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December 10, 2018
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eBay

FB QVC? Facebook tries Live video shopping

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Want to run your own home shopping network? Facebook is now testing a Live video feature for merchants that lets them demo and describe their items for viewers. Customers can screenshot something they want to buy and use Messenger to send it to the seller, who can then request payment right through the chat app.

Facebook confirms the new shopping feature is currently in testing with a limited set of Pages in Thailand, which has been a testbed for shopping features. The option was first spotted by social media and reputation manager Jeff Higgins, and re-shared by Matt Navarra and Social Media Today. But now Facebook is confirming the test’s existence and providing additional details.

The company tells me it had heard feedback from the community in Thailand that Live video helped sellers demonstrate how items could be used or worn, and provided richer understanding than just using photos. Users also told Facebook that Live’s interactivity let customers instantly ask questions and get answers about product specifications and details. Facebook has looked to Thailand to test new commerce experiences like home rentals in Marketplace, as the country’s citizens were quick to prove how Facebook Groups could be used for peer-to-peer shopping. “Thailand is one of our most active Marketplace communities” says Mayank Yadav, Facebook Product Manager for Marketplace.

Now it’s running the Live shopping test, which allows Pages to notify fans that they’re going broadcasting to “showcase products and connect with your customers”. Merchants can take reservations and request payments through Messenger.  Facebook tells me it doesn’t currently have plans to add new partners or expand the feature. But some sellers without access are being invited to join a waitlist for the feature. It also says it’s working closely with its test partners to gather feedback and iterate on the live video shopping experience, which would seem to indicate it’s interested in opening the feature more widely if it performs well.

Facebook doesn’t take a cut of payments through Messenger, but the feature could still help earn the company money at a time when it’s seeking revenue streams beyond News Feed ads as it runs out of space their, Stories take over as the top media form, and user growth plateaus. Hooking people on video viewing helps Facebook show lucrative video ads. The more that Facebook can train users to buy and sell things on its app, the better the conversion rates will be for businesses, and the more they’ll be willing to spend on ads. Facebook could also convince sellers who broadcast Live to buy its new Marketplace ad units to promote their wares. And Facebook is happy to snatch any use case from the rest of the internet, whether it’s long-form video viewing or job applications or shopping to boost time on site and subsequent ad views.

Increasingly, Facebook is setting its sights on Craigslist, Etsy, and eBay. Those commerce platforms have failed to keep up with new technologies like video and lack the trust generated by Facebook’s real name policy and social graph. A few years ago, selling something online meant typing up a generic description and maybe uploading a photo. Soon it could mean starring in your own infomercial.

[Postcript: And a Facebook home shopping network could work perfectly on its new countertop smart display Portal.]

News Source = techcrunch.com

eBay will now authenticate luxury jewelry items

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eBay this morning announced it’s expanding the capabilities of its eBay Authenticate service – its luxury goods verification program – to now include luxury jewelry. Timed to coincide with the launch, eBay is also listing over 45,000 luxury jewelry items for sale, including both diamonds and other gemstones which have been verified by professional jewelers.

The eBay Authenticate service first launched just over a year ago, as a means for eBay to better compete with the growing number of luxury goods resale sites like The RealReal and others, which verify sellers’ goods as authentic, so shoppers can feel comfortable buying.

Initially, eBay was only focused on handbags from high-end brands like those from Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Dior, Fendi, Balenciaga, Goyard, Celine and Valentino. In September 2018, however, it expanded the program to authenticate luxury watches as well, like those from Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, Audemars Piguet, Breitling and Panerai.

The company says the decision to move into jewelry was the logical next step, given the velocity of jewelry sales it sees. Every day, eBay sells 50,000 jewelry items on its site – or more than 2,000 per hour – and it sells one diamond ring per minute.

The first luxury jewelry authenticated through the expanded service include engagement and wedding bands, loose diamonds and gemstones, and fine, vintage and fashion jewelry. The items range in price from $250 to over $20,000 and are sourced by more than two dozen eBay top sellers.

Like its other verification programs, the jewelry is vetted by third-party authentication experts before being listed.

eBay touts its competitive fee structure as a reason to turn to eBay Authenticate instead of rival sites like The RealReal or Poshmark, with either matching or reduced fees in addition to handling the professional listing and photos.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Former eBay product chief RJ Pittman takes the reins at 3D capture company Matterport

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Matterport, a provider of 3D image capture technology, has named former eBay chief product officer RJ Pittman as its new chief executive.

Pittman will take the reins from former chief executive Bill Brown, who will continue to advise Matterport as the company looks to capitalize on its library of three dimensional scans.

The company currently has a library of 1.4 million three dimensional models that have been viewed at least 600 million times since the company launched.

According to Silicon Valley Business Journal, the company had revenue in 2017 of $33 million from selling its camera equipment and software services to businesses.

The company was launched when founders Matt Bell and David Gausebeck realized the commercial potential of the motion capture and sensor technology that Microsoft had unveiled with their Kinect camera back in 2010.

At the time, the company’s several thousand dollar pieces of hardware were the cutting edge for capturing images — now it can be done with software and a cell phone camera. The march of technology has put Matterport in a somewhat precarious position, but the company continues to lock in deals with companies like Donan, an investigation service for insurers and others that looks at fire damage.

The company has inked deals with a number of different enterprise customers — and even brought on State Auto Labs as a strategic investor earlier this year.

“Matterport has the opportunity to revolutionize how property risks are underwritten and claims are handled in the insurance industry,” said Kim Garland, Senior Vice President, Commercial Lines & Managing Director of State Auto Labs said in a statement at the time.

In all, Matterport has raised around $77 million from investors including State Auto Labs, Lux Capital, DCM Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Ericsson Ventures, AMD Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, CBRE, Felicis Ventures, GIC, Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal, iGlobe Partners, Navitas Ventures, News Corp, and Sound Ventures.

Matterport’s hardware can digtially capture, document, visualize and collaborate around properties in 3D on web, mobile and in VR. And its hosted Matterport Cloud service automates the creation of state-of-the-art 3D models, high-quality 4K 2D photography, floorplans and other assets and stores them in easily accessible formats.

There’s still a lot of contested space in the collection and capture of the real world for use in augmented and virtual reality and the addition of Pittman should help Matterport as it looks at a much more crowded competitive landscape.

“RJ’s operating experience at scale, paired with his entrepreneurial DNA and deep product vision will be instrumental to unlocking the full potential of our breakthrough technology and unparalleled 3D media and data,” said company co-founder and chief technology officer David Gausebeck, in a statement.

Indeed, Pittman discussed the importance of Matterport’s library when he spoke of the opportunity he saw for the company. “Matterport Cloud is an unrivaled dataset of precision 3D environments that represents an enormous opportunity to scale the company’s data services business exponentially. This will open up new strategic partnerships and investments as we realize the full value of this data,” Pittman said in a statement.

As an entrepreneur, product developer and real estate investor, Pittman is uniquely qualified to take charte at Matterport.

He previously worked on product, design, engineering and mobile payments at eBay and held roles at Apple and Google. In addition, he had also co-founded and served as the chief executive for the search engine that created the industry’s first graphical information interface, Groxis.

Finally, Pittman worked on a number of real estate projects in the U.S. and UK, giving him insight on the role that technology can play in the new architectural landscape.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Skype co-founder snags $105M for fintech lending venture in Southeast Asia

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A fintech whale quietly going about its business in Southeast Asia has come out from under the radar after Oriente, a Hong Kong-based business headed by Skype’s first employee, announced that it has raised a whopping $105 million.

It may not be well known at this point, but the company has some serious street cred.

Oriente was started in 2017 by Geoff Prentice, a Skype co-founder and ex-Chief Strategy Officer, Hubert Tai, a founder of Ping An’s Lufax and Chinese unicorn dangdang.com, and investor Lawrence Chu. The trio came together when Prentice moved on to Atomico — the VC firm started by Skype’s founders after they sold to eBay — and Chu, then with investment firm BlackPine, invited him to invest in Lufax where he bumped into Tai.

“I was going to start this fund with Lawrence to focus on old and new economy stuff together. We went to look at Southeast Asia financial services [businesses] and we were like ‘there’s nothing here.’ So I literally begged Hubert out of retirement and said ‘you’ve got to do this,’” Prentice, very much a straight shooter, told TechCrunch in an interview.

“Silicon Valley isn’t my cup of tea,” he added.

The project is definitely a far cry from the latest buzz in The Valley.

Oriente is aimed at providing digital credit and financial products in Southeast Asia, a region of 650 million people where the digital economy is predicted to triple over the next six years. Right now, it operates in the Philippines and Indonesia where its two services — Cashalo and Finmas, respectively — offer credit services for consumers using a mixture of online and offline. It is taking steps to launch in Vietnam but Prentice told TechCrunch that there is no other expansion plan at this point.

The goal is to digitizing financial services and help more people in Southeast Asia get access to banking services. While Southeast Asia is often reported to have a booming middle class, many are out of reach of that.

For example, in the Philippines — Oriente’s debut market — some 77 percent of the 105 million population is unbanked, according to a recent report. Of those unbanked, some 60 percent said that they do not operate an account due to a lack of money. The numbers are similar across other parts of Southeast Asia, yet mobile access is surging — Southeast Asia has more internet users than the entire U.S. population — offer a potential bridge to improve the situation.

Oriente’s first product was Cashalo which launched in the Philippines in June 2018

The services are digital but they use offline touch points to reach new customers. In the latter case, Oriente’s local businesses deploy salespeople in major malls and stores to help customers learn about the services themselves and the concept of payback schemes. Oriente takes a slight twist on the take. Instead of offering payback on single items, the services cover a basket of items to allow customers to pay a series of items on credit.

To help that offline push, Oriente has recruited top corporate as investors, including Berjaya Group, JG Summit Holdings, and Sinar Mas. Beyond providing capital, these businesses are highly strategic. Malaysia’s Berjaya is in property, consumer marketing and more; JG Summit operates retail, banking and even aviation in the Philippines; while Indonesia’s Sinar Mas covers financial services, telecom and more.

“If you want to build the financial services behemoth of Southeast Asia in the next 10 years how do you do that? Well, it’s going to be on a digital platform obviously but then, of course, we also have to have KYC people, you need your own collections people, you need offline sales… you need to take the best of the best technology part and then you merge it with the best of the other things,” Prentice said of the offline-online focus.

The business itself already has some 1,200 employees spread across seven offices in Asia — including a 200-person engineering team in Shanghai, composed of many former Lufax workers — with 60,000 borrowers in the Philippines alone. The Indonesian business is newer, having launched only in August and in beta, but the company expects to reach “millions” of lenders across its three markets next year.

One big challenge from an engineering perspective is constructing basic infrastructure, such as credit scoring, KYC and assessment. Existing credit bureau systems don’t cover many of the population, so Oriente is investing heavily in data-based systems to develop signals for credit assessment and, importantly, to combat fraud.

There are plenty of others battling the same fight in the region, with Ant Financial — Alibaba’s fintech affiliate — in particular setting up businesses across the region with a focus on payments and digital financial services. Grab, the ride-hailing firm that purchased Uber’s local business earlier this year, has also ventured into payments with plans for financial services as its nemesis Go-Jek has done already. That’s quite the backdrop for a battle with Oriente and its unique blend of experienced founders from the East and West and strategic corporate backers.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Airbnb ends forced arbitration days after Google, Facebook did the same

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The Google employee walkout on Nov. 1 is leaving a lasting impact on the tech industry.

In the immediate aftermath of the walkout, which saw thousands of Googlers across the globe protest the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment and misconduct claims, the search giant said it would put an end to its policy of forced arbitration for employees claiming workplace harassment. Facebook followed suit, announcing the next day that it would allow its employees to pursue claims of sexual harassment in court.

Today, Airbnb and eBay confirmed to TechCrunch they too would no longer require sexual harassment claims to be settled through private arbitration. Their announcements emerged as a result of a BuzzFeed News article exploring which tech companies were updating their policies in light of the Google protest.

Thousands of Google employees protested the company’s handling of sexual harassment & misconduct allegations on Nov. 1.

“We are a company who believes that in the 21st Century it is important to continually consider and reconsider the best ways to support our employees and strengthen our workplace,” a spokesperson for Airbnb said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “From the beginning, we have sought to build a culture of integrity and respect, and today’s changes are just one more step to drive belonging and integrity in our workplace.”

Here’s what eBay had to say about its decision: “eBay takes great pride in fostering an inclusive culture that allows employees to feel comfortable and encouraged to report any workplace issues. We’ve adjusted our existing employee policy regarding sexual harassment claims to better reflect and encourage eBay’s values of being open, honest and direct.”

According to BuzzFeed, Pinterest, Oath, Twitter, Reddit and others have never required mandatory arbitration. Uber, Lyft and Microsoft each put an end to forced arbitration in the last year.

Arbitration is a private method of solving a dispute without a judge, jury or right to an appeal. Companies that require forced arbitration waive their employees right to sue and to participate in a class action lawsuit.

Throwing out its policy of forced arbitration was one of the five demands disgruntled employees had for Google. In a Medium post last week, the walkout organizers commended Google’s decision to end forced arbitration while emphasizing the company’s failure to address all of their demands.

…”The response ignored several of the core demands — like elevating the diversity officer and employee representation on the board — and troublingly erased those focused on racism, discrimination, and the structural inequity built into the modern day Jim Crow class system that separates ‘full time’ employees from contract workers. Contract workers make up more than half of Google’s workforce, and perform essential roles across the company, but receive few of the benefits associated with tech company employment. They are also largely people of color, immigrants, and people from working class backgrounds.”

Google employees began crafting a plan for a company-wide walkout in late October, days after a bombshell New York Times investigation revealed Google had given Android co-creator Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package despite multiple relationships with other Google  staffers and accusations of sexual misconduct.

Rubin, for his part, has said that the NYT’s story contained “numerous inaccuracies.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

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