Posted: May 24th, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Facebook, Social | No Comments » | 0 views
Paul Adams, who was previously Facebook’s global head of brand design, has joined a startup called Intercom, where he will be serving as head of product design.
Adams told me earlier that he wasn’t looking to leave Facebook, but he had also been advising Intercom and became excited about the opportunity. The startup, which is backed by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, 500 Startups and others, offers tools for online businesses to track every interaction with a customer and to use that data to deliver personalized messages and offers.
When I suggested that this sounds like a shift from Adams’ previous work in advertising, he didn’t entirely disagree, but he also said Intercom’s work ties into the themes he’s been exploring at Facebook, which have also been expressed in his talks and his book Grouped. (In addition, Adams is known for his work at Google, particularly a presentation that seemed to outline many of the ideas that eventually shaped Google+.)
Adams argues that in the future, businesses’ interactions with potential customers are going to be much more personal and relationship-based, rather than following the one-to-many broadcast model of traditional advertising. Intercom facilitates those company-to-customer interactions, and he added that it’s not just a way to deliver slightly-more-targeted marketing emails.
“In the past … companies tried to minimize customer interaction,” Adams said. “They didn’t want customers to talk back to them — that was overhead. Minimizing customer interaction is a very outdated model from a pre-social web world. Intercom is very much about intimacy, very much about being personable.”
Adams will be working out of Intercom’s Dublin office — he said he had already made the move from Silicon Valley to Dublin for personal reasons.
Posted: May 23rd, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
AngelPad, the San Francisco-based accelerator founded by former Googler Thomas Korte, held its sixth demo day yesterday. I wasn’t there (I know, it’s super-embarrassing), but I did get to meet with Korte and partner Carine Magescas today to talk about the newest batch of companies.
Magescas said that in the three years since AngelPad was founded, “the premise of what we had in the beginning has been validated.” That premise breaks down to three main ideas, she said. First, she and Korte “push [the startups] really hard.” That’s particularly important in the company’s early stages, Korte said, because it can be hard for the founders to get honest feedback from their family and friends, and because making a relatively small change can have a big effect on a startup’s ultimate trajectory.
Another reason the partners might be particularly tough on the startups is because they’re investing their own money. There’s no separate fund — at least not yet. (When I asked, Korte said, “There hasn’t been a fund to date,” followed by what may or may not have been a significant pause.)
Second, Magescas said, “We are a really small family.” Twelve startups were chosen from thousands of applicants. The first AngelPad group had eight companies, and there was one with 15, but they’ve settled on a dozen for the last few classes. That allows the AngelPad team to spend a lot of time working one-on-one with each company.
“I feel like it’s better to spend more time with less companies,” Korte said, adding that he’s realized that having a long list of well-known mentors isn’t as useful. There are outside experts who come in and give talks on a specific subject, but it really falls to Korte and Magescas to work closely with the founders. When you have too many different people offering “cookie cutter advice,” Korte said, “It hurts more than it helps.”
Third, they said AngelPad has always had a strong focus on business-to-business companies. In fact, there’s not a single consumer-focused company in the current class, according to Korte — some of them might offer consumer products as part of their business, but none of them are focused on building large-scale, free services that make money from advertising. At the same time, Magescas said they’re open to consumer startups, they just have to be “really good.”
So that’e the vision. Here are the companies, in alphabetical order:
Audience.fm uses data from existing music services to help bands and marketers reach their desired audience. For example, if a band was making a tour stop in San Francisco, Audience.fm could identify the band’s biggest fans, and they could offer free or discounted tickets.
Boxbee is a storage startup that delivers boxes to its customers. You fill the boxes with whatever you want to store, then Boxee picks up them up. It won the best new startup prize at this year’s Launch conference.
Chasm.io is a content marketing network, where influencers and brands share content that they want to see promoted. Rather than getting paid for sharing sponsored content, it’s more of a quid pro quo system, where influencers are rewarded for successful sharing with points that they can redeem to share content of their own.
DroneDeploy has built software for commercial drone operators (just to reemphasize — commercial drone operators, not military ones). The founders are former Googlers with machine
learning PhDs from Cambridge and Edinburgh. We covered the company here.
Fieldwire is a mobile task management system designed for workers who are out in the field. For example, it could be used by a team of construction workers while they’re on a construction site.
HumanAPI aims to build an API for accessing all the data that’s being gathered on various health devices, sensors, and services. So instead of figuring out how to work with dozens of different devices, a medical provider could just pull data from HumanAPI.
Iterable is an email marketing startup founded former Google and Twitter engineers. Customers can test different emails and also personalize the messages to each user without any coding.
Pogoseat integrates with existing ticketing solutions and apps, allowing them to offer seat upgrades. Partners already include Ticketmaster, the Golden State Warriors, and other NBA teams.
Roobiq aims to build a layer of voice commands and natural language processing on top of existing CRM systems, so a salesperson who’s out taking meetings could update their CRM from their phone without slowing down to type.
SensorTower has built a marketing platform for mobile app developers, allowing those developers to track and improve their rankings on different search keywords.
TheShelf is a collaboration platform where fashion brands can interact with fashion bloggers. There are already 1,500 bloggers on the platform.
TrulyWireless has built an enterprise phone system that’s cheaper than traditional systems and runs entirely on smartphones.
Interested investors can find the AngelList profile of each startup here.
Posted: May 23rd, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Social, Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
Adly, a startup that connects advertisers with celebrities willing to post promoted messages on social networks, recently raised $2 million in additional funding.
The new funding came from previous backer GRP Partners and new investor Siemer Ventures. Adly has now raised a total of $7.5 million.
The company also launched a new product this week. It’s the first thing you’ll see if you go to the Adly website — a button that says “Match Me Up!” which allows Adly to analyze a business’ existing content and followers, then find publishers who are a good match to “amplify” their content.
For example, when I signed in with my personal Twitter account, Adly said it found six celebrity publishers who, collectively, could increase my reach 61x and my engagement 31x. They include a blogger/entrepreneur with 103,000 followers, an analyst with 180,000 followers, and a podcaster with 199,000 followers. (I also tried to analyze TechCrunch’s account, but we have too many followers.) Who are these people? Well, you don’t actually get to find out until you actually start a campaign with Adly.
Walter Delph, who became Adly’s CEO a little more than a year ago, said this is part of his larger strategy. One of Adly’s big selling points is the fact that advertisers aren’t just getting access to a lot of eyeballs. By enlisting celebrity endorsers, they’re hopefully prompting lots of conversation and engagement, i.e. reach that’s “earned” rather than paid for. The company’s next step is building more tools to ensure that the conversation and engagement is happening.
To that end, Adly has been adding analytics to track the results of each campaign — the full reach of the message, the replies, the shares and the clicks. That dashboard, however, is really about looking back at a campaign (though customers get the data in real time, so they could adjust their spending accordingly). On the other hand, Delph said the celebrity matching tool is all about looking forward — it’s a way to get people started with Adly campaigns. He added that we can expect more features to come that take advantage of the company’s “reams and reams of data.”
By the way, even though Adly is known as a celebrity endorsement network, it’s actually broader than that. The company has relationships with 75,000 influencers, and Delph estimated that only about 2,000 of them are celebrities in the traditional sense — “By celebrity, what I mean is, if you walked down the street you would recognize them.” The other 73,000 aren’t at that level, but they have influence that’s valuable to advertisers (at least when it comes to certain topics).
Posted: May 22nd, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | No Comments » | 0 views
Shashi Seth, whose résumé includes management and executive roles at Yahoo, Aol, and Google, is joining the Tribune Company as the president of a new unit called Tribune Digital Ventures.
Seth’s role was first reported yesterday at AllThingsD, and the company is now confirming the news. It says Tribune Digital Ventures will operate as an independent unit based in Silicon Valley.
Seth told me that his job will be to develop new products around Tribune content, making sure that it “gets used appropriately on the Internet and mobile side.” A big part of that is finding new ways to circulate traffic between Tribune’s different properties, whether they’re in print (it publishes newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times), broadcast or digital. The goal, he said, is to create “a network effect across these disparate mediums and build a bridge between them.”
It sounds like partnering with startups is going to be a part of that mission. As for whether that will involve making startup investments, Seth said, “It is within the realm of possibility, but I think first and foremost we have to come up with a strategy.”
Seth left Yahoo in January, where he was most recently the senior vice president of its Connections business unit, which included products like Yahoo Search and Mail. He has also been the senior vice president of global ad products at Aol (which owns TechCrunch), head of monetization at YouTube, and search product lead at Google. He has startup experience as well, founding and serving as CEO of a wireless startup called Conexo and chief revenue officer at Cooliris.
“I’m fascinated and disappointed at the same time with what the traditional media world is going through,” Seth said when asked why he joined the Tribune Company. “I know and feel it in my heart that the content itself is amazingly valuable. … I think newspapers and broadcasters have given up the ownership of that space to the new Internet world. What I’d love to do is find a way to actually reclaim it.”
Posted: May 21st, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Mobile | No Comments » | 0 views
The Saturday Evening Post has a prominent spot in the history of American magazines. It’s where artist Norman Rockwell made a name for himself, and it has published classic American authors like Edgar Allan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But if you had no idea that it was still around, you’re not alone — the magazine’s technology director Steve Harman said that many people “are surprised we’re still publishing.”
Yes, it is still putting out a magazine every two months, with a circulation of about 350,000. Subscribers are mostly in their 50s, but The Post is trying to reach younger readers and adapt to the digital world, as recounted in a couple of stories earlier this year. Now it’s taking the next step in that direction with the release of its iPad and iPhone app, which was built by digital publishing company Yudu.
“Lately, there’s been a lot of commitment convert the post into a 21st century media company,” Harman said.
He added that this isn’t The Post’s first move onto tablets and e-readers. It’s already available on the Nook and in Google Play — he said that wasn’t a conscious strategy, but rather a response to overtures from Barnes & Noble and Google. The Post knew it was important to get onto Apple devices too, but it needed to find the right partner to make it happen.
The app itself includes digitized versions of The Post’s issues going back to November/December 2012 — you can enter your existing subscription information, buy a subscription, or purchase individual issues for $3.99 each. The issues themselves are a pretty straightforward PDFs of The Post’s print publication, without additional interactivity or media. Harman said that if Wired represents the cutting edge of what a magazine can do on the iPad, “we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
He doesn’t want to stay that way for long, however — he said The Post chose to work with Yudu because of the promise of adding videos and interactivity. One unique opportunity: The Post already tries to highlight aspects of its long history in the magazine, but the digital versions (which don’t have limited space) provide an opportunity to do that much more of that.
The Post’s broader challenge is trying to court a younger audience without making it seem like it doesn’t value its existing, older readers. I could see that in the May/June table of contents — putting actor Alan Alda‘s face on the cover probably won’t persuade many folks younger than 40 to buy the issue, but there are also stories on Star Trek, Mad Men, and the speed of WiFi in America. And Harman said the magazine’s digital strategy is particularly important for reaching a broader audience. That strategy covers tablet, smartphone, and e-reader editions, and it also includes The Post’s website, which is supposed to be overhauled next month.
Posted: May 21st, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Gaming, Mobile, Social, VIDEO | No Comments » | 0 views
OK Go (the band behind hit music videos like “This Too Shall Pass” and “Here It Goes Again”) launched its very own game for iOS and Android earlier this month.
You can play the game, titled Say The Same Thing, with one of your friends or with a randomly chosen player. (If you sign up now, you can also participate in a temporary promotion where people are randomly selected to play with a band member.) Each player types in a word, then you see what the other player said, and you use that as prompt for another word. As the game’s title implies, you win when each of you enters the same word.
It helps if you understand the other player’s interests. For example, I was playing with Graphicly‘s Micah Baldwin — after several rounds, I entered “Perry White,” he entered “Smallville,” and we won by both entering “Lana Lang.”
I also got a chance to play the game with OK Go’s lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash. (Like how I just dropped that in casually?) I don’t want to give away exactly what happens in the video, but I will say that we totally nailed it.
This isn’t just an app that OK Go stuck its name on, either — Kulash said it was programmed by the band’s guitarist Andy Ross. Apparently band members play a live version of the game together, so eventually they decided to turn it into an app:
At some point we realized, hey, there’s no reason why we need to just put out songs. We can put out everything we want — we make videos, we make shows, why not make apps. … We’ve always been interested in tech as a sort of canvas. We try to make art for the world we live in, and this is where we live now. We live on Skype, we live on our laptops and on our phones.
Traditional recordings of music live in this space really well. Like, we’re making an album right now that will be finished sometime this summer, and we’ll probably put it out in the fall or maybe in the winter, and it’s great to listen to on your phone, it’s great to listen to on your laptop, but there’s all these other things that your laptop and your phone can do that musicians 30 years ago couldn’t imagine and artists 30 years ago couldn’t imagine. I think working in these spaces has always been exciting to us, and we’re just lucky that we have a programmer in our band, because it means that we can test things out like this.
Posted: May 21st, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
Ditto, a startup that helps users virtually try on different pairs of eyeglasses, has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fight a big threat — the company says it’s being sued by 1-800-CONTACTS and another company called Lennon Imaging Technology.
Ditto’s technology allows users to create webcam recordings of their faces, which they then use to see how different designer glasses will look with their facial shape and size. Both Lennon Imaging and 1-800-CONTACTS are claiming that this technology infringes their own patents. But Ditto’s campaign describes them as “patent troll” lawsuits — Lennon is a non-practicing company, meaning that it doesn’t have a product or service of its own, and Ditto co-founder and CEO Kate Endress said 1-800-CONTACTS (which is owned by WellPoint) didn’t purchase the patent in question until after the company’s CEO visited the Ditto website.
1-800-CONTACTS did not respond when I emailed for comment. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation published its own blog post in support of Ditto saying that 1-800-CONTACTS has “a long record of using the courts to bully its competitors.” That prompted a complaint from the company’s lawyer saying that 1-800-CONTACTS is not a patent troll. The EFF writes:
Sure, the company is not a classic patent troll — a shell company that does nothing but buy patents and sue—but it’s little better. Patent trolls generally want to use the club of litigation to extort licensing fees. But all indications are that 1-800-CONTACTS isn’t interested in a license from Ditto. Rather, it wants to destroy the competition.
Indeed, Endress said she’s in a tough spot, where “we cannot afford to win” — in other words, the company doesn’t have enough money to defend itself in court, and even though Ditto has raised venture funding, the threat of litigation scares off any additional investment. The company has already had to lay off three engineers, Endress said.
That’s why the company has turned to Indiegogo to fund its legal efforts. (Endress said the money will only go towards legal costs.) So far, it has raised about $5,700 of its $30,000 goal. However, the campaign page states that Ditto is looking at $30,000 to $100,000 in legal fees over the next three to six months (and potentially much more afterwards), so I’m guessing Ditto could use a lot more help if possible.
Update: A 1-800-CONTACTS spokesperson just sent me the following statement:
1-800 CONTACTS has a history putting the consumer first by promoting competition. In fact, 1-800 CONTACTS spent years working in concert with consumer advocacy groups to support the passage of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act. This legislation was passed by Congress and gives all Americans the right to their contact lens prescription so they can choose where to purchase contact lenses. 1-800 CONTACTS also compelled the largest contact lens manufacturers to sell to Internet retailers. Both efforts were successful and led to a more open and competitive market that has benefitted numerous online competitors and ultimately, millions of consumers.
As a leading vision retailer, 1-800 CONTACTS recognized the need to improve the online purchasing options for eyeglasses and began developing an enhanced virtual try on system that would vastly improve the consumer experience. As part of our due diligence when developing our virtual try on technology, we investigated the existing rights in this space, as is standard practice. The granted patent that 1-800 CONTACTS purchased in 2012 entitled “Interactive try-on platform for eyeglasses” was filed in 2001 and granted in 2006. Like most other companies operating a business that depends on technology, 1-800 CONTACTS purchased this patent for a reason – the patent covered what the business was doing so the patent either needed to be licensed or purchased. Ditto could have licensed or purchased the same patent, but chose to ignore it and launched their website with an infringing virtual try on feature anyway.
1-800 CONTACTS began working on our virtual try on system for Glasses.com long before Ditto was formed as a company. Glasses.com had a working demonstration of its more robust 3D virtual try on system running in 2011 – before Ditto launched its website in April 2012. Members of the 1-800 CONTACTS team visited Ditto’s website to try the virtual try on technology when it launched. Viewing competing products that are on the market is not unusual, and is in fact a responsible business practice.
1-800 CONTACTS has offered to discuss an amicable resolution to the lawsuit through licensing or other options, but instead of responding to our offer, Ditto has spent time and energy engaging in online discussions and issuing an inaccurate and misleading press release.
Ditto has found its strongest supporter in the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), who has been quoted multiple times in blog articles and in Ditto’s press release. What Ditto and the EFF failed to disclose is that three members of the advisory board at the Electronic Frontier Foundation all work for Durie Tangri – the same law firm representing Ditto in this case. It is disappointing that the EFF concealed this inherent bias from the public, instead holding itself out as an impartial observer.
1-800 CONTACTS will launch our virtual try on technology next month, providing an enhanced consumer shopping experience. Our approach has taken longer to bring to market, as we developed a revolutionary virtual try on system customized for the iPad. We were honored to present our ground-breaking technology at TED in February, where we also demonstrated the app 1,650 times on 100 iPads.
Complaint 1-800-Contact v. Ditto by TechCrunch
999 016 – Ditto Motion to Dismiss With Memo (00354120) by TechCrunch
Posted: May 21st, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
“Payment marketing” startup Swipely is announcing that it has raised $12 million in Series B funding.
Although founder and CEO Angus Davis (who founded TellMe, which was acquired by Microsoft) said that he’s focused on “looking forward to the future,” it’s worth noting that this is the first round that Swipely has raised since the company moved on from allowing users to share credit card purchases with friends to its current focus on payments, marketing, and loyalty. He did say that the company was able to sustain itself for three years on its $7.5 million Series A because it spent the money “judiciously,” and because it was already bringing in significant revenue.
Swipely’s helps merchants use their credit card payment data to gain a deeper understanding of customer behavior. Customers can also sign up for a loyalty program that’s tied to the card that they already use, and the merchants can then send them targeted messages and offers.
There have been a lot of new payment startups emerging in the past few years, Davis said, but they’re not competing with Swipely for the same customers — Square, for example, has also been adding features for merchants to manage loyalty programs, but Davis said Square businesses tend to be smaller than Swipely’s, who normally do at least $1 million a year in credit card sales.
“We’re the new kids on the block in a pretty enormous market, and frankly, the peopel that hurt when we win are the legacy, old school payment providers,” he said.
The round was led by Shasta Ventures, with participation from new investors First Round Capital, Greylock Partners, and Index Ventures. Davis said the funding should help Swipely “pretty dramatically ramp up the size of our team” and go “from serving hundreds of merchants today to thousands of merchants within the year.”
In addition to finding new customers, Davis said he wants to offer additional services to the existing ones. When I asked what he had in mind, he pointed to Swipely’s most recent upgrade, which added a reputation tracking feature and analytics for measuring the in-store success of online promotions.
Swipely says it currently manages $700 million in sales for its businesses, as well as relationships with nearly 2 million customers.
Posted: May 21st, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
Wanderful Media has raised another $9 million from the long list of newspaper and media companies that were already backing the startup and its local deal service Find&Save.
The announcement comes after the relaunch of Find&Save last month. The service allows readers to browse deals aggregated from newspaper circulars, retailers, and other data sources. That was the first big redesign since Wanderful acquired Travidia (the print-to-digital conversion company that started Find&Save), and at the time, CEO Ben T. Smith IV told me that it was Wanderful’s first opportunity to put its own stamp on the product. That involved adding more personalization and social features, such as the ability to create shopping lists and to follow retailers and other users.
COO Doug Kilponen said yesterday that the relaunch has gotten a positive response so far. That’s one of the reasons for the new funding — to increase the distribution around a product that seems to be working. He added that the new Find&Save spurred interest from new investors too, so “we’ll hopefully see some news on that as well.”
This brings Wanderful’s total funding to $36 million. All of Wanderful’s existing backers participated, Kilponen said, and the round had no lead investor. The existing investors include (deep breath) Advance Digital, A. H. Belo Corporation, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., Cox Media Group, The E. W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co., GateHouse Media, Hearst Corporation, Lee Enterprises, MediaNews Group, The McClatchy Company, and The Washington Post Co.
Although Find&Save has its own website, it also integrates with the sites of newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle — in fact, it says its network already reaches 100 million unique visitors each month. The next step, Kilponen said, will be the launch of Find&Save apps for mobile and tablet.
Posted: May 21st, 2013 | Author: Anthony Ha | Filed under: TechCrunch | Tags: Mobile, Startups | No Comments » | 0 views
HasOffers, a startup that helps mobile app developers see which ad efforts are actually paying off, is announcing that it has raised a $9.4 million round of funding led by Accel Partners.
The company was founded in 2009 — the product that it initially built, and the one that’s still highlighted on the HasOffers website, is a system that helps ad networks and agencies manage their performance-based programs. (Those agencies and ad networks include Bucksense, Tapjoy, and Sponsorpay.)
However, CEO Peter Hamilton said the team realized that mobile advertisers were facing a similar problem, so it built a product called MobileAppTracking, allowing developers to see where app installs, engagement, and purchases actually come from. So as publishers run ad campaigns, they can see which social networks, publishers, and ad networks are giving them the best results, and they can adjust their efforts accordingly.
Rich Wong, the Accel partner who’s joining the HasOffers board, definitely sounded more excited about the mobile side of the business when I spoke to him today. (Wong’s past investments include Google-acquired AdMob and Angry Birds-maker Rovio.) He said “some of the biggest spenders in the Accel portfolio, people who are on the cutting edge of doing customer acquisition,” such as HotelTonight, Spotify, and Trulia, were already using MobileAppTracking. (Other customers include Yahoo, Zynga, Pandora, and Square.)
Wong also argued that the company is part of towards a broader shift in mobile advertising. He said the industry’s first phase, was the early “walled garden” period, followed by a second stage dominated by ad networks like AdMob, Quattro (acquired by Apple), and Millennial (now public). The third, current phase is all about the shift to programmatic buying — in Wong’s words, “the machines are taking over.” In this phase, developers are running campaigns with a wide range of different sources, so they need a better attribution system.
And that system needs to be independent of any of the existing ad networks, so it can measure all sources of traffic effectively. After all, Wong said, many networks have their own attribution systems, and while they might work fine, publishers probably don’t feel entirely confident that AdMob’s can report accurately about one of its competitors, or vice versa. That point about independence came up repeatedly during our conversation, with Wong emphasizing that HasOffers is a software business, not a company that’s selling ads.
“One of the reasons we’re able to do what we do with over 150 ad networks and publishers is that we’re not competitive with them,” Hamilton added.
Until now, Hamitlon said HasOffers has been bootstrapped and profitable, with 79 employees, so it didn’t necessarily need the money. At the same time, he said the mobile ad tracking product has really taken off: “We saw an opportunity to put our stake in the ground as the attribution analytics platform, and we didn’t want it to pass us by.” For now, that means continuing to invest heavily on the technology and product side of the business.
In addition to Accel, RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser and Founder’s Co-op partner Chris Devore also invested. (Glaser and Devore are both based in Seattle, as is HasOffers.) Even though HasOffers is a bit older than your normal Series A company, and even though Accel has a separate fund for investing in bootstrapped, mature companies, this specific investment came from Accel’s early-stage fund: “Even though it has characteristics of a ‘growth-stage business’, we looked at it as an early-stage Series A.”