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Hong Kong and New York-based Easyship joins Shopify Plus’ tech partner program

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Easyship, a logistics startup that allows e-commerce sellers to add multiple carriers to their stores, announced it has joined the Shopify Plus Technology Partner Program. Easyship is headquartered in Hong Kong and New York. Co-founder Tommaso Tamburnotti told TechCrunch it is the only shipping app in Asia for Shopify Plus, the e-commerce platform’s solution for large companies and high-volume shippers.

Founded in 2015 by Tamburnotti and Augustin Ceyrac, both veterans of Southeast Asia e-commerce giant Lazada, and former banker Paul Lugagne Delpon, Easyship’s platform is includes more than 250 shipping options from carriers including UPS, FedEx and DHL, pre-negotiated discounted rates and the automation of tasks like taxes and duty charges. So far, Easyship says it has served more than 100,000 clients.

According to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), volumes of international postal packages dispatched have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for things like electrical machinery, pharmaceutical products, mechanical appliances and accessories. At the same time, customs and movement restrictions, as well as a drop in air traffic, have created new challenges for cross-border sellers.

Tamburnotti told TechCrunch that COVID “has been a big shock to the logistics industry,” starting with manufacturers shutting down in China, which resulted in delays for many e-commerce consumer brands.

After factories in China reopened, however, Tamburnotti said there was a surge in production, and about an 80% increase in e-commerce orders worldwide. But the drop in the number of commercial passenger flights, which typically also carry small parcels, resulted longer delivery wait times, and additional courier fees.

In addition to its headquarters in Hong Kong and New York, Easyship also has offices in Singapore, London and Australia, and Tamburnotti said “being a truly global company helps us provide shipping solutions to our clients that need to reach their clients worldwide.”

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Human Capital: Court ruling could mean trouble for Uber and Lyft as gig workers may finally become employees

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Welcome back to Human Capital! As many of you know, Human Capital is a weekly newsletter where I break down the latest in labor, as well as diversity and inclusion in tech. It’s officially available as a newsletter, so if you want this content when it comes in hot Fridays at 1 p.m. PT, subscribe here

Since the election is coming up, this edition focuses heavily on California ballot measure Proposition 22. The TL;DR is that gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash really want to keep classifying their drivers and delivery folks as independent contractors, so they put millions of dollars into this ballot measure. This week, we saw Prop 22-related complaints and lawsuits filed, and an appeals court judge decide Uber and Lyft must reclassify their drivers. We also heard directly from gig workers on both sides about why they do or do not want to be independent contractors.

But we’ll also look at SoftBank’s first investment from its D&I fund, Pinterest’s addition of a new Black board member and more. Let’s jump in. 


Labor Struggles


Uber and Lyft must classify drivers as employees, court rules

But. And this is a big but. Uber and Lyft will likely appeal this decision and it’s also possible this decision won’t matter depending on how Prop 22 goes. We’re just a couple of weeks out from Election Day and this decision has a thirty day hold on it once the remittitur goes into effect. And that remittitur has not yet been issued.

Throughout the case, Uber and Lyft have argued that reclassifying their drivers as employees would cause irreparable harm to the companies. In the ruling today, the judge said neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and that their respective financial burdens “do not rise to the level of irreparable harm.”

Additionally, there is nothing in the preliminary injunction, according to the judge, that would prevent Uber and Lyft from offering flexibility and independence to their drivers. Lastly, the judge said Uber and Lyft have had plenty of time to transition their drivers from independent contractors to employees, given that the key case in passing AB 5, the gig worker bill that spurred this lawsuit, was decided in 2018.

Amazon workers protest for time off to vote

Ahead of Election Day, Amazon employees protested at the company’s headquarters in Seattle for paid time off to vote. In a statement to GeekWire, Amazon said employees that don’t have enough time off can request additional, excused time off. 

“The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws,” the spokesperson said.

According to GeekWire, Amazon notified managers that they should approve PTO requests for voting. 

Tech companies that are giving employees paid time off for Election Day include Salesforce, Apple (hourly employees get four hours), Facebook, Twitter, Uber and others. 

No on Prop 22 camp files complaint with USPS against Yes on 22

Opponents of California’s Proposition 22  filed a complaint this week with the United States Postal Service. The No on 22 campaign alleges the Yes side is not eligible for a nonprofit postal status and is asking USPS to revoke its permit.

It’s much cheaper to send campaign mailers as a nonprofit organization. For example, sending between 1 – 200,000 small mailers to every door normally costs $0.302 per piece. As a nonprofit, that costs $0.226 per piece, according to USPS. To be clear, the Yes on 22 campaign confirmed it was formed as a nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(4), which pertains to social welfare organizations. But the No on 22 side says USPS erred in approving the Yes on 22 campaign.

In a statement to TC, Yes on 22 spokesperson Geoff Vetter said, “As a 501(c)(4) organization, Yes on 22 is eligible for the appropriate nonprofit postage rates with the USPS, which we applied for and were granted by the U.S. Postmaster.”

Uber faces class-action lawsuit over Prop 22

Uber is facing a class-action lawsuit over Proposition 22 that alleges the company is illegally coercing its drivers to support the ballot measure that seeks to keep workers classified as independent contractors. The suit was brought forth by two Uber drivers, Benjamin Valdez and Hector Castellanos, as well as two California nonprofit organizations, Worksafe and Chinese Progressive Association.

In the suit, the plaintiffs argue Uber has encouraged its drivers and delivery workers to support Prop 22 via the company’s driver-scheduling app.

“This is an absurd lawsuit, without merit, filed solely for press attention and without regard for the facts,” Uber spokesperson Matt Kallman said in a statement to TechCrunch. “It can’t distract from the truth: that the vast majority of drivers support Prop 22, and have for months, because they know it will improve their lives and protect the way they prefer to work.”

Shipt workers protest outside Target and Shipt headquarters

Shipt shoppers followed through with their protest plans this week when they staged actions at Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis and Shipt’s headquarters in Birmingham, Ala. 

Ahead of the protests, Shipt shopper and organizer with Gig Workers Collective told me his goal was to bring attention to the new pay structure Shipt began rolling out and how shoppers “are getting paid less for more effort.”

Gig workers speak for and against Prop 22

TC relaunched the Mixtape podcast and as part of that, Henry Pickavet and I chatted with Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper who opposes Prop 22 and Doug Mead, a gig worker who supports Prop 22. The whole episode is worth listening to, but here are some key nuggets from them. First up, Bain:

“If all it takes is putting the hiring process and the bossing into an app on your phone to rewrite labor laws, every company on the planet is going to be doing that. There’s so much more, unfortunately, at stake here than just Uber and Lyft and ride share and grocery delivery and how you’re going to get your DoorDash orders. Literally the future of labor is at stake.”

Next up, Mead:

“It’s really the government — their intent to remove a person’s control over how they want to be compensated. And that to me just makes no sense whatsoever,” Mead told us. “I should be in control of how I want to be compensated and by who.”

You can check out the full episode here


Stay Woke


SoftBank invests in Vitable Health as part of D&I fund

SoftBank’s $100 million Opportunity Fund, which it formed in June to invest in founders of color, made its first bet on Vitable Health. The company focuses on providing health insurance to underserved and low-income communities. 

SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund led the $1.6 million round, which included participation from Y Combinator, DNA Capital, Commerce Ventures, MSA Capital, Coughdrop Capital and a handful of angel investors. 

Pinterest brings on another Black board member 

Pinterest brought on its second Black female board member, Salaam Coleman Smith. Smith’s appointment comes a couple of months after Pinterest appointed its first Black board member, Andrea Wishom.

Smith is the former EVP of Programming and Strategy at Disney’s ABC Family and Freeform, as well as former president of Comcast NBCUniversal’s Style Media. 

Here’s an updated look at Black board member representation at major tech companies.

Netflix is launching a tech bootcamp for HBCU students 

Netflix announced a virtual HBCU Boot Camp for students from Norfolk State University, a historically black university in Virginia. Specifically, it’s open for current students and alumni from the classes of 2019 and 2020.

In partnership with online education platform 2U, the boot camp will teach 130 students Java engineering, UX/UI design and data science over the course of 16 weeks beginning in January. A bonus is that members of Netflix’s data science, engineering and design teams will serve as mentors to the students. 

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See inside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in iFixit’s latest teardown video

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In its latest teardown video, iFixit took apart an iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, and found that the devices look pretty similar to each other on the inside. The displays are interchangeable, iFixit found, and so are the 10.78 Wh batteries.

The iPhone 12 is on the left, the iPhone 12 Pro is on the right.
iFixit

When they removed the camera shield on the iPhone 12, iFixit found a plastic spacer where the iPhone 12 Pro has its telephoto lens and LiDAR sensor. Both devices have 12 MP wide and ultra-wide cameras.

iFixit also examined an X-ray (courtesy of Creative Electron) of the insides of the phones, which show the MagSafe wireless charging array. The X-ray of the iPhone 12 Pro appears to have a black border, but it’s the stainless steel frame (the iPhone 12 has an aluminum frame).

iPhone Pro is on the right
Creative Electron

As for a repairability score, iFixit gave the iPhone 12s a 6 out of 10; the devices have a lot of screws to keep track of when you’re tinkering (which iFixit notes is better than glue), and the improved waterproofing may make some repairs more difficult, but will reduce the likelihood of needing to repair water damage. The biggest downside is the glass on the front and back of both devices, iFixit said, which increases the chances the phones would be damaged if dropped.

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Check out iFixit’s full iPhone and iPhone 12 teardowns here, and The Verge reviews below.

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Epic says Apple ‘has no rights to the fruits of Epic’s labor’ in latest filing

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Epic Games fired back against Apple yet again in a new court filing, saying the iPhone maker “has no rights to the fruits of Epic’s labor,” the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between the two companies.

A quick recap: Back in August, Epic introduced a new direct-payment system in its wildly popular Fortnite game to bypass Apple’s 30 percent fee. Apple kicked Fortnite off the App Store for breaking its rules, and Epic responded with a civil lawsuit against Apple, alleging that Apple was violating antitrust law. Epic also revealed that Apple threatened to terminate the developer account used to support the company’s Unreal Engine platform, which would prevent Epic from developing future games for iOS or Mac.

Earlier this month, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted an injunction that prevents Apple from retaliating against Unreal Engine, but refused to grant an injunction that would have restored Fortnite in Apple’s App Store.

Meanwhile, Apple said it would seek damages against Epic for allegedly breaching its contract with the iOS App Store. The filing included counterclaims for unjust enrichment and tortious interference with Apple’s relationship with its customers.

Apple maintains that there were legitimate business reasons for its actions. “At all times, [Apple’s] conduct was reasonable and … its actions were undertaken in good faith to advance legitimate business interests and had the effect of promoting, encouraging, and increasing competition,” the complaint read. “Epic’s flagrant disregard for its contractual commitments and other misconduct has caused significant harm to Apple.”

But in Friday’s filing, Epic said its actions “are a far cry from the tortious—even purportedly criminal—conduct that Apple’s Opposition depicts. Simply put, Epic did not “steal” anything that belonged to Apple.” The company couldn’t “steal” proceeds from the sales of its own creative efforts, and did not “interfere with any prospective economic advantage Apple sought to gain from Fortnite users separate and apart from their interest in Fortnite,” the filing states.

“Apple’s repeated assertions of theft boil down to the extraordinary assertion that Epic’s collection of payments by players of Epic’s game to enjoy the work of Epic’s artists, designers, and engineers is the taking of something that belongs to Apple,” Epic said in its filing.

Rogers said the case should go to a jury to decide and suggesting a trial frame of summer 2021. “It is important enough to understand what real people think,” she said. “Do these security issues concern people or not?”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

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