How to gain consumer trust for your ICO launch in 2018

Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) offer an attractive, alternative form of fundraising, harnessing cyber currencies instead of approaching banks and VCs. 2017 saw more than 200 ICOs raise a combined total of over $3 billion as early-stage startups, and investors have jumped in with two feet. However, while the prospect of raising money without having to sign your life away to bankers, or enter the VC ‘shark tank’ may make early stage startups’ mouths water, companies raising through ICOs still have to convince individuals to invest in their projects. And with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) having charged a number of…

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Why has Nintendo ignored India for 30 years?

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are of endless battles and co-operative crusades in a range of 8-bit video games with my older brother and our neighbors. In the small apartment complex we lived in in Bangalore, India, there was a buzz across the halls when the kids learned that someone had got hold of a new game. You’d have to beg and plead for a chance to borrow the cartridge so you could play it at home, or ask to be invited over so you could get a chance to try it at their place. We were…

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The ultimate guide to customizing the ultimate Android home screen

One of the best things about Android is how flexible its interface is: customizing your home screen to suit your usage habits and preferences only takes a few taps, and the possibilities are endless. Here are just a few choice examples of custom home screens from the Android theming community on Reddit: How are these setups created? It’s usually a combination of carefully paired elements, and most of them are easily available from Google Play. Let’s look at all the things you can do to pretty up your Android interface with little to no effort. Wallpapers You probably knew this…

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10 logo design trends that will dominate 2018

The logo design industry is changing at a lightning-fast speed. What was trendy five years ago may not even ring a bell today. As methods of attracting customers become more effective, logo design must keep up the pace. New ideas develop so fast, designers have a hard time following them. Fortunately, experts are committed to studying short-lived trends and forecasting where the logo design industry is heading. With the help of my team, I’ve put together a list of 10 trends that will dominate 2018. Form simplification This trend is all about stripping your design to the basics and making…

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Analysis: Education technology startup funding rebounds, but what is ‘edtech’?

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Education technology is heating up again. Yet edtech’s most fervent promoters may be masking the industry’s breadth by lumping everything digital under the monolithic label “edtech.”

Part of edtech’s bubble burst in 2016. After climbing to a widely heralded peak in 2015, venture investment in U.S. K-20 edtech startups (spanning kindergarten through college) collapsed by roughly a third the following year, from $1.4 billion to about $1 billion.

U.S. K-20 edtech funding peaked in 2015, but deal volume peaked in 2013. (Image: EdSurge)

But a solid, detailed analysis of 2017 full-year funding by the edtech resource site EdSurge has 2017 showing a recovery in total dollars (in line with earlier mid-year projections from CB Insights and Pitchbook that used varying definitions). In EdSurge’s calculation, that total is now up to $1.2 billion. However, the “recovery” may be sitting a bit too comfortably on its asterisks to be a full-fledged turnaround. The caveats:

  • Fewer deals. The total number of edtech startup funding deals peaked in 2013 and has held steady or decreased every year since then — even with 2017’s bump in dollar volume. That peak was around 230. It’s now at 126. It doesn’t take an A student to realize that the one-year increase in cash is now going to fewer startups.
  • Later deals. Early stage investment is cratering, and not just in edtech. There were signs of this a couple of years ago at edtech industry conferences when investor panels started to talk about the importance of revenue and profitability instead of a cool demo and free user growth. EdSurge’s analysis shows U.S. K-20 angel and seed-stage deals dropped from a high of 133 in 2013 to just 56 deals in 2017.
  • Whale deals. So who’s getting the extra 2017 money? Already-big edtech startups. Perhaps think of them less as unicorns (after all, unicorns are fantasy, and this is education) and more as STEM-friendly gas giants with huge gravitational pull. Three startups — EverFi, Hero K12 and Grammarly — account for $450 million of that $1.2 billion invested, or more than one-third.

So 2017’s dollar figures could be the start of an edtech recovery, or just a dead cat bounce. But isn’t a win a win? As educational television pioneer Sesame Street might opine, some of these things are not like the others.

Over time, the definition of “education technology” has, like curly red hair on a humid day, expanded to fill all available space. Two-and-a-half decades ago, when the internet was still young, major edtech conferences like NECC (the National Educational Computing Conference, later re-named ISTE) focused as much on computer hardware and Ethernet cables as they did on standalone educational software, like Carmen Sandiego or Knowledge Adventure. There were high-profile events like NetDay which had, as their entire volunteer-driven purpose, to simply wire classrooms to networks.

Back then, “edtech” was synonymous with the personal computer, floppy disks, and CD-ROM. This was before the mass digitization of content — that is, textbooks — into courseware, the easy automation of classroom and school office operations and administrative functions (think grade books), and the shift of everything digital to the web and cloud.

EdSurge, like many market researchers, sets its own startup company categories. (Image: EdSurge)

So today, you have at least three overarching, sometimes overlapping, categories of “edtech:” digital curriculum (the digital instructional content and platforms that teachers and students see, from textbooks to test prep), administrative software (back-office as well as teacher classroom management tools), and computer/network hardware (yup, that’s still a thing). Not everyone agrees on the names of these buckets or what goes into them.

This is definitely not last generation’s “edtech.”

It’s also worth an aside to point out that not all three categories and their reach are accurately captured by a focus on hot startups and their funding. Tech giants with edtech-specific offerings like Google (G Suite for Education) and Microsoft (Office 365 Education) are major forces in software used by schools and colleges. Hardware (like Chromebooks) tends to be tracked by others.

Hardware & OS school sales are tracked by other firms, like Futuresource. (Image: Futuresource)

To complicate categorization more, K-12 doesn’t operate the same way as post-secondary, though it’s often lumped together under K-20 in many analyses for the sake of convenience and the aspirations of companies covered.

Without going into painful detail, just think about the question, “Who purchases the textbooks in schools versus colleges?” Then you’ll have an inkling of the inherent differences in creating and selling digital products in both types of institutions. There are also edtech markets for corporate training, adult/lifelong learning, and parenting young kids, each with its own unique wrinkles.

It’s not only industry observers like me, who have worked with edtech companies since before the turn of the century, that lament this admittedly convenient shorthand, which is widely used by startups, investors, and the news media. It’s the educators themselves.

Recently, over coffee, the chief technology officer of a large school district in a nerd hub told me he was tired of being vaguely told there was a new edtech report he had to read, or a new edtech product he had to see, because the more appropriate staffer to see it might be the person responsible for curriculum instead of infrastructure. The recommendation always led to the follow-up question of what type of edtech was involved to determine if it was worth his effort.

And that’s why trumpeting an “edtech” rebound rapidly becomes a diffuse sound. Because not all of edtech is rebounding equally, nor represented in the same funding reports. In EdSurge’s analysis, the top dollar winner in 2017 is the digital curriculum category, and the biggest deal of 2017 falls neatly into it: EverFi, which raised $190 million, is known for online instructional courses on financial and career education.

EverFi scored the largest edtech funding deal in 2017, $190 million. (Image: EverFi)

So when you think of “edtech” while reviewing numbers in reports, think broadly. In a perfect world, better definition might save everyone — from schools to startups — wasted time and incoherent exchanges. Perhaps the solution is to use a more consistently descriptive triumvirate of, for example, digital curriculum, administrative tools, and edtech hardware.

But we don’t live in that perfect world. Because no startup wants to pitch a business plan that promises that it just has to capture X% of a smaller category to succeed, when it can claim a potential piece of a much larger — yet much harder to define, and be held accountable for — “edtech” product and services market.

Ultimately, it seems, the edtech industry is rapidly becoming more synonymous with simply “education.”

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Watch workers scale the Space Needle, transform Seattle landmark for New Year’s fireworks show

Worker installs fireworks on the 100′ SkyLine level of Seattle’s Space Needle for the New Year’s fireworks show. (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)

Pyrotechnic workers dangling from harnesses are busy scaling Seattle’s Space Needle this weekend to install thousands of fireworks that will launch from the 605 foot structure to ring in the New Year on Sunday night. An estimated 20,000 spectators will be at the Space Needle, with as many as 400,000 expected to watch the show from surrounding neighborhoods.

GeekWire caught up with Ian Gilfillan, executive vice president of Pyro Spectaculars, Inc. to get a glimpse of the preparation and technology behind the show. “We have almost 2000 firing commands, and on each of those firing commands, is anywhere from one to as many as 100 items,” said Gilfillan.

There are two computers that fire the show from locations on the Space Needle, both listening to a broadcast timecode to keep the fireworks in sync with the musical soundtrack. According to Gilfillan, this year’s music is being curated by KEXP with tributes to artists that have passed away this year.

Fireworks shells lined up for installation on the Space Needle (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)

Although the Space Needle is undergoing a major renovation project, the New Year’s fireworks show will remain largely unchanged. “The show will look very much like it always has been. It’s the same size, same length, same number of shots, that sort of thing ” said Gilfillan. “One area, the halo, that we’ve been able to utilize in the past, we can’t utilize this year, simply because construction is going on and there is a tarp hung around the top of the Space Needle.”

New Year’s fireworks on the Space Needle with the Gates Foundation building and South Lake Union in the background. (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)
Worker ties fireworks boxes together to keep them from moving or falling off the Space Needle’s roof. (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)
Worker installs fireworks on the 100′ SkyLine level of Seattle’s Space Needle for the New Year’s fireworks show. (GeekWire Photo/Kevin Lisota)

The forecast looks dry for the fireworks show on Sunday night, though a bit on the cold side, so bundle up. Based on our experience last year, New Year’s revelers should position themselves upwind to have a better view away from the fireworks smoke.

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Broken promises and unfulfilled dreams: The biggest tech flops of 2017

Snap Spectacles
Snap fans pose with their Spectacles when the Snapbot rolled into Seattle last February. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Technology has its ups and downs. Sometimes new gadgets and tech devices are revolutionary and change the way we live. But sometimes, they just plain flop.

That was the case for two of the gadgets we covered on Geared Up this year, our weekly gadget show. As we counted down the best tech of 2017 for our final episode of the year, we thought it was only fitting to give a shout-out to some of the worst tech of the year as well.

Listen to our conversation about the flops in the player above, starting at the 20 minute mark.

First up: The Essential Phone. This smartphone was billed as a stripped-down, high-quality alternative to the iPhone and other flagship phones. It comes from Android creator Andy Rubin. The hype around it when it was announced in May was huge.

But the phone suffered several setbacks, most of them stemming straight from Essential’s handling of the launch. There was repeated confusion for those who pre-ordered the device about when it would be shipped, and even when consumers got the device, there were some obvious problems in the features Essential had promised.

The Essential Phone, a product of Android creator Andy Rubin, was promoted as a premium, stripped-down smartphone alternative. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

We followed up with one Seattle techie, Aaron Bird, who decided to sell his Essential phone on Ebay after preordering it with high expectations. Although he liked the hardware, the software just wasn’t up to par, he said.

All in all, the Essential Phone fell far below expectations and didn’t find the kind of market success its creators hoped for. Just in the past few months, the phone’s price has been dropped twice as the company tries to spur sales.

GeekWire reporter Kurt Schlosser braved the Seattle rain to snag a pair of Snap Spectacles. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Our second flop of the year: Snap Spectacles. These flashy accessories have a built-in camera that lets wearers send photos and video via Snapchat. It’s the first piece of hardware from Snapchat parent company Snap Inc., which has been working to brand itself as a camera company.

Needless to say, the Specs didn’t particularly impress. One setback was their quirky launch: The high-tech glasses were only available through vending machines, one in New York and another that popped up for short amounts of time in cities around the country, including Seattle.

Another limiter was the device’s tie-in to Snapchat. In the past year, Instagram has been rivaling Snapchat with features that mimic the popular photo-sharing app. The specs being tied so closely to one service makes them less interesting to the average person.

Snap finally started selling the Spectacles on Amazon months after they launched, but by that point, it was too little too late: The Information reported in October that the company is sitting on hundreds of thousands of unsold units.

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Year in space: Look back at 2017’s black sun … look forward to 2018’s bright moon

Eclipse Seattle
Eclipse watchers turned Aug. 21’s event into a party at Kerry Park in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The first total solar eclipse to go across America from coast to coast in 99 years has to rank as the top space story of 2017. But where do you go from there?

Would you believe the moon?

The moon was a supporting player in this year’s brush with totality. After all, you can’t have a solar eclipse unless the new moon gets in the way. And it certainly held center stage for a phenomenon witnessed by an estimated 215 million. That’s a bigger audience than the Super Bowl gets on TV.

But in 2018, the moon really gets its day in the sun, figuratively speaking. It starts next month with a New Year’s Day supermoon, followed by a total lunar eclipse on Jan. 31.

We lay out other reasons to moon over the moon in our annual roundup of the five top space stories from the year that’s ending, plus five trends to watch in the year ahead:

Five space stories from 2017

All-American eclipse: We covered the Aug. 21 solar eclipse from Oregon and Idaho, but the event’s effect was felt far beyond the narrow track of totality: On the bright side, Seattleites could enjoy a 92 percent eclipse. On the not-so-bright side, there was the controversy over subpar solar specs, a bad example at the White House, and scattered reports of eye injuries. It’s a good reminder to get your certified eclipse-viewing glasses well in advance of the next American solar eclipse in 2024.

Rise of rocket reusability: SpaceX had an incredibly successful year, starting with its return to flight in January and hitting its peak this month with the launch of a refurbished Falcon 9 booster plus a refurbished Dragon cargo capsule. “Flight-proven” hardware used to be the exception in the launch industry, but SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk wants to make it the rule. So does Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos: This month, his Blue Origin space venture successfully launched and landed its fully reusable New Shepard suborbital spaceship.

Saturnian sayonara to Cassini mission: Twenty years after its launch, NASA’s Cassini orbiter finally plunged to its fiery end in Saturn’s clouds. The magnificent mission documented how shepherd moons keep Saturn’s rings in line, revealed the hydrocarbon seas beneath Titan’s smoggy atmosphere, and charted the icy geysers of Enceladus. So what’s next? NASA is thinking about sending a drone to Titan, and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner is willing to chip in for a follow-up mission to Enceladus.

Superwoman in space: Last year, Scott Kelly was NASA’s space star by virtue of his nearly yearlong stint on the International Space Station. This year, Peggy Whitson won the spotlight for records including oldest woman in space (age 57), NASA astronaut with the most cumulative time in space (665 days) and most experienced female spacewalker (53 hours, 22 minutes).

To the moon! The Trump administration officially turned space policy away from sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid and toward putting astronauts on the moon, as a prelude to Mars missions. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin venture proposed a lunar delivery system called “Blue Moon,” while SpaceX’s Elon Musk adapted his company’s exploration vision to provide for trips to the moon as well as to Mars.

Five space trends for 2018

Best shots for moonshots: Several teams have until March 31 to send commercial landers to the lunar surface and win $20 million in the Google Lunar X Prize competition. Among the favorites: Moon Express, which has Seattle-area entrepreneur Naveen Jain as its co-founder and executive chairman. It remains to be seen how NASA will follow through on the Trump White House’s lunar ambitions, but China is already planning to send a lander and rover to the far side of the moon by the end of 2018.

Commercial rides to space: If everyone’s schedule holds true, there’ll be four U.S.-built rocket ships capable of carrying people into outer space by the end of 2018: SpaceX’s crew-capable Dragon capsule, Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 space taxi, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane and Blue Origin’s New Shepard craft. SpaceX and Boeing are heading to orbit and the space station for NASA, while Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are targeting suborbital space tourists and researchers.

The SpaceX frontier: Crew Dragon isn’t SpaceX’s only big project for 2018. The company is gearing up for the maiden launch of its big Falcon Heavy rocket, with Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster packed on board for a trip that could take it as far as Martian orbit. SpaceX is also due to start putting its Starlink telecommunications satellites in orbit, and flesh out its plans for building the monster BFR rocket.

Rendezvous with an asteroid: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx robotic probe is scheduled to approach a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu in August for a survey, in preparation for collecting a sample and delivering it back to Earth in 2023.

Mars InSight takes off: After a two-year delay that was due to an instrument glitch, NASA’s next Red Planet mission is scheduled for launch in May. The InSight lander will touch down in Elysium Planitia in November and study the interior and subsurface of Mars, using a sensitive seismometer and an underground heat probe.

If everything works out the way it’s planned, there’ll be plenty to talk about by this time next year, when we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 moon-circling mission and looking forward to the Apollo 11 festivities (which will include a big exhibit at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center).

Check back next year to see how many of these trends pay off, just as you can trace the record for the past 16 “Year in Space” assessments:

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The Cloud in 2017: Amazon Web Services shows no signs of slowing during the year of Kubernetes

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, addresses the crowd at AWS re:Invent 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

2017 was an interesting year the cloud, one that saw both the continued power of Amazon Web Services over the industry and the success of an open-source community project that forced the market leader to follow the herd.

It’s been clear for some time that cloud computing is past the evangelical stage. Once distrusted by anyone other than startups, who didn’t have the budget to go in a different direction, cloud computing strategies are now a requirement for just about every CIO at a large or medium-size company.

This trend rewarded the existing players handsomely in 2017. The entire market is expected to grow 38 percent in 2017, according to IDC, led by Amazon Web Services and its $18 billion cloud infrastructure revenue run-rate. Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, Alibaba, and a host of others are further behind, but Microsoft and Google are growing at nearly a 100 percent clip as businesses new and old embrace the cloud.

AWS continued to dominate cloud computing in 2017, as it has since it launched its first service more than a decade ago. Despite rapid growth by Microsoft and Google, Amazon’s market share doesn’t seem to have suffered, and it will end the year where it began; as the first name on the list of anyone considering a public cloud infrastructure strategy.

There’s still lots of room for everyone to grow. Cloud holdouts are starting to sign deals with more regularity, perhaps encouraged by the rollout of the first broad-based ad campaign launched by AWS in hopes of getting conservative CIOs on board with the cloud. And the competition amongst cloud vendors to introduce new services for existing customers helps increase the amount of activity on their platforms, which translates to dollars.

Yet the most prominent development of 2017 — the embrace of Kubernetes as a de facto standard for container management — points toward a future in which cloud customers hedge their bets across multiple vendors.

Getting the containers to dance

It was definitely quite the year for the backers of Kubernetes, which the industry appears to have settled on as the go-to method for managing container deployments. Containers allow software organizations to deploy their applications across multiple servers with far less overhead than virtual machines, and they have exploded in popularity as a deployment method for new cloud-native applications.

Craig McLuckie, CEO of Heptio and Kubernetes co-creator, discusses Kubernetes at KubeCon 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

Kubernetes allows operations teams to schedule and deploy those containers in clusters, managing demand and keeping everything more or less under control. Yet Kubernetes comes with quite a learning curve, and 2017 saw Microsoft and AWS roll out managed Kubernetes services to help their customers get on board. (Google, where Kubernetes was originally developed, has offered such a service for several years.)

Thanks to the popularity of Kubernetes, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation managed to turn itself into an industry sounding board for emerging cloud-native practices. The CNCF shies away from using the term “standard,” but it was notable that a collection of open-source projects launched by Google, IBM, and Red Hat just two years ago has gained enough traction to force Microsoft and AWS to join the parade.

As the year of the container orchestration ends, however, it’s not at all clear what is going on at container pioneer Docker. The company responsible for ushering in the container revolution has been very quiet since it named enterprise software veteran Steve Singh as CEO in May.

Docker’s window of opportunity to cash in on containers might have slipped away, with the popularity of Kubernetes and the success of larger companies like Red Hat building products around Docker. And when you’ve raised as much money as Docker has, that might be a problem. The company appears to be preparing a new marketing strategy geared around enterprise support services, but 2018 could be a make-or-break year for Docker.

Meet the new boss

Despite the relatively early days of the cloud, 2017 definitely marked a year in which customers and competitors grew more wary of the power of AWS, which probably helped drive interest in Kubernetes as a tool for moving workloads between multiple public and private clouds.

(GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

One of the most interesting trends of the year was the newfound reluctance of AWS customers in the retail industry to fund the parent company that is stomping all over their core businesses. It’s hard to know how widespread this actually is, but when Walmart, Target, and Kroger are actively courting rival clouds because of concern about competition from Amazon, other companies in Amazon’s crosshairs will take notice.

It’s not at all surprising that AWS competitors would bristle at its size and reach, but the rhetoric gets a little hotter every year. CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi invoked a dirty word in enterprise computing — “proprietary” — in describing how AWS wants to entice current customers stay in its cloud with arrays of compelling services that need a lot of special custom work to use. He promised that the open-source community would find ways to get around the power of AWS.

Kubernetes is one of those tools. Despite the fact Kubernetes was conceived at Google, Microsoft made arguably the strongest moves around Kubernetes late-comers in 2017, snapping up Gabe Monroy’s Deis startup and pairing him with Kubernetes co-creator Brendan Burns to shape Microsoft’s container strategy. The company also hired several prominent open-source cloud developer advocates in 2017 to help people looking for open-source cloud tools find their way.

Emerging events

The rise of serverless computing, which is exciting because it allows developers to truly forget about the hardware beneath their apps and write code based around events and triggers, threatens to solve some existing computing problems by increasing one’s dependency on a single cloud vendor. It was still a little too early in 2017 to understand how this movement will affect the cloud, but AWS and Microsoft are investing a lot of time and money into building services around serverless computing.

Edge computing will allow expensive manufacturing devices to process more data analysis directly on the machine. (Wikimedia Photo / CC 3.0)

And in the grand back-and-forth over the years between centralized computing and de-centralized computing, we started to see some movement away from the centralization of the cloud to edge computing. Edge computing, or the move to put more processing power on connected devices in industrial settings, is a reflection of the arrival of the industrial internet of things and the fact that latency between an edge device and a central data center can cause problems for real-time applications.

What to expect

What’s to come in 2018? More of the same from the Big Three, for sure. Large multinational corporations looking to dump aging data centers will sign multiyear deals with their “preferred cloud providers,” and competition for cloud engineers in Seattle will become even more intense as Google expands its presence in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, a short walk from Amazon.

Legacy enterprise IT vendors like IBM, Cisco, Oracle, Dell Technologies, and HPE will continue to shuffle along, nursing older businesses along in hopes of finding a breakthrough product for the cloud era. One of them will score a very interesting and unexpected customer, and one of them will be on the rocks by the end of the year.

And the second annual GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, scheduled for June 13 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Wash., will be a must-attend event for anyone interested in cloud computing. We’re excited about building on the clear demand we saw last year for a vendor-agnostic cloud conference, and stay tuned for more details about this year’s version in early 2018.

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