You’ve Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers

question Despite the glorified status that entrepreneurship has obtained in modern culture, it’s a huge pain in the pass. The work is long. The lows are low. Showering? Good luck with that. One of the worst parts about being an early-stage founder, however, is realizing just how little you really know about the broader ecosystem that you’re supposed to navigate your way through — and… Read More

Mixpanel starts 2016 with layoffs: ‘We just overhired’

Part of the Mixpanel team.

Data analytics startup Mixpanel yesterday laid off nearly 20 employees, primarily in sales, VentureBeat has learned.

The layoffs, which multiple sources familiar with the matter confirmed to VentureBeat, don’t spell doom for the company. One person familiar with the matter described the layoffs as a healthy cost-cutting effort.

In total, Mixpanel let go of 18 people, Mixpanel cofounder and chief executive Suhail Doshi told VentureBeat. The company had more than 230 employees, so the move is affecting less than 10 percent of its workforce.

“We just overhired, and we wanted to make sure that we could correct for that — better now than later,” Doshi told VentureBeat. Doshi said the company will hit its revenue target for 2016.

Valued at $865 million in its most recent funding round, Mixpanel has developed an image as one of Silicon Valley’s fast-growing companies.

But sales has been a top priority for the company. In fact, “3x sales headcount and rapidly race towards distribution” was listed first in a series of bullet points in a slide in a 2014 presentation showing Mixpanel’s 2015 and 2016 expansion plan. The same slide also shows Mixpanel aiming to double its headcount every six to nine months.

The data analytics market has been hot as companies have been keen to design their websites and applications to optimize for the most desirable responses. Thanks in part to its ease of use, Mixpanel has become popular in this environment, while other analytics tools, like Heap, Amplitude, and Localytics, have also gained traction.

Mixpanel started in 2009 and is based in San Francisco, with additional operations in New York. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator, Max Levchin, and Sequoia Capital.

Mixpanel is “a picks-and-shovels business right in the middle of the gold rush,” as Marc Andreessen gushed in a New Yorker profile of him last year.

Mixpanel isn’t the only venture-backed company to make layoffs. Instacart, another highly valued startup backed by Sequoia, reportedly laid off some recruiters last month. Sequoia-backed Evernote also recently made layoffs.

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MatterHackers Releases A Tablet That Lets You Design 3D Prints On The Go

box Most 3D printer apps are fairly basic – mostly they’re used to monitor print jobs. MatterHackers has just released the MatterControl Touch T10, a 10-inch, $299 tablet that allows you to place items, edit them, and even print them on the fly using an powerful Android-powered tablet. Because the device is dedicated to 3D printing it can slide 3D models and around and resize them on… Read More

MatterHackers Releases A Tablet That Lets You Design 3D Prints On The Go

box Most 3D printer apps are fairly basic – mostly they’re used to monitor print jobs. MatterHackers has just released the MatterControl Touch T10, a 10-inch, $299 tablet that allows you to place items, edit them, and even print them on the fly using an powerful Android-powered tablet. Because the device is dedicated to 3D printing it can slide 3D models and around and resize them on… Read More

Apple and Google reportedly in talks to stream NFL’s London games

Epic catches like this are easier to make in Madden this year (even if you're not playing the Oakland Raiders).

(By Jessica Toonkel for Reuters) — The National Football League is planning to livestream all three games scheduled to be played in London next season, and Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc subsidiary Google are among the technology companies in talks to buy the rights to conduct the streams, said two sources familiar with the situation.

Last year, the NFL partnered with Yahoo Inc to livestream a London game, the first time a technology company has streamed a game for free to viewers. Livestreaming is becoming increasingly popular as more consumers cancel their cable subscriptions, a practice known as cord-cutting. Winning a partnership with the NFL to livestream one or all three games would be a big victory for a technology company.

Apple owns Apple TV and Google owns YouTube. If Apple or Google win the rights to stream one or more games, it would be a first for either company.

The NFL wants to livestream more London games after last year’s streaming experiment was deemed a success, according to the sources, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not permitted to speak to the media.

It is unclear if the NFL seeks to sell the rights to stream all three games as a package or individually, or how much the league is asking for the rights.

Representatives for the NFL, Apple and Google declined to comment.

About 15.2 million viewers worldwide watched at least part of the livestreamed game in October, which was broadcast during early-morning hours in the United States, therefore drawing a smaller audience than regular NFL games. In some cases, the stream of the game automatically started playing on Yahoo websites and consumers who clicked on those websites were counted as viewers if the streams played for more than 3 seconds.

An average of 2.36 million viewers were watching at any given time, according to data released by Yahoo and the NFL. About one-third of the viewership came from outside the United States.

Nationwide broadcasts of Thursday night games on CBS and NBC’s Sunday night games average more than 20 million U.S. viewers per minute, according to Nielsen TV data.

In the months leading up to London game livestreamed by Yahoo, Yahoo dropped its asking price for commercials during the game from $200,000 to less than $100,000, buyers said. Ad slots were sold out. Still, media buyers said the game’s overall viewership and the participation of more than 30 advertisers signaled a success at the time.

Given the big push by Google, Apple and other tech companies to build their presence in the media world, it is no surprise they would want to partner with the NFL, said Tom Richardson, a sports media professor at Columbia University in New York City.

“Professional sports content is among the most premium content you can find,” said Richardson, who is also president of consulting firm Convergence Sports & Media. “If it happened in Hollywood, why wouldn’t it happen with professional sports?”

Separately, the NFL has put its Thursday night football package, which will include livestreaming rights, out to bid and is expected to announce a decision by the Super Bowl in February, according to one of the sources.

For the past two years, CBS has won the one-year deals for broadcast rights for Thursday night football, and the network is bidding again, CBS CEO Les Moonves told attendees of the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference last month. Fox Sports, a division of Twenty-First Century Fox, is also among the bidders, a Fox spokesman confirmed.

The three games scheduled to be played in London are the Indianapolis Colts versus the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 2, the New York Giants against the St Louis Rams on Oct. 23, and the Washington Redskins versus the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 30.

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Eric Effron and Matthew Lewis)

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Join Me Next Week For Two Micro Meetups In New York

012-April-TechCrunch-Meetup-Seoul It’s that time of month again: micro meetup time. I’m holding two small meetups in Manhattan and Brooklyn: a mini pitch-off on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 and a BTC event on Thursday, January 14, 2016. These are informal affairs and to get the NYC startup world together in one place and eat pizza. You can RSVP here for the pitch-off and here for the BTC meetup. Attend one or both… Read More

How to become an email powerhouse — and increase opens, clicks, and revenue (webinar

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Email marketing is the undisputed marketing ROI leader, the preferred channel for your customers—so why are you losing money?

Join our live webinar to find out from the experts how personalization can dramatically increase open rates, click-through rates (CTR), and revenue. Register here for free! 


Consumers are getting fed up with the barrage of irrelevant marketing messages cluttering up their inboxes, and marketers are losing their opens, their click-throughs, and their subscribers in droves.

VB Insight analyst Andrew Jones dug deep into the problem. His VB Insight Report, “Becoming an email personalization powerhouse“, builds on survey data from 756 marketers and 33 vendors, plus analyst interviews with 14 vendors and email experts.

The news isn’t great: Not only are click-through-rates declining, but more than 50 percent of people unsubscribe from lists because of irrelevant content. That badly damages your reputation score — and your overall email deliverability — and means an average loss of 60 percent of future lifetime value (LTV), according to AgilOne.

Harnessing the power of email personalization

But, overwhelmingly, the data shows that email personalization is the answer. Email personalization dramatically increases open rates, click-through rates (CTR), and revenue.

Plus, Experian Marketing Services discovered that subscribers who receive personalized content have not only higher opens and CTR, but a 6x increase in transactions.

Data from personalization vendor Rich Relevance agrees: Average customer email click-through rate is 2.5 times higher using personalization. Even better — revenue is, on average, 5.7 times higher.

So why are email marketers leaving money on the table?

The challenges of email personalization

Email personalization is complex. Unsurprisingly, lack of data is the biggest hurdle.

As Lytics CEO James McDermott says, “I have not talked to anyone who is not thinking about changing their email system… but no matter how many times you switch, the problem isn’t in the tool, it’s in the data.”

Many companies don’t necessarily know who they’re talking to, or who their best customers are, says Yesmail’s Director or Marketing Ivy Shtereva.

However, marketers are often just simply unaware of the scope of the data they already have, but aren’t using.

The personalization efforts that marketers are already undergoing — for instance, adding dynamic fields for names — are unsophisticated, and just the bare minimum. While these minor tweaks can have a demonstrable impact on open rates, without leveling up your personalization, you’re indisputably leaving money on the table.

And that’s where our live webinar, “Building your email personalization powerhouse,” comes in. Join our analysts and a panel of noted experts in a discussion of our in-depth VB Insight report. You’ll learn more about the strategies of industry leaders, the pros and cons of the top personalization tools, and how you can move beyond one-off tactics to continually increase the sophistication of your personalization techniques.


Don’t miss out!

Register here for free!


In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Discover how to increase your email open rate and click-through rates
  • Learn about the latest technologies that ease email personalization pain points – without hurting your wallet (or relationship with the CFO)
  • Avoid the gotchas of personalization: Wrong names, outdated information, and missing data points

Speakers:

Andrew Jones, Analyst, VB Insight

Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat

More speakers to be announced.

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Marvel Heroes publisher Gazillion loses chief exec David Brevik

Marvel Heroes 2015

After more than two years as CEO and 6.5 years at the company, game creator David Brevik has resigned from online game publisher Gazillion Entertainment.

David Brevik, former CEO of Gazillion Entertainment.

Above: David Brevik, former CEO of Gazillion Entertainment.

Image Credit: Gazillion

In an exclusive interview with GamesBeat, acting CEO Dave Dohrmann said the parting was amicable and that a search is under way for a permanent replacement for Brevik.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based Gazillion is legendary for its ambitions. Rob Hutter, the former head of Revolution Ventures, founded Gazillion with Doom co-creator John Romero in 2005 in an effort to create massively multiplayer online games that could rival Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. Over time, Hutter raised more than $250 million for Gazillion.

But MMOs are among the most difficult games to create, and they often require years of work and tens of millions of dollars. Romero left during a shake-up in which his Slipgate Ironworks division was shut down. The industry also shifted from premium subscription games to free-to-play online games with microtransactions. Those are different from paid MMOs, and the change resulted in more changes.

Brevik was the former head of Blizzard North, the game studio that created the Diablo franchise. He originally took a job at Gazillion as studio director and project lead on a Marvel Universe online game. That game, where you can play as a Marvel superhero or villain, proved to be a challenging endeavor as well.

In early 2011, Brevik was named president and chief operating officer of Gazillion. Shortly after that, John Needham, former head of Cryptic Studios, replaced Hutter as CEO in 2011. His task was to convert games such as Marvel Super Hero Squad, built by the now-defunct Amazon Society studio in Seattle, to free-to-play. Marvel Super Hero Squad is still running, but the company is no longer doing updates for it.

The company’s main focus is Brevik’s game, which was rechristened Marvel Heroes and launched in 2013. Around that time, Dohrmann, a board member who was then at Roth Capital Partners, and investors at Oak Investment Partners recapitalized the company, meaning they took control and put more money into the firm.

Marvel Heroes was buggy at launch, and the developers had to fix it. They relaunched it in 2014, and its average Metacritic rating rose from 58 out of 100 to 81 after a number of key adjustments to content and the pricing model. The company did a further update and renamed Marvel Heroes as Marvel Heroes 2015. It’s not clear how successful Marvel Heroes 2015 has been, but Gazillion laid off more people in September.

“People forget that this exact same thing happened with Diablo II,” said Brevik in early 2015. “When Diablo II came out, it was well received but it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, my god, this is great!’ It wasn’t until the expansion a year later that really made a big difference. There were a bunch of mechanical things that we fixed in the expansion that made it a lot better. Since they were only a year apart, people blend them together in their heads.”

Brevik and studio director Jeff Lind oversaw improvements and put into place a plan for a major overhaul, dubbed Marvel Heroes 2016, coming sometime next year. Today, the company is a leaner operation, with just 100 employees, far below its peak of 350.

In a statement Gazillion thanked Brevik and said, “After six years with the company, David Brevik has moved on from CEO of Gazillion to other opportunities. David has played an integral role in the growth and success of Gazillion, most notably leading the development of the acclaimed Marvel Heroes 2015 – and we greatly appreciate his many contributions to the game and the community.”

Brevik said in a statement, ““Creating Marvel Heroes has been a work of passion for over six years. It was my first opportunity to work on a live-service product and interact with our amazing community and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’m very proud of all the work our talented team has done together. Though the time has come for me to move on, I’m excited about the future of Marvel Heroes and look forward to what’s next from studio director Jeff Lind and the team.”

As our profile of Brevik stated, Gazillion has an active relationship with its diverse community, which is a mix of MMO fans, diehard comic book readers, and a casual audience who are perhaps more familiar with Marvel through its blockbuster films. Brevik stayed actively engaged by broadcasting gameplay sessions regularly on Twitch. The company’s fans go crazy and return to active engagement with the game whenever new Marvel movies come out or new content is added.










How virtual reality gaming will change the world in 2016

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This sponsored post is produced by Nvidia.


If you’ve been around the world of games and tech for a while, it’s natural to be just a little cynical about the new wave of virtual reality. It was 20 years ago that consumer-level VR last looked likely to touch down, and if you got burned by Nintendo’s ill-fated Virtual Boy or dropped a bundle on the VFX1 Headgear, then you’re likely to be looking at the new crop of VR technology with some skepticism.

With hindsight, of course, we can see that in the mid-1990s the technology simply wasn’t up to the job of delivering on VR’s lofty promises. VR was supposed to immerse us in glorious digital worlds, enabling us to interact with technology in new ways and experience gaming at its most intense and absorbing. Instead, what it gave us was eyestrain, neck ache and motion sickness.

That was then, though, and now the new generation of VR is ready to deliver on those promises. 2016 will see the launch of three new VR systems, and this time around we’re pretty sure that the technology is indeed up to the task. Facebook’s Oculus Rift , Valve’s Steam VR, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR are able to take advantage of all the progress made in graphics technology. As well, they’ve learned from the mistakes made by previous attempts to deliver something that lives up to expectations — and that, crucially, won’t leave us feeling nauseous. But without a top-of-the-line GPU, delivering a great VR experience isn’t possible.

Graphical demands of VR are immense. On a basic level, everything needs to be drawn twice, and delivering the best VR gaming experience requires seven times the graphics processing power of traditional games.

However, it turns out that your desktop frame rate simply isn’t enough. While 60fps is more than acceptable on the desktop, for VR — in which the screen isn’t a couple of feet away but right in front of your eyes — to appear smooth requires at least 90fps. You may not consciously notice the difference, but your optic system is a lot more sensitive than you realize. Up close, it takes an uninterrupted 90fps or better to receive seamless visual input rather than a succession of flickering, headache-inducing still images.

In addition to producing two lots of high-resolution imagery at a much higher frame rate than usual, VR systems also need to ensure that latency is kept to a minimum, so that when you move your head and your field of view shifts accordingly, there’s no noticeable lag; that way lies motion sickness.

Thankfully, the big graphics hardware companies have been working with the VR manufacturers to smooth the way towards top-quality virtual reality visuals. NVIDIA technologies such as VR SLI — enabling you to assign the rendering for each eye to different GPUs — and Multi-Res Shading — which renders each part of an image at a resolution that better matches the pixel density of the warped image needed for VR — are just two ways in which it’s improving VR performance and enhancing the VR experience.

Consumers can also tell if a new PC is up to the demands of VR with the GeForce GTX VR Ready program. It recommends you have a GeForce GTX 970 or greater on PC (or a GTX 980 for notebook VR), plus the following hardware:

  • a head-mounted display
  • a PC with USB 3.0 support
  • CPU: Intel Core i5- 4590 equivalent or greater CPU
  • 8GB+ RAM of Memory/RAM
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports and HDMI 1.3
  • Windows 7 SP1 or newer

Beyond all this, though, there’s another aspect of VR that doesn’t garner quite so much attention: the controllers. Traditional console controllers may be fine for traditional games, but they’re not remotely suited to the sort of sophisticated interactions that you’d expect in VR. In an environment that’s all about maintaining the illusion of reality, thumbsticks, buttons and triggers just serve to remind you that you’re in a game, and so each VR system has its own controllers — one for each hand — that replicate your hand movements in 3D, enabling you to grab and manipulate virtual objects as if they were really there.

The hardware is all in place, then, but VR also requires the games to go with it; games that not only look amazing, but which also deliver experiences that take advantage of the unique gaming opportunities of VR. Take Crytek’s The Climb, for example, in which you scale stunning and vertigo-inducing cliffs and crevasses without a rope or a safety net. Or EVE Valkyrie — due to be bundled with Oculus Rift — which puts you into the cockpit of a heavily-armed fighter for what’s promised to be the most realistic and immersive space dogfighting game on any platform.

In a similar vein, Elite: Dangerous provides a whole universe to explore, trade, and fight in, while iRacing on Oculus Rift is the closest you’ll get to driving the F1 world championship-winning McLaren MP4-30. And while you’re just as unlikely to ever get to rock out on stage in front of a stadium crowd, Rock Band VR looks set to deliver the next best thing.

For something more light-hearted, you can enjoy the visceral thrills of Surgeon Simulator or re-live the glory days of work as imagined in the year 2050, in the bizarre and tongue-in-cheek Job Simulator. And for something completely different, there’s Henry, a full virtual reality movie created by Oculus’ Story Studios and starring an adorable but lonely hedgehog celebrating his birthday.

It’s exciting and innovative titles like these that VR’s going to need to set it apart from more traditional gaming platforms, and there’s plenty more in the pipeline. With original and immersive content to showcase the unique promise of the technology, it seems that VR really is ready to hit the mainstream and start pulling people into its fantastical worlds.

Jim McCauley is Editor-in-Chief of Tech and Games at Dialect, Inc.


Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact [email protected].