Venture capital and private equity firm M. H. Carnegie has revealed it is preparing to launch an $ 120 million venture capital fund using local user interface and digital marketing firm Vivant as an incubation facility, in one of the more unusual such collaborations seen so far in Australia.
Drink driving is obviously dumb, but it can sometimes be difficult to tell what kind of effect a beer has had on your body. Fortunately, Tokyoflash’s latest watch straps a breathalyser to your wrist so you can keep your blood alcohol concentration in check. More »
Today companies like Microsoft and Sony aren’t just trying to sell you the video game console of the future, they’re trying to sell you the living room of the future, a central hub that connects you to your family and your family to the world. But our expectations for what tech should be included in the living room of tomorrow have evolved dramatically over the past century. More »
Matt Novak — Paleofuture
Hike, India’s Mobile Messaging Upstart, Expands Language Support & Adds Offline Messaging, Stickers & More To Fuel Growth
There’s no room at the digital inn for more mobile messaging apps, but that’s not stopping them crowding in. Hike, an Indian mobile messaging app that’s only been around six months but has amassed more than five million registered users in that time, is doubling down on its home market while expanding its accessibility further afield too.
Version 2.2 of the hike app adds support for four new languages — Spanish, French, Russian, and Portuguese — building out the previously supported two: English and German. The company said it plans to aggressively expand its language support each month as it chases after scale. And, evidently, as it chases competitors such as Japan’s Line which is also expanding into global markets such as Europe and LatAm.
“We’re targeting those languages which we’ve seen the most demand for,” says the company. “With these languages, and English and German already supported, we’ll be supporting approximately more than 85% of the world’s mobile population. In addition to this, we’ll also be adding support for four new languages every month.”
Interestingly, hike does not yet support any Indian languages owing to the linguistic landscape being so diverse, with more than 15 major languages spoken across the region. It does plan to start tackling this though, with Hindu suport likely coming next to cover off a significant chunk of the population. It also intends to build native Indian language support and keyboards for all major languages into its app so it doesn’t have to depend on the OS/device (OS fragmentation is another big issue in the region).
“We’ll probably be launching Hindi support next (which’d cover a significant portion of the Indian population), as well as some other top languages. You can expect much deeper local language support in the coming months,” it says.
As well as extending its global reach by bolstering language support, the new version of the hike app adds a feature hike is hoping will give it serious uplift in its home market. Offline messages is an SMS conversation tech the company told TechCrunch about back in May. The feature allows users in India to keep in touch, regardless of whether the person they are sending a message to has 3G data enabled or not because messages are converted to SMS for delivery if there’s no viable data connection.
Other new features in v2.2 of hike’s app include, somewhat inevitably, sticker packs — showing how hike is following in the footsteps of messaging competitors such as Line and Viber by sharpening its entertainment credentials. As Line has, hike has launched its own brand characters in sticker form, along with various other types of sharable imagery such as “expressions, rage faces, and some localised stickers targeted specifically at the Indian market”.
“It’s been around 15 hours since we launched, and we’re seeing the usage of stickers increase every hour. We’ll easily hit more than one million stickers shared on Day 1,” it says. “We expect it to grow significantly, both organically and through some innovative marketing efforts that we’ve lined up to take them mass market in India.”
For now hike’s stickers are free but it intends to launch paid packs to monetise the feature in future — as Line has successfully been doing. “We do expect stickers to become a significant revenue stream going forward,” it says, but adds that its focus is not yet on revenue.
For the moment, hike’s focus is on building out features to help it grow, since occupying such a competitive space as messaging absolutely necessities maintaining momentum — or the risk is to fall by the wayside as rivals streak ahead.
Other new features introduced in v2.2 of hike include a mode called Last Seen, which allows users to share with chosen friends when they were last online. Hike also says it has improved the operation of a Walkie-Talkie feature — which it notes offers an accessible messaging option to Indian users who can’t use an English keyboard — to make that easier to use.
“After this update, we plan to add a couple of really good features geared mostly towards growth and in-app engagement. We’ve observed that personalized content drives conversations, and we’ll leverage that in a very clever way soon to drive conversations on hike. We also plan to ride existing social networks and bring groups of friends on hike,” it adds.
The Internet isn’t lacking for sites and services where people can post their comments and thoughts, but Andrew Sider, co-founder and CEO of a startup called Bunch, argues that there’s still something missing: “How do we connect with people, not around friends, not around social networks, but around a topic that they care about deeply?”
After all, Sider said that many of your Facebook friends and Twitter followers probably aren’t passionate about the same things that you are. He acknowledged that online forums have filled this role in the past, but he said those forums forums are now intimidating to casual users and also kind of uncool. (Other attempts at reinventing the forum include a new startup called Discourse.)
“The new reality is, I don’t believe in 20 years our generation will use forums,” Sider said.
So Bunch tries to have to combine the accessibility of a social network with a commitment to depth and topic-based groups. When you first sign up, you have to sign in with your Facebook account, so your comments are tied to your real identity. Then you can join the communities that interest you — but you can only join three. After joining, you can view and participate in a stream of conversations around that a given topic.
Sider said these features should encourage people to only join the communities that they really care about and to post substantive, civil comments there. He added that Bunch is experimenting with other features that encourage depth, such as a bigger comment box and a minimum number of characters in each comment.
I liked what I saw in the brief demo that Sider gave me, but I pointed out that it could be a big challenge to recruit a user base that comes from a number of disparate online communities. Sider said his initial strategy is integrating with other social networks — for example, users can post cross-post their content between Tumblr and Bunch. (Apparently some of the early beta testers like the quality of conversation on Bunch enough that they’ve started to treat it as their default blogging platform.) Plus, users get a journal page showing their activity across different communities, and it’s visible to non-Bunch members, so you can promote it on other social networks. After all, Sider said that if you’ve got a good conversation going, you want to get other people involved too.
After a closed beta test of about 20,000 users (who have created more than 50 communities), Bunch is opening to the public today. It’s also releasing its iPhone app and announcing that it has raised $ 1 million in funding from Real Ventures, 500 Startups, BDC Venture Capital, Round 13 Capital, and undisclosed angel investors.
Someday, describing software or services as social business will be as redundant as describing a dinner party as a social event. It will be assumed. At the moment, however, social business is one of the Big Four catch-phrases of where the enterprise is now, as evidenced by the abundance of social software and services on display at the E2 Conference, taking place this week in Boston.
B2B companies are turning to the potential of lead scoring — the automated process of qualifying and segmenting leads on your website — to identify valuable customer prospects, recognize those people who need a little more attention and determine visitors who just aren’t a fit with your company. A welcome side effect of this process is the alignment created between sales and marketing.
Want to know all the code names for America’s massive intelligence gathering programs? Just browse through the “intelligence analysts” who post their resumes on the public career networking site LinkedIn. More »
Ken Layne – Front