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Strategic Investments & End-to-End Solutions
Strategic Investments & End-to-End Solutions

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Former journo Alexia Bonatsos unveils her new venture fund, Dream Machine -
Five years ago, Alexia Bonatsos, née Tsotsis, was co-editor of TechCrunch, a job that made her renowned in startup circles and familiar with a wide number of startups and their founders. What she really longed to do, in fact, was invest in some of them.
“I was among the first people to write about Pinterest and Wish — when it was known as ContextLogic — and Uber and Instagram and WhatsApp,” says Bonatsos. “I started to wonder if I was in the right place at the right time — so, luck — or if I’m in the right information flows. I was curious: What if I’d been writing checks?”
She talked occasionally with venture firms, but the right job didn’t materialize. So she set to work on creating her own dream job. Her first move was to step down from her post at TechCrunch in 2015 to enter into an accelerated, one-year master’s degree program at Stanford University’s business school. (“I wanted to be able to communicate in the same language” as other VCs, she says with a shrug.) All the while, and in the year afterward, she was talking with founders about how to tell their story and shape their editorial and convince people with large followings that they are worth tracking — skills Bonatsos had herself honed as a reporter.
She wasn’t building out her network merely to stay connected; she was also slowly piecing together checks from individual investors for a debut venture fund. Toward that end, last December, she registered her San Francisco-based firm, Dream Machine, with the SEC, listing the target amount at $25 million.
If she has reached or is nearing that number, she won’t say out of an abundance of caution around securities regulations. (This is what happens when business journalists become VCs.) Still, when we caught up with her recently, she disclosed that she has already made seven investments, including as part of one token sale. She also shared a bit about what they have in common, which seemingly centers on two things: they involve the ever-growing sharing economy, and they take advantage of an overarching trend toward decentralization.
https://buff.ly/2IKLMlH

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Gravys new mobile game show is Price is Right mixed with QVC -
Following the success of the live mobile game show HQ Trivia, a team of serial entrepreneurs have begun testing the market to see if another game show concept can work, too. Their new game show-inspired app, Gravy, is meant to be a riff on the “Price is Right” combined with a QVC-style shopping experience. That is, the “contestants” compete for discounts of 30 to 70 percent off the products advertised, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. In addition, through a side game, users can guess when the product – whose quantities are unknown – will sell out and at what price. Those who guess closest win a cash prize.
The startup was created by Mark McGuire, Brian Wiegand, and Craig Andler – the founding team behind Jellyfish.com, an older social shopping network that was acquired by Microsoft back in 2007, to help create Bing Shopping. They’ve also paired up on other projects, including NameProtect (before Jellyfish), printable coupons resource Hopster, social network Nextt, and e-commerce subscription retail site, Alice.com. These have either exited or shut down or both.
The team’s efforts imply a clear passion for working with brands, but getting consumers to connect with brands in new ways is far more difficult, as their track record shows.
That’s why they’re now trying Gravy.
The hope is that the excitement around seeing the product unveiled nightly – and knowing you’ll get a big discount if you buy – will become an entirely new ad unit of sorts, while keeping players engaged in a game-show like experience.
While the early numbers are promising if true, and it’s clear the team likes to work in the general space of connecting brands with consumers, Gravy still feels – like much of what the founders have created before – designed primarily with the needs of brands in mind, before that of consumers.
A “Price is Right”-style app would be a lot of fun, but this isn’t it – it’s, at the end of the day, an invitation to watch an ad and shop at a discount. That’s not something consumers may want to do every day, long-term – even if you try to woo them with a small cash prize won through a guessing game.
And like Trivia HQ , which has dropped from a top 20 app to the 140’s (by App Store overall rank, the shine may eventually wear off for Gravy, too. Especially because it’s not primarily a game – and millennials, as fickle and short attention-spanned as they may be (really? the generation that binges entire TV seasons in a few days?), will know it.
Wiegand isn’t concerned, though.
He says he gets bored with trivia apps in a few weeks, but Gravy is different.
“I always shop and I always like a deal. The deal industry and the shopping industry are so much larger than the trivia space,” Wiegand insists. “And the thrill of seeing a product that you like going down into the sixties and seventies percent off is unbelievably thrilling,” he enthuses. “We are able to feature things that have the best price on the planet of first-run products…it creates this heart-pounding, exhilarating and experience like, ‘Should I buy? Oh my God, look at this price. I can’t turn it down,’” he says.
The company raised $2.1 million in seed funding from a range of investors, including the founders at the turn of the year. Around eighty percent was outside capital, led by New Capital. The under-20 person team is based in both Madison and Minneapolis.
Gravy is on the App Store here.

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Yahoo shuts down social savings app Tanda only months after launch -
Well, that didn’t take long. Yahoo Finance’s new social savings app Tanda, which launched just this January, is already shutting down. The company announced the news of the app’s closure via a blog post, which vaguely hinted at a lack of traction. That appears to be true – the app isn’t even in the top 1,500 in the Finance category on the App Store, according to Sensor Tower’s data.
It had been installed around 37,000 times to date across both iOS and Android.
Still, tens of thousands in the first few months isn’t an entirely horrible showing for app that received almost no attention, marketing effort or media outreach. (We happened upon it practically by accident – not because Yahoo reached out to press. Yes, even though Yahoo is owned by Oath which also owns us, there wasn’t any internal heads-up. Or even any external pitching. In case you’re wondering!)
The app had allowed people to save money together for short-term goals using the concept of a “money pool” where a group of friends pay a fixed amount to the saving pot monthly, and every month someone takes the pot home. You didn’t “win” this pot, you took turns claiming it. In the end, it was just another way to save money, but the social element helped you stay on track.
Money pools are popular outside the U.S., in places like Mexico and the Philippines, Yahoo notes. It may have been hard to convince the U.S. audience to give them a shot, though.

In an email sent to Tanda users, the company says the app will be shut down starting on May 29.
Any funds owed to you will be refunded in full, and then your Tanda account will be deactivated, the email states.
Yahoo declined to comment further on the reasons behind the shutdown, but said the Tanda team will continue to support Yahoo Finance.

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Netflix magic market number larger than big cable companys magic market number -
Netflix’s market cap is now larger than Comcast, which is pretty much just a symbolic thing given that the companies are valued very differently but is like one of those moments where Apple was larger than Exxon and may be some kind of watershed moment for technology. Or not.
A couple notes on this largely symbolic and not really important thing:

Netflix users are going up. That’s a number that people look at. It’s why Netflix’s magic market number is going up.
People are cutting cable TV cords. Netflix has no cable TV cords. It does, however, require a cord connected to the internet. So it still needs a cord of some sort, unless everything goes wireless.
Netflix is spending a lot of money on content. People consume content. Cable is also content, but it is expensive content. Also, Comcast will start bundling in Netflix into its cable subscriptions.
They have a very different price-to-earnings ratio. Comcast is valued as a real company. Netflix is valued as a… well, something that is growing that will maybe be a business more massive than Comcast. Maybe.
Comcast makes much more money than Netflix. Netflix had $3.7 billion in revenue in Q1. Comcast had $22.8 billion and free cash flow of $3.1 billion. Netflix says it will have -$3 billion to -$4 billion in free cash flow in 2018.

Anyway, Netflix will report its next earnings in a couple months, and this number is definitely going to change, because it’s pretty arbitrary given that Netflix is not valued like other companies. The stock price doesn’t swing as much as Bitcoin, but things can be pretty random.
In the mean time, Riverdale Season 2 is on Netflix, so maybe that’s why it’s more valuable than Comcast . See you guys in a few hours.

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Real Vision, a media platform for finance and business, raises $10 million -
Real Vision is entering the crowded business and financial new space with a bang. The company, which recently raised a $10 million Series B after a $5 million A round, is working on a number of new initiatives including distribution on Apple TV, a content distribution partnership with Thomson Reuters and an upcoming documentary on PBS.
The documentary, “A World on the Brink,” will focus on threats to the global economy. The team is aiming at viewers ages 36-45 instead of the older Boomers who prefer cable financial news far.
“Unlike most video-based media businesses where short-form video is deemed to have the highest user engagement, Real Vision have found that almost 70% of their customers who start a half, or an hour-long, video will watch all of it. This engagement in long-form content is breaking boundaries within the industry,” said co-founder and CEO Raoul Pal. “Sensationalism and clickbait is at an all-time high. Traditional financial news has continued to degenerate into attention-seeking sound bites that are at best of little value and at worst, downright dangerous.”
Pal worked at Goldman Sachs before moving into media.
“I lamented on the state of financial media – how it had let the ordinary person down repeatedly in 2000 and 2008 and was busy treating finance as entertainment and not taking into account that this was people’s life savings they were dealing with. I also noted how far financial programming had become versus the fast-changing world of on line video. Viewing habits and content types were changing but the financial TV incumbents hadn’t changed,” he said “I decided that it was time for someone to disrupt the way in which television worked – particularly with regard to financial and business information.”
The team will use the cash to create programming aimed at “those who want to create new business opportunities and startups, manage new enterprises and leverage new technology.” The videos can run as long as 90 minutes but usually hit the five to thirty-minute mark. They are also distributing their content to Thomson Reuters . It uses a subscription-based model and costs $180 annually.
The team met at a bar in Jesus Pobre, Spain. Pal and his co-founder Damian Horner found each other during their travels and had drinks at a place called Rosita’s where Horner, a former ad exec, learned of Pal’s experience in finance and they both mapped out a new type of online news channel with some real energy. Thus was born a model that mixes on-demand with high-impact news, something that few cable stations can manage.
“Almost all traditional media outlets rely on an ever-dwindling advertising revenue model. Real Vision is subscription-based and built that way from the ground up,” said Pal. “Most media business are still trying to figure out a subscription model to diversify away from advertising. In a highly competitive digital world, the pressure ‘to get clicks’ has a massive impact on the tone, direction and quality of the editorial content itself. Real Vision’s subscriber model means there is no need to sensationalize, no dumbing down of ideas, no incessant ‘breaking news’ headlines, no clickbait soundbites and no cutting things short for commercial breaks.”

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Cryptocurrency and a stock market boom pushes TradingView to $37 million in new funding -
Fueled by last year’s greed-inducing visions of a cryptocurrency boom and a stock market largely untethered from classical economics, TradingView, a developer of social networking and data analysis tools for financial markets, has raised millions in new venture funding.
The New York-based company just scored $37 million in funding led by the growth-stage investment firm Insight Venture Partners .
TradingView has developed a proprietary, JavaScript-based programming language called PineScript, which lets anyone develop their own customized financial analysis tools. The company “freemium” software as a service model that lets most users connect and exchange trading tips and tricks for free, but begins charging when customers want access to more charts, data and real-time server-side alerts.
There are three payment plans beginning at $15, with a mid-tier at $30 and a high-end $60 per-month premium option.
The company had previously boosted its growth by offering its charting software for free to partner websites like SeekingAlpha, Bitfinex and the Nasdaq. That strategy helped it grow to 8 million monthly active users with around 61 percent coming from direct traffic as of March of this year.
These days the company derives nearly 75 percent of its revenue from those monthly subscription plans to individual traders. TradingView’s executives think the company still has an opportunity to expand its footprint among those retail investors, but it’s also planning to make a push to serve more institutional clients with its toolkit.
For the past seven years the company has enjoyed consistent growth, according to TradingView co-founder and chief operations officer, Stan Bokov.
For Paul Szurek, a vice-president at Insight Venture Partners, the investment in TradingView is building off of broad consumer interest in amateur speculative trading. Looking at RobinHood, Bux and eToro as gateways for new investors who eventually move on to more sophisticated tools, Szurek said that TradingView was often their next step into market investing.
“The rise of cryptocurrencies… and trading those assets… has flywheeled into a broader interest in investing across asset classes,” Szurek said.
While TradingView was never crypto-focused, according to Bokov, the company was supportive from the beginning and it’s been a boon to the broader business. “They came for crypto. They stayed for the other stuff,” Bokov said.
And crypto might just be the gateway drug for younger speculative traders to start investing in financial markets more broadly, according to Szurek. “October to January, during the real core of the crypto boom here, there were a lot of users coming in starting out researching that asset class broadly. Eighty percent move on to research other asset classes,” he said. “As TradingView kind of pushed through the [first quarter], trends in growth really diverged from what we were seeing in purely crypto-focused business and that’s a testament to users leveraging this one-stop-shop component of the platform.”
Additional investors in the new TradingView include DRW Venture Capital and Jump Capital. The company was a graduate of the 2013 Techstars Chicago batch and was seeded by Irish Angels, Techstars, iTech Capital and undisclosed angel investors.
https://buff.ly/2ICxNhZ

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Tradeshift fires-up blockchain to address late payment problem -
While the cryptocurrency world continues to swirl around in a daze of troughs and highs, startups are continuing to make use of the fundamental underlying strengths of blockchain technology.
A new entrant in this race is Tradeshift, a leading player in supply-chain payments and marketplaces, which is today launching its new service, which enables blockchain-based finance, or writing all transactions to a public ledger in order to create transparency and securing a record.
While this doesn’t involve the use of currencies like actual Bitcoin or Ethereum, “having the transactions on a public ledger ensures full transparency and the ability for companies to prove that they have legit transactions,” says CEO and co-founder Christian Lanng.
So what this all means is that Tradeshift’s cloud platform will bring supply-chain payments, supply-chain finance and blockchain-based early payments together into one unified end-to-end solution, called “Tradeshift Pay.”
They are aiming at a $9 trillion problem, which is the capital trapped in “accounts receivable” as a result of old-fashioned payment practices and the disconnection between large business buyers and their suppliers.
In other words, this could be a boon for small suppliers that find it hard to get paid when their invoices aren’t mapped to a ledger as strong as a blockchain.
With this single unified wallet, buyers can use several payment options, including virtual card payments of invoices and purchase orders, dynamic discounting, supply-chain finance through bank partners or blockchain-based payments.

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Meet the judges for the TC Startup Battlefield Europe at VivaTech -
VivaTech is right around the corner, and I’m excited to introduce you to the third batch of judges that will come to Paris for TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield Europe.
If you haven’t been to TechCrunch Disrupt, the Startup Battlefield is arguably the most interesting part of the show. Before everybody started doing a startup competition, there was the Startup Battlefield. Companies like Dropbox, Fitbit, N26 and Yammer all launched on the TechCrunch stage.
And we’re bringing talented investors and founders to judge the startups. Here’s the third round of judges (see part 1 and part 2).
Rob Moffat, Partner, Balderton Capital

Marie Ekeland is co-founder of daphni, a venture capital firm which invests in European tech startups and is supported by an online platform and an international community of experts. She began her career in 1997 at J.P. Morgan in New York as a computer scientist. Since 2000, Marie has been acting as a VC, first at CPR Private Equity, then, from 2005 to 2014 at Elaia Partners, leading investments in Criteo, Edoki Academy, Pandacraft, Teads, Wyplay, and Ykone. In 2012 she co-founded France Digitale, bringing together French VCs & entrepreneurs to make the French digital ecosystem thrive. She serves as a board member for Parrot, Showroomprive. Marie holds an engineering degree in mathematics and computer science from Paris Dauphine University as well as a master’s degree in Economics from the Paris School of Economics.
Antoine Nussenbaum, Partner, Felix Capital

Eileen Burbidge is a Partner at Passion Capital, the pre-eminent early-stage VC fund based in London. She brings extensive operational experience to her investment activities gleaned from business and product roles at Yahoo!, Skype, Apple and elsewhere. In addition to Passion Capital, Eileen is also the Chair of TechCity UK, which is the British government-backed organisation supporting digital business across the UK. She is also HM Treasury’s Special Envoy for FinTech appointed by then Chancellor George Osborne; Tech Ambassador for the Mayor of London’s office and served on former Prime Minister David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group. Eileen was made an MBE for services to Business in June 2015 and holds a BSc Engineering degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Liron Azrielant, General Partner, Meron Capital
https://buff.ly/2ISYUEU

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Trump reportedly pushed USPS to double Amazons shipping rates -
According to new reporting from The Washington Post, President Trump personally pushed United States Postal Service head Megan Brennan to jack up shipping prices on Amazon and other firms.
The story comes from unnamed sources, who suggest that, thus far, the postmaster general has held out against pressure from the president. If enacted, the new pricing structure would likely cost the online retailer and others billions. 
Amazon has been in Trump’s crosshairs from some time, of course. In late March, he took to Twitter to personally call out a “scam” he believed was costing the USPS “billions,” writing, “If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.’ This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!”
Brennan has reportedly pushed back on the notion that deals with companies like Amazon have been a bad deal for the postal service, offering evidence of the upsides of such partnerships in meetings with the president. She has also noted that such multiyear contracts wouldn’t be easy to break.
But Trump’s criticism of Amazon clearly has a personal element. Here’s a nice compendium of the many times he’s gone after the company and its owner Jeff Bezos on Twitter — at least through late-March. The criticism really started to hit its stride around 2015. Bezos, of course, also own The Washington Post, a paper Trump has regularly called out for reporting “fake news.” 
Further clouding all of this is the fact that the USPS hasn’t released the specifics of its pricing deals with Amazon, for fear of given competing delivery services “an unfair advantage.” It has, however, insisted that it’s made money on its deals with Amazon, in spite of the fact that the service reported a $2.7 billion loss in 2017.

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House committee accepts amendment to uphold ZTE ban -
The bizarre recent tale of ZTE is getting another wrinkle. Earlier today, a bipartisan House Appropriations Committee unanimously voted to accept an amendment to uphold sanctions against the company.
The amendment to the 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill is, of course, being viewed as a rebuke of the president, whose tweets over the weekend appeared to suggest a softening on the seven-year ban imposed by the Department of Commerce last month.
In fact, the amendment’s author, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, called out Trump by name on social media, adding in a press release tied to the news, “This amendment, which passed with the unanimous support of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, shows that, when the United States enacts sanctions, we stand behind them.”
https://buff.ly/2IxzPvw
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