Dylan’s Desk: Four trends to watch in the coming year

Happy New Year, dear readers.

It’s the traditional time for journalists to take a look at the past year, extend the trendlines forward, and make some predictions about how the coming year will play out.

Unfortunately, journalists’ track record on that score is not so great.

For instance, three years ago, I predicted five gadgets would dominate headlines in 2013: the Lytro camera, the Kindle Fire 2, the Tesla Model S, Nokia’s Lumia phone, and Apple’s iTV television set. Of those five, only one did really well — the Tesla — while the Kindle Fire took its sweet time about becoming a big deal, really taking off only in 2014. Lytro is all but out of business, Nokia sold itself to Microsoft after failing to take the world by storm, and Apple’s long-awaited television still doesn’t even exist.

In my defense, I’ll say this: All five were really cool ideas. But sometimes “cool” isn’t enough to make a product a stunning market success, or even a reality.

I also predicted, way back in 2000, that by 2010 we’d have glasses with heads-up displays capable of identifying people’s faces for us. I had no idea it would be Google bringing us that futuristic vision, of course, and I was off by a few years, as it turns out. Still — not bad, eh?

So with that mixed record in mind, I’m making these cautious predictions about what trends to watch in 2015. All four of these are pretty solid bets, I believe. Still, take my words with a grain of salt.

And I’ll see you in 2016.

Apple Watch

Apple has said that it would release its wearable device in early 2015.

When it comes out, the Apple Watch will be a significant test of the market’s appetite for smart watches. Its specifications put it miles ahead of any other wearable currently on the market, including as it does both fitness-monitoring features (including heart rate sensors) and smartphone-extending features (like wrist interfaces to popular apps, text messaging, phone calling, and so forth). But even more significantly, it includes support for Apple Pay, which promises to let people pay for stuff they’re buying at a store just by tapping their wrist against an NFC reader next to the cash register.

The Apple Watch has a couple of big strikes against it: At $350, it’s expensive; and it requires an iPhone 5S or later to work. As we saw in 2014, the iPhone has a shrinking share of the smartphone market, and that limits the potential audience for the watch by a lot.

My prediction: The Apple Watch will sell well, but not stunningly, in 2014. It won’t make a major difference to Apple’s revenues. But it will spur a lot more competition from other makers of wearables, particularly fitness bands and smart watches. And if Apple releases a second version, it’ll be sleeker, better-designed, and more successful in the market in 2016.

Virtual reality

Facebook turned virtual reality into a big thing this year by acquiring VR headset maker Oculus for $2 billion. Google responded with a $500 million investment of its own into VR company Magic Leap. Even Apple may be eyeing the VR market. Samsung has its own phablet-based VR system called Gear VR, and the Oculus development kit works with Samsung’s hardware.

None of these products are shipping in volume yet. The Samsung device is geared toward developers and early adopters (and is sold out of most outlets), while Oculus has been shipping developer-only kits for awhile. The demos are impressive, but we’re still at the stage where manufacturers are honing the experience and developers are busy creating content. In other words, early days.

I expect a lot to happen in virtual reality in 2015. Both Samsung’s and Facebook’s headset products should be more widely available in the coming year. While they’re going to find almost all of their initial usage by gamers, there are rich possibilities beyond video games. VR-based social media interactions (3D avatar, anyone?) are undoubtedly a big part of why Facebook was interested in Oculus. And there are possibilities for futuristic Minority Report-style interfaces implemented through VR goggles instead of big, expensive displays.

Still, growth will be slow, largely because of the expense of these devices, the fact that it will take time to develop much VR-optimized content, and the fact that you look really dorky when wearing a VR headset.

My prediction: Everyone will be talking about VR in 2015, but it won’t find major market traction until 2016 or later.


The definition of a “startup” has expanded to realms not seen since 2000. Uber and Xiaomi, the latest beneficiaries of venture capitalists’ largesse, have valuations of $41 billion and $46 billion, respectively, according to the Wall Street Journal’s chart of billion-dollar startups. To date they’ve raised $2.8 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively.

With valuations like that, there’s only one realistic exit that will generate acceptable returns for these companies’ investors, and that’s an initial public offering. Both companies are well-positioned for an IPO, and in both cases the IPOs are likely to push their valuations into the $100 billion range, at least temporarily, satisfying investors and adding to the companies’ war chests.

The next tier of companies in the billion-dollar club is slightly more complicated. Dropbox, Airbnb, and Snapchat are all valued at about $10 billion. The first two are IPO candidates in 2015, but Snapchat remains essentially revenue-free. Unless the public markets have started to succumb to the same kind of madness they spiraled into in the late 1990s, that means Snapchat’s probably not a good IPO candidate in 2015. Groupon ($GRPN) and Zynga ($ZNGA) have both gone public in the past few years despite sketchy revenues, and both have been heavily punished by the stock market. So if Snapchat does try to IPO, everyone will be watching it closely for signs of irrational exuberance.

My prediction: Uber and Xiaomi IPOs will contribute to talk of a bubble, but don’t worry — the actual bubble is elsewhere.

Big data

Big data tools like Hadoop have finally hit the mainstream, as the IT world undergoes a once-in-a-decade architectural shift, this time moving toward clustered servers and distributed computing, storage, and network resources. But it’s the applications of big data that VentureBeat will be watching most closely, as data analysis tools enable companies to understand their markets and customers better than before, conduct ever-more-targeted marketing campaigns, and make more informed decisions than ever.

VentureBeat has a particular focus on marketing tech thanks to our new research arm, VB Insight. We’ll also be talking about these technologies at many of our upcoming events, starting with our Mobile Summit in February. But this isn’t just a VentureBeat thing: We’re focusing on marketing tech because it’s an expanding industry, with thousands of companies competing for attention, lots of confusion, and lots of complexity — yet it’s one where making the right technology choices can have a huge impact on your company’s top (or bottom) line.

My prediction: Consolidation will hit marketing tech, starting with ad tech companies, in 2015. But the overall market will continue to grow as many companies look for ways to target their customers more effectively and efficiently.

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from VentureBeat » Dylan Tweney http://ift.tt/1I0IM8W

Dylan’s Desk: Four trends to watch in the coming year

These 17 companies achieved $1B+ valuations in 2014

At the end of the rainbow, you'll find a unicorn made of solid gold.

Update 12/29: We’ve added AdYen.

Update 12/30: We’ve added IronSource.

Update 1/6/2015: We’ve added Credit Karma.

It is really, really difficult to create a company and grow it to the point where investors believe it is worth $1 billion or more. That milestone is so difficult to achieve, in fact, that investors call companies that do this “unicorns.”

Out of the hundreds of startups launched every year, just 20 made the grade in 2014.

Obviously, entrepreneurs and investors alike would love to be part of the unicorn club. Creating something that’s worth a billion dollars where nothing existed before is a tremendous achievement. It’s great for the personal wealth and ego gratification of investors and founders, of course. But it’s also a great thing for the people who work for such a company. With a few rare exceptions, billion-dollar companies generally employ hundreds of people. And they create things that people value, improving lives, making business more efficient, and creating new opportunities for other businesses down the line. It’s just very hard to get there.

This year, at least 20 still-private companies crossed that arbitrary-but-significant barrier, achieving a valuation of $1 billion or more. VCExperts, which tracks private company fundings and valuations, assembled this list for VentureBeat.

Valuation data is difficult to capture, and is often a closely guarded secret, so this list is not exhaustive. Do you know of other companies that crossed the “unicorn” line in 2014? Let us know in the comments or by emailing tips@venturebeat.com.


Actifio, a company that dreamed up a way to pare down the number of copies of a given piece of data while ensuring it will be available whenever companies need it, raised $100 million in March, putting its valuation “a good $100 million over $1 billion,” the company’s founder and chief executive, Ash Ashutosh, said in an interview with VentureBeat.


Adyen, a payments processing company, announced on December 16 that it had raised $250 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. General Atlantic led the round, with additional participation from Index Ventures, Temasek, and Felicis.


AppDynamics, a company with software for tracking the performance of applications, raised $120 million in fresh financing in July. That included $70 million in growth funding and $50 million in debt funding, enabling AppDynamics to hold off on an initial public offering, since stock traders at the time lacked enthusiasm for cloud computing stocks. Maybe an IPO is more likely in 2015, given the good performance of the New Relic and Hortonworks IPOs this month. According to VCExperts’ research, AppDynamics had a valuation of $1.11 billion at its latest funding. Read our coverage of the AppDynamics funding on VentureBeat.


Ad tech company AppNexus announced funding of $60 million in August — with a rumor that it might be raising another $40 million soon. In October, it confirmed the total size of the round at $110 million. In a post on the company’s blog, CEO and cofounder Brian O’Kelley — a big Moby Dick fan — said his company is pursuing its “White Whale” of “making the Internet better by making advertising better.” That round gave the company a valuation of $1.2 billion. [Updated 1/6/2015 with total funding as of October, 2014.]


Cloudera revealed in a March press release that it had taken a massive $900 million funding round, including both the $160 million pile announced earlier that month and a $740 million investment from Intel. The hefty sum from Intel will fund engineering efforts to optimize Cloudera’s flavor of Hadoop for Intel chips, as well as to expand sales and marketing, Cloudera chief financial officer Jim Frankola told VentureBeat.

Credit Karma

Credit Karma, a startup that provides credit scores and recommendations for credit cards, announced a $75 million round in September, just eight months after grabbing $85 million in funding. That put its valuation over $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported. Investors include Google Capital, Tiger Growth Management, and Susquehanna Growth Equity.


DocuSign, a company that helps manage digital signatures and also the whole life cycle of digital documents, picked up $85 million in March from a variety of investors. The company claims it has more than 95,000 companies as customers, millions of users in 188 countries, and more than 40,000 new unique users joining its network every day. VCExperts pegs its valuation at $1.56 billion.

Good Technology

Good Technology, a company that helps big businesses enable their employees use mobile devices securely, took on $80 million in September. In May, Good filed to go public, but the IPO hasn’t happened yet. Good’s products include mobile-device management, identity and access management, and mobile analytics, among other services; the company has been around since 1996. Read more about Good Technology on VentureBeat.

Intarcia Therapeutics

Intarcia Therapeutics announced $200 million in new financing in April, giving it a $1.63 billion valuation, according to VCExperts. Intarcia is working on a pharmaceutical product that aims to reshape the treatment of Type II diabetes, said Peter Kolchinsky, managing director of RA Capital, one of the other investors in Intarcia. The “remarkably promising” product could simplify glucose control in a cost-effective manner, VentureBeat reported at the time.


IronSource announced an $85 million funding round in September, led by “strategic and institutional investors” based in the U.S., China, and Europe. The company, which spells its name ironSource, is based in Tel Aviv, and offers ad-tech and software distribution services that are largely focused on mobile. The company is currently valued at $1.5 billion and is preparing for a 2015 IPO, according to Business Insider, although the Wall Street Journal’s list of billion-dollar startups pegs it at an even $1 billion. Either way that’s an impressive amount.

Jasper Technologies

Jasper, the company powering Coca-Cola’s Internet-of-Things experiments, announced a round of funding in April, to the tune of $50 million. Temasek led the round, which now brings Jasper’s valuation to over $1.3 billion. Yep, an Internet of Things company is now in the billion-dollar valuation club.


Alibaba’s $120 million investment in mobile game publisher Kabam values the U.S. company at more than $1 billion, according to Kabam chief executive Kevin Chou. That means that Kabam joins a rarefied group of American game companies that have grown up in the digital age and become global players in entertainment, as GamesBeat reported in July.


Lending Club kicked off a parade of tech IPOs the week of December 11. And the stock ($LC) did very well on its first day of trading, rising above $25 per share. Its market capitalization is now somewhere north of $1.5 billion. That was mixed news for aspiring French entrepreneurs, as Lending Club founder Renaud Laplanche is French — but he went to the U.S. to found his company.


Lookout, based in San Francisco, raised $150 million from a bevy of well-known investors, it announced in August. VCExperts told us that round put its valuation at $1.38 billion. Lookout takes a predictive, networked approach to make what the company executives call automated decision making to engage malware or intrusions before they penetrate your mobile device. “Every user that joins and installs Lookout contributes to that network. It contributes threat intelligence and data about the threats to help make the world safer,” said founder John Hering.


Lyft announced its fourth institutional funding round in April, for $250 million. News of the company’s series D round broke nearly a month before, but at the time we only knew about $150 million of the $250 million total, due to an early filing. The alternative car-service company has raised $333 million to date — a far cry from leading competitor Uber, which has raised $2.7 billion to date and might be preparing to take on another $600 million investment plus $1 billion in debt. And Lyft has a $1 billion valuation, VCExperts says, while reports put Uber’s valuation well over $40 billion. On the plus side, Lyft has that cute pink mustache logo.

New Relic

Application-analytics company New Relic has been publicly traded since December 12, with shares of $NEWR going for $30.16 in its debut. The company raised $115 million in its initial public offering — and that’s after picking up $100 million in private funding in April. Its market capitalization is about $500 million as of mid-December, but Marketwatch put the company’s valuation at $1.5 billion as of December 16. VCExperts’ director of business intelligence Justin Byers notes, “at the time of our calculation, they had approximately 48 million shares outstanding @ $28.93,” which would have given the company a valuation of about $1.39 billion. Now it is showing about 16 to 17 million shares outstanding.


Njoy, one of the leading makers of e-cigarettes, picked up a $70 million investment in February, led by Brookside Capital and Morgan Stanley Investment Management. The round valued the company at a little more than $1 billion, according to the New York Times. Not bad for a company hawking a product that’s so far completely unregulated (but not for long), and for whom the worldwide market is an estimated $2.5 billion.


Corporate messaging tool Slack announced in October that it had closed a $120 million round led by Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins. The round valued the company at $1.12 billion, post funding — a massive valuation for an eight-month-old company. Slack was quick to point this out in its press release: “Having just launched in February, this milestone marks Slack as the fastest growing SaaS company ever.”


Sunrun wants to put solar panels on every home in America. It took on $150 million in equity funding in May, Forbes reported, giving it the ability to deploy more panels at lower costs.


WeWork, an office-rental company with roots in the tech industry, raised an impressive $355 million funding round in December. Even more impressive, the latest round values the company at almost $5 billion, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the funding. The WSJ also says that WeWork plans an initial public offering within the next two to three years. We expect the company’s next summer camp outing in the Adirondacks will be truly epic.

from VentureBeat » Dylan Tweney http://venturebeat.com/2014/12/27/these-16-companies-achieved-1b-valuations-in-2014/

These 17 companies achieved $1B+ valuations in 2014


“In the pots warmed the bigos; mere words cannot tell
Of its wondrous taste, colour and marvellous smell.
One can hear the words buzz, and the rhymes ebb and flow,
But its content no city digestion can know.
To appreciate the Lithuanian folksong and folk food,
You need health, [to] live on land, and be back from the wood.

Without these, still a dish of no mediocre worth
Is bigos, made from legumes, best grown in the earth;
Pickled cabbage comes foremost, and properly chopped,
Which itself, is the saying, will in ones mouth hop;
In the boiler enclosed, with its moist bosom shields
Choicest morsels of meat raised on greenest of fields;
Then it simmers, till fire has extracted each drop
Of live juice, and the liquid boils over the top,
And the heady aroma wafts gently afar.”

Adam Mickiewicz, the nineteenth century national poet of Poland.

I don’t know any recipe for bigos that calls for legumes, but otherwise it seems like Mickiewicz got it right. This is a traditional Christmas Eve dish in my family, with a recipe that my mother (who is not Polish) got from my great-grandmother (her grandmother-in-law) who emigrated from Poland in 1920 or so. Great-grandma Viola made the dish without a written recipe or without measuring anything, but my mother watched her and took notes. My brother and I now make it nearly every year.

A coworker who is Polish tells me that it’s not traditional for Christmas Eve, but often eaten on the second day of Christmas — as well as other times, outside the holiday season. I got the impression that he didn’t consider it anything special. It’s basically a simple stew of sauerkraut, meats, mushrooms, and kielbasa. Bay leaves, allspice, and perhaps juniper berries are the essential seasonings. It doesn’t look very pretty, so I’m not posting a photo. But after a day or two of stewing it gets really, really tasty. It’s especially good with rye bread.


Body cameras are the first step to reducing police brutality


Let’s get one thing clear: No gadget will fix bad policing. There is no app to cure racism.

But putting body cameras on police officers is one hell of a start. It is one of the few areas where a new technology offers a clear, unambiguous social benefit.

Usually there are tradeoffs and unintended consequences to any new tech: We get smartphones, but they hurt our spines. We embrace social networks, but they contribute to the disintegration of real-world relationships. We love Amazon, but it makes it hard for local businesses to compete.

In this case, though, I don’t see any real downsides. If we put video cameras on police officers’ uniforms, we’ll get greater accountability, more data, and hopefully better policing. That’s why U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan, announced this week, to help equip police departments with body cameras is a great start. Every state and local government should embrace this initiative with all speed.

Will body cameras change police behavior? Probably not immediately, especially if grand juries continue to refuse to indict police officers, even in the face of overwhelming video evidence. But I believe the longterm effects will be profound.

Body cameras will help provide documentation and accountability. When things do go terribly wrong — as they did with Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Levar Jones, or John Crawford (WARNING: These links go to videos that contain disturbing images of actual people being shot and killed) — there will be additional video that can help grand juries (and regular juries) figure out what happened.

Body cameras will encourage more responsible law enforcement. Police already must know that any passerby with a cellphone could start recording their actions at any minute. But for some reason, this still often comes as a surprise to them, provoking some cops to anger. Putting a chest-mounted camera on an officer’s uniform will be a constant reminder that their actions are in the public eye. Maybe that will help remind them of their training, encouraging them to act like responsible law enforcement officers.

Body cameras will provide a rich source of video data for analysis. Advocates of open government data might use declassified police camera data to understand how police actually do their work. Anti-racism activists might be able to conduct statistical analysis of who, exactly, gets stopped and frisked in cities that still do that. Law and order types could use video evidence to show how police really are protecting us and stopping crimes. Police departments will be able to use video in their own evaluations and in training, helping improve the skills of their officers.

And body cameras will give the public some reassurance. Police officers are public employees, after all. A camera should be a reminder that the police work for us, and that we have a right to know what they are doing, particularly when things have gone wrong.

There is one potential downside, and that’s the specter of even-more-ubiquitous surveillance. But I think that’s a pretty mild drawback, given how widespread fixed surveillance cameras already are. In many ways a camera strapped to a uniformed officer’s chest is less of a privacy threat than a camera hidden on a high wall or next to a street light.

Given all these advantages, I think there’s no serious argument against body cameras.

For me, this is a particularly personal concern. I’m a white man, as you can tell by my author photo, but my children are black. My son, now eight years old, is just four years younger than Tamir Rice was when he was shot and killed by police officers in Cleveland — for playing with an Airsoft pistol, the kind of toy that is freely sold in Walmart and which generations of American boys have played with. In 10 years he will be the same age as Michael Brown was. In 14, he’ll be John Crawford’s age.

All of these individuals were shot by police who believed they were facing a terrifying threat, and who responded far too quickly to assess the situation accurately. Rice’s killer shot him about two seconds after getting out of the police car, sooner than he could have reasonably issued a warning or established the reality of the threat. We know this because it was caught on a surveillance video.

The heartbreaking fact is that for most police, as for most people in America, young black men are frightening figures, regardless of how they dress or act. Holding an Airsoft gun in a Walmart isn’t terrifying. Holding an Airsoft gun while being black is. We can’t change that through any technology. Sadly, my son will need to learn to live with that reality.

But we can provide greater accountability, and that will help keep people — especially those we equip with lethal weapons — from acting hastily out of fear, anger, and racism.

While videos may not lead to convictions — or even indictments — they’re a start. Maybe by the time my son is old enough for police to perceive him as a threat, there will be cameras helping to keep them honest, and him safe.

Body cameras are the first step to reducing police brutality