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NelsonG

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NelsonG last won the day on April 3 2019

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  • Birthday 01/15/1985

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  1. There are a lot of entry points to the McElroy brothers universe; almost as many as there are to the Marvel equivalent. Maybe you've heard the chart-topping podcast these three lovable goofballs started in 2010, My Brother, My Brother and Me. (The formula: Justin, Travis, and Griffin try to answer offbeat requests from Yahoo Answers, or from listeners, succeeding only in cracking each other up). Maybe you jumped aboard on the advice of a fanboy named Lin-Manuel Miranda, or saw one of the many fan-made animations of MBMBaM's best bits on YouTube; one or two of you may even have caught their short-lived Read more... More about Podcasts, Entertainment, Talk Show, and Web CultureView the full article
  2. The UK’s competition regulator will make a decision on whether or not Facebook’s purchase of Giphy has a ‘realistic prospect’ of substantially lessening competition by March 25, it said today, as it continues to scrutinize the acquisition. “The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) hereby gives notice pursuant to paragraph (b) of the definition of ‘initial period’ in section 34ZA(3) of the [Enterprise] Act that it has sufficient information in relation to the completed acquisition by Facebook, Inc of Giphy, Inc, (the Merger) to enable it to begin an investigation for the purposes of deciding whether to make a reference for a Phase 2 investigation,” it writes. “The initial period defined in section 34ZA(3) of the Act in relation to the Merger will therefore commence on the first working day after the date of this notice, ie on 29 January 2021. The end of the initial period and the deadline for the CMA to announce its decision whether to refer the Merger for a Phase 2 investigation is therefore 25 March 2021.” The Competition and Markets Authority launched a probe of Facebook’s $400M acquisition of the GIF-sharing platform back in June 2020. The investigation put a freeze on Facebook’s ability to continue activities related to integrating Giphy into its wider business empire — such as integrating products or teams or working on business deals or contracts together — despite having already been completed the acquisition. Facebook confirmed its plan to acquire Giphy in May 2020 — when it also announced its plan to integrate the platform into its photo and video sharing app, Instagram. But those plans remain on ice as a result of competition scrutiny in the UK. (Last June Facebook and Giphy confirmed they were complying with the CMA’s order to pause integration activity.) It’s another sign of the growing regulatory friction that tech giants are facing when they seek to grow via acquisition. Last year, for example, European regulators also spent months eyeing Google’s Fitbit acquisition — although they did finally clear the deal in December. But only after obtaining a number of commitments from the tech giant related to how Fitbit data could be used and rivals’ access to APIs. In the Facebook-Giphy case, the UK watchdog will make a decision in March on whether to open a deeper and broader Phase 2 investigation (after which it would need to issue a final decision). It could also decide at that point that there is no ‘realistic prospect’ of a substantial lessening of competition as a result of Facebook acquiring Giphy and conclude its intervene — lifting the bar on continued integration between the pair. The regulator also has discretion to choose not to open a Phase 2 investigation for other reasons, such as if it believes the market is not of sufficient importance to justify the deeper dive or that benefits to customers from a merger outweigh any negative competitive effects. Given the acquired business in this case is a platform for swapping reaction GIFs it certainly seems possible the CMA may decide that a deeper dive isn’t merited. But we’ll know more in a couple of months. Whatever happens, regulatory concern linked to Facebook’s grip on the social web has already delayed its plans for Giphy by well over half a year — and the probe may yet drag on for longer — impacting its ability to move fast (and break things). View the full article
  3. If the rise of direct-to-consumer businesses has been one of the big e-commerce trends of the last decade, then the growth of startups raising huge rounds to consolidate D2C players, to bring more economies of scale to the model, has definitely been a related theme of the past year. In the latest move, a startup out of Germany called the Berlin Brands Group has announced that it plans to invest €250 million (about $302 million at today’s rates) to buy up smaller companies and bring them into its fold. While a lot of the company’s would-be competitors in the consolidation race are focusing primarily on the Amazon Marketplace — leaning on fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to carry out the distribution and logistics — Peter Chaljawski, the founder and CEO, tells us that it’s a different story in its existing target market of Europe. “In the M&A market, one big difference between the U.S. and Europe is that the latter is more fragmented,” he said. “In the U.S., D2C sellers do a lot on Amazon. In Europe, there are still lots of alternatives. And in some markets like France, consumers don’t even like Amazon.” This is in addition, of course, to selling directly to consumers and bypassing marketplaces altogether, an area that Chaljawski said will continue to be a big focus for BBG. In all, BBG today says it uses some 100 channels to sell its products. BBG is not your typical e-commerce startup, in that up to now it’s managed to build a big and profitable business largely on its own steam. And despite being a big e-commerce player in Berlin, BBC has no connection to Rocket Internet, the famous incubator of e-commerce businesses founded in the city. The $302 million earmarked for acquisitions is coming off the startup’s own balance sheet. And from what we understand, it’s also coming ahead of BBG raising a significant round of outside funding to continue its growth. Although BBG has raised money (of an undisclosed amount, per PitchBook) in the past, this would be its first significant equity round when it closes. BBG itself has built its own profitable direct-to-consumer business from the ground up. Founded in 2005 first focused on audio equipment (Chaljawski had ambitions to be a DJ in a past life) it has some 14 brands today, covering 2,500 items, that it has hatched and grown itself, which it sells in 28 markets. The conglomerate model that BBG has taken covers a variety of categories, mostly in consumer electronics (including audio gear, fitness equipment and home appliances), and are sold under a range of different brands like auna, Klarstein and Capital Sports. To date, it says it has sold more than 10 million products, and it is profitable, making €300 million (around $363 million) in revenues in 2020. Its focus for new acquisitions will include more brands and products in garden, home and living goods, sports, electronics and household appliances, with targets generating anything from €500,000 to €30 million in revenues. While BBG has mostly been about organic growth, it started taking its first foray into inorganic expansion last December, with the acquisition of home goods brand Sleepwise, which Chaljawski describes as making “a very nice blanket.” The comfort of a nice blanket might come in handy. Despite its success to date, a number of challenges lie ahead for BBG. First of these are competitors. BBG’s strategy shift and acquisition plans come at a time when consolidators in the space are starting to emerge, armed with fistfuls of dollars to consolidate smaller brands that have emerged with success on marketplaces like Amazon’s (in fact, primarily the Amazon marketplace) but perhaps without obvious paths to scaling. They include the likes of Thrasio (which most recently raised $500 million in debt to use to buy companies), SellerX, Heyday, Heroes, Perch and more. This story from December in the FT (before that most recent debt round of Thrasio’s) estimated that there has been at least $1 billion raised collectively by these companies to build out new online consumer empires based on this model. The vision for all of them is very clear: they want to create the next Unilever, P&G, or Sony, and they are leveraging new economic models and technology to bring in manufacturing, logistics, economies of scale, sales analytics and new innovations in marketing to do it. Another challenge is how successful and efficient a company, which has up to now taken a very deliberate and organic path, will be in integrating lots of new brands, with the cultures and business partnerships relationships that exist with those, in tow. The third is the sourcing of quality brands themselves. As we’ve pointed out before, taking just Amazon as one example, there is a ton of junk sold there, including a whole industry of those who buy off wholesale sites and resell on Amazon, which is one reason why so many merchants sell what look like identical products in specific categories. These marketplace sellers leverage things like SEO and armies of reviews to get their products sifting to the top of huge piles of search results, and they can often sell well, even if they are not great buys for you the consumer. That means misleading signals for a potential consolidator looking for hot companies to snap up. The balance between how marketplaces are leveraged versus how much brands and their owners try to build these things on their own will be an interesting one to watch in the coming years. Amazon and its ilk have only continued to grow and become more efficient, although this sometimes means they are too powerful rather than more useful for third parties: On the other hand, we’re seeing another persistent theme to help them: the presence of startups and bigger companies continuing to make tools to help the smaller players stay in the game on their own terms. They include biggies like Shopify, but also newer players like GoSite, Shogun and Xentral. View the full article
  4. SAVE OVER £30: The PlayStation 5 Pulse 3D wireless headset is on sale for £89.99 on Amazon, saving you 31% on list price. So you're looking for the perfect accessory for your PS5? Look no further than the PlayStation 5 Pulse 3D wireless headset. This gaming headset is fine-tuned for 3D Audio on the PS5, and features USB Type-C charging and dual noise-cancelling microphones. The PlayStation 5 Pulse 3D wireless headset is on sale for £89.99 on Amazon, saving you 31% on list price. We don't need to tell you that PS5 consoles and accessories have experienced serious stock issues, so if you're interested, we recommend jumping on this deal before stock runs dry. Read more... More about Headset, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Uk, Uk Deals, and Ps5View the full article
  5. Google has updated and broadened its Play Store policy on gaming loyalty programs to help developers better understand the practices that are permitted, months after confusion about the guidance prompted some backlash in India, the biggest Android market by users. The company said on Thursday that it now specifies guidance on gamified loyalty programs that are based on a qualified monetary transaction in an app and offer prizes of cash or other real-world cash equivalent perks. Scores of apps run gamified loyalty programs in their apps to appease and win users. Last year, the company sent notices to several Indian startups including Paytm, Zomato, and Swiggy whose in-app gamifying techniques, the company said at the time, resembled gambling. Google had asked the firms to withdraw from engaging in such gamifying techniques. The new policy covers developers worldwide, the company said. Paytm, which is India’s most valued startup, had alleged at the time that Google was preventing the startup from engaging in the very same set of practices that the company’s own app, Google Pay, was employing to win users in the country. Google had temporarily delisted Paytm app from the Play Store after the violation. This back and forth between the two firms, as well as changes to Play Store commission in the following weeks, gave birth to a coalition of Indian startups that has sought government intervention to regulate the power Google holds in the country. “App developers in India are actively building uniquely Indian features and services. One example is the use of mini games, quizzes and other gamification techniques to delight users and convert them into loyal customers. These experiences are often launched during important festivals and sporting events, and getting it right within the specific time window is critically important,” wrote Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy, in a blog post. The company still does not permit real gambling apps in India, but said developers globally now will have better clarity on rules so they can inform their strategies. “This is one of the things we discussed when we spoke to several startup CEOs in India and around the world in the past few months. And, as part of the very first policy update of 2021 we are clarifying and simplifying the policies around loyalty programs and features,” wrote Frey. A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company will be outlining the full guidelines later today. As part of the update, the company said it is also launching How Google Play Works, a repository of useful information and best practices to help developers. “It also contains India-specific details on programs that local developers can leverage to find success and scale. For users, this site helps to demystify key aspects of the Google Play platform, and explains how user security and protection remains at the heart of everything we do,” wrote Frey. In a virtual event on Thursday, Sameer Samat, VP of Android and Google Play at Google, said today’s update is the first of many the company plans to issue this year and it is committed to listening to more feedback from the industry. More on Google and Jio Platform’s upcoming smartphones In a wide-range discussion at the event organized by startup network TiE, Samat also talked about the efforts Google is putting into bringing Android-powered smartphones to more people in India. Last year, Google announced an investment of $4.5 billion into Indian telecom operator Jio Platforms. As part of the partnership, the two firms have said they will work on low-cost Android smartphones. “While India is the fastest growing smartphone market in the world, there are a lack of devices priced in a certain range that prevents a number of consumers from purchasing,” he said. “We have been optimizing Android for entry level devices with Android Go. The point of that project is to enable Android to run on entry level hardware that hopefully brings the price down. There are more than 100 million Android Go smartphones in the market today, but we need to go further than that.” Samat said the company is trying to bring the set of services that higher-end smartphones feature to “entry-level” handsets it is building with Jio Platforms. “More affordable phones cannot mean lower quality phones.” He suggested that these phones will have a different consumer interface that is directly aimed at users who have not previously used a smartphone. View the full article
  6. Pirated content appearing online has been a thorn in the side of copyright holders for more than two decades and there are regular cries for Internet platforms to do more to help. Companies like Google and Bing say they do what they can by removing infringing links from their search indexes on request, with actual content deleted from video platforms including YouTube on the same basis under the DMCA. In Russia, there is a different legal framework so entertainment companies worked with search giant Yandex and a number of other major players to arrive at a voluntary agreement to remove content. Signed in 2018, the Memorandum of Cooperation represented a big shift in the way infringing content was handled. Following the creation of a centralized database of pirated content, the Internet companies agreed to query it every few minutes in order to remove corresponding content from their platforms. Agreement Results in Millions of Takedowns Local telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor played a key role in bringing the parties together and has been keeping a close eye on progress since. This week the government agency declared the mechanism “an effect tool for copyright protection”, revealing that Yandex alone has removed at least 11.7 million links to pirated content from its search results as part of the program. Given the reported success of the scheme, rightsholders are keen for the good work to continue. However, after receiving an extension in October 2019 and again since, the memorandum was due to expire at the end of this month. Parties Agree To Another Six-Month Extension With the January 31 deadline looming, yesterday Roscomnadzor confirmed that the parties have agreed to a six-month extension. “Representatives of copyright holders, video hosting owners and search engine operators have extended the Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of exclusive rights protection until August 1, 2021,” the agency reported. “According to the Memorandum, a register of links to pirated content has been created, which is maintained by the Media Communications Union. Search engines are required to check the registry every five minutes and remove links that appear in it within six hours. The registrar verifies the validity of the links sent by the copyright holders,” Roscomnadzor added, confirming no change to the current system. Memorandum Signatories Set To Expand Ever since the memorandum came into force, rightsholders that were not party to the agreement have complained that they should be able to access the same anti-piracy tools as their counterparts. Publishers and their anti-piracy partners have been particularly vocal, complaining that the memorandum favors players in the video industry. During a meeting in December, Maksut Shadayev of the Ministry of Digital Development received a request for publishers to be included in the memorandum and indeed the draft legislation based on it, when it is eventually passed into law. This week, the proposed expansion of the takedown program appeared to move a step closer when Roscomnadzor confirmed that when the bill is passed, it will enable copyright holders who were previously excluded to take part. “Alongside the development of the Memorandum, a draft law has been developed at the site of the Media Communication Union, which is currently being discussed with the participation of representatives of the industry community,” the telecoms watchdog said. “With the adoption of the bill, the mechanisms of combating pirated content worked out during the Memorandum’s validity will be extended to companies that have not signed this document.” Internet Companies Welcome Expansion In comments to Vedomosti this week, memorandum signatories Yandex and Rambler Group said they have no opposition to additional rightsholders becoming involved. Yandex said the best solution would be to quickly develop and pass a law based on the agreement, which would benefit the company since it too is a copyright holder. Mail.ru, another major player in the current agreement, declined to comment. The current memorandum participants are as follows: JSC “Channel One” FSUE “VGTRK” STS Media JSC Gazprom-Media Holding JSC National Media Group Association of Film and Television Producers Association “Internet Video” Yandex LLC Mail.ru Group Rambler Group LLC GPM Partner LLC “Roform” LLC “Kinopoisk” Animated Film Association From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more. View the full article
  7. TL;DR: Pick up new skills in 2021 with the AI and Python Development eBook Bundle by Mercury Learning, on sale for 96% off— only $19.99 — as of Jan. 28. This e-book bundle from Mercury Learning is designed to help you communicate with computers with content on Python programming, TensorFlow, and artificial intelligence. And it also happens to be on sale for just 20 bucks. With 15 e-books total, each published in the past two years, this bundle is jam-packed with relevant, up-to-date information. You’ll get a number of books specific to Python, the general-purpose programming language that’s skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years. You’ll also get a half-dozen e-books on artificial intelligence, the wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines. Starting with the basics, you’ll learn about the history of AI, the Turing test, and early applications. Then you can move on to problem-solving methods, machine learning and deep learning concepts Read more... More about Ai, Python, Mashable Shopping, Culture, and BooksView the full article
  8. TL;DR: Disk Drill Pro 4 can help recover deleted files and photos. As of Jan. 28, you can get lifetime access and upgrades to the software for only $49.99 — a 57% savings. Like an insurance policy for your data, Disk Drill Pro 4 is an innovative app that can recover, restore, or reconstruct over 400 different types of files from your computer or external hard drive. Made for both Mac and Windows, the app is user-friendly and makes scanning for lost or deleted data relatively easy. All you have to do is choose a drive you want to search and hit "scan." Once the scan is finished, Disk Drill Pro will show you the files, photos, videos, and documents you lost as if they were there all along. Then you can simply choose which ones you want to save and click "recover." Read more... More about Photos, Apps And Software, Mashable Shopping, Tech, and Work Life View the full article
  9. TL;DR: Get acquainted with AWS with the 2021 Amazon Web Services Certification Training Bundle. As of Jan. 28, grab the bundle for 97% off: just $59.99. Amazon is much more than the online store. In fact, in the third quarter of 2020 alone, about 57 percent of Amazon’s operating income came from Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS is a cloud provider used by massive companies like GE, Unilever, BMW, and Samsung, and there are consistent job opportunities in the field. If you’re looking to get certified and be on your way to changing careers, check out this AWS certification training bundle. It’s packed with 40 hours of content on technical essentials, architectural principles, cloud deployment, and more, all designed to prepare you to ace your AWS certification exams. Read more... More about Amazon Web Services, Online Learning, Mashable Shopping, Tech, and Work LifeView the full article
  10. TL;DR: Stay safe and entertained with MaskFone. Save 14% as of Jan. 28 and grab it for $42.99. It’s kind of funny the things we get excited about these days — a trip to the grocery store, an excuse to put on real pants, or a fancy face mask. But alas, we’re still living in a pandemic, and this is life in 2021. A CES 2021 innovation honoree, the MaskFone is a face mask nobody asked for, but that is honestly pretty cool. It's basically a Bluetooth headset and earbuds sewn into a luxurious mask with a five-layer filtration system. The built-in earbuds will last about eight hours before needing to be charged, and they can withstand sweat, water, and rain. They connect wirelessly to your phone and even offer one-touch voice-activation for Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant. And of course, they come with three sizes of ear gels and ear stabilizers, so you can have the most comfortable fit possible. Read more... More about Wireless Earbuds, Mashable Shopping, Face Masks, Tech, and Consumer Tech View the full article
  11. Catalyst Fund, a global accelerator managed by BFA Global, announced the 8th cohort for its Inclusive Fintech Program today. The accelerator runs the flagship program annually and with a focus on Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Mexico and India, selected startups receive £80,000 (~$100,000) in grant capital, six months of support and connections with follow-on investors. In 2020, all five countries had representatives in the accelerator. However, the selected six startups this year are from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. These startups offer embedded finance solutions; Maelis Carraro, Catalyst Fund MD, explains the thought process behind this selection in a statement. “Today, fintech is rapidly evolving to the point where it’s no longer a standalone vertical. Embedded finance offerings have the potential to improve the value of products in adjacent sectors significantly while finding new ways to better reach and serve low-income individuals via touchpoints they already know and trust,” she said. Here are the startups in the 8th cohort. First off, from Kenya, Koa enables users to save and invest, gaining control over their finances. Lami is an insurance platform and API that enables more individuals and businesses to access insurance coverage. Power allows gig and salaried workers access to earned wages and other financial services, and contribute to savings via partner banks. From Nigeria, Indicina facilitates lending for individuals and small businesses through AI-powered digital credit infrastructure. Jetstream allows businesses to export goods across borders and access trade financing in Nigeria and Ghana. Representing South Africa, Kandua connects skilled home service professionals with access to customers, professional tools and digital financial services. What is interesting about the companies in this cohort is that they are predominantly led or co-founded by women as all startups except Kandua have a female founder. “It was a conscious decision to make this cohort more inclusive for women given the gap in funding and support to women founders, particularly in emerging markets,” Carraro said to TechCrunch. “For example, founders in our previous cohort were all male. We are consciously making an effort to support as many women founders as we can going forward.” According to an IFC report, only 11% of seed funding capital in emerging markets goes to companies with at least a woman on their founding team. The numbers are lower for later-stage funding despite evidence that investing in gender-diverse teams leads to more substantial business outcomes. These startups will join the Catalyst Fund’s existing portfolio of 37 companies, which have raised over $122 million in follow-on funding since 2016. Lami CEO Jihan Abass says her insurance company will use the investment to enhance its platform features, get more third-party integrations, and put data security and ISO certifications in place. For Indicina and CEO Yvonne Johnson, the capital from Catalyst Fund will enable the company to expand its platform, which will include new AI capabilities to improve credit in Africa. This cohort, which is all-African, represents Catalyst Fund’s continued effort to support fintech startups on the continent. It adds to the growth of a sector that has consistently received most of the VC money coming into the continent. Last year, fintechs accounted for 31% of the total funding raised by African startups per Briter Bridges data. Catalyst Fund has the backing to keep this going. Last year, it announced $15 million in additional funding from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and JPMorgan Chase & Co., to accelerate 30 new inclusive fintech startups by 2022. Since then, the fund has financed 12 startups and will need to add 18 between now and next year to achieve that objective. But having funded Chipper Cash, Turaco, Sokowatch, Cowrywise, which just closed a $3M pre-seed round, among others, the total number of startups in its portfolio sits at 43. View the full article
  12. Tokopedia, Lazada, Shopee, and other firms created an e-commerce market in Indonesia in the past decade, making it possible for consumers to shop online in the island nation. But as is true in other Asian markets, most small retailers and mom-and-pop stores in the Southeast Asian country still face a myriad of challenges in sourcing inventory and working capital, and continue to rely on an age-old supply chain network. Nipun Mehra, a former executive of Flipkart in India, and Derry Sakti, who oversaw consumer goods giant P&G’s operations in Indonesia, began to explore opportunities to address this in 2019. “Much like India, much of the Indonesian retail market is unorganized. In the food and vegetable category, for instance, there are lots of farmers who sell to agents, who then sell to mandis (markets). From these mandis, the inventory goes to small wholesalers, and so on. There are lots of players in the chain,” said Mehra, whose previous stints include working at Sequoia Capital India, in an interview with TechCrunch. Mehra and Sakti co-founded Ula in January of 2020. With Ula, they are trying to organize this sourcing and supply chain for small retailers so that there is a one-stop shop for everybody. Despite the pandemic, Ula made inroads in the Indonesian market last year and today serves more than 20,000 stores. And naturally, investors have noticed. From left to right: Derry Sakti, Nipun Mehra (screen), Riky Tenggara, Ganesh Rengaswamy (screen), Alan Wong, and Dan Bertoli. Photo credit: Ula On Thursday, Ula announced it has raised $20 million in a Series A financing round. The round was led by existing investor Quona Capital and B Capital Group. Other existing investors including Sequoia Capital India and Lightspeed — that financed Ula’s $10.5 million Seed round in June last year — have also participated in the Series A. “If you look at the whole retail value chain, especially for essential goods, FMCG, staple, and fresh produce, it’s significantly fragmented,” said Ganesh Rengaswamy, Managing Partner at Quona Capital, in an interview. “Whereas the market has moved on in terms of being able to more efficiently consolidate, demand and supply. Ula is trying to redo the retail distribution ecosystem with a significant technology overlay. It’s connecting some of the largest players in the supply side to the smallest retailers and consumers.” Additionally, Ula is providing these micro retailers, who usually operate from small shops that are extensions of their homes, with working capital so that they don’t have to wait to be paid by their customers to buy the new batch of inventory. (It’s a serious challenge that micro-retailers face in Asian markets. These shops have strong bonds with their customers, so often they sell them items without getting paid upfront. Collecting this payment often takes longer than it should.) “Frictionless payment and offering credit to retailers so that they can more efficiently manage their cashflow are critical components of modern digital commerce,” said Rengaswamy. For Quona, which has backed several e-commerce and fintech startups in Asia, Ula checks both the boxes. Mehra said last year was largely about expanding the Ula team and building the technology stack. The startup now plans to deploy the capital to reach more small retailers and expand within the nation. Indonesia will remain Ula’s focus market. The opportunity in the region itself is very large. The retail spend is expected to surpass $0.5 trillion over the next 4 years, said Kabir Narang, Founding General Partner at B Capital Group, in a statement. Traditional in-store retail accounts for nearly 80% of the total retail market, according to some estimates. Ula currently operates in the FMCG and food and vegetable spaces, but it intends to broaden its offerings to include apparel and eventually electronics. A few more things from my notes: Like many other startups in Asia, Ula largely relies on feet-and-street sales people to spread the word out about its offerings and onboarding new shops. The key to growing, said Mehra, is to get a few retailers who are very happy with the services and see its value and then tell their friends about it. It’s a learning he credited to Indian business-to-business e-commerce platform Udaan co-founders Amod Malviya, Vaibhav Gupta and Sujeet Kumar, whom he worked at Flipkart back in the day. Udaan co-founders have backed Ula. Electronics is a category that is very popular among B2C and B2B e-commerce platforms. Mehra said he has always known that the startup could expand to electronics, so it has chosen to focus on other categories first that test the supply chain network. Indonesia comprises of more than 17,000 islands, but only a handful of islands including Java and Sumatra contributes most to the GDP. I asked Quona’s Rengaswamy to draw parallels between e-commerce and payments markets of India and Indonesia. He said India has made more inroads with creating frictionless payments. But on the flip side, this has created potential for startups in Indonesia to solve additional challenges. View the full article
  13. A week into the Biden administration and just three weeks out from a mob attack on the Capitol incited by the last President and his supporters, Late Night host Seth Meyers used his "Closer Look" segment to issue a challenge to Republicans still standing behind Donald Trump: Just admit you're actually chill about the whole insurrection thing. "It's hard at this point to reach any conclusion other than that the Republican Party is fine with what Trump did, and they'd be fine with it if he did it again — or even if he did something worse," Meyers said on Wednesday night. "It's a party that is radicalized against democracy in favor of authoritarianism. There is nothing, nothing Trump could do to antagonize them — not because they're cowards, although they are, but because they agree with him." Read more... More about Late Night With Seth Meyers, Culture, Talk Show, and Politics View the full article
  14. The media licensing business is a massive market, but much of the work involved is still handled manually through emails and spreadsheets. A startup called Flowhaven is working to change that. The company, which has now closed on $16 million in Series A funding, helps brands to manage their licensing partnerships, including the account management aspects, the individual product information, the financial information, and more. The new round was led by Sapphire Sport, the part of Sapphire Ventures that specializes in sports, media and lifestyle brands. Existing investors Global Founders Capital and Icebreaker.vc also returned, bringing Flowhaven’s total raise to date to $21.5 million. Image Credits: Flowhaven The idea to modernize the media licensing business comes from a founder who had direct experience in the industry. Flowhaven CEO Kalle Törmä previously worked on licensing for the Angry Birds mobile game franchise while at Rovio, starting back in 2012. While there, he created the global blueprint for managing the merchandising side of the business, which later expanded to include partnerships for the Angry Birds Star Wars and Angry Birds Transformers games. “It was evident that the workflows were very broken — from managing the commerce, or the agreements, the product approvals, and financials. The information was very siloed. Also, there were a lot of things that fell through the cracks,” explains Törmä. In addition, it was time consuming and difficult to pull together data that would allow management to understand how the business was doing. The challenges Törmä faced at Rovio led him to understand what would be needed to create a solution like Flowhaven — particularly, the difficulty of managing tricky licensing workflows and timetables through manual methods. He left Rovio in 2016 and founded Flowhaven, where he’s joined by university pal and CCO Timo Olkkola, whose background is in sales. Image Credits: Flowhaven Today, the Flowhaven licensing management platform automates the brand licensing workflow process, including the planning and strategy, account and agreement management, content distribution, design approvals, royalty reporting, and more. It also helps to keep teams on schedules that can often be tight in the media and entertainment businesses. “There’s always a timeframe that they follow — whether it’s a film release or game release,” Törmä says. “There are lot of moving pieces in closing all the agreements and then moving the products through the approvals [so when], let’s say, a film comes out, a couple of months prior, the merchandise hits the retail shelves,” he says. “If you don’t have the products approved and ready, then you didn’t really seize the momentum,” Törmä adds. Image Credits: Flowhaven Flowhaven pitches that its software isn’t just saving time, it also saves money. The company estimates that licensing professionals waste 50 hours per month at $70 per hour on work that could be automated. This equals approximately $42,000 per year wasted for a single professional. As of its new funding, Flowhaven’s software-as-a-service platform has been adopted by close to 100 companies, ranging from smaller business to Fortune 100 companies in markets like media, entertainment, sports, fashion, and by corporate and consumer brands Though some customer names can’t be shared, Flowhaven says it’s working with Nintendo, LAIKA, Games Workshop, Acamar Films, and Crunchyroll. Its pricing is based on how many users will be on the platform. This doesn’t include those with guest access outside the organization, who are always free of charge. The company also reports 400% year-over-year growth and says it’s expecting that trend to continue, but declines to share its current revenue figures. The additional funding will help Flowhaven fuel its growth, expand its product and platform, and aid in hiring, Törmä says. Today, the company’s staff is split between offices in Helsinki, London and L.A. but says it’s seeing the most growth in the latter two. In terms of the product itself, the plan is to further develop Flowhaven’s analytics and speed up the process of exchanging information between the brand owners and their licensees. Already in 2021, Flowhaven is growing. It began the year with a team of 30 and is now 43 people. Throughout the year, Törmä says the team will grow to nearly 100. View the full article
  15. Cowrywise, a Nigerian fintech startup that offers digital wealth management and financial planning solutions, has raised $3 million in pre-Series A funding. Quona Capital led the round as Tsadik Foundation, Gumroad CEO Sahil Lavingia, and a syndicate of Nigerian angel investors locally and in the diaspora participated. The company previously raised more than $500,000 through a combination of equity financing and grants. The idea for Cowrywise came when CEO Razaq Ahmed was an investment analyst with Meristem covering equities and making recommendations to retail and wealth management clients. He noticed that existing investment management firms in the country focused on the top 1 percent. They couldn’t scale investment products to millions of Nigerians primarily due to their restricting size. Banks, though, have been able to make progress on this front when compared to investment firms. They expanded heavily in the mid and late 2000s to accumulate the branch networks they have today where there are about 45 million unique accounts in Nigeria. But over the years, the quality of bank services in terms of savings and investments has drastically reduced. With interest rates hovering around 3-5% per annum, what Nigerians are now familiar with is to send and receive money via their bank accounts, and use debit cards for withdrawals leaving the market still underserved when it comes to investment products. For this reason, Ahmed, alongside Edward Popoola as CTO, founded Cowrywise in 2017 to solve this problem. With Cowrywise, they hoped to democratise access to savings and investment products to the growing demography of underserved Nigerian millennials and the middle class. “Wealth management had been strange to many Nigerians because the existing players were not built for the mass market. That has always been a problem we felt required a solution,” Ahmed told TechCrunch. When they launched, the founders wanted to leverage the telecom industry’s reach to drive its investment products to millions of subscribers. But it didn’t turn out as planned, as the project became expensive to undertake and also, the telcos requested cutthroat prices and commissions. Cowrywise founders (Edward Popoola and Razaq Ahmed) The company switched focus, deciding to build upon existing payment infrastructure companies like Flutterwave and Paystack. The first facet of products launched to the market were savings-related products backed by fixed income instruments like treasury bills. Ahmed claims that these products yield better interests at 10%-15%, more substantial than what banks offered. Following that was the introduction of its mutual funds’ products. Currently, the company has 19 different mutual funds and at least 20% of the total mutual funds in the country are listed on its platform. Ahmed claims this is the largest portfolio of mutual funds a single entity has in the country. These assets cut across five investment partners, and they allow users to save and invest with as little as ₦100 ($0.25). The partners include United Capital Asset Management, Meristem Wealth Management, Afrinvest Wealth Management, ARM Investment Managers and Lotus Capital. Cowrywise indirectly charges customers for this service and splits the fee with the mutual fund partners but the CEO doesn’t disclose how much. Also, the four-year-old company takes into account the needs of different demographics and religious background, which Ahmed asserts is as a result of an understanding with the mutual fund partners. “Our mutual fund partners clearly recognize the value of being part of an inclusive digital platform that allows retail investors to invest regardless of faith or financial status,” he said. The YC alum and Catalyst Fund company also offers advisory services and recommends different funds to customers based on their risk appetite and spending power. Image Credits: Cowrywise But building trust with users has not always been smooth for the company. It’s an issue Ahmed explains Cowrywise has had to deal with via transparency and outstanding service delivery. For instance, one of Cowrywise’s darkest days came last September when a customer took to Twitter to complain about its lack of communication in reported stolen funds from her account. In response, Cowrywise apologised for the lapse in communication, acted on the request, and promised to do better. “Service delivery has helped us bridge that trust gap to a huge extent, and I feel it’s reflected in the user growth and adoption we’ve experienced. Trust was a major issue we faced but right now, we’re crossing that bridge pretty well,” the CEO said. About that, Cowrywise has more than 220,000 users. In its first year, it had just 2,000 users. Similarly, to highlight the journey ahead for the company, there are only half a million Nigerians actively investing in mutual funds. When compared to the total number of active bank accounts in the country of more than 40 million, it is obvious Cowrywise still has room to grow in the $3 billion market. Cowrywise’s unique approach to wealth management is one reason why Quona Capital led the round according to partner Johan Bosini. The VC firm, known to back fintech and retail enablers like SA-based Lulalend and Yoco, and Kenya’s Sokowatch, is making its first foray into the Nigerian market with Cowrywise. “Razaq, Edward, and the Cowrywise team are providing everyday Nigerians with easy access to powerful and flexible wealth-generating tools that have typically been reserved for people who are already wealthy,” said Bosini to TechCrunch. “In a market of 200 million people, we think this will be very impactful for individuals to have more control over their financial future.” The company hopes to increase its customer base, and the new infusion will be critical to that. According to the company, the investment will also expand Cowrywise’s product offerings, support more fund managers in Nigeria and build out its investment management infrastructure. Cowrywise is one of the many wealth tech startups on the continent. There are startups with comparable business models like Nigeria’s Piggyvest and others are Robinhood-esque platforms like Egypt’s Thndr and Nigeria’s Bamboo, Trove, Risevest and Chaka. Cowrywise’s investment which is the largest publicized round at this stage brings in much-needed validation for this segment of fintech startups that are starting to take off. In the same vein, despite a slow start to a year which has seen Africa’s agritech and cleantech sectors take the lion’s share of investments, we might see fintech startups picking up the kind of pace we’ve been accustomed to that has made them dominate VC funding for the past couple of years. View the full article
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