Friday, June 15, 2018
PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app Venmo is ending web support for its service, the company announced in an email to users. The changes, which are beginning to roll out now, will see the Venmo.com website phasing out support for making payments and charging users. In time, users will see even less functionality on the website, the company says.
The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo’s monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows:
NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website – this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited.
The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.
The Venmo website today allows users to sign in and view their various transaction feeds, including public transactions, those from friends, and personal transactions. You can also charge friends and submit payments from the website, send payment reminders, like and comment on transactions, add friends, edit your profile, and more.
Some users may already be impacted by the changes, and will now see a message alerting them to the fact that charging friends and making payments can only be done in the Venmo app from the App Store or Google Play.
It’s not entirely surprising to see Venmo drop web support. As a PayPal-owned property after its acquisition by Braintree which later brought it to PayPal, there’s always been a lot of overlap between Venmo and its parent company, in terms of peer-to-peer payments.
Venmo had grown in popularity for its simple, social network-inspired design and its less burdensome fee structure among a younger crowd. This made it an appealing way for PayPal to gain market share with a different demographic.
It’s also cheaper, which people like. PayPal doesn’t charge for money transfers from a bank account or PayPal balance, but does charge 2.9 percent plus a $0.30 fixed fee on payments from a credit or debit card in the U.S. Venmo, meanwhile, charges a fee of 3 percent for credit card payments, but makes debit card payments free. That’s appealing to millennials in particular, many of whom have ditched credit cards entirely, and are careful about their spending.
Plus, as a mobile-first application, Venmo was offering a more modern solution for mobile payments, at a time when PayPal’s app was looking a bit long in the tooth. (PayPal has since redesigned its mobile app experience to catch up.)
Another factor in Venmo’s decision could be that, more recently, it began facing competition from newcomer Zelle, the bank-backed mobile payments here in the U.S. which is forecast to outpace Venmo on users sometime this year, with 27.4 million users to Venmo’s 22.9 million. In light of that threat, Venmo may have wanted to consolidate its resources on its primary product – the mobile app.
Not everyone is happy about Venmo’s changes, of course. After all, even if the Venmo website wasn’t heavily used, it was used by some who will certainly miss it.
@venmo i only use the website to send/receive payments so in guess you’re cancelled!
— respectfully yours (@biking_away_) June 15, 2018
— V Lav (@Druzy920) June 14, 2018
— Woode (@Woode2380) June 14, 2018
Venmo email: “We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the https://t.co/iAFTbn3EY0 website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website – this is just the start.”
Is this a threat?
— Noah Mittman (@noahmittman) June 14, 2018
Reached for comment, Venmo explained the decision to phase out the website functionality stems from how it sees its product being used.
A Venmo spokesperson told TechCrunch:
Venmo continuously evaluates our products and services to ensure we are delivering our users the best experience. We have decided to begin to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website. Most of our users pay and request money using the Venmo app, so we’re focusing our efforts there. Users can continue to use the mobile app for their pay and charge transactions and can still use the website for cashing out Venmo balances, settings and statements.
The company declined to clarify what other functionality may be removed from the website over time, but noted that using Venmo to pay authorized merchants is unaffected.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/15/venmo-is-discontinuing-web-support-for-payments-and-more/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/174920840826
Gmail has recently introduced a brand new redesign. While you can disable or ignore most of the new features, Gmail has started resurfacing old unanswered emails with a suggestion that you should reply. And this is what it looks like:
The orange text immediately grabs your attention. By bumping the email thread to the top of your inbox, Gmails also breaks the chronological order of your inbox.
Gmail is also making a judgement by telling you that maybe you should have replied and you’ve been procrastinating. Social networks already bombard us constantly with awful content that makes us sad or angry. Your email inbox shouldn’t make you feel guilty or stressed.
Even if the suggestions can be accurate, it’s a bit creepy, it’s poorly implemented and it makes you feel like you’re no longer in control of your inbox.
There’s a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don’t want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter.
A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That’s why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing.
But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking.
VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google’s order.
When the Gmail redesign started leaking, a colleague of mine said “I look forward to digging through settings to figure out how to turn this off.” And the good news is that you can turn it off.
There are now two options to disable nudges in the settings on the web version of Gmail. You can tick off the boxes “Suggest emails to reply to” and “Suggest emails to follow up on” if you don’t want to see this orange text ever again. But those features should have never been enabled by default in the first place.
The new look of gmail has this new little reminder and I keep reading it as “Received 4 days ago. Really?” And this is stress I just don’t need. pic.twitter.com/IHp9wATORl
— Mary Kate McDevitt (@MaryKateMcD) June 11, 2018
Ooh, new Gmail has an incredibly annoying feature where it bumps a message ending in a question to the top of your inbox with a banner saying “Received 2 days ago. Reply?”
— Seb Patrick (@sebpatrick) June 8, 2018
Switching back to classic @gmail. I REALLY don’t need these “Received 6 days ago. Reply?” notes. I have four jobs connected to six email accounts. I’ll manage my own productivity, thanks. #oldmanyellingatthesky #leavemealone
— mitchell bloom (@bloomin_onions) June 13, 2018
Wtf Gmail on mobile now resurfacing emails I haven’t replied to with a “received two days ago. Reply?” Label. Insane. Can’t seem to turn it off. Breaks my entire inbox.
— Tom Critchlow (@tomcritchlow) May 18, 2018
I’m not really a fan of gmail’s new feature that hounds you if you don’t reply to emails. ‘Received 2 days ago. Reply?’ I don’t need to technologically enhance anxiety.
— Thomas Lynch (@thomasjlynch) January 11, 2018
One message in my inbox suddenly has a garish red message.
“Received 2 days ago. Reply?”
Never seen this happen and never want this suggestion. pic.twitter.com/HkEgkcKS3E
— Brendan Falkowski (@Falkowski) June 8, 2018
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/15/gmail-proves-that-some-people-hate-smart-suggestions/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/174920840631
Despite some concerns over its adoption by scammers, new payment service Zelle is shaping up to overtake rival Venmo this year, according to a new forecast from eMarketer. The firm expects Zelle to grow more than 73 percent in 2018, to reach 27.4 million users in the U.S., ahead of Venmo’s 22.9 million. Square Cash will trail with 9.5 million users.
This growth isn’t necessarily chalked up to user preference, but rather, ubiquity.
Zelle is backed by a network of over 30 U.S. banks, as their means of winning over users from other payment apps including Venmo, PayPal, and Square Cash. The banks had wanted to develop their own alternative these apps for several years, but only recently had those efforts gained momentum. The Zelle website now claims participation from over 100 financial institutions, as well as processor partners CO-OP Financial Services, FIS, Fiserv and Jack Henry, and network partners VISA and Mastercard.
The participating banks are now integrating Zelle into their own websites and mobile apps – meaning, users are finding Zelle as they use their existing banking applications. They’re not seeking it out directly, in many cases.
“One of the main hurdles new apps face is building trust and a sizable audience,” explained eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu. “But Zelle has leapfrogged the early stages of adoption by having the benefit of being embedded into the already existing apps of participating banks,” she said.
Earlier this year, Zelle said it was signing up users at a rate of 100,000 consumers per day, and claimed it had processed 247 million payments totaling $75 billion in 2017. That’s a sizable chunk of the peer-to-peer payments market.
Emarketer’s forecast estimates the total number of U.S. p2p mobile payment users will grow 30 percent in 2018 to reach 82.5 million people, or 40.5 percent of U.S. smartphone users. It also expects the total transaction volume of p2p mobile payments to grow 37 percent this year to reach $167.08 billion. By 2021, that figure will reach over $300 billion.
That leaves room for all services to carve out their piece of the market, even if Zelle ends up in the lead.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/15/zelle-forecast-to-overtake-venmo-this-year/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/174918019361
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Facebook is hoping to avoid another privacy scandal by adding new accountability and transparency requirements for businesses that use its Custom Audiences too to target you with ads based on your email address or phone number. Starting July 2nd, advertisers will have to declare whether contact info uploaded for ad targeting was collected with proper user consent by them, one of their partners, or both. Users will be able to see this info if they opt to block future ads from that business.
Companies can only share Custom Audiences info with partners like ad agencies if they’re formally connected through Facebook’s business manager tool. And Facebook will start to show advertisers reminders that they need consent for contact info ad targeting and force all users connected to an ad account to confirm these terms.
The new consent tool launch confirms TechCrunch’s scoop from March that Facebook would crack down Custom Audiences targeting without consent. Facebook has always technically required consent, but it hasn’t necesssarily done much to enforce those rules. That same approach to API rules produced the Cambridge Analytica debacle.
Custom Audiences is one of Facebook’s most valuable revenue generators because it allows businesses to hit up their former customers to buy more. A scandal surrounding the targeting mechanism could be seriously detrimental to the social network’s business in a way that the rest of its recent public image problems haven’t, judging by the recovery of Facebook’s share price.
Since 2012, Facebook has offered Custom Audiences as a way for businesses to upload privacy-safe hashed lists of customer contact info. Facebook matches that against its users’ info to show them the business’ ads, rather than companies having to pay to try to reach those people through demographic targeting. That way, a company that already sold you a car and got your email signup could targeting you a few years later with ads to trade in and buy a new vehicle. Businesses can also use Facebook’s lookalikes targeting to reach people with similar characteristics to their existing customers.
Now at least Facebook will show this “Original Data Source” field asking who collected the uploaded phone numbers or emails. Users can check out this info if they click the “Why Am I Seeing This Ads?” button in the drop-down. However, Facebook stops short of scanning the lists for suspicious info, such as blocks of contact info that match hacked or purchased data sets.
That means Facebook is trusting advertisers to tell the truth about consent for targeting…despite them having a massive financial incentive to bend of break those rules. Today’s update will give Facebook more plausible deniability in the event of a scandal, and it might deter misuse. But Facebook is stopping short of doing anything to actually prevent non-consensual ad targeting.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/13/facebook-custom-audiences-consent/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/174857136801
Investors are placing another huge bet on a startup looking to reinvent a decades-old process into something that’s near instant, this time pouring $325 million into Opendoor — a company that wants to bring the complex operation of buying or selling a home down to something similarly as simple as hailing a Lyft.
The idea of Opendoor is one not so dissimilar from a consumer theory that’s blossomed into companies worth tens of billions of dollars — consumers hate complex processes and are willing to hand off those processes to technology companies if they can make it even a little simpler. Home-buying and selling can be one of the more intense ones, requiring a lot of moving pieces and coordinating multiple time tables and schedules. Opendoor’s theory is that it can create a sizable business by dropping that time and energy cost to zero and effectively create a new technology-powered business model in the process, just like Uber or Airbnb.
Opendoor says it hopes to expand to 50 markets by the end of 2020 with this additional financing. It is in ten markets right now, and also says it now purchases more than $2.5 billion in homes on an annual run rate. The company says it has raised a $325 million financing round co-led by General Atlantic, Access Technology Ventures, and Lennar Corporation. Andreessen Horowitz, Coatue Management, 10100 Fund, and Invitation Homes also participated, as well as existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Lakestar, GGV Capital, NEA, and Khosla Ventures. Opendoor has in total raised $645 million in equity and $1.5 billion in debt.
“What I realized was that one there’s a lot of tailwinds with people wanting to transact with their mobile device,” CEO Eric Wu said. “We see this with Uber and Lyft and Amazon. I believe the future of real estate will be on demand and that’s the centerpiece of Opendoor’s thesis, making the transaction real-time and instant. I realized there were going to be tailwinds, and that real estate was in need of being transformed.”
Opendoor has also sought to expand its efforts to make viewing those homes just as seamless. The company enables potential customers to check out a home by opening it with the app seven days a week. Wu said that most potential buyers go to the house each of the seven days up to the transaction, and then seven days after the transaction happens. Given that it’s such a significant step for any home owner, it makes sense that a lot of planning and consideration would go into the process. The next step is to create a sort of trade-up system, where Opendoor works to create a streamlined way to turn around an existing home for a new home.
Still, buying (or selling) a home is one of the single-largest transactions a consumer can do — especially if they are in a major metropolitan area where houses can quickly hit the $1 million-plus range. So it’s still a hurdle to convince consumers that they should press a few buttons to make a transaction in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Wu said that the challenge there was to build enough trust with customers that they realize the process should be as seamless and powered by transparent data.
“It’s something we faced early on when we launched the service,” Wu said. “We were asking sellers to sell their home online to a tech company. A lot of the things we’ve done — such as lowering the fees and being transparent about pricing — which helped us build trust. Since it’s one of the largest financial transactions anyone makes, we had to build a world-class pricing model, be transparent about how we got to the quote, make it a low-fee service, and provide a certainty around the process.”
To try to do all this, Opendoor says it’s built a robust data set that will help best model potential prices for homes and be more transparent about that information. Wu said Opendoor currently employs around 650 people and hopes to double that by the end of next year, and the company is investing a significant amount of capital in growing out its data science team. The challenge is to understand the dynamics of the housing market — and any potential chaos — in order to best assess how to buy and sell those homes. Opendoor acquires some risk by purchasing some homes and holding them for a period fo time, so ensuring that the company knows how the market performs will be one of its biggest challenges.
Opendoor is certainly not the only player in this area, as some competitors like Knock and OfferPad are starting to raise additional capital. Knock picked up $32 million in January last year with a similar bet: simplify the home-buying process and handle all of the details behind the scenes. If anything, it’s shown that there’s an appetite among the venture community (especially one where the numbers just keep getting bigger) for models that look to tap the same consumer demand of simplifying overly complex processes to just a few inputs on a smart app powered by data science.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/13/opendoor-raises-325m-to-make-buying-and-selling-homes-a-near-instant-process/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/174857136636
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
More financing is coming in for Bird, this time potentially valuing the company at $2 billion, according to a new report by Axios.
There’s not a ton to add here compared to the last round (which happened just weeks ago), as the same dynamics are probably in play here. While Uber was a bet on car rides and generally getting around, Bird is that but at a dramatically more granular level — thinking short hops of a few miles in congested areas. Startups that are exceedingly hot can sometimes pull off these rolling rounds where investors are coming in at various points, especially as the model further proves out over time.
If you live in a major metropolitan area, you’ve probably seen Bird (and Lime) scooters hanging out on the sidewalks — potentially knocked over in a spot where someone might trip over them while checking his or her phone. That’s been a point of tension in areas like San Francisco, where Bird has had to temporarily come off the sidewalks as a permit system rolls out. Bird isn’t the first mobility-focused service that has faced regulatory challenges before, but it is one that’s become very popular very quickly.
This too, as Axios notes, could be an easy play to get into a hot market that a major ridesharing company could want to buy its way into. Uber acquired Jump, an on-demand bike service, in the midst of its own financing round. While bikes don’t seem to be getting quite the hype that scooters are, Lyft is also planning to acquire Motivate, an on-demand biking network.
Bird just weeks ago raised $150 million at a $1 billion valuation, while Lime raised an additional $250 million. Bird was valued at $300 million in a financing round earlier this year.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/12/scooter-startup-bird-is-reportedly-about-to-hit-a-2b-valuation/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/174826304096