Monday, May 23, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Zecco Launches App To Let You Trade Stocks, View Realtime Stock Market Data On Facebook

Posted: 23 May 2011 09:22 AM PDT

When it comes to public interaction with the stock market, the ability to trade stocks online has completely changed the game. With abundant financial information on the Web, through a little research, more people than ever before have joined in on an activity once reserved for a relationship between the broker and a trader. If you trade online, you may have used ETRADE or TD Ameritrade, or a host of other sites, or you may use Google Finance or Yahoo Finance to do your research. But, of late, we’ve seen the social trend hitting online trading, as it has for so many other spaces — for better or for worse.

Last year, rapidly-growing online brokerage company, Zecco, launched the first part in an effort to crank online trading into the next gear: Allowing online stock traders to trade anywhere on the Web, whenever they feel so inspired. This took the form of Zap Trade, which was released in conjunction with StockTwits, the growing social micro-blogging and trading service, as a widget on the StockTwits site and as a Firefox add-on. The Zap Trade widget allows users to place trades from StockTwits or directly from the browser.

Today, live from TechCrunch Disrupt in New York, the trade-where-you-want-when-you-want parade continues, as Zecco launches the appropriately named “Wall Street”, which the company says is the “first and only” Facebook app to offer realtime stock quotes, charts, and community discussions on Facebook. And, my friends, not only that, but the Facebook app allows you to make stock trades directly from Facebook, using a compact trade ticket, without ever having to leave the friendly confines of Facebook.

Besides allowing the access to realtime stock data and to make trades within the app, the Facebook integration gives both amateur and expert traders alike the ability to “Like” a stock and to thereby stay tuned on the stock’s latest developments, as well as to see which stocks your friends “Like”. So that you can then publicly ridicule them on their Facebook page, or covertly buy that stock as well. What’s more, the app allows you to comment on a stock, participate in discussions, and share investment ideas with specific Facebook friends.

On stage today at Disrupt, Zecco CEO Michael Raneri allowed Erick Schonfeld to make what he says is the first-ever online stock trade on Facebook. ZOMG! The CEO showed off the Facebook app’s realtime quotes and charts, which you can see in the image to the left.

Beyond trading specific stocks, say that you want to search for wider market trends, Zecco’s app allows you to not only get free quotes and charts on any number of stocks or ETFs, but also lists of the previous day’s most actively and widely-held stocks, so that you can see how risky or safe a stock is compared to others in the market. The app looks great and seems very easy to use. It may take some time for people to get used to the idea of making stock trades on Facebook, considering many people tend not to use the social networking site for financial services, but I think it’s pretty neat that stock trading and free market data has finally come to Facebook — now I can stalk ex-girlfriends and trade my ETFs in one fell swoop. Now, that is something worth writing home about.



The Truth About Why Path Turned Down A $100 Million Acquisition Offer From Google

Posted: 23 May 2011 09:06 AM PDT


So this is interesting. At TechCrunch Disrupt, Path’s co-founder Dave Morin sat down with our own Jason Kincaid to discuss Path’s strategy and growth. During the conversation, Kincaid asked Morin about that $100 million acquisition offer from Google that we reported previously.

As our report goes, in early December Path had a signed term sheet with Kleiner Perkins and Index for a $8.5 million raise. At that point Google made an acquisition offer for a whopping $100 million for the company plus an earnout of $25 million to be paid over four years. Google wanted Path because they loved the team, particularly the team's "design skills," and were very enthusiastic to get a prominent ex-Facebooker, Morin, at Google.

But Path turned the offer down. And closed the deal with Kleiner and Index at a roughly $25 million pre-money valuation. Why? As Kincaid tells us, we heard that there was one term of the offer that was the breaking point—basically Google could fire Morin at any point. Either a month after a deal or a year. Also the search giant gave no guarantee as to what Morin’s title and position would be at Google.

We also heard the deal involved $25 million upfront and some sort of $75 million plus earnout offer.

As Morin tells Kincaid about the report, “I wish I could talk about it…clearly TechCrunch has great sources…no comment.”



Livescribe Releases Connect, Puts Ink In The Cloud

Posted: 23 May 2011 09:05 AM PDT

Livescribe smartpens allow you to record and send the ink you draw or write on paper. They also record the surrounding audio so you can sync the audio with the drawings, something that’s great for students, reporters, and anyone who goes to meetings regularly. For a while, they had little apps that could run on the pen including a very cool piano app that allowed you to draw a piano and then play it on the page.

Now, however, they’ve added an interesting new feature: Livescribe Connect, a system that allows you to send entire pages to multiple recipients including Twitter users, Facebook, Google Docs, and various other cloud services. We got a quick hands on and were able to talk to the company about future plans.

Read more…



Ashton Kutcher Teams With UberMedia To Launch A.plus, His Own Custom Twitter App

Posted: 23 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT


Ashton Kutcher fans who can't get enough of the star on Twitter are about to get some very good news. And the rest of you — even if you aren't necessarily huge Ashton fans — will want to pay attention too.

Mr. Kutcher, who will be interviewed by Charlie Rose at TechCrunch Disrupt tomorrow, is teaming with UberMedia to launch a customized, branded Twitter client called A.plus that runs using Adobe AIR and is available for both Mac and Windows. You can download the app right here.

It's a big deal. Kutcher is the 7th most popular user on the entire service, with over 6.8 million followers. Using the new UberMedia client, he will now be able to directly monetize that following, and he'll also have much greater control over the way his tweets are presented.

You see, despite the fact that Kutcher has a massive Twitter following, he also has a lot of competition — if you're following a few dozen active Twitter users, then his tweets might only show up on your screen for a minute or two, and unless you spend a lot of your day monitoring Twitter, you're probably going to miss a bunch of his updates entirely.

As you can see in the screenshot above, A.plus looks a bit different from your standard Twitter client. There's the Twitter stream we've all become accustomed to, with a section for @replies, private messages, and so on. But to the left of that is another panel that's also filled with content. Unlike the regular Twitter stream, which UberMedia isn't allowed to insert ads into because of Twitter’s Terms of Service, these additional widgets can be customized with whatever Kutcher wants — photos, video clips, messages longer than 140 characters, or ads.  And they're persistent, so you can have his stream visible at all times.

Right now, this area is used to showcase a handful of channels, which are essentially Twitter Lists that have been curated by Kutcher. Open the channel called A+ Arts, and you'll see tweets from Ustream, nowmov, BuzzFeed, and Art.sy among others. Head to the A+ Social channel and you've got LikeALittle, Dailybooth, and foursquare. As you might expect, some of the accounts that are featured happen to be companies that Kutcher has invested in. He's also featured some of the causes he supports, like his philanthropic DNA Foundation.

In addition to these lists are a pair of banner ads, and an integrated deals platform (enter your zip code, and you can receive deals directly in A.plus). All of these can be used to generate revenue — UberMedia isn't getting into specifics, but Kutcher will be able to monetize some parts of the app, and UberMedia will monetize others.

Okay, so A.plus lets Kutcher steer some of his fans towards his favorite Twitter accounts, and it's letting both him and UberMedia directly capitalize on his popularity. But why would anyone, aside from Ashton’s biggest fans, want to use A.plus in the first place?

The biggest reason is a feature called LivePreview: as you read through your Twitter stream, the app will actually pre-cache links that have been shared by the people you follow. Click one, and the page will pop up in a custom browser within the application — you don't have to swap to another window. Hit the down arrow on your keyboard, and the minibrowser will show whatever the next piece of shared content is, be it a photo or a website. Because this content is precached, you can probably browse through these links more quickly than you would with a traditional Twitter client. It actually feels a bit like jumping through articles in an RSS reader.

If that sounds appealing but you're not such a die-hard Kutcher fan, you'll be happy to know that you can minimize any of the panels you aren't interested in (including all of the Kutcher-centric content). In other words, you can prune this into a pretty standard Twitter app with a few clicks.

I have been playing around with the app since last night. It's built using AIR, so there's the same UI wonkiness you get in other AIR apps (non-native widgets, scrolling can feel a little weird, etc.). But really, most of the people interested in A.plus because of its focus on Kutcher probably aren't going to sneer at non-native UI widgets. And AIR certainly didn’t hamper TweetDeck.

UberMedia is thrilled that Ashton Kutcher wanted to be their launch partner on this — the actor has been ahead of the curve when it comes to leveraging social apps, and you can be sure he’s going to drive a lot of attention to it. But the company also has much bigger ambitious.

UberMedia founder and serial entrepreneur Bill Gross says that the application is the first of many — we'll be seeing more celebrities and media properties launching branded apps of their own in the future. And there may eventually be a version of the app that isn't branded. For the time being, though, A.plus is the only application available that has these features.

This is, of course, only the latest move in UberMedia's strategy to monetize Twitter (something that Twitter itself hasn’t been so great at thus far). The two companies have recently been at odds — UberMedia has been acquiring a slew of Twitter apps over the last several months, and Twitter temporarily shut them all down after claiming that UberMedia was violating its Terms of Service — a move that Gross said took UberMedia by surprise.

Then came news that UberMedia was in the midst of acquiring hugely popular Twitter client TweetDeck, which would give it much more leverage against Twitter. Twitter itself is now reportedly gunning for the company to keep it out of Gross’s hands.

Which brings us back to A.plus. UberMedia is now offering brands, celebrities, and media properties a way to directly monetize their audience. Granted, this is hardly the first branded Twitter app — we even saw a TechCrunch-skinned TweetDeck back in 2009. But this gives partners far more flexibility over the content they’re sharing, and how it’s presented. If it works well for Kutcher, don’t be surprised if we start seeing a slew of similar apps from UberMedia in the coming months.



David Lee and Ron Conway Bust Entrepreneur Myths on Stage at Disrupt

Posted: 23 May 2011 08:28 AM PDT


Entrepreneurs are inherently individuals, so rolling their experiences up into trends isn’t easy. That’s made worse because 95% of the returns come from 5% of the companies. So what everyone does, doesn’t really matter. It’s what that 5% does that really matters.

David Lee and Ron Conway of SV Angel has done a deep dive into the top of the top of their portfolio and confirmed some basic wisdom and busts some of the bigger myths.

The biggest thing we all knew was that cofounders tend to do better than single founders; more controversial will be the finding that younger founders do better. That’s a hotly debated idea at TechCrunch, and the key is looking at companies that either have had or are expected to have outsized results. When it comes to the macro-startup economy, that’s what keeps all of us in business.

Although there was some debate over whether 25 is really the optimum age, as some Valley investors have said in the past. After all Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams were older than that, as was Groupon’s Andrew Mason. The slides don’t always provide easy answers. For instance: Repeat entrepreneurs do disproportionately better according to the data; but so do young entrepreneurs. When do they have time to get all those previous ventures under their belts? Do paper routes and lemonade stands count?

Conway talked about Zoomr’s founder having his parents with him to sign the termsheet. If they invest off of this data, Conway and Lee may be meeting the parents a lot more in the future.

The most interesting slides are embedded below.



Ron Conway and David Lee Hint at New Fund. By “Hint” I Mean Mike Breaks Their News For Them

Posted: 23 May 2011 08:20 AM PDT


Here’s the awful thing about having Mike Arrington as an investor in your fund. You don’t get to control over when you announce it. Arrington is on stage with Ron Conway and David Lee of SV Angels right now, and he’s being a bullldog in the best sense of the world. He asked about the firm’s new fund and Lee said “We aren’t supposed to comment on it, so no comment.” To which, Arrington said, “Well I’m an investor in the fund.” Guess it exists.

The new fund will co-invest with Yuri Milner in backing every single Y Combinator company that will take their money. In the last class 43 of 44 took the deal. The one who didn’t was Likealittle, which had already raised money from several VCs including SV Angels. Thirteen of those have raised additional rounds.

The new Y Combinator class is far bigger with more than sixty companies, so SV Angel isn’t so much doubling down on the strategy as it is nearly tripling down. “This is getting towards $9 million,” Arrington asked. “You guys still comfortable with that?”

“In the short term we’re going to stay committed to it,” Lee said. “These are some of the best founders around.”



Revealed: The Huffington Post Wanted To Buy TechCrunch Back In The Day

Posted: 23 May 2011 07:56 AM PDT


My boss, Michael Arrington, sat down with his boss (and my boss as well), Arianna Huffington for a brief chat at TechCrunch Disrupt, where Huffington revealed that she tried to ‘merge’ the Huffington Post with TechCrunch before AOL bought us last September.

Of course, now we are all one big happy family now that AOL also scooped up The Huffington Post for $315 million, and we are now part of the Huffington Post Media Group, too.



Textingly Adds Live Chat And Twilio Hosting To Beef Up Realtime Customer Interaction

Posted: 23 May 2011 07:55 AM PDT

There are a lot of startups out there trying to make SMS messaging more affordable. I won’t even name them all here. But, I’d argue there isn’t a clear market leader as of yet, so with the right team, the right product, and a full suite of services, there still seems to be plenty of room in this space to be successful. Since Textingly launched at the first TechCrunch Disrupt last May, the startup has raised $650K, partnered with the New Jersey Nets, and expanded its team. It also officially left beta last month, announcing that it had attracted 6K small business customers to its SMS messaging platform.

As you may have guessed, Textingly is a text message management tool for businesses that aims businesses to manage all of their SMS interactions with customers. The Textingly platform handles message delivery on both outbound and inbound text messages, contact list management, and reporting. It is all opt-in and consumers scan start, pause, or stop the messages at any time.

"Businesses are beginning to move beyond using text messages for just alerts and marketing; they’re using text messages in new ways”, said Textingly CEO David Dundas. “We all know that text messaging is the most efficient way to reach people, but has been difficult to manage. With our new platform, we are trying to give businesses one place to manage all the ways they might use SMS messaging in the form of ‘apps’, hopefully making it far easier to integrate into services a business might already be using”.

As part of Textingly’s new look, the startup is moving away from its larger business model, in which it was more of a pure text messaging marketing campaign manager and led to its partnership with The Nets. Now, the startup wants to be the central platform for businesses to manage their text messaging operations and thus plans integrate its service into a host of web apps across the Interwebs.

Today, it is launching a new App platform that will allow businesses to add text messaging to the many services they already use in as little as two clicks. Businesses will also now be able to chat with their customers in realtime via text. What does that mean? According to Textingly CEO David Dundas, “Live Chat” will be like a “Google Voice SMS on steroids”, providing users with contact management, reporting, and auto responders while they're offline.

The second feature update will allow any user with a Twilio phone number to use the startup’s platform to manage their SMS marketing and communication. This will include contact list opt-ins and opt-outs, reporting, and more. Dundas says that this is of significance because it is the first user-friendly interface for Twilio that won’t require sophisticated facility with programming or reporting to use it. Some companies prefer full phone numbers to the short codes that Textingly employs, so this will give them another option.

What’s more, businesses that use MailChimp for email marketing can import their lists into Textingly to reach their customers by SMS, WordPress users can embed a phone number capture widget to have readers opt into SMS polls and breaking news alerts, as well as sending out tickets and reminders via text for Eventbrite events.

Dundas said that more app integrations are on the way, and though the platform is closed as of right now beyond the apps available above, the platform will be opened to developers in the next few months.

Textingly has officially raised $650K to date from Inspiration Ventures, 500 Startups, Gary Vaynerchuk, and other angels.

For more on Textingly, check out the video below:



Dennis Crowley’s Mom Actually Bought Him That Gap Ad Outfit

Posted: 23 May 2011 07:45 AM PDT

Local darling and Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt to talk to Mike Arrington about anything but acquisitions, partnerships, valuations or the reports of a possible Groupon partnership or anything that’s you know, breaking news.

But what Dennis did talk about? “You’re a bit of a rockstar here,” said Mike Arrington. “I don’t really see it that way,” responded Crowley. In rejoinder Arrington brought up Crowley’s Gap ad from last winter. “Is modeling taking up a lot of your time? How much makeup do you have on in that picture?” Arrington bombarded him with the hard hitting questions.

Crowley also revealed (SPOILER ALERT!) that he wasn’t holding co-founder Naveen’s hand in the ad, and that his mom actually bought him that entire GAP outfit for Christmas, which included a chunky cardigan and “crazy jeans” according to PR Rep Erin Gleason.

Jokes aside about the rockstar thing, “I've always looked up to the people who went from being unemployed to doing interesting things with product,” said Crowley. Maybe that’s a more valuable kind of model, one that we could all look up to.



Kleiner Perkins Invests $15M in Rent the Runway

Posted: 23 May 2011 07:44 AM PDT

Rent the Runway’s slogan might as well be: Friends don’t let friends wear H&M to the most important events in their lives. The company solves the perennial “closet full of clothes and yet nothing to wear” problem that most women face, by allowing them to rent designer clothes for a big event for about 10% of the price.

It’s clearly a problem women have. The question– like most rental businesses like Zipcar– is how many women want to rent clothes as the solution.

So far, there’s at least one million active users, spanning a wide demographic of women, from 15 years old to 45, says Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway CEO and cofounder. “That was a surprise,” she says. “Initially we thought it would be only young women in their 20s.”

There’s a lot of heavy lifting behind the scenes in this business. A warehouse in New York dry cleans, repairs and re-rents thousands of designer pieces. An algorithm helps women pick age-appropriate, body-appropriate pieces. A social layer allows them get advice from a small circle of trusted friends and family.

The company had raised $16 million to date from Highland Capital and Bain Capital, bringing the total amount raised so far to more than $30 million. And, surprisingly given the costs to a business like this, the company was profitable before this round.

Hyman says the money will be used to build out its underlying technology, physical distribution hubs all over the country, a sophisticated inventory management system and the micro-social network aspect of the site. Kleiner’s Aileen Lee will join the board and no doubt, we’ll talk about it on today’s social commerce panel at Disrupt.



Kobo Introduces New Touchscreen E-Reader, Drops Original Model To $99

Posted: 23 May 2011 07:35 AM PDT

Kobo launched as a Borders-based alternative to the Kindle hegemony, and while their e-reader was perfectly decent, I wouldn’t say it was feature-competitive with Amazon’s latest. They’ve announced today a new device that may not match the Kindle (or its rumored tablet successor) on all fronts, but it’s at least distinct and definitely worth looking at. Yes, a touchscreen e-reader for a reasonable price is finally available.

One of the fundamental issues with nearly all e-readers is having to navigate by d-pad or keyboard while the slow e-ink screen refreshes. The new Pearl displays have mitigated that inconvenience, but it’s still unintuitive and sluggish. The Plastic Logic touch e-reader we got all excited about a couple years back proved to be too rich for its own blood, and while Sony has been touting its touchable e-readers for years now, they’ve been expensive, stylus-based, or both. This Kobo eReader Touch is $129, which I think is more than competitive.

Read More



Always Optimistic HP Says “Touchpad will be better than number one”

Posted: 23 May 2011 07:29 AM PDT

HP’s upcoming tablet, the Touchpad and not the PalmPad in case you missed the memo, will be better than number one. You could call it number one plus. That’s exactly what HP’s European head recently stated at a conference in Cannes and this silly quote is now spreading around the gadget blogosphere.

The Touchpad will likely be a great; HP doesn’t make bad hardware. It will likely be solid, reliable and well built. That’s not good enough, though. Look at Honeycomb tablets right now. Most of those, especially the Xoom, fits that description yet it can’t find a footing in the still-niche market. It’s all about the ecosystem and I’m very curious how HP thinks the Touchpad will overtake the iPad and the App Store.

Read More



Foursquare To Power INQ Mobile’s Location Based Services

Posted: 23 May 2011 06:55 AM PDT

INQ, one of the first partners to add the Facebook social layer to its Cloud Touch phone has announced today via Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley at TechCrunch that it will be using the Foursquare location layer to visualize location content for its users.

The Foursquare INQ phone will have all of the requisite Foursquare features, including checkins, places nearby, tips, to do, all powered by the Foursquare API.

“It feels pretty amazing to see what INQ has done with its API. Because it’s built directly into the Android system, you can check in and explore without even firing up the application,” a Foursquare representative said.

“We want the average consumer to really start to discover and explore location based Foursquare content,” say INQ CEO Frank Meehan. In addition to Facebook and Foursquare, Spotify is already integrated into the phone but only for European and Asian users. INQ and CloudTouch is still finalizing the deal with the US carriers now.

“These guys are trying to make the best phone possible,” said Crowley, “Foursquare integration is a logical step.”

In six weeks, the Foursquare integration will be available for European and Asian users, but Meehan will not give a date for the US Cloud Touch launch just yet. Foursquare currently has over 9 million users over the iPhone, Blackberry and Android platforms.



Fred Wilson: Be Your Own Bitch

Posted: 23 May 2011 06:43 AM PDT


At TechCrunch Disrupt, Erick Schonfeld interviewed prolific investor Fred Wilson, an early investor in Twitter, Foursquare, and Zynga. When Schonfeld asked him about the Twitter ecosystem, and the company’s recent moves to discourage app developers from building Twitter clients, he replied with this one liner, “Don’t be a Google Bitch, don’t be a Facebook Bitch, and Don’t be a Twitter Bitch. Be your own Bitch.”

Wilson and Schonfeld directly discussed the advertising ecosystem, and Wilson commented that with Twitter’s advertising plans, the company is heading towards a possible collision with advertising startups who have developed revenue models around ads on twitter (i.e. Ad.ly, 140 Proof).

Wilson added that he is feeling very good about Twitter’s monetization plans. He explained that Twitter didn’t have a set strategy at the start. If it were planned, Twitter would have launched with all platform clients, he explains. Twitter has been constantly playing catchup as developers have built more applications. “Twitter wasn’t planned,” Wilson said. “It just happened.”



Fred Wilson More Or Less Confirms Twitter Stock Sale, Says Secondary Sales Often “Prudent”

Posted: 23 May 2011 06:33 AM PDT


To kick off TechCrunch Disrupt today in New York, Erick Schonfeld took the stage to interview investor Fred Wilson, of Union Square Ventures. For background, Wilson was early investor in Twitter, Zynga, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Etsy and is also a prolific blogger.

Wilson sort of revealed that Union Square Ventures has sold some of its stock in Twitter. When Schonfeld asked if he sold stock in Twitter, he said he didn’t really want to comment on that but he then he added that generally speaking he wouldn’t argue with news reports out there that he has sold Twitter stock.

There have been recent reports that investors such as USV and Kleiner Perkins are selling Twitter stock.

He basically said that you don't sell 100% of your stock, you sell 5% or 20% of your stock. You wouldn't be prudent if you dont do that.

Wilson also said that social bookmarking site Delicious was a defining investment for Union Square Ventures, and helped define the investment strategy set forth for the firm’s investment in Foursquare, Twitter and Zynga. As for whether we are in a bubble, Wilson said he doesn’t like that word. “We’re in a frothy investment period,” he explained. As to how that has changed Wilson’s investments, he said that the average valuation of seed or Series A or B round, are up up 25 percent across the board now from three years ago.



Video Ad Network Tremor Media Launches Analytics Platform For Marketers

Posted: 23 May 2011 06:30 AM PDT

Tremor Media, one of the largest video ad networks on the web, is launching a new product today to give marketers more insight into how video ad campaigns are performing. The Tremor Video Hub is an advertising console that helps marketers measure, track, and report what’s driving performance of their video campaigns.

Video Hub not only lets marketers see where their videos are running, but, through the use of Tremor Media's SE2 technology, gives them insight into which campaigns and destinations enhance a brand, what sparks viewer engagement, and why a campaign is working. The Video Hub automatically analyzes the content, environment, demographic characteristics and delivery metrics to help pinpoint the right time to deliver and advertisement to a specific type of viewer.

The dashboard returns analytics and results from campaigns in realtime, giving marketers a live picture of campaign performance. The console will be available to all clients who buy campaigns on the Tremor Media Network. These insights are vital for advertisers to determine how well their ads are performing and which environments perform the best for their brands. An in-depth analytics platform seems like a no-brainer to me.

Tremor, which has raised $80 million in funding, has been on a bit of a shopping spree of late, buying mobile video ad startup Transpera and streaming ad platform ScanScout. And the company is on track to top $100 million in revenue this year.



Lerer Ventures Raises Second $25M Seed Fund for NYC Startups

Posted: 23 May 2011 06:20 AM PDT

As we kickoff of our second annual TechCrunch Disrupt conference, we’re clearly not the only ones who think there’s a substantive ecosystem brewing here beneath all the hype and the froth; Lerer Ventures is announcing the closing of its second seed-stage venture fund today. The total is $25 million, mostly from friends, families and small family investment groups.

The fund comes 18 months after Ken Lerer, Huffington Post co-founder, and his son Ben Lerer, Thrillist co-founder, decided to organize all the one-off angel investing they’d been doing around the New York scene into their first formal fund. They raised $8.5 million back then on the hunch that New York needed its own uber-tapped in “Ron Conway of the East.” Nearly two years later with a portfolio that includes GroupMe, Greplin, Hyperpublic, and last year’s Disrupt winner Qwiki, they think they’ve proven it. “There was absolutely a hole in the market,” Ben Lerer says.

Everyone knows that Valley investors have been spending more time and cash in New York in the last few years, but deal flow at those earliest stages is all about local networks. The same way New York investors can’t see every deal a Ron Conway sees; not even our biggest and baddest angels can hear about every New York idea. Nor do they have the all-important advertising and media connections to help juice those young companies revenues or pave the way for partnerships.

There’s another big announcement with the new fund: Eric Hippeau, formerly the CEO of the Huffington Post, is joining the firm full time to run it.

Not surprisingly the firm has a heavy focus on media. But it seeks more broadly to invest in areas where New York excels, like social commerce and ad platforms as well. While many of these companies are more Madison Avenue-friendly, there’s still some real tech underneath them as New York’s startup ecosystem continues to evolved, Hippeau said.

Ben Lerer noted how much has changed since LV1 was launched. A lot more money has piled into the New York scene, but he notes a lot of it is late stage or very momentum oriented– chasing the next Facebook or Twitter only. Lerer Ventures strategy is to chase not only those companies, but the next flips, doubles and triples they find along the way.



Eightfold Logic Launches InboundWriter, A Social Writing App, And Raises $2 Million

Posted: 23 May 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Lazy bloggers and other online content creators from around the world, rejoice, for Eightfold Logic (formerly Enquisite) is today debuting a cloud-based social writing tool dubbed InboundWriter that should make it easier for you to create relevant and shareable online content.

The company has also announced that it has raised $2 million in Series C funding from existing investors, including Rho Canada Ventures, Castile Ventures, Formative Ventures, and The Entrepreneurs' Fund III. The new financing brings the total capital raised by Eightfold Logic to nearly $20 million.

InboundWriter aims to help online content creators by bringing search and social intelligence straight into the writing process.

InboundWriter indexes the social web in real-time to see what target audiences are reading, sharing and discussing online. It then streams this ‘social intelligence’ into a Web-based document editor, providing recommendations about the best words and phrases to use to create compelling content for said audiences. Writers can measure and optimize their content through interactive feedback mechanisms.

If it reminds me of anything it would be Zemanta, also an online content production aid.



TechCrunch Disrupt: Watch It Live!

Posted: 23 May 2011 05:43 AM PDT

While there’s no replacement for actually being at TechCrunch Disrupt, we realize that not everyone can make it for one reason or another (like me, for example, due to massive volcanic activity). As such, we’re happy to offer the next best thing: a full live stream of the event.

We’ve embedded the stream above, be sure to tune in at 9 AM ET. Additionally, you can also watch the videos we shoot for TechCrunchTV and ones tagged with the #tcdisrupt hashtag. We’ll be doing video interviews backstage with guests throughout the event so be sure to check back often.



GTT Acquires PacketExchange For $20 Million In Cash, Debt

Posted: 23 May 2011 05:08 AM PDT

Global Telecom & Technology (GTT), a global carrier and network integrator, has acquired privately-held UK company PacketExchange in an effort to scale its business internationally. GTT will pay up to $20 million in cash and assumed debt to buy PacketExchange, which serves approximately 500 customers (carriers, ISPs, etc.). PacketExchange is said to generate over $20 million in annualized revenue post-acquisition.


The TechCrunch Disrupt NY Drinking Game: Day One

Posted: 23 May 2011 05:04 AM PDT

It’s that time of the half-year again! Time for TechCrunch Disrupt – or as it’s officially titled this year: AOL-HuffingtonPost-TechCrunch Disrupt, Part III: Back In Training.

For me, the highlight of the event is when Heather and Mike take to the stage and announce that they’re selling the company to someone ridiculous (this year my money’s on 4Chan!). For the rest of you, though, I know the real reason you sit glued to the live stream all day is to play The TechCrunch Disrupt Drinking Game.

You should know the rules by now: round up some friends, grab a bottle and follow the simple instructions below. Or as the Bard would have it said: Blow, wind! come, wrack! At least we’ll die with vomit down our shirt!

  • Take a sip when…

    - A Startup Battlefield entrepreneur thanks a judge for a "great question" and then proceeds not to answer it.
    - Someone uses the phrase "that's a great question" as an obvious euphemism for "go fuck yourself".
    - An entrepreneur name-checks Mike during their pitch in the mistaken belief this will help their chances.
    - Someone uses the word "freemium" or describes something as a "chicken-egg problem".
    - Someone makes an ironically disparaging remark about AOL from the stage.

  • Take a swig when…

    - The person making the disparaging remark about AOL actually works for AOL.
    - A Startup Battlefield company's name consists entirely of real words, correctly spelt.
    - It quickly becomes clear to everyone that the success of a particular company would result in the world becoming a terrible, terrible place.
    - It quickly becomes clear that the company’s co-founders are dating
    - It quickly becomes clear that the company’s co-founders cannot stand to be in the same room as each other, let alone on the same stage.

  • Drain your whole drink when…

    - It quickly becomes clear that the company’s co-founders are dating, and yet still cannot stand to be in the same room as each other.
    - The wifi works so well that it breaks someone's pitch.
    - A surprise guest appears, who happens to be running for office.
    - Someone uses a photo of either Mike and Arianna or Mike and Tim or Mike and Jason, or any combination of those, to illustrate a dating app.
    - Yossi Vardi insists the entire audience applaud an entirely uncontroversial point (“EVERYBODY STAND UP IF YOU THINK THAT BABIES ARE ADORABLE”)
    - Someone describes their company as “Instagram for…”

  • Drain your drink and chug an entire fresh one when…

    - They complete the above sentence with the words “…bills”, “…healthcare”, “…legal documents” or “…goat porn.”

Good luck everyone. And do make sure to follow me on Twitter for minute-by-minute commentary of the day’s nonsense. It’s like actually being in the room (sitting next to a dick).



The List Of Startups Launching At TechCrunch Disrupt New York

Posted: 23 May 2011 04:50 AM PDT

We are only a few hours away from kicking off the third TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York and we are thrilled to announce the 29 startups that were chosen out of nearly 1,000 applicants to pitch ideas and applications over the next few days. We will also hear pitches from the two StartupAlley companies that receive the most votes over the next two days. You can watch the livestream here.

These startups will battle it out over three intense days, with one of these companies eventually taking home $50,000 and the official Disrupt trophy.

Arrived

Avado

BillGuard

CatchFree

ccLoop

Churn Labs

Deja

Desmos

Do@

Foretuit

Getaround

Karizma

Kohort

Lumier

Madbrook Publishing

MePorter

MotherKnows

Rexly

SHL Telemedicine

Skylines

Sneakpeeq

Sonar

Spenz

SpotOn

StyleSeat

ThinkFuse

ThriftDB

Tracks

Weotta



Crunching Some Data After 3.5 Years Of Seedcamp

Posted: 23 May 2011 04:45 AM PDT

It's been over 3.5 years since Seedcamp was launched to help establish Europe as a great place for startups, and how things have changed since then. From where I'm standing, the European startup scene appears to be alive and kicking, and although we're still very, very far from Europe being a perfect place to launch a business in many regards, I remain hopeful about the chances of major technology companies booting up around here in the next decade and beyond. Anyway, Seedcamp is one of the 'local' projects I most admire, and today they're sharing some numbers and facts - long overdue if you ask me - that underline just how important a role they play in the European startup ecosystem.


Lightbank-Backed Gtrot Wants To Socialize Travel Planning On Facebook

Posted: 23 May 2011 04:40 AM PDT

Gtrot, a service that leverages Facebook to help people make traveling decisions, is announcing a new round of funding from Lightbank. The company is declining to reveal the exact size of the round but says it is under $1 million.

Founded by Brittany Laughlin and Zachary Smith, Gtrot helps users source travel plans, deals, tips, and recommendations from other friends via their social graph. For example, if you are visiting Paris and need travel advice, you can use Gtrot’s Facebook app or site to see which of your friends have been or live there, so you can reach out to them to get personalized advice and recommendations.

Similar to TripIt, you can email your travel confirmations to Gtrot and the site will automatically manage your itineraries, and source information on the city you are visiting from Facebook friends. Gtrot will find friends with intersecting plans, those who live in the destination or those who have been to the destination before. And you can set up alerts for when friends plan a trip to a city you are visiting or are based in. You can also post photos and reviews of past trips to share with Facebook friends.

Laughlin and Smith say that online forums like TripAdvisor have become the defacto source for recommendations but these site aren’t able to give you recommendations from people you trust. And these sites are unable to connect you with your friends who have either visited or have lived in a vacation destination.

Since entering beta in 2010, gtrot has attracted nearly 6,000 users who have shared information for over 40,000 cities around the world, and plans to use the funding for further product development and expansion.



Disco, Google’s Secret Group Messaging App, Gets Pushy With Version 2.0

Posted: 23 May 2011 04:03 AM PDT

Google seems to be going out of their way not to promote Disco, the group messaging app built by Google’s Slide team. When we first revealed the existence of the iPhone app and website (at disco.com) in March, Google wouldn’t comment on it. A few weeks ago, they released an Android version of the app as well. Was it touted on a Google blog anywhere? Nope. And yesterday brought version 2.0 of the app. Again, nada.

So we’ll do Google’s job for them and tell you that version 2.0 of Disco is a nice upgrade. When we did a first look at the app, we noted that while it looked nice, it was fairly limited because it relied solely on SMS. Version 2.0 adds the ability to move away from SMS as use Push notifications to receive messages.

The move is an important one for Disco to better match its competition. GroupMe (which, coincidentally was born at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon a year ago) added Push capabilities to their app in March. Beluga (which Facebook acquired in March) has been more based around Push notifications from the beginning. The ability to use Push Notifications over data plans saves customers money versus SMS.

Also new in 2.0 is the ability to chat within the app (as opposed to only over SMS). This is another big feature as it makes the app more instantaneous and chat-like (again, more like the competition). And there’s finally the ability to manage groups within the app. Previously, you had to do this on the website.

So, now that Disco is up to speed with regard to competitors, will Google finally start promoting it? We’ll see. Perhaps this is all a part of their we-will-downplay-our-social-strategy-at-all-costs movement. That’s too bad, Disco is definitely worth a look.

You can find Disco for iPhone here and for Android here.



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