Tailor Brands raises $15.5M for AI-driven logo creation and more

Tailor Brands, a startup that automates parts of the branding and marketing process for small and medium-sized companies, announced this morning that it has raised $15.5 million in Series B funding.

CEO Yali Saar has said the company sits at the intersection of design and machine learning. The notion is to create technology that understands the best practises of logo design, copywriting and social media strategy.

It’s the automated design that’s most immediately eye-catching, and that’s the big feature highlighted on the Tailor Brands website. You’ll need to pay to get access to high-quality image files, but before that, you can actually try creating a logo for free, only by entering some basic information about your company and identifying the designs you prefer.

Related: What do you guys think of the new TechCrunch logo?

Tailor Brands, which launched at TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield in 2014, said the technology has already been used to create 45 million logos. The company says it had 3.86 million clients last year, and is adding half a million new businesses to the platform each month.

The new funding was led by Pitango Venture Capital Growth Fund and British Armat Group, with participation from Disruptive Technologies and Mangrove Capital Partners. The company has now created a total of $20.6 million and says it will use the money to expand globally, add more languages and introduce more tools to its full branding suite.

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Bose is carving out $50 million for startups using its new audio-focused AR tech

The high-end audio technology company Bose is getting into the augmented reality game with a new product and a $50 million money devoted to startups that will develop services for its new platform.

While most of the industry is focused on a visually augmented experience, Bose is most concerned with the intersection of sound and vision.

The Bose AR prototype, which was unveiled at South by Southwest in Austin this year, will use visual info captured by the glasses and add contextually relevant audio information to its wearer.

Bose’s AR kit is a “wafer-thin” acoustics package that the company hopes can be added to headphones, eyewear, helmets and other wearables to give a new spin on reality “augmentation.” The company said the new technology can be controlled with voice commands, head gestures and simple touch gestures.

The new product is a clever spin on augmented reality and a product that plays into Bose’s strength. “It places audio in your surroundings , not digital images, so you can focus on the amazing world around you — rather than a tiny showing, ” said John Gordon, vice president of the Consumer Electronics Division at Bose, in a statement posted. “It knows which way you’re facing, and can instantly connect that place and hour with endless the chances of traveling, learn, music and more. And it can be added to products and apps we already use and love, removing some of the big obstacles that have maintained AR on the sidelines.”

The first prototype glasses are Bluetooth compatible for bellows or to integrate with Siri or Google Assistant. A new technology developed for the glass ensures that the audio is audible merely to the listener wearing the glasses, and the acoustic packages fit inside the arms of the glasses.

Sensors in the glasses track the orientation of a listener and integrate with an iOS or Android device to track place and motion, which is sent to the AR-enabled application in the wearables.

The company is already working with ASICS Studio, Strava, TripAdvisor, TuneIn and Yelp on cooperations that will provide content for the wearables, while MIT’s Media Lab and the NYU Future Reality Lab are also playing around with prototypes.

But Bose wants entrepreneurs and programmers to develop their own applications. They’ve made a $50 million fund to finance companies that would like to work with the new audio technology and is providing an SDK and updated glasses afterwards this summer.

Bose has invested in a number of companies already — unrelated to its new augmented reality platform — that are all based on novel wearable technologies.

The platform includes investments like Embr Labs, a wearable for governing body temperature; Qleek, a company that embeds augmented reality experiences onto custom designed wooden blocks; and Vesper, a MEMS-powered microphones.

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Google and Salesforce unveil first elements of partnership

Last fall at Dreamforce, Google and Salesforce announced partnership agreements. Today, the two companies unveiled the first pieces of that agreement.

For starters, Google Analytics 360 users can now import data regarding the Salesforce CRM tool such as results and opportunities, among other pieces. This could allow marketers to have a more complete position of the customer journey from first contact to sale and build a better understanding of how that fits together for a successful outcome. Of course, Salesforce has its own marketing data from Marketing Cloud and it has its own analytics products including Salesforce Wave and Einstein Analytics.

This allows companies employing Google’s analytics products to mix and match data between the two systems. Clients tend to use multiple products and that’s why these kinds of partnerships develop — to make it easier to get a big picture view across product sets.

The companies are taking it one step with further with this initial piece of existing cooperation by also providing connectors from Salesforce data to Google BigQuery, Google’s data warehouse service, where users to be able to combination this data with other enterprise datasets.

Finally, the companies are building a connection between Salesforce and Google’s ad pipeline to connect the best prospects with the right ad at the right time to push the sale to completion. In the company blog post announcing the partnership details, Google had this to say about the advertising connection 😛 TAGEND

“Marketers can use the tools in AdWords and DoubleClick Search to optimize their bidding on search ads based on the goal of actual marketings( offline conversions tracked in Salesforce) rather than just basic website leadings. Or they can create an audience listing in Analytics 360 of qualified results from Sales Cloud and use AdWords or DoubleClick Bid Manager so their showing ads reach people with similar characteristics.”

This is a case where blending the two types of information across sources could provide insights and abilities that wouldn’t have been possible from either source alone. It also enables those companies to compete with its competitors in this space, says Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“This partnership offering gives customers another option in the market and is targeted towards the traditional Adobe- Microsoft buyer, ” he said. Adobe has been a big player in this space with its analytics, advertising and marketing tools. Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2 billion, which devotes it access to a wealth of data to share with its CRM tools.

“The goal is to bring online and offline interactions together with the power of cloud analytics so that[ marketing] campaigns can be executed without the integration and manual gaps most marketers face today, ” Wang explained.

This is just the first step in a much broader partnership between the two companies and they promise much deeper consolidation over the coming year including bring back product specific data, lead conversion likelihood and lifetime client value.

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Macys credit card processors stop working on Black Friday

It’s one of the biggest shopping days of the year, but retail giant Macy’s can’t get its charge card processors to work.

Customers have been waiting in lines across the United States to buy discounted items, merely to find out that the machines won’t take credit cards or gift cards. Some Bloomingdale’s stores, which are owned by Macy’s, may have also been impacted.

Update : The company says it has resolved the issue and has provided the following statement.

“We have fully resolved today’s system issues. We highly value our customers and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience today’s system slowdown may have caused during their shopping experience. The lags we experienced this afternoon were due to a capacity-related issue that caused some transactions to take longer to process. We do not anticipate any additional delays.”

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has become a shopping holiday, with retailers offering heavily discounted items. Macy’s even kicks off the occasion with its big annual Thanksgiving parade in New York, which is televised throughout the country.

The company also experienced an outage on its website during Black Friday 2016. Holiday marketings play a significant role in the company’s quarterly earnings and Macy’s disappointed Wall Street last season.

Its stock is trading at less than half of what it was a year ago and about one-third of what it was three years ago. The company currently has a market cap of $6.4 billion.

Last year, Terry Lundgren, who was Macy’s CEO at the time, said in an interview with Fortune that the company started opening its stores earlier on Thanksgiving Day because of industry pressure. “If you’re not open and your challengers are, there’s going to be a number of those consumers who simply will go shop elsewhere, ” he told Fortune. “You’ll never retrieve that sale.”

Lundgren is now executive chairperson. Jeff Gennette took on the role of CEO in March, after being promoted from president.

Gennette told CNBC earlier Friday that Black Friday was off to a stronger start than last year .He said that the company had fewer discounts this year, which would lead to better profit margins.

According to the National Retail Federation, 164 million Americans planned to store during Thanksgiving weekend .~ ATAGEND

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Report: Facebook gave special investigator Robert Mueller detailed info on Russian ad buys

An official for Facebook told TechCrunch that the company is “continuing to cooperate with the relevant U.S. authorities, ” as investigations into the Russian hacker of last year’s presidential election continue to expand. In the latest development, authorities are now investigating how agents used online advertising on social networks and search platforms, and tech companies are being forced to hand over new, sensitive information to investigators as a result.

In some cases, that entails different information to different investigations, as The Wall Street Journal is reporting today.

Facebook has apparently turned over more detailed information to the special attorney, Robert Mueller, than the company shared with Congress last week, the Journal reports.

Mueller’s investigation has received copies of the Russian-bought ads and details about the specific account information and targeting criteria the purchaser used to distribute their ads, in agreement with the Journal, quoting people familiar with the matter.

It’s likely that Facebook was compelled to turn over the information because the investigating team received a search warrant.

If indeed, Mueller is utilizing warrants, then it’s likely that Facebook won’t be the only tech company that may be forced to uncover information about potential clandestine ad buys, which Russian agents are alleged to have attained in order to influence the U.S. election.

The Journal reports that Mueller’s team could have gotten information that Facebook withheld from Congress because of concerns around privacy statutes or dreads of disrupting the Mueller probe. My guess is that Facebook is likely also thinking that the Mueller investigation is a tighter ship and less likely to leak details of the ads whereas Congressional staffers could leak like sieves.

It’s clear that Facebook has no those who are interested in uncovering details of the ad buy, or telling people whether they were targets of what amounts to a Russian plot to influence the U.S. election.

It’s something members of the tech community have taken Facebook to task for already.

We’ve reached out to the Office of the Special Counsel and for comment and will update if we hear back.

Last week Facebook revealed that it had sold as much as $150,000 in political ads to pro-Kremlin entities between 2015 and 2017.

It was part of a broader report that indicated 500 “inauthentic” accounts linked to Russia had purchased 5,000 ads from the company. The developments today relate to that same trove but are a sign of yet more data now being handed over to authorities.

Last Wednesday, as the company released its assessment, Facebook representatives also spoke to Congress as part of ongoing House and Senate investigations into Russian interference in the election. Facebook even told The Washington Post, “there is evidence that some of the accounts are linked to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, referred to as the Internet Research Agency, though we have no way to independently confirm.”

As we reported, the Internet Research Agency is widely known for its pro-Kremlin online propaganda campaigns, which U.S. intelligence agencies believe is backed by someone with close ties to the Russian intelligence community who is a close friend of Vladimir Putin’s.

Facebook’s disclosure was the first time it admitted that Russians had reached out to voters during the elections. The company has hitherto denied that there were any ad buys made by Russian agents or anyone connected with the Russian government.

All of these discoveries and announcements come amid serious questions about the role of Russia in the last election … and whether the President Donald Trump’s campaign( or people associated with that campaign) colluded with the Russian government.

Committees in both houses are writing up reports on the role Russia played in the election.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook isn’t the only social media company to come under fire for either unwittingly or knowingly playing a role in circulating propaganda on behalf of a foreign government.

Twitter is also expected to come before congressional inquisitors in the coming weeks, according to a report from Reuters last week, quoting Democratic Senator Mark Warner.

“It was my belief that the Russians were employing those sites to interfere in our elections, and the first reaction from Facebook was,’ No. You’re crazy.’” Warner said at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance conference in Washington.

“I think what we considered yesterday in terms of their brief was the tip of the iceberg, ” Warner said.

He also told reporters he expected Twitter to soon brief the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the panels analyse Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether members of President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow.

Facebook has been reluctant to share any details with the public and have extended that reticence to the Congressional investigators that are looking into Russian interference. The Journal reported that Facebook believes the data on ads could be protected under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Bi-partisan leadership from the Senate Intelligence Committee is pushing for company representatives to come to Capitol Hill and publicly walk Senators through how potential Russian agents came to publicize on the company’s social network.

The Senate could obligate Facebook executives to show up by issuing a subpoena … But subpoena power to witnes is not the same as a warrant. Search warrants have more legal force behind them and mean that the company has to disclose more information than it would in live testimony.

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