Fair.com closes another round of funding, acquires rental car delivery service Skurt

Just a week after we reported that Fair.com was acquiring the leasing portfolio of Xchange Leasing from Uber, the flexible car-ownership startup is making two more moves. Today, the company confirmed that it has raised another round of funding led by next47, the VC firm backed by Siemens; and it has made another acquisition, of Los Angeles-based Skurt, a service that lets you rent a car, and then delivers that vehicle to you.

Terms of both of the deals have not been disclosed but we are tying to find out. Fair has never specified exactly how much money it has raised up to now; last year the company confirmed that it had arranged for equity and debt financing of up to $1 billion, money that it would use to build out its business organically and by way of acquisition. Since then, it also secured a loan facility from Goldman Sachs to finance the Xchange Leasing deal (with the amount also undisclosed).

“These investments are an important part of Fair’s continuing and rapid growth, and are further confirmation that the future of car ownership lies in the digital, flexible and affordable model that Fair provides,” said Scott Painter, Fair CEO and founder, in a statement. “We’re gratified that Fair’s reception from the investment community matches the enthusiastic response of our customers, who want to get a car the same way they make countless other digital purchases—from wherever they are and with no long-term commitment.”

In addition to next47, this latest round includes repeat investors BMW, Upfront Ventures and G Squared (formerly known as GSV Ventures, backer of both Uber and Lyft, among many others), along with a few other names: CreditEase, Millennium TVP and 137 Ventures. Fair already shared some investors with Skurt, which had raised around $11.3 million with backers including BMW and Upfront (others included basketball legend Magic Johnson and Winklevoss Capital.)

It’s not the only big move BMW is making into the world of flexible ownership. The company just today announced that it would also buy out Sixt from European car sharing company DriveNow for $260 million. In one possibility, BMW’s move into upping its stake in Fair could potentially help build out a global operation for its own wider efforts in flexible ownership. Lead investor Siemens, meanwhile, is also preparing for a stronger role autonomous vehicles.

Last week, when we reported on the deal between Fair and Uber — which will also see Fair become Uber’s exclusive leasing partner, initially in the US, for drivers on its service who are looking for a new car to drive — we got wind that the company had raised another round, and this is a confirmation of that.

In the Skurt deal, it’s not clear if the company will keep its current business operational — we’re also asking about this — but for now there is no indication on the company’s site of any changes.

What is more clear is that Fair intends to use the company’s technology to help expand its business. Today, Fair is available across California, and the intention is to go nationwide this year.

Skurt, as we have described in the past, aggregates cars from leasing and rental programs, as well as excess inventory from dealerships and automakers, to make up its selection of vehicles and pricing offered to its users, with the service live in LA, San Diego and Miami. Fair said it will use that platform to “quickly scale” its own efforts to deliver and pick up vehicles, as well as to manage its wider fleet. “Skurt’s platform enables the digital initiation and monitoring of customer car deliveries from a central dashboard, as well as real-time notification, fleet location tracking, and instant communication throughout the process,” Fair said in a statement.

The company might move to offer drivers the option of full ownership in the future, but for now the main focus is to build a business around a different premise. Fair’s belief is that in the future, many consumers not want to fully own vehicles, and will instead choose to pay for shorter-term and more flexible offers in order to be able to get the newest vehicles.

This fits with trends that we’ve seen among some owners already, who never buy but lease cars; and many more who already have tied themselves into monthly payments for the vehicles that they do drive, ostensibly with a view to owning these eventually-outdated vehicles outright. That is a trend that could get a significant fillip with the next generation of tech-heavy cars, which many believe might become too unaffordable for the vast majority of drivers. In addition, of course, is the wider trend of on-demand-everything triggered with a tap of an app (which in Fair’s case includes options like insurance as well as breakdown cover and maintenance as standard).

These trends are what drove (sorry) investors to pony in on Fair this time around.

“At next47, we’re dedicated to help grow companies that will define the next generation of global innovation,” said T.J. Rylander, partner at next47, in a statement. “It’s clear that consumption models for personal transportation are changing rapidly and subscription-based pricing models are on the rise across all industries. Fair is at the forefront of marrying these two trends and making car ownership much more attractive for today’s consumers while opening up new market opportunities for manufacturers and dealers.”

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Former Intel president launches new chip company with backing from Carlyle Group

Ampere, a new chip company run by former Intel president Renee James, came of stealth today with a brand-new highly efficient Arm-based server chip targeted at hyperscale data centers.

The company’s first chip is a custom core Armv8-A 64-bit server operating at up to 3.3 GHz with 1TB of memory at a power envelope of 125 watts. Although James was not ready to share pricing, she promised that the chip would offer unsurpassed price/performance that would exceed any high performance computing chip out there.

The company has a couple of other products in the works as well, which it will unveil in the future

It takes a ton of money and some guts to launch a chip company, but James, who worked at Intel for 28 years, had the pedigree to pull in a highly experienced team of industry heavyweights to build the product. The company is being backed by The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm where James worked briefly after leaving Intel. She would not disclose the amount of funding, but did say her company was significantly well capitalized.

Ampere Microprocessor chip. Photo: Ampere

As for what motivated her to start a new company, she saw an opportunity to do something that had not had been done and she decided to pursue the challenge. “You’re only done until the next great thing is done, then you’re not done anymore,” she said.

The opportunity James saw was workloads moving to the cloud that required a new generation of chip technology that was more efficient than those that had been created in the past. Specifically, she wanted to build a high-density chip from the ground up that was extremely power/performance efficient at a lower cost.

The company, which is based in Santa Clara, launched in early 2017 and has between 300-400 people. As she pointed out, “this isn’t a garage startup.” The chips are in sampling right now with customers and partners and will go into production later this year. She but declined to name any customers just yet, but partners include Microsoft, Lenovo and Oracle.

Her company was designing this chip and getting ready to unveil it to the world when the Spectre and Meltdown bug news hit last month. As James acknowledged, no modern chip that uses speculative execution can escape these bugs, but she said the Arm exposure was minimal and the chips will have the patches built into them when they hit the market later this year.

She admits that taking on the chip giants requires some guts, but she does not shy away from the challenge. “When you are doing something new, that’s a breakthrough, people say, ‘how are you going to do this’?” She added, “My entire career I’ve been doing things I was told I couldn’t do.”

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In “Brotopia,” sex parties are the least of Silicon Valley’s problems

Two years ago, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang set out to write a book about gender discrimination in Silicon Valley. It wasn’t specifically prompted by that now-famous post of former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, wherein Fowler calmly recounted the many ways that Uber’s internal controls were either very messed up or nonexistent. But the national movement that Fowler unwittingly kicked off certainly gave more urgency to Chang’s work, and today, the product of that effort, Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, hits bookshelves.

Vanity Fair was first to run an excerpt of the book, featuring Chang’s reporting about “exclusive, drug-fueled, sex-laced parties” where female founders are prayed upon. What we learned, when once we had the book in our hands, is that there’s much more to it than that. We talked with Chang about her work this past weekend. Our conversation has been edited for length.

TC: Reading about these sex parties in Vanity Fair, it was hard to discern the scale of what you were describing, and how much attention these nights should be paid — in part because no one was named. How big are these gatherings, and how frequent are they? 

EC: I talked with more than three dozen people [about these parties] and more  since that excerpt was published — people who’d either gone and felt they couldn’t escape [or else risk access to the powerful people there] and people who were shut out of them. And [I was told] they happen every week.

TC: In the Bay Area?

EC: San Francisco. Napa. Malibu. Ibiza. New York. Women entrepreneurs will get invited and they aren’t sure if [the gatherings] will be shady or not. They don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into. This includes young women who’ve come from other countries and immediately wonder: ‘Is this something that I need to get used to? Is this Silicon Valley?’ You can imagine how alienating that might be for someone new to the U.S.

TC: We’ve already seen a number of VCs leave their firms, owing to their poor judgment. Do you think we’ll see more fallout from these parties?

EC: People who are part of the scene have told me it has taken a bit of a pause since the excerpt was published. But the problem is not just sex parties. We all know how much work bleeds into personal life in this industry. I’ve talked with female Uber engineers who were routinely invited to strip clubs and bondage clubs in the middle of the day. As I recount in the book, I went to the [famous San Francisco strip club] Gold Club and it was packed with tech workers eating lunch.

What we’re talking about is bad behavior that’s not just tolerated but that’s been normalized.

TC: Do you regret that this bit of your reporting from your book was the first excerpt published? It grabbed the country’s attention, but Elon Musk, who was in attendance at one of the parties included in the book, has called your conclusions “salacious nonsense.”

EC:  The Bay Area has a long traditional of sex exploration, but women can’t participate in it without becoming victims of a double standard. I realize that the territory covered in the book may make people uncomfortable. But I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m just reporting what I’ve observed, and there is much more to the book.

TC: There is lot of of reporting having nothing to do with these parties, which takes up just six pages. I wasn’t aware, for example, that the earliest software programmers were women and that they were later elbowed out of the field because it was becoming so lucrative. There’s reporting, too, about the cofounders of Binary Capital I hadn’t seen before. When did you know that you had a book on your hands?

EC:  I’ve been covering Silicon Valley for eight years for Bloomberg TV and whenever I’ve had women on the show, there’ve  been whispers about sexism and how bad it is and about this grave inequality in one of the most progressive places in the world.

Then, in late 2015, I interviewed [the famous venture capitalist] Mike Moritz where he commented that [his firm] Sequoia wasn’t going to “lower our standards” to bring in a female partner to its U.S. team. And for the next few months, everyone wanted to talk with me about what he’d said. There were these visceral debates about why women are so underrepresented in tech — with some saying it’s pop culture, or a pipeline problem, or that women don’t want these jobs. And the more people I talked with, the more I realized that [there were a lot of] false myths that have [combined] with economic and cultural forces to bring us to this point.

TC: Among some of the details in “Brotopia” is an awkward conversation you have with Moritz at a Vanity Fair dinner following that on-screen interview, where he called you his “nemesis.” Moritz more recently penned a controversial column for the Financial Times that seemed to flatter the firm’s constituencies in China but also made his partners’ job more difficult here by suggesting Americans are poised to lose to their Chinese peers. Do you think he has become a liability to the firm?

EC:  That op-ed was completely tone deaf. I spent two years in China, where I quickly discovered the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. And his remarks that women have more freedom to pursue careers there is completely misleading. China’s one-child policy was in place until two years ago. Women were forced to have abortions to avoid breaking the law.

Obviously, you can still be hard worker and have compassion and want to see your family. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and no one needs to choose between being a great worker and being a great mom or dad to achieve it.

TC: In separate chapter, you say you found it discouraging to see two venture firms, Benchmark and Bessemer, compete over the same female VC: Sarah Tavel, who joined Benchmark last year. You said you would have preferred to see the overall pool expanded, and I agree. Are there any women who you think VCs would be wise to recruit in 2018?

EC: There are so many talented women working technology. They just need to be given the chance. And investors need to expand their idea of who would be good at this job or they will miss great opportunities. They may have already.

TC: One of the first women VCs, Kathryn Gould, the founder of Foundation Capital, once told me that the number of women in venture capital won’t rise through traditional firms hiring women, but because women-led firms Cowboy Ventures will grow up around them. What do you think?

EC:  We need to see both. I’m so proud of [women VCs like] Aileen Lee and Kirstin Green and Theresia Gouw, whose strong and diverse portfolios are already proof that who is making decisions matters. But we also need male dominated firms to hire women. I think they will, too; I think they understand that time is up.

By the way, hiring one woman isn’t going to lead to cultural change anywhere. You need two, three, four women at the table to make a culture change.

We also need more women-led companies to received funding,  and for more companies whose primary audience is women to receive funding. Moral obligations aside, overlooking 50 percent of the population isn’t smart for business on any level.

TC: I tend to believe that as women accrue more financial resources, they’ll launch more venture firms. Toward that end, I worry that women are missing out of the newest wealth-producing wave: cryptocurrencies, which are predominately owned and used by men. Is this a trend you are watching? 

EC: Absolutely. Bitcoin [owners are] mostly male and young and the whole cryptocurrency industry is at risk of re-writing the gender disparity that has defined tech. There’s money to be made here and a lot to be lost, and we need people of all risk types involved — including and especially women.

TC: In the book, you recall asking attendees at a conference if they had their own Susan Fowler stories. I left a job owing to a sexist boss. Do you have any horror stories, or are you in that lucky 10 percent of women who do not?

EC: I’ve been put in uncomfortable situations, including as a journalist in my career. In another job, like you, I just quit rather than trying to explain what’s happening. But I think both pale in comparison to what women in tech are having to endure day in and day out, often as the only woman in a room.

TC: Having talked with so many of them for this book, how are you feeling about the future?

EC: I’m an eternal optimist and I do think that if people can change the way that we communicate and shop and transport ourselves around, they can make this change, too. It’s time.

When women have an equal number of seats at the table and they are VCs and engineers and CEOs and movie directors and [running the country as president] and we’re no longer talking about these things as “successes” but it’s completely normal, that’s when I think we’ll really have [achieved success].

TechCrunch

Balderton Capital leads $25M Series A in ‘urban farming’ platform Infarm

Infarm, a startup that has developed vertical farming tech for grocery stores, restaurants and local distribution centres to bring fresh and artisan produce much closer to the consumer, has raised $25 million in Series A funding.

The round is led by London-based VC firm Balderton Capital, with participation from TriplePoint Capital, Mons Investments, and previous previous investors Cherry Ventures, QUADIA and LocalGlobe.

It brings the total raised by the Berlin-based company to $35 million, including a $2.5 million grant from the European Commission as part of the Horizon 2020 program.

Infarm says the new capital will be used for international expansion and to further develop its 5,000 sqm R&D centre in Berlin. This will include bringing its vertical farming system to Paris, London, and Copenhagen, in addition to other German cities later this year. The startup is targeting 1,000 farms to be operational across Europe by the end of 2019.

Founded in 2013 by Osnat Michaeli, and brothers Erez and Guy Galonska, Infarm has developed an “indoor vertical farming” system capable of growing anything from herbs, lettuce and other vegetables, and even fruit. It then places these modular farms in a variety of customer-facing city locations, such as grocery stores, restaurants, shopping malls, and schools, thus enabling the end-customer to actually pick the produce themselves.

The distributed system is designed to be infinitely scalable — you simply add more modules, space permitting — whilst the whole thing is cloud-based, meaning the farms can be monitored and controlled from Infarm’s central control centre. The whole thing is incredibly data-driven, a combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud analytics akin to “Farming-as-a-Service”.

The idea, the founding team told me back in June last year when I profiled the nascent company, isn’t just to produce fresher and better tasting produce and re-introduce forgotten or rare varieties, but to disrupt the supply chain as a whole, which remains inefficient and produces a lot of waste.

“Behind our farms is a robust hardware and software platform for precision farming,” explained Michaeli. “Each farming unit is its own individual ecosystem, creating the exact environment our plants need to flourish. We are able to develop growing recipes that tailor the light spectrums, temperature, pH, and nutrients to ensure the maximum natural expression of each plant in terms of flavor, colour, and nutritional quality”.

Two years since launch, Infarm says it is now operating more than 50 farms across Berlin in supermarket aisles, restaurants kitchens, and distribution warehouses. This includes introducing in-store farming into EDEKA and METRO locations, two of Germany’s largest food retailers, in which dozens of “quality herbs and leafy greens” are grown and sold at what the startup describes as affordable prices.

Noteworthy, with an output of up to 1,200 plants per month from a single farm unit, Infarm claims it has already enabled some locations to become completely self-sufficient in their herb production.

“This is the beginning of the urban farming (r)evolution: it will redefine what it means to eat well, reshape the landscape of cities, and re-empower the people to take ownership of their food,” says Erez Galonska in a statement. “Our ambition is to reach cities as far as Seattle in the United States or Seoul, South Korea with our urban farming network”.

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Penta, the German digital-only bank account for startups and SMEs, raises €2.2M seed

Penta, the German ‘challenger’ bank that offers a digital bank account targeting SMEs, has raised €2.2 million in funding. The seed round is led by Inception Venture Capital, a new London-based VC firm with a heavy fintech focus, and will be used for further hiring, product development and to fuel growth.

Running on top of Banking-as-a-Platform solarisBank (rather than holding a banking license of its own), Penta is designed to the banking needs of small to medium-sized businesses, including startups. It launched publicly in Beta to businesses in Germany in December, although there was initially a wait list, which I’m told is being lifted today.

At the time of launch, co-founder and CEO Lav Odorovic argued that SMEs and startups are currently underserved by incumbent banks, which sees account opening being cumbersome and much more difficult than it should be, whilst SMEs are charged exorbitant fees for making payments or international money exchange.

Penta has set out to address this and other unmet SME needs, such as tracking employee spending and automating accounting and invoicing. “We ultimately concluded that business owners want a fully digital bank that’s easy to use and that has the apps and products they need to help them scale quicker, save more time and money,” Odorovic said.

The reference to “apps” is where the upstart’s marketplace banking comes into play (a strategy being pursued in one form or another by a plethora of fintech startups, including the U.K.’s Starling, Curve, and Monzo, and Germany’s own N26). This will see Penta integrate the best third-party fintechs and other service providers to meet the needs of SMEs, instead of simply developing and up-selling its own products.

Part of the seed round will be used to launch the Penta marketplace of third party products. These will include automated accounting, low-cost FX, and multiple MasterCards with limits and permissions that can be given out to an SME’s various employees.

“We want to help businesses get off the ground as quickly as possible without them having to worry about annoying banking bureaucracy or paying pesky fees. That’s why Penta is free to open and free to use,” says Odorovic in a statement. “We’re giving businesses 10 free transactions per month. Every transaction after the 10th is €0.10 cents. Your Penta account will also come with our beautiful [bright green] MasterCard for online and offline payments”.

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Leshi Internet says it must repay $890 million in debts by the end of 2018

LeEco founder Jia Yueting

Leshi Internet, one of China’s largest video-streaming services, disclosed that it must pay back 5.62 billion RMB (about $890 million) by the end of this year. Leshi Internet’s (also known as Le.com) heavy debts stem from a financial crisis at its sister company LeEco, both of which were founded by Jia Yueting. Jia resigned as Leshi Internet’s chief executive officer last year.

That amount represents about two-thirds of the total 9.29 billion yuan (about $1.45 billion) in debt Leshi Internet owes, which it says stems from Jia’s failure to provide funding after borrowing against Leshi Internet shares to fuel LeEco’s overambitious expansion strategy.

Leshi Internet shares resumed trading at the end of January, nine months after the company suspended its stock to review a restructuring plan, but the result has been a massive investor sell-off. Leshi Internet said last week that it expects a loss of 11.6 billion RMB (about $1.8 billion) for 2017 due to the fallout from LeEco’s financial problems.

In an unusual move, Jia was publicly ordered in December by the China Securities Regulatory Commission’s Beijing branch to return to the country and deal with debts owed by LeEco to investors and creditors. His assets were also seized by a Beijing court.

That month, however, Jia took over as chief executive officer of Faraday Future, the electric car startup majority-owned by LeEco, after claiming that he had managed to secure a last-minute $1 billion funding round. Jia is reportedly using Faraday Future as a reason not to return to China, despite signs that the company, which once positioned itself as a Tesla rival, is headed toward the deadpool.

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Elon Musk shows off Falcon Heavy’s Roadster-loving artificial astronaut

Elon Musk is in Florida getting ready for the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the first ever flight of the big new space freight beast. He’s making some final inspections of the cargo, it seems, including a new addition to the cherry red Tesla Roadster that’s going to be on board in the cargo area atop the rocket.

Said new addition is a dummy wearing one of SpaceX’s swanky new astronaut uniforms. Musk’s so-called “Starman” evokes the David Bowie tune that’s going to be playing on the Roadster when it’s launched, hopefully all the way up to space, during Falcon Heavy’s initial test mission on Tuesday at 1:30 PM ET.

Starman in Red Roadster

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

SpaceX’s cargo for this one is easily among the most fun things ever put into space, and it’s both symbolic of how this helps Musk achieve his larger missions of reducing human ecological footprint on earth, while simultaneously making sure we can spread our wings and become a truly interplanetary species when the time comes, too.

We’re actually also in Cape Canaveral to witness and report on the historic launch, so stay tuned this week for updates as we near the momentous first journey of this gigantic orbital rocket.

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Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Lee is out of jail after his bribery sentence is suspended

Samsung vice chairman and the company’s heir apparent Jay Y. Lee has left prison after a South Korean high court suspended his bribery sentence.

Lee, whose father is Samsung’s chairman, was previously sentenced to five years after being found guilty of bribery, embezzlement, capital flight and perjury charges. His sentence was reduced to 2.5 years today on appeal, and he was allowed to leave on a four-year probation, according to Bloomberg.

Lee was first arrested last February and he had served close to one year in custody. His absence hasn’t impacted Samsung’s business, which has posted a series of record financial returns over the past year. That included an all-time-high $69 billion in revenue for its chipset division in 2017, which toppled Intel for the first time in 25 years as the planet’s biggest-selling chip firm.

The executive was arrested on accusations of paying bribes to an advisor of former President Park Geun-hye in exchange for political favors aimed at cementing his position within Samsung Electronics.

According to the New York Times, he is said to have given a total of $36 million to Park’s secret advisor in order to win government support for a merger between two Samsung subsidiaries. Park, Korea’s first female leader, was impeached and removed from office due to the influence of her aides.

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Cloverfield Paradox review: Netflix combines every space scream

Where did Cloverfield’s don’t-call-it-Godzilla come from? This Gravity meets Event Horizon flick mashes up the scariest things outside our planet to provide an answer. New Netflix original film  The Cloverfield Paradox is now available after a surprise announcement during the Super Bowl.  Producer J.J. Abrams back for a third-installment that’s tense and eerie, leaving you worrying how far director Julius Onah will push the freights.

The Cloverfield Paradox explores a world set to run out of energy in five years. A space station is created to test an experimental particle accelerator that could generate enough power to solve the crisis. But turning it on unleashes terrifying, reality-warping changes.

The film follows 2008’s found monster footage collage Cloverfield, and 2010’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, where survivors end up losing their minds in a shelter. But while those films felt zoomed into a tight set of characters, The Cloverfield Paradox encompasses a whole earth on the brink of panic.

Trapped on the space station, the film does meander a bit, but the spooky occurrences it pursues add to the film’s overwhelming atmosphere of disorientation. It never fully forges a connection between the audience and many of the characters, though star Gugu Mbatha-Raw handles intense emotional weight as a grieving crew member.

Those looking to geek out on the science of global warming worst case scenarios will find The Cloverfield Paradox tantalizing. There are a few unresolved phenomena that are unnecessary, but it’s powerful to see the crew crack under the pressure of a world looking to be saved.

The Cloverfield Paradox stumbles trying to cram climactic action into its claustrophobic quarters. This isn’t an action blockbuster by any means. But an entertaining ending makes you want another film in the series back on the ground.

Netflix has managed to score both an enjoyable one-off, and a movie that keep viewers subscribed until they can get another Cloverfield fix. And by announcing the previously delayed film would be available just two hours after its trailer debuted, Netflix shows its agile nature. The rapid release could ensure fewer people end up with the suspense spoiled, while avoiding overly hyped up expectations. It’s a solid sci-fi story with polished follow-through, served up swiftly when most films today seem to take forever to arrive.

TechCrunch

Nike ramps up membership benefits with Apple Music, ClassPass and Headspace unlocks for app users

The top line is that Nike is rolling out some membership related updates to its app for iPhone and Android. The updates will come in the form of new unlocks with partnerships like ClassPass, Apple and Headspace. There will also be a bunch of new unlocks coming for exclusive shoes and clothing.

NikePlus Unlocks, the official name for these cards that appear in the Nike+ app Members section, were introduced late last year. They’ve been doing well but as a, let’s just say avid, shoe and clothing hound I personally haven’t found them all that impactful yet. The amount of unlocks was not varied or frequent enough to be habit forming and they’re tucked away in the profile section of the app so you really have to go fishing for them if you want to take advantage.

Among the best uses so far have been exclusive colors of new and classic designs just for members and the occasional exclusive clothing drop for runners or athletes.

Nike says that they’re trying to expand not just the frequency but also the spectrum of the rewards for members, hopefully creating more of a habit and a feeling that the memberships are about more than just finding your order history when you need it.

Some of the Unlocks in partnership are quite nice and align well with the Nike performance audience. Buy a Nike Epic React Flyknit shoe in an exclusive color (Nike’s newest comfort design that many are seeing as a response to the Adidas Ultraboost) and you’ll get four months free of Apple Music. Doing workouts can earn you exclusive playlists and more.

Headspace, a guided meditation app, will ship exclusive playlists, discounts on membership and guided runs that focus on the more self-aware side of exercise.

ClassPass is giving out class credits when you make Nike purchases, which should align well with current members and boost membership via lead generation.

The biggest and most popular new Unlock will likely be the Birth Month promotion, which gives you discounts that last an entire month and gifts when you make purchases like a 1 month ClassPass subscription or even tickets to a home game of your favorite team. The personalized promotions are an enormously rich vein for Nike to mine and Iv’e not seen a lot of it in the apps to date, so it’s encouraging when they say that they’re explicitly tailoring this based on activity in the apps and purchase history.

A couple of the exclusive releases of shoes in February include the Kyrie 4 iD, an exclusive Zoom KDX and the aforementioned Epic React in “White Fusion”.

Nike has a long history of running events for runners and athletes through the Nike Run Club and that will continue here. Points earned in the Nike Training Club app or the Nike Run Club app will also trigger rewards as you run more miles or complete routines. Exclusive products and ‘experiences’ are also on the docket here.

Though Nike has been in this member game longer than almost any other sporting goods company, the apps themselves have only become really rich with this kind of content over the last year. Between the expanded offerings for the Unlocks category and the bolder bets that Nike has been taking in the SNKRS app with location and computer vision-based rewards, the apps are starting to feel like they’re moving up towards home screen status. I do long for better alerts and push notifications for exclusive releases and ‘Reserved For You’ drops that let you grab an upcoming sneaker without hassling on release day. It feels like there is work yet left to do to make the conversation two-way between the customer and the app.

Still, with launches like the physical Nike Stash locations and the SNKRS AR experiences, Nike is really ahead of the game when it comes to leveraging mobile in interesting ways for a highly engaged audience that’s ravenous for new product. These create fervor, they make the app a daily habit and create a feeling that there could always be something there. And it provides opportunities for Nike to link the apps with physical experiences like being in Nike flagships or at venues that complete the digital-to-physical loop in compelling ways. It will be interesting to see how the Unlocks continue to evolve.

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