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    Instagram to test hiding Like counts in US, which could hurt influencers – TechSwitch

    “We will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s well-being and health,” says Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri. To that end, next week Instagram will expand to some users in the United States its test of hiding Like counts from everyone but a post’s creator. But there are major questions about whether the change will hurt influencers.
    Mosseri revealed the plan at the Wired25 conference today, saying of Instagram, “We have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform, how it affects how they use the platform, how it affects the creator ecosystem.”
    Instagram’s CEO explained that “The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them.” The intention is to “reduce anxiety” and “reduce social comparison.”
    Elsewhere during the talk that also featured actor and CEO Tracee Ellis Ross, Mosseri discussed Instagram’s growing interest in shopping, and how it can provide new revenue streams to influencers. He also described Instagram’s three-pronged approach to well-being, where it identifies and addresses acute problems such as hate speech, finds positions where it can lead as with fighting bullying and rethinks fundamentals of how the platform works as with Like count hiding.

    Instagram began testing this in April in Canada and expanded it to Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand in July. Facebook started a similar experiment in Australia in September.
    While it seems likely that making Instagram less of a popularity contest might aid the average user, Instagram has to be mindful that it doesn’t significantly decrease creators’ or influencers’ engagement and business success. These content makers are vital to Instagram’s success, as they keep their fan bases coming back day after day, even if users’ friends are growing stale.
    A new study by HypeAuditor reported by Social Media Today found that influencers across tiers of follower counts almost unanimously saw their Like counts fall in countries where the hidden Like count test was active. Likes fell 3% to 15% in all the countries for influencers with 5,000 to 20,000 followers.

    Only in Japan, and only for influencers with 1,000 to 5,000 or 100,000 to 1 million followers did the change lead to a boost in Likes — of about 6% in both groups. Meanwhile, influencers saw the biggest loss of Likes in the Brazilian market. Those trends could relate to how users in certain countries might feel more comfortable Liking something if they don’t know who else is too, while in other nations users might rely on more herd mentality to know what to Like.

    If Instagram finds the impact of the test to be too negative on influencers, it may not roll out the change. While Mosseri stated the company wasn’t afraid to hurt its own bottom line, impairing the careers of influencers may not be acceptable unless the positive impacts on well-being are significant enough.

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Crunch members get free Zendesk for 6 months”},”content”:{“rendered”:”Weu2019re excited to announce a new Extra Crunch community perk from Zendesk. Starting today, annual and two-year Extra Crunch members that are new to Zendesk and located within the U.S. or Canada can receive a credit for six months of unlimited licenses for any combination of Zendesk Support, Talk, Chat, Guide and Sell products, for free. Zendesk Talk and Zendesk Sell minutes are not included.nZendesk is a customer service and engagement platform that creates better experiences for agents, admins and customers. Zendesku2019s products are powerful and flexible, and scale to meet the needs of any business. You can learn more about Zendesk here.u00a0nIn order to qualify for the Zendesk community perk from Extra Crunch, you must meet the following criteria:nnMust be an annual or two-year Extra Crunch member. You can sign up here.nMust be located within the U.S. or Canada.nMust be a new customer of Zendesk.nnThe Zendesk community perk from Extra Crunch is inclusive of subscription fees free for six months, after which you will be responsible for payment. Any downgrades to your Zendesk subscription will result in the forfeiture of the promotion, so please check with Zendesk first regarding any changes ([email protected]). The credit is only available for the Zendesk Support, Talk, Chat, Guide and Sell products.nExtra Crunch is a membership program from TechSwitch that features intelligence on the most disruptive opportunities for startups, how-tos and interviews on company building, an experience on TechSwitch.com that’s free of banner ads, discounts on TechSwitch events and several community perks like the one mentioned in this article. Our goal is to democratize information about startups, and weu2019d love to have you join our community.nYou can sign up for Extra Crunch here.nHereu2019s how the process works. After signing up for an annual or two-year Extra Crunch membership, youu2019ll receive a welcome email with a link to apply to the Zendesk perk. Apply for the perk via the provided link in the email. Within 48 hours, the Zendesk team will send an email to you with the promo code.nStart a Zendesk Trial, and from inside your Zendesk trial, click the u201cBuy Nowu201d button. Select your chosen plan and number of product licenses. Donu2019t forget to use monthly billing.nEnter the promo code that Zendesk provides you, and complete the checkout process.u00a0nZendesk offers a free 15-day trial, and if you are interested in purchasing a plan after the trial you can enter the code to get six months free.u00a0nIf you are already an annual or two-year Extra Crunch member, you will receive a separate email with the offer at some point in the next 48 hours. If you are currently a monthly Extra Crunch subscriber and want to upgrade to annual in order to claim this deal, head over to the u201cmy accountu201d section on TechSwitch.com and click the u201cupgradeu201d button.nThis is one of several community perks weu2019ve launched for annual and two-year Extra Crunch members. 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LA’s top consumer VCs are looking to invest”},”content”:{“rendered”:”From a fundraising perspective, Los Angeles has become just the southern-most part of the Bay Area. Top-tier VCs from SF visit LA regularly, and entrepreneurs raise from investors upstate and downstate in one process. Anecdotally, as an LA resident of 4 years, thereu2019s been a palpable uptick of entrepreneurs from the Bay Area who move down here after exiting to found their next company.nLos Angeles is a hub for a wide range of startups, but it has two major groupings: consumer-facing startups that tap into Hollywood’s marketing culture, and the deep-tech ecosystem created by the city’s role as a hub for aerospace, defense and R&D.nTo track how the ecosystem for software and digital media startups here is evolving, I asked a few of the top consumer VCs based there to share some of the trends they are most excited about investing in right now:nnKevin Zhang, partner at Upfront VenturesnMike Palank, partner at MaC Venture CapitalnEffie Epstein, partner at Sound VenturesnBrett Brewer, partner at CrossCut VenturesnCourtney Reum, partner at M13nRon Rofe, partner at Rainfall VenturesnRyan Hoover, partner at The Weekend FundnDustin Rosen, partner at Wonder VenturesnZach White, principal at Sinai VenturesnnThe key takeaway is perhaps the diversity of their responses: investors here are going deep into trends across the spectrum of consumer spending. Consumer health and transportation are mentioned, as they were in my surveys of VCs in London and in New York, but this group repeatedly predicts a new wave of interactive, social media startups (albeit with different perspectives on what it looks like).nKevin Zhang, partner at Upfront Ventures nI’m a strong believer it’s the best time to be a game developer now. Every 10 years or so distribution shakes up, now giants like MSFT, Google, Sony, Epic, etc. are rushing in to shift gamers to subscriptions and cloud gaming, which means big exclusive content library building with lots of “non-dilutive” capital for developers. Games themselves are becoming bigger, cross-platform, cheaper to build and more accessible than ever thanks to advancement in game engine and networking tech. Related: there’s a new generation of mobile entertainment brewing at the intersection of short-form video, live, audience participation and social play; it’s marrying what’s worked with UGC and live video with in-app-purchases and retention tactics of casual games to create more accessible and bite-sized entertainment destinations.nMike Palank, partner at MaC Venture Capital nWhile it used to be that great content alone made for a compelling entertainment experience, as we move into the future it will be the blending of great content and amazing tech that will truly capture and retain peopleu2019s attention. Weu2019ve seen those funny Youtube videos of babies swiping pictures in physical magazines showcasing their expectations that everything is interactive. I think in much the same way, expectations around filmed media (movies + TV) will trend towards the interactive. We are seeing some truly interesting experimentation around interactive right now from companies like Netflix, Unrd, Eko, CtrlMovie, Playdeo, Hovercast, Aether, Within, Twitch and others. nThe winners of the streaming wars understand this and I believe will supplement their content slates with interesting technology to make the viewing experience unique and participatory (Quibi has already announced some examples of this). At MaC, we are looking for those innovative companies that are re-thinking how consumers experience filmed entertainment to make it more experiential, interactive and engaging.nEffie Epstein, partner at Sound VenturesnAt Sound, we believe that investors have an enormous responsibility to help shape the future we all want to see. To that end, weu2019ve been seeing a lot of promising innovation emerge around financial inclusion and digital healthcare. For example, Divvy Homes is a company that is making home ownership a possibility for the millions of Americans who struggle to afford a down payment, and Affirm is giving consumers a fair alternative to credit cards in an age where Americans are more in debt than ever. Meanwhile, TruePill is making it easier and more affordable for end consumers to access medication by changing the way medicine gets delivered, and Alma is making mental healthcare easier for consumers as well as for practitioners.n”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”From a fundraising perspective, Los Angeles has become just the southern-most part of the Bay Area. Top-tier VCs from SF visit LA regularly, and entrepreneurs raise from investors upstate and downstate in one process. 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next big opportunities”},”content”:{“rendered”:”Launching and operating shared bikes and scooters has lost its novelty. 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Currently, there are two key areas that have yet to see a lot of action and are therefore ripe for disruption.nThose opportunities include creating a software ecosystem on top of bikes and scooters and improving unit economics by focusing on batteries.nAs you may remember, business and mobility analyst Horace Dediu recently told me these micromobility vehicles have an opportunity to also be software hubs. In fact, he said itu2019s where he expects bigger players like Google and Apple to enter the space.nAlready, at least one startup is taking steps to become the operating system for micromobility vehicles.u00a0Tortoise, a startup founded by former Uber executive Dmitry Shevelenko, isu00a0pursuing autonomous repositioning of scooters.”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”Launching and operating shared bikes and scooters has lost its novelty. 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Prior to joining Lily AI, Sowmiya helped to build Box and worked on numerous projects at Yahoo! and Pocket Games.tntntnConsumer expectations are higher than ever as a new generation of shoppers look to shop for experiences rather than commodities. They expect instant and highly-tailored (pun intended?) customer service and recommendations across any retail channel.nTo be forward-looking, brands and retailers are turning to startups in image recognition and machine learning to know, at a very deep level, what each consumeru2019s current context and personal preferences are and how they evolve. But while brands and retailers are sitting on enormous amounts of data, only a handful are actually leveraging it to its full potential.nTo provide hyper-personalization in real time, a brand needs a deep understanding of its products and customer data. Imagine a case where a shopper is browsing the website for an edgy dress and the brand can recognize the shopperu2019s context and preference in other features like style, fit, occasion, color etc., then use this information implicitly while fetching similar dresses for the user.nAnother situation is where the shopper searches for clothes inspired by their favorite fashion bloggers or Instagram influencers using images in place of text search. This would shorten product discovery time and help the brand build a hyper-personalized experience which the customer then rewards with loyalty.nWith the sheer amount of products being sold online, shoppers primarily discover products through category or search-based navigation. However, inconsistencies in product metadata created by vendors or merchandisers lead to poor recall of products and broken search experiences. This is where image recognition and machine learning can deeply analyze enormous data sets and a vast assortment of visual features that exist in a product to automatically extract labels from the product images and improve the accuracy of search results.u00a0nWhy is image recognition better than ever before?nnu00a0nWhile computer vision has been around for decades, it has recently become more powerful, thanks to the rise of deep neural networks. Traditional vision techniques laid the foundation for learning edges, corners, colors and objects from input images but it required human engineering of the features to be looked at in the images. Also, the traditional algorithms found it difficult to cope up with the changes in illumination, viewpoint, scale, image quality, etc.nDeep learning, on the other hand, takes in massive training data and more computation power and delivers the horsepower to extract features from unstructured data sets and learn without human intervention. 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AI startups need to achieve before VCs will invest”},”content”:{“rendered”:”nntnttntttttttDavid BlumbergnttttttContributornttnnttttntttntttttnttShare on TwitterntttnttttnttntttnnttnttDavid Blumberg is founder and managing partner of early-stage venture capital firm Blumberg Capital.tntnttnttMore posts by this contributornttnttttttThe Ascent Of Early-Stage Venture CapitalntttttntntnFunding of artificial intelligence-focused companies reached approximately $9.3 billion in the U.S. in 2018, an amount that will continue to rise as the transformative impact of AI is realized. That said, not every AI startup has what it takes to secure an investment and scale to success.nSo, what do venture capitalists look for when considering an investment in an AI company?nWhat we look for in all startupsnSome fundamentals are important in any of our investments, AI or otherwise. First, entrepreneurs need to articulate that they are solving a large and important problem. It may sound strange, but finding the right problem can be more difficult than finding the right solution. Entrepreneurs need to demonstrate that customers will be willing to switch from what theyu2019re currently using and pay for the new solution.nThe team must demonstrate their competence in the domain, their functional skills and above all, their persistence and commitment. The best ideas likely wonu2019t succeed if the team isnu2019t able to execute. Setting and achieving realistic milestones is a good way to keep operators and investors aligned. Successful entrepreneurs need to show why their solution offers superior value to competitors in the market u2014 or, in the minority of cases where there is an unresolved need u2014 why theyu2019re in the best position to solve it.nIn addition, the team must clearly explain how their technology works, how it differs and is advantageous relative to existing competitors and must explain to investors how that competitive advantage can be sustained.nFor AI entrepreneurs, there are additional factors that must be addressed. Why? It is fairly clear that weu2019re in the early stages of this burgeoning industry which stands to revolutionize sectors from healthcare to fintech, logistics to transportation and beyond. Standards have not been settled, there is a shortage of personnel, large companies are still struggling with deployment, and much of the talent is concentrated in a few large companies and academic institutions. In addition, there are regulatory challenges that are complex and growing due to the nature of the technology’s evolutionary aspect.nHere are five things we like to see AI entrepreneurs demonstrate before making an investment:nDemonstrate mastery over their data and its value: AI needs big data to succeed. There are two models: companies can either help customers add value to their data or build a data business using AI. In either case, startups must demonstrate that the data is reliable, secure and compliant with all regulatory rules. They must also demonstrate that AI is adding value to their own data u2014 it must explain something, derive an explanation, identify important trends, optimize or otherwise deliver value.nWith the sheer abundance of data available for companies to collect today, itu2019s imperative that startups have an agile infrastructure in place that allows them to store, access and analyze this data efficiently. A data-driven startup must become ever more responsive, proactive and consistent over time.nAI entrepreneurs should know that while machine learning can be applied to many problems, it may not always yield accurate predictions in every situation. Models may fail for a variety of reasons, one of which is inadequate, inconsistent or variable data. Successful mastery of the data demonstrates to customers that the data stream is robust, consistent and that the model can adapt if the data sources change.nEntrepreneurs can better address their customer needs if they can demonstrate a fast, efficient way to normalize and label the data using meta tagging and other techniques.nRemember that transparency is a virtue: There is an increased need in certain industries u2014 such as financial services u2014 to explain to regulators how the sausage isu00a0 made, so to speak. As a result, entrepreneurs must be able to demonstrate explainability to show how the model arrived at the result (for example, a credit score). This brings us to an additional issue about accounting for bias in models and, here again, the entrepreneur must show the ability to detect and correct bias as soon as they are found.”,”protected”:false},”excerpt”:{“rendered”:”For AI entrepreneurs, there are additional factors that must be addressed. Why? 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To that end, next week Instagram will expand to some users in the United States its test of hiding Like counts from everyone but a post’s creator. But there are major questions about whether the change will hurt influencers.nMosseri revealed the plan at the Wired25 conference today, saying of Instagram, “We have to see how it affects how people feel about the platform, how it affects how they use the platform, how it affects the creator ecosystem.”nInstagram’s CEO explained that “The idea is to try to depressurize Instagram, make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and things that inspire them.” The intention is to “reduce anxiety” and “reduce social comparison.”nElsewhere during the talk that also featured actor and CEO Tracee Ellis Ross, Mosseri discussed Instagram’s growing interest in shopping, and how it can provide new revenue streams to influencers. He also described Instagram’s three-pronged approach to well-being, where it identifies and addresses acute problems such as hate speech, finds positions where it can lead as with fighting bullying and rethinks fundamentals of how the platform works as with Like count hiding.nnInstagram began testing this in April in Canada and expanded it to Ireland, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand in July. Facebook started a similar experiment in Australia in September.nWhile it seems likely that making Instagram less of a popularity contest might aid the average user, Instagram has to be mindful that it doesn’t significantly decrease creators’ or influencers’ engagement and business success. These content makers are vital to Instagram’s success, as they keep their fan bases coming back day after day, even if users’ friends are growing stale.nA new study by HypeAuditor reported by Social Media Today found that influencers across tiers of follower counts almost unanimously saw their Like counts fall in countries where the hidden Like count test was active. Likes fell 3% to 15% in all the countries for influencers with 5,000 to 20,000 followers.nnOnly in Japan, and only for influencers with 1,000 to 5,000 or 100,000 to 1 million followers did the change lead to a boost in Likes — of about 6% in both groups. Meanwhile, influencers saw the biggest loss of Likes in the Brazilian market. Those trends could relate to how users in certain countries might feel more comfortable Liking something if they don’t know who else is too, while in other nations users might rely on more herd mentality to know what to Like.nnIf Instagram finds the impact of the test to be too negative on influencers, it may not roll out the change. While Mosseri stated the company wasn’t afraid to hurt its own bottom line, impairing the careers of influencers may not be acceptable unless the positive impacts on well-being are significant enough.nnnnnInstagram CEO Announces Platform Will Test Hiding Likes in the USnWATCH: Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announces that the platform will start hiding likes for US audiences starting next week. It’s the latest step in Instagramu2019s quest to become the safest place on the internet. 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