Tag Archive | "optimization"

Pinterest Marketing Platform Ahalogy Scores $3 Million Series A By Helping Brands With Content & Optimizations

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With Pinterest poised to take its first ad product, Promoted Pins, public, retailers and brands that have so far been testing the waters on the social pinboard are now beginning to look more seriously into optimizing their activity on the site. One company that has been helping in that area is Ahalogy, a Pinterest marketing platform which is today announcing $3.1 million in Series A funding, co-led by Hyde Park Venture Partners and Origin Ventures.

Also participating in the round were CincyTech, North Coast Angel Fund, and Vine Street Ventures. In addition, the round will see Ahalogy gaining two new board members: Origin Ventures’ Brent Hill, previously an exec at Twitter, Google and Feedburner, and Tim Kopp, former CMO at ExactTarget, and exec at Procter & Gamble and The Coca-Cola Company.

From Fashion Startup To Pinterest Platform Maker

First launched in fall 2012, Ahalogy co-founder and President Bob Gilbreath has an extensive history working with brands, and a practical understanding of their marketing needs.

founders-ahalogyBefore Ahalogy, he worked at P&G, later joining digital agency Bridge Worldwide, which was sold to WPP. Within WPP, the Bridge team put together digital interactions agency Possible Worldwide, where he remained for a year as Chief Strategy Officer, before moving into the world of investing at Cincinnati-based CincyTech (now also an Ahalogy investor).

While there, Gilbreath met up with his Ahalogy co-founder Michael Wohlschlaeger, who had gone through the Brandery accelerator and was working on an idea called StyleZEN, a “Pandora for fashion,” so to speak. Gilbreath invested in the startup, and joined the board, but the startup struggled to drive traffic.

Wohlschlaeger experimented with Facebook and Google to increase traffic, but nothing was working, Gilbreath explains. “Out of desperation, he began doing rapid experimentation on Pinterest, and ended up developing a methodology and writing some tools that led to some amazing growth and traffic from Pinterest,” Gilbreath says. “We sort of looked at this and said, ‘I think you just discovered what Pinterest can do at scale,’” he recalls.

They realized that the technology itself had more potential than StyleZEN did, and decided to form a company that would place it in front of the thousands of brands waking up to the realization that Pinterest now mattered. That company, of course, became Ahalogy.

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How Ahalogy Works

Today, Ahalogy works with a little over two dozen brands, including names like Kellogg’s, Townhouse, Eggo, Rice Krispies, Kraft, other P&G brands, Gap, Piperlime, Frontgate, Grandin Road, and more. Gilbreath explains that while other firms may have hundreds of clients, Ahalogy goes deep with a smaller number – they even turn down customers when they don’t feel that they would benefit from the optimization and marketing assistance Ahalogy currently offers.

Another key difference between Ahalogy and competing firms is the business model: it’s not a social media software platform sold on a subscription basis (SaaS).

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“To be honest – I know this from being there – marketers don’t have more time. They don’t have time to be experts on any one platform,” says Gilbreath. And if they don’t end up actually using the software, then renewals can become a challenge. Plus, he adds, brands don’t like a monthly fee type of model because it comes out of their cost center budget, rather than their media budget, and it’s disconnected from real-world performance.

So Ahalogy is a pay-per-performance model instead. The company works with its clients to source and optimize their content, uses a scheduling algorithm that helps to place pins at the right time, and works with brands as to what should happen when consumers then click through from the pin to the website. (Typically, they show an interstitial which prompts the user to convert to a follow, or take some other action.)

A Content Network, Too

actAnother key thing Ahalogy has developed is a content network. Because gaining visibility on Pinterest means posting more than a pin per day and hoping for the best, the company has developed a content network to provide brands’ with things that they can pin in order to promote themselves on Pinterest. The network includes a variety of bloggers, like those covering fashion, food and recipes, or other popular Pinterest categories, plus larger groups like StyleCaster, and more. These content creators were the original beta testers for Ahalogy’s tools, and have agreed to allow the brands to use their content and images for free in exchange for access to the traffic-boosting Ahalogy technology platform.

With the content in hand, and the marketing optimization technology from Ahalogy that helps drive traffic to the brands’ own sites, Ahalogy is now seeing a million-plus run rate, says Gilbreath, with pricing that’s at a minimum in the $5,000-10,000 range. In return, brands see 80% re-pin rates, and 1-2% average click-throughs.

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With the additional funding, Ahalogy will grow its 23-person team, and will focus on expanding its efforts on Pinterest when Promoted Pins goes live. It will also expand its content network to assist with brands’ needs on other social networks, as well, including Facebook and Instagram.

“We have over a thousand content creators, 140,000 pieces of content with images, all categorized by topics..and the analytics as to what’s working right now,” Gilbreath notes. “We’re figuring out ways to take the great content that’s out there, scoring it on quality, then giving the brands the flexibility to share that in many ways,” he says.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Facebook ads API partner SocialClicks launches Predictive Automated Bid Optimization

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SocialClicks, the Tel Aviv-based Facebook ads API partner, announced recently that the company has released the latest feature of its SocialClicks Advance Technology Suite, Predictive Automated Bid Optimization.

This new technology allows Facebook marketers to let Facebook campaigns run themselves when they’re away, guaranteeing the best rates overnight or over a long weekend.

SocialClicks Founder & CEO Alon Michaeli described this new feature:

Our latest optimization algorithms provide clients with game-changing results. Not only does this technology make life simpler for marketers tasked with the 24/7 job of managing Facebook campaigns, but it leads to the acquisition of new high quality users, while significantly reducing costs and the risk associated with any digital campaign.

Predictive Automated Bid Optimization can govern changes to both bids and budgets on ad and campaign levels the moment they’re launched. It allows marketers to keep tabs on their campaign without doing so manually all the time. Once basic preferences for campaign control are set, ads are optimized based on the predefined goals and targets. Algorithms are continually updated with real-time and historical information from campaign and individual ad analytics.

SocialClicks clients who have already been using this are seeing an average reduction in cost per acquisition by 16 percent.

A press release explains how Predictive Automated Bid Optimization works:

Behind the scenes of this new feature, algorithms are continuously updated with real-time and historical information from campaign and individual ad analytics, and synthesized into many statistical data points to predict future campaign performance. The platform then forecasts outcomes and makes the optimum changes to bids and budgets, driving the required scale and the acquisition of high quality users.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Facebook uses gauges to help advertisers with targeting

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Facebook wants to let you know when they think you’re targeting too broadly or too narrowly.

Check out this speedometer gauge on the audience counts.

In this case, we’re targeting the 90,000 people in the United States who list themselves as working at Facebook.

And here’s what happens when we narrow this down to Facebook employees who are 13-14 years old. It should be nearly zero, but shows 1,040 because of all the kids who can list their employment as whatever they want.

Notice the red coloring as a warning.

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Now let’s go for the 162,000 folks who are 61 years or younger in the United States.
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Facebook says my audience is “fairly broad.” Crank it up to half a billion people and we get the same message.
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 A couple years ago, Facebook used to give you nearly exact audience counts, even when your target was only a couple people.
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And earlier this year, they made their estimates rougher — to the nearest 100,000 for large interests and showing “under 1,000″ if the true count was 999 or less.

This makes it that much more important to trim your audiences to the proper size, independent of Facebook’s speedometer gauge.

Some of the “under 1,000″ audiences are nearly zero, while others are closer to 1,000. That can be the difference between spending nothing and $10 a day on that one target, so the only way to really know is to test.

Do you see bias in Facebook trying to get advertisers to spend more by encouraging larger audience sizes? Or do you believe that their optimization is getting so good that they can seek out the right users within a broad target?

We believe both are true.

In the last 6 months, we’ve seen ads that target an entire country for certain fashion companies still drive impressive retail sales. And if you’re tracking to an offsite conversion pixel, it’s even better.

Combining interest targets into fewer boxes, having fewer ad units available, and creating multiple ad variations from a single ad are examples of this.

Readers, what do you see as next in improvements to the ad interface and back-end tuning? Do you like it?

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Varentec Raises $8M From Bill Gates And Khosla To Reinvent Industrial And Utility Power Grid Management

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San Jose-based Varentec, a company that builds power management and monitoring solutions for the electric grid, today announced the close of an $8 million Series B round of funding from Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures. The new funding follows its $7.7 million Series A, which was led by Khosla, and previously secured funding from the U.S. government. Varentec is about to start rollout of its energy monitoring and analytics solution for global electric utility companies and other industrial customers, and the funds will help it do that.

What Varentec hopes to accomplish understandably takes considerable funding juice; its aim involves updated outdated legacy systems that are in place at many of the world’s industrial sites, and which are intimidating projects to take on for utilities both private and public. Varentec has spent the past couple of years piloting its so-called “Edge of Network Grid Optimization with investor-owned utilities, including two in the U.S. and one in Mexico, and is now ready to roll things out on a production scale.

The means through which Varentec offers additional efficiency is by allowing utilities to install devices on the points in their system that are giving them the most problems – rather than requiring they install sensors and smart meters at every point throughout their network (hence “Edge of Network”). These devices use a line-based sensor that can actually alter voltage at that spot, with analytics and data gathering tools that make up the rest of Varentec’s secret sauce. These independently operating modules work better than remote sensors tied to a central command hub because they can respond immediately to problems and fluctuations.

Varentec’s founding team, which consists of Dr. Deepak Divan, Android Dillon and Mehrdad Hamadani haven’t been able to just convince some of the smartest investors on the planet of the value of their idea; they’ve landed a couple of grants for the U.S. government that total over $7 million, in addition to their venture funding.

Smart grid technology isn’t necessarily the flashiest thing around, but it is an opportunity with lots of potential upside in terms of ecological and economic benefits for some of the biggest and most stable businesses in the world. Initiating change in utilities is probably the biggest barrier to success, but Varentec now has a good amount of money in the bank to help it continue to build momentum thanks to this new investment.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Google Expands Chrome Data Compression Feature On iOS

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Google has begun expanding access to its Chrome data compression feature to more users, specifically those on iOS devices who have the company’s mobile browser app installed. The feature’s existence was announced some time ago, but TechCrunch understands that Google is now rolling out notifications about its iOS availability to more users, making many aware of the feature for the first time.

As someone who recently recovered from a stroke induced by a $600 mobile bill courtesy of my household’s data-hungry smartphones and tablets, consider me personally interested in advancements in mobile data compression technology — in whatever shape or form they arrive.

In Google’s case, the company said back in March that it was releasing a new feature for the Chrome Beta for Android browser that would speed up web browsing and save on bandwidth. Essentially a Google proxy, the feature routes web requests through Google’s servers where the company’s PageSpeed libraries compress and optimize the content. The connection between the browser and Google’s servers is also handled by the SPDY protocol for further optimization.

This process can reduce data usage by 50 percent, as it both compresses and minimizes HTML, JavaScript and CSS resources, removing unnecessary whitespace, comments and other metadata not essential to rendering the pages, the company previously explained. To some extent, the feature is similar to Opera’s “Turbo” mode in its desktop and mobile browsers, as well as the compression capabilities that ship with Amazon’s Silk browser, though Google’s technology is designed to not slow down browsing quite as much as Opera’s, in particular, once did.

Earlier this summer, Google noted that it would begin rolling out its experimental data compression technology to Chrome users on iPhone and iPad, but we hadn’t heard much about that expansion since. However, we’ve confirmed that more users are now being introduced to the option because Google is starting to alert them via notification pop-ups asking them if they would like to opt in to this “limited preview.” These seemed to have been kicked off following a recent update to the Chrome iOS application in mid-September.

The notifications read “you’re invited” and encourage users to “save bandwidth and browse more securely” by tapping the big blue “Enable” button below the alert’s text. If you choose to opt in, you’re taken to a Settings interface where you can toggle “Reduce Data Usage” on or off, and presumably later view the ongoing savings Google provides. Unfortunately, without the invite, there doesn’t appear to be a way to toggle the feature on by yourself. Similarly, if you initially decline the invite, you can’t seem to pull up the option a second time. (Got a workaround? Let us know.)

Google is running a staged rollout on iOS because it’s unable to test new features like this, as it does on Android, where a beta version of Chrome is supported. It’s unclear how many users are being invited into the early tests so far, but it appears to still be a rather limited trial given social media postings and other tips. Stay tuned.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Parse.ly Raises $5M For Predictive Analytics Platform That Helps Media Companies Decide What To Publish

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Parse.ly has raised $5 million for its platform to do analysis of web site data that does natural language processing (NLP) to define semantic relationships in data, primarily for digital media companies. The funding round was led by Grotech Ventures with participation from Blumberg Capital, ff Venture Capital, and FundersClub.

The company’s analytics platform extracts semantic data and compares it to larger data sets to get insights about the relevance of what it is publishing on its website and what it should post in the future. Parse.ly takes real-time traffic, historical performance, social interactions and other information to get its insight.

For example, the Parse.ly crawling technology analyzes content on a page and pulls out the categories and tags associated with it using NLP technology. The analysis of that data is then compared to other sites.

Parse.ly is an analysis tool but also a developer platform for companies to build new products off its API. That’s the inherent value of connecting services with an NLP engine. NLP is about “finding patterns in languages,” to learn something new. In media, this will be the difference for a new generation of journalists and media types who will use the technology to discover trends faster and target content for any variety of products.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Facebook updates Android SDK, adds Share Dialog and easier Open Graph integration

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Facebook is working hard to improve experiences on Android devices, as the company recently released an update to its Android Software Development Kit (SDK). This update will bring the native Share Dialog to Android, as well as the Object Application Programming Interface.

Here’s what’s in the latest update, courtesy of Facebook:

  • Share Dialog for Android offers a lightweight and consistent way to enable sharing, without needing to login to Facebook first. With one line of code, developers can enable people to skip three extra steps and immediately share to Facebook.
  • Object API that makes it easier to integrate Open Graph into Android apps. Developers can now directly create Open Graph objects, and no longer need to host webpages with Open Graph tags.
  • Beta launch of the ability to publish and measure app events for Android apps. Developers can now measure the aggregate number of times a predefined action was taken within an app, to help developers understand the engagement and ROI coming from mobile adds on Facebook.
  • Redesigned Login UI that looks better, and converts at a higher rate.

Facebook Software Engineer Chris Lang discussed in a blog post what this update can offer for Android apps with Facebook integration:

We are launching in beta the ability to publish and measure app events for your Android apps. Previous versions of the SDK allowed developers and advertisers to measure installs driven from our mobile app install ads product. With app events, you can now also measure the aggregate number of times a predefined action was taken within your app, such as ‘add to cart’ in a commerce app, ‘level achieved’ in a game, or other custom events that help you understand the engagement and ROI coming from your mobile ads on Facebook. Over the next several months, we will be working on improving our optimization and insights and developing new features that will further leverage app events.

Image courtesy of Facebook.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Bye, bye SEO? Make Facebook optimization, Story Bumping and Last Actor work for you today

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On Tuesday, Facebook announced it has rolled out changes to the site’s News Feed algorithm.

If you’re serious about increasing engagement with Facebook, these are 2 concepts you need to learn now. With all of the push for individualized experiences online, Facebook is now providing new strategies to determine which stories appear in one’s News Feed.

The two new plot twists include:

  • Story Bumping – This shows older stories that the user might have missed the last time they perused their News Feed.  In other words, the stories are new to the user, although possibly older than the current time they’re viewed. Facebook saw:
    • a 5 percent increase on interaction with stories from Friends
    • an 8 percent increase in interaction on stories from Pages
    • an overall increase in stories read from 57 percent to 70 percent
  • Last Actor – This involves real time “signaling,” where Facebook tracks the last 50 interactions a user has done within the social network on a rolling basis, and uses that to rank which stories to show in a feed.

So how can a business take advantage of this new Facebook news tweak?

In a nutshell, create engagement like so:

Post yes/no/controversial questions on your Facebook business page/group

Interaction is the name of the game. You want your Facebook fans and group members/community to interact with one another, share your content and the like.

So pick a polarizing topic and ask your community to share their views.  The more controversial, the more fervent the responses most likely will be.  Each side will have their own battalion of believers who will defend their viewpoints most enthusiastically.

The result? Whenever someone engages, that engagement will show up in their friends’ feed.  If their friends share the same interest, chances are…they’ll join in the fray as well.

More discussions lead to more interactions which increases the chance your ‘story’ will appear in News Feeds even if it was missed the first time.

Offer weekly contests

Your business page has a specific theme. Every week, you can create a contest where readers can submit their tips/photos/etc and then let the community ‘vote’ on which tip/picture is the ‘best’.

I do this for my passion I Love My Husky and Malamute fan page. Every Thursday, readers are encouraged to submit their favorite Moose photos and every hour, one winner is announced.

The result?  Increased engagement!  People *love* sharing their favorite pictures (and we can expand this for local/businesses as well – share and vote on your favorite tips!).

More discussions lead to more interactions which increases the chance your ‘story’ will appear in News Feeds even if it was missed the first time.  See how this works?

And finally:

Train your audience to expect daily topics

This is very powerful.

Every day, pick a topic/idea, use your own #hashtag and ask your community a specific question.

In my group, Perking Up Profits, it’s called #MorningWakeupChat.

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In Dennis Becker’s The IM Inside Track, it’s called #DailyTopic.

In both cases, it encourages the user the community to *expect* a daily topic and share their ideas about it.

More discussions lead to more interactions which increases the chance your ‘story’ will appear in News Feeds even if it was missed the first time.  It works this way too.

In closing, certainly, search engine optimization is important.

In the age of social media, however, “Facebook Optimization” is definitely not to be ignored.

These tweaks for Facebook Optimization are generating a lot of comment and analysis. Make certain you factor in their importance to your social media campaign today.

barb_profileBarbara Ling is a 17-plus year veteran marketing entrepreneur, currently specializing in teaching others how to build a viral fanbase/community online using Facebook, Pinterest, blogging, coffee (lots of coffee, or maybe tea if that’s your preference) and more! See her Google Profile here!

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Walmart Labs Scoops Up Site-Speed Optimizer, Torbit, To Help It Keep Pace With Amazon

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Josh Fraser and Jon Fox founded Torbit in 2010 after becoming fed up with the amount of time they and other engineers dedicated to the tedious process of managing website performance optimization — by hand. In 2012, the Sunnyvale-based startup launched its first solution, called Insight, in an effort to make the tools they’d spent years developing internally available to the public — without requiring a degree in computer science or 15 developers to understand them.

By allowing any online business to track that critical correlation between the time it takes for a website to load and their core business metrics, Insight attracted the attention of both enterprise players as well as startups like Wayfair, Storenvy, and the Cheezburger Network. By February of this year, Torbit was processing over 6 billion performance metrics a day for its customers.

With each second a website takes to load potentially results in the loss of critical business, something to which big e-commerce properties, like Walmart, are increasingly susceptible. Rather than building these tools themselves, Walmart Labs today announced that it is buying Torbit’s help.

While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, in its announcement today, Torbit said it will be joining Walmart Labs as part of the e-commerce giant’s move to bring some speed and performance optimization to Walmart’s online properties. Specifically, Fox says, Walmart will look to leverage Torbit’s dynamic content optimization technology to enhance the performance and shopping experience for Walmart customers — behind the larger, and perhaps more pressing goal, of helping it keep pace with Amazon.

Following the acquisition, Torbit will continue to keep its site running for 30 days, but will be shutting down for good on August 23. The company will be offering an export process to its customers to prevent them from losing their critical performance data, which readers can find here.

In an effort to meet the expectations of an increasingly digitally savvy consumer, Walmart Labs has been on a mission to develop new commerce solutions to stay ahead of encroaching competitors (and chase e-tail leaders like the ubiquitous Amazon), while enhancing the shopping experience of its millions of shoppers. To do that, the company has been following the Yahoo playbook of late, making a handful of acquisitions to bring startup talent in-house.

Today’s addition of Torbit to its startup roster follows Walmart Labs’ recent acquisitions of companies like Inkiru, OneOps and Tasty Labs, which are all part of an effort to help its parent company become an actual technology company (and not just another e-tailer) and beef up Walmart.com. Buying Inkiru, for example, gave the company access to a mobile-centric point-of-sale solution, while last year’s acquisition of Grabble provided a critical Big Data component, allowing it to improve fraud detection and prevention and in-store recommendations.

With these acquisitions, Walmart.com is now able to tap into and offer key features, like improved semantic search, Facebook integration and better mobile support — which are essential as the company adapts to its increasingly digital user base.

With the acquisition of Torbit’s front-end optimizer, Walmart said that it will be able to add much-needed device and platform-agnostic performance optimization tools and minimize customer attrition thanks to slow loading digital storefronts.

The startup’s technology, Walmart Labs’ Jeremy King said in a blog post today, can “dynamically minimize and compress the files the browser downloads to best fit the browser’s characteristics … and by rewriting the page to best exploit the performance behavior of the Web browser requesting the page, Site Optimization can help each browser fetch and render each page as efficiently as possible.”

With a growing share of its revenues emanating from its e-commerce portals, this kind of image loading is critical to allowing shoppers to find what they need in real time, without the traditional invective directed at their browser.

With the acquisition, Walmart said today that four of Torbit’s engineers will be joining its team, including co-founder Jon Fox.

Torbit’s announcement copied below:

Today we’re excited to announce that Torbit has been acquired by @WalmartLabs. We’ll be joining the team and bringing our Insight / Atlas technology to the Walmart online properties. In addition, we’ll be using our cutting edge Dynamic Content Optimization technology to enhance the performance and shopping experience for all of Walmart.com’s many online shoppers. We’re exited to help make the Walmart online experience even better by optimizing for your device and improving the performance of all of their existing and future sites.

Torbit has been a wild ride and we’ve been truly blessed to work with many great customers. We couldn’t have built any of our performance products without all of your feedback, testing, and patience. I am truly grateful to have worked with all of you. As part of this acquisition, we’ll continue to keep everything running for 30 days, until Friday, August 23, 2013, after which time we’ll have to wind down. We do offer an export process so you can keep all of your performance data. You can see an estimate of your export size here and if you’re interested in exporting your data please email us at support@torbit.com with a list of sites you’d like to export and we’ll send you instructions from there.

There has been a long list of great people who have helped Torbit along the way and I want to thank each and every one of you. From our investors, advisors, and employees to our customers, beta testers, and friends – we couldn’t have done it without you!

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Appfuel Is A Simple Way For App Developers To Balance Monetization And Growth

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Appfuel is aiming to make it easy for mobile app developers to manage the tradeoff between user growth and monetization.

Cross-promotion between apps is a big part of the ecosystem, but CEO Andrew Boos said Appfuel is unique because of its simplicity. Developers add a “suggested apps” unit to their own apps, and they can either grow their user base by getting a reciprocal recommendation in another app, or they can earn money by running sponsored suggestions — or rather, with Appfuel, they do a mix of both. To adjust the program, they just move a slider determining how much of their inventory goes towards recommendation swapping versus sponsored links, and Appfuel handles the rest of the optimization process.

“The only real decision a developer must make is what percentage goes to each,” Boos said. “We make the ‘grow vs dough’ decision easy.”

Appfuel also offers real-time analytics and a dashboard that allows developers to monitor all their apps in one place. And there’s a “focus” feature for launching a new app, so that all of the suggestions in all of a developer’s apps can promote the new product.

The startup said it’s already working with mobile game accelerator YetiZen and mobile games startup MakeGamesWith.Us. Starting today, it’s looking for sign-ups for its Founders’ Package, where developers can use Appfuel and keep 100 percent of revenue (rather than giving a cut to the network) over the next 12 months. The goal, Boos said, is to work with about 20 to 30 apps initially, though Appfuel will be accepting more on an ongoing basis.

The startup has raised a “six figure” amount of funding from advisors (who include Max Teitelbaum of WhatRunsWhere.com and Jivan Manhas MediaTrust and Internet Media Labs), grants, and accelerators (Chinaccelerator, Boost.vc).

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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