Valentine’s day promos, Uber’s deal with Zipcar, and on-demand funding deflates

XLVI

Valentine’s day.

You know the passion has really faded between America and the sharing economy when even their Valentine’s day promotions are getting more staid.

Lyft: Offering 14% off a ride. (“Act fast! Availability is limited.”)

Postmates: I have no idea if this is a real site, but it came up when I googled “Postmates Valentine’s day” and is VERY PINK. Someone please enter your address and let me know what happens.

Uber: Delivering puppies in some areas. (Sample code: PUPPYLOVEDAL17.)

UberEats: Published this, er, helpful blogpost.

Things were much more exciting three years ago, when Uber offered on-demand skywriting ($500 for up to 12 characters) in four US cities.

Funding bubble deflates.

2016 was not peak sharing economy. Globally, funding to on-demand startups fell to $13.8 billion, from $21.3 billion the previous year, a decrease of 35%. That’s from CB Insights, which defines “on-demand” as “startups delivering physical goods and same-day services in an on-demand model.” It excludes “startups providing on-demand booking options for longer-term services, such as on-demand housecleaning.” In the most recent quarter, the $1.7 billion in on-demand financing was concentrated among three startups in particular: Beijing ride-hailing company Dingding Yueche raised $743 million, Dubai-based Careem (also ride-hailing) raised $350 million, and delivery startup Postmates brought in $141 million.

Zipcar + Uber.

Uber last week debuted a new “vehicle solution” for drivers in the Boston area: renting by the hour through Zipcar. The rates start at $12 per hour and drivers also pay a monthly Zipcar membership fee of $7. The good news: those rates include unlimited mileage, gas, and insurance. The bad: since the typical Uber driver in Boston makes about $20 an hour, per Uber’s own data, the most anyone could reasonably expect to make from this arrangement is $8 an hour. In Massachusetts, that’s well below the $11 minimum wage.

Zipcar also buries a bunch of other potential fees at the bottom of its online FAQ: “late return fee” (starting at $50 an hour), “low gas fee” ($30 if you return a vehicle with less than 1/4 of a tank), “tickets/violation processing fee” (a $30 “processing fee” on top of any tickets or moving violations received while using the car). The insurance Zipcar provides carries a $2,000 deductible paid by the driver, so accidents aren’t cheap.

For now, the trial is very small at a mere 10 designated cars, and being framed as an easy way to try out driving for Uber. “This unlocks the opportunity for Zipcar to offer a new use-case for its vehicles and lowers the barrier for prospective Uber drivers to try out the service,” says a Zipcar PR. Uber, for its part, admits that you might not make that much money through the Zipcar “solution,” but says flexibility is the real point. Driving for Uber: you can’t have it all.

Fines.

The penalties are racking up for Airbnb and its hosts.

Brooklyn: A woman was fined $5,000 for running an Airbnb out of her brownstone in Bed-Stuy.

Amsterdam: City council imposed a €297,000 fine on a landlord and business that rented out properties as illegal hotels.

Barcelona: Rejected Airbnb’s proposal to limit the number of home rentals in the city, saying it didn’t go far enough. Barcelona councilor for companies and tourism: “Airbnb’s response is a joke.”

Last year Airbnb unleashed political clashes in cities around the world; this year it will deal with the fallout. Already, that process is looking very expensive.

Other stuff.

Ford puts $1 billion into Pittsburgh's Argo AI. Zenefits lays off 45% of employees. 122 people barred from the US by Trump found housing on Airbnb. Airbnb teams up with SolarCity. Airbnb buys Luxury Retreats for $200 million. Managed by Q eyes expansion. Blue Apron builds out in New Jersey. Uber drivers strike in Qatar. Ride-share drivers demand better working conditions in India. Uber suggests a wage floor for French drivers. Uber starts mapping Asia. Uber, Lyft cleared to operate in New Jersey. Waze expands carpool. Cruise Automation tests app for hailing self-driving cars. Google Maps engineer Luc Vincent heads to Lyft. Grab coach. Venmo trolling. Flower delivery. Sharing cityMoovn. “I turned $1.24 into $1,000 of UberEats credit.” “He swore at his father before hurling a Pret a Manger baguette in his direction.”