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Data Sheet—Thursday, February 19, 2015

February 19, 2015, 2:25 PM UTC

Good morning, Data Sheet readers. Samsung’s mobile payments strategy just became clearer, the White House hired its first data scientist, and an Atlanta startup just raised $35 million led by Institutional Venture Partners.

Forward this newsletter to technophiles, and tell them to sign up! Did you miss one? Here’s an archive of past editions.


Share of wallet. Samsung is paying an undisclosed sum for Massachusetts mobile payments company LoopPay. The company raised $13 million in two rounds before its exit, and the smartphone giant was an early investor. The technology's key advantage: merchants don’t have to upgrade their cash registers to use it.

Sony’s new persona. It’s betting on profitable businesses such as videogames, sophisticated digital cameras, and its entertainment group. That could inspire sales of its struggling smartphone and TV divisions.

Russian national charged in largest known data breach. The accused allegedly pilfered information for more than 160 million credit cards by breaking into computer networks at Heartland Payment Systems, Hannaford Brothers, and 7-Eleven. The cyberattacks happened more than six years ago, between 2007 and 2009. It took that long to extradite this particular suspect, but one of his accomplices was sentenced to 20 years in prison back in 2010.

Oh, the irony. Apple owes money in California for conspiring not to hire from Intel, Google and Adobe. Early this month, it was sued for poaching by Michigan battery company A123 System.

Oracle versus Oregon. The state previously sued the business software giant for messing up the launch of its healthcare exchange. Now it’s afraid Oracle will pull the plug on its Medicaid system before it can switch suppliers completely. Officials want to permanently ban Oracle from state technology contracts.


Blessings for unicorns. You can add ride-sharing platform Uber and social network Pinterest to the list of companies apparently ready to close massive new funding rounds (along with Snapchat). Uber’s latest infusion is reported at more than $2.8 billion, while Pinterest could get around $500 million. Incidentally, the number of startups valued at more than $10 billion doubled to eight last year, according to an analysis by WSJ/Dow Jones VentureSource. (The new Pinterest round would push it up into that class.) The top-valued private enterprise software company: Palantir.

Looking for some money? Bessemer Venture Partners just launched a new $1.6 billion fund (BVP IX). It will invest in established areas, like mobile technology and healthcare IT. But technologies for software developers (ala Twilio) or space applications (Skybox Imaging) will also take priority.

Would you pay to limit YouTube ads? CNBC reports that the Internet video service, viewed by 1 billion people per month, could introduce subscription plans within the next several months. It has been testing the idea since May 2013.

Apparently Apple Watch is ready for its close-up. Its first cover, women’s health and fitness magazine, Self.


New money, lesson plans for educational software companies. Instructure has added a $40 million “pre-IPO” investment led by Insight Venture Partners (bringing its total to $90 million). The money will fund a new training service for businesses, called Bridge.

Meanwhile, another online learning specialist focused on corporate learners, Grovo, closed $15 million in Series B funding from Accel Partners, Costanoa Venture Capital, Greg Waldorf, and SoftTech VC. Its customers include Chevron, Equinox, Pernod Ricard, and Saatchi & Saatchi LA.

Incidentally, investors put a record $1.87 billion into educational technology last year, up 50% from 2013. The biggest recent funding event was a $186 million round for 20-year-old online learning company led by investment firm TPG, along with Accel Partners, Spectrum Equity and Meritech. By the way, the company hired former executive Erik Nierenberg in late July to run its enterprise sales. Corporate clients already include Adobe, Patagonia, and Microsoft.

Cybersecurity exit. Check Point Software Technologies just paid “millions of dollars” to buy two-year-old Israeli startup Hyperwise. The company was developing “threat emulation” products designed to detect malware within a computer network or server before it starts to infect systems.

Finally, security startup Sqrrl just added $7 million in Series B funding. It knows a thing or two about spying—the founders used to work for the NSA.


The losses associated with computer network security breaches are big and the bad guys are obviously becoming far more active. Target alone took a $148 million hit for its break-in last year.

But fraud associated with bogus calls into customer support desks and call centers is far more rampant. An estimated one in 2,900 telephone encounters is bogus, which translates into 100s of calls daily for many big retailers, insurers or credit-card companies. That’s why big businesses spend an estimated $10.6 billion annually just trying to keep mistakes to a minimum.

Enter Pindrop Security, an Atlanta startup that just disclosed a $35 million in Series B financing led by Institutional Venture Partners along with existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Citi Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Redpoint Ventures and Webb Investment Network.

Pindrop’s software uses a concept called “phoneprinting” to authenticate callers, sorting out probable impersonators from the true customer or account holder. “We can look at a call, extract certain information, and identify where a call is coming from, or the device used to make the call,” said Pindrop co-founder and CEO Vijay Balasubramaniyan.

Certain audio characteristics, for example, are unique to certain models of mobile phones or calls using Internet telephone services. Pindrop can tell whether the caller claiming to be from Atlanta on his or her cell phone is actually using a voice-over-Internet connection originating in Nigeria. Once a call is identified as potentially fraudulent, it is segregated and sent to specialists trained to handle these encounters. That happens in the background, so the caller isn’t tipped off.

“Over six billion individuals across the globe have access to a phone, yet there has been little security innovation in phone or voice,” said IVP Somesh Dash, who joined Pindrop’s board as a result of the firm’s investment. “Pindrop has revolutionized phone and call center security and is poised for impressive growth. Already Pindrop is protecting hundreds of millions of bank and retail customers.”

While he won’t get specific about customers other than online brokerage eTrade, Balasubramaniyan said Pindrop is working with several of the largest U.S. banks and retailers. The latest financing, which brings the total so far to around $47 million, will be used for expansion into Europe, Latin America, Asian Pacific countries where fraud is even more rampant.


Data-scientist-in-chief. The first-ever White House expert for data policy is DJ Patil, whose resume includes LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, and Skype. His most recent industry job was at RelateIQ, bought by Salesforce last July.

Reorg brings new leadership for Verizon Wireless. Long-time CEO Dan Mead has a new title: executive vice president and president of strategic initiatives. The head of the telecommunications company’s wireline business, John Stratton, will now preside over both divisions, reporting to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdams. The move was disclosed in an SEC filing. Mead plans to retire after the “completion” of the projects he is spearheading.


The tale of two IPOs: Facebook and Twitter by Erin Griffith

The crazy-expensive gold Apple Watch could make $5 billion per quarter by Ben Geier

I was right and wrong about Snapchat by Dan Primack

The difference between work-life integration and workaholism by Rick Wartzman

With new rules, the FAA and drone industry make up by Clay Dillow

The lucrative business of making Hollywood’s leading men look good by Matt McCue


Want drones to keep out of your personal airspace? There’s a registry for that.


IBM Interconnect: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26; Las Vegas)

Gartner CIO Leadership Forum: Digital business strategy. (March 1 – 3; Phoenix)

DocuSign Momentum. E-signatures and digital transactions. (March 10 – 12; San Francisco)

Microsoft Convergence: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19; Atlanta)

IDC Directions 2015: Innovation in the 3rd Platform era. (March 18; Boston)

Cisco Leadership Council: CIO-CEO thought leadership. (March 18 - 20; Kiawah Island, South Carolina)

Technomy Bio: The big picture on transformation. (March 25; Mountain View, California)

Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)

Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)

RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)

Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 - 28; Orlando, Fla.)

MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)

NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)

EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 - 7; Las Vegas)

Sapphire Now: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)

Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)

Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 - 20; Boston)

HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)

Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)

VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)

Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)

Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)