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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Relinquishing Control Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love PPC Automation

July 31, 2019 No Comments

The manual methods that work are the exception, not the rule. Repeat that to yourself every time you think you are outsmarting the system. Educate yourself, experiment, and stay excited. Can you imagine working in an industry that doesn’t change and adapt?

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China’s Vivo is eyeing smartphone users in Africa and the Middle East

July 31, 2019 No Comments

Africa’s mobile phone industry has in recent times been dominated by Transsion, a Shenzhen-based company that is little known outside the African continent and is gearing up for an initial public offering in China. Now, its Chinese peer Vivo is following its shadow to this burgeoning part of the world with low-cost offerings.

Vivo, the world’s fifth-largest smartphone maker, announced this week that it’s bringing its budget-friendly Y series smartphones into Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt; the line of products is already available in Morocco.

It’s obvious that Vivo wants in on an expanding market as its home country China experiences softening smartphone sales. Despite a global slowdown, Africa posted annual growth in smartphone shipments last year for the first time since 2015 thanks in part to the abundance of entry-level products, according to market research firm IDC.

Affordability is the key driver for any smartphone brands that want to grab a slice of the African market. That’s what vaulted Transsion into a top dog on the continent where it sells feature phones for less than $ 20. Vivo’s Y series smartphones, which are priced as little as $ 170, are vying for a place with Transsion, Samsung and Huawei that have respective unit shares of 34.3%, 22.6% and 9.9% in Africa last year.

The Middle East is also part of Vivo’s latest expansion plan despite the region’s recent slump in smartphone volumes. The Y series, which comes in several models sporting features like the 89% screen-to-body ratio or the artificial intelligence-powered triple camera, is currently for sale in the United Arab Emirates and will launch in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the coming months.

Vivo’s new international push came months after its sister company, Oppo, also owned by BBK, made a similar move into the Middle East and Africa by opening a new regional hub in Dubai.

“Since our first entry into international markets in 2014, we have been dedicated to understanding the needs of consumers through in-depth research in an effort to bring innovative products and services to meet changing lifestyle needs,” said Vivo’s senior vice president Spark Ni in a statement.

“The Middle East and Africa markets are important to us, and we will tailor our approach with consumers’ needs in mind. The launch of Y series is just the beginning. We look forward to bringing our other widely popular products beyond Y series to consumers in the Middle East and Africa very soon,” the executive added.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


Catalyst raises $15M from Accel to transform data-driven customer success

July 30, 2019 No Comments

Managing your customers has changed a lot in the past decade. Out are the steak dinners and ballgame tickets to get a sense of a contract’s chance at renewal, and in are churn analysis and a whole bunch of data science to learn whether a customer and their users like or love your product. That customer experience revolution has been critical to the success of SaaS products, but it can remain wickedly hard to centralize all the data needed to drive top performance in a customer success organization.

That’s where Catalyst comes in. The company, founded in New York City in 2017 and launched April last year, wants to centralize all of your disparate data sources on your customers into one easy-to-digest tool to learn how to approach each of them individually to optimize for the best experience.

The company’s early success has attracted more top investors. It announced today that it has raised a $ 15 million Series A led by Vas Natarajan of Accel, who previously backed enterprise companies like Frame.io, Segment, InVision, and Blameless. The company had previously raised $ 3 million from NYC enterprise-focused Work-Bench and $ 2.4 million from True Ventures. Both firms participated in this new round.

Catalyst CEO Edward Chiu told me that Accel was attractive because of the firm’s recent high-profile success in the enterprise space, including IPOs like Slack, PagerDuty, and CrowdStrike.

When we last spoke with Catalyst a year and a half ago, the firm had just raised its first seed round and was just the company’s co-founders — brothers Edward and Kevin Chiu — and a smattering of employees. Now, the company has 19 employees and is targeting 40 employees by the end of the year.

Team Photo

In that time, the product has continued to evolve as it has worked with its customers. One major feature of Catalyst’s product is a “health score” that determines whether a customer is likely to grow or churn in the coming months based on ingested data around usage. CEO Chiu said that “we’ve gotten our health score to be very very accurate” and “we have the ability to take automated action based on that health score.” Today, the company offers “prefect sync” with Salesforce, Mixpanel, Zendesk, among other services, and will continue to make investments in new integrations.

One high priority for the company has been increasing the speed of integration when a new customer signs up for Catalyst. Chiu said that new customers can be onboarded in minutes, and they can use the platform’s formula builder to define the exact nuances of their health score for their specific customers. “We mold to your use case,” he said.

One lesson the company has learned is that as success teams increasingly become critical to the lifeblood of companies, other parts of the organization and senior executives are working together to improve their customer’s experiences. Chiu told me that the startup often starts with onboarding a customer success team, only to later find that C-suite and other team leads have also joined and are also interacting together on the platform.

An interesting dynamic for the company is that it does its own customer success on its customer success platform. “We are our own best customer,” Chiu said. “We login every day to see the health of our customers… our product managers login to Catalyst every day to read product feedback.”

Since the last time we checked in, the company has added a slew of senior execs, including Cliff Kim as head of product, Danny Han as head of engineering, and Jessica Marucci as head of people, with whom the two Chius had worked together at cloud infrastructure startup DigitalOcean.

Moving forward, Chiu expects to invest further in data analysis and engineering. “One of the most unique things about us is that we are collecting so much unique data: usage patterns, [customer] spend fluctuations, [customer] health scores,” Chiu said. “It would be a hugely missed opportunity not to analyze that data and work on churn.”


Enterprise – TechCrunch



Does PPC Make The World A Better Place?

July 30, 2019 No Comments

How PPCers can find meaning in their jobs, even as tech and digital advertising are increasingly met with hostility.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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The Great Hack tells us data corrupts 

July 29, 2019 No Comments

This week professor David Carroll, whose dogged search for answers to how his personal data was misused plays a focal role in The Great Hack: Netflix’s documentary tackling the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, quipped that perhaps a follow up would be more punitive for the company than the $ 5BN FTC fine released the same day.

The documentary — which we previewed ahead of its general release Wednesday — does an impressive job of articulating for a mainstream audience the risks for individuals and society of unregulated surveillance capitalism, despite the complexities involved in the invisible data ‘supply chain’ that feeds the beast. Most obviously by trying to make these digital social emissions visible to the viewer — as mushrooming pop-ups overlaid on shots of smartphone users going about their everyday business, largely unaware of the pervasive tracking it enables.

Facebook is unlikely to be a fan of the treatment. In its own crisis PR around the Cambridge Analytica scandal it has sought to achieve the opposite effect; making it harder to join the data-dots embedded in its ad platform by seeking to deflect blame, bury key details and bore reporters and policymakers to death with reams of irrelevant detail — in the hope they might shift their attention elsewhere.

Data protection itself isn’t a topic that naturally lends itself to glamorous thriller treatment, of course. No amount of slick editing can transform the close and careful scrutiny of political committees into seat-of-the-pants viewing for anyone not already intimately familiar with the intricacies being picked over. And yet it’s exactly such thoughtful attention to detail that democracy demands. Without it we are all, to put it proverbially, screwed.

The Great Hack shows what happens when vital detail and context are cheaply ripped away at scale, via socially sticky content delivery platforms run by tech giants that never bothered to sweat the ethical detail of how their ad targeting tools could be repurposed by malign interests to sew social discord and/or manipulate voter opinion en mass.

Or indeed used by an official candidate for high office in a democratic society that lacks legal safeguards against data misuse.

But while the documentary packs in a lot over an almost two-hour span, retelling the story of Cambridge Analytica’s role in the 2016 Trump presidential election campaign; exploring links to the UK’s Brexit leave vote; and zooming out to show a little of the wider impact of social media disinformation campaigns on various elections around the world, the viewer is left with plenty of questions. Not least the ones Carroll repeats towards the end of the film: What information had Cambridge Analytica amassed on him? Where did they get it from? What did they use it for? — apparently resigning himself to never knowing. The disgraced data firm chose declaring bankruptcy and folding back into its shell vs handing over the stolen goods and its algorithmic secrets.

There’s no doubt over the other question Carroll poses early on the film — could he delete his information? The lack of control over what’s done with people’s information is the central point around which the documentary pivots. The key warning being there’s no magical cleansing fire that can purge every digitally copied personal thing that’s put out there.

And while Carroll is shown able to tap into European data rights — purely by merit of Cambridge Analytica having processed his data in the UK — to try and get answers, the lack of control holds true in the US. Here, the absence of a legal framework to protect privacy is shown as the catalyzing fuel for the ‘great hack’ — and also shown enabling the ongoing data-free-for-all that underpins almost all ad-supported, Internet-delivered services. tl;dr: Your phone doesn’t need to listen to if it’s tracking everything else you do with it.

The film’s other obsession is the breathtaking scale of the thing. One focal moment is when we hear another central character, Cambridge Analytica’s Brittany Kaiser, dispassionately recounting how data surpassed oil in value last year — as if that’s all the explanation needed for the terrible behavior on show.

“Data’s the most valuable asset on Earth,” she monotones. The staggering value of digital stuff is thus fingered as an irresistible, manipulative force also sucking in bright minds to work at data firms like Cambridge Analytica — even at the expense of their own claimed political allegiances, in the conflicted case of Kaiser.

If knowledge is power and power corrupts, the construction can be refined further to ‘data corrupts’, is the suggestion.

The filmmakers linger long on Kaiser which can seem to humanize her — as they show what appear vulnerable or intimate moments. Yet they do this without ever entirely getting under her skin or allowing her role in the scandal to be fully resolved.

She’s often allowed to tell her narrative from behind dark glasses and a hat — which has the opposite effect on how we’re invited to perceive her. Questions about her motivations are never far away. It’s a human mystery linked to Cambridge Analytica’s money-minting algorithmic blackbox.

Nor is there any attempt by the filmmakers to mine Kaiser for answers themselves. It’s a documentary that spotlights mysteries and leaves questions hanging up there intact. From a journalist perspective that’s an inevitable frustration. Even as the story itself is much bigger than any one of its constituent parts.

It’s hard to imagine how Netflix could commission a straight up sequel to The Great Hack, given its central framing of Carroll’s data quest being combined with key moments of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Large chunks of the film are comprised from capturing scrutiny and reactions to the story unfolding in real-time.

But in displaying the ruthlessly transactional underpinnings of social platforms where the world’s smartphone users go to kill time, unwittingly trading away their agency in the process, Netflix has really just begun to open up the defining story of our time.


Social – TechCrunch


Star Wars News: The End of ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Will Melt Your Mind

July 29, 2019 No Comments

Just ask Kevin Smith. Plus: Marvel’s Kylo Ren origin story, use the Force—in VR, a movie-authentic Boba Fett helmet from Hasbro, and more.
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Facebook Ads And Fair Housing – Are You Compliant?

July 28, 2019 No Comments

Facebook Unrolls New Targeting Limitations For Special Categories

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Space Photos of the Week: Strap on Your Space Goggles and Bask in the Starlight

July 27, 2019 No Comments

High-frequency light helps researchers spot and study amazing astral bodies.
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David and Goliath: Approaching the ‘deal’

July 27, 2019 No Comments

It is a simple question with a complex answer. How does a startup get from zero to execution when negotiating contracts with potential customers that are large enterprises? The 800-pound gorillas. Situations in which your negotiating leverage is limited (often severely so).

As a commercial contracts attorney, clients often ask me about the one right way to approach deals. Many are looking for a cheat sheet of universal terms they should push for in contracts. But there is no one answer.

Deals are not cookie-cutter, and neither are the contracts on which they are built. That said, a basic framework can help provide startups with some grounding to better think about negotiations with large enterprises. The idea is to avoid over-lawyering, and instead approach the discussion with a legally prudent yet deal-centric mindset.

There are generally six overarching considerations as you head into negotiations with large, enterprise organizations.


Enterprise – TechCrunch