LUMAScapesmap the constellations and clusters of the digital advertising universe. For many years, that universe, like our own, was ever-expanding. But also like our universe, theres debate about whether it will continue to expand or end in a big crunch. I would argue the latter is happening and happening now.
Its been difficult for small adtech firms to raise capital for a while, and we are beginning to see the inevitable consequences of that capital shortage. In this respect, the adtech sector is due for a correction; Im hardly alone in predicting it. But contrary to what you may have heard, thats not because adtech is dead or dying. The industry just needs to shed dead weight.
Dead weight in the form of small me-too companies, purveyors of point solutions and standalone tools for optimizing, verifying and measuring advertising. Undifferentiated companies with wide gaps between the narrative of what their tech does and the reality of the value that that tech provides. Dead weight in the form of companies founded within the last five years that are now burning through the last of their A rounds.
That doesnt mean the entire space of adtech is doomed, though. Its just facing an important and overdue reckoning with the hard realities that face any business. Namely you have to be a well-run business, you have to add real value, solve real problems and have a path to profit. Thats true of any startup, in any space.
Im constantly asked what I think of adtechs terrible reputation within the investment community. My response is the same: There are bad and good companies in any investment category, and innovation is still happening in this space. That said, there are characteristics of adtech that make it harder to separate the good from the bad.
Adtech over the past few years bears a resemblance to the mortgage industry during the sub-prime days. Which is to say, a lack of transparency has contributed to an environment where a lot of people are throwing a lot of money around for short-term gain without a lot of concern for creating long-term value. Sooner or later, the truth emerges and all that cash gets vaporized.
In the case of adtech, fraud has run rampant, and marketers have justly felt like theyve often been throwing away money (because many of them have). In 2010, a marketer using a programmatic exchange would not expect to confirm that the ad would be seen by a human and not a bot (some two-thirds of them werent seen by humans), or be sure that the ad was actually viewable in the first place (about half of them were). We took those conditions for granted.
Even Facebook, as savvy a customer as any, was fooled. The company bought video ad server LiveRail in 2014 for $400 million to $500 million. Two years later, Facebook effectively shut the company down with the rationale being that it couldnt vouch for much of LiveRails traffic because it was rife with fraud.
Adtech is a massive category, and those paying attention know that change and innovation is happening in the space more so than ever.
A market beset by such transparency issues was easy to exploit. You could put together an adtech startup without a great deal of tech just a lot of salesmanship: hire a sales team, have limited tech, resell a mix of good and suspect inventory and make money.
That strategy is much less tenable these days. Transparency is increasing. Advertising is now checked for viewability, screened for non-human traffic and tied to actual sales performance by an increasingly sophisticated suite of measurement tools that look well beyond the click. With digital advertising climbing out of the shadows, it will be harder for me-too players to growth-hack their way to success by manufacturing scale. And its going to expose a lot of dead weight for what it is.
It is indeed time for these smaller players to fall by the wayside. The question becomes, then, whats left in the wake of this correction?
The answer is simple: fewer, but healthier adtech companies, poised for growth and worthy of investment.
Not all adtech businesses fit this description, but plenty do. Enough, indeed, to make the adtech space a lively and promising one for those businesses built on solid foundations, as well as for the investors smart enough to spot them.
Criteo and The Trade Desk fit the bill. The latter just recently going public. As the companys S-1 filing with the SEC outlines, The Trade Desks business is very healthy. In 2015, it posted $113.8 million in revenues, which was up 155.5 percent year-over-year. The company is also profitable, netting $39.2 million in EBITDA, which was up 589 percent. The company also has $37.6 million in cash on hand.
Good adtech companies like Criteo and The Trade Desk meet a set of proven criteria. Good adtech companies derive their competitive advantage from three main areas: They own or enable unique supply, have unique data or own the advertiser relationships as a tech provider versus a service provider.
Owning and enabling supply means having unique and/or enabling access to advertising inventory connected with the valuable audiences advertisers need to reach. Having unique data means providing the insight and intelligence to help advertisers target and optimize messages to those consumers. And having the advertiser relationships as a tech provider means providing the software and technology tools that advertisers need to create and deploy campaigns to those consumers.
In contrast, a badtech company relies on arbitrage and, in effect, rents traffic rather than owning it. Many adtech companies buy their supply by making revenue commitments and guarantees to publishers, effectively making their reach a liability rather than an asset. The tech is primarily a new ad execution that can easily be replicated.
Other instances of badtech take the form of new ad units designed to maximize short-term performance stats, gaming the measurement standards that still reward clicks and views instead of real engagement. Often these badtech tactics compromise the user experience and lead to ad blocking. The badtech might generate some impressive numbers, but really what its doing is prioritizing short-term gains at the expense of the long-term relationship between brands, publishers and consumers.
Think back to 2002. In the hangover of the dot-com bust, squeamish investors were very skeptical about the entirety of technology. Theyre the ones that missed out on Baidu (2005), Facebook (2004) and Twitter (founded in 2006). Meanwhile, the investors (like Jim Breyer), bankers (like Michael Grimes) and entrepreneurs (like Mark Zuckerberg) made their way through a no-nonsense environment and created some of the most valuable companies in the world.
It may be a stretch to claim that our category will pull out a Facebook, but the lesson is clear: As many investors ran, the good investors and entrepreneurs kept innovating and reaped the huge benefits. Adtech is a massive category, and those paying attention know that change and innovation is happening in the space more so than ever.
That innovation is creating real value and is separating the winners from the also-rans. The big crunch that is coming will leave the shining stars intact and help them shine even brighter.
Just watch.Continue reading
Daily Nation (blog)
Lawyer takes top award as blogging explodes in Kenya
Daily Nation (blog)
Splitting her time between teaching and blogging, Wandia Njoya, picked the award for Best Social Issues and Active Citizenship. In her blog, wandianjoya.com, she consistently written on the education system in Kenya especially the new curriculum that …
Erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey began life as a humble, self-published e-book, unable to satisfy the tastes of traditional publishers.
Within a few years it had achieved domination on a global scale, spawning a series that has sold more than 125 million copies.
E. L. James’s personal story has become a tantalising fantasy for aspiring authors. But one that technology and social media are making increasingly realisable.
“There was a time when self-publishing was equated with vanity,” explains John Bond, co-founder of Whitefox, one of several new companies helping ‘amateur’ authors publish professionally on platforms like Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Apple’s iBook Store or Kobo.
“Because of the digital revolution, democratisation has happened. It’s almost as if the writer has become his own entrepreneur around the publication process.”
In their competition to get noticed, self-publishers are proving willing to take risks.
Andy Weir’s The Martian eventually went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster. But the story was originally published chapter by chapter on the author’s blog for free.
This turned out to be great exposure and it became a huge hit as an audiobook, e-book and physical book.
“There was an adversarial attitude between mainstream publishing houses and self publishers a few years ago,” says Mr Bond, “but I think that’s changed dramatically.”
He attributes this to traditional publishers’ new-found admiration for the self publishers’ social media skills, which have helped them find new readers without the benefit of expensive marketing campaigns.
Lawyer-turned-author Mark Dawson, for example, uses his website and Facebook page to give out free copies of his thrillers and curates ‘Readers’ Groups’. Online conversations help him establish a closer relationship with his readers encouraging them to come back for subsequent publications.
Another thriller writer Joanna Penn has bolstered her following by helping others to self-publish through her website which explains how to go about self publishing. She also hosts a popular podcast interview series.
So-called “Instapoets” like New Zealander Lang Leav have built up huge followings on Instagram and Tumblr, publishing their work on these platforms, before securing traditional publishing deals.
Douglas Wight has just completed his first self-published book and has a more cautionary tale to tell.
The former News of the World tabloid journalist set up his own company to self-publish a biography of pop diva Rita Ora, in the run up to Christmas.
He and his co-author opted to sell the e-book version on Amazon, but also took the added risk of organising their own hardback print-run.
Self-publishing wasn’t as straight-forward as he had hoped.
“You have control of what you are doing, but it’s not for everyone,” warns Mr Wight. “It’s a lot of work and a huge learning curve.”
That work includes satisfying all the different formatting requirements of the various e-book outlets, organising cover illustrations and marketing, all while bearing the financial risk of the whole enterprise, explains Mr Wight.
That said, he feels his gamble paid off.
The hardback version has sold more than 3,000 copies and performed better than expected on Kindle.
He has covered his costs and is now hoping to begin a new chapter of profitability.
But what if it is not just readers you are after, but cash rewards?
Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, believes the hard work of self-publishing can pay off.
In the past traditional publishers would give the author around 10%, she says, negotiating a tough contract as they were the only route to market, with advances that were getting smaller.
Amazon may be seen in a negative light for its impact on the high street, but for self-publishers its market disruption is largely welcomed, she says.
Kindle Direct Publishing can give authors up to 70% of the purchase price. It allows authors to retain copyright and gives them a non-exclusive deal.
In the US, the most mature market, independent authors are now collectively earning more from e-books than authors handled by the so-called Big Five publishers, according to advocacy website Author Earnings.
However, they also charge roughly half the amount for their e-books, and there are many more of them.
Generous profit margins don’t mean so much if you are selling cheap and struggling to sell at all in a crowded market.
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller magazine, believes it’s a lot harder to make money from self-publishing now that the Kindle-inspired gold rush has petered out.
“Smart, entrepreneurial authors” could use clever marketing on social media to get their e-books into the Top Ten charts, timing it to sell enough books over Christmas to make a tidy profit.
But that trick is harder to pull off when there are so many e-books out there, he argues.
“I do worry that as the market has slowed so the number of sharks willing to take money from authors has grown,” warns Mr Jones.
“Publishing, when it works properly, should be about moving money towards authors.”
The exact number of self-publishers and their impact on publishing is surprisingly hard to pin down.
Amazon does not disclose its e-book sales, which are worth more than a billion dollars annually in the US alone, but remain a comparatively small part of its retail empire.
Author Earnings, which scrapes public data from Amazon’s bestseller lists for its analytics calculates that in the US, the amount of money spent on self-published books went up from around $510m in 2014 to $600m in 2015.
“E-book sales are like dark matter,” says Michael Tamblyn, chief executive of e-book retailer, Kobo, though he is willing to volunteer some information.
“For us, 12% of the books we sell globally are self-published.”
The fragments of available data build up a picture of a new literary landscape, where the self-published author looms large.
Turns out money CAN buy you love after all. Or at least, it can on Tinder.
OK, so maybe lovewas a bit of an exaggeration. But at the very least,money can up your chances of locking down that super-hot one-night stand with Tinders new feature, Tinder Boost.
So how does it work? Tinder is following in the footsteps of competitors such as Bumble and figuring out a way to make money off of particularly thirsty users by ensuring that their profiles come across more potential matches.
If you subscribe to the new feature, your profile willbe one of the first users in your area come across for 30 whole minutes!
According to Tinder reps, that means youre getting up to 10x more profile views, aka 10x more chances at love or that super-hot one-night stand. OH, BABY!
Mashable writes that Tinder said, in an email statement, that the new feature is just another attempt for them to [provide]you a simple, fun introduction to new people nearby so you can get out and meet them in the real world.
Right. Becausethats totally Tinders mission
Blogging The Boys (blog)
[VIDEO] Why Ezekiel Elliott Is The Most Important Cowboys Player
Blogging The Boys (blog)
It was a little over a year ago when the Dallas Cowboys decided to use the fourth pick in the 2016 draft on running back Ezekiel Elliott. This went against the recent trend of not selecting running backs high in the first round. That position had been …
Earlier this week, we sat down with Naval Ravikant, cofounder of five-year-old AngelList, a popular platform that matches startups with early-stage investors. Three million people, including 50,000 accredited investors, have created profiles on AngelList since its founding, and AngelList now uses that information to pair startups with capital, pair startup employees with employers and, more newly, pair startups with customers.
Its become a big business, as well as a confusing one, Ravikant readily admits. And while we cant report on one interesting new, performance-related wrinkle thats coming soon, he walked us through many otherstats and initiatives.Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.
TC: A few years ago, AngelList introduced Syndicates, essentially pop-up funds that allow angel investors to syndicate their investments in exchange for some upside. It wasfairly transparent at the outset, but thatsbeen changing.Why?
NR: Seventy-five percent of the deals are now private, up from 45 percent a year ago. Itll be default private soon because a lot of the hot deals tend to be private. Also, that public-private dichotomy is always really hard for entrepreneurs [in fundraising mode] to figure out, so they start associating our brand [with a place to share information publicly to accredited investors], which is a negative, so they dont want to go on here. We might take a hit on liquidity by making the default private, but at the end of the day, its all about getting the high-quality companies.
TC: An investor,Gil Penchina, has built a big business on the platform. Are more leads starting to see a kind ofof network effect?
NR: Gil is a unique case. Hes the one whos always breaking the system. Were more catering to operator-angels, meaning people who have operating jobs, or VPs at big companies or whove started their own startups. Its people who arent professional VCs but who do four to six deals a year, investing in alumni and people they know.
TC: How many of them close a deal each month? And are the investors on the platform mostly based inSilicon Valley?
NR: We had 55 deals led by 41 leads close in June; we had 44 deals led by 38 leadsclose in July. The average for most leads on the platform is a couple of deals per year. As for demographics, Id say over half [the people who lead deals on the platform] are in Silicon Valley.
TC: Youd said publicly somewhere that you weregetting into special purpose vehicles, which come together quickly to invest in a single, later-stage company. Why would someone create an SPV onthe platform?
NR: Theyresyndicates, too; theyre just targeted to later-stage investors. It isnt a [big part of the platform] yet but theyre fully automated. We dont charge you any carry for any investors you bring in. Its a one-time charge of $8,000 and we handle all the K-1s, reporting, accounting, collections, filings, regulatory compliance, accreditation. Its all online so people can track their exits, distributions, and bank accounts, and we can distribute stock in cash. So its like setting up a Schwab or e-Trade system for people who want to do that. Pejman Mar [now Pear] has used it. Accomplice uses it. Then there are a lot of one-offs.
We also now have a network of 20 family offices, and when we get a later-stage deal, with a lead investors approval, well show them those and they can vote on whether they are in or out. Itll take a year to fully fill out, but you could see 200, 300, 400 [family offices] accessing SPVs in all the hot companies at some point.
TC: People canlead seed rounds; they can form SPVs. Why arent moreVCs using AngelList instead of raising funds the old-fashioned way?
NR:Were not really built for that. For starters, we dont supportmanagement fees. We also dont support custom [limited partner]documents; youd have to go cookie-cutter with our Syndicates model. What we are starting to see ispeople who [build a track record and graduate to their own fund], thoughthats kind of a failure for us. [Laughs.]
TC: Youve saidtheres $200 million flowing through the platform each year right now. Break down for readerswhere that money is coming from.
NR: Between $120 million and $160 million is coming from [accredited individualinvestors]. The other roughly $40 million comes from partnerships and funds that we run on the platform. One of those is the [$400 million seed fund] CSC Upshot fund [in partnership with a China-based private equity firm]; another is Maiden Lane [a $25 million fund raised by mostly individual investors outside of AngelList]. Thats managed by Dustin Dolginow, formerly of Accomplice; Jeff Fagnan, a general partner at Accomplice; and me.
Then theres a third that weve raised from individuals who join AngelList and want a basket of AngelList companies; we try and pick the best 100 to 150 deals for them. I manage that with our COO, Kevin Laws; and Parker Thomson [formerly of 500 Startups].
TC: As for conflicts of interest?
NR: Wehave heavy conflict of interest rules, so when Im running a deal [as a Syndicate lead], I dont vote in any of the funds and Im recused from anything involving the deal.
TC: Whats happening with the recruiting side of AngelList? You launched a service in beta a few months ago. What stats can you share?
NR:[The platform] is stillfree for anyone who wants to use it freely. But for someone with limited time and a certain budget and a specific role they need to fill with good engineers, we launched a service three months ago called A-List. We do the work of going through AngelList and finding the top couple hundred candidates, then we put [the hiring company]into this format where we make sure the parties arematched up very welland wecharge $10,000 for a successful hire.
TC: How many job candidates are on the platform altogether, and whats your close rate on matches?
NR: Its between 1 percent and 2.5 percent, judging by thepercent of candidates who update their profile later with a new employer who was introduced to them on AngelList. Over the last two months, theres been around200,000active candidates, so we think [our hit rate is] between 800 and 2000 hires a month.
TC: Think this business will account for 50 percent of your revenue at some point?
NR: More. Were the largest hiring platform for startups on the planet.
TC: You say youre the largest seed fund, and that youre thelargest hiring platform for startups.What else is on the roadmap?
NR: Its still being built, but were also working on AngelList Enterprise, so companies can evenfind customers at some point. Say you want bug tracking software; all these companies have AngelList profiles on the platform and they tell us what their tech stack is and [other details like] how many customers theyve signed in the last 90 days, and thats all we need to help [both sides to connect].
Its all free, but you can see how it would eventually make money. Right now, were just seeing if its even useful to users.
TC: How far away from profitability are you?
NR: Were not at breakeven, but I expect in the next six to 12 months, we will be, for sure.Continue reading
The veteran actors run of flawed gentlemen continues with his roles in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and High-Rise. He explains his trouble with democracy and why his statue of buddha is so important
By his own admission, Jeremy Irons is good at getting into trouble. Last week, he was on breakfast radio twice. On Chris Evanss show, he swore at 9.10am; on Today, he annoyed some by saying he would refuse a knighthood, others with his explanation (I became an actor to be a rogue and a vagabond).
His stickiest slip was three years ago, when he cautioned that gay marriage could lead fathers to marry their sons to avoid inheritance tax (Incest is there to protect us from inbreeding). There was uproar, followed by a faintly baffled clarification. Later, Ironss son Max he has two with wife Sinad Cusack said his father was just working through an argument out loud and got lost in the loopholes.
To meet Irons is to appreciate what he might have meant. Here is a smart man singularly unsuited for the social media age and egged on by its outrage. He is compassionate, but also unstudied, slightly naive, contrarian, contradictory and compulsive. Intentionally so. If he opens his mouth, its to spitball. He would like us all to do the same.
I think all of society should be a thinktank where you throw ideas about. I had hoped the internet would help. Actually, what it has done is make everybody go schtum. Theyre attacked for saying anything. So they say nothing.
Irons sighs at the memory of gay-marriage-gate. Secret homophobia seems unlikely (big break: Brideshead; best man: Christopher Biggins, who also came on the honeymoon; in 1991, Irons was the first celeb to wear an Aids ribbon to an awards ceremony). Its more likely he was interested in the tax aspect. I have developed a life which seems to need a relatively high income, he says. It includes six houses and a 15th-century castle in Cork, for which Irons took two years off to renovate; he painted the external walls peach.
As for marriage? Hes all for it all for anything that helps lead us from temptation. Our society is based on a Christian structure, he says. If you take those religious tenets away, then anything goes and it will become terrible and you usually get into trouble.Continue reading
TG Daily (blog)
How to create a blog and make money from it too? – TG Daily
TG Daily (blog)
Blogging is no longer an optional hobby for the most of us. Many of us work part time or full time as professional bloggers.
Girl Guides could soon get badges for skills such as video-blogging and app design
GIRLGUIDING first aid and camping badges may soon be joined by new ones for skills such as app design and vlogging. Others suggested by the organisation's 500,000 members worldwide include badges for festival-going and upcycling. The charity is …
Samsung is looking to sell its own refurbished devices in order to make money on its premium smartphones a second time around, according to Reuters. The company will introduce a refurbished device sales program as early as next year, according to Reuters source, and will use inventory provided by customer who sign up to a year upgrade program in markets where its offered, including South Korea and the U.S.
Selling refurbished devices to give them second life as revenue drivers is nothing new Apple has an extensive refurbished devices storefront, which typically begins to offer refreshed and remanufactured hardware a few months after the original introduction ofthe original, brand new product.
Devices that are re-sold by a manufacturer as refurbished typically get an all-new external casing, as well as new components if there were an issue. Some of the goods likely never had any issues to begin with; as soon as a buyer opens the shrink-wrap on a product, its likely going to be sold as refurbished.
If Samsung gets into the refurbishment business, it could help the company delivery premium devices at less than premium prices, especially because it seems like customers are increasingly willing to keep their devices for longer and find fewer reasons to upgrade every year. Reuters notes that there is a chance refurb models at a discount could cannibalize sales of new devices, and fewer distinctive features or technology upgrades between generations could worsen that effect.
Still, Samsung has a deep bench in terms of smartphone offerings, and being able to double-dip on revenue on a decent percentage of them, especially in cost-conscious markets, is a big carrot to recommend the plan. Details of the plan, per Reuters, could be ironed out by early 2017, meaning we might not have long to wait to see if Samsung goes down this path.Continue reading