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Stocks rallied Monday, with all major indices snapping back into positive territories as investors seized on any positive developments in the fight to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

The stock market is, of course, not the economy. And this is likely a dead cat bounce — a temporary recovery after a big fall. The question is how many dead cat bounces will we see in the coming weeks?

And while the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing that didn’t stop investors from grasping at data from John Hopkins University that suggests the number of new COVID-19 cases is slowing. The institution’s coronavirus map, which has become a go-to source, showed 25,200 new cases rising on March 31, then rising to 33,300 new cases by April 3. Those numbers dropped to 28,200 new cases April 4, per its data; other trackers have posted slightly different results.

Today’s rally will be tested in the days and weeks to come as COVID-19 cases continue and eventually hit a peak before plateauing. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has warned that cases, and deaths, will likely surge in the next week.

Here are the day’s results:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: up 7.59%, or 1,597.21 points, to close at 22.649.74
  • S&P 500: rose 6.95%, or 172.86 points, to close at 2,661.51
  • Nasdaq composite: popped 7.33%, or 540.15 points, to close at 7,913.24

There were other indirect COVID-19 fundamentals such as new sales guidance or analyst notes that also moved certain stocks.

E-commerce stocks, including eBay and Amazon saw positive movement. Online retailer Wayfair was perhaps the biggest mover in this category. The company’s shares opened 36% higher after reporting its gross revenue growth rate more than doubled at the end of March. Wayfair shares closed up 41.7% to $71.50.

Music streaming company Spotify saw shares decline more than 4% after Raymond James downgraded the stock from “strong buy” to “market perform,” citing that COVID-19 was causing less engagement and fewer downloads as users spend more time indoors. Spotify shares did manage to bounce back during the day and ended up closing up nearly 0.33% to $122.52.

Shares of SaaS companies rallied on the day as well, with the Bessemer cloud index rising 6.79% on the day; shares of SaaS companies, modern software firms, have enjoyed strong revenue multiples in recent years. They have tracked the broader indices down, however, and remain in bear-market territory.

Looking ahead, we’re entering earnings season during a period of intense economic uncertainty; how the stock market performs in the future will at least partially depend on how companies performed in Q1 2020, and what they project for the future. Get ready.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/06/american-stocks-rally-sharply-on-covid-19-optimism-as-earnings-loom/

Nike is the latest company to offer 3% cash back to Apple Card users, when they make an Apple Pay purchase using the card across Nike’s retail platforms, including its stores, Nike.com, SNKRS, Nike Training Club, Nike Running Club and on the Nike app. The addition is one of what’s still a small number of Apple Pay partners who are offering the top-tier cash back rate of 3% to cardholders — a group that also includes Uber/Uber Eats, Walgreens/Duane Reade, and T-Mobile stores.

When first introduced, Apple had only said purchases from Apple itself would be rewarded with 3% back. Apple Pay transactions would be rewarded with 2% back and use of the physical card offered 1% back.

But when the card launched in August to customers in the U.S., Apple surprised everyone by expanding the 3% back to Uber and Ubers Eats, too, with promises of more to come.

Since then, Apple has been steadily expanding the number of retailers and apps that offer cash back to Apple Card users, giving Apple a larger foothold in online and mobile payments, as well as point-of-sale transactions. In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple Pay transaction volume was bigger thabn PayPal and was growing 4 times as fast.

Apple’s advances in this area have clearly shaken up the market, as Apple Pay rival PayPal last week announced its largest acquisition to date with a deal to buy browser maker Honey for $4 billion in mostly cash. PayPal plans to use Honey to get ahead of the checkout page by reaching customers as they’re shopping online looking for deals and discovering new products. By capturing the customer at this earlier stage, PayPal can acquire the sale before the customer chooses to simply tap a button to pay with Apple Pay instead.

Nike is an obvious choice as the next Apple Card partner, given the two companies’ close relationship over the years on products which ran from retail partnerships to co-branded products, like the Apple Watch Nike+ edition and Nike sports bands, for example. Nike also last year rolled out Nike+ app membership benefits that included free months of Apple Music, among other perks.

As an Apple Card partner, Nike customers who transact through Apple Pay with their card receive 3% Daily Cash. This is applied to the customer’s Apple Cash Card, then can be used immediately for other Apple Pay purchases, sent to family and friends, or can be put towards the Apple Card balance.

Apple says more Apple Card partners will be added in the months ahead.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/25/nike-is-latest-retailer-to-offer-3-cash-back-to-apple-card-users/

Nike has long been synonymous with premium sneakers and other sports gear, but now the company could be extending its brand into another area — digital media — thanks to the rumored acquisition of a Seattle-based startup.

TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the multibillion-dollar sports giant has acquired TraceMe, which originally built an app to let fans engage with sports stars and other celebrities before later pivoting into a service called Tally, a platform aimed at sports teams, broadcasters and venues to help fans engage around sporting events.

TraceMe was originally founded by Russell Wilson, the champion quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, who was the executive chairman of the startup. The company had raised at least $9 million from investors that included the Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group and Bezos Expeditions (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ fund), as well as YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and others, and it was last valued, in 2017, at $60 million.

Nike confirmed the acquisition to us in a short statement: “NIKE, Inc. has acquired TraceMe to supplement the company’s content strategy on Nike-owned platforms,” a spokespersonsaid in an email.

Our source said the deal closed in recent weeks and that “it was a good outcome” for the company and investors. It involved both IP — the main interest, the source said, was in TraceMe’s tech rather than Tally’s — and the team.

Indeed, at least eight of them, including TraceMe’s CEO Jason LeeKeenan, an ex-Hulu executive, are now listing Nike as their place of employment. LeeKeenan describes his new role as the head of Nike Seattle. Others on the team now have taken roles that include software engineers, head of product and product designers.

No one at TraceMe responded to our requests for comment. GeekWire (which likely got the same tip we did) published a post noting that it had a source that confirmed the deal.

The athletic footwear giant Nike is no stranger to the world of technology: it has been a longtime collaborator with the likes of Apple to develop apps for its devices and has been an early mover on the concept of bringing and integrating cutting-edge (yes, possibly gimmicky) tech into its footwear and other gear. And that’s before you consider Nike as an e-commerce force.

But while the dalliance between sports, tech and fashion is well established, this deal opens up a different frontier for the company.

It’s very rare for Nike to make an acquisition, but it makes sense that if it were going to do some M&A, it would be in the area of digital media and picking up engineers to execute on a wider vision in that area.

The company is best known, of course, for its shoes and related sporty clothes, which it has for a long time created in co-branding with the biggest sports stars and has more recently started to extend to a wider circle of celebrities and hot fashion labels in a spirit of sporty street style. These have included the likes of so-cool Supreme, Travis Scott and seemingly other tentative forays into music culture.

Nike overshadows all other sports shoe brands in size, with its current market cap at nearly $117 billion, more than twice that of its closest competitor, Adidas . But Adidas has been stealing a march when it comes to partnerships with a wide network of celebrities (even if Drake prefers checks over stripes).

While it isn’t clear yet how and if Nike will be using the startup’s existing services, you could see how a deal like this could help Nike start to think about how it might leverage the collaborations and endorsements it already has in place into experiences beyond shoes, advertising and athletic performance.

In this age of Instagram and influencers playing a massive role in shifting consumer sentiment (and dollars), this could give Nike a shot at building its own media platform, independent of these, on its own terms.

This is a bigger trend that we’re seeing across other consumer categories. Consider how companies like Spotify have extended beyond simple music streaming, investing in building tools to help artists on its platform with marketing and expanding their brands. Selling shoes means selling a concept, and that concept needs to have a foothold in a wider digital experience. 

Updated with comment from Apple.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/11/source-nike-has-picked-up-russell-wilsons-tally-traceme-in-a-rare-acquisition/

Paytm, India’s biggest mobile payments firm, now has 10 million customers in Japan, the company said as it pushes to expand its reach in international markets. Paytm entered Japan last October after forming a joint venture with SoftBank and Yahoo Japan called PayPay.

In addition to 10 million users, PayPay is now supported by 1 million merchant partners and local stores in Japan, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm said Thursday. The mobile payments app has clocked more than 100 million transactions to date in the nation, he claimed. In June, PayPay had 8 million users.

“Thank you India 🇮🇳 for your inspiration and giving us chance to build world class tech…,” he posted in a tweet.

Like in India, cash also dominates much of the daily transactions in Japan. Large medical clinics and supermarkets often refuse to accept plastic cards and instead ask for cash. This encouraged Paytm, which also has presence in Canada, to explore the Japanese market.

And it has the experience, capital and tech chops to achieve it. The mobile payments app has amassed more than 250 million registered users in India. Most of these customers signed up after the Indian government invalidated much of the cash in the nation in late 2016.

PayPay competes with a handful of local players in Japan. Its biggest competition is Line, an instant messaging app that has followed China’s WeChat model to aggressively expand its offerings in recent years.

Like PayPay, Line also has no shortage of money. Earlier this year, it announced a ¥30 billion ($282 million) reward campaign to boost usage of its payments service. Line has more than 80 million users in Japan, 32 million of whom used its payments service as of February this year. There are about 120 million internet users in Japan.

PayPay maintains a ¥10 billion ($94 million) marketing campaign of its own, as part of which customers who make a certain number of transactions and participate in referral programs earn some money. In a statement, PayPay said Thursday that moving forward it “will strive to create a society where people can buy anything through cashless payments in every corner of the country with a safe and secured service for our users.”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/08/paypay-10m-users/

The Europas Awards for European Tech Startups came around again last week (Thursday 27th June), and once again proved that Europe’s enormous diversity in startups continues to shine through on the world stage.

Once again TechCrunch was the exclusive media sponsor of the awards, alongside new “tech, culture & society” event creator The Pathfounder. Attendees, nominees and winners were given discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.

The awards cover 20 categories, including new additions such as cover AgTech / FoodTech, SpaceTech, GovTech and Mobility Tech.

After an intense round of public voting and judges’ deliberations, the awards were held in the ‘Summer Festival’ atmosphere of the lawns of the iconic Geffrey Museum in London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout Area’ of Shoreditch and featured street trucks, lawn games, music and a fantastic after-party!

The judges came from the creme-de-la-creme of the European tech scene and their picks for the winners were combined with the results of a week of online voting.

Photos from The Europas Awards are now on Flickr where you can download them. They are also on Facebook here. The Live stream hosted by Hermione Way starts here, the panel sessions are here and The Europas Awards ceremony starts here.

You can sign up to get news of next year’s awards and similar events here.

The sponsors this year where:
Bizzabo
World Datanomic Forum
Currency.com
Target Global
Bayer G4A
CommsCo
Isotoma
iHorizon
FieldHouse Associates
Rocketmakers
Burlington PR
Home Grown

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So without further-a-do here are the winners and finalists for The Europas Awards 2019!

The Europas Awards — Hottest AgTech / FoodTech Startup
WINNER:
Small Robot Company: Building small robots to transform farming
Presented by Gemma Evans, HealthHackers

FINALISTS:
Agricool: grows and produces fruits and vegetables inside shipping containers
Allplants: Delicious, plant-based meals, delivered.
Breedr: a productivity and marketing platform transforming the livestock supply-chain
iFarm: Data-driven urban farming technology
Ynsect: Designs, constructs and operates giant vertical farm of beetles (Molitors) to produce high grade proteins.

The Europas Awards — Hottest CleanTech Startup
WINNER:
Solar Foods: Produces an entirely new kind of nutrient-rich protein using only air and electricity as the main resources
Presented by Laurence Kemball Cook, Pavegen CEO

FINALISTS:
Asperitas: a clean-tech company focused on greening the datacentre industry
Naefos: A fintech-IoT platform for enterprises to access off-grid households
Bulb: affordable renewable energy for homes and businesses
Orbital Systems: a Swedish clean-tech company that develops a water recycling technology to be used in domestic appliances
VoltStorage: Solar power storage for your home

The Europas Awards — Hottest CyberTech Startup
WINNER:
Panaseer: A continuous controls monitoring platform
Presented by Pratik Sampat, iHorizon

FINALISTS:
UK Barac: Using AI and behavioural analytics to detect malware hidden within encrypted traffic without the need for decryption
Cymulate: Breach and attack simulation
UK Immersive Labs: A fully interactive, on-demand, and gamified cyber skills platform
Passbase: a digital identity platform to streamline the identity verification process and enable identity ownership and reuse across different services
PixelPin: a secure authentication system using pictures instead of passwords
uBirch: Securing IoT data using blockchain

The Europas Awards — Hottest EdTech Startup
WINNER:
Perlego: Textbook subscription service

FINALISTS:
Busuu: Online community for language learning
Get My Grades: online learning platform for English, Maths and Science
MyPocketSkill: Connecting teens to pocket money earning jobs
Pigzbe: Crypto-friendly, digital wallet for 6+
PitchMe: Skills-based talent marketplace
Robo Wunderkind: developing modular and programmable robots to teach children robotics and coding
Lirica: Learn languages with the power of music

The Europas Awards — Hottest FashTech Startup
WINNER:
Metail: virtual fitting room service for fashion retailers that allows customers to create a 3D model of themselves and try on clothes

FINALISTS:
Bump: making commerce social
Euveka: develops connected smart-mannequins, using custom software, to assist fashion, sports and medical professionals in the prototyping and sale of individual garments
Heuritech: anticipating brand and product desirability through the eyes of millions of fashion influencers and consumers
HUUB: a logistics and tech platform for Fashion brands
Little Black Door: intelligent inventory platform that captures the value of your wardrobe and opens it up to a premium managed marketplace
Finda: Professional model booking platform

The Europas Awards — Hottest FinTech Startup
WINNER:
Auquan: data science platform for financial services
Presented by Malin Holmberg, Target Global VC

FINALISTS:
Curve: a platform allowing consolidation of all bank cards into a single smart card and app
Cytora: Using AI to enable insurers to underwrite more efficiently
Divido: a retail finance platform that allows companies to offer instant customer finance
Holvi: digital banking for freelancers and entrepreneurs
Monese: an online banking platform that offers quick current account opening for all EU residents
Moonfare: a technology-enabled platform allowing individuals to invest in top-tier private equity funds
Nuggets: Login, pay and verify ID without ever sharing or storing your data with anyone
PremFina: White label software to manage insurance policies
Yobota: cloud-based platform allows financial services to design and deploy financial products

The Europas Awards — Hottest GovTech, CivTech, PubTech, RegTech
WINNER:
New Vector: decentralised, secure communication for governments, businesses and individuals
Presented by Eloise Todd, Anti-Brexit Campaigner

FINALISTS:
Adzuna: digital service that connects jobseekers with employers online and through job centres around the UK
Apolitical Apolitical is a global policy insights platform and network helping governments and companies advance their work and business
Clause Match: end-to-end solution for fully automating regulatory compliance
Luminance: document analysis software to secure big data systems
novoville – novoville is a Citizen Engagement Platform, that bridges the gap between local governments and their citizens
Safened: Digital KYC Solution
SafeTeam: NHS community lone worker app

The Europas Awards — Hottest HealthTech Startup
WINNER:
BIOS, creating the open standard hardware and software interface between the human nervous system and AI
Presented by Rafiq Hasan, Bayer Health

FINALISTS:
Ada Health: an AI-powered health platform
eQuoo: evidence based mental health game for young adults
Lumeon: providing care pathway management solutions to the healthcare industry
Natural Cycles: a digital contraceptive app
Pregenerate: “cartilage-on-a- chip” to accelerate drug development for arthritis
Siilo: secure messenger app for medical teams
Straight Teeth Direct: Direct to consumer teledentistry platform that connects users to online dentists globally enabling low cost at home teeth straightening

The Europas Awards — Hottest MadTech (MarTech or AdTech) Startup
WINNERS:
Ometria: a customer insight and marketing automation platform
Videesha Bockle, signals Venture Capital

FINALISTS:
Codec: AI-powered audience intelligence for brands
MeasureMatch: find, book, pay & rate independent consultants or consultancies to accelerate marketing, commerce & customer experience capabilities
PlanSnap: a social planning platform that gets friends together
StreetBees: Connecting brands with real people on the ground to gather real time insights
Uberall: location marketing cloud
Vidsy: helps brands create original mobile video ads at scale
Waive: an intelligent trend spotting platform

The Europas Awards — Hottest Mobility Travel Tech Startup
WINNER:
Voi Scooters: owns, operates, and manages electric scooters for urban commuters
Joelle Hadfield, HelloFresh

FINALISTS:
Culture Trip: inspiring people to explore the world’s culture and creativity
daytrip: platform connecting independent travelers with local drivers
Dott: scooter startup
minicabit: an online minicab and taxi price comparison and booking service
Snap Travel: on-demand coach service
Trafi: Mobility solutions for connected cities
Wejo: unlocks the value in car data to help create smarter, safer, better and greener journeys for drivers globally

The Europas Awards — Hottest PropTech Startup
WINNER:
NPlan: machine learning – based risk analysis for construction projects
Simon Calver, BFG

FINALISTS:
Casavo: market maker within the residential real estate market
Good Monday: a digital office management system
Habito: digital mortgage broker
Home Made: property tech rental agent
Hubble: online marketplace for office space
Mews Systems: property management software for hospitality operations
Planner 5D: 3D home design tool using AI, VR & AR to create floorplans and interior design
Reposit: tenancy deposit alternative
Urban Jungle: A fully digital insurer, for a new generation of customers

The Europas Awards — Hottest Retail / ECommerce Tech Startup
WINNER:
NearSt: building the world’s source of real-time local inventory
Presented by Audrey Soussan, Ventech

FINALISTS:
Festicket: marketplace to discover and book music festival tickets, accommodation, transfers and extras
Keep Warranty: app that saves the warranties and purchase slips of your appliances
Picnic: online supermarket, that delivers groceries for the lowest price to people’s home
Pimcore: digital experience platform to manage product information
Spryker Systems: a commerce technology company
store2be: Online marketplace for short-term retail and promotion space
Trouva: curated marketplace for bricks and mortar independent shops

The Europas Awards — Hottest B2B / SaaS Startup
WINNER:
Infobip: Full-stack Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS)
Sally MacDonald, Partner, CommsCo

FINALISTS:
Chattermill: Using deep learning to help organizations make sense of their customer experience
Dixa: conversational customer engagement software that connects brands with customers through real-time communication
Meero: On demand photography service combined with image processing artificial intelligence
Paddle: platform for all software companies to run and grow their business
Peakon: a platform for measuring and improving employee engagement
ProoV: a PoC platform that enables businesses to test new technologies
SeedLegals: platform for all the legals startups need to grow and get funded
TravelPerk: business travel booking & management platform for companies
Unbabel: a ‘translation-as-a-service’ platform, powered by AI and a worldwide community of translators

The Europas Awards — Hottest SpaceTech Startup
WINNER:
Open Cosmos: Simple and affordable space missions
Presented by Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Harwell

FINALISTS:
Aerial & Maritime: A Danish nanosatellite-based solution for monitoring aircrafts and maritime vessels
Aerospacelab: Develops a constellation of micro-satellites for earth observation and imagery
aXenic: Design, development and production of optical modulators for communications and sensing
Global Surface Intelligence: Environmental data service
Hawa Dawa: Combines proprietary IoT smart sensor data with other sources of data (including satellite data) to give highly accurate data on air quality
Monolith: Machine Learning Platform that helps engineers to predict the outcome of unknown, new tests or simulations by reusing historical data
Trik: Enterprise drone 3D mapping software for structural inspection
Unseenlabs – Unseenlabs designs and develops a spectrum surveillance payload
Xonaspace: Uses an XPS and LEO satellite constellation for extremely precise GPS systems

The Europas Awards — Hottest Tech for Good Startup
WINNER:
Beam: help a homeless person for the long-term by funding their employment training
Paula Schwarz, World Datanomic Forum

FINALISTS:
eWaterpay: Using mobile technology for the accountable collection of user fees to pay for the maintenance of water supply systems forever
Idka: a platform for private groups and organizations, where they can connect, communicate, share and store anything – while their privacy remains intact
OmoLab: develops tools that make easier for people with dyslexia to read
SafetoNet: an app that protects children online by using AI to detect harmful content, whilst respecting children’s privacy
Tick. Done.: a micro-video platform for instant knowledge sharing
Winnow: digital tools to help chefs run more profitable, sustainable kitchen

The Europas Awards — Hottest Blockchain Project
WINNER:
Argent: a smart wallet for cryptocurrencies and blockchain applications

FINALISTS:
Aeternity: a scalable blockchain platform that enables high-speed transacting, purely-functional smart contracts
AZTEC Protocol: building privacy technology for public blockchain infrastructures
Colendi: decentralized credit scoring protocol and microcredit platform with blockchain and machine learning technologies
Edge ESports: blockchain-based platform for professional gamers
FilmChain: blockchain enabled platform that collects data, verifies revenues and executes stakeholder payment splits for film, TV etc
Orbs: a blockchain Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for large scale consumer applications
Veratrak: a shared workspace for collaborating with your supply chain partners

The Europas Awards — Hottest Blockchain Investor
WINNER:
Outlier Ventures: invests and partners with tokenised communities that will create the new decentralised economy
Presented by Kaisa Ruusalepp, Funderbeam

FINALISTS:
BlueYard Capital
Catagonia Capital
Earlybird Venture Capital
Fabric Ventures: A venture capital firm that invests in scalable decentralized networks
FinLab
KR1: crypto token Investment company supporting early stage decentralised and open source blockchain projects
Mosaic Ventures

The Europas Awards — Hottest A/A+ Investors
WINNER:
Atomico
Presented by Madhuban Kumar, Metafused

FINALISTS:
Accel
Anthemis Group
Balderton Capital
DN Capital
EQT Ventures
Index Ventures
Northzone
Project A Ventures
Ventech Capital

The Europas Awards — Hottest Early-Stage / Accelerator Investors
WINNER:
Founders Factory
Presented by Jenny Judova, TechHub

FINALISTS:
Seedcamp
Forward Partners
Generation S
Entrepreneur First
Techstars London
The Family
7percent Ventures
Backed VC
Firstminute Capital
LocalGlobe
Episode 1 Ventures

The Europas Awards — Hall of Fame
This category recognises a person who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to enhance the tech ecoosystem not just for themselves but for others.
WINNER:
Brent Hoberman of Founders Factory, Founders Forum, Firstminute Capital, Lastminute.com and many other initiatives for startups and entrepreneurs

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/01/the-winners-of-the-europas-awards-2019-display-europes-continuing-diversity-and-ambition/

The rapper let fans pay for a 2014 album in the cryptocurrency. Now, its value has soared and the once bankrupt musician has made almost $8m

From bust to boom: how 50 Cent became an accidental bitcoin millionaire

The rapper let fans pay for a 2014 album in the cryptocurrency. Now, its value has soared and the once bankrupt musician has made almost $8m

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/shortcuts/2018/jan/24/from-bust-to-boom-how-50-cent-became-an-accidental-bitcoin-millionaire

YouTube, social media and even Bitcoin are allowing musicians to reject major labels and go it alone but the industry is fighting back. Can artists use technology to stay truly independent?

All the hits … Bugzy Malones video for Moving has been viewed almost 10m times on YouTube.

The guys are cool and massively helpful, he says of ADA. But theyre taking the lead from me and what it is that I want to do. They are there to back up the vision and be on the wagon that is already moving.

Yet record companies still profit from deals such as Bugzys and take a cut of artists earnings. Plus, their grip on companies offering services to independent artists is getting tighter. Sony Music now fully owns distribution firm The Orchard, while, on the label-services side, Warner Music owns ADA, Universal Music owns Caroline International and Kobalt owns AWAL (Artists Without a Label). All the record labels, major and indie, have an equity stake in Spotify.

But while the teeth marks of the old music business can be found in the emerging one, there are still ways acts can remain totally independent.

Benji Rogers set up direct-to-fan platform PledgeMusic in 2009 to allow acts to pre-sell, distribute and market their music. It turns out that direct communication makes the artist the most money, he says. Rogers is also an early investor in SuperPhone a supercharged communication and engagement tool built by musician Ryan Leslie, whereby all contacts and fans are managed through one phone number. He is not in the mainstream, says Rogers. He is literally the definition of independent.

Leslie was signed to Universal, but left to pursue a career where technology would give him the independence to create a new type of fan engagement that he felt the label system was too ossified to bend towards.

Selena Gomez has 128 million Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums, says Leslie of the fundamental disconnect between social media profile and sales, from where the idea for SuperPhone sprang. What I realised is that social media connections are very weak.

Selena
She has 128m Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums … Selena Gomez. Photograph: Chris Polk/Getty Images

In 2013, he gave his phone number to his Twitter followers to sign them up to SuperPhone. Within six months, 35,000 people had texted the number and, of that, 33,000 had responded to an automated request for more information about themselves. The following year, he went on tour and announced it to his fan database. We sold 40,000 tickets with no label, no manager and no PR, he says. All straight off SuperPhone.

After raising $75,000 in seed funding, he opened it up to all artists, including rappers such as Lil Wayne and Cardi B. They are all vetted in advance, so that they dont abuse the tools to spam fans, but rather use it carefully to maintain regular contact with them. Success, in any iteration, happens at the speed of communication, he says.

All this comes as a reaction against the three-card trick Facebook has played on users: if you have a million followers, at best 2% of your audience will stumble across your posts, unless you pay Facebook to boost them, according to research by Ogilvy.

Quick Guide

Five tips for staying independent in music

Think like an entrepreneur

Young aspiring artists are also aspiring entrepreneurs, says Ryan Leslie, suggesting they find at least five key contacts for every part of their career from lawyers and producers to video directors and graphic designers. The top five in each category will hopefully be the nucleus that will catapult your career.

Be a digital polymath

Its about making sure you are across as many platforms as possible and utilising all of them, suggests Luke Hood. No one wants to rely on one revenue stream.

Avoid sales tactics

Dont try and sell anything to people, even music, proposes Sephi Shapira. Just monetise the engagement with the consumer.

Own everything

Its one thing to license copyrights for a while, but its entirely another thing to give them up in perpetuity, says Tim Clark. It is the same thing with data.

Be outgoing even if you dont feel like it

You have to be tenacious, says Brian Message. If you are a bit of a shoegazer in your bedroom, it will be a lot tougher than being a gregarious personality who is driven.

Every artist you know is in some way, shape or form paying Facebook and Instagram to reach their fans, argues Rogers. What you get here is a sickness cycle. Would I build my business on Facebook? Hell, no! Because, in their business, I am the product. What is it giving me back?

In a similar vein, social app EscapeX was set up to decentralise social media and give artists new levels of autonomy by putting them, rather than the major social networks, in charge of their communities. The engagement economy is different, argues Sephi Shapira, the companys CEO. Its not really the amount of fans that you have; its how engaged you are and the spending power of your fans.

Thirteen-year-old Danielle Cohn a megastar on lip-sync video app Musical.ly, where she has more than 8 million followers recently signed up with EscapeX to take more control of her fanbase. In the app, she has a monthly subscription option, but Shapira says this only accounts for 10% of the money she makes there. The other 90% comes from fans paying to rocket themselves up the leaderboard to be in her top-three fans, where, according to the apps description, they will be guaranteed to be seen by Dani Cohn effectively buying their way into her line of vision.

The Faustian pact of these apps and social media platforms is that musicians get data about their fans in return, but become dependent on the service in question still being in business and relevant six months from now. As MySpace crumbled, artists made SoundCloud the main place to upload their music. But SoundCloud is teetering on the brink of insolvency, recently laying off 40% of its staff and raising emergency funding of $170m to stay afloat. If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools.

German
If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools … German songwriter Bibi Bourelly at a SoundCloud event. Photograph: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Musician and tech activist Mat Dryhurst believes, however, that a new wave of funding and technological disruption is brewing that will finally put artists in the driving seat moving them beyond apps and social media altogether and propping up their underground communities in perpetuity.

He laments a world in which platforms rise and fall based, not on a lack of demand, but on a lack of ability to return profits to a small group of venture capitalists. He argues that the cryptocurrency community the people behind online cash such as Bitcoin could create alternative to the ad-funded models beloved of Silicon Valley.

He suggests an ICO initial coin offering to fund a music hosting and sharing platform a kind of cryptocurrency IPO. It would allow for open-source utopian developers to raise significant amounts of money with an engaged user base and build something potentially revolutionary, he says.

Its best thought of as crowdowning we could distribute governance of these platforms to the people who care the most about them. In return for your contribution, you receive something of value that can be used within the ecosystem and also potentially a portion of ownership that gives you decision-making rights.

Royalties are possible under a cooperative model, like Resonate.iss proposed model for more equitable streaming payments. You could also make membership and uploading entirely free in return for contributing value in other ways to the platform. One artist making the first steps into this space is Bjork, whose new album, Utopia, can be purchased using various cryptocurrencies.

SuperPhone, EscapeX and ICO-powered platforms are early indicators of a self-sustaining 21st-century counterculture. In that world, artists own and control everything data, copyrights, fan relationships. For now, however, they are trapped, toggling between Tin Pan Alley and Silicon Valley.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/nov/22/we-could-build-something-revolutionary-how-tech-set-underground-music-free

Google Assistant takes on Amazon and Apple to be the ultimate digital butler

Alphabets flagship company unveiled smart speaker Google Home, which it says will let people turn on their lights and surf the web, among other things

Google has joined the war to be your digital butler.

Speaking to a packed amphitheater of developers here, Alphabets flagship company on Wednesday unveiled a hot-rodded personal assistant it says will let people control their homes, book movies, search the internet, ask follow-up questions about an Italian restaurant and sort through dog pictures using voice commands.

The salvo places Google in the middle of a contest among technology giants to build an artificial intelligence that hold consumers hands as they navigate the real world. Apple has Siri, Amazon.com has Alexa and Facebook has M.

Perhaps with an eye towards modern politics, Google declined to give its personal aide a gendered name. Rather, its calling it Google Assistant. Its main physical form is a small, white, buttonless speaker called Google Home. It looks similar to Amazons Echo, its own smart speaker powered by Alexa.

The difference, Google argues, is that given the companys 17 years of work cataloguing the internet and physical world, its assistant is smarter and better able to work with its email, messaging, mapping and photo apps. And since Google makes software for smartphones, smartwatches and old-fashioned computers, Google says people will be able to have one conversation with multiple machines.

Whoever gets there first, these firms plans make clear they envision a future where humans do less thinking when it comes to the small decisions that make up daily life.

Speaking on stage, Google CEO Sundar Pichai gave the example of asking his assistant what movie he and his wife should see. After being presented with a first set of choices, he added that he wants to bring the kids. He was then given the choice of three kids movies, including Disneys Jungle Book remake.

Is Jungle Book any good? the CEO asked. He was then given the movies score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Pichai, Googles new CEO after its recent restructuring under the holding company Alphabet, is a known artificial intelligence geek. Hes devoted huge amounts of resources to making machines think more like human beings and envisions far-out uses for the technology in the future. On Wednesday, he highlighted how Googles intelligence recently beat a world champion at Go, a Korean board game considered more difficult than chess.

In a video on stage, a suburban family went through its morning wakeup routine. The dad made French press coffee while telling Google to turn on the lights and start playing music in his kids rooms. The mom asked if my package had shipped. It did, Google said. The daughter asked for help with her Spanish homework.

On Wednesday, the company also announced designs for an updated virtual reality headset with a hand controller and a new messaging app, called Allo, that would also rely on Googles machine learning tools.

Google
Google CEO Sundar Pichai: We think of the Assistant as an ambient experience that expands across devices. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

We think of the Assistant as an ambient experience that expands across devices, Pichai said. Humans can achieve a lot more with the support of [artificial intelligence] assisting them.

The Google Home speaker will be available later this year, Google said. It didnt disclose pricing.

Companies such as Google have been tinkering with digital assistants for years, but no one has quite made all the pieces work together seamlessly yet. Amazon, for instance, doesnt have the same family of products as Google. Apples iPhone is ubiquitous, but its Siri, to date, has served as a cheeky voice-activated way to search the internet.

Its unclear if Google has figured that out either. In the video of the suburban family, Google vice-president of product management Mario Queiroz acknowledged it depicted what the company thought was possible eventually, maybe not for everyone today.

In the near term, Google said it is adding more of its machine learning technology to more everyday apps. It announced a new messaging app, called Allo, that offers more suggested responses based on what people are saying to each other. If you send your friend a picture of your dog, Allo might suggest you respond, nice Bernese mountain dog.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/18/google-home-assistant-amazon-echo-apple-siri