Friday, May 27, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Pixable: 10 Percent Of Facebook Photos Are Profile Pics

Posted: 27 May 2011 09:00 AM PDT

Pixable, a startup that develops sleek social photo creation and categorization tools for Facebook and other photo sharing sites, has released an infographic today that includes a number of impressive stats regarding profile pictures on the social network.

Pixable's service, which has 800,000 users, allows people to use of all their Facebook and image sharing site photo content like captions, tagging information, comments, and birthdays to make albums, slideshows, calendars and nor artwork. Pixable's browser-based simplifies the creation of albums, making it easy to use for anyone. One of Pixable’s early applications was a nifty tool that allows you to make mosaics of your Facebook photos.

According to Pixable, 10 percent of all Facebook photos (which are expected to hit 100 billion photos downloaded this summer) are profile pictures. Women upload profile pics more often than men, with women uploading photos every two weeks compared to three weeks for men. And the number of profile photos uploaded per user has tripled since 2006. On average, the typical profile photo has 2 likes and 2 comments.

While we know that Facebook is dominating the photo sharing space, it’s interesting to see a deep data dive on profile pics, in particular.



Euro VC Rockstar Katy Turner Departs Eden Ventures For VideoPlaza

Posted: 27 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT

Respected European venture capital associate Katy Turner is leaving Eden Ventures to join video advertising startup Videoplaza, working as their head of marketing out of London. The startup is currently making a name for itself delivering video advertising across the the web and into other devices like TV. It’s secured plenty of VC backing to achieve this.



Google Starts Adding Flight Schedules And Airline Routes In Search

Posted: 27 May 2011 08:28 AM PDT


We know that Google has big ambitions for flight search, as the search giant dropped $700 million on travel search software developer ITA Software. Today, the company just announced a few new flight search features that have been integrated into search (but do not use ITA’s technology….yet).

Now, when you search for a destination on Google, you can see which airlines serve that specific route and when they fly. For example, if you search for flights from ‘New York to Chicago,’ you’ll see schedules of all the non-stop flights that serve that route, which airlines fly, and times. You can access the full timetable by clicking on "Schedule of non-stop flights."

You can also see all the destinations with non-stop flights from a particular airport. So if you are in Chicago, you can search for ‘flights from Chicago’ and Google will show you a number of routes from Chicago’s airports and which airlines fly from the airport. Similar to the schedule feature, if you click “Show all non-stop routes,” you can get the full list of destinations and from there, you can click to get more flight details.

In the post, Google software engineer Petter Wedum writes that the company is ‘eager to begin developing new flight search tools’ that are integrated with ITA’s software. Of course, the DOJ has mandated a number of conditions that Google has to abide by with regard to ITA’s presence and integration into the search company. It should be interesting to see what Google has up its sleeve for travel and flight search.



Do You Prefer Cell Phones Over Sleep? You’re Not Alone

Posted: 27 May 2011 08:22 AM PDT

Our obsession with our smartphones has grown into a full-blown addiction, according to a new survey in the iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report. According to iPass, one of every three mobile workers get up regularly throughout the night to check email on their phone, and nearly half of those surveyed admitted that they couldn't sleep without a smartphone within reach.

Read more…



Disrupt NYC, In Tweets

Posted: 27 May 2011 08:20 AM PDT

I am still recovering from Disrupt NYC. It was our biggest event ever, and we’ll be posting more videos and highlights throughout the next few days. But here are a couple of charts that give a snapshot of the activity around the event as measured by Tweets with the event hashtag #TCDisrupt (thanks for the charts, Simply Measured).

In the chart above you can see the distribution of Tweets across the three days. That spike on Day three was related to an iPad giveaway linked to people Tweeting out the hashtag, which was Tweeted out 18,177 times (and that doesn’t include tweets that used other hashtags such as #disrupt or simply mentioned Disrupt without a hashtag).

But I particularly like the chart below, which shows the distribution of Tweets with the #TCDisrupt hashtag which also mentioned the names of the six Battlefield finalists. In terms of which companies generated the most buzz on Twitter, Disrupt NYC winner Getaround garnered the most mentions with a 38 percent share. Runner-up Sonar was second with 21 percent, with the other runner-up BillGuard getting 17 percent. Another finalist, Do@, edged out BillGuard with 18 percent of mentions.

You can find videos of the finalists and all of Disrupt NYC here.



By Popular Demand, The Music From Disrupt – Available For Download

Posted: 27 May 2011 07:53 AM PDT

We’ve gotten a lot of requests for our Disrupt conference theme music. Some conference attendees and webcast viewers apparently can’t get the music out of their heads and want to hear it some more. Instead of picking music from a music production library, this year we created custom tracks.

The music came to us all the way from New Zealand from a company called Smith & Keats Music. They have a background in creating pop hits and have earned a reputation for specializing in music for the tech industry. Other clients have included Nintendo and Sony-Ericsson.

The composers say living in New Zealand gives them exposure to a broader range of artists from around the world. In the US and other countries, the music charts are dominated by local artists. Not so for New Zealand, where they claim only the best of the best makes it to their shores.

The time difference in New Zealand was also a plus. TechCrunch gave Smith & Keats direction and feedback on the music via email late at night, which was midday in New Zealand. So, when we woke up the next day, there was new music sitting in our inbox.

Here are the 5 music cuts. Smith & Keats has given us permission to post them online and make them available to download. We even heard about a special dance that developed to them, so dance away.

Track 1. Preshow [download link]

Track 2. Lunch [download link]

Track 3 Post Show (featuring “TechCrunch Disrupt” audio sample; a crowd favorite) [download link]

Track 4 Battlefield Transistion (used for the Startup Battlefield segments and the motorcycle giveaway deliberations) [download link]

Track 5 Segment Transition [download link]



Photo credit: Joe Corrigan/Getty Images for AOL



Analyst Argues Against Google’s Chrome OS Security Promises

Posted: 27 May 2011 07:40 AM PDT

Google made a couple bold statements about its upcoming Chromebook tablet, many of which have certainly excited consumers, particularly the promise of an end to security hassles. In the Chromebook launch announcement, Google claimed that "Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy and maintain. Even more importantly, you won't spend hours fighting your computer to set it up and keep it up to date." Sounds nice, right? Well, Trend Micro's security consultant Rik Ferguson vigorously disagrees, claiming that the search giant risks repeating the same security mistakes Apple made.

Read more…



Apple’s iCloud Needs To Be More Than Just An Online Locker To “Transform Music”

Posted: 27 May 2011 06:53 AM PDT

As we’ve suspected for a long time, Apple is very close to launching an online music service which may go by the name iCloud. The basic idea is that it will mirror your iTunes collection online so that it is available on any device without clunky cable syncing.

While getting rid of those cables will be a big step forward, if iCloud is nothing more than a music locker service it won’t go far towards transforming digital music, as BusinessWeek proclaims. Brad Stone and Andy Fixmer at BusinessWeek report that three out of the four major U.S. music labels have already signed up with Apple, and the fourth is about to sign. This will give Apple a huge advantage over already-announced music services from Amazon and Google, both of whom failed to secure licenses from the music industry and thus launched with compromised products. Since they don’t have the right licenses for streaming music, they require consumers to upload their music collections to the “locker” services. (Apparently, Google was willing to pay the labels $100 million up front for the music rights, “but talks broke down over the music industry’s concern that search results in Google and YouTube often point to pirated music”). Apple will simply index your collection and mirror it without the need for bulky uploads. Here is how BusinessWeek describes Apple’s upcoming iCloud music service:

Armed with licenses from the music labels and publishers, Apple will be able to scan customers’ digital music libraries in iTunes and quickly mirror their collections on its own servers, say three people briefed on the talks. If the sound quality of a particular song on a user’s hard drive isn’t good enough, Apple will be able to replace it with a higher-quality version. Users of the service will then be able to stream, whenever they want, their songs and albums directly to PCs, iPhones, iPads, and perhaps one day even cars.

. . . While it may be a huge shift, it won’t be free. Apple no doubt has paid dearly for any cloud music licenses, and it’s unclear how much of those costs it will eat or pass on to consumers. One possibility would be to bundle an iCloud digital locker into Apple’s MobileMe online service, which currently costs $99 a year and synchronizes contacts, e-mail, Web bookmarks, and other user data across multiple devices.

So let me get this straight. Apple’s iCloud will be iTunes online, with a few features that make it slightly better than Google’s Music Beta—namely, I won’t have to spend hours uploading my music collection and I will get better quality audio files for some songs. That’s all great, but I am not sure it is enough for me to pay a monthly subscription. If it’s bundled with MobileMe, it certainly would make that service more appealing, but I wouldn’t pay for iCloud as a standalone service if that is all there is to it. And certainly, this could turn out to be only one part of a revamped MobileMe service. Depending on what else will be added, iCloud could help push more MobileMe subscriptions overall.

But let’s take iCloud as a standalone service. If it’s so great, people should be willing to pay for it on its own. But why would I pay a monthly subscription for the privilege to listen to my own music collection streamed from the Internet? I’ve already paid for all those songs, and now I am going to pay again just to have them available online? I don’t think so. Guess what, I can already do that for free with Google Musc beta. Sure, it takes a while to upload all of your songs. But it’s all done in the background with a music manager desktop software that you download. When I did it, I was surprised at how fast my songs became available—so much so that I thought Google was mirroring my collection. (You can see what Google Music Beta looks like in this episode of Fly or Die, which I’ve embedded below).

Forget about streaming your own collection from the cloud. That’s great and all, and it should be a feature of iTunes included for free. If I am going to pay a monthly subscription for a music service, I’d better be getting access to any song I want. I’d rather sign up for Rhapsody, Rdio, or (one day) Spotify, and get unlimited access to millions of songs. If Apple wants to truly transform digital music again, it needs to change the way we consume and pay for it. If iCloud is just a better music locker, it’s not terribly exciting. If it’s also a jukebox in the sky with a full-blown music subscription service tied to my existing iTunes collection—well, now I’m listening.

Photo Credit/Flickr/Kevin Dooley



Roku Taps YuMe To Power Video Advertising For Streaming Players

Posted: 27 May 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Streaming video player developer Roku has partnered with video advertising company YuMe to allow content owners to provide video advertising for media. DreamTV and Blastro Networks are among the first Roku content providers to start using YuMe’s video advertising platform.

Roku has sold more than 1 million of its streaming entertainment devices for the TV. The company, who has not offered video advertising to publishers until now, will be integrating YuMe's ACE technology platform, which serves more than 1 billion ad impressions per month.

As we’ve written in the past, YuMe's technology places video ads dynamically on videos on a number of publishers across a variety of platform. And the company also offers developers monetization technologies for video publishers that allows them to build apps to support mobile video ads; which is how the company is helping Roku publishers.

YuMe’s technology will help video distributors deliver advertising to targeted audiences in the most relevant context on multiple screens— computers and connected TVs as well as Apple iOS, RIM, Symbian and Android operating systems.



Online Advertising Revenues Up 23 Percent Since Q1 2010, Reach $7.3 Billion

Posted: 27 May 2011 03:00 AM PDT

Best. first. quarter. evar. Some good news in today from the online advertising industry: The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has announced that online advertising revenues hit $7.3 billion in the U.S. in the first quarter. While this does not represent the best quarterly performance in history (Q4 2010 takes the cake at $7.45 billion), it does mark the best first quarter on record, and reflects a 23 percent increase since the first quarter of 2010.

The overall numbers for 2010 were impressive, with total online ad revenues reaching $26 billion. Search made up 46 percent of that total in 2010, followed by display ads at 38 percent. But display advertising grew twice as fast as search (24 percent growth versus 12 percent), and, today, Karsten Weide of IDC says, display advertising continues to grow faster than search advertising.

Some other interesting tidbits from IDC’s report: Worldwide online ad spending grew by 14.3 percent from $15.9 billion in Q1 2010 to $18.2 billion in Q1 2011, and U.S. spending in online advertising increased by 14.2 percent from $7.1 billion in Q1 2010 to $8.1 billion in Q1 2011. The IDC forecasts U.S. online ad spending to grow 13.3 percent to $8.3 billion in Q2 2011 and 13.8 percent total in 2011.

Also of note: Google overtook Yahoo as the leader in display advertising, with 14.7 percent of the market compared to Yahoo’s 12.3 percent share. Microsoft declined to 6.5 percent, while Facebook rose to 8.8 percent, according to Weide.

While some analysts expected online advertising revenues and spending to cool their jets this year, the data isn’t showing much reason to bet against 2011 becoming another banner year for digital advertising. Viva la Internet.



PayPal Lawsuit Against Google Reveals Recruiting Saga And A Deal Gone Sour

Posted: 26 May 2011 07:32 PM PDT

Google is making a bold play to enter mobile payments, and PayPal doesn’t like it one bit. Shortly after Google announced its new mobile wallet for Android phones today, Paypal filed a lawsuit against Google and two former PayPal executives who now are in charge of mobile payments at Google (Osama Bedier and Stephanie Tilenius).

The complaint (embedded below) alleges “misappropriation of trade secrets, and “breach of fiduciary duty.” It revolves around Osama Bedier, who was the VP of Platform, Mobile, and New Ventures at PayPal before he was recruited to work at Google by Android chief Andy Rubin, Google co-founder Larry Page, and Bedier’s former PayPal colleague Stephanie Tilenius (who now heads up Commerce and Payments at Google, and I interviewed yesterday onstage at Disrupt NYC).

The lawsuit reveals that Google was negotiatiating with PayPal for two years to power payments on mobile devices. But just as the deal was about to be signed, Google backed off and instead hired the PayPal executive negotiating the deal—Bedier. The lawsuit lays out the sequence of events:

By 2010, the executive in charge of the negotiations for PayPal was Osama Bedier. The executive in charge of the negotiations for Google was Andy Rubin. PayPal and Google had a deal finalized and signature-ready on October 26, 2010. By that time, unknown to PayPal, Bedier had just finished a series of job interviews with Google senior executives, culminating with a meeting on October 21 between Bedier, Google Senior Vice President Jonathan Rosenberg, and then-President of Google Larry Page.

Though Google's leadership had directed negotiations toward the October 26 finalization months earlier, it now balked when presented with the very deal they had requested. The companies had a term sheet, a two phase roll-out with dates, and all other details nailed down. But, in the interim, Google's leadership had interviewed Bedier, Rather than inking the October 26 deal, Google instead at the last minute professed a shift in mindset on the entire structure of the deal.

Bedier was offered a job at Google on October 31. He didn’t take it immediately, but after a few months of back and forth, he finally accepted the job in January, 2011. All of this coincided with Larry Page taking over as CEO, and a shift in Google’s strategy to build instead of partner in mobile payments.

The lawsuit notes that Bedier knew all of PayPal’s future plans for mobile payments, as well as an internal detailed analysis of Google’s weaknesses in the area. Not only that, it accuses him of storing “confidential eBay information in locations such as his non-PayPal computers, non-PayPal e-mail account, and an account on the remote computing service called ‘DropBox.’”

What did Bedier do with all of these “trade secrets”? The implication is that he used his knowledge of PayPal’s strategy to craft Google’s mobile wallet strategy (yup, the same one revealed today). He also used that knowledge to sell Google’s mobile wallet to big retailers:

Bedier has also been part of a Google team making sales calls to major retailers, PayPal is informed and believes and on that basis alleges that during these sales efforts, Bedier has been and is improperly comparing Google's products and services with PayPal's products and services in discussions with customers that both PayPal and Google are courting. In particular, on information and belief, Bedier's comparisons incorporate PayPal trade secrets, including PayPal's schedule for deployment, anticipated features, and back-end approach to mobile payment, point of sale, and the benefits of a wallet in the cloud.

And finally, he actively recruited other PayPal employees, just as Tilenius helped to recruit him (which is why she is named in the suit as well). Assuming this thing gets settled before it goes to court, how much is hiring Bedier going to end up costing Google?

Update 5/27: I asked Google for a comment last night about this lawsuit. Today, a spokesperson gave me this statement:

“Silicon Valley was built on the ability of individuals to use their knowledge and expertise to seek better employment opportunities, an idea recognized by both California law and public policy. We respect trade secrets, and will defend ourselves against these claims.”

Photo credit: Flickr/Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat



EcoMotors Chief Don Runkle: “Electric Vehicles Are Not ‘Zero Emissions’”

Posted: 26 May 2011 02:33 PM PDT

Our next panel is a little bit outside your comfort zone, but I think it's really interesting. Can you please, the next panels that you can come on board. We've got Craig Bramscher, the CEO of Brammo, which is an electric vehicle company. Here is one of his electric vehicles, a motorcycle. And, Donald Runkle who is the CEO of EcoMotors, that 's creating a more efficient combustion engine.

Thank you very much for joining us.

Thanks, Craig.

Donald can see you.

And here's, when we get to the slides, you can just press that.

Oh, okay.

So Donald, you were the head of engineering at GM right, and you ran lot of programs there. The EV1 is probably the one that most people have heard about.

I would say the Corvette probably is more well known than the
we want but that's ...

I
mean in terms of green, you know, green vehicles. So you have experiences in electric and in combustion. There is this assumption that if we just had electric vehicles on the road, we would solve a lot of our emission's problems, you know, as well as a lot of the dependencies on foreign fossil fuels.

Is that a correct assumption?

Yeah, I would not say it's not. No, my experience come from having lead the EB1 program at GM starting the fuel cell projects. Did the ultralight, which is a 100 miles per gallon having been on thermal combustion engine again, using lightweight material and so forth. And then, you know, basically creating an advanced battery consortium to improve batteries out there and that has been helpful.

But typically, the issue is the cost of, you know, the moving payload a certain distance. And the EV1 was a technical marvel in terms of what it did in terms of efficiency and so forth. But it was simply, unconscionably, too expensive for anyone to buy, even if wild subsidies at GM was providing unbeknownst to everyon.

And so there's been gains in terms of the improvements in battery technology, and I think they will continue to go as your experience in the Electric Bike, but you also have to count the electricity and if you are worried about carbon footprint where the electricity is being generated and how it is being generated, and you know, right now, around the world basically electricity is mostly coal-driven and that is, you have to count in the equation, you can't forget this.

I think many people here may have watched the movie, "Who Killed the Electric Vehicle?". Was that you?

I am the guy that burned the Electric Vehicle. I was at the General Motors went down the demise.

So Craig, why don't you tell is a bit about your approach? Your primary products are electric motorcycles but you do other sports vehicles as well?

Yeah, we're focused on motorcycles right now and part of it is for the exact reason he was just talking about. It comes down to how much, how far you can go with the battery and how much payload you can push. So in our view the only vehicles that really make sense in terms of the costnow . We think cars; the batteries are still too expensive to get four passenger vehicle down the road.

So, we have really focussed on getting the cost of the batteries down. So we're in the battery business as well.

What's the cost of this motorcycle compared to So, this one's $7995, so we're working very hard to get motorcycles in electric in parity with an equivalent gas, gas right now. So one, we have just released different from this called the Impulse is very comparable to a Ducati Monster. For instance, and it is about the same cost and it goes about the same range.

And what has been the reaction? Who is buying? Is it the motorcycle enthusiast or is it the types of people who would buy a Prius? You know those are safe.

Yeah, yeah. Actually our newer products are all going to motorcyclists, it seems like. Then our initial products because they were you know early in the space. We'reoing more to the green or the electric enthusiast, I would say, but we are trying to create products that reach all the way from, you know, the aspirational customer who has never ridden a motorcycle and said 'hey, that looks like fun', all the way up to the guy that's already got the leathers and the helmet and the license.

Don, maybe you can drive the Oh, okay.

You can see right there, what's going on. But just explain to us what you are trying to do with Hico Motors.

Yeah.

And last year actually at Disrupt in September we had the Vanote Kosola on stage and he talked about Hico Motors specifically sort of an approach that he thinks is, I don't think he's invested in the electrical vehicle companies. And I asked him why and he mentioned you guys as a preface to what you are about to tell us.

Yeah. He has some investments in some disruptive battery technology, which is a good thing, but not in any of the cars. This is just some of the vehicles I've been involved with in sort of my history all over the place and from solar cars, electric hybrids, motors in the wheel, two-strokes, lean machine which was a single wide vehicle, 100 mpg ultralight, what could you do with ultralight, ultralighting and so forth, and obviously a lot of racing, but we have some pretty outrageous claims for the engine.

I'll show you in the next slide a little video that will clear up how it works. But basically an improvement in efficiency of about fifty percent depending on the configuration. About half, and that's due to the friction and heat rejection, which is the two big bugaboos of internal combustion engines eight to go, and improving efficiency.

It's about half the weight and half the size, so we're pushing on a horsepower per pound roughly for an internal combustion engine. That's about twice as good as what's out there today. And clean emissions, I'd like to say we have the lowest carbon footprint including electric cars when you count the fuel and all of that stuff, so that's always a good place to be, and then you have to have your other emissions like hydrocarbon and so forth, at legislative levels.

When you said count the fuel, when you count the.


Who is making the electricity, who's making the oil, and that sort of stuff.


So, if the power plant that provides the electricity is based on coal or something else, you have to account for that.

That's 50 per cent is, that's true in the United States, 92 per cent in China, in France it's 25 percent, you know, that's the drill. You can't not count that. You got to somehow, that has to play into the equation. So, when I hear electric vehicles are zero emissions, it's just not true. I mean, people can make the claim like Carlos Ghosn at Nissan, but it's not true.


Do you make that claim?


No, but it's...

Yours is pretty modest.
Even if you have the dirtiest coal, it's still 92% more efficient. So, it's a lot easier to scrub a plant than a million vehicles, in our view anyway.

The other key and the thing that typically gets in the way of advanced technology is cost, and that's the little football on the right there. So we're lower cost because of the less parts that we have. This gives you some idea. Opposed pistons, opposed cylinders, so this is the animation of how the engine works that is different from today's architectures.

Explain how this is different?

Today's engines, basically the piston pounds against the ceiling, the head, and it's four stroke engines. Everyone that drove here today probably came over in a four stroke engine. That's been on the king of the hill for a hundred years.

And so they see there is a lot of lost energy?

Yeah, the heat rejection they had. Opposed pistons means the pistons move at basically half the speed of normal engines, piston's where most of the friction is in the engine, about half of it. Ours run at half the speed of the normal engine, so We have about half the friction. So those are the two big issues there.

The engine is perfectly balanced, has electronic turbocharger to do the the scavenging and make it pass emission, so that's a key element. The other key role is shown in the next movie. If you wanted, you might drive a car that needs a 400 horsepower, so you could do it with one of our engines that has 400 horsepower or put two two hundred horsepower engines in and flux the crankshaft.

This is a perfectly balanced engine and basically the industry knows if you could do the stackable power, you could get a 30% improvement in efficiency. So you get about a 15% improvement in efficiency in the fundamental engine and another 30% on the dual module, and that's what creates the high efficiency on that.

And so, that's sort of the drill on that. If you take a look at the parts on the left part of the screen, there is a 300 horsepower conventional four stroke engine. It is a world class engine. I think that ones Navistar or Cummins and that one has to be a diesel. So then on the right is ours, 62 parts also 300 horsepower.

Again. We don't have any unusual material uses pistons and connecting [xx] just like industry uses today. So it leads to a lower cost position, which sort of brings me to this chart. This is, the height of the bars here is the total cost, the green is how much it cost to buy batteries, the electric motor and so forth; the bar on the left would be 100 mile range 4 passenger, sort of, electric vehicle.

The next one is like the bolt. The ATV would be a Prius-type vehicle. What everybody in the world today buys is basically either the gasoline engine or the diesel engine, which are the 2 lowest bars. We put in our four offerings, they are either our hybrids or our other ones. And so this is what I call economic gravity.

When you have a new technology, the savings and operating cost has to be more than what you, the cost of the technology. It is not that it is inferior and in the end of the day it doesn't lie. You could subsidize any, you could pay me a 100,000$ to buy something and I would do it but but it doesn't last that long, and we're looking at mostly what to do about all of transportation, not the niche players.

I think there's a lot of good niche applications for hybrids and so forth.

You know, I think it's simple because on stage, we have innovative vehicle here. It is Brammo motorcycle. We have a Tesla covered up over there. One of our start-ups is using it as part of their demo. And what you're saying though is this is all well and good, but in order to make a real impact you're better off improving the internal combustion engine, which still has a way to go.

Yeah, that would be our position, because we are looking to, you know, the huge traffic jam getting here from the airport this morning. I mean So, the internal combustion engine has been around for more than 100 years right ? And the reason it's been around for 100 years, is it's been the best.

Why didn't you do this at GM?

Don't forget, we didn't think up the engine, for one bit, and this is a heavily patented engine. But if you take a look at, don't forget that we this country with electric cars and steam engines. Then came along the 4 stroke engine which had the same characteristics, has lower cost, higher reliability, clean enough on emissions and so forth, reliable and more efficient than the counterpart.

And so in a unsubsidized fashion it became top of the hill, king of the mountain. We've taken lot of shots on trying to knock it off. The rotary engine came and went. We had two strokes, came and went. The gas turbans came and went. Fuel cells we took a real hard shot at that a few years go. At GM we tried 2 times on the electric car.

One was the Electro Chevette, if you remember that vehicle, probably didn't. And then the EV1 that we took another shot at it because of batteries improved and electronics and so forth. So, but again I claim that this curb either businessmen who need vehicles to move goods and services or people go to the market.

Every year they buy about 70 million cars and trucks around the world. And those 2 bars, the gasoline and the diesel are the ones that they all keep in mind the hybrid Prius has been out for 11 years now and it sold just under 2 million vehicles.

So Craig, what's your response, basically if I listen to this, I come to the conclusion that electric vehicles are going to remain a niche, you know, a niche part of the market, as opposed to a lot of the hype that we've been hearing that this is right around the corner, and is going to start replacing other vehicles.

Our perspective is that without players like us that are leading the path to parody with gas, so that's our goal, is that when you go in and have a choice, you can buy an electric or a gas. That you can choose electric and it ends up being dramatically less expensive over the live. But most consumers, don't do the whole-life and go well: insurance is less, maintenances is less, energy is less.

What they go is "How much do I have to write a check for today"?

Why is insurance less?

Partially because of the lower part count, and partially because of the initial ones like cars are lower speed. This one is 65 mph, so you cannot go a 130 mph on this one.

And you call that a motorcycle?

Yeah, exactly. And so, I think that's big part of it. So, our belief is that cars will get there, batteries will get there, if companies like ours could push it, you know, and our moral view is, I have got 4 young kids, and when they grow I don't want them defending oil fields. I'd rather have them working on in electric vehicle plants.

Right If anyone has any question come on up to the,the mike and I 'll calling you.

I think the right motivation,I was,was been said here is you get the parody, so that you don't need cost to get to be the issue. Right now, it's enormously expensive to buy an electric vehicle and all that so keep working on the technology, that's why I cofounded with the US Department of Energy, the USABC, to help work on driving battery cycle life up, power density, energy density, and overall cost down so that we could get the parody.

The little green barn of electric vehicles have battery.

So you haven't given up on the electric vehicle?

I advised two big battery companies today, so I'm a big fan of it and I think, we should continue to work on getting to the.

What's the key there? What's the key technological achievement that we need to get to, to make it the viable?

Dollars for kilowatt hour.

It's batteries.

I mean we made some good progress there. It was made with the undersecretary last week at the department of energy and there have a pretty aggressive forecast on what we're seeing on battery costs so that will be helpful, but they are also still very far away, keep in mind I mean a gallon of gas is an enormous, that 33 kil o per hours, Just tell that.

when are we going to see your engine in a car?

It will depend obviously on the customer's Two signed customers now, one in China, one in United States. I think both are pretty aggressive.

For One is for commercial vehicle application, another one is for genset application and then also commercial vehicles What does that mean genset?

Genset for making electricity from you know, gasoline or diesel or something like that Generator.

Generator...something. If the power.. if the grid went down today I'm sure the lights would come back on because of some diesel sitting in the back yard here.

Right.

So I would expect in the 2013 time frame. We're in the series B, we have Klosar and Bill Gates as our two financial guys running or investing in us, and we're in the middle of series B the development engine. We're on our sixth generation engine, so this is not a power point engine, we got measured data.

How much have you raised and the amount that it costs to develop this engine, how does it compare to, you know, what it would've cost to develop a novel engine at GM?

Well it would.. .the cost that we would have would be ...off by a decimal point lower than a normal automotive GM or Ford or somebody like that.

Why?
I just think the efficiencies of a small engine small company very focused on what they're trying to do .GM has things to do with other big companies. So I think, generally, like any start up you concentrate your money and your people on solving the problem, so to speak. But, there was about 50 million dollars of non-dilutive money put into it.

DARPA put about 25 million in it for a military project that they wanted to test all their goals and then there was other investments made in the technology before the company was actually found,this engine first fired in 2003. So this is not ..

It's been around.

This is not a powerpoint engine. This is not something that we just sort of dreamed up last week. This has been under development. The company Eco Motors with coastalthe series they investor was in 2008 So, what's that like to have Vinod Khosla and Bill Gates as your two biggest investors?

From my standpoint, I couldn't ask for two better investors. I think Vinod is mostly interested in company building. I've talked to this guy every week on, "Have you looked at this sort of technology? We have an investment here. Would that work on doing your inner cooling on your engine? It has nothing to do with you but it is good at cooling."

Investment and injection of company and stuff like that. So, he's unbelievably helpful in thinking about what other things we could do, markets. And, also I think very helpful in our negotiations. You know, when negotiations get too tight, he says, "The hell with it. We'll do it And, then Gates is, I think you can't get anything past him on technology and so forth.

The reason I think he invested us, he liked the low-cost idea. He thought the physics were right and liked the modular displacement and the abilities to get this.

For instance if I could wave a magic wand right now and everybody is running this engine the United States, we would be importing no oil from the mid east. That's what a 50% improvement in efficiency will do. So, with a carbon footprint lower than a electric car, the ability to significantly change the fuel consumption, and transportation is one of those unique things where you take your fuel with you.

So, it's not like you're home when the fuel comes to you, or something like that. So I know that Tesla with these guys. I am wondering when Elon Musk is going to actually switch the rockets in the Space-X to electric, and so we'll see how that is working on them.

I'm sure he's working on it.

Sure, he's working on them. The airplane I flew on today will be electric someday.

So, we'll take a question here.

Hi, my name is Edward Chin. I have a question for each of you. For Brammo, what the future of electric bikes and, you know, devices like the Segway because I'm noticing in New York, I live in New York, that there are more of these battery powered bicycles around. Do you think there is a space for that and for eco motors.

You mention that a lot of the friction comes from the piston engine. So why did you choose to go with a piston model, not something like the wankel, or the rotary engine.

Of course we believe there's a huge market for electric, 2 wheel, 3 wheel. We're really focusing on power sports in general. So it's pretty much from the NEV down because of the power to weight ratio. We're seeing sales take off. f you read any of the stats from the big analysts they're saying just in Asia the 2- wheel electric market is 10's of million of unit this year.

So we see a very bright future.

I think on your question on the rotary and why pistons, again pistons have one of the best surface to volume ratio's and they are also scalable. So that helps us in the friction model there. At GM we spend about $300 million in rotary engine we were one of the people to buy the people to buy the license from NSU at the time.

My The founder of Eco Motor which is Peter Hofbartran a VW power train for 20 years. He was at VW when they NSU who had the rotary engine. Chrysler bought the rotary engine. Ford did also. Mazda of course did. At the end of the day, it has too much friction and it simply doesn't have the right power density.

And, it's basically a failed engine architecture if you look out there.

Many people have taken a wack. Mazda did the best job of actually bringing it out and having a product. ou don't see any basically in today. The power density is wrong, and frankly the emissions level, because of the sweat volume, some of the technical stuff is just too hard to deal with.

Well, thank you both for joining us, I certainly learned a lot, and I hope everyone learned a lot. You know, we talked mostly about internet companies, but there's plenty of disruption in other industries as well and thank you for bringing that to our stage.

Great. Thank you.

OK . Thank you very much. OK. I'll take that.

Thank you very much. All right. Next we have a fireside chat with Michael and Keith Reboy.

The chief executive officers of two very different clean tech startups, Brammo and EcoMotors, discussed the relative merits and limitations of clean vehicle technology at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York on Wednesday.

Oregon-based Brammo designs and manufactures all-electric motorcycles and the battery technology and software that powers them, while Michigan-based EcoMotors designs and makes more efficient combustion engines.

EcoMotors’ CEO Don Runkle roundly criticized clean tech advocates who say all-electric vehicles (EVs) are “zero emissions.” Causing a bit of a stir in the conference hall, Runkle, the former VP of engineering at GM, went on to claim that EcoMotors’ engine technology enables car companies to produce diesel-powered vehicles that have a lower, overall carbon footprint than any electric automobile available today.

Given that electric vehicles don’t produce diesel exhaust, and don’t use fossil fuels, how can this be? Runkle explained: more than 50 percent of the world’s power is generated by the burning of coal, today, and that had to factor into the “carbon footprint” assessment of all-electric vehicles.

Brammo CEO Craig Bramscher said that he refrains from calling his company’s plug-in, electric motorcycles — including the Enertia, Empulse, Engage and Encite (some models have yet to hit the road) – “zero emissions vehicles.”

During a live broadcast backstage following the session, Bramscher noted that power generation is changing, and coal will become a smaller piece of the overall energy equation over time. He also said, “The argument you have to burn coal to generate electricity is true but [electric vehicles] still 92 percent more efficient [than combustion]…”

On the main stage, Bramscher said that personally, he didn’t want his children fighting to defend an oil field as petroleum resources become strained. He would be much happier when they grow up if they could find work designing or making batteries, instead.

Watch the video from the session on Disrupting Transportation (above) and the backstage interview with Craig Bramscher (below) to learn more about emerging clean vehicle technology from Ecomotors and Brammo.

[Ed's note: TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington makes a cameo appearance with Craig Bramscher.]

- this is probably like a 250 Honda or something like that, so real easy to ride, not too terribly fast, but fast enough to merge with traffic and everything.

- Okay, all your bikes, are they all plug in or do you need charger stations?

- Yeah. We've designed every bike so that it's any plug in a laptop, you can plug in the bike.

- Okay, fantastic. And, tell me a little about how you guys maintain that green environment minded credibility end to end. What do you put into the material analysis to make sure your batteries are green?

- Yeah, essentially we evaluate every vendor for their sustainability, so for instance our fenders are made out of ground up battery case recycled and the seats have carpet nylon. And then the colored part of the bike is actually recycled polypropylene bottles, so, water bottles.

- Okay, recycled bottles. I mean, we had a bike in the hall, I don't know where it is. Maybe, in my dream Mike just drove it out there

- Mike Harrington has itStill
in the Brammo Bike apparently, and if you could bring it back, that would be wonderful. So, can you tell us about what's new for the company? You guys have some plans to expand from thirty five employees here in Oregon. Where are you setting up shop in the world?

Well, we're opening an office in Italy because a lot of the components for motorcycles come from Italy, we also have Singapore and Hong Kong set up. We are working on all of Europe as well essentially as well,so, we are mostly a sales organizations there, but we're actually building for Europe and Hungary so that it's very short trip to the customers instead of shipping from US.

OK and that should reduce the carbon footprint of shipping.

Yeah, you want to build the bikes as close to the point of consumption as possible for the sustainability factor.

OK, and on Main Stage before, you were in discussion with Don Runkle, who's a long time automotive VP of engineering from GM now CEO of Ecomotors, you guys were discussing the fact that a lot of environmentalists have perhaps little too much faith in electric vehicles. He made a point that a lot of the world's electricity is recycled.

When do you you think we'll start to see a tipping point where electric vehicles are, you know, coming through on that promise of?

Yeah, the arguments about that you have to burn coal to generate electricity is absolutely true, but it's still 92% more efficient, and at the end of the day, it's so much cleaner to go electric. Doesn 't matter how you produce electricity. The efficiency of a gas motor is 35%. He's trying to get it to 50%.

They haven't been able to do it in a hundred years. I hope he does it, 'cause it would be great, but electric is going kick its butt in terms of efficiency.

So, the biggest problem though is you...one thing you pointed out, a gallon of gas has 33 kilowatts. Thirty-three kilowatts of batteries is bigger than a gallon of gas.

Okay.

Until those are equivalent, it's going to be a little bit of a challenge. But for us, that 's why we chose motorcycles instead of cars. It makes sense today, where cars, we think it's three to five years off, because a Nissan Leaf is still twice the price of a Sentra. Our Impulse is the same price as the Ducati Monster.

So, we're at parity now, where we think cars are a few years off.

So, what are the models you've announced so far at the Inner Show? The Impulse Yup, and also the Engage which is the first world reveal of our patent around a gearbox integrated into the electric motor to increase the efficiency but even more importantly to make it twice as fun to ride, so essentially gas bikes.

OK, how so?

Well,having a clutch and being able to slip the clutch and let the gas go is part of the excitement around that.

So it feels like a combustion.

Yeah, I mean you can pop a wheelie, you can burn rubber. At the end of the day the 28 million people that ride motorcycles in the US, they do that partially because of the fun.

Ok, so, I heard that you guys had a lap record recently for electric?

Yes, so, we went to Infineon and they had the TTX-GP.

What is that? What is that event?

It's really a race that showcases where technology is for electric vehicles. So, we beat last year's lap times by several seconds, and so every year it's getting a little bit better in terms of performance. But also, the bike that we have is one that you can actually buy next year. You could win an Infineonand then buy it in retail, so we're pretty excited about that.

Can you tell us a little bit about this, like the inertia here, that's in the demo hall?

Yeah, so as an example, this bike . The orange panels are actually all pop bottles. All this black plastic is recycled.

Security, and I'm not kidding, almost just kicked me out of my own event. "Sir you cannot, get off of that." And I said "I'm going really slow", and then I said 'hey this is my event". That got me no other safety. And then I just left, right? And the security guard is chasing me down start of alley, and I think I need to go hide in there.

You can go back with the helmet on and hide.

No, they were actually like absolutely freaking out. This is so much fun.

It is, it is.

You know, I am going to get off of this now. When security comes, you guys got to "human-shield" me, okay? Where do you want me to go?

Do a loop backstage. First time I've been on a motorcycle.

Typical customers for you or...? Who are buying these things?

They are. I think anybody that believes in the future tends to be, you know, quick to jump on board for this, so...The inertia is kind of like our beta bike. You know, it proved the technology. What we found was that we had to improve the batteries to get over a hundred mile range, so we tried really hard to find batteries that people made.

Nobody had it, so now we're in the battery business. And we're calling it Brammo power.

Okay. Could you guys ever, speaking of the battery business, I mean, it seams like the motorcycle market is slightly more limited than something like, just more general software IT business. How big could a company like Brammo become?

Well, to put it in perspective, you sell 50,000...

Got it, Greg?

Yep. Fifty thousand of these a year and you're a billion dollar company. And Harley sells, you know, 500,000 bikes a year, 400, you know, depending on the year. So, you can see where this is a, you know, five to ten billion dollar company in five to ten years, you know.

The Harley of clean tech?

Well, that...you know, your words, but, you know We like that, so I think the opportunity really gets much, much bigger too, because our batteries are very unique. So we're seeing a lot of interest from other companies. So the B2B side of our business....

What kind of companies are buying up your battery tech?

Well we've signed a bunch of NDA's, so just most of the major motorcycle and ATV manufacturers have shown interest in Brammo, more around the drive train, because we already have the motorcycles.

It 's a beautiful machine. Thank you so much for spending the time with us.

Thanks.

Image in excerpt: Michael Arrington test-drives a Brammo Enertia inside of the #tcdisrupt conference hall at Pier 94 in New York City.



Gmail’s ‘People Widget’ Takes On Rapportive, No Browser Plugin Required

Posted: 26 May 2011 01:13 PM PDT


It’s probably not a good sign that I’m this excited about an email widget, but there you go.

Google has just announced that it’s rolling out a new feature over the next week called the People Widget — a small sidebar to the right of email messages that features contextual information about the people you’re interacting with in Gmail. I don’t have the feature active yet so I’m going by the screenshots provided, but it looks like the widget includes each person’s job title, recent email exchanges you’ve had with them, photo, calendar availability, and shared Google Docs. It also includes Buzz updates (hopefully Twitter integration is coming as well).

If you only exchange a handful of messages a day then this probably isn’t a game changer for you, but if you’re constantly having to deal with a flurry of projects and hundreds of contacts, then it could be a godsend. Of course, Google actually isn’t the first company to offer contextually relevant information within Gmail (strange as that may sound). Startups like Rapportive and Xobni have created browser widgets that offer similar functionality.

Rapportive actually includes information from more sources, including LinkedIn, Skype and our own CrunchBase. But Gmail has a couple big advantages: first, it obviously doesn’t require a browser plugin, which is important from a user-acquisition standpoint. And, for those of us who are paranoid about our email, Gmail’s People Widget doesn’t require you to entrust any of your account information to a third-party. Rapportive only looks at the contacts you’re interacting with (and not your message content), but that’s still something.



Now You Can See Twitter The Way I See Twitter

Posted: 26 May 2011 12:54 PM PDT

Twitter has just rolled out a nifty little feature. Now on anyone’s profile, when click on the “Following” link, you’ll be able to see exactly how they see Twitter. In other words, you can see the same timeline of tweets that they see when they’re looking at their main feed.

It’s a cool feature that makes sense from a discovery standpoint. If you know I’m a power Twitter user that probably follows a bunch of good people, you can now quickly scan the tweets those people send out and see which ones you want to follow.

This is a similar concept to what News.me does for news stories. There, you look at a person’s profile and can see the shared links that they see in their Twitter stream. (It’s also worth noting that Twitter actually had this feature back in the day but shut it off a number of years ago.)

The old “Following” option (a list of users another user follows) is still there under the “People” tab. Here, you’ll also find a “You Both Follow” area, which is nice.

It’s important to note that you won’t be able to see protected tweets from users you don’t follow, obviously. Also worth noting: the feature doesn’t show you exactly what I see since I see my own tweets, but Twitter removes those when you look my following stream (makes sense since I’m not actually following myself — though I would, if I could).

The feature is still rolling out, so if you don’t see it just yet, don’t panic. Just wait longer. If you do see it, here’s my following stream.

Update: One more little discovery bonus. If you look at the upper right corner of the following page you’ll see a “shuffle” icon. Hovering over this reveals the option to “jump to someone you follow”. So you can jump between people you follow and find new people to follow from their streams.



90% Of Users Join Tumblr From Blogs, 85% Of Those Users Are Still Blogging A Week Later

Posted: 26 May 2011 11:30 AM PDT

David Karp is the founder CEO of Tumblr and Kevin is the CEO and founder of instigram and this panel is on hockey stick growth and both of these founders have experienced hockey stick growth at different stages. Instagram is a much younger company and Tumblr is just taking over the web. What do you, you do like 250 billion impressions a day?

250 million a day.

250 million, I'm sorry, okay.

About 7 billion a month now.

No 250 million, yeah.

Yeah, sorry.

So you are 250 Million a day and you were at 250 million a month just a few months ago, right?


Yeah, the sort of exponential growth we started to see is really sort of counter intuitive like to think back a year ago how many servers we were ordering. We were thinking about scale it just doesn't apply at all today and looking forward the next six months, planning is an interesting exercise, but often feels futile.

Right. I think we have some charts, if we can put them on the screen now would be great. So that's your pretty, I dunno its hard to tell, I mean it's been pretty, what were the inflection points? If you have to look at that, and pick as many inflection points as you want, I mean what's the story that that chart tells you?

So, one reason it's been hard to, I dunno, the interesting thing the whole way through is if you slice that chart anywhere and zoom in, it looks pretty much the same at any level along the way it's just that, you know, today the numbers that we're talking about, I think are a bit more substantial than they were, you know, two years ago when even though the graph looked pretty much the same, slope hasn't really, you know, it's always looked like it was tickingout its never been easy to think about, as far as reflection points, the only thing I think that's really pivoted over the last four years is been whether or not most of that growth was international versus domestic.

And our first year was almost entirely US traffic. That next year we started to see significant international growth for the first time, to the point by the end of the year, by the end of our second year we were something like 75% international traffic. Then it started to even out and now you can see in that graph, orange is US domestic traffic.

That makes up about 40 percent of our traffic today. So it's now starting to, I think, much of the significant growth we've seen over the last six months has been, sort of mainstream adoption overseas. So Brazil, Southeast Asia, Japan, various European countries starting to take to Tumblr the way the US was starting to adopt Tumblr a couple of years ago.

So now lets look at the in instagram chart. That's a different scale, what is that scale? Actually how many photos are posted per minute?

Per minute?

Absolutely.

So we are getting about ten photos per second right now.

And that was, last time I talked to you, was six or four? It was a few months ago.

I mean, I think a lot of what you just said really resonates with us as well which is, you never expect growth to keep growing the way it has been growing until you wake up one morning and you say, that growth we saw last month, that we thought was really large, just pales in comparison to what we're seeing today.

And it's really exciting to wake up every morning and see that. I think on this chart, you were asking about inflection points. t's been a pretty steady growth since Christmas of this past year. Christmas day was like this huge day when everyone opened their iPhones and started using camera apps again because the iPhone 4 had this better camera.

yours is international versus US.

It's interesting because I actually think that our app was international from the very beginning and that actually surprised us. In fact, it was probably more international at the beginning than it is today. I think most of our growth early on was in Japan. And, only now am I seeing large growth in the United States as well.

Do you think there's also a difference between mobile and web, and there's a lot of mobile components at Tumblr, obviously, but, if you think back to the, you know, where you were at this stage, right, I mean, is there any advice you have for Kevin?

Yeah, Kevin seems to be a few steps ahead of me actually. I think he's been hanging out with the right people. One thing that, most of the stuff that I look back and kinda go man I could've done better was, sort of team building stuff, or more than team, really company building stuff, that it's just, it's easy to start setting up when it doesn't really matter if you kind of fail or need to change things dramatically.

You know if you're 5 people or a dozen people it's much easier year to kind of say, okay, this is the scaffolding for the bigger company that we're going to grow into. Rather than, now we really doubled the size of our team in the last 6 months, now we're thirty plus people and I'm holding all team meetings for the first time in our four and a half year history.

You know, I could have started practicing those back when we were a dozen people.

Right. So, as your usage grows, right? Obviously you have the scale of the technology and that's a big challenge in and of itself. I'd like to hear you guys talk a little about that. And how many server melt downs have you lived through, if you can still count them. But then on the other hand what you talk to here which is not only to scale technology you've got scale of the organization, right?

And how do you do that, and does that come up faster than you thought it would, would be you need to fill certain roles that you didn't think you'd have to fill for 6 months and all of a sudden you really need it.

So,I'm terribly curious to hear how Kevin's been approaching the what their attitude toward the scaling and the architecture is.

I'll tell you that the thing that our investors kind of beat into me for years before it finally clicked, and I sort of accepted or understood it, was it was really just a question that I would get at every board meeting which is, "Is the way that you're thinking about scaling, or the way you are thinking about technology going to scale?"

What I now see what they meant was, whatever position you're in and whatever expectations for where your product is going, exponential growth is sort of unfathomable until you cross over to the other side, and all of these steps along the way require completely different solutions.

As a scrappy team of two engineers at Tumblr for three years, we wanted to come up with clever solutions and engineer our way out of any scaling challenges which came along.

Realistically, negotiating transit, building up multiple data centers and building an application that can, live and write to multiple data centers are things that are really sort of impossibly large challenges for people that haven't been through them before. And approaching it that way of, there are just things that, this is the reason that Facebook has very smartly gone through several, sort of, iterations of their engineering team, bringing in people who have been through these things before and know how to think about this next level of scale and it's why at this point I completely defer to our operation's and engineering's teams who have seen the stuff before, cause it's not stuff where I can help with anymore and it's not a place where I can be clever anymore.

How are you in terms of all of these companies that just take off, whether it was Twitter or Tumblr. Right? You have these periods where it's down, and everyone makes a big deal about it because it's not available. And if people start to rely on a service, it becomes noticed when it's not available.

It's been a few weeks since the last time I heard that Tumblr was down. Where are you?

I would say first of all, when that stuff happens its absolutely heartbreaking, I mean it's like the most gut-wrenching experience in the world and I don't think absolutely gut-wrenching experience. Well lets see, what took, it took me too long to realize that for us it was actually that we needed more resources, we needed to be in more data centers, we needed a bigger engineering team.

And interestingly, if you actually zoom out and look at our all last-team meeting, we looked at that traffic graph next to our up-time graph for the last year. And you can see nine months ago, when it started getting a little bit rocky where we had, you know, fantastic up-time and performance for years before that, all of the sudden, we were hit with this growth that, again, it was that exponential growth that's, just sort of, impossible to imagine where you're, you know, you're just, like, OK we're ordering, you know, how ever many servers a week and in a few months we'll be ordering this many servers a week.

You don't realize that, like, you know, it's a lot of work for your managed data centers to set up racks of servers. They might be fine to turn on one server for you a day but all of a sudden you place an order for 10 racks and they're like, okay give us a couple of weeks. And you know, it It's a completely different world and a completely different set of solutions.

Anyway, the graph that we looked at was watching our up-time get kind of rocky over a few months, and then our down-time in December, we had a major outage that took our site down for a day, which was like the most painful thing in the world. And, it happened that in December was when we started to do our real push for hiring, recruiting really spectacular engineers.

We quadrupled the size of our engineering team since December, and if you look at our up-time graphs since then it just straight slope or its actually very steep slope straight up and out or back to several nines up time.

And you have great 404 error.

Getting better, yeah. The thing that was really important to us through this whole experience was that, or has been really important to us, is making sure that that's not something that kind of defines our company. I think it was sort of a stigma that hasn't quite left Twitter. I think all of these stigmas you can leave behind.

I think generally it takes somewhere between three months and a year before people...The internet has a very short attention span and very short memory.

Have you had any big meltdowns Kevin?


Yeah, we had actually the first day, we launched and we had no idea we we're going to be as big as we became. And that first day we were on a single computer in a managed data center. And I still remember my co-founder Mike, calling them up and saying, "We need another computer," and they're like, "It will be 6 hours." And we didn't half six hours, so we ended up moving to Amazon actually for everything and I think it's a trend now with a lot of the smaller start-ups including ourselves to move to the cloud because of the flexibility that you have with growth.

On the downside, you're paying more than you would if you owned your own assets. But that flexibility I think really allows you to scale. At least at our level, very quickly. And then...

But then when
Amazon's down...

Yeah, when
Amazon's, so it's, you know, but at the same time if you do Amazon correctly you don't face those things and I think a lot of people were in one availability zone and that really bit everyone in the butt so.

Let's talk a little bit about, this is a high quality problem to have obviously. Right?

It's a great problem.

Can you manufacture growth, or do you just build the best product you can and what happens happens? I'm not sure you can manufacture growth, actually you can, but I'm not sure it will be sustained. Like you see this in the app store all the time. We live and die by you know the top three apps right, and you see apps that have a one-star ratings pop to the top and you realize that something is going on there, so you can manufacture short-term growth but I don't think that long-term growth, the nice growth you want to see in a products, you can manufacture outside of building a great product and outside of building a great team that builds that great product.

When you build something that people really want it turns out it spreads really well. And I think, you know, from day one we saw that there was something special about this thing we call Instagram, like, the second we put it out people really resonated with it. Our job was to really support that government.

Right, so if anyone has questions we can come up to the mikes and I'll call on you. One thing I like to talk about is, it seems to me and correct me if I'm wrong, but for Tumblr, I would guess that a lot of the growth is sort of, feeds it on itself. It's sort of in turn, just the way the product is designed, right?

Yeah.

People reblog and you know, the traffic is coming from other Tumblr blogs.

So 90% of our new registrations actually come through the, come through blogs on Tumblr. That's 90%, so that means the other 10% are people typing in tumblr.com directly, googling, I don't know. Blog platforms or something. But 90% come from the Join Tumblr button up in the corner of blogs, the Follow button on blogs, typing in Tumblr after you've visited a blog on Tumblr so you're, you know, trying to investigate what this thing is that they're using, or clicking the Powered by Tumblr link at the bottom of the screen.

Not huge, you know, promotion or anything and there's, frankly, pretty little incentive to sign up. It's not like you have to register to comment on those blogs or to interact with them. But people see these things that people are doing with Tumblr and it inspires them to want to try that for themselves.

Right.

And that's a pretty cool feeling, and I also think that's one reason our retention has been so good. So 85% percent of those new people who signed up are still posting a week later, which is spectacular.

And for you how much is it internal growth versus, I think you did a really great job of Using Twitter and you know Tumblr, and Facebook and all these other social channels that exist to spread the, you know, like i want to broadcast my photos right? And just looking at it, I dont necessarily, if I happen to open an Instagram then I'll go through the feed, but really I look at it because I see my Twitter feed and I click through, right?

Yeah.

So how much are you using these external networks to drive the growth?

External networks certainly drive the most growth that we have. It's great when your growth strategy is also aligned with your product strategy. Our growth strategy was: get out on other networks; allow people to broadcast their photos to existing networks, while building bootstrapping one underneath.

That's because we felt like that solved a problem for people. People wanted to take pictures and have them shared on multiple networks all at once. So, that simple fact of of our product strategy aligning with the growth strategy has been fantastic for us.

Right. So if you look at other photo apps, there's like this proliferation of photo apps right now, even in the start-up battlefield. And if you look at Path or Color, which took a more private approach, you can understand why philosophically they did that because they wanted to maybe share things that people don't want to share publicly.

But I think that hurt them. I mean definitely, like yesterday, opened up Color,Keith here opened up Color. There's no other pictures in this crowd. So nobody is using that. I think that that's an issue. For Path, for instance, I think that they would be much more popular if there was more of a public sharing, which now they have sort of like Facebook.

There's a lot of founders here who are doing, not just photo apps but other apps, that they're trying to figure out, like closed groups versus public groups. What's the pros and cons. go one way versus the other?

So for us, we took a really strong bet on the follow model to begin with, because we hadn't seen that done on photos before in a really strong way. There was no network out there, that we felt like embodied that follow model, and we wanted you to allow you to discover people anywhere in the world.

I think that that simple bet--and it was a bet, by the way, because it wasn't clear that it was going to take off in any way at the time--that simple bet allowed us to grow because it meant you could use the service without knowing any of your friends on it. You could discover cool people to follow anywhere in the world, and I think that really aided our growth early on.

Tumblr is just much easier to think about in terms of product. If you look at Flickr, which was sort of, absolutely the home to photos for many years, which tried to include public and privacy controls, it leads to very convoluted settings pages; it leads to a lot more overhead when actually creating content because you've got a whole bunch of boxes to check, and define what groups you want this to go to, and whether you want this to show up on your main feeder and not in your RSS feed and not syndicated and create a commons versus a registered train, all that stuff just adds a whole layer of complexity that Tumblr and Instagram are in the fortunate position of not having to think about.

So one last question, and I'll take a couple from the audience. If you were starting Tumblr today, would you do it exactly the same way or would you start mobile first?

Oh, you know, I haven't thought about that at length because we're not. I don't know. The distribution of the app store absolutely changes the scheme completely. I don't know what I would do if I were in the same position.

OK. Why don't we take a question there.

Hi, Katherine Fitzpatrick from Wirestate. You didn't mention anything about whether you scaled up customer service. I wondered if that was something you did and also how you handle unlawful or objectionable content. Have you had to do a lot more deletions, abuse reports? How that's working out. Thanks.

I got incredibly lucky with this, finding someone in the community early, or they found me and were just they were the right person in the very beginning. And they took our community service and ran with it. It's scaled up but sort of separate from anything that I've had too much involvement with. It's not something that is so natural for me, sort of designing a good customer service team and experience, so I sort of set them on that track and let them run with it and just kind of helped give them any resources that they need to do a good job.

Who's our first hire?

The first hire we had was not an engineer but was actually a customer support, a person who I work with at a company before. And he's turned into the Director of Community at our company and does fantastically well at managing problems that arise in the community, because it turns out when your product is based on community, it's the most important asset you have.

Anyone can build a photo sharing app. Not everyone can build 4.25 million users, like, loving each other's photos. And we need to make sure that that continues. We need to guard that asset. So we definitely put a lot of investment into that area.

Did you have a question Alexia?What ? Yell it.

4.25, we have 4.25 million users.

4.25 million. Yeah that's a headline. Alright, question?

That's correct.

Alright, one last question. We're out of time, one last question.

Hi, Tiffany Black and I'm tweeting for Inc Magazine from here and the question that was asked is 'What's up with Android and Instagram'?

Yeah. Android is one of these things that has been on the top of our mind for a while now. To give you an idea, we're four people right now. And these four people have really helped us, well, including myself, you know grow to where we are.

And you're a million people per employee, not even per engineer.

Not even per engineer. Yeah. If you count me as a half an engineer. I probably do too much coding for a CEO, and as we talked before, it's definitely top of minds to make sure that we grow out our engineering team and tackle problems like Android. Cause there are a whole lot of people that use Android phones and we want to make sure it becomes available to them.it also unfortunately sucks to develop for.

I didn't say it he did that.

Ok with that, we are running a little bit late but please give a round of applause to Kevin and David, thank you very much. Thanks, that was terrific guys.

Thank you.

Thank you. You can go down there

Tumblr founder David Karp and Instagram founder Kevin Systrom took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt to talk about the hockey stick growth of their respective companies. Tumblr in particular is showing insane growth numbers; On May 16th, 2011 Tumblr did 250 million pageviews, more pageviews than it had in all of July 2009. That record was then surpassed six days later, at 275 million pageviews on Sunday May 22th. There were also 34.3 million posts on that Sunday, also a Tumblr record.

Perhaps the service is demonstrating sustained success because of its organic user acquisition methods; 90% of Tumblr’s new registrations come through Tumblr blogs themselves.

Says Karp on the new users, “90% come from the Join Tumblr button up in the corner of blogs, the Follow button on blogs, typing in Tumblr after you’ve visited a blog on Tumblr so you’re trying to investigate what this thing is that they’re using, or clicking the Powered by Tumblr link at the bottom of the screen.” This means that the other 10% are either typing in Tumblr.com directly or Googling. Once registered 85% of users are still posting a week after sign up.

There are currently almost 20 million blogs on Tumblr, and that number seems to be rapidly rising. “Frankly, [there's] pretty little incentive to sign up,” says Karp. “It’s not like you have to register to comment on those blogs or to interact with them. But people see these things that people are doing with Tumblr and it inspires them to want to try that for themselves.”



Startup Mantra: Hire Fast, Fire Fast

Posted: 26 May 2011 11:18 AM PDT

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Mark Suster (@msuster), a 2x entrepreneur, now VC at GRP Partners. Read more about Suster at his Startup BlogBothSidesoftheTable.

I have often said that what separates real entrepreneurs from pundits and bystanders is a bias towards getting things done versus over analyzing things. My credo has always been JFDI.

It's the hardest thing to teach people who come out of big companies, out of conservative jobs. At the big consulting firms, investment banks and established large technology companies we're taught to produce long reports, make sure that every document is perfect quality and that every possible bit of diligence has been done. Good enough isn't.

And so things operate on a CYA basis.

That doesn't work in a startup.

There's a certain cadence that you can feel when you spend time hanging any well-run startup company. The management team has to have a bias toward making decisions. They know that a 70% accurate decision made quickly and based on sound principles is better than a 90% decision made after careful consideration.

The startup entrepreneur knows that they're going to be wrong often. They're flexible and willing to admit when they're wrong. They don't create a culture of punishment for mistakes. They live be the credo that if you're never making mistakes you're not trying hard enough.

In my mind the sign of a great entrepreneur is the one that spots the 30% scenario quickly and adjusts but doesn't get gun shy about rapid decision-making in the future.

In fact, analysis paralysis drives me fucking bonkers. It is not uncommon in a meeting for me to say, "There are three choices: A, B, C. My gut tells me that we ought to do B. But let's decide as a group. I don't care if my view isn't selected. Let's make a decision and move on."

Many people find this uncomfortable. The world is filled with people who don't like having to put their neck on the line and say what they think. I don't really care if I'm wrong as long as I'm not dogmatic if evidence later shows we need to change course.

So that was a long walk into the topic of recruiting. But given that I believe the success of startups is almost entirely correlated with having extra-ordinary talent, the ability to source, select and inspire new staff to join is one of the greatest early tests of entrepreneurs.

There is an old management adage that says, "Hire slowly, fire fast." The idea has become conventional wisdom. It says that you need to take due care in selecting team members. It also says that you need to act quickly when your instinct says somebody isn't working out.

Only half of this adage is accurate for startups.

Hire Slowly?
This is the bit I have a problem with. I don't think that recruiting is any different than any other decision process in a company. You're never really going to know how somebody is going to perform in the role, how good of a cultural fit he or she is going to be and how motivated they're going to become until they're on the inside.

I'm not arguing that no screening is required. There are obvious questions you have give staff to get a gut feel on cultural fit, intelligence, aptitude and the like.

But here's the thing. I see many teams that feel the need to interview another 3 candidates just to be sure. They suffer the decision on the way in. They over think the decision framework.

I come from the "Blink" school of recruiting and decision-making. If you haven't read it, you should. As humans most of us are inherently good at reading people and our innate instincts for "fit" are much better than our ability to analyze humans on a spreadsheet.

I also subscribe to the views that you should always be recruiting (ABR) and when great people pop up you hire them and then find a way to make the role fit. I'd much rather have the super bright, super ambitious, great cultural fit in my business now than look for the "perfect" person who's done this job before and maybe find them in 3 months. 3 months is a lifetime in a startup.

If you haven't read it I've written before on these topics:
1. Attitude over Aptitude
2. Only Hire A+ People
3. Hiring at a Startup

And just as my gut feel about the likely success of startups is often determined by looking at their velocity of product development and market progress of their product, so too is recruiting a factor in my assessment.

Great leaders and great teams have the ability to find potential staff, evaluate their fit, inspire them to join and onboard them. They have good recruiting velocity.

Any team that I work with that struggles to hire people quickly knows that I'm likely frustrated because I have many other companies that I work with that aren't so slow.

And when we didn't ship product on time, didn't get the biz dev deals we wanted competed, didn't get our market messages out and the founder says, "sorry, I had too many other priorities – like fund raising" they know it will fall on deaf ears with me. Time spent onboarding new talented team members always yields more productivity than doing everything yourself.

"But we don't have budget!"

Great entrepreneurs find a way. Recruiting cadence matters.

Fire Fast?
I've written in the past about changing jobs too frequently and I received a lot of blow-back from technical people who said, "I had asshole CEOs. When we hit a bump in the road he was very quick to slash-and-burn."

I was trying to argue that it's OK to change jobs a few times when you're young and that "things happen" but that if things happened 5-6 times there is probably a pattern that isn't completely the fault of some asshole boss.

But people don't like to hear about firing or job cuts, so I was flamed.

So I have been reluctant to weigh in again on the topic publicly. Brad Feld and I were discussing the topic at lunch at the most excellent Glue Conference this week in Boulder.

He encouraged me to write this post and after smoking me out on Twitter I had no choice. ;-) Outed.

So here goes.

I have never regretted firing anybody. Not once.

I have on many occasions regretted not firing somebody quickly enough.

I don't take any pride in letting somebody go. I recognize that it affects somebody economically, can affect somebody's personal life and is one big blow to the ego. But if you're afraid of firing people you shouldn't be an entrepreneur. No startup company has any spare capacity for dead weight.

I've made every excuse to myself in the past, "I can't fire him now, he owns the customer relationships and it's a crucial point in our sales process." Or, "I haven't given him a long-enough chance to prove himself – let me see how he develops" or even, "it will have a big impact on morale because she is well liked. I can't afford that right now."

I've heard VCs use similar rationale, "We knew the CEO wasn't working out but we couldn't fire him because it would have made it too hard to get a fund raising round done" only to later regret not moving more quickly and reacting to the obvious discontent of the rest of the startup team.

I've lived through every excuse. And for every firing procrastination I've made, one month afterwards I've always felt the exact same way, "Why didn't I do this three months early?"

Trust me: if you know, you know. If you know, do it now. Things don't get better. Your "Blink" instincts are right. You won't patch things up. Delaying the inevitable is not going to make things smoother with your investors, biz dev partners, customers or employees.

There is only one answer: fire fast.

Firing somebody is no different than the other 10,000 decisions you need to make in your company to survive. You free up much needed budget. You free up the org chart to bring in new blood. Almost universally your staff will come out of the wood-works and say, "thank you, he needed to go."

When people aren't pulling their weight other members who are know it. And they're grateful to work in an organization where they're valued and slackers aren't.

When you have to fire somebody, don't pussyfoot about. Don't make up fake excuses about why they're going or try to pretend it's a redundancy or something. Tell them specifically what isn't working. Don't be mean for the sake of it. Give them suggestions of how they might think about the situation differently at the next company. Give them honest and constructive feedback.

If the sacking is legitimate, chances are they knew in their gut it wasn't working and will appreciate the candor.

Obviously make sure that you're following a legal process. In the US and UK if the termination comes reasonably quickly you're almost always OK but please double-check with your legal advisors.

To be clear – I'm not advocating creating a slash-and-burn employee culture where there is a constant revolving door. I do believe that you set the tone in your company that you as a founder work your arse off and expect it of others. You make sure people know it's a meritocracy and the best staff will rise to the top. Age and experience are irrelevant. Good people get ahead, bad people get asked to leave.

So there you have it. Most companies hire slowly and fire slowly – the exact opposite of best practice for startups.

Pick up your recruiting cadence. Take a risk on people who you think will be a good fit. Don't look for perfect resumes. Take some chances. Trust your gut feel. And when you got it wrong you move on. You'll recover.

Move fast. Don't delay the inevitable. Check your legal framework. Get your papers in order. Treat people with respect and professionalism. Be open and productive. But honest with them about their shortcomings or why they aren't working culturally. But fire them quickly.

Flame away.

Image courtesy of Joeff via Flickr.



A Year After Diaspora, Another “Facebook Alternative” Emerges: Altly

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:57 AM PDT

It was almost exactly a year ago that Diaspora started raising money on Kickstarter. A few weeks later, they had raised $200,000 from nearly 6,500 backers. Why so much excitement? Because Diaspora was aiming to be a Facebook alternative. That hasn’t exactly worked out. At least not yet. But now another startup is about to give it a go, Altly.

So why will this one be any different than Diasopra? Well, for one thing, it’s being started by a pretty well-known entrepreneur. Dmitry Shapiro, the founder of Veoh, is also the one behind Altly. While Veoh didn’t end so well (a firesale acquisition after raising nearly $70 million), they were once a very hot property in the online video space.

But even more notably, Shapiro was most recently an executive at Facebook rival MySpace (he worked on MySpace Music).

So why is Shapiro now aiming head-first at Facebook? He outlines the decision in a lengthy post on Altly’s blog. The basic gist? Facebook’s privacy controls are too confusing. And their social graph is now a mess. Oh, and they’re way too big and powerful. Their “tentacles” are everywhere on the web, and this is a problem because our privacy is at risk. Our data is locked in. Etc.

In other words, the usual critiques of Facebook.

But my favorite reason is this:

At this time there are no real alternatives to Facebook, as most people believe that no one can possibly create an alternative.

Mind. Blown. Well, except for the aforementioned Diaspora. And MySpace, which was once king, and tried to compete with Facebook, but simply lost. And others.

But Shapiro does have a point. As he writes:

There are NO serious alternatives at this time.  For every Coke there is a Pepsi, for every Ford there is a Chevy, for every PC there is a Mac and for every Facebook there is…. a void!  Facebook has such overwhelming power that practically no one believes that trying to build an alternative is possible.

But the problem is that this is not because of anything nefarious Facebook is doing. It’s simply because the rivals that have popped up haven’t been very good. And Facebook, for all its faults, is a very good, and very well-run product.

So Altly will take on this monumental task. And they’ll apparently do so with backing from DFJ.

They seem to be saying the right things. But so did Diaspora. It’s all about the execution. We’ll be watching this one closely, obviously.



Special Stickers Will Bring Google Wallet To Android Phones That Lack NFC

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:47 AM PDT

We’re here at Google’s NFC payments announcement, where the search giant has announced a new, important product called Google Wallet (see our comprehensive post on the announcement here). Google Wallet will be launching this summer — it’s currently in field testing — allowing users to tap their phones against NFC-enabled terminals to pay for goods, redeem offers, and use their loyalty cards in a single tap.

Of course, the vast majority of phones out there do not support NFC (the Nexus S is currently the only Android phone on the market that has the technology). Google and its partners reiterated that NFC will be surging in popularity over the next couple of years, and for the time being this is really a first step. But Google also has a plan to enable older devices to use a more limited version of the app: stickers that you can put on the back of your phone.

Google’s Osama Bedier was intentionally vague about the details, but here’s what the plan seems to be: users will be able to obtain special NFC stickers with a single credit card associated with them (such stickers already exist, but these stickers will apparently be able to communicate with the Google Wallet app). It sounds like transactions made using the sticker will be relayed to the Wallet application on your Android device via the cloud. Bedier added that the experience would be limited compared to what you’d get on NFC-enabled phones, but it still sounds pretty nifty.

It’s possible this functionality will be extended to other platforms as well, as Google says it’s willing to partner with everyone to help broaden support for Google Wallet.

And, even if you don’t have the sticker, you’ll still be able to use the Wallet app to keep track of your offers, which you’ll be able to show to cashiers at participating retailers (SCVNGR and Groupon do similar things with their mobile apps).



The Gilt For Indian Fashion Exclusively.in Raises $16 Million

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:30 AM PDT

Exclusively.In, a members-only niche flash sales site for fashion, jewelry and home decor from Indian artisans and designers, has raised $16 million in new funding led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from Accel Partners India and Helion Venture Partners. This brings the company’s total funding to $18.6 million.

As we’ve written in the past, the site features high-end traditional Indian apparel as well as scarves, jewelry, handbags, crafts, paintings, photography and other home goods made by Indian designers. And Exclusively.in also recently launched travel and wedding verticals.

As part of its expansion strategy, Exclusively.In is also announcing its official launch into the U.K. market, one of the largest consumer markets for Indian fashion outside of India. The site plans to to roll out additional markets as well, including Canada and India in the coming months.

Although the site caters to the Indian diaspora currently but it will be interesting if Exclusively.In will be able to appeal to a broader audience. The company's co-founder and CEO Sunjay Guleria tells us that site has experienced strong demand from a broad base of consumers, not just the Indian diaspora, as "Indian-infused" fashion and decorations go mainstream. And Exclusively.In is growing at a 50 percent month-on-month rate already just in the US.

Eventually, Guleria says that Exclusively.in will be a hybrid e-commerce site, offering both flash sales and regularly prices items in permanent collections. And the site is hoping to add curates sales and an editorial component (a strategy that both Gilt and One Kings Lane are pursuing as well).

Exclusively.In plans to used the funding for new market expansion, optimization of its merchandising mix, further growth of its userbase, and for hiring.



Google Wallet On iPhone, WP7, RIM: “We Will Partner With Everyone” (But Will *They*?)

Posted: 26 May 2011 10:19 AM PDT

Today, during their Google Wallet/Offers unveiling at the NYC headquarters, Google touted the openness of their new system. Naturally, someone asked a question about what this meant for other, non-Android phone?

“In terms of iPhone, RIM, Microsoft — we will partner with everyone,” Google VP of Commerce Stephanie Tilenius said. Of course, that depends on two things: 1) the inclusion of NFC chips in their phones. 2) the willingness to work with Google on this system.

The former seems to be a sure thing at this point. The latter? Yeah…

It has been widely rumored for months that Apple was working on their own NFC solution for a future version of the iPhone (perhaps the next iteration, perhaps not). It is coming, and Apple is going to want to use their own payment solution. The same is likely true for Microsoft and RIM. NFC is a huge opportunity — massive, really — it doesn’t make a lot of sense to partner with a rival on it.

Probably knowing this, Tilenius was sure to follow up with the big stats. In the past six months, Android is the leading mobile operating system, she noted. They have 50 percent of the market now. She reiterated that Google is making a huge bet on NFC and they’re willing to work with any partner on this.

We’ll see what those potential partners have to say…

Update: But there may be another way. While Google only mentioned it in passing, apparently, there will be a sticker that can be applied to any device (on the back or where ever a customer wanted to put it) that can hold the information for one card. This sticker, when tapped on an NFC device, then works with Google’s cloud and an app on your phone to handle payments.

In other words, if the other players were willing to accept a Google Wallet app on their devices, a somewhat limited (again, one card) version of this system could work pretty easily without hardware modification. Next question: would Apple approve such an app?



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