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Gift Guide: The best gear for that friend who wants to start a podcast

Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide! Need more gift ideas? Check out our Gift Guide Hub.

“How do I start a podcast?”

As the producer of the TechCrunch podcast Equity, I get this question all the time. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to get your voice out there, even on a shoestring budget.

As interest sky rockets, the barrier to entry is getting lower, with more microphones, gadgets and services hitting the market all the time. But unless you have an audio engineering degree, it can all be a bit overwhelming.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching, testing and breaking podcasting gear so you don’t have to. We all have that friend who always talks about starting their very own podcast. Want to help them (or you) get the ball rolling this holiday season? Here’s where I’d start.



Microphones

Never let the gear get in the way of getting your voice heard. First you’ll need a microphone. For better or worse, there are microphones in everything these days — and some of them are actually pretty decent. If all you have is your phone, your phone is all you need. Get that voice memo application out and hit record.

While the built-in microphone will do in a pinch, a few bucks can go a long way to improve the sound quality that you can capture with your phone. Pop on this Rode VideoMic Me ($50 on Amazon) and the audio captured by your phone will be greatly improved (pro tip: you’ll need a dongle if your phone, like many these days, doesn’t have a headphone jack.)

If you want those sexy ASMR sounds, though, you will have to invest in a bigger microphone.

In the mid-level range, the microphone I most often recommend is the Blue Yeti Pro ($250 on Amazon). It’s simple and sounds great, and is the closest thing to a plug-and-play solution that I have found. It supports both USB and XLR, which makes it way more flexible (and makes it play friendly with audio interfaces, which I’ll talk about next.) Blue Mics also sells a cheaper alternative with the non-pro Yeti ($130 on Amazon), the downside being that there’s no XLR support there.

If you are looking for something on the higher end, here at TC we run our podcasts off of four Neumann KMS 105 Handheld Condenser Microphones ($699 on Amazon). They sound amazing — but if you’re just getting started, it’s almost certainly not a big enough improvement from the Yeti to justify the price.


Audio Interfaces

Macs are unable to run two of the same USB mics at the same time. When you need more than one mic at one time, you’ll need an interface that lets you funnel and control multiple mics into one computer. This is one of the places where that aforementioned XLR support on the Yeti Pro comes in handy.

We use the Tascam US-4×4 4-Channel USB Audio Interface ($200 on Amazon). It’s simple and does its job well, handling up to 4 four mics at once. Tascam also sells a 2-mic version ($150 on Amazon) if you don’t need as many mics simultaneously — but at only $50 cheaper, you might want to spend the cash now for the sake of future flexibility.


Handheld devices

You can’t always be in the studio, but podcasting on-the-go can be a pain in the ass. Imagine having to lug around a bunch of mics and interfaces and tangled-up wires just to shoot an episode from the road.

One solution to this problem is to use a smaller recording device. Again, here, your phone works. But when I need higher fidelity when recording remotely, I tap one of the portable recorders put out by Zoom.

My go-to is the Zoom H4N ($220 on Amazon). This thing is an audio beast with the ability to capture stereo audio with the built-in microphones on the top in addition to being able to connect two external mics. I see a ton of reporters running around with this recorder.

Smaller and less robust than the H4N, but still able to capture that crisp juicy audio, is the Zoom H1N ($120 on Amazon). It doesn’t have the ability to connect external mics and can’t act as an audio interface like the more capable H4N — but for getting audio on the fly, this small package is what you are looking for.



Remote recording software

In addition to hardware, any fledgling podcaster will need some software to get the job done. A common situation that many podcasters come across is how to record an interview or conversation with multiple people when all of those people are in different locations.

Zencastr is essentially a conference call service that has a bunch of extra features specifically designed for podcasters. It records your audio and the audio of your guest locally. That greatly improves the audio quality of your guest, making sure their side of the conversation doesn’t sound like a Skype call. They have a free option (two guests, 8 hours of recording per month) to get you started, but $20 a month bumps you up to unlimited guests and unlimited recordings.

Another neat feature Zencastr offers is automatic post-production; just select the tracks from your recording session and in a few minutes Zencastr spits out a track that has perfectly leveled sound. Zencastr also allows you to input your intro music, sound effects or anything else you’ve got pre-recorded to cut down on the things you need to add in post-production. Zencastr is the only service out there that I have found that incorporates all these essentials — it’s not perfect, but it’s the best thing I’ve seen out there.

If you didn’t want to spend the money on a subscription service, you can always patchwork it together with Skype, the ECAMM recorder plug-in, Soundflower, and Linein. To explain how to rig all of these together would require a separate post that I hope to never write, but Googling those keywords should get you started.


Editing Software

Unless you’re a one take wonder, you’re going to need to get yourself some editing software. You might get away with posting raw audio at first, but eventually you’ll want to edit out those umms and uhhs and trim out any random background noise.

These editing programs can get complicated and expensive, and it’s easy to find yourself in the editing deep end. My suggestion? Start with the free stuff.

The first podcasts I ever edited were done on GarageBand. It was free and simple enough for me to learn quickly, with the catch that it’s Mac/iOS only. Another option for simple/free is Audacity. Unlike GarageBand, it’s available on Windows/Linux — and it does a lot more than you might expect from the price tag.

Once you reach the point where you find yourself needing to spend money, you have all sorts of options to pick from. Ask five editors what to use and each will give you a different answer. Most will just recommend the program that they learned on. The big three are Audition by Adobe, Pro Tools by Avid, and Logic Pro X by Apple. The first two have free trials, so start there and figure out what you like best.

Hosting

Where is your podcast going to live?

Before it can make it onto iTunes, your podcast needs to be hosted somewhere. There are many ways to do this from building your pod a website on services like Squarespace or Wix. Another option is to use to use the music / audio sharing service Soundcloud.

My favorite option for hosting is a service called Simplecast. Simplecast makes uploading and distributing your podcast… well, simple. For about 10 bucks a month Simplecast will host as many episodes as you can make, provides you with an RSS feed to submit to iTunes, and provides you with nifty perks like embeddedable players for social media.

But by far one of the best features of Simplecast is their analytics. They provide you with how many downloads each episode gets, where those downloads are coming from, and what service your audience is listening on (whether it be Pocketcast, Apple’s podcasting app, or the embedded player you just tweeted out).

I hope that helps you on your podcasting journey. Now get out there and start making content!

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Source: Tech Crunch

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Warburg Pincus Files Paperwork For Massive $13.75 Billion Global Growth Fund

Following nearly a year of speculation, global private equity firm Warburg Pincus has filed paperwork with the SEC indicating its intent to raise as much as $13.75 billion for a new investment fund. Through equity and debt investments, Warburg Pincus’s portfolio includes leading technology companies like Uber, Mobike, OfferUp, and others. The firm also participated in Ant Financial’s Series C round, which at $14 billion, represents the largest VC deal in history.

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So far, “Warburg Pincus Global Growth, L.P.” has not yet closed capital for the new investment vehicle. This would be among the largest fund Warburg Pincus has raised to date.

According to the paperwork, the $13.75 billion figure “include[s] amounts of limited partner interests to be sold by the Issuer’s parallel funds.” To that end, Warburg Pincus filed paperwork for a number of those parallel funds this Friday afternoon.

A selection of those filings include:

Presumably, the private equity firm will file its paperwork for other parallel funds over the coming days and weeks.

Warburg Pincus retained the services of J.P. Morgan Securities, as well as other advisory firms in China, South Korea, and Chile, to assist in raising capital for the new fund.

Rumors that Warburg Pincus planned to raise a huge pool of capital began swirling back in January 2018. Private Equity International, a trade publication for the PE industry, first published reports from sources indicating that the firm planned to raise $13.5 billion, a figure which didn’t include commitments from the firm’s general partners.

The report indicated that Warburg Pincus would change the name of the new fund, in part for superstitious reasons. The firm’s last fundraise, for Fund XII, netted $13.4 billion in 2015. A source told Private Equity International that the name change would intentionally not involve using the number 13, which is associated with bad luck in some cultures.

According to the source back in January, the firm intended to launch fundraising in May and expected to close out the fund “at the end of the year.”

Crunchbase News reached out to Warburg Pincus seeking comment. A representative from the firm declined to offer further information.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

The post Warburg Pincus Files Paperwork For Massive $13.75 Billion Global Growth Fund appeared first on Crunchbase News.

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Stoop aims to improve your news diet with an easy way to find and read newsletters

Stoop is looking to provide readers with what CEO Tim Raybould described as “a healthier information diet.”

To do that, it’s launched an iOS and Android app where you can browse through different newsletters based on category, and when you find one you like, it will direct you to the standard subscription page. If you provide your Stoop email address, you’ll then be able to read all your favorite newsletters in the app.

“The easiest way to describe it is: It’s like a podcast app but for newsletters,” Raybould said. “It’s a big directory of newsletters, and then there’s the side where you can consume them.”

Why newsletters? Well, he argued that they’re one of the key ways for publishers to develop a direct relationship with their audience. Podcasts are another, but he said newsletters are “an order of magnitude more important” because you can convey more information with the written word and there are lower production costs.

That direct relationship is obviously an important one for publishers, particularly as Facebook’s shifting priorities have made it clear that they need to “establish the right relationship [with] readers, as opposed to renting someone else’s audience.” But Raybould said it’s better for readers too, because you’ll spend your time on journalism that’s designed to provide value, not just attract clicks: “You will find you use the newsfeed less and consume more of your content directly from the source.”

“Most content [currently] is distributed through a third party, and that software is choosing what to surface next — not based on the quality of the content, but based on what’s going to keep people scrolling,” he added. “Trusting an algorithm with what you’re going to read next is like trusting a nutritionist who’s incentivized based on how many chips you eat.”

Stoop Discover

So Raybould is a fan of newsletters, but he said the current system is pretty cumbersome. There’s no one place where you can find new newsletters to read, and you may also hesitate to subscribe to another one because it “crowds out your personal inbox.” So Stoop is designed to reduce the friction, making it easy to subscribe to and read as many newsletters as your heart desires.

Raybould said the team has already curated a directory of around 650 newsletters (including TechCrunch’s own Daily Crunch) and the list continues to grow. Additional features include a “shuffle” option to discover new newsletters, plus the ability to share a newsletter with other Stoop users, or to forward it to your personal address.

The Stoop app is free, with Raybould hoping to eventually add a premium plan for features like full newsletter archives. He’s also hoping to collaborate with publishers — initially, most publishers will probably treat Stoop readers as just another set of subscribers, but Raybould said the company could provide access to additional analytics and also make signing up easier with the app’s instant subscribe option.

And the company’s ambitions go beyond newsletters. Raybould said Stoop is the first consumer product from a team with a larger mission to help publishers — they’re also working on OpenBundle, a bundled subscription initiative with a planned launch in 2019 or 2020.

“The overarching thing that is the same is the OpenBundle thesis and the Stoop thesis,” he said. “Getting publishers back in the role of delivering content directly to the audience is the antidote to the newsfeed.”

Source: Tech Crunch

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Cryptocurrency chill causes mining speculator Nvidia’s stock to plunge

The cryptocurrency market is an exciting one, but it’s also unpredictable — and when things go south, they take related businesses with them. Nvidia, a hardware giant that has been riding the cryptocurrency wave, saw its stock price take a double-digit hit as it reported vanishing demand for GPUs specializing in crypto-mining.

It’s been a wild year in the GPU market as there were points when ordinary gamers, who have relied on Nvidia for years for the powerful cards used to play the latest games, found inventory scarce for the company’s latest generation of hardware.

The cards had been, and continued to be for some time, bought up by cryptocurrency mining operations, all striving to get a leg up on one another. Consumer-grade GPUs are excellent candidates for putting together low-cost, high-performance clusters that excel in solving the type of problems posed in the likes of Bitcoin mining. The cards were essentially paying for themselves due to the profitability of participating in the lucrative markets.

But those markets, which have been booming for much of the year, have cooled — not to say crashed — and consequently demand for GPUs has cooled as well, as Nvidia’s earnings statements show.

If Nvidia had seen the cryptocurrency boom for what it was at the time — an important but misleading flare in value — it likely would not have produced the estimated $57 million in excess inventory aimed at the miner market. Mid-range gaming GPU sales declined as well, though this seems to have been part of a larger trend.

It will take a couple of quarters to get through all that inventory, during which time of course it will have to be steeply discounted, since miners and gamers understand implicitly that improved versions are just around the corner and are unlikely to pay full price for hardware approaching even a minor degree of obsolescence. The misstep caused Nvidia’s price to drop more than 19 percent Thursday, and it has not rallied today.

“This is surely a setback and I wish we had seen it earlier,” said CEO Jensen Huang on a press call following the announcement of the results.

Cryptocurrency markets may never return to the feverish state of competition they existed in for much of 2018. An explosion of “alt coins” and Initial Coin Offerings baffled casual investors in the ecosystem, and scams were (and are) rife. This led to an overall skepticism in the systems as a class, and even sophisticated and proven ones like Ethereum have suffered major devaluation.

There’s no doubt that blockchain and token economies will be a major part of the financial future (among other things) but the feeding frenzy of 2018 seemed unsustainable from the start. Already many cryptocurrency systems are moving away from the arms race of “proof of work” to the more equitable “proof of stake.” That change alone could decimate computing requirements if adopted at large (although established systems like Bitcoin are too far along to change, outside ill-advised forks like Bitcoin Cash).

Don’t bother shedding a tear for Nvidia, though. The company is rolling high and the GPU market is strong. But it seems that it too, alongside millions of others, has suffered the consequences of speculating on cryptocurrency.

Source: Tech Crunch

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Last Week In Venture: The Point Of Sales, AI Vector Makers, And A Different Kind Of “SaaS”

Greetings, and welcome to Last Week In Venture, Crunchbase News’s weekly rundown of venture rounds that may have flown under your radar over the past week.

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Crunchbase News has covered some of the biggest venture news to hit the wires this week. This includes a supergiant VC round from productivity platform Airtable, $200 million for biopharma company Roivant Sciences, and a whopping $3 billion for shared workspace behemoth WeWork. And we’d be remiss to not mention the $10 billion in tech M&A last weekend (stemming from a buyout of Apptio by Vista Equity Partners, and SAP’s $8 billion deal with Qualtrics which recently filed to go public.) And that’s just a tiny fraction of all the stuff that happened last week.

It’s easy to miss what companies outside the spotlight are contributing to the global startup ecosystem. But that doesn’t mean their stories aren’t worth sharing. Let’s dive into the week that was in venture-land.

Version And Manage Data Like Code

Pachyderm is a 4 year-old company that’s the “first technology to offer petabyte­-scale version control for data,” according to a statement from the company.1 Just as tools like Github give software engineers the ability to version, fork, and track their codebases, Pachyderm’s Docker container and Kubernetes-based platform gives similar capabilities to data scientists and machine learning engineers working with big, ever-shifting datasets.

This week, the San Francisco-based company announced it raised $10 million in its Series A. Benchmark led the round, which had participation from prior investors Ace & Co, Blumberg Capital, Data Collective, Foundation Capital, Susa Ventures, Tuesday Capital, and Y Combinator.

Why does this matter? Reproducibility is a major issue in data science workflows, in part because the underlying data is almost always shifting. In other words, a query made today is likely to return significantly different results than the same query made a couple of weeks, months, or quarters ago.

Sometimes, that’s a good thing. For example, I’ve set up a little Crunchbase query that returns a list of funding rounds announced today. I want that to return something different every time.

Other times, not so much. “One of the trickiest parts of data science is if you change anything, you change everything. […] Without insight into the complete data lineage for the entire pipeline, getting concrete and repeatable results can be nearly impossible,” Pachyderm cofounders Joe Doliner and Joey Zwicker wrote in the blog post announcing the raise.

The Joy Of Logos

On Thursday, Toronto-based LogoJoy announced that it had raised CAD$6 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Canadian venture firm Real Ventures.

According to a statement provided to Crunchbase News, the company uses generative artificial intelligence to create unique symbols, typography, and color combinations. According to Logojoy, “the company uses machine learning to continually teach the platform what design elements work best together.” Logojoy will use its new capital to expand its engineering team.

The 29-person company says it has sold more than 100,000 logos since launching in 2016. Logojoy expects to close out the year—its second in operation—with $8 million in revenue. Not bad for a vector generator.

Subscribe, Return, Recycle

New York-based clothing company For Days has an interesting model: shirts as a service.

The company offers annual subscription packs (ranging in size from one shirt to ten) of its own organic cotton tee shirts for women and men. When you’re through with a shirt (either because it’s worn out, you’ve ripped it, or you just want a new one), you send it back to For Days and they ship you another shirt of your choosing at an additional $8 per shirt. Returned tees get cut up, pulped, and spun into new yarn (30 percent recycled, 70 percent virgin, according to the company) which is in turn spun into new shirts and other garments by For Days.

For Days announced $2.8 million in seed funding led by Rosecliff Ventures. Retail-focused investor Bleu Capital, collaborative consumption-oriented firm Collaborative Fund, and sustainable tech-focused Congruent Ventures are among the participants in the round.

The company’s cofounder and CEO, Kristy Caylor, served prior leadership roles at hip Los Angeles fashion house Band Of Outsiders and Maiyet, now a collective of luxury fashion brands focused on sustainability and social impact.

Driving The Market

A handful of companies directly or tangentially connected to the automotive services sector raised fresh capital this week. Below, you’ll find a selection of those deals.

  • This week, Chicago-based parking marketplace ParkWhiz extended its Series D round with an additional $5 million from the Amazon Alexa Fund and others. This brings the total size of ParkWhiz’s Series D to $25 million; the first $20 million tranche, announced in September, was led by NewSpring Capital. “The Alexa Fund was created to support companies building compelling products and services that leverage voice technology, and ParkWhiz is a fast-growing company that fits that profile perfectly,” said Alexa Fund managing director Paul Bernard in a statement provided to Crunchbase News. In September, Amazon launched the Echo Auto, a device that enables in-car access to Amazon’s increasingly omnipresent digital assistant.
  • Chances are, when you’re filling up your car, the way you pay is literally a POS. Gas Pos is in the point of sale (POS) business, and it caters its offering to independent gas stations, convenience stores, and truck stops. The North Little Rock, AR-based company announced $1 million in seed funding from Merus Capital to roll out its secure, chip-and-pin payments systems nationwide ahead of a major hardware transition in the space. Why the urgency? Because major credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard are mandating that gas pumps transition from magnetic strip readers to chip (“EMV,” so-called because ) readers to reduce fraud. Instead of requiring up-front capital expense, Gas Pos will install new chip readers for free and charge a monthly fee for its integrated hardware and software offerings.

And for those of you who made it to the end, a lagniappe: here’s a little gif of a pug which seems incredibly enthused with its turkey costume. Thanksgiving is next week, after all. Get ready to chow down y’all. 🦃

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles.  Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias


  1. Disclosure: In 2017, Pachyderm presented at a not-for-profit software engineering conference Jason volunteers for.

The post Last Week In Venture: The Point Of Sales, AI Vector Makers, And A Different Kind Of “SaaS” appeared first on Crunchbase News.

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Reading List: Podcasting

I argued in my recent post What’s Next for Podcasting? that we’re at a pivot point where podcasting is becoming a mainstream content format for all types of shows and creators as Hollywood enters the fray. There’s a surge of interest by both creatives and businesspeople in podcasts right now, so I’ve compiled a reading guide to help newcomers get up to speed on the state of the podcasting market.

Follow these links for thoughtful analysis by operators, investors, and journalists in the space and let me know (@epeckham / email) what other posts I should add to the list.

[We are experimenting with new content formats at TechCrunch. This reading list is one of those experiments. Provide feedback directly to the author, Eric Peckham, our columnist focused on the intersection of media, technology, and finance.]

I. Background: The Rise of Podcasting

Timeline of Podcasting | October 2015 | Vanessa Quirk created an interactive timeline to highlight the development of the podcast as a new content medium (on behalf of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University).

Audible Revolution | February 2004 | Ben Hammersley wrote about the rise of this new “online radio” format back in 2004 for The Guardian, featuring early efforts by then-startup Audible to focus on it instead of audiobooks.

The Future of Podcasting: A History Lesson | July 2017 | Justine Moore and Olivia Moore from VC firm CRV outlined the rise of podcasting up to 2017 as part of a 5-part series on the format. From the initial development of RSS feeds and coining of the term to initial hype, a lull for many years, and then a resurgence in 2014 as Apple launched its Podcasts app and the premiere of the hit podcast Serial.

II. Background: Data on the Current Market

The Future of Podcasting: Where Are We Now? | July 2017 | Justine and Olivia Moore highlighted data on the state of podcasting in summer 2017, looking at consumer awareness of the format and demographics. They also note barriers to growth.

The Podcast Consumer 2018 | April 2018 | Edison Research’s widely-cited annual report on who is listening to podcasts and how. They also create the more broadly focused annual report The Infinite Dial (in US, Canada, and Australia versions) that puts podcasting in the context of music streaming, radio, voice interfaces, and general consumer audio trends.

There is additional country-specific research out there for Canada (Canadian Podcast Listener), the UK (Ofcom Communications Market Report), Germany (Bitkom), and Sweden (EGTA). James Cridland, editor of podnews.net made a 15-minute presentation comparing podcasting internationally as well.

Full Year 2017 Podcast Ad Revenue Study | June 2018 | The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released this report on the size of the US podcast advertising market. These are the stats most news articles and industry experts refer to as the “market size” of podcasting but they are only the podcast advertising market. The overwhelming majority of revenue in podcasting is certainly understood to come from ads, but there are also many podcasts collecting Patreon donations, selling merchandise, generating touring income, and–in a few cases–getting royalties from books/films/shows based on their podcast or charging paid subscriptions.

Mind the Gap: Part One | August 2018 | Alex Taussig, a partner at Lightspeed, outlines the growth trajectories of both podcasting and voice interfaces (like Alexa) to highlight how monetization of new technologies or mediums typically lag consumer adoption.

III. Key Players: The Key Companies and Shows

One-Sentence Reviews of the Entire Podcast Listening Landscape | May 2017 | Erik Jones wrote short descriptions of the numerous podcast streaming apps out there in spring 2017. Even more have launched since but it’s a helpful guide for becoming aware of many of the players in the space.

Podcast Industry Audience Rankings | updated monthly | PodTrac ranks the 20 most listened to podcast shows and the 10 most listened to podcast publishers.

Podcast charts | updated hourly | Podcast analytics company Chartable has charts for the most downloaded/streamed podcasts for four top podcast players: Apple, Spotify Stitcher, and Breaker. Charts are global and by country.

What’s really the top podcast hosting service? | August 2018 | Podcast analytics company Chartable shared data on the market share among podcasting’s feed generators, feed redirection services, and media hosting services.

How People Listen to Podcasts | November 2018 | New podcast creation app Anchor shared their September 2018 data on podcasts that were distributed via Anchor, framing Apple Podcasts continued domination of market share but the rapid rise of Spotify as the clear second-place.

IV. Business Model

MailKimp, SchmailChimp: Podcast Ads are Rambling and Unpredictable. So Why Do Sponsors Love Them? | December 2014 | Alison Griswold chronicles how the intimacy of host-read ads on podcasts appeals to advertisers, even if it means the host doesn’t stick to an exact script.

Guide to Podcasting | December 2015 | Vanessa Quirk of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism published a report on the history, market, and business models of podcasting, including case studies on the implementation of different business models.

The Future of Podcasting: How Do Podcasts Make Money? | August 2017 | Justine and Olivia Moore evaluate how podcasters make money, mainly focusing on ads/sponsorships (which are mostly direct response) and early efforts at paid subscriptions.

FOMO in China is a $7B Industry | September 2018 | Marketplace China correspondent Jennifer Pak wrote about (and recorded a podcast episode discussing) China’s $7.3 billion market for paid podcasts. Unlike in the US, it is the norm to pay for podcast content in China. This the inverse of other content formats where paid subscriptions are common in the US but not the norm in China.

What’s Next for Podcasting? Subscriptions and Exclusives | October 2018 | Eric Peckham framed the current state of the podcast business, the opportunity for a much greater diversity of show formats, and the rapidly growing interest by music streaming services and major Hollywood players. I argue that podcasting is in the early days of shifting from a model of free, ad-supported content available on every media player toward a model more like that of streaming TV, with paid subscriptions and exclusive shows.

‘A pain in the ass for users’: Subscription publishers wrestle with delivering exclusive audio | May 2018 | Max Willens at Digiday chronicled the frustration of media companies who have tried offering podcasts exclusively to paying subscribers, given the lack of technology infrastructure for doing so.

Why podcasting companies are getting more into scripted shows | September 2018 | Max Willens at Digiday notes a feeding frenzy of popular podcasts getting optioned for films, TV shows, and books and the growing focus on producing narrative-style podcasts. He points out that the current advertising model for podcasting makes generating a worthwhile ROI on high-quality narrative shows tougher.

V. Other arguments and predictions

Where Does Podcasting Go Next? A Manifesto for Growth | August 2018 | Tom Webster, the SVP at Edison Research who co-authors the annual Infinite Dial report on the podcasting market, notes that podcasting’s growth has been slow-and-steady, not an explosion, and emphasizes the challenges podcasting still facing in mainstream consumer adoption. He argues in favor of more entertainment podcasts that reflect what’s popular on TV and argues in favor of dropping the term “subscribing to a podcast” because it causes many people to misunderstand that they have to pay for podcasts.

IAB’s Podcast Measurement Guidelines | December 2017 | The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is the leading trade organization in the US for advertising and advertising-reliant publishing companies. In 2016, it released its first technical guidelines on how to measure podcast performance in order to create an industry standard and reduce double-counting. It updated them in 2017.

To Make Real Money, The Podcast Industry Needs to Stop Calling Them Podcasts | March 2016 | Venture capitalist Hunter Walk argued that podcasting needs to generate “listener revenue” in order to scale as an industry–not just rely on brand sponsorships–and needs to abandon the term “podcast” to do so because people firmly associate podcasts with free content.

Can Podcasts Rescue Spotify’s Business Model? | November 2018 | Tim Ingham argued in Rolling Stone that the fundamentals of Spotify’s business model prevent it becoming a profitable company (unless it can somehow cut out the record labels), and that’s why Spotify’s executives have decided to make such an aggressive push into podcasting over 2018.

State of Podcasts 2018 | July 2018 | Building off their 2017 assessment, Justine Moore and Olivia Moore a CRV outlined the pain points the podcast industry in still changes, the biggest changes under way, and where they see opportunity for entrepreneurs.

VI. News Sources

Nieman Lab – a popular news and analysis site run by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, focused on the news publishing industry but also tracking the development of podcasting.

Podnews.net – a daily newsletter and site by James Cridland, a British radio/audio industry expert in Australia.

Hot Pod – a subscription news site covering the podcast industry, run by Nick Quah. It has a free weekly newsletter for non-subscribers as well.

Hearing Voices – a weekly newsletter by betaworks ventures partner Matt Hartman on audio/voice interfaces and startup opportunities.

TechCrunch: try the podcast, podcasts, and podcasting tags for archives.

Source: Tech Crunch

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Self-Driving Startups Founded By Former Google Employees

With hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled into startups in the autonomous vehicle sector, investors, engineers, and enthusiastic tech journalists are both skeptical and excited for our potential self-driving futures. How close we are is not clear, but both big tech and rising startups are racing to that Level 5 finish line, and some engineers are leaving the cash-laden arms of Big Tech to do so.

In fact, six of the most well-funded startups in the AV sector were founded by former Googlers and employees of Baidu, Tesla, or Uber.

So what happened?

Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

According to a 2017 report by Bloomberg, Google promised its self-driving employees a large payout after four years of service. And it’s a retention plan that may have backfired on the search giant. Soon after the four-year period was up, it was reported that many left Google with substantial amounts of cash in hand.

And those Xooglers have gone on to make names for themselves in the industry, attracting huge investments from VCs and automakers alike. Some stuck together after leaving Google, while others teamed up with engineers from Google’s competitors.

One of the most high-profile Google departures was Chris Urmson, the former CTO of Google X and one of the project’s main pioneers. When Urmson left Google in 2016, he wrote, “If I can find another project that turns into an obsession and becomes something more, I will consider myself twice lucky.” And it turns out he did.

Urmson founded Palo Alto-based Aurora shortly after leaving Google. His co-founders, Sterling Anderson and Drew Bagnell, are also big-tech veterans, the former coming from Tesla and the latter from Uber. Aurora has attracted $90 million in funding from Greylock Partners and Index Ventures. Urmson told Crunchbase News in an email that the decision to found Aurora was informed by his decade of experience working on self-driving.

“I already understood the immense impact that this technology can have on society and saw the opportunity to start a company with a team of experts […] that could take a fresh and modern approach to building this very challenging, and incredibly important technology,” he said.

Further, Urmson wrote that that “fresh and modern approach” is bolstered by the collective experiences and expertise of his cofounders.

“We have a great advantage at Aurora of being able to bring together the experiences that all of us have, and apply this knowledge to the technology that is available today, particularly with machine learning and cloud computing, and the current state of the automotive industry in terms of connectivity and electrification.”

Speaking to his current position as a CEO, Urmson said that he is also focused on building a healthy culture and attracting a diverse team “that represents the society we’re building this technology for.”

“We have the opportunity to deliver great benefits to society in terms of safety on the road, quality of life and access,” he expressed in writing. “The challenge is how do we do it quickly and how do we deliver it broadly in a way that is safe and acceptable for the public.”

And as far as when we’ll see that fully autonomous future, Urmson said that it’s going to be a “handful of years.”

While we wait, let’s take a look at other notable companies in the autonomous vehicle space that were founded by those who left Google.

Nuro

Nuro was founded by Jiajun Zhu, one of the former leaders on Google’s self-driving project, and Dave Ferguson, who was a principal engineer on the team. The two worked together before leaving in 2016 to start their own company.

The Mountain View-based startup is a bit different than your average AV company. The company, which made our Top AV list back in August, has developed an autonomous vehicle that is meant to deliver goods rather than people.

This niche is notable in that the two didn’t leave the company to compete directly with their former employer, but rather are focusing on combining the excitement over autonomous robotics with investor interest in delivery. This strategy allowed the company to attract a $92 million Series A investment from Greylock Partners and Gaorong Capital in January 2018.

Argo AI

Bryan Salesky, who served as the Director of Hardware Development on Google’s self-driving cars project for three years, also left Google in 2016.

In 2017, he founded Argo AI and just months later scored a $1 billion investment from Ford. That massive investment also came with an ambitious timeline. The company, which was co-founded by Peter Rander, a former lead engineer for Uber’s self-driving project, pledged to deploy fully autonomous vehicles by 2021. Volkswagen is reportedly in talks about a collaboration with Ford and a $1 billion investment in the Pittsburgh-based Argo AI.

Pony.ai

This Beijing, Guangzhou, and San Francisco-based company was founded by Tiancheng Lou and James Peng in 2016. Interestingly, both founders came from Baidu’s self-driving division. However, before moving to Baidu, Lou worked on personalization and autonomous vehicle technology at Google, according to his company bio.

Pony.ai has attracted $214 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. As mentioned on our list of top AV startups, the company has tested its vehicles in Beijing, and it is ha formed strategic partnerships with China-based automotive companies.

Deepmap

Deepmap is a Palo Alto-based HD mapping and data management startup that focuses on autonomous vehicles. The company has raised a known total of $92 million in venture capital, according to Crunchbase. Most recently, the company raised a $60 million Series B in early November. The company’s investors include Rober Bosch Venture Capital, Accel, and Andreessen Horowitz among others.

Deepmap, which is still in stealth mode, was co-founded by James Wu and Mark Wheeler. Per their Linkedin profiles, Wheeler and James both formerly worked as software engineers on Google Maps and Google Earth. James became a lead software Engineer for Google Earth in 2010. After leaving Google in 2012, he ended up working at Apple as a tech lead for Apple Maps. In 2014, Wu began his year-long tenure at Baidu’s self-driving initiative before founding Deepmap. Beyond the founders, Deepmap’s COO Wei Luo also worked as a product manager at Google, spending a significant amount of time on Google Maps and Google Earth.

However, Xoogler-founded autonomous startups have faced bumps in the road. Tesla filed a lawsuit against Aurora in 2017. It was settled later that year. Otto, founded by former Google X employee Anthony Levandowski, was sold to Uber in August 2016 for $680 million, a substantial exit that lead to a trades secrets lawsuit between Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving business, and Uber. Levandowski was accused of stealing information accumulated from his tenure at Google. Uber ended up firing Levandowski in May 2017, and the company announced in July that it was ending the development of autonomous trucks under Otto.

This bump in the road for Levandowski speaks to the riskiness of leaving a top secret project to start your own. Tech companies like Google and Apple have the will and the means to oppose new projects with litigation. On the IP front, Xoogler founders walk a fine line.

Illustration Credit: Li Anne Dias

The post Self-Driving Startups Founded By Former Google Employees appeared first on Crunchbase News.

Source: Crunchbase

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Former Oracle exec Thomas Kurian to replace Diane Greene as head of Google Cloud

Diane Greene announced in a blog post today that she would be stepping down as CEO of Google Cloud and will be helping transition former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian to take over early next year.

Greene took over the position almost exactly three years ago when Google bought Bebop, the startup she was running. The thinking at the time was that the company needed someone with a strong enterprise background and Greene, who helped launch VMware, certainly had the enterprise credentials they were looking for.

In the blog post announcing the transition, she trumpeted her accomplishments. “The Google Cloud team has accomplished amazing things over the last three years, and I’m proud to have been a part of this transformative work. We have moved Google Cloud from having only two significant customers and a collection of startups to having major Fortune 1000 enterprises betting their future on Google Cloud, something we should accept as a great compliment as well as a huge responsibility,” she wrote.

The company had a disparate set of cloud services when she took over, and one of the first things Greene did was to put them all under a single Google Cloud umbrella. “We’ve built a strong business together — set up by integrating sales, marketing, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Google Apps/G Suite into what is now called Google Cloud,” she wrote in the blog post.

As for Kurian, he stepped down as president of product development at Oracle at the end of September. He had announced a leave of absence earlier in the month before making the exit permanent. Like Greene before him, he brings a level of enterprise street cred, which the company needs as it continues to try to grow its cloud business.

After three years with Greene at the helm, Google, which has tried to position itself as the more open cloud alternative to Microsoft and Amazon, has still struggled to gain market share against its competitors, remaining under 10 percent consistently throughout Greene’s tenure.

As Synergy’s John Dinsdale told TechCrunch in an article on Google Cloud’s strategy in 2017, the company had not been particularly strong in the enterprise to that point. “The issues of course are around it being late to market and the perception that Google isn’t strong in the enterprise. Until recently Google never gave the impression (through words or deeds) that cloud services were really important to it. It is now trying to make up for lost ground, but AWS and Microsoft are streets ahead,” Dinsdale explained at the time. Greene was trying hard to change that perception.

Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research says Greene was able to shift the focus to enterprise more, but he likes what Kurian brings to the table, even if it will take a bit of a cultural shift from his many years at Oracle. “What Greene did not address has been how to tie the product portfolio of Google’s autonomous and disparate development teams together. Kurian is a great fit for that job, having lead 35k+ developers at Oracle, ending the trench warfare between product teams and divisions that has plagued Oracle a decade ago,” Mueller explained.

Google has not released many revenue numbers related to the cloud, but in February it indicated they were earning a billion dollars a quarter, a number that Greene felt put Google in elite company. Amazon and Google were reporting numbers like that for a quarter at the time. Google stopped reporting cloud revenue after that report.

Regardless, the company will turn to Kurian to continue growing those numbers now. “I will continue as CEO through January, working with Thomas to ensure a smooth transition. I will remain a Director on the Alphabet board,” Greene wrote in her blog post.

Interestingly enough, Oracle has struggled with its own transition to the cloud. Kurian gets a company that was born in the cloud, rather than one that has made a transition from on-prem software and hardware to one solely in the cloud. It will be up to him to steer Google Cloud moving forward.

Source: Tech Crunch

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Weather Up’s app can give you forecasts for your calendar events

There are plenty of weather apps to choose from on the App Store, but the newly released Weather Up app is doing something different. Instead of just offering the daily weather, it will now offer Event Forecasts — meaning forecasts that sync with your calendars so you can see what the weather will be for your upcoming appointments and various events.

The feature is customizable, so you don’t have to use it with all your calendars — or even all your events. You can opt to tag specific events in order to show the weather forecast for just those.

Event Forecasts is useful for planning your outdoor activities like the kids’ soccer games, outdoor concerts and more, but also for planning for events you’ll walk to or drive to.

The app itself is not new. It actually began its life last year as Weather Atlas, from Launch Center Pro developer David Barnard. He admits the first version app struggled with retention, so he’s now overhauled it from a usability perspective, based on user feedback and testing.

The revamped app — basically the 2.0 release of Weather Atlas — is now rebranded as Weather Up, as a result of these and other changes, which also includes a new set of cute app icons.

“Apps that don’t take off are often abandoned, but the weather category is just so interesting to me I’m going to keep pushing until I carve out a decent niche. And I think Weather Up is a great step in the right direction,” says Barnard.

He says a lot of time was spent on making the app feel more intuitive — especially in terms of its gestural interface. The new design makes use of the extra vertical space on X-series iPhones and makes most of its buttons and gestures easily accessible from the lower portion of the screen, he says.

Another interesting thing he’s trying in the new app is an in-app Merch Store, which is certainly a first for a weather application — or productivity apps in general, for the most part.

To help with monetization, the store will sell things like shirts, mugs, bags, hats and more emblazoned with the new icons — which Barnard recently showed off on Twitter.

The store is also available on the developer’s website.

The app’s core feature set, of course, is its weather forecasts. In addition to temperature, it also shows humidity and precipitation accumulation, and warns about weather events like thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and tropical tracks.

As an indie developer, Barnard hopes people will choose his app over others because he vows not to sell user data or even location data to advertisers — even though that would be more profitable, he says.

Weather Up is a free download on the App Store, with a pro feature set available for $9.99/year or $1.99/month.

Source: Tech Crunch

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Airbnb made more than $1 billion in revenue last quarter

Ahead of Airbnb’s expected initial public offering next year, the home-sharing startup announced more than $1 billion in revenue during Q3 2018.

Airbnb says this was its strongest quarter to date, where it saw “substantially more” than $1 billion in revenue.

Airbnb, however, has been without a permanent chief financial officer since February, when Laurence Tosi left the company amid tension between him and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. Since then, Airbnb Head of Financial Planning and Analysis Ellie Mertz has been serving as the interim CFO.

According to CNBC, Airbnb is on track to be profitable for the second year in a row on an EBITDA basis.

“Airbnb’s mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere and we will continue to offer updates regarding our work in the weeks and months to come,” Airbnb wrote in a memo today.

Source: Tech Crunch

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