Archive for the ‘startups’ tag
BranchOut is known as one of the bigger success stories for startups building on top of Facebook. The company, which makes a professional social network that runs on Facebook, has raised nearly $50 million in venture capital and attracted 30 million users since it was founded back in July 2010. So it was great to have the chance to pull aside BranchOut CEO Rick Marini at the Facebook Ecosystem CrunchUp TechCrunch hosted last Friday to hear about the “dos and don’ts” he’s learned along the way.
Watch the video above to see our full interview, and below I’ve excerpted a couple of his insights:
Growth Is Sexy, But Product Is What Counts
One of the major things Marini said he’s learned in building BranchOut is that while the kind of blockbuster growth that Facebook can enable is tempting to constantly position your app to attract new users, it’s important to make sure that your actual product is compelling enough to foster loyalty and a returning audience.
“I think often people think there’s a silver bullet to getting traffic and getting viral. I think what we’ve learned is that there are times when you can get some spike of virality, but if you really want that long-term major user growth its got to start with a good product. So, something that we have at BranchOut [which has grown] from nothing to 30 million users in less than two years, which is great, but then we realized OK, now it’s time not only to get the user acquisition but we’ve got to really enhance the product and get users back every day. Don’t be an episodic utility, be a community. And now we’ve got to make that shift.
I think that it sounds really sexy from the outside when you see our numbers or, you know, companies like us that take off, and people get excited. But if you’re building for the long term, like we are, you’ve gotta have a great product.”
Facebook Isn’t Bedrock — It’s ‘Shifting Sands’
Another lesson the folks at BranchOut have learned is when you build your company on top of Facebook, you have to think about it in a completely different way than you would for a more independently-based company — flexibility is key.
“Facebook innovates so quickly that for my growth team that I have in place [which] focuses on user acquisition and also now more on retention, it’s a different puzzle every day. So think of it, and this is what I tell my guys, think of it when you come in that you’ve got a different puzzle that you need to put together. And all these pieces change every day. And don’t get frustrated by it, look at it as an opportunity and a challenge. Beause most companies aren’t dedicated resources to growth and these analytics and solving this puzzle every day. The ones that do, the ones that can solve that puzzle, those are the ones that we’ve really seen excel.
… I think a lot of off-Facebook properties can build more on bedrock. And I think we are building more on shifting sands. But they’re really lucrative sands if you do well. And you know, for a company like us, for BranchOut, there’s no way we could have signed up 30 million users in two years outside of Facebook. so in spite of the shifting sands and the risks of building on someone else’s platform, the benefits for us are so big.”
Senzari Takes On Pandora With Personalized Radio That Lets You Customize By Popularity, Similarity, Discovery & Tempo
Senzari, the Pandora competitor backed by $1 million in funding from 500 Startups and others, has just debuted a brand-new recommendation engine called AMP3, which steps up the competition quite a bit between it and other streaming radio providers. The new engine (which we’ll just call “AMP” for short) isn’t like the basic “artist radio” option found in Pandora, or the radio features in other streaming music apps, either. Those, at best, may just include a “more/less like this” slider option for customization purposes. Instead, with AMP, listeners can customize their music by a number of factors, including popularity, tempo, similarity, and discovery.
And, says Senzari, this is just the beginning.
“We looked at solutions for recommendation of music and found that pretty much all were similar to what has been done over the last half a decade or more in music,” says Senzari COO Demian Bellumio. “It started with Pandora with the Music Genome, and the solutions out there are just looking at the music itself…we felt that it was an opportunity to innovate in that space,” he says. Bellumio notes that several technology developments have made this type of deeper customization possible, like the advance of tools that help with the crunching of big data, for example, as well as Facebook’s Open Graph, which offers another source to analyze the meaning and the relationships between data points.
“What we decided to do is build a platform that could connect all those dots and go beyond just creating new set of experiences based on the music, but really understand how the music qualities, plus the social layer, plus anything else that could give meaning to the music, like context, could all come together,” he says.
The initial version of the recommendation engine, nine months in development, is the first step to achieving that goal of building a truly personalized radio. Today, you can use AMP to say, for instance, that you want to hear songs like Pearl Jam’s slower music, but only less popular songs, and those you probably have not heard. Popularity and discovery are different settings, to be clear – just because music is “popular,” that doesn’t mean you’ve actually heard it. And Senzari knows what you’ve heard, to some extent, by mining your “likes” and those of your friends on Facebook. It also knows things like the age of your friends, location, what apps people use and who you chat with the most in the Senzari Facebook chat sidebar. All these signals combined help to influence its ability to know what you may or may not have yet heard.
Senzari thinks of itself as not a music company, but a technology company which is focused for now on music. But that being said, it has ideas as to how it can take on the music radio incumbent Pandora. Its “recommendable” catalog encompass some 18-19 million songs (up from 11 million in May) and far more than Pandora’s 900,000. And it’s also targeting worldwide markets, while Pandora remains U.S.-only. Senzari is now available not only in the U.S., but also Spain, Brazil, and just recently, the U.K. It’s rolling out to Italy and parts of Latin America next, and expects to arrive on mobile by October.
In the meantime, users in supported regions can try the new AMP recommendation engine here on the web.
Interessante start-ups, websites, projecten, initiatieven… we kunnen er geen genoeg van krijgen. Toch hadden deze nog geen eigen plekje op Marketingfacts. Tot vorige week, want startups en andere leuk initatieven krijgen een eigen rubriek in een Marketingfacts-jasje, onder de simpele doch retro naam: Nieuw! Met vandaag: verandervan.nl. Lees meer over: Nieuw! Verandervan.nl.
Dave McClure’s 500 Startups has pretty much always been interested in world domination. Now it’s taking one step closer, by snapping up the Latin America startup accelerator Mexican.VC. By doing so, 500 Startups will gain an even stronger foothold in the LatAm market, as it brings Mexican.VC partners César Salazar and Santiago Zavala onto the team, making them its venture partners in Mexico.
The move comes as 500 Startups is looking to accelerate its international investments. Already, a significant portion of its portfolio companies came from outside the U.S.: According to McClure, about 10 percent of the investments in its first fund were international companies. But with its new, $50 million second fund, 500 Startups wants to increase that even further, with about 25 percent of the fund going to companies overseas.
With that in mind, it’s made some recent key hires to accelerate investment in international markets. While raising its new fund, 500 Startups also hired Bedy Yang and George Kellerman as venture partners. Yang oversees investments in Brazil and Latin America, while Kellerman has his eye on the Japanese market. Salazar and Zavala will aid in the LatAm market, where their accelerator has already invested in a number of Mexican startups.
Mexico has a lot of things going for it, from en entrepreneurial perspective: It’s the world’s 12th largest economy, according to Salazar, and might even be growing faster than Brazil. It also expects to see the number of Internet users double over the next five years, providing a huge opportunity for young tech companies.
Of course, this move is merely an extension of 500 Startups’ existing investment strategy, as 500 Startups has already been pretty active in Latin America. According to McClure, it’s made nine investments in Brazil, with another five or six in Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. With Mexican.VC, it expects to make an additional 20-30 investments in the region each year.
99designs, the crowdsourced design marketplace “real” designers love to hate, has acquired 12designer, the Berlin-based crowdsourced design marketplace that had become 99designs’ number-one rival in the European market.
The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the multilingual 12designer team will become 99designs’ new European staff, including former 12designer CEO/current 99designs general manager for Europe Eva Missling.
Last year, 99designs raised a large first round of funding — $35 million, to be precise — from Facebook investor Accel Partners. The extra cash gave it a bit of leverage to do deals like this one, in which it’s scooped up 12designers’ 22,000-strong community of creatives.
Both sites work the same way: A brand, company, or individual submits a request for proposal. Creatives, from designers to branding folks to teenagers with their first stolen copy of Photoshop, compete with each other, submitting proposals and sketching out concepts quickly (this is the “spec work” part of the process that “real” designers find particularly odious, in case you were curious).
The winner of each bidding process/online contest gets to complete the work and get paid for their efforts according to the budget set out in the RFP. Results can vary widely, of course, but the concept works quite well for many startups, small businesses, and others who need quick, cheap design and branding help.
99designs is without question the larger of the two companies, currently boasting 1,490 open RFPs as compared to 12designer’s 113, and its design community is more than six times larger than 12designer’s. All things considered, the acquisition makes a lot of sense. In fact, it reminds us very much of Fab.com’s acquisition of its German clone, Casacanda, not too long ago.
And as the Fab/Casacanda acquisition was the offshoot of that company’s international ambitions and expansion plans, so too is this deal. Expect to see more 99designs growth in Europe. Currently, Germany is one of the company’s largest and fastest-growing markets outside English-speaking areas, and European customers make up roughly 15 percent of the company’s business.
We wrote recently that Venture Capitalists are hot for video startups. Since then, two companies we highlighted hit major milestones: SocialCam was acquired for 60M and Tout raised 13M.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
All of us at TechCrunch recognize that CrunchBase is a hidden gem. As a resource for finding data about startups, funding activity, acquisitions and exits, it is invaluable, as this recent study supports.
To keep you up-to-date on the huge stream of data in Crunchbase, we are launching a weekly email digest of the latest startup news and activity called CrunchBase Weekly. Out first edition goes out today at 10am PDT. In this first phase, each weekly email will contain a summary of the top funding rounds, acquisitions, and executive moves in the week past. Over time, we plan on adding more interesting data and analysis.
The first newsletter will go out to everyone who has a registered CrunchBase user account with an email address. If you do not have a CrunchBase account and would like to receive this weekly digest, feel free to sign up. And if you receive the newsletter but would rather not, there is a link at the top of the email that allows for a quick unsubscribe.
We would love to hear your feedback here or in the comments below. Lastly, while it may seem that we have gone quiet on CrunchBase, we can assure you that is definitely not the case. We are working on a number of things behind the scenes to make CrunchBase an even better and comprehensive source of reliable data. As we build on these ideas, you will see them come to light over the next few months.
Interessante start-ups, websites, projecten, initiatieven… we kunnen er geen genoeg van krijgen. Toch hadden deze nog geen eigen plekje op Marketingfacts. Tot vandaag, want startups en andere leuk initatieven krijgen een eigen rubriek in een marketingfacts-jasje, onder de simpele doch retro naam: nieuw! We trappen deze serie af met VergelijkDeKinderopvang, een website waarop het mogelijk is om verschillende instellingen die gericht zijn op kinderopvang met elkaar te vergelijken. En dan nu het woord aan….Michiel Daalmans. Lees meer over: Nieuw: vergelijk de kinderopvang.
Here’s an interesting approach to the seemingly eternal problem of mobile app discovery: A new app called AppAide recommends apps based on actual usage.
The App comes from BetaBait, a company that connects startups with early users. Back in May, BetaBait acquired BetaNoodle, a company doing something similar for Android apps, and BetaBait co-founder Cody Barbierri (a former co-worker from my VentureBeat days) says AppAide takes advantage of BetaNoodle technology.
Given the confluence of the two companies’ names, I was a little disappointed that the team didn’t manage to sneak “beta” somewhere into the new app name, but I suppose it wouldn’t have made sense, since AppAide isn’t really about finding the newest apps.
Once you’ve downloaded AppAide, it runs in the background of your iPhone, tracking your usage of other apps. (Barbierri says that no personal data is being collected — it’s all anonymized and aggregated.) Then it uses that data to create a list of the top 40 “trending apps” among the AppAide user base. So you should see apps that people actually like and use, rather than the ones that get a lot of downloads through a big publicity or marketing push, but that no one opens again.
AppAide is currently selling sponsored slots in the app. Eventually, it sounds like Barbierri also wants to eventually monetize the data more directly.
Since quietly launching earlier this week, AppAide has been downloaded “a couple hundred” of times, Barbierri says, and there are already 900 apps in the system. Even with a small user base, Barbierri argues that you can get a general idea of what’s trending, “but with more and more users the data only gets more accurate.” That sounds like a fair argument to me — since again, the main goal is app discovery, not an objective list of the Most Used Apps Ever. And since the current ranking mixes big names like Instagram and Pandora with less famous apps like AppsGoneFree, on that level, at least, it’s working.
You can download the app here.
Iedereen heeft er ooit wel eens aan gedacht om zelf een bedrijf of een onderneming op te starten. Voor de meeste entrepreneurs is het uitwerken van deze ideeën al een hele uitdaging. De…