Argentina’s government is wooing entrepreneurs with a new law

Despite years of economic uncertainties and the lack of a proper legal framework to help promising startups obtain capital, Argentine entrepreneurs are building a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The country is home to many of Latin America’s biggest startup success stories, and with the introduction of one new law, the pathway to success is about to get a whole lot easier. Last month, the Senate voted unanimously to approve legislation supporting entrepreneurial activity growth in Argentina.

Aimed at easing the bureaucratic burdens entrepreneurs must bear, and backed by the Association of Entrepreneurs in Argentina (ASEA) and Argentina Association of Private Equity, Venture and Seed Capital (ARCAP), the new legislation replaces the old application, approval and financing procedures that took up to one year for entrepreneurs to complete before they could legally launch their companies.

The passing of the Entrepreneurs’ Law (Ley de Emprendedores) comes at a pivotal time for Argentina. It is aligned with President Mauricio Macri’s push to open up Argentina’s economy and place the country once again in the global market. But, to fully understand the significance of the Entrepreneurs’ Law, it’s important to understand Argentina’s difficult, yet resilient, entrepreneurial past.

Early offices of Argentine giant Globant

Decades of peaks and valleys

Argentina’s startup story begins in the 1990s when, after facing years of high inflation, the government launched new initiatives to reopen the country. This period of time coincided with the 1990s’ dot-com bubble, and Buenos Aires became a launching pad for some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country’s history.

During this time, it’s estimated that 70 percent of the venture capital available in Latin America was concentrated in Buenos Aires. It was also during this time that the country’s first major internet companies got their start.

A group of Argentine entrepreneurs founded MercadoLibre, Latin America’s equivalent of eBay, which launched its IPO in 2007, as well as OfficeNet, which was acquired by Staples in 2004. For many years to come, these companies gave aspiring entrepreneurs hope in a country where climbing the corporate ladder was often seen as the only way to advance or succeed.

Unfortunately, the 1990s ended poorly for Argentina, and the country entered a steep economic crisis, faced a severe currency devaluation and defaulted on its public debts in 2001. Since then, entrepreneurs have faced a difficult business environment, relying on patience and extreme determination to uncover funding for their ventures in a capital-scarce environment.

A few tech companies, like OLX, Argentina’s answer to Craigslist, and now publicly traded outsourcing giant Globant, were remarkably successful during the 2000s. However, in recent years, the growth of Argentina’s startup ecosystem has been somewhat stagnant and laced with far too many obstacles for today’s entrepreneurs to truly succeed.

It was during this time (in 2013) that neighboring Chile passed a similar “Law of Businesses in One Day,” which allowed Chilean entrepreneurs to start a business in just one day and complete all the necessary paperwork and registration requirements online. The Chilean Association of Entrepreneurs (Asech) helped pass the law just before the entirely government-funded initiative, Start-Up Chile, emerged to revitalize the country’s position as a global, innovative leader.

The program has since become one of the most successful acceleration programs the global startup community has ever seen. The Chilean startup ecosystem exploded and Santiago was even dubbed “Chilecon Valley.”

Start-Up Chile has helped more than 3,000 entrepreneurs to date, and more than 30 percent of the startups that have been through the program have gone on to raise additional capital. CORFO is another Chilean governmental initiative that invested heavily in innovation and entrepreneurship in the country early on and became a key player in transforming Chile into a global innovation and entrepreneurial hub.

For Argentina’s startup community, and organizations like ASEA and ARCAP, Chile has been a prime example of what is possible when entrepreneurs have the backing and support of the government. This is why the passing of the Entrepreneurs’ Law comes at such a crucial time. Argentine innovators have always stood out in the region, but with this new law, the country’s entrepreneurs can finally go beyond being just a regional success story and take a momentous leap forward as a leader in technology and innovation in the world.

For the last few years, emerging markets have been drawing inspiration for their entrepreneurial laws from another program that has been widely credited as a prime model of successful government intervention in venture capital: Yozma.

In 1993, the Israeli government created Yozma, a $100 million fund of funds, that spawned 10 venture capital funds in just three years. The program had three key features that contributed to its success. It supported many small funds, it did not try to select winners and, lastly, it helped foster relationships between Israeli and international venture capitalists.

In Mexico, INADEM and NAFIN teamed up to replicate the Yozma model, as spreading money across as many funds as possible has its advantages. For one, the number of companies funded by venture capital is what matters in job creation and GDP growth, rather than the actual amount invested in each company. More venture capital flowing means more investors are provided with the opportunity to learn the trade.

The new Entrepreneurs’ Law in Argentina consists of a number of measures aimed at increasing entrepreneurial and investment activity in the country by improving the ease of doing business, providing new channels of financing and, perhaps most importantly, providing attractive new tax breaks and incentives for those interested in investing in Argentine startups and venture capital funds.

Here’s an overview of how each of these measures will play a significant role in launching the next wave of startups “Made in Argentina.”

Fast-track for company registration

The Entrepreneurs’ Law will facilitate the establishment, promotion and potential growth of new companies by allowing them to set up their businesses via the internet in 24 hours with a simplified business entity (SAS) model. This includes the opening of a bank account, digital books and setting up a CUIT (identification number). Another interesting advantage of the Company by Simplified Shares (SAS) model is that even though it allows Argentine companies to have just one owner, if a founder wishes to add a partner, there is no need to modify the type of partnership.

Currently, the entire process to set up a business in Argentina can take anywhere from six months to one year. This setup time is now significantly reduced, even providing companies with a temporary address. Founders will then have between six and 12 months to change to a permanent address.

New channels of financing

For the first time, Argentina will allocate public funds to co-invest with private investors in order to promote the development of entrepreneurial projects. The Entrepreneurs’ Law will create the Fiduciary Fund for the Development of Venture Capital (FONDCE), which will work to finance ventures and venture capital institutions. Over the next year, the fund will contribute up to 40 percent (of the total capital committed) to three venture capital funds, so long as the institutions also provide a counterpart.

A formal registry of venture capital institutions will also be created and serve as a place for Argentina’s various institutions and investors to register and share information. Fund managers, private investors, as well as funds and trusts, regardless of whether they are public or private, will all be able to register. This will make it much easier to track VC activity in the country.

Attractive tax incentives for investors

Argentine startups constantly face a short supply of financing opportunities from the private sector. As a result, they’ve had to rely on a very few angel investors, VC funds and, of course, more traditional FFF sources of capital (friends, family and fools.)

With the new Entrepreneurs’ Law, investors now have more incentive to invest in qualified startups or venture capital funds. Seventy-five percent of any investment in an SAS company or SAS accredited investment fund will be tax-deductible for up to 10 percent of the investor’s annual profits. Investors who choose to invest in less developed areas, with lower access to capital, will be able to deduct up to 85 percent.

Greater support for accelerators, crowdfunding platforms

The government plans to provide technical and financial assistance to 13 accelerator programs — 10 dedicated to technological and social ventures and three to science-based ventures — with the creation of a new seed fund program.

Financial assistance will come from various channels, including soft loans, non-reimbursable contributions and the FONDCE. Over the next year, the government also plans to co-create with the private sector 10 new accelerators, making it an exciting time for programs that help Argentine entrepreneurs drive their companies forward.

Finally, companies that wish to raise funding by selling equity, or offering convertible notes online via crowdfunding platforms, can now do so. The Entrepreneurs’ Law enables crowdfunding platforms to register their services and help entrepreneurs across the country receive investments for their projects with ease. An interesting component to point out is that the law also grants a secondary crowdfunding market to be implemented, allowing investors to sell their equity and convertible notes, and, therefore, injecting liquidity into the market.

Man coding on computer at night.

A new wave of startups coming to life

Despite years of political and economic uncertainties, Argentina has managed to produce some of Latin America’s biggest startup success stories. The country is home to four out of the region’s nine most valuable “unicorn” technology companies. But it’s time for VCs to start paying attention to today’s entrepreneurs.

Even though Argentina is still in the early stages of this new government-startup collaboration, it will be exciting to witness firsthand all of the incredible things Argentine entrepreneurs can accomplish when they have the support of the government and friendlier conditions to operate.

With a boost in investments, a new wave of companies will also be able to generate jobs that will have a real social, environmental and economic impact on the country. The struggles Argentine entrepreneurs once faced will be mitigated with the Entrepreneurs’ Law; however, eliminating these hurdles completely will require even more guidance and support from the startup community. But there is hope that local investors will now be able to provide them with just that.

Featured Image: Gisela Giardino/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE

Uber’s founder, Travis Kalanick, has resigned as CEO

Why it matters to you

The company will now be intent on steering a steadier course following months of criticism.

Uber founder Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO of the ridesharing company.

Kalanick decided to step down on Tuesday night following intense pressure from five major investors, The New York Times reported.

News of the 40-year-old founder’s departure follows mounting criticism over the way the company has been conducting its business, and comes just a few days after the funeral of his mother who died in a boating accident at the end of last month.

It’s believed that Kalanick will stay on as a member of Uber’s board of directors. It’s not clear at this stage who will lead the company.

In a statement seen by the Times, Kalanick said: “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

According to reports, Kalanick’s decision followed a revolt among shareholders who told him earlier on Tuesday that new leadership was required for the company to move forward.

Kalanick, who founded Uber in 2009, reportedly received the demand by letter while in Chicago. After several hours of discussions, he finally agreed to leave the top job.

While Uber has always faced plenty of criticism about how it conducts its business, matters appeared to take a turn for the worse earlier this year when a former employee made allegations of a company culture where sexual harassment and gender discrimination was rife.

Keen to clean up its act, the company conducted an investigation into its workplace practices, which culminated in the firing of 20 employees and the release of a report last week that recommended Kalanick play less of a major role in the business.

In response to the report, Uber’s founder began an indefinite leave of absence before finally resigning on Tuesday.

Besides concerns about its workplace culture, the company is also embroiled in a legal battle with Google spinoff Waymo over the alleged theft of autonomous-car tech. It’s also facing a probe by the Department of Justice following accusations that it used secret technology to hide its vehicles from officials in some cities where attempts were being made to cut down on the service.

Uber’s investors will be hoping new leadership will set the company on a steadier course free of controversy, and we’ll update this article as soon as we hear more about how it plans to move forward.

Growbots raises $2.5M for its machine learning-based sales automation platform

Growbots uses machine learning to provide sales teams with the right leads to kickstart their outbound sales process. The service, which argues that its product can save each member of a sales team a few days of work every month, today announced that it has raised a $2.5 million funding round from Buran VC, Lighter Capital and a number of angel investors. This brings the company’s total funding to $4.2 million.

Growbots’ service look at a company’s own CRM data to learn about its customers, extract data about them and adjusts its target lists accordingly. “Growbots’ AI algorithms will generate tailored contact lists for your team in minutes, run all of your outreach campaigns, optimize team/individual results, and manage their inboxes, so each person can focus entirely on talking to potential customers,” the company’s CEO and co-founder Greg Pietruszynski told us.

To do this, the company has amassed a list of about 200 million potential sales targets from a number of different sources. The service also uses machine learning to analyze millions of websites every day to extract new information about people and businesses. Pietruszynski notes that the company is highly selective about where it gets its data from. “We don’t purchase contact information from anywhere, as any ready to use lists are low qualify — very outdated,” he told us.

Once results roll in, Growbots will continually update its algorithms based on the responses it sees and optimize the next campaign based on this data. The company argues that its customers are seeing an average of 40 percent more positive responses after using its service for a month. Instead of spending days building contact lists, Growbots promises better results in only a few minutes.

As for the campaign automation part of the service, Growbot notes that it gives sales teams the ability to personalize emails automatically (and to craft them manually, too, if they choose to do so). Among other things, the service also automatically sends follow-up emails and reschedules emails when it gets out-of-office messages from prospects.

Growbots is currently seeing 10 percent growth month over month and Pietruszynski says his company hit a $4 million annual run rate after 16 months of selling its product. The company now has 500 customers, most of which are in the U.S., though the service is available globally. Some of its current customers include Betterment, Relatable and Highfive.

With offices in San Francisco and Cleveland, Growbots now has 20 people on its U.S. team and is hiring for another 26 positions.

Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky and Airbnb growth lead Gustaf Alstromer join Y Combinator

Y Combinator is officially adding three new team members to its roster this morning. Gustaf Alstromer, formerly product leader of Airbnb’s growth team, is joining YC as a partner. Meanwhile Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky is taking a visiting partner role and Jocelyn Robancho is coming on board to assist with organizing YC’s startup batches.

Though Alstromer and Migicovsky each have their own areas of domain expertise, both told me that their new roles will demand a generalist approach. Each will prioritize assisting with diligence and mentorship while maintaining the flexibility to take on projects of interest.

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    Gustaf Alstromer

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    Eric Migicovsky

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    Jocelyn Robancho

“While I’m interested in helping during the three month YC program, I also want to talk to YC hardware startups at other stages,” Migicovsky told me in an interview. “What could the YC network do to support these companies?”

Even as a generalist, having an extra hardware expert on staff should yield additional benefits for YC-backed hardware companies. Luke Iseman previously held a “Director of Hardware” role at Y Combinator throughout 2015 and 2016. He left in October of last year to pursue his latest startup, Boxouse — that startup ended up a part of the subsequent YC batch.

As a visiting partner, Migicovsky has not committed to staying at YC past the completion of its next batch, although there is precedent for visiting partners transitioning into longer-term partner positions. Alstromer was a visiting partner during the last batch and decided to join full-time this summer.

Alstromer is interested both in scaling startups and scaling YC. He is thinking about creative ways to reach larger audiences — something YC has been pouring a lot of resources into with its Startup School MOOC.

Both Alstromer and Migicovsky have experience investing in startups as angels but neither has worked in a structured investing and mentorship role before. But having both been through Y Combinator as founders, they will be extra relatable to new founders and bring the lessons of their successes and failures full circle.

‘Game of Thrones’ new Season 7 trailer is cool as hell, because ICYMI, winter is here

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A new Game of Thrones Season 7 trailer has arrived just in time to celebrate Summer Solstice, because forget what the calendar says, winter is here. (Or it will be in a little under a month, at least.)

The White Walkers were conspicuously absent in the first Season 7 trailer, but the new footage more than makes up for it, showing the Night King and his undead army in all their frosty glory.

The chilling new trailer release is part of a massive HBO social media campaign to take over the Summer Solstice by “winterizing” the web — Game of Thrones fans can unlock exclusive Season 7 content on Twitter, Reddit and Google search, so there’ll be no doubt that despite the warm weather, winter is truly here on July 16, and no one is safe.

Periscope lets you buy and send Super Hearts that broadcasters can cash in

Periscope has a new revenue stream and a new way to attract the best live video content to its Twitter-owned app. Today Periscope launches Super Hearts — in-app purchase virtual goods that users buy for real money, send to creators as animated hearts that get them attention in the comment reel, and that broadcasters can then redeem with Twitter for a monthly cash pay-out.

After the 30% tax on in-app purchases from iOS or Android and transaction processing fees, Twitter will pay 70% of the cash value of the Super Hearts to the broadcasters and keep 30% for itself. Super Hearts are rolling out globally on iOS and Android. For now, only broadcasters in the US are eligible to cash out their ‘tips’, but Periscope hopes to extend that to everyone soon.

Super Hearts seem to be inspired by the livestream virtual gifting trend in China, where fans buy digital roses and stickers to send to broadcasters on Yingke, Yizhibo, and other apps. Last week, Apple formally approved the process of in-app tipping, or users sending virtual goods to content creators that are exchangeable for real money. Yet Periscope tells me it was planning to launch this feature any way and didn’t work with Apple on it, but says the change “makes the spirit of what we’re trying to do more blessed” by Apple.

How To Buy, Send, And Cash-In Super Hearts

The feature is unfortunately a bit confusing. You’ll see the Super Heart icon while watching broadcasts. Tapping it opens the Super Heart store, but first you’ll have to buy a bunch of virtual ‘coins’ starting at $0.99 with packages ranging up to $100. Then you can buy three different kinds of Super Hearts with these coins, ranging from cheaper basic hearts covered in plus signs, to a bubbly and sparkly mid-range heart, to the most expensive ones that give off explosions and feature your face in the center. You can then send these hearts by tapping across any broadcasts you watch. For example, $0.99 gets you enough coins to send roughly 30 of the basic Super Hearts.

The feature could sadly disclude lower-income viewers as there’s no way to earn coins, unlike it many games that sell virtual currency but also let users grind to earn it free.

When users send the Super Hearts they’ve bought, they’ll show up more prominently on the broadcast than free hearts that users can already send. The people who send the most Super Hearts during a broadcast are shown on a leaderboard, which other viewers can watch in envy or broadcasters can check to see who to shower with love on camera. For now, you can only buy and send Super Hearts from Periscope, though you’ll see them if you’re watching a Periscope broadcast via Twitter.

Every Super Heart a broadcaster receives its coin value added to their ‘star’ count that appears on their profile. Once broadcasters have $175 worth of stars (around 185,000 stars) accrued, they can apply to join Periscope’s Super Broadcaster program. If admitted, they can cash out their star balance for real money via ACH transfer at the end of each month. If broadcasters don’t want to squeeze money out of their fans, they can turn off receiving Super Hearts.

Regarding the fee structure and Twitter’s revenue share, Periscope’s Sara Haider tells TechCrunch:

“We created Super Hearts for qualified broadcasters to monetize their content, and our objective is to learn from and iterate on this program to help them realize the most earning potential. After standard fees from in-app purchases and payment processing, broadcasters will receive around 70% of the remaining value. Changes in fees and foreign exchange fluctuations means that the effective percentage can vary.”

You might feel like this is all a bit baffling, with coins buying hearts that earn stars that are redeemed for money. That’s because it is. Users and broadcasters may be hesitant about the feature because it’s so hard to understand how much you’re paying or how much your favorite creator is getting.

But for some mega-fans, the ability to show up prominently in the comments and leaderboard of their favorite broadcaster, or even get thanked by name, could be enough for them to wade through the virtual currency mathematics necessary.

Twitter Dives Into The Virtual Currency Business

If Super Hearts really take off, they become a helpful revenue stream for Twitter, which recently started making a comeback with strong Q1 2017 earnings. Meanwhile, it could give creators a reason to broadcast on Periscope instead of Facebook Live where they have to use clumsy mid-roll ad breaks to earn money, or Snapchat and Instagram where they have to give their content away for free.

However, the broadcaster community is hesitant to say this will make them rich. One Periscope celebrity told me “I think it’s a great first step, but realistically this is going to provide pocket change for broadcasters. This isn’t going to be a monetization feature that will allow people to make big bucks, so I think they have to manage expectations with that.”

Broadcasters who want to turn streaming into a profession continue to look to Twitch and its cheering feature, Busker, which was built around creator monetization, and Patreon, whose subscription patronage platform just launched a paid fan-only streaming feature. There’s also YouTube, with its combination of ad revenue sharing and Super Chat where fans pay to have their comments stand out.

Periscope will have to be very weary of adult performers using Super Hearts to sell pornographic broadcasts. That seems to be the reasoning behind the application-based Super Broadcaster program and $175 threshold. Adult performers likely wouldn’t be able to pass the verification, and anyone who suddenly wants to dip into the skin trade would have to earn a bunch first and get approved before they could cash out.

Regarding the option to buy and send Super Hearts via Twitter, or the ability to spend Periscope coins on anything else, Twitter refused to say. But if this initial dive into the virtual goods space goes well, there’s plenty that Twitter could sell, from special stickers or badges to jazz up your profile, to ways to get your tweets seen by more people.

If Twitter can figure out what people are willing to buy without breaking its social network’s open platform for opinions, it could earn more off its smaller set of hardcore users instead of worrying about growing much bigger to drive ad views.

Uber finally gives in, now lets you tip your driver from the app

Why it matters to you

If you use Uber and always wanted to give more than a good rating to a rider, now you can.

Uber changed the taxi industry but mostly failed to adopt one of its foundational tenets — tipping. On Tuesday, the ridesharing giant is changing that and announced you can now tip your drivers straight from the app.

After upgrading to the latest version of the app, you will be able to add a tip after a completed trip or UberEats delivery. Once you input your star rating for the driver you will be given the option to tip in predetermined increments or any amount you desire. If you are unable to tip at the time or wish to do it later, you have up to 30 days to tip your rider. You will get detailed information on which trips you gave tips and the amount in your trip history.

Drivers will need to update their version of the app and click the Accept Tips button to opt-in. Drivers will also be happy to know their star ratings will not affect how much of the tip they receive as Uber does not get a cut of the money. Drivers can also cash out their tips using Instant Pay as soon as they receive the money.

At first, tipping will only be available in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Houston so Uber can test-run and properly assess the feature. But, everyone in the United States riding in Uber and/or ordering from UberEats will be able to give a bit extra to the driver in the Uber app by the end of July.

Uber has had a particularly complicated stance on tipping. At one point, Uber’s website informed riders  “tips are included in the price of a ride,” even though they have never been. It took Uber paying a $100 million settlement for the company to change its messaging to indicate drivers are allowed to solicit tips. Now the company has a policy where “drivers may request tips at their discretion.”

Lyft has allowed riders to do in-app tipping for years and announced its drivers have amassed more than $200 million in tips over four years.

Lenovo flashes hinge-free, ThinkPad laptop concept with a bending screen

Why it matters to you

Lenovo is looking into the future with its ThinkPad prototype design, but the final product may not appear for years to come.

During the Lenovo Transform event in New York City, Lenovo Senior Vice President Christian Teismann revealed a concept design showcasing where Lenovo wants to take the ThinkPad brand. The device was presented via a slide showcasing a laptop-like form factor with no hinge. Instead, the device featured a foldable, unibody design with a screen that could bend as well.

“This is more than just design, or look and feel. It’s a new set of advanced materials and new screen technologies,” he told the audience. “It’s how you can speak to it, or write on it, or how it speaks to you. Always connected. Always on.”

He added that the future ThinkPad would have the ability to communicate on multiple inputs and outputs. He also indicated that the device would rely heavily on artificial intelligence so that it could anticipate the user’s next meeting, next vacation, and every task.

Based on the slide, Lenovo’s prototype does not have a touchpad. Instead, the device includes what appears to be left/right mouse buttons and a flattened mouse wheel complemented by a red TrackPoint button seated within the keyboard. Also not present are actual ports for Ethernet, USB devices, and HDMI output to keep the paper-thin form factor.

In addition to the bending shape, what is interesting about this prototype is the actual screen that extends well below the “bend” to connect with the keyboard. He also indicated that users could write directly on the screen with the typical pencil. The screen itself suggests OLED panel technology for its high brightness, brilliant colors, and low power requirement.

A display you can “roll” is not anything new, but getting the remaining hardware to fit within the proposed super-slim form, in addition to the keyboard, will be an interesting feat. The latest LG Gram laptop measures just 0.6 inches closed and it is extremely thin and light.

In addition to teasing the Lenovo Transform attendees with a prototype, Teismann said that a special edition of its ThinkPad laptop will be officially revealed in October. As part of the ThinkPad brand’s 25-year anniversary, the laptop will include “throwback” features of past models while sporting the best, most powerful features of today.

Overall, the Lenovo Transform event revealed new products for the business and enterprise sectors including the ThinkStation P320 Tiny sporting a discrete Nvidia Quadro P600 graphics chip. Teismann called it the world’s smallest professional workstation, and in his hand the device resembled a set-top-box for streaming media. It has “the power of a tower” despite its small size.

Lenovo just refreshed its ThinkPad lineup in May with the Yoga 370, the T470, the T470p, the T470s, and more. The company even introduced the ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 dock along with the ThinkPad USB-C dock.

Snapchat launches location sharing feature Snap Map

Snapchat’s next big feature wants to get you to meet up with friends in real-life rather than just watching each other’s lives on your phones. Snap Map lets you share your current location, which appears to friends on a map and updates when you open Snapchat. It’s rolling out today to all iOS and Android users globally.

“We’ve built a whole new way to explore the world! See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!” Snap writes on its blog.

How To Use Snapchat’s Snap Map

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When you open Snapchat once you have access to the feature, you can choose to share your location with all your friends, a few friends you select, or you can disappear from the map at any time by going into Ghost Mode or not opening Snapchat for a few hours. Alternatively, location sharing is turned off by default and you can leave it that way to just lurk, watching what friends are up to.

To access the Snap Map, you pinch on your Snapchat camera home screen. From there you can scroll around to see where friends are in your city or around the world. Tapping on their “ActionMoji” BitMoji avatar opens their Story to show what they’re up to, or lets you message them directly to make meetup plans. Snapchat automatically picks an ActionMoji for you based on your location, time of day, and other factors.

Outside of the location sharing element, Snap Map also gives users an alternative way to discover Story content beyond the well-worn Stories feed and the powerful but buried Story Search feature. Users can submit Snapchat Story posts to Our Story to be eligible for their content to appear to non-friends for around 24 hours. You can also see “heat” colors on the Snap Map to see where lots of Snaps are being uploaded, which might indicate a concert or big event that you’d want to explore Snap Stories from.

Snap tells me that Snap Map is designed for enhancing connections between people and their closest friends — engagement that makes up nearly 60% of interactions on Snapchat according data from Sparkler that was commissioned by Snap.

These new ways to surface content could earn Snapchat more money by getting users to watch more Snaps, even if they’re not trying to meet up with friends. However, for now Snap tells me there won’t be any ads on the Snap Map. If you see a cluster of content labeled Featured, that just means it’s curated by Snapchat’s team and will appear in the Discover section as well.

Overall, Snap Map creates a low-friction way to see where your Snap-addicted friends are and what they’re up to. While not as precise as a real-time location sharing feature, it’s also less likely to creep people out.

The Quest To Cure Loneliness

Snap Map will compete with Facebook Messenger’s recently launched Live Location feature. But because Snap Map only updates when you open the app, it’s more geared towards privacy and saving battery life. While Facebook wants to be your bridge to all the acquaintances in your life, Snapchat is focusing on your best friends you can’t live without.

A year ago I wrote that Snapchat and Messenger were the best equipped apps to launch location sharing features and ‘cure loneliness’, and now the two are going head-to-head. The Information reported earlier this week that a Snap Maps feature was in the works

Snapchat has needed something new and special to kick some life into the service after it started getting out competed by clone Instagram Stories which now has 250 million daily users compared to Snapchat’s 166 million. Turning the app into more of a communications and offline meetup utility instead of just an online content sharing network could give teens a whole new reason to stay glued to Snapchat.