Heres Why Trump Went Postal on Amazon

Here’s Why Trump Went Postal on Amazon

The Amazon blame game took another turn on Thursday, when President Donald Trump spun the wheel back around to the U.S. Postal Service. Amazon.com Inc. is a convenient scapegoat for just about any issue. The mail is no different.

Amazon isn’t killing the post office. Since signing a landmark contract in 2013 to expand their business relationship and deliver packages on Sunday, revenue has ticked up; losses are down; and shipping is just about the only growth segment in the mailbag. The Postal Service is saddled by larger issues. Sure, there’s the internet, and nobody is sending postcards anymore, but the big financial dilemma is the agency’s yearly obligation to set aside cash to cover health care costs for future retirees. This accounts for billions in losses.

Give Up?

U.S. Postal Service makes small improvements but is nowhere close to sustainable

Source: U.S. Postal Service

U.S. mail is also required to cover every American, employing carriers who roam neighborhoods six days a week (or seven, if Amazon has a package ready). The Postal Service has said it actually makes money on the Amazon deal. E-commerce revenue provides “essential support to pay for the network and infrastructure that enables us to fulfill our universal service obligation,” David Partenheimer, a spokesman for the Postal Service, wrote in a January op-ed. “All users of the mail benefit.”

The Amazonification of U.S. Mail

Shipping revenue overtook junk mail for the first time last year

Source: U.S. Postal Service

Amazon rebuilt its delivery network around the post several years ago. The company operates “sortation centers” that complement warehouses and organize packages by zip code before sending them to post offices for the final leg of delivery. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, Amazon has a million-square-foot warehouse, connected to a 500,000-square-foot sort center with a covered conveyor belt that resembles an airport skybridge.

Ending the U.S. mail relationship would probably be a bigger setback for Amazon than for the Postal Service. On a dark day in late 2011 when the postmaster general proposed cutting 100,000 staff and shutting thousands of post offices, EBay Inc. shares dropped more than 6 percent. Amazon’s deal came soon after, and radical cuts were avoided—probably not a coincidence.

So the e-commerce giant got the Postal Service off life support, but any benefit beyond that is minimal. Nothing short of a complete overhaul of the mail system, some kind of bankruptcy-style financial restructuring or reneging on those health-care promises would turn the Postal Service into a sustainable business.

Maybe that’s Trump’s goal. Building an antitrust case against Amazon—an idea the President has floated—is a tall order. Amazon’s five-year contract with the Postal Service could be up for renewal this year. Breaking up that relationship would be an easier way for Trump to inflict pain on the #AmazonWashingtonPost, as he calls it.

Fully Charged

And here’s what you need to know in global technology news

A Facebook executive advocated for a grow-at-all-costs mentality in a controversial 2016 memo. BuzzFeed obtained a copy of the staff email from longtime executive Andrew Bosworth, which said deaths or terrorist attacks shouldn’t get in the way of the company’s mission to connect people.

Google is helping shape the future of U.S. wireless networks. The company’s plan to overhaul how valuable airwaves are used for calls and texts is gaining momentum.

Tesla is recalling about 123,000 cars. The voluntary recall affects all Model S sedans built before April 2016, capping the automaker’s worst month-long performance on the stock market since 2010.

Microsoft unveiled its biggest reorganization in years. Devices and software will live together, and Windows is now part of the cloud division. Windows chief Terry Myerson will depart as part of sweeping changes by CEO Satya Nadella.

The man who steadied Twitter wants to sell you a mortgage. As CEO of student-loan refinancer SoFi, Anthony Noto has to upsell the company’s high-earning clientele and fend off Goldman Sachs.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-30/here-s-why-trump-went-postal-on-amazon

JPMorgan Brings Amazons Alexa to Wall Street Trading Floors

  • Voice-activated assistant can now send reports from analysts
  • Other firms such as New York Life using it to help employees

“Alexa, ask JPMorgan what the price target for Apple is.”

It’s a request that JPMorgan Chase & Co. institutional clients can now get quickly answered through Amazon.com Inc.’s ubiquitous voice-activated assistant. The bank and the e-commerce giant have partnered to provide JPMorgan’s Wall Street users with another way to access its research. Alexa is able to send analysts’ reports and related queries, and the bank is testing other features, like providing prices on bonds or swaps, according to David Hudson, global head of markets execution for the New York-based bank.

Voice assistants are “clearly becoming something people are habituated to in their lives,” Hudson said. “It’s about taking information that’s somewhere in the bank, that someone has to generally go and look for, or which is time-consuming or requires authentication to get, and putting that to you in another channel.”

As clients’ habits evolve, firms have been finding ways to adapt popular retail technologies for the business world. While JPMorgan is one of the first to push the Alexa virtual assistant to institutional shops, other banks have been using the service in their consumer operations. And New York Life Insurance Co. is among financial companies building programs that use Alexa as a tool for employees.

12,000 Agents

Customers are becoming increasingly willing to use voice assistants to monitor accounts, according to a survey conducted last year by Bain & Co. While 6 percent of U.S. respondents now use the technology, 27 percent are open to it, according to the consultant.

Capital One Financial Corp. was the first bank to allow customers to manage credit card and bank accounts through the voice assistant, and the lender has slowly expanded its Alexa service, allowing people to ask questions like how much they spent on Amazon last week.

New York Life will start rolling out Alexa features to its 12,000 agents later this year to help them get quick details on policies and prepare for meetings, said Mark Madgett, who leads the insurer’s field force of agents. That means the agents can ask Alexa to figure out how much life insurance a customer has or the value of those policies, or to catch them up on the latest products the firm is offering, he said.

“This is a very complicated business,” Madgett said. “When I started 32 years ago, I had five products that I could help solve problems with. Today there are thousands of permutations around financial solutions.”

New ’Skill’

JPMorgan’s automated service, known in Amazon verbiage as a “skill,” is the latest shared project for the biggest U.S. bank and the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon already leases cloud-computing power to JPMorgan and has asked the bank to compete in creating new products including a small-business credit card for its customers. The companies are also collaborating on a health-care venture.

Read more: JPMorgan-Amazon health venture goes beyond squeezing middlemen

JPMorgan’s Alexa project started last year as part of an internal competition to foster innovation. The bank first opened up data in its research group and added feeds from other departments, including banking and custody and fund services — capabilities now being tested internally. If the automated service takes off, it should free the firm’s salespeople from having to answer routine queries.

JPMorgan has seen that clients are open to new ways of interacting with technology. Not long after the bank created mobile apps for its trading business, it was recording large trades, including a $400 million currency bet last year. So allowing Alexa users to access JPMorgan data from wherever they choose to work — home, office or on the go — makes sense.

The next step is enabling institutional clients to act on the information they’re getting. In the not-so-distant future, Wall Street traders could routinely use Alexa to execute trades, according to Hudson. But the bank needs to do more work on client authentication and other security measures to prevent errant trades before that happens, he said.

“In the open-office environment, if you leave an Alexa on your desk plugged into an Amazon account, you might find a TV delivered tomorrow as a practical joke,” Hudson said.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-26/jpmorgan-brings-amazon-s-alexa-to-wall-street-trading-floors

Same-day delivery service Deliv launches Deliv Rx for same-day prescriptions

Deliv, the crowdsourced same-day delivery service which today partners with retailers like Macy’s, Best Buy, Petsmart and Walmart on various initiatives, today announced a new service to offer same-day delivery of prescription medications. At launch, Deliv Rx, as the service is being called, will power same-day delivery of prescriptions for select Walgreens, as well as Kay Pharmacy, Phil, Phox Health, Rancho Park and others.

The company is entering a crowded market for prescription delivery. In addition to online pharmacies and delivery services from PhilPillPack, ScriptDropZipDrug, Alto, and more, there are also those tackling same-day deliveries in particular, like Phox HealthCapsuleNimbleNowRx or GetMyRx, for example.

But Deliv isn’t necessarily trying to take on all these as competitors. Instead, it can partner with them to power the actual delivery piece of their larger business. In fact, it has already partnered with some of those in this space, including Phox Health and Phil.

“Deliv is not an e-commerce site, it’s not a marketplace, it’s not a store, and it’s not an app looking to manage prescriptions. Deliv is purely a crowdsourced base, last-mile delivery service. Think of as a local UPS without the planes and warehouses. We are an asset free logistics provider,” explains Deliv CEO Daphne Carmeli.

In addition to powering a new crop of prescription-delivery startups, the company also sees the potential to help smaller pharmacies compete with larger chains. There are 67,000 pharmacy locations in the U.S., half of which are independent. Partners in this space at launch include Kay Pharmacy in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Rancho Park in L.A.

But Deliv Rx can take on clients from bigger chains, too. At launch, Walgreens is using Deliv in the Dallas metro area.

The business model for Deliv Rx is also different from the pharmacies’ themselves, as it’s not trying to own the customer relationship.

The customers can continue to transact with their preferred pharmacy, then choose same-day delivery at checkout. If the pharmacy doesn’t want to deal with managing their own employee drivers, they can simply outsource the logistics and operations around same-day delivery to Deliv Rx.

Deliv Rx will generate revenue the same way its crowdsourced delivery service Deliv does – by charging a pre-negotiated delivery fee. The retailer -or in this case, the pharmacy – can then decide what to charge its customers to recoup that fee. They can also choose what sort of delivery windows they want to offer – though most choose a 1- to 3-hour window, Carmeli tells us.

Essentially, Deliv Rx isn’t so much of a brand-new service for Deliv, but a launch of a new vertical that makes it clear that Deliv is ready to take on prescription deliveries, instead of just those from retailers or grocers.

The company is using its existing Deliv workforce – a network of independent contractors – to handle these Deliv Rx deliveries, as well. However, the participating Deliv Rx drivers are HIPAA compliant as well as being background-checked, as before.

The potential market for same-day delivery of medication is large, as the industry shifts online. Last year, consumers were projected to spend $360.1 billion on medication, and that number could reach $610 billion by 2021, Deliv notes, citing various industry reports. However, of the 4 billion prescriptions filled in the U.S. every year, most are still filled at 60,000 retail pharmacies where you still have to pick up in person.

“Waiting for a prescription when you’re in a hurry is annoying, but waiting for it when you really need it is simply unacceptable,” Darmeli said in the company’s announcement. “Deliv Rx enables pharmacies to be there for their customers in the best way at the most critical time. By extending a highly sought after, value-added service, pharmacies build brand loyalty while also ensuring that the integrity of prescriptions remain intact.”

Prescriptions – including those from vets – aren’t the only thing Deliv Rx can handle. The company is also authorized to deliver medical devices, specimens, documents, medical equipment and supplies to and from hospitals, labs, clinics, doctor and dentist offices, nursing homes, patient and research facilities, it says.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/08/same-day-delivery-service-deliv-launches-deliv-rx-for-same-day-prescriptions/

Lily raises $2M from NEA and others for a personal stylist service that considers feelings, not just fit

One of the reasons recently IPO’d Stitch Fix became so popular among female shoppers is because of how it pairs the convenience of home try-on for clothing and accessories with a personal styling service that adapts to your tastes over time. But often, personal stylists bring their own subjective takes on fashion to their customers. A new startup called Lily aims to offer a more personalized service that takes into account not just what’s on trend or what looks good, but also how women feel about their bodies and how the right clothing can impact those perceptions.

The company has now closed on $2 million in seed funding from NEA and other investors to further develop its technology, which today involves an iOS application, web app and API platform that retailers can integrate with their own catalogs and digital storefronts.

To better understand a woman’s personal preferences around fashion, Lily uses a combination of algorithms and machine learning techniques to recommend clothing that fits, flatters and makes a woman feel good.

At the start, Lily asks the user a few basic questions about body type and style preferences, but it also asks women how perceive their body.

For example, if Lily asks about bra size, it wouldn’t just ask for the size a woman wears, but also how they think of this body part.

“I’m well-endowed,” a woman might respond, even if she’s only a full B or smaller C – which is not necessarily the reality. This sort of response helps to teach Lily about how the woman thinks of her body and its various parts, to help it craft its recommendations. That same woman may want to minimize her chest, or she may like to show off her cleavage, she may say.

But as she shops Lily’s recommendations in this area, the service learns what sorts of items the woman actually chooses and then adapts accordingly.

This focus on understanding women’s feelings about clothing is something that sets Lily apart.

“Women are looking for clothes to spotlight the parts of their body they feel most comfortable with and hide the ones that make them feel insecure,” explains Lily co-founder and CEO, Purva Gupta. “A customer makes a decision because based on whether a specific cut will hide her belly or downplay a feature they don’t like. Yet stores do nothing to guide women toward these preferences or take the time to understand the reasons behind their selections,” she says.

Gupta came up with the idea for Lily after moving to New York from India, where she felt overwhelmed by the foreign shopping culture. She was surrounded by so much choice, but didn’t know how to find the clothing that would fit her well, or those items that would make her feel good when wearing them.

She wondered if her intimidation was something American women – not just immigrants like herself – also felt. For a year, Gupta interviewed others, asking them one question: what prompted them to buy the last item of clothing they purchased, either online or offline? She learned that those choices were often prompted by emotions.

Being able to create a service that could match up the right clothing based on those feelings was a huge challenge, however.

“I knew that this was a very hard problem, and this was a technology problem,” says Gupta. “There’s only one way to solve this at scale – to use technology, especially artificial intelligence, deep learning and machine learning. That’s going to help me do this at scale at any store.”

To train Lily’s algorithms, the company spent two-and-half years building out its collection of 50 million plus data points and analyzing over a million product recommendations for users. The end result is that an individual item of clothing may have over 1,000 attributes assigned to it, which is then used to match up with the thousands of attributes associated with the user in question.

“This level of detail is not available anywhere,” notes Gupta.

In Lily’s app, which works as something of a demo of the technology at hand, users can shop recommendations from 60 stores, ranging from Forever 21 to Nordstrom, in terms of price. (Lily today makes affiliate revenue from sales).

In addition, the company is now beginning to pilot its technology with a handful of retailers on their own sites – details it plans to announce in a few months’ time. This will allow shoppers to get unique, personalized recommendations online that could also be translated to the offline store in the form of reserved items awaiting you when you’re out shopping.

Though it’s early days for Lily, its hypothesis is proving correct, says Gupta.

“We’ve seen between 10x to 20x conversion rates,” she claims. “That’s what’s very exciting and promising, and why these big retailers are talking to us.”

The pilot tests are paid, but the pricing details for Lily’s service for retailers are not yet set in stone so the company declined to speak about them.

The startup was also co-founded by CTO Sowmiya Chocka Narayanan, previously of Box and Pocket Gems. It’s now a team of 16 full-time in Palo Alto.

In addition to NEA, other backers include Global Founders Capital, Triplepoint Capital, Think + Ventures, Varsha Rao (Ex-COO of Airbnb, COO of Clover Health), Geoff Donaker (Ex-COO of Yelp), Jed Nachman (COO, Yelp), Unshackled Ventures and others.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/12/13/lily-raises-2m-from-nea-and-others-for-a-personal-stylist-service-that-considers-feelings-not-just-fit/