Fresh off its $2 million in Series A funding, in-app mobile payments platform ZooZ is announcing a new product today: in-ad payments. Yes, that’s right, “ad” not “app.” The big idea here is to streamline the checkout process for consumers by addressing some of the challenges with e-commerce on mobile’s small screen, and now connecting that process to mobile banner ads to increase click-to-buy conversions.
With in-ad payments, mobile users will be able checkout by tapping once on a visible banner ad within a mobile app, which then launches ZooZ’s checkout flow. As with ZooZ’s previously launched in-app payments product, the fully native checkout experience here doesn’t require the end user to re-enter their credit card or payment details after their initial sign-up.
For those unfamiliar with ZooZ, the company has been focused on rethinking e-commerce on mobile, with a checkout process that’s designed to reduce cart abandonment. As CEO Oren Levy explained to us last summer, when announcing a partnership with MobiCart, “despite the fact that there’s a lot of m-commerce going on, there’s a lack of uniformity in checkout schemes. Each app creates it own checkout, its own colors and you don’t know how secure it is.”
The first time a user checks out on mobile using ZooZ, they will have to provide their credit card or other payment details (e.g. PayPal, Dwolla, etc.) in a mobile-optimized screen. But afterwards, all subsequent checkouts become one-tap payments. At that point, instead of entering in payment information again, ZooZ simply presents you with an interface where you can flip through your saved credit cards and other payment methods, then tap “pay now” to complete the process.
Today, ZooZ’s in-app payments product has been adopted by 5,500 mobile developers. The company offers a ZooZ SDK for developers, which integrates ZooZ’s checkout into mobile (iOS, Android, or HTML5) apps, and it works with several app building platforms, including Appcelerator Titanium, Phone Gap, and Basic4Android.
Levy says the idea for in-ad payments came to him when he was stuck in an airport playing mobile games and clicking on banner ads within them.
“We were seeing a horrible experience where we were redirected to another webpage and then the whole process was so cumbersome – very long and unfriendly, to say the least,” Levy explains. Screens weren’t optimized for mobile, he says, and you would have to zoom in on the forms provided.
“Then, when we started exploring this world a little bit, we found that conversion rates from banner ads were so low, there was a need for a quicker and easier way to purchase items from banner ads – whether that’s physical goods, services, or coupons, etc.,” he adds.
So the team decided to take their core technology, and make it work with the banner ad medium, too.
The newly launching ZooZ in-ad payments solution is not being aimed at developers, but rather at ad agencies who will bundle the ZooZ in-ad SDK into their own. Two big-name ad agency brands are currently testing the in-ad payments SDK, but Levy says he’s not able to disclose those by name at this time.
He expects the SDK to exit from beta in a couple of months’ time, however, at which point there will hopefully be room to discuss who’s involved in more detail.
As with ZooZ’s in-app payments platform, the company charges a processing fee or per transaction fee to generate revenue. Fees vary depending on the type of merchant. When offering the full payment processing solution to indie app developers, the company charges 2.8% + $0.19, but when partnering with payment processors where ZooZ only operates as a technological layer on top of the payment processing, it charges different flat fees per transactions.
The company, now with $3.5 million in total funding, has seen most of its adoption to date in European markets, but is now starting to see some traction in the U.S. and parts of Asia. In Europe, ZooZ has found a niche within last-minute hotel booking apps, Levy notes (e.g. HotelTonight competitors), while in Asia, Japan is its key market. The company is now thinking about expanding further into that country by opening an office there.
ZooZ’s new in-ad payments option is not available publicly today, but can be requested by interested agencies for testing purposes by contacting the company via email or phone.Read More →
Ready for a sky full of robo-planes?
Airware, a company that’s building the brains and guts for commercial unmanned drones, is announcing this morning that they’ve raised a big ol’ $10.7M Series A.
The round is led by Andreessen Horowitz, and backed by Google Ventures (Cue the conspiracy theories about why Google’s venture arm is puttin’ money into drones in 3…2…) As part of the round, Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon will be joining Airware’s board.
To be clear, Airware doesn’t make drones — they make the brains for drones. If you were to order something from Airware, you’d get a logic board (which handles things like auto-pilot, wireless communication, etc.) and all of the actuators and sensors you’d probably want to put in a drone.
The word “drone” can be a bit spooky. The first thing most folks think of when they hear “drone” (or “unmanned aircraft”) is their crazy controversial (and, yes, pretty terrifying) use by the world’s militaries.
That’s a shame, though. Like all technology, drones are not inherently evil — nor are they all killing machines. There are a bunch of completely innocent uses for drones — none of which involve shootin’ you from the sky or getting all Big Brother-y, and all of which are only made feasible by having a robot soaring a few thousand feet above the ground.
Over in Kenya, Airware-powered drones are being built to monitor the dwindling population of Northern White Rhinos to combat poaching. Head for the slopes, and companies are working on building drones to search for lost skiers. Other teams, meanwhile, are working on drones that use high-res infrared cameras to monitor their infrastructure for damaged power or gas lines. Vaccine delivery! Air quality research!
It’s important to make that distinction, as Airware doesn’t seem all that interested in working with the military. While they don’t rule out the possibility moving forward, Airware CEO Jonathan Downey tells me that not a one of their dozens of customers are military-focused.
(Plus, the U.S. military is already spending a few billion a year on their own drone research. They’re probably pretty good to go on their own.)
Instead, Airware wants to fill the gap between the massively-funded military drone work and the nascent DIY drone (or “personal UAV” — yeah, it exists) community.
While Airware came into existence back in 2011, Downey actually found his love for drones while studying at MIT a few years prior. He and a few friends entered a drone-building competition, and were surprised at just how limited and black-boxy all of the available drone tech was. A few years and a stint at Boeing later, Jonathan dove into building drones full time, raising a small seed round to get the ball rolling.
By the end of last year, that money had run dry. Through a twist of fate and a bit of good timing, the company made it into Y Combinator’s Winter 2013 class just as the FAA was opening up U.S. airspace to commercial drones. 4 months and one big YC demo day later, the company’s $10.4M Series A is the biggest post-Demo Day round in YC history.Read More →
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo Resigns As Director Of Twitter U.K. After TweetDeck Dissolves As Standalone Business
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has quit his position as a U.K. director of the company, days after Twitter subsidiary TweetDeck was dissolved as a separate U.K. business by business registrar Companies House, according to Sky News. We’ve reached out to Twitter for confirmation and comment and will update this story with any response.
Costolo stepping back from the U.K. directorship role appears related to the dissolution of TweetDeck: a U.K. startup which Twitter acquired in May 2011 for a price-tag that we reported as $40 million. Late last year TweetDeck failed to file U.K. accounts with Companies House, and continued failure to file ultimately led to the dissolution of the company as a separate entity earlier this month, on May 7.
TweetDeck’s failure to file accounts was part of a process to wind up its status as a separate corporate entity to its parent company. Earlier this month a Twitter spokesperson told the Guardian: “TweetDeck the product continues to thrive as part of Twitter, but the old company has been dormant for some time, with no outstanding liabilities; hence our agreement with the move to dissolve it.”
Once TweetDeck became a part of Twitter, with product development and other business processes moving in-house, there was no longer a need for it to exist as a standalone business in the U.K. It’s likely, therefore, that that shift also explains Costolo stepping back from his U.K. director role. His resignation took place on May 9, according to Sky News.
The news organisation reports that Costolo’s position has been replaced by a Dublin-based chartered accountant, Laurence O’Brien. That looks like a clear sign that Twitter’s main order of business in the U.K. is now minimising its tax liability, with the development that was associated with TweetDeck now rolled into its main business. The other two Twitter U.K. directors, Alex Macgillivray, Twitter’s general counsel and head of trust and policy, and chief operating officer, Ali Rowghani, remain in post.
Despite TweetDeck’s corporate dissolution and Costolo stepping back from his U.K. directorship there’s little doubt that Twitter remains committed to the product. Although it has recently shut down AIR-based versions of the Twitter client and shuttered mobile apps, it is focusing on developing TweetDeck’s web-based apps. Back in March, Twitter noted that the TweetDeck team has doubled in size over the past six months.
Sky News notes that Twitter controls its U.K. firm through an Irish subsidiary known as Twitter International Company Ltd. And while Twitter has been expanding its staff headcount in its London and Dublin offices this headcount push is to build a multinational sales team for Europe, rather than being product development related.Read More →
It’s a rare fall rainy day in Palo Alto and SAP Executive Board Member Dr. Vishal Sikka is as sick as a dog. It’s less than a week until SAP Sapphire in Madrid and the community around him are like a worrying family. I had told them that it is okay. I could make the trip another time. But they were insistent I make the trip.
Fast forward to May. It has been several months since that cold rainy week in Palo Alto. We’re on the eve of the next Sapphire conference in Orlando this week. Last week, Plattner and Sikka held a press conference, announcing the new HANA Enterprise Cloud.
HANA is an in-memory database that Sikka and Plattner developed with a team of about a dozen people around the world. SAP has built four data centers for HANA — two in Europe and two in the United States.
It would not be an overstatement to say that HANA is SAP’s future, the first technology in a long time from the German giant that is getting buzz for what it can do. It potentially puts the company into play as a key developer platform for real-time analytics in the evolving world of technology spanning both consumer and the enterprise services that are the company’s legacy (and slightly stale bread and butter). The big question is can SAP show the world that HANA is a bona fide developer platform with visionary use cases and clear customer examples.
Jon Reed is a longtime SAP Mentor and expert about the company. He is a great sounding board, someone who talked me through a lot of this story. He has a lot of respect for Sikka and Plattner. But he is skeptical, too, as am I about HANA and its direction. The potential is without question. And Sikka shows signs he has that rare combination of intellectual curiosity, technology credibility and passion that makes for a great leader. And he’s a humanist. He is impassioned about the potential for cancer research with HANA as much as he sees SAP transforming from an inward looking business software company to one that is outward facing, used for research and predictive analytics.
“It makes him a compelling figure,” Reed said. “You do get the sense that if the work is not purposeful, he won’t stick around. He really does believe HANA and interrelated innovations can change the world.”
But at the same time Sikka has to address profitability and revenues, Reed said.
Back in Palo Alto, Sikka arrives and he ushers me back to his office and sees that Hasso Plattner’s office is available. Plattner is the chairman of the SAP Supervisory Board and co-founder of the company. Sikka is the kind of guy who gets excited about those little things. Like the chance to look out across Palo Alto from his mentor’s office at the Stanford University campus where he received a master’s degree in engineering. We sit down and Sikka starts telling me about this accident that changed his life.
A Car Accident In Costa Rica
Sikka had gone to Costa Rica for a vacation with his family in 2008 over the winter break. He was CTO of the company. But he was unsettled about the direction of the enterprise giant. And then something happened on the way back to the hotel after a day by the ocean.
“On the way back I overcorrected and crashed into a pole,” Sikka said in a follow-up interview last month. “Thank God everyone was okay. At that point I realized I had to change something in my life.”
He called Plattner and said it was over — he needed to move on. The son of a railroad conductor, Sikka grew up in India, came to the United States and studied at Syracuse University. He graduated in three years. He then went to Stanford, built a startup with his brother and later sold it. He joined SAP in 2002. But by 2008, Sikka had second thoughts about the company’s technology direction. The accident pretty much sealed it. Or so he thought.
SAP is traditionally an application provider. It made its billions managing transactions but in recent years the disk I/O had become a bottleneck, slowing the application. The amount of data needed to make decisions had accelerated, pointing to the need for better, faster performance and results.
It’s a problem faced across the market. Machine-to-machine data is now more than transactional data, requiring a new approach to the application layer and the underlying database. Sikka had wanted to explore how to solve this problem. Developing a new database was that opportunity.
According to Wikipedia, Plattner, a consummate technologist, worked at IBM in the AI department, working on an enterprise-wide system based on the technology Xerox acquired from Scientific Data Systems (SDS). In 1972, after IBM decided to exit the business, Plattner, with four other German engineers, decided to leave the company and continue the project. IBM took 8% in founding stock in exchange for the engineers to use the software. Plattner and his colleagues called the company Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung (“System Analysis and Program Development”).
Plattner is a different character than many founders. The Hasso Plattner Institute gives him the opportunity to spend tine with students, which keeps him interacting with young people and open to new ideas.
Plattner is also, like Sikka, doggedly persistent. During the winter of 2008, over dinner in Aspen, as Sikka tried to explain that he wanted out of SAP, Sikka said Plattner banged his fist on the table, challenging him to intellectually renew the company. But what did that mean? It took several months to figure out. They knew it had to be something new, something galvanizing. By the summer of 2009 they settled on HANA. The product launched in November 2010 and became generally available in 2011.
As for Plattner, he needed Sikka. Plattner has never really left SAP: although he retired in 2003 he has continued to serve as SAP’s chairman of its supervisory board. With Sikka, Plattner has a technologist who can manage the development of a new ecosystem and commands respect throughout the organization. Sikka, in turn, reports to Plattner, who can provide cover from the political dynamics of this $15 billion company.
This has bred an interesting basis for the development of HANA, which sits outside of much of what the rest of SAP does. It’s not like the two have complete autonomy but it is enough for them to define HANA’s technology direction and fold in its mobile strategy, cloud initiatives and begin the hard work of creating a developer ecosystem and startup culture. To do this, they have a team that operates in a separate wing at the Palo Alto campus, an independence that gives them the flexibility to build out their projects in a way that is different from the other SAP product groups.
When I visited last fall, I met a few of the team members, all hand-picked by Sikka. They are fiercely loyal to Sikka and reverential of Plattner. It’s this that Sikka has used to form the foundation for the intellectual curiosity that Plattner has insisted is so vital to the company.
Out of this, SAP is building its own startup culture. It launched AppHaus, an office that looks like a condominium building set in a neighborhood of the quaint community of Los Altos. Inside they are building consumer mobile apps. Last year, SAP launched a second AppHaus in Dublin. More are planned around the world.
SAP Ventures is seeding startups that are using HANA as the database for their technology. SAP Ventures Managing Director Nino Marakovic says Sikka was instrumental in helping it get started.
So where does this all bring us today?
First, the competition is intense. IBM, Microsoft and impressive startups like MemSQL and SiSense are offering their own brand of analytics. Workday is growing at a clip with consistent updates to its platform.
The SAP Palo Alto campus is where the innovation is happening. But the corporate executives in Waldorf are expecting results. And that sometimes seems like it is slowing SAP’s drive to work more aggressively with startups.
SAP is developing a cloud platform and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS). It’s these efforts and its focus on startups that will create the wellspring and potentially the scale that Sikka needs for SAP HANA to be a success — both in the market and with the chiefs in Waldorf.
And that’s Sikka’s challenge. Creating a company that is compelling and can grow to something far more than was ever dreamed of when Plattner and his colleagues spun off from IBM and created SAP in 1972.Read More →
Congress is on track to passing a nationwide Internet retail sales tax, but it has serious flaws that could majorly muck up the e-commerce industry. We think citizens are often smarter than the government, and we want to give you a chance to make the bill better before it becomes law. So, we’ve teamed up with Congressman Darrell Issa’s Open Government Foundation, which designed a platform for making line-by-line suggestions to proposed laws. In TechCrunch’s version of the “Project Madison” crowdsourcing legislative platform, our readers can add, delete, and amend specific passages in the upcoming tax law.
Suggestions that are voted up by our community will get the most attention of Congressional staffers (which we know are watching our platform). It’s been claimed that the Internet is “democratizing” the world; well, here’s our chance to prove it.
Senate Bill S.743, the “Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013,” passed the Senate with overwhelming support and is on to the House of Representatives. But, it won’t be passed for at least a month, so we have some time to bubble up the best ideas from our community of readers.
As we promised when we first launched our new civics channel, Crunchgov, TechCrunch would source and promote the most insightful ideas from the technology community. A proactive approach to improving law is just the next logical step for how we can support the amazing work you all do.
Go to http://madison.techcrunch.com/ and get your citizen on. Encourage your friends, ping your local expert, and share this opportunity loudly. If we make an impact on the bill, it’ll a watershed moment in American democracy. Go forth!Read More →
Lloyd Kaufman explains why crowdfuding is an important resource for independent artists around the world! http://www.usa.gov/contact/elected http://www.occup…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 →
Are you ready for Donald Trump to (not really) give you (not real) money for your (not really) amazing project? Well, (not really his) new site, FundAnything, is ready to take your money!
The new funding site is (not really) run by Trump (it is really headed up by the Bill Zanker, founder of the Trump-infested Learning Annex) but darn it if it doesn’t look like the Donald won’t give you cash if you ask him nice!
People do not assume this but more than anything else, I like helping people. Be at Trump Tower at 11 AM today.—
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 08, 2013
The site began its life/death cycle today with typical Trump flair. This morning the Trumpster tweeted that he was about to give out loads of cash on the street because, presumably, he has nothing better to do on a Wednesday. However, he is really giving out money to pre-selected people and some folks pulled from the crowd. Arguably, his attempts at charity, though mendacious and baldly noble, are noble. From the press release:
The world’s most famous billionaire businessman, Donald Trump, will be distributing suitcases filled with cash to 3 people he has chosen to help. The 3 individuals who will be on hand to receive the money will include a family afflicted by a life-threatening medical condition, a small business owner crippled by the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and an aspiring singer-songwriter. Mr. Trump is inviting the public to attend the event where some people in the crowd will also be selected to receive additional piles of money.
The rules are sufficiently abstract but similar to Indiegogo’s — at least in spirit. FundAnything charges a 9 percent fee on the contributions you collect if your project isn’t fully funded. It takes 5 percent on projects that are funded. There’s also a processing fee of 3 percent.
Will FundAnything be successful? Well, considering they’ve overtly borrowed the site design of the two leading platforms, Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and, more importantly, have a big picture of Donald Trump on the front page, I seriously doubt success is in the cards. Startups that hire “stars” to flog their launches are usually the worst kind of startups simply because this suggests a level of self-regard and showmanship that turns off early adopters and draws all the wrong kind of customers. I could, for example, imagine FundAnything attempting a TV campaign based on the premise that Trump will fund your stuff. Those suckered into the site will slowly realize that Trump, like a dark, necrotic god, is powerless to help them.
Until they shutter this mess, stare into his eyes, mortals, and weep. He is Trump, avatar of Mammon. All hail!Read More →
The “Orphans Over Orchids” Global Challenge aims to raise $100,000 by Mother’s Day (May 12th) to quickly and successfully transform an entire struggling orphanage. This will vastly improve lifelong outcomes for 100 boys and girls with trackable results like clean water, better food, good healthcare, smart life skills training, tutoring, a cozier environment– and hugs from loving and well-trained housemothers.
“With a few clicks, people anywhere in the world can join Orphans Over Orchids, get (or request) a meaningful gift, and make a powerful difference for parentless kids,” says Leoni, whose grandmother founded UNICEF.
SOURCE:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/orphans-over-orchids-global-crowdfunding-challenge-launched-for-mothers-day-week-206396551.htmlRead More →