- Player 1 Start: Will The Wii U And Playstation Vita Fly Or Die? (TCTV)
- Food For Thought This Weekend: “Raising Capital Is Not The Same As Succeeding”
- CrunchGear Reviews The Fretlight FG-421 Guitar
- Groupon: Still Getting It In The Ass In China
- TechCrunch Turns 6
- Joomla Quietly Crosses 23 Million Downloads, Now Powering Over 2,600 Government Sites
- Contest Asks People To “Draw The Internet”
- EPIC Draft FTC Complaint Vilifies Facebook’s Facial Recognition
- Tumblr’s New Messaging System: Another Way To Avoid My Evil Email Inbox
- Clothing Designer Tory Burch Wins $164M In Lawsuit Against Online Counterfeiters
- OcuSpec Raises 1.3M From Andreessen And Others To Build An “Affordable Kinect”
- The +1 Button Is Like A Button You Push For A Treat — Without The Treat
- YouTube’s ‘As Seen On’: Watch What We’re Linking To
- Tribesports Raises $400K To Create An All-In-One Digital Resource For Sports Nuts
- Cafepress IPO Filing Gives A Glimpse At A Crowdsourced Business Model
- Foursquare (Finally) Checks In To Its Very Own SOMA Office [Pics]
- Favorite Moments From Disrupt NYC Day One
- (Founder Stories) Mike McCue On Surviving A Downturn: The TellMe Years
- With Neighborhoods And A New Website, SoundTracking Sounds More Like The “Musical Postcard”
- SEC Watch: Female-Focused Personal Finance Guide LearnVest Raises $12 Million
- Google Offers Is A Cheap Knockoff
- TechCrunch Giveaway: Motorola Xoom And Free Ticket To Disrupt SF #TCDisrupt
Posted: 11 Jun 2011 07:33 AM PDT
Nintendo and Sony just announced the much-anticipated Wii U and the Playstation Vita last week at E3 and, well, we were pretty impressed. The Wii U, Nintendo’s new console, is a real step up for the brand as it adds HD game play and a unique new controller that incorporates third-screen features with Nintendo’s own paradigm-shifting controller style. The Vita is a little less exciting to console gamers as it’s a handheld, but it is definitely an improvement over the old PSP and PSP Go and looks to be a step in the right direction for the ailing Sony.
After a bit of deliberation, Erick and I were agreed on what would fly and what would die and, more important, which consoles would soon grace our living rooms. Picking a winner this early is obviously a bit difficult, but it’s interesting to see the growth and improvement of these two platforms over the years and we’re both pretty excited for a Mario- and Metal Gear Solid-filled future.
Posted: 11 Jun 2011 07:18 AM PDT
Seth Godin often writes short blog posts that makes (or rather, should make) one reflect for a not-so-short time. How’s that for kicking in an open door? At the risk of stealing the man’s thunder, let me copy-paste an excerpt from a blog post Godin published this morning, which resonated with me and I think will resonate with a lot of TechCrunch readers:
It’s a premise that’s rather easy to agree with. Of course raising capital doesn’t equal success.
Of course making (and keeping) customers happy is more crucial for any business.
VC funding is just one or more professional investors betting on people, an idea, a business model they believe in, knowing full well that only a small fraction of their portfolio companies will provide them with decent returns in the foreseeable future.
At the same time, we often congratulate entrepreneurs who contact us with information about their latest financing round, or with the recognizable name of his or her latest backer.
Perhaps it’s just become a habit, but then why did it become one?
Not every startup looking for financing gets funded, and some even die trying. Still, we are not easily impressed when startups do convince investors to back them, because we realize it doesn’t usually make a lot difference for the company’s chances of survival anyway.
At TechCrunch, we champion innovation. We love to try new stuff, and we certainly appreciate entrepreneurs who approach problems in ways others never thought of.
And yet, when we hear a startup got funding, we say: ‘congrats’ or ‘cool!’. I suspect that’s because we realize raising VC is not an easy thing to do for the large majority of entrepreneurs out there. No matter how you slice or dice it, raising capital consumes time, energy and resources that are often far better used for the startup’s business in question.
It can also be a stressful thing to do, so maybe us acknowledging that raising VC is not an easy feat, and congratulating entrepreneurs who do secure financing is another way for us to give them that extra nudge they might need to continue on their journey.
And yet, Godin’s words have made me wonder whether patting people on the back when they close their funding rounds is actually the right thing to do.
Maybe we should be encouraging them to genuinely try to change the world for good with the money they’ve just raised instead, and remind them that VC is indeed only one of many stepping stones they’ll need in order to make it to where they want to go. Discuss.
(Image via Flickr user Evan Prodromou, used with permission)
Posted: 11 Jun 2011 07:09 AM PDT
Years ago I thought I could be in a rock band (right around the same time I thought I could make money writing poetry) but I eventually resigned myself to the fact that I’d never be a great guitarist. I didn’t have the drive to practice and the act of soloing confounded me completely. How did you play along with the Zep and the Beatles? How do you get great? How do you meet groupies? As time passed, I gave up and my guitars lay fallow in the corner, the groupies forgotten.
However, I think Fretlight may have given me a new lease on life. Fretlight makes guitars with LEDs embedded in the neck. You connect these guitars to a computer, run a MIDI player, and then follow along with the lights as the music plays. You can slow things down or speed them up and loop parts of the song over and over to practice certain riffs. The Fretlight will literally show you how to play all of your favorite songs.
Posted: 11 Jun 2011 12:19 AM PDT
Andrew Mason has been visiting Beijing and Groupon HQ has finally realized there are some problems in China.
On the Forbes website, Rebecca Fannin reports:
This seems to be a belated response to the very obvious problems at Groupon China that seasoned observers have been noting since the group buy website first opened up shop in Beijing and Shanghai:
Groupon China was started and has been managed by a bunch of trendy-looking but ineffectual foreigners who can’t speak Chinese and are completely clueless about China.
Firing four unnamed foreigners is not evidence that anything has changed.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg has this report (which I’d wager a PR company helped put together) talking up Groupon’s Chinese partner Tencent:
A few problems:
1. Tencent will end up shafting Groupon
2. Apple and “lifestyle”: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
This is too rich:
So, Apple is going to sell discounted iPads in China?
Apple and Groupon China? Simply ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the “city guide / lifestyle” nonsense.
I first worked on city guide / lifestyle print magazines in the late 1990s in China:
There is a small amount of money to be made in city guides and lifestyle guide products in big Chinese cities. There is quite a bit more money to be made in Internet and media products that help position brands as desirable for the new rich and emerging middle classes (e.g. Cosmopolitan China magazine and Vogue China , possibly the P1 social network and the Financial Times‘ FT Rui magazine).
There is also money to be made and a huge user demand for Dianping, which is like the Yelp of China that offers real, honest user reviews of restaurants.
But, based on my personal experience since 1997, every foreign-funded company I have ever encountered in China talking about making money from local vendors based on a “lifestyle” proposition has about a year or so before bankrupting itself or being run out of town.
A final note: I don’t know if Groupon is paying iResearch, but iResearch has a reputation in China for doing “research” for companies who pay them. Somehow, the companies always end up looking very good in their research reports.
It’s all pre-IPO spin. Groupon China is simply a way to bleed cash.
Posted: 11 Jun 2011 12:04 AM PDT
TechCrunch turns 6 years old today. Back on June 11, 2005, Michael Arrington wrote his first blog post. Then he started having parties in the backyard of his old house in Atherton, one of the YouTube guys showed up to one of them, there were lots more parties, and the rest is history.
Michael’s come a long way from those backyard parties around a campfire, and so has TechCrunch. We now have millions of readers, dozens of employees, and our gatherings have gotten quite large (2,100 people at the last Disrupt in NYC). Oh, and we are now part of AOL.
We couldn’t have made it this far without all of you, our readers, coming back day in and day out (sometimes hourly). And we wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for all the startups, founders, and tech companies large and small who give us so much to write about. So we may a little bit bigger now, but we’ll never forget that the best things start small—sometimes around a campfire.
Photo credit: FLickr/Tom Magliery
Posted: 11 Jun 2011 12:03 AM PDT
According to BuiltWith, of the top million websites using content management systems (or CMSes), three systems own more than 75 percent of the total market share: WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. (All of which are open source, by the way.)
Many are likely most familiar with WordPress, which TechCrunch has covered quite a bit (and uses to power most its sites, for full disclosure). WordPress is the most popular CMS on the Web, running 62 percent of the top million websites that use a CMS, according to BuiltWith, with Joomla now ranking second at 10 percent and closing.
There are a ton of these content management systems out there, even though the top 3 claim most of the market share. And, as BuiltWith’s roster shows, microblogging and blog publishing services are often grouped in with CMSes — as some are able to be customized into a CMS — even though their scopes tend to be far more specialized. Services like Blogger and Tumblr, to name two, are sometimes lumped in with CMSes and have attracted a lot of coverage in the press, some of which is for good reason.
Because of this, services like Joomla seem to fly a bit under the radar. Or, at least so it seems with Joomla in particular, which has yet to be covered by TechCrunch. (Or has, at least, been covered minimally compared to 63 posts for WordPress.)
So what is this “Joomla”, and why should you care about it? Joomla is a free, open source CMS, written in PHP that uses object-oriented programming, storing data in a MySQL database, and does page caching, RSS feeds, printable versions of pages, news flashes, blogs, polls, search — things that every CMS should do.
And there are these impressive statistics: Joomla has now passed 23 million downloads, and currently stands at just over 23.5 million, to be precise. It owns 10.3 percent of the CMS market share, and BuiltWith shows it’s powering over 1.4 million websites. Joomla, for one, says that it’s impossible to know for sure, but estimates last year by FinishJoomla put that number between 1.5 and 2 million. Which admittedly seems small compared to the 23 million downloads.
Pure statistics are fine and dandy, but what’s led Joomla to become the second largest CMS on the Interwebs? This is an especially interesting question considering that, as an open source system, there is no figurehead or CEO pulling the strings, or making product decisions. Joomla is updated and expanded on, like WordPress(.org) and Drupal, by its community of developers.
But unlike Matt Mullenweg of WordPress (who, incidentally, was named one of the 50 most important people on the Web by PC Magazine) there is no “face” of Joomla; instead, it has been collectively run by the nearly 250K developers that use Joomlacode.org, the resource in which developers can build open source software projects, tools and extensions, for Joomla users. (And there are currently nearly 8K extensions available for the Joomla platform.)
Unlike, say Mullenweg’s Automattic, Joomla is loosely headed by OpenSourceMatters.org, a non-profit entity that provides organizational, legal, and financial support to the Joomla community. The goal for OpenSourceMatters is to maintain Joomla’s open source nature, assuring that Joomla is a project that acts autonomously, is socially responsible, and remains accountable to its community.
According to Ryan Ozimek, president of Open Source Matters, the Joomla community has evolved significantly over the last 5 years, and in January of this year, OpenSourceMatters initiated some changes to the way the service is released to its users, that have already begun contributing to Joomla’s growth.
Namely, the service has moved away from a feature-based lifecycle to a time-based lifecycle, which means that Joomla now releases a new version of its platform every 6 months. Instead of having the lead developers writing the code behind each sporadic release of new features, Joomla allows the community of developers to make patches, fix bugs, tinker with the framework or the design for the end-user. Then, a the end of the 6 months, the OpenSourceMatters team merges everything together into a finished product, which is then released to the public.
Version 1.6, which was released in January, has been downloaded over 2.5 million times in the last 3.5 months, according to Ozimek, with 220 users now joining Joomla forums every single day.
Compared to Drupal, Joomla has traditionally been focused on smaller companies, novices, and those who aren’t necessarily experience developers, whereas the other has gone after enterprises and has a greater array of lumber and plumbing for heavier use cases. Drupal (and for full disclosure, I run a website using Drupal) also comes with a fairly steep learning curve. It’s not so easy to use right out of the box.
Once you’ve created custom fields, content types — on other words, dug into and played around with it for awhile — Drupal begins to shine. So, Joomla's strength in comparison is really that it’s ready to use; it requires no hardware investments or spending on software, and it works with a wide variety of SQL and noSQL databases.
Again, for a CMS that has nearly 24 million downloads, 10 percent market share, and 500K registered users in its forums, Joomla is relatively unheard of in the U.S. Another reason for this (and another one of its strengths) is that, since its inception, the service has been geared towards an international audience. Joomla is currently being used in over 200 countries, according to Ozimek, with more than 2,500 international government agencies using the service to run those websites. (NASA, the US Air Force and US Army, included.)
What’s more, Joomla has never taken in outside investment. Ozimek said that nearly 100 percent of the revenue for the non-profit has come from Google AdWords, or other advertising services, used across its network of websites — or from sponsorship.
Both in its open source nature, bootstrapped financing, international focus, and use among “the little guys”, Ozimek said, chuckling, Joomla has taken on somewhat of a “hippie vibe”. And, speaking like a true long-hair-type, when asked how he compares Joomla’s progress to that of its nominal competitors, Ozimek said that the goal is not grabbing market share from other platforms, the goal is showcasing the capabilities of open source communities and software. “Our competition is proprietary software”, he said. “We want to work towards a time when we’re all open coding”. What a hippie.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 11:50 PM PDT
Can you draw the Internet? No seriously can you?
ArtWeLove, DeviantArt, digital ad agency Saint, The NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and The NYC Department of Education partnered up this Internet Week in a gallery exhibition of “Can You Draw The Internet?”, a contest that asks people to “capture the spirit of the Internet’s billions of pages in a single image.” Hmm … sounds like a Google job interview.
But more so. In “Can You Draw The Internet,” digital artists like Douglass Rushkoff and Josh Harris joined schoolchildren in attempts to visualize what a networks of networks based on the IP protocol looks like. While the creative and digital artists received nothing but glory, the best student artist submissions received $100 gift certificates for art supplies. All submissions are being sold through Artwelove, the proceeds going to benefit NY public schools.
Defining let alone drawing something as complicated and ubiquitous as the Internet is a Herculean task, so props to anyone who entered this thing. I mean at this point 1/3 of humanity is online, so there are a lot more ways to win then to start sketching out individual data packets (I’m a huge fan of that USB brain piercing entry below).
So yeah “drawing the Internet” is hard, even for the most tech savvy. But if you’re in a pinch, just draw on the best definition of the Internet I’ve heard so far, “It’s like all the world is in an room and the Internet is the air between them.”
My favorite entries, below.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 07:13 PM PDT
Earlier this week Facebook drew significant backlash over a feature that uses facial recognition to help users tag their friends in photos shared on the site. The feature isn’t new, but Facebook recently activated it by default for many users, drawing a wave of criticism including a probe from European Union privacy regulators (though Facebook later clarified that there isn’t a formal investigation under way). I’ve already shared my take on the issue: the EU complaints seem to have little to do with facial recognition and a lot to do with longstanding Facebook policies — and the feature in question is benign.
But plenty of people don’t share my stance, and now it looks like Facebook may be up against a challenge in the United States as well. We’ve obtained a draft copy of a complaint to the FTC penned by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and we hear that they’re trying to drum up support from other privacy organizations before they file the document. We’ve contacted EPIC to clarify their intentions and will update if we hear back from them. But for now, we can still examine the complaint. Update: EPIC has written a post about the complaint here.
Parts of the document, particularly one section called ‘The Significance of Facial Recognition”, seem over the top. In it, EPIC discusses the use of facial recognition by various governments to keep tabs on people in public places, including a reference to China’s “All-Seeing Eye”. In other words, it points out that the technology can be used in scary ways, regardless of how Facebook actually intends to use it.
Likewise, some of the passages are seemingly intended to spook:
“Biometric signature” sounds pretty scary. But it apparently isn’t all that accurate — Facebook says that its technology couldn’t be used to identify any of its hundreds of millions of users simply by analyzing their faces. Instead, it’s powerful enough to look at your twenty best friends on the site (typically the people you interact with most) and guess if one of them is in a given photo, which requires far less computational power and less sophisticated software.
Another portion of the document that isn’t particularly convincing involves the Facebook API. The document says that Facebook”fails to establish that application developers, the government, and other third parties will not be able to access “Photo Comparison Data”‘, and seems to imply that developers can access the data using the Graph API. Facebook says that this data is not available through the API at all, though it might be a good idea for them to put that in writing.
But while parts of the document seem overly alarmist, there are a couple of legitimate points. For instance, Facebook’s help section that details how to delete a user’s ‘Photo Comparison Data’ (in other words, your facial profile) is apparently incorrect because there’s no such button in the settings menu. Facebook explains that the data is in fact deleted when a user disables the tag suggestion feature, but it seems that the help file and the control panel don’t match.
Another valid point: Sam Odio, who is the product manager for Facebook Photos, was previously quoted as saying:
Obviously Facebook has since decided to implement the technology. And given the fact that they were aware of just how touchy a subject this is, it’s surprising that they didn’t do more to explain what was going on to users as the feature rolled out. But Odio didn’t say they weren’t doing it because they were fundamentally opposed to the idea, they just knew they’d face a backlash (and were right).
Overall, while the complaint has some legitimate concerns (Facebook should be brutally transparent about what data it stores, and when it will share it with various governments), treating Facebook’s tag suggestions as a battleground over the future of facial recognition seems like a mistake. I’m no more worried that Facebook is going to build a database of biometric facial profiles with the intention of distributing them than I am about Google building a database of all my search queries and selling those.
The reality is that facial recognition is already here, and it’s not going away — so the debate at this point should be a matter of figuring out how the technology should be used rather than if it can be created in the first place (Tim O’Reilly does a good job discussing this in this post). And, as features go, suggested photo tagging just doesn’t bother me. I’m far more concerned about the companies I’ve never heard whose whole businesses will revolve around building and selling these biometric profiles, without users ever knowing about it.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 06:46 PM PDT
I hate email. Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate email. There’s just too much of it. It’s always flowing in. It never stops. And it’s getting worse.
As time goes on, even if inbox overload isn’t a problem for you right now, it will be. And I’m increasingly convinced that there is no actual solution. A ton of people are out there working on the problem — companies both big and small. Some of the “solutions” are nice and smart. But they’re all either masks or temporary fixes. No one wants to admit the truth: only real way to solve the email problem is to blow email up and start over again.
But that will obviously be a massive undertaking that will likely take years to get everyone on the same page, using the same service/protocol — if it works at all. So for now, might I suggest you do what I do and use a bunch of smaller solutions to ease the email pressure? And a new one appeared today: Tumblr.
Of course, Tumblr is not billing their new inbox features as an email-replacement. But it does somewhat fulfill that purpose. You see, since I run my personal blog on Tumblr, a lot of people use the Ask feature to write to me. The problem has been that up until now the only way to respond to these messages has been publicly. Yes, it was essentially Formspring, but where every answer had to be posted to your blog. There would often be questions that I would want to answer, but did not want them posted to my site (either for clutter reasons, or because the person asking was revealing information they probably didn’t want me to publish). But the new “Private Answers” feature unveiled today by Tumblr allows you to message other users without posting anything.
Tumblr also added a unified inbox that resides in the top toolbar of the Dashboard which alerts you when you have a new message (and submissions if you have those enabled). And clicking into this area will show you the messages coming in from all of your Tumblr sites (if you have more than one, obviously). And there’s new option to delete all messages as well.
Yes, all of this stuff is rudimentary for a messaging system. But again, it does offer a small email relief in that it’s a new system with a slightly higher barrier to entry (you need to have a Tumblr account, unless you choose to allow anonymous messages). Mixed with Facebook Messages, Twitter, Twitter DMs, group messaging apps (Beluga, GroupMe, etc), and soon iMessage, I have a bunch of small work-arounds to avoid the nightmare that is my email inbox.
And yes, I know this sounds insane. But that’s how much I hate email.
Tumblr’s new messages are the first of “a whole bunch” of new features they’re getting ready to launch alongside their newly updated (and slick) Dashboard.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 03:20 PM PDT
Women’s clothing designer Tory Burch has been awarded $164 million in damages from online counterfeiters that have been selling copies of her shoes, bags and clothing on the web. According to Women’s Wear Daily, this is the largest amount of money awarded to a fashion designer for damages from online counterfeiters. For background, in 2008, eBay was forced to pay Louis Vuitton $61 million over the sale of counterfeit bags and accessories on the auction marketplace.
Tory Burch filed lawsuit in December 2010, alleging trademark counterfeiting and cybersquatting by a group of counterfeiters (believed to be based in China) that had set up hundreds of websites selling fake Tory Burch goods.
In addition to monetary damages, the court ordered that 232 domain names that were being to used to sell counterfeit Tory Burch products be permanently disabled and turned over to Tory Burch. The financial accounts used to sell the counterfeit goods were restrained as well. And the court has also allowed for Tory Burch to disable additional rogue websites that the counterfeiters set up in the future without needing a new lawsuit.
Tory Burch Chief Legal Officer Robert Isen tells WWD’s Alexandra Steigrad that the inspiration for the case was a judgement in favor of Polo Ralph Lauren and The North Face against a ring of 130 Chinese cybersquatters. The two brands were awarded $78 million as well as the ability to collect money from payment services that were used on the sites, like PayPal.
Isen says that so far, Tory Burch has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from PayPal, which many of the online counterfeiters used to collect funds for goods from customers.
What’s interesting about the ruling is how the massive amount in damages will affect future rulings against online counterfeiters. And that online payements companies like PayPal are also held accountable. Clearly, the precedent is set and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see similar lawsuits (and judgements) in the future.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 03:06 PM PDT
Short and sweet in his emails, founder Michael Buckwald isn’t telling me very much about OcuSpec does, other than the fact that the startup is developing motion controlled technology that is “radically more powerful and affordable than anything currently available.”
From what I’ve gathered it will be sort of like a poor man’s Kinect, except that it will work across any platform. Lest you think this is a pipe dream, the startup currently has functional demo units that can track movement from a user’s hands and body, allowing 3D motion control to be embedded in anything from a laptop to a TV. Cool.
Says Buckwald, “Obviously our technology has big ramifications for gaming but we’re particularly excited about the implications that ubiquitous motion control has for the broader computing experience and content creation. ” Not to mention the exercise video industry.
Buckwald and his former NASA engineer co-founder David Holtz will be using the newfound cash to hire more people and expand their “already extensive” patent portfolio. Sounds promising.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 02:46 PM PDT
You people confuse me.
Ten days ago we put Google’s +1 Button on TechCrunch — because why not? We try basically all these new buttons/counters/commenting systems much to the dismay of our precious page load speed (we know, we know, it sucks — fix coming). Some of these buttons are great and make a lot of sense. The Tweet Button, the Like Button, even Facebook’s new Send button. But I just don’t get the +1 Button. At all.
Well, let me rephrase that slightly. I understand the concept behind the +1 Button — it’s a smart one. You get people to click it and it improves the page’s search ranking for logged-in Google users with social connections (and eventually maybe all results). At least I think that’s how it works. But I have a hard time believing that all of you actually clicking on the button really get why you’re doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that you’re clicking on it! I am too on some of our stories. But I can’t help but get the feeling that it’s a bit like a cruel experiment we’re running. We put up a button, you click on it because it’s there, expecting you’ll get a treat. But there is no treat.
If the +1 Button is serving me up better results, I’m just not seeing it. And yes, I know the button push also populates your Google profile with a feed of our shared stories. But let’s be honest, no one is looking at those.
We’re definitely not seeing any noticeable bump in pageviews coming from Google as a result of the button. Maybe that will slowly change over time, but I’m not convinced. The rate at which people are clicking on the button appears to be dropping each day. And soon it may be just like the *gulp* Buzz button.
Google needs to figure this out quickly. When you push a button, you need to get a treat. People will click for a while out of pure novelty and curiousness. But that only lasts so long. Without anything noticeable happening (like a share on Twitter, or a comment on Facebook), people will just ignore the button altogether. All over the web.
I will give this to Google, the +1 Button definitely follows the Internet Self-Reference Law. That is, the stories that get the most +1s are the ones about Google — just like the stories that get the most diggs are about Digg, the stories that get the most retweets are about Twitter, the stories that get the most Likes are about Facebook, and any story you write about Techmeme always gets on Techmeme.
And while we’re on the subject, it occurs to me that the +1 name doesn’t even really make sense. “+1″ to me implies that you’re agreeing with something someone else said or did. But that’s not what the +1 Button is. Instead, it’s like you’re the person initially saying/doing something. Or you’re +1ing the initial person who +1′d something — but who are they +1ing?
+1 is hard to say, hard to write, and hard to understand. But hey, don’t let me stop you from clicking that button, Desmond.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 01:42 PM PDT
Looking to kill some time? Check out the new feature just launched by YouTube, which they’re calling As Seen On.
The gist is simple: YouTube is crawling blogs and other websites to see which YouTube videos they’re linking to, and has compiled all of the linked videos into an easily-browsable list. You can find the TechCrunch version right here.
The result seems to work well — nearly all of the videos we link to from TechCrunch are related to tech (go figure), so you can think of it almost like a curated channel. Obviously this will change depending on which site you’re looking at (the boingboing feed has all kinds of different content ranging from inkjet print guns to the science behind cute cats).
For context, YouTube does some other interesting things with linked videos — for example, if a video on YouTube starts getting extremely popular on the site because it was embedded on a popular blog, YouTube will automatically insert a link to the blog.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 01:40 PM PDT
It’s tough to embark on ambitious fitness plans or to learn a new sport without the help of friends or likeminded people to help coach you through the process. Trying to go from lite jogger to marathon runner or from casual golfer to shooting par: The challenges are invigorating, sure, but vim and vigor won’t necessarily carry you all the way to Olympic glory. This is one of the main issues being tackled by Tribesports, an early-stage, U.K.-based startup, which wants to help motivate and encourage sports enthusiasts online to improve in their sport of choice — and be active offline.
Tribesports has essentially built a social network for sports, but there are a few bells and whistles that keep its site from being a Facebook-port for sports. The startup uses a recommendation engine, based on data collected on user interests and community interactions, to serve content relevant to their interests and chosen sport. The platform also integrates game mechanics, a la Foursquare, providing leaderboards, badges, and opportunities to “encourage” (which is an actual button) friends and fellow sports fans in their offline pursuits.
The startup, which is run by 3 former execs from mydeco (a site that offers furniture and interior design tools and ideas), has also announced that it has raised $400K in seed funding led by a group of international angel investors to launch its public beta and develop mobile apps.
“I have been taking part in marathons and Ironman events for nearly 10 years now, and have played football for as long as I can remember, but there has never been a place where I could share everything about myself as a sports person”, said Tribesports CEO Steve Reid. “Tribesports allows sports enthusiasts to create a showcase of their sports achievements and to connect with others globally to share training logs, tips, questions, tactics, advice and ideas.”
Whether a user is slowly training for their first 10 mile run and enjoys the odd game of tennis or is a seasoned decathlete and captain of their basketball team, Tribesports allows users of all skill levels to build complete profiles of their sports life, like one can on Facebook. Users can join “Tribes” (like Facebook Groups) based on their favorite sports, location, playing position, and ability level. And the best part is that users can seek advice and guidance from more seasoned athletes or connect with people on their level.
You can also take “Challenges” in personal fitness (100 crunches a day, for example) or organized events in just about every sport one can think of. Other users can also donate to your challenges by using JustGiving integration and can then track your progress as you go, making sure you’re not spending the money on beer or snacks.
And because most athletes have their own tools of the trade, users can search from more than 1 million products (across more than 1K sports), adding equipment to their personal profiles, which they can then review and have other users comment on, or just add a piece of equipment to their wish list.
This is also where the startup’s revenue model comes into play. Tribesports will take a commission of all products sold through its website. It will then supplement commerce commissions by offering companies targeted sponsorship and advertising packages that reach a particular group of athletes or sports fans.
The site’s registration and interface are both straightforward and easy to navigate, and offer the familiar status update and the ability to post images, video, and links to relevant content. Users can also connect with Facebook and sign in through a mobile-friendly webpage when they’re on the go. Mobile apps, the company said, are on the way.
For more on Tribesports, check out the video below:
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 01:20 PM PDT
Another day, another tech company is filing for a public offering. This time it’s Cafepress, which allows users to design, buy and sell merchandise such as t-shirts, hats, bags, mugs, bumper stickers and more. The company just filed its
Cafepress, which launched in 1999, essentially crowdsources designs from its community and allows users to sell these designs on products. Users can customize and design their own stickers, coffee mugs, and other tchotchkes and Cafepress will they manufacture them for you on a one off basis. In 2010, Cafepress had 2 million customers, 2.7 million orders, with the average order size around $47. The site currently has 325 million unique products offered for sale.
In terms of financials, Cafepress posted $128 million in revenue in 2010 and $2.7 million in profits. But if you take a closer look at Cafepress’ financials in the last 5 years, they were almost the same as in 2008, then the company got hit by the economic downturn in 2009. In 2008, revenues were as high as $120 million but dropped to $103 million the next year.
The filing says revenues were down in 2009 and 2010 because it was aggressively focused on order and customer growth, which included increasing sales and marketing expenses as well as acquisitions.
Sales seem to be climbing back up; the company posted $32 million in revenue in Q1 2011, but it is back in the red with a $831,000 loss.
In the filing, Cafepress says: A key differentiator of our business model is our ability to profitably produce customized merchandise in small quantities on a when-ordered basis. So, the company isn’t operating a booming business, but it’s pretty decent considering that transactions are so small and in such small volumes, considering the customized nature of the products being sold.
Right now, CafePress is a $127 million business, and it’s got some growth ahead of it obviously. But is it ever going to be a $1 billion business?
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 01:20 PM PDT
As Steve Jobs has proven times a million this week, if you want your employees to feel great about working for you, give them a great office.
Foursquare‘s San Francisco outpost has amazingly enough shared space with mobile payments Square from August 2010 until earlier this year, when it got too big for the Square offices and bumped itself up to another floor in the same building. Well, the company is moving once again, this time to startup saturated SOMA, at 363 Clementia, between 4th and 5th Street.
The startup will be leasing the entire top floor of the 363 Clementia building, using the 5,500 square feet to house an additional 50-60 people (more than doubling its current staff), Foursquare head of Talent Morgan Missen tells me. Foursquare SF expects to occupy space for several years.
“We believe in going where the talent is,” Missen says. “We had 3-4 employees working remotely from SF for the past year, simply because they were the best ones for the job and they were rooted in SF. When we realized the need to hire engineers faster, it was a no brainer to expand our presence there.” Missen says that the company is in the process of hiring Software Engineers and has snagged a few key hires from Twitter and Google (but won’t tell me who they are just yet).
As soon as the company has decorated it’ll be holding the first of many Foursquare sponsored parties/concerts and events. “As you can see from the photos, there’s obviously a lot of work to do,” Missen explains.
Foursquare currently has 65 employees (and “a lot of summer interns”) and is thisclose to hitting 10 million users, with users averaging about 3 million check-ins a day.
Those of you looking for the new Foursquare SF venue on Foursquare can find it here. Currently Foursquare VP of Mobile and Partnerships Holger Luedorf is mayor, but with only two check-ins I’m sure he’ll be swiftly unseated.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 12:39 PM PDT
Day one of Disrupt in New York City was packed with all-star speakers and interviews. All of the videos from Disrupt can be found here and pictures here, but we wanted to do a quick breakdown of videos and pictures of our favorite moments from day one.
When Erick Schonfeld sat down with Fred Wilson, we weren’t really ready for what was about to be said. When asked about the Twitter ecosystem and Twitter’s recent moves to discourage app developers from building Twitter clients, Wilson replied by saying, “Don’t be a Google bitch, don’t be a Facebook bitch, and don’t be a Twitter bitch. Be your own bitch.” He went on by saying, "Twitter wasn't planned. It just happened." The crowd loved it.
Be sure to watch the whole interview between Schonfeld and Wilson below.
When Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley took the stage, Michael Arrington was prepared to chat with Crowley about acquisitions, partnerships, valuations, and even a potential partnership with Groupon. Was that all discussed? No, not really. Instead, the talk had something to do with makeup, hand-holding, and an infamous Gap ad in which he modeled for, among other things.
Check out what was really talked about below.
Then, Arianna Huffington took the stage to chat with Nora Ephron and Jay Rosen. After their discussion, the three of them walked off stage, but not before Arrington stole Huffington away for a little impromptu chat. It was a hilarious and unexpected moment, fueled with questions from a curious Arrington. With Arianna dodging most of the questions, she shot back with her funniest response near the end of the chat. “We’re going to go to dinner,” says Arianna, “I’m going to get you drunk, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Be sure to watch the whole conversation in the video below.
Tim Armstrong and Michael Arrington were the last speakers for the day before the Startup Battlefield sessions began. When Arrington asked Armstrong why he wasn’t granted Arianna Huffington’s spot when he was hired, the crowed laughed and became quiet, eagerly waiting for a response. The whole chat between Arrington and Armstrong was pretty funny, and a little awkward at times. Especially when the two of them started talking about AOL’s official drinking day, which is Thursday, and when Mike asked about the internal AOL emails we are continuously kept away from. Armstrong mentioned something along the lines of, “We honestly don’t really ever think about you guys..”
The whole conversation below is a must see.
There were many other discussions that took place, all of which can be found here under the day one section.
As for Startup Battlefield presentations, they were all incredible. You should all know who the winner was by now (Getaround), and who made it to the finale (all of which can be found here), but one of our favorite presentations from day one involved a startup that was actually one of the Audience Choice Winners from Startup Alley: Happy Toy Machine.
Be sure to catch their whole presentation below and scroll down to check out some of our favorite pictures from day one.
Again, a huge thank you to all of our sponsors, partners, and volunteers who helped us make this all possible. Thanks to Zecco who launched Wall Street at Disrupt NYC and placed the first trade on Facebook. And to GE Illustration who captured all of the conference thought-leadership conversations.
If you would like to attend Disrupt SF, September 12th – 14th, extra early bird tickets are on sale now.
If you’d like to become a foundational part of the Disrupt experience and learn about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jeanne Logozzo.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 11:15 AM PDT
Mike McCue knows a thing or two about raising a lot of money to keep as a war chest for his startups. Recently he just raised $50 million for Flipboard, but at the end of the first dotcom boom he raised $250 million for his last startup, TellMe. Resuming his conversation from Part I of Founder Stories with Chris Dixon, in the video above McCue dives into additional detail about preforming triage on TellMe, his voice recognition company that narrowly survived the dotcom bust and was ultimately sold to Microsoft for $800 million
With TellMe, the company raised a big round in 2000, just before everything started to crash. McCue had to make some hard decsions to cut back spending and focus the company. At first he laid off 50 people, which was devastating, but it wasn’t enough. “I made the classic entrepreneurial mistake of not laying off enough people, so I had to do another one a quarter later,” he recalls.
His employees and management team started to question his judgement. The first-time CEO found himself in a situation where started to question his own abilities and even started to look for a replacement. But then he had “an epiphany at night.” He asked himself, “What is this new hotshot CEO going to do?” And it was obvious: bring costs down, focus the strategy, start winning customers. McCue had been “in denial about” all of these things, but once he accepted that they needed to be done, he did it himself. “We did it in two weeks, we had a strategy that even the receptionist could articulate,” he says.
It took another three years to become cashflow positive. TellMe focussed on enterprise customers, large telecom companies that needed to automate their call centers and 411 services with voice recognition technology. It took 2 to 3 years to win a customer, and then another year to get them live, but these big enterprise customers drove a huge amount of revenue. By the time Microsoft came calling in 2007, Tellme had a $110 million revenue run-rate.
But that is not why Microsoft bought TellMe. In the video below, McCue explains that it was the bigger vision of voice search that appealed to Microsoft. He always thought the enterprise business would be “eroded by the Web.” Even though the financial reality forced him to pursue the enterprise business first, he always thought bringing voice search to consumers would be bigger over time. “I kept the consumer stuff alive on life support,” he says. “It was a reason why customers worked with us because we had a vision of where everything was going to go.”
That vision is still playing out today with Apple’s acquisition of Siri, Google’s work on voice commands and search on mobile, as well as TellMe’s technology which became part of Windows Mobile (now Windows Phone). “When you are using a phone you are doing it in a distracted state of mind,” he says. Being able to speak commands and get back results, directions, or other information right on your screen is still justin its infancy. But McCue is onto other things with Flipboard, which he will talk about in the next episode.
Make sure to catch past episodes of Founder Stories with guests ranging Dennis Crowley and Mike Walwrath to David Karp and Lauren Leto here.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 11:13 AM PDT
When we first covered the launch of SoundTracking back in March, co-founder Steve Jang explained his vision for the service as a sort of “musical postcard”. That is, it’s not just about the music, it’s about the music mixed with location and images to convey a true sense of place alongside your musical expression. With a new iPhone update and completely revamped website, SoundTracking is closer to this concept than ever.
The latest version of the iPhone app (version 1.1), adds a new feature called “Music Neighborhoods”. This allows a user to post a song to an area of a city that’s not a specific venue. You can also post a song on the higher city level as well. In addition, users can now browse all SoundTracking posts by neighborhood/city. “We think there is a music personality to neighborhoods and cities,” Jang says, and the new feature aims to expose that.
SoundTracking is using SimpleGeo’s APIs to do this, and Jang hints at a feature down the road where you may be able to load up the app and discover music on the fly simply by entering a new neighborhood. Musical geo-fencing.
But the original venue concept is still important to SoundTracking as well. With version 1.1 of the app, they’ve expanded it a bit. Using Foursquare’s API, SoundTracking can now find trending venues as well as your favorite venues (assuming you connect your Foursquare account).
Improved location is one aspect of getting closer to the musical postcard, the other is the visual aspect. SoundTracking has also improved the music post view to place comments, likes, and loves cascading below the image. This leaves the image itself cleaner and more emphasized.
But the bigger improvement in the visual sense is the new SoundTracking website. While there is a traditional feed view where you can use SoundTracking just as you would with the app (liking, loving, commenting, etc), the more interesting view is the large image one. Jang calls this the postcard view, and it puts a huge emphasis on the images (either album artwork or your own images).
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a song and a photo worth? The metaphor of a ‘musical postcard’ is something we thought about as a description of what we wanted to allow people to quickly create, share and view with friends,” Jang says, noting that these updates improve upon that vision. As a higher level, “the SoundTracking app and community is designed to not only offer music discovery through social, which is the usual goal for most social music services, but it is also intended to offer social discovery through music,” he says, noting the integration with Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare (in addition to their own, quickly growing community).
The updated iPhone app, which can be found here, also features new user profiles (including bios) and performance enhancements.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 11:10 AM PDT
Personal finance site for women LearnVest has raised $12 million in new funding (out of a $19 million round) according to a recent SEC filing. Last year, the startup raised $4.5 million from Accel Partners and seed investors.
LearnVest, which launched at TechCrunch50 in 2009, has a simple goal: to help women organize their finances and learn how to become financially savvy. It's kind of like an online version of financial planner Suze Orman blended with personal finance site Mint.com.
For example, the startup launched three online programs last year, called ‘bootcamps,’ to educate women on various financial subjects, including a Financial Basics Bootcamp, Cut Your Costs Bootcamp, and Investing Bootcamp. The company also sends users a daily email with financial tips and information called the LearnVest Daily.
Founded by entrepreneur Alexa Von Tobel, the startup is filling a big hole in terms of providing an online destination that is catered towards educating women about finance. And LearnVest has captured a bunch of mainstream attention, including appearances on The Today Show, Nate Berkus and others. As Von Tobel told us last year, “we are focusing our passions on educating women and helping them solve financial problems.”
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 10:28 AM PDT
Editor's note:This guest post was written by Rocky Agrawal is an entrepreneur who has worked on local products since 1995. He blogs at reDesignand Tweets@rakeshlobster. His previous post was Why Daily Deals Are Becoming A Raw Deal.
Google’s recently released Offers product is showing mixed success in Portland, its first market. In this post I will try to look at both the good and the bad of Google Offers. As I point out below, they get an A- for effort, but a C for originality.
Since launch, the offers have included discounted coffee, pool table time, a Lebanese restaurant, tanning services and a pedicab brewery tour. The coffee and restaurant deals did very well, while the pool table time and tanning services didn’t come close to their sales caps. The pedicab sold 26 out of 700. The contestants on The Apprentice generated more revenue from pedicab tours—$1,270 vs. $1,170.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the successful deals provided the most generous and obvious discounts on everyday needs (70% off and 50% off.) The tanning deal was a 75% discount off a fake price. (The same salon offers promotions that are lower than Google’s listed regular price. Some tanning salons give away free tans to new customers.)
Google in Portland
For the past six months, Google has been aggressively marketing its local services in Portland. It’s easily the largest Google consumer marketing campaign I’ve seen. By my estimates, they’ve spent at least $1 million promoting Google Places. Street teams have been out encouraging businesses to claim their business on Google Places and giving them NFC stickers for their store windows.
Google has sponsored events including a bus tour to four Portland microbreweries, three private concerts with tickets given out at local businesses, as well as numerous cocktail parties. They’ve also given out a lot of Google gear. (See this slideshow of Google’s marketing activities.)
Although I would have done a few small things differently, it’s been a really solid effort. I would rate it an A-. They’ve created awareness of Google’s local and mobile offerings and highlighted local businesses. It’s very much along the lines of what Yelp did in its early stages to foster community, only with a much bigger budget.
What I really like is that they’ve promoted quality and differentiated experiences.
Google Offers vs. Groupon
The structure of Google Offers are very similar to Groupon. There are some differences around the edges:
The biggest potential difference that we can’t see is the cut that Google takes of each deal and how it compares with the cut that Groupon takes. Neither company is transparent about this and the ranges are wide. In some cases, the deal company pays the merchant more than the revenue generated; in other cases, they want all of the revenue and the merchant gets nothing.
Despite all of Google’s recent talk about Google Wallet and Offers with NFC payment, that’s not available yet. Nor is a mobile app. Groupon has long had a mobile app that allows you to redeem offers without a printout.
Google has long been a leader and an innovator in local and mapping. I remember when I first saw Google Maps, it was a wow experience that was way ahead of Mapquest. That gap has steadily grown over time.
That’s why it’s so disappointing to see a product that is essentially a knock off with no meaningful improvements over what’s out there.
Google’s products have typically revolved around solving hard problems with innovative technology. Even failed products like Google Wave and Google TV have tackled really difficult problems. Offers does not. It’s just a ploy for revenue.
One area where I expected Google to excel—given their bias toward data—was in collecting data. In order to truly determine if an offer works for a business, you need to track a number of metrics: percent of deals sold to existing customers, unredeemed offers, fraudulently redeemed offers, repeat visits from offer purchasers, sales above voucher face value, sales below voucher face value, average ticket size and more. Data on redemption patterns could be used for capacity planning.
With the high margins built into the daily deals business, it would be possible to equip merchants with a $200 Android tablet that could do all of this.
This is also important for fraud prevention. For the offer that I redeemed at Floyd’s Coffee, for instance, the cashier manually copied the coupon number onto a piece of paper. It would be easy for someone to print out dozens and redeem them because they are not validated in real time. This is an even bigger issue at merchants like Floyd’s, which have multiple locations. While Google does offer online validation via PC or mobile device (as does Groupon), some businesses don’t have the infrastructure in place. Even adding the ability to validate by SMS would significantly improve validation and tracking.
These data are also critical to understanding behavior and designing future local products. The tablets could also be used for future offer management purposes.
All in, it’s a weak first effort and I hope it fails. I’ll talk about why in the next post.
Posted: 10 Jun 2011 10:11 AM PDT
Sadly, Disrupt NYC is over. However, we saw amazing new startups and had the time of our lives in New York City. You can find all of the pictures from Disrupt NYC here and take a peek at all of the videos we captured, including backstage footage here. The ultimate guide for Disrupt NYC can be found here, and we will also be breaking down some of our personal favorite moments in the days to come.
We are very excited that the second Disrupt of this year is taking place in San Francisco! We will have more of the best new startups, all-star guests and speakers, after parties, and many more surprises that will be revealed in the upcoming weeks. Disrupt SF starts on September 12th and goes through September 14th. Today, we are giving away one free ticket away to one lucky reader. Not only are we giving away one free ticket though, thanks to DailySteals.com, we are also giving away a free Motorola Xoom.
Want the Xoom and a chance to come with us to Disrupt in SF? Just follow the steps below.
1) Become a fan of our TechCrunch Facebook Page:
2) Then do one of the following:
- Retweet this post (making sure to include the #TCDisrupt hashtag)
The contest starts now and ends June 12th at 7:30pm PT.
Please only tweet the message once or you will be disqualified. We will choose at random and contact the winner this weekend with more details. Anyone in the world is eligible, as long as you can receive delivered packages.
Good luck :)
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