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Mobile Marketplace Carousell Raises $6M Series A Led By Sequoia Capital


Carousell, a mobile app marketplace that lets sellers upload items with a few taps on their smartphones, has raised $6 million Series A funding led by Sequoia Capital. The Singaporean startup’s existing investors, Rakuten Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures, 500 Startups, and serial entrepreneur Darius Cheung, also returned for this round, which brings Carousell’s total raised so far to $6.8 million.

TechCrunch profiled the company last year, when it raised a seed round led by Rakuten Ventures.

The company plans to hire more growth and web engineers to support its expansion into Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Eventually, Carousell’s founders hope to take it further into the Asia-Pacific region.

“In Taiwan, users are already used to buying peer-to-peer on existing desktop platforms, but there is still a gap in mobile. We took a trip there recently and realized we need to make a move immediately. Malaysia is similar and it is just across the border from us,” says co-founder and CEO Siu Rui Quek. “We made the decision with a few markets, but we also have global ambitions. I would say that in the larger APAC region, markets that could be interesting are Australia, New Zealand, and even Hong Kong.”

Carousell has held the number one shopping app spot in Singapore’s iOS App Store beginning in June. Since its launch in 2012, founder Siu Rui Quek says that over 8 million listings have been created. Two million transactions have been successfully completed, and the app now sees an average of eight transactions closing every minute.

Of course, the rapid growth of any new peer-to-peer network comes with some downsides. Carousell already has its own active parody Tumblr called “Carouhell,” which chronicles the misadventures of users as they deal with flaky (or just plain nutty) sellers and buyers.

Quek says he finds the Tumblr funny (“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry”), but adds that Carousell will be adding several moderation tools as it scales up. As the startup’s team grows, they will be able to delete fraudulent users and trolls more quickly, and improve its feedback system.

As Carousell expands, it will also have to deal with continuing competition from online classified sites, marketplaces, and forums, as well as Facebook Groups and Instagram, where many people make informal transactions. The team says they will test out new strategies in different markets, including desktop-first platforms, and try to win over users with Carousell’s ease of use.

To use the app, sellers take pictures of their item, clean them up with Carousell’s photo-editing features, write a few details, and then list them for sell. They then communicate with potential buyers through the app’s private messaging system.

Carousell is still exploring monetization strategies, but potential sources of revenue include premium features for sellers, including extra photos and management features for vendors who list hundreds of orders. Though most sellers are individuals who want to get rid of used or unwanted items, small businesses and brick-and-mortar stores have also begun using Carousell, says Quek, giving the startup a chance to tap into the SMB market.

In a statement, Shailendra Singh, managing director of Sequoia Capital India Advisors, said “Carousell is one of the most exciting young companies we have encountered recently. The company has grown with practically no marketing to become a leading destination for consumers to buy and sell goods across all categories. Tens of thousands of of products are listed and sold on Carousell everyday by consumers.”

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Unity Finally Releases Its Long Promised User Interface Creator


Good news, everyone!

Once upon a time, Unity promised to overhaul the way developers would build user interfaces in their Unity-powered games. This was roughly around the time man discovered fire*.

[* In non-snark time, it was about a year and a half ago]

At long last, Unity has shipped version 4.6 of its visual game development system — and with it, the long promised UI editor.

If you’re not a Unity user, here’s what you need to know: Unity is a super powerful game creation engine that allows developers to work in a WYSIWYG-style interface. Games built in Unity work on nearly any platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, all the next-gen consoles, etc.) with minimal tweaking. You still need to know how to code to make things work the way you want, but the whole system is considerably more visual/drag-and-drop than the game engines of yesteryear.

Unlike most aspects of Unity, a seemingly simple thing like making a settings screen or a pause menu was a painful task. Until now, Unity developers had two main choices for building in-game interfaces:

  1. Use Unity’s UI scripting language, which, while functional, was pretty darn kludgey. There was lots of manual scripting involved, particularly for handling things like placement and resizing for different display resolutions.
  2. Use one of the third-party GUI editors… which got a bit more difficult over time, as Unity started hiring up or buying all of the people behind the best add-ons, leaving the projects with considerably less support.

With today’s release, however, UI creation gets the support it deserves. Interfaces are designed right within the game editor itself, and “smart anchoring” and smooth resizing systems keep everything where it should be regardless of screen resolution. Unity’s fantastic animation system has been integrated into the UI workflow, allowing for things like bouncing buttons or things that fly into view. Meanwhile, the whole thing has been built with performance in mind, and to work across any platform that Unity supports.

On a slightly less exciting (but still good!) note, Unity 4.6 is also the first to support x86 processors for Android. That means you can now build Unity games for devices like Google’s own Nexus Player.

This update is a free one for all Unity 4.x users, though it’s said that it’s the last major update before Unity ships version 5.0.

For the curious, here’s a 30 minute demo of all the new UI system has to ofer:

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Firefox Redesigns Its Search Interface Ahead Of Yahoo Switch


Last week we learned that Mozilla had made a pact with Yahoo to switch Firefox’s default search engine to a yet-to-be launched new version of Yahoo’s Bing-powered search experience. At that time, we already noted how easy it is to switch between search engines in Firefox and now the organization is making it even easier with the launch of a new search experience in the Firefox beta channel.

Instead of burying the ability to switch search engines somewhere in the settings, Firefox now puts it front and center. Whenever you start typing a query in the browser’s dedicated search box, you’ll now see a link to the search settings right underneath the suggestions.

In addition, you now get the ability to execute your search in another search engine (or on another site) right underneath those suggestions, too. So if you know you’ll want to go to Wikipedia anyway, you don’t have to do a Google (or Yahoo) search first and then click on the Wikipedia link. Instead, you simply click on the Wikipedia icon in the search suggestions box and move on with life.

By default, Firefox now features built-in one-click search for the likes of Wikipedia, Amazon (with Mozilla adding its affiliate link to the search), Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, eBay and Twitter. As with all things Firefox, it’s easy to customize this list by removing some options.


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GoPro Could Go Robo With Consumer Drones Launching Next Year


GoPro is working on a lineup of consumer drones to supplement its action camera lineup, according to the Wall Street Journal. The new product category would offer aerial drones like the Parrot Bebop and DJI Phantom and Inspire 1. The drones would reportedly retail in the $500 to $1,000 range, and come with GoPro action camera tech onboard, which is a natural fit given that outfitting drones with GoPros is already a popular option among hobbyists and videographers.

Drone sales could help GoPro diversify its product lineup, too – right now it has the majority of its eggs in one basket, with its action camera line. GoPro has done a terrific job of creating a vibrant first-party accessory lineup to accompany its core camera offerings, but many established camera makers are entering the market, or else focusing on improving their existing efforts. GoPro has made the right moves to maintain its leadership, with a new entry-level Hero camera that costs only $129.99, but achieving an early foothold in the burgeoning consumer drone market could make a lot of sense, given its existing popularity in that realm.

WSJ’s information pegs the launch window for these devices at “late next year,” which means I likely wouldn’t anticipated seeing them ahead of holiday 2015. GoPro will also have to offer something that differentiates it from the competition – both Parrot and DJI, two market leaders in consumer aerial drones, have launched next-generation hardware with advanced camera features, including advanced onboard software image stabilization and 4K recording. Drone-makers like DJI also seem to be increasingly interested in including their own camera hardware built-in to drones, which likely allows them to up the average asking price.

GoPro can stand out not only by promoting the use of its tried-and-tested industry-leading action cam tech, but also by offering price benefits compared to some of its potential competitors. The DJI Inspire 1 retails for $2,800, for instance, so if GoPro can offer optics with similar quality on drones that retail for less than half, it could stand to grab a much wider market.

We’ve reached out to GoPro for comment and will update if we receive any additional information.

Featured Image: Budi Nusyirwan/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE

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Expressiv Is An Irish MIDI Guitar With Some Groovy Light Effects, Man


Hey, man, is that a MIDI guitar with amazing internal lighting effects? Well turn it up! Hot on the heels of the GTar and the Jamstik we present the Expressive, a guitar designed by Rob O’Reilly. The Kickstarter, which ends today, sold the guitars for about $450 and aims to ship in March.

Does the world need another MIDI guitar? Sure. This model scans the fretboard to see where your fingers are and, like the GTar, it is a full-sized git-fiddle. It also has a set of infinity lights in the body so you can look like the ghost of Carlos Santana on stage.

Most important, however, is that the Expressiv is a real electric guitar. Unlike some other systems, you actually have to tune this thing and you can plug it into your amp and play without depending on MIDI. The MIDI features are an added bonus, thereby expending your potential sound repertoire immensely.

While it appears the Kickstarter is over, you can check out O’Reilly’s site here to get more details. I’d love to see this thing in action as I am a hoodoo man out-hoodooer and intend to go down to Louisiana, this guitar strapped to my back, to acquire a mojo hand. A guitar like this would surely allow me to out-hoodoo the Hoodoo Man.

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Applause Raises $765K From Salesforce CEO For Its Revamped Weight Loss App


If you’re worried about blowing your diet over the holidays – or perhaps, thinking about making a New Year’s resolution to “eat healthy” (you know, again) – an app called Applause, now seed funded by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, may help. The startup aims to bring to market a more lightweight food and activity tracking service combined with virtual support groups that offer you feedback and encouragement from others like you.

The app itself is not exactly new, however. According to co-founder and CEO Durga Pandey, he worked on it over the course of a couple of years before leaving for in early 2014  – which is how he ended up scoring the angel funding, as you may have guessed.

Initially, he was bootstrapping the app, then called FitFrnd. But the original concept was something that was more akin to a “Facebook for fitness,’ including a variety of social features including friending, a news feed, likes and comments, plus other social mechanisms designed to help it go viral.

What he found, however, is that people didn’t want to add their friends and family to witness their weight loss struggles – they wanted that to remain somewhat private.

Pandey actually gave up on the app for a while as he worked at Salesforce, until he came up with a new idea: he could take the idea of Weight Watchers and its support groups, and put that into an app format.


Instead of being identified with your name, users could enjoy semi-anonymous support and encouragement from others in their same boat. While some anonymous sharing apps like Secret and Whisper can lead to people saying nasty things or trolling, Pandey thinks anonymity makes sense for an app like his where users are sharing personal, emotional and potentially embarrassing things about themselves, their progress and their setbacks.

He’s now rebranded the app as Applause, raised seed funding, and is returning to actively work on it.

The new app is launching on January 1st, just in time for everyone’s resolutions. (The current version, however, is live in the App Store now).

In the updated release, Applause will feature a step counter, health quizzes, blog content, weigh-ins, and a simplified meal tracker where you only indicate if the meal was healthy (green), regular (yellow) or unhealthy (red). That same red/yellow/green system is often used in weight loss programs focused on fighting childhood obesity as well, as it’s simpler to use and still gives you a sense of how well you’re doing.

A forthcoming meal finder feature also leverages menu data from Locu to help you quickly track your favorite meals and their nutritional impact from local restaurants.

Needs Design Improvements

Conceptually, the idea of a simplified weight loss/dieting app combined with virtual support groups is a good one, but where Applause falls short is on its design. Its App Store screenshots don’t help new users get a good sense of how the app works and come across as juvenile. Meanwhile, the design of the app itself is pretty rough and uneven, and even dated-looking – a testament to the old code Applause re-used when it rebranded ahead of its relaunch.

Unfortunately for Applause, the market for health trackers/mobile coaches is ripe with competition, including big names from older companies like MyFitnessPal and Lose It, plus well-designed newcomers like Human, and simple logging tools and motivators like Noom CoachLift, or Lifesum, and just dozens of others.

Compared with the rest, Applause’s lacking design sticks out like a sore thumb. But with the additional funding, its possible that Applause can correct that. We’ll see…but it needs to act soon. These apps will be in high-demand in only a matter of weeks.

Applause has $765K in seed funding, led by Marc Benioff. To date, the app has seen 423,000 downloads on the App Store.

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