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Monday, April 26, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

PDA Inventor Slaps HTC With Another Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 08:59 AM PDT

First Apple goes after Taiwanese cell phone maker HTC over infringement of no less than 20 of its patents, and now the man who invented the PDA (personal digital assistant) is targeting the company.

Entrepreneur and inventor Judah Klausner, or rather his company Klausner Technologies, has filed suit against HTC for patent infringement under its U.S. Visual Voicemail patents.

The lawsuit is based on the unveiling by HTC of its MyTouch 3G mobile phones, which Klausner Technologies claims alleges uses its patented Visual Voicemail technology. The company adds that various other HTC models with the Visual Voicemail feature are already covered under Klausner Technologies Visual Voicemail patent licenses granted to certain mobile operators for their Visual Voicemail services.

Klausner Technologies says it currently has 27 Visual Voicemail patent licensees under its U.S., European and Asian patents, including major U.S. and European mobile operators, international cell phone manufacturers, cable/VOIP providers as well as other providers of Visual Voicemail services.

Just last week, BT Group subsidiary Ribbit entered into a patent license agreement with Klausner Technologies, settling their outstanding litigation.

Perhaps HTC can take some comfort in the fact that it isn’t exactly the first company to get taken to court: Klausner Technologies had earlier sued Verizon Wireless, Google, Apple, Skype, Comcast, AT&T, LG and others claiming that their visual voicemail feature infringes on Klausner's patents, as well as Motorola and Research In Motion more recently.

Video Ad Startup FreeWheel Raises $16.8M From Turner, Disney And Others

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 08:51 AM PDT

Video advertising company FreeWheel has raised $16.8 million in funding from Disney’s Steamboat Ventures, and existing investors, including Turner Broadcasting System, Battery Ventures, and Foundation Capital. This brings the company’s total funding to nearly $30 million.

Founded by former DoubleClick employees in 2007, FreeWheel allows marketers and publishers to manage video advertising campaigns across a variety of distribution sites. FreeWheel’s technology allows media companies to operate an advertising platform for online video, including managing ad sales rights, producing inventory forecasts for live or on demand content, delivering a yield-optimized set of ads, and analyzing video business performance.

FreeWheel, which was recently speculated to be an acquisition target, will use the new investment to build out product development and scale its infrastructure. FreeWheel’s media clients include Turner, VEVO, CBS and MLB.com and serves over two billion ad impressions per month. The company also announced formalized agreements with both Discovery Communications LLC and ESPN Internet Ventures to help manage ad businesses and monetize both companies’ digital video content.

Wildfire Raises $4 Million For Social Media Marketing Platform

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 08:07 AM PDT

Wildfire, a platform for building viral marketing campaigns, has received $4 million in Series A funding led by Summit Partners with additional investors, including Jeff Clavier, Aydin Senkut and Gary Vaynerchuk, participating in the round.

Wildfire's platform makes it relatively easy for marketers to create attractive, branded social media marketing campaigns (e.g. sweepstakes, contests, coupons, giveaways, quizzes, virtual gift campaigns and more) and to simultaneously publish them on Facebook fan pages, on company websites (integrated with Facebook Connect) and on Twitter.

A fbFund company, Wildfire launched its offering last year, reached profitability within 1 month of launching its product and won the fbFund twice. The company’s product has gained considerable popularity over the year as a dead simple way for brands to reach consumers across various social networks.

The startup has built up a very impressive roster of clients, including Pepsi, Sony, CNN, Universal, AT&T, Victoria's Secret and even Facebook itself, which has used the service for multiple campaigns. The investment will be used for product development initiatives.

How To Use Hot Chicks To Spread Your Brand Message On YouTube

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 07:56 AM PDT

Brands are trying to figure out this whole social marketing thing, but the success stories are still few and far between. “I think everyone is grappling with how to use digital these days,” says Judy Hu, who is in charge of advertising and branding for General Electric. She oversees one of the world’s largest advertising budgets which spans TV, print, and the Web. I spoke with her last week about one early success GE is seeing with an online video campaign organized by Howcast that is generating millions of video views on YouTube as part of its larger Healthyimagination branding effort.

The key to the campaign was to get YouTube video personalities such as Smosh, iJustine, Alphacat, Rhett and Link, and Brittani Louise Taylor to take a physical challenge and make original videos about getting healthy. So far, all together these videos have been viewed more than 8.5 million times, rated more than 250,000 times, and attracted more than 110,000 comments.

The message GE is trying to get across is “better health for more people,” says Hu. Smosh won the challenge by applying kung fu to many heads of lettuce (1,019,526 views), Brittani Louise Taylor took the linkbait approach with her video HOT CHICKS PLAYING TENNIS! (508,584 views, see image above), Rhett and Link used children as dumbells (193,393 views, also below) and invented some new yoga moves (291,746 views), iJustine did a silly dance on the street (686,238 views), and Alphacat wrote a pretty decent rap with an updated Schoolhouse Rock kind of vibe (49,955 views).

The campaign was organized by Howcast, which also created about 20 custom How-To health videos such as “How To Fill Awkward Silences With Your Doctor”, which have been viewed an addition 350,000 times. Producing such advertorials (aka, “branded entertainment” ) is one of Howcasts’s main revenue streams. GE’s Healthyimagination ads also took over Howcast’s Top-100 YouTube channel, and each video contains both a pop-up rollover ad and a post-roll video ad. The ads have been watched about 4 million times, with a 28 percent completion rate.

It is the most successful campaign Howcast has ever done. GE was surprised as well. “We were astounded by how fast it took off,” says Hu. She plans on doing more campaigns like this in the future.

This is an important case study because it shows that branded advertising can work on the Web.  I think there are a few reasons why this took off.

  1. The sponsored videos are authentic.  The video makers were given a topic (live healthier) and allowed to run with it any way they wanted.
  2. GE was okay with giving up total control of the message to a bunch of Youtubers, who know better than anyone else how to communicate to their respective audiences.
  3. The videos are clearly presented as sponsored fare.
  4. GE isn’t trying to sell anything other than its overall brand image.

Below are a few of the videos. Are they more or less effective than a standard 30-second TV commercial?

Rhapdosy App For iPad, iPod touch, & iPhone Lets You Download Music Now, No Internet Connection Required

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 07:40 AM PDT

Rhapsody, the digital music service, has released an updated App for the iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. It's free to download but requires a subscription to use. The big deal here is that not only can you listen to your Rhapsody playlist while connected to the Internet, but you can also download individual songs to local storage. Yes, that means you'll be able to listen to your favorite song—Rhapsody has a catalog of more than 9 million songs—while in areas without Internet access, such as the subways of New York. It marks the first time that Apple has allowed a third-party music subscription App to be able to download songs in the U.S. Yes, it's a reasonably big deal.

Nook Passes Kindle Sales in March

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 06:30 AM PDT

Well look at this: new kid on the book, Barnes & Noble's Nook ereader, just surpassed Amazon Kindle sales in March. Obviously the Nook is a bit newer than the Kindle and those who were going to buy a Kindle probably have already, but it also looks like B&N's retail network is also driving sales. Digitimes reports that 53% of e-book readers shipped were Nooks while 1.43 million ereaders were sold in Q1 2010. They're estimating that total ereader sales will reach 11 million by year's end.

Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 05:58 AM PDT

The 2011 Ford Fiesta isn't the status quo. No longer do consumers need to compromise on creature comforts for the practicality of a compact car. The top Fiesta trim level is loaded with enough gizmos to keep a baby boomer confused for months. However, while items like the comfy leather seats, voice-controlled Sync system, and long list of standard features might draw customers, it's the impressive powertrain that will ultimately sell the compact car. Europeans already know this. The Fiesta is very popular across the pond, earning the title of Europe's top selling car in 2009. It has won award after award and now it's finally available here in the states, the final piece in Ford's most impressive car lineup ever.

Sony To Stop Manufacturing Floppy Discs After 30 Years

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 05:17 AM PDT

Remember Floppy discs? In case you haven't noticed (like I didn't), Sony is actually still making and selling those discs. But soon it's time to say goodbye, as the company now said [JP] it will stop production in March next year. Sony rolled out the world's first 3.5-inch floppy disc back in 1981. And believe it or not, even in 2008, the company could still sell 8.5 million units in Japan alone.

Google’s Nexus One Hits Vodafone UK

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 04:37 AM PDT

Brits can now get their hands on Google's so-called 'superphone' for an upfront cost of "free". Kinda. Available from today for pre-order on Vodafone UK, the Android-powered Google Nexus One can be had for £35 per-month on a 2 year contract, including a bundle of minutes and texts, and the much needed 1GB monthly data allowance -- this is a Google Phone after all (see TechCrunch review). There are a number of other tariffs available too. Customers who pre-order can expect deliveries to go out on April 30th.

Hosting Company Memset Bu.ys Is.gd

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 04:07 AM PDT

Cloud hosting company Memset this morning announced that it has agreed to acquire URL shortening service Is.gd. Memset in a statement says it has thus secured the URL shortener's future, and added that it plans to maintain it as a non-advertising-supported, free Internet service indefinitely. The acquisition and Memset's stated intents represent good news for Is.gd users, who (should) have been rightly worried about the service's ability to compete with the likes of Bit.ly and major Internet players who've introduced their own short URLs (Amazon, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, etc.).

Google Launches New AdWords Tools And Certification Program For Ad Agencies

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 03:29 AM PDT

Google this morning announced a number of changes in the way it deals with advertising agencies around the world, from small search marketing shops to large traditional marketing household names.

Penry Price, Vice President, Global Agency Development at Google has blogged about the changes here and here.

In short, the search and Internet advertising giants aims to raise the bar for Google AdWords Certification, assist advertisers in finding and contacting certified partners more easily, and to lower costs for those who effectively help advertisers get the most out of Google AdWords, the Mountain View company’s popular Internet advertising service.

New AdWords Certification program

Google is retiring its Google Advertising Professionals (GAP) program, originally launched in November 2004, and replacing it with a new Google AdWords Certification program for agencies managing AdWords accounts on behalf of advertisers.

The distinction between individual and company certification remains.

(Funny sidenote: the ‘News’ landing page currently reads: “A lot has changed since 1994 when Google Advertising Professionals launched so we’re retiring the program and replacing with a rigorous, strategy focused version.” – who knew Google secretly started operating in the first half of the nineties?)

The new program provides agencies and their employees with new training materials that reflect recent changes in search marketing and AdWords functionality (think webinars, on-site training, etc.), tougher certification exams to test practical application of knowledge and best practices and advanced-level exams to “highlight competency in search, display, reporting and analysis”. Also: brand new badges! (embedded above)

Current Google Advertising Professionals will have a 6-month grace period to meet the new criteria and terms and conditions in order to retain their certified status.

Google Partner Search

Google Certified Partners can now opt in to Google Partner Search, a directory that helps advertisers find companies that best match their criteria. To show up in searches through Google Partner Search, agencies must opt in and fill in details about their core attributes and capabilities. Searches can be filtered by location, agency experience within a particular budget range, the types of services provided and the specific industry verticals served.

Google AdWords API pricing

Google has also announced preferred AdWords API pricing. This gives qualified Google Certified Partners who manage AdWords accounts on behalf of clients free use of the AdWords API, which allows developers to build applications that interact directly with the AdWords platform, based on managed client spend. To apply, agencies must have an active agency profile page and be compliant with the AdWords API terms and conditions. Google says it will start accepting applications for preferred AdWords API pricing on May 26, 2010.

During the beta test period, the AdWords API was free for all but only within certain quota limits. To calculate fees based on said quota, Google has a unit-based system in place. Each operation performed on an AdWords account, such as adding a keyword, consumes a certain number of API units, and developers basically get charged $0.25 – or local currency equivalent – per thousand units consumed (see detailed rate sheet for more information).

Here’s how free AdWords API units for preferred partners are calculated:

We calculate free AdWords API units for the developer token that’s approved for preferred AdWords API pricing using the amount of spend managed by the My Client Center associated with the API developer token. If you receive preferred pricing, we’ll provide you with 250 units for every $1 of AdWords spend managed.

For example, if you manage $10,000 in March, you’d receive 2,500,000 free API units in April. We’re continuing to update the way we calculate the amount of spend you manage and will update this help article when we have more information.

Find out more about the updated AdWords API pricing model here.

Advertisers and agencies alike, we want to hear from you:

How do you think these changes will affect you, if at all?

Wireless iPod/iPhone/iPad Syncing Is Awesome — Too Bad It Will Likely Be Rejected [Video]

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 02:34 AM PDT

Basically, since its initial launch, one of the most annoying things about the iPod (and now iPhone, iPad, etc) is that you have to plug it into your computer via USB to sync it. Sure, this also allows you to recharge your device, but I’d love to say, charge it in a holder next to my bed (since I also use it as an alarm) and wirelessly sync it over WiFi. A new app allows you to do that. Too bad it’s likely to be rejected.

As you can see in the video below, WiFi Sync allows you to do exactly what the name promises. Once you complete a few steps to authenticate your iPod/iPhone and then your computer, you can begin syncing wirelessly. It just works. The problem, of course, that Apple is likely to have with it is unauthorized interaction with their software, iTunes.

Undoubtedly, if Apple wanted to include such a feature in iPod touches/iPhones/iPads they would have already. It would seem that technology isn’t an issue, but there may be other things at play, such as security, and speed. While security is debatable, speed is definitely a big plus for using USB (2.0) versus WiFi as one transfers data at nearly 500 Mbps, while the other would transfer data at just a fraction of that. (Obviously it would vary based on technology — 802.11n versus 802.11g, etc — and distance from the router.)

Something else to think about: when Apple inevitably does move iTunes to the cloud, syncing their devices wirelessly will be pretty much a necessity. Perhaps Apple is just waiting for that and enjoying the big USB bandwidth until then.

Foursquare Gets Some Major VH1 Love

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 01:48 AM PDT

Last week, we noted how The History Channel was using the Tips feature of Foursquare to make the real world a bit like Pop-Up Video, the popular VH1 show that ran from 1996 until 2002. Now, VH1 itself is in on the fun with their own account to also make the real world — and their own shows — a bit like Pop-Up Video with Foursquare.

As Foursquare’s business development lead, Tristan Walker tweeted out tonight, VH1 has started promoting Foursquare on screen during some of its shows. For example, in the screen capture grabbed by Walker, you can see a Foursquare bubble that popped up during a show (What Chilli Wants) on the cable channel tonight. “We love the way they’re integrating tips,” Walker notes.

The official VH1 Foursquare account is supposed to be used to “find culture in your city.” What’s interesting is that both VH1 on-air personalities and celebrities with their own shows are supplying these tips to Foursquare. And you really can’t buy better publicity than VH1 putting these Foursquare pop-ups in their shows. In fact, Foursquare undoubtedly isn’t buying this publicity, and in fact, VH1 may even be paying them for the partnership (the service won’t say which of its deals are free and which are paid).

Foursquare just crossed a million users last week, but the deals the young startup is securing are arguably more impressive than their growth. Not only are the History Channel, Bravo, and VH1 promoting them, but even hotels in Vegas are as well.

All of this can’t hurt the valuation Foursquare ends up with when it inevitably does take its next, large round of funding — or sells for upwards of $100 million.

eSecurity Company WISeKey Raises $20M At $200M Valuation, Plans IPO

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 01:39 AM PDT

Information security and identity management software and services firm WISeKey has closed a $20 million financing round at a $200 million valuation. The investment comes from a group of undisclosed institutional and private backers in both Europe and the United States. With the extra capital, WISeKey plans an accelerated expansion in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). WISeKey also marks itself an IPO candidate, saying that it will file to go public as soon as the market stabilizes.

Facebook Has Some Housekeeping To Do

Posted: 26 Apr 2010 01:11 AM PDT

Dear Facebook, before we sashay into the “Age Of Facebook” it would be just dandy if you could tidy the place up a bit, sweep up a few cobwebs, unwrap all the new furniture and get rid of those pesky bugs. We’ve oohed and aahed over the exciting new gizmos, the sparkly social plugins and the Open Graph. But as you hurtle to 500 million users and beyond, you have to prevent bush league errors from bubbling up. For example, as tipster Sven Hoffmann pointed out and confirmed by my Facebook account, when I get a friend request and click on the “Confirm Friend” button, the log-in screen that pops up shows my potential friend’s full e-mail address, not mine.

Obviously, that’s not a very exciting image, but I assure you that my e-mail address does not begin with a “d” or end in a “7″. This is no cause for alarm, it’s not a major security threat— if someone is friending you on Facebook, they are probably OK with you knowing their e-mail— however, it is a silly mistake, in a series of mistakes (in March a bug briefly revealed hidden e-mail addresses and in February, the site accidentally rerouted private messages to the wrong users— whoops). It’s not bizarre for a site with so many moving parts and so many users to have the occasional glitch, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence among those worried about their privacy. Come on Facebook, you can do better.

(Image Source: Flickr/x-ray delta one )

Blogger Commerce Network OpenSky Fetches $6 Million Series B

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 08:30 PM PDT

With a recent public launch under its belt, OpenSky is adding $6 million in new capital. Existing investors Highland Capital and Canaan Partners invested in the series B financing. A year ago, the company raised $5 million.

OpenSky is a social marketing/e-commerce startup which connects manufacturers and distributors directly with influential bloggers who recommend their products and get a cut from resulting sales. It is much more than an affiliate network.

As I described OpenSky when it launched:

While OpenSky sounds at first like an affiliate network, it isn't. Instead of sending customers off to other online stores, they send them to their own stores where they can track sales and follow up with personalized messages. OpenSky hand picks the publishers who are allowed to set up shops and sell in its network. It then strikes deals directly with manufacturers and distributors who agree to drop-ship any sold items to readers who click to buy through an OpenSky shop. Instead of the blogger getting a 3 to 10 percent affiliate fee, they split the net profits 50/50 with OpenSky. The economics work best obviously with high-margin products.

OpenSky CEO John Caplan was previously the CEO of Ford Models, and before that the president of About.com. He tells me that “seller conversion rates grow and repeat shoppers buy more frequently” since the launch (before that, OpenSky was in private beta with 250 bloggers). His plans going forward include hiring more people, releasing a distributed cart (for onsite shopping without sending readers off to a store), opening up OpenSky’s APIs, improve the relevance matching between product manufacturers and bloggers/influencers, and better direct marketing support for sellers.

ItsTrending Shows Popular Facebook Shared Items

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 08:18 PM PDT

ItsTrending is a new website that shows popular shared items on Facebook. This isn’t anything magical – Matt Schlicht, a product manager at Ustream, put it together in an evening – “This is a good example of how easy the Facebook plugins are to implement – I’m a product guy not a developer,” says Matt.

But it is a new view into popular links some people may find fascinating, and I’m a sucker for simple mashups. It shows the most shared links on Facebook for a variety of third party sites – news, video, pictures, etc.. It uses the Recommendations social plugin provided by Facebook (like I said, no coding magic is going on here). But the data is great, and like Digg, TweetMeme and other services, it helps people find interesting and relevant content. And given that AllTop and PopUrls still survive, why not ItsTrending, too.

Mostly though what ItsTrending shows is the power of all this data that Facebook is collecting, and how it can be used in very productive ways as it’s released to third parties.

Blippy Not Hemorrhaging Users, Set To Unveil New Plan

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 07:21 PM PDT

Imagine combining your best and worst week ever into one— welcome to Blippy’s world. This week the site closed a new $11.2 million funding round, got its first picture in the New York Times (leading an article on the new wave of social media sites), and dealt with a true PR nightmare when Google search results revealed the credit card numbers of five users. Although five users represent a teeny tiny fraction of Blippy’s ever-expanding user base, it was the company’s worst fear brought to life. “Five accounts is too many, anything more than zero is unacceptable,” CEO Ashvin Kumar says. “It’s the worst thing that could happen.”
Within the next 24 hours, Blippy is expected to roll out a “go-forward plan” that will likely outline its security policy and assure users that their information is indeed safe with the site. Although Kumar confirms that there has not been a major exodus of users, this could not come soon enough.

Security of course is the one thing that Blippy, a site dependent on users divulging credit card transactions, could not blunder. Maintaining trust is not only critical to scaling up, but to its very survival. So far, the site gets a B- for its handling of the crisis (and I think that may be too generous). To its credit, when the company first heard about the leak on Friday morning, it issued a statement at 10:42 am and immediately reached out to Google. The statement lucidly explained how raw data from credit card transactions was accidently embedded in the HTML source on Blippy’s web pages at some point several months ago (Kumar explained to me that there was an eight-hour window in early February when this bug was active). While a transaction’s raw data string is usually filled with innocuous info about the purchase or the vendor— for a handful of accounts (or more specifically 5) the credit card number was included. Blippy quickly purged the raw data from their HTML codes, but by then, Google had already pulled it into search results.

They win several points here for transparency and swiftly explaining the error, but Blippy should have elaborated on how it missed the leak. Since the vast majority of raw data is benign information, Blippy probably (and understandably) didn’t expect credit card numbers to be visible— but there should have been more nets in place to catch this error or at least an ambitious employee running Google queries to check search results (the search that pulled up the unfortunate data was ” site:blippy.com +’from card’ “, slightly more complex than the typical search but not requiring crazy, jujitsu haxor skills). I expect, or rather hope, Blippy’s upcoming announcement will articulate some of these new preventative measures.

Elsewhere, Blippy wins points for reaching out to affected consumers (the founders personally called the owners of the compromised accounts). But once again, the company loses a few points, for failing to publicly address customer service issues on Friday. In the wake of the NYTimes coverage and the crisis, Blippy’s servers were stressed. For some users, who were looking to close their accounts, that led to error messages and frustration, as evidenced on Twitter:

Blippy should have updated its blog or sent an e-mail to users, warning them that they might encounter issues with deleting their accounts this weekend because of server overload. Instead, there was a pool of disenchanted users worried that Blippy was holding their info hostage and fanning fear on Twitter.  To Blippy’s defense, Kumar says the team has been working through the weekend to handle complaints and has responded to every user that has reached out to them. It’s just too bad those efforts were not properly communicated.  Despite the mistakes, I’m overall impressed with how the founders have navigated their first crisis— Blippy can rebuild and secure the public’s trust. But the founders should know in this game, you don’t get three strikes.

NSFW: TechCrunch TV – Which Part Of ‘Don’t Employ Me’ Do You Not Understand?

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 06:24 PM PDT

Back in July of last year, I wrote my first NSFW column for TechCrunch. Having just been fired from the Guardian, I described my hiring as a “ridiculously misguided experiment” and gave Mike Arrington three weeks – at best – until he “comes to his senses and realises that there's a reason why I've been fired from every job I've had.”

To their credit, TechCrunch readers agreed: even now, almost 40 weeks later, barely a week goes by without somebody demanding to know why I haven’t been fired, usually while accusing me of only adding the letters NSFW to each of my columns to trick people into reading them. “How exactly is this Not Safe For Work?” they cry, having wasted five minutes of their otherwise 100% productive lives searching my latest anti-iPad screed for the merest hint of female nudity.

It’s amazing really. Even after I published the entire text of my book – about how I managed to get fired even from companies that I actually founded – on TechCrunch, people still don’t get the point. It’s not the content of my writing that’s Not Safe For Work, it’s me.

But it’s one thing for TC readers – most of whom haven’t met me, let alone worked with me – not to understand how unemployable I am. It’s quite another thing for someone who knows me, has worked with me (and repeatedly threatened to fire me) and who has read my entire story of failure to decide that, despite all that, they still want to hire me into a position of serious responsibility.

And yet, that’s precisely what just happened.

The whole weird turn of events began when I hopped on the Caltrain down to Palo Alto to visit TechCrunch HQ and see its brand new video studio. You only have to glance at today’s headlines on Mediagazer (Techmeme’s new media news aggregator) to realise that online video is big business right now. According to one headline from AdWeek, “most marketers plan to up their online video ad spending in 2010″ – while NewTeeVee leads with the story that “One quarter of online videos are viewed in primetime” – suggesting that online viewing, long seen as an at-work addition to traditional broadcasting, is starting to make inroads into mainstream viewing habits.

Clearly any media organisation that isn’t looking seriously at online video now is doing themselves and their audience a huge disservice. Indeed, as became apparent during my studio tour, TechCrunch has decided to make a serious commitment to the medium.

Really, they’re not messing around: from building the studio and outfitting it with a dazzling array of broadcast-quality equipment to investing in industry-standard editing, streaming and advertising infrastructure, everything about TC’s TV plans screams “we’re really fucking serious about this stuff”. (Of course you’ll have to take my word for that given that launch is still several weeks away, and many of the current TC videos still look like they were produced on a 1980s camcorder).

Given this level of professionalism, then, and the investment  that Mike and Heather have made to make sure TCTV will be required viewing for anyone with a passionate interest in the world of technology start-ups and entrepreneurship, their next move was curious to the point of lunacy.

They’ve hired me to run it.

Me who has spent the past two years profiting off my unemployable. Me who vowed never to be involved in another start-up, or to be in charge of anything ever again. Me who just finished writing a book and was giving serious thought to spending the next six months lying on a beach.

The negotiation took about ten minutes. I mean, who doesn’t want to run their own TV station?

That was about a little over a month ago, and since then I’ve been spending my days down at TCHQ, filling whiteboards with show ideas, figuring out how to fit those shows into 168 hours of schedule each week, taking talented people for lunch and convincing them to join our line-up of hosts – and generally figuring out what this gigantic, ambitious, expensive thing should look like.

Of course it goes without saying that, from a technical standpoint, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing: I’m a content person (writer, editor, publisher) not a broadcasting or technology person – so I’ve also been busily surrounding myself with people who having been doing that stuff for years. It’s a super-steep learning curve but thanks to a lot of people’s hard work, and Mike and Heather’s completely misguided trust and support, the finished product is shaping up to be great.

There’s still a ridiculous amount to be done between now and launch, and it’ll be at least another week before we’re ready to announce any of our starting line up of shows, or even the exact launch date. But, to whet your appetite ahead of what I’m already calling the Online TV Launch Of The Decade, here’s what I can say…

TechCrunch TV will go live next month. Broadcasting online (and soon possibly elsewhere) 24 hours a day, the channel’s focus will be on the people behind the stories you read on TC every day: the entrepreneurs, developers, venture capitalists, angels and assorted geniuses who are building companies from Silicon Valley to Serbia and beyond.

It goes without saying that all of our shows will also be available on demand — as streamable, downloadable, embeddable and sharable clips as soon as they’re broadcast. We’ll also be heavily integrating Twitter and other feedback tools into our live shows so you’ll be able to interact directly with the leading lights of the start-up world. Right from the start, TCTV will be hitting the road: for those attending  TC Disrupt in New York, there’ll be a TCTV booth where you can talk about your start-up, or just share your opinion, live on air. (Well, almost live – we’re not idiots.) For those not heading to Disrupt, we’ll be hosting live coverage of the event on all three days, including bonus commentary and behind the scenes footage.

And that’s just the start. Like everyone else, we’re still figuring this stuff out, so if you have strong ideas about what you’d like to see on TCTV, by all means let me know.

For my part, despite my best efforts, I have a new full-time job – and for the first time in more than two years I’m really excited by the idea. Much like when I was running my own start-ups, I’m working with a team of smart, dedicated people; building something innovative and exciting from the ground up. But unlike with my own start-ups, I get to be responsible for product strategy and all the fun creative stuff while someone else signs the checks and makes it all pay. As anyone who has ever worked with me (or who knew me when I was carrying a Friday Project company credit card) will testify, this is very much a good thing.

I give it three weeks.

The Open Sausage Foundation

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 03:40 PM PDT

Facebook took over the Gillmor Gang this week like it threatens to do the Web. Danny Sullivan represented those who fear the unadulterated market power of the social giant. He pressed FriendFeed co-founder and now Facebook platform chief Bret Taylor on the Pandora and Microsoft deals, which push user data to "partners" without user opt in. Taylor said these were carefully defined contracts that respected user privacy. Robert Scoble represented the happy user, listening to friend-seeded recommendations on Pandora. Andrew Keen represented his own peculiar subset of clueless netizens, entertaining us with a stylized version of Facebook's onboarding interrogation: Who are you? What's your favorite cereal? What constitutes an invasion of privacy? Taylor batted the gambit away, only to have Sullivan loop around to it later and give Keen's schtick more credibility than I thought possible.

Redfin Hits $30 Million In Revenue In Quest To Rip Apart Real Estate Industry

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 12:59 PM PDT

I sat down with Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman and investor/board member James Slavet to talk about the continued success of the Seattle-based company. Warning in advance – the interview was done at the end of the day and we were drinking beer from our new kegerator, and we rambled at times. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon viewing, in my opinion.

Kelman announced in the video that Redfin is now on a $30 million revenue run rate, up from $15 million last summer (and at that point they were profitable.

The company cuts real estate fees dramatically, by about half, for both buyers and sellers. Kelman called real estate “by far the most screwed up industry in America" on 60 Minutes a couple of years ago, But Kelman has cooled somewhat since then, and some of the death threats and hostility by realtors has now calmed down, he says.

We also brought up the age-old Seattle v. Silicon Valley debate again – something we’ve been arguing about since 2008. And we touched on his recent guest post about the need for founders to share the love with employees when it comes to distributing equity.

Side note: Slavet was also in our studio recently to talk about his investment in TellApart.

Index Ventures Puts Heavyweights Behind New Seed Fund

Posted: 25 Apr 2010 09:50 AM PDT

Index Ventures, a European based venture fund that has also invested heavily in U.S. startups, will launch a new seed fund on Monday to focus on early stage deals. Partners Neil Rimer, Danny Rimer, Saul Klein and Mike Volpi will manage Index Seed. The fund is partnering with existing seed fund The Accelerator Group, and TAG founder Robin Klein is joining Index as a venture partner.

The firm plans to make twenty early stage investments over the next 24 months, Klein told me. Investments will range from $50,000 – $1 million in size. And unlike many seed funds that have been carved out of larger venture funds, the partners will take board seats or otherwise be heavily engaged with their startups. With larger venture funds, the partners have time to make the investments but can’t spend a lot of time on them simply because they are managing so much other money. Index Seed is being carved out of Index’s existing $400 million fund.

The decision making process is streamlined, says Klein. “We are optimizing our process for due diligence and legals. We can make decisions quickly, don’t need a board seat, expect rights that are the same as other seed investors and can invest as little as $50k or as much as $1m in a seed round.”

Index already does seed deals occasionally, and Index Seed is a way to structure and organize those efforts. Saul Klein has been actively engaged in promoting young startups through SeedCamp, a startup competition and incubator, and OpenCoffee Club, a entrepreneur networking event that has spread around the world. And the partnership with TAG brings in additional expertise around early stage deals.

Index has done 40 seed stage deals since 1995, says Klein, and 30 of those were in the last 5 years. Those deals include MySQL, Skype, Playfish and RightScale.

TAG is a seed fund run by father and son team Robin Klein and Saul Klein. The fund, which won the Europa award for top European investor, is a co-investor with Index with 14 companies, including Moo, My Heritage, Glasses Direct, OpenX, Stardoll, Moshi Monsters and LoveFilm. Saul Klein works at both funds, and so there is already a lot of overlap. TAG’s exits include Agent Provocateur (3i), Sit Up TV (Virgin Media), Lastminute.com (IPO), Last.fm (CBS) and Dopplr (Nokia). They currently have 44 active investments. TAG will continue to make its own investments – Robin Klein will spend two days a week at Index.

Saul Klein says that Index wants to continue to invest with top angels in Europe and the U.S., and says that those relationships are crucial to bringing in deal flow. He talks about the notion of “fellow travlers” – investors who share Index’s philosophy of active engagement with seed stage teams. “In the nearly 100 or more seed deals, we have collectively done, we have seen time and again how important it is for founders to have not just relevant investors at the seed stage but investors who are accessible, honest and engaged,” says Klein.


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