Posts Tagged ‘commerce’

Tristan Walker’s Next Act: Building a Procter & Gamble for People of Color

December 18, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In his first few months as an entrepreneur in residence at Andreessen Horowitz, Tristan Walker dreamed big when it came to startup ideas. There were the seeds he planted for a new kind of bank. There was the idea for a venture aimed at tackling childhood obesity. But, then, Walker decided his best bet was to found a company that was more “authentic” to him and his experiences. What he came up with was Walker & Company Brands, a next-generation Procter and Gamble with a straightforward, if ambitious, mission: To make health and beauty simple for people of color. That’s what he told me in an interview on Sunday night about his new company, which has raised $2.4 million led by Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures, with backing from Andresseen Horowitz, SV Angel, Collaborative Fund, Sherpa Ventures and the William Morris agency’s Charles King. Prior to Andreessen Horowitz, Walker ran business development at Foursquare, where he worked for nearly three years. On the surface, at least, the switch from a social-networking site to a consumer product goods company doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But when you hear Walker talk about his reason for creating Bevel, a $29.95 a month shaving kit that is the first brand launching under the Walker & Company umbrella and accepting pre-orders today , you can understand his motivation. Here’s an edited version of our conversation. Where did this idea come from? Tristan Walker: I was at Andreessen Horowitz for about nine months and I feel personally that I spent seven months of my time there chasing problems I probably wasn’t the right guy to solve. I wanted to build a bank.

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Bitcoin’s Biggest Bet: Andreessen Horowitz Leads $25 Million Investment in Coinbase

December 12, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Coinbase co-founders Brian Armstrong (l) and Fred Ehrsam, sporting we-got-money grins. If you’re a bitcoin doubter, you might want to turn away. The doors to venture funding in bitcoin startups are about to swing wide open. Andreessen Horowitz has led a $25 million Series B investment in San Francisco-based Coinbase, the companies are announcing today, in what may very well be the largest ever venture investment in a bitcoin-related company. Coinbase has previously raised nearly $7 million. Existing investors Union Square Ventures and Ribbit Capital will contribute some cash as well. And Union Square’s Fred Wilson and Andreessen Horowitz’s Chris Dixon are taking seats on Coinbase’s board of directors. Coinbase currently employs only eight people, but will add significantly to that total. It may also start to buy paid advertising, to promote itself and bitcoin. In short, bitcoin is often described it as a digital currency, and also as a payment network, though you can find people who say it behaves more like a commodity, or even a security. No matter what you call them, each bitcoin consists of a long digital string of characters and the network consists of a decentralized sprawl of computers that approve transactions and solve increasingly complex math problems to create — or “mine” — new bitcoin

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My Bitcoin Bummer — World’s Virtual Currency Plummets in Price (Again)

December 8, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

So, I bought a bitcoin a few weeks ago — just a single one, for fun! — at around $800, after having listened to a bunch of Internet nerds wax on about it until I was too weary to resist. Since I could not say they were nuts without some personal knowledge to snark properly, I felt I had to pony up some real dough to purchase the virtual currency. Of course, despite my dubiousness, I was thrilled when it went soared to over $1,000 right after I bought it, all on excitement over its use in China or whatever errant piece of news keeps this heedless excitement going. Wheee! Today, the Bitcoin Price Index now has the price of each bitcoin at just about $680. This steep drop came after some news that China’s big bank and some of its key companies — which seemed to have started the recent price spree by showing a bit of enthusiasm for bitcoin — were no longer mentioning bitcoin payments for their services. Most troubling was a statement from the People’s Bank of China, which noted, in part, that financial institutions “must not use bitcoin to set the price for products or services, not buy and sell bit coins.” Ouch! And so it goes in the brave new world of currency. And, just in case, I bought another on the dip (this is how the world ends, not with a bang, but with a limper).

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Apple Hopes to Usher in New Age of Personalized In-Store Shopping With iBeacon Rollout

December 6, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

After months of speculation, Apple today rolled out its iBeacon technology in all of its 254 U.S. stores, allowing the company to send notifications to shoppers’ phones based on their location within the store. The technology, which sends data to phones via Bluetooth Low Energy from iPhones, iPads and other third-party hardware Apple has positioned around its stores, will initially be used to prompt shoppers who have installed the Apple Store app and agree to be tracked to take certain actions. For example, shoppers who have come to the store to pick up a device they ordered online may receive a push notification-like message indicating that the product is ready and to swipe to view the confirmation. Another implementation triggers a message to shoppers when they are near the store’s accessories department and will prompt them to read product reviews and pay with the app’s Easy Pay function, which lets shoppers scan a product’s bar code with their phone and pay from the app. “We’re really excited about what iOS developers will be able to do with iBeacon, a technology we introduced with iOS 7 that uses Bluetooth Low Energy and geofencing to provide apps a whole new level of micro-location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum, or product displays in stores,” Apple said in a statement. The messaging efforts used in this initial rollout are pretty straightforward. But you could imagine Apple rolling out increasingly sophisticated use cases as time goes on, perhaps ones that recommend purchases based on current products a user owns or on online shopping behavior. But, perhaps more importantly, Apple likely views its rollout as one giant demonstration for other retailers looking to harness the power of mobile phones to give shoppers more personalized in-store visits via their own apps, whether it be special offers if a shopper spends a certain amount of time in one corner of a shop or information about products. Similar technologies have been out there for some time, but Apple’s arrival in the space will likely speed up adoption. The startup NewAer, for example, has been working on a technology similar to iBeacon for quite some time that supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and which it hopes to license to brands to use in their own apps. Its founder and CEO, Dave Mathews, said in an interview with AllThingsD in the fall that Apple’s entree will legitimize the space

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Filling Out Its Executive Team, Airbnb Hires Operations and HR Heads

December 5, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Airbnb has hired Varsha Rao as head of global operations and Mark Levy as head of employee experience. Both started this week. In regular company terms, they are effectively the peer-to-peer travel company’s COO and head of HR. Varsha Rao and Mark Levy Rao previously led operations at LivingSocial and was CEO of Singtel Digital Media in Singapore. Levy was chief talent officer at the creative agency Landor, and before that was in HR at Best Buy, Levi’s and GAP. In an emailed statement, Airbnb said Rao would lead customer experience, trust and safety, as well as local operations. Levy, meanwhile, will head up talent, leadership and development and employee experience

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Cards Against Humanity’s Sales Increased During Black Friday Price Hike

December 3, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Let’s chalk this one up to people feeling generous around the holidays: When the makers of the card game Cards Against Humanity raised prices in a parodic Black Friday “sale” last week … its sales also went up. “Anyone can do a sale for Black Friday, but nobody but us could get away with raising their prices and risking a ton of sales just to make a joke,” the game’s co-creator, Max Temkin, wrote on Tumblr . “So how did we do? A little better than last year. We kept our position as the best-selling toy or game on Amazon. My guess is that peoples’ buying decisions just weren’t that affected by $5,” he wrote farther down in that post. Even though it brazenly advertised itself as costing more than it normally does, the game outperformed its sales from both the previous (normally priced) Black Friday and the week of normally priced days before the “sale.” Sales increased even more the following day, which Temkin called “Regret Saturday.” “Not bad for an ad that paid us to run it,” he wrote.

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One of the Year’s Most Addictive Mobile Games Doesn’t Seem Like a Game At All

December 2, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

It’s inevitable: When I tell people I write about videogames, someone almost always asks, “What should I play?” Since I’m not a reviewer, there are plenty of games I haven’t played, but I always have at least one game on my phone ready to be shown off; recently, that game has been an unusual one. Clumsy Ninja , which game studio NaturalMotion first demoed at Apple’s iPhone 5 event in September 2012 , finally made it to Apple’s U.S. App Store a few weeks ago, and since then it’s been on a tear. “This is not designed to be a hardcore monetizing game,” NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil told me in a pre-launch interview. Well, oops? It is monetizing well — so well, in fact, that it broke into the top-25 iOS grossing apps chart within three days of its launch. At the time of this writing, it peaked at #14 overall on Tuesday and has been hovering between the high teens and low 30s since then, according to App Annie (registration required). (As for what that means in real money terms: According to one report from Distimo, the top-10 grossing apps make at least $47,000 per day . Even if the app never crosses the magical top-10 barrier, that’s still a lot of dough.) So why does Clumsy Ninja monetize so well?

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You Spent $1.2 Billion Shopping Online on Black Friday

December 1, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If you take an increase in the rate of holiday spending as a suggestion of good economic news, then there’s a lot to like about the new numbers from comScore, the research firm that tracks the digital economy. According to research out today, consumers shopping online spent $1.2 billion buying stuff on Black Friday . It was the, the firm says, the first billion-dollar-plus day of the holiday season so far. On Thanksgiving Day, consumers spent about $766 million online, up 21 percent from 2012. Compared to last year, it’s a 15 percent improvement, or $156 million higher than the Black Friday 2012 total of $1.04 billion. Now, that’s a tricky comparison, owing to the fact that Thanksgiving fell rather late on the calendar this year versus last year

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Either Ugly Sweaters Are Still In, or Amazon Is Very Late to the Party

November 27, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

The author in his ugly sweater, circa 2009. The last time I went to a so-called “ugly sweater” holiday party, the year was 2009. And even then, the party theme already seemed old (though you couldn’t tell by the look on my face). But, alas, either ugly sweaters are making a comeback, or their (dare I call it) popularity never really faded at all. This year’s example: has created an Ugly Christmas Sweater page within its Clothing category, marking the first time the Seattle-based retailer has done so, according to spokesman Scott Stanzel. The e-commerce marketplace has also bought up a bunch of keyword ads on Google for terms such as “ugly sweaters,” “ugly Christmas sweaters” and “ugly holiday sweaters.” has also paid to have its own ugly sweaters show up in the paid-ad box on Google alongside Amazon — also a first, according to spokesman Eddie Baeb. Even British online retailer ASOS is trying to get in on the action, snagging some ads atop certain related search queries. It seems, then, that perhaps I’ve just gotten too old to appreciate a good fad, especially if you trust this comment from a retail analyst Reuters spoke to . “This is going to be a Christmas of ugly sweaters,” she told Reuters.

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Uber Will Vouch for Its Drivers to Help Finance GM and Toyota Cars

November 25, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In an effort to boost the supply of cars in its system, Uber will help potential and current drivers finance cars from General Motors and Toyota in six of its 60 cities worldwide. The company says it has secured lower financing rates than the market standard, due to the near-guarantee of revenue generated via its ride-hailing service. It’s not exactly the same thing, but Airbnb also said recently that it plans to help its hosts buy smartphones so they can better manage their listings.

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