Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Crowdsourced Fundraising Platform ProFounder Now Offers Equity-Based Investment Tools

Posted: 03 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT

Late last year, we wrote about ProFounder, a startup that offers entrepreneurs ways to raise money for their startups and ideas. At launch, ProFounder allowed entrepreneurs to share a percentage of their revenues with investors (their friends, family, and community) over time in exchange for an investment. Today, ProFounder is launching another option for fundraising-an equity term sheet.

Entrepreneurs can apply to Profounder, upload a pitch to offer to potential investors and then create a term sheet with Profounder’s templated forms and compliance sheets. ProFounder then gives businesses a page where they can invite friends, family, and investors to a destination page that allows users to make contributions and investments directly on the site. The bonus of using ProFounder is that the platform allows unaccredited investors (i.e. friends and family as opposed to a venture firm) to participate, so anyone can be an investor.

And entrepreneurs can set their own investment terms and ProFounder facilitates all of the compliance, including tracking the number of investor seats in each state where each of their investors live, making sure entrepreneurs know which compliance documents they need to file, making sure entrepreneurs know which filing fees to pay, etc.

Entrepreneurs can customize their equity terms on ProFounder using tools such as pre- money valuation calculators, dynamically-updating graphs to show stock ownership percentages, and more. ProFounder's equity term sheets currently offer non-voting common shares to investors.

ProFounder, which was is the brainchild of Kiva co-founder Jessica Jackley and fellow Stanford Business School alum Dana Mauriello, has seen steady traction since its public launch last fall. The platform has coordinated 14 successful raises with over $350,000 raised. The total average individual raise is $26,000 and the average number of investors is 20. Currently 530 startups are in the process of raising funds using ProFounder.

ProFounder faces competition from CapLinked, Angelsoft and others.



“Buy One Give One” Site Jimmy Fairly Is Fastest-funded French Startup

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:45 AM PDT

Hey, remember those Italian guys who spent 2 years trying to get their startup funded in Italy and raised $101K in 19 days when they arrived in the States? There's a tendency on this side of the Atlantic to criticize European investors but it turns out they may not be so different from their American counterparts after all. The proof? It has just surfaced that Jimmy Fairly - a brand new "buy one give one" startup that was born at Startup Weekend Toulouse in November - managed to score €200K in just 3 weeks.


Grovo: Video Training Platform Grabs Funding To Help Startups Educate Their Users

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:30 AM PDT

Considering that the Web is changing and evolving every single day, the learning curve for newcomers — and even old-hands alike — can be steep. For those who are starting businesses and looking to learn more about how to use certain sites, products, or tools, the onramp can be difficult to find, not to mention maneuver.

Back in October, a startup called Grovo launched with the goal of tackling this very problem. Dubbing itself “the field guide to the Internet”, Grovo positioned itself as an online education and training platform to enable Web users to find and learn how to use the Web’s most-frequented sites (and vice versa) — beginning with sites like Twitter, Mint, and Amazon.

Hiring an in-house professional team to create high-quality (and free) instructional videos, Grovo focused primarily on Web companies (unlike some nominal competitors like, say, eHow). Today, Grovo offers over 600 video tutorials to everyday consumers looking to increase their Web street cred. And, since its launch, Grovo has begun giving more of that special attention to business owners looking to build a Web presence and make the most out of social media, eCommerce, and business productivity sites and apps.

In March, the startup launched its first real money-making effort by adding premium content, available at $19 a month, or $190 annually. These premium guides offered beginner roadmaps to sites like Basecamp, Facebook Pages, Google Apps and Analytics, Retargeter and Twitter for Business. While paywalls can sometimes kill a young business, Grovo has apparently benefited: “We’ve have seen triple digit traffic growth since March, and are now delivering 2,000 to 3,000 lessons a day”, said Grovo Founder Jeff Fernandez.

Expanding its reach to enable individual businesses to make how-to and instructional videos for their customer-base is an intelligent move on the company’s part. As a young startup scales, its team often experiences difficulties in educating its customers about new product offerings, new tools available on the site, and so on — while maintaining that critical level of customer service and training. It should be a natural extension for a site that calls itself the “Field Guide to the Internet”, amirite?

To further help young startups with education and business training, the startup is today announcing that it will now be offering an embeddable widget to allow companies to take that user training to the next level. In doing so, Grovo has recruited inDinero, a Mint-competitor which we last covered back in September, and ReTargeter, a re-targeting
platform for online advertising, to embed Grovo's video lessons on their own sites, to help train, educate and retain their users.

“But, can’t sites just suck it up and do this themselves?” I hear you asking. Of course. If your business is simply looking to create a video explaining why users should use your site or product — say, a single introductory video — it’s probably easier to do it yourself. But for those sites who may have several layers to their company or product, or perhaps software that performs a very specific or complicated task — this can be difficult. Not to mention, Grovo’s training programs are agnostic, so they’re not marketing fluff. And for many startup teams, immersed in their visions, it’s hard to step back and be objective.

For these reasons, Grovo can be fairly handy. You can think of them as your video pit crew, considering they’ve spent their early stages hiring a professional writing team, video production crew, and voice talent. And each Grovo tutorial comes with pre-written notes, quiz questions and glossary terms.

So, what are these startups using Grovo for? inDinero, already with a robust FAQ and customer happiness team, is using the Grovo Widget on its help page to showcase the site's intuitive financial dashboard and automated data entry. Retargeter is using the widget before the site's pay wall to help users better understand the experience that awaits them. The Widget presently constitutes Retargeter's entire “help” section; the site also plans to feature the Widget behind its paywall shortly. The startup is also working with Aviary and Hy.ly to add customized how-tos to their respective sites.

To further help its macro-Web-guide vision, Grovo is also announcing today that it has closed its first round of seed funding, led by Krishna “Kittu” Kolluri, general partner at New Enterprise, who invested personally. Ajay Vashee of New Enterprise, Andy Dunn (Founder and CEO of Bonobos), Mareza Larizadeh (Larizadeh Capital Partners), Jon Emery (Chairman, Linkstorm), Steve Kowarsky, (Cofounder and CFO, CosmoCom), and Ajay Rajani (GEIG Tech Farm), among others, also participated in the round.

The seed funding will be used primarily to drive the startup’s product development, the Grovo CEO said. In the future, Grovo is looking to position itself as an education and training platform that companies can also use to assign courses, track progress and manage employee development.

Eventually, Grovo will have to decide whether it wants to be Joe The Plumber’s Web For Dummies, or whether it will primarily focus on being a full-service video training agency for startups and SMBs. Until then, it may experience a bit of an identity crisis. I could see myself using Grovo under either scenario, especially if it offers me a How-To for WordPress or Drupal or Python, but in the end, it’s one or the other. I’d go with the startups. They could always use more help, those startups.

But either way, you should check ‘em out. Let me know if this sounds like something you’d use.



EA Acquires Australian Mobile And Online Games Developer Firemint

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:25 AM PDT

Electronic Arts (EA) has acquired Firemint, a privately held mobile development studio based in Melbourne, Australia.

Firemint is the 60-people strong company behind games like Flight Control (see video below) and Real Racing.

EA says the deal is not material to the company, overall. Terms of the acquisition, which is expected to close within four weeks, were not disclosed.

Firemint was founded in 1999 (as "ndWare") by CEO Robert Murray, and will now become part of EA Interactive (EAi), a division of Electronic Arts focused on digital business that includes EA Mobile, Pogo and social gaming outfits like Playfish.

The deal follows in the footsteps of EA’s purchase of Mobile Post Production, a specialist in cross-platform development and porting of games for smartphones.

EA also recently bought Angry Birds publisher Chillingo for $20 million in cash.



Magic Mouse Or Magic Trackpad? Both Are Optional With The Thunderbolt iMac

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:22 AM PDT

Some people like mice. Other people like trackpads. Apple likes both as long as they come with their credit cards.

The updated iMacs offer both as options for no additional cost. During the build process, buyers are presented with the option of either the the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, or, for an extra $69, they could get both. The standard Apple Mouse is also available for those not digging the whole multitouch control scheme, which just so happens to be one of the best things about OS X.

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Chris Sacca: The Train Has Left The Station On Early Stage Valuations

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:10 AM PDT

Super angel investor Chris Sacca doesn’t like all the new competition pushing up valuations in angel deals and seed rounds these days. “It is a train and it is kind of running away,” he says on a panel this morning at the Wired business conference. “That layer of the market has an abundance of capital.”

Sacca, who funded Photobucket from his credit card and was one of the first to put money into Twitter, is now shying away from early stage deals. “I have definitely refocused Lowerstage Capital on later stage deals and my existing portfolio.” Everyone wants to be an angel investor all of a sudden. “It is very hip to be an angel investor now,” he laments. “There used to be a dozen, two dozen guys at these demo days writing checks. Now there are hundreds.” And half of them don’t even read the term sheets! How retail of them.

So are we in a bubble? Quoting Chris Dixon, Sacca contends, “We are not in a bubble, but it is a bad time to be an early stage investor.” But it’s a good time to be a founder, that’s for sure.

Asked about his $1 billion Twitter fund with J.P> Morgan, Sacca blurted: “I am not going to confirm or deny the existence of a billion dollar fund. I cannot really speak about my fund or the fund that doesn't exist or whatever.”

He did talk about Twitter, however, and the increasing drumbeat of opinion in investing circles that at some point it needs to sell to Google or another acquirer. “Anyone encouraging them to sell wasn't watching Twitter the other night when Osama Bin Laden was killed.” Start paying attention, folks!



Anyone Wanna Buy A Mobile Twitter Site On The Cheap?

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:08 AM PDT

Long before Twitter launched a proper mobile website with enough bells and whistles to be actually worth using (December 2009) there was Slandr, a mobile website that allowed Twitter users, even those with feature phones, to access the service on the go. ReadWriteWeb gushed about the site back in May 2008, calling it the best (non iPhone) mobile Twitter app available. And I did use it at one point.

Fast forward to today and it looks like Slandr developer Roeland P Landegent wants to give someone else a go at running the site. The Slandr mobile site is currently up for sale on Flippa, and if you want to ‘buy it now’ you’ll have to cough up $25,000.

My guess is that’s far too steep a price for the site, given how good Twitter’s own mobile site has become – not to mention the recent proliferation of mobile Twitter applications, which are even better, and more often than not free of charge. All in all, I’d be very surprised if anyone bid more than perhaps a couple of thousands of dollars for Slandr.

The only potential buyer I can think of is UberMedia, which has been snapping up mobile Twitter apps and service left and right lately. Might even give them some consolation for missing out on the TweetDeck purchase after all.

According to the auction page, the site generates between $100 and $250 per month (only) through mobile advertising, and attracts up to 40,000 unique users on a monthly basis.

Engagement is high, though: Landegent claims users stick around on the site for 7 minutes per visit, on average, and the site has racked up close to 1 million pageviews last month.

Landegent tells me he decided to put Slandr up for sale on Flippa to be able to focus on another venture, namely location-based audio recordings site Shoudio.



Bill Gates On Nuclear Energy: Compared To Coal, It Is Still Safer In Terms Of People “Killed Per Kilowatt Hour”

Posted: 03 May 2011 07:23 AM PDT

After the nuclear disaster in Japan at the Fukushima reactors, the general public is understandably skittish about nuclear energy once again. But not Bill Gates. Speaking today at a Wired business conference in New York City, he is talking up the benefits of nuclear energy, particularly next-generation designs. The backlash, he thinks, is overblown. “If you compare it to the amount that coal has killed per kilowatt hour,” he points out, “it is way, way less.” When an accident does occur, however, its effects are much more visible. “Coal kills fewer people at one time, which is highly preferred by politicians,” he says.

Gates is putting his money where his mouth is. He is an investor in his friend Nathan Myrhvold’s nuclear reactor startup Terrapower, which is designing one such next-generation nuclear reactor which produces one thousandth as much radioactive waste. But he also has investments in “dozens” of other energy companies, from battery companies to solar to biofuels. “We should pursue them all,” he says. “The amount of IQ working on energy today and the tools they have to simulate compared to 20 years ago is night and day, but it is unpredictable whether we will get a breakthrough.”

Solar and wind power have great potential, but they are intermittent sources of power. That is why Gates is bullish on nuclear. Advances in energy are necessary for the economy in general to keep moving forward, he argues. Gates sees three main problems which need to be addressed: cost, security, and environmental impact: “Other than it is too expensive, you can get cut off at any time, or it can destroy the planet, it's okay.”

Cost is the key challenge new energy sources must surmount. “We get sloppy” in the rich world, he says, because we can afford to pay extra for solar or wind power. But in order to make a real impact, the costs have to become competitive with current fossil-based energy. “In 80% of the world, energy will be bought where it is economic.” says Gates. “You have to help the rest of the world get energy at a reasonable price.”

WHat about distributed energy where every house generates their own and feeds it back into the grid? Gates thinks that is a “cute” idea, but “it’s not gonna happen.” Bigger power generation facilities, such as solar fields in the desert, are necessary. “If you are going for cuteness, go after the those things at the home. If you want to solve the energy problem go after the big things in the desert.”



Kima Ventures Invests In YellowBrck, A Foursquare For Parents

Posted: 03 May 2011 07:06 AM PDT

Social networking is definitely no longer targeting just the young adult demographic - and Kima Ventures wants a piece of the larger social networking pie. Xavier Niel and Jérémie Berrebi's seed fund has just announced a $150K investment in YellowBrck, a Foursquare-like social network for parents.


With Big Graphics, HD Cameras, And Triple Monitor Support, iMacs Are More Pro-Like

Posted: 03 May 2011 07:02 AM PDT

For the past six years or so, my main desktop machine has been a string of iMacs. As an all-in-one machine, they’re both great to look at and simple to set up and use. But the power user side of me was always left a bit wanting. And it sounds like the iMac upgrades Apple has just unveiled this morning may fix that.

First of all, they’ve solved perhaps my single biggest complaint about the iMac: there’s finally a way to hook up two external monitors to the machine, giving you a total of three screens, Apple confirmed to me earlier today. Ever since I started using dual monitors a few years ago, I quickly realized only one thing would be better: three monitors. But the iMac could not do it — only the Mac Pro could. Again, not anymore.

To be clear, this is only a possibility with the new 27-inch models, and it will not work with the smaller 21.5-inch models. The reason is because the 27-inch models come with two Thunderbolt ports. This is the new technology created by Intel alongside Apple that is extremely fast and versatile. These ports not only handle data transfers, but can carry display signals as well. So two Thunderbolt ports means two additional monitors.

And not to worry, as Apple walked me through earlier, it’s easy enough to daisy-chain several Thunderbolt compatible devices together. In other words, taking up the two Thunderbolt ports won’t be an issue.

I’m immediately dreaming of three 27-inch Apple displays side-by-side-by-side. Now I just have to pay for them…

The other aspect of the new iMacs that the Apple spokespeople say can put it on par with a Mac Pro is in the graphics department. Again, we’re talking the high-end models here, but if you can afford it, you can upgrade to an AMD Radeon HD 6970M card with 2 GB of GDDR5 memory. This can output 1.3 teraflops of graphics performance, I’m told. Again, this is something only previously seen on Mac Pros before.

And the final Pro-like addition (though not Mac Pro, but rather MacBook Pro) is the addition of a FaceTime HD camera. This allows the iMacs to do 720p video (at the full 16×9 ratio) for the first time. It matches the cameras that were recently added to the new MacBook Pros. Obviously, those two devices can FaceTime chat in HD with each other now. Chatting with other devices (like iPhones and iPads) will downgrade the video to SD levels.



Munchery Wants To Bring Personal Chefs To The Masses

Posted: 03 May 2011 06:31 AM PDT

A new startup has launched hoping to disrupt the food services industry and democratize the experience of having a personal chef. Munchery aims to bring personal chefs to the masses, giving consumers a way to access high-quality meals delivered to their home by professionals.

For most of us, employing a personal chef is not financially possible. But many consumers don’t have the time, patience or interest to cook healthy, delicious, well-balanced meals. Carry-out is an option, but this doesn’t ensure the quality of the food. Munchery allows personal and professional chefs to sell their meals online, upload menu choices, set minimum orders (you order by meal), specify areas where they deliver, schedule of delivery, and more.

Consumers can search for chefs by the zip code they deliver to (the site currently features chefs in the San Francisco Area), and will eventually be able to browse chefs by city when the site expands. Once you select a meal and quantity, Munchery takes care of the payment process, but chefs and consumers coordinate the delivery process.

Currently, Munchery features personal chefs, caterers, and even chefs who work in restaurants. Here’s Dennis Lin from San Francisco’s Burmese Kitchen). Co-founder Tri Tran says that each chef has to cook in a commercial kitchen, and be accredited. Meals range from $12 to $22, but Munchery is offering $10 off for every first meal purchases through Munchery. Consumers can also choose to order multiple meals per week to lower the price.

This isn’t the first startup that aims to bring professionally cooked food to homes. Gobble also offers an online marketplace for home-cooked food. I love this idea. Similar to AirBnB democratizing housing and apartment rentals or Uber brings private car services to the masses , Munchery and Gobble are able to bring the experience of a personal chef to those who would otherwise not be able to afford this luxury. Scaling the service will undoubtedly be a challenge for Munchery, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they can expand beyond San Francisco.



RIM Sold 150 Million Phones In 12 Years, 15 Million Last Quarter

Posted: 03 May 2011 06:16 AM PDT

I don’t often like to post “numbers” news since we’re hardware guys, but this particular stat sticks out: Mike Lazaridis just reported that BlackBerry sold 150 million phones in the past 12 years and sold 15 million last quarter. To put this into perspective, Nokia shipped 108.5 million mobile devices in Q1 2011 while AT&T alone sold 3.6 million iPhones last quarter. Like the baby bear’s bowl of porridge, RIM isn’t too hot nor is it too cold. Some would say, in fact, that those sales are just right or, barring that, tepid.

Read more…



Amazon Launches Private Fashion Sales Site MyHabit.com

Posted: 03 May 2011 06:09 AM PDT

Amazon this morning announced that it is debuting a brand new private sales site, featuring fashion items straight from designers and boutique brands.

The membership-only website, MyHabit.com, will offer daily events featuring up to 60 percent off a selection of styles.

Interestingly, the site will feature high-quality photos and videos of the clothing on live models. The site features free four-day shipping shipping and returns.

MyHabit.com will be led by president Maria Renz, former VP of Shoes, Jewelry & Watches at Amazon. Daily sales on MyHabit.com will kick off at 9AM PST today.

The site will have to compete against Google’s Boutiques.com, eBay’s fashion store, and dedicated private sales sites like Vente Privée, HauteLook, Beyond The Rack and Gilt.



Amazon Has Ordered Color Kindle Tablets, Expected Before Holidays

Posted: 03 May 2011 05:45 AM PDT

Quanta, a Chinese hardware manufacturer, is reporting that they have received an order from Amazon to build new Kindle tablets, potentially with fringe field switching display touchscreens that may or may not mimic the screens found in devices like the Nook Color.

Read more…



BuyWithMe Buys Chicago Daily Deal Site DealADayOnline

Posted: 03 May 2011 05:43 AM PDT

Groupon rival BuyWithMe has acquired a daily deal site in the former’s home turf, Chicago, in order to expand its regional offering.

With the acquisition of the group buying site, DealADayOnline (DADO), BuyWithMe will offer daily deals in 13 major cities across the United States.

The company says it is expecting to double that footprint over the course of 2011.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

BuyWithMe launched in May 2009 and currently operates in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. The company has raised $21.5 million to date.

BuyWithMe, recently appointed a new CEO, former President and CEO of Turbine Jim Crowley, after its former chief executive (Cheryl Rosner) abruptly left the company in December 2010 after only 8 months on the job.



Apple Updates The iMac With New Quad-Core Intel CPUs, Thunderbolt I/O

Posted: 03 May 2011 05:41 AM PDT

Smell that? Yeah, it’s the crisp smell of Sandy Bridge chips. The iMacs were starting to smell a bit stale with older Intel Core CPUs and low memory ATI graphic cards. Not anymore. Apple just rolled out the latest models and as expected, rock Intel’s latest i5 and i7 Core CPUs along with ThunderBolt I/O.

The base model 21.5-inch model no longer slums with a Core i3 CPU. The budget iMac now has a Core i5 and 4GB of RAM. Likewise, the Core i3 option is gone from the 27-inch model range as well as the whole model range are rocking at least new quad-core chipsets.

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The Five (Minor) Differences Between The Motorola Xoom And Acer Iconia Tab

Posted: 03 May 2011 05:31 AM PDT

The march towards the generic Android tablet has begun. Most of the first Honeycomb tablets are indistinguishable from each other save one or two tiny differences. The Xoom hit the market first and still has arguably the best reviews while the G-Slate made a name for itself with 3D movies. Then there’s the Asus Transformer with its $150 optional keyboard dock and the Acer Iconia Tab with, well, a full size USB port.

So now the buying points come down to the minutiae. Take the Xoom and the Iconia Tab. There’s a $150 difference in price with the only major hardware difference being the Xoom rocks 32GB of flash memory rather than 16GB. Still, I’ve found several, five to be exact, notable difference between the two.

Spoiler: The Xoom isn’t worth the extra money if you don’t care about storage.

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Gogobot Gets Lots More Interesting With Foursquare & Facebook Integration

Posted: 03 May 2011 05:30 AM PDT

I like to think of Gogobot as a Yelp for travel, or a TripAdvisor that puts users first. If you travel a lot and want to write about the things you did, or if you want good tips on travel, it’s an excellent resource (see our launch post from last year for a detailed review).

You can navigate Gogobot by searching for places or things. Or, you can see where a particular user has gone by navigating his or her “passports.” To date users have added 300,000 places they’ve visited and/or written reviews.

Which is great. But Gogobot wants more data. Lots more.

Today they unveil a simple feature – integration with Facebook and Foursquare so that, if you give your permission, all of your location check-ins are automatically added to Gogobot. They actually set up my account over the weekend to let me test the new feature, and you can see my various check-ins, ported over to Gogobot, here.

Here’s the great thing about this. The places I’ve visited (including a lot of fantasy destinations via Foursquare). Now I can visit Gogobot when I have time and add in reviews of the hotels, restaurants and activities that I did while I was there. And since Gogobot already organizes things intelligently, a lot of the work is already done. For example, a fantasy trip to Dubai via an old fake Foursquare checkin is listed separately. But most of my various Silicon Valley check-ins in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, etc. are grouped under Silicon Valley, so my city page isn’t cluttered.

Another reason to use Gogobot, and another way Gogobot will collect lots more data to build a nice network effect. I like this startup.



Stipple Opens The Kimono To Reveal A Product Tagging Platform With Massive Potential

Posted: 03 May 2011 05:00 AM PDT

When we first covered Stipple in September of last year, it seemed like a really cool idea: tag people in images no matter where they reside on the web — not just on Flickr or Facebook. It was quickly clear that investors like Kleiner Perkins, Mike Maples, and even Justin Timberlake agreed, as they poured $2 million into the company just three months post-launch. And now that Stipple is ready to reveal the full product they’ve built, it’s pretty clear why the initial investment came so quickly. This platform has the potential to be massive, and to make a lot of people a lot of money.

So what is Stipple now? Well, there’s still the people-tagging element for sure. And that’s still really cool. If you tag a person in a photo on the web, you can enter their Twitter name or Facebook name and then anyone can see their most recent updates as overlays on that picture. But the much bigger idea is that Stipple is teaming up with photo services, fashion brands, publishers, and others to possibly alter the way people browse and buy things on the web.

Think of it this way: right now when someone is browsing the web and they see a shirt they like on a random photo, they probably resort to doing a Google search for something similar. Or maybe they open the website of their favorite store to see if they have anything to match that look. But what Stipple offers is a way for each photo to show you exactly what piece of clothing the person in the photo is wearing — to show you who makes it, how much it costs, etc. And it allows you to “Want” it (save it to look at later) or “Shop” for it via two overlay buttons right on the picture itself.

It’s an idea that clearly resonates with web browsers. How do I know? Because Stipple co-founder and CEO Rey Flemings had some data to share with us. Stipple has actually been serving these product dots (the overlay used to show an area of the picture contains more information) for a while now — enough for over 10 million data points. He says that people mouse over a photo with a dot 46 percent of the time. And those users touch the product dot 12.48 percent of the time — that’s actually more than people use the people dot (4.9 percent of the time).

Think about that for a second. That mousing over the dot is basically an ad impression — with a strong level of intent. And it’s happening 12.48 percent of the time on Stipple-tagged images. Further, 1.75 percent are clicking the Want button. While 1.9 percent are clicking the Shop button. Advertisers would kill for those types of rates.

Stipple is able to get them because they’re tying real products that people are actually wearing/using in images to the pictures themselves. And the fact that they’re doing a lot of this tagging on photos with celebrities in them helps a lot as well. And that’s one part of the key.

What Stipple is launching today with version 2.0, is a full product suite to make it easy for photo agencies, brands, and publishers to easily implement and/or work with Stipple to get everyone paid in this new clicking (and hopefully buying) frenzy. The product names are Lens (for photo rights holders), Pipeline (for brands), Network (for publishers), and Want (for consumers).

Photo agencies that are out there taking tens of thousands of pictures would use Lens to tag their pictures with their appropriate licenses and credits. Stipple has 9 of these photo agencies currently signed up.

Brands that are trying to sell goods directly to customers woud use Pipeline to label their goods appropriately. Stipple then scales this labeling across all similar photos (such as multiple photos of a celebrity at an event wearing a certain piece of clothing). Stipple currently has 60 brands signed up.

Publishers would use Network to put the images with all of the data on their sites. The best part is that it’s not actually metadata that is used to make this all work, it’s photo tagging done on Stipple’s end and delivered to a site via a simple line of JavaScript. This means that images copied from elsewhere (and even resized, cropped, etc) will still work. Over 1,600 publishers are currently signed up.

The key to all of this is to make the tools simple and fast to use. And Flemings believes they’ve nailed this now.

At the same time, there’s some competition in the space. The big one that people may know is Pixazza, the so-called “AdSense for images”. The fact that their $12 million series B was participated in by Google Ventures certainly helped with that moniker as well. There’s also Thinglink (CrunchBase profile). But Flemings believes that Stipple has a very clear advantage over services like Pixazza and even Google’s own image searching technology thanks to their tools and true product matching.

He showed me how search with a competitor may show a piece of clothing similar to what a person in a photo was wearing, but it wasn’t the exactly item. “Users don’t like ‘get this look’ — they want to know the exact brand,” Flemings notes. Stipple is focusing on the exact items.

And when the celebrity photos from the partnering photo agencies start rolling in, this real item matching is going to be especially key. Imagine being able to know what things celebrities on the red carpet are actually wearing and being able to buy it with one click. One could imagine celebrities wanting to get in on this action as well to help brands sell items — for massive fees, naturally.



TrueCar Acquires News Corp-Backed Automotive Social Network Honk.com

Posted: 03 May 2011 04:53 AM PDT

TrueCar, which helps people research new and used car prices and find local dealer savings, has acquired automotive social media company Honk.com, dubbed the ‘Facebook for car buyers’ in the news release.

Interestingly, Honk.com was co-founded by Tom Taira, who is also the co-founder and former president of … TrueCar.

Keeping it sorta-kinda in the family is all fine and dandy, of course, but for whatever reason Taira’s involvement in helping TrueCar (which has raised close to $40 million in funding) off the ground was not mentioned anywhere in the press release.

What we do learn is that News Corp, an early investor in Honk.com, will retain an equity stake in TrueCar as part of the agreement. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under the terms of the agreement, TrueCar will operate and manage the consumer auto-buying content and programs for several News Corporation online properties. The acquisition of Honk also brings to TrueCar a development team that will provide additional online e-commerce, web marketing and automotive industry expertise.

It’s unclear how much funding Honk, which is headquartered in San Francisco, raised since it was founded at the end of 2008.

TrueCar’s price reports help dealers and consumers to agree on the parameters of a ‘fair deal’ by providing an understanding of what others actually paid for the identically equipped new car over the last 30 days, both locally and nationally.

The company relies on a national network of nearly 5,000 certified dealers that provide pricing to assist a number of membership and service organizations in the United States.

On a sidenote: TrueCar launched at TechCrunch50 back in 2008.



Angels Club Together To Invest In Friendfund

Posted: 03 May 2011 03:43 AM PDT

Friendfund, the group payments startup that lets friends club together to make a purchase, has announced an undisclosed round of funding from a group on Angel investors described as, well, friends. The investment was led by Bjoern von Siemens in partnership with Linden VC. However, cheesy PR aside, Friendfund is operating in an increasingly crowded and hot space right now. The Berlin-based startup competes with a host of sites that enable friends and other groups of people to club together to raise money for a purchase or occasion, most of which are probably better funded. These include WePay, The Gifts Project and Giftiki, who have all taken not insignificant investment.


Tigerlily Raises $1.3 Million To Help Brands Avoid Nestle-like Fan Page Disasters

Posted: 03 May 2011 03:13 AM PDT

Recently, Paris-based Tigerlily seemed like it was slipping under the radar. It'd been a while since we'd heard anything from the company that we suggested Nestlé take a look at when the brand came under fire on social media platforms last year. Tigerlily had also caught a bit of attention before, as it was a finalist for LeWeb in 2009 and the Europas last year. But the startup that specializes in social marketing or Facebook fan page solutions has just announced that it has raised €900K or $1.3 million.


Renren: Big but not the Facebook of China

Posted: 03 May 2011 02:46 AM PDT

The Financial Times yesterday reported on the upcoming IPO of Chinese social network Renren.com:

 The strong interest [in Renren's IPO] stems from the fact that there is no major social media or social networking company open to public investment. With a Facebook IPO at least a year off, many investors are keen for a slice of "the Facebook of China".

The offering is set to price on Tuesday in the US and begin trading on Wednesday. Highlighting the success of the pitch to market Renren as a Facebook proxy, the price range was raised on Friday from the initial $9-$11 to $12-$14. That could increase the deal size to as much as $743m, from the $584m planned originally.

The link in the excerpt above is from another Financial Times story that questions Renren’s valuation and user numbers, and is one of many signs that investors should take a cool and calm look at the company. But before looking at the doubts, let’s look at why the company is worth the excitement:

THE PROS

1. It’s probably the closest thing China has to Facebook

Renren started its life as “Xiaonei” (which means on campus), and like Facebook was initially popular with college students at some of the better schools in Beijing and Shanghai. If you exclude Sina’s Twitter-like Weibo (which you probably should not do), Renren is probably the most popular social network amongst China’s urban youth, college students and fresh graduates (see this Techrice post for a chart of Renren’s demographics contrasted with other Chinese social networks).

2. Highly competitive management, social network experience

Renren’s CEO is Joseph aka Joe Chen, a smart, tough investor and manager of Chinese Internet companies with a reputation as a formidable and experienced player and a savvy deal maker. Bill Bishop, one of the most astute observers of the Chinese Internet scene said “Joe Chen is a brilliant CEO with exquisite timing”.

Joe Chen and his team have experience building social networks long before the current craze: one of the company’s previous successes is Mop.com, a forum website that is something like a cross between Digg, Fark, 4chan and a Huffington-Post-for-bored-students. It was founded in 1997 and remains popular amongst the 18-32 age group (more than 20 million active users claimed). Mop.com will be spun off and will not be included in Renren’s IPO, but its survival and profitability are evidence of Chen’s team’s strength in monetizing social media and maintaining growth.

Another positive in terms of ownership and management : Japanese giant Softbank owns a stake of about 30% in Renren.

3. Advertiser support and early monetization

In the last few years, big brand advertisers in China have drunk the social media Kool-Aid. Renren was there, right from the beginning, offering brands a “Facebook for China” and the website is already very well known amongst media buying agencies and their clients.

Aside from advertising, Renren has also added two additional revenue streams: Nuomi.com, a Groupon-type service layered on top of the social network, and Renren Games which operates casual and MMORPGs on the Renren platform and elsewhere.

THE CONS

1. It’s not Facebook

Looking just at U.S. numbers, more than half of America’s 230 plus million Internet users are on Facebook. China has more than 400 million Internet users, but only 20 to 30 million active monthly users and perhaps around 100 million registered users in total.

That’s a long way behind Facebook. There’s is no ubiquitous “Like” button on the Chinese Internet, and I have nevr heard of a young Renren user being horrified because their mom just signed up for the service. Renren has simply not grown to occupy the place in Chinese life that Facebook has assumed in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Also worth noting: it’s worth scrutinizing all of the numbers very carefully. See for example: Renren Changes Key User Figure Before IPO, and the diplomatically titled Is Renren Seeing Explosive Active User Growth?

2. Brutal competitive landscape

In terms of the product, Renren’s closest competitor is Kaixin001, another Facebook clone that may seek an IPO this year. Kaixin is most famous in China for launching a Farmville type game long before Farmville was popular in the U.S.

But Renren is also up against dozens of other websites, including the following major players all of whom have very deep pockets:

  • Tencent, the behemoth of the Chinese Internet that provides one service or another to perhaps 80% of Chinese Internet users and which operates the social  networks Pengyou and QZone.
  • Sina‘s Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter type service that also intergrates many SNS features and which is assumed by many industry insiders to be taking users from Renren and Kaixin001.
  • Baidu, China’s search giant that has a number of social offerings and is widely rumored to be lining up a partneship with Facebook for the China market.

3. Revenues just aren’t that good

The potential is there, but right now Renren is not making that much money. Two links: RenRen IPO Shows You Don't Need Revenue Growth To Be Worth $5 Billion and Renren Q1 2011 Loss Reaches USD 2.6 Mln

Finally, a story breaking today on Reuters: Renren’s audit committee chair quits ahead of IPO

Further reading:

RenRen Inc. in 25 Slides  and "China's Facebook" Renren to IPO Soon: Strengths and Challenges on Techrice
China Web 2.0: Joe Chen Wants it All
, 2007 BusinessWeek profile of Joe Chen
The Cloner
, Forbes profile of Wang Xing, orginal founder of Renren
The Rise and Stall of SNS in China
, report by RedTech Advisors



Getty Images Acquires Rival Photolibrary To Expand Digital Content Offering

Posted: 03 May 2011 01:34 AM PDT

Getty Images has acquired competitor The Photolibrary Group, which provides access to over 10 million images, footage and music files. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Founded in 1967 and headquartered in Sydney, Australia, Photolibrary brings to Getty Images a broad range of content, some with regional appeal, including renowned collections such as Peter Arnold and Oxford Scientific.

Photolibrary’s content will be licensed through Getty Images’ global distribution platform, which enables search in local languages and single image purchases in local currencies.

Additionally, Photolibrary’s presence in India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia will make it possible for Getty Images to expand its products and services to customers in those regions.

Last week, Getty Images announced that it acquired PicScout for a reported $20 million.



The New Whuffie? — Dapsem’s iPhone App Lets You Give Anything A Dap

Posted: 03 May 2011 01:33 AM PDT

We wrote about Dapsem when they showed off their to-be-launched iPhone app at Techonomy3 in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago. I was impressed by the simplicity of the app, which simply allows you to give a maximum of three ‘daps’ (like a Facebook Like) a day to something or someone you want to praise or just acknowledge.

It is a stupidly simple concept but one which has lots of potential to scale and become another kind of reputation system. It’s now live in the app store so check it out [iTunes link]. Writing LinkedIn Recommendations for people or reviews of Yelp is just too hard – Dapping someone with Dapsem is easy.



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