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Zoom, a profitable unicorn, files to go public

Posted by on Mar 22, 2019 in Cisco, Cisco Systems, Emergence Capital, Eric Yuan, Fundings & Exits, Goldman Sachs, jp morgan, morgan stanley, oracle, sequoia capital, TC, telecommunications, unicorn, Venture Capital, Video, video conferencing, web conferencing, WebEX, zoom | 0 comments

Zoom, the video conferencing startup valued at $1 billion in early 2017, has filed to go public on the Nasdaq as soon as next month.

The company joins a growing list of tech unicorns making the leap to the public markets in 2019, but it stands out for one very important reason: It’s actually profitable.

Zoom was founded in 2011 by Eric Yuan, an early engineer at WebEx, which sold to Cisco for $3.2 billion in 2007. Before launching Zoom, he spent four years at Cisco as its vice president of engineering. In a conversation with TechCrunch last month, he said he would never sell another company again, hinting at his dissatisfaction at WebEx’s post-acquisition treatment being his motivation for taking Zoom public as opposed to selling.

Zoom, which raised a total of $145 million to date, posted $330 million in revenue in the year ending January 31, 2019, a remarkable 2x increase year-over-year, with a gross profit of $269.5 million. The company similarly more than doubled revenues from 2017 to 2018, wrapping fiscal year 2017 with $60.8 million in revenue and 2018 with $151.5 million.

The company’s losses are shrinking, from $14 million in 2017, $8.2 million in 2018 and just $7.5 million in the year ending January 2019.

Zoom is backed by Emergence Capital, which owns a 12.5 percent pre-IPO stake, according to the IPO filing. Other investors in the business include Sequoia Capital (11.4 percent pre-IPO stake); Digital Mobile Venture (9.8 percent), a fund affiliated with former Zoom board member Samuel Chen; and Bucantini Enterprises Limited (6.1 percent), a fund owned by Li Ka-shing, a Chinese billionaire and among the richest people in the world.

Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs have been recruited to lead the offering.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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African e-commerce startup Jumia files for IPO on NYSE

Posted by on Mar 12, 2019 in africa, eCommerce, Egypt, Fundings & Exits, Ghana, Goldman Sachs, IPO, jumia, kenya, Lagos, morgan stanley, morocco, Naspers, Nigeria, online retail, Rocket Internet, Smartphones, Startup company, Startups, TC, tech startup, travel bookings, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, unicorn | 0 comments

Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia filed for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange today, per SEC documents and confirmation from CEO Sacha Poignonnec to TechCrunch.

The valuation, share price and timeline for public stock sales will be determined over the coming weeks for the Nigeria-headquartered company.

With a smooth filing process, Jumia will become the first African tech startup to list on a major global exchange.

Poignonnec would not pinpoint a date for the actual IPO, but noted the minimum SEC timeline for beginning sales activities (such as road shows) is 15 days after submitting first documents. Lead adviser on the listing is Morgan Stanley .

There have been numerous press reports on an anticipated Jumia IPO, but none of them confirmed by Jumia execs or an actual SEC, S-1 filing until today.

Jumia’s move to go public comes as several notable consumer digital sales startups have faltered in Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation, largest economy and unofficial bellwether for e-commerce startup development on the continent. Konga.com, an early Jumia competitor in the race to wire African online retail, was sold in a distressed acquisition in 2018.

With the imminent IPO capital, Jumia will double down on its current strategy and regional focus.

“You’ll see in the prospectus that last year Jumia had 4 million consumers in countries that cover the vast majority of Africa. We’re really focused on growing our existing business, leadership position, number of sellers and consumer adoption in those markets,” Poignonnec said.

The pending IPO creates another milestone for Jumia. The venture became the first African startup unicorn in 2016, achieving a $1 billion valuation after a $326 funding round that included Goldman Sachs, AXA and MTN.

Founded in Lagos in 2012 with Rocket Internet backing, Jumia now operates multiple online verticals in 14 African countries, spanning Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Egypt. Goods and services lines include Jumia Food (an online takeout service), Jumia Flights (for travel bookings) and Jumia Deals (for classifieds). Jumia processed more than 13 million packages in 2018, according to company data.

Starting in Nigeria, the company created many of the components for its digital sales operations. This includes its JumiaPay payment platform and a delivery service of trucks and motorbikes that have become ubiquitous with the Lagos landscape.

Jumia has also opened itself up to traders and SMEs by allowing local merchants to harness Jumia to sell online. “There are over 81,000 active sellers on our platform. There’s a dedicated sellers page where they can sign-up and have access to our payment and delivery network, data, and analytic services,” Jumia Nigeria CEO Juliet Anammah told TechCrunch.

The most popular goods on Jumia’s shopping mall site include smartphones (priced in the $80 to $100 range), washing machines, fashion items, women’s hair care products and 32-inch TVs, according to Anammah.

E-commerce ventures, particularly in Nigeria, have captured the attention of VC investors looking to tap into Africa’s growing consumer markets. McKinsey & Company projects consumer spending on the continent to reach $2.1 trillion by 2025, with African e-commerce accounting for up to 10 percent of retail sales.

Jumia has not yet turned a profit, but a snapshot of the company’s performance from shareholder Rocket Internet’s latest annual report shows an improving revenue profile. The company generated €93.8 million in revenues in 2017, up 11 percent from 2016, though its losses widened (with a negative EBITDA of €120 million). Rocket Internet is set to release full 2018 results (with updated Jumia figures) April 4, 2019.

Jumia’s move to list on the NYSE comes during an up and down period for B2C digital commerce in Nigeria. The distressed acquisition of Konga.com, backed by roughly $100 million in VC, created losses for investors, such as South African media, internet and investment company Naspers .

In late 2018, Nigerian online sales platform DealDey shut down. And TechCrunch reported this week that consumer-focused venture Gloo.ng has dropped B2C e-commerce altogether to pivot to e-procurement. The CEO cited better unit economics from B2B sales.

As demonstrated in other global startup markets, consumer-focused online retail can be a game of capital attrition to outpace competitors and reach critical mass before turning a profit. With its unicorn status and pending windfall from an NYSE listing, Jumia could be better positioned than any venture to win on e-commerce at scale in Africa.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Pinterest files confidentially to go public

Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in Andreessen Horowitz, Ben Silbermann, Bessemer Venture Partners, Fundings & Exits, Goldman Sachs, IPO, Lyft, Pinterest, Startups, Uber, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Visual search engine Pinterest has joined a long list of high-flying technology companies planning to go public in 2019. The business has confidentially submitted paperwork to the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering slated for later this year, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Pinterest declined to comment.

Founded in 2008 by Ben Silbermann, earlier reports indicated the company was planning to debut on the stock market in April. In late January, Pinterest took its first official step toward a 2019 IPO, hiring Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for its offering.

The company garnered a $12.3 billion valuation in 2017 with a $150 million financing.

Touting 250 million monthly active users, Pinterest has raised nearly $1.5 billion in venture capital funding from key stakeholders Bessemer Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity and SV Angel. The business brought in some $700 million in ad revenue in 2018, per reports, a 50 percent increase year-over-year.

Pinterest employs 1,600 people across 13 cities, including Chicago, London, Paris, São Paulo, Berlin and Tokyo. The company says half its users live outside the U.S.

Pinterest will likely follow Lyft, Uber and Slack to the public markets, which have all filed confidential paperwork for IPOs or, in Slack’s case, a reported direct listing, expected in the coming months.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Startups Weekly: Even Gwyneth Paltrow had a hard time raising VC

Posted by on Feb 2, 2019 in Airbnb, alex wilhelm, Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners, collibra, connie loizos, CrunchBase, Entertainment, felix capital, forerunner ventures, founders fund, Frederic Court, funding, Goldman Sachs, gwyneth paltrow, hitRECord, James Beriker, jeff clavier, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, lucas matney, maverick capital, Mike Maples, munchery, Partech, Pinterest, sam altman, Sapphire Ventures, Softbank, Startups, TechCrunch, upfront ventures, Venture Capital, wellington management, Y Combinator | 0 comments

I spent the week in Malibu attending Upfront Ventures’ annual Upfront Summit, which brings together the likes of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington, DC’s elite for a two-day networking session of sorts. Cameron Diaz was there for some reason, and Natalie Portman made an appearance. Stacey Abrams had a powerful Q&A session with Lisa Borders, the president and CEO of Time’s Up. Of course, Gwyneth Paltrow was there to talk up Goop, her venture-funded commerce and content engine.

“I had no idea what I was getting into but I am so fulfilled and on fire from this job,” Paltrow said onstage at the summit… “It’s a very different life than I used to have but I feel very lucky that I made this leap.” Speaking with Frederic Court, the founder of Felix Capital, Paltrow shed light on her fundraising process.

“When I set out to raise my Series A, it was very difficult,” she said. “It’s great to be Gwyneth Paltrow when you’re raising money because people take the meeting, but then you get a lot more rejections than you would if they didn’t want to take a selfie … People, understandably, were dubious about [this business]. It becomes easier when you have a thriving business and your unit economics looks good.”

In other news…

The actor stopped by the summit to promote his startup, HitRecord . I talked to him about his $6.4 million round and grand plans for the artist-collaboration platform.

Backed by GV, Sequoia, Floodgate and more, Clover Health confirmed to TechCrunch this week that it’s brought in another round of capital led by Greenoaks. The $500 million round is a vote of confidence for the business, which has experienced its fair share of well-publicized hiccups. More on that here. Plus, Clutter, the startup that provides on-demand moving and storage services, is raising at least $200 million from SoftBank, sources tell TechCrunch. The round is a big deal for the LA tech ecosystem, which, aside from Snap and Bird, has birthed few venture-backed unicorns.

Pinterest, the nine-year-old visual search engine, has hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for an IPO that’s planned for later this year. With $700 million in 2018 revenue, the company has raised some $1.5 billion at a $12 billion valuation from Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Valiant Capital Partners, Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners and more.

Kleiner Perkins went “back to the future” this week with the announcement of a $600 million fund. The firm’s 18th fund, it will invest at the seed, Series A and Series B stages. TCV, a backer of Peloton and Airbnb, closed a whopping $3 billion vehicle to invest in consumer internet, IT infrastructure and services startups. Partech has doubled its Africa VC fund to $143 million and opened a Nairobi office to complement its Dakar practice. And Sapphire Ventures has set aside $115 million for sports and entertainment bets.

The co-founder of Y Combinator will throw a sort of annual weekend getaway for nerds in picturesque Boulder, Colo. Called the YC 120, it will bring toget her 120 people for a couple of days in April to create connections. Read TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos’ interview with Altman here.

Consumer wellness business Hims has raised $100 million in an ongoing round at a $1 billion pre-money valuation. A growth-stage investor has led the round, with participation from existing investors (which include Forerunner Ventures, Founders Fund, Redpoint Ventures, SV Angel, 8VC and Maverick Capital) . Our sources declined to name the lead investor but said it was a “super big fund” that isn’t SoftBank and that hasn’t previously invested in Hims.

Five years after Andreessen Horowitz backed Oculus, it’s leading a $68 million Series A funding in Sandbox VR. TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney talked to a16z’s Andrew Chen and Floodgate’s Mike Maples about what sets Sandbox apart.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

In a new class-action lawsuit, a former Munchery facilities worker is claiming the startup owes him and 250 other employees 60 days’ wages. On top of that, another former employee says the CEO, James Beriker, was largely absent and is to blame for Munchery’s downfall. If you haven’t been keeping up on Munchery’s abrupt shutdown, here’s some good background.

Consolidation in the micromobility space has arrived — in Brazil, at least. Not long after Y Combinator-backed Grin merged its electric scooter business with Brazil-based Ride, it’s completing another merger, this time with Yellow, the bike-share startup based in Brazil that has also expressed its ambitions to get into electric scooters.

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch’s Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos and Jeff Clavier of Uncork Capital chat about $100 million rounds, Stripe’s mega valuation and Pinterest’s highly anticipated IPO.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Pinterest puts an IPO on its pinboard, hiring Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan to lead an offering this year

Posted by on Jan 30, 2019 in eCommerce, Goldman Sachs, IPO, Pinterest, Startups, TC | 0 comments

Pinterest, the nearly nine-year-old, San Francisco-based site known for the images and links that its users post about everything from wedding to beauty trends, has hired Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase as lead underwriters for an IPO that it’s planning to stage later this year.

Reuters first reported the news. TechCrunch sources have since confirmed the development. A Pinterest spokesperson declined to “comment on rumors and speculation” when asked this afternoon for more information.

Pinterest has raised roughly $1.5 billion over the years and was valued at $12 billion by its private investors during its last fundraising round in 2017. Notably, its backers include Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, among many other investment firms, both early and later-stage, like Valiant Capital Partners, Wellington Management, Andreessen Horowitz and Bessemer Venture Partners.

The company’s revenue last year was $700 million, more than double what the company generated in revenue in 2017.

It has 250 million monthly active users, compared with the 200 million monthly active users who were on the platform as of mid 2017.

Whether Pinterest has ever been profitable, we couldn’t learn this afternoon. But the company employs 1,600 people across 13 cities globally, including Chicago, London, Paris, São Paulo, Berlin, and Tokyo, and half its users now live outside the U.S., with the international market its fastest-growing segment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than 80 percent of people access the service via its mobile app.

Assessing how Pinterest’s shares might be received by public market shareholders has become a favorite parlor game for Silicon Valley denizens. In a recent report, the outlet The Information posited that Pinterest’s offering could suffer because it’s a social media company that’s frequently lumped together with companies like Facebook and Twitter that have repeatedly raised concerns about users’ privacy and have faced a nearly year-long backlash as a result.

Yet Pinterest is far afield from what most users think of as social media and more akin to a visual search and discovery platform, with people looking for ideas and inspiration rather than to reach other people. So thinks venture capitalist Venky Ganesan of Menlo Ventures, who noted on a recent TechCrunch podcast that “there are no Russian trolls” on Pinterest. More, he’d said, “I haven’t seen Pinterest sell [users’] data. They’re using data to [figure out] advertising on Pinterest; they aren’t brokering [that information] to others.”

Another potential concern for Pinterest is its reliance on advertising, which is often the easiest expense for companies to slash when an economy begins to cool, as may be happening here in the U.S. Ads make up 100 percent of the company’s revenue.

Here, too, however, Pinterest could prove more durable than some of its competitors. While brand-image driven advertising often gets cut when budgets tighten, direct response advertising often does even better in down markets, as companies seek out clearer returns on their investment. And much of Pinterest’s revenue is driven by direct-response type advertising. Users see, they click, and they buy. As Ganesan offered during that same trip to TC’s podcast dungeon, “I’ve got three daughters at home, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest, and they buy stuff.” (Ganesan isn’t an investor in the company; neither is the broader Menlo Ventures team.)

Pinterest could reportedly seek to raise up to $1.5 billion in an offering, according to past media reports. Whether it targets more or less, we’re likely to learn soon, but an IPO has been expected for some time, in part because the company is getting up there in years as startups go, in part because of its continued growth, and in part because of some new hires that seemed to suggest the company has been gearing up to become publicly traded.

In November, for example, Pinterest brought aboard its first-ever chief marketing officer in Andréa Mallard, who joined the company from Athleta, Gap’s activewear brand. She now oversees the company’s global marketing and creative teams.

Roughly a year ago, Pinterest also recruited its first COO, hiring  Francoise Brougher, who was previously a  business lead at Square and a VP of SMB global sales and operations at Google before that.

In fact, unlike many of today’s buzziest companies, Pinterest seems to have retained almost all of its top executives in recent years with one notable exception. In late 2017, it parted ways with its then president, Tim Kendall, who’d been with Pinterest for more than five years at the time. Kendall, who’d also worked previously at Facebook, left to start his own health wellness company.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Report: Pinterest may go public as soon as April

Posted by on Dec 19, 2018 in Bessemer Venture Partners, Exit, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, Lyft, Pinterest, slack, Startups, TC, the wall street journal, Uber, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Pinterest may follow Lyft and Uber to the public markets in the first half of 2019, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The visual search engine and shopping tool is expected to tap underwriters in January and complete an initial public offering as soon as April. The company was valued at just over $12 billion with its last private fundraise, a $150 million round in mid-2017, and is on pace to bring in $700 million in revenue this year.

The company, founded in 2008 by Ben Silbermann (pictured), is also in talks to secure a $500 million credit line, per the report, not an uncommon move for a pre-IPO giant like Pinterest.

To date, the company has raised nearly $1.5 billion from key stakeholders such as Bessemer Venture Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, FirstMark Capital, Fidelity and SV Angel.

Pinterest recently reached 250 million monthly active users, up from 200 million in 2017.

This year, it launched several new features to make it easier for passive Pinterest users to actually buy products on the platform, and introduced the “following” tab, where users could view only the content from brands and people they follow. It also added the Pinterest Propel program as part of an effort to create more local content for its users, and implemented full-screen video ads to beef up its advertising options — an area where it competes directly with Facebook and Google.

2019 is poised to be a banner year for venture-backed IPOs. Both Uber and Lyft are in IPO registration, filing privately to go public within hours of each other earlier this month, and Slack, too, has reportedly hired Goldman Sachs to lead its 2019 float.

Pinterest declined to comment.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Report: Morgan Stanley lands coveted Uber IPO role

Posted by on Dec 11, 2018 in Fundings & Exits, Goldman Sachs, Lyft, Michael Grimes, morgan stanley, Transportation, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Uber, Venture Capital | 0 comments

Uber has reportedly picked Morgan Stanley to lead its upcoming initial public offering, news of which became public last week when the ride-hailing giant filed confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO expected in the first quarter of 2019.

Uber’s choice, first reported by Bloomberg, comes after a months-long bidding war, of sorts, between Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. The pair of investment banks presented IPO plans to Uber this fall, in hopes of landing the top underwriting spot in what will be one of the largest stock market debuts to date. Morgan Stanley, having won the battle, can expect to receive a large portion of the fees that come with an IPO.

Uber declined to comment. Morgan Stanley has not responded to a request for comment.

Michael Grimes, managing director of global technology for Morgan Stanley, speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010

Uber’s pick isn’t too surprising; rumors pointing to Morgan Stanley have floated around the tech ecosystem for months. Morgan Stanley’s head of technology investment banking, Michael Grimes, the lead underwriter on Facebook’s initial public offering, resorted to gimmicks to ensure his spot in Uber’s IPO. According to The Wall Street Journal, Grimes moonlighted as an Uber driver for years to demonstrate his loyalty.

Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are investors in Uber. Morgan Stanley participated in Uber’s Series G funding in 2016 and Goldman Sachs has been a backer for years, investing in the company as early as 2011.

Uber was most recently valued at $72 billion and is expected to garner a valuation as high as $120 billion upon its stock market debut. Lyft, its key competitor in the U.S., also recently filed to go public. It has picked JPMorgan Chase & Co. as the lead underwriter of its offering, per reports, which is also expected as early as Q1 2019. People familiar with the company’s IPO plans said its valuation will exceed the $15.1 billion it was valued at earlier this year.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Uber files confidentially for IPO

Posted by on Dec 8, 2018 in First Round Capital, Fundings & Exits, Goldman Sachs, TC, TPG Growth, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission | 0 comments

Two days after Lyft submitted paperwork to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an early 2019 initial public offering, Uber has done the same, per The Wall Street Journal.

The company filed confidentially for an IPO on Friday, marking the beginning of a race for the two ride-hailing giants to the stock markets.

Uber’s most recent private market valuation was a whopping $72 billion, though the nearly 10-year-old business reportedly expects Wall Street to value it at as much as $120 billion in what will easily be one of the most highly-anticipated IPOs of the decade.

Uber didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Founded in 2009 by Travis Kalanick, Uber has raised a total of nearly $20 billion in a combination of debt and equity funding, according to PitchBook. SoftBank alone has invested billions in the company to become its largest shareholder. Uber’s other key backers are Toyota, which invested $500 million just a few months ago, as well as late-stage investors T. Rowe Price, Fidelity and TPG Growth.

First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital and others stand to earn big from Uber’s exit — all were participants in some of the company’s earliest venture capital rounds.

The filing comes slightly earlier than expected. Uber’s current chief executive officer Dara Khosrowshahi previously said he expected the company to complete an IPO in mid-2019 but today’s news puts Uber on pace to debut in the first quarter of next year.

“[Uber] has all the disadvantage of being a public company, with the spotlight on us, with none of the advantages,” Khosrowshahi said on stage at the New York Times’ Dealbook conference in 2017.

Uber shared its third quarter financial results recently, with net losses up 32 percent quarter-over-quarter to $939 million on a pro forma basis. On an earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) basis, Uber’s losses were $527 million, up about 21 percent QoQ. The company said revenue was up five percent QoQ at $2.95 billion and up 38 percent increase year-over-year.

It appears Uber’s IPO timeline was pushed forward following reports of Lyft’s confidential IPO paperwork. Lyft, Uber’s largest competitor in the U.S., will likely take the plunge in the first quarter of 2019, too. The company was most recently valued at about $15 billion. Its IPO will be underwritten by JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse Jeffries.

2019 will be a fascinating year for unicorn exits with a separate report out today that Slack is also prepping its IPO and has hired Goldman Sachs to underwrite its offering. Lyft, Uber and Slack alone are worth an aggregate valuation of $94 billion, which means 2019 will undoubtedly bring some much-needed liquidity to a slew of tech investors.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Still a year away from launch, Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi keeps adding talent

Posted by on Dec 5, 2018 in 21st century fox, alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Artificial Intelligence, AT&T, broadband, Business, chairman, dan brown, Disney, Goldman Sachs, Guillermo del Toro, HBO, Hulu, instagram, Jeffrey Katzenberg, major, meg whitman, mobile media, model, nbcuniversal, Netflix, Quibi, sam raimi, Snap, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Startups, stephen curry, TC, telecommunications, Television In The United States, the walt disney company, verizon, WndrCo | 0 comments

Video won’t start rolling on Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new bite-sized streaming service with the billion-dollar backing until the end of 2019, but talent keeps signing up to come along for their ride into the future of serialization.

The latest marquee director to sign on the dotted line with Quibi is Catherine Hardwicke, who will be helming a story around the creation of an artificial intelligence with the working title “How They Made Her,” according to an announcement from Katzenberg onstage at the Variety Innovate summit.

Hardwicke, who directed “Thirteen,” “Lords of Dogtown” and, most famously, “Twilight,” is joining Antoine Fuqua, Guillermo del Toro, Sam Raimi and Lena Waithe in an attempt to answer the question of whether Whitman and Katzenberg’s gamble on premium (up to $6 million per episode) short-form storytelling is a quixotic quest or a quintessential viewing experience for a new generation of media consumers.

Katzenberg also revealed in a LinkedIn post that Quibi would be working on a basketball-related series with Steph Curry’s production company. He wrote:

I announced a new docu-series by Whistle called “Benedict Men” coming exclusively to Quibi. “Benedict Men” will be executive produced by Stephen Curry’s Unanimous Media and will give viewers an inside look at one of the most unique high school basketball teams in America at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey.

St. Benedict’s Prep is an all-boys secondary school founded on the core belief ‘What Hurts My Brother Hurts Me,’ and aims to foster a legacy of strong character, community, leadership, and faith. As one of the top athletic high schools with a storied basketball program and the highest graduation rate in New Jersey, the series will follow the brotherhood of young men who seek to balance life in complicated surroundings.

In some ways, the big adventure backed by Katzenberg, the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and founder of WndrCo, and every major Hollywood studio — including Disney, 21st Century Fox, Entertainment One, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Alibaba Goldman Sachs — is the latest in an everything old is new again refrain.

If blogs reinvented printed media, and podcasts and music streaming reinvented radio, why can’t Quibi reinvent serialized storytelling.

Again and again, Whitman and Katzenberg returned to an analogy from the early days of the cable revolution. “We’re not short form, we’re Quibi,” said Whitman, echoing the tagline that HBO made famous in its early advertising blitzes. That Whitman and Katzenberg’s project to take what HBO did for premium television and apply that to mobile media is ambitious. Now industry-watchers will have to wait until 2019 at the earliest to see if it’s also successful.

In the interview onstage at a Variety event on artificial intelligence in media, Katzenberg cited Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” as something of an inspiration — noting that the book had more than 100 chapters for its 500 pages of text. But Katzenberg could have gone back even further to the days of Dickens and his serialized entertainments.

And right now for the entertainment business it really is the best of times and the worst of times. Traditional Hollywood studios are seeing new players like Netflix, Amazon, Apple and others all trying to drink their milkshake. And, for the most part, these studios and their new telecom owners are woefully ill-equipped to fight these big technology platforms at their own game. 

Taking the long view of entertainment history, Katzenberg is hoping to win networks with not just a new skin for the old ceremony of watching entertainment but with a throwback to old style deal-making. The term serialization here takes on greater meaning. 

Quibi is offering its production partners a sweetheart deal. After seven years the production company behind the Quibi shows will own their intellectual property, and after two years those producers will be able to repackage the Quibi content back into long-form series and pitch them for distribution to other platforms. Not only that, but Quibi is fronting the money for over 100 percent of the production.

Katzenberg said that it “will create the most powerful syndicated marketplace” Hollywood has seen in decades. It’s a sort of anti-Netflix model where Katzenberg and Whitman view Quibi as a platform where creators and talent will want to come. “We are betting on the success of the platform — and by the way, it worked brilliantly in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s.” Katzenberg said. “Hundreds of TV shows were tremendous successes and [like the networks then] we don’t want to compete with our suppliers.”

In addition to the business model innovations (or throwbacks, depending on how one looks at it), Quibi is being built from the ground up with a technology stack that will leverage new technologies like 5G broadband, and big data and analytics, according to Whitman.

Indeed, launching the first platform built without an existing stable of content means that Quibi is preparing 5,000 unique pieces of content to go up when it pulls the curtains back on its service in late 2019 or early 2020, Whitman said.

And the company is looking to big telecommunications companies like Verizon (my corporate overlord’s corporate overlord) and AT&T as partners to help it get to market. Since those networks need something to do with all the 5G capacity they’re building out, high-quality streaming content that’s replete with meta-tags to monitor and manage how an audience is spending their time is a compelling proposition.

“We want to work to have video that looks good on mobile [and] ramp up content in terms of quantity and quality,” Whitman said. That quality extends to things like the user interface, search features and analytics.

“We have to have a different search and find metaphor,” Whitman said. “It takes eight minutes to find what you’re looking for on Netflix… We will be able to instrument this with data on what people are watching and using that in our recommendation engine.”

Questions remain about the service’s viability. Like what role will the telcos actually play in distribution and development? Can Quibi avoid the Hulu problem where the various investors are able to overcome their own entrenched interests to work for the viability of the platform? And do consumers even want a premium experience on mobile given the new kinds of stars that are made through the immediacy and accessibility that technology platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Snap offer?

“Where the fish are today is a phenomenal environment,” Katzenberg said of the current short-form content market. “But it is an ocean. We need to find a place where there are these premium services.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Storage provider Cloudian raises $94M

Posted by on Aug 29, 2018 in alpha, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, cloud computing, cloud storage, Cloudian, computing, data management, Enterprise, funding, Goldman Sachs, healthcare, information, machine learning, medical imaging, NTT Docomo Ventures, petabyte, Storage | 0 comments

Cloudian, a company that specializes in helping businesses store petabytes of data, today announced that it has raised a $94 million Series E funding round. Investors in this round, which is one of the largest we have seen for a storage vendor, include Digital Alpha, Fidelity Eight Roads, Goldman Sachs, INCJ, JPIC (Japan Post Investment Corporation), NTT DOCOMO Ventures and WS Investments. This round includes a $25 million investment from Digital Alpha, which was first announced earlier this year.

With this, the seven-year-old company has now raised a total of $174 million.

As the company told me, it now has about 160 employees and 240 enterprise customers. Cloudian has found its sweet spot in managing the large video archives of entertainment companies, but its customers also include healthcare companies, automobile manufacturers and Formula One teams.

What’s important to stress here is that Cloudian’s focus is on on-premise storage, not cloud storage, though it does offer support for multi-cloud data management, as well. “Data tends to be most effectively used close to where it is created and close to where it’s being used,” Cloudian VP of worldwide sales Jon Ash told me. “That’s because of latency, because of network traffic. You can almost always get better performance, better control over your data if it is being stored close to where it’s being used.” He also noted that it’s often costly and complex to move that data elsewhere, especially when you’re talking about the large amounts of information that Cloudian’s customers need to manage.

Unsurprisingly, companies that have this much data now want to use it for machine learning, too, so Cloudian is starting to get into this space, as well. As Cloudian CEO and co-founder Michael Tso also told me, companies are now aware that the data they pull in, no matter whether that’s from IoT sensors, cameras or medical imaging devices, will only become more valuable over time as they try to train their models. If they decide to throw the data away, they run the risk of having nothing with which to train their models.

Cloudian plans to use the new funding to expand its global sales and marketing efforts and increase its engineering team. “We have to invest in engineering and our core technology, as well,” Tso noted. “We have to innovate in new areas like AI.”

As Ash also stressed, Cloudian’s business is really data management — not just storage. “Data is coming from everywhere and it’s going everywhere,” he said. “The old-school storage platforms that were siloed just don’t work anywhere.”


Source: The Tech Crunch

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