There is no shortage of crowdfunding websites out there, vying to help you raise cash for your big idea but the two highest profile outfits remain Kickstarter and Indiegogo — the former having the reputation of the 800 pound gorilla in the crowdfunding room.
According to research we covered last summer, Kickstarter was responsible for raising around 6x more successful funding than Indiegogo (Indiegogo did dispute that research, however).
Whatever the truth, the perception remains that Indiegogo plays second fiddle to Kickstarter. Which gives it all the more reason to broaden out its feature-set to crank up its appeal. Case in point: it’s announced a plan to extended its reach with the launch of a tool, called Indiegogo Outpost, that will let companies run Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns as embeds on their own websites.
What’s the point of that? It says the idea is to allow companies with large followings/powerful existing brands of their own to leverage the traffic and energy that’s directed at their own website.
“We’re always looking for new ways to help Indiegogo campaigns directly engage with audiences who are likely to support them,” said Slava Rubin, Indiegogo co-founder and CEO, in a statement coming on the planned launch.
Outpost campaigns won’t be exclusively out on a limb. They will also get a mirrored campaign on Indiegogo’s website so the company running an Outpost campaign still gets to tap into its nine million monthly unique visitors — in a ‘have your cake & eat it’ type scenario.
Beyond that, the tool also, of course, adds another string to Indiegogo’s bow in the feature-set competition with Kickstarter.
Indiegogo said Outpost campaigns will be able to use its own campaign analytics tools, or integrate third party tools such as Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, Mixpanel or Facebook retargeting if they prefer.
They can also still be included in Indiegogo’s own marketing channels. And Outposters will get support from Indiegogo in the form of access to its educational resources, Trust and Safety team, and Customer Happiness team.
One potential risk associated with extending the reach of crowdfunding off of a central hub website is that scammers might seek to take advantage to run bogus crowdfunding campaigns which aren’t in any way affiliated with Indiegogo. Of course such campaigns wouldn’t have any mirror on the main Indiegogo website — so that’s one way for future crowdfunders to verify that an Indiegogo Outpost campaign is bona fide.
The taxi app wars are about to get a whole lot more interesting. German taxi startup, mytaxi, founded back in 2009 and currently operating in six markets with 10 million app downloads under its belt, is planning to switch from taking a fixed fee cut of taxi journeys to a marketplace model where drivers choose the percentage revenue per journey to give over. Pricing can be set at between 3% and 30% of the final fare.
Driving jobs are then assigned by mytaxi taking the level of revenue share into consideration. mytaxi is claiming this real time bidding system is the first example of an auction model being applied in the taxi industry.
Co-founder Sven Kuelper told TechCrunch it has just sent out new contracts to the 45,000 drivers using its app detailing the pricing model changes. The marketplace model is due to go live on February 1, with the mytaxi driver app getting an update on January 20 that will add the slider function (pictured above) to allow drivers to select their chosen revenue share.
Discussing why it’s making the switch from fixed fee to flexible percentage, Kuelper said an auction model makes sense for the taxi industry being as the value of a taxi journey varies, depending on demand. And demand varies according to a plethora of factors such as time of day, season, location and other even more volatile variables such as the weather.
All of which, he argued, gives taxi drivers an incentive to be flexible in how much revenue they share with the company that’s sending driving jobs their way.
mytaxi has developed an algorithm to use the auction model to determine how to distribute jobs by taking the size of the revenue share a driver is willing to give into consideration — along with other factors crucial to ensuring a quality taxi service: namely the distance a taxi is away from the customer wanting a cab, and the quality rating the taxi has.
“It’s a delicate balance and we have to do our learnings,” said Kuelper. “At the beginning, for example, we will be really careful which means that the price [revenue percentage] hasn’t got the highest rating [within the algorithm] but the distance to the customer and quality has the higher rating. And then when we see it works out, then we change the balance.”
Being as it’s treading new ground, Kuelper said it’s hard to predict what sort of average revenue share mytaxi is going to get from the new pricing system — but he estimated it could be around 10%.
Of course there’s a risk it ends up at the lower end too — with mytaxi then likely getting even less than its current fixed fee cut of 79 cents per journey. Kuelper described that as the “biggest risk” of the new pricing model.
Another risk in switching from the simplicity of a fixed fee to a variable marketplace is creating pricing complexity that’s off-putting for drivers — being as they are continuously required to weigh up where to set the level of revenue share vs their driver peers.
But Kuelper argued that this is likely to be seen as a benefit by drivers, being as it gives them the flexibility to determine how much they want to make — and to increase their chances of making some money when there is low demand for cabs.
“There are certain advantages for the drivers that they really appreciate — in terms of flexibility and, for example, also that quality also matters. If they are offering a good quality with a brand new car and a nice driver they will also get more tours. This is also taken into consideration and this is something that they will like. And that they can really actively determine how much revenue they want to make,” he added.
mytaxi will also be providing a guideline for drivers as to the current market price for a journey — based on the percentages selected by other drivers in the area. These percentages will be displayed in the app, giving the driver more context when setting their own revenue share at that location and time of day.
mytaxi currently operates mostly in European cities but is also in the U.S. in Washington DC. Its five current European markets are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland and Spain, with its home market of Germany being the strongest.
Kuelper told TechCrunch mytaxi is eyeing up expansion into new markets but said it isn’t disclosing specific target markets at this point.
mytaxi competes against the likes of Hailo, Uber, GetTaxi and Easy Taxi to name a few of the hoards of taxi app startups in circulation, and has raised a total of $30 million funding since launch — with investors including T-Venture Holding (Deutsche Telekom), Daimler Mobility Services (Daimler), KfW, e42 GmbH, Lars Hinrichs (Cinco Capital).
Kuelper said it’s not currently looking to raise any more funding at this point, having closed its last tranche (a Series C) in October. He also said it’s anticipating becoming profitable by the middle or end of this year.
Apigee, an API management company, has acquired InsightsOne for its predictive analytics technology. With InsightsOne, Apigee will have a platform that helps companies find patterns in multiple data sources to, for instance, tell healthcare providers in advance about an unsatisfied customer. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Founded three years ago, InsightsOne, has $4.3 million in funding it received in 2012 from NorWest Venture Partners. Prominent investors Gaurav Garg of Sequoia Capital, former Yahoo Chief Technical Officer Zod Nazem, and Alpha Venturi founder Peter Wagner also participated in the funding as noted by VentureBeat at the time. Co-Founder Waqar Hasan will join the Apigee executive team. Before starting InsightsOne, Hasan ran the Yahoo! data platform for five years.
The InsightsOne group has offered predictive analytics for consumer companies. It finds patterns from multiple sources of information. For example, Hasan explained how its analytics might help provide patterns in data from a fitness monitor but also health claim information. With that encompassing profile, a company may provide deeper intelligence insights.
One of the oldest API management companies, Apigee recently shifted to put an emphasis on analytics. Last February, the company introduced Apigee Insights, which uses apps and data from APIs and other sources to gain context and insight.
In the larger picture, the API is now the way to connect apps and deliver data. This API data can also be aggregated and pooled with other types of information that a company may have in its own databases.
For example, there is the increasing amounts of data that people and machines create. With that scaling in data, there is a growing demand for new types of analytics capabilities. Graph databases are becoming more popular for the varied amounts of data they aggregate and analyze. These graph databases organize nodes, which might be things like a street light or people. The properties of a graph database describe the nodes. A graph database also has “edges” that connect the nodes and properties, defining the relationship between them. The value is derived when analyzing the patterns between the nodes and the properties.
As sensors become more widely used in wearables such as Google Glass, the demand for graph databases will increase. It will be important to correlate the data from the any number of sensors that might be in a house, a car or city street. There will also be the need to analyze increasing amounts of text from medical records, contracts, etc.
It’s the intersection with APIs and the patterns that come from graph databases and text search capabilities that Apigee sees as a long-term opportunity with InsightsOne.
But like any other company in the API analytics space, Google’s deep analytics capabilities loom above Apigee. Add the bevy of analytics providers and the competition looks daunting.
Apigee is a veteran of the API space but there’s a question about what will come of the company with its focus on analytics and its legacy as an API management provider. Its competitors, such as Mashery and Layer 7 have been acquired, leaving it as the largest of the remaining independent API management companies. An acquisition or IPO are the logical outcomes. For an IPO, the question is about its overall growth potential to be an attractive opportunity for investors in the public markets.
Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone revealed his top-secret new startup Jelly, a mobile app that enables users to ask short questions of their social network through pictures. For instance, Stone snapped a photo of an art piece in San Francisco, asked his network what it was, and got a few dozen answers.
Since this morning’s announcement, there’s been a swirl of confusion and criticism about Jelly, especially because it seemed odd to limit an information utility to short questions within one’s own relatively small social network.
But, after speaking to Stone, it appears that Jelly has a much more unique and ambitious purpose than we’ve come to expect from web utilities. The primary goal of Jelly is to increase empathy, and is built more for the answerer than the asker.
“Using Jelly to help people is as much more important than using Jelly to search for help. If we’re successful, then we’re going to introduce into the daily muscle memory of smartphone users, everyone, that there’s this idea that there’s other people that need their help right now.
“Let’s make the world a more empathetic place by teaching that there’s other people around them that need help.”
To be sure, Jelly is still a utility. I successfully used it this morning to answer a math question:
The same could apply to asking about what to wear, where to travel, or how to decorate one’s room. In one anecdote, COO Kevin Thau’s niece solicited some art advice for an acrylic painting, which eventually got forwarded all the way to the art director of a friend and director of TV’s House, Greg Yaitanes.
“That art director answered it brilliantly,” he gushes. “In what world does a 14-year-old girl in Florida get a professional answer from an art director?”
Success for Jelly is about creating a comprehensive question-and-answer network that users tap throughout the day, especially in their downtime, such as while waiting in line at the grocery store.
“All these people are working on artificial intelligence. How about just intelligence? There’s 7 billion people; there’s a lot of intelligence out there.”
But, the search engine seems almost instrumental. Biz’s stream-of-conscious explanation is worth quoting in full:
Beyond being a very useful search engine, like I said before, it creates this circle of empathy, where people realize that ‘Oh, there’s other people who need my help and I can actually help them and they’ll feel good about it and they’ll get trained to thinking about helping other people. And, maybe that’ll even jump outside of the app and just into the real world and they’ll start looking around and helping people and wouldn’t that be great?
With this, the format of Jelly makes more sense. Offering knowledge in an instant is the shortest path to helping. Jelly is explicitly discouraging discussions or any long-form back-and-forth. Just quick answers, a shot of personal dopamine, and off to the rest of the day.
Jelly is the first major application that I’m aware of to be built for the person helping, not the one seeking help. It’s this counterintuitive proposition that makes Jelly so intriguing. More importantly, Stone is no stranger to wild success. Few would have ever thought Twitter would become a staple of modern-day media.
Yes, Jelly is ambitious, but it’s being directed by someone who has the track record to actually make it happen. It’s new territory, and we’ll be following his grand experiment.
“We just kind of increase that global empathy quotient just a bit in our lifetime, and wouldn’t that be great?”
Last month, we reported that Facebook was planning to buy Little Eye Labs, an Indian startup that makes a software tool for analyzing the performance of Android apps. Now the Bangalore-based company has confirmed its acquisition by the social media giant. A direct source told us that the deal is in the range of $10 million to $15 million. Little Eye Labs’ investors have included VenturEast and GSF.
“With this acquisition, Little Eye Labs will join forces with Facebook to take its mobile development to the next level! This is Facebook’s first acquisition of an Indian company, and we are happy to become part of such an incredible team,” the company said in a statement on its site.
As expected, the entire Little Eye Labs team will move to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, where it will build analysis tools to help develop apps.
“From there, we’ll be able to leverage Facebook’s world-class infrastructure and help improve performance of their already awesome apps. For us, this is an opportunity to make an impact on the more than 1 billion people who use Facebook,” they added.
TechCrunch’s Pankaj Mishra wrote last month that the acquisition of Little Eye Labs fits into Facebook’s mobile strategy, which has lagged behind rivals like Twitter even though 874 million of its 1.19 billion users (as of September 2013) access the social network primarily via their mobile devices.
Other acquisitions Facebook has made to strengthen its mobile products include Parse, a mobile-backend-as-a-service startup it bought in April 2013.
As Pankaj also noted, the acquisition of an Indian startup that is less than 18 months old is a significant boost for India’s startup ecosystem, where high-profile acquisitions are rare. We learned that Little Eye Labs also pitched to Twitter, but was offered a better deal by Facebook.
“The acquisition of Little Eye Labs by Facebook is transformative deal for not only Indian startup ecosystem but also for the whole of the emerging world. This validates GSF’s core tenet that Indian product startups are now ready for a global play,” Rajesh Sawhney of GSF’s accelerator program, which Little Eye Labs graduated from, told TechCrunch.
The company also said that current customers of Little Eye for Android, which helps developers measure, analyze and optimize their app’s performance, will “receive further information on plans to offer a free version of Little Eye until June 30, 2014″ and more information can be found on its downloads page.
The FLIR ONE iPhone case significantly ups the imaging powers of your iPhone 5 or 5s, making it into a thermal imaging camera that lets you see heat signatures from either live people and animals from up to 100 meters away, or from environmental sources including heating ducts, wall gaps and more.
Most of FLIR’s products to date are aimed at hunters and professionals, but this iPhone case brings an affordable smartphone-based thermal camera to the masses for the first time, the company told me at CES. The FLIR is $350, which might seem steep for a case with a built-in camera, but it’s actually around $750 cheaper than their least expensive standalone model currently available, and it provides an easy-to-use interface that anyone could quickly learn.
The app for the FLIR ONE offers numerous modes that interpret thermal data differently, with some showing many degrees of temperature, and others more clearly showing more or less binary differences between extreme heat, average temperature and extreme cold. Amazingly, it also picks up residual heat, like that left by a foot on a carpet for quite a while after a person was there.
At first, I was a little skeptical about the potential use cases for a thermal iPhone case for the average consumer, but the company’s representative at CES explained that you could use it for something as simple as figuring out whether your dog is climbing up onto your bed when you leave or not. It could also be used for home security, detecting thermal leaks in your house, or finding water leaks in pipes behind the walls.
Of course, it can still be used for industrial and commercial applications, too, including contracting, home inspection and building maintenance. Users can snap photos of infrared images for their phone’s library, and share pictures from within the app. There’s also a plan for an SDK later in 2014, to let others build apps for the case.
The case also has a battery within that powers the camera itself for up to four hours of continuous use, which can also provide up to 50 percent more power for your iPhone, too, if used as a backup battery. The company says it’ll ship this spring, but pre-orders are open now. Thermal imaging might not be on the top of every smartphone user’s wishlist, but it could end up appealing to more people than you might suspect.