- MileWise Launches Search Engine for Frequent Fliers
- T-Mobile Lands The BlackBerry Bold 9900, Its First 4G BlackBerry
- Griffin Releases iPhone-Controlled Toy Helicopter
- Chris Hughes’ Social Causes Startup Jumo Gets Folded Into GOOD
- Chinese Online Video Giant Tudou Opens 13 Percent Below IPO Pricing
- Ooma VOIP Service Is Down Nationwide
- Fun With Fair Use: Daily Mail Steals Blogger’s Image, Refuses To Pay Up
- Infographic: Linux Then and Now
- Korean Lawsuit Seeks $25 Million From Apple For Location Tracking
- Mobile Users Eager to Offer Their Location in Exchange for Better Content & Deals
- Following Google’s $12.5B Acquisition, Banker Bill Hambrecht Leaves Motorola Mobility’s Board Of Directors
- HP Pre3 Makes Stealthy Entrance Into The European Market, U.S. To Follow
- Redesigned Wii To Launch Before Christmas, Loses Gamecube Backwards Compatibility
- Panasonic Pocket Server Streams Video And Music To Your iPhone/iPod touch
- Glam Media Takes On Apple’s iAd With New Brand-Focused Mobile Ad Platform
- WebEx Launches A Half Price Product With Small Businesses In Mind
- Square Co-Founder And Others Put $17M In Online Merchant Lender Kabbage
- Github-Integrated fluxflex Aims At Making Cloud Hosting Easier And Cheaper
- Photovine Grows Ready For Public Use; Easily Google’s Most Ambitious Photo-Sharing App Yet
- Daily Crunch: On Off
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 09:00 AM PDT
MileWise is a new search engine designed for frequent fliers that helps you find flights you can pay for using cash, airline miles or hotel and credit card points. The startup lets users track their air miles and rewards programs points in one single interface, then leverages that information to suggest which flights offer the most value.
Unlike on other flight search engines where flights can be ranked by price, number of connections, airlines, or like on Hipmunk, by “agony” (a combination of factors), MileWise also takes in consideration your rewards earned when ranking its results.
The flight data comes from Orbitz, Everbread and directly from the airlines at present. And MileWise may include data from “another major flight inventory provider” in the future.
When viewing your search results, the points, miles and cash options are shown using different colors, while the number in the bubble on the left help to rank the flights based on mile- or point–to-dollar value.
Similar flight options are collapsed by default, but clicking the link on the right beneath a search result will expand them. You can also filter flights by payment method, airline, card, number of stops and flight times.
Currently, the service supports over 300 rewards programs. But it doesn’t just dumbly collect your data. MileWise tracks your rewards in order to warn you if they’re about to expire, points you to great deals you may have overlooked and keeps you from being surprised by large airline fees that sometimes accompany awards. It will also help you to earn more rewards by calculating the number of miles a flight will earn, including bonuses from status and cabin.
Funding and Future Plans
The MileWise team includes co-founder Vinay Pulim, who previously started Isovia (acquired by Motorola) and Reble.fm (acquired by Playlist.com) and who was Chris Dixon’s first engineering hire at Hunch. There’s also co-founder Sanjay Kothari, from Boston Consulting Group and co-founder Nick Meyer, formerly a co-founder at Reble.fm. Seye Ojumu is a more recent hire, and travel veteran Frederic Deschamps from Northwest Airlines advises.
The startup has $1.5 million in venture capital from Atlas Ventures, Founder Collective, General Catalyst, High Line Venture Partners and iNovia Capital, as well as angel investment from Nivi Babak, David Cohen, Geoff Judge, Mitch Kapor, David Kidder, Josh Kushner, Alex Lloyd, Tom McInerney, Jacob Pechenik, Keith Rabois, Naval Ravikant, David Tisch and Kal Vepuri. It plans to raise another round in 7 to 8 months.
MileWise has several potential revenue models under consideration, with a commissions model being considered of the near future. Later on, it will be able to make smart recommendations based on user behavior, like suggesting a user sign up for a credit card for a particular flight in order to gain the points needed to book it. Further down the line, the company may be able to turn its data into insights for partners. But the founders are careful to state that user privacy protected in all cases, and data will be anonymized. MileWise is also considering offering premium services, but nothing has been decided yet.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 08:48 AM PDT
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 just hit T-Mobile shelves, but wait just a second before you bolt to run and grab one. The handset from RIM is launching for business customers only until August 31, at which point the rest of us can get our BBM on. Of course, BlackBerries are built with the enterprise in mind, so it kind of makes sense that suits would get first dibs. Then again, RIM isn’t necessarily thriving at the moment, so it’s not entirely clear why the phone wouldn’t be available to everyone right from the get go.
The press release failed to mention pricing, but thanks to a leaked document discovered by TmoNews, we believe the Bold will go for $300 on-contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. Despite the fact that this is T-Mobile’s first 4G BlackBerry device, we’re still not sure that its price tag is fitting. We’ve seen a number of phones with better specs launch at lower prices, including T-Mobile’s 8-megapixel camera-packin’, dual-core processor-toutin’ myTouch 4G Slide (which retails at $199 with contract).
However, BlackBerry loyalists will get everything they need here, along with a few improvements. The Bold 9900 will run on a 1.2GHz single-core processor with BlackBerry 7 OS, the latest version of RIM’s platform. It will sport a 2.8-inch VGA capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 640×480 pixels, along with a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of 720p video capture. The Bold 9900 will also support GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity, and pack 8GB of internal memory.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 08:22 AM PDT
For a mere $50 you, too, can own a small, iPhone-controlled helicopter made by a company that has been traditionally known for selling phone cases.
Like Parrot before them, Griffin is branching out from its traditional product line and offering this small dual-rotor helicopter that is, in general, controlled via IR commands sent using a special dongle attached to the iPhone. There is full tilt-to-steer control as well as on-screen power buttons.
The kit allows you to create three pre-recorded flight plans (“Go north, enter bedroom while wife is sleeping, drop peeled grape on her head” would be one of my favorites) and it charges via USB.
I’ve had horrible luck with IR-controlled helicopters lately – the last one I tried flew off onto a roof because it apparently mistook sunlight as a command to, well, fly away – but hopefully this inexpensive little flyer will work a bit better. Available now.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 08:02 AM PDT
Social causes startup Jumo has been acquired by GOOD, the publisher of a website and magazine aimed at do-gooders. Jumo was founded by Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s co-founders and a Harvard roommate of Mark Zuckerberg’s. Hughes left Facebook to run Obama’s Website and social media outreach during the 2008 Election. “GOOD acquired Jumo,” Hughes tells me, “and users will soon see a single online platform on GOOD.is. I’ll be teaming up with GOOD’s CEO, Ben Goldhirsh, to help grow GOOD and Jumo.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Jumo is designed to match people with causes by categorizing them by topic and letting you follow 15,000 non-profits, making it easy to donate time or money. After an initial pop following its launch last year, the traffic to the site fizzled. According to Compete, the site went from a peak of 114,000 unique U.S. visitors last December to 8,500 in June. According to Hughes, GOOD’s website has 3 million monthly unique visitors (Compete estimates it at 760,000 U.S. visitors).
GOOD is an editorially driven media site, which is what drives its traffic. Now it will be able to plug in Jumo’s cause-matching technology platform. Hughes also says that Jumo’s codebase will be open-sourced.
Jumo’s site is certainly sophisticated and works well in terms of helping users find worthy causes. The issue perhaps was that most people don’t seek out good causes in the natural course of their day. They need to be pulled into it either through media, events, or by their friends (which is why Facebook app Causes first took off and continues to be popular—it is always in your face). Folding Jumo into GOOD could help the platform find its natural audience.
Founded in February 2010, Jumo is a social network connecting individuals and organizations working for global change. Leveraging connection technologies, Jumo enables everyday people to find, follow and support...
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 07:56 AM PDT
A rocky financial climate isn’t stopping this IPO—Chinese online video site Tudou has started trading on the NASDAQ this morning under the symbol ‘TUDO.’ Last night, Tudou priced its shares $29 a piece, raising $174 million in the offering. This morning, Tudou opened 13 percent below its pricing at $25.11 per share, giving the company a valuation of $2.8 billion (as opposed to $3.2 billion at $29 per share)
Founded in 2005, Tudou is more Hulu or Netflix than YouTube. The company, which has raised $126 million from General Catalyst, IDG Capital Partners, and GGV Capital, hosts over 40 million videos viewed by over 200 million unique visitors a month. This morning, CEO Gary Wang told us that this site is serving 40 percent of China’s total online population monthly.
Wang tells us that the reason behind the IPO is to raise funds for content acquisitions as bandwidth charges. Being a Hulu-like video platform in China poses many challenges says Wang. First buying premium content is expensive and Tudou wants to bring fresh, premium content to its massive online audience. Additionally, Tudou is working with a large number of content owners to negotiate licensing deals.
Unlike Hulu, who features English and U.S. content, Tudou is negotiating with U.S. studios and media companies as well as dozens of premium content providers in China, Korea, Japan and other countries. The Chinese audience craves a large variety of global audience says Wang, and the company needs to come to agreements with all of these providers.
With this large amount of content, the movement towards HD videos and increasing traffic, the company needs to invest in bandwidth as well to sustain the platform. Of course, mobile is also a huge part of Tudou’s strategy and the funds raised in the offering are sure to be used in additional mobile development efforts.
Tudou isn’t the first Chinese online video site to hit the public markets. Competitor Youku debuted its IPO last December, and is currently valued at $3 billion.
It could be a sign of the economic times that Tudou is trading below its pricing in opening trades. That’s something we haven’t seen with recently public companies like LinkedIn, Pandora, Yandex, HomeAway and others, which all saw a significant pop in opening trading.
Photo Credit/CHIJS Posterous
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 07:50 AM PDT
Reports are trickling into to our tipline that Ooma, a popular VOIP service, is currently experiencing major network issues. Currently, Ooma’s phone service seems offline nationwide, and their website and support forums are working sporadically if at all.
Some users (mostly in California) are reporting that their service is returning, but right now, it would appear that a majority of subscribers are unable to make or receive phone calls. Another outage similar in scale to this one occurred in 2009, with service remaining offline for nearly 6 hours.
Concerned customers who attempted to reach out to Ooma’s main office were treated to a canned message stating that the office was closed, and the voice mailbox was soon filled. Rumors have begun to swirl that Ooma is in the process of shutting down, but we can confirm that this is not that case.
A few calls to the Ooma customer service line yielded a brief conversation with a rep, who states that they are aware of the problem, and that service would we be restored within two hours. Apparently, once service is restored, the Ooma hub in customers’ homes will begin to work again without any input from the user. Affected customers should keep their eyes peeled for the tell-tale blue light on their hubs. This timetable will likely be little comfort to those affected, some of whom use Ooma as their business phone service. Updates are coming at a blistering pace, so all you Ooma users should stay tuned.
UPDATE #1: The Ooma Status Twitter account is acknowledging the issue, no update on ETA. Ooma website is still down.
UPDATE #2: Word on Ooma’s Facebook page and on DSLReports is that service is slowly coming back online. Keep looking for that blue light on the hub.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 07:48 AM PDT
Alice Taylor, CEO of Makielab and wife of BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow, took a nice snapshot of a anorexic mannequin in an “Always Skinny” display at the Gap. The mannequin is clearly emaciated and, skinny tights or no, probably should get some help. Alice snapped a picture, Cory posted it, all was right with the world.
The Daily Mail’s blogger, one Ariel Ramerez, asked if they could use the image in a blog post and Alice asked for a £250+ donation to a charity of her choice – a fair request, especially since she hates the Daily mail. Back and forth ensues, Ariel first:
… and from Alice to Ariel:
Case closed, right? Wrong. The image appeared on the Daily Mail unaltered next to a “post” on anorexic models (remember, news is what the editor sees on her way to work or, in this case, on BoingBoing). The best thing? The blogger used Taylor’s quotes from another piece she commented for in the Washington Post, a paper she does support. Not only did they steal her image, they stole her words.
Over the past few years, “amateur” bloggers have become surprisingly aware of photo rights and copyright. Except for a few rare occasions, for example, we use our own photos, press images, and creative commons photos. However, as mainstream news organizations moved towards blogging, they have yet to learn the same thing many bloggers learned five years ago – images belong to someone, somewhere. Just because you can get away with ganking someone’s shots without attribution doesn’t mean it’s the right way to run a railroad.
The line between public domain and private property, on the aggregate, is thin and rarely understood. Is my Twitpic my property? It’s public, after all. What about these images from GIS? Who owns the porkloin? Is it obvious?
Sites like GumGum offer strong methods for photographers to license their work, but if the blogger literally ignores a request not to publish an image without payment, how can any form of technology help?
This is the age-old problem of “user content creation:” it’s just about the swellest thing ever until someone abuses it. It’s tragedy of the commons – at some point someone is going to drive their ATV all over your public land and throw beer cans at your communal sheep. It’s just sad that these abusers are coming from old media and not necessarily the new.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 07:30 AM PDT
Following up on yesterday’s 20 Years of Linux, the Linux Foundation is releasing today an infographic highlighting some of the remarkable changes in Linux and the larger computer industry over the last twenty years. The Linux kernel had 250,000 lines of code in 1995, but had 14 million lines of code in 2010. Linux users are using it increasingly at home and at work today, rather than just at home for personal purposes.
LinuxCon is officially kicking off today, and I’ll be meeting with a number of folks from all around the Linux ecosystem, from Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst to Canonical’s Allison Randal to Nithya Ruff of Wind River Linux. If you’ve got any questions you’d like to see put to these folks, feel free to leave ‘em in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 07:21 AM PDT
Kim Hyung-Suk has been busy these past few months. An attorney based out of Seoul, he gained a bit of notoriety for being the first person to receive a cash settlement from Apple for the iPhone’s location-tracking tendencies. He also announced that he and his law firm, Mirae Law, would be looking into the possibility of filing a class-action suit against Apple. According to a report from Bloomberg, with 27,000 Korean complainants on board, that suit was filed today.
Credit where credit is due, Kim Hyung-Suk certainly has a sense of humor. The website set up by his firm last July to reach out to potential plaintiffs greets visitors with an ironic spin on Apple’s language: “Finally. The real action against Apple. Now available here.“
Mr. Hyung-Suk’s original payout was 1 million won (roughly $930), and the firm is seeking that same reward for each of the 27,000 affected customers. This news comes hot on the heels of news that Apple was being fined 3 million ($2,808) won by the Korea Communications Commission for collecting location data even when users disabled all the pertinent features. If this keeps up, Apple may soon be looking at paying out some serious money in compensation.
Should Apple settle in this suit, the rough total in compensation paid out would be the Korean equivalent of over $25 million. Given that Kim Hyung-Suk successfully got his piece of the pie, Apple may be looking at some serious legal maneuvers to try and get the suit dismissed. In fairness, with over $76 billion in their domestic coffers, the settlement costs would be a proverbial drop in the bucket. Still, expect to see Apple put up a concerted defense against the suit in coming weeks.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 07:11 AM PDT
According to a new report from location-based media company JiWire, 53% of the “on-the-go” U.S. audience is willing to exchange their location in exchange for more relevant content and better information, including mobile deals.
In the group of mobile consumers under the age of 34, the percentage is even greater: 60% are willing to trade their location for information. And in the U.K., it’s higher still, with 69% open to sharing their location.
JiWire has been tracking trends like this among a segment of the population it calls the “on-the-go” audience, which consists of those using notebooks, tablets and smartphones outside of the home or workplace. So to be clear, these are not universal trends that apply to all consumers – they only apply to the highly mobile user. In the mobile deals market, however, it’s a target audience whose habits are worth tracking.
Location in Exchange for Deals
The desire to exchange one’s location in return for data, including location-based sales alerts and coupons, is greater than ever, JiWire found.
This holiday season, 52% said they expect to use their mobile device “more” than they did last year, for example. And 80% says they plan to use their device more or the same as last year, up from 59% in 2010.
When consumers were asked what they thought the most important information about a brand was, when near a retail store or product’s location, they responded by saying ”Sales and Promotions.” This ranked higher than customer reviews, directions, product info and availability and even coupons.
When it comes to proximity-based marketing, however, there were some differences in opinion. 29% said they want to receive sales and promotions within one mile of a store, while 24% want promotions within 10 miles of a store.
Email Still Best for Deals
In terms of deals distribution, though, 38% still prefer email, while 22% prefer the web and only 19% said they want to get deals via “mobile apps.” Only a small 2% preferred receiving deals through SMS.
Although email is still the top pick for deal distribution for now, it’s declining, having gone down from 52% in Q1 2011 to 38% this past quarter.
Deal sharing has increased during that same time, up from 62% in Q1 to 75% in Q2. Deals are shared over email, by word-of-mouth and using social media tools.
92% of consumers purchase at least one local deal per month, with 78% spending $50 or less per purchase.
More data from this report is available on JiWire’s website now.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 06:33 AM PDT
The technology world is still reeling from the announcement of Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility. And today, Motorola announced the departure of William (Bill) R. Hambrecht from the Company’s Board of Directors. Following his departure, the Motorola Mobility Board of Directors will be comprised of nine members, eight of whom are independent.
Hambrecht, a well-known banker, founded and has been Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of WR Hambrecht + Co since 1998. WR Hambrecht + Co is a financial services firm specializing in Internet and auction processes and providing underwriting and advisory services for technology and emerging-growth companies.
Before that, Hambrecht co-founded Hambrecht & Quist. In 2007, Hambrecht co-founded the United Football League, which premiered in October 2009. Hambrecht also served on the board of AOL but quit after the company bought the Huffington Post.
Interestingly, Hambrecht is known for persuading Google to use an Internet-based auction for their IPO in 2004, and is credited with popularizing the Dutch auction system that determined each share value.
So why did Hambrecht leave? It’s unclear but once the Google-deal goes through, Motorola won’t need any board members. Some of the company’s board members could transfer to Google’s board but this would only include a select few of Motorola’s members.
“I want to thank Bill for his valuable service and guidance to Motorola and to Motorola Mobility,” said Sanjay Jha, chairman and chief executive officer, Motorola Mobility. “Bill played an instrumental role in the separation of Motorola into two independent publicly-traded companies, as well as in our recent milestone transaction with Google. On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I wish Bill only the best.”
Check out this GigaOm video with Hambrecht from 2008.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 06:28 AM PDT
The HP Pre3 launched in Europe today, and oddly enough, HP had very little to say about it. With the TouchPad price falling like a rock, you’d expect that its intended complementary device — and HP’s flagship phone — would launch with more fanfare. But instead HP let the device land in its EuroStore and gave a short response to PreCentral, the first publication to notice its availability. Either way, the most important thing is that the carrier-free smartphone is ready to roll.
For US$490, the Pre3 can be all yours sans contract, which is a beautiful thing. Specs on this beast include a single-core 1.4GHz processor from Qualcomm, a 5-megapixel camera with auto focus and LED flash capable of video capture in 720p, and a forward-facing VGA camera for video chat. It comes with either 8GB or 16GB of storage and sports a 3.58-inch 480×800 capacitive touchscreen along with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Speaking of keyboards, HP says this is the largest QWERTY keyboard on any Palm phone to date, so if messaging is your thing then this may be what you’re looking for. The Palm EuroStore listing doesn’t clarify whether the GSM Pre3 will run webOS 2.2 or 2.3, but if you’d rather hold out to make sure you get the latest and greatest, the FCC filing for the device promises webOS 2.3 upon the U.S. launch.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 05:51 AM PDT
Nintendo is prepping a slightly retooled Wii for a pre-holiday release. This streamlined model sits horizontally (as a game console should) instead of vertically like the original. It’s also slightly smaller, lacks the ability to play Gamecube games, and will likely hit at a lower price.
This move has standard procedure for game makers ever since the original NES. In an effort to revive sales and take advantage of new, lower-priced hardware, game makers will release an “updated” version of a particular console. This of course is the last act for that particular system as most of the time its replacement has already been announced. In this case, Nintendo announced the Wii U at E3 2011.
The Wii has had a stellar run. In a sense it relit excitement around gaming and taught older generations to loosen up and have fun. The Wii was released in November of 2006 and has since sold over 87 million units, which puts it on top for the best-selling game console of all time. The Xbox 360 is still making a run at that record with solid sales even six years into its life. This is thanks in part to the revival caused by the Kinect.
The updated Wii is only official for the UK right now. But Nintendo doesn’t traditionally out new hardware for just one region. Chances are this smaller, more petite Wii will hit worldwide rather shortly. In a strange twist the front of the redesigned Wii looks rather similar to the front fascia running the Wii U. It’s not be a stretch to assume the redesigned Wii will help usher in the next generation.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, but the system will come bundled with Wii Party, Wii Sports, a Wii Remote Plus and a Nunchuk. This system is reportedly not able to play classic Gamecube games. If you don’t mind a taller Wii, you may want to scoop up one of the $150 Wii Mario Kart bundles before the supply is exhausted. (or pulled)
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 05:23 AM PDT
If you like consuming media on your iPhone or iPod touch that’s stored elsewhere, you might want to take a look at what Panasonic has announced [JP] for the Japanese market recently. The so-called DY-PS10 is a “pocket server” that wirelessly streams videos, music and pictures from an SD/SDHC/SDXC card to these devices.
The mini server uses IEEE 802.11b/g Wi-FI, comes with a USB port and is sized at just 66.8×117×13mm (weight: 82g). It supports video in MP4 format, MP3 files and JPEGs. Panasonic specifically targets users of DIGA hardware, for example TVs (who can take the SD card out of those devices to use it in the DY-PS10).
The company says a 64GB SDXC card stores around 88 hours of video in standard resolution, with the pocket server itself offering 10 hours of battery life.
Panasonic plans to start selling the device in their Japanese online store only on September 15 (price: $195). No international sales plans have been announced so far (but the Airstash look like a good alternative).
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 05:00 AM PDT
Glam Media, one of the largest publishing and advertising networks on the Web, is taking on Apple’s iAd today with the launch of GlamMobile, a mobile ad platform that aims to allow brand advertisers to engage with Glam’s readers of its mobile site. The company is also announcing the availability of GlamEnable, a new platform that provides publishers with the ability to develop sites for the mobile Web and create native applications for iOS and Android.
For background, Glam’s various publishing verticals have a reach of 94 million unique monthly visitors in the U.S. and more than 200 million globally, and is particularly popular amongst femaile audiences. Glam Media has more than 2,500 publishers organized across multiple vertical categories online includin Glam.com for Women, Glam Entertainment for Adults, Brash.com for Men and Bliss.com for health and wellness.
Glam already operates a web-based ad serving platform, Glam Adapt, but now is expanding its reach to mobile. Because of Glam’s reach amongst women in particular, the media company can deliver highly targeted, engaging advertising to this demographic. The network will also be able to target by geo-location, device type, mobile OS.
All of Glam Mobile’s ads are focused on interactive, rich media formats (more than 80 percent of all ads served through GlamAdapt are rich media ads). And Glam’s CEO Samir Arora says that the ad network is completely focused on brand-buys, and will compete directly with Apple’s iAd. The GlamMobile platform works across Apple's iOS, Google Android, Windows Mobile, and HP Web OS.
In fact, a number of high-end brands have already signed up for Glam Mobile. Lexus and Macy's, both of which are launch sponsors, are using Glam Mobile’s ad formats to reach women. Interestingly, we heard from sources that Glam was sniffing around a number of mobile ad networks in the early stages of developing Glam Mobile, including Greystripe, and Smaato, and decided against an outside acquisition because it was cheaper to build in-house.
GlamEnable is also launching today as a new automated platform that allows content publishers to create optimized versions of their websites for any HTML5 compatible Web browser and native applications for iOS and Android mobile operating systems. Glam Media sites (Glam.com, Bliss.com and Brash.com), as well as 75 of company's publishing partners including Bag Snob, SheFinds, and The Young Black and Fabulous, have used GlamEnable to create optimized websites for mobile.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 05:00 AM PDT
WebEx has managed to maintain a pretty good lock on the enterprise world with their online video conferencing/meeting service, but there’s one place they’ve always fallen a bit short: small businesses.
The problem? It’s just too dang expensive. Even on the cheapest plan (which supports 1 host with 25 people per meeting), it’s a solid 50 bucks per month. When you’re on a bootstrap budget and every penny counts (and more importantly, when reasonable alternatives can be hacked together on the cheap), 50 bucks might as well be $5000.
Looking to make their first stab into the small business world, WebEx will later today launch WebEx 8, a cheaper monthly service focused directly on companies with smaller teams.
WebEx 8 offers the same functionality as the other plans that WebEx already offers, with one exception: instead of 25 people per meeting, you’re limited to 8.
Beyond that, it’s all pretty much a feature-by-feature match. Namely, you’ll get:
Of course, some of this price shifting can almost certainly be attributed to WebEx feeling a bit of the heat from unlikely foes tiptoeing their way into the arena. With things like Google+’ Hangout feature and Join.me respectively making huge group video chat and desktop sharing accessible to anyone with half a brain, some of WebEx’s key selling points are starting to seem a bit less sound. They’ve still got a few differentiating features (like their rather solid iPhone/iPad apps) to fight back with, but that price had to come down eventually.
The $19 plan should go live later this morning.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 04:58 AM PDT
Atlanta-based startup Kabbage, which provides working capital to online merchants, has raised $17 million in Series B funding led by Mohr Davidow Ventures with BlueRun Ventures, David Bonderman, founder of TPG Capital; Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens; the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square; and others participating in the round. This brings Kabbage’s total funding to $24 million.
Kabbage, which was founded by Marc Gorlin, Rob Frohwein and Kathryn Petralia, is essentially a way for online merchants and sellers on marketplaces like eBay and Amaxon to get capital they otherwise wouldn’t qualify for at a bank. Kabbage uses technology to analyze online merchants’ sales and credit history; customer traffic and reviews; and prices and inventory compared to competitors. And merchants can proactively add information to their Kabbage account to immediately increase their access to capital.
Via PayPal’s Adaptive Payments API, Kabbage will make cash advances available to eBay and other online marketplace sellers fairly quickly (Kabbage says that many transactions take as little has ten minutes).
Gorlin tells me that many small businesses and online merchants can’t receive financing from traditional banks, and Kabbage is aiming to disrupt this space by providing a painless way to help these sellers access cash.
Kabbage makes money off of fees charged to merchants for the working capital. Fees depend on how long the online merchant keeps the capital (6 month maximum) and the customer’s repayment risk. Rates range from 6 percent to 16 percent of the original advance amount. Kabbage currently supports merchants operating on eBay, Amazon and Yahoo’s platform and plans to add support for sellers on Facebook, Etsy, Shopify, and Sears. Currently, there are ‘thousands’ of merchants using Kabbage and Gorlin expects for the total merchandise volume of Kabbage sellers to reach $3 billion in the next year.
In conjunction with the funding, Kabbage is also announcing that it has been granted U.S. Patent No. 7,983,951 entitled "Apparatus to provide liquid funds in the online auction and marketplace environment." It basically covers a system by which a provider of capital utilizes information
Gorlin says the new funding will be used to add additional marketplaces, distribution relationships, new financial products and for international expansion. He explains that there is huge potential for growth in international markets and the startup is constantly being contacted by sellers outside of the U.S. who are interested in Kabbage’s services.
Similar to the way that Square brought credit card mobile access to small businesses and that Greendot brought pre-paid credit cards the unbanked, Kabbage is bringing working capital and small loans to online merchants who may not qualify for a cash infusion from a traditional bank. Like the companies mentioned above, the startup has the definite potential to disrupt the marketplace industry.
Kabbage provides financing options for online merchants. Kabbage provides financing to online sellers, leveraging information generally available from online marketplaces to assess risk and help determine advance amounts and related...
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 02:25 AM PDT
There are quite a few cloud hosting Platform-as-a-Service providers out there to do the heavy lifting for web application developers who expect a certain amount of traffic for their sites. A new provider called fluxflex aims at differentiating itself from Heroku, Google App Engine, DotCloud and others by being offering an extra-easy to use “one-click install” solution at relatively low costs: the service is free to start, with prices for upgrades starting at $1 per month.
fluxflex says that apart from experienced developers, the main target group for their namesake, deeply Github-integrated platform are personal and “casual” web application developers who don’t want to invest much time in maintaining their cloud hosting environment. These users can install applications (WordPress, Rails, Django etc.) with “one click” (instead of using original commands), customize them using Git, and share any GitHub repositories with other users at the library.
CEO Kei Kubo tells me he sees fluxflex as a “social hosting” platform on which members of the community can communicate with each other, learn best practices from more experienced users and share applications with others.
fluxflex also makes it possible to import and deploy projects from Github automatically and currently supports PHP, Python, Ruby, Perl, Node.js and Haskell (for a more detailed feature set, click here). In the future, the plan is to add languages and frameworks, next to more applications that users can install with one click.
San Francisco- and Tokyo-based fluxflex has raised US$240,000 in angel money so far.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 02:23 AM PDT
Google’s Slide team has been busy. In the past few months, they’ve unleashed a range of social apps meant to fulfill different needs. But the strange thing is that Google hasn’t done a thing to promote any of them. That has been on purpose. Google is giving the Slide team, which operates on its own within Google, room to maneuver and fly under the radar. But with Photovine, they’re actually communicating a bit. And for good reason — the app is pretty slick.
If you’ve heard of Photovine before, it’s either because you read that Google registered the domain, or that they pushed the app into the App Store. But until now, the app has been in closed beta testing with a very limited number of users. Not anymore. As of now, the app is open for all to sign up.
So what is Photovine? It’s a photo-sharing application for iOS that puts an emphasis on “vines”. That is, photo-centric moments or ideas that connect you with other users. Yes, that sounds a bit pretentious. And the best way to understand it is to watch the video below. But think of it this way: you take a picture of your favorite cologne. This prompts another user to take a picture of their favorite fragrances. And that prompts another user to do the same. Etc. It’s more or less theme-based picture-taking.
This is an interesting concept because it spurs users into action. With an open-ended picture app you can take a picture of anything, and to some users, that’s daunting. What do you take a picture of when you can take a picture of anything? With Photovine, the experience is more guided. Or, if you wish to take a picture of anything, you can simply start your own vine.
In Google’s view, this amounts to storytelling with pictures. Maybe a picture tells the story of your “perfect weekend”. Someone else sees that and takes a picture to tell their own story of the same idea. Fundamentally, the idea stems from the staring up at the stars at night and wondering who else is doing the same thing? Point being, there are thousands, if not millions, of people around the world doing what you’re doing at the same time. Photovine’s goal is to connect those people.
If you’ve heard of the app Piictu, this is similar. But unlike so many Google products, Photovine is very well designed. In fact, it’s one of the more slick-looking iOS photo apps out there right now — again, just to be clear, technically Google-made.
Naturally, none of this ensures that app will find success. But it’s a compelling idea with a good user interface. It reminds me a bit of Treeshouse, a former Y Combinator-backed project — which shouldn’t be surprising at all considering that the founder of that startup, Chrys Bader, now works for Google/Slide on this project.
And yes, Photovine includes ways to share images out to Facebook or Twitter. But the actual social graph is their own.
You can find Photovine in the App Store here.Click to view slideshow.
Posted: 17 Aug 2011 01:00 AM PDT
Here are some of yesterday’s Gadgets stories:
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