When Should You Consider Adding a Language to Your Business

In this day and age most companies, big or small, offer a few alternative languages when communicating with customers. Either because they are international, or just because they’re looking for a way to level up their image. Because after all, once you’ve found your passion and successfully built an empire on it, it’s time to retire to the next best thing. But whether it’s your website, social media, or e-mails, choosing the right languages and hiring translators is a big ask for a startup. Here are some tips to help you know when you’re ready to take that leap.

Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

Financials

Looking at it from a solely materialistic perspective, adding a language to your repertoire will cost you some money. And if you’re not willing to spend on it, or if you don’t have the budget, the overall final product will look sloppy and lacking for those speaking the language.

So firstly, take a look at what you need to translate, and to what language. You can start by translating only your webshop, website, landing page, or frequently sent emails. These are all big projects that need a professional translator. And once a company has the budget for it, a translator can be hired full-time to take over social media, and other types of constant communication.

Choosing the Language

Another tale-tell sign that you need to take this step is if you live in an area where being bilingual is a given. For example, more than 25% of California speaks Spanish as their native language. This means that if you want to start a company in California, you will need to consider your Spanish-speaking clients and their needs because chances are, 10-20% of your clients will be native Spanish-speaker. It’s also important to know and adapt to the culture because that will dictate a different style of marketing you need to implement.

For people living in countries that speak solidly one language, this step can be put off until you start branching out. But whatever the motivation is, choosing the right language is crucial. For those who add a language because of a day-to-day language barrier, it is easier, because it’s clear what is missing.

For those adding a language to reach out to a wider audience, perhaps overseas clients have to choose the right demographic for their company and product to win back the money that goes into translation and possibly additional postal fees.

Branching out

Most companies looking to branch out usually have a budget to back up their plans. Branching out means a lot of things, but always ends up widening the horizon of the company. Either by reaching out to an entirely new audience, or adding a new headquarter in a different city, branching out is about the growth of a company.

And for a lot of people – especially those located in Europe – branching out means adding a new language to your arsenal. Taking into consideration the costs and headache of a new language, you have to choose wisely where you want to branch out. You need to consider the social aspects of the entire country, in fact, every speaker of the language. Not all Russian speakers live in Russia, and maybe after adding the language, you’ll be a hit among Russians living in Amsterdam.

The Most Obvious Answer

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. A lot of companies after a few years decide to take it a step further, but they don’t exactly know how. Adding a new language to your image can be the best and most cheap decision when thinking about growing professionally. But if your language of choice isn’t that obvious, it can be overwhelming choosing the right one to add.

The smartest decision here is choosing from the few languages that are either in demand today or are soon to be widely known worldwide. These currently are English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, and German. Choosing either one is a solid win because you simply can’t go wrong by adding your company to the browsers of these native speakers worldwide.

While Google Translate mostly does the job, companies, and especially startups can’t afford to prioritize quantity over quality, because people today are craving for actual value when they reach out to someone. This is why even today translators are in such high demand because sometimes a robot just can’t do what a human can (thankfully).

So if you think you’re ready to add a new language to your arsenal, consider the value you give to your new customers and try to be as human as possible by hiring a professional, or a native-speaking student if your budget can’t allow it anything else.

How to Start a Career as a Home Tutor

Back in the day, home tuitions were not fully encouraged in society, but recently, with growing academic competition, it has gained significant importance. Presently, home tutoring is not only becoming necessary but is turning into a tremendous business endeavor. For people like underpaid or retired teachers, undergraduate students, etc., starting a home tutor career is an excellent and rewarding business option. It’s one of the most versatile businesses to start because it can be tailored according to your needs and comfort.

Here are some essential steps to help you determine the kickstarting possibilities of making home tutoring a career for you. 

Understand the business

The utmost requirement of a business is for you to know everything you can about it. Haste makes waste, so take your time and do extensive research about the business, meet people who are already in this business, seek out your competition, get to know the tutoring rates, find out what is required of you, and devise a plan accordingly.

Make a plan 

Before anything else, you need to apprehend your competence and understand the basic criteria of becoming a tutor. You’d need to consider the required aptitude for the specific subject/subjects you want to teach and contemplate your qualification and teaching abilities, along with the restraint and perseverance of a tutor, time and attendance management according to the student’s stance, whether you’d want to do it part-time or full time, your tutoring rate, etc. After you’ve laid down the facts, it’ll be easy for you to devise a plan that’ll help you determine your targeted students with the time and place for it to take place.

Identify your location

This brings us to the second step; determining how and where you want the tutoring to come about. Having a decent and feasible location is critical for your business to bloom. You’d have to establish whether you want it at the ease of your home, start it online, go to the student’s home, look for an academic institution, etc. 

Advertisement and awareness

Once you’ve figured that out, you’d need to advertise and spread the word of this business venture. Seek undeniable recognition by reaching out to schools, tutoring programs, send emails to the people you know, sign up on websites and tutoring platforms, etc. This is where Upskills Tutor Platform will come in handy. Upskills Tutor will help you find the targeted students in your locality or even remote areas (online via skype), giving you the best options and facilities to initiate your tutoring career. With the vast number of tutors and students on the website, legitimate agreements are made between the two parties for a perfectly reliable system. This step is crucial for you to find a profitable bulk of students required for a successful business.

Refine your business

All businesses need some time to prove completely beneficial for you. You need to tend to remain patient and trust the process as it advances. Learn from your mistakes and improve your business to make it flawless for it to stand out, thrive, and be the talk of the town. 

Why Your Ecommerce Store Needs An App

Over the last few years, the e-Commerce industry is witnessing a staggering growth of mobile solutions development brought forward by customer needs. Online shoppers value the freedom of doing shopping on the go more than anything today. Hence, the majority of customers prefer mobile solutions to web versions, as they offer unprecedented ease of use, flexibility, and convenience. 

So if you aren’t still on the ball, chances are high that you’re missing a lion’s share of profit. But don’t worry, we’ll lay it all out for you and reveal everything you need to know about ecommerce apps.

Why Ecommerce App Is No Longer Optional

Statistics demonstrate that ecommerce mobile app development is a mandate in the modern business world. The number of mobile app users is growing exponentially each year, leaving web versions well behind. 

Also, as numbers show, more than 30% of users turn to retail applications weekly, while 8% of consumers use ecommerce apps on a daily basis. While the latter number might sound small-fry, it may make a difference if we’re talking about generating sales. Not impressed by mathematics? Let’s keep on with the more convincing reasons.

5 Reasons Your Ecommerce Store Needs To Go Mobile

  1. Raise brand awareness

The golden rule of sales says that your company should be where your customers are. If we have a glance at the stats again, the answer is simple: your target audience has migrated to smartphones.Therefore, you’re left with no other choice than to go mobile. That is if you want to build a relationship with your consumers, of course. The more downloads your application gets, the higher your chances are to win over a new loyal buyer. Chatbots can add a little automation twist to your solution and ease the strain on the business. 

Push notifications are another lifesaver that facilitates communication with customers and boosts open rates. An interesting fact: it even beats marketing and email newsletter in terms of performance.

  1. Sophisticated technologies for the win

Mobile applications also open up a whole wealth of opportunities otherwise unavailable offline. Thus, native app development accounts for better performance and grants access to advanced app-in functionality. This includes such tech comforts as GPS, camera, calendar, and others.

Some of the very well-proven benefits guaranteed by this functionality lie in superior client experience and customer service. Also, it allows you to make your marketing campaigns more targeted and suited to users’ needs.

  1. Smart way to collect consumer`s data

Fetching customer data is what sets your business up for success since you get a profound insight into your focal group. A mobile application assists in capturing, storing, and analyzing user`s data, so you can keep tabs on consumer preferences and buying behavior. Moreover, e-commerce applications enable you to offer specific items that may be interesting to the particular consumer. 

  1. Faster, easier, and more secure payments

Inbuilt secure payment options are by far the fastest and most convenient way to pay. Since all account details are safely stored in the application, users won’t have to fill out their billing information over and over again.

Mobile payments are catching fire since they have been simplifying the way we transact with businesses. Additionally, they typically process much faster than swipe payments or inserted credit cards, so transactions are managed more efficiently.

  1. Increase customer engagement and retention

The physical shopping experience is not rife with brand interaction, since there are practically no touchpoints between visits to the shop. A mobile app, on the contrary, allows for continuous communication and customer engagement. By sending notifications and leveraging app functionality, businesses can update their users about upcoming sales, special offers, or discounts.

And for the record, a holiday season in the USA is the peak time for mobile purchases.

  1. Build up social media presence

Your mobile eCommerce app can become an aggregator of all social media resources. This way, you can drive traffic to other company’s platforms and embrace the power of social media to the fullest. Also, users tend to ask their friends for recommendations, and social sharing might become an invaluable asset in making your business more appealing.

Creating A State-of-art Mobile Application for eCommerce

Now that the importance of migrating your store on mobile is evident, let’s go over to the actual process of app development. The eCommerce industry is a special one since it requires a winning balance between design and functionality. Therefore, you should invest a lot of resources into making your app’s facade smooth, convenient, and appealing. 

If we count the numbers, the cost to build a mobile eCommerce app is also largely impacted by the functional UX/UI design.

Here are some essential elements for you to remember:

  • Intuitive user interface and straightforward navigation. The user-facing design of m-commerce is of paramount importance for seamless customer experience. Online shoppers need to find their way around the application in a few clicks. Therefore, the shorter your way to checkout is, the better.
  • Quick and easy signup. Convenience and speed are the points that we keep hammering home. A lengthy, verbose registration process will have a toll on your customer retention. To avoid that, we recommend implementing a one-step social sign-up, where all information is automatically pulled from social media networks.
  • CTA buttons. Remember those over keen sales assistants? Indeed, some customers hate being approached, but how can you encourage them to make a purchase then? Applications for e-commerce eliminate that problem. By including a couple of call-to-action buttons, you can increase conversion while being subtle and unobtrusive. 
  • Instagram photo feed. Do not hesitate to take advantage of all the functionality of social media. While Instagram is a mecca of creativity and aesthetics, it’s also a viable platform for generating traffic and boosting sales. 
  • Thought-out user scenarios. A user scenario is a cornerstone for UX designer thinking. Therefore, to win over more hearts and minds, make sure to hire a team of UI/UX experts to succinctly and explicitly capture what users’ perfect experience looks like. They will help you create empathy and take action based on user needs.

Top Trends For m-Commerce in 2021:

  1. Video content

Video content will help you zhoosh up your product description. The logic behind this is simple: it takes less time and effort to watch a short video, than reading long-reads. Videos also ramp up customer satisfaction, since they offer a 360 product overview.

  1. Augmented reality

Immersive technologies are another game-changer for the retail industry and marketing campaigns, in general. Such innovations as virtual fitting rooms or magic mirrors let users put your customizable products in their space, so they make a purchase with confidence. AR is also a no-brainer for piercing a memorable and emotional communication into users’ minds. 

  1. 3D effects

3D ecommerce uses a combination of augmented reality and VR to build different experiences that address your buyers’ needs in new ways. It provides a wide choice of engaging interactions so that the users can browse and interact with products in different manners. Also, 3D effects have become especially popular during the pandemic, since they bridge the gap of not seeing an item in real life before making a purchase call.

Essential mobile app metrics for your eCommerce store

Whether you’re a math enthusiast, financial analyst, or an internal stakeholder, metrics are how we all observe the performance of our venture. Mobile applications are no exception. However, unlike the traditional sales processes, mobile app analytics uses unique metrics and KPIs to track performance. 

Here are the key metrics for the eCommerce app:

  1. Tracking installs

Mobile app install tracking is when you count the number of users who have downloaded your app. Then, you assess this number against the marketing efforts made. However, tracking this metric is quite challenging, since some app stores don’t disclose the data. 

  1. Bounce rate

This figure refers to the percentage of visitors who left the e-store without making a purchase. The constant growth of this coefficient can be a sign of ineffective promotion.

  1. Retention

Customer retention is your ability to retain the buyer for a certain period of time. It is the direct opposite of Churn Rate, which demonstrates the number of users who left your app for good. To grow your retention rate, you can use the tools mentioned earlier (push notifications, e-mails, etc). 

  1. ARPU

Average Revenue Per User is a metric that helps assess the value of a product from a customer’s perspective. It shows the profit one user brings to the store on average over a certain period of time.

  1. MCF report

Unlike standard reports, Multi-Channel Funnels (MCF) reports are a perfect place to get rigorous monitoring instead of superficial checks. It allows for more sophisticated analysis, thus diving into multi-channel sequence data for authenticated users. 

In simple words, if the user jumps from purchasing within the app to the desktop version, this API will track his journey. MCF reports show how the user interacts with different data sources across multiple sessions on the path to conversion, and allow you to analyze the contribution of different marketing channels.

 The Power Of M-Commerce

Times change, and if you don’t dance to the rhythm you’ll hang back. In the world of retail, hanging back usually equals going out of business. A mobile e-commerce application is certainly one of those must-haves that takes your business and profit to another level. As tech advancements gain momentum, the process of buying through the mobile app has reached unprecedented convenience, speed, and security. All these translate into bigger numbers for your company and enhanced UX for buyers.

How to Handle the Ups and Downs of Business Ownership

As a business owner, you’re in charge of most business operations, and you’re bound to come across ups and downs; however, you shouldn’t give up. In most instances, before you hire employees and get a business premise, you might have been the only employee in your firm. You’ll experience a lot of confusion and stress before you attain your end goal.

As a business owner, the best way to handle the ups and downs in the business world without giving up include:

1. Hire a Team That Believes in You

The success of your company is dependent on the team you’ve hired as a business owner. As your firm attracts more clients, there is a need to expand your team, and they should believe in you as their leader and your firm’s mission. The employees should be motivated and driven the same as the business owner.

If you’re a business owner who is currently running a startup, you should know that each team member carries a significant amount of weight. The professionalism, attitude, and productivity of the employees will set the overall tone in the firm. Ensure the employees are conversant with your expectations.

It is advisable to hire young individuals, preferably college graduates. Considering that such individuals are fresh out of college, they’re eager to learn, and they will strive to push your firm forward. If the college graduates are tech-savvy, it’s an added advantage. They should also understand the importance of being innovative. As you hire more employees, you should consider hiring college graduates.

2. You Should Be Realistic

When it comes to failure, you should know that we cannot succeed in all our endeavors. As a result, your confidence should not fade away. There are instances whereby you might ask yourself what you got yourself into as a business owner. When you feel you don’t have enough confidence, you should go ahead and shift your perspective. Instead of assuming that every challenge you come across will lead to your failure, you should try and come up with logical solutions to every problem you encounter. Such actions will make a huge difference. 

You should be confident in your capabilities; you can seek some assistance from your mentor. You’ll also be amazed that your friends and family are also readily available to assist you in every way possible. In times of need, your network should be in a position to help even if you own a lot of stock in one of the 52 week low stocks.

You should know starting a business is not as simple as it seems; otherwise, many people would be business owners by now. As you begin your entrepreneurial journey, you should look into the potential challenges you’ll face and develop a solution to minimize the risks. For some business owners, having a supportive team and a mentor can make a huge difference.

3. Look For a Mentor

A mentor is more of an asset. You may wonder why? Well, a mentor has been in the business world for a long time. As a result, they have come across specific challenges, and they have overcome each one of them.

Before you became a business owner, is there any successful entrepreneur whom you looked up to? In most cases, the answer is yes! For instance, many people look up to the likes of Warren Buffet. Who wouldn’t want to become among the richest men in the world?

Your mentor will share some important lessons with you and also offer subtle guidance. If you make a mistake, your mentor will guide you accordingly. If possible, they can share some solutions with you depending on the challenges you’re facing.

If you don’t have a mentor yet, you can peruse through LinkedIn. The platform has numerous professionals, and you can connect with them.

4. Implement Agile Learning

Agile learning entails trial and error. Instead of having only one business plan, you should develop different strategies that you will improve and re-invent with time. By doing so, you will ensure there is reduced risk. The metrics will be more accurate. The morale of the employees will also be boosted eventually.

The only issue that may come about is the fear of failure. As you try out different strategies, there are the ones that will exceed your expectations. The main focus is on finding a strategy that will work for you while not worrying about becoming a failure.

Coffee meetings: the key to expand your network as an entrepreneur

Did you know that 70% of job ads do not even get published online? It is a strategy companies use to save time and money on recruitment. Recruiters end up asking their personal network to suggest qualified candidates, that later on can be inspected through LinkedIn and contacted personally.

This widely used strategic recruitment puts a lot of candidates in need for expanding their network to increase chances of exposure and open up to more opportunities.

So how should you expand your network? Two words: Coffee meetings.

1.      Why should you invite someone for a cup of coffee?

The understanding of networking has become a two-way street, which means that people are more open to having a conversation with you regardless of your occupation.

Why should you combine coffee and networking?

  • Informal way of getting to know a new person, learn about their job and field of expertise
  • Making yourself more visible to your connections in case of a new job
  • Ensuring that your LinkedIn connections no longer are strangers to you

The downside of a coffee meeting is that the likelihood of the event happening will entirely depend on the willingness and availability of the person that you would like to meet with. Should you be stressed about this? Not really – if they are not interested, there is no attachment, just move on further in your contact list.

2.      How to increase chances of getting a “yes” response?

Make sure your email is clear, concise and specific. Identify the reason(s) for reaching out to someone and what is it that you would like to gain from a meeting. It is always a great idea to give several options of days and times that person could choose from. That way, invitation has a call-to-action approach.

However, you should not pressure the person into saying “yes”. After all, if they are not interested, they will just ignore your emails. But a “no” is better than being left wondering whether the recipient ever read your message. It is a good idea to add a simple line asking for feedback like “Please let me know, even if you are not interested.”

If you have spent many years working within a specific field, it could be a smart strategy suggesting sharing insights on some topics that they could learn from or use in their line of business.

3.      What should you do before meeting up?

Simple tips on how to leave a positive impression:

  • Research – Look into the people’s career trajectory, accomplishments, things they share on LinkedIn.
  • Prepare – There are endless possibilities on what questions you could ask that would bring the most benefit for you from a meeting. In some cases, you could bring your CV to a meeting to see if your skills could fit with department needs.
  • Set goals –What is important for you to gain from this meeting? If you want to work in the same company, then ask about the culture, tasks, possible position openings in the future. Sharing information about the life journey and career paths is a great way for people to be able to create an opinion about your personality.

4.      Where should you offer to meet up?

It is polite to leave the decision up to your coffee meeting pal – if they prefer office or café. An informal atmosphere is a go-to option, and if someone invites to come by their office, it is okay to come dressed semi-casually. Since it is you asking for their time, picking a place of their convenience is a way to show appreciation of their time.

5.      When is it appropriate to send a follow-up email?

These are 3 types of follow-up emails you could use:

1) Reminder follow-up email if someone did not reply to you from the first time

2) A “Thank you” follow-up email that is sent within 24 hours after the meeting (should be sent between 1-4pm – it increases your chances to have your message read)

3) A casual follow-up email just to catch up on some of their recent events. Ask them about how things are going, about their job or you can also share some industry related articles, that you think they might find interesting.

Following-up is a professional thing to do, it shows that you are genuinely interested in what they do, career choice or industry that they are in.

To summarize, networking can be a helpful way to bond with people within your field, bring new fresh ideas to your tasks or create awareness that you are a job seeker and looking for new opportunities. These tips will make it easier to build confidence and help you approach new people online. Go get those coffee meetings and best of luck!

Article proposed by Migle V. and Paul V., copywriters at Trendhim.fr

#USA Startup names may have passed peak weirdness

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For years, decades even, startup names have been getting weirder. This isn’t a scientific verdict, but it is how things have seemed to someone who spends a lot of hours perusing this stuff.

Startups have had a long run of branding themselves with creative misspellings, animal names. human first names, made-up words, adverbs and other odd collections of letters. It’s gone on so long it now seems normal. Names like Google, Airbnb and Hulu, which sounded strange at first, are now part of our everyday vocabulary.

Over the past few quarters, however, a peculiar thing has been happening: Startup founders are choosing more conventional-sounding names.

“As we reach the edge of strangeness… they’re saying: ‘It’s too weird. I’m uncomfortable,’” said Athol Foden, president of Brighter Naming, a naming consultancy. While quirky startup monikers haven’t gone away, founders are increasingly comfortable with less-unusual-sounding choices.

Foden’s observations are reflected in our annual Crunchbase News survey of startup naming trends. We’re seeing a proliferation of startups choosing simple words that describe their businesses, including companies like Hitch, an app for long-distance car rides; Duffel, a trip-booking startup named after the popular travel bag; and Coder, a software development platform.

But fortunately for fans of offbeat names, the trend is only toward less weirdness, not no weirdness. Those who wish to patronage seed-stage startups can still buy tampons from Aunt Flow, get parenting tips from an app called Mush or get insurance from a startup called Marshmallow.

Below, we look in more detail at some of the more popular startup naming practices and how they are trending.

Creativv misPelling5

For a long time, it seemed like a vast number of startups selected names largely by disabling the spell checker.

Most desirable dictionary words were already in use as domains or too pricey to acquire. So founders took to dropping vowels, subbing a “y” for an “i” or adding an extra consonant to make it work. The strategy worked well for a lot of well-known companies, including Lyft, Tumblr, Digg, Flickr, Grindr and Scribd.

These days, creative misspellings are still pretty common among early-stage founders. Our name survey unearthed a big number (see partial list) that recently raised funding, including Houwser, an upstart real estate brokerage; Swytch, developer of a kit for converting bikes to e-bikes; and Wurk, a provider of human resources and compliance software for the cannabis industry.

However, creative misspellings are getting less popular, Foden said. Early-stage founders are turned off by the prospect of having to spell out their names to people unfamiliar with the brand (which for seed-stage companies includes pretty much everyone).

Puns

One of the more fun naming styles is the pun. In our perusal of companies that raised seed funding in the past year, we came across a number of startups employing some sort of play-on words.

We put together a list of seven of the punniest names here. In addition to Aunt Flow, the list includes WeeCare, a network of daycare providers, and Serial Box, a digital content producer. Crunchbase News also created its own fictional startup — drone chicken delivery startup Internet of Wings — in an explainer series on startup funding.

Perhaps some day business naming will harken back to the industrial age, when corporate titans had exceedingly boring and obvious names.

Real companies with pun names that have matured to exit were harder to pinpoint. A couple that have gone public are Groupon and MedMen, a cannabis company that went public in Canada and is valued around CA$2 billion.

For some reason, it appears pun names are more popular in the brick-and-mortar world than the tech startup sphere. Restaurants specializing in the Vietnamese noodle soup Pho have dozens of play-on-word names memorialized in lists like this. Ditto for pet stores.

Personally, I’d like to see more internet startups rolling out pun-based names. Foden would, too, and he has even volunteered one suggestion for someone who wants to start a business applying artificial intelligence to artificial insemination: Ai.ai.

Made-up words that sound real

There are more than 170,000 non-obsolete words in the English language, per the Oxford English Dictionary. Startups, however, are convinced we need more.

Hence, one of the more enduringly popular business-naming practices is to come up with something that sounds like an actual word, even if it isn’t.

We put together a list of examples of this naming style among recently seed-funded startups.

It includes Trustology, which is building a platform to safeguard crypto assets; Invocable, a developer of voice design tools for Alexa apps; and Locomation, which focuses on autonomous trucking technology.

Naming advisors like to see the made-up word name trend on the rise, Foden said, because it’s the kind of thing companies pay a consultant to figure out. Another advantage is it’s easier to top search results for a made-up word.

Normal-sounding names

Lastly, let’s look at those rebel startups choosing familiar dictionary words for their names.

We put together a list of some here. Besides the aforementioned Duffel, Hitch and Coder, there’s Decent, a healthcare startup; Chief, a women’s networking group; Journal, a note organizing tool; and many more.

Startups are less concerned than they used to be with snagging a dot-com domain that contains just their name. Commonly, they’ll add a prefix to their domain (joinchief.com, usejournal.com), choose an alternate domain (Hitch.net) or both.

Overall, Foden said, startups today are putting less emphasis on securing a dot-com suffix or an exact domain name match. Google parent Alphabet, in particular, made the alternate domain idea more palatable. It helped to see one of the world’s richest corporations forego Alphabet.com in favor of abc.xyz.

Where is it all going?

They say history repeats itself. If so, perhaps some day business naming will harken back to the industrial age, when corporate titans had exceedingly boring and obvious names like Standard Oil, U.S. Steel and General Electric.

For now, however, we live in era in which the most valuable companies have names like Google and Facebook. And to us, they sound perfectly normal.

Methodology: For the naming data set, we looked primarily at companies in English-speaking countries that raised seed funding after 2018. To broaden the potential list of names, we also included some companies funded in 2017. We also tried to limit the lists, where possible to companies founded in the past three years, although there were occasional exceptions.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2Sq6jAX

#USA Startups Weekly: Spotify gets acquisitive and Instacart screws up

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Did anyone else listen to season one of StartUp, Alex Blumberg’s OG Gimlet podcast? I did, and I felt like a proud mom this week reading stories of the major, first-of-its-kind Spotify acquisition of his podcast production company, Gimlet. Spotify also bought Anchor, a podcast monetization platform, signaling a new era for the podcasting industry.

On top of that, Himalaya, a free podcast app I’d never heard of until this week, raised a whopping $100 million in venture capital funding to “establish itself as a new force in the podcast distribution space,” per Variety.

The podcasting business definitely took center stage, but Lime and Bird made headlines, as usual, a new unicorn emerged in the mental health space and Instacart, it turns out, has been screwing its independent contractors.

As mentioned, Spotify, or shall we say Spodify, gobbled up Gimlet and Anchor. More on that here and a full analysis of the deal here. Key takeaway: it’s the dawn of podcasting; expect a whole lot more venture investment and M&A activity in the next few years.

This week’s biggest “yikes” moment was when reports emerged that Instacart was offsetting its wages with tips from customers. An independent contractor has filed a class-action lawsuit against the food delivery business, claiming it “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities in order to pay plaintiff’s wages even though Instacart maintained that 100 percent of customer tips went directly to shoppers.” TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey has the full story here, as well as Instacart CEO’s apology here.

Slack confidentially filed to go public this week, its first public step toward either an IPO or a direct listing. If it chooses the latter, like Spotify did in 2018, it won’t issue any new shares. Instead, it will sell existing shares held by insiders, employees and investors, a move that will allow it to bypass a roadshow and some of Wall Street’s exorbitant IPO fees. Postmates confidentially filed, too. The 8-year-old company has tapped JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America to lead its upcoming float.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman delivers remarks on “Redesigning Reddit” during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena on November 08, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Horacio Villalobos-Corbis/Contributor)

It was particularly tough to decide which deal was the most notable this week… But the winner is Reddit, the online platform for chit-chatting about niche topics — r/ProgMetal if you’re Crunchbase editor Alex Wilhelm . The company is raising up to $300 million at a $3 billion valuation, according to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine. Reddit has been around since 2005 and has raised a total of $250 million in equity funding. The forthcoming Series D round is said to be led by Chinese tech giant Tencent at a $2.7 billion pre-money valuation.

Runner up for deal of the week is Calm, the app that helps users reduce anxiety, sleep better and feel happier. The startup brought in an $88 million Series B at a $1 billion valuation. With 40 million downloads worldwide and more than one million paying subscribers, the company says it quadrupled revenue in 2018 from $20 million to $80 million and is now profitable — not a word you hear every day in Silicon Valley.

Here’s your weekly reminder to send me tips, suggestions and more to kate.clark@techcrunch.com or @KateClarkTweets

I listened to the Bird CEO’s chat with Upfront Ventures’ Mark Suster last week and wrote down some key takeaways, including the challenges of seasonality and safety in the scooter business. I also wrote about an investigation by Consumer Reports that found electric scooters to be the cause of more than 1,500 accidents in the U.S. I’m also required to mention that e-scooter unicorn Lime finally closed its highly anticipated round at a $2.4 billion valuation. The news came just a few days after the company beefed up its executive team with a CTO and CMO hire.

Databricks raises $250M at a $2.75B valuation for its analytics platform
Retail technology platform Relex raises $200M from TCV
Raisin raises $114M for its pan-European marketplace for savings and investment products
Self-driving truck startup Ike raises $52M
Signal Sciences secures $35M to protect web apps
Ritual raises $25M for its subscription-based women’s daily vitamin
Little Spoon gets $7M for its organic baby food delivery service
By Humankind picks up $4M to rid your morning routine of single-use plastic

We don’t spend a ton of time talking about the growing, venture-funded, tech-enabled logistics sector, but one startup in the space garnered significant attention this week. Turvo poached three key Uber Freight employees, including two of the unit’s co-founders. What’s that mean for Uber Freight? Well, probably not a ton… Based on my conversation with Turvo’s newest employees, Uber Freight is a rocket ship waiting to take off.

Who knew that investing in female-focused brands could turn a profit for investors? Just kidding, I knew that and this week I have even more proof! This is L., a direct-to-consumer, subscription-based retailer of pads, tampons and condoms made with organic materials sold to P&G for $100 million. The company, founded by Talia Frenkel, launched out of Y Combinator in August 2015. According to PitchBook, it was backed by Halogen Ventures, 500 Startups, Fusion Fund and a few others.

Speaking of ladies getting stuff done, Bessemer Venture Partners promoted Talia Goldberg to partner this week, making the 28-year-old one of the youngest investing partners at the Silicon Valley venture fund. Plus, Palo Alto’s Eclipse Ventures, hot off the heels of a $500 million fundraise, added two general partners: former Flex CEO Mike McNamara and former Global Foundries CEO Sanjay Jha.

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch’s venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week’s episode, available here, Crunchbase editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I chat about the expanding podcast industry, Reddit’s big round and scooter accidents.

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from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2UNXYE3

#USA Facebook picks up retail computer vision outfit GrokStyle

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If you’ve ever seen a lamp or chair that you liked and wished you could just take a picture and find it online, well, GrokStyle let you do that — and now the company has been snatched up by Facebook to augment its own growing computer vision department.

GrokStyle started as a paper — as AI companies often do these days — at 2015’s SIGGRAPH. A National Science Foundation grant got the ball rolling on the actual company, and in 2017 founders Kavita Bala and Sean Bell raised $2 million to grow it.

The basic idea is simple: matching a piece of furniture (or a light fixture, or any of a variety of product types) in an image to visually similar ones in stock at stores. Of course, sometimes the simplest ideas are the most difficult to execute. But Bala and Bell made it work, and it was impressive enough in action that IKEA on first sight demanded it be in the next release of its app. I saw it in action and it’s pretty impressive.

Facebook’s acquisition of the company (no terms disclosed) makes sense on a couple fronts: First, the company is investing heavily in computer vision and AI, so GrokStyle and its founders are naturally potential targets. Second, Facebook is also trying to invest in its marketplace, and using the camera as an interface for it fits right into the company’s philosophy.

One can imagine how useful it would be to be able to pull up the Facebook camera app, point it at a lamp you like at a hotel, and see who’s selling it or something like it on the site.

Facebook did not answer my questions regarding how GrokStyle’s tech and team would be used, but offered the following statement: “We are excited to welcome GrokStyle to Facebook. Their team and technology will contribute to our AI capabilities.” Well!

There’s an “exciting journey” message on GrokStyle’s webpage, so the old site and service is gone for good. But one assumes that it will reappear in some form in the future. I’ve asked the founders for comment and will update the post if I hear back.

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2DphXBK

#USA FDA chief summons Altria and JUUL to Washington to discuss teen vaping

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The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is calling Altria and Juul to meet in Washington to discuss their tie-up and how it impacts the companies’ plans to combat teen vaping. Earlier this year, Altria  href= »https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/20/juul-labs-gets-12-8-billion-investment-from-marlboro-maker-altria-group/ »>invested $12.8 billion investment in Juul.

“After Altria’s acquisition of a 35 percent ownership interest in JUUL Labs, Inc., your newly announced plans with JUUL contradict the commitments you made to the FDA,” Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in a strongly worded letter addressed to Altria chairman and chief executive, Howard A. Willard III.

“When we meet, Altria should be prepared to explain how this acquisition affects the full range of representations you made to the FDA and the public regarding your plans to stop marketing e-cigarettes and to address the crisis of youth use of e-cigarettes,” Gottlieb wrote.

The commissioner sent a similarly worded message to Juul’s chief executive, Kevin Burns.

As part of that deal, Juul is getting access to Altria’s retail shelf space; the company is sending out direct communications pitching Juul to adult smokers through cigarette pack inserts and mailings to the company’s database of customers; and the two will combine the power of their respective sales and distribution backend which reaches roughly 230,000 retailers across America.

The recent deal comes only months after Juul released its plan to combat teen vaping — something the FDA had required of the company.

In the commitments it made last year, the vape manufacturer and retailer said it would expand its secret shopper program to make sure underage buyers weren’t getting access to its products; pull its campaigns from social media; and limit sales of non-traditional cigarette flavors (menthol, mint, Virginia tobacco, and “classic” tobacco) to the company’s website — which requires age verification.

Gottlieb isn’t the only one who has a problem with Juul. We’ve written about how the company has lowered the barrier to entry for nicotine addiction.

For Gottlieb, the addition of Altria’s marketing firepower and network of 230,000 retail locations likely isn’t an indicator of a company that’s willing to winnow down access to its products.

“I am aware of deeply concerning data showing that youth use of JUUL represents a significant proportion of the overall use of e-cigarette products by children. I have no reason to believe these youth patterns of use are abating in the near term, and they certainly do not appear to be reversing,” Gottlieb wrote. “Manufacturers have an independent responsibility to take action to address the epidemic of youth use of their products. My office will contact you to arrange a meeting to discuss these issues. Pursuant to your request, we intend to schedule this as a joint meeting with both Altria and JUUL.”

from Startups – TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2DmADlE