MessageMe — a messaging app that launched in March with a little Facebook controversy thrown in — has raised another $10 million, according to an SEC filing earlier today. The Series A round was led by Greylock Partners; and as part of it, John Lilly, the ex-CEO of Mozilla who is now a partner at Greylock, will be joining the board of LittleInc Labs, makers of MessageMe.
TechCrunch understands that others participating in this round are the same investors from LittleInc Labs’ $1.9 million seed round, including True Ventures, First Round Capital, Google Ventures, SVAngel, Resolut.vc, Andreessen Horowitz, and Social+Capital Partnership. The company’s angels also include Airbnb’s Brian Pokorny, Hiten Shah, Eric Wu and TinyCo CEO Suleman Ali.
Although the seed round was announced in March, just weeks after the launch of the app, it actually closed last year and went towards the company’s launch. This newest round will be used to help MessageMe keep up with growth in the future, as it faces up to an increasingly crowded field of competitors. They include biggies like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, both of which are popular across a number of regions; those that have built up strong followings in local markets, such as KakaoTalk in South Korea and Line in Japan; and newer contenders like the new Hangouts app from Google.
Amidst (or perhaps despite) all the competition, MessageMe continues to grow fast.
Two months ago, the app was seeing 500 notifications per second among 1 million users — despite the fact that Facebook cut MessageMe off from Social Graph access one week after it launched. The reason for that appeared to be the same as for other apps that faced the same fate: they are not allowed to use “Find Friends” features to seek out Facebook contacts on third-party apps, when those third-party apps are deemed to be competitive to/replicating core Facebook services.
Today the sent rate is apparently significantly higher, as are user numbers. We understand that the company will be sharing more specific numbers next week when it also will be announcing details for how LittleInc Labs plans to make money from its ad-free, free-to-download app.
On that front, there have already been some fairly obvious clues as to what those plans might entail: In addition to multimedia options in the app to send messages as pictures, doodles, video, voice, location and music, there are also tabs for stickers and money.
Conversely, although the two co-founders, Arjun Sethi and Justin Rosenthal, have had extensive experience with social gaming in past roles, including long periods for both at LOLapps, it’s noticeable that there is no games tab on that dashboard.
Stickers, of course, have been a very popular value-added service for other apps like Line, which makes millions each month from stickers; and other messaging apps like Path are now adopting them, too.
Money is a newer area in messaging but one that is also being chased by more than one party: Google just yesterday announced that Google Wallet would be integrated with Gmail, letting users send money as attachments. Peer-to-peer money transfers via mobile, meanwhile, have been a much-used service particularly in developing markets, where users may not have bank accounts. MessageMe could play on both of these concepts, depending on who it partners with to provide the service.
Emotions play tricks on our memories, making our recollections of events much happier or heart-wrenching than they actually were. Smartphone app Expereal seeks to cut through those cognitive traps by allowing you to rate your day on a 10-point scale and organizing that data into easy-to-read charts.
The iOS app (Android and Web-based versions are planned) is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based digital strategist Jonathan Cohen, who was inspired by psychologist Daniel Kahneham’s 2010 TED talk “The riddle of experience vs. memory.” Kahneham argues that our memories are often distorted by cognitive biases. For example, one bad day can completely spoil someone’s memory of an otherwise pleasurable two-week vacation.
When designing Expereal, Cohen decided to stick to a 10-point scale to help users keep their ratings objective.
“I could have potentially asked people to pick a word to describe their mood, but what I like about numbers is that in order to get the full breadth and benefit you also have to enter tags and give meaning to it,” says Cohen.
Expereal’s first screen allows you to rate your day (or part of the day, depending on how often you use the app). Then you can note your location and the people you are with, add tags and snap a photo. A drop-down menu takes you to a set of charts that visualize your ratings by day, week or month, and compares your numbers to all of Expereal’s users or your Facebook friends who also use the app (data is aggregated anonymously). The “Expereotype” option is an album of your in-app photos with embedded ratings, tags and locations.
Cohen says Expereal fills the gap left by journaling apps and life-tracking wearable tech products like Jawbone UP and Nike Fuelband.
“None of these services in my mind really address the fundamental question–’how is my life going and how is it trending over time?’ I thought that by having a better understanding of this over time, it would be an interesting way to look back in order to move forward,” says Cohen.
Of course, Expereal is only as useful as the data you enter into it. The app’s notifications can be set to remind you to use it 1-5 times per day. While testing the app out, I found I was more likely to enter a rating if I was having a bad day because adding tags allowed me to vent. If my day was going okay, however, it was tempting to ignore Expereal’s prompt on my iPhone.
“It’s not immediately sticky,” Cohen admits. “But for many of us who are relatively happy in our lives, I think there is value in those moments of self-reflection.” He adds that Expereal is meant to “counterbalance to the immediate promises of contemporary best-selling self-help books and programs.”
I committed to using the app five times a day for two weeks and was surprised by my data charts. A couple days I had written off in my memory as a total waste of time (because of a headache or a task left undone) were actually rated quite high, and I realized I’m much more pessimistic than I thought I was. I already use Timehop as a scrapbook and Step Journal to keep track of my daily activities, but I like Expereal’s focus on mood tracking because it’s already motivated me to stop being so negative.
Cohen tells me he is continually working on the app’s data analysis so that the aggregate numbers aren’t skewed toward any particular part of the day or people who log onto the app more consistently than other users. He declined to give me specific numbers, but says Expereal currently has several thousand users.
Aside from being a handy life-tracking tool, Expereal is also beautiful, with minimalist graphics inspired by mid-century California design, graphic designer Reid Miles and Monocle magazine. The app was bootstrapped by Cohen, who is currently looking for investors and investigating several revenue models. Cohen envisions Expereal as part of a larger ecosystem that will eventually include books, seminars and other tools that tap into people’s desires to improve their lives.
“If you look at the world of self-help, that segment of the marketplace, there are all of these amazing books by behavioral psychologists out there,” says Cohen. “If Expereal can capture a piece of that marketplace, I think the potential is huge.”
It’s been some time since we first looked at photo-sharing app Tadaa, which we noted at the time builds on Instagram’s template with more Twitter-like features for social photographers.
Instagram may have gone on to dominate the filter/sharing/social photo-app realm, and it even has that billion-dollar Facebook acquisition to boast, but with around 3 million downloads to date, Tadaa has also carved a sizable niche for itself in what has become a pretty saturated space, with arguably a more sophisticated offering than some of its peers.
Tadaa boldly claims this “patent-pending” edge detection feature to be a “world first” for such a mobile app, so we thought we’d take a look to see how good it really is.
Oh, and edge detection, incidentally, is the technical term for identifying specific points and objects in a digital image. In the case of Tadaa, it promises to separate the main subject (e.g. a person) from the background surroundings to create distinct effects and a sense of depth
You can take a snap on the spot, or reel in images from your camera roll. Click the little edge-detection button on the top left next to the crop icon, and you’re good to go.
You trace an area around the main ‘focus’ region, and Tadaa snaps around the edges of the area it thinks you want to focus on.
Next, you can adjust the background blur to make the foreground standout, while you can also change elements such as brightness, contrast and saturation, and other finishing touches to the background.
Then, you can save it to your camera roll or share it across the social sphere.
Certainly, the outcome is quite impressive and it does create a genuine depth of field similar to what you’d get with a DSLR. But is this actually all that revolutionary? Other apps profess to offer such features, including AfterFocus for iOS and Android, not to mention Big Lens (iOS only).
I thought I’d put Tadaa up against Big Lens to see what the actual difference was, and here’s the result with Tadaa on the left:
If truth be told, I didn’t think there was too much in it, both produced roughly the same output, though maybe someone with a better eye for this kind of thing would disagree.
At any rate, it’s a nice addition for Tadaa and one that will likely prove popular with its 3 million or so users. Plus, for the time-being, Tadaa remains totally free, though there is a suggestion it may eventually cost to use the edge detection feature.
“We can’t wait to see how our users react to this new feature,” says Nikolas Schoppmeier, Tadaa’s Co-Founder & CEO. “There is no other app out there with a feature as sophisticated as this so we’re very excited. This feature is just one more reason to leave your expensive SLR at home the next time you want to take great photos. We’re equipping our users with a set of tools that only professional photographers have access to and we’re striving to make them as accessible as possible.”
Tadaa version 4.7 is available to download now.
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Here is the original post: Instagram alternative Tadaa introduces edge detection to blur photo backgrounds
Google sadly scrapped its plans to introduce a plastic “universal” credit card that works at point-of-sale as a way to use its Google Wallet service out in the real world, but the company has not given up on its NFC-powered payments solution just yet. The company announced Wednesday evening that the Google Wallet app now works on more phones: the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note II and HTC One on Sprint and the Samsung Galaxy Note II on US Cellular.
As you may have noticed, there’s a looming problem with Google Wallet, and no, it’s not international support. It’s that Google still can’t roll the app out across the U.S. Of the big four mobile carriers here, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile, all but Sprint are backing a competing NFC-based payments initiative called Isis. Though this program is only in pilot trials in Austin and Salt Lake City, it’s clear the carriers are hoping to delay and impede progress of competitive solutions when they can, using regulatory red tape and any other legal loopholes they can find.
In Verizon’s case, the company skirted around the FCC’s 2012 decree which said it couldn’t block applications from download, with a few exceptions. (Initially, the carrier blocked the installation of the application from Google Play entirely.) According to Verizon, the secure element being used in Google Wallet is the issue. The carrier told the FCC that the app requires integration with the secure element on the device – something that makes it different from other m-commerce apps like Square or PayPal. And this is a “secure and proprietary piece of hardware” that’s “fundamentally separate from the device’s basic communications functions or its operating system,” said Verizon.
“Verizon has a straightforward process under which Google or others could launch devices on Verizon’s network with Google Wallet included,” Verizon responded at the time of the FCC inquiry.
In a sense, the carrier is positioning the Google Wallet app as something that requires additional oversight and control because of the way it integrates with phone hardware. Nevermind that the Verizon-backed Isis solution works in almost exactly the same way. (More on that here - specifically, see the amended complaint the site links to for a discussion of technical issues.)
So Google Wallet’s app continues to be non-functional on Verizon today.
Meanwhile, other carriers like T-Mobile don’t even seem to be bothering to try and hide the fact that they’re actively stopping the app from working on their devices because of their involvement with Isis. Take T-Mobile for example, which in response to a question about why Google Wallet doesn’t work on the Note II, May 16, 2013 “>posted on Twitter today:
— T-Mobile USA (@TMobileHelp) May 16, 2013
Oh, Isis is the “standard” now, not NFC? Nice try, T-Mobile.
Get ready for a whole lot more Pebble. The smartwatch company just announced several software enhancements for the Pebble and a $15M Series A led by Charles River Ventures. Pebble is not going to sit around, scared of iWatch rumors. They’re plowing forward on their own accord and committed to providing the best platform possible for developers and consumers.
“We are pledging to support the developers hacking on Pebble,” stated Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky told me in an interview. “We want to make the Pebble the go-to place for developers.” And with that the company released its first SDK last month and is following it up today with several big improvements.
The cash injection will be used to increase the company’s software engineering team’s headcount and allow the company to scale to meet still-growing customer demand. CVS’ Partner George Zachery is joining Pebble’s board of directors, a move that excites Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky.
“George is the one that shared our vision of wearable computing,” Eric told me in a chat this morning. Several angels also participated in the round, but Eric indicated that Charles River Ventures funded the majority of the Series A. This round of funding joins the $375k the company previously received from four angel investors, including Paul Buchheit, a partner at Y Combinator, and Tim Draper of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. And don’t forget about the $10.3M Pebble raised on Kickstarter.
“The tremendous response we received from Kickstarter backers validated our belief in the value of a smartwatch as a wearable computer, but also in the value an open platform brings to truly personalizing the watch to their daily activities”, said Migicovsky, Pebble’s founder in a released statement today. “This new investment will help us build out the Pebble development ecosystem and deliver on Pebble’s extraordinary potential.”
Pebble is still working on fulfilling the 85,000 orders placed on Kickstater. To date 70,000 have reached early supporters. “It’s pretty crazy thinking there are 70,000 Pebbles out there,” Eric told me proudly. “Tens of thousands” of additional orders have been placed, Eric said.
The company is aiming for retail availability in four to six months.
Pebble also announced several software enhancements for its smartwatch today. The SDK, which the company appropriately calls the PebbleKit, enables third party apps to send and receive data from the smartwatch.
This two-way communication is a huge step forward for the smartwatch, allowing the watch to display a large variety of information including weather and sports scores or even act as a remote control for the phone itself. Until now, apps were limited to basic functions like just display a watch face or displaying a simple game of snake.
Pebble also released the Pebble Sports API, enabling developers to build GPS-enabled smartwatch apps similar to the RunKeeper app announced a couple of weeks back.
Since releasing its initial SDK back in April, Pebble states the kit was downloaded over 8,000 times, resulting in over 5,000 unique watchapps with 300,000 installs during the last month. Owners are clearly hungry for more Pebble features.
The Pebble was supposed to usher in a new era of productivity by strapping a communication device to our wrist, but the initial feature set was limited even with the first SDK release. However, Pebble is keeping at it and today’s funding announcement and software development release should result in a big harvest of fresh apps.
“Everyone is talking about wearable devices,” Eric explained. “We’re very happy that Pebble is a platform people can build on today.”
Wearables is the next big thing. There’s no denying that. Even if Apple skips the iWatch device, Google Glass and others are pushing forward the thought of wearable computing. But the Pebble is here today and developers have latched onto the platform, outing custom watch faces, games, and apps. With the Pebble, the future is here now.