While I kid a bit in the headline, this is actually pretty cool: Swatch, the largest manufacturer of mechanical watch movements in the world, has created a movement that is assembled entirely using automated systems. Why is this important? The watch industry was originally gutted by the rise of cheap quartz watches, making this piece quite ironic, and this means that more people will be able to own higher quality mechanical watches from a trusted brand.
The movement, called the Sistem51, is made of 51 simple parts and has a weight that winds the mainspring. It is made of a copper, nickel and zinc alloy called ARCAP and is anti-magnetic. It’s completely sealed inside the case (making it impossible to service) but a fact that ensures it can stay out of moisture and dust. Another cool thing? Quoth Hodinkee, who got a hands on, “instead of a regulator the special escapement is set by a laser during production and never needs to be touched again.”
Sure, the Sistem51 is basically a plastic watch that costs a little over $100 and will be sold at airports around the world. However, it is an impressive step forward for the company at a time when mechanical watches are making a resurgence. Swatch has been making mechanicals for a while, to be clear, but this is the first time they’ve reduced the price, manufacturing cost, and maintained quality in this way. While it’s easy to get much cheaper movements online (a tourbillon for $24, anyone?) it’s far harder to find a solid, high quality mechanical movement from a trusted brand.
It’s great to see some affordable watches come out of Basel this year and this is definitely step forward in terms of nanomechanics.
The change, which was reported by Bloomberg and CNBC, is set to take place effective May 10. Spillane had been with the company for over four years, seeing the company through its IPO last year. Athwal has worked at Facebook for more than five years and was formerly Director of Revenue at Yahoo.
Spillane made headlines in recent months as he sold off portions of his stake in Facebook. He sold 256,000 shares last November and another 60,000 units in January. As of April 15, he had about 160,000 shares remaining.
Facebook reported on Wednesday a mixed first quarter with $1.46 billion in revenue and $0.12 earnings per share. Mobile ad revenue increased to 30 percent, or $375 million, of the overall advertising revenue and mobile users again outnumbered PC users.
The social networking site now has 1.11 billion monthly users, 751 million of which sign on from mobile devices.
Image credit: AFP/Getty Images
Design-focused retail site Fab has announced its new pivot, along with an acquisition and much more.
As we reported last week, Fab now has 12 million users and is continuing to grow at a fast clip after its initial pivot. Last year, the company saw $150 million in revenue, and revealed in February that sales were up by nearly 300% in January 2013 over January 2012. International is also a huge potential growth area for the company.
Fab has 1 million members in the UK, which is generating nearly 40% of its sales in Europe and is its fastest growing market outside the U.S. The company has sold more than 7 million items, with one product sold every seven seconds. Mobile is also a huge growth area, with one-third of sales being placed via mobile.
According to the company, Fab will double revenue in 2013, and should reach $250 million in 2013 sales. Interestingly, Fab says that most of its revenue is not derived from flash sales, which was the initial model Fab adopted after its pivot in 2011. As we wrote in this profile of the company, Fab infamously pivoted from Fabulis, which was a social network for the gay community, into a flash sales site. Fab says that two-third of sales are currently not from the flash-sales on the site.
This second pivot is less dramatic but definitely meaningful. Fab is now branding itself as a design store, and now has a unified technology experience across its iPad, iPhone and web apps. The company is revealing a complete redesign which makes it more of an integrated e-commerce site. You can now access design pages by room, type of furniture, color, designer and more.
Another twist in the pivot: Fab is partnering with designers to manufacture and sell home furnishings exclusively through Fab. Fab is also producing and manufacturing its own line of products and home goods. Additionally, Fab has acquired German custom furniture store Massivkonzept, which the company says is profitable and has a $10 million revenue run rate. The idea behind Massivkonzept is that it allows you to essentially design your own furniture online. You configure shelving, table, and seating systems online and choose the dimensions, color, and materials on your designs. The company turns this into actual, well-designed furniture.
Lastly, Fab, like Warby Parker and other e-commerce sites; now has a brick and mortar presence with a new retail store in Hamburg, Germany. Fab will test physical retail environments and different types of retail formats in Hamburg and in other markets. Germany isn’t a huge surprise for the first in-store presence; 60% of European revenue comes from Germany and Austria.
Clearly this is a big part of co-founder Jason Goldberg’s vision for how Fab will compete in e-commerce in a post Amazon world Fab sells products that aren’t listed on Amazon, and with this pivot, the company continues to focus its retail efforts away from Amazon’s core business. In fact, 90% of Fab’s products sold cannot be found on any other major website.
So how is Fab funding this expansion? We’re hearing the company is raising more than $100 million in funding at a $1 billion valuation. The company previously raised $171 million from Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, SoftTech VC, Menlo Ventures, Baroda Ventures, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, Thrive Capital, Kevin Rose, SV Angel, The Washington Post and others.
E-commerce startup Soldsie, which just announced in January that it had raised $425,000 from 72 investors through FundersClub, has now officially closed its full seed round of $1 million in outside funding. In addition to FundersClub, the company raised from 500 Startups and e.ventures.
Investors in the round also included former Facebook employees Yun-Fang Juan (Soldsie Chief Scientist) and Jonathan Ehrlich (Copious), Peanut Labs founder Prosper Nwankpa, and angels Elliot Loh and Tom Kelly.
When we first looked at Soldsie (previously Central.ly) last September, the company had just launched its social media “point-of-sale” product, which allows businesses to sell on Facebook using Facebook Comments. What that means is that a business owner could post a photo of an item they wanted to sell on their Facebook Page. Then, after first registering the Soldsie Facebook application, the page’s followers could purchase the item by typing in “sold.” After the initial purchase, the customer’s credit card information would be stored to make future transactions even easier.
At the time of our coverage, Soldsie had reached a million dollars in transactions across its platform. Today, the founders, Chris Bennett and Arrel Gray, tell us that Soldsie is seeing over a million in transactions per month. Over 100,000 customers have now bought through Soldsie, says Gray. The types of businesses using the service have also broadened a bit. In the past, the platform was primarily used to sell children’s clothing and women’s accessories, but now there are companies selling women’s fashion and home decor, as well. The average selling price of $25 still remains somewhat in the “impulse buy” range, however.
The company has been busy on product development in the last several months, having now fully automated the selling process for its merchants so that customers are automatically invoiced after writing “sold” in the comments. Gray notes that they’ve also added some automatic processing of the language in the comments, too. For example, a customer could write that they want three small red t-shirts and one medium blue shirt, and Soldsie would understand what they had ordered.
“As a merchant, you just fill out your inventory,” explains Gray, “and we’ll keep track of how many of each you’ve sold and when you’ve sold out, all based on the comments. You don’t have to manually go in and select anything.”
The company is also working on integration with other fulfillment and e-commerce platforms, too, including ShipStation (currently in beta), Stamps.com, and Shopify, for example. ShipStation will become available to all Soldsie merchants later this month, while other fulfillment platforms, as well as an open API, will be made available starting in April. Meanwhile, in terms of supporting additional e-commerce platforms, the goal is to make Soldsie another sales channel for merchants.
“We’re looking into plugging in more to e-commerce platforms so that you can actually manage your inventory,” Gray says. “So if you’re a Shopify seller, or you sell on other channels like Amazon or eBay, it’s easy to just add us.”
With the additional funding, the company will focus on continued product development and marketing initiatives, says Bennett. They’ll also grow the San Francisco-based team of now seven to include more engineers, as well as marketing and sales staff.
It’s interesting to see a startup engaging in so-called f-commerce gaining ground, when even Facebook itself is struggling to get people transacting on its site through new initiatives like Gifts. And big-name brands haven’t always had the best of luck with e-commerce stores on their Facebook Pages, either.
“We know that there are a lot of brands that we’ve talked to that have invested a lot of money and time into Facebook commerce, and haven’t seen the results that they would like to see,” says Gray. “We’re just really excited about what we’re building at Soldsie because we’re seeing success here, and we want to take what we’re learning and take it to brands all over the world.”
Adds Bennett, “social commerce isn’t as easy as just putting a buy button in a post on Facebook or a link on Twitter. Social commerce has to be rethought to be more social. By doing what we’re doing – letting people leave comments to make purchases – we’re tying the two together. It actually works the way Facebook works.”
Here is the original post: F-Commerce Startup Soldsie Raises $1 Million For Its Facebook Comments-Based Shopping Platform
Answering “What should I do this weekend?” just got a whole lot easier. 955 Dreams is following up its hit Band Of The Day with the launch of Applauze. The app helps you discover nearby events, then RSVP or buy tickets even if they’re sold out. With a fresh, rubbery interface and tons of concerts, sports and street festivals in 20 cities, Applauze makes it fun to find reasons to leave the house.
Event discovery is the new photo sharing — a space that’s rapidly becoming crowded. Success won’t be easy for Applauze, but luckily it has some natural advantages beyond its $3.25 million in funding from 500 Startups, m8 Capital, Kapor Capital, Felicis Ventures, CrunchFund, and James Joaquin.
First, this isn’t 955 Dreams‘ first app. It’s 12-person team built the beautiful Band Of The Day, which exposes users to the music and backstories of upcoming artists. BoTD was named Apple’s “App Of The Year” runner-up to Instagram in 2011, and has 4.6 million downloads to date. So 955 Dreams knows how to build something appealing, scale, and maintain a great relationship with Apple, which plans to feature Applauze in the App Store for the next week during SXSW.
Most event apps suffer from a lack of events because their fledgling developers find it tough to find venues and promoters who’ll take them seriously and partner with them. Without a steady stream of events, it’s tough to recruit or retain users. Those 4.6 million BoTD installs help Applauze with both of those problems. It has a big audience to cross-promote to, so it can fire off an ambitious launch today in Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and more than a dozen other U.S. cities. It also has enough clout to have signed on 200 to 300 brokers of sold out tickets, and a bunch of venues like The Roxy in LA where Applauze gets early access to tickets and users get VIP treatment like free drinks, skipping the line, and backstage access.
Open up Applauze and you’ll get a personalized feed of local events splayed out in big, colorful tiles that show an event’s main attraction, venue, date, time, distance and price. Scroll down and you’ll notice what 955 Dreams CEO Kiran Bellubbi calls a “revealing list” interface. Each successive panel stretches from a thin sliver to take up two-thirds of the screen when it gets to the top, giving you richer views of each without the typically jarring transitions between full-screen images.
You’ll start by seeing all types of opportunities for fun in your city, but you can filter to just see music, sports, theater or community events. A Nearby feed shows only events close to your neighborhood; Hot displays the most popular stuff; and Soon finds you something to do tonight.
Tap into a comedy show, free zoo admission, or dance music club night for more details. Applauze double checks the price, and if the show is sold out, it patches through tickets from brokers on sites like StubHub, making it as easier to buy than if you were on the venue’s site. The app gives you a couple of chances to confirm your purchase and sends you a push notification as soon as payment goes through so you can confirm that you got the tickets.
Applauze then recommends a couple of nearby Facebook friends to invite, or you can search for any buddies to suggest the event to. You can even chat with them in Applauze to coordinate who’ll buy the tickets. You can also share events via Facebook, Twitter, email or SMS.
I’m a confessed event junkie. I go to well over 100 concerts and music festivals a year, and attend everything from poetry readings to breakdance competitions. But most event apps disappoint me. They either don’t have enough events or only have mediocre ones. Applauze surprised me by actually surfacing events I’d want to go to, and would be willing to pay a premium to attend if they were sold out. It had about 65 solid events listed in the next month in San Francisco, ranging from free museum admissions to cheap indie rock shows, beer pong exhibitions to epic arena rock concerts.
Applauze does a remarkable job of having events for everyone, including classical concerts for mom and pop to Yo Gabba Gabba stage shows for the kids. Browsing events is actually exciting, while buying tickets felt simple and secure.
“Painless” is the word Bellubbi kept saying when I asked why Applauze was special. With most concert ticket sites or event apps, you don’t know if a show is sold out until right before you pay. The question is whether users are willing to pay a premium for the convenience. Applauze marks up both the paid and sold-out events, earning a percentage of the total ticket price.
Bellubbi thinks so, and has big plans for Applauze. He wants to launch internationally, and eventually offer more experiences including movie tickets, prix fixe dinners, and high-end things to do like helicopter tours.
There will still be plenty of challenges. Attracting users, keeping them, engaged, and maintaining the quality of the events. There are also strong competitors like WillCall and Thrillcall.
Event goers break down into two categories. Those who go to just a few a year and are willing to swallow the price for a great experience, and adamant attendees always on the lookout for fun who’ll do anything to see their favorite acts. Applauze serves both, and in an age when people pay a premium for shoes through the mail and on-demand labor, this app could make seeing a concert as easy as ordering an Uber.
Download Applauze for iOS and watch out for its events at SXSW