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Now with over 10M monthly users, IRL turns its events website into a social network

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Following its $16 million Series B last fall, event discovery network IRL is launching a new website that adds more social features around events, including profiles, chats and the ability to join group events, among other things. With the changes, users will also be able to receive personalized event recommendations, participate in group events, as well as talk about events with their friends, across both web and mobile. The combined efforts make IRL.com feel less like an online event search engine and more like a real social network.

The startup, which had previously focused on real-world events, could have easily imploded last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which effectively shut down the in-person events industry overnight. But it instead quickly pivoted its event discovery app to include virtual events. In April, IRL adapted to the government lockdowns and restrictions on in-person gatherings by indexing online events, like livestreamed concerts, esports events, Zoom parties and more.

The changes, in a way, made IRL more accessible because it became a tool that anyone could use — not only those with the time and money to travel and attend real-world events.

Image Credits: IRL

In fitting with those changes, the company also last year redesigned its mobile app to make it easier for users to find new events to attend remotely.

It organized events into categories like gaming, music, tv, wellness, sports, podcasts, lifestyle and more — including those sourced from partners like TikTok, Meetup, Twitch, Spotify, SoundCloud, HBO, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite and others. (We’re also seeing Apple TV+ shows on the site, but IRL can’t officially confirm if Apple is a partner. We’re told IRL does have permission to display these events, however.)

The new IRL website is meant to better mirror the recently redesigned mobile experience.

As users join IRL.com for the first time, they can pick event categories they’re interested in and find their friends who are already using the service.

Also like the mobile app, you can now click across filters at the top of the website to drill down into events by category — like gaming, music, TV, sports, wellness, lifestyle, podcasts and others. And you can filter to see events taking place this weekend or view IRL’s own suggestions of “Top Picks.”

The site directs users to create their own group events with friends through the new built-in chat feature, which had previously only been available on mobile.

“Because everybody’s at home, there’s a big demand for a web messenger,” notes IRL founder and CEO Abraham Shafi.

Image Credits: IRL

He explains that the startup’s focus around messaging as the basis for a group is what allows IRL to differentiate itself from other groups-focused products. Facebook Groups, for example, are built around the idea of discussion boards, he says. But IRL is instead building its social network around messaging.

“There’s no group chatting app that also allows you to add events,” Shafi says. “We’re seeing that become really valuable for any groups that have upcoming and scheduled activities. It could be a TV show that you really like. Or it could be your friends playing Among Us or playing video games. [On IRL], you can imagine, literally, any type of group — like a book club that meets weekly and has weekly events coming up,” he says.

In addition, students who sign up with an .edu email address can now find on-campus events and groups that are available only to those who attend the same school. These aren’t typically indexed publicly and won’t appear on the IRL homepage.

Image Credits: IRL

The startup’s focus on group messaging has helped the app grow, despite the pandemic.

The company now reports over 10 million monthly active users, and its group messaging feature has been growing at around 30% month over month since August. Today, there are over 30 million chats sent on IRL per day, with over a billion chats that have been sent to date, Shafi says.

In time, IRL plans to expand the site to include more local events as well as deepen its relationship with partners.

For example, the IRL TikTok account has been the first to reach over a million followers. But currently, all the events TikTok posts to the site are hand-curated. IRL says it’s working on a deeper integration that will help pull in more TikTok content, including top trends.

The company also expects to attract more influencers with the website launch, like those who want to build a name for themselves as a “cool curator” of a specific type of event — such as the Sneakerheads account, for instance, which tracks sneaker drops.

Image Credits: IRL

As users participate on the website and app by following events, adding friends, and joining chats, IRL will be able to make better recommendations as to what sort of events they might like to try next.

And as the world recovers from COVID, allowing in-person events once again, the company believes usage will jump.

“When in-person returns — because that’s inevitable — we’ll be supporting that, for sure,” says Shafi, adding that he expects IRL to then “explode.”

“We’re not going to take virtual away. Virtual will always be there … quite honestly, it will probably always be a hybrid,” he says. “This pandemic has allowed us to focus on something that will actually help us grow once we can support both the real and the remote.”

“Me and the team are very grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to build something deeply meaningful in these times — even though at the outset, it would have seemed like we were screwed,” Shafi adds.

Initially, IRL tested the web app’s revamp only with its existing users. But the relaunch of the site now makes the changes accessible to all.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Flourish, a startup that aims to help banks engage and retain customers, raises $1.5M

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It’s not uncommon these days to hear of U.S.-based investors backing Latin American startups.

But it’s not every day that we hear of Latin American VCs investing in U.S.-based startups.

Berkeley-based fintech Flourish has raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by Brazilian venture capital firm Canary. Founded by Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, the startup offers an “engagement and financial wellness” solution for banks, fintechs and credit unions with the goal of helping them engage and retain clients.

Also participating in the round were Xochi Ventures, First Check Ventures, Magma Capital and GV Angels as well as strategic angels including Rodrigo Xavier (former Bank of America CEO in Brazil), Beth Stelluto (formerly of Schwab),  Gustavo Lasala (president and CEO of The People Fund) and Brian Requarth (Founder of Viva Real). 

With clients in the U.S., Bolivia and Brazil, Flourish has developed a solution that features three main modules: 

  • A rewards engine designed to incentivize users to save or invest money
  • An intelligent and automated micro-savings feature where users can create personalized rules (such as transferring $15 into a rainy day fund every time their favorite sports team wins)
  • A financial knowledge module, where personal financial transactions and spending patterns are turned into a question and answer game. 

In the U.S., Flourish began by testing end-user mechanics with organizations such as CommonWealth and OpportunityFund. In 2019, it released a B2C version of the Flourish app (called the Flourish Savings App)  as a pilot for its banking platform, which can integrate with banks through a SDK or an API.  It is also now licensing its engagement technology to banks, retailers and fintechs across the Americas. Flourish has piloted or licensed its solution to US-based credit unions, Sicoob (Brazil’s largest credit union) and BancoSol in Bolivia. 

The startup makes money through a partnership model that focuses on user activation and engagement. 

Both immigrants, Moura and Eting met while in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Moura emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil as a teen while Eting is the daughter of a Filiponio father and mother of Mexican descent.

The pair bonded on their joint mission of building a business that empowered people to create positive money habits and understand their finances.

Currently, the 11- person team works out of the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. It plans to use its new capital to increase its number of customers in LatAm, do more hiring and develop new functionalities for the Flourish platform. 

In particular, it plans to next focus on the Brazilian market, and will scale in a few select countries in the Americas. 

“There are three things that make Latin America, and more specifically Brazil, attractive to us at this moment,” Moura said. “Currently, the B2B financial technology market is still in its nascency. This combined with open banking regulation and the need for more responsible products provides Flourish a unique opportunity in Brazil.”

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Inside Workvivo’s plans to take on Microsoft in the employee experience space

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Maintaining company culture when the majority of staff is working remotely is a challenge for every organization — big and small.

This was an issue, even before COVID. But it’s become an even bigger problem with so many employees working from home. Employers have to be careful that workers don’t feel disconnected and isolated from the rest of the company and that morale stays high.

Enter Workvivo, a Cork, Ireland-based employee experience startup that is backed by Zoom founder Eric Yuan and Tiger Global that has steadily grown over 200% over the past year.

The company works with organizations ranging in size from 100 employees to over 100,000 and boasts more than 500,000 users. According to CEO and co-founder John Goulding, it’s had 100% retention since it launched. Customers include Telus International, Kentech, A+E Networks and Seneca Gaming Corp., among others.

Founded by Goulding and Joe Lennon in 2017, Workvivo launched its employee communication platform in mid-2018 with the goal of helping companies create “an engaging virtual workplace” and replace the outdated intranet.

“We’re not about real time, we’re more asynchronous communication,” Goulding explained. “We have a lot of transactional tools, and typically carry the bigger message about what’s going on in a company and what positive things are happening. We’re more focused on human connection.”

Using Workvivo, companies can provide information like CEO updates, recognition for employees via a social style — “more things that shape the culture so workers can get a real sense of what’s happening in an organization.” It launched podcasts in the second quarter and livestreaming in Q4.

In 2019, Workvivo showed its product to Zoom’s Yuan, who ended up becoming one of the company’s first investors. Then in May of 2020, the company raised $16 million in a Series A funding led by Tiger Global, which is best known for large growth-oriented rounds.

Workvivo, which was built out long before the COVID-19 pandemic, found itself in an opportune place last year. And demand for its offering has reflected that. 

“Since COVID hit, growth has accelerated,” Goulding told TechCrunch. “We grew three times in size over where we were before the pandemic started, in terms of revenue, users, customers and employees.”

The SaaS operator’s deals range from $50,000 to close to $1 million a year, he said. Workvivo is Europe-based and operates in 82 countries. But the majority of its customers are located in the U.S. with 80% of its growth coming from the country.

The startup opened an office in San Francisco in early 2020, which it is expanding. Thirty percent of its 65-person team is currently U.S.-based, with some working remotely from other states.

While Workvivo would not reveal hard revenue figures, Goulding only said it’s not seeking additional funding anytime soon considering the company is “in a very strong capital position.”

To tackle the same problem, Microsoft last month launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform,” or, in non-marketing terms, its new take on the intranet sites most large companies tend to offer their employees. With the move, Microsoft is taking on the likes of Facebook’s Workplace platform and Jive in addition to Workvivo.

Despite the increasingly crowded space, Workvivo believes it has an advantage over competitors in that it integrates well with Slack and Zoom.

“We’re sitting alongside Slack and Zoom in the ecosystem,” Goulding said. “There’s Zoom, Slack and us.”

Slack is real-time messaging and what’s happening in the immediate future, and Zoom is real-time video and “about the moment,” he said.

To Goulding, Microsoft’s new offering is unproven yet and a reactionary move.

“It’s obvious there’s a battle to be won for the center of the digital workplace,” he said. “We’re here to capture the heartbeat of an organization, not pulses.”

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Bitflips when PCs try to reach windows.com: What could possibly go wrong?

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Stock photo of ones and zeros displayed across a computer screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Bitflips are events that cause individual bits stored in an electronic device to flip, turning a 0 to a 1 or vice versa. Cosmic radiation and fluctuations in power or temperature are the most common naturally occurring causes. Research from 2010 estimated that a computer with 4GB of commodity RAM has a 96 percent chance of experiencing a bitflip within three days.

An independent researcher recently demonstrated how bitflips can come back to bite Windows users when their PCs reach out to Microsoft’s windows.com domain. Windows devices do this regularly to perform actions like making sure the time shown in the computer clock is accurate, connecting to Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and recovering from crashes.

Remy, as the researcher asked to be referred to, mapped the 32 valid domain names that were one bitflip away from windows.com. He provided the following to help readers understand how these flips can cause the domain to change to whndows.com:

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