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How to Compete with Giants

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-compete-with-giants/

How to Compete with Giants

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the sixth in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year
  6. How to Compete with Giants

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

Perhaps your business is competing in a brand new space free from established competitors. Most of us, though, start companies that compete with existing offerings from large, established companies. You need to come up with a better mousetrap — not the first mousetrap.

That’s the challenge Backblaze faced. In this post, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.

Backblaze vs. Giants

Competing with established companies that are orders of magnitude larger can be daunting. How can you succeed?

I’ll set the stage by offering a few sets of giants we compete with:

  • When we started Backblaze, we offered online backup in a market where companies had been offering “online backup” for at least a decade, and even the newer entrants had raised tens of millions of dollars.
  • When we built our storage servers, the alternatives were EMC, NetApp, and Dell — each of which had a market cap of over $10 billion.
  • When we introduced our cloud storage offering, B2, our direct competitors were Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. You might have heard of them.

What did we learn by competing with these giants on a bootstrapped budget? Let’s take a look.

Determine What Success Means

For a long time Apple considered Apple TV to be a hobby, not a real product worth focusing on, because it did not generate a billion in revenue. For a $10 billion per year revenue company, a new business that generates $50 million won’t move the needle and often isn’t worth putting focus on. However, for a startup, getting to $50 million in revenue can be the start of a wildly successful business.

Lesson Learned: Don’t let the giants set your success metrics.

The Advantages Startups Have

The giants have a lot of advantages: more money, people, scale, resources, access, etc. Following their playbook and attacking head-on means you’re simply outgunned. Common paths to failure are trying to build more features, enter more markets, outspend on marketing, and other similar approaches where scale and resources are the primary determinants of success.

But being a startup affords many advantages most giants would salivate over. As a nimble startup you can leverage those to succeed. Let’s breakdown nine competitive advantages we’ve used that you can too.

1. Drive Focus

It’s hard to build a $10 billion revenue business doing just one thing, and most giants have a broad portfolio of businesses, numerous products for each, and targeting a variety of customer segments in multiple markets. That adds complexity and distributes management attention.

Startups get the benefit of having everyone in the company be extremely focused, often on a singular mission, product, customer segment, and market. While our competitors sell everything from advertising to Zantac, and are investing in groceries and shipping, Backblaze has focused exclusively on cloud storage. This means all of our best people (i.e. everyone) is focused on our cloud storage business. Where is all of your focus going?

Lesson Learned: Align everyone in your company to a singular focus to dramatically out-perform larger teams.

2. Use Lack-of-Scale as an Advantage

You may have heard Paul Graham say “Do things that don’t scale.” There are a host of things you can do specifically because you don’t have the same scale as the giants. Use that as an advantage.

When we look for data center space, we have more options than our largest competitors because there are simply more spaces available with room for 100 cabinets than for 1,000 cabinets. With some searching, we can find data center space that is better/cheaper.

When a flood in Thailand destroyed factories, causing the world’s supply of hard drives to plummet and prices to triple, we started drive farming. The giants certainly couldn’t. It was a bit crazy, but it let us keep prices unchanged for our customers.

Our Chief Cloud Officer, Tim, used to work at Adobe. Because of their size, any new product needed to always launch in a multitude of languages and in global markets. Once launched, they had scale. But getting any new product launched was incredibly challenging.

Lesson Learned: Use lack-of-scale to exploit opportunities that are closed to giants.

3. Build a Better Product

This one is probably obvious. If you’re going to provide the same product, at the same price, to the same customers — why do it? Remember that better does not always mean more features. Here’s one way we built a better product that didn’t require being a bigger company.

All online backup services required customers to choose what to include in their backup. We found that this was complicated for users since they often didn’t know what needed to be backed up. We flipped the model to back up everything and allow users to exclude if they wanted to, but it was not required. This reduced the number of features/options, while making it easier and better for the user.

This didn’t require the resources of a huge company; it just required understanding customers a bit deeper and thinking about the solution differently. Building a better product is the most classic startup competitive advantage.

Lesson Learned: Dig deep with your customers to understand and deliver a better mousetrap.

4. Provide Better Service

How can you provide better service? Use your advantages. Escalations from your customer care folks to engineering can go through fewer hoops. Fixing an issue and shipping can be quicker. Access to real answers on Twitter or Facebook can be more effective.

A strategic decision we made was to have all customer support people as full-time employees in our headquarters. This ensures they are in close contact to the whole company for feedback to quickly go both ways.

Having a smaller team and fewer layers enables faster internal communication, which increases customer happiness. And the option to do things that don’t scale — such as help a customer in a unique situation — can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

Lesson Learned: Service your customers better by establishing clear internal communications.

5. Remove The Unnecessary

After determining that the industry standard EMC/NetApp/Dell storage servers would be too expensive to build our own cloud storage upon, we decided to build our own infrastructure. Many said we were crazy to compete with these multi-billion dollar companies and that it would be impossible to build a lower cost storage server. However, not only did it prove to not be impossible — it wasn’t even that hard.

One key trick? Remove the unnecessary. While EMC and others built servers to sell to other companies for a wide variety of use cases, Backblaze needed servers that only Backblaze would run, and for a single use case. As a result we could tailor the servers for our needs by removing redundancy from each server (since we would run redundant servers), and using lower-performance components (since we would get high-performance by running parallel servers).

What do your customers and use cases not need? This can trim costs and complexity while often improving the product for your use case.

Lesson Learned: Don’t think “what can we add” to what the giants offer — think “what can we remove.”

6. Be Easy

How many times have you visited a large company website, particularly one that’s not consumer-focused, only to leave saying, “Huh? I don’t understand what you do.” Keeping your website clear, and your product and pricing simple, will dramatically increase conversion and customer satisfaction. If you’re able to make it 2x easier and thus increasing your conversion by 2x, you’ve just allowed yourself to spend ½ as much acquiring a customer.

Providing unlimited data backup wasn’t specifically about providing more storage — it was about making it easier. Since users didn’t know how much data they needed to back up, charging per gigabyte meant they wouldn’t know the cost. Providing unlimited data backup meant they could just relax.

Customers love easy — and being smaller makes easy easier to deliver. Use that as an advantage in your website, marketing materials, pricing, product, and in every other customer interaction.

Lesson Learned: Ease-of-use isn’t a slogan: it’s a competitive advantage. Treat it as seriously as any other feature of your product

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Risk

Obviously unnecessary risks are unnecessary, and some risks aren’t worth taking. However, large companies that have given guidance to Wall Street with a $0.01 range on their earning-per-share are inherently going to be very risk-averse. Use risk-tolerance to open up opportunities, and adjust your tolerance level as you scale. In your first year, there are likely an infinite number of ways your business may vaporize; don’t be too worried about taking a risk that might have a 20% downside when the upside is hockey stick growth.

Using consumer-grade hard drives in our servers may have caused pain and suffering for us years down-the-line, but they were priced at approximately 50% of enterprise drives. Giants wouldn’t have considered the option. Turns out, the consumer drives performed great for us.

Lesson Learned: Use calculated risks as an advantage.

8. Be Open

The larger a company grows, the more it wants to hide information. Some of this is driven by regulatory requirements as a public company. But most of this is cultural. Sharing something might cause a problem, so let’s not. All external communication is treated as a critical press release, with rounds and rounds of editing by multiple teams and approvals. However, customers are often desperate for information. Moreover, sharing information builds trust, understanding, and advocates.

I started blogging at Backblaze before we launched. When we blogged about our Storage Pod and open-sourced the design, many thought we were crazy to share this information. But it was transformative for us, establishing Backblaze as a tech thought leader in storage and giving people a sense of how we were able to provide our service at such a low cost.

Over the years we’ve developed a culture of being open internally and externally, on our blog and with the press, and in communities such as Hacker News and Reddit. Often we’ve been asked, “why would you share that!?” — but it’s the continual openness that builds trust. And that culture of openness is incredibly challenging for the giants.

Lesson Learned: Overshare to build trust and brand where giants won’t.

9. Be Human

As companies scale, typically a smaller percent of founders and executives interact with customers. The people who build the company become more hidden, the language feels “corporate,” and customers start to feel they’re interacting with the cliche “faceless, nameless corporation.” Use your humanity to your advantage. From day one the Backblaze About page listed all the founders, and my email address. While contacting us shouldn’t be the first path for a customer support question, I wanted it to be clear that we stand behind the service we offer; if we’re doing something wrong — I want to know it.

To scale it’s important to have processes and procedures, but sometimes a situation falls outside of a well-established process. While we want our employees to follow processes, they’re still encouraged to be human and “try to do the right thing.” How to you strike this balance? Simon Sinek gives a good talk about it: make your employees feel safe. If employees feel safe they’ll be human.

If your customer is a consumer, they’ll appreciate being treated as a human. Even if your customer is a corporation, the purchasing decision-makers are still people.

Lesson Learned: Being human is the ultimate antithesis to the faceless corporation.

Build Culture to Sustain Your Advantages at Scale

Presumably the goal is not to always be competing with giants, but to one day become a giant. Does this mean you’ll lose all of these advantages? Some, yes — but not all. Some of these advantages are cultural, and if you build these into the culture from the beginning, and fight to keep them as you scale, you can keep them as you become a giant.

Tesla still comes across as human, with Elon Musk frequently interacting with people on Twitter. Apple continues to provide great service through their Genius Bar. And, worst case, if you lose these at scale, you’ll still have the other advantages of being a giant such as money, people, scale, resources, and access.

Of course, some new startup will be gunning for you with grand ambitions, so just be sure not to get complacent. 😉

The post How to Compete with Giants appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

“Pirate Sites Generate $111 Million In Ad Revenue a Year”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-sites-generate-111-million-in-ad-revenue-a-year-171005/

In recent years various copyright holder groups have adopted a “follow-the-money” approach in the hope of cutting off funding to so-called pirate sites.

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) is one of the organizations that helps to facilitate these efforts. TAG coordinates an advertising-oriented Anti-Piracy Program for the advertising industry and has signed up dozens of large companies across various industries.

Today they released a new report, titled “Measuring Digital Advertising Revenue to Infringing Sites,” which shows the impact of these efforts.

The study, carried out by Ernst and Young, reveals that the top 672 piracy sites still generate plenty of revenue. A whopping $111 million per year, to be precise. But it may have been twice as much without the industry’s interventions.

“Digital ad revenue linked to infringing content was estimated at $111 million last year, the majority of which (83 percent) came from non-premium advertisers,” TAG writes.

“If the industry had not taken aggressive steps to reduce piracy, those pirate site operators would have potentially earned an additional $102-$177 million in advertising revenue, depending on the breakdown of premium and non-premium advertisers.”

Pirate revenue estimates

Taking more than $100 million away from pirate sites is pretty significant, to say the least.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the news is paired with positive comments from various industry insiders as well as US Congressman Adam Schiff, who co-chairs the International Creativity and Theft Prevention Caucus.

“The study recently completed by Ernst and Young on behalf of TAG shows that those efforts are bearing fruit, and that voluntary efforts by advertisers and agencies kept well over $100 million out of the pockets of pirate sites last year alone,” Schiff says.

While TAG and their partners pat themselves on the back, those who take a more critical look at the data will realize that their view is rather optimistic. There is absolutely no evidence that TAG’s efforts are responsible for the claimed millions that were kept from pirate sites.

In fact, most of these millions never ended up in the pockets of these websites to begin with.

The $102 million that pirate sites ‘didn’t get’ is simply the difference between premium and non-premium ads. In other words, the extra money these sites would have made if they had 100% premium ads, which is a purely hypothetical situation.

Long before TAG existed pirate sites were banned by a lot of premium advertising networks, including Google AdSense, and mostly serving lower tier ads.

The estimated CPM figures (earnings per 1,000 views) are rather optimistic too. TAG puts these at $2.50 for non-premium ads. We spoke to several site owners who said these were way off. Even pop-unders in premium countries make less than a dollar, we were told.

Site owners are not the only ones that have a much lower estimate. An earlier copyright industry-backed study, published by Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), put the average CPM of these pirate site ads at $0.30, which is miles away from the $2.50 figure.

In fact, the DCA study also put the premium ads at $0.30, because these often end up as leftover inventory at pirate sites, according to experts.

“Based on MediaLink expertise and research with advertising industry members, the assumption is that where premium ads appear they are delivered programmatically by exchanges to fulfill the dregs of campaigns. As such, rates are assumed to be the same for premium and non-premium ads,” the DCA report noted.

In the TAG report, the estimate for premium ads is a bit higher, $5 per 1000 views. Video ads may be higher, but these only represent a tiny fraction of the total.

While TAG’s efforts will no doubt make a difference, it’s good to keep the caveats above in mind. Their claim that that the ad industry’s anti-piracy efforts have “cut pirate ad revenue in half” is misleading, to say the least.

That doesn’t mean that all numbers released by the organization should be taken with a grain of salt. The TAG membership rates below are 100% accurate.

TAG membership fees

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

MPAA Reports Pirate Sites, Hosts and Ad-Networks to US Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-reports-pirate-sites-hosts-and-ad-networks-to-us-government-171004/

Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has submitted an updated list of “notorious markets” that it says promote the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows.

These annual submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

What stands out in the MPAA’s latest overview is that it no longer includes offline markets, only sites and services that are available on the Internet. This suggests that online copyright infringement is seen as a priority.

The MPAA’s report includes more than two dozen alleged pirate sites in various categories. While this is not an exhaustive list, the movie industry specifically highlights some of the worst offenders in various categories.

“Content thieves take advantage of a wide constellation of easy-to-use online technologies, such as direct download and streaming, to create infringing sites and applications, often with the look and feel of legitimate content distributors, luring unsuspecting consumers into piracy,” the MPAA writes.

According to the MPAA, torrent sites remain popular, serving millions of torrents to tens of millions of users at any given time.

The Pirate Bay has traditionally been one of the main targets. Based on data from Alexa and SimilarWeb, the MPAA says that TPB has about 62 million unique visitors per month. The other torrent sites mentioned are 1337x.to, Rarbg.to, Rutracker.org, and Torrentz2.eu.

MPAA calls out torrent sites

The second highlighted category covers various linking and streaming sites. This includes the likes of Fmovies.is, Gostream.is, Primewire.ag, Kinogo.club, MeWatchSeries.to, Movie4k.tv and Repelis.tv.

Direct download sites and video hosting services also get a mention. Nowvideo.sx, Openload.co, Rapidgator.net, Uploaded.net and the Russian social network VK.com. Many of these services refuse to properly process takedown notices, the MPAA claims.

The last category is new and centers around piracy apps. These sites offer mobile applications that allow users to stream pirated content, such as IpPlayBox.tv, MoreTV, 3DBoBoVR, TVBrowser, and KuaiKa, which are particularly popular in Asia.

Aside from listing specific sites, the MPAA also draws the US Government’s attention to the streaming box problem. The report specifically mentions that Kodi-powered boxes are regularly abused for infringing purposes.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA notes.

“The most popular software is an open source media player software, Kodi. Although Kodi is not itself unlawful, and does not host or link to unlicensed content, it can be easily configured to direct consumers toward unlicensed films and television shows.”

Pirate streaming boxes

There are more than 750 websites offering infringing devices, the Hollywood group notes, adding that the rapid growth of this problem is startling. Interestingly, the report mentions TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository,” noting that it’s currently offline. Whether the new TVAddons is also seen a problematic is unclear.

The MPAA also continues its trend of calling out third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers. These companies refuse to take pirate sites offline following complaints, even when the MPAA views them as blatantly violating the law.

“Hosting companies provide the essential infrastructure required to operate a website,” the MPAA writes. “Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is very concerning that many refuse to take action upon being notified…”

The Hollywood group specifically mentions Private Layer and Netbrella as notorious markets. CDN provider CloudFlare is also named. As a US-based company, the latter can’t be included in the list. However, the MPAA explains that it is often used as an anonymization tool by sites and services that are mentioned in the report.

Another group of intermediaries that play a role in fueling piracy (mentioned for the first time) are advertising networks. The MPAA specifically calls out the Canadian company WWWPromoter, which works with sites such as Primewire.ag, Projectfreetv.at and 123movies.to

“The companies connecting advertisers to infringing websites and inadvertently contribute to the prevalence and prosperity of infringing sites by providing funding to the operators of these sites through advertising revenue,” the MPAA writes.

The MPAA’s full report is available here (pdf). The USTR will use this input above to make up its own list of notorious markets. This will help to identify current threats and call on foreign governments to take appropriate action.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

The Data Tinder Collects, Saves, and Uses

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/the_data_tinder.html

Under European law, service providers like Tinder are required to show users what information they have on them when requested. This author requested, and this is what she received:

Some 800 pages came back containing information such as my Facebook “likes,” my photos from Instagram (even after I deleted the associated account), my education, the age-rank of men I was interested in, how many times I connected, when and where every online conversation with every single one of my matches happened…the list goes on.

“I am horrified but absolutely not surprised by this amount of data,” said Olivier Keyes, a data scientist at the University of Washington. “Every app you use regularly on your phone owns the same [kinds of information]. Facebook has thousands of pages about you!”

As I flicked through page after page of my data I felt guilty. I was amazed by how much information I was voluntarily disclosing: from locations, interests and jobs, to pictures, music tastes and what I liked to eat. But I quickly realised I wasn’t the only one. A July 2017 study revealed Tinder users are excessively willing to disclose information without realising it.

“You are lured into giving away all this information,” says Luke Stark, a digital technology sociologist at Dartmouth University. “Apps such as Tinder are taking advantage of a simple emotional phenomenon; we can’t feel data. This is why seeing everything printed strikes you. We are physical creatures. We need materiality.”

Reading through the 1,700 Tinder messages I’ve sent since 2013, I took a trip into my hopes, fears, sexual preferences and deepest secrets. Tinder knows me so well. It knows the real, inglorious version of me who copy-pasted the same joke to match 567, 568, and 569; who exchanged compulsively with 16 different people simultaneously one New Year’s Day, and then ghosted 16 of them.

“What you are describing is called secondary implicit disclosed information,” explains Alessandro Acquisti, professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University. “Tinder knows much more about you when studying your behaviour on the app. It knows how often you connect and at which times; the percentage of white men, black men, Asian men you have matched; which kinds of people are interested in you; which words you use the most; how much time people spend on your picture before swiping you, and so on. Personal data is the fuel of the economy. Consumers’ data is being traded and transacted for the purpose of advertising.”

Tinder’s privacy policy clearly states your data may be used to deliver “targeted advertising.”

It’s not Tinder. Surveillance is the business model of the Internet. Everyone does this.

Surviving Your First Year

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/startup-stages-surviving-your-first-year/

Surviving Your First Year

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the fifth in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

In my previous posts, I talked about coming up with an idea, determining the solution, and getting your first customers. But you’re building a company, not a product. Let’s talk about what the first year should look like.

The primary goals for that first year are to: 1) set up the company; 2) build, launch, and learn; and 3) survive.

Setting Up the Company

The company you’re building is more than the product itself, and you’re not going to do it alone. You don’t want to spend too much time on this since getting customers is key, but if you don’t set up the basics, there are all sorts of issues down the line.

startup idea board

Find Your Co-Founders & Determine Roles

You may already have the idea, but who do you need to execute it? At Backblaze, we needed people to build the web experience, the client backup application, and the server/storage side. We also needed someone to handle the business/marketing aspects, and we felt that the design and user experience were critical. As a result, we started with five co-founders: three engineers, a designer, and me for the business and marketing.

Of course not every role needs to be filled by a co-founder. You can hire employees for positions as well. But think through the strategic skills you’ll need to launch and consider co-founders with those skill sets.

Too many people think they can just “work together” on everything. Don’t. Determine roles as quickly as possible so that it’s clear who is responsible for what work and which decisions. We were lucky in that we had worked together and thus knew what each person would do, but even so we assigned titles early on to clarify roles.

Takeaway:   Fill critical roles and explicitly split roles and responsibilities.

Get Your Legal Basics In Place

When we’re excited about building a product, legal basics are often the last thing we want to deal with. You don’t need to go overboard, but it’s critical to get certain things done.

  1. Determine ownership split. What is the percentage breakdown of the company that each of the founders will own? It can be a tough discussion, but it only becomes more difficult later when there is more value and people have put more time into it. At Backblaze we split the equity equally five ways. This is uncommon. The benefit of this is that all the founders feel valued and “in it together.” The benefit of the more common split where someone has a dominant share is that person is typically empowered to be the ultimate decision-maker. Slicing Pie provides some guidance on how to think about splitting equity. Regardless of which way you want you go, don’t put it off.
  2. Incorporate. Hard to be a company if you’re not. There are various formats, but if you plan to raise angel/venture funding, a Delaware-based C-corp is standard.
  3. Deal With Stock. At a minimum, issue stock to the founders, have each one buy their shares, and file an 83(b). Buying your shares at this stage might be $100. Filing the 83(b) election marks the date at which you purchased your shares, and shows that you bought them for what they were worth. This one piece of paper paper can make the difference between paying long-term capital gains rates (~20%) or income tax rates (~40%).
  4. Assign Intellectual Property. Ask everyone to sign a Proprietary Information and Inventions Assignment (“PIIA”). This document says that what they do at the company is owned by the company. Early on we had a friend who came by and brainstormed ideas. We thought of it as interesting banter. He later said he owned part of our storage design. While we worked it out together, a PIIA makes ownership clear.

The ownership split can be worked out by the founders directly. For the other items, I would involve lawyers. Some law firms will set up the basics and defer payment until you raise money or the business can pay for services out of operations. Gunderson Dettmer did that for us (ask for Bennett Yee). Cooley will do this on a casey-by-case basis as well.

Takeaway:  Don’t let the excitement of building a company distract you from filing the basic legal documents required to protect and grow your company.

Get Health Insurance

This item may seem out of place, but not having health insurance can easily bankrupt you personally, and that certainly won’t bode well for your company. While you can buy individual health insurance, it will often be less expensive to buy it as a company. Also, it will make recruiting employees more difficult if you do not offer healthcare. When we contacted brokers they asked us to send the W-2 of each employee that wanted coverage, but the founders weren’t taking a salary at first. To work around this, make the founders ‘officers’ of the company, and the healthcare brokers can then insure them. (Of course, you need to be ok with your co-founders being officers, but hopefully, that is logical anyway.)

Takeaway:  Don’t take your co-founders’ physical and financial health for granted. Health insurance can serve as both individual protection and a recruiting tool for future employees.

Building, Launching & Learning

Getting the company set up gives you the foundation, but ultimately a company with no product and no customers isn’t very interesting.

Build

Ideally, you have one person on the team focusing on all of the items above and everyone else can be heads-down building product. There is a lot to say about building product, but for this post, I’ll just say that your goal is to get something out the door that is good enough to start collecting feedback. It doesn’t have to have every feature you dream of and doesn’t have to support 1 billion users on day one.

Launch

If you’re building a car or rocket, that may take some time. But with the availability of open-source software and cloud services, most startups should launch inside of a year.

Launching forces a scoping of the feature set to what’s critical, rallies the company around a goal, starts building awareness of your company and solution, and pushes forward the learning process. Backblaze launched in public beta on June 2, 2008, eight months after the founders all started working on it full-time.

Takeaway:  Focus on the most important features and launch.

Learn & Iterate

As much as we think we know about the customers and their needs, the launch process and beyond opens up all sorts of insights. This early period is critical to collect feedback and iterate, especially while both the product and company are still quite malleable. We initially planned on building peer-to-peer and local backup immediately on the heels of our online offering, but after launching found minimal demand for those features. On the other hand, there was tremendous demand from companies and resellers.

Takeaway:  Use the critical post-launch period to collect feedback and iterate.

Surviving

“Live to fight another day.” If the company doesn’t survive, it’s hard to change the world. Let’s talk about some of the survival components.

Consider What You As A Founding Team Want & How You Work

Are you doing this because you hope to get rich? See yourself on the cover of Fortune? Make your own decisions? Work from home all the time? Founder fighting is the number one reason companies fail; the founders need to be on the same page as much as possible.

At Backblaze we agreed very early on that we wanted three things:

  1. Build products we were proud of
  2. Have fun
  3. Make money

This has driven various decisions over the years and has evolved into being part of the culture. For example, while Backblaze is absolutely a company with a profit motive, we do not compromise the product to make more money. Other directions are not bad; they’re just different.

Do you want a lifestyle business? Or want to build a billion dollar business? Want to run it forever or build it for a couple years and do something else?

Pretend you’re getting married to each other. Do some introspection and talk about your vision of the future a lot. Do you expect everyone to work 20 or 100 hours every week? In the office or remote? How do you like to work? What pet peeves do you have?

When getting married each person brings the “life they’ve known,” often influenced by the life their parents lived. Together they need to decide which aspects of their previous lives they want to keep, toss, or change. As founders coming together, you have the same opportunity for your new company.

Takeaway:  In order for a company to survive, the founders must agree on what they want the company to be. Have the discussions early.

Determine How You Will Fund Your Business

Raising venture capital is often seen as the only path, and considered the most important thing to start doing on day one. However, there are a variety of options for funding your business, including using money from savings, part-time work, friends & family money, loans, angels, and customers. Consider the right option for you, your founding team, and your business.

Conserve Cash

Whichever option you choose for funding your business, chances are high that you will not be flush with cash on day one. In certain situations, you actually don’t want to conserve cash because you’ve raised $100m and now you want to run as fast as you can to capture a market — cash is plentiful and time is not. However, with the exception of founder struggles, running out of cash is the most common way companies go under. There are many ways to conserve cash — limit hiring of employees and consultants, use lawyers and accountants sparingly, don’t spend on advertising, work from a home office, etc. The most important way is to simply ensure that you and your team are cash conscious, challenging decisions that commit you to spending cash.

Backblaze spent a total of $94,122 to get to public beta launch. That included building the backup application, our own server infrastructure, the website with account/billing/restore functionality, the marketing involved in getting to launch, and all the steps above in setting up the company, paying for healthcare, etc. The five founders took no salary during this time (which, of course, would have cost dramatically more), so most of this money went to computers, servers, hard drives, and other infrastructure.

Takeaway:  Minimize cash burn — it extends your runway and gives you options.

Slowly Flesh Out Your Team

We started with five co-founders, and thus a fairly fleshed-out team. A year in, we only added one person, a Mac architect. Three months later we shipped a beta of our Mac version, which has resulted in more than 50% of our revenue.

Minimizing hiring is key to cash conservation, and hiring ahead of getting market feedback is risky since you may realize that the talent you need will change. However, once you start getting feedback, think about the key people that you need to move your company forward. But be rigorous in determining whether they’re critical. We didn’t hire our first customer support person until all five founders were spending 20% of their time on it.

Takeaway:  Don’t hire in anticipation of market growth; hire to fuel the growth.

Keep Your Spirits Up

Startups are roller coasters of emotion. There have been some serious articles about founders suffering from depression and worse. The idea phase is exhilarating, then there is the slog of building. The launch is a blast, but the week after there are crickets.

On June 2, 2008, we launched in public beta with great press and hordes of customers. But a few months later we were signing up only about 10 new customers per month. That’s $50 new monthly recurring revenue (MRR) after a year of work and no salary.

On August 25, 2008, we brought on our Mac architect. Two months later, on October 26, 2008, Apple launched Time Machine — completely free and built-in backup for all Macs.

There were plenty of times when our prospects looked bleak. In the rearview mirror it’s easy to say, “well sure, but now you have lots of customers,” or “yes, but Time Machine doesn’t do cloud backup.” But at the time neither of these were a given.

Takeaway:  Getting up each day and believing that as a team you’ll figure it out will let you get to the point where you can look in the rearview mirror and say, “It looked bleak back then.”

Succeeding in Your First Year

I titled the post “Surviving Your First Year,” but if you manage to, 1) set up the company; 2) build, launch, and learn; and 3) survive, you will have done more than survive: you’ll have truly succeeded in your first year.

The post Surviving Your First Year appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Founder of Fan-Made Subtitle Site Convicted for Copyright Infringement

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/founder-of-subtitle-site-convicted-for-copyright-infringement-170914/

Every day millions of people enjoy fan-made subtitles. They help foreigners understand English-speaking entertainment and provide the deaf with a way to comprehend audio.

Quite often these subtitles are used in combination with pirated files. This is a thorn in the side to copyright holder groups, who see this as a threat to their business.

In Sweden, Undertexter was one of the leading subtitle resources for roughly a decade. The site allowed users to submit their own translated subtitles for movies and TV shows, which were then made available to the public.

In the summer of 2013, this reign came to an end after the site was pulled offline. Following pressure from Hollywood-based movie companies, police raided the site and seized its servers.

The raid and subsequent criminal investigation came as a surprise to the site’s founder, Eugen Archy, who didn’t think he or the site’s users were offering an illegal service.

“The people who work on the site don’t consider their own interpretation of dialog to be something illegal, especially when we’re handing out these interpretations for free,” he said at the time.

The arrest made it clear that the authorities disagreed. The Undertexter founder was prosecuted for distributing copyright-infringing subtitles, risking a possible prison sentence. While Archy was found guilty this week, luckily for him he remains a free man.

The Attunda District Court sentenced the now 32-year-old operator to probation. In addition, he has to pay 217,000 Swedish Kroner ($27,000), which will be taken from the advertising and donation revenues he collected through the site.

While there were millions of subtitles available on Undertexter, only 74 movies were referenced by the prosecution. These were carefully selected to ensure a strong case it seems, as many of the titles weren’t commercially available in Sweden at the time.

During the trial, the defense had argued that the fan-made subtitles are not infringing since movies are made up of video and sound, with subtitles being an extra. However, the court disagreed with this line of reasoning, the verdict shows.

While the copyright holders may have hoped for a heftier punishment, the ruling confirms that fan-made subtitles can be seen as copyright infringements. Prosecutor Henrik Rasmusson is satisfied with the outcome, IDG reports, but he will leave the option to appeal open for now.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

New UK IP Crime Report Reveals Continued Focus on ‘Pirate’ Kodi Boxes

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-uk-ip-crime-report-reveals-continued-focus-on-pirate-kodi-boxes-170908/

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has published its annual IP Crime Report, spanning the period 2016 to 2017.

It covers key events in the copyright and trademark arenas and is presented with input from the police and trading standards, plus private entities such as the BPI, Premier League, and Federation Against Copyright Theft, to name a few.

The report begins with an interesting statistic. Despite claims that many millions of UK citizens regularly engage in some kind of infringement, figures from the Ministry of Justice indicate that just 47 people were found guilty of offenses under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act during 2016. That’s down on the 69 found guilty in the previous year.

Despite this low conviction rate, 15% of all internet users aged 12+ are reported to have consumed at least one item of illegal content between March and May 2017. Figures supplied by the Industry Trust for IP indicate that 19% of adults watch content via various IPTV devices – often referred to as set-top, streaming, Android, or Kodi boxes.

“At its cutting edge IP crime is innovative. It exploits technological loopholes before they become apparent. IP crime involves sophisticated hackers, criminal financial experts, international gangs and service delivery networks. Keeping pace with criminal innovation places a burden on IP crime prevention resources,” the report notes.

The report covers a broad range of IP crime, from counterfeit sportswear to foodstuffs, but our focus is obviously on Internet-based infringement. Various contributors cover various aspects of online activity as it affects them, including music industry group BPI.

“The main online piracy threats to the UK recorded music industry at present are from BitTorrent networks, linking/aggregator sites, stream-ripping sites, unauthorized streaming sites and cyberlockers,” the BPI notes.

The BPI’s website blocking efforts have been closely reported, with 63 infringing sites blocked to date via various court orders. However, the BPI reports that more than 700 related URLs, IP addresses, and proxy sites/ proxy aggregators have also been rendered inaccessible as part of the same action.

“Site blocking has proven to be a successful strategy as the longer the blocks are in place, the more effective they are. We have seen traffic to these sites reduce by an average of 70% or more,” the BPI reports.

While prosecutions against music pirates are a fairly rare event in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Specialist Fraud Division highlights that their most significant prosecution of the past 12 months involved a prolific music uploader.

As first revealed here on TF, Wayne Evans was an uploader not only on KickassTorrents and The Pirate Bay, but also some of his own sites. Known online as OldSkoolScouse, Evans reportedly cost the UK’s Performing Rights Society more than £1m in a single year. He was sentenced in December 2016 to 12 months in prison.

While Evans has been free for some time already, the CPS places particular emphasis on the importance of the case, “since it provided sentencing guidance for the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, where before there was no definitive guideline.”

The CPS says the case was useful on a number of fronts. Despite illegal distribution of content being difficult to investigate and piracy losses proving tricky to quantify, the court found that deterrent sentences are appropriate for the kinds of offenses Evans was accused of.

The CPS notes that various factors affect the severity of such sentences, not least the length of time the unlawful activity has persisted and particularly if it has done so after the service of a cease and desist notice. Other factors include the profit made by defendants and/or the loss caused to copyright holders “so far as it can accurately be calculated.”

Importantly, however, the CPS says that beyond issues of personal mitigation and timely guilty pleas, a jail sentence is probably going to be the outcome for others engaging in this kind of activity in future. That’s something for torrent and streaming site operators and their content uploaders to consider.

“[U]nless the unlawful activity of this kind is very amateur, minor or short-lived, or in the absence of particularly compelling mitigation or other exceptional circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence is likely to be appropriate in cases of illegal distribution of copyright infringing articles,” the CPS concludes.

But while a music-related trial provided the highlight of the year for the CPS, the online infringement world is still dominated by the rise of streaming sites and the now omnipresent “fully-loaded Kodi Box” – set-top devices configured to receive copyright-infringing live TV and VOD.

In the IP Crime Report, the Intellectual Property Office references a former US Secretary of Defense to describe the emergence of the threat.

“The echoes of Donald Rumsfeld’s famous aphorism concerning ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ reverberate across our landscape perhaps more than any other. The certainty we all share is that we must be ready to confront both ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’,” the IPO writes.

“Not long ago illegal streaming through Kodi Boxes was an ‘unknown’. Now, this technology updates copyright infringement by empowering TV viewers with the technology they need to subvert copyright law at the flick of a remote control.”

While the set-top box threat has grown in recent times, the report highlights the important legal clarifications that emerged from the BREIN v Filmspeler case, which found itself before the European Court of Justice.

As widely reported, the ECJ determined that the selling of piracy-configured devices amounts to a communication to the public, something which renders their sale illegal. However, in a submission by PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, box sellers are said to cast a keen eye on the legal situation.

“Organised criminals, especially those in the UK who distribute set-top boxes, are aware of recent developments in the law and routinely exploit loopholes in it,” PIPCU reports.

“Given recent judgments on the sale of pre-programmed set-top boxes, it is now unlikely criminals would advertise the devices in a way which is clearly infringing by offering them pre-loaded or ‘fully loaded’ with apps and addons specifically designed to access subscription services for free.”

With sellers beginning to clean up their advertising, it seems likely that detection will become more difficult than when selling was considered a gray area. While that will present its own issues, PIPCU still sees problems on two fronts – a lack of clear legislation and a perception of support for ‘pirate’ devices among the public.

“There is no specific legislation currently in place for the prosecution of end users or sellers of set-top boxes. Indeed, the general public do not see the usage of these devices as potentially breaking the law,” the unit reports.

“PIPCU are currently having to try and ‘shoehorn’ existing legislation to fit the type of criminality being observed, such as conspiracy to defraud (common law) to tackle this problem. Cases are yet to be charged and results will be known by late 2017.”

Whether these prosecutions will be effective remains to be seen, but PIPCU’s comments suggest an air of caution set to a backdrop of box-sellers’ tendency to adapt to legal challenges.

“Due to the complexity of these cases it is difficult to substantiate charges under the Fraud Act (2006). PIPCU have convicted one person under the Serious Crime Act (2015) (encouraging or assisting s11 of the Fraud Act). However, this would not be applicable unless the suspect had made obvious attempts to encourage users to use the boxes to watch subscription only content,” PIPCU notes, adding;

“The selling community is close knit and adapts constantly to allow itself to operate in the gray area where current legislation is unclear and where they feel they can continue to sell ‘under the radar’.”

More generally, pirate sites as a whole are still seen as a threat. As reported last month, the current anti-piracy narrative is that pirate sites represent a danger to their users. As a result, efforts are underway to paint torrent and streaming sites as risky places to visit, with users allegedly exposed to malware and other malicious content. The scare strategy is supported by PIPCU.

“Unlike the purchase of counterfeit physical goods, consumers who buy unlicensed content online are not taking a risk. Faulty copyright doesn’t explode, burn or break. For this reason the message as to why the public should avoid copyright fraud needs to be re-focused.

“A more concerted attempt to push out a message relating to malware on pirate websites, the clear criminality and the links to organized crime of those behind the sites are crucial if public opinion is to be changed,” the unit advises.

But while the changing of attitudes is desirable for pro-copyright entities, PIPCU says that winning over the public may not prove to be an easy battle. It was given a small taste of backlash itself, after taking action against the operator of a pirate site.

“The scale of the problem regarding public opinion of online copyright crime is evidenced by our own experience. After PIPCU executed a warrant against the owner of a streaming website, a tweet about the event (read by 200,000 people) produced a reaction heavily weighted against PIPCU’s legitimate enforcement action,” PIPCU concludes.

In summary, it seems likely that more effort will be expended during the next 12 months to target the set-top box threat, but there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of confidence in existing legislation to tackle all but the most egregious offenders. That being said, a line has now been drawn in the sand – if the public is prepared to respect it.

The full IP Crime Report 2016-2017 is available here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

YouTube-MP3 Settles With RIAA, Site Will Shut Down

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-mp3-settles-with-riaa-site-will-shut-down-170904/

With millions of visitors per day, YouTube-MP3.org is one of the most visited websites on the Internet.

The site allows its visitors to convert YouTube videos to MP3 files, which they can then listen to where and whenever they want. The music industry sees such “stream ripping” sites as a serious threat to its revenues, worse than traditional pirate sites.

In an attempt to do something about it, a coalition of record labels, represented by the RIAA, took YouTube-MP3 to court last year.

A complaint filed in a California federal court accused the site’s operator of various types of copyright infringement. In addition, the labels accused the site of circumventing YouTube’s copying protection mechanism, violating the DMCA.

“Through the promise of illicit delivery of free music, Defendants have attracted millions of users to the [YouTube-MP3] website, which in turn generates advertising revenues for Defendants,” the labels complained.

Today, a year later, both parties have settled their differences. While there haven’t been many updates in the court docket, a recent filing states that both parties have agreed to a settlement.

The details of the deal are not public, but YouTube-MP3 is willing to take all the blame. In a proposed final judgment, both parties ask the court to rule in favor of the labels on all counts of the complaint. In addition, the site’s owner Philip Matesanz agreed to pay a settlement amount.

On all counts

In addition to the order, a proposed injunction will prohibit the site’s operator from “knowingly designing, developing, offering, or operating any technology or service that allows or facilitates the practice commonly known as “streamripping,” or any other type of copyright infringement for that matter.

This injunction, which RIAA and YouTube-MP3 both agreed on, also states that the site’s domain name will be handed over to one of the record labels.

“Defendants are ordered to transfer the domain name www.youtube-mp3.org to the Plaintiff identified in, and in accordance with the terms of, the confidential Settlement Agreement among the parties,” it reads.

If the owner refuses to comply, the registrar will be ordered to sign over the domain name, which means that there’s no escaping.

While the court has yet to sign the proposed judgment and injunction (pdf), it is clear that YouTube-MP3 has thrown in the towel and will shut down. At the time of writing the site remains online, but this likely won’t be for long.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Director of Kim Dotcom Documentary Speaks Out on Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/director-of-kim-dotcom-documentary-speaks-out-on-piracy-170902/

When you make a documentary about Kim Dotcom, someone who’s caught up in one of the largest criminal copyright infringement cases in history, the piracy issue is unavoidable.

And indeed, the topic is discussed in depth in “Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web,” which enjoyed its digital release early last week.

As happens with most digital releases, a pirated copy soon followed. While no filmmaker would actively encourage people not to pay for their work, director Annie Goldson wasn’t surprised at all when she saw the first unauthorized copies appear online.

The documentary highlights that piracy is in part triggered by lacking availability, so it was a little ironic that the film itself wasn’t released worldwide on all services. However, Goldson had no direct influence on the distribution process.

“It was inevitable really. We have tried to adopt a distribution model that we hope will encourage viewers to buy legal copies making it available as widely as possible,” Goldson informs TorrentFreak.

“We had sold the rights, so didn’t have complete control over reach or pricing which I think are two critical variables that do impact on the degree of piracy. Although I think our sales agent did make good strides towards a worldwide release.”

Now that millions of pirates have access to her work for free, it will be interesting to see how this impacts sales. For now, however, there’s still plenty of legitimate interest, with the film now appearing in the iTunes top ten of independent films.

In any case, Goldson doesn’t subscribe to the ‘one instance of piracy is a lost sale’ theory and notes that views about piracy are sharply polarized.

“Some claim financial devastation while others argue that infringement leads to ‘buzz,’ that this can generate further sales – so we shall see. At one level, watching this unfold is quite an interesting research exercise into distribution, which ironically is one of the big themes of the film of course,” Goldson notes.

Piracy overall doesn’t help the industry forward though, she says, as it hurts the development of better distribution models.

“I’m opposed to copyright infringement and piracy as it muddies the waters when it comes to devising a better model for distribution, one that would nurture and support artists and creatives, those that do the hard yards.”

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web trailer

The director has no issues with copyright enforcement either. Not just to safeguard financial incentives, but also because the author does have moral and ethical rights about how their works are distributed. That said, instead of pouring money into enforcement, it might be better spent on finding a better business model.

“I’m with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who says [in the documentary] that the problem is primarily with the existing business model. If you make films genuinely available at prices people can afford, at the same time throughout the world, piracy would drop to low levels.

“I think most people would prefer to access their choice of entertainment legally rather than delving into dark corners of the Internet. I might be wrong of course,” Goldson adds.

In any case, ‘simply’ enforcing piracy into oblivion seems to be an unworkable prospect – not without massive censorship, or the shutdown of the entire Internet.

“I feel the risk is that anti-piracy efforts will step up and erode important freedoms. Or we have to close down the Internet altogether. After all, the unwieldy beast is a giant copying machine – making copies is what it does well,” Goldson says.

The problems is that the industry is keeping piracy intact through its own business model. When people can’t get what they want, when, and where they want it, they often turn to pirate sites.

“One problem is that the industry has been slow to change and hence we now have generations of viewers who have had to regularly infringe to be part of a global conversation.

“I do feel if the industry is promoting and advertising works internationally, using globalized communication and social media, then denying viewers from easily accessing works, either through geo-blocking or price points, obviously, digitally-savvy viewers will find them regardless,” Goldson adds.

And yes, this ironically also applies to her own documentary.

The solution is to continue to improve the legal options. This is easier said than done, as Goldson and her team tried hard, so it won’t happen overnight. However, universal access for a decent price would seem to be the future.

Unless the movie industry prefers to shut down the Internet entirely, of course.

For those who haven’t seen “Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web yet,” the film is available globally on Vimeo OnDemand, and in a lot of territories on iTunes, the PlayStation Store, Amazon, Google Play, and the Microsoft/Xbox Store. In the US there is also Vudu, Fandango Now & Verizon.

If that doesn’t work, then…

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

How Aussie ecommerce stores can compete with the retail giant Amazon

Post Syndicated from chris desantis original https://www.anchor.com.au/blog/2017/08/aussie-ecommerce-stores-vs-amazon/

The powerhouse Amazon retail store is set to launch in Australia toward the end of 2018 and Aussie ecommerce retailers need to ready themselves for the competition storm ahead.

2018 may seem a while away but getting your ecommerce site in tip top shape and ready to compete can take time. Check out these helpful hints from the Anchor crew.

Speed kills

If you’ve ever heard of the tale of the tortoise and the hare, the moral is that “slow and steady wins the race”. This is definitely not the place for that phrase, because if your site loads as slowly as a 1995 dial up connection, your ecommerce store will not, I repeat, will not win the race.

Site speed can be impacted by a number of factors and getting the balance right between a site that loads at lightning speed and delivering engaging content to your audience. There are many ways to check the performance of your site including Anchor’s free hosting check up or pingdom.

Taking action can boost the performance of your site:

Here’s an interesting blog from the WebCEO team about site speed’s impact on conversion rates on-page, or check out our previous blog on maximising site performance.

Show me the money

As an ecommerce store, getting credit card details as fast as possible is probably at the top of your list, but it’s important to remember that it’s an actual person that needs to hand over the details.

Consider the customer’s experience whilst checking out. Making people log in to their account before checkout, can lead to abandoned carts as customers try to remember the vital details. Similarly, making a customer enter all their details before displaying shipping costs is more of an annoyance than a benefit.

Built for growth

Before you blast out a promo email to your entire database or spend up big on PPC, consider what happens when this 5 fold increase in traffic, all jumps onto your site at around the same time.

Will your site come screeching to a sudden halt with a 504 or 408 error message, or ride high on the wave of increased traffic? If you have fixed infrastructure such as a dedicated server, or are utilising a VPS, then consider the maximum concurrent users that your site can handle.

Consider this. Amazon.com.au will be built on the scalable cloud infrastructure of Amazon Web Services and will utilise all the microservices and data mining technology to offer customers a seamless, personalised shopping experience. How will your business compete?

Search ready

Being found online is important for any business, but for ecommerce sites, it’s essential. Gaining results from SEO practices can take time so beware of ‘quick fix guarantees’ from outsourced agencies.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practices can have lasting effects. Good practices can ensure your site is found via organic search without huge advertising budgets, on the other hand ‘black hat’ practices can push your ecommerce store into search oblivion.

SEO takes discipline and focus to get right. Here are some of our favourite hints for SEO greatness from those who live and breathe SEO:

  • Optimise your site for mobile
  • Use Meta Tags wisely
  • Leverage Descriptive alt tags and image file names
  • Create content for people, not bots (keyword stuffing is a no no!)

SEO best practices are continually evolving, but creating a site that is designed to give users a great experience and give them the content they expect to find.

Google My Business is a free service that EVERY business should take advantage of. It is a listing service where your business can provide details such as address, phone number, website, and trading hours. It’s easy to update and manage, you can add photos, a physical address (if applicable), and display shopper reviews.

Get your site ship shape

Overwhelmed by these starter tips? If you are ready to get your site into tip top shape–get in touch. We work with awesome partners like eWave who can help create a seamless online shopping experience.

 

The post How Aussie ecommerce stores can compete with the retail giant Amazon appeared first on AWS Managed Services by Anchor.

Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit Secures Funding Until 2019

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-intellectual-property-crime-unit-secures-funding-until-2019-170823/

When compared to the wide range of offenses usually handled by the police, copyright infringement is a relatively rare offense.

Historically most connected to physical counterfeiting, in recent years infringement has regularly featured a significant online component.

Formed four years ago and run by the City of London Police, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has a mission to tackle IP crime wherever it may take place but with a special online focus. It is tightly linked to the music, movie, and publishing industries so can most often be viewed protecting their products from infringement.

PIPCU announced its arrival in the summer of 2013 and officially launched a few months later in December 2013, complete with £2.56million in funding from the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO). However, the unit had been already in operation for some time, writing warning letters to torrent and streaming site advising them to shut down – or else.

PIPCU’s initial funding secured the future of the unit until June 2015 but in October 2014, well in advance of that deadline, PIPCU secured another £3m from the IPO to fund the unit to September 2017.

Having received £5.56 million in public funds over three years, PIPCU needed to show some bang for its buck. As a result, the unit publicised numerous actions including streaming arrests, attempted domain seizures, torrent site closures and advertising disruptions. PIPCU also shut down several sports streaming and ebook sites plus a large number of proxies

With August 2017 already upon us, PIPCU should be officially out of funds in a month’s time but according to the Law Gazette, the unit is going nowhere.

An Intellectual Property Office (IPO) spokesperson told the publication that PIPCU has received £3.32m in additional funding from the government which runs from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2019 – the unit’s sixth anniversary.

Much of PIPCU’s more recent activity appears to have been focused in two key areas, both operated under its ‘Operation Creative’ banner. The first concerns PIPCU’s Infringing Website List, which aims to deter advertisers from inadvertently finding ‘pirate’ sites.

Earlier this year, PIPCU claimed success after revealing a 64% drop in “mainstream advertising” revenue on 200 unauthorized platforms between January 2016 and January 2017. More recently, PIPCU revealed that gambling advertising, which is often seen on ‘pirate’ platforms, had reduced by 87% on IWL sites over the previous 12 months.

Finally, PIPCU has been taking action alongside local police forces, FACT, Sky, Virgin, BT, and The Premier League, against suppliers of so-called ‘fully loaded’ set-top boxes, many featuring Kodi bundled with illicit third party addons. However, after a fairly sustained initial flurry, the last publicized operation was in February 2017.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-windows-app-store-is-full-of-pirate-streaming-apps-170820/

Over the past few years it has become much easier to stream movies and TV-shows over the Internet.

Legal streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon are booming. At the same time, however, there’s also a dark market of thousands of pirate streaming tools.

In recent months, Hollywood has directed many its anti-piracy efforts towards unauthorized Kodi-addons and several popular pirate streaming sites, which offer movies and TV-shows without permission. What seems to be largely ignored, however, is a “store” that hundreds of millions of people have access to; the Windows App Store.

When we were browsing through the “top free” apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted “free movies” including various Hollywood blockbusters such as “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “The Mummy.”

Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped passed Microsoft’s screening process. However, the ‘problem’ doesn’t appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews.

Some of the many pirate apps in the “trusted” store

Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go.

The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as “Free Movies HD,” “Free Movies Online 2020,” and “FreeFlix HQ,” came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.

The app descriptions are littered with colorful language offering the latest Hollywood movies, and thousands of others, without charge. In addition, the apps display their capabilities in various screenshots, including those showing movies that are not yet available on legal streaming platforms.

Screenshot provided by the Windows app store

Making matters worse, the applications show advertising as well, including high-quality pre-roll ads. Some of these appear to be facilitated through Microsoft’s own Ad Monetization platform. Other apps offer paid versions or in-app purchases to monetize their service.

After hours of going through the pirate app offerings, it’s clear that Microsoft’s “trusted” Windows Store is ridden with unauthorized content. Thus far we have only mentioned video, but the issue also applies to pirated music in the form of dedicated streaming and download apps.

Earlier this year, Microsoft signed a landmark anti-piracy agreement with several major copyright holders, to address pirate search results in the Bing search engine. The above makes clear that search results in the Microsoft Store store may require some attention too.

TorrentFreak reached out to Microsoft, asking for a comment on our findings, but at the time of publication we haven’t yet heard back.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

DMCA Used to Remove Ad Server URL From Easylist Ad Blocklist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-used-to-remove-ad-server-url-from-easylist-ad-blocklist-170811/

The default business model on the Internet is “free” for consumers. Users largely expect websites to load without paying a dime but of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To this end, millions of websites are funded by advertising revenue.

Sensible sites ensure that any advertising displayed is unobtrusive to the visitor but lots seem to think that bombarding users with endless ads, popups, and other hindrances is the best way to do business. As a result, ad blockers are now deployed by millions of people online.

In order to function, ad-blocking tools – such as uBlock Origin or Adblock – utilize lists of advertising domains compiled by third parties. One of the most popular is Easylist, which is distributed by authors fanboy, MonztA, Famlam, and Khrinunder, under dual Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike and GNU General Public Licenses.

With the freedom afforded by those licenses, copyright tends not to figure high on the agenda for Easylist. However, a legal problem that has just raised its head is causing serious concern among those in the ad-blocking community.

Two days ago a somewhat unusual commit appeared in the Easylist repo on Github. As shown in the image below, a domain URL previously added to Easylist had been removed following a DMCA takedown notice filed with Github.

Domain text taken down by DMCA?

The DMCA notice in question has not yet been published but it’s clear that it targets the domain ‘functionalclam.com’. A user called ‘ameshkov’ helpfully points out a post by a new Github user called ‘DMCAHelper’ which coincided with the start of the takedown process more than three weeks ago.

A domain in a list circumvents copyright controls?

Aside from the curious claims of a URL “circumventing copyright access controls” (domains themselves cannot be copyrighted), the big questions are (i) who filed the complaint and (ii) who operates Functionalclam.com? The domain WHOIS is hidden but according to a helpful sleuth on Github, it’s operated by anti ad-blocking company Admiral.

Ad-blocking means money down the drain….

If that is indeed the case, we have the intriguing prospect of a startup attempting to protect its business model by using a novel interpretation of copyright law to have a domain name removed from a list. How this will pan out is unclear but a notice recently published on Functionalclam.com suggests the route the company wishes to take.

“This domain is used by digital publishers to control access to copyrighted content in accordance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and understand how visitors are accessing their copyrighted content,” the notice begins.

Combined with the comments by DMCAHelper on Github, this statement suggests that the complainants believe that interference with the ad display process (ads themselves could be the “copyrighted content” in question) represents a breach of section 1201 of the DMCA.

If it does, that could have huge consequences for online advertising but we will need to see the original DMCA notice to have a clearer idea of what this is all about. Thus far, Github hasn’t published it but already interest is growing. A representative from the EFF has already contacted the Easylist team, so this battle could heat up pretty quickly.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Hotspot Shield VPN Reported to FTC For Alleged Privacy Breaches

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hotspot-shield-vpn-reported-to-ftc-for-alleged-privacy-breaches-170807/

With online privacy becoming an increasingly hot topic, large numbers of companies are offering products which claim to stop third-parties from snooping on users’ Internet activities.

At the forefront are Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which push consumer traffic through encrypted tunnels and remote servers to hide activity from ISPs while offering varying levels of anonymity.

Claims made by VPN companies are often scrutinized by privacy advocates but if a complaint filed this morning by the Center for Democracy and Technology
(CDT) gains momentum, there could be a government investigation into one of the most popular.

Developed by AnchorFree, Inc. and initially released more than nine years ago, the Hotspot Shield application allows users to connect to a VPN service. According to its makers, it’s been downloaded 75 million times and provides “anonymous web surfing with complete privacy.” That claim, however, is now under the spotlight.

In a complaint filed this morning with the Federal Trade Commission, CDT notes that Hotspot Shield makes “strong claims” about the privacy and security of its data collection and sharing practices, including that it “never logs or stores user data.” Crucially, the company also claims never to track or sell its customers’ information, adding that security and privacy are “guaranteed.”

Countering, CDT says that Hotspot Shield engages in logging practices that contradict its claims, noting that it collects information to “identify [a user’s] general location, improve the Service, or optimize advertisements displayed through the Service.”

The complaint says that IP addresses and unique device identifiers are regularly
collected by Hotspot Shield but the service gets around this issue by classing neither sets of data as personal information.

CDT says it used Carnegie Mellon University’s Mobile App Compliance System to gain insight into Hotspot Shield’s functionality and found problems with privacy.

“CMU’s analysis of Hotspot Shield’s Android application permissions found undisclosed data sharing practices with third party advertising networks,” the group notes.

“While an ad-supported VPN may be beneficial in certain instances, it should not be paired with a product or service that tells users that it ensures anonymity, privacy, and security.”

CDT also says that Hotspot Shield tries to cover its back with a disclaimer that the company “may not provide a virtual IP Address for every web site you may visit and third-party web sites may receive your original IP Address when you are visiting those web sites.” But this runs counter to the stated aim of the service, CDT writes.

Accusing Hotspot Shield of unfair and deceptive trade practices, CDT calls on the Commission to conduct an investigation into its data collection and sharing practices.

Hotspot Shield is yet to respond to the complaint or accusations but in a 2014 blog post, welcomed the FTC’s involvement in online security issues.

Full complaint here, courtesy Ars

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

TV Box Seller Emails Sky TV Bosses With ‘Pirate’ Offer, Gets Sued for $1m

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-box-seller-emails-sky-tv-bosses-with-pirate-offer-gets-sued-for-1m-170804/

After relatively quiet treatment in the media, last year press in New Zealand began reporting on the booming ‘pirate’ set-top box business sweeping the world.

Often based around legal Kodi software boosted with third-party addons, the devices are known for providing free movies, TV shows, and sports.

Last November, ‘My Box NZ’ owner Krish Reddy, who said he would take on Sky in its own backyard with his custom streaming boxes, hit the headlines. The 27-year-old told NZHerald that “it seemed like a great idea so we decided to do it ourselves.”

The boxes offered some local free-to-air channels but also the all-important premium offerings from Sky, including Sky Movies and Sky Sports, an expensive proposition for an official subscriber.

“Why pay $80 minimum per month for Sky when for one payment you can have it free for good?” Reddy’s advertising said.

Reddy was confident in the abilities of his product but was also confident he wasn’t breaking the law.

“I don’t see why [Sky] would contact me but if they do contact me and … if there’s something of theirs that they feel I’ve unlawfully taken then yeah … but as it stands I don’t [have any concerns],” he told the Herald.

As things moved on, Reddy’s business really took off. He admitted to having sold 8,000 of the devices and then April this year, Sky appeared to ruh out of patience. In a letter from its lawyers, the pay TV company said Reddy’s devices breached copyright law and the Fair Trading Act. Reddy responded by calling the TV giant “a playground bully” and denied again that he was breaking the law.

“From a legal perspective, what we do is completely within the law. We advertise Sky television channels being available through our website and social media platforms as these are available via streams which you can find through My Box,” he said.

“The content is already available, I’m not going out there and bringing the content so how am I infringing the copyright… the content is already there, if someone uses the box to search for the content, that’s what it is.”

Stuff reports that the initial compensation demand from Sky against Reddy’s company My Box runs to NZD$1.4m (US$1m), an amount that could “rise by millions” by the time a judgment is reached.

“They have given us until September 24 to respond. We are not going to sit and take it,” Reddy told the publication. “How many people can say they went up against a multimillion dollar giant like Sky?”

And it seems that Reddy is absolutely determined to fight back. Earlier this year he said that his father always encouraged him as a child to seek out the big guy for a fight, something that is now playing out with one of the world’s biggest broadcasters.

“[Sky’s] point of view is they own copyright and I’m destroying the market by giving people content for free. To me it is business; I have got something that is new … that’s competition,” he said.

In Europe, where these kinds of cases have already been tested at the highest level, comments like these would be extremely ill-advised and enough to give any defending lawyer a high temperature, but Reddy really doesn’t seem to care.

In fact, a bulk email he sent out to 50,000 people advertising his product as “being better than Sky”, actually found the inboxes of 50 Sky TV staff and directors. He believes this triggered the legal action from the company.

While Reddy was on Sky’s radar long before the mailshot, the blatancy of his advertising and its targets won’t have helped his case one bit. Sky, for its part, is determined to get a ruling against a large player and Reddy seems the perfect catch.

“Anyone selling these boxes are within our sights. You have got to go after the big fish first,” said Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way.

No case like this has ever gone to court in New Zealand so it could be important for setting the ground rules on several aspects of copyright law, including the making available right.

In addition to prosecutions, Way told Stuff that it could also be possible to introduce site-blocking laws such as those already in place in Australia and the UK. These would aim to render Kodi-powered devices less effective at providing copyrighted content from unauthorized sources.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Former Vuze Developers Launch BiglyBT, a ‘New’ Open Source Torrent Client

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/former-vuze-developers-launch-biglybt-a-new-open-source-torrent-client-170803/

Back in the summer of 2003 a group of developers debuted a new torrent client, which they called Azureus.

BitTorrent itself was still a relatively new technology at the time and users were eager to find new tools to transfer their files. The feature-rich Azureus client, which later rebranded to Vuze, delivered just that.

In recent years, however, things have gone relatively quiet, up to a point where Vuze development appears to have stalled completely. Perhaps not surprising, as two of the core developers, parg and TuxPaper, have left the project and moved on to something new.

“We are no longer involved in Vuze or Azureus Software, Inc. We can not speak to what their intentions are with the development of their product,” they inform us.

The developers, who were also part of the original Azureus team, are not saying farewell to their code though. While they are no longer working on Vuze, the pair have started a new Azureus branch, one they will actively maintain.

“We have invested such a large amount of our lives in the endeavor that we feel the need to keep the open source project active, for both our and our users’ enjoyment!” parg and TuxPaper tell us.

BiglyBT, as they have named their new client, will continue where Vuze development stalled. In addition to optimizing the code and releasing new features, BiglyBT is determined to keep the open source project alive, without any commercial interests.

“Our main goals for BiglyBT is to keep it ad-free and open source, and to continue to develop it into an even better torrent client. We also hope that a community will form again around the product.”

BiglyBT main window (large)

People who try the new client will notice that it’s indeed very similar to Vuze, but without the ads and some other ‘cluttering’ features, such as DVD-burning.

While BiglyBT looks and operates in a similar manner to Vuze, in the future the developers will work on a new set of features, a new style, and various other changes that will set it apart from its older brother.

“Our first release is mostly a name change, but we have removed some of the things that we know users don’t particularly want or use, such as the content network, games promotions, DVD burning, the huge ad in the corner of the app, and the offers in the installer.”

While Vuze appears to have downsized its development efforts, BiglyBT promises to go full steam ahead. The new client will also stay true to the Open Source nature. Previously, some people complained that Vuze included proprietary code, resulting in more restrictive license terms. BiglyBT is purely GPL, and will remain so.

The client is currently available on all major desktop platforms, including Windows, MacOS and Linux. An open source Android app, forked from Vuze remote, will follow in a few weeks.

BiglyBT should appeal to a wide range of users, especially the more seasoned torrent user who wants a client they can configure to their liking.

“Our target users are people who love to delve into the world of torrenting. People who like to tinker and watch torrents do their thing. Hoarders who like to seed, automate, categorize and contribute back to the torrenting community,” the developers note.

People who are interested in giving BiglyBT a spin can download the latest version from the official site. The application is free and won’t install any other applications or adware. Instead, it’s solely supported by donations from the public.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Hackers Use Pirate Sites to Ruin Your Life, State Attorneys General Warn

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hackers-use-pirate-sites-to-ruin-your-life-state-attorneys-general-warn-170727/

In recent years copyright holders have tried many things to dissuade the public from visiting pirate websites.

They often claim that piracy costs the entertainment industry thousands of jobs, for example. Another strategy to is to scare the public at large directly, by pointing out all the ills people may encounter on pirate sites.

The Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), which has deep ties to the content industries, is a proponent of the latter strategy. The group has released a variety of reports pointing out that pirate sites are a hotbed for malware, identity theft, hacking and other evils.

To add some political weight to this message, the DCA recently helped to launch a new series of public service announcements where a group of 15 State Attorneys General warn the public about these threats.

The participating Attorneys General include Arizona’s Mark Brnovich, Kentucky’s Andy Bashear, Washington DC’s Karl Racine, and Wisconsin’s Brad Schimel, who all repeat the exact same words in their PSAs.

“Nowadays we all have to worry about cybersecurity. Hackers are always looking for new ways to break into our computers. Something as simple as visiting pirate websites can put your computer at risk.”

“Hackers use pirate websites to infect your computer and steal your ID and financial information, or even take over your computer’s camera without you knowing it,” the Attorneys General add.

Organized by the Digital Citizens Alliance, the campaign in question runs on TV and radio in several states and also appears on social media during the summer.

The warnings, while over dramatized, do raise a real concern. There are a lot of pirate sites that have lower-tier advertising, where malware regularly slips through. And some ads lead users to fake websites where people should probably not leave their credit card information.

Variety points out that the Attorneys General are tasked with the goal to keep their citizens safe, so the PSA’s message is certainly fitting.

Still, one has to wonder whether the main driver of these ads is online safety. Could perhaps the interests of the entertainment industry play a role too? It certainly won’t be the first time that State Attorneys General have helped out Hollywood.

Just a few years ago the MPAA secretly pushed Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood to revive SOPA-like anti-piracy efforts in the United States. That was part of the MPAA’s “Project Goliath,” which was aimed at “convincing state prosecutors to take up the fight” against Google, under an anti-piracy umbrella.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

FossHub Forced to Pull Google Ads From qBitTorrent Downloads

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fosshub-forced-to-pull-google-ads-from-qbittorrent-downloads-170721/

There are no shortage of sites on the Internet that promise free software downloads but few do so with no strings attached. Thousands bundle adware and worse with ‘free’ software, while others bombard visitors with ads.

FossHub, on the other hand, does things very differently.

FossHub only offers free software, with no adware, spyware or malware attached. It doesn’t bombard users with advertising either. In fact, its download pages only have a single ad at the top. Well, that’s the plan at least but when it comes to BitTorrent software, things haven’t been so straightforward recently.

The problem centered around qBitTorrent, the free and open-source torrent client developed as an alternative to µTorrent. FossHub makes the client available in its file-sharing section and as the image below shows, has racked up close to 18 million downloads.

Previously, when people viewed the qBitTorrent page, they were presented with a single advert, courtesy of Google. However, a couple of months ago the guys at FossHub contacted the people behind the client to say they’d had problems with AdSense persistently flagging the qBitTorrent page as “unauthorized file sharing.”

“The consequence was that it stopped generating revenue for that page for FossHub,” a member of the qBitTorrent team explains.

TorrentFreak spoke with Sam at FossHub who provided more details.

“FossHub has hosted qBittorrent and other free projects binaries for almost a decade. For qBitorrent, we hosted its files for at least three years by now. We provide all the necessary bandwidth and other things that the project might need,” Sam said.

“It was not a problem for the last three years to show the single Google Adsense ad until the beginning of last month (June 2017) when we noticed a Policy violation message appearing under our account.

“Since we didn’t have any major issues with our account, we thought it must be a false positive. We tried to get in touch with Google AdSense team, but unfortunately, we received some (at least that what we think) standard canned responses.”

Sam says that FossHub wrote to Google AdSense support several times but never got to the bottom of the problem. Then, something catastrophic happened.

During June, presumably due to the problems with the qBitTorrent page, the entire FossHub site was banned by AdSense for seven days, thereby stopping the site from generating any revenue on any of the software offered.

“We wrote on a daily basis and attempted to request another review, but there was no human so that we can talk and try to obtain an answer,” Sam explained.

In the absence of any feedback, FossHub then took the decision to stop placing ads on any of the software available in its file-sharing section, despite none of the tools being illegal or infringing anyone’s copyrights. In a follow-up post on Reddit this week, FossHub underlined that fact.

“qBitorrent and other similar apps are legit software. You are responsible for what you choose to download and share,” a representative from the site wrote.

“Many free projects and sites publish their files via .torrent files. Just an excellent example of how qBitorrent and other similar clients can help you download files and allow GIMP project to save bandwidth: https://www.gimp.org/downloads/.”

The qBitTorrent team say they have made this matter public out of “frustration and protest”, not only due to the legality of file-sharing software but also in support of FossHub, who have helped qBitTorrent many times over the years.

“I keep wondering why the multitude of other unofficial sites, which are very popular and place ads on their qBittorrent pages too, aren’t being flagged too?” a member of the team responded.

“In any case, I am writing this to inform our user base about Google’s shenanigans. And if any of you works at AdSense, then please help FossHub talk to a real person or treat all sites fair by allowing or not allowing BitTorrent clients.”

Whether Google will take the opportunity to clarify the situation remains to be seen but it’s abundantly clear that the qBitTorrent software is not only entirely legal, it’s also one of the most respected torrent clients around.

“Despite this unpleasant incident we will support and help free projects such as qBitorrent as much as we can,” FossHub concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-get-your-first-1000-customers/

PR for getting your first 1000 customers

If you launch your startup and no one knows, did you actually launch? As mentioned in my last post, our initial launch target was to get a 1,000 people to use our service. But how do you get even 1,000 people to sign up for your service when no one knows who you are?

There are a variety of methods to attract your first 1,000 customers, but launching with the press is my favorite. I’ll explain why and how to do it below.

Paths to Attract Your First 1,000 Customers

Social following: If you have a massive social following, those people are a reasonable target for what you’re offering. In particular if your relationship with them is one where they would buy something you recommend, this can be one of the easiest ways to get your initial customers. However, building this type of following is non-trivial and often is done over several years.

Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well

Paid advertising: The advantage of paid ads is you have control over when they are presented and what they say. The primary disadvantage is they tend to be expensive, especially before you have your positioning, messaging, and funnel nailed.

Viral: There are certainly examples of companies that launched with a hugely viral video, blog post, or promotion. While fantastic if it happens, even if you do everything right, the likelihood of massive virality is miniscule and the conversion rate is often low.

Press: As I said, this is my favorite. You don’t need to pay a PR agency and can go from nothing to launched in a couple weeks. Press not only provides awareness and customers, but credibility and SEO benefits as well.

How to Pitch the Press

It’s easy: Have a compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up. Of course, each one of those has some nuance, so let’s dig in.

Have a compelling story

How to Get Attention When you’ve been working for months on your startup, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae when talking to others. Stories that a journalist will write about need to be something their readers will care about. Knowing what story to tell and how to tell it is part science and part art. Here’s how you can get there:

The basics of your story

Ask yourself the following questions, and write down the answers:

  • What are we doing? What product service are we offering?
  • Why? What problem are we solving?
  • What is interesting or unique? Either about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, or for who we’re doing it.

“But my story isn’t that exciting”

Neither was announcing a data backup company, believe me. Look for angles that make it compelling. Here are some:

  • Did someone on your team do something major before? (build a successful company/product, create some innovation, market something we all know, etc.)
  • Do you have an interesting investor or board member?
  • Is there a personal story that drove you to start this company?
  • Are you starting it in a unique place?
  • Did you come upon the idea in a unique way?
  • Can you share something people want to know that’s not usually shared?
  • Are you partnered with a well-known company?
  • …is there something interesting/entertaining/odd/shocking/touching/etc.?

It doesn’t get much less exciting than, “We’re launching a company that will backup your data.” But there were still a lot of compelling stories:

  • Founded by serial entrepreneurs, bootstrapped a capital-intensive company, committed to each other for a year without salary.
  • Challenging the way that every backup company before was set up by not asking customers to pick and choose files to backup.
  • Designing our own storage system.
  • Etc. etc.

For the initial launch, we focused on “unlimited for $5/month” and statistics from a survey we ran with Harris Interactive that said that 94% of people did not regularly backup their data.

It’s an old adage that “Everyone has a story.” Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

The headline

Once you’ve captured what you think the interesting story is, you’ve got to boil it down. Yes, you need the elevator pitch, but this is shorter…it’s the headline pitch. Write the headline that you would love to see a journalist write.

Regardless of what you’re doing, there is always something interesting to share. Dig for that.

Now comes the part where you have to be really honest with yourself: if you weren’t involved, would you care?

The “Techmeme Test”

One way I try to ground myself is what I call the “Techmeme Test”. Techmeme lists the top tech articles. Read the headlines. Imagine the headline you wrote in the middle of the page. If you weren’t involved, would you click on it? Is it more or less compelling than the others. Much of tech news is dominated by the largest companies. If you want to get written about, your story should be more compelling. If not, go back above and explore your story some more.

Embargoes, exclusives and calls-to-action

Journalists write about news. Thus, if you’ve already announced something and are then pitching a journalist to cover it, unless you’re giving her something significant that hasn’t been said, it’s no longer news. As a result, there are ‘embargoes’ and ‘exclusives’.

Embargoes

    • : An embargo simply means that you are sharing news with a journalist that they need to keep private until a certain date and time.

If you’re Apple, this may be a formal and legal document. In our case, it’s as simple as saying, “Please keep embargoed until 4/13/17 at 8am California time.” in the pitch. Some sites explicitly will not keep embargoes; for example The Information will only break news. If you want to launch something later, do not share information with journalists at these sites. If you are only working with a single journalist for a story, and your announcement time is flexible, you can jointly work out a date and time to announce. However, if you have a fixed launch time or are working with a few journalists, embargoes are key.

Exclusives: An exclusive means you’re giving something specifically to that journalist. Most journalists love an exclusive as it means readers have to come to them for the story. One option is to give a journalist an exclusive on the entire story. If it is your dream journalist, this may make sense. Another option, however, is to give exclusivity on certain pieces. For example, for your launch you could give an exclusive on funding detail & a VC interview to a more finance-focused journalist and insight into the tech & a CTO interview to a more tech-focused journalist.

Call-to-Action: With our launch we gave TechCrunch, Ars Technica, and SimplyHelp URLs that gave the first few hundred of their readers access to the private beta. Once those first few hundred users from each site downloaded, the beta would be turned off.

Thus, we used a combination of embargoes, exclusives, and a call-to-action during our initial launch to be able to brief journalists on the news before it went live, give them something they could announce as exclusive, and provide a time-sensitive call-to-action to the readers so that they would actually sign up and not just read and go away.

How to Find the Most Authoritative Sites / Authors

“If a press release is published and no one sees it, was it published?” Perhaps the time existed when sending a press release out over the wire meant journalists would read it and write about it. That time has long been forgotten. Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day. If you want your compelling story to be covered, you need to find the handful of journalists that will care.

Determine the publications

Find the publications that cover the type of story you want to share. If you’re in tech, Techmeme has a leaderboard of publications ranked by leadership and presence. This list will tell you which publications are likely to have influence. Visit the sites and see if your type of story appears on their site. But, once you’ve determined the publication do NOT send a pitch their “[email protected]” or “[email protected]” email addresses. In all the times I’ve done that, I have never had a single response. Those email addresses are likely on every PR, press release, and spam list and unlikely to get read. Instead…

Determine the journalists

Once you’ve determined which publications cover your area, check which journalists are doing the writing. Skim the articles and search for keywords and competitor names.

Over 1,000 unread press releases are published every day.

Identify one primary journalist at the publication that you would love to have cover you, and secondary ones if there are a few good options. If you’re not sure which one should be the primary, consider a few tests:

  • Do they truly seem to care about the space?
  • Do they write interesting/compelling stories that ‘get it’?
  • Do they appear on the Techmeme leaderboard?
  • Do their articles get liked/tweeted/shared and commented on?
  • Do they have a significant social presence?

Leveraging Google

Google author search by date

In addition to Techmeme or if you aren’t in the tech space Google will become a must have tool for finding the right journalists to pitch. Below the search box you will find a number of tabs. Click on Tools and change the Any time setting to Custom range. I like to use the past six months to ensure I find authors that are actively writing about my market. I start with the All results. This will return a combination of product sites and articles depending upon your search term.

Scan for articles and click on the link to see if the article is on topic. If it is find the author’s name. Often if you click on the author name it will take you to a bio page that includes their Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook profile. Many times you will find their email address in the bio. You should collect all the information and add it to your outreach spreadsheet. Click here to get a copy. It’s always a good idea to comment on the article to start building awareness of your name. Another good idea is to Tweet or Like the article.

Next click on the News tab and set the same search parameters. You will get a different set of results. Repeat the same steps. Between the two searches you will have a list of authors that actively write for the websites that Google considers the most authoritative on your market.

How to find the most socially shared authors

Buzzsumo search for most shared by date

Your next step is to find the writers whose articles get shared the most socially. Go to Buzzsumo and click on the Most Shared tab. Enter search terms for your market as well as competitor names. Again I like to use the past 6 months as the time range. You will get a list of articles that have been shared the most across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. In addition to finding the most shared articles and their authors you can also see some of the Twitter users that shared the article. Many of those Twitter users are big influencers in your market so it’s smart to start following and interacting with them as well as the authors.

How to Find Author Email Addresses

Some journalists publish their contact info right on the stories. For those that don’t, a bit of googling will often get you the email. For example, TechCrunch wrote a story a few years ago where they published all of their email addresses, which was in response to this new service that charges a small fee to provide journalist email addresses. Sometimes visiting their twitter pages will link to a personal site, upon which they will share an email address.

Of course all is not lost if you don’t find an email in the bio. There are two good services for finding emails, https://app.voilanorbert.com/ and https://hunter.io/. For Voila Norbert enter the author name and the website you found their article on. The majority of the time you search for an author on a major publication Norbert will return an accurate email address. If it doesn’t try Hunter.io.

On Hunter.io enter the domain name and click on Personal Only. Then scroll through the results to find the author’s email. I’ve found Norbert to be more accurate overall but between the two you will find most major author’s email addresses.

Email, by the way, is not necessarily the best way to engage a journalist. Many are avid Twitter users. Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them. Later when you email them, you won’t be just a random email address.

Don’t spam

Now that you have all these email addresses (possibly thousands if you purchased a list) – do NOT spam. It is incredibly tempting to think “I could try to figure out which of these folks would be interested, but if I just email all of them, I’ll save myself time and be more likely to get some of them to respond.” Don’t do it.

Follow them and engage – that means read/retweet/favorite their tweets; reply to their questions, and generally be helpful BEFORE you pitch them.

First, you’ll want to tailor your pitch to the individual. Second, it’s a small world and you’ll be known as someone who spams – reputation is golden. Also, don’t call journalists. Unless you know them or they’ve said they’re open to calls, you’re most likely to just annoy them.

Build a relationship

Build Trust with reporters Play the long game. You may be focusing just on the launch and hoping to get this one story covered, but if you don’t quickly flame-out, you will have many more opportunities to tell interesting stories that you’ll want the press to cover. Be honest and don’t exaggerate.
When you have 500 users it’s tempting to say, “We’ve got thousands!” Don’t. The good journalists will see through it and it’ll likely come back to bite you later. If you don’t know something, say “I don’t know but let me find out for you.” Most journalists want to write interesting stories that their readers will appreciate. Help them do that. Build deeper relationships with 5 – 10 journalists, rather than spamming thousands.

Stay organized

It doesn’t need to be complicated, but keep a spreadsheet that includes the name, publication, and contact info of the journalists you care about. Then, use it to keep track of who you’ve pitched, who’s responded, whether you’ve sent them the materials they need, and whether they intend to write/have written.

Make their life easy

Journalists have a million PR people emailing them, are actively engaging with readers on Twitter and in the comments, are tracking their metrics, are working their sources…and all the while needing to publish new articles. They’re busy. Make their life easy and they’re more likely to engage with yours.

Get to know them

Before sending them a pitch, know what they’ve written in the space. If you tell them how your story relates to ones they’ve written, it’ll help them put the story in context, and enable them to possibly link back to a story they wrote before.

Prepare your materials

Journalists will need somewhere to get more info (prepare a fact sheet), a URL to link to, and at least one image (ideally a few to choose from.) A fact sheet gives bite-sized snippets of information they may need about your startup or product: what it is, how big the market is, what’s the pricing, who’s on the team, etc. The URL is where their reader will get the product or more information from you. It doesn’t have to be live when you’re pitching, but you should be able to tell what the URL will be. The images are ones that they could embed in the article: a product screenshot, a CEO or team photo, an infographic. Scan the types of images included in their articles. Don’t send any of these in your pitch, but have them ready. Studies, stats, customer/partner/investor quotes are also good to have.

Pitch

A pitch has to be short and compelling.

Subject Line

Think back to the headline you want. Is it really compelling? Can you shorten it to a subject line? Include what’s happening and when. For Mike Arrington at Techcrunch, our first subject line was “Startup doing an ‘online time machine’”. Later I would include, “launching June 6th”.

For John Timmer at ArsTechnica, it was “Demographics data re: your 4/17 article”. Why? Because he wrote an article titled “WiFi popular with the young people; backups, not so much”. Since we had run a demographics survey on backups, I figured as a science editor he’d be interested in this additional data.

Body

A few key things about the body of the email. It should be short and to the point, no more than a few sentences. Here was my actual, original pitch email to John:

Hey John,

We’re launching Backblaze next week which provides a Time Machine-online type of service. As part of doing some research I read your article about backups not being popular with young people and that you had wished Accenture would have given you demographics. In prep for our invite-only launch I sponsored Harris Interactive to get demographic data on who’s doing backups and if all goes well, I should have that data on Friday.

Next week starts Backup Awareness Month (and yes, probably Clean Your House Month and Brush Your Teeth Month)…but nonetheless…good time to remind readers to backup with a bit of data?

Would you be interested in seeing/talking about the data when I get it?

Would you be interested in getting a sneak peak at Backblaze? (I could give you some invite codes for your readers as well.)

Gleb Budman        

CEO and Co-Founder

Backblaze, Inc.

Automatic, Secure, High-Performance Online Backup

Cell: XXX-XXX-XXXX

The Good: It said what we’re doing, why this relates to him and his readers, provides him information he had asked for in an article, ties to something timely, is clearly tailored for him, is pitched by the CEO and Co-Founder, and provides my cell.

The Bad: It’s too long.

I got better later. Here’s an example:

Subject: Does temperature affect hard drive life?

Hi Peter, there has been much debate about whether temperature affects how long a hard drive lasts. Following up on the Backblaze analyses of how long do drives last & which drives last the longest (that you wrote about) we’ve now analyzed the impact of heat on the nearly 40,000 hard drives we have and found that…

We’re going to publish the results this Monday, 5/12 at 5am California-time. Want a sneak peak of the analysis?

Timing

A common question is “When should I launch?” What day, what time? I prefer to launch on Tuesday at 8am California-time. Launching earlier in the week gives breathing room for the news to live longer. While your launch may be a single article posted and that’s that, if it ends up a larger success, earlier in the week allows other journalists (including ones who are in other countries) to build on the story. Monday announcements can be tough because the journalists generally need to have their stories finished by Friday, and while ideally everything is buttoned up beforehand, startups sometimes use the weekend as overflow before a launch.

The 8am California-time is because it allows articles to be published at the beginning of the day West Coast and around lunch-time East Coast. Later and you risk it being past publishing time for the day. We used to launch at 5am in order to be morning for the East Coast, but it did not seem to have a significant benefit in coverage or impact, but did mean that the entire internal team needed to be up at 3am or 4am. Sometimes that’s critical, but I prefer to not burn the team out when it’s not.

Finally, try to stay clear of holidays, major announcements and large conferences. If Apple is coming out with their next iPhone, many of the tech journalists will be busy at least a couple days prior and possibly a week after. Not always obvious, but if you can, find times that are otherwise going to be slow for news.

Follow-up

There is a fine line between persistence and annoyance. I once had a journalist write me after we had an announcement that was covered by the press, “Why didn’t you let me know?! I would have written about that!” I had sent him three emails about the upcoming announcement to which he never responded.

My general rule is 3 emails.

Ugh. However, my takeaway from this isn’t that I should send 10 emails to every journalist. It’s that sometimes these things happen.

My general rule is 3 emails. If I’ve identified a specific journalist that I think would be interested and have a pitch crafted for her, I’ll send her the email ideally 2 weeks prior to the announcement. I’ll follow-up a week later, and one more time 2 days prior. If she ever says, “I’m not interested in this topic,” I note it and don’t email her on that topic again.

If a journalist wrote, I read the article and engage in the comments (or someone on our team, such as our social guy, @YevP does). We’ll often promote the story through our social channels and email our employees who may choose to share the story as well. This helps us, but also helps the journalist get their story broader reach. Again, the goal is to build a relationship with the journalists your space. If there’s something relevant to your customers that the journalist wrote, you’re providing a service to your customers AND helping the journalist get the word out about the article.

At times the stories also end up shared on sites such as Hacker News, Reddit, Slashdot, or become active conversations on Twitter. Again, we try to engage there and respond to questions (when we do, we are always clear that we’re from Backblaze.)

And finally, I’ll often send a short thank you to the journalist.

Getting Your First 1,000 Customers With Press

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is more than one way to get your first 1,000 customers. My favorite is working with the press to share your story. If you figure out your compelling story, find the right journalists, make their life easy, pitch and follow-up, you stand a high likelyhood of getting coverage and customers. Better yet, that coverage will provide credibility for your company, and if done right, will establish you as a resource for the press for the future.

Like any muscle, this process takes working out. The first time may feel a bit daunting, but just take the steps one at a time. As you do this a few times, the process will be easier and you’ll know who to reach out and quickly determine what stories will be compelling.

The post How To Get Your First 1,000 Customers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Village Roadshow Invests $1.5m in Anti-Piracy Technology Company

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/village-roadshow-invests-1-5m-in-anti-piracy-technology-company-170717/

Aussie entertainment giant Village Roadshow is front-and-center of Australia’s fight against Intenet piracy.

Co-Executive Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer Graham Burke can often be found bemoaning rampant piracy Down Under, but today it’s his equal at Village Roadshow making the headlines.

Robert G Kirby’s presence at Village Roadshow dates back to the 1980s, but now both he and the company are making a significant outside investment in patented streaming technology. It aims to help in the fight against piracy while offering benefits in other areas of innovation.

The deal centers around the Linius Video Virtualisation Engine, an intriguing system patented by Australia-based Linius Technologies that allows the content of a video stream to be heavily modified live and on-the-fly, between its source and destination.

Linius explains that in the current marketplace, video files are static and not so different from an “old can of film”. People who want to watch online content press play on their devices and a message is sent to the datacenter holding the video. It’s then streamed to the user as-is and very little can be done with it on the way.

With its system, Linius says it places a “ghost” file on the user’s device which calls the data and recompiles it on the fly on the device itself. Instead of being a complete file at all times during transit, it only becomes a video when it’s on the device.

This means that the data is “manageable and malleable,” making it possible to add, delete and splice parts to make custom content, even going as far as “inserting new business rules” and other tech innovations, including payment gateways and security features.

One of the obvious applications is granting broadcasters the ability to personalize advertising on a per-user basis, but Linius says there is also the potential to enhance search engine monetization.

The attractive part for Village Roadshow, however, appears to center around the claim that since the physical video file never appears on the device, it cannot be saved, transferred or broadcast, only watched by the person who purchased the rights to the virtual video.

The company offers few further details publicly, but Village Roadshow is clearly keen to invest, since “there’s no file to steal.”

This morning, Linius announced a $1 million private placement of ordinary shares to Village Roadshow Ltd, accompanied by a $500,000 private placement to Kirby family interests.

“We have followed the Linius story closely and are delighted to back the business with direct investment. We can see many applications for the technology across the video industry,” Robert Kirby said in a statement.

“Village Roadshow has long been a leading voice in tackling global piracy. We are particularly interested in the anti-piracy solutions that Linius is developing and are actively working together with Linius to introduce its technology to industry leaders in the hope of reducing global piracy.”

In May, Linius announced a collaboration with IBM to promote the Video Virtualisation Engine, including building onto the IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform, to IBM’s network of corporate clients.

“I feel Linius could be a game changer in the world of video, from personalized advertising to search and security,” said Anthone Withers, Head of Software as a Service, IBM.

“We’re now actively working with Linius to identify and market the technology to target customers.”

Linius Overview from Linius Technologies on Vimeo.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.