Archive for the ‘business’ tag
Streaming video service Crunchyroll has just rolled out a new platform that allows its viewers to purchase merchandise related to the shows they’re watching, the company told VentureBeat today.
Crunchyroll is well-known among anime lovers because it’s the largest source of Japanese animation programming in the U.S, with over 15,000 hours of officially-licensed content translated into multiple languages. The service provides access to content the same time it airs in Japan for those that sign up for premium subscriptions that cost between $5 to $12 per month. There’s also a free, ad-supported service that offers viewers access to content weeks after its initial premiere.
“Our goal is to bring our loyal viewers a surround-sound consumer experience with the ability to purchase DVDs, video games, figures, and other highly relevant merchandise related to their favorite shows,” said Crunchyroll COO Brady McCollum in a statement.
Selling products alongside a streaming video services is hardly a new concept, as Amazon is just now getting into this with its Prime Instant Video service and online store. However, Crunchyroll is worth paying attention because of how much its matured over the years and what it could predict about the future of the online video business. It started out as a company that allowed users to upload bootleg copies of anime for others to watch without obtaining the proper licensing deals. Today, it’s got licensing deals, a successful streaming subscription (more than 200,000 customers) and ad-supported services with over 6 million monthly viewers and 127 million monthly views across the U.S. and U.K.
And now that Crunchyroll is starting to generate revenue by selling merchandise from the programming it offers could point to the future of the streaming video service business in general. For example, Hulu could easily adopt this model in the near future should the licensing first-run TV episodes become greater — especially if Hulu is sold to a company that doesn’t own one of the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, Fox).
As for Crunchyroll, the move to sell merchandise isn’t actually a huge gamble, as the company points out that 70 percent of revenue for companies that produce anime comes from merchandising. The merchandise itself is being sold via deals with Asian distributors that aren’t partnering with any other U.S. companies.
Founded in 2008, the San Francisco, Calif.-based startup has offices in Los Angeles and Tokyo. It’s previously raised $4.8 million in funding from Venrock and TV Tokyo.
An investigation by the U.S. Senate has turned up some creative maneuvers used by Apple to avoid paying taxes on $44 billion of international income over the past four years.
Yesterday, a bipartisan Senate subcommittee released a lengthy report detailing Apple’s tactics, which put the spotlight on Apple’s Irish subsidiaries, Apple Operations International and Apple Sales International. The report describes Ireland as a “tax haven” for Apple.
Even though billions of dollars flow through the Irish subsidiaries — in 2011, the subcommittee claims Apple held 64 percent of total income in Ireland — they apparently qualify as non-tax residents. Apple pays less then 2 percent of corporate sales tax for AOI and ASI in Ireland (far below the country’s typical 12 percent tax rate), and it hasn’t had to pay any taxes to the U.S.
Apple isn’t alone in how it manages it offshore finances, but just like the recent scathing New York Times report which detailed its other tax avoidance tactics, the subcommittee is using Apple to demonstrate the wider problem of elaborate international tax holdings. While the subcommittee doesn’t call Apple’s tactics illegal, it seems to be raising a moral argument about such extreme self-serving tax strategies.
“Apple is exploiting an absurdity, one that we have not seen other corporations use,” said Senator Carl Levin at a Capitol Hill hearing this morning. “And the absurdity need not continue.” Notably, the hearing was Apple CEO Tim Cook’s first appearance on the Hill.
In a statement released yesterday, Apple said it “doesn’t use tax gimmicks,” and went on to note:
Apple does not move its intellectual property into offshore tax havens and use it to sell products back into the US in order to avoid US tax; it does not use revolving loans from foreign subsidiaries to fund its domestic operations; it does not hold money on a Caribbean island; and it does not have a bank account in the Cayman Islands. Apple has substantial foreign cash because it sells the majority of its products outside the US. International operations accounted for 61% of Apple’s revenue last year and two-thirds of its revenue last quarter. These foreign earnings are taxed in the jurisdiction where they are earned (“foreign, post-tax income”).
Reacting to the news, Ireland was quick to say that it wasn’t responsible for Apple’s low international tax rate, Reuters reports.
Photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat
Filed under: Business
At 10 a.m. Pacific today, Microsoft will reveal the next-generation Xbox video game console.
GamesBeat lead news writer Dean Takahashi will be onsite at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash., reporting live and updating this article as the news breaks. Other GamesBeat writers will also be contributing to this post in real-time.
Please check back for the streaming broadcast, which will go live right at 10 a.m. PDT. And right below the video window, you can catch our liveblog of the event.
Start times around the world:
Seattle: 10 a.m.
New York: 1 p.m.
London 6 p.m.
Tokyo: Wednesday 2 a.m.
Chicago: 12 p.m.
San Francisco: 10 a.m.
Sydney: Wednesday 3 a.m.
Berlin: 7 p.m.
Paris: 7 p.m.
Moscow: 9 p.m.
Rio de Janeiro: 2 p.m.
Apparently no-one, including those who are building complex web applications. And new startup Orchestrate.io just took a massive $3 million seed round to prove it. Orchestrate takes the queries that developers would typically write in order to build an application, such as geolocation, time-series, social graph, full-text search, and more, and unifies everything a developer would need in a single API.
In other words, all the time and resources that would typically go towards designing your data solution can now be redirected to building your application.
“Complex apps require highly optimized queries, so much so that major companies such as Facebook and Google wrote custom big data databases like BigTable to manage them,” founder and CEO Antony Falco told me yesterday. “Typically you would devote 20-25 percent of your resources to data management, so there’s lots of savings. But when creating new apps, you can also reduce the time barrier to building services, getting multiple weeks of savings.”
One of those savings is found in that often companies have had to run or access multiple databases to enable their applications. All of them have to be monitored and maintained, scaled as your app grows, and distributed geographically and across multiple service providers to ensure high availability and low latency.
With Orchestrate, that’s all built in, Falco told me, including geographical distribution. He used to be a VP at Akamai, the content delivery network, so he knows a few things about scalability and access.
Talking about scalability, Orchestrate is looking to fill a pretty big niche:
The $3 million is for getting Orchestrate’s existing solution into production and hiring more engineers.
It’s a largish seed round — you typically see $750,000, $500,000, or less for seed rounds, but Falco, who acknowledged that it had some aspects of an A round, says that it will help the company expand farther. And, for a company with global aspirations, some expensive requirements are just table stakes.
“With $3 million we will be globally distributed,” he says.
Falco is a serial entrepreneur, also founding Basho Technologies, makers of the open-source distributed database, Riak. Orchestrate was founded just three months ago, in March 2013, and is based in Portland, Oregon.
The investment was led by True Ventures with Frontline Ventures and Resonant Venture Partners joining in.
I was recently contacted by a college student who asked if he could interview me for one of this classes. One of the questions he asked is one I get a lot, so I thought I’d share my answer with you here.
If you aspire to be in our business — I hope it helps. If you’re already in the business — what did I miss?
What advice would you give to anyone who was aspiring to enter the field of advertising?
Yikes… there are lots of things to know but here are some of the biggies.
- You cannot do it alone so surround yourself with really smart, good-hearted people who you can count on.
- The day you stop learning is the day you begin to become irrelevant. There is always more to learn.
- Before anyone will give you their business, they need to know you care about them/their company.
- When you make a mistake (and you will make a ton) be very quick to call attention to it, own it and work like a dog to fix it. And never forget to say I’m sorry.
- If you help other people whenever you can, when you need help – there will be someone there to offer it.
- There’s nothing wrong with making money. Don’t be ashamed to charge what you are worth.
- Owning your own business means that when times are tough, everyone gets paid but you. So be very smart about not overspending your money and build up a nest egg for those tough times.
- The smartest person in the room is not the one who knows all the answers. It’s the person who asks the best questions.
When I hire, I don’t worry too much about the degree the person has or things like grade point averages. I can teach them about marketing but I can’t make them honest or hard working.
I look for people who have a passion for helping other people. I hire people who volunteer their time, have a passion for a cause and instead of whining about it – do something about it.
I definitely want good writers, no matter what position they might fill. In today’s business world, with email etc. – everyone needs to be able to communicate clearly and be well spoken, both in face-to-face encounters and in writing.
I also look for someone who gets that our business is not 9-5 and isn’t going to freak out if they have to work late or over a weekend. Our business is very demanding and depending on what’s going on with our clients, we can put in some incredibly long, grueling weeks.
I also want someone who is willing to do “grunt” work. In a small agency, everyone pitches in and does what it takes to get the job done. If I can stuff envelopes or whatever – so can they.
I want someone who is a self-starter, a lifelong learner, a reader, someone who is funny, ethical and someone who resonates with our company’s core beliefs, which are:
- Passion cannot be ignored.
- Breakthrough thinking breeds breakthrough creative.
- The guys in the white hats do win.
- We take our work seriously. Ourselves, not so much.
Reputation.com founder Owen Tripp is not the kind of entrepreneur who wants to solve small problems. For his new venture, Tripp tells me he has an ambitious solution that will someday “fix health care.”
Tripp’s startup, ConsultingMD, has secured a $10 million funding round led by venture firm Venrock, the health-focused venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family. The mission is to create a virtual clinic where patients are served by the top doctors in the world.
“We don’t believe you need a network of thirty thousand doctors to be effective,” said Tripp [pictured above with cofounder Dr. Lawrence "Rusty" Hoffman] in an interview with VentureBeat. “We would rather use the same 750 doctors who achieve successful outcomes again and again.”
ConsultingMD offers patients the opportunity to consult a leading medical expert for a second opinion — and receive a detailed response in about 48 hours.
Patients are asked to submit some brief details about their case, and sign a release. ConsultingMD’s team will begin assembling a file with a full medical record, demographic information, relevant images, tests, and so on, and select a specialist from the network to take a closer look.
The technology is HIPPA-compliant and cloud-based, so doctors can safely review a case in any location. Specialists like Dr. Berchuck, director of Gynecologic Cancer Research at Duke University, are already signed up. ConsultingMD offers top doctors the opportunity to review a higher volume of medical cases.
Even in its trial period, physicians were able to access and share opinions on rare cases they might not otherwise have been exposed to. Another draw is the boost in income for top-notch physicians.”As our brand grows, so too will the celebrity of our doctors,” said Tripp.
For patients, it means avoiding flying halfway across the country, or paying exorbitant medical fees for an in-person visit.
ConsultingMD won’t accept just any doctor to its network. “We never went out and perused the phone book for doctors,” Tripp explained. “We made invitations based on recommendations and are getting more in-bound requests each week than we can handle.”
This exclusivity makes sense in light of the business model. Tripp expects the richest and biggest companies like Pepsi and Home Depot to pay for its employees to access ConsultingMD. Large enterprises pay $6 per employee each month; some cases may be covered by insurance. Individuals can also pay for a second opinion – the average cost is $3,750.
“I am a little allergic to the term ‘corporate wellness,” he explains. “I think wellness is something we ought to do as a country.”
But corporations are increasingly offering top-quality and concierge health care to retain employees. An Adecco SA study stipulated that 55 percent of corporate execs view health care benefits as their biggest challenge.
Tripp’s long-term goal with ConsultingMD is to create a “virtual clinic.” In an interview, he revealed plans for a second product, an online service that helps patients locate and schedule a visit to the top specialist in their area.
“ConsultingMD has decentralized this medical expertise and improves the lives and health of people through technology,” said Bryan Roberts, the Venrock partner who will join the company’s board.
Filed under: Business
This past weekend I was at the King of Prussia Mall very briefly to pick up a few items for an upcoming trip. That is the one place I zip in and out of, parking near a less trafficked entrance, and practicing my long step to go as quickly as possible from entrance to destination.
Occasionally, one store gets my attention on the way, it’s brand new and much bigger than it used to be and has a big white Apple on the glass pane.
I stopped short of it this time.
Right before it, I noticed a big crowd going in front of an open space. Inside, there were two brand new Tesla Model S cars, a white one, which I attempted to capture with my iPhone just before two kids would try to get into it, and a flame red one. That was the prettier one!
The chassis of a Tesla Model S on display in the store, showed onlookers what makes the electric system work, with battery compartments in the middle. The staff at the in Mall showroom used it to explain the benefits of owning such a car to several inquisitive individuals.
As the Inquirer writes, between the rear wheels are side-by-side round devices: the inverter, which converts the batteries’ direct current into alternating current, and the motor, which is closer to the size of lawn mower engine that a regular car’s.
Part due to the novelty, usually the car promotions are run in the middle of the Mall and don’t look anything like a high end exhibit booth as the store did (right next to the Apple store).
They are also nowhere near that packed with people wanting to sit inside the car, try the doors, look at the trunk, and asking lots of questions while snapping probably better photos with their smartphones than I did with mine.
Yup, there is room for a small trunk even in the front, no huge engine.
Riding the wave
Tesla Motors is headed by billionaire innovator Elon Musk posted its first profit in the 10-years of its existence due partly by adding in zero-emission environmental credits.
The company intends to bring its Model S directly to consumers. At least one group is not thrilled about the proposition, and that is the U.S. auto dealership. We’re very familiar with this fragmented environment as we kicked the tires on the dealership model of a year back.
With laws varying state by state (this is the case for insurance as well as taxes), the Tesla Model S is just plain not welcome in some locales#.
While I’m somewhat sympathetic with the dealers plea — their system and business model has been in place for a while and is well established, even as its benefits are unevenly distributed (anyone who received poor service from a dealer is nodding). I have a harder time understanding the latest communication by Audi, attacking the Model S.
Then again, it is a sign that Tesla Motor is onto something that has appeal for the luxury market (for now).
Interestingly enough, one of the two models I am researching for my next new car purchase is an Audi due out in Q1 next year.
I do plan to blog about the experience of searching for information, comparing cars and models, signing up for newsletters from different auto makers, reading expert reviews, getting recommendations from friends, test driving at various dealers — the works.
From the point of view of someone who is passionate about cars, yet not a “gearhead”. Hint: I see a lot of content white space in there.
Time and buyers will tell whether the direct strategy will pay off.
I do like the idea of using the car as a social object, allowing people to get close to it, to learn about the technology that makes it work, and the ability to ask question in a store that seemed to exert as little pressure to buy as the one next door.
Certainly the younger children looked excited and interested.
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Pinterest is not just a place to collect and organize inspiring images. The powerhouse social site has improved its enviable good looks and upped the IQ of its pins so that everyone, including businesses, can get more out of pinning and Pinterest, in turn, can get money from businesses.
The company that made it possible to organize and collect (aka “pin”) things from around the web has worked hard to make pins useful by adding relevant information to certain types of pins and making it possible to pin from mobile apps.
If you’ve ever clicked on a pretty bootie or a mouth-watering boozy popsicle, only to land on a dead-end Flickr album or broken link, you will especially appreciate the backend improvements that Pinterest has just rolled out.
Product pins now have more information so you can see where that boot is from (Nordstrom) and whether it’s in stock before you even leave the site (it is). Similarly, recipe pins from your favorite food bloggers now include cook time, ingredients, and servings. Movie pins now include content ratings and cast members. It will automatically update all your old pins that have contextual data.
So far only product, recipe, and movie pins contain more information. But as software engineer Anna Majkowska says in a blog post announcing these changes, “This is just the beginning and we hope to make all pins more useful in the coming months.”
To start off, Pinterest worked with some popular websites like Anthropologie, Etsy, Bon Apetit, Real Simple, and Netflix to add more information to pins. Companies that want to make their pins “richer” can join Pinterest as a business or convert their account. They will have to prep their website with meta tags and apply to get on Pinterset. Is it a coincidence that Pinterest has coined these useful, business-oriented pins “rich pins?”
And because everyone is getting more mobile these days, Pinterest is making the Pin It button available on apps such as Modcloth, The North Face, and Jetsetter so you can really pin wherever you are.
It’s too early to tell how much effect these changes will have on people’s pinning habits, but it does seem like a way to both monetize and help users get more out of perusing pins.
Filed under: Business
Which is precisely why Leap Motion released this video showcasing its impressive Windows 7 and Windows 8 integration:
With Leap Motion, you can now do everything available in Windows for multitouch functionality — without actually touching anything. The company promises that operating system-level functionality and web browsing capabilities will work out of the box, no software or driver installations required, and will be simple to use.
“We want our users to have a magical experience, with easy and natural movements in the air leading to amazing interactions,” co-founder David Holz said in a statement. “Leap Motion’s mission is to break down the barriers between people and technology.”
The demo shows a user navigating Windows 8′s home screen tiles via in-air gestures, selecting and rearranging tiles, opening a web browser, and surfing sites while zooming sections for a closer look, all without touching a mouse or a touch-sensitive screen. In addition, previewing one of Leap Motion’s intended uses as a controller in the media room or kitchen, the demo shows how simple it is to scroll through Netflix, select a movie, and begin watching. Or to draw a scene in one of the Leap Motion apps, then rotate it in 3D.
The Leap Motion device is tiny, about the size of a pack of gum. It senses both of your hands and all 10 of your fingers with 200 times the sensitivity of the Xbox 360 Kinect. The company recently announced OEM bundling with select computers from ASUS, and an even more interesting deal with HP that will see the hardware melt away into the computer itself, embedding Leap Motion’s functionality into laptops to make them gesture-enabled right out of the box, without any hardware components to plug in.
And there’s more to come:
“We’re looking to embed our tech into watches, and smartphones, and glasses, and everything,” Leap Motion’s COO Andy Miller told me a couple of weeks ago.
All I want to know is: Where’s the Mac OS X demo?
Image credits: Leap Motion
According to a test by Ars Technica, Microsoft is intercepting, decrypting, and reading at least some Skype messages — to the point where URLs embedded in Skype chat are being visited by machines at IP addresses belonging to Microsoft … most likely a bot, but potentially a human being.
“And this can only happen,” Ars’ security expert Dan Goodin writes, “If Microsoft can convert the messages into human-readable form at will.”
Skype currently uses 256-bit AES encryption to secure communications between users, which is considered to be very secure. Secure, perhaps. But not very private — when Ars sent messages via Skype containing four web links created specifically for this experiment, two of them were accessed by a Microsoft-controlled machine.
Skype may use automated scanning within Instant Messages and SMS to (a) identify suspected spam and/or (b) identify URLs that have been previously flagged as spam, fraud, or phishing links. In limited instances, Skype may capture and manually review instant messages or SMS in connection with Spam prevention efforts. Skype may, in its sole discretion, block or prevent delivery of suspected Spam, and remove suspicious links from messages.
That’s not good if you have an expectation of and desire for privacy. And now that it’s obvious that Microsoft itself can read your private messages, the question is who else has that ability too?
Almost a year ago, the FBI requested private backdoor access into multiple communication and social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and yes, Skype. Wiretaps are increasingly useless, the FBI realized, and modern communications were defeating the bureau’s attempts at surveillance. Whether these were ever granted or not is unclear, but Microsoft has a patent on ways to make it happen.
Skype may disclose personal information to respond to legal requirements, exercise our legal rights or defend against legal claims, to protect Skype’s interests, fight against fraud and to enforce our policies or to protect anyone’s rights, property, or safety.
However, if you want more security — and privacy — on Skype, you can have it. You simply have to pre-encrpt any messages (as a Polish professor discovered) and then decrypt them on the receiving end.
I won’t do that, and most Skype users won’t do that, probably because we’re not discussion matters of national security or engaging in nefarious behavior. But it’s disappointing, if only the cold slap of reality in a dangerous and violent world, that private isn’t really private any more.
And it would be nice to know the exact limits of Skype privacy and security.