Facebook Messenger now lets you prove you’re “OMW!” in real-time


Just a few days after Google added live location sharing to Maps, now Facebook is doing something similar on Messenger. You could already share your location on the app, but it was basically just a quick snapshot of your location on a map. Now you can see where your friends are in real time as they move around a city, which will come in handy for all those times your friends are “on their way” but haven’t even finished taking a shower (or make it harder for you to lie about where you are).   To try it out, simply tap…

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Equity Podcast: Apple and Amazon buy more companies, and Uber’s saga

 Welcome to the second episode of TechCrunch’s newest podcast, Equity, our venture capital-focused show focused on the numbers, people and companies driving the technology industry. This week, TechCrunch’s Katie Roof, Matthew Lynley, and myself were joined by special guest Elizabeth “Beezer” Clarkson from Sapphire Ventures. We discussed the potential for rising… Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Alteryx rises 11% in data analytics IPO

 Alteryx, the data analytics company, went public on the New York Stock Exchange today, marking the third IPO of the year. The company priced its IPO yesterday at $ 14 per share, and closed Friday at $ 15.50, or 10.7% higher. Alteryx works with clients like Amazon, Ford and Coca-Cola to help them better assess what products are selling and where there are market inefficiencies. CEO Dean… Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Twitter explores interest in paid version of TweetDeck with more analytics


Twitter is testing the waters to see if highly engaged users would be interested in a paid subscription version of TweetDeck. There’s no indication to suggest that such a service will be available soon, but the idea could be to give power users and brands the tools to maximize reach on the service and showcase its real potential.

“We’re conducting a survey to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck,” a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in a statement. “We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people’s Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we’re exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals.”

Journalist Andrew Tavani spotted the survey and flagged it on (where else?) Twitter. In the survey, people are asked whether they would like an “advanced TweetDeck experience,” one that would help them keep track of what’s happening in the world, get more insights, and “see the broadest range of what people are saying on Twitter.” If brought to life, this version would be available for an undetermined monthly fee and would provide features to post, view, and receive alerts, trends, and more analytics than the rest of the 319 million monthly active users on the platform receive.

If you’re not familiar with TweetDeck, it’s a social media management tool similar to Hootsuite and was acquired by Twitter in 2011. And while Twitter has rolled out a host of changes and updates, it has done little to really update the TweetDeck experience. So this premium subscription version could be significant, transforming the tool into a more robust command center that lets brands and highly active users manage their presence, especially around how to communicate with followers and handle promoted tweets, livestreams through Periscope, and more.

One of Jack Dorsey’s priorities as Twitter chief executive has been to make the service easier to use, and while there’s a focus on bringing new users onboard, there’s also a need to help existing users optimize their time on the service. An advanced version of TweetDeck could alleviate some of these issues, while also opening up a new revenue stream for Twitter.

Social – VentureBeat

Coffee Meets Bagel launches premium membership for $35 per month

coffee_meets_bagel_couple


Dating app Coffee Meets Bagel today launched a premium membership for $ 35 per month. The option is rolling out to Android users today and to iOS users “in the next few weeks.”

Coffee Meets Bagel has offered in-app purchases from the very start (coffee beans are the in-app currency to unlock various features), but “the introduction of premium membership is our first step toward a freemium subscription model,” Coffee Meets Bagel cofounder Dawoon Kang told VentureBeat. The desire to monetize a dating app isn’t exactly daring, but the service is trying to set itself apart by offering users behind-the-scenes data “so we can put an end to ghosting.”

That’s a very bold claim to make, given that online dating is plagued with singles responding selectively (or not at all). Unless the app has read receipts or shows when the user was last active, there is no way of knowing if you’re being actively ignored or if your message was even read. Coffee Meets Bagel wants to empower users so they can “tell apart ghosters and flakes from those who actually engage in real conversations.”

cmb_premium

Premium membership includes three features:

  1. Activity Reports: Four stats about each “bagel” — the percentage of times they engage in chats with their connections, percentage of time they send the first message, whether they have opened the app within the past 72 hours, and their average response time to messages.
  2. Read Receipts: For messages you’ve sent, you can see whether your connection read it and at what time (similar in design to Facebook Messenger).
  3. 6,000 Beans: A replenishment of the in-app currency every month. Given that 3,000 beans cost about $ 25, this is a great bonus.

There is a very fine line between giving users data to make informed decisions (I’m not going to pay beans to “take” the below bagel because that’s basically a dead account) and telling them so much that they get frustrated and lash out (“you read my message and still haven’t answered… why?”). The former is awesome: I was thrilled to discover that the data is available for everyone you check out in the app, not just those you have connected with.

coffee_meets_bagel_dead_account

The latter, meanwhile, can quickly spiral out of control if multiple matches seem to be ignoring you, as other dating services have discovered. Because Activity Reports and Read Receipts are limited to paying members, however, Coffee Meets Bagel may get away with only minimal issues. The other danger for the company is in the feature exposing that many of the app’s users are largely inactive — I was shocked that more than half of the bagels I looked at hadn’t been active in the last 72 hours and had a 0 percent response rate. On to the next!

The premium membership is certainly a nice addition, but it’s expensive. The beans make the subscription more worthwhile, and I’m not surprised they were included. The company can charge more and expect paying users to contribute more, resulting in more connections and chats in the overall ecosystem. Unsurprisingly, Coffee Meets Bagel doesn’t think its subscription is overpriced.

“Our most engaged users who are serious about finding someone already pay more than $ 35 a month on CMB,” Kang told VentureBeat. “They do it because making a meaningful connection is important to them. Is $ 35 really so much if you can find someone special?”

Still, in a world where Tinder Plus and Bumble Boost cost $ 10 per month each, you must really believe in Coffee Meets Bagel to pay more than triple that for a subscription.

Social – VentureBeat

Accel leads HotelTonight’s $37M Series E

 Last minute hotel booking app HotelTonight has closed a $ 37 million Series E round of funding — having last raised in early 2014. Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

Help us help: 20 used smartphones to fight Female Genital Mutilation


Worldwide, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of charitable organizations. That’s great of course, but the amount of phil-entropy doesn’t make choosing what charity to support any easier. We’d like to help. Every week, we’ll pick a charity doing something worthwhile using tech, and break down what they do, why that matters, and most importantly, how to help in a tangible way. To kick this off, we’re starting out with the Tanzania Development Trust, a charity registered in the UK that has funded development projects within Tanzania since 1975. Their ask is simple: 20 used smartphones. What are they doing? The Tanzania Development…

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Blackstorm Labs seizes the HTML5 instant games opportunity

Blackstorm Labs' EverWing on Facebook Messenger.


Facebook opened up a new gaming platform with Instant Games for Messenger in November. And Blackstorm Labs seized the chance to launch its own HTML5-based title called EverWing.

The creators of Instant Games hope that it will bring virality back to the social-mobile games business and offer a chance for breakout hits on messenger platforms. Those hits can spread on social, bypassing the app stores.

“We call ourselves the post-app-store company,” said Ernestine Fu, the cofounder of Blackstorm, in an interview with GamesBeat at the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “There’s a change in how software developers are creating apps and how consumers are consuming. You don’t have to develop an iOS or Android app to just play a game or consume a service.”

Ernestine Fu, co-founder of Blackstorm Labs.

Above: Ernestine Fu, cofounder of Blackstorm Labs.

Image Credit: Blackstorm Labs

HTML5 instant games are based on HTML5, the lingua franca of the web. They run in a browser and do not require a download. Such games are being built into social media and messenger systems so that the games are instantly available to play.

Bypassing apps can be disruptive because apps come with a lot of friction. Apps have to be advertised heavily because it’s hard to find them amid millions of other apps in the stores. Then they have to be downloaded and installed. Then the user has to open the app and play. Each one of those points is a source of friction where some of the potential users will drop off.

HTML5 games had problems for a long time, with the first games based on the HTML5 standard launching way back in 2008. Initial games were slow and didn’t perform well. But as smartphone hardware improved over time, the performance problems went away.

Blackstorm Labs' EverWing.

Above: Blackstorm Labs’ EverWing.

Image Credit: Blackstorm Labs

And now the games have a big advantage: If you distribute them on social platforms, you don’t have to give your 30 percent cut to the app stores. And most of the mobile browsers now have one-click payment platforms that make it easy to pay for games or items within the games.

In EverWing, you assume control of a fairy and then fly through various vertical-scrolling levels. You constantly shoot upward and try to take out monsters coming down on you. Blackstorm recently launched a Boss Raids feature in EverWing, where players can team up to fight a single boss. The players fight in real time in a player-versus-environment battle.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Blackstorm launched in the past year, with some of the team coming from Stanford University. It also picked up a number of former Storm8 employees after that company had a layoff. And it focused on making games for Facebook’s Messenger platform.

Blackstorm Labs in Mountain View, Calif.

Above: Blackstorm Labs in Mountain View, Calif.

Image Credit: Blackstorm Labs

“We’re huge believers in HTML5 apps and the new distribution platforms,” Fu said. “There’s only going to be a dozen really important super apps in the future, like messenger platforms like Facebook. They’re not going to completely wipe the app stores away, but the app store as we know it today is going to be completely different.”

Blackstorm is taking on the role of a publisher for instant games, so it will adapt games from other developers for the Messenger format. A couple of new games are coming soon.

“We’re open to considering other formats, but right now we are focused on HTML5,” Fu said.

Others in the market include Softgames, Big Viking Games, Mag Interactive, and various other casual game companies.

“There’s a lot of large and small companies looking at providing games in HTML5 and pushing it to the limits,” Fu said. “It’s time for the new billion-dollar disruption on top of the app stores.”

Social – VentureBeat

FREE Leaflets for Moviegoers About Mistreatment of Dog on Set of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’

FREE Leaflets for Moviegoers About Mistreatment of Dog on Set of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’

By now, you may have seen the shocking video from the set of the upcoming film A Dog’s Purpose in which an animal handler appears to force a terrified German shepherd–type dog into the waters of an intensely swirling pool. Amid the controversy, the film’s Los Angeles premiere was canceled, and while this was a positive development, it isn’t enough. The apparent on-set incident, which is hard to watch, may come as an unwelcome surprise to unsuspecting moviegoers who care about dogs.

Birds & Animals Unlimited (BAU)—the company that, according to a facility manager, supplied the dogs used in the film—was the subject of a recent PETA investigation, which uncovered chronic neglect at a facility operated by BAU. Watch the video here.

Join us in informing the public about the mistreatment that was documented on the set of A Dog’s Purpose—and help spread the message never to buy a ticket to a movie that uses live animals—by handing out leaflets to those who plan on seeing the film. Together, we can spread the word that animals aren’t “actors” and that they often suffer both on and off camera when used for entertainment.

Please fill out the form below (for U.S. and Canada residents only) and we’ll send you a free stack of leaflets to hand out to folks outside your local theater. (Be sure to check the show times so that you reach people before they purchase a ticket!)

Note: If you need your leaflets immediately, you can download and print a black and white version or a color version

All fields in bold are mandatory.

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us. By submitting this form, you are also signing up for PETA’s Action Team.

Want other ways to help animals?

The post FREE Leaflets for Moviegoers About Mistreatment of Dog on Set of ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ appeared first on PETA.

Action – PETA

MuleSoft soars 46% on first day of trading

 It’s the first enterprise tech IPO of the year and it’s off to the races. MuleSoft, which helps businesses like Netflix and Spotify with their APIs, closed at $ 24.75, a 46% premium to its IPO price of $ 17. This was after pricing above the expected range of $ 14 to $ 16. The company was able to raise $ 221 million in the IPO, but they could have raised a lot more if they priced it… Read More
Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch