Winning the Sales Talent War in the Big Data Era

Had a hard time hiring sales talent lately? You aren’t alone. And guess what? It’s only going to get worse!

There are a lot of headwinds confronting sales recruiters these days, according to data from recruitment company PrincetonOne. The strongest may be these:

  • The number of sales jobs is projected to grow 18.8 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — so you’re facing stiffer competition for talent.
  • During the recession, close to 1.6 million salespeople left the field, but the number of sales candidates between the ages of 25 to 40 entering the work force will grow at less than 1 percent. The shortage only threatens to increase as baby boomers leave mid- and senior-level sales positions. Thus, you’re looking for talent from a shrinking pool of candidates.
  • Perhaps most critically, the role of a salesperson has changed in response to customer demands. More technical and industry-specific knowledge is now vital to making sales meetings useful to potential customers, requiring salespeople to explain products and services in detail and in the context of the prospects. Thus, salespeople are required to do more, while being compensated less.

Can’t Live Without Them

It’s not as though you can get by without salespeople. The oft-repeated saw “today, everyone is a salesperson” is utter bunkum. Everyone in the company impacts the buying experience, but salespeople fulfill a critical role in getting deals on the books and revenue in the bank.

Having an empty slot on your sales team’s roster imposes an opportunity cost on your organization: You’re missing out on sales as you battle to staff your sales teams appropriately.

Filling those slots is not cheap, even discounting the compensation payments you may have to make (and in a tight hiring market, those payments can become fairly high).

The acquisition cost of a new sales employee was US$29,159, and the training costs were $36,290, a DePaul University study found. That’s a total of $65,449 to replace each lost sales rep.

The sales turnover rate was 20.6 percent per year, according to a study from the Aberdeen Group.

That means in a sales organization with 100 reps with an average churn rate and average hiring/training expenses, losing 21 sales reps would result in an annual cost of $1,374,429 — not including opportunity costs. Ouch.

So, if you have A-players on your sales team, your success depends on keeping that team together. Top talent is most likely to bolt at the point when it’s selling most effectively. Those salespeople are delivering numbers, have proven themselves to be effective, and thus are in high demand. If you’re a sales VP, a sales manager, or in sales ops, your job may depend on how well you keep those people on your team.

You can always overpay them — compensation has a stickiness all its own. However, few of us have that luxury. Instead, you can take advantage of data to manage your sales talent strategically, and to do so in a way that won’t break the bank.

If you have an automated compensation management system in place, you’re already collecting data that can enable you to identify talent that may be ready to leave your company, spot opportunities to invest in training and enablement tools that keep salespeople engaged, and adjust compensation to influence top talent to remain with your company — and at the same time, become better at their profession.

While the exact processes will vary from company to company, here are some examples that could jog your imagination.

Watching for Likely Defectors

Is there an overachiever in your organization whose bonus or accelerator structure is constantly being revised upward? If you can spot this pattern, you may be able to identify someone who’s becoming a hot commodity — and who may feel as though his or her efforts are never enough for the company.

Another set of likely departure candidates: salespeople whose use of training and education tools is in decline after remaining constant for a while. Which leads to…

Understanding Sales Training

Ideally, your sales training is ongoing. If it ends when on-boarding ends, your sales team’s skills are in a constant state of increasing obsolescence.

If your company doesn’t make efforts to educate sales personnel continuously, you’re setting yourself up for defections. When salespeople feel their companies are not investing in their success, they become prime candidates for relocation to a company that will make that investment.

Monitoring training is vital to make sure that training is effective and is contributing to sales’ ability to close deals. If training is being consumed and results are trending up, that’s good — keep doing what you’re doing, and invest more.

If training isn’t being consumed and results are flat, coach sales to engage with training more. This can be done on a sales rep by sales rep basis if your training solution is sufficiently robust. Better results lead to happier salespeople, and happy salespeople are much less likely to leave.

Is Sales Content Leading to Sales?

Put yourself in the position of a top seller. Imagine that you’re using the content suggested to you and it’s falling flat. Do you want to stay with this organization, especially when there are lots of options available to you?

Correlating results to content downloaded and presented to the customer can give you an organization-wide view of the effectiveness of your sales content. Getting more granular, you can spot who’s using the most content; if someone is consuming a lot of content but isn’t closing many deals, it’s likely that rep is frustrated and may be keeping an eye out for an organization that better supports him or her.

Step in to remedy this, and get that rep’s input on how to improve the content. Engaging to make improvements is a key method for helping salespeople feel they’re part of the team.

Use All the Incentives at Your Disposal

Salespeople like commission checks — a lot. The temptation may be to start slicing commissions into many, many small percentages to influence selling behaviors. This can lead to some unintended consequences: complex comp plans that confuse and frustrate salespeople; incentives that are so small that salespeople ignore them; and a general feeling by salespeople that they’re being micromanaged. None of this is good.

Instead, use alternatives to monetary incentives when you can. Gamification gives managers a new set of levers to influence desirable behaviors, and leaderboard or scoreboard presentations have nothing but upside.

Engaging in winning behaviors earns salespeople kudos; not engaging in them doesn’t cost them money. The leaderboards are great for exposing who’s engaged and who is not, and when a top performer starts to ignore desired behaviors, it’s a sign of dissatisfaction; you have an opportunity to intervene to change things and to keep that A-player engaged and on board.

In each of these cases, retaining talent depends on three things: analytics to uncover insights, actions based on those insights, and an environment that collects enough data to capture those insights. Trying to battle for talent without technology tools is essentially surrendering. It forces you to rely on hunches and assumptions, and it won’t enable you to spot all your retention opportunities.

You can win the sales talent war. Compensation is important, but data is the secret weapon for understanding how to spend it and how to keep your team together in a cost-effective way that leads to better sales results.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is director, content marketing, for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 18 years, focusing on CRM since 2006. When he’s not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he’s wearing his airplane geek hat; he’s written three books on World War II aviation.

Signal, Snowden’s favorite private messenger, is testing a video call feature

Image: lili sams/mashable

Signal, better known as Edward Snowden’s favorite private messaging app, is testing a feature that lets users make video calls. 

A beta version of the secure messaging platform is now available on Google Play, which includes an additional toggle for “video calling beta” when you go into settings. Users can make encrypted video calls to other Signal users who have also opted into the beta version by tapping the video icon at the top of their screens. 

Signal saw a rise in downloads after the 2016 election due to concerns about increased government surveillance. Despite being built by a small team, the app has been praised by many security experts as one of the best for privacy protection. 

The platform uses end-to-end encryption. Any messages you send will be scrambled and can only be “unscrambled” by the intended recipient. This prevents third-party interception. 

In addition, Signal’s privacy policy also states that the app doesn’t store any metadata about its users. 

Video calling is an existing feature for many messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Google Duo, so it will be interesting to see if this feature brings Signal even closer to the mainstream. 

It’s not clear when the feature will be available on iOS devices. Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of Open Whisper Systems—the nonprofit behind Signal—declined to provide further details and said in an email that they will have more to say once the feature becomes publicly available.

How startups thrive in emerging markets

“What is happening in Turkey?” is not a question you want to hear from friends and family abroad when you are trying to scale a business or raise funding for your startup.

Having to explain the intricacies of your geography (in addition to your own value proposition) is also not the position you want to be in when you’re launching a VC fund.

Plagued by terror attacks and distracted by volatility from within and by neighboring civil issues, Turkey has made quite a few headlines recently. These have been happening to a country that was once regarded the beacon of hope as a secular, democratic, Muslim country in the Middle East.

The consecutive hands Turkey recently got dealt have pushed the country’s “normal” to an unnerving state. Two days after the coup attempt, I remember getting a text from Dave. He first asked whether I was OK and secondly what I planned to do with 500 Istanbul, a $15 million early-stage micro VC fund we had launched only a couple of months prior.


I told him there were no changes in the plans and that we would move forward. We did our first close for 500 Istanbul one week after, on the 22nd of July. While people were emailing me to make sure our families were OK, I was emailing out capital call notes. It is easy to look at Turkey as an outsider and come to certain conclusions, but as a local investor, I want to think there is still upside to be garnered from a region so big, so young and so hungry for VC capital and infrastructure.

What our emerging region lacks in predictability, it makes up in growth potential as an under-served landscape with serious funding gaps. What I wanted to undertake in this market is NOT a social impact mission.

Yes, our capital and services are needed now more than ever, but at the same time, our relative opportunity could be no greater, given the lack of investing competition in the market. The fact that the few existing institutional VCs in Turkey mostly focus on later-stage funding opens up an incredible market opportunity for early-stage investors.

This might be partly because of the preferences of the VCs investing in emerging markets, in trying to limit operational downside. As they feel they might already be exposed to a higher level of risk due to the volatilities of the region in which they operate, they often choose to invest in later-stage startups with a more mature track record. This is where 500 Istanbul comes in, to fill (albeit partially) the early-stage funding gap.

istanbul birds


In this environment of early-stage investing opportunities, I categorize early-stage investment potential in Turkey into two main segments:

Businesses with regional focus and audience

In the past 10 years, Turkey has been relatively successful in replicating proven Western models in the local market. We have a 75 million population with an average age of 26, who are incredibly engaged online and who have means to pay (second highest rate of credit cards in Europe). I understand creating “me-too” businesses is not as glamorous of a business model, but it is a very lucrative one, given the right executive team.

It is harder for foreign companies to scale in emerging markets due to constraints in localizing services, hiring local talent, contracting suppliers and negotiating with regulators. Taking a look at the examples of Gittigidiyor (acquired by eBay for $215 million in 2011), Markafoni (acquired by Naspers for +$200 million in 2011), Pozitron (acquired by Monitise for $100 million in 2014), Yemeksepeti (acquired by Delivery Hero for $589 million in 2015) and Mars (acquired by CJ-CGV for $800 million in 2016) quickly shows us how the global force could not claim the Turkish market from the local player.

This is not a concept originated in Turkey; many early success stories in SEA have also followed similar footsteps. The macroeconomic nature of the region is the main driver behind these success stories: as the market grows, the best performers grow with it.

Businesses with global focus and audience

500 Startups has been particularly lucky in this arena with some of the Turkish investments they’ve done in the past, like the unicorn Udemy (a 500 investments). All of these companies were built by Turkish entrepreneurs and bridged to the U.S., either in search of funding or global-scale growth. In fact, Udemy and Mobile Action still have significant development teams in Ankara, where the engineers can move between Turkey and San Francisco.

Turkey still remains a great test market for founders to conceptualize, test and iterate their service offerings prior to expanding into the global arena. This allows for a new generation of Turkish developers, learning by doing both in Turkey and in Silicon Valley, who can later help build innovative companies themselves.

The advantage of investing in these companies is the inconsequentiality of regional volatility on company performance.

By investing in immigrant founders or founders who have ambition of servicing a global audience, we are also investing into the future of the Turkish tech diaspora and ecosystem.

The advantage of investing in these companies is the inconsequentiality of regional volatility on company performance.

Israel, as a harbor of many global tech startups like Wix, Fiverr, Waze, Playtika and Similar Web, has been a great testament to this thesis. As Israel has been home to great talent and startups, I believe Turkey has the same potential.

I refuse to believe that volatility will cripple a region enough to eradicate all opportunity for innovation and investing. The people of our region are resilient, possibly because we have dealt with tumultuous dynamics for far longer than a lot of our peers in the Western world. The world just doesn’t stop because bad things happen. People continue to build and consume.

This is why I came back to Turkey 8 years ago and why with 500 Istanbul we have invested in 15 companies in the past 6 months (with the 5-year target of investing into another 85). I am very optimistic that in the next decade there will be numerous centaurs and hopefully a few unicorns that emerge from Turkey and Turkish entrepreneurs.

Featured Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

Is Salesforce Getting Serious About the Back Office?

By Jeffrey M. Kaplan
Feb 8, 2017 12:58 PM PT

Even as Salesforce aggressively seeks to consolidate its position as the leader of cloud-based front-office applications via a series of acquisitions, it is possible that 2017 could be the year the company uses some of the same purchases to make a strategic move. Salesforce soon may become a major player in the back-office financial management and enterprise resource planning market as well.

Speculation that Salesforce might expand its offerings to address the back-office needs of its corporate customers has been plentiful for a long time. Bridging the gap between front- and back-office applications has been the dream of corporate executives forever.

Prior to the advent of cloud-based Software as a Service solutions, most enterprises turned to Oracle and SAP to fill that need, with a complex and costly set of on-premises applications.

However, as the demands of the marketplace intensified with the emergence of e-commerce, globalization and the Internet of Things, the previous generation of legacy applications, which required extensive customization, fell short of meeting the needs of many enterprises.

New CFO Interest

Unlike VPs of sales and marketing, many of whom have embraced SaaS solutions to meet their escalating demands, CFOs generally have been reluctant to consider cloud-based alternatives to their on-premises back-office systems. They’ve been uncomfortable disrupting their existing operations, and unsure if a SaaS alternative could meet their security and compliance requirements.

Escalating market demands now are forcing CFOs to put aside their fears and look for a new generation of back-office systems that can be more responsive to rapidly changing customer expectations, growing competitive pressures and new organizational needs.

Salesforce’s success in reinventing the nature of front-office applications via the cloud also has convinced CFOs that the time has come to adopt SaaS solutions to solve their back-office requirements.

The growing receptivity among CFOs toward cloud-based SaaS ERP and financial management solutions clearly can be seen in the rising growth rates of independent players like FinancialForce, Intacct, Kenandy and Rootstock.

Oracle’s recent acquisition of NetSuite certainly reinforced the impression that the time has come for cloud-based back-office solutions to move front and center in the corporate priorities of enterprises. Both Oracle and SAP have reported significant jumps in demand for their cloud-based solutions.

Resisting or Heeding the Call?

While the cloud back-office market has been heating up, Salesforce executives have been firm in their public position that the company is not going to enter the fray. Marc Benioff has stated that there are still plenty of opportunities in the customer-facing world of customer relationship management, marketing automation, e-commerce and services.

Further, other company executives have admitted that there is still plenty of work to be done bringing all of Salesforce’s front-office pieces together after a flurry of acquisitions and organic expansion into challenging new areas like analytics and IoT.

Yet some of the recent Salesforce acquisitions include functional capabilities that cross over into the realm of back-office systems. For instance, the Demandware acquisition gives Salesforce supply-chain and fulfillment capabilities in addition to e-commerce transaction processing functionality.

Steelbrick’s quote-to-cash solutions also tie into corporate financial management systems by coordinating orders, billing, payments and revenue recognition.

Salesforce quickly could add more financial management and ERP functionality by buying FinancialForce, Kenandy or Rootstock, all of which have been built on the Salesforce platform.

A potential FinancialForce acquisition became particularly intriguing when the company named Tod Nielsen its new CEO and president in January. Prior to assuming his new position, Nielsen was the EVP of platform at Salesforce and CEO of Heroku, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2011.

There still may be plenty of reasons for Salesforce to stay clear of offering its own back-office solutions. Its sales team already has a lot on its plate to sell, and convincing CFOs to buy your solutions is a lot different from selling to VPs of sales and service or CMOs.

Mark Your Calendar

However, a growing number of corporate executives want to reduce the number of vendors they have to deal with. Instead, they’d prefer to turn to a strategic source that can satisfy both their front- and back-office needs — just like during the heydays of on-premises systems.

Oracle and SAP already can offer a combination of front- and back-office solutions, albeit a mix of on-premises and cloud applications, and they are gaining momentum.

As more and more CXOs are adopting a cloud-first procurement strategy, they’d welcome a cloud-centric vendor capable of delivering front- and back-office solutions. Don’t be surprised if Salesforce capitalizes on this opportunity.

I don’t expect Salesforce to deliver a back-office solution in 2017, but a big-bang announcement at its annual Dreamforce conference in November promising a new back-office solution in 2018 is conceivable.

If it happens, you can say you read it here first.

Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace, and host of the Cloud Innovators Summit executive forum series. He can be reached at

Facebook updates its ad policies and tools to protect against discriminatory practices

Facebook announced in November that it would stop advertisers from targeting users by race for ads that focused on housing, employment, and credit opportunities, in response to a report that found that Facebook’s tools could be used to place discriminatory advertisements. Today, the social network provided a progress update on the matter, disclosing what actions it has taken since its announcement was first made, along with details of its new advertising policies and related tools.

Thanks to Facebook’s treasure trove of user data, advertisers on its site have been able to narrowly target users by a variety of factors, like age, location, gender, religion, and more. These microtargeting capabilities have been used for years in a number of ways, including, most recently in the U.S. presidential election to reach niche audiences with political ads customized to their own interests.

However, Facebook came under fire last fall because those same ad targeting capabilities were being used to include or exclude users from ad campaigns based on their “ethnic affinity,” –meaning race. Excluding certain races from housing and employment ads put the company in violation of anti-discrimination laws, including the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Propublica’s report pointed out at the time.

The social network responded by saying it would disable ethnic affinity ad targeting for the ads that involved housing, employments or credit.

Facebook says it met with policymakers and civil rights leaders to gather feedback about what needed to be done, and has since made several changes.

The company’s new advertising policy now more clearly prohibits discrimination by spelling out that advertisers cannot discriminate against people based on “personal attributes such as race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, disability, medical or genetic condition,” the company explains today in a blog post about the new policies and features.

Additionally, Facebook is now linking to a new educational section from its Ad Policies page which offers more information along with other educational resources from places like government agencies and civil rights groups specializing in combating discrimination.

Beyond just spelling out what not to do, Facebook says it’s also beginning a test of new enforcement tools that will help it to identify ads that are in violation of its policies.

Specifically, these tools will identify housing, employment and credit opportunity ads and determine if they either include or exclude multicultural advertising segments – which are those consisting of people interested in seeing content related to the African-American, Asian American and U.S. Hispanic communities. If the ads are, in fact, including or excluding these segments, Facebook says it will disapprove the ad.


An informational message will alert the advertiser of the violation, so they can correct the problem if need be. In the case of a false positive, the advertiser can also click a button for a manual review.


Advertisers who are posting ads for housing, employment and credit, but are targeting other audience segments on Facebook, will be also be asked to click a button to certify that they understand the updated anti-discrimination policy.

Doing so pops up a window where the advertiser must read through the policy details, then agree that they will abide by its terms. They must check a box and then click “Accept” to continue.


The company says it worked with several groups during the creation of its new policies and tools, and gave thanks in its post to the following:

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman; Members of the Congressional Black Caucus including Chairman Cedric Richmond, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II, and Rep. Robin Kelly; the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham; Rep. David N. Cicilline, Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus; the American Civil Liberties Union; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; the Center for Democracy & Technology; the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; the National Fair Housing Alliance; the Brookings Institution; and Upturn.

Additionally, many of the organizations pressed Facebook for the opportunity to work with the company further on ways that ad technology could be used instead to promote inclusion and  opportunity for the underserved communities, in addition to protecting against discriminatory uses.

“We believe in the power of our advertising products to create opportunities for people from all backgrounds, so we are committed to working with these groups toward that goal,” Facebook said, referencing those requests. However, it didn’t provide any information on what steps it may be taking next on that front at this time.

Featured Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Symantec CEO: ‘It’s a new theater of war’ for cybercriminals

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="If you didn’t think the internet was a wretched hive of scum and villainy before, Symantec (SYMC) CEO Greg Clark might just change your mind. Clark, who sat down for an interview with David Pogue at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, explained how criminals on the internet are not only incredibly active, but are almost always changing where they live online and how they attack.” data-reactid=”9″>If you didn’t think the internet was a wretched hive of scum and villainy before, Symantec (SYMC) CEO Greg Clark might just change your mind. Clark, who sat down for an interview with David Pogue at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, explained how criminals on the internet are not only incredibly active, but are almost always changing where they live online and how they attack.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="“It’s a new theater of war. It’s serious business,” Clark said.” data-reactid=”10″>“It’s a new theater of war. It’s serious business,” Clark said.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="To put a finer point on it, Clark explained that about 60% of hostnames on the internet are open for just 24 hours or less, which suggests they might exist solely for criminal activity. Hostnames are used to point to specific sites on the internet. For instance, is a hostname for Now, think about the millions of hostnames on the internet at any given moment, and you begin to understand how truly enormous that 60% figure really is.” data-reactid=”11″>To put a finer point on it, Clark explained that about 60% of hostnames on the internet are open for just 24 hours or less, which suggests they might exist solely for criminal activity. Hostnames are used to point to specific sites on the internet. For instance, is a hostname for Now, think about the millions of hostnames on the internet at any given moment, and you begin to understand how truly enormous that 60% figure really is.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="One of the most nefarious ways in which cybercriminals attack is through email phishing or spear phishing attacks. Phishing attacks come in the form of emails that trick users into downloading malware-infected software or clicking links that take them to malware-infected websites that automatically install malicious code on a person’s computer. ” data-reactid=”12″>One of the most nefarious ways in which cybercriminals attack is through email phishing or spear phishing attacks. Phishing attacks come in the form of emails that trick users into downloading malware-infected software or clicking links that take them to malware-infected websites that automatically install malicious code on a person’s computer.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That software can then turn your PC, smartphone or tablet into a zombie device for a botnet army that can be used to flood targeted websites with requests for information until they can keep up and go offline.” data-reactid=”13″>That software can then turn your PC, smartphone or tablet into a zombie device for a botnet army that can be used to flood targeted websites with requests for information until they can keep up and go offline.

Alternatively, phishing and spear phishing attacks can trick users to download ransomware, which can lock down a person’s computer. The criminals will then keep the computer locked down until the victim pays up, usually in the form of Bitcoin.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Both of these kinds of attacks are caused by people unknowingly infecting their own computers. And as Pogue put it, “There is no antivirus program for human stupidity.”” data-reactid=”15″>Both of these kinds of attacks are caused by people unknowingly infecting their own computers. And as Pogue put it, “There is no antivirus program for human stupidity.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Clark, however, pointed to Symantec’s own Project Dolphin. The system sees Symantec scour the world’s websites to determine if they appear similar to “known phishing” sites. The idea is to identify phishing websites before they actually take off and prevent victims from visiting them by accident.” data-reactid=”16″>Clark, however, pointed to Symantec’s own Project Dolphin. The system sees Symantec scour the world’s websites to determine if they appear similar to “known phishing” sites. The idea is to identify phishing websites before they actually take off and prevent victims from visiting them by accident.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="So there might just be an antivirus for human stupidity after all. Sign me up.” data-reactid=”17″>So there might just be an antivirus for human stupidity after all. Sign me up.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="More from Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit:” data-reactid=”18″>More from Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit:

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Email Daniel at; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.” data-reactid=”25″>Email Daniel at; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.


Passwords for social media accounts could be required for some to enter country

A password may soon be required to enter the country — the applicant’s Facebook password, that is. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly suggested the measure to the House Homeland Security Committee today during talks around Trump’s embattled executive order on immigration.

“We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say? If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in,” he told the committee, NBC News reported.

This was specifically in reference to the seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya — immigrants and refugees from which the EO attempts to prevent from entering the US. He added that this was not an official policy decision, but to suggest it on the record like this indicates a certain level of confidence in the possibility.

Using social media as part of the verification process isn’t a new idea: in fact, the Obama administration proposed an optional field on some common forms in which to put “information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” But although it was discussed, requiring passwords ended up not being a part of it.

Perhaps because there’s no real reason to dive deep into a social media profile. Kelly is quoted as saying later in the hearing that “When someone says, ‘I’m from this town and this was my occupation,’ [officials] essentially have to take the word of the individual.”

Of course, it’s incredibly easy to fake social media accounts on any platform, or claim ownership of a legitimate one. As a bit of context social media is useful, but as soon as you try to extract any real facts from it, you’re grasping at straws.

And that’s aside from the privacy and security problems associated with making someone volunteer their password, which are obvious enough that I don’t feel the need to elaborate on them.

The fate of the EO is still up in the air, but regardless of how things play out, let’s hope this suggestion doesn’t take effect.

Facebook Lite hits 200M users as low-bandwidth world revenue skyrockets

Facebook’s stripped-down but speedy Lite app is growing fast and adding countries so it can keep connecting people and building the company’s business in the low-bandwidth world where revenue increased 52% this year.

facebook-liteFacebook Lite launched in June 2015, it rocketed to 100 million monthly users by March 2016, and now it’s doubled in size to 200 million users, Mark Zuckerberg says. And that’s just in a limited set of countries which today expands to include Israel, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and South Korea.

Meanwhile COO Sheryl Sandberg points out the app now lets businesses manage their Pages.

Facebook Lite is partly why the social giant has managed to boost its business in the Rest Of World region.  Average revenue per user is up 28% this year from $1.10 to $1.41. And that pushed its Rest Of World revenue up 52% this year to $839 million per quarter. By making it enjoyable for users to sign up and spend more time on Facebook even with a weak network connection, Facebook is starting to make money in places other apps don’t.

For example, Snapchat’s bandwidith-heavy video-first app earned just $7.8 million off 39 million daily users in the Rest Of World region all year — and unlike Facebook, Snap includes Asia Pacific in Rest Of World. The startup cited how it grows much better it countries with high-bandwidth.


But rather than wait for the developing world’s network infrastructure to increase bandwidth, Facebook shrunk its app into a Lite version.

Ideal Flatmate wants to be a matchmaking platform for UK flatshares

Londoners in the unfun position of needing to find a new flatmate — and lacking the easy options of friends or family to move in with — can get a little algorithmic help from a UK startup with the no-frills name of Ideal Flatmate.

The startup is applying dating-style personality matchmaking to try to make it easier for strangers to locate a compatible house companion. Users are asked to take an on-site survey, responding to a series of statements with a scaled response (from strongly agree to strongly disagree), in order to be matched with potentially compatible flatmates.

There are already a few US startups offering algorithmic roommate matching platforms, such as college student-focused platform roomsurf, but Ideal Flatmate is claiming to be the first to market in the UK. It’s also not limited to students, though it is limited to London flatshares for now — though the plan is to expand nationwide in the UK this year.

It soft launched its website last October but is officially launching now — with some 3,000 registered users at this nascent stage, 1,000 listed properties, and a total of around 30,000 unique visitors so far.

Development has been funded by the founders and a couple of unnamed private investors. “We’re looking to run a further round of funding later in the year,” says co-founder Tom Gatzen.

“Given that more than half of the 20-39 age group is projected to be renting privately by 2025, the market is growing significantly,” he adds.

It’s certainly true that over the past decade a growing proportion of UK households have been renting vs owning their own homes — socioeconomic shift that’s sometimes badged with the label: ‘Generation Rent’ — a trend driven by various factors such as steeply rising house prices as demand for housing has outstripped supply.

“There have been a mix of flathunters using the site and landlords uploading their properties,” says Gatzen, discussing who the typical user is thus far. “The highest proportion of users are in the 20-35 bracket but there are also a significant number of 40+ flathunters, indicative of the growing number of this age range living in shared rental accommodation as a result of societal changes.”

The site’s matchmaking survey covers areas that can be typical flashpoints for domestic harmony, such as socializing habits and attitudes to cleanliness. But it’s also probing a little deeper on the personality front, with questions that look to identify how extroverted or introverted a person is — and match users accordingly. It has worked with two psychologists from the University of Cambridge to help develop the survey.

“We ran market research on over 500 flatsharers asking them 100 questions which we felt were the most relevant in working out whether you are compatible flatmates. After running a factor analysis with our Cambridge professors and testing the answers we received, the 20 questions we have were found to be the most important.”

It’s clearly too early for the team to be able to stand up their matchmaking approach with any firm data proving effectiveness, but Gatzen claims anecdotal feedback so far looks positive with users saying they “feel” they’re getting matched to “like-minded people”.

“A key part of our progression will be around fine-tuning and testing the matching to ensure people are getting paired up with suitable flatmates,” he adds.

Despite it being early days, the team is not taking its time to start booking revenue, launching paid options in recent weeks — but then flathunting is typically a problem with a very limited lifespan. People might be content to go on dates for years and years, but most sane people don’t want to be stuck in ‘living limbo’ for more than a month or two at most.

Add to that most London flatshares have a 12 month contract attached to them, so the revenue opportunities here are widely spaced too. Even factoring in ‘Generation Rent’ this is not a dating-sized market opportunity, by any means.

So while it’s free to browse Ideal Flatmate the ability to contact potential flatmates requires users to stump up for a subscription. Pricing starts at £4.99 for a week’s access — for which they get delivered matches with the “most compatible potential flatmates and properties” for their criteria (so location, budget and personality).

They also get access to the on-site messaging feature so matched users/groups of users can start to chat to see whether they want to meet in person to talk about a possible flatshare.

A second strand of the monetizing strategy will also launch soon, with Gatzen saying they will start charging landlords and letting agents a fee to advertise on the site this spring.

The startup’s balancing act looks as if it will be not discouraging the quantity of users it needs to be able to deliver enough relevant/quality matches for its target flatseekers and landlords to consider it a service worth paying for — risking limiting its potential to grow large enough to generate enough revenues to be sustainable beyond the short term.

Pinterest users can now jump to other products within an image

Pinterest is looking to continually decrease the friction from finding something they’re interested in and drilling further into newer products and ideas, and it now has another product to try to close that gap.

The company today said it’s launching a new feature that allows users to find and jump to additional products within a photo they’re currently viewing. So, for example, if a search for a jacket brings up an image of someone wearing that jacket, Pinterest will also identify other products like the jeans and shoes they’re wearing. That means that if a business is trying to show off their products, users will have yet another way to jump to similar products they’re showing on Pinterest.

The announcement came along with two other products at an event at its headquarters today, one of which was built around searching for ideas and products through pointing your camera at something.

This is going to be important for Pinterest, which needs to increasingly give marketers and companies a way to drive additional users to their products. If someone is simply looking for an idea for an outfit, they may inadvertently stumble onto a pair of shoes they like but don’t own. Pinterest now gives those users the ability to look for those shoes, and gives businesses yet another entry point for potential customers.

All this is a result of the company’s major investments in image search. Pinterest has largely built a name for itself because of its strong image search capabilities, and that thus far has been its selling point for advertisers. While companies like Google can capture the intent of a user directly searching for a product, Pinterest also taps into moments where potential customers are just meandering around and might stumble onto a product they may later buy. The act of saving that can also signal an intent to advertisers for a purchase, which is yet another touchpoint for those marketers to convert them into a sale.

This full-scope approach has at the very least piqued the interest of marketers. At the end of 2016, it was reported that Pinterest generated around $100 million in revenue in 2105. That’s not a trivial amount of money for a budding advertising business, though it’s certainly not like the break-neck growth of Snap, which generated more than $400 million in advertising revenue for its otherwise young product. But while Pinterest says it has around 150 million users, Snap says it has just as many that are going on the product every day.

So Pinterest needs to continually update its array of consumer and advertiser products in order to keep advertisers spending money on Pinterest campaigns — and not just from their “innovation” budgets. Pinterest has to make the jump from a curiosity for advertisers to a mainstay, which it’s tried to do by introducing new ad products like keyword search advertisements. It’s increasingly trying to build an array of products which can capture an entire customer’s lifetime.

It would make sense that Pinterest go for its sweet spot with searches for products within images. And if Pinterest can continue to build those new advertising products and decrease the amount of effort it takes to get to a new product, it’ll be able to make a better sell to its marketing partners.