Caviar, a startup Square acquired last summer, is going to bring me lunch today. I can choose between pasta, sushi, or salad, all for less than $15 and with a promise to arrive in less than 15 minutes. It's part of Caviar's Fastbite service, which launches this afternoon in New York City, following a successful run in the Silicon Valley area. The offering is a piece of a broader trend in the tech industry, with companies like Uber, Amazon, and even Google branching out from their core competency and experimenting with ways to quickly deliver groceries and meals.
A lengthy article in The Wall Street Journal yesterday examined Uber's struggles to find traction for its UberEATS service. While it has hundreds of thousands of cars operating in major cities at all times, the logistical challenge of parking, picking up, keeping food warm, and finding the customer, has resulted in an experience best summed up as "lukewarm burrito." Courier-focused startups like Postmates, meanwhile, have raised significant funding and won contracts over Uber to support large clients such as Apple and Starbucks.
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Back in March, Caviar told TechCrunch that it had tripled its order volume and doubled its headcount since being acquired by Square. The end goal is very different for Square than for a service like Uber. Square hopes to find a way to connect with more consumers, and to upsell merchants that Caviar delivers for on its payment products and small business services. Uber, by contrast, is trying to find more ways to squeeze revenue out of its network of drivers and justify its massive $40 to $50 billion valuation.
This is all part of a larger boom in on demand services the likes of which we haven't seen since the dot-com days of Kozmo and Webvan. Investors and entrepreneurs are hopeful this era, with more connected customers and pocket supercomputers, won't culminate in the same brutal ending.