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Iannone, who was most recently COO of Walmart e-commerce, will start the top job at eBay on April 27. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Iannone’s appointment follows the September 2019 outster of then-CEO Devin Wenig, who clashed repeatedly with activist investors Elliott Management and Starboard Value. They wanted eBay to do more to catch up with Amazon in e-commerce, and the firm is increasingly doing what the activists—who have appointed six board members between them—want. EBay has already sold StubHub for US$4.05 billion and is looking at offers for its classified ads business. Jesse Cohn, an Elliot partner and eBay board member, called Iannone’s appointment a “huge positive” for the firm.

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The Shop Safe Act would hold Amazon and other online retailers liable for counterfeit goods—like pharmaceuticals, baby formula, tech devices and airbags—on their platforms. The firms would have to confirm the legitimacy of merchants’ goods and remove counterfeit products and merchants who repeatedly sell them. (The New York Times)

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Talking point: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security published a report in January calling for stricter laws against third parties hosting counterfeit merchandise. The bipartisan push to crack down on illicit online goods follows an agreement between Washington and Beijing to “combat the prevalence of counterfeit or pirated goods” by taking “effective action” against platforms that harbour them. The proposed law also shares similarities with arguments for amending Section 230—the part of the U.S. Communications Decency Act that protects third parties from liability for user-generated content on their platforms.

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Silicon Valley startup Farmers Business Network (FBN) claimed in a court filing that Bayer, Corteva, BASF, Cargill and Univar Solutions stopped providing products to a Saskatchewan retailer after it acquired the firm in 2018. The antitrust regulator has asked a federal court for permission to request documents from the suppliers. (The Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: While this battle is over seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, the real war is about agricultural data. Farmers who become members of FBN’s e-commerce platform—of which March 2018 acquisition Yorkton Distributors will form the Canadian basis—share yield and input cost information. Big Ag suppliers would rather collect that data themselves, to improve their offerings and maintain relationships with customers. FBN has also launched its own seed brand, framed as a response to existing firms’ unwillingness to wholesale to it. It’s doing the same for pesticides, acquiring Saskatoon-based Great Northern Growers, a manufacturer of off-patent chemicals, in October 2019.

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The Crown corporation purchased an approximately six per cent stake from Claude Roy, the e-commerce firm’s former CEO. Mediagrif’s stock rose approximately 13 per cent on the news. (La Presse)

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Talking point: Investissement Quebec is just the latest Crown corporation seeking to bolster its investment portfolio with tech companies. My colleague Zane reported that the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), Quebec’s largest pension fund, is planning to create a new technology portfolio that will invest between $1 billion to $2 billion in “disruptive technologies.” The CDPQ also invested $40 million in travel app Hopper in 2016, and led a US$166-million investment round for software firm Lightspeed. Pension giants in the rest of Canada are making similar inroads—the Canada Pension Plan is looking to invest between $500 million and $1 billion in venture capital funds, while both the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System have recently established new investment departments focused on innovative tech companies.

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The e-commerce company will spend at least US$1 million a year on carbon sequestration projects, which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, wrote CEO Tobi Lütke in a blog post. Another US$4 million will be spent annually on programs including renewable power for its global operations, which Lütke said it will achieve in 2020. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Shopify is announcing its green plans as it gets directly involved in the shipping of merchants’ products to consumers, a process that creates a lot of emissions. Lütke said the Shopify Fulfillment Network will “focus on sustainable packaging,” and that shoppers will be able to download an app that will track deliveries, the carbon impact of which the sustainability fund will automatically pay to balance. Merchants will be offered a similar app. Shopify joins a growing number of large e-commerce companies that are spending to balance their climate impact. In February, Etsy announced it will offset (buying someone else’s greenhouse gas reductions) the emissions generated from shipping all its orders, which it estimates will cost less than US$1 million per year. Shopify has chosen a more expensive sequestration method. Squamish, B.C.-based Carbon Engineering—which Lütke cited in his blog post—wants to eventually lower costs to US$100 per tonne, but it is currently significantly more expensive; offsets cost $20 to $30 per tonne. Lütke said Shopify is “intentionally overpaying” for sequestration to create demand that will drive down prices, because the practice is more effective at combatting climate change than offsets are. Stripe, which partners with Shopify on its payments service, has also promised US$1 million a year for sequestration.

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Boston-headquartered Highland Capital Partners led the equity round. San Mateo, Calif.-based Emergence Capital and Canadian VC firm iNovia also invested. Clearbanc will lend the larger sum as cash advances to e-commerce companies, mainly for online marketing. The lending capital came from U.S. financers Arcadia Funds and Upper90. (BetaKit)

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Talking point: Clearbanc will use its new money to expand into new markets where entrepreneurs have a harder time getting funded than in the U.S. or Canada. It’s already run tests in Europe and Latin America. Venture capital is particularly scarce in the latter—companies in the region raised US$5 billion in 2017 and 2018 combined, compared to $3.5 billion for Canadian VC-backed firms in 2018 alone. Clearbanc’s own equity round improves Canada’s capital-raising performance this year. A Wednesday report from PwC Canada and CB Insights shows domestic firms raised $1.65 billion in the first half of 2019, down 13 per cent from $1.90 billion in the same period in 2018. The drop was partly from investors focusing on smaller, seed-stage deals, instead of growth-stage companies, which require more capital. Clearbanc’s subsector was an exception to the general decline—fintech firms raised $251 million in the first six months of the year, almost double the $133 million in 2018. By contrast, artificial intelligence dropped 60 per cent.

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The shipping company is investing $330 million to build a 60-acre distribution centre, which it said will triple its package-delivery capacity. It plans to invest a total of $1 billion to update its fleet and expand its distribution centres in the next five years to compete with e-commerce companies. (Reuters)

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Talking point: Canada Post, which owns 91 per cent of Purolator, has been leaning on its parcel business since letter delivery began plunging in 2007. It’s been able to coast on the uptick of online shopping to grow its package delivery arm, but competition in the space—which is dominated by Amazon through its Prime membership program—is now rapidly heating up. Last week, Shopify announced plans to build warehouses across the U.S. to get its merchants’ products to customers within two days. Target and Walmart likewise have their own Canadian fulfillment centres to expedite deliveries. While some e-commerce orders still use local couriers like Purolator to deliver goods, some, including Amazon and Walmart, are building their own fleets. That means any third-party couriers hoping to stay in the delivery rotation for those firms will need to be equipped to meet the expectation for one- or two-day delivery.

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Product wholesalers use New York-based Handshake to take orders from retailers. Customers include stroller brand Bugaboo, brewery Ace Hill and clothing manufacturer Dickies’ European division. Shopify did not disclose the acquisition price, but it is reportedly less than $100 million. Handshake CEO Glen Coates is now an executive at Shopify Plus, the company’s product group for larger merchants. (TechCrunch)

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Talking point: This is Shopify’s second deal focused on growing Shopify Plus, following the 2016 acquisition of Boltmade, a design and development firm. Shopify has bought startups both as a way of hiring their people—five of its eight disclosed acquisitions before Handshake appear to have been such “acqui-hires”—and for their products. More deals may be in the offering. Shopify raised US$1.10 billion in secondary offerings last year, and has made at least three deals since Amy Shapero, an experienced M&A executive, became CFO in March 2018.

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The company reported earnings-per-share of US$1.13 in the first quarter of 2019, beating analysts’ estimates of US$1.02. Same-store sales growth in the U.S. was up 3.4 per cent, its 19th consecutive quarterly gain. However, it missed revenue estimates, at US$123.93 billion versus US$125.03 billion. Also on Thursday, Walmart Canada announced the creation of two “pickup towers” in its stores in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Meant to ease in-store order pickups, customers scan a barcode into the tower’s system, which then brings the requested items down through an elevator structure. (TechCrunch, Mississauga News)

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Talking point: Walmart’s strong financials derive mostly from its thriving online grocery business, and growth in both home and fashion online sales on its website. It’s been investing heavily in those areas to compete with Amazon’s expansion into e-commerce. In e-groceries, Walmart has an edge over its competitors because its brick-and-mortar stores—including those in the GTA—can be used as pickup sites, meaning goods ordered online don’t come with a markup. Walmart Canada is making a number of investments in its physical stores to streamline that process. In early May, it announced an investment of over $200 million to refurbish 31 stores, including an expansion of the online-order pickup option.

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Domestic businesses are at an unfair disadvantage to foreign competitors who avoid collecting sales tax, the federal auditor general (AG) said in a report. That’s because the Canada Revenue Agency lacks the necessary power to properly collect the levy and investigate non-compliance, and the Canada Border Services Agency did not properly look into whether courier companies handling low-value shipments were following the rules. (CTV News)

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Talking point: Sales tax is a key competitive issue for Canadian service and media companies that go head-to-head with foreign streaming and sharing economy platforms like Spotify and Airbnb. In September 2018, my colleague Zane reported that Ottawa collected just US$3.6 million the previous year from companies that voluntarily registered to pay. Some tech giants have said they would comply with laws requiring them to start collecting sales tax, but the government has yet to introduce any. Canadian retailers have a different problem, however. Once the USMCA takes effect, Canadians won’t pay duty on shipments that cost less than $150, up from the current threshold of $20. That means more consumers will shop on U.S. websites, shrinking the market for Canada’s already-troubled retail sector.