Jul
02
2019
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KKR has acquired Corel (including its recent acquisition Parallels), reportedly for $1B+

Only six months after snapping up virtualization specialist Parallels, Canadian software company Corel is itself getting acquired. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with multiple sources that private equity giant KKR has closed a deal to buy the company from Vector Capital, which has owned some or all of Corel since 2003.

KKR’s interest in Corel was first rumored in May, when PE Hub reported the two were in talks for a sale valued at over $1 billion. At the time, representatives of Corel declined to comment, although our sources inside the company indicated that the reports were not inaccurate.

Fast-forward to today, and both KKR and and a spokesperson for Parallels/Corel declined to comment. But, we now have a copy of the memo provided by an internal source that has been sent out to staff announcing that the deal has indeed closed, and that Corel is now officially part of the KKR family of companies.

According to the memo, KKR is very optimistic about Corel’s prospects. It plans to give Corel an “infusion of capital” to accelerate its growth, which will go into two areas. First will be expanding operations for the existing business: Corel is the company behind a number of longstanding software brands including WordPerfect, Corel Draw, WinZip, PaintShop Pro. Second will be making acquisitions (and the sheer proliferation of promising startups in the last decade dedicated to all variety of apps and other software that may have found it a challenge to scale means Corel could have rich pickings).

There are no layoffs planned as part of the deal, and the official announcement had been planned to go out next week, but now looks like it may be moved up to tomorrow (Wednesday).

Vector and Corel itself have never publicly disclosed much on user numbers or financials, but Vector has described the company as “highly profitable,” with dividends of more than $300 million to date. The memo we’ve seen notes that Corel (including Parallels) has millions of customers across its various software platforms and apps.

The acquisition of Corel by KKR marks another chapter in the company’s long corporate history.

Founded in the 1980s — when personal computers were just starting to enter the mainstream but well before we had anything like the internet (not to mention the world of cloud-based apps) that we know today — Corel once positioned itself as a potential competitor to Microsoft in the software wars.

When Corel purchased WordPerfect from Novel in 1996, Corel founder Michael Cowpland viewed the software package as an integral part of that rivalry, describing it as the Pepsi to Microsoft’s Coke — that is, Word.

Microsoft proved the mightier of the two, and it even eventually signed a partnership with Corel that saw it investing in the company: a sell out, as one disappointed Canadian journalist described it at the time. The two have also sparred over patents.

Corel, which went public early in its life, got battered in the first dot-com bust (which was not helped by an insider trading scandal that led to Cowpland’s departure). Vector stepped in and took it private in 2003.

After restructuring the company, Vector listed Corel again in 2006. But, amid another recession that again hit Corel hard, it once more took it private in 2010. In the intervening years, Corel has been focused on modernising its offerings, bringing in e-commerce, direct downloads, subscriptions and acquisitions to bring the company’s products and wider business closer to how consumers and workers use computers today.

Parallels was a part of that strategy: its products help people work seamlessly across multiple platforms, letting employees (and IT managers) run a unified workflow regardless of the device or operating system, with Parallels providing support for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Linux, Raspberry Pi and cloud — a timely offering in the current, fragmented IT market.

If the $1 billion+ figure is accurate, that strategy seems to have worked: across the two times that Vector took Corel private, it never paid more than $124 million for the company (the second time, as its stock was tanking, it paid just $30 million).

Jun
20
2019
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GirlGaze Network looks to connect brands with female creatives

It started with a hashtag. Amanda de Cadenet, photographer, author and TV host, was spending time with her sister, a director and photographer in her own right, when an ACLU study on the lack of diversity among directors was published in the NYT Magazine, with de Cadenet’s sister an interviewee in the cover story.

“It’s about damn time,” she said to her sister, launching a conversation that would re-route de Cadenet’s path forward. Her experience as a photographer, able to book editorial jobs but rarely getting paid gigs, cemented what she had just read in the magazine article.

“The glass ceiling was so low that I couldn’t get off my knees,” she explained of that time.

Over the next 48 hours she would design a logo and a font and contact everyone in her creative network, brands and artists alike, to answer the call when she tweeted a call to action. She simply asked for female photographers and videographers to share their photos alongside the hashtag #girlgaze.

“The majority of pictures taken of females are taken by men,” said de Cadenet. “If the goal is for us to be accepted and embrace who we are, our flaws and all, we’re never going to see those pieces of ourselves depicted in media when taken from the perspective that doesn’t have an experience of those things.”

Thousands of photos flooded in over the first 72 hours and were re-shared on the GirlGaze Instagram. It was de Cadenet’s way of highlighting the amazing work being done by creative women, and showing the different story that is told in content created from the perspective of a female. But more importantly, it’s how she built an army of 200,000+ female-identifying photographers and directors to eventually launch the GirlGaze Network.

Today, at Cannes Lion festival, nearly three years later, de Cadenet did just that.

The GirlGaze Network allows brands to sign up and find diverse, female-identifying and non-binary creatives to generate amazing content. The network has been in beta for the past few months, and was integral in a global campaign from Dove, which employed 400 photographers and directors across 62 countries.

In essence, the GirlGaze Network acts as representation for a group of people who have not gotten equal pay or equal respect within their field. It also gives brands the opportunity to right the ship and hire diverse creative talent to generate their troves of content, whether it’s for social media, a campaign or otherwise.

Here’s how it works:

Creatives pay nothing to be on the platform and share their portfolio.

Brands join the platform through a paid subscription, where they can see the portfolios of thousands of photographers, directors and creatives. These brands have access to an à la carte menu to establish what kind of jobs they’d like to post, putting the compensation quote up at the very beginning so that whomever receives the job is paid a fair amount for the gig.

Big brands looking to hire a large amount of people, as Dove did with the #showus campaign, join the Enterprise tier to customize their exact offer, including per-project talent as well as full-time positions.

Brands can search for talent by title, skills, location and availability. But perhaps even more interesting, the GirlGaze Network has an “Unbiased Browsing” feature, allowing brands who genuinely want to rid themselves of unconscious bias to browse portfolios only, without access to any details about the creative herself.

GirlGaze also handles all of the back-end nitty gritty, including casting and NDAs and all the other paperwork involved.

“The biggest challenge for GirlGaze is to let brands and companies know that they’re not doing this underserved community a favor by hiring them,” said de Cadenet. “This community creates work that is incredibly impactful, really powerful, smart, beautiful. Ultimately, it’s going to add to the bottom line of their business because we’re in a time where the world is very attuned to what is BS and what isn’t. This community tells stories. They have a perspective.”

Thus far, GirlGaze has worked with brands such as Levi’s, Nike, Google and Warby Parker, and has brought in more than $1 million in pay to their network of female-identifying and non-binary creatives.

One such creative is photographer Nolwen Cifuentes, who has been following GirlGaze from the start and also worked on the Dove campaign.

“This is for really cool brands that want female photographers so they can focus on a story they didn’t have before,” said Cifuentes. “I’ve heard criticism against brands from people who believe they might be queer baiting or using inclusion as a trend. But the thing about GirlGaze is that they are genuinely passionate about female photographers and the stories being told by female photographers, so the brands that come to them are going to be genuine, as well.”

Jun
11
2019
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WhatsApp is finally going after outside firms that are abusing its platform

WhatsApp has so far relied on past dealings with bad players within its platform to ramp up its efforts to curtail spam and other automated behavior. The Facebook -owned giant has now announced an additional step it plans to take beginning later this year to improve the health of its messaging service: going after those whose mischievous activities can’t be traced within its platform.

The messaging platform, used by more than 1.5 billion users, confirmed on Tuesday that starting December 7 it will start considering signals off its platform to pursue legal actions against those who are abusing its system. The company will also go after individuals who — or firms that — falsely claim to have found ways to cause havoc on the service.

The move comes as WhatsApp grapples with challenges such as spam behavior to push agendas or spread of false information on its messaging service in some markets. “This serves as notice that we will take legal action against companies for which we only have off-platform evidence of abuse if that abuse continues beyond December 7, 2019, or if those companies are linked to on-platform evidence of abuse before that date,” it said in an FAQ post on its site.

A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed the change to TechCrunch, adding, “WhatsApp was designed for private messaging, so we’ve taken action globally to prevent bulk messaging and enforce limits on how WhatsApp accounts that misuse WhatsApp can be used. We’ve also stepped up our ability to identify abuse, which helps us ban 2 million accounts globally per month.”

Earlier this year, WhatsApp said (PDF) it had built a machine learning system to detect and weed out users who engage in inappropriate behavior such as sending bulk messages or creating multiple accounts with intention to harm the service. The platform said it was able to assess the past dealings with problematics behaviors to ban 20% of bad accounts at the time of registration itself.

But the platform is still grappling to contain abusive behavior, a Reuters report claimed last month. The news agency reported about tools that were readily being sold in India for under $15 that claimed to bypass some of the restrictions that WhatsApp introduced in recent months.

TechCrunch understands that with today’s changes, WhatsApp is going after those same set of bad players. It has already started to send cease and desist letters to marketing companies that claim to abuse WhatsApp in recent months, a person familiar with the matter said.

May
14
2019
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CEO Howard Lerman on building a public company and the future of Yext

It’s just over two years since Yext debuted on the New York Stock Exchange, and to mark the occasion, I sat down with co-founder and CEO Howard Lerman for an interview.

As Lerman noted, Yext — which allows businesses to manage their profiles and information across a wide variety of online services — actually presented onstage at the TechCrunch 50 conference back in 2009. Now, it boasts a market capitalization of nearly $2.3 billion, and it just revealed plans to take over a nine-floor building in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, turning it into Yext’s global headquarters.

My interview with Lerman actually came before the announcement, though he managed to drop in a few veiled hints about the company making a big move in real estate.

More concretely, we talked about how Lerman’s management style has evolved from scrappy startup founder to a public company CEO — he described holding five-minute meetings with every Yext employee as “one of the best management techniques” he’s ever adopted.

Lerman also argued that as online misinformation has become a big issue, Yext has only become more important: “Our founding principle is that the ultimate authority on how many calories are in a Big Mac is McDonald’s. The ultimate authority on where Burger King is open is Burger King.”

Vowing that he will remain CEO of Yext for “as long as this board will have me,” Lerman ended our conversation with a passionate defense of the idea that “a company is the ultimate vehicle in America to effect good in the world.”

You can read a transcript of our conversation below, edited and condensed for clarity.

TechCrunch: To start with a really broad question, how do you think Yext is different now than it was two years ago?

Howard Lerman: One of the things that’s defined Yext over the years is our continuous willingness to reinvent ourselves. You started covering us in 2009 [at] TechCrunch 50, we were a launch company there.

And here we are now. One of the cool things about being public is: It’s a total gamechanger. It’s a gamechanger not just for access to capital, but it’s particularly important in global markets. And I’m not talking about capital markets, I’m talking about the markets in which we sell software. We have offices now from Berlin to Shanghai.

May
02
2019
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Takeaways from F8 and Facebook’s next phase

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Josh Constine and Frederic Lardinois discuss major announcements that came out of Facebook’s F8 conference and dig into how Facebook is trying to redefine itself for the future.

Though touted as a developer-focused conference, Facebook spent much of F8 discussing privacy upgrades, how the company is improving its social impact, and a series of new initiatives on the consumer and enterprise side. Josh and Frederic discuss which announcements seem to make the most strategic sense, and which may create attractive (or unattractive) opportunities for new startups and investment.

“This F8 was aspirational for Facebook. Instead of being about what Facebook is, and accelerating the growth of it, this F8 was about Facebook, and what Facebook wants to be in the future.

That’s not the newsfeed, that’s not pages, that’s not profiles. That’s marketplace, that’s Watch, that’s Groups. With that change, Facebook is finally going to start to decouple itself from the products that have dragged down its brand over the last few years through a series of nonstop scandals.”

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Josh and Frederic dive deeper into Facebook’s plans around its redesign, Messenger, Dating, Marketplace, WhatsApp, VR, smart home hardware and more. The two also dig into the biggest news, or lack thereof, on the developer side, including Facebook’s Ax and BoTorch initiatives.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

Apr
02
2019
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TradingView acquires TradeIt to add instant trading APIs to its investor toolkit

After raising $37 million to bring its on-the-spot stock market analytics tools to a wider range of publishers and other internet partners, TradingView today has announced its first acquisition to supercharge the services that it offers to investors, wherever they happen to be online. The startup has acquired TradeIt, which has built an API for on-the-spot trading on any site that uses it.

The terms of deal were not disclosed, but we understand from sources close to the deal that it was under $20 million, more specifically in the “high teens.” TradeIt, which used to be called Trading Ticket, had raised about $12 million from investors that included Peter Thiel’s mostly-fintech fund Valar Ventures, Citi Ventures and others. TradingView had raised just over $40 million with investors including Insight Partners, TechStars and others.

The deal is a big move for consolidation: together the two say they will serve more than 10 million monthly active users in 150 countries, covering some $70 billion in linked assets. But also, better economies of scale, and better margins for companies that provide services that touch consumers not necessarily from a “home” of their own.

The latter is a growing trend that has mirrored the rise of social media and other services that aggregate content from multiple sources; and also the bigger trend of instant, on-demand everything, where consumers are happier with the convenience of buying or engaging with something right when they want to, rather than shopping around, delaying or navigating to another place to do it.

That has also seen the rise of commerce APIs to buy things instantly, not to mention the emergence of a wide range of commerce applications that let people easily buy goods and services on the spot. (And in line with that, TradingView says that nearly half of its user base today is millennials, with an additional 13 percent even younger, Gen Z. “The groups are particularly drawn to [our] extensive charting expertise,” the company says.)

In fintech, and in the world of investing specifically, that’s a trend that has also helped the growth of cryptocurrency, which has opened up the world of investing and thinking about investing to a whole new class of consumers who — for better or worse — are hearing about investing opportunities via viral social media campaigns and other new kinds of channels. Whether cryptocurrency speculation bears out longer term, it is depositing a new class of people into the world of thinking about companies and investing in them.

That taps into the sweet spot where TradeIt and TradingView are building their business.

“TradeIt’s secure and compliant relationships with established U.S. retail brokerages, coupled with their robust integrations with top investing apps, allows TradingView to be part of the backbone of the investing ecosystem,” said Denis Globa, TradingView founder and CEO, in a statement.

TradingView’s partners today include Crunchbase, Investopedia, SeekingAlpha, Zacks, Binance, CME Group and Entrepreneur, where users are able to access a premium tier of TradingView tools by way of a subscription in order to do some instant data and price modelling of a company that they might be reading about. The thinking is that now they will also be able to go one step further by trading stocks related to that information. TradingView, meanwhile, can use that extra feature to make a little more money and sell its service to partners as more sticky, to the tune of 80 percent more time spent with publishers as a result of integrating TradingView’s tools.

That’s something that the two companies can already attest to doing well in partnership.

“TradingView’s vision aligns strongly with our view of the distributed financial networks of the future,” said Nathan Richardson, TradeIt CEO, in a statement. “We’ve worked with TradingView for several years now, and always felt our complementary products and shared retail investing users makes us stronger together.”

Richardson and his cofounder Betsy Eisenberg — who are both joining TradingView — had together built Yahoo Finance — so they are already well experienced in how to leverage the potential of bringing together content with utility.

“Nathan Richardson and Betsy Eisenberg are fintech pioneers who led the development of Yahoo! Finance from scratch. With them on board, we’re extremely excited about the growth potential,” Globa said.

Oct
16
2018
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Netflix shares are up after the streaming service adds nearly 7M new subscribers in Q3

After a disappointing second quarter, Netflix is back in Wall Street’s good graces. The company just released its third-quarter earnings report, and as of 5:30pm East Coast time, the stock is up 12 percent in after-hours trading.

The most important number here is subscriber growth, and that’s where Netflix came in way ahead of expectations, with 6.96 million net additions, compared to the 5.07 million that analysts predicted. The service now has a total of 137 million members, and 130 million paying members.

The company also reported earnings of 89 cents per share on revenue of $4 billion — analysts had predicted EPS of 68 cents.

In addition to reporting on the latest financials, Netflix’s letter to shareholders also offers an update on its original content strategy. It distinguishes between two different types of Netflix Originals — the ones like “Orange Is the New Black,” where Netflix gets the first window for distribution, and others like “Stranger Things,” where it actually owns the content.

The company says:

Today, we employ hundreds of people in physical production, working on a wide variety of owned titles spread across scripted and unscripted series, kids, international content, standup, docs and feature films from all over the world. To support our efforts, we’ll need more production capacity; we recently announced the selection of ?Albuquerque, New Mexico? as the site of a new US production hub, where we anticipate bringing $1 billion dollars in production over the next 10 years and creating up to 1,000 production jobs per year. Our internal studio is already the single largest supplier of content to Netflix (on a cash basis).

Netflix subscription adds Q3

Netflix also says romance has been big recently, thanks to its “Summer of Love” slate of original films, which have been watched by more than 80 million accounts. Apparently “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” did particularly well, becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched original films, “with strong repeat viewing.”

The service plans to release “Gravity” director Alfonso Cuarón’s new film “Roma” in December, which has already been getting rave reviews at film festivals. While Netflix’s original movies generally have a minimal presence in theaters, the company says “Roma” (like Paul Greengrass’ “22 July”) will be released on more than 100 screens worldwide — not a blockbuster rollout, but not a perfunctory release, either.

The company is forecasting the addition of 9.4 million new members in the fourth quarter.

May
30
2018
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Here’s Mary Meeker’s essential 2018 Internet Trends report

Want to understand all the most important tech stats and trends? Legendary venture capitalist Mary Meeker has just released the 2018 version of her famous Internet Trends report. It covers everything from mobile to commerce to the competition between tech giants. Check out the full report below, and we’ll add some highlights soon. Then come back for our slide-by-slide analysis of the most important parts of the 294 page report.

  • Internet adoption: As of 2018, half the world population, or about 3.6 billion people, will be on the internet. That’s thanks in large part to cheaper Android phones and Wifi becoming more available, though individual services will have a tougher time adding new users as the web hits saturation.
  • Mobile usage: While smartphone shipments are flat and internet user growth is slowing, U.S. adults are spending more time online thanks to mobile, clocking 5.9 hours per day in 2017 versus 5.6 hours in 2016.
  • Mobile ads: People are shifting their time to mobile faster than ad dollars are following, creating a $7 billion mobile ad opportunity, though platforms are increasingly responsible for providing safe content to host those ads.
  • Crypto: Interest in cryptocurrency is exploding as Coinbase’s user count has nearly quadrupled since January 2017
  • Voice: Voice technology is at an inflection point due to speech recognition hitting 95% accuracy and the sales explosion for Amazon Echo which went from over 10 million to over 30 million sold in total by the end of 2017.
  • Daily usage – Revenue gains for services like Facebook are tightly coupled with daily user growth, showing how profitable it is to become a regular habit.
  • Tech investment: We’re at an all-time high for public and private investment in technology, while the top six public R&D + capex spenders are all technology companies.

Mary Meeker, analyst with Morgan Stanley, speaks during the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010. This year’s conference, which runs through Nov. 17, is titled “Points of Control: The Battle for the Network Economy.” Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Ecommerce vs Brick & Mortar: Ecommerce growth quickens as now 13% of all retail purchases happen online and parcel shipments are rising swiftly, signaling big opportunities for new shopping apps.
  • Amazon: More people start product searches on Amazon than search engines now, but Jeff Bezos still relies on other surfaces like Facebook and YouTube to inspire people to want things.
  • Subscription services: They’re seeing massive adoption, with Netflix up 25%, The New York Times up 43%, and Spotify up 48% year-over-year in 2017. A free tier accelerates conversion rates.
  • Education: Employees seek retraining and education from YouTube and online courses to keep up with new job requirements and pay off skyrocketing student loan debt.
  • Freelancing: Employees crave scheduling and work-from-home flexibility, and internet discovery of freelance work led it to grow 3X faster than total workforce growth. The on-demand workforce grew 23% in 2017 driven by Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, Upwork, and Doordash.
  • Transportation: People are buying fewer cars, keeping them longer, and shifting transportation spend to rideshare, which saw rides double in 2017.
  • Enterprise: Consumerization of the enterprise through better interfaces is spurring growth for companies like Dropbox and Slack.
  • China: Alibaba is expanding beyond China with strong gross merchandise volume, though Amazon still rules in revenue.
  • Privacy: China has a big opportunity as users there are much more willing to trade their personal data for product benefits than U.S. users, and China is claiming more spots on the top 20 internet company list while making big investments in AI.
  • Immigration: It is critical to a strong economy, as 56% of top U.S. companies were founded by a first- or second-generation immigrant.

Nov
27
2017
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Amazon debuts Elemental-based AWS Media Services for video app creation

 Video is what consumers are paying attention to these days, and Amazon’s AWS is hoping to capitalise on that with one of its latest launches. Doubling down on its video services for media companies, app publishers — and actually any other organization that has considered launching a video service — Amazon today announced a new suite of five video processing tools as part of… Read More

Oct
03
2017
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Frame.io picks up $20 million to be the Slack of video

 Frame.io, the collaboration platform for the video industry, has today announced the close of a $20 million Series B funding round led by FirstMark Capital, with participation from existing investors including Accel Partners, SignalFire and Shasta Ventures. Frame.io launched on to the scene back in March of 2015. The company solved a growing problem with a seemingly obvious solution. People… Read More

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