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THE NEWS WRAP: Re/code acquired by Vox Media

5:52PM | Tuesday, 26 May

Vox Media has acquired technology news website Re/code for an undisclosed amount.   Re/code’s founders Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher said in a statement the site would benefit from Vox Media’s marketing, communications and sales teams.   “We want to assure you that this combination is designed to bolster and enrich Re/code, and that we will continue to publish under the same name and leadership, with editorial independence,” they said.   “We will also continue to hold our signature Code conferences, and even add new ones, again with the same core team and the same philosophy.”   Turkish online payments startup raises $8 million   Turkish payments platform Iyzico has raised more than $8 million in Series B funding in order to expand its research and development team, according to TechCrunch.   The round was led by the International Finance Corporation, with participation from VC 212, Endeavor Catalyst and Speedinvest.   The latest capital injection brings Iyzico’s total capital raising to more than $12 million to date.   Chief executive Barbaros Ozbugutu said in a statement the company’s goal was to become the Stripe of Turkey.   “It is particularly exciting to work with the IFC – a body with tremendous knowledge and experience in the financial tech sector worldwide,” he said.   “Having become the leading payment solution for online businesses and enterprises in Turkey, Iyzico is enthusiastic to take its technology global.”   Periscope launches on Android devices   Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope is launching on Android devices today, two months after launching on the App Store.   Unlike Apple users, people using Periscope on Android will be able to resume broadcasts where they left them in case they are interrupted by a phone call.   Periscope for Android will be available to people using Version 4.4 or higher of KitKat.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 190.48 points, falling 1.04% to 18,041.54. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.7 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Expedia sells out of Chinese travel service eLong for $US671 million

5:25PM | Monday, 25 May

Travel booking giant Expedia has sold its 62.4% stake in Chinese travel service eLong for $US671 million, GeekWire reports.   eLong is one of the leading online travel planning, hotel and flight booking site in China. Recently it’s started to face increased competition and rising costs.   One of those competitors, Ctrip, acquired 37.6% of eLong for approximately $US400 million. Instagram starts nudging users with email Instagram is following in the footsteps of Twitter and turned to email to re-engage its users.   The photo-sharing platform has started sending its own email called “Highlights” which features a few of the best posts from people you follow, TechCrunch reports.   Instagram has 300 million monthly users, a figure that includes even those who rarely use the platform. Silent Circle relocates to Switzerland Mobile encryption startup Silent Circle, founded by the inventor of PGP, the world’s most widely used email encryption system, has left the United States for Switzerland, The Guardian reports.   Silent Circle raised $US50 million in its second round of external funding. Its Silent Phone and Silent Text apps allow secret voice calls and text messages over Android and Apple handsets. It also has developed its own smartphone and has begun work on a tablet computer. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 53.72 to 18,232.02. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US78 cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

TripAdvisor acquire restaurant booking startup Dimmi: why it’s important to find “a bunch of guys that give a shit”

5:42AM | Wednesday, 20 May

After resisting months of inquiries from “large international players”, Australian restaurant booking startup Dimmi agreed to be acquired by TripAdvisor because they believed they found “a bunch of guys that give a shit” about the Dimmi brand.   It’s the latest in a number of acquisitions TripAdvisor has made in markets around the world to help strengthen its restaurant division. TripAdvisor generates over 200 million monthly page views from its restaurant traffic. One such startup was LaFourchette, an online restaurant reservation service that operates in France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy. Sources told TechCrunch that deal was worth $US100 million.   Dimmi, which began as some ideas scribbled on a napkin in a London restaurant, has grown to become a network of over 2500 bookable restaurants across Australia that has seated 12 million diners and published over 500,000 verified diner reviews. Co-founder and chief executive officer Stevan Premutico says Dimmi’s position as market leader in Australia had led to a number of approaches from “large international players” over the past 18 months.   “To be totally frank we just weren’t looking (to be acquired), we were growing quickly, having a lot of fun. I think the team and certainly myself were a bit nervous about an international player suffocating our growth. So we kept running hard and running as fast as we could,” he says.   “The international markets have hotted up in this space over the past six to 12 months. They kept approaching us. And about three months ago we entered formal discussions with TripAdvisor.”   Premutico says the deal was concluded pretty quickly over two 60 minute Skype chats with TripAdvisor co-founder and chief executive officer Stephen Kaufer.   “We weren’t looking to sell but we engaged with TripAdvisor, we liked the way they saw us being part of their story,” Premutico says.   “At the end of the day the most important thing for me as the founder of Dimmi was I wanted the Dimmi brand to live on. And be part of a family that is as passionate about restaurants as I am. We found a bunch of guys that give a shit.   “I think what they love about Dimmi is, one, we’re the clear market leader in Australia; two, very strong respective brands; and, three, we are growing revenues strongly, profitable and growing aggressively. The Dimmi website alone is growing 160% year-on-year.   “And I think more than anything else they fell in love with the team. I’ve always said I think I’ve got 30 of the most talented people in the country working at Dimmi.”   The team, including Premutico, will continue to work on the product, with TripAdvisor’s restaurant division.   “Australia is an important market for us. Combining Dimmi’s national restaurant network with TripAdvisor’s local and global community of travellers will allow us to deliver more seated diners to Australian restaurateurs, and help more TripAdvisor users book a great dining experience in Australia,” Kaufer says.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Lyft raises an additional $US150 million in funding

5:33PM | Sunday, 17 May

Ridesharing service Lyft has raised $US150 million ($A187 million) in funding from serial investor Carl Icahn.   The latest capital injection comes off the back of a $US530 million Series E round in March, bringing the amount of capital raised by the startup this year to more than $800 million.   Icahn said in a statement he was very happy to be investing in Lyft because he believed very strongly in its team.   “I believe that ridesharing is poised to become a fundamental component of our transportation infrastructure,” he said.   “The Company’s revenue growth to date has been extremely compelling, and increasing urbanization over the next five to 10 years should enable the company to maintain that trajectory. Additionally, I’ve been very impressed with Lyft’s founders and management team, and I believe they are well-suited to take advantage of this opportunity and to make Lyft an extremely successful company.”   Lyft is a competitor of popular ridesharing service Uber, with an Australian launch in the works according to a partner company. Apple acquires US mapping startup Coherant Navigation Apple has snapped up San Francisco-based GPS startup Coherant Navigation in a bid to improve the company’s mapping technology.   “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a spokesperson told The New York Times.   The acquisition is the latest in a string of mapping technology startups bought by the company in recent years. Payments startup Clinkle in hot water after employees quit in protest Mobile payments startup Clinkle is in trouble after seven employees walked out on the company due to ongoing frustrations with its 24-year-old chief executive, TechCrunch reports.   Clinkle shot into the spotlight in 2013 when it raised $25 million in seed funding from investors such as Peter Thiel and Accel Ventures without a publically available product.   The company’s founder and chief executive, Lucas Duplan, has previously fired a string of employees and has reportedly withheld information from employees regarding a potential buyout. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 20.32 points, rising 0.11% to 18,272.56. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 80.4 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Facebook unveils its content hosting platform

5:42PM | Wednesday, 13 May

Facebook has unveiled its native publishing initiative Instant Articles after speculation swirled for months about whether the social media giant would release a platform allowing users to bypass publishers’ websites.   At the moment the platform hosts stories from The New York Times, National Geographic and Buzzfeed.   The company’s product manager, Michael Reckhow, said in a statement the Instant Articles tool allows publishers to create “fast, interactive articles”.   “Web articles in the Facebook app take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook,” he said.   “Using the same technology that loads photos and videos quickly in our mobile app, Instant Articles load as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles, so you get to the stories you want to read instantly. Once there, new features like tilt-to-pan photos, auto-play video, embedded audio captions, and interactive maps let you explore the story in beautiful new ways.”   Uber snaps up Google’s communications chief   Google’s head of communications has been snapped up by Uber in a bid to improve the fast-growing startup’s public image following a number of public relations blunders.   Rachel Whetstone started at Google in 2005, and has been responsible for witty and humorous responses to criticism – including this blog post in response to critical coverage by the Murdoch press.   The communications chief will begin her new role in June, according to Re/code, with Uber rumoured to be looking to raise another $US1.5 billion which could lead to a $US50 billion valuation.   On-demand laundry service Cleanly raises $US2.3 million   On-demand laundry delivery service Cleanly has raised $US2.3 million in seed funding in order to kickstart its growth.   The round included investments from Ludlow Ventures, Initialised Capital, 500 Startups and Soma Capital, according to TechCrunch.   “We’re excited to announce our recent funding, and to continue delivering clean undies to the people,” the New York-based company said on its Facebook page.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Engadget sold to US telco for $5.5 billion

5:33AM | Wednesday, 13 May

AOL, the parent company of online publications including Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Engadget, is to be sold to US telco giant Verizon for $US4.4 billion ($A5.5 billion).   The deal will see AOL purchased for $US50 per share, funded through cash on hand and commercial paper. In a statement, Verizon cites creating a mobile-first online advertising platform connected to its IoT (Internet of Things) products as being the key motivation behind the deal.   Upon completion of the deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong will continue to oversee operations at the digital media and advertising company, which will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Verizon. Armstrong raised eyebrows in 2013 by firing an employee in front of 1000 colleagues.   The takeover is far from the first mega-deal involving AOL, which merged with Time Warner in January 2001 in a deal that saw AOL shareholders own 55% of the combined company. However, following declines in AOL’s dial-up internet business over the years that followed, the merger was unwound in May 2009.   Following the spin-off AOL, which originally launched in 1983 as a Commodore 64 BBS (bulletin board service), then transformed itself into an online media company by purchasing TechCrunch in 2010 and Huffington Post for $US315 million in 2011.   Meanwhile, in September 2013, Verizon purchased Vodafone’s stake in mobile phone joint venture Verizon Wireless for $US130 billion, with the mega deal the third-largest in history at the time it was announced.   This article was originally published at SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple could ship Apple Watches to customers sooner than expected

4:53PM | Wednesday, 22 April

Customers who have pre-ordered the Apple Watch can expect to see their new gadgets at their doorsteps sooner than expected.   Customers in the US who pre-ordered the device were originally told their orders would not ship until May or April. However, many have received an email notification saying their orders are “processing”.   “We’re happy to be updating many customers today with the news that their Apple Watch will arrive sooner than expected,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.   “Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on the available supply and the order in which they were received. We know many customers are still facing long lead times and we appreciate their patience.” Professional certification startup Simplilearn raises $US15 million Professional certification startup Simplilearn has raised $US15 million in Series C funding, according to TechCrunch.   The startup specialises in online self-learning and corporate training, with analytics, project management, marketing and programming courses proving the most popular among consumers.   To date the startup has raised $US27 million and plans to have one million users by the end of 2015. Facebook launches new app to identify unknown callers Facebook has launched a new Android app to identify mystery callers, Re/code reports.   Called Hello, the app taps into information publically available on Facebook to identify who’s calling you – even if you aren’t friends with the person calling on Facebook.   The application only works if the person calling you has shared their number publicly on the social media platform. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 88.64 points, rising 0.49% to 18,038.27. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77 US cents.   Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Five tips to help entrepreneurs find a great co-founder

4:09AM | Tuesday, 21 April

General wisdom among tech entrepreneurs is that the ideal number of co-founders is two or three.   There is a good reason for it – an analysis of a dataset of 100,000 startups by Startup Genome shows that solo founders take 3.6x longer to reach the scale stage, compared to a founding team of two.   However, taking a co-founder on board brings its own risks. Here’s a short guide to picking the right person. 1. Find someone with a complementary skillset According to serial tech entrepreneur and Stanford lecturer, Steve Blank, startups are inherently chaotic, and finding a product/market fit in that chaos requires a team with a combination of skills.   The skills you need depend on the industry you’re in but, in general, co-founders should have complementary skills. In mobile and web startups, that usually means great technology skills, great business and marketing skills, great UX design and product skills. Most people are good at one or two of these, but it’s very rare to find someone competent in all areas. 2. Find someone who shares your vision and values Co-founder disputes are very common and are a frequent cause of startup failure. A lot of these disputes stem from founders having different ideas about how to run the company and where it should go. One thing is to put your vision and priorities on paper; another is to live it day by day, especially when your original idea proves wrong and you need to change direction.   Likewise, the values you live by will plant a seed for what becomes a company culture. The reality is that co-founders will have different values but, together as team, you have to define a common value system. Having done so will likely play an important role in taking your startup forward. 3. Find someone with grit Once you have an idea, you need to be able to pursue it, even in the face of adversity, if you want your startup to succeed. Frankly, entrepreneurship is extremely challenging, and to persist through those challenges, you need grit.   Professor Carol Dweck, of the Stanford Department of Psychology, has done extensive research on the subject of grit, which she defines as ”the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance, stamina and ability to win things over the long-term and work very hard at it”.   According to her research, the key to grit is having the right mindset. Dweck observed two different mindsets among people:   Fixed mindset: A belief that you either are talented or not. Failure is proof of your inability. Intelligence and talent are just fixed traits. Growth mindset: A belief that abilities are developed. Setbacks and criticism are a sign that you need to improve. You learn and grow yourself and think long-term. People with a growth mindset are more resilient to challenges related to their abilities and performance than those with a fixed mindset. 4. Find someone who stands out Founder personalities are important and often popularised. Many companies end up looking like founder cults – Steve Jobs is a great example. Peter Thiel, investor and founder of two billion-dollar companies (PayPal, Palantir), believes there is a connection between being a founder and having extreme traits. According to him, the key to PayPal’s success was the eccentricity of all founders:   “Four of them were born outside of the United States. Five of them were 23 or younger. Four of them built bombs when they were in high school. Two of these bomb-makers did so in communist countries: Max in the Soviet Union, Yu Pan in China. This was not what people normally did in those countries at that time.”   According to his observations, if all traits distributed in the population were aggregated on a normal distribution chart with extreme traits on the right and left side of it, you will find most founders on both ends of the curve, rarely in the middle of it.   True or not, entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or Larry Ellison certainly add a little substance to this. 5. Find someone with whom you have a history of working together In the case of startup ‘unicorns’: 90% co-founding teams of $1 billion+ startups comprise people who have years of history together, either from school or work; 60% have co-founders who worked together; and 46% who went to school together. Further findings reveal that teams that worked together have driven more value per company than those who went to school together.   Only four teams of co-founders didn’t have common work or school experience, but all had a common thread. Two were known and introduced by the investors at founding/funding; one team were friends in the local tech scene; and one team met while working on similar ideas.   The take-away? The most successful co-founder teams are the ones where the people have known each other in other contexts, prior to the company at hand.   Sources: TechCrunch, Peter Thiel’s CS183: Startup – Class 18 Notes, Stanford University.   This piece originally appeared on Appster’s blog.

THE NEWS WRAP: Dutch prosecutors launch criminal investigation into Uber

4:26PM | Sunday, 19 April

Dutch authorities have launched a criminal investigation into Uber because the company is providing an illegal taxi service that violates a court order, according to Reuters.   The investigation is the latest setback for the ridesharing service in Europe. Last month a German court issued a nationwide ban on unlicensed taxi drivers with fines of up to $300,000 for violating the law.   The move saw Uber bowing to pressure and agreeing to pay for transport licences for its UberX drivers.   To date Dutch police have fined 23 Uber drivers more than $2000 for operating without a licence. In Australia, unregistered taxi drivers can attract fines of up to $7500. French senate supports law requiring Google to reveal its algorithm The French senate has supported a law that would require search engines to reveal their algorithms in order to ensure fair and non-discriminatory search results, according to TechCrunch.   The chamber’s amendments to a draft economy bill could also see search engines forced to include a minimum of three rivals on the first page of search results. Google, which owns an overwhelming chunk of the search engine market, has always kept its search algorithm top secret.   The draft legislation comes at a time when Google is coming under tough scrutiny in Europe for allegedly abusing its dominance of the internet to the detriment of competitors.   The French upper house will vote on the legislation and its amendments next month before it has the opportunity to be passed into law. WhatsApp reaches 800 million users worldwide Messaging platform WhatsApp has reached 800 million monthly users.   The company’s current rate of growth puts it on track to reach one billion users by the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The messaging app has grown by 100 million active monthly users every four months since August 2014.   Facebook purchased WhatsApp last year for just over $28 billion. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 279.47 points, falling 1.54% to 17,826.30. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter urging celebrities to stop using Meerkat

4:36PM | Sunday, 12 April

Twitter is urging celebrities to stop using rival live-streaming app Meerkat in favour of their recent acquisition Periscope, according to TechCrunch.   Periscope launched in March as Twitter’s answer to Meerkat, after acquiring the startup in January last year.   At the time of the launch, Periscope said it wanted to “build the closest thing to teleportation”.   “While there are many ways to discover events and places, we realized there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video,” the company said. Hillary Clinton confirms she is entering the 2016 US presidential race Hillary Clinton has confirmed she is running for US president, announcing the presidential bid over Twitter after an email explaining the campaign to supporters was leaked online.   The former US secretary of state is tipped to run a tech-heavy campaign after she snapped up a former Google executive last week to be her chief technology officer.   Stephanie Hannon – Google’s former director of product management, civic innovation and social impact – will now oversee a team of software engineers who will manage websites and apps for Clinton’s campaign. Winter comes early for Game of Thrones fans The first four episodes of Game of Thrones season five have been leaked online, with thousands of people downloading the files from popular torrent sites within hours of the leaks appearing online.   The leaked episodes appear to have originated from review or translation copies, according to Fairfax.   Game of Thrones is the most-pirated television series in the world, with Australians among the top offenders. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 98.92 points, rising 0.55% % to 18,057.65. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.7 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Buy tickets to the 2015 StartupSmart Awards.

THE NEWS WRAP: Hilary Clinton hires Google executive to oversee technology behind presidential bid

4:28PM | Wednesday, 8 April

Former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton, who is tipped to announce her presidential candidacy in coming weeks, has snapped up a Google executive to be her chief technology officer.   Clinton has hired Stephanie Hannon – Google’s director of product management, civic innovation and social impact – in order to develop new ways to engage voters through technology, according to The Washington Post.   Hannon will oversee a team of software engineers and developers who will build websites and apps for the campaign.   The move comes after a string of technology hires in US politics. Last month the Obama administration brought on Silicon Valley veteran Jason Goldman as the White House’s first chief digital officer. YouTube confirms plans to launch an ad-free subscription service YouTube has today confirmed it will be launching an ad-free subscription service for users in exchange for a monthly fee, according to TechCrunch.   In an email to YouTube partners, the company said it would be creating “a new paid offering” following the success of its Music Key service and YouTube Kids app.   “We’re excited to build on this momentum by taking another big step in favour of choice: offering fans an ads-free version of YouTube for a monthly fee,” the email reads.   “By creating a new paid offering, we’ll generate a new source of revenue that will supplement your fast-growing advertising revenue.” Twitter drops discover stream in favour of trends Twitter is dropping its “Discover” stream in favour of a “Trend” section in order to give users a better understanding of what people are talking about on the social media platform.   The new stream will have brief descriptions of trending hashtags, along with other details such as how many tweets have been sent about a particular topic.   The updates are being rolled out on Twitter for iOS and Android. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 5.43 points, falling 0.03% to 17,875.42. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.4 US cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: GoDaddy raises $US460 million in IPO

4:34PM | Wednesday, 1 April

Domain registration and website hosting company GoDaddy raised $US460 million ($A605m) today as it listed on the New York Stock Exchange.   The company’s stock is currently 30% above the opening price of $US26.15 – resulting in a market cap of $US6.3 billion, according to TechCrunch.   GoDaddy is planning to issue 23 million shares at $US20 each. The company has more than 12 million customers worldwide. America introduces new sanctions on overseas hackers President Barack Obama has signed an executive order launching new sanctions on perpetrators of cyber-attacks outside of the US, labelling cybercrime a “national emergency”.   The sanctions will allow the US government to freeze the assets of individuals or groups launching cyber-attacks on organisations or businesses on American soil, according to Fairfax.   The new measures follow the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment late last year.   Cybercrime is estimated to cost the global economy more than $US400 billion a year. Twitter is bringing promoted tweets to user profiles Twitter is bringing advertisements to user profiles as a way to boost revenue.   “We’re experimenting with this feature, as we do with all our ad features, in order to create great experiences for our users, advertisers and partners,” a spokesperson told Re/Code.   Promoted tweets currently appear in a user’s timeline. Startups and small businesses in Australia have been able to use Twitter’s advertising service since October 2014. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 77.94 points, falling 0.44% to 17,698.18. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Sprinklr now valued at more than $1 billion

3:39PM | Tuesday, 31 March

A US startup that specialises in helping major brands handle their social media presence has closed a $US46 million ($A60m) funding round.   Sprinklr’s latest raise means the company is now valued at more than $US1 billion. The round was led by existing investors Batter Ventures, Intel Capital and Iconiq Capital.   Founder and chief executive Ragy Thomas said in a statement Sprinklr is helping large brands “deliver enhanced customer experiences” across social media channels.   “Global businesses are expanding from channel-centric and function-centric thinking in response to the increasingly connected customer,” he said.   “Neither point solutions nor disconnected cloud services will allow them to consistently deliver valuable customer experiences at every social touch point.”   To date the startup has raised $US123.5 million. Twitter launches curation tool for publishers Twitter has launched a new platform to allow publishers to search, filter and curate Twitter content.   Curator is free and aimed at news organisations, broadcasters, production companies and local governments.   “Curator enables publishers to create complex keyword and hashtag queries to easily uncover streams of high quality Tweets,” Twitter said in a statement.   “Queries can be further refined by follower counts, location, languages and more to create collections of the most relevant Tweets pertaining to that topic. Together with our partners, our goal is to make it easy and seamless for publishers to incorporate powerful conversations, interactivity and engagement into their programming.” Etsy shares to sell from around $US14 a share at IPO Online marketplace Etsy is planning to jump onto the NASDAQ with its IPO price expected to be between $US14 ($A18) and $US16 ($A21) a share, according to TechCrunch.   The company, which was launched in 2005 and specialises in selling handmade and vintage products and shipping them around the world, hopes to raise $US100 million from the float.   The startup will begin a roadshow to woo potential stock buyers tomorrow. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 200.19 points, falling 1.11% to 17,776.12. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple chief slams workplace discrimination

3:37PM | Monday, 30 March

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has slammed so-called “religious freedom” laws in the US that allow employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of personal beliefs.   In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Cook said that America’s business community recognised a long time ago that discrimination in all its forms is not just morally wrong but bad for business.   “Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open,” he says.   “Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.” Phhhoto now has more than 1 million users Camera app Phhhoto has broken the 1 million user mark.   The startup launched an app last year that allows users to record GIFs and upload them to a public feed.   Co-founder Omar Elsayed told TechCrunch the next stage for the app is to improve the user experience.   “The product has gotten to a point where the Phhhoto media type is something that our users are enthusiastic about, so now it’s about how we can loop that into new ways of communicating, and perhaps even new content types,” he says.   To date the startup has raised $US225,000 ($A294m) in seed funding. Drifty announces $US2.6 million capital injection Software startup Drifty has raised $2.6 million in order to fund its product development, TechCrunch reports.   The round was led by Chicago-based firm Lightbank with participation from Founder Collective and previous investor Arthur Ventures.   Drifty is a graduate of the TechStars Cloud 2013 incubator. Last year the startup raised $1 million in seed funding. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 263.65 points, rising 1.49% to 17,976.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber bows down to regulators in Germany

3:28PM | Sunday, 29 March

Taxi-hailing service Uber has bowed down to regulators in Germany and will instead pay for the transport licences of its UberX drivers, according to Reuters.   The move follows a decision by a German court earlier this month to issue a nationwide ban on unlicensed UberX drivers.   Drivers operating in Germany without proper accreditation can face fines of more than $300,000 per violation of the law. The country is Europe’s largest economy. Pebble Time wraps up record-breaking $US20 million Kickstarter campaign Pebble Time, the smartwatch with up to seven days of battery life, has wrapped up its record-breaking crowdfunding campaign overnight – scooping up $US20,338,986 in funding from more than 78,000 backers.   The campaign is the most-funded Kickstarter project of all time.   Pebble Technology’s founders said in a joint statement on their Kickstarter page that the past month had been an “amazing” experience.   “We will be spending the coming months hard at work polishing every last detail of Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, finishing Pebble timeline, and ramping up the production process,” they said.   “Expect updates as we progress.” Mobile payments platform raises $US5 million Mobile payments startup MyCheck has raised $5 million in Series B funding in order to spearhead its growth into Europe and America.   The round was led by existing investors as well as the Spanish venture capital fund Santander Innoventures.   The chief executive of MyCheck, Shlomit Kugler, told TechCrunch the investment will help with marketing as well as hiring business development professionals in key growth markets.   “Merchants today are struggling to succeed and are looking for higher tickets, more traffic, cut expenses, and more effectively market themselves,” he said.   “Customers are looking for an ‘Uber-like experience’ – to use their smartphone to receive great offers, be able to pay and leave at will whilst leaving their wallet at home.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 34.43 points, rising 0.19% to 17,712.66. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.4 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Amazon to re-launch its on-demand services marketplace next week

3:41PM | Wednesday, 25 March

Amazon will launch its new on-demand services marketplace on Monday in order to compete with US-based crowdsourcing startups such as Angie’s List.   TechCrunch reports the platform, which has been rebranded from ‘Amazon Local Services’ to ‘Amazon Home Services’, has recently expanded its service categories as well as the cities it will be available in.   The new platform will offer services including lawn mowing, gardening, automotive services and one-on-one lessons. IoT startup raises $US38 million in Series B funding August, a startup which produces smart door locks, has raised $US38 million ($A48m) in Series B funding in order to launch new products and expand its San Francisco-based team.   The round was led by Bessemer Venture Partners and brings the startup’s total funding to date to $US50 million.   Co-founder Jason Johnson said in a statement the latest capital injection will allow for a runway much larger than he ever anticipated.   “With this new financing, our team will define a new product category in the smart home, aiming to solve what we call the ‘last five foot problem’,” he says.   “With our smart lock, mobile apps, and cloud-based access control, we offer homeowners, property managers, and guests a sophisticated and trusted way to control home access, bridging the gap between service providers and homeowners.” Facebook launches new service for marketers Facebook has announced a new tool that will allow marketers to analyse how successful their campaigns are based on aggregated social data.   The service – called Analytics for Apps – will allow users to see how their marketing campaigns performed across different demographics such as age groups or gender, according to TechCrunch.   Previously, marketers using Facebook to analyse their marketing efforts could only view who clicked on an ad instead of being able to see which demographics they could best target. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 292.60 points, falling 1.62% overnight to 17,718.54. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.4 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: German court issues nationwide ban on Uber

3:33PM | Wednesday, 18 March

A German court has issued a nationwide ban on Uber which will prevent unlicensed taxi drivers from competing with licensed operators.   Should Uber continue to operate in Germany with unlicensed drivers it will face fines of more than $300,000 per violation of the law.   “We will not give up on the German market: our UberBlack and UberTaxi services remain unaffected by today’s judgment,” an Uber spokesperson told Re/code.   In Australia, unregistered UberX drivers can attract fines of up to $7500. Facebook sued for alleged discrimination and unfair dismissal A former Facebook employee is suing the social media giant for unfair dismissal as well as alleged sexual harassment and discrimination based on race.   Chia Hong has made 11 separate legal claims against the company after being fired in October 2013. She alleges that after she raised issues about being harassed and discriminated against the treatment became worse before her employment was terminated.   “We work extremely hard on issues related to diversity, gender and equality, and we believe we’ve made progress,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.   “In this case we have substantive disagreements on the facts, and we believe the record shows the employee was treated fairly.” Fantasy sports app Draft raises $3.5 million Fantasy sports app Draft has raised $3.5 million in Series A funding in order to accelerate the startup’s growth and monetisation strategy.   The round was led by Upfront Ventures and founders Jeremy Levine and Nicolo Giorgi are now looking to grow their team from four to nine employees, according to TechCrunch.   The mobile app allows users to draft their own sporting team and play against other users for real money. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 227.11 points, rising 1.27% overnight to 18,076.19. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 77.80 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Facebook adds money transfer feature on Messenger app

3:23PM | Tuesday, 17 March

Facebook is adding a new feature to its Messenger service that allows its users in the United States to send money to one another.   Users need to add a Visa or MasterCard debit card issued by a US bank to their Facebook accounts; they can then create a PIN which provides security for the payments system. They are then able to transfer money between one another directly from the Messenger app on iOS, Android and Desktop.   The service will roll out in the US in the coming months. There’s no word if it will become available in Australia. Nintendo entering mobile games After years of forgoing mobile gaming, Nintendo has announced an alliance with Japanese mobile gaming firm DeNA, TechCrunch reports.   The deal will see the two companies jointly develop games for “smart devices”. In addition, a service will be developed that will let users play games across a variety of devices, including mobile devices, PCs and Nintendo consoles. That service is expected to launch later this year. Tweet analysis startup raises $130 million Dataminr Inc, a startup which analyses tweets and information streams, has raised $130 million led by Fidelity Investments, The Wall Street Journal reports.   The startup’s software identifies patterns in hundreds of millions of daily tweets, web postings, traffic data, news wires and similar streams of data.   The deal values the New York-based startup at about $700 million. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 128.34 to 17,849.08. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US76 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Facebook updates its community standards policies

3:41PM | Monday, 16 March

Facebook has attempted to clarify its community standards and approach to government requests following criticism of the way it censors content and has discriminated against users who are not using their legal name online.   Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert said in a statement the social media giant’s updated community standards are designed to “create an environment where people feel motivated and empowered to treat each other with empathy and respect”.   “It’s a challenge to maintain one set of standards that meets the needs of a diverse global community,” she said.   “For one thing, people from different backgrounds may have different ideas about what’s appropriate to share – a video posted as a joke by one person might be upsetting to someone else, but it may not violate our standards.”   Facebook’s updated community standards, which clarify how and when the social network removes content online, can be viewed here. Yik Yak founders say their app has “very little” cyberbullying The founders of anonymous messaging app Yik Yak have defended their startup following criticism around cyberbullying on the location-based platform.   Speaking at the South by Southwest conference, co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington said it was a misconception their app was a melting pot of threats and cyberbullying, according to TechCrunch.   “Both of those are not what we see on a daily basis,” says Droll.   In November last year Yik Yak raised $US62 million in funding, bringing the startup’s valuation to between around $US300 million and $US400 million. Aussie kids are spending almost a day each week on their phones Children in Australia are spending almost an entire day each week on their smartphones, according to research published by Telstra.   While the average age of smartphone ownership for children is 12, the study found 10-year-olds spend on average 14.7 hours a week glued to their phones. Meanwhile 17-year-olds spend on average 26.3 hours each week on their smartphones.   Family researcher Justin Coulson told Fairfax children shouldn’t be given a phone until they are at least 12 or 13, and even then there should be rules surrounding the phone’s usage.   “Smart parents give their kids dumb phones,” he said.   “You don’t give them too much too soon… kids don’t need smartphones.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 228.11 points, rising 1.29% overnight to 17,977.42. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.41 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Ashton Kutcher launches new venture capital fund

3:30PM | Sunday, 15 March

Ashton Kutcher and his business partner Guy Oseary are launching a new venture capital fund called Sound Ventures.   TechCrunch reports the fund will be stage-agnostic, allowing the pair to invest in later-stage startups.   Kutcher has previously invested in companies such as Uber, Spotify and Airbnb through his first fund A-Grade Investments.   The actor and tech investor was in Australia last month for the Tech My Way conference, where he speculated that virtual and augmented reality, biotechnology and artificial intelligence were the next big things in tech. Controversial app developer slams critics An Aussie app developer who promised to give thousands of dollars to charity and was exposed for not handing over the money has hit back in a rambling Facebook post.   Belle Gibson, the founder of The Whole Pantry, solicited donations from around 200,000 people for various causes and said she would give away a quarter of her company’s profits – however, an investigation by The Age found no such contributions were ever made.   Now the entrepreneur has hit back, according to Fairfax, writing in a Facebook post that those who were speaking to the media about her were bullying “myself and my family”.   “I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed [sic] hundreds of thousands for the better,” she said. YouTube could be considering a subscription model for premium content YouTube could soon have its own paid video on demand service, according to The Verge.   The company is exploring the concept as a means to improve its bottom line and allow popular content producers to access a higher percentage of ad revenue.   The rumours come from an unnamed executive at a company that partners with YouTube to produce video content.   Competition between streaming providers has heated up in the past 12 months, with Netflix confirming it is launching in Australia on March 24 and taking on local companies Quickflix and EzyFlix. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 145.91 points, falling 0.82% overnight to 17,749.31. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 76.23 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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