Daily Crunch: Amazon scraps HQ2 plans in NYC

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Did New York lose anything with Amazon’s rejection? It’s complicated.

Amazon announced yesterday that it’s taking its ball and going home, rather than dealing with mean, pushy New Yorkers (warning: not an exact quote). As a result, some outside observers are painting a picture of a city and its politicians losing out for their recalcitrance.

Jon Shieber acknowledges that there’s plenty to criticize on both sides. But for those who think New Yorkers are idiots for not giving Amazon billions in tax incentives, he has a simple message: You’re wrong.

2. Netflix office goes on lockdown over report of a potential shooter, suspect now in custody

According to the LAPD, there were no shots fired, no reports of injuries and the suspect in question has been taken into custody.

3. Samsung is preparing to launch a sports smartwatch and AirPods-like earbuds

Samsung’s newest product launch happens next week, but the Korean tech giant has already revealed the lineup of wearable devices that will be unveiled alongside the Galaxy S10.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 08: Gimlet Media President Matt Lieber, Gimlet Media CEO Alex Blumberg (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Spotify)

4. Spotify says it paid $340M to buy Gimlet and Anchor

Spotify doubled down on podcasts last week with a deal to buy podcast companies Gimlet and Anchor. The acquisition price was initially undisclosed, but Spotify has quietly confirmed that it spent €300 million — just shy of $340 million — to capture the companies.

5. Everything you need to know about GM’s new electric bikes

General Motors announced last year it was getting into the electric bike business. Now, GM has given this new brand a name — ARĪV — and revealed some of the details about its go-to-market plan.

6. China’s Didi is laying off 15 percent of its staff

The cut comes as China’s largest ride-hailing company copes with a stricter regulatory environment that puts a squeeze on driver supply, as well as backlash from two high-profile passenger murders last year.

7. Dubai airport briefly halts flights after drone spotted

It’s the latest in a recent string of scares involving personal drones flying too close to a commercial airport. At the height of the holiday season, London’s Gatwick airport was closed for a day and a half over similar concerns.

Opendoor files to raise another $200M at a $3.7B valuation, documents show

The housing market is predicted to cool this year, but the market for startups selling houses? It seems to be heating up. Opendoor, the company that aims to bypass real estate agents and brokers by providing an online platform — by way of a mobile app — for people to buy and sell properties direct, has filed papers in Delaware indicating that it would like to raise around $200 million more, at a valuation of about $3.7 billion.

The raise comes just one month after Knock, an Opendoor competitor, raised $400 million.

Eric Wu, Opendoor’s CEO and co-founder, did not respond to a request for comment, and a spokesperson for Opendoor declined to comment.

The Delaware documents (embedded below) do not make it clear if this would come in the form of an outside round, or a secondary sale, or a combination of the two; nor is it clear if the funding has closed already. The documents are dated February 8th of this year.

The shares are described as a “Series E-2”, which likely means this is an extension on Opendoor’s last round, from September 2018, of $400 million. That itself was an expansion of a previous E round, which Opendoor had raised in June 2018, of $325 million. Opendoor had been valued at around $2.47 billion post-money in September, according to PitchBook, and the shares in the document are around 37 percent higher — hence the $3.7 billion estimation here.

Backers of the company include SoftBank, along with some 36 others that include some of the biggest names in VC, such as Andreessen Horowitz, Coatue, General Atlantic, GV, Initialized, Khosla, NEA, Norwest and many more.

The premise of Opendoor — co-founded by Wu, Ian Wong, Justin Ross and Keith Rabois on the back of an idea that Rabois had many years before — is to cut out some of the steps, and subsequent money and time spent, that come with buying or selling a property. (For those who have been through it, you know that the extra fees and rigmarole can be a killer and sometimes feels like it could be done better; that’s what Opendoor is addressing, in part with a very transparent pricing structure.)

Opendoor does this by becoming the virtual middle man. As Opendoor describes it, “If you’re selling, sell your home to us to eliminate the hassles of showings and months of uncertainty. If you’re buying, we make it incredibly easy to tour hundreds of Opendoor homes so you can find the perfect one.” It also has created a streamlined process to cut down the paperwork and work that agents do around transactions.

As of September last year, Opendoor had raised $2 billion in debt to finance these purchases — although the company today said that it is now “buying homes at a run rate of almost $4 billion a year” and that its transaction rate is currently at over 2,000 customers per month, including both buyers and sellers, and it has served some 30,000 customers to date across 19 metro regions covering more than 20 cities:

It’s proving to be a popular proposition. In 2018, more than 800,000 people toured Opendoor homes.

While housing prices had largely recovered in a lot of U.S. cities hurt by the previous crash, experts have said that a rise in inventory, coupled with rising mortgage rates and tax uncertainly, are set to cool the overall market in 2019.

But with the housing industry regularly rebounding and growing over the longer term — the saying “safe as houses” doesn’t come from thin air — it may be that investors are still prepared to make further-reaching bets on platforms that could prove to be strong players when the market is on a high.

Interestingly, Wu has hinted that the company will be making some moves in the area of mortgages and home improvement loans, which could free up and encourage more transactions at a time when traditional mortgage rates are rising.

“We’re doing some things around mortgages that will be integrated into the shopping experience,” Wu said in September, adding that the company “also wants to enable home buyers to personalize their experience.”

We’ll update this post as we learn more.