web 2.0

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Fixing Societal Problems: It Starts With Mom and Dad

Posted: 15 May 2010 06:52 AM PDT

I am quite used to controversy—unsurprisingly, given the topics that I have been exploring with my academic research. But what has really been a surprise is the hornet's nest that I seem to have stirred up with my two TechCrunch posts and BusinessWeek column on the dearth of women entrepreneurs. At every event I've been to recently, women have come up to me to say thanks for raising awareness of this issue and for providing them with encouragement; the New York Times ran a big feature story echoing my words; and several VC friends sent me emails congratulating me for "having the courage to speak up". On the flip side, I've also taken fire from some VCs. One woman VC wrote a TechCrunch post chiding me for being "patronizing"; others declared on Twitter that all my posts are "garbage"; and I received some really nasty e-mails questioning "my agenda". So I know that I’ve touched a nerve, and that this is a really important topic.

There is little doubt that there is a problem, and that it is societal. Women start only around 3% of the nation's tech firms; they are almost absent in high-level technology positions; they contribute to fewer than 5% of all IT patents and 1.2% of open-source software; and the proportion of women-led companies receiving venture capital has dropped dramatically over the past few years. This is despite the fact that girls now match boys in mathematical achievement; 140 women enroll in higher education for every 100 men; and women earn more than 50 percent of all bachelor's and master's degrees and nearly 50 percent of all doctorates (see this white paper by Cindy Padnos).

It's not that women can't cut it in the rough and tough business world. Women-led companies are more capital-efficient, and venture-backed companies run by a woman have 12% higher revenues, than others. They also have lower failure rates. A new Kauffman Foundation report, which I coauthored with Joanne Cohoon of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, shows that women and men company founders are remarkably similar in their backgrounds, motivations, and success factors.

I've never suggested that women should receive special treatment. Quite to the contrary, I've written that they need to learn from other groups, such as Indians, who achieved extraordinary success by helping each other. What I'm arguing is that if you're going to fix a problem, you need to start by admitting that it exists and then fix its root causes. Don't pretend that everything is okay just because you can highlight a few random successes.

I realized what the biggest societal problem is, when listening to three great women tell their stories at the Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Awards Banquet, last Wednesday: Mom and Dad.

Kristina Johnson, Lila Ibrahim, and Kathleen McKeown

My former dean and mentor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, Kristina Johnson, attributed much of her success to her parents. Her father, an electrical engineer, taught her the joy of building things and helped her develop a curiosity for how things work; her mother taught her the importance of education in what Eleanor Roosevelt called "the beauty of our dreams". Kristina is now working as Under-Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration to "save the planet".

Columbia University Computer Science professor, Kathleen McKeown, has pioneered technologies in text summarization and natural-language generation. Her mother was an applied mathematician who was determined to raise a family and work during the days when women just played the role of housewives. She taught her daughters to be tough and defy society when necessary, to fulfill their dreams.

Intel General Manager, Lila Ibrahim, who has been leading Intel's initiatives to provide education technology to the third world, came from an Arab family, in which, traditionally, few women work. Yet her parents pushed her to pursue higher education and excel.

All three of these women said that they wouldn't have achieved their success without the support of their parents. All were swarmed by students at the end of the evening; like most aspiring women entrepreneurs, all the young students want is some encouragement from their role models. These are the  keys to fixing the societal problems: parents need to teach their daughters that they can help change the world by becoming engineers and scientists, and successful women need to provide them with encouragement and coaching.

I attended another very interesting event yesterday: TiEcon, which is probably the largest entrepreneurial networking event in Silicon Valley. I moderated a lively debate between Kauffman Foundation VP, Lesa Mitchell; NCWIT CEO, Lucinda Sanders; Polyvore CEO, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy; and Schmoop CEO, Ellen Siminoff, on the missing women entrepreneurs. We debated whether there was a problem and then discussed solutions.

Singh and Siminoff also talked about their supportive parents. But they argued that there is no societal problem for women; it is just a matter of women building the confidence to succeed and taking on the world —like they did. Women won't benefit by "having a chip on their shoulder". When presented with hard data from Sanders and Mitchell, who have been researching this, they acknowledged that women outside the valley don't have access to the same networks as they do, and so they are at a disadvantage; as are women who don't have supportive parents. The panel agreed that women who are at the "tipping point"—who have an interest and motivation in entrepreneurship, but lack the knowledge and support—do need help.

Lesa Mitchell said that a few years ago, she had been of the opinion that there were no societal problems and that the Kauffman Foundation shouldn't provide special treatment to women’s groups—but had completely changed her views after reviewing extensive research and data. Women need encouragement, entrepreneurship education, and access to solid mentor networks—particularly in fields in which the deck is stacked against them

The bottom line is that it's all about encouraging the other half of our population to achieve its potential and thereby boosting  innovation and economic growth. Let's be aware of the issues and work to fix them. By the way, Astia is holding an event called the We Own It Summit, in New York City on June 8, which brings together key groups together to discuss this. I encourage you to attend. I'll be moderating the keynote panel, and have no doubt it will be interesting. to attend.

Editor's note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa

Skype Screen Sharing Is A Huge (And Free) Productivity Tool

Posted: 15 May 2010 01:50 AM PDT

Over the years we’ve been pitched many thousands of times by startups. Sometimes those pitches are in person. Sometimes it’s over the phone, which works if you have a live website to play with. But all too often we get requests for meetings via WebEx or one of the dozens of competing products. Over the years those products have improved, but the percentage of failures is way too high. It’s always awkward when people are talking about what you would see if the meeting software worked.

The problems with these products are particularly frustrating when we put on a big launch event like TechCrunch Disrupt later this month. We schedule hundreds of live demos in a two week period, stacking them every 20 minutes for days on end. Companies can choose how they want to live screencast their software and demos, and we’ve informally tracked what software they choose and the failure rates.

Skype video, which now has screen sharing, now accounts for about 30% of all demos for us.

The failure rate is near zero and the lag is acceptable even for calls originating from thousands of miles away. It is hands down the easiest way to connect by screen and voice. And it’s completely free.

There are few bells and whistles. It’s only good for one computer to one computer communication, for example, and you can’t view the presenter and the demo at the same time. But the benefits are more than worth it. Just about everyone in the tech community already uses skype for calls and chat anyway. You click to initiate a call and share your entire screen or just a part of it, and you’re off and running. I wish everything on the Internet worked this well.

We are probably going to make Skype mandatory for our future events. The time and efficiency savings are substantial.

What amazes me most is that screen sharing is just a side feature for Skype. But that side feature is way better than the products released by companies that focus on virtual meetings and nothing more.

I like straightforward, reliable and easy to use products. Skype is doing all of that for us right now.

Also, I’ve been using Skype video nearly constantly since my move to Seattle for meetings with people in Silicon Valley that I used to do in person. When you go to full screen view it’s the closest thing to them sitting right in front of you that I’ve seen. Well, other than if they were actually sitting right in front of you. That would definitely be more real than Skype Video, I guess.

The Fire Eagle Flies. Tom Coates The Latest To Leave Yahoo’s Nest

Posted: 14 May 2010 11:14 PM PDT

Everyone is talking about location now. But back in 2007, basically no one was talking about it. But Tom Coates was. That’s the year that Fire Eagle, an early location platform spearheaded by Coates first peeked its head out of Yahoo’s now-defunct Brickhouse. Yes, Yahoo had the pieces in place to be perhaps the key location platform 3 years ago. Obviously, that never happened. And now Coates is leaving Yahoo.

In a post tonight on his personal blog, Coates details some of his favorite memories at Yahoo over the past four years. In it, he singles out Yahoo Hack Day, Brickhouse, and Fire Eagle (as well as a dozen or so former colleagues). Coates came to the U.S. to head product for Brickhouse, which Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake started for Yahoo in 2007. A number of products launched out of there, but Coates is clearly most proud of his work on Fire Eagle. As he notes:

When I first joined Yahoo! in 2005, Simon Willison and I wrote a list of some areas we thought could be really fascinating to work on, and which could be a really huge deal over the coming years. We’d become really interested in location and had come to the conclusion that every website on the planet could be enhanced in some way if you could add some element of location.

That dream is of course coming into existence only now. Coates acknowledges that his dream was perhaps a bit ahead of its time.

In 2008, Fire Eagle launched the the public. I was at the launch event and recall it being one of the first location-based ideas that fueled my excitement about the topic. Location had just started to come on my radar with the launch of iPhone 3G and its GPS chip (and the App Store), and I was particularly interested in how services such as this would deal with privacy issues (a problem which is still an issue today). Fire Eagle actually had a very smart approach, and Coates knows it, writing today:

We spent an incredible amount of time thinking about the privacy implications of users sharing their locations. Many other services see privacy as a problem and attempt to gloss over it for their users. We thought of it as an opportunity and made the privacy features the core part of the project. Users could choose where to share, how much to share, hide themselves and change or retract their permissions at any time. I think we progressed the state of the art in that area.

But the money quote in Coates’ post has to be, “Someone once referred to Fire Eagle as the Pixies of the latest batch of Location Services, and if that’s at all true, it may be the biggest compliment I’ve ever received.” In many ways, Fire Eagle was the precursor to some of what we’re seeing now. It’s too bad, that for whatever reason, it never really took flight.

Coates notes that over the past year at Yahoo he had been working on taking some of the ideas behind Fire Eagle and applying them across Yahoo’s other location services. We’ll be seeing the results of what he’s been working on in the months (and years) ahead, he says. Let’s hope that’s true, but I’m not too confident in Yahoo’s commitment to the future of location, considering that the Director of Geo Engineering just left a few days before Coates did.

Yahoo had been making a run at the hot location network Foursquare, but the latest word is that that is now off the table too.

Coates won’t say what he’s up to next beyond taking a break. He does note that he’s been talking to a few people about interesting projects though. Hopefully he’ll be able to contribute to the exploding location field now that he’s outside of Yahoo.

[photo: flickr/patrick h. lauke]

CrunchGear Review: Canon Rebel T2i DSLR camera

Posted: 14 May 2010 07:24 PM PDT

An outstanding consumer DSLR and liberating video recorder, Canon’s new flagship Rebel is a powerhouse media device in a small and relatively affordable package. What I think of as killer features, however, may not be viewed as such by the buying population at large.

Its main selling points are a highly improved LCD, a more complete video mode than its predecessor, and of course an increase in megapixels. Other than these features, the T2i is pretty much still the Digital Rebel we know and love. At $800, it’s not exactly an entry-level camera, but for enthusiasts and casual moviemakers, it’s a huge value.

4chan Founder ‘Moot’ Raises $625K For Stealth Startup Canvas Networks

Posted: 14 May 2010 03:48 PM PDT

According to an SEC filing, 4chan founder Christopher “Moot” Poole has raised $625,000 in funding for a stealth startup called Canvas Networks. We’ve emailed Poole to confirm the funding.

4chan is an online bulletin board where anyone can post comments, expound on topics and share images. Poole was featured as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world last year.

As of March, 4chan was receiving around 8.2 million unique visitors per month. Poole told the New York Times’ Nick Bilton that the site receives an average of 800,000 new posts a day. He also told Bilton that a Japanese toy store offered him $45,000 for 4chan, which he declined.

In the same interview, Poole said he was “working on a new project to reimagine what an image board should be today using the current technologies available” We’re assuming that Canvas Networks is related to this.

[crunchbase url="http://www.crunchbase.com/company/4chan" name="4chan"]

The New Browser Wars: Will Ubuntu Drop Firefox For Google Chrome?

Posted: 14 May 2010 03:37 PM PDT

Potentially big news in the world of open source software, friends. Apparently Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution, is considering dropping Firefox for Chrome. Well, maybe for Chrome, or maybe for Chromium, the open source project that Chrome is based upon. Therein lies the rub, I do believe. What's going on is that Ubergizmo, a fine site, hears that Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) is considering adding Chrome (or Chromium—more on that in a second) to Ubuntu Linux Netbook Remix, the next big release of which is due this autumn. What a terribly constructed sentence. Exactly why they'd replace Firefox with Chrome or Chromium isn't known, but presumably they feel that the new browser on the block performs better on the average netbook than Firefox. No one would be inaccurate in calling Firefox a bit of a memory hog at times. I wouldn't touch a netbook with a 10-foot pole—netbooks may also be dying, so this may all be moot sooner rather than later—so I have no idea if that's true or not, that Chrome or Chromium out-performs Firefox on netbooks. I have no horse in that race, as it were.

Google Admits To Accidentally Collecting Personal Data With Street View Cars

Posted: 14 May 2010 03:33 PM PDT

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Google has just admitted in an official blog post that its Street View cars have been “mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks” since 2006. In other words, as these cars have been driving around, they’ve been collecting unencrypted user data in addition to the SSID and MAC addresses they were supposed to be tracking.

It’s not likely that Google grabbed enough data about many individuals for this to be a major privacy concern. After all, the cars were typically only in range of most of these Wifi networks for a few seconds. But this is certain to haunt Google nonetheless — the company has so much private data on so many people, that it’s imperative that the public maintain its trust in the search giant and its “Don’t be evil” mantra. Expect privacy advocates and the various governments that are putting Google under increasing scrutiny to refer back to this incident for quite a while, along with Google’s recent Buzz privacy debacle.

Here’s the explanation from Alan Eustace, Senior VP, Engineering & Research:

So how did this happen? Quite simply, it was a mistake. In 2006 an engineer working on an experimental WiFi project wrote a piece of code that sampled all categories of publicly broadcast WiFi data. A year later, when our mobile team started a project to collect basic WiFi network data like SSID information and MAC addresses using Google's Street View cars, they included that code in their software—although the project leaders did not want, and had no intention of using, payload data.

As soon as we became aware of this problem, we grounded our Street View cars and segregated the data on our network, which we then disconnected to make it inaccessible. We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and are currently reaching out to regulators in the relevant countries about how to quickly dispose of it.

Maintaining people's trust is crucial to everything we do, and in this case we fell short. So we will be:
Asking a third party to review the software at issue, how it worked and what data it gathered, as well as to confirm that we deleted the data appropriately; and
Internally reviewing our procedures to ensure that our controls are sufficiently robust to address these kinds of problems in the future.
In addition, given the concerns raised, we have decided that it's best to stop our Street View cars collecting WiFi network data entirely.

The discovery was prompted by a request from the Data Protection Authority in Hamburg, Germany, who wanted to audit the data Google collected with its Street View cars. Google responded with a blog post on its European Public Policy blog, which has now been shown to contain incorect information that understates how much data these cars have been collecting.

Unsealed iPhone 4G Affidavit: Phone’s Sellers Allegedly Tried To Hide Evidence

Posted: 14 May 2010 02:21 PM PDT

Earlier today, at the insistence of a coalition of media organizations including Wired and Cnet, a judge unsealed an affidavit the iPhone 4G leak case that has uncovered many more details about the case. The documents, which contain the affidavit of Detective Matthew Broad of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, affirm that it was Apple that sparked the police investigation, and offers a timeline of events leading up to the police raid of Gizmodo editor’s Jason Chen’s house. We’ve embedded the full document below, via Cnet.

In the documents, it’s revealed that Steve Jobs personally contacted Gizmodo about getting the phone back (Gizmodo responded that it wanted Apple to officially state that the phone was theirs). It also reveals that Apple has claimed that Gizmodo damaged the prototype iPhone during the course of taking it apart:

“Sewell said that upon returning to Apple, employees attempted to power the phone and found that it no longer functioned. Upon examining the phone, they found the following damage occurred to it as a result of the phone being disassembling[sic]:
1. Broken ribbon cable
2. One screw was inserted into the wrong location and caused an electrical short
3. Back plate snaps were broken.
4. Stripped Screws.”

At one point in the document, the story of how Gray Powell probably lost the phone is detailed (note that this supports the claims by Gizmodo that it was not actually stolen out of Gray Powell’s possession):

“Powell said he sat at the bar with his uncle. He said the last memory he had of the prototype phone was placing it in his bag, which he then put on the floor by his feet. Powell said that his bag was knocked over at one point in time and it was possible the prototype iPhone fell out of the bag onto the floor.

I asked Powell if it was possible that someone stole the prototype iPhone from his bag. He said he did leave his bag with his uncle at one point during the evening when he went to the bathroom and it was possible, although unlikely, that someone removed the prototype iPhone from his bag”.

But most interesting, at least on our first read-through of the documents, are the bizarre chain of events that took place as the investigation closed in on Brian Hogan and Thomas Warner — the two young men allegedly working together to sell the phone after Hogan found it in a bar. Police were allegedly tipped off about the involvement of the two men by their roommate, a woman named Katherine Martinson, who was concerned that she would be considered an accomplice to the young men because Hogan had used her computer to try syncing the iPhone 4G prototype.

“Orloff said that Witness Martinson contacted him due to the fact that Suspect Hogan connected the stolen iPhone to her computer and she believed that Apple would eventually trace the iPhone back to her via IP address. Therefore she contacted Apple in order to absolve herself of criminal responsibility…”

The documents allege that when Martinson tried to talk Hogan out of selling the iPhone because it would “ruin the carer of Robert ‘Gray’ Powell”, Hogan responded “Sucks for him. He lost his phone. Shouldn’t have lost his phone.”

The documents then go on to detail the night of April 21, when Hogan and Warner allegedly tried to hide evidence that tied them to the phone. It’s a bizarre tale. Warner, who had two outstanding misdemeanor warrants, allegedly tried to hide a laptop at a church, and after saying he didn’t know where a missing thumb drive and flash card were, said that they were hidden in a bush in Redwood City. Here are the passages describing the events of that night:

Evri Shutters Twine, Launches Evri Thing Tech Android App (iPhone Is Next)

Posted: 14 May 2010 02:05 PM PDT

Realtime content discovery engine Evri is moving into mobile today with the launch of a tech news reader on Android phones called Everi Thing Tech. It is available in the Android market, and a nearly identical app is awaiting approval for the iPhone (screenshots below). A desktop client is in the works as well.

EvriThing Tech delivers tech news in predefined channels such as “Venture Capital,” “Web Giants,” Social And Real-Time Web,” and “Gadgets.”  Evri’s realtime semantic matching algorithms deliver news in those categories to your phone.  Soon, with future upgrades, you will be able to create and add your own channels on any topic.

Right now on Everi’s site, you can create your own interest channels by following any person, place, or thing that Evri recognizes.  For instance, here is channel about Google news, tweets, and related images and videos. Here is one for Facebook and LeBron James. Soon Evri will allow you to create more loosely defined channels around concepts like the “BP oil spill” which you will be able to follow and share with other Evri users. “We want Evri to be your workhorse,” says Evri CEO Will Hunsinger. “We will go around the web and find out what is interesting to you. Then you go and consume it.”

Evri is incorporating the semantic indexing technology from its recent acquisition of Radar Networks into its products. Unfortunately, Radar’s existing product, Twine is being shut down. Today is the last day it will be available, you can still export your bookmarks and other data before the shutdown.

Foursquare Warns Its Competitors: “We’re Running Like A Well-Oiled Machine”

Posted: 14 May 2010 01:19 PM PDT

This summer is going to be dangerous for anyone else in this space!

That’s what Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley had to say when I spoke to him earlier about the service. Crowley is known for being outspoken. But he’s usually not that outspoken. But maybe he has reason to be.

I reached out to Crowley to ask him about NBC promoting Foursquare today. As you may have heard, The Today Show promoted a new partnership with the service earlier today (and did so on-air). But NBC itself also appears to be ready to heavily promote the service. This new mysterious “Fan It” site due to launch in 3+ days, implies partnerships with four main players: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and yes, Foursquare. That’s quite a crowd that Foursquare has been added to. And they know it.

Foursquare is out of control!,” Crowley says. “I didn’t even know Today Show was happening! We’re running like a well-oiled machine!” It was after this that he made the comment about this summer and the competition. I asked Crowley if that meant the Yahoo deal was off the table now, as Silicon Alley Insider reported yesterday (and we’ve heard as well). “Ha ha. We’re just psyched to be building great product and people seem to love it,” Crowley responded. That’s an enthusiastic “no comment” at least!

Crowley also confirmed that Foursquare has 20 employees now. It was just this past October that Foursquare was living up to its name with only four employees. In other words, if they don’t sell, they’re going to need some new VC money soon, having taken only $1.35 million so far. Though some deals are bringing in revenue (but the company is not yet profitable).

We are almost over the hump. Scaling outpaces engineering, engineering outpaces product, product outpaces biz. It’s all starting to come together,” Crowley notes. That certainly doesn’t sound like a man about to sell. Unless, of course, he’s playing me to get me to write that as a negotiating tactic. But when he was thought to be in the midst of negotiating with Yahoo several weeks ago, Crowley was saying almost nothing, so I have to believe he is just generally enthusiastic about the product right now — as all founders should be.

Going back to the comment at the top of this post. Clearly, Crowley knows Facebook is about to launch its entry into the check-in space. Yet he’s still bullish on Foursquare’s immediate future. That again signals to me that while Facebook will have its own checking-in method, they’re also going to federate check-ins from other services, like Foursquare. That can help the service with a million users gain a lot of exposure. And Crowley was meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week in New York City for some reason.

Update: MediaBistro has more on the NBC Fan It program;

Here is how it will work: starting May 17 users can go to NBC.com/Fanit and log in with the Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FourSquare or MyNBC accounts. After that, all they have to do is “Like”a show on Facebook, watch a video on NBC.com or talk about a program on the social networking sites, and they will earn points as their friends click through.

The points will be redeemable for merchandise an virtual goods (think FourSquare badges) as well as early looks at new and returning shows.

Hands-on With the WiFiSync iPhone App

Posted: 14 May 2010 01:00 PM PDT

WiFiSync should have existed a long time ago. Created by Greg Hughes, it uses two programs - desktop app and an iPhone app - to sync your iPhone wirelessly. I was able to sync music, movies, and info quickly and easy, just by pressing "Sync" in iTunes. The app costs $9.99 on the Cydia store. The Cydia Store appears when you jailbreak your phone and it's sort of a Bizarro App Store unsanctioned by Apple.

Wait, Apple Actually Does Respond to Adobe. Sort Of.

Posted: 14 May 2010 12:15 PM PDT

As you’re likely well aware by now, yesterday, Adobe launched an ad blitz to blanket both online and print media with a message that they love Apple. The weird, passive-agressive idea was a more or less a response to Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ post with his thoughts on Adobe Flash a few weeks earlier. While the Internet has come up with some (very funny) joke responses from Apple back to Adobe, we didn’t actually expect Apple to respond to this latest manuever. But actually, they sort of have.

Now, it may be a complete coincidence, but the timing is interesting, to say the least. This morning, Apple starting emailing its customers to let them know that “Adobe CS5 is here.” This is of course Adobe’s expensive graphic editing suite that is very popular among Mac users, particularly those in graphic design (an industry where Macs generally dominate). It contains programs such as Photoshop, and yes, even Flash.

So, whether they meant to or not, Apple has today sort of responded to Adobe’s latest message by more or less saying that they love Adobe too. Is this a peace offering? A subtle attempt at manipulation? Or just a coincidence? Hard to say.


Post a Comment