Posts Tagged ‘time’

Mirriad, the Company That Wants to Automate Product Placement, Gets Some High-Profile Help

December 19, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

You don’t want to watch ads. But if the ad is inserted directly into the thing you want to watch, you’ll put up with it. You might even like it. That’s the premise behind product placement, which is a very old idea. Now Mirriad is trying to update the concept, by digitizing it, and creating a marketplace that lets advertisers and content owners make deals on the fly. That means that in theory, if Coke wanted to insert some cans into reruns of “NCIS,” it could cut a deal with CBS, using a Web dashboard, and you’d never know that Mark Harmon was guzzling something else the first time around. Mirriad isn’t the first company to layer digital images onto video — if you’ve watched sports on TV over the last decade, you’ve seen it all the time, from the first-down markers on NFL games to the rotating billboards behind home plate in baseball games

Read More

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.

Read More

You’ve Come a Long Way, Silicon Valley

December 17, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

At the first big technology conference I attended, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a decade ago, I squeezed past hundreds of attendees on the show floor and was surprised to find myself alone in the ladies’ bathroom. Down the hall, the line for the men’s bathroom snaked out the door. Throughout my career at The Wall Street Journal, I’ve used my casual ladies’ bathroom observations as my own barometer to measure the number of women at events and, more broadly, in the tech community. The more women I see in the field, the less likely it is that just a team of guys are making and marketing tech products. Eleven years later, I’m happy to report I now regularly wait in line for the ladies’ rooms at conferences and product announcement events. A lot has happened since that first conference and I’ve had a front-row seat on this ever-changing industry. I’ve never written exclusively for or about women; rather, I hope my columns are read by anyone interested in learning more about a product. But privately I’ve noted the industry’s shift away from masculine marketing and product designs. In my final column this week, I’m taking a moment to look back at a few examples of how products geared toward women shaped this industry, counting failures and successes. First, the misses. A great example of a now-defunct company that tried entirely too hard to appeal to women with its product was the 2009 Palm Pre. The pebble-shaped smartphone had a slide-out keyboard and the company was proud to note that women would like the mirror that was revealed on the back of the pulled-down keyboard. On top of that, its commercial felt like a cross between a coordinated dance routine and a soap opera, complete with a woman standing on a rock in a windblown dress while she organized her digital life on a Palm Pre. A woman’s breathy voice-over said she was working on sorting “my family’s lives, friends’ lives, work life, play life, my life today and my life next week.” At the end of the commercial, the woman sat on the rock in the middle of a field with her dress tucked under her. All women do this, right? One of the most well-known failed attempts to design for women came in the shade of pink. After years of designing dull black and silver products, tech companies seemed to think they found the solution for appealing to all women by slapping a rosy hue on a device and calling it a female favorite. As laptops, cameras, cellphones, headphones, Bluetooth headsets, portable speaker docks, mice, keyboards and other products flooded the market, women continued to look for the best products with the best user interfaces—not just the pink ones. Another more recent failure: Verizon’s Droid

Read More

Total 2013 Box Office Poised for Record, Despite ‘The Hobbit’ Sequel Falling Short of Predecessor

December 15, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Despite a softer-than-expected landing for Warner Bros.-New Line’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” with an estimated $73.7 million domestically, the box office saw a healthy resurgence over this time last year, thanks in large part to the holdover performance of Disney’s “Frozen,” which collected $22.2 million in its fourth frame. Ultimately, “The Desolation of... Read more

Read More

Hear How Witnessing a Cross-Burning as a Child Motivated Apple CEO Tim Cook to Fight for Equality (Video)

December 14, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Apple CEO Tim Cook isn’t known for talking much about himself, but in a speech this week, he talked about some of the early childhood experiences that shape his passions around fighting for human rights and equality. “Growing up in Alabama in the 1960s, I saw the devastating impacts of discrimination,” Cook said, accepting a lifetime achievement award from Auburn University, his alma mater. “Remarkable people were denied opportunities and treated without basic human dignity, solely because of the color of their skin.” He talked about seeing a cross-burning at the home of a nearby family. “This image was permanently imprinted in my brain, and it would change my life forever,” Cook said. “For me, the cross-burning was a symbol of ignorance, of hatred, and a fear of anyone different than the majority. I could never understand it ,and I knew then that America’s and Alabama’s history would always be scarred by the hatred that it represented.” Cook notes that in his office are three photos — two of Robert Kennedy, and one of Martin Luther King Jr. “They sacrificed everything, including their lives, as champions of human rights and of human dignity,” Cook said. “Their images inspire me. They serve as a reminder to me every day that regardless of the path that one chooses, there are fundamental commitments that should be a part of one’s journey.” Cook said he is glad that his path has taken him to Apple, a company that shares his values. He talks about his and Apple’s support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit companies from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. “I have long believed in this, and Apple has implemented protections for employees, even when the laws did not,” he said. “Now is the time to write these principles of basic human dignity into the book of law.” The Senate has passed the bill, but the Republican-led House has not indicated any plans to take up the legislation. He also noted the work Apple does to make its products accessible to those with disabilities, sharing the story of a single mom with an autistic child who was completely nonverbal and spoke his first words thanks to an iPad. The full speech is about 13 minutes, and well worth a watch:

Read More

Electric-Vehicle Owners Get Charged Up Over Charging-Station Manners

December 14, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Dimitrios Papadogonas, a vice president of marketing at Silicon Valley-based ChargePoint, was sitting in the governor’s office not long ago, when he received an alert on his mobile phone. It was from his company’s own app, letting him know that a stranger had unplugged Papadogonas’s electric vehicle, parked two blocks away in a public garage. “I was unplugged for no reason whatsoever. No reason. They didn’t plug in their car — they just unplugged me,” Papadogonas said. “No note!” Call it next-level first-world problems, but some electric-vehicle owners are bristling at what they see as poor etiquette at the charging station — something that wouldn’t have even existed just two or three years ago. As of September, there were roughly 11,500 plug-in electric vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area . They come with standard owner manuals, but no Emily Post books on “EV Etiquette.” One perceived offense is being unplugged without notice or warning, or having to unplug other idle, fully charged cars that have been parked for hours. Others complain about non-EV owners being in parking spots designated for EVs, and some even think it’s wrong when hybrid EVs — which also run on gas — are parked in prime charging spots. “Please don’t park your MS in an EVSE parking spot unless you need to charge,” a online commenter pleaded in a Tesla-related forum last month, referring to Tesla’s Model S. “On several occasions I’ve seen an MS taking up an EVSE parking spot without charging.

Read More

Audi Revs Up Another Super Bowl Spot

December 13, 2013  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Audi is gearing up for its seventh straight Super Bowl appearance, signing on for 60 seconds of airtime in what may well be one of the most-watched segments in the year’s highest-rated broadcast. According to Loren Angelo, director of marketing, Audi of America, the automaker has landed the plum A position in the commercial pod that airs immediately after the halftime show. While Angelo is keeping details about the creative under wraps, he did say that the long-form spot will showcase the 2015 Audi A3 sedan , a luxury compact designed to compete with the Mercedes-Benz CLA. Priced to appeal to younger, first-time car buyers (the MSRP is $29,900), the A3 sedan will be the first member of the manufacturer’s revamped line to appear in showrooms. After arriving in the spring, the sporty four-door will be joined later in the year by diesel, hybrid and convertible models. As it did with last year’s “Prom” spot and the 2012 “Vampire Party” execution, Audi will make the A3 ad available shortly before the Super Bowl kicks off. “We’ve had a great deal of success with doing advance releases,” Angelo said. “We get much greater attention from the American audience when we put it out there ahead of time. The social sharing that takes place gets us greater attention and advance buzz.”

Read More

N3twork Wants to Reshape Online Discussions Around Interests

December 12, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Online forums today look like throwbacks to the Web of the 1990s. Lots of text, lots of page breaks, lots of hard-to-follow conversations. Meanwhile, more modern social media conversations on Twitter and Facebook spring up around hashtags, but they aren’t organized. You can see if a topic is trending, but Twitter offers only basic tools for curating tweets . A product called N3twork wants to be the new center for those conversations. It’s a daunting task to try to attract the people of the Internet to leave wherever they are and have their conversations on your own property. But the people behind N3twork hope people will be attracted to it because it is built expressly for mobile, and it is highly visual. Today’s active, general-purpose discussion sites, like Reddit and Wikia, are lacking on both those fronts, said N3twork CEO Neil Young in an interview at the company’s San Francisco office. “They aren’t visual. They aren’t well-integrated on the devices we have in our pockets all the time. And they have segmented audiences,” Young said. That’s the other things about N3twork — it creates personalized feeds of activity around every topic a user is interested in, so they don’t have to click around to visit each page or discussion. This is done by users following hashtags, which are the central element of the service. Users are invited to create posts that are collages of content, including Web pages, photos and videos. N3twork has a nifty trick where it captures a preview of a video and plays it silently and automatically, so the content looks alive as you scroll. But there are a couple of big challenges in launching a tool such as this. One: How are you going to get people to join and care about something, when it’s quite so broad? And two, how are you going to avoid the inevitable problem of people spamming feeds by posting over and over to various hashtags? As for the first, Young said that his experience building games at Ngmoco (which was bought by DeNA for $400 million in 2010 ) taught him and his team how to build things that grow and get people engaged.

Read More

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

Read More

Strava CEO Steps Down, and Former CEO Returns, but Not for the Usual Reasons

December 10, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Strava , the endurance-sports app maker, is going through a leadership change. CEO Michael Horvath will publicly announce today that he is stepping down for family reasons, and former CEO and board chairman Mark Gainey is returning to the top role. Horvath will become president and chairman of the board. But this is not the normal smoothed-over executive battle. Horvath plans to post that the reason he is leaving is because his wife Anna has cancer, actually for a third time. Earlier this fall, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in her liver that can be managed for an unknown amount of time. To complicate matters, Horvath has been splitting time for years between Hanover, N.H., where his family lives, and San Francisco, where Strava is based. So he is stepping back in order to be at home with Anna. Horvath said they agreed to talk about it publicly in the hope that other people will benefit from their openness. The other unusual part of this story is that Gainey is ready and waiting to take over from Horvath in what appears to be the smoothest of ways. The two men are longtime best friends — they rowed crew together at Harvard, and started their first company together in 1995. (It was actually originally supposed to be a “virtual locker room,” a la a ’90s version of Strava, but turned into the still-extant customer-communication company Kana .) The two men co-founded Strava in 2009, and Gainey stepped down as CEO in 2010, coincidentally due to a family issue of his own, he said

Read More