Moolah Mobile is teaming up with SurgePhone Wireless to offer people a new way to pay their cell phone bills — by putting ads on their homescreens.
Moolah CEO Vernell Woods (pictured above) said the startup has already been offering gift cards and other rewards to users who view its homescreen ads. So this is a similar model, except instead of earning gift cards, the ads are subsidizing cell phone service from Surge.
The ads show up on users’ homescreens during interstitial moments between using apps, so the goal is to offer free service without consumers having to change their behavior. Woods said all that ad time adds up, with “the average person who’s using their phone on a consistent basis” viewing “easily between two to three hours” of homescreen ads each day. And that’s enough to pay for the “equivalent” of Surge’s $10 monthly plan.
On the other hand, if for some reason a subscriber isn’t hitting the necessary total, Woods said they can also earn more points by accepting offers or taking surveys.
Moolah isn’t the only company using advertising to make previously paid products free. Just last week, I wrote about PreShow, a startup promising a free movie ticket for watching 15 to 20 minutes of ads. (Not everyone was crazy about the idea.)
But Woods said he’s doing this because he wants to make wireless service more affordable to people in low-income communities. In the announcement, Moolah investor Tip “T.I.” Harris said it’s “one of the few tech companies I’ve seen who truly want to help everyday people have access to technology.”
But could this also be seen as a way to harvest personal data from a vulnerable population? Woods said he wants to protect against that with a blockchain initiative set to launch this fall, allowing users to see exactly what data is being shared with advertisers.
“No personal information should be going to advertisers without users knowing about it,” he said, adding that companies “definitely should not be making money off” personal data without giving users a cut of the profits.
The subsidized wireless service should be available on Surge Volt Android devices with Moolah install kits, as well as through SIM Starter Kits distributed by Surge. Moolah and Surge said they will roll this out in Florida, Virginia, Georgia and Texas initially, with an aim of reaching 40,000 locations by the end of the year.
BigBrain aims to bring live mobile trivia back to glory – TechCrunch
If you ask Nik Bonaddio why he wanted to build a new mobile trivia app, his answer is simple.
“In my life, I’ve got very few true passions: I love trivia and I love sports,” Bonaddio told me. “I’ve already started a sports company, so I’ve got to start a trivia company.”
He isn’t kidding about either part of the equation. Bonaddio actually won $100,000 on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, which he used to start the sports analytics company numberFire (acquired by FanDuel in 2014).
And today, after a period of beta testing, Bonaddio is launching BigBrain. He’s also announcing that the startup has raised $4.5 million in seed funding from FirstRound Capital, Box Group, Ludlow Ventures, Golden Ventures and others.
Of course, you can’t mention mobile trivia without thinking of HQ Trivia, the trivia app that shut down last year after some high-profile drama and a spectacular final episode.
But Bonaddio said BigBrain is approaching things differently than HQ in a few key ways. For starters, although there will be a handful of free games, the majority will require users to pay to enter, with the cash rewards coming from the entry fees. (From a legal perspective, Bonaddio said this is distinct from gambling because trivia is recognized as a game of skill.)
“The free-to-play model doesn’t really work for trivia,” he argued.
In addition, there will be no live video with a live host — Bonaddio said this would “very, very difficult from a technical perspective and very cost ineffective.” Instead, he claimed the company has found a middle ground: “We have photos, we have different interactive elements, it’s not just a straight multiple choice quiz. We do try to keep it interactive.”
Plus, the simpler production means that where HQ was only hosting two quizzes a day, BigBrain will be hosting 20, with quizzes every 15 minutes at peak times.
Topics will range from old school hip hop to college football to ’90s movies, and Bonaddio said different quizzes will have different prize structures — some might be winner take all, while others might award prizes to the top 50% of participants. The average quiz will cost $2 to $3 to enter, but prices will range from free to “$20 or even $50.”
What kind of quiz might cost that much money to enter? As an example, Bonaddio said that in a survey of potential users, he found, “There are no casual ‘Rick and Morty’ fans … They’re almost completely price sensitive, and since they’ve seen every episode, they can’t fathom a world where someone knows more about ‘Rick and Morty’ than they do.”
TikTok’s new developer tools allow apps to offer ‘Login with TikTok,’ sound sharing, and more – TechCrunch
TikTok is expanding its integrations with third-party apps. The company today announced the launch of two new tool sets for app developers, the TikTok Login Kit and Sound Kit, that will allow apps on mobile, web and consoles to authenticate users via their TikTok credentials, build experiences that leverage users’ TikTok videos and share music and sounds back to TikTok from their own apps.
The company already offers tools that allow app developers to share content, including both pictures and videos, back to TikTok. But the new kits — or, SDKs (software development kits) — expand upon that functionality to make TikTok not just a destination for sharing, but a more deeply integrated part of the third-party app experience.
For starters, the new Login Kit allows an app’s users to sign in quickly using their TikTok log-in credentials, similar to other social log-ins offered by Facebook or Snap. Once signed in, users can then access their TikTok videos in the third-party app, potentially fueling entire new app ecosystems with TikTok content.
For example, a video dating app called Snack is using the Login Kit to allow users to share their TikTok videos on their dating profiles to help them find new matches. The game recording app Medal will allow users to share their TikTok videos with their fellow gamers. And Singapore-based Burpple lets users share their food and dining reviews with a community.
Other early adopters of the Login Kit include gaming clips app Allstar, anti-anxiety app Breathwrk, social app IRL, as well as dating and friend-making apps Lolly, MeetMe, Monet, Swipehouse and EME Hive. Creator tool provider Streamlabs is also using Login Kit, as is video game PUBG, which is only using the login functionality. A forthcoming NFT platform Neon will use Login Kit, too.
When users log in to these apps via their TikTok credentials, they’ll then be presented with an additional permissions box that asks them if the app in question can read their profile information and access their public videos, which they then have to also agree to in order to take advantage of the additional video sharing options inside the app itself.
For the time being, these are the only permissions that Login Kit asks for — and it doesn’t give the app access to further information, like who the TikTok user’s friends are, for example. If TikTok expands beyond these permissions in the future, it says it will be transparent with users about any changes or new additions. For the time being, however, the focus is more on allowing apps to better integrate TikTok content into their own experiences.
The other new SDK launching today is the Sound Kit, which allows artists and creators to bring their original sounds and music from a third-party app into TikTok. This kit, which also requires Login Kit to work, will help TikTok seed its sounds database with more original content it doesn’t have to license from major labels. Instead, whatever licensing rights to the music and other sounds that exist within the original app will still apply to whatever is shared out to TikTok. But by sharing the music more broadly, creators can gain interest from potential fans and even see their sounds used as the backing for new TikTok videos.
Early adopters on this front include mobile multi-track recording studio Audiobridge, music creation and collaboration suite LANDR, hip hop music creation app Rapchat and upcoming audio recording and remix app Yourdio.
TikTok says some of the apps selected as early partners for the SDKs were those that already adopted its Share to TikTok SDK, which launched in 2019. Others, however, were chosen based on a specific set of criteria, including the ability to move quickly to integrate the new features and the strength of their specific use cases. TikTok was looking for a diversity of use cases and those that were particularly novel — like building out a dating network based on videos, for instance.
More information on the new tools and developer documentation will be added to TikTok’s developer website, but TikTok says it will be vetting and reviewing developers who request access. And as most of the current developer partners are U.S.-based, with just a few exceptions, the company says it is looking to diversify the list of companies going forward, as this is a global initiative.
“As TikTok becomes increasingly ingrained in culture, more third-party apps across a variety of categories and use cases are looking to tap into our community on their own platforms,” said Isaac Bess, TikTok’s Global Head of Distribution Partnerships, in a statement about the launch. “Through the Sound Kit and Login Kit for TikTok, we’re providing seamless integration solutions that help developers expand their reach, increase exposure for creators, and empower our community to showcase their content on other platforms,” he added.
Turkey’s Ace Games raises $7M to develop casual and ‘hyper casual’ games – TechCrunch
Ace Games, a Turkish mobile gaming company founded by a former Peak Games co-founder, has raised a $7 million Seed funding round led by Actera Group. Co-investment has come from San Francisco’s NFX. Former gaming entrepreneurs Kristian Segerstrale, Alexis Bonte, and Kaan Gunay also participated. Firat Ileri is previous investors from the pre-seed round.
The company runs two studios, one focused on casual and one on ‘hyper-casual’ games.
Co-founded by CEO Hakan Bas, the former Co-Founder, and COO at Peak Games, Ace Games has had some success on the US iOS Store with its hyper-casual title, ‘Mix and Drink.’
In a statement, Bas said: “Ace’s main focus is actually the casual ‘hybrid puzzle’ game that we have been working on for a while now. However, our hyper-casual studio assists the main studio in many aspects like training talent, coming up with creative game mechanics and marketing ideas, generating cash, and creating user base.” Ace’s casual title is to be released late-summer this year and the global launch is expected in early 2022.
Peak Games, Gram Games and Rollic Games were all acquired by Zynga, showing that Turkey is capable of producing decent exits for gaming startups.
VCs such as Index, Balderton, Makers and Griffin have all made M&A deals with Dream Games, Bigger Games and Spyke Games.
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