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Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Le Web 2010 Speakers Announced

Posted: 13 Jun 2010 08:36 AM PDT

Le Web, in Paris on December 8-9 2010, has announced their initial speaker list. It has clearly emerged as the largest and most important Internet and technology conference in Europe and is becoming a must attend event despite the miserable Paris weather in December. Co organizers Geraldine and Loic Le Meur continue to ham it up with promotional videos in for the event, and this one cracks me up. In the past we’ve partnered with Le Web to do startup launch events and I’ve had one or two controversial moments on stage. I’m looking forward to being there again this year.

Infinity Ventures Summit In Sapporo: 11 Demos From Japanese Startups (GeeksOnAPlane Final Stop)

Posted: 13 Jun 2010 07:38 AM PDT

Just a handful of the 30+ Geeks On A Plane (GOAP) who started their Asian field trip in Shanghai, and then moved on to Beijing, Seoul, and Singapore, made it to Japan, the final stop of the tour. The highlight of the Japan leg was the Infinity Ventures Summit (IVS) in Sapporo [this and many of the following links are in Japanese], a two-day, invitation-only event that takes place twice a year. Organized by VC firm Infinity Venture Partners, the IVS attracted over 400 people from the domestic web industry and a number of international attendees this time.

The agenda was filled with panel discussions and presentations on the hot topic in Japan’s web industry today, social gaming. The other current hot topic, the launch of the iPad in this country late last month, was reflected in the launchpad, which gave a total of 11 Japanese startups the chance to demo their products.

In the end, V-Sido For Smartphones, a piece of real-time control system software for humanoid robots, won the title of best demo.

But here are short profiles of all the 11 products that were shown on-stage. (Please note some of the companies have yet to launch homepages in English.)

The winner and runners-up of the IVS launchpad

V-Sido For Smartphones by Wataru Yoshizaki
Best of show went to robot fanatic Wataru Yoshizaki who already made it to second at the last IVS launchpad. V-Sido For Smartphones is a real-time control system for humanoids that turns smartphones into multi-touch remote controls for those robots. For example, if the user draws the shape of a star on the phone’s screen, the humanoid in question does the same in the real world (and in real-time). Move your fingers faster, and the robot will move its arms faster, too. Yamazaki said his future plans include developing a solution of life-sized robots and commercializing V-Sido by year-end.

Skip to 3.08 in this (Japanese) clip for a short demo:

AQUSH by Exchange Corporation (first runner-up)
Much like Zopa in the UK, AQUSH is a peer-to-peer lending service that connects people with extra money with those who want to borrow money. Launched in December last year, the site allows lenders to set their desired investment amount and interest rates from 4% to 15% for 5 classes of borrower credit risk, as denoted by AQUSH itself. Loan applicants are screened by AQUSH based on their credit histories, financial situation and FICO scores. AQUSH says borrowers borrow at 11.6% on average (6.5% cheaper than traditional lenders), while lenders can expect a return on investment of 7.8% on loans (compared to 3 year time deposits that pay 0.15%). The goal is to unlock some of the more than $7 trillion of retail cash and bank deposits by offering individual investors access to the $300 billion Japanese consumer loan market.

iogous by Fringe81 (second runner-up)
iogous is a patent-pending display ad optimization solution. The tool breaks down each display ad into six components: main visual (for example, a picture), catch phrase, logo, “action button” (for example, “Click here”), format, and background color. iougous can then create thousands of “optimized” banner ads by combining these elements (see some examples in the image below). Fringe81, the startup behind the service, claims customers can expect up to 80% increase in CTR when compared to using traditional, static banner ads (more info in English here).

PartyGames by KLab (third runner-up)
PartyGames is a series of multi-player games developed for the iPad and iPhone. The main idea is to use an iPad as the main screen and then have a group of players use their iPhones as individual game screens, for example to play poker in the real world (the devices are linked via Bluetooth). KLab has so far brought PartyPoker to the Japanese AppStore. “PartyCoupleMatching” (game for group dates) and others (PartyDarts, PartyBowling etc.) are on the way.

Here’s a video showing how PartyPoker works (here‘s the PartyCoupleMatching video):

Lifelog system L+ by Ryo Koshino (fourth runner-up)
L+ is a lifelog tool for Android that makes use of four hardware elements: GPS, Bluetooth, accelerometer, and microphone. The tool aims at answering the question what you did at which location, at which time and possibly together with whom. L+ helps you to keep track of how many steps you took at a given day (via the accelerometer), how you moved around the city (via GPS and Wi-Fi), and whom of your friends you met or who’s around (via Bluetooth connection). Activity is recorded for future reference through Google Maps, calendars, and various stats L+ creates while in use.

The best of the rest of the IVS launchpad

Here’s a list of the six other products that didn’t make the cut:

  • Zeptopad Planner Note, a note and whiteboard app for the iPad that lets you easily create vector images and comes with a ton of features (iTunes)
  • Cerevo Cam Live!, a 9MP “social camera” that uploads pictures to the web (via Wi-Fi or 3G) and livestreams video over Ustream directly from the device
  • GQ iPad version, an app that focuses on monetization through digital ads from luxury brands and features in-app movie clips (for example, movie trailers)
  • Fastweet Live HD, a Twitter client for the iPad that helps users keep track of “hot” hash tags and displays relevant tweets in matrix format (not yet released/iPhone versions in iTunes)
  • Motion Dive .Cast, a feature-rich application that lets users remix and create videos with their iPad
  • TweetBubbles, an Adobe AIR Twitter app that allows participants of presentations to overlay comments or questions (as tweets) in bubbles on top of the presentation

Japanese tech blog Tech Wave offers video recordings of all 11 demos on its Ustream channel (all presentations were held in Japanese).

TechCrunch Gets A Birthday Gift From Jack Dorsey And SF Giants

Posted: 13 Jun 2010 01:15 AM PDT

A handful of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (and one lucky blogger) enjoyed a San Francisco Giants baseball game this evening at AT&T Park. Twitter creator and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey had a surprise for us to celebrate TechCrunch’s fifth birthday – a big Happy Birthday message on the main scoreboard. Thanks Jack – it made our day.

Protect Your iDevice from Theft. Sorta

Posted: 12 Jun 2010 06:19 PM PDT

So you’re at the coffee shop, and you’ve walked over to the counter to order another half-frap-double shot raspberry no fat mocha, and left your iPad (or iPod) plugged into your laptop. Suddenly, that skeevy looking fellow who was sitting two tables away makes a grab for your iPad, and runs for the door! You don’t see him because you were looking away, but you still know your kit has been boosted! How do you know? Well, you had the PadLock installed.

Read more…

MOG’s Music Streaming iPhone App Is Caught In App Store Purgatory, Too

Posted: 12 Jun 2010 02:27 PM PDT

Yesterday we reported on a music-streaming iPhone application called Rdio that has been waiting for weeks to have an update approved by Apple. Now we’ve learned that this may be part of a new trend: MOG, the music portal that offers an impressive on-demand streaming music service, is also having issues with the App Store. MOG submitted its iPhone application over a month ago, and has heard nothing from Apple since. Phone calls and emails have gone unreturned. And the company is understandably getting nervous that Apple may be thinking of blocking the app.

MOG has a lot riding on its mobile applications — it just closed a new $9.5 million funding round, some of which is going toward expanding its mobile platform. At SXSW it held a press event to preview its iPhone and Android applications, and what it showcased was pretty impressive. For $10 a month, users can stream any song or album they want, and they can locally download entire albums to their phone (which will work even when they lose connectivity) in one tap.

It’s possible that Apple is concerned that MOG’s app is too good. If you listen (and pay for) a lot of music, MOG’s all-you-can-eat service can quickly pay for itself. And it makes tethering your iPhone to your PC every time you want to sync songs a thing of the past. Apple has long been been rumored to be working on its own cloud music service, especially since it acquired Lala last December, and may be worried about getting beaten to the punch. Thing is, Apple has already approved Rhapsody, which offers much of the same music streaming functionality (albeit without the full-album download button) and Spotify.

On the other hand, Apple may just be overwhelmed — it has the release of the iPhone 4 and iOS 4 just around the corner, and now has to deal with developers who are upgrading their apps in time for the new OS launch.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this to see how it develops.

Andreessen Horowitz To Win The Foursquare Investor Badge

Posted: 12 Jun 2010 11:20 AM PDT

A months long fundraising process for Foursquare is in its last stages, we’ve heard from multiple sources, and Andreessen Horowitz looks to be preparing to check-in to Foursquare to take an investor badge.

The company has delayed committing to new venture capital as they considered buyout offers – negotiations went deep with both Yahoo and Facebook, and possibly Microsoft. The Yahoo discussions ended weeks ago, and Facebook passed on an acquisition earlier this week, we’ve heard.

That means the company is raising that big new round of financing. And a slew of venture capitalists, including Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Spark Capital and First Round Capital were all rumored to competing heavily for inclusion despite the $80 million or so valuation, say our sources.

Andreessen Horowitz, despite rumors that they were pulling out of discussions with the company weeks ago over concerns that too much information was leaking to the press, is the last venture capitalist standing. The fact that founding partner Marc Andreessen is on the board of directors of Facebook, a key partner or competitor of Foursquare, may be the factor that put them over the top.

Existing investors OATV and Union Square Ventures will also participate heavily in the new round, we’ve heard. In the meantime they’ve likely already loaned additional capital to the company.

It’s not clear if the final terms of the round have been set, or who’s putting in how much money.

We sat down with Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley two weeks ago at TechCrunch Disrupt to talk about his vision for the company. Watch that interview here.


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