Picture this: A gender-bending take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, fed to consumers in non-linear bits and pieces across multiple media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Vine.
Actually, such a thing already exists. It’s the brainchild of former MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath and Sony Music Entertainment. In 2013, the two parties joined forces to create a “next generation content studio” called Astronauts Wanted. What exactly do they do? One of their recent productions was A Trip to Unicorn Island, a documentary about YouTube personality Lilly Singh. (Never heard of Singh? She’s got more than 9 million subscribers on YouTube—that’s waaay more viewers than the official channels of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump combined.) Earlier this month, Astronauts Wanted unveiled another innovative project: a “social residency program” for digital storytellers.
Called Flight Club, the new initiative is a five-month incubator of sorts that will run through October. The company picked five participants for the program’s inaugural class, including YouTubers Jade Hillard and Alex Vergel. Their task? To stretch the capabilities of so-called transmedia narratives, a.k.a. connected storytelling across an ever-expanding range of media platforms. Astronauts Wanted’s mission isn’t original—plenty of media companies are trying to figure out how to capitalize on and monetize new storytelling tools across different social media platforms—but its chosen approach, with Flight Club, is unique.
“It’s a true experiment in the classic sense,” Nick Shore, chief creative strategist for Astronauts Wanted, told me during a recent phone interview. “You put young people with open minds in a room together to solve a problem.”
You might be wondering what the fruits of their labor, the modern-day rendition of one of Shakespeare’s most convoluted comedies, actually look like. Well, that depends on your platform of choice. The Athenians have been replaced by YouTubers who divulge their stories via video. The fairies have taken to Instagram and the carpenters are on Vine. At some point, the Athenians, fairies and Viners all meet in person. On Snapchat, natch. Also, if you want to get a glimpse of the whole enchilada in one place, it’s all documented on one giant Tumblr.
What would Shakespeare have said about all this? I have a feeling he would have had a lot of fun reimagining his works in the new, transmedia world.
BITS AND BYTES
Hillary Clinton courts tech entrepreneurs. The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate released her technology policy proposals Tuesday, promising more support for programs that fund technology incubators—especially those in urban communities. The platform also proposes allowing entrepreneurs and early startup employees to defer student loan payments. (New York Times, Wall Street Journal)
Why Cisco is paying $300 million for security firm CloudLock. The Massachusetts-based startup, which raised around $28 million in venture backing, sells a service that protects cloud applications from the likes of Google, Salesforce, and Workday. Its CEO and co-founder, Gil Zimmerman, spent 20 years working at major tech companies EMC and Sun Microsystems before launching the venture.(Fortune)
Airbnb could soon be valued at $30 billion. The startup, which provides a listing service for people seeking to rent their homes and apartments on a short-term basis, is raising more backing to fuel international expansion, reports The New York Times. This is separate from the $1 billion in financing that Airbnb is said to have secured earlier this month. The new infusion would make it the second most valuable U.S. startup, after Uber. (New York Times)
Twitter, Sony refine virtual reality initiatives. Both companies are appointing dedicated executives to steer their strategy. Sony’s vision is to create a “slate of narrative VR content for the motion picture group.” Twitter, meanwhile, has hired a former Apple software designer to lead future-looking virtual and augmented reality research. (Fortune, Fortune)
Wells Fargo switches on eye-scanning software. It’s one of more than 30 banks adding this security feature to their mobile apps this month. The technology analyzes blood vessel patterns to verify someone’s identity. (Fortune)
Big data software company Talend files IPO papers. The France-born company is seeking $86.25 million under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, according to documents disclosed Tuesday. Talend sells open-source software that pulls information from different corporate data sources for reporting and analysis. (Bloomberg)
Siemens sets aside $1.1 billion for startup investments. Over the next five years, the German industrial giant plans to sink money into technologies for machine learning, smart sensors, networked mobility, and blockchain encryption. (Reuters)
One place Oracle’s cloud is really catching on: Latin America. The software giant’s co-CEO Mark Hurd said Tuesday that the company now sells more cloud services and applications into the region than licensed software. Brazil is a particularly strong market. Hurd credits smaller companies with the milestone. Oracle’s cloud business accounted for about 8% of total revenue for its latest quarter. (Reuters)
Can Xiaomi live up to its $45 billion hype? Lately, tech journalists have taken to calling Xiaomi (pronounced “SHAO-me,” with the first syllable sounding like the “show” in “shower”) the “Apple of China.”
This isn’t just any privately held, multibillion-dollar startup. It’s a rising power in a nation eager to prove that its consumer-oriented companies can compete globally. “Xiaomi’s mission is to change the world’s view of Chinese products,” said CEO Lei Jun last year. While Xiaomi no longer wears the most-valuable-startup crown—that now belongs to ride-hailing service Uber—its $45 billion valuation remains a powerful symbol of its aspirations, so much so that Xiaomi proudly includes it in product catalogs. (Some analysts put the figure slightly higher.)
Private investors judged Xiaomi to be more valuable than FedEx or Caterpillar or Delta Air Lines because of the promise that it could build a network of products, services, and recurring revenues—an ecosystem like Apple’s—not just in China but around the world.
But as Xiaomi’s progress slows, Fortune‘s Scott Cendrowski reports there’s growing skepticism that a startup without innovative technology of its own or much success outside of smartphone sales can produce an ecosystem anywhere nearly as big or “sticky” as Apple’s and Google’s.
Visit Fortune.com to read more about why Xiaomi’s success is looking more like a long shot. Plus, this one chart shows why the “Apple of China” is losing its lustre, and here’s why Xiaomi plans to open hundreds of retail stores.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Can IBM really make a business out of blockchain? by Jeff John Roberts
Pinterest adds more e-commerce capabilities by Leena Rao
Let’s stop freaking out about artificial intelligence
by Eric Schmidt & Sebastian Thrun
People leave a scary amount of data on hard drives before selling them
by Madeline Farber
How IBM’s Watson supercomputer is going to help 10,000 veterans
by Laura Lorenzetti
Can these three ex-Apple engineers build the next car accessory company? by Kia Kokalitcheva
Twitter just added a new way to liven up your tweets by Madeline Farber
ONE MORE THING
Apple wants to stop you from recording live concerts. The tech giant has filed for a patent that would block smartphones or tablet computers aimed at the stage by using an infrared signal that would temporarily disable them. (Fortune)
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.