Your Uber Is Arriving, With a Vending Machine

Cargo lets drivers sell goods like snacks and personal care items to riders

Cargo says it improves rider experience and drivers' income. Cargo
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

In-car commerce company Cargo announced a partnership with mobile payment service Venmo that will let passengers buy items like snacks, gum, electronics, cosmetics and personal care items from the backseat of their Uber.

Cargo says it is the exclusive global provider of in-car commerce for Uber, but a rep clarified drivers for any ride-hailing company can use Cargo. The Uber partnership just means it’s easier for those drivers to sign up and retrieve their in-car product display boxes. (Cargo also works with Grab, a ride-hailing company in Southeast Asia.)

Cargo’s product display boxes are sort of like little vending machines that sit on the car’s console. According to a rep, each box has a code passengers enter in a mobile website to see a driver’s inventory. To order, riders choose the items they want and select checkout.

Some items are free samples. For those that require payment, riders can check out with Venmo, mobile wallets or good old-fashioned credit cards. And, once the vehicle is stopped, the driver gives riders the products they ordered.

Cargo also said it has exclusive partnerships with brands like Kellogg’s, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, the Coca-Cola Company and Red Bull on in-car sampling and retail. The rep said Cargo is the only platform these companies work with to distribute products in Uber cars.

According to a statement about the Uber partnership, Cargo customizes products by market, season and time of day. That means riders in San Francisco and L.A. get options like Patchology eye and lip products, Winky Lux lip balm, RxBar protein bars, Kellogg’s NutriGrain bars, Unilever-Pepsi’s Tazo iced teas, Mars Wrigley Confectionery Extra Chewy Mints and Happy Plugs earbuds. It was not immediately clear how this inventory is customized for other cities.

Since its debut in 2017, Cargo says it has activated more than 13,000 drivers in 10 cities. Venmo is available as a payment option in eight cities: New York, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, L.A. and San Francisco. (Cargo is also available in Atlanta and Singapore.) The rep said riders have ordered more than 2 million products to date.

Cargo said the Venmo integration makes its platform easier for a generation of consumers who are going cashless and who rely on ride-hailing services for transportation.

“Cargo’s top priorities are to help drivers earn more, give riders their time back and improve in-car comfort,” said Cargo CEO Jeff Cripe in a statement. “Adding Venmo as a payment option allows us to keep current with consumer preferences.”

Cargo has raised $30 million in venture funding to date, including a $22 million Series A round in September.

VC firm Founders Fund led the round. Tech hedge fund Coatue Management, early- and growth-stage investor Aquiline Technology Growth and “notable entertainment, gaming and technology executives” also participated, according to Cargo.

Some of those “notable” backers include Mark Pincus, founder of game developer Zynga; Colin Carrier, former CSO of livestream video platform Twitch; former Uber execs Emil Michael, Josh Mohrer and William Barnes; former NBA commissioner David Stern; Def Jam Records chief executive Paul Rosenberg; DJ Steve Aoki; and—wait for it—NBC News Special Anchor Maria Shriver and two of her children.

Additional investors include early stage investors CRCM Ventures, Rosecliff Ventures and RiverPark Ventures, along with Kellogg’s venture arm Eighteen94 Capital.

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.