My name is Drew Olanoff, and I have over 10 years of marketing, PR, customer service and support, relationship building and management, product management, and technical support experience in multiple verticals. Online, including mobile.
I coined the phrase "Social Good" for online charitable movements, and invented the online "donation by action" charity model. I founded #BlameDrewsCancer
I pride myself on being a connector. Connecting people, stories, information. I have worked under some amazingly talented and gifted PR pros while working for startups as a "Director of Community", "Community Manager" and "Technology Evangelist". I have the knack of working stories both mainstream as well as online. Bridging that gap is my passion.
I am a leader AND a team player, and strive for nothing short of success. My life motto is "failure is not an option".
Specialties: podcasting, videoblogging ,blogging, community management, social networking, technology evangelist, tech, technology, marketing, pr, outreach, customer service, social media, product development, UI, UX, mobile, user acquisition, technology trends
2012 - Present
Community Director / TechCrunch
2009 - Present
Founder / BlameDrewsCancer.com
During my personal fight with Hodgkins Lymphoma, I created a website that leveraged tweets to raise money for charity. During my treatment, I was able to:
- Participated in official LIVESTRONG events as a Global Envoy - Appeared on both national and local news (CNN, Fox Philadelphia) to talk about our mission - Held a 24 hour livestreamed marathon to raise money for LIVESTRONG - Worked with Drew Carey to raise money by auctioning off the Twitter handle @drew
Samsung Wallet, an Android alternative to Apple’s Passbook, was quietly unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February and Samsung has, once again, without a media fanfare, launched the service for consumers with an initial rollout in Korea.
An announcement in Korean (via Engadget) states that the service is available for a range of Galaxy device owners — initially those with the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy Note 10.1, Galaxy S II HD LTE — who can store their credit card details on their device in order to make transactions with online merchants. Payment is verified using a PIN and a one time password.
The company says that some 30,000 domestic retailers are supporting the service on launch. There are plans to add support for a number of Passbook-like services, including tickets, membership cards, coupons and other services that were showcase earlier this year.
There’s no word on a timeline of other services — we already know NFC payments will be supported in time — nor do we have an update on when it will launch outside of Korea. For now, it looks like this will be a test deployment ahead of a wider expansion.
Like Apple’s Passbook, Samsung Wallet is able to deliver time and location based push notifications, notifying you when you are near a store or location that you can use a Wallet card. Always connected, membership cards and boarding passes can be updated in real-time.
Samsung Wallet includes an open API which allows other services to feed into it for payments. So, once the global launch kicks off, we can expect integration from the existing base of partners which includes including Walgreens, MLB, Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com and Lufthansa.
Here’s a reminder of what was announced back in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress:
Today Leap Motion, a company building a motion-capture device that allows people to interact with computers sans touching them, released a video of its device in action with Windows 8.
It’s impressive, but remains a demo; if actual use mirrors this, however, it will present a real challenge to touch. Touch-based computing is the current market trend, with Microsoft, Apple, and Google building platforms and devices that lean on it.
Touch is but one way to interact with devices. Work in voice is underway with each company. Leap Motion is working in a space that only Microsoft has a viable alternative, with Kinect for Windows.
Happily, Leap Motion is all but out the door. The company announced a delay to July 22nd for the shipping of its product. Enjoy:
Speaking at Yahoo’s press event, CEO Marissa Mayer stated that “we want to make Flickr awesome again.” Three ideas, apparently, went into this change: the utilization of full-resolution imagery, availability across devices, and the ability to store every photo a user could possibly take.
Here’s the new profile design for Flickr users on the Web:
Here’s the individual photo view, which fills out the entire screen.
Here’s the new search page design:
During the talk, Yahoo also announced that its NY-based team will soon move into a four-story office space near Times Square. That in mind, Mayer has clarified that Tumblr will not be moving into Yahoo’s offices. A number of important figures in the NY tech scene attended the event today, including NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg and NYC CTO Rachel Haot.
Newsle, a news discovery service, announced that it has raised a $1.65 million Series A round of funding. The investment was led by Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast Traveler and Reddit. With this new funding, Newsle says that it will focus on building out its team and grow its product offerings.
If you’re not familiar, Newsle functions as a news feed to tell users when their friends have been mentioned anywhere on the Internet. It’s a Web application that functions like Google Alerts, but specifically for users’ Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, and public figures. The company says that it uses “advanced persona identification, natural language processing, and proprietary disambiguation algorithms” to display relevant search results.
Monitoring what’s happening with more than 50 million people, Newsle claims to have a tool that will help professionals build better relationships with their social contacts. It processes data from 100,000 sources and over 1 million articles each day. Users can leverage either Newsle’s website or email alerts to keep track of mentions relating to their friends or colleagues.
Jonah Varon, Newsle’s co-founder, said in a statement that “The Internet has transformed news, and effective businesspeople need tools to cope with this transformation. We help people find essential items they might otherwise miss in the flood of online news. This round of investment allows us to grow our team and further establish Newsle as the go-to resource for relevant news discovery.”
The investment by Advance Publications and its subsidiary American City Business Journal is a vote of confidence for the service, which isn’t a pioneer in the news discovery space. Prior to its creation, Angstro tried to break through and become successful, but instead it pivoted into Knx.to and was acquired by Google. Newsle is hoping to avoid Angstro’s experience — support from an organization built around news and information is an important accomplishment for this young startup.
Co-founded as a ‘next generation production’ company by Edelstein, Hooked Digital Media premiered Haunting Melissa last week, and is striving to “reinvent storytelling” for the digital age. In a nutshell, the story centers around a teenage girl called – unsurprisingly – Melissa, who believes her deceased mother has returned to haunt her.
We’re starting to see a slew of content air exclusively online – take Netflix’s Hemlock Grove for starters – but Haunting Melissa goes that extra step by making it available exclusively in-app via your iOS device.
Haunting Melissa follows in the footsteps of the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, in that it tries to adhere to a real-life feel as close as possible – we’re talking shaky cameras here.
You’ll note there are 11 chapters, though you can’t skip ahead, not yet at least.
This isn’t just another 90-minute movie repackaged for the mobile generation – Hooked Digital Media’s platform enables the delivery of content at unpredictable intervals.
Designed to bring more mystery into the media mix, as a viewer progresses, the app serves up fresh twists and reveals new narrative elements through push notifications. At the time of writing, only the first chapter is available, for free, and it offers the subsequent chapter for free too, but only if you help share news of Haunting Melissa on Facebook.
If you don’t, you’ll be invited to pay $1.99 per chapter, or $6.99/$14.99 (HD) to buy a season pass which will give you all chapters when they’re made available.
Haunting Melissa was conceived, directed and produced by Edelstein, and it was written by author Andrew Klavan, the same man who wrote True Crime and Don’t Say A Word.
“Haunting Melissa is a ghost story created to be consumed in a dark corner with headphones on and iPhone or iPad in hand,” said Neal Edelstein. “You never know when the next piece will come or how long that piece will be…it’s a complete surprise.”
I guess a typical scenario could be this – you’re sitting at work, considering whether to go straight home or take a detour to the pub/shops. You then receive a notification that the next chapter is available to watch now and, well, that will influence what you do when you leave work. Alternatively, as this is mobile, you could sneak off to the stationery cupboard and watch it there.
Haunting Melissa is very much about ‘social’ too. Users can sign-in through Facebook, sharing theories with friends and so on, and there is YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram communities too.
“The amazing technology contained in the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch has allowed us to present stories in a dramatically different way,” continues Edelstein. “The technology supports story first and foremost. As viewers move further into Melissa’s world, they will understand why this new app technology will change distribution forever.”
It’s certainly an interesting concept, one that positions content that would once have been reserved for cinemas or TV, alongside your emails and tweets. If that makes it sound mundane, it isn’t supposed to – it’s just an interesting way of delivering content, one that could take movie and TV-content delivery in new directions – it’s delivered piece-by-piece, when you’re not expecting it.
That said, cinema has seen off a number of pretenders to its throne over the years, and there’s nothing to suggest here that this will change any time soon with app-only releases. But it certainly hints at where TV could be heading.
Haunting Melissa is available to download for free now, though subsequent chapters beyond the first one will cost you money (or a Facebook share).
Meanwhile, you can watch an official trailer below.
Disclosure: This article contains an affiliate link. While we only ever write about products we think deserve to be on the pages of our site, The Next Web may earn a small commission if you click through and buy the product in question. For more information, please see our Terms of Service
Or, put more simply, it wants to patent saying “Take photo!” to your camera, and having it then take a picture. I’m not kidding. Here’s the official verbiage from the patent application:
A computing device (e.g., a smart phone, a tablet computer, digital camera, or other device with image capture functionality) causes an image capture device to capture one or more digital images based on audio input (e.g., a voice command) received by the computing device.
Via GeekWire, here’s an image of the patent in action:
Next we’ll see a patent for someone telling a camera to take two photos.
The new photos section now includes automatic back-ups, which will save users’ photos safely and privately as they’re taken. This has been available on iOS for sometime, although users had to keep the app running in order to send the images to the cloud.
Google is also bringing over many of its new photo-editing features from the desktop version of Google+, including Auto Enhance, which makes subtle improvements automatically. There’s also Auto Highlight, which creates a selection of shots for the user to look over and share as a separate album. It’s an intriguing solution; most users will be sceptical about trusting Google’s algorithm, but it drastically speeds up the process of creating a respectable album from hundreds of holiday snaps.
Auto Awesome is the final addition, adding the ability to create new, light-hearted versions of existing images – such as animations or panoramas – based on photos in users’ existing libraries.
Location sharing has also been overhauled in the Google+ app to give users a quicker way of seeing where their friends, family and colleagues are. Until now, users’ current whereabouts were only visible from their profile page, provided they had chosen to share it with other people through specific Google+ circles.
This has now been updated with a new ‘Locations’ section, available from the side-menu, which shows the location of users’ friends on a rather handy map. It might be a small feature, but the idea of monitoring where other people are in order to make plans and arrange meet ups sounds awfully similar to Foursquare’s playbook.
In the stream, the Google+ app has also been tweaked to include the new automated hashtags found on the desktop version. They appear at the top-right hand corner of individual posts and tapping on them will produce new streams of related content. Neat.
Bradley Horowitz, Vice President of Product, Google+, said today: “Photos, location and the stream are only some of the things we’ve improved in today’s update. Notifications are nicer to look at and easier to use. You can edit additional profile fields on the go. And there’s one-tap access to the all new Hangouts app — just to name a few.”
The new Google+ app for Android is rolling out today in the Google Play store.
In 2013, for the first time ever, the total number of smartphones shipped worldwide is projected to surpass the total number of feature phones shipped. More specifically, the former category is expected to reach 937 million units this year compared to just 889 million units for the latter, as smartphone shipments grow to 1.45 billion units at a compounded annual rate of 26 percent between 2011 and 2016, and account for two-thirds of the mobile phone market.
The latest estimates come from market research company NPD, which expects the smartphone market to continue growing rapidly over the next two years, thanks to larger and higher-resolution displays, faster processors, as well as higher-capacities that make them satisfy many needs previously requiring other computing devices.
Here’s the forecast:
If you’re getting a big feeling of déjà vu, that’s because IDC, another market research firm, made this prediction earlier this year. The difference is in the actual figure: IDC expects vendors to ship 918.6 million smartphones this year, or 50.1 percent of the total mobile phone shipments worldwide.
NPD’s estimate is coming later, so some would argue that it might be more accurate but the fact is the number of phones shipped doesn’t really matter. The final number will undoubtedly end up different by December (we wouldn’t be surprised if it passed a billion) and the point here is the two firms both agree smartphones will surpass feature phones this year.
In fact, on a quarterly basis, it’s already happened. IDC said vendors shipped 216.2 million units in Q1 2013, marking the first time more than half (51.6 percent) of the total phone shipments in a quarter were smartphones.
In its report today, NPD unsurprisingly says emerging markets are driving most of the smartphone growth, largely thanks to better download speeds as networks are upgraded to 3G and 4G as well as entry-level devices priced below $200. China in particular is pushing the entry-level smartphone category, grabbing 55 percent of shipments, not to mention the country also happens to be the largest market for smartphones as a whole.
At the other end of the market, NPD expects LTE-enabled smartphones to reach 23 percent market share in 2013. Shipments of AMOLED and LTPS LCD panels for full high-definition resolution smartphones are forecast to increase drastically, from 1.7 million units in 2012 to 113 million units in 2013.
This part of a bigger smartphone trend: it seems that users increasingly want bigger screens. In the smartphone space, more than half (57 percent) of displays are projected to range between 4″ to 5″, while screens larger than 5″ are expected to grow to 16 percent of the market.
It seems we’re reaching a tipping point this year. Yet already we’re wondering how long it will take before feature phones go the way of netbooks and furthermore, what will replace smartphones. Right now, it looks like wearable computing is the next horizon, but as we’ve learned, anything can happen in the mobile space, and quickly.
Seamless and GrubHub, two of the largest online food delivery services in the US, have officially announced “the signing of a definitive agreement” to merge into a combined company.
This news, which confirms earlier reports that the two companies were in talks, follows more than nine years of heavy competition. If the deal goes through, GrubHub founder Matt Maloney will take the reins of the new company and current Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky will serve as president.
As for what the new firm will be called, the official release states that “the combined organization’s name and marketing brands are expected to be determined following regulatory approval.” Given that “Seamless” — once called SeamlessWeb during the dot com boom — is a confusingly ambiguous name for a site that enables food ordering, it wouldn’t surprise us if revisions were made.
New stats were also shared in the announcement, including that the two companies facilitated approximately $875 million in gross food sales to local businesses. This apparently resulted in over $100 million in combined revenue.
In the announcement, both companies claim that merging will lead to “accelerated innovation” and “enhanced financial flexibility.” The latter statement may be true, but considering the companies’ relationship up until now — they historically fought aggressively for the same customers — we’re betting a sudden decline in competition won’t help customers in the long-run. As stated above, the merger is still subject to regulatory approval.
As for what’s left of the competitive food delivery space, companies like Delivery.com, Eat24 and the decentralized Ordr.in remain.
As expected, Yahoo this morning announced its acquisition of blogging phenomenon Tumblr. The Internet giant has bought the six-year old New York company for “approximately $1.1 billion”, substantially all of which will be paid in cash.
That’s the gist of the news, folks, although here are some interesting stats and figures from the press release while you make up your mind whether this is a brilliant or idiotic move, or somewhere in between.
With more than 300 million monthly unique visitors and 120,000 signups every day, Tumblr is one of the fastest-growing media networks in the world. Tumblr sees 900 posts per second (!) and 24 billion minutes spent on site each month.
On mobile, more than half of Tumblr’s users are using the mobile app and do an average of 7 sessions per day. Its tremendous popularity and engagement among creators, curators and audiences of all ages brings a significant new community of users to the Yahoo! network.
The combination of Tumblr+Yahoo! is expected to grow Yahoo!’s audience by 50 percent to more than a billion monthly visitors, and to grow traffic by approximately 20 percent.
The deal offers unique opportunities for both companies. Tumblr can deploy Yahoo!’s personalization technology and search infrastructure to help its users discover creators, bloggers, and content they’ll love.
In turn, Tumblr brings 50 billion blog posts (and 75 million more arriving each day) to Yahoo!’s media network and search experiences.
The two companies will also work together to create advertising opportunities that are seamless and enhance the user experience.
There’s no shortage of warranty and serial number tracking apps, but new kid on the block Serial+ offers an easy-to-use alternative for those wishing to manage both their hardware warranties and software serial numbers from their iPhone.
How it works
Unlike something like xWarranty which lets you record serial and warranty information around all your physical purchases by very specific categories (e.g. ‘computer hardware’, ‘gadgets’ and so on), Serial+ divides your items into two broad categories – software and hardware.
When you first launch the app, you’ll be asked to provide a PIN, which you’ll need to enter every time you open Serial+.
To start recording items, hit the ‘Plus’ symbol and you’ll be prompted to add either a piece of software of hardware. Within each category you have very specific description fields including name, serial numbers, warranty-length, purchase date/location and so on. You can even add photos to illustrate each product.
The idea here is that over time, whenever you buy a new piece of software, a new laptop or anything of value that you may need to record for future reference, you add to Serial+ so you don’t have to worry so much about losing receipts, or trawling through your inbox to find when your warranty is due to expire.
Indeed, Serial+ may be particularly useful if you’re burgled or lose/break items, and you need to make an insurance claim which typically requires the full item history.
You can also back up your inventories directly to Dropbox, which is obviously a big win if your iPhone is one of the items that goes walkies. Oh, and you can also export items in plaintext and CSV direct to spreadsheet.
“We built Serial+ because we looked around our office and noticed that we have dozens of items with warranties,” explains Enabled Apps’ Ryan Hartman. “But we didn’t have a good way to keep track of which were still valid and which were expired. It was at that point we decided to build our own app that would handle all of these details in a secure fashion.”
Disclosure: This article contains an affiliate link. While we only ever write about products we think deserve to be on the pages of our site, The Next Web may earn a small commission if you click through and buy the product in question. For more information, please see our Terms of Service
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.
Browser maker Opera’s first WebKit browser has exited beta. The full launch for the browser previously code-named Ice adds a few additional minor updates to the meaty feature-set demoed at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow back in February.
The new updates in this full launch version of the Android browser are as follows:
Toggle navigation bar from top to bottom
Wrap text when you zoom
View active tabs in full screen
Search and navigate with a responsive address bar
The Android browser represents a huge shift for Opera as it moves its business from technical development to product-focused development, leaving its Presto framework behind and adopting the de facto standard WebKit engine, plus Chromium — a move Opera confirmed in February. Update: Since then Google has announced it’s forking WebKit as Blink. Opera confirmed to TechCrunch that while the current version of its Android browser is built on WebKit/Chromium 24 it will be moving to Blink once it arrives in the Chromium code (due in a later version, it says).
At the time of its WebKit switch announcement, Opera argued then that ditching Presto and adopting WebKit frees up its engineers to focus on product development in a bid to stand out in the increasingly homogenous smartphone browser space.
The other issue for browser makers is that they are fighting with apps for users’ eyeballs. Research put out by mobile analytics firm Flurry in April found that U.S. Android and iOS owners spend an average of 80% of their time within apps, and just a fifth (20%) within mobile browsers. Moving the needle back in the direction of the browser is Opera’s goal here.
Key features of Opera’s Android browser include a content discovery feed that can be accessed by swiping right from the home screen — a feature clearly designed to encourage users to spend more time inside the browser, and less time using social networks and apps like Twitter which also incorporates a personalised discovery feed to try to keep users within its apps, supplementing its even stickier social content.
Opera has also leveraged its data compression expertise for the Android browser with an “off-road” mode that can be toggled on to reduce data consumption in order to improve browser performance when network coverage is poor, or lower data costs when roaming.
Gestures and a light coloured user interface round out Opera’s offering here. According to Google Play the browser has had between 10 million and 50 million downloads in the past 30 days, and appears to be sustaining users’ interest with no sign of a big drop in interest yet. Its Google Play rating is currently 4.5 stars with close to 350,000 ratings.
Game developer Rocket Jump had already proved its mettle with its hit Major Mayhem. But the company’s location in Wellington, New Zealand meant its team often felt isolated from the resources they needed to build an even bigger hit. Enter Scopely, the Los Angeles-based mobile gaming platform founded by social gaming entrepreneur Walter Driver and AdSense co-creator Eytan Elbaz.
The two companies’ partnership produced the hit Mini Golf Matchup. Launched at the beginning of March, the game reached 10 million downloads in its first month and took the number one spot on the App Store in 28 countries eight hours after its launch.
Antony Blackett, the managing director of Rocket Jump, says that working with Scopely helped his team mitigate the disadvantage of being so far away from other game developers.
“When your head is down and you are building a product, you don’t really have the time to build the relationship you need to talk with Apple and constantly show them what you are building. When you are in New Zealand, you don’t get that opportunity,” he says.
Rocket Jump is exactly the kind of company Scopely looks for, says co-founder and CEO Driver. Scopely was “born out of the recognition that there is a lot of amazing content created out there that can make lots of amazing user experiences, but conditions in mobile gaming make it hard for independent developers to compete at a higher level in terms of distribution, monetization and service side infrastructure,” Driver says.
Driver first noticed Rocket Jump after seeing Major Mayhem, which was published by Adult Swim and marketed with ads on its TV network. The rail shooter game was a top ten overall app in nine countries in the App Store and in the top 25 all-time user ranked games in Google Play. The two companies began working together in February.
Scopely helped develop the Mini Golf Matchup’s multiplayer experience and monetization model. The company also marketed the game by leveraging its user base, which Driver says is in the tens of millions.
“Discoverability is a huge challenge. You can make one of the best games that people have ever seen and if you haven’t exposed it to enough people at launch, then it won’t have a life. Our advantage is having a large user base to market to and launching stuff on a consistent basis,” says Driver. “Independent game studios might launch a couple titles a year, but we know the partners that are most effective at paid user acquisition.”
Scopely’s pre-launch marketing efforts helped Mini Golf Matchup achieve over one million downloads on its first day. After that, Scopely focused on the game’s multiplayer mechanics, with incentives for players to invite more friends. They also created a monetization model with advertising partners like Starbucks and Coca Cola for free versions of Mini Golf Matchup.
The company faces competition from game publishing giants like GREE, Zynga, DeNA and Chillingo, but Driver says his Scopely’s smaller size is one of its strongest assets. In addition to Rocket Jump, Scopely’s partners currently include four other game studios: Double Fine, Big Cave, Highline and Zupcat.
“We feel like we can’t provide the kind of value we want to provide for 100 partners and we don’t want to,” says Driver. “There are quite a few publishers out there that make a volume play of as many things as they can and hope something becomes a huge phenomenon. We don’t feel that provides the best service for our partners and it’s not the most likely way to make Scopely successful.”
Though Scopely also creates its own games, Driver says that those projects are meant to help it improve its tech platform and develop new mechanics, such as a tournament feature, that it can in turn apply to its partners’ games.
“Scopely has been very hands-on. On the development of the parts, it feels like they are a lot more committed to it than other publishers are,” says Blackett. “It felt more like a co-development than a publisher-developer deal.”
MavenSay, a social recommendation app, just got a surge of unplanned downloads coming from Indonesia, and its founders are moving quickly to include Southeast Asia in its expansion plans, as a result.
The company’s Toronto-based co-founder, Jesse Dallal, said the two-month old app got 100,000 downloads over the past fortnight. It has a total of 130,000 downloads so far, and the sudden surge was tracked back to a power user based in Indonesia. They’re not sure which one it is, but the source of traffic points to the country, he said.
The way the app works is similar to Pinterest, in that users follow other users’ recommendations. These could cover places they’ve eaten at or music they’re listening to, for example. For its launch, MavenSay roped in what it called “influencers”—featured brands to follow such as Momofuku and Refinery29.
The Indonesian user that triggered the downloads isn’t a celebrity that MavenSay had canvassed, but was clearly influential enough over his or her social network to move the downloads, said Dallal.
“It’s been an unanticipated consequence of our [social] strategy,” he said, referring to the way things get viral on these recommendation platforms where people reblog items from influencers.
“We’ve reached out to influencers in North America, but we’re also going to reach out to influencers in Asia now. We’re thinking of coming out there and talking to users to understand what the differences in culture and usage might be,” he said.
MavenSay has seven people, including its three co-founders Dallal, Mike Wagman and Bryan Friedman. The small company can’t be expected to have concrete plans for Asia yet, but seeding interest in one of the world’s fastest-growing, mobile-hungry countries may pay off eventually.
According to mobiThinking, Indonesia has 260 million mobile subscribers, although those with data connections make up just 47.6 million, or 18 percent of that.
And Indonesians have been quick to embrace social networking sites, with fierce loyalties once something sticks. Aged social network, Friendster started to pivot towards Asia around 2008, when it realised that 90 percent of its user base was coming from the region. While it was, by that time, lagging behind Facebook globally, some markets like Indonesia stayed loyal to Friendster.
Real-time parking startup ParkMe wants to help find you parking — in real-time. The company, which originally started out on the Web, has been making a big push behind mobile apps, which is really smart, because most times when you’re looking for parking, you’re not on a PC, but you have a smartphone nearby.
There was just one problem — this app to find parking spots in real-time was only available on iOS, so there were a whole bunch of people who couldn’t use it. And their real-time parking finding powers were thus severely impacted. ParkMe is trying to correct that, with the release of an Android app that provides parking help to even the most helpless among those seeking to find a place to put their cars.
Android users will not only be able to find the closest parking for where they are now or where they happen to be going, but they’ll also be able to find the cheapest parking. And somewhere in between, maybe even the best value — the mythical “cheapest parking which is not so far away from their destination.”
The app accomplishes that by showing relevant parking rates, hours of operation, payment types, and — for those of you who want to know exactly how many free spots are available in the potential parking garage of your choice — real-time occupancy information for garages and street parking.
Oh, and did I mention the Android app was designed with the new Google maps API? Yeah, that too.
ParkMe CEO and co-founder Sam Friedman told me that the company wanted to make sure the experience on iOS was finished before moving on to another platform. In part, that meant getting as much real-time parking data as possible. ParkMe is available in 28,000 locations, 1,800 cities, and 32 countries around the globe. That comes after it has struck partnerships with Amco and Amano McGann, which are two of the largest parking providers around.
ParkMe has raised funding from Los Angeles-based private equity firm Angeleno Group, as well as IDG Ventures and Fontinalis Partners, the investment firm co-founded by Ford Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr.
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.”
Google Checkout is being sunsetted as the company focuses on shaping Google Wallet into a viable PayPal rival. Google Commerce announced today that Google Checkouts will be retired on November 20.
Google suggests that merchants who do not have their own payment processing transition to Braintree, Shopify or Freshbooks, which are offering discounted rates for Google Checkout users. U.S. merchants who do have their own payment processing can apply for Google Wallet Instant Buy. Developers selling through Google properties will automatically transition to the Google Wallet Merchant Center in the next few weeks.
News of Google Checkout’s demise comes a week after several major updates to Google Wallet, all designed to attack PayPal’s dominance from different angles by leveraging several of Google’s properties.
These include storing payment credentials in Chrome to make it easier for consumers to checkout and reduce shopping cart abandonment; making Google Wallet available in the desktop version of Gmail; the Instant Buy API, which is designed to streamline transactions for merchants selling physical goods and services; and the Wallet Objects API for merchants offering loyalty programs.
Founders Fund, the firm founded by Peter Thiel and other PayPal executives, famously declared that it wants to back companies with big, ambitious visions (not just dinky web startups). And that description certainly fits Hampton Creek Foods, a startup that wants to move the world from animal-based foods by creating alternatives that are genuinely tastier, healthier, and cheaper.
Founder and CEO Josh Tetrick told me that he just closed a $1 million round from the firm. It’s Founders Fund’s first food tech investment, he said — which seems to be true, judging from the portfolio companies listed on the firm’s website. Hampton Creek previously raised $2 million from Khosla Ventures.
The startup recently launched its first product, Beyond Eggs, a plant-based egg replacer for baked goods and other food products. I actually took a tour of the Hampton Creek, where I saw the labs for testing different plant-based proteins, the kitchen where the company’s cooks stress test the products, and yes, tasted some mayonnaise and cookies created with Beyond Eggs (you can see a video of the tour below). The broader vision is to launch other plant-based alternatives.
Does my music do better on Facebook or Twitter? Where should my next tour be? Is my new song too repetitive? Musicians can get free answers to these questions and more from BeatDeck, a Y Combinator analytics company launching today. BeatDeck plans to license this data to labels and music stores to help them sign and recommend tomorrow’s superstars. Yep, BeatDeck is an enterprise music startup.
Everyone (who isn’t a cold-hearted robot) loves music. That’s led lots of entrepreneurs to start companies aiming to help listeners discover new artists and songs. But the fact is that selling music is a tough business. Selling what music to listen on someone else’s service is even tougher. BeatDeck is different. It does nothing for the listener. Zero consumer products. Instead, it focuses solely on the music industry — the artists, the labels signing them, and the stores selling them.
The first part of the equation launches today on BeatDeck.com. Artists sign up and connect their social media accounts like Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Last.fm. This lets them track their performance and compare it across channels, as well as see their fans’ age, gender, and location demographics. Artists also get fan influence and sentiment breakdowns thanks to reputation measurement and natural language processing.
For even deeper analytics about their music, artists can share their songs to social networks through BeatDeck’s publishing system. This gives them a heatmap of which parts of their songs users are skiping to, pausing at, or rewinding to so they can listen again. Conversion metrics indicate which channels best turn listeners into fans, and where they’re getting reshared. It’s valuable data mosts indie rockers don’t have the skills or time to track by hand. It could tell them where to book their next tour date, which part of their song to pitch for commercials, and which social networks they should focus on.
That’s phase one. Soon, BeatDeck will start selling enterprise licenses for its data to record labels and A&R departments (the people who decide which artists a label or management agency should sign). BeatDeck will let them monitor their artists and find new ones to catapult into fame. “We’re already in talks and worked out a couple of deals for enterprise solutions” says BeatDeck co-founder Josh Mangel. He explains that with just six big customers, which would have to include most of the big record labels, BeatDeck can be a sustainable business.
“Sustainable business” isn’t what being a startup is all about, though. BeatDeck will need additional revenue streams to truly succeed. Luckily, I was able to squeeze out of Mangel that the company is working on making its data useful to online music stores. One day it could have iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon paying it to tell them whose music to recommend to you. BeatDeck could tell them that people who try to listen to screechy industrial dubstep hero Skrillex, but pause 20-seconds in, should be recommended a lesser known artist like Robert Delong who is somewhat similar but easier to listen to.
There are plenty of music stores out there that could benefit from these kind of insights. BeatDeck will be battling it out with fellow music analytics services Next Big Sound and Musicmetric. However, they charge artists to monitor their music, and most musicians can’t afford to pay. BeatDeck’s free analytics for artists could win it lots of sign-ups who will fill it with data it can sell. It’s going to be a long, hard road convincing independent musicians that they need analytics, and bundling their data into something lots of companies want to buy.
In the end, the hope is that BeatDeck can help fledgling artists grow and get noticed by the bigwigs. Mangel concludes, “Right now the business isn’t really fair. Artists are not getting big because they’re talented, but because they’re backed by a lot of money. We want to make the music industry a meritocracy.”
Automated Insights, a startup that translates raw data into plain English, is launching a new product that could make analytics data a lot more accessible.
The new product, called Site Ai, pulls data from existing systems (it started with Google Analytics and Clicky, and the company is currently taking votes on which service to integrate next), then it summarizes that data in normal sentences. For example, it can create a daily or weekly report that will tell you how current traffic compares to past patterns, what referring sites are driving the most searches, what keywords are driving the most searches, and so on. (You can see a sample report near the end of this post.)
Is it really all that difficult to get that information from Google Analytics? I don’t think so, but there’s still value in going that final step and distilling the data into bullet points that everyone can understand. (At TechCrunch, for example, all the writers have access to our analytics, but we still send out a weekly email summarizing the major trends, and I had to create a similar team email when I wrote for VentureBeat.) Automated Insights founder and CEO Robbie Allen wrote a blog post in January criticizing the dashboard-based approach to analyzing data:
The problem with dashboards is that they don’t directly provide insights or deliver knowledge about the data. Even worse, most visualizations require the user go through the mental exercise of interpreting the results. Unless the user knows something about the way a visualization is constructed, (e.g., X-axis, Y-axis, units, scale, etc.), the results can be difficult to understand. For a segment of your audience (arguably a small segment), requiring this level of analysis and interpretation is probably ok. However, this also means many users will be excluded from being able to get anything meaningful from the data (I refer to this group as data novices.)
Put another way: With a Site Ai summary, you shouldn’t have to do too much thinking.
As the company name implies, all of the summaries are automatically generated by Automated Insights’ technology, not people. Allen told me that’s a big challenge: “Turning data into text is difficult because it requires marrying two skills that traditionally don’t play well with each other: programming and writing.” The reason Allen said he can do it is because he has a background in both technology (he worked at Cisco and has degrees from MIT in computer science), but also in writing (he’s the author of a number of books published by O’Reilly).
The company is doing something unusual with the pricing too. It’s offering free sign-up for 60 days, but after that, the price will depend on how many people sign up. If there are more than 10,000 registered users at the end of the trial period, the price will only be $4 per user. So people who like the product have more incentive to tell their friends — Allen called it “viral pricing.”
Beyond its new product, Automated Insights says it will produce 300 million personalized stories in this year for customers like Yahoo, Microsoft, and the Cleveland Indians. The company, formerly known as StatSheet, has raised $5.3 million in funding.
The bookend to Yahoo’s Big News Day — a major refresh of its photo sharing site Flickr — will see the company drop its Flickr Pro pricing tiers as part of a bid to compete better with Facebook/Instagram and the rest of the crowded market in the online photo space. But it is not getting rid of paid tiers altogether: it’s keeping an ad-free tier, called Ad Free, as well as a tier for power users, doublr, respectively priced at $49.99 and $499.99 for a year of use.
The Ad Free service, at $49.99, will do away with the advertising the runs along the right side of the current photo feed — and if today’s discussion of what Yahoo intends to do with ads on Tumblr is any indication, ads that may be appearing soon within your photo streams.
The doublr service (again with those dropped vowels… this had to have played some small role in warming the company to buying Tumblr), priced at $499.99, gives users 1 terabyte of extra space, on top of the 1 terabyte that they will already get free as part of a Yahoo account.
The Pro tiers — priced at $6.95 for three months, $24.95 for 12 months and $44.95 for two years — included unlimited uploads and storage, as well as no ads, and a particularly mean-spirited allowance: those who did upload pictures could download more than just a smaller version of them. (Meaning: those who didn’t pay up wouldn’t get the full copies until they did. Their originals have always been stored by Flickr.)
From what we understand from a person close to Flickr, dropping Pro isn’t going to make much difference to the company because Pro never did very well.
“It has always been a relatively small percentage of the overall user base,” our contact says, adding that while now-distant past CEO Terry Semel had made a big push on premium services, after his departure (and actually during his time) there was “virtually no investment made” in trying to develop or push the Pro tier.
Nevertheless, there are now currently Pro users wondering how exactly Yahoo will be compensating them for the rest of their annual subscriptions. Yahoo notes that as part of the changes it will be removing “pro” badges beside people’s names and people can no longer gift pro subscriptions. Strangely, in a bit of an AOL subscription move, Yahoo says it will continue to offer renewable subscriptions to pro to “Recurring Pro users.”
The Pro tier did have another role to play. Today, CEO Marissa Mayer recounted how the small-image download was what prompted her to rethink Flickr altogether. “When we looked across our services we asked, why are we doing that? That started a thought experiment,” she said. The decision was that Flickr no longer wanted to offer “degraded” images. “We keep your images and you have high resolution images everywhere which is a huge differentiator.”
But in the age of Dropbox, BitTorrent, Mega and more, there are so many places to store pictures online today: will anyone really want to pay such a premium price for that place to be Flickr and Yahoo? In any case, as one person has pointed out already, why users wouldn’t just register for two accounts rather than pay for the extra space?
In the meantime, Flickr users are taking a page from the Tumblr book of user reviews, and laying out their vitriol about the changes over here.
It’s easy to forget that Yahoo has had a long on-again-off-again love affair with online video. Remember Broadcast.com, which kicked off the Mark Cuban Era? But you might not remember that, because other online video platforms long ago left Yahoo in the proverbial dust. Today, as Yahoo streamed its Flickr product and Tumblr acquisition announcements, we were given a demonstration of why Yahoo has been left in the dust — and why it’s had to turn to acquisitions for help in, well, nearly every department.
The company held a media event in New York City this afternoon to formally announce the acquisition — along with sharing the news that it will be moving into new digs in Times Square — but something was stealing the spotlight from Mayor Bloomberg and Marissa Mayer. And that would be Yahoo’s questionable video tech. Those who watched the event from home spent most of that time enjoying a hiccupy stream. Or none at all.
You can see the error message above. The video-streaming technology is Yahoo’s own, running through Yahoo! Screen, first launched back in 2006, renamed Screen from Yahoo Video. With all the acquisitions Yahoo has been making of late, it makes one think that, for its next acquisition, Yahoo should go for some new video technology. Of course, after Tumblr, it may be broke.
But, come on, Yahoo has somehow become the Rudy story of the tech industry. At the very least, someone should launch a Kickstarter page so that it can continue to make acquisitions.
Yahoo’s Flickr photo-sharing service is now offering one full terabyte for users, enough storage space to hold whole swathes of the world’s photos. The service is offering this benefit in addition to its full resolution photo storage service.
While the average user will probably not touch the outer limits of this storage space in a lifetime, this alone is probably enough to draw dedicated photographers to the service and, more important, bring lapsed users back to the Yahoo fold.
This move is important. Given the odd nature of most photo sharing services, you are either limited to a few dozen gigabytes or, in the case of Instagram and other mobile services, an unstated upper limit that is not part of the marketing collateral. While I don’t doubt that Google or Facebook could make the terabyte claim in the near future, being first to market with this particular feature is an important milestone.
This move is quite clearly a play by Yahoo to make its wares relevant. The long-beleaguered Flickr has at once enthralled and frustrated pro users with claims of abandonment by the web giant.
As Marissa Mayer noted in her presentation, this is about “bringing lifetimes of beauty into Flickr.” It’s also about convincing casual photographers to trust Flickr as a universal shoebox for their old snaps – a lucrative and surprisingly important thing to be.
Smack-dab in the middle of Yahoo-Tumblr aqcuisition day, Yahoo is holding a major press event here in NYC. But announcements coming out of this event aren’t related to Tumblr as much as Flickr, the photo-sharing database and social network acquired by Yahoo in March of 2005 for $35 million.
Today, Flickr gets a huge revamp including a totally new look and feel, focused on three different things. First, there are no more bits of text or blue links, but rather a grid layout of huge pictures in full resolution.
Second, stemming from the updated iOS app recently, which yielded 25 percent more uploads, the company is also announcing a brand new Android experience, catching the Google version of the Flickr app up to the iOS version.
Finally, Flickr looks to get even “biggr.” The company is expanding storage for your photos, by quite a bit. Flickr is offering 1 terabyte of free storage for every Flickr user. Yahoo made it clear that no other Internet company in the world offers a free terabyte of storage. That’s the equivalent of 537,731 photos.
In terms of the UI redesign, the new photostream has a justified format grid layout, complete with a header photo and a Timeline-style profile for users. On the top left, next to the photostream button, you can also click into Favorites and Sets.
But what are photos without sharing? Users have an easy share button to send photos out on any of their favorite social networks, including Tumblr.
Most importantly, Flickr has fiddled with the picture page to give a black background and a fullscreen image for every single photo page. The site has been revamped to give easy-click access to the next photo in the set or photostream, even in full-screen mode.
Adam Cahan, SVP of Mobile and Emerging products at Yahoo, announced that Flickr currently has 89 million users who have shared over 8 billion photos. That’s a lot of pictures.
Mayer explained that most of the changes happening at Yahoo concerns users’ daily habits, which explains why the company has put so much focus on the Yahoo Home Page, Yahoo mail, and the Yahoo weather app. In a number of ways, these products are energized and enhanced by photos.
Yahoo’s, and particularly Marissa Mayer’s, tweaks to its overall service and the Flickr experience has helped build out both platforms, but there are still questions over Flickr’s ability to generate revenue and, perhaps more importantly, compete with photo-sharing behemoth Instagram.
It’s worth noting the timing here: Yahoo just bought out one of the biggest and most popular blogging platforms around, and Flickr is a huge resource for blogs in general. But how will Yahoo integrate the two to build out use of both and make both experiences more seamless?
“We have a nice set of the creator brands,” said Mayer. “Photographers and writers. With that, there is natural set of opportunities that arise between Flickr and Tumblr and we’ll deal with that as it comes.”
Alongside Flickr’s product announcement news, Mayer revealed that the company would be setting up shop at a new NY office in Times Square, in the New York Times building, which will hold all 500 employees based in NY, along with room for expansion to 200 more employees.
Dell has decided not to build out its public cloud and will instead rely on partners such as Joyent to provide infrastructure services. A source close to the matter said layoff notices at the company went out on Friday. The group had more than 300 people in it. It is not known who was laid off or offered other jobs in the company. A spokesperson said Dell would not comment about personnel issues.
In a press release today, Dell said its current public cloud service would be discontinued in favor of offerings from other partners. The original intent had been to use OpenStack, the open cloud infrastructure, to build out a public cloud that would compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS), HP and Google. A spokesperson said Dell will work with OpenStack partners to help customers develop the right solution. Joyent is not an OpenStack company but fits with Dell’s partner focus.
The internal forces at Dell and the pressures of the company going private have caused company executives to rethink the public cloud route. Dell will still develop a private cloud story based on its own technology, which makes sense for the company as it is focusing more deeply on enterprise solutions. It’s in this that the Enstratius acquisition has value. The startup provides cloud-management capabilities that Dell can also use when working with customers that want to use a public cloud service. Dell customers can leverage their own data center investments in some form of infrastructure that allows a degree of scaling beyond what they can do now with what they have.
The news follows several weeks of shifts in the market. After dropping its own public cloud pricing, Rackspace’s earnings came in lower than expected. The stock then dropped about 25 percent. Last week, Google made its own public cloud generally available. And then there is AWS, the big giant, which companies like Dell cannot currently compete with effectively due to the expense and resources required. It’s the kind of project only the larger vendors can afford.
The name of this game is scale and having plenty of resources to build out a cloud infrastructure. It’s a market that seems difficult for Dell to compete in considering its own financial issues.
Today has been quite a roller coaster ride for Yahoo — the company put days of reports and rumors to rest this morning when it confirmed that it would acquire the social blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion, and now CEO Marissa Mayer has confirmed that Yahoo’s New York employees will now be moving.
They’ll all soon be working right around the corner from Times Square in the same building that used to house the New York Times (229 West 43rd Street, to be more specific).
The move is meant to unite the nearly 500 Yahoo employees that are currently split among three existing locations in New York City, though Mayer made it very clear that the newly acquired Tumblr team wouldn’t be folks roped into working out of the central office — David Karp and the rest of the team will continue to work out of their 10th floor office near Gramercy Park. This whole thing is reminiscent of Mayer’s edict that saw the end of remote working for long-time Yahooligans. In a memo issued by Yahoo human resources head Jackie Reses back earlier this year, it was revealed the brass though that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
While that’s unlikely to be the case here, Mayer has shown herself to be a vocal proponent of the sort of work that can be done by bringing employees together, and it seems the Yahoo New York team is only slated to grow from there. Just before New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the podium to deliver a few remarks, Mayer noted that the space the team will soon move into can hold an additional 200 or so people, and a post on the official Yahoo Tumblr account (that was fast) indicated that the company wants to pump up its New York staff “by up to 60 percent.”
Of course, this isn’t the only news that Mayer and company have in store for us this evening — some prominent Flickr signage means that there’s some product news in the pipeline as well.
The tech-dominated San Francisco Bay Area isn’t exactly known as a hub for high fashion — Facebook’s new James Perse staff hoodies are about as fancy as things get around here — and fashion shows aren’t typically in our purview here at TechCrunch TV. So when we were invited to attend the Geek 2 Chic fashion show, an event hosted by Microsoft benefiting the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE, which is pronounced “nifty”) which mentors at-risk youth and teaches them business basics and encourages technology careers, we had to check it out.
These models weren’t the types you’d see at fashion shows in New York or Milan: Geek 2 Chic took 26 “geeks” from the local tech community and gave them full makeovers to take to the catwalk in front of a live audience. It was a fun opportunity to watch people get a little out of their element and have some fun, and of course it was all for a good cause. Check it all out in the video above.
This week on TechCrunch TV’s Ask A VC show, we have Mayfield Fund Managing Director Navin Chaddha in the studio. As you may remember, you can submit questions for our guests either in the comments or here and we’ll ask them during the show.
Chaddha is a serial entrepreneur turned VC, and founded vXTtreme while at Stanford, which was then acquired by Microsoft to become Windows Media. At Mayfield, Chaddha focused on consumer, enterprise and energy tech investments and has helped lead the firm’s investments in Appcelerator, Bharat Matrimony (India), Brighter, CloudVelocity, Fab, Gigya, MapR Technologies, Poshmark, ShineOn (China), SwiftStack, Tejas Networks and WideOrbit.
We’re interested to hear Chaddha’s view on what opportunities are available for building companies in the post-PC and post-server era. Considering his investments in both cloud and mobile startups, he’ll be able to share his perspective on which technologies will be disruptive.
Later this week at the AngelPad demo day, another drone-centric company will make its debut: DroneDeploy. Unlike the rest of the lot, DroneDeploy doesn’t want to build drones, or even the parts that go inside. They want to make the software that companies use to control their drones.
Now, remember: we’re talking about commercial drones, here, not military drones. The drones that the Valley has a budding interest in are the type that might, say, scan our gas infrastructure for leaks, deliver your lunch, or search for stranded skiers in the Alps — not the kind that shoot you from 1,000 feet above. DroneDeploy, for example, is already working with teams scanning for pirates off the coast of Sierra Leone, and delivering medical supplies in West Africa. As we’ve discussed in-depth before, drones are not inherently evil.
DroneDeploy is a web-based drone control and management platform. (Let that last sentence serve as a friendly reminder that we live in the friggin’ future.) Their goal is to be compatible with as many different popular drones as possible, providing their owners with things like:
Browser-based drone control
Fleet management/tracking, with electronic filing of the required paperwork
Automatic flight regulation assistance. Not allowed to fly drones after midnight in a certain region? DroneDeploy will remind you.
Automated log analysis that will help identify things like a motor that’s about to fail.
Expandability, by way of an App Store of sorts. Want all of those pictures your drone can take to be stitched together into one big panoramic map view? They’ve got an app for that.
The way DroneDeploy sees it, there will be two big sectors in the commercial drone world: those who make the drones and those who make the software that manages said drones. By launching into beta now — about two years before the U.S. government is requiring the FAA to open up U.S. airspace to commercial drones — they’re looking to conquer that second sector right off the bat. The commercial drone market is already valued in the billions, and that’s before it’s really even gotten started.
Generally when I write about a company rolling out their beta signups, I do so with the expectation that we’ll flood their signup page with more users than they know what to do with. Given that most TechCrunch readers probably don’t have a legion of drones waiting at their behest, though, I assume that won’t be the case here.
If you do have a drone or 10 that need managing, however, you can sign up for DroneDeploy‘s beta here.
Square’s not just for businesses apparently, as an invite-only page for a product called “Square Cash” has popped up. Not many details are known about it, but we’ve reached out to the company for comment.
UPDATE: A Square representative sent us the following statement on Square Cash: “We’re excited to share Square Cash with our friends. We’ll continue to invite others to try it out in the coming weeks.”
There’s only the promise of email sending at this point, but you can imagine that this could become a permanent part of Square’s native apps at some point.
This approach is similar to other personal payment solutions, like Venmo and PayPal. Google wants you to send payments to people via Gmail and Wallet. Even Visa got into the act at one point. You can view the page right now, and that’s it. Sending money to friends is a social experience that really hasn’t been cracked yet, and it makes complete sense that a service like Square step up to take the crown. The space is officially hot again.
The page promises that you can send money directly to someone’s debit card, even if they’re not signed up for Square. They’ll be given a link to attach a debit card with their first received payment, which serves as a fantastic way to onboard new Square users:
The invites are being controlled by the company, not even allowing you to enter your email address. There’s also a help page set up for the “Cash” product already, sharing that it will cost the sender $0.50 per transaction and will be free for recipients. You’ll both get receipts for each transaction. The company says on the page: “Square Cash is the easiest way to send money to anyone, using just email and your debit card.”