Social media deception campaigns are growing more sophisticated.
Deals are being downsized, postponed and offered cheaper than planned. Is the IPO market freezing up?
Amgen announced yesterday that its new chronic heart failure drug ivabradine had been granted fast track status by the FDA. The company said the fast track designation, which is for drugs that treat serious conditions and fill an umet medical need, will aid the development and speed the review of the drug.
Adtech firm Collective has long been rumored to be a candidate for an IPO. So when we got a chance to visit CEO Joe Apprendi in his midtown office recently, we put the question directly to him.
As with all CEOs who are considering taking their companies public, he dodged the question but admitted it was a consideration.
"We want to be one of those companies that can meet and beat expectations when we do decide to public, if that’s the best path," he said. He says Collective’s finances are approaching the level of "predictability" that allows companies to thrive when they sell stock on the open market.
Currently, Apprendi says, the company is doing about $200 million a year in net revenues. It’s also profitable, and Apprendi is fond of joking that unlike his rivals in the adtech business, his company actually pays taxes because of it.
Collective has just over 400 employees and will move offices to the old New York Times building in Times Square in the next few months in order to accommodate their growth. “We intend to organically double in size every three to four years,” Apprendi says. About half the company’s global staff are in New York.
That puts Collective at the same level as AppNexus, Turn, Kenshoo and Pubmatic, which all have about 400 staffers or more. If headcount is a proxy for the size of their client portfolios, then all those companies would be bigger than Rubicon Project, which went public with about 315 employees.
Collective counts 76 of the top 100 advertisers as clients buying digital media across a range of venues and formats. Their accounts grow at about 30% per year, Apprendi says.
Bitcoin is most often discussed as a volatile digital currency, with a value that seesaws depending on the latest news — good and bad. It’s beloved by some, derided by others. But where Bitcoin’s real value lies is as a payments technology that has the potential to revolutionize the legacy payments industry.
Bitcoin offers merchant and individuals an extremely low-cost, virtually frictionless payments system. Value can easily be transferred around the world without transmitting sensitive information that could be used for fraud, and without forcing merchants to pay extortionate transaction fees.
But, while the emergence of Bitcoin brings with it numerous advantages, it also faces incredible hurdles.
In a new report from BI Intelligence, we explain how Bitcoin works, from the moment when local currency is exchanged for bitcoins, to the moment when it reaches the electronic wallet of a receiving party. We look at the key advantages of Bitcoin compared to the legacy players in the payments industry and examine the challenges that Bitcoin faces as a payment network.
Here are some of the key elements from the report:
In full, the report:
If you’ve been paying any attention to the news coming out of San Francisco, you’ve heard about the clash between the wealthy tech elite and the people getting evicted from their homes because of gentrification in the city.
Although the issue in San Francisco now focus mainly on housing, there’s also an underlying sentiment that many of the startups in the area are getting millions of dollars to work on trivial projects, using technology not to change the world, but to create yet another selfie app.
Meanwhile, Hannah Wright is on a mission to encourage the tech talent on the other side of the country to do something more meaningful. Significance Labs, which Wright co-founded with Parker Mitchell and Bill Cromie in February, is giving six New York City techies the opportunity to focus on building products that help solve real problems for the people who need it the most: Those 25 million American families living on less than $25,000 a year.
Six Significance Labs Fellows will each have three months, $50,000, and access to top design and tech firms to design mobile products for low-income Americans that will help solve simple problems in their lives. The Lab is looking for product ideas that may only solve little problems, but will cause dramatic ripple effects in the lives of the people using them.
The Fellows won’t necessarily be coming in with their own ideas. A big part of the program is creating mutually respectful and immersive interactions between with designated low-income New York City communities and each of the Fellows, who will also have access to experts in different non-profits fields.
In talking about what a potential idea might look like, Wright casually used the example of a single mother who has no way to find last-minute childcare for her kid if, for example, the child has to stay home from school sick. Without childcare, the mother will have to miss either work or school. However, if there was an easy, safe, text-based way for her to find someone to babysit her child, she could avoid canceling her other responsibilities, 80% of America’s poor have cell phones of some kind). That new service alone won’t boost her economic standing, but it could be a step on the path to her eventually getting a raise or finishing school.
"As opposed to tackling the entirety of her problem, we’re going to chip away at the death-by-1000-cuts little pain points," Wright says. "That itself leads to broader outcomes; we believe that if we keep doing those little things over and over again, we all together vastly improve people’s lives, even if no one of them is the transformative solution."
Wright told Business Insider that the idea for Significance Labs evolved because she hadn’t seen enough tech projects entering the social sector. Traditionally, efforts to merge tech with social issues involves grants or foundations giving money to non-profits to beef up their tech initiatives, even though those non-profits might not know where to begin. Wright noticed that a large portion of the New York tech scene seems passionate about upward mobility, given the number of socially-minded hackathons, so she decided to flip the model on its head. This fellowship will give techies the time and the money to immerse themselves in a world they might not usually see and focus on solving problems. After the three month program is up, Wright and the crew will help the Fellows either raise additional funding for their projects or pass them on to other appropriate companies, or even city agencies.
Besides the Fellowship, Significance Labs will also be offering a free “Day In The Life” program several times over the summer, where it will pair interested, technology-minded people with low-income community members. She hopes that the program will both inspire people and give them a wake-up call that there’s a big percentage of the market that’s not benefiting from much technological innovation.
"There are huge issues around poverty in the U.S., but poverty at home isn’t as sexy as poverty abroad," Wright says. "So you’ve got a whole bunch of people working on really sexy, billion dollar iPhone apps, and then you’ve got a whole bunch of people working on programs for shareholder farms in Africa, and there aren’t a lot of people thinking about about things that we can do with technology that can help the ‘un-exotic underclass’ in this country."
It hasn’t been a banner week for teenagers on social media.
Last Sunday started out strong with the “Teenage Twitter Terrorist Threat” — the 14-year-old in the Netherlands who tweeted American Airlines telling them she was planning to blow up a plane was arrested the next day. Of course, it was only a matter of time before a bunch of copycat teens looking for their 15 minutes of Internet fame followed in her footsteps.
"Ban teens!" the Internet cried.
But not so fast. A new trend is emerging quietly on Twitter , and while teenagers are the drivers behind this wheel, these kids seem to be taking the high road.
The anonymous account was set up with one goal in mind: To tweet out compliments to anyone who goes to high school “in the 801;” an area code for a handful of counties in Northern Utah.
The compliments aren’t too profound:
But they aren’t snarky or sarcastic either. For that, teenagers can breathe a sigh of relief.
We don’t need movies to teach us about being a high school student. Certain themes remain timeless: Everyone is a lost soul, and everyone is sad and confused and mean.
But just like Veronica Sawyer took back the halls of Westerberg from the Heathers in 1989 and Cady Heron shared pieces of the prom queen’s crown in 2004, tech-ladden teenagers of today have the opportunity to create a positive space with ‘compliment accounts.’
The “801” feed isn’t the first of its kind. Mayo High School in Rochester, New York has an account, too. They haven’t tweeted in about a month, but everything on the feed is sweet:
In Gladstone, Oregon, the kind words aren’t just reserved for fellow peers; teachers and school staff get shoutouts, too.
"The janitor Marcus is a cool guy!" one tweet reads.
"Marie the exchange student is SO sweet," another one exclaims.
Gladstone High School students told local news KATU anonymous students started their account in March likely because they “all had heard about a Twitter account for another high school that was being used to post negative and sexual things about one another.”
The movement sort of amplifies the best of both worlds. While it may be hard for a 16-year-old to publicly stand up for someone being picked on for fear of being the next target, an anonymous “nice” account could be the first step teens are taking in teaching one another that it’s not a bad thing to be kind and inclusive; that everyone just wants to feel important and appreciated.
It isn’t the teachers or a state-wide initiative telling these kids to create or participate in compliment accounts; this is a solution teenagers are finding on their own. So while the compliments may not run much deeper beyond “you are so cute, Molly!” or “David is a great athlete and he’s nice, too!” it’s the organic nature of their kindness that’s contagious.
The student behind @compliments_801 set up an AskFM page for peers to ask questions. Most of the questions are simple, asking what high school the student goes to, or if they can submit compliments via AskFM instead of Twitter’s private direct message feature (the answer is yes.)
It’s also so refreshingly, well, teenager:
After a long week of troubled kids making headlines for social media missteps, it’s important to remember: not all that glitters is gold, and not all teens who tweet are lost.
When Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff asks tech CEOs to donate to his new anti-poverty effort, SF Gives, two-thirds say yes. One-third? Not so much.
This is one of his many efforts to give back to the city. It’s one reason why Google, and not Salesforce.com, has become the symbol of the tech unrest in San Francisco.
After all, Salesforce.com is by far the biggest tech employer in that city with about 4,000 employees in the area. And it is leasing not one, but two new towers currently under construction in San Francisco to many more, at least another 1,000 this year alone, the company tells us.
One of those buildings will be the tallest west of Chicago, and will even be known as the Salesforce Tower.
A lot of that has to do with the marketing genius, and genuine generosity, of Benioff, a third-generation San Franciscan.
Benioff is famous for his 1-1-1 model of philanthropy in which 1% of a company’s equity, 1% of its employees’ time, and 1% of its products are donated to charitable causes. Countless other tech startups nationwide have since done the same. It means that most of those 4,000 employees work directly with San Francisco-area non-profit organizations.
Benioff is also personally generous to his city. He and his wife Lynne have donated $200 million to date to build a local hospital, UCSF. He also famously told the mayor of San Francisco to “think bigger” when asking him for money for schools. That led to a $2.7 million donation for middle schools, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
And he pays the city back in little ways. For instance, Salesforce.com doesn’t give its employees free meals. They can support nearby restaurants if they want a gourmet lunch.
And now, in conjunction with his expansion plans, Benioff has launched a new initiative called SF Gives to quickly raise $10 million from local tech companies for anti-poverty programs. Benioff is personally calling CEOs and asking them to kick in $500,000, browbeating them if necessary.
When he launched the program in March, he said: “We don’t want to be the industry that looks like ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’”
In a progress report interview with San Francisco Magazine’s Jon Steinberg, Benioff says he’s well on his way to the $10 million goal but the tech industry hasn’t been as generous as it could be:
New industries and movements come out of S.F. on a regular basis … the Gold Rush, the Summer of Love, gay rights—but it’s also where Bank of America was headquartered, Wells Fargo, Levi Strauss. …
But tied into that has always been generosity: the Haas family, the Hellmans, the Fishers, the Shorensteins. During every one of these boom times, the people who benefited the most were also giving back the most. But this time around, we haven’t been able to talk about a broad philanthropic effort to couple with the growth.
Getting money for SF Gives hasn’t exactly been like pulling teeth. SF Gives has landed 14 corporate backers including big companies like Google, Levi’s, LinkedIn, Zynga, Box, Jawbone, PopSugar, Dropbox, and, naturally, Salesforce.
And he still hears “yes” more than he hears “no”. But, he definitely hears no, and about one-third of the time, Benioff told Steinberg:
“We make three calls, we’re getting two yeses and one no. …
There’s a very famous CEO—I won’t give you his name—who told me, ‘Our office is not in S.F., our factory is not in S.F., and we’re not going to do this. I said, ‘Don’t you think you should give back anyway?’ And he said, ‘What have we been given?’”
Interestingly, some of these CEOs may not be pushing back on the idea of giving, but of giving to an effort led by the flamboyant Benioff. Some Valley insiders roll their eyes when he talks about charity.
Two years ago, when asking a billionaire startup CEO why his company didn’t support the 1-1-1 model, he told us that he didn’t agree with it. “I have my own foundation,” he said. He thinks charitable giving should be a personal choice made by employees, not a corporate mandate. “It’s up to them,” he told us.
Ironically, Google, the symbol for the city’s gentrification problem, isn’t in that camp.
Google promptly contributed $1 million to SF Gives. Plus, through its own huge foundation, it has given nearly $60 million to Bay Area nonprofits in the past three years, it says. Every year it gives $100 million away in grants, along with 60,000 hours of volunteer time and $1 billion in products. Beyond the Valley, Google is also tackling some pretty heavy issues worldwide, too, like sex trafficking and child abuse.
Editors note: This is the free edition of Payments Insider, a newsletter on all things payments produced by BI Intelligence.
PAYMENTS FUNDING HITS NEW HIGH: Committed capital to payments companies has hit a five-year high with 59 startups raising $492 million during the first quarter of 2014, according to TechCrunch. The influx of capital would be cause for concern in many industries in which more money equals more competition, but payments is somewhat of an exception. While there is constant, intense competition in the space, there are also tons of partnerships. For example, payments processor Heartland Payments Systems has agreed to sell LevelUp’s mobile loyalty and point-of-sale technology to its merchant clients. (TechCrunch)
Boston-based LevelUp is hoping to make big inroads with retailers, announcing yesterday that it is reducing its processing fee from 2% to 1.95%, with the ultimate goal of eliminating processing fees entirely. Instead, the company intends to make its money by driving new business to merchants through targeted promotions, taking a 25% cut on every successful conversion. For retailers weary of swipe fees, it may be a welcome proposition. But with widespread adoption, LevelUp could take on the lucrative — and frequently reviled — role of gatekeeper between businesses and new customers. (Business Insider)
FEDS TARGET BANKS OVER TIES TO PAYDAY LENDERS: Regulators are tightening the noose on major banks for servicing payday lenders that offer high-interest, small-dollar loans, reports WaPo’s Danielle A. Douglas: “Federal regulators deny waging a concerted campaign to force banks to sever ties with [payday] lenders. … But the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency both recently warned banks against offering a payday-like loan known as a ‘direct-deposit advance,’ … the $7.4 billion payday lending industry has come under increasing scrutiny as more companies move their operations online, allowing some to skirt state regulations. … [the U.S. Department of] Justice has issued dozens of subpoenas to banks and third-party processors as part of ‘Operation Choke Point,’ an effort to block scammers’ access to the financial system … Advocacy groups — and many Democrats — have questioned whether banks should be doing business at all with short-term, high-cost lenders.” (Washington Post)
PAYPAL FINGERPRINT HACK: The new Galaxy 5S fingerprint authentication feature, which PayPal touts as its first biometric authentication for mobile, can be tricked using a simple wood-glue model, German security researchers claim in a YouTube video. “This is a known challenge to fingerprint-sensing technology,” PayPal’s head of ecosystem security, Brett McDowell, told the Journal. “But this is not a scalable exploit. It’s not something most people should worry about.” (WSJ)
GROWTH SLOWS FOR AMEX CARD SPENDING: Yesterday, American Express reported first quarter earnings. U.S. spending on AmEx cards grew by 6% year-over-year, a moderate decrease from 9% year-over-year growth in the fourth quarter of 2013. The decrease was more evident in the company’s small business and corporate segments. One explanation for the decrease could be the exceptionally cold winter, says Jeffrey Campbell, CFO. (AmEx)
UPDATE TO NFC SPECS ALLOWS DISTANCE PAIRING: New industry standards will allow for near-field communications (NFC) devices that are out of normal range “to bridge communication between two other devices by using another NFC-enabled device as a handover mediator,” the NFC Forum announced yesterday in an update to the specifications. “For example, a smartphone can serve as a mediator to securely connect the living room TV to the Wi-Fi router.” The announcement comes amid renewed interest in NFC and rumors of an NFC-capable iPhone. (NFC Forum)
MICROSOFT WALLET QUIETLY SCRAPES APPLE PASSBOOK: Apple Insider’s Sam Oliver details a surprising feature of Microsoft Wallet, a digital wallet only a few may have even known existed: Passbook files can be viewed in Microsoft Wallet with the new 8.1 software update. Passbook is the iOS feature that allows users to store coupons, digital tickets, and other forms of mobile payment in one place. Apple Insider notes that “Passbook was developed as an Apple-only platform for iPhone … up until now it has not been officially available on other platforms.” Apple could ultimately try to block Microsoft from reading Passbook files on Windows Phone, according to the article. The feature is certainly not something Microsoft has tauted. When Windows Phone 8.1 was unveiled earlier this month, there was no mention of Passbook support. (Apple Insider)
JAPANESE COURT NIXES MT. GOX RECOVERY, LIQUIDATION IMMINENT: The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday dismissed Mt. Gox’s bid to resume operations. Once the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox hoped to reconstitute following the Exchange’s February collapse, when the company announced that half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins were missing from customer accounts. The Tokyo court indicated in a statement that Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles will likely face investigation as part of any Japanese bankruptcy proceedings. Karpeles had previously been ordered by a U.S. bankruptcy court to appear in person today. His lawyers have said he does not intend to comply. (Reuters)
FIRST DATA EXPANDS PARTNERSHIP WITH BANK OF THE WEST: Payments processor First Data announced that it would extend and expand a seventeen-year partnership with Bank Of The West, a subsidiary of BNP Paribas with $65 billion in assets and 600 retail and commercial banking locations in the Midwest and Western U.S. As part of the five-year agreement, First Data will process credit transactions for the bank in addition to continuing to providing debit and ATM network processing services. (First Data)
A BITCOIN DOCUMENTARY. Yesterday, the trailer for a new documentary on Bitcoin entitled “The Rise And Rise Of Bitcoin” was released on YouTube. The film, which tells the story of the emergence of the nascent payments technology through the eyes of industry pioneers, debuts next week at the Tribeca Film Festival. (Mashable via YouTube)
HEARTBLEED ARREST IN CANADIAN TAX-HACK. Canadian authorities have arrested a 19-year-old Ontario man in connection with an attack that used the Heartbleed bug to get into the country’s national tax authority and steal people’s information. (The Hill)
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