Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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The Only Backdoor Left To Sneak Your Facebook Friends Into Google+ Is Yahoo

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 09:40 AM PDT

Mark Zuckerberg may be the most followed user on Google+, but good luck trying to find any of your Facebook friends on Google’s new social service. Facebook is making it difficult for anyone to import their friend contact information into Google+. There is no direct contact import feature such as there is for Yahoo or Hotmail, and Facebook is clamping down on third-party services that made it easy to bring your Facebook friends into Google+.

Over the weekend, Facebook blocked a Google Chrome extension called the Facebook Friend Exporter. And in fact, Facebook changed its OAuth 2.0 API in such a way that it “suddenly removed email addresses from the queries without warning,” says Owen Mundy, creator of Give Me My Data. Other data can still be exported, just not your friends’ email addresses.

There still might be one back door open to sneak your Facebook friends into Google+. And that’s Yahoo. You can import your Facebook friends’ contact information, including emails, just fine into Yahoo. (First, you link your Facebook and Yahoo accounts, and then you import your contacts from Yahoo Mail).

I say “might” because I just tried it, and the Yahoo importer in Google+ didn’t even work for me in Chrome. But it did seem to work in Firefox (irony alert). Still, I couldn’t tell if it had actually imported my Facebook friends who are also on Google+ because most of those are also duplicated in my Gmail contacts. Other Facebook friends do not show up in Google+ (although their email addresses imported just fine into Yahoo).

While we’ve seen Facebook play these tricks before because they don’t want to help jumpstart competing services, I don’t really think it’s that big a deal. In this case, your email contacts alone (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail) should be enough to get anyone going on Google+. Your real friends are in both Facebook and Gmail, not to mention your other more occasional contacts, which you can start placing in different circles.

Although Facebook’s shenanigans aren’t good from the point of view of data portability, on the whole I think this is actually a good thing for Google+. If it were too easy to import your Facebook friends, then Google+ would simply become a Facebook clone, replicating your Facebook experience. By forcing you to create a new social graph from the ground up, Google+ has a greater chance of becoming distinct.



KISSmetrics Now Lets Sites Analyze Their Users’ Browsing Habits — Before They Even Sign Up

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 09:38 AM PDT

When it comes to getting people to sign up for a website, developers have a multitude of tools available to refine their signup flows, like A/B testing and funnel analytics. But there’s something that these tools often miss — when a user does finally convert, it’s also helpful to know which ads, links, and splash pages didn’t work for them the previous times they arrived at the site. Unfortunately, that’s a bit harder to track.

Now analytics service KISSmetrics has an answer. Today the company is launching a new feature that will let site administrators hone in on individual users to see both their current usage history on the site, and their history before they actually signed up for an account.

That may sound a little familiar — we recently wrote about Mixpanel, which just launched a real-time user tracking feature of its own (Chartbeat and Media Temple’s Reinvigorate offer similar features as well). But cofounders Neil Patel and Hiten Shah explain that what KISSmetrics is doing has a key difference.

As with the other services, KISSmetrics will let site administrators hone in on individual users to see how they’re browsing through their sites, allowing them to figure out common usage patterns and areas that might need improvement (are people frequently getting hung up in a certain form?). But it can also track this data before users actually create accounts, by creating anonymous profiles tied to a user’s cookies, IP address, and other data.

Then, if that user eventually signs up during a later visit, KISSmetrics will associate their previously anonymous profile with their email address or user name. Which means that site admins can look at both how a user is currently using their site, and how they used it months or years before they actually created an account — which can be very helpful for analyzing what works for converting users, and what doesn’t. KISSmetrics actually launched a similar feature a year ago, but it was based aggregate statistics — now it’s possible to hone in on individual users.

Along with analyzing conversions, the feature lets admins run queries on data like a user’s first and most recent referrers, their average time between visits, and the expected lifetime value of the user.

Of course, as with other real-time site tracking services, this could be used to do creepy things. But that’s really up to the site administrator, and it’s possible to do creepy things simply by looking through normal site logs anyway, though this obviously makes it easier.

Patel and Shah say that KISSmetrics has now tracked 15 billion events across 1.3 billion users (events include things like clicks, commenting, and completing sign up forms).The company has also recently introduced lower priced plans geared toward startups, at $29 and $79 — their existing plans, which allow for more tracked events, begin at $149, and they say they have larger customers paying thousands of dollars a month.





Twitter Acquires Social Analytics Platform BackType

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 09:28 AM PDT

Twitter has just acquired social analytics startup BackType. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

BackType’s analytics dashboard aims to help brands and agencies understand the business impact of social media in order to make more intelligent marketing decisions. For example, the company’s product BackTweets helps publishers understand the reach of their Tweets and content, who they are reaching, and how Tweets covert to web traffic, sales and other KPIs. The company assists more than 100 companies with their social media analytics, from The New York Times and Edelman to startups like Bitly, HubSpot, Hunch and SlideShare.

BackType will be joining Twitter's platform team, where they will be developing tools for Twitter's publisher partners. Along with BackType’s technology, this also seems to be a pretty big talent acquisition for Twitter.

BackType also offers a WordPress plug-in that allowed users integrate relevant comments from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook back to the original post on WordPress.

BackType has raised over $1 million in funding from Y Combinator, True Ventures, K9 Ventures, Freestyle Capital, Lowercase Capital, 500 Startups, Founder Collective, Raymond Tonsing, and others.

The company says that its BackTweets product will be offered to current users for free. But the company will no longer accept new registrations for BackTweets, and eventually the BackType product and API services will be discontinued.



iStopOver Acquires Vacation Rentals Site Vacapedia

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 09:16 AM PDT

Exclusive - Fairly big news from the Canadian accommodation rentals space today: we’ve learned that iStopOver has acquired Vacapedia, a one-stop-shop site for vacation rentals and short-tem accommodations. The deal size was not disclosed, but the transaction is part stock, part cash.

iStopOver is essentially acquiring Vacapedia’s assets, its global inventory and its distribution network. Ashwin Kedia, CEO of Vacapedia, will serve as an advisor to the company.

Like Airbnb, iStopOver lets people rent out their extra space and offer travelers local experiences at affordable prices.

Founded in 2009, iStopOver currently boasts more than 80,000 properties in over 16,000 cities in 92 countries worldwide, and the acquisition of Vacapedia is meant to help the company list more properties but also diversify them.

iStopOver was incubated by Brightspark Ventures and received follow-up funding from GrowthWorks Capital, Ontario Emerging Technologies Fund and JLA Ventures.

Related posts:

HomeAway Acquires Social Vacation Rentals App Second Porch

The Power Of Online-To-Offline Is Moving Beyond Local Commerce

Investors Pump $90 Million Into Airbnb Clone Wimdu

HomeAway IPO Shares Pop 39 Percent, Market Cap Reaches $3 Billion



Laser Cut GIF-based Zeotrope For The Man Who Has Everything

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 09:00 AM PDT

There are men who love animated GIFs and there are men who love animated GIFs. If you belong to the latter camp, feel free to help kickstart this project that turns animated GIFs into a physical, laser-cut zeotrope for your own edification. Why, you ask? Why not?

What if we could bring the magic of ANIMATED GIFs into the physical world? Well, now, using modern LASER TECHNOLOGY, we can. We specialize in transforming the finest in designer-crafted animated GIFs into physical zoetropes, bringing the animated glory of the old-timey web onto your actual desktop or COFFEE TABLE.

Read more…



Apple Tries To Get Rid Of Samsung Copycats Once And For All

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 08:40 AM PDT

Rather than tap dance around the problem any longer, Apple is trying for a slam-dunk style win against Samsung in their never-ending patent war. In other words, Apple has filed for a preliminary injunction against four of Samsung's hottest new products, the Infuse 4g, Galaxy S 4G, Droid Charge, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Read more…



Wingardium Leviosa: This Rotocopter Is Controlled By The Kinect

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 08:32 AM PDT

This project is part of a bachelor’s thesis by Armin Amb├╝hl and involves a quadrocopter, a Kinect sensor, and what I assume is dark magic.

To activate the copter the user lifts his arm and to stop it he claps. The rest of the interaction is performed by swinging his arms around to rotate and steer the vehicle. What was it that Arthur C. Clarke said?

Read more…



UppSite Pushes Your Blog Or Forum Updates To Custom iOS, Android Apps

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 08:27 AM PDT

If you’re a blog or forum owner, engagement is always on your mind. There’s only so much you can do, though, to pull your audience back in to read new content, right? Well, what if you could send a push notification to users when new content is posted? It’s this feature exactly that sits in the center of new Israeli upstart UppSite‘s offering.

UppSite requires just a bit of work, mainly, installing a plugin. Right now it’s only available for WordPress and vBulletin, but support for more CMS platforms will be rolled out in the future. If you run a site powered by a CMS this is pretty basic stuff. Look & feel can then be customized with a custom logo and colors and such. That’s it really.

This is where UppSite’s system kicks in and creates iOS & Android native apps, which are made available in the App Store or Android Marketplace. If you’re curious about Windows Phone 7 and webOS, support for these is coming soon.

True, a native app for a blog or a website may not be significantly more compelling than a bookmark in a mobile browser, but if the site’s icon catches the user’s eye while flipping through apps and he or she decides to launch it to check out what’s new, well, that right there is an upside. Every bit counts.

What I found to be most interesting is the Push aspect, and the fact that it’s bi-directional. Once the blog/forum has created its native app with UppSite, it can then ping users of new blog posts via Push notifications which launch the app. Popping-up on a users smartphone screen is not going to be a difficult pitch to make to blog/forum owners. Sure, it may get a bit out of control, but most mainstream users won’t follow that many native apps for blogs. Plus, both Android and iOS5 have quite convenient Push notification dashboards.

The bi-directional aspect is that blog/forum admins can elect to receive push notifications when users leave comments on posts. UppSite makes replying back simple and seamless by integrating with the native WordPress and vBulletin commenting systems, as well as with Disqus and Facebook. Again, seeing as with engagement, every bit counts, the fact that a site owner can reply back quickly, is another upside.

UppSite boasts two business models: The first is creating an ad-network across the free native apps. These are the ones the company is currently making available. The second is a premium offering which will remove ads and allow site/forum owners to register the apps for download under their own developer accounts. The latter offering will be made available soon.



The Sandpit Emerges As Startup ‘Sales Accelerator’, Puts $0.8m Into SoDash

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 08:04 AM PDT

The Sandpit, a new London-based "sales accelerator" for new technologies, says it is taking a 25% stake for "up to £500,000" over the next two years in SoDash, a web-based tool that helps organisations to manage their activity on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Sandpit has an option to purchase a further chunk and also has the exclusive commercial rights to the product, enabling the tech team to focus on development. SoDash is a spin-out from Artificial Intelligence specialists Winterwell. But who are these Sandpit guys?


Skype 5.2 For Mac Has Arrived, Comes With Group Screen Sharing And Video Calls

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 06:43 AM PDT

Right on the heels of releasing Skype 5.5 for Windows, featuring deep Facebook integration, the company has just rolled out a new version of its voice and video calling software solution for Mac.

Skype 5.2 for Mac is available now and is much more worth the download than the 5.1 updated version of the beta Mac software released back in November 2010.

With the new version, Skype for Mac users can not only do group video calls (which was already available in the beta product) but also share their screens during such calls.

Screen sharing is already available for free on a one-to-one Skype call, but the ability to share documents, photos, presentations and whatnot with multiple people in one session takes the product to a different level in my opinion, particularly for small businesses.

One caveat: to take advantage of group video calling and screen sharing, one or more call participants must have a Skype Premium subscription.

Such subscriptions cost between $4.49 and $8.99 per month. You can also get a day pass for $4.99 if you only use the product occasionally.

When you use the new product, you’ll notice the call control bar now features video when you multi-task during a video call, enabling you to still see the person you're talking to as well as being able to hang up or mute the conversation even when you’re in a different program.

Finally, Skype has made it easier to find your most active conversations under ‘Recents’ in the sidebar, and added a history section where users can see those that are less active.

When Microsoft acquired Skype for $8.5 billion earlier this year, they pledged that the company would "continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms".

Skype last week updated its Android application to support video calls over 3G and WiFi as well, and we’ve heard that Facebook will be rolling out a new, in-browser video chat product, powered by Skype, shortly.



Mobile Payments To Triple To $670B By 2015; Digital Goods Will Represent 40% Of Transactions

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 06:40 AM PDT

Juniper Research is releasing a new study today that reports that the transaction value of mobile payments for digital and physical goods, money transfers and NFC (Near Field Communications) transactions will reach $670 billion by 2015, up from $240 billion this year.

The top 3 regions for mobile payments (East Asia and China, Western Europe and North America) will represent 75% of the global mobile payment gross transaction value by 2015. Digital goods payments will account for nearly 40% of the market in 2015.

The research firm says that this growth is driven by the increased adoption of NFC payments, mobile ticketing by retailers, and other transactions made through mobile phones (i.e. retailers using payments systems like Square).

As Juniper reported recently, global NFC mobile contactless payment transactions will reach nearly $50 billion worldwide by 2014. Juniper says that NFC is steadily gaining traction, and because of the latest rollouts of the technology both in the U.S. and outside the U.S., 2011 and 2012 are expected to be ‘banner years for NFC service rollouts.’

Juniper also says that the need for financial access in emerging markets and developing countries will result in active mobile money users doubling by 2013, helping drive mobile transactions.

We know that payments companies like Square and PayPal are experiencing major growth in mobile transactions, and we can expect more players to start competing in this growing market.



LightSquared Raises $265 Million To Build High-Speed Wireless Network

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 05:28 AM PDT

LightSquared, a company that is developing a wholesale only, net-neutral 4G-LTE network that combines with satellite to provide nation-wide broadband wireless access, has raised $265 million in new funding.

The company says that the capital was raised from both existing investors as well as new investors in the company but declined to reveal LightSquared’s new investors in the release. Current investors include Spectrum Assets and Harbinger Capital Partners. Over the last 12 months LightSquared has raised over $2.3 billion.

LightSquared’s plans have stirred controversy because the network may cause interference with GPS systems. The FCC is currently reviewing LightSquared plans for these interference concerns. But the company says it plans to resolve any issues with interference of GPS networks.

LightSquared says it will use new funding for ‘general corporate purposes, which includes constructing its world-class 4G-LTE wholesale network.’LightSquared has disclosed that it plans commit $15 billion to build a wholesale wireless service using 40,000 base stations.



Dealised Powers Group Buying Sites, Raises $6.5 Million

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 05:02 AM PDT

Dealised, which offers technology that allows third parties to run a group buying service from their own websites, has raised $6.5 million in Series A funding. The Singapore company raised the round from SingTel Innov8, the SingTel Group's corporate venture capital fund, and Australian VC firm Yuuwa Capital.

Other Dealised backers include Sydney start-up incubator Pollenizer and a select number of (unnamed) angel investors. Dealised was originally founded in late 2009 to power Spreets, an Australian daily deals site that was acquired by Yahoo7! in Australia in 2010 for A$40 million (now close to $42.8 million).

The company also announced the appointment of Jonathan Marchbank, former Chief Operating Officer for Virgin Mobile US, as its new CEO.

Companies like media publishers, mobile operators and retailers use Dealised's technology and services platform to create and manage their own deals.

Dealised says it will use its regional Asian headquarters in Singapore to drive global business expansion and develop mobile group-buying solutions. Its proposition reminds me a lot of Tippr, which also offers a white-label group buying solution dubbed Powered By Tippr, as well as ChompOn, Group Commerce and Deal Co-op.

Dealised is already working with several UK-based customers, including The Daily Telegraph, as well customers in Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and the US.



GSR Ventures Raises Fourth China Fund at $350M

Posted: 05 Jul 2011 02:45 AM PDT

GSR Ventures has raised its fourth venture fund focused on investing in early stage Chinese companies. It took just six weeks of effort, was completed in a single close, and more than 80% of the commitments came from very happy existing investors.

The big surprise to those LPs? Given the frothiness of the Chinese market, that GSR didn’t ask for more. The last fund was $350 million and so is this one. “We are very boring. We have the same strategy, the same team and expect the same nice results,” said GSR’s managing director Richard Lim in an interview last week.

“Nice results” is typical Chinese modesty. GSR has had two IPOs in 2011, and several others are in registration. It includes Qunar, the online travel site that just got a $306 million investment from Baidu, and the first venture investment in Lashou.com, the Chinese daily deal giant. Lashou has already turned down an acquisition worth hundreds of millions from Groupon and was valued at more than $1 billion at its last funding round. GSR invested in the company last June at a low single-digit-million pre-money price. Gary Bridge, founder of fund-of-fund Horsley Bridge Partners, called GSR’s returns, “comparable to the best early-stage venture firms in the world.”

Lim says the reason GSR’s funding reality hasn’t changed is that they focus so heavily on very early stage companies and most of the over-heated valuations and influx of foreign cash has come at later stages. And with some of the last year’s soaring Chinese IPOs now taking hits of 50% or more, Lim expects the volatility in later stage deals to continue.

Meanwhile, early stage valuations are still in the single digit millions, he says. 90% of the companies he sees have no revenues and will take a minimum of five years to go public even in a hot market. Then it’s another four years of a lockup before he can exit. In a massive contrast to the US venture market, Lim stubbornly refuses to pay up for an early stage deal just because later stage valuations are on a rollercoaster. “What do I care about a big first day IPO pop? I’m in this company another three years,” he says.

And, he adds, that attitude hasn’t hurt GSR’s deal flow so far. The only exception was the mobile app space, where valuations soared for six months, peaked thirty days ago and has reset dramatically since then, he says. Meanwhile in other sectors in which GSR invests, like greentech, prices aren’t moving at all. “In greentech you need four quarters of earnings if you want to go public or you don’t get out at all,” Lim says.

We plan to have Lim as part of a group of investors talking about the nuances of the up-and-down Chinese Internet investing scene at our Disrupt Beijing Conference in October. More details on that event coming soon.



Stars Versus Great Teams

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 09:47 PM PDT

It is a truism in Silicon Valley that star employees are worth ten to one hundred times as much as ordinary employees. This calculus is especially true for software engineers, but also applies to product managers, sales executives, and other key employees. If you are a star performer, the sky’s the limit in terms of what technology companies will be willing to attract or keep you.

We’ve seen this again and again. Facebook bought Friendfeed for $50 million just to get its highly talented engineers (co-founder Brett Taylor is now Facebook’s CTO). Last year, Google made a $3.5 million counteroffer to a staff engineer to keep him from going to Facebook. And this year, it paid two top product managers as much as $150 million to keep them from going to Twitter.

Hire stars, and not only will they work harder than everyone else, but they will also lift the performance of the entire company. I’ve witnessed this happen at both technology and media companies. The stars come in and raise the bar, and everyone else picks up their game as a result (either out of pride or fear, or some combination of the two).

But not everyone can be a star. And sometimes stars fade when they are taken out of the environment in which they became stars in the first place. A Harvard Business School study once looked at star Wall Street analysts and concluded that they did not tend to do as well when they moved jobs. Further research suggested that some of the factors for moving stars successfully include how similar the new company is to the old one in terms of culture and resources, and the ability for the star to bring along his or her team.

None of these studies look at the dynamics of technology startups. They are focussed more on Wall Street or large corporations, where stars are defined differently. Yet a recent blog post by Fast Company co-founder Bill Taylor tries to apply the argument to Silicon Valley and says that great people are overrated. Taylor brings up the Boston Bruins and the Dallas Mavericks as counterexamples that great teams can do better than rivals with star individual players.

When I retweeted this article a few weeks ago, Square COO Keith Rabois almost immediately responded, “he is wrong.” Oh yeah, I asked, what about the Bruins? To which Rabois replied:


Keith Rabois
@ Sports are subject to salary caps and other socialist constraints (like drafts). Imagine if you could recruit everyone.

Imagine if you could recruit everyone and offer them virtually limitless upside in stock—that is how hot startups recruit. People like Rabois are selling the dream every time they hire someone. It helps if they’ve delivered on that dream before or can demonstrate so much traction that it makes it hard for the best hires to turn them down. Because who doesn’t want limitless upside?

What it comes down to, then, is whether the company doing the recruiting is a star in its own right. Star players want to work for star companies. And there is no limit to how many stars a startup can hire, especially if it is paying mostly in stock.

But that doesn’t mean that stars don’t need to be team players. The best stars lead the people around them. They motivate, inspire, and lead by example. They also help their teammates whenever they can because they know they cannot do everything alone.

Hiring stars versus hiring a great team is a false choice. You should always try to hire the best people you can find: people who are stars or have the potential to become stars. Especially in tech startups, stars attract other stars because the smartest people want to work with other smart people. Hiring mediocre players is the surest way to create a mediocre company.

The best stars are those who can work with other people, and lift the entire organization. A company filled with stars can end up with the stars feeding off each other and forming a great, cohesive team. They hide each other’s weaknesses by picking up the slack between them just like a great basketball team is always passing the ball to whoever is in the strongest postion at any given time.

Too many stars in one company can also create rivalries that take the company down. But those people then cease to be stars. Companies are a team sport. You can’t be a star if your team sucks.

Photo credit: Flickr/cliff1066



Mark Zuckerberg Is The Most Followed User On Google+

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 03:27 PM PDT

In what has to be somewhat embarrassing for Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the most followed user on Google+, according to the Google+ Statistics counter.

The Facebook CEO has 21,213 followers, compared to the Google CEO at 14,798, Google social czar Vic Gundotra at 13,783, Google co-founder Sergey Brin at 11,629, blogger Robert Scoble at 11,389, Google spam avenger Matt Cutts at 9,153, TWIT founder Leo Laporte at 7,566, Google’s Bradley Horowitz at 7,187, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler at 6,579 and blogger Gina Trapani at 5,649.

Google+ Statistics creator Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten explains the CEO’s unlikely popularity thus, “He has the most friends in the world, they made a movie about him, and he is more handsome than the Larry and Sergey.” I think the answer goes more like this; The more media coverage someone receives related to Google+, the more followers they get, hence MG Siegler at #9.

I’m at #104. Discuss.



Realtime Search On Hiatus While Google And Twitter Figure Themselves Out

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 01:03 PM PDT

Sometime on the morning of July 3rd, Google Realtime Search mysteriously went offline and, assuming it was just another example of things breaking on a holiday weekend, most tech publications ignored it.

Well as it turns out the reason behind its disappearance was not so mysterious, on July 2nd Google’s access to Twitter’s special firehose expired and it pulled the feature in order to rethink its strategy. Bing, which had a similar deal with Twitter still has access to the firehose.

What gives? While no one really has any details as to why the deal fell through, Google says that it disabled the project to incorporate Google+ results and Twitter says that it will continue to work with Google on other projects.

“Our vision is to have google.com/realtime include Google+ information along with other realtime data from a variety of sources,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land.

It’s not like Twitter will be pulled entirely from the service, Google can still crawl and organize publicly available tweets (each tweet is its own webpage). Google+, which bizarrely still does not have search, might eventually become a dominant enough service that users will want Realtime search that is free of Twitter noise. Google might have also treated the deal as a learning experience, like when Eric Schmidt sat on Apple’s board and then launched Android.

But can Google’s Realtime search succeed without Twitter? I know that I for one will be using it a lot less unless Google’s public tweet crawl is comprehensive enough to supplant a service like Topsy, or Twitter’s own meager search.

So is Twitter declaring independence from Google or is Google declaring independence from Twitter? I really don’t know — it might simply be a question of the right price. But if I had to guess who had the upper hand in negotiations it would be the latter, with Google now suffering from a huge case of “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

[Insert random speculation about Google buying Twitter here.]

Image: ilovememphis



How This Year’s Tech IPOs Are Doing, And Who’s Next

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Bubble or not, 2011 may go down as the year of the tech IPO. Not since the last bubble have we seen so many technology companies clamoring to go public. And halfway through the year, we still have many more companies who will be listing on either the NASDAQ or the NYSE in the next six months. Here’s a roundup of the tech companies that have gone public, where they are trading now, and who we can expect to see ringing the bell next.

LINKEDIN (NYSE:LNKD)

Professional social network LinkedIn probably had the biggest IPO in terms of hype this year because it was one of the first big social media companies to go public. After pricing its IPO at $45 per share on the New York Stock Exchange, LinkedIn began trading at $83.00 per share on May 19, giving the company a $7.8 billion market cap. In the first day of trading, shares popped up to as high as $122.70, soaring past a $10 billion valuation.

But these high stock prices didn’t sustain and LinkedIn’s value per share dropped significantly over the next month, dropping as low as $63.71 per share. However, the company’s stock rebounded last week, with shares rising as high as $95.50 on Friday, eventually closing at $94.54. That’s a 110 percent increase from its initial pricing.

PANDORA (NYSE:P)

Similar to LinkedIn, music streaming service Pandora also drew considerable attention to its IPO, which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange under the desirable, single character symbol ‘P.’ The company priced its IPO at $16 per share (valuing the company at $2.6 billion), but opened at $20 per share on June 15 (up 25 percent), valuing the company at $3.2 billion.

In the two weeks following the IPO, Pandora’s stock took a bit of a dive, reaching as low as $12.16 per share. But like LinkedIn, Pandora’s shares saw an uptick over the past week, closing at $20.04 on Friday, which is up 25 percent from the company’s initial pricing in June.

YANDEX (NASDAQ:YNDX)

Russian search engine Yandex, which began trading on the NASDAQ on May 24, priced its IPO at $25 per share, but opened at $35, giving Yandex a market cap of roughly $11.2 billion. That’s a bigger market cap than both LinkedIn and Pandora.

Yandex has experienced highs and lows in the past month with the value of its stock, but the fluctuations have not been nearly as extreme as some of its contemporaries in the tech IPO market. Yandex’s stock dipped to a low of $29.73 in mid-June but rebounded quickly and closed on Friday at $35.69, which is a 40 percent increase from its initial pricing.

FUSION-IO (NYSE:FIO)

Fusion-io, the developer of flash- memory technology for companies, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on June 9. The company priced its IPO at $19 per share, valuing Fusion-io at $1.5 billion, but opened at $25 per share, giving the company a nearly $2 billion market cap.

Fusion-io’s stock has performed fairly well over the past month, reaching a high of $36.32 last week. The company’s shares closed at $31.19 on Friday, up 64 percent from its initial pricing.

HOMEAWAY (NASDAQ:AWAY)

Vacation home rental service HomeAway debuted its IPO last week, pricing at $27 per share. HomeAway, which listed on the NASDAQ, saw its shares pop over 30 percent in initial trading last Wednesday, giving the rental service as valuation of $3 billion.

HomeAway’s shares have maintained its value, relatively speaking, in its first week of trading, reaching a low of $34.92 and a high of $42.30. On Friday, HomeAway’s shares closed at $38.42, a 42 percent increase from the stock’s pricing.

RENREN (NYSE:RENN)

Chinese social network Renren actually went public before LinkedIn, pricing its IPO in early May at $14 per share, with a total offering size of $743.4 million. The company was pitching itself as a "Facebook" like site for the Chinese market, which resulted in an increase in the share price range from the initial $9-$11 to $12-$14. That increase resulted in a boost in the deal size to $743.4 million from the original price of $584 million.

RenRen opened at $18 per share, but the stock has since plummeted to as low as $6.23 per share. On Friday, RenRen closed at $9.25 per share, which is a 34 percent drop in value from the initial pricing.

BANKRATE (NYSE:RATE)

Bankrate provides free rate information to consumers on more than 300 financial products, including mortgages, credit cards, new and used automobile loans, and more. The company priced its IPO at $15 per share, valuing the company at $1.5 billion. The company’s shares, which began trading in mid-June, have remained fairly steady at this price, reaching a high of $17.89. Bankrate closed at $17.13 per share on Friday, up 13 percent.

Who’s Next Up To IPO

Zillow: Real estate listings giant Zillow filed its S-1 in April, so we could be seeing the company hit the public markets in the next two months. Zillow wants to raise $51.75 million in the offering, and while revenue has grown for the company year over year, Zillow has taked a loss for the past three years. Zillow will trade on the NASDAQ under the symbol “Z.”

Kayak: Travel search engine Kayak filed its S-1 last November, aiming to raise $50 million. No word on when the search engine is planning to IPO, but Kayak did reveal revenue growth in the past year, however net income is down. The company will trade on the NASDAQ under the symbol "KYAK."

Groupon: Daily deals giant Groupon just filed its S-1 in June, aiming to raise $750 million in the public offering. Though the company has an impressive revenue run rate of $2.6 billion for 2011, but has drawn criticism for a lack of profits and the fact that the founders have taken a significant amount of money off the table. The company is looking at an IPO in the Fall.

Zynga: Zynga just filed for its $1 billion IPO this past Friday, revealing impressive financials. Revenues grew 392 percent in 2010, up from $121.5 million in 2009. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, the company's revenues reached $235 million (or a $940 million revenue run-rate), which is up 134 percent from the first quarter of 2010. Both Zynga and Groupon may be rushing to IPO ahead of Facebook, which is expected to file in the coming year.

Not Yet Filed, But Champing At The Bit:

Facebook: We know an IPO is in the works for Facebook, it’s just a matter of when. The company has been meeting with bankers to discuss IPO size and time frame for an offering. And the company just added Netflix founder and CEO (and an IPO veteran) Reed Hastings to its board. It’s been thought that the social network will go public by April 2012, but it could happen before this date.

Glam Media: We’ve heard Glam Media, one of the largest publishing and advertising networks on the Web, is planning to file for an IPO as early as this Fall. The company has hit $100 million in annual revenue, reaches 90 million people a month in the U.S., and is in the process of hiring bankers to lead its offering.

Yelp: Online reviews and daily deals giant Yelp has its sights set on an IPO, but the timeline is unclear. Yelp is now at 50 million unique visitors per month, mostly in the U.S., and has raised $56 million in funding.

Disclosure: My husband is an employee of Groupon.



The Way We Eat

Posted: 04 Jul 2011 09:40 AM PDT

Editors Note: Guest contributor Semil Shah is an entrepreneur interested in digital media, consumer Internet, and social networks. He is based in Palo Alto and you can follow him on Twitter @semilshah.

"Where should we grab some food?" Perhaps no other question has motivated more consumer technology entrepreneurs. Well, I say that only half-jokingly.

After the age of the Yellow Pages, we've all used multiple services that guide us to a restaurant seat. We've hunted for restaurants on Google, researched options on Zagat, and offered reviews on Yelp. The trend for how we search for restaurants has shifted from directories (phone books) to guides (ratings) to people influencing our decisions. Today, there's stiff competition amongst mobile services to drive us to the next restaurant, whether it's a Living Social daily deal, a Foursquare check-in reward, an UrbanSpoon recommendation, or simply word-of-mouth, serendipitous suggestions that filter through conversations on various social networks or, heaven forbid, in real life.

These services help drive us to eateries and hopefully create incentives between restaurants and customers to foster repeat business and loyalty. But the restaurant business is hyper-competitive. Many don't make it. Turnover is the norm. And for those that are able to survive, either because of killer food or location, the majority of them offer adequate food, service, and ambiance, yet are able to turn a buck because we keep going back. Instead of competing on quality, most compete on offers and optimize to fill open seats. For the most part, it at least appears the majority of restaurants worry less about word-of-mouth goodwill and are more focused on accumulating badges and stickers to paste underneath their menus as patrons window-shop.

Having spent a decent portion of my life working in restaurants, I know markups and margins on tickets are healthy, even excluding those businesses with liquor licenses. People are perfectly willing to fork over two to three times the cost of goods sold, even if those goods are not so tasty. The time saved, the ease of ordering, and the feeling of eating out somehow translates to a juicy premium. All the while, oftentimes the food is suspect, both in terms of quality and nutritional value. Yet we continue to go back, line up, gorge ourselves, and repeat. And as the economy continues to recover (slowly), individuals and especially families are under enormous pressure to stock up at big box retailers and focus on food quantity at the expense of quality.

While restaurants and these services continue to compete for our dining dollars, a host of new consumer web startups have mushroomed to fill in some gaps and create interesting new ways for us to chow down. New companies like Gobble and Grubly create local peer-to-peer marketplaces for homecooked meals that are either delivered or available for pickup. Instead of heating up frozen pizza or ordering mediocre takeout, these services help home cooks build up a reputation (and a little extra income). Kitchit's aim is slightly different, to free those who actually make the food (the cooks) and bring them into our homes so that we can have friends over for dinner and turn our apartments and houses into restaurants.

While these services focus on meals in the house, others focus on getting us out of the house and to grub with new folks. Grubwithus has a clever model for driving groups of friends or strangers to a new restaurant, offering the proprietor a number of seats under one pre-fixe bill while giving diners the chance to meet people at new or favorite dining establishments. Housefed is a service for people to eat homecooked meals with others at the cook's home, whether in the city you live or while on the road. (Tip: Hunt for the Housefed blog, it counters much of the Silicon Valley groupthink.) We've all experienced the monotony of eating with the same people over and over again, or getting caught in tourist-trap restaurants while traveling, longing for that elusive home-cooked meal with local fare. Grubwithus and Housefed help break that monotony, and that's a very good thing.

All of this is happening because of the convergence of a number of trends. Our economy is struggling to regain its footing. We've become more educated about the dangers of poor nutrition, the hazards of frozen food, and dietary effects of portion sizes. Diabetes is a legitimate health threat. We have to commute more, from suburb to suburb, as job tenures become shorter. We marry later in life. Then, we divorce. Both parents work, or there's just one parent. Kids don't take as much of an interest in cooking their own food, let alone having any curiosity as to where it comes from. And with technology to make us more productive and/or to distract us, we oftentimes get caught in situations where we turn one of humankind's most social habits into an anti-social event, a means to an end.

As Robert Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone, might say, we're also "Eating Alone," at least some of the time, and we’re content with it. Despite the popularity of the Food Network, one of its most attractive personalities, Jamie Oliver, wasn’t able to take healthy eating and education mainstream—his show, Food Revolution, had six episodes in 2010 and was yanked off the air after two spots in 2011 because of low ratings, replaced replaced by Dancing with the Stars.

We are separated from what we eat. We lose that connection as to where the food came from in the first place, where it was planted, harvested, and how it ended up prepared on our plate. That's what excites me about this particular batch of startups. They may or may not create a Google-like technology giant, but that's not the point. They’re riding social networks and creating peer-to-peer economies, allowing us to connect with others around food and offering an interesting (and sometimes cheaper and healthier) alternative to frozen dinners and overpriced restaurants. Technology will probably never be able to answer the question “Where should we eat?” That’s OK. What’s important is that how we answer the question could be different in the future, and that’s a good thing. After all, we’re not just what we eat—we’re also where we eat and whom we eat with.

Photo credit: Flickr/Momo



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