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Babylon Health Gets $2 Billion Valuation With New Funding That Will Help It Expand In U.S.

Babylon Health, a U.K.-based startup whose fast growth has been shadowed by concerns about the efficacy of its telemedicine apps, has raised $550 million in Series C funding, elevating the company to unicorn status. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which invest on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government, led the round that valued the company at $2 billion with a total of $635 million raised.

The new capital will enable the company to expand into more markets including the U.S. and Asia, Babylon said, and it will also bolster its artificial intelligence capabilities on the platform, which serves 4.3 million users worldwide. An unnamed U.S health insurer and a fund of global reinsurer Munich Re also invested. Vostok New Ventures, which already holds a 10% stake in Babylon, previously said it would participate in the new round, as did Sweden’s Kinnevik.

With an aim of cutting healthcare costs and broadening access, Babylon secured deals with Britain’s National Health Service with its apps to replace local doctor visits with video consultations and a chatbot that doled out advice on whether to see a doctor. It released a new artificially intelligent chatbot that promised to give diagnostic advice on common ailments, without human interaction. Its progress, however, was stuttered by doubts about the services’ abilities. Interviews with current and former Babylon staff and outside doctors revealed broad concerns that the company has rushed to deploy software that had not been carefully vetted, then exaggerated its effectiveness, Forbes revealed in December. The company disputed those claims, saying its software goes through many clinical tests.  The company also came under fire for failure to follow up with patients receiving mental health treatment. At the time, Babylon blamed problems with the NHS referral system.

Any blunders don’t seem to have slowed the company’s momentum.

Led by CEO and Founder Ali Parsa, an Iranian-born former banker, Babylon has also secured contracts with Prudential and Samsung. It says it now delivers 4,000 clinical consultation a day, and one patient interaction every 10 seconds.

“We have a long way to go and a lot still to deliver,” Parsa said in a statement. “While the burden of healthcare is global, the solutions have to be localized to meet the specific needs and culture of each country.”

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I serve as assistant editor for Forbes Innovation, covering cybersecurity and venture capital. I have covered politics at POLITICO, entertainment for Time Out New York, but my most fascinating beat has been covering the intersection of technology, finance, and entrepreneurship. I’m also an alumna of CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and the University of Washington. Email tips to mmelton@forbes.com

Source: Babylon Health Gets $2 Billion Valuation With New Funding That Will Help It Expand In U.S.

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It’s Alive! Facebook’s Surprising Video Standout Is A Horror Movie Startup

Like a proud parent, Jack Davis has covered the refrigerator in his Wilshire Boulevard office with artwork. But these aren’t crayon-drawn stick figures of Mom and Dad. They’re the stuff of nightmares—a demonic entity with shark teeth, a cannibal with thorns sprouting from his head, a tree that likes to disembowel its victims.

The gruesome creatures crawled out of the imagination of Davis’ Crypt TV, a digital studio that aspires to become the Marvel of monsters for mobile. Davis, 27, has raised $11 million from investors including Hollywood producer Jason Blum (Us, Ma), media mogul Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital, Huffington Post cofounder Kenneth Lerer and NBCUniversal. The four-year-old Los Angeles studio, which creates horror videos for social networks, is on track to bring in about $20 million in revenue this year through production deals, running ads for films like Crawl and selling merchandise.

When he started, “no one was doing scary for mobile,” Davis says. That signaled a missed opportunity. “This is a huge genre. It has a solid fan base, and scary movies are very, very big.”

The Golden Age of streaming has birthed Netflix competitors that cater to nearly every genre, from U.K. shows on Britbox to anime on Crunchyroll and, yes, horror on Shudder and Screambox. At the same time, studios like Elisabeth Murdoch’s Vertical Networks have built audiences that are reached primarily through mobile-first social networks such as Snapchat and Instagram, which more than a billion people visit each month.

Davis and Crypt TV cofounder Eli Roth, the film director and producer who developed Netflix’s first horror series, Hemlock Grove, bet that an audience who loved films like Jordan Peele’s Oscar-nominated Get Out would snap up suspense and horror on the small screen, too.

It’s an intuition that’s paying off. Crypt TV said on Friday that it had reached a deal with Facebook to develop five series exclusively for Facebook Watch, its on-demand video service. The deal extends a partnership started in 2018, when Facebook green-lighted a 15-episode series based on Crypt’s short film The Birch.

Facebook has been paying as much as $25 million for these original shows, though the bulk of them cost $3 to $5 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. Forbes estimates the new Crypt TV deal is valued at less than $20 million. Neither party would disclose the terms of the partnership.

Facebook might seem an unlikely place to screen monster movies for Generation Z and younger Millennials, who make up nearly half of Crypt TV’s audience. One Pew Research Center survey last year found that the world’s largest social network is no longer the most popular hangout for teens, a big drop from earlier in the decade. Plus, Facebook Watch has struggled to gain traction. A year after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched Watch to better compete with Google’s YouTube and Snapchat’s Discover, only half of Facebook users had ever heard of it, says The Diffusion Group, a media research consultancy.

Still, momentum is gathering for shows that capitalize on the network’s power to amass communities to talk about shared interests—say, Jada Pinkett Smith’s talk show, Red Table Talk, or Sorry for Your Loss, a drama on grief starring Elizabeth Olsen. Facebook says more than 140 million people each day spend at least a minute viewing Watch videos.

“It’s very hard to say that a platform … (of) two-plus billion people on it doesn’t have young people on it,” says Matthew Henick, Facebook’s head of content planning and strategy. “What Crypt does incredibly well is—because they’re able to tell their stories through many different modes or, in this case, products—they’re able to find those audiences and pull them in.”

Crypt TV taps into a community that likes to be scared. Horror has been reeling in fans on the big screen: The genre brought in a record $1 billion in box office sales in 2017, according to Comscore.

Some fans want to get their goose bumps for free. Thanks to The Birch, which was viewed 26 million times on Facebook, the studio now has 9.75 million followers, or more than triple its YouTube audience. On Davis’ fridge hang mementos from fans. One shared a photo of her tattoo—it’s of the Look-see, a creature with no eyes and flesh that’s been stitched together.

“Young people have so much emotion,” Davis says. A scary story “provides an amazing, permissive structure to take on deep emotional issues.”

A fortuitous encounter at a dinner party hosted by his parents in West Los Angeles led to the creation of Crypt TV. Then a student at Duke University, Davis found himself sitting next to Roth and began reciting dialogue from Roth’s portrayal of the bat-wielding Nazi killer Donny Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds.

The conversation turned to Davis’ career plans. The sociology and political science major said he hoped to launch his own company, capitalizing on the dramatic shift in media viewing habits he’d observed during his four years in college. Roth had a suggestion.

“I said, ‘You know that audience that’s going to see horror movies now’—because obviously now horror has exploded—‘They’re all on their phones,’” Roth recalls. “What is the next generation of characters? Who is creating the new Freddy Krueger? Is there a way to launch a Freddy? A Jason? A Michael Myers? A Chucky? Just on your phone?”

Roth introduced him to Blum, who became Crypt TV’s earliest investor and served as a mentor to the company’s 23-year-old founder.

An early success was #6SecondScare, an October 2014 online competition that encouraged users of Vine, Twitter’s six-second video service, to upload their scariest videos.

Roth lent his name to the contest and coaxed Hollywood celebrities including Quentin Tarantino and High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens to promote it and serve as judges. #6SecondScare attracted 20,000 submissions and ended up featured on ABC’s Good Morning America.

In the summer of 2015, Davis’ team launched Snapchat Murder Mystery, a show that gathered ten social media influencers to a mansion party, then killed off their characters in an Agatha Christie-styled whodunit. A year later came Crypt TV’s breakthrough moment with The Birch. The four-minute video follows a terrified schoolboy who summons an ancient being in the woods to dispense a particularly bloody form of retribution on the boy’s tormentor.

Davis faces his own monster lurking in the dark: Quibi. The mobile video subscription service comes with a Hollywood pedigree, a $1 billion cash horde and some of the best-known filmmakers in horror, Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth) and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), as well as Blum, producing original content.

Quibi launches in April—though Crypt TV, in classic horror film fashion, has gotten a running start.

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I’m a Los Angeles-based senior editor for Forbes, writing about the companies and people behind the biggest disruption in entertainment since cable TV: streaming video

Source: It’s Alive! Facebook’s Surprising Video Standout Is A Horror Movie Startup

It’s Not About Ideas. Do What Amazon, Netflix, Uber And AirBnb Did, Head For A Blue Ocean

In this July 1, 2014 photo, Dollar Shave Club CEO and co-founder Michael Dubin poses for photos at the company's headquarters in Venice, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

If you want to become an entrepreneur but don’t know where to start, relax. It’s not about ideas, it’s about understanding and researching current industries that have not innovated their products or services and have a large customer market. If you think about what Netflix, Amazon, Uber and AirBnb did, you can clearly see, they created nothing new in terms of products. So, what did they do? They changed the “game” in an industry that was not being innovative and was ripe for disruption. In other words, they headed for a “blue ocean” made famous by management thought leaders W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in their perennial bestseller, Blue Ocean Strategy.

Blue Ocean Strategy is an approach that challenges everything that you thought you knew about the requirements for entrepreneurial success. Blue Ocean Strategy can be summarized in a nutshell: the best way to beat the competition is to make the competition irrelevant. Imagine that the marketplace is comprised of two sorts of oceans: red oceans and blue oceans.

To discover an elusive blue ocean, Kim and Mauborgne recommend that businesses consider what they call the Four Actions Framework to reconstruct buyer value elements in crafting a new innovation wave. The framework poses four key questions:

  • Raise: What factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard?
  • Reduce: What factors were a result of competing against other industries and can be reduced?
  • Eliminate: Which factors that the industry has long competed on should be eliminated?
  • Create: Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

If you think about it, lets review what these market leaders did with Blue Ocean Strategy in mind. Amazon did not build bookstores but built an enterprise infrastructure to have access to one million book titles and competed well with Borders and Barnes & Noble. Netflix did not use stores in their business model to compete with Blockbuster; instead they focused on customer service. Uber did not even try to buy cars and compete with the independent taxi companies, they created a mobile app. AirBnb does not own homes or hotels, instead they redefined the travel experience by uniting existing property owners onto a common easy-to-use platform.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, third from left, takes a photograph as he attends the opening bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange, as his company makes its initial public offering, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, third from left, takes a photograph as he attends the opening bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange, as his company makes its initial public offering, Friday, May 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Existing marketplaces with lots of competitors live in crowded, shark-ridden red oceans. Red oceans are characterized by multiple firms offering similar products competing mostly on price. Think Target versus Wal-Mart, Sony versus Samsung.  Meanwhile, blue oceans are characterized by untapped market space, demand creation, and the opportunity for highly profitable growth.

In recent years, Dollar Shave Club took on Gillette by offering subscription-based access to razors at a better cost and service. As a potential entrepreneur, just examine large industries or product lines and see if customers are happy with their current choices. Wherever you find customers are not ecstatic, dig deeper. A few years back, Chobani did the same thing to yogurt by offering Greek yogurt, more protein and less sugar. None of these examples showcase a completely new, never heard of before product. But all these companies either innovated the current product in the marketplace or they offered a simple innovation or twist to the business model for their company. In almost every case, the customer is happier with the new company or product. That means they were dissatisfied before these companies came along.

If you want to get a jumpstart on surfacing an opportunity, pay attention to something new you see (craft beer, organic pet food, cloud storage, etc.) and do some research.  Or go to places where you can observe people: malls, airports, universities and just walk around. See what people are doing and not doing. Don’t look for anything in particular, just observe. Another option is to walk through Target or Wal-Mart and slowly walk up and down the aisles. Look for current products that seem over priced or they don’t exactly make the customer ecstatic. Then research how big that industry category actually is. If it’s billions, keep going. Run a few of your best “opportunities” through the Blue Ocean Strategy framework of raise, reduce, eliminate and create.

The founders of Skullcandy did something similar by walking through Target to spot their earphone opportunity. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to solve a problem in a big marketplace. To spot a problem, go looking. Once you find some problems, use Blue Ocean Strategy to innovate a solution and perhaps you will create a billion dollar company.

You can read more about what Bernhard has to say on his website and follow him here on his Linked In

I am the Director at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, San Diego State University. I oversee all of the center’s undergraduate and graduate experiential programs.

Source: It’s Not About Ideas. Do What Amazon, Netflix, Uber And AirBnb Did, Head For A Blue Ocean.

Crypto Startups Are Fleeing The U.S.—This Bill Is Trying To Stop Them

In the fall of 2018, Republican congressman Warren Davidson was meeting with a cryptocurrency entrepreneur in Massachusetts. The CEO was deciding where to locate his startup, and they were discussing the regulatory uncertainties surrounding digital currencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs). The entrepreneur told Davidson, “Look, it’s nothing personal. We just don’t trust that you guys are gonna get this done right.

Source: Crypto Startups Are Fleeing The U.S.—This Bill Is Trying To Stop Them

Making The Transition From Startup To Established Company | Technology in Business Today

The purpose of a startup is radically different than the purpose of a company, and misunderstanding your purpose is never a recipe for success.

Source: Making The Transition From Startup To Established Company | Technology in Business Today

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