December 10, 2018
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Contentful raises $33.5M for its headless CMS platform

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Contentful, a Berlin- and San Francisco-based startup that provides content management infrastructure for companies like Spotify, Nike, Lyft and others, today announced that it has raised a $33.5 million Series D funding round led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from OMERS Ventures and Salesforce Ventures, as well as existing investors General Catalyst, Benchmark, Balderton Capital and Hercules. In total, the company has now raised $78.3 million.

It’s only been less than a year since the company raised its Series C round and as Contentful co-founder and CEO Sascha Konietzke told me, the company didn’t really need to raise right now. “We had just raised our last round about a year ago. We still had plenty of cash in our bank account and we didn’t need to raise as of now,” said Konietzke. “But we saw a lot of economic uncertainty, so we thought it might be a good moment in time to recharge. And at the same time, we already had some interesting conversations ongoing with Sapphire [formeraly SAP Ventures] and Salesforce. So we saw the opportunity to add more funding and also start getting into a tight relationship with both of these players.”

The original plan for Contentful was to focus almost explicitly on mobile. As it turns out, though, the company’s customers also wanted to use the service to handle its web-based applications and these days, Contentful happily supports both. “What we’re seeing is that everything is becoming an application,” he told me. “We started with native mobile application, but even the websites nowadays are often an application.”

In its early days, Contentful also focuses only on developers. Now, however, that’s changing and having these connections to large enterprise players like SAP and Salesforce surely isn’t going to hurt the company as it looks to bring on larger enterprise accounts.

Currently, the company’s focus is very much on Europe and North America, which account for about 80% of its customers. For now, Contentful plans to continue to focus on these regions, though it obviously supports customers anywhere in the world.

Contentful only exists as a hosted platform. As of now, the company doesn’t have any plans for offering a self-hosted version, though Konietzke noted that he does occasionally get requests for this.

What the company is planning to do in the near future, though, is to enable more integrations with existing enterprise tools. “Customers are asking for deeper integrations into their enterprise stack,” Konietzke said. “And that’s what we’re beginning to focus on and where we’re building a lot of capabilities around that.” In addition, support for GraphQL and an expanded rich text editing experience is coming up. The company also recently launched a new editing experience.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Social commerce startup Goxip lands $1.4M investment to add flexible payments

in Apps/Asia/Convoy/currencyfair/Delhi/eCommerce/Facebook/funding/Fundings & Exits/goxip/India/Influencer Marketing/instagram/meitu/Nike/Payments/Politics/RewardStyle/Southeast Asia/United Kingdom/United States by

Social e-commerce startup Goxip raised $5 million in January, and now the Hong Kong-based business has brought in more cash with a strategic $1.4 million investment from financial services company Convoy. Existing backers including Chinese photo app company Meitu also took part.

Convoy offers a range of services that include asset management, insurance and other investment options. Hong Kong’s largest financial advisory with over 100,000 customers, Convoy isn’t in great shape now. It has been in crisis over legal action and a corruption investigation that is centered around a former company director.

The company’s shares remain suspended on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange although it recently made appointments aimed at modernizing its business and this deal is likely another part of that strategy. Convoy’s portfolio of strategic investments includes Nutmeg in the UK and Ireland’s Currencyfair, which bought up Convoy’s payments arm.

Goxip said it will use the capital and the new relationship with Convoy to offer more installment-based financing options on its service, which is akin to a ‘shoppable Instagram’ that has a focus on high-end fashion.

The company already counts major retailers like Net-a-Porter, Harrods, and ASOS and brands that include like Nike, Alexander McQueen and Topshop. To date, Goxip has helped customers find outfits and buy them but now, with Convoy, it wants to offer payment plans using a virtual credit card, Goxip co-founder and CEO Juliette Gimenez told TechCrunch.

With 600,000 monthly users and average orders of $300, Goxip is getting close to breaking even, Gimenez said, but she is hopeful that offering staggered payment options over varying periods such as 6-12 months will serve Goxip well as it expands in Southeast Asia where typical consumers spend less. That’ll happen soon after the company opened an office in Bangkok ahead of an imminent launch in Thailand, its second expansion after Malaysia.

Goxip has just opened an office in Bangkok ahead of an upcoming launch in Thailand

Beyond geographical additions, Goxip has also branched out into influencer marking this year with its soon-to-launch RewardSnap service. Similar to Rewardstyle in the U.S, it will enable internet influencers — and particularly those on Instagram — to partner with brands and make money through referrals to their audience. Gimenez said that 150 influencers have signed up, including Elly Lam who has 14 million followers across all platforms.

Instagram is beefing up its commerce focus — with the addition of a shopping tab and new management at the wheel — but Gimenez said she isn’t phased. She points to the fact that Facebook, which owns Instagram, hasn’t been able to make e-commerce work in Asia, while the simplicity of Rewardsnap and its connection to the Goxip service, makes it highly defensible even as Instagram ups its shopping game.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Nike debuts its most ambitious SNKRS stash drop for the Championship Tour featuring Kendrick Lamar and SZA

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On a mild Thursday night at the Los Angeles Forum, Nike’s public relations team and a group of journalists from some of the country’s leading lifestyle, tech, and general interest websites gathered to see the debut of Nike’s most ambitious SNKRS stash drop.

Launched in conjunction with Kendrick Lamar’s Top Dawg Entertainment, the collaboration between Nike and Lamar marks a series of firsts for the world’s largest sports and lifestyle brand.

The combined effort is the first capsule collection that Nike has done with a musician. It’s also the first time that anyone currently working at the company can remember the apparel company signing on with a musician for select tour merchandise, and the debut of the stash drop through the SNKRS app was the largest the company’s tech had tried to tackle.

For concertgoers, rolling up to the concert in Supreme sweats, Yeezys, Adidas, Pumas… and, of course, Nikes, the SNKRS stash drop would be a surprise. For folks who had downloaded Nike’s SNKRS app, they’d be able to buy and reserve a pair of Kendrick Lamar’s limited edition Cortez Kenny IIIs at the concert.

At least on the first night, things didn’t go as planned.

Working with live events like concerts, where timing is less regimented than at a typical sporting event (which are marked by tip offs and halftimes that adhere to a pretty regimented schedule), proved too much for the initial rollout of the company’s stash drop.

Select NikePlus members received an initial push notification of the Stash drop and a card in the SNKRS feed also advertised the special stash drop, in addition to a notification that flashed onscreen between the (amazing)  SchoolboyQ set and SZA’s (equally amazing) performance.

There will be other chances to get the timing down, but for the first concert in Los Angeles, concertgoers were prompted to launch the SNKRS app and try and snag a pair of the limited edition shoes well before the activation actually went live.

Once the shoes did go on sale, the user interface for finding and reserving the shoes didn’t work for everyone there — in fact, only one reporter from the group was able to reserve a pair of the shoes (since that reporter hadn’t saved payment information onto the SNKRS app, those shoes were released).

“I can’t get the app to do what I need,” said one concertgoer trying to snag a pair of shoes.

The team at Nike said the concert’s late start caused the miscue. Roughly 30 minutes after the sneakers were supposed to onsale, the activation went live — something journalists were only made aware of when notified by Nike’s public relations team.

Once the sale did go live, the shoes sold out within the first five minutes, although it’s unclear how many were made available through the stash drop (Nike declined to provide a number).

The SNKRS app is only one example of Nike’s innovative approach to integrating technology and fashion. In April, Nike launched the first sneaker that’s integrated with its NikeConnect technology.

Unveiled earlier this year through a collaboration with the NBA, the NikeConnect app allows users to access information on players and stats through a label enabled with near field communications chips.

Nike’s Air Force Ones enabled with the NikeConnect tech will open a special limited release sneaker sale opportunity called “The Choice”, but Nike has higher hopes for the technology.

“We would love to be able to award sweat equity with access to exclusive products or a partnership,” said a spokesperson for the company in an interview last year.

“NikeConnect [is] a great way for us to get interesting data about our members and deliver unlocks that are relevant to those members,” the spokesperson said.

Beyond the unlocks for exclusive sneaker offers, Nike is thinking about ways to include all of its technology partners in ways that benefit NikeConnect, NikePlus, and SNKRS users.

“We’re excited to learn how unlocks are being received right now,” said the spokesperson. “There is a pretty comprehensive ecosystem of value that we’ve been building for our members… Members who are really active with us are getting rewards or achievements [and] that could include partners like Apple… that we’ll be bringing to the table to round out your whole holistic sport experience.”



News Source = techcrunch.com

Nike is using its new digital studio to build a community of sneakerheads

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A year after acquiring Virgin Mega, Nike is revealing some of the early results of its experiments with augmented reality and community-building.

Virgin Mega was a startup backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group that focused on fan communities and shopping. Ron Faris, who led the startup, told me that Nike acquired Virgin Mega in order to explore those same ideas.

Since then, the team has turned into a “digital studio” called s23NYC. Faris said it still has a “startup culture,” with a small team of 24 startup veterans working out of the old Converse offices on 23rd Street in New York City.

s23NYC has taken over Nike’s SNKRS app, which offers insider access to and content around the latest sneakers. Faris said he treats SNKRS as “our digital piranha tank.”

“This is like our lab,” he said. “We drop something in the piranha tank and see how fast the piranhas swarm around it.”

For example, after Penny Hardaway took a sharpie to his sneakers so that they met NBA rules, the SNKRS app launched a stealthy promotion where users could unlock Royal Foamposite shoes by swiping over the screen to color in a digital photo — Nike describes it as “scratch-off cards for the digital age.”

SNKRS has also run geotargeted Stash campaigns, where users can purchase limited edition sneakers from the app — but only after they’ve traveled to a certain location in their city, whether it’s Washington Square Park in New York or pop-up flower stands in Los Angeles.

SNKRS found em

And the team ran a promotion with Momofuku’s David Chang, where users had to capture an image of Chang’s Fuku East Village menu in the SNKRS AR Camera, which would bring up a 3D model of the Nike SB Dunk High Pro Momofuku and unlock the ability to purchase the sneakers.

Faris said these promotions are linked by a focus on scarcity and urgency, combined with the idea of giving sneakerheads the opportunity to “peacock” their knowledge. In other words, the most in-the-know fans can snag their own sneakers, then get bragging rights by sharing that knowledge with others. For example, Faris said users were posting photos of the Fuku menu on Instagram, and they’d hang out at a Stash location to help others unlock the promotion.

Faris added that one of the goals is to use technology to capture “only the good of lines, which is the tailgate, while avoiding the bad, which is where you feel like you’re at the DMV.” So even when users are directed to a certain geofenced area, there’s no actual line to pick up the physical shoes. That means it’s less of a cutthroat competition, and it doesn’t come with any tedious waiting.

Next up, Nike plans to launch SNKRS in China and Japan later this year (the app is already available in the United States and Europe). Faris also said his team is working on an initiative called Stash Squads, where people who live outside a given city can still participate in a Stash promotion by forming teams with locals.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Learning technologies could reduce automation’s economic threat

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Global employment markets are in serious flux. Old-line manufacturing jobs and others are being automated out of existence by new technology, including robots and artificial intelligence. By some accounts, only 20% of today’s workforce have the skills they’ll need for 60% of the jobs that will exist in the next five to 10 years.

But while technology is helping to fuel this massive skills gap, it may also—improbably—be part of the solution.

Many companies are harnessing new types of sophisticated software, big data, mobile applications and even artificial intelligence to re-train workers so they stay relevant, and employed, into the coming decades.

Call it Workforce Training 2.0—or, in industry lingo, a new twist on corporate “learning and development.” It’s a growing market that could be worth as much as $171 billion, by our measure, and it’s all about using new, more high-tech methods to deliver training and education to segments of the workforce, both blue- and white-collar.

This might take the form of a quick video on a mobile phone (dubbed “micro-learning”), instead of a boring lecture in a company conference room, or an online app to get instant feedback on a sales pitch. Or, it could be a quicker, easier way for a worker to learn more-modern coding skills to change careers.

Younger workers today expect to receive training and professional development via new mobile and video technologies, since they use that technology in their personal lives. (Think watching YouTube videos, or using Facebook or Twitter.) And many need to take care of training quickly, without taking too much time away from their current jobs.

Overall, corporate education-tech spending posted double-digit growth between 2011 and 2014, according to a 2016 study by research outfit Bersin by Deloitte, and should grow as companies continue to re-train and up-level the skills of existing workers.

A broader social impact

AT&T, for example—which previously employed a workforce focused on maintaining physical phone networks—is engaged in a huge, companywide re-training effort called Workforce 2020 aimed at teaching new skills around cloud computing, data and other Web-related functions.

AT&T is turning to online courses and certifications, including some through partnerships with Udacity and Georgia Tech, to do this. But the company would be a prime candidate for even-more sophisticated, digital-learning tools.

An entire job sector that’s at risk of being eliminated by AI—and with workers who are ripe for modern, high-tech re-training–is trucking. Late last year, a report from the White House predicted that almost 3.1 million drivers on the roads today, mostly truckers, could eventually lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles.

The report said 80% to 100% of “heavy trucking” jobs could be eliminated, while delivery drivers and people working as drivers for ride-sharing companies like Uber are threatened as well. The map below, from NPR, shows the most common job in every state, as of 2015—and in 29 of the 50 states, it’s truck driver:

Yet another C-Suite acronym: The CLO

Driving the growth in many of these new technologies—and the startups commercializing them–is a new C-level job in corporate America: the “chief learning officer”, or CLO.

CLOs, who oversee online corporate education, now have their own online magazine, and consulting firm Deloitte even convened a CLO Forum for these executives this past March. CLOs at companies ranging from Nike to Rich Products, a Buffalo, NY family-owned food company, can command big budgets.

A 2017 LinkedIn survey of 500 corporate-education leaders found that 27% of CLOs expect to have more budget to spend on education-tech in 2017 versus last year. (Only 13% of those surveyed expect learning budgets to shrink.)

We think the total market for corporate learning-and-development in the U.S. is now around $171 billion, with over $70 billion available for education-tech spending and about $100 billion for staff salaries.

Spending by CLOs, and HR departments generally, is helping fuel a new generation of “ed-tech” startups, some focused on re-training and some that simply offer better ways to deliver traditional professional development.

Coursera and Udacity, online education companies which initially focused on consumers, have rolled out enterprise offerings for companies. Meanwhile, coding bootcamps like Trilogy Education Services, which partners with top universities to help adults get jobs in computer science, are funneling thousands of workers through intense, six-month programs. Employees who are looking to improve softer job skills can leverage startups like BetterUp or Everwise, which offer online coaching programs to address specific skill gaps.

Other start-ups are focused on improving productivity for existing workers. EdCast, for example, bills itself as the “Netflix of Knowledge” and helps deliver what it calls “micro-learning”—short, narrowly focused videos or interactive pieces that deliver key information to those who need it most. Other companies like MindTickle, Lessonly, Skilljar, Guru Training and Rehearsal VRP offer creative new ways to bring on-the-fly training to sales teams.

Micro-learning startups Degreed and Pathgather track worker training and education on third-party sites like YouTube. If a worker watches a YouTube video or downloads a whitepaper relevant to her skillset, these companies digitally track that, so the worker earns training credits while disseminating content to others in the organization who could use it.

Programs and technologies that keep employees’ skills current–and demonstrate that their employer has an interest in their long-term career development—seem less like frills and more like prudent long-term investments today, in light of the major technological shifts upending the global workforce. We fully expect these trends to drive more financing for relevant learning-technology startups in future.

Featured Image: Shenzhen Valley Ventures (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

News Source = techcrunch.com

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