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Caden launches with $3.4M to help consumers take control of their data – TechCrunch

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Entrepreneur John Roa believes in the value of privacy. After selling his design consultancy, ÄKTA, to Salesforce in 2015, he decided to spend a few years “off the grid” on an island in Europe.

Now, he’s back in New York City, launching Caden, a startup that allows consumers to share their data with companies and get paid for it in return. Roa wrote the business plan in the form of a thesis on the future of data privacy while he was working at Salesforce, right before he began his sabbatical, he told TechCrunch.

When he first wrote the business plan, it was “purely speculative,” Roa said. He anticipated that regulation would present challenges for companies in storing third-party, or passively collected, data, and envisioned a long-term shift to a “privacy-first” world where users own their personal data and have full control and consent over its use. 

Caden, which just came out of stealth mode with a $3.4 million pre-seed round, is Roa’s attempt toward building this world. Jerry Yang, co-founder of TechCrunch’s parent company, Yahoo!, participated in the round alongside Starwood Capital’s Barry Sternlicht, former Citigroup CTO Don Callahan and other angel investors, according to the company.

Caden founder John Roa. Image Credits: Caden

The company calls itself a “zero-party” data platform, which means users share data with brands only on a voluntary basis. One of its core products is an encrypted “on-device vault” where a user can store their personal data and see insights drawn from it — a feature Roa compared to Spotify’s “Year in Review” but spanning a broader set of preferences and behaviors. 

Caden’s second core product is an API called Link, which allows users to connect to accounts like their e-mail or bank and extract their data to store in the vault. Once it’s in the vault, the user can then opt to give permission to specific companies they trust to use the data, and can revoke or alter the permissions at any time because users ultimately own their data stored with Caden, Roa said.

Roa’s team started working on the technology nine months ago, and plans to bring its beta mobile application to market in the next six months. It will allow users to immediately begin receiving compensation for their data, Roa said, likening the app to a savings account.

A majority of U.S. states have either passed or are considering legislation similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), a state law enacted in 2018 that gives consumers the right to opt out of allowing companies to sell their personal information. Although companies have collected third-party data about their users for years, Roa said regulation is turning third-party data collection into “more of a liability than an asset” for companies because of onerous audit and compliance requirements. Zero-party data, he added, is more accurate and robust because it comes directly from the user.

Caden hopes to attract consumer brands first because they have the most to gain through better access to data, investor Jerry Yang told TechCrunch in an email.

“When you think about how much effort and resources are required to collect and store data, infer insights, protect it, buy third-party data, and keep it all current, Caden is creating a platform solution that allows many companies to tap into without doing it themselves. Beyond the first phase, I’m confident that Caden can also go beyond consumer companies,” Yang wrote.

Caden isn’t the first company to make a foray into this space. Datacoup tried it back in 2012 with its platform that allowed users to sell their data directly to companies, and ended up shutting down in 2019 because users were only making paltry sums of money. Consumer data is difficult to value, and companies are incentivized to find ways to pay as little as possible for it.

Roa believes Caden will be able to surmount these challenges by providing a superior user experience.

While brands are not generally eager to give users their data back, Roa said, “now, they legally have to, but they don’t have to make it easy.”

“What Caden and others are doing is devising ways to make that a much more streamlined process that is completely user-driven, so we don’t actually need the third-party companies to elicit that action back,” he added.

He also wants to unlock intangible value for consumers through better brand experiences, not just direct payments.

“If by using Caden your life just becomes a little more enjoyable, things are catered to you, and you’re being spoken to — it’s those value points that we’re focused on. And this is where a lot of our contemporaries have struggled,” Roa said.

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Airtable chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are out • TechCrunch

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As part of Airtable’s decision to cut 20% of staff, or 254 employees, three executives are “parting ways” with the company as well, a spokesperson confirmed over email. The chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are no longer with the company.

Airtable’s chief revenue officer, Seth Shaw, joined in November 2020 just one month before Airtable’s chief producer officer Peter Deng came on board. Airtable’s chief people officer, Johanna Jackman, joined Airtable in May 2021 with an ambitious goal to double the company’s headcount to 1,000 in 12 months. The three executives are departing today as a mutual decision with Airtable, but will advise the company through the next phase of transition, the company says. All three executives were reached out to for further comment and this story will be updated with their responses if given.

An Airtable spokesperson declined to comment on if the executives were offered severance pay. The positions will be succeeded by internal employees, introduced at an all-hands meeting to be held this Friday.

Executive departures at this scale are rare, even if the overall company is going through a heavy round of cuts. But CEO and founder Howie Liu emphasized, in an email sent to staff but seen by TechCrunch, that the decision – Airtable’s first-ever lay off in its decade-long history – was made following Airtable’s choice to pivot to a more “narrowly focused mode of execution.”

In the email, Liu described Airtable’s goal – first unveiled in October – to capture enterprise clients with connected apps. Now, instead of the bottom-up adoption that first fueled Airtable’s rise, the company wants to be more focused in this new direction. Liu’s e-mail indicates that the startup will devote a majority of its resources toward “landing and expanding large enterprise companies with at least 1k FTEs – where our connected apps vision will deliver the most differentiated value.”

The lean mindset comes after Airtable reduced spend in marketing media, real estate, business technology and infrastructure, the e-mail indicates. “In trying to do too many things at once, we have grown our organization at a breakneck pace over the past few years. We will continue to emphasize growth, but do so by investing heavily in the levers that yield the highest growth relative to their cost,” Liu wrote.

Airtable seems to be emphasizing that its reduced spend doesn’t come with less ambition, or ability to execute. A spokesperson added over e-mail that all of Airtable’s funds from its $735 million Series F are “still intact.” They also said that the startup’s enterprise side, which makes up the majority of Airtable’s revenue, is growing more than 100% year over year; the product move today just doubles down on that exact cohort.

Current and former Airtable employees can reach out to Natasha Mascarenhas on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912. You can also DM her on Twitter, @nmasc_. 



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Kubernetes Gateway API reality check: Ingress controller is still needed

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No doubt the new Kubernetes excitement is the Gateway API. One of the more significant changes in the Kubernetes project, the Gateway API is sorely needed. More granular and robust control over Kubernetes service networking better addresses the growing number of use cases and roles within the cloud-native paradigm.

Shared architecture — at all scales — requires flexible, scalable and extensible means to manage, observe and secure that infrastructure. The Gateway API is designed for those tasks. Once fully matured, it will help developers, SREs, platform teams, architects and CTOs by making Kubernetes infrastructure tooling and governance more modular and less bespoke.

But let’s be sure the hype does not get ahead of today’s needs.

The past and future Kubernetes gateway API

There remains a gap between present and future states of Ingress control in Kubernetes. This has led to a common misconception that the Gateway API will replace the Kubernetes Ingress Controller (KIC) in the near term or make it less useful over the longer term. This view is incorrect for multiple reasons.

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Ingress controllers are now embedded in the functional architecture of most Kubernetes deployments. They have become de facto. At some point, the Gateway API will be sufficiently mature to replace all functionality of the Ingress API and even the implementation-specific annotations and custom resources that many of the Ingress implementations use, but that day remains far off.

Today, most IT organizations are still either in the early adoption or the testing stage with Kubernetes. For many, just getting comfortable with the new architecture, networking constructs, and application and service management requirements requires considerable internal education and digestion.

Gateway API and Ingress controllers are not mutually exclusive

As we’ve done at NGINX, other Ingress maintainers will presumably implement the Gateway API in their products to take advantage of the new functionality and stay current with the Kubernetes API and project. Just as RESTful APIs are useful for many tasks, the Kubernetes API underpins many products and services, all built on the foundation of its powerful container orchestration engine.

The Gateway API is designed to be a universal component layer for managing service connectivity and behaviors within Kubernetes. It is expressive and extensible, making it useful for many roles, from DevOps to security to NetOps.

As a team that has invested considerable resources into an open source Ingress controller, NGINX could have chosen to integrate the Gateway API into our existing work. Instead, we elected to leverage the Gateway API as a standalone, more open-ended project. We chose this path so as not to project the existing constraints of our Ingress controller implementation onto ways we might hope to use the Gateway API or NGINX in the future. With fewer constraints, it is easier to fail faster or to explore new designs and concepts. Like most cloud-native technology, the Gateway API construct is designed for loose coupling and modularity ­— even more so than the Ingress controller, in fact.

We are also hopeful that some of our new work around the Gateway API is taken back into the open-source community. We have been present in the Kubernetes community for quite some time and are increasing our open-source efforts around the Gateway API.

It could be interpreted that the evolving API provides an invaluable insertion point and opportunity for a “do-over” on service networking. But that does not mean that everyone is quick to toss out years of investment in other projects. Ingress will continue to be important as Gateway API matures and develops, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

Plan for a hybrid future

Does it sound like we think the Kubernetes world should have its Gateway API cake and eat its Ingress controller too? Well, we do. Guilty as charged. Bottom line: We believe Kubernetes is a big tent with plenty of room for both new constructs and older categories. Improving on existing Ingress controllers —which were tethered to a limited annotation capability that induced complexity and reduced modularity — remains critical for organizations for the foreseeable future.

Yes, the Gateway API will help us improve Ingress controllers and unleash innovation, but it’s an API, not a product category. This new API is not a magic wand nor a silver bullet. Smart teams are planning for this hybrid future, learning about the improvements the Gateway API will bring while continuing to plan around ongoing Ingress controller improvement. The beauty of this hybrid reality is that everyone can run clusters in the way they know and desire. Every team gets what they want and need.

Brian Ehlert is director of product management at NGINX.

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4 Ways to Use Social Media for Market Research

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Social media has undoubtedly changed the way brands think about digital marketing. Just a few years ago, networks like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn only played a small part in global marketing strategies. But as their user numbers have grown, so has their importance for digital marketing. Today, social media channels offer digital marketers excellent market research opportunities.

How market research sets brands apart

Market research has always been an integral part of building a brand. Conducting market research means gathering information and learning more about your target market, establishing potential customer personas, and evaluating how successful your product could be.

Market research also helps quantify product-market fit. Once your product or service has been launched, research allows brand teams to check whether customers receive the messages they want to communicate.

With a company’s marketing goals, market research forms the foundation of successful brand marketing strategies. In short, it is hard to overstate the importance of market research. Still, there are drawbacks. Traditional market research techniques, such as interviews and focus groups, can be time-consuming. These tools can also be tough on resources if the research is done thoroughly, forcing some brands to launch a marketing strategy built on hunches rather than data. Others limit the scope of their study in the hope that findings may still be valid. Both of these options are putting brands at risk.

Related: The 7 Secrets of Truly Successful Personal Brands

Social media lifts market research limitations

Social media platforms have all the tools necessary to provide brands with answers to market research questions. Social media can offer insights into branding, content messaging and creative design, as well as improve awareness of competitor activity and industry trends.

Much of this is made possible by the sheer number of potential customers brands can access via social media. Facebook alone has nearly three billion active users every month, which has been growing for nearly a decade. Instagram continues to gain ground, with currently around two billion active users.

Social media usage figures are projected to grow for at least the next few years. More than 4.26 billion people spent time on social media in 2021. Statisticians believe that figure will rise to nearly six billion within five years.

But social media can do more than provide user numbers. The companies behind Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok know a great amount of information about their users, starting with demographics and including lifestyle preferences. These insights enable brands to access the right audience faster than ever before and at lower costs.

Related: In a Crowded Field of Emerging Franchises, Only the Strongest Brands Thrive

How to use social media for market research

Social media channels allow brands to access several layers of information about their industry, the brand itself, competitors, messaging and creative design.

1. Industry insights

Using social media channels is an efficient way to assess industry trends in real-time. Channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram make it easy to spot and isolate leading trends and changes in those trends. A few years ago, images captured consumer attention. More recently, however, video-based channels like TikTok have cemented the importance of video as a tool to connect with customers. Of course, brand teams can choose to ignore certain trends, but it is still important to understand the drivers behind the industry.

In this context, industry drivers are not only topics or tools. Social media has created a relatively new digital marketing phenomenon — working with influencers. Identifying and working with the right influencers can be a critical driver of business growth.

Before the advent of social media channels, gathering similar information required more time and in-depth analysis simply because the information was not as easily accessible.

2. Competitor research

Social media has made it easier to conduct competitor research. Companies from virtually every industry sector have started embracing social media channels to connect with customers and partners. As a result, it is far easier to understand your competitors’ marketing strategies and analyze which marketing tactics and channels work best for them.

Following a competitor’s social media channels helps brands understand what audiences engage with and which content they ignore. Brand teams gain a deeper insight into the mindset of their competitors’ clients. Following these channels regularly allows you to clearly understand your competitors, their audiences, and their marketing approach.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Competitive Research for Small Businesses

3. Brand positioning

Are your target audiences perceiving your brand the way you would like to be perceived? Monitoring social media allows your marketing team to answer this question quickly. Hashtags and search functions make it easy to assess how a brand is being discussed without any delay associated with traditional market research methods.

As a result of gaining instant insights, your team can adjust and correct its brand messaging quicker than ever.

4. Content messaging and design

A traditional approach to determining advertising messages might involve A/B testing, among other methods. While these types of market research are important for developing successful (traditional) advertising campaigns, they can be expensive and delay the campaign.

Social media channels allow brands to test their content messaging and design directly with minimal costs. Through likes and comments, brands gain instant customer feedback. Throughout a few posts, it will become clear whether customers are more likely to engage with images, videos or webinars, for example.

If a brand uses social media to generate sales, conversion figures will quickly deliver more tangible insights than A/B testing can. Those insights can immediately be applied to the advertising content, allowing brands to conduct market research and put their findings into practice simultaneously.

Using social media channels for market research lets brands learn about industry trends and competitor activity in real-time. Brand teams can also assess brand perception, messaging and content design without delay, optimizing market research results and overall campaign performance.

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