Super Bowl fever is beginning to grip San Francisco, though the game itself will be played more than 40 miles away in Santa Clara, Calif. I’ve got a Super Bowl-related interview planned just before the celebratory weekend with Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour. The sub-headline of a new article in Inc. magazine about Plank and Under Armour reminded me that things aren’t always what they seem—kind of like the “San Francisco” Super Bowl being played in the shadow of the San Jose, Calif., airport.
Given that the highly readable article is about a footwear and apparel maker, I was struck by the description: “Can this decade’s most unlikely tech startup beat Nike?” Under Armour a tech startup? Could that have been a typo?
In fact, it wasn’t. The point of the article was to explain the three acquisitions Under Armour has made of technology companies—MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and Endomondo—for a combined $710 million. It’s a startling sum given that Under Armour’s revenues are $4 billion and, according to the article, two of the three acquired companies aren’t profitable.
What’s compelling about the Under Armour strategy is that it’s stepping up where archrival Nike has faltered. Nike shut down its FuelBand fitness tracker line and now relies, as I reported in my article last year about CEO Mark Parker, on partners for its “wearables” strategy. Under Armour is readying its own tracker, and it plans to push its newly owned apps to solidify relationships with apparel and sneaker customers.
Under Armour’s strategy is by no means assured, and given that its bet is big, a misstep will be an epic fail. That said, Under Armour’s moves show the importance of “big data” even to companies whose wares are as physical as they get. And it proves the oft-repeated mantra that every company is a technology company now.
Here’s hoping your data shows you winning today.
BITS AND BYTES
Another day, another Uber funding revelation. As part of the ride-sharing company’s latest $2.1 billion fundraising exercise, investment banks Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley are offering high-net-worth clients the chance to buy in. The minimum investment is $1 million. Uber’s Chinese division has also raised new money, at a valuation of $7 billion. The company’s total valuation is hovering around $65 billion. (Fortune)
GoPro shares get creamed. The digital camera maker’s stock lost almost one-quarter of its value Tuesday, after the company revealed a sharp 47% decline in revenue to $435 million. To counter the slowdown, GoPro has announced plans to lay off almost 7% of its workforce. (Fortune)
Plus, a high-level GoPro exec replaces SurveyMonkey CEO. Bill Veghte, a former Hewlett-Packard executive, became SurveyMonkey CEO just six months ago after the death of David Goldberg, his friend and the company’s former CEO. As of Jan. 16, he is handing that responsibility over to Zander Lurie, currently a senior vice president at GoPro. The reason for Veghte’s departure wasn’t given but Re/code cites strategic differences with investors. (New York Times)
Intel invests in robotics startup. The chip maker’s venture capital arm led a $15 million round in Savoike, which makes robots being tested by hotels to deliver simple items such as towels or toothbrushes. Intel sees the robotics industry as a big future customer for its microprocessor technologies. (Wall Street Journal)
GE will move headquarters to Boston, nearer to tech talent. The company will relocate to temporary offices there by the summer. It will sell its current space in Fairfield, Conn., and midtown Manhattan’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza in order to defray costs. (Fortune)
Your company is using more cloud software than you realize. It’s not uncommon for small teams to use cloud applications and services that weren’t sanctioned by the CIO—it’s a concept called “shadow IT.” New Cisco research suggests the practice may be more widespread than realized, with the average organization using a whopping 1,120 cloud services. That’s much higher than CIOs typically estimate. (Wall Street Journal)
Apple downplays ad business. Apple has dabbled in mobile advertising for about five years through its iAd division, which it built after paying $275 million for ad firm Quattro Wireless. Now the company is downplaying the creative side of that business, reports BuzzFeed. Instead, iAd will be positioned as a platform that mobile publishers can use to automate their own ad-sales processes. (BuzzFeed)
Cloud financials pioneer raises another $90 million. The tech startup world has another unicorn, a privately backed company valued at more than $1 billion. It’s Anaplan, one of several cloud companies selling software to streamline corporate budgeting, which has raised another $90 million. That brings its total backing to almost $240 million. This is likely to be Anaplan’s last private infusion before it files for an initial public offering. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Mobile insights firm App Annie adds new investor, director
by Heather Clancy
Business intelligence startup Looker locks in big investment
by Heather Clancy
How corporate diversity programs alienate white men by Erik Sherman
Google sells trove of battery patents by Jeff John Roberts
PayPal appoints bitcoin entrepreneur to board by Leena Rao
New battery tech could stop hoverboard fires by Hilary Brueck
ONE MORE THING
Big data goes mainstream. For large organizations, it has become an integral component of business analysis. At least, so sayeth consulting firm Deloitte. (Fortune)