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Amazon eyes a move into home shopping TV with possible Evine acquisition

Amazon has now passed 100 million subscribers for its Prime loyalty shopping program, underscoring its growth as an e-commerce, cloud services and streaming media behemoth. But it’s also looking beyond the internet, at more traditional ways to reach consumers.
An industry source claims that Amazon is interested in making a buy in TV home shopping. Specifically, we’re told there have been acquisition discussions between Amazon and Evine Live, which operates a pay-TV home shopping channel of the same name. Another source also heard Amazon was one of several companies potentially interested in buying Evine.
The stage of these alleged discussions is not clear, nor is the price that Amazon would potentially pay. Evine is traded on Nasdaq, and its current market cap is $53 million, at the lower end of its one-year range.
The TV channel was previously the subject of a more public acquisition offer: a group headed by Segel Vision offered to buy it for an enterprise value of $175 million last year, but it eventually walked away after Evine rebuffed the offer multiple times. When TechCrunch reached out to Segel, co-founders Jim Morris and Marvin Segel wrote, “we do not know of any other interest in EVINE,” noting the company’s lackluster financial performance. “This is not the stock movement of a company being looked at.”
Spokespeople for Amazon and Evine declined to comment on rumors and speculation. Separately, we have received no response to messages sent to the CEO of Evine, Bob Rosenblatt, and COO/CFO Tim Peterman.
Evine is a distant third in the world of home shopping channels after QVC and the Home Shopping Network. Yet it still has broad potential reach, with its channel available in 87 million homes across the U.S., in addition to a website and apps. Its business is based on selling a range of merchandise, sometimes in partnerships with celebrities. The company last quarter reported revenues of $193 million with net income of $6.4 million. The latter may sound like a modestly small figure, but it was the first time Evine had posted a net income since 2007, with a rocky stock price to match. (Yet Evine insiders have remained bullish, making dozens of share purchases in the past 12 months, with limited selling.)
Evine has grown up amid some big shifts in the two worlds in which it operates, commerce and media. Two notable trends are that many consumers have switched off their TVs and moved away from shopping in physical stores, turning their attention online (and to their mobile screens) to be entertained and to buy things.
Amazon is both a big benefactor and pace-setter of that trend: the company has become a formidable presence in all things e-commerce and has, in more recent years, been stepping up its game in content, leveraging its cloud services infrastructure to stream third-party media in areas like video and music, as well as its own original programming, bringing a core audience to it all via its Prime subscription service.
There was once a time (before the internet grabbed hold) when home shopping TV helped define the idea of “shopping from your sofa.” But the $2.1 billion acquisition last year of HSN by QVC, creating North America’s third largest e-commerce retailer, was seen by some as a way for the combined companies to “battle Amazon.” The founder of Evine and its former CEO Mark Bozek (who was the basis of the Bradley Cooper character in the film Joy) also clearly identified the Amazon challenge/threat not just for home shopping but retail overall. (Bozek left Evine in 2016 and is now working on a new startup called Live Rocket.)
Yet Amazon’s might is not the full story. Today, e-commerce still accounts for only around nine percent of all retail sales in the U.S., according to figures from the Census Bureau. It’s on the rise, but that proportion speaks to a strong opportunity for online companies that want to capture customers who are not already regular Amazon shoppers and might be more likely to watch broadcast rather than on-demand TV. (Amazon’s Whole Foods buy, you could argue, also helped it target a more traditional channel, with a big move into physical stores.)
Evine is not the leading player in its space, but it has some key pieces in place — such as deals to broadcast into a multitude of local pay-TV markets, and an audience of TV viewers who are already watching and buying from Evine and channels like it — for a larger player to come in and use that infrastructure to build inroads to audiences that might not otherwise be reaching. It could also give those who sell on Evine a potentially much bigger audience to access through its digital channels.
QVC-style programming is an area that Amazon has tried to break into previously using its existing digital platforms. Back in 2016, Amazon launched “Style Code Live,” where users could watch a show with fashion and beauty tips and instantly buy the products. That effort was shelved in 2017 with no explanation for the cancellation, but it shows that the company does have an interest in the area.
Coincidentally, several months ago, reports surfaced that Amazon was looking at acquisitions of smaller, niche-interest television stations to complement its advances in streamed video surfaces.
Another interesting side note: Earlier this year Amazon took a $600 million investment into a company called StarTek, a call center operator and engagement outsourcing specialist that provides services in the cable TV, telecom and retail industries. The investment was little reported at the time, and when we asked about it, StarTek would only say that the deal was related to “commercial services” provided to Amazon.
Evine has been through several iterations: It was founded back in 1990 as Value Vision, went public in 1991 and at one time counted NBC as an investor, which had a significant enough stake to rebrand the company as ShopNBC. NBC eventually sold its stake and the company rebranded as ShopHQ, and then Evine in 2015 as part of Bozek’s attempted turnaround of the company.

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Amazon eyes a move into home shopping TV with possible Evine buy

Amazon has now passed 100 million subscribers for its Prime loyalty shopping program, underscoring its growth as an e-commerce, cloud services and streaming media behemoth. But it’s also looking beyond the internet, at more traditional ways to reach consumers.
An industry source claims that Amazon is interested in making a buy in TV home shopping. Specifically, we’re told there have been acquisition discussions between Amazon and Evine Live, which operates a pay-TV home shopping channel of the same name. Another source also heard Amazon was one of several companies potentially interested in buying Evine.
The stage of these alleged discussions is not clear, nor is the price that Amazon would potentially pay. Evine is traded on Nasdaq, and its current market cap is $53 million, at the lower end of its one-year range.
The TV channel was previously the subject of a more public acquisition offer: a group headed by Segel Vision offered to buy it for an enterprise value of $175 million last year, but it eventually walked away after Evine rebuffed the offer multiple times. When TechCrunch reached out to Segel, co-founders Jim Morris and Marvin Segel wrote, “we do not know of any other interest in EVINE,” noting the company’s lackluster financial performance. “This is not the stock movement of a company being looked at.”
Spokespeople for Amazon and Evine declined to comment on rumors and speculation. Separately, we have received no response to messages sent to the CEO of Evine, Bob Rosenblatt, and COO/CFO Tim Peterman.
Evine is a distant third in the world of home shopping channels after QVC and the Home Shopping Network. Yet it still has broad potential reach, with its channel available in 87 million homes across the U.S., in addition to a website and apps. Its business is based on selling a range of merchandise, sometimes in partnerships with celebrities. The company last quarter reported revenues of $193 million with net income of $6.4 million. The latter may sound like a modestly small figure, but it was the first time Evine had posted a net income since 2007, with a rocky stock price to match. (Yet Evine insiders have remained bullish, making dozens of share purchases in the past 12 months, with limited selling.)
Evine has grown up amid some big shifts in the two worlds in which it operates, commerce and media. Two notable trends are that many consumers have switched off their TVs and moved away from shopping in physical stores, turning their attention online (and to their mobile screens) to be entertained and to buy things.
Amazon is both a big benefactor and pace-setter of that trend: the company has become a formidable presence in all things e-commerce and has, in more recent years, been stepping up its game in content, leveraging its cloud services infrastructure to stream third-party media in areas like video and music, as well as its own original programming, bringing a core audience to it all via its Prime subscription service.
There was once a time (before the internet grabbed hold) when home shopping TV helped define the idea of “shopping from your sofa.” But the $2.1 billion acquisition last year of HSN by QVC, creating North America’s third largest e-commerce retailer, was seen by some as a way for the combined companies to “battle Amazon.” The founder of Evine and its former CEO Mark Bozek (who was the basis of the Bradley Cooper character in the film Joy) also clearly identified the Amazon challenge/threat not just for home shopping but retail overall. (Bozek left Evine in 2016 and is now working on a new startup called Live Rocket.)
Yet Amazon’s might is not the full story. Today, e-commerce still accounts for only around nine percent of all retail sales in the U.S., according to figures from the Census Bureau. It’s on the rise, but that proportion speaks to a strong opportunity for online companies that want to capture customers who are not already regular Amazon shoppers and might be more likely to watch broadcast rather than on-demand TV. (Amazon’s Whole Foods buy, you could argue, also helped it target a more traditional channel, with a big move into physical stores.)
Evine is not the leading player in its space, but it has some key pieces in place — such as deals to broadcast into a multitude of local pay-TV markets, and an audience of TV viewers who are already watching and buying from Evine and channels like it — for a larger player to come in and use that infrastructure to build inroads to audiences that might not otherwise be reaching. It could also give those who sell on Evine a potentially much bigger audience to access through its digital channels.
QVC-style programming is an area that Amazon has tried to break into previously using its existing digital platforms. Back in 2016, Amazon launched “Style Code Live,” where users could watch a show with fashion and beauty tips and instantly buy the products. That effort was shelved in 2017 with no explanation for the cancellation, but it shows that the company does have an interest in the area.
Coincidentally, several months ago, reports surfaced that Amazon was looking at acquisitions of smaller, niche-interest television stations to complement its advances in streamed video surfaces.
Another interesting side note: Earlier this year Amazon took a $600 million investment into a company called StarTek, a call center operator and engagement outsourcing specialist that provides services in the cable TV, telecom and retail industries. The investment was little reported at the time, and when we asked about it, StarTek would only say that the deal was related to “commercial services” provided to Amazon.
Evine has been through several iterations: It was founded back in 1990 as Value Vision, went public in 1991 and at one time counted NBC as an investor, which had a significant enough stake to rebrand the company as ShopNBC. NBC eventually sold its stake and the company rebranded as ShopHQ, and then Evine in 2015 as part of Bozek’s attempted turnaround of the company.

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Twitch’s creators and developers gain a new revenue stream with launch of Bits in Extensions

Twitch’s Bits, a virtual good that allows fans to cheer on their favorite streamers, have been one of the ways Twitch creators could make money from their channels while also recognizing and rewarding their top fans. Today, the game streaming site is expanding the power of those Bits by allowing them to now be used with Twitch’s Extensions.
Extensions, launched in August 2017, let streamers customize their channel with add-ons like polls, leaderboards, tickers, game history and more. There are now more than 150 of these add-ons — some of which are mobile-friendly — and more than 2,000 developers signed up to create them.

Starting today, developers can customize their Extensions with interactive experiences they can charge for, using Bits. That is, viewers will be able to pay to take advantage of these new experiences, with a portion of the revenue being returned to the Extension’s developer.
At launch, Twitch says 80 percent of the revenue share associated with Bits in Extensions will go to the creator — as they’re the ones driving traffic to the Extension through their channel. The remaining 20 percent of the revenue will then go to the Extension developer.

Extensions with Bits will be available to every Twitch Affiliate and Partner with a Bits-enabled channel.
Several Extensions have already enabled Bits, Twitch says.
In Tilted Trivia by Sliver.tv, viewers can test their video game knowledge across a number of top titles, like Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Overwatch, Grand Theft Auto V and Hearthstone.

OneView by Esports One will let viewers predict when things will happen in League of Legends; Bit Arcade will offer arcade classics that can be played while watching a game; Poll by iPowow lets viewers guide what the streamer does next; and Rock Paper Bits by Maestro lets streamers start an impromptu Rock Paper Scissors tournament.
Other Bits-enabled Extensions will include those offering a priority queue for joining a creator’s game, virtual throwable items, plus the ability to post on-screen messages, take part in special polls or trigger sound alerts, among other things.
Dozens of Extensions will be available from developers including ​Altoar​, ​Casperr, ​CygnusCross​, Daniil Kubatko​, Doborog Games, Evolution Gaming, gnatbuoy, Hellcat, Inthegame, Martin Beierling​, ​End Game​, Meastoso​, ​Mobalytics​, ​MoneyMatches​, ​​Porcupine​, ​Pretzel Tech​, ​Purity Dev​, ​Run It Up, Seravy​, ​Stream Decker​,​ Streamlabs​, tallcode​, ​tetsuo286, vAudience, VoidTeam Studios and Zippers & Henry Liao​.

Twitch had promised at last year’s developer conference TwitchCon, that Extensions would soon be able to be monetized. But it’s taken a little longer to deliver than it had said.
Still, the addition is notable because it opens up another revenue stream for creators and developers alike, which could attract more game streamers to its site, thus boosting its own bottom line. Twitch’s revenue has been growing year-over-year, with payouts to Partners more than doubling in 2017. Cheering with Bits has also proved popular since its introduction, generating more than $12 million in its first 10 months.
The hope is that Bits for Extensions will now follow that same path.
“Our mission at Twitch is to help our community make a living on our service doing what they love, and that includes both content creators and developers,” said Jeffrey Chow, product manager of Extensions at Twitch, in a statement about the launch. “We built Extensions to best serve what Twitch is best known for: community interactions. By enabling revenue generation from Extensions, developers can make more of them, which ultimately opens up more interactive possibilities and monetization methods for content creators.”
Bits in Extensions are live now from the Extensions Manager dashboard, where they’ll be labeled with the “In-Extensions Bits” tag.

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Facebook’s new authorization process for political ads goes live in the US

Earlier this month — and before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress — the company announced a series of changes to how it would handle political advertisements running on its platform in the future. It had said that people who wanted to buy a political ad — including ads about political “issues” — would have to reveal their identities and location and be verified before the ads could run. Information about the advertiser would also display to Facebook users.
Today, Facebook is announcing the authorization process for U.S. political ads is live.
Facebook had first said in October that political advertisers would have to verify their identity and location for election-related ads. But in April, it expanded that requirement to include any “issue ads” — meaning those on political topics being debated across the country, not just those tied to an election.
Facebook said it would work with third parties to identify the issues. These ads would then be labeled as “Political Ads,” and display the “paid for by” information to end users.
According to today’s announcement, Facebook will now begin to verify the identity and the residential mailing address of advertisers who want to run political ads. Those advertisers will also have to disclose who’s paying for the ads as part of this authorization process.
This verification process is currently only open in the U.S. and will require Page admins and ad account admins to submit their government-issued ID to Facebook, along with their residential mailing address.
The government ID can either be a U.S. passport or U.S. driver’s license, a FAQ explains. Facebook will also ask for the last four digits of admins’ Social Security Number. The photo ID will then be approved or denied in a matter of minutes, though anyone declined based on the quality of the uploaded images won’t be prevented from trying again.
The address, however, will be verified by mailing a letter with a unique access code that only the admin’s Facebook account can use. The letter may take up to 10 days to arrive, Facebook notes.
Along with the verification portion, Page admins will also have to fill in who paid for the ad in the “disclaimer” section. This has to include the organization(s) or person’s name(s) who funded it.
This information will also be reviewed prior to approval, but Facebook isn’t going to fact check this field, it seems.
Instead, the company simply says: “We’ll review each disclaimer to make sure it adheres to our advertising policies. You can edit your disclaimers at any time, but after each edit, your disclaimer will need to be reviewed again, so it won’t be immediately available to use.”
The FAQ later states that disclaimers must comply with “any applicable law,” but again says that Facebook only reviews them against its ad policies.
“It’s your responsibility as the advertiser to independently assess and ensure that your ads are in compliance with all applicable election and advertising laws and regulations,” the documentation reads.
Along with the launch of the new authorization procedures, Facebook has released a Blueprint training course to guide advertisers through the steps required, and has published an FAQ to answer advertisers’ questions.
Of course, these procedures will only net the more scrupulous advertisers willing to play by the rules. That’s why Facebook had said before that it plans to use AI technology to help sniff out those advertisers who should have submitted to verification, but did not. The company is also asking people to report suspicious ads using the “Report Ad” button.
Facebook has been under heavy scrutiny because of how its platform was corrupted by Russian trolls on a mission to sway the 2016 election. The Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies with election interference earlier this year, and Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts associated with disinformation campaigns.
While tougher rules around ads may help, they alone won’t solve the problem.
It’s likely that those determined to skirt the rules will find their own workarounds. Plus, ads are only one of many issues in terms of those who want to use Facebook for propaganda and misinformation. On other fronts, Facebook is dealing with fake news — including everything from biased stories to those that are outright lies, intending to influence public opinion. And of course there’s the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which led to intense questioning of Facebook’s data privacy practices in the wake of revelations that millions of Facebook users had their information improperly accessed.
Facebook says the political ads authorization process is gradually rolling out, so it may not be available to all advertisers at this time. Currently, users can only set up and manage authorizations from a desktop computer from the Authorizations tab in a Facebook Page’s Settings.

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Facebook’s new authorization process for political ads goes live in the U.S.

Earlier this month – and before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress – the company announced a series of changes to how it would handle political advertisements running on its platform in the future. It had said that people who wanted to buy a political ad – including ads about political “issues” – would have to reveal their identities and location and be verified, before the ads could run. Information about the advertiser would also display to Facebook users.
Today, Facebook is announcing the authorization process for U.S. political ads is live.
Facebook had first said in October that political advertisers would have to verify their identity and location for election-related ads. But in April, it expanded that requirement to include any “issue ads” – meaning those on political topics being debated across the country, not just those tied to an election.
Facebook said it would work with third parties to identify the issues. These ads would then also be labeled as “Political Ads,” and display the “paid for by” information to end users.
According to today’s announcement, Facebook will now begin to verify the identity and the residential mailing address of advertisers who want to run political ads. Those advertisers will also have to disclose who’s paying for the ads as part of this authorization process.
This verification process is currently only open in the U.S. and will require Page admins and ad account admins submit their government-issued ID to Facebook along with their residential mailing address.
The government ID can either be a U.S. passport or U.S. driver’s license, a FAQ explains. Facebook will also ask for the last four digits of admins’ Social Security Number. The photo ID will then be approved or denied in a matter of minutes, though anyone declined based on the quality of the uploaded images won’t be prevented from trying again.
The address, however, will be verified by mailing a letter with a unique access code that only the admin’s Facebook account can use. The letter may take up to 10 days to arrive, Facebook notes.
Along with the verification portion, Page admins will also have to fill in who paid for the ad in the “disclaimer” section. This has to include the organization(s) or person’s name(s) who funded it.
This information will also be reviewed prior to approval, but Facebook isn’t going to fact check this field, it seems.
Instead, the company simply says: “We’ll review each disclaimer to make sure it adheres to our advertising policies. You can edit your disclaimers at any time, but after each edit, your disclaimer will need to be reviewed again, so it won’t be immediately available to use.”
The FAQ later states that disclaimers must comply with “any applicable law,” but again says that Facebook only reviews them against its ad policies.
“It’s your responsibility as the advertiser to independently assess and ensure that your ads are in compliance with all applicable election and advertising laws and regulations,” the documentation reads.
Along with the launch of the new authorization procedures, Facebook has released a Blueprint training course to guide advertisers through the steps required, and has published an FAQ to answer advertisers’ questions.
Of course, these procedures which will only net the more scrupulous advertisers willing to play by the rules. That’s why Facebook had said before that it plans to use A.I. technology to help sniff out those advertisers who should have submitted to verification, but did not. The company is also asking people to report suspicious ads using the “Report Ad” button.
Facebook has been under heavy scrutiny because of how its platform was corrupted by Russian trolls on a mission to sway the 2016 election. The Justice Department charged 13 Russians and three companies with election interference earlier this year, and Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts associated with disinformation campaigns.
While tougher rules around ads may help, they alone won’t solve the problem.
It’s likely that those determined to skirt the rules will find their own workarounds. Plus, ads are only one of many issues in terms of those who want to use Facebook for propaganda and misinformation. On other fronts, Facebook is dealing with fake news – including everything from biased stories to those that are outright lies, intending to influence public opinion. And of course there’s the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which led to intense questioning of Facebook’s data privacy practices in the wake of revelations that millions of Facebook users had their information improperly accessed.
Facebook says the political ads authorization process is gradually rolling out, so it may not be available to all advertisers at this time. Currently, users can only set up and manage authorizations from a desktop computer from the Authorizations tab in a Facebook Page’s Settings.

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Chariot will start providing transportation data to SF

Chariot, the commuter shuttle provider owned by Ford, has received a private transit program permit to operate more safely and, ideally, have less of an impact on public transit in San Francisco.
As part of the program, Chariot cannot make stops in crosswalks, traffic lanes and Muni stops. Instead, Chariot must load and unload passengers in legal curb spaces, which includes white passenger loading zones and yellow commercial loading zones.
To be clear, this program is different from the SFMTA’s agreement with companies pertaining to employer-provided shuttles. In the program with corporate shuttles, companies pay to use Muni bus zones.
Chariot must ensure new routes complement, rather than replicate, pre-existing Muni routes, as well as provide San Francisco with GPS and ridership data in order to enable the city to better understand the company’s impact.
Chariot is the only private transit provider that applied for and received a permit. What prompted the permitting program were complaints from the public pertaining to stopping in unsafe locations, traveling on restricted streets and a lack of accessibility for people with disabilities.
While the SFMTA was reviewing Chariot’s application, the two worked together to move more than 100 of Chariot’s stops from illegal locations to safer loading places. As part of a condition of the permit, Chariot must identify safe and legal alternatives for the remaining nine percent of the company’s roughly 204 locations by the end of August.
Back in October, Chariot was forced to temporarily halt rides in San Francisco after the company failed to pass an inspection by the California Public Utilities Commission.
In a statement to TechCrunch, a Chariot spokesperson said, “We are proud to have collaborated with SFMTA on the new permitting process, which will allow us to continue to provide a reliable, daily transportation solution that reduces congestion on our roads, as well as offers skilled career opportunities to our Teamster workforce, nearly half of whom are SF residents.

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A university is giving scholarships to top Fortnite players

A Midwestern university wants to recruit the nation’s best Fortnite players for its varsity esports team, and it’s throwing out the dough to bring on some quality talent.
Ashland University in Ohio will embrace the feverishly popular battle royale title into its competitive esports program, which it will officially launch this fall. Fortnite will join the team’s current competitive-title teams League of Legends, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Rocket League. Interested gamers can hit up this form to apply to the program.
“Fortnite appeals to both the core and casual gaming audience,” the school’s esports head coach Josh Buchanan said in a release. “We’re excited to provide this platform for gamers who want to showcase their skills in a more competitive space. Fortnite facilitates an environment that allows players to get creative, innovate and show off their mastery of their skills.”
Admission in the school’s undergraduate program with room and board on the Ashland campus goes for $31,284 full-price, so the $4,000 scholarship offers a nice incentive, but this is probably best for people who have other reasons to go to Ashland University in Ohio, as well.
The embrace the title has already received from the gaming community is pretty notable. It’s one of the most-streamed titles on gaming sites and there are millions of people playing concurrently.

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Google beats expectations again with $31.15B in revenue

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reported another pretty solid beat this afternoon for its first quarter as it more or less has continued to keep its business growing substantially — and is growing even faster than it was a year ago today.
Google said its revenue grew 26% year-over-year to $31.16 billion in the first quarter this year. In the first quarter last year, Google said its revenue had grown 22% between Q1 of 2016 and Q1 of 2017. All this is a little convoluted, but the end result is that Google is actually growing faster than it was just a year ago despite the continued trend of a decline in its cost-per-click — a rough way of saying how valuable an ad is — as more and more web browsing shifts to mobile devices. Last year, Google said it recorded $24.75 billion in the first quarter.
Once again, Alphabet’s “other bets” — its fringe projects like autonomous vehicles and balloons — showed some additional health as that revenue grew while the losses shrank. That’s a good sign as it looks to explore options beyond search, but in the end it still represents a tiny fraction of Google’s overall business. This was also the first quarter that Google is reporting its results following a settlement with Uber, where it received a slice of the company as it ended a spat between its Waymo self-driving division and Uber.
Here’s the final scorecard:

Revenue: $31.16 billion, compared to $30.36 billion Wall Street estimates and up 26% year-over-year.
Earnings: $9.93 per share adjusted, compared to $9.28 per share from Wall Street
Other Revenues: $4.35 billion, up from $3.27 billion in Q1 last year
Other Bets: $150 million, up from $132 million in Q1 2017
Other Bets losses: $571 million, down from $703 million in the first quarter last year
TAC as a % of Revenue: 24%
Effective tax rate: 11%, down from 20% in Q1 2017

In the end, it’s a beat compared to what Wall Street wanted, and it’s getting a very Google-y response. Investors were looking for earnings of $9.35 per share on $30.36 billion in revenue. Google’s stock is up around 2% in extended trading, which for Google is adding more than $10 billion in value as it races alongside Microsoft and Amazon to chase Apple as the most valuable company in the world by market cap. Google jumped as much as 5% in extended trading, though it’s flattened out
Google’s traffic acquisition cost, or TAC, appears to also remain stable as a percentage of its revenue. This is a little bit of a sticking point for observers for the company and a potential negative signal for investors as more and more web browsing shifts to mobile. It’s ticked up very slowly over the past several years, but is now sitting at around 24% of its total revenue.

Google, at its core, is an advertising company that is going to make money off its billions of users across all of its properties. But as everything goes to mobile devices, the actual value of those ads is going to drop off over time simply because mobile browsing has a different set of behaviors. Google’s business has always been to offset that cost-per-click with a growing number of impressions — and, indeed, it seems like the status quo is sticking around for this one.

While Google’s advertising business continues to chug along, that diversification of revenue streams is going to be increasingly important for the company as a hedge against any potential threats to its advertising income. Already there is some chaos when it comes to what’s happening with user data following a massive scandal where information on as many as 87 million Facebook users ended up with a political research firm, Cambridge Analytica. That backlash centered around user privacy may end up tapping Google, which dominates most of how information travels across the web with Gmail and Search among its other products.
But that still comes at a pretty significant cost. It’s made major investments into tools like Google Cloud (or GCP), but tucked into the earnings report is a line item that shows its “purchases of property and equipment” more than doubled year-over-year to around $7.3 billion, up from $2.5 billion in the first quarter this year. Of course this can encompass a ton of things, but Google still has to actually buy servers if it’s going to run a cloud platform that can compete with AWS or Microsoft’s Azure.
All that feeds into its “other income” stream, which grew from $3.2 billion in Q1 last year to $4.35 billion in the first quarter this year. Amazon’s cloud business is already more than a $10 billion business annually, and that first-mover advantage has served it well as it began a huge shift to how businesses operate on cloud servers. But it also exposed a massive business opportunity for Google, which continues to invest in that.

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Huge numbers of job postings in China specify ‘men only’ or dictate women’s appearance

Gender discrimination may be a hot-button issue here in the U.S., but we don’t have a monopoly on the practice by a long shot. A new report from Human Rights Watch highlights widespread and blatant discrimination in Chinese job descriptions, despite its ostensibly being illegal there. In fact, the highest incidence rates were found in government jobs.
The report looked at 36,000 job descriptions posted in the last few years, including 2017 and 2018 listings for civil service and government jobs. The authors note that their work was conducted under increasing hostility and suppression of the topic by Chinese authorities, meaning no cooperation (but perhaps some interference) was expected.
Thousands of the listings included such language as “men only,” “suitable for men,” or the like, for example “need to work overtime frequently, high intensity work, only men need apply.” In the civil service category, this happened in as frequently as one in five listings, with no corresponding “women only” language except in a single 2018 job. In the Ministry of Public Security, more than half the jobs required the applicant be male.
When women are permitted or requested to apply, they are subject to gendered requirements: be married with kids, for instance. But more common are appearance-based demands: to be a train conductor, a woman must be between 5’1″ and 5’6″, weigh less than 143 pounds, and have “normal facial features, no tattoos, no obvious scars on face, neck or arms, good skin tone, no incurable skin conditions.”
Women lucky enough to already be employed in major companies like Baidu and Tencent are used as lures for male applicants: these “goddesses” are presented as potential matches, as in this Alibaba ad: “They are the goddesses in Alibaba employees’ heart—smart and competent at work and charming and alluring in life. They are independent but not proud, sensitive but not melodramatic. They want to be your coworkers. Do you want to be theirs?”

Of course we shouldn’t throw rocks, at the risk of shattering our own glass house of sexism and other discriminatory practices over here, but it is worth being reminded that this is a worldwide and deeply seated phenomenon.
You can read the full report, “Only Men Need Apply,” here. Its recommendations, though the Chinese authorities seem unlikely to heed them, are to modernize laws relating to discrimination and enforce the ones that exist. China is in fact party to some international agreements to guarantee its citizens certain rights and quash discrimination when it is detected, so that may work as leverage.

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Apply today to exhibit in Startup Alley at Disrupt SF 2018

Spring may have barely sprung, but if early-stage companies want an exhibitor’s table in Startup Alley at Disrupt San Francisco 2018 you need to apply now. Our biggest, most ambitious Disrupt ever takes place on September 5-7 at our new venue, Moscone Center West. More than 1,200 exhibitors and sponsors will showcase the very latest technology products, platforms and services in Startup Alley. Applications are open for a limited time, and we’d hate for you to miss out.
If you want to show your stuff in Startup Alley, you have two ways to secure a spot — and both require an application. First, early-stage startups from any category can purchase a Startup Alley Exhibitor Package. Pro tip: early applicants will be eligible to score special offers.
The package includes one exhibit day, three Disrupt SF Founder passes (if you apply before July 25), CrunchMatch (our curated investor-to-startup matching platform), use of the Startup Alley exhibitor lounge, access to the Disrupt press list and a chance to be selected as a Wildcard entry to the Startup Battlefield pitch competition (this year’s prize: $100,000).
The second way to exhibit — and score a FREE Startup Alley Exhibitor Package — is to be selected by the TechCrunch editorial team as a TC Top Pick. Our seasoned editorial team will choose 60 companies for this distinction. TC Top Pick winners will receive one Startup Alley Exhibitor Package plus a three-minute Showcase Stage interview.
One caveat: Companies vying for a TC Top Pick spot must fit in one of these 12 categories: AI, AR/VR, Blockchain, Biotech, Fintech, Gaming, Healthtech, Privacy/Security, Space, Mobility, Retail or Robotics. That’s five TC Top Pick startups per category.
Why should you exhibit in Startup Alley? For starters, we’re expecting more than 10,000 attendees and 400 media outlets. Thousands of people pass through Startup Alley, and it’s a prime opportunity to find new customers, get media attention and meet future investors. In fact, according to Crunchbase, last year’s Startup Alley exhibitors raised more than $37 million in seed and Series A funding within four months after exhibiting at Disrupt SF. It’s an invigorating atmosphere where you’ll make new connections, exchange ideas and create new opportunities.
If you want to be considered for a TC Top Pick, you must apply by June 29. The deadline for Disrupt SF Startup Alley applications is August 8. If that sounds like you have plenty of time, remember: the space will go quickly, and early applicants will receive special offers. Be the early bird. Catch the worm.
You can apply for one or both Startup Alley exhibitor opportunities with one application. C’mon and show us your stuff — apply today.
If you are a later-stage company or corporation and would like to exhibit at Disrupt SF, please contact our sponsorship team here to get more information.

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Indian lending platform Capital Float raises $22M Series C extension from Amazon

Capital Float, the fintech startup that says it is India’s largest online lender, announced today that it has raised $22 million in new funding from Amazon. At the end of last year, reports surfaced that Amazon was considering an investment in Capital Float as an extension of its $45 million Series C, which was announced last August. The Bangalore-based startup confirmed to TechCrunch that Amazon’s investment is indeed an extension of that round and brings the total equity it has raised over the past 12 months to $67 million.
Over the same period, Capital Float also raised $80 million of debt from banks and other financial companies, which it combines with its own balance sheet to finance loans to small businesses and other borrowers. Amazon India is among several e-commerce platforms that the company has partnered with to provide loans to sellers, including Snapdeal and Shopclues.
Since its inception in 2013 by co-founders Sashank Rishyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja, Capital Float has raised a total of about $110 million in equity funding from investors, including Ribbit Capital, SAIF Partners, Sequoia India, Creation Investments and Aspada, as well as total debt lines of $130 million.
During the last six months, Capital Float added 50,000 new customers, bringing its total customer base to more than 80,000 people in more than 300 cities. The startup says it currently disburses more than 10,000 loans each month and now has an outstanding loan portfolio of more than $170 million, with a default rate of about 2 percent. About 70 percent of its loans are microloans ranging from 25,000 rupees to 500,000 rupees (about $376 to $7,530).
With the investment from Amazon, the startup has set an ambitious goal of adding 300,000 new customers and originating more than $800 million in loans this year.
In a press statement, Amazon India’s country manager Amit Agarwal said, “We’re excited to work with Capital Float and invest alongside other investors. We are highly impressed with what Gaurav and Sashank have built and we back missionary entrepreneurs and management teams. Credit in India is highly under-penetrated and Capital Float is bringing the right kind of credit solutions to the underserved and informally served segments of SMEs to help realize their full potential.”
Over the last year, Capital Float expanded into more verticals, including products for small- to mid-sized manufacturers, point-of-sale financing for retailers and loans for school construction and self-employed professionals like doctors. It also added new online payment gateways to make it easier for borrowers to repay loans and began piloting deep learning-based underwriting models that use data points like image processing, geotags and new policies such as the Goods and Service Tax (GST), an indirect tax launched last year that is levied at every step of the production chain and the banknote demonetization started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in 2016.

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Heptio launches an open-source load balancer for Kubernetes and OpenStack

Heptio is one of the more interesting companies in the container ecosystem. In part, that’s due to the simple fact that it was founded by Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, two of the three engineers behind the original Kubernetes project, but also because of the technology it’s developing and the large amount of funding it has raised to date.

As the company announced today, it saw its revenue grow 140 percent from the last quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018. In addition, Heptio says its headcount quadrupled since the beginning of 2017. Without any actual numbers, that kind of data doesn’t mean all that much. It’s easy to achieve high-growth numbers if you’re starting out from zero, after all. But it looks like things are going well at the company and that the team is finding its place in the fast-growing Kubernetes ecosystem.
In addition to announcing these numbers, the team also today launched a new open-source project that will join the company’s existing stable of tools, like the cluster-recovery tool Ark and the Kubernetes cluster-monitoring tool Sonobuoy.
This new tool, Heptio Gimbal, has a very specific use case that is probably only of interest to a relatively small number of users — but for them, it’ll be a lifeline. Gimbal, which Heptio developed together with Yahoo Japan subsidiary Actapio, helps enterprises route traffic into both Kubernetes clusters and OpenStack deployments. Many enterprises now run these technologies in parallel, and while some are now moving beyond OpenStack and toward a more Kubernetes -centric architecture, they aren’t likely to do away with their OpenStack investments anytime soon.

“We approached Heptio to help us modernize our infrastructure with Kubernetes without ripping out legacy investments in OpenStack and other back-end systems,” said Norifumi Matsuya, CEO and president at Actapio. “Application delivery at scale is key to our business. We needed faster service discovery and canary deployment capability that provides instant rollback and performance measurement. Gimbal enables our developers to address these challenges, which at the macro-level helps them increase their productivity and optimize system performance.”
Gimbal uses many of Heptio’s existing open-source tools, as well as the Envoy proxy, which is part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s stable of cloud-native projects. For now, Gimbal only supports one specific OpenStack release (the “Mitaka” release from 2016), but the team is looking at adding support for VMware and EC2 in the future.

Heptio raises $25M Series B to help bring cloud-native computing to the enterprise

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