Like most parents, I try to limit my kid’s screen time. But screens are so ubiquitous that it’s sometimes hard for me to grasp how thoroughly they’ve infiltrated my kids’ lives.
My almost 5-year-old now uses a Portal to call her grandparents. She watches Wishenpoof! on a Fire tablet for kids at the doctor’s office and asks me to look up what sloths eat on my phone. We order Halloween costumes on my laptop. Even our local library has tablets available for children in the lobby.
So it was less surprising than it might have been to find that the Kindle Kids Edition helped her get into reading longer books. After all, my kids see me reading on my Kindle much more than they see me toting giant hardcovers around the house. They know exactly what it is, and are excited to read, too.
When I opened it, she willingly set down the picture books, scrolled through the selections, and listened to me read aloud 10 chapters of Ariel’s Birthday Surprise before bed. Now she carries it around with her, much like I do, and I’ve white-listed a few other selections into her FreeTime profile.
It’s not quite what I thought teaching my kid to read would look like—she isn’t lying on her bedroom floor, flipping through my vintage 1970s editions of The Chronicles of Narnia. But if it gets her interested in reading longer books, I’ll take it.
Amazon has a habit of taking its devices for grown-ups, slapping a case on them, and upcharging you $20. But like its Fire tablets for kids, I think it’s worth it.
The Kindle Kids is basically a 10th-generation Kindle. It’s Wi-Fi-enabled and has the same 6-inch display—and at around 10 ounces, it’s small enough that my daughter has no problem holding it with one hand. It comes in a special printed case with a magnetic cover, and it’s so stinking cute that my kid keeps sneaking it into bed with her.
The display uses the same black and white E Ink display, with 167 ppi, with the same adjustable lighted screen. And it’s still in grayscale, so the pictures aren’t in color. I did miss color in picture books like The Brilliant Deep, but I was surprised to find that in many books, it didn’t matter. For example, Hugh Lofting’s line drawings in Dr. Doolittle looked fine in monochrome.
It comes with a year’s subscription to FreeTime Unlimited ($3 a month after that), as well as a two-year unlimited warranty. If your child drops it in the toilet just once, you recoup that extra $20, and it will still be cheaper than buying your child the Paperwhite—an important note, since the Kindle Kids Edition isn’t waterproof.
On a side-by-side comparison, Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited platform does not look all that different from the home page on any Kindle—familiar, if still a little wonky and hard to navigate. FreeTime Unlimited suggests age-appropriate characters, themes, popular books, books in Spanish, and books you might like. In our case, that category was mainly books about princesses.
It has Bluetooth for Audible books, which are forthcoming (as of publication, Amazon has not clarified the release date). And at 8 GB, it actually has twice as much storage than the standard Kindle—it can hold almost a thousand books. As always, battery life is excellent, too. After two weeks of reading for a half-hour or more every night, the battery is still at 54 percent.
The Sky’s The Limit
At almost 5, my kid is younger than the recommended age for the Kindle Kids, which is 7. At her age, I’ve found FreeTime Unlimited to be a valuable service. It limits her exposure to terrible ads for squishy garbage balls on YouTube Kids, and I like the quality of Amazon’s kid shows, like Pete the Cat and Tumble Leaf.
With FreeTime Unlimited, you pay for peace of mind. I feel fine letting my child watch videos on our Fire tablet for a half-hour without watching over her shoulder. Monitoring your child’s content might be less of an issue when they get to age 7. My parents definitely didn’t feel the need to read every Harry Potter book along with me. If you do want to tailor your kid’s FreeTime experience on the Kindle Kids Edition, you might run into a few problems. For example, you can pause, block, or set time limits on Fire tablets and devices, but you cannot pause them on the Kindle Kids Edition.
Even for younger kids, FreeTime’s selection can be a little limited. For example, last night my kid requested princess books. When I searched for them, nine pages of Disney content showed up.
However, much like it is with my grown-up Kindle, we’re not confined to the Amazon universe when it comes to books. You can’t add music or Prime Videos into your kid’s profile, but it is ridiculously easy to add ebooks. Once I’ve checked out an ebook from my local library, I can access my Amazon parent dashboard and click “Add Content” to add the book to my child’s profile. It usually showed up in 10-15 minutes.
If you turn off parental controls entirely, it’s just a regular Kindle. But you will still need the parent PIN number, which I hope your child doesn’t have.
A Kid’s Kindle Makes Sense
Of all the devices that Amazon has chosen to child-proof, I think the Kindle makes the most sense. It’s one of Amazon’s best, and simplest, devices. It doesn’t let hackers open your garage or melt your kid’s brain with inane games, like painting a leopard’s toenails. It doesn’t send transcripts of you cooing to your toddler to contractors in the Ukraine, or let alt-right Nazis DM your son.
In fact, it’s one of the few devices that can actually save you money, if you’re an avid reader with a library card.
You could also buy a regular Kindle and monitor your child’s reading lists through their online library account. But if you have trouble thinking of a book to check out, or if you think there’s a chance your child may crack or damage it within two years, then the price of the kid-specific version is worth it.
These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019
It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion. This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would…
It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.
This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.
Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.
Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.
As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.
Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0
The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and…
The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom.
Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.
To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.
Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.
African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.
But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.
Jumia vs. Konga
The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.
Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.
Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.
In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.
Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.
That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.
While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.
E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.
So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.
In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.
Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.
Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).
Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between. It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in…
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in this coming year’s technology exit market. Expect the NYSE and Nasdaq to compete for the listing, bankers to queue to take part, and endless media coverage.
Given that that’s ahead, we’re going to take periodic looks at Airbnb as we tick closer to its eventual public market debut. And that means that this morning we’re looking back through time to see how fast the company has grown by using a quirky data point.
Airbnb releases a regular tally of its expected “guest stays” for New Year’s Eve each year, including 2019. We can therefore look back in time, tracking how quickly (or not) Airbnb’s New Year Eve guest tally has risen. This exercise will provide a loose, but fun proxy for the company’s growth as a whole.
Before we look into the figures themselves, keep in mind that we are looking at a guest figure which is at best a proxy for revenue. We don’t know the revenue mix of the guest stays, for example, meaning that Airbnb could have seen a 10% drop in per-guest revenue this New Year’s Eve — even with more guest stays — and we’d have no idea.
So, the cliche about grains of salt and taking, please.
But as more guests tends to mean more rentals which points towards more revenue, the New Year’s Eve figures are useful as we work to understand how quickly Airbnb is growing now compared to how fast it grew in the past. The faster the company is expanding today, the more it’s worth. And given recent news that the company has ditched profitability in favor of boosting its sales and marketing spend (leading to sharp, regular deficits in its quarterly results), how fast Airbnb can grow through higher spend is a key question for the highly-backed, San Francisco-based private company.
- 2009: 1,400
- 2010: 6,000 (+329%)
- 2011: 3,1000 (+417%)
- 2012: 108,000 (248%)
- 2013: 250,000 (+131%)
- 2014: 540,000 (+116%)
- 2015: 1,100,000 (+104%)
- 2016: 2,000,000 (+82%)
- 2017: 3,000,000 (+50%)
- 2018: 3,700,000 (+23%)
- 2019: 4,500,000 (+22%)
In chart form, that looks like this:
Let’s talk about a few things that stand out. First is that the company’s growth rate managed to stay over 100% for as long as it did. In case you’re a SaaS fan, what Airbnb pulled off in its early years (again, using this fun proxy for revenue growth) was far better than a triple-triple-double-double-double.
Next, the company’s growth rate in percentage terms has slowed dramatically, including in 2019. At the same time the firm managed to re-accelerate its gross guest growth in 2019. In numerical terms, Airbnb added 1,000,000 New Year’s Eve guest stays in 2017, 700,000 in 2018, and 800,000 in 2019. So 2019’s gross adds was not a record, but it was a better result than its year-ago tally.
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