Campus Job, Connecting College Students With Employers, Raises $7.8 Million In Series A

Campus Job, Connecting College Students With Employers, Raises $7.8 Million In Series A
Nearly eight months after launching a platform to connect college students with local job opportunities, Campus Job has raised a $7.8 million Series A round of funding led by General Catalyst Partners, with participation from Index Ventures, Box Group, SV Angel, Slow Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, and others.
The company originally launched with a model that allowed students to sign up on the platform and look for part-time work nearby, while companies who were looking to hire had to pay to unlock each listing they posted once qualified applications had come through. In January, the startup pivoted to a new model that asked companies to pay extra for more advanced search criteria, upping the cost of unlocking applicants’ profiles.
Campus Job has also recently added full-time job search for seniors, with partners that include Snapchat, Zenefits, and Yelp. The company says that it’s seeing 10,000 new students each week and processing more than 12,000 job applications each month. In total, there are more than 125,000 students on the platform from more than 2,200 universities, with employers like Dropbox, Starbucks, Postmates, T-Mobile and Oscar seeking applicants on the platform.
Campus Job recently graduated from Y Combinator accelerator.
Cofounder Liz Wessel said that the biggest challenge right now is maintaining the balance of the marketplace.
“With so many students signing up so quickly to Campus Job, we are working our hardest to get as many employers on board as possible,” said Wessel. “However, the network effect is infinitely stronger among students (who hang out at parties and live together) than it is among HR people, so it’s definitely a challenge that we’re focused on conquering by scaling our sales team.”
Wessel added that this new funding would be significantly invested in building out a sales team to build awareness among employers.
Campus Job has raised a total of $9.1 million to date. You can check out the platform here.

Real Estate Startup Suitey Rebrands As TripleMint, Raises $1.65M

Real Estate Startup Suitey Rebrands As TripleMint, Raises $1.65M
TripleMint, a New York City startup aiming to take the pain out of buying, selling and renting an apartment, has raised $1.65 million in seed funding.
Investors include Dominion Capital, Winklevoss Capital (yes, those Winklevoss twins), Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, Kima Ventures, Archangel Ventures, Fabrice Grinda, Tom Falus (former president of Cushman & Wakefield) and Mike Albanese (publisher of the New York Observer).
We’ve actually written about TripleMint before, under its old name Suitey. The company just took on the new name — co-founder David Walker said it’s meant to convey both the quality of the apartments people will find on the site as well as the quality of the service.
“The process of buying, selling and renting an apartment, it should be amazing,” Walker said. “Selling an apartment should the most exciting thing you do.”
The name change also signifies TripleMint’s expanded services. The core is still the same — it allows prospective buyers and renters to search their local broker database directly. Then, once you’ve found the apartments that you want to check out, you don’t have to contact a long list of different brokers. Instead, a single TripleMint broker can help you tour all of them.
Those brokers, by the way, are actually full-time employees with benefits and equity in TripleMint. And perhaps most importantly for customers, they’re not just paid on a straight commission basis. They also receive a bonus based on customer satisfaction, so there’s less incentive to pressure you to just make the deal.
“When you look at real estate from the pure technology lens, there’s a ton of focus and a lot of companies that are media companies centered around selling ads on listing search pages,” Walker added. “And very few have really focused on the actual consumer experience.”
As for features beyond the real estate brokerage, TripleMint also offers a concierge moving service, with discounts for local service providers. And it’s announcing that it will donate a portion of the revenue from each transaction to Rebuilding Together NYC, a nonprofit that helps low-income families stay in their homes.
TripleMint is currently available in the NYC boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, with a particular focus on Manhattan, Walker said. and yes, there are plans to expand, although he didn’t offer any details about the timing.

Personal Finance Startup MX Pulls In $30 Million Series A Funding From USAA and Digital Garage

Personal Finance Startup MX Pulls In $30 Million Series A Funding From USAA and Digital Garage
MX, the personal finance startup formerly known as Money Desktop, has just inked a $30 million Series A funding deal led by a subsidiary of USAA. Tokyo-based VC firm Digital Garage also participated in the round.
MX had previously raised a healthy seed round from various early stage investors for $20 million late last year. This now brings the total amount of funding to $50 million for the startup.
MX founder Ryan Caldwell was hesitant to talk about the valuation, but we’ve heard it’s about triple the previous $100 million valuation.
Much like Mint, Simple and others in the personal finance space, MX aims to make financial management easy for the consumer by providing real-time monetary data from various banking institutions and money accounts.
Most of these competitors work by scraping financial data and connecting to APIs to offer a snapshot of where you are financially. MX differs in that powers a backend money management solution to the existing infrastructure of these financial institutions. This allows customers of those institutions to see all their financial information in one place within their own banking platform, rather than on a third-party site like Mint.
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This latest round was a strategic one that will help MX to rapidly build out this backend with larger financial institutions, according to Caldwell. As an investor, USAA, one of the largest banking institutions in the United States, has incentive to help the startup work with its more than 10 million customers. In return, MX offers USAA a simplified personal finance solution that can “enhance the customer experience,” according to USAA.
The investment from Digital Garage offers another strategic opportunity for MX – helping it go overseas. Digital Garage was instrumental in helping other technology companies like Twitter and Path expand internationally and can offer a possibly lucrative opportunity for MX to get into the Japanese banking market – one of the leading centers for finance and banking in the world.
“We look forward to marshaling the full resources of the Digital Garage Group behind MX to bring industry-leading services to Japanese financial institutions hungry for full-stack solutions,” Digital Garage president Kaoru Hayashi said in a statement about the funding round.
MX is already preparing for what might come next by building out new headquarters in Lehi, Utah and adding 150 employees to its current 130. Most of those hires will be in engineering in order to work on building a framework to help banks and other financial institutions integrate and automate personal financing into their platforms.
“We’re helping banks be truly cross-platform. Sometimes banks struggle with integrating us into their current offering. We now offer a framework that makes this process much easier. This is part of what we’ve been developing,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell also plans to use some of the funds to hire on the sales and client services side to help guide a fast-growing base of new customers. The current customer growth rate is at 200 to 300 percent, according to Caldwell.

Jeremy Allaire’s Bitcoin Startup Circle Takes $50M From Goldman Sachs, IDG

Jeremy Allaire’s Bitcoin Startup Circle Takes $50M From Goldman Sachs, IDG
Circle, the Bitcoin startup that veteran entrepreneur Jeremy Allaire started, just raised $50 million from Goldman Sachs and IDG Capital Partners.
It’s another sign that the finance industry’s most powerful players are starting to take the crypto-currency and its ecosystem seriously. All of Circle’s existing investors including Breyer Capital, General Catalyst Partners, Accel Partners, Oak Investment Partners, Fenway Summer, Digital Currency Group and Pantera Capital participated. Rival Coinbase recently did a large growth round too that involved the New York Stock Exchange and USAA.
With the round, Circle is letting customers send and receive U.S. dollars as well as Bitcoin. The key point about this feature is that it takes advantage of Bitcoin’s promise in settling transactions and reaching consensus much more cheaply than traditional online financial transactions.
In its purest form, Bitcoin’s public ledger, the blockchain, allows multiple parties to transact with each other without a third-party mediator.
But of course, lots of third-party and more centralized institutions have emerged over time to serve as wallets, exchanges and merchant processors. They merely take advantage of the currency’s less expensive settlement costs. Circle is betting that dollar-based transactions will also be attractive to customers who don’t want to deal with Bitcoin’s price swings against fiat currencies.
“They can do this without knowing anything about Bitcoin and without exposing themselves to price volatility,” said Allaire, who previously took video company Brightcove public. “We really think of Bitcoin as a global interoperable payment network instead of a store of value.”
The other interesting part of the round is that Circle took funding from IDG Capital Partners, which is a well-established East Asian firm.
They could be a key partner in breaking into the Chinese market, which has an entirely different set of regulations around Bitcoin. Two years ago, after Chinese Bitcoin enthusiasts started piling into the market and driving up the price of the currency, the government intervened and ruled that banks couldn’t directly handle transactions. Transactions between private individuals are allowed, however.
“This could take a long time, but there is a savings glut in China where consumers have built up a lot of wealth. And now, the economy needs to shift toward a more consumer-driven model. Part of that involves Chinese consumers interacting with the rest of the world over the Internet,” Allaire said. “So I think there’s a need for services that will make it easier for Chinese consumers to spend globally. The Bitcoin network could be an attractive solution.”

The Art Of Giving Feedback

The Art Of Giving Feedback
Editor’s note: Allison Hopkins is the vice president of people at Hampton Creek, where she assists in the growth of its business, people and culture.
At Hampton Creek we ask, “What would it look like if we started over?” This drives our business philosophy. The one area we have focused on is giving and receiving feedback. Feedback can be real and easy.
Let’s start with the formal aspect of feedback at most organizations: the dreaded performance-review process. The current state of affairs in most companies is an annual focal or anniversary date review tied to feedback, salary increases and promotions. It can be seen as an event versus a focus on feedback done regularly and consistently. And, as many of us have experienced, this feedback is less than ideal, constructive or helpful.
Forms are filled out and the parties discuss the good, the bad and the ugly. Leaders and managers who have little-to-no training perform an event and check a few boxes and give some nebulous constructive feedback.
Over the last few years some have attempted more creativity, adding 360 reviews, quarterly feedback sessions, goal setting, anonymous feedback and external third-party feedback-gathering. But in the end, most of these processes do not drive learning or development.
Where feedback gets sticky and uncomfortable is when the giver and the receiver don’t respect or trust each other.
The best feedback can be done easily and build trust. For example, think about that time you were sitting at lunch with someone you didn’t know – you excuse yourself and go to the restroom where you look in the mirror and see that big piece of spinach covering your front tooth and you think, “why didn’t my lunch partner tell me this?” That leads to a smidgeon of distrust now with this lunch date. You think, if they had only mentioned this, it would have saved me some embarrassment in front of others.
This is how performance feedback can work — be constructive and in real-time — which can enhance trust and growth. I like to refer to this type of feedback as 365-feedback. Practice every day, at least once a day, and it will become easy.
Feedback can be difficult to give, especially when it deals with behavior or a character flaw. And as humans we tend to avoid it. But, feedback, similar to exercise, gets better and easier when the muscle is stretched on a regular basis. You will notice a strength and organizational dynamic that comes with real-time, direct feedback. Think of giving feedback as a gift.
In most organizations conflict-avoidance runs rampant at all levels. We are all a little afraid of rejection and hearing feedback can come with a dose of reality that is tough to hear. As well, some feedback can be hurtful, biased and delivered poorly with the words that are chosen. It’s good to keep this in mind when delivering and communicating feedback.
But the irony is that more often than not when feedback is given with thought and truth, it is valuable. Think about the times you have given or received truthful constructive feedback and how that helped you learn.
Having led people teams (or something like that) for the last 25 years, I’ve had hundreds of folks who come to me to complain about others. Many times my first question is, “what did so-and-so say when you talked with them about this?” Most times, the response is “I haven’t talked with them.” My next question then is, “how can I help you with that feedback?” Driving people to talk to each other about the good, bad and ugly is critical to business success.
Another scenario is when someone comes to me to claim something about someone else; I probe and prod on the truth and the facts, and try to get the emotion removed. In some cases, I gather all parties in a room to hash it out. I find many of these conversations are filled with mistruths, memes and biases. There are always more than two sides to any claim, and it can be liberating to get the parties in the room to work through it in real-time and walk in each other’s shoes.
Over the years there have been many moments when someone gets talked about who isn’t present. I then ask if the person knows about this and if the conversation would be the same if that person were in the room. The goal is to drive the organization to a foundation of trust — giving people the belief that we are working hard as an organization to be truthful whether you are in the room or not.
One-on-one is usually the best way to give feedback, but in a public setting it can also be incredibly demonstrative. Knowing the receiver of the feedback and the audience is critical to your decision to deliver the message one-to-one or publicly.
Where feedback gets sticky and uncomfortable is when the giver and the receiver don’t respect or trust each other. When the bubble over their heads in a feedback session is, “what is their ulterior motive, am I going to get fired, is this politically charged?”
That is the ugly side of real-time feedback and starting over in this circumstance is one area that needs work. I find an objective third party to be helpful in that situation to call bullshit between the two and get them to be really honest with each other. An arbitrator of sorts is sometimes a good way to go.
I remember many times being a bit nervous but stepped up to give honest, direct feedback and address the “elephant in the room,” and when I did it always got the conversation going in a much healthier way. The freedom to open up and discuss, brainstorm and resolve an issue can be liberating and actually fun. How refreshing to know where you or a situation stands. Forms and process don’t get you there. People giving feedback in real-time do.
In most organizations conflict-avoidance runs rampant at all levels.
I was with a group of young children recently and observed their feedback and it was real time and refreshing between them. I heard things such as,  “your breath smells funny, don’t bite me, you are pretty, lets share this book, I will help you.” No bullying, not fake, just pure innocent real-time feedback. How do we lose this as adults? What if we started over as working adults and went back to that more innocent approach?
So when delivering feedback: don’t sugar coat it; humor can help; be factual; try to question yourself on memes or others emotions; check yourself on any bias you might be carrying; feedback when emotional can work, but counting to 10 always seems to be a good thing; wait for the emotion to subside.
Imagine the world with real-time truthful feedback system at all levels. It could change the way we all work and succeed as a business and a team. Try it, you might be surprised.

LVMH, Accel And More Pour $40M Into Fashion E-Commerce Aggregator Lyst

LVMH, Accel And More Pour $40M Into Fashion E-Commerce Aggregator Lyst
On the heels of Farfetch raising $86 million last month, another fashion commerce startup out of London has picked up a significant round of funding. Lyst, a site that lets people shop across some 11,500 different online stores using a single check-out, has picked up $40 million in a Series C round of funding.
Investors in this round, which brings the total raised by Lyst to $60 million since being founded in 2011, include strategic backers Group Arnault (the controlling shareholder of LVMH), as well as previous investors Accel, Balderton, 14W and DFJ, and an unnamed New York hedge fund.
While Farfetch’s Series E in March vaulted it into the so-called “unicorn” club with a valuation of $1 billion, Lyst cares little for disclosing where it stands on this front.
“We never disclose valuation,” founder and CEO Chris Morton says flatly. “I don’t think it’s healthy for my team to obsess over. I recognise the industry is all about chasing unicorn status these days but we don’t want to be part of that conversation.”
All the same, the company has seen a big boost in its business in the last year. Total sales to date stand at $150 million compared to $40 million 12 months ago. And Lyst also claims that in that time it has generated “hundreds of millions” in sales for the stores and designers that sell on the site, with its international customer base (150+ countries) on average spending $400 per order.
There are a number of “aggregating” sites online that effectively let users browse styles from different designers and different stores — Farfetch, Shoptiques, and Pinterest being a few. Lyst is different from these in a couple of different ways.
First is the sheer size of the pool of online stores and designers that it aggregates — currently over 11,500, with brands including Acne, Alexander McQueen, Barney’s, Burberry, J.Crew, Topshop and Valentino among them.
Second is the singular focus on fashion in its aggregation push, a focus that potentially will attract much more active and less casual browsers.
Third is the shopping experience itself: Lyst uses a lot of algorithms to personalise the experience for visitors, suggesting new items to you based on previous purchases, with a real-time ability to show you what is actually in stock and where.
Lastly, the single shopping cart helps make the whole experience particularly seamless. Morton claims that the universal cart increases sales conversions by as much as five-fold.
What Lyst has in common with other aggregation sites is that it is solving one of the big pain points in online shopping: for people looking for a specific item, it can be very time consuming to have to visit different shops’ sites looking for the exact size and color you may want, and to compare prices.
While Lyst is currently restricting its scope to clothes and other fashion items, there is actually a case to be made for extending the technology to cover other kinds of items, too, such as furniture from specific brands that might be sold in more than one place.
While Lyst has in the past started to dip its toes into physical commerce, working with PayPal on its Beacon rollout for example to let in-store browsers buy items online if the stock in one place is not available, it looks like right now the focus will be on global expansion and adding more commerce sources to add to its universal shopping cart. That is smart, considering that Lyst makes its revenues on affiliate and referral percentages, ultimately the business model is one of economies of scale.

Tencent Will Pay $126M For A 14.6% Stake In Glu Mobile, Maker Of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

Tencent Will Pay $126M For A 14.6% Stake In Glu Mobile, Maker Of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood
Tencent, one of China’s biggest Internet companies, has agreed to purchase a 14.6 percent stake in Glu Mobile, the San Francisco game developer probably best known for the hit app “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.” Shares of Glu rocketed 23 percent in after hours trading as investors showed their approval for the deal, as well as its strong first-quarter earnings report.
In a statement, chairman and chief executive officer Niccolo de Masi said the deal is meant to help Glu expand its business in China.
Tencent will pay $126 million for 21 million shares of Glu at $6 each.
Not only is Tencent China’s largest gaming company, but it is also the top publicly traded company in the world by game revenue according to research firm Newzoo, making $7.2 billion in 2014 (Sony and Microsoft came in second, with $6.04 billion and $5.02 billion in revenue, respectively).
Its other investments in U.S. gaming companies include a majority stake in League of Legends developer Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, and Epic Games.
One of the keys to the growth of Tencent’s gaming business is its relatively early shift to mobile, which Tencent Games’ vice president Bo Wang said the company made more than two years ago after observing trends in South Korea, another market it focuses on for investments.
In addition to “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” Glu’s hits include “Deer Hunter” and “Diner Dash.” It just signed a five-year deal with Britney Spears to make another celebrity game.

Baidu Sees Revenue Growth And Profit Slump In Q1 2015

Baidu Sees Revenue Growth And Profit Slump In Q1 2015
Baidu, China’s largest internet search and maps provider, continues to see slowing business as it adapts to the rise of mobile. The company’s latest Q1 2015 financial report continued an ongoing decline in revenue growth and saw net profit dip year-on-year too.
Last year, the number of mobile internet users in China overtook that of PCs, indicating that a shift to mobile is wholly necessary for any tech company operating in the country. While mobile accounted for half of Baidu’s revenue for the first time in Q1 2015, up from 37 precent across its fiscal year 2014, key financial indicators show the transition isn’t quite so smooth.
Baidu’s total revenue for the quarter came in at RMB 12.725 billion ($2.053 billion). That’s 34 percent higher than one year previous, but the figure represents a decline in annual revenue growth compared to recent quarter. In Q4 2014, the previous quarter, Baidu’s annual revenue growth was 47.5 percent; that number was 52 percent in Q3 2014; 58.5 percent in Q2 2014; and 59.1 percent in Q1 2014.
So, yes, Baidu’s revenue continues to grow, but its rate of growth has tumbled sequentially this past year.
Profit is down too. Baidu’s Q1 2015 operating profit of RMB 2.155 billion ($347.7 million) represents a 9.2 drop on Q1 2014. Net income fell 3.4 percent over the past year to reach RMB 2.449 billion ($395.1 million) in Q1 2015.
Baidu chairman and CEO Robin Li focused on the growth of mobile in a statement:
Mobile’s tremendous momentum continued this quarter, with mobile contributing 50% of total revenue. Baidu is redefining the search box by building an ecosystem to connect people with services and drive closed loop transactions. Baidu’s platform is comprehensive and robust, and we plan to fully exploit the huge growth potential ahead — in mobile marketing, online to offline, and key select verticals such as healthcare, education and financial services — by leveraging our solid mobile foundation, exceptional technology advantage, and proven operational experience.
The company retains its position as China’s top search engine — with around 80 percent marketshare — and it runs China’s de facto maps service. It has experimented with an Android operating system (which was recently closed), has introduced web apps, and it forked out $1.9 billion to buy top app store 91Wireless, among other strategies to diversify.
Beyond these services, it is focusing its efforts on big data and deep learning. Baidu hired former Google exec Andrew Ng as chief scientist for its U.S.-based lab, and — separately — it is developing language technologies that will enable it to introduce services in a range of emerging markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America and North Africa.
At this point, it isn’t clear exactly how Baidu will use these technologies in its business — beyond the comments Li made above — but clearly mobile is the focus point for its future strategies.

Author And YouTuber John Green Tells Advertisers To Stop Worrying About Eyeballs

Author And YouTuber John Green Tells Advertisers To Stop Worrying About Eyeballs
YouTube just held its annual Brandcast event in Madison Square Garden, where it trotted out online video stars for an audience of advertisers.
The big message was that YouTube stars are huge celebrities, attracting lots of passionate fans — so advertisers should spend their money on, you guessed it, YouTube. Tonight there was an emphasis on mobile, with YouTube’s head of content and business operations Robert Kyncl predicting that within five years, the majority of ad-supported videos will be watched on mobile devices.
But things got darker near the event’s end, when John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars, took the stage. Green talked about how he and his brother Hank built a devoted following of “nerdfighters” on YouTube, contributing to the enormous success of his book. In fact, they’ve built an online video business with 30 employees. But Green’s ad revenue is outweighed by things like crowdfunding and merchandise — and that ad revenue is falling by 5 percent every year.
He acknowledged that’s not true for everyone on YouTube. Nonetheless, he argued, “Many of the strongest communities are dramatically undervalued by advertisers, forcing YouTubers to find other paths.”
To a certain extent, this was just a roundabout sales pitch: Advertisers are missing out because they don’t value YouTubers enough. But Green was also suggesting that there’s something fundamentally different about many of YouTube’s popular personalities and shows.
“Here’s the truth: Way down deep in what Robert Penn Warren called ‘the darkness which is you’, there’s a great and terrible feeling that our life and work is meaningless, this clawing fear that everything we do will be for nothing — and CSI Miami is incredibly good for distracting us from that fear,” Green said.
And sure, distraction is fine, but Green doesn’t see himself and other “passionate YouTubers” as being in “the distraction business.” Instead, the best shows are in “the community business”, and he watches them because they help him “grapple with and consider the problems and questions way down deep there in the darkness.”
That’s why he said focusing on eyeballs is a crummy way to measure the success and value of many YouTube shows: “I don’t care how many people watch or read something I make, I care about how many people love something I make.”
Green concluded with a bit of carrot and stick. Sure, he said, “If you want to stay in the eyeballs business, I think that’s cool. It is a good business, albeit a shrinking one — but you risk losing relevance to an entire generation of viewers.”
On the other hand, if advertisers support YouTube, they won’t just be supporting worthwhile content: “If you help us do that, our viewers will notice and they will care, and you will win over this generation just as you have won over generations in the past.”

Mesosphere’s Datacenter Operating System Lands On Microsoft Azure And AWS

Mesosphere’s Datacenter Operating System Lands On Microsoft Azure And AWS
Mesosphere‘s mission to build a container-centric service that allows developers to treat a data center with all of its various servers as a single entity is starting to come to fruition. Today, the company launched a public beta of its Datacenter Operating System (DCOS) on Microsoft Azure and Amazon’s AWS cloud. That’s a major step forward for the company, which was built around the open-source Apache Mesos technology.
Using the DCOS, developers can easily run Linux applications like Hadoop, Cassandra, Jenkins or Google’s Kubernetes container management service on a cluster and the DCOS can then automatically provision the necessary resources to scale them up and down according to demand. Using the Mesos approach, the data center essentially becomes a single pool of shared resources for these applications.
Twitter, Yelp and Netflix are already using Mesos today — and Apple now also runs the Siri backend on it.
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At Microsoft’s Build developer conference today, Azure CTO Mark Russinovich demonstrated how developers can use Mesosphere to launch a cluster on Azure. He quickly started a cluster with 200 nodes and then launched 2,000 Docker containers on that. While Azure ran a bit of a custom demo today, AWS developers will get exactly the same functionality on their platform, too.
If you’re somewhat confused about why Mesosphere now talks about its product as DCOS instead of Mesosphere, you’re probably not alone. The company tells me that until the end of last year, it mostly talked about the Mesos “stack” and all of the services it built around that.
It wasn’t until late last year that it started packaging all of these into the DCOS and started giving a few select developers early access to it. Now, all developers can sign up for access to the public beta here.
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Berlin’s Jobspotting Gets Some Seed Love From Horizon Ventures

Berlin’s Jobspotting Gets Some Seed Love From Horizon Ventures
Berlin-based Jobspotting, a site and iOS app which aims to put a tailored search interface algorithm over third-party recruitment sites and your social connections, has raised an undisclosed round of seed funding from Horizon Ventures.
The Hong-Kong-based VC was founded by Li Ka-shing who is often listed as Asia’s richest man. Normally Horizons does bigger rounds, such as the $160 million round in Slack. Jobspotting previously raised a €500,000 seed round from Axel Springer Plug And Play and angel investors.
Jobspotting pulls in jobs from over 20 job boards, including Xing, Monster, StepStone, AngelList and others. Currently it’s limited to marketing and IT jobs but plans to expand.
Its main competitor is the publicly listed Indeed.com, Adzuna in the UK, which has had $2.8 million in funding, and Jobandtalent, which operates in Europe, the U.S. and Latin America, and has pulled in $18.7 million in funding.
Following the news of Peter Thiel’s investment in Number26 and EyeEm in Berlin, it would appear the city is regaining some of the mojo it had a couple of years ago when just about every startup in Europe was looking at it.

Tech Companies Line Up Behind Surveillance Reform Bill

Tech Companies Line Up Behind Surveillance Reform Bill
A wide range of companies today released their support for a surveillance reform bill that would effectively end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.
Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Reform Government Surveillance, a lobbying group representing many tech companies including AOL (they write my paychecks), came out backing the 2015 version of the FREEDOM Act.
“We support the bicameral, bipartisan legislation, which ends existing bulk collection practices under the USA Patriot Act and increases transparency and accountability while also protecting U.S. national security,” Reform Government Surveillance said in a statement.
“We thank Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers and Nadler and Senators Lee, Leahy, Heller, and Franken, as well as other Members, who have worked hard over the past several months to draft a common sense bill that addresses the concerns of industry, the Intelligence Community, and civil society in a constructive and balanced manner. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this legislation by June 1st.”
The bill comes as a provision of the PATRIOT Act that authorizes the most controversial of the NSA surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden is set to sunset at the end of next month. Though the bill bears the same name as the legislation Congress failed to pass last year, it appears to include concessions to lawmakers concerned about national security that make it weaker than previous proposals.
Lawmakers backing the bill are advertising it as stronger on privacy and national security than a measure that died in a narrow procedural vote on the Senate floor in November. It’s impossible to do both, and critics say this bill goes too far on compromises.
Like the last bill, the FREEDOM Act would effectively end the government’s bulk collection of telephone metadata by allowing phone companies to store those records. The new version requires that the NSA use more specific selection terms, so that it can not search for records from an entire state or city. The new bill would also increase the amount of information American technology companies can disclose about their responses to national security orders.
But even with these new privacy and transparency measures, the bill makes concerning concessions on that front when it comes to national security. The last FREEDOM Act failed with a string of Republicans taking the Senate floor and warning drastic reforms would hinder the fight against ISIS.
Critics say the bill is better than a clean reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, but worry about some of the changes made. Civil liberties groups are particularly concerned about a component of the bill that would increase the statutory maximum prison sentence to 20 years for providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
“The bill does not go nearly far enough,” said Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU. “This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision—the material-support provision—would represent a significant step backwards. The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform. Congress should let Section 215 sunset as it’s scheduled to, and then it should turn to reforming the other surveillance authorities that have been used to justify bulk collection.”
Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy, sent an email to the press criticizing the bill’s transparency requirements. He said though the bill was a step in the right direction, it lacked many of the transparency compromises that were negotiated in last year’s bill.
“The House bill introduced today left a lot of those changes on the negotiating table. Under this bill, the government won’t have to say how many people had their communications collected under the law that authorized the PRISM program,” Bedoya wrote. “It also won’t have to say how many Americans have had their communications data collected under the PATRIOT Act. “
Additionally, this bill will allow foreign nationals to be monitored for up to 72 hours upon entering the United States. It also preserves the intelligence-gathering authorities. According to the literature distributed by the Judiciary Committee, this bill will reauthorize Section 215 and roving wiretaps to 2019.
Although such provisions are far from ideal, it is expected that, with the changed landscape since Congress last took up NSA reform, any measure would have to do more to address national security concerns than the bill last year. It is promising that the bill’s backers met those changes with additions to the privacy and transparency language, and it goes much further than the measure we saw introduced in the Senate.
Libertarian groups are calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change course on surveillance reform. Last week the Kentucky senator introduced a bill that would cleanly reauthorize the PATRIOT Act until 2020.
As Congress rushes to address surveillance before the PATRIOT Act provision expires, the New York Times reported over the weekend the government has little evidence the phone record collection program has been effective. But even with that report, there seems to be little support from lawmakers to let the PATRIOT Act provision expire. Compared to the bill on the table in the other chamber of Congress, the House bill is the lesser of two evils. The FREEDOM Act will be marked up in the House tomorrow.

Apple Watch Review

Apple Watch Review
Apple Watch ReviewThe Apple Watch is now on the wrists of members of the general public for the first time, and opinions about its usefulness are flying fast and furious.
Here at TechCrunch, we’ve been sharing our thoughts in an ongoing diary, featuring daily entries describing what it’s like to use the Watch as we become more familiar with the new gadget.
Now, though, after over a week with the Watch, here’s a more cohesive look at how my thoughts on the wearable computer and its place in my life have jelled. This review should give you a more direct answer to the question, “Should I buy one?”


Basics

  • 42mm (390×312 pixel) display (as tested)
  • 50g, 42mm x 35.9mm x 10.5mm stainless steel case (as tested)
  • Apple S1 processor, 8GB onboard storage
  • Up to 18 hours battery life
  • Heart rate, accelerometer, gyroscope and ambient light sensors
  • MSRP: $599 + $149 for second strap, as tested
  • Product info page

Pros

  • Terrific hardware design
  • Basic features offer instant utility

Cons

  •  More advanced features are less than intuitive

Design

The Apple Watch is a design feat, no matter how you look at it. The construction of the case, and the attention to detail paid to elements like the digital crown and strap connector are outstanding. In general, the feel of the Watch on the wrist is way beyond anything that anyone else making smartwatches has so far produced.
 
Some of the standout design features of the Watch include the weight of the case, which is substantial enough to satisfy a regular watch-wearer like myself without feeling burdensome. The aluminum models feel featherweight by comparison, which just goes to show that Apple took into account a range of user comfort-levels and experience with wrist-worn accessories; for my money, though, the substance and perceptible density of the stainless steel Watch collection is where it’s at.
The Apple Watch is a design feat, no matter how you look at it.
My review unit came with the white flourelastomer sport band, which proved surprisingly comfortable, and easy enough to get on and off the wrist once you get used to its unique pin-and-tuck clasp mechanism. Said mechanism ends up being much better than a standard strap, in fact, because the tucked portion acts as a shim to snug up fit comfortably, and you don’t have that tail end hanging off the way it often can.
Generally, I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch from when I wake up to when I go to bed, with nary a break in between (except to shower), and the Sport Band’s comfort-oriented design really shines with this kind of use. I’ll go from using it at my computer to hitting the road for a run, then simply rinse it down quickly in the bathroom sink before it hits my wrist again, and so far, it’s been nothing but a pleasure to wear in all these different settings.
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On the other hand, the black leather loop bracelet has been more of a mixed bag. This strap option, also supplied by Apple for the purposes of this review, closes thanks to magnetic segments that attach to one another, surrounded by a sealed external skin of leather. The leather extends all the way to the connector component at the end of the strap, making this a versatile option for those looking for something that matches both aluminum and stainless steel case options, so in that regard it’s a good general choice.
Overall, I’m satisfied with the band and will definitely continue to use it, but it does have a tendency to slip somewhat looser when you bend your wrist, as the magnets slide against each other and drop down a couple of links, meaning you’ll find yourself readjusting throughout the day. It doesn’t happen that often (only when my wrist bends at a fairly dramatic angle from my forearm) but it’s just enough to ensure the leather loop strap isn’t strictly a set-it-and-forget it option once it’s on your arm.

Features

Digital Crown

Disclaimer: I’m a sucker for knobs and dials. These elements remind me of the mechanical and automatic watches that I love, and Apple’s design team was clearly on the same page when they came up with the Digital Crown.
digital-crown-watch
Apple’s crown takes the traditional watch crown as its primary design influence, but the function it serves is quite different. A regular watch’s crown lets you set the time, date (if you have such a complication) and, in the case of mechanical watches, wind it to build up a reserve of energy to power the movement of the hands. Apple’s Digital Crown allows for a very different kind of input, controlling scrolling primarily, and acting as one of two physical buttons on the Watch when you press down on the top.
Using the Digital Crown is pleasant, and offers a lot of tactile satisfaction, with the proviso that you do have to take some time to get used to it. It’s very responsive, and as such, can feel a bit fiddly at first. I think I was used to having to perform more exaggerated gestures with devices that serve similar functions on the desktop, like the mouse scroll wheel, which meant having to get used to the Digital Crown’s fine-tuned level of heightened motion sensitivity.

Force Touch

Using Force Touch (pressing down more firmly on the watch than is required for basic taps) to expand your control options is another Apple Watch feature that isn’t instantly apparent, but that quickly becomes second nature when using the gadget. The reason it takes time to get used to is that it’s brand new, appearing only on the new 13-inch MBP and 12-inch MacBook in addition to here, and that there aren’t any visual cues to let you know that you should press down to expose more options.
I quickly found myself Force Touching whenever I encountered a road block on the Watch, however. The process went as follows: recall or expect some function from a native Watch app that I can’t seem to find, Force Touch, and in most cases find said function.
I quickly found myself Force Touching whenever I encountered a road block on the Watch.
Force Touch also provides moments of light, but fun surprise, like when I realized earlier today that you could deep press on the color picker in the Digital Touch sketch app to get a color wheel that allows you to go beyond the pre-set options. Overall, it’s a feature that feels ripe with promise, especially once third-party apps get the opportunity to explore it further.

Digital Touch

The Digital Touch features of Apple Watch are those unique messaging features you’ve probably heard a lot about, which work exclusively watch-to-watch and which allow you to send your friends sketches, taps and even an approximation of your heart beat.
digital-touch-watch
At first, as I shared in our Apple Watch experience diary, these features seemed primarily novelties that I didn’t really see much value in. That was due largely to the fact that I had a very small group of potential recipients to use Digital Touch with. Sending my lovely boss Matthew Panzarino my heartbeat, or goofy sketches and oddly intimate taps was, in a word, weird.
But it wasn’t quite as weird when a couple good friends received their Apple Watch units on the first day of availability, and it was far less strange when I picked up a 38mm Apple Watch Sport for my girlfriend via an online classified. Long-term, based on what I’ve experienced so far, most Digital Touch features are probably going to be used exclusively between myself and her, but that doesn’t mean they’re extraneous to the experience; in contrast, it actually emphasizes just how right Tim Cook is to call the Apple Watch its “most personal device ever.”
Sending my boss my heartbeat was weird.
With a little work, I could see additions to the current Digital Touch feature set making it more appealing for use among a close circle of friends, but for now, for me, it’s an aspect of the Watch with essentially an audience of one.

Glances

Besides Notifications, the Apple Watch feature that I use most frequently is without a doubt Glances. You access these by swiping up from your watch face, which then shows you one of up to 12 single screens complete with information from a corresponding companion app on your device. Apple offers a number of stock glances with its system software, including Battery, Weather and a Now Playing screen, but third-party developers can also populate Glances with info from their own apps.
I’m still tweaking my own selection of Glances, but I generally find myself using the Battery and Weather ones most frequently. These just happen to be the pieces of information I find most useful beyond system notifications on my Watch, and since I don’t necessarily like the Battery complication flinging my total remaining power in my face all the time, I much prefer keeping it hidden but still close at hand.
glances
The Calendar Glance is also clutch for giving you a heads-up on any looming appointments and meetings, and in terms of third-party apps, I’ve been greatly enjoying the Air Canada Glance, which actually provides an ongoing countdown to your next scheduled flight, provided it’s occurring within 24 hours of when you take a look.
Glances aren’t perfect, however; data refresh often takes time, especially when it’s fetching the info from third-party apps on your iPhone over Bluetooth. But while the Glances implementation something that leaves me hopeful for improvements in future versions of Watch OS and with future hardware, it’s still an essential experience even as-is, and something that I’d have a hard time giving up now that I’m used to it.

Camera Remote

This native app is worth a separate shout-out since it’s such a great feature for those who’ve come to depend on their iPhones as their primary cameras. The Camera Remote app from Apple gives you a real-time preview of your smartphones viewfinder on your wrist, as well as the ability to tap to choose focus/exposure, and to trigger the shutter, or implement a timer followed by a 10-frame burst.
camera-remote-apple-watch
It’s a great feature if you want to do anything other than point and shoot with your camera, and it’s great even just for ‘periscoping,’ or reaching higher heights by extending your arm to get a shot you wouldn’t otherwise be able to capture. I’m still just starting out in terms of testing the full range of what you can accomplish with this and simple accessories like a tabletop iPhone tripod, but it’s definitely a super cool built-in feature.

Performance

The Apple Watch’s performance was something that I honestly wasn’t expecting to find all that impressive, given the consensus from early reviews. And when it comes to third-party apps, there’s definitely work that needs to be done since funneling data from your phone leads to holdups, as you can clearly see in the video review above. But overall, the performance of the device was a pleasant surprise, perhaps in part because I had low expectations going in.
In short, despite some disappointing waits for data to load in apps like Instagram, Apple Watch’s performance is up to snuff for just about every thing you’ll likely end up using it for most, including activities like checking the time, receiving and triaging notifications, and using the native Glance extensions. Below, you can see how it shapes up broken down across specific features.

Phone

The Apple Watch is many things, but it might be surprising to some to find that it’s a great Dick Tracy watch, in that the speaker phone functions of the wearable are extremely capable. The built-in speaker is clear and loud enough, and the microphone, according to call recipients, is also easy to listen to and understand.
Where the Watch Phone app encounters some issues is in actually being able to field calls consistently, as I had a few examples of trying to accept a call on my wrist but not having the action register. In the end, though, it’s a very handy feature, especially if your phone is in your bag – provided you’re alone or unconcerned with looking a little awkward talking to your wrist on a busy street.

Siri and Dictation

watch-siri
I seem to be one of the lucky ones for whom Siri works almost perfectly in terms of gleaning my intended meaning, and that luck continues on the Apple Watch, once the feature is active. The voice prompt of “Hey Siri” doesn’t work all that consistently, activating the feature about two-thirds of the times I intend it to, but the Digital Crown long-press is always effective, and Siri transcribes my words nearly perfectly once it’s active.
On the iPhone, I don’t often find myself using Siri, but it’s been a more regularly accessed resource on my Apple Watch thus far. Especially in cases where the canned responses set by Apple (and customized by myself) are insufficient for replying to messages, a quick dictated response has proven immensely useful and almost never disappoints. Again, your mileage may vary, but the Siri of Apple Watch may not be the Siri you remember if you haven’t used the virtual assistant in a while.

Display

One of the recurring joys of using the Apple Watch, especially for a gadget fiend like myself, is just taking in the quality of that screen. I’ve used just about every Android Wear device on the market, and they honestly don’t even compare – looking at them now is almost like looking at a VGA display after using a Retina iPhone.
apple-watch-message-close
Text is so crisp that the size of the font doesn’t bother me at all, though again, it’ll depend on your specific needs here (I dial down the system font size on iPhone, for context). It’s pretty enough that I always now read out the entire email on my wrist when it’s plain-text formatted, in fact, rather than opening up the Mail app on my iPhone.

Touch

Touch is very responsive, as you’d expect from the company that changed touch input forever, and in general even though touch targets tend to often be small, I had no problems in terms of missed or mistaken input (including with the tiny number pad you use to input your passcode, where I still expect a miss every time despite myself).
There’s one notable exception to that rule however: Whenever there’s a single-line text link at the top of the screen to return to a previous page, I have trouble getting the Watch to respond to my tap on that consistently. It seems to be limited to that specific instance, so it seems likely that Apple can target it for improvement in future software updates.
Touch is responsive, as you’d expect from the company that changed touch input forever.
On the whole, response and tap accuracy were great, though, and as an added bonus, taptic response when you Force Touch during things like Workouts are great workarounds for making a touchscreen device more usable while engaged in more active use.

Taptic Engine

Speaking of that Taptic Engine, it’s a real game-changer when it comes to wearable tech. Apple’s take on haptic feedback really does merit a different name from what others have offered, because it provides a very different experience. Especially with Prominent Haptic turned on (I did this after a couple of days and have left it on since), you won’t miss any important notifications, or helpful indicators like turn directions when navigating.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 5.27.34 PM
The best part about taptic may be that it seems almost certain to make it out to the rest of Apple’s product lineup eventually (it’s already in the new Force Touch trackpads, after all). Experiencing it on the Apple Watch, it’s hard not to get excited about a future in which Apple’s devices share not only industrial design and software language, but also a signature haptic response, as well.

Activity and Workout

With the Apple Watch pre-launch push, a big part of the story Apple told was around the device’s health-related features. These are found mostly in the Activity and Workout apps on the Watch, where you can track your general physical wellness, and specific activities like runs or bicycle rides respectively.
I’m an avid runner, and have used a host of different wearables and activity trackers to try to maintain some kind of record of my regular runs (between once a day and once every two days, depending on how lazy I get). I am not, however, very committed to continuous heart rate training or anything so specialized, just to give you a sense of how I approached evaluating the Watch as a fitness device.
apple-watch-activity
For my purposes, it’s the perfect activity tracker, mostly because it’s one I’m already wearing. I’ve never been able to consistently use things like the Fitbit or Jawbone UP (it inevitably ends up in a drawer because it’s too niche) and dedicated devices for more serious athletes like GPS runner’s watches likewise end up gathering dust.
Apple Watch is an effective fitness tool because it tracks your activity whether you tell it to explicitly using the Workout app or not, and therein lies its value. Whatever you may think about its scientific accuracy or suitability for high-performance training, it’s the first activity tracker that stands a good chance of remaining in active use for a long period of time, and that’s what counts for most people, and for me.

Battery

The Apple Watch’s battery works as advertised, meaning you’ll be able to use it for a full day, and you’ll have to charge it during the evening or at night – every day. It’s not a dream situation, but it also becomes a habit faster than you might expect.
apple-watch-battery
I was also expecting to have to watch my usage closely to make sure I made it through a day, given how much I anticipated using it; luckily, the closest I’ve come to exhausting the battery (aside from day one, which involved a lot of filming and setup) was when I hit the bed with 3 percent remaining after a long day with not one, but two active Workouts. Throughout the rest of my time with Apple Watch, it’s hit the charger with around 30 percent remaining.

Bottom Line

The Apple Watch is a unique device that was, for a host of reasons, harder to review for a general audience than just about any of Apple’s other products. Part of it is the personal nature of a computer you wear nearly all the time. That said, during the course of my experience with Apple Watch, it’s become apparent that I won’t go back to life without one.
For most people, the Apple Watch Sport is probably the best choice right now, given some of the version one hiccups the Watch still exhibits, but I think most iPhone users will find it adds significantly to the experience of owning an Apple smartphone, and the list of benefits it offers is only going to get longer over time.

Microsoft Predicts Its Commercial Cloud Revenue Will Reach A $20B Run Rate In Its Fiscal 2018

Microsoft Predicts Its Commercial Cloud Revenue Will Reach A $20B Run Rate In Its Fiscal 2018
Microsoft announced today at its Build developer conference that during its fiscal 2018 — after the middle of 2017 for the rest of us — its commercial cloud revenue will hit a $20 billion run rate. That means that the products Microsoft lumps together as “commercial cloud” — Azure, Office 365 for corporations, etc. — will generate around $5 billion in revenue, at least, during one quarter of the firm’s fiscal 2018.
Is that a lot of money? Yep. Commercial cloud at the company is currently on a $6.3 billion run rate. That figure was up $800 million, sequentially, from the preceding quarter. The end of Microsoft’s fiscal 2017 is around nine quarters from now. That number implies that Microsoft expects its commercial cloud business to grow to north of $1 billion per quarter for the next few years, a dramatic acceleration from its current pace.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 2.41.55 PM
Microsoft therefore expects commercial cloud incomes to become a pillar of its revenue quite quickly. Microsoft’s first-quarter revenue totaled $21.7 billion in its most recent quarter.
As a company, Microsoft is working to convert Windows and Office users into Windows and Office subscribers. Office 365 for consumers is growing quickly, picking up 35 percent new subscribers in the most recent quarter on a sequential basis. A total of 12.5 million Office 365 subscribers on the consumer side brings in a material amount of recurring revenue.
So, Microsoft’s move to the cloud is actually happening, and the company just told investors how fast it will grow. The formerly diminutive, Redmond-based software company just gave itself a reasonable challenge. If it can’t hit that run rate, either the cloud was overhyped or Microsoft’s strategy wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Tandem Adds Two New Partners, Says It’s Not Exactly An Accelerator Anymore

Tandem Adds Two New Partners, Says It’s Not Exactly An Accelerator Anymore
Tandem, which recently raised a $100 million fund to back mobile startups, has added two new partners — Shashi Seth, formerly an executive at Google and Yahoo, and Couchsurfing co-founder Daniel Hoffer.
The firm says it now has 15 team members working with its portfolio companies. It invests $200,000 initially and hosts those startups in Tandem’s Burlingame, Calif., office for six months.
That might sound like a startup incubator or accelerator to you, and indeed, that’s how we’ve been describing it, but in a recent blog post, Tandem explains why it now positions itself as a mobile seed fund:
We opted for the “seed fund” category as a more accurate description of the Tandem model. Seed funds invest at early stages and reserve substantial follow-on capital for subsequent financings. But it’s important to note that Tandem is still unique even among seed funds in several key ways. First, unlike Tandem, most seed funds don’t work closely on their portfolio company businesses; they are managed by fairly small teams and invest in many startups to end up with a broad portfolio of potential winners.
Second, it’s common parlance that seed rounds are now thought of as the “new Series A,” often reaching $3-4M in size and following “angel” or “pre-seed” rounds in companies that have since hit significant milestones. Tandem, in contrast, invests in companies before they have proven product-market fit (and gets intimately involved in helping them discover it). While some may consider this stage to be “pre-seed,” we felt the concept of “pre-seed” to be confusing. Does anything come before the seed in other ecosystems? Raw dirt perhaps?

Taptic Component Bottleneck Blamed In Part For Apple Watch Supply Shortage

Taptic Component Bottleneck Blamed In Part For Apple Watch Supply Shortage
The Apple Watch is rolling out to customers, but it’s taking longer to get into user hands than some might like. A new report out today by The Wall Street Journal puts the blame for the slow rollout primarily on a shortage of Apple Watch Taptic Engine components, caused by issues found in the parts supplied by one supplier in particular. The WSJ author who penned the piece clarified that Apple didn’t ship any Watches with the faulty part, however, per the publication’s sources.
https://twitter.com/daiwaka/status/593514479977009152
When contacted by TechCrunch, Apple declined to comment on the report, citing its longstanding practice of not commenting on rumor or speculation. The company has previously offered some insight into its work with catching up with supply, having offered the following in response to previous inquiries regarding Watch supply and demand:
Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on available supply and the order in which they were received. We know many customers are still facing long lead times and we appreciate their patience.
On Apple’s earnings call earlier this week, the company didn’t say much more regarding supply, though CEO Tim Cook did repeatedly reference the fact that demand continues to outstrip supply, and noted that they’ve been able to ship to more customers than they’d initially anticipated.
Current customers probably don’t need to worry about their hardware, given that it looks like this potential issue was caught prior to shipping, but it is interesting to have some insight into one of the reasons why supply is months behind customer demand in this case.

Microsoft Opens Outlook.com To Third-Party Add-Ins

Microsoft Opens Outlook.com To Third-Party Add-Ins
Outlook.com, Microsoft’s web-based email and calendaring client, is now open to third-party developers who want to build tools on top of it. Using the Outlook API, developers can build what Microsoft calls “contextual experiences” for Outlook.com. This is clearly part of Microsoft’s overall effort to make the data that its users create in its productivity apps available outside of these tools.
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Given that Outlook.com is a web app, it’s no surprise that developers will use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build their add-ins. Because these add-ins use the same APIs as the extensions for the desktop version of Outlook, the add-ins for Outlook.com will also work there and in the Outlook web app that’s part of Office 365 (which is different from the more consumer-oriented Outlook.com — because there can never be enough confusion about all of the different versions of Outlook).
It looks like Microsoft is going to take a deliberately slow approach to bringing these add-ins to its users, though. This summer, Uber and the email scheduling tool Boomerang will launch their add-ins. With this, Uber will allow you to schedule a ride from the Outlook calendar and Boomerang will bring its smart calendar assistant and email reminders to Outlook.com.
Over time, Microsoft will open this feature to more developers, too, but it’s unclear when it plans to do so.
Channel 9_ Videos about the people building Microsoft Products & Services

After Passing 10 Million Monthly Active Users, Whisper Hires Its First President

After Passing 10 Million Monthly Active Users, Whisper Hires Its First President
Whisper announced today that it hired Mark Troughton to be its president. Troughton was the president of Green Dot, which specializes in prepaid debit cards and went public in July 2010. He was most recently the president of Americas for Wonga, which provides short-term cash loans. (You will recall that Wonga had to lay off a significant portion of its staff in February this year.)
“As a longtime friend of Whisper, Mark has watched us grow since we first started talking 18 months ago,” Whisper CEO Michael Heyward said in a statement. “Our goals are much bigger, and we all felt that this was the right time to bring Mark onboard to help us achieve them.”
Heyward said Whisper has more than 10 million monthly active users who open the app “on average more than 1 million times per hour.”
The whole anonymous messaging space is in kind of a weird place these days, with Secret shutting down today. Whisper is also on the tail end of dealing with a controversy surrounding its privacy policy. But there still appears to be intense interest in the space, as Yik Yak raised $61 million in December last year.

Alfred, Layer And Trello Are Returning To The Startup Battlefield Stage

Alfred, Layer And Trello Are Returning To The Startup Battlefield Stage
At this year’s Disrupt NY, previous finalists and winners of Startup Battlefield will once again take the stage. But not to pitch their companies. Instead Alfred, Layer and Trello will update Disrupt attendees on the status other companies.
Last year Alfred won Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF. The Boston-based company attempts to manage your routine across multiple on-demand and local services (like Handybook, Instacart, and the local dry cleaner). Members build a subscription to make their routines automatic, letting Alfred coordinate services in their home.
Just two months after winning Startup Battlefield, Alfred went live in NY on the back of raising a $2 million seed round, and earlier this month, the company announced it had closed a $10.5 series A.
Layer took home the Startup Battlefield Cup at Disrupt SF 2013 and quickly a $14.5 million series A several months later. The company launched on the promise to make it possible for developers to add rich messaging capabilities to their apps without having to build their own infrastructure. Last February the company debuted a new produced called Atlas, a toolkit that will allow developers to even more quickly integrate or customize an iMessage-like messaging feature in their iOS or Android applications.
Trello was a finalist at Disrupt SF 2011 and raised a $10.3 million Series A in the summer of 2014. The company attempts to differentiate itself from other task-management software in that it focuses on a new media type. Meant to be the whiteboard of the digital world, Trello’s platform focuses on the life cycle of a certain project, from start to finish, giving the user a bird’s-eye view of the way a team builds something out of nothing.
In all, 508 companies have participated in the Startup and Hardware Battlefields. Together, the companies have raised a combined $4.4 billion, and 67 have found an exit either by being acquired or going public.
This year’s Startup Battlefield class is as strong as ever. During Disrupt NY next week, 25 startups will take the stage in a bid to win $50,000 and the Startup Battlefield Cup.
General admission tickets for Disrupt NY are available here. If you can’t make it, the conference will be streamed live on TechCrunch.
Our sponsors help make Disrupt happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team at sponsors@techcrunch.com.








Unity Will Be Able To Build Games For Microsoft’s HoloLens

Unity Will Be Able To Build Games For Microsoft’s HoloLens
hololens 2
The Unity game engine is arguably the de facto standard for those dabbling in Oculus Rift development.
But that doesn’t mean the Unity/Rift relationship is particularly exclusive — that’s hardly Unity’s style.
Thus, Unity today announced support for an entirely different headset platform: Microsoft’s crazy hologram-style augmented reality headset, HoloLens.
Unity is a game engine designed to kill off some of the pain points in game development. You design your game once in Unity, and then it ports to pretty much any popular platform (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and all of the next-gen consoles) with minimal code changes.
HoloLens, meanwhile, is Microsoft’s insane-looking augmented reality headset that renders high-definition, hologram-style images into your environment. It was first announced back in January, with an availability window that basically works out to “eventually.”
hololens 1
Unity says it’ll support all of HoloLen’s flagship features, including spatial mapping (allowing you to detect real world objects around you and render things accordingly), gaze (detecting where you’re looking/focusing) and gesture/voice recognition.
Before you rush off and update Unity: HoloLens support isn’t publicly available yet. It’s still in private alpha, and there’s no timeframe mentioned for when it might be. Given that HoloLens’s own release date is still up in the air, that’s pretty reasonable — without a HoloLens to test on, Unity support isn’t all that useful.

DroneBase Lets Any Business Rent A Drone And Pilot

DroneBase Lets Any Business Rent A Drone And Pilot
You don’t want to own a drone. Or learn to fly a drone. Or hire someone full-time to fly a drone. And you definitely don’t want to pay for a helicopter, plane or satellite. You just want some aerial photos or videos of your work site, real estate or infrastructure. Now, thanks to DroneBase, you can get the benefits of unmanned aerial vehicles without the hassle.
DroneBase lets you commission a drone and its pilot for commercial jobs. You just submit your request online, DroneBase finds someone who can do the gig, they come fly and send you the media and data needed. The DroneBase marketplace is now open for business in Los Angeles with plans to expand.
DroneBase has the potential to both disrupt old ways of getting aerial imagery or doing heavy industry inspections, but also open up options to businesses that couldn’t afford it. Now after graduating from Y Combinator, DroneBase has raised a seed round led by Union Square Ventures and joined by SV Angel, Rothenberg Ventures, and Launchpad LA.
Screenshot 1

From Military To Everybody

“I was a marine infantry officer,” DroneBase co-founder Dan Burton tells me. “When we’d go on patrol in Iraq, we’d have air cover from a pair of F16s.” While those fast-flying jets might be great at shooting down other fighter planes, Burton says “You’d want to know what was behind the wall 20 feet away and they couldn’t always solve that problem.” But drones could, and he soon realized they’d have plenty more uses back in the civilian world.
After his tour, Burton came to California and learned about the budding commercial UAV business. “I was driving around with five drones in the back of my truck” doing jobs shooting photos and videos for construction companies, mines, real estate agents, and more. “They didn’t want to own drones. Ones that bought them would often get frustrated because six months later ones would come out at half the price, and they had to hire employees to fly them. They just wanted the output,” Burton said.
Meanwhile, he grew closer to the community of drone hobbyists turned part-time professionals. They wished they could make a living as drone pilots, but many struggled with the sales, marketing, and payment aspects of their business.
So Burton came up with DroneBase to solve problems on both sides. “The vision for this company is to enable the professon of drone operator” Burton tells me.” And on the customer side, drones are a very intimidating, advanced technology. We want to make it as simple as pushing a button.”
Burton linked up with Eli Tamanaha, a veteran developer from Microsoft, Amazon and Netflix, and together they built a rough prototype of a marketplace for drone services. While dogfooding the product, Burton and Tamanaha ended up drone videoing a scheduled explosion at a mine, which became its homepage.

Drones For Hire

For now, DroneBase is focused on three verticals:
  1. Real Estate – Imagery for marketing property to potential customers
  2. Construction – Monitoring progress of construction projects
  3. Mining – Surveying dig areas and doing inspections
To keep things simple, DroneBase charges $399 for a set of 15-20 HD photos, 3-4 videos, and an edited final video showing the best angles of an area; and $499 for surveying under 50 acres plus producing a high-res orthomosaic map with basic surface area and volumetric calculations. DroneBase plans to take a commission of around 15 percent on jobs.
Drone pilots will find missions they’re qualified for in their area on the site and be dispatched with instructions. Many times, the business doesn’t have to do any hand-holding or even meet the pilot on site. The operator just collects the data and images, sends them to the client, wipes their memory cards, and goes to their next DroneBase job.
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Luckily, most of these jobs fall within the FAA’s rules, as the drones are flying under 500 feet within a line of sight of the pilot with permission of the land owner. Eventually, Burton hopes to allow businesses to rate their pilots on the imagery and data they produce, and let pilots earn certifications for different specialties. Burton insists that “safety is my #1 priority. We’ve turned down jobs for that reason.”
DroneBase’s site is still rough, but then again, the commercial drone rental market is still in its infancy. With time I expect DroneBase to become easier to use while offering a much wider range of bookable services. It also wants to build better tools for collaborating and annotating data, which could create repeat customers that want to update or combine data from multiple work sites.

Turning Passion Into A Profession

The money from Union Square Ventures and others should help DroneBase take off. Burton tells me he chose Fred Wilson’s fund because the team was humble and helpful, and because of their investment thesis that network effect businesses win, which led them to success with Kickstarter, Tumblr, Twitter and Etsy. Wilson writes that he wanted to invest in drones because “they represent a 10x improvement in cost and speed over things they replace.”
image-tablet-homepage-9abd792b3085dac5b94e0c790c8769d5While Burton says DroneBase can get businesses what they’re already paying helicopters, planes, or satellites for at one-fifth of the price, he tells me the larger market is all the companies who couldn’t afford aerial imagery before. While DroneBase is an early mover, he’s not too worried about similar marketplaces springing up, saying “The first competitor is non-consumption.”
Big drone manufacturers like DJI have been getting a lot of attention. But the hardware will become commoditized. It’s the hard-to-replicate software that controls the drones like Airware and Skydio, and the networked businesses like DroneBase that democratize access to these vehicles that could be the real money-makers.
But it’s when Burton talks about helping people do what they love for a living that his eyes really light up. “People are so passionate and crazy about flying these things. They’ve put a lot of time and money into developing the skill of operating a drone and I want them to have a profession.”

Secret Shuts Down

Secret Shuts Down
[Update: Secret has confirmed it will shut down and give investors back their money]
Anonymous sharing app Secret will shut down soon, according to sources close to the company. The announcement could be made as soon as today or tomorrow, and there’s some talk of current employees receiving modest severance packages. Having raised $35 million, it’s unlikely that the company is out of money.
But after a major redesign sterilized the app’s identity and made it look just like its much more popular competitor Yik Yak, and its co-founder Chrys Bader-Wechseler left, Secret may see shutting down as the best outcome. Many employees, including top talent like Sarah Haider, Safeer Jiwan, and Amol Jain have left the company over the past month or so. One source says the company has been whittled down to under 10 employees from over 20 several months ago and has been in “maintenance mode.”
Requests for comment to Secret’s employees and CEO have gone unreturned.
It’s probable that Secret will hand its remaining cash back to investors, which include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, S-Cubed Capital, Index Ventures, Google Ventures, SV Angel, Fuel Capital, and Ceyuan Ventures.
[Update 12:40pm PST: Secret’s CEO David Byttow just announced that “With a heavy heart, I’ve decided to shut down Secret, wind-down the company, and return the remaining money.” This confirms our report.
In the farewell post where he mentions 15 million people used Secret, Byttow explains that “Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company, so I believe it’s the right decision for myself, our investors and our team.” As for criticism about cyberbullying, Byttow writes “I believe in honest, open communication and creative expression, and anonymity is a great device to achieve it. But it’s also the ultimate double-edged sword, which must be wielded with great respect and care.”]
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The redesigned Secret on the left is a shameless clone of Yik Yak on the right
Secret’s app lets you post short snippets of text, like confessions or rumors. The posts are “anonymish” in that your name doesn’t appear, but other details like your general location might. The startup garnered tons of press when it launched in early 2014. Along with Whisper and Yik Yak, it was part of a wave of interest in anonymous apps. It rode the hype to massive funding, which allowed the two founders, David Byttow and Bader-Wechseler to each take $3 million off the table. They essentially traded stock for cash, putting money in their pockets though the business wasn’t earning any.
Unfortunately, Secret’s slow response to criticisms that it facilitated cyberbullying gave it a rotten reputation with some. At SXSW 2014, I did a fireside chat with Byttow that you can watch below, where I hammered him about the potential risk of cyberbullying on Secret. He seemed incredulous, and I’m not sure he ever took it seriously enough.


After a year of slow growth, it ditched its highly visual design and background photos in favor of a minimalist text-only design that made it seem like a clone of Yik Yak. While it’s experimented with hyper-local backchannels for events like Sundance and CES, one source says the numbers weren’t growing.
Last month, TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden spoke to Byttow, who denied reports that Secret was shutting down or pivoting into becoming an app studio. He cited strong usage by the youth during spring break as a vote of confidence.
Secret Chart
But according to App Annie, that spike of interest was short-lived, and Secret has since fallen back off the top 1,000 overall US apps chart since.
Shutting down and handing the money back to investors could keep Secret from going down in Silicon Valley history as a $35 million disaster.