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Twitter rolls out paid subscription ‘Super Follows’ to let you cash in on your tweets

September 2, 2021 No Comments

After opening applications in June, Twitter is rolling out Super Follows, its premium subscription option, starting today.

The feature, first revealed in February, will allow users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. For creators, Super Follows are another useful tool in the emerging patchwork of monetization options across social platforms.

Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $ 2.99, $ 4.99 or $ 9.99 per month, prices fairly comparable to a paid newsletter. They can then choose to mark some tweets for subscribers only, while continuing to reach their unpaid follower base in regular tweets.

Twitter Super Follows

Image Credits: Twitter

Paid subscribers will be marked with a special Super Follower badge, differentiating them from unpaid followers in the sea of tweets. The badge shows up in replies, elevating a follower’s ability to interact directly with accounts they opt to support. For accounts that have Super Follows turned on, the option will show up with a distinct button on the profile page.

Super Follows aren’t turned on for everyone. For now, the process remains application only, with a waitlist. The option lives in the Monetization options in the app’s sidebar, though users will need to be U.S.-based with 10K followers and at least 25 tweets within the last month to be eligible.

U.S. and Canada-based iOS Twitter users will be able to Super Follow some accounts starting today, with more users globally seeing the rollout in the coming weeks. On the creator side, Super Follows are only enabled in iOS for now, though support for Android and desktop are “coming soon.”

Twitter says that Super Follow income will be subject to the standard, though controversial, 30% in-app purchase fees collected by Apple or Google. Twitter will only take a 3% cut of earnings for up to the first $ 50,000 generated through Super Follows — a boon for smaller accounts getting off the ground or anyone who uses the paid Twitter feature as a way to supplement other creator income elsewhere. After an account hits the $ 50,000 earnings mark, Twitter will begin taking a 20% cut.

Super Follows aren’t Twitter’s first monetization experiment to make it out in the wild. In May, Twitter introduced Tip Jar, a way for accounts to receive one-time payments through integration with the Cash App and other payment platforms. The test is limited to a subset of eligible accounts including “creators, journalists, experts, and nonprofits” for the time being.

Last week Twitter rolled out Ticketed Spaces for users who applied for the paid audio room feature back in June. Twitter’s cut from Ticketed Spaces mirrors the same fee structure it uses for Super Follows and users will be able to charge anywhere from one dollar to $ 999 for advanced ticketing.

The product is the latest in a flurry of activity from the social platform after a lengthy period of product stagnation. But Twitter has been busy in the last 12 months, from releasing and killing its ill-fated Fleets to finally showing signs of life on the kind of anti-abuse features many people have been calling for for years.

Giving users the ability to charge for premium content is a pretty major departure for Twitter, which mostly stayed the course until activist shareholders threatened to oust CEO Jack Dorsey. It’s also a major move for the company into the white-hot creator space, as more platforms add tools to empower their users to make a living through content creation — ideally keeping them loyal and generating revenue in the process.


Social – TechCrunch


Sounding Board raises cash as startups wake up to executive coaching

January 22, 2021 No Comments

In an unprecedented work environment defined by distributed teams and virtual-only communication, two co-founders think their 2018 bet reigns truer than ever: mentors need mentorship, too.

Christine Tao and Lori Mazan, the brains behind Sounding Board, want to train any leader within an organization to be a better leader. The San Francisco startup connects anyone from first-time managers to C-suite executives with coaches through a marketplace.

Revenue has doubled or tripled every year since 2016, which the company says hovers in the “multi-millions” range. But in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Sounding Board has seen demand for its platform grow even more. Quarterly bookings have increased 3.4 times from Q2 2020, and in the last five months, monthly revenue has doubled.

On the heels of this growth, the co-founders say that Sounding Board’s next step as a startup is to grow beyond coaching services and into a platform that can show leaders how those newfound skills are impacting business development. The new product is meant to serve as a hub and roadmap where a participant and coach can track insights, progress and behaviors.

Within the platform, a user can schedule sessions with a coach, get matched to someone, as well as look at resources and complete tasks assigned to them. Beyond that, there is a feature that allows the coach and the manager to measure goals on an ongoing basis, similar to OKR-related software.

“The content is great, but unless you can apply that content, it’s not very useful,” Mazan said. “So this coaching is a way to help people apply the insights and the learning they’ve gotten from some kind of content and really utilize that in the workplace.”

The new product takes the monthly in-person summit that your organization used to call executive coaching and turns it into a living, breathing part of a manager’s workflow.

Beyond helping its users have a better temperature check on their progress, the product will help Sounding Board scale its services. Now any tutor on Sounding Board has more ways into a user’s mind and workflow, so every call isn’t synchronous and can be managed more evenly.

The co-founders see their long-term differentiation living in this feature. Anyone can create a marketplace, but it takes seamless, easy-to-use tech to track the effectiveness of what happens post-coaching.

Tao admits that the startup isn’t for everyone. Sounding Board has seen early adoption around enterprise companies that are in a late-stage, hyper-growth mindset heading toward an IPO. That level of maturity is a sweet spot for a third-party such as them to come in and scale leaders across teams. Customers include VMware, Uber, Plaid, Chime and Dropbox.

That said, within organizations, 60% of Sounding Board’s users are first-time managers, 30% are middle-tier and 10% are C-suite. The co-founders think these numbers indicate a broader demand for mentorship beyond what their competitors offer, which often sticks to C-suite life coach territory or stress management.

“Everyone is starting to realize that we’re going to have to offer coaching broader than just in the C-suite, and sometimes they don’t really know what that means,” said Mazan.

The realization, along with COVID-19 tailwinds, has helped Sounding Board attract new millions in venture capital. The startup tells TechCrunch that it has raised a $ 13.1 million Series A led by Canaan Partners. Other investors include Correlation Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, Precursor Ventures, as well as Degreed founder David Blake and Kevin Johnson, the former CEO of Udemy.


Startups – TechCrunch


TikTok’s rivals in India struggle to cash in on its ban

August 31, 2020 No Comments

For years, India has served as the largest open battleground for Silicon Valley and Chinese firms searching for their next billion users.

With more than 400 million WhatsApp users, India is already the largest market for the Facebook-owned service. The social juggernaut’s big blue app also reaches more than 300 million users in the country.

Google is estimated to reach just as many users in India, with YouTube closely rivaling WhatsApp for the most popular smartphone app in the country.

Several major giants from China, like Alibaba and Tencent (which a decade ago shut doors for most foreign firms), also count India as their largest overseas market. At its peak, Alibaba’s UC Web gave Google’s Chrome a run for its money. And then there is TikTok, which also identified India as its biggest market outside of China.

Though the aggressive arrival of foreign firms in India helped accelerate the growth of the local ecosystem, their capital and expertise also created a level of competition that made it too challenging for most Indian firms to claim a slice of their home market.

New Delhi’s ban on 59 Chinese apps on June 30 on the basis of cybersecurity concerns has changed a lot of this.

Indian apps that rarely made an appearance in the top 20 have now flooded the charts. But are these skyrocketing download figures translating to sustaining users?

An industry executive leaked the download, monthly active users, weekly active users and daily active users figures from one of the top mobile insight firms. In this Extra Crunch report, we take a look at the changes New Delhi’s ban has enacted on the world’s second largest smartphone market.

TikTok copycats

Scores of startups in India, including news aggregator DailyHunt, on-demand video streamer MX Player and advertising giant InMobi Group, have launched their short-video format apps in recent months.


Social – TechCrunch


Square’s Cash App tests new feature allowing users to borrow up to $200

August 13, 2020 No Comments

Cash App, the peer-to-peer payments service from Square, is giving select users a way to get short-term loans.

The company said it’s only testing the feature with around 1,000 users for now. But it could become more broadly available — and there are probably plenty of people who could use the money, given the state of the U.S. and global economy, not to mention the current uncertainty about further stimulus plans.

Cash App is starting out by offering loans for any amount between $ 20 and $ 200. You’ll be expected to pay the loan back in four weeks, along with a flat fee of 5%. (Multiplied over a year, that turns into a 60% APR — which sounds high, but at least it’s significantly lower than the average payday loan.)

If you don’t pay off the loan after four weeks, you’ll get an additional one-week grace period, then Square and Cash App will start adding 1.25% (non-compounding) interest each week. You also won’t be able to take out an additional loan if you’ve previously defaulted.

“We are always testing new features in Cash App, and recently began testing the ability to borrow money with about 1,000 Cash App customers,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to hearing their feedback and learning from this experiment.”

Square has already been expanding Cash App’s features beyond simple peer-to-peer money transfer with things like the Cash Card (a free debit card), Cash Boost (rewards) and Cash App Investing. And beyond Cash App, Square has been offering loans to small businesses through its Square Capital arm.

 

Mobile – TechCrunch


Shelf Engine has a plan to reduce food waste at grocery stores, and $12 million in new cash to do it

July 22, 2020 No Comments

For the first few months it was operating, Shelf Engine, the Seattle-based company that optimizes the process of stocking store shelves for supermarkets and groceries, didn’t have a name.

Co-founders Stefan Kalb and Bede Jordan were on a ski trip outside of Salt Lake City about four years ago when they began discussing what, exactly, could be done about the problem of food waste in the U.S.

Kalb is a serial entrepreneur whose first business was a food distribution company called Molly’s, which was sold to a company called HomeGrown back in 2019.

A graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in actuarial science, Kalb says he started his food company to make a difference in the world. While Molly’s did, indeed, promote healthy eating, the problem that Kalb and Bede, a former Microsoft engineer, are tackling at Shelf Engine may have even more of an impact.

Food waste isn’t just bad for its inefficiency in the face of a massive problem in the U.S. with food insecurity for citizens, it’s also bad for the environment.

Shelf Engine proposes to tackle the problem by providing demand forecasting for perishable food items. The idea is to wring inefficiencies out of the ordering system. Typically about a third of food gets thrown out of the bakery section and other highly perishable goods stocked on store shelves. Shelf Engine guarantees sales for the store, and any items that remain unsold the company will pay for.

Image: OstapenkoOlena/iStock

Shelf Engine gets information about how much sales a store typically sees for particular items and can then predict how much demand for a particular product there will be. The company makes money off of the arbitrage between how much it pays for goods from vendors and how much it sells to grocers.

It allows groceries to lower the food waste and have a broader variety of products on shelves for customers.

Shelf Engine initially went to market with a product that it was hoping to sell to groceries, but found more traction by becoming a marketplace and perfecting its models on how much of a particular item needs to go on store shelves.

The next item on the agenda for Bede and Kalb is to get insights into secondary sources like imperfect produce resellers or other grocery stores that work as an outlet.

The business model is already showing results at around 400 stores in the Northwest, according to Kalb, and it now has another $ 12 million in financing to go to market.

The funds came from Garry Tan’s Initialized and GGV (and GGV managing director Hans Tung has a seat on the company’s board). Other investors in the company include Foundation Capital, Bain Capital, 1984 and Correlation Ventures .

Kalb said the money from the round will be used to scale up the engineering team and its sales and acquisition process.

The investment in Shelf Engine is part of a wave of new technology applications coming to the grocery store, as Sunny Dhillon, a partner at Signia Ventures, wrote in a piece for TechCrunch’s Extra Crunch (membership required).

“Grocery margins will always be razor thin, and the difference between a profitable and unprofitable grocer is often just cents on the dollar,” Dhillon wrote. “Thus, as the adoption of e-grocery becomes more commonplace, retailers must not only optimize their fulfillment operations (e.g. MFCs), but also the logistics of delivery to a customer’s doorstep to ensure speed and quality (e.g. darkstores).”

Beyond Dhillon’s version of a delivery-only grocery network with mobile fulfillment centers and dark stores, there’s a lot of room for chains with existing real estate and bespoke shopping options to increase their margins on perishable goods, as well.

 


Startups – TechCrunch


Austin in January: Cash rich and maturing

February 3, 2019 No Comments

2019 has been good to the Austin startup scene so far.

Combined, Austin startups have raised $ 240.3 million in January. That’s not much less than the nearly $ 300 million raised in all of Q4 2018. And since the beginning of the year, the Texas capital has seen a number of double-digit funding rounds and a nearly quarter of a billion dollar acquisition.

Out of 10 known rounds, six were for $ 10 million or over. In recent years, Austin has historically been known for having more early-stage companies that raised more seed and Series A rounds. But if this month is any indication, its venture scene is maturing.

Just today, RigUp — an on-demand staffing platform for the oil and gas industry — announced it has secured $ 60 million in a Series C round. The financing was raised at a $ 300 million post-money valuation, according to Axios. Founders Fund led the round, which also included participation from existing backers Bedrock Capital and Quantum Energy Partners.

Also of interest is who has been investing in the city. Silicon Valley-based Bessemer Venture Partners put money into at least two of the 10 rounds: legal tech software provider DISCO’s $ 83 million Series E and ScaleFactor’s $ 30 million Series B. So, Austin startups are definitely attracting money outside of the local venture ecosystem.

Paul O’Brien, CEO of Austin-based MediaTech Ventures, believes the past few weeks provide validation for venture capitalists who have invested in the area.

“The timing is right on the mark. Just a few years into the nascent local startup scene, we witnessed the growth and enthusiasm of local mentorship and angel investment, and years later, the presence of sophisticated startup programs like Techstars, Mass Challenge and Founder Institute… and now, as if on schedule for investors, we’re seeing substantial outcomes,” he told Crunchbase News. “What’s most exciting about being a part of the local startup community is experiencing that this is really just the beginning.”

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the other big deals that were announced in Austin this month:

  • On January 3, AlertMedia closed on a $ 25 million Series C. The company has created a cloud-based mass notification system that aims to streamline notifications across devices and platforms.
  • Pensa Systems announced a $ 5 million Series A toward its mission of making retail more efficient with the use of drones.
  • On January 17, as mentioned above, back office automation startup ScaleFactor closed on a $ 30 million Series B led by Bessemer. The company told me at the time it saw 700 percent customer growth from 2017 to 2018, and its headcount grew by four times during the same period.
  • Dosh, maker of a cashback app, on January 22 closed on a $ 20 million Series B.
  • On January 23, Cision, a public relations software company, acquired Austin-based TrendKite, a media monitoring company that leverages AI, for $ 225 million. TrendKite will continue to be based in the Texas capital and will keep its name, according to this Austin Business Journal piece. And, its CEO Erik Huddleston, becomes president of publicly traded, Chicago-based Cision.
  • And, on January 24, Houston transplant DISCO revealed it had raised $ 83 million. Now, with more than $ 133 million in VC raised to date, DISCO says it has raised “more than any other enterprise legal tech company.”

With such a great month, Austin now has a lot of pressure to continue the momentum for the rest of the year.

Featured image credit: Mary Ann Azevedo


Startups – TechCrunch


Austin in January: Cash rich and maturing

February 3, 2019 No Comments

2019 has been good to the Austin startup scene so far.

Combined, Austin startups have raised $ 240.3 million in January. That’s not much less than the nearly $ 300 million raised in all of Q4 2018. And since the beginning of the year, the Texas capital has seen a number of double-digit funding rounds and a nearly quarter of a billion dollar acquisition.

Out of 10 known rounds, six were for $ 10 million or over. In recent years, Austin has historically been known for having more early-stage companies that raised more seed and Series A rounds. But if this month is any indication, its venture scene is maturing.

Just today, RigUp — an on-demand staffing platform for the oil and gas industry — announced it has secured $ 60 million in a Series C round. The financing was raised at a $ 300 million post-money valuation, according to Axios. Founders Fund led the round, which also included participation from existing backers Bedrock Capital and Quantum Energy Partners.

Also of interest is who has been investing in the city. Silicon Valley-based Bessemer Venture Partners put money into at least two of the 10 rounds: legal tech software provider DISCO’s $ 83 million Series E and ScaleFactor’s $ 30 million Series B. So, Austin startups are definitely attracting money outside of the local venture ecosystem.

Paul O’Brien, CEO of Austin-based MediaTech Ventures, believes the past few weeks provide validation for venture capitalists who have invested in the area.

“The timing is right on the mark. Just a few years into the nascent local startup scene, we witnessed the growth and enthusiasm of local mentorship and angel investment, and years later, the presence of sophisticated startup programs like Techstars, Mass Challenge and Founder Institute… and now, as if on schedule for investors, we’re seeing substantial outcomes,” he told Crunchbase News. “What’s most exciting about being a part of the local startup community is experiencing that this is really just the beginning.”

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the other big deals that were announced in Austin this month:

  • On January 3, AlertMedia closed on a $ 25 million Series C. The company has created a cloud-based mass notification system that aims to streamline notifications across devices and platforms.
  • Pensa Systems announced a $ 5 million Series A toward its mission of making retail more efficient with the use of drones.
  • On January 17, as mentioned above, back office automation startup ScaleFactor closed on a $ 30 million Series B led by Bessemer. The company told me at the time it saw 700 percent customer growth from 2017 to 2018, and its headcount grew by four times during the same period.
  • Dosh, maker of a cashback app, on January 22 closed on a $ 20 million Series B.
  • On January 23, Cision, a public relations software company, acquired Austin-based TrendKite, a media monitoring company that leverages AI, for $ 225 million. TrendKite will continue to be based in the Texas capital and will keep its name, according to this Austin Business Journal piece. And, its CEO Erik Huddleston, becomes president of publicly traded, Chicago-based Cision.
  • And, on January 24, Houston transplant DISCO revealed it had raised $ 83 million. Now, with more than $ 133 million in VC raised to date, DISCO says it has raised “more than any other enterprise legal tech company.”

With such a great month, Austin now has a lot of pressure to continue the momentum for the rest of the year.

Featured image credit: Mary Ann Azevedo


Startups – TechCrunch


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