Frankenstorm

NYC Startups Batten Down the Hatches for Sandy

Scary sky

With mass transit closed and dangerous storm surges set to wallop the city, New York startups aren’t messing around when it comes to hurricane prep. Most, like Usablenet, Kickstarter, HowAboutWe and SideTour, are urging employees to work from home due to the closure of the MTA system.

“We have a simple rule of thumb that if the subways are shut down, the office is closed and people can work from home,” Onswipe CEO Jason Baptiste told Betabeat over email. “A few of us are actually crashing here over the weekend – myself and a few engineers. We built the place to be like a home, so it’s a great place to be stuck for a few days :).”

“For those that are staying here, we have ample food, beverage, and entertainment. More iPads than flashlights,” he added.

Hey, we’re sure there’s a flashlight app. Read More

Food Fight

Seamless, Fresh Out of Corporate Fetters, Buys MenuPages for $15 M. as GrubHub Comes Nipping

(thedeliverybag.com)

New York City-based online food ordering service Seamless, born SeamlessWeb during the dotcom boom in 1999, has purchased Menupages from New York magazine publisher New York Media for $15 million and the right to sell advertising against MenuPages content for a year, Betabeat has learned.

New York Media Holdings CEO Anup Bagaria, who would not disclose the price but said it was “significantly more than we bought it for,” said the reason for selling MenuPages, which “has actually grown 100 percent since we’ve purchased it” in 2008, had to do with New York Media’s reluctance to invest in growing the business beyond advertising revenues.

Mr. Bagaria says New York Media started thinking about a sale at the end of the first quarter of 2011, when an undisclosed buyer approached with an offer for MenuPages. The unsolicited offer could have come from a long list of related companies, but Betabeat’s sources think was most likely either Zagat, which was exploring the possibility of adding menus to its reviews before it was acquired by Google; or the London-based Just-Eat, which raised $48 million to expand globally around the same time.

The offer inspired New York Media to find out who else might be interested. By the time the publisher was done, a source familiar with the situation says, it had spoken to a number of companies including Google, the publicly-traded reservation service OpenTable and Just-Eat.

For Seamless, the MenuPages acquisition is the latest in a string of aggressive moves spurred by fierce competition in an increasingly-heated market. Seamless has maintained a serviceable but increasingly stale product since it was bought by corporate caterer ARAMARK in 2006. But in June, Seamless spun out from under ARAMARK, raising $50 million in outside investment. Now, after years of complacence, Seamless is going after the consumer market with renewed vigor. Seamless’s fiercest competition comes from GrubHub, a seven-year-old Chicago upstart that completed a parallel purchase last week: the acquisition of Dotmenu, owner of online ordering site CampusFood and menu library AllMenus.

MenuPages actually approached GrubHub about an acquisition earlier this year, but “we couldn’t come to an agreement on price,” GrubHub CEO and co-founder Matt Maloney said. However, one source points to the timing of GrubHub’s Dotmenu acquisition, which was likely already in the works.

The rivalry between Seamless and GrubHub started long before the bidding war over MenuPages, however. Read More

mobile

SeamlessWeb: Mobile Could Be Half Our Business in Two Years

chinese takeout

SeamlessWeb launched its mobile app in July last year, taking first world laziness to a new level, and mobile orders now make up 10 percent of SeamlessWeb’s volume during the week and 12 percent on weekends, the company told Mobile Commerce Daily. At that rate, says marketing rep Ryan Scott, mobile orders could make up 50 percent of SeamlessWeb’s business in less than two years. “At the end of the day, it may just be more convenient for customers to place an order from their phone than to go into a different room, boot up their computer, wait for it to start, open a browser and go to our site,” he said. Read More