Author: Jordan Crook

Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd is coming to Disrupt SF

Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd has always done things her own way.

Whether it’s standing up for her political beliefs, building a company with fully outsourced engineers or avoiding the usual startup fundraising runaround, Wolfe Herd follows her own instincts in building a business. Which is why we’re super excited to announce that Whitney Wolfe Herd will join us at TC Disrupt SF 2018.

Wolfe Herd first came on the scene as a co-founder and VP of Marketing at Tinder, where she helped grow the dating app into one of the world’s biggest dating platforms. But after a lawsuit over sexual harassment and discrimination, which was settled out of court, Wolfe Herd left the company to build an app focused on compliments and positive affirmations.

Originally, she wanted nothing to do with the dating space. But after meeting Andrey Adreev, Badoo founder and Bumble’s majority stakeholder, she realized that giving women a voice in digital dating could be revolutionary. And so, Bumble was born in 2014.

The app has grown to 30 million users, and continues to grow in popularity based on a simple premise: women make the first move.

But Wolfe Herd’s ambitions don’t stop at dating. The 28-year-old founder has added new verticals to the app, letting users find friends and make professional connections via Bumble.

And all the while, Bumble’s cap table has never changed, with Wolfe Herd’s 20 percent stake as yet undiluted. Wolfe Herd was named one of Time 100’s most influential people this year, and has herself become a brand that represents authenticity and self-empowerment.

We can’t wait to talk to Wolfe Herd at Disrupt SF 2018. You can buy tickets to the show here.

Instagram now lets you mute accounts

Instagram today introduced a way to mute accounts, giving users a way to continue following accounts without seeing their posts all the time.

Muted accounts will not be made aware that they’ve been muted, and users can unmute accounts at any time. Users can still see posts on the muted account’s profile page and get notified about comments or posts they’re tagged in.

Users can mute accounts by tapping the “…” in the corner of the post and choosing between muting posts, stories, or posts and stories.

First and foremost, this continues Instagram’s effort to block bullying and harassment on the social network. While users have had the ability to block accounts for a long time, muting is a next step in blocking out someone without any of the consequences that might come from blocking them.

This could also come in handy for folks going through a break-up or some other social split, as they don’t necessarily want to see every single post from their ex but don’t want to be seen unfollowing them either.

Of course, the broader demographic will simply have more control over Instagram’s algorithmic feed, which prioritizes accounts and posts it thinks you will like (read: promotes engagement at all costs).

The algorithmic feed has added a layer of complexity to Instagram, making users think more cautiously about the way they throw around likes. Posts, and accounts, that you like may very well get top billing in your feed because of it, even if you only liked the post to show friends some love.

Muting gives users a bit more control over what they see regardless of what they’ve liked or what Instagram’s algorithm deems relevant.

On Fridays, HQ Trivia will let you see your friends’ answers during the game

HQ, the live trivia game that is now seeing up to 2 million players per game, is introducing some new social features, including answer sharing with friends.

The company has been testing this feature across a small group of users already, but on Friday the feature will roll out to all HQ users.

Here’s how it works: Users can connect their address book to HQ and add their friends. Once they have added friends, they can see which of their friends are playing the game alongside them. Users can put their own avatar on the answer to a question to share their choice, which is viewable by friends.

The idea is that answer sharing mimics what many people do while playing HQ IRL, yelling out answers to their coworkers in the office or sharing with their friends and family in a bar or at home.

“We understand the power of the crowd and playing together,” said HQ head of product James Ruben. “That doesn’t necessarily exist everywhere. Our goal is to spread that power to people who maybe aren’t playing in the office together.”

This comes on the heels of HQ’s introduction of “Friends on HQ” from April, which let users see friends playing in the same quiz and see their progress through the game. Answer sharing simply takes that a step further.

Interestingly, answer sharing won’t be available on each HQ Trivia quiz. Instead, the feature will debut on Friday of this week, and continue to be available on Friday games.

“We understand that it’s a change to the game play,” said Ruben. “Friday is an interesting time to experiment and try out answer sharing because Fridays tend to be a bit more social than other days.”

Alongside answer sharing, HQ is also adding yet another social layer to the game with Nearby Friends. The feature will allow HQ players to see other people (not in their address book) who are in the same quiz as them and physically nearby, perhaps in the same office building or in the same bar or restaurant.

Finally, HQ is making it easier to upload the address book and connect with friends on the app.

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HQ is an interesting business in that it’s taking an almost old-school approach to advertising/sponsorship. As opposed to social networks like Facebook, which collect as much data as possible about users to sell advertisements against that data, HQ is focused more on getting as many engaged eyeballs in the same place as possible, a bit like television advertising.

HQ doesn’t have that much information on users beyond their phone number, device type, username, and other basic information commonly gleaned by app developers. With the introduction of Friends on HQ, the company gets a bit more insight into users. But that’s not necessarily the reason for the update.

Instead, HQ wants to make these games as engaging as possible, and what’s more engaging than competing with or cheering along your friends and family.

The company is also taking a measured approach to advertising and sponsorship, working with partners that make sense for the HQ community and making those sponsorships as native as possible.

For example, HQ recently ran a $250,000 game with Warner Brothers as a sponsor, plugging the film Ready Player One within the graphics and even in some of the questions. The company also had Duane “The Rock” Johnson host a $300,000 game as part of the actor’s promotion of his upcoming movie Rampage.

Answer sharing will be available to everyone on Friday, but easier address book upload and Nearby Friends are soon to come for Android users.

Twitter also sold data access to Cambridge Analytica researcher

Since it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the personal data of millions of Facebook users, one question has lingered in the minds of the public: What other data did Dr. Aleksandr Kogan gain access to?

Twitter confirmed to The Telegraph on Saturday that GSR, Kogan’s own commercial enterprise, had purchased one-time API access to a random sample of public tweets from a five-month period between December 2014 and April 2015. Twitter told Bloomberg that, following an internal review, the company did not find any access to private data about people who use Twitter.

Twitter sells API access to large organizations or enterprises for the purposes of surveying sentiment or opinion during various events, or around certain topics or ideas.

Here’s what a Twitter spokesperson said to The Telegraph:

Twitter has also made the policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned and operated by Cambridge Analytica. This decision is based on our determination that Cambridge Analytica operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices. Cambridge Analytica may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.

Obviously, this doesn’t have the same scope as the data harvested about users on Facebook. Twitter’s data on users is far less personal. Location on the platform is opt-in and generic at that, and users are not forced to use their real name on the platform.

Still, it shows just how broad the Cambridge Analytica data collection was ahead of the 2016 election.

We reached out to Twitter and will update when we hear back.

Maverick, a social network for young women, launches with $2.7M in funding

While Bumble BFF and Hey! Vina help adult women find new friends, there isn’t a social network dedicated to young women.

But Brooke Chaffin and Catherine Connors are looking to change that with the introduction of Maverick, a social network that connects young girls with female mentors to express their creativity in a safe space.

Here’s how it works:

When a new user signs up, they can browse through various challenges set forth by Catalysts, inspiring role models selected specifically by the founders to inspire the younger demographic on the network. These challenges include things like making their own super hero, creating their own dance number or choosing a mantra.

Users, usually between the ages of 10 and 20, can post their response to a challenge via photo or a 30-second video and browse the responses of others. Interestingly, Maverick has done away with ‘likes’ and instead offers points for various types of engagement, like posting a response to a challenge, posting a comment, or giving someone a badge.

For now, there are four badges on the platform (unique, creative, unstoppable, and daring) and the company has plans to add more badges as it grows.

But Maverick isn’t just an app. The company also plans on holding a series of one-day live events across the country, highlighting young women emerging on the platform in categories like STEAM, entrepreneurship, comedy and music.

In fact, the first live event goes down tomorrow in Los Angeles, featuring “Founding Mavericks” or role models such as Chloe & Halle Baily, Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight, Daunnette Reyome, Laurie Hernandez and Ruby Karp.

For now, Maverick is a free app focused on growing its user base. But the founders see an opportunity to turn Maverick into a utility, not unlike LinkedIn, offering a subscription for premium features. And it makes sense that LinkedIn would serve as inspiration for Chaffin and Connors, as LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner is one of Maverick’s investors.

The company has raised $2.7 million in seed funding led by Matt Robinson of Heroic Ventures, with participatino from Susan Lyne and Nisha Dua of BBG Ventures as well as Jeff Weiner.

Here’s what co-founder and Chief Content Officer Catherine Connors had to say:

The research on girls’ social development has shown us the same thing for decades. During early adolescence, the majority of girls stop raising their hands, participating in sports and extra-curricular activities, taking risks, and stepping into leadership roles. In short, they stop believing in themselves. And it’s not because we don’t tell them that they should believe in themselves — it’s that they don’t get enough real opportunity to prove to themselves that they can.

Founders Chaffin and Connors met during their tenure at the Walt Disney Company and kept coming back to the idea of empowering girls through a new social network, and so Maverick was born.

The network is designed with a progression loop not unlike that of a game, where Mavericks can progress toward becoming a Catalyst and inspiring other young women.

The app launches out of beta today.

Snap launches new features for Lens Studio

At the end of last year, Snap introduced Lens Studio, a platform that allows developers to create AR lenses for Snapchat. Today, the company is announcing new features for Lens Studio, including seven brand new templates for the creation of face lenses.

Before now, only World Lens creation was available to everyone within Lens Studio, meaning developers could create 3D AR objects but not overlay AR experiences over faces. Now, developers can create Face Lenses, with seven different templates to choose from.

Here are the new templates for Face Lenses:

  • Face Paint: focuses on face substitution, mapping the face to let developers create art tied to facial features like the lips or nose (great for makeup or accessories)
  • Photo: much like Face Paint, Photo lets creators overlay lenses onto a single static (head-on) photo
  • Distort: lets developers stretch or shrink facial features
  • Trigger: with Trigger, developers can create a trigger (blinking, raising eyebrows, open/close mouth) to execute a lens
  • 2D Objects: this template works the same way as Snap’s famous dog ears filter, letting developers create 2D objects that can be overlaid on a picture of video
  • 3D Objects: Same as 2D Objects, but with 3D objects. This template also includes a helper script to play looping animation on the 3D objects
  • Baseball Cap: Revamp a 3D baseball cap to change color, brim style and add an image

Alongside the new templates, Snap is also integrating with Giphy to give Lens Studio developers access to Giphy’s massive library of animated GIF stickers.

With the introduction of these new features, Snap is opening up these third-party lenses to the public with the launch of Community Lens Stories. Each story will include public Snaps submitted on Our Story that highlight a community lens. Folks can swipe up on one of these Snaps to unlock the lens, or browse other Lenses by tapping the ‘i’ button above a Community Lens in the carousel.

This is all in an effort to open up Snap to third-party developers and creators, which is why the company is launching the Official Creator Program. This will allow the Snap team to partner with select creators to offer support, including visibility on the Lens Studio website as well as direct support from the Lens Studio team. Official Creators will also get early access to features and templates.

How to watch Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony online

Mark Zuckerberg today begins his second day of testimony.

The Facebook CEO spent more than five hours yesterday answering the questions of U.S. Senators, and will now testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As was the case with the Senate, we expect to hear plenty about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russian election meddling. Zuckerberg’s prepared statement was released to the public on Monday, which you can read here.

The congressional hearing begins at 10am ET.

You can watch it here.