The white device here (pictured next to a phone for scale) is in the process of getting mounted on store walls in Singapore malls. When active, the device will emit an ultrasonic signal that an app can pick up, and will allow participating stores to broadcast deals and rewards to shoppers.
The device is called the iSenze, and is made by a startup in Singapore called Rainmaker Labs. Rainmaker’s bigger plan is to roll out a service called ShopGuru to stores, which allows them to list deals on it. Users who have the ShopGuru app can browse for deals. How it all connects is that some deals require users to physically step into these stores, and the iSenze will ensure that their presence is logged.
Alex Leong, co-founder at Rainmaker Labs, showed me the device recently. The service isn’t live yet, but will be in a month or two. The company intends to get its clients properly onboard before launching, he said. Rainmaker is first targeting fashion brands and will go to F&B chains after that. It’s signed about 18-20 so far, and has been trialing the device in stores over the past six months.
The company has a “six-digit” budget to push out its marketing campaign, so they’re taking their time to get it done right, he said.
The way the app offers rewards is to award users points for browsing deals on it. You get more points for walking into the store, and should you buy anything, you can log your purchase with your user ID at check out for additional points. These points are redeemable for other goods from participating stores.
On the retailer’s end, the ShopGuru service will provide a dashboard with some customer analytics in it, said Leong. This is derived from customer behavior in the app, as well as their physical movements, as tracked by the iSenze. This can provide more accurate feedback on what customers are interested in, and what deals don’t get picked up.
It’s free for shops to sign up with the ShopGuru service, but Rainmaker takes a cut of the sales made through it.
Rainmaker was founded in March 2011, and closed its first seed round of S$590,000 last November, led by Singaporean tech investor, Incuvest. Together with some angel funding at the start, Rainmaker has hit $800,000 so far, said Leong.
Ronnie Wee, managing partner at Incuvest, said the team was picked for incubation because of the potential in solving a “real problem in the market today”. “Since our investment, they have started to show good progress and solid traction with customers,” he said.
Rainmaker’s managed to pull along a few seasoned advisors in the country as well. Liew Woon Yin was the former CEO of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), and is a pro bono consultant for the startup. Tay Liam Wee, group managing director of Sincere Watches is also an advisor.
Singapore’s first for the ShopGuru service, but it intends to move into the Southeast Asian region soon after.
Read more from the original source: Mall App Tracks Shoppers With Ultrasonic Device
Dow Jones Venture Source released its quarterly report on the state of venture capital, including data on number of VC deals, funds raised, M&As and IPOs in the technology sector. According to the report, U.S.-based companies raised $6 billion from 752 venture capital deals in Q1 2013, an 11% decrease in capital and a 6% decrease in number of deals from the previous quarter. Compared to the same period in 2012, there was an 11% decrease in deals and a 12% decrease in amount invested. Additionally, median pre-money valuation dropped 79% from 4Q 2012.
Deals in Information Technology (IT), Healthcare, Energy and Utilities, and Industrial Goods all declined, and deals in Business and Financial Services, Consumer Goods, and Consumer Services investment increased from the previous quarter.
The largest funding deals in the Internet and IT sector included Pinterest’s $200 million raise and Living Social’s $110 million raise. By VC firm, NEA was the most active investor with 22 deals, followed by 500 Startups, Andreessen Horowitz, Y Combinator and Greylock Partners, respectively.
In terms of VC funds, 43 funds raised $4.2 billion in Q1 2013, a 16% increase in number of funds and 65% increase in amount raised from prior quarter. The big raise for the quarter by a VC fund was Battery Ventures X LP, the largest U.S. venture capital fund of the year, raised $650 million, accounting for 15% of the total amount raised in the quarter. Spark Capital announced a new $425 million fund and Redpoint raised $400 million in the quarter. The median U.S. fund size for the quarter was $143 million.
Despite a 16% drop in raised capital, healthcare saw the largest investment allocation by sector with 162 deals raising $1.9 billion and accounting for 30% of the total venture capital investment. IT reported a 30% decrease in amount invested with $1.9 billion in 256 closed deals, 10% drop in number of deals compared to the previous quarter.
M&A activity declined in the first quarter of 2013, with the fewest exits since the first quarter of 2009. Acquisitions totaled $4.3 billion, a 44% decrease in M&A activity and a 24% decrease in capital raised compared to the previous quarter.
In terms of IPOs, Nine venture-backed companies raised $643 million through public offerings in 1Q 2013, a 55% year-over-year drop from $1.4 billion raised by 20 IPOs in 1Q’12 and a 47% decrease compared to the previous quarter. The largest IPO of the quarter was Marin Software, which completed a $105 million IPO.
Apple has rolled out version 3.1 of its ebook app iBooks, finally bringing with it support for hundreds of thousands of paid-for books in the Japanese iBookstore.
Works available include fiction, manga and novels, while the updated app also includes enhancements for other Asian-language books.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t Apple’s first foray into the Japanese ebook market, initially unveiling iBooks in Japan in 2010. However, it failed to negotiate deals with Japanese publishers to sell their wares, hence it was restricted to content that was already in the public domain.
Apple has now remedied that, it seems, having inked deals with Japanese publishers, and will go some way towards helping it compete with the likes of Kobo, Amazon and Sony which are already active in the market.
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Go here to read the rest: Apple targets Japan with iBooks 3.1, featuring “hundreds of thousands” of Japanese-language books to buy
Google is reportedly in talks with big music labels in an attempt to launch a music streaming service. According to a report by the Financial Times (paywall), the search engine company aims to take on popular services like Spotify, Pandora, Slacker, and Deezer.
While Google already has a music download service and also YouTube, building out its own music streaming service would be new. It seems that should this launch, it would give the company access to millions of songs (Spotify already has over 16 million songs). It already has plans to launch a paid subscription service on YouTube that would enable subscribers to pay to watch their favorite shows and artists. It’s not that unbelievable to think that Google doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to handle a music streaming service.
Some might even think that this music streaming service would be an extension of its music download service that it rolled out in November 2011 and is now available in the US and five European countries. In November 2011, the product signed deals with EMI, Universal, Sony Music Entertainment and small indie labels to bring in 13 million tracks on the Android market. To date, it has over 1,000 partners.
Practically everywhere you look on Google has a music focus — people spend hours every day listening to music on YouTube, which Vevo helped to make even more popular by having signed artists upload their videos there. And on Android devices, it can’t be that hard to believe that somehow Google could deploy a music service that would be built-in and would be the first thing a user sees besides Spotify or Pandora.
One significant obstacle that the Mountain View, CA-based company faces is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which came after the company this week over allegations that it has failed in its attempt to stop content piracy. To that, Google responded with:
We have invested heavily in copyright tools for content owners and process takedown notices faster than ever. In the last month we received more than 14 million copyright removal requests for Google Search, quickly removing more than 97% from search results. In addition, Google’s growing partnerships and distribution deals with the content industry benefit both creators and users, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the industry each year.
How this will exactly help Google’s case for launching a music streaming service isn’t clear, but with the RIAA attacking it, things are less than positive, especially as labels like Warner Music and Universal Music worry about the privacy issue. However, Google could still pull it off — if it’s true, that is.
Should a music streaming service actually come to fruition, it’s reported that it will offer a subscription service as well as free unlimited access to songs, supported by advertising. This mirrors what users currently get with Slacker, Spotify, and other services.
Photo credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images
Youku Tudou, China’s largest online video site, has refuted claims that it is housing unlicensed content on its site, after a lesser domestic rival took a complaint against the company to court.
Web content form Xunlei, which runs a video-on-demand site among other services, is claiming that Youku Tudou — which was formed following a billion dollar merger between two of China’s top YouTube-like sites — is housing 13 movies and TV dramas that it has the exclusive rights to. Xunlei filed a copyright violation lawsuit with the Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing. The firm says that Youku Tudou’s unlicensed use of the content — which has seen it made available to social network Douban — makes it unable to sell the rights to the programming to other services.
Nasdaq-listed Youku Tudou has content agreements with all of Hollywood’s top studios, including Sony, WB, DreamWorks, Paramount and Disney. Its director of international communications, Shao Dan, dismissed Xunlei’s claims as a move for publicity, telling Global Times:
We have legal rights, including the authorization to broadcast on Douban, to all 13 movies and TV dramas that are in question. We believe the court will make a just and fair decision. Competitors sometimes use so-called copyright complaints to market themselves.
The legal case is yet to be accepted by the court, since it was submitted during the Chinese New Year period. That timing could chime in with Dan’s comments that Xunlei is seeking publicity, since the court is not expected to respond to the suit until after the holiday period. Cynics could argue that this puts the case in the limelight for longer, giving Xunlei more exposure.
The company has won copyright violation pay-outs in the past, but a spokesperson told Global Times that it is aiming to land modest 1 million yuan ($160,400) in compensation. While not a huge amount of money, the associated publicity and decision itself would be a boost for the company.
China’s video and music sites were loaded with unauthorized, pirated content when they first sprang up, but that has changed in recent times. As well as striking deals with international producers, the likes of Youku Tudou creates and airs its own original content.
The Chinese online video industry is expected to see further consolidation over the company period as firms battle to turn in profit against the high cost of infrastructure and content deals. Those factors led to the Youku-Tudou merger last March, and the new entity is estimated to save $60 million on shared costs.
Youku Tudou’s rivals banded together in an informal alliance to help work to lower the cost of content deals. This week Nasdaq-listed Sohu revealed that it expects to spend $70-$80 million on content deals in 2013.
In its final earnings release as a single company, Youku posted losses of $14.6 million despite seeing revenues rise 84 percent year-on-year. Tudou’s last results were similar, and saw revenues rise by 50 percent but losses double to $24 million.
Headline image via Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Read more from the original source: China’s top video site Youku Tudou denies copyright violation claim from rival