Category: Business

Microsoft Accelerator Launches New Program For Late Stage Startups In India

As we have been writing, startup accelerators in India’s nascent ecosystem are beginning to seek more mature, late stage companies to work with. The latest to join this trend is Microsoft Ventures, which announced its Summer 2014 batch for the Indian accelerator today. Of the 16 startups selected, six will be part of Microsoft’s new Accelerator Plus program, aimed at helping companies who already have customer traction and are more mature.
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The Six startups joining Microsoft’s new, late stage accelerator program are: MyBusTickets.in, Praxify, Thinxtream, Touchfone, ZingHR and Zoom.

The startups joining regular, early stage incubation program are: Appointy, App Virality, Bookpad, Boutline, Imly, InstaSafe, IntouchApp, Metaome, Sliderule and Voonik.

“This program is for more mature companies which are closer to VC funding.  Most of them have made significant progress, so much so that the startup ecosystem is taking their eyes off them,” Ravi Narayan, director of Microsoft Ventures said in a statement.

Microsoft Ventures in India has graduated 35 startups since August 2012, and about 80% of them have been funded so far. Two graduates, Adepto and Plustxt, have been acquired.

As we reported last week, accelerators are trying to figure out ways to get involved with more fundable, mature startups. This is because despite more money chasing early ideas, the Series A crunch seems to be even more real for those graduating from the accelerators. Accel India scanned around 1,000 companies across 62 different accelerators and incubators in India over last few years, and the results speak for themselves — only 30 of them went on to receive Series A funding. Read More>>

A Closer Look at Satya Nadella, Possibly the Next CEO of Microsoft

When it comes to name-brand recognition, he’s no Stephen Elop (former CEO of Nokia), Alan Mulally (CEO of Ford) or even Julie Larson-Green (Executive Vice President at Microsoft). The alleged CEO designate of Microsoft, however, is a familiar face in the hallowed halls of Redmond. For those of us not familiar with the innards of Microsoft, though, who is Satya Nadella?
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Late last year, word got out that Nadella’s name was on the software giant’s shortlist of potential replacements for current CEO Steve Ballmer, who announced his resignation back in August. At the time, Nadella was charged with running Microsoft’s cloud computing team. And by most accounts, he’s done a fine job of it, helping to make the company’s Windows Azure offering a major force in business cloud computing.

This Business Insider article from December portrays Nadella as something of a company man, a notable contrast from Ballmer’s much publicized heart-on-his-sleeve (and screaming from his diaphragm) business style. The impression of the executive, largely unknown outside the industry, was pulled from a video interview with Om Malik. The conversation features an enthusiastic Nadella attempting to forecast what the tech world will look like in a decade—a farsightedness that’s been hard to spot in much of Microsoft management recently. Read More News>>

Google Buys A.I. Company for Search, Not Robots

“I’d like to go on a vacation somewhere warm over the summer, but only have a budget of $1,000. Where should I go?”

If you search Google with a very long and human question like this, you will see a series of strange links to articles like, “7 Frugal Habits Everyone Should Develop,” “Successful People Who Prove You Should Use Your Vacation Time,” and “How to Plan a Vacation.”

Google wants to change that, which is why the company bought the British artificial intelligence developer, DeepMind, on Monday.

Some in the blogosphere saw the acquisition differently, speculating that Google was buying DeepMind to help make robots and thermostats more intelligent — presumably for world domination.

While this new artificial intelligence technology could be used with robots one day, possibly even in the not-too-distant future, for now, Google was hoping to continue its world domination of search.

This is why Facebook was also competing to buy DeepMind, as The Information noted Monday. Facebook doesn’t have any humanoid robots, robotic dogs or Internet-connected thermostats. What Facebook does have is something that Google dominates: search.

ReCode first reported the deal on Sunday, saying Google had agreed to pay $400 million for the company.

People who work with Google but could not be named because they were not allowed to speak publicly for the company, said the acquisition of the artificial intelligence software had nothing to do with robots, but everything to do with semantic technology and the ability to understand what people were asking for online and answer in a very human way.

While a Google spokesman confirmed the purchase of DeepMind, he declined to comment about why Google had acquired the company or the type of projects the new team of researchers and scientists would be working on. Read More News>>

Big Profit at Facebook as It Tilts to Mobile

Ten years after its founding as a simple website for a few thousand Harvard undergraduates to manage their social lives, Facebook is a far different company.

About 757 million people around the world used the social network on an average day last month, and three-quarters of them logged on using mobile devices.

Facebook’s business has also been transformed. In 2012, most of its money came from generic banner ads delivered to users visiting its site by desktop computer. In the fourth quarter of 2013, 53 percent of the company’s advertising revenue came from pitches delivered to iPads, smartphones and other mobile devices, with many of those ads highly targeted by gender, age and other demographics.

“I think it’s inarguable that Facebook is a mobile-first company,” Facebook’s chief financial officer, David Ebersman, said in an interview.

The ascendance of mobile, both in use of the site and advertising, was apparent in Facebook’s strong fourth-quarter financial results, which the company reported on Wednesday.

Facebook had total revenue of $2.59 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, up from $1.59 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue from advertising was $2.34 billion, up 76 percent from the previous year. Read More News>>

Obama administration to allow Facebook, Google, others more NSA transparency

The Obama administration brokered a deal with Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other technology giants that will allow the companies to disclose more information about government surveillance requests targeting their users.

The announcement Monday marks a victory for the tech industry, which had been fighting the U.S. government in court over the matter for months. But the settlement stops short of what some Internet companies, civil liberties advocates and lawmakers say is necessary for effective surveillance reform.
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Under the new arrangement, companies have the option to disclose the “number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests and the underlying legal authorities,” Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a joint statement.

But the requests have to be provided in ranges that are far less precise than what surveillance reform supporters on Capitol Hill have proposed. And the rules also contain a significant caveat: when the government seeks data from a new product or service, companies can be barred from disclosing the surveillance requests for two years.

Still, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and LinkedIn offered an early nod of praise after reaching the deal with the U.S. government. Read More News>>

Nokia reports fall in mobile sales and profits ahead of Microsoft handover

Nokia has reported a steep fall in sales at its network equipment division, the main business which it will be left with once it has sold its former flagship phone business to Microsoft for 5.4 billion euros.

The company said on Thursday that the Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) division’s fourth-quarter sales were down 22 percent on a year ago at 3.1 billion euros and it would embark on a new sales drive later this year.
Meanwhile sales in the Devices and Services division which it is selling to Microsoft fell 29 percent to around 2.6 billion euros due to “competitive industry dynamics”.

Nokia’s shares were down 3 percent at 5.55 euros by 1228 GMT, and analysts said much of the disappointment was due to worries about NSN, which will account for around 90 percent of the company after the Microsoft deal closes.

“The fourth quarter was slightly disappointing,” said Inderes analyst Mikael Rautanen. “Minus 22 percent was a heavier decline than was expected.”

Analysts had on average forecast sales of 3.2 billion euros, according to a Reuters poll.

The unit turned profitable in 2012 after slashing costs and shedding unprofitable businesses, helping to offset losses in its ailing mobile phone business.

But analysts have said it now needs to concentrate on winning more business as high research and development costs in mobile broadband technology mean bigger players have an advantage. Read More>>

Android leads mobile phone ad traffic, iOS overall leader thanks to iPad: Opera

The mobile advertising market is a major battleground for competing platforms, and Android now leads over iOS in terms of mobile phone traffic, reveals a new report.
Source – gadgets.ndtv

Opera’s latest State of Mobile Advertising report has revealed that Android with a mobile traffic share of 35.85 percent is ahead of iPhone, which has a share of 28.7 percent.

The report also claims that Android, despite leading in mobile phone traffic, is still behind iOS in terms of total traffic (including tablets) and monetisation, with Apple’s OS retaining its overall lead across mobile platforms thanks in large part to the iPad.

The report notes, “Looking ahead, we expect to see Android’s share of revenue continue to grow, but given how far ahead Apple is in the tablet space, we do not expect Android to take the lead for cross-platform monetization in 2014.” Read More>>

Facebook testing its first mobile ad network on other companies’ apps

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday that it is displaying ads from a small group of marketers on other companies’ smartphone apps, the latest sign that the world’s No. 1 online social network is closer to launching an ad network business.

Facebook said that the test is currently limited to a “few” advertisers and mobile app publishers.

“Our aim is to demonstrate even greater reach with the same power of Facebook targeting for advertisers both on and off Facebook,” the company said in a post on its official business blog.

Facebook generates the bulk of its revenue from ads that appear on its own pages and in the Facebook mobile app. It has experimented with offering ads beyond the confines of its own social networking website in the past, including an effort last year in which it partnered with other ad networks and a previous experiment with social game company Zynga Inc.

Ad networks, which distribute online ads across a constellation of independent websites and apps, typically share a portion of the ad revenue with their partners.

Selling ads that appear in mobile apps could provide Facebook with a new source of revenue by expanding the amount of ads it sells. In the current test, Facebook said it will effectively operate its own ad network.

Analysts expect Facebook, which has roughly 1.2 billion users, to report revenue of $2.34 billion for its fourth quarter next week.

Facebook declined to comment on the financial aspects, including any revenue sharing arrangements, of its mobile ad network test.

Apple China Mobile launch could start costly subsidy war for iPhone sales

Apple Inc is finally launching its iPhone on China Mobile Ltd’s vast network on Friday, opening the door to the world’s largest carrier’s 763 million subscribers and giving its China sales a short-term jolt.

Underlining how much the launch means for Apple, Chief Executive Tim Cook was on hand as the carrier’s flagship store opened in Beijing’s financial district. With China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua alongside, Cook gifted signed iPhones to a handful of customers and posed for pictures.
Apple China Mobile launch could start costly subsidy war for iPhone sales
The long-awaited deal could trigger a limited turnaround for Apple, whose fortunes have wavered in China in the face of stiff competition from market-leader Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and up-and-coming local rival Xiaomi Tech.

Samsung had a 21 percent share of China’s smartphone market in the third quarter of 2013, with Apple trailing in fifth place with just 6 percent, according to research firm Canalys.

But the arrival of the iPhone could be a double-edged sword for China Mobile, with some analysts predicting a costly subsidy war as rival carriers compete to lure customers.

“I don’t see a price war coming where Apple is engaged in the war, but I do think you’re going to see a subsidy war coming,” said Michael Clendenin, managing director of Shanghai-based RedTech Advisors.

“China Mobile, if they’re not making their targets on sales for these phones, they’re going to increase the subsidies… It’s like airlines: the other guys will fall like dominoes, so China Unicom will do it and China Telecom will do it.”

China Mobile’s iPhone sales are expected to reach 12 million in its 2014 fiscal year, but its subsidies will leap 57 percent to 42.4 billion yuan, up from 27 billion yuan in its fiscal year 2013, wrote Cynthia Meng, a Jefferies analyst, in a December note.

For the basic 16GB iPhone 5s, with no subscriber contract, China Mobile is charging 5,288 yuan, the same as on Apple’s China website. The carrier is charging 4,488 yuan for a basic iPhone 5c, again the same price as on Apple’s China site.

China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd and China Telecom Corp Ltd slashed their iPhone prices by as much as 1,288 yuan following the announcement that a deal had been struck between Apple and China Mobile. The pair have also offered a range of cut-price deals on contracts.

These offerings and the launch of the iPhone on China Mobile come in the weeks running up to Chinese New Year, when people traditionally exchange gifts of money in red envelopes and retail sales jump.

SALES CANNIBALISATION

After taking years to hammer out a deal with China Mobile, Apple’s sales in China should get a short, sharp boost as subscribers make the most of the double-whammy of the iPhone’s arrival and the rollout of high-speed 4G mobile networks.

Reservations for iPhones had already hit 1.3 million on Wednesday, according to a China Mobile spokeswoman, although Reuters checks showed that there were multiple registrations using fake ID numbers.

But the rewards are expected to be short-lived for the Cupertino, California-based company, which faces a deeper problem in China of having fallen out of favour with consumers who are increasingly opting for domestic offerings.

Another issue is the thriving grey market for iPhones, where users can buy handsets typically smuggled from Hong Kong and then sign up for a China Mobile contract. China Mobile already has 45 million iPhone users in China, according to a company spokeswoman.

“You need to consider the cannibalisation for sales to China Unicom, China Telecom and the grey market, so even though there’s an addition from China Mobile it will also impact sales from other channels as well,” said CK Lu, a Taiwan-based analyst with Gartner.
“If we really want to see the expansion of sales we’ll have to wait for the next version of the iPhone. If China Mobile gets first launch and their subsidies are attractive people will probably rush to the iPhone that China Mobile can provide.”

What would drive the mobile ad industry in 2014?

he mobile ad industry is currently witnessing never been seen momentum. Here are top five predictions for what would help drive much greater industry growth in 2014.

n Programmatic with punch: Programmatic buying and selling has been one of the biggest growth areas for mobile advertising in 2013. With greater growth in mobile internet consumption and, thus, significantly greater inventory availability, publishers would continue to see this as a significant driver to enhance yield. However, the knock-out punch for programmatic would come in through integration of third party DMP type data, social graph data, carrier data and context data to make programmatically procured mobile inventory much richer and targeted versus how mobile display advertising is today.

                                               What would drive the mobile ad industry in 2014?
n Paid social marries display: The consumer time spent on social media continues to grow with increasing options like Instagram, Path, Pinterest, Snapchat and more beyond the old war horses – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Also social is growing to become a completely mobile phenomenon. With social networks embracing advertising successfully, the amount of mobile advertising options available to an advertisers are growing manifold. However, watch out for two key developments, which should make this business much larger and help create a singular paid social and mobile display marketplace.

a) Launch of Facebook exchange for mobile and Twitter launching its own programmatic platform after the Mopub acquisition integration. These would be big game changers for mobile ads as with these moves significantly larger volumes of super targeted mobile ad inventory would become available to advertisers.

b) Rich media on social: This would provide for a big boost for brand advertisers to better leverage social and mobile. We have seen signs of this becoming an industry growth driver in 2013 and expect this to be a significant contributor in industry growth in 2014.

n Rich media gets richer: Rich media has been a big driver to get top brands to adopt mobile advertising in 2013. Rich media capabilities have also grown significantly, helped by growing smartphones functionalities and easier availability of public content and context APIs, which make rich media ads have a greater real time context.

However, the biggest growth for rich media would come in through greater adoption and usage of rich media authoring platforms which make building of these ad units much more scalable and cost efficient.

n From premium publishers to premium data: We have long lived in an era where media teams and advertisers have felt more comfortable with publisher-led buying instead of audience buying on digital media. This has happened due to (a) publisher driven sales efforts (b) limited availability of audience data.

I expect this to change significantly with availability of much richer user data and adoption of programmatic helping shift ad dollars in favour of audience buying versus publisher buying. Given the stage of the digital ad market in India, this trend will start be felt in 2014 with much greater impact happening over a longer period.
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