Advertising company Sharethrough announced today that it’s moving into Europe with the acquisition of a London-based company called VAN.
The financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed. Sharethrough’s head of communications Thomas Channick told me via email that the VAN team will form “the core” of European operations, although the company plans to double the… Read More
Square is on a mission to diversify, and it’s turning to the red-hot food delivery industry to do so.
The payments company run by CEO Jack Dorsey plans to announce this week that it has acquired San Francisco-based Caviar, according to a person familiar with the deal. Caviar runs a service that lets consumers order meals to be delivered to their homes or offices from restaurants that don’t normally offer delivery.
Caviar will receive only Square stock in the transaction, this person said. The New York Times reported on Friday that the deal, which was first reported by TechCrunch, will be valued at $90 million.
A Square spokesman and Caviar CEO Jason Wang declined to comment.
A move into delivery by most payments processing companies would be a head-scratcher. But it could make sense for a company in Square’s position. It has been furiously expanding the menu of services it offers over the last few months as it attempts to add new revenue streams that would help justify its $5 billion valuation.
Among the new products are a merchant cash advance program called Square Capital, a customer survey product called Square Feedback and a food pickup app called Square Order, which replaced the failed Square Wallet. The question remains whether Square is betting on the right new products and services or grasping at straws. In the world of food delivery, Caviar faces fierce competition from companies such as DoorDash with similar propositions as well as traditional delivery companies such as GrubHub.
With Caviar on board, Square could in theory offer the delivery service to restaurants and cafes that already run on its payments system, in a package deal or a la carte. It’s not clear what percentage of its customer base are restaurants and cafes. The company could also give restaurants and cafes that already work with Caviar a discount to start processing payments through Square.
On the consumer side, Caviar could eventually be integrated into Square Order, so customers could browse pickup and delivery options in their area from the same app. (Caviar hasn’t yet released its own app, which it has been able to get away with since about 50 percent of orders come from businesses for office meals.)
In the interim, Caviar gives Square an immediate delivery presence in around 10 U.S. cities. Its restaurant customers include big-city staples such as Momofuku in Manhattan and Nick’s Crispy Tacos in San Francisco.
The company charges customers $9.99 per delivery, though it recently told Re/code it would soon be dropping the fee to $4.99. Caviar takes anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent of the bill as its cut from the restaurant. It has 70 employees, not including the independent contractors it pays $15 per order to pick up and deliver the food. Wang recently told Re/code that the company turned a profit three months after launch, but has since slipped into the red as it spends cash to accelerate growth.
It has raised $15 million in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Tiger Global. Perhaps its best-known competitor, DoorDash, recently announced a $17 million investment led by Sequoia Capital.
Additional reporting by Liz Gannes.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It is not uncommon for a veteran player to ease his way into the Spring Training routine. Nick Swisher took that approach in the early days of camp this year, but the Indians first baseman was back on the field Sunday afternoon.
For his Cactus League debut, Swisher was slotted into the second spot of the lineup for the Indians, providing an early look into how he might be used this season. Swisher said he was thrilled to be back in the order as Cleveland begins its quest to build on last summer’s run to the postseason.
“It was nice to get out there, man,” Swisher said, “just to be out there with the guys and playing. We’re super early in Spring Training now, but just to be able to get out there, get a few hacks, it felt good.”
Swisher went 0-for-3 in his three plate appearances for the Tribe, but he did strike the first blow within a three-run outburst in the fifth inning. With one out and runners on the corners, Swisher chopped into a fielder’s choice, but Yan Gomes scored from third base to put Cleveland on the board.
Cleveland played its first three games of the spring without Swisher, who asked manager Terry Francona to keep him off the field for a handful of contests to start the preseason. Swisher took that approach due to feeling that he pushed things too hard too early in the schedule last year, when he joined the Indians after signing a four-year, $56-million contract.
Swisher felt that too much was made this past week over the fact that he took the first few games off.
“In February? It’s not a big deal,” Swisher said. “I just said, ‘Hey, man, let’s give myself a week to get into Spring Training and then start playing some games.’ I don’t know, man. I think you guys are looking way too into it. Go to some other clubs and see how they do it.”
In 146 games for Cleveland last season, the 33-year-old Swisher hit .246 with 22 home runs, 27 doubles and 63 RBIs. At various points throughout the year, Swisher dealt with a left shoulder issue, which had its roots in Spring Training.
London-based Spider.io has been acquired by Google, the company’s DoubleClick advertising blog announced today (via Re/Code). Spider.io is a startup that specialized in weeding out fraudulent clicks around online ads. The three-year old company has tech that will help Google identify bad behavior around their content in video and display ads on the web, to help them get a more accurate picture of what is and isn’t succeeding.
From Google’s official blogpost on the deal:
Advertising helps fund the digital world we love today — inspiring videos, informative websites, entertaining apps and services that connect us with friends around the world. But this vibrant ecosystem only flourishes if marketers can buy media online with the confidence that their ads are reaching real people, that results they see are based on actual interest. To grow the pie for everyone, we need to take head on the issue of online fraud.
Google isn’t revealing the terms of the deal, but the small London company is only seven strong, and this is a fairly specialized niche product so it’s unlikely to have been a huge exit. Still, the Spider.io team brings some impressive talent to Google’s ranks, including three PhDs and a an ex-Yahoo natural language processing and artificial intelligence expert.
Spider.io’s tech is designed specifically to detect attacks originating from PCs infected by malware. Often these hijacked computers are programmed by their attackers to place a high volume of ad requests, thus skewing the numbers and defrauding online advertisers out of millions of dollars. An FT article from last year revealed that one botnet last year managed to falsify billions of web-based ad clicks, sometimes accounting for as much as two-thirds of the sum total of visits to some websites.
Kat Candler’s Hellion debuted in Park City last month, and now Sundance Selects has taken North American rights to the pic. Exec produced by Jeff Nichols (Mud), Hellion stars newcomer Josh Wiggins as Jacob, a 13-year-old obsessed with metal and dirt bike racing whose delinquent behavior begins to raise concerns around town. Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul co-exec produces and stars as Hollis, father to Jacob and his younger brother Wes (Deke Garner), who’s drowning his own sorrows over the loss of their mother and must repair his family when CPS sends Wes to live with the boys’ aunt (Juliette Lewis). Candler wrote and directed the drama and adapted it from her own 2012 short, which also debuted at Sundance and starred Garner. She returned to the fest last year with another short, Black Metal, before debuting the feature-length Hellion produced by Kelly Williams and Jonathan Duffy. Sundance Selects has set a theatrical and VOD bow for later this year. Arianna Bocco, SVP Acquisitions Productions for Sundance Selects/IFC Films negotiated the deal with UTA Independent Film Group on behalf of the filmmakers.
Facebook’s $19 billion deal to buy messaging service WhatsApp may raise eyebrows, but it’s a smart move. Here’s why.
Facebook agreed yesterday to buy messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, making it one of the largest acquisitions in tech history. The deal is set to close later this year.
According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook will acquire WhatsApp for about $4 billion in cash and 183 million Facebook shares, which are worth an estimated $12 billion. The deal also includes an additional $3 billion in restricted stock units for WhatsApp employees that vest in four years. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call yesterday that WhatsApp will continue to operate independently.
WhatsApp is a messaging service particularly popular in Europe, India, and Latin America. Users aren’t charged text messaging fees; instead, the app transmits text and photo messages via the user’s Internet data plan, even if the messages are sent internationally. The app is free to download and free for the first 12 months. After that, it costs 99 cents annually.
[With a decade under its belt, what is in store for Facebook during the next 10 years? Read Facebook's Next Decade: 3 Key Challenges.]
The app, which launched in 2008, has more than 450 million active users, gaining 250 million in just the last nine months, according to Sequoia Capital, the Valley venture firm that invested $8 million in the app in 2011. In comparison, Facebook had fewer than 150 million users after its fourth year, one-third of WhatsApp’s user base in the same time period. Even more astounding: Sequoia Capital said that more than 1 million people sign up to use WhatsApp every day. That rapidly growing user base is what piqued his interest, Zuckerberg said.
“We believe WhatsApp is on a path to reach 1 billion people worldwide in the next few years,” Zuckerberg said in yesterday’s conference call. “Eleven days ago I proposed that if we joined together, that would help us connect the rest of the world.”
What’s in it for Facebook?
Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp benefits the social network in a three important ways: It better positions it to reclaim the teen demographic, a key group of users who have grown disinterested in Facebook; it allows Facebook to buy its way into mobile messaging, one of the hottest emerging markets that the social network has failed to penetrate; and it presents Facebook with a big growth opportunity.
Facebook has been open about the drop in its younger users. In its third-quarter earnings call in October, Facebook chief financial officer David Ebersman conceded that it “did see a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens.” A report from Piper Jaffray confirmed that trend, finding that only 23% of teens cite Facebook as the most important social network, down from 33% six months ago and 42% a year before.
“Facebook wants to be a part of how people network and how they connect with one another, and teens and millennials around the world are texting and using mobile channels almost to the exclusion of other kinds of communications,” said Altimeter Group analyst Rebecca Lieb. “This buys them a rapidly growing user base.”
The WhatsApp acquisition also propels Facebook to the top of mobile messaging, a market that it has so far failed to tap. Popular photo messaging app Snapchat famously rejected two offers from Facebook: one for $1 billion and the second for $3 billion cash, according to reports. Its own messaging app, Facebook Messenger, launched in 2011, but it has failed to reach engagement levels that WhatsApp has achieved.
“Facebook is going to get data on millions of users out of this acquisition, too,” Lieb said. “They’re going to have better opportunities to understand mobile use patterns and mobile customers, and use that information in all sorts of context — perhaps in advertising in other mobile channels.”
While WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger share similarities, Zuckerberg was quick to point out its differences: Messenger generally isn’t used to communicate in real time, while WhatsApp is. “Those are big differences in use cases, and the world needs both. We will help by investing in both,” he said.
While Facebook has exceeded 1.2 billion monthly active users, its challenge is reaching the next billion, which will likely come from developing countries. That’s where WhatsApp is thriving.
“WhatsApp is a player that is strong in both mature markets as well as emerging markets across Asia and the Middle East, which present a significant growth opportunity for Facebook,” said Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum.
Zuckerberg acknowledged WhatsApp’s strength in emerging markets. “There are countries [such as] Korea or Japan where another messaging service is bigger, but if you look across the world, WhatsApp — across Europe, Latin America, India, a lot of places in Asia — is the clear leader.”
Zuckerberg sees it, too, as an opportunity to diversify the company beyond the social network.
“We want to provide the best tools to share with different-sized groups and in different contexts and to develop more mobile experiences beyond just the main Facebook app, like Instagram and Messenger,” Zuckerberg said. “This is where we see a lot of new growth as well as a great opportunity to better serve our whole community.”
Engage with Oracle president Mark Hurd, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, General Motors CIO Randy Mott, Box founder Aaron Levie, UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh, GE Power CIO Jim Fowler, and other leaders of the Digital Business movement at the InformationWeek Conference and Elite 100 Awards Ceremony, to be held in conjunction with Interop in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 1, 2014. See the full agenda here.
Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com’s Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior … View Full Bio
WillCall is a pretty concert app, but its weakness was a lack of deals with venues to get tickets to sell. Well no more, as today it was acquired by Ticketfly, the second-biggest concert ticket seller in America, which has relationships with thousands of venues. Ticketfly will keep WillCall running …read more
The Walt Disney Company announced today that it acquired Maker Studios, a YouTube video network, in deal worth $500 million.
The transaction is subject to regulatory clearances and is expected to close in Disney’s third fiscal quarter. Once approved, the network’s shareholders will receive a total of $500 million, with a “performance-linked earn-out of up” to $450 million if performance targets are met. Maker Studios will report to Disney CFO Jay Rasulo and the company’s headquarters will remain in Culver City, Calif., with branches in New York and London.
With a millennial target demographic, Maker Studios features of more than 55,000 channels, 380 million subscribers and 5.5 billion views per month on YouTube. The network’s biggest personality is 24-year-old Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg, who has more than 25 million subscriber and frequently streams video games.
Disney will gain advanced information on “consumers’ discovery and interaction with short-form online videos” through the acquisition, according to the announcement.
“Short-form online video is growing at an astonishing pace and with Maker Studios, Disney will now be at the center of this dynamic industry with an unmatched combination of advanced technology and programming expertise and capabilities,” chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company Robert A. Iger said in a prepared statement.
ReCode reports that Maker has raised approximately $70 million to date and that The Financial Times valued the company at $300 million last year. In an effort to expand its YouTube operations, Jerry Holkins‘ and Mike Krahulik‘s Penny Arcade signed a deal with Maker’s gaming vertical, Polaris, earlier this month.
Google may have recently lost artificial-intelligence luminary Andrew Ng to Chinese search company Baidu, but that hasn’t stopped the Mountain View, Calif.-based company from ratcheting up the wisdom of its computers.
Baidu and Microsoft have made progress on deep learning, which involves training systems called artificial neural networks on information derived from audio, images, and other inputs, then presenting the systems with new information and receiving inferences about it in response.
But today Google announced it had won first place in the “classification and detection portion with additional training data” category of the ImageNet large-scale visual recognition challenge — an annual academic competition for the best computer vision system for analyzing images based on a given data set.
According to Google software engineer Christian Szegedy, in the last year, Google has doubled the quality of its ability to apply the right labels to images, as well as correctly spot many items in the images. And deep learning, as the cognoscenti know, can be applied to computer vision, as well as text processing and voice recognition.
Szegedy notes that the team behind the system went by the name GoogLeNet, in honor of researcher Yann LeCun, who popularized convolutional neural networks that represent the foundation of the Google system. (LeCun recently joined Facebook.)
It’s not shocking that Google has managed to better its systems, given that most people in the deep-learning community work for Google. And Google continues to its reign in terms of talent acquisition by way of its many deep learning acquisitions, including DeepMind, DNNresearch, and most recently Jetpac.
The question worth pondering now is what Google will do with its all its deep-learning smarts. The tech giant could point its smarter-than-ever system at popular services like Google image search, Google video chat, Google Drive, and YouTube videos with an eye toward improvement to edge out competitors. Then again, Google could expose its artificial brain for developers to use, like other services running on Google’s computing infrastructure.
But at least it’s clear Google hasn’t given up on deep learning.
Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob… read more »
Andrew Ng is a Co-founder of Coursera and the Director of the Stanford AI Lab. In 2011 he led the development of Stanford University’s main MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform and also taught an online Machine Learning class … read more »
WillCall is a pretty concert app, but its weakness was a lack of deals with venues to get tickets to sell. Well no more, as today it was acquired by Ticketfly, the second-biggest concert ticket seller in America, which has relationships with thousands of venues. Ticketfly will keep WillCall running and feed it
inventory. Read More
Walmart’s Silicon Valley R&D group @WalmartLabs is announcing this morning that it has acquired its 14th startup, social marketplace Luvocracy. As part of the deal, WalmartLabs will bring in a total of 16 employees from Luvocracy, including founder and CEO Nathan Stoll. Luvocracy offered a