ZeptoLab, the British-Russian company behind hit mobile game ‘Cut the Rope’ (and sequel ‘Cut the Rope: Experiments’), recently announced that its apps for iOS and Android (and the Web!) have been downloaded over 250 million times, with 50 million active monthly players.
Big numbers, especially when you consider that the mobile games company is entirely self-funded (Angry Birds maker Rovio raised a $42 million Series A round last year, for your comparison).
At the recent Dublin Web Summit, we caught up with ZeptoLab’s Chief Revenue Officer, the lovely Diana Moldavsky, to learn more about how the company makes money and what they have in store for the future.
We also asked how good she really is at Cut the Rope.
Originally posted here: Remarkable: ‘Cut the Rope’ maker boasts 250 million app downloads, raised $0 in funding [Video]
Is Twitter making the world a better place? I think it is.
You could argue it is just a short messaging service for people who want to share what they are eating, where they a going and what they are doing, but don’t most smart people agree there is something more to it than just that? Isn’t it enabling communication, in a new way, that improves communication in more ways that had ever imagined? Isn’t that in itself making the world a better place?
I often hear pitches from startups that claim they want to improve the world we live in. It usually goes something like this: “Besides building a new service that does xyz we also want to do something meaningful and make the world a better place.”
These kind of pitches annoy me. And there are two reasons why it is stupid: one is that it makes you seem unfocused. Doing one thing well – building a business – is hard enough. Doing two things means your end goals become unclear. What if you have to choose? Will you one day say “Screw our shareholders, we are going to donate the whole company to charity now!” I hope not. Saying you want to make the world a better place feels to me like a cheap shot at trying to get more sympathy from the audience or judges.
The second, and more important reason, is that with that sentence you seem to imply that other startups aren’t improving the world. And that’s just bullshit.
A few years ago one of the employees in our company asked me to walk outside with him for a minute because he wanted to show me something. We walked out and there was a new car. We had paid for this car because he needed to make lots of sales visits to potential customers. He described the specifics of the car, but didn’t seem to get a reaction from me, so he quickly gave up and said ‘I guess you don’t like cars’. But that wasn’t the reason I wasn’t saying anything. For me this was an emotional moment because I suddenly realized I had built a company that not only employed a handful of people, and that these people were getting paid and were having a good time, but we were even able to give them cars now. I thought it was just amazing and it made me proud, emotional and speechless.
“Groupon clone after Groupon clone, yawn… yet another social media dashboard, a cloud-based enterprise solution or, worse still, another photo sharing app; I’ve heard pitch after pitch of the same technology and keep wondering why all these highly intelligent, well-educated youngsters, many of whom have been educated in the best universities in the world (Stanford, Yale and Harvard) are not putting their brains to good use by solving real-world problems.”
It is easy to agree with her, except that I don’t. I think Instagram is a beautiful company, that itself was ‘just’ a clone of another photo sharing app that it replaced. It brings a lot of joy to a lot of people all around the world. Those people laugh a little bit more, relax a little bit more, maybe work a little bit more and at the end of the day maybe earn a little bit more, pay taxes a little bit more and contribute to our worldwide economy a little bit more. It’s a powerful communication tool, too.
When Google first showed their solution for search they weren’t taken serious either. Yahoo used almost the exact same language to explain how search was a ‘trivial’ problem and not worth working on. The Apple founders? Atari called them a bunch of geeks in a garage that couldn’t be taken seriously with their ‘toy’ computer.
Is Instagram solving hunger in Africa? Not exactly.
Is Facebook helping us prevent global warming. Nope.
Are they therefore not contributing to a better world? Seriously?
If you can build a business that employs people, is able to feed them, increase shareholder value, innovate a bit and earn the founders a small fortune, in the end, the whole world wins. Small and trivial ideas lead to world-changing businesses, and that’s great for the world.
Just because you are focusing on revenue doesn’t imply that your slogan is ‘Screw the world, let’s get rich’.
Saying that your startup wants to make the world a better place is unnecessary. It is implicit in starting a company.
Image credit: AFP / Getty Images
Read the original post: Screw the world, let’s get rich
I’ve greatly enjoyed watching the petty controversies that erupted this week, controversies having to do with what can only loosely be described as buyer’s remorse: indignant iPad owners, a mysteriously banished Amazon customer, and a host of people calling foul on Facebook’s promoted posts. One of these is a legitimate and productive complaint, the others are nothing but a froth about the mouth.
To dispense with the first, very briefly: the iPad owners angry with Apple for releasing an updated version too quickly are demonstrating such grotesque entitlement that there’s simply nothing to discuss. This tantrum is pathetic and you are embarrassing yourselves.
The Amazon thing shouldn’t strike anyone as a surprise — we’ve all seen Brazil. But the emails from Amazon are so ludicrous that if you had told me they were written as a parody of such things, I would have laughed and laughed. As it turned out, I laughed anyway, because the best parody isn’t intentional. At any rate, this kind of minor disaster is the kind with legs, the kind that catches consumers’ attention because it’s crazy but in then end causes them to doubt whether they really trust Amazon.
Once it hits the morning shows, and the office lunches, and the family reunions, that Amazon did this amazing thing (this time or the next), there will be two outcomes: Amazon will revise the policy, and people will move to take control of their data. Admittedly folks are not always quick to apprehend systematic abuses of their rights and privileges like EULAs, but the clear and present danger of having perhaps $50 worth of their money thrown down the memory hole will trigger the pecuniary instinct which is so reliable in America.
The ease with which users will soon be able to secure their purchases will make this possible. Want to make some money (or what is better than money: notoriety)? Create a web syncing app that quietly (perhaps wirelessly) tunnels into a Kindle and disables the DRM on the books, while somehow simultaneously snaking between licensing issues, leaving the user’s contract with Amazon intact.
It’s a chore right now, relatively speaking, to hack your Kindle or convert your library, and as long as that’s the case, convenience will trump principle (or what passes for it). But startups these days seem to be hell-bent on turning minor inconveniences into multi-million dollar businesses, so I’d say this particular chore will be automated to a sufficient degree within a year, if it isn’t already and I’m just not aware.
Even if that occurs, there’s still a valuable lesson to be learned for consumers: you own your devices, and you can keep your data, but the services you use — they belong to someone else, and as long as you use them, your device and your data might too. You have to be okay with a power-sharing agreement: you control the vertical, they control the horizontal. As long as everyone stays on their side of the fence, things will be okay.
Which bridges us nicely to the last micro-outrage: the ongoing troubles relating to Facebook’s promoted posts feature, or if you read the same article I did as it made the rounds, “the single most misguided thing a major corporation has ever deliberately done, bar none, in the entire history of American capitalism and the world.”
In case it’s not obvious, I think this one is froth — and the Observer piece it references, though for different reasons.
There’s a bit of napkin math in the post that puts the cost of promoting posts to reach all your fans at around $672,000 per year. I’m aware that this is more of a “for illustration” calculation, but let’s take just one of its premises seriously, that a blog might post ten things to Facebook every day of the week, and that these are expected to be seen by a good proportion of their followers.
Here then is another napkin calculation that should spring immediately to the mind of anyone attempting to comprehend this issue: if I follow just ten blogs or people posting at that rate, that’s a hundred items every day that would supposedly need to find their way into my Facebook news feed. Even if I checked Facebook three times a day, the content would surely overwhelm me. In fact, considering the volume of posts from 500 (or a thousand) friends, ten (or twenty, or fifty) blogs, and the usual ads and such, I would be very surprised if one out of those ten posts per day managed to find its way under my eye.
It’s public knowledge that Facebook carefully selects the posts you do see based on thousands upon thousands of interactions, comments, likes, stated preferences, and so on. Haven’t clicked through on a blog’s posts in a month? Chances of you seeing one of those ten per day posts just dropped, and for good reason. Did that post go up at 10AM, and you didn’t sign on until 2PM? Well, old news gets a demotion too. Is it about the elections, and you’ve already x’ed out a few political posts, or haven’t participated in election-oriented conversation (and you’d be a fool think Facebook doesn’t know)? Buried again. Alas, the life of a Facebook post is fleeting as a snowflake, and about as important!
What about Facebook’s clear damping of appearance rates of page posts just as it implements a pay-to-post system? Clearly they are related, no one can deny that (although attaching it to the IPO rather defies credibility). The Observer piece even calls it a “conflict of interest,” as if Facebook should be prohibited by regulators from changing how its posts propagate. But it’s so easy to say “Look! A smoking gun!” —Why not check for a second shooter?
In this case, that would be the multiplying numbers of pages and businesses on Facebook and the incredible volume of posts they produce. Combine those with a news feed that has not really increased in size (though counting temporal resolution and mobile penetration gives it some significant growth over the last few years) and you have a post population crisis. There just isn’t enough room for everyone.
And let us not forget that this is Facebook, a social network, which, despite having achieved platform status in other areas, is primarily thought of as a way for friends and acquaintances to share and communicate. If someone wanted to see every post from your blog, they would go to your blog and read it.
Anyhow, what is the reasonable response from Facebook? They can’t just increase the size of the newsfeed for technical reasons, and they can’t make items smaller or shorter really, and they can’t tell people not to post; besides, changing the user experience has almost without exception caused an outcry.
All they can do is change the ecosystem to balance things out by changing the weighting algorithm. But businesses may want to use their money to prioritize and promote certain things on the service, the way they have for most of recorded history. And if that promoted post still doesn’t meet the threshold for appearing on a particular user’s stream, bad luck. So — that’s what Facebook did.
It’s not a particularly good solution, but Facebook isn’t really the venue for this kind of thing, no matter what they or big brands say. My god, don’t these people realize they’re throwing a drop into the ocean and expecting everyone to count the ripples?
There is a problem here, admittedly. While the ocean doesn’t care whether the drop that hits it comes from you or from Nike, Nike definitely has more money than you do. That reflects the real world, sure, but it doesn’t reflect how a social network should work. So for the moment, the rich are at an advantage, though don’t forget that their reach too is suffering at the hands of Facebook’s cold and indifferent algorithm.
Promoting posts should be a part of the ecosystem, but the current method of intermingling ads, promoted posts, organic growth content, and stuff from your friends and family is amazingly crude. Facebook needs to radically overhaul their method of delivering news, and part of that will have to be at least a partial segregation of content into two streams (more becomes a challenge to usability) — roughly speaking, friends and likes. If they want to be a credible proliferation vector instead of a demonstration of chaos theory (that is to say, a business or a social network, and the choice is by no means easy), the current method of content delivery is untenable for more than another year or so.
There is, however, a level of expectation as far as Facebook promotion goes that is at least understandable. Metzger, of the $672,000, is on the losing end of what he presumed to be a sort of gentlemen’s agreement with Facebook. He’s spent years contributing and making the network a better and more diverse place. In return, Facebook has helped him grow his site, sending him traffic. Now Facebook is reneging on its part of the deal, he feels. But that assumes there was a deal to begin with.
I would submit that the volatility of every aspect of the Facebook platform gave ample indication that it was not a rock on which to build. Ore, perhaps, to mine, which Metzger and millions of others have done to great benefit. Facebook has been nothing but a good thing for them. Now it is perhaps less of a good thing, and it’s natural to be disappointed when that happens. But it seems to me less like he and others were thrown under the gravy train, than that they have ridden it to the end of the line.
Time to walk!
View post: Buyer Beware
Back in June, we reported that Northzone, the lead investor in digital music companies such as Spotify and X5 Music, had pumped $3m into Oslo-based Soundrop. And it seems the Norwegian startup has been putting its new-found capital to good use, as it’s rolling out a brand new version of its Spotify app today.
Just to recap, Soundrop is all about social music discovery through hosting what it refers to as ‘listening hangouts’ within Spotify. In May, the startup laid claim to more than 3.3 million listening sessions, covering more than 7,000 rooms and almost 60 million songs.
Besides the slew of new updates in the Soundrop Spotify app that rolls out today, it also sports a refreshed design. To get the new app, simply restart Spotify and it should update automatically.
Sticking with the bricks-and-mortar metaphors that permeate Soundrop, first up you’ll see a shiny new front lobby, which lets you browse recommended and trending rooms, or view all open rooms…
…while the drawer ensures you find your favorite rooms…over, and over, and over.
Speaking of which, you’ll note that the rooms sport a new look, too:
You’ll be able to see who the top fans are in each room, as well as the top tracks:
In terms of friends, the ‘Chat’ feature is now easier to access, but it’s also good at disappearing when you don’t want it:
In a similar vein, you can also see what your Facebook friends are up to on Soundrop:
Since its launch last year, Soundrop has developed something of a cult following. To date, more than 340 million tracks have been streamed through Soundrop rooms, with an average listening session lasting around three hours.
“If you thought you knew Soundrop, prepare to be surprised,” said Soundrop CEO Inge Andre Sandvik. “We took all the things you loved in Soundrop and made them even better, and we added some new treats we think you’ll love too. The result is a richer, more engaging social listening service that helps you get much more out of your Spotify subscription.”
Thus far, you could be excused for thinking that there’s no such thing as a Soundrop mobile app and, well, you’d be wrong. There is both an Android and iOS app, but given that the new Soundrop is built upon an entirely new platform (“our massively scalable real-time server”), the company is actually pulling the apps from their respective stores pending a major upgrade. The new apps will be launched, well, some time in the future.
Meanwhile, the new Spotify app should be going live this morning. Download it now, or restart Spotify to action the new incarnation.
Image Credit – Thinkstock
Intimidating voters at the polls is so 19th century. And, now that courts continue to overturn Republican voter ID laws, based on the fact that just 10 incidences of voter fraud in the last decade doesn’t justify disenfranchising thousands of minority voters without a driver’s license, what is the GOP to do? Thankfully, America’s #1 fake news site has reimagined voter suppression for the 21st century, with a smartphone app that automatically applies time-tested voter intimidation to dark-skinned voters. Check out their concept video at the end of this post.
**Note: For all of those who are about to freak out in the comment section, this video is an obvious joke. Politics gets way (way) too serious sometimes and it’s good to take a deep breath and laugh. For the record, TechCrunch posts tech-related, positive-leaning stories about both parties in equal numbers, and we’ve been especially vigilant at dispelling the myth of Republicans as the luddite party (more here).
That said, enjoy:
Here is the original post: Republican Voter Suppression App Designed By The Onion