Fundings & Exits
This week, Yahoo continued with its prolific acquisition strategy with a one-two punch picking up companies working on video — a sign that, while some of its acquisitions have been basic talent grabs, at least a few of them have a very specific focus to them, concentrating on fixing its long-neglected video business. The move taps not just into how Yahoo hopes to build up its audience of users who spend more time with Yahoo, but also subsequently tap into premium advertising served alongside it.
First the basics. On Friday, Yahoo announced its purchase of EvntLive, a virtual venue and concert hall for live and on-demand music. EnvtLive debuted in February with plans to re-define the way people engage with music online by creating a scalable platform to host live, streaming concerts — from sold-out arenas to intimate clubs.
Just days before, it had made another video buy, acqui-hiring the team behind DreamWorks-incubated mobile video company, Ptch (apparently in a raw deal for early employees). The app, among other things, aimed to make it easy people to video mashups by providing tools that allow users to remix their existing content by adding music, effects and to share with friends.
EvntLive’s goal was to support its live, streaming concert venue with a curated, searchable library of shows for fans that may have missed the live concert, which would then be supported by social media integration, premium content (like behind-the-scenes video), a database of information about artists and an eCommerce marketplace where fans could purchase stuff from their favorite bands.
While live, online music has attracted many startups over the years, it has yet to produce a definitive platform, partly due to the many obstacles inherent to the music industry, its resistance to digital technologies, and the slow, painful sea change that has fundamentally reshaped the music business over the last five years.
Nonetheless, EvntLive saw an opportunity to be take advantage of the new distribution, marketing, recording and manufacturing models making their way into the music world, and be the first to combine streaming video, live music, social networking and eCommerce in one music platform. The startup’s potential appeal was also boosted by some veteran leadership and talent from both the music and tech industries, starting with people like Judy Estrin.
Estrin, who served as EvntLive’s Executive Director, began her career working with Vint Cerf’s research group at Stanford University — the same one that played a central role in the development of the Internet. She has founded seven technology companies, served as the CTO of Cisco Systems and held board positions at FedEx for 20 years, Sun Microsystems for eight years, and currently sits on the board of The Walt Disney Company (a position she’s held since 1998).
Troy Carter, who represents artists like Lady Gaga and John Legend, served as both an advisor and investor, and EnvtLive had raised $2.3 million in capital from a long list of investors. Those included people like “Father of the Internet” and Google exec, Vint Cerf, Mayfield Fund partner and Glooko Chairman, Yogen Dalal, former Intel exec Dave House, Tapjoy President and CEO Steve Wadsworth, among others.
Neither Yahoo nor EvntLive are revealing the terms of the deal, but EvntLive has revealed that its platform will be shut down. Compared to other video-centric acquisitions Yahoo has made, like Ptch and Qwiki, which had both been around for quite some time, EvntLive launched less than a year ago. So, in that sense, the exit-and-shutter result may leave some of its early supporters with a bad taste in their mouth.
It could be that EvntLive found more friction in the music industry than it had expected or that perhaps adoption didn’t take off as quickly as it had hoped. But when we caught up with Judy Estrin today, she told us that, while it was a difficult decision for the team to make, the opportunity to be part of a bigger company and have access to the resources that come with it, won out. As a result of the acquisition, Yahoo will now be able to use the startup’s technology throughout its digital media, video and music products, which, in turn, gives EvntLive access to a much larger network and audience than it might have reached on its own.
Plus, though the team started out by focusing on music, the idea was always for EvntLive to become a platform for a wide variety of events, she said. With Yahoo, EvntLive will likely have that opportunity. However, it is worth noting that neither Estrin, nor co-founders David Carrico and Alex and Jonathan Beckman will be joining Yahoo.
What This Means For Yahoo
While it’s an early end for EvntLive, things are just beginning for Yahoo. EvntLive, following recent acquisitions like Ptch and Qwiki, is further evidence that Yahoo is getting serious about investing in and fixing its video technology.
In a world where video and digital entertainment are thoroughly dominated by Netflix and Google-YouTube (half of the Internet’s traffic, in fact), it’s easy to forget that companies like Yahoo used to contend in the space. But over the years, the company’s video products and technology have been left in the dust by the Hulus and Netflixes of the world.
That was put into stark relief when Yahoo announced its acquisition of Tumblr this summer. The event, which was streamed live via its streaming video tech, “Screen,” was unwatchable. The video cut out and was hicuppy throughout. As a result, I pleaded with the company to reserve some of its seemingly endless M&A budget to buy better video technology.
Not saying that Yahoo heard those pleas, but this summer, for the first time, Marissa Mayer began publicly talking up the company’s plans in video. Building a better video platform has become a top priority, she said at the time, adding that video would be a “primary area of investment over the next year.” What’s more, Yahoo made the unprecedented move to broadcast its second quarter earnings call live this year.
They’ve improved over a year ago, but they still need a lot of work. Why would you visit those instead of YouTube, Hulu or even, gasp, Aol for video? [Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Aol, but that doesn't mean we don't still think it's a joke a lot of the time.] Or Spotify for music?
On the video front, Adding SNL was a big move by Yahoo and, in the end, if you have the content, licenses and contracts, then people will come anyway while you fix the tech and the design. But, really, isn’t the question whether Yahoo should even be trying to compete with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon for the rights to stuff like SNL’s archives in the first place? Arguably, that’s a more significant question than the degree to which it’s behind Tech Company X or Y in video, etc.
Although, clearly, having added Katie Couric as an anchor, Yahoo is indeed serious — both about fixing video and competing with, well, someone. Aol, most likely. If Yahoo is looking to Tumblr to have a connection to younger audiences, Couric is something different. Because, for most people under 50, adding Katie Couric as an anchor won’t make a difference to their viewing habits.
Services like EvntLive and Ptch sit apart from content grabs: their technology and services can be used across all of them.
While we know that EvntLive will be joining Yahoo’s video team and that its homepage now includes links to Yahoo Screen and Yahoo Music, both Yahoo and its new aqui-hires have remained mum about how they plan to improve and modernize these products. (Beyond just making sure that streaming video means streaming video.) It’s very likely that this plan is still evolving and may not even be clear on that as of yet.
But Estrin has told us in the past that the team had a lot of pride in the engineering team and technology infrastructure it had built behind its virtual concert hall, and there’s no doubt that Yahoo needs it. It still has a long way to go in both video and music. Although hope and confidence are returning for investors and analysts, looking at the gap between Yahoo and other tech leaders in music, video (and a number of other arenas) it’s hard not to wince. It’s going to need all the EvntLives it can get.
STI Buys Chalkable For $10M To Bring Its Educational App Store And Learning Platform To K-12 Schools
With entrepreneurs beginning to wake up to the huge demand for better learning tools, and the opportunity for technology to remove some of the long-standing barriers within the system, startups have begun to flood into the education market. As a result, venture investment has begun to flow into education, and with a new crop of entrepreneurial and engineering talent emerging, established players are turning into buyers.
In October, Amazon stepped into education for the first time with its acquisition of math instruction company, TenMarks, and a new month brings another first-time buyer and another EdTech acquisition, as STI scooped up education-focused app store, Chalkboard.
STI is the 30-year-old maker of education data management solutions for K-12 schools, which focuses its suite of products on Student Information Systems, parent-teacher communications and reporting, among others. With its acquisition of Chalkable, STI is yet another example of an veteran education player looking to keep pace with the demand for more accessible and user-friendly learning tools by injecting new talent and technology into its ranks.
As a result of the deal, all nine members of the Chalkable team will be joining STI, and Michael Levy and Zoli Honig, the startup’s CEO and COO, respectively, will stay on as directors of STI’s new Chalkable team. Unlike some startup acquisitions, Chalkable’s product will remain active and, according to a source with knowledge of the deal, will be combined with technology from other acquisitions pipeline and STI’s SIS product, iNow, to give the company a revamped, modern product.
As part of STI’s move to become a more modern (and visible) EdTech company, it hired a new CEO and COO, both with decades of experience at K-12 education and technology companies to help lead the charge. This also means that STI appears ready to put some capital to work to inject new talent, as we hear from sources that the company paid around $10 million to acquire Chalkable.
The 500 Startups grad launched in September of last year with a platform that aimed to serve schools both as an app store and as a learning management system, serving 50+ institutions before it was acquired. The startup launched with $1.3 million in funding from 500 Startups, Expansion Venture Capital, Great Oaks VC, former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelley and former Facebook mobile platform lead, Luke Shepard, among others.
Chalkable aimed to solve a nagging question among schools, parents and students: “Where do I go to find web-based learning tools on the web?” The amount of apps, content and digital learning tools on the Web and mobile devices is growing fast and is fragmented across an array of different sources. Chalkable set out on a mission to offer an aggregated resource for teachers and parents to find these tools, which, until the recent entry of Google (with Google Play for Education) didn’t exist for online education content.
The app store listed top education apps from a litany of resources across the Web, making it easy to search and discover quality content and click to buy. Backed by its basic learning management system, it allowed teachers to pull in student data and accounts from platforms and services like Khan Academy, Dropbox and Google, putting apps downloaded through the store and class data in once place.
While the idea has a lot of appeal, the road can be tough for startups operating in the K-12 market, because so much of school spending has traditionally been controlled by administrators at the district or state levels. The sales process can be long and is often mired in bureaucracy, and growth was measured for Chalkable (as it is for most) for this very reason.
Naturally, with a model like Chalkable’s, the more teachers have control in the decision-making process where the budget is concerned, the more freedom they have to choose and purchase apps — and the more revenue Chalkable sees as a result. Chalkable partnered with STI at first, but given STI’s much larger footprint as its services are now used by 5,000 schools across the U.S. and serve over 1.5 million parents.
With STI’s state contract in Alabama, Chalkable now has the opportunity to sell into every school in the state and, for a startup with a useful service that may be growing a bit of moss, that’s an opportunity that’s an opportunity that’s too good to pass up.
And for STI, Chalkable now allows their institutional customers to bring more modern, consumer-friendly and techy tools — the kinds that students use every day outside the classroom — into the learning process. In turn, it allows teachers, together with students, to create personalized “play lists” of learning content and personalized app experiences tailored to each member of a class.
“STI is continuously searching for ways to bring state-of-the-art education tools to our students, teachers and parents,” new STI CEO Derek Dunaway said in the company’s announcement. “The tools available through the Chalkable platform will increase the access our students have to highly relevant educational content and allow teachers to personalize instruction through customized apps that are recommended for each student’s level of learning.”
Play-i Raises $1.4M From The Crowd For Toy Robots That Make Programming Kid-Friendly, Comes To Stores Near You Next Summer
If we’re going to prepare future generations for an increasingly technical world (and workforce) ahead, then we need to teach them computer science and engineering. To some, that may sound like a no-brainer, but to the American educational system, where nine out of ten schools don’t offer programming courses, it not. Of course, to really get students engaged and inspire that lifelong love of computer science and technology — just as it is with learning a new language — education has to start early. And it has to be fun.
Learning how to code takes time and is a difficult proposition for adults, so asking kids to sit down and write a line of code (let alone learn the laws of computer science) almost seems absurd. It’s this problem that led Vikas Gupta, the former head of consumer payments at Google, to create Play-i and a couple of kid-friendly, educational robots.
Joined by co-founders Saurabh Gupta, who previously led the iPod software team at Apple, and Mikal Greaves, who led product design and manufacturing for electronics and toys at Frog Design, to make programming and engineering concepts accessible to kids, who’d rather be outside digging in the dirt. The team knew that whatever solution they designed would need to be something kids would want to play with, so they created Bo and Yana, two programmable, interactive robots that look and act a lot like toys.
The team raised $1 million from Google Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and others last year to build the prototypes, and today, though it’s still tinkering with details, the learning system is nearly ready for lift-off. When it comes to market next year, kids will be able to play with Bo and Yana right out of the box, controlling them through Play-i’s companion app designed for the iPad.
The app presents visual sequences of actions and simple commands on the iPad that kids can then perform — like clapping, waving their hand or shaking one of the robots — that compel the robots to perform certain actions. Young programmers can get three-wheeled Bo to scoot around the room, blink his light or play a xylophone, shake Yana to roar like a lion, or have them interact with each other. Through actionable storytelling, play and music, younguns start to learn the most basic concepts behind programming, like causation.
The coolest idea behind the interactive learning system is that, as kids get older, they will start to find that the commands are recorded on the app in a variety of programming languages, like Java and Python, so that concepts become more challenging as they progress. The idea is for Bo and Yana to be accessible to all ages, the level of learning is as simple or challenging as you want it to be.
While the gamifying of coding and teaching programming through toys isn’t new and, as Eliza pointed out, Play-i is entering a market already inhabited by products and startups like Cargo-Bot, Move the Turtle and Bee-Bot, this kind of computer science education is still relatively new. The demand and the market for it is also just beginning to develop, and as education reform pushes STEM education into more schools and, in turn, schools begin to look for novel ways to teach these concepts at younger and younger ages, the opportunity will continue to grow.
Although the co-founders think they’re onto something with Bo and Yana, they wanted to test the level of interest and demand among consumers. So they launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Play-i website in mid-November, and have since been pleased to find that not only was there interest, but that interest wasn’t just limited to the U.S.
Over the course of its 31-day crowdfunding campaign, Play-i raised $1.4 million, five-times its goal, and $26K of that total were contributions towards robots that the company will give to schools and organizations that work with underprivileged children. The campaign saw contributions from the U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia, India and France, among others, with over 30 percent of contributions coming from outside the U.S.
With over 10,000 pre-orders and plans to ship next summer, the team will spend the next six months finalizing manufacturing and distribution partnerships. Gupta tells us that they plan to sell the robots through their website and through both online and brick-and-mortar retailers, though he says those deals are still in the works.
For more, stay tuned, find Play-i at home here and Eliza’s interview with the Play-i founder below:
David Byttow, the former technical lead for Square Wallet, and Chrys Bader-Wechseler, a former Google product manager at Google+, Photovine and YouTube, are raising $1.2 million for a new stealth startup called Secret.
“Nothing is a secret these days,” Bader-Wechseler said, declining to comment on his startup or the round.
Byttow designed the infrastructure for Square’s partnership with Starbucks, and was a previous technical lead at Google+. Bader-Wechseler was brought into Google after creating a photo app called Treehouse and a video service laced around Twitter called Vidly.
We hear the seed round includes investors like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Google Ventures and KPCB, but Bader-Wechseler declined to comment or confirm any of that.
Palantir, the big data company that secured clients like the NSA, the FBI and the CIA early on, is topping up its recent September funding round with a 50 percent bump in valuation.
The company is now valued at $9 billion, according to sources familiar with the deal. An SEC filing released today showed that they are raising an additional $57.5 million on top of a $196.5 million round three months ago. That round valued the company at $6 billion.
The company hasn’t shared the identities of the investors in both rounds. We’re hearing that the company’s revenues are set to top half a billion this year, and will do at least $1 billion in contracts next year.
Founded back in 2004, the company was the brainchild of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who believed that the payments company’s anti-fraud technologies could be used to fight terrorism.
Current CEO Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale (who went on to found Asia and Silicon Valley-focused investment firm Formation 8), Stephen Cohen and chief technology officer Nathan Gettings put together an initial product.
In its early years, Palantir grew into an analysis platform that government agencies use to manage the war against terrorism and drug trafficking. Palantir’s platform pulls disparate reams of data and puts them together in a way that makes otherwise hard-to-detect patterns and connections much more visible to users.
Since then, they’ve grown beyond their government clientele and have expanded into the private sector, cybersecurity and the pharmaceutical industry.
The company’s earlier investors include Founders Fund, Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman and Ben Ling among others and they’ve raised at least $650 million.
A company focused on teaching anyone the fundamentals of web development, Bloc, has raised $2 million in seed funding in a round led by Harrison Metal, with First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures, and Learn Capital also participating. What’s interesting about Bloc is that, while it’s offering an online program that can be accessed anywhere a student has a computer and Internet access, it also retains the human element of teaching through a one-on-one connection between a learner and their mentor.
Bloc was founded by fellow University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign grads Roshan Choxi (CEO) and Dave Paola (CTO) who had found themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area after college. The two shared a mutual interest in the education space, and began working together around two years ago on various projects. One of these, an early version of what has become today’s Bloc, debuted in early 2012 at the Launch conference, helping seed the company’s user base with the first few thousand signups.
With today’s version of Bloc, the idea is to connect students directly with an experienced mentor who serves as part teacher, part code reviewer, and sometimes even pair programmer, as need be.
“We believe an online apprenticeship is superior to the classroom model,” says Choxi of Bloc’s apprenticeship angle. “It’s the better way to do advanced skill training, so it’s natural that it could apply to other verticals and other topics,” he adds, hinting at the company’s broader vision as Bloc grows.
HOW IT WORKS
In the subsequent weeks, students plow through a project-based curriculum built in-house, communicating with mentors during office hour sessions and chats along the way. There’s also a chat room staffed by mentors throughout the day and night, in case students are in need of help when their assigned mentor isn’t around.
Throughout the course, students also have to pass through “checkpoints” where mentors review their work, then help them get it right, even if it takes a few times before they succeed.
The co-founders tell us that the program tends to attract those who are involved with the tech industry in some way, but don’t necessarily have technical backgrounds. Around half of the students – and Bloc has seen hundreds so far – come from some major metro area, like San Francisco. But the rest come from suburban or rural areas, which is something that speaks to the accessible nature of the program, thanks to its online nature.
The other thing many students have in common is a desire to build something for themselves. “In our heads, a bootcamp is for getting a job, and Bloc is for becoming an entrepreneur,” says Paola.
The program teaches students skills that would help them in this pursuit, having them build clones of sites like Reddit or Wikipedia, for example. Then mid-way through, the students pick a capstone project to work on for themselves. The idea is that they’ll have something to actually show for their work by the end of the twelve weeks, rather than just a set of skills.
One graduate, Seth Seigler, was a real estate agent who completed Bloc then built an “uber for real estate” which he sold to a real estate firm, where he’s now CTO. Seigler today describes Bloc as the “perfect hybrid between the self-paced tutorials and the full-time bootcamps.”
“At the end of Bloc, I knew how to learn and how to complete any project,” he says.
That being said, not all students complete their training. Over the past 18 months, Bloc has had a 90% graduation rate. But Choxi says that the students who drop out tend to do so because they don’t have the time for a 25-hour per week commitment, and later return to re-enroll a couple of months later. (Bloc offers them pro-rated refunds.) “We work very hard to ensure they have a great experience and have a very good refund policy – we believe we don’t get paid unless they get results,” he says.
For a class that has you diving right into Ruby, those are not bad numbers. But Bloc’s platform makes it appealing to students who probably have some inclination for tech in the first place, and are motivated by what they want to do with their resulting skills.
In addition to the distributed mentors, Bloc has thirteen people based in San Francisco, and will use the new funding, in part to hire software engineers as well as a so-called “guidance counselor,” who will help students and alumni make progress and chose their career paths. The team is also looking into expanding into new courses, like iOS development, for example.
But for the students coming to Bloc, there’s another benefit beyond the skills they learn while attending – their one-on-one relationship with a mentor gives them an in into the tech industry – something those beyond the Bay area and other tech “hotspots” don’t always have access to.
“We think that’s one of the nice things about our community of mentors…we have some who are actually Y Combinator alumni and they also know how to code,” says Choxi. “Students ask them questions than are a little bit tangential to web development, but are still relevant starting a company. That’s something you can only develop when you have a personal relationship with your mentor,” he notes.
San Francisco-based startup and Y Combinator Winter 2013 class member Swapbox has raised $800,000 in seed funding, led by Tony Hsieh’s Vegas Tech Fund investment vehicle and including Fuel Capital, YC founder Trevor Blackwell, Base Ventures and Ace & Company. The startup is hoping to cash in on the rise of ecommerce and home delivery, with shared, centrally located delivery lockers so people never miss a package again.
Swapbox isn’t alone with that aim, and it’s pitting itself against some heavy hitters; both Google and Amazon already have delivery pick-up initiatives in place, Amazon via its Lockers programs in select cities, and Google through BufferBox, a Waterloo-based startup it acquired last year. BufferBox recently went live in San Francisco, where it has packages accepted by local businesses. Swapbox co-founder and CEO Neel Murthy thinks there’s still room for a startup in the space, however.
“We accept any packages from anywhere. Shop online, we give you a new address and you just ship to that address,” he said in an interview. “It’s an independent platform that works for all the other ecommerce players.”
The service is piloting in SF, where it has 15 locations currently. Each consists of heavily modified gym lockers located at businesses around the city, and Murthy says they’ve paid special attention to industrial design with their physical hardware, in order to help with branding. The plan is to expand to surrounding areas near SF within the next year, and then look further afield soon after. Swapbox has different arrangements with its location partners, but most involve some kind of rev share of the service fee paid for by its users.
The business as it stands looks like a prime target for some other online retailer hoping to keep up with Amazon and Google to gobble up, but Murthy says they’ve built Swapbox as a long-term play. There’s plenty they’re planning to add later on, and the intent is to hopefully move the burden of cost from the consumer to the ecommerce players once they get enough scale. There’s also a plan to use Swapbox’s capabilities to essentially build in a type of escro for small merchants and private sale deals, Murthy says.
That would work by allowing sellers, on Craigslist for example, to use the Swapbox locations to exchange goods, with a seller controlling access for a buyer based on when payment clears. It takes out any of the uncertainty around meeting a total stranger online with a wad of cash or expensive gadget in their pocket. The escrow play could extend beyond just the private exchange scenario in theory, too.
Swapbox chose its investors mostly for their value as strategic partners, according to Murthy, and Zappos founder Tony Hsieh is a very strategic one indeed for a company this tied to online commerce. Google and Amazon may have a head start on automated delivery, but there’s definitely room for an open platform to serve everyone else, and Swapbox could be the one to step up in that role.
ClearDATA Lands $14M To Give The Healthcare Industry A HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Alternative To AWS And Rackspace
As Big Data and analytics are take hold in nearly every industry, a whole new set of demands and problems face IT teams within organizations. This is especially true among healthcare companies, which are now struggling in masse to upgrade archaic infrastructure and technology and reduce costs both for the sake of their businesses and for their customers.
While moving to the cloud can help reduce costs and increase agility, given the sensitivity of health data, healthcare clouds need to be HIPAA-compliant — in other words, the security of health data and applications is paramount.
Companies like Box are rising to fill the gap, as the enterprise storage and collaboration giant has begun to serve healthcare providers, and recently secured HIPAA-compliance for its new platform. While newcomers like Box are bringing more attention to the problem, startups like ClearDATA are growing fast thanks to clouds built exclusively for the healthcare industry.
Now serving over 300,000 healthcare professionals and hosting data and apps (including tens of millions of health records) for a litany of healthcare providers, ClearData has raised $14 million in Series B funding as it looks to expand its platform and move into new geographies. Investors in the startup’s latest round include Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, Excel Venture Management and Norwest Venture Partners.
The round includes the $7 million ClearDATA announced in August, explaining that it decided to hold a second closing of its Series B round to allow the participation of its newest strategic investor, Merck Global.
As Alex explained at the time, ClearDATA’s appeal lies in its healthcare-centric approach to data, offering healthcare customers an end-to-end service designed to make it easy to move their apps and data to the cloud, while accessing that data over a private Internet connection. It also uses a data storage model that makes it easy for companies to locate its data to allow the kind of auditing required by healthcare privacy requirements and HIPAA.
In this sense, ClearDATA differs from AWS, Azure or Rackspace in that its storage equipment is custom-designed for health data and images. This allows the company to compete with the massive footprints of cloud providers like Amazon, for example, which offers a more general-purpose cloud and a growing set of storage services and analytics tools.
Today, the healthcare information technology market is growing at a breakneck speed thanks to the demands of thousands of healthcare providers looking to go digital, transfer health records to the cloud and maintain huge amounts of critical (and sensitive) data.
These companies often lack the resources and capacity to design, deploy and manage their applications, and they’re looking for rentable, on-demand infrastructure as a result. Plus, none of the commercial clouds can meet the particular requirements of healthcare’s migration to the cloud line-for-line, so that’s where ClearDATA wants to help.
By customizing its cloud to meet these unique demands, it now works with customers that range from small organizations and practices to hospitals and large clinics, and extending to client-server and SaaS-based healthcare software providers.
For more, find ClearDATA at home here.
Russian event ticketing company Ticketland – which claims to be closing in on being the largest player in Eastern Europe – has raised a new round of funding: $10 million from Russia-based Private Equity and Venture Capital fund iTech Capital. Money it says it’ll use to increase e-ticketing as a percentage of its sales; up from the current 15% to an ambitious 50%.
Specifically, Ticketland says it plans to implement new online services and marketing initiatives based on Big Data tech, incorporating research based on user behaviour modelling, which in turn will enable it to offer additional value for event organisers via new marketing channels.
The Ticketland group currently incorporate three brands/market segments. United Art Tickets is a provider of tickets for concerts, theatre, shows and sports, and a supplier of ERP and e-ticket platforms for venues; MDTZK is the oldest and the largest ticket retail chain in Moscow with 130 outlets; and Arena Group is a sport ticketing processing supplier.
Ticketland employees around 400 people, and claims that more than 2 million tickets for more than 40,000 events are marketed annually via its outlets and internet platforms. Its turnover is said to have exceeded $120 million in 2013. Part of its revenue comes from a 10% charge on tickets sold to consumers, so pretty old school in that aspect. The company’s sales channels include 130 retail box offices (owned and through partners), online booking, call centers and e-ticketing.
Meanwhile, it is e-ticketing where Ticketland appears to see future growth and consolidation. The company has already implemented e-ticket platforms at 120 venues in Moscow so that e-tickets purchased via ticketland.ru can be redeemed at those venues. In addition, more than 90 venues use the ERP platform provided by Ticketland, which of course supports e-ticketing out of the box.
The announcement is also talking up synergies between Ticketland and other online marking companies iTech Capital has invested in, which include SeoPult, iContext, and Garpun. The fund’s Managing Partner, Gleb Davidyuk, says in a statement: “Ticketland is a good consolidation of the strongest tech and retail players in a field of ticketing. As a value added investor we are happy to provide the company with new opportunities for their growth via marketing synergy with key online marketing players in the fund’s portfolio.”
Misfit Wearables, the hardware startup that built a sleek activity tracker called the Shine, just picked up $15.2 million from Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures in a big, new growth round. Jason Wong, a director at the Hong Kong-based firm, will be joining the board. Misfit added that all of its existing investors, including Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Paypal co-founder Max Levchin and incTANK all participated and took their full pro-rata in the round. Misfit was co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley along with Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar, who were behind the medical devices company that had the first Apple blessed add-on for the iPhone, which was a glucose meter. Misfit launched the Shine earlier this year; it’s a quarter-sized activity tracker that awards users points for walking, running and swimming among other activities. Unlike other wrist-bound activity trackers, the Shine can be worn anywhere – as a clip-on to your shoes or your shirt, or as a necklace. That form factor has made it surprisingly popular among female consumers, we’ve heard from sources close to the company. Like competing products such as the Jawbone, the Shine pairs itself with a mobile app that shows day-by-day graphs of activity. It has a cool syncing behavior, where you place the Shine on top of your smartphone and little circles radiate outward from the device until your phone downloads the data it contains. The company hasn’t shared detailed statistics on sales so far except to say that that they’ve shipped “hundreds of thousands” of units to more than 20 countries in the last few months. They’ve also scored key distribution deals with retailers like Apple, Best Buy and Target, which will help on top of online sales through their website. The funding is going toward new, yet-to-be-launched products that should come out next year. CEO Sonny Vu says that the Shine was merely a starting product and that they have a number of other wearable concepts in the works.