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Musings On Tech and Business News
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    The browser has always been a staple of the internet experience, providing a gateway to unlimited pieces of information in a visually-pleasing manner. While Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Google Chrome have often been bandied about as being the browser, there are a whole host of options with some tackling specific problems based on technology at the time. For instance, Flock emerged in 2005 as the "social browser", offering a take on how social networks could be integrated into the browser.

    In today's crowded marketplace, browser makers are jockeying for pole position, finding any leverage they can, be it faster load times, security and privacy, browser extensions, and more. Google boasts Chrome's speed, simplicity, and integration with its suite of tools while Microsoft touts its new Edge browser as the tool made for touchscreens and the way we compute. On the other hand, Mozilla's Firefox browser has earned a reputation for security and data protection. With the changing tide of technology now comes another take on the browser, one not banking on social networking, but rather voice assistants.

    Earlier this month, CNET reported on Mozilla's plan to explore the use of someone's voice to navigate the internet. The company had set up a meeting to investigate whether "browsing and consuming content with voice" was feasible. As the saying goes, it's still "early days" so it's unclear whether this tool will be available on the market, but there are some thoughts about why another browser is needed from Mozilla when Firefox is doing fairly well.

    The voice-powered internet age

    Called Scout, Mozilla's potential new browser would launch in a time when AI assistants are flooding the market, led by Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and to a certain degree Samsung's Bixby. There's no evidence to suggest that Scout will actually happen since right now all that we've heard is of an all-hands meeting that took place last week, but remember how browsers are adapting to the technology changes? Scout could be the first voice-powered internet browser, compatible not only with phones, tablets, laptops, and computers but perhaps also within smart televisions and maybe within connected devices themselves.

    Those with disabilities may benefit from voice-powered internet browsing such as those visually-impaired or have some other handicap. Improving browser accessibility certainly fits into the mission of Mozilla's foundation, which lists making the internet a "global public resource that is open and accessible to all."

    It's probably best to view Mozilla's Scout browser as merely a proof-of-concept, something that'll allow it to test the company's theories about the adoption of voice commands within browsers to see if it's something that can be added to Firefox sometime in the future.

    What AI assistant?

    Be that as it may, slapping on voice commands isn't that simple because Mozilla will need to explore what kind of technology it'll need to use. Unlike its competitors, Mozilla doesn't have its own assistant, so will it partner up with Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft, or Google -- or will it spend the time and resources to build its own, either via acquisition or maybe it's already working on something? In 2017, Mozilla started crowdsourcing an open-source AI initiative called Common Voice so that technology may prove useful.

    Mozilla has made a name for itself as a steward of security, data privacy, and open source, so selecting an AI assistant will require considerable thought. After all, many of the popular choices have found themselves caught up in privacy scandals as of late, and the companies making them have been scrutinized by Mozilla over privacy, related to their own browsers.

    While we may draw conclusions suggesting that Mozilla would tap its AI assistant to help us control connected devices in the home and all the helpful things often touted by smart technologies, the truth might be that Mozilla is only exploring the use of voice to simply navigate the internet, accessing web pages, doing searches, launching video chats, uploading photos, and more.

    Should voice technology come to Mozilla, be it through Firefox or a new standalone browser, one selling point for users might be that internet browsing has been made a bit easier, while another is that users can be sure that what they're telling their browser stays secure, unlike others where you really don't know who's listening.

    It's curious (not necessarily in a bad way) to see Mozilla explore voice-controlled internet browsing as competitors like Apple's Safari are moving in the direction of restoring user privacy. Whatever Mozilla does, fans will likely remain watchful to see how their data and information remains secure as their browsing experience becomes more interactive and convenient. Is there a balance that can be had between advanced features along with the bells and whistles that we find "sexy" versus feeling that we're not being spied on by corporations or third-parties?

    Hopefully Mozilla doesn't forget this.

    The post Speculating About Mozilla’s Upcoming Scout Browser App appeared first on My Two Cents.

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    A few years ago, companies clamored for solutions to help them capitalize on free media, the content people were producing on social media and voicing their support or displeasure about a particular product or brand. Tools were created that would help marketing managers and customer service agents communicate back to these influencers and many have since gone on to exits, like Buddy Media (Salesforce), Wildfire Interactive (Google), Eloqua (Oracle), Livefyre (Adobe), and Olapic (Monotype). On Tuesday, user-generated marketing service Chute joined its peers in being acquired with the purchaser being private-equity firm ESW Capital.

    Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Chute's technology will be a part of ESW's Ignite Technologies business.

    Founded by Ranvir Gujral, Greg Narain, and Gaurav Sharma in 2011, Chute helped companies tell more engaging narratives by leveraging what people posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. From photo walls, dynamic banners, e-commerce stores, ads, media rights tools, analytics, and eventually enterprise-level integrations with Salesforce, Chute developed tools it thought would become a platform that would help marketers finally make sense of the so-called "influencer". But as competitors came and went, what was the exit strategy for Chute? An Instagram partner, the fact that the Facebook-owned photo service cribbed its API certainly did Chute no favors, along with countless other third-party developers.

    Another stumbling block that the startup dealt with was the departure of Narain last year to start up a consultancy.

    Chute raised $16 million in total funding, with its last round coming in 2017. At the time, Gujral demurred about an acquisition, telling me in an interview: "We have always focused on the enterprise, but we have a small sales and marketing team. By leveraging our integrations with the incumbent providers, we believe we have a more seamless and cost-effective path to addressing the enterprise."

    In its release, ESW Capital stated Chute's marketing technology would become a fixture in its subsidiary Ignite Technologies, which already includes location-based data management tool Placeable, audience-based marketing optimization service ThinkVine, analytics tool FirstRain, and predictive lead scoring and profile management offering Infer.

    "With the Chute solution, there are synergies to be achieved across the entire Ignite solutions customer base, but we see an immediate benefit for our Ignite Placeable Pages customers, as Chute can quickly add a new level of visual richness to a company’s website," Ignite Technologies chief executive David Cushman remarked in a statement.

    One might think this would be a happy deal for Chute, but when you look at its competitors that have been acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars and how it's positioned in Ignite Technologies' release, it seems less than stellar. Ultimately, Ignite Technologies appears to be building a digital marketing platform that could rival that of Adobe, Salesforce, or perhaps Oracle.

    ESW Capital was founded in 1988 with a penchant for "buying, transforming, and running mature business software companies." One could posit that the firm wanted to save Chute, integrate its technology into an area it felt useful, and that's it. Other acquisitions it has made include Olive Software, ResponseTek, Mobilogy, Kayako, and Infer.

    "We're excited for the opportunity to enhance our core product solution as an Ignite Technologies company, as well as offer our customers expanded functionality provided by the entire Ignite Technologies suite of marketing tools," Gujral said in a canned statement.

    Investors in Chute included Y Combinator, Salesforce Ventures, Foundry Group, Freestyle Capital, Battery Ventures, U.S. Venture Partners, and several angel investors.

    The post User-Generated Marketing Service Chute Acquired by Private Equity Firm ESW Capital appeared first on My Two Cents.

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  • 08/03/18--15:14: Joining Team Flipboard
  • I have a compulsion where I’d like to be one of the first to share the news with others, either as a writer or a curator. It’s what drew me to first blog here, for (thanks to Brian Solis), then professionally for The Next Web and VentureBeat, along with joining social media and using apps like Pocket and Flipboard. While I’ve spent time writing about the news, I’m going to try my hand at something slightly different — taking an editorial approach and curating the news while helping readers find the signal from the noise.

    Starting next week, I’m joining Flipboard full-time as a technology editor. I had been working for Flipboard in a similar capacity since earlier this year, but after collaborating with the team, we decided that things were too perfect and opted to make it a more permanent thing.

    From user/observer to builder

    What makes Flipboard special for me is that I’ve been a long-time user of the platform. For those unfamiliar, it enables you to generate your own digital magazine based off of what you’re interested in, no matter how niche of a topic it is. You can go as broad as “technology” or granular as “artificial intelligence”, “cryptocurrency”, or “venture capital”. Think of it as creating a customized magazine rack you’d find at a newsstand on the street or in an airport kiosk.

    You could use Flipboard as a means to aggregate articles you’d want to read later, but I use it as a way to curate news that I think others would want to pay attention to. It started with my main magazine FYI which features all the important technology-focused news you may have missed throughout the day (e.g. funding, acquisitions, app updates, and breaking news). Magazines I've created focus on world events, U.S. news, business, media issues, blockchain, and long-form feature stories you’d typically read on Sunday mornings over coffee.

    Sure, I can share stories to Facebook, Twitter, and other social apps, but with the way I’m consuming news, I risk alienating people with things they may not care about. That’s why I turned to Flipboard as the mechanism for sharing everything I’m passionate about. What I enjoy about Flipboard is that it’s a functional bucket for everything I’m reading and think people should like and that it “gets” me — serving up articles it thinks I’m interested in.

    [caption id="attachment_6283" align="alignnone" width="5183"] Flipboard chief executive Mike McCue at the company's new office in Palo Alto, Calif. on May 12, 2016.[/caption]

    But I’m more than just an active user — I’ve spent time covering Flipboard as a reporter, interviewing executives there including CEO Mike McCue, building a rapport that has allowed me a closer look at what the company’s doing. All of this has influenced my decision to become an employee, hopefully allowing me to contribute in some way to the product and help make it even better.

    In an era where it’s easy to call something “fake news,” I view my mission at Flipboard at highlighting meaningful articles that convey the truth about what’s going on in the industry. If you’d like to know more about how the company views quality journalism, I recommend reading my interview with Mike McCue:

    We want it to be the go-to place for what you’re passionate about and show multiple perspectives from people that are just as passionate, if not more. We want people to get a full roundup of perspectives and then, if they want to see more, click-through.

    What will I be doing?

    Although Flipboard uses algorithms to show you articles you might be interested in, the company does have human curators to spotlight really important news. As an editor, my job is to do just that but specifically around technology, a subject I’m really obsessed with.

    Throughout the day, I’ll be curating important news around technology into a selection of magazines created by the company:

    1. Top Stories in Tech: Think of this as Techmeme, but instead of listing all the articles around a particular topic, we surface the one that’ll give you the most details around the news.
    2. Follow the Money: A collection of articles around funding, acquisitions, hirings/firings/layoffs, and more.
    3. Tech Podcasts: The latest episodes of your favorite tech-related podcasts, such as Recode Decode, Wired’s Gadget Lab, This Week in Startups, shows from the This Week in Tech network, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, CNET, GeekWire, The Wall Street Journal, and many others.
    4. Reviews: Want to know what critics are saying about the latest gadget or software? This is where we curate detailed reviews on phones, headphones, laptops, games, smart devices, and apps.
    5. Longreads: Looking for more detailed reporting or the latest expose in tech? This is the magazine for you.
    6. Breakthroughs: This magazine highlights frontier and moonshot technology news. Whether it’s rocket launches, advanced computing, biotechnology, or anything else — this is where you’ll find news about it.
    7. Strategy: As the name implies, this is non-news, but offers strategic perspectives for entrepreneurs and aficionados looking to step up their game.
    8. Opinions: This magazine curates opinions from influencers, thought leaders, and journalists, offering a perspective on the day’s news.

    Beyond the aforementioned magazines, I’ll also be curating news around special events too, such as Google I/O, WWDC, Mobile World Congress, and more.

    My hope is that I’ll also be able to work more closely with publishers to help produce quality magazines and build better relationships. If you’re an editor, social engagement manager, or writer interested in leveraging Flipboard, please reach out as I’d love to chat more about how we can work together. Whether it’s for a major conference (e.g. Code Conference or TechCrunch Disrupt), event (e.g. CES or SXSW), or you simply want to assemble one for special reports, then let’s talk.

    If you’ve written a great exclusive, feature, podcast, or story you think should be flipped into a tech magazine, feel free to send it my way (assuming I haven’t seen it) and I’d be happy to take a look.

    Non-journalists in tech: I would like to also hear from you about things you’d like to do on Flipboard and if you’re actively using the app, it would be great to know that too and get you more involved!

    Basically, please keep me up-to-date on all things tech because I want to know about it. :)

    Will you still be writing?

    I will not be writing for Flipboard — the company does not do original content, so please don’t pitch me to cover your news. If you do, please note that it’ll be for my own blog as a private citizen. I may flip the resulting article in my own Flipboard magazine, but that’s the extent of my involvement.

    That’s it for me! Happy flipping!

    The post Joining Team Flipboard appeared first on My Two Cents.

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    Whenever I'm motivated to take on a massive undertaking, be it a new adventure, traveling to another country, or anything work-related, I try not to take a half-ass approach to it, and this means educating myself on all possible avenues, obstacles, and angles. Whether talking to experts or extensively researching items online, I continue to dig through all the data I can find before determining that I've answered all my questions. This is a logical step that I'd imagine most, if not all, entrepreneurs will do as they start their businesses, but it seems that most of the information is largely distributed across sites and individuals.

    A signature feature in newspapers is the advice column, with one of the most well-known titled "Dear Abby". Each week, readers would have their pressing questions answered about life, be it about romance, family matters, work, society, relationships, finances, and more. In the business world, nothing like that really exists, especially coming from an expert. Don't get me wrong: there are a lot of credible people in the industry, but when it comes to understanding entrepreneurs and CEOs, some helpful filtering of answers is needed.

    Advice column for entrepreneurs

    That's where a new book titled "Dear Founder" plays a critical role in helping entrepreneurs build out their business. It doesn't matter whether you're in technology or not, this 352-page book provides sage and practical advice readers need to become leaders. And it's not filled with pithy philosophical quips, but actionable advice and covers subjects you wouldn't get from an entry-level book on entrepreneurship.

    "Dear Founder: Letters of advice for anyone who leads, manages, or wants to start a business" is co-written by Maynard Webb, an individual with a storied history in Silicon Valley. He was the former president and chief operating officer at eBay before taking over the helm of LiveOps as CEO before becoming its chairman. Besides authoring books, Webb is the co-founder of workplace mentoring startup Everwise and the founder of Webb Investment Network, not to mention that he sits on the boards of Salesforce, Visa, and Yahoo.

    Joining Webb is Carlye Adler who is an accomplished journalist and author, having contributed to books by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Andreessen Horowitz partner Ben Horowitz, Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane, and also Webb's previous book "Rebooting Work."

    While organized in a way that guides you through the process of building out your business, following that linear path is not scripture. Each chapter is framed as a letter Webb or a guest author pens in response to an inquiry he's received. As such, you should feel free to jump directly to the chapter of your choice and not risk missing out on the knowledge that might be buried in previous chapters, like other books. The structure reminds me "Ask GaryVee" in which Gary Vaynerchuk similarly responds to frequently asked questions about entrepreneurship.

    40-years of entrepreneurial advice

    Unlike Vaynerchuk's book, "Dear Founder" addresses the CEO and founder directly -- the person who has made a conscious decision to launch a business and wants to grow to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Marissa Mayer. While some entrepreneurship books often scratch the surface, Webb provides anecdotes from his time in the trenches, offering advice on things founders will likely have to deal with either in the beginning or over time. Let's take a look at some of the topics covered:

    • How to resolve co-founder disputes; when you need to recruit; hiring a rock star; setting your culture; dealing with diversity and inclusion; and onboarding executives.
    • What to do when no one will invest versus when everyone wants to; how to figure out your valuation; dealing with budgets and compensation; and what about philanthropy?
    • How to delegate as managers, dispensing responsibility, and establishing goals.
    • What should you do when your first hire leaves? How do you fire someone? What if no one is excited to work there? 
    • Overcoming personal challenges of leadership.
    • How should you handle new competitors, the press, and what if your idea isn't working?
    • Improving the company operationally to deal with scale; running an effective board meeting; and avoiding nasty surprises.
    • Quarterly goals.
    • How do you build a company that lasts for the next 100 years.

    Although primarily geared towards those in business, it doesn't matter whether you're a cook, janitor, architect, designer, developer, marketer, or a stay-at-home person. If you're interested in becoming a leader or perhaps run your own business at some point, then "Dear Founder" is a good starting point to be aware of what you're up against. Think of these letters as something that a father would pass down to their child, imparting wisdom so that they may see the same success as their parents have before them.

    Webb's perspective on entrepreneurship was refreshing as his vantage included both working for established Fortune 500 companies and also founding his own startup. Previous books I've reviewed offer a one-sided affair, that from the perspective of the founder. That's not to say it's bad, but the examples that Webb provides can further inform readers who have a desire to launch their own business. "Dear Founder" is a blend of Webb's 40-year work history, time as a board member, the trials he endured while at Yahoo, and as an investor managing a portfolio of companies. It's certain that he has amassed quite a bit of intelligence to share on the subject matter. 

    "Dear Founder" is now available for sale on Amazon and at your nearby bookstore. 

    The post ‘Dear Founder’ Is the Business World’s ‘Dear Abby’ That Entrepreneurs Should Read appeared first on My Two Cents.

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    Five years ago, it started off as something many people equated to being a Word processing app. Quip, started by former Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor and ex-Googler Kevin Gibbs, initially yet another standalone service that created documents in the cloud, joining a crowded marketplace filled with the likes of iA Writer, Google Docs, and Evernote. Beautifully designed and engineered for the mobile generation, this productivity and collaboration app still had much to do in order to stand out.

    Fast-forward to today, Quip is owned by Salesforce and has become an important part of the enterprise cloud computing provider's capabilities. What started off handling Word processing is now a legitimate threat to Microsoft Office 365's market dominance.

    "We're essentially trying to create the next-generation productivity tool. Essentially sort of the successor to Microsoft Office," Taylor explained to Recode in 2016. "The core thing that we try to do differently is build communication deeply into the product experience. So you don't need to go into email or go into chat to actually talk about what you're working on. So every document has an embedded chat thread and you can chat in and around the document. And our customers essentially use it to sort of move away from email and collaborate."

    Not a single solution app

    Facebook coined the phrase "Move Fast and Break Things", but Quip took a slightly antithetical route. It focused most of its efforts on collaboration features that would appeal to the modern workforce, such as working across the web, desktop, and especially on mobile. Quip also added team chat features and an integration with Slack. In 2014, a year after launching, the company eventually debuted its next offering: spreadsheets. Until then, much of the work was on perfecting features around productivity. It would take a few more years before the company would further encroach on Microsoft's territory with the launch of Slides.

    When Salesforce acquired Quip in 2016, things then moved quickly, enabling the once-known Word processing app to move quickly up the ranks and rival Google and its suite of workplace productivity tools. Quip opened up an app marketplace that enabled users to get more out of its collaboration software which was similar to what Google did earlier on. This decision was perhaps spurred by Taylor and Gibbs' experience at Facebook and Google, respectively, two companies which have a storied history with developer marketplaces. Just like Salesforce's AppExchange has seen success, and likely could through the MuleSoft acquisition, Quip's marketplace may also repeat results — we are nearly a year after Quip debuted its developer platform so we might expect some numbers at this year's Dreamforce conference.

    But the appeal of Quip rests with its Salesforce backing, creating a single business platform that should give Microsoft pause. Months after Salesforce's $750 million deal for Quip took place, Quip announced a slate of integrations including support for single sign-on and live data integrations.

    While easy to pass off these integrations as mere formalities (why wouldn't you have some tie-in with the company that now owns you?), Quip's actions foreshadowed a bigger move Salesforce was undertaking to reshape workplace productivity and collaboration. As I explained at the time, the first updates were about sharing data between the two applications:

    The first involves leveraging Quip’s Lightning component, meaning that any linking, accessing, and editing of documents, spreadsheets, and task lists can be made directly within Salesforce records...

    With the second feature, Quip now supports live data within documents and spreadsheets. Traditionally, users would have to copy and paste data, but now variables can be added to files that will dynamically pull in the corresponding data, so if anything changes within Salesforce, it’ll automatically be reflected within the document.

    Salesforce has a reputation for big moves in the enterprise space, starting from its very conception — moving software into the cloud. From being a major player in marketing and ad technology to customer service and support and even to continuing education, Salesforce sees itself adapting to the ways its customers are using technology, and likely wants to capitalize on not only helping people collaborate with team members, but get the most out of their Salesforce data without having to jump needlessly between different applications (e.g. Salesforce to Google Docs or even Office 365).

    Your moment of zen

    "Very few people write a memo in Microsoft Word and email it to someone. They just write an email," Taylor once remarked in a Recode interview. "Because I think the value of communication is more important than the features of a personal productivity tool. Like you'd rather give up fonts and footnotes to have the recipient be able to click reply and respond to what you wrote. So our premise was that rather than design around the authoring experience, design around communication exclusively."

    Ownership of Quip allows Salesforce to create its version of Microsoft Office, perhaps dreaming of the day when customers will appreciate not only having beautifully designed apps for the mobile generation, but also without the overwhelming buttons and features that many ignore in Office, and from which, the freedom to easily and quickly integrate their Salesforce data. IDC estimates in a company-commissioned study, that 3.3 million jobs will be created by 2022, all because of Salesforce. This creates an opportunity that the company isn't likely to ignore and that's to grab people's attention before they get enamored by Microsoft Office.

    Although it's early days for Quip, we're already seeing the prominence it's playing in shaping Salesforce's future — Taylor has risen up the ranks and become the organization's chief product officer, while Gibbs has assumed the mantle of Quip chief executive. The former's talent has even been highlighted by CNBC as having played a major role in the massive MuleSoft acquisition.

    The new Office of our time?

    As Salesforce continues to strengthen its suite of tools, it's feasible we'll see Quip's influence. Whether it's system-wide support for Quip's documents, spreadsheets, and slides, or collaboration schema incorporated into Salesforce's Lightning components, or branching into the AppExchange. And the roles could be reversed, with Salesforce bringing its breadth of technology into Quip, namely its Einstein AI offering. It's within the realm of possibility that Einstein could help users locate a Quip document without needing to search, identify Salesforce data to incorporate, what team members should be included, and more.

    "We would love to create applications that people love to use at work, whether it's spreadsheets, presentations, etc.," Taylor once told me in an interview. "Anything that [we] do is going to have a unique take on it with mobile and tablet in mind."

    Just as Microsoft Office has held dominance over the document space for decades, we're now seeing an era where standout platforms are moving to put their respective stakes in the ground. Salesforce has placed its faith in Quip to steer it in the direction of consumerizing its services while also adapting to the behaviors of those in the workplace, an important task as more sales, customer support, and data flows into the massive enterprise cloud computing platform.

    As Taylor explained to me once, Quip is "really focused on team as the atomic unit of productivity."

    The post Salesforce’s $750 Million Bet to Reimagine Productivity in the Modern Workforce appeared first on My Two Cents.