– September 23, 2014

Will Google bring good fortune to Credit Karma?

(AP) — Google is betting that good things will happen to Credit Karma, an online service that provides consumers with free copies of the credit scores that define their financial reputations.

Credit Karma is getting Google Inc.'s endorsement and expertise as part of an $85 million investment announced Wednesday.

About half of the money is coming from Google Capital, the Internet company's recently created vehicle for investing in maturing startups. The remaining funds are being provided by Tiger Global and two of Credit Karma's earlier investors — Ribbit Capital and Susquehanna Growth Equity.

With the latest infusion, Credit Karma has now raised $118.5 million since the San Francisco startup launched its service in 2008.

Credit Karma plans to use the incoming money to more than double its current workforce of 110 employees and introduce more products "that are going to be disruptive," CEO Ken Lin said.

Without providing specifics, Lin said Credit Karma's next product will be unveiled in about two months and will offer free access to a service that consumers traditionally have had to pay to get.

Credit Karma already has made it easier to obtain a free snapshot of the personal credit scores that determine loan rates and borrowing limits. The scores, based on the loan-payment histories compiled by major credit-rating agencies, traditionally have been only provided when people apply for a loan or sign up for other financial services that eventually charge fees.

Everyone who sets up an account at Credit Karma can get free looks at their credit scores once a week. Credit Karma obtains its main credit score through TransUnion, one of the three major U.S. credit-rating agencies along with Experian and Equifax. The service also lists a score based on another formula used by all three agencies and another number that most auto and home insurers rely upon to evaluate how likely their prospective policyholders are to file a claim.

The free insights are attracting a steadily growing audience. Nearly 21 million people have set up free accounts on Credit Karma, up from about 9 million a year ago, Lin said.

Credit Karma doesn't store the Social Security numbers required to open an account, but it does create financial profiles of its users to tailor the marketing pitches that bring in most of its revenue. Virtually all the ads are for credit cards, loans and other financial services.

Google also analyzes personal data to determine which ads to show users of its services, but Lin said Credit Karma isn't sharing any information about its members with Google.

Credit Karma plans to draw upon Google's knowledge about marketing and expanding online services to accommodate larger audiences. David Lawee, a Google Capital partner, is joining Credit Karma's board of directors.

This is Google Capital's third major investment in the past month. Online education service Renaissance Learning received $40 million, and online real estate site got $50 million. Last year, Google Capital was among the investors that backed online polling site SurveyMonkey and online loan broker LendingClub.

Google Capital is aiming to invest about $300 million this year. It's an offshoot of Google Ventures, a fund that the company set up five years ago to invest in startups during their early stages. Google Ventures so far has invested in 225 companies, including home-device maker Nest Labs, which is now wholly owned by Google Inc. after being bought for $3.2 billion earlier this year.

Will you continue to support the Fresno Grizzlies if they lose the Giants affiliation?


gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 09/23/2014, 1:56 pm by Business Journal staff
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Written on 09/23/2014, 1:56 pm by The Associated Press
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Written on 09/23/2014, 1:45 pm by Business Journal staff
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Written on 09/23/2014, 1:34 pm by Business Journal staff
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Written on 09/23/2014, 1:04 pm by Ellen Knickmeyer, AP Writer
(AP) — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Tuesday unveiled a proposed roadmap for developing massive solar and wind projects in California's Mojave Desert while trying to minimize damage to desert habitat and animals.The plan — covering 22 million acres of public and private land— follows a renewable-energy building boom in southeastern California's Mojave desert during the first term of the Obama administration, when the federal government gave billions of dollars in loans to developers siting sprawling, utility-scale solar projects in virgin desert. The plan released Tuesday would designate a total of 2 million acres as appropriate sites for future solar, wind and geothermal projects. Another 4.9 million acres under the U.S. Bureau of Land Management would be set aside as conservation areas, if the draft plan is adopted. Jewell's release Tuesday opened the plan for several months of public comment. State and federal energy and wildlife officials created the draft plan for future projects after consultation with conservationists, scientists and developers. California is on track to meet a state goal of having a third of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Conservationists on Monday, in advance of the plan's release, pointed to the Ivanpah solar plant, opened in January on 4,000 acres near the Nevada border. The $2.2 billion plant displaced desert tortoises, compelling developers NRG Energy, BrightSource Energy and Google to spend more than $20 million to try to safeguard the tortoises, which the federal government has listed as a threatened species. The plant also proved unexpectedly deadly to birds that flew through its concentrated solar rays. Energy developers say environmental concerns have made building desert energy projects slower and more expensive than they should be. "There's a real urgency for getting projects up as quickly as possible," Mark Tholke, vice president of EDF Renewables energy company, said Monday, before the plan's release. "To meet the challenge of climate change ... we need cost-effective large projects." Up until now, conservationists say, the push for industrial-scale renewable energy projects in the Mojave did needless harm to desert species and habitat. "The emphasis was on developing massive projects on desert lands" with "little effort to minimize the impact," said Glenn Stewart, a biologist and a member of the board of directors of the Desert Tortoise Council conservation group.
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:34 am by Associated Press
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Written on 09/23/2014, 11:25 am by Associated Press
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Written on 09/23/2014, 11:22 am by The Associated Press
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Written on 09/23/2014, 11:21 am by J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Editor
Paula Deen is ready to tell her side of the story behind the racist remark that decimated her career, but you'll need to pay to hear it. The former Food Network star has been working on a documentary about herself and her downfall — triggered in 2013 by her acknowledgment that she'd used a racial slur in the past — but it will only be available to subscribers of her new website, the Paula Deen Network. Recipe content on the site will be free, but viewers will need to pay $9.99 a month to view videos. "We hope to have it out the first of the year and tell everybody the true story of what really happened," Deen said of the documentary during a recent telephone interview. "It was a painful year for me. It was a hurtful year when I found myself being labeled for something I was not." The website, which launches Wednesday, will feature an ambitious array of original video content, including traditional cooking shows as well as lifestyle and game show segments, all starring Deen and her sons. The site, which will include no outside advertising or sponsors, also includes thousands of Deen's recipes, as well as menu planning tools. The site and documentary are part of a larger effort by the star and her backers to resuscitate her career after a one-two punch of public relations disasters cost her nearly all her book, TV and endorsement deals. In 2012, she was criticized for announcing she had both diabetes and a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat the condition she'd until then hidden. A year later, during a legal dispute with a former employee who accused her of racial discrimination and sexual harassment, she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. The experience was painful, but valuable, Deen told the AP. "I learned the power of words, how they have the ability to hurt and once you say certain words you can't un-ring it, not even 30 years later." Deen — whose comeback effort began earlier this year, when private investment firm Najafi Companies put up $75 million to $100 million to rebuild her — said she had opportunities to return to traditional television, but both she and her fans preferred the flexibility and social elements of the digital world. The new site, which is being overseen by longtime Deen producer Gordon Elliot, also will feature all of the content Deen produced during her more than 10 years at the Food Network. The network parted ways with her following the revelations about her comments. Deen wouldn't say how much it cost to acquire the videos, only that it was "very valuable to us." That content will be slowly rolled out for subscribers.
Written on 09/23/2014, 11:20 am by Associated Press
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Latest State News

Written on 09/23/2014, 1:04 pm by Ellen Knickmeyer, AP Writer
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