Digital Advertising is Broken– Lin Dai Wants to Fix It with TAP Network

Lin Dai is a self-described nerd. He started his professional career in the first dot com boom while he was a student at Carnegie Mellon. Dai built one of the first social networks for teenagers called Kiwibox Media Inc. with about two million people on the website. After taking the company public, Dai moved to New York City and lived through the dot com crash and burn. 

Dai went on to help major media companies such as Viacom and Alloy branch out into the digital advertising industry. After a few years in corporate, Dai itched to get back into the startup world and joined a mobile video social network startup called Keek, which he helped grow to 75 million users in about three years. 

Today, Dai’s primary focus is running TAP Network, a blockchain-based network that powers an ecosystem that cuts out the third-party data merchant.


What’s wrong with the current digital advertising ecosystem?

No matter how you cut it in the current digital advertising ecosystem, Facebook and Google will win 99% of the business.

Every other media brand is struggling. Media companies need ad revenue, which is under assault from Facebook. 

Part of the solution for media companies is diversification of revenue streams. A future mix of revenue could be ⅓ subscription-based products, ⅓ media advertising, and ⅓ commerce. 

What does the digital advertising landscape look like today? 

The bulk of user data is aggregated by two companies: Google and Facebook. These companies leverage that data by providing it to third parties. These third-party marketers then use that data to advertise. 

Advertising targeting runs over two sets of identities: a device ID (anything that happens on your phone they can target) and a browser ID (cookie or something that tracks you, and it doesn’t matter where you search). Your browser ID is tagged with something that advertisers can deliver advertising to. Hundreds of companies can collect your data through GPS location, different preferences you set, actions you take through browsers.

Advertising is very different today than its early days. Before it was like,  “we’re a shaving company and wanted to advertise on Men’s Health magazine!” 

Now, advertisers are just buying programmatically. They don’t necessarily even see where their ads are, nor do they need to. They can target you, who they believe to be a potential customer, wherever you’re at. That’s fine in our eyes, as long as you’re giving them permission and are being compensated. But that’s just not how it works today. Multi-billion dollar companies are middlemen that allow marketers to take advantage of this data, and it’s not in the benefit of the individual nor the marketer. 

While this model works, we don’t really see it as being sustainable. Most of this data is collected without a user’s permission, or at least the use of it by third parties isn’t explicitly approved by users. 

The consumer is being targeted without their consent, and the intermediary is taking their commission regardless of a sale or not. 

We’re imagining a way the consumer can delegate permission to a brand, and brands can understand their “opted-in” audiences better. 

We started thinking about how we could create more value for users while also giving them ownership of their data. Part of that solution meant finding ways to collect data that is superior to what Facebook and Google are collecting. Also, we had to find a way to help make consumers aware of when their data is being arbitraged to monetized. 

The last frontier for data is finding the actionable data that does a much better job of qualifying how an individual or audience will respond in the future. For example, if I’m Dominos, I can target people who liked a photo of pizza. But, if I can target people who liked a photo of pizza who ALSO purchased something from Papa John’s in the last 10 days, I’ve got a much higher quality audience. 

The problem is getting people to willingly share that type of data. 

How is the data collected by TAP superior to what Facebook and Google are collecting?

TAP members directly opt-in their purchase data, which is far more accurate than other behavioral data such as “likes” or interests on Facebook. 

For example, if a consumer is willing to share how often and how much they spend at Domino’s every month, that’s far more accurate than if they simply “like” a photo of a pizza on Facebook. 

Also, the major differentiator is TAP obtains first-party permission from the consumer directly on collecting the purchase data, as well as directly compensates the consumer in the form of rewards points or rewards dollars from brands. This is fundamentally different from major social network and internet platforms collecting and monetizing your data without direct compensation to you.

How does a company extract monetary value out of the data collected?

Accurate purchase data allows our network of brands and merchants to cater to specific deals and rewards to the individual consumer and generate higher ROI.

For example, a customer’s purchases greatly impact the value of their data. For example. if my purchase data and history indicates I’m a heavy traveler that travels 14 times a year and spends $20,000 or more annually on hotels and airfare, major hotel groups in the TAP Network will offer up to 70% off publically available rates specifically to me next time I’m booking travel via the TAP booking engine. 

TAP Network receives a commission on the sales generated and splits the majority of the proceeds in the form of rewards to the consumer.  

Could you describe the marketplace for finding buyers for this data?

TAP doesn’t sell user data, ever. User data is secured and anonymized in the TAP system, and TAP works directly with brands and merchants who are looking to make offers to TAP rewards members that fit certain criteria or purchase patterns. 

Perhaps a major pizza chain would like to offer a bonus reward to anyone that purchases $100 or more per month on pizza, or a streaming service would like to offer everyone who hasn’t used their service yet a trial offer. The data will be leveraged anonymously for building each campaign but never sold outside of the TAP ecosystem.

What incentivizes the merchant partner to partner with TAP?

Through offering Universal rewards, TAP Network encourages rewards members to actively shop with merchant partners in the network to earn rewards points. 

Merchant partners generate additional sales from new and existing users, and can accurately measure sales revenue or frequency lift through TAP analytics.

How does TAP plan to fix the digital advertising landscape?

If your data will be touched, you should be compensated. You should have full control over who has access to your data. You can say, it’s my data and I don’t want to share it with a specific brand or person. 

We started an experiment with Hooch, a rewards app that rewarded people with free drinks. They would get one free drink per week as long as they shared their purchase data. 

We used the OpenFinance API, which allows them to connect all their credit and debit cards to us. Then, we’re able to scan their transactions and understand their purchases. For example, if you’re an active bargoer, and that data is supported by your transaction history, you’re a very valuable person to target for alcohol companies. They’ll reward you and compete for your business. 

Drinks were a clunky denomination of rewards. We decided to evolve into a full rewards program where users could accumulate rewards points for anything from a $5 coffee or a $500 hotel room. 

Rewards points is a concept many people already understand. They can easily convert $20 in TAP with vendors in the network. 

Traditional rewards programs are designed to take advantage of the consumer. For example, if you fly enough, you can accumulate enough points for free stuff. The thing is 80% of users don’t really accumulate enough points to do anything with. We want to make rewards fairer and more accessible to the consumer. You can accumulate one single currency and spend it with hundreds of brands.

Have you guys raised capital yet?

Hooch developed the TAP technology and its network, and as of its Series Seed round has raised $7.8m. We are in discussions with VCs and strategic investors about a Series A round early 2020.

Where does blockchain come into play?

An overwhelming number of consumers started sharing their data. Our hypothesis was that only 20% of our users would share their data, but about 80% of people shared it. Blockchain came into play because we wanted to secure this data responsibly. 

We wanted to allow users to delegate their data without sharing any personal information. It’s done with a token connection with the issuing bank, similar to how Mint and Acorn use similar APIs. We don’t record card numbers and names. They are not linked or traced back to you. 

You’re assigned a blockchain wallet address, your pseudo-identifier in our system. 

How do you guys make money?

We set up deals with about 250,000 merchant partners, travel, dining, hotels, retailers, eCommerce companies, etc. 

When you make a purchase with them, it’s either tracked with a digital link or detected from the card. We can detect the wallet personally. Those partners pay TAP Network for driving that sale. About 50% of what we receive is converted into TAP Coin ( a stablecoin pegged to USD) and deposited into the user’s wallet. 

We wanted to build a project for the mass consumer, so their rewards have to be easily converted to something tangible they can use rather than some obscure confusing token. 

If you’re a consumer, you’d download the Hooch app and link any number of debit and credit cards. The app starts detecting purchases. If you go to one of our partner merchants, let’s say Starbucks, we detect a transaction is made with that partner. Once the transaction is verified, the TAP Network receives a commission from that partner. Then, part of that commission is deposited into a user’s wallet. 

**Editor’s note: The link included is an affiliate link that gets you $5 in TAP. **

On the merchant side, it’s all about owning the relationship with your customer. In the early Facebook days, Facebook would tell someone like Pepsi to bring their audience on the Facebook platform because they can do a lot of cool stuff like target them in different ways and learn so much more about them. Years later, they flipped the script. They changed their algorithm so companies could only reach a small % of their own audience and would have to pay Facebook to reach the rest. It’s one of the biggest corporate bait and switches ever. 

Merchant partners are incentivized to build their own direct channels with their customer data. 

What’s the future hold for TAP?

We have a plan to reach 30 million users over the next two years. 

We’re doing that by working with existing enterprises such as major media and entertainment companies to license and label our technology in their own name.

Every new digital advertising dollar that comes into the market, Facebook and Google take about 94 cents of it. Major companies are fighting over 6 cents of every dollar because the data Facebook and Google provide is very actionable. 

We want to go to these companies and tell them we have a way to have their consumers send their data directly to them. They can white-label a rewards program in their own name within 60-90 days, which would take them maybe 2 years to build out internally. 

We have our first white-label launch mid-November so that’s really exciting. It’s a company in the entertainment industry with 10m+ users. We want to scale to tens of millions of users very quickly. 

We want to help usher in the second wave of consumers and do our part in bringing blockchain to the masses. 

Thanks, Lin!

This article is Originally posted on CoinCentral.com
Author: Alex Moskov

Is Arsenal’s New Coach Freddie Ljungberg the next ‘B-rate’ Ole Gunnar Solskjær?

  • Unai Emery leaves Arsenal after 18 months – nearly two decades less than his predecessor.
  • Arsenal has gone for seven games without a win.
  • The North London soccer club has appointed Freddie Ljungberg to serve as the interim head coach.

After seven winless games, Unai Emery has been booted out of Arsenal as the head coach. This comes 18 months since he was hired to replace Arsene Wenger who had served as manager for over two decades.

Unai Emery,
Unai Emery never looked comfortable as Arsenal’s manager and was finally put out of his misery. | Source: Shutterstock.com

Following the sacking, a decision announced by Arsenal’s America-owner Josh Kroenke, the club now risks making the same mistake as rivals Manchester United.

The London-based soccer club has appointed Freddie Ljungberg as the interim head coach. Ljungberg, a former player who was part of the ‘Arsenal Invincibles’ that went undefeated in the 2003-04 season, had been Emery’s assistant before the ouster.

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Did Arsenal just appoint a B-rate manager to succeed Unai Emery?

Like the Old Trafford club, Arsenal has appointed a former player from a golden era hoping for magical success. In the case of Manchester United, they brought in ex-player Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s initial successes as Manchester United’s interim manager is long-forgotten now as the club’s permanent manager. | Source: Shutterstock.com

Initially, Solskjær impressed but all that is now forgotten as the team struggles to remain in the top half in the English Premier League table. Former Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan even recently branded Solskjær a ‘B-rate’ manager. It could soon be Ljungberg’s turn to face the winter of discontent.

For one, Freddie Ljungberg is untried and untested at the highest level. His only prominent experience in this department has involved coaching minors. A short stint as an assistant coach at Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg ended with him alongside others getting fired.

Will Arsenal make Freddie Ljungberg permanent?

At the highest level, Ljungberg possesses no actual coaching experience, making him an even bigger gamble than Solskjær. The Manchester United manager’s coaching career started more than a decade ago. Ljungberg’s, on the other hand, is only less than four years old. The former Arsenal player’s first managerial role was in 2016 when he coached the Under-15 Arsenal team.

There is no coach or manager with the experience and clout worthy of Arsenal’s ambitions just lying around idly waiting for a call. This means that Arsenal may have to wait. A soccer club, however, can only live with uncertainty for only too long. In such situations, soccer clubs have tended to end up making hasty decisions and Arsenal might be no exception as they struggle in the post-Wenger era.

‘Search for replacement underway’

Perhaps in an attempt at reassurance, the club has promised said that the ‘search for a new head coach is underway’. But we have seen this before where a caretaker manager takes the reins, gets a stroke of beginner’s luck and then a club makes his position permanent. Weeks later, the decision proves unwise but the owners refuse to swallow their pride and admit the error.

For a club known for financial austerity, one just hopes that the North London club doesn’t come to view Unai Emery’s interim replacement as a sort of a Black Friday deal, given that he obviously can’t command the same figure as tried and tested coaches that have already been speculated upon as potential Arsenal managers.

Unai Emery
The decision to sack Unai Emery was announced on Arsenal’s website | Source: Arsenal.com

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

3 Reasons Why Shorting McDonald’s (MCD) Stock Now Is a Bad Idea

  • A slew of negative developments that includes missing third quarter estimates and the firing of the CEO are giving investors ammunition to short McDonald’s.
  • Technical analysis of the shorter and longer time frames reveal that the fast food giant is likely to bounce.
  • McDonald’s is also aggressively repurchasing shares, which increases the odds of shorts getting liquidated.

Many investors are bearish on McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), and understandably so. The fast food chain missed key estimates in its third quarter earnings report. On top of that, the company’s board recently fired its CEO Steve Easterbrook for dating a fellow employee. Having a consensual relationship with an employee is a violation of company policy. Lastly, McDonald’s appears to be losing bullish steam as the shares are down by over 11% from the all-time high of $221.93.

The series of unfortunate events for the fast food giant is driving investor sentiment. It appears that retail traders are so bearish on the stock that even a partially deflating Ronald McDonald balloon is seen as a short signal.

short MCD
Ronald McDonald is not having a good day. | Source: Twitter

Nevertheless, shorting McDonald’s at current levels is not a good idea. Here are three reasons why.

1. McDonald’s Is Ripe for a Bounce

McDonald’s lost all bullish momentum after it broke down from a textbook head and shoulders top in October. This led to a waterfall event that saw the equity drop to as low as $187.55 on Nov. 4. At that point, bulls were able to stop the bleeding. They managed to hold support of $188.

Trader Hidden Pivots closely followed the action. He sees a possible bounce on the horizon after MCD negated the bearish continuation pennant.

MCD daily chart
MCD showing signs of strength after being under bear control for over two months. | Source: Twitter

2. McDonald’s Looks Bullish in the Longer Time Frame

Shorting a stock that’s macro bullish can quickly backfire. This is especially true if technical indicators are flashing close to oversold readings. These are the signals that I am seeing in McDonald’s.

The weekly chart of McDonald’s shows bullish tendencies
The weekly chart of McDonald’s shows bullish tendencies. | Source: TradingView

The weekly chart tells me that MCD is trading within an ascending channel, which is a bullish pattern. In addition, the stock is sitting very close to the uptrend support while indicators say that MCD is undervalued. This long-term technical picture tells me that the equity is more likely to resume its uptrend than breach a support that has been driving prices higher since 2015.

Thus, it might be a fool’s errand to short the stock at current levels.

3. McDonald’s Stock Buyback Royalty

McDonald’s is one of the companies that invests heavily in stock repurchases. In the last three years, the fast food giant has scored an average buyback ratio of 5.7 out of 6.5. To put that in perspective, MCD’s three-year average buyback ratio is higher than 95% of the 228 companies in the restaurant business.

MCD is at the top of its stock repurchase game
MCD is at the top of its stock repurchase game. | Source: Gurufocus

The numbers add up. Marketrealist reports that in the last three years, McDonald’s spent $25 billion to reward shareholders in the form of stock buybacks and dividends. In the first three quarters of 2019, the company has bought back over $3.53 billion worth of shares.

If you plan on shorting the stock, know that you are going against a company that’s aggressively buying back shares. Would you be willing to make that bet?

Shares of McDonald’s may be down big from the all-time high but shorting at current levels may not be a wise move. Signals tell me that the stock is more likely to bounce now than to continue descending.

Disclaimer: The above should not be considered trading advice from CCN. The writer does not own McDonald’s (MDC) shares.

This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.

Crypto Exchange Admits ‘Missing’ CEO Has User Funds Access Amid Exit Scam Fears

  • IDAX’s many problems continue to stroke suspicion.
  • The exchange finally admits “the truth”.
  • Is this all a cover-up for an exit scam?

In a story reminiscent of the QuadrigaCX scandal, crypto exchange platform, IDAX Global, has no idea where its CEO is, plus, he holds the exchange’s private keys…

Oh boy, it’s been a pretty lousy week for crypto exchanges; first Upbit reveals a $50 million hack, and now it turns out that IDAX might be in trouble as well.

IDAX: The Story So Far

These past few weeks haven’t been kind to IDAX. An ongoing crusade against the exchange has been forming. Angry users citing worsening withdrawal issues have continued to demand a response.  On November 24, they finally got one. IDAX blamed the problems on increased withdrawal requests, stating:

The channel that causes the withdrawal of the mainstream currency is in a congested state.

Then, on the very same day, the firm shut down opperations in China.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, the IDAX Token (IT) went kaput, literally falling to zero.

crypto IDAX exit scam
User quips about a potential IDAX exit scam | Source: Twitter

Understandably speculation of an exit scam was starting to engulf the exchange. Rumors circulated of the CEO, Lei Guorong, allegedly doing a runner. Citing sources close to the CEO, Chinese crypto media highlighted that user funds might have been appropriated by Guorong:

Assets may be lost and the CEO hid. Among the employees nobody knows about his whereabouts except the boss’s confidant connecting through external channels.

The Truth or a Cover-Up?

Now thanks to the pressure placed by its scorned investors, IDAX has finally admitted the alleged truth. The CEO is gone and with access to the exchange’s cold wallets.

IDAX conveyed news of Guorong’s disappearance via an “urgent announcement”: 

IDAX Global CEO have gone missing with unknown cause and IDAX Global staffs were out of touch with IDAX Global CEO. For this reason, access to Cold wallet which is stored almost all cryptocurrency balances on IDAX has been restricted so in effect, deposit/withdrawal service cannot be provided.

This statement will likely not allay many fears, especially given the shady way in which the exchange has conducted itself over the past few months. For now, at least, it’s a case of he-said-she-said.

This comes after yet another crypto exchange scandal as Upbit users are still reeling from the exchange’s recent $50 hack. On November 27, Upbit announced the loss of 342,000 ETH following the exploitation of Upbit’s hot wallets.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

Dow Futures Slide Rings a Black Friday for the Stock Market

  • Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are swimming in the red this Black Friday.
  • The stock market might have a bad day today if there is no clarity regarding a U.S.-China trade deal.
  • Black Friday sales numbers are expected to be weaker than last year, and this could spark more panic.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) are in the red Friday morning as the U.S.-China trade war continues to rage on. President Donald Trump’s move of supporting Hong Kong protests by signing a controversial bill into law took a heavy toll on the stock market yesterday.

The effects of that decision are spilling over into Black Friday morning as Trump’s latest move could invite the wrath of Beijing and derail a potential trade deal that was reportedly very close to being signed.

BBC reports that China is reportedly miffed with Trump’s action of signing the bill into law as it will embolden the protesters in Hong Kong and disturb the country’s domestic affairs. But Beijing might not let Trump’s decision get in the way of a potential trade deal as China is all set to face another round of tariffs on Dec. 15. The stock market will be hoping that Beijing doesn’t nix the trade deal, and that will be critical to where the Dow Jones ends the week.

Dow futures swim in red amid rising U.S.-China trade tensions

Dow futures are down 62 points, or 0.22 percent, to 28,087 points at 5.29 am ET. Dow futures plunged early in pre-market today as they were hovering at 28,045 points at 3.17 am ET. It appears that the chance of Beijing not walking away from the trade deal to avoid the next round of duties has given the stock market some hope.

chart showing dow jones futures.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average are swimming in the red this Black Friday, indicating a bad day lies ahead for the stock market. | Source: Yahoo! Finance

Futures on the S&P 500 are also down 0.21 percent, while Nasdaq Composite futures are down 0.28 percent.

A Black Friday ahead for the stock market

On a day when all eyes should be on Black Friday retail sales numbers, the stock market and the Dow will be desperately looking for signs of a trade deal. The BBC report adds that China’s anger with the U.S. over supporting the Hong Kong protests is nothing more than posturing.

Beijing might be more than willing to sign a deal to revive China’s flagging economy. But it remains to be seen if Chinese negotiators will give in easily as they can leverage the fact that American soybean farmers are eagerly waiting for a “phase one” deal to be signed before the availability of South American crops in 2020.

Soybeans from Brazil and Argentina are expected to hit the market in February next year. If a trade deal is not in place, American farmers could lose out and their stocks might remain unsold. Beijing could use this to its advantage to counter Trump’s decision of supporting Hong Kong protests.

In such a scenario, the Dow and the stock market will take a hit as further negotiations could push back the trade deal that the two sides are close to agreeing upon.

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Meanwhile, Black Friday sales numbers are expected to decide the course of the Dow and the stock market for the ongoing holiday shopping season. The bad news is that Black Friday sales this year are expected to drop to $87 billion from $90 billion a year ago.

That’s despite the fact that there’s expected to be a jump of 12 percent in the number of Americans that are expected to take part in today’s sales. This indicates that Americans are going to remain tight-fisted this holiday season thanks to the ongoing economic uncertainty and the potential of a recession. The anticipated decline in Black Friday sales can also be attributed to the four straight months of decline in the Consumer Confidence Index.

In all, the Dow and the stock market could plunge once again today as there are a ton of headwinds to ensure a sad end to the week.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.