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April 23, 2019
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Singapore’s SalesWhale raises $5.3M to bring AI to sales and marketing teams

in Artificial Intelligence/Asia/Business/california/ceo/Delhi/Economy/Entrepreneurship/funding/Fundings & Exits/General Assembly/GREE Ventures/India/lead generation/Marketing/Monk's Hill Ventures/Politics/Private equity/saleswhale/Southeast Asia/Startup company/United States/wavemaker partners/Y Combinator by

SalesWhale, a Singapore-based startup that uses AI to help marketers and salespeople generate leads, has announced a Series A round worth $5.3 million.

The investment is led by Monk’s Hill Ventures — the Southeast Asia-focused firm that led SalesWhale’s seed round in 2017 — with participation from existing backers GREE Ventures, Wavemaker Partners, and Y Combinator. That’s right, SalesWhale is one a select few Southeast Asian startups to have been through YC, it graduated back in summer 2016.

SalesWhale — which calls itself “a conversational email marketing platform” — uses AI-powered ‘bots’ to handle email. In this case, its digital workforce is trained for sales leads. That means both covering the menial parts of arranging meetings and coordination, and the more proactive side of engaging old and new leads.

Back when we last wrote about the startup in 2017, it had just half a dozen staff. Fast forward two years, and that number has grown to 28, CEO Gabriel Lim explained in an interview. The company is going after more growth with this Series A money, and Lim expects headcount to jump past 70 while SalesWhale is deliberating opening an office in California. That location would be primarily to encourage new business and increase communication and support for existing clients, most of whom are located in the U.S, according to Lim. Other hires will be tasked with increasing integration with third-party platforms, and particularly sales and enterprise services.

The past two years have also seen SalesWhale switch gears and go from targeting startups as customers, to working with mid-market and enterprise firms. SalesWhale’s “hundreds” of customers include recruiter Randstad, educational company General Assembly, and enterprise service business Unit4. As it has added greater complexity to its service, so the income has jumped from an initial $39-$99 per seat all those years ago to over $1,000 per month for enterprise customers.

SalesWhale’s founding team (left to right): Venus Wong, Ethan Lee and Gabriel Lim

While AI is a (genuine) threat to many human jobs, SalesWhale sits on the opposite side of that problem in that it actually helps human employees get more work done. That’s to say that SalesWhale’s service can get stuck into a pile (or spreadsheet) of leads that human staff don’t have time for, begin reaching out, qualifying leads and sending them on to living and breathing colleagues to take forward.

“A lot of potential leads aren’t touched” by existing human teams, Lim reflected.

But when SalesWhale reps do get involved, they are often not recognized as the bots they are.

“Customers are often so convinced they are chatting with a human — who is sending collateral, PDFs and arranging meetings — that they’ll say things like ‘I’d love to come by and visit someday,’” Lim joked in an interview.

“Indeed, a lot of times, sales team refer to [SalesWale-powered] sales assistant like they are a real human colleague,” he added.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Snapchat revives growth in Q1 beat with 190M users

in Advertising Tech/Apps/Delhi/earnings/Evan Spiegel/India/Media/Politics/snap inc/Snapchat/Snapchat Android/Snapchat earnings/Social/TC by

Snapchat appears to have turned the corner after a year of flat or negative user growth thanks to a strong Q1 2019 earnings report. It reached 190 million daily active users, up 2 percent from 186 million in Q4 2018 but still down from 191 million a year ago, in part thanks to its newly reengineered Android app. Snap saw $320 million in revenue and -$0.10 non-GAAP EPS, beating Zack’s consensus estimates of $306 million and -$0.12 EPS, with revenue up 39 percent year-over-year.

One concern is Snapchat provided guidance of greater losses next quarter, ranging from $125 million to $150 million compared to this quarter’s $123 million. That’s because increased usage triggers higher Amazon AWS and Google Cloud bills for the company. Since Rest Of World users only earn an average of $0.97 vs $2.81 for North American users, international growth could cost Snap money until it figures out how to make more off ads there. This could delay Snapchat hitting profitibility, which Spiegel had set of goal of reaching by the end of 2019.

The strong beat on earnings led Snap’s share to climb about 10 percent in after hours trading to around $13.11 in after hours trading, after closing at $11.99 earlier today. That’s up from a low of $5.07 in December. But the share price dropped back to evan by 1:50pm pacific.

Snap managed to add users in all its markets, growing 1 million in North America, 1 million in Europe, and 2 million in the developing world where the Android app is critical. The 25 percent smaller, 20 percent faster Android app generated a 6 percent increase in Snaps sent from low-end Android devices in the first week after they upgraded.

One blemish on an otherwise powerful earnings report was that average revenue per use dropped below its Q3 2018 $0.85 level in Europe to $0.77. That may in part be due to usage increases spreading ad revenue thinner across users. But that’s a lucrative market where Snap will need to do better with advertisers. Snap saw a net loss of $310 million on $320 million in revenue, meaning it’s still deep in the hole and needs to manage how much it’s pouring into employee compensation and augmented reality hardware R&D that could take a decade to pan out.

Snap reiterated a stat shared at its big Partner Summit conference this month, which is that it now reaches 90% of all 13-24 year-olds and 75% of all 13-34 year-olds in the U.S. It claims that’s more 13-24 year olds in the US than Instagram. That stat could get advertisers to give Snapchat the time of day even if its its total user count isn’t over 1 billion monthlies like Instagram thanks to its international prominence.

With Android fixed, a product that remains differentiated thanks to ephemeral messaging and Discover, and losses coming under control, Snapchat looks like it may have finally ended its post-IPO slump. And now it finally has a coherent strategy for competing with Facebook’s clones, which I detail in my feature piece “To stop copycats, Snapchat shares itself”. Instead of taking the moral high road, it’s colonizing other apps with its Stories platform and ad network to recruit allies to fight the Zuckerberg empire.

Snap may never be a billion-user company. But if it can keen teens who’ve adopted it as their messaging app entertained with media content while using its best-in-class ephemerality to attract downloads, it could survive until profitability. Then it can start looking to the future again as it prepares to battle the tech giants for the future of augmented reality eyewear.

 Come see Snap CEO Evan Spiegel speak at TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2nd-4th. Get your tickets here.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Snapchat fully rolls out reengineered Android app, boosting usage

in Apps/Delhi/earnings/Evan Spiegel/India/mobile/Politics/snap inc/Snapchat/Snapchat Android/Snapchat earnings/Social/TC by

After a year of its user count shrinking or staying flat, Snapchat is finally growing again, and more growth is likely on the way. That’s because it’s finally completed the rollout of Project Mushroom aka a backend overhaul of its Android app that’s 25 percent smaller and 20 percent faster. Designed for India and other emerging markets where iPhones are too expensive, Snapchat saw an immediate 6 percent increase in the number of people on low-end devices sending Snaps within the first week of upgrading to the new Android app.

Snapchat grew from 186 million daily active users in Q4 2018 to 190 million in Q1 2019, adding 1 million in North America, 1 million in Europe, and 2 million in the Rest Of World where the Android app makes the biggest difference despite rolling out near the end of the quarter. It’s been a long wait, as Snap first announced the Android reengineering project in November 2017.

“As of the end of Q1, our new Android application is available to everyone” Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in his prepared remarks for today’s estimate-beating earnings report. “While these early results are promising, improvements in performance and new user retention will take time to compound and meaningfully impact our top-line metrics. There are billions of Android devices in the world that now have access to an improved Snapchat experience, and we look forward to being able to grow our Snapchat community in new markets.”

Some of the growth stemmed from tweaks to Snapchat’s ruinous redesign including better personalized ranking of Stories and Discover content, as well as new premium video Shows. Now with the Android app humming, though, we might see significant growth in the Rest Of World region in Q2.

Unfortunately, since Snapchat uses bandwidth and storage-heavy video, more usage also means more Amazon AWS and Google Cloud expenditures. That’s partly why Snapchat is predicting a slight increase in adjusted EBITDA losses from $123 million in Q1 to between $125 million and $150 million in Q2. Rest Of World Users only earn Snap about one-third as much money as North American users, but cost nearly as much to support.

We first highlighted Snap’s neglect of the international teen Android market when Instagram Stories launched in August 2016. Spiegel and Snap were too focused on cool American teens, squandering this market that was Snapped up by Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp. Now Snapchat will have a much harder time winning emerging markets since they’re not the first to bring Stories there. But if it can double-down on ephemeral messaging, premium video, and its augmented reality platform that are leagues ahead of Facebook’s offerings, it could finally creep towards that 200 million DAU milestone.

 Come see Snap CEO Evan Spiegel speak at TechCrunch Disrupt SF on October 2nd-4th. Get your tickets here.

News Source = techcrunch.com

New Sesame Street-themed PSA encourages kids to reduce mobile device use

in Delhi/India/mobile/Politics/sesame street/Sesame Workshop/TC/tech addiction by

Device addiction plagues us all — even Apple CEO Tim Cook. But children with phones and tablets are even more susceptible to the lures of apps and games, which often use psychological tricks to keep users logging in and regularly returning. A new PSA from Sesame Workshop and advocacy organization Common Sense aims to address kids’ unhealthy use of mobile devices by focusing on one particular problem: devices at the dinner table.

This is not the first time the #DeviceFreeDinner campaign has run — previous years’ spots featured Will Ferrell as a “distracted dad” on his phone at the table, ignoring his family’s conversations.

But this time around, the organization is teaming up with Sesame Workshop, which is lending its characters to a new PSA. The spot will feature the “Sesame Street” muppets modeling healthy mobile phone behavior by putting their devices away.

Phones are shut up in drawers, tablets placed on shelves, other devices are put in handbags — and, you know, thrown into garbage cans and stashed in pumpkins, as the case may be.

The muppets then gather around a table and happily chatter until they notice Cookie Monster is still on his phone, texting. (Don’t worry, their disapproval sees him eating the device in the end.)

The idea, explains kids advocacy organization Common Sense, is to raise awareness around media balance and encourage families to make the most of their time together.

It comes at a time when now one-third of kids ages 0 to 8 “frequently” use mobile devices, the nonprofit explains. But taking a break from devices is shown to have positive benefits, ranging from better nutrition and focus at home to fewer problems at school, Common Sense says.

Plus, it notes, simply putting the phone down is not enough — it shouldn’t be at the table at all, as research has shown that even the presence of a phone on the table can hurt the quality of conversations.

While Common Sense puts out a lot of material for children and families like this, Sesame Workshop’s involvement on the new PSA is particularly interesting given the company’s recent connection with Apple.

A new Sesame Workshop-produced show set to air on Apple’s soon-to-launch streaming service will teach kids coding basics — an agenda Apple regularly pushes to get its programming language, Swift, into the hands of the next generation of coders. 

In the show, the same “Sesame Street” characters who today are telling kids to put down their phones will instead tout the joys of coding to the preschool set.

The juxtaposition of a programming-focused Apple kids’ show and the new PSA are a perfect example of how complicated the issues around kids on devices have become. On the one hand, parents want to encourage their children to pursue STEM subjects — which often requires kids to regularly use computers and other devices to practice new skills, like coding with MIT’s Scratch or building for Minecraft. But on the other hand, parents see that when kids are given devices, addiction soon follows.

The real question for parents may be, instead, whether kids should have devices at all — or whether they should take their cues from tech billionaires and Silicon Valley parents who are ripping devices from their own children’s hands like they’re the modern-day equivalent of sugary breakfast cereal.

Perhaps Sesame Workshop should have chosen a side on this issue, rather than teaming with the billion-dollar company that’s now trying to distance itself from fault with regard to the device addiction problem at the same time it runs PSAs about kids’ device addiction.

Or maybe it’s just as confused at the rest of us are over where to draw the line.

Starting today, the new “Sesame Street”-themed PSAs will be distributed across networks and platforms, including NBC, Fox, Xfinity, Comcast, Charter, Cox, National Geographic, NCM, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, HITN and Xfinity Latino.

News Source = techcrunch.com

How to pitch to a (tech) journalist

in Delhi/India/journalists/Media/Politics/PR by

Startup growth comes from many places, but one option is through “earned media” — stories and mentions in the press. Earned media is great, because the channel is nominally free, and it often can get many more of the right eyeballs than advertising. Minus some sleazy behavior in the journalism world, you should never have to pay a dime to get a story into print other than the work it takes to manage PR (and yes, of course, that can be very expensive, although it doesn’t have to be).

For these reasons, startups pitch writers a lot on stories about everything from their latest fundraise to new features in their apps. Yet despite that frequency, some founders (and PR folks) are extraordinarily good at pitching and find great success, while others seem to never get the attention of even the most workaholic writers.

The job of writers is to write stories, but writing your story is not their job.

Therefore, learning how to pitch a journalist, how to build a relationship with writers covering your startup and how not to mess up a story already in production is a critical skill for anyone looking to grow their business.

This guide is designed to help bridge the gap by covering relationship building, how to determine newsworthiness and the logistics of exclusives and embargoes. In addition, we’ve published a companion piece that lists and analyzes 16 DON’Ts that can suddenly find your committed story in the trash can.

Building relationships should always take precedent

The single greatest secret of building any venture, actually, the greatest secret of life, is that relationships are everything. We live in a free world, and no one is obligated to do anything for anyone. Venture capitalists aren’t obligated to write a check, partners aren’t obligated to sign a deal and customers never have to buy your product.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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