YouEye, a usability testing service that uses a pool of screened candidates to help designers and developer get feedback for their sites, today announced that it has raised a $3 million funding round led by investors Bobby Yazdani, the founder and CEO of Saba Software and an investor in Dropbox, Google, Qwiki, Brian McClendon, the co-founder of Keyhole, Inc (which later became Google Earth) and Beth McClendon. A number of additional investors also participated in this round, which also includes a $400.000 raise from early 2011 led by Bobby Yazdani.
The company, which describes itself as a “UX lab in the cloud,” takes a different approach from other online usability test service. The focus for YouEye goes beyond asking users questions about a site and tracking their cursors. Instead, the service records the participants interactions with a site and tries to capture their emotions. The service is also currently alpha testing eye-tracking as another data point for its studies.
YouEye’s face recognition algorithms, the company says, can recognize over 50,000 micro-expressions and “can accurately show when a user’s facial expression aligns with several feelings, including happy, surprised, puzzled, disgusted, afraid and sad.” Companies that want to use the service can pick the exact demographics of the testers (age, gender, education level, income, etc.). Users can also annotate their videos. YouEye says some of its customers include Airbnb, Microsoft and Eventbrite. Here is a sample of what those final videos look like.
Typically, these kind of studies are pretty expensive and can take a long time to complete, but YouEye’s prices start at $39 per participant (including webcam and audio recording, as well as emotion recognition data and written answers to post-study survey questions) and most results should be available within 48 hours.
YouEye is also using today’s funding announcement to officially launch a new product: Insite. This service allows you to ask any visitor to your site to opt-in to participate in a usability study. Companies can then capture the full webcam video and audio from those visitors that opt in to these studies. For developers, adding this feature to an existing site is as easy as adding a single line of code. Users then see a little widget on the site that asks them to participate (and sites can sweeten the deal with a discount or other incentives, too.). The service is based on a freemium model.
Insite is currently only available as a limited beta, but you can get on the waitlist here.
Peer-to-peer lending platform Lending Club is announcing a huge new investor today: Google. Google and existing investor Foundation Capital have put $125 million in Lending Club, which was valued at $1.55 billion in the round. As part of this investment Google will take an observer seat on the Lending Club Board alongside existing Board members including Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker, ex-chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley John Mack and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
The investment by Google came as part of a secondary transaction whereby new and existing investors acquired shares from existing investors. Last year, Lending Club raised $17.5 million from Kleiner Perkins, bringing its total outside investment to just under $100 million. Because this is a secondary round, there is no new money being raised, as Google and Foundation are buying out existing early investors.
Lending Club, which brings together lenders and borrowers who want to cut out banks in the process of investing among peers, has facilitated a total of $1.65 billion in loans. In the last quarter, Lending Club saw $350 million in loans made through the platform, and has generated 22 consecutive quarters of positive returns. Lending Club expects to issue $2 billion in loans this year alone.
The company’s wholly-owned subsidiary LC Advisors, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, has launched several funds in the last 2 years and now has more than $450 million in assets under management.
To put Lending Club’s growth in context, when peer-to-peer lending began to establish itself about five years ago, there was a lot of excitement. By taking banks out of the equation altogether to connect investors directly with those in need of a loan, p2p lending almost immediately had tons of appeal (for both consumers and investors). However, thanks to heavy scrutiny from the SEC, companies like Lending Club and its main competitor Prosper faced a few challenges. However, the SEC finally greenlit the model, and Lending Club has been growing ever since.
The company announced last year that it is cash-flow positive for the first time. Last year, the company added 50 employees, including the former Visa head of global development and Morgan Stanley CTO John McIlwaine and E-Trade general counsel Russel Elmer. Lending Club is also reportedly gearing up for a potential IPO in the next year or so.
“Lending Club is using the Internet to reshape the financial system and profoundly transform the way people think of credit and investment” said Google’s VP of corporate development, David Lawee. “We are excited to be a part of it.”
Having Google (not Google Ventures) as an investor is a huge deal. It’s not that often that Google makes a corporate and strategic investment in a company. In fact it’s pretty rare. The investment was made through Google’s new last-stage investment arm, headed by Lawee. Most recently, Google participated in Survey Monkey’s recent funding.
“The Google team is excited that Lending Club could transform the banking space,” says CEO Renaud Laplanche. “The company believes that our technology brings better value for consumers.
“By promoting the transparency and democratization of data, Lending Club is opening up tremendous opportunities for disintermediation, which is disrupting the traditional banking model,” said Charles Moldow, general partner at Foundation Capital, which has invested $more than $50 million in the company. He adds that the investment was the one of the few largest in the firm;s 18-year history, which is “a testament to the magnitude of the opportunity” for the company.
Laplanche explains to us that this year will be spent continuing to raise awareness for company and grow fast, specifically focusing on helping borrowers with good credit pay off credit card balances, and access lower interest rates from borrowers.
As for the rumors of an IPO, Laplanche confirms that Lending Club is preparing for a potential IPO and hopes to be ready sometime in 2014 for a public offering.
If, say, a company uses both Sharepoint and Salesforce inside a mobile app, to get that data into one app they need multiple levels of API integration. Because of the enormous boom in mobile and tablet apps, so-called ‘back-end as a service’ (BaaS) platforms like FeedHenry – which solve these problems – are hugely expanding. Thus, today FeedHenry has secured $9M (€7M) in a funding round led by Intel Capital, alongside a “seven figure” investment from existing investor Kernel Capital.
Other existing investors VMware Inc., Enterprise Ireland and private investors also participated and were joined by new investment from ACT Venture Capital. The funds will be used on an international roll out.
FeedHenry’s mobile application platform – built between Ireland and the U.S. – helps businesses build mobile apps that integrate securely to their business through the cloud. This is a competitive market that includes StackMob, Usergrid, Appcelerator, Sencha.io, Applicasa ,Parse, CloudMine , CloudyRec , iKnode, yorAPI, Buddy and ScottyApp.
Read the original here: FeedHenry Secures $9M Funding Led By Intel Capital To Feed Boom in Mobile Enterprise
People won’t stop talking about Google Glass, and rightfully so. Ever since the epic parachute-hangout demo, the Valley has been buzzing about the future coming of what is arguably one of the biggest potential advancements in computer interfaces since the iPhone. Lately, the buzz has been bubbling as Google employees, early adopters (Scoble just posted his detailed review), tech bloggers, and contest winners have started to receive their glasses, combined with heavy, consumer-focused advertising, a dedicated fund pairing Google’s own venture arm with two of Sand Hill’s most storied venture capital firms. It’s gotten so much ink that new monikers have emerged, such as “Glasshole,” and the phenomenon was hilariously lambasted in the latest installment of “Jesus Christ, Silicon Valley,” a Tumblr devoted to over-the-top yet oftentimes valid tech-focused satire.
There’s so much to investigate with respect to Glass, so in this week’s “Iterations” column, I’m just going to focus on the early-stage investment side. There’s no shortage of opinions here. My two cents is while Google is investing lots of dollars into a consumer-focused campaign, Glass will not initially be a device that the majority people will want, need, or be able to afford (unlike a cell phone), even when the price comes down. It will also be a very different type of interface. That said, it’s no matter, because the commercial applications for Glass are boundless: Imagine a bunch of kids on a school trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, able to press on Glass and learn more about the sea life they see in the tanks. Well, I don’t even know if that’s possible on a watery service, but regardless…instead, I emailed a handful of experienced technology investors I know well to briefly weigh on how they think of Glass as an interface to invest in and around. Below is a collection of the answers I received, edited briefly:
I’m skeptical that GG will get mass adoption. As someone that grew up with glasses, I couldn’t wait until I got LASIK/corrective eye surgery. I just can’t see myself wearing glasses again voluntarily (no disrespect to fashion icon NBA basketball players such as Lebron James wearing hipster glasses). While I don’t think there will be mass adoption, I do see several niche markets springing up. For example, people that really need glasses (elderly, jewelers, surgeons, etc.) should derive tremendous benefit from GG applications. I haven’t seen any GG pitches yet, but I expect to see several this year. As with all investments, I’d put more emphasis on finding the right team than needing to be the first in the space. If GG takes off, there should be ample room for a great team to innovate even if they aren’t first. – Bill Lee
In five years, it’s not about Google Glass per se, which is a brave but still early evolutionary step, but how dependent everyday people will become on certain types of ubiquitous but non-intrusive tech. Specifically, tech that has to be amazingly powerful and sophisticated to achieve that very non-intrusiveness in the first place. A great example – and I think, the more interesting story — is speech recognition, which of necessity is a big part of Glass. Whether it’s in every car via a service arrangement with Apple and Google competing with each other to be the backend, or in lightweight smart earphones that can be left in for one or more days, or in Google Glass-like glasses, always-on listening with deep, smart taxonomies will be a fact of life – i.e., near total adoption by the middle classes of the G7 and beyond.
As an investor, I am looking for companies that presume the success of this kind of technology, then look at how they can apply equally profound compute and algorithmic innovations to transform different industries. For example, what do certain medical practices look like when the EMR/EHR platform is listening in on doctors and nurses, and has something like IBM Watson behind it, watching for missed diagnoses (e.g., sepsis in a hospital), mis-medication, or even malpractice? What does CRM look like when a salesperson’s or customer service rep’s efficacy can be analyzed in real-time from their conversation with a customer? If the video appurtenance to GG’s “speech recognition delivery platform” (my own biased view) turns out to be important, then machine vision becomes the next huge ubiquitous technology (where Google already has an early lead), and we ask questions like “what does the advertising targeting chain look like when every product in a store is lit up under live video scrutiny by the analog of Google Goggles?” I’m indifferent to whether other hardware makers develop their own products, but a) I think they have to, if they want to be part of the “always listening” value chain, whether or not there is a screen attached (the GG incarnation) and b) I want them to, so that a “thousand flowers bloom” and there is innovation and consumer choice that drives rapid adoption. – Matt Ocko
While I was a student at Carnegie Mellon, there was a lot of work on “wearable computing” back then. For instance, check out VuMan from 1997 and Navigator. I cite these to show that the concept of Google Glass as a wearable computer is nothing new. It’s been around for well over a decade. What has changed is that now the technology has become advanced enough to make it a *lot* smaller, *somewhat* less dorky, and by means of being connected, hugely more information-rich.
I believe that Google Glass will be a long-term platform. The initial consumer adoption will be by early adopters — by a lot of us Silicon Valley geek-types who want to play with the tech. However, I suspect that the real adoption will come from more commercial applications — people who need to work with their hands and can benefit from instant access to information. Police cars are equipped with computers to provide cops with access to information on the road. You can imagine a Google Glass app designed specifically for police, fire, EMS etc. Likewise in construction, maintenance, inspection, lots of tasks become orders of magnitude more efficient, when imagined with Glass as the underlying platform.
As you know, I’ve been spending a lot of time on computer vision, cameras, etc. Glass presents the first really usable Augmented Reality platform, because it’s the first time that you can get a true overlay on reality, without having to be walking with your phone/tablet in front of your face! I’ve already had conversation with some companies who are doing advance computer vision and augmented reality work where they could potentially do interesting things with Google Glass. However, since it’s been in such limited distribution so far, it won’t be until they get their hands on it and can evaluate what it’s capable of, before we can really talk more concretely about it. In other words, I’m very curious to see the potential of Glass as a platform for new products/companies, but don’t have enough information to act on it just yet. – Manu Kumar
I am quite optimistic about the long term potential of augmented reality. But I question whether now is the right time for a top down adoption strategy with a polished consumer product. It seems to me that we are at the hacker and early adopter stage instead. By going with an immediate mass market strategy and embracing celebrities I think Google is taking a very big gamble. Let’s keep in mind that the iPhone was far from the first smart phone. A lot of software and application tinkering had happened on Blackberries and other predecessors most of which had niche use cases. I often find myself saying to entrepreneurs that you “can’t push on a string.” It may be a tired cliche but it seems highly relevant for consumer products. If people aren’t ready for it, no amount of hype or spending will make the product stick. The people who are ready now are the hackers and tinkerers. So why not embrace them instead? (reproduced from Albert’s blog, with permission). -Albert Wenger
Seeing a device from your childhood science fiction novels become reality is one of the most exciting moments for any of us who work in tech. However, the commercial success of Google Glass relies on three crucial parts. First, consumers must love the hardware. The product has to be intuitive and function seamlessly with everyday activities. Second, Google must develop a high-quality API that allows developers the freedom to create top-notch software and fully leverage Glass’ capabilities. Third, Google has to ensure that the best applications are discovered by users. All three of these areas are non-trivial and will take more time, and users should be prepared for the day when hype meets reality. Google Glass is an entirely new form factor, and thus there will be a longer uptake time than we have just saw the past two years with tablets. Given that dynamic, we are going to look for simple but effective applications that can can go mainstream as adoption of the Glass product increases with Google’s future iterations of the product. -Hemant Taneja
As an investor, the most exciting possibility about Google Glass is the behavior change it might produce. If Glass or other devices begin to connect and share meaningful information about consumers and their digitized presence, it opens up a massive new arena for applications. Another possibility is that Glass becomes the hub for multiple devices (FitBits, bloodchem sensors, watches, etc.) and becomes an additional app platform connected to but independent of smartphones/tablets. I don’t know if consumers will adopt it, that’s the biggest “if” — not the technology or the devices. There’s plenty of time for investing in a post-Glass reality if adoption happens. I haven’t seen any pitches yet but also haven’t been looking yet, as I’m much more interested in the behavior change it induces and provokes. -Rohit Sharma