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Startups net more than capital with NBA players as investors

Posted by on Jun 1, 2019 in Alexa, Andre Iguodala, Basketball, Carmelo Anthony, Column, Dan Porter, david stern, Facebook, Golden State Warriors, Google, Kevin Durant, Messenger, national basketball association, NBA, overtime, player, SMS, Snap, Snapchat, snaptravel, Social Media, Spark Capital, Startups, stephen curry, TC, Telstra Ventures, toronto, twitch | 0 comments

If you’re a big basketball fan like me, you’ll be glued to the TV watching the Golden State Warriors take on the Toronto Raptors in the NBA finals. (You might be surprised who I’m rooting for.)

In honor of the big games, we took a shot at breaking down investment activities of the players off the court. Last fall, we did a story highlighting some of the sport’s more prolific investors. In this piece, we’ll take a deeper dive into just what having an NBA player as a backer can do for a startup beyond the capital involved. But first, here’s a chart of some startups funded by NBA players, both former and current.

 

In February, we covered how digital sports media startup Overtime had raised $23 million in a Series B round of funding led by Spark Capital. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern was an early investor and advisor in the company (putting money in the company’s seed round). Golden State Warriors player Kevin Durant invested as part of the company’s Series A in early 2018 via his busy investment vehicle, Thirty Five Ventures. And then, Carmelo Anthony invested (via his Melo7 Tech II fund) earlier this year. Other NBA-related investors include Baron DavisAndre Iguodala and Victor Oladipo, and other non-NBA backers include Andreessen Horowitz and Greycroft.

I talked to Overtime’s CEO, 27-year-old Zack Weiner, about how the involvement of so many NBA players came about. I also wondered what they brought to the table beyond their cash. But before we get there, let me explain a little more about what Overtime does.

Founded in late 2016 by Dan Porter and Weiner, the Brooklyn company has raised a total of $35.3 million. The pair founded the company after observing “how larger, legacy media companies, such as ESPN, were struggling” with attracting the younger viewer who was tuning into the TV less and less “and consuming sports in a fundamentally different way.”

So they created Overtime, which features about 25 to 30 sports-related shows across several platforms (which include YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and Twitch) aimed at millennials and the Gen Z generation. Weiner estimates the company’s programs get more than 600 million video views every month.

In terms of attracting NBA investors, Weiner told me each situation was a little different, but with one common theme: “All of them were fans of Overtime before we even met them…They saw what we were doing as the new wave of sports media and wanted to get involved. We didn’t have to have 10 meetings for them to understand what we were doing. This is the world they live and breathe.”

So how is having NBA players as investors helping the company grow? Well, for one, they can open a lot of doors, noted Weiner.

“NBA players are very powerful people and investors,” he said. “They’ve helped us make connections in music, fashion and all things tangential to sports. Some have created content with us.”

In addition, their social clout has helped with exposure. Their posting or commenting on Instagram gives the company credibility, Weiner said.

“Also just, in general, getting their perspectives and opinions,” he added. “A lot of our content is based on working with athletes, so they understand what athletes want and are interested in being a part of.”

It’s not just sports-related startups that are attracting the interest of NBA players. I also talked with Hussein Fazal, the CEO of SnapTravel, which recently closed a $21.2 million Series A that included participation from Telstra Ventures and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.

Founded in 2016, Toronto-based SnapTravel offers online hotel booking services over SMS, Facebook Messenger, Alexa, Google Home and Slack. It’s driven more than $100 million in sales, according to Fazal, and is seeing its revenue grow about 35% quarter over quarter.

Like Weiner, Fazal told me that Curry’s being active on social media about SnapTravel helped draw positive attention and “add a lot of legitimacy” to his company.

“If you’re an end-consumer about to spend $1,000 on a hotel booking, you might be a little hesitant about trusting a newer brand like ours,” he said. “But if they go to our home page and see our investors, that holds some weight in the eyes of the public, and helps show we’re not a fly-by-night company.”

Another way Curry’s involvement has helped SnapTravel is in terms of the recruitment and retainment of employees. Curry once spent hours at the office, meeting with employees and doing a Q&A.

“It was really cool,” Fazal said. “And it helps us stand out from other startups when hiring.”

Regardless of who wins the series, it’s clear that startups with NBA investors on their team have a competitive advantage. (Still, Go Raptors!)


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streaming service Quibi is doing a show about Snapchat’s founding

Posted by on Mar 8, 2019 in Evan Spiegel, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Media, meg whitman, Mobile, Quibi, snap inc, Snapchat, streaming video, TC | 0 comments

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman today announced a slate of new series and projects heading to their forthcoming video streaming service, Quibi. The list includes an origin story to complement Telemundo’s hit show “El Señor de los Cielos;” a music competition show produced by Justin Bieber manager and entertainment exec Scooter Braun; a show from Jennifer Lopez’s company about the power of giving and paying it forward; as well something called “Frat Boy Genius,” which will focus on the rise of Snapchat – and specifically its creator, Evan Spiegel.

“It is the story of how he built and created Snapchat, which is one of the great social platforms of our time,” touted Katzenberg. “And we want to tell a story that is as compelling and interesting about the creation of Snapchat and Evan’s story as “[The] Social Network” was for Facebook,” he added.

The project will based on the screenplay by the same name, which had written Spiegel as a hard-partying Stanford student, according to Vulture’s review of the much-hyped script.

“He should be flattered,” remarked Katzenberg, of Quibi’s plans for the Spiegel-focused project.

Katzenberg and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman were at SXSW to speak about the upcoming streaming video service, which plans to offer short-form video designed for mobile. On Quibi, consumers watch “quality” video cut into smaller pieces including both scripted and unscripted original content, exclusives from Quibi’s partners, and other daily news and sports programming.

Already, some of Quibi’s content plans have been announced.

For example, Deadline reported last fall that filmmakers Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro and Antoine Fuqua and producer Jason Blum will all create series for the service. And a pitch deck had touted other examples of Quibi’s programming –  like a show called “Inspired By” with Justin Timberlake and “Under the Gun” with Kobe Bryant. Plus, Katzenberg himself had revealed in a LinkedIn post that Quibi was working on a basketball-related series with Steph Curry’s production company.

However, the story about Snapchat’s founding highlights how Quibi could benefit from its combination of tech and entertainment industry roots, in terms of deciding what to greenlight.

Whitman, a former HP Enterprise President and CEO, also pointed to another example: her penchant for using data to make decisions.

“I am deeply analytical and Jeffrey will argue in stories and allegories,” Whitman said. “And I will say: ‘Jeffrey, do you have any data to suggest that what you have just said is true?’ And he’ll say, no I don’t have any data – but it’s true,” she explained.

“Then I will come with data, facts, total available market size, market segmentation, market research, and he will say, you know, not everything yields to analysis. And I’ll say no, not everything does, but most things do,” she said.

For the most part, today’s on-stage discussion was a pitch for why Quibi will work and why it needs to exist – with Katzenberg touting its promise as a app that will benefit from 5G mobile networks as well as the cord cutting behavior among younger millennials, who are no longer interested in traditional pay TV.

Both execs also stressed that Quibi was not a Netflix or YouTube competitor – despite angling for the same share of consumers’ mobile minutes and a set amount downtime not spent on social media and mobile gaming, for example. They instead believe Quibi will be additive, and other services – like Netflix and Disney+ can still win, even as Quibi wins.

Katzenberg said that Quibi aims to grab 20 minutes of the 70 minutes per day people spend watching short-form video, but doesn’t believe it will necessarily come at the expense of YouTube or others.

“Six years ago it was six minutes. A year and a half ago, it was 40 minutes. And today it’s 70 minutes,” he said, illustrating mobile video’s rise. “People love being able to watch great short form content on the go.”

“What we know is that our users are watching a lot of video on mobile. They’re excited about the opportunity to see something differentiated. But honestly, we’re using a lot of judgment, and we’ll know whether it works when when it launches,” Whitman added. 

Quibi will publish over 100 pieces of content every week, meaning it’s going to be making 5,300-5,400 pieces of content per year, Katzenberg said. He also mentioned a few others examples of programming, including a daily round-up of the best of late night TV, and spoke more vaguely of the potential for a show that delivered music news, the way that MTV’s Kurt Loder once did.

The streaming service is launching in April 2020, Katzenberg also confirmed today, putting a more definitive time stamp on the launch time frame beyond “early 2020” or “spring.”

 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Snapchat shares soar as it stops losing users, shrinks losses in Q4

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in Apps, Earnings, Evan Spiegel, snap inc, Snapchat, Snapchat earnings, Snapchat earnings q4 2018, Social, TC | 0 comments

Snapchat isn’t growing again, but at least it didn’t hemorrhage any more users in its Q4 earnings report. The company stayed flat at 186 million daily users after falling from 191 million in Q1 to 188 million in Q2 to 186 million in Q3. It exceeded an expected quarterly count of 184.2 million user, though 186 million is still down 0.3 percent year-over-year. It reached record revenue of $390 million in the holiday quarter, up 36 percent year-over-year to beat the $378 million Wall Street estimate, and Snapchat lost just $0.04 per share compared to Wall Street’s $0.08 loss estimate for a beat in Q4 earnings.

The highlight of the earnings report was that Snap has managed a 68 percent year-over-year improvement in its adjusted EBITDA losses, which came in at $50 million (though net loss was still $158 million). With 43 percent full-year revenue growth in 2018, “This limited our Q4 losses to just 13 percent of our revenue, compared to just one year ago when our Q4 losses totaled more than 50 percent of revenue” CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in his opening remarks. That means Snap might make it to profitability in the next year or two before running out of cash and having to take more from big investors or consider being acquired.

After closing at $7.04 today, Snap was up around 17 percent in after hours trading to hover around $8.27 — still way down from a peak of $20.75 a year ago.

Importantly, Snapchat grew its Europe user count from 59 million to 60 million and stayed flat at 79 million in North America. Since those are its two best monetizing markets, stopping the shrinkage there was critical. That helped spur a 37 percent year-over-year increase in global average revenue per user, and a 30 percent boost over Q3.

Looking forward, Snap expects between $285 million and $310 million in Q1 2019, which would be a 24 percent to 34 percent year-over-year increase, while its adjusted EBITDA losses are expected to be between $165 million and $140 million, down from $218 million in Q1. It ended the year with $1.3 billion in cash and securities.

On the content and engagement front, Snap is reaching 70 percent of total US 13 to 34 year olds with premium mobile video, which could be very lucrate if it can keep its user count stable or growing. 70 precent of users played with or viewed a lens each day, though Snap didn’t provide an update on its Snaps Created Per Day metric that’s useful for judging the health of its messaging feature. But it does say that users still average 30 minutes per day on the app.

30 percent more people are watching its Discover section’s Publisher Stories and Shows every day versus last year, with Snapchat’s new algorithmically personalized Bitmoji Stories seeing 40 million viewers in December. That’s powerful because since Snap makes the content in-house, it doesn’t have to share ad revenue with anyone.

Meanwhile, Snapchat announced it’s finally starting to roll out its Android rebuild to some users, and the initial test results were promising. App startup time was reduced 20 percent, and the improvements could reinvigorate Snapchat for Android’s growth after years of bugs and slow loading dragging down Snapchat’s user count.

Snapchat’s future hinges on its ability to get to profitability so it can keep financing R&D in augmented reality and hardware. Snap won’t be able to keep up with dedicated AR companies like Magic Leap or tech giants like Facebook and Apple if it’s constantly trying to cut costs. It could still be years before fashionable and useful AR eyewear is feasible and Snap must weather the storm until then. The fact that it’s no longer bleeding users and its losses are falling shows great progress in that direction. Most tech giants like Apple and Google end up sitting on their cash, unsure what to invest in. Snapchat seems to have plenty of options if it can just start stockpiling cash instead of spending it all.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Snapchat’s Android usage keeps falling but rebuild tests well

Posted by on Feb 5, 2019 in Apps, Earnings, Evan Spiegel, Mobile, snap inc, Snapchat, Snapchat Android, Snapchat earnings, Snapchat earnings q4 2018, Social, TC | 0 comments

Snap has finally begun publicly testing the engineering overhaul of its slow and buggy Android app that for years has cost Snapchat users. Promising early results and reduction in app startup time could help Snapchat fix its growth problem after daily active users sank in Q2 and Q3 before staying put at 186 million in Q4, Snap announced today in its earnings report today.

“We ended the year with user engagement stabilizing and have started rolling out the new version of our Android application to a small percentage of our community” CEO Evan Spiegel wrote. “Early tests show promising results especially on less performant devices, including a 20 percent reduction in the average time it takes to open Snapchat.” The problem is that because “Our engineering team remains focused on rebuilding our Android application”, they haven’t been dedicated to fixing the existing version. That means that despite iOS daily active users and average time spent growing faster than last year, Android dragged Snapchat again to see no total daily user growth.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Lara Sweet noted that “While we are not going to give specific guidance on daily active users, we are cautiously optimistic and we do not foresee a sequential decline in daily active users in Q1 2019.” It seems Snap believes the new year is going well and the Android rollout could stem losses so it might finally grow its user count again, or at least stop shrinking.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Snapchat takes on TikTok with launch of Lens Challenges

Posted by on Dec 19, 2018 in Apps, lens, Snapchat, Social, tiktok | 0 comments

Snapchat is looking to increase user engagement with the app with the launch of a new feature called Lens Challenges. Users can opt to participate in the challenges by creating a snap with a Lens that’s themed to a particular song, dance, holiday, event and more, the company explains.

For example, one of the first challenges to launch is a sing-along with Gwen Stefani’s “Jingle Bells.”

Users access the new challenge from the Lens Explorer section of the app, then lip sync along with the song. When finished, they’ll send the snap to the Gwen Stefani Challenge story for the chance to be featured in the app.

While this particular challenge was designed by the company itself, others will be created by community members. Also new today is one called the “Disappear” challenge, created by Snapchat user Jye Trudinger. In this one, users are prompted to take two photos that superimpose, in order to make the photo’s subject disappear.

Users can also watch others’ Challenge Snaps while in Lens Explorer. But the Challenges don’t have to be public — they also can be privately shared with your friends, if you prefer.

The company hopes that more creators will create challenges going forward, as it will help them to grow their own audience and engage their fans.

The new feature seems to be inspired by TikTok, the rapidly growing social app where things like song, dance and lip sync challenges are the norm. TikTok has been surging in recent months following Bytedance’s acquisition of Musical.ly, which allowed it to merge the latter’s customer base with its own. That led TikTok to surpass Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in new downloads last month.

Snapchat, meanwhile, has been struggling this past year to recover from a rushed redesign plus declining engagement and revenue per user, among other things. The company in Q3 lost 2 million users, but its user base is still up year-over-year — so there’s a chance for a recovery from some of its missteps.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel this year laid out the company’s “comeback” plan in a massive internal memo that focused on fixing problems with the design, Discover section, inability to reach older users and more.

Since its launch, Snapchat had seen Facebook steal some of its best ideas for its own, like Stories — which are now one of Instagram’s defining features. Stories have also become something of an industry standard the way Facebook’s News Feed format has — they’re now found everywhere across the social web, from LinkedIn to YouTube. Now Snap is the one borrowing from a buzzy up-and-comer aimed at its tween to teenage customer base. That may not be its worst idea, even if it’s not very original.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Snapchat monitors Infowars as Alex Jones promotes ‘censorship’ gag AR filter

Posted by on Aug 8, 2018 in Alex Jones, content moderation, Drama, infowars, Media, Snap, snap inc, Snapchat, TC | 0 comments

Snapchat has largely escaped scrutiny about fake news and election interference because its content quickly disappears and its publisher hub, Discover, is a closed platform. But now the Infowars mess that’s plagued Facebook and YouTube has landed at Snap’s feet, as conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has begun tweeting to promote an augmented reality Snapchat Lens built by someone in his community that puts a piece of masking tape with the word “censorship” written over it across the mouth of the user with a “Free Infowars” logo in the screen’s corner. He’s also encouraging his followers to follow Infowars’ official Snapchat page.

The situation highlights the whack-a-mole game of trying to police the fragmented social media space. There always seems to be another platform for those kicked off others for inciting violence, harassing people or otherwise breaking the rules. A cross-industry committee that helps coordinate enforcement might be necessary to ensure that as someone is booted from one platform, their presence elsewhere is swiftly reviewed and monitored for similar offenses.

“If they can shut me down, they can shut you down,” Jones says at the start of his 42-second video. He cites Facebook, Twitter and Google among those that are getting mobilized by “the Democrats” in aid of defeating opposing candidates in future elections.

(In actual fact, Twitter and related sites like Periscope have, to the consternation of many, not removed Jones’ or Infowars’ accounts from its platform, and for that matter neither has LinkedInGoogle+, or Instagram. Others like Pinterest and Facebook itself have now gotten behind a wider move to start to take action against accounts like these to reduce the amount of sensationalized information being spread around in the name of “free speech.” You can see the full list of Infowars’ and Alex Jones’ active and now inactive social accounts here.)

Jones himself doesn’t seem to have a Snapchat account, but Infowars’ website cites the “Infowarslive” handle as its official Snapchat profile, and it’s what Jones is now pointing fans toward. However, from what we understand from sources, the account has been inactive since early this year. Snap, according to these sources, is currently monitoring it to see what it does and whether that content violates community guidelines, which prohibit hate speech and harassment.

In the meantime, say the sources, Snap is also looking into the Lens that Jones is promoting to determine whether it violates Snap’s community guidelines. These guidelines include prohibiting content that may incite or glorify violence or the use of weapons; may be considered offensive by a particular group of individuals or that could foster negative stereotypes, such as slurs or other derogatory language; promotes dangerous, harmful, or illegal activity, or that encourages Snapping while driving; contains hashtags or usernames; or threatens to harm a person, group of people or property. 

The interesting thing with a Lens, however, is that while the Lens itself may be innocuous, how it gets appropriated might be less so, and that’s not something that might get caught as quickly by Snap. Users can unlock the Lens for 24 hours with a link or screenshot of its QR Snapcode. From there they can do whatever they want with it, including reactivating it each day for further use. Lenses are one of the least ephemeral parts of Snapchat, making them a potent vector for persistently spreading a controversial viewpoint, and indeed viewpoints that might well violate those community standards, even if the Lens itself does not.

The insight that’s emerging from the whole Infowars debacle is that problems exist not only with how public figures use social platforms, but with how their audiences interpret or mutate their messages as they get shared, again and again.

Snap itself — as its earnings showed us yesterday — is still a smaller platform compared to some social networks. That’s another reason it may have avoided becoming a tool for information operations by malicious actors like the Russian agents that attacked the 2016 presidential election via Facebook.

But Snapchat is in a vulnerable place right now. Yesterday’s Q2 earnings report revealed that its daily active user count actually shrank from 191 million to 188 million. It took a hard stance against fake or controversial accounts, either blocking on driving away users, that could further weigh on its growth. Snap is meanwhile starting to see momentum in its ad business, beating expectations with $262.3 million in revenue last quarter. That’s a trend it doesn’t want to mess with.

Now that Jones can’t spread his false news on Facebook and YouTube, he may look increasingly to platforms like Snapchat or his mobile app that Apple hasn’t removed. And if these platforms allow him to stay, that may light a beacon attracting more questionable content creators.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Snapchat gets $250M investment from Saudi prince for 2.3%

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in Apps, Earnings, Snap, snap inc, Snapchat, Snapchat earnings, Social, TC | 0 comments

Snap Inc got a fresh infusion of cash from the Saudi royal family to help it survive despite losing $353 million this quarter. Prince Al-Waleed Talal tweeted a video of him and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, noting that he’s invested $250 million in exchange for a 2.3 percent stake in Snap Inc. The investment raises questions about what say the Saudis will have in Snapchat’s direction.

Snap declined to comment on the news. But after an initial 11 percent pop after earnings was announced, Snap shares sank to just below the closing price as the user shrinkage and Saudi investment sank in.

Al-Waleed Talal has previously buddied up to the U.S. tech sector, investing in Lyft and Twitter. Elsewhere, he’s recently made investments in European streaming music service Deezer, as well as Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com. He previously owned shared of Newscorp and Citigroup.

The prince had sat down with Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and COO Imran Khan back in 2015 to discuss a possible investment, but nothing came of it until now. The Arabic press release explains that the deal was done on May 25th. “Our investment in Snapchat is an extension of our strategy for personal investment in new technology through leading companies such as Lyft, JD.com, and social networking sites, Twitter” the release explains. “Snapchat is one of the most innovative social networking platforms in the world and we believe it is just beginning to surpass its true potential.”

Snap could be looking for more allies abroad as it’s seen weak international growth after years of neglecting the developing world and its Android app’s performance. While the Rest Of World region is typically a source of growth for social networks, Snap actually shrank by 1 million daily active users there. The one truly bright point of its earnings report was a 65 percent quarter-over-quarter boost in average revenue per user in the Rest Of World, reaching $0.96. The Saudi royal family’s involvement could potentially pave the way for partnerships or growth opportunities in the Middle East at a time when Snap needs whatever help it can get.

The extra cash will extend Snapchat’s runway and give it more time to stabilize its business. With its daily user count now shrinking, it will have to find creative ways to squeeze more cash out of those that remain to keep revenue growing. That may take time, and Saudi Arabia just gave it more.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Snapchat shrinks by 3M users to 188M despite strong Q2

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in Apps, Mobile, Snap, snap inc, Snapchat, Snapchat earnings, Social, TC | 3 comments

The Stories War has officially killed Snapchat’s growth, leading to its first user count decline ever. In Q2 2018 earnings today, Snapchat’s daily active users number shrank 1.5 percent to 188 million this quarter, down from 191 million and positive 2.9 percent user growth last quarter.

Snapchat did beat earnings expectations with $262.3 million in revenue and a loss of $0.14 while Wall Street estimated an EPS loss of $0.17 with $249.8 million in revenue. Snap’s net loss decreased by 20 percent year-over-year, so it only destroyed $353 million this quarter compared to $385 million last quarter. Snap will have some extra cash to extend its runway despite its still-massive losses thanks to a $250 million investment from Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Talal in exchange for a 2.3 percent stake in the company.

Despite its user count shrinking for the first time since its launch in 2011, the improvement to revenue (up 44 percent year-over-year) and reduced losses led Wall Street to give Snap’s shares an immediate 11 percent pop in after-hours trading. But after dodging multiple questions about how it would improve revenues and when its optimized Android app would arrive, shares fell back to just below the day’s closing price of $13.12.

Snapchat is coming off a disastrous Q1 earnings with its slowest-ever user growth rate that led to a 24 percent plunge in its share price in May. But the company has been highly volatile, seeing a 37 percent boost in its share price after surprisingly positive Q4 2017 earnings. Now it’s proving that Facebook isn’t the only social network with growth troubles.

In hopes of distracting from the shrinking DAUs, Snapchat shared a monthly active user count for the first time: 100 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Canada. Snap says this is the highest it’s ever been, yet the reveal highlights that teens are as addicted to daily Snapchat use as they once were. DAUs are a much more accurate way of measuring engagement and ad revenue potential, as opening a single notification and never returning can still register someone as an MAU.

CEO Evan Spiegel blamed the DAU shrinkage on “a slightly lower frequency of use among our user base due to the disruption caused by our redesign.” But since, he believes “we have now addressed the biggest frustrations we’ve heard” so he’s optimistic about future growth. On the other hand, he credits the redesign as producing an 8 percent increase in retention among users older than 35, demonstrating the new design is more obvious and well labeled.

During the earnings call, Snap’s new CFO Tim Stone mentioned that it’s interested in monetizing every part of the app, including “communication.” That could foreshadow more ads in the messaging inbox beyond the sponsored lenses users can play with to send augmented reality Snaps to friends. Snap is also hoping that after a decline in ad prices as it moved to self-serve auctions, ad prices and revenue will climb.

One big bright point for Snap was that its average revenue per user in the Rest Of World region grew 65 percent just this quarter to reach $0.96. Figuring out how to monetize these developing countries where buying power is lower will be key to the company’s outlook. Snap says it’s still working to re-engineer its Android app to boost performance and reduce churn, since that’s where most of its new users are coming in.

The quarter saw Snapchat escape much of the scrutiny facing other social networks regarding fake news and election interference. But it clearly still has issues with security, as Snapchat accidentally leaked its own source code, which was archived by someone who then posted it to GitHub today, though it was eventually taken down.

Snapchat started running un-skippable ads in its Shows that could be a big money maker if extended to Stories. It began experimenting with e-commerce in earnest, allowing brands to sell things people can buy without leaving the app. It also opened self-serve buying of its augmented reality lens ads that people not only post, but play with for extended periods of time. And it launched its privacy-safe Snap Kit developer platform in hopes that alliances and referral traffic would help revive its user growth.

But problematically, its competitors like Instagram Stories continued to surge, with it now having 400 million daily Stories users and WhatsApp Status now having 450 million. Combined, Facebook has over 1.1 billion daily (duplicated) Stories users across its family of apps. That reach could make it tough for Snap to compete for ad dollars. And with its user count actually decreasing, that could make for a grim future for the teen sensation.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Snapchat code reveals team-up with Amazon for ‘Camera Search’

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in Amazon, Apps, eCommerce, Mobile, Snap, snap inc, Snap Store, Snapchat, Snapchat Search, Social, TC | 0 comments

Snapchat is building a visual product search feature, codenamed “Eagle,” that delivers users to Amazon’s listings. Buried inside the code of Snapchat’s Android app is an unreleased “Visual Search” feature where you “Press and hold to identify an object, song, barcode, and more! This works by sending data to Amazon, Shazam, and other partners.” Once an object or barcode has been scanned you can “See all results at Amazon.”

Visual product search could make Snapchat’s camera a more general purpose tool for seeing and navigating the world, rather than just a social media maker. It could differentiate Snapchat from Instagram, whose clone of Snapchat Stories now has more than twice the users and a six times faster gro

wth rate than the original. And if Snapchat has worked out an affiliate referrals deal with Amazon, it could open a new revenue stream. That’s something Snap Inc. direly needs after posting a $385 million loss last quarter and missing revenue estimates by $14 million.

TechCrunch was tipped off to the hidden Snapchat code by app researcher Ishan Agarwal. His tips have previously led to TechCrunch scoops about Instagram’s video calling, soundtracks, Focus portrait mode and QR Nametags features that were all later officially launched. Amazon didn’t respond to a press inquiry before publishing time, and it’s unclear if its actively involved in the development of Snapchat visual search or just a destination for its results. Snap already sells its Spetacles v2 camera glasses on Amazon — the only place beyond its own site. Snap Inc. gave TechCrunch a “no comment,” about visual search but the company’s code tells the story.

Snapchat first dabbled in understanding the world around you with its Shazam integration back in 2016 that lets you tap and hold to identify a song playing nearby, check it out on Shazam, send it to a friend or follow the artist on Snapchat. Project Eagle builds on this audio search feature to offer visual search through a similar interface and set of partnerships. The ability to identify purchaseable objects or scan barcodes could turn Snapchat, which some view as a teen toy, into more of a utility.

What’s inside Snapchat’s Eagle eye

Snapchat’s code doesn’t explain exactly how the Project Eagle feature will work, but in the newest version of Snapchat it was renamed as “Camera Search.” If you remember, Snap used another animal name, “Cheetah”, as the secret word for its big redesign. The app’s code lists the ability to surface “sellers” and “reviews,” “Copy URL” of a product and “Share” or “Send Product” to friends — likely via Snap messages or Snapchat Stories. In characteristic cool kid teenspeak, an error message for “product not found” reads “Bummer, we didn’t catch that!”

Eagle’s visual search may be connected to Snapchat’s “context cards,” which debuted late last year and pull up business contact info, restaurant reservations, movie tickets, Ubers or Lyfts and more. Surfacing within Snapchat a context card of details about ownable objects might be the first step to getting users to buy them… and advertisers to pay Snap to promote them. It’s easy to imagine context cards being accessible for products tagged in Snap Ads as well as scanned through visual search. And Snap already has in-app shopping.

Snapchat’s Camera Search could become a direct competitor for Pinterest’s Lens, which identifies objects and brings up related content. Pinterest has evolved the product, embedding it inside the apps of retailers like Target. Beyond shopping, Camera Search could let Snapchat users find Stories that contain the same object they’re snapping.

Being able to recognize what you’re seeing makes Snapchat more fun, but it’s also a new way of navigating reality. In mid-2017 Snapchat launched World Lenses that map the surfaces of your surroundings so you can place 3D animated objects like its Dancing Hotdog mascot alongside real people in real places. Snapchat also released a machine vision-powered search feature last year that compiles Stories of user-submitted Snaps featuring your chosen keyword, like videos with “puppies” or “fireworks,” even if the captions don’t mention them.

Pinterest’s Lens visual search feature

Snapchat was so interested in visual search that this year, it reportedly held early-stage acquisition talks with machine vision startup Blippar. The talks fell through with the U.K. augmented reality company that has raised at least $99 million for its own visual search feature, but which recently began to implode due to low usage and financing trouble. Snap Inc. might have been hoping to jumpstart its Camera Search efforts.

Snap calls itself a camera company, after all. But with the weak sales of its mediocre v1 Spectacles, the well-reviewed v2 failing to break into the cultural zeitgeist and no other hardware products on the market, Snap may need to redefine what exactly that tag line means. Visual search could frame Snapchat as more of a sensor than just a camera. With its popular use for rapid-fire selfie messaging, it’s already the lens through which some teens see the world. Soon, Snap could be ready to train its eagle eye on purchases, not just faces.

In related Snapchat news:


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Teens dump Facebook for YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat

Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Facebook, instagram, Science, Snapchat, Social, Teens, YouTube | 0 comments

A Pew survey of teens and the ways they use technology finds that kids have largely ditched Facebook for the visually stimulating alternatives of Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram. Nearly half said they’re online “almost constantly,” which will probably be used as a source of FUD, but really is just fine. Even teens, bless their honest little hearts, have doubts about whether social media is good or evil.

The survey is the first by Pew since 2015, and plenty has changed. The one that has driven the most change seems to be the ubiquity and power of smartphones, which 95 percent of respondents said they had access to. Fewer, especially among lower income families, had laptops and desktops.

This mobile-native cohort has opted for mobile-native content and apps, which means highly visual and easily browsable. That’s much more the style on the top three apps: YouTube takes first place with 85 percent reporting they use it, then Instagram at 72 percent, and Snapchat at 69.

Facebook, at 51 percent, is a far cry from the 71 percent who used it back in 2015, when it was top of the heap by far. Interestingly, the 51 percent average is not representative of any of the income groups polled; 36 percent of higher income households used it, while 70 percent of teens from lower income households did.

What could account for this divergence? The latest and greatest hardware isn’t required to run the top three apps, nor (necessarily) an expensive data plan. With no data to go on from the surveys and no teens nearby to ask, I’ll leave this to the professionals to look into. No doubt Facebook will be interested to learn this — though who am I kidding, it probably knows already. (There’s even a teen tutorial.)

Twice as many teens reported being “online constantly,” but really, it’s hard to say when any of us is truly “offline.” Teens aren’t literally looking at their phones all day, much as that may seem to be the case, but they — and the rest of us — are rarely more than a second or two away from checking messages, looking something up and so on. I’m surprised the “constantly” number isn’t higher, honestly.

Gaming is still dominated by males, almost all of whom play in some fashion, but 83 percent of teen girls also said they gamed, so the gap is closing.

When asked whether social media had a positive or negative effect, teens were split. They valued it for connecting with friends and family, finding news and information and meeting new people. But they decried its use in bullying and spreading rumors, its complicated effect on in-person relationships and how it distracts from and distorts real life.

Here are some quotes from real teens demonstrating real insight.

Those who feel it has an overall positive effect:

  • “I feel that social media can make people my age feel less lonely or alone. It creates a space where you can interact with people.”
  • “My mom had to get a ride to the library to get what I have in my hand all the time. She reminds me of that a lot.”
  • “We can connect easier with people from different places and we are more likely to ask for help through social media which can save people.”
  • “It has given many kids my age an outlet to express their opinions and emotions, and connect with people who feel the same way.”

And those who feel it’s negative:

  • “People can say whatever they want with anonymity and I think that has a negative impact.”
  • “Gives people a bigger audience to speak and teach hate and belittle each other.”
  • “It makes it harder for people to socialize in real life, because they become accustomed to not interacting with people in person.”
  • “Because teens are killing people all because of the things they see on social media or because of the things that happened on social media.”

That last one is scary.

You can read the rest of the report and scrutinize Pew’s methodology here.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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