Walmart's Loss Is Uber's Gain

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty)

Uber is the likely to become majority shareholder of Cornershop, a grocery delivery company you’ve likely never heard of because it almost exclusively serves Mexico and parts of South America. In itself, this wouldn’t be all that interesting. But Uber is cannily picking up the piece of a deal with Walmart that fell apart this summer.

Cornershop is, to put it gently, a familiar business model, albeit in less familiar geographical territory: Customers use an app to place orders for groceries, the Cornershop app matches those orders to personal shoppers who fetch and delivery them in around an hour. It’s not clear how much cash Uber burned in the deal—which is expected to close early next year—but for a ballpark estimate, retail giant Walmart was offering up about $225 million to buy Cornershop outright. The key distinctions between Cornershop and, say, DoorDash are 1) DoorDash doesn’t operate in Peru; and 2) buying Doordash would be many times more expensive.

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Because Cornershop delivers groceries from a variety of stores, including Walmart, Mexican regulators scuttled the previous deal for fear it would provide the already massive big-box chain with unfair advantages over CostCo and others served by the app. And with that sound intervention dashing Walmart’s dreams of acquisition, Uber is hoping Cornershop will supplement its Uber Eats arm, which currently handles restaurant delivery but not groceries.

“We’re excited to partner with the team at Cornershop to scale their vision, and look forward to working with them to bring grocery delivery to millions of consumers on the Uber platform,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a press release to investors.

Uber is attempting to reframe itself (partly in response to growing regulatory pressure) from a cab company to—and whatever marketing agency thought this one up should be tied to railroad tracks by a cartoon villain—“an operating system for everyday life.” So far that shift has included an overhauled app that now shows non-Uber transit options, an expansion of its very bad and dumb helicopter ride concept, and maybe also becoming a temp agency?

From an outside perspective, Uber, a massively overvalued company that has consistently disappointed investors since going public, seems to be throwing shit at the wall while simultaneously slashing its headcount in an attempt to regain its former luster. Perhaps it’s banking on Cornershop delivering a bit of luck.

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Bryan Menegus

Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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