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Review: BentoStack PowerHub combines a Qi battery, USB-C hub, & storage

https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/11/08/review-bentostack-powerhub-combines-a-qi-battery-usb-c-hub-storage

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Function101’s BentoStack PowerHub attempts to be a one-stop shop for portable power, docking, and storage needs, but while it has its limitations, the stackable system still shows considerable promise for those who work on the go.

The new BentoStack PowerHub

The new BentoStack PowerHub

You don’t see products like BentoStack PowerHub all that often. Products that try to integrate multiple individual products together into a single gadget — and do it successfully. Though that seems what Function101 has pulled off.

A lot of what we see with BentoStack isn’t new. We’ve seen wireless chargers, wireless chargers integrated into battery packs, battery packs that integrate USB hubs. However, we haven’t seen a wireless charger on top of a battery that also has as a USB-C hub and additional storage all packed together.

BentoStack Powerhub is an evolution of the original BentoStack that modified a traditional bento box into a storage container for daily accessories, followed by the BentoStack Charge which packed in the battery. Now the BentoStack PoweHub has evolved once more to integrate the USB-C hub and other thoughtful features.

BentoStack PowerHub being used as a battery pack as well as a USB-C hub

BentoStack PowerHub being used as a battery pack as well as a USB-C hub

What you get — and what you can get

The basic model of the BentoStack PowerHub includes three separate pieces that stack together and are secured via a simple silicone band.

An 8000mAh battery is built into the lid with a 10W Qi charger, USB-C PD, and USB-A outputs

An 8000mAh battery is built into the lid with a 10W Qi charger, USB-C PD, and USB-A outputs

On top, there is an 8000mAh battery pack that has a USB-C PD input/output, a USB-A output, and a 10W Qi wireless charger on top. The Type-C port is capable of taking or outputting up to 18W of power, and the Qi charger can output up to 10W (or 7.5W for iPhones).

A headphone jack, a USB-C port, and two USB-A 3.0 ports on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

A headphone jack, a USB-C port, and two USB-A 3.0 ports on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

Below the battery lid is the eight-port USB-C hub which has two USB-C 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a micro SD card reader, HDMI output, a 3.5mm audio jack, and two USB-A ports. All of this is powered by a USB-C input.

An SD card reader, micro SD card reader, HDMI 2.0, and another USB-C port on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

An SD card reader, micro SD card reader, HDMI 2.0, and another USB-C port on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

Lastly, the base section has two movable separators for three compartments. These can hold the usual nicknacks that one carries around such as charging cables, SD cards, or wall adapters.

Using the USB-C hub on a MacBook

Using the USB-C hub on a MacBook

Function101 has made the set expandable and modular as well, by allowing other components to be added to the stack, such as an Apple Watch band lid or extra storage.

Daily use

We’ve been using the BentoStack PowerHub for a bit now and it has some real perks, though still a few notable downsides.

A magnetic holder for Apple Pencil 2 hidden above the USB-C hub

A magnetic holder for Apple Pencil 2 hidden above the USB-C hub

First, the drawbacks. The USB-C hub must be removed from the bottom before it can be used, which means it takes a bit more space on our desk. We also find the top of the hub somewhat wasted — it has a magnet to hold our Apple Pencil 2 but that isn’t a situation we run into often. As a “valet” for our AirPods earbuds, it is also not all that realistic.

The one way we can see it being used is if you store your Apple Pencil in there for travel for the original iPad Pro or recent iPads that use the first-generation stylus, rather than on the side of your iPad Pro. By the way —this hub works great for iPad Pro.

Adjustable storage in the bottom of the BentoStack PowerHub

Adjustable storage in the bottom of the BentoStack PowerHub

While it provides storage, we found ourselves always needing more than it offers. For a few items, BentoStack is great but for larger gear like a portable drive or card reader, it didn’t always fit with our other priority items.

Those issues aside, we enjoyed using BentoStack PowerHub. It simplified our workflow and was an easy way to carry the necessities with us.

Throwing the BentoStack PowerHub in my gear bag

Throwing the BentoStack PowerHub in my gear bag

In our workflow, we used the bottom storage for a USB-C cable, an Apple Watch charger, and our AirPods, sometimes a battery or some extra memory cards, but it didn’t hold everything. For daily use, it is probably good for most people, but for longer trips, a bag with pockets is probably more practical.

Should you buy the BentoStack PowerHub?

If you find yourself needing the individual components that make up BentoStack PowerHub, there’s no reason anyone wouldn’t be interested in picking one up. It is a very compact design when put together and reduces the need for so many individual pieces.

We have seen smaller batteries, we have seen smaller USB-C hubs, but joining them together is an appealing proposition.

I initially was very against the battery pack as it added weight, but after using it, I started to appreciate it. With the PowerHub, I don’t have to bring a Lightning cable along for my iPhone and I can charge it up from my Mac or whatever power cable I bring with me.

Plus, while I first started using this with my Mac, I found far more use for it with my iPad Pro instead which made an external charger even more useful.

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Multiple outputs on battery including USB-C PD and Qi
  • All-in-one device
  • USB-C hub is useful for Mac or iPad Pro
  • Storage keeps cables and small parts organized
  • Expandable

Cons

  • Apple Pencil magnet isn’t all that useful
  • Can still be a lot of clutter on a desk when all out
  • Storage won’t hold all necessities
  • Battery pack is too big to carry around by itself

Rating: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

The BentoStack PowerHub is now available for preorder from Indiegogo. Exclusive to AppleInsider readers, you can grab it for $95 by hitting this link to get a price less than the publicly available ones.

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion. This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would…

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.

This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.

Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.

Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.

As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and…

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom.

Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.

To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.

Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.

African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.

But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.

Jumia vs. Konga

The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.

Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.

Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.

In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.

Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.

That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.

While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.

E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.

So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.

In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.

Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.

Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between. It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in…

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in this coming year’s technology exit market. Expect the NYSE and Nasdaq to compete for the listing, bankers to queue to take part, and endless media coverage.

Given that that’s ahead, we’re going to take periodic looks at Airbnb as we tick closer to its eventual public market debut. And that means that this morning we’re looking back through time to see how fast the company has grown by using a quirky data point.

Airbnb releases a regular tally of its expected “guest stays” for New Year’s Eve each year, including 2019. We can therefore look back in time, tracking how quickly (or not) Airbnb’s New Year Eve guest tally has risen. This exercise will provide a loose, but fun proxy for the company’s growth as a whole.

The numbers

Before we look into the figures themselves, keep in mind that we are looking at a guest figure which is at best a proxy for revenue. We don’t know the revenue mix of the guest stays, for example, meaning that Airbnb could have seen a 10% drop in per-guest revenue this New Year’s Eve — even with more guest stays — and we’d have no idea.

So, the cliche about grains of salt and taking, please.

But as more guests tends to mean more rentals which points towards more revenue, the New Year’s Eve figures are useful as we work to understand how quickly Airbnb is growing now compared to how fast it grew in the past. The faster the company is expanding today, the more it’s worth. And given recent news that the company has ditched profitability in favor of boosting its sales and marketing spend (leading to sharp, regular deficits in its quarterly results), how fast Airbnb can grow through higher spend is a key question for the highly-backed, San Francisco-based private company.

Here’s the tally of guest stays in Airbnb’s during New Years Eve (data via CNBC, Jon Erlichman, Airbnb), and their resulting year-over-year growth rates:

  • 2009: 1,400
  • 2010: 6,000 (+329%)
  • 2011: 3,1000 (+417%)
  • 2012: 108,000 (248%)
  • 2013: 250,000 (+131%)
  • 2014: 540,000 (+116%)
  • 2015: 1,100,000 (+104%)
  • 2016: 2,000,000 (+82%)
  • 2017: 3,000,000 (+50%)
  • 2018: 3,700,000 (+23%)
  • 2019: 4,500,000 (+22%)

In chart form, that looks like this:

Let’s talk about a few things that stand out. First is that the company’s growth rate managed to stay over 100% for as long as it did. In case you’re a SaaS fan, what Airbnb pulled off in its early years (again, using this fun proxy for revenue growth) was far better than a triple-triple-double-double-double.

Next, the company’s growth rate in percentage terms has slowed dramatically, including in 2019. At the same time the firm managed to re-accelerate its gross guest growth in 2019. In numerical terms, Airbnb added 1,000,000 New Year’s Eve guest stays in 2017, 700,000 in 2018, and 800,000 in 2019. So 2019’s gross adds was not a record, but it was a better result than its year-ago tally.

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