Google Cloud announces four new regions as it expands its global footprint

Google Cloud today announced its plans to open four new data center regions. These regions will be in Delhi (India), Doha (Qatar), Melbourne (Australia) and Toronto (Canada) and bring Google Cloud’s total footprint to 26 regions. The company previously announced that it would open regions in Jakarta, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Seoul and Warsaw over the course of the next year. The announcement also comes only a few days after Google opened its Salt Lake City data center.

GCP already had a data center presence India, Australia and Canada before this announcement, but with these newly announced regions, it now offers two geographically separate regions for in-country disaster recovery, for example.

Google notes that the region in Doha marks the company’s first strategic collaboration agreement to launch a region in the Middle East with the Qatar Free Zones Authority. One of the launch customers there, is Bespin Global, a major manages services provider in Asia.

“We work with some of the largest Korean enterprises, helping to drive their digital transformation initiatives. One of the key requirements that we have is that we need to deliver the same quality of service to all of our customers around the globe,” said John Lee, CEO, Bespin Global. “Google Cloud’s continuous investments in expanding their own infrastructure to areas like the Middle East make it possible for us to meet our customers where they are.”

SendBird’s messaging platform gets new moderation tools, full-text search and more

SendBird is announcing a major update to its chat API for web and mobile today. With this, SendBird is adding numerous new features to its service that will make it easier for its customers to moderate images, build custom moderation tools for their specific needs and add reactions and delivery receipts to their chat interfaces.

The company, which was founded in Seoul, says it currently serves about 90 million active users across the globe and sends out about 1.5 billion messages per month. SendBird CEO John Kim tells me that the company is especially strong in the on-demand services space with customers like Gojek, iFood and Delivery Hero, as well as marketplace services like Carousell, Paytm, Treveloka and SSG, and community sites with customers like Reddit, Dream 11 and Yahoo Fantasy Sports (Disclosure: Yahoo is owned by VMG and hence has the same corporate parent as TechCrunch).

“We’ve seen a lot of recent growth in Healthcare for both care provider to patient chat as well as for benefits management,” he added. “These tend to be digital-first disruptors like Accolde, Livongo, and Grand Rounds. We have pockets of customers in gaming, dating, and live streaming.”

As for today’s updates, quite a few of them focus on moderation. There’s a new image moderation feature, for example, as well as a new RegEx profanity filter that gives moderators a lot of options for how to prevent specific messages from getting through. SendBird now also offers a GDPR-compliant API and a moderation API that its customers can use to extend the company’s built-in options.

Also new are offline sync for caching messages locally when there is a service interruption, on-demand translation to augments SendBird’s auto-translation feature and the ability to translate push notifications.

This focus on translation doesn’t come as a surprise. SendBird has a global customer base and the company has long been a strong player in the APAC region. Now, however, Kim tells me, it’s customer base is spread pretty evenly between the U.S., EMEA and APAC.

What users are most likely to notice, though, is that SendBird customers can now add reactions to their chat interfaces, making them feel a bit more like a modern messaging app on a smartphone. In addition to that, SendBird is adding delivery receipts and full-text search capabilities.

“If you think about it, chat/messaging was one of the first uses of technology (telephone, fax) and then the Internet (chat rooms, IRC, and ICQ),” Kim said when I asked him why he thinks in-app chat is now taking off. “During the desktop era, chat was limited by access to a modem and when you were at home. But the mobile era and cheap access to 3G/4G networks and WIFI has unlocked global and democratized access to chat. As smartphone adoption grew, especially in developing and heavily populated countries where people bypassed older technologies like desktops and email, the use of chat became the norm.”

He argues that in the messaging space, network-effects drive the market toward a small number of players (think WhatsApp, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger) — and over time, customers simply expect the same kind of convenience from the companies they deal with on a daily basis.

“Now everyone else has to catch up and ensure their experience meets the new normal,” he noted. “But most don’t have the talent or knowhow to get there or compete. Hence the current popularity and growth of chat APIs.”

Snap accelerator names its latest cohort

Yellow, the accelerator program launched by Snap in 2018, has selected ten companies to join its latest cohort.

The new batch of startups coming from across the U.S. and international cities like London, Mexico City, Seoul and Vilnius are building professional social networks for black professionals and blue collar workers, fashion labels, educational tools in augmented reality, kids entertainment, and an interactive entertainment production company.

The list of new companies include:

  • Brightly — an Oakland, Calif.-based media company angling to be the conscious consumer’s answer to Refinery29.
  • Charli Cohen — a London-based fashion and lifestyle brand.
  • Hardworkersa Cambridge, Mass.-based professional digital community built for blue-collar workers.
  • Mogul Millennial — this Dallas-based company is a digital media platform for black entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.
  • Nuggetverse — Los Angeles-based Nuggetverse is creating a children’s media business based on its marquee character, Tubby Nugget.
  • SketchAR — this Lithuanian company is developing an AI-based mobile app for teaching drawing using augmented reality.
  • Stipop — a Seoul-based sticker API developer with a library of over 100,000 stickers created by 5,000 artists.
  • TRASH — using this machine learning-based video editing toolkit, users can quickly create and edit high-quality, short-form video. The company is backed by none other than the National Science Foundation and based in Los Angeles.
  • Veam — another Seoul-based social networking company, Veam uses Airdrop as a way to create persistent chats with nearby users as a geolocated social network.
  • Wabisabi Design, Inc. — hailing from Mexico City, this startup makes mini games in augmented reality for brands and advertisers.

The latest cohort from Snap’s Yellow accelerator

Since launching the platform in 2018, startups from the Snap accelerator have gone on to acquisition (like Stop, Breathe, and Think, which was bought by Meredith Corp.) and to raise bigger rounds of funding (like the voiceover video production toolkit, MuzeTV, and the animation studio Toonstar).

Every company in the Yellow portfolio will receive $150,000 mentorship from industry veterans in and out of Snap, creative office space in Los Angeles and commercial support and partnerships — including Snapchat distribution.

“Building from the momentum of our first two Yellow programs, this new class approaches mobile creativity through the diverse lenses of augmented reality, platforms, commerce and media, yet each company has a clear vision to bring their products to life,” said Mike Su, Director of Yellow. “This class shows us that there’s no shortage of innovation at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we’re excited to be part of each company’s journey.”