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Monday, June 7, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Live from Apple’s 2010 WWDC Keynote

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 08:37 AM PDT

It's time. After months of whispers, leaks, lost prototypes, and police raids, it all leads up to this: Steve Jobs' keynote at WWDC 2010. Will the prototype fourth-generation iPhone we've seen so much of be the real deal? Do Steve and co. have any tricks up their sleeves to satisfy their ever more rabid fan base? Follow along as we liveblog every minute of the action from the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA. The keynote begins at 10 A.M Pacific (thats 12 P.M Central/1 P.M Eastern). Bookmark this page, and set your alarms -- and be sure to tune in early! We'll have some pre-show coverage, video footage, and pictures beginning at around 9 A.M.

OpenPeak Raises $52 Million From Intel Capital And Others For iPad Rival

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 08:35 AM PDT

OpenPeak, a company that develops multimedia touch-screen devices and device management platforms, has secured an additional $52 million of financing from Intel Capital, Horizon Technology Finance and Velocity Financial Group.

The company recently announced the OpenTablet 7, a portable, touch-screen device that is similar in many ways to Apple’s iPad. The investment from Intel isn’t surprising considering that OpenPeak’s device is based on Intel’s Moorestown platform. The tablet also includes thousands of apps for its platform and and is completely Flash-based.

OpenPeak says the funding will be used to expand product development and enter new markets. The company also develops a multi-media phones, set-top box, and home energy management applications.

Tony Hsieh Explains Why He Sold Zappos To Amazon Under Pressure From Sequoia

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 08:33 AM PDT

There’s an interesting article up on Inc.com that reveals interesting tidbits about the backstory to the 2009 acquisition of online shoes and clothing retailer Zappos by Amazon for roughly $1.2 billion in stock.

The article is actually adapted from Zappos co-founder and CEO Tony Hsieh‘s new book, Delivering Happiness, while Purpose. Inc. senior writer Max Chafkin contributed additional reporting.

Hsieh writes how he was first approached by Amazon as early as 2005, but immediately turned the company down because he felt they were just getting started at Zappos.

Interestingly, Hsieh also says that he was reluctant to sell to Amazon 4 years later as well, and that he would much rather have kept growing the company to eventually go public.

But as we know, that’s not what happened.

That the deal with Amazon was ultimately signed anyway is largely a result of pressure by Zappos’ board of directors, which includes partner from outside investors, including Sequoia Capital, which injected $48 million into the e-commerce company.

Rather bitterly, Hsieh recalls that the recession and the credit crisis forced Zappos to reconsider its future, and that its investors were not convinced about the advantages to its distinctive, widely talked about and oft-lauded company culture:

As the economy deteriorated, the appraised value of our inventory began to fall, which meant that even if we hit our numbers, we might eventually find ourselves without enough cash to buy inventory.

These issues had nothing to do with the underlying performance of our business, but they increased tensions on our board of directors. Some board members had always viewed our company culture as a pet project — “Tony’s social experiments,” they called it. I disagreed. I believe that getting the culture right is the most important thing a company can do. But the board took the conventional view — namely, that a business should focus on profitability first and then use the profits to do nice things for its employees.

It was enough reason for Hsieh and his trusted partners to come up with a plan to find new investors and ultimately buy out the board of directors for roughly $200 million. That number seems to have been right on the mark, in hindsight: Sequoia ended up making $248 million from the exit.

Instead of regaining full control of the company along with new investors, Hsieh rekindled talks with Amazon head Jeff Bezos in Seattle. Bezos reassured him that Zappos could operate relatively independently even if after a 100% acquisition, and that its remarkable culture would be maintained. Reading the article, I can’t help but think that had Hsieh not had such a good conversation with the man that day, things would have turned out very differently.

It’s a fascinating read that is getting a lot of attention in blogger world.

Felix Salmon at Reuters concludes Sequoia ‘forced’ Zappos to sell, while Ben Metcalfe raises some questions about Zappos’ way of treating customers and employees, saying this approach appears to not pay off in the end. Dan Primack at peHUB, meanwhile, says he was right about the rumblings in the Zappos board room all along (they reported rumors about Sequoia pressuring Zappos for a liquidity event right after the deal was announced).

Location-Based Flook’s Popularity With Women May Not Be A Fluke

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 08:30 AM PDT

Flook, the location-based application from Ambient Industries which has now has a total of £1.65m in funding from Amadeus Capital Partners and Eden Ventures has always puzzled me. Flook is a location-based service that has a web app and an iPhone app [iTunes link here].. We've described it in the past as a StumbleUpon for location-based discovery. Users create cards tagged to locations which are then picked up by other users. It's basically a dead-letter box on an iphone. For me, that's pretty much all it is. But apparently I'm wrong about Flook. Because, says Ambient, it's getting a lot of uptake, especially with women.

Greystripe And Adobe Partner To Bring Flash Ads To The iPhone And iPad. Sort Of.

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 08:00 AM PDT

The ongoing battle between Adobe and Apple over the lack of support for Flash on the iPhone and iPad has been entertaining to say the least. Adobe has been candid about what they think of Apple’s policy, and in turn, Steve Jobs has been open about his thoughts on Flash. But in the end, Flash is still not supported on Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Today, Adobe is partnering with mobile ad network Greystripe to help bring Flash authored ads to the iPhone, iPad, Android and mobile web. Well, sort of.

Greystripe’s technology now transcodes Flash authored ads as HTML5 to mobile devices that do not support Flash Player (such as the iPhone and iPad); these ads will be supported in both applications and on the mobile web. There’s no work for the advertisers or publishers; Greystripe says the transition from Flash to HTML5 is seamless. Greystripe's new technology for Apple's Safari web browser will allow real-time transcoding of Flash authored creative work to HTML5.

Greystripe has been allowing advertisers to use Flash-like technologies in their iPhone and iPad advertisements for some time now. The network essentially takes ads created using Flash and transcodes them to run on the iPhone and now the iPad. The technology changes the nature of the Flash ads on the front end but the rich media ad behaves the same way. With this partnership, Gresytripe is working with Adobe directly to be able to allow advertisers and developers to be able to target devices that do not support Flash by transcoding ads to HTML5.

And Adobe, who has also recently embraced HTML5, is probably wise to help ad startups like Greystripe be able to offer the ability to switch from Flash to a supported rich media format. But it should be interesting to see how Greystripe and other independent mobile ad networks manage to compete with Google’s AdMob and Apple’s iAd networks.

Stickybits Rolls Out “Official” Branded Bits, Signs Up Pepsi As First Advertiser

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 07:50 AM PDT

Seth Goldstein, the chairman and co-founder of Stickybits, described the progression of media on the Internet this morning at the Conversational Marketing Summit in New York City. In 1996, Webpages became media. In 2001, search became media. In 2005, people became media. In 2007, status updates became media. Last year, places became media. And in 2010, he predicts, objects will become media.

Well, he hopes they will. Stickybits turns barcodes into threaded conversations around objects. You scan a barcode with the Stickbits app on your iPhone using the camera as a barcode scanner, then add a comment, photo, or video. The next person to scan that barcode sees your message and can leave their own. So objects with no IP addresses, like a case of cheese at a farmer’s market in Boulder, Colorado or a Twix bar in Kenya can unlock their own stories.

It’s a cool, Sci-fi idea, but how will Stickybits make money? Goldstein announced today on stage that the next upgrade to Stickybits will include “official bits” and that Pepsi is signed up as the first sponsor. So when you scan the barcode on a can of Pepsi, you might get a message directing you to Pepsi’s Refresh social media campaign (which donates money to the best causes/projects as voted by consumers). As an official “paid” bit, the Pepsi message will appear first before any of the others, just like paid search. The rest are in chronological order.

If every object has a story, every object becomes a marketing opportunity. Sounds good in theory. The trick will be to get consumers to start scanning objects on a regular basis just like some (still early adopters) are starting to do now with checking into locations. It is an unnatural act, and there has to be a really good reason to do so. Those reasons will emerge only once a critical mass of people start leaving Stickybits all over the place.

Photo credit: Flickr/William Yurasko

Report: Q1 Venture Funding Stagnates

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 07:15 AM PDT

According to data compiled by VC database VentureDeal, total Q1 venture funding for 2010 stagnated from the previous quarter, with 281 companies raising $1.8 billion in venture capital funding, a decrease of 2% from Q4 2009. The company reported findings on four sectors of technology, Internet, Digital Media, eCommerce, and Software.

Funding to startups in the Digital Media space decreased by 55% to $167 million, with 35 companies being funded, a decrease of 8% versus the previous quarter. E-Commerce on the other hand, saw the biggest jump in funding. For the quarter, 9 commerce companies received a total of $64 million in funding, a whopping increase of 156% in financing amounts versus the previous quarter thanks to massive rounds such as the investment in Boku in January, which totaled $25 million.

Software startup investments ended up as the second largest sector in terms of total amounts, raising $675 million between 109 companies, an increase of 4% in total funding amount and an increase of 3% in the number of companies funded. The largest funding of the quarter was a $110 million round for PowerPlan, which sells fixed asset software.

Internet sectorinvestments continued their previous quarterly increase by rising 13% in terms of total funding. The sector received $902 million in venture capital funding during the quarter allocated among 128 companies, which represents a decrease of 4% in the number of companies funded. Big rounds for the quarter included a $100 million investment in Yelp and $75 million in uStream.

An April report from CrunchBase data also indicated the venture funding had dropped from the fourth quarter of 2009. But it’s interesting to see the e-commerce sector picking up speed in terms of investments. Surely the latest Gilt and Groupon funding rounds indicate that the trend is continuing through 2010.

Feedjit Now Serves 1 Billion Widgets Per Month, Hires Former RescueTime CEO

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 07:14 AM PDT

Feedjit, which offers website publishers and bloggers a live traffic widget that lets them see who is visiting their site(s) in real time, is now serving over 1 billion widget impressions per month on a network of more than 530,000 online properties.

According to co-founder and CEO Mark Maunder, Feedjit widgets reach over 150 million unique users on a monthly basis.

The startup has made a strong key hire, appointing RescueTime co-founder and former CEO Tony Wright as Head of Product.

Over the weekend, Feedjit also launched a totally new design for both the Feedjit.com website and the Live Traffic Feed, improving the ability to customize widgets and making for a generally faster experienced thanks to upgraded back-end systems.

Feedjit now lets site visitors appear in live traffic feed widgets in real-time, while linking directly to their respective Twitter and Facebook profile pages.

Feedjit quietly closed a seed round back in 2008, from a trio of angel investors made up of Naval Ravikant, Aydin Senkut (former senior manager at Google who now runs Felicis Ventures) and Georges Harik (former Director of Googlettes at Google).

Having raised less than half a million dollars, it’s pretty amazing for Feedjit to have grown up to become one one of the largest widget providers on the Web today.

Bing Opens Up Its Map Apps To Developers And Smooths Out Photosynth

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 06:55 AM PDT

One of the best part of Bing Maps is the gallery of Map Apps (Silverlight required) which add different informational overlays to the maps. There are Twitter maps, Foursquare maps, Worldwide Telescope maps, and event maps. But today Bing is opening up its Map Apps more broadly to outside developers and releasing an SDK for anyone who wants to create their own Bing Map App.

The apps must be created in Silverlight 4, and there is an approval process before it appears in everyone’s Bing Map Apps gallery. Eventually, Microsoft will allow advertising in the apps as well and presumably will split revenues with the app creators. The apps which make it into the gallery will be showcased to all Bing Maps users.

Microsoft is launching with a few new apps built on the SDK, including ones from BestParking.com, Everyscape, and Weatherbug. The BestParking app shows parking garages and lots on the map along with a rate calculator. Everyscape is adding its collection of 3D photo exploration tools for inside buildings, starting with restaurants in select cities like Boston. And Weatherbug’s app creates a Doppler layer along with markers for each weather station, which can be clicked on for detailed info and weather cams from each station.

In addition to the Map Apps SDK, Bing is also rolling out some new improvements to its maps in general later this week. Photosynths (which meld multiple photos of a location into a huge, single, panoramic image which can be zoomed around) are now much smoother when zooming in and out to take a closer look at details. The jerky transitions are gone. Interior building maps for places like malls are also being added, so you can see exactly where the Jimmy Choo store is inside. And if you enter a business address, Bing Maps will do a reverse lookup and list the businesses at that location in the side column next to the map.

Six Apart Acquires “Green” Online Media And Ad Network NaturalPath Media

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 06:44 AM PDT

Six Apart this morning announced the acquisition of NaturalPath Media, which bills itself as an online advertising and media network for “sustainable, healthy, and conscious lifestyles”.

With the acquisition, Six Apart aims to expand its ability to help marketers reach women aged 25+ and provide more opportunities for NaturalPath Media publishers to increase revenue through premium conversational marketing programs offered by the blogging company.

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Thanks to the addition of NaturalPath Media’s green media portfolio, Six Apart says the audience it can reach is now just south of 90 million unique users according to comScore.

Syill according to comScore, NaturalPath Media boasts a potential reach of 18.4 million unique visitors per month. Its 200 publishers span categories such as Eating Well, Eco Moms & Family, Green Living, Health & Wellness and Eco Tech and include premium sites such as DrGreene.com, GreenLivingIdeas.com, ScientificAmerican.com and EcoSalon.com.

Dr. Greene.com will be the first Natural Path Media publishing partner to launch TypePad Conversations, a conversational marketing solution enabling brands to sponsor authentic conversations as part of an upcoming online advertising campaign.

Schoology Raises $1.25 Million For Learning Management Software

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 06:32 AM PDT

Schoology, makers of a cloud-based learning management system and configurable social network for academic institutions, has secured its first institutional round of venture capital funding from Meakem Becker Venture Capital.

The financing round follows an angel investment from an unnamed “prominent New York investor” in May 2009. New York-based Schoology says it will use the funding, which totals $1.25 million, to expand its workforce and grow its service.

Schoology’s mission is to leverage the familiarity of popular social media tools to improve communication and collaboration inside and outside of the classroom. Schoology provides a full suite of learning management tools, including an online gradebook, attendance, test/quizzes, discussion boards, blogs, homework dropboxes, and collaborative course and group pages.

The social network permits cross-school networking allowing for multiple organizations to participate in shared classes, groups, and discussions.

Its suite can be integrated with existing school reporting and information systems.

Schoology provides its platform for individuals, schools, and districts free of charge. That way, Schoology says, institutions can focus on introducing new technologies rather than being limited by budget constraints. The system can be enhanced through the purchase of premium add-ons such as custom branding, support packages, and other additional features.

The company is prepping the release of a full API, which will allow schools or individuals to develop custom applications and integrations, in July 2010.

RockYou Raises Another $10 Million To Expand Presence In Asia

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 05:31 AM PDT

Social network application developer and advertising platform RockYou has just raised another $10 million in funding from SoftBank. With the deal, the company has acquired a majority of the shares in its joint venture, RockYou Asia. The company previously raised a whopping $50 million in funding last November. This latest investment brings the startup’s total funding to $127 million.

RockYou develops and acquires social networking applications, but a big part of their business is serving advertising to their own as well as third party apps. RockYou Asia is a social and mobile application developer providing entertainment tools and social applications to users in Asian Countries. Games include RockYou Battle Monsters, Umajin RockYou, Usaru Biyori, Crime World, Hug Me, and Speed Racing

The startup, which was one of the pilot partners for Facebook’s move into the offers space, has been working with a number of game developers throughout Asia to monetize, license, and publish games globally. RockYou sees alot of potential in the Asia social gaming market and wants to increase its presence in the area. There are 280 million monthly users of apps that RockYou owns directly or has advertising relationships with, says the company. Last year, RockYou suffered a data breach that resulted in the exposure of over 32 Million user accounts. The company was eventually hit with a class action lawsuit for poor security measures.

And Now For Facebook’s Next Trick: Video

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 05:27 AM PDT

Last week, comScore released its U.S. Online Video Rankings for April 2010. We noted that Vevo in particular saw big growth in its first couple of months on the Web.

But as Clickz this morning wrote, social networking site Facebook has shot up the rankings, too. With 41,335,000 unique U.S. viewers in April alone, the site is no match for Google Sites (which includes YouTube and Google Video), as the leader of the ranking for top online video properties in the United States boasts a combined viewership of more than 136 million users per month. But its growth rate is worthy of some attention.

Facebook is climbing the rankings fast enough: comScore pegged its number of unique U.S. viewers at 13.3 million in April last year, so that means its viewership more than tripled in a year, according to the audience measurement firm.

Thus, Facebook has quietly nestled itself in the number 5 spot, just behind Yahoo Sites, Fox Interactive Media and Vevo. According to comScore, Facebook videos currently draw a bigger audience than known names like Microsoft, CBS, Hulu and Viacom.

Even if surprisingly few videos get viewed by users on average (5.6, compared to 96 on Google Sites and 24.7 on Hulu), the site seems poised for growth in this segment. With more than 400 million active users, the site could soon surpass Yahoo and Fox as one of the leading video destinations on the Web as far as the United States goes, and will likely fight a hard battle with Vevo for the number two spot in the rankings.

And as Clickz points out, a lot of the video content currently available on Facebook comes in the form of embedded YouTube units, but comScore counts views of those to Google Sites, so Facebook’s role in delivering video content to users is larger than the numbers actually suggest.

It would probably also help to stop hiding the ‘video’ page under the ‘Photos’ tab, which makes zero sense to me.

GoAdv, The “European Associated Content”, Delists From France’s Stock Exchange

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 03:44 AM PDT

Digital media company The GoAdv Group is today announcing (PDF) a "strategic delisting" from France's stock exchange, the Alternext of NYSE Euronext, where it has been trading since August 2007. Luca Ascani, chairman of GoAdv, in a statement made it very clear that the decision was driven by the wave of consolidation in the mass-production and distribution of online content and the opportunities that brings for the company he co-founded in 2004:
"GoAdv is experiencing phenomenal growth in the emerging content on demand sector which is fundamentally changing the way content is produced, distributed and monetised online. With the recent acquisition of Associated Content by Yahoo Inc and other consolidation activity, we believe the company will be better positioned for growth and other strategic opportunities as a private entity. Due to GoAdv's strong cash position, our delisting will allow us to pursue expansion opportunities while continuing to increase cost efficiencies in our business."
In short, looks like GoAdv wants to make itself more attractive for potential buyers.

Fiabee’s iPhone App Lets You Share Cloud-stored Files

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 03:42 AM PDT

In Europe we don't have too many decent cloud storage competitors to, say, Dropbox or Apple's MobileMe. And Wuala is busy integrating into hardware devices. But today Spain-based Fiabee, which runs real-time cloud storage for backing up files, launches a handy new service. Fiabee for iPhone [iTunes link] allows you to access whatever you've backed up onto the service. What is most useful however is that users can share any of their files with someone, without having to download them locally to the iPhone.

Here’s How The Government Can Fix Silicon Valley: Leave It Alone

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 03:04 AM PDT

I interviewed most of the presidential candidates about their positions on technology issues in the 2008 election. After those interviews I endorsed one candidate from each party – Barack Obama and John McCain. Neither of them were leading the primaries at the time, but they seemed like the best candidates, solely from a tech policy perspective.

I’ve always believed that government tends to screw up whatever it touches, but Obama in particular seemed different. He understood tech issues that left the other candidates bewildered. Part of it may be his age. But whatever the reason, I had real hope that he could help lead us into a new century of technology leadership and growth.

I don’t really believe that any more.

Mostly because of the broken promises. From my interview with him:

He is staunchly in favor of net neutrality, and has promised to make it a priority to reinstate it in his first year in office. He has proposed intelligent programs for increasing technology education and access to children. He doesn't believe the FCC went far enough in their proposed rules for opening up the 700MHz spectrum auctions. He wants to see increases in the number of H1-B visas given out each year. He strongly supports research into renewable energy sources and he has a realistic, market based approach to capping carbon emissions.

None of these things happened, nor seem likely to happen under his presidency.

But it’s more than broken promises. Our government is just way too interested in mucking around in Silicon Valley by creating and enforcing rules based on little or no understanding of the consequences. A perfect example – recent proposed financial reform legislation by Senator Chris Dodd added on a few random provisions that could have devastated Silicon Valley’s delicate venture capital ecosystem.

Earlier this year I was invited to a small closed door meeting with Victoria Espinel, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator appointed by Obama. In attendance were CEOs and other senior executives of a number of large and small Silicon Valley companies. The meeting was supposed to be about how her office can help Silicon Valley thrive. But it became very apparent very quickly that Espinel has a single agenda when it comes to copyright issues – helping the music labels and TV/Movie studios deal with the Internet on their own terms.

The meeting was strictly off record, which is why I didn’t write about it immediately after leaving the room. And the things that she said in that meeting will remain off the record as I promised. But I will say this – I walked out in utter frustration after an hour. And among the many things I said in that room was this:

The government can keep pissing in our flowerbed, but pretty soon all the flowers are going to be dead.

The problem with Espinel is that she has to follow the lobbying dollars, and those dollars come from the old entrenched players – TV and movie studios, and record labels. And as she said in the meeting to me (the one quote I’ll use), “My job title is Intellectual Property Enforcement after all.”

So, ok, fine. But why do we need a presidential appointee who’s main job seems to be to try to shut down startups that freak out the labels and studios? Those guys have piles of private money and a variety of civil lawsuit options to protect their rights, they certainly don’t need the government to be adding yet another layer of bullying to the mix. And why bother coming to Silicon Valley to pretend you want to find a way to let startups thrive in a country with excessively restrictive copyright protections that were designed for a world without the Internet?

So tonight I read an email from a good friend with amusement:

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has asked for some ideas on how the President and the Federal Government can increase high-tech entrepreneurship in America, and I thought that you might have some good ideas in this area.

They are looking for both goals and tactics. The tactics could involve legislation, Federal spending, public-private partnerships, political will, etc. Given your standing in the community, I am sure that you have some thoughts on goals. I am looking to pull some ideas together for them in the next few days.

My response was basically the title of this post – we don’t want their help, because they tend to turn everything they touch into toxic waste anyway. Just leave Silicon Valley alone please. Please.

I’m seeing way too many friends spending time in Washington posing for photos with Obama and Hillary Clinton lately. God knows what they’re actually telling these politicians while they’re busy playing Mr. Important Person. But I doubt it’s what they should be saying – leave us alone, stop pissing on our flowerbed.

If the government wants to help innovation in this country they should get busy with infrastructure. Lay fiber to every home and business in the U.S. Actually start building some of these high speed train networks to make travel easier. Get computers into the hands of every child in the country as soon as they are physically able to press buttons. Heck, put a woman on the moon. I don’t know if that last one will do much, but at least they’ll be busy not screwing up Silicon Valley while they’re at it.

I would have said let in any highly educated person in the world that wants to live here, but I know that isn’t going to happen. We will continue to shun the next generation of brilliant foreign entrepreneurs because of some absurd fear that they’re going to take away our jobs. In a few years those entrepreneurs will no longer want to live here anyway.

Silicon Valley has fueled much of the growth in our economy over the last few decades and has created amazing (and highly profitable) companies that are making the world a much better and more interesting place to live. All that happened while the government ignored us.

We don’t want handouts. We don’t want “public-private partnerships,” and we sure as hell don’t want legislation. Just let us do our thing and maybe say thanks to those companies that create jobs by the hundreds of thousands and send in those humongous corporate tax payments on profits. Because all you can do is screw up something beautiful. Really.

Will The iPad Land In China Next August?

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 02:18 AM PDT

Pan Shiyi, an affluent Chinese businessman and real estate mogul with a large following on social networking sites, has accidentally shared the news of an impending China launch for Apple’s iPad come August, writes DigiCha.

It appears mr. Pan got the news straight from Apple China head honcho Lu Lei, posted about it on a micro-blogging service to an audience of close to a million followers, and immediately removed the message after realizing that he shouldn’t have shared it the world. Shiyi later apologized for the whole ordeal on his blog.

Apple has shown there’s a market for next-gen tablet computers, selling over 2 million in less than 60 days. A slew of Asian manufacturers evidently took notice and are jumping on the opportunity quickly by mass-producing clones, which they hope will take a bite out of Apple’s lead.

An August launch for the iPad in mainland China seems plausible, but demand will depend greatly on pricing and which carrier scores the rights to sell the device. Apple would also need to develop a model that operates on China’s homegrown TD-SCDMA standard.

The world's biggest mobile phone operator by subscribers (+539 million), China Mobile, has repeatedly expressed its desire to sell the device, particularly now that it is setting up an electronic book business.

Rival telecom operator China Unicom, which beat China Mobile to become the carrier for the iPhone last year, is also said to be in talks with Apple for further cooperation.

China had a total of 776.9 million mobile subscribers at the end of March, the largest number of any country.

Audioboo Closes First Major Funding To Become The Twitter-for-audio

Posted: 07 Jun 2010 12:19 AM PDT

Audioboo, the 'Twitter for Audio', has closed its first major funding round, having ridden out a "monthly cash crisis", the company tells TechCrunch Europe. And while the actual amount of new funding isn't being disclosed, we've learned that it's somewhere in the region of £1.5m. Audioboo's investors now include Channel 4's digital media fund 4iP, which provided the UK startup's initial funding which will be converted in to equity, along with UBC Media (an existing Pro customer), Imagination Technologies (owners of PURE Radio and who have both Apple and Intel as backers), and angel investors including Qualcom's Sir Don Cruickshank, who will become Audioboo's new Chairman.

Is “Remarkable Indonesia” the New “Incredible India” for Investors?

Posted: 06 Jun 2010 08:59 PM PDT

I've written several posts about the innovation, entrepreneurship and promising Web audience I've found over several weeks of reporting in Indonesia. As such, friends in the venture capital business are peppering my inbox asking round-about-questions that all go back to the same central query: Should we be investing in Indonesia?

The seatback pocket on my flight from Jakarta to Surabaya seemed to think so. A pamphlet blared "INVEST IN REMARKABLE INDONESIA," and included some testimonials from companies like Coca-Cola and Unilever, and some charts showing Indonesia's economic stability. This was the second time I'd heard the words "Remarkable Indonesia" in as many days. Dino Patti Djalal, the spokesperson for Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and soon to be Ambassador to the US said they'd trademarked it as the country's new marketing tagline. It called to mind the "Incredible India" push of a few years ago which even included purchasing ads during the Oscars.

Compared to "Incredible India," "Remarkable Indonesia" seems to express muted praise for the country—especially considering the infrastructure in Jakarta was far better than the infrastructure I found in most major Indian cities, the food cooked with some 30,000 locally grown spices was amazing, the cultural heritage and diversity was just as rich, and Bali has some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere in the world. Only remarkable?

The biggest reason for Valley-types to think about investing in Remarkable Indonesia wasn't in that pamphlet. It's the fact that for all the promise and nascent bubbling growth in technology and mobile, almost no one is there. Indonesia has 240 million people and a Web audience around 30 million to 40 million people, not including the surging mobile Web. It's curious how little venture capital is going after that, given that in the first quarter nearly $1 billion in US startup funding flowed to India, China and Israel, with each country reporting surges in capital from between 20% to more than 100% over the last year.

This post is one that many people in South Africa, India and China have begged me not to write, because they are having a field day expanding mobile and Web services in Indonesia. In this age of global venture capital and emerging markets hype, how many markets this big is the US mostly ignoring? In this age of globalization and outsourcing, how many markets this big have so few multinational jobs driving up employment and developer costs?

But all of this opportunity doesn't necessarily mean Indonesia is a market where US venture capitalists can do well. Recently Indonesian tech blogger Rama Mamuaya was cold-called by a Valley venture firm and asked if he had a million dollars to invest in one Indonesian Web startup, which one he should pick. He thought about it and answered: None. It's not because they aren't promising, but because the costs of building a company are still so low in Indonesia—as opposed to markets like China and India where a flood of multinational jobs have pushed up salaries and rents—that any company would have a hard time putting that much money to good use.

There are concerns about politics, stability, the banking system and, of course, how to get liquidity as there are with most emerging markets. There's especially a visceral fear in Indonesia—a country that was brought to its knees by the late 1990s Asian financial crisis, and one that most Americans know very little about. These are not waters to be navigated from thousands of miles away.

I think what Indonesia could use is something in between the current state of no high-growth capital and the money that goes to countries like India and China: A Y-Combinator-style incubator that could help Indonesian entrepreneurs make sense of the pitfalls of modern startup life, including things like recruiting and managing talent, how to deal with Silicon Valley giants, how to make money online and when and when not to raise outside funding. The funding amounts and exits would be small, but a Yossi-Vardi-style angel could clean up where many classic VCs might crush startups under the weight of millions. Someone to coax these entrepreneurs as they develop organically, but not bind them to a Western-way of building companies. Someone local–or at least transplanted fully– who understands when all those Valley rules need to be modified or broken.

In the Valley, the ecosystem for starting companies grew organically over several decades, a luxury that China and India didn't have. Those countries have entrepreneurs, they have tons of venture capital and big market opportunities—but when they got flooded with American cash in the last decade, the ecosystem's natural development accelerated, and the step of developing local angels and mentors was largely skipped. That's the single biggest complaint I hear from entrepreneurs in these countries. Indonesia has a rare opportunity to develop a huge startup ecosystem in the right order.

The question is who will fill this void, because someone will. Will it be an American who moves and becomes embedded in the market? Or will it be a branch of a firm that's sprung up in recent years in China or India, places that understand emerging market economics and risk better than we do? It’s not going to be easy, but Indonesia is too big and too untapped—too "remarkable"–to stay undiscovered forever.

Yahoo Goes All In With Facebook: Here Are The Screenshots

Posted: 06 Jun 2010 01:13 PM PDT

Tomorrow Yahoo will announce a relaunch of Yahoo Profiles and their “all in” integration with Facebook Connect, including on the Yahoo home page. We’ve all known deep integration with Facebook was coming, but until now it wasn’t clear exactly how deeply Yahoo would go.

The answer – pretty deep. Users will be able to log into Facebook right on the Yahoo home page as well as other places throughout Yahoo, like mail. Most interactions on Yahoo will, like leaving comments on stories and status updates in mail and on the home page, will give users the option of posting that content as well to Facebook.

All of this goes hand in glove with the recent privacy updates and move from a friend to a follower model within Yahoo.

The new Yahoo Profiles will be called Yahoo Pulse. More than 15 Yahoo sites are included. Here’s part of the official announcement:

Facebook Integration – Yahoo! has reached an important milestone in its partnership with Facebook. Starting globally today, people who use both Yahoo! and Facebook can link their accounts and view and share updates with friends across both networks. People who connect their accounts can consume their Facebook newsfeed on the Yahoo! homepage and in Yahoo! Mail and other Yahoo! sites and services. Additionally, people who create and share content on Yahoo! sites – including Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, Flickr, and many Yahoo! entertainment sites, such as omg!, Yahoo! TV, and Yahoo! Movies – can easily share their contributions across Facebook. Additional integrations will be ongoing.

A Refresh of Yahoo! Profiles – Launched in October 2008, Yahoo! Profiles has allowed people to manage their identity and activities across Yahoo! from a central location. Today, Yahoo! has refreshed the experience to make its privacy settings easier to use and to give people a central dashboard to manage the external social network accounts and apps that they have linked to Yahoo!, starting with Facebook and with others to come later this year. Yahoo! Profiles has been renamed Yahoo! Pulse to better reflect its broader ability to manage settings, privacy, and account links. The updated experience is available at


The screenshots tell much of the story. Here are a few that Yahoo supplied last week in a briefing:

Attack Of The Tweets: MTV’s Movie Awards Twitter Visualization Graph

Posted: 06 Jun 2010 11:16 AM PDT

I was hit with a reminder this Sunday morning that I am indeed no longer a 15-year-old teenager. But if you are a Bieber-Swift-Pattinson-Stewart-OMGVampires-loving tween/teen, then boy does MTV have a Twitter visualization map for you. In honor of this evening’s MTV Movie Awards, the digital team at MTV have rolled out a highly interactive (almost too interactive) Twitter live-graph that will tell you via text and dynamic visuals what are the top trending topics/people related to the Awards show, how many tweets per minute each topic is averaging, and the content of those tweets. Sound overwhelming? It is, but it’s also pretty engaging— even if you’re an over-the-hill teen.

This is how it works. Once you open the site, there is an opaque overlay with simple instructions: the visual graph contains pictures of the most popular topics/people that moment (calculated in 60 second increments), as a topic becomes more popular the image will grow, with the most popular topic holding court in the center of the graph, if you click on an image you can access all the related tweets. Not surprisingly, when I logged on this morning, it looked like a partial promo for the Twilight series, with Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart’s enlarged faces eerily presiding over the frenetic scene. The visual graph is constantly moving because each image is comprised of shifting squares (that move according to popularity of the topic). There are also two other notable features: a timeline on the bottom and a “stripped” screen that will show you the top twelve topics in pseudo-bar-graph form (as users tweet, their names zooms across the screen). Once again, it’s a study in visual overload— but probably perfectly appropriate when you consider the chaos that is Twitter and MTV’s target demographic.

This is not the first time MTV has experimented with a Twitter visualization graph. MTV launched version 1.0 last September for the 2009 Video Music Awards. The main difference in this new version is that users can now connect with their Twitter account on the platform and submit tweets directly. Far from an experimental side project, the company plans on using the graph format for all of its award shows moving forward. Kurk Patat, an MTV spokesman, says it’s all about creating the most interactive forum for live discussion. “The conversation is already taking place,” Patat says. “We want to be where that conversation is taking place.”


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