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Steve's ITK: A billion dollars

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Steve's ITK

January 28 · Issue #11 · View online
Steve's In The Know: Everything I published recently, commentary you won't find elsewhere, write-ups of events I attended or spoke at, and industry rumours.

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.
Skype’s Niklas Zennström backs London fintech startup Cleo
Cuvva launching pay-as-you-go car insurance aimed at infrequent drivers
Quiqup partners with Hungryhouse to let take-outs in London outsource delivery
Pitchero, a platform for amateur and grassroots sports, scores £3.1M Series A
Dalia, a market and opinion data gathering platform, raises $7M Series A
Idea Drop helps organisations generate and capture new ideas
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.
Why
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 other 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?
How
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.
Get in touch
Want to continue the conversation? Just hit reply to this email – I answer every single ITK email I receive.
Please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues who might also enjoy it. More subscribers and better open rates makes me happy.
Till next time,
Steve
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