Alibaba boosts its offline reach with $2B+ investment in outdoor digital marketing firm

Alibaba is investing big bucks into offline distribution. The Chinese e-commerce giant has forked out $2.23 billion in exchange for a sizeable piece of Focus Media, a Shanghai-based company that operates outdoor digital advertising screens across China, Singapore and Hong Kong, according to a U.S. filing. The deal itself is broken up into a few pieces. Alibaba itself is paying $1.43 billion for a 6.62 percent share of Focus Media, which is listed in Shanghai, It is also spending $504.7 million to buy 10 percent of an entity (managed by Focus Media founder and chairman Jason Nanchun Jiang) which controls 23.34 percent of Focus Media. In addition, an Alibaba-aligned fund called ‘New Retail Strategic Opportunities’ is buying 1.37 percent of Focus Media, while Alibaba itself is planning to exercise an option to buy five percent more of the business over the next twelve months. That additional
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Prime Down: Amazon’s sale day turns into fail day

  • Update: Here’s how to get around Amazon’s error. Use smile.amazon.com. TechCrunch confirmed this workaround works.
It’s not just you. Amazon Prime Day started 15 minutes ago, and so far, it’s not going well for Amazon. The landing page for Prime Day does not work. When most links are clicked, readers are sent to an error page or to a landing page that sends readers back to the main landing page. Direct links to the product pages, either from outside links or the single product placement on the landing page, seem to work fine. I just bought this tent two weeks ago for $120. Some users are reporting errors when completing a purchase, too. This is a huge blow to Amazon and its faux holiday Prime Day. The retailer has been pushing this event for weeks and there are some great deals to be had. It’s not a
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Adobe could be the next $10 billion software company

Adobe reported its Q2 FY’18 earnings yesterday and the news was quite good. The company announced $2.2 billion in revenue for the quarter up 24 percent year over year. That puts them on an impressive $8.8 billion run rate, within reach of becoming the next $10 billion software company (or at least on a run rate). Revenue was up across all major business lines, but as has been the norm, the vast majority comes from the company’s bread and butter, Creative Cloud, which houses the likes of Photoshop, InDesign and Dreamweaver, among others. In fact digital media, which includes Creative Cloud and Document Cloud accounted for $1.55 billion of the $2.2 billion in total revenue. The vast majority of that, $1.30 billion was from the creative side of the house with Document Cloud pulling in $243 million. Adobe has been mostly known as a
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Tailor Brands raises $15.5M for AI-driven logo creation and more

Tailor Brands, a startup that automates parts of the branding and marketing process for small businesses, announced this morning that it has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding. CEO Yali Saar has said the company sits at the intersection of design and machine learning. The idea is to create technology that understands the best practices of logo design, copywriting and social media strategy. It’s the automated design that’s most immediately eye-catching, and that’s the big feature highlighted on the Tailor Brands website. You’ll need to pay to get access to high-quality image files, but before that, you can actually try creating a logo for free, just by entering some basic information about your company and identifying the designs you prefer. Related: What do you guys think of the new TechCrunch logo? techcrunch tailor brands Tailor Brands, which launched at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield in 2014, said the technology has already
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We love augmented reality, but let’s fix things that could become big problems

Augmented Reality (AR) is still in its infancy and has a very promising youth and adulthood ahead. It has already become one of the most exciting, dynamic, and pervasive technologies ever developed. Every day someone is creating a novel way to reshape the real world with a new digital innovation.

Over the past couple of decades, the Internet and smartphone revolutions have transformed our lives, and AR has the potential to be that

Ready Player One
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Marketing platform Punchh raises $20M Series B to give brick-and-mortar retailers better data analytics

Founded in 2010 as an online loyalty card service, Punchh has since grown into a marketing platform serving more than 115 restaurant chains, including Pizza Hut and Quiznos. Now it’s raised a $20 million Series B to expand into more retail verticals and increase the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in its cloud software. The funding was led by Sapphire Ventures, with participation from returning investor Cervin Ventures. Along with its angel and Series A financing, this brings Punchh’s total funding so far to about $31 million. The startup says its goal is to give brick-and-mortar stores the same level of data analytics as e-commerce giants like Amazon. Punchh’s platform enables restaurants to digitize their customer loyalty programs and complements that with tools like Punchh Acquire, which is designed to help businesses turn casual customers into regulars by promoting offers through multiple channels, including email, SMS, social media,
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Insider raises $11M to help internet marketers do better internet marketing

Insider, a service that aims to help brands go about their internet marketing with greater efficiency and success, has landed an $11 million investment led by Sequoia India. The startup is originally from Turkey where it began life in 2012 as a platform that helped optimize online marketing campaigns. Now at 240 staff across 16 markets, it recently moved HQ to Singapore and today it launches its new ‘Growth Management Platform.’ Those three words together don’t really tell much about Insider’s new product, the aim of which is to help brands, marketers and website owners generally serve dynamic content that is tailored to their visitors. The idea according to Insider CEO Hande Cilingir — who is one of six co-founders of the business — is to give a visitor the most optimized version of the site based on who they are. In many ways, it is similar to LiftIgniter,
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As marketing data proliferates, consumers should have more control

At the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas this week, privacy was on the minds of many people. It was no wonder with social media data abuse dominating the headlines, GDPR just around the corner, and Adobe announcing the concept of a centralized customer experience record. With so many high profile breaches in recent years, putting your customer data in a central record-keeping system would seem to be a dangerous proposition, yet Adobe sees so many positives for marketers, it likely believes this to be a worthy trade-off. Which is not to say that the company doesn’t see the risks. Executives speaking at the conference continually insisted that privacy is always part of the conversation at Adobe as they build tools — and they have built in security and privacy safeguards into the customer experience record.

Offering better experiences

The point of the exercise isn’t simply to collect data for data’s
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IoT devices could be next customer data frontier

At the Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas, the company introduced what could be the ultimate customer experience construct, a customer experience system of record that pulls in information, not just from Adobe tools, but wherever it lives. In many ways it marked a new period in the notion of customer experience management, putting it front and center of the marketing strategy. Adobe was not alone, of course. Salesforce, with its three-headed monster, the sales, marketing and service clouds, was also thinking of a similar idea. In fact, they spent $6.5 billion dollars last week to buy MuleSoft to act as a data integration layer to access  customer information from across the enterprise software stack, whether on prem, in the cloud, or inside or outside of Salesforce. And they announced the Salesforce Integration Cloud this week to make use of their newest company. As data collection takes center
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The case for boosting enterprise software startups with services

   One of the truisms of software business strategy is that services is bad business; heck, we’ve also said it. The reason, put bluntly, is that it’s a business with low margins and is not as scalable. So in the early days of bringing to market a complex enterprise software product, the repeated feedback I got from nearly all my advisors was to make sure customers were… Read More

Bose is carving out $50 million for startups using its new audio-focused AR tech

 The high-end audio technology company Bose is getting into the augmented reality game with a new product and a $50 million fund devoted to startups that will develop services for its new platform. While most of the industry is focused on a visually augmented experience, Bose is most concerned with the intersection of sound and vision. The Bose AR prototype, which was unveiled at South by… Read More

As ad dollars erode, tech investments point the way forward for networks

Dollars on a green background There’s no doubt that linear advertising revenues are going to decline in the coming years for big networks. Squeezed by Facebook and Google on one side, and impossible consumer expectations created by Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services on the other, the idea of an ad-supported entertainment business is under siege. This chart from the analyst firm Moffet Nathanson shows just… Read More

Real Valley Stories: Search Marketing With the Open Directory Project

Editor’s Note: Part 12 in an irregular series of stories from my many years in Silicon Valley. Part 11 talked about the time I got called into HR's office to meet with lawyers over industrial espionage. This time, a story involving gray hat search engine marketing in the early days of the Web.

DMOZ is now closed. 

Believe it or not, before the world of automated spiders that crawled the entire Web and ranked the results for your searches, much of the way we found content on the Internet was thanks to manual updates from an invisible army of directory editors. Yahoo! defined the initial dot-com era, with its hierarchical oracle making or breaking traffic downstream, as sites were organized and shuffled into categories by unseen text tweakers, much like the editors of Wikipedia try and keep its tens of millions of article pages up to date, with a
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Apple’s augmented reality tool kit can now detect walls and 2D images in beta

 Apple is rolling out an upgrade to its augmented reality toolbox, ARKit, to developers in a beta version today. ARKit 1.5 adds a few marquee features including one big one: wall detection. Up until this point, ARKit has been focused on offering horizontal plane detection, allowing developers to know where the ‘floor’ is that it can then use to orient or place objects in 3D space.… Read More

LiveMap shows off latest prototype of augmented reality motorcycle helmet

 LiveMap launched in TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield CES 2014 and is getting closer to producing its augmented reality helmet. Since launching, the product has evolved to a working prototype. I tried it on at CES and it seemed to work fine. The current version of helmet features a small transparent screen mounted on the visor. A small projector is mounted in the chin of the helmet.… Read More

FabFitFun expands its empire with a new app for Apple TV and Amazon Fire

 FabFitFun, the women’s lifestyle subscription service and media company that’s become a household name among influencers of a certain generation, is expanding its empire with the launch of a new video app for Apple TV and Amazon Fire. The Los Angeles company founded by Daniel and Michael Broukhim has become one of the darlings of the tech scene in Southern California. Read More

Giving online retailers a physical returns location nets HappyReturns $8 million

 As online retailers continue to seek out ways to bridge the digital divide between themselves and their customers, Happy Returns, which provides physical locations for online shoppers to return and refund unwanted purchases, has raised $8 million to help. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, raised its new money from U.S. Venture Partners along with previous investors Upfront Ventures… Read More

Google will turn on native ad-blocking in Chrome on February 15

Chrome lapel pin Google is going to start blocking certain ads in Chrome, the company announced earlier this year. But now we know exactly when: February 15, 2018 (via VentureBeat) is the go-live date provided by the company for introduction of its built-in enforcement of the standards established by the Coalition for Better Ads, of which it is a member. This won’t block all ads on all websites &#8211… Read More