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Month: July 2015

Think Outside The Valley: How Tech Companies Can Change The World

A handful of tech heavyweights did something remarkable earlier this week — they came together for the betterment of society. As partners on President Obama’s ConnectHome initiative, internet service providers, startups, and tech nonprofits will expand broadband access to around 275,000 people living in public housing. As technology has become a part of our daily lives, ConnectHome should remind tech companies of their responsibility to make their products as accessible as possible. The birth of the on-demand economy has redefined convenience as we know it. Virtually anything you can think of — dinner, groceries, work assistance, transportation — can be summoned to you in a single tap. While these services have improved the lives of many, only those who can afford or access them reap the benefits. That the most recent tech boom has focused on improving the lives of the few is not lost on The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo, who discussed the value of point-to-point solutions in a recent column. Manjoo’s skeptical take on tech companies’ mission to scale their products — making them cheaper and more accessible — underscores the moral dilemma Silicon Valley faces. Although an endless number of startups has been enriched by catering to the Valley’s well-heeled residents, an opportunity remains for tech companies to give back to the community that made them. Even today, it is disheartening to know tens of...

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The Future Of Podcasting

  Podcasting is having a celebrity moment: Serial’s Sarah Koenig has appeared on The Colbert Report; Arnold Schwarzenegger has been on the Tim Ferriss show; and, most recently, Barack Obama visited Marc Maron’s garage to appear on his WTF podcast. The $65 Billion Question Beneath the headlines, however, we see conflicting stats that lead us to ask whether podcasting is truly taking off or just getting more popular with existing diehard users. Measured by Google searches and episode downloads, podcasting has seen 30+% annual growth in recent years. On the other hand, only 17% of the population listens to podcasts each month. In fact, the growth rate of podcast listenership has dropped by half in the past two years. We set out to develop a view on the future of podcasting. Understanding where podcasting is headed is important to us because we have been building, and recently released, a social audio discovery app called Clammr. Podcasting also has significant implications for the $65 billion global audio sector that includes broadcast radio, recorded music, and on-demand streaming services. Until now, broadcast has dominated and on-demand audio has been a small piece of the pie, limited mostly to music streaming. If podcasting transitions to mass adoption, it can usher in a broader shift from broadcast to on-demand audio that could put much of the $65 billion audio sector up for grabs. We’ve...

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The Message Is The Medium: Reasons ‘Assistants-as-App’ Work

On a typical day, I’ll chat with colleagues on Slack. Later, I’m sure to receive a message from a friend on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Then, on my way home, I’ll use good old SMS to let my wife know I’m on my way. What’s been absent from these conversations is commerce. Although messaging is the way users communicate with each other, it’s not how they interact with businesses. That is, until now. A new wave of startups are radically simplifying the way they communicate with users and the trend is just getting started. In my last post I discussed how I’ve personally used some of these services. In this post I’ll go deeper into what this trend is all about. Assistant-as-App Although terms like “conversational commerce” and “invisible apps” have floated around the web recently, neither is quite right for describing what I’m seeing. Instead, I propose “assistant-as-app” to mean: an interface designed to enable users to accomplish complex tasks through a natural dialogue with an assistant. Note that the assistant does not have to be a real person per se. The assistant could be an artificial intelligence or a human sending automated messages interspersed in the stream of the conversation. It could also be a group of people interacting with customers through an online persona. For example, Mindy is there for me when I use Vida Health to track what I eat...

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Want To Be The Next Amazon? Go Cross-Border From Day One

The business of e-commerce is still mostly a national affair. U.S. consumers order from U.S. retailers like Amazon, Gap and Walmart; Chinese consumers buy from Chinese sites such as TMall, Taobao and JD.com; and Indian consumers flock to Flipkart and SnapDeal. E-commerce companies, if they do expand internationally, usually open local subsidiaries, such as how Amazon and eBay run separate sites in France, the U.K., Japan, Brazil and other markets. But, tomorrow is here: The moment for a cross-border e-commerce giant to emerge has finally arrived. And it will likely happen first via mobile. So, why is right now the magic moment for a cross-border e-commerce giant to emerge? Advances in logistics, shipping and global smartphone penetration have created a perfect storm where e-commerce companies can thrive internationally. In fact, any e-commerce startup today with multi-billion-dollar ambitions must be cross-border from day one, because local markets are already locked up by entrenched homegrown giants. Three Reasons Cross-Border E-Commerce Is Here First, consumer demand for cross-border commerce has arrived. Consumers in the U.S. are discovering they can buy goods directly from China at a steep discount. eBay and Amazon are conduits for Chinese products, with American resellers purchasing apparel, beauty products, accessories, consumer electronics and gadgets in bulk from China and reselling them to U.S. buyers. China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba, launched its first AliExpress website in overseas markets in 2010, allowing American and other international consumers to buy products directly from China....

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Limited Ticket Release Of TechCrunch Summer Party At August Capital

Well, that went fast! Because of high demand, we’re releasing more tickets for the TechCrunch annual summer soirée at August Capital today. But act quickly because they won’t be available long. About the 10th Annual Summer Party at August Capital July 31, 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 2480 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park CA 94025 Get tickets here; $85 based on availability. Tickets will be released in batches. Stay tuned to TechCrunch for releases, as they sell out quickly. Hope to see you all there. Our sponsors help make TechCrunch events happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team here sponsors@techcrunch.com.  Article source:...

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