U.S. Asks If Comcast, Time Warner Cable Restricted Video Deals (Bloomberg)

The net neutrality rules might not be available for weeks. That's ridiculous. (Vox)

Comcast In Talks To Acquire Ad Technology Firm Visible World (Wall Street Journal)

Apple-IBM partnership is more than a simple hardware distribution deal (Silicon Angle)
IBM Fiberlink's MaaS360 MDM big part of initial offering.

Links 2/27: Mobile now represents 55% of MeetMe revenue; HIT Application Solutions Becomes Notifi Health

Philadelphia-based ERT to Acquire PHT Corporation (PR Newswire)

O'Rielly: I'm Not Holding Up Title II Order Release (Multichannel News)

Comcast Ventures Brings ‘Catalyst’ Fund to Bay Area (Multichannel News)

Wolff: It's not really net neutrality (USA Today)

Comcast Mulls Purchase of Ad-Tech Firm Visible World – Report (Variety)

MeetMe Reports Full Year and Fourth Quarter 2014 Financial Results (Business Wire)
Revenue was up 11% for year, with mobile now representing 55% of revenue.

HIT Application Solutions Becomes Notifi Health (Business Wire)

Verizon brings small cells indoors using these cute little dots (Gigaom)

In restructuring, Heartland Payment slashes most of Cambridge-based Leaf team (BetaBoston)

Links 2/26: F.C.C. classifies broadband internet service as a public utility under Title ll

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In Net Neutrality Victory, F.C.C. Classifies Broadband Internet Service as a Public Utility (New York Times)

Verizon and AT&T slam FCC Net Neutrality ruling (VentureBeat)

(Comcast Voices / Comcast corporate blog)
"After today, the only 'certainty' in the Open Internet space is that we all face inevitable litigation and years of regulatory uncertainty challenging an Order that puts in place rules that most of us agree with. We believe that the best way to avoid this would be for Congress to act. We are confident this can be done in a bi-partisan manner with a consensus approach that accomplishes the common goals of stakeholders on all sides of the open Internet debate without the unnecessary focus on legal jurisdiction and the unnecessary regulatory overhang from 80 year-old language and provisions that were never intended to be applied to the Internet."
-David Cohen, EVP, Comcast.

FCC votes yes on net neutrality in partisan spectacle (Gigaom)

House Republicans Threaten To Curb The FCC’s “Ability To Regulate The Internet” (TechCrunch)

Net neutrality: Five things to watch for as the FCC votes (LA Times)

EPAM Systems, Inc. Reports Results for Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2014 (via Yahoo Finance)

Big media should want a piece of baseball’s best business (Quartz)

Salesforce Service Cloud, Analytics Cloud Power Fast Growth (Information Week)

IBM targets $40 billion in cloud, other growth areas by 2018 (Reuters)

TiVo buys Aereo name, auction fetches under $2M

Penn Trustees Approve Design for Pennovation Center at Pennovation Works Site (Penn News)

New Version of Epicor Prophet 21 Wholesale Distribution ERP Delivers Productivity and Efficiency Gains
Epicor releases update of legacy product Prophet 21, which dates back to the Yardley company of the same name.

Links 2/25: Salesforce, Workday beat expectations; Qlik in Gartner's BI leaders quadrant

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Gartner BI Magic Quadrant 2015 Spots Market Turmoil (Information Week)

Qlik Positioned in the Leaders Quadrant of Gartner’s Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms Magic Quadrant for Fifth Consecutive Year (Business Wire)

Salesforce Revenue Outlook Tops Estimates on Enterprise Push (Bloomberg)

Workday satisfies Q4 expectations; outlook strong (ZDNet)

Sub Losses Drive Cash Flow Declines at Cablevision (Multichannel News)

HP in Talks to Buy Aruba Networks for Wi-Fi Infrastructure (Bloomberg)

Quattro agency picks up Fwd Direct
(Philly Deals)

Comcast being pressured by four key issues; One of them, Title ll vote by FCC scheduled for tomorrow

Tom Paine

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Brian Williams  in 2011 / Wikipedia

Comcast is facing pressure on several fronts. This does not necessarily constitute a crisis for the company's core businesses, which will probably continue on just fine (see yesterday's earning release). But it may raise the issue of whether its management is overstretched, and has failed to anticipate likely problems resulting from its policies.

The four key issues are:

  • The crisis at NBC News
  • The FCC's planned imposition of Title ll regulations on broadband providers
  • The increasingly problematical outlook for getting the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger approved
  • Its customer service "nightmare" stories

These are to some extent interrelated. Perhaps they are the inevitable results of the company's push to firmly establish itself as a nationwide giant.

The six-month suspension without pay of Brian Williams (and scrubbing his memory from NBC websites) was a stunning move, but one that seemed necessary because of his tendency to occasionally create tall tales out of his experiences. It was a particularly sensitive issue given the credibility entrusted to the role of a network news anchor and the extent to which that person represents the entire network. No one knows if Williams will eventually be reinstated or will return in an alternative role. But it hasn't been the only troublesome issue at NBC News, about which Brian Roberts said at the time the NBCU acquisition closed in 2011:

“I will tell you my view on news, it is the crown jewel of Comcast. It may not be the biggest part of the new company, but it is a huge responsibility and an opportunity and I take it quite seriously. All parts of NBC News and MSNBC.”

David Gregory was pushed out as host of 'Meet the Press' last summer after a long struggle, to be replaced by Chuck Todd. There was also the case of Ann Curry leaving the 'Today Show' (supposedly because of Matt Lauer) in 2012, and the short-lived tenure of Jamie Horowitz, who joined 'Today' from ESPN in September of last year as the show's senior vice president and general manager and was gone three month later.

Some outside observers point a figure at Pat Fili-Krushel, the chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, an ally of NBCU CEO Steve Burke who had worked with her at ABC. When Comcast took control of NBC and NBC News, it was implied that one of its goals was to temper a culture driven by the huge, combative egos who dominated fiefdoms within the organization. Whether Comcast has been successful in that effort is uncertain. Also, there is a question as to whether NBCU should have picked up or acted on Williams' quirks earlier.

The FCC is expected to vote Thursday on net neutrality regulations, and its Democratic majority (of 3 to 2) is expected to approve Commission chair Tom Wheeler's proposal to reclassify broadband as a so-called Title II telecommunications service under the 1934 Communications Act, in the ancient manner that POTS (plain old telephone service) of the old Bell System network was regulated. President Obama endorsed a Title ll approach in November.

Actually, there are varying definitions of "net neutrality", and the politicization of the issue has led to greater obfuscation, rather than increased clarity, over its meaning. It is unlikely that any impact will be felt for some time, and indeed Title ll powers might be used only as an implicit threat rather than as actual policy. Its also certain to face long legal challenges, and the FCC doesn't have a great record of having its rulings upheld in the courts.

In yesterday morning's conference call, CEO Brian Roberts commented: "We think the Title II regulation is antiquated and has real downsides so our attention just like everyone else is on the actual text to the order, the upcoming vote, the strength of forbearance and ultimately the commission’s focus on preservation of incentives for the private sector to continue to invest aggressively in broadband." Vice Chairman & CFO Michael Angelakis added, "the uncertainty that Title II may provide I think does provide us with the opportunity for a higher degree of scrutiny on capital and broadband. We really, as Brian said, need to look at the details but there will be some internal scrutiny here in terms of what our investment plans look like with broadband."

Some last minute drama: The Hill, citing FCC officials, reported that Mignon Clyburn, one of three Democrats on the FCC, has asked Chairman Tom Wheeler to roll back some of his provisions before the full commission votes on them, mostly points governing peering agreements.

My guess is that Comcast's merger plans pushed momentum for Title ll regulation forward. Of course, Comcast might have just wanted some clarity over the rules it was playing under before completing the acquisition.

Last week Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson Research, perhaps the most widely known analyst covering Comcast on Wall Street, cut his firm's probability of
the Time Warner Cable merger being approved from 70/30 to 60/40, after previously lowering it from 80/20. “If anyone doubts the hostility of the regulatory climate in Washington now, imagine how clear it would be on the morning after a rejection. These risks must at least be acknowledged,” Moffett was quoted as saying by Variety. Others have given it lower probabilities.

The New York Times DealBook column also came up with a 60% chance of approval based on an anlaysis of where the two companies' stocks were trading relative to Comcast's offering price and TWC's price at the time of the offer.

Comcast reiterated yesterday that it remains confident that the deal will be completed in early 2015. The FCC, which has until March 30 to make a decision, is expected to turn its attention to the deal after Thursday's Title ll vote. The Department of Justice is also in the process of reviewing whether the deal would be anti-competitive.

If huge obstacles arise, Comcast could simply walk away (it does not have to pay a breakup fee to TWC) or perhaps cut the scope of the deal, something its already done by agreeing to spin off customers to a joint venture with Charter. Comcast may also have to agree not to legally challenge some regulatory conditions.

Comcast's much-publicized customer service gaffes could possibly derail the deal, some analysts say. “The customer service nightmares of the past 12 months certainly aren’t going to help,” Moffett told the Chicago Tribune.

Comcast has acknowledged and openly apologized for several of the incidents, though some may have received more publicity than usual because of the intense campaign against the merger. Roberts commented during yesterday's earnings call, "In short we want customer service to be our best product. We have not always lived up to that."

Links 2/24: Comcast drops more WiFi hints, broadband may soon outdraw video; Xero raises another $147 million

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Comcast’s Earnings Trail Estimates as Subscriber Increases Slow (Bloomberg)
Comcast Earnings Release

Comcast Drops More WiFi Strategy Hints (Multichannel News)

Comcast May Soon Have More Web Users Than Cable Subscribers (Bloomberg)

NBCUniversal sees growth in theme parks and movie studio (LA Times)

Xero raises $147m from US investors (New Zealand Herald)

Can Veeva Systems' Software Keep Luring Big Pharma? (Investor's Business Daily)

The Key to Facebook’s Productivity (Wall Street Journal)
Its custom software solutions?

Cap Gemini, Carlyle held talks to buy Computer Sciences - sources

SAP S/4HANA: What we must learn from SAP R/3: Part 2, Present & Future (John Appleby/SAP Community Network)

Salesforce, Workday Could Face Similar Challenges (Investor's Business Daily)

The inventor who may kill the power cord (USA Today)

Marc Lore’s E-Commerce startup Jet scores $140 million more led by Bain Capital

Esther Surden
Publisher & Editor, NJTechWeekly.com

Marc Lore / Jet.com
NJTechWeekly.com has been following Jet.com, the e-commerce startup founded by Marc Lore, of Diapers.com fame. Lore has been busy working towards a launch this spring.

On Feb. 11, he announced on his blog that the company (now in Montclair but soon in Hoboken) had secured an additional $140 million in funding.

 “This new round was led by Bain Capital Ventures, with additional participation from Accel Partners, Coatue, General Catalyst, Goldman Sachs, Google Ventures, MentorTech Ventures, NEA, Norwest Venture Partners, Silicon Valley Bank, Temasek, Thrive Capital and other strategic investors,” Lore wrote.

He said that the money will be used to help the company deliver on its promise of radical price innovation in e-commerce. “We believe that there is big opportunity to deliver meaningful value to mass consumers by optimizing the underlying economics of online shopping and unbundling the embedded retail costs that drive up price.”

Lore went on to explain more about his business model, which is a technology-enabled warehouse price club model. Speaking about the Costcos of the world, Lore said, “Leveraging a membership model, they found ways to take costs out of the system, including placing stores in less desired areas, selling a very limited assortment, focusing on bulk-buying, and leaving products on palettes. In doing so, they unlocked significant savings for members and transformed how people shop.”

Using technology, Lore said Jet will be able to “dynamically adjust prices in real time in response to the unique composition of a shopper’s basket, always maximizing for cost-savings.” Customers will be guided towards orders that are economically more efficient to fulfill.

Jet only profits from the annual membership fee, so the full benefit of that efficiency gets passed back to customers in the form of lower prices. “Best of all, customers save without having to sacrifice service or experience,” he continued.

Lore gave a few hints about how his retail partners will fit into the company. “We see the opportunity to leverage technology and bring price innovation to an unlimited product selection by working collaboratively with our retail partners. We don’t compete with our partners; rather, we empower them with pricing tools that enable them to set different rules based on their business goals and profit targets.”

Many “Jet Insider” customers received their accounts, along with their ranks and perks, via email this week. One such notification gave the customer six months of free membership and unlocked the ability to shop before the public launch. Insiders are being let in on a rolling basis starting in March, the email said.

Readers interested in why Jet is attracting so much money will want to read this interview on Re/Code by Jason DelRay who spoke with Bain Capital's Scott Friend. "Think of it as the team and the market opportunity it is going after," Friend said.

Speaking about the technology Friend said, "But what if you had a blank sheet of paper and could design a system for digital that operated more like real-time bidding for advertising? And, in doing so, build transparency into the market so consumers didn’t pay through the nose for inefficient shipping if they didn’t have to? That’s Marc’s dream."

He also noted that Jet's project requires a lot of capital to achieve its goals, since Jet will be setting up warehouses for consumable goods.

Esther Surden is Publisher and Editor of NJTechWeekly, and a contributor to Philly Tech News. This article originally appeared in NJTechWeekly, and is republished here with her permission.

Links 2/23: Malvern's Rajant expands markets for its private wireless network technology; Racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Comcast, Al Sharpton

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Comcast buys pricey Oscars ad in effort to win over regulators (New York Post)

$20 billion racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Comcast, Al Sharpton (Philly.com)

FCC's Pai, FEC's Goodman Blast Title II (Multichannel News)

Google warns FCC plan could help ISPs charge senders of Web traffic (Ars Technica)

Ergen to Lead Dish Again Armed With $50 Billion in Airwaves (Bloomberg)

RDK Management, LLC Announces Expansion of DVB Support for Global Operators (PR Newswire)


Google buys Softcard, teams up with carriers on mobile payments (Gigaom)

Rajant Expands Markets for Flagship Private Wireless Network Technology (Business Wire)

IBM brings BlueMix platform services in-house (PCWorld)

Facebook quietly built an in-house CRM to deal with advertisers (VentureBeat)

Gartner Advanced Analytics Quadrant 2015: Gainers, Losers (Information Week)

Epicor Acquires Industry Leading Shipping Solutions Business From Insite Software (Marketwire)

Philly Tech People News 2/22/2015: Changes at PJM, PhillyJUG, Publicis Healthcare; PeopleLinx adds new exec

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Former Richardson CEO David DiStefano Joins PeopleLinx Executive Team (PR Web)

DrugDev Signals Plans for Continued Global Expansion with Appointment of Chief Business Officer Nick Watling (DrugDev)

Publicis Healthcare names Alexandra von Plato Group President for North America (PR Newswire)

Archna Sahay is Philly’s new ‘Manager of Entrepreneurial Investment' (Technical.ly Philly)

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania elected the following new board members: Jason Armstrong, senior vice president of investor relations at Comcast Corp.; Ajay Raju, co-chairman and CEO of Dilworth Paxson; and Tucker Twitmyer, senior vice president of corporate development for Franklin Square.

Bankers out: More turnover at Janney (Philly.com: Philly Deals)

Obama names Clancy Secret Service director
Clancy, who has been serving as interim director, is a Philly native who returned to the USSS after a stint as Comcast's Director of Security.

Phillies Promote Michael Stiles To Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer (CBS Local)

PJM CEO Terry Boston To Retire At Year-End (PR Newswire)

Axalta Coating Systems Appoints Aaron Weis Vice President and Chief Information Officer (Business Wire)

Wall Street Journal's billion dollar startup club; no Philly companies, but several with connections here

Tom Paine

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The Wall Street Journal on Thursday published its list of so-called "unicorns", privately held startups that have established reported valuations of $1 billion or greater.

Seventy-three companies made the cut and the number of billion dollar startups has almost doubled over the past year. None were from the Philadelphia area, though I counted several with ties to Philadelphia investors.

Four are in First Round Capital's portfolio: Uber ($41.2 billion), Square ($6 billion), AppNexus ($1.2 billion) and Fab ($1.2 billion). Most of FRC's stakes in these companies are relatively small, though some reports I saw a few month ago when Uber was valued at $17 billion suggested that its stake might worth upwards of $1 billion at the time. Fab, according to founder Jason Goldberg, was never actually valued over $1 billion ($875 million was tops, according to him), although it was widely reported to be. Fab is expected to be sold off soon at a fraction of that value. AppNexus is said to be looking toward an IPO, though the market for adtech IPOs is shaky right now. No one seems quite sure of what to make of Square's prospects at the moment. There has been IPO talk but also speculation that it was seeking buyers.

Also making the billion dollar club is Fanatics, the Jacksonville-based ecommerce retailer of sports apparel ($3.1 billion) that Michael Rubin spun out from GSI Commerce into his Kynetic Group when GSI was acquired by Ebay. It achieved that valuation through a $170 million round led by Alibaba and Temasek Holdings in 2013, and would probably be worth more today. Fanatics still has some staff in King of Prussia. Another GSI Commerce spinout to Kynetic, ShopRunner, reached a $600 million valuation through Alibaba's $200 million investment in 2013, but it has moved its headquarters to Silicon Valley though it still has people here.

Comcast Ventures had three investments in startups valued at $1 billion or more: Houzz ($2.3 billion), Instacart ($2 billion) and DocuSign ($1.6 billion). Sapphire Ventures (the renamed SAP Ventures) is also in DocuSign in addition to Nutanix ($2 billion). Susquehanna Growth Equity (Bala Cynwyd) has a stake in Credit Karma ($1 billion).

Fortune published a similar list last month, and Fortune's Dan Primack points out a few of the contrasts between the two. Fortune's list is really quite different near the bottom, and it includes MediaMath, a New York adtech firm in which Safeguard Scientifics was an early investor.

As for the Philadelphia area, the top three candidates I can think of now are iPipeline, SevOne, and Monetate, but I wouldn't harbor a guess as to how close to billion dollar valuations they could be. Of course, there may be others on the Life Sciences side; for example, CHOP-developed Spark Therapeutics busted past the $1 billion mark after its IPO late last month, though it did not achieve that valuation as a private company.