Tenor moves to monetize GIFs with launch of real-time analytics tool and ad product

Tenor is hoping to take advantage of people’s infatuation with animated GIFs by launching two tools that help brands bring their message to the more than 200 million monthly users who search for the right GIF across mobile messaging apps. The company is taking the first steps in monetizing its service with the launch of a real-time analytics tool called Tenor Insights, which will educate marketers on GIF usage and the availability of sponsored GIFs.

After more than three years, Tenor wants to bring in some money, and it believes its approach is unique. What Google offers around intent and Facebook does with social data, Tenor believes it can do around emotion. Its reach is certainly vast, with integrations into FacebookFacebook MessengerTwitteriMessage, and others. But in order to get brands to buy in, it needs to convince them that emotions are worth betting on.

Tenor Insights is similar to the keyword research tool that’s available from Google AdWords. It’ll report the top emotions people are expressing within messages, which can be sorted by time of day, week, or specific event, along with pertinent search terms that brands may be interested in, and insights into how different feelings are tied into GIFs.

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Tenor is banking on the idea that GIFs could result in more sales conversions than sentiment analysis or even a keyword can. When you see a happy dance GIF, it immediately tells you the sender’s state of mind — and perhaps what they’re interested in — whereas if you try to analyze their tweet, post, or message you may be limited to an overall positive or negative sentiment. And a keyword doesn’t necessarily reflect a person’s emotional state.

“The challenge for sentiment is that people aren’t saying things publicly at all,” stated Tenor chief executive David McIntosh in an interview with VentureBeat. Current advertising offerings are looking at the public space, such as social networks and search engines. But with GIFs, Tenor is able to cross into harder to reach areas, such as instant or text messages, and it’s here that valuable intelligence could be gathered. “Our signal is super strong. People are going to Tenor because I’m super upset and want to express that,” he said.

“We’ve never offered analytics before,” McIntosh explained. “We’ve put out data on an ad hoc basis, but now we let any marketer understand insights in what [people are] thinking, and in sheer volume. If you’re a brand, you don’t know where there’s a lot of volume around people saying ‘good morning’ and turning [users] into brand ambassadors.”

Ultimately, where the company could be going is a programmatic sponsored GIF program that lets brands bid for images that suit their campaign. You’ll start to see some of these creative GIFs in the wild, but the feature’s not available through a self-service model. Instead, brands have to work directly with Tenor’s team to implement them. Earlier this year, the company launched a pilot program around the Warner Bros. movie LEGO Batman. The program showed associated GIFs when people searched for terms like “high five,” “whoa,” “let’s go,” “smirk,” “shrug,” “flirty,” and “no.”

Helping lead the charge to develop an emotional graph and increase adoption by brands is Jason Krebs, Tenor’s chief business officer, who joined last month after a tour at Maker Studios as its head of sales. He admits that it’s “too soon to tell whether people will jump head over heels for this new paradigm,” but he said that “brands have a lot of stories to tell” and that GIFs could play an important role in the future.

“For Dominos, when someone searches for ‘best day ever’, [the pizza maker] can sponsor GIFs. It’s about giving marketers an opportunity to help customers express emotion using products they love,” McIntosh said. “With this tool, step one is to help brands understand the volume that’s out there. Most people out there don’t know how many people search ‘good morning’ every month. We want to own the visual language.”

SpotHero snaps up rival Parking Panda to boost its B2B credentials and expand into Canada

 

Lucas Roh’s next act is all about big data

Lucas Roh is taking a big step with his newest startup, coming out of stealth mode.

Roh’s new company, Bigstep, launched four years ago in London, is looking to make it easier for companies to tackle big data projects using the cloud. He’s betting that he can help companies make the leap by offering them better security and ease of use than Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Bigstep is launching its product in the United States, opening a data center and office in Chicago, where Roh is based.

Levyx Raises $5.4M to Supercharge Big Data Processing Platforms Like Apache Spark

PALO ALTO & IRVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Levyx Inc., whose high-performance processing technology dramatically reduces infrastructure costs associated with big-data applications, today announced the closing of a $5.4 million Series A round led by Chicago-based OCA Ventures. Additional investors include Palo Alto, Calif.-based Amino Capital (a.k.a. zPark Capital) and Sumavision USA Corporation, as well as individual executives from leading technology companies like EMC and SAP.

Start-Ups Aim at Overlooked Demographic: The Unbanked

Last summer Jimmy Chen walked the streets of San Francisco trying to do simple financial transactions without a bank account, a task millions of Americans face.

It cost him $4 to cash a $20 personal check and $5 to send $30 to a relative — activities that would have been free with a bank account. When he needed to retrieve a money transfer, the process of verifying his identity took so long he almost gave up.

Ally Financial Announces Acquisition of TradeKing Group

DETROIT, April 5, 2016 — Ally Financial Inc. (NYSE: ALLY) today announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire TradeKing Group, Inc., a digital wealth management company. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter and includes an online broker/dealer, a digital portfolio management platform, and educational content and social collaboration channels. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and compliance with the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, as well as satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

“The addition of wealth management is the next key step in Ally’s digital product evolution and will create a powerful combination of segment-leading direct banking and innovative investment services in a single integrated customer experience,” said Ally Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Brown. “This transaction presents a compelling opportunity for customers and a logical growth opportunity for Ally.”

The strongest players in carbon fiber 3D printing today

Incredible strength and stiffness, chemical and temperature resistance, electrical conductivity, and low weight on par with plastic parts: carbon fiber 3D printing has it all, and its poised to be the next major trend in industrial additive manufacturing.

While metal 3D printing has been skyrocketing in terms of popularity, market share, and high-demand applications for the past year, and will certainly continue to do so, 3D printing with carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) offers unique properties that are increasingly sought out in the aerospace, military, motorsports, robotics, automobile, and energy sectors. Namely, carbon fiber composites, which are made of extremely thin carbon fibers measuring about 5-10 microns in diameter, have a higher strength-to-weight ratio than almost any other manufacturing material. Imagine a conductive 3D printed part that is stronger than steel yet as light as plastic, and with a beautifully smooth surface finish: that’s carbon fiber 3D printing for you.

3-D Printing Promises to Change Manufacturing

Atoms, unlike bits, are hard to manipulate. Advances in how we rearrange them come slowly, but the payoff can be enormous.

Think new, never-before-seen products mass-produced from materials that once seemed exotic. Next to microchips, there is no more powerful unlocking technology than materials science.

Not long ago I held the product of such a potentially game-changing technology in my hands—a small, intricately detailed component for a valve. It looked like the shell of a nautilus from an alien planet. With its combination of lightness, strength and finish, the component felt very much like the future. And not just the next five years, but the next 50.

The object I held was unusual for two reasons: what it was made of, and how it was made.

It was made of carbon fiber, a man-made material used in airplanes, race cars and wind turbines that is stronger, ounce for ounce, than steel or aluminum. But it is expensive, and surprisingly labor intensive to make, requiring workers to cut, layer and mold sheets of plastic infused with carbon fiber—an oddly 18th century approach to making a 21st century material.

This carbon-fiber component had been made on a 3-D printer, a gadget more often associated with spitting out plastic novelties.

Marry those two technologies, and things get interesting. The all-electric BMW i3 has a carbon-fiber frame that extends its range by making it significantly lighter. Other possibilities include light but strong parts for drones and other aircraft, as well as replacing materials in many everyday objects—from furniture to machine tools—with carbon fiber.

“We give you the strength of metal for the cost of plastics,” says Greg Mark, chief executive of MarkForged Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., company founded in 2013 that sells a machine that 3-D prints carbon-fiber composites.

The printer costs $5,000 and is being used by at least one automotive manufacturer to make parts for the machines that make cars, according to Mr. Mark. The company won’t say which, but Nissan Motor Co. is listed as a customer on MarkForged’s website. “We like to tell people we’re the parts behind the part,” says Mr. Mark.

Nissan didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Today, such parts are most often made by machinists using computerized mills to carve solid blocks of metal. (This also is, incidentally, how the body of Apple Inc.’s laptops is produced.)

By replacing milled metal parts with equally hard printed carbon fiber composite parts, MarkForged says it allows machinists and their factories to be more nimble—trying and discarding new ideas in days rather than weeks.

MarkForged’s 3-D printer works like a “traditional” 3-D printer in that it has two print heads, one that squirts plastic to build a part, and a second one that pushes out the carbon fiber to reinforce it, one layer at a time. Unlike traditional carbon fiber parts, there is no wasted material, says Mr. Mark.

A competing carbon-fiber 3D-printing technology is taking on a potentially bigger opportunity—the method for producing the overwhelming majority of plastic parts.

“Our long-term goal is to replace injection molding,” says Robert Swartz, founder and chief technical officer of Impossible Objects LLC, which recently unveiled a machine that can 3-D print composites with a huge variety of materials.

Chicago-based Impossible Objects’ process combines fabrics such as silk, polyester, Kevlar, cotton or carbon fiber with any 3-D printable plastic, including ones used for high-temperature applications.

Impossible Objects’ process differs from previous 3D-printing technologies. Instead of printing an object one layer atop the other, every layer of the object can be printed at once, in two dimensions, on a large sheet of fabric. The layers are then cut out and stacked one on top of the other, like a layer cake, and baked in an oven.

The machine operates on the same principles as an inkjet printer, spraying the plastic out of print heads as tiny droplets, at high speed. That means it eventually could be fast, says Mr. Swartz. The maturity of traditional 2-D printing, on which Mr. Swartz’s process is based, makes him think it could someday be relatively inexpensive.

Neither company will be raking in billions anytime soon. In the world of stuff, nothing moves quickly, in part because new manufacturing processes must be thoroughly vetted.

That said, Impossible Objects’ printer also could print big objects because some inkjet printers are as large as a bus. That could mean 3-D printing entire body panels for a car, for example, or maybe even the car itself. That would lead to vehicles substantially lighter than current models, which in turn could give electric cars unprecedented range.

Both men want to change how we make things—and the things we make.

The legions of cheap 3-D printers on the market now are mere toys compared with what is coming because they can’t produce parts strong enough for most uses. Once we can make things that are usable in the real world right at our desks—or at the nearest copy shop—3-D printing could have its “PC moment.”

Traditional manufacturing won’t go away—we still make glass in essentially the same way as the Romans, after all—but it may never be the same again.

One less hassle after a car accident

In the hands of motorists, smartphones can lead to car wrecks. They also can reduce the hassle of a post-accident repairs.

Using an app called SnapSheet, drivers can photograph their damaged vehicles and send the pictures to Snapsheet’s team of appraisers, who work with auto insurers including USAA, MetLife and Hartford to speed things along. Newer tools include a payment processing system, an app that helps salvage yards assess the value of totaled cars and a network of specialized appraisal photographers for insurers that prefer third-party images.