Archive for Dan Whateley

Michael Dell says blockchain technology is ‘underrated’

Michael Dell
Michael Dell
  • Michael Dell is a fan of blockchain, which could help boost his company's infrastructure business.
  • The 56-year-old billionaire told The New York Times' DealBook that blockchain is underrated.
  • The remarks came during an interview with the Times' newsletter DealBook on Saturday.

Michael Dell is bullish on blockchain technology.

The founder and CEO of Dell Technologies said that blockchain as a category is "probably underrated," but declined to comment on whether bitcoin was underrated or overrated. The remarks came during an interview with the New York Times' newsletter DealBook on Saturday.

Dell was an early adopter of bitcoin. His company, which sells a variety of products from hardware to cloud computing services, began accepting the cryptocurrency as a form of payment in 2014. It later stopped transacting with bitcoin in 2017 due to "low demand."

Tesla's Elon Musk halted bitcoin transactions for his company in May, citing concerns about its environmental impact. Bitcoin mining requires more electricity than some countries consume in a year. And some institutions are wary of crypto generally following a recent run of high-profile trading errors that put millions of dollars at risk for investors.

Dell's interest in blockchain technology ties back to the company's infrastructure business, where selling data storage and other services netted it $8.4 billion in revenue in the second quarter. Its 56-year-old billionaire founder recently listed blockchain tech alongside autonomous vehicles and AI-driven biotech as a potential revenue driver for the company.

"At the center of you know the increasingly connected intelligent world is an enormous amount of data," he told Yahoo Finance. "And all that data requires infrastructure and technology to manage it. And so we're the world's leading provider of all of that."

The price of bitcoin has been highly volatile in 2021. The digital coin plummeted in May, dropping to as low as $30,000 following a broad market sell-off. It's continued to bounce up and down in recent weeks, falling to around $42,000 last month after China announced an outright ban on cryptocurrencies. Its price has since rocketed up to over $55,000 after George Soros' investment firm confirmed that it is trading bitcoin.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that Dell was "going to pass" on bitcoin. Dell told Insider he was going to pass on the question of whether bitcoin is over or underrated. This story has been updated to reflect this correction.

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How creator economy companies are helping influencers grow their businesses

TikTok influencer Yusuf Panseri.
TikTok influencer Yusuf Panseri.
  • The creator economy has surged in 2021, and a new crop of startups has emerged to cash in.
  • These upstarts are launching tools to help creators connect with fans, film content, and earn money.
  • Here's a breakdown of Insider's recent coverage on up-and-coming creator companies.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

From gamers to beauty influencers, interest in building a career as a content creator has spiked in the past year, with over 50 million people now considering themselves creators, according to investment firm SignalFire.

And a new crop of startups has emerged to service the various needs of these digital stars.

These companies are reimagining the ways influencers connect to fans, produce content, and run their businesses. And they've caught the attention of venture-capital investors who have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into content creator startups in the past year, according to data from Crunchbase.

"The creator economy will comprise a vast percentage of the workforce of the future, and those creators will need financial services to meet their needs - both as businesses and individuals," Alexa von Tobel, founding partner at Inspired Capital, told Insider.

Check out Insider's list of 20 creator economy startups to watch, according to top VCs

Startups building new monetization tools for creators

Many of the new startups in the influencer industry are developing products to help creators make money.

One such company, Pearpop, runs a marketplace for TikTok and Instagram creators to pay - or get paid - to collaborate on content with other users, brands, and marketers.

The company got its start by building a platform to make TikTok "duets" and sounds monetizable, and it has since expanded to Instagram.

"The goal here is to be the epicenter for opportunities to scale and monetize as creators," said Spencer Markel, Pearpop's president.

Read more about how Pearpop's marketplace helps creators make money through collaborations

Other startups are building creator marketplaces designed to service a particular niche within the creator economy.

Agnes Kozera and Dave Kierzkowski cofounded Podcorn to help connect podcast creators with brands, selling the tool to audio giant Entercom (now Audacy) earlier this year for $22.5 million.

Another upstart called Kollyde launched a tool to help Asian multinational brands run influencer campaigns in other markets.

"China has its own internet ecosystem," Amy Vida, Kollyde's cofounder and managing director, told Insider. "They have their own local video platforms, social media, ecommerce, and live video ecommerce ... But when it comes to cross-border marketing, it's an entirely different set of platforms and also a different set of creators."

Learn more about how Kollyde is helping Chinese companies hire influencers in the US and other regions

Amy Vida - Kollyde
Amy Vida, cofounder and managing director at Kollyde

Other startups in the creator economy are building tools to help influencers launch their own direct-to-consumer brands.

One company called Pietra built a platform to connect creators with product designers, manufacturers, and warehouse companies in order to launch their own consumer goods. Users of the tool can choose to create products in a variety of categories, including coffee, clothing, and fragrances. Pietra charges a handling fee for any samples ordered, a production fee, and fees for product assembly, quality assurance, warehouse work, and additional services such as shipping and fulfillment.

"Anyone with the drive and motivation to bring their idea to life can get access to the same infrastructure that the top creators historically have gotten," Pietra cofounder Ronak Trivedi told Insider. "You no longer need to fly around the world, find a factory, beg them to work with you, plead for low minimums. We're trying to build a world where a creator, a single creator, can create the next best-selling brand."

Read more about how Pietra is helping influencers design and manufacture their own products

Ronak Trivedi

Another company in the space, Virtual Dining Concepts, has worked with creators like YouTube star MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) to launch influencer-branded restaurants. Virtual Dining Concepts recently helped the MrBeast team design a menu and create a network of hundreds of "ghost kitchens" (some that it owned), which paid an all-inclusive platform fee to cook and sell MrBeast Burger menu items in the US and Canada.

Read more about the startup behind the ghost kitchen chain MrBeast Burger

Helping creators optimize their finances and the backend of their businesses

Another focus among creator economy startups is helping influencers manage their finances.

While these companies are "underhyped," says UTA Ventures' Caroline Jacobs, they are key to providing the "picks-and-shovels backend of the creator economy."

One startup, Stir, created a payments network that lets creators track their finances, and compensate employees and collaborators directly. Another upstart, Karat, launched a custom charge card designed to meet the spending needs of YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok stars. It looks at a creator's social metrics, like follower count and engagement rates, rather than their FICO score to assess whether they qualify for its card.

"For typical consumers, using social ranking or grading generally is not a good idea and doesn't work," Karat cofounder Will Kim said. "However, what we're focused on is a segment of businesses that are driven by creative metrics. These are all leading indicators for exactly how your business works."

Read more about how fintech startup Karat designed a charge card for influencers

Other companies are building tools to support creators financially. Influencer-tech company ChannelMeter launched a cash payment app called "Creator Cash," that gives YouTube stars a cash advance on their advertising earnings.

"A lot of these creators are credit thin," ChannelMeter CEO Eugene Lee told Insider. "They're underbanked. As these creators grow, they're going to need the support of financial institutions."

Learn more about how finance startups are launching new products designed for influencers

Companies developing new ways for creators to distribute content

Another category of creator startups are finding new ways for influencers to connect with fans and distribute content.

Jellysmack, for example, helps YouTube stars like PewDiePie redistribute their videos onto other apps like Facebook and Snapchat where they can earn additional ad revenue.

"A lot of creators realize that their time is better spent when they focus on creating content instead of trying to optimize for every platform," Jellysmack cofounder Michael Philippe told Insider. "Number one - it's really difficult. And even when they do it themselves, it's obviously very time consuming."

Read more about Jellysmack's content redistribution strategy here

Creator+, meanwhile, looks for new ways to distribute long-form content that features internet stars. The upstart, which functions as a production company, raised $12 million to produce movies starring digital talent that it will release to fans on a pay-per-view basis.

"Our intention is that the movies that we're going to be working on and bringing to the market, we want to be perceived and stand up to any other movie that is being released today," Creator+ cofounder Benjamin Grubbs told Insider.

Learn more about Creator+ and its plans to produce pay-per-view movies with digital stars

Creator+ team
Creator+ leadership team.

And some startups are building tools for creators that focus on a particular content category.

The company Trading.TV launched a new Twitch-style platform focused specifically on finance influencers. Creators who join the platform can stream about stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies, and other assets like NFTs and playing cards. They can also upload on-demand content to a Trading.TV video library. The company plans to introduce a feature that will let users trade stocks in real-time as they watch livestreams.

"You could be like a trading card guru or you could be like a sneakerhead that's just been crazy about collecting sneakers forever," Trading.TV CEO Tobias Heaslip told Insider. "It's not just about being a stock analyst or a bitcoin expert or something like that."

Read more about Trading.TV's invite-only platform for finance livestreams

Here's a list of the creator economy companies we've covered recently:

New startups helping creators make money:

New companies helping creators optimize their finances and the backend of their businesses:

New upstarts helping creators make and distribute their content:

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Salesforce invests $40 million in text-marketing startup Community

Salesforce tower
  • Salesforce is investing $40 million in a text-marketing startup called Community.
  • Community, which started as a tool for celebrities to message fans, is now pitching to businesses.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Salesforce is investing $40 million in the text-marketing startup, Community, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new funding, which comes through the company's investment division, Salesforce Ventures, brings Community's total amount raised to around $90 million.

Community first launched in 2019, raising tens of millions of dollars from investors like Ashton Kutcher to build an app where celebrities and influencers could send texts directly to their fans. Early users included Paul McCartney, Jake Paul, Ellen Degeneres, and Jennifer Lopez. In January, the company told Insider that it had begun targeting business customers in addition to celebrities.

"We've started moving into small businesses, streetwear brands, big brands, and we have over 6,000 leaders using our platform," Josh Rosenheck, the company's co-founder and chief product officer, said.

Community customers can use its platform to send out mass texts, one-to-one messages to followers, or custom texts to a select group of customers based on their location or demographic info. Users who opt into receiving messages can also text back.

Joshua Weissman, a YouTube star who began using Community last year while it was still invite-only, told Insider that the app had proven to be an effective way to keep in touch with his fans.

"I've only been promoting it a little bit, and I've got around 10,000 people on my text platform," Weissman said. "I sent out a text message and it went out to 9,900 [people]. It had a 98% open rate."

"I would compare it to Mailchimp, but the text version," Weissman added. "It's very similar in that fashion, but it's run through an app on your phone."

Interest in text marketing has been on the rise this year as media brands, digital creators, and advertisers look for new ways to reach audiences outside of email. Email platform Mailchimp acquired the text-marketing startup Chatitive in January.

"Over time, everyone's going to want to have a more real connection with the things that they care about," Rosenheck told Insider. "We wanted that to become adopted and understood as a new social paradigm, like, 'Oh wow, I can actually have a personal engaging relationship with people I love like the sports teams, the brands, the businesses that I love.'"

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Twitter and Roblox user posing as a White House reporter snuck in 4 questions to press secretary Jen Psaki

white house press secretary jen psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
  • A Twitter and Roblox user posing as a correspondent snuck 4 questions into White House briefings.
  • The individual emailed questions to White House pool reporters using an array of invented journalist titles.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A Twitter and Roblox user who posed as a White House Correspondents Association member managed to land four questions in recent Biden administration briefings, Politico reported.

Politico's Christopher Cadelago found that the individual - who goes by the name Kacey Montagu - successfully snuck in questions to press secretary Jen Psaki by emailing White House pool reporters using an array of invented journalist titles.

Some reporters declined to pass along Montagu's inquiries. But correspondents at publications like the The Plain Dealer and CQ Roll Call followed through on the requests, asking Psaki questions on topics like COVID-19 travel bans and the president's reaction to Microsoft being hacked.

Montagu used various aliases in emails to pool reporters, Cadelago reported. Sometimes the aliases identified as a White House correspondent at an outlet called "WHN." Other times they named themselves as a political correspondent at an entity called "WHSG." And in at least one instance, they claimed they were a reporter at The Daily Mail.

Montagu, whose true identity is unknown to Insider, built credibility among White House reporters and staff by starting two political news accounts on Twitter, @WHschedule and @WHpoolreport. Montagu has had several exchanges with White House officials, Cadelago reported.

The internet-savvy user appears to have a general interest in politics. In addition to running two White House-focused Twitter accounts, acquaintances of Montagu told Cadelago that they would spend time in a section of the virtual world Roblox where users role-play as US government officials.

"I love journalism, and I think the Press Corps is doing a pretty bad job at the moment, so I decided I would ensure some transparency and ask some questions me and some friends wanted the answer to," the person Cadelago identified as Montagu wrote in an email to Politico.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Jessica Alba’s Honest Company is filing for an IPO after selling $189 million worth of diapers and wipes in 2020

jessica alba
Jessica Alba in September 2019.
  • Honest Company, Jessica Alba's consumer goods startup, filed for an IPO on Friday.
  • It generated $300.5 million in revenue last year, with diapers and wipes driving 63% of sales.
  • The company, which has never been profitable, plans to trade on the Nasdaq under the symbol "HNST."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Jessica Alba's consumer goods startup Honest Company is going public.

The company filed for an IPO on Friday with plans to sell shares on the Nasdaq under the symbol "HNST." It listed a placeholder IPO value of $100 million.

Diapers and wipes accounted for 63% of the company's $300.5 million in revenue last year. Skin, personal care, household, and wellness items made up the rest of its sales.

While the company's 2020 revenue grew about 28% from the previous year, it reported a net loss of $14.5 million. It has never been profitable on an annual basis since its founding in 2012.

"We have incurred net losses each year since our inception and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in the future," the company wrote in the risk factors section of its S-1.

Honest Company's 2020 growth was driven in part by a bump in digital sales, which represented 55% of its revenue last year. Digitally-native brands like Honest, which sells products on and digital retailers like Amazon, benefited from a overall shift to ecommerce last year as brick-and-mortar stores shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. US e-commerce sales rose 32.4% in 2020 to $791.7 billion, according to the US Census Bureau.

"We see consumers increasingly self-educating on the benefits of clean and natural products through social media, influencers and other online content, driving digital engagement and purchasing that supports continued outsized growth of the ecommerce channel," the company wrote in its prospectus.

Alba started Honest Company with a mission to make consumer products that the actress deemed "clean," excluding chemicals and materials like parabens and sulfates. The brand's approach to labeling its products has led to trouble in the past. In 2017, the company settled a lawsuit that claimed it fraudulently labeled some of its products as "natural," "plant-based," or "no harsh chemicals (ever!)."

"Health and safety incidents or advertising inaccuracies or product mislabeling may have an adverse effect on our business by exposing us to lawsuits, product recalls or regulatory enforcement actions," the company wrote in its risk factors section.

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Bitcoin crosses $30,000 for the first time as it charges into 2021

Bitcoin's value grew over 300% last year.
  • Bitcoin set a new record Saturday when the price of the digital currency passed $30,000.
  • The blockchain incumbent has been surging in recent weeks, passing the $20,000 price point a little over two weeks ago and edging toward $25,000 on Christmas day.
  • Bitcoin has grown significantly over the last year as it's drawn in more interest from institutional and retail investors, some of whom view digital coins as a safe haven during the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The price of bitcoin crossed $30,000 for the first time on Saturday as the digital currency continued its rally into the new year. 

Bitcoin reached a high of $33,136.92, a spike of around 14% over the last 24 hours.

The cryptocurrency has been breaking record-after-record in recent days, passing the $20,000 price point a little over two weeks ago and edging toward $25,000 on Christmas day. Its current market cap is about $611 billion.

Bitcoin's value grew over 300% last year as more institutional investors decided to embrace digital currencies. Companies like PayPal added support for cryptocurrency transactions, and some retail investors turned to digital coins as a safe haven (like gold) during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Investors aren't sure yet whether bitcoin's recent rise will impact the price of gold going forward. 

JPMorgan strategists argued in December that the newcomer currency may eventually lower the value of gold because "adoption of bitcoin by institutional investors has only begun, while for gold its adoption by institutional investors is very advanced."

But a Goldman Sachs analyst later wrote that bitcoin was unlikely to negatively affect gold long-term. "We do not see evidence that bitcoin's rally is cannibalizing gold's bull market and believe the two can coexist," the analyst wrote in a note.

Bitcoin wasn't the only digital currency to rise Saturday. Smaller competitors like Ethereum, Litecoin, and Chainlink all saw price jumps during cryptocurrency trading while almost all other markets were closed.

Read more about bitcoin's recent rally: 


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The ‘Ratatouille’ musical that began as a TikTok trend earned over $1 million in ticket sales

ratatouille the musical live event
The "Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical" marquee as it appears in the event trailer.
  • "Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical" earned over $1 million in ticket sales from its virtual New Year's Day stream, according to The Hollywood Reporter and a tweet from the production's official Twitter account.
  • What started as a TikTok trend became a Broadway-scale online production featuring Tony-, Emmy- and Grammy-nominated performers like Wayne Brady, Tituss Burgess, André De Shields, and Ashley Park.
  • Some proceeds from the virtual performance, also known as the "Ratatousical," will go to The Actors Fund, a charity that supports performers and other entertainment workers who have been hit hard by theater closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

"Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical" earned over $1 million in ticket sales from its virtual New Year's Day stream, according to The Hollywood Reporter and a tweet from the production's official Twitter account.

The project, which Insider's Palmer Haasch previously reported began as a series of user-generated videos on TikTok, was picked up by the theater production company Seaview Productions and turned into a Broadway-scale musical starring Tony-award winning talent and the 20-piece Broadway Sinfonietta orchestra.

Some proceeds from the benefit event (which will be streamable for 72 hours) will go to The Actors Fund, a charity that supports performers and other entertainment workers who have been hit hard by theater closures during the coronavirus pandemic. Broadway venues shut their doors on March 12, 2020, and aren't expected to reopen until May 30, 2021 at the earliest. 

Based on the Pixar film "Ratatouille," Seaview's musical includes 12 rat- and cooking-themed songs performed by actors like Wayne Brady, Tituss Burgess, Andrew Barth Feldman, André De Shields, and Ashley Park. The show was initially tested out in a series of TikTok posts where users created their own musical renditions of scenes from the film. One creator, Jess Siswick, even designed a playbill for the musical that was eventually turned into the project's official Playbill

TikTok has become a central hub for music artists and other performers over the past year as many in-person events have shut down during the pandemic. One need look no further than the Billboard 100 or Spotify Viral 50 to see how TikTok trends have left an imprint on the entertainment industry in recent months.

Artists' songs can rise on TikTok quickly and unexpectedly, as was the case with Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride" and Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" which reemerged into pop culture last year after gaining steam on the app. In other instances, marketers or artists try to make songs take off by tapping into existing TikTok fads, creating original songs, or adapting tracks for TikTok's short-video format and hiring influencers to promote them.

In the case of "Ratatouille: The Musical," the group was able to pull together the TikTok-born concept into a full-scale streamable performance in a matter of weeks.

"This event really highlights a lot of the TikTok creators, and we're very happy we got this recognition," Christopher Routh, the project's set designer, told the New York Times. "We can take our content and do something good with it, not only raise money for the show but make sure that Broadway comes back stronger than ever."

For more stories on how TikTok has left its mark on the music and entertainment industries, read these other Business Insider posts:

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