Omada Health Raises $23M Series B Led By Andreessen Horowitz For Digital Health That Actually Works

Omada Health, a San Francisco startup that makes digital health therapy programs for people with type 2 diabetes and other serious but potentially treatable issues, has raised $23 million in new funding.

The new investment, which is Omada’s Series B, was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with Andreessen Horowitz partner Balaji Srinivasan joining the startup’s board of directors. Also participating in the round were Kaiser Permanente Ventures and previous investors U.S. Venture Partners and The Vertical Group. This brings the total investment in Omada to $28.5 million.

In an interview this week, Omada co-founder and CEO Sean Duffy told me that his company aims to bridge the gap between proven traditional offline support groups and therapies, and modern digital technology. He said:

“The behavioral science world has figured out how to help people with issues like diabetes, smoking cessation, insomnia, and the like. But it’s mostly been in face-to-face treatments, with group meetings at places like community centers and YMCAs.

We’ve looked at the elements and turned these things into digital programs, and made programmatic experiences that we validate clinically with reproducible results.”

Clinical results mean that Omada’s programs are things that insurance providers are actually willing to pay for. Omada’s flagship treatment, called Prevent, is a 16-week web-based program aimed at addressing prediabetes in adults. Because Omada has been able to provide clinical proof that its programs work just as effectively as traditional in-person therapies, they are covered by healthcare providers including Blue Shield Louisiana, Kaiser Permanente, and Stanford Hospital.

The financial reimbursement is what truly sets Omada apart from other consumer-oriented players in the health space. “In the world of digital health 1.0, people have made great products that people want to use and share with friends, but they haven’t fit with enterprise level health programs,” Duffy says. “Omada has developed consumer grade digital health products, and we also know how to get health systems to pay for them.”

In a separate interview, Andreessen Horowitz partner Balaji Srinivasan told me that it’s that mix of consumer approachability with clinical results that compelled his firm to invest in the company. “Omada is first thing I’ve seen which is a clinically proven way to make a medical intervention over an Internet connection. They’ve developed clinically valid, reproducible, scalable treatments that are delivered in whole or in part over the Internet,” he said. “It’s this very clever combination of things.”


As far as the competitive landscape goes, Duffy says that Omada has raised this money now to take advantage of its position at the nexus between consumer-first apps and enterprise health products. “We’ve seen companies like Fitbit and Weight Watchers increasingly eyeing the enterprise healthcare space. And big health plans like United Healthcare are creating potential competitors too,” he said. “We bridge between these two worlds, and we want to continue to grow in a way that others can’t yet.”

Omada currently has 30 full time staff, and expects to double its headcount by the end of the year.

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From The Ashes Of Willow Garage, Savioke Gets $2M To Build A ‘Services Industry’ Robot

Savioke, a robotics startup out of Sunnyvale led by the former CEO of the now-defunct but influential Willow Garage robotics startup, is announcing a seed round of funding today, $2 million from Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Google Ventures, Morado Venture Partners and other individual investors. It is planning to use the money to develop and build its first robot, an as-yet unnamed piece of hardware that will be focused on the services industry.

Why the services industry? CEO Steve Cousins says that he and his team see a “huge untapped opportunity” to target that vertical. “Hospitals, elder care facilities, hotels, restaurants, office services all provide large opportunities for robots to take on dirty, dull and dangerous work, improve process efficiency, reduce cost, and most importantly free up people to help other people,” he says. “We see the services industry as the next logical step for robotics, moving out from behind the fences in factories and out from research labs to provide value around people, where we live and work.”

I asked, but was told that there are not yet any models, names or other details available for the new services robot. What we do know is that it will be built on the open source robot operating system ROS, which was originally developed at Willow Garage under Cousins. Savioke says it plans to begin customer trials later this year.

Indeed, Cousins was at the startup at a significant time. In addition to creating the ROS, Willow Garage spun off some eight startups — Suitable Technologies (maker of the Beam remote presence system); Industrial Perception, Inc.; Redwood Robotics; HiDOF (ROS and robotics consulting); Unbounded Robotics; the Open Source Robotics Foundation; the OpenCV Foundation and the Open Perception Foundation. Two of those spinoffs, Industrial Perception, Inc. and Redwood Robotics, were eventually acquired by Google in 2013. It also created the PR2 robot as well as the open source TurtleBot.

Savioke, founded in 2013, was not strictly a spinoff, but it is nevertheless a Willow Garage off-shoot, with not only Cousins at the helm but a number of other staff also coming over (in fact, everyone but one of Savioke’s full-timers and an intern are ex-WG). Even its name seems to be a hat-tip to Willow Garage’s arboreal theme, pronounced “Savvy Oak.”

What’s interesting about the concept behind Savioke is that it’s a signal of how the robotics world, and those developing for it, are trying for more targeted products as the space continues to mature. “There’s a unique entrepreneurial excitement surrounding Silicon Valley’s robotics industry today, and much of that is due to the efforts of the team at Savioke,” noted AME’s Jerry Yang in a statement. “As the market for service robots continues to grow, AME is pleased to offer our support to Savioke.”

And, in a world where robotics are equal parts exciting and challenging businesses (the demise of Willow Garage is direct enough evidence of that) Cousins’ track record feels like a good bet for investors.

“As the lines continue to blur between industrial and personal robotics industries, Google Ventures is thrilled to be working with an exceptional group of people at Savioke,” noted Andy Wheeler, a general partner at Google Ventures. “Steve and his team already have had a lot to do with moving the robotics industry forward. The next act promises to be even more revolutionary.”

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You are what you eat: How to improve your product and design taste

In a data-driven world, taste is one of the few qualities that manages to elude commodification. It’s also one of the most crucial assets that designers, product managers, developers, entrepreneurs, artists, and creators of all sorts will rely on in their work.

Designer Barry Smith writes, “Your talent will never exceed your taste.” For anyone born without the natural inclination to taste, the challenge is in developing it.

Diversity often helps refine taste. We would expect food critics to have finely-tuned palettes that have experienced firsthand many different foods around the world. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate as well into our minds and tastes; filter bubbles and our own deep-rooted habitual nature have made it easier to repeatedly consume and digest the same things.

jobs e1396536433865 You are what you eat: How to improve your product and design taste

Apple and Pixar founder Steve Jobs, arguably one of the humans with better design taste in the past century, once said in an interview with Wired:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

Jobs thinks widely, in terms of the entire human experience. I’d be foolish to try to cover all of that in one piece; rather, I’d prefer to explore certain realms that help refine mental taste. Much like how food critics place emphasis on criteria like texture and flavor, there are certain types of media you can consume to develop your taste:

You are what you read

Telepathy, of course. It’s amusing when you stop to think about it—for years people have argued about whether or not such a thing exists, folks like J. B. Rhine have busted their brains trying to create a valid testing process to isolate it, and all the time its been right there, lying out in the open like Mr. Poe’s Purloined Letter.

- Stephen King, On Writing

It’s difficult to ignore writing and reading. Words are one of the fundamentals ingredients of the Web. Reading is particularly important for second-hand learning; it is the closest we will come to transporting from our present moment into the past, or into a potential future.

This type of experience helps us to connect unusual dots together, which makes us more creative (and – dare I insert a buzzword – innovative).

eating books You are what you eat: How to improve your product and design taste

Treat reading like listening to a speech or conversation; both of these activities are about acquiring information. Getting exposure to these different types of experiences and thoughts are crucial to refining taste.

Reading also has a drastic effect on the lens which we look at the world through. As marketer and author Charlie Hoehn wrote, “When I made the commitment to cut the news out of my life completely, my anxiety plummeted in less than two weeks.”

Reading helps us refine our cognitive taste. We don’t always have enough time to filter and think appropriately – so much so that author Alain de Botton sums it up well:

Cooks: make the food others too busy to prepare. Writers: articulate the thoughts others too preoccupied to formulate.

Product management taste

I remember when Steve was my neighbor in Woodside, Calif., and he had no furniture. It struck me that there wasn’t furniture good enough for Steve in the world. He’d rather have nothing if he couldn’t have perfection….The difference between me and Steve is that I’m willing to live with the best the world can provide. With Steve that’s not always good enough.

- Larry Ellison, Co-Founder & CEO of Oracle via Quora

Good taste doesn’t always result in the most happy outcome; in fact, good taste is in the pursuit of perfection, which is an eternally elusive goal. The best product managers understand, and are able to balance perfection with, Jobs’ well-known adage: “Real artists ship.”

In order to develop your taste in product, Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham writes:

As in any job, as you continue to design things, you’ll get better at it. Your tastes will change. And, like anyone who gets better at their job, you’ll know you’re getting better. If so, your old tastes were not merely different, but worse. Poof goes the axiom that taste can’t be wrong.

Whether it’s through external validation or internal intuition, simply gaining more experience in product – either through work or through conversations, or side projects - will help refine your taste.

For those of you who want to accelerate the development of your taste, Facebook Product Design Director Julie Zhuo writes:

  1. Be critical of the right things in the right order of priority: don’t critique visuals or polish, unless no comment can be made of function and flow.
  2. Be critical of your own work: “If anything, designers should be even more critical of their own work than others’, given that they’re far more familiar with it.”
  3. Give criticism with a healthy heaping of suggestions for improvement: you’re not helping if you don’t offer alternatives or suggestions for improvement.
  4. Keep the bar high: figure out ways to improve even the most successful apps, and don’t be afraid to put more wood behind fewer arrows.

Exposure to new apps, in addition to possible feature sets and flows, as well as expert feedback to validate these ideas, will help you refine your taste.

People and education

Taste is acquired through contact with others. You make it your own through continual exercise. You are lucky if you can associate with someone with perfectly developed taste. But don’t profess to be satisfied with nothing; it is a foolish extreme, more odious if from affectation than if from character. Some wish God had created another world and other perfections just to satisfy their own extravagant imagination.

- Baltasar Gracián, Writer and Philosopher

tumblr inline n2aimzq8r11qzc4w7 You are what you eat: How to improve your product and design taste

Artistotle was mentored by Plato which had a strong influence on his taste and way of thinking.

As entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn wrote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Developing your taste with other people requires an attitude-shift: you are an enthusiastic student, and others are your teachers.

Basecamp partner David Heinemeier Hansson writes about developing taste, “It requires determination and dedication to develop an eye, to develop your taste, but it’s absolutely possible. Some may be predisposed, but anyone willing to be a student can get there.”

Similarly, award-winning musician, designer, and artist Pharrell Williams says to Kanye West in a Design Miami interview: “To be honest, just hanging around the right people and being unafraid to learn and not feeling like I know it all. That’s been one of the greatest lessons ever.”

Jobs attributed one of his most important learning lessons to a more formal type of education: “I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”

The first step is to start looking for who these teachers are. Although you may be able to learn something from everyone, not everyone is qualified to be a teacher at your specific craft.

If you don’t know who they are, start with the industry’s most recognized companies and the designers or product managers leading it. I usually keep tabs on trade publications; if their interview subjects interest me, I dig deeper. You could also start with Top 10 lists or industry award winners.

If you don’t get a shot at meeting them, you can access their thoughts by reading their blog posts and interviews, or following them on social media. Start trying to understand their values; determine what they look for in product, in design, or in a startup, and understand the gap between your current taste and your expert’s values.

We can equate knowledge with food. The teacher can serve any kind of food. The quality of the food may be good or bad depending on the teacher’s ability. But what we eat depends on our taste. And what we finally imbibe depends on our digestive capacity. So what we learn is as much dependent on what the teacher serves and on ourselves.

- Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik, The ability to digest

Closing thoughts

Taste is an extremely valuable quality to cultivate. In fact, taste is essential to excellence in any field. The ability to understand what you should aspire to, and what you deprioritize, will bring a new form of clarity that helps you focus.

Remember, you are what you eat – read a wide variety of books, critique and digest products, and understand there’s always to learn from experts in your field.

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Twitter’s Vine Introduces Direct Video Messaging

Twitter’s Vine has introduced a feature that allows you to message other users directly via video. This adds both a direct messaging channel and video clips to its messages, a big addition to Twitter’s video app.

There is a direct parallel to be drawn here between Instagram’s Direct image messaging feature, obviously — and it goes hand in hand with Twitter’s renewed interest in its direct messaging channel. The allegory is interesting, as there isn’t a lot of public evidence that Direct has had any real traction. Still, it allows Twitter to experiment with video messaging in a separate silo, and it does make some sense to start with Vine before adding video messaging to Twitter.

You create a new Vine message by tapping on the Messages section, recording a video and sending it off. You can send to multiple recipients, but all of the conversations are one-to-one — much like competing messaging app Snapchat. If you send to multiple people, you’ll get separate threads for each one.

Notably, you can send Vine messages directly to anyone in your address book, regardless of whether they have Vine or not. This leverages your “private graph” in a similar way to WhatsApp’s early strategy. Twitter is likely hoping that this will spur growth much in the same way.

Offering a backchannel will also allow users to side-step the increasingly polished and professional community of Vine creators. This doubtlessly creates a barrier that stops some people from sharing because it’s not “good enough” to sit in their feeds. Like Snapchat, this allows people to post silly, stupid or funny videos that may not be as polished — or as pretty — directly to their friends. unnamed

Vine messages are split between friends and “others,” delineated by the people in your network and those outside. You can choose to only get messages from people you follow or friend in the settings section. This version of the app also introduces color selections for profiles and is available on both iOS and Android.

There are some immediate questions, of course. Will brands and advertisers be allowed to utilize the messaging feature to pitch their wares? This seems likely, but the built-in privacy controls should allow people to minimize that. If it does roll out to advertisers, I’d say it’s not likely to do that right away. I also question the inability to start group chats. Was this a technical limitation or something that grew out of a design decision? Though Instagram direct has its faults, I still use it fairly regularly with friends and enjoy the group discussions that come out of posting images. I’d love to see what sending groups of video messages back and forth looks like. (For that matter, I’d like image replies on Instagram, but oh well.)

The experience seems fairly straightforward, and was surprisingly pleasant to use, for the few minutes I’ve played with it so far. There is a quick reply option, à la Snapchat, that lets you fire off an instant response, as well as the full suite of video tools. There’s a certain expanded sense of context that replying in video gives you — especially when emoting. Text messaging is often prone to misunderstanding because it’s hard to convey your mental or emotional state; that’s where emoticons came from. But video expands way beyond emoticons and could add some nice human cues to messaging — if it gets adopted.

When asked about the brand’s aspect, Twitter said only that “Vine messages are available to all users,” which means that yes, if a brand has a Vine account they can probably send them. Which is why there are those privacy controls, most likely.

As far as sending messages one-to-one only, Twitter said that it was about design and user experience. “We thought a lot about the overall experience and how to create a feature that makes messaging on Vine fun, easy and unique. Ultimately, we felt that the best way to introduce Vine messages was with one-to-one conversations.”

This move by Vine doesn’t telegraph Twitter’s interest in offering its users a direct messaging channel any harder than its own efforts to build out DMs. It’s been working on that for a while now after neglecting the feature for years. But it does offer the company a way to attempt to compete with apps like Snapchat and Instagram, as well as the large messaging apps like Line, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.

Additional reporting by Josh Constine.

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Why Is Facebook Page Reach Decreasing? More Competition And Limited Attention

Every Page on Facebook wants everything they post shown to everyone. But people only read a limited amount of News Feed per day. There simply isn’t room for everything, and the competition for feed space is intensifying. The total number of Pages Liked by the typical Facebook user grew more than 50% last year — a new stat that came from a 45-minute interview with Facebook’s head of News Feed.

The surplus of content and lack of space forces Facebook into the role of the ‘bad guy’ for filtering the feed in an attempt to show the most relevant posts (plus some ads). And so far, Facebook has done a terrible job of communicating how and why it filters the News Feed. The result is widely shared criticism like Eat24′s breakup letter to the social network that saw the company delete its 70,000-Like Facebook Page in protest of fewer and fewer of its fans seeing its posts.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 1.39.09 PMIt’s sensible to sympathize with Eat24, actor Rainn Wilson, and the chorus of brands, local merchants, and public figures angry about the drop in reach. They worked hard to entice people to Like their Page. They paid Facebook for ads to get people to Like their Page, because Facebook told them it was a good long-term investment. They built businesses around the reach they got on Facebook, devoting resources to fill Facebook with content that pulls in the attention it monetizes. And they feel that if someone explicitly said they wanted to hear from their Page, they should see the Page’s posts. When that doesn’t happen, Pages feel robbed.

However, this perspective looks at each Page’s reach in a vacuum, when in fact they’re part of an entire ecosystem of Pages and people competing for attention in the zero-sum game that is the News Feed. It doesn’t recognize that every additional post you see from one Page is one less you see from a friend or other Page you care about.

The Filtered Feed Problem

Over time, people add more friends and Like more Pages, yet they can’t keep increasing the amount of time they read News Feed. Facebook says that an average user might have 1500 posts eligible to appear in their feed each day, but if someone has lots of friends and Likes lots of Pages, that number could balloon to 15,000. Yet there are a finite number of hours in the day, and people probably only read a few dozen to a few hundreds posts.

If every friend and Page were treated equally, it’s natural and in fact unavoidable that organic reach — the percentage of their friends or fans that see their feed posts — will decrease over time. And it is. A study from News Feed optimization service EdgeRank Checker of 50,000 posts by 1,000 Pages shows organic reach per fan (median) has steadily declined:

  • Feb 2012 = 16%
  • Sep 2013 = 12.60%
  • Nov 2013 = 10.15%
  • Dec 2013 = 7.83%
  • Mar 2014 = 6.51%

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 11.47.51 AM

The roughly 50% decline in reach over the past year matches the 50% increase in Page Likes per typical Facebook user over the same time period. As people Like more Pages, the organic reach of each drops.

But all Pages and people are not treated equally because Facebook’s goal is to show people the most engaging posts out of all the ones they could see each day. Facebook’s ability to earn money showing ads and pursue its mission to connect the world hinges on people coming back because they see interesting content there and don’t get bored.

This puts Facebook in the very tough position of choosing what content gets shown and what doesn’t. I call this the filtered feed problem.

Facebook decided that the best way to entertain and inform users was not to show them a reverse chronological list of everything posted by everyone they follow. People and Pages that frequently published inane thoughts and mediocre marketing messages would drown out the most important life changes and biggest new of friends and businesses you care about. Noise would overwhelm the signal. This is what I call the unfiltered feed problem, and it’s what Twitter has to deal with.

How Facebook Sorts The Feed

Instead, Facebook chose to filter its feed. It built a News Feed sorting algorithm, unofficially known as EdgeRank, that analyzes every signal possible to determine the relevance of each post to each person. Roughly 100,000 different indicators of importance are factored in. I asked Facebook News Feed Director of Product Management Will Cathcart what are the most powerful determinants of whether a post is shown in the feed, and he told me:

  • How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone
  • How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it
  • How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer
  • Doe the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past
  • How recently was the post published

You can see this as a simplified equation at the top of this post, though there are many, many more highly personalized factors that impact visibility.

Cathcart says that for each user, Facebook assigns a score to each post they could see. It injects some ads, but “for the most part we put them in rank order” he says. It doesn’t matter if a post is from a friend or a Page, Facebook just tries to show people what they want.

This means the more succesful a post is, and the more popular its creator is amongst everyone and the potential viewer, the more likely that viewer is to see the post. The fact that someone Liked a Page or added a friend at some point over the years doesn’t matter nearly as much. It’s whether the Page continues to be interesting to everyone and to any specific potential viewer of their posts.

Essentially, everyone has to earn their space in News Feed. If they publish posts that are interesting enough to get likes, comments, shares, and clicks, their reach increases. If their posts bore people and are ignored and scrolled past by anyone who sees them, their reach decreases. And since the natural trend is for reach to shrink as competition grows, Pages have to work harder and harder to stay visible.

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News outlets and others that publish their real product to Facebook, like news articles, tend to see more reach than Pages that merely publish marketing messages for their products, as shown in this study of the reach of 1,000 Pages in March I commissioned from EdgeRank Checker. You can Like both The New York Times and Oreos, but you can actually read the NYT on News Feed whereas you can’t eat a cookie there. So it makes sense that the NYT would reach a higher percentage of its fans — its posts are more interesting.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 3.13.44 PMThe only way to beat the system is to pay for ads. That’s not new. Facebook has been allowing advertisers to pay for visibility since its early days, but where the ads appear and how they’re bought has changed. Originally, the ads were relegated to’s sidebar, and had to be bought through a clunky interface. Eventually it began allowing ads to appear in the feed and then the mobile feed, and buying them got simpler.

But now, Facebook lets Pages instantly copy the content of one of their posts into an ad. It’s still the same pay-for-visibility situation, yet it combines with the natural decline of reach to cross some mental border that makes it feel like Facebook is extorting Pages for many in order to communicate with their own fans.

“I used to reach more of my fans, now I reach less, and Facebook wants me to pay for what I used to get for free” is a compelling complaint and technically it’s true, but it seems more like an unfortunate emergent by-product of the system than a malicious choice by Facebook.

What was truly disingenuous was that Facebook told companies to buy Likes as a long-term investment, when it likely could already see or at least predict that reach to those fans would decline, devaluing the investment. It’s like telling someone to save their money in a time of rapid inflation. Advertisers made calculations comparing the lifetime value of a fan vs the cost to buy them through Facebook ads. Without integrating the decline in reach into that math, they might have bought fans at prices they can’t recoup. It’s a bait and switch that may make advertisers weary to pour resources into buildig their Facebook presence.

Feed Health Is The Top Priority

Facebook is trying to protect the quality of the News Feed because its long-term success depends on it. If Facebook departs from what people want to see and shows more Page posts in an effort to stabilize declining reach, users will abandon it and the attention pie will shrink for everyone. If it can improve its algorithm to better detect and surface relevant content people resonate with, the pie will grow for everyone. That’s a core purpose of Facebook’s big long-term investment in its Artificial Intelligence research lab. AI could let it better understand what you care about and match you with that content.

But making the News Feed healthier for the long-term may be a bitter pill to swallow, and Facebook hasn’t offered much sugar to help the medicine go down.

Facebook Page IconLast year it began publicizing major News Feed algorithm changes, but it needs to break open the black box of how feed sorting fundamentally works and why it does it. It needs to approach the issue with more sympathy for the innocent Pages who are watching their businesses suffer as competition drags down their reach, The ”tough break, you’re not that interesting, get over it” attitude exhibited by Facebook’s Director Of Global Communications / Monetization Brandon McCormick’s response to Eat24 can’t continue. And it should apologize for encouraging brands to buy Likes without warning them about inevitable reach decreases.

Businesses and public figures abandoned Myspace when they got better reach on Facebook. But today, a billion users doesn’t matter if the channel to reach them is overloaded. Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and others will are happy to welcome former Page managers to focus more on their uncrowded platforms. So while Facebook can’t give marketers exactly what they’ll want, it must treat them with respect.

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Microsoft’s Office for iPad hits 12 million downloads after being launched just last week

Microsoft introduced Office for iPad only last week, and now it has already reached 12 million downloads, the company proudly announced via Twitter.

However, given that the new apps support viewing but not editing for free (you need a paid subscription to Office 365 to do that), it isn’t clear how many of these 12 million users have forked out money to do more on the apps.

The milestone is still an indicator of how many people are interested in Office for iPad though, and could eventually lead to more people taking up paying subscriptions in the future.

ReadOffice for iPad first look: Echoing the desktop with a touch-based twist

Thumbnail image via Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Microsoft’s security products will block adware by default starting on July 1

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Housing Activists Challenge SF’s Google Bus Program On Environmental Grounds

San Francisco city supervisors and affordable housing activists butted heads again over a new pilot program to manage tech commuter shuttles from Silicon Valley-based companies like Google and Facebook.

A handful of activist groups say that the new pilot program, which charges tech companies $1 per stop, must undergo environmental review. That would involve a lengthy legal process that could take months or years.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency had previously exempted the pilot program, which was passed back in January, from environmental review. The program is set to charge $1 per stop fee, in part because the city’s transportation agency wasn’t legally allowed to create a revenue-generating program. So the pilot program can only pay for its costs, which are expected to be $1.7 million.

Richard Drury, a lawyer for the coalition of activist groups, said, “These are pirate shuttles.”

“This is the opposite of school busing,” he added during testimony before the Board of Supervisors at City Hall. “We’re bussing wealthy, predominantly white adults into low-income neighborhoods, where they in turns displace low-income people. This is the reverse of affirmative action.”

Scott Wiener, a supervisor who represents parts of the Mission and the Castro neighborhoods, challenged Drury. He said that the issue wasn’t even about environmental impacts. The implication is that the suit is abusing California environmental law to halt or slow the process of gentrification happening in neighborhoods like the Mission.

“This has to do with a political current, that involves a pretty significant set of assumptions that technology workers aren’t real San Franciscans,” Wiener said. “But as anybody who knows, quite a few of them have lived here for a very long time. Many of them used to drive and now take the shuttles.”

A study from the city’s budget and legislative analyst’s office yesterday found that there were just over 8,000 boardings per day on shuttles from companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Genentech and Yahoo. That suggests that there are about four thousand tech workers using these shuttles every day.

A separate study from a pair of UC Berkeley graduate students found that 40 percent of the shuttle riders would move closer to their job if the buses didn’t exist.

“Let’s just assume that for the sake of the argument that that entire percentage leaves SF. That’s about 1,000 of these workers leaving San Francisco and moving to the peninsula. Put that in the context of a population increase of 75,000 people [over the last 10 years],” Wiener said.

Drury pointed to some other findings from that city study, that showed that the buses weigh around 60,000 pounds and cost the city more than $1 per mile in damage to road pavement.

“We should minimize the impacts on the city, and maximize the benefits by charging the shuttles more than $1 to load 100 people when I have to pay $2 per ride for MUNI,” Drury said.

SF Shuttle Study

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Sky introduces Buy and Keep movie service in UK with titles from £7.99, including a DVD copy

UK broadcaster Sky has announced details of a new Buy and Keep service as part of its Sky Store, which will allow customers to purchase digital copies of hundreds of movie titles.

However, unlike a straightforward digital download service, buyers will also receive a DVD version that will be sent out three to five days later. It forms sort of an insurance policy for people with unreliable or metered internet connections, or perhaps you just like collecting physical media still.

Sky tells TNW that the service will be available “in a few weeks”, and while it’s initially only available to Sky customers with a Sky+ HD box, it will also be available to non-Sky customers in the future via Sky Store.

Sky Buy Keep 730x481 Sky introduces Buy and Keep movie service in UK with titles from </p>
<div class='shareaholic-canvas' data-app-id='5050827' data-app='share_buttons' data-title='Sky introduces Buy and Keep movie service in UK with titles from £7.99, including a DVD copy' data-link='' data-summary=' UK broadcaster Sky has announced details of a new Buy and Keep service as part of its Sky Store, which will allow customers to purchase digital copies of hundreds of movie titles. However, unlike a straightforward digital download service, buyers will also receive a DVD version that will be sent out three to five days later. It forms sort of an insurance policy for people with unreliable or metered internet connections, or perhaps you just like collecting physical media still'></div><div class='shareaholic-canvas' data-app-id='5050835' data-app='recommendations' data-title='Sky introduces Buy and Keep movie service in UK with titles from £7.99, including a DVD copy' data-link='' data-summary=' UK broadcaster Sky has announced details of a new Buy and Keep service as part of its Sky Store, which will allow customers to purchase digital copies of hundreds of movie titles. However, unlike a straightforward digital download service, buyers will also receive a DVD version that will be sent out three to five days later. It forms sort of an insurance policy for people with unreliable or metered internet connections, or perhaps you just like collecting physical media still'></div></div>
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Creads Raises $4.1 Million To Fuel International Growth

French startup Creads raised $4.1 million (€3 million) from CM-CIC Capital Privé. Creads is an advertising agency powered by a marketplace of advertising jobs. As a company, you can submit your ad brief to the platform and set your requirements. As a creative freelancer or agency, you can work on those tasks. Eventually, Creads wants to become the dominant professional social network for creative people, a sort of Behance of advertising.

Today’s round is the first funding round for the company. Started in 2008, Creads now has 25 employees in three countries — France, Spain and Japan. It works with 50,000 creative people.

One of the company’s main strength is its hybrid model. Clients don’t have to deal with community members. Creads itself hires project managers who can foster the connection between Creads and its community. Clients only have to deal with Creads, as if it were a traditional creative agency. In fact, many creative people in the community are traditional advertising agencies. In that case, Creads is just a way to reach new clients.

The next step for the company is to open an office in the U.S. and gain market share on the American market. Creads just created a new English-first vertical in order to get English-speaking clients. Clients already come from 50 different countries.

Thanks to Creads’ large community, the company is able to work on a wide range of projects, from a new brand name, to a new logo, a website, a video and more. And with today’s funding round, the company will be able to handle even more projects at the same time.

Follow this link: Creads Raises $4.1 Million To Fuel International Growth

Indian Mobile Messaging App Hike Raises $14M In New Funding From BSB

Hike, a cross-platform messaging app based in India, announced that it has received $14 million in new funding from BSB, a joint venture between Hike’s founder and SoftBank Corp. Hike first launched in December 2012 and received $7 million in its initial round of funding one year ago.

In a statement, Kavin Bharti Mittal, Hike’s founder, said that the new capital will be spent on accelerating user acquisition and hiring.  Mittal is the son of Sunil Mittal, the founder of Airtel, India’s biggest carrier and the world’s second largest telecommunications company by subscribers. Hike is currently available worldwide on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, S40, and S60.

Hike says its app reached 15 million users earlier this year, mostly in India. That number represents a growth rate of three times over the prior nine months.

With the worldwide glut of mobile messaging services and the recent acquisitions of WhatsApp and Viber, it might seem as if there is no more room for yet another small competitor. But Hike believes it still has room for massive growth within just its domestic market.

In a statement, Mittal said, “There are still less than 100 million active mobile Internet users in India, out of a population of 1.2 billion people. India remains a very large, untapped and extremely diverse market and that’s what we’re building for.”

Features created to help Hike reach users in India include Hike2SMS, or free SMS credits each month, for featurephone users. Other things like status updates, stickers, and chat themes were created to appeal to younger people. Hike says that over 80% of its current users are under age 25.

Hike is not just focusing on India. The company previously told TechCrunch that it plans to aggressively expand its language support each month as it competes with Line and other messaging apps in markets like Europe and LatAm.

Read more: Indian Mobile Messaging App Hike Raises $14M In New Funding From BSB