Self-care startup Shine raises $5 million Series A

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

Shine, an early arrival in market now teeming with self-care apps and services, has closed on $ 5 million in Series A funding, the company announced today, alongside the milestone of hitting 2 million active users. The round was led by existing investor by Comcast Ventures with betaworks, Felix Capital and The New York Times also participating.

The investment comes roughly two years after Shine launched its free service, a messaging bot aimed at younger users that doles out life advice and positive reinforcement on a daily basis through SMS texts or Facebook’s Messenger.

At the time, the idea that self-help could be put into an app or bot-like format was still a relatively novel concept. But today, digital wellness has become far more common with apps for everything from meditation to self-help to talk therapy.

“We’re proud that we were part of the catalyst to make well-being as am industry something that is so much more top-of-mind. We really sensed where the world was going and we were ahead of it,” says co-founder Naomi Hirabayashi, who built Shine along with her former DoSomething.org co-worker Marah Lidey. The founders had wanted to offer others something akin to the personal support system they had with each other, as close friends.

“Marah and I are both women of color, and we created this company from a very non-traditional background from an entrepreneurship standpoint – we didn’t go to business school,” Hirabayashi explains. “We saw there was something missing in the market because wellbeing companies didn’t really reach us – they didn’t speak to us. We didn’t see people that looked like us. We didn’t feel like the way they shared content sounded like how we spoke about the different wellbeing issues in our lives,” she says.

The company’s free messaging product, Shine Text, was the result of their frustrations with existing products. It tackles a timely theme every day in areas like confidence, productivity, mental health, happiness and more. And it isn’t just some sort of life-affirming text – Shine converses with you on the topic at hand using research-backed materials to help you better understand the information. It’s also presented in a style that makes Shine feel more like a friend chatting with you.

The service has grown to 2 million users across 189 countries, despite not being localized in other languages. 88 percent of users are under the age of 35, and 70 percent are female.

Shine attempted to generate revenue in the past with a life-coaching subscription, but users wanted to talk to a real person and the subscription was fairly steep at $ 15.99 per week. That product never emerged from testing, and the founders now refer to it as an “experiment.”

The company gave subscriptions another shot this past December, with the launch of a freemium (free with paid upgrades) app on iOS. The new app offers meditations, affirmations, and something called “Shine Stories.”

The meditations are short audio tracks voiced by influencers that help you with various challenges. There are quick hit meditations for recentering and relaxing, those where you can focus on handling a specific situation – like toxic friendships or online dating – and seven-day challenges that deal with a particular issue like burnout or productivity.

Affirmations are quick pep talks and Shine Stories are slightly longer – around five minutes-long, and also voiced by influencers.

“The biggest thing is that we want to meet the user where they are – and we know people are on the go,” says Hirabayashi. “You can expect a lot more to come in the future around how we combine this really exciting time that’s happening for audio consumption and the hunger that there is for audio content that’s motivational and makes you feel better.”

Asked specifically if the company was considering a voice-first app, like an Alexa skill, or perhaps a more traditional podcast, Hirabayashi said they weren’t yet sure, but didn’t plan on limiting the Shine Stories to a single platform indefinitely. But one thing they weren’t interested in doing in the near-term was introducing ads into Shine’s audio content.

The Shine app for iOS is a free download with some selection of its audio available to free users. Users can unlock the full library for $ 4.99 per month, billed as an annual subscription of $ 59.99, or $ 7.99 per month if paid monthly.

The founders declined to offer specifics on their conversions from free to paid members, but said it was “on par with industry standards.”

With the Series A now under its belt, Shine plans to double its 8-person team this year, launch the app on Android, continue to grow the business, including potentially launching new products.

Now the question is whether the millennials are actually so into self-care that they’ll pay. There are some signs that could be true – the top ten self-care apps pulled in $ 15 million last quarter, with meditation apps leading the way.

“We’re dominating the self-care routine of millennial women right now and we want to keep doing that,” Hirabayashi says.

 

Mobile – TechCrunch

Cash For Apps: Make money with android app

Menlo Ventures is making its first real bet on crypto as Bitpay raises $40 million

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

Not all investors or companies believe bitcoin will ultimately be used for day-to-day transactions. Menlo and Bitpay beg to differ.

Venture capital firms over the last year or so have wrestled with how forcefully to lean into investing in startups linked to cryptocurrencies:

  • Is blockchain technology so consequential that we should reorient our entire investment strategy?
  • Is it a fad that we can avoid as our competitors get distracted?
  • Or should we gingerly — maybe even reluctantly — make a few investments just to minimize our downside until it’s clearer whether there is indeed money to be made here?

Now an older-line venture firm — Menlo Ventures — is making its first investment in the world of blockchain, the tech that undergirds virtual currencies. Menlo is part of a new $ 40 million financing round at Bitpay, a startup that allows merchants to accept and store bitcoin paid by customers.

Not all venture capitalists are excited about businesses that rely on normal people using bitcoin for everyday transactions. Investors and startups increasingly see cryptocurrencies as an asset to be traded like gold, not as something to be used at a shopping mall like a dollar bill. And so several top-tier venture capitalists who invest in crypto told Recode they passed on Bitpay amid concerns about how the company’s business model fits into the trends in the industry.

Bitpay CEO Stephen Pair disputed that the company had any trouble fundraising, saying that it had to “expand” the round from a planned $ 30 million to the final $ 40 million total due to high demand.

The company did something unusual during fundraising, too: It announced in December its intention to raise a fundraising round that was not yet closed, unveiling the in-progress $ 30 million round led by a fund managed by Aquiline Capital Partners. Menlo’s investment is part of the same round.

“We wanted to make sure that anybody who wanted to participate could, and announcing it serves that purpose,” Pair said.

That might not be read as a sign of strength, but Bitpay says that in 2017 it processed more than $ 1 billion in bitcoin payments. Pair says the company has been profitable for a year and a half and therefore hasn’t needed to raise much money — it last raised about $ 30 million in 2014.

And even if there are some investors and industry veterans who are pessimistic on bitcoin payments in the United States, cryptocurrencies are potentially quite attractive overseas for buying and selling goods. In countries with a large unbanked population or where currency values gyrate wildly, bitcoin can be a stabler form of payment and make commerce easier, especially for the poor.

So it’s no surprise that Bitpay is thinking about using this money to fuel its international expansion, particularly into Asia. Pair said Bitpay could expand open an office on the continent this year in either Hong Kong or Singapore. Several of the investors in this round are Asia-based.

But what’s most interesting about this round is what it says about how Menlo, founded in 1976, will deal with this new sphere of startup innovation. Tyler Sosin, who is leading Menlo’s work in crypto, said his firm had been evaluating startups using blockchain for the last 18 months but had yet to find something that they loved.

Sosin said that Menlo feels blockchain will be integral to the future of payments — and that they are attracted to payments platforms because it doesn’t require them to bet on the success of any individual cryptocurrency.

Menlo has yet to participate in an initial coin offering, or ICO, Sosin said, nor has it purchased cryptocurrencies outright with firm dollars. While the fund has been slower to engage than some of its rivals, Sosin insisted that the industry is still evolving and that Menlo was eager to dive more fully into this set of startups.

“It’s early, early days,” he said. “We imagine there will be some very big companies.”

Recode – All

Cash For Apps: Make money with android app

Airtable raises $52M to give non-coders tools to build complex software

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

A massive company probably has plenty of engineers on staff and the resources to build a complex backbone of interconnected information that can contain tons of data and make acting on it easy — but for smaller companies, and for those that aren’t technical, those tools aren’t very accessible.

That’s what convinced Howie Liu to create Airtable, a startup that looks to turn what seems like just a normal spreadsheet into a robust database tool, hiding the complexity of what’s happening in the background while those without any programming experience create intricate systems to get their work done. Today, they’re trying to take that one step further with a new tool called Blocks, a set of mix-and-match operations like SMS and integrating maps that users can just drop into their systems. Think of it as a way to give a small business owner with a non-technical background to meticulously track all the performance activity across, say, a network of food trucks by just entering a bunch of dollar values and dropping in one of these tools.

“We really want to take this power you have in software creation and ‘consumerize’ that into a form anyone can use,” Liu said. “At the same time, from a business standpoint, we saw this bigger opportunity underneath the low-code app platforms in general. Those platforms solve the needs of heavyweight expensive use cases where you have a budget and have a lot of time. I would position Airtable making a leap toward a graphical user interface, versus a lot of products that are admin driven.”

Liu said the company has raised an additional $ 52 million in financing in a round led by CRV and Caffeinated Capital, with participation from Freestyle Ventures and Slow Ventures. All this is going toward a way to build a system that is trying to abstract out even the process of programming itself, though there’s always going to be some limited scope as to how custom of a system you can actually make with what amounts to a set of logic operation legos. That being said, the goal here is to boil down all of the most common sets of operations with the long tail left to the average programmers (and larger enterprises often have these kinds of highly-customized needs).

All this is coming at a time when businesses are increasingly chasing the long tail of small- to medium-sized businesses, the ones that aren’t really on the grid but represent a massive market opportunity. Those businesses also probably don’t have the kinds of resources to hire engineers while companies like Google or Facebook are camping out on college campuses looking to snap up students graduating with technical majors. That’s part of the reason why Excel had become so popular trying to abstract out a lot of complex operations necessary to run a business, but at the same time, Liu said that kind of philosophy should be able to be taken a step further.

“If you look at cloud, you have Amazon’s [cloud infrastructure] EC2, which abstracted the hardware level and you can build on existing machine intelligence,” Liu said. “Then, you get the OS level and up. Containers, Heroku, and other tools have extracted away the operation level complexity. But you have to write the app and modal logic. Our goal is to go a big leap forward on top of that and abstract out the app code layer. You should be able to directly use our interface, and blocks, all these plug and play lego pieces that give you more dynamic functionality — whether a map view or an integration with Twilio.”

And, really, all these platforms like Twilio have tried to make themselves pretty friendly to coding beginners as-is. Twilio has a lot of really good documentation for first-time developers to learn to use their platforms. But Airtable hopes to serve as a way to interconnect all these things in a complex web, creating a relational database behind the scenes that users can operate on in a more simplistic matter that’s still accurate, fast, and reliable.

“Obviously MySQL is great if you want to use code or custom SQL queries to interface with the data,” Liu said. “But, ultimately, you’d never as a business end user consider using literally a terminal-based SQL prompt as the primary interface to and from your data. Certainly you wouldn’t put that on your designs. Clearly you would want some interface on top of the SQL level database. We basically expose the full value of a relational database like Postgres to the end user, but we also give them something equally but more important: the interface on the top that makes the data immediately visible.”

There’s been a lot of activity trying to rethink these sort of fundamental formats that the average user is used to, but are ripe for more flexibility. Coda, a startup trying to rethink the notion behind a word document, raised $ 60 million, and all this points towards moves to try to create a more robust toolkit for non-technical users. That also means that it’s going to be an increasingly hot space, and especially look like an opportunity for companies that are already looking to host these kinds of services online like Amazon or Microsoft and have the buy-in from those businesses.

Liu, too, said that the goal of the company was to go after all potential business cases right away by creating a what-you-see-is-what-you-get one size fits all platform — which is usually called a horizontal approach. That’s often a very risky move, and it’s probably the biggest question mark for the company as there’s an opportunity for some other startups or companies to come in and grab niches of that whole pie in specific areas (like, say, a custom GUI programming interface for healthcare). But Liu said the opportunity for Airtable was to go horizontal from day one.

“There’s this assumption that software has to involve literally writing code,” Liu said. “It’s sort of a difficult thing to extricate ourselves from because we have built so much with writing code. But when you think about what goes into a useful application, especially in the business-to-business internal tools in a company use case which forms the bulk of software that’s consumed in terms of lines of code written, most of them are primarily a relational database model, and the relational database aspect of it is not an arbitrary format.

Mobile – TechCrunch

Cash For Apps: Make money with android app

Tesla raises prices at its Supercharger stations

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

Tesla drivers may enjoy a vast network of Supercharger stations across the US, but it’s coming at a cost: the price of charging. The automaker has quietly raised prices per kilowatt hour for using the fast-charging stations.

The average increase for pay-per-use customers ranges from roughly 20 to 40 percent, according to Electrek. In California, for example, the price went from 20 cents per kWh to 26 cents. In Oregon, the price doubled from 12 cents to 24 cents, and New York’s went up five cents to 24 cents per kWh. Owners of new Model S and Model X vehicles continue to have 400kWh of credit per year, while Model 3 drivers have no credits.

“Tesla is committed to ensuring that Supercharger will never be a profit center,” the company says…

Continue reading…

The Verge – All Posts

Cash For Apps: Make money with android app

ELSA raises $3.2M for its A.I.-powered English pronunciation assistant

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

 ELSA, an app whose name stands for “English Language Speech Assistant” (and not the popular Disney character!), has raised $ 3.2 million for its A.I.-assisted language learning platform that teaches people how to speak English. Unlike other courses that focus mainly on teaching grammar and vocabulary, ELSA uses artificial intelligence and speech recognition technology to help… Read More
Mobile – TechCrunch
Cash For Apps: Make money with android app

Wearable ring Token raises $5M Series A: Enables contactless access to things and services

Token, a wearable ring that lets users make contactless transactions at millions of merchant locations raised a $ 5M Series A investment, bringing Token’s total funding to $ 7M. Investors include New York Ventures, Blockchange Ventures led by Ken Seiff and the VC fund Neo. The startup will use the funding proceeds to fine-tune its go-to-market efforts, hiring in in Rochester and New York City and forge partnerships.

The ring essentially uses a fingerprint sensor on the inside of the ring that scans users’ finger as they put it on to unlock things. Some of Token’s popular use cases are using the ring to log into Windows 10, or using it to access things across digital and physical touchpoints. The device combines 2FA (two-factor authentication) since it proves possession of the device along with the biometric second factor. Customers can expect using it instead of passwords, house key, credit card, car key, access badge and transit card.

“As a team, we are focused on making smart, elevated lifestyle accessories that give you complete control over your identity in a world where that is becoming harder (yet more critical) to do every day.” wrote Melanie Shapiro, CEO, and co-founder of Token

Key features of Token ring are internet connectivity via Bluetooth and NFC, waterproof body, and a two week battery life. It is currently being sold at $ 249 and comes with a USB inductive charger.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

Apple raises screenshot limit for App Store listings to 10 images

Article Image

Apple has made it easier for developers to show off their app in App Store listings for the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, by increasing the maximum number of screenshots that can be included in a product page to 10 images per device.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

Indigo Fair raises $12M to connect wholesalers with smaller retail outlets with a smarter service

The Best Guide To Selling Your Old Phones With High Profit

 Max Rhodes was walking around that weird little parklet in Hayes Valley in San Francisco after taking a break from a five-year stint at Square to figure out what he wanted to do next — and he kept seeing Square registers everywhere. It was spotting them over and over again in smaller retail shops dotted throughout the city that made him think about the connections between the average… Read More
Mobile – TechCrunch

Qualcomm raises its bid to acquire NXP

Qualcomm today announced that it has reached an agreement with NXP Semiconductors NV to raise its bid to $ 127.50 per share from $ 110 and has lowered minimum tender threshold to 70% of outstanding shares instead of the 80% it required under the earlier terms. Qualcomm said that it has reached a binding agreement with nine NXP Stockholders who currently collectively own more than 28% of outstanding shares which excludes additional economic interests through derivatives. The latest offer values NXP at $ 44 billion. The revised price reflects NXP’s recent performance which includes the 2017 results which exceeded Qualcomm’s transaction model on revenue, gross margin and EBIT and GAAP operating income also increased 20% from calendar 2016 to 2017. The NXP auto business has increased revenues by 11% YoY on the other hand,  Qualcomm has also significantly improved its own capabilities in key industry segments such as Auto, IoT, and Networking. NXP’s shares were up 6.5% at $ 126.15 in premarket trading. The acquisition will help Qualcomm in the fast-growing auto-mobiles chipset market. NXP has time till March 5th, 2018 and Qualcomm intend to fund the additional consideration with cash on hand and new debt. Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP has received antitrust clearance from eight of the nine required government regulatory bodies around the world …
Fone Arena

Adikteev raises $12 million for its mobile marketing platform

The Best Guide To Selling Your Old Phones With High Profit

 French startup Adikteev raised a $ 12 million funding round led by Ring Capital and BNP Paribas Développement, with existing investors ISAI, Ventech and Laurent Asscher also participating. It’s also worth noting that it represents Ring Capital’s first investment after raising its initial $ 170 million fund. Adikteev is an adtech startup that previously acquired Motion Lead, a… Read More
Mobile – TechCrunch