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Solve, the startup creating an interactive ‘Law & Order’ for social media, raises $20 million

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When “Law & Order” ended its 20-year run in 2010, it had already cemented its place as one of the longest-running television dramas in history. Its success was a testament to the enduring popularity of a good mystery.

Mining that same well of a demand for whodunnits, a roughly one-year-old Los Angeles-based startup called Solve has raised $20 million in financing to update the genre for a new generation of media consumers.

Its eponymously titled social media programming, available on Instagram and Snap, has managed to nab roughly 30 million interactions over the year-and-a-half that it distributed its productions. Now the company is launching a true crime podcast on the iHeartMedia and Apple platforms to tap into another potentially high-growth market.

Solve began as a series developed within the mobile-focused entertainment studio, Vertical Networks. Helmed by Tom Wright and financed by Elisabeth Murdoch (through her Freelands Ventures fund, which Wright also managed) and Snap, the company was one of the early entrants to raise cash as a production studio for mobile content. But it was far from the only studio to see money in mobile-first entertainment. All of the major internet-age media companies had their own mobile strategies.

Murdoch eventually replaced Wright (so that he could work on spinning up Solve as an independent entity) and sold Vertical Networks two months ago to the online media startup, Whistle, for an undisclosed amount.

“I spent a year looking deep, deep, deep into audience behavioral data on Snap and Facebook,” Wright says. “The DNA of what I thought [audience] sensibilities was leading towards was this format.” 

As Vertical Networks was winding down, Solve was spinning up with help from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures and Advancit Capital.

“We’ve seen incredibly popular crime mystery shows across media, including podcasts like Serial and Dirty John, TV shows like Making a Murderer and Law & Order, and movies like The Usual Suspects and Gone Girl,” said Jeremy Liew, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, in a statement. “Games have attained a first class status as media but we’ve yet to see a crime mystery format game achieve the same success, and Solve is going to right that wrong.”

The gamification element that’s made Solve’s episodes resonate with mobile audiences on social platforms will be a small part of the initial series, says Wright, with plans to expand the interactive elements going forward.

Produced in partnership with SALT audio, whose previous work includes “Blackout” and “Carrier” and iHeartMedia, the 10-episode series uses the same “ripped from the headlines” storytelling for its 30-minute broadcasts and offers listeners clues in leaked audio files, voicemails, courtroom testimony and other evidence to try to guess the killer.

For now, Solve is content to be a studio producing ad-supported media for platforms like Apple, Snap, Facebook, iHeartMedia and other distributors, according to Wright. It’s a different path than studios like Quibi, which is creating its own streaming service dedicated to mobile storytelling and backed by many of the major Hollywood studios.

The current pace of production means that Solve is making 18 original episodes per month. For the 40-year-old Wright, Solve represents a fourth foray into the world of startups. And while he’s not a fan of the crime or mystery genre himself, Wright said that the data around engagement was too compelling to not try to launch a business around it.

“The Internet has changed how we interact with the world from taxis to news to shopping. We believe that Solve can fundamentally change how we interact with narrative video storytelling,” said Mark Suster, managing partner, Upfront Ventures, in a statement. “When we heard Tom’s vision for short-form video that you not only watch but also must ‘solve‘, we knew that it had enormous potential.”

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FTC finds GoodRx shared sensitive health data with Facebook, Google

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FTC finds GoodRx shared sensitive health data with Facebook, Google

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The FTC on Wednesday filed a court order against GoodRx for failing to notify users that it shared their personal, identifiable health data with Facebook and Google and said it would permanently ban the company from sharing such information for ads, should the court order be federally approved.

Why it matters: The court order is the first FTC action under the Health Breach Notification Rule, which requires companies to notify users when their health data is infringed upon, and includes several safeguards aimed at protecting consumer data.

  • “We’re making clear that apps violating this rule need to come clean with consumers when they share sensitive data improperly,” an FTC official said during a press briefing about the order.
  • The order must be approved by the federal court to go into effect.

Zoom in: The health data GoodRx shared with tech companies includes individually identifiable data on users’ prescription medications and health conditions. Per the complaint:

  • In August 2019, GoodRx compiled lists of users who’d purchased medications for heart disease and high blood pressure and uploaded their email addresses, phone numbers and mobile advertising IDs to Facebook so it could identify their profiles.
  • GoodRx then used that information to target users with relevant ads.

Details: The court order, filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC in California’s Northern District, found GoodRx shared data with companies including Facebook, Google, Criteo, Branch and Twilio. The order found GoodRx:

  • Monetized users’ personal health data to target them with health- and medication-specific ads on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Let third parties it shared data with use the information for research, development or advertising purposes without getting consent.
  • Misrepresented its HIPAA compliance, displaying a seal at the bottom of its telehealth site falsely suggesting it complied with the law.
  • Failed to maintain sufficient policies or procedures to protect its users’ personal health information.

State of play: GoodRx, which offers prescription discount coupons and telehealth services, lets users track their personal health data to save, track and get alerts about prescriptions, refills, pricing and medication purchase history.

  • Per the complaint, the company collects data from users themselves and from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that confirm when someone buys a prescription drug using one of its coupons.
  • Since January 2017, more than 55 million consumers have visited or used GoodRx’s website or mobile apps, the complaint says.

What they’re saying: A spokesperson for GoodRx told Axios the company does not agree with the allegations, saying the order “focuses on an old issue that was proactively addressed almost three years ago.”

  • “We admit no wrongdoing,” the spokesperson said. “Entering into the settlement allows us to avoid the time and expense of protracted litigation.”

  • “Health data today isn’t just what your doctor keeps in a file behind a desk,” an FTC official said during the briefing. “And the way we’re enforcing this reflects that new reality.”
  • “We expect this to have a significant impact on the marketplace,” the official added.

Flashback: The FTC in 2021 issued a warning to health apps and others that collect or use consumers’ health information that they must comply with the Health Breach rule.

  • “We are now showing the market that we meant business when we issued that policy statement,” the FTC official said.

What’s next: In addition to charging GoodRx with a $1.5 million civil penalty and banning it from disclosing user health information for ads, the order requires that the company:

  • Direct third parties to delete the consumer health data shared with them and inform users about the breaches and the FTC’s enforcement action.
  • Get users’ consent before sharing health data with third parties for purposes other than ads and detail the types of health information it will disclose to those parties.
  • Limit how long it can retain personal health information.
  • Create a privacy program that includes safeguards to protect such data.

Of note: While the order only binds GoodRx, companies including Facebook who received the data “are on notice that they were in receipt of data that was illegally collected,” another FTC official said.

This story has been updated to include the company’s comment.

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Facebook and Google ad oligopoly is over, fund manager says

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Facebook and Google ad oligopoly is over, fund manager says

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Inge Heydorn, fund manager at GP Bullhound, discusses competition in the digital ad market, what investors will be looking for in Meta’s results, and why it’s “all about TikTok.”

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Mike Lindell Says Jimmy Kimmel Wants to Put Him in a Big Claw Machine

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Mike Lindell Says Jimmy Kimmel Wants to Put Him in a Big Claw Machine
  • Mike Lindell says Jimmy Kimmel is requesting to interview him on his show. 
  • But Kimmel had one request, Lindell said: The pillow CEO has to sit inside a giant claw machine.
  • Lindell said this is because he is unvaccinated. 

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell says late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel had one request of him: The pillow CEO must sit inside a giant claw machine during their interview.

“A lot of you have reached out to me: ‘Mike, don’t do it, he’s going to attack you. Why did you agree to go inside a claw game?'” Lindell said during a Facebook live stream on Tuesday. Lindell is scheduled to appear on Kimmel’s talk show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” on Tuesday.

“Which I did, because they, you can’t go inside the studio if you’re not vaccinated. And of course, I’m not vaccinated,” Lindell added. 

“Maybe I’ll find out that that claw game was rigged, huh, the one that picks up the stuffed animals,” Lindell quipped, seemingly referencing his own baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

The pillow CEO said his appearance on Kimmel “should be very, very interesting.” He also said he was only agreeing to the interview because he thinks it will help “save our country.”

Kimmel appeared to confirm Lindell’s account, tweeting: “MyPillow Mike from a claw machine tonight!” 

 

Kimmel said on Monday that Lindell has “repeatedly” asked to be on the show, and that he’s tried to invite Lindell back many times.

Lindell’s last appearance on Kimmel’s show was in April 2021. During their nearly 20-minute conversation, Kimmel pummeled Lindell with questions about his voter fraud claims.

“A lot of people didn’t want you to come on this show. Liberals and conservatives, told me not to have you on, and they told you don’t go on the show,” Kimmel told Lindell in 2021. “But I think it’s important that we talk to each other.”

Lindell is fresh off a big loss in his race for RNC chair, where he only secured four votes.

Lindell and representatives for Kimmel did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.



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