Google has brought its Chrome Apps to the Mac, letting users install apps to their desktop for use just like native software. There’s a Chrome App Launcher for Mac, too, which resides in your dock and provides centralized access to all those Chrome apps in the same place.
The apps available work offline, and can sync their state across computers where a Chrome user is logged in with their Google account. They update automatically when a new version comes out, and “behave and feel just like native software,” according to Google. To find Chrome apps that work with the Mac Desktop, you can visit the “For Your Desktop” section of the Chrome Web Store, which essentially collects any Chrome software that functions offline, and includes things like 500px, Any.Do, Autodesk Pixlr Touch Up and more.
Google bringing Chrome apps to the Mac desktop isn’t strictly new: The search giant revealed its plans to do this back in May when it launched Chrome Apps in beta, but now it’s taking the beta label off and making it available to all. If you’ve ever used a site-specific browser like Fluid to turn web pages into desktop apps on your own, you’ll know the value of having this stuff live outside of Chrome itself.
That said, don’t expect apps from the Chrome web store to replace Photoshop or anything like that just yet. Still, it’s a good way for Google to get people using their software on their current platforms, so that they can get an advance look at how Chrome OS works, essentially. The fact that these sync settings with Google accounts also means that users who embrace them on Mac will be primed to start right where they left off should they ever pick up a Chromebook, which helps with Google’s long-term strategy for its browser-based desktop OS.
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If, like me, you’re old enough to remember the original Pets.com, then this funding story will make you smile. The iconic pet supplies online retailer, not to be confused with new owner PetSmart, sits alongside Boo.com and Webvan in Dot Com history. Folklore has it that Pets.com, which went from IPO to liquidation in 268 days, was selling its wares for one-third the price it paid for them, and that’s before taking into account the huge advertising spend. Oh, how things have changed…
Enter Petsy.mx, Mexico’s “premier petcare e-commerce retailer”. Hoping to make a land grab in the burgeoning Mexican e-commerce market, the young startup has announced a modest seed round. It’s raised $1 million, led by Venture Partners, with participation from Capital Invest, and Dila Capital, as well as unnamed angel investors. Money, Petsy says, that will be used to fund its growth and product development.
Launched in June 2013 with the aim of bringing “US-style” customer service to the Mexican e-commerce market, Petsy.mx sells a wide variety of pet care products, including premium dog and cat food brands such as Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. Like a lot of e-commerce activity in Mexico and the wider LatAm region, it looks to be gunning for something close to first-mover advantage.
“Mexican pet owners suffer from a lack of retail options, both brick and mortar and online, when seeking the best products for their pets,” says Toby Clarence-Smith, Petsy.mx’s co-founder, in a statement. “We want to solve this problem while offering fantastic customer service at all times. Our goal for Petsy.mx is to play a central role in the Mexican pet community, as both a partner and an advocate.”
E-commerce in Mexico seems to be quite a hot space right now, probably because its burgeoning nature means that, for the time being, competition is limited compared to maturer markets. In traditional e-commerce, timing is everything. Move too early, and the market is too small. Move too late, and incumbents make the barriers to entry that bit higher. To that end, Petsy is talking up an increase in the number of debit and credit cards in Mexico, and the government’s active role in supporting the Internet sector.
Of course, in emerging markets like Mexico, Rocket Internet, the hugely well-funded German e-commerce incubator, is the elephant in the room. As an example, Rocket’s ‘Amazon of Latin America’, Linio, picked up $50 million in funding last month from the likes of JP Morgan Asset Management, Investment AB Kinnevik, the Tengelmann Group, Summit Partners, and Rocket Internet itself.
Perhaps counteracting (or complementing) the Rocket effect, however, local startup activity more broadly is also on the increase. Initiatives like 500startups’ presence in the region, with its 500 Mexico City accelerator, are proof that the local startup scene is maturing. Meanwhile, VCs, such as Spain’s Seaya Ventures, are becoming a lot more bullish about the LatAm market, not least Mexico.
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Amid rumors of a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook and a potential $200 million funding round, turns out that ephemeral messaging sensation Snapchat has actually raised $50 million in Series C funding.
Co-founder Evan Spiegel has confirmed with TechCrunch that the $50 million was from a single investor, with no secondary offering. However, there is no word on who that investor might be, or whether or not it was a previous investor.
Spiegel did say that the money will go toward growing the business.
The SEC filing reveals nothing.
Rumors have been swirling recently that Snapchat was looking to raise $200 million, potentially from Tencent, at a valuation north of $3 or $4 billion. Spiegel has mentioned Tencent, and its chat subsidiary WeChat in particular, as an interesting company to learn from.
However, it’s now confirmed through court documents and TechCrunch’s inside sources that Tencent has already invested in Snapchat, likely during the Series B round.
According to Crunchbase, this $50 million puts Snapchat’s total investment at no less than $123 million, and without a revenue stream in sight. And honestly, it doesn’t seem to matter right now.
Snapchat announced recently that it sees over 400 million snaps sent per day, which is more than Facebook’s daily photo uploads.
Though the company doesn’t publicly disclose numbers, it is rumored to have around 30 million monthly active users. However, TechCrunch has confirmed that Snapchat actually has more than that.
Previous investors include Light Speed Ventures, who led a small seed round, Benchmark and SV Angel, who joined Lightspeed and invested $12.5 million in Series A, as well as IVP and General Catalyst, who contributed to a massive $60 million Series B round in June. Word on the street is that the last round was actually closer to $80 million, with $20 million going toward founder liquidity.
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Twitter just announced a new feature that it calls “broad match for keyword targeting.” Supposedly, this will allow advertisers running keyword-targeted campaigns to reach users who are using synonyms, alternate spellings, or “Twitter lingo.”
When Twitter announced keyword targeting in April, Senior Director of Revenue Products Kevin Weil told me that the goal of the program was to make tweets (as opposed to the “interest graph” of who you follow) a “first-class citizen” in Twitter’s ad targeting, and to allow advertisers to reach users at the right moment, i.e., when they’re actually discussing a relevant topic.
By adding these broad match capabilities, Twitter can presumably do all of that while also exposing a given campaign to a broader audience. As you can see in the graphic to the left, a coffee shop that wanted to target “love coffee” could also reach users who were tweeting about how much they “luv coffee” or “love lattes”.
At the same time, Twitter says advertisers can structure their campaigns so that they’re not too broad:
Just like on other keyword advertising platforms, if the coffee shop sells lattes but not espressos, they can use the “+” modifier on the broad matched terms to prevent broadening. Targeting “love + latte” will match to users who Tweet “luv latte,” but it won’t match to users who Tweet “luv espresso”.
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Video distribution startup Ooyala raised another $43 million today, in a round of funding led by Australian telecom service provider Telstra. The funding brings the total amount raised to more than $120 million, and buys the company some time before it might have to go public. Ooyala customers include ESPN, Fox Sports, Pac-12 Network, and, uh, Telstra.
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According to information once again leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency secretly targets suspects using the same tool that allows advertisers to target consumers — small files known as “cookies.” In fact, the Washington Post has released more classified slides, revealing that the NSA has found a way to use Google’s own cookies (“GooglePREF”) to pinpoint users.
According to The Post, Google’s cookies don’t track personal information, such as name or email address. However, they can identify a user’s browser activity, which is why some users may see an ad for a product they’ve searched for previously on the web.
In response to privacy concerns, Google allows users to opt-out of some cookie-tracking (instructions here).
“On a macro level, ‘we need to track everyone everywhere for advertising’ translates into ‘the government being able to track everyone everywhere,” UC Berkeley Law Lecturer Chris Hoofnagle told The Post. “It’s hard to avoid.”
As with many of the revelations about NSA spying, the impacts to individual users are uncertain. While the NSA does collect user information in bulk, it often requires a judge’s approval to query the database and analyze it. However, there have been several instances of privacy violations, including agents spying on ex-lovers and targeting suspects that judges would later find to be unreasonable.
Cookies would potentially allow the NSA to track individuals’ surfing habits and, perhaps, use of Google products, such as Maps. The slides show that the NSA shares this targeted information with a handful of internal divisions and with its British counterpart, GCHQ. By combining information from cellphone location data logs, call logs, and email habits, the agency might be able to better target suspects from the volumes of information it collects every day.
It is unclear whether pending federal legislation would impact this particular tactic. A suite of laws propose to end bulk information collection, create more oversight, and release gag orders. However, leveraging Google cookies appears more targeted than previous leaks about indiscriminate collection of user data.
In any case, Congress goes on holiday break soon, so any reforms will have to compete for attention in the busy new year. Good luck with that.
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Ottawa-based Shopify has already raised a considerable amount of money, especially for a Canadian company, and its Series C round continues that theme: The e-commerce company has raised $100 million from existing investors, as well as new ones, including OMERS Ventures and Insight Venture Partners; the goal is to help Shopify drop the ‘e’ and embrace all kinds of commerce, for all kinds of merchants, in all kinds of settings.
This $100 million round adds to the $22 million Series A and B rounds raised by the company in 2010 and 2011, both of which came considerably late compared to the startup’s original founding back in 2006. Shopify has had a revenue model since day one, however, and anticipates exceeding $1.5 billion in products sold via its platform this year. That’s more than double its $750 million in revenue last year, which makes sense because it has jumped from around 40,000 shops operating on its platform last year to over 80,000 at present.
“In terms of why we’re raising, we’ve talked about what we see as the future of retail,” explained Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s chief product officer. “There’s kind of this concept that the future of retail is online vs. offline, or just online. We don’t actually believe that; what we believe is that the future of retail is all about consumer choice.”
Consumers want to be able to buy in-store after shopping online, go see products at retail locations and buy online afterwards, or do some other combination of the two. They want their retailers to be able to provide them with that kind of experience, according to Finkelstein. So to help their clients accomplish that, the next goal of Shopify is to “transition from an e-commerce company to a commerce company,” he says. Moving from online to more involvement in in-store sales efforts isn’t going to be cheap, even if you take a relatively hardware-light approach.
Shopify’s goal is to serve a merchant’s needs wherever they need to sell – online, from a storefront, at a festival or show, or just when they happen upon a chance customer. To serve those ends, the company has already created a point-of-sale system and Square-style mobile card reader, both of which were released earlier this year. Finkelstein suggested we’ve only seen the beginning of the product rollout to support its new mission, and said to watch out for further developments coming out of this funding to be revealed next year.
I asked Finkelstein about how Shopify feels about launching initiatives that put it head to head with strong players in the space, including Square. The answer lies in Shopify’s roots, which are firmly planted in online shopping. Square’s DNA is in offline, so Finkelstein says there’s an opportunity for a company to step up and recognize that there’s little to no line left between those two things for a lot of small- to medium-sized merchants.
“There are these players, for example Square which is firmly focused on the offline market, and you have guys like Etsy who are focused on the online market, and you have others that are just focused on mobile,” he explained. “But you have no one out there who’s really putting this all together. Our view is that Shopify is sort of that hub right in the middle, and one spoke might be your online store, one spoke may be your offline store, and one spoke may be your mobile device, and one spoke may be cross-selling on Amazon marketplace, but it all ties into Shopify.”
To that end, Shopify has been experimenting with real world retail to glean lessons about how best to operate at that nexus. PopifyTO, an event held recently with a pop-up shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market district, is a perfect example. “We know the online world pretty well, but we want to learn as much as we can about the offline world, so this year you saw a couple things from us around that,” Finkelstein said, referring to Popify as well as the launch of Shopify mobile.
Shopify’s run rate and growth are putting it on track to be one of Canada’s top tech companies, especially in light of a waning BlackBerry. It’s currently at 320 employees, up from 120 last year, and anticipates growing to over 500 next year spread across its Toronto and Ottawa offices. This huge raise is just the most recent evidence that it is quite possible the Canadian tech company to watch.
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