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December 12, 2018

Wix launches a new suite of products for support, sales and marketing

Wix is taking a big step beyond website building today with the launch of a suite of products called Ascend.

PR Manager Matt Rosenberg explained that just as Wix was founded with the aim of “demystifying and democratizing how you get online,” Ascend has a similar mission: “You don’t have to be a developer and designer to bring the same thing to business management and marketing.”

Other website builders like Squarespace and Weebly (now owned by Square) have also introduced marketing tools, but Ascend seems like a particularly ambitious expansion, encompassing 20 products in areas like chat, memberships, email marketing and search engine optimization (in some cases, these are existing Wix products being brought under the Ascend umbrella).

For example, Nitzan Achsaf, the company’s vice president and general manager of customer experience, demonstrated how a (fictional) tennis instructor could use the various Ascend products to answer questions from and offer discounts to one customer interested in purchasing a tennis racket, while also interacting with and providing official price quotes to someone else looking to book a birthday party for their child.

“What we’re proud of is, there’s no juggling of vendors or of third-party platforms,” Rosenberg added.

In fact, all of a business’ interactions with a customer, regardless of channel, are routed into a single inbox, which can be accessed on any device — in the case of the tennis instructor, Achsaf said, “The whole conversation is [conducted via mobile phone] on the court, probably in-between sessions.”

Wix is also developing a workflow editor, so that a business’ website and other channels can respond automatically depending on how customers behave.

Ascend by Wix is available as a separate subscription, with pricing ranging from $9 to $45 per month. Technically, you could use it even if you don’t have a Wix subscription, but Achsaf said, “The tight integration into a Wix website is a very big advantage for our users.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

With $15M, The Riveter plans to open 100 new female-focused co-working spaces

In a disappointing year for female-founded startups — at least those looking to raise venture capital — The Riveter not only closed its first institutional funding round, but it’s today announcing a $15 million Series A funding, bringing its total backing to $20.5 million.

The Seattle-based co-working startup, led by co-founder and chief executive Amy Nelson (pictured), has raised the capital from lead investor Alpha Edison, with support from Madrona Venture Group, New America president and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter, fashion designer Liz Lange and TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie .

As of November, startups founded by all-female teams had closed 391 deals worth $2.3 billion, an increase from the $2 billion invested in 2017, though still just 2.2 percent of all VC invested this year.

Nelson, an advocate for female entrepreneurs who’s spoken publicly about women’s struggles in the workplace, the difficulties of launching a business in a man’s world and raising venture dollars as a solo female founder, started The Riveter in 2016 after a decade-long career as a lawyer. Today, the startup operates five locations in the U.S., with ambitious plans to open another 100 female-focused co-working spaces by 2022.

“I want The Riveter to be the place people think of when they think of women and work,” Nelson told TechCrunch.

The Riveter has 2,000 members throughout its locations in Seattle, Bellevue, Wash. and Los Angeles. Its expansion plans include new spots in Texas, Colorado and Portland.

The spaces are built with women in mind but are not exclusive to one gender. Nelson tells us The Riveter’s membership is 25 percent male, setting it apart from spaces like The Wing, which is only available to female-identifying people.

A look inside one of The Riveter’s Seattle co-working spaces

“I don’t think the future is female, I think the future is fluid,” she said. “Gender is becoming an outdated idea but at the same time, it’s important to think of women when we build these spaces … There is a lot of value to women’s only spaces but our take on it is we want to redefine the future of work for women and we want everyone to be part of it.”

The Riveter provides space to work and collaborate; a digital network, currently in beta, for its members to connect; and programming ranging from office hours with venture capitalists to “self-care Saturday.”

Other investors in the startup include Brilliant Ventures, The Helm and X Factor Ventures.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Podcast industry aims to better track listeners through new analytics tech called RAD

Internet users are already being tracked to death, with ads that follow us around, search histories that are collected and stored, emails that report back to senders when they’ve been read, websites that know where you scrolled and what you clicked and much more. So naturally, the growing podcast industry wanted to find a way to collect more data of its own, too.

Yes, that’s right. Podcasts will now track detailed user behavior, too.

Today, NPR announced RAD, a new, open-sourced podcast analytics technology that was developed in partnership with nearly 30 companies from the podcasting industry. The technology aims to help publishers collect more comprehensive and standardized listening metrics from across platforms.

Specifically, the technology gives publishers — and therefore their advertisers, as well — access to a wide range of listener metrics, including downloads, starts and stops, completed ad or credit listens, partial ad or credit listens, ad or credit skips and content quartiles, the RAD website explains.

However, the technology stops short of offering detailed user profiles, and cannot be used to re-target or track listeners, the site notes. It’s still anonymized, aggregated statistics.

It’s worth pointing out that RAD is not the first time podcasters have been able to track engagement. Major platforms, including Apple’s Podcast Analytics, today offer granular and anonymized data, including listens.But NPR says that data requires “a great deal of manual analysis” as the stats aren’t standardized nor as complete as they could be. RAD is an attempt to change that, by offering a tracking mechanism everyone can use.

Already, RAD has a lot of support. In addition to being integrated into NPR’s own NPR One app, it has commitments from several others that will introduce the technology into their own products in 2019, including Acast, AdsWizz, ART19, Awesound, Blubrry Podcasting, Panoply, Omny Studio, Podtrac, PRI/PRX, RadioPublic, Triton Digital and WideOrbit.

Other companies that supported RAD and participated in its development include Cadence13, Edison Research, ESPN, Google, iHeartMedia, Libsyn, The New York Times, New York Public Radio and Wondery.

NPR says the NPR One app on Android supports RAD as of now, and its iOS app will do the same in 2019.

“Over the course of the past year, we have been refining these concepts and the technology in collaboration with some of the smartest people in podcasting from around the world,” said Joel Sucherman, vice president, New Platform Partnerships at NPR, in an announcement. “We needed to take painstaking care to prove out our commitment to the privacy of listeners, while providing a standard that the industry could rally around in our collective efforts to continue to evolve the podcasting space,” he said.

To use RAD technology, publishers will mark within their audio files certain points — like quartiles or some time markers, interview spots, sponsorship messages or ads — with RAD tags and indicate an analytics URL. A mobile app is configured to read the RAD tags and then, when listeners hit that spot in the file, that information is sent to the URL in an anonymized format.

The end result is that podcasters know just what parts of the audio file their listeners heard, and is able to track this at scale across platforms. (RAD is offering both Android and iOS SDKs.)

While there’s value in podcast data that goes beyond the download, not all are sold on technology.

Most notably, the developer behind the popular iOS podcast player app Overcast, Marco Arment, today publicly stated his app will not support any listener-tracking specs.

“I understand why huge podcast companies want more listener data, but there are zero advantages for listeners or app-makers,” Arment wrote in a tweet. “Podcasters get enough data from your IP address when you download episodes,” he said.

The developer also pointed out this sort of data collection required more work on the podcasters’ part and could become a GDPR liability, as well. (NPR tells us GDPR compliance is up to the mobile apps and analytics servers, as noted in the specs here.)

In addition to NPR’s use of RAD today, Podtrac has also now launched a beta program to show RAD data, which is open to interested publishers.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Report: Morgan Stanley lands coveted Uber IPO role

Uber has reportedly picked Morgan Stanley to lead its upcoming initial public offering, news of which became public last week when the ride-hailing giant filed confidentially with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO expected in the first quarter of 2019.

Uber’s choice, first reported by Bloomberg, comes after a months-long bidding war, of sorts, between Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. The pair of investment banks presented IPO plans to Uber this fall, in hopes of landing the top underwriting spot in what will be one of the largest stock market debuts to date. Morgan Stanley, having won the battle, can expect to receive a large portion of the fees that come with an IPO.

We’ve reached out to Uber and Morgan Stanley for comment.

Michael Grimes, managing director of global technology for Morgan Stanley, speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010.

Uber’s pick isn’t too surprising; rumors pointing to Morgan Stanley have floated the tech ecosystem for months. Morgan Stanley’s head of technology investment banking Michael Grimes, the lead underwriter on Facebook’s initial public offering, resorted to gimmicks to ensure his spot in Uber’s IPO. According to The Wall Street Journal, Grimes moonlighted as an Uber driver for years to demonstrate his loyalty.

Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are investors in Uber. Morgan Stanley participated in Uber’s Series G funding in 2016 and Goldman Sachs has been a backer for years, investing in the company as early as 2011.

Uber was most recently valued at $72 billion and is expected to garner a valuation as high as $120 billion upon its stock market debut. Lyft, its key competitor in the U.S., also recently filed to go public. It has picked JPMorgan Chase & Co. as the lead underwriter of its offering, per reports, which is also expected as early as Q1 2019. People familiar with the company’s IPO plans said its valuation will exceed the $15.1 billion it was valued at earlier this year.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Here’s how Lyft envisions self-driving cars communicating with pedestrians

The question of how self-driving cars will interact and communicate with humans is one that has come up before, but the answer is still up in the air. Google has been looking into this at least since 2012, and earlier this year, Uber filed a patent for using flashing lights and sounds to talk to pedestrians. Now, the United States Patent Office has granted Lyft with a patent for what it describes as an autonomous vehicle notification system.

Lyft’s solution entails developing a predetermined message to display on the most visible car window. In one example, each window includes a projector, a see-through screen or another display device to communicate the message.

“[…] integrating these autonomously-provided services into a mixed autonomous and human-operated environment has many challenges,” the patent filing states. “Drivers and pedestrians are accustomed to interacting in particular ways, removing a driver from some vehicles can lead to uncertainty and miscommunication.”

Below, you can see how Lyft envisions communicating with other cars, bikers, as well as passengers waiting for their car to arrive.

 

As noted, Lyft is not the only company looking at ways for their autonomous vehicles to interact with the outside world. Startup Drive.ai, for example, uses LED signs that use text and pictures to communicate.

Lyft first launched its self-driving car division in July 2017. Since then, Lyft has partnered with Drive.ai as well as with tier-one automotive industry supplier Magna on autonomous vehicle technology. Magna also invested $200 million in Lyft in exchange for an equity stake.

To be clear, patents don’t always lead to product implementation. I’ve reached out to Lyft and will update this story if I hear back.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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