Archive for February, 2019

Tesla closing retail stores in shift to online-only sales strategy

Tesla is moving all of its sales online, a dramatic shift in its sales strategy that will result in the closure of stores and some layoffs as the automaker looks for ways to reduce costs in order to bring a cheaper Model 3 to market. Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn’t say how many stores would close. He noted that some stores would remain and turn into information centers and showrooms. The company didn’t provide specific numbers on how many retail employees might be affected. “We will be closing some stores and that will be some reduction in head count as a result; there’s no question about that,” Musk said. “There’s no other way for us to achieve the savings required to provide this car and be financially sustainable. I wish there was another way, but unfortunately, it will entail reduction in workforce on the retail side, no way around it.” The shift to online-only sales, plus other cost efficiencies, allowed the company to lower all vehicle prices by about 6 percent on average and finally offer a $35,000 Model 3. Meanwhile, Tesla plans to hire more service technicians, or mechanics, Musk noted during a call with reporters Thursday. Tesla didn’t provide details on how many mechanics it plans to hire. In order to mitigate the need for a test ride, Tesla is extending the return policies on its vehicles. New customers will be able own a car for a week and drive for 1,000 miles and still return it for a full refund if they don’t like it, Musk said.  “That’s why we’re going to essentially allow somebody to use the car for free for a week, and return it for a full refund,” Musk said. “And we’re going to make it super easy to get a refund, like one-click refund.” Tesla announced Thursday that it was offering a $35,000 version of the Model 3, which will have 220 miles of range and be able to reach a top speed of 130 miles per hour.  The company also said it’s introducing a Model 3 Standard Range Plus version — which offers 240 miles of range, a top speed of 140 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.3 seconds, as well as most premium interior features — at $37,000 before incentives.

Cherry lets startup employees choose their own office perks

Forget the office ping pong table, Cherry, a startup in Y Combinator’s latest batch, wants to let employees take company perks into their own hands. Cherry co-founders (and sisters) Gillian and Emily O’Brien say their Slackbot marketplace will let employees completely personalize the lifestyle benefits they get from their company, allowing them to set up a Spotify Premium account or buy a subscription to ClassPass instead of just taking what perks their company dishes out at face value. Companies will pay huge amounts of money to deliver sweeping employee memberships or build a company gym even if there are only a few people interested in using them. Cherry could potentially eliminate a lot of wasted efforts while still managing to lure potential recruits. The available subscriptions run the gamut from things like ClassPass, Netflix, Spotify, Peloton, Postmates and other services that allow employees to feel like they’re getting personalized perks. A sampling of Cherry’s 40+ available services. “There’s money that [companies] are wasting that they could save by just giving everyone this budget and letting them choose for themselves,” CEO Gillian O’Brien told TechCrunch. “We also feel [our service] really stands out on an offer — it could be a big differentiator in terms of hiring or just having that on a company’s careers page.” Users set up their own subscription accounts; Cherry handles paying for employee perks via gift codes and lets them make changes to their cyber-benefits whenever they’d like. Cherry is charging startups $149 per month to manage the first 10 employees. You can designate as little as $15 per month per employee, but given that it costs that much per employee to even use the service, it’s more likely that customers will be throwing down a bit more. For now, all of this takes place in Slack via a Cherry chatbot — you can pick from available options by tapping buttons — it’s all pretty lightweight and simple. The service seems like something that would be especially attractive to remote teams, giving employees who aren’t able to stop in for a free lunch or get a monthly massage the ability to treat themselves on the company dime. This also enables smaller startups to just throw money at an attractive employee perks solution without having to add more responsibilities to someone’s job. Cherry’s platform is live now; you can sign-up and check things out on their website.