Good morning, Data Sheet readers. PayPal co-founder Max Levchin’s latest startup is tackling the business of micro-loans. EU officials have published their blueprint for massive reforms—and regulations—related to the digital economy. IBM is teaming up with Facebook to help marketers personalize campaigns. Plus, cloud human-resources pioneer Zenefits is now valued at $4.5 billion after its massive Series C funding round. If you find Data Sheet useful, share this link for today’s edition and encourage your colleagues to subscribe. Have a productive Wednesday!
TOP OF MIND
While you were sleeping. The European Union finally published its plan to unify digital policy across the entire market. It wants to regulate everything from copyright law to telecommunications services. It also plans investigations into the business practices of several big U.S. companies including Google, Amazon and Facebook. But a ruling on controversial tax incentives in Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands has been delayed. It all adds up to continued scrutiny of the high-tech industry in Europe. The new digital rules will also have far-reaching implications for e-commerce and corporate data privacy in Europe.
This week’s Salesforce takeover rumor has a name attached, Microsoft. Trading was halted briefly Tuesday after Bloomberg reported this latest development. No one’s commenting officially but you can take another name off the list of potential suitors. SAP CEO Bill McDermott disavowed any interest this week during his company’s big conference. His observation, as reported by Computerworld: “We’ve always tried to buy assets that were best in class or ascending in value; we have never bought anything we thought was on the decline.”
Can PayPal's co-founder eliminate credit cards? Max Levchin's latest company, Affirm, has raised $275 million to disrupt how micro-loans are approved and serviced. Its particular focus: millennials.
Massive new funding round for Zenefits. The cloud human resources company has closed a $500 million Series C round, which boosts its valuation to $4.5 billion. Ironically, the company is expanding so fast, it is outgrowing its own software.
Worried about the Internet of things? SAP has your business covered. The enterprise software giant is extending its applications to handle data generated by gadgets, sensors and social media networks. It shouldn’t be surprising that its HANA in-memory database technology is at the center of this strategy.
Your company can now use the same database that runs Google search. The Internet giant has created a cloud service, called Bigtable, that is less pricey than competitive offerings, including one from Amazon. In other news, Google is now working far more closely with SAP on business analytics applications. It also has made changes to its application development service, App Engine. The move is designed to lure more developers to its cloud platforms, a strategy also being pursued by Microsoft.
Details on the latest lawsuit over the ill-fated HP-Autonomy deal. Court documents filed in London outline Hewlett-Packard’s specific complaints against Mike Lynch and Shushovan’s Hussain, Autonomy’s former CEO and CFO. HP continues to maintain that the two inflated the software company’s financial performance through accounting fraud.
IBM, Facebook team in marketing analytics mashup
IBM just signed another significant data partner, Facebook. The collaboration addresses the holy grail of all marketers—making campaigns more personal with the right message, delivered at just the right moment.
In simple terms, the initial focus of the alliance is on combining data: it makes Facebook’s Custom Audience insights available to brands that use IBM’s Marketing Cloud to manage campaigns.
For example, an athletic apparel retailer interested in promoting shoes to long-distance runners could use Facebook’s segment metrics along with location-specific information—such as local weather patterns or whether a person is physically near a store—to identify potential targets. Those metrics can then be evaluated against a marketing team’s own proprietary data, such as the date that a specific prospect bought new shoes, how many times that person has visited its web site, or even how many times he or she has called customer service.
“This isn’t about running personalized email campaigns. It’s about having a conversation that is both personalized and in context,” said Deepak Advani, general manager for IBM Commerce.
IBM and Facebook began working together actively in January, when Advani was named to his current position after running some of IBM’s cloud services. The analytics capabilities described above are just the beginning; Advani says several brands already use this intelligence, although he wasn't at liberty to disclose their names when we chatted. The two companies will develop more services through a research initiative, IBM Commerce THINKLab, focused on developing additional personalization technologies and approaches.
Facebook has a pretty basic motive: it wants the ads on Facebook to be more useful for members. “For us, having better, more relevant ads for consumers is very, very important,” said Blake Chandlee, vice president of partnerships for Facebook.
For its part, IBM hopes the alliance will give marketers another reason to use IBM’s Marketing Cloud applications, rather than competitive solutions from the likes of Adobe, Marketo or Salesforce. Marketo announced a similar alliance with LinkedIn in mid-April, with an explicit focus on business-to-business lead generation.
The Facebook relationship echoes the partnership IBM announced with Twitter last fall, although the latter relationship is far broader.
ALSO WORTH SHARING
SunGard considers an IPO, or a sale. The company, which sells software to banks, schools and government agencies, went private one decade ago in an $11 billion deal. Sources tell The Wall Street Journal that it’s seeking to raise up to $750 million on the public market.
Strategy reversal. Snapchat now allows its users to share news stories from its Discover portal. Increased viewership will be crucial as it attempts to renegotiate expiring media partnerships and to forge new ones.
Here’s how Comcast plans fix its notoriously bad customer service: 5,500 new agents over the next three years and mandatory training.
Apple music deals under scrutiny. U.S. antitrust officials are looking into the terms of contracts for Beats Music, the streaming service it acquired last year, reports Bloomberg. The giant tech company is preparing a revamp of the offering, which rivals Spotify.
IRS tackles identity theft. The agency established a separate investigation team to handle incidents of attempted refund fraud. Most of these crimes, not surprisingly, now involve some sort of cyber element.
Groupon regroups, Zulily zigzags. The online couponing service just missed its first quarter. It blames the strong dollar but is also reducing its full-year forecast. Flash-sale web retailer Zulily is also reconsidering its annual sales projection after slower growth than anticipated for the first three months of the year.
This former Apple exec wants to send a tech genius to your home. Ron Johnson, who pioneered the company’s retail strategy, has created a new company called Enjoy. When you buy a gadget—right now, stereos, smartphones and digital cameras—its team will help you set it up. “People need help and we want to deliver on tech’s complexities,” he told Wired.
What’s in a name? The EU still won’t let Microsoft register “Skype” with the trademark office because it upsets Rupert Murdoch’s television business, Sky.
MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS
Tears and laughter at a celebration of Dave Goldberg’s life by Adam Lashinsky
Carly Fiorina came to disrupt by Erin Griffith
The 14 longest service CEOs of the Fortune 500 by Scott DeCarlo, Anne VanderMey
With Office updates, Microsoft covers its generation gap by Barb Darrow
Google search crosses a mega mobile milestone by Kia Kokalitcheva
NetSuite just picked Microsoft as its ‘preferred’ cloud partner by Heather Clancy
ONE MORE THING
Here’s your updated speaker list for Brainstorm Tech in July. New participants at the Fortune confab in Aspen, Colorado, include YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki, incoming eBay CEO Devin Wenig, and Twitter CFO Anthony Noto. By the way, Noto is now in charge of marketing at the social media company—a rather unusual responsibility for a finance expert.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Cornerstone Convergence: Connect, collaborate. (May 11 - 13; Los Angeles)
Cloud Foundry Summit: Open source development. (May 11 - 12; Santa Clara, California)
Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 - 20; Boston)
Signal: The modern communications conference. (May 19 - 20; San Francisco)
MuleSoft Connect: Tie together apps, data and devices. (May 27 - 29; San Francisco)
MongoDB World: Scale the universe. (June 1 - 2; New York)
HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)
Apple Worldwide Developers Conference: Future of iOS and OS X. (June 8 - 12; San Francisco)
Hadoop Summit San Jose: Mainstreaming adoption. (June 9 - 11; San Jose, California)
Red Hat Summit: Energize your enterprise. (June 23 - 26; Boston)
Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)
LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 - 19; Seattle)
VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)
BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 - 30; San Francisco)
Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 - Oct. 1; Las Vegas)
HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 - 6; San Diego)
Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: World's largest gather of women technologists. (Oct. 14 - 16; Houston)
Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)