StreetCred is building a blockchain-based marketplace for location data

While applications like Google Maps and Yelp seem to provide an inexhaustible source of information about local restaurants, stores and other points of interest, they also can come up short — moments when you arrive somewhere only to discover that the hours you had were wrong, or the store is closed for a holiday, or it’s just shut down altogether. The team at StreetCred is trying to build a better system for gathering and selling that data. And it’s raised $1 million in seed funding from Bowery Capital and Notation Capital. CEO Randy Meech explained that if someone wanted to build the next Uber or the next Pokémon GO, they’d need location data to make it work. And while they could buy that data now, it’s “very difficult, very expensive.” Plus, he sees room for lots more data — while Foursquare has data about 105 million points of interest
Randy Meech headshot
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Sesame Workshop will produce children’s shows for Apple

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind beloved public television series Sesame Street, will be creating children’s TV programs for Apple . The partnership will involve multiple shows, including live action and animated series, as well as a show with puppets. The deal does not include Sesame Street. I’m guessing that many (most? all?) of you watched Sesame Street on the public TV network PBS, where it still airs — but in 2015, Sesame Workshop made a five-year deal where episodes are broadcast on HBO months before they make it to PBS. Apple, meanwhile, continues to make one big content deal after another — just this week, it placed a series order for Little America, an anthology show about immigrants from Big Sick writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, as well as Office producer Lee Eisenberg and Master of None producer Alan Yang. Unless you count unscripted efforts like
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Stensul raises $7M to make email creation easier for marketers

Email marketing startup Stensul is announcing that it has raised $7 million. Stensul spun out of founder and CEO Noah Dinkin’s previous company FanBridge. Dinkin explained via email that the startup isn’t competing with the big email service providers — in fact, it integrates with ESPs including Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Adobe Marketing Cloud and Marketo. Dinkin said that while ESPs include email creation tools, most companies ignore them. Instead, the marketer has to work with specialists like designers, developer and agencies: “That process often takes weeks, everyone hates it, and it is SUPER expensive.” Stensul, meanwhile, is focused exclusively on the email creation process. Marketers can build the email themselves, without having to rely on anyone else, in less than 20 minutes. “They don’t need to know how to code, they don’t need to know how to use Photoshop or have memorized the 100 page pdf
Stensul
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Startup Grind founders raise $6.4M for community event platform Bevy

The founders of entrepreneurial community Startup Grind have a startup of their own — Bevy, which announced today that it has raised $6.4 million in Series A funding. The funding comes from Upfront Ventures, author Steve Blank, Qualtrics founders Ryan Smith and Jared Smith, and Pluralsight CEO Aaron Skonnard. CEO Derek Andersen (who founded and runs both Bevy and Startup Grind with CTO Joel Fernandes) said that the product was created to deal with Startup Grind’s challenges as the team tried to organize events using a mix of Eventbrite, Meetup and MailChimp, “It worked fine at first, but a few years later, we looked up and we had hundreds of cities, and we had maybe 500 people that were working on it, and it was too much,” Andersen said. “For the first time in many years, we started to get smaller instead of bigger. We were spending all
Bevy Analytics
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Keepsafe launches a privacy-focused mobile browser

Keepsafe, the company behind the private photo app of the same name, is expanding its product lineup today with the release of a mobile web browser. Co-founder and CEO Zouhair Belkoura argued that all of Keepsafe’s products (which also include a VPN app and a private phone number generator) are united not just by a focus on privacy, but by a determination to make those features simple and easy-to-understand — in contrast to what Belkoura described as “how security is designed in techland,” with lots of jargon and complicated settings. Plus, when it comes to your online activity, Belkoura said there are different levels of privacy. There’s the question of the government and large tech companies accessing our personal data, which he argued people care about intellectually, but “they don’t really care about it emotionally.” Then there’s “the nosy neighbor problem,” which Belkoura suggested is something people
Keepsafe browser tabs
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Personal finance startup SmartAsset raises $28M

I first wrote about SmartAsset nearly six years ago, when it launched its first product, a tool allowing prospective homebuyers to analyze the rent vs. buy decision and to see what kind of home they could actually afford. According to co-founder and CEO Michael Carvin, “On the consumer side, our strategy has never really changed. Our mission is to help people make the best personal finance decisions and to build the web’s best resource for personal finance decision-making.” Of course, some aspects of the company have evolved. For one thing, SmartAsset now offers tools, calculators and content in a number of categories, including taxes, retirement and banking. For another, it’s announcing today that it has raised $28 million in Series C funding, bringing its total raised to more than $51 million. The new round comes from Focus Financial Partners (a firm backed by Stone Point Capital and KKR),
smartasset
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Original Content podcast: ‘Queer Eye’ season two is even more of a tearjerker

It’s only been a couple months since we reviewed the first season of Netflix’s revival of Queer Eye, but the show’s Fab Five are already back with another eight episodes where they remake the homes, wardrobes and lives. For season two, however, they mix things up a little — not only does the format feel more varied, but the folks being helped now include a woman and a transgendered man. On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by Henry Pickavet (editorial director at TechCrunch and co-host of the CTRL+T podcast) to discuss the show. We’re all fans: Queer Eye has its shortcomings, but it really works for us, with multiple episodes ending with tears, on- and off-screen. We also recap some of the latest streaming and entertainment news, including AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, Comcast’s new bid for Fox and Netflix’s
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Cheq raises $5M for a proactive, AI-driven approach to safe ad placement

While brand safety and fraud prevention have been big topics in the online ad industry over the past couple years, Cheq CEO Guy Tytunovich argued that “first generation solutions for ad verification” aren’t good enough. The problem, Tytunovich said, is that existing products use sampling to alert advertisers to issues “after the fact.” Compare this to credit card fraud — if the credit card company only alerted you long after the fraud had occurred, “You’re not going to be happy with that kind of answer.” At Cheq, Tytunovich and his team have developed an approach that uses artificial intelligence to deliver what he calls “autonomous brand safety” — the idea is that when an ad is being served, Cheq can detect whether it might be a fraudulent impression that will only be seen by bots, or if it might show up next to content that a brand doesn’t
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Nuzzel unveils NuzzelRank, which scores news sources on ‘authority’

Everyone from Elon Musk to AdBlock Plus wants to tell you which news sources are worth trusting. Now news aggregator Nuzzel is joining in. Specifically, it’s launching NuzzelRank, which founder and CEO Jonathan Abrams described as “our new authority ranking of thousands of top news sources, using signals from top business influencers.” He said it replaces a more “simplistic” ranking system that it was using for its news monitoring and research product Nuzzel Media Intelligence. You may also see NuzzelRank outside the company’s Media Intelligence reports. For one thing, there’s a new page with rankings of Nuzzel’s top sources. For another, Abrams said publishers will be able to add badges with their NuzzelRank scores to their websites, and he also plans to make this data available through an API. At this point, you’re probably wondering how Nuzzel does this ranking. You’re definitely wondering that if you looked at the
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Marketing startup Influential raises $12M from WME and others

Influential announced today that it has raised $12 million in Series B funding. The funding came from existing investors Capital Zed, ECA Ventures, Paradigm Talent Agency, ROAR and Tech Coast Angels, as well as from Hollywood agency WME . Just a couple weeks ago, Influential said it was working with (and had raised money from) WME. The agency is the first to try out a new Influential product called Talent Pro, which gives agents access to social data around a broader pool of talent. Influential founder and CEO Ryan Detert said the product will allow WME — and, in the future, other agencies — to sweeten endorsement and promotional deals with more data and to “take an A-list celebrity… and now surround that person with 10 lookalike influencers who are not celebrities themselves.” One of Influential’s big selling points is its use of artificial intelligence (it’s a developer partner with
Ryan Detert
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Comcast bids $65B for Fox assets, setting the stage for a fight with Disney

Comcast made good on its plans to make an offer for 21st Century Fox’s film and TV assets today, with a cash bid of $65 billion, or $35 per share. That’s 19 percent more than the $52.4 billion that Disney agreed to pay in December. This follows yesterday’s U.S. court approval of the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, which was widely expected to lead Comcast to make a new bid for Fox and, in the long-term, set the stage for broader consolidation between ISPs and media companies. (This is where I remind you that TechCrunch is owned by Oath, a digital media subsidiary of Verizon.) In a letter to Fox executives (namely Rupert, James and Lachlan Murdoch), Comcast CEO Brian Roberts wrote that after meetings last year, his team was convinced that Comcast would be “the right strategic home” for the Fox assets, and that
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Safety app Watch Out acquires paywall startup BitWall

BitWall, a Bitcoin-focused startup promising to help online publishers make money, has been acquired. Its new owner is Watch Out, the company behind an app that sends alerts about things like product and food recalls and weather-realted emergencies. It’s not the most obvious acquirer, but the companies say BitWall can help Watch Out improve its data, payments and loyalty systems. “We are excited to bring BitWall into the Watch Out! ecosystem,” said Watch Out CEO Michael Lucas in the acquisition announcement. “Our mission is to provide a secure consumer-protection platform while delivering hyper-targeted content when and where it matters most, whether that be a safety alert or a digital reward. BitWall and its team help us do that.” Apparently there’s a TechCrunch connection to the story, too — BitWall co-founder and CEO Nic Meliones told me he first got connected to Watch Out at our Disrupt SF
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Amino raises $45M for to bring fan communities to smartphones

Amino has raised a big Series C round of funding — $45 million from GV, Venrock, Union Square Ventures, Goodwater Capital and Time Warner Investments, with Hearst Ventures joining as a new investor. Co-founder and CEO Ben Anderson has described Amino as an way to help people who have “passionate niche interests” find others who feel the same way, via smartphone apps. The company started out with apps focused a handful of topics like K-pop, anime and Doctor Who, but it later added the ability for anyone to launch a new community in the main Amino app, and there are now more than 2.5 million communities. Of course, some of these communities are more active than others, and there’s some overlap between them — but Max Sebela, who’s general manager for Amino’s English-language apps, said there’s less than you might think, because “each interest is actually a universe
Amino Voice Chats
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Primary Venture Partners raises $100M to invest in NYC startups

Primary Venture Partners, a seed firm that invests exclusively in New York City startups, has raised a second fund of $100 million. That focus is unusual — even Lerer Hippeau, a firm that’s closely associated with New York, makes some investments outside the region. Primary’s Ben Sun (pictured above with his co-founder Brad Svrluga) said he’s betting, in part, on the New York workforce, particularly “the talent that came into the tech ecosystem post-financial crisis” — a shift that gave the city more talented entrepreneurs, plus a talent pool that they could draw from to build their companies. After all, Sun noted that employment in New York’s tech sector grew by 57 percent between 2010 and 2016. He also said that Primary (formerly known as High Peaks Venture Partners) offers more support and services than many seed firms — for example, Cat Hernandez, Primary’s partner focused on “human
Primary Venture Partners
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Squarespace expands its website-building platform with email marketing

Squarespace is launching its first email marketing product today. CEO Anthony Casalena and Director of Product Natalie Gibralter both told me that the Squarespace platform has been gradually expanding beyond a simple website builder by adding things like e-commerce and analytics. Gibralter said the goal is to turn Squarespace into an “all-in-one platform” for businesses, with email as “the first segue into a broader suite of marketing tools.” There’s no shortage of email marketing products out there — not just standalone tools, but also email marketing options added to competing website builders like Weebly. But for Casalena and Gibralter, one of the main advantages is how Squarespace has integrated email marketing into the larger platform. “We already have a lot of information about who’s been buying things from your site, we know if you have a blog … we can build all those touchpoints substantially better,” Casalena said. “It
Squarespace Email Editor
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Media startup Prøhbtd raises $8M to help bring cannabis to the mainstream

Prøhbtd, a startup that CEO Drake Sutton-Shearer said is designed to “build a bridge” between the cannabis industry and mainstream culture, is announcing that it has raised $8 million in Series A funding. It’s not the only cannabis -focused digital media company out there – for example, I wrote about the initial funding for Herb last year. But Sutton-Shearer argued that Prøhbtd is creating premium content with a unique voice. For one thing, he said Prøhbtd’s isn’t focused exclusively on cannabis. Instead, the goal is to create a diverse slate of lifestyle- and culture-related content, with cannabis as the hook. Take, for example, Edibles, a video series hosted by Birdie Harrelson (niece of Woody Harrelson) — the series includes recipes for creating cannabis-infused baked goods, but as Sutton-Shearer put it, when each episode opens, “She’s not talking about weed, she’s going to bakeries.” The company says that
Edibles
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Canvs brings its emotion analysis tool to surveys

Jason Feldman, CEO of Canvs, said he has a big goal: “I think there needs to be a Google for emotions … where you can see how people feel about everything.” Feldman argued that creating such a product, Canvs can not only help businesses make better decisions, but also contribute to “a more empathetic world.” (When I pointed out that not everyone is comfortable with the idea of for-profit businesses having a detailed understanding of their emotions, particularly post-Cambridge Analytica, Feldman noted that Canvs isn’t involved in any kind of user targeting or attempts to change user behavior — instead, it’s all about “clarifying how people really feel about things.”) Canvs’ first product was focused on helping TV networks understanding the social media conversation about their shows, with what Feldman said is much greater nuance than normal social sentiment analysis. Now the company is
Canvs Surveys
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Bloomberg Media Group’s chief product officer sees big opportunities in audio

Julia Beizer joined Bloomberg Media Group as its first chief product officer in January — and since then, she said, “Audio has been a big part of my world.” Specifically, Beizer’s team has been releasing products for different smart speakers including Apple’s HomePod, Amazon’s Echo Show and most recently Google Home, with the launch of the First Word news briefing for both Google Home and the Google Assistant app. Bloomberg has also turned its video news show TicToc (initially created for Twitter) into an audio podcast. And by leveraging Amazon Polly for text-to-audio conversion, the company now offers audio versions of every article on the Bloomberg website and app. Beizer joined Bloomberg from The Huffington Post (which, like TechCrunch, is owned by Verizon’s digital subsidiary Oath). She pointed out that these new initiatives represent a range of different approaches to audio news, from the “beautiful, bespoke, handcrafted
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SeatGeek brings ticket buying into Snapchat

You can now buy game and concert tickets from teams and musicians within Snapchat, thanks to an integration with SeatGeek . While Snapchat has started testing e-commerce features in the past few months, SeatGeek says this is the first ticket-buying experience built into the Snapchat app. The Los Angeles Football Club was the first team to sell tickets through this integration, by posting a Snapchat Story (and a Snapcode on the team website) that allowed users to swipe up to buy tickets to the May 26 game. The full purchase experience takes place without leaving the app. “We’re always looking to reach our fans in innovative ways, and selling tickets directly to our followers on Snapchat gives us an incredible opportunity to connect with our most dedicated supporters,” said Los Angeles Football Club President and co-owner Tom Penn in the announcement. SeatGeek Snapchat SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza said that as “the pipe gets
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Facebook is funding news programs from CNN, Fox News, Univision and others

Facebook has unveiled its initial lineup of news programming that will be airing in a dedicated section of Watch, the original video content initiative that the social network launched last year. While these shows are being produced by outside media organizations, it’s actually Facebook that’s funding them. In a blog post, Head of News Partnerships Campbell Brown described this as an extension of the company’s announcement in January that it would prioritize meaningful social interaction over publisher content. While that decision took a toll on digital publishers, Brown echoes CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rationale for the move, saying that while there will be less news in users’ feeds, what remains should be “trustworthy, informative, and local.” Here’s how Brown describes the news initiative:
This first lineup of funded shows includes news publishers from broadcast to digital native, national and local. The shows will be hosted by award-winning
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