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Jam City

bile game maker SGN renamed itself Jam City last week, seeking to inject more fun into its brand.

For a start-up that makes colorful matching and bubble-bursting games including Juice Jam and Panda Pop, SGN — short for Social Gaming Network — came off as a stodgy and dull, the Culver City company said.

“Put another way, we were a company with memorable products but a forgettable name,” Chris DeWolfe, the Myspace co-founder who runs  Jam City, said in a blog post. He and consultants considered 500 names over a year before deciding on Jam City.

The company says it has nearly 50 million monthly players and five titles among the 100 highest revenue-generating mobile games in the U.S. Sales, derived from purchases of extra features within the apps, are likely to climb as the company explores placing ads in games. Revenue is expected to top $400 million over the next year.

Jam City also has a developed a close relationship with 20th Century Fox. It has made games tied to the media properties “Book of Life” and “Family Guy,” with plans to work on a “Peanuts” title next, the company announced.

Foursquare opens sales office in Playa Vista

A Foursquare dashboard shows how an ad campaign is performing, including whether it's leading consumers to visit desired places.
A Foursquare dashboard shows how an ad campaign is performing, including whether it’s leading consumers to visit desired places. (Foursquare)

Local search company Foursquare is calling Los Angeles home for the first time as it tries to cut advertising and data deals with auto, consumer products and entertainment companies.

A sales and marketing team led by three new employees in Playa Vista will focus on teaching those industries about Foursquare’s ability to profile people’s physical movement and spot trends based on foot traffic, said Steven Rosenblatt, president of the New York City start-up.

The company has amassed a map of places, including restaurants, parks and shops, by allowing users to share their location with friends. It has recorded more than 10 billion digital check-ins at locations in about eight years.

The resulting data gets used not only in Yelp-like apps from Foursquare, but also thousands of other apps including Twitter, Uber and WeChat.

But Foursquare wants to help companies use much of the same data for advertising purposes or market research. The company says it can reach about 150 million devices on behalf of advertisers.

“We can target people based on historical profiles,” Rosenblatt said. “Do we see their phones in movie theaters often? Did we serve them an ad for a movie and did they go to a movie theater? We can prove we can drive awareness.”

The new offerings are selling well, but Foursquare faces competition from Facebook, Los Angeles’ Factual and others.

Workplace app Branch Messenger expands to Minneapolis

After a few weeks this summer working closely with Target executives and other mentors at a start-up boot camp in Minneapolis, workplace chat app Branch Messenger has no plans to leave the city.

The company will continue to be based out of the Idealab business incubation firm in Pasadena. But the decision to expand to Minneapolis demonstrates how the corporate programs for start-ups that have launched in recent years are starting to find their groove.

Branch Chief Executive Atif Siddiqi said the program at Target, run in tandem with the investment group Techstars, helped him focus in on a plan to target big customers.

In Minneapolis, Branch gets closer access to companies like Target, General Mills and Best Buy. And that’s essential for a start-up whose software enables employees within a retail location to swap shifts, plan schedules and talk to co-workers. Employees can use the app for free, but companies can purchase access to manage scheduling and identify trends.

Siddiqi said he hasn’t decided whether the company will raise venture capital funding or rely on sales to fund its expansion.

“We’re looking at all our options,” he said.

Tinder invests in social media app for women

Tinder Chief Executive Sean Rad and Vina founder Olivia June Poole.
Tinder Chief Executive Sean Rad and Vina founder Olivia June Poole. (Tinder)

Tinder has tried to push the idea that it’s an app for meeting new people — and not just people you want to date.

Although the app’s attachment to dating could be hard to shake off, Tinder the company is shaping up to be more.

Last week, the West Hollywood subsidiary of dating giant Match Group announced an investment in Vina, a social media service aimed at helping women find female friends. Tinder also launched Stacks, an app that brings the swiping gesture it popularized to polling friends about any topic.

Tinder said it plans to mentor Vina as the start-up expands worldwide and tries to keep up with fast user growth.

Partnering with a start-up co-founded by two women could polish’s Tinder public image, which was tarnished by a sexual harassment lawsuit from a former female employee that was later settled. People also complain about how Tinder’s emphasis on people’s looks objectifies women.

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Advancing technology has collided with longstanding customer issues to create a series of deep, lasting, systemic challenges for insurance. How will these trends impact insurers’ businesses and the industry overall?

The rise of fintech, changing consumer behavior, and advanced technologies are disrupting the insurance industry. Additionally, Insurtechs and technology startups continue to redefine customer experience through innovations such as risk-free underwriting, on-the-spot purchasing, activation, and claims processing.

The report from Deloitte Global examines forces that are disrupting the insurance industry and presents four possible scenarios for the future. We explore:

  • Changing the channel: Partnerships with product makers and distributors, and embedding insurance into other products and services may enable customers to select products that best fit their lifestyle.
  • Underwriting by machine: Technology advancements including AI innovations and algorithms will likely individualize risk selection and pricing, and customers can select products based on a wider range of price points.
  • Rise of the flexible product: Time-flexible, event-driven, modular and adjustable coverage may evolve to accommodate life stage, lifestyle, and wellness changes among consumers.
  • E-Z life insurance: Given the growth and shopping patterns in emerging markets, insurers who introduce flexible term products, and master digital distribution without compromising underwriting are likely to win in the marketplace.

Read the report to understand what the future holds for the insurance industry.

Key Contact

Neal Baumann

Neal Baumann

Global Insurance Leader

Neal leads Deloitte’s Global Insurance practice and is the US insurance consulting leader. He has 20 years of experience advising financial services and insurance company clients on corporate and comp… More

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More information is leaking out about just how Google is planning to re-enter the Chinese market with a mobile search engine application that complies to the country’s censorship laws.

The Intercept first broke this story when a whistleblower provided them documentation detailing the secret censored search project (codenamed Dragonfly). According to them, an overlooked Google acquisition from 2008 — — has been quietly laying down the foundation for the endeavor.

In order to run a business in China, tech companies are required to obtain a Internet Content Provider license from the Chinese government. As it’s difficult for foreign businesses to obtain this license, Google has long partnered with Chinese IT company Back in the early years of, Google actually operated directly off of’s license, even claiming the Chinese company was temporarily running its search engine. Facing intense scrutiny from the Chinese government and the media over this license arrangement, in 2007 Google formed a legitimate joint venture company with — the Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co.

Because of the necessity of that license, Google has maintained that joint venture and has been operating in China under the name Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co. ever since. Even after the shut down of, Google’s Chinese advertising enterprise has been operating under the joint venture company as well as, low and behold, A whois search of the domain name, which provides a record of the current domain registrant information, pulls up Beijing Guxiang Information and Technology Co. as the registrant organization.

A significant number of Google employees are reportedly none too happy about Google’s project complying with Chinese censorship laws. This most recent news, that the company has long been collecting data for a moment just like this, surely won’t make morale among these workers any better.

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Google is reportedly planning to relaunch its search engine in China, complete with censored results to meet the demands of the Chinese government. The company originally shut down its Chinese search engine in 2010, citing government attempts to “limit free speech on the web.” But according to a report from The Interceptthe US tech giant now wants to return to the world’s biggest single market for internet users.

According to internal documents provided to The Intercept by a whistleblower, Google has been developing a censored version of its search engine under the codename “Dragonfly” since the beginning of 2017. The search engine is being built as an Android mobile app and will reportedly “blacklist sensitive queries” and filter out all websites blocked by China’s web censors (including Wikipedia and BBC News). The censorship will extend to Google’s image search, spell check, and suggested search features.

The web is heavily censored in China, with the country’s so-called Great Firewall stopping citizens from accessing many sites. Information on topics like religion, police brutality, freedom of speech, and democracy are heavily filtered, while specific search topics (like the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and Taiwanese independence) are censored completely. Advocacy groups report that censorship in the country has increased under President Xi Jinping, extending beyond the web to social media and chat apps.

The whistleblower who spoke to The Intercept said they did so because they were “against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people.” They also suggested that “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”

Patrick Poon, a researcher with Amnesty International, agreed with this assessment. Poon told The Intercept that if Google launches a censored version of its search engine in China it will “set a terrible precedent” for other companies. “The biggest search engine in the world obeying the censorship in China is a victory for the Chinese government — it sends a signal that nobody will bother to challenge the censorship any more,” said Poon.

In a statement given to The Verge, a spokesperson said: “We provide a number of mobile apps in China, such as Google Translate and Files Go, help Chinese developers, and have made significant investments in Chinese companies like But we don’t comment on speculation about future plans.”

According to The Intercept, Google faces a number of substantial barriers before it can launch its new search app in China, including approval from officials in Beijing and “confidence within Google” that the app will be better than its main rival in China, Baidu.

Google previously offered a censored version of its search engine in China between 2006 and 2010, before pulling out of the country after facing criticism in the US. (Politicians said the company was acting as a “functionary of the Chinese government.”) In recent months, though, the company has been attempting to reintegrate itself into the Chinese commercial market. It launched an AI research lab in Beijing last December, a mobile file management app in January, and an AI-powered doodle game just last month.

Although this suggests Google is eager to get a slice of China’s huge market of some 750 million web users, ambitions to relaunch its search engine may yet go nowhere. Reports in past years of plans to bring the Google Play mobile store to China, for example, have so far come to nothing, and Google regularly plans out projects it ultimately rejects.

Notably, relations between China and the US have worsened in recent weeks due to trade tariffs imposed by President Trump. The Interceptreports that despite this Google staff have been told to be ready to launch the app at short notice. The company’s search engine chief, Ben Gomes, reportedly told employees last month that they must be prepared in case “suddenly the world changes or [President Trump] decides his new best friend is Xi Jinping.”

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