Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Songkick Launches iPhone App To Connect Location To Gigs

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 08:11 AM PDT

I have a confession to make. I’m a fan of live bands, but what with one thing or another, I just don’t get to see enough. I signed up to all the obvious sites to get emails about upcoming gigs. I don’t read their emails. I’ve scrobbled and playlisted and put in my preferences multiple times on numerous sites. Do I go back to visit? No. What I’ve been waiting for is an app which you can pull out in front of friends when they say “Yeah, let’s go and see [band name]…” on the spur of the moment.

But no apps on the iPhone have got substantial traction for concert discovery. Ticketmaster/LiveNations’ app is only in the US, only presents Ticketmaster concerts and iLike’s ‘local concerts’ app has been in life-support mode since they were acquired by MySpace. The odd thing is movie discover apps like Flixster have had 30 million downloads

So I’m excited that Songkick the social platform for live music is launching an iPhone app today.



Ericsson Money Launches In Europe To Send And Receive Money Via Mobile

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 07:06 AM PDT

Remember Ericsson? Yeah, they used to make mobile phones on their own. Then they realised they couldn’t compete against Nokia, Motorola and the rest, and spun out their mobile division to hook up with Sony, who also realised that they were getting squeezed. Sony Ericcson mobile has trundled along for a few years and are even coming out with handheld mashups like the Xperia Play. But the mothership of Ericsson itself has largely turned into a telecoms and services company. Today, however they are doing something unusually disruptive.

Ericsson Money is launching across seven European countries (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden) and allows anyone to send and receive money via mobile. Eventually there will be a commission fee for sending money but for a limited time it’s free.



SaaS Field Service Software ServiceMax Raises $14M From Mayfield, Salesforce And Others

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 07:00 AM PDT

Startup ServiceMax, a company that develops SaaS field service software, has raised $14 million in new funding led by Mayfield Fund with Trinity Ventures, Emergence Capital and Salesforce.com also
participating in the round. To date, the company has raised $26 million.

As field service software, ServiceMax essentially helps manage other company’s equipment at their sites. ServiceMax software automates workforce optimization, advanced scheduling and dispatch, parts logistics, inventory and depot repair, and installed base entitlements. ServiceMax is being used currently by 60 different customers including DuPont. And the company reports 380 percent year-over-year growth in first quarter 2011.

Built on top of Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform, ServiceMax has gained considerable support from Salesforce. The technology giant participated on both of ServiceMax’s funding rounds and the startup features an app on Salesforce Chatter’s app marketplace ChatterExchange.

ServiceMax also recently released an iPad app that gives service agents a mobile solution.



A New Mobile App For “Quickly Window Shopping The World.” Do You Want.it?

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 06:00 AM PDT

There are about a million Tweets a day with the word “I Want,” and now there is a mobile photo sharing app that can capture all those things people want and share them with the world. The iPhone app is called Want!, the site is Want.it, and the concept is simple: you take a picture of things you want, give it a description, and share it with friends.

The app can broadcast your wants to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr. It pulls in locations from Facebook and tags from your description. “We want it to be a tool for quickly window shopping the world,” says co_founder and CEO Gene DeRose, who gives me a demo in the video above. You can take pictures of anything you desire: a beautiful watch, a shirt your friend is wearing, a plate of ribs, a nap, a day at the beach. It’s a mobile “like” button. “Like is kind of meh,” says DeRose, “it is kind of meta and that is great. But want is more actionable. It has a possible end in commerce.”

The app lets you follow other people and their wants, and organizes wants by tags such as music, book, car, wine, design, cool, beer, and so on. The app shows the most popular wants as well as a feed of the wants of the people you are following. In addition to people, you can also follow tags, venues, and neighborhoods. Want pulls in location data from Foursquare. Since everything is geo-tagged, you can also see wants nearby. Or if you are at a certain store or restaurant, you can see the most wanted items. Every user generates their own personal catalog of things that they want, and the app can generate most wanted lists across different vectors: location, person, tag.

DeRose was CEO of research firm Jupiter Communications between 1995 and 2002, where a young Dennis Crowley once worked for him. DeRose then went on to found House Party, which helps brands sponsor social gatherings. His co-founder Michael Satow founded MarketXT, which was the first after-hours stock market for retail investors in the 1990s. He was also the CEO of JDS Pharmaceuticals and Mirror Worlds (which is in a $625 million patent dispute with Apple). DeRose and Satow co-founded Skymarker, the New York-based parent company of Want.it, with $300,000 out of their on pockets.



CapLinked Helps Entrepreneurs And Investors Intelligently Leverage LinkedIn Contacts

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 05:57 AM PDT

We’ve previously written about CapLinked, the LinkedIn-meets-SalesForce for private investing, which was founded by former PayPal marketing exec Eric Jackson and funded by a number of well known members of the PayPal mafia.

Entrepreneurs use CapLinked to raise capital and sell or buy assets, manage and contact investor prospects, centralize document flow on a secure platform and connect with new investors, advisors and companies. Investors can use CapLinked to manage deals, build public profiles and connect with promising startups.

The new "Suggestions" feature allows CapLinked users to send out invitations for deals, recommendations or other business opportunities through LinkedIn's messaging system that are then delivered as LinkedIn notifications.

The "Suggestions" tool's inherent value to users resides in its ability to intelligently identify the full scope of someone's LinkedIn connections, and match you to your connections that may be able to help you, based on your profile on CapLinked. For now, the suggestions feature only works with direct connections on LinkedIn.

Jackson reports that the company has grown 350 percent this year and has approximately 10,000 users, representing 4,000 companies and 3,700 investors. The 320 deals currently on CapLinked represent nearly $1.5 billion of deal volume on the site.

Eventually CapLinked plans to add a Facebook suggestions tool as well, says Jackson.



Paramount And Twitter Team Up To Offer Sneak Previews And Free Popcorn To Moviegoers

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 05:21 AM PDT

Twitter has just announced a partnership with movie studio Paramount to offer Twitter users access to sneak preview showings of the studio’s new movie SUPER 8 for on Thursday, June 9, in advance of the film’s scheduled nationwide release on Friday, June 10.

Twitter says this is the first partnership where twitter is hosting movie sneak previews. To promote the sneak previews, the companies have designated the hashtag #Super8Secret, which Paramount has also sponsored as a Promoted Trend, which gives users a direct link to buy tickets to the advanced previews. At select theatres, some Super 8 Sneak Preview moviegoers will be treated to a free popcorn (with a concession purchase) at each show.

Twitter and Paramount previously released the movie’s exclusive trailer premiere via Twitter.

While the announcement is reminiscent of Twitter’s failed EarlyBird coupons and discounts program, it’s unclear what the benefit is for the user with the “Tweet Movie Sneak Preview”. There were no sneak previews available in Chicago (where I live) when I clicked on the Super-8 twitter link. Plus, the free popcorn offer is contingent on you spending other money for concessions. This seems more like an advertising relationship that’s trying to disguise itself as a deal for moviegoers.



Buuteeq Raises $3.5 Million To Help Boutique Hotels Create, Market And Manage Websites

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 05:00 AM PDT

Buuteeq, a digital marketing SaaS for independent hotels, has raised $3.5 million in Series funding led by Mike Galgon, Geoff Entress with Benaroya Capital and other angel investors participating in the round. The investment bring the company’s total funding to $5 million.

Buuteeq, which we previously covered here, gives boutique hotels a cost effective way to build and maintain a consumer-facing user-friendly Web site, manage Facebook pages and mobile sites, SEO and more.

Founded by former Microsoft execs Forest Key and Adam Brownstein, Buuteeq focuses on helping independent hotels around the world expand their reach and marketing capabilities. Since launching in January of this year, the company has helped digitize inns, bed & breakfasts and other independent hotels in 10 countries.

Fixed annual subscriptions for Buuteeq run from a free Facebook-only solution, up through comprehensive packages for $3,000 to $15,000 USD per year depending
on features. While today’s version of Buuteeq focuses on content management and social, the startup plans to add advertising capabilities and customer relationship management features in the next version of the service. Buuteeq plans to use the new funding towards product development, international expansion and sales and marketing.



ARAMARK Sells Stake In Online Food Ordering Service SeamlessWeb For $50M

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 04:17 AM PDT

Private equity firm Spectrum Equity has acquired from ARAMARK a minority stake in SeamlessWeb, which offers an online and mobile food ordering service, for $50 million. Following the transaction, SeamlessWeb's operations will be separated from those of ARAMARK.

SeamlessWeb CEO Jonathan Zabusky posits that the transaction enables the company to pursue accelerated expansion and product innovation, as well as ‘opportunistic’ acquisitions.

SeamlessWeb's digital marketplace promotes, markets and connects local restaurants with business and consumer customers across multiple platforms.

Its restaurant network includes over 7,000 restaurants in 27 cities globally, including New York, London, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the company claims over one million individuals have ordered through the platform to date.

Originally founded in 1999, the company says managed volume growth has is projected to exceed $400 million this year.

Spectrum Equity was founded in 1994 and has raised six investment funds, representing $4.7 billion of private equity capital, to date. Prior investments include Demand Media, SurveyMonkey, NetQuote and Ancestry.com.



Woman Has 152 Facebook Friends Tattooed Onto arm – Unfriending Tricky?

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 04:15 AM PDT

Social networks have contributed to the Arab Spring, people getting arrested for jokes, you name it.

Now one Facebok user has taken the social network to heart – or rather to her body. A woman in the Netherlands has had 152 profile images of her Facebook friends tattooed onto her arm.

You Tube user Suzyj87 now has a permanent collection of her friends right to hand, as it were. Who need a smartphone?



To See How We See – Cortexica Vision Systems Releases Its VisualSearch API

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 03:34 AM PDT

This really is the stuff of Sci-Fi movies: Build a computer program that can see as the human eye does. Based on the principles of the human visual cortex, Cortexica Vision Systems claims to have done just that. The London startup, which was spun out of Imperial College London in February 2009 after six and a half years of research to understand how humans see and two years building algorithms to accurately mimic human visual recognition, today releases its VisualSearch API, which has been in private Beta for a while. It's aimed at brands who want to "directly engage with consumers" via their mobile device while bypassing the need to use QR codes or other barcodes or more traditional text search.


The Cat That Roared: How Simon’s Cat Went From YouTube To… Everywhere [TCTV]

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 03:02 AM PDT

With over 24 million views for a single episode, there’s every chance you’re already discovered Simon’s Cat. You might, however, be less familiar with Simon Tofield, the eponymous owner responsible for bringing his pet’s animated adventures to YouTube.

Unlike many online video producers who struggle to monitize even huge audiences, Simon has built an increasingly lucrative business by leveraging his creation into a series of bestselling books, a comic strip in a national newspaper – plus a line of t-shirts and other Cat-themed merchandise. So successful is the business, that Tofield has hired a full time brand manager to handle the commercial and technical challenges of a growing animation studio.

Partly because it’s always interesting to hear how online creative people make money from their work, but mainly because I’m a huge fan of Simon’s Cat, I connected with Tofield and brand manager Mike Cook via Skype to chat about the business of content, the challenge of online copyright and whether their audience is made up of terrifying cat people.

Video below (sorry about the appalling sound, and awful framing – this is what happens when I try to record a Skype call without asking the TCTV team for help).





Simon’s Cat: Beyond The Fence is published by Grand Central Publishing this month.



‘Many Apple Fans Around The World Wonder Which Sweaters Steve Jobs Wears’

Posted: 08 Jun 2011 02:58 AM PDT

Ah, the marvel that is our tips inbox. Just landed: an email from luxury fashion label VONROSEN, bringing forth the revelation that Apple head honcho Steve Jobs was wearing one of their cashmere sweaters on stage at WWDC 2011 earlier this week (and later when he asked the Cupertino city council for space to park his spaceship or something).

The email came straight from Dr. David Frederik von Rosen-von Hoewel, the label’s CEO, and it went something like this (slightly redacted):

Dear Techcrunch-Team,

Many Apple fans around the world are wondering which sweaters Steve Jobs wears.

We just wanted to let you know that at the WWDC 2011 on Monday he was wearing our VONROSEN Sweater.

Please feel free to contact me for any further information you might need.

Best regards,
David von Rosen

So there you have it. To the legions of Apple fans around the globe who were missing out on this critical piece of information about your highness: that was a VONROSEN sweater.

Now that I’ve got you all giddy, let me stomp on your excitement right away: reportedly due to the “large number of inquiries”, VONROSEN’s system is currently unable to take further orders.

Yeah like you’d spend $616 on a sweater instead of treating yourself to that extra iPad 2.

On a barely related note: You're Not Mark Zuckerberg – But You Can Dress Like Him



Virtual Storage Company Virsto Raises $12M, Buys VMware Virtualization Startup EvoStor

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 11:57 PM PDT

Virsto Software, a virtual machines storage company, has raised $12 million in Series B venture capital funding led by InterWest Partners with August Capital and Canaan Partners also participating in the round. This investment brings Virsto’s total funding to $19 million.

Virsto develops an hypervisor-based storage solution that can anticipate the evolving demands, barriers and opportunities native to server virtualization. Virsto One is architected to be storage- and hypervisor-agnostic and allows users to virtualize storage-intensive workloads, maximize consolidation of server and storage hardware, reduce storage management complexity and eventually reduce overall storage costs.

Virsto says that its software helps enterprise, private and public cloud customers reap the benefits of server and desktop virtualization, increasing performance while lowering storage costs.

In addition, Virsto is also announcing its acquisition of EvoStor, a company that specializes in storage virtualization technology for VMware environments. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The funding will be used to drive new growth, product development and expand partnerships.



Jobs To Cupertino: We Want A Spaceship-Shaped, 12K Capacity Building As Our New Apple Campus

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 10:42 PM PDT

After having a banner WWDC start yesterday, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs humbly presented his idea for a new Apple campus at the Cupertino City Council today. Jobs wants to build one building that will hold 12,000 Apple employees on a former Hewlett-Packard property in the area between Tantau North Wolfe, Homestead and the 280 freeway.”It’s a little like a spaceship landed,” Jobs says. No kidding.

Jobs began the presentation referring to the fact that Apple is growing “like a weed,” and that its current campus at D’Anza and the 280 isn’t enough — fitting only about 2,800 people. Apple currently rents buildings to house its other 6,700 employees in the area. The new building will augment the current campus.

Paving the way for these plans, Apple purchased about 100 acres from Hewlett Packard in 2010 and added them to the 50 it owns adjacent. Jobs says he has corralled “some great architects … some of the best in the world” to come up with a design that will house 12,000 people in one four story high building on the property. The area is now mainly apricot orchards.

With the futuristic design Apple apparently is relying heavily on its experience building retail stores, and it will be creating one massive piece of curved glass if the proposal goes through. “There’s not a single straight piece of glass in this building,” Jobs says. The parking will be underground.

Jobs also wants the building to function as its own power source, with an “energy center” as its primary source of power (“with natural gas and other ways that are cleaner and cheaper”), using the grid as a backup.

The campus will include amenities like its own auditorium similar to Apple’s current Town Hall (“We’ve got an auditorium, cause we put on presentations, much like we did yesterday but we have to go to San Francisco to do them.”) and a cafeteria that will feed 3,000 people at one sitting.

“We do have a shot at building the best office building in the world,” Jobs told the Council members, “Architecture students will come here to see this.” Ideally Apple wants to move into the campus in 2015.

The individual members of the Cupertino City Council seemed like they were in awe the entire time the infamously charismatic Apple CEO spoke (which isn’t surprising), asking Jobs for free Wifi and iPads for constituents as well as for an Apple store that’s actually in Cupertino and not in the Valley or Los Gatos. Jobs shyly responded to the requests, “I think we bring a lot more than free Wifi."

Key facts about the new Apple campus:

  • Design will include a courtyard in the middle and curved glass all the way around.
  • Jobs is planning on transforming an area that’s 20% landscaping to 80% landscaping by putting most of the building’s parking underground.
  • There are 3,700 trees in the area at the moment, Jobs has hired an arborist from Stanford to take the area up to 6,000 trees.
  • The plan is to build a four-story high building and four-story parking structure.
  • The campus will incude an energy center, and natural gas will be the primary source of power, using the grid as backup.
  • There will be an auditorium, fitness center and some R & D buildings.
  • Jobs plans a 40% increase in Apple employees going from 9,500 today to 13, 000 in 2015.
  • He wants to increase the campus’ space 20% from 2.6 million to 3.1 million square feet.
  • Landscaping will increase 60% from 3,700 to 6,000.
  • Surface parking will decrease 90% from 9,800 to 1,200 .
  • The building footprint will decrease 30% from 1.4 million to 1 million.
  • Cafeterias will fit 3,000 people at a sitting.
  • The whole building will be designed with the utmost concern for employee safety.
  • Apple currently has 20 buses running on bio-diesel fuel for its employees and Jobs thinks that system will work well with the new campus.
  • The plan for the new design will submitted asap, and Jobs hopes to break ground next year and move in 2015.

Last image: Apple Insider



This Is Where The Magic Happens

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 09:32 PM PDT

Seventeen years ago Wired published Neal Stephenson’s magisterial epic "Mother Earth Mother Board", about the web of undersea fibre-optic cables being built to connect all of humanity. Well – almost all. Africa, again, was left behind. Until 2009, all of East Africa could only connect to the Internet over slow and hugely expensive satellite links.

Finally, two years ago, SEACOM laid a cable along the East African coast to Mumbai; then tributaries were run thousands of kilometers inland, as far as Uganda and even Rwanda; and later this year, a direct connection to Europe will be lit up. This has chopped the cost of bandwidth from US $5,000 per megabit/s per month to approximately $100, hugely increased capacity to 1.28 terabits/second, and given more than 100 million people (and counting) access to broadband Internet for the very first time. Today I visited their cable landing site in Mombasa, Kenya.

It doesn’t look like a high-tech hub. The site stands in the shadow of Fort Jesus, an ancient castle constructed by the Portuguese in 1593, and to better blend in with its UNESCO World Heritage surroundings, its outer walls are built to look like a Swahili keep:

But within are prefab buildings constructed in New Jersey (of all places) and shipped halfway around the world. The open trapdoor leads to the cable…

…which runs seven kilometres out to the branching station, and then 3,000 kilometers northeast to Mumbia, 2,000 km northwest to Egypt, and another 3,000 south to South Africa:

An observant eye can see the path the cable takes, beneath the shore below Fort Jesus:

Landing the cables is the hard part. It took three months to dig, lay, and cover those seven kilometres, using local barges and professional divers. By contrast, the cable that runs to Djibouti along the 1500 kilometres of Somalia’s wild coast was laid in less than a month … not counting the 55 days that the ship had to rest in port because of the danger of pirates.

That Djibouti branch isn’t even lit up yet. The cable is laid, and ready – but three kilometers of it that pass through Egyptian soil remain a sticking point. "Each country moves at its own pace," sighs Mahmoud Noor, manager of the Kenyan landing station (which also double’s as the system’s backup Network Operations Center.) He won’t go into details, but I get the impression that the problem is more political than technical. When Egypt comes online, hopefully later this year, SEACOM capacity will leap upwards again, and lag times will halve. Until then, all their external traffic has to go to Mumbai, then be routed elsewhere by leased lines.

The undersea cable consists of the fibres themselves, as thin as human hairs, wrapped in a copper sheath that carries up to 10,000 DC volts to power the repeaters every 100km that keep the signals comprehensible. In depths less than kilometre, this is all sheathed in thick additional armour. Here Peter Ouko, a SEACOM engineer, displays a cutaway example of the cable:

…and here’s where it enters the New-Jersey-built prefabs after its monumental journey along the continent.

The interior is cavernous, antiseptic, and honeycombed with cables:

An outgoing sheaf of fibre connects to the next building, where customer equipment goes, and where SEACOM is installing added-value options: an exchange to route connections within Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda (and Ethiopia, when they finally connect) directly without having to wastefully forward that data to Mumbai or London first, and an IP service so that customers can connect directly to routers without having to step down from SDH themselves.

It’s a triumph of engineering, and a profoundly important one. In Kenya today, a SIM card costs less than a beer, and a minute of 2G Internet access costs only 2.5 cents. That’s still too much, but far less than in the bad old days. Once South Africa was the continent’s tech powerhouse, but now they grumble about how good the Kenyans have it -


Verashni Pillay
SA, Africa's "superpower", shamed PRT: @ the internet in Kenya is outstanding: they have skipped landlines and use cheap wireless

- and this building is why. It and the others like it are the bedrock on which Africa’s nascent Internet revolution is built; they are, quite literally, where the future is being forged.



Founders Den: First Class — 11 Startups Emerge From The Non-Incubator Incubator

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 08:27 PM PDT

This past January, we first wrote about Founders Den, a new shared office space based in the SoMa district of San Francisco. The idea was to create a private clubhouse where invited entrepreneurs (including California’s Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom) could come to hang out and small, referred startups could rent space. Today, the don’t-call-it-an-incubator incubator had its first demo day.

Overall, the quality of the 12 startups that gave presentations seem very solid. A number of them already have funding in place. And some even come by way of other incubators, like Y Combinator. We’ve covered a few of them already, but here’s a rundown of all 12 startups that gave presentations today. Well, actually 11 of them. 1 is still in stealth mode and made me double pinky swear that I wouldn’t reveal what I saw.

Cake Health — The idea behind this startup is more or less to be the Mint for health insurance, as we wrote when we first covered them last month. They aim to be the best free way to manage your health care expenses — something which I think everyone will agree is a huge pain right now. Cake Health provides a simple way for you to input your current healthcare information and gives you easy-to-understand data to show you where your money is going and more importantly, where you can save money. One of the co-founders is an ex-TechCrunch developer.

Chart.io — This is one of the Y Combinator alums focusing on the business intelligence space — which they call “massively broken”. Essentially, they’re Google Analytics for databases. And they already have some big time clients such as Airbnb and Aviary. From the get go, they give you fully customized database information access that can be mixed and matched in a ton of different ways. We’ve also covered them previous here.

DotCloud — This another Y Combinator alum that a couple months ago raised a large $10 million round from Benchmark and others. They aim to solve the choice and management problem that developers have today given how many tools are now at their disposal. Developers go to DotCloud, pick the tools they wish to use to build their applications, and in 30 seconds they can be up and running thanks to the DotCloud infrastructure which sets up and manages everything on their end. This is for consumer apps, web apps, enterprise apps, etc.

EpicRebates — Each year, 1.5 billion mail-in rebates don’t get redeemed. That’s $20 billion consumers are missing out on. That’s the market for EpicRebates. Just as Netflix arose out of late fees, these guys are springing up to cap this waste of money. The aim is to dramatically improve the mail-in rebate experience by making it a fully digital one. Consumers will be able to track rebates with their apps, as well as see which ones are actually worth it.

Formative Labs — Another company we previously covered, Formative Labs is using social experiences to get consumers to lower their energy consumption habits.  In the next few weeks, they will launch a new platform called Double Impact (like the Van Damme movie) which aims match brands (who are already spending billions of dollars each year on charity) with consumers who want to help the environment but need motivation. The platform will use Facebook to motivate through social means and to promote brands that want to be associated with good causes.

Groupiter — These guys aim to be a sort of Yammer for creative product teams. In other words, they’re a communication tool to help creative people and teams more easily get stuff done. So why not just use Yammer? Because often creative professionals need outside collaboration. And they need ways to talk to clients from the organizational tools they use. The main thought is to be able to bounce ideas off of your own braintrust at will, rather than just in creative meetings once a week.

OpenAppMkt — This team has built an HTML5 app store. Essentially, they want to be what Apple’s App Store is, but for the open web. Why? Because a major pain point for developers right now is having to code apps for multiple platforms. And that problem will not go away unless someone creates a centralized store for HTML5 mobile applications that works. OpenAppMkt believe their solution does because they practice what they preach: their own app is an HTML5 one. It looks similar to Apple’s App Store, but it’s much easier to get into and just as easy to use.

ProximityWare — They put WiFi “to work” by transforming WiFi hotspots into marketing hubs. If you’ve ever been to Union Square in San Francisco and hoped on the WiFi, these guys handle the marketing served up to you there. They offer customers the benefit of having zero installation because they work with existing networks. And they work with networks of any size. Maybe you want to serve an ad over the WiFi in a stadium, or maybe you just want to push a survey over the WiFi in an office. They can do both. And they get a lot of data from these partnerships. And as WiFi continues to expand everywhere, they’ll get even more.

RethinkBooks — They are a white label social reading platform focusing right now on the Christian market. Very targeted, but also very big — with no competition. While it’s considered to be the “wild west” right now in digital publishing, it’s even crazier in the Christian market because it’s behind in the digital revolution. RethinkBooks gives the Christian publisher the tools they need to make their books social and put them out there on today’s latest devices. It’s a $2.3 billion market. We previously covered them last November.

Revel Systems — The aim here is to completely disrupt the point of sale idea for restaurants and retail. Originally, they set out to create an iPhone app to help with the out-of-date POS services being used by most retailers today, but when they saw the iPad, they knew that was the future. Now they provide everything a retailer needs — the software, the iPad, even the cash drawer — to run their own POS system. They key selling point is price — Revel Systems model is much cheaper than traditional ones. But also data and ease of use. Of course, there is now competition here, but it’s a massive potential market.

TheIceBreak — We now have social apps and games for just about everything. But one thing that has remained relatively untouched are relationships. Not new ones, but existing relationships — romantic ones. 60 percent of Facebook users in the U.S. are supposedly in a realtionship currently, and while there are services that help you find love, what about ones that help you keep it? That’s what TheIceBreak does via three key things: communication, affection, excitement. The private network allows you to do questions and answers with your significant other to get your true feelings out there. And this data is shared with other couples (after it is anonymized completely). They also track key moments in your relationship and give you statistics to see things like: if we argue, do we have better sex after? Yep, that’s something they track.



appMobi Acquires Hosting Platform; Launches Tech To Speed Up HTML5 In Mobile Gaming

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 07:21 PM PDT

appMobi likes HTML5-based mobile games, and it wants you to like them, too, which is why appMobi is focused on giving developers the tools required to make HTML5 and JavaScript mobile applications that run smoothly across platforms and browsers.

Of course, many loudly pronounced HTML5 the new heir to the throne, as it would finally bring the native app experience to every mobile device, and take some of the iterative work in app creation out of the hands of developers. The problem is that this pronouncement jumped the gun by more than a few paces: HTML5, while an important step forward, is still a work in progress.

But, today, appMobi announced a new technology, called DirectCanvas, that it claims speeds up the often slow graphic rendering of HTML5 in mobile games by 500 percent. DirectCanvas was designed to accelerate the HTML5 canvas element, allowing graphics and animation in mobile games to be more fluid, in other words, to appear with greater speed and fewer glitches. appMobi hopes that its technology will allow game studios to build a more diverse range of mobile games, which many have resisted because of the questions over whether or not devices can support complex HTML5-based games.

appMobi also announced today at E3 that it acquired TapJS, a game hosting platform with community features that enables users to integrate games with player accounts, server-side data storage, leader boards, badges, Facebook, and more through a simple JavaScript API. appMobi said that acquiring TapJS will beef up its mobile development feature set by adding the startup’s engagement features, like player challenges and leader boards and allow developers to integrate social elements to their games using the platform.

For more on the comparison between appMobi’s new speedy updates to HTML5 in gaming, check out the video below. The technology looks impressive, but it will take DirectCanvas getting out into the wild in the hands of developers before we’ll know whether or not this can have a significant effect on HTML5 game development across the board.



Actually, Sony Won E3 With The Vita

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 05:16 PM PDT


Matt may think that the Wii U is the E3 champion, but I’m not convinced. It looks like a fun and versatile device, but I’m not sure it’s as accessible as the Wii, which focused on motion and a few primary buttons to make gaming as simple as possible. The Wii U, on the other hand, seems powerful in some ways but not nearly the breakthrough device the Wii was.

The Playstation Vita, on the other hand, isn’t even trying to be a breakthrough device. It’s simply an extremely powerful and versatile portable gaming system. While I have my reservations about the system, Sony convinced me today that it’s going to at least fulfill its own mission. And the price? Perfection.

Continue reading…



Jawbone Makes A Promo Music Video That Isn’t Horribly Embarrassing, Hides A (Ridiculous) New Product Within

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 05:02 PM PDT

I like Jawbone. They’re one of the few companies out there that consistently surprises me which each step they take.

Finding a sustainable business model in selling a series of expensive Bluetooth headsets with marginal, almost-entirely-intangible improvements between iterations? Surprise! Launching a somewhat niche product like the Jambox, then finding success in it by marketing to hipsters and urban kids (markets which largely ignored their previous products)? Surprise!

Making a music video promoting their products that not only isn’t horribly embarrassing or lame, but is actually pretty cool? Surprise! Oh, and the unannounced product they tucked into the video? It’s probably the most surprising bit yet.

Read the rest at MobileCrunch>>



CleverSense’s Seymour Takes A Different Approach To Local Recommendations

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 04:58 PM PDT

Between Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google and countless startups, there’s no shortage of services looking to offer you restaurant and activity recommendations while you’re on the go. But there’s a reason there’s so much competition: as smartphones become increasingly common, this market is going to be absolutely massive. Which means there’s plenty of room for more than one winner.

Which brings us to a new company called CleverSense that is about to join the fray. Led by CEO Babak Pahlavan, the company has spent the last two years working on an algorithm that Pahlavan says is better at making recommendations than many of the existing services. And he has a strong pedigree to back that claim up — his advisors include Prof. Jeff Ullman of Stanford, who was Ph.D. advisor for Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

CleverSense is currently putting the finishing touches on an iPhone application called Seymour, which it says will serve as a “Pandora for the real world”. The app isn’t out just yet, but I got a walkthrough of an early version, and it has potential.

Seymour’s main mission (he’s a robot) is to give you suggestions for places to eat and things to do, without requiring the user to enter a query. Fire up the app, tap a button to point Seymour in the right direction (be it a restaurant, activity, cafe, bar, etc.) and the app will immediately give you a list of suggestions tailored to your tastes.

The app does this by attempting to learn what you like. The first time you boot Seymour up you’ll be asked to complete a brief learning process (you enter a restaurant you like, the app will present some suggestions, and you tell it which ones it got correct). And then as you use the app it will use your interactions to further improve the algorithm.

My time with the application was limited to only a few minutes, but its initial recommendations were good (then again, my tastes aren’t exactly eclectic). One other nifty thing: CleverSense has crawled the web to build a list of attributes associated with each venue; it will tell you which of these attributes it thinks are relevant to you (see the screenshot below).

So how exactly is this different from the recommendations given by other applications? Pahlavan says it’s a matter of algorithms — many services use something called collaborative filtering, which uses data from other users similar to you to make recommendations. Seymor is combing that with a different technique called model-based learning, which tries to build a set of recommendations for each individual user. This is how Pahlavan describes the distinction.

Model-based learning facilitates deep personalization around the individual user and really focuses on entities that match YOUR specific tastes, not just the aggregated recommendations of others. Model-based learning can act like the friend that knows you well and knows what you like when and where.”

For model-based learning to work properly you’d need a rich interest graph that describes each entity thoroughly. We mine the Web to build our interest graph and to jump start our learning engine. With our rich interest graph, we can provide high quality recommendations on day one, with zero users!

We’ll have more on the app when it launches. CleverSense has raised $1.6 million so far, and has a team of eleven (eight in the US, three abroad).



Twitter Now Automatically Shortens Links

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 04:20 PM PDT

In another step towards filling all its holes, Twitter has just announced its own link shortening service which starts rolling out today. The Twitter link shortening service will pass through t.co and shorten links to 19 characters, still allowing users to see what site the links are pointing towards (see above).

From Twitter support, on how to use the new shortener.

Start typing or paste a long URL into the Tweet box.

After you've entered the first 13 characters of a URL, a message will appear at the bottom of the Tweet box, letting you know that the link will appear shortened. (Fig. 1)

Notice that even if you've reached the character limit, you can continue to add text to the URL with no consequence.

Once the Tweet is posted, it will be assigned a t.co link ID, but the link will appear as a shortened version of the original URL, so people who see your Tweet will know the site they are going to (Fig. 2, above).

Yep! It's now that easy.

In an afterthought, Twitter users are still referred to third party apps like Bit.ly if they want analytics surrounding their links. [Insert well-trodden assertion that Twitter is breaking the hearts of its developer ecosystem here.]



Square Raising New Round, Joining Billion Dollar Valuation Club

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 03:48 PM PDT

There are a bevy of startups in the process of raising big rounds of capital at billion dollar or higher valuations – something that was a rare occurrence even a few months ago. We’re tracking most of these deals (and have written about the ones we’ve confirmed). Now, we’ve confirmed via multiple sources, is payment startup Square’s turn.

The company is raising $50 million or more, says sources, at a valuation that will likely be north of $1 billion. It’s still fairly early in the process, though, and the company is rumored to be meeting with additional venture and private equity firms to either fill out the round or encourage a higher valuation. But at least one term sheet has been received by the company, says one source.

COO Keith Rabois was in a particularly chipper mood when he sat down with me two weeks ago at TechCrunch Disrupt to talk about how Square is doing.

Which isn’t surprising. The company is on a roll. They’re processing more than $3 million per day in mobile payments, and that was announced prior to their new iPad payments service which can replace the entire cash register system at retail merchants.

To date Square has raised more than $37.5 million (the size of a recent investment by Visa hasn’t been disclosed). The last round, closed in January, valued the company at a rumored $240 million valuation.



The Nintendo Wii U Won E3 2011

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 03:14 PM PDT

Alright, everyone. You can go home. E3 2011 is a mainly bust besides Nintendo’s amazing Wii U. Microsoft added Bing to the 360 and Sony announced the name of the NGP, the Vita. Sure, there are several clever games like Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, and several new Zelda games. But there really isn’t anything new per se here. It’s a bunch of rehashing of the same, I’m sorry, tired story lines.

Of course E3 is still fun. Hell, it’s probably one of the most fun trade shows of the year. It’s wall-to-wall video games. Stick around if you must, but once you see the Wii U, you may as well head home because that’s the best as it gets here this year.

Read More



A Look At Who’s Winning The Talent Wars In Tech (Hint: It Rhymes With Twitter)

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 02:59 PM PDT

There’s been a lot of talk about the fierce competition for talent among the top players in the tech industry. As the story goes, Facebook has been the primary source of anguish for its competitors, seemingly bearing the gravitational pull of a giant sun. Even the ubiquitous Google was forced to take some extraordinary measures to stem the flow of top talent to Facebook last year by offering exorbitant counteroffers as well as a 10 percent, company-wide salary increase. Then-CEO Eric Schmidt called it a “war for talent”.

Bringing in top talent can change (and cement) a company’s future, and Google is not the only company willing to go to great lengths to keep (and nurture) talent within its ranks. But, up to this point, there’s been little understanding of who is actually winning (and losing) the war for recruiting top talent in the tech industry, especially in Silicon Valley. Today, thanks to Top Prospect, the social recruiting site that rewards users for helping their friends find jobs, we now have a snapshot of where we stand in the great talent wars of the 21st century. (Not to over-dramatize or anything.)

To find out, Top Prospect dug into its data and culled together information from over 2.5 million profiles in their database. Their findings (based on the number of users that have changed jobs in the last 2 years), perhaps unsurprisingly, show that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Apple have been the companies to gain the most new talent.

Likely the only slight surprise among that group is Microsoft. After all, Google and Apple are enjoying billions in revenues, LinkedIn just loudly went public, and Facebook has gone Hollywood.

Yet, when we look at the companies who were on the flip side — those that saw the most employees leave for greener pastures — the losing leaders include Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, eBay, and Amazon.

But, wait a minute, how can Google and Microsoft be both winning and losing? To solve this statistical enigma, Top Prospect broke it down into a ratio to compare how many new people were hired for each employee the company lost. The winner? Twitter with nearly 11 new hires for every employee lost. Facebook is not far behind at 8.1, rounded out by Zynga (8.0), LinkedIn (7.5), and Groupon (3.9).

This looks like an IPO All Star Team.

And the losers?

Intuit (1.2), Google (1.2), eBay (0.8), Microsoft (0.4), and Yahoo! (0.3). Looks like Google isn’t faring so well after all.

For those companies at the bottom of the chain, that are losing 2 to 4 people for every hire, you might want to call Top Prospect for help …

And for good measure, because you’ve been good readers, here’s a graph that highlights movement of talent among the big players. All roads, it seems, point to Facebook.



Missed The WWDC Keynote? Watch The 4-Minute Musical Reenactment

Posted: 07 Jun 2011 02:29 PM PDT

Our favorite singer, Jonathan Mann, is back. While the guy literally performs a new song every day, unsurprisingly, I have a preference for the songs about Apple (and me). And he’s back today with a new one: WWDC 2011: The Musical.

Using the live notes MacRumors took during the event, Mann and company perform a brilliant song. If you don’t want to watch the entire 2-hour keynote on video, this is the perfect substitute (along with our follow-up notes).

Mann recently used Kickstarter to secure funds for an album — which we eagerly await. For now enjoy the latest song below.



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