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Google is developing its own competitor to Uber, Bloomberg reports. The company is preparing to offer its own ride-hailing service, likely in conjunction with its long running driverless car project. Google, through its venture capital arm Google Ventures, invested $US258 million in Uber in August 2013. Since 2013, Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president of corporate development David Drummond has served on Uber’s board of directors. According to a Bloomberg source, Drummond has informed Uber of the possibility that Google will be entering the transportation network space and the company is now deciding whether to ask him to resign from the board. Bitcoin mining company KnCMiner raises $15 million Despite being on the receiving end of several lawsuits from customers, bitcoin mining company KnCMiner has raised $15 million in a Series B Round, led by Accel Partners, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Stockholm-based KnCMiner now largely mines bitcoin for itself, but it originally sold bitcoin mining equipment to customers, who paid thousands of dollars per machine in advance of receiving the equipment. Some of those customers are suing the company in Swedish courts, alleging the company delayed shipment, sent faulty equipment, and are demanding refunds. Twitter starts selling ads outside of Twitter Twitter has started running its “Promoted Tweet” ad unit on top of other people’s apps and sites, in what’s the beginning of a new revenue stream for the social media giant – ads that don’t appear on Twitter, Re/code reports. Advertisers who already use Twitter can run the same ads in the same format on places outside Twitter that display tweets. Twitter will share the revenue with the third-party platforms. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 305.36 to 16,666.40. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US78 cents. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Media startup Newzulu is looking to the crowd to make breaking news cheaper for large media organisations. The startup, founded in Australia in June 2012, by Alex Hartman and Peter Scarf, is a crowdsourced media platform for the distribution of verified news photos, videos and text. Co-founder and executive chairman Hartman says the nature of news is changing, and sees Newzulu becoming a big part of the traditional wire service. “AP (Associate Press) has 6500 full-time journalists around the world, sitting in bureaus, waiting for things to happen, and we think those days are long gone,” he says. “There’ll still be a place on the global news wire for most of the capabilities of AP, for instance the White House would never allow a crowd-sourced reporter to travel with the president. We feel those agencies have an important role in those local media landscapes. “But with most of the breaking news, we’re using the crowd with 600 editors, to do what 6500 editors would do.” With the proliferation of smartphones, Newzulu says the likelihood of a journalist being the first person to document a breaking news story nowadays is slim. “Breaking news on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, the pervasiveness of smartphones in pockets is disrupting the media,” he says. “We can harness the power of the crowd to report, not just any news but validated news.” What that means is Newzulu has an editorial department of 50 staff, working around the clock in English and French to validate news submissions from the crowd. Newzulu was founded by Matilda Media, which last year acquired a French startup called Citizenside that was founded in 2006. Citzenside had developed a platform that can “rapidly review and validate” crowdsourced material, detecting if photos have been edited or altered in any way. It’s that platform that enables Newzulu to validate crowdsourced material within 30 minutes of its submission. Contributors are then paid on a case-by-case basis. Last week, Newzulu announced it had entered an agreement to purchase Canadian company Filemobile, a software company that provides solutions to media outlets for the gathering, curation and publishing of user-based content. Its customers include Fox News, Wall Street Journal, USA Today/Garnett, The Weather Network, Hearts TV, iTV, London Live, Network Ten, CTV, CBC and Canadian Geographic. The proposed purchase price – roughly $5 million, will be funded by an upcoming capital raise. “Newzulu and File Mobile will together form the world’s foremost crowdsourced media company,” Hartman says. “The acquisition of Filemobile is consistent with Newzulu’s growth strategy and further strengthens the company’s product solutions and global directory platform.” Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook Messenger app, the answer appears to be: “Not as far as Facebook thinks.” For those who are not yet on Facebook (yes, there are some), the social media giant has been asking all users who want to continue sending messages to their Facebook friends on their mobile devices to download a Facebook Messenger app. Facebook is preparing to stop the chat feature on its main Facebook app. The Messenger app has been available for a while but only recently became compulsory. Messenger was first introduced back in 2011. Uproar over app permissions Beyond the complaints about adding another app to the mix, the real controversy emerged when new downloaders discovered that the app, especially on Android, was asking for a whole raft of permissions. These included the ability to read your SMS messages, read your phone call log and access the photo roll on your device. This seeming intrusion into the privacy of users sent people into an uproar on the internet. An article from the Huffington Post on the dangers of Facebook app permissions went viral this month. There were plenty of follow-up articles on the situation from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, famous rumour-debunking site Snopes.com and, ironically, statuses and rants shared ad infinitum on Facebook itself. Even now, the fallout continues, with many one-star reviews of the app appearing on the Apple app store. Articles continue to appear on many tech sites reassuring users that downloading the app does not give any more permission than many other apps (including the main Facebook app itself). Facebook tries to ease concerns For the record, Facebook maintains that it hasn’t done anything wrong and that the permissions that have been requested are standard practice for many apps, both theirs and those of others. Believe what you will, but of course this then raises the more interesting question: how far are we willing for our privacy to be pushed in this digital age? Remember that many of these complaints about the Messenger app are coming from the same cohort of people who regularly share details of their lives, such as photos and event invitations, on Facebook. Even as the social media platform changes and people get frustrated with how Facebook is controlling our lives, people continue to use the site as a social tool. Who reads privacy policies anyway? It’s clear that we want to have our cake and eat it too. A study from Carnegie Mellon University in the US suggested that if we were to read the privacy policies of every web service we use just once in a year, it would take a full month of our work time. Instead, we rely on blind trust and obscurity (“surely they don’t care about me”) to get through these situations. Perhaps this is why people are so upset with the Messenger app; it exposes terms that we all agreed to but would prefer to remain blissfully unaware of. Of course, some recent stories have come to light that suggest our fears aren’t totally unfounded. For instance, the revelation that Facebook conducted an experiment on the news feed of thousands of its users shows the company has no qualms about using our data. Or the more recent story by Wired of the journalist who committed to “Like” everything on Facebook for two days, only to find his friends slowly pushed out of his news feed and replaced with corporate sponsorship and left/right-wing political opinion. The true cost of connecting online These articles are beginning to show the dark side of social networking. A new movie by director Jason Reitman promises to do even more, showing how people are connected but also conflicted about their social life. The movie, Men, Women & Children, follows the digital life of several different participants as they navigate the digital world of the 21st century. Trailer So, what to do? The internet and social networking allow us to remain connected, but it comes at a price to our privacy, which some are apparently not willing to pay, or at least not willing to acknowledge. Perhaps the problem will solve itself, as digital native children replace their digital immigrant parents in the world of the 21st century, and our expected level of privacy changes. Or perhaps we will all tire of Facebook and social networking, move away form such platforms and no longer have this issue. But more likely one day somebody will realise that just as the industrial age needed regulation on roads and manufacturing, so too does the information age need regulation on the use of information. And when that day comes, perhaps we all need to stop relying on blind trust and take the time out of our year to read the new privacy legislation. Michael Cowling does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Anonymous messaging app Secret has raised $25 million from a group of investors led by Index Ventures. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal investors now value the company at $100 million. It follows a valuation of $40 million just four months ago. Secret was founded just nine months ago in San Francisco and it is likely among the fastest of any startup to reach a nine-figure valuation. LinkedIn acquires Newsle LinkedIn has announced it has acquired Newsle, a service that lets users important their contacts from Facebook or LinkedIn and scans the web to alert them whether anyone in their network has been mentioned on the web. In a post on LinkedIn’s blog, the company says LinkedIn and Newsle share a common goal. “We both want to provide professional insights that make you better at what you do,” it says. “For example, knowing more about the people in your network – like when they’re mentioned in the news – can surface relevant insights that help you hit your next meeting with them out of the park.” Google X director joins Amazon Babak Parviz, Google X director and founder of the Google Glass and contact lens projects at the tech giant has left the company to join Amazon.
Online storage startup Box has raised $150 million in funding from private equity firm TPG and hedge fund Coatue Management, according to the Wall Street Journal. The funds buy the company some breathing room as it waits for a more suitable time to hold an initial public offering. The company has already filed for an IPO and is expected to list by the end of the year. Oculus announces Oculus Connect developer conference The virtual reality startup announced it will be holding its first developer conference, Oculus Connect, in September. The conference will give developers access to sessions with Oculus engineers and labs where they can get direct feedback, as well as hands-on time with their software and members of the Oculus team. In addition, Oculus also announced the acquisition of middleware game-network technology provider RakNet. Dropbox and MIT alums launch Inbox Inbox, founded by a team featuring Dropbox and MIT alumni, launches today, hoping to power the next generation of email applications. Inbox offers a more modern way to build apps that access end users’ inboxes and works with Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft Exchange and other mail providers. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 44.05 to 17,024.21. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US94 cents.
Mozilla is going ahead with plans to add sponsored tiles on its popular browser Firefox’s new-tab page. In a blog post outlining the details, Mozilla’s vice president of Firefox, Johnathan Nightingale says the company will begin experimenting with the concept in the coming weeks. “These tests are purely to understand what our users find helpful and what our users ignore or disable – these tests are not about revenue and none will be collected,” he says. “Sponsorship would be the next stage once we are confident that we can deliver user value.” Samsung Group chairman hospitalised Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee, 72, showed symptoms of cardiac arrest after being sent to a hospital yesterday near his home, the Wall Street Journal reported. Lee is currently in a stable condition and recovering but it is unknown how long he is expected to be hospitalised. Apple buys Dr Dre’s Beats Headphone maker Beats Audio, founded by recording artist Dr Dre, is reportedly in the process of being purchased by Apple. Apple’s $3.2 billion purchase package is likely to include Beats Music, an online music streaming service that launched as a competitor to Spotify earlier this year. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 32.37 to 16,583.34. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.
The business world is abuzz this morning with news that China’s biggest e-commerce business Alibaba has filed its initial public offering, which could become the largest IPO in history. Alibaba Group was established by billionaire Jack Ma in 1999. The business has two main shopping websites, Taobao and Taobao Mall (or Tmall), which serve an estimated 79 million customers in more than 240 countries and territories. The group also has investments in a Chinese department store operator, mobile messaging apps maker Tango, and China’s version of Twitter, Weibo. Described as “eccentric”, Ma is known for both his unconventional career trajectory and idiosyncratic business style. Here’s five things you didn’t know about the man nicknamed “Crazy Jack”. 1. Ma started out at as a teacher Alibaba’s chairman studied to become a teacher after twice failing university entrance exams. Ma’s struggle with formal education and finding employment, including being knocked back from Harvard 10 times, is well-documented. He says he was even tuned down from a job as a secretary to a general manager at KFC. 2. He founded China’s first internet company Ma’s first foray into the digital world was with China Yellowpages, believed to be the country’s first internet-based company. According to the Wall Street Journal, it was a trip to Seattle in 1995 that sparked Ma’s interest in the internet, after he discovered during the trip how little information about Chinese companies existed on the web. 3. He enjoys singing pop songs and hit musical tracks Ma also apparently has a soft spot for performing Chinese pop songs and his favourite songs from the Lion King in front of crowds of thousands at his annual company conferences, called “Alifest”. In the past he shared a stage with former US President Bill Clinton, Los Angeles Lakers basketballer Kobe Bryant and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 4. Ma is huge fan of kung fu Ma is such a fan of kung fu novels that Alibaba employees are all required to take nicknames from kung fu novels. According to the Financial Times, which named Ma its Person of the Year in 2013, Ma’s nickname is “Feng Qingyang”, which refers to an “unpredictable and aggressive” swordsman. 5. He admits to knowing very little about technology Despite being the founder of one of the globe’s largest online businesses, Ma admits that he is not an expert when it comes to technology. According to TechCrunch, the entrepreneur says he cannot write code and knows little more than how to send an email.
Amazon is believed to be gearing up to release a smartphone in the second half of this year, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. The tech and online retail giant is believed to have demonstrated prototype handsets to developers in recent weeks, with an official announcement planned by the end of June ahead of a September launch. A key feature of the new device is said to be a 3D screen that doesn’t require special glasses, a feature the company hopes will differentiate its device from competitors, including Apple and Samsung. No dotcom crash despite stock falls, say US analysts Leading analysts in the US say another ‘90s-style tech crash is not likely, despite recent falls on the tech-heavy Nasdaq index. “What I'm looking for is really more or less a re-alignment in a somewhat orderly fashion,” BMO Private Bank chief investment officer Jack Ablin says. “A new appreciation for dividends, for cash flow, for earnings and for revenues - things that investors should be looking for all the time. “Investors are starting to move away from markets that seem expensive and are gravitating toward markets that have a better value so, all and all, I think it’s probably a cathartic cycle that's going on right now.” Smaller David Jones stores coming after SA Woolworths takeover South African department store operator Woolworths Holdings says it is looking at introducing smaller format David Jones stores if its takeover of the Australian department store chain is successful. Last week, the South African Woolworths, which is not affiliated with the Australian retailer of the same name, surprised investors by announcing a $2.15 billion takeover bid for David Jones. “I think we see three obvious [sites] within the next couple of years. I believe we can get to double digits in time – but it's going to take time,” Woolworths Holdings chief executive Ian Moir said. “What we will not do as a business is make bad real estate decisions. So you need to make sure you have got the right demographic and the right position within that demographic.” Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down to 16026.8. The Aussie dollar is down to US93.97 cents.
Hardware startups are still a tough nut to crack, but the consensus is they’re getting easier to launch and are now attracting the attention of investors who are traditionally wary of risks around logistics when it comes to hardware. With Kickstarter providing access to early customers and ultimately validating the desire for a product, 3D printers allowing cheaper prototypes and online e-commerce platforms meaning direct access to markets, we’re seeing the rise of a new generation of hardware startups. In the US, companies like fitbit, Lockitron, Jawbone, Roku and Lytro are just a handful of top companies grabbing the attention of both consumers and VCs. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that $848 million has been invested in the US into hardware startups, nearly twice the prior record of $442 million set in 2012. In Australia we’re also seeing the trend with smart lightbulb company LIFX, connectivity device Ninja Blocks, Moore’s Cloud and its Holiday unit, and Annex Products with their mobile case offerings all emerging in the last couple of years. While the approach and products of these companies are vastly different, there’s the general feeling that none of it would have been possible even a few years ago. “When something’s made possible, that’s when entrepreneurs turn up,” says Ninja Blocks founder Pete Moore, in part explaining the explosion in the hardware startups. The founder and CEO of Moore’s Cloud, Mark Pesce, says there’s no doubt that Kickstarter has become a massive part of the hardware ecosystem. While the Kickstarter campaign of Moore’s Cloud was not successful (Pesce concedes they were asking too much) it did validate their idea to investors and helped secure the funding needed from angel investors. They just received $25,000 From Launchpad and are looking at another raise. LIFX broke Kickstarter records at the time of its campaign, raising $1.3 million in three days, with an original funding goal of $100,000. They chose to close the campaign in the first week rather than overcommit on the project. The company then went on to raise $4.6 million from angel investors in Australia and is on the radar of Silicon Valley investors. Ninja Blocks and Annex Products have similar stories, with Kickstarter allowing them to raise capital for outlay and validating their idea. While Annex Products has chosen not to go down the investor route, Ninja Blocks raised $1 million after their Kickstarter campaign. They are now looking at another round after running another crowdfunding campaign for their new product Ninja Sphere. The other major factor contributing to emerging hardware startups is that prototyping costs have dropped. For Moore’s Cloud this meant getting their product to market with a capital of $100,000, something Pesce said would not have been possible a few years ago. While 3D printing has played a part in reducing costs, most founders StartupSmart spoke to agreed that it’s not the solution it was hailed as a few years ago. “We used to spruik the 3D kool-aid, but the reality is that 3D is great for prototyping and not much else,” Annex Products founder Rob Ward said, though he concedes that its impact has been useful to getting many startups off the ground. Ninja Blocks 3D printed its first product from the home of one of its founders, a process they say will “never happen again”. They opted for professional industrial designers with their latest product, and are producing it through a manufacturer who runs small production lines in China. It’s the ability to do this that has really been a game changer, says Moore. He plans on getting a run of 5,000 of its latest product Ninja Sphere, which in manufacturing terms is very small. For Annex Products the key to their success has been the ability to sell directly to its consumers and cut out the costs of the middleman. Ward says Facebook has proven to be the best channel for them in selling their products, moving about 100 of their Quadlock cases a day. Ninja Blocks has taken a similar approach with direct sales, and while Moore’s Cloud originally opted for direct selling, it will be pursuing retail opportunities for growth. At the end of the day, the risk for hardware startups is still greater than their software counterparts, but it’s no longer getting products to market that is the hardest thing – there are still challenges around marketing, supply chain disruptions, postage and distribution. There is also the continual headache of providing support, a large burden for small teams. Pesce’s advice on this one is to be honest with your customers about any issues and keep them up to date on any delays.
Next Apple iPhones won’t feature curved screens, but 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch display speculation mounts1:33AM | Friday, 24 January
Apple appears to have dumped plans to add curved displays to its next iPhones. However, speculation is growing the tech giant is looking at a 4.7-inch display and a 5.5-inch display for the next model. Citing “people familiar with the situation”, the Wall Street Journal reports the tech giant is set to dump its low-cost iPhone 5C-style plastic exteriors. Instead, the tech giant is set to opt for two different models, including one “with a screen larger than 4½ inches measured diagonally, and a second version with a display bigger than 5 inches”. Both devices would feature screen sizes significantly larger than the small 4-inch display currently used on the iPhone 5S. However, according to the latest report, the new iPhones are not expected to include a curved display. The latest reports seemingly confirm earlier reports, as covered by SmartCompany in November of last year, the company is working on a smartphone featuring a 4.7-inch display and a phablet that uses a 5.5-inch display. At the time, there were reports the new devices would feature glass that curves downwards at the edges, although that aspect of the design appears to have been abandoned. The devices would be much closer in size to the 5-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the 5.7-inch displays used on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and are set (at this point) to be released during the second half of 2014. Apple is reportedly also working on pressure-sensitive display technologies, although these are unlikely to be ready in time for the launch of the next iPhone. This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Suppressing the apology reflex in the workplace: In her piece for the New York Times, Audrey Lee tackles when not to say you’re sorry. It’s all too easy to say “sorry for bothering you, sorry for the bad news, sorry this issue came up, sorry for asking questions”, Lee says. But she argues you need to put an end to being apologetic in the workplace and get more assertive. How Airbnb went from three air mattresses to being a $2.5 billion company: Airbnb started with a simple idea and some blow-up mattresses. Now the company lists 500,000 properties available in more than 190 countries. The Wall Street Journal charts the rise of the sharing economy and why hotels hate Airbnb. Top 10 Documentaries for Entrepreneurs: Feel like watching an inspiring documentary this week? Entrepreneur has listed the top 10 documentaries for entrepreneurs. We challenge you to watch the Steve Jobs documentary at number nine and not come away feeling fired up.
Travel company Lonely Planet may be up for sale, just two years after the company was purchased by BBC Worldwide, with a reclusive tobacco billionaire from the United States who doesn't even have an email account cited as the potential buyer.
Google has acquired the Frommer's travel guides in a move which is likely to impact the online listings of travel and tourism operators in Australia.
Dropbox, LivingSocial and Craigslist are among the world’s most valuable start-ups, according to Business Insider’s Digital 100 of 2011, which also identifies new additions to the list.
For lovers of American football, there is no bigger event than the annual championship game called the Super Bowl.
Conforming to the stereotype that every trend that happens in the US arrives in Australia a couple of years later, crowdfunding has well and truly landed Down Under.
The Black Swan (Second Edition) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Penguin, 2010, RRP$29.95) If you are not familiar with Taleb’s work, the central theme is simple: we don’t know what we don’t know.
It really shouldn’t have been such a shock. Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a notoriously harsh version of the disease, in 2004, and whispers of his impending demise have circulated ever since.
Google is doubling its investment in new start-ups and is set to start looking for ventures outside the US to put money into.
Thousands of people attended rallies over the weekend across Australia to show support for the Government’s proposed carbon tax.