Data visualization startup Visual.ly grabs another $2M to take on ad agencies (exclusive)

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Big data may be cool, but it’s not pretty. Visual.ly, a startup focused on data visualizations and infographics, has raised a new $2 million round of funding, the company has confirmed to VentureBeat today.

Visual.ly’s platform is like a “basecamp” for design projects that want to utilize big data from multiple sources. It’s clients (brands, businesses, and news organizations) subscribe for access to the platform, which can match them with Visual.ly’s community of over 55,000 designers. Once matched,the designer and the client work together using the platform, with Visual.ly’s team acting as a project manager. Essentially, it answer the question of what do to for companies after they’ve hired a designer and don’t quite know what to do next.

“Right now existing ad agencies are our biggest competitors,” Visual.ly CEO Stew Langille told me in a phone interview. He explained that, in addition to building useful, interactive graphics for clients, Visual.ly is becoming more attractive because it allows designers to earn more money on a project and advertisers to spend less.

Depending on the level of project management, Visual.ly takes anywhere from 10 to 30 percent cut of each project’s total cost. The goal, Langille said, is to improve the collaboration platform for designers and clients to work on their own. And while he didn’t disclose financial figures, Langille did say that Visual.ly’s revenue is increasing 300 percent each quarter, and the number of projects are increasing 200 percent per quarter.

Visually-GA toolThe new round came from previous investors, such as SoftTech VC, 500 Startups, and Giza Venture Capital, as well as strategic investors that include Yammer chief product officer James Patterson and several top executives from the advertising industry that will help Visual.ly build out its presence in New York City.

The additional capital will primarily be used to advance the startup’s data visualization /collaboration technology and hire more talent over the next year. Langille said Visual.ly has held off on raising a larger round, but does plan on raising additional funding in the future.

Langille also said he’d like to use the funding to produce more free data visualization tools that showcase the Visual.ly platform’s potential. For example, the startup’s recently released tool that interfaces with Google Analytics to produce a weekly traffic report, which you can send via email automatically. Also, the startup’s Twitter user battle infographic tool.

Founded in 2011, the San Francisco, Calif.-based startup has raised a total of $4.4 million in funding to date. Visual.ly currently has 25 employees, with plans to hire another 10 to 15 people before the end of 2013.

Filed under: Business, Deals




Report: Tablets to Outship Desktops This Year

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Tablet PCs will outship desktop PCs for the first time this year, catapulting us into a true “post-PC era,” according to a report by researcher IDC.

Shipments of tablet PCs will surpass desktops as the former category grows by 48.7% and the latter shrinks by 4.3%, IDC estimates. In 2014, tablets will also outship portable PCs. “In emerging markets, consumer spending typically starts with mobile phones and, in many cases, moves to tablets before PCs,” said Megha Saini, research analyst for IDC’s Worldwide Smart Connected Device Tracker, in a statement. “The pressure on the PC market is significantly increasing and we can see longer replacement cycles coming into effect very soon and that, too, will put downward pressure on PC sales.”


Half of What Online Advertisers Know About You Is Wrong

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Considering that they’ve never explicitly asked us about our preferences, it’s a minor miracle of big data that web advertising companies know anything about us at all. But at least half of the things they think they know about you—from your political preferences to your affinity for ladies’ fashion—could be wrong, and sometimes hilariously so.

Or at least, that’s what data from a survey put out by a firm called Enliken would suggest. Because Enliken’s business is getting people to give up more-accurate data about themselves in exchange for access to content. Because the survey wasn’t very big—covering just 116 people and about 9,000 data points—I took the survey myself in order to see whether ad targeting firms’ notions about my preferences were as inaccurate as Enliken suggested.


Meet Creative Market: A New Platform for Buying and Selling Creative Resources

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The folks that brought you COLOURlovers have cooked up something new and exciting: Creative Market, a beautiful and simple way to buy and sell digital creative goods online.

Join us as we jump in to see what Creative Market is all about and how they’re uniquely positioning themselves in this market.

What is Creative Market?
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The basic idea behind Creative Market is familiar. As a designer, you can sign up to purchase goods, sell goods or both. The site cleverly refers to itself as “a platform for handcrafted, mousemade design content.” There are currently five different categories of items available for purchase.

Graphics

In this section, you’ll find icons, background textures, UI kits and other non-coded graphical resources. There’s a good bit of breadth in the selection here already, you’ll find items ranging from $5 all the way up to $60.

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Templates

The templates section is where you’ll find layered PSD and vector files for brochures, business cards, flyers, invitations, presentations, and even websites. There are a lot of really attractive designs in here, most of which are going for less than $10.

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Themes

At the moment, the themes section is primarily filled with WordPress themes, though a few simple Tumblr themes are included as well. The contributors here are big names that you’ll recognize: UpThemes, MediaLoot, ThemeFuse, etc. Prices here currently top out around $60.

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Fonts

Really solid, yet affordable typefaces are not always easy to find. It seems that fonts either go free or jump up to hundreds of dollars. Creative Market is challenging this idea though with a pretty impressive collection of attractive fonts that range from $2 to $25.

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Add-Ons

This is where you’ll find all the extra design goodies: brushes, actions, shapes, layer styles; all of which plug right into Photoshop or Illustrator so you can achieve awesome results with almost zero effort. There are a few higher priced items, but most of the stuff here is under $10.

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What Makes Creative Market Unique?

“It seems that they set out to do pretty much the opposite of what we’re used to seeing from creative marketplaces.”

Typically, another place to buy design goods online is hardly newsworthy. There are a lot of strong contenders in this category already and any newbie is going to have some difficulty attracting customers who might already be loyal to other marketplaces.

However, the thing that made us take a closer look at Creative Market is their intentionally unique positioning. It seems that they set out to do pretty much the opposite of what we’re used to seeing from creative marketplaces.

There are four primary strategies here that are really impressive from a seller’s perspective.

70% Commission

There’s no complicated, tiered system here where you have to start at a low commission and work your way up to something decent. Every seller gets to keep a whopping 70% of their sales. In case you haven’t shopped around, this is a dang good rate and something that will really set this site apart.

Set Your Own Prices

Typically with these types of sites, you upload the thing that you put a lot of hard work and dedication into only to have someone else decide how much its worth. Your entire pricing strategy is at the mercy of a random reviewer. Not on Creative Market. This site gives you complete control over pricing your items. How cool is that?

No Exclusivity Promise

All the big players, such as iStock Photo, either outright require exclusivity or drastically reduce your commission rate if you’re not willing to sign their exclusivity agreement. By contrast, Creative Market simply doesn’t seem to care. Be exclusive, sell elsewhere, it’s up to you.

No Review Process

If you’ve ever sold stock artwork before, you know the drill. You work hard on something that you know can sell well only to be rejected by a reviewer who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I know from experience that this is beyond frustrating. Creative Market is tossing this idea out completely. You sell whatever you want to sell. If your items are no good, your reputation and ratings will tank. If your items are great, potential buyers will see that and know they can trust you.

That Local, Homegrown Feel
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In addition to the impressive unique selling propositions above, Creative Market is attempting to distance itself from the overly corporate feel of the larger stock sites by using the metaphor of a small town farmer’s market.

You don’t simply upload and sell items, you “open a shop.” Further, the site is heavily geared towards introducing you to the great people behind the products so you make that personal connection when you purchase an item (pretty brilliant from a marketing perspective).

My Thoughts on Creative Market

Now that we know what Creative Market is and how they plan on carving out a niche for themselves in this super competitive industry, let’s jump into my personal thoughts on the service.

Design

First of all, it must be said that Creative Market is one of the most attractive design marketplaces I’ve seen. Given that everyone just rips off whatever Envato does, these types of sites all start to look the same after a while. Creative Market, on the other hand, feels fresh and different. The color palette is so incredibly cozy, the textures are perfect and I love the hand drawn artwork that defines the brand.

Seller-Focused to the Max

If you’re planning on selling goods, Creative Market has to look good. The 70% commission rate, freedom to set prices, lack of a review process and freedom to sell elsewhere pretty much eliminate all of the gripes that designers typically have with online marketplaces.

For this reason, I think they’ll attract a ton of designers to the service, which means their content will hopefully grow pretty quickly. They are in an “invite only” mode at the moment though, which I assume is temporary.

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The Downside of a Seller-Focused Model

“All of the other marketplaces swear that they have to abide by certain practices to survive, most of which really suck for sellers.”

If you’re focused on making sellers happy, some of that happiness is bound to come at the expense of the buyers. To a certain degree, you can see that taking place here.

For example, take the lack of an exclusivity agreement. This sounds awesome to a seller, but to a buyer this could, in the long run, equate to a site full of the same old content that you see everywhere else. If I wanted to purchase something from this site, I’d likely Google around to see if I could find the same file elsewhere for a better price.

Similarly, it’s awesome for a seller that there’s no review process, but from the buyer’s perspective, how long until the vultures swoop in and fill the site with subpar content? Hopefully, the current invite system will keep this from happening any time soon.

In the end though, I’m thrilled to see someone finally standing up and trying out this stance. All of the other marketplaces swear that they have to abide by certain practices to survive, most of which really suck for sellers. Creative Market is boldly challenging these ideas, and if they’re successful, they’ll shake up this market considerably.

What Do You Think?

Creative Market is definitely an exciting new platform and I really think that it’s going to do well. If you’re at all interested in selling stock products, I encourage you to jump on board and catch some of that early adopter seller action.

Stop by the site and let us know what you think. Are you excited about the unique approach being taken here? Do you think it’ll work? We want to know!


Forget channel surfing: How Boxfish plans to revolutionize real-time TV search

Most of us, including Bruce Springsteen himself, have thought it: there’s nothing on TV. This is despite the fact that many people who pay for cable or satellite subscriptions have constant access to hundreds of channels. Many of us lament, or perhaps are overwhelmed by, choice. While channel-surfing and looking for something new, you could consult a paper TV Guide, or its modern-day equivalent, the on-screen “grid” interface.

But now, a new Silicon Valley startup wants to change all that by harnessing a feature that most channels already output—closed captioning. Boxfish captures all closed-captioning information, indexes it, then makes that data searchable in a Twitter-style interface. All in real-time.

The company was founded in January 2011 and launched its “beta” search interface in March.

“We thought that this is a fantastic way to discover television,” said Eoin (pronounced like “Owen”) Dowling, who hails from Ireland, in an interview with Ars on Tuesday.

“Most people discover television using this grid. We turned this basically TweetDeck-like feed for television into a remote control for TV. So you’re at home and you tell us what you’re interested in, and we pop what’s happening in real time and then you can control your TV with it.”

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