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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Facebook And Zynga Enter Into Five Year Partnership, Expand Use Of Facebook Credits

Posted: 18 May 2010 09:10 AM PDT

Facebook and Zynga have just announced a five year partnership. See the release below:

Facebook and Zynga announced today that they have entered into a five-year strategic relationship that increases their shared commitment to social gaming on Facebook and expands use of Facebook Credits in Zynga’s games. The agreement provides a solid foundation for both companies to continue to work together to provide millions of people with a compelling user experience for social games.

“Facebook was a pioneer in opening their platform in 2007 and in just three years tens of millions of Facebook users play our games everyday, from FarmVille and Cafe World to Treasure Isle and Mafia Wars,” said Mark Pincus, founder and chief executive officer at Zynga. “We are excited about Facebook’s long-term commitment to social gaming and Zynga, and look forward to working with them and other platform providers to bring the best social gaming experience to users worldwide.”

“We are pleased to enter into a new agreement with Zynga to enhance the experience for Facebook users who play Zynga games,” said Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook. “We look forward to continuing our work with Zynga and all of our developers to increase the opportunities on our platform.”

Zynga is currently testing Facebook Credits in select games and will expand to more titles over the coming months. Terms of the agreement between Facebook and Zynga were not disclosed.

Zynga, Facebook Make Peace For Now, Enter Into 5-Year Partnership

Posted: 18 May 2010 09:10 AM PDT

After months of discord, Zynga and Facebook have made peace— at least for now. Despite Zynga’s earlier frustrations and reports that it was ready to abandon Facebook, the two companies were able to agree to a “five-year strategic relationship.” "Facebook was a pioneer in opening their platform in 2007 and in just three years tens of millions of Facebook users play our games every day, from FarmVille and Café World to Treasure Isle and Mafia Wars," Zynga CEO Mark Pincus said in the press release. "We are excited about Facebook's long-term commitment to social gaming and Zynga, and look forward to working with them and other platform providers to bring the best social gaming experience to users worldwide."

Although Zynga and Facebook are now tied together for at least the next five years, don’t expect Zynga to abandon its Zynga Live projects and other avenues that will help it grow more independent of the social networking site.

Zynga and Facebook have managed to come to
Here is the fulll press release:


Palo Alto and San Francisco, Calif., May 18, 2010 – Facebook and Zynga announced today that they have entered into a five-year strategic relationship that increases their shared commitment to social gaming on Facebook and expands use of Facebook Credits in Zynga's games. The agreement provides a solid foundation for both companies to continue to work together to provide millions of people with a compelling user experience for social games.

"Facebook was a pioneer in opening their platform in 2007 and in just three years tens of millions of Facebook users play our games every day, from FarmVille and Café World to Treasure Isle and Mafia Wars," said Mark Pincus, founder and chief executive officer at Zynga. "We are excited about Facebook's long-term commitment to social gaming and Zynga, and look forward to working with them and other platform providers to bring the best social gaming experience to users worldwide."

"We are pleased to enter into a new agreement with Zynga to enhance the experience for Facebook users who play Zynga games," said Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook. "We look forward to continuing our work with Zynga and all of our developers to increase the opportunities on our platform."

Zynga is currently testing Facebook Credits in select games and will expand to more titles over the coming months. Terms of the agreement between Facebook and Zynga were not disclosed.

John Doerr Is Coming To Disrupt. Are You? Here’s The Full Agenda.

Posted: 18 May 2010 09:05 AM PDT

We are now less than a week away from TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City, May 24-26. The speaker lineup is complete, the Disrupt Agenda is now posted (see below), and the Battlefield Startups have been selected and are at this very moment preparing for battle. There are still a few tickets left (get them now because the discount rate expires tomorrow).

Kicking off the program, Charlie Rose will interview John Doerr, the fabled Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist who backed Amazon, Netscape, and Google. Now he thinks the iPad is the next big thing (he’s a big believer in clean tech too, but that’s another story). Doerr has made billions of dollars by spotting disruption early on. It’s what all venture capitalists try to do, and part of the culture of Silicon Valley. But what happens when the dynamics of the technology industry begin to pervade the media industry? Whether it’s print, music, TV, games, or advertising, the media industry is taking on the characteristics of the technology industry with its accelerated rate of creative destruction.

Where there is disruption, there is also opportunity, and we’ve organized Disrupt to explore where the puck is going. On Monday, Funny Or Die CEO Dick Glover will tell us how the Web is changing his approach to TV production and distribution. Boxee CEO Avner Ronen and Comcast Interactive executive VP Sam Schwartz will debate what TV Everywhere actually means. Bloomberg’s editorial chief Norm Pearlstine, Huffington Post CEO Eric Hippeau, and New York Times media writer David Carr will discuss whether the iPad will really change the game for print media or whether the bigger ongoing disruption is the Web itself.

On Tuesday, we’ve got Google engineering VP Vic Gundotra, Facebook product VP Chris Cox, and Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley talking about how the mobile Web is a new beast and how to tame it. (Facebook alone has 100 million mobile users, Google is pushing hard to get Android adopted everywhere, and Foursquare has figured out how to get people to voluntarily broadcast their location, which may be the key to local geo advertising). Tim Armstrong will tell us how his transformation of AOL is coming along, and later we will ask AOL founder Steve Case what he thinks of Armstrong’s strategy. Then we are going to put 4Chan founder Christopher Poole, Chatroulette’s Andrey Ternovskiy and Dailybooth CEO Brian Pokorny together on a panel with GE’s global executive director of advertising and branding Judy Hu so that they can try to explain why she should ever entrust her brand to them. Finally, VCs Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz will have an actual debate about whether and under what circumstances itr’s better for startups to go lean versus fat.

On Wednesday, Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey will give us a special demo. We’ll have panels on social commerce (with Gilt Groupe CEO Susan Lynne and Etsy founder Rob Kalin) and advertising technology. Chris Hughes and Scott Heiferman will talk about social change. John Borthwick and Chris Dixon will tackle the challenges and rewards of seed funding in New York City.

All of this agenda is just in the mornings. The afternoons will be jam packed with new startup launches in our Startup Battlefield competition. This is our new format since we are no longer doing TechCrunch 50. It will be about half as many companies, with more feedback from our expert panelists, and elimination rounds until we get a winner, who will receive a $50,000 prize. I’ve seen these companies in rehearsals and all I can say at this point is that they will not disappoint. And if you are an engineer/hacker, join our awesome and free Hack Day the weekend before the event—the best projects get stage time in front of the full conference audience. Watch this video interview I did with Beet.TV for more info.

We also plan to add an audience member to each panel, so you can be a part of the discussion, too.

If you want to attend Disrupt, now is the time to buy your ticket.

Disrupt Agenda

Monday, May 24

9:00am Opening Remarks
Mike Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch
9:15am The Big Picture: Tectonic Shifts in Technology, Special Series with Charlie Rose
Charlie Rose, Host, Charlie Rose Show
John Doerr
, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
9:40am Charlie Rose, Host, Charlie Rose Show
Yuri Milner, CEO & Founding Partner, Digital Sky Technologies
10:05am Real-Time Demo: TweetUp
The real-time stream from Twitter, Facebook, and other sharing platforms is influencing communications, advertising and content. Advertisers see real-time data as key to sending the right message to the right people –and avoiding disaster. What's now in real-time technology?

Bill Gross, CEO idealab, debuts TweetUp
10:15am Hollywood-Flavored Fireside: Funny or Die Gets Disruptive
Made-for-web content doesn't always stay online. And TV obviously isn't all about the static squawk box. Professional producers and comedians from the hit Funny or Die discussion how content creation is evolving — and how it's affecting the talent industry, Hollywood and Beyond.
Dick Glover, CEO, Funny Or Die
Chris Henchy, Comedian & Actor, Co-Head Gary Sanchez Productions
Mark Kvamme, Partner, Sequoia Capital
Andrew Steele, Executive Producer, Funny or Die
10:55am Coffee break
11:10am TV Everywhere: Who Profits from Entertainment On Every Screen, All the Time?
As content like SNL or the NBA becomes available on any screen, any time, the "windowing" techniques on which TV networks and other content owners used to rely for advertising and other business models no longer pertain. What's the future of multi-channel entertainment? Who's going to profit?
Moderator: Michael Wolf, Founder & Managing Director, Activate
Avner Ronen, CEO, Boxee
Samuel Schwartz, EVP, Comcast Interactive
Quincy Smith, Founding Partner, CODE Advisors
11:40am Entertainment Content Demo: Tunerfish
Comcast is about to launch a new service, developed as a secret, skunk-works project by some of the Silicon Valley team they obtained in 2008 (via the acquisition of Plaxo). What does the cable, entertainment, and communications giant have up its sleeve?

John McCrea, Founder, Tunerfish & VP Marketing, Plaxo
11:50am Products into Services: Music, Gaming, and Publishing
Entertainment content is evolving from discrete 3D products into streaming digital services with ancillary revenue streams. A book is now more than bound paper; it's also a digital download with add-ons such as author interviews or footage. Music is no longer a static CD; it's a chance to interact with a musician a social network or meet others fans online. How will these trends continue to impact the content industries and business models?

Sarah Chubb, President, CondeNet
Fred Davis, Founding Partner, CODE Advisors
John Hagel, Co-Chairman, Center for the Edge, Deloitte
Neil Young, CEO, ngmoco
12:40pm LUNCH
1:55pm Fireside: Social Networks & Online Content: Where's it Going?
Mike Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch
Jason Hirschhorn, Co-President, MySpace
Mike Jones, Co-President, MySpace
2:15pm Startup Battlefield Begins–Session 1: Disruptive Ideas & Marketplaces
Companies TBA My 24, on special URL Disrupt.co
Selected from hundreds of applicants worldwide, these fresh products will show new ways of thinking for mobile, iPad, Hollywood, e-commerce, finance and more.
3:45pm Coffee Break
4:00pm Startup Battlefield Resumes–Session 2: Disruptive Apps & Services
Does The IPad Change Everything For News, Or Is It Still All About The Web?
David Carr, Writer, New York Times
Ron Conway, Angel Investor, SV Angel
Eric Hippeau, CEO, Huffington Post
Norm Pearlstine, Chief Content Officer, Bloomberg

Tuesday, May 25: "How are Platforms and Content Evolving?"

9:30am The Mobile Disruption–What's Next?
Moderator: Mike Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch
Chris Cox, VP, Facebook
Dennis Crowley, CEO, FourSquare
Vic Gundotra, VP, Google
10:00am Social & Local Demo
Howard Lerman, CEO, Yext launches a brand-new product for small biz everywhere
10:10am Fireside: Local Content, Local Ads, and Everything in Between. How is AOL Changing?
Mike Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch
Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL
10:30am Coffee Break
10:50am The Lean vs Fat Startup Debate
The funders behind Twitter, Skype and other digital greats debate strategy for growing strong companies

Ben Horowitz, Co-founder, Andreessen Horowitz
Fred Wilson, Partner, Union Square Ventures
11:30am Fireside Chat
Mike Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch
Steve Case, CEO, Revolution
11:50am Digital Crowds into Dollars
Traditional print media is experiencing fragmentation while online media are experiencing the opposite; coalescing of audience around addictive digital platforms. How can brands effectively meet audiences where they? And how can technologists amassing these audiences work best with brands?

Judy Hu, Global Executive Director – Advertising & Branding, GE
Brian Pokorny, CEO, dailybooth
Christopher Poole, founder, 4chan
Andrey Ternovskiy, CEO, Chatroulette
12:30pm LUNCH
Optional lunchtime meet & greet with Knight Foundation: News and media startups are invited to lunch and learn about participating in the "Knight News Challenge," which offers $25M in grant money for news innovation.
2:00pm Exits: The 2010 Outlook
TechCrunch talks with legendary investor and tech banker Frank Quattrone on the liquidity outlook as the recession recedes. Co-presented by SecondMarket.

Mike Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch
Frank Quattrone, Founder, Qatalyst
2:30pm Startup Battlefield–Session Three: Disruptive Streams
Inspired entrepreneurs serve up a third round of amazing product launches
Coffee Break
4:15pm Startup Battlefield–Session Four: Disruptive Entertainment
6:15pm VC / Startup Speed Meeting & Reception
Presented by Zoosk in the Networking Lounge and in Startup Alley. Cocktail reception is open to all attendees; speed meeting for pre-registered startups.
Hosted by MailChimp at Tribeca Rooftop

Wednesday, May 26: "How do You Find Your Audience –and Make Money?"
Content creation and distribution change, so must business models. How can artists, brands, advertisers and other merchants reach the right audience, with the right message, at the right time?

9:00am Success Strategies for Musicians in the Digital Era
Troy Carter, Founder & CEO, Coalition Media Group, worldwide Manager Lady Gaga
9:20am Mobile & Commerce Demo
Jack Dorsey, Founder & CEO, Square
9:40am The Future of the Market is Social. How Do You Find Your People?
Finding customers in 2010 is not as simple as mailing out the Sears Catalog was in 1910. A fragmented consumer base with varied tastes combined with unlimited Web competition make e-commerce easy to initiate but challenging to excel within. These executives have successfully identified their marketplaces and created services with social functions that adapt to different mini-niches therein. What's their strategy? How can other companies learn to "monetize" the old-fashioned way — by selling products that people want, to the people who want them?

John Caplan, CEO, OpenSky
Rob Kalin, CEO, Etsy
Susan Lyne, CEO, Gilte Group
Dan Porter, CEO, OMGPOP
10:25am Social Advertising Demo
David Kidder, CEO, Clickable
10:35am Fireside Chat: Online Advertising
Mike Arrington, Editor, TechCrunch
Nikesh Arora, President, Global Sales Operations and Business Development, Google
10:55am Coffee Break
11:10am Social Networking & Social Change
How can online connections create offline change? As digital tools create communities, how will they meet society and the larger world?

Scott Heiferman, CEO, Meetup
Chris Hughes, Executive Director, Jumo
Reshma Saujani, Congressional Candidate, New York
11:40am The Big Brand Story
How to Make Experiences that Matter for Online & Social Audiences

Frank Cooper, SVP and Chief Consumer Engagement Officer, Pepsi
12:00pm How Will AdTech Deliver the Audience?
In an era of media fragmentation, how can ad-tech experts help brands reach fans on new platforms, such as mobile devices and the iPad? especially now that brand budgets are moving more money to online, what's now in real-time and social-graph strategy? This line-up of top brains discusses where it's all going—and who stands to make $$.

Samir Arora, Founder, Glam Media
Zaw Thet, CEO, 4INFO
Eric Wheeler, CEO, 33Across
12:30pm LUNCH
2:00pm Getting it Built
John Biggs, Editor, CrunchGear
Adam Hocherman, Founder & President, American Innovative
Bre Pettis, Founder, Makerbot
Liam Casey, CEO, PCH International
2:30pm Getting Funded
A How-To Workshop
3:00pm The Facebook Effect
David Kirkpatrick, Senior Editor, Technology & Internet, Fortune
Sean Parker, Managing Partner, Founders Fund
3:20pm Measurement Demo
Eric Bosco, Chief Product Officer, ComScore 
3:30pm What's Behind the NYC Seed-Funding Hotspot?
The city has the population density –and proudly local, niche communities — that drive growth of social, mobile and e-commerce startups. The instant laboratory creates a network effect that then helps services grow in value. How will these startups scale beyond the five boroughs and how can upcoming teams take advantage of NY's unique environment?

John Borthwick, CEO, betaworks
Chris Dixon, CEO, Hunch & Angel Investor
4:00pm Hack Day Finalists Present
4:15pm Startup Battlefield Finale
Four Amazing Finalists Face Off in a Final Round
5:30pm Disrupt Cocktail Reception
Hosted by Zecco
7:00pm Winners Announced
with contributions from:
David Sacks, CEO, Yammer, former honoree
Custom Award from Yahoo and Lowenstein Sandler
9:00pm After-party
Hosted by Media Temple (mt) at element

SoundCloud Hits A Million Users, Clearly Scaling Globally

Posted: 18 May 2010 08:26 AM PDT

SoundCloud has just announced they have hit a million users. It followers their deal earlier this year with The Hype Machine, but it's clear this is a startup that is scaling globally now from its base in Berlin. The audio sharing site that's geared towards those who work in the music industry is an online audio platform which lets musicians collaborate, promote and distribute their music via widgets and apps. It's been variously described as a "Flickr for audio" or a "Vimeo for audio", but whatever it is, it's clearly got the kinds of tools and distribution platform which is winning both the hearts and business of artists.

Quantcast Pulls In Yahoo! Exec To Ramp Up UK Operation

Posted: 18 May 2010 08:21 AM PDT

The web measurement firm Quantcast has appointed ex-Yahoo! MD Philip Macauley to lead the company's operations and expansion into the UK market. Macauley spent ten years at Yahoo!, where he was most recently Director of Business Development and Commercial Relations. His tenor at the Internet giant saw him take on various "senior roles" including "driving media agency relationships as Agency Sales Director and leading the company's publisher efforts as Head of Publisher Partnerships." All of which would appear to make Macauley a very good fit for Quantcast.

Zendesk Raises Prices, Pisses Off Customers

Posted: 18 May 2010 08:18 AM PDT

We’re all for startups trying to make money, but we also recognize a good old ‘bait and switch’ tactic when we see one. Case in point: on-demand help desk software maker Zendesk, which has just emailed its customers to let them know they’re raising their prices – resulting in a 300+ percent increase in monthly fees for some.

The announcement, which was also posted on the company’s forums, comes in the form of an introduction of new product features, with the new pricing scheme mentioned underneath (never a good sign).

The startup claims the new pricing plans are being offered in response to “customer requests for different packaging and features”. But judging from the commentary on the forum entry and on Twitter, we’re not so sure that’s really the case.

Coincidentally, we just reported on Zendesk crossing the 5,000 business customer mark.

Here’s what’s changing for them:


Solo package: $9/month per agent, 1 agent only
Regular package: $19/month per agent, minimum of 3 agents
Plus+ package: $39/month per agent, minimum of 5 agents


Starter plan: $9/month per agent, 1 to 3 agents
Regular plan: $29 per month, 3 to 20 agents
Plus+ plan: $59/month, 5 to 100 agents

For what it’s worth, Zendesk is trying to appease outraged customers with ‘grandfathering terms’, but that forces many to switch to annual billing rather than monthly or quarterly, which a lot of them appear unwilling to do. Besides, it’s not a long-term solution.

Some of the reactions on the forum post speak volumes about how Zendesk customers feel about the changes:

So, with 19 agents, our monthly bill goes from 645 USD to 1121 USD? An increase of 74% ? Seriously??!!!

We pay $99 for 5 users, now its 5 x 59 = $295 per month.. This cannot be for real, we have been supporting zendesk since the early days, how can this be justified…If I pulled a stunt like this on my clients I am sure we would lose..Especially as the option to stay on your current price range involved stumping up a years fees.. come on guys, give us a fair go, this is outrageous!!!!

I’m with David, our account is going from $153 per month (9 agents) to $261 per month, a 58% increase. Using a huge price increase to force people into an annual billing plan is going to leave a bitter taste in a lot of mouths.

We currently have 41 agents and would have been up to 50 by mid-June. Not anymore. Our monthly bill is going to increase from $1503 to $2419. That is an annual increase of approx $11,000. A roughly %62 increase.

This seems extortionate, we are facing a 100%+ increase ,what are you playing at Zen Desk?

I’ve also managed to find someone who was actually happy with the transparency Zendesk displayed in its email to customers, so maybe we’re just hearing the voices of the angry here.

Again, it’s fine for startups to make money, even if it means they need to change their pricing plans and hike fees at some point. But in this case, perhaps Zendesk would have been better off checking exactly how profoundly these changes would affect the bills of their early customers.

How can you explain a price increase of more than 300% for a service that you’re far from the only one to provide? Zendesk doesn’t even really do that, they’ve just communicated the new fees and keep pointing customer who complain to the grandfathering terms, which do not explain the rationale behind the price hikes either.

We’ve contacted Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane for more insight and hope to hear back soon.

SimpleGeo Digs Up Another $8 Million And A Group Of Former Digg Employees

Posted: 18 May 2010 07:55 AM PDT

Almost exactly one year ago, we first wrote about former Digg lead architect, Joe Stump, and former Social Thing founder, Matt Galligan, teaming up to form Crash Corp., an “alternate reality mobile gaming” startup. A lot can change in a year.

Today, Stump and Galligan are well into building out SimpleGeo, the location platform company that Crash Corp. turned into. That transformation started only a little over 6 months ago — and it may turn out to be one of the smartest pivots for a startup in years. SimpleGeo has just closed a new $8.14 million round of funding. And they’re announcing five new hires to go along with it.

The company’s Series A round pushes their total funding to just about $10 million (their $1.5 million seed round happened at the end of last November). This round was led by former backer Redpoint Ventures, with previous investors First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital (Chris Sacca’s fund), and Ravi Narasimhan also participating. SimpleGeo also picked up new backer, Foundry Group, in the latest round.

The money will be used to build out datasets, improve the API, and continue work on a new product they’re working on (for the API), Galligan tells us. The funds will also give the fast-growing company two years of burn — and that’s factoring in significant headcount increases, Galligan says. That’s good planning, considering how quickly the startup is adding new team members.

The immediate thing that sticks out about the five new hires announced today is that four of them come from the same place: Digg. As we mentioned, Stump used to work at Digg, but there was no funny business going on here, as these four were a part of Digg’s layoffs earlier this month. Included in this group is well-known designer Jeffrey Kalmikoff, who will now be heading up product development and design for SimpleGeo.

The others coming over from Digg include engineer Ian Eure, who will be working on Python infrastructure. Paul Lathrop, who will be a part of the Systems team. And Nicole Williams who will serve as the “Ambassador” of SimpleGeo — basically, taking care of all the logistics, facilities, and office management of the company.

SimpleGeo’s other big hire is Rob Bailey, who will be joining as the Vice President of Business Development. No, Bailey didn’t work at Digg, he comes from a company he co-founded called Delicious Brands. Alongside BD, Bailey will be in charge of sales as well, we’re told.

Two months ago, SimpleGeo hired 5 people to bring their total headcount to 13. Now, as they’re pushing 20, it’s time for another office. The startup has just signed a lease for a second office that will open in mid-June in San Francisco to go along with their headquarters in Boulder, CO. The team will be evenly split between the two cities for now, but Galligan foresees the San Francisco office quickly becoming the larger one.

With seemingly everyone in the technology space interested in location-based services right now, SimpleGeo finds itself in a very good position. Ever since Twitter acquired Mixer Labs (makers of GeoAPI) back in December, SimpleGeo hasn’t had a lot of competition in its space. They now have over a terabyte of geodata at their disposal to serve up to other startups who wish to use their plug-and-play packages.

The new version of the API will scale better, work faster, and include more redundancy and servers around the world,” Galligan says. There will also be a new pricing model with this new API to fit different business models. This should make the service cheaper as well, Galligan says.

Not bad for what should have been an alternate reality gaming startup celebrating its first birthday.

Merchant Focus And Inner Fence Acquire iPhone Credit Card Processer AppNinjas

Posted: 18 May 2010 07:54 AM PDT

E-commerce company Merchant Focus Processing and Inner Fence have acquired AppNinjas, creator of Swipe Credit Card Terminal for iPhone (formerly iSwipe). Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Inner Fence, which is actually a competitor of AppNinjas, develops a credit card processor for the iPhone and Mac computer. Both Inner Fence and AppNinjas will be rolling out integrated retail hardware to allow for retail-based swiped transactions for processing on both iPhone and iPod touch. The plan is to offer the hardware free of charge to new merchants that enroll with either Inner Fence or AppNinjas.

Of course, AppNinjas and Inner Fence will face competition from Jack Dorsey’s Square, which just debuted in the app store and has been receiving rave reviews. Square works by way of a tiny card reader that plugs into the headphone jack on the device. It takes finger signatures on the touchscreen, generates email or SMS receipts, calculates sales tax, and comes with an online accounting dashboard to keep track of sales.

Unlike Square, however, AppNinjas’ app does not come with a actual swiping device. You input a credit card’s information into the app to process the transaction.

Twitter To Become Bigger In Japan: SoftBank Outs 13 Cell Phones With Twitter Pre-Installed

Posted: 18 May 2010 07:44 AM PDT

We've shown you the summer cell phone lineup from KDDI (Japan's No. 2 carrier) yesterday. Today, Japan's third largest carrier, SoftBank Mobile, showed its own summer lineup during a special press conference, and all of their 13 new models have one thing in common: they all come with Twitter pre-installed. The buyers of these cell phones will be able to access Twitter either via a pre-installed app or through a pre-installed widget on the homescreen. The background is that SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son himself is a huge Twitter fan (he has almost 300,000 followers) and believes Japan is set to become Twitter country. And in fact, by some measures it's already No. 2. Photo gallery of all the 13 new Twitter-powered cell phones over at MobileCrunch.

LinkedIn Adds Netflix Marketing Chief Leslie Kilgore To Board

Posted: 18 May 2010 06:41 AM PDT

Professional social network LinkedIn is adding another member to its board, Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Kilgore. LinkedIn, which has 65 million members, recently named former Ask.com CEO Skip Battle to its board, joining founder and chairman Reid Hoffman, current CEO Jeff Weiner, Greylock’s David Sze, and Sequoia’s Marc Kvamme.

Kilgore joined Netflix in 2000 and has helped the company grow its subscriber base from fewer than 100,000 to more than 13 million subscribers. Prior to joining Netflix, Kilgore was director of marketing for Amazon.com, and also held positions at Procter & Gamble and Booz, Allen and Hamilton.

Of course, the appointment of Kilgore and Battle to the board is interesting when you consider that both executives have significant experience in advising technology companies through the IPO process. Kilgore, of course, has helped Netflix go public and Battle serves on the board of OpenTable, Expedia and Netflix.

Is an IPO in LinkedIn’s future? CEO Jeff Weiner isn’t ruling out any possibilities, but the idea has certainly been bandied about quit a bit. While LinkedIn is a strong IPO candidate, LinkedIn co-founder and Chairman Reid Hoffman told us at TechCrunch50 last fall that he’s not in any rush to go public. Later, Hoffman told Reuters that the company plans to pursue an IPO at some point, but not any time soon.The company was valued at around $1 billion in its last round of financing in 2008, and has been profitable since 2007.

Tim Ferriss Joins Startup Evernote As Strategic Advisor

Posted: 18 May 2010 06:41 AM PDT

Multi-platform memory enhancing service provider Evernote (granted, you have to use it to know what that means) has added author, speaker and angel investor Timothy Ferriss to its already quite impressive circle of company advisors.

In case you’re not familiar with Evernote: its self-stated goal is to give its users near-perfect memory by allowing them to save and find their ideas and experiences whenever and wherever they like. The company must be doing something right: they’ve attracted over $25 million in funding from VCs and prominent angel investors and recently surpassed 3 million users.

PayPal co-founder and Slide CEO Max Levchin sits on the company’s board, along with Esther Dyson and others.

Ferriss, a productivity and life management expert, will provide strategic counsel as Evernote continues to develop and grow its service into new regions and markets, reads the official press release. Ferriss, says he was introduced to Evernote through Twitter, and that he found it be “a fantastic asset” while he wrote his last book, The 4-Hour Workweek.

We recently had an interesting conversation with Ferriss about his angel investment and advisory activities, which we captured on video. You might be inclined to check it out as well.

Building Silicon Cape: How Much of a Difference Can One Guy Make?

Posted: 18 May 2010 05:30 AM PDT

Some people, ahem, are predicting a big resurgence in business software. Given how outdated most tools are, that's probably a safe bet –  whether it happens now or in the next few years. While software as a service and open source have plugged many holes, most large companies still run themselves on one of two companies: Oracle or SAP. That can't last forever.

But the amazing thing is, when it comes to small business software, the market is still pretty wide open, with most businesses still running themselves on pen-and-paper or Excel spreadsheets. There is a reason that Intuit has managed to keep a stranglehold on small business software—because it is hard to build and even harder to market to such a huge, fragmented market with so many different needs. Especially when the revenues per customer are necessarily puny.

So, it’s a huge market but, let's face it, it's not a sexy one. And that's one reason a company like Yola doesn't get more press. (Here’s our previous coverage.)

I hung out with Yola's founder Vinny Lingham while I was in Cape Town last week and came away impressed for a few reasons. For one thing, this guy has forgotten more about acquiring traffic than a lot of people in Silicon Valley know. (I originally published those verbs backwards. Thanks commenters and apologies, Lingham. I blame jetlag.) He spent the bulk of his career building search campaigns for huge multinational companies and made a pretty sweet living at it. (Check out his BMW convertible in the video below–those cost about double in Cape Town.)

That business was lucrative, but Lingham soon saw what many entrepreneurs in emerging markets are realizing: Services companies don't scale the way product companies do. And Lingham wants to build a big company. A big company helping small businesses build Web sites.

You may be thinking, doesn't everyone who wants a Web site have one by now? Astonishingly, no. Yola has a few competitors—most notably Y Combinator graduate Weebly and Israel's hometown darling Wix. (Lingham–who carries his iPad everywhere–is quick to point out Wix is Flash-based, while Yola bet on HTML5.) But ultimately, this is a business that will be won on distribution not necessarily product, and Lingham is pretty relentless when it comes to bringing people to his site and converting them.

Here's the other thing notable about Lingham: He really wants Cape Town to be a tech hub. He moved to Silicon Valley to get greater access to deals, talent and money, but he returns to Cape Town several times a year and invests in and mentors companies there. I've written before that one of the reasons India has gotten so much US venture capital is because of the Indians who made it in the Valley and were determined—either out of nationalism or opportunity—to pay that forward to the home country. I've also theorized that the paucity of huge, Brazilian-born startup successes in the Valley is a big reason that Valley VCs largely ignore Brazil and South American generally. Simply put: No one is hounding them to go. The famed Israeli Web investor Yossi Vardi calls it "profitable patriotism."

To Lingham, success is Yola becoming a billion dollar business. But equally success is Cape Town giving rise to lots of other successes. I don’t mean to suggest he’s alone in this effort. I was in Cape Town last week to speak at an excellent conference on African Web entrepreneurship called Net Prophet where more than 800 people crowded in a hall to share ideas and absorb advice from those like Lingham. Still, how much of a difference can one guy make? In my experience traveling to more than a dozen markets in the last year, one guy (or girl) can make more of a difference than most well-meaning government institutions. Good entrepreneurs need role models, mentorship and angels more than any other raw materials.

Here's a short video I shot with Lingham on the way to the airport my last day in town. (Yeah it gets dark, get over it. I’m on the road.) We talk about the Silicon Cape initiative, why you should care about small business software and how his wife feels about him spending all his money on startups.

ShopSocially Taps Into Your Social Graph For Product Recommendations

Posted: 18 May 2010 05:30 AM PDT

As e-commerce and social networking continue to intersect, consumers are increasingly turning towards Facebook or Twitter for product recommendations. ShopSocially is a product recommendation portal launching to the public today that aims to allow users to socialize shopping decisions with their “circle of trust.”

The idea behind ShopSocially is that it brings your Facebook friends into its system, and you can choose which friends you’d like to “shout” your potential purchase to get feedback on the site. You can also publish your purchase to the site, a la Blippy. In order to publish your desired product, you simply publish the link to the item and ShopSocially will include a picture and link in the update. Users can post comments on friends’ items and you can push your posts to Facebook.

Of course the idea behind ShopSocially is that you can elicit product recommendations from your friends as opposed to complete strangers on the sites where you are looking to purchase an item. Founder Jai Rawat says that the site has seen considerable user engagement although it is still in private beta. An average post for a product recommendation is getting over 3 responses and visitors are averaging more than 8 minutes per visit. The site also implements privacy controls for sharing only what they want and with whom they want.

While consumers are pushing their retail purchases more and more to Facebook and are even engaging in sites like Blippy to publish their shopping history, it may be difficult for ShopSocially to gain the traffic that product review sites like Retrevo or even Amazon see. That being said, the idea behind the startup is compelling and it looks like it has already gained a loyal userbase.

Go To Barnes & Noble, Get A Free E-book

Posted: 18 May 2010 05:25 AM PDT

Do you have a nook or the less elegantly named iRex DR800SG? If so, get thee to a Barnes & Noble store to participate in the new Fun and Free e-books promotion. It's a pretty simple concept: you waltz into a Barnes & Noble store, get an access code, then download a free e-book. Done and done. The promotion runs for the next five weeks, and is also compatible with the B&N e-reader software that runs on your laptop, BlackBerry, or iPhone (or whatever).

Shazam Has Identified 1 Billion Songs To Date, Surpasses 75 Million Users Milestone

Posted: 18 May 2010 05:04 AM PDT

Mobile music recognition and discovery startup Shazam this afternoon revealed that it has grown its user base from 50 million to 75 million members in the last six months. Stunningly, the company also says it has identified more than one billion songs to date. Shazam has now become a global phenomenon with a footprint in over 200 countries across six continents through partnerships with leading carriers and handset manufacturers. The company has every right to claim that its brand has now become one of the biggest in mobile.

This Young Man Willingly Gets An Apple Tattoo. And You Call Us Fanboys?

Posted: 18 May 2010 04:56 AM PDT

Look, I love my iPad as much as the next guy and, just like the next guy, if I had to make the choice between food and water and the iWork suite, I’d probably go for the iWork suite. However, I would not tattoo the Apple logo onto my shoulder.

Billy Hime, a self-professed “iPhone Owner,” “shameless flirt,” and “Youtube Video Blogger” filmed himself getting his tattoo with his mom. He also wrote on Twitter that “Lotion=burning my Apple,” a comment on what we can only assume to be the effects of the antiseptic on his tattoo and not a euphemism for something else.

Read more…

Travelport Acquires Hotel And Travel Search Engine Sprice.com

Posted: 18 May 2010 04:34 AM PDT

Travelport, one of the world’s largest global distribution system (GDS) providers, this morning announced that it has acquired Singapore-based Sprice, owner and operator of hotel and travel search engine Sprice.com, for an undisclosed sum.

This provides Travelport with a way to expand its hospitality offering by providing Galileo and Worldspan-connected agents with access to Sprice’s portfolio of over 240,000 international hotel properties, as well as hotel reviews, merchandising options and comparison tools.

Travelport says it will also utilise Sprice’s search technology to enhance its GDS channels, enabling the company to deliver and distribute better supplier content to its subscriber customers.

Founded in June 2006, Sprice offers consumers access to unique content in Europe and Asia and provides travel operators with a low-cost, efficient distribution channel for their services.

The company is headquartered in Singapore and has an office in Strasbourg, France. All eighteen Sprice employees have been extended offers of employment at Travelport.

Sprice was backed by two venture capital firms, Sofinnova Partners and Walden International.

(Source: press release)

Titan Gaming Raises $1M From Prominent Angels For Skill-Based Games Platform

Posted: 18 May 2010 03:58 AM PDT

Titan Gaming this morning announced it has received $1 million in funding from a slew of prominent angel investors. You can find the full list of investors below or on the startup’s CrunchBase profile, but it includes people like Clearstone Venture Partners principals William Quigley and Jim Armstrong, PriceGrabber co-founder Kamran Pourzanjani and MP3.com founder Michael Robertson.

The company has also attracted games industry vet John Maffei to become its new CEO, as well as Lisa Serwin, who was appointed COO. The original Titan founders, Francisco Diaz–Mitoma and Mark Donovan, will stay on to lead Titan's technical and game developer evangelism efforts.

Maffei was the previous head of the ZAM Network, which represents the single largest online MMO gamer destination portfolio. He also spearheaded Microsoft's Xbox 360 licensing efforts with entertainment powerhouses like Warner Brothers, Buena Vista, Fox, and NBC Universal. Maffei also founded RocketPipe, a developer of broadcast messaging and direct marketing software for content-driven online commerce sites.

Lisa Serwin was formerly The PlumpJack Group's CFO, directed the Commission on Medical Education, Research and Training for the Governor of Nevada, and was the Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning for Fox Filmed Entertainment.

Titan Gaming has been around since 2006, and claims to have invested over 100,000 hours in development with a team of 24 engineers to develop the Titan Platform. This platform, which is set to go live with initial customers in July, will offer gaming companies and content sites a gaming platform that enables skill-based matchmaking, tournaments and points or cash competitions.

Titan says it utilizes gamers' natural competitive inclinations to help its partners and their game developers generate the highest lifetime value for users of the platform in the video game industry. Which makes me very curious.

Clearstone Venture Partners MD William Quigley commented: "All investors have taken note of the explosion of virtual item sales in the casual game market. Titan's platform will enable all gaming sites to go beyond virtual currency sales and generate new revenue and profit streams with completely legal, skill-based tournaments and competitions for points and cash."

The funding comes from Quigley and Jim Armstrong (both at CVP), virtual goods pioneer Brock Pierce, MP3.com founder Michael Robertson, PriceGrabber co-founder and Bestcovery.com founder Kamran Pourzanjani, co-founder of Vonage and current founder and CEO of Kikin Carlos Bhola, SOA Software founder and ServiceMesh founder and CEO Eric Pulier, MyLife founder and CEO Jeffrey Tinsley, Hydra and W4 co-founder Adam "Wicks" Walker, ooma founder Andrew Frame, GigaMedia executive John Lee, PatentVest CEO Andy Mazzarella, former Chairman Global Technology Markets for Korn Ferry Richard Spitz, founder of iWin and founder and CEO of TLDH.org Fred Kreuger, founder and Chairman of Ramprate and co-founder and CEO of myTASTE Tony Greenberg, New Motion founder and Revenue Apex co-founder and CEO Scott Walker, and SAM Venture Partners and Tomorrow Ventures.

That’s a long list of high rollers right there.

NorthScale Raises $10 Million For Memcached Data Management Technology

Posted: 18 May 2010 03:57 AM PDT

Data management technology startup NorthScale has secured $10 million in a Series B funding led by Mayfield Fund, Accel Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners participating in the round. This brings NorthScale's total funding up to $15 million. The company is also announcing the addition of Bob Wiederhold as president and chief executive officer of NorthScale. NorthScale's data management technology, which was released to the public a few weeks ago, is designed for web-based companies, particularly startups that deal with large amounts of transactional data. For example, social gaming giant Zynga has been using NorthScale since December. Founded by leaders of the memcached open source project, NorthScale is like Cloudera for Hadoop or Red Hat for Linux; the startup is commercializing the open source technology. As web applications generate vast volumes of data, there is a need for a data management technology that caters towards transactional software systems. NorthScale's elastic data infrastructure software promises to cache frequently used data while also offering performance and scalability.

Lookout Lands $11 Million From Accel, Khosla And Others For Smartphone Security Platform

Posted: 18 May 2010 03:55 AM PDT

Lookout, a company that offers security data backup services for smartphones, has raised $11 Million in Series funding led by Accel Partners with Khosla Ventures and Trilogy Partnership also participating in the round. This brings the startup’s total funding to $16.5 million.

While smartphone use is growing rapidly, there are security risks associated with the increased data and application usage on these devices. Similar to a PC, users need to protect their phones from malware, viruses, data loss and more. Enter Lookout’s web-based, cloud-connected application, which will identify and block threats on a consumer’s phone. Users simply download the software to a device, and it will act as a virus protector much like security software downloaded to a computer.

Lookout, which only launched late last year, is now on more than 400 mobile networks in 170 countries. The service also has a number of cell phone unique service that make its offering compelling. For example, users can download a missing device locator function that will make a loud sound when a user activates the feature on their web account. Users can also see where their lost phone is using a geolocation feature. The new funding will be used towards additional product development.

Bridging The Real And Online World: Poken Raises $1.8 Million From Swisscom

Posted: 18 May 2010 03:23 AM PDT

Swisscom Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Swisscom (Switzerland's leading telecom operator), is making a strategic investment in Poken. Swisscom is participating in a $1.8 million round, and will be represented on Poken's Board of Directors by Dominique Mégret, who heads the investment subsidiary. In a statement, Megret says Poken is "at the nexus of the mobile and events spheres, with unique capabilities relating to NFC, RFID and Social Networking" and that it foresees huge growth for the fledgling company.

StumbleUpon Quietly Signs Up 10 Millionth User

Posted: 18 May 2010 02:34 AM PDT

Without making a lot of noise about it, StumbleUpon yesterday surpassed 10 million registered users. The milestone was reached upon registration of a user that goes by the name Nellzom, a 20-year old from Colombia.

So how do we know he’s mr. diez milliones?

Because a StumbleUpon community development and support employee stumbled his profile and added the words “Nellzom is officially our 10th Million user! Welcome to StumbleUpon and its beautiful community of users!”.

Thanks to our eagle-eyed reader Paul Sanchez for uhm, stumbling upon it.

Last time we covered the size of StumbleUpon’s user base was in April 2008, when it hit 5 million users and nearly five billion stumbles. It took them another 2 years to double their number of users, but of course there’s no telling how many registered users are still active on the service. Nevertheless, according to StatCounter, StumbleUpon drives more traffic to websites than Twitter, Reddit or Digg, so they must be doing something right.

For your reference: it's been a little over a year since StumbleUpon spun off from eBay and became an independent startup again.

As the company pointed out in a recent blog post, they have since then released the web bar as well as a new version of the flagship Mozilla add-on, its URL shortener and content syndication service su.pr, a Chrome extension, a revamped ads system, a new look to their site, an iPad app, new badges, and more. In other words, they’ve been busy.

In the blog post, dated May 4, the company also shared some interesting stats:

- 118% growth rate in active users since 2009
- 5.4 billion recommendations since April 2009
- In March 2010 alone, half a billion recommendations
- StumbleUpon users stumble links 25 times a day on average
- Users of the Mozilla add-on stumble something 400 times a month on average
- Over 100,000 Facebook fans

The company can now add 10 million users to that list.

Are you one of them? Why (not)?

Join Us As TechCrunch Europe Hits Copenhagen, 26 May #TCNordic

Posted: 18 May 2010 02:15 AM PDT

Next week it's TechCrunch Disrupt, but for those of you that can't make it and are in the Nordics, TechCrunch Europe will be hosting its 3rd TechCrunch Nordic event - joining European startup programme Seedcamp on their European tour in Copenhagen at the end of May. Join us! Last year's was a blast and it's long been clear that the Nordics are a key tech cluster in Europe. And we hear Copenhagen is fast becoming a hotbed of startups. Our early bird tickets are now sold out, but the final tickets are available here. We're excited to have a stellar lineup of speakers and panelists and we'll also be showcasing new and existing startups on the day. We can't wait.

Spotify Lands In The Land Of Tulips And Lousy Beer

Posted: 18 May 2010 01:41 AM PDT

Lock And Load, As InnoGames Raises Fidelity Funding For Browser Games

Posted: 18 May 2010 01:40 AM PDT

InnoGames out of Germany has raised a round of funding from Fidelity Growth Partners Europe to expand browser-based games portfolio. InnoGames has titles which now streatch across 50 million registered players worldwide such as Tribal Wars, The West, and Grepolis. The company was founded in 2007 by Eike and Hendrik Klindworth along with Michael Zillmer. All the games are free-to-play with the business model based on virtual goods like being able to upgrade to better (virtual) weapons. Bigpoint and GameForge are rivals in the space.


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