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#175 – Alexa’s Monthly Fee, BNPL Regulation, & That Controversial Forrester Report

by | May 27, 2024 | Recent Newsletters

Hi Shopifreaks!

Before we begin, I'd like to welcome Apptile to the Shopifreaks family as our newest official News Partner! 🎉🥳

Apptile helps Shopify stores own their customer connections with personalized mobile apps. That means:

  • No more having your social posts buried by Meta's algorithm
  • No more having your e-mails land in Gmail's Promotions tab
  • No more having to pay other platforms to reach your own audience

With a branded mobile app for your Shopify store, you can reach your customers directly through push notifications and personalized campaigns, while offering a seamless in-app shopping & checkout experience. 

Apptile offers a truly no-code app building solution that puts the power of customer connection into the hands of your marketing team (as opposed to your dev team).

Traditionally, building an app for your e-commerce store involved a costly team of developers whose schedules you were dependent on to publish updates. Whereas with Apptile, you can have your app up and running in minutes instead of months. From there, your marketing team can create promotional campaigns and push them live same-day without the help of a developer. 

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Getting started with Apptile is simple:

  1. Connect your Shopify store
  2. Choose a theme
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Top brands from startups to household names trust Apptile to boost their customer experience — including soon to be myself and my clients!

The more I learned about Apptile's offering through vetting the company as a sponsor, the more impressed I became with their team and platform capabilities. What particularly stood out to me about Apptile is that they aren't afraid to move quickly and build the features in-house that their clients want (like their latest live commerce feature). 

Click here to schedule a demo with an Apptile expert and learn how building a mobile app can become your #1 converting sales channel. 

And now back to our regularly scheduled content…

In this week's edition I cover:

  • A recap of Google Marketing Live 2024
  • Walmart's new store format
  • Some cool new Google Pay features
  • Amazon Alexa's upcoming monthly fee
  • Walmart's new virtual metaverse store
  • Finally some BNPL regulation
  • A controversial Forrester Report
  • Price cuts across major retailers and restaurants
  • Amazon Dating?!
  • Google's $350M investment in Flipkart

All this and more in this week's 175th Edition of Shopifreaks. Thanks for subscribing and sharing!

btw – thank you also for helping me reach 75 five star Google reviews! If you've been loving Shopifreaks, please take a few seconds and drop me a Google review. Your feedback helps me reach new readers and keeps me motivated to keep on producing these amazing editions each week. 😃

Stat of the Week

Two-thirds of U.S. consumers said that higher prices have made their financial situations “worse” or “much worse”, according to a new Federal Reserve study. The data shows that inflation continues to be the nation's top financial concern, despite the inflation rate's decline from past levels.

1. Google Marketing Live 2024 recap

Last week Google held its annual Google Marketing Live 2024 event where the company showcases its newest innovations via live keynote speeches. Here's a recap of what was announced at this year's event:

  • AI Asset Production – advertisers can now creates ads faster for PMax, YouTube, and other ad types with Google's AI image generation tools including the ability to add brand guidelines for colors, fonts, and imagery.
  • AI-Powered Shopping Ads – new video and virtual ad types for Shopping Ads advertisers including the ability to integrate short-form product videos into ads, virtual try on to allow shoppers to see how clothes fit different body types (beginning with men's and women's tops), and 3D images for a full 360-degree view of products.
  • Visual Storytelling Advances – advertisers can now target potential customers with vertical videos, stickers, and automatically generated image ads across YouTube, Discover, and Gmail
  • Ads in AI Overviews – Google will began testing ads within relevant AI-generated overview boxes at the top of SERPs. Search, PMax, and Shopping campaigns will be eligible. The ads will show up in a block labeled “Sponsored” to separate them from the AI-written content. (We all knew it was coming!)
  • Ads Data Manager Public Launch – Google's Data Manager Tool, which consolidates disparate first-party data from sources like YouTube, Google Ads, HubSpot, and Shopify into a unified analytics hub, is now available to everyone. The platform also helps ensure marketers are using data safely and responsibly. 
  • Merchant Brand Profiles – new tools have been released to better showcase your brands, create visual content, and highlight key merchant information on Search. So like a Facebook Page on Google that you have less control over? Profiles will also include reviews pulled from Product Listing Ads, but it's yet to be determined how much control brands will have about which reviews are shown.
  • AI Ads for Complex Purchases – Google is testing giving consumers an interactive experience upon getting their search results to provide tailored advice and recommendations based on user needs and context.
  • PMax Profit Optimization Goals – advertisers will be able to optimize ads for profit goals, which Google says has seen a 15% uplift in campaign profit compared to revenue-only goals for advertisers. 
  • Gemini Upgrades – Gemini Nano with Multimodality can now handle various inputs like text, photos, and audio to answer questions, and Gemini 1.5 Pro is now available globally.

Which new features above do you think will have the biggest impact on advertisers and e-commerce brands? Hit reply and let me know. 

Sources: Google, Wordstream, Search Engine Land, Adthena, Wired

2. Walmart launches new Neighborhood Market prototype

Walmart is expanding its Neighborhood Market store format with two new prototype stores in Santa Rosa Beach, FL and Atlanta, GA.

First, what's a Walmart Neighborhood Market?

Walmart Neighborhood Markets were designed in 1998 as a smaller-footprint option for communities in need of a pharmacy, groceries, and merchandise, but lacked the available space to support a Walmart Supercenter. Each Neighborhood Market is approximately 38,000 sq.ft. and typically employs just under 100 associates. They are designed to compete with grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Markets. There are just under 700 Neighborhood Market stores in the US.

For comparison, Walmart Supercenters are typically around 182,000 square feet, employ around 300 associates, and add electronics, apparel, toys, home goods, tires, and other product categories to the mix. There are over 3,500 Walmart Supercenters in the US.

What's changing about Neighborhood Markets?

The new omnichannel-focused locations are larger than previous Neighborhood Markets, spanning around 57,000 square feet of sales floor, pickup, and delivery space. The new store formats include:

  • Wider aisles to make it easier for associates to digitally pick products and for customers to shop without bumping into each other. (LOL, have Americans gotten fatter since 1998?)
  • Expanded fresh offerings with larger produce departments and a bigger service deli with more hot case options.
  • Health Services Rooms next to the pharmacy for providing customers with vaccinations and consultations.
  • Breastfeeding Room so that mom shoppers have a comfortable place to breastfeed their babies instead of in the middle of the store or in Walmart's notoriously disgusting bathrooms.

Walmart has previously announced plans to open 150 new Neighborhood Market locations over the next 5 years, but the company did not specify how many of those stores would be the new larger format.

🔥 Partner News

eStreamly launched a new Shoppable Video Direct Message (DM) Links feature for Instagram that allows creators and brands to share clickable video shopping links directly through Instagram DM. The new feature makes it easy to drive customer engagement and sales, showcase multiple product looks and styles, and tag products from any brand or store with live pricing and checkout. Shoppable Video DM Links provide a valuable new touchpoint to connect customers with entertaining video content and buyable product experiences.

3. New Google Pay features for shoppers

Google Pay is rolling out a number of updates that leverage its integrations with other Google products, like Android OS and the Chrome browser. Here's what's new: 

Visible Card Benefits – Shoppers who checkout with Google Pay will be able to see their card benefits and perks before selecting a card. Google notes that consumers who have multiple credit cards may not always remember which is the best card for particular purchases. For example some may offer dining perks or cash back while others are better for travel. Now Google will showcase relevant card benefits to help you make the best decision. The feature will initially only support American Express and Capital One cards, but Google says it plans to expand to more cards in the future.

How about a notification like, “Wait, this is your dad's credit card! It's supposed to just be used for groceries, gas, and emergencies. You shouldn't use it in a nail salon.” LOL

Introduction of BNPL – Google began piloting the integration of BNPL options with partners like Affirm and Zip earlier this year, and now it's rolling out the feature to more merchant sites and Android apps. At checkout, users can either sign in to their existing BNPL accounts with those providers or sign up from the checkout screen.

Easier Card Verification – Google is making it easier for Chrome and Android users to verify their card details using their fingerprint, face scan, or screen lock PIN instead of always having to enter the CVV number. I've actually recently seen this one roll out on my Chrome browser already.

I love the new features! Especially the one that showcases card benefits before making a purchase.

Is this feature a precursor to Google recommending new credit cards that offer the best perks for particular purchases? “You're about to buy tires. Did you know that Capital One's Rubber Card offers 6% cashback on Goodyear tire purchases?”

4. Amazon Alexa gets an AI update and a monthly fee

Amazon is upgrading its decade-old Alexa voice assistant with generative AI and plans to charge a monthly fee to offset the cost of the technology to its customers who are already feeling nickel and dimed by Amazon's monthly service add-ons (*cough* ad-free Amazon Prime Video).

CNBC reported that Amazon plans to launch a more conversational version of Alexa later this year to compete with new AI chatbots from Google and OpenAI, and the subscription will not be included in the $139/year Prime offering, according to inside sources who chose to remain anonymous. 

Amazon was an early pioneer of voice assistants, but the company has historically struggled with its Alexa division.

When Alexa launched in 2014, it started a wave of hundreds of manufacturers embedding voice technology into their products. Publications at the time called it the “computer of the future,” but it's since lost some of its luster as other voice assistants competed to become a familiar presence in customers' homes. 

Amazon has also had trouble monetizing Alexa.

Amazon team leaders wrote in an internal document several years ago, “We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.” However not as many people ended up using the devices to buy products as they'd hoped.

People mostly used Alexa for simple hands free tasks like starting and stopping music or asking about the weather. By 2018 the company was on pace to lose about $10B from Alexa enabled devices, froze hiring for the team in 2019, and by 2020 Jeff Bezos' interest in Alexa, his once pet project, began waning. That changed when Andy Jassy took over as CEO in 2021, according to three sources, who say that Jassy has been privately underwhelmed with what modern-day Alexa is capable of. 

In February, I reported (story #2) that Alex was out, and Rufus was in. Amazon had just launched a brand new AI shopping assistant named Rufus to a small subset of customers in the US, with plans to roll out to additional US customers in the coming weeks. But no-one's really heard much about Rufus again since then. 

My recommendation at the time was that everything AI-powered at Amazon should be “Alexa”. She has become a household name in the past decade and should follow me around the entire Amazon ecosystem as my personal assistant and gateway to shopping, customer service, and product comparison on Amazon. It sounds like Amazon may be following that advice, beginning with giving Alexa an upgrade. 

On a side note, I've never seen major tech companies like Amazon, Google, Meta, and Apple have to play catch-up with new technology as hard as they have with OpenAI! The entire past year and a half so far has been — OpenAI releases a feature and everyone else says, “Us too! Coming soon!”

5. Walmart launches Walmart Realm

Walmart launched a new virtual e-commerce platform called Walmart Realm that lets customers shop for digital doubles of select products sold at real-life Walmart stores via virtual bazaars designed to look like outlandish, make-believe worlds.

The metaverse shopping mall exists as its own independent platform built on Emperia, a virtual shopping company that has constructed digital stores for retailers including L’occitane, Bloomingdale’s and Boss.

Check it out here:

Currently there are three virtual stores available to browse:

  1. So Jelly – an underwater universe with colorful, bubbly products.
  2. Go Chromatic – a melted metallic world that's dripping with style. 
  3. Y'allternative – where Western and and gothic glam combine

Walmart Realm can be accessed on desktop or mobile and shoppers can click on various objects in the virtual stores to learn more about the product and purchase it on You can also click on videos that play welcome messages from digital avatars who are based off real life influencers, and collect Sparks as you shop, which can be redeemed for rewards. Most of the items for sale are under $50, with the least expensive item being a pair of faux pearl earrings for $3.88.

Initially the stores are limited to Beauty, Home, and Fashion categories and product selection is limited, but Walmart is just getting started. 

Walmart’s director of brand experiences and strategic partnerships, Justin Breton, said, “We’re really in a place of testing and learning to inform a future state of immersive commerce because we believe that it is going to be the future of commerce. It’s not going to replace a website or our app, but it will be complementary.”

Three weeks ago I reported (story #3) that Walmart had teamed up with Roblox to sell physical goods directly to users inside Roblox. The introduction of real-life e-commerce of tangible items was a milestone for Roblox, which aims to become an all-encompassing destination for virtual life.

However Walmart isn't putting all its eggs in Roblox's basket. The company believes in the virtual medium and wants to place itself at the forefront of metaverse shopping across many platforms — including its own proprietary ones.

Breton said, “As more and more platforms embrace real-world commerce, we would love the opportunity to be the partner they choose to introduce it to their communities.” 

6. Regulation finally comes to BNPL in the US

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finally issued a rule that confirms that BNPL lenders must provide consumers the same key legal protections and rights that apply to conventional credit cards, including the right to dispute charges and demand a refund from the lender after returning a product. They must also provide periodic billing statements like the ones received for classic credit card accounts. 

The CFPB launched its inquiry into the BNPL market more than two years ago and has since experienced a rise in consumer complaints related to refunds and disputed transactions.

In that period of time, BNPL also greatly expanded across industries and into higher tier purchases. It can now be used to finance televisions, gaming systems, airline travel, cruises, and even cars and mechanic services. 

CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said, “When consumers check out and choose Buy Now, Pay Later, they don’t know if they will get a refund if they return their product or whether the lender will help them if they didn’t get what was promised. Regardless of whether a shopper swipes a credit card or uses Buy Now, Pay Later, they are entitled to important consumer protections under longstanding laws and regulations already on the books.”

The new regulation effectively labels BNPL lenders as credit card providers and says they must now meet the respective criteria under the Truth in Lending Act.

It took over two years for that?

If you've been reading this newsletter long enough, you know that I've been a big proponent of BNPL regulation since the lending type first came into existence. Regulation is long overdue, and I honestly can't believe that BNPL companies have been able to skirt credit lending rules for as long as they have. 

It's a bit strange that the CFPB took two years to simply label BNPL lenders as credit card providers, instead of using that time to come up with regulation specific to the lending type — but it's a start. A very late start, but a start nonetheless.

The CFPB is also investigating credit card rewards. 

The agency's focus on credit card rewards follows a 70% uptick in consumer complaints regarding credit card rewards since before the pandemic. The most common complaints include not receiving rewards, devaluation of rewards, inability to redeem rewards, and losing reward access. So we can probably expect some regulation about that in at least 3 years. LOL.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean… The U.K.’s Payment Systems Regulator issued a 158-page report that concludes that higher fees levied by Visa, Mastercard, and other payment networks have not translated into better service. The report mulls a series of actions and possible remedies, which at the moment do not include fee caps. The report says that these payment processors “face no direct constraint from alternative providers”, but both networks told the PSR that open banking, BNPL, and digital wallets all offer competition. 

7. The Forrester Report heard around the world

Forrester named Shopify a leader in its 2024 Forrester Wave™: Commerce Solutions for B2B Vendor Assessment, beating out legacy B2B first commerce platforms like Intershop, BigCommerce, Sitecore, VTEX, and others.

The “ludicrous” position struck a nerve with B2B expert Jason Greenwood, whose LinkedIn post calling out Forrester for its report garnered hundreds of comments and engagements, leading Forrester to threaten Greenword with a copyright violation for posting a screenshot of the Wave, according to Greenwood.

Greenwood wrote, “Don't get me wrong, I love Shopify for the right merchants and use cases. And in B2C/DTC it's hard to fault and hard to beat, especially in the value for money stakes. But B2B? Seriously? Yes, it has improved significantly for B2B over the last 18mo and they have built a decent foundation to extend on. But for Forrester to have it beating out B2B first/B2B focused commerce platforms is just ludicrous.”

He added, “Wow, just wow. Forrester – do better.”

The overwhelming majority of commenters agreed and expressed similar sentiment: 

  • “These Forrester reports are becoming more like full page paid ads in the newspapers, which are named Editorials 😊” – Ami Verma
  • “Yep agree. Being cynical, I wonder what it cost to get that Leader badge? There's no way it's ahead of a platform like BigCommerce or Spryker for B2B. Forrester has completely devalued its report.” – James Gurd
  • “Take a look at the change log they have for B2B specifically, just within the past year. In the future, they might come up with a robust solution with more use cases, but at the moment, it seems that there's more focus on the team's capabilities rather than leveraging their solutions. No doubt with specific B2C needs, they are the best fit, but not in terms of B2B.” – Priyal Trivedi
  • “While Shopify has made strides in B2B, it's hard to see them beating out specialized platforms. This ranking does seem off.” – Matthew Zarzycki
  • “As someone who is in the ‘trenches' on a day to day basis. This report is totally out of tune with current macro and micro environment not only in the e-commerce space but the economy in general.” – Neil Canfield
  • “They got hypnotised by Shopify marketing :)” – Anthony Komarov

Others shot back at Greenwood's analysis: 

  • “When was last time you checked Shopify b2b? Shopify is moving really fast compared to the status quo, its a full time job to stay up to date, just from last year they released a ton of b2b stuff and headless support as well.” – Youness Id bakkasse
  • “I don't have a stake in this now, but I'd say this report isn't entirely wrong either… You also have to take into account the B2B space is VAST and the requirements are even more vast. A HUGE number of companies see B2B as: if you're B2B level 1, 10% off, level 2 20% off, etc. They aren't really looking at deep integrations either to your CRM or your ERP. In the simple cases, Shopify actually makes perfect sense and they can have a storefront up in a couple days and start selling.” – Michael McCloskey
  • “Traditional leaders’ time is running out. We are building very complex solutions for B2B brands on Shopify and integrating it into whatever is needed using Celigo 🤷🏻‍♂️” – Waldo van Niekerk

What's your take? Is Shopify already a leader in B2B commerce after just a year and a half of serving the market? Or is this Forrester report guilty of being “pay to play” like several commenters suggested? Hit reply and let me know or join the convo on Greenwood's post.

8. Retailers went too far with price hikes and are slashing prices

Target plans to cut prices on 5,000 popular items across grocery, household, health, and beauty categories, including national brands and Target's owned brands like Good & Gather. The company plans to signal the price cuts with red tags in its stores and online. But they aren't the only one…

Amazon Fresh also announced that it's cutting prices on about 4,000 products through weekly sales. Shoppers will be able to get discounts online and in-store.

Walmart said earlier this month that it's rolled back prices on nearly 7,000 items in stores, noting deflationary trends in general merchandise.

McDonald's announced a $5 value meal set to hit stores next month. Wendy's followed suit the next week, releasing a $3 deal that features a breakfast sandwich and potatoes. Then came Burger King with its $5 value meal.

Neil Saunders, Managing Director and Retail Analyst at GlobalData Retail, reminds us that the reductions are good news, but they need to be put in context. He wrote:

“The cuts come off the back of a 26.6% rise in prices compared to 2019. By way of comparison, over the prior 5-year period of 2014 to 2019, grocery prices rose by a very modest 1.6%. No one is taking prices back to where they were five years ago, so consumers will still feel the pinch of inflation. From our consumer studies, most shoppers are still comparing the cost of their weekly grocery shop to pre-pandemic levels. And that’s one of the reasons most still have ‘register shock’ when they get the final totals. This is unlikely to change any time soon.”

Retailers and restaurants are feeling the pressure, and I imagine we'll see more price cutting in the following months — except for Starbucks whose CFO said matter-of-factly, “We are not,” when Yahoo Finance asked if Starbucks plans to lower prices.

But maybe they'll change their mind because, you know, McDonald's has pretty good coffee too…

9. Other e-commerce news of interest

A group of content creators and developers created a satirical service called Amazon Dating, which looks and feels like Amazon's website and allows users to “buy” people they want to date as easily as they would a product on Amazon. Every person for sale on Amazon Dating comes with a price, reviews, and a bulleted description of hobbies. It's dumb, but it's kind of funny. Chuckle-worthy at the least. I have no idea what the point of it is though.

Home Depot partnered up with Instacart to offer customers same-day delivery on home improvement products from its 2,000 stores nationwide. The partnership follows a pilot collaboration that began earlier this year, with the program now being expanded nationwide.

Not to be outdone by its delivery rival, DoorDash partnered up with Ulta Beauty to provide delivery services from its more than 1,350 stores across all 50 states. Customers will be able to access Ulta Beauty's more than 25,000 items from 600 brands covering cosmetics, fragrances, skincare, and other beauty products through the DoorDash app. 

Amazon India announced a new program to help tribal artisans from Visakhapatnam sell authentic handcrafted products to a global audience via its marketplace. The company will train tribal members in packaging and branding of goods to be sold online and setup an e-commerce hub within the tribal area for packaging, storage, dispatch, and order processing.

Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Salesforce joined together to form the Symbiosis Coalition, which pledges to reduce the companies' carbon footprint by supporting nature restoration projects. Collectively the companies have committed to contract up to 20M tons in nature-based carbon removal credits by 2030, which equates to paying external companies to conduct carbon-negative projects, such as planting more trees, to cancel out their emissions.

X is planning to make likes private by default to encourage more people to engage with “edgy” content on the site. Here's the thing about Elon Musk's X though… Your likes will be private, until they're not. And then one day all the “edgy” stuff you liked on X that you thought was private will become public. Because that's how Elon rolls.

Salesforce announced new AI, Data Cloud, and Commerce Cloud features at its Connections 2024 conference last week including a personal shopping assistant in the form of a chatbot, abandoned cart alerts via WhatsApp, and an update to its Salesforce Checkout that allows one-click checkout across various areas of its platform. Salesforce President and CMO Ariel Kelman said that there are “islands of trapped data” and when it comes to using data for AI processes, everything starts with getting it all in one place. 

Amazon AWS is investing €15.7B to expand its data centers in Spain, extending its commitment to the country until 2033. The move extends AWS's expansion efforts across Europe, following recent similar investments in Germany and France.

Apple is offering big discounts on iPhones in China to boost sales amid intense competition from Huawei and other domestic brands. and Tmall will have select iPhone models up to 20% off for the 618 festival, which is China's second largest shopping event of the year. 

Sysco launched a Sysco Marketplace for selling third-party suppliers' products, built on Mirakl technology. The marketplace will let customers access over 15,000 niche products across categories such as grocery, canned food, and dry products to supplement its regular offerings.

Shopify convinced a Delaware federal court to overturn a jury's decision that it owes $40M in damages for infringing on patents related to website-building technology. The judge said on Friday that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's findings that it infringed on the patents that belong to Express Mobile. Shopify called the decision a “significant victory in the battle against patent trolls.”

Meanwhile, speaking of patent trolls, Shopify has applied for a patent for “tuning AI-generated images” that will enable users to personalize AI-generated images used in advertising. The patent involves Shopify's collection of data from a merchant's store, which it uses to train a deep learning generative model, and then allows merchants to generate and edit photos of their products — which sounds like every other AI generated product image tool, so I'm not sure how that'll be patentable. 

Mercari, the Japanese marketplace that allows users to buy and sell new and used items, which took heat last month (story #1) for its new nontraditional fee structure, launched Ethereum trading on its app. In recent years the company has pivoted towards crypto, adding a crypto exchange to its marketplace app. The exchange is proving to be a success, as customers say they are more comfortable to use the crypto exchanges of Mercari or its rival Rakuten than traditional crypto exchanges. 

Linktree is launching a social commerce program that lets creators add storefronts to their link-in-bio pages and takes a 12-15% commission on sales. The experiment initially launched with a few brands earlier this year and was only available to select creators, but now the program boasts over 2,000 brands and is open to more users.

Meta is rolling out a new automated video ad option called Catalog Product Ads, which enable advertisers to upload their entire product catalog into Meta's system, with Meta's ad display process then showcasing the most relevant products to each user. Up until now, Catalog Product Ads, formerly called Dynamic ads, could only include still image placements, but now can include video. 

Oh Polly, a UK-based women's fashion retailer, is implementing a new return fee policy that's based on a consumer's rate of returns. Shoppers will be required to pay up to £8.99 depending on how much of their order they want to return. Additionally, customers with high return rates will be subject to an increased fee that will only decrease once their return rate falls below a certain threshold.

10. Seed rounds, IPOs, & acquisitions

Google is investing $350M in Flipkart, as part of the company's nearly $1B funding round that kicked off in 2023, which was led by Walmart with $600M, valuing the company at $36B. As part of the deal, Google will also provide Flipkart with cloud offerings.

Remark, a platform that pairs shoppers with both human and AI product experts who can discuss items just like a retail staffer would, raised $10.3M in seed funding from an investor group including Spero Ventures, Stripe, Shine Capital, Neo, and other angels. There are no platform fees; the company instead takes a commission on revenue that's attributed to its remote sales team which include artists, musicians, stylists, golfers, ski instructors, and other experts.

Max Retail, a marketplace for independent retailers and brands to sell excess inventory, raised $15M in a Series A round led by Nosara Capital. The funding will enable the marketplace to more than double its sellers while focusing on serving specialty retailers and brands. 

Rider, a Pakistan-based e-commerce logistics startup, is looking into acquiring BlueEx, the only listed Express Courier Logistics Company in Pakistan. If the deal goes through, this will be the first acquisition in the country of a listed company by a startup, and the first major acquisition of a company listed on Pakistan's Growth Enterprise Market board at the Pakistan Stock Exchange.

Drinks, a software platform that provides the regulatory technology for alcohol producers and merchants to sell alcohol online, is planning its Series C for this year of at least the size of its $20M Series B round, according to its CEO. To date, the company has raised $35M including an $11M Series A.

Phantom Wallet, an app for accessing Solana's web3 ecosystem that recently expanded to support BTC, ETH, and MATIC, acquired Bitski, a web3 company that offers a crypto exchange and hardware-backed wallet, for an undisclosed amount. Phantom plans to integrate Bitski's browser extension into its wallet to simplify onboarding and improve user experience.

Alibaba Group is considering a $5B convertible bond sale to finance share buybacks and growth. The company aims to invest in its core businesses of commerce and cloud services, which have recently faced market share declines. The offering follows a similar move by, which recently offered $1.75B in convertible senior notes.

Scale AI, an AI data foundry services firm that helps AI companies collect, curate, and annotate data, raised $1B in a Series F round at a $14B valuation from backers including Amazon, Meta, and Nvidia. Since its founding in 2016, Scale AI has been integrated into some of the biggest AI companies including Microsoft, Meta, OpenAI, and Anthropic. The company will use the funds to improve its model analysis work.

Capchase, a revenue-based financing platform that provides SaaS companies with access to financing based on recurring revenue, received a €105M credit facility warehouse led by Deutsche Bank to support its business in the UK and Europe. The company will do so through Capchase Grow, its solution that offers eligible companies access to non-dilutive financing.

Six law firms are investigating Permira's $6.9B acquisition of Squarespace, which netted stockholders $44.00 per share. The law firms believe that Squarespace's board of directors was conflicted, engaged in an unfair process, and agreed to an unfair amount to be paid to shareholders so that they could see greater upside once the company went private.

MultiMetaVerse, a China-based animation and entertainment company, announced its intention to acquire Bowong Technology, an AI company that developed proprietary AI models designed to enhance content creation for e-commerce platforms. MMV is looking to leverage the acquisition to enhance its merchandise business and reduce content production costs.

Teal, a Vancouver-based startup that describe itself as “the Stripe for accounting,” raised $11M CAD in a round led by Torch Capital. The platform provides tools to help vertical SaaS companies launch their own accounting platforms, including fully functioning app code repositories and native integrations with external data sources.

Quantia, a Poland-based sales analytics platform that collects sales and engagement data from online and offline and translates it into actionable suggestions, raised $1.2M in a round led by Inovo VC and Team X. The company will use the funds to expedite product development and localize growth in Western Europe.

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See you next Monday,


Paul E. Drecksler
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PS: Which building in New York City has the most stories? … The public library!