Steve’s ITK: A billion dollars

Happy birthday TransferWise


Opening thought: It’s nice to be first

Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder and CEO of TransferWise, was in a nostalgic mood this week: the company, valued by investors at over a billion dollars last year, is celebrating its 6th birthday.

In a tweet, Hinrikus linked to my rather hastily-written TechCrunch post, published on January 24th 2011, covering TransferWise’s official launch.

To my discredit, the article repeated the PR line that the company wanted to do for currency exchange what Skype had done for telephony and left the peer-to-peer money transfer claims entirely unchecked. I was a lot more naive and less good looking back then.

As far as I can recall, I was also the first journalist at a major publication to write about the startup — see TransferWise’s blog post published the same week.

In fact, Hinrikus has since told me that my coverage led to the first $1,000 being transferred via the currency exchange service. That’s a far cry from the “more than a billion dollars” I’m told the Andreessen Horowitz-backed company is now moving each month.

More fun still: In a follow up tweet, the TransferWise founder shared a screenshot of his first ever email to me. It’s noteworthy for how straight-forward the pitch was and that, as far as I know, no PR people were involved (or harmed) in the process.

TranferWise co-founder and CEO pitches me on January 19th 2011

The takeaway: It’s almost always better when a founder gets in touch directly. Hinrikus still answers my calls and emails to this day.

Bonus: Sky News, who annoyingly appear to have a well-placed source within TransferWise’s investor circles, writes that Andreessen Horowitz has increased its stake in the company.

According to the report, the Silicon Valley VC has “agreed to buy a chunk of shares held by TransferWise’s initial ‘angel’ investors”. The mind boggles.

Things I published this week:

Skype’s Niklas Zennström backs London fintech startup Cleo —

London-based Cleo, a startup that’s developed an AI-powered chatbot to help you manage your finances, has picked up $700,000 in funding from an impressive list of angel investors, including Skype founder Niklas Zennström.

Cuvva launching pay-as-you-go car insurance aimed at infrequent drivers —

This is really neat: Cuvva, the Scottish startup that reckons it’s spotted a gap in the market by offering hourly car insurance sold through a mobile app, is set to launch a new type of car insurance designed for infrequent drivers.

Quiqup partners with Hungryhouse to let take-outs in London outsource delivery —

Déjà vu: Quiqup, a London-based delivery startup that offers an app and service similar to Postmates in the U.S., has partnered with take-out ordering service hungryhouse to let partner restaurants outsource delivery.

Pitchero, a platform for amateur and grassroots sports, scores £3.1M Series A —

Pitchero, a U.K. startup that makes it easy for amateur and grassroots sports clubs to build a web presence and move communities online, has scored £3.1 million in Series A funding.

Dalia, a market and opinion data gathering platform, raises $7M Series A —

Dalia, a Berlin-based startup that gathers real-time market and opinion data by pushing micro-surveys to smartphone users, has raised $7 million in Series A funding.

Idea Drop helps organisations generate and capture new ideas —

In spite of my aversion to the word “ideation,” I can’t argue against software designed to help an organisation solicit ideas from its people.

Ask me anything

Last week, I invited readers of this newsletter to ask me anything tech industry, media or career-related, and promised that if I had a decent answer I’d publish a reply.

One reader asks:

Do you think media companies will focus more on messaging apps to distribute their content in 2017? Why and how?

Admittedly, it is not something I’ve thought that much about. Instead, I put the same question to Travis Bernard, TechCrunch’s Director of Audience Development. Here’s what he had to say:

Yes — media companies will be focusing more on messaging apps to distribute content in 2017.
Messaging apps are the portal to mobile. We use messaging apps more than any other apps on our phones, and all the top apps in the App Store have a messaging component.
These apps are where people spend most of their time on mobile, making them a huge potential opportunity for advertising, commerce, and overall media consumption.
Tons of messages are already being sent to and from businesses on WeChat, Messenger, and Line. Users are familiar with interacting with businesses and brands through messaging apps, and younger generations will go to web chat, messaging, and social media first when they interact with a business.
The ball is already rolling on this trend, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to reverse.
If you are a media brand, why wouldn’t you take advantage of a place where users are spending most of their time on mobile?
Simply put, bots.
Messaging apps are evolving into service platforms powered by artificial intelligence (bots).
If messaging apps are the portal to mobile, then they are becoming the new home screen or browser on your phone. If the first thing you do on your phone is open a messaging app, it is like a new browser.
TechCrunch currently uses bots to distribute its content on Messenger. It’s similar to a newsletter digest, but you can personalize which types of content you receive. The ability to personalize which content you receive creates a much better experience for the user.
We’ve seen massive growth over the past year with our bot, and we will continue to make improvements and upgrades to it in 2017.

You can read more about the TechCrunch Facebook Messenger bot here. And keep the questions coming.

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Till next time,