All posts in “Startups”

Erik Huggers is stepping down as CEO of Vevo

Vevo, the music video service backed by major record labels, just announced that its CEO Erik Huggers is departing.

Huggers previously worked at the BBC, at Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) and elsewhere. He joined Vevo in 2015.

Under his leadership, Vevo was working to become less reliant on YouTube (which was its major syndication partner) by developing more apps and products like the Watch Party chat feature. The company was also working on a subscription service, although Huggers said earlier this year that those plans had been delayed in favor of international expansion.

Vevo says Huggers is departing “to pursue new opportunities,” with CFO Alan Price stepping in as interim CEO. Price had a similar role after the departure of founding CEO Rio Caraeff.

“We would like to thank Erik for his hard work, dedication and leadership at Vevo, which grew dramatically during his tenure and helped forge stronger connections between artists and fans through popular features and original programming,” said Vevo’s board of directors in the announcement.

Featured Image: Getty Images

EyeEm’s new products aim to understand brand aesthetics

EyeEm is unveiling new tools to help the brands and marketers using the site to source their images.

Underlying these tools is a technology called EyeEm Vision, which we described in-depth earlier this year. The goal is to expand image recognition so that it’s not just identifying the objects in the photo, but also its aesthetic qualities.

EyeEm’s co-founder and chief product officer Lorenz Aschoff described EyeEm Vision as an extension of the photography marketplace’s broader mission to address “the content crisis” — namely the fact that when EyeEm was founded in 2011, Aschoff felt that there was a “massive flood of images” that had “completely destroyed the visual aesthetics of the web.”

EyeEm aims to fix that by helping brands find beautiful photographs. And Aschoff said EyeEm Vision has been trained to identify many of the visual elements that make for a good photograph — it is, in his words, “technology that understands, in general, beauty.”

At the same time, he acknowledged, “What I think is beautiful might be different from what you think is beautiful.” Plus, individual brands are going to have their own specific standards and guidelines that go beyond beauty. So each customer can upload photos that train EyeEm Vision to identify photos that match their own aesthetic — Aschoff said EyeEm’s analysis is looking at around half a million different factors.

EyeEm personalized search

One of the ways EyeEm is actually deploying the technology is by launching a new Missions Dashboard. Brands use Missions to crowdsource campaign photos from the EyeEm community, and the new dashboard allows them to track how their Mission is going — how many photographers are participating, how many photos have been uploaded and so on. EyeEm says that the average Mission results in more than 100,000 photos, which why it’s important to use EyeEm Vision to surface the photos that best match the brand’s style.

EyeEm is also incorporating Vision into a personalized search product, where marketers can search the EyeEm image library, filtered based on their own brand guidelines. For example, BCG’s 11,000 consultants can now search for images to use in their presentations and marketing materials, and EyeEm will only show the images that are a good fit with the BCG brand.

And while this is less directly related to Vision, EyeEm is also announcing a new program called Custom, where brands can work with EyeEm photographers on custom shoots.

Lastly, if you’re curious about Vision, you can try it out for yourself on the EyeEm website.

Featured Image: Eunice Eunny/EyeEm

Let’s meet in New York to talk token sales

I’ve been holding a few micro meet ups over the past few years and thought I’d start it up again in honor of token/ICO mania. I’d love to hear what you all are working on in the New York area so we’ll all meet at Union Hall in Brooklyn next Wednesday at 7pm.

The event is very informal and we’ll plan the next few months of micro-meetups during the event. My goal is to do a few pitching workshops in February and March and then do a real pitch-off in the Spring in preparation for VC season. If you’re interested in talking tokens or honing your startup craft come on out. You can RSVP here.

Featured Image: Klaus Vartzbed EyeEm/Getty Images

Loot, the digital current account aimed at students and millennials, banks £2.2M Series A

“There are two types of competition for us at Loot: the banks and the money management apps,” Loot founder Ollie Purdue tells me. The U.K. startup, founded in 2014 while now 24 year old Purdue was finishing up university, offers a digital-only current account aimed at students and millennials. It comes with a Mastercard and mobile app, with a particular focus on spending insights and real-time budgeting.

“Right now, we have a current account which works like a traditional bank account, but on top of that we have built loads of tech to help you manage your money,” he says. “This includes things like live-budgeting so you know exactly how much you can spend, free FX abroad, or our goals feature designed to help you put money aside and save. We try to focus our users on how much they can spend today, which is why our budgeting circle is the biggest thing you see when you open the app”.

Notably, like a number of competitors, such as Monese, Loot doesn’t have a banking license and has no plans to apply for one but instead operates under an electronic money licence through a partnership with FCA regulated Wirecard. But for all intents and purposes the product serves all current account needs and can operate as a fully-fledged bank replacement. This includes debit card, account number and sort code, and bank transfers with faster payments.

“The banks have significant market share, but struggle with helping people understand their money, and, in my opinion, they also struggle with tech and branding,” says Purdue, noting that since he started Loot, Natwest’s app “hasn’t materially changed in any way I would notice it”. That’s too slow, he says, and that although the new fintech banks are much better at this, “none of us are at scale yet”.

Meanwhile, Purdue reckons money management apps are approaching user problems from a different angle. However, as they don’t “own” the current account, it’s hard to be proactive on behalf of the user, specifically in regards to helping them move money around (although that will arguably change next year as new Open Banking legalisation comes into force). “Also, with a money management app you are still stuck with having to choose a bank! At Loot we are trying to merge the two so we can be the only financial account you need”.

Ever since the original MVP was launched in 2015, Loot has proved one of the quickest ways to access a current account and, as a result, has resonated with international students. “As we were building it, we realised the account would be really useful for international students who struggle to open a bank account when they arrive in the U.K. Although it was basic, it solved the issue of getting an account, which is their top priority,” Purdue says.

To that end, Loot currently claims over 50,000 people use its digital current account, and today is announcing £2.2 million in Series A funding. The round is led by Power Corporation’s corporate VC arm, Portag3 Ventures, and Austrian VC form Speedinvest. Existing backers of the three year old company include Rocket Internet’s GFC and a number of unnamed angel investors and smaller funds. It brings total funding for the 40-plus person company to £6 million since being founded.

“We aim to make money the same ways as a bank, at a fraction of a cost and without the necessary fees,” adds the Loot founder. “This means we’ll build products in lending, wealth management and FX. We have launched our FX inbound service in September and are on track to have all revenue product live in the next 2 years. Our model is also extremely capital efficient. This means we have a much lower cost per user than most banks and even most fintech banks, therefore we can hit profitability much sooner”.

Taylor Swift’s new app, The Swift Life, is out now

In the midst of an reputational makeover, Taylor Swift is debuting a brand new app called The Swift Life.

The app is a dedicated social network for Swift’s fans, letting them communicate with each other as well as get exclusive pictures, video, news and more direct from T-Swift herself.

And they can communicate with Swift, too. Using an ‘extremely rare and valuable Taymoji’, according to Glu, people can effectively bump other users’ posts to alert Taylor that she should take a look at them.

Users will also get animated ‘Taymoji’ pictures and stickers, which they can access by liking and sharing other posts.

If you want to buy sticker packs or listen to music without liking people’s stuff, you can use the virtual currency within the app, picks. (As in, guitar picks.)

The game was developed by Glu Mobile, the game firm responsible for hit titles like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and Restaurant Dash: Gordon Ramsay, as well as less successful games such as Nicki Minaj: Empire.