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iHeartMedia to acquire radio adtech company Jelli

Radio giant iHeartMedia announced today that it’s reached an agreement to acquire Jelli, a company bringing programmatic ad-buying to radio broadcasters. In fact, iHeartMedia was already working with Jelli to allow businesses to use programmatic tools to buy advertising on the company’s 850 broadcast radio stations. iHeartMedia also invested in Jelli’s most recent funding round. As a result of the deal, the Jelli team in Silicon Valley will become iHeartMedia’s main adtech operation, and it will still be led by CEO Michael Dougherty. At the same time, iHeartMedia says Expressway by Katz, the programmatic ad exchange created using Jelli technology, will be run independently by Katz Media Group. In a statement, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman said: At iHeart we believe marketing is both math and magic. The math is our rich data and insights about our users and how they relate to our partners’ products and services — and the magic is the incredible creative ideas we bring to our partners, such as our iconic music events, award shows, influencers, podcasts, social reach and our unique on air promotions. Jelli allows us to do something no other company can do — advertisers can now buy and use our broadcast assets, reach and impact just as they use the major digital players. We now offer heavy data and heavy creative innovation all in one place. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Jelli’s other investors include Relay Ventures, Intel Capital, First Round Capital and Universal Music Group, and, according to Crunchbase, it raised more than $40 million total. iHeartMedia, meanwhile, filed for bankruptcy in March, though it looks like it’s now preparing to leave Chapter 11 protection.

Palo Alto Networks to acquire RedLock for $173M to beef up cloud security

Palo Alto Networks launched in 2005 in the age of firewalls. As we all know by now, the enterprise expanded beyond the cozy confines of a firewall long ago and vendors like Palo Alto have moved to securing data in the cloud now too. To that end, the company announced its intent to pay $173 million for RedLock today, an early-stage startup that helps companies make sure their cloud instances are locked down and secure. The cloud vendors take responsibility for securing their own infrastructure, and for the most part the major vendors have done a decent job. What they can’t do is save their customers from themselves and that’s where a company like RedLock comes in. As we’ve seen time and again, data has been exposed in cloud storage services like Amazon S3, not through any fault of Amazon itself, but because a faulty configuration has left the data exposed to the open internet. RedLock watches configurations like this and warns companies when something looks amiss. When the company emerged from stealth just a year ago, Varun Badhwar, company founder and CEO told TechCrunch that this is part of Amazon’s shared responsibility model. “They have diagrams where they have responsibility to secure physical infrastructure, but ultimately it’s the customer’s responsibility to secure the content, applications and firewall settings,” Badhwar told TechCrunch last year. Badhwar speaking in a video interview about the acquisition says they have been focused on helping developers build cloud applications safely and securely, whether that’s Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. “We think about [RedLock] as guardrails or as bumper lanes in a bowling alley and just not letting somebody get that gutter ball and from a security standpoint, just making sure we don’t deviate from the best practices,” he explained. “We built a technology platform that’s entirely cloud-based and very quick time to value since customers can just turn it on through API’s, and we love to shine the light and show our customers how to safely move into public cloud,” he added. The acquisition will also fit nicely with Evident.io, a…

Cluep, a Canadian startup that raised just $500K, acquired for $40M

Everyone loves a tale of a bootstrapped startup founder’s journey to an eight-figure exit. The team at Toronto-based Cluep have a good one. The founders of the adtech startup raised less than $500,000 from angel investors before selling their company to Impact Group for $40 million ($53 million CAD) this week. Founded in 2012, Karan Walia, Sobi Walia and Anton Mamonov were just 21, 17 and 16 years old, respectively, when they started the digital advertising platform, which uses artificial intelligence to help brands connect and engage with people based on what they are sharing, how they are feeling and the places they’ve been. They, being so young, struggled initially to get the company off the ground. At one point, the trio hacked into computers at a university in Toronto to train the neural networks on large amounts of data sets because they didn’t have enough money to buy their own tech. On a shoe-string budget, they would split meals at Popeyes to get by. “No one wanted to give us money at that time so we had to live off of my student loans,” Walia told TechCrunch. “We did pretty much everything, whether it was programming and building the product, or going out and selling. I was our first sales rep and I was pretty bad early on but I learned.” Ultimately, Cluep was able to raise enough from angels to pay themselves a salary, hire a few engineers and sales representatives and move into an actual office. From that point, their revenue began growing significantly YoY. 2015: $2 million CAD in revenue 2016: $6 million CAD in revenue 2017: $14.5 million CAD in revenue 2018: On track to bring in ~$30 million CAD They fielded offers from VCs toward the end of 2015 and considered raising a proper Series A round of capital, but decided staying independent would lead to the best exit. “This way allowed us to basically maintain control and exit on our terms,” Walia said. Impact Group, a Boise, Idaho-based grocery sales and marketing agency, will operate Cluep independently.

iHeartMedia is acquiring HowStuffWorks

iHeartMedia has agreed to acquire Stuff Media, the company that owns the HowStuffWorks podcasting business. The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, but both the Wall Street Journal and Variety are reporting that the acquisition price was $55 million. According to the announcement, Stuff Media podcasts will retain their branding and the organization will remain headquartered in Atlanta, while President and CEO Conal Byrne joins iHeartMedia as the head of its podcasting division. HowStuffWorks was originally founded in 1998 and had a number of owners before spinning out as an independent company and raising a $15 million Series A last year. In recent years, its focus has shifted from explainer articles and videos to podcasts, and in fact, it says those podcasts receive more than 61 million downloads and streams each month, with Stuff You Should Know surpassing 500 million downloads this year. iHeartMedia, meanwhile, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. (The media company was formerly known as Clear Channel.) Prior to announcing the acquisition, it was already working with   Stuff Media on its true crime podcast Atlanta Monster. “Stuff Media is the original trailblazer of the podcasting industry, and we’ve been impressed by its ability to grow a massive, loyal audience over the past decade, led by a strong, experienced and cohesive management team, who we welcome to iHeartMedia,”  said iHeartMedia’s chairman and CEO Bob Pittman in the announcement. “This strategic acquisition will pair Stuff Media’s wildly popular content and strong creative capabilities with iHeartMedia’s extensive resources and massive scale through our digital platforms, social reach and broadcast radio stations, introducing podcasts to the vast majority of the country and offering even more unique opportunities for advertisers to reach their consumers.”

VMware acquires CloudHealth Technologies for multi-cloud management

VMware is hosting its VMworld customer conference in Las Vegas this week, and to get things going it announced that it’s acquiring Boston-based CloudHealth Technologies. They did not disclose the terms of the deal, but Reuters is reporting the price is $500 million. CloudHealth provides VMware with a crucial multi-cloud management platform that works across AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, giving customers a way to manage cloud cost, usage, security and performance from a single interface. Although AWS leads the cloud market by a large margin, it is a vast and growing market and most companies are not putting their eggs in a single vendor basket. Instead, they are looking at best of breed options for different cloud services. This multi-cloud approach is great for customers in that they are not tied down to any single provider, but it does create a management headache as a consequence. CloudHealth gives multi-cloud users a way to manage their environment from a single tool. CloudHealth multi-cloud management. Photo: CloudHealth Technologies VMware’s chief operating officer for products and cloud services, Raghu Raghuram, says CloudHealth solves the multi-cloud operational dilemma. “With the addition of CloudHealth Technologies we are delivering a consistent and actionable view into cost and resource management, security and performance for applications across multiple clouds,” Raghuram said in a statement. CloudHealth began offering support for Google Cloud Platform just last month. CTO Joe Kinsella told TechCrunch why they had decided to expand their platform to include GCP support: “I think a lot of the initiatives that have been driven since Diane Greene joined Google [at the end of 2015] and began really driving towards the enterprise are bearing fruit. And as a result, we’re starting to see a really substantial uptick in interest.” It also gave them a complete solution for managing across the three of the biggest cloud vendors. That last piece very likely made them an even more attractive target for a company like VMware, who apparently was looking for a solution to buy that would help customers manage across a hybrid and multi-cloud environment. The company had been…

Mail digitizing service Earth Class Mail acquires receipt digitizing service Shoeboxed

Earth Class Mail, a company that digitizes your physical mail so you don’t have to go to the mailbox every day, today announced that it has acquired receipt scanning and expense tracking service Shoeboxed. The reason Earth Class Mail would be interested in Shoeboxed is pretty obvious, given that both companies focus on taking the pain out of dealing with paper. Both services will continue to operate as usual, though we’ll likely see some deep integrations between the two over time. Shoeboxed, which launched 11 years ago, currently digitizes over five million documents per year for its more than 1 million customers in 90 countries. Its main market is small businesses in the U.S., which make up 500,000 of its users. “When we started in 2008 and put the first iPhone app in the app store to scan receipts, there was one other powerhouse around helping small business go digital — Earth Class Mail,” the company’s CEO and co-founder Tobias Walter tells us. “The combined power of our two companies will be a massive shift for small businesses to finally become paperless and say goodbye to old workflows that cost them hours of their productivity. I could not be happier with the new home we found for the company, the team and our customers!” What sets Earth Class Mail apart from the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery service is that it not only scans the outside of the envelopes that you are about to receive but that you can also give the company permission to scan all the documents inside, too (and the price you pay for the service depends mostly on how many of these full scans you want per month). While Oregon-based Earth Class Mail had to file for bankruptcy protection in 2015, its new leadership team turned the company around. The company says that its annual run rate is now $10 million, up 20 percent since Jess Garza become its new CEO last December. Walter also notes that users would occasionally send unopened envelopes, too, but the company wasn’t allowed to open them. These customers can now easily…

Coinbase acquires Distributed Systems to build ‘Login with Coinbase’

Coinbase wants to be Facebook Connect for crypto. The blockchain giant plans to develop “Login with Coinbase” or a similar identity platform for decentralized app developers to make it much easier for users to sign up and connect their crypto wallets. To fuel that platform, today Coinbase announced it has acquired Distributed Systems, a startup founded in 2015 that was building an identity standard for dApps called the Clear Protocol. The five-person Distributed Systems team and its technology will join Coinbase. Three of the team members will work with Coinbase’s Toshi decentralized mobile browser team, while CEO Nikhil Srinivasan and his co-founder Alex Kern are forming the new decentralized identity team that will work on the Login with Coinbase product. They’ll be building it atop the “know your customer” anti-money laundering data Coinbase has on its 20 million customers. Srinivasan tells me the goal is to figure out “How can we allow that really rich identity data to enable a new class of applications?” Distributed Systems had raised a $1.7 million seed round last year led by Floodgate and was considering raising a $4 million to $8 million round this summer. But Srinivasan says, “No one really understood what we’re building,” and it wanted a partner with KYC data. It began talking to Coinbase Ventures about an investment, but after they saw Distributed Systems’ progress and vision, “they quickly tried to move to find a way to acquire us.” Distributed Systems began to hold acquisition talks with multiple major players in the blockchain space, and the CEO tells me it was deciding between going to “Facebook, or Robinhood, or Binance, or Coinbase,” having been in formal talks with at least one of the first three. Of Coinbase the CEO said, they “were able to convince us they were making big bets, weaving identity across their products.” The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Coinbase’s plan to roll out the Login with Coinbase-style platform is an SDK that others apps could integrate, though that won’t necessarily be the feature’s name. That mimics the way Facebook colonized the web with its SDK and…

Facebook buys Vidpresso’s team and tech to make video interactive

Zombie-like passive consumption of static video is both unhealthy for viewers and undifferentiated for the tech giants that power it. That’s set Facebook on a mission to make video interactive, full of conversation with broadcasters and fellow viewers. It’s racing against Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat to become where people watch together and don’t feel like asocial slugs afterward. That’s why Facebook today told TechCrunch that it’s acqui-hired Vidpresso, buying its seven-person team and its technology but not the company itself. The six-year-old Utah startup works with TV broadcasters and content publishers to make their online videos more interactive with on-screen social media polling and comments, graphics and live broadcasting integrated with Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and more. The goal appears to be to equip independent social media creators with the same tools these traditional outlets use so they can make authentic but polished video for the Facebook platform. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it wouldn’t have taken a huge price for the deal to be a success for the startup. Vidpresso had only raised a $120,00 in seed capital from Y Combinator in 2014, plus some angel funding. By 2016, it was telling hiring prospects that it was profitable, but also that, “We will not be selling the company unless some insane whatsapp like thing happened. We’re building a forever biz, not a flip.” So either Vidpresso lowered its bar for an exit or Facebook made coming aboard worth its while. For now, Vidpresso clients and partners like KTXL, Univision, BuzzFeed, Turner Sports, Nasdaq, TED, NBC and others will continue to be able to use its services. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that customers will work with the Vidpresso team at Facebook, who are joining its offices in Menlo Park, London and LA. That means Facebook is at least temporarily becoming a provider of enterprise video services. But Facebook confirms it won’t charge Vidpresso clients, so they’ll be getting its services for free from now on. Whether Facebook eventually turns away old clients or stops integrating with competing video platforms like Twitch and YouTube remains to be seen.…

Patreon buys Memberful but keeps it indie as patronage consolidates

Patreon is forming a patronage empire. Today it acquired white-labeled subscription membership platform Memberful, which lets creators sell exclusive access to content through their own site instead of a centralized platform like Patreon. Rather than being folded into a Patreon feature, Memberful will run as an independent brand, maintaining its tiered pricing structure, though new sign-ups will get a rate closer to Patreon’s low 5 percent rake. Terms weren’t disclosed for the deal that brings Memberful’s whole seven-person team and 500 paying clients aboard. But Patreon clearly sees rolling up competitors and complements in the patronage space as a worthy use of its $60 million raise at a $450 million valuation late last year that brought it to $105 million in funding. In June, Patreon bought Kit to let creators bundle in merchandise with their perks for paying monthly subscribers. It also bought out competitor Subbable back in 2015. By teaming up, Patreon and Memberful will be able to provide subscription patronage services for creators, whether they want their fan community to live on Patreon, or through Memberful on their own WordPress or website with integrations of Stripe and MailChimp. Patreon already has 2 million patrons paying an average of $12 each to a total of 100,000 creators, and it expects to pay out $300 million in 2018 alone. The acquisition could let Patreon move up market, recruiting comedians, illustrators, game developers and vloggers that already have an established audience elsewhere. “I think membership is on the up and is going to grow for the next decade,” says Patreon VP of Product Wyatt Jenkins. “Our strategy is to be an open, neutral platform,” as opposed to focusing on one type of content like YouTube with videos or Twitch with streaming where you’re locked into that platform’s tools. Memberful, launched in 2013, has bootstrapped the creation of its white-labeled tools without the need for venture funding. Memberful gives creators like Stratechery’s Ben Thompson (who has an interview with Patreon CEO Jack Conte about the acquisition) and podcast producer Gimlet Media full control over branding, with no Patreon chrome. But it’s more…

Facebook confirms that it’s acquiring Bloomsbury AI

Facebook announced this morning that the London-based team at Bloomsbury AI will be joining the company. My colleague Steve O’Hear broke the news about the acquisition, reporting that Facebook would deploy the team and technology to assist in its efforts to fight fake news and address other content issues. In fact, Bloomsbury AI co-founder and Head of Research Sebastian Riedel also co-founded Factmata, a startup that purports to have developed tools to help brands combat fake news. Facebook doesn’t quite put it that way in the announcement post. Instead, it says the team’s “expertise will strengthen Facebook’s efforts in natural language processing research, and help us further understand natural language and its applications” — but it certainly seems possible that those applications could include detecting misinformation and other problematic content. While financial terms were not disclosed, we reported that Facebook is paying between $23 and $30 million. Bloomsbury AI is an alumnus of Entrepreneur First, and it was also backed by Fly.VC, Seedcamp, IQ Capital, UCL Technology Fund and the U.K. taxpayer-funded London Co-investment Fund.

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