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NEA Backs BetterDoctor’s Quest To Develop Tools To Find A Better Doctor

For Ari Tulla, the chief executive officer in NEA’s newest portfolio company, BetterDoctor, the decision to launch a company was a matter of more than just money.

Almost ten years ago, Tulla’s wife began treatment for a serious illness. At the time the couple was living in Europe and spent months looking for a doctor, when Tulla’s job with Nokia took him to the U.S. they had to relive the process again in the labyrinthine maze of the U.S. healthcare system.

“I became a super-user,” says Tulla of the hours he spent trolling the California peninsula looking for specialists. “We saw 40 different doctors [and] along the way I decided that this is a pain point.”

According to Tulla, some 70 million patients in the U.S. will switch their physicians or seek additional consultations or treatment, and BetterDoctor aims to make that process easier — thanks in part to $10 million in new financing led by NEA.

Tulla launched BetterDoctor three years ago in the waning days of Nokia with his partner, another Nokia employee, Tapio Tolvanen to make the process easier. Based on social media reviews, physicians’ social networks, and a host of other public and private data, BetterDoctor offers would-be patients a one stop shop for vetting, selecting, and booking appointments with doctors based on user criteria.

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The company isn’t without competition, companies like ZocDoc provide online scheduling services and organizational tools for doctors’ offices, while HealthGrades, offers online services to select a physician. The company sees itself as a combination of the two, like an OpenTable and Yelp service for the buffet of medical services offered under a customers’ health care plan.

BetterDoctor pulls its information from a number of sources including Yelp, Doximity, and Federal health professional registries. The database serving information to the site’s users took nearly a year and a half to put together. That initial legwork was financed by a broad consortia of seed stage investors including Burrill & Company, Commerce Ventures, Kima Ventures, Lifeline Ventures, 500 Startups, MESA+, and SoftTech VC.

While the company’s basic service is free, there are new premium offerings on the way that will cost money for both prospective patients and for doctors. Six months ago the company allowed doctors to create and change their profiles. Soon, BetterDoctor will begin charging for premium sites for doctors that have been vetted as top-quality physicians by the service.

While Tulla does expect to see a shakeout in the industry, he’s not worried about things in the admittedly heavily invested healthcare information technology market becoming overly frothy anytime soon.

“You’re looking at a funnel here that is $800 billion a year,” he says. “There’s no one company that will own that market.”

View post: NEA Backs BetterDoctor’s Quest To Develop Tools To Find A Better Doctor

DigitalOcean Expands To London

Cloud hosting company DigitalOcean announced its third expansion into Europe today with a new data center in London. The company added two facilities in the Amsterdam region earlier this year. This new center will be located on the outskirts of London proper to meet the growing developer demand in the area.

London’s tech scene has been bubbling up for the past couple of years. A recent report from Bloomberg shows tech jobs have accounted for 30% of all new job growth in the city since 2009. According to London.gov the city now has 32 accelerators and incubators for start-up companies and more than 340 London-based tech companies have attracted investment of over £1.47 billion (or U.S. $2.9 billion). DigitalOcean estimates over 10,000 developers currently work in London.

This puts the city on the map for key user growth, but it also helps DigitalOcean with government regulations. Europeans may be a bit nervous about an American data center after revelations made by Edward Snowden about the NSA mining our data. The European Union’s Data Privacy Directive currently makes it difficult for data to be moved outside of the region. Any lag in data can cause a loss in users and potential revenue. According to this KissMetrics infographic, even a 1 second delay can result in a 7% reduction in users.

The new London location will also run IPv6 support on all “Droplets” – the company’s branded term for cloud servers. IPv6 is the latest version of the Internet Protocol (IP), the communications protocol that provides an identification and location system for computers on networks and routes traffic across the Internet. It can also be added to existing Droplets without the need for a reboot.

DigitalOcean raised $37.2 million from Andreesen Horowitz just a few months ago. Part of that money will now be used to expand to more data centers globally, including London. The European market is important to the company. According to CEO Ben Uretsky, about 20% of the company’s presence is outside the U.S. There are already two data centers in operation around Amsterdam. Headquartered in New York, DigitalOcean has data centers in San Francisco, Singapore and now in the UK as well.

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Predicting A Future Free Of Dollar Bills

Editor’s note:  Simon Black is CEO at London-based Sage Pay.

Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.

Is this a realistic vision of the future, or are we only ever likely to see such scenes in science-fiction movies such as Minority Report? Predicting the future is never easy, but I believe that new technologies will prove the death knell for cash. We’re not there yet, but a cashless society is not as fanciful as it seems. Recent research suggests that many believe we will stop using notes and coins altogether in the not-too-distant future.

New payments technologies are rapidly transforming our lives. Today in the U.S., 66 percent of all point-of-sale transactions are done with plastic, while in the U.K. it’s just under half. But while a truly cashless society is some time away yet, there is raft of groundbreaking technologies that will make cash a mere supporting act in the near future.

Take contactless cards for instance. They are perfect for those small purchases. Why go to the hassle of carrying loose change when you can swipe a card to make a purchase within seconds? Thirty-one percent of us put an item back on the shelf if we aren’t carrying enough cash. Consumers want the convenience new technologies offer, and retailers are losing billions a year by not offering a range of payment options.

Contactless cards help address this problem, and although leading High Street retailers now accept them, many independent retailers don’t yet. But as we become accustomed to the convenience of contactless, we will expect it everywhere we shop. I’ve seen it happening abroad already. In Iceland, the buses don’t take cash; taxis assume you are paying by card; coffee shops expect you to wave the plastic for a simple espresso. Sweden isn’t far behind. It will happen in the U.S. and U.K., too.

It’s not just our need for quick, convenient shopping with fewer queues that is driving change.  The costs to retailers to process transactions should drop dramatically in the next few years. The comparatively high cost that banks charge retailers for processing credit and debit card payments should come down. The European Union (EU) will soon cap the amount banks can charge retailers to process card payments. This should result in contactless transactions being made in most stores in Europe within the next few years.

Making payments with smartphones will also become the norm within a few years. We’ve been talking about using a mobile to make payments for at least a decade, but now the moment has arrived.

A U.K. service called Paym allows people to transfer money to retailers or friends by using a mobile banking app on their phone. Since its recent launch, 500,000 phone numbers have been registered. Some 90 percent of U.K. current account holders will be able to use it by the end of the year.

There are a number of similar apps provided by mobile phone operators, technology groups and payment specialists like PayPal. According to the Centre for Economic and Business Research, the value of goods and services purchased using a mobile phone will almost triple from £4.8 billion last year to £14.2 billion in 2018.

All these developments mean we will use cash less. A further benefit for us is that it will give us peace of mind as there will be less concern over having money stolen. The technology being used to usher in a cashless age offers security benefits to its users, as it’s very easy to shut down a smartphone’s digital wallet remotely if it falls into the wrong hands. By removing cash, you reduce the chances of becoming a target of crime, while using electronic payments can provide a trail of statements that can help to manage your finances.

Even cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin are moving in on the mobile payments act. Apple has recently announced that it has updated its App Store guidelines to allow software developers to include virtual currency transactions in apps. Although Apple has not specified which virtual currencies have been approved, it’s likely that bitcoin, as the world’s most widely used virtual currency, will be included. Nevertheless, the public still has to be convinced by bitcoin – 1 percent of people have used it within the last month.

Perhaps the most exciting development is the prospect of biometrics technology such as fingerprint, retina scans and voice recognition, being made available by retailers for transactions in the future. This will make it even easier for us to buy products in store and online. Biometrics offers simplicity, convenience and security. Biometrics will also make fraud virtually impossible – identification is yours and yours alone, and therefore very hard to copy.

Recent research shows that 47 percent of us think we’ll be using our fingerprints to make purchases within 10 years. So who knows? With such public expectation, perhaps using a fingerprint to buy our groceries won’t be confined to the imaginings of the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

IMAGE BY Shutterstock USER tawan

The rest is here: Predicting A Future Free Of Dollar Bills

Apple responds to China’s criticism of iOS frequent location feature, says it doesn’t track users

Last Friday, Apple got into a spot of trouble in China after the country’s state broadcaster aired a news program that criticized the iPhone for tracking frequent location information. The feature is available on iOS 7, and keeps track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them.

In an introduction of the feature, Apple notes that the data “is kept solely on your device and won’t be sent to Apple without your consent” — instead it is used for personalized services such as predictive traffic routing.

State-run China Central Television’s news program stated that there are risks involved in the frequent location tracking feature, in particular encroaching user privacy by disclosing where users have been to.

Apple responded with a statement on its Chinese site, saying that it appreciated CCTV’s effort to help educate consumers on this topic which it thinks is very important. “We want to make sure all of our customers in China are clear about what we do and we don’t do when it comes to privacy and your personal data,” the company said.

It clarifies that Apple does not track users’ locations — “Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.” Instead, as customers want their iPhones to reliably determine their current locations when they search for location-related information such as finding the nearest restaurant or calculating the amount of time to get to work, Apple says it collects information at the “device level.”

Calculating a phone’s location using just GPS satellite data can take several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using pre-stored WLAN hotspot and cell tower location data in combination with information about which hotspots and cell towers are currently being received by the iPhone.

In order to accomplish this goal, Apple maintains a secure crowd-sourced database containing known locations of cell towers and WLAN hotspots that Apple collects from millions of Apple devices. It’s important to point out that during this collection process, an Apple device does not transmit any data that is uniquely associated with the device or the customer.

Apple also says that ‘Frequent Locations’ are only stored on a customer’s iOS device and are encrypted and never backed up on iTunes or iCloud, and Apple does not have access to the information at any time. The feature can also be turned off via the privacy settings.

“Apple gives customers control over collection and use of location data on all our devices. Customers have to make the choice to enable Location Services, it is not a default setting. Apple does not allow any app to receive device location information without first receiving the user’s explicit consent through a simple pop-up alert. This alert is mandatory and cannot be overridden,” the company said.

This isn’t the first time Chinese state media have singled out Apple for attack — but the company is treading very carefully as the country has risen to become a crucial market for Apple in the past few years. Apple’s Q4 2013 earnings showed that for the full year, the greater China region generated $27 billion in revenue, up 14 percent year-on-year.

Headline image via Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

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Doggie-Focused Bark & Co. (BarkBox) Raises $15 Million Series B

Bark & Co., the doggie-themed technology company best known for its dog treat-delivering subscription business BarkBox, and more recently, its vet care-on-demand service BarkCare, has just closed on 15 million in Series B funding. The company raised $10 million in inside round led by previous investor Resolute.vc, along with RRE, BoxGroupLerer VenturesBertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Slow Ventures, Daher Capital, CAA, and Vast Ventures, with the remaining in debt financing from City National Bank.

Explains co-founder Matt Meeker, the company – cash-flow positive since Q4 2013 – actually had a few options on the table. There’s was the opportunity to raise a growth round, or sell to a larger company. (Word has it a big-name pet retailer was interested in an acquisition.)

“We kind of went this middle route,” he says. “[Investors] made an offer that let us put a little bit of money in the company, and we coupled that with a line of credit. Basically, it’s cushion in case the world makes a turn on us that’s unexpected, or if other opportunities come along,” adds Meeker.

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The new round increases Bark & Co.’s valuation by 10-11 times over its previous A round, from April 2013. As of February this year, the company reported a $25 million revenue run rate, and is projecting to grow that 3 or 4 times over by next year, at which point it will consider a further growth round.

Another reason it wants to hold off on a larger growth round is to give a couple of its newer businesses more time to scale – and yes, Bark & Co. has several of those. People really love their dogs, and Bark & Co. capitalizes on that through a number of different avenues.

BarkBox

Founded in 2011 by Meeker along with Henrik Werdelin and Carly Strife, Bark & Co. initially focused on subscription-based e-commerce via BarkBox. That service sends out a monthly box of dog treats and toys, based on your dog’s size. Today, BarkBox has 200,000 paying customers who pay anywhere from $18 to $29 per month (depending on their subscription) for a box a goodies. The company makes about $20 per box, but delivers $40 to $50 in retail value, says Meeker.

Subscribers, once they join, seem to stick around, too. 75% commit to a longer-term plan, and retention is “well north” of 90%. A few months ago, Bark & Co. even figured out how to get more money out of this enthusiastic dog-lovin’ user base by offering the option to add a toy for an additional $9 per month. And 20% of its customers signed up.

BarkCare

Meanwhile, Bark & Co.’s newly launched vet care service BarkCare has made hundreds house calls since its February debut in New York. Offering on-demand vet appointments for more routine matters, like puppy shots, rabies vaccines and other minor ailments, the company has since expanded to the San Francisco Bay Area and has doubled the number of visits in its second quarter over the first.

BarkCare

The plan now is to do the volume of a normal city vet practice – each city at around $2 million per year – before expanding the business into other markets.

The BarkPost

And if that’s not enough, Bark & Co. also runs a content portal called The BarkPost, which has grown from 1 million visits in December to now 10.5 million visits as of last month. That business, which also serves as lead gen for BarkCare and BarkBox, is only now starting to generate revenue through sponsored posts from brands like FreshPet, Roomba, 1-800 Flowers and others. The site was run by a team of one all last year, and now has a 4-person crew, including its first biz hire in April.

BarkPost

BarkBuddy

The company also recently rolled out a new mobile application for dog adoption called BarkBuddy, which works sort of like a “Tinder for dogs” – meaning that you swipe left or right to indicate whether or not you love the doggie’s photo that displays. When you like a dog, you’re then pointed to the local shelter where the dog can be adopted, thanks to its integration with pet data aggregator, Pet Finder.

BarkBuddyBarkBuddy saw over 100,000 downloads in its first month, and has led to at least 100 adoptions. (Bark & Co. doesn’t have a direct means of tracking this.)

Some time later this year, BarkBuddy will start helping tie Bark & Co.’s businesses together by offering pet “test drives” where you get to take home a dog for a weekend to see if it’s a fit for you and your family. The idea is that the dog would be vetted via BarkCare vets, and you could order a bunch of starter products like leashes or bowls through Bark & Co. as part of this package deal.

“It comes from a place of trying to get more dogs into more homes,” Meeker explains. “About 40% of time, [fosters] fail – they never bring the dog back to the shelter, they just end up keeping it.”

If Bark & Co. can get people to commit for the weekend, they believe a number of people will end up falling in love with the dog and want to keep it.

More To Come, Including BarkCam

Another app just around the corner, BarkCam, will be just a bit of fun – you can dress up your doggie’s photos with filters, stickers, quotes and meme text.

The funding round doesn’t change much in terms of Bark & Co.’s plans to grow the business or its head count, notes Meeker. “The operating plans hasn’t really changed at all,” he says. “We’ll keep adding the people we need and building the businesses at the pace we grow…it’s just nice to have [the funding] for opportunities that come up.”

Today, Bark & Co. has grown to 54 employees, up from 45 at the beginning of the year, the majority based in New York. Of course, if you count the number of dogs hanging around the office on any given day, though, you can up that number by another dozen or so.

The rest is here: Doggie-Focused Bark & Co. (BarkBox) Raises $15 Million Series B

Chinese State Media Renews Anti-Apple Rhetoric, Calls The iPhone A “National Security Concern”

Apple has faced a fair amount of state-sponsored criticism in China, a market where the prevailing powers have a stated goal of promoting more home-grown network and IT solutions. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s iOS 7 poses a threat to national security because of its ‘Frequent Locations’ feature, which identifies and provides users a map of their oft-visited places, for the explicit purpose of improving various device functions.

This location information could be used to potentially sleuth out information about the state of affairs in China, including possibly “state secrets” according to Chinese researchers quoted in the report, which was broadcast on the state-run China Central Television network on Friday. CCTV has previously been critical of Apple, including when it accused the company of discriminatory practices against Chinese customers implied in its warranty policies. The People’s Daily also decried Apple’s customer service practices as “arrogant” last year, and Xinhua cited Apple as a cause behind students running up high-interest debt.

All of these campaign efforts have so far fallen on deaf ears; Apple’s consumer base in China is strong and growing stronger. Nevertheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook has shown himself willing to play ball with the criticism from Chinese media, warranted or not – last year he issued an apology in the form of a letter for the complaints by CCTV about its warranty practices, and promised to amend its policies accordingly.

In most cases, the concerns of the Chinese state-sponsored media appear to be overblown, and not without agenda, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have influence. Cook clearly recognizes that and has acted in the past to make changes accordingly, but we’ll have to see if Apple formulates a response to this fresh criticism as well.

Read more from the original source: Chinese State Media Renews Anti-Apple Rhetoric, Calls The iPhone A “National Security Concern”

#8: Kaspersky Internet Security Multi-Device, 1 Year [Online Code]

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(Visit the Hot New Releases in Software list for authoritative information on this product’s current rank.)

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XKit, The Tumblr Client For Power Users, Arrives On iOS

A well-liked Tumblr extension called XKit, which adds more functionality to the social blogging service, has just made its way to mobile, in the form of a paid iOS app.

Though there have been some reports of flattening Tumblr traffic following its acquisition by Yahoo, the platform today hosts close to 200 million blogs, which are updated over 94 million times per day. Among these bloggers is a smaller group of “power users” who have always looked for a bit more functionality than what Tumblr offers out-of-the-box.

That audience was initially served by a third-party extension called “Missing E” which Tumblr itself once protested against, asking people not to use it via threatening pop-up messages.

promo-helpfulFor 24-year old Web developer, Atesh Yurdakul – now better known as just “the XKit guy” – his issue with Missing E was not Tumblr’s distaste for it, but its own missing options and settings.

“It didn’t have all the features I wanted, such as XPreview…and several other tweaks I wanted,” he says, referring to a notification preview option, which was not available at the time. “So I started writing small userscripts.”

XKit emerged from those userscripts around three years ago, when Yurdakul realized that he could compile all the scripts into a single extension, while also replicating some of Missing E’s functions so as not to have to run two extensions.

Over the years, the XKit’s user base has slowly grown, and now has around half a million users, Yurdakul now estimates. Most of these users (65%-70%) are from the U.S. and Canada, though he himself is based in Istanbul.

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The XKit software itself is open source, and Yurdakul only asks for donations. Those vary wildly with some months seeing less than $200 coming in, while other months see $1,000. However, for Yurdakul, who learned to code from his dad when he was around 10 years old, building XKit seems to be more of a labor of love, rather than an attempt to earn a living.

He also works part-time at a software company, he tells us, while attending university.

With the new XKit iOS application, Yudakul may soon have another avenue for generating revenue, however. The new app won’t include in-app purchases or ads, but it does cost $1.99 to download.

As with XKit on the web, the native app offers a full Tumblr client with a good number of features that the official Tumblr app doesn’t have, including the ability to Mute, Blacklist, reply to Notifications, and more.

promo-moreIt also offers “Smart Safe Dash,” which blocks pictures from known NSFW blogs as well as a “Safe Dash” feature which hides all photos until you tap on them.

This is helpful because even though there seems to be a limit to the tags and blogs you can query up on mobile, there are still ways to see adult content – like by going to a blog by name and following it, or by going to a sometimes ‘softcore’ tag like #selfshots, for example. And accidentally pulling up this content while in public, of course, could be embarrassing.

At the bottom of the XKit app, you can navigate between your Dashboard, Inbox, New Post view, Notifications and “Other” tab, which is where you can view more blogs, explore tags, manage your blacklist and muted users, change themes, and adjust a variety of options.

Meanwhile, XKit for iOS also offers its own customized reblog window, where you can write, remove or append a caption to a post. You also do things like change the quality of your rich media uploads from the new post screen, block blogs, disable GIFs,  and much more.

The end result, for regular Tumblr users, is a much more powerful application.

Today, “the XKit guy” has a good-sized fandom on Tumblr which may be why Tumblr has left him alone for now. How Yahoo/Tumblr will respond to him further encroaching on its mobile turf with this new app, however, remains to be seen.

Yurdakul says its too soon to talk numbers for the new XKit mobile app, since it only launched a couple of days ago. But his personal blog post about it already attracted nearly 27,000 likes on Tumblr, to give you an idea.

The XKit iOS app is $1.99 here on iTunes.

Continued here: XKit, The Tumblr Client For Power Users, Arrives On iOS

Sprint’s new portable projector cleverly doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot

Something we don’t see too often is a projector that doubles up as a mobile hotspot, but that’s the unlikely pairing the Sprint LivePro is promising to deliver.

The device is capable of projecting content from 10-inches to 10-feet and offers up 3G/4G mobile connectivity that can handle up to eight WiFi devices at the same time.

LivePro2 Sprints new portable projector cleverly doubles as a Wi Fi hotspot

As well as this, it sports a 4-inch display and is powered by Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, allowing you to use it to browse the internet in style and access the content you may want to project.

It’s also worth mentioning that the LivePro is only 1.1- inches thick and comes with a pumped-up 5,000mAh battery. Clearly, it’s been built for the road.

The LivePro can be picked up in the US for $449, with separate data plans starting at $34.99 a month.

 Sprint LivePro

Use your Android Wear watch to snap photos with the updated Google Camera

Tablet shipments declined year-over-year for the first time in Q1 2014

Continued here: Sprint’s new portable projector cleverly doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot

Chat app Line is planning a major push into the US, focusing on games

Japanese messaging app Line is planning a major push into the US market with a focus on casual gaming, as it approaches 500 million registered users and rumors of a planned IPO continue to ring stronger.

The company initially targeted the North American market last year, but, as executives told us, the focus shifted to Latin America in 2013 because the “timing there was more critical.” Now, Line is turning its attention back to the US, where it believes that a combination of localized games, engagement from consumer brands and, of course, stickers — something it is synonymous with — can help crack the highly competitive market.

“We’re reprioritizing our focus on the US market,” John Park — senior business development manager at Line, who leads the US team — told TNW in an interview this month. “America is very challenging, different and exciting for us. Technically it is one single market, but there are so many different demographics and ethnicities, that it is almost several markets in one.”

line feature image 730x276 Chat app Line is planning a major push into the US, focusing on games

Casual gaming on mobile

Line’s social gaming platform lets users share scores with friends and connects with more than 30 different titles. It has racked up an impressive 300 million cumulative downloads and is hugely lucrative, but its games have tended to focus on genres that are popular in Japan and Asia, where it enjoys its greatest engagement.

Park says a more Western-centric focus will emerge this year, in line with the growth of casual gaming worldwide.

“You’ll see a very US-centered game coming soon,” he says. “There are lots of huge game publishers in the US, it is a very competitive market but we see gaming as important feature for us [to grow there].”

“We’re looking to find local developers to partner with to bring games to the Line platform,” Park adds. “And we will try to bring in new gaming formats and titles that resonate with mobile users. In the US, titles like World of Warcraft and Diablo are hardcore, that’s not our main target — the Line experience is more casual, it’s something users play to fill time and make their daily routine more fun.”

IMG 5835 730x486 Chat app Line is planning a major push into the US, focusing on games

Line will also introduce other, non-gaming apps aimed at US users. Its new selfie sticker app, released in June, is the first in a series of launches led by the Line USA team. While Park declines to provide download numbers for the app, he says it is “doing well.”

Mainstream media approach

Line currently claims 470 million registered users and, while it doesn’t provide active users numbers, Park says it counts “well over” 10 million active users in the US. It’s tough to gauge that against the competition: Tango claims 50 million registered users in the US, and Kik and Snapchat are thought to have similar numbers there too. Facebook is likely ahead of them all

The US push isn’t only focused on games, Line is also working on its presence in mainstream media. It aired its first US TV commercial earlier this year and snagged radio station Clear Channel as a content partner. It also sponsored the TV Critics Choice Awards, and allowed messaging app users to vote in a newly-created set of pre-show awards.

Line is also banking on the support of major brands to help raise its awareness and visibility to users.

It lets companies or celebrities (such as Paul McCarthy) that pay to have ‘official accounts’ on its platform contact users who opt in to follow them with messages. Brands can offer stickers and other content to incentivize users to opt in and it also allows two-way conversations, to let brands engage with followers one-on-one without the noise of social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Photo 09 07 2014 18 44 13 520x780 Chat app Line is planning a major push into the US, focusing on games

There will soon be a new targeted advertising option after the company formed an advertising-focused partnership with Salesforce to let brands reach Line users with greater customization and focus, e.g. by location, items liked and more. The partnership will initially be operational in Japan, with plans for the US later. It’s one example that Park believes makes Line a great match for brand engagement.

“We’re fortunate that messaging is a hot topic right now, but it’s also very competitive,” Park says. “If you are a brand, you need to be on mobile, and we offer features that others don’t to let you engage with end-users and consumers. We feel that Line can provide unique advantages and features for companies.”

“We’ve been working on a lot of large scale deals, partnerships and campaigns, the fruits of that will come through in the second half of the year,” he adds, declining to reveal specific company names.

Progress in Latin America

Aside from Asia, where Line is strongest, Park says that the company is “doing very well” in Spain, Colombia, Mexico and other parts of Latin America. It is far from alone in having aspirations in this part of the world — most of WhatsApp’s 500 million active users are in emerging markets, while China’s WeChat signed up Argentine football star Lionel Messi and has also made a push in Latin America.

Screenshot 2014 07 09 18.57.07 730x379 Chat app Line is planning a major push into the US, focusing on games

Line declined to comment on rumors that is preparing for an IPO in its native Japan. Given the flurry of big deals involving messaging companies this year — including WhatsApp’s $19 billion sale to Facebook, Viber’s $900 million exit to Rakuten, Tango’s $280 million funding round, and Kakao’s $3 billion merger in Korea — Line is looking to go public at a time when messaging is the place to be.

What’s less clear, though, is whether it can make a dent in the US. It will be fascinating to see the company put its marketing machine to work in North America, though it will take quite a budget to enter this late, and Line will face a big challenge getting users to adopt yet another messaging app.

Related: Why Facebook isn’t getting into the lucrative chat app gaming space

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