eCommerce

Robinhood cuts trading fees, grows profits with in-house clearing

Posted by | Apps, eCommerce, Finance, Mobile, Robinhood, Startups, stock trading, TC, Vlad Tenev | No Comments

As zero-commission stock trading app Robinhood starts preparing to IPO, an engineering investment two years in the making could accelerate its quest for profitability. Most stock broker services have to pay an external clearing house to reconcile trades between buyers and sellers. Now with 6 million accounts up from 4 million just 5 months ago, that added up to a huge cost for Robinhood since it doesn’t demand a trading fee like the $7 to $10 that incumbent competitors E*Trade and Scottrade charge. Relying on outside clearing also introduced bottlenecks around its innovation and user sign ups, limiting onboarding to business hours.

But today Robinhood will start migrating accounts to its new in-house clearing service over the next few months. That will save it from paying clearing fees on stock, option, ETF and cryptocurrency trades. In turn, Robinhood is eliminating or reducing some of its edge case fees: $10 broker assisted trades, $10 restricted accounts, $50 voluntary corporate actions and $30 worthless securities processing will all now be free. Robinhood is meanwhile cutting its margin on fees passed on by banks or FedEx, so ACH reversal fees will drop from $30 to $9, overnight check delivery from $35 to $20 and overnight mail from $35 to $20.

“What’s really interesting is that this is the only clearing system built from scratch on modern technology in at least the last decade,” Robinhood co-founder and co-CEO Vlad Tenev tells me. Most clearing services ran mainframes and terminal-based UIs that aren’t built for the pace of startup innovation. Going in-house “allows us to vertically integrate our business so we won’t have to depend on third-parties for foundational aspects. It’s a huge investment in the future of Robinhood that will massively impact our customers and their experience, but also help us out on building the kind of business we want to build.”

There’s a ton of pressure on Robinhood right now since it’s raised $539 million to date, including a $363 million Series D in May at a jaw-dropping $5.6 billion valuation just a year after raising at $1.3 billion. Currently Robinhood earns revenue from interest on money kept in Robinhood accounts, selling order flow to exchanges that want more liquidity, and its Robinhood Gold subscriptions, where users pay $10 to $200 per month to borrow $2,000 to $50,000 in credit to trade on margin. Last month at TechCrunch Disrupt, Robinhood’s other co-CEO Baiju Bhatt told me the startup is now actively working to hire a CFO to get its business ready to IPO.

Whoever that CFO is will have an easier job thanks to Christine Hall, Robinhood’s Product Lead for Clearing. After stints at Google and Udacity, she was hired two years to navigate the regulatory and engineering challenges of spinning up Robinhood Clearing. She explains that “Clearing is just a fancy word for making sure that when the user places a trade, the price and number of shares matches what the other side wants to give away. In the less than 1 percent chance of error, the clearing firm makes sure everyone is on the same page prior to settlement.

Robinhood Clearing Product Lead Christine Hall

Forming the Robinhood Securities entity, Hall scored the startup the green light from FINRA, the DTCC and the OCC. She also recruited Chuck Tennant, who’d previously run clearing firms and would grow a 70-person team for the project at Robinhood’s Orlando office. They allow Robinhood to clear, settle (exchanging the dollars and shares) and ensure custody (keeping records of asset movements) of trades. 

“It gives us massive cost savings, but since we’re no longer depending on a third-party, we basically control our destiny,” Tenev says. No more waiting for clearing houses to adapt to its new products. And no more waiting the whole weekend for account approval as Robinhood can now approve accounts 24/7. These little improvements are critical to Robinhood staying ahead of the pack of big banks like Charles Schwab that are lowering their fees to compete, as well as other startups offering mobile trading. The launch could also blossom into a whole new business for Robinhood if it’s willing to take on clearing for other brokers, including fintech apps like Titan.

Clearing comes with additional risk. Regulatory scrutiny is high, and the more Robinhood brings in-house, the more security work it must do. A breach could break the brand of user trust it’s been building. Yet if successful, the launch equips Robinhood for an ambitious future beyond playing the markets. “The mission of the company has expanded a lot. It used to be all about stock trading. But if you look at Robinhood five years from now, it’s about being best-in-class for all of our customers’ financial needs,” Tenev concludes. “You should be able to get everything from Robinhood that you could get from walking into your local bank.” That’s a vision worthy of the startup’s epic valuation.

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Comparing Google Home Hub vs Amazon Echo Show 2 vs Facebook Portal

Posted by | Amazon, amazon alexa, Amazon Echo Show, artificial intelligence, eCommerce, Facebook, Facebook Portal, Gadgets, Google, Google Assistant, Google Hardware Event 2018, google home, hardware, JBL Link View, smart displays, Social, TC | No Comments

The war for the countertop has begun. Google, Amazon and Facebook all revealed their new smart displays this month. Each hopes to become the center of your Internet of Things-equipped home and a window to your loved ones. The $149 Google Home Hub is a cheap and privacy-safe smart home controller. The $229 Amazon Echo Show 2 gives Alexa a visual complement. And the $199 Facebook Portal and $349 Portal+ offer a Smart Lens that automatically zooms in and out to keep you in frame while you video chat.

For consumers, the biggest questions to consider are how much you care about privacy, whether you really video chat, which smart home ecosystem you’re building around and how much you want to spend.

  • For the privacy obsessed, Google’s Home Hub is the only one without a camera and it’s dirt cheap at $149.
  • For the privacy agnostic, Facebook’s Portal+ offers the best screen and video chat functionality.
  • For the chatty, Amazon Echo Show 2 can do message and video chat over Alexa, call phone numbers and is adding Skype.

If you want to go off-brand, there’s also the Lenovo Smart Display, with stylish hardware in a $249 10-inch 1080p version and a $199 8-inch 720p version. And for the audiophile, there’s the $199 JBL Link View. While those hit the market earlier than the platform-owned versions we’re reviewing here, they’re not likely to benefit from the constant iteration Google, Amazon and Facebook are working on for their tabletop screens.

Here’s a comparison of the top smart displays, including their hardware specs, unique software, killer features and pros and cons:

more Google Event 2018 coverage

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As some pricey coding camps fade away, Codecademy barrels ahead with affordable paid offerings and a new mobile app

Posted by | codecademy, eCommerce, Education, Mobile, Naspers, TC, Union Square Ventures, zach sims | No Comments

Between 2013 and last year, the number of boot camp schools tripled to more than 90 in the U.S. alone, according to Course Report, an outfit that tracks the industry. Some — including The Iron Yard and Dev Bootcamp — have since folded, unable to find enough eager recruits willing to pay top dollar to learn coding skills. (The average cost of a 14-week program last year was $11,400.)

At the same time, it has become apparent that when it comes to massive open online courses, a very high percentage of students don’t stay the course.

New York-based Codecademy, which began offering free coding courses at its outset, has managed to keep plugging away — and grow — despite these headwinds. In fact, the company today employs 85 people, up from 45 when we last sat down with co-founder and CEO Zach Sims in 2016. Its revenue is also up 65 percent year over year.

None of it has been a walk in the park, admits Sims, who dropped out of Columbia University in 2011 to start the company. “There’s been a ton of ups and downs,” he says, explaining that the company struggled for years with how to produce meaningful revenue before introducing two premium products in the last couple of years, both of which are affordable by design.

One of these is Codecademy Pro, meant to help users learn the fundamentals of coding, as well as develop a deeper knowledge (and receive certification from Codecademy) in up to 10 areas, including machine learning and data analysis. The cost is $20 per month, money that Pro users often see back in the form of a a $5,000 to $10,000 raise from their employer, insists Sims. He says the course “isn’t so much for those who are transitioning to full-time jobs but people who are learning skills to level up in their existing career.”

A second offering is Codecademy Pro Intensive, which is designed to immerse learners from six to 10 weeks (depending on the coursework) in either website development, programming or data science. Students follow a structured, detailed syllabus that’s divided into focused units to organize the learning experience, which is synchronous but collaborative. To wit, users are placed in a moderated Slack group and can chat with people who are learning the same materials at the same time. They also receive unlimited access to a pool of 200 mentors who work with Codecademy, some of them “graduates” of Codecademy themselves.

Sims declines to talk about what percentage of the 45 million people who’ve taken a Codecademy course has paid the company, but he notes that the “macro trends in the market are going our way. People still need to find jobs, and tech is still an important skill to get them there.” Indeed, according to Code.org, a nonprofit that seeks to expand computer science instruction in schools, there are more than 540,000 open computing jobs. At the same time, fewer than 50,000 computer science majors graduated from school last year.

Sims also stresses the importance to Codecademy of ensuring its offerings remain “free and low cost everywhere in the world.” Toward that end, the company is today rolling out its newest product, a mobile app that enables users to learn on the go, though it is accessible to paying customers only after a seven-day trial for everyone. (No credit card is required.)

The idea, says Sims: “Lots of people use mobile phones, and we should be letting them practice whenever and wherever they want. They end doing twice as many exercises if they can learn on the subway, then pick up where they left off on the desktop later.”

How much of an accelerant the app will be remains to be seen, but certainly, Codecademy’s approach — catering to people who can’t take or aren’t interesting in expensive offline programs — seems as relevant as ever as some of its competitors fade into the distance.

“When we first started,” says Sims, “the skills gap was just making itself evident. There were tons of tech reports about tech jobs and not a lot of people to fill them. A lot of boot camps and other options emerged to fill that vacuum because, at the time, colleges weren’t equipped to handle [the knowledge gap]. Plus, student debt continued to be an issue, which made [underprivileged] students particularly ill-prepared for the workforce.”

What has changed since then is, well, not much, argues Sims. He notes that aside from a glut of hyped offerings to come and go, people still need ways to adapt to rapid-fire technological change, and with college costs as high as they’ve ever been — prices have soared upwards of 200 percent over the last 20 years —  they need affordable alternatives in particular.

If Codecademy requires more capital to continue providing as much, it isn’t saying. Asked about fundraising — Codecademy has raised $42.5 million to date, including from Union Square Ventures and Naspers — Sims says it isn’t talking currently with VCs. “We’re pretty capital efficient. We still have the majority of our last round (raised in 2016) in the bank. And we’ve been able to grow pretty sustainably.

“If we see opportunities to accelerate growth down the line,” he adds, “we’ll go raise it.”

Asked if it can see a day where it works more closely with enterprise customers that want to help employees burnish their skills, he says that’s a high likelihood, too. But “so far,” he says, “we’ve seen pretty good consumer growth. It kind of comes down to how many things can you focus on.”

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Cover collects $16M to insure your gadgets, pets… anything

Posted by | Apps, cover, eCommerce, insurance, Mobile, Recent Funding, Startups, Tribe Capital, Y Combinator | No Comments

People procrastinate about buying insurance because it’s such a boring and complicated chore to compare policies. But Cover combines plans from 45 insurance companies into a single marketplace so it’s easy to find the best one for your car, home, rental, business, personal property, pets, jewelry and more. Now Cover is building powerful onboarding tricks like a driving school that earns you lower car insurance rates, and a way for Shopify merchants to sell warranties for their items.

The potential to use tech to run circles around the old insurance brokers has attracted a new $16 million Series B for Cover led by Tribe Capital’s Arjun Sethi, who led the Series A and sits on the startup’s board. The round was joined by Y Combinator, Social Capital, Exor and Samsung, and brings the company to a total of $27.1 million in funding.

“Insurance isn’t very different from being a white-collar bookie, where the house’s rake is too high and the dollars at stake are in the hundreds of billions in the U.S. alone,” says co-founder and CEO Karn Saroya. “This, all to the detriment of regular people, who view insurance as a tax. We’re here to change that perception.”

Saroya and his co-founders have deep ties. He went to high school with Anand Dhillon, is engaged to Natalie Gray and hired Ben Aneesh at the team’s previous startup, a high-end fashion marketplace called StyleKick that was eventually acqui-hired by Shopify. “We were tossing around ideas for what we wanted to do after StyleKick/Shopify, running hackathons on weekends. We built a couple different apps, but Cover — the MVP, where we just asked potential customers to take pictures of things they wanted to insure, surprised us” says Saroya. “Our customers sent us walkthroughs of their homes, pictures of their dogs and videos of themselves washing their cars. When you come across behavior that violates your expectations in consumers, that’s usually when you double-down.”

Cover co-founder and CEO Karn Saroya

So they built Cover, where you don’t have to cobble together an endless set of insurance websites or wait on hold. You download the app, pick your item, list how much you paid and where, provide some photos or video of its condition using its TensorFlow-equipped camera and Cover will check across its insurance partners and find you the best quote instantly. You can easily see what is and isn’t covered, learn how to make claims, and text with an agent if you have questions. For example, I was quickly quoted $5 per month to insure my new iPhone against damage but not loss or theft.

Cover earns between 10 to 35 percent per dollar of premium you pay. Its annualized premium already exceeds $8.5 million and is growing 30 percent per month. Thanks to its low-churn business model, easy cross-promotion of products, low training requirements for customers and no need to constantly update its existing subscriptions, Cover starts to look like a very efficient software-as-a-service business.

The big question remains whether Cover can consistently find the best rates for customers so they don’t second guess its quotes and search somewhere else. It will have to outcompete multi-insurance providers, like State Farm and Geico, as well as startups like MetroMile tackling specific insurance verticals with mobile apps. To really earn the big profits, Cover is building out its own in-house insurance plans. But that will put it under constant threat of insuring the wrong risks and ending up paying out too much.

“We built Cover because we saw an opportunity to build elegant products that could deliver on pricing and customer experience in a way that no incumbent insurance entity can,” Saroya concludes. By bringing the service to mobile and making it a seamless part of owning something, Cover could ensure you’re insured, even if insurance is the last thing you want to think about.

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Apple adds student ID cards into Apple Wallet to access buildings, buy food and more

Posted by | Apple, apple wallet, Apps, contactless, eCommerce, Education, Mobile, smart cards, university | No Comments

The education market has long been one of the cornerstones of growth for Apple’s hardware business, and today the company is leveraging its popularity in it, specifically among college-aged students, to build out a newer effort. Today, Apple started to integrate university student ID cards — used to access buildings, pay for food or books, and any other transactional campus services — into Wallet, its contactless payment system on the Apple Watch and the iPhone. The first schools to come online are Duke University, the University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma.

Apple had actually announced the service back in June, during WWDC, earmarking the three schools going live today. It said that Johns Hopkins University, Santa Clara University and Temple University will start using the service by the end of this year.

The expansion comes at a time when Apple is riding on a growth high for its mobile wallet. iPhone and Watch owners have been shown to be enthusiastic users of their devices for making purchases (thrice as more avid, it seems, than Android users), and on the back of that, Apple Pay — which is now live in 24 markets — has laid claim to being the most popular mobile contactless payment in use today, with some 1 billion transactions in the last quarter alone, up three-fold from a year before.

Many of those transactions are specifically related to Apple Pay, made using more traditional payment cards such as American Express or Visa credit cards, and at traditional retail locations — Apple says it expects 60 percent of all US retail locations to support Apple Pay by the end of this year, including over 70 of the top 100 retail chains.

But Apple has also been pursuing a second wave of growth to make Wallet useful, by encouraging people to upload and use the myriad cards they have for various other services, such as loyalty cards and passes for city transport systems. Twelve US metro areas already use Apple Pay, and there is ground being gained internationally too in markets like the UK, China and Japan.

Adding in university student cards falls within that scope, Apple says.

“iPhone and Apple Watch have brought us into a new era of mobility, helping to transform everyday experiences,” said Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services, said in a statement. “When we launched Apple Pay, we embarked on a goal to replace the physical wallet. By adding transit, loyalty cards and contactless ticketing we have expanded the capabilities of Wallet beyond payments, and we’re now thrilled to be working with campuses on adding contactless student ID cards to bring customers even more easy, convenient and secure experiences.”

Apple Pay may not appear to massively profit Apple in a direct way — as it’s been pointed out by others, the percentages on payment transactions are tiny — but what it does give the company indirectly is another tie into how people use their phones and watches, making the devices more valuable to their owners, and those users more tied into the Apple ecosystem.

At colleges (and other schools), we’ve seen an increasing use of student ID cards not just as a way to identify yourself, but to access services and buildings, and also to pay for things, and use of contactless versions of these has been on the rise. Part of the reason for this is safety: having one card for everything means students need to carry less valuables, and if they lose it or it’s stolen, the card can be more easily replaced. At the same time, watches and phones are not items they’re leaving behind, so further consolidating, and making those cards more secure by way of Apple’s device locks, makes sense.

What we don’t know is if Apple is getting a commission (even a tiny one) on the payment transactions made via these student cards. We have asked the company and will update as we learn more.

Educational institutions aren’t the only not-strictly-retail locations that are being put into Wallet. Apple’s been adding sports venues to let attendees use Wallet to carry their tickets, and to then buy food and other concessions once you get in. (See how Apple uses one non-commissioned transaction to lead you into using it for one that might be?)

Today, Apple is estimated to account for between 14 percent and 17 percent of the K-12 education market in the US, and with the likes of Google and Microsoft also pushing hard for growth both here and in higher education, you can see how adding in more services like this could help Apple expand its piece of the pie.

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Hackers stole customer credit cards in Newegg data breach

Posted by | eCommerce, Gadgets, Hack, newegg, Security | No Comments

Newegg is clearing up its website after a month-long data breach.

Hackers injected 15 lines of card skimming code on the online retailer’s payments page which remained for more than a month between August 14 and September 18, Yonathan Klijnsma, a threat researcher at RiskIQ, told TechCrunch. The code siphoned off credit card data from unsuspecting customers to a server controlled by the hackers with a similar domain name — likely to avoid detection. The server even used an HTTPS certificate to blend in.

The code also worked for both desktop and mobile customers — though it’s unclear if mobile customers are affected.

The online electronics retailer removed the code on Tuesday after it was contacted by incident response firm Volexity, which first discovered the card skimming malware and reported its findings.

Newegg is one of the largest retailers in the US, making $2.65 billion in revenue in 2016. The company touts more than 45 million monthly unique visitors, but it’s not known precisely how many customers completed transactions during the period.

In an email to customers, Newegg chief executive Danny Lee said the company has “not yet determined which customer accounts may have been affected.” When reached, a Newegg spokesperson did not immediately comment.

Klijnsma called the incident “another well-disguised attack” that looked near-identical to the recent British Airways credit card breach, and earlier, the Ticketmaster breach. Like that breach, RiskIQ attributed the Newegg credit card theft to the Magecart group, a collective of hackers that carry out targeted attacks against vulnerable websites.

The code used in both skimming attacks was near identical, according to the research.

“The breach of Newegg shows the true extent of Magecart operators’ reach,” said Klijnsma. “These attacks are not confined to certain geolocations or specific industries—any organization that processes payments online is a target.”

Like previous card skimming campaigns, he said that the hackers “integrated with the victim’s payment system and blended with the infrastructure and stayed there as long as possible.”

Anyone who entered their credit card data during the period should immediately contact their banks.

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Instagram Shopping gets personalized Explore channel, Stories tags

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Apps, eCommerce, instagram, Instagram Explore, Instagram Shopping, Instagram Stories, Mobile, Pinterest, Social | No Comments

Instagram is embracing its true identity as a mail-order catalog. The question will be how much power merchants will give Instagram after seeing what its parent Facebook did to news outlets that relied on it. In a move that could pit it against Pinterest and Wish, Instagram is launching Shopping features across its app to let people discover and consider possible purchases before clicking through to check out on the merchant’s website.

Today, Instagram Explore is getting a personalized Shopping channel of items it thinks you’ll want most. And it’s expanding its Shopping tags for Instagram Stories to all viewers worldwide after a limited test in June, and it’s allowing brands in 46 countries to add the shopping bag icon to Stories that users can click through to buy what they saw.

Instagram clearly wants to graduate from where people get ideas for things to purchase to being a measurable gateway to their spending. 90 million people already tap its Shopping tags each month, it announced today. The new features could soak up more user attention and lead them to see more ads. But perhaps more importantly, demonstrating that Instagram can boost retail business’ sales for free through Stories and Explore could whet their appetite to buy Instagram ads to amplify their reach and juice the conversion channel. With 25 million businesses on Instagram but only 2 million advertisers, the app has room to massively increase its revenue.

For now Instagram is maintaining its “no comment” regarding whether it’s working on a standalone Instagram Shopping app as per a report from The Verge last month.  Instagram first launched its Shopping tags for feeds in 2016. It still points users out to merchant sites for the final payment step, though, in part because retailers want to control their relationships with customers. But long-term, allowing businesses to opt in to offering in-Instagram checkout could shorten the funnel and get more users actually buying.

Shopping joins the For You, Art, Beauty, Sports, Fashion and other topic channels that launched in Explore in June. The Explore algorithm will show you shopping-tagged posts from businesses you follow and ones you might like based on who you follow and what shopping content engages you. This marks the first time you can view a dedicated shopping space inside of Instagram, and it could become a bottomless well of browsing for those in need of some retail therapy.

With Shopping Stickers, brands can choose to add one per story and customize the color to match their photo or video. A tap opens the product details page, and another sends them to the merchant’s site. Businesses will be able to see the number of taps on their Shopping sticker, and how many people tapped through to their website. Partnerships with Shopify (500,000+ merchants) and BigCommerce (60,000+ merchants) will make it easy for retailers of all sizes to use Instagram’s Shopping Stickers. 

What about bringing Shopping to IGTV? A company spokesperson tells me, “IGTV and live video present interesting opportunities for brands to connect more closely with their customers, but we have no plans to bring shopping tools to those surfaces right now.”

For now, the new shopping features feel like a gift to merchants hoping to boost sales. But so did the surge of referral traffic Facebook sent to news publishers a few years ago. Those outlets soon grew dependent on Facebook, changed their news room staffing and content strategies to chase this traffic, and now find themselves in dire straights after Facebook cut off the traffic fire hose as it refocuses on friends and family content.

Retail merchants shouldn’t take the same bait. Instagram Shopping might be a nice bonus, but just how much it prioritizes the feature and spotlights the Explore channel are entirely under its control. Merchants should still work to develop an unmediated relationship directly with their customers, encouraging them to bookmark their sites or sign up for newsletters. Instagram’s favor could disappear with a change to its algorithm, and retailers must always be ready to stand on their own two feet.

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Indonesian fintech startup Moka raises $24M led by Sequoia India

Posted by | Android, Asia, East Ventures, eCommerce, fenox, Finance, funding, Fundings & Exits, Indonesia, moka, PayPal, softbank ventures korea, Southeast Asia, Vertex Ventures | No Comments

Indonesia’s Moka, a startup that helps SMEs and retailers manage payment and other business operations, has pulled in a $24 million Series B round for growth.

The investment is led by Sequoia India and Southeast Asia — which recently announced a new $695 million fund — with participation from new backers SoftBank Ventures Korea, EDBI — the corporate investment arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board — and EV Growth, the later stage fund from Moka seed investor East Ventures. Existing investors Mandiri Capital, Convergence and Fenox also put into the round.

The deal takes Moka to $27.9 million raised to date, according to data from Crunchbase.

Moka was started four years ago primarily as a point-of-sale (POS) terminal with some basic business functionality. Today, it claims to work with 12,500 retailers in Indonesia and its services include sales reports, inventory management, table management, loyalty programs, and more. Its primary areas of focus are retailers in the F&B, apparel and services industries. It charges upwards of IDR 249,000 ($17) per month for its basic service and claims to be close to $1 billion in annual transaction volume from its retail partners.

That’s the company’s core offering, a mobile app that turns any Android or iOS device into a point-of-sale terminal, but CEO and co-founder Haryanto Tanjo — who started the firm with CTO Grady Laksmono — said it harbors larger goals.

“Our vision is to be a platform, we want to be an ecosystem,” he told TechCrunch in an interview.

That’s where much of this new capital will be invested.

Tanjo said the company is opening its platform up to third-party providers, who can use it to reach merchants with services such as accounting, payroll, HR and more. The focus is initially on local services that cater to SMEs in Indonesia, but as Moka targets larger enterprises as clients, he said that it will integrate larger, global solutions, too.

Moka offers services beyond point-of-sale, but the core offering is turning any smart device into a cash machine

Moka itself is expanding its capabilities on the payment side.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country based on population and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is in the midst of a fintech revolution with numerous companies pioneering mobile-based wallet services aimed at ending the country’s fixation on cash-based transactions. That’s mean that there are a plethora of options available today. Tanjo said Moka is working to support them all in order to help its merchants grow their businesses and consumers to have easier lives.

There are so many wallets here in Indonesia,” he said. “There are more than 10 right now and maybe in the next few months there’ll be 15-20, we want to be the platform that works with all of them.”

Already it works with the likes of OVO, T-Cash and Akulaku, and e-wallets including DANA and Kredivo. The startup is also working in another area of fintech: loans.

As an extension of its platform, it has tied up with SME loan companies who can reach out to Moka businesses using its platform. With the merchant’s consent, Moka can provide business data — including revenue, profit, etc — to help provide data to assess a loan application. That’s important because the process is particularly challenging in Southeast Asia, where few organized credit checking facilities exist — it makes sense that Moka — which has built its business around encouraging business growth and management — uses the information it has access to help its partners.

Tanjo said the company takes an undisclosed cut of the loan in cases where it has successfully connected the two parties. He said that he doesn’t expect that to initially become a major revenue stream, but over time he anticipates it will help its customer base grow and become a more important source of income for the startup.

Sequoia India has some experience in POS startups having backed Pine Labs in India, which recently landed a big $125 million round from PayPal and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek. Still, there are plenty of local players across various markets in Southeast Asia, including StoreHub, which is backed by Temasek subsidiary Vertex Ventures, and Malaysia’s SoftSpace.

While those two competitors have established a presence in multiple markets in Southeast Asia, Tanjo — the Moka CEO — said there are no plans to venture overseas for at least the next 12 months.

“We’re still scratching the service,” he said. “So [it] doesn’t make sense to expand too soon.”

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Snapchat adds new styles as Spectacles V2s get used 40% more than V1

Posted by | Apps, eCommerce, Evan Spiegel, Gadgets, hardware, Mobile, Opinion, Snap, snap inc, Snapchat, snapchat spectacles, Social, TC, Wearables | No Comments

Snapchat isn’t revealing sales numbers of version 2 of its Spectacles camera sunglasses, but at least they’re not getting left in a drawer as much as the V1s. The company tells me V2 owners are capturing 40 percent more Snaps than people with V1s.

And today, Snapchat is launching two new black-rimmed hipster styles of Spectacles V2 — a Wayfarer-esque Nico model and a glamorous big-lensed Veronica model. Both come with a slimmer semi-soft black carrying case instead of the chunky old triangular yellow one, and are polarized for the first time. They look a lot more like normal sunglasses, compared to the jokey, bubbly V1s, so they could appeal to a more mature and fashionable audience. They go on sale today for $199 in the US and Europe and will be sold in Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom later this year, while the old styles remain $149.

 

The new Spectacles styles (from left): Veronica and Nico

Spectacles V2 original style (left) and V1 (right)

Snap is also trying to get users to actually post what they capture, so it’s planning an automatically curated Highlight Story feature that will help you turn your best Specs content into great things to share. That could address the problem common amongst GoPro users of shooting a ton of cool footage but never editing it for display.

The problem is that V1 were pretty exceedingly unpopular, and those that did buy them. Snap only shipped 220,000 pairs and reportedly had hundreds of thousands more gathering dust in a warehouse. It took a $40 million write-off and its hardware “camera company” strategy was called into question. Business Insider reported that less than 50 percent of buyers kept using them after a month and a “sizeable” percentage stopped after just a week.

The new styles come with a slimmer semi-soft carry case

That means the bar was pretty low from which to score a 40 percent increase in usage, especially given the V2s take photos, work underwater, come in a slimmer charging case, and lack the V1s’ bright yellow ring around the camera lens that announces you’re wearing a mini computer on your face. Snap was smart to finally let you export in non-circular formats which are useful for sharing beyond Snapchat, and let you automatically save Snaps to your camera roll and not just its app’s Memories feature.

I’ve certainly been using my V2s much more than the V1s since they’re more discrete and versatile. And I haven’t encountered as much fear or anxiety from people worried about being filmed as privacy norms around technology continue to relax.

But even with the improved hardware, new styles, and upcoming features, Spectacles V2 don’t look like they’re moving the needle for Snapchat. After shrinking in user count last quarter, Snap’s share price has fallen to just a few cents above its all-time low. Given most of its users are cash-strapped teens who aren’t going to buy Spectacles even if they’re cool, the company needs to focus on how to make its app for everyone more useful and differentiated after the invasion of Instagram’s copy-cats of its Stories and ephemeral messaging.

Whether that means securing tentpole premium video content for Discover, redesigning Stories to ditch the interstitials for better lean-back viewing, or developing augmented reality games, Snap can’t stay the course. Despite its hardware ambitions, it’s fundamentally a software company. It has to figure out what makes that software special.

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Weebly brings more e-commerce features to mobile

Posted by | Apps, david rusenko, eCommerce, Mobile, Square, Weebly | No Comments

Weebly is part of Square now, but it continues to update as a standalone product. This week, for example, the company announced a number of new e-commerce features for the Weebly mobile app.

Those features include the ability to ship and print labels, to respond to customer questions (via Facebook Messenger, which can be embedded on Weebly sites), to approve customer reviews, to create branded coupon codes and to edit every aspect of your store, including product listing and pricing — all from the app.

Much of this functionality already existed on desktop, so the announcement is about moving these capabilities onto smartphones. In a blog post, the company outlined a vision for the mobile phone to become “the new back office.”

Weebly CEO David Rusenko told me that as his team has been adding more features for merchants, he wants people to think of Weebly “increasingly as an e-commerce platform,” not just a simple website builder. And support for mobile was an important part of that.

“This is what our customers were requesting,” Rusenko said. “Basically, people are taking their entrepreneurial lifestyle and having the freedom to work on things wherever you are.”

And apparently mobile usage is already up significantly, with a 75 percent increase over the past year in customers using the Weebly mobile app to manage orders, as well as a 120 percent increase in mobile usage to manage product listings.

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