Lots of #BCventures news, Meet Our Students, Facebook, AfriTech, Robots and more – The Week in Geek™ – March 2, 2016
Are you using my textbook? Let me know what you’d like in an upcoming version. I’m on sabbatical next Fall and welcome input on what you’d like to see next. And huge thanks to the book’s 1,500 plus faculty adopters – I’m hugely grateful for your advocacy and commitment to the project.
Meet Our Students!
Boston College Alumni in the Bay Area – Meet our Undergraduate #BCTechTrek students, see student poster sessions on their businesses & campus leadership efforts, and hear a great panel on Tech for Social Innovation with alums from Google’s Project Link (Ghana & Uganda) and VotoMobile, among others. We hope to see you there! Signup here! Wed., March 9, 2016, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, Garden Court Hotel, 520 Cowper Street, Palo Alto, CA.
Also, see the newest BC innovators at the 1st annual Demo Day for the Accelerate@Shea program, Thursday, March 3rd from 6:30-8:00pm, Fulton Honors Library.
Facebook Learns To Make Money Where There Isn’t Much
Firms that earn money on ads have often struggled in emerging markets, but Facebook is working hard to prove that emerging markets pay. At the beginning of 2012 the firm’s ARPU (avg. revenue per user) was just 32 cents across Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, but by the end of the year ARPU in this market spiked 4x to $1.22. Sure, Europeans are worth $4.50 on avg, while US & Canadian users bring in a whopping $13.54, but the emerging market numbers are impressive. Nearly 63 percent of Facebook users in emerging markets use the service each day.
To help Facebook managers gain empathy for users in markets where bandwidth is scarce, the firm runs “2G Tuesdays” at its Menlo Park headquarters. Facebook’s acquisitions have also helped improve emerging market performance. The Israeli duo of Snaptu and Onavo, which provided critical tech to run Facebook on non-smart feature phones, and to accelerate app performance while burning less battery power. The firm’s Facebook Lite option for emerging markets takes up less than 1MB of space, skips videos, and only loads hi-res images when needed. The Facebook Creative Accelerator helps brands build engagement campaigns compatible with slower connections and which won’t eat up a user’s data budget (often loaded from pay-as-you go scratch cards). The firm’s slideshow ad format presents a series of images in an experience that mimics video without the heavy data demands. TechCrunch reports that Coke reached 2 million Kenyan and Nigerian consumers using these techniques, claiming a 10 point campaign awareness lift. And while not a revenue earner, the Facebook sponsored Internet.org and it’s Free Basics effort is now in 38 countries, offering free data for Facebook, Messenger, Wikipedia, health info, and civil resources. The effort is not without its critics. India has banned the effort based on net neutrality concerns, but it remains to be seen if other nations will shun efforts that provide even a subset of free services access. Pushing the envelope even further, Facebook is experimenting with solar-powered drones and lasers to bring more bandwidth to underserved areas.
Not Another African Tech Article
Zimbabwe-raised Clinton Mutambo takes to TechCrunch, offering an important counter-balance to the lavish ‘Tech in Africa” boosterism. Mutambo makes the case that articles lumping “Africa” together as one are actually doing a disservice to the uniqueness and complexity of each of the continent’s 54 diverse states. Understanding conditions helps explain the rise of mobile money in places such as deeply-challenged Somalia or the within the unique regulatory and competitive environment of Kenya which fueled M-Pesa.
But Mutambo provides some often underreported (at least in the West) success stories. Among them, Africa’s first tech unicorn, Mo Ibrahim’s Bessemer-backed Celtel which sold in 2005 to MTC for $3.3 billion, minting about 100 millionaires from the founding team. And for all the talk of China playing in Africa, few know that South Africa’s Naspers Media Group was an early investor (and is now the largest shareholder) in WeChat parent Tencent, the world’s fifth largest Internet company. Savvy S. Africans turned $32 million into holdings valued at roughly $58 billion.
There are lots of reasons for sub-Saharan tech optimism. When running our TechTrek Ghana program, we are clear that this isn’t service learning (as laudable as many of those efforts are). Our students are in-country learning in master class sessions from Ghanaian technologists and entrepreneurs targeting opportunities in Africa and beyond. We visit Rancard, Intel Capital’s first investment in Africa, Sproxil, which has saved lives through using mobile devices to uncover pharma fraud. Esoko, which empowers farmers with phone-delivered, playing field leveling information and education. And MEST, whose alumni have attracted western investment and acquisition. These efforts may rate below the Valley’s unicorn metric, but they underscore tech-fueled empowerment that fast-cheap tech delivers at the intersection of commerce and innovation.
Want more? See Knowledge@Wharton’s report “The Entrepreneurs Spurring Africa’s Rise.” And those looking to connect with some of the continent’s most innovating minds should seek out the MIT Africa Innovate Conference, run each year in Boston (and scheduled for April 8-9, 2016) . The full day on Saturday is a required class for our students & has included many of the individuals and firms mentioned in the articles above.
If you haven’t seen the new video for the Google-owned Boston Dynamics Atlas robot, you should really check it out. The bot ambles around on two legs, makes its way through snow-covered woods, lugs around warehouse boxes, and then endures taunting with a hockey-stick wielding human bully who taps packages out of the bot’s way and pokes it in what comedian Seth Meyers calls “the most Boston way to treat a robot“.
- How to get a job at Startups article along with Slide Show – a great post & deck from our friends from Boston-based @NextViewVC
- Students & Profs: Tech once again makes strong showing in Best Jobs in America
- Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs. Apply by 3/21.
- Women in Tech should also reach out to SheStarts, co-founded by BC alum & Startup attorney @nmcremins, who has been a dynamite help for BCVC & Soaring Startup Circle these past several years.
- Really cool graphic on tech industry acquisitions.
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Lots of #BCventures news!
- Need UX Feedback? @RileySoward‘s Startup CampusInsights “Reveals What Students Really Think of Your App” Meet Riley and his team at the March 9 BC TechCouncil event.
- Riley’s work was also profiled in the Huffington Post “From Ramen Noodles to Startup Innovation: A Story About Seizing Opportunities“
- USA Today profiles BCVC finalist @angelajin54 and her positive-image t-shirt business, 1950 Collective, which grossed $200K it’s first year.
- NYTimes Profiles @ArtLifting which is using art to “Helping Homeless Artists Turn Around Their Fortunes.” The firm was founded by BC alum @powerssp & his sister, Liz. Both are children of BC Business Law Prof. Powers. And there’s more on Artlifing from the Daily Free Press in the piece “ArtLifting creatively uplifting to low-income artists“
- Congratulations to the @BCalumni in this year’s Forbes #30Under30 @staffw of http://cat.aly.st (Energy) & @AkashJC (Law/Policy) and #BCTechTrek alum @PhilDumontet (E-Comm). Congrats! Thx to BC Public Affairs for keeping us posted. Follow BC online via: bc.edu/social
- BizJournals/BizWomen Profiles BC alum & @EmpireAngels cofounder, Samsung VC’s @cmbechs. Christina Bechhold’s angel firm counts Larry Summers & Sequoia India as co-investors (Empire Angels was also co-founded with #BCTechTrek alum @grahamgullans). Can’t wait to see her when she hosts #BCTechTrek NYC in March at the Samsung Accelerator.
- BCVC winner @SavvyAlexa gets coerage for her firm that’s “Prepping Girls for STEM by Letting Them Design 3D-Printed Shoes“
- The 2015 BCVC Winner @MyCoreHub, veterans of last summer’s Soaring Startup Circle, launches an Airbnb-style coworking effort.
- Congrats to BC alum @Narodny cofounder of @Grovo on the learning platform’s $40M round! And from Fortune.
- For more on Grovo, see: “Growing a Startup Engineering Team from 8 to 30“
- Congrats to former student @andrewboni cofounder of @iterable and vets of 500Startups, on the e-mail marketing firm’s $8M raise
- Congrats #BCTechTrek alums @cbrablc and @joshuaejackson, who have been part of the early success for recruiting platform SmashFly, which recently scored a $22 million road.
- Awesome student project alert: Over winter break, my TA, #TechTrekGhana’s Branick Weix was involved in a sea turtle migration research project in Costa Rica. Check out the cool pics & videos.
- “Machine Learning and the NFL Field Goal” a piece by current student, #BCTechTrek alum, and soon-to-be Googler @jmzledoux
- Great seeing BC alum & @Jebbit CEO @TomCoburn1 in @Entrepreneur discussing the value of culture/team building
- Check out the Q&A with the founded-at-BC Drizly team. And if you haven’t yet, give their booze-ordering app a try. They’re now 20+ markets coast to coast.
- Congrats to WSJ reporter & BC Alum @DaveCBenoit on being named Business Journalist of the Year.
- Dell to bring SecureWorks public, and of course there’s a BC connection. The security firm was founded by BC alum Mike Cote. The firm is see as Dell’s “lynchpin for growth.”
- Bitcoiners, check out the interview with BC Alum @RyanSelkis, Director of Growth at DCG and Team Lead of CoinDesk. Ryan is also credited as the guy who blew open the Mt. Gox. fiasco.
- Check out “The Rise of Visual Content” in @mitsmr by @BCInfoSystems @profkane & #BCTechTrek alum @AlexandraPear43.
- Great insights from@BCInfoSystems @profkane “What Companies Should Learn About Social Media From American Politics” in Sloan Management Review.
- And from@BCInfoSystems Prof. @Ransbotham see “ Avoiding Analytical Myopia“
- Should people who discover a software vulnerability make the information public? Full disclosure leads to attacks, but attack activity ends sooner, write @BCInfoSystems Prof. @Ransbotham and his co-author, Sabyasachi Mitra.
- And have you met @BCinfosystems @BCInfoSystems Prof @geowyn yet? He’s a teaching juggernaut who has led optional workshops on APIs and SQL. Check out the profile “With heavy metal and humor, Wyner takes the fright out of IT.”
- BTW: Prof. Wyner was my brewing partner for the inaugural batch is “Collaborative Consumption: the Beer for the Sharing Economy.” Alums, let me know when you’re stopping by & I’ll bring you in a bottle of the Belgian Dubbel.
- Many of you know @BCBusinessLaw Prof. David Twomey as an internationally known arbitration expert, whose service includes appointments by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, William Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. But recent beneficiaries of Twomey’s tenacity and research depth include the members of the Boston College 1940 Football Team. Twomey makes a compelling case, setting the record straight that the team indeed should be considered the 1940 National Football Champions.
- Thanks to graduating BC senior @shalinmehtabc for the kind words in the Humans of BC posting, but the kindest words need to go to the @BCalumni who have partnered with us to make our programs possible. We all are grateful for your continued support.
“In terms of what makes me happy, I'd say Boston College and its tight-knit community make me extremely happy. BC has granted me the unique opportunity to discern and pursue my passions, as well as help others to distinguish and pursue theirs. I have been extremely blessed to have met some amazing people here at BC, who have guided and inspired me throughout my four years on the Heights. One of those individuals is Professor John Gallaugher. Through his mentorship and my involvement in BC's TechTrek field-study programs in New York, Boston, and California, I have realized my passion for startups and venture capital and as a result have gotten to work with innovative companies that impact millions of people. I have also truly realized that helping others achieve their potential is what makes me most happy. I'd say the most amazing thing that I have been a part of at BC is the PULSE Program. I served at Another Course to College (ACC), a public pilot high school in Boston. I was lucky enough to closely mentor two high school seniors through the college admissions process. Today, both of my mentees are current undergraduates at Boston College pursuing their passion for the sciences. Whenever I run into them on campus, words can't explain my happiness. It is by far the biggest and most meaningful accomplishment of my life. BC is truly a special place." -Shalin Mehta CSOM '16 with @bchappinessproject