Bitcoiin founders and brand ambassador Steven Seagal depart after raising over $75 million

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Actor Steven Seagal started supporting the “Bitcoiin” cryptocurrency last year as the new token’s brand ambassador. Now that relationship is over, as Bitcoiin posted a statement today that Seagal and the unnamed founders of the coin were walking away from the project since the token sale has ended.

“From this point on Bitcoiin will function within its ecosystem and become a genuinely anonymous currency with no individual or individuals having control over the entity!” the post declares. Bitcoiin has been a dubious coin since its launch and this mysterious exit, which removes the only recognizable figure associated with the coin — Steven Seagal — doesn’t help. It’s also unknown how much money the ICO raised, although Bitcoiin said it…

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MoviePass Founders Say Subscription Service ‘Would Never Have Happened’ Without iPhones in New App Store Feature

Apple today on the iOS App Store shared a new interview with the founders of MoviePass, touching on the service’s origins and its integral ties to the iPhone and modern smartphone app development. MoviePass debuted in 2011, but grew in popularity last August when the company dropped its subscription price to $9.95/month, which lets customers see one standard 2D film every day in the theater

In Apple’s new interview with Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt — the pair of entrepreneurs who founded MoviePass seven years ago — the conversation eventually focuses on where the idea for MoviePass emerged. According to Spikes, the kernel of the idea that would become MoviePass originated from art-house theaters in New York City that let customers see unlimited movies for a flat donation fee.

He tried to install a similar model for his own Urbanworld Film Festival in the late 1990s, but admitted it was “too early,” and that iPhones, apps, and the advances in development that emerged from this technology were all needed to address the technical roadblocks of such a service.

“The idea was almost too early,” says Spikes. “We didn’t have iPhones and apps to figure out payment and interfacing. If it weren’t for that development, MoviePass would never have happened.”

MoviePass works through the use of both the iPhone app and a paired debit card that is sent to subscribers through the mail after they sign up. If you want to see a movie, you travel to your local theater (MoviePass is supported at over 90 percent of theaters nationwide), select a 2D showtime, “check in,” and at that time MoviePass transfers the exact cost of the showing to your MoviePass card. Then you can buy a ticket at the box office or a kiosk like any normal ticket purchase.

Although the service is growing, many reports in the months following its August price drop have questioned how long the company can keep up the $9.95/month subscription fee (currently $7.95/month paid annually), as well as its public conflict with theater chain AMC. What MoviePass lacks in profit it hopes to make up for in accrued user data, selling a majority stake of itself to data company Helios and Matheson Analytics, which sees “big potential in the type of information it can glean from MoviePass members,” with “no plans to sell user data to outside parties.”

As of January 2018, MoviePass had 1.5 million subscribers. According to CEO Mitch Lowe, MoviePass will hit three million subscribers by the end of April, and turn a profit once four million subscribers sign up for the service.

MoviePass updated its iOS app [Direct Link] to support the iPhone X this month, providing a revamped user interface with more emphasis on images from popular films, better navigation, and an updated screen for the check in process. If you want to read the full interview with the creators of MoviePass, you can find the discussion with Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt at the top of the Today tab on the iOS 11 App Store on iPhone or iPad.

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HQ Trivia is raising $15 million at a valuation of more than $100 million from Founders Fund

Founders Fund partner Cyan Banister is leading the round.

HQ Trivia, the popular trivia gameshow app, plans to raise money in a new round of financing that values the company north of $ 100 million, according to multiple sources.

Founders Fund, the venture firm founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, is expected to lead the round of $ 15 million, these sources say. Founders Fund partner Cyan Banister is spearheading the investment for the firm, and plans to take a seat on the company’s board.

A spokesperson for Founders Fund declined to comment. Jeremy Liew, an HQ investor and board member who works at Lightspeed Ventures, could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.

HQ, which has garnered audiences of more than 1 million people for some of its twice-daily trivia shows, has been out fundraising since at least November, but it has had trouble raising money after investors learned of alleged bad behavior by one of the company’s founders, Colin Kroll.

Kroll and fellow co-founder Rus Yusupov also started the video app Vine before selling it to Twitter in 2012. Both founders were eventually fired from Twitter, and had garnered reputations for being difficult to work with.

Kroll’s time at Twitter was particularly troubling to some investors. As Recode first reported, Kroll had developed a reputation for exhibiting behavior that made female colleagues uncomfortable. That reputation turned off potential investors who considered an investment in the company late last year, and HQ ultimately paused the funding process to regroup.

In December, Liew, an investor from a previous round, conducted his own investigation into the allegations.

“We heard back from a couple of firms that they were not going to move forward, specifically because of rumors of what was characterized as womanizing on Colin’s part,” Liew told Recode in December. “I was concerned that this might be code for sexual harassment. So in my capacity as a board member, I conducted an investigation to find out what actually happened. I spoke to about a dozen current and former Twitter execs. The investigation was exhaustive and included the most knowledgeable primary sources. I found a good deal of negative sentiment about Colin and the Vine team and some discomfort with his behavior, but I did not find evidence that warrants his removal from the company.”

Investor interest in HQ was high before the founders’ behavior became public — HQ was the app of the moment late last year, luring in hundreds of thousands of users twice a day thanks to a catchy trivia host and cash prizes.

Even after Recode’s story detailing the founders’ reputation, many investors were still interested in the deal but worried about the optics of leading the funding, numerous sources said. Multiple venture funds said they were eager to join the round as long as they did not have to lead it given the potential for negative publicity.

Given the recent and frequent allegations of sexual harassment against influential men in numerous industries, Silicon Valley investors are being more being more careful about which founders they support. Some firms that considered the deal did their own investigations into the founders’ history, including Founders Fund, the sources said.

It is notable that Banister, a female investor, is ultimately leading the round.

The deal, which came together in just the last couple of days, has not yet closed. But the new funding is needed. HQ’s cash prizes have increased, and on special occasions can be as high as $ 10,000 per game. The app also suffers from constant technical issues, and the games are often delayed while the company gets the video stream up and running. New funding should help in both cases.

The company had previously raised $ 8 million in funding to build other apps, including a separate mobile video app called Hype. None caught on. Kroll and Yusupov pivoted the business to the HQ Trivia app in late 2017.

Recode – All

Ukraine may soon have world’s largest Apple museum, thanks to MacPaw founder’s obsession

If you want to get a sense of the extent of Apple’s cultural might, glance about 6,200 miles east of the company’s Cupertino headquarters to the capital city of Ukraine. Sometime in 2018, the Eastern European city of Kyiv will somewhat improbably become home to a new museum devoted to Apple products.

While the city that Americans refer to as “Kiev” is hardly a backwater — either culturally or economically — its connection to the world’s most valuable company isn’t so obvious. There is no previously unknown connection to Steve Jobs, no massive Apple facility in the country, no hidden backstory that reveals an unlikely chapter between Ukraine and Apple.

Instead, the answer to the question “Why Ukraine?” is simple: Oleksandr Kosovan.

One of Ukraine’s best-known entrepreneurs, Kosovan is founder and CEO of MacPaw, the company that makes CleanMyMac software and Setapp, a Mac application subscription service. Founded in 2008, the company now has about 100 employees and is one of Eastern Europe’s most successful startups.

The company’s roots lie in Kosovan’s Apple obsession, explained Julia Petryk, MacPaw’s head of public relations. While attending Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, Kosovan spotted Apple’s newly released transparent keyboard for the Mac in 2003 and fell head over heels. Though he didn’t own a Mac, he had to have that keyboard.

“That was the only piece he could afford back then,” Petryk said. “He saved a month of salary to buy it.”

Above: The transparent Mac keyboard Kosovan bought in 2003.

Image Credit: MacPaw

Eventually, of course, he did buy his own Mac. Later, he started a company devoted to making Macs run better.

As MacPaw grew, the company reserved a space in the corner of its offices for displays of older Apple products. But early in the summer of 2016, Kosovan heard that the legendary Mac repair store Tekserve in New York was closing. Tekserve was an Apple store before there were Apple stores, but the owners said they simply couldn’t compete anymore.

But in the shutting down, the owners also said they needed to find a new home for 40 Macs that spanned nearly the entire history of Apple: A 128K Macintosh signed by Steve Wozniak; an Apple Lisa; even a NeXTcube from Steve Jobs’ second act. A decision was made to auction them off, but Kosovan put in a bid of $ 47,000 for the whole collection and won.

Winning presented its own issues, however. Shipping that much computer hardware between the U.S. and Ukraine was going to pose a customs nightmare. So the company enlisted friends and friends of friends to bring the collection over one Mac at a time as they happened to be traveling back and forth.

Eventually, they all landed in MacPaw’s HQ, where a more proper display was constructed for them. The company’s employees were excited, but so were several other local Mac fans who volunteered to come in and get all the Macs back in working in order, Petryk said. The company allows the general public to visit, as well as conducting tours for students.

Above: MacPaw’s current Mac museum in its HQ.

Image Credit: MacPaw

As final touches were being put on the new display last spring, MacPaw got wind of another collection being sold by someone in Poland:

Kosovan acquired that collection too. In addition to even more Macs, this haul included iPads, iPhones, iPods, product posters, and advertising materials — a bounty that was going to be too big to cram into the display space in MacPaw’s office.

So MacPaw recently announced that it has begun looking for a space in Kyiv to create a separate museum for all of these Apple products. The company will celebrate its 10th birthday in July 2018, and the new museum will be among 10 charity projects it plans to focus on this coming year, Petryk said.

The idea is to create a richer experience, with interactive exhibits that tell the story of Apple, in addition to displays of the Apple products. There’s no firm price tag on the project. But for Kosovan, the museum is a way to pay homage to a company that changed his life, as well as to hopefully inspire a new generation.

“He was always grateful for the inspiration that Apple gave him,” Petryk said. “We hope it will be interesting not only for geeks, but for anyone who is looking for inspiration in creative work.”

Apple – VentureBeat

Amazon killed their wine website. Now the two founders are back with another.

Casemates is launching — from the founder of and Wine.Woot

Call it a second round — with a twist.

Back in 2010, Amazon purchased the wine-selling website Woot.Wine as part of the $ 110 million acquisition of its parent company,

But at the end of 2017, Amazon shut down Woot.Wine as well as its own wine marketplace in the wake of its purchase of Whole Foods.

Now, the two founders of Wine.Woot — Matt Rutledge and David Studdert — are back with a new online wine venture, attempting to fill the void left behind by those two closures, and trying again to build a robust online marketplace and community connecting wine drinkers as directly as possible with the wineries that make the product.

A few days ago, the duo launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for a new wine-selling venture called Casemates, which allows wine producers to sell directly to U.S. consumers online. On Day 1, the campaign surpassed its $ 50,000 goal; it sat at $ 104,000 as of Tuesday morning.

At launch, Casemates will launch new wine deals three days a week at midnight ET — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — with each deal lasting until the new one begins. Shipping will be $ 8 to $ 12 per order, though the company offered a year of unlimited shipping to backers on Kickstarter who paid $ 60.

“We pioneered the winery-direct retail model for wine fans to buy online, from winemakers, with no middlemen,” the campaign page reads. “We created this method — we’re not even a store, the wine you’re buying is sold by the producing winery. So no one’s better positioned than we are to step in and rescue it from extinction like John Hammond with the velociraptors.”

As its name indicates, the site will incentivize wine seekers to buy an entire case by offering them better prices on those orders.

And the founders are hoping that community features that have been integral to some of their past sites — think super-active online forums — will help consumers get to know each other and feel comfortable enough to chip in with those in their geographic vicinity to share the purchase of a case.

To that end, the site will enable features to allow people to split the payment of a single case. And, over time, Casemates will unveil “ways to safely locate Casemates to go in with you.”

Casemates is the latest business launched inside of A Mediocre Corporation, the e-commerce startup incubator Rutledge created after leaving Amazon and, the unabashedly quirky and irreverent deal-a-day site that Amazon gobbled up.

Other Mediocre projects include, which is basically a reincarnation of Woot, and the flash-sale site

“Our overall mission is to eliminate retail middlemen by providing as direct a channel to producers as possible,” Rutledge wrote in a note to Recode, “furthering our apparent demise.”

Rutledge says the primary consumer advantage of buying from a supplier-direct model like Casemates is better prices than you can find at retail. “Discovery and learning is great, too, but secondary,” he said.

Wineries pay Casemates a commission on each sale event, but the promise is better economics than a wholesale relationship with a retailer — and the ability to attract new customers online.

For Rutledge and Studdert, the Kickstarter was intended to suss out whether the model should be resurrected after the Amazon closures.

“We have the funds to do it,” Rutledge said on the first day of the campaign, “but we want to see support for the model.”

Recode – All

HQ Trivia’s founders are facing fundraising roadblocks after investors learned of alleged bad behavior

Former Vine co-founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll don’t have a lot of fans from their time at Twitter.

The founders of HQ, the popular trivia app, have been trying to capitalize on the startup’s white-hot status by raising a new funding round, hoping to land a valuation as high as $ 100 million.

Considering Silicon Valley’s obsession with finding and funding the next big thing, and the app’s popularity — more than 680,000 people played the game show on Sunday night just two months after its launch — that valuation seems attainable.

But many well-known venture capitalists aren’t participating in the deal, and not because it’s too crowded. While many are concerned with the app’s longevity and business prospects, there are deeper issues with the app’s founders.

At least three prominent investors have decided against funding the startup after finding troubling conduct on the part of the founders they uncovered during due diligence, multiple sources say.

These investors were particularly concerned about how HQ’s founder Colin Kroll managed people during his time at Twitter, as well as a reputation he’s garnered for exhibiting inappropriate behavior toward women, according to the sources.

Kroll, who was Vine’s general manager for a short stint in early 2014, was fired from Twitter for being a bad manager just 18 months after the company acquired his other startup Vine, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Separately, he also earned a reputation while working at Vine for exhibiting “creepy” behavior toward women that made them uncomfortable, according to numerous former colleagues, a reputation that is hurting HQ’s fundraising efforts.

This behavior turned off at least one investor who considered putting money into HQ. A second investor who passed on the deal looked into the founders’ backgrounds and described Kroll’s behavior as “egregious,” but declined to elaborate. Numerous former Twitter employees who worked with Kroll told Recode that they also heard that Kroll exhibited creepy behavior toward women while working at Vine.

Recode is not aware of any sexual harassment complaints that were filed with Twitter about Kroll. He declined to comment through a company spokesperson. A Twitter spokesperson also declined to comment.

Jeremy Liew, an investor with Lightspeed Venture Partners and a board member at Intermedia Labs, the company behind HQ, also heard from investors concerned about Kroll’s behavior during the fundraising process. He has conducted his own investigation, and sent Recode the following statement.

“We heard back from a couple of firms that they were not going to move forward, specifically because of rumors of what was characterized as womanizing on Colin’s part. I was concerned that this might be code for sexual harassment. So in my capacity as a board member, I conducted an investigation to find out what actually happened. I spoke to about a dozen current and former Twitter execs. The investigation was exhaustive and included the most knowledgeable primary sources. I found a good deal of negative sentiment about Colin and the Vine team and some discomfort with his behavior, but I did not find evidence that warrants his removal from the company.”

Lightspeed itself has seen the impact of sexual harassment claims when a number of women spoke out against one of its venture investors, Justin Caldbeck, who was accused of unwanted sexual advances earlier this year. He has since left the firm.

HQ’s fundraising effort is still ongoing and parent company Intermedia Labs is still in talks with potential investors.

A company spokesperson says the startup is in the process of implementing a zero-tolerance policy regarding workplace harassment and discrimination.

That reputation aside, Kroll was also difficult to work for in his role leading the Vine team, according to conversations with more than 15 former Vine and Twitter colleagues. They described him as abrasive and disinterested, and said he could be verbally abusive to colleagues. Kroll was also known, at times, to show up late to work, hungover and disheveled, according to five former colleagues. This all factored into his dismissal, sources say.

Rus Yusupov, HQ’s other co-founder who also founded Vine with Kroll, was also fired from Twitter in October 2015 at the same time Twitter had a series of layoffs.

Yusupov, who was originally Vine’s creative director, lost most of those responsibilities to colleagues over time. He never ran the Vine team while at Twitter. He is the CEO at the duo’s new startup, Intermedia Labs, which created HQ. Yusupov declined to comment through a company spokesperson.

Firing founders for poor management is unusual in Silicon Valley, an industry that often prizes innovation at the expense of executive experience. Founders are often given a pass for weak business ability if their product signals the next big thing.

In the case of Vine, the firing was especially notable given Twitter acquired the startup only 18 months earlier for tens of millions of dollars. Many of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies were founded by weak managers, and investors have a tendency to see beyond those problems if a business looks promising.

But we live in a different world now thanks to Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer whose blog post about sexism and toxic company culture led to a major executive team overhaul, including the ousting of its CEO. And after Harvey Weinstein, investors are simply taking extra precautions.

Even after Vine sold to Twitter for millions, its founding team seemed unhappy at Twitter almost from the start, according to numerous sources. When Twitter shut down Vine in late 2016, Yusupov tweeted, “Don’t sell your company!”

Twitter’s plan was to let Vine run as a separate product, at least initially. Twitter management, particularly co-founder Jack Dorsey, thought of Vine as the company’s response to Facebook acquiring Instagram, which Twitter had also wanted to buy.

But even with those parameters, Kroll, Yusupov and third co-founder Dom Hofmann were fiercely independent and resisted any kind of efforts to link the two companies, even culturally, sources say.

Adding to the separation: Vine’s offices were in New York City, across the country from Twitter management in San Francisco. The co-founders even refused help from Twitter engineers, and also refused to move Vine over onto Twitter’s back-end infrastructure and servers. Ultimately, when Twitter decided to add a video feature to its core app in late 2015, it built an in-app camera instead of integrating Vine.

It’s unclear if Kroll or Yusupov left money on the table when they were fired, though most acquisition deals include earn-outs and retention bonuses that require employees to hit certain benchmarks and to stay with the acquiring company for at least two years.

At HQ, Yusupov hasn’t given investors much confidence that things have changed. He recently flipped out on a reporter from The Daily Beast last month after she interviewed the trivia show’s host Scott Rogowsky without Yusupov’s “permission.” He later apologized, but multiple investors pointed to the article and interview in discussions with Recode as evidence that management problems still exist.

There are other reasons some investors are avoiding HQ, even though it’s the most-talked-about app of the last few weeks. The main one: Concerns about whether or not HQ can turn a twice-daily trivia show into an actual company, not just a hit with a limited lifespan.

Recode – All

HQ Trivia faces fundraising hurdles because its founders are douchebags

Silicon Valley investors are shutting the door on popular trivia app, HQ. Riding a wave of success in 2017, the app’s founders, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll are attempting to raise a new funding round, hoping to land a valuation as high as $ 100 million. According to a report from Recode, however, things aren’t going exactly as planned. While venture capitalists are always on the lookout for the next big thing, and HQ certainly fits the bill in this regard, many are declining to participate. Some are concerned with the app’s longevity, while others are more than a little worried…

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Nearly 80 percent of female tech founders have experienced sexual harassment at work or know someone who has

Female founders have an idea for how to solve it, too.

More than three-quarters of female tech founders, or 78 percent, have either been sexually harassed or have known someone who’s been sexually harassed in the workplace, according to a new survey of tech founders by seed-stage venture firm First Round Capital. About half of male founders — 48 percent — have had the same experience.

The survey provides context for a slew of sexual harassment incidents in tech that have come to light in recent months. Like this one, this one and this one. And the story is far from over.

Similarly, female founders are more likely to think sexual harassment in tech is underreported than their male counterparts. Seventy percent of the women surveyed said the scope of sexual harassment is more significant than the media is reporting, versus 35 percent of men.

Female and male founders also diverged on how best to address sexual harassment in tech, with women preferring that more women should become investors. The men were more likely to think sensitivity training is the answer.

It’s notable that the majority of founders surveyed work for startups whose teams and boards are predominantly male.

The survey includes responses from 869 male and female founders of venture-backed tech startups and attempts to illustrate what it’s like to run a startup these days. Seventeen percent of the people surveyed were women. The survey is in its third year but this is the first time it has asked about sexual harassment.

Recode – All

BitConnect is a Ponzi scheme, Ethereum and Litecoin founders warn

The cryptocurrency community is slowly but steadily growing more suspicious of BitConnect and its dubious business model. Crypto pioneers, including Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin and Litecoin founder Charlie lee, have spoken up against the bullish Bitcoin investment platform, calling it a Ponzi scheme. Shortly after former Fortress Investment Group partner Michael Novogratz took to Twitter to share his opinion that BitConnect “really seems like a scam,” Buterin and Lee also chimed in to second the ex-hedge fund manager’s criticism. BitConnect really seems like a scam. an old school ponzi … bad actors hurt the community. period. #bitcoin #ether — Michael…

This story continues at The Next Web
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