Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Live: Google I/O Day Two, The Chrome Keynote

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:35 AM PDT

We’re here at Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco where we’re about to get a huge dose of Chrome. We suspect this will be the launch of Chrome OS. Tune in to our live notes below for all the details.

Google VP Sundar Pichai has taken the stage.

Last year announced that 70 million users were on the Chrome browser. They’re now at 160 million active users.

last year were at Chrome 4. Didn’t have Mac stable versions.



Sid Meier’s Civilization Migrates To Facebook This Summer, Starts Going By Civ World

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:25 AM PDT

One of the most popular games in the history of computer gaming is making its way over to Facebook this summer, as Sid Meier attempts to transform his ultra-popular Civilization series into Civ World. All of the core components of Meier's original Civilization series, which earned him the title of "Father of Computer Gaming," will still be present in Civ World, but the Facebook environment in which the game will be played will fundamentally change the game, said Meier.

Read more…



Motorola, Enable The Xoom’s microSD Card Slot Already

Posted: 11 May 2011 09:05 AM PDT

This is just crazy. The Xoom, which was supposed to be Google’s pet Honeycomb tablet, came out three months ago and the microSD card slot still doesn’t work. Oh, it’s not a Android or Honeycomb thing. The slot works fine in every other Honeycomb tablet. It’s a Motorola thing and it’s ridiculous.

Updates have came and gone and none of them including the brand new Android 3.1 update allows the Xoom to use expandable memory. The microSD card slot works the Asus Transformer. It works on the Acer Iconia Tab and the Samsung GalTab 10.1. But not the Xoom.

Read More



Google-Backed Corduro Promises Even Lower Mobile Payment Fees Than Square

Posted: 11 May 2011 08:03 AM PDT

Mobile payments are coming, and there are many paths being beaten to get them to our phones. Google-backed mobile payments startup Corduro launches this week with a combined mobile wallet/payments processor for Android and the iPhone (which will be available in the respective app stores later this week).

Like Square, Corduro is primarily a way for merchants to take payments on mobile devices. But it has a few twists. One is pricing. In some cases, it can be up to 30 percent cheaper for merchants in processing fees than regular credit card transactions (and even beats Square slightly). If someone is paying with debit bank card with a Visa or Mastercard logo on it—these already make up more than half of all credit card transactions in the U.S.—Corduro then reroutes those payments over the cheaper debit network similar to the ones that ATMs use.

Overall, Corduro charges merchants 2.65 percent per transaction (2.5 percent for charities), compared to 2.75 percent for Square and 2.7 percent for Intuit GoPayment. It is a flat fee. Hand-keyed transactions (without a credit-card swipe) are 3.25 percent, versus 3.5 percent plus 15 cents per transaction for Square.

Corduro is not a simple as Square, but it is more flexible. It supports not only mobile payments, but also online and traditional storefront point of sale systems. Businesses can even connect it to their existing merchant accounts instead of setting up a new account with Corduro (which they can do as well). Corduro also allows a business or charity to authorize groups of people to accept payments into the same account. So a charity could authorize volunteers to accept charitable donations via their mobile phones, or a business could have field agents and sales people collect payments all into the same account. Corduro is going after charities as one of its initial target markets, with lower fees and highlighting the social payment features.

Once you download the Corduro app to your phone, you will be able to use it as a mobile wallet as well to pay other people and businesses on the Corduro network. Square and Intuit’s GoPayment are also moving in this direction, although that feature is not yet turned on. Corduro’s challenge will be to explain all the options it offers to merchants, and to win mindshare in the increasingly crowded mobile payments market.



Expensify Adds Intelligent Receipt Scanning To Expense Report System

Posted: 11 May 2011 08:00 AM PDT

Expensify, the startup helps take the endless headaches out of expense reports, has added a innovative new feature today—total receipt automation.

Expensify’s platform allows you to pull in your transaction records and automatically categorize them. All you need to do is register your credit cards with the platform, and the site will automatically import E-receipts. You can also take a photo of and import paper receipts. Once your transactions are in the system, you can tag expenses and then submit the expense report to your business’s bookkeeper for reimbursement.

The company allows you to upload receipts via the web, email or mobile phones and now Expensify will automatically scan the merchant, date, and purchase amount off of the receipt image, whether uploaded as a photo, as a document, or an email. If you’ve imported your credit card information, Expensify will also “associate” the receipt with the corresponding credit card transaction. Expensify will then categorize the expense (i.e. travel, food).

The startup says that intelligent receipt scanning is the top requested feature amongst users and currently, the site is processing over one million receipts. Expensify is also charging for the feature, at $0.20/receipt, with every account starting out with 10 scans for free.



Trivantis Acquires Flash Content Creation And Digital Signage Platform Flypaper

Posted: 11 May 2011 07:21 AM PDT

E-learning software developer Trivantis has acquired Flypaper Studios, a startup that allows users to create flash-based web presentations without any programming experience. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Flypaper, which raised $6.5 million, allows users to create, edit, share, track and reuse Flash and video content. Users can leverage the startup’s existing templates and components, or can create their own to develop interactive Flash-based presentations or videos.

Flypaper had an existing relationship with Trivantis, which provides a PowerPoint plug-in e-Learning software that converts PowerPoint to Flash.



Marketplace For Home-Cooked Food Gobble Raises $1.2M From Founder Collective, Greylock And Other Angels

Posted: 11 May 2011 07:00 AM PDT

Gobble, an online marketplace for home-cooked food, has raised $1.2 million in funding from an all-star roster of investors including Reid Hoffman (via the Greylock DIscovery Fund), Felicis Ventures, Founder Collective, SV Angel, Morado Venture Partners, Thrive Capital, Keith Rabois, Jack Abraham, Lorenzo Thione, Benjamin Ling, Noah Goodhart, Craig Shapiro, and Doug Chertok.

Gobble is a way for consumers to find homemade food in their neighborhood. While some sites like Munchery (which we covered here) aim to bring personal chefs to the masses, Gobble is focused more on providing home cooked food in an online marketplace setting. The site is the brainchild of Stanford graduate Ooshma Garg, who ate healthy homemade food at home but found it difficult to find time to cook in college and afterwards, when she worked at a startup.

On the site, users can sign up to order home-cooked food from chefs in their area. You can search by dietary needs and other filters, and the service matches people with chefs' creations. Members can also review and rate meals. For example, in a search in Palo Alto, I can order Apricot Chicken and Fruit Cake from Chef Fumie ($17), Indian Spiced Sliders by Chef Roshani ($8) or Chicken Himmaphan over Rice by Chef Alisa ($16). You can either pick these meals, which range from $6 to $20, up or pay $10 for delivery to your home.

Whether you are a professional chef, caterer or love to cook, you can sign up on Gobble to sell your food to your neighbors. Chefs establish the base rate for their meals and the site marks this up by a percentage (but declined to disclose what this percentage is). Garg and her team test out each chef’s food, and vouches for every chef on the site.

The site was previously only available for Palo Alto, but today is expanding its site to the public with chefs featured from San Francisco. The new funding will be used to fuel additional expansion.

I’m a huge fan of this idea. Ordering takeout food can be unhealthy; and Gobble provides an alternative to finding home-cooked food that is also healthy and nutritious. If Gobble can scale, I think it could be a winner.



AT&T To Sell The Cisco Cius

Posted: 11 May 2011 06:39 AM PDT

Remember a few months ago when you kind of cared about the Cisco Cius and then you realized it was just a little screen made for video meetings and wasn’t really a consumer device? Well, prepare for that realization again because AT&T is about to provide HSPA+ data service for this thing and presumably sell it to government and institutional buyers.

Read more…



Alpine Data Labs Scores $7.5 Million To Help Companies Analyze Troves Of Data

Posted: 11 May 2011 06:33 AM PDT

Incubated within big data company Greenplum (acquired by EMC in 2010) and following 15 months of product development, Silicon Valley-based Alpine Data Labs launches its solution for "Big Data Predictive Insight" in the United States today. The company is also announcing that it has landed $7.5 million in Series A funding from Sierra Ventures, Mission Ventures and Sumitomo Corporation Equity Asia. The company is also backed by Stanford University.


Boxee Outs The Boxee Box 1.1 Firmware, Revamped Browser And New On-Screen Controls Highlight The Update

Posted: 11 May 2011 06:21 AM PDT

Boxee Box owners rejoice! It’s new firmware time! Boxee previously committed to a three month update cycle, which meant the next firmware was coming out sometime this month. Boxee just so happened to announce it this morning and it brings a world of changes to the little streamer including 16 new languages supported out of the box.

There’s so much more, though, too. The browser reportedly got a massive upgrade and now fully supports bookmarks, browser history, and HTML 5 for sites like HBOGo. The browser’s OSD also got a new coat of paint, including the web video playback screens that now include more content controls.

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Pageonce Raises $15 Million, Aims To Make Your Smartphone The ‘Wallet Of The Future’

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:50 AM PDT

Do you like your wallet? Too bad. Pageonce, the one-stop shop for managing your financial accounts, wants to turn your smartphone into the wallet of the future. Though, the last time I checked, Apple wasn’t planning to offer the iPhone in leather. Or snakeskin. We’re still getting excited over the fact that it comes in white. But that’s not slowing down Pageonce, which allows you to track your bank accounts, credit cards, investment and travel plans, monitor bills and manage your money, from your mobile phone — and the Web, if you’re old school like that.

Pageonce users can use the service to get a quick overview of their present cashflow, check to see when their next credit card or mortgage payment is due, monitor accounts for suspicious activity and eCards from Anonymous, view overdraft fees, and so on. The goal of Pageonce, besides allowing you to manage financial accounts from the comfort of your mobile phone (I mean, wallet), is to help you save money. Considering consumer credit debt in the U.S. arrived at $796.1 billion in March, I’d say there are a few of us out there who could benefit from services that help manage our finances — and debt.

Beginning today, the Palo Alto-based startup will have some more financial assistance of its own, announcing that it has closed a $15 million series B funding round. The investment was led by Morgenthaler Ventures, with contribution from existing investors Pitango Ventures and Chairman of the Board, Liron Petrushka. Pageonce has raised $25 million to date.

The startup will use the new round of funding to continue to expand its product offerings and refine its mobile applications, which are offered for free on iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Android devices.

For me, the cool thing about Pageonce is that it informs the user about potential money-saving opportunities with comparative financial services, like cheaper credit card rates, insurance, and interest rates. It also comes with a calendar view that shows you when it’s time to pay your bills, something that Bank of America seems to like to make as difficult to discover as possible. Or maybe that’s just me. It also allows me to track cell usage, data and text usage and do so all on one screen. Useful.

Pageonce is free, so that means it makes its money from partnerships and advertising. Ad-based business models sometimes scare me, so hopefully the startup uses its new $15 million to ensure that mobile users aren’t bombarded with ad spam. Just a thought.



Former eBay, Oracle Execs Raise $11 Million For “Gift Network” FreeMonee

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:41 AM PDT

Today sees the launch of the “first-of-its-kind” national gift network FreeMonee, founded by an impressive team of veterans from some of the largest companies in banking, retail and e-commerce, with experience at organizations like eBay, Oracle, Best Buy, Cisco, Visa and ClairMail under their collective belts.

The company has secured $11 million in Series A funding from Opus Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Sutter Hill Ventures, Pinnacle Ventures and Contrarian Group, the fund directed by Peter Ueberroth. Ueberroth also serves on FreeMonee's board with former Levi Strauss CEO Phil Marineau.

FreeMonee will basically enable merchants to hand out cash "gifts" directly to individual credit and debit cardholders through participating financial institutions. With said gifts, consumers can purchase anything they choose at the merchant by simply using their card.

The financial institutions deliver the FreeMonee gift notifications to their customers via their normal communication channels and receive a success fee for each gift redeemed.

At the heart of the offering, FreeMonee says, lies its proprietary and patent-pending Adaptive Matching Technology (AMT), which – anonymously – analyzes the transaction data of hundreds of millions of debit and credit card holders and matches merchant gifts with consumer prospects that are likely to redeem based on previous purchasing patterns and predictive analytics. The startup says it has agreements in place with two of the top six card issuers in the United States and is working closely with others.

The first program launch is expected to occur in summer 2011.

FreeMonee is led by CEO Gadi Maier, who previously founded Oracle Japan and served as General Manager for Cisco's Internet Business Unit. Also involved is Andy Laursen, former VP development at Oracle, where he was one of the early kernel architects, who previously served similar roles at Scalent and Phone.com.

Other noteworthy members of the management team include Mike Linton, former CMO of eBay and Best Buy, and Joe Salesky, most recently founder and CEO of ClairMail.

Check the company’s CrunchBase profile to see who else is involved.



America’s First Pipeline-Fed, Hydrogen Fueling Station Now Open In Los Angeles

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:27 AM PDT

America’s first pipeline-fed, retail hydrogen fueling station opened in Torrance, California, within Los Angeles county on Tuesday. The station will provide hydrogen for fuel cell and hybrid vehicles in the area. It was built through a joint effort by Toyota, Air Products and Shell alternative energies, with funding from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The station’s first customer was the owner of a Honda FCX Clarity.

A handful of hydrogen fuel cell black cabs have already hit the streets in London. Hydrogen fuel cell forklifts are already widely available, and used in warehouse fleets from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods. Fuel cell cars — promised by manufacturers including Toyota, Daimler, GM, Honda, and Hyundai — are not slated for mass market availability until 2015, though. The dominant clean vehicle technology available in the U.S. remains the battery electric vehicle.

Fuel cells cars are said to* produce no greenhouse gas emissions. In actuality, they produce H2O (water vapor is a greenhouse gas) and CO2 depending on the source of the hydrogen used. Most industrial hydrogen is produced from the reformation of hydrocarbons. [Ed's note: Before publishing this post, I was unable to verify from Shell, Toyota or Air Products what the exact source of hydrogen was for this L.A. station, or how carbon intensive its production process might be.]

They have a 130- to 430-mile range (according to Toyota’s statements about its own fuel cell vehicles). Battery electric vehicles, so far, offer a much shorter range, and can only go up to 200 miles before recharging, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. On the other hand, battery electric vehicles can be charged at home, while fuel cell vehicles require special fueling stations at this point.

Among others, Honda is working on a “home energy station” for to generate hydrogen at home for fuel cells. A bevy of electric vehicle chargers are already on the market, however, including from Coulomb, Aerovironment and ECOtality.

As noted on the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Fuel Cell Test and Evaluation Center (FCTec) website: Sir William Grove developed the first fuel cell in England in 1839, and in the 1950s, NASA and General Electric (GE) scientists developed the “Grubb-Niedrach fuel cell,” which became the first in the world to be used commercially.

Is the U.S. still leading the commercialization of fuel cells, globally? The executive director of the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA), Ruth F. Cox, put things in perspective:

“There are somewhere around 600 [highway legal] fuel cell electric vehicles on the road, today. There are probably fewer than 50 different vehicle models in very limited production, now. That’s worldwide. We have about 150 of these vehicles [driving around] in the U.S. We also have twenty some hydrogen fueling stations here, in California.

While the U.S. has led in terms of innovation, here, other countries have taken the lead in terms of building government and industry partnerships that bring together the oil and gas industry, alternative fueling companies, and the auto industry around an orchestrated plan for the deployment of infrastructure to support fuel cell vehicles.

Japan has made a commitment to deliver hundreds of refueling stations by 2015. Germany has committed to delivering thousands of stations by 2020.

As the technology matures, this will improve. Looking at battery electric vehicles, only thousands have been sold in the U.S. so far. It’s simply going to take some time.”

*The passage above was corrected and appended, May 11, 2011, 12:10 ET. A representative of the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association referred to fuel cell vehicles as zero emissions vehicles in an interview. That statement was not meant literally, but I repeated the phrase in an earlier edition of this post. I’ve added details to clarify and maintain accuracy at the suggestion of commenter @Ben Kellie.



Tencent’s Q1: Profit Up 61%, Nearly $1 Billion In Revenues, 700 Million IM Users

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:14 AM PDT

tencent-logo.png

Tencent, a major provider of Internet and mobile services in China, this morning revealed earnings for the first quarter of 2011, reporting a better-than-expected 61 percent jump in net income.

The company’s profit rose to 2.87 billion yuan (roughly $442 million), up from 1.78 billion yuan (roughly $274 million) a year earlier.

Total revenues were 6,33 billion yuan (approximately $975 million), an increase of 14.7 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010 or an increase of 50 percent over the first quarter of 2010.

Tencent active instant messaging (QQ) user accounts grew another 4.1 percent compared to the last quarter of 2010, reaching a whopping 674.3 million. Active Qzone (social network) user accounts increased 2.6 compared to the quarter prior to nearly 505 million, while active Pengyou accounts increased 19.9 percent quarter-over-quarter to nearly 102 million.

The big climb in revenues mostly came from the company’s online gaming business and other ‘Internet value-added services’, such as QQ-related subscription fees.

Despite increasing pressure from gaming industry rivals like Netease, Shanda Games, Perfect World and Changyou, Tencent managed to increase its share of China's online games market to 29.1 percent in 2010, up from 21.1 percent a year earlier, according to researcher iResearch.

In the first quarter of this year, Tencent’s revenue from Internet value-added services jumped 55 percent to 5.25 billion yuan (roughly $808.5 million) from 3.39 billion yuan ($522 million).

“Looking forward, we remain committed to making significant investments in our existing core businesses and new strategic initiatives including microblog, e-commerce, search, online security, online video and international expansion,” the company said in a canned statement.

For your further reading pleasure:

Move Over iFund: DCM, Tencent, GREE, KDDI Launch $100M A-Fund
China's Online Game Market Surges; Set To Top $8 Billion By 2014
Tencent Invests $300 Million In Russian Facebook And Zynga Backer DST
What Valley Companies Should Know about Tencent



As Twitpic Signs Picture Agency Deal, Mobypicture Hands Control Back

Posted: 11 May 2011 05:04 AM PDT

Hey, remember back in the old days when you could post a picture on Twitter and not have it ransacked by news organisations and picture agencies? Yeah, those days are gone. All these picture sharing apps are looking lovingly at the feed of images coming in and licking their lips. Whether you like it or not, one day these apps will have to monetize and there is gold in them there photos…

So there’s been a huge blow-up around the use of these images. Twitpic is being reported as claiming the copyright on your images. And entertainment news and photo group WENN has signed a deal with the photo app, ” to represent those images.” Oh really? How convenient for everyone. But what about the users?



58% Of Mobile Web Users Get Their Content Fix Through Browsers: Jumptap

Posted: 11 May 2011 04:31 AM PDT

Yes, smartphone apps are still in vogue, and most mobile app stores continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Yet consumers spend more time engaging with the mobile Web on their smartphones than through ad-supported apps, mobile advertising startup Jumptap says in its STAT (Simple Targeting & Audience Trends) report. The company claims more than 58 percent of mobile internet users in the U.S. are getting content through their browser(s), compared to 42 percent via mobile apps.

An explanation for the discrepancy was not given, but I suspect this has something to do with there simply existing more websites than there are apps, and that jumping from one app to the next to consume content isn’t as good a user experience as simply opening a new page or tab within your mobile browser of choice.

Additionally, a lot of major Internet services (Gmail, Bing, Google search etc.) tend to function as good or even better through the mobile browser than via native apps.

To put together the report, freshly funded Jumptap analyzed 10 billion ad requests on its mobile advertising network, made by 83 million unique users. The company not only looked at content consumption from mobile handsets, but also at how well users respond to mobile advertising, finding that ad engagement trends upwards with age and income.

The company claims consumers aged 40 and over were almost five times more likely to engage with an ad when compared to younger mobile consumers. Similarly, users with annual income above $50K were found twice as likely to engage with ads as those earning less.

As for the favored mobile platform, the report found that Android drives the largest share of ad requests on the Jumptap network (39.1 percent), with iOS and RIM not far behind with 29.8 percent and 24.8 percent, respectively.

However, Apple's iOS maintains the lead for user engagement for mobile ads.



Exclusive: BranchOut Raises $18M For Facebook-Focused Professional Network

Posted: 11 May 2011 01:50 AM PDT

Exclusive: BranchOut, a professional social network for Facebook, has raised $18 million in Series B funding led by Redpoint Ventures with Accel Partners, Norwest Venture Partners, and Floodgate also participating the the round. This investment brings BranchOut’s total funding to $24 million. Geoff Yang, founding partner of Redpoint Ventures, will join Accel Partner Kevin Efrusy on BranchOut's board.

Launched in July 2010, BranchOut has often been compared to a LinkedIn for Facebook because it allows you to network and find jobs through your friends on the social network. BranchOut’s Facebook app lets you search for companies and then shows you all your friends who either work there or know somebody who does. The application does what LinkedIn hasn’t done with Facebook— it unlocks the massive amounts of career data about your social graph on the world’s largest social network that was just impossible to get to before.

And BranchOut allows users to create professional profiles, importing professional data from Facebook profiles, including employment histories, and also allows you to import skills, education, and job history from LinkedIn as well. Within your profile, you can earn badges for specific types of work or education, and contacts can post recommendations (limited to 140 characters). Soon, founder Rick Marini says that the site will allow users to tag friends profiles with specific attributes and skills (i.e. hard worker, loyal, etc.) BranchOut profiles only display only professional data, and won’t surface personal pictures or information from your Facebook profile.

The app also allows companies (and individuals) to post jobs to networks, which you can share amongst your friends. Currently, BranchOut allows you to search over three million jobs and 20,000 internships, which impressive considering the app only launched nine months ago. BranchOut lets you search these listings by location, position, company or any other keyword.

And today, is releasing its newest product along with announcing the funding—a Jobs Tab. BranchOut's
Jobs Tab publishes job openings to a company's Facebook Page and allows Facebook users to apply, share the job, and see their inside connections at the company that posted the opening. The tab can be easily integrated into a company’s Facebook page. For brands and companies that have thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of likes, the Tab seems like a compelling way to advertise job listings which already public on a company site.

So far Levi's, Groupon, Kiva, charity: water and Readyforce are using the Jobs Tab. Here’s an example of Kiva’s Jobs Tab.

As for the funding, Marini says that the $18 million will be used to hire additional staff, particularly in engineering and sales. He tells us that for the past nine months, the company has focused on building out the consumer-facing product and will now also be focusing on building out enterprise products. For example, BranchOut will soon offer a specialized interface for recruiters and sales people to search the app’s database for prospective connections and leads.

Of course, it’s hard not to recognize the power of LinkedIn, the giant in the professional social networking space with over 100 million users. But while LinkedIn has been adding a number of social elements to its platform, including a Twitter integration, the company has yet to implement a deep integration with Facebook. CEO Jeff Weiner said last year that while Facebook is great for showing how we spend our time and expressing ourselves, most employers probably shouldn't see all of your extracurricular activities.

But Marini contends that Facebook, with nearly 700 million members and growing, is an integral part of professional networking. As Facebook’s social graph continues to dominate your experiences on the web, people will want to harness the sheer power of their most extensive social graph in their professional lives, he says.

BranchOut is certainly on to something. The app currently has 300,000 monthly active users and is steadily growing, as BranchOut expands to international markets. And LinkedIn, which is about to IPO, hasn’t cornered the market on using Facebook in professional social interactions. And Marini sees LinkedIn’s success in the market as illustrating the potential in the professional social networking space.

As Facebook continues to grow, explains Marini, everyone that matters to you, whether it be friends, family, colleagues and co-workers will be part of your social graph. “The future of professional networking is going to be driven by Facebook,” Marini says.



Stealth Startup Inporia Raises $1.25 Million From Ron Conway, 500 Startups And More

Posted: 11 May 2011 12:55 AM PDT

Add another stealth eCommerce startup attracting pre-launch funding from eager investors to your list. That is, of course, if you have one. Last month, we covered Decide, a Seattle-based company looking to bring transparency to the online consumer shopping experience that has raised $8.5 million pre-launch. And now Inporia, a new startup that’s also currently in stealth mode, is looking to add a new spin on the apparently tired eCommerce model with a touch of gaming and a dollop of social.

The startup is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Ryan Junee, perhaps better known as an advisor to 500 Startups, StartMate, co-founder of Omnisio (later acquired by Google), and former Product Manager at YouTube. Junee isn’t saying much about what we can expect from Inporia, other than the fact that the startup sits “at the intersection of eCommerce, machine learning, and social data” and will be “combining many of the social and gaming techniques that work so well for Facebook games”.

My guess is that Inporia will be making a play at some kind of predictive service that lets users more easily find games they don’t yet know they want. Perhaps it will be an in-game product purchase and discovery solution for social games that will leverage data gathered by tracking your gaming habits — or maybe it will be a marketplace for rewards earned by kicking ass in games. Or it might be selling car insurance. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.

But, Junee did tell us that he and co-founder Max Skibinsky (a gaming vet, who sold Hive7 to Playdom in 2010) is making a push to snatch up all of the “best technologists” in Silicon Valley. Whatever that means. So, if you’re a technologist, you should know that Inporia is hiring. I’m surprised I haven’t received a call yet.

Whatever the future Inporia looks like, the stealth eCommerce solution has attracted $1.25 million in seed funding (as a convertible note, to be precise) from the likes of New Enterprise Associates, SV Angel (Ron Conway), 500 Startups (Dave McClure), Clearstone Venture Partners, Southern Cross Venture Partners, Ignition Partners, Y Combinator, and Start Fund, among others.

There are some savvy minds in that bunch, so, at the very least, I’m interested to see what Inporia has to offer when it eventually peels back the curtain. I mean, just ask the clearly (and always) objective Dave McClure:



Android And Chrome: Anywhere And Everywhere

Posted: 10 May 2011 06:50 PM PDT


Google is approaching a watershed moment in its internal platform wars. The time is nearly at hand when they will have to decide once and for all what Android is, what Chrome OS is, and where they are both going. This is not to say it has not been internally decided and even worked out to the decimal for some years ahead — but they’re going to have to break it to the world sooner or later, and today’s I/O event may have been a powerful hint.

The hint is in two announcements today: one expected and more or less standard for Google (Music), the other a surprise (Open Accessory Toolkit). Google is laying the groundwork for a two-pronged OS assault a little ways down the road: Chrome OS everywhere, and Android anywhere.

Continue reading…



PaaS PHP Fog Launches To The Public

Posted: 10 May 2011 04:23 PM PDT

Like a Heroku for PHP, PHP Fog is launching to the public today in order to help PHP developers deploy and scale their applications in the cloud. Raising $1.8 million in a round lead by Madrona and followed on by First Round, Founders Co-Op and others. PHP Fog launched in private beta in December and is now available for all members of the public.

Aside from focusing solely on PHP, what PHP Fog does differently than Heroku (and all encompassing competitor dotCloud) is that it provides users with an PHP app store, which lets people build out Drupal and WordPress sites without needing to know how to code. The service starts out as free with shared hosting and then ranges from $29 – $249 depending on how many servers you want dedicated.

Says founder Lucas Carlson, “When I started the company I thought, ‘Why isn’t anyone doing this for PHP, it’s a much bigger market?’ Out of the top one million webpages, 330K run PHP and and only 5K run Ruby. This is a much bigger opportunity, and I’ve been lucky because I’ve been able to cash in on this opportunity.”

Since its funding in December, PHP Fog has hired a team of developers (8) and signed up 13,000 people on its beta list; ”It took Heroku a year to sign up 10,000 people and it took us 6 months to sign up 13,000 people, so we’re going twice as fast.”

In addition to hiring and building out more applications, Carlson admits that a name change is in the cards (PHP Fog is the pretty much most boring startup name I’ve ever written about, and I wrote about Shwowp). He has big plans and eventually wants the service to be the “Amazon of PaaS.”

Rolling out to 1,000 people per day over the past week, PHP Fog is currently available for anyone who wants to sign up here.



(Founder Stories) Meebo CEO: “What If We Could Completely Change The Game?”

Posted: 10 May 2011 04:15 PM PDT

Should founders innovate based upon customer feedback or is it better to develop from within and let consumer adapt. In this episode of Founder Stories with host Chris Dixon, Meebo’s Seth Sternberg discusses his philosophy: "Users tend to be very good at giving you incremental product suggestions.”  But they are not product visionaries. “They may be asking for something that would be revolutionary,” he says, “but they don't realize they are asking for it."

When receiving such incremental suggestions, Sternberg instinctively skips the baby steps and instead asks the question, "what if we could completely change the game?"

Sternberg explains what he means in the video above.

In the below clip, Sternberg and Dixon touch on Meebo's advertising strategy, connecting with consumers and measuring user engagement. Meebo ads have a one percent engagement rate, well above the norm for run-of-the-mill display ads.

Make sure to view prior episodes of Founder Stories by clicking here.



Google Finally Delivers On Promise Of Admin-Free Chrome Frame Installs For IE

Posted: 10 May 2011 03:23 PM PDT

Today at Google I/O in San Francisco, Google developers Amit Joshi and Alex Russell took the stage at a breakout session to announce an important milestone: a version of Chrome Frame that doesn’t require admin rights to install.

While this might not jump out at you as a huge thing, it’s big news for millions of users stuck working at offices or schools with older machines where admins won’t allow them to upgrade to newer, modern browsers. And some 30 percent of these users were not even able to install plug-ins for IE. Now there’s a way around that with the new dev build of Chrome Frame. You can install this within IE without needing admin access.

Huge.

Google has actually been working on this problem for months. While Chrome Frame was always a great idea for helping the world ween itself off IE6, 7, and 8, the admin issue remained a large one as users couldn’t do much without this access to install the plug-in. Google has finally figured out a way around that.

Russell was quick to note however that they also offer a range of tools for admins to use if they choose to, in order to set boundaries for Chrome Frame. But the admin issue was “a major roadblock” to the quick iterations that the entire Chrome team loves to do.

So how did the team get around this problem? “Let’s talk backstage,” Joshi said with a big smile when asked this question. He said it’s a bit of a technical discussion. Russell said at a high level it was just about getting the technology to work in the browser itself rather than being seen as a traditional plug-in.

When asked what Microsoft thought of this, neither Joshi nor Russell would comment. That probably says all you need to know right there.

Again, this new feature is a part of the new dev build of Chrome Frame right now. It will be tested here and then roll out to the beta channel and then the stable channel eventually.



Hands-On With Android 3.1 On The Motorola Xoom

Posted: 10 May 2011 02:40 PM PDT

Google announced Android 3.1 earlier today at I/O. More surprising than the OS itself (which was expected, really) was that it was rolling out to Verizon Xooms today. Google failed to announce when it was hitting other devices beside Google TV, which will get it this summer, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which will get it in the next few weeks.

As announced, the UI is much the same. You can’t tell 3.0 from 3.1 visually. One of the only noticeable differences is that the widgets can be resized. Previously, widgets such as email and bookmarks had a preset size — now they can be stretched and morphed to better fit a user’s preferences. The home button also returns you to the previously selected homescreen rather than the main center one.

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Android Chief Rubin Hints At A New Nexus Device In Time For The Holidays

Posted: 10 May 2011 01:50 PM PDT

Today at Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco, a group of executives sat down the with press to answer questions about the announcements made during the keynote earlier in the day. Much of the news revolved around Android, as did many of the questions. And since Android head Andy Rubin was present, someone decided to ask about the future of Google’s own Nexus brand of devices.

Google doesn’t actually manufacturer these devices but instead works closely with an OEM and carrier partner to produce a device that provides users with a clean and pure version of Android. Given that Google is now working more closely with carriers and OEMs to push up-to-date Android across the board, some wondered what this might mean for the Nexus devices?

Not much, according to Rubin. And yes, you should expect a new one this year.

“I think the Nexus has been the thing we use to set the bar,” Rubin said. “There will always be new ones coming out for the market,” he continued.

So, when?

“The cycles are holidays and the summer time,” he noted indicating that they’d be making an announcement at some point. Considering that we’re already creeping up on the summer, maybe Rubin meant that the new Nexus S 4G for Sprint was the summer device. That leaves the holiday device…

So what will it be? A Nexus running Ice Cream Sandwich (the next version of Android that will unify the tablet Honeycomb OS with Android phones)? Perhaps. Rubin would only commit to the new OS launching “towards the end of the year”.



Video: Pomplamoose Covers The Angry Birds Theme (And Records It With A Samsung Infuse 4G!)

Posted: 10 May 2011 01:32 PM PDT

As if Angry Birds hasn't pervaded our society enough, bands are now covering the Angry Birds theme on YouTube, just in case that tune isn't already on a never-ending loop in your head. The band Pomplamoose, which has already shot a number of cover videos, including Beyonce's Single Ladies and Michael Jackson's Beat It, puts a rather dramatic spin on the Angry Birds theme song, slamming heads into pianos and throwing punches left and right.

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