Category Archives: Social Media launches to help brands find compatible influencers using AI

Influencer marketing is increasing in popularity, but the question of who to engage with raises an interesting quandary.

Brands are finding that employing celebrities and mega-connectors comes with a high risk, and it doesn’t necessarily translate into a reasonable return. These placements also tend to be “one and done” — not a relationship that builds and grows over time. Micro influencers, on the other hand, are often performing better than celebrities overall, but it is hard to manage them at scale, or even find the right people to partner with in the first place.

Today, the Ayzenburg Group has launched its new AI-powered platform,, which is designed to help solve this tricky problem. The fascinating thing? It is being developed in conjunction with Dr. J. Galen Buckwalter Ph.D., the former vice president of research and development of

In short, the solution is attempting to match your brand with suitable influencers using multiple signs of compatibility. uses artificial intelligence to read, analyze, understand, and categorize public social media messages, looking for people who have both reach and relevance but who also are already advocates for your brand. In essence, it helps you to find micro influencers who already have some resonance with your brand, at scale.

“When brands learn more about their own identity, it’s thrilling,” Eric Burgess, VP of product at Ayzenberg Group, told me. “Capturing the perspectives of like-minded creators can open the value of their products in new ways. They can collaborate on content that will delight the audiences that are organically targeted to receive it.”

Combining natural language processing with a contextualization engine and psychometric analysis, it grades conversations, identifies risks, and ultimately pairs brands with the influencers that are most likely to fit their personality.

So how does it work?

You start by typing in a keyword, username, or hashtag. Terms can be combined, so it is easy — for example — to ask to search for influencers who use keywords or hashtags in a particular geographical area.

Once the search has completed, you are presented with a broad range of filters to help narrow down the list of influencers to those you would want to work with. You can decide which channels to focus on, such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. There is a wide range of personality filters too, such as choosing how extroverted, conscientious, agreeable, open, and even neurotic the influencer is, according to the AI’s interpretation of their public social media messages.

The resulting list shows the influencers that match your preferences: their profile, their traits, and their latest posts. From there, you can visit their profile. That’s where the Soulmates.irm browser plugin comes into play. This companion solution lets you add the influencer to a campaign directly from the influencer’s social media account. Once inside Soulmates.irm — the “IRM” here stands for “influencer relationship manager” — you can build a list of influencers and manage everything from approval through to contact, contract negotiation through to production., and the companion Soulmates.irm, are both available from today. IRM has a free base version with upgrades to add functionality, including access to itself has enterprise pricing tailored to each client’s use.

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Many Uber and Lyft riders are ditching their own cars

(Reuters) — Wally Nowinski got his first car when he turned 16 in Michigan, the home of the U.S. auto industry. But after two years of living in New York City, he sold his wheels, using ride services, carsharing and bike sharing to get around.

“My mom didn’t think I could do it. She thought I would buy a new car in six months,” he said. But that was more than a year ago, and his car budget of $ 820 per month fell to $ 250 for carsharing and ride services last year. “I take Uber like pretty frivolously,” he said.

Nowinski, 32, is not alone.

Nearly a quarter of American adults sold or traded in a vehicle in the last 12 months, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll published on Thursday, with most getting another car. But 9 percent of that group turned to ride services like Lyft Inc and Uber Technologies Inc as their main way to get around.

About the same percentages said they planned to dispose of cars and turn to ride services in the upcoming 12 months.

Though a small percentage, the figure of people switching to ride services could be early evidence that more consumers believe that ride sharing can replace vehicle ownership.

Automakers could see a new market in ride services drivers and believe the fast adoption of ride service technology bodes well for self-driving car technology, a big area of investment for many companies, said auto analyst Alan Baum.

It is not clear whether ride service drivers, who rack up vehicle miles and are likely to buy new cars relatively frequently, will make up for any long term drop in personal car ownership.

But Lyft Director of Transportation Policy Emily Castor called the survey ‘early evidence’ that its vision of a world where personal car ownership was unnecessary was beginning to take hold.

“What we’ve seen anecdotally aligns with what you’ve found,” said Uber Head of Transportation Policy and Research Andrew Salzberg.

The survey was the first on the subject by Reuters/Ipsos, so it was not possible to tell whether the move to ride services from car ownership is accelerating, and respondents were not asked whether they gave up a car because of ride services.

The survey showed that 39 percent of Americans had used rides services and that 27 percent of that group did so at least several times per week.

University of California, Berkeley researcher Susan Shaheen said the results on the move to ride services was in line with her 2016 study of a one-way carsharing service, which found a small portion of customers sold a vehicle due to carsharing. She noted, however, that the Reuters/Ipsos survey did not address carsharing or whether people who did not own cars would avoid buying one because of ride services.

Transportation consultant Bruce Schaller said that most of the move to ride sharing probably was explained by factors such as moving in and out of cities and employment changes. Still, he said, “It’s not the predominant trend, but there are a significant number of people who have changed their lifestyle, if you will, and are now relying much more on ride services than their own car.” That was especially true of people who used many sharing services, such as ride share, car share and bike share.

Auto companies say they are getting ready for changes in technology, including expanded demand for ride services and, eventually, self-driving vehicles. “Those are the factors that are driving our move into being both an auto and a mobility company,” said Ford spokesman Alan Hall.

The Reuters/Ipsos U.S. poll was conducted online in English April 5-11. It gathered responses from 584 people who said they disposed of their personal vehicle within the last 12 months and 566 people who said they planned to get rid of their personal vehicles in the next 12 months.

The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 5 percentage points for the people who recently got rid of their vehicle or planned to do so in the future.

For a graphic on ditching personal cars for ride sharing, click here

(Reporting By Peter Henderson; Editing by Bernard Orr)


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Pot luck: Hound Labs raises $8.1 million to combat stoned drivers with cannabis breathalyzers

Law enforcement agencies have been using breathalyzers to test motorists’ sobriety for decades, but a new startup is staking a claim to bring its cannabis version of the technology to market.

So far, the only reliable ways to test for cannabis use have been through saliva, blood, or urine, which aren’t always practical in a roadside setting. But more than that, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known to remain detectable in the system long after a user would be impaired from its use. This is why Hound Labs is developing its breathalyzer, given that THC is detectable in the breath for only a few hours after marijuana use.

Oakland-based cannabis breathalyzer startup Hound Labs is today announcing an $ 8.1 million funding round led by Benchmark, the renowned Silicon Valley VC firm that has made early-stage investments in a number of notable startups, including eBay, Uber, Dropbox, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram. So Hound Labs, it’s fair to say, is in good company.

Hound Labs field-tested its Hound breathalyzer with law enforcement in California last year, and clinical trials started this month at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). The company plans to begin manufacturing a market-ready device later this year.

“Over the past two and a half years, we have extensively tested our device with marijuana users and routinely correlated our results with state-of- the-art forensic laboratory equipment,” explained Hound Labs CEO Dr. Mike Lynn. “We are eager to demonstrate the Hound marijuana breathalyzer’s capabilities and to take the final steps toward commercial availability.”

The Hound breathalyzer is touted as being portable, as well as highly accurate, which means it could be used by police roadside or by employers in a place of work where drug-testing is standard.

Though the device is similar in look and feel to an alcohol breathalyzer, the Hound has to be more sensitive to detect THC — it claims to measure THC molecules in parts-per-trillion, as opposed to the parts-per-thousand measurement standard with alcohol.

Above: Hound Labs’ cannabis breathalyzer


Since the legal floodgates to sell cannabis have opened in several U.S. states, the fledgling weed industry has been gaining momentum. Indeed, a number of VC firms have plowed cash into marijuana startups — DCM Ventuers, Tusk Ventures, and 500 Startups are among the firms that have invested in medical marijuana delivery firm Eaze.

Elsewhere, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund took a minority stake in Privateer Holdings, a Seattle-based company behind weed startup

But while some VC firms have been investing in technology startups that enable cannabis intake, Benchmark is looking to tackle things from the other side. With as many as 55 million Americans reportedly using marijuana to some degree, Hound sees an opportunity to take on the problem of stoned drivers.

“Cannabis legalization has created a new global market for employee and law enforcement testing,” stated Benchmark general partner Mitch Lasky, who will also join Hound Labs’ board of directors. “In the past, employers and law enforcement professionals focused on possession and use. After legalization, impairment — whether behind the wheel or on the job — becomes the new enforcement paradigm. Groundbreaking science is necessary to make an accurate measurement of recently used cannabis, and Hound Labs is uniquely positioned to deliver a solution to the market that respects the needs of the enforcement community as well as the rights of legitimate cannabis users.”

In addition to the clinical trials that have kicked off in San Francisco, Hound Labs said that it will continue carrying out field studies with law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Today’s funding takes Hound Labs total cash injection past the $ 14 million mark.

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Can we just call them apps?

Apps are everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere you look, you’ll find apps.

It wasn’t always that way.

On Windows, apps were “programs.” On a Mac, they were “applications.”

When Microsoft took up the term, following Apple’s App Store — THE App Store — Apple fans cried foul: They should be “progs,” they said, because Windows has programs, they said, and Mac has applications.

On gaming consoles, apps were once games, or discs, or cartridges. Music used to be CDs, or tapes, or vinyl. Cameras used to be cameras, but now they’re apps. Everything is an app. Social networks are camera companies now, which, again, are just apps. Websites were once just websites — now, if they’re any good, they’re web apps. Mail went from paper to website to app.

Apps are everywhere. On watches. On TVs. Inside other apps.

Apple trademarked the App Store, so Google called its app store a Play Store. It’s still an app store. You don’t download “plays” in a Play Store. You download apps.

Amazon made an app store and went to court over it. Amazon made its app store one word: the “Appstore.” We call it an app store, because it’s a store for apps.

Now apps aren’t just something you touch or click, or even something you can see. Siri. Alexa. Google Assistant. Cortana. There are apps for your voice now — voice apps.

But Apple calls Siri apps “extensions.” And Amazon calls Alexa apps “skills.” Microsoft, not very original, calls Cortana apps “skills,” too. Google calls Google Assistant apps “actions.”

But they’re just apps. Voice apps. Like phone apps and laptop apps. So really, can we just call them apps?

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More than 5% of Facebook’s workforce deals with AR and VR

Two pieces of information from Facebook sources have given us new insight into the division of labor inside the social media giant.

Words spoken by Oculus team’s head of PC VR Brendan Iribe and a passage from Facebook’s quarterly report indicate more than five percent of the company’s total workforce are devoted to virtual reality in some capacity.

This week, Facebook filed its quarterly report. In that report is a figure relating to the company’s size and how it has grown over the last year. According to the report, “headcount was 18,770 as of March 31, 2017, an increase of 38 percent year-over-year.”

Facebook declines to comment on the size of its individual teams as a matter of policy. However, this week Iribe was a featured speaker at Unity’s Vision Summit in Los Angeles. There he was asked to address why he stepped down as the CEO of Oculus.

By way of an answer, Iribe made the following remarks concerning Oculus’ growth following its acquisition by Facebook in 2014:

“When we shook hands with Mark we were 60 people…And we got to a point where we were over a thousand people. Along that path I started to spend most of my time managing the org and a lot of time on recruiting these thousand people.”

Iribe did not say specifically how far over 1,000 employees the VR team has grown to, however, that means at least 5.3 percent of Facebook’s total workforce is working on mixed reality technology.

We have reached out to Facebook directly to see if it can shine any more light on the specific number of employees it has working on VR and AR technology. We will update this article if we receive any new information.

This story originally appeared on Copyright 2017

VentureBeat’s PC Gaming channel is presented by the Intel® Game Dev program. 

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How Netflix plans to tackle China

Netflix’s growth over the past 15 months has been impressive to watch. Its arrival on the global scene last January with 130 new markets was swiftly followed by a massive $ 1 billion financing initiative for new content, a much-requested offline mode, and another $ 1 billion financing initiative earlier this week to spearhead its push to dominate the video-streaming market globally.

Netflix is now gearing up to hit 100 million subscribers in 2017, but there remains one huge elephant in the room in terms of its international aspirations: China.

China is a notoriously tricky market for Western technology companies, with the likes of Google more or less banned across the board. Netflix hasn’t found it any easier, and China remains conspicuously absent from its list of launch markets, though Netflix has found some success in the past through licensing its own shows to existing platforms in China. Netflix’s House of Cards proved something of a success when local player Sohu bought the rights a few years back, but it was later pulled by regulators. And Netflix also brought the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel, Sword of Destiny, to Chinese movie theaters last year, where it reportedly performed rather well.

Netflix still doesn’t hold out much hope of launching its service in China in the immediate future, but it has just signed another deal with Baidu subsidiary iQiyi, an ad-supported video platform founded in 2010 that streams a range of licensed and original TV shows and movies to Chinese viewers. iQiyi is also in the midst of switching to a subscription-based model, similar to Netflix’s.

First reported by the Hollywood Reporter earlier this week, the deal will see a slew of Netflix original shows arrive on iQiyi, though the company has remained tight-lipped about which shows will be given airtime in China. The likes of House of Cards will probably remain off the agenda due to its political theme, but Netflix has now confirmed two shows that will definitely be arriving for Chinese viewers: the excellent Stranger Things and Black Mirror. This represents a milestone moment for Netflix, as it gives the company room to maneuver and garner mindshare in what could prove a hugely lucrative market. It also goes some way toward justifying the significant investment Netflix is making in original content — as the rightsholder to so many movies and shows, it holds sway over where its content is broadcast. That’s usually on the Netflix platform itself, but when it comes to China, where it’s banned, this means selling its shows, similar to how a traditional production company would sell programming to TV networks.

But while the iQiyi deal represents a positive step forward for Netflix, the company isn’t getting its hopes up that this will somehow magically open doors to launching its streaming service in China. Netflix calls its expectations from the deal “modest,” but says it’s nonetheless “delighted that consumers will be able to enjoy these highly popular series on iQIYI,” according to a statement issued by the company. “Our cooperation will be subject to the relevant regulations on online streaming of imported drama and film content in China,” it added.

China’s tight regulatory hurdles will likely mean Netflix won’t be bringing its service to market there anytime soon. Even heavily funded companies such as Uber, which was able to launch in China, finally had to unfurl the white flag and merge with a local player. When the mighty Amazon finally launched its own Prime Video service globally back in December, China was missing from the list. Plus, Alibaba-backed Tencent Video and Youku Tudou are already huge in China, so if there ever was to be a concerted effort to get more Netflix content into China, it will almost certainly be through licensing programs to existing companies.

Netflix shares have been riding on the crest of a wave, recently hitting an all-time high of $ 148, though the price dropped when the company missed its new subscriber target by 250,000. Hot on the heels of Netflix announcing its China licensing deal, however, the company’s shares broke the $ 153 barrier for the first time, achieving a new all-time high.


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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey snaps up shares worth about $9.5 million

(Reuters) – Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey snapped up more than half a million of the company’s shares for about $ 9.5 million, a regulatory filing on Friday showed.

Dorsey bought 574,002 Twitter shares in multiple transactions at prices ranging between $ 16.47 and $ 16.74 per share, according to the filing.

That adds to the roughly $ 7 million worth of Twitter stock Dorsey bought earlier this year, bringing the total number of shares he has purchased this year to 1 million, the CEO said in a tweet.

According to the filing, Dorsey now owns about 16 million Twitter shares, which equates to a stake of about 2.2 percent in the company he co-founded.

Dorsey’s disclosure comes a day after Twitter reported better-than-expected user growth for its first quarter, following several quarters of stalled growth.

Twitter’s shares rose 1 percent to $ 16.65 after the bell on Friday.

The stock closed up nearly 5 percent in regular trading on Friday, adding to a gain of roughly 8 percent on Thursday when the company reported its results.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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Amazon’s Echo Look is a voice assistant with a camera, because that’s not creepy

Amazon debuted a new camera-equipped, Alexa-enabled device today called Echo Look.

The Echo Look can take pictures, share a live video feed of the camera to your phone, and record videos. The totally not creepy device will set you back $ 199.

The Style Check feature could be one of the main features that makes a smart speaker with a camera interesting. Using computer vision, Echo Look can help you decide what shirt or dress to wear by taking a picture and running it through style-trained machine learning algorithms. In initial news, Amazon has not shared many details about how its Style Check computer vision works.

This feature suggests additional visual always-on services such as security. Sharing those photos of with friends in chat or social media — a feature that made A-B bot Swelly popular — may also be an attractive feature for an intelligent assistant with a camera.

Several bots like have been made with computer vision or to give fashion advice, though there are few fashion advice voice apps available today.

Google Home also has a stylist. A voice app called Able Style gives daily mens fashion tips and with the assistant can walk through a website that provides a series of fashion ideas and color combinations.

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Why this former Facebook Messenger product manager is investing in AI

Outsourcing, automation, and connecting strangers on chat apps are among some of the biggest opportunities in conversational commerce forming around chat app platforms, former Facebook Messenger product manager turned investor Seth Rosenberg told VentureBeat.

Last Wednesday, amid a rush of Facebook news from F8, Greylock Partners announced that Rosenberg would join its consumer investment team to make seed or early round investments in startups working with bots, AI, messaging, AR/VR, and other fields.

Until late last year, Rosenberg had been part of the Messenger team working with businesses and a developer community to create a bot ecosystem for the Messenger Platform. During Rosenberg’s three years at Messenger, the chat app launched its bot and game platforms and grew from 200 million to more than one billion monthly active users.

About the series of changes made this week to increase the discoverability of bots on Messenger — the new discover tab for popular or featured bots, chat extensions to bring bots to groups, bots for Workplace by Facebook — Rosenberg said he wasn’t surprised, and that in this case it’s good to be predictable.

“It was really a signal of reinvestment in the platform and tools that were universally requested and practically useful. Every year you don’t want some kind of ‘this is the future of world’ bomb drop,” he said. “It’s kind of refreshing actually for everyone involved to not be super surprised by some of the announcements. Like ‘OK, they’re doubling down on the same platform, they built a lot of tools based on feedback we’ve given them,’ and people are starting to get more visibility to it, which is helpful.”

He told VentureBeat he’s interested in investing in companies making services to connect people outside of each other’s network for platforms like Messenger, WeChat, Kakao, and Line.

Companies that connect people include visual A-B test bot Swelly, as well as bots like NearGroup and Foxsy that connect people interested in dating or making friends nearby.

“It’s still an open space for using messaging to connect with people that are not in your close network,” Rosenberg told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “A lot of people have tried this, but nothing has really taken off yet.”

Above: Left to right: Wingstop CIO Stacey Peterson, Facebook Messenger Product Manager Seth Rosenberg, Fandango SVP Mark Young, and panel moderator Stewart Rogers of VentureBeat. Panel participants discussed opportunities and challenges in commerce and bots at MobileBeat, a two-day chatbot and artificial intelligence gathering held July 12-13 at The Village in San Francisco.

Image Credit: Michael O’Donnell / VentureBeat

Rosenberg also believes there are big opportunities on chat platforms for communication within and between businesses because “email is still the default.”

“There are obviously companies like Slack and Microsoft Teams, but beyond the Silicon Valley bubble, email is still the way businesses communicate with each other. And I still believe there’s something [there for] either those companies or others who tackle it in a slightly different way or who tackle verticals like SMBs or have more of a hybrid approach to messaging,” he said.

Rosenberg sees chat platforms as a vehicle for automation and outsourcing in the workplace, with the potential to “unlock a distributed sales force on mobile.” The most interesting of these companies fuel entrepreneurship that could play a big role in the way people work and think about work.

Several startups in enterprise and other businesses are working on such services. On Friday, Magic launched a bot to complete office tasks in a Slack channel for $ 35 an hour. The now-defunct Tina assistant bot connected a Slack channel to a network of tens of thousands of freelancers in the Philippines to complete administrative tasks. TARA bot automates recruitment and project management.

Other companies exploring the chat gig economy include Ask Wiz, which currently allows tech experts to accept tips from $ 2 to $ 10. There’s Sensay, which intends to allow its anonymous advice givers to get paid, and therapeutic and medical chat services from Talkspace and HealthTap.

Rosenberg sees both pitfalls and opportunity in the way tech is reshaping the workplace for many people.

“You have essentially a fork in the road where on one hand you can have a large group of people that are kind of left behind in this new economy, and it can lead to unhappiness and societal unrest and drug problems and political issues and war and conflict and Brexit, and you’re starting to see signals of that right now. But the other fork in the road is that services like Etsy, Uber, and Shopify are building tools to enable micro entrepreneurship, and they’re replacing giant corporations that you worked at for 40 years in a cubicle, and you can actually replace that with something better where people have more control of their time but still have the same level of security, just through more distributed services.”

“That’s one kind of outcome of AI that I think is interesting to invest in, which is the future of work,” he concluded.

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LinkedIn passes 500 million member milestone

Giant cloud-based resume repository LinkedIn announced that it now has 500 million members spread across 200 countries.

For context, the company announced 400 million members back in October 2015, and 450 million members in August 2016. However, these numbers don’t tell the full story — at last count, only 25 percent of LinkedIn’s members were active on the platform every month. With this latest announcement, LinkedIn hasn’t revealed how many of the 500 million are monthly active users (MAUs), but it’s probably safe to assume that the previous 25 percent figure remains about the same.

After its $ 26 billion acquisition by Microsoft last year, LinkedIn is no longer a public company, so we may not ever get a breakdown of its active users, unless Microsoft decides to do so as part of its own earnings. As it happens, LinkedIn has lost $ 100 million since it was bought out by Microsoft.

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