Encoding.com’s Vid.ly Integrates With FreeWheel To Provide Monetization Of Universal, Cross-Platform Video URLs
Cloud encoding vendor Encoding.com launched Vid.ly a couple of years ago to provide video creators with a way to publish a single universal video URL and then have that content accessible on any device. Now it’s providing a way to monetize those videos, thanks to an integration with ad delivery platorm FreeWheel.
The idea behind Vid.ly is that Encoding.com does all the hard work of encoding it into as many video formats and renditions as necessary, then serving up the appropriate copy of the video depending on which device was accessing it. In addition to transcoding, it also provided all of the storage, video player technology, device detection, streaming, and analytics needed by video creators. Customers could simply connect with the Vid.ly API and have a single universal URL created for them.
All of that’s great, especially for brands and agencies and marketers who wish to make their videos playable for all audiences on every PC, mobile phone, or tablet. But what Vid.ly didn’t provide (until now) was a way to monetize all of those videos. Hence, the partnership and integration with FreeWheel.
By integrating with FreeWheel’s ad-serving platform, Vid.ly will be able to provide all the same convenience and reach to publishers, but it will also enable them to monetize those videos across all those devices. By connecting with Encoding.com’s user interface or API, when a video is requested, Vid.ly will pass along user info to the FreeWheel ad server and pass along targeted ads along with the video. Pre-rolls, mid-rolls and post-rolls, as well as banner overlays, will all be supported.
Encoding.com has raised $4.5 million since being founded in 2008. While Vid.ly is a growing piece of its business, the company is still primarily focused on providing cloud encoding services to a growing number of publishers moving their content online.Read More →
Basho Co-Founder Antony Falco has raised $3 million for Orchestrate.io, a database API similar to Twilio in its capability to ease the complexity of adding features to mobile and web applications. True Ventures led this initial round joined by Frontline Ventures and Resonant Venture Partners.
Falco, who left Basho a few months ago, said Orchestrate.io solves the problems that developers face when building feature-rich applications. Often it means adding multiple databases for geo-spatial, time series or any number of other features.
The database problem has been ongoing. It in part stems from the limits of scale with relational databases. Over the years, companies like Amazon and Google reached their own ceilings and were forced to develop new kinds of databases for high-volume queries. The result is a lot of time spent babysitting databases so the applications run well.
Orchestrate.io acts as a service on a service, abstracting the database layer. Twilio successfully simplified the way developers accessed services, such as SMS and voice. Falco sees a service that also allows developers to add features by pulling the data through an API . “The comparison with Twilio and Sendgrid is not around the problem we solve but the pattern,” Falco said in an email interview. “We are taking a complex and burdensome task — running lots of databases — and putting it behind an API that programmers can use to more quickly build apps. Twilio and Sendgrid both do a similar thing, vastly simplifying the complex, for telecom and email infrastructure, respectively.
Orchestrate.io uses in-memory technology for its service. “Memory — storing indexes and hot data in memory — will be critical to performance,” Falco said. “There are three tiers – the active data and indexes in memory, disk storage for durability and data less often accessed, and as data ages and becomes inactive, a cheaper tier of fault-tolerant storage. The more we serve reads out of the memory, the better our performance will be and, without a lot of latency, users will be able to execute relatively rich queries that might require three or four queries, made sequentially, to separate databases.”
Orchestrate.io is using open source databases to build the service. “We aren’t going to build databases,” Falco said. “The databases themselves can change; we are not tied to any one database. Riak (a Basho service) is of course ideal for this use case — for forming part of the foundation of this service. But other than that, we aren’t really tied to any one thing.”
The company will use multiple data centers for its service to help get the data as close as possible to the application and the user. That makes sense considering the potential performance issues that may come when a large enough group of users are using a service that is just in one place.
For example, an application may be installed in Amazon Web Services East region, and there might be a large number of users in London. Orchestrate will have a large enough data center footprint across different providers to accommodate users no matter their locations.
The interesting story for me is about the future of the database. The real gold is in the data, but it is like a pool of oil without a way to access it. Databases access the data, organize and make it available for query. It’s inefficient. And that’s just when a developer is dealing with one database. Add a few as the features build out and the developer faces a Rube Goldberg system. It’s about getting the work done, not herding cats in a data center.Read More →
TeamSnap, a company that provides tools for managing sports teams, has today announced that it is acquiring Weplay, a social networking site for athletes, parents and coaches to help facilitate coordination for events, games, practices, etc.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Trinity Ventures-backed startup, Teamsnap, is an online tool aimed at making practice scheduling, conditioning sessions, team rosters, payment plans, etc for all amateur sports. It tracks everything from parents’ payments for big tournaments all the way to who’s bringing the sliced oranges.
So far, the company has raised a total of $4.3 million, including its latest round in February for $2.75 million.
According to the release, Weplay had raised even more, a total of $15 million since its launch in 2008. The service acts as a social network with similar functionality to Teamsnap, wherein parents, coaches, and kids can coordinate practices, games, etc. for sports teams.
Teamsnap claims that it will take over Weplay’s “customer base and technology” in the acquisition, though it’s unclear if the Weplay team will migrate over to Teamsnap or if this is the end of their Weplay chapter. It’s also unclear if Weplay will be rolled into Teamsnap or stand alone as its own product.
We’ve reached out for clarification, but haven’t heard back yet.
The release states that Weplay has over 2.25 million customers which will migrate over to the Teamsnap platform. The acquisition should bring Teamsnap’s total userbase to 5 million users in 195 countries.
The deal makes sense considering just how similar the two platforms are. There are a growing number of services like this out there, and not one has risen to the top as a dominating force. Perhaps some consolidation will help Teamsnap reach that peak.Read More →
The company was founded in 2009 — the product that it initially built, and the one that’s still highlighted on the HasOffers website, is a system that helps ad networks and agencies manage their performance-based programs. (Those agencies and ad networks include Bucksense, Tapjoy, and Sponsorpay.)
However, CEO Peter Hamilton said the team realized that mobile advertisers were facing a similar problem, so it built a product called MobileAppTracking, allowing developers to see where app installs, engagement, and purchases actually come from. So as publishers run ad campaigns, they can see which social networks, publishers, and ad networks are giving them the best results, and they can adjust their efforts accordingly.
Rich Wong, the Accel partner who’s joining the HasOffers board, definitely sounded more excited about the mobile side of the business when I spoke to him today. (Wong’s past investments include Google-acquired AdMob and Angry Birds-maker Rovio.) He said “some of the biggest spenders in the Accel portfolio, people who are on the cutting edge of doing customer acquisition,” such as HotelTonight, Spotify, and Trulia, were already using MobileAppTracking. (Other customers include Yahoo, Zynga, Pandora, and Square.)
Wong also argued that the company is part of towards a broader shift in mobile advertising. He said the industry’s first phase, was the early “walled garden” period, followed by a second stage dominated by ad networks like AdMob, Quattro (acquired by Apple), and Millennial (now public). The third, current phase is all about the shift to programmatic buying — in Wong’s words, “the machines are taking over.” In this phase, developers are running campaigns with a wide range of different sources, so they need a better attribution system.
And that system needs to be independent of any of the existing ad networks, so it can measure all sources of traffic effectively. After all, Wong said, many networks have their own attribution systems, and while they might work fine, publishers probably don’t feel entirely confident that AdMob’s can report accurately about one of its competitors, or vice versa. That point about independence came up repeatedly during our conversation, with Wong emphasizing that HasOffers is a software business, not a company that’s selling ads.
“One of the reasons we’re able to do what we do with over 150 ad networks and publishers is that we’re not competitive with them,” Hamilton added.
Until now, Hamitlon said HasOffers has been bootstrapped and profitable, with 79 employees, so it didn’t necessarily need the money. At the same time, he said the mobile ad tracking product has really taken off: “We saw an opportunity to put our stake in the ground as the attribution analytics platform, and we didn’t want it to pass us by.” For now, that means continuing to invest heavily on the technology and product side of the business.
In addition to Accel, RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser and Founder’s Co-op partner Chris Devore also invested. (Glaser and Devore are both based in Seattle, as is HasOffers.) Even though HasOffers is a bit older than your normal Series A company, and even though Accel has a separate fund for investing in bootstrapped, mature companies, this specific investment came from Accel’s early-stage fund: “Even though it has characteristics of a ‘growth-stage business’, we looked at it as an early-stage Series A.”Read More →
Sometimes, more medical information is a bad thing. The influential United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends against most women getting genetic screenings for their susceptibility to breast cancer. Why? Because the tests are imperfect: for every woman who gets tested for genes associated with onset breast cancer, even more will falsely test positive, leading spooked patients into needless surgery or psychological trauma. Super cheap genetic testing from enterprising health startups, such as 23andMe, have complicated cancer detection for us all by increasing the accessibility of imperfect medical information.
After discovering a mutated BRCA1 gene, known to increase breast cancer 60 to 80%, actress Angelina Jolie’s underwent a radical preventive double mastectomy. Her brave confession in the New York Times brought much needed attention to breast cancer awareness, but it’s dangerous in the hands of a statistically illiterate population.
For instance, as New York Times statistical guru, Nate Silver, once reminded me, while breast cancer mammograms are 75% accurate, a woman who tests positive only has about a 10% chance of actually getting cancer. Since the vast majority of women don’t have cancer, there are far more women who will falsely test positive (here is a helpful blog post with the numbers worked out). Most importantly, surveys reveal that many people don’t understand the math behind false positives in cancer testing, and may make uninformed decisions as a result.
The same math holds true for the mutated BRCA1/2 gene of Jolie’s confession: researchers estimate that a tiny 0.11 to 0.12 of women have the faulty gene. “I believe in doing genetic testing for BRCA1/2 with appropriate counseling,” writes University of Southern California’s David Agus, one of Steve Jobs’ cancer doctors, The answers are not simple in this case and require experienced professionals to discuss with the patient.”
Traditionally hundreds, if thousands of dollars to test, a cottage industry of cheap genetic testing has sprung up. 23andMe, one of the most popular, offers the service for as little at $99, and has even dared to weigh in on the BRCA controversy on the company blog.
Citing a new study that found no negative emotional consequences from patients after learning about their BRCA1 mutation, the 23andMe blog concludes, “The findings are important given that a frequent criticism of direct-to-consumer testing is based on the assumption that it causes either serious emotional distress or triggers deleterious actions on the part of consumers,” wrote the blog.
“Given the absence of evidence for serious emotional distress or inappropriate actions in this subset of mutation-positive customers who agreed to be interviewed for this study, broader screening of Ashkenazi Jewish women for these three BRCA mutations should be considered.”
Sometimes, however, voluntary surveys don’t tell the whole story. Time, in their cover story on Jolie’s decision, recounts the tale of one woman who likely had unnecessary preventative surgery after learning about a genetic defect. ““She freaked out and had a bilateral mastectomy,” said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, who worried that this patient’s particular mutation was not as troubling as she worried it was.
Interestingly, TIME’s author, Kate Pickart, argues the financial costs of genetic testing has stall mass run on genetic tests. Even a new provision under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) only mandates 100% insurance coverage for patients with a family history of genetic flaws.
But, at just $99 (and probably far less in the future), financial barriers are crumbling. This isn’t to say that genetic screening is bad, it just complicates things for the rest of us, especially those who don’t understand statistics. The more women get tested, the more false positives exist, the less confident patients and physicians become in a course of action.
Maybe our only hope out of this cheaper testing spiral is technology that makes detection more accurate and more predictive. One promising solution is a new bra that constantly monitors deep tissue for cancerous signs (below)
So, perhaps, before long, we will innovate our way out of this dilemma.Read More →
The Wall Street Journal is now reporting via Twitter that the rumored $1.1 billion cash acquisition deal for social blogging site Tumblr has been approved by Yahoo’s board of directors. The Tumblr acquisition was rumored last week, with a price tag reportedly north of $1 billion, which appears to be accurate if the WSJ’s sources are correct.
Recently, we’ve seen suggestions that there’s a vacuum developing at the top of Yahoo’s executive ladder, and there have been rumors recently of key people departing from the mobile team. It’s interesting that a lot of these departures are fairly recent, and could go some way to explaining why Tumblr’s may be willing to accept the $1.1 billion offer when sources have told TechCrunch that the amount was seen as “too low” by some within the company. Our sources also suggested that Tumblr may be looking at a fast-depleting cash pile, which again gives it good reason to sell.
Some users on Twitter are threatening to depart Tumblr if the Yahoo deal goes through, as Ingrid reported on Saturday. Overall, as she noted, visitor growth to the site appears to be flat or declining slightly in 2013, so combined those two facts might not bode well for Tumblr’s future user acquisition. But Instagram also faced an outcry of vocal users claiming they were going to shut down their accounts and depart the service for good when Facebook bought that company. In fact, users, engagement and reach for brands using Instagram have all gone up considerably since the acquisition.
Yahoo has been snapping up companies at a rapid pace this year, with what seems like new acquisitions every week over the past few months. One of the more high-profile purchases was the Summly buy, which brought the news summarization startup into the Yahoo fold for a reported price of around $30 million. The company’s 17-year old founder arguably made more headlines the the company itself, and many debated the merits of the acquisition.
More recently, the companies on Yahoo’s shopping list have been more under the radar, and in general the pattern looks like a strategic hiring spree, rather than a bunch of additions to Yahoo’s product portfolio. Tumblr would likely buck this trend, as it has a massive built-in audience, a full-featured, mature product and targets a relatively young demographic that so far isn’t all that well-represented at Yahoo.
The deal size is raising some eyebrows, since, as Fortune’s Dan Primack tweeted, Yahoo had only $1.2 billion cash on hand as of its most recent quarterly earnings, which makes an all-cash offer for Tumblr a lot more of a stretch than it would be for someone like Apple, or even Facebook, which acquired Instagram for $1 billion in a mix of both cash and stock.
As of 3/31 Yahoo had just under $1.2b of actual cash on hand. And deal is $1.1b cash? Time to liquify that $1.8b of "short-term investments"—
(@danprimack) May 19, 2013
Developing…Read More →
A new startup launching today called Everwise is looking to help. The San Francisco and New York-based startup, which was co-founded by tech industry veteran and current Yahoo board chairman Maynard Webb and former Audium founder and Cisco executive Mike Bergelson, has built a tech-powered platform for matching “protégés” with the right mentors and shepherding them through a six-month-long advisory relationship.
In an interview this week, Bergelson, who serves as Everwise’s CEO, said the service plugs data from a participant’s LinkedIn profile as well as a personalized questionnaire into its matching algorithm (which is based on Everwise’s studies of some 60,000 mentoring partnerships) to pair him or her with a volunteer executive from another company in the same industry to serve as a mentor. The idea is that sometimes people aren’t always the best at choosing the right mentor on their own.
“Mentor marketplaces as they exist today aren’t always working, because the people with most compelling titles and sexiest businesses get all the attention, even if they aren’t the right fit,” Bergelson said. “Everwise is like the eHarmony for mentoring… Our aim is to build longer lasting relationships that span with interactions over months.”
In addition to the software, Everwise provides a human element here too. The company has contracted live “relationship managers” who help shepherd the mentoring relationships from day one, checking in with phone calls and surveys to gather feedback and provide guidance.
There’s a price to this. Everwise charges each protégé $150 per month to use the site, and mentors, which are heavily vetted by the site, participate as volunteers. That might seem expensive, but at an enterprise level it’s been received well: Over the past year in Everwise’s private beta, companies such as Hewlett Packard, Direct Energy, and Sigma Aldrich have paid for their employees to find mentors through the program. “When we talk to companies about the pricing, our monthly price costs about the same as one day of management training,” Bergelson said.
Bergelson said that Everwise is different from other services in the mentoring space such as Clarity, since it is focused more on people in the corporate world than on entrepreneurs. Looking ahead, though, the company could look to scale out its technology and service beyond the white-collar sphere. Bergelson explained the vision like this:
“If we can figure out a way to provide a service that’s really valuable for really senior, swtiched-on, engaged Silicon Valley people at the HPs and the eBays of the world, and do that in a scalable way, then the platform and the technology could be used in lots of different contexts. Nowadays people have 11 jobs on average by time they’re in mid-thirties. Careers are ending up in places in infinite numbers of ways. The role of the mentor, the role of guidance, is even more important now than it has been.”
Everwise, which has raised just under $1 million in seed funding, has a full-time staff of 14.Read More →