Thursday, April 19, 2018
Helios and Matheson Analytics is looking to push additional capital into its prime and wildly popular asset, MoviePass, by raising money in a new stock sale that appears to be giving Wall Street fits.
Looking to raise additional capital, Helios and Matheson said it would sell up to $150 million in a stock sale that essentially seems geared to fund MoviePass’s expansion. Helios and Matheson is the largest shareholder of MoviePass, which is an increasingly popular service for going to watch movies. MoviePass’s parent company saw a sharp decline in its stock price today, with its value dropping around 40% as a result of the announcement.
“Helios and Matheson may use the net proceeds from this offering to increase the Company’s ownership stake in MoviePass or to support the operations of MoviePass and MoviePass Ventures; to satisfy a portion or all of any amounts payable in connection with previously issued convertible notes; and for general corporate purposes and transaction expenses,” the company said in the release. “The Company may also use the proceeds to make other acquisitions.”
Helios and Matheson recorded a net loss of around $150 million in 2017 (attributed to its acquisition of the majority stake in MoviePass). The company acquired a majority stake in MoviePass toward the end of last year. At the end of 2017, the company had around $25 million in cash and cash equivalents, according to their last annual report.
MoviePass allows users to spend around $10 per month to get one ticket to a movie every day, albeit with some strings attached. But it offers a way for theaters to fill seats and still acquire revenue from concessions and other products while allowing viewers to actually get in the door without paying a steep ticket price that might come with that movie.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/19/moviepasss-parent-company-is-getting-crushed-after-offering-new-stock/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/173102632096
mParticle, which helps companies like Airbnb and Spotify manage their customer data, has hired four new executives — including John Sedlak, most recently a vice president at Adobe, who’s joining the company as chief revenue officer.
In addition, Kiran Hebbar (formerly CFO of Social Tables) is joining as chief financial officer, Will Rogers (previously an engineer at Etsy) has been named chief information security officer and Aurélie Pols (who worked as data governance and privacy advocate at Krux Digital) is the new data protection officer.
Sedlak told me that in his roles at Adobe and Oracle (which he joined through the acquisition of BlueKai), he saw how the big marketing software players are trying to build comprehensive marketing clouds, often created through multiple startup acquisitions.
“They would constantly go to market and tout the benefits of the end-to-end stack, when I began to notice that there were many best-of-breed point solutions out there,” he said. “I got to see the power of standalone companies who are innovating ahead of what the big guys were doing. I’d put mParticle on that list.”
In the years since I first wrote about mParticle in 2014, a handy acronym has emerged to describe what the company does — CDP, short for customer data platform. Basically, CDPs like mParticle allow companies to unify all their first party data, creating a single view of the customer.
Sedlak contrasted mParticle’s approach with older data management platforms, which he said weren’t built to connect customer data across all their interactions on different devices.
“They were originally built to ingest first party cookie data coupled with third party data,” he said. “They never fully contemplated the notion of a true cross-device world and I think [co-founders Michael Katz and Andrew Katz] knew that in 2013 and said, ‘You know we’re going to start solving for that now.‘”
As for what hiring Sedlak will do for the company, he said one of his goals is to bring on even bigger customers: “I think mParticle can drive incremental or discrete value … to Fortune 50 marketers who I personally have done business with in the past, where I see an opportunity for us to significantly augment their current investments in the marketing cloud platforms.”
CEO Michael Katz, meanwhile, pointed out that that two of these hires are focused on security. With the recent Facebook scandals discussions and Europe’s adoption of GDPR protections, there’s “a really healthy conversation around the importance of data control and governance,” and he said these hires will help mParticle build the tools that allow businesses to “put customer privacy and data security at the forefront of their business practice.”
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/19/mparticle-hires-john-sedlak/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/173099572331
Motorola’s phones aren’t always the flashiest, but there sure are a lot of them. And today, there are even more. The Lenovo-owned brand is launching not one, but four new handsets for your budget-phone-buying pleasure.
The new handsets were launched at an event in São Paulo, Brazil. We, sadly, were not there. Instead, we played around with the things at an event in New York City, where it’s currently 40 degrees in mid-April. No one ever said this job would be easy — or involve getting a tan.
The Moto E5 handsets are the flashiest of the bunch. There’s no set price on the handsets yet, but they’ll probably warrant a higher premium than the other new devices. The difference in build quality is immediately apparent right off the bat, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of a shiny Gorilla Glass 3 backing in blue, black or gray.
The phone comes in two sizes — 5.2-inch for the E5 Play and 6-inch on the more premium E5 Plus. The latter will only be available here in the U.S., bringing with it a beefy 5,000mAh battery and a pair of rear-facing cameras in a circular formation that will look familiar to anyone who’s picked up a Moto Z.
The dual camera configuration allows for some neat tricks, like better faux bokeh in portrait mode and the ability to create combination black and white and color images. Motorola, well, Lenovo, has also invested in a bunch of first-party camera software, including a small selection of built-in AR overlays and some Google Lens-like tricks, including the ability to scan text.
The camera setup isn’t going to win any awards, but Motorola continues to bring impressive features to its budget devices. That said, no price has been announced for either version of the E5.
We do, however, have prices for the Moto G6 and G6 Play. Those will run $249 and $199, respectively. The phones are still pretty chunky — no surprise there, given the price — though Motorola has adopted a few premium features here, including, notably, a move toward the 18:9 aspect ratio for their 5.7-inch displays. The G6, naturally, has the leg up here, at 1080p to the Play’s 780p.
The Play actually sports the larger battery of the two, at 4,000mAh to the G6’s 3,000. Both versions also support Fast Charging, though the G6 does it through USB-C, while the Play is still holding onto microUSB for dear life. All of the above also still have their headphone jacks intact. Motorola was one of the first companies to drop it on its premium Z line, but the company is smartly keeping the port around on its budget devices.
All of the above will be available later this season at “major carriers” in the U.S. and Canada. Surely it won’t be 40 degrees by then.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/19/motorola-introduces-four-new-phones/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/173099572196
Facebook has posted a job opening looking for an expert in ASIC and FPGA, two custom silicon designs that companies can gear toward specific use cases — particularly in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
There’s been a lot of speculation in the valley as to what Facebook’s interpretation of custom silicon might be, especially as it looks to optimize its machine learning tools — something that CEO Mark Zuckerberg referred to as a potential solution for identifying misinformation on Facebook using AI. The whispers of Facebook’s customized hardware range depending on who you talk to, but generally center around operating on the massive graph Facebook possesses around personal data. Most in the industry speculate that it’s being optimized for Caffe2, an AI infrastructure deployed at Facebook, that would help it tackle those kinds of complex problems.
FPGA is designed to be a more flexible and modular design, which is being championed by Intel as a way to offer the ability to adapt to a changing machine learning-driven landscape. The downside that’s commonly cited when referring to FPGA is that it is a niche piece of hardware that is complex to calibrate and modify, as well as expensive, making it less of a cover-all solution for machine learning projects. ASIC is similarly a customized piece of silicon that a company can gear toward something specific, like mining cryptocurrency.
Facebook’s director of AI research tweeted about the job posting this morning, noting that he previously worked in chip design:
Interested in designing ASIC & FPGA for AI?
Design engineer positions are available at Facebook in Menlo Park.
I used to be a chip designer many moons ago: my engineering diploma was in Electrical… https://t.co/D4l9kLpIlV
While the whispers grow louder and louder about Facebook’s potential hardware efforts, this does seem to serve as at least another partial data point that the company is looking to dive deep into custom hardware to deal with its AI problems. That would mostly exist on the server side, though Facebook is looking into other devices like a smart speaker. Given the immense amount of data Facebook has, it would make sense that the company would look into customized hardware rather than use off-the-shelf components like those from Nvidia.
(The wildest rumor we’ve heard about Facebook’s approach is that it’s a diurnal system, flipping between machine training and inference depending on the time of day and whether people are, well, asleep in that region.)
Most of the other large players have found themselves looking into their own customized hardware. Google has its TPU for its own operations, while Amazon is also reportedly working on chips for both training and inference. Apple, too, is reportedly working on its own silicon, which could potentially rip Intel out of its line of computers. Microsoft is also diving into FPGA as a potential approach for machine learning problems.
Still, that it’s looking into ASIC and FPGA does seem to be just that — dipping toes into the water for FPGA and ASIC. Nvidia has a lot of control over the AI space with its GPU technology, which it can optimize for popular AI frameworks like TensorFlow. And there are also a large number of very well-funded startups exploring customized AI hardware, including Cerebras Systems, SambaNova Systems, Mythic, and Graphcore (and that isn’t even getting into the large amount of activity coming out of China). So there are, to be sure, a lot of different interpretations as to what this looks like.
One significant problem Facebook may face is that this job opening may just sit up in perpetuity. Another common criticism of FPGA as a solution is that it is hard to find developers that specialize in FPGA. While these kinds of problems are becoming much more interesting, it’s not clear if this is more of an experiment than Facebook’s full all-in on custom hardware for its operations.
But nonetheless, this seems like more confirmation of Facebook’s custom hardware ambitions, and another piece of validation that Facebook’s data set is becoming so increasingly large that if it hopes to tackle complex AI problems like misinformation, it’s going to have to figure out how to create some kind of specialized hardware to actually deal with it.
A representative from Facebook did not yet return a request for comment.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/18/facebook-has-a-new-job-posting-calling-for-chip-designers/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/173089748651
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Like other Area 120 projects, Grasshopper was built by a small team of Googlers, who had a personal interest in working on the project.
“Coding is becoming such an essential skill, and we want to make it possible for everyone to learn even when life gets busy,” the app’s About Us page explains. “We made Grasshopper to help folks like you get into coding in a fun and easy way.”
Area 120 has now been around for just over two years, but Google’s hadn’t heavily publicized its efforts until last year, when it launched a dedicated website for the incubator. To date, Area 120 has released things like Advr, an advertising format for VR; personal stylist Tailor; emoji messenger Supersonic; a job-matching service in Bangladesh, a booking tool called Appointments; and the YouTube co-watching app UpTime.
The incubator’s goal – beyond potentially finding Google’s next breakthrough product – is to retain talented engineers who may have otherwise left the company to work on their own passion projects or startups.
Grasshopper – whose name is a tribute to early programming pioneer Grace Hopper – was already known to be one of the projects in the works at Area 120.
However, it hadn’t launched to the public until today.
The app itself offers a series of courses, beginning with “The Fundamentals,” where users learn how code works, along with various terminology like functions, variables, strings, for loops, arrays, conditionals, operators, and objects. Grasshopper then moves into two more courses where coders learn to draw shapes using the D3 library, and later create more complex functions using D3.
This curriculum will expand over the next couple of months. Grasshopper will add more content to The Fundamentals section as well as a new course.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/18/grasshopper-a-learn-to-code-app-from-googles-area-120-incubator-goes-live/
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This week Snapchat is rolling out Shoppable AR, a new feature that makes it even easier for advertisers to sell goods through sponsored lenses. The new offering builds on top of the Sponsored Lenses the service rolled out in late-2015, which let advertisers create branded filters, bringing product placements to selfies.
Now companies can essentially close that shopping loop, while keeping users inside the Snapchat experience. Shoppable AR makes it possible to add a button directly to a Lens, which users can tap on to visit a website where they can learn more about — or more to the point — just buy the product. Other options include a link to install an app or a “long form” video like a trailer. All of that happens directly inside the app.
The feature is rolling out with a quartet of media partners to start. Clairol is selling an AR “beauty product trial,” Adidas is moving its Deerupt running shoes, King has an AR Candy Crush game, and STX will try to get you to watch Amy Schumer’s new comedy, I Feel Pretty.
There’s no price increase here for advertisers. The additional features will no doubt be an easy sell for those companies that have already been using Snapchat to advertise. Keeping users inside the app reduces friction of sales quite a bit, offering up ads and product sales as a more organic feature — one that doesn’t necessarily feel like advertising. For Snap, of course, the more time users spend engaged directly inside the app, the better.
According to Snap, 70 million users engage with Lenses each day. Earlier this week, the company also rolled out updates to Lens studio, which lets users create their own AR Lenses for the platform.
from RSSMix.com Mix ID 8176981 https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/18/snapchat-now-lets-advertisers-sell-products-directly-through-lenses/
from Tumblr http://ikonografico.tumblr.com/post/173070047961