Formerly Known As Bolt, Charge Messenger Raises $1.7M Seed Round And Launches Web Client

Charge Messenger With messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line, and Viber fighting for growth around the world, is there room for smaller, newer players? Charge Messenger thinks so and to prove that point, it just announced $1.7 million in seed funding and a new web client that lets users sync chats on their iOS and Android devices to desktop. Read More

Many U.S. drivers are ignoring new tech features in cars

Google's driverless car.

(By Alexandria Sage, Reuters) – Drivers are steering clear of some new technology in cars, according to a survey released Tuesday, raising questions about whether car makers are moving too quickly to incorporate sophisticated technology.

Carmakers are adding everything from remote car unlocking to self-parking systems in their newest models as they try to make vehicles more connected to the Internet and more automated.

But the 2015 Drive Report from market research company JD Power found that 20 percent of new car owners had still not used approximately half of the technology features available in their vehicles after three months of purchase – the period after which drivers are less likely to adopt new features, researchers say.


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The most underused feature was in-vehicle concierge systems that can recommend nearby restaurants or gas stations. It was not used by 43 percent of respondents and followed by mobile routers that turn a car into a Wifi hot spot, unused by 38 percent.

Automatic parking systems were unused by 35 percent of those surveyed, the report found.

That means car makers are spending more and drivers are paying more for potentially unwanted technology bundled into cars.

Drivers, especially those ages 21-38 from Generation Y, are still relying on their smartphones rather than their cars to connect to their favorite apps or search for nearby services.

“Customers say, ‘I have a competing technology that’s easier to use, or I’ve already paid for it – so why do I need it again?'” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction at JD Power.

With Google testing a self-driving car and Apple reportedly working on its own version, the fact that 35 percent of new car owners never used their automatic parking systems may come as a surprise.

Kolodge said consumers are keenly focused on the value that each new technology brings and even those that are not duplicated by a smartphone may not be popular. Knowing how to park means that a parking function would be redundant, she said.

“Is it really making it easier? That’s where some of the value is being challenged,” she said.

The technologies that best resonate with new car owners are blind spot warning systems, parking assistance and collision avoidance systems.

The Drive Report surveyed 4,200 new car owners from April to June.

(Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale and Cynthia Osterman)


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This new app lets you control your Android phone from your computer

Vysor's Chrome app allows me to use my Moto X on my Toshiba Chromebook 2.

If you’ve ever gotten tired of picking up your Android phone while you’re sitting in front of your computer, well, you’re not the only one. A new Chrome app allows you to use your Android phone right from any computer that can run Chrome. It works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Chromebooks.

The new Vysor app comes from ClockworkMod, a company that has previously built several Android apps. It’s available in beta in the Chrome Web Store. In order to run the app, you’ll need to have Chrome 42 or a more recent version running on your computer. Then, once you’ve installed the app and chosen the right Android device that’s connected to your computer via USB, you’ll have to permit USB debugging using the pop-up dialog box that pops up on the Android device.

I was able to get my 2014 Motorola Moto X phone running remotely on my Chromebook and then on my Macbook Air.

Running my Moto X on my MacBook Air, thanks to Vysor.

Above: Running my Moto X on my MacBook Air, thanks to Vysor.

Image Credit: Screnshot

The launch of the app follows the rise of apps like Pushbullet, which last month started letting users send SMS messages on desktop. That’s useful in some instances. But with Vysor, you can do so much more — you can use any of your phone’s apps from the desktop and see it mirrored on the phone.

The app could be helpful for Android app developers. In fact, that’s what Koushik “Koush” Dutta, the founder of ClockworkMod, had been thinking when he developed Vysor, as he wrote in a Google+ post on the app today. But non-developers can use it for a wide variety of purposes, too.

Here’s a video of the app in action, courtesy of Dutta:










Salesforce redesigns Sales Cloud with the Lightning Experience, launches Financial Services Cloud

The Lightning Experience redesign of the Salesforce Sales Cloud.

Salesforce today announced the Lightning Experience, a major redesign effort spanning the company’s applications and devices. The effort starts with a revamp of the desktop version of Sales Cloud, Salesforce’s core web-based customer-relationship management software.

Salesforce today also unveiled the Financial Services Cloud, a new piece of software that will follow the principles of the company’s Lightning Experience. Financial Services Cloud is Salesforce’s first vertical-specific software that professionals can use to keep track of their relationships with clients, so it’s a big deal for the company.

Salesforce was a pioneer in selling web-based software, and the company has gradually expanding its offerings beyond sales. Last year, for instance, the company entered the business intelligence market with Salesforce Analytics Cloud. Diversification provides the company with the potential to bring in revenue in more markets.

Even so, it’s not surprising to see Salesforce finally redesign Sales Cloud and other products. Sales Cloud has looked the same for a long time — a spokesman told VentureBeat that the last redesign happened 10 or 15 years ago. It’s safe to say that this was past due.

The new home screen in the redesigned Salesforce Sales Cloud.

Above: The new home screen in the redesigned Salesforce Sales Cloud.

Image Credit: Salesforce

The new Sales Cloud suggests next actions to advance relationships with contacts, and it shows news about top contacts. It also allows users to send files and emails to contacts — there’s no need to use external services to do those things anymore. Pipeline Dashboard is a new tool for visualizing the status of deals.

Salesforce is introducing the Lightning Design System to provide CSS to third-party designers, so they can can create apps that conform to the new look.

As for the new Financial Services Cloud, Salesforce developed it in conjunction with Advisor Group, Northern Trust, and United Capital, according to a statement. Financial advisors will be able to use it to stay on top of the goals of their clients, and they will be able to collaborate with clients with the new Private Client Communities feature.

Advisor Software, Informatica, and Yodlee have already developed extensions for the new application, which is now available in preview before becoming generally available in February 2016.

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LINE for Android updated with big focus on low-cost calling

Reuters / Toru Hanai

LINE, Japan’s popular mobile messaging app that has been struggling to grow beyond its home turf, today released an updated Android app (version 5.4.0) with a new focus on low-cost calling.

The service now known as LINE Out, which lets users make calls to mobiles and landlines anywhere in the world “at competitive rates” from inside the app, has been rebranded from LINE Premium Call.

The company also wrote on its blog that the calling feature has been given a “major overhaul to make it easier than ever to use”, so the move to a simpler and more memorable name makes sense. LINE Out will likely sound familiar to anyone who has used Skype’s similar feature (previously called SkypeOut).

The update is likely part of a wider push by the company to appeal to a broader international user base after its Q2 earnings report at the end of July revealed it was struggling to grow outside Japan. Its revenues were also down quarter-on-quarter for the first time.

The company is likely looking to grow its paying phone calling customers — many existing users already have credit cards linked to their accounts — it could take some of the pressure off its other revenue channels. LINE currently makes most of its money through stickers ($75 million in its first year) and in-app purchases within its gaming titles.

LINE Out has also been given more prominence within the app, now available as a “Calls” tab from the main horizontal menu bar alongside the tabs Friends, Chats, and Timeline.

LINE's new Android app update

Above: LINE’s new Android app update

But the calling out experience still isn’t integrated entirely smoothly. Because users will oftentimes be calling friends or contacts on their mobile or landline who are not LINE themselves, there is some manual setting up required to make it all work.

From within settings, you will have to “sync up friends’ phone numbers registered inside your phone’s contacts to make easy and low-cost calls to friends who aren’t using LINE yet.” For LINE users who have already added phone numbers to their profiles, obviously this additional step won’t be required. But then when free voice calls are available within the app over an Internet connection, it seems unlikely that many LINE Out calls will be made to existing LINE contacts.

A built-in keypad is also accessible through an icon at the top right of the app’s home screen for users who want to dial a number “the old-fashioned way.”

While this update in and of itself may not seem especially notable, it is likely to be the first of many in what will emerge as a wider attempt to offer paid services that attract international users, and that help LINE to differentiate itself from more successful competitors like WhatsApp.

As further evidence of its continued push into new markets, earlier this month the company launched a ‘Lite’ version of its mobile messaging app globally (clearly aimed at users who don’t enjoy such fast speeds and generous data consumption as in Japan), as well as a new app that lets friends share their current locations in real time.

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Hiring Software Juggernaut Greenhouse Swallows $35M Series C

Juggernaut “We’re not trying to be the all-singing, all-dancing HR system. I don’t know how to be kickass at payroll” says Greenhouse CEO Daniel Chait. But what his startup is kicking ass at is hiring software. It now has over 800 customers including Slack, Pinterest, and Magic Leap, almost double the 450 it had when it announces its $13.9 million Series B in March. That… Read More

To push, email, or post..and on what device? Getting an omnichannel strategy that works (webinar)

multichannel

Join us for this live webinar on Wednesday, August 26 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free

Mobile-first isn’t just a sound-bite mantra; today 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone, up from 58 percent in early 2014. If you’re targeting households with an annual income of $75,000 or more, smartphone ownership jumps to 84 percent. Similarly for young adults between 18 and 29, 85 percent own a smartphone.

As a result, companies are experiencing the shift to a mobile-first reality at lightening speed. Take Listia, for example, an online marketplace for selling stuff you don’t need and buying stuff you want using credits earned through the site. According to Founder and CEO Gee Chuang, even a year ago, Listia’s traffic was mostly web-based. Fast-forward to 2015, and most of their traffic is on their mobile app.

At the same time, the company still has considerable presence on the web, so reaching customers in the best way depending on their behavior is a priority.

That’s exactly why this webinar comes at a critical time for marketers who are racing to understand the best automation tools and strategies to reach consumers at the right time, and right place, on the right device. Omnichannel marketing is no longer an option.

Chaung points to a simple use case of a customer selling an item on Listia, and needing to know if someone has a question about it, or if it’s sold. “The challenge these days is not to overcommunicate these things,” says Chaung. “So we track if this person is mostly a web user or mostly a mobile user — so you’ll either get a push notification or an email.”


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That said, mobile has become a primary channel for much of LIstia’s commuication with customers — and, in some cases, the only one that makes sense. For example, if a customer has just been outbid on an item, Listia will send a push notification to reach the consumer quickly — there’s no gurantee they’re sitting in front of their computer.

On the marketing side of things, push notifications are relied on extensively. “We might remind you that you have 5,000 credits to use — and give you a suggestion where you can use them,” says Chuang.

“For example, if we see that a member is buying a lot of children’s clothes, we’ll send a message saying, ‘Maybe your kid has outgrown their clothes recently. If you want to earn some credits quickly, find some clothing that no longer fits your children and you can trade up for other things, like clothing, toys, or video games.'”

The mobile channel is also a great way to reach collectors — a very active user base on the company’s platform. A notification announcing that 10,000 new coins (or cards or stamps) were listed today gets great click-throughs.

But for Chuang, today’s success can be tomorrow’s failure — and the way to avoid that, he says, is through testing.

“One trap that a lot of people fall into is taking a month to set up all these automations and marketing messages and then next month you see a nice uplift — but you never really know if you could do much better unless you continually test.”

Listia continually tests types of messages as well as copy and timing, retaining those that not only deliver an obvious increase in usage — but also result in a decrease in the number of uninstalls or push notification opt-out’s. That last point is key for Chuang.

“You definitely don’t want to overpush to people, but if you do it right, and set a good pace, you get people to opt out less. And that’s when you know you’re doing it right.”

Join us for this not-to-be-missed webinar as we talk about how best to collect and utilize the data essential to an omnichannel approach, how to achieve a unified profile of the customer, and what kind of messaging is appropriate for different devices, on different platforms — all with the aim of maximizing ROI.

In this webinar, you’ll:

  • Why today’s marketing automation solutions fall short of customer expectations
  • How winning omnichannel marketing strategies balance push notifications, in-app messages, email, and social communications
  • Why understanding users on a person level, and not device level, is critical in mobile
    Why “Marketing” is evolving to “Communicating” and how to prepare for that transition

Speakers:

Doug Roberge, Strategic Services Consultant, Kahuna
Gee Chuang, CEO and Founder, Listia
Jon Cifuentes, Insight Analyst, VentureBeat


This webinar is sponsored by Kahuna.

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Unifying identity data for a holistic view: what works, what doesn’t, and what you need to watch out for (webinar)

thumbprint magnifying glass

Join us for this live webinar on Thursday, August 27 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free. 

Big data has sent marketers scurrying for quick answers to map the customer journey and serve up hyper-personalized experiences to prove their relevance to consumers. No question, data is arguably this decade’s most important gift to marketers.

In this webinar, VB analyst Andrew Jones will be revealing important findings from our latest report on Identity and Marketing including the many types of ID markers that can be collected, VB’s best bets for data collection and aggregation tools, and the best way to bring it all together.

However, not so fast on the identity charge, say some, including Zouhair Belkoura, who will be contributing a valuable perspective to our panel discussion. As CEO of KeepSafe, a service that lets you store all your important digital files securely (think of it as a fortress-like digital locker), Belkoura is very attuned to privacy and empowering individuals to be in control of what they share with whom.

“If you think of the industry as a whole, you’ll see that the requirements for anonymity and privacy are somewhat relaxed,” says Belkoura. “But at which point to you cross the line from trying to gather information that is useful to becoming creepy?”

For Belkoura, the creep-line is crossed when you decouple anonymity from a rich profile — and, in fact, he believes it’s outright dangerous. “I think the dilemma in creating these profiles is on two levels. First, when you don’t secure your data enough so that you may have breaches on your back end, that’s one of the biggest risks. The second is when you use the information in a way that exposes to the customer in a very apparent way that you’re violating a social norm  — aka you become creepy.”

KeepSafe is very intent on personalizing their experience for users, but collects the absolute minimum about who the customer is, and instead, focuses on what the customer does.


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“We don’t actually know anything about you, so we’ve designed the product in such a way that if you haven’t discovered some of the very rich features in KeepSafe, you’ll learn about them,” says Belkoura. “If we realize after three months of using KeepSafe, that there are certain things that you’ve never actually touched, we may notify you in the user interface: ‘Hey, did you know there’s this, that, and the other thing that can enhance your experience?'”

On the other hand, Belkoura sees tremendous power in profiles and identity — when the consumer chooses to share that information. He distinguishes this from what he calls ‘behind-the-scenes profile generation,” when companies intent on hyper-targeting collect data and aggregate that information into an identity profile to tailor ads.

“The dangerous part is when you have this data craze and you collect all this information about the customer who never wanted to explicitly give it up,” asserts Belkoura. But he is quick to compare this to an instance like Instagram or Snapchat, where users will choose to follow certain accounts, including certain brands, and then the platform can show the user content that is more tailored to their interests, including ads that they’ll be more interested in.

“Personalization is fantastic if you get this information from the consumer voluntarily — but that’s very vey different from this behind the scenes profile generation.”

In fact, he sees the success of his company as a cautionary note to others. “From our perspective, it’s important for fellow startups and companies to know that consumers do really care about their privacy, so the most important thing is to respect that — and take the popularity of services like ours as a signal not to mess with it too much.”

Join us for what will undoubtedly be an illuminating discussion on what successful companies are doing around identity unification, the best tech platforms to do it, and the consumers need to their privacy isn’t be ignored.

In this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • Why customer identity is more critical than ever
  • The challenges of collecting and unifying customer data
  • Key tools for capturing customer data
  • Best options for enriching existing customer profiles
  • Methods and technologies to unify customer data

Speakers:

Andrew Jones, Insight Analyst, VentureBeat
Shawn Burns, Senior Vice President, Web and Digital Marketing, Schneider Electric

Scott Kabat, CMO, Prezi
Zouhair Belkoura, CEO, KeepSafe

 


This webinar is sponsored by Janrain. All research presented was done in advance and entirely independent of any sponsor.

 

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Dropbox’s Wall Street Challenge

Dropbox Dropbox boasts a valuation in the $10 billion range. Last February the company hired a new CFO, which for many startups is a signal that their IPO moment is coming sooner rather than later. Nobody knows for sure of course, and Dropbox isn’t talking, but if the company does decide to move forward with a flotation, it could face several challenges in spite of its strong market presence.… Read More

Skin Cancer Checker App, SkinVision, Snags $3.4M To Move Beyond Moles

SkinVision Can an app warn you that you might have skin cancer? Digital health startup SkinVision is using smartphone tech and vision algorithms to allow consumers to track changes to their moles. Users of its iOS and Android apps, which have been downloaded some 200,000 times since launch back in 2011, take a photo of a mole and the app then performs a visual analysis, with the aim of identifying… Read More