Snap reportedly acquired augmented reality startup Cimagine Media for up to $40 million

Snapchat


Snap has reportedly made an investment in augmented reality, purchasing Israeli-based startup Cimagine Media in a deal that’s said to be worth between $ 30 million and $ 40 million.

Originally reported by Calcalist News, this acquisition will provide Snap with a development center in the Middle East, one that will eventually house more than the 20 people currently working at Cimagine Media.

Founded four years ago, Cimagine specializes in computer vision, real-time image processing, mobile development, international marketing, and more. All of these areas are obviously compelling for Snap, whose Snapchat app is heavily reliant on augmented reality and the like. But Cimagine also brings to the table a focus on commerce, and as Snap looks toward going public, perhaps sometime next year, facilitating shopping through Snapchat might open up additional revenue opportunities.

Cimagine already has partnerships with Shop Direct, John Lewis, and Coca-Cola, and it’s aiming to help more retailers tap into the potential of augmented reality. Snap itself may want to eventually strike partnerships with big box retailers and department stores to accelerate engagement and time spent on its site. And merchants may want additional advertising opportunities, so the potential that Cimagine’s technology and team could bring to bear may be enticing.

Or perhaps Cimagine’s team will support Snap in laying objects over photos and videos captured through Snapchat.

Should an IPO be in Snap’s future, it needs to remain one step ahead of Facebook, which has been rapidly copying features from Snapchat. Investors are looking for real market leadership, so Snap’s acquisition of camera technology, especially around augmented reality, could give it a bit of a leg up.

Prior to the acquisition, Cimagine had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Explore. Dream. Discover, iVentures Asia Ltd., OurCrowd, and PLUS Ventures. This would be Snap’s second acquisition his month — the company also purchased Flite to integrate its ad technology into Snap’s offering. In fact, this year has been a busy one for the ephemeral camera technology company, as it has already made a total of four known buys, including the $ 110 million deal for Vurb, the purchase of Obvious Engineering (also known as Seene), and the $ 100 million it dished out for Bitstrips.

Although the Cimagine deal was reported by Calcalist News, no official word has been released — to be honest, Snap tends to be secretive about its acquisitions. We’ve reached out to Snap and Cimagine Media and will update if we hear back.

Social – VentureBeat

Stanford students are using lean startup principles to help fight ISIS

Thousands of foreign fighters went to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.


The ISIS beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The radicalization of San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The Orlando nightclub massacre. Social media, encrypted messages, or online propaganda from ISIS played a role in these horrific events and countless others like them.

Yet Silicon Valley’s approach to combatting ISIS might be compared to a game of whack-a-mole at best, largely a top-down affair. Terrorists use services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to publish extremist propaganda and recruit followers. The tech companies, in turn, shut down the terrorists’ accounts only to have them spring up again.

But this fall, a group of five Stanford graduate students devised a promising, bottom-up approach to prevent the radicalization of Americans to ISIS. They developed their solution — called FAVE (for Friends and Families Against Violent Extremism) — using lean startup principles to identify those individuals at risk of radicalization and prevent them from joining ISIS.

The number of Americans who joined or tried to join ISIS more than doubled to about 250 in 2015, from 100 people a year earlier, according to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. And as many as 31,500 people from across the globe have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS since 2011, although perhaps only 15,000 remain, according to recent figures. Even as ISIS continues to lose ground in Syria and Iraq, there’s the threat of bombings by so-called lone wolves or by small cells of people like last week’s Christmas Market attack in Berlin.

Hacking for diplomacy

The students behind FAVE — Anusha Balakrishnan (MS Computer Science), Hyeryung Chloe Chung (MA International Policy Studies), Gloria Chua (MS Computer Science), Jian Yang Lum (MS Statistics), and Vinaya Polamreddi (MS Computer Science) — formed a team called HackingCT, for hacking counterterrorism. It was part of a 10-week course, Hacking for Diplomacy. Led by Steve Blank of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and father of the Lean LaunchPad methodology, students in the course partnered with the U.S. State Department to apply lean-startup principles to global challenges.

The HackingCT team.

Above: The HackingCT team.

Image Credit: HackingCT

Some students addressed human trafficking, others the refugee crisis in Europe, and still others several vexing problems. The HackingCT team was drawn to ISIS because of the large number of people it has killed. According to Chua, “In 2015 alone, there have been 11,744 attacks in 92 different countries. ISIS has also been adept in recruiting individuals to their cause. The urgency and severity of the issue is what drove us to work on this.”

Working with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and with the Special Representative to the Muslim Communities in the Office of Religions and Global Affairs, the HackingCT team followed the three key lean startup principles: 1) sketch out a hypothesis, not a business plan; 2) talk to customers, iterate based in feedback, pivot as necessary; 3) use agile development for rapid and responsive product creation.

While the students ultimately conducted more than 100 interviews to develop FAVE, they spoke with about 20 people during the first two weeks as they attempted to understand the characteristics of those at risk for radicalization. They quickly realized that this would not help them. “It wasn’t long before we found out that there are already many in-depth and long-term research and analysis in this area,” Chua said in an email interview. “Radicalization pathways are complex and multi-causal, and there is no one single defining characteristic. It is not about poverty levels, about education levels, mental health, etc. There is just no one general trend.”

Help ecosystem ISIS terrorism HackingCT

The team also looked at the usually unsuccessful efforts by various well-meaning institutions to reach at-risk individuals. Too often the messages are regarded with suspicion and lack credibility because of their overt agendas. For instance, the team examined the Global Engagement Center’s efforts of using Twitter to send messages against violent extremist groups, which received negative reactions online.

However, the group saw that “grassroots efforts like YouTube videos posted by youth that use humor to ridicule ISIS, or a local respected religious leader sharing their thoughts” could be effective, Chua said. “We identified that a message needed to be credible in the following: the message itself, the messenger, the channel, and the form.”

After several weeks, the HackingCT team had a breakthrough and, in Silicon Valley parlance, decided to pivot. “We realized our learning plateaued because we were unable to reach these at-risk individuals themselves to learn more. As in design thinking, we decided to look for analogous situations to research off of,” Chua said. “We explored gang violence, drunk driving, and suicide.”

Countering violent extremism

The team saw many similarities between suicidal ideation and online radicalization. “In both cases, the individual is in a vulnerable state, is highly susceptible to outside influence, and talking about the problem is often taboo. Also, suicide intervention and prevention is relatively new — while 20 years ago one might be hard-pressed to find any resources to intervene, today there is a wealth of resources like hotlines and more. This gave us hope that a similar transformation can happen for the CVE [for Countering Violent Extremism] space as well,” Chua said.

But for a person contemplating suicide, they can call 911 and get help. A person contemplating joining ISIS who calls the police is likely to be arrested. The HackingCT team determined that only family and friends can help “rescue” a person from becoming radicalized online. Trusted people could form an effective bridge between at-risk individuals and the organizations that could help them. The team also saw that 1-800 helplines could be effective, but not in the way they expected. They also looked at efforts by Google to use online ads to reach at-risk individuals.

“When we talked to NGOs, the State Department, and more, we learned that at-risk individuals were not likely to reach out and actively engage in these resources. They also pushed us to think about the people around the individual,” Chua said.

Chua explained how one of their sponsors at the State Department suggested they consider a 16-year-old who sees their friend acting differently, but then who has no idea where to go from there. She also described how an expert at one of the NGOs they spoke to showed them a presentation slide that read, “Most friends and family have an idea their family member is radicalized” but have “nowhere to turn to but the police.” The team also learned about helpline initiatives for friends and family in Austria and Canada.

MVP for fighting ISIS terrorism

Armed with this information, in the final weeks of the course the students created a minimal viable product consisting of a helpline and textline, which resonated with the NGOs. FAVE can act as short-term, lightweight, and scalable solution that serves as a bridge to long-term, personal intervention by an NGO. It’s a solution using decades-old technology — 1-800 helplines staffed by experts — borne of a new approach — startup principles.HAckingCT ISIS

According to Chua, the team is discussing next steps with the State Department and seeking sponsors. They are planning FAVE pilots in one domestic and one international English-speaking city by mid-2017. Candidate cities are Minneapolis and Luton, England, two areas where individuals joined ISIS and went to Syria.

“We hope that as a team of 5 providing a fresh perspective to a growing and emerging field, we might be able to move the needle in a meaningful way,” Chua said.

Social – VentureBeat

Snapchat has quietly acquired an Israeli startup for a reported $30 million to $40 million

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-9-24-58-am Snapchat sewed up its first acquisition in Israel this week, according to the outlet Calcalist News. It acquired four-year-old Cimagine, whose augmented reality platform lets consumers instantly visualize products they want to buy in their intended location, paying what Calcalist says was between $ 30 million and $ 40 million. According to its LinkedIn page, Cimagine currently works with brands… Read More
Social – TechCrunch

Oculus acquires eye-tracking startup The Eye Tribe

the-eye-tribe The direction you look could one day control your VR or mobile experience thanks to Facebook and Oculus’ latest buy, The Eye Tribe. Oculus confirms to me that this is an official acquisition. The startup has developed a $ 99 eye tracking device developer kits for computers, and software that can bring gaze-based interfaces to smartphones and potentially virtual reality headsets. The Eye… Read More
Social – TechCrunch

Twitter Ended Up Paying $479M For Adtech Startup TellApart, 10-K Reveals

twitter headquarters Twitter’s largest acquisition to date, of the adtech business TellApart, has turned out to be a little less big than originally thought. Back in April 2015, it was calculated that Twitter would pay nearly $ 533 million for TellApart based on the company’s share price at the time. But a 10-K report published today notes the final numbers: It was nearly $ 54 million lower… Read More
Social – TechCrunch

Fly Victor: On-Demand Private Jet Startup

Meet Victor, because Uber only does helicopters… Victor is like the Uber of private Jet hire and one of Europe’s fastest growing tech-startups, offering a seamless private jet selection/hire process that works up to 3 hours prior to a requested departure time. The Victor App provides a full end-to-end service for locating, booking and boarding […]


Digital Buzz Blog

Poll Results on the Unsolicited Startup Idea Email

In this last poll we asked:

You get an email from someone you’ve never met (poor communication skills, but a decent idea) and they want to cut you in and give you control over a new web company they want to start. Do you:

And listed some potential responses. This is how you over 27,000 of you responded.

See the Pen Pie Chart with Conic Gradient by Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier) on CodePen.

The most common response was “Delete the email.” with nearly half the votes (46%). I don’t find this particularly surprising. I said in the premise that the email was worded poorly. That often scans as spam, which we have little tolerance for. Even if you can tell it isn’t, it’s not a good start. We are so busy these days, we don’t typically have time for even the best of ideas, let alone questionable ones. 6% would respond with “Thanks but no thanks.”

The second biggest slice was “Email back to discuss, but skeptically.” at 31%. This is the most pragmatic choice, assuming you don’t have so many of these the few minutes it takes to type up replies would eat up your whole day. Between outright rejecting the idea and being skeptical of it, we’re at 83%.

9% of you said you’d “Email back to discuss, all business.”

The remaining is split, 4% and 4%, between the two positive answers “Email back to discuss, flattered and positive” and “Jump right in, startupville here I come.”

Doesn’t bode well for our poor unsolicited email.

So what should they put in the email if they are trying to do better at finding help with their idea? I’m not sure our limited data can speak to that, but a little life experience and common sense could. I’d say:

  • Be clear, direct, well-spoken, and honest in the email.
  • Keep it short.
  • Offer some evidence that you are real and your thing is real.
  • Be excited and optimistic.
  • Explain exactly what you need.
  • Explain why it could be good for both of us.

New poll in next few days. Always open to ideas!


Poll Results on the Unsolicited Startup Idea Email is a post from CSS-Tricks

CSS-Tricks

our startup idea

"Our Startup Idea"
It has never been easier to start a business. The infrastructure is in place to get businesses going for lower investment than just about any time in history.

Yet that doesn’t mean that every startup is worth starting. There is a skewed sense of reality (particularly where I live near San Francisco) that capital seems to reward startup ideas for very low levels of validation.

Many pitches are structured around trying to be the next (insert successful startup here) for (insert category here). I understand the appeal of framing new ideas around successful models. But I crack up every time I hear a startup described as “the Warby Parker for” everything from men’s socks to headphones to active wear to art framing to furniture. This week’s cartoon was partly inspired by Vooza’s hysterical take on an entrepreneur trying to invent the next “Like Uber For” mobile app.

In the startup bandwagon, companies sometimes miss the marketing basics. One of the basics that I think gets missed is understanding your customers. There is a sense in startup culture that if you build it, they will come.

I’ve been thinking about this dynamic recently while illustrating cartoons for a new book called “Talking to Humans: Success Starts With Understanding Your Customers”, written by Giff Constable (CEO of Neo) and edited by Frank Rimalovski (Executive Director of the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute). It’s a short handbook on how to talk to customers in the earliest stages of a startup to validate and shape the idea. You can download the PDF for free or find Kindle and Paperback versions. Here’s one of my cartoons from the series.

NYU.lowres.ifiwere

Startups sometimes place more emphasis on what might sound good to investors than on actually validating their idea with customers. I’d love to hear your thoughts on startup ideas worth starting.

(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed cartoon print. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)


Tom Fishburne: Marketoonist

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