SuperAwesome, the U.K.-headquartered ‘kid safe’ digital marketing platform that enables brands to put their wares in front of children, has raised a $7 million Series A — money it will use to “grow faster and reach more territories,” says founder Dylan Collins.

This will include growing its team in North America, and continuing to expand in Southeast Asia. “We’re hiring in the U.S., U.K., Asia and in several partnership conversations for specific regions,” he says.

Leading the Series A round is IBIS TMT, Twenty Ten Capital, and Sandbox and Co. Existing investors, including Hoxton Ventures (where Dylan Collins is also a Venture Partner), also participated.

Separately, a source close to the company tells me that SuperAwesome has increased its valuation 4.5x since its seed round in late 2014.

“When we started SuperAwesome, the objective was always to become the global digital kids marketing platform,” says Collins. “Nobody has done this (most of the major media companies are concentrated in one or two territories) and the faster we build out this global kid-safe infrastructure to connect brands with content, the larger we grow this market.”

That infrastructure includes technology, reach — SuperAwesome’s ad platform claims an audience of a quarter of a billion kids — and a new, extremely well-timed ‘compliance’ platform.

The latter, dubbed Kids Web Services (KWS), provides cloud-based tools, including a parent portal and kid-safe authentication, to help content creators manage new data privacy requirements that are becoming standard legislation for under-13s. In the U.S. this means the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), while an equivalent will shortly be passed as law across Europe.

Major kids brands working with SuperAwesome include Hasbro, Mattel and LEGO.

Meanwhile, Collins says SuperAwesome is profitable or break-even. “This year, we’ll drive tens of millions of advertising dollars into the kids digital content ecosystem with annual growth of 4-5x and we’ve got a clear route to revenues of $100M+ over the next couple of years,” he says. “By virtue of existing we’re materially increasing the size (and safety) of the digital kids market so by any analysis, our value comes from continuing to grow fast.”

The startup’s fairly unique proposition also speaks to a digital kids market that is set to grow significantly over the next few years, as seen through recent initiatives by incumbent players in the tech and media industry.

Amazon quietly released a payment option for kids/teens a few weeks ago. And Sky just announced they’re building a kids video subscription app (being developed by UStwo, the dev team behind Monument Valley and many other highly regarded apps).

Google has also begun taking the kids market much more seriously, signalled by the launch of a child-friendly version of YouTube. More recently, the European branch of the search engine’s venture arm, Google Ventures, invested in kids personalised book platform Lost My Name.

One of the earliest to spot the kids market opportunity, in terms of being a marketing and compliance platform rather than a destination site, SuperAwesome has grown in part through acquisitions of its own, though Collins now frames these as largely acqui-hires. They include Spain’s Ad4kids,U.S.-based MobiGirl Media, and the sales and ad teams of kids virtual world Bin Weevils.

(And let’s not mention a failed attempt to take MyFamilyClub, the parenting finance community and Mumsnet competitor, off the hands of media giant DC Thomson. A deal that went right to the wire before ultimately being aborted.)

“All of our acquisitions have been for people, rather than technology (because of the very specific compliance needs, all of our products are built by our internal engineering team) so we continue to look at opportunities when they arise,” says Collins. “The kids market is extremely tough to scale up in so if any startup is interested in a strategic conversation, we’d be happy to have a chat.”

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Having spent decades in charge of IT at many of the world’s largest banks, Anne Boden – CEO of startup bank, Starling – has witnessed first hand the challenge faced by the financial sector as it faces a wave of digital transformation.

Now, as the head of one of a new breed of challenger banks offering services centred around mobile devices, Boden is aiming to disrupt the industry in which she has forged her career.

Anne Boden Starling Bank
Image: Starling

“I think the time is now right to give consumers what they really want,” Boden said, speaking to Techworld last week.

“Amazon has changed shopping, iTunes has changed music, but nobody has changed banking. It needs people who know about banking and are passionate about technology to change it – and I am passionate about technology.”

Boden’s background in the financial sector is impressive. The computer science graduate started out at Lloyds Bank in the early eighties, before going on to senior IT roles at UBS, AON, ABN Amro and Royal Bank of Scotland, eventually taking up the chief operating officer post at Allied Irish Banks in 2011.

However, at the end of 2013 she left her COO role to create the challenger bank which is expected to launch next year, subject to regulatory approval.

“I came to the conclusion that banking is broken,” Boden says, “it is broken and it needs fixing. And the only way to fix it is to start from scratch.”

‘We will be the app store for financial services’

Boden says the startup can offer an alternative to the established lenders, focusing solely on current accounts and forgoing a costly branch network. Instead it will rely solely on digital channels for customer interactions.

With smartphones becoming increasingly ubiquitous, the number of UK mobile banking users is set to almost double from 17.8 million to 32.6 million by 2020, according to recent research.

“What is different about Starling is that we only do current accounts – nothing else,” Boden says. 

“We think people will make their own minds up about where to [buy products] in future, We are going to give the best current account in the world, and when they want the best mortgage in the world we are going to offer it, but through somebody else, not us. 

“We will become the app store of financial services, providing the infrastructure, providing lots of tools around your current account.”

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While London is no Silicon Valley, or even New York, it is a melting pot of talent, and its tech scene is growing fast. In the whole of 2010, the total funding raised by London tech firms was less than £10 million.

So far in 2015 it’s close to £1 billion, and there is an increasing amount of capital (“dry powder” in industry parlance) available to help identify and scale the best opportunities. London is also unique in bringing together many world-class industries — from finance to fashion — and we are starting to see capital coalesce around these industries in which the U.K. has a global competitive advantage. The property industry is one of these.

London plays host to some of the largest global property investors, many of which have established a strong presence on the international stage. Investment banks and institutional investors have accumulated significant commercial property portfolios, and it is practically impossible to open a weekend newspaper without coming across discussion of property yields for the growing class of buy-to-let landlords.

The combined assets and influence of the sector is vast. It is also ripe for disruption.

If you’ve ever bought an apartment or house in the U.K., you’ll have some idea of how painfully ancient the real estate sector is in this country. With laws that were drawn up many hundreds of years ago, and a profession that still considers a round of golf de rigueur on a Friday, it typically takes 6-8 weeks to complete a property transaction.

Despite the residential property market being worth £5.75 trillion and agents dotted along every high street, it has been one of the slowest industries to adapt. Commercial property is even worse, with buildings valued at hundreds of millions of pounds being sold using printed brochures and email.

The rising cost of real estate in central London has been on a par with that of San Francisco. We didn’t need Facebook’s IPO to kick-start a property boom after the financial crisis — just low interest rates and the safe-haven status that attracts oligarchs. Or so the media would have us believe.

The truth is that, like the tech industry, property investment has for the most part been driven by FOMO — fear of missing out. With stories of rapidly rising property values, a limited availability of stock and a lack of transparency in an industry that remains largely unregulated, agents have whipped their victims into a frenzied buying spree.

Thankfully, the industry is in the midst of change. Online marketplaces such as Rightmove and Zoopla, which continue to benefit enormously from the shift to mobile, have clawed power away from high street agents and opened up the residential market.

A new breed of online agents such as eMoov are now starting to cut out the high street agent altogether, and are thriving thanks to fees of a few hundred pounds rather than tens of thousands of pounds. The better high street agents (whose retail spaces are about as redundant as your old Blockbuster store) have put up a good fight, but we know how this story ends.

Innovation in real estate tech in London has accelerated, driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs who have become frustrated with the slow and tedious ways of working that have been so commonplace in the sector. Motivated by rapidly rising real estate prices, they are more than happy to challenge the status quo. Everywhere you look, middlemen are being squeezed and margins are being eroded.

Rentify is replacing expensive and substandard rental agents — with more than two million landlords in the U.K. alone this is a compelling proposition. We’re also seeing the democratization of the buy-to-let sector, with consumers now able to invest from as little as £50 on property crowdfunding platform Property Partner; given the nation’s love affair with property and with interest rates at an all time low, this is one to watch.

The legal side of the industry, one of the biggest causes of frustration, is being modernized — with new technology that is speeding up the process and bringing greater transparency. Interestingly, it is the Law Society leading this charge, no doubt driven by the many thousands of complaints that it receives each year.

The same is also true on the commercial side of real estate. We have marketplaces for office space (again, Zoopla and Rightmove), for finding shared office space (Hubble) and even for pop-up shop space (Appear Here). Startups range from those helping developers find land and carry out valuations to creating 3D visualizations of buildings’ infrastructure for improved efficiency.

It’s been fascinating to watch the property tech space developing. It’s an industry where billions are invested annually, and it’s chock full of very smart, ambitious people. The best of those people can see other industries that continue to be improved and made more efficient by the application of technology, and they want to see their industry dragged — often kicking and screaming — into the 21st century.

It has already started, and it will accelerate. You can bet your house on it.

Featured Image: QQ7/Shutterstock

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In a world where furnishings startup ended up in a fire sale after raising over $336 million, proving that it’s “curation” business model simply hadn’t worked, has been a complete contrast. Based on working directly with designers of anything from sofas to bicycles, Made avoided the US and gradually built a significant European business. Today it’s confirmed a new fundraising of $60 million growth round to accelerate its European expansion led by Partech Growth Fund and supported by Fidelity Growth Partners as well as existing investor Level Equity.

The business is already strong in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, which combined have an estimated market size of over £100bn. In particular, it’s doing well in Germany, where Fab famously disintegrated.

Made works with some 50 designers and works closely with manufacturers across the world to offer consumers products at prices up to 70% below the typical high street price for equivalent products, while operating a “fast fashion” business model that enables it to adapt to changing trends.

Ning Li first conceived of MADE while trying to furnish his own flat in Paris, and wanting to get inexpensive, good quality, designer furniture. Together with Brent Hoberman, Julien Callede and Chloe Macintosh, the latter of whom left in June.’s founders still retain the majority stake. Ning launched Made in the UK in April 2010.

It’s also appointed retail guru Susanne Given, formerly of SuperGroup Plc and The John Lewis Partnership as an independent director to the board. revenues grew 63pc last year, hitting £43m. International sales are at 30% of turnover, which, Li says, will rise to 50% “in the near future.”

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Makers have long been known as hobbyists or tinkers. However, with increased access to professional-grade tools, the maker movement is transforming business as usual. Through collaboration and connectivity, makers are inspiring innovation on a daily basis with the creation of smart gadgets, machines, robots and wearables.

This new way of doing business is a shift from the historic model where innovation was monopolized by multi-million-dollar companies. Makers and their peers have the opportunity to build cutting-edge products, test them in collaborative workspaces and share their inventions online in order to bring “the next big thing” to market for mass consumption.

It is through this connectivity that makers are able to contribute to the Internet of Things — a world of interconnected devices that use sensors to interact with the people, the environment and other devices around them. This smarter, connected way of life is the future of technology worldwide.

As makers continue to grow and garner global attention, corporations and educational institutions should look to embrace this movement and foster the next generation of creators.

The New Economy Of Innovation

Historically, innovative technology has come from large corporations, but these ideas begin and thrive in the heads and hands of individuals — within networks of “makers.” Now more than ever, it is critical for major technology companies and global brands to take notice of this powerful community and connect them with the tools and technologies that can help spur their creativity, drive innovation and ultimately enable them to bring their latest design to market.

By embracing the maker movement and providing access to industrial-grade tools and resources, technology companies can empower individuals and foster their creativity to solve the engineering problems of tomorrow. For example, TechShop created professional makerspaces across the nation to provide high-end tools for engineers to collaborate and create products that use advanced technologies.

GE also launched a makerspace called FirstBuild to engage students, entrepreneurs and makers to co-create appliances of the future, such as instrumented refrigerators, quiet-close microwave doors or a smart water pitcher.

Ultimately, companies like GE and TechShop are enabling a new process of product development and capturing the creative energy surrounding its products. For companies to remain competitive, they need to help evolve the maker movement and make it easier for an idea to originate in the imagination of an individual and spread to a mass market.

Following the development of a new product, makers have the opportunity to secure funding through crowdsourcing sites where success is based on the mass consumer valuation of the product instead of the assessment of a few venture capitalists.

With access to the right tools and resources, this evolving network of makers and innovators will significantly advance the development of smart devices in the Internet of Things.

The Need For An Education Transformation

It also is critical for education systems around the world to embrace the maker movement and ensure students have access to the very tools and resources that are enabling makers to bring “the next big thing” to a mass market.

Historically, the education system has produced graduates that went on to work for companies where new products were invented, then pushed on to consumers. But our students are our future makers, and they need more hands-on access to the technology that will enable them to change the process of new product development.

We have yet to see education systems embrace the method of learning by creating. The industry is recognizing the need to adapt, but education has been slower to respond. Technology alone is not enough. Technology adoption by schools has not changed the lectures and multiple-choice tests that make up the fundamental way we teach and assess our students. Students are now demanding this type of environment, spurred on by their experiences in hands-on programs like FIRST.

Fortunately, some educational institutions and organizations have begun to recognize the value of the maker movement. For example, in the K–12 space, LEGO Education recently launched the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 programming app, which enables teachers to conduct a full robotics lesson in the classroom in 45 minutes. This offers students hands-on experiences to help them develop programming skills and prepare for future innovations.

Education systems should embrace similar tools and resources that will enable educators to create problem-solving environments instead of one-way lectures. Some college institutions, such as the University of California at Berkeley and Arizona State University, are leading the charge by creating makerspaces on campus for students to collaborate, but other learning institutions need to follow to prepare students for tomorrow’s innovation. We need schools at all levels to transform traditional classrooms and libraries into collaborative makerspaces.

The Future Impact

Today, consumers are driving the innovation process. Education, business and invention must meet their requests. A subset of consumers — makers — are at the center of this innovation transformation. Consumers no longer have to settle for what is sold on the shelves of department stores. They no longer have to dream of tools and gadgets and gizmos that can make their lives easier or more fun. They can make what they need and want.

By democratizing the product development process, helping new maker developments get to market and transforming the way we educate the next generation of innovators, we can enable makers to usher in the next industrial revolution.

Featured Image: Mr Doomits/Shutterstock

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Earlier this year a London-based cyber security incubator called CyLon opened its doors. Now Europe is getting a pro-privacy bootcamp program, with bootstrapped Romania-based VPN startup CyberGhost this week kicking off a search for startups wanting support to build privacy tech.

Where London’s CyLon incubator appears to have a cosy relationship with U.K. government security agencies — perhaps with its eye on taxpayer cash available for tech suppliers working with these same agencies — CyberGhost is pushing its accelerator in the opposite direction, looking to build businesses based on serving web users who want to safeguard their privacy online in the face of mass surveillance and user-tracking activity which spans (and links) the public and private sector.

So while both these bootcamps might talk about security, only CyberGhost’s can be said to be pro-privacy.

CyberGhost says it will be investing up to €25,000 ($27,000) in selected teams for its bootcamp, taking an equity stake of around 5% — the exact stake will be negotiated per team. It has a total pot of €100,000 to go towards the first intake (funded by CyberGhost’s own profits). Selected startups will work out of its offices (pictured above) in Bucharest. The criteria for entry to the program can be found here.

“We don’t have too many expectations, it’s the first time we’re doing this. And it’s the first time that there is an accelerator also in Bucharest that is first run by a company… I would be happy, seriously, if find one — just one [idea] that is killer,” says CyberGhost CEO and co-founder Rob Knapp.

“The European Union is overall a good place for privacy-related projects, companies,” he adds, discussing the thinking behind setting up a dedicated accelerator for privacy.

“For the first time in history we have an advantage towards American companies… Cyber security and the United States of American is simply a no-go. It doesn’t fit together. It’s not working. So we are able to build maybe some unicorns here in Europe. But for that we need an ecosystem.”

Knapp notes that CyberGhost’s VPN tech is based on an API — meaning it can offer startups participating in the bootcamp an anonymous foundation to underpin their pro-privacy idea.

“A lot of projects we expect in this program need an access through a VPN so this part is already done — people can just use that. Startups who want to build something where they need a subscription model, they need accounts, it’s all done, it’s all integrated in our API… In five minutes somebody could buid a VPN product, based on our network,” he says.

Tech areas where Knapp says he sees big, untapped opportunities for startups to innovate around privacy include perennial privacy frustrations such as passwords and email — and also cloud storage. Last year Edward Snowden himself called on web users who care about their privacy to ditch Dropbox and switch to end-to-end encrypted alternatives. He has also called on developers to champion privacy by design, and work on building pro-privacy and security technologies that are accessible to mainstream consumers.

“The future of file storage is decentralized,” argues Knapp. “Like Bitcoin. Nobody can ever switch down Bitcoin… Nobody can ever influence, control, manipulate it, whatever.”

Startups with a privacy-focused idea thinking about applying for CyberGhost’s program don’t have to restrict themselves to the areas Knapp flags up — so long as they share the company’s philosophy of putting privacy at the core of a business innovation.

CyberGhost will be selecting teams for its bootcamp this September, and is looking to kick off the program in October. There is no fixed-in-stone program length at this point, but he pegs half a year as a likely timeframe. “Everything should be done in six months. You should be able to do everything we want to do here in six months… to bring a product to market,” he adds.

Interestingly, although CyberGhost itself was founded in Germany in 2011, the team relocated to Bucharest seeking a more conducive business environment for its anti-data retention ethos following attempts by German law enforcement to require it to retain logs. (Which it does not do.)

“We are a privacy company. We respect the privacy of our users by default. And we don’t collect data just because it’s there. We think about what kind of data we need to run the service and what kind of data we don’t need to run the service,” says Knapp.

“So what we are doing here [with the bootcamp] is to prove you can grow a company, sustainable, on the long term, with success and profitability, without using all this data. It’s just not necessary. It’s just a myth that you need data to run all businesses.

“We have a security industry that protects data because we store data. So why do we start storing data? The best data security is not to store it. It’s very simple.”

The political climate in Germany has been becoming less friendly to pro-privacy technologies in recent years, according to Knapp — since Chancellor Schroeder and in the subsequent Merkel-led era.

“Germany is always one of the first countries adapting European Union surveillance programs. So for example Germany was one of the first countries that was totally into this data retention law. Then the constitutional court in Germany said it is unconstitutional… Now the new government again built a new data retention law, even worse than the first. So it’s not really a climate where you want to build a privacy company,” he tells TechCrunch.

Why did CyberGhost settle on Romania? “Romania is a post-Communism country, obviously. The revolution was 1989. That’s not so long ago,” he says. “A lot of things in Romania are well functioning, that is the constitutional court and this is the constitution itself — it’s a very liberal constitution regarding civil rights and private data. Why? Because it is a post-Communist country. So they have the experience of mass surveillance, and that is not — like in Germany — 40, 50, 60 years ago. It is just a few years ago, so this is very alive.”

“Romania was one of the first countries where, for example, the data retention law was cut down by the constitutional court,” he adds. “So the legal background fits, and the climate fits. People here are really not interested in having the ‘Big Brother’ state.”

It was actually reading about U.S. interest in Romanian tech skills on TechCrunch that led Knapp to investigate and ultimately select the country as an alternative base for the business. “I thought if the American guys try to get Romanians to work in America and it’s for me just three hours flight, why don’t I just go there and have a look!” he says.

CyberGhost’s VPN software has some 5 million users to date, and 300,000 daily active users, with the top country for usage being Germany, followed by the U.S., U.K. and France.

“CyberGhost VPN is not a VPN company. What we do right now is we offer a VPN service… we are a privacy-as-a-service company,” adds Knapp. “We have a clear goal — and this goal is we want to build a technology that gives you a free and secure and private access to what we have right not in the Internet. So for that we need people around us who work on different things — so instead of waiting for it, we have to do something about it.

“We believe in privacy, we believe that this is something that the world needs and people will demand at some point… The market will develop slowly but very constantly over the next years.”


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Luna had a successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this year, raising more than $1 million for a mattress cover that adjusts temperature, tracks your sleep and connects to other devices.

Now the company is sharing more news. It’s part of the current class of startups at incubator Y Combinator, and it has also raised $1.3 million in funding from private investors — roughly the same amount as its revenue from pre-orders and crowdfunding.

Co-founder Matteo Franceschetti said Luna actually raised this funding before the Indiegogo campaign. So why bother with crowdfunding at all?  The campaign, he said, was more about connecting with early users and getting their feedback. For example, it was through the campaign that Franceschetti realized the importance of Bluetooth connectivity and of security, so Luna is incorporating more features in that vein.

Luna isn’t disclosing its investors, aside from YC. I guess the other question is why it needs to join an incubator, since it already has funding and seems to resonate with consumers. Franceschetti said he can still benefit from the firm’s mentorship: “They’re really helpful at cleaning up your mind when you have doubts.”

You can see a Luna prototype in action in the video below, which we filmed in January, before the crowdfunding campaign. Franceschetti said the ability to vary temperature across the mattress (so couples can sleep at different temperatures) is “definitely the number one reason” given for pre-orders, but the video also shows show Luna’s sensors can be connected to other smart devices for a custom sleep experience.

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Happy Friday, and welcome to the latest edition of the TechCrunch Gadgets podcast.

This week, we’re focusing on Jolla’s split, Eden’s on-demand tech help service, the new iPod touch, and HTC’s freshly revealed Desire smartphones.

This week’s episode of the TC Gadgets Podcast is brought to you by Romain Dillet Natasha Lomas, and Jordan Crook.

We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific. And feel free to check out the TechCrunch Gadgets Flipboard magazine right here.

Click here to download an MP3 of this show.
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Intro Music by Mendhoan.

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Years after they were first used to catch out unwary users, simple phishing scams sent via email are both common and effective. On the face of it this is surprising. Businesses installed email-filtering gateways a decade ago, some even investing in technologies designed to authenticate messages such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM)and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC).

While this has made some difference in filtering out spam and unwanted messages, phishing email has evolved to counter these techniques. The plain truth is that users have to open email, some of that will have been targeted well enough to allay suspicion, and getting around the defences that have been thrown up is still more than possible. 


Focus has shifted from using technology on its own to user training even if this promises only an imperfect cure. But user awareness can and does make some difference. 

Here we present a top ten list of phishing lures as compiled by email security-as-a-service firm Proofpoint. These represent the most common techniques based on their own filtering of messages. How may of us wouldn’t be swayed to click on at least one of these?


With the rise of virtual PBX systems and softphones, employees have increasingly been conditioned to expect voicemail that appears as a media attachment in their inbox. Voicemail inherently carries an urgency to the communication as well, further overriding natural caution and prompting an unthinking click.


As is the case with voicemail, eFax communications have an inherent urgency, coupled with the neural disconnect caused by the historic association of fax with phone lines and audio, which aren’t naturally associated with malware. Employees in the midst of a busy day don’t think twice before clicking to open the attached or URL-linked “fax”.

Corporate communications

Whether it’s a request to send a wire transfer, or an apparent failed ACH transaction, cash movement issues are urgent and compelling. The attachment and the embedded “email” link in the message are both likely to result in malware being installed if clicked.

Personal warnings

Whether it’s an immediate alert of potential fraud on your credit card or bank account, or simply a vaguely disturbing or confusing ‘advisory’, don’t ever click the links. Open a browser, proceed to the main web page of your financial institution, and use the contact links on the page – or call the phone number on the back of your physical credit card or ATM.

Security alerts

A variation on the warning theme designed to hit a sensitive button – ‘your account has been disabled after it was the victim of unauthorised access’, or a variation on that theme. Given that users now receive such warnings, this attack can be disarming.


Invoices can be fraudulent in several ways, but whether an end-user pays a non-existent supplier or simply clicks on any of the links in this email, the results will be cash losses to the company. The attacker wins again.

Package delivery

Too often users instinctively associate malicious phish with a demand. Psychologically, offers register differently, so when users receive what appears to be an unsolicited gift (in the form of an order, package, airline ticket confirmation or similar), an instinctive action is often to click for more information.

Order confirmations

People are habituated to receive these and barely notice when the form is abused in phishing attacks. Common brands (and sometimes obscure ones that grab the attention) are used to disarm suspicion until it’s too late.

Social networking

Natural curiosity is a weapon of choice for social engineering. Most users when approached via social networking will click on the inviting party’s profile, “just to find out who it is”. In most phishing emails, every link can trigger malware, up to and including links that appear to be to images or legal boilerplate at the bottom.


Solicitation (Job offers, singles meetup, pharmaceuticals, whether it’s a job offer, singles meetup, discount on pharmaceuticals, or other unsolicited solicitation, it’s quite likely to produce undesired results if the links or attachments are clicked. This is one of the oldest of the lot but keeps turning up in new forms. 



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Streaming services like Netflix are great, but you often end up watching the same blockbuster movies showing how a white man will save the world. Meet Afrostream, a niche movie streaming service that only features African and African-American content. Launching in September, this startup may have found a great underserved segment.

“When I was a kid, for a long time, I was looking for role models on TV to relate to them,” co-founder and CEO Tonjé Bakang told me. “There are a lot of successful athletes and artists, but it’s hard to find African and African-American movies.”

Now attending Y Combinator‘s current batch, the French startup started with just a Facebook page in January 2014. On the Afrostream page, you could find Afro-American movie trailers and teasing announcements for a streaming service. Fast forward a bit, AfroStream’s Facebook page now has 72,000 fans, which is in par with well-established French competitors, such as CanalPlay.

Shortly after this idea validation, the team actually started building a service that would feature this kind of movies. “What’s great is that this content already exists. Our goal is to leverage streaming to address our audience. They don’t have any legal solution to access this content,” Bakang said.

“Even when you look at Popcorn Time or BitTorrent websites, Afro-American content is missing,” Bakang said. “And if you find a movie, it doesn’t have subtitles.”

The company signed content deals with major studios, independent American, African and British distributors. You will find movies that you already know, with some of them already available on Netflix or CanalPlay. But you will also find movies that aren’t available on any streaming service — chances are you’ve never heard of them.

Afrostream is launching in September for €7 per month in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Senegal and Ivory Coast. “And we already have the rights for many other African countries,” Bakang said. 2,000 people already signed up to the service months before its launch, giving around $100,000 to the company in just four weeks.

Even more impressive, Afrostream worked with TF1 in order to create a new category on MyTF1 VOD called Afrostream VOD to rent a few movies of its catalog. While the company still believe that a subscription service is the way to go, it was a nice way to get exposure and maybe a bit of cash. In five months, TF1 and Afrostream rented 200,000 movies.

It seems like everything Afrostream touches turns into subscriptions and sales. There is a clear market potential behind Afrostream’s niche, and if the company executes well on its idea, it could end up creating a significant niche streaming service, joining Korean drama streaming service DramaFever or auteur cinema streaming service Mubi.

“We want to entertain people and make a feel-good platform. A movie can elevate or inspire someone, and that’s why there’s so much excitement around us,” Bakang said. He also told me that under-representation leads to poor understanding, and he wants to solve that.

Featured Image: Garry Knight/CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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