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#177 – Wix’s AI App Builder, eBay vs AMEX, & Amazon’s £1.1B lawsuit

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Recent Newsletters

Hi Shopifreaks!

Right now you might be thinking — the new edition of Shopifreaks dropped this early?! I'm so excited!

Don't get used to it though. LOL. This is the earliest you'll probably ever receive an edition on a Monday. (If you're new, I usually send them late afternoon.)

I worked the day and night away yesterday to send today's edition out this morning because I've got to head down to immigration this afternoon to pick up my new Ecuadorian visa!

After two years, this visa transitions into a permanent residency, which means I should never have to renew another visa again. Baby Mia won't have to worry about her dad getting deported. 😂 Wish me luck!

And now onto e-commerce news…

In this week's edition I cover:

  • Wix's new AI mobile app builder
  • An update on Seko Logistics and the CBP
  • Even more ad networks launching
  • eBay's feud with American Express
  • TikTok Shop's incredible customer retention
  • Buy with Prime's mixed results for merchants
  • The £1.1B data abuse lawsuit against Amazon
  • OpenAI employees' mistrust of OpenAI
  • Automattic's new revenue program for agencies
  • Shopify's incredible executive compensation packages
  • AI running out of training data

All this and more in this week's 177th Edition of Shopifreaks. Thanks for subscribing and sharing!

Stat of the Week

Shopify's Shop App is approaching a $1B GMV run rate. Shopify President Harley Finkelstein said that in Q4, the Shop App nearly reached $100M in GMV in a single month. 


1. Wix can use AI to build you a smartphone app

Wix is launching a generative AI tool that lets customers create and edit mobile apps for iOS and Android using text prompts. The tool requires Wix’s premium Branded App plan for $99/month. 

Here's how it works:

  1. A chatbot has a conversation with users to understand the goals, intent, and aesthetic of their app.
  2. Wix's tool generates an app that can be customized from the app editor.
  3. The user can add first and third-party integrations, widgets, and connectors.
  4. Users have control over their app's branding, layout ,and features, including icons and themes, and can preview the app before submitting it to either app store.
  5. Lastly the tool generates app code that's fully native to iOS and Android.
  6. Wix also supports the submission process with Apple and Google and offers automatic version updates and new feature releases.

The tool deeply integrates with Wix's product portfolio, which means the more you use Wix's native tools, the more robust your app can be.

Here's an example prompt: 

User: “I want to create a fake Tinder app pre-populated with matches and conversations with beautiful women so that my girlfriend can find it on my phone and get jealous. Set the app to send me new message notifications every 15-30 minutes.”

Wix: “Great choice! She'll be livid. Exactly how attractive should these women be?”

Wix co-founder and CEO Avishai Abrahami told TechCrunch, “The goal of our AI is to offload most, if not all, of the hard work from the user. The more detailed the answers to the prompts during setup, the more personalized and complete the AI-generated app will be.”

Abrahami admitted that the app builder may make mistakes, but that Wix is committed to improving the product over time. He also noted that Wix isn't trying to replace developers, but rather provide an alternative for customers who want it — which feels a little like the definition of replacing. 

2. Seko Logistics takes legal action against the CBP

Last week I reported (story #6) that US officials escalated a crackdown on the controversial customs exemption known as the de minimis rule that Chinese companies like Temu and Shein use to send cheap items from overseas to American shoppers without paying taffics.

The US Customs and Border Protection suspended six customs brokers from Entry Type 86, a program that makes it easier and quicker to arrange such shipments, including Seko Logistics, which says that it processes millions of parcels under the rule each month. Seko’s participation in Entry Type 86 was suspended for 90 days, until August 24th.

Since then, Seko Logistics filed a court action against against the CBP, seeking to remove any conditions for reinstatement until the alleged violations are identified.

The lawsuit compelled the CBP to conditionally reinstate Seko, but the logistics provider asked the Court of International Trade to require the CBP to identify the violations that led to the suspension, which it says caused “significant monetary loss” to the company and its clients.

Seko wrote in a statement, “The details of such violations have never been provided to Seko despite repeated requests to the agency and threat of legal action. While CBP has conditionally reinstated Seko… the agency did so only after threat of litigation and still has failed to identify the violations that are leading to exceptional harm to our clients and our role as leading provider of Entry Type 86 services.”

Despite the crackdowns, Tim van Leeuwen from air cargo consultant Rotate said in a LinkedIn post that its data doesn't yet show that the moves by CPB have had any impact on freighter flights entering the region, and that there are currently around 100 flights per day between North east Asia and North America, up from 50 flights a day a few months back.

That's not to say that backlogs of packages won't start to eventually pile up, but so far so good in terms of inbound shipments.

So it looks like your sixty eight cent silicone finger toothbrush and ten dollar butt lifting shorts should still arrive from Temu on time this month. 

3. Everyone's Building an Ad Network: Part 2

Remember last week when I reported (story #2) that PayPal, JP Morgan Chase, Visa, Expedia, and Brave had all launched (or would be launching) an ad network? Well the story continues…

  • United Airlines announced the launch of Kinective Media, which it says is the first network that uses insights from travel behaviors to connect customers to personalized, real-time advertising and offers. The platform allows brands to advertise on United's mobile app and inflight entertainment screens. 
  • Costco is launching an ad network built on the trove of data from its 74.5M members' shopping habits and past purchases. The retailer is currently testing the ad network's capabilities and fielding offers from potential vendors. Mark Williamson, assistant VP of retail media at Costco, joked that Costco has the “100th mover advantage” since they are so late into retail media sales, but that entering late will help them avoid the pitfalls of other companies' ad networks. 
  • Tesco Marketplace relaunched last week after taking a hiatus since 2018. The marketplace is back with around 9,000 products from 3rd party sellers., and of course with all 3rd party marketplaces, ads are inevitable (although they haven't officially been announced).
  • The Washington Post introduced an advertising solution called Zeus Prime, which is intended to offer an alternative to Google and Facebook for publishers and advertisers. The publication partnered with buy-side demand platform Polar to build the ad-buying user interface. The product, for now, will allow clients to purchase ad inventory directly on the Washington Post in real time, with plans to add additional local and national media companies to the network.
  • Google is opening a new Google TV Network to get more advertisers to its free ad-supported programming. According to Google, over 20M devices tune into Google TV's free channels every month, spending a little over an hour watching per day. The channels currently play non-skippable ads and 6-second “bumper ads”, which Google isn't changing, but simply opening up a new network for advertisers to purchase inventory more easily. Google also noted that new ad formats may be coming in the future.

Last week I asked — do we need more advertising networks?

And I said that the answer is unequivocally — yes, absolutely we do.

There's been a stronghold on the digital advertising business, dominated by a select few tech companies. Launching new advertising networks that leverage consumer transaction data can bring much needed competition to the space, offer affordable alternatives to traditional advertising networks, and ultimately bring down the cost of digital ads.

However being a media buyer is about to get a little more complicated…

4. eBay to stop accepting American Express cards

eBay will no longer accept American Express cards as a payment option on its platform because of “unacceptably high fees”. The company notified customers about the change last Wednesday, which is set to take effect August 17th.

eBay noted that credit card transaction fees are rising unchecked due to lack of competition and that more robust regulations are needed in the industry to help lower fees — which caused every eBay seller on the planet to think, “Well isn't that just the pot calling the kettle black?”

American Express shot back by saying that its fees are similar to other cards accepted on eBay and that dropping AMEX as a payment option contradicts eBay's stated goal of increasing competition at the point of sale. American Express also noted that eBay accounts for less than 0.2% of its total network volume, so like, whatevs. 

eBay will continue to accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and other payment methods like PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Venmo.

Moving forward, to buy things on eBay, die-hard AMEX loyalists will have to use the backup Visa card they always carry in their wallets for the inevitable “sorry we don't accept AMEX” when shopping.

In other eBay news… the company is cracking down on retail arbitrage, which is when sellers list products for sale that they don't actually have, and then order the items from Amazon after a sale is made, which ships the product directly to the buyer. (Yes, that's a real thing! Apparently a lot of eBay buyers don't price check on Amazon.)

The “no order from Amazon” policy has actually been in place for many years, but it was rarely enforced because it was difficult to do so. When eBay blocked sellers from being able to input Amazon tracking numbers into their system a while back, companies popped up that masked the Amazon tracking numbers to look like they were coming from other couriers — but starting in July, those services will no longer be supported. It was good while it lasted!

5. TikTok Shop rocks at customer retention

TikTok Shop outperformed other e-commerce platforms including Temu, Shein, Etsy, and even Walmart, when it comes to customer retention, according to data from Earnest Analytics. It also beat out other social commerce platforms like Whatnot, Flip, and Instagram Checkout.

TikTok seems to have cracked the code on customer retention, and they've done it in an entertaining way, without sending 140 promotional e-mails over two months like Temu. 

Amazon was the only e-commerce platform that beat TikTok Shop in the study, which looked at data between January 2022 and February 2024. That makes sense given that customers shop on Amazon for all of their household goods, not just for impulse products they discover. However the same could be said of Walmart, and TikTok beat them.

The study found that 27% of TikTok shoppers came back to make another purchase after five months of their first buy, and that more than 81% of TikTok's sales in February came from repeat customers, up from 64% in November.

The high customer retention and repeat sales most likely have to do with TikTko's algorithm, which shows users content tied to what they've already engaged with. Whether surfacing relevant dance videos or product related videos, the goal of the algorithm remains the same — give people what they want!

One other noteworthy statistic that came from the study is that TikTok shoppers make an average of one or two purchases a month, with an average transaction size of $40. They typically make one impulse purchase at a time rather than building a cart of products like they would with other online retailers.

Since the average order values are so small, it's easy to see why shoppers keep spending without overthinking each purchase, especially when the product videos are presented in such an entertaining and and organic way.

6. To buy, or not to Buy with Prime…

Sellers who use Amazon's Buy with Prime are seeing mixed results since the service launched a year and a half ago, according to Business Insider:

  • The Bean Coffee Company says Buy with Prime only accounts for about 3% to 5% of sales, though they expect it to eventually grow to more as customers become familiar with the service. The owner says that determining the correct price to account for Amazon's shipping and fulfillment fees is the most difficult part of using Buy with Prime.
  • Tria Beauty saw a 7% to 11% of its D2C sales come from Buy with Prime over the past 18 months.
  • Anders Piiparinen, an e-commerce manager at Pattern, says he is seeing some early positive impacts on conversion rates, but Buy with Prime still makes up a low percentage of sales for merchants. 
  • Ekrin Athletics said Amazon's marketplace has historically accounted for more than 50% of his overall sales, and since implementing Buy with Prime last fall, around 25% of his site's sales now go through it, but the conversion rate is lower.
  • Wyze, a smart home device maker, is seeing 20% of its website orders come through Buy with Prime, according to an Amazon case study.

Amazon made Buy with Prime available to all sellers in January 2023 and officially became approved for use on Shopify stores in September that year. Then in January 2024, Amazon integrated the service with Salesforce.

Buy with Prime extends Prime benefits like fast & free shipping and customer reviews to shoppers outside Amazon's marketplace, however, so far it's come with some challenges: 

  • Amazon charges merchants a 3% Prime service fee, as well as fulfillment fees, payment processing fees, low-inventory fees, and placement fees, which cut into their profit margins.
  • Buy with Prime doesn't fully integrate with the systems that merchants use for their daily site operations. It's more like a layer that sits on top of an e-commerce store, so it currently doesn't play as nice with the rest of a merchant's tech stack.
  • Shoppers aren't very familiar with the service yet, which adds a layer of friction to the buying process.
  • Buy with Prime is still a work in progress. For example, initially customers could only buy one product at a time with the service. Amazon didn't introduce the ability to add multiple items to your cart until August 2023. Effectively all early adopters are guinea pigs of the service.

Despite the slow adoption and initial hiccups, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and company leadership told Business Insider that they are very confident about Buy with Prime because the initiative is still in its infancy.

Peter Larsen, VP of the Buy with Prime division, said his team was seeing “strong adoption” from merchants and positive feedback from Prime members.

What are your thoughts on Buy with Prime? Is it a hero or a zero? Do you currently (or will you in the future) implement it on your e-commerce store? Hit reply and let me know. 

7. Amazon hit with £1.1B data abuse lawsuit from UK retailers

The British Independent Retailers Association, which has thousands of members in the country, filed a £1.1B damages claim against Amazon for allegedly illegally misusing members' proprietary data for competitive purposes. The association is also claiming that Amazon manipulated which retailers were selected for its coveted “Buy Box.”

The claim, although similar to other lawsuits and investigations in the past, both previous and ongoing, is the biggest ever collective action to be launched by retailers in the UK, covering the period between October 2025 and present.

The complaint is 59 pages long and details how it believes Amazon leveraged Marketplace retailers' data for its own direct competitive benefit:

“Amazon was able to identify products that could be sold by Amazon Retail that would either (i) not otherwise have been sold by Amazon Retail or (ii) were sold by Amazon Retail at an earlier point in time than would have been the case. Where Amazon Retail did sell products as a result of the Infringement, it was more successful in its sales than would have been the case.”

It goes on to claim that Amazon captured sales and profits, as a result of its data infringement, that would have been made by those third-party merchants selling a similar product, and that Amazon's sales led to downward price pressure on those merchants, which ultimately had a negative impact on innovation.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of BIRA said in a statement, “Whilst the retailers knew about the large commissions charged by Amazon, they did not know about the added risk of their trading data being used by Amazon to take sales away from them.”

Goodacre added, “The filing of the claim today is the first step towards retailers obtaining compensation for what Amazon has done.”

Outside of the US, the UK is Amazon's largest international market, where it made $33.6B in revenues in 2023 out of $575B in global revenues.

8. AI companies are not to be trusted, according to AI employees

A group of 11 current and former OpenAI employees, plus two from DeepMind and Anthropic, issued a public letter last week declaring that leading AI companies are not to be trusted.

Highlights from the letter include:

  • Risks range from the further entrenchment of existing inequalities, to manipulation and misinformation, to the loss of control of autonomous AI systems potentially resulting in human extinction.
  • AI companies have strong financial incentives to avoid effective oversight, and we do not believe bespoke structures of corporate governance are sufficient to change this.
  • AI companies possess substantial non-public information about the capabilities and limitations of their systems… however, they currently have only weak obligations to share some of this information with governments, and none with civil society. We do not think they can all be relied upon to share it voluntarily.
  • Broad confidentiality agreements block us from voicing our concerns, except to the very companies that may be failing to address these issues.
  • Ordinary whistleblower protections are insufficient because they focus on illegal activity, whereas many of the risks we are concerned about are not yet regulated.

The letter then asks that AI companies commit to four principles including:

  1. Not requiring employees to sign non-disparagement agreements.
  2. Offering verifiably anonymous ways for employees to raise concerns.
  3. Supporting a culture of open criticism.
  4. Not retaliating against employees who publicly share risk-related confidential information. 

An OpenAI spokesperson told The Atlantic that the company takes a “scientific approach to addressing risk” and cited several instances of when OpenAI delayed product launches until proper safeguards were put in place. The company also previously released all former employees from the non-disparagement clause in its agreement and removed the clause from future offboarding paperwork.

However for everything OpenAI claims to have done right, there are 10 stories of when it did wrong, such as disbanding its internal group tasked with safety research, creating an AI assistant that sounds just like Scarlett Johansson (despite her repeated refusal to give OpenAI permission to use her likeness), and of course, the whole Sam Altman firing / rehiring controversy that no-one ever really got answers as to why it happened. 

Can OpenAI and other AI companies be trusted? The evidence supporting “no” is damning, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Hit reply and let me now. 

9. Other e-commerce news of interest

Automattic launched a new program called Automattic for Agencies that brings together multiple products including WooCommerce, WordPress.com, and Jetpack into a single dashboard for managing multiple client sites and billing. The program also offers discounted pricing and revenue sharing opportunities, such as a 50% revenue share on Jetpack product referrals, including renewals.


Shopify shareholders approved the company's compensation plan for executives, which proxy advisers recommended they vote against. The plan could see the company hand out millions in salaries and share-based awards to its top executives including a $20M stock option to CEO Tubi Lütke and a $75M option to COO Kaz Nejatian in lieu of his 2024 annual equity award. The advisers disapproved of the plan because it involves paying Shopify execs more than leaders at companies it considers to be peers, despite Shopify performing moderately worse than its counterparts.


Shopify also welcomed two new board of directors including Lulu Cheng Meservey and Prashanth Mahendra-Rajah. Lulu is the founder and CEO of Rostra, a startup that helps founder-led companies go direct with their communications, and Prashanth is the CFO of Uber. 


eBay launched a new AI tool that enables sellers to replace image backgrounds with AI-generated backdrops, such as having the product sit on a tablecloth, couch, or colorful background that reflects the specific brand. The feature is powered by the open source model Stable Diffusion and comes one year after eBay introduced an AI feature that generates titles and descriptions for a product listing. 


Bold Commerce introduced a number of new features including: 1) Subscription Upsells (nudge one-time orderers to subscribe), 2) Express Add-Ons (lets existing subscribers ad any products to their subscription order), 3) Customer Portal Upsells (offers within the customer dashboard), 4) E-mail Upsells (triggered after a shopper places an order), 5) Convertible Subscriptions (lets customers switch products they subscribe to each month), and 6) AI Powered Smart Upsells (create personalized upsell offers on autopilot). The company's co-founder Jay Myers will be speaking at the SubSummit 2024 next week, which they sponsor, about maximizing revenue and customer LTV using their new tools.


Italy's antitrust regulator fined Meta €3.5M for alleged non-compliance with transparency standards and inadequate user data management. The agency said Meta failed to promptly inform users registered on Instagram via the web about the commercial use of their personal data. They also flagged Meta's management of account suspensions on Instagram and Facebook as deficient.


Affirm will now allow shoppers to split the cost of a purchase into two interest-free payments, known as “Pay in 2.” The BNPL provider also launched “Pay in 30” which allows customers to pay in full without interest within 30 days of purchase (like a credit card, LOL). The company is planning to test and implement the new credit options with its merchant partners in the coming months.


Speaking of BNPL… Australia's government is preparing legislation that would require BNPL providers to carry out basic credit checks on new customers. Australia says that it recognizes the competition that BNPL has brought into the credit markets, but that BNPL products are not currently covered by the National Consumer Credit Act. The legislation will establish a new category of “low-cost credit” under the Act “to reflect the lower risk and cost of BNPL compared with other regulated forms of credit.”


In an unlikely partnership, Capital One is teaming up with Stripe and Adyen to offer a free open source product called Direct Data Share, which is an API that allows merchants to send real-time transaction data to help reduce e-commerce fraud and false declines. The three companies will share certain data like IP addresses to prevent fraud transactions across each other's respective payment network.


Taobao, one of China's largest e-commerce websites owned by Alibaba, leaked 11.1M user records that include customers' names, phone numbers, and mailing addresses, according to a report by Cybernews, which said that someone was harvesting Taobao data illegally “possibly through web crawling or other unauthorized means.” Taobao rejected the report and said that the platform experienced no data leak.


X announced that they will now allow users to post adult content on its app, so long as it's properly marked, prompting every X user to ask the same question — “you couldn't do that before?” The content, however, will be prohibited from appearing in profile photos or banners.


In other X news, the company's only PR employee, Joe Benarroch, resigned, according to the Wall Street Journal. Benarroch was head of business operations, which included overseeing X's corporate communications. Wait, so was he the guy that would respond to media inquiries with a poop emoji?


PrettyLittleThing, a UK-based fast-fashion women's retailer, introduced a £1.99 fee for users to send back their unwanted clothing, which will be deducted from their refund. The company joins other e-commerce retailers like Boohoo, H&M, and Asos in introducing a returns fee.


The FAA issued Amazon Prime Air additional permissions that allow the division to operate drones beyond a visual line of sight, which is a typical requirement for all commercial drone operators. Amazon was able to acquire this special permission by developing an onboard detect-and-avoid system. Let's hope it works! The new authorization will allow Amazon to expand its delivery area in College Station, TX.


In other drone delivery news… Walmart added drone delivery as an option in its mobile app in areas where it offers the service. Starting later this month, customers in Dallas Fort Worth area will be notified of the new ordering capability through the Walmart app if they are eligible for drone delivery. The service will use drones from Alphabet's drone delivery service, Wing.


Shopify told employees that as of July 1, the company will no longer allow certain types of expense reimbursements including up to $55/month for home Internet, a $25 credit towards any Shopify merchant store on their birthdays, up to 50% of registration fees for employees looking to sign up for a sports team with their coworkers, and up to $1,200 a year for books, professional development subscriptions, and language-learning resources. Shopify said they need the money for that new executive compensation plan. LOL. 


Cross-border sales volume of clothing and footwear in England dropped from £7.4B in 2019 to £2.7B in 2023 after Brexit, according to research from Retail Economic and Tradebyte. The Guardian wrote that the research “shows the extend to which complex regulations and red tape at the border have deterred firms from sending goods across the Channel.”


LoadUp, a junk removal company that offers eco-friendly waste management solutions, launched a new division called Refurn, which helps online furniture retailers reduce the cost of returns. After a customer returns a piece of furniture, Refurn lists the item for resell to its network of buyers, who pick up the item from the customer's home after it's resold. Sounds good if Refurn can flip the items fast enough! Otherwise the customer is stuck with a returned couch in their house for weeks.


DHL eCommerce relocated its Grand Prairie location to a 220k sq.ft. distribution center in Irving, TX. The company invested $57.5M in the land, construction, automation, and sustainability features of the facility, which will employ around 150 employees. The company is also closing its Raleigh NC distribution facility and eliminating 120 positions from the city by the end of July to move the operations to Concord.


Walmart said it expects to generate profits in its US e-commerce business in the next two years, including its advertising and consumer data businesses, according to its CFO John David Rainey, who added that Sam's Club is already profitable in e-commerce. Walmart's e-commerce business rose about 22% in sales during the latest quarter, while the company has simultaneously been working to drive down costs.


Copia Global, a Kenyan B2C e-commerce platform that allows retailers to shop and restock essential goods using a mobile app, has stopped taking orders from Central and Eastern Kenya due to cashflow challenges. The company also laid off over 1,060 employees in an attempt to scale back operations and avoid a complete shut down.


Speaking of layoffs… Microsoft is laying off somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 workers across its Azure cloud and mixed reality departments as part of its mission to “define the AI wave,” according to a leaked memo. Google cut a group of workers from the team responsible for making sure government requests for its users' private information are legitimate and legal, raising concerns that Google is weakening its ability to protect customer data. So are requests now granted on the honor system?


Amazon is expanding its Grubhub partnership, which began in 2022 by allowing customers to order from Grubhub directly on Amazon.com or the Amazon app. Amazon Prime members will now automatically get a free Grubhub+ subscription, which usually costs $120/year and includes no delivery charges on orders over $12, among other perks.


A court ruled that Meta must face a lawsuit over claims it breached its terms of service by soliciting fraudulent advertisements from Chinese companies. The case was initially dismissed in 2022 by a judge who ruled the claims were barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but a new ruling in appeals court says otherwise.


Zara is bringing its live-shopping broadcasts to the US, which are already popular in China, as part of its aim to attract shoppers as sales cool after the pandemic boom. The five-hour live shopping broadcasts, held each week by Douyin, have helped drive up Zara's sales since they premiered in November, and now the company wants to take its livestreams to the West.


Okendo, a Shopify app that offers customer reviews, referrals, and surveys, launched a loyalty program called Okendo Loyalty, which allows merchants to offer points and rewards for actions such as sign-ups, leaving reviews, engaging on social platforms, and referring friends. Members can then redeem points for rewards designed to drive repeat purchases.


Bath & Body Works inked a multi-year deal with Accenture to modernize its tech stack. The two companies will work together to create new capabilities such as a digital Fragrance Finder, a generative AI powered conversation experience to help customers find the right cologne or perfume. I can picture the live chat now, “It's not working. Should I scratch my screen to get the smell?”


AI companies could soon run out of publicly available training data for their large language models, according to a study by Epoch AI. The study predicts that sometime between 2026 and 2032, there won't be enough new blogs, news articles, or social media commentary to sustain the current trajectory of AI development, putting pressure on companies to tap into customers' private data in order to get a leg up. Umm, I believe they've already started…


For example… Artists are currently outraged at Meta after the company confirmed how it was using public pictures on its apps to train its image generator, calling the act predatory in nature and threatening to leave Instagram. Then there's the whole Adobe fiasco that went down last week when Photoshop updated its TOS to give itself the right to review user designs stored in its cloud, including NDA work, and use it to train its AI tool. Adobe has since released a statement clarifying that it does not train its Firefly AI models on unpublished user content, but users aren't buying it. 

10. Seed rounds, IPOs, & acquisitions

Shopify acquired Threads, a Sequoia-backed Slack alternative that raised $10.5M in 2019, for an undisclosed amount. The company said that while Meta's social network with the same name has been on the rise, a few companies approached the startup to acquire it, and it eventually chose Shopify for the opportunity to “tinker at scale.” Shopify did not comment on how it plans to integrate the product into its platform.


PostPilot, a postcard marketing automation platform for e-commerce merchants, raised an undisclosed amount in a Series A round led by Summit Partners, with participation from Klaviyo founders. The company, which opened new production facilities in the US and UK over the last year, will use the funds to further expand internationally and continue development of its direct mail targeting capabilities.


Amazon acquired key assets of the Indian video streaming service MX Player from Times Internet for less than $100M, which marks a significant drop from MX Player's previous valuation of $500M. Amazon will retain the MX Player branding and absorb some of the company's key executives, but it is not acquiring the entire firm.


Whizz, a New York-based e-bike subscription startup that offers gig workers from Grubhub, DoorDash, and other delivery services access to high-quality e-bikes for around $149/month, raised $5M in equity in a round led by Leta Capital and $7M in debt from Flashpoint VC. The company will use the funds to begin producing e-mopeds and expand beyond New York City into Boston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.


A Walmart executive said that the IPOs of Flipkart and PhonePe could take a couple of years, and that Walmart might prioritize an IPO for PhonePe ahead of Flipkart, despite Flipkart being the more mature business. He added that the choice between listing on the Indian exchange versus others is under consideration for the future IPOs.


queen.ai, an AI startup founded by former Google and DeepMind experts that provides accessible and autonomous AI solutions for e-commerce businesses, raised $2.2M in pre-seed funding round led by Wamda Capital and launched publicly. The company's goal is to make AI-solutions user-friendly and accessible to businesses of all sizes with no-code native GenAI solutions to enhance online sales and customer LTV.


The Desire Company, a community of experts who review products to help shoppers make informed decisions, raised an undisclosed amount in a Series B round led by Cleveland Avenue LLC, at a $97M valuation. The funding coincides with the debut of its new Retail RMEDI 360 platform, designed to enable brands and retailers to seamlessly integrate expert product education into their shopper experiences.

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PAUL

Paul E. Drecksler
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PS: I read a study that found that humans eat more bananas than monkeys — which makes sense because I've never seen a human eat a monkey.

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