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“LinkedIn makes it easier for businesses to send sponsored direct messages” plus 29 more VentureBeat


“LinkedIn makes it easier for businesses to send sponsored direct messages” plus 29 more VentureBeat

LinkedIn makes it easier for businesses to send sponsored direct messages

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 01:58 PM PST

Sponsored InMail

LinkedIn users can now create Sponsored InMail messages using the campaign manager dashboard, the company announced today.

Sponsored InMail was first introduced as part of its platform to audience targeting platform in March.

Before today marketers, recruiters, or others who might send sponsored, targeted direct messages had to work with a LinkedIn account representative to create Sponsored InMail. 

Each message will only be sent when the user is active and can include a call-to-action or encourage the download of things like white papers, ebooks, and infographics.

Metrics and performance of Sponsored InMail can be tracked with LinkedIn’s campaign manager. In another move to support marketers since Microsoft acquired the platform for $26 billion in June, last month the company added the ability to track conversion rates of leads, signups, downloads, and purchases in the campaign manager.

“Now you can create and manage your Sponsored InMail campaigns along with other self-serve products, including Sponsored Content and Text Ads, directly through Campaign Manager using your advertising account with LinkedIn,” a company spokesperson said in a blog post today.

LinkedIn allows users to send messages to users they have a connection with, while InMail can be sent to any LinkedIn user. Premium LinkedIn accounts may send five InMail messages a month.

Sponsored InMail is one of multiple communications changes coming to LinkedIn. Director of product messaging Ken Hull told VentureBeat’s Ken Yeung that it plans to create an assistant bot on LinkedIn and is actively exploring other internal bot-like services to improve the messaging experience.

Messaging is increasingly used as a means of advertising.

On Tuesday, Facebook made marketing and promotion part of an update of the Messenger Platform, and last week Twitter added automated quick reply bots to operate on Direct Message.

Solutions from Twitter and Facebook are primarily business-to-consumer oriented, while LinkedIn conversations tend to center around business networking and business-to-business communication.

Half of all 330 million LinkedIn users interact with messages every week, Hull told VentureBeat in September.

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GitHub Enterprise now includes Projects, code review, and profile timelines

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 01:00 PM PST

Jupyter notebook in GitHub Enterprise.

GitHub today is announcing the release of GitHub Enterprise 2.8. It comes with some of the features that came to in September.

Perhaps most importantly, now GitHub’s Projects tool is available through the Enterprise version of GitHub, which can be deployed in companies’ on-premises data centers or on top of public clouds like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Projects is a spin on the kanban board that Trello has popularized. GitHub competitor GitLab recently introduced something similar called Issue Boards.

Since the introduction of GitHub Projects, people have started more than 100,000 of them, a GitHub spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.

GitHub Enterprise 2.8 also comes with the ability to do code reviews on incoming pull requests. users have approved more than 1.5 million pull requests with code reviews since it launched, the spokesperson wrote.

Users’ profiles also look different, because now there’s a timeline that shows significant activity.

But that’s not all. GitHub is also adding support for Jupyter notebooks in its Enterprise version — something that arrived on in 2015.

“Producing and sharing insights from data on GitHub is a common challenge for researchers and data scientists,” GitHub wrote in a blog post. “Jupyter notebooks make it easy to capture those data-driven workflows that combine code, equations, text, and visualizations. And now they render in all your GitHub repositories.”

GitHub Enterprise costs $2,500 per 10 users per year.

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Google is rolling out the new Google Sites for G Suite customers, will kill old version later

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 12:41 PM PST

The new Google Sites.

Google today announced that the new version of the Google Sites service for easily creating websites is now becoming available for all G Suite (formerly known as Google Apps for Work) customers to use. Google unveiled the redesign in June and only made it available to companies that were accepted for an early adopter program.

The new version of Google Sites is enabled by default, but end users will only be able to use it if Google Drive and the previous version of Google Sites are both already enabled. In Google’s release terminology, the change is launching now in the rapid release track, and it will become available for end users in the scheduled release track on November 21. On the admin side, it’s launching now. For G Suite Government customers, the new Google Sites won’t be available, at least not at this time.

For now, the older version of Google Sites will remain available as Google adds all of its capabilities to the new version. In 2017, Google will “provide and recommend options to migrate your sites from the classic Sites to the new Sites,” Google said in a blog post. “Beginning in 2018, we'll send a timeline and instructions regarding the gradual process to shut down the classic Sites.”

Google hasn’t yet chosen the date at which it will kill the previous version of Google Sites. But Google says that it will tell customers at least a year in advance.

If your company is already invested in the Google cloud services world — instead of or in addition to, for one, Microsoft productivity suite — this tool will be fairly easy to integrate with, and because this new version is collaborative like Google Docs, it’s certainly interesting. All files associated with new Google Sites pages are stored in Google Drive.

More information on the new Google Sites is here.

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Both Samsung Galaxy S8 models will reportedly have an edge display

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 12:18 PM PST

Samsung logo

A report in Korean investment publication The Bell (via Droid-Life) claims that next year’s first-half Android flagship from Samsung, presumably marketed as the Galaxy S8, will follow a trend begun with 2015’s Galaxy S6 and come in two different variants. But unlike S6 — and this year’s Galaxy S7 — both S8 models will feature so-called edge displays, which curve on the sides to meet the phone enclosure in an effect that can make the handsets appear bezel-less. There won’t be a planar, or flat, screen model, according to the report.

Two key differences are said to exist between the variants, tipped to VentureBeat as the SM-G950 and SM-G955 (S7 devices shipped in the format SM-G93x, suggesting that Samsung is indeed skipping the SM-G94x nomenclature, reportedly due to Korean superstition surrounding the number 4).

The smaller model, G950, is said to offer a 5.7-inch screen, which would put it in the same league as a fall 2015 model, the Galaxy S6 edge+ (but slightly larger than 2016’s 5.5-inch Galaxy S7 edge — which was not followed by a plus variant — and quite a bit larger than the 5.1-inch Galaxy S6, S6 edge, and S7).

Besides being a half-inch bigger at 6.2 inches, the G955 was also rumored to adopt a different aesthetic appearance, thanks to a nearly edge-to-edge display. To achieve this appearance without pushing the limits of the device’s pocketability, it’s said to be the first Galaxy model to forgo physical and capacitive navigation buttons in favor of on-screen ones. The two phones will allegedly be sold as the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 plus.

As has become tradition over the past several years, Samsung is expected to introduce the new lineup at Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. And while it is making a concerted effort to curtail leaks of models that have taken on added importance in the wake of the costly Galaxy Note7 recall and cancellation, with the widespread popularity of the 8-year-old line, success in that seems highly unlikely.

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AI is helping job candidates bypass resume bias and black holes

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 12:10 PM PST

AI can help pick job candidates.

Despite the desire for equitable hiring practices, humans have biases in every decision they make, and most of the time they don’t realize it. Often, hiring managers recommend a candidate because of a personal connection such as alumni groups or an interest in sports, or qualified candidates are not considered because of a gap in employment.

A diverse workforce is proven to increase an organization’s revenue, but the key challenge is building and retaining that diverse and competitive workforce. It’s met with personal bias from an archaic, bias-prone process that relies on resumes. This is one of the most pressing challenges organizations face, because without the right talent, they cease to compete with their products or services.

A complicating factor is the lack of quality data to make decisions. The sources of data that we use for hiring are diverse, including resumes, interviews, and assessments. Now add to this the engagement data used to track employee performance, potential, and flight risk. These complex datasets are difficult on their own, not to mention problems with data consistency. Most humans, unable to sufficiently comprehend all of these sources, rely on their gut instinct, which is unconscious bias incarnate.

We need data diversity, data integrity, and the ability to consistently process that data at scale. With standard data, one person might base a judgement on 100 hiring outcomes, but a computer can process 100,000+ interviews and hiring outcomes.

One of the main objectives of a phone screen or in-person interview is to evaluate soft competencies. These might include communication, friendliness, empathy, teamwork, motivation, and engagement, or any trait that is difficult to determine from a resume.

In a traditional interview, all of that rich, interactive data is lost once the interview is over. What's left is a rough yes/no score and someone’s foggy recollection of why they did or didn’t think the candidate was going to be the best fit. In light of the growing shift toward digital interviewing, that data is no longer lost — it’s captured and can be analyzed. We are sitting on a data goldmine that previously didn’t exist.

AI identifies qualified candidates better than humans

HireVue developed our interview model to extract raw audio features, text from speech, and micro-expressions. Then, by including all of these features into a holistic model, we found that not only was the model predictive on new data using cross-validation, but that it was competitive with assessment alternatives. Some of the more remarkable test cases have included predicting post-hire safety infractions from a three-question interview for a transportation company, and reducing the time to hire from six weeks to five days for a global hospitality company.

The standard measure of fit/accuracy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (IO) in talent acquisition is the R value. The deep machine learning based models are producing R values much higher than the human hiring control groups.

Another side effect of doing interview analytics is the discovery that question quality can finally have an objective measure. Most companies, large and small, are insecure in the questions that they ask during the interview process. These questions are crucial for the interview modeling to work well, and the data science team discovered that questions with dramatically different responses between low and top performers are the most predictive. With the feature set that is already harvested from the interview, that difference can be measured objectively. Using this type of interview modeling helps employers focus on the questions that really matter, and avoid bias.

How AI could actually improve employment

The goalpost for jobs a human needs to do vs. AI keeps moving. What we thought had to be done by humans is being challenged each year. Surely a human has to drive a car, screen job applicants, or interpret medical images, or be competitive at Jeopardy … you get the idea.

So, how might you look for opportunities to explore impactful machine learning and AI solutions in your business?

  • Look for the weak links in your processes that are manual and time-consuming.

  • Where is the human inefficiency in your processes? What positions in a process are always causing bottlenecks?

  • What processes do you have that have never had meaningful data capture? Brainstorm ways to collect that data.

The use case for AI in hiring is already having an impact at many organizations because getting the best candidates onboard faster saves real money and provides competitive advantage. It’s also having a positive impact on job seekers because they are getting the same shot regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, employment gaps, or college attended. As this practice evolves, humans may just have machines to thank for jobs.

Microsoft releases new Windows 10 preview with improvements to Sticky Notes, Windows Ink, and Registry Editor

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 12:03 PM PST

Windows 10

Microsoft today released a new Windows 10 preview for PCs and phones. This is the second build ahead of the company’s Windows 10 Creators Update, coming in “early 2017,” and it brings improvements to controlling external monitors from tablets, Sticky Notes, Windows Ink Workspace, the Registry Editor’s address bar, and Hyper-V.

Windows 10 is a service, meaning it was built in a very different way than its predecessors so it can be regularly updated with not just fixes but new features too. While Microsoft has released many such updates to date, the Creative Update will be a major one and follows the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, released in August 2016.

First up, it’s now possible to control an external monitor from a tablet without attaching a mouse. Just connect a monitor, PC, or TV, go to the Action Center, and tap on the “Project” Quick Action to extend your screen. The virtual touchpad (press and hold on the taskbar and select “Show touchpad button”) lets you control content on the connected screen.


Just like with Windows Ink Workspace, a touchpad icon will now appear in the notification area for the virtual touchpad. Speaking of Windows Ink Workspace, this feature has its own improvements:

  • Increased the number of Recently Used apps shown in the Windows Ink Workspace to 6, and added a link to quickly access your pen settings.
  • Improved the performance of loading Sketchpad when there’s a lot of ink present on the sketch.
  • Updated the new protractor, so that you can use the scroll-wheel on your mouse to shrink/expand it (depending on the direction of the scrolling).
  • Fixed an issue where, when using Sticky Notes in the Windows Ink Workspace, the background would ding when tapped.
  • Fixed an issue where inking and resizing the protractor at the same time would result in Sketchpad crashing.
  • Updated the “Pen & Windows Ink” Settings for pen users to now include a link to the handwriting training tool and improved the learning from handwriting samples.

Next up, Sticky Notes has been updated with the following:

  • Support for many more languages and regions.
  • Fixed some issues with Undo and Redo (CTRL + Z/CTRL + Y) while typing.
  • Improved the performance of text input while typing.
  • New in-app prompt for updates.
  • UI/UX polishing and performance improvements.

The new address bar in Registry Editor has gained two new features based on tester feedback. You can now use CTRL + L to set focus to the address bar (in addition to ALT + D) and use shorthand notation for HKEY names (HKCU instead of typing out the full HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKCR for HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, HKCU for HKEY_CURRENT_USER, HKLM for HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, and HKU for HKEY_USERS).

For Hyper-V, Microsoft fixed issues where depending on the zoom level selected, the VM window might not be created large enough to avoid scrollbars, and where the title bar of a maximized VM window would be occluded when the taskbar had been set to on top. Also, when you pick a zoom level, that preference will now be preserved for the next VM connection.

The desktop build includes the following improvements and bug fixes:

  • Fixed the issue causing Internet Explorer to crash a few seconds after launch.
  • Fixed an issue where, when using Cortana in French (France or Canada), the “Prendre une <photo/video/selfie>” (take a picture, video, or selfie) command was redirecting to a Bing search rather than opening the Camera app as expected.
  • We’ve made some graphics improvements so the system will now respond better when WIN + L is pressed while playing a full screen game.
  • We’ve updated the ALT + F4 Shutdown dialog to better respond to DPI changes when connected to an external monitor. We also fixed an issue where the tooltips for the taskbar notification area items would be incorrectly sized after a DPI change until rebooting the machine or otherwise signing out and back in.
  • We’ve fixed an issue where File Explorer might crash when creating or renaming a folder on a network share.
  • Fixed an issue resulting in the text on the Outlook Calendar tile on the Start menu being slightly fuzzy.
  • Fixed an issue where deleted files might reappear in File Explorer with a 0 byte size.
  • Fixed an issue resulting in a Windows Default Lock Screen window sometimes appearing after logging in.
  • Fixed an issue resulting in File Explorer crashing after right-clicking an app in Task Manager and selecting “Open File Location”.
  • We’ve updated our migration logic so that going forward from Build 14965, preferred UAC settings, startup shortcuts, and File Explorer folders that had been pinned to the Start menu will all now be preserved across upgrades.
  • Fixed an issue resulting in vertical lists written in XAML, such as those found in Groove Music, unexpectedly animating in from the side.
  • Fixed an issue resulting in Cortana crashing if you typed “Create an appointment” then clicked on the resulting suggestion to “Create an appointment”.
  • Fixed an issue where in Microsoft Edge, after cancelling a file download, the progress bar for the next file downloaded might appear to be stuck at the point at which the old file’s download was at when it was cancelled.
  • Fixed an issue that could result in the Japanese Input Method Editor (IME) periodically showing the candidate window in the upper left corner of the desktop and not being able to enter text into the Office 2016 apps and some other text editors.

Today’s update bumps the Windows 10 build number for PCs from 14959 (made available to testers on November 3) to build 14965.

This build has two known issues:

  • Double-clicking on an Excel document to open it from File Explorer will crash Microsoft Excel. The workaround is to open the document from within Excel.
  • Microsoft Studios games like Microsoft Sudoku, Jigsaw, Minesweeper, Taptiles, and Treasure Hunt may freeze at the splash screen on launch.

If you’re OK with the above and want to get build 14965 now, head to PC Settings, select “Update and recovery,” then “Preview builds,” and then click the “Check Now” button.

The corresponding Windows 10 Mobile build also includes new features and improvements, but Microsoft still doesn’t have a device to champion it.

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PlayStation 4 Pro: Every PlayStation 4 Pro-compatible game so far

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 11:45 AM PST

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare on PlayStation 4 Pro.

4K console gaming is here with the PlayStation 4 Pro, but not for every game on Sony’s platform. Only a portion of current PS4 games support the features of the new device — although all new games going forward should take advantage of the extra pixels and the high-dynamic range.

We’re going to try to keep an ongoing list of the 2013 through 2016 games that support the PS4 Pro, so bookmark this page if you want to know what to buy or which entries in your PS4 library are worth experiencing again (or try if you haven’t before).

  • Battlezone
  • Bound
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
  • Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Dishonored 2
  • Driveclub VR
  • EA Sports FIFA 17
  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Gold Edition
  • The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Firewatch
  • Helldivers
  • Hitman
  • Hustle Kings
  • Infamous: First Light
  • Infamous: Second Son
  • Knack
  • The Last Guardian
  • The Last of Us Remastered
  • The Last of Us: Left Behind
  • Mafia III
  • Mantis Burn Racing
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  • NBA 2K17
  • Neon Chrome
  • Paragon
  • PlayStation VR Worlds
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Rez Infinite
  • Rigs: Mechanized Combat League
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • Smite
  • Super Stardust Ultra
  • The Playroom VR
  • Thumper
  • Titanfall 2
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
  • Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
  • Viking Squad
  • Watch Dogs 2
  • Wheels of Aurelia
  • World of Tanks
  • XCOM 2

And to give you a look forward, these 2017 games will also support Pro:

  • Days Gone
  • For Honor
  • Gravity Rush 2
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Nioh
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Most of these games should support some form of output at 4K. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will output at the native 4K resolution of 3,840-by-2,160 pixels. But Sony is using some tricks to minimize the difference between the official UHD resolution and something closer to 3,200-by-1,800. Additionally, many of these games will get improved framerates and graphical features.

If we are missing a game, let me know by sending me a message.

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Programmatic CRM delivers the promise of right message, right time (VB Live)

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 11:45 AM PST


It used to be a holy grail everyone was after: the right message to the right customer at exactly the right time — every time. But with real-time, actionable data wedded to programmatic CRM, that formidable chalice can be grabbed right now. Join master marketers in our latest VB Live executive event, where you'll learn how to turn martech innovation into marcomm magic.

Register here for free.

Digital marketers have always carried one essential, burning desire in their hearts: Get the right message to the right person at the right time. And Brian Monahan, co-founder of NewCo and former CMO, says that with programmatic CRM done right, you're about to get lucky.

"I think we’re closer than ever to having this promise be made real, because you’ve got the raw data, you’ve got the ability to process it, and now you’ve got something relevant to say to a customer on an ongoing basis," Monahan says. It's part of how, over his three-year tenure at Walmart, his team grew their average monthly comScore uniques from 55 million to 85 million — using data-driven marketing to match relevant items to a customer's intent.

"With perpetually connected consumers always on their phones, always consuming digital content, they’re producing a massive data footprint of what they’re doing and what they’re interested in at any given time," says Monahan.

We've moved far away from the world where customers were identified by slow-moving data — info such as address, or number of kids in the household, or type of product purchased in the past 12 months, and his colleague, Blueshift CEO Vijay Chittoor, breaks down the distinction vividly, Monahan says.

"Static traditional attributes you can think of as nouns," he explains. "But now you have ways of describing people through the fluid things that they’re doing every day — and you can think of these data points and attributes as verbs."

But there are hurdles to plan for, Monahan warns — and surprisingly, they're not just technological. The first fundamental barrier, he says, is the underlying data structure.

"Most brands really only capture the nouns," he says. "And they’re not really updating these profiles in real time. And then connecting that canonical customer data to your email system or your content management system or your ad server is another development leap."

An even higher developmental leap could be that in the wake of programmatic CRM, marketers have to fundamentally change their message strategy.

"It’s just a new way of approaching the craft of marketing and of storytelling," Monahan says. "You really need to parse through and think about meaningful attributes, which nouns and verbs actually tell me something useful. And then how do I capture it and connect it to my system so I can actually do something with it. And then how do I think of something relevant to say?"

He likens this relevancy to Mad Libs, where the blanks filled in with customized messages tailored to the individual. "That’s kind of the way programmatic CRM and narrative templates need to be designed," says Monahan. "Finding ways you can accommodate all this personalization while presenting the brand as a consistent narrative is a new skill in marketing."

"And people who learn how to think that way and tell stories that way have a bright future ahead of them," he adds.

For more on wielding the power of targeting and personalization tools whether you’re all the way down the programmatic CRM path or you’re just starting out — and how to keep hyper-personalization from obscuring the larger picture — join our latest VB Live event.

Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

In this VB Live event, you'll:

  • Target precise messages and optimize user retention across all of your marketing channels
  • Learn how your first-party data, including user behavior, transactions, and your catalog of content/products drives scalable individualized user experiences
  • Prevent or eliminate the potential of fraud


  • Brian Monahan, co-founder, NewCo, former CMO, Walmart
  • Jeff Pash, Director of CRM, The Muse


  • Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat

This VB Live event is sponsored by Blueshift.

Google launches Slides API after teasing it in May

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 10:54 AM PST

Google Slides.

Google today announced the availability of its Google Slides application programming interface (API), which enables third-party tools to integrate with and and do things inside of the cloud-based Google Slides presentation-building service. Google announced that it was working on the API at its Google I/O developer conference in May.

“Now, your teams can use a number of ready-to-go integrations to turn your business data into presentations, with just a click,” Google G Suite product manager Vishnu Sivaji wrote in a blog post.

Some of the first companies to use the API are Conga, Lucidchart, Trello, and Zapier. For example, in the case of Trello, you can take an existing board and turn it into a full presentation in Slides by clicking a single link, Trello product marketing manager Brian Cervino wrote in a blog post. And Zapier has a bunch of “Zaps” involving Google Slides, including the ability to refresh the data in a chart in an existing presentation or create a new presentation based on a previous one.

Additionally, in May Google demonstrated an integration of the Slides API into Salesforce’s SalesforceIQ tool. Google is also working with ProsperWorks, AODocs, and Form Publisher, Sivaji wrote.

The move to expose this sort of functionality follows the introduction of the Microsoft Graph, which provides a single API endpoint for multiple tools.

To enable the API, you’ll need to visit the Google Developers Console. Documentation for the new API is here.

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PlayStation 4 is now a GIF factory

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 10:40 AM PST

A Sharefactory update is also introducing collages in Photo Mode.

Sony is updating its console with an awesome new sharing feature.

PS4 GIF capabilities in action.

Above: PS4 GIF capabilities in action.

Image Credit: Sony

The PlayStation 4 can now create and share animated GIFs. Sony Interactive Entertainment is rolling out an update to the Sharefactory app on PS4 that introduces a number of new capabilities on top of the ability to share looping, moving images from your gameplay. You can now capture gameplay at a higher resolution if you have a PS4 Pro (launching November 10 — read our review) and a photo mode that enables you to add filters and arrange collages.

The update also brings with it faster export times as well as “troll stickers” and an “internet meme” font, which is exactly the kind of hell I want to continue living in.

But, hey! GIFs!

“We're excited about the new animated GIF feature, which can be easily shared to Twitter right from your console via Sharefactory,” Sony producer Stuart Platt wrote in a blog post. “Using content from your Capture Gallery or your existing Sharefactory projects, you can create looping animated GIFs up to 10 seconds long. Sharefactory is currently the only way to create and share animated GIFs on PS4.”

This is a feature that the Xbox One does not have baked in — although making GIFs from clips on that system is still easy thanks to the openness of the GameDVR system. If you record a clip, it should show up automatically on under your Gamertag. You can then use a smartphone or computer or the Xbox One browser to cut a GIF together to share wherever you want.

The benefit of Sony’s solution is that it’s all built into the platform, which is something that a lot of players prefer.

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Line CEO denies potential Vine acquisition: ‘It’s just a rumor’

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 10:08 AM PST

Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa onstage at Web Summit in Lisbon on November 8, 2016.

Line, Vine. Beloved messaging app, adored video sharing tool. Your chats, your videos. Line, Vine. Vine, Line.

“It’s just a rumor,” said Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa in an interview with VentureBeat at Web Summit 2016.  With that, Idezawa quashed speculation about Line’s potential acquisition of Vine (and any Lolita-inspired pretension by this writer).

With cash from the company’s $1.1 billion IPO earlier this year still on hand, some have wondered if the purchase of Vine or perhaps some other video company would be a use of the new capital. Idezawa addressed this by explaining that video is central to Line’s future growth in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia. “We offer a feature that allows users to broadcast live within the Line app, which already has 20 million monthly active users in Japan, even though it was launched less than one year ago,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

In addition to live video, Idezawa also described video-enabled features like Looks, which is a virtual make-up tool; B612, which is a selfie app; and Snow, a separate app that, like Snapchat, offers photo and video sharing.

According to Idezawa, video is a powerful way to keep users inside the Line app, increasing its overall stickiness and session duration. By doing so, Line will can increase its reliance on advertising, which currently brings in about 40 percent of the company's revenue, with 30 percent coming from games, 20 percent from sale of items like stickers, and the rest from a variety of sources including its offline retail shops. The company reported third quarter earnings of $35.9 billion yen (about $342 million), up from $33.9 billion yen in the second quarter.

Idezawa's focus on user engagement reflects the company's decision to focus on Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Indonesia, all but ceding the U.S. market to Facebook Messenger and Apple iMessaging. According to Idezawa, the company now has 220 million monthly active users, which, while up only 3.7 percent from 212 million a year ago, actually reflects 20 percent user growth in its four Asian markets. The company also recently announced plans to invest in two venture funds — in California and France — perhaps signaling a desire to return eventually to those markets.

“We are confident that video is the next trend [for messaging platforms], and we’ll continue to work on different approaches,” Idezawa said.

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A pro snowboarder and a gold medal skier react to Ubisoft’s Steep

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 10:01 AM PST

Samuel Luebke is a professional snowboarder.

Ubisoft says its Steep extreme winter sports video game is highly realistic. And to back that up, the French video game company made a couple of snow sports stars available to talk about it at a recent preview event at GoPro’s headquarters in San Mateo, Calif.

I interviewed the athletes about what it feels like to do the real thing and to see it depicted in a video game. Professional snowboarder Samuel Luebke has competed in the Freeride World Tour on Mount Blanc, which is one of the central mountains in Steep. It is the mountain nearest to Ubisoft Annecy, the studio that created the game with extreme skiing, snowboarding, wingsuit flying, and parachute gliding. The game comes out on December 2 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.

“I’ve traveled to these mountains depicted in the game, and it’s relatively close to reality for me,” Luebke told GamesBeat. “It feels awesome. I’ve been waiting for a game like this to come out for a long time. It’s great if you want to try new things out, like paragliding. I’m a gamer, and having more variety in the game makes it so it doesn’t get stale.”

He added, “It’s hard to communicate the realism of snowboarding. But this one gets me excited about going snowboarding. I try to do what I would do on the snowboard. It translates pretty well.”

But he likes the parts of the game where it goes into the fantasy of being a superhuman player.

“Going off a huge cliff,” he said. “I’ve been trying the wingsuiting a lot. It’s fun whipping through the rocks.”

Julia Mancuso, Olympic gold medalist, took a turn at Ubisoft's Steep.

Above: Julia Mancuso, Olympic gold medalist, took a turn at Ubisoft’s Steep.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Julia Mancuso, who won the Winter Olympics gold medal for giant slalom in 2006, told GamesBeat that she thought the game was exciting. She has been near the mountain in the game, but not on it. She hasn’t flown in wingsuits before, either.

“I love being able to free ski,” she said. “Fresh tracks is every skier’s dream. It’s fun. It makes you feel like you are out there in the mountains. I love the lighting and seeing the different places turn real.”

Mancuso said, “The difference between a video game and really doing it is hard to compare. When you don’t have the wind in your face, I feel like I’m going faster in the game. It’s scary how fast. With the wind in your face, it makes you feel calm. I feel totally normal going 100 miles per hour on skis. But this seems really fast.”

But Mancuso feels like the game makes you feel a little too superhuman. Normally, when she is skiing down a mountain with fresh powder, she maps it out meticulously. She studies the landscape and figures out where she’s going to turn. She memorizes the whole route.

“You have to inspect it when you get up there, but it always looks different from the top, and sometimes you make bad decisions,” Mancuso said. “Your intuition may tell you to do something against the plan that you made. It takes a lot of visualization.”

One wrong turn can send you tumbling down the mountain to your death. One time, in real life, she crashed on some rocks since she thought she was going off a 10-foot cliff and it was really a 50-foot cliff.

“The whole thing seems superhuman,” Mancuso said. “You fall off a 100-foot cliff face, and you say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to put my skis back on.’ That’s the beauty of video games.”

Here’s a video of Luebke talking about Steep.

Persona 5’s latest trailer shows off its talking cat

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 09:27 AM PST

The new crew.

When the world is threatened by demons and monsters, even your cat has to join fight.

Atlus has released a new trailer for its anticipated role-playing game Persona 5, which comes out in the U.S. on February 14 for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. This video shows off the most distinct character in the cast, the talking cat Morgana. The Persona series has become one of the most critically acclaimed and fan-loved Japanese RPG franchises, thanks to its combination of turn-based, dungeon-exploring combat and day-to-day social systems. The series has sold over 6 million copies worldwide, according to Sega (which owns Atlus).

Morgana looks to serve a similar role as Teddy from Persona 4, a bear-like creature that was as much a mascot as he was a character. Just like Teddy, Morgana can be a party member, meaning the player can control her during battles.

Persona 5 is already out in Japan, quickly becoming Atlus’s fastest-selling game ever in its home country by moving 337,767 copies in its first week.

How Ubisoft built a virtual mountain and then created a video game around it

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 09:15 AM PST

Arnaud Ragot is game director for Ubisoft's Steep

Steep was born as a labor of love by a team that wanted to give you the feeling that you’re in the Alps flying down a mountain in a wingsuit.

Ubisoft’s Annecy studio is in the French Alps, and the team has been biding its time, waiting to build the mountains around them in the most realistic way possible in a video game. Then the team got its hands on the Ghost Recon: Wildlands game engine, and it built the mountains behind its extreme winter sports video game, Steep.

I tried out the game at a preview event at GoPro’s headquarters in San Mateo, Calif., and I loved how it captured the feeling of speeding down the mountain on skis, snowboards, parachutes, and wingsuits. Afterward, I interviewed Arnaud Ragot, the game director for Steep. We talked about reproducing places like Mont Blanc and making the game more exciting and scarier than real-life winter sports.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview. The game debuts on December 2 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The early beta access takes place November 10 to 14, and the open beta will be November 18 to 21.

GamesBeat: It's an interesting experience. How did you start thinking about this?

Arnaud Ragot: We're at Ubisoft Annecy, so we're up in the French Alps. It's part of our life — skiing, snowboarding, mountain sports. It was just about waiting for a good opportunity to create Steep. At some point we had the technology and the team together. We saw a new trend around action sports, so decided to jump in.

GamesBeat: What sort of technology were you waiting for?

Ragot: We're using the Ghost Recon Wildlands engine. It helps as far as capturing the details of the terrain. We wanted to make mountains that feel like the Alps, so you feel like you're in that particular place.

GamesBeat: It feels like you almost mapped it out with a drone. It's just like the real world.

Ragot: We did a lot of investigation to understand things like the geological layers. We wanted to make sure it feels like the Alps. It's not an exact re-creation, though, because we also wanted to make sure it was a fun place to play.

GamesBeat: Every single place you go, it seems like there's a line to slide down.

Ragot: We're using a new procedural generation technology. We make sure the big shapes of the terrain, like Mont Blanc, feel like we want them to, and then we define rules to generate the mountain procedurally.

GamesBeat: How do you then create the fun part of it, the game, once the terrain is there?

Ragot: What's fun for us is we're inspired by what we see outside. We're roaming around the mountain and someone says, "Oh, you see this line? That would be a great challenge." Creating the content is inspired by those places, trying to find the perfect challenge on every face of the mountains.

GamesBeat: Are there any aspects of the experience up in the mountains that you deliberately left out?

Ragot: We wanted to keep players focused on the sport. Flying up in a helicopter or something like that could definitely be part of the fantasy, but it's not that much fun. We let players go wherever they want easily from a drop zone using any of the sports. That's what we wanted to focus on.

Snowboarding is one of the four sports in Steep.

Above: Snowboarding is one of the four sports in Steep.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

GamesBeat: Are some of the paths available to do any of the four sports? Are certain ones geared toward, say, a snowboarder?

Ragot: When it comes to challenges, they're designed for specific sports. But the free-roaming lets you go wherever you want using any of the sports, and you can even change sports on the fly. You can start by doing a wingsuit line, then land and switch to skis and keep on going.

GamesBeat: When you earn points, do you unlock anything as a result of that progress?

Ragot: Completing activities, getting medals, or even progressing on the leaderboard will give you experience points. Those points increase your reputation, which is how the progression system works. As you increase your reputation you get access to new and different content.

GamesBeat: You've got sharing enabled in the game. What do you expect people to share?

Ragot: It depends on what you personally want to create. You might make videos of your best crashes. Or it could be very skilled performances, or maybe you just saw a really amazing place you want to share with your friends. But you can share basically anything you want.

GamesBeat: You did the deal with GoPro to integrate that feature into the game. What was that like?

Ragot: What was really important for us — when we started creating Steep, a big inspiration was all these super-cool videos people share online with their GoPro cameras. We wanted to offer players the same opportunity to do that in the game. When we were working with GoPro, we wanted to get the details right – how it sounds, how it looks – but also the spirit around that community, the different things people do with it. We wanted to speak directly to that GoPro generation.

Snowboarding in Steep.

Above: Snowboarding in Steep.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

GamesBeat: You also consulted a lot of professional athletes. What have they contributed?

Ragot: That's been a really cool part of the production. We're all skiers and snowboarders ourselves, so we know a lot about those sports, but at some point we reach a limit as far as knowledge and experience. Talking with the athletes, working with them — they bring their experience to the game. They help us nail the fine details that make a difference. For instance, they helped us understand that the trick rotation speed on the snowboard wasn't working. We were able to tweak that and make it much better.

Also, of course, we've never practiced with wingsuits ourselves, so working with wingsuiters helped us understand how it feels and sounds and looks. That was important to capturing that experience.

GamesBeat: Do they really try to fly as close to the ground as possible?

Ragot: Some of them, yeah! It's like what you see. People have captured all kinds of things on video and we want to make sure players can do all that in the game. We've made some changes, of course, like when you crash into a gate….

GamesBeat: I suppose you had to put a disclaimer on all this.

Ragot: Oh, yeah, we have a disclaimer at the beginning. Don't try any of this at home.

GamesBeat: As far as how much you want to direct the players, did you consider having any kind of narrative?

Ragot: No, the freedom to do what you want when you want is key for us. We don't want players to get lost in the game, certainly, which is why we have activities with a predefined starting position. But then it's up to you to decide what you want to do. You can focus on a specific sport or explore the world with free roaming. It's up to you to decide. There's no central path to it.

Steep E3 2016 03

Above: Steep

Image Credit: Ubisoft

GamesBeat: How many different runs or lines are there?

Ragot: We have hundreds of challenges, so that alone adds up to many hours of activities. Since we're using the same tools to generate a challenge as we to do generate a ride, we can take that trail from a ride and turn it into a challenge. We've been playing the game a lot during production, obviously, and when we achieve some feat that's particularly cool, we can turn that into a challenge. That's why we've had the opportunity to create so many challenges in the game.

GamesBeat: Do you know how many hours people could play?

Ragot: Not yet, but it will definitely take a long time to play through all the content we've created. From there it's still all about creativity and freedom. You can't really put a number of hours on that.

GamesBeat: Since this was inspired so closely by a real place, do you have any integration with real-world events?

Ragot: After the game releases, we want to build a community and entertain them. Synchronizing with live events are definitely something we'd like to do, doing something to share with the community. We see a lot of opportunities out there to explore.

GamesBeat: What are some of the most memorable run videos you've already seen?

Ragot: We haven't seen that many yet, but we're excited for Early Access and the open beta coming this month. Now we get to really see what players can do with the game. I'm curious to see what they come up with.

Ubisoft’s Steep is a kinetic dive into extreme winter sports

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 09:00 AM PST

Ubisoft's Steep takes you into the French Alps.

The team at Ubisoft Annecy has lived in the shadows of the big mountains in Steep for a long time, and they’ve finally got a chance to depict the winter sports of those mountains in a lifelike experience that captures both the realism and the fantasy of extreme sports in the breathtaking environment of the French Alps.

Ubisoft’s Steep debuts on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the PC on December 2. An early beta begins on Thursday and runs through November 14. I got a chance to try the game (as you can see in the videos embedded on this page) at a Ubisoft event held at the headquarters of action camera maker GoPro in San Mateo, Calif. I went into the preview expecting it to be a little boring, but it was actually really thrilling to play. You feel immersed in the cold environs of the mountains as you speed downhill and hear the sounds of wind whipping through your clothing. It feels more real than any other snow sports game I’ve played.

You can choose between four different sports: wingsuiting, skiing, snowboarding, and paragliding. In my view, the most spectacular and fun was wingsuiting, and the paragliding run that I did was boring by comparison because you are going so much slower. It took a little while to get used to each sport, but once I had finished that, I enjoyed the freedom to do anything I wanted on the mountains. You’ll find no story and no characters here. It’s just you and the mountain.

This game has amazing graphics. The technology behind the game is the same as Ubisoft used for its upcoming Ghost Recon: Wildlands game. That enables extremely realistic graphics of the mountain, the snow, the rocks, the trees, and the fog. You always see the avatar from a default third-person point of view, and that means you can see the wingsuit fabric filling with air and fluttering in the wind. The sun casts realistic shadows across the mountain, and lens flares can blind you when you glance in the sun’s direction.

You start out doing a tutorial that shows you all of the different sports and how to maneuver and score points for tricks. Then you are set loose on the mountain. You do have to complete a few recommended runs. But once you finish them, you can go anywhere you wish and slowly unlock the more difficult runs. The overhead mountain view looks great, and you can choose from hundreds of different paths, many of them procedurally generated.

The overhead map of Steep shows the different peaks and runs of the Alps.

Above: The overhead map of Steep shows the different peaks and runs of the Alps.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

“It's part of our life — skiing, snowboarding, mountain sports,” said Arnaud Ragot, game director at Ubisoft Annecy. “It was just about waiting for a good opportunity to create Steep. At some point we had the technology and the team together. We saw a new trend around action sports, so decided to jump in.”

I really enjoyed the wingsuit competitions, where you dive down the mountain and try to score points by staying as close to the ground as possible. This means that a gust of wind or an unexpected rock can make you crash into the mountain and tumble like a rag doll down the slope.

Ragot said that the general shape of the mountains are realistically depicted. But each individual run has been created by Ubisoft’s game designers so that it will be fun, and not overly realistic. Making the runs fun is where Ubisoft draws the line on realism, and Ubisoft uses procedural generation to make it so the runs are very different.

Many of the places are accessible only via helicopter or long walks up the sheer face of the mountains. Thankfully, you don’t have to waste time walking up a lot of slopes. But when you do march through the snow, you can hear it crunching beneath your boots.

Some of the runs are truly spectacular. I played one called White Wings in a multiplayer wingsuit competition, which you can see at the 3-minute mark in the video below. (Sadly, my videos don’t have sound, which is a big part of the realistic experience).

In White Wings, you dive off a cliff and head toward the ground. It gets tougher when you have maneuver through narrow cracks in a gorge. Sometimes those gaps are only about five-feet wide, and so you have to concentrate on threading the needle.

If you get close to the ground, the game gives you a score for being so daring. But if you miscalculate and run into the ground, you don’t die. You simply hit the “try again” button and start your run all over. Your character cracks a joke about breaking a bunch of bones on that last run.

Ragot said the wingsuit competitions are based on real people who really do try to get as close to the ground as possible, though in carefully mapped sessions.

“We've never practiced with wingsuits ourselves, so working with wingsuiters helped us understand how it feels and sounds and looks. That was important to capturing that experience,” Ragot said. “Oh, yeah, we have a disclaimer at the beginning. Don't try any of this at home.”

I practiced the White Wings run a bunch of times, and I was happy when I finally made it through and set a personal record. I was awarded a gold medal, and got 8,000 points. When you finish your wingsuit run, you just keeping going down the mountain until you pull the cord for your parachute.

You can even use a virtual GoPro camera in the competition to record your run. Then you can watch an instant replay of the run and change the view as you wish. You can then share it on social media. You can also set up a competition on the run and challenge your friends to beat your score. In the multiplayer run on White Wings, I thought my score was pretty good until the guy next to me scored an almost-perfect run of 22,000 points.

Next to wingsuits, I enjoyed the snowboarding sport a lot. I had fun going down the Glacier Hurdles run, trying to avoid rocks on the way down. The game has visual guides that tell you which gate you have to target next as you head down the mountain. The weather is dynamic, and you can play at any time of the day or night. During a night run, I was able to use a headlamp to light the way ahead.

The snowboarders can earn points by going over jumps and then spinning around in the air or grabbing their boards in various tricks. It’s a little easier to become competent in snowboarding, but it’s very hard to master. When you go straight down the mountain, the sense of speed is amazing. the landscape around you burs and the light glistens on the fresh powdery snow. Fortunately, you can get right up after a fall and keep going down the mountain. Or you can just hit the “try again” button and start over. The game reloads the run very quickly, so you can play over and over again.

Ragot said the team consulted with professional athletes to capture the flavor of each sport.

“I’ve traveled to these mountains depicted in the game, and it’s relatively close to reality for me,” said Samuel Luebke, a pro snowboarder, said in an interview with GamesBeat. “It feels awesome. I’ve been waiting for a game like this to come out for a long time. It’s great if you want to try new things out, like paragliding. I’m a gamer, and having more variety in the game makes it so it doesn’t get stale.”

Julia Mancuso, who won the Winter Olympics gold medal for giant slalom in 2006, said in an interview with GamesBeat that she thought the game is fun because it makes you superhuman and because you can be “creative with the mountain.”

You can snowboard in Steep and then share your recorded run.

Above: You can snowboard in Steep and then share your recorded run.

Image Credit: Ubisoft

“The difference between a video game and really doing it is hard to compare,” shes said. “When you don’t have the wind in your face, I feel like I’m going faster in the game. It’s scary how fast. With the wind in your face, it makes you feel calm. I feel totally normal going 100 miles per hour on skis. But this seems really fast.”

And it also worked with GoPro to integrate sharing. Adam Dornbush, head of global business development at GoPro Entertainment, said it’s all about recording your lines, capturing video from unique and authentic camera angles, and then sharing it with your friends.

“What was really important for us—when we started creating Steep, a big inspiration was all these super-cool videos people share online with their GoPro cameras,” said Ragot. “We wanted to offer players the same opportunity to do that in the game. When we were working with GoPro, we wanted to get the details right – how it sounds, how it looks – but also the spirit around that community, the different things people do with it. We wanted to speak directly to that GoPro generation.”

The GoPro integration shows up in the form of the GoPro name on helmets or wingsuits. I wouldn’t be surprised if people start sharing animated wingsuit runs on real GoPro channels at some point in the future. Dornbush said the two companies will collaborate on cross promotions in the future for Steep and GoPro products.

“Animated graphics would be new for us,” Dornbush said. “But this is an authentic enough experience that it could still be on GoPro. It’s amazing, passionate content that we are proud of, and we want to reward you for that.”

5 rules for preparing a killer board package

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 07:45 AM PST

board meeting.shutterstock_362157116

Presented by Klipfolio.

You want each meeting with your board to build the confidence the board and CEO needs to grow the business. In my experience, a free-form discussion hurts more than it helps.

I meet with our board of directors at the end of each quarter, and strive to make each meeting as productive as possible. Remember: Your VCs and board are an extension of your team. Check out point 5 in this post that shares the 6 things startups need to know about venture capitalists.

Here's what I've learned: a killer board package is the difference between a smooth board meeting and a disorganized, even chaotic meeting. If you provide advance insight and follow an organized process, board meetings flow smoothly. And that's what we all want — because a reassured and informed board will keep your company on a high growth trajectory.

Ready for more productive board meetings? Read on for the 5 rules I follow for creating a killer board package

1. Customize around the specifics of your company

As I discovered when scrambling before my first board meeting, there's a lot of material out there on board packages. Much of it is helpful, but some of it is for public boards or multi-billion-dollar companies.

For Klipfolio, I needed to create a package that would suit a quickly growing company with annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million.

How does this look for us?

I focus on SaaS metrics that speak to the challenges and opportunities of a fast-growing business. Velocity metrics like Net MRR Growth and CAC-LTV; customer retention metrics like Churn and Customer Retention; and, product metrics like new features and support tickets.

2. Do advance prep to maximize meeting value

When it comes to board meeting, no one likes surprises. I send the package out a week before the meeting to give members a chance to digest and absorb the content.

Then I call each of them to discuss. If there's a concern, I want to know about it beforehand so I can go to the meeting prepared. For example, if trial sign ups are down this quarter, I want to be able to give them the data behind that metric. Perhaps we improved overall quality of leads and improved our conversion rates; or, there may be an issue with our acquisition process that needs to be addressed head on.

3. Include these 9 sections

Here's what's in Klipfolio's board package:

1. The agenda. Nothing fancy — just a well-planned outline.

2. The performance narrative. This includes an executive summary (written and signed by me) and departmental summaries that explain what's happened during the last quarter. More on this below…

3. The minutes from the previous board meeting, signed by the secretary.

4. Visuals. As experts in business dashboards we'd be pretty remiss if we left out visualizations. I prefer to use a waterfall chart of our performance metrics that provides rolling budget estimates and actual figures per quarter. We include this as the first page of the "Financials" section because it gives an easy-to-read overview of how we're tracking.

An example of a waterfall chart. Check out this article to learn more.

5. Financial statements. We include the quarter being discussed, comparative statements for the previous quarter, and a statement comparing the quarter to the budget.

6. The cap table. This table shows who owns shares in the company as well as any changes in ownership.

7. The statutory declaration. Signed by me, this document declares that all items for which the directors can be personally liable are current and being managed properly.

8. The list of any employee option grants that need to be approved or that fell back into the pool.

9. The extras, as needed, such as reports from committees.

…About that performance narrative (#2 above)

Financials aside, this is the most important item on this list. It's our story of how we're doing.

Each department puts together a one-page summary of their activity over the last quarter, including department-specific performance metrics. The summary answers three questions: What happened? What's next? What are the challenges?

Having each department prepare the summary encourages them to own their story. I use these to prepare a high-level run-down for the company.

The result is a picture that is more complete than any financial statement can give you.

4. Craft a clear plan and deck to focus the meeting

As chair, I set out a five-point agenda:

1. Approvals. The board and observers deal quickly with administrative governance issues.

2. Presentation. The executive team joins us and I present a report on the company and our performance: highlights and challenges; key performance indicators; the status of board-level action items; financial performance and guidance; and our hiring plan and current organizational chart.

3. Discussion. The nature of our business means we need a clear understanding of the competitive landscape, so we start there. We then deep-dive on a specific topic like our product strategy or go-to-market initiatives. This valuable sounding board often leads to important insights.

4. Action items. We update our rolling list of action items.

5. Debrief. I leave and the other board members meet in-camera to discuss what they've heard and my performance, then we debrief.

When the meeting is over, I sync up with my management team. This pattern of preparation, focus, and feedback lets our decision-makers continually touch in with our performance, our goals — and each other. It also helps to reassure the board that we're focused and functional.

5. Share your board report with your employees

I always make a point to share the board package ahead of time so everyone can get on the same page. I also share the board package with our employees to get them on same page, and give a transparent view into your company's successes, challenges, and upcoming opportunities.

Allan Willie is a co-founder of Klipfolio, and its president and CEO. He’s also a designer, a cyclist, a father, and a resolute optimist. 

Most tech stocks are falling after Trump win. But Twitter is up.

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 07:35 AM PST

Dorsey, chairman of Twitter and CEO of Square, listens to a fellow panelist during a Techonomy Detroit panel discussion held at Wayne State University in Detroit

After Trump’s grim victory, Wall Street does not appear incredibly shaken.

Yet across the tech industry — amid the shock, wounded optimism, and familiar threats to fund a New California — most prominent technology companies are in the red this morning.

Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Netflix, Intel, Tesla, Paypal, Ebay, Shopify, GoDaddy, Twilio, Box, Oracle, Lenovo, HP Inc, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dell, Salesforce, VMware, and many others across the tech sector fell after trading opened and continue to fall.

However Twitter, which played an outsized role in this election and served as an effective megaphone for the candidates, and particularly Trump, is up. Now by more than four percent. A few others are up, too.

Stock comparison chart via Yahoo, at 7:50 a.m. Pacific.

Above: Yahoo stock comparison chart, at 7:50 a.m. Pacific. View full size.

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P2P currency exchange marketplace CurrencyFair raises $8.8 million

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 07:15 AM PST

different currency

CurrencyFair, a peer-to-peer currency exchange marketplace based in Ireland, has closed an €8 million ($8.8 million) funding round led by existing investors Octopus Ventures and Frontline Ventures.

Founded out of Dublin in 2009, CurrencyFair serves as an affordable means for businesses and individuals to transfer money into different currencies, with users on the platform buying and selling currencies directly between themselves.

The company had raised roughly $25 million before this round, including a $9 million raise just six months ago, and alongside this latest funding initiative the company is also announcing three key new hires. Coming in as new CEO is Paul Byrne, who has served as CEO for three different software companies over the past 15 years, selling two of them in the process. Joining Byrne at CurrencyFair is new CFO Ruth Fletcher and chief product officer Sylvie McDermott, with founder and former CEO Brett Meyers stepping into a new chief strategy officer position.

“I am delighted that, after an extensive recruitment process that we began in 2015, CurrencyFair now has a complete, highly experienced and high-calibre management team in place that will drive us all forward in the next phase of our growth,” said Meyers. “There is a huge opportunity for our unique service in a global market for both consumers and SMEs, and we are now primed to take advantage of that.”

CurrencyFair isn’t the only European company operating in the P2P forex realm. London-based startup Transferwise offers a similar product, and has raised well over $100 million since its inception back in 2010, including $26 million it pulled in just a few months ago.

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Augmenix Announces New Category 1 CPT® Code from the American Medical Association for Periprostatic Implantation of Biodegradable Material

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 07:05 AM PST


The CPT Code establishes a standard reimbursement pathway for this new procedure which is performed with SpaceOAR® technology

WALTHAM, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–November 9, 2016–

Augmenix Inc., (, a medical technology company that develops, manufactures, and sells proprietary biodegradable hydrogels that separate and protect organs at risk during radiotherapy, announced today that with the support of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and the American Urological Association (AUA), the American Medical Association (AMA) has granted a Category I, Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code specifically for periprostatic implantation of biodegradable material.

This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here:

SpaceOAR separates the prostate and rectum during radiation treatment, reducing rectal injury (Graph ...

SpaceOAR separates the prostate and rectum during radiation treatment, reducing rectal injury (Graphic: Business Wire)

The purpose of CPT is to provide a uniform language that accurately describes medical, surgical, and diagnostic services, and thereby serves as an effective means for reliable nationwide communication among physicians and other healthcare providers, patients, and third parties. The new CPT code is expected to become effective on January 1, 2018 at which time the Category III code, 0438T, will be eliminated.

Following the recent presentation of positive 3 year data from the SpaceOAR Pivotal Clinical Trial at the 2016 American Society for Radiation Oncology Annual Meeting in Boston, MA, AMA granted a Category 1 CPT code for periprostatic implantation of biodegradable material. “This is an important reimbursement milestone for providers who offer this new treatment option to prostate cancer patients,” commented John Pedersen, Chief Executive Officer, Augmenix. “The Category I CPT code will facilitate reimbursement with US government payers and commercial health insurance companies to enable wider access to the innovative SpaceOAR technology.”

“SpaceOAR is clearly the most elegant and clinically proven technology for reducing rectal toxicity in the treatment of prostate cancer developed in the past 20 years,” said Steven Kurtzman, MD, President – Western Radiation Oncology Inc. San Mateo, CA. “I consider the product an integral part of my treatment protocol for patients receiving both external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy.”

About SpaceOAR System

The leading side effects of prostate cancer radiotherapy are collectively known as “rectal toxicity” (diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgency, pain, etc.), which results from unintended radiation injury to the rectum (the Organ At Risk, OAR). These complications can last for years, significantly impacting patient quality of life (QOL).

Using a minimally invasive procedure, SpaceOAR System is injected as a liquid into the space between the prostate and rectum where it expands the space and then solidifies into a soft hydrogel. The hydrogel remains stable for three months while protecting the rectum during radiotherapy, and then liquefies and is completely absorbed by the body after radiotherapy is complete. The SpaceOAR System is FDA Cleared and is currently being used in the majority of leading cancer centers in the United States. It is also CE marked, approved in Australia and licensed in Canada. See the Instructions for Use for complete information on potential risks, warnings and precautions.

About Augmenix, Inc.

Augmenix, Inc. is a privately held company based in the Boston area focused on the development and commercialization of radiation oncology products using its proprietary hydrogel technology. The company was founded by Incept LLC in 2008 and is funded by several leading venture capital groups. More information about Augmenix and the SpaceOAR System can be found at

CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.

SpaceOAR is a registered trademark of Augmenix, Inc.

Eileen Gardner, RN, 781-902-1625

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DeltaDNA study shows mobile game makers don’t know how to handle in-game ads

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 07:00 AM PST

DeltaDNA's survey shows in-app ads are confusing for developers.

Game developers know that in-game ads are important, but they don’t know the best way to approach them. That’s the conclusion of a survey by mobile game marketing firm DeltaDNA.

The study from Edinburgh-based DeltaDNA shows that many developers are leaving cash on the table over fears of how ads impact player engagement, enjoyment and retention. That’s a problem worth addressing in the $36 billion mobile game industry, where advertising has become a must for developers who want to get their games better attention in a sea of competition.

The results show 36 percent of developers fear that increasing ad frequency will have an adverse effect player engagement. Another 29 percent say it will affect player enjoyment. 14 percent say player churn is their primary concern.

More than half of developers (52 percent) feel unsure whether they are adopting the right ad strategy for their highest monetizing free-to-play (F2P) mobile game, while only 3 percent described their approach to advertising as effective.

DeltaDNA said developers see advertising as a necessary evil, but also an important monetization opportunity. Yet it only accounts for 35 percent of revenue, down from 38 percent in 2015.

The most integrated ads are banners (50 percent) and rewarded video (44 percent), while interstitials have fallen off a cliff, down from 67 percent to 21 percent. Video (32 percent) and playable (10 percent) ads are increasingly popular formats.

DeltaDNA found confusion abounds on in-game ads.

Above: DeltaDNA found confusion abounds on in-game ads.

Image Credit: DeltaDNA

More developers are serving one ad or less per session than twelve months ago. Developers clearly lack confidence, with many describing their approach to ads as unsure (10 percent), cautious (22 percent) and experimental (28 percent).

Mark Robinson, CEO of deltaDNA, said in a statement, “Ads are now integral to the monetization of most F2P games, with some players really valuing formats like rewarded video, so it’s concerning, but not surprising to hear that a year after our first ad survey, developers are feeling less confident and more uncertain about how best to use ads. The problem is that most developers don't have the technology to be able to evaluate the effect of ads on player behavior, which is fuelling these fears over the impact of ads on player engagement, enjoyment and retention.”

He added, “But developers have much to be positive about, as recent studies have found little relationship between ad frequency and retention. However, what's key to the success of any ad strategy is good integration of ads within the game experience, which our data shows, can uplift total revenue by up to 400 percent, through enhanced IAP and rewarded ad engagement, without impacting retention.”

With less than 1 percent of players ever spending money in F2P games, advertising represents the natural choice to monetize the remaining 99 percent. But does taking an ultra-cautious approach to ad frequency improve retention, or are developers just leaving cash on the table?

Anonymized game data from the DeltaDNA platform was recently used to facilitate a separate study into this area.

"We evaluated DeltaDNA game data which associates ad engagement to the individual player, and enables its comparison with players' in-game behaviour," said Nick Ross, assistant professor for business at the University of San Francisco, in a statement. “This allowed us to determine that there is no evidence to suggest that the density of ads shown by a game in the first session affects whether a player returns for a second session.”

The detailed survey includes responses from 234 mobile games publishers and developers about their experiences and attitudes towards monetization through ads in their highest monetizing F2P game, and the challenges of balancing player experience with ads and in-app purchases (IAP).

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Southeast Asia’s PC online and mobile game revenue to more than double to $3.3 billion by 2020

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 06:30 AM PST

Southeast Asia's game revenue is expected to hit $3.3 billion by 2020.

Southeast Asia’s game market is on a growth spurt. The region’s PC online and mobile game revenue is expected to grow more than double to $3.3 billion by 2020, according to a report by market researcher Niko Partners.

And mobile game usage and revenue are expected to overtake PC online games by 2018. The 124-slide report looked at the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The report says that Southeast Asia’s mobile games revenue will rise by a compound annual growth rate of 25 percent from $587 million in 2015 to $1.8 billion in 2020. The PC online game market is growing more slowly at about a 10 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate), said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, managing partner of Niko Partners, in an interview with GamesBeat.

"The primary driver of demand for PC online games in Southeast Asia is esports, and the primary driver of demand for mobile games is the appetite for a wide selection of lower cost digital entertainment," said Cosmas Hanson. "Gamers in many of the Southeast Asian countries that we track are restricted by lower disposable income, and that makes local parity pricing important for foreign game developers to acquire greater numbers of users who can afford to play their games, hence ultimately generating higher overall revenue."

The report also says more gamers in Thailand are hardcore players, with play times exceeding 21 hours per week, compared to other Southeast Asian countries that are more casual.

Niko says that Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are the ones to watch for the highest revenue and growth. Cosmas Hanson said that advertising revenue is bigger in the region in part because disposable income is lower and people make fewer purchases.

For the region as a whole, the massively multiplayer online role-playing games are now just 20 percent of overall PC online games revenue. In the past, that percentage was higher.

Southeast Asia represents about 6.5 percent of Valve’s global Steam gamers. Two of the most popular games are Dota 2 and Riot’s League of Legends. Others include Hearthstone, Overwatch, Pokémon Go, Supercell games such as Clash Royale, FIFA online, and others. The indie title Machinarium is in the top ten most-popular lists in multiple countries.

Niko did an online survey of 1,500 gamers and interviews with executives at Southeast Asian online game companies, payment companies, and mobile game developers.

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Pandora redesigns its web music player

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 06:00 AM PST

The new look of Now Playing in Pandora.

Publicly traded digital radio company Pandora today is launching a redesign of its core web music player.

The web app’s Now Playing view has been updated to look a lot more modern, instead of like something created in the previous decade. And it now more closely resembles the look of Pandora’s Android and iOS apps. Lyrics and upcoming tour dates are available when you click to get to the backstage view for whatever you might be listening to.

For the sake of comparison, here’s how the Now Playing page used to look:

Pandora's Now Playing screen before today's redesign.

Above: Pandora’s Now Playing screen before today’s redesign.

Image Credit: Screenshot

Pandora is also making it easier to navigate between tracks you’ve already listened to. “From what's currently playing, to station creation and organization, and the history of your favorite tracks, the updated features across the platform allow you to easily control your listening experience,” the company said in a blog post.

People who pay for the premium Pandora Plus service can now replay songs. But free users shouldn’t fret — now they can replay a song or skip more songs if they watch a video ad.

The move comes one month after Pandora introduced a new logo.

Pandora had 77.9 million active listeners at the end of the third quarter of this year.

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Recruitment marketplace Hired adds another $30 million to its Series C pot, closing out at $70 million in total

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 05:10 AM PST


Hired has announced a fresh batch of funding as the jobs marketplace for techies closes out its Series C round at $70 million.

The San Francisco-based startup had originally announced a $40 million raise back in February, but the company has now added an additional $30 million to the mix, taking the total funding raised since its inception past the $100 million mark.

Founded in 2012, Hired differs from other recruitment platforms insofar as workers don't apply to be hired by companies — instead, companies apply to hire them. The system effectively gives employers access to a curated candidate pool, and also gives them access to competing bids to they can improve their offer before the candidate makes a final decision.

Speaking at the Lisbon Web Summit earlier today, Hired CEO Mehul Patel confirmed that new investors include limited partners Glenmede Trust and Ontario Pension Board, with participation from other existing investors. “We consider this latest extension to our own funding a robust endorsement of our vision, given the fact that limited partners tend to be more conservative investors, and this additional funding was not something we actively sought,” said Patel. “The financial resources from this extension will allow us to continue to invest in new technologies, enhance our data science capabilities, and continue to build an outstanding global team that will enable us to keep growing.”

While online marketplaces, in general, are ripe for investment, recruitment portals have seen a notable number of investments this year. Back in September, Jobbio raised $5.6 million to connect employers with job seekers, while The Muse closed a $16 million round to grow its recruitment service for millennials. Elsewhere, Spain-based Jobandtalent grabbed $42 million, Job Today took on $10 million, and Handshake raised $10.5 million to help college students search for jobs and internships.

“We believe that people want to feel a sense of purpose in their everyday work, to feel challenged and grow their skills, and to have the sense that their job isn't just a job, but truly is an opportunity,” added Patel. “My hope is that armed with these additional financial resources, we can be the partner people turn to as they move from one opportunity to the next, to fulfill our own mission of helping everyone get a job they love.”

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Helios and Matheson Analytics and Zone Technologies, Maker of RedZone Map, Close Merger

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 05:05 AM PST


Established Big Data Analytics Provider and Breakout Mapping Company

Leverage Advanced Analytics to Disrupt Crime-Reporting Industry

MIAMI & NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–November 9, 2016–

Helios and Matheson Analytics (NASDAQ: HMNY) and Zone Technologies, Inc. (Zone), maker of the RedZone Map crime and navigation map, today announced the closing of their merger, whereby Zone survives the merger as a wholly-owned subsidiary of HMNY. With the merger completed, the companies will now focus on expanding the technology of the app, which is available free on the Apple App Store with its Android release scheduled for the 4th quarter 2016. RedZone Map offers one of the most sophisticated GPS-driven systems available to users today, with enhanced personal safety being the primary mission behind Zone’s proprietary technology that incorporates social listening, artificial intelligence and big data.

This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here:

Social Empowerment at its Best! (Photo: Business Wire)

Social Empowerment at its Best! (Photo: Business Wire)

Unlike Google Maps and Waze, RedZone Map is the first app that goes beyond navigation to address personal safety, combining GPS-driven direction with real-time crime data and social listening. Recently coming out of beta testing, the app broke through the top 5 in the Apple App Store’s U.S. navigation category, right behind Google Maps and Waze. Being the only app offering a safe route vs. risky route, RedZone Map gives its users a choice.

Covering more than 1,250 cities in the U.S., the mapping format helps consumers to be more aware of their surroundings, posting over half a million crimes committed just during the last 60 days, including crime data from the last 24 hours. It pinpoints the location of these crimes – shootings, assaults and thefts, benefiting users whether they are navigating in their own neighborhoods or traveling, and the plan is to deploy this proprietary technology globally in short order.

“The benefits that RedZone Map provides indeed work towards the greater good,” said Ted Farnsworth, Chairman of HMNY following the merger. “RedZone is about community involvement and working together to enhance personal safety. Zone’s vision has always been to develop the ability to do this on a global scale. The merger with HMNY has enabled us to develop and expand RedZone Map faster than I ever thought possible.”

“HMNY is an established provider of big data and predictive analytics solutions for Fortune 500 companies. Adding HMNY’s technological depth to a safety focused navigation map and real time crime reporting app, I believe, makes RedZone Map the market leader,” said Pat Krishnan, CEO of HMNY. “The matching of our depth and ambition with RedZone Map has cemented the relationship between the two companies,” continued Mr. Krishnan.

About Helios and Matheson

Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. (HMNY) provides information technology consulting, training services, software products and an enhanced suite of services of predictive analytics. With its client roster including Fortune 500 corporations, HMNY focuses mainly on the BFSI and Technology verticals. HMNY’s solutions cover the entire spectrum of IT needs, including applications, data, and infrastructure. HMNY is headquartered in New York, NY and listed on the NASDAQ Capital Market under the symbol HMNY. For more information visit us

About RedZone

RedZone (Zone Technologies, Inc.) is a state-of-the-art mapping and spatial analysis company with operations in the U.S. and Israel. Its eye-opening safety map app enhances mobile GPS navigation by providing advanced proprietary technology to guide travelers to their destinations while avoiding risky areas deemed “red zones,” due to high groupings of crime data, with safer routes generally 15% longer. More than that, the app incorporates a social media component allowing for real-time “It’s happening now” crime reporting coupled with real time data from over 1,400 local, state, national and global sources. Currently available to iOS users with an Android version launching shortly, RedZone Map is available free in the Apple App Store. More information is available on the RedZone Map website.

Cautionary Statement on Forward-looking Information

Certain statements in this communication contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 or under Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (collectively, “forward-looking statements”) that may not be based on historical fact, but instead relate to future events, including without limitation statements containing the words “believe”, “may”, “plan”, “will”, “estimate”, “continue”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “expect” and similar expressions. All statements other than statements of historical fact included in this communication are forward-looking statements, including statements regarding the benefits of both the merger and the RedZone Map app.

Such forward-looking statements are based on a number of assumptions. Although HMNY’s management believes that the assumptions made and expectations represented by such statements are reasonable, there can be no assurance that a forward-looking statement contained herein will prove to be accurate. Actual results and developments may differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements contained herein and even if such actual results and developments are realized or substantially realized, there can be no assurance that they will have the expected consequences or effects. Risk factors and other material information concerning HMNY are described in its Annual Report on Form 10-K, as amended, for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2015, and other filings, including current and periodic reports, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. You are cautioned to review such reports and other filings at

Given these risks, uncertainties and factors, you are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements and information, which are qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. All forward-looking statements and information made herein are based on HMNY’s current expectations and HMNY does not undertake an obligation to revise or update such forward-looking statements and information to reflect subsequent events or circumstances, except as required by law.

SHIFT Communications
Media Contact:
Alan Marcus, 646-756-3701

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Women represent 19.6% of the staff at the top 25 tech companies

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 05:00 AM PST

Women are 19.6 percent of the staff at the top 25 tech companies.

Silicon Valley companies have made a big push to diversify their workplaces in the past few years, but a new study of women in the employee ranks shows that progress has been gradual. Women are 19.6 percent of the staff of the top 25 tech companies, according to a study by hiring firm HiringSolved.

Using artificial intelligence to scan through its databases, HiringSolved found that the biggest tech companies have a long way to go to reach parity in terms of women as a percentage of the workforce and the general population. Companies like Intel have made a big push, but the results are just beginning to show change, as Intel went from 26.4 percent women in 2015 to 26.7 percent women in 2016, according to HiringSolved’s data.

“Ever since Google released its employee demographic figures in mid 2014, other tech giants like Yahoo and Twitter quickly followed suit. Once these stats became public, the genie was out of the bottle for good — and it became all anyone could talk about,” said Shon Burton, CEO of HiringSolved, in the report. “Afterwards, most of these companies quickly announced public initiatives to combat their employee diversity challenges, acknowledging the problem and ideally, offering a solution.”

HiringSolved said that “one-dimensional ways of hiring and sourcing talent are no longer fit for purpose.”

The method ins’t foolproof. HiringSolved uses its own proprietary artificial intelligence software that identifies gender, ethnicity, and age based on public resumes and social profiles. But I noticed in a draft report that the company said that Nvidia had zero women in the C-suite. In fact, the company’s chief financial officer, Colette Kress, is female, with a clearly female name. So you can take that into account. (After we noticed that, they fixed the chart below).

The best and worst female representation in the C-suite for the top 25 tech companies.

Above: The best and worst female representation in the C-suite for the top 25 tech companies.

Image Credit: HiringSolved

“What we found is that slowly but surely, the average number of female employees at these organizations are on an upwards trajectory, with Google, Netflix, Intuit, Ebay, and Twitter leading the pack. Perhaps there was something to those public diversity initiatives after all,” Burton said.

HiringSolved’s proprietary artificial intelligence/machine learning system lets the company sort and classify objects in a picture as part of the analysis of diversity. The factors for analysis include resumes, social profiles, names, locations, social graph data, and more. The companies analyzed are in the chart below. In the C-suite, Yahoo led the pack with 41 percent females, including CEO Marissa Mayer. Nvidia and Western Digital were classified among the worst (but as we noted, we know there’s one error there with Nvidia). Intuit and Sanmina were tied at 33.3 percent female in the C-suite.

The percentage of women at the top 25 tech companies.

Above: The percentage of women at the top 25 tech companies.

Image Credit: HiringSolved
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The battle for digital wallets: How far have we come? (Infographic)

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 04:45 AM PST

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 11.36.10 AM

Presented by Braintree

In a look back at how mobile commerce had grown last year,VentureBeat pointed to one-touch payments — using products like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and One Touch (from Braintree's parent company, PayPal) — as "the shopping invention consumers have long awaited" that "pushed the digital-shopping experience forward in 2015."

For instance, the Nielsen Global Connected Commerce Survey (Q4 2015) reveals that, on a global basis, 56 percent of consumers used credit cards for purchases. However, digital payments are not far behind, with almost half of consumers — 43 percent — using them for purchases. On a country-to-country basis, China far and away had the highest percentage of digital payment usage, with 86 percent of consumers using them for purchases. On the other end of the scale is the Middle East, where digital payments were  made by just 1 percent of the users.

View the entire Digital Wallet Infographic — just click to enlarge.

INFOGRAPHIC - Braintree - VentureBeat - INFOGRAPHIC #3 - FINAL

The financial landscape in the U.S. is highly fragmented — meaning it takes longer to adopt new technologies, with 74 percent of users still making payments with a credit card. Digital payments, on the other hand, are used by only 38 percent of Americans. That compares to 56 percent in Western Europe, 37 percent in Southeast Asia/Pacific, and 30 percent in India. U.S. consumers also rely on store-specific gift cards (26 percent), debit cards (25 percent), direct debit from a bank account (24 percent), and cash on delivery (11 percent).

With more than 13 million point-of-sale terminals, more than 209 million adults in the U.S., and more than 1.2 billion cards among them, it will take time for more retail terminals to begin accepting digital wallets. It will also require training to get more people comfortable using the technology regularly. It's really a chicken-and-egg situation: You don't want retailers ready to accept digital wallets without customers being aware they can use them, nor do you want customers asking to use digital wallets without retailers being able to accommodate their purchases.

That being said, we’re seeing an increase in the adoption of digital wallet payments across companies, and the inclusion of digital wallets within apps.

For instance, Starbucks, an early adopter and leader in mobile payments, reported in 2014 that 15 percent of its app users chose to pay with the Starbucks app rather than pull out their physical wallet. That figure climbed to 21 percent in 2016.

Social networks are also getting in on digital payments in innovative ways. For example, you may have already noticed that talking about Uber in Facebook Messenger will create a link you can click to request an Uber ride. You can also make a P2P (peer-to-peer) payment within the chat app.

Of course, like anything new that's introduced, there's also concern. The IEEE Global Cybersecurity Survey completed in February found that 46 percent of the respondents are worried about losing personal data through an information hack of a mobile payment system. Thirty-three percent worry about unauthorized payments being processed by a mobile payment provider.

However, the survey also indicated that 70 percent of the respondents believe that mobile payment security will be so solid that cash and credit cards will be rendered unnecessary by 2030, so they're quite optimistic for the future.

Certainly, the high-level competition between digital wallet providers brings major benefits to consumers. More service providers means consumers have a larger number of options to choose from, but the competition also pushes all of the companies to work harder to provide better service and more lucrative incentives to customers.

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How the tech industry is reacting to Donald Trump’s improbable election victory

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 03:30 AM PST

Donald Trump: Illustration

In case you missed the memo, Donald Trump has claimed victory in the U.S. presidential election today. Technology industry figureheads have been weighing in with their thoughts, and financial markets have begun reacting to the news.

Technology played a critical role in the Trump vs. Clinton campaign cycle, but Trump hasn’t spoken all that much about technology in the past. So, for the most part, all the tech industry has to go on are Trump’s remarks on everything from Mexicans and Muslims to the rape allegations against him to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Technologist, VC, and prominent Trump backer Peter Thiel has issued a statement about the election result, saying:

“Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump. He has an awesomely difficult task, since it is long past time for us to face up to our country’s problems. We’re going to need all hands on deck.”

And myriad investors, founders, executives, and journalists have been chiming in on Twitter over the past hours.

Hyperloop One cofounder Shervin Pisheva reckons independence for California is the only solution, and former Facebooker, investor, and Path cofounder Dave Morin agreed.

Pisheva is dead serious about this, too, in case you were wondering.

Googler and investor Adam Singer is pessimistic about the outlook for Silicon Valley.

Dara Khosrowshahi, the Iranian-American businessman and CEO of Expedia, was somewhat matter-of-fact about the outcome, noting that the tech industry is “disconnected” from the nation as a whole.

Technology journalist Joshua Topolsky was somewhat despondent about Trump’s victory.

Businessman and investor Mark Cuban thinks Trump must be given a chance.

AOL cofounder Steve Case is disappointed at the outcome, but insists the result should be accepted, and we should move forward.

Tech investment banker Frank Quattrone had strong words to say, likening Trump’s victory to World War II, 9/11, recession, and more, but he still reckons the U.S. will get through it.

Box CEO Aaron Levie remains hopeful that Trump’s election campaign promises and threats were all a ruse and that he’s actually a good guy after all.

Prominent blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash wants everyone to stand up to Trump.

Investor and entrepreneur Bijan Sabet isn’t looking forward to breaking the news to his kids.

Gabe Rivera, founder of tech news aggregator Techmeme, is trying to remain positive and urged everyone to continue fighting the good fight.

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Messaging giant Viber becomes more like Facebook with the launch of Public Accounts for businesses and brands

Posted: 09 Nov 2016 03:00 AM PST

Viber: Public Accounts
Viber: Violet's Kitchen Page

Above: Viber: Violet’s Kitchen Page

Viber has announced a new suite of tools designed to connect businesses and marketers with the mobile messaging app’s 800 million users.

With Public Accounts, Viber is pushing to become a platform through which companies can both broadcast messages en masse and communicate one-to-one with customers. It’s being touted for use across customer service, marketing, and sales.

It’s perhaps fair to say that Viber is borrowing at least one page from Facebook, which has been turbo-charging its Messenger platform credentials over the past year or so, and is well on its way to becoming a central tool for connecting brands with customers.

Indeed, Public Accounts seem a lot like Facebook Pages, with users able to follow and receive updates. Viber’s API also allows companies to connect with their existing customer relationship management (CRM) system, while they can also manually connect individually with customers through live chats with humans or with chatbots.

“We are, of course, aware of what’s going on in our field, but we take pride in crafting the best possible solution based on what we believe is the most suitable experience for people using Viber,” explained Viber COO Michael Shmilov, who officially launched the new service at Web Summit today

Viber for Business

This isn’t the first time Viber has courted businesses. Through Viber for Business, companies could already access a Public Chats feature, which was designed as a way to let brands broadcast messages and create a public presence on Viber. But with Public Accounts, Viber is going several steps further by giving businesses more ways to communicate directly with their customers.

Violet's Kitchen: 1-2-1 chat

Above: Violet’s Kitchen: 1-2-1 chat

“On Viber, people already connect securely and freely with their families, friends and colleagues,” added Shmilov. “Today, we are introducing a way for people to start connecting with businesses, too. The first set of tools will enable businesses to reach their audience on Viber using messaging and rich interfaces, which can be tailored to the various needs of any business.”

Founded out of Israel in 2010, Viber today claims more than 800 million users on Android, Windows Phone, iOS, and desktop. Like Facebook and other messaging apps, Viber enables group or individual chats, and also offers voice and video calling functionality. The company was acquired by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten for $900 million in 2014.

Public Accounts are available around the world from today, launching in partnership with a number of brands including The Weather Channel, Yandex, and The Huffington Post.

Though any business is able to create a Public Account, at first companies will have to apply to Viber, with approval promised “shortly after” if nothing untoward is detected. “Later, we will enable creation from within the app, ” Shmilov told VentureBeat. “We just want to test and optimize moderation and discovery functions.”

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5 dark and ugly ways tech mattered in the U.S. election

Posted: 08 Nov 2016 11:52 PM PST

Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton

When it came down to the issues during this amazing presidential election, technology-related policy got even less attention from the candidates than it typically does.

But that doesn’t mean that tech wasn’t central to this election. It absolutely was, even if it wasn’t in ways that shine the kindest light on Silicon Valley. Here are five big ones that really mattered.

Twitter: From the start, Trump owned Twitter. Not only was his following massive, but he ignited a wave of ultra-conservative followers who hounded Hillary Clinton on Twitter constantly. And for Trump, lacking a classic campaign infrastructure, Twitter became a giant megaphone. His tweets, mundane and outrageous, were dutifully reported by the mainstream media and became stories in and of themselves. In short, Twitter helped him scale his message in a way he probably could not have done in another age. Twitter had trouble finding a buyer recently, and its user growth may not be fantastic. But culturally speaking, Trump demonstrated its value like no one else.

Cybersecurity: Whoever was behind the hacking of Clinton’s campaign manager email, the leaks of those emails showed just how vulnerable we all are. It’s hard to say this single event cost Clinton the election. But a lot of people who supported Trump have been obsessively reading the 25-plus days of publications of the emails by WikiLeaks. And while many of the emails were open to interpretation, many were not and revealed an ugly side of internal campaign politics. In any case, hacking certainly had an influence.

Big data, big schmata: Following Obama’s two wins, his campaign’s massive investment in gathering data on voters to turn them out was widely praised, and many have tried to copy it. Supposedly, Clinton set up a similar operation that had her campaign pretty confident heading into the final vote tonight. And supposedly, Trump had almost none. Turns out, big data failed Clinton, likely making her over-confident and influencing her campaign’s failure to focus on key states that she ended up losing.

Polls, schmolls. Trump’s success is stunning in large part because almost every major poll was wrong. And so were aggregate and analysis sites like Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight. There will be a lot of analysis about what these polls missed and why. But their reliability has been declining for years, particularly as voters move from landlines to mobile phones with unlisted numbers that make some segments harder to reach. Polling institutions have turned to a mix of online polling methods, which were roundly dismissed during this election when they overwhelmingly favored Trump after the debates. But whatever the truth, it’s fair to say that while we have more ways of communicating, we are less able to confidently forecast what’s going on in the world.

Fake news: If you haven’t read this BuzzFeed story about fake news mills in Macedonia, you really should. It says everything about news in the age of the internet. While traditional outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post were pumping out large volumes of investigative journalism in recent months, teenagers in Macedonia were churning out pro-Trump, anti-Clinton fake news stories that were widely read and shared. Thanks to tech and the internet, truth took a big punch in the mouth this year.

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Markets slump around the world as Trump leads U.S. presidential race

Posted: 08 Nov 2016 10:45 PM PST

Trump and Clinton greet one another as they take the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S.

Stock markets around the world have contemplated the world with Donald Trump as the U.S. president, and it isn’t pretty.

The Shanghai stock exchange is down 0.35 percent. The Nikkei is down 5.4 percent. The Hang Seng Index is down 2.8 percent. Wall Street’s opening is hours away, and traders are sure to be jittery. Dow futures dropped more than 800 points, while S&P 500 futures fell more than 5 percent. It’s possible that market circuit breakers will be implemented to delay trading in the morning.

The swing has been stunning. FiveThirtyEight said 17 hours ago there was a 71 percent chance that Clinton would win, while the New York Times said that there was an 84 percent chance she would win. Now there’s a 77 percent chance that Trump will win (10:25 pm Pacific time) according to FiveThirtyEight, while the New York Times says there is a 95 percent chance that Trump will win.

Not only will Wall Street have to contemplate what would happen in a Trump presidency, it will also have to think about what Trump could accomplish with Republican control of Congress and an ability to fill vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court. And there’s a lot of uncertainty that the stock markets won’t like, as the future will depend on matters such as who the president-elect chooses for the Cabinet and what policies will be implemented.

The question for the tech world is what will happen to tech stocks in the near term. They will likely take a dive in the morning. And in the long term, there are questions about issues such as the future of immigration, manufacturing in the U.S., and trade agreements.

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