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U.S. food-delivery giant Postmates has quietly set up shop in Canada

Bastian Lehmann, co-founder and CEO of Postmates Postmates
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Postmates, the U.S. food-, grocery- and alcohol-delivery giant, has quietly set up its first Canadian office and hired a number of staff in both Vancouver and Toronto in recent months.

The company currently serves 3,500 cities across the U.S., and was valued at US$1.85 billion in a January funding round. Its only market outside the U.S. is Mexico City.

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Talking Point

Postmates has quietly hired staff in Vancouver and Toronto, predominantly for its research and development arm. The firm has 10 Vancouver employees, who were mostly hired in the past year, and is looking to add eight more. Postmates’ CEO and CFO have both publicly said they want to expand to Canada, but the company hasn’t yet announced which cities it plans to launch in.

Company spokesperson April Conyers declined to say whether Postmates was launching its food-delivery operations in Canada, despite executives repeatedly claiming over the past few years the company wanted to expand north.  

Postmates already has 10 employees in Vancouver, according to Conyers. The company first incorporated in Canada in 2015, but the staff—who mostly work for Postmates X, the firm’s R&D division—were largely hired over the past year.

That hiring has picked up slightly in recent months. Since January, the company has added three Vancouver employees, including a senior engineering manager and a senior software engineer, according to LinkedIn data.

Postmates is currently hiring for eight positions for Postmates X in Vancouver. Of those, six postings allow applicants to be based either in Vancouver or San Francisco; two are for Vancouver alone.

The firm is looking for a computer vision scientist, a machine learning engineer, a senior applied scientist and a robotics software engineer to join its Vancouver office. It’s also recruiting senior software engineers in research and rapid prototyping.

Conyers said the company chose Vancouver for its talent pool. She also cited the city’s proximity to “world-class universities” like the University of British Columbia, as well as being in the same timezone as San Francisco, with about a two-hour flight between the cities. And, she said, “We don’t have immigration issues there.”

Postmates’ Vancouver location is close to its engineering office in Seattle; the company is currently in the midst of ramping up its local presence with 10 new job postings for its 22-person office in nearby Bellevue.

Bastian Lehmann, Postmates CEO, has previously said the company planned to be in Canada by the first quarter of 2016, while CFO Kristin Schaefer hinted in October 2018 at an expansion into the country.

In December 2018, the company announced Serve, an autonomous-delivery rover, its R&D division’s first commercial product.

At the time of Serve’s launch, a VentureBeat article said Postmates would deploy the autonomous robot within the next year in municipalities like Los Angeles and Toronto.

Conyers did not respond when asked if this was Toronto, Canada, where the company currently has one software engineer. He took the role in January and is working on customer service software, according to his LinkedIn profile.  

In the U.S., Postmates is fighting fierce competition from DoorDash—which reportedly discussed a merger with Postmates in 2018, and made US$7.5 billion in annual sales in March, according to CEO Tony Xu—and Uber Eats, which had US$7.9 billion in annual sales for 2018. Both those companies already operate in several cities in Canada. Postmates had US$1 billion in sales in 2017; TechCrunch reported that it had US$1.2 billion in 2018 sales, which the company didn’t confirm.

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Postmates is the latest in a string of U.S. companies opening R&D offices in the city. In April 2018, Amazon announced plans to create 3,000 jobs in the city focused on cloud computing, machine learning and e-commerce technology. The previous November, Facebook leased two floors of a downtown office tower; it had previously opened a temporary engineering office in the city in 2013. Smaller firms have also made the move. California-based Tile, which makes tech to help users find lost items, announced a new engineering hub in Vancouver in May.

Jill Tipping, CEO of the BC Tech Association, said she was not aware of Postmates’ Vancouver activity, but applauded its decision to build in the city. Tipping said a large company like Postmates could train sophisticated talent in the B.C. market, which is struggling to fill tech job vacancies. The association estimates there will be 30,500 tech jobs left unfilled by 2021.

“People go to a company like that and learn from the best and learn from people with really big global ambitions, and they often stay in Vancouver,” said Tipping. “But then they take that appetite and attitude to the startup that they join next.”