van concept in September 2016 to its most recent $17 million investment in London based Startship technologies, a delivery drone startup.

Diamler’s drones aim to change last mile deliveries by integrating an advanced routing solution, which will provide information on where to place a package or whether a signature is required. It will still have to maneuver between the drone regulations set by the FAA in the US though.

 

5. Walmart

In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA, Walmart was developing internally autonomous drone technology that allows a quad-copter drone to take 30 images per second from a top-mounted camera, as well as deliver parcels. This was back in June 2016.

The Walmart drone is most likely still in the development phase, but the company plans to integrate the drones into all of its distribution centers in the future.

 

6. Alibaba

The buzz surrounding Alibaba’s Taobao drone started to circulate last February. Taobao ran a real world test that lets 450 people in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai order ginger tea and receive it within the hour. The test period only lasted for 2 days, but it was one of the first practical instances of drone delivery in urban areas.

Since then, the Taobao drone has been PR shy.

 

7. 7-Eleven/Flirtey

7-Eleven actually got a head start in the drone race, beating everyone by being the first to successfully complete a regular drone delivery to consumers in the US in December 2016. Approximately over 70 orders were placed in Reno, Nevada and received doorstep drone treatment.

According to Flirtey, the average delivery time was 10 minutes. Customers mainly ordered snacks and beverages, including over the counter medicine.

Slurpees and sandwiches could be widely delivered within the US via drones in the near future.

 

What’s next?

Which logistics company or retailer do you think should pilot drones next? Is Southeast Asia too far away from launching commercial drones or would the bustling streets of Bangkok and Jakarta be prime locations for drones in the future? Let us know in the comments.

Still recovering from your Christmas weekend? Here are today’s ecommerce news.

1. A Series of Tech IPOs Expected in 2017

Wall Street set record upon record throughout 2016, and tech stocks led the way, hitting all-time highs. And yet, we saw a mere 13 IPOs for venture-backed U.S. technology companies during the entire year.

A few sectors stand out, most notably software-as-a-service, cybersecurity and cloud infrastructure.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Flirtey and 7-Eleven complete first month of “routine commercial drone deliveries”

Flirtey said that it had made “77 autonomous drone deliveries to customer homes in the United States”. The interactive app also notified customers when their drone was loaded, when it departed from the store and when it was arriving at their doorstep.”

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Vietnam: P2P lending startup Tima gets funding from Singapore investor

Vietnamese P2P lending startup Tima has closed a US dollar 7-figure series A funding from a Singapore fund to accelerate service growth in the local market. Tima has been working with 967 lenders who are financial units, investors and credit institutions. To date, more than two million cumulative transactions have happened via its platform.

Read the rest of the story here.

7-Eleven Inc. and a tech startup called Flirtey have beaten Amazon to the punch in making the first drone delivery to a customer’s home in the US, reports TechCrunch.

Rather than adapting existing unmanned aerial vehicles, Flirtey builds its own, develops the software to run them, and creates proprietary packaging and containers to keep items secure during delivery, according to CEO Matt Sweeney.

The 7-Eleven delivery took place in Reno, Nevada on July 10th, Flirtey successfully transported: Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee and candy to the home of the family who placed the order.

According to 7-Eleven EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer Jesus H. Delgado-Jenkins, “delivery by drone is something 7-Eleven intends to offer widely in the future.”

Drone delivery could prove especially useful to families with children who cannot easily leave the house when they have an urgent need for items like over the counter medicines or milk.

To find customers willing to have their order handled by a flying robot, the companies surveyed households within a one-mile radius of the store from which they planned to deliver.

Most already know 7-Eleven, the convenience store retail chain that boasts about 10,800 stores in North America and 59,500 in total around the world. If already successful in the US, it wouldn’t be long until they are delivering in Southeast Asia.

A version of this appeared in TechCrunch on July 22. Read the full version here.