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Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Dennis Crowley Says Foursquare Is Only “10 Percent Of What It Needs To Be” [Video]

Posted: 29 May 2010 09:05 AM PDT

Watch live streaming video from disrupt at livestream.com

After speaking on a panel Wednesday at TechCrunch Disrupt with Facebook’s Chris Cox and Google’s Vic Gundotra, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley sat down with our own Evelyn Rusli for a backstage video interview.

It is clear that he feels Foursquare is still in its infancy and still has a long way to go. “The products is 10% of what it needs to be,” he says. “Look at the stuff we are doing with game mechanics, it is 1.0 game mechanics.” Where does he see it going? The badges, points, and Mayorships that people acquire by using Foursquare increasingly will be used to “unlock free goods” in real places like restaurants and stores.

“The game mechanics are there to grab a user's hand and bring them through the experience,” says Crowley, “but it is not the meat of the service. The meat of the service is the social utility that we are building. A lot of that going forward is taking the user’s history, like all of the check-in information we get from them, and then recycling that data by giving it back to them in the form of recommendations and tips on what they should be doing next.” The idea of getting real-world recommendations based on the places you and your friends visit is akin to taking Amazon book recommendations or Netflix movie recommendations and applying that kind of collaborative filtering to the real world.

Crowley believes Foursquare’s competitive advantage is that it has been working on the problem for so long, and that it is built for New York City, which is a “really hard city to design for.” Another advantage is Foursquare’ check-in model. As he told Beet.TV in another video interview at Disrupt, the entire service is built around the check-in as opposed to throwing it in as an afterthought.

But the check-ins and the badges are the means to an end, not the end itself. Explains Crowley: “We have a very specific roadmap about changing the way people interact with physical space. It is not just about the check-in. It is what happens after that.”

Why Policy Makers Should Review the Facts Before Marching to the Drumbeat of the Xenophobes

Posted: 29 May 2010 07:00 AM PDT

The H-1B visa has become the beachhead in the battle against the legal immigration of skilled workers. This is because it allows highly educated, skilled workers from abroad to take employment in the U.S. and eventually become citizens. Anti-immigrant groups believe that they can close the door to foreigners by restricting or abolishing the visa. So they have been trying to convince lawmakers that H-1Bs depress wages and take jobs away from American workers. To prove their point, they highlight examples of unscrupulous body shops that underpay their workers, and they cite questionable research published by other anti-immigrants. But a new peer-reviewed study, published in Management Science, a top academic journal, challenges these claims. This research finds that foreign-born I.T. professionals on temporary work visas actually earn more than their American counterparts; and that limits on H-1B visas cause the salaries of foreign workers—rather than of Americans—to increase. This, along with research completed by my colleagues at UC-Berkeley, Duke, and Harvard, confirms what most people in Silicon Valley already know: that foreign-born I.T. workers complement American professionals and make the pie bigger rather than take jobs away.

This new study was completed by University of Maryland professors Hank Lucas and Sunil Mithas, using data from a survey of 50,000 I.T. professionals that InformationWeek and Hewitt Associates conducted from 2000 to 2005.  After adjusting for educational qualifications, work experience, and other individual characteristics, the researchers found that I.T. professionals without U.S. citizenship earned 8.9% more than U.S. citizens. Tech workers on temporary visas were paid 6.8% more than those with U.S. citizenship; green-card holders took home 12.9% more than their American-born counterparts. In years when Congress increased the numbers of visas available, salaries of foreign workers fell. The salary premium for H-1B holders was 10.6% in 2000; 8.1% in 2001; 17.5% in 2004; and 4.7% in 2005. This corresponds to a visa cap of 115,000 in 2000; 195,000 in 2001; 65,000 in 2004; and 85,000 in 2005 When the number of visas rose, the corresponding salaries shrank.

To explain why firms pay more to foreign I.T. professionals, the researchers speculate that such foreign workers supply intangible human capital: knowledge of markets and cultures outside the U.S.; social relationships with colleagues at firms located in their home countries; access to networks in home countries and the ability to spot, circulate, and mix ideas and skills from different parts of the world. Foreign-born I.T. professionals are also usually willing to travel for extended periods. The researchers say that because the proportion of the sales and revenue that companies receive from abroad is increasing, they need to hire more I.T. professionals who are familiar with foreign culture; language; and business practice.

UC-Berkeley dean and professor AnnaLee Saxenian refers to the foreign-born professionals in Silicon Valley as the “new Argonauts”. She says that over the past three decades, the region’s immigrant professionals have helped open foreign markets; identified overseas sources of talent and innovation; and pioneered long-distance partnerships. Far from being zero-sum, this process continues to expand economic opportunities for both Silicon Valley and its collaborators. She says that foreign nationals are clearly a complement to the native workforce, their diverse perspectives and global networks being catalysts for local innovation.

The data Lucas and Mithas analyzed did not include all tech professionals: Information Week readers are typically I.T. workers in large and midsized American corporations. The researchers say that they compared their sample with that of other studies and believe that this is more representative of the tech industry than any other research. And unlike other studies, this compares apples with apples (previous research has looked only at aggregate data, not at individual education and skills). The Lucas/Mithas study clearly did not account for the shoddy body shops that break the law and underpay their workers.  But it is likely to be representative not only of the Information Week readership, but also of foreign-born I.T. workers in Silicon Valley. (Silicon Valley tech workers usually have the same advanced educational background and receive the same competitive salaries as their brethren in the I.T. world.) These are the skilled immigrants that American industry needs—to remain globally competitive.

The study also highlighted an issue that I have written about: these workers are earning less than they should. Because of a flawed immigration system, the U.S. has admitted large numbers of workers on temporary visas, but has never increased the number of permanent resident visas (also called green cards) to enable these workers to make America their home. Waiting times for green cards can be longer than a decade, and while workers wait in queue, they can't easily change jobs. Employers often take advantage of the situation. Indeed, Lucas and Mithas found that H-1B visa holders earned 6.1% less than equivalent green-card holders.

There is a far more serious problem brewing: we're not letting the foreign-born workers start companies and boost the economy, so they are leaving. Consider that 52% of Silicon Valley companies started in 1995–2005 were founded by immigrants. There are now hundreds of thousands of highly educated and skilled workers who also could be starting companies that are stuck in "immigration limbo". Many are getting frustrated and returning to their home countries. Others languish in the same jobs they had when they stated their green-card–application process; just as they can't change companies, they can't receive a promotion, so if they started as a computer programmer, they can't become an architect or manager.

Policy makers are used to the constant drumbeat of the xenophobes. To educate policy makers on the facts and to make them aware of the green-card backlog, a group called Immigration Voice is organizing Advocacy Day on June 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C. This group represents the foreign-born I.T. workers sampled in the Lucas/Mithas study and more than 250,000 doctors, PhDs, research scientists, scholars, engineers, and professors also stuck in the green-card backlog.  Hundreds of Immigration Voice members will be travelling to the nation's capital to tell their stories. They have set up more than 400 meetings with members of Congress and the Senate. Let's hope they get through and introduce a little logic into the immigration debate.

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

The Best Of The TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon

Posted: 29 May 2010 05:00 AM PDT

Last week on the final day of TechCrunch Disrupt, the TechCrunch Hack Day winners got to present onstage just before the Startup Battlefield finalists went into Round Three. It was an opportunity for the Disrupt audience to meet a few of the best and brightest from the past weekend’s event. When Daniel Raffel, Chad Dickerson and myself imagined the event we saw it as a chance to open a backdoor into the conference for some great devs—every presenter received a free pass to the conference. With over 60 teams presenting, judging was a challenge. Since not all of the teams got to present onstage Wednesday, we wanted to highlight some of the projects that stood out for us and the judges.

The Winners

Worst Phone Ever
Worst Phone Ever is a hilarious service which searches your iPhone logs for crashes, uploads them, and saves them to a central database. The results are tabulated and added to the total, eventually leading to a detailed class-action lawsuit.

Future Mario
Future Mario is a novel hack built on top of the Eyewriter platform that allows you to play Super Mario Brothers with voice, by blinking your eyes, and by tracking your eyes.

Twitter Demographics
Twitter Demographics mashes up Tweets with geolocation and demographic data. So if you search for a specific keyword on the application, you can see the percentage of Twitterers who Tweeted about the keyword within certain income ranges and even by political party, giving more info not just about where they are but who they are.

The Runners Up

Mr. StabbyPhone
The NYC Resistor team created mobile phone control of an air compressed robotic arm, affectionately called Mr. Stabby. It was a clear audience favorite, a comedic hack and the judges were thrilled to elect a hardware hacking team in the winner’s circle.

iPad Supine Safety Strap
Winning the award for simplest and most creative hack (without writing a line of code) was iPad Supine Safety Strap, a contraption built from ordinary household parts that “keeps you from dropping you iPad on your face when consuming content while in the supine position”.

The Honorable Mentions

API for the world
API for the world is a physical device that can turn anything with a power cord into a networked object. It’s part of an effort to fill the gap between “smart” and low-tech devices. You can use an online dashboard to create unique profiles for different objects in your house and connect them to a variety of web services. “API for the world was my top favorite. I think that’s a sellable product and it is damn awesome.” – Judge Cyan Banister

A Google Chrome browser extension that lets you select text on any web page to get contextual Twitter search results optionally scoped by geographic location. Beautifully implemented.

ClassIO – Distributed Open Classifieds Platform
If Craigslist had an open API, what types of amazing applications would be built on top of it? ClassIO is a bi-directional open classifieds platform. Users push listings in so they’re distributed across the internet, or pull data out to build a destination classifieds application.

Greenest Loser
Greenest Loser links Foursquare to your energy bill, giving you badges and rewards for saving energy instead of getting drunk. Great idea.

Welcome Mat
Welcome Mat is a hardware and software hack of an actual welcome mat,  it greets its owner with personal greetings based on their activities on Twitter and Foursquare.

City Tracks
“Local search for people who don't drive. City Tracks avoids highways and such.  Description says why it’s a good idea, at least for New Yorkers, Londoners, and others in cities where walking is normal.” – Judge Tom Igoe

Groop.ly enables everyone with a cell phone to create and participate in real time group chats. It works with any cell phone and essentially allows users to create an sms chat room.

Likealyticsis like Google Analytics for the Facebook Like Button on your website/domain. Deep and well implemented.

Disrupt Me
Disrupt Me is a mobile browser, location-aware, real world scavenger hunt. In the game, you are a genius hacker whose project was rejected by TechCrunch. Your new plan is to meet all of the conference speakers, and convince them to support you.

StereoScan is a GPLv3 3D laser scanner. “Easy way to visualize 3D space. All you need is two webcams. Nice low-tech solution, and even more impressive that it outputs files you can build from.” – Judge Tom Igoe

APPSiGOT is a simple way to see what iPhone, iTouch, and iPad apps your friends on Twitter and Facebook have got installed (and share what apps you’ve got installed as well). The backend is takes advantage of  FluidDB, a Startup Battlefield presenter.

Bounty is an app that allows people to pay and get paid for retweets. You can pay per retweet or set a bounty which is like a finder’s fee.

hackMatch is a python script to match hackers with projects. It takes two sets of inputs, a list of hackers and preferred technologies and another set of project ideas and project requirements and statistically calculates the best matches.”Could be a cool web service… needs a nice clean UI.”- Judge Derek Dodge

Web HD was a great implementation of CSS, they have a good vision as web UI designers. However they need to work on making the speed of the page it is applied on faster possibly by lowering the resolution of the image background to keep things fast. No one likes latency.” – Judge Derek Dodge

Dogshare is a Facebook app that lets people walk dogs. If you want a dog, but can't afford one, you can walk someone else's. If you need someone to walk your dog, it's easy to setup this service

iPhone from Scratch
One of the more bizarre and impressive hardware hacks, presented by the hacker’s father who runs an iPhone repair shop, his son built a working iPhone from spare parts in less than 60 minutes. “Nice to see an example of how even the most closed of products is ultimately open because it’s physical and disassemblable.” – Judge Tom Igoe

Apple iPad Offers Freedom For Porn, At Least In One Berlin Ad

Posted: 29 May 2010 04:07 AM PDT

Apple's Steve Jobs famously offered us "freedom from porn" in his ongoing war with Adobe Flash on the iPhone and iPad. But notoriously liberal Berlin has a different take on the matter, perhaps offering us freedom from being told what to do by Apple... Billboards announcing the arrival of the iPad on Friday have been going up all over Berlin, but one of them in the subway station of Rosenthaler Platz is quite different to the rest. As you can see from the images below (NSFW but then it's Saturday, right?), the iPad appears to be about to offer an entirely new experience of porn.

Ok Seriously, What Is Yahoo?

Posted: 28 May 2010 06:09 PM PDT

The video above shows how two public company CEOs – Yahoo’s Carol Bartz and AOL’s Tim Armstrong – answered the first question I asked each of them during our interviews at TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this week: “What is Yahoo/AOL?”

The contrast in coherence is staggering.


What is Yahoo?…Listen Yahoo is a great company that is very, very strong in content for its users, uses amazing technology to serve up what increasingly we think is going to be the web of one. For instance, on our today module in the front page, every 5 minutes we have 32,000 different variations of that module. So you don’t even know what I’m seeing in fact we serve a million different front page modules a day and that’s just through content optimization. And that’s just the beginning…Customized because we know the things you’re interested in. Maybe you don’t like light entertainment maybe you like a certain sports team, etc., etc. And our click through rate went up twice. So the point is, people come to us to find out what is going on with the world in a very nice quick fashion to do their communications, email, messanger, check-in on their teens. We all know about Yahoo finance. It’s a places where you can just get it together. It’s collated for you, it’s all the things as you’re moving, you can even get your social information there. Everybody moves through many websites in a day, Yahoo is one they always stop at.


AOL is planning on being the largest high quality content producer for digital media.

The one thing that everyone remembers from my interview with Bartz was when she told me to fuck off near the end of the talk. I’ll talk more on that in a post next week, but that was completely overblown – neither of us took it seriously on stage and after the talk there was no ill will at all.

The parts most people haven’t watched yet were what fascinated me. I want to understand what Yahoo is. What their core goals are. What they think they can win at. And how they can accomplish that via their product organization. I’ve wanted to know this for two years. And I still don’t know.

At different times over the last few years Yahoo has described itself as a platform company, a content company or an advertising company. Sometimes they talk about how important social is to the Yahoo experience. Other times they don’t. “Local” is another term that’s often included in their core definition.

Nearly every public interview with CEO Carol Bartz, and before her Jerry Yang, has started with the same question – “What is Yahoo?” And the company has been criticized for being unable to answer that question coherently in any of those interviews:

May 2008 – CEO Jerry Yang: Yang was not prepared for perhaps the one question that every CEO should be ready to answer at all times: "What is the business of Yahoo?" He was all over the place. He said their core focus included "home page, mail, search, and mobile." He also said "We can't be all things to all people. We have become much more focused," before taking about other areas of focus at Yahoo, including advertising, social networking and their new open strategy.

November 2008 – CEO Jerry Yang: A CEO that still can't clearly state the core goals. Yang, slouched on stage and devoid of energy, alternated between calling Yahoo a platform company and a destination site. But he also said that Yahoo intends to remain competitive with Google in search, despite the vast differences in resources that the two companies can put towards research.

May 2009 – New CEO Carol Bartz: What is Yahoo? That's easy, says Bartz. We're the place that everyone comes to every day. "We're the place where people find relevant contextual information about things they care about." We have a global reach with a local feel, says Bartz, noting that Yahoo is increasingly more focused on local. "People should see their high school game Flip videos on Yahoo Sports."

May 2010 – CEO Carol Bartz: “What is Yahoo?…Listen Yahoo is a great company that is very, very strong in content for its users, uses amazing technology to serve up what increasingly we think is going to be the web of one. For instance, on our today module in the front page, every 5 minutes we have 32,000 different variations of that module. So you don’t even know what I’m seeing in fact we serve a million different front page modules a day and that’s just through content optimization. And that’s just the beginning…Customized because we know the things you’re interested in. Maybe you don’t like light entertainment maybe you like a certain sports team, etc., etc. And our click thru rate went up twice. So the point is, people come to us to find out what is going on with the world in a very nice quick fashion to do their communications, email, messanger, check-in on their teens. We all know about Yahoo finance. It’s a places where you can just get it together. “

Remember that Bartz was paid $47.2 million by Yahoo in 2009 – top among all Standard & Poor’s 500 companies. She’s being paid very well for her job. This is a question that she must be ready to answer, to the press, to shareholders, to the world and, most importantly, to her employees. Right now Yahoo doesn’t know what they are or where they’re going. And until they do, they can’t become whatever it is that they want to be.

The New York Times’ editorial on the interview was fascinating as well (see second half of article), although they too focus too much on the swearing incident in my opinion.

So tell me below in the comments. What is Yahoo?

BillShrink CEO Peter Pham Leaves To Become An EIR At Trinity Ventures

Posted: 28 May 2010 05:38 PM PDT

Peter Pham, CEO of BillShrink, has just Tweeted that he’s leaving the startup to become an entrepreneur-in-residence at VC firm Trinity Ventures. According to a blog post, Pham says he is “moving on to pursue new entrepreneurial opportunities as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Trinity Ventures, which led BillShrink's Series B of $8 million.”

BillShrink’s co-founder Schwark Satyavolu will assume the role of CEO (he was previously the CTO). Before starting BillShrink, Pham was the Vice President of Business Development at Photobucket.com, which was acquired by Fox Interactive Media in 2007. He’s also an advisor to Docsctoc, Scrapblog, Ustream, and a number of other startups.

BillShrink has seen considerable success under Pham’s leadership. Launched in 2008, BillShrink is a free online service to help consumers make better purchase decisions for complex product categories. The site has launched a number of verticals including TV, savings accounts, gas stations, credit cards, and phone bills. The site, which had grown to one million members as of last Fall, also recently scored a deal with Walmart, which features Billshrink on its in-store cell phone kiosks.

Picplz Hits The Android Marketplace

Posted: 28 May 2010 04:18 PM PDT

Yesterday we wrote about the imminent release of picplz, the new location-centric photo streaming service being being developed by imeem execs Dalton Caldwell and Bryan Berg.

The service is still in closed early testing, but early adopter types can now download it from the Android Marketplace and create an account. Once you have an account you’ll get access to the web version as well. Note that it’s only available for U.S. Android users right now though.

I’ve been testing it for a day now. There’s something compelling about it even in this rough stage. Fourquare fanatics are definitely going to want to try it out.

The Complete Guide To TechCrunch Disrupt

Posted: 28 May 2010 03:35 PM PDT

The first TechCrunch Disrupt conference kicked off with a bang this week in New York, with Charlie Rose interviewing renown venture capitalists John Doerr, and Yuri Milner. Highlights of the conference included a colorful exchange between TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz; Sean Parker and David Kirkpatrick discussing the past, present and future of Facebook, and VCs Fred Wilson and Ben Horowitz debating the virtue of the lean vs. fat startup. We also heard from Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber’s managers and celebrated the winner of the startup battlefield competition: Soluto. Here’s a comprehensive list of all of our coverage of the event.

Session One: Disruptive Ideas & Marketplaces

UJAM: UJAM Turns Whistling, Humming, And Even Tone Deaf Singing Into Musical Masterpieces (link), Chris Sacca Singing On UJAM (link)

Off & Away: Five Star Hotels At Motel Prices: Off & Away Is Swoopo For Hotel Rooms (link)

Fluidinfo FluidDB Aims To Become The Wikipedia Of Databases (link)

Soluto Soluto Figures Out What's Bogging Down Your PC (And Tells You How To Fix It) (link)

Betterment Betterment Wants To Be Your New, Higher-Yield Savings Account (link)

Session Two: Disruptive Apps & Services

Appbistro Appbistro Is Building An Application Marketplace For Facebook Pages (link)

Audioo: A "Blippy For Voicemail," Audioo Is A Fun Privacy Disaster Waiting To Happen (link)

Textingly: Textingly Lets Companies Manage Their Text Messaging Efforts (link)

VideoGenie: VideoGenie Aims To Help Brands And Consumers Connect Through Video (link)

Publish2: Publish2 Wants To Disrupt The Associated Press With An Online News Exchange (link)

Audience Choice: Live Intent: LiveIntent Turns Static Social Media Sharing Buttons Into Dynamic Ones (link)

Session 3: Disruptive Streams

Geotoko: Geotoko Allows Businesses To Set Up Location-Based Marketing Campaigns (link)

ChompOn: ChompOn Is A White-Label Platform For Groupon-Like Deals (link)

Tickreel: Tickreel Aims To Add A Powerful Filter To The Realtime Web (link)

keenkong: Keenkong Manages The Social Media Overload For Marketers (link)

WeReward: WeReward's iPhone App Lets You Earn Cash For Check-Ins (link)

Compass Labs Compass Labs Tries To Pinpoint Purchase Intent On Twitter (link)

Session 4: Disruptive Entertainment

NoiseToys: Jai Ho! A Rockstar Team Brings Social Gaming To Music With NoiseToys (link)

Live Matrix: The Entire Web Gets A TV Guide With Live Matrix (like)

MOVIECLIPS: Movieclips Wants To Drink Other Movie Clips Sites' Milkshake With Mashups (like)

Art.sy: Screw The Gallery, Discover The Next Great Picasso At Art.sy (like)

Audience Choice: Plantly: "Plantly Is An Investment Tool That Aims Not To Suck" (like)

Panels and Presentations:

The Hackathon:

Over 300 Battle At Disrupt Hackathon (link), Inside Disrupt Hackathon [Video] (link), Future Mario, Twitter Demographics And Worst Phone Ever Win The #TCDisrupt Hackathon (link)

Day One:

The Big Picture: Tectonic Shifts in Technology, Special Series with Charlie Rose
John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (link)
Yuri Milner, CEO & Founding Partner, Digital Sky Technologies (link)

TweetUp (link)

Hollywood-Flavored Fireside: Funny or Die Disrupts (link)

Evolve or Die: The Evolution of Music, TV, Games and Publishing (link)

Tunerfish (link)

Fireside Chat With Carol Bartz (link), Carol Bartz To Michael Arrington: "F*ck Off!" (link), Video (link)

Fireside: Social Networks & Online Content: Where's it Going? (link)

Does The IPad Change Everything For News, Or Is It Still All About The Web? (link)

Day Two:

Scribd HTML5 Presentation (link)

The Mobile Disruption–What's Next? (link), Google's Gundotra On Apple, The Fight For Developers' Hearts [Video] (link), Facebook, It's OK To Want To Make Money [Video] (link)

Social & Local Demo by Yext (link)

Mayor Bloomberg Calls For More NYC Startups At TechCrunch Disrupt (link)

Fireside: Local Content, Local Ads, and Everything in Between. How is AOL Changing? (link), AOL Now Employs 4,000 Journalists (But Only 500 Are Full-Time) (link)

The Lean vs Fat Startup Debate (link)

Fireside Chat With Steve Case (link), Steve Case Recalls When AOL Almost Bought Yahoo For $2 Million (link)

Digital Crowds into Dollars (link), Help GE "Avoid The Lame" For Their Next Digital Advertising Campaign (link)

Exits: The 2010 Outlook (link)

Day Three

Success Strategies for Musicians in the Digital Era (link)

Mobile & Commerce Demo of Square by Jack Dorsey (link), Video: Jack Dorsey Shakes Down Arrington, Calacanis, And Google In Seconds (link)

Social Advertising Demo of Clickable (link)

Fireside Chat: Online Advertising (link)

Social Networking & Social Change (link)

Getting it Built (link)

Venture Capitalists Get Grilled (And Pitched At Urinals) At #TCDisrupt (link)

The Facebook Effect (link), Wirehog, Zuckerberg's Side Project That Almost Killed Facebook (link), Sean Parker: Credits Poised To Make Up 1/3 Of Facebook's Income In The Next 12 Months (link)

The TechCrunch Disrupt Final Five: Betterment, MOVIECLIPS, Publish2, Soluto And UJAM (link)

Measurement Demo: ComScore (link)

Hack Day Finalists (link)

Art.sy Wins The TechCrunch Rookie Disruptor Award (link)

Startup Battlefield Finale (link)

The Winner: Soluto (link)

Checkout all the photos from the conference here. And in case you missed it, you can also watch videos from the event here.

Source: Microsoft Bing Taking Over iPhone Search

Posted: 28 May 2010 03:05 PM PDT

[See Update below] Microsoft Bing will replace Google in the next version of the iPhone operating system to be released in June, we’ve heard from mulitple sources, including a high level source who claims to have been briefed on the matter. We’re not calling this more than a rumor yet, but one thing is sure – our sources close to Google in particular are speaking freely about this as fact. In January Business Week reported that Microsoft and Apple were in talks over an iPhone search deal, and the deal certainly would be brilliant for Microsoft.

There’s been speculation around Google’s future on the iPhone since last year when the first public spat broke out between the companies over the Google Voice app for the iPhone. Android’s continued gains in market share only highlight Google’s direct competition with Apple, and the fact that so many core iPhone apps, including search and maps, are controlled by Google, has been a sore point with Apple. From that post:

Multiple sources at Google tell us that in informal discussions with Apple over the last few months Apple expressed dismay at the number of core iPhone apps that are powered by Google. Search, maps, YouTube, and other key popular apps are powered by Google. Other than the browser, Apple has little else to call its own other than the core phone, contacts and calendar features.

But Google was rumored to be paying Apple $100 million a year for the search rights to iPhone, along with the ability to serve search ads. Apple would likely have stuck with them unless Microsoft was willing to pay as well, and it certainly wasn’t a lock that Google Search would be removed from the iPhone.

There were rumors yesterday that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would attend the WWDC event on June 7 to announce Visual Studio development for the iPhone, although they were quickly retracted. Our sources on this are independent of that story.

Update: Interesting – new sources are saying “It’s more complicated than this” and not to expect Google search to be removed from the iPhone next month. Also hearing that Google isn’t paying anything like $100 million/year to Apple for the search rights to the iPhone.

Exclusive Video And Screenshots Of Digg Version 4

Posted: 28 May 2010 02:10 PM PDT

The video above, which we believe will be shown to publishers to promote the new Digg, gives a never before seen look at the new version of Digg, version 4, that the company has been working on for over a year – founder Kevin Rose first spoke about it in April 2009.

The new version of the service is designed to get publishers, currently enamored with the viral spread of content on Twitter and Facebook, to start focusing on Digg again. As Rose says in the interview, only the top headlines on Digg – 100 or so stories a day – actually get much traffic. So publishers, including us, have focused more on promoting sharing on Twitter and Facebook, where it isn’t an all or nothing outcome.

Key changes:

  • All Digg users will go through an “onboarding process” that asks them to follow friends, tastemakers and publishers.
  • Users will be asked to import their social graphs from Facebook, Twitter, etc. There’s also a suggested user list for users.
  • Their home page will no longer show just top stories by total votes. Instead, it will show links from people and publishers you follow, called My News.
  • Hugely popular stories on Digg will still be shown on a Top News channel.
  • If a user diggs a story, all followers of that user will then see it in their feed, too, which is sort of like a retweet. This can create a “chain reaction,” says Rose, and can drive significant traffic.
  • Publishers will now be able to auto-publish their content via RSS feeds to Digg, eliminating the need for someone to add a story for the first time. Each story will start off with one Digg.
  • The process for adding a story manually is also much simpler – a user simply pastes the URL into Digg and the an image, title and summary are automatically generated.

Users will only see links to stories that are popular and that their friends are promoting, says Digg, and there’s no clutter from status updates and other content you see on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a pure place for linked content that people and entities you follow are promoting.

Video: Evernote CEO Phil Libin Shares Revenue Stats (And How To Make Freemium Work)

Posted: 28 May 2010 01:28 PM PDT

Last week at the Founder Showcase, a quarterly event put on by Adeo Ressi’s TheFunded, Evernote CEO Phil Libin gave a presentation discussing some of the startup’s key revenue numbers and strategy. During his talk, Libin outlined some of the ingredients in making the freemium model work, and how long-term users actually become more valuable over time.

Evernote, for those who haven’t used it, is a great service for quickly storing and organizing ideas, photos, documents and other information that you encounter both online and in the real world. This is actually one of the secrets to the service’s success — as people add more of their content to the site over time, it becomes increasingly valuable to them. Libin has previously shared similar information during his mentorship at Ressi’s incubator The Founder Institute

Here are some of the main points Libin covered during his talk:

  • Sometimes people say “The best product doesn’t always win”, and are implying that you should focus on other areas, like marketing. In the Internet age, a good product can get the rest of that stuff (marketing, etc.) for free. So focus on that. And then charge for it.
  • A year ago Evernote was making most of its money from licensing its technology, but it focused on its premium plans ($5/month or $45/year) because that was more scalable. Now, premium subscriptions bring in around $300-400k a month, and licensing represents around $45k.
  • Evernote has 3.1 million cumulative users, and adds around 10k a day. Around 68k paying customers.
  • Users have grown more valuable over time. New users convert to premium at a rate of .5%.  But of the users that signed up two years ago and are still active, 20% have become paid customers.
  • This trend is important — most users quit quickly. But the ones that stay become much more likely to pay over time.
  • Evernote’s cost per user is around 9 cents per active user per month. It makes around 25 cents per user per month. The site reached break even a year and a half ago.
  • Entrepreneurs should aim to be making money on each new active user as soon as possible. Otherwise scaling just means you’re losing money faster, rather than earning it
  • We should note that Libin has previously discussed similar information, though the video provides more detail.

With Extension Desktop Notifications, Chrome Now Even More Awesome

Posted: 28 May 2010 01:21 PM PDT

Google Chrome has been my primary browser for a few months now. And since it became fully stable, it’s the only browser I use. It’s fast, lightweight, and awesome. And it keeps getting more awesome.

One of the best things about Chrome is extension support. There are already nearly 5,000 of them despite only launching this past December. And the extensions continue to get more powerful. Today, on the Chromium Blog, Google has announced that desktop notifications are now available to third-party extension developers.

Previously, the only way to notify Chrome users of an update by way of extension was to do so by badging an extension icon itself. Now, full messages can pop-up on the desktop (assuming you allow them, of course). A great example is the Gmail Notifier extension, which gives you Growl-like notifications of new emails as they come in.

As of Chrome 5 (the latest stable version), these desktop notifications are available to all extension developers. And Google says they’ll be looking for the best ones to feature in the Extension Gallery.

PostRank Creates A ‘FriendFeed For Content’ With Activity Streams Feature

Posted: 28 May 2010 01:20 PM PDT

PostRank is a nifty tool that measures different ways that readers engage with online content. The ranking is based on how many times a particular post has been linked to, voted up on Digg, shared on Google Buzz, commented on, Twittered about, bookmarked on del.icio.us or viewed through feed readers like AideRSS and Google Reader. Today, the startup is adding a new feature that actually stores and shows you these activities.

As PostRank says, the activity streams feature similar in theory to a FriendFeed, but for a blog or site’s content. Previously, PostRank aggregated and reported activity events but the new feature aggregates Tweets, votes, distributed comments and more in a single view. Publishers simply have to insert their RSS feed into PostRank Analytics and the startup will aggregate and filter activity into a dashboard.

PostRank analytics is free for the first thirty days and only costs $9 per month after that. PostRank aggregates over 10 million daily activities from over 20 different social hubs, so it’s fair to assume that you’ll get a healthy snapshot of the different types of interactions that are taking place with your content.

Google “Evaluating” A Native Latitude App For iPhone 4.0 OS — But Will Apple Allow It?

Posted: 28 May 2010 12:43 PM PDT

The ability to multitask got a lot of press when iPhone 4.0 OS was first announced. But less attention was given to some of the more subtle things this will allow, such as always-on location for third-party apps. This feature could actually make a service like Google Latitude useful on the device. So it’s coming, right? Maybe.

I asked Google senior product manager Steve Lee (who is in charge of Latitude) whether Google would build a native app for the iPhone now that it includes background location. “From the start, we’ve made Latitude available across platforms. Supporting iPhone with a great Latitude user experience is extremely important to us, and we’re evaluating the best way to deliver that on iPhone OS 4.0 now, so we don’t have anything to announce just yet,” Lee answer (emphasis his).

Latitude has been available for the iPhone since July of last year — but it is only available as an HTML5 app, not a native app. This makes it pretty useless since you would have to have your web browser open to this page at all times for Latitude to work the web it should — which is all the time. So why didn’t Google release it as a native app? Well, the obvious answer would be that there wasn’t the ability to update location in the background on the iPhone previously, so it didn’t really matter if it was a native app or a web app. But actually it’s more complicated than that.

Back in July, Google actually noted why it was doing Latitude as a web app vs. a native app:

We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.

At the time, that sounded a little odd to me. After all, there are plenty of other apps that use maps. I wondered if it really meant that Apple was planning on baking this feature into their own Maps app on the iPhone (which was built with the help of Google). But looking back now, it’s likely much more complicated. This was right before it was revealed that Apple rejected the Google Voice app on the grounds that it would confuse iPhone users, or access information on the phone, or something.

The Latitude situation was just the first shot in what is now a full-fledged war between the two companies.

Long story short, even if Google wants to build a native Latitude app for the iPhone (as they said they did before), Apple may or may not allow it.

Let’s hope they do. Because with the new Location History features, and APIs, it could be awesome. And it could push passive location into the spotlight.

Augmented Reality Space Invaders: Expensive. Impossible. Awesome. [Video]

Posted: 28 May 2010 12:10 PM PDT

Augmented Reality may not be super practical yet. But it sure is cool, and a lot of fun. And a new Android game looks to make it even more fun.

Space InvadAR is a new Android game by Zenitum. It’s the world’s first “vision-based” AR game, according to the team. And it looks awesome — watch the video below.

Basically, you load the game and aim your device’s camera at a printed out target image (which you can get on the game’s website). Once you do this, the image (in this first case, a planet) comes alive on your screen. And then aliens begin to show up and you kill them. It looks awesome.

Now for the downsides: first, the game is $25 in the Android Market. Second, it only works on the Nexus One or HTC Desire. Third, it’s impossible to win the game.

So it may be more of a really cool demo then anything else right now, but again, just watch the video.

Facebook, It’s OK To Want To Make Money [Video]

Posted: 28 May 2010 11:33 AM PDT

Facebook is not evil, despite the disproportionately loud grumblings of its critics — which (as Mark Zuckerberg recently pointed out) is a small fraction of its 400-million-plus user base. But Facebook is also not a non-profit despite Zuckerberg’s claim that they’re not in “this for the money.”

On Wednesday’s press conference, Zuckerberg said: “It might seem weird, we're not doing this to make more money. For all the people inside the company, that could not be more true. It's such a big disconnect that we're doing this for the money.”

Methinks the Zuckerberg doth protest too much.

Zuckerberg is not a saint and he’s also not the same 19-year old who allegedly mocked his users for trusting him with their information, but somewhere in between lies reality. He’s a CEO and he runs the world’s most powerful social network. Following Wednesday’s announcement, he spoke with NPR, and acknowledged that Facebook needs money from advertisers to operate, “to run a service like this that serves more than 400 million users.” However, no one believes that Facebook is trying to make just enough money to keep the lights on, nor should we expect them to. But we can expect a higher level of honesty and transparency. Mark, it’s OK to want to make money (and heaps of it), just don’t pretend that every action is designed to augment the user experience.

You could argue that Zuckerberg’s comment (“we’re not doing this to make money”) was just a throwaway line, that I’m reading too much into it. However, it seems to be an emerging tagline for the entire company, on par with Google’s “don’t be evil.” His comment echoes a similar statement from Facebook’s VP of product, Chris Cox, during a backstage interview on Tuesday:

Cox says, “Anybody who knows Mark knows that he’s not doing this to make money…none of the changes we’re making are fundamentally about making money. That’s just not how the company rolls, that’s not how we’ve ever rolled.” Cox acknowledged that Facebook is trying to build “a great ads product,” but he immediately reiterated the idea that money is “not the motivating force behind a lot of the stuff that we’re rolling out.” When I pressed him on the issue of Facebook credits and the rich 30/70 breakdown (Facebook effectively gets 30% of a developer’s proceeds), he said it helps developers by establishing an official currency, similar to the Euro. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t justify Facebook’s 30% commission nor does it dovetail nicely with a company trying to project an indifference to profits. Will the real Facebook please stand up?

Zuckerberg seems to be genuinely interested in changing the world, after all he did reject significant buyout offers, but he also seems to be genuinely interested in turning Facebook into a multi-billion-dollar machine. As I said earlier, I have no problem with a profitable Facebook making obscene amounts of cash, I’m just imploring Zuckerberg to portray his mission honestly.

Opera Mini for iPhone Finds 2.6 Million Users In 2 weeks

Posted: 28 May 2010 10:44 AM PDT

Safari on the iPhone is by no means a bad mobile browser — in fact, it’s arguably the best one out there. Just because people have something good doesn’t mean they don’t want to peek at what else is out there, though. Even if someone’s dating the finest supermodel in all the lands, they’ll still sneak casual glances at other potential mates. Its just human nature. People like having options.

For quite some time, Apple blocked third-party apps that challenged those that came on the handset out of the box, citing “duplication of functionality”. When Opera submitted the Opera Mini browser to the App Store, much ado was made over whether or not it would be approved. It was — and naturally, people looked. 2.6 million of them, in just 2 weeks.

Read the rest at MobileCrunch >>

The Top Seven iPad Knockoffs

Posted: 28 May 2010 10:11 AM PDT

Either you lead or follow and Chinese manufacturing houses have been chasing Apple's designs for years. The iPad is just their latest victim. You can't blame them, really. It's the hottest device since the rotary phone. We've seen a steady stream of clones flowing onto the web for months. Here's the seven best starting with the just-found iPed.


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