All posts in “Apps”

New Clerky tools help startups hire and raise funds without running into legal problems


Clerky may not be a household name like TurboTax today, but the company’s business formation software has been called a “secret weapon” by startup founders in Silicon Valley for years. Many Y Combinator cofounders use it to get their companies started on paper. And now, Clerky is launching two new tools called Hiring and Fundraising to help startups move beyond incorporation.

Co-founded by attorneys Darby Wong and Chris Field in 2011, Clerky focuses on the needs of startups, not just any small business, but companies that optimize for growth and intend to raise some angel or venture funding. These companies also typically issue equity compensation to employees, consultants or advisors.

CEO Wong said, “Our software makes it easy for founders of startups to get their legal paperwork done without messing it up, and without having to pay lawyers or paralegals to do what amounts to time consuming clerical work. We’re not trying to replace lawyers though. We’re trying to make it so that startups can save their money for what makes lawyers valuable– legal advice.”

The company’s Formation, Fundraising and Hiring software includes features that facilitate attorney-client collaboration, Wong explains. For example, founders can have their lawyer double-check everything they type into the Clerky system, and be automatically apprised whenever they close a new investor. Or founders may use the platform to communicate with their attorneys to figure out what should be a new employee’s vesting provision.

While an attorney will charge startups thousands of dollars, typically, to handle their seed financings, Clerky’s Fundraising tool costs $99 for six months of unlimited issuances of SAFEs or convertible notes. Companies that formed their business off the Clerky Formation platform need to also pay a $99 setup fee, as the startup has to evaluate their business to ensure they’re in the clear to begin issuing SAFEs and convertible notes.

When it comes to incorporating a business efficiently online, Clerky faces competition from major platforms like Stripe: Atlas, LegalZoom or BizFilings.com, which are generally aimed at business formation and not per se targeting “hypergrowth” startups with a Silicon Valley mindset. But it faces less competition on the fundraising and hiring front where negotiations today are facilitated by consultancies, law firms and in some cases helped along with open source documents available from various VC blogs, and law firms.

Featured Image: Clerky Inc.

New app will finally let you be your best emoji self

same tbh
same tbh

Image: Shutterstock / photototo

What came first, the face or the emoji? Okay, there’s a clear answer here — but Facetune’s new Memoji app by Lightrick lets you make photos and selfies look more like classic emojis.

Forget the real tears and slap on a cartoon water droplet! Why make a kissy face at the camera when the app can do it for you? Also, there’s a unicorn filter, and it’s magical.

Memoji, released on Friday, will give the emoji treatment to any photo on your phone, newly taken or uploaded from the camera roll. The current version allows these to be warped into the crying-laugh emoji, the kissy-face emoji, the devil emoji, happy and sad emojis, a nauseous emoji, heart-eyes, sunglasses, smoking nostrils, and that unicorn we mentioned. 

Image: lightrick/itunes

The instant emoji filter can be downloaded as a picture, video, or gif and shared as needed — like this otherwise cute selfie I took in February that will now give my friends nightmares:

Or this gif I saved of Daniel Radcliffe that will never be the same:

“Emojis have become a part of everyday conversation and guide the way we chat and share our emotions, but the overall reach and impact of this important technology is limited,” said Nir Pochter, chief marketing officer of Lightricks, in a statement. “As emoji connoisseurs, we knew that the next level of societal emojification was letting it guide the photo editing process from the very start. People want more than to just send emojis, they want to be emojis. While the world is busy applying AI to silly ventures like autonomous vehicles and data analysis, we’re taking it to where the need is greatest – making us more sophisticated emotional beings — emojis.”

So now, when an emoji or selfie won’t suffice when trying to convey your emotions, combine the two — and watch the hilarious results.

WATCH: 4 tech tips to epically prank your friends on April Fools’ Day

Robinhood stock trading app valued at $1.3 billion with big raise from DST


Zero-fee stock trading app Robinhood is completing a huge fund raise to fuel its attack on big brokerage firms that charge around $7 to $10 per trade. According to sources, the round is led by Yuri Milner investment vehicle DST Global and values the company at $1.3 billion. Robinhood declined to comment.

Robinhood got its start in 2013 by offering a way for younger, less wealthy users to start investing. It provides an easy-to-use app for free tracking and trading of stocks. Robinhood replaces the traditional brokerages like Scottrade and E*Trade who charge per trade to cover their brick-and-mortar franchise, sales staff, and marketing spend.

Since Robinhood instead employs a leaner engineering-focused team and doesn’t need physical locations, it can pass the savings on to customers and undercut competitors by charging no per trade fee.

Robinhood founders Baiju Bhatt (left) and Vladamir Tenev (right)

Robinhood has since built a platform that allow other developers to offer zero-fee trades in their own apps. Last year, it launched its primary revenue stream, a $10 per month premium Robinhood Gold option. That allows users to skip the three-day waiting period for deposits and make trades instantly, as well as borrow up to double the amount of money in their account to trade on margin with leverage.

Sources say Robinhood Gold has sold better than expected, which likely gave it the momentum for this big raise as investors seek to “pour gasoline on the fire.” Robinhood’s status was further bolstered by the fact that established brokerage Charles Schwab reduced its fees in February.

At the time, the startup issued a statement that “We’re happy to see Charles Schwab lower its commission fees. Ideally, they would have eliminated them altogether, along with the required $1,000 account minimum. At Robinhood, we view commission fees as arbitrary mark-ups like taxes, which discourage participation in the financial markets.”

Comparative pricing chart for stock brokerages as of September 2016

Earlier today, Fortune reported that Robinhood was seeking a round of financing valuing it at more than $1 billion. Sources tell us that the deal is essentially done, and was led by DST Global, which put in money at a $1.3 billion pre-money valuation.

DST is best known for its investments in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and Zynga in the years leading up to those companies going public. Since then the firm has been quieter but no less active, as it continues to fund high-growth later-stage companies.

Most recently, Robinhood had raised $50 million from New Enterprise Associates in early 2015. Prior to the DST investment, the company had raised $66 million total, with previous investors including Index Ventures,  Andreessen Horowitz, Elefund, GV, IT Ventures, LocalGlobe, and Machine Shop Ventures, as well as angel investors Aaron Levie, Dave Morin, Howard Lindzon, Jared Leto, Jordan Mendell and Nasir “Nas” Jones.

DST and other investors may see outdated brokerages who haven’t swiftly adopted mobile technology as running scared. Unless or until they approach Robinhood’s $0 price point, the startup has an opportunity to steal their customers while recruiting new ones who aren’t rich enough to afford the traditional fees.

How Stories Search makes Snapchat a real-time YouTube

Snapchat is shifting from a social network limited to content shared by people you follow to an ephemeral, real-time database of what’s going on now everywhere. Today Snapchat launched Search for Stories submitted to its public Our Stories. It makes Snapchat as deep as whatever the world is sharing, creating near-infinite rabbit holes to go down, and a stronger competitor for YouTube and Twitter.

That aligns exactly with Snap IPO strategy following the slow-down of user growth after the removal of auto-advance and the launch of Instagram Stories and Facebook’s other competing clones: Snapchat wants to be where some people spend tons of engagement time, rather than where everyone spends a little time.

It also sees Snapchat break one of its cardinal rules. User generated content is no longer limited to a lifespan of 24 hours. A Snapchat spokesperson confirms to TechCrunch that some Snaps submitted to Our Stories that appear in the new Search feature will be visible from less than a day to up to a few weeks or even months.

If content around a theme is being submitted more rapidly, what’s seen in Search results will turn over more quickly, while themes that only get submissions every few days may see Snaps stay visible for longer to make sure there’s something to watch for the theme.

[embedded content]

How Snapchat Stories Search works

In January, Snapchat opened the ability to submit to Our Story from people in certain locations like big events or at certain times like Christmas everywhere, to everyone everywhere all the time. But this meant it was pulling in way more content than its human curators could package into specific, widely-visible Our Stories like ones for the Macy’s Day Parade or the NBA Finals.

Now, Snapchat is using algorithms to scan the caption text, time, and visual elements found in Snaps submitted to Our Story and group them by theme. For example it could pull out Snaps with the words “dog” or “puppy” in captions, or use machine vision to detect the shape of a real dog in the photos or videos, and aggregate them into an Our Story that comes up when people search for “Puppies”. Snap notes you could use this to watch a nearby basketball game, see what’s happening a local bar, check out a specific Fashion Week runway show, or explore a vacation spot. Over 1 million themes will have Search results available. 

The rollout of the feature begins with people in select U.S. cities being able to search for public Our Stories, but everyone’s submissions are already being indexed. For now, no ads, sponsored lenses, or sponsored geofilters will appear in the Search collections. That makes this a play for more engagement, not a new channel to drive more ad views.

Snaps submitted to Our Story can appear in Search results for up to months, rather than disappearing after 24 hours like usual

Why Search makes Snapchat endless

Previously, you could think of Snapchat like a television with the Stories of people you follow as different cable channels. Discover and Snapchat Shows were like HBO, offering extra premium content. All you could watch was what these channels aired. If you flipped through all the channels and still weren’t satisfied, you were out of luck.

Search is like having the world’s biggest Blockbuster video rental spot open up next door. Suddenly you can browse a near-endless array of content in all sorts of categories, from popular mainstream releases to weird niche foreign films. New films arrive faster than you can watch them, so there’s always something you haven’t seen available.

For the biggest Snapchat fans, this uncaps their potential engagement time. You can now do around-the-clock movie marathons.

Another analogy is to think of Search as turning Snapchat into the ephemeral, real-time YouTube built for mobile video creation. YouTube indexes the world’s online recorded video content with Google’s search prowess. But often there’s a delay of a few hours to days from when something is recorded to when people upload it. And since YouTube was originally built for the web, the clips are typically longer, from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

That norm subtly discourages short-form, mobile-shot, real-time, off-the-cuff content. And that leaves the door open for Snapchat and its new search feature. Instead of just relying on text descriptions and manually-added tags, Snapchat is using machine vision to see what’s actually in content, categorize, and index it. Since it’s all mobile and people submit to Our Story as soon as they’ve shot something, plus its curated mostly by algorithms, content should be more quickly searchable.

And because Snaps disappear eventually, even if not just after 24 hours here, it encourages the submission and searchability of raw, unpolished, but still compelling content YouTube isn’t getting.

Finally, you could also see Stories Search as a competitor to Twitter. If you want to read what people are saying around a topic in real-tme, today you search Twitter. But now if you want to SEE what people are capturing with their cameras around a topic in real-time, you can search Snapchat. The camera is the new keyboard, after all.

These ideas both support the narrative Snap has been pitching to investors. It can’t sell itself on future user growth and eventual massive scale like Facebook since its growth plummeted late last year around when Instagram Stories launched. Instead, while it only has 158 million daily active users, it repeatedly highlighted that they spend 25-30 minutes a day in Snapchat on average. Search thereby fuels Snapchat’s best hope for growth, not in breadth of users but in the depth of their engagement.

If Snap can’t get everyone on earth using it because of Facebook’s slew of Stories competitors steal the international markets and older demographics, than Snap must get the U.S. teens it already has addicted to stick around longer. Search is how.

Snapchat now lets you search across over 1 million Stories

[embedded content]

Snapchat has opened up search across over 1 million curated public Stories, with a new feature release that could be a very helpful tool not only for users, but for advertisers, too. The search feature allows users to find Stories relevant to their interest by keyword, from a large number shared publicly by users and brands.

The Stories search is built on new tech behind the scenes that uses machine learning to identify what’s happening in Stories submitted to the network’s Our Story feature, and to organize it by keyword accordingly. This can identify elements shared int eh story by either elements of the image, or by words included in captions.

This new feature will roll out to the broader Snapchat community in pieces: Today, it’s coming to just a few select cites at launch, with gradual introduction to additional loaves planned from their.

A search function should help with user stickiness: The ability to easily find content you’re interested in should result in longer time spent in-app among users. It’s also likely to help with advertiser targeting; adding a search function opens up tons of opportunities for targeted advertising products in the future, including promoted Stories specific to certain keywords and queries.