Archive for the ‘half a million’ tag
This Ragú spot from ad agency Barton F. Graf 9000 sends a kid into his parents' bedroom, where he presumably sees them having sex. A meal slathered with Ragú pasta sauce is then positioned as comfort food after such a shock. (Thankfully, we never learn how Mom and Dad were positioned.) The spot for the Unilever brand broke during the Olympics and is surging on YouTube, heading toward half a million views with copious commentary, pro and con, and endless "saucy" references to "al dente," "Prego/preggo" and "sausage and meatballs." (At least he didn't stumble across his parents alfresco—in the backyard pool, perhaps—then he'd really be traumatized.) The tagline is: "A long day of childhood calls for America's favorite pasta sauce." I'd have thought a heaping dish of double chocolate swirl would be more comforting, but after watching those Little Baby's Ice Cream ads, I think we'd better stick with the marinara. Check out a second, spit-themed 30-second spot after the jump, along with a couple of :15s.
Mobile wallet platform Lemon released an Android application and a Smarter Wallet Business Plan today.
The company, which launched in late 2011 and recently raised $8 million in Series A, claims that over two million customers have used Lemon’s mobile wallet platform. The wallet only launched last month, yet they claim over half a million credit cards have been scanned.
Lemon says they are targeting a portion of the market ignored by Google Wallet, Square and others, helping users organize and use their money better.
Android users will be able to download the app from Google Play for any Android 4.0 or higher smartphone, with similar experiences to the iOS app.
Founder and CEO Wences Casares tells me the company developed Lemon Business after many consumer-side customers, many of whom are lawyers and consultants, asked Lemon for tools to process business expenses. Users can submit receipts directly to their employer for reimbursement through the app (say goodbye to those expense reports!), which Lemon says is secure, trackable and IRS compliant.
“Our new Lemon for Business offering is designed to eliminate tiresome tracking and endless expense report paperwork that is burdensome for all sides of the reporting process,” Casares said in a press release. “There are no hardware costs, no IT upkeep, and the app is highly secure, while also meeting IRS expense tracking requirements.”
Lemon Business is available from $6.99 to $9.99 per employee per month, depending on the number of employees you have. For consumers, there is a basic, free Lemon and Lemon Pro ($9.99 per month), with extra features (duh).
While I personally haven’t started using the app, I would love to get rid of paper receipts, both for personal spending and reimbursements. Of course, as my boss’ parody Twitter account (how many people can say that?) points out, the simplification isn’t always as good as it seems.
Instead of a wallet full of loyalty cards I now have a phone full of apps for loyalty cards. Great job geniuses.
— Fake Alexia (@alexia_tsotsis) June 20, 2012
Mobile money manager Lemon has expanded its digital wallet feature to Android and released Lemon for Business.
Lemon.com launched the Lemon Wallet about 6 weeks ago. Since then, over half a million cards have been stored on its platform which offers an easy and secure way to store financial information online. Users snap photos of the cards in their wallet and save them to Lemon. This is useful in the event that your physical wallet is lost or stolen, and also offers a convenient way to to make online purchases without continually inputting card numbers and expirations dates.
Lemon for Business is an extension of the company’s initial product, which was a tool to manage receipts and expense reports. The new functionality allows people to submit their receipts directly to their employer, eliminating the need for forms and reports.
Since launching in 2011, Lemon has acquired over 2 million users. It announced raising $8 million in June and used the investment to hire more engineers to work on these new features. That investment was led by Maveron, with contribution from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Draper Fisher Jurveston, and others.
While there are similarities with other digital wallets like Square, Passbook, and Google Wallet Lemon’s product targets the spender (as opposed to the merchant). Rather than attempting to change consumer behavior, it attempts to replicate it digitally. It also supports loyalty cards, ID cards, and insurance cards.
Lemon was founded by in 2011 and is based in Palo Alto.
Filed under: mobile
NFC Still Has Legs: Flomio Closes On Half A Million In Seed Funding For NFC-Based Products & Services
Because we’re in need of some brighter NFC-related news today, Flomio, a TechStars-backed startup, and makers a platform for building NFC and RFID enabled applications, has closed a seed round of $525,000. The round was led by RMR Capital, and included participation from TechStars, the Cloud Power Fund, Matthew Lally (Augme, Pickflair), and Clint Watson (FASO).
Based in Miami, Florida (“Silicon Beach!”), Flomio has a different approach to NFC, which will be reflected in a website redesign going out next week. In short, it wants to humanize the technology. Originally a side project from founder Richard Grundy, Flomio was recently accepted into TechStars Cloud, the cloud computing-focused incubator which held its first demo day in April.
If you had checked out the Flomio website in the recent past, you may remember that it was touting how its technology could be used to build NFC applications, and it offered a store where you can buy NFC tags and readers. While it will continue to sell tags, stickers and hardware devices, the company’s focus going forward will be on targeting consumers and specific vertical markets (e.g., art) in order to make NFC technology seem more accessible to normal folks…and even fun.
Flomio competes with another NFC startup we’ve previously covered called Tagstand, but has a different point of view about the space, according to company founder Grundy, whose background includes 12 years at Motorola. “We have a different approach,” says Grundy. “We’ve done events, just like they have. We’ve done outdoor deployments just like they have, but what we focus on the most is on this instrumented space model which is all about using peer-to-peer to allow people to engage physical spaces.”
Grundy explains that NFC had been traditionally modeled around passive tags – that is, a combination of a reader and a tag that responds when excited, e.g. by waving your device over the tag or tapping it. But what really inspired him about NFC’s potential was the newer “peer-to-peer” technology, which was introduced in 2009. This allows two readers to talk to each other. The newer technology could enable wild, sci-fi stuff. For example: “if you want your cell phone to talk to your microwave, and download a recipe about how to bake a potato and it just programs the microwave for you,” explains Grundy, “that sort of use case can only be enabled through a peer-to-peer solution. We were enabling developers to put that to action,” he says.
Unfortunately, though, developers weren’t biting. “That’s so far ahead of what people are doing today, we found difficulty gaining traction,” Grundy admits. So now the company is dialing things back a bit…for now. Instead of targeting developers, they’re going to focus on popularizing NFC with users, in a number of different ways. Some of these details are still under wraps for a few more weeks, but the long and short of it is that they’re going to help make NFC fun, not scary, not confusing, and not geeky.
As CXO (that’s “Chief Experience Officer”) Timo Ronan explained to me, “we understand the human side of life, we’re not just engineers.”
“We figure if Touch is the next wave, it conceptually needs to permeate our brand. We want to be real people to real people. We just happen to be pretty smart and stuff,” Ronan says.
Here’s a sneak peek at the new website, to give you an idea:
And here’s a concept video of a tag they’re working on:
And just for the heck of it, here’s a video, entirely unrelated to product, of something awesome they filmed the other day:
Another big round of funding in the currently-chic area of online retail and fashion: JustFab, the online shoe/fashion brand and styling platform with six million members, has raised $76 million, funding that it will use to go big on international expansion. The C-Round was led by new investor Rho Ventures, with participation from existing backers Matrix Partners, Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV) and Intelligent Beauty, JustFab’s parent company, which incubated and launched the startup in 2010. The total amount of money now raised by JustFab is $139 million.
After a launch in Germany earlier this year that went “significantly better than we expected,” co-CEO Adam Goldenberg tells me that the main priority right now is to continue that international expansion to one of the biggest fashion markets in Europe. “We are launching in the UK in September,” he tells me, with more markets to be added by the first quarter of 2013. Currently, he says, JustFab is adding half a million users every month, and is on track to make $100 million in revenue this year — a big leap on the $28 million of 2011 — on a business model that mixes a subscription-based user-base with other users buying a la carte.
The subscription model, Goldenberg says, has been serving JustFab very well indeed: the VIP program, as it’s called, requires users to spend a minimum of $39.95 each month on items in the store (that’s the flat price for every item as well). He says that what happens is that users visit on average much more frequently, between 25 and 30 times each year. “Every time they ‘walk’ in the door [of the site], we remerchandize the store,” he says, which drives people to buy more. The a la carte model involves users not required to make purchases, but in these cases the items cost between $49 and $79.
Shoes are where JustFab got its start — the styles are geared at the “fast fashion” category of footwear, more Nine West and Steve Madden than Louboutin — and he says this is what has remained most popular. JustFab currently puts in orders for some 4-5 million pairs of shoes annually, and scaling up the business will only improve the financials for this. Manufacturers, he says, tend to require minimum runs of 300,000 on footwear.
But he also adds that some of the $76 million will go towards widening its product base well beyond the shoe category that helped JustFab make its name. “We want to go beyond shoes, bags and jewellery to better compete against the H&Ms and Zaras,” he said. While it will continue to focus on the Just Fab brand, one area that will be a focus are “capsule” collections working with specific designers to create seasonal, temporary lines of clothes. This is an area that has sold very well for H&M and others in the fast fashion retail category.
Another area that JustFab just might see some potential is in the area of acquisitions. Right now growth will be more organic, says Goldenberg. But he’s also aware of the other route, as evidenced by well-funded fashion and design brand Fab, which has made several acquisitions in Europe (most recently Llustre in the UK), to quickly pick up customers and infrastructure.
That’s partly because in Europe there haven’t really emerged competitors offering the same kind of subscription-based business model and around the same kind of fast fashion offering. That’s not the case in JustFab’s home market of the U.S., where it competes against companies like ShoeDazzle and BeachMint (that’s another reason for the international landgrab).
One last category that JustFab has not really touched is mobile: the company still has yet to launch dedicated native apps for users — a surprise given how so many other online fashion brands have closely linked themselves to the platform, and the fact that JustFab itself has already seen a large part of activity on its site come from mobile devices. “It’s a big opportunity,” he admits, adding that native apps will be released later this year.
As part of the funding, Mark Leschly, managing partner at Rho Ventures, will join the board.
Bandpage, a platform for musicians to connect with fans and promote their music on Facebook, has extended its reach to the broader web. Now, with a new product known as “Bandpage Everywhere,” musicians can build a website, and update their Facebook, Tumblr, blog and other promotional sites, in just a few clicks.
“We realized that the next step was to power musicians on both Facebook and the open web,” J Sider, Bandpage’s founder told me in a phone interview. This is the most significant update to the product since the company raised a $16 million funding round in August, 2011.
The real value for bands is that they can manage their online presence in one central hub. Sider told me that musicians (or in most cases, their interns) were spending way too much time refreshing content, such as tour dates, concert photos and new jams.
As I’m reminded, it’s not always easy to remember a WordPress password when you’re on the road.
In just two years, the San Francisco-based startup has become the platform of choice for musicians to discover new fans. Bandpage counts Jason Mraz, Jimi Hendrix and Christina Perri (featured) among its star-studded user base, which has swiftly grown to half a million.
Famous faces aside, the majority of Bandpage’s users are struggling indie bands. Bundled into the release is a new tool that makes it easy for musicians to create a personal website. Pop in a background image, and Bandpage will automatically populate the site with a bio, music and videos from Facebook.
It’s a tool that would come in handy for anyone that relies on digital promotion, bloggers included. Sider told me that Bandpage has come in handy for a broad spectrum of artists and professionals, but there are no immediate plans to extend their reach beyond their core user base.
“Our focus has always been and will continue to be to help musicians represent themselves,” Sider said.
Filed under: VentureBeat
A Google Webmaster Help thread has a webmaster claiming (and he is 100% correct) that in order for him to get some of the sites linking to him to remove the link, the site owner is requiring him to pay between $20 and $500 to remove the link.
The site owners are calling these “link removal processing fees.”
Now, this is not hiring a third-party company to remove links for you (i.e. link removal companies). This is paying the site that has links to you, to remove those links. Some of them you paid or someone else paid to link to you years ago and now to remove the link, they want money as well.
How have you been handling requests for processing fees in response to your link removal requests?
Some webmasters are now requesting processing fees from $20 to $500 to remove links from their web sites.
I don’t like paying those fees, as I did not ask them to place the links in the first place. On the other hand, they see it as a reasonable fee for the time and effort required to remove links. Nobody likes to work for free.
The web site I am currently working on has over half a million inbound links and the link removal processing fees are starting to add up to quite considerable numbers.
Again, this is legit. One webmaster sent me an example which is public and I will post on Search Engine Land in about an hour.
Is this ethical? Should you pay someone to remove a link to your site? They claim it takes them time but yet the link is hurting you. I guess you can always sue them?
Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.
Image credit to ShutterStock for tied up mannequin
Virool, which is part of the current Y Combinator Summer 2012 class, has launched a self-serve platform that will let any YouTube user increase their video views through placement in Facebook and mobile apps.
Its platform works like this: On the publisher side, Virool provides an API that developers can use to hook into the platform and deliver relevant videos to their users. Video producers who want to use the system can link to their YouTube videos in Virool, providing keywords they’d like to target and relevant geographical markets they’d like to see videos appear in. They can pay as little as $10 to promote their content, which is then pushed out to Virool’s network, to appear in any number of mobile or Facebook applications.
The startup is positioning itself as a sort of “AdWords” for videos, providing a way for advertisers to make their videos go viral. But it’s not for 15- or 30-second video ads. Instead, Virool is targeting publishers who have created videos longer than a minute and want promotion on various new platforms. And unlike other video ad services, Virool ensures that viewers actually watch a sizable portion of the video. Its advertisers on the platform only pay when a viewer has watched at least 45 seconds of a minute-long video.
Even though Virool has only been around for a few months, the startup is seeing huge growth, both in terms of the number of videos it serves and the amount of revenue it’s generating. It already has more than 5,000 advertisers using the platform, and is adding about 200 new advertisers every day. It’s also serving more than half a million video views a day, according to founder Alexander Debelov.
Part of its growth just comes from the fact that advertisers keep coming back. Debelov says that more than half of users who sign up and test out the platform come back, and many times those repeat advertisers are running three or four campaigns after their initial trial. Part of that growth also comes from attracting brand interest early on. While anyone can use the platform to promote their content, Virool has already been used for campaigns by major brands like Sephora, Skittles, GM, and Clorox.
Either way, Virool is seeing its revenues double every month, and the startup is already profitable despite marketing mainly by word of mouth. To keep growing, Virool has raised $500,000 in seed funding from Y Combinator, 500 Startups, NetPrice, Global Venture Aliance, Plug and Play Ventures, and Ryan Tu.
Virool has also provided us with promo codes for users to test out the service. The first 100 TechCrunch readers to register and use the code “viroolisawesome” on the payment screen will get a $100 credit toward their account. Are you a video producer looking for promotion? Check it out.
South African startup Motribe is proving that you don’t need to cater to smartphone users to build a million-strong community on the mobile web in under three months.
Motribe announced today that two apps that it launched on Africa’s largest social network, Mxit, have each garnered over a million users. The apps, JudgeMe and MxPix, let people and brands share photos and status updates from any mobile device, including low-end handsets.
The success of MxPix, Africa’s version of Instagram, proves that the magic of editing photos with vintage-inspired filters is universal. In the first two weeks, users uploaded over 70,000 photos and dished out 130,000 “likes”.
The explosive uptake for these apps is unsurprising given that Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world. The most popular handset is a low-cost slider phone like a Samsung e250.
Motribe is a high-performing mobile social networking platform that’s designed for users in the most rural parts of Africa and India. The Cape Town–based company launched in 2010 to take advantage of the growing market in Africa — a “mobile-first continent,” according to founder Nic Haralambous.
The founders told us they developed and marketed the technology with less than half a million dollars in seed funding — an impressive feat.
The vision? ”We wanted to empower users in the emerging markets who can’t afford smartphones and can only access the Internet using a mobile phone,” Haralambous said.
Haralambous explained that he was inspired to start a company to give local people the capability to blog, share their photographs, and connect using feature phones. He noticed that communities in his native South Africa like to congregate around specific topics and shared interests, like a soccer team or church group.
Cofounder Vincent Maher said the idea to build a mobile web platform was validated when he set up a small mobile community for his wife, and they made a profit from it within two months.
There is a huge opportunity for brands to reach an under-served market of a billion people. Already, Motribe is seeing competition encroach on the space from the likes of Netbiscuits, Mobify, and GoMobi.
“Motribe’s focus on connecting this demographic and building tools exclusively for them provides users, brands, and businesses across the globe with the ability to reach the mass market across a multitude of mobile devices,” Haralambous said.
Filed under: VentureBeat
500px, the Toronto-based startup that powers a super-slick photo sharing site, announced today that it has made its first acquisition with the purchase of Algo Anywhere, a startup also based in Toronto that specializes in recommendation algorithms.
The pricetag was some $2 million, which came in a mix of cash and stock, a source involved in the deal tells me. That’s a very nice takeaway for a bootstrapped two-man startup that was founded just 10 months ago.
500px says Algo Anywhere’s recommendation engine technology will integrated fully into its site to power new personalization features. Going forward, Algo’s Zach Aysan and Adam Gravitis will serve as 500px’s Chief Data Scientist and Chief Software Architect, respectively. These additions will bring 500px’s staff number up to 16 people.
Founded in 2009, 500px has emerged over the past 18 months or so as a super popular place for professional photographers and advanced photo buffs to share and sell their works — giving sites such as Flickr a real run for their money. 500px has taken on just over half a million dollars in outside funding, so it’s pretty cool to see how successful it’s become going up against players with much deeper pockets. Today’s multi-million dollar acquisition shows that the team has even bigger plans for the months ahead.
Here is a relevant bit from the press release that 500px issued this morning about the Algo Anywhere deal:
“One of our goals that we’re constantly working towards with our platform, is to make it more user friendly, more customized and more engaging,” said Oleg Gutsol, CEO of 500px. “When we first met the Algo team we immediately recognized that their capabilities and technology would be a perfect fit for our needs to make social photography more interactive and engaging. Combining their big data analysis and recommendation engine, curation and visual content we’re looking forward to offering our users a greatly enhanced experience.”