Patreon sells product curation site Kit to Geniuslink – gpgmail


Patreon, the platform for independent content creators to operate membership businesses for their core fans, announced it is selling the assets of Kit.com to localized affiliate link service Geniuslink.

Founded in 2015, Kit is a social-shopping platform where influencers curate bundles of products (“kits”) they recommend. When their fans buy products they featured in a kit, the influencer earns an affiliate fee commission. Kit has 2.3 million monthly web visitors, according to SimilarWeb.

Among the most notable content creators on Kit, YouTuber Casey Neistat curated a kit featuring his favorite camera gear and author Tim Ferriss curated kits featuring his favorite podcasting equipment and the health products recommended by interviewees in his Tools of Titans book.

Screenshot of Kit.com’s profile site for Tim Ferriss

Patreon acquired Kit in June 2018 in what Patreon’s SVP Product Wyatt Jenkins described to me during my in-depth series on the company as “close to an acqui-hire,” adding that “although Kit is a good revenue source for a lot of creators — so it’s not a shut-down of Kit — we’re maintaining it but not iterating on it.” 

Kit had previously raised $2.5 million in venture capital from backers like Social Capital, #Angels, Precursor Ventures, Expa and Ellen Pao. While the Kit site remained active, the team behind it was reassigned to lead product development for Patreon’s merch offering

It is unsurprising that Patreon found a new home for the asset. While Kit is a tool for creators to monetize, it doesn’t enhance paid memberships for fans, and that’s Patreon’s exclusive focus right now. Even Patreon’s merch product is only for offering merch as a benefit for membership tiers, not for managing an e-commerce store with one-time transactions.

In a blog post today announcing the acquisition, Geniuslink wrote that “The first order of business for Geniuslink is to migrate Kit to the Geniuslink infrastructure and work to improve speed and reliability while our operations team dives into user support. We look forward to adding additional functionality for creators to monetize their kits in the coming months.”

Geniuslink launched in 2009, originally branded as GeoRiot. The bootstrapped company has 13 employees headquartered in Seattle.

Social commerce is a popular trend right now, with other social platforms testing e-commerce integrations for users (particularly influencers) to feature products. YouTube now has a built-in merch section for a creator to sell products under their videos, and Instagram lets influencers sell products directly in the app. These have the advantage of providing influencer-curated shopping experiences right where influencers and their fans already are.

Those features assume an influencer is selling their own products, however, or at least the products of a brand they’ve formally partnered with. For Kit and its affiliate link model, the focus is on influencers as trusted curators for their fans. The influencer can feature a much wider variety of products and do so immediately, without negotiating a deal with each brand. 

That’s also why the model likely doesn’t make sense for many popular influencers — they want more money for their endorsement of a product than a standard affiliate link fee, and recommending lots of products they don’t have formal deals to promote may undercut them in their negotiations with brands.

As Geniuslink adds more monetization features to Kit, perhaps it will make it a more lucrative business activity for small and large influencers alike. 


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Microsoft debuts a new version of its To Do app as Wunderlist founder expresses remorse – gpgmail


Microsoft several years ago acquired the popular iOS app Wunderlist with the intention of building out its own list-making productivity app that brings the best of Wunderlist’s feature set to a larger group of mobile consumers. This is a similar path as Microsoft took with email app Accompli, which later became Microsoft Outlook for mobile devices. In the case of Wunderlist, Microsoft didn’t just rebrand the app — it built a new one called Microsoft To Do. With Wunderlist up and running for years alongside To Do, its founder wants to know if he can just have it back.

The founder of Wunderlist maker 6 Wunderkinder, Christian Reber, recently tweeted a desire to buy his app back from Microsoft just as the company is launching a new version of To Do. 

According to the tweets, Reber says he’s serious about reacquiring Wunderlist and wants to make it open-source and free. He even tweeted a list of upgrades he’d like to build, including features like shared folders and cross-team collaboration, among other things.

The founder doesn’t come across as having sour grapes exactly. He just says he’s sad that his plans for Wunderlist didn’t work out, but he’s grateful for the Microsoft exit.

If anything, it seems to be just remorse over the fact that Wunderlist itself will be shut down.

Microsoft had said years ago this was its intention, but also that it would hold off until it felt it has a competitive product that Wunderlist’s users would love.

On Monday, Microsoft unveiled another upgrade for Microsoft To Do, which hints that the Wunderlist shut down could be nearing.

The upgrade delivers a more polished look-and-feel with a wider range of backgrounds, including the Berlin TV tower theme that was popular in Wunderlist.

The app also includes smart lists and a personalized daily planner that offers smart suggestions of tasks that need to be accomplished, Microsoft reminded its users, and it’s supported across a variety of platforms including iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac.

The app is now also integrated with other Microsoft apps like Outlook, Microsoft Planner, Cortana, and Microsoft Launcher on Android, among others. And it works with Alexa, if you prefer.

With the release, Microsoft is again pushing users to migrate from Wunderlist to To Do to gain access to these features.

It did not, however, give an end-of-life date for Wunderlist, which is remarkably still a top 100 Productivity app in the U.S. App Store, according to data from App Annie, over four years after its acquisition.

We’ve asked Microsoft if it will share more details around its plans for Wunderlist and if it has any response to Reber’s request.

“Once we have incorporated the best of Wunderlist into Microsoft To Do, we will retire Wunderlist. We look forward to making Microsoft To Do even more useful, intuitive and personal,” a Microsoft spokesperson replied. The company declined to comment on Reber’s tweets.

Microsoft To Do has been installed approximately 5.8 million times worldwide since launch, according to dat from Sensor Tower. During that same timeframe, Wunderlist was installed about 10 million times.

As for Reber, he says he’s written to Microsoft many times before and now tried to make it more official via Twitter. The offer, he tells gpgmail, is indeed serious, and the price would be based on the negotiation. “Chances are low, but I’m trying,” he says.

 




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Palo Alto Networks intends to acquire Zingbox for $75M – gpgmail


Palo Alto Networks surely loves to buy security startups. Today it added to its growing collection when it announced its intent to acquire IoT security startup Zingbox for $75 million.

The company had raised $23.5 million, according to Crunchbase data. The three co-founders, Xu Zou, May Wang and Jianlin Zeng, will be joining Palo Alto after the sale is official.

With Zingbox, the company gets IoT security chops, something that is increasingly important as companies deploy internet-connected smart devices and sensors. While these tools can greatly benefit customers, they also often carry a huge security risk.

Zingbox, which was founded in 2014, gives Palo Alto a modern cloud-based solution built on a subscription model along with engineering talent to help build out the solution further. Nikesh Arora, chairman and CEO of Palo Alto Networks, certainly sees this.

“The proliferation of IoT devices in enterprises has left customers facing an enormous gap in protection against cybersecurity attacks. With the proposed acquisition of Zingbox, we will provide a first-of-its-kind subscription for our Next-Generation Firewall and Cortex platforms that gives customers the ability to gain control, visibility and security of their connected devices at scale,” Arora said in a statement.

This is the fourth security startup the company has purchased this year. It acquired two companies, nabbing PureSec and Twistlock, on the same day last Spring. Earlier this year, it bought Demisto for $560 million. All of these acquisitions are meant to build up the company’s portfolio of modern security offerings without having to build these kinds of tools in-house from scratch.


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Airship acquires A/B testing company Apptimize – gpgmail


Airship announced today that it has acquired Apptimize, an A/B testing company whose customers include Glassdoor, HotelTonight and The Wall Street Journal.

Formerly known as Urban Airship, the more concisely named Airship has built a platform for companies to manage their customer communication across SMS, push notifications, email, mobile wallets and more.

It says that by acquiring Apptimize, it can help customers test the impact of their messages. That means integrating Apptimize’s testing capabilities into the Airship platform, but the company says it will also continue to support Apptimize as a standalone platform.

“By combining Apptimize mobile app and web testing with Airship’s deep insight into customer engagement across channels, marketers and developers can focus innovation on the most critical areas while creating the seamless end-to-end experiences customers really want,” said Airship president and CEO Brett Caine in a statement.

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Apptimize had raised a total of $18.6 million from US Venture Partners, Costanoa Ventures and others, according to Crunchbase.

Airship says it will be bringing over 19 Apptimize team members (a little less than two-thirds of the startup’s total workforce) across engineering, customer service and sales.


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How Pivotal got bailed out by fellow Dell family member, VMware – gpgmail


When Dell acquired EMC in 2016 for $67 billion, it created a complicated consortium of interconnected organizations. Some, like VMware and Pivotal, operate as completely separate companies. They have their own boards of directors, can acquire companies and are publicly traded on the stock market. Yet they work closely within the Dell, partnering where it makes sense. When Pivotal’s stock price plunged recently, VMware saved the day when it bought the faltering company for $2.7 billion yesterday.

Pivotal went public last year, and sometimes struggled, but in June the wheels started to come off after a poor quarterly earnings report. The company had what MarketWatch aptly called “a train wreck of a quarter.”

How bad was it? So bad that its stock price was down 42% the day after it reported its earnings. While the quarter itself wasn’t so bad, with revenue up year over year, the guidance was another story. The company cut its 2020 revenue guidance by $40-$50 million and the guidance it gave for the upcoming 2Q19 was also considerably lower than consensus Wall Street estimates.

The stock price plunged from a high of $21.44 on May 30th to a low of $8.30 on Aug 14th. The company’s market cap plunged in that same time period falling from $5.828 billion on May 30th to $2.257 billion on Aug 14th. That’s when VMware admitted it was thinking about buying the struggling company.


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Sphero has acquired LittleBits – gpgmail


Sphero and Little Bits have long been kindred spirits in the world of entertaining STEM toys, and soon they’ll be one and the same. Sphero this morning announced plans to buy the New York-based electronic building block company.

Founded in 2010 and 2011 respectively, Sphero (nee Orbotix) and Little Bits took separate approaches, but ultimately ended up in similar spaces. Sphero first brought to life a smartphone controlled 3D printed ball that debuted at CES in 2011. That same year, Ayah Bdeir’s electronics kit side project became a serious business under the LittleBits banner.

Both companies were alumni of Disney’s accelerator. Sphero leveraged that connection in the break out Star Wars: The Force Awakens toy, a remote control BB-8. Ultimately, however, it flew too close to the sun with its licensed products, creating an R2-D2, Lightning McQueen and talking Spider-Man toys. Early last year, the Colorado-based company ended the Disney deal, laid off dozen and announced that it was moving full time into educational toys.

After several of its own Marvel and Star Wars licensing deals under the Disney IP banner, LittleBits faced similar difficulties earlier this year. In a statement to gpgmail, the site noted that it, too, would be experiencing layoffs as it shifted its focus to K-12. “As you can imagine, the education market’s needs are vastly different than that of retail,” the company said at the time. Given this, we had to re-shape our internal structure, which ultimately led to a reduction in staff.”

Per Crunchbase, LittleBits and Sphero have raised $62.3 million and $120.3 million respectively. LittleBits notably made its own acquisition almost exactly a year ago, bringing DIY.org under its banner to add a subscription-based education element to the company’s offerings. Two months prior, Sphero purchased fellow Colorado startup, Specdrums and has since begun to offer the company’s music educational products under its banner.

“We’re thrilled to bring littleBits into the fold here at Sphero,” CEO Paul Berberian told gpgmail ahead of the acquisition. “Teachers need proven solutions that enhance learning for their students, and kids want technology that allows them to have epic experiences. Now, Sphero is better poised to introduce the best coding tools and hands-on STEAM tools like littleBits to even more classrooms around the world.”

The deal will help Sphero expand its office footprint into New York. Bdeir, however, will be moving on to other projects after nearly a decade at the helm of LittleBits.

“When I studied engineering, it was top down, test-based,” she said in a statement offered to the press. “I hated it and wanted to quit every semester. Then I got exposed to the pedagogy of learning through play and my life changed; no one could peel me away from learning, inventing, creating. Together, littleBits and Sphero are now bringing this experience to kids everywhere.”

No word on how many LittleBits employees will remain under the Sphero banner, though the aforementioned layoffs have certainly decreased the likelihood of redundancy between the two companies. With LittleBits under its wing, Sphero now holds 140 patents in the fields of robotics, electronics, software and IOT. It remains to be seen how or if the lines will work together, or whether they’ll remain independent under the Sphero banner much as Specdrums has thus far.

Between the two brands, however, there’s some solid classroom outreach and goodwill here. And both despite and because of its own struggles, Sphero makes sense as a home for the company. Both have experienced solid growth into beloved brands in a similar timeframe, even while getting ground through the sometimes unforgiving startup grind. Hardware is hard, and both Sphero and LittleBits have the war wounds to prove it.

The deal bodes well for the companies in terms of positioning. Sphero has made some serious headway into schools (a notoriously difficult market to crack) and LittleBits has been delivering a good and innovative product for a number of years that would fit well alongside it in a STEM curriculum. The combination could prove a solid one-two punch.

Terms for the deal have not been disclosed.


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Tumblr’s next step forward with Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg – gpgmail


After months of rumors, Verizon finally sold off Tumblr for a reported $3 million — a fraction of what Yahoo paid for the once might blogging service back in 2013.

The media conglomerate (which also owns gpgmail) was clearly never quite sure what to do with the property after gobbling it up as part of its 2016 Yahoo acquisition. All parties has since come to the conclusion that Tumblr simply wasn’t a good fit under either the Verizon or Yahoo umbrella, amounting to a $1.1 billion mistake.

For Tumblr, however, the story may still have a happy ending. By all accounts, its new home at Automattic is far better fit. The service joins a portfolio that includes popular blogging service WordPress.com, spam filtering service Akismet and long-form storytelling platform, Longreads.

In an interview, this week, Automattic founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg discussed Tumblr’s history and the impact of the poorly received adult content restrictions. He also shed some light on where Tumblr goes from here, including a potential increased focused on multimedia such as podcasting.

Brian Heater: I’m curious how [your meetings with Tumblr staff] went. What’s the feeling on the team right now? What are the concerns? How are people feeling about the transition?


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DoorDash acquires autonomous driving startup Scotty Labs – gpgmail


DoorDash has been on an acquisition tear of late, with Scotty Labs as its latest target. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but this comes after DoorDash acquired Caviar in a deal worth $410 million.

Scotty Labs, a tele-operations company that is working on technology to enable people to remotely control self-driving cars, raised a $6 million seed round from Gradient Ventures, with participation from Horizon Ventures and Hemi Ventures, last March. The startup had previously worked with Voyage for its self-driving cars in retirement communities.

“Our core belief at Scotty has always been that Autonomy + Remote Assistance is the future,” Scotty CEO Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote on Medium. “We have intentionally always considered ourselves to be the anti-hype company and focused intensely on developing core infrastructure and algorithms to ensure the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles.”

Meanwhile, DoorDash quietly brought on the two co-founders from Lvl5, another company that had built tech to create high-resolution maps for autonomous driving using crowdsourced imagery and computer vision to merge and process the images. In April, Lvl5 announced it was shutting down after the acquisition.

Details of how Scotty Labs and Lvl5 will fit into DoorDash’s business are nonexistent, but you could imagine DoorDash using Scotty’s technologies to remotely control delivery robots or other types of autonomous vehicles.

“We’ll share more updates in the near future but for now, we’re really excited to be part of the amazing DoorDash family and looking forward to building something magical together,” Scotty Labs co-founder Tobenna Arodiogbu wrote on Medium.

From what we understand, the Lvl5 deal was more of an acqui-hire and did not include any of the maps that were built using the company’s technology. Instead, startup Mapillary obtained that trove of hundreds of millions of images.

DoorDash would not comment on what the new hires are working on, but through its robot pilots and partnership with GM, the startup has made no secret of its interest in exploring autonomous technology, specifically looking at how it can improve the cost and efficiency of deliveries, and it would make sense that it would also want to have in-house expertise to own and manage those projects.

DoorDash has experimented with delivery robots before. In 2017, DoorDash partnered with both Starship Technologies and Marble to test food delivery via robot. More recently, DoorDash announced a partnership with GM’s Cruise to test self-driving food delivery cars. DoorDash is also beefing up its in-house team of autonomous and navigation specialists.

This investment in autonomous tech through its acquisition of Scotty Labs and acqui-hire of the team from Lvl5 comes at a time when DoorDash says it is revamping its policies around driver wages.

The enthusiasm and potential of autonomous tech had led to startups creating literally dozens of interesting products that focus on different aspects of this field. But it will take a village to get this tech off the ground, which means that consolidation is inevitable.

DoorDash — operating on the principle of economies of scale — has been pretty aggressive in positioning itself as one of those consolidators. We have heard it tried to merge with Postmates. It bought Caviar this summer. And it has raised an absolute ton of money. In May, DoorDash raised a $400 million round, valuing it at $12.6 billion. Meanwhile, DoorDash’s main competitor, Postmates, is gearing up to go public this quarter. Just this month, the company received the first permit to deploy autonomous delivery bots in San Francisco.

As technology becomes a key way for the crowded arena of delivery startups to differentiate themselves, investing in its own autonomous tech R&D — by way of picking up some of these disparate startups that may have struggled to survive on their own — is one way for DoorDash to build out that tech cred.




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VMware says it’s looking to acquire Pivotal – gpgmail


VMware today confirmed that it is in talks to acquire software development platform Pivotal Software, the service best known for commercializing the open-source Cloud Foundry platform. The proposed transaction would see VMware acquire all outstanding Pivotal Class A stock for $15 per share, a significant markup over Pivotal’s current share price (which unsurprisingly shot up right after the announcement).

Pivotal’s shares have struggled since the company’s IPO in April 2018. The company was originally spun out of EMC Corporation (now DellEMC) and VMware in 2012 to focus on Cloud Foundry, an open-source software development platform that is currently in use by the majority of Fortune 500 companies. A lot of these enterprises are working with Pivotal to support their Cloud Foundry efforts. Dell itself continues to own the majority of VMware and Pivotal, and VMware also owns an interest in Pivotal already and sells Pivotal’s services to its customers, as well. It’s a bit of an ouroboros of a transaction.

Pivotal Cloud Foundry was always the company’s main product, but it also offered additional consulting services on top of that. Despite improving its execution since going public, Pivotal still lost $31.7 million in its last financial quarter as its stock price traded at just over half of the IPO price. Indeed, the $15 per share VMware is offering is identical to Pivotal’s IPO price.

An acquisition by VMware would bring Pivotal’s journey full circle, though this is surely not the journey the Pivotal team expected. VMware is a Cloud Foundry Foundation platinum member, together with Pivotal, DellEMC, IBM, SAP and Suse, so I wouldn’t expect any major changes in VMware’s support of the overall open-source ecosystem behind Pivotal’s core platform.

It remains to be seen whether the acquisition will indeed happen, though. In a press release, VMware acknowledged the discussion between the two companies but noted that “there can be no assurance that any such agreement regarding the potential transaction will occur, and VMware does not intend to communicate further on this matter unless and until a definitive agreement is reached.” That’s the kind of sentence lawyers like to write. I would be quite surprised if this deal didn’t happen, though.

Buying Pivotal would also make sense in the grand scheme of VMware’s recent acquisitions. Earlier this year, the company acquired Bitnami, and last year it acquired Heptio, the startup founded by two of the three co-founders of the Kubernetes project, which now forms the basis of many new enterprise cloud deployments and, most recently, Pivotal Cloud Foundry.


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Why chipmaker Broadcom is spending big bucks for aging enterprise software companies – gpgmail


Last year Broadcom, a chipmaker, raised eyebrows when it acquired CA Technologies, an enterprise software company with a broad portfolio of products, including a sizable mainframe software tools business. It paid close to $19 billion for the privilege.

Then last week, the company opened up its wallet again and forked over $10.7 billion for Symantec’s enterprise security business. That’s almost $30 billion for two aging enterprise software companies. There has to be some sound strategy behind these purchases, right? Maybe.

Here’s the thing about older software companies. They may not out-innovate the competition anymore, but what they have going for them is a backlog of licensing revenue that appears to have value.


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