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Space Photos of the Week: The Galaxy Next Door

February 10, 2019 No Comments

Before stars are stars and solar systems emerge, there is nothing but gas and dust.
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The next big bet for former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may be cloud kitchens — in China

February 1, 2019 No Comments

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may have been nudged out of one of the world’s most highly valuable private companies by investors frustrated over its troubled culture, but his moves remain of great interest given how far he’d driven the ride-share giant.

One such move, according to a new report in the South China Morning Post, looks to be to help foster the growing concept of cloud kitchens to China.

We’ve reached out to Kalanick for more information, but per the SCMP’s report, Kalanick is partnering with the former COO of the bike-sharing startup Ofo, Yanqi Zhang. Their apparent project involves Kalanick’s L.A.-based company, CloudKitchens, which enables restaurants to set up kitchens for the purposes of catering exclusively to customers ordering in, as that’s how a growing percentage of people is consuming restaurant food. (More on the movement here.) The kitchens are established in underutilized real estate that Kalanick is snapping up through a holding company called City Storage Systems.

According to The Spoon, a food industry blog, the trend is beginning to gain momentum in particular regions, including India, where it says many restaurants struggle to afford the traditional restaurant model, which often involves paying top dollar for rent, as well covering wages for employees, from dishwashers to cooks to servers. Using so-called cloud kitchens enables these restaurateurs to share facilities with others, and to do away with much of their other overhead.

Some are even being promised more affordable equipment. For example, according to The Spoon, the restaurant review site Zomato, through its now two-year-old service called Zomato Infrastructure Services, aims to create kitchen “pods” that restaurants can rent, and it’s using data to identity recently closed restaurants that may be looking to offload their kitchen equipment for whatever they can get for it.

Shared kitchens have also been taking off in China, as notes the SCMP,  which cites Beijing-based Panda Selected and Shanghai-based Jike Alliance as just two companies that Kalanick would be bumping up against.

Kalanick wasn’t the first here in the U.S. to spy the trend bubbling up, but he seems to be taking it as seriously as any entrepreneur. Last year, he spent $ 150 million to buy a controlling stake in City Storage Systems, the holding company of CloudKitchens, through a fund that he established around the same time, called the 10100 fund. The money was used to buy out most of the company’s earlier backers, including venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, according to a report last year by Recode.

That same report said that Kalanick now has a controlling interest in City Storage Systems. It also said that serial entrepreneur Sky Dayton — who previously founded EarthLink, co-founded eCompanies, and founded Boingo — is a cofounder.

City Storage Systems isn’t interested in on-demand kitchens alone, reportedly. The idea behind it is to buy distressed real estate, including parking lots, and to repurpose it for a number of online-focused ventures.

While the China twist looks like a new development, it wouldn’t be a wholly surprising move. Having had to back out of China with Uber in 2016, Kalanick may be of a mind to jump into the country faster this time around, and with a local partner with whom he has a relationship. Indeed, Zhang spent two years as a regional manager for Uber in China before cofounding Ofo, which has since run into problems of its own.

We’ve also reached to Zhang for this story and hope to update it when we learn more.


Startups – TechCrunch


Pandora’s Podcast Genome Project Wants to Find Your Next Favorite Show

November 13, 2018 No Comments

The company hopes to do for podcasts what its Music Genome Project did for streaming songs.
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Bugs Will Actually Make Your Next Phone Better

August 16, 2018 No Comments

In everything from cameras to batteries, researchers are pursuing biomimicry—basically, copping nature’s secrets.
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Your next summer DIY project is an AI-powered doodle camera

July 6, 2018 No Comments

With long summer evenings comes the perfect opportunity to dust off your old boxes of circuits and wires and start to build something. If you’re short on inspiration, you might be interested in artist and engineer Dan Macnish’s how-to guide on building an AI-powered doodle camera using a thermal printer, Raspberry pi, a dash of Python and Google’s Quick Draw data set.

“Playing with neural networks for object recognition one day, I wondered if I could take the concept of a Polaroid one step further, and ask the camera to re-interpret the image, printing out a cartoon instead of a faithful photograph.” Macnish wrote on his blog about the project, called Draw This.

To make this work, Macnish drew on Google’s object recognition neural network and the data set created for the game Google Quick, Draw! Tying the two systems together with some python code, Macnish was able to have his creation recognize real images and print out the best corresponding doodle in the Quick, Draw! data set

But since output doodles are limited to the data set, there can be some discrepancy between what the camera “sees” and what it generates for the photo.

“You point and shoot – and out pops a cartoon; the camera’s best interpretation of what it saw,” Macnish writes. “The result is always a surprise. A food selfie of a healthy salad might turn into an enormous hot dog.”

If you want to give this a go for yourself, Macnish has uploaded the instructions and code needed to build this project on GitHub.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


Adobe could be the next $10 billion software company

June 16, 2018 No Comments

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 creative tools company until recent years when it also moved into marketing, analytics and advertising. Recently it purchased Magento for $ 1.6 billion, giving it a commerce component to go with those other pieces. Clearly Adobe has set its sights on Salesforce, which also has a strong marketing component and is not coincidentally perhaps, the most recently crowned $ 10 billion software company.

Moving into commerce

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen speaking to analysts on the post-reporting earnings call sees Magento as filling in a key piece across understanding the customer from shopping to purchase. “The acquisition of Magento will make Adobe the only company with leadership in content creation, marketing, advertising, analytics and now commerce, enabling real-time personalized experiences across the entire customer journey, whether on the web, mobile, social, in-product or in-store. We believe the addition of Magento expands our available market opportunity, builds out our product portfolio, and addresses a key underserved customer need,” Narayen told analysts.

If Adobe could find a way to expand that marketing and commerce revenue, it could easily surpass that $ 10 billion revenue run rate threshold, but so far while it has been growing, it remains less than half of the Creative revenue at $ 586 million. Yes, it grew at an 18 percent year over year clip, but it seems as though there is potential for so much more there and clearly Narayen hopes that the money spent on Magento will help drive that growth.

Battling with Salesforce

Even while it was announcing its revenue, rival Salesforce was meeting with Marketing Cloud customers in Chicago at the Salesforce Connections conference, a move that presented an interesting juxtaposition between the two competitors. Both have a similar approach to the marketing side, while Salesforce concentrates on the customer including CRM and service components. Adobe differentiates itself with content, which shows up on the balance sheet as the majority of its revenue .

Both companies have growth in common too. Salesforce has been on quite a run over the last five years reaching $ 3 billion in revenue for the first time last quarter. Adobe hit $ 2 billion for the first time in November. Consider that prior to moving to a subscription model in 2013, Adobe had revenue of $ 995 million in Aug 2013. Since it moved to that subscription model, it has reaped the benefits of recurring revenue and grown steadily ever since.

Each has used strategic acquisitions to help fuel that growth with Salesforce acquiring 27 companies since 2013 and Adobe 13, according to Crunchbase data. Each has bought a commerce company with Adobe buying Magento this year and Salesforce grabbing Demandware two years ago.

Adobe has the toolset to keep the marketing side of its business growing. It might never reach the revenue of the creative side, but it could help push the company further than it’s ever been. Ten billion dollars seems well within reach if things continue along the current trajectory.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Smartsheet co-founder’s next project is a robotic rock picker-upper

April 5, 2018 No Comments

A co-founder of Smartsheet, the enterprise collaboration startup that just filed for an IPO, is taking a hard right turn into the world of agriculture robotics. Brent Frei tells GeekWire that he has been working on an automated system for clearing rocks from land. It’s a bit unexpected, but far from a bad idea.

While doing a little farming work with his kids last year, including the less than stimulating task of picking up big rocks and throwing them in a tractor-trailer, it occurred to him that this was precisely the kind of thing that an automated platform would be good at.

There are some semi-automated solutions, but nothing simple enough that you could just plop it on a few acres and tell it “go grab all the rocks this big or bigger.”

Why not apply to this all the tech that’s going into watering, growing and picking? It seems at the very least he might make something that he himself could use, so he started TerraClear in October to create a “Roomba for rock picking.”

It’s still a ways off even from prototype stage, but it’s a great example of how wide open the world is to new applications of computer vision and robotics if you keep your mind open.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


How advertisers can score big on the next device launch

September 10, 2017 No Comments

On the cusp of the latest iPhone release, columnist Purna Virji from Bing offers insights to help advertisers cash in on new device launches.

We’ve all seen the news headlines. They queue, they camp, they chant. And sometimes, they even stampede. Just to get their hands on a new device.

And while these are the more extreme cases, it’s clear that consumers love technology, ready to cast off last year’s phone for one with a better battery, more pixels, and a blush-gold case.

But of course, the decision journey begins long before launch day, creating a significant opportunity for retail advertisers – as long as you get in on the action at the right time.

What makes this new device season even more interesting is the rise in opportunity for brands outside of Apple.

iPhone users are becoming less loyal to Apple over time, according to research by UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Benjamin Wilson.

This chart is particularly surprising because it shows that Apple’s customer retention rates are heading toward parity with Android phones, including those made by Samsung (which suffered last quarter due to the recall of its flagship device, the Galaxy Note 7).

How can iPhone retailers win back sales? And how can other brands benefit from this launch season? Here’s your optimization plan based on research compiled by Bing Ads (disclosure: my employer) into the customer journey that surrounds new device launches.

Before the announcement

Bing Ads research shows that 33 percent of users start their device journeys well before the official announcement – around 90 days before the official release date – with phone searches peaking on the announcement day.

What does that mean for you?

Pre-launch announcement, your advertising campaign should focus on providing and linking to helpful, informative content and reviews that detail the features and benefits of the device or device plans.

Research and awareness is the name of the game, and your focus right now should be on building up the all-critical top of mind awareness.

After the announcement

On the day of the announcement, Bing Ads data shows that searching peaks, with about 32 percent of searchers starting their research that very day.

Looking at last year’s data, we saw that the announcements impacted behavior across all demographics, with most searches coming from the 35-49 range and women searching far more online than men.

Microsoft internal data, search volume, in selected categories related to iPhone new device launch – all devices, U.S., September 1, 2016 – October 31, 2016.

1. Be sure to layer on demographic bidding on top of your existing bid modifiers.

2. Your next order of business is to make it easy for shoppers to pre-order, upgrade, trade-in, and find accessories for their new device. Key tips:

  • Bid on non-brand and competitor brand keywords to capture switchers.
  • Update keywords and bids periodically as new phone information is revealed to capture incremental traffic volume.
  • Use Sitelink Extensions that point to different phone and plan options.
  • Best of all, for wireless carriers that subsidize the price of phones with contracts, Bing Shopping Campaigns will now accept $ 0 price products for mobile and tablet devices that are paid for in installments or as part of a contract.

3. You’ll also want to give searchers the ability to comparison shop. Bing Ads research shows that device shoppers like to compare new-to-new, new-to-old, and old-to-old models as well as brand-to-brand. As a frame of reference, last year’s top 10 iPhone-related comparison queries were:

  • iphone 7 vs iphone 7 plus
  • iphone 7 vs iphone 6
  • iphone 6 vs 6s
  • iphone 6 vs iphone 7
  • iphone 7 vs 7 plus
  • iphone 6s vs iphone 7
  • iphone 7 vs galaxy s7
  • iphone 7 vs iphone 6s
  • iphone 7 vs samsung s7
  • iphone se vs iphone 6s

When the device goes on sale

Devices typically go on sale a week or so after pre-order begins.  Once that happens, shoppers are usually ready to buy, so you’ll want to make it easy for them to purchase online (or in-store).

  1. Test out shorter ads with clear calls to action that take shoppers directly to the item for purchase.
  1. Be sure to run Local Inventory Ads as part of your Shopping Campaigns to make it easier for nearby shoppers to find local store information.
  1. When you’re setting up your campaign, be sure to set bids in anticipation of peaks when the device announcement hits. As a frame of reference, here’s how CPCs and CTRs were impacted during last year’s launch:

  1. To drive foot traffic for in-store purchases, be sure to use location extensions and targeting.

When pre-orders ship

Once the device starts to ship, you’ll want to continue advertising the device, plans, and accessories.

You’ll also want to have budgets ready in anticipation of competing device launches. For example, the research shows that iPhone searches spiked when the Google Pixel was announced.

Continue to test ad copy and image variations. And be sure to go above and beyond to populate your feed with as many recommended attributes as possible for each product offers.

In summary, use the data from last year to help shape your strategy most effectively this season. For more information, the full Bing Ads insights deck includes a handy new device launch checklist and many other valuable tips and insights.

Search Engine Watch


Prisma’s next AI project is a fun selfie sticker maker called Sticky

July 7, 2017 No Comments

 Meet Sticky, the next app from the startup behind Prisma, which turns selfies into stylized and/or animated stickers for sharing to your social feeds. Sticky is launching today on iOS, with an Android version due in a week or two.  Read More
Social – TechCrunch


Live Blogging Google Marketing Next 2017

May 21, 2017 No Comments

Google will be announcing their latest marketing innovations at the Google Marketing Next 2017 live stream event and we’ll have you covered.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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