Archive for the ‘Money’ Category
Friday, May 17th, 2013
San Francisco, CA and Austin-TX-based MicroVentures, the only combined equity crowdfunding platform and broker-dealer in the US, announced says that accredited investors on their platform have invested $16 million in startups.
With investments in 34 companies, MicroVentures has now invested more with legal, accredited investors than any other equity based crowdfunding platform.
MicroVentures employs a crowd-sourcing process that enables the power of the crowd to decide which startups will receive investments in an effort to provide a higher probability of successful outcomes. Further, MicroVentures has a dedicated due diligence team that screens out companies that may have potential growth inhibiting challenges.
Tim Sullivan, CEO of MicroVentures, said, ”As we patiently wait for the SEC to enact rules around the JOBS Act, we are utilizing traditional securities laws to connect startups with great investors. This is only possible as a result of our being one of the only registered broker dealer in the space. This is the first time ever that accredited investors have had the ability to invest alongside VC’s without taking major stakes and ending up with similarly diversified portfolios. However, we may find that the crowd does an even better job at picking winners.”
He added, “We’ve reached a milestone that proves that our platform doesn’t just ‘work’ — but that there is significant demand from smaller investors to take part in this asset class.”
Invests in seed stage startups
MicroVentures’ platform invests primarily in seed stage startups, but will participate in follow on rounds alongside the VCs throughout the life of a company.
For example, visual book publishing platform Graphicly (www.graphicly.com) and rich media advertisement platform Republic Project (www.republicproject.com) have both received multiple investments from MicroVentures as they have continued to gain traction and required additional capital to accelerate their growth.
Other investments include SupplyHog (www.supplyhog.com), a Tennessee-based company that operates a platform that streamlines the process for buying building supplies and material online, along with Kickfolio (www.kickfolio.com), the first foreign management team, who have created a platform that enables developers to run iOS app demos in a standard web browser.
“Our platform has created the opportunity for our investors to invest in everything from seed stage startups to huge companies such as Twitter and Facebook through secondary transactions. We’re giving investors the chance to participate and the transparency to make decisions in a way they have traditionally never been able to,” said Sullivan.
Friday, May 17th, 2013
Pebble, maker of an e-paper smart watch that connects to iPhone and Android smartphones, received $15 million in Series A funding from Charles River Ventures. The funding will be used to grow the software engineering team, expand Pebble’s open development platform and scale to meet customer demand.
Pebble is a highly customizable device, enabling users to download watchapps ranging from creative watchfaces to activity tracker apps.
Pebble’s open approach to development is core to supporting a vast selection of apps that meet the unique needs and interests of users — or even enabling users to create something themselves. Pebble’s record-breaking launch on crowd funding site, Kickstarter, confirmed interest in this concept with over 68,000 backers pledging over $10 million to make Pebble a reality.
Personally, here at the TechJournal, we’re not big believers in the smart watch concept, but obviously, a whole lot of people are. We have enough trouble with the small screens on smartphones. Nevertheless, the idea appears to be catching on. We’ll see how they do in the marketplace.
“The tremendous response we received from Kickstarter backers validated our belief in the value of a smart watch as a wearable computer, but also in the value an open platform brings to truly personalizing the watch to their daily activities,” said Eric Migicovsky, Pebble’s founder.
“This new investment will help us build out the Pebble development ecosystem and deliver on Pebble’s extraordinary potential.”
Development kits available
The Pebble Smart Watch with a running app.
Pebble released the first stage of its open software development kit (SDK) in April by enabling third party developers to create watchfaces and games for Pebble. Pebble’s enthusiastic developer community immediately went to work and created hundreds of new watchfaces in just a few weeks.
Pebbler supported sites like mypebblefaces.com, forums.getpebble.com and watchface-generator.de are focal points of the growing community. Over 8,000 developers have downloaded the Pebble SDK, resulting in more than 5,000 unique watchapps and 300,000 watchapp installs in just over a month.
Today Pebble released the next stage of the platform enabling two-way communication between Pebble and the smartphone at developer.getpebble.com.
Known as PebbleKit, the update enables third parties to develop watchapps that send and receive information from a connected smartphone.
Watchapps can now be built to receive weather or traffic information, act as remote controls for a phone or internet-connected device, or display bitcoin prices. The Pebble platform will continue improving over the course of this year and into the future.
Also launching today is the Pebble Sports API. RunKeeper, a GPS fitness-tracking app, announcedsupport for Pebble two weeks ago and now that same functionality is available for integration into any sports or fitness tracker app. Other sports apps like FreeCaddie, a GPS golf rangefinder, have also released Pebble-enabled apps.
Pebble’s smart watches have begun shipping to Kickstarter backers and are now available for pre-order at getpebble.com.
Thursday, May 16th, 2013
BitPay Inc, the world’s leading payment processor for bitcoin, announces it has raised an additional $2 million in seed round financing led by Founders Fund, which includes three founders of PayPal.
“ECommerce companies see the tremendous value that frictionless international payments bring to their businesses as they expand into emerging markets.
BitPay’s ambitions have been global from the outset, and at Founders Fund we have been impressed with the company’s tremendous growth as they sign up hundreds of new customers a day, turning the potential for opportunity into a reality,” said Brian Singerman a Partner at Founders Fund.
BitPay’s co-founder and co-CEO, Stephen Pair, who spoke at TechMedia’s recent Digital Summit in Atlanta, talked to us about Bitcoin in an interview ahead of the event.
Existing shareholders all aboard
Also joining this round is Max Keiser’s fund Heisenberg Capital, a London-based fund focused on bitcoin companies. The terms of the seed round were not disclosed, although 100% of the existing seed shareholders exercised their pro rata rights to maintain their ownership percentage in BitPay.
“We were not looking to raise any capital until later this year, but we could not ignore the opportunity to have Founders Fund involved with BitPay,” says Tony Gallippi, co-founder and CEO of BitPay. “There’s no single investment firm we would rather have on our team right now than Founders Fund.”
Added 1,900 merchants
BitPay added over 1,900 new merchants during the month of April, and they continue to dominate the bitcoin payments space by signing up over 100 new merchants per day. Through BitPay’s service, around $5 million per month worth of bitcoins are spent on goods and services with merchants around the world.
Businesses selling electronics, precious metals, and other low-margin products over the internet are seeing a large increase in profitability by accepting bitcoin payments.
BitPay continues to hire Software Engineers for its Atlanta-based headquarters, with two positions open now for experienced node.js developers who are excited about bitcoin, as well as a Senior UX Designer. The company continues to add resources to product development and engineering of its world-leading bitcoin payment platform.
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Atlanta-based Kabbage Inc., the leading online provider of small businesses financing, announced today that it is the first company to exclusively leverage QuickBooks data to instantly approve and extend funding to small businesses.
This is a significant milestone for the company and marks a major expansion to serve all small businesses, regardless of whether they operate online or offline. Kabbage will now be able to provide its award-winning funding solution to more than four million QuickBooks small business customers, across retail, service, and manufacturing industries.
Kabbage Chairman Marc Gorlin tells the TechJournal, “”Kabbage is beyond excited to start helping offline businesses as we have their online counterparts over the past few years. Before long, we plan to be able to help all small businesses grow.”
Kathy Tsitovich, Director of Business Development for Intuit’s Small Business Group, sais, “Small businesses have long struggled with access to capital. As a company dedicated to helping small businesses succeed, we continually explore how to help them obtain fast and accessible funding options,” said
“We chose to work with Kabbage because we are impressed with the company’s ability to leverage QuickBooks data in real time through our Intuit Partner Platform, and deliver capital to small businesses in just minutes.”
Since launching two years ago, Kabbage has disrupted the traditional world of time-consuming and manual underwriting with its data-driven underwriting platform. The company has innovated rapidly by adding ecommerce, social media, payments, shipping and now QuickBooks accounting data to its Data Context Engine in order to underwrite small businesses instantly and deliver funding to them in minutes.
“Small businesses need partners that understand their business and can help them save time and money,” said Gorlin,
“We are incredibly proud to be the first to exclusively use QuickBooks data to make real-time decisions and deliver funding to businesses in minutes. We’ve been often asked when Kabbage would support the bricks and mortar counterparts to online businesses. That day has arrived. Today’s expansion dramatically accelerates Kabbage’s vision of democratizing access to capital for all small businesses. ”
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Companies located in more economically-troubled states provide a greater opportunity for investors than companies in other states according to new research by the University of Miami School of Business Administration.
You don’t often get solid investment advice from university studies, but this one seems to present a real opportunity.
The study reveals that investors in states with high unemployment and a relatively depressed housing sector tend to sell more stocks during these tough economic times, and because people invest disproportionately in companies close to home, the stock prices of firms in those states suffer disproportionately.
The research, to be published in the June issue of the Journal of Finance, finds that these firms underperform for a few successive quarters, providing a buying opportunity.
In fact, the study shows that a portfolio of stocks of companies headquartered in depressed states have an average monthly annualized return that is around 3 percent higher than a benchmark portfolio with similar stocks.
Stocks in booming states underperform
Similarly, stocks of firms in booming states (i.e., those with low unemployment and a strong housing sector) underperform compared to similar stocks.
“This research makes it clear that investors are missing out if they simply view the United States as one big economy,” said Alok Kumar , the Gabelli Asset Management Professor of Finance at the University of Miami School of Business Administration.
“The U.S. economy is actually a collection of 50 small economies connected like a web and investors should consider it as such,” added Kumar, who conducted the study with George Korniotis , an assistant professor of finance at the School of Business.
How they did the research
The researchers studied the performance of firms in booming and depressed states between 1978 and 2009. Specifically, they constructed a trading portfolio as follows: at the end of each quarter, they ranked all U.S. states based on their economic activity to determine which states were expanding and which states were contracting.
They then longed the stocks of companies in the three states with the worse economic outlook and shorted the stocks of companies in the three states with the best economic outlook.
They kept the portfolios’ composition constant over the quarter. Then, at the end of the quarter, they re-examined the economic performance of the states, determined which states were then the worst and best in terms of economic outlook and rebalanced the portfolio accordingly.
The researchers found that this trading portfolio with a holding period of a quarter earned 5 percent higher monthly annualized returns relative to a benchmark portfolio with similar stocks. This portfolio remained profitable when the holding period extended to 6 to 12 months.
“Advice for the average investor based on these findings would be to a) know that the location of a firm affects its performance; and then b) have your money manager diversify your portfolio geographically to guard against these vulnerabilities in your local economy,” said Korniotis.
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
By Allan Maurer
Stephen Pair will provide an overview of the Internet payment system bitcoin at the Atlanta Digital Summit May 14-15.
If you have been wondering what all the buzz about the Internet currency bitcoin might mean to your business, you can get up to speed at the Digital Summit in Atlanta next week. Stephen Pair, co-founder and CTO of BitPay, the leading processor for bitcoin, will provide an overview at the event, which is nearing a sell-out.
BitPay has processed over $5.2 million in bitcoin transactions for its merchants during the month of March, with over 5,100 completed invoices during the month. BitPay has also approved over 1,300 new merchant applications during the month of March, bringing their total number of approved merchants to over 4,500.
Pair has 20 years of experience building software systems in the financial and telecommunications industries.
Before founding BitPay, Mr. Pair held various roles including entrepreneur, architect, manager, team lead and developer. He started programming at a young age and spent much of his early career focused on languages, compilers, operating systems and virtual machines.
He’ll join more than 100 other digital thought-leaders and speakers from top brands such as Google, Twitter, AOL, Adobe, and many others at the Digital Summit May 14-15 in Atlanta.
Newer and better
Pair says of bitcoin, “Fundamentally it is newer and better software for conducting transactions.” It doesn’t require providing any personal or financial information that’s so attractive to thieves online. “There is no other method of payment over the Internet that doesn’t involve a bank, credit card or PayPal,” Pair notes.
Bitcoin has come under some scrutiny by potential regulars. Bart Chilton, one of five commissioners at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission told Reuters that he wants to make sure the bitcoin system isn’t “a house of cards.” Concerns include worries about the currency being used for untraceable illegal transactions.
Satoshi Nakamoto – which may be a pseudonym for a group of coders – created bitcoin in January 2009. He has since disappeared. Endgadget took a look at the rise of bitcoin here.
BitPay Raised $700K
Twelve-employee BitPay was founded in 2011 and the venture-backed firm raised a $700,000 seed round. “Our customers are merchants who want to accept bitcoin as payment,” Pair explains. BitPay charges a 1 percent transaction fee, lower than merchants pay for credit card transactions, where some pay more than 3 percent.
Customers are now even able to buy mobile gift cards using bitcoins and redeem them at over 50,000 physical retail locations across the USA including GAP, Lowes, Sephora, GameStop, American Eagle, Sports Authority, Nike, Marriott, Burger King, Fandango, Brookstone, and many more household brands.
Bitcoin also allows merchants and consumers to do business online in countries where it is impossible or difficult to do so via credit card transactions.
Money is information
Pair says to understand bitcoin, we need to step back and think about money in general. “Money is information,” he says. “Like other forms, it’s possible to send that information anywhere over the Internet.”
Unlike more traditional forms of currency, however, no central bank controls the supply of bitcoin and it’s not linked to gold, debt or other forms of backing.
“Bitcoin is backed only by its utility in conducting transactions,” Pair says. “It isn’t linked to a commodity, debt or anything else.”
Pair says many people critical of bitcoin may be looking at it from the wrong perspective. “They’re looking at it as a currency, but ignoring the utility it adds. That’s what will make it succeed or fail – how useful it is for things people need to do, such as international payments.”
You can get a fuller perspective when Pair discusses bitcoin at the Digital Summit next week.
Friday, May 3rd, 2013
SJF Ventures, which has offices in Durham, NC as well as in New York and San Francisco, conducted the final closing on its third fund with more than $90MM in capital commitments, tripling the size of the previous $28MM second fund.
The target for SJF Ventures III was $75MM and the fund was substantially oversubscribed at its final April closing. “We are honored that so many investors choose to join our partnership,” said David Kirkpatrick, SJF Managing Director and Co-Founder.
“We are particularly excited that a wide variety of bank, insurance, foundation, family office, pension, mutual fund, and individual investors have recognized that SJF’s impact investing strategy can yield above market financial and mission results.” SJF’s current, second fund is performing in the top quartile all US venture capital funds of its vintage year.
Invests in high growth companies
SJF Ventures invests in high growth, positive impact companies seeking expansion capital rounds of $1 million to $10 million.
SJF has invested in 36 portfolio companies over the last decade. “We realize SJF’s success is due to the exceptional results achieved by our portfolio companies such as Aseptia, BioSurplus, CleanScapes, Community Energy, eRecyclingCorps, Fieldview, Optoro, MediaMath, MedPage Today, and ServiceChannel,” said David Griest, SJF Managing Director. “We are eager to find the next set of great entrepreneurs for our third fund.”
SJF Ventures has a team of six senior investment professionals, based in offices in Durham, NC, New York and San Francisco, and invests nationwide. SJF has particular expertise and focus on the asset recovery, recycling & reverse logistics, energy & resource efficiency, intelligent infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and food, education, health and wellness sectors.
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Already faced with a changing regulatory landscape globally, the financial services sector may have yet another challenge: finding and keeping good employees. In a recent Robert Half study, nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) executives surveyed in seven countries reported recruiting difficulties, and 83 percent said they are concerned about losing top performers to other opportunities.
The survey was developed by Robert Half , the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on responses from 1,100 financial services executives, including finance directors, chief financial officers and chief operations officers, across seven countries: Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom andthe United States.
“While some areas within financial services institutions have seen cutbacks, other more profitable product lines are receiving further investment which has resulted in additional hiring,” said Neil Owen , global practice director of financial services recruitment for Robert Half . “This is creating challenges in finding the requisite staff to capitalize on emerging opportunities. Competition for the industry’s top talent continues to intensify for middle-office and support roles, particularly accounting and finance, as well as operations positions.”
Eighty-nine per cent of executives surveyed said it is very or somewhat difficult to find skilled financial services professionals today. Talent shortages are especially acute in Hong Kong, where 95% of respondents cited difficulties. Even in France, which had the lowest level of difficulty, 82% of executives reported recruiting challenges.
|When asked how challenging it is to find skilled financial services professionals
Added Owen, “Institutions around the world need staff who can manage fundamental business needs, drive profitability and ensure compliance mandates are met. Building a team with these skills has become increasingly difficult as firms face situations in which the demand for skilled professionals often outweighs the supply”.
Employers’ Retention Worries
With the hiring environment improving for financial services professionals who can fill roles in areas such as accounting and finance, operations support, revenue generation, and risk and compliance, employers around the globe are worried about losing their best and brightest to other opportunities. Eighty-three percent of financial services executives are at least somewhat concerned about their ability to hang on to top performers this year, the survey found.
The greatest worries appear to be in Hong Kong and Singapore, where 93% and 92% of respondents, respectively, cited concerns about losing good employees. In the seven countries surveyed, at least 76% of respondents expressed some level of concern.
|When asked how concerned they are about losing top performers
“A combination of factors, including heightened demand for skilled specialists in financial services, the growing need for regulatory expertise and operational changes taking place in the sector, may exacerbate current retention challenges,” Owen said. “Employers will need to focus on competitive compensation, progressive perks and rewarding career paths to keep their best people.”
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Although well-established venture capital hubs like California and New England are leaders in venture capital, regional hubs are playing an increasingly critical role as consistent drivers of venture-backed companies. In the Midwest,Michigan is on the rise as an investment hot spot and this infographic details the impact such activity will continue to have on job creation, revenue growth and industry development.
Organizers of the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS) unveiled a new infographic that demonstrates the factors driving Michigan’s growth as an investment hub.
You can view the infographic here: http://michigan-gcs.com/files/mgcs-infographic-2013.pdf
Monday, April 29th, 2013
The recession may have one long term result that isn’t so bad from a personal finance standpoint for many people. Post-recession consumers are focused on saving money when they shop, according to the results of a survey conducted by The Omnibus Company (http://www.omnibus.com) on behalf of RetailMeNot.
It says consumers are nearly unanimous (93%) in the belief that saving money in their everyday lives is important. The survey also found that more than 6 in 10 respondents (61%) are saving about the same or more money per month than they were five years ago.
“Consumers are emerging from the Recession of 2008 having learned a valuable lesson, that saving money is a good thing,” says Trae Bodge, senior editor for RetailMeNot.
“Gone are the days of racking up our credit card bills with retail therapy and shopping with abandon. Today’s consumers have higher expectations for what they can do with their hard-earned paychecks. They also want more for their money and are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure that they get it.”
Shopping behaviors and attitudes
Compared with five years ago, nearly half of respondents are spending less on meals at restaurants (49%), expensive groceries (44%) and new clothes (46%).
Reliance on discounts is stronger today, with more than half (51%) of consumers who use coupons stating that they use them more than they did five years ago and 37% stating that they use coupons more than they did a year ago.
A majority of respondents (74%) state that economic factors contributed to their increase in coupon usage over the last five years, either because their personal finances declined (43%) or because the recession made them more conscious about the importance of saving (31%). Additionally, 23 percent of respondents indicate that they use coupons more now because technology makes it easier to find and use them.
Overall, the perception of couponing is positive, as indicated by nearly 6 in 10 respondents considering people who use coupons to be “savvy” (59%) versus “cheap” (9%). In fact, 71 percent of respondents would consider using a coupon on a date and wouldn’t try to hide it!
“Today’s consumer is informed and discerning in their spending behaviors,” adds Bodge. “Couponing as a necessity gave people a taste for savings, and consumers will continue to look for ways to get more for their money.”
Credit Card Usage
Survey respondents who use credit cards report having an average of three major credit cards. While 43 percent are more likely to carry a balance on their credit cards than pay off the entire amount at the end of each month, a majority (71%) of this group typically carries a balance under $1,000.
Cash back rewards is the most popular credit card incentive (54%).
Almost half (48%) of survey respondents save and/or invest their money in low interest savings or money market accounts at a bank, and more than one-third (34%) invest in a personal retirement account, such as a 401(k) or IRA.
Interest in commodities like gold and silver is limited—as only 6 percent of U.S. residents surveyed are actively investing in these commodities.
It’s important to note that only 10% of parents surveyed are saving for their children’s future education through a 529 plan or college-focused savings plan.
Financial Literacy Education
As part of an ongoing commitment to educating and empowering a smarter consumer, RetailMeNot is proud to announce that it will continue its partnership with financial literacy nonprofit Junior Achievement USA.
Junior Achievement USA will continue to serve as a regular contributor to the Savings Campaign section of RetailMeNot’s online magazine, The Real Deal by RetailMeNot, delivering insights on topics relating to youth financial literacy and family finances.
“From sponsoring fundraising events to developing a couponing curriculum to teach savings principles, RetailMeNot has served as a valuable partner in supporting Junior Achievement’s financial education and empowerment programs,” said Dave Swincher , president of Junior Achievement of Central Texas. “We’re excited to continue contributing to RetailMeNot’s Savings Campaign, sharing practical advice and insights to inform a financially healthier consumer.”
Friday, April 26th, 2013
UpTech, Northern Kentucky’s super business accelerator has opened the application process for UpTech II and seeks startups who will receive $50,000 in equity as part of the program.
Launched in 2012, the intense, six-month accelerator program is designed to attract and accelerate entrepreneurs who have the next big idea to make the world a better place.
As Tri-ED, Vision 2015 and Northern Kentucky University (NKU) continue their effort to build an informatics industry in Northern Kentucky, NKU will continue to support the community’s business start-up effort that began in UpTech I.
Working with N. Kentucky U
UpTech will work with Northern Kentucky University to engage faculty-guided students who will use their talents to support selected UpTech company projects.
”This will include student developers from the Center for Applied Informatics as well as students drawn from several programs in the College of Informatics and College of Business, helping these early stage UpTech companies build a business from the ground up.
Additionally, UpTech will provide each business with an equity investment of $50,000, six months of free, premium office space, an executive mentor, along with a dedicated team of essential business professionals providing financial, law, accounting, sales and marketing/public relations support. Additional follow-on funds will be awarded to successful companies after the program has concluded.
Informatics is the “sweet spot”
“UpTech’s ‘sweet spot’ is the Informatics sector but we are interested in investing in BIG IDEAS that disrupt the way we do business or see the world. We are excited to launch our second round,” said Amanda Greenwell, Program Manager. “Interested applicants are invited to participate in one of our webinar events for additional information about our program and the application process.”
Prospective applicants can register for the webinar sessions by visiting www.uptechideas.org.
Sessions will be held at noon EDT on the following days:
Tuesday, April 30th
Thursday, May 2nd
Tuesday, May 7th
Friday, May 10th
Tuesday May 14th
Thursday, May 16th
Monday, May 20th
Wednesday, May 22nd
Thursday, May 23rd
More information on applying for UpTech II can be also found on the UpTech website at www.uptechideas.org. The first round applications will be due by May 24, 2013 with UpTech II companies announced in July 2013.
Friday, April 26th, 2013
SBIR Source has released GrantIQ, a powerful new tool providing competitive advantage for startups and small tech companies seeking R&D grants through the Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. GrantIQ provides insights on more than $200MM in funding opportunities across 140 topics.
“GrantIQ overlays proprietary competitive and sponsor intelligence on top of a searchable index of open R&D funding opportunities,” explained Dr. Chris Jones, experienced SBIR program participant and Co-Founder/President of SBIR Source.
“Our extensive database of SBIR awards and participants allows us to provide critical background information to grant applicants. Companies use this information to write better proposals: leveling the playing field in the increasingly competitive SBIR program,” Jones added.
Comprehensive tracking of awards
For 30 years, the SBIR program has driven new business creation and industry-changing technology development. Annually, this program provides over $2.5BN in non-dilutive funding – available exclusively to small, high-tech companies – aiming to commercialize innovative technologies to meet national needs.
The SBIR Source platform provides comprehensive tracking of SBIR awards, participants, sponsors, and trends.
Max Versace, CEO of Neurala, said, “We have been leveraging SBIR Source’s extensive tracking of funding awards and participants to gain valuable insights into the SBIR program. GrantIQ enables us to write more targeted proposals by better understanding the needs of the sponsor and background of the potential competition.”
GrantIQ includes the Department of Defense funding solicitation data released April 24th. Plans include adding all other open funding opportunities from participating Federal Agencies. GrantIQ is available for limited free trials and unlimited access through paid subscriptions.
Friday, April 26th, 2013
Financial incentives and mobile-based financial-management tools could increase consumers’ use of smartphones as payment devices, according to an Accenture (NYSE: ACN) survey of 4,000 smartphone users in the United States and Canada.
More than half of respondents who currently use their smartphones to make payments said they were highly likely to pay by phone more often if they could use their phone to track receipts (cited by 60 percent of respondents), manage their personal finances (56 percent), or show proof of insurance (56 percent) or of a valid driver’s license (54 percent).
Rewards consumers want
In addition, more than half of those who currently make mobile payments also said they were highly likely to pay by phone more often if they were offered: instant coupons from retailers when buying by phone (cited by 60 percent of respondents); reward points stored on their phone for future purchases at the store (51 percent); coupons that could be automatically stored on their phone (50 percent); or preferential treatment, such as priority customer service (50 percent).
The same value-added tools and incentives could increase the adoption of mobile payments among non-users. For instance, about one in three non-users said they would be more likely to use mobile payments if they could use their phones as proof of insurance or to track receipts (each cited by 32 percent of respondents).
And about one in five non-users said that they would be more likely to use mobile payments if they received a preferential treatment at retailers or coupons for future purchase that could be stored on their phones (cited by 21 and 20 percent of respondents, respectively).
“Our survey reveals that current users and non-users alike can be incentivized to use their smartphones to make mobile payments through rewards for usage or other value-added tools such as receipt tracking,” said Jim Bailey, managing director and head ofAccenture Payment Services in North America.
“As consumers expect their smartphones to improve and simplify their lives, financial institutions, merchants, mobile network operators and technology providers should consider incorporating new mobile payment applications to encourage broad adoption as quickly as possible.”
Security concerns greatest barrier
The survey also found that security concerns are the greatest barrier to consumer adoption of mobile payments, with 60 percent of respondents who do not use their smartphones for mobile payments citing security concerns as a reason for not doing so. Privacy issues and the convenience of using cash, checks or credit cards were the next-most-mentioned reasons, each cited by 37 percent of respondents.
“While the industry is preoccupied with the technology roll-out for mobile payments, we found that consumers are still very concerned about security and privacy issues,” said Matthew Friend, managing director, Accenture Payment Services, North America.
“In addition, a significant number still don’t see the convenience and value of using their phones to make payments. For mobile payments to achieve widespread adoption, consumers must be educated about the fact that mobile payments are secure and more convenient than other payment options. While persuading current users to become more regular users is clearly important, getting people to use this technology in the first place is the biggest challenge the industry faces.”
Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
In the current financial climate, new high-tech businesses rely more than other firms on outside loans and investments, while non-technology businesses owned by African Americans, Latinos, and women simply operate on less capital, says a report issued today by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy.
The report, called Access to Capital among Young Firms, Minority-owned Firms, Women-owned Firms, and High-tech Firms looks at how the changing financial environment affects new firms.
“We know that startup businesses with access to financing drive innovation, job creation, and economic growth,” said Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy.
“Policies that help close the financing gaps for minorities and women and for high-tech startups will benefit the whole economy.”
Minority firms rely more on their own funds
The author, Alicia Robb , finds that minority firms in particular rely more on their own funds—and have less capital to start up and grow. High-tech businesses that rely on patents, copyrights, and trademarks also faced bank financing hurdles, possibly because their products rely on knowledge, which is harder for banks to assess than physical assets.
The report uses data from the Kauffman Firm Survey to look at new businesses’ access to capital during the 2004-2010 period.
African American and Latino owners of young firms are less likely than others with similar credit scores to have access to bank financing. During the financial crisis, women and minority owners of new startups were less likely to apply for credit, fearing loan denial.
The Office of Advocacy, an independent office that serves as the voice for small business within the federal government, sponsored the report. The full report is available on the Office of Advocacy website at http://www.sba.gov/advocacy/7540.
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Despite recent stock market highs, individual investors remain very risk-averse. More than three in four Americans (76%) say they are not more inclined to invest in the stock market with interest rates on savings accounts and CDs at record lows, according to new research from Bankrate.com (NYSE: RATE).
That is the same percentage Bankrate.com measured at this time last year. The percentage of people who are more inclined to invest in stocks increased slightly this year (to 22% from 18%), but that is a negligible change considering the poll’s 3.7% margin of error.
“Although the Fed is trying to push investors into riskier assets in pursuit of better returns, individual investors aren’t biting,” saidGreg McBride , CFA, Bankrate.com’s senior financial analyst.
Of course, this study doesn’t include those already heavily involved in the market. Personally, we’re more inclined to invest in stocks while it continues to rise.
Consumers feeling a little better
Bankrate.com also announced its latest Financial Security Index results. The Index dipped from 101.5 in March to 100.4 in April, but still indicates that consumers are feeling better about their financial security relative to 12 months ago (any figure above 100 illustrates improved financial security). This is only the fourth time in the 29 months since its inception that the Index has registered in positive territory.
“Even disappointing job growth in March wasn’t enough to shake Americans’ upbeat feelings of financial security relative to one year ago,” McBride added.
Americans feel less secure than last year in only one of the Financial Security Index’s five components: savings. Those who feel less comfortable with their current savings outnumber those who feel more comfortable by a ratio of greater than two to one.
They see progress in key areas
Consumers feel they have progressed over the past year in each of the other four components: job security, debt, net worth and overall financial situation. Sentiment regarding savings, debt, net worth and overall financial situation remains correlated with income.
Lower-income households possess the most downbeat levels of security while higher-income households are either the most likely to be upbeat or the least likely to be negative. Not surprisingly, lower-income households are also the least inclined to invest in the stock market due to low interest rates.
The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) and can be seen in its entirety here:
Friday, April 19th, 2013
Here’s yet another way to raise money via the crowdfunding meme.
Crowdtilt , the simple-to-use platform to pool money online,has closed a$12 million Series A funding. Launched in February 2012, San Francisco-based Crowdtilt is a simple way for groups to pool money online.
The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Sean Parker, SV Angel, DCM, as well as CrunchFund, Alexis Ohanian, Elad Gil, Naval Ravikant, Sam Altman, Matt Mullenweg, Dave Morin and Justin Kan. Also joining Crowdtilt’s board of directors is Jeff Jordan, partner at Andreessen Horowitz and former CEO of OpenTable.
The investment will support the explosive growth of the company, while further improving the product and user experience.
Fantasy football to community fund-raisers
Crowdtilt is being used for everything from collecting money for a fantasy football league among friends, all the way to an entire community rallying together to save their iconic toy store from closure.
Crowdtilt’s API, currently in closed beta, also allows anyone to create their own crowdfunding application, such as group payments, pre-sales commerce options, complete standalone crowdfunding applications or even social fundraising sites.
“Manual processes for coordinating payments across groups is inefficient and increasingly obsolete. Crowdtilt has built a highly efficient platform that is being used by all kinds of groups for all kinds of use cases — buying movie or concert tickets, collaborating on gift or travel spending, even funding school programs or public works projects. It is a robust collaborative payments platform for an increasingly collaborative web,” said Jeff Jordan, partner at Andreessen Horowitz.
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
San Francisco-based The Hunt, the first community-driven online shopping experience that makes social media photos shoppable, closed its second close of seed financing from a series of high profile investors.
It did not disclose the amount raised.
We have to admit, this one sounds like a capital idea and people with money to invest seem to agree.
Among the group are Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s AGR-ade Investments, Rohan Oza (who made Vitamin Water and Pop Chips household brands), RedOne (the Grammy-winning producer behind Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez ), Keli Lee (EVP of Casting for ABC Entertainment Group), Anjula Acharia-Bath (CEO of Desi Hits) and Michael Banks (noted media investor). Today’s funding brings the company’s total seed round to $2.7M.
The company has gained high profile investors based on its unique approach to solving online shoppers number one pain point – where to find the products seen in tens of millions of images shared on blogs, photo apps and social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.
One million monthly uniques
Following its public launch in January, The Hunt has grown to one million monthly unique visitors and hundreds of thousands of active members that have started over 100,000 hunts and found over 200,000 products for each other.
For AGR-ade, investing in The Hunt underscores its focus on identifying technology-driven companies that are addressing a consumer need and are doing so with flawless execution.
Already one of the most active and experienced investors in social commerce, AGR-ade’s investment in The Hunt is based on the large market opportunity they foresee and their own identification with the shopping pain point the site is solving.
Making images shoppable
As time spent online and mobile rapidly shifts to sites and apps with the most visually appealing images, the nature of how consumers discover the styles they want to wear and buy is also changing.
While the visual web provides for limitless discovery and inspiration, it creates a new problem, which is the impossibility of translating the discovery of a trend or style from a user generated photo into a set of products that match the look and your budget.
The Hunt provides the ideal community to achieve this by making millions of online images shoppable and by enabling its members to provide styling advice to each other.
The site also provides a social shopping experience, allowing consumers to find and buy products based on suggestions from others, in real time and at a scale that only the Internet can afford.
This round of funding will bolster the company’s engineering team, support marketing efforts, and provide the necessary runway for continued company growth.
Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Angel investing trends remained stable in 2012, with valuations and round sizes consistent with prior years, according to The Angel Resource Institute (ARI),Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and CB Insights in the 2012 Halo Report, a national survey of angel group investment activity.
The report shows angel investing for the year was stable with prior years. Pre money valuations for early-stage companies remained steady at $2.5M and round sizes were relatively consistent.
The sectors and geographies getting funding are shifting, however, most notably with mobile and telecom companies gaining share of angel investment deals and dollars, while healthcare companies are losing share of angel investments. Companies in the Northwest and the Southwest US are gaining ground on the number of deals and total investments they receive over companies in California and New England.
This infographic details the report’s findings:
Angels playing important role
“Angel investors continue to play an important role in funding startups,” said Rob Wiltbank, Vice Chairman of Research, Angel Resource Institute.
“The steady valuation, growth in investment size, and wide geographic activity among angel investors is more evidence that angels are a reliable and a critical part of growing the next generation of great new companies in this country.”
One new company in the mobile sector benefitting from angel investment is GlobeSherpa, based in Portland, Oregon. “We are entirely angel funded,” said Nat Parker, CEO of GlobeSherpa, a mobile ticketing software company.
“We are disrupting legacy payment systems and ticket machines with extremely convenient mobile tickets that consumers can purchase and use with their smart phones. In the process we’re helping transit systems save millions of dollars and we are able to do this on the backs of our angel investors who put their trust in us.”
Halo Report 2012 Highlights: (View Infographic)
Median angel round sizes hit a five quarter high at $690K in Q4 2012 for the second quarter in a row, and ended the year at $600K, down from $625K in 2011 and up from $500K in 2010. When angel groups co-invest with other types of investors, the median round size is higher at $1.5M.
Pre-money valuations in early stage companies remain steady at $2.5M for both 2012 and 2011.
Mobile and telecom companies gained share of angel investment deals and dollars in 2012, responsible for 13% of all investment deals and receiving 14% of angel group dollars, which was more than double its share in 2011. Internet and healthcare companies still receive more than half of angel group investments, although healthcare investments dropped significantly to 27% share in 2012 from 35% share in 2011.
Sixty three percent of companies that received angel group investment had revenue and 44% were follow-on rounds, as opposed to new investments.
Most Active Angel Groups 2012 – Deals
||New York Angels
||New York, NY
||Tech Coast Angels
||Launchpad Venture Group
||Central Texas Angel Network
||New York, NY; Boston, MA; San Francisco, CA
|6 / New
||Sand Hill Angels
||Alliance of Angels
Companies in the Northwest and Southwest regions of the US grew their share of both angel deals and dollars over 2011. California and New England continue to see the majority of deals and investments, yet 69% of angel investment deals are done outside those regions. Share of investments in California companies dropped to 23% share in 2012 from 31% in 2011. Investments in New York remained flat.
Additional data in report
The Halo Report includes aggregate analysis of investment activity by angels and angel groups and highlights trends in round sizes, location and industry preferences. The data is collected via survey and aggregation of public data using CB Insights innovative data analyses.
The 2012 Halo Report data is based on 783 deals totaling $1.1 billion dollars invested. The transaction details are available in the CB Insights subscription database for users to review and analyze themselves. Academics may also access some of the data through ARI.
Angel groups and individual angel investors interested in including their data in the Halo Report should contact Sarah Dickey, ARI Research Director, for details. She can be reached at 913-894-4700 and firstname.lastname@example.org.