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December 10, 2018
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firefly

Rideshare advertising startup Firefly launches with $21.5M in funding

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Firefly, a startup that allows rideshare drivers to make money through digital advertising, is officially launching today. It’s also announced that it has raised $21.5 million in seed funding.

The idea of sticking advertising on a cab isn’t new, but Firefly offers drivers what it calls a “digital smart screen,” allowing advertisers to run targeted, geofenced campaigns. The company has apparently run more than 50 ad campaigns already, during a beta testing period in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with hundreds of cars on the road.

“Being the first at building out the IP is going to be the main differentiator,” said co-founder and CEO Kaan Gunay. “Over half our team are engineers, and we have been extremely focused on developing core IP to make sure it’s scalable.”

In addition, Gunay said that thanks to the combination of Firefly’s targeting capabilities with its “strict” advertising policies (it won’t accept ads for strip clubs, tobacco and cannabis companies, among others), “We’re working with a lot of advertisers who might not even have advertised outdoors before. We believe we are expanding the market.”

One of the main goals is to allow drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services to make more money. In fact, Firefly says the average driver in its network makes an additional $300 per month.

Gunay explained that if the driver meets a certain threshold for hours on the road, the company will pay them a flat fee to carry its advertising — but he also said the company is exploring different ways to “maximize the revenue that we share with the drivers and give the maximum benefit to the drivers.”

It’s an issue on regulators’ minds as well, with New York recently approving new rules around driver compensation.

Earlier this year, Uber partnered with a startup called Cargo to allow drivers to make additional income by selling goods like gum, snacks and phone chargers. Firefly doesn’t have an official relationship with the ride-hailing companies, but Gunay said, “In our conversations with these large companies … they’ve said the drivers are free to do what they want to do. This is why it’s a win for everyone.”

Gunay also said these displays will become the foundation for a “smart city data network.” In other words, they will collect data that Firefly plans to share with local governments and nonprofit groups. For example, he said the company has already been sharing air quality data with the Coalition for Clean Air, and it’s also looking to include temperature sensors and accelerometers.

Apparently Gunay doesn’t plan to make money from this side of the business. He told me, “We want to be able to add value to how cities operate … We’re not planning to monetize that.”

Getting back to the funding, $21.5 million is a huge seed round, but Gunay said the company’s success thus far was able to”justify a larger raise and a higher valuation.” The round was led by NfX, Pelion Venture Partners, Decent Capital (founded by Tencent’s Jason Zeng) and Jeffrey Housenbold of SoftBank Vision Fund (yes, that SoftBank Vision Fund).

News Source = techcrunch.com

Facebook adds free TV shows Buffy, Angel, Firefly to redefine Watch

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Facebook hasn’t had a hit show yet for its long-form video hub Watch, so it’s got a new plan: digging up some deceased cult favorites from television. First up, Facebook is making all episodes of Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly free on Facebook Watch. There’ll be simultaneous viewing Watch Parties where fans can live comment together for Buffy at 3 pm PT today, Angel tomorrow at 12 pm PT, and Firefly on sunday at 12pm PT. Facebook recruited Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar to promote the launch.

These shows aren’t original, and they’re far from exclusive since they’re included in a Hulu subscription and are available to rent or buy on other platforms. But at least they’re not run-of-the-mill web content.Wwith Facebook’s remake of MTV’s Real World not arriving until Spring 2019, these sci-fi and horror shows are the most high-profile programs available on the free ad-supported streaming service. The hope is that fans of these shows will come get a taste of Watch, and then explore the rest of its programming.

However, Facebook downplayed this as a change is overarching strategy when I asked if it would be licensing more old TV shows. Instead, it’s trying to build a well-rounded mix of content. A Facbook spokesperson provided this statement:

“No – this doesn’t reflect a strategy shift. We’re focused on bringing content to Watch that people want to discuss and create a community around — whether that’s live sports like UEFA Champions League in Latin America, compelling shows like Sorry For Your Loss, Queen America and Sacred Lies, or even nostalgia content like Real World reboot we’re bringing to Watch next year. Buffy, Firefly and Angel are pop culture favorites with dedicated fan bases, and we’re excited for the opportunity to bring these shows back in a way that enables fans to watch and discuss together on the same platform.”

There’s no guarantee Whedon fans will flock to Watch in droves. [TechCrunch owner] Verizon tried the same thing, bringing Veronica Mars and Babylon 5 to its Go90 streaming service. That failed to move the needle and Go90 eventually shut down. Meanwhile, Watch Party’s simultaneous viewing hasn’t blossomed into a phenomenon, but perhaps bringing the feature to Messenger (which TechCrunch reports Facebook is internally testing) could more naturally spur these social consumption experiences.

Watch has made some progress sicne its lackluster August 2017 debut. 50 million people now spend at least 1 minute per month with Watch. For comparison, over 18 Snapchat Shows have over 10 million unique viewers per month. Facebook Watch users spend 5X longer watching than on clips discovered News Feed videos. But Facebook Watch really needs to pour the cash in necessary to secure a tent-pole series — its Game Of Thrones or House Of Cards. That might mesh well with its new strategy of conceding the younger audience that’s abandon Facebook in favor targeting older users, CNBC reported.

With so much free video content floating around and plenty of people already subscribing to Netflix, Hulu, and/or HBO, it’s been tough for Watch to gain traction when it’s so far outside the understood Facebook use case. Laying a bed of diverse content is a good baby step, but it needs something truly must-see if it’s going to wedge its way into our viewing habits.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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