Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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The Web Is 20 Years Old Today

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 07:16 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-08-06 at 4.14.02 PM

It was twenty years ago today/ Tim Berners-Lee taught the world to play/ Although 20 years ago he would have sworn/ That there wouldn’t have been so much porn. That’s right – the world’s first website, a placeholder page written by Sir Berners-Lee way back on August 6, 1991 in the then-nascent Hypertext Mark-Up Language, is celebrating its 20th birthday today. And, on this important anniversary, we ask what hath the web wrought?

In the past two decades we’ve been given ecommerce and spam, we’ve torn down the music, news, and publishing industries, and we’ve LOLed at more CATS than we can count. We’ve seen empires rise and fall, the dissolution of the line between public and private, and the end of enforceable copyright. We’ve seen new modes of communication drive out unwanted regimes at home and abroad and we’ve heard the endless howl of a million voices calling out at once, most of them in comments on this site.

We’ve also seen lots of the aforementioned porn.

The original (can there be an original?) page is mirrored here and it’s a fascinating look at the seed crystal that catalyzed change to the world as we knew it in those heady pre-Internet days. Also porn.

Happy birthday, Internet Web. Here’s to another 20 happy, healthy years.

UPDATE – You guys win. Mea culpa.




Daily Crunch: Movement

Posted: 06 Aug 2011 01:00 AM PDT

Lessons HealthTech Startups Can Take From ZocDoc

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 11:17 PM PDT

logo

Editor's note: This guest post was written by Dave Chase, the CEO of Avado.com, a Patient Relationship Management company that was a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist. Previously he was a management consultant for Accenture's healthcare practice consulting to 25 hospitals and was the founder of Microsoft's Health business. You can follow him on Twitter @chasedave.

ZocDoc just announced a $50M round from DST. Where many have failed, ZocDoc has shown that a disruptive new model executed properly can actually work in healthcare. Healthtech startups can take several lessons away from the ZocDoc experience observing from the outside what they have accomplished.

Scrappiness matters. ZocDoc’s CEO & Co-founder, Cyrus Massoumi was tenacious in getting close to his first customers and doing whatever it took to close his first customers. He has shared that he waited in a doctor’s waiting room for 5 hours to speak with one doctor he wanted. In another case, he was escorted out of the building by security due to his persistence.

Focus pays off. ZocDoc appears to have ignored the siren song of any number of diversions from their core. This could have included getting into pricing elasticity or electronic health records. They do one thing exceptionally well — they fill open slots on doctors’ and dentists’ appointment calendars. Now that they’ve proven this, there’s logical places for them to extend. For example, think about what happens after scheduling an appointment (insurance eligibility, reminding patients about appointments, etc). With the credibility they’ve established, they can increase revenue per customer if they offer those services to a doctor.

Great investors help. While I’m sure their investors would give the ZocDoc team most of the credit, it can’t hurt to have Vinod Khosla, Marc Benioff and Jeff Bezos as early investors followed by the Founders Fund and SV Angel.

Honing their sales model. It appears they don’t use their website for sales to clinicians. Their website is almost entirely focused on consumer acquisition. Their strategy to acquire their paying customers may be viewed as “old school” (i.e., field and inside sales) but it has been effective. It sounds like they make a significant investment in sales development which is a great way to maximize the value of a salesforce.

Word of mouth still works. Doctors and dentists talk with each other and by providing them a great experience, they are getting plenty of inbound lead generation. Too often, startups rush growth and it bites them back with a bad customer experience and negative word of mouth. No doubt, this is helping drive inbound interest.

Start small to go big. As Salesforce.com and others have shown, starting with small customers is a great way to get initial traction. In ZocDoc’s case, they went to individual doctors rather than pursuing hospitals and large clinics. No doubt, that opportunity exists if/when they want it but they’ve shown you can build a business with small providers first. This can open up later opportunities with hospitals.

Stage rollout by geography. This is particularly critical in their model but I think it will matter for many healthtech startups. Having critical mass in a particular geography makes sense from a sales and marketing standpoint helping compress the sales cycle and learning curve. An alternative to this would be staging by specialty – i.e., focus on one specialty before moving to another.

Lead with the doctors. As Google Health’s failure demonstrated, leading with the consumer and expecting them to pull in physicians isn’t likely to be successful. ZocDoc focused first on getting doctors on board to have a critical mass of available appointments. While they have done consumer marketing, my impression is that doctors are now encouraging their patients to schedule appointments this way creating a virtuous cycle. If a doctor (or any business) tells you the preferred way to interact with them, most consumers will do it. In contrast, most doctors wouldn’t heed a patient or two telling them to use some new tool.

Technology-enabled services appeal to healthcare. Doctors, for the most part, don’t care about the technology. I doubt they think about the underlying architecture of ZocDoc’s solution. Rather, they care about the outcome ZocDoc provides – filling empty appointment slots. For many of their customers, they are the #1 source of new patients. WhiteGlove Health is another startup providing a technology-enabled service having success — their IPO is this week. Technology as an enabler, rather than as the centerpiece, matters more the smaller the target customer as a general rule.

Congratulations to Cyrus Massoumi and the ZocDoc team for knocking it out of the park. This is a great example of the disruption in healthcare that is greatly needed. Read more on Cyrus’ blog post.




Tencent Vs. Sina: A Look At Who’s Winning The Battle For China’s Tweets [Infographic]

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 10:56 PM PDT

qq-vs-sina

China currently has the most Internet users of any country in the world, with some 420 million people connecting to the Web. Some more recent statistics even put that number as high as 485 million. Granted, China has a population of just over 1.3 billion, which means only 32 percent of its population is using the Web, a percentage far lower than the U.S. and Japan (at at 77 percent and 78 percent, respectively).

Of course, with web activity continuing to grow rapidly in China, the Asian power represents an enormous digital market, even as the so-called “Great Firewall of China” has made it difficult (or impossible) to fully transport international digital technologies and businesses into the Chinese ecosystem.

Thanks to China’s strict web regulation (and IP blocking, among other things), in the big picture, U.S. businesses have failed to make a significant impact, even in spite of the fact that China’s web users have begun adopting social networking, microblogging, gaming and more, with gusto.

Twitter has been blocked in China since 2009, for example, but that hasn’t stopped Chinese companies from adopting Twitter-like microblogging platforms at home. The use of “weibo” sites (the Chinese translation of “microblogging”) has exploded in China in the last few years, and two companies in particular have come to dominate the market: Tencent and Sina.

Of course, the matter of which company is winning the “weibo race” in China is open to debate. The reason for this is that Tencent has essentially become, as iChinaStock.com puts it, what AIM, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter would be were they combined together into one, giant amalgamated enterprise.

Tencent’s IM application, QQ Messenger (a.k.a. QQ), claims to have 674 million active users, (although it’s very likely that estimate is high by several hundred million). QQ is the service from which Tencent signs up its users and then funnels them into its other products and services, including games, search, and Tencent Weibo, to name a few.

According to iChinaStock, microblogging in China really took off with the rise in popularity of Sina Weibo in 2009 and 2010; today, the popular microblogging service has nearly 140 million users. Yet, since Tencent launched Tencent Weibo in 2010, its service, too, has been growing at a breakneck pace, today claiming over 200 million registered users.

However, iChinaStock estimates that only about 93 million of those users are active on the service, and while this number remains open for debate, it is likely that as many as 40 percent of Tencent Weibo users are registering through QQ, which makes those registered stats run high, while in fact many of those users aren’t even active.

As always, the issue of identifying “registered” versus “active” users is delicate, and when it comes to these Chinese microblogging services, much of the data is either unpublished, unreliable, or an estimation.

Yet, in regard to which company is winning the race, Digimind, a solution provider that offers competitive intelligence as well as e-reputation, data mining and social media monitoring, has whipped up a nifty little infographic that gives us a peek into the Weibo War, and how the leaders stack up against Twitter. (See below)

While Digimind has Sina Weibo as the clear leader in China’s microblogging space, Tencent is certainly not to be dismissed, as it is growing exponentially, has an integrated, multi-level platform from which to channel users into its Weibo, and is spending millions on marketing to bring new users to its service.

That being said, those who I spoke to at Digmind, along with sources in China (as well as iChinaStock) all agree that Sina Weibo likely outranks Tencent in terms of the quantity of active users as well as the quality. With Sina owning 57 percent of the Chinese microblogging market and finding high adoption among Chinese celebrities (not to mention have a relatively stable platform without a lot of downtime), Sina looks like the clear frontrunner. Not to mention that the company acquired “weibo.com” and “weibo.cn” — two fairly important domain names for a company looking to dominate the weibo market. Plus, they’re just easier to remember.

While Sina Weibo compares favorably to Twitter in terms of adoption in China, the fact of the matter is that Twitter has a far broader reach, now being translated into 11 languages, whereas Sina and Tencent remain localized to the Chinese market. (Although Sina Weibo is planning to launch an English language version sometime soon.) Of course, it may be that the market is so huge that neither company will effectively become the “Twitter of China”, though Sina Weibo certainly seems to have the competitive advantage at this point.

However, with Tencent’s broader platform and patent ownership reaching into areas including instant messaging, e-commerce, online payment services, search, information security, and gaming, Tencent is diversified to say the least. And, with the massive adoption of QQ, perhaps it is Tencent that has first dibs on a bigger prize: China’s social graph.

Let us know what you think.

Further reading: For a really excellent comparison of Sina Weibo and Tencent (and Tencent Weibo), check out iChinaStock.com’s analysis here, and Bill Bishop of DigiCha’s analysis here.

Without further ado, the infographic:

Excerpt image courtesy of Technode




Turn An Email Into Snail Mail For Free

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 08:39 PM PDT

Screen shot 2011-08-05 at 8.27.25 PM

I’m currently looking at an email from US Airways customer support, where the only return contact info available in the email is a physical mailing address WTF — And a visit to the US Airways website reveals a similar over-reliance on snail mail. I mean, who does that? Still? Granted a little bit of on site digging reveals, gasp, phone numbers!

I guess somebody’s still into paper modes of communication — as the below “Fax to Email” pitch from Dragon’s Den, the Canadian version of Shark Tank, proves — because the US Postal Service still, you know, exists. But for how long?

While we wait for the demise of all print, those of us who still need to send Father’s Day greetings to their Dad (and have yet to because they are busy slaving over blog posts for TechCrunch have forgotten how to write an actual letter ) are in luck …

You have 10 more days to use Snail My Email, a service that will handwrite your email and physically send it to your recipient including a doodle, a flower petal, a spray of cologne or other old timey accoutrements if you so chose. Note: You only get one shot, and you have to send your text along with mailing details to snailmailmyemail@gmail.com.

“In a culture overrun with instant gratification and on-demand services, this project cultivates appreciation for the lost art of letter writing,” says the sappy blurb on the project’s website. Damn hippies.

Actual Snail My Email letter, above. 




Mini RFID Device Stores Personal Medical Data, Makes It Instantly Accessible

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 08:29 PM PDT

asahi kasei

Japan-based chemical and tech company Asahi Kasei has developed a small healthcare product that should make life for paramedics, emergency doctors (and patients) easier: the portable device (pictured) makes it possible to instantly access all medical data on a specific person with a PC or smartphone, via RFID.

Asahi Kasei uses the FeliCa smart card tech (instead of a self-developed solution), as this system has been widely adopted by all of Japan’s mobile carriers, several major PC makers (i.e. Sony for their Vaio computers), and other electronics companies. In Japan, FeliCa as a brand has actually been around since 1994.

In an emergency situation, doctors or paramedics can tap Felica-equipped equipment against the device to view medical data of its owner, for example the blood type, date of birth etc. on the screen in seconds. Asahi Kasei says that the entire medical history of patients can be stored. If doctors need to view very large files, for example X-ray images, the device can make access possible by letting users click on links that lead to that data (but stored on external servers).

The device is just sized at 3x3cm. According to Japanese business daily The Nikkei, Asahi Kasei is planning to market it within a year (and priced at $25 a unit).




The Startup You Want To Work At The Most Is Your Own

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 06:55 PM PDT

Screen shot 2011-08-05 at 6.03.56 PM

By now it is a common axiom in Silicon Valley small talk that good engineers are, at the moment, murder to come by. While the most prominent talent battles have thus far been between Facebook and Google, I was curious whether there was a specific smaller startup that everyone wanted to work at.

So I set up a GoPollGo poll asking, “If you could work for a startup, any startup, which one would it be?” and included the Valley’s most prominent startups, adding new ones as they were suggested by you guys.

The poll, which was tweeted out by the TechCrunch account and posted to our Facebook, got over 36K views and over 5K votes over two days.

The immediate winners? Your own startup — whatever that may be — and the still stealth Milk. But, allowing for the Kevin Rose effect (even though I’m sure Milk is a great place to work and will be even more so after it actually launches something) and taking into account what the numbers looked like before Rose tweeted out the poll link, it seems like most people, if they have to work for someone else, would want to do the time at Square and Twitter, with Facebook clocking in immediately afterwards.

So why the crazy appeal of the houses that Jack Dorsey built? Says one Valley bystander, “People want to work with Jack. I think the design and engineering teams are highly respected. Most startups are making junk. Jack was able to use design to make something as dull as payments sexy and interesting.”

You can view the rest of the poll here. Aside from the crazy Milk numbers, it pretty much jives with what everyone intuitively knows about where everyone else wants to work.




StyleSeat Is Yet More Proof There’s A Market For The “Opentable For X”

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:59 PM PDT

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Earlier today when we wrote about UrbanSpoon trying to get a piece of OpenTable’s pie, this quote from Urbanspoon VP Kara Nortman really struck me, "Two years ago, an online reservation system required a massive upfront investment,” she said, now claiming that building a similar platform is as simple as setting up an iPad/iPhone app.

Perhaps this setup ease (and reduced customer acquisition cost) is why we have seen an outcropping of investor interest in “OpenTable for X” services lately, the most notable being DST’s $50 million investment in ZocDoc. Just yesterday I sat in on a demo for Pencil You In, a platform that pitched itself as a OpenTable for salon appointments, not the first time I’ve heard this.

Perhaps the OpenTable model has even more potential when made even more niche? After all, there are 30K restaurants in the US that take reservations, versus two million salon professionals.

Pencil You In competitor StyleSeat, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt NY in May, now has over 75K appointments booked, representing $3.5 million in spend. StyleSeat, which allows hairstylists and salon representatives to set up simple online profiles to showcase their wares, now boasts 14K salon professionals who’ve created accounts, with 50K clients added and 1,700 promotions (deals) created.

StyleSeat CEO Melody McCloskey tells me she’s been approached by a couple of major industry players about partnerships since her Disrupt turn, “Disrupt gave us access to companies that we wouldn’t normally get access to so early in the process- we were approached by several decision makers at some of the largest companies out there. If we took traditional channels it’d take us much longer to reach those people.”

McCloskey, plans on monetizing StyleSeat through a freemium model, offering the core StyleSeat product for free and then charging a $25 fee for more advanced CRM and marketing tools. She ambitiously views the company as well-positioned to shake up (sorry, got tired of using the word disrupt) the entire beauty industry, which has annual revenues of $71 billion.

McCloskey says that the social sharing features of the site have had the most impact on its growth and calculates that the Facebook recommendations posted through the platform are worth $6.70 each. One in six recommendations shared on Facebook results in an online booking, at an average service cost of $40. She tells me that 98% of clients using StyleSeat say they’d recommend a stylist to friends.

StyleSeat currently has $700K in funding from quite the roster of white-hot investors including Chris Sacca, Jeff Clavier, Travis Kalanick, Dave Morin, Garrett Camp, Alfred Lin, Christoph Janz, Paige Craig, Joe Stump, 500 Startups and others.



Company:
STYLESEAT

A social network for beauty and wellness professionals to attract clients and grow.

Learn more

Company:
OPENTABLE
Launch Date:
2/7/1998
IPO:
21/5/2009, NASDAQ:OPEN

OpenTable provides a restaurant management system for restaurateurs called the ERB (Electronic Reservation Book). In addition, the company operates OpenTable.com, a website for making restaurant reservations online. The website...

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Study: Some ISPs Still Hijacking Search Results (Lawsuit Follows)

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:46 PM PDT

sketch

Try this: open up a new tab and type “kindle” into the address bar. Chances are it will send you to a Google search results page. That is, unless the ISP is intercepting such rogue queries and doing what they will with them. A pair of computer scientists at UC Berkeley have found that at least a dozen ISPs are still doing this, the result being that, for example, when someone types “kindle” into the address bar, it doesn’t go to your preferred search results, but directly to Amazon’s Kindle page.

Harmless, in a way, but in fact deeply invasive when the conditions are examined. These ISPs are using third party contractors who monetize such erroneous or accidental queries. A broad set of search items, things like “kindle,” “apple,” and “bloomingdales” are being listened for, logged, and intercepted, and the user’s intention ignored. As if that isn’t enough, one company suspected of being behind this activity, Paxfire, has filed for a patent on ISP-level tracking of users for advertising purposes.

To tell the truth, it’s making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill, but for a good reason. There are shenanigans like this being pulled by ISPs, network operators, content providers, carriers, and all the rest every day. While large-scale stuff like proxying Google and skimming results tends to get noticed, there are tons of grey-area practices being performed, likely referred to obliquely in EULAs and such. Things like packet inspection for “quality of service” purposes, in reality data mining with little oversight. But even if the actual scale of this problem isn’t national, it’s important to keep our eyes open for these things.

The researchers, Christian Kreibich and Nicholas Weaver, analyzed traffic from the ISPs and found that 165 terms were being captured and resulting in interference, usually directing users to the relevant site through an affiliate program. It’s possible (though it seems unlikely) that the third parties are doing this independently, as Charter describes to VentureBeat; they allege (from experience) that a service hired to do one thing (provide a standard page for broken URLs, for instance) might get ambitious and decide to make a little money on the side.

Google noticed this previously and caused the ISPs to stop tampering with their results, but while it’s easy enough to tell when your queries are being touched, it’s not so easy to tell if they’ve been sniffed. The ISPs may outsource the packet analysis portion of the job to companies like Paxfire as well, routing search queries through them for recording and possible database building.

Smelling blood in the water, New York law firms Reese Richman and Milberg have filed a class action lawsuit against Paxfire and RCN, a Virginia-based ISP accused by the study of the shady practices described. As with many internet-centric lawsuits, this one will probably be passed around a few jurisdictions before being really assessed — though as Paxfire is also based in Virginia, that state provides a natural starting point for the litigation.

I’m of a similar mind with TechDirt’s Mike Masnick: amazed that companies think that they can do this stuff and get away with it. The level of scrutiny on services like ISPs is only increasing, and techniques like this have already been ruled illegal and unethical. Did they think no one would notice?


Here’s a list of the ISPs the research found :

Cavalier – Cincinnati Bell – Cogent – Frontier – Hughes – IBBS – Insight Broadband – Megapath – Paetec – RCN – Wide Open West – XO Communication

If you think you might be affected by this practice, try running Berkeley’s Netalyzr web app and see if anything suspicious pops up.




After Auction, Dropbox Close To Choosing Investors — Round Could Put Valuation At $10 Billion

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:32 PM PDT

dropbox-iphone-app-logo

We’ve known for weeks now that Dropbox has been talking to investors about a new mega round of funding. The company, which has only raised $7.2 million in a seed and Series A round in 2007, has been seeking something between $200 million and $300 million, we’ve heard. But now we know a bit more. And we’ve heard something from one source that is nothing short of shocking.

Dropbox held an auction last week during which investors made their bids to participate in the new round, multiple sources tell us. This week, Dropbox met with the VCs that made bids, and have been collecting term sheets. All they have to do now is decide.

Here’s the really crazy thing: one of the offers being considered may push Dropbox’s valuation to $10 billion post-money, one source tells us. Another source thinks that’s inaccurate, and believes the final valuation will settle closer to the lower end of the $5 billion to $10 billion valuation we reported last month.

A $10 billion valuation would be amazing for a number of reasons. But consider this: Pandora and LinkedIn, two companies that recently went public, have market caps of $2.16 billion and $8.63 billion, respectively. Yes, a startup with just 65 employees could be worth more money on paper than those two public darlings.

Also consider: Yahoo has a market cap of just $15.30 billion. And our parent, AOL, has a market cap of just $1.72 billion.

Dropbox has 25 million users (many of which are paying), uploading 200 million files a day.

More to come soon.



Company:
DROPBOX
Launch Date:
6/2007
Funding:
$7.2M

Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. Frustrated by working from multiple computers, Drew was inspired to create a service that would let people bring...

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Review: The Cask Widge

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 04:04 PM PDT

cask widge

Happy International Beer Day! I just finished celebrating by brewing ten gallons of smoked stout, and I’m looking forward to a draught of blonde ale from my kegerator later today. I’ve been homebrewing for about two years, and it’s a fun, practical hobby. Variety is the name of the game, both in terms of beer styles to produce but also in terms of the methods used to produce beer: extract, partial mash, all grain, single infusion, decoction, boil-in-a-bag, 1 gallon, 5 gallons, 10 gallons — you get the idea. The hobby facilitates the purchase of a tremendous amount of equipment for each of these different methods. The latest addition to my zymurgy hobby is the cask widge.

Like most homebrewers, I started out bottling the beer I produced. While this makes it easy to share my work with friends and colleagues, I find it to be a tedious, time consuming process. When I bought my first keg, I swore I’d never bottle beer again! Kegging is so much easier, so much faster, than bottling. But it’s not without its problems.

I’m not a particularly cautious brewer — I’m in it for the product, not the process — so many of my brews end up with a fair bit of sediment in them. Even after racking to a secondary, many of my beers have had a noticeable amount of sludge at the bottom. This sludge winds up being the entirety of the first glass or two I dispense from a keg.

This is because kegs have a dip tube that runs down the length of the keg, pulling beer from the bottom up into your glass. The first pull or two will grab any sludge that’s fallen to the bottom, and after that the beer should be clean and delicious. Some homebrewers avoid this problem by cutting their dip tubes an inch or so shorter than normal so that they sit above the sludge.

The cask widge, on the other hand, floats at the top of your beer, ensuring that your first pull is clean and refreshing! It attaches to a length of flexible tubing, and allows the widge to always rest at the top of the beer in your keg regardless of how much is left. It also includes a fine filter to ensure that any flotsam in your beer doesn’t make it into your glass.

The only kink with using a cask widge is that you need to get a gas length dip tube for your keg. You replace your normal dip tube with the gas length dip tube, connect the flexible tubing, and finally connect the cask widge. Fill and pressurize your keg as normal, and you’re all set!

In order to really test the cask widge, I intentionally brewed a “messy” beer, and ensured that a lot of trub was transferred from the brew kettle into the primary fermentation bucket. I skipped the secondary fermentation process altogether. When I filled the keg, I made sure to get a good bit of the sludge from the bottom of the bucket into the keg.

Despite my efforts to cause problems, the cask widge did what it was supposed to do. The beer I dispensed was clean and clear from the first glass to the last! All the rubbish I had intentionally transferred into the keg remained at the bottom, and was not pulled up by the widge.

Another use of the cask widge would be to use a corny keg as a secondary fermentation vessel, and use the cask widge to ensure that only the good clean beer gets transferred from that secondary into your serving keg. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s definitely something I intend to try.

If you’re a really good brewer who carefully filters your beer and makes clean, sludge-free beer then you likely don’t need the cask widge. If you’re a brewer like me, the cask widge helps ensure that your beer looks its best at all times!

UK Brewing is currently the only US distributor of the cask widge that I’ve found. Feel free to share in the comments if you find another source.

I found out about the cask widge via Homebrew Finds, and I strongly encourage all homebrewers to follow that site (or associated Twitter account). Many thanks to Anthony at Buckeye Beverage Service for getting me the gas length dip tube I needed so quickly. If you’re a homebrewer in central Ohio, you should talk to Anthony.

Product Page: Cask Widge




‘Game For Kittens’ And HeyZap Team Up For A Good Cause

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 03:56 PM PDT

checkincat

Here’s your chance to let your kitten help other animals, using nothing other than its feline reflexes.

You may be familiar with ‘Game for Kittens‘, an iPhone game developed by Little Hiccup that’s exactly what it sounds like: it’s a game for your kitten (okay, so the title is slightly misleading — cats of all ages can play). And starting this week the game’s developer has teamed with HeyZap to promote the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Here’s how the promotion works: the game typically features two levels, one where your cat chases a virtual laser, another where it chases a mouse. And now there’s a third, ‘secret’ level that can be accessed by either pausing the game or beating a level and hitting the ‘HeyZap’ icon. Beat that level, and your cat can tweet a link to this page boasting of their status as an intelligent ‘checkin cat’ — and the page includes several links to the SF SPCA.

I’d like to see the promotion made a little more readily accessible in the app, but it’s a nice gesture. And it’s going to remain in ‘Game for Kittens’ indefinitely.

And if your cat isn’t a big gamer, you can also head to this page and make a donation to the SF SPCA straightaway.




Did LinkedIn’s IPO Open the Market or Close It for Anyone Under a $5 Billion Valuation? (TCTV)

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 03:33 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-08-05 at 6.40.31 PM

A few weeks ago I was meeting with Peter Thiel and that pesky question of whether we’re in a bubble or not came up. In a debate both sides are getting bored with, Thiel made a point I hadn’t heard: That LinkedIn’s IPO wasn’t some Netscape moment that opened the markets up for everyone else. In fact, he argued, it was the opposite.

LinkedIn showed that you can have a compelling IPO and get an insanely high P/E if you’re a 10-year-old, profitable company, growing revenues at more than 100% a year that can command a $5 billion-plus valuation. That, he argued, is what the market wants right now, and those companies are in short supply.

More to the point, those kinds of IPOs couldn’t be farther from the historical Silicon Valley playbook. Most of the great tech companies went public at valuations well under $1 billion, and had their biggest innovations after they’d priced. LinkedIn’s IPO isn’t a harbinger of the good ol’ days. Rather, it showed how dramatically different the relationship between Wall Street and the Valley has become since the last good ol’ days.

In our final segment with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner I asked him his view on what his company just did for Silicon Valley: Open the markets or close them for all but the big five or so private giants? We also talk about that valuation. He wouldn’t answer whether the company was actually worth $10 billion, but he did share his thoughts on using that — let’s just say generous– price-to-earnings ratio as a currency for more acquisitions.

I began by asking what he learned from his time as a senior executive for Yahoo– decidedly not the Valley darling for some time– that prepared him for his new Wall Street duties as CEO of LinkedIn. (For the first segment on LinkedIn’s earnings go here; for the second segment on its user growth and Weiner’s experience in the IPO media firestorm go here.)



Person:
JEFF WEINER
Website:

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn, where he started in December of 2008 as Interim President. He came to LinkedIn from positions as an Executive-in-Residence for leading Venture...

Learn more

Company:
LINKEDIN
Launch Date:
1/5/2003
IPO:
20/7/2011, LNKD

With over 100 million users representing over 200 countries around the world, LinkedIn is a fast-growing professional networking site that allows members to create business contacts, search for jobs,...

Learn more


Chrome Lion Full Screen Support Is Ready To Go In Canary, Both With Tabs And Without

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 03:05 PM PDT

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Following up on our earlier coverage of Google’s Chrome browser for OS X Lion, it looks like development is moving along faster than expected. Specifically, swiping gesture support has already been fully implemented (in the right direction now too), and now a proper full screen mode has hit the Canary build of the browser as well.

Shortly after Lion’s launch a few weeks ago, we noted the Chrome was working, but it was a bit wonky. Because Lion changed some gestures by default, page swiping was broken. And Chrome’s own full screen mode wasn’t truly compatible with the functionality that’s built into Lion. No less than Chrome SVP Sundar Pichai said that Google was working on the issues, but noted that “it will take some time”.

In the weeks since, the dev and beta builds of Chrome has been pretty unreliable, constantly crashing. This has pushed a number of Chrome for Mac users over to Safari, Apple’s own browser. But if this latest Canary build of Chrome is any indication, Google is pushing hard to get Chrome back up to speed on the Mac.

As first noticed by MacStories, full screen support is now fully baked into Chrome Canary. And it’s brilliant. There had been some debate as to whether the functionality should work like it previously did — with absolutely no browser chrome (lowercase) showing — or if it should work like Safari, and show tabs when in full screen? Well, Google implemented it both ways. By default, when you enter full screen, you’ll see the tabs, but a new “curtain” button removes the tabs to get you a true full screen experience. (The tabs will still pop down when you hover over the top of the screen.)

Gesture-based page-swiping was fixed a couple weeks ago, but Google implemented it backwards, when compared to Safari. As you can see in the Chromium boards, our story flagged the issue for the team, and they quickly fixed it.

The latest version of Chrome in the Canary channel is 15. Chrome’s dev builds are still at 14, so the 15 changes should hit soon. Then it will be a few weeks before it rolls out over all of the Chrome channels. But rest assured, a fully Lion-compliant Chrome is on the way.



Product:
OS X LION
Website:
Company
Apple

OS X Lion also known as OS X 10.7 is an operating system by Apple. One of the key features of the OS X Lion is the fully incorporated...

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Life At AOL – The Expenses War

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 03:00 PM PDT

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I’ve said this before, but working at AOL is my first experience working at a “big” company. I’ve watched, mostly with amusement, as a Dilbert cartoon has come to life around me. Some of the policies and bureaucracy are useful (I’ll think of some examples, just give me a second).

Some are hilarious (forced drinking events). Some are really annoying. For example, every couple of weeks I get an email titled “AOL Standards of Business Conduct Training” with the demand “As a new employee, you are required to complete one hour of web-based training on the Standards of Business Conduct (SBCs).” The only problem is that I need to have access to the AOL network to complete the training, and they’ve never given me access so that there’s an information barrier between me and the company.

But there’s one weird policy that really stands out. AOL is absolutely crazed about questioning employee expenses. Our CEO Heather Harde deals with the brunt of the pain involved in getting expenses approved. But I’ve dealt with my fair share, too.

Last night, for example, I was cleaning up my desk. I have an envelope I keep business expenses in. There was a hotel bill for a trip when my AOL issued credit card was turned off for the day. Some taxi expenses and a restaurant bill. I looked at them, thought about the process for turning those expenses in and then having to defend them via a phone call (Heather would probably save me from this, but there goes an hour of her time). So I did the rational thing. I shredded those receipts – around $1,500 – because it wasn’t worth the pain.

Part of this process – at least at one point if not now – was referral of expense reports out to a third party firm who would assign you a “case number” and ask you to do things like send actual boarding passes to them to defend flight expenses. Sometimes we can’t get our writers to take business trips because of how difficult it is to be reimbursed for expenses.

Then today I was talking to someone at AOL about nothing in particular, and he brought up his own troubles with expense reimbursement. I asked why the company is so crazed about it.

Enter Gregory Horton. This guy was head of HR at AOL a decade ago when the company was still part of Time Warner. His story is amazing. He apparently set up a dummy consulting corporation and was billing AOL $100,000 a month for made up work. All in all, the company lost over a million dollars to Horton, or so the story goes.

Because of Horton, AOL has for nearly a decade had draconian expense reimbursement policies.

This is one of those points of friction in a company that should be stamped out. Find and prosecute the Hortons of the world. But give your loyal employees a break. Don’t make them feel like criminals for trying to get legitimate expenses approved and paid in a timely manner. In the end, this is just a self-imposed competitive disadvantage against nimbler companies.




Elon Musk, Dustin Moskovitz, And Eric Ries Are Ready To Shake Things Up At Disrupt SF

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 02:34 PM PDT

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As you know, Disrupt is coming to San Francisco this September and we have some amazing speakers and judges to announce. Tickets for Disrupt SF are on sale here.

We have already announced a few of the key speakers: Peter Thiel, Ron Conway, Marissa Mayer, Mike McCue, and Vinod Khosla. Who else is going to be there? Well, today we are announcing a few more key speakers. Not only will we have the four listed above, we are also incredibly excited to have Elon Musk, Dustin Moskovitz, Eric Ries, and Matthew Prince join us. Musk is the co-founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and Space Exploration Technologies. He is now CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and chairman of SolarCity. Moskovitz of course was a co-founder of Facebook, and more recently Asana, a startup tackling the problem of workplace collaboration. Ries helped launch the Lean Startup movement, and has a book coming out by the same name. And Prince wrote his first computer program when he was 7, and is now the co-founder and CEO of CloudFlare, which launched at our last Disrupt SF and now helps speed up billions of page views a month across the web.

You can be sure that Disrupt SF will be a star-studded event filled with brand new startups, guest speakers and judges, amazingly brilliant hackers, after parties, surprises, and much more. As we get closer to the event, we will announce more guest speakers, judges, and many other surprises. Disrupt SF is going to be on September 12th – 14th, starting with our Hackathon on September 10th and 11th. It is taking place at the beautiful San Francisco Design Center Concourse, which has 125,000 square feet of disruption space for us.

This is one event you will not want to miss. If you'd like to become a part of the Disrupt experience and learn about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jeanne Logozzo or Heather Harde for more information.

Elon Musk
CEO & CTO, Space Exploration Technologies, Co-Founder & CEO, Tesla Motors

Elon Musk is an entrepreneur and a co-founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and Space Exploration Technologies. He is chairman/CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and chairman of SolarCity. Musk was born and grew up in South Africa, the son of a South African engineer and a Canadian-born mother who has worked as a New York City dietitian and modeled for fun. His father inspired his love of technology and Musk bought his first computer at age 10 and taught himself how to program; by the age of 12 he sold his first commercial software, a space game called Blaster.In March 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and email payments company. One year later, X.com acquired Confinity, originally a company formed to beam money between Palm Pilots, and the combined entity focused on email payments through the PayPal domain, acquired as part of Confinity. In February 2001, X.com changed its legal name to PayPal. In October 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for US$1.5 billion in stock. Before its sale, Musk, the company's largest shareholder, owned 11.7% of PayPal's shares.

Dustin Moskovitz
Co-Founder, Asana

Dustin Moskovitz is a co-founder of Facebook and, more recently, Asana, a startup tackling the problem of workplace collaboration. At Facebook, he was a leader in the technical staff, where he oversaw the major architecture of the site. He was also responsible for the company's mobile strategy and development. Starting Facebook with founder Mark Zuckerberg from their dorm room, Dustin has been instrumental in the growth and development of the site since its inception. Dustin attended Harvard University as an Economics major for two years before moving to Palo Alto, California to work full time at Facebook.

Eric Ries
Author, Speaker, & Consultant, The Lean Startup

Eric Ries is an author, speaker, and consultant for The Lean Startup. Previously, he co-founded and served as Chief Technology Officer of IMVU. He is the co-author of several books including The Black Art of Java Game Programming (Waite Group Press, 1996). While an undergraduate at Yale Unviersity, he co-founded Catalyst Recruiting. Although Catalyst folded with the dot-com crash, Ries continued his entrepreneurial career as a Senior Software Engineer at There.com, leading efforts in agile software development and user-generated content. In 2007, BusinessWeek named Ries one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech. He serves on the advisory board of a number of technology startups and venture capital firms. In 2008 he served as a venture advisor at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Matthew Prince
Co-Founder & CEO, CloudFlare

Matthew is the co-founder and CEO of CloudFlare, Inc. Matthew wrote his first computer program when he was 7, and hasn't been able to shake the bug since. After attending the University of Chicago Law School, he worked as an attorney for one day before jumping at the opportunity to be a founding member of a tech startup. He hasn't looked back. CloudFlare is Matthew's third entrepreneurial venture. Matthew holds a degree in English and Computer Science from Trinity College. He graduated with highest honors from the Harvard Business School where he was a George F. Baker Scholar and was awarded the Dubliner Prize for Entrepreneurship. He earned a JD from the University of Chicago and is a member of the Illinois Bar. He teaches technology law as an adjunct professor at the John Marshall Law School where he serves on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Information Technology and Privacy Law. He is also the co-founder of Project Honey Pot.




Multi-Pinhole Technique “Paints” Objects With Photographs From Life

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 12:44 PM PDT

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Take two minutes out of your day and watch this beautifully-made and interesting little short documentary about Shikai Tseng and his interesting photographic technique. Tseng uses a custom-built multi-pinhole box to expose objects, which have been coated in Liquid Light, to their environments.

The result is a beautiful and unique object, essentially a three-dimensional one-time print. It looks like he primarily exposes vases, I’m guessing since they’re nice and round and their surface takes the Liquid Light well.

Here’s the video, by Juriaan Booij. A slightly longer version can be found here.

[via Dezeen]




BlackBerry Curve 9360 May Have Mobile Hotspot, But What About The Rest?

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 12:10 PM PDT

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The recently revealed BlackBerry Curve 9360 is proving to be a surprising bit of hardware. Not only did it (thankfully) get rid of the chintzy chrome-ish highlights of its last iteration, IntoMobile reports that it also packs a a more competitive hardware configuration (hello NFC!) and a little feature hidden in the settings that doesn’t seem to have popped up on any other OS 7 device recently: mobile hotspot.

While the 9360 (affectionately referred to as the “Apollo”) is a significant upgrade for the budget-conscious BlackBerry owner, this development adds a bit of confusion to the mobile hotspot question.

Like I mentioned, recent hands-on outings with the other new BlackBerry models haven’t turned up any sign of mobile hotspot support. Funny, considering the BlackBerry Bold 9900 was widely reported to have the feature months ago, only to disappear in subsequent releases. Strangely, the new Blackberry Torches also don’t make mention of hotspot support, which is odd since it’s meant to be the more prestigious device.

Two possibilities come to mind. It’s entirely possible that the pictured Curve is running an old build that retains the feature, and the photo only just now made it into the wild. The other is that mobile hotspot inclusion will be a carrier-level decision, meaning some customers get it and others don’t. Either one seems plausible, but the bigger question is why RIM is being so coy about this whole thing?

For a company with such pronounced focus on trying to stay relevant and meeting the needs of their establish business customer base, it seems totally odd that they wouldn’t mention a great mobility option for road warriors and travelers alike. There’s no reason not to mention it, considering all RIM would have to do is add a bullet point to a spec sheet. A little clarity from RIM going forward could go a long way for the right customers.




Huge LED Wall For Playing Games On At Hungarian Festival

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 11:44 AM PDT

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I know this is more or less just a publicity stunt sponsored by Vodafone, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing we had one of these LED towers here in Seattle. It’s an installation at the Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary, and attendees will be able to play an oversized shoot-em-up called Rocket Bullet Storm, by Nemesys Games.

No joke, I’m a sucker for these kinds of games, and playing in a crazy situation like that with Hungarian rock blaring in the background sounds like a nice break from blogging. Apparently the screens cover over 250 square meters total, wrapping around the columns and so on. It looks as if the game is played inside and displayed on the outside, though. It’s reminiscent of the setups they use in hardcore competitive gaming, but a little more festive.

The festival itself runs from the 8th to the 15th, and looks like it has a pretty solid lineup. If you’re in the area, drop by and give us your impressions of this fun-looking installation.




Jeff Weiner: Life in the Middle of the BUBBLE! Media Storm (TCTV)

Posted: 05 Aug 2011 11:01 AM PDT

We caught up with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner yesterday, just after his first earnings call as a public company CEO. In an earlier segment we talked about the surprisingly good quarter LinkedIn had; in this one we talk about the company’s insane roller-coaster of an IPO.

I asked Weiner what that week was like for LinkedIn, a company that’s usually the boring social media giant with no pedophile scandals, privacy uproars or stories of meth pipes and abandoned cats. He insists the team wasn’t distracted amid the media frenzy….yeah, I have a hard time buying that too. But he points out that the added pride associated with working at a company worth upwards of $9 billion increased the intensity to execute. I wouldn’t be surprised if all that talk of the company being overvalued lit a spark in the company too.

Weiner and I also talk about LinkedIn’s stunning user growth this quarter, whether companies should reexamine that late 1990s idea of IPOs as marketing events, and whether that user pop is sustainable.

 



Company:
LINKEDIN
Launch Date:
1/5/2003
IPO:
20/7/2011, LNKD

With over 100 million users representing over 200 countries around the world, LinkedIn is a fast-growing professional networking site that allows members to create business contacts, search for jobs,...

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Person:
JEFF WEINER
Website:

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn, where he started in December of 2008 as Interim President. He came to LinkedIn from positions as an Executive-in-Residence for leading Venture...

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