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    A look at the top trends exciting NYC’s consumer VCs

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Friday, 8 November - 16:09

To learn more about the next wave of consumer startup investment outside Silicon Valley, I’m speaking to leading B2C-focused investors in various hubs about the trends they’re excited about right now.

Recently, I shared the responses from several London-based investors ; today, we spoke to eight of New York’s top consumer VCs:

  • Rebecca Kaden, Partner at Union Square Ventures
  • David Tisch, Founding Partner at BoxGroup
  • Anu Duggal, Founding Partner at Female Founders Fund
  • Craig Shapiro, Partner at Collaborative Fund
  • Jeremy Levine, Partner at Bessemer
  • Beth Ferreira, Partner at Firstmark Capital
  • Graham Brown, Partner at Lerer Hippeau Ventures
  • Eric Reiner, Partner at Sinai Ventures
  • Chris Paik, Partner at Pace Capital

Consumer health and banking startups were recurring areas of interest, and there’s a sense that apps and product brands which provide a deeper sense of community are an untapped opportunity.

Rebecca Kaden, Partner at Union Square Ventures

At USV, we are focused on opportunities that broaden access by leveraging technology to increase value and decrease cost in big buckets of consumer spend. In doing so, we are looking for ways to make products and services previously available to a select segment available to many more. In particular, we have been investing in areas of consumer health where the delivery mechanism not only makes the care more convenient but also more affordable and higher quality; products and platforms in financial services that change the traditional underlying model to drive financial health for a mass customer; and opportunities that create new access to education both for kids and lifelong learners.

Within each of these segments, I’ve been very interested in how new communities are forming inside products–users that come for a specific offering are forming allegiance and increasing engagement by interacting with other users. I think that is a trend we will only see accelerate.

David Tisch, Founding Partner at BoxGroup

People are bored on their phones, not of their phones. I am most excited to meet founders working on consumer apps that bring happiness and fun to a mass consumer audience, as I continue to believe we are in the early days of mobile and the app store is not dead.

These apps may look like a game, they may be a game, or they may be a new feed, but TikTok, Twitch, HQ, Yolo and other Snap app kit apps, Tinder and others have shown consumers want new apps, the barrier for adoption and retention is  just very high. All apps and games have a half-life, creating something with a very long one is really hard, but the demand is sitting on the phone scrolling thorough feeds, waiting for some new fun. We are excited about apps that allow people to interact with others in different ways, in new worlds, using new hardware, or new interfaces.

Anu Duggal, Founding Partner at Female Founders Fund

With the rise of the sober curious movement, we invested in Kin Euphorics, offering consumers a sexy option to an alcoholic drink, creating a social experience around a non-alcoholic beverage that doesn’t exist in the market today. With beer sales decreasing five years in a row, brands like Heineken are offering alcohol-free alternatives catering to this growing audience.

With the decline of religion, we have seen the rise of what we call the “rise of the alternate community.” Consumers are looking for ways to connect online and offline based on specific interests. Examples of this in our portfolio include The Wonder, a membership model for familyhood, Peanut , a social network for modern motherhood, and Co-Star , an astrology app.

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    Senegal’s NIMA Codes to launch address app in 15 African countries

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Wednesday, 6 November - 08:15

Senegalese startup NIMA Codes — a digital mapping service for locations without formal addresses  —  has upgraded its app and plans to go live in 15 African countries in 2020.

The pre-seed stage startup launched in 2018 around an API that uses mobile-phone numbers to catalog coordinates for unregistered homes and businesses in Senegal.

NIMA Codes is adding a chat tool to its platform, to help users locate and comment on service providers, and is integrating a photo-based location identifier, NIMA Snap, in the application.

“What we offer right now is a reliable street-addressing product. Because it’s very difficult for people…to communicate location in Africa and a lot of services are using location. So we need a service that can communicate reliable locations,” NIMA Codes co-founder and CEO Mouhamadou Sall told TechCrunch.

By several rankings, NIMA Codes has become a top-three downloaded navigation app in Senegal (for Android and iOS). The platform has 16,000 subscribed users and recorded over 100,000 searches, according to Sall.

He and co-founder Steven Sakayroun (a software engineer and IBM alum) came up with idea for assigning location coordinates to mobile numbers in previous software development roles.

“If you look at street addresses in North America, in the end they are just a way to name longitude and latitude, because the computer doesn’t know what 6th Avenue really means,” Sall said.

Since mobile-phone penetration in Senegal and broader Africa is high, mobile numbers serve as a useful reference point to attach location information tagged for both homes and businesses, Sall explained. Mobile-phones can also serve as an entry point for people to input location coordinates to NIMA Codes’ data-base.

There are also advantages to assigning coordinates to digits, vs. letters, in Sub-Saharan Africa with its 1000s of language groupings, Sall explained. “Nima Codes is a cross-border and language agnostic solution,” he said.

Mouhamadou Sall

Sall believes that will work to the startup’s advantage when it expands services and data-base building to all 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States by the end of 2020.

NIMA Codes is still plotting prospects for its best use-cases and revenue generation. It hasn’t secured partners yet and is still identifying how those downloading the app are using it. “Right now it’s mostly people who download the app…and register locations. Some delivery companies may be using it and not telling us,” said Sall.

Ecowas Countries

The startup plans to generate revenue through partnerships and API usage fees.

Sall believes NIMA Codes’ new image-based location and chat-based business search functions could come together — akin to Google Maps and find nearby places — to create commercial revenue opportunities across merchants in West Africa’s large, informal economies.

Another obvious plug-in for NIMA Codes’ service is Africa’s fast-growing ride-hail and delivery markets. Sall points 2019 data that Uber paid $58 million over three-years for map and search services.The U.S. ride-hail company has also tested an image-based directions app called OKHi in Kenya. And there are reports of Uber’s imminent expansion into Senegal .

Whatever the application, Sall believes NIMA Codes is cornering a central point of demand in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The use-case is so big, you need to start with something and eventually expand,” he said.

“But everything wraps around having a reliable location service for people and small business.”

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    Snap CEO isn’t expecting much from Facebook antitrust investigations

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Friday, 4 October - 19:42

Facebook’s relentless blatant feature copy of Snapchat have been seen as one of the chief examples of the company’s competitive overreach, but Snap CEO Evan Spiegel isn’t sure whether antitrust activity from the government is going to change the company’s near-term prospects of competing with Instagram.

“I mean the history of antitrust would basically say that these investigations last like seven to ten years or something like that and that basically nothing happens,” Spiegel said onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. “I think a lot can change in the seven to ten years that this process will take.”

Though Spiegel didn’t seem to have the most faith in the process giving Snap a more level playing field to take on Facebook, he did say there were clear public concerns with how Facebook was responding to competition in the market.

“The thing that everyone’s concerned about is like is that they’ve seen that competition has been what has motivated Facebook to make those changes over time,” Spiegel said onstage. “So, if you look at Snapchat, the inventions that we create around ephemerality, around privacy, those have really motivated Facebook to dramatically change their product offering in order to compete.”

Whether Facebook was specifically suppressing Snapchat content, Spiegel said, “It’s hard to say and I you know I’d probably be stupid to talk about it here.”

“I think what everyone is concerned about is what they would characterize as anti competitive practices so for example, you know, people upload snaps they create on Snapchat to Instagram, all the time, and then Instagram suppresses you know the Snapchat hashtag or they suppress people’s ability to post snap codes as their profile picture or suppress their ability to link to Snapchat on their profile. And that’s an example of anti-competitive behavior.”

Spiegel also confirmed that the company had put together a list of some of Facebook’s competitive moments called Project Voldemort, noting that the list had been started several years ago. The initiative’s existence was first reported by The Wall Street Journal .

“I didn’t make it, our legal team put it together,” Spiegel said. “I think just because they kept hearing from our partners all of these things that Facebook was doing and it was actually so many that people couldn’t actually remember them all so they started writing them down.”

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    Snapchat reportedly has “Project Voldemort” dossier on Facebook’s bad behavior

    news.movim.eu / ArsTechnica – Monday, 23 September - 18:09

Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress in April, 2018.

Enlarge / Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress in April, 2018. (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images )

Facebook is only 15 years old, yet in that time it has become the world's dominant social media platform, boasting more than 2.4 billion users. It has also become the world's second-largest digital advertising platform, effectively the runner-up in a worldwide duopoly dominated by Google. Now, it is under a baker's dozen of investigations alleging that it rose to the top by using unfair, anticompetitive tactics—and at least one competitor kept records.

Snap, parent company of Snapchat, kept a dossier "for years" detailing Facebook's attempts to thwart it, sources told The Wall Street Journal . The file, dubbed "Project Voldemort" after the just-doesn't-know-when-to-stay-dead villain of Harry Potter fame, "chronicled Facebook's moves that threatened to undermine Snap's business."

According to the WSJ, Snap's legal team recorded instances where Facebook discouraged prominent social media influencers with a presence on multiple platforms from mentioning Snap on their Instagram accounts. Snap executives also suspected Facebook was suppressing content that originated on Snap from trending on Instagram, when such content was shared there.

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    Startup growth hacks, high-frequency trading, startup security, privacy, and Adobe

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Wednesday, 18 September - 17:35

Full Disrupt SF agenda posted

We have an amazing slate of speakers stopping by TechCrunch Disrupt SF this year, including two full days scheduled for the debut of our Extra Crunch stage, which will focus on how founders can overcome the challenges they face through discussions of tactics with some of the most successful founders and leaders in our industry.

Want to learn how to raise your first dollars with Russ Heddleston at DocSend ? How to get into Y Combinator with YC CEO Michael Siebel ? How to iterate your product with the chief product officers of Uber , Tinder , Okta , and Instagram ? How to evaluate talent with Ray Dalio ? These and almost two dozen more panels are waiting for attendees on the EC stage.

Be sure to grab your tickets soon . And if you are an annual EC subscriber, be sure to use your 20% membership discount by emailing extracrunch@techcrunch.com .

How to get your ads working, and whether PR is worth it

Growth expert Julian Shapiro of BellCurve.com launched a new series of articles for Extra Crunch members on how to grow your startup using battle-tested growth hacks and techniques from heads of growth across Silicon Valley. His first piece came out on Friday on how to work with influencers , and now in this second edition, he investigates advertising and how to evaluate the value of PR firms .

How to make Snapchat ads profitable

Based on insights from Tim Chard .

  • Snap has niche audiences you’ll want to take advantage of. Examples include “people with digestive issues.” Facebook doesn’t have that. Plus, ad clicks on Snap can be cheap ($0.30 USD isn’t uncommon).
  • However, Snap traffic typically converts poorly once it arrives on your site or app.
  • Here’s a technique to mitigate that: cross-target your Snap traffic. Meaning, use unique UTM tags on your Snap ad links. Then, in Facebook/Instagram, detect that unique UTM to create a custom audience of Snap visitors. Finally, retarget those visitors with FB/IG ads, which tend to convert much better than Snap.

How to get people to open your emails

In Julian’s third edition of the Growth Report , he offers even more tips on how to increase open rates, whether you should use Bing Ads(!), and whether and how to handle multi-touch attribution.

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    Snapchat is adding in a 3D Camera Mode, the latest salvo in its feature race with Instagram

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Tuesday, 17 September - 12:00

The newest version of Snap’s Spectacles already has a 3D feature that lets you see the world with immersive filter effects , and now the company’s flagship app Snapchat is levelling up. Today the company announced a new 3D Camera Mode that will let users make and share images with diorama-like depth effects that move when you tilt your phone.

The 3D Camera Mode is available as of today for those using the iPhone X and above with an update of the Snapchat app, where the feature can be accessed via the camera mode, using the drop-down menu on the right. The pictures can also be viewed (but not created) on older and other phone models (including Android) as well.

Alongside the 3D Camera Mode, those creating pictures will also, naturally, be supplied with a new library of 3D effects, lenses and filters; and after you are finished making the images, you can also save them to your camera roll to use elsewhere as well.

The move into 3D is the latest salvo for Snapchat in what has been a long-term feature battle with Facebook, and specifically Instagram . We have long documented the history of how Snapchat has led the charge with new concepts in photo art on its app — from the very basic aspect of ephemeral images, through to the emergence of lenses and filters, and stories to build narratives of Snaps and videos — only to see Instagram (and to a lesser extent, Facebook itself) follow suit with the similar features.

The feature-copy situation is particularly a tough one for Snapchat, which still trails Instagram in overall users and once saw its growth slow massively after its rival implemented Stories. Snapchat most recently reported 203 million daily active users , while Instagram currently says its DAUs are over 500 million .

Lenses and photo effects overall still have a long way to go, though — not least because currently some 70% the company’s daily users turn to lenses to spice up their pictures, pointing to a very sticky feature that helps keep them on Snapchat overall. So Snapchat’s push to keep innovating (even if it gets copied) is commendable.

And in the moving target that is consumer taste, that model is likely to also get changed up with more recent competitive developments: specifically it will be worth watching how and if the rise of the popular music-based TikTok app will impact what features we see on these two older rivals.

Despite all that, ironically, with 3D, Facebook was actually ahead of the game, launching AI-based 3D images back in October 2018 . Up to now, it’s never extended that feature to Instagram. However, with Snapchat getting in on the action, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3D show up on Insta, too.

To be clear, the 3D feature’s reliance on models of the iPhone X and newer cuts more legacy models of the iPhone out as a matter of necessity, since they are made using image and depth data that can be collected on the iPhone X’s front-facing lens.

On the other hand, you mind find it a strange oversight that the same feature is not showing up on its Android app — not least given that there are a fair number of high-end Android devices that can capture the same types of depth and other image data as the higher models of the iPhone.

Snapchat has had a history with Android. While it is a popular platform for mobile apps overall, at one point Snap had to redesign its Snapchat Android app because it was so slow and buggy , leading to plummeting users. Eventually it clawed some of that back , but it seems that for now, enough of its biggest users are on iOS that Snap continues to prioritise it when it comes to new features. It will be worth watching to see how long it takes Snap to extend this feature to Android. (We are asking.)

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    How to get your ads working, and whether PR is worth it

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Saturday, 14 September - 19:00

We’ve aggregated the world’s best growth marketers into one community. Twice a month, we ask them to share their most effective growth tactics, and we compile them into this Growth Report .

This is how you’re going stay up-to-date on growth marketing tactics — with advice you can’t get elsewhere.

Our community consists of 600 startup founders paired with VP’s of growth from later-stage companies. We have 300 YC founders plus senior marketers from companies including Medium, Docker, Invision, Intuit, Pinterest, Discord, Webflow, Lambda School, Perfect Keto, Typeform, Modern Fertility, Segment, Udemy, Puma, Cameo, and Ritual.

You can participate in our community by joining Demand Curve’s marketing webinars , Slack group , or marketing training program . See past growth reports here .

Without further ado, onto the advice.


How to get customer testimonials from hard-to-reach executives

Based on insights from Guillaume Cabane .

A customer testimonial from a well-known executive may be the social proof that improves conversion rates on your landing pages or in sales collateral. But executives of reputable companies are generally busy and difficult to reach.

Here’s how to get the testimonial:

  • Contract with a freelance journalist who’s written for a reputable publication like the New York Times.
  • Reach out to your executive customers with something like “Hey, we have a journalist who has previously written for NYT who’s interested in speaking to a few of our customers for a piece. Do you have 15 minutes for a quick call?”
  • For $200 in freelancer time, you get a testimonial you can use (in the words you want) from a reputable executive. Be sure to figure out some way to make it worth the executive’s time.

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    Spotify users can now share music and podcasts to Snapchat

    news.movim.eu / TechCrunch – Monday, 9 September - 13:46

Spotify users can now share their favorite music and podcasts with friends on Snapchat, the company announced this morning, with added support for sharing a song, playlist, artist profile, or podcast either directly to your friends on Snapchat or to your Snapchat Story.

Snapchat is now one of several destinations that Spotify users can share to, along with WhatsApp, Messages, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram Stories, and as of just last week, Facebook Stories.

Using the new feature is same as with any other sharing option — you tap the three-dot share menu in the top right of the app’s interface, and choose Snapchat from the dropdown list. Snapchat will open with a new Snap and the full album art included. You can then edit and send the Snap as usual.

Recipients of your Snap will be able to tap the context card to listen to the music or podcast you’ve shared.

In addition to simply sharing music with friends, the feature will also make it possible for Spotify artists and their teams to promote their music to Snapcat’s 203 million daily users — most of who are well-within the coveted teen to young adult demographic that Spotify’s artists are hoping to reach.

The feature itself is powered by Snap’s Creative Kit (a part of Snap Kit ), which lets users share media from a developer’s app or website.

Spotify is now one of over 200 apps that have integrated with Snap Kit following the June 2018 debut of the platform , which aims to offer a more private alternative to Facebook. In many cases, however, support for Snapchat is being added to other apps and sites alongside their existing support for Facebook and Instagram — as in the case here.

The expansion to Spotify’s sharing feature comes at a time when the streamer is looking for growth — especially in light of growing competition from rivals like Amazon Music and Apple Music. The former benefits from integrations with Prime and Alexa while the latter from its preinstallation on Apple devices. (And possibly a new bundle with Apple TV+, as we’ll find out tomorrow at Apple’s iPhone event.)

Spotify, meanwhile, notably missed its user estimates in its Q2 2019 earnings , with 8 million new subscribers in the quarter instead of the expected 8.5 million. With expanded social sharing options, it hopes to reach millions more users who may later convert to paying customers.