Friday, August 26, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Razer’s “Blade” Gaming Notebook Takes No Prisoners (Except For Your Wallet)

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 10:01 AM PDT

Rzr_Blade_V12_CMYK_WBG

Perhaps best known for their myriad gaming peripherals with dramatic names, Razer has just made a huge move into the PC hardware space. Announced today at PAX Prime, Razer’s new Blade gaming notebook packs a whole lot of gaming horsepower into an aluminum body that’s less than an inch thick.

As one would imagine from a company so heavily focused on improving the gaming experience, the Blade doesn’t skimp on components. A 2.8 Ghz Intel Core i7 processor powers the whole thing, with 8GB of RAM, a 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 555M video card, and a 17-inch LED-backlit display to round out the package.

Seasoned PC gamers may scoff — they’ve seen their fair share of gaming laptops, after all — but the addition of Razer’s Switchblade gaming UI take the Blade above and beyond the realm of the ordinary gaming machine. First seen in an ambitious concept video last January, Switchblade now resides in the space to the right of the Blade’s keyboard. A set of 10 “dynamic adaptive tactile keys” provide quick access to in-game commands that change depending on what you’re playing. Below that is a two-function LCD that displays pertinent game info when a mouse is being used, and becomes a multi-touch trackpad when one isn’t.

Razer is touting the Blade as the world’s first “true” gaming laptop, and while I don’t particularly buy that distinction, it’s a machine that certainly doesn’t make any compromises. The hardware and design are absolutely on point, and with a price tag of $2,800, it’s the kind of machine that most gamers will only be able to dream of.



Apple Hires iPhone Hacker Nicholas Allegra (@Comex)

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 08:59 AM PDT

iphone-hackercomex

Apple has just hired yet another member of the iPhone jailbreaking community, Nicholas Allegra, also known as “@comex” on Twitter. Allegra is best known for the JailBreakMe website which made the process of jailbreaking the iPhone as simple as visiting a webpage using mobile Safari.

The 19-year old hacker from Chappaqua, New York, posted the news of his hire on Twitter, stating that he will be starting an internship with Apple week after next.

Allegra was one of the most visible members of the jailbreaking community, regularly finding security vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS software, which made it possible to hack iPhones, iPod Touches and even iPads. Typically, these holes were exploited through the use of specialized jailbreaking software applications which required the phone or other device to be connected to the computer via a USB cable.

But JailBreakMe was far easier to use – visitors just launched the website from their mobile device. The site featured a familiar-looking “slide to jailbreak” bar at the bottom of the page. One simple gesture, and the device was hacked. It made jailbreaking accessible to anyone, even non-technical users.

Traditionally, Apple discouraged jailbreaking, as it allows for the installation of third-party applications outside the official iTunes App Store. The concern is that once a phone or other device is jailbroken, it’s easier to illegally pirate applications which would otherwise be sold in the App Store, earning revenue for developers and Apple alike.

However, not all jailbreakers are interested in stealing apps – sometimes, like their Android-rooting counterparts, they just want control over their handset. On jailbroken iOS devices, users can make tweaks to the software and install widgets, themes and other unapproved applications by way of third-party “jailbreak” app stores like Cydia, Icy and ThemeIt.

In recent months, Apple has begun to take notice of the now-burgeoning jailbreak community, estimated to include 10% of all iPhones. For example, Apple hired Peter Hajas in June, the creator of a popular jailbreak app known as Mobile Notifier, which bears a striking resemblance to the new notification system in iOS5. The move prompted discussion as to whether Apple was reconsidering its position in regards to jailbreaking – maybe it’s now being thought of as a farm league for discovering new talent?

Jailbreaking is going even more mainstream this year, thanks to its first-ever hacker convention called MyGreatFest. According to event organizers, Allegra was planning on attending the conference, but whether he still will is now unclear.

Says MyGreatFest organizer Craig Fox, “I think it’s a great move for Allegra, but it’s sad for the jailbreaking community to lose such a bright and young hacker.”

Image credit: Forbes, which outed @comex earlier this month



The Jig Is Up: Delicious Founder’s Tasty Labs Debuts Q&A Meets Problem Solving Platform

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 08:34 AM PDT

Jig

We’ve been waiting for Delicious founder Joshua Schacter to debut the secret product coming out of his newest startup Tasty Labs. And today the wait is over with the debut of Jig, a Q&A meets recommendations site.

As fellow co-founder Nick Nguyen writes on Jig’s blog, Our Jig is a website, one that helps you with your needs– by making it easy to share them with people who can help solve them. We built Jig to make it easy to describe what you need with just a few words.

On Jig, you can both try to find something that you ‘need,’ help someone find something they need, search for needs by keyword, or invite others to help solve a problem or meet a need. For example, you can post a need to the Jig community (i.e. I need a new designer for my website, I need a new logo, etc) and then members can suggest solutions, or invite a friend to help.

You can sign in with both Twitter and Facebook to populate your social graph, create a profile with your personal information and follow people on Jig, similar to Quora. You can also specify your ‘affiliations’ which allows you to connect a group of users who share something in common with you. It’s essentially a group-forming feature within the platform.

The site is fairly simple in design and functionality, but clearly this is just the beginning for Jig. As Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson notes, Jig is a ‘marketplace for things people need.’ Clearly that goal can evolve in plenty of ways.

Tasty Labs has raised $3 million in funding from Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and unnamed angel investors.


Company:
TASTY LABS
Launch Date:
10/2010
Funding:
$3M

Stealth startup that will try to put “the useful back into social software”.

Learn more


NYC.gov Goes Down When We Need It Most: Here Are Some Alternative Info Sources (Update)

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 08:32 AM PDT

hurricane-irene

So Irene, the massive hurricane aimed straight for the East coast, is in quite a hurry to come visit us, with winds reaching 115 mph. And it’s looking like she’s bearing down on New York City. One little problem: nyc.gov is down, which makes it pretty difficult to check out whether or not you should run for cover or kick back and relax.

Sites go down all the time, and normally the only ones ever really hurt by it are the sites themselves, losing valuable clicks. This time, the public safety has come into play, so we thought we’d give you guys a couple other resources to figure out what’s happening as Irene blasts her way up the East coast.

Project.WNYC.org has a very detailed map of the different potential flood zones on a map so you know just how bad it may get. The National Hurricane Center has a list of advisories for the entire East coast, while Ready.gov has information on the possible damage that comes with different category-level hurricanes. If you put the category information you get from NHC with the possible damage on Ready.gov, you may have a pretty clear indicator of what’s to come.

Unfortunately, almost all of the “official” sites that declare the need for evacuation are part of nyc.gov, and thus, can’t be accessed at the moment. MSNBC has a nice Hurricane Tracker that lets you input your zip code to get a five-day forecast of the wind speeds you may encounter in your area. That should help you make a decision over whether or not you may need to start packing things up.

We’ll be sure to update you as soon as nyc.gov is up and running.

Update: We’re back up and running with nyc.gov. Here’s the zone finder to see if you live in an evacuation zone. Good luck and stay safe!



24/7 3D Network 3net Brings Kid-Friendly Content To The Third Dimension

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:52 AM PDT

DreamDefenders

If you own a 3D TV, you should already know about 3net. It's a joint venture network from Sony, Discovery and IMAX that displays 3D content all day, every day, which is pretty awesome considering the amount of 3D content out there is severely lacking. It first launched with quite a variety of nature-style shows and documentaries, perfect for the 3D space, but today a more kid-friendly offering has been announced.

Starting September 25 at 8pm, 3net will premiere its two new kid-oriented 3D programs, starting with the 3D animated series, Bolts & Blip, followed by Dream Defenders. Then on October 1, in usual Saturday morning fashion, the 3net Three Dee Kids weekend lineup will premiere with 30 hours of family-friendly 3D content.

Programming includes the original series Feeding Time, along with Puppy Bowl (a 3net exclusive), and a number of Sony Pictures 3D family films. 3net promises more titles in the coming months, but for now, brace yourselves for Bolts & Blip and Dream Defenders.

Bolts & Blip stars two best friends, who just so happen to be robots. They try their best to become battle bots to fight in the Lunar League of Robotic Sports (which so far is really exciting), until they realize that they may have bitten off more than they can chew. The series is made up of 26 half-hour episodes.

Dream Defenders, starring twins Zane and Zoey, is a story of a brother and sister who are the last line of defense to guard the real world from the scary creatures of the Dreamworld. Sounds like the same story that's in every kid's imagination, so in 3D it should go over quite well. Oh, and there's also a supercomputer named Zeus. And who doesn't love supercomputers?

After the premieres of Dream Defenders and Bolts & Blip on September 25, kids will have to wait until the next weekend on October 1 to get their Saturday morning cartoons on. Except these kids are from the future, and their cartoons are in 3D. Pretty snazzy, indeed.


Company:
SONY
Launch Date:
1946
IPO:
NYSE:SNE

Sony is one of the leading manufacturers of electronics, video, communications, video game consoles, and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets.

Learn more


Apple Patent Describes Solar-Powered iPhone, Notebook Charger

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:46 AM PDT

iphone-solar-case2-thumb-500x375-5426

Among the 16 new patents granted to Apple this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was this fairly interesting one describing a solar-powered charging system for electronic devices. The patent details a system that includes a voltage converter and controller that would work alongside a solar power source.

The voltage converter would be attached to a solar power source by way of an input cable. It would also be attached to an “electronic load” via an output cable. That “electronic load” could be a “portable electronic device,” says the filing – which basically means almost anything Apple makes, from iPhones to MacBooks.

The voltage converter is configured to monitor an amount of power drawn by the device at its output, while the controller is configured to control the voltage converter in order to reduce the amount of power drawn subsequently, if it goes over a certain predetermined threshold. In other words, it’s a key part to a solar power charging system for electronics.

Apple has previously filed patents for an auxiliary solar cell, that would work as a backup power source for mobile devices, as well as a method for covering a device in solar cells. However, it’s not likely that we’ll see solar-powered gadgets from Apple (or anyone, for that matter), until the costs associated with their production are reduced.

Image credits: Patently Apple; Tmcnet.com


Company:
APPLE
Launch Date:
1/4/1976
IPO:
1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer,...

Learn more


Hands-On With The 2011 Cadence Watch Line

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:40 AM PDT

scaledwm-2203

We’ve been talking about Cadence for a while now and I got the chance to sit down with Vanya Buvac, founder of the company watches and creator of some nice, inexpensive timepieces (including the dirty, dirty 4:20 watch).

The company started when the founder wanted to build a “cadence” sensing watch for rowing. Based near Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row, the first Cadence watch (the heavy quartz LCD model near the top of the picture above) had a built-in weight that sensed your strokes per minute.

Their latest model, the Josh Chadwick, has a quartz LCD face and is clad in brushed metal and will come with either a black or silver bezel.

My favorite is the relatively inexpensive Ecomatic, an automatic watch sold for under $195.

Vanya is a big fan of geeks (as evidenced by his 4-Bit model) and, apparently, heshers. Generally it’s hard to find an American watch brand with such a dedicated CEO and, or important, fan base.

Product Page



Customer Reviews And Social Commerce Platform Bazaarvoice Files For $86M IPO

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 07:13 AM PDT

bazaarvoice

Another day, another technology company files for an IPO. After Jive and Angie’s List, customer reviews company Bazaarvoice has filed its S-1 with the SEC today. The company aims to raise as much as $86.25 million in its offering.

The Austin, TX- based Bazaarvoice, provides a SaaS that powers customer reviews platforms and other social commerce features on brand web sites like Best Buy, Blue Shield of California, Costco, Dell, Macy’s, P&G, Panasonic, and QVC. The company serves as a online reviews engine of sorts, aggregating customer reviews from the web, Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. The company also syndicates retailer’s product reviews to shopping comparison engines. To date, Bazaarvoice has raised $20 million in funding from Battery Ventures, First Round Capital and others.

In the filing, the company says that as of April, it served 587 active clients, including 24 of the top 100 of the Fortune 500. In April 2011, the company served over 7.9 billion impressions, or ‘instances of online word of mouth delivered to end users' web browsers,’ and has served over 200 billion total impressions since the company’s start in 2005.

In fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011, Bazaarvoice generated revenue of $22.5 million, $38.6 million and $64.5 million, respectively. In fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011, the company generated 15.8%, 25.2% and 24.9% of our revenue, respectively, from outside of the United States.

Unfortunately, the company is not yet profitable, and has been posting net losses for the past few years. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, the company posted net losses of $5 million, $8 million and $20 million, respectively. And the company warns that it has accumulated a deficit of $40.8 million and may continue to incur losses for the ‘foreseeable future.’

One of the main expenses for Bazaarvoice are sales and marketing efforts; in its fiscal year 2011, the company poured $35 million into sales and marketing. The company doesn’t seem optimistic that profitability is even in its future. From the filing We cannot be certain that we will be able to attain or increase profitability on a client-by-client basis or on a quarterly or annual basis.

Competitors Bazaarvoice include PowerReviews and Revieworld.



GM and LG Team Up on Electric Vehicles

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 06:58 AM PDT

GeneralMotorsLGCorp02.jpg

Auto maker General Motors and LG Group will be working together to design and engineer electric vehicles thanks to a new partnership that expands on LG’s earlier work for GM in lithium-ion batteries.  Previously, LG delivered batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, the Opel Ampera, and later for a demo fleet of Chevrolet Cruze electric vehicles.

According to the companies, their goal is to reduce both the cost and the time it takes to build electric cars.

LG will cover half the cost for the new EVs and will work alongside engineers from GM to collaborate on components, vehicle structures and architectures. LG will also become GM’s supplier for the components, which it’s permitted to sell to other auto makers. That means this partnership will be good for the electric vehicle industry as a whole, and not just GM.

The deal comes at a time when U.S. automakers are under pressure to raise the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, per a recent agreement. By the end of 2025, they must meet a CAFE of 54.5 mpg (23.2 km/l) – a goal that will involve improvements to internal combustion and diesel engines, for the most part. But GM says that electric vehicles are expected to play “a major role” in reaching the CAFE goal, too.

There was no timeframe given for the vehicles’ launch.


Company:
LG
Launch Date:
1947

The LG Group is South Korea’s third largest conglomerate that produces electronics, chemicals, and telecommunications products and operates subsidiaries like LG Electronics, LG Telecom, Zenith Electronics and LG Chem...

Learn more


Salesforce.com Backs Cloud Solution Company Appirio’s World Domination Plans

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 06:38 AM PDT

appirio

Cloud solution provider Appirio this morning announced it will be expanding internationally to more adequately serve its customers in the European and Asia Pacific markets.

The expansion, which the company says will be through a combination of organic and inorganic growth, is being funded by a strategic investment from two existing investors: VC firm GGV Capital and partner Salesforce.com.

Appirio works with organizations such as Facebook, NYU, Thomson Reuters and Home Depot to adopt, integrate and extend cloud applications and platforms like Salesforce.com, Google and Workday. This month, Appirio celebrates its five-year anniversary, and the company claims to have moved over 1 million people to the cloud since its inception.

Its first international office was opened in Tokyo, Japan, in late 2008.

Earlier this year, Appirio announced the acquisition of Infowelders, a full-service Salesforce.com implementation consultancy firm (and VMG).

One of the company’s high-profile backers, Sequoia Capital, apparently didn’t participate in Appirio’s latest financing round, the size of which was not disclosed by the company.


Company:
APPIRIO
Launch Date:
9/9/2006
Funding:
$16.7M

Appirio, a cloud solution provider, offers both products and professional services that help enterprises accelerate their adoption of cloud computing. With more than 170 enterprise customers, Appirio has...

Learn more

Company:
SALESFORCE
Launch Date:
13/4/1999
IPO:
23/6/2004, NYSE:crm

Salesforce is an enterprise cloud computing company that provides business software on a subscription basis. The company is best known for its on-demand Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions. Salesforce...

Learn more


Hey, Ladies, Would You Like To Look At My VR-Controlled RC Car?

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 05:58 AM PDT

thumb-5432462495_6f0e5bf22b_o

When a man is proud of his hobbies, women notice. Nowhere is that more apparent than in this thread on RCGroups where a dapper young gent, from the comfort of his lounge chair and protected by VR goggles, approached a comely young lass with his RC Tonka truck and, we can only assume, married that same lady in a ceremony held under a sylvan glade alongside her beaming parents.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, this dude drove this:

Traxxas Summit chassis, vintage 1978 Tonka Body NIB, GoPro HD onboard camera with pan/tilt and headtracking, two-way walkie talkie, rear view mirrors, windshield, GI Joe w/kung fu grip, Barbie, 12V motorcycle horn, lights and much more.

On the beach and tried to pick up the ladies. In a way it sort of worked and in another way it didn’t. Watch on.

Potentially NSFW for bikinis, but it’s Friday.

via Nowhereelse



AiRScouter: Brother Ready To Commercialize Its See-Through Head-Mounted Display (Video)

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 05:57 AM PDT

Picture 6

Sometimes futuristic-looking prototypes of gadgets do get commercialized: Brother has announced it is ready to bring to market the so-called AiRScouter, a head-mounted and transparent transmissive liquid crystal display that was first showcased back in 2008. When worn, the device creates the impression of a 16-inch screen that's about one meter away from user’s eyes.

Brother says they inked a deal with NEC, which will use the technology for their wearable computer Tele Scouter starting in the fall. The company expects the Air Scouter to be used in device assembly, parts picking and selection, and remote operations in factories.

The display features 800×600 resolution, 600cd/m2 brightness, and weighs 106g. Read more about the device here and here.

Here’s a demo video:



Watch Out, UK. Google TV Is Coming Your Way

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 05:57 AM PDT

google-tv-logo

Google TV soft launched in the US last September with the Logitech Revue and Sony Internet TV products. Google however is reportedly working on bringing the system to the UK and per a Telegraph report sourcing Eric Schmidt, the fun starts within the next six months. Thankfully, UK buyers don’t exactly have to start saving their quids since both product lines recently got major price cuts.

Google TV hasn’t been a major hit here in the States. It hasn’t, as it was predicted, disrupted big media. Instead, big media shut off access to its online streaming services such as Hulu.com and others, essentially leaving the Google TV as an expensive Netflix streamer. Google has long said that a major update would hit before the end of summer, which will hopefully put the platform back on track.

The Telegraph reports that Eric Schmidt will outline the release plans during his MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festive.

Google TV might have more luck in a different region. The search giant likely learned hard lessons about launching such a product without the graces of big media. If Google makes the right friends, markets the product properly, Google TV might find a cozy home in the UK since its clearly not wanted in the US.


Product:
GOOGLE TV
Company
Google

Google TV is a new experience made for television that combines the TV you know and love with the freedom and power of the Internet. Watch an overview video...

Learn more


An Awesome First Look At Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 05:35 AM PDT

counter-strike-global-offensive1-e1313186876631

Clear your morning, friend. If you have any respect at all for computer gaming, you’re going to watch these these two Counter Strike: Global Offensive videos over and over and over again. I did.

What we have here, or rather, what the videos display, is an updated version of Counter Strike that won’t sit well with those looking for a Call of Duty competitor. This is updated version is clearly meant just for Counter Strike players by offering nothing more than updated graphics, physics and game UI. The sounds and gameplay seem untouched. This is a welcomed change in a world where games are seemingly designed just for Xbox Live 12-year olds. Click through for both videos.


Company:
VALVE
Website:

Learn more


Ex-PayPal, Intuit CEO Raises $25M For “Next-Generation” Financial Advisor

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 05:29 AM PDT

personal capital

Personal Capital came out of stealth mode today to “create a new model for financial services” and announced that it has raised a total of $25 million in venture financing. The financing includes a Series A round led by Institutional Venture Partners and a Series B round led by Venrock with IVP also investing again.

The company isn’t quite ready to launch yet, as you can tell from its sparse website, but says it will soon be debuting a financial advisor that delivers personalized investment management, banking and personal finance services built around each customer’s unique and complete financial situation.

Personal Capital is led by private investor and former PayPal and Intuit chief exec Bill Harris (CEO), EverBank co-founder and former Fidelity Investments Personal Trust Company president Rob Foregger (chief strategy officer) and former E-Loan CIO Jay Shah (CIO).

The company is based in Redwood City, California.



Russian Search Giant Yandex Acquires Social News Startup ‘The Tweeted Times’

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 04:27 AM PDT

tweettimes

Yandex, one of the leading Internet companies in Russia, has acquired startup venture The Tweeted Times, which enables people to create custom online ‘newspapers’ generated from their Twitter accounts. Financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed, but Yandex says it aims to continue offering the social news service and that the entire The Tweeted Times team will be joining the search engine company.

The Tweeted Times was co-founded by Maxim Grinev and Maria Grineva, both computer scientists at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and others.

Its users include celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Alyssa Milano and Lance Weiler.

Yandex, which went public last May and is currently valued at just shy of $10 billion, plans to use technologies acquired from The Tweeted Times to boost its search and content services with information from social networks.

This is the third company Yandex has acquired in the past nine months – its most recent purchases include single sign-in plugin maker Loginza and WebVisor's behavior analysis technology and team.

The Tweeted Times, formerly called Twitter Times, competes with social news curation service Paper.li, which has itself raised over $2 million in financing.

Another company operating in this space is Summify.


Company:
YANDEX
Launch Date:
23/9/1997
IPO:
NASDAQ:YNDX

Yandex is an internet technologies company that operates in Russia and CIS. It is the largest Russian and seventh-largest world internet search engine. "Yandex" is an acronym for the...

Learn more


Japanese Company Develops World’s Smallest And Lightest Chargers For Electric Vehicles

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 03:16 AM PDT

nichicon

One key element for the success of electric vehicles going forward is charging technology, but we’re getting there. Kyoto-based Nichicon has now developed what they say are the world’s smallest and chargers for these vehicles, the NQC-A202 and the NQC-A302.

Both chargers are sized at just 150x35x60cm, about 50% smaller than existing devices. The NQC-A202 with 20kW output capacity weighs 150kg, while the NQC-A302 (30kW) weighs 20kg more. Nichicon says the new models are 66% lighter than existing ones, “dramatically decreasing installation effort” for their customers.

The devices take between 35 and 60 minutes to charge, are compatible to the CHAdeMO standard for electric vehicles (Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, the Leaf, etc.) and will cost between $24,600 and $27,200 when they become available in October.One key element for the success of electric vehicles going forward is charging technology, but we’re getting there. Kyoto-based Nichicon has now developed what they say are the world’s smallest and chargers for these vehicles, the NQC-A202 and the NQC-A302.

Both chargers are sized at just 150x35x60cm, about 50% smaller than existing devices. The NQC-A202 with 20kW output capacity weighs 150kg, while the NQC-A302 (30kW) weighs 20kg more. Nichicon says the new models are 66% lighter than existing ones, “dramatically decreasing installation effort” for their customers.



Unbridled Entrepreneurism

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 02:07 AM PDT

fireworks

Y Combinator had its semiannual demo day earlier this week, where many of the 63 startups in this batch showed their stuff to investors and press for the first time. It was the largest demo day so far. And they did the same show two days in a row so more people could come.

What struck me about the day wasn’t that so many companies were launching, or how awesome more than a few of them were. Unlike most events like this, the audience wasn’t mostly paying attention to their phone or laptop or tablet. It was more like the audience at a movie theater – quietly watching with their full attention. People like Marc Andreessen, Roelof Botha, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Ron Conway and others there, too. And people didn’t flock to them like they usually do. It was all about the new companies.

It hasn’t always been like this. Just a few years ago when I started TechCrunch new startups launching tended to do it in my living room or back yard during one of the monthly parties at my house. I’m being quite serious – see this old post, for example. That’s my living room, and those pictures show companies launching right there. Once the parties got too big we moved to other venues – the last one had 600 people and my house was a wreck afterwards. Someone was coding on top of my washing machine, and a very stoned VC was passed out on my couch because he couldn’t find his car keys (turned out they were in his pocket, but we searched my yard with flashlights for an hour).

Things have changed. Gotten bigger. Lots more money, which means lots more PR people, VPs of business development and marketing managers. By 2007 I was hoping for a downturn. A line I remember writing: “Times are good, money is flowing, and Silicon Valley sucks.”

But also things have gotten better. Mobile has exploded. Big companies are hiring/buying like crazy to avoid the Microsoft disease and stay relevant, and cloud services like Amazon Web Services have, again, drastically dropped the time and money costs needed to get an idea from your brain to launch. In the late 90′s it cost $3 million. In 2005 it cost $100,000. Today it costs $15,000, with money left over for lattes.

It’s not just the cost of launching that’s changed, either. Companies also routinely piggyback on Facebook, Twitter and Google for new users, pre-packaged with lots of demographic and other data. Both ends of creation process have become exponentially less expensive and difficult.

Which means more ideas get tried. It seems like the same percentage – about 10% – end up doing something interesting. So we have an explosion of creation and a steady failure curve. The result is lots and lots and lots of more useful stuff being built.

I’ve written about my thoughts on entrepreneurism before. This post – Are You A Pirate? – really sums up my feelings there. More and more people are giving it a serious try. With costs so low and with companies like Y Combinator to provide further platforms for mentorship, funding and marketing, There’s a bit of a perfect storm going on.

When does it end? What’s driving a lot of the demand are Google, Facebook, Zynga, Twitter and many other companies being aggressive about acquiring these companies. The money comes in and much of it immediately gets recycled back into new startups and new ideas that then go on and compete, fight, win and lose in the arena of entrepreneurism.

It’s a strikingly beautiful thing. Chaotic and at times messy, but beautiful. Entrepreneurism unbridled.

There are many things that keep Silicon Valley disruptive. The most important thing is fresh blood – new people with lots of energy, new ideas and absolutely no concept of the “way things are done.” The kind of person who sees a wall and thinks “Do I climb over it or do I tear it down,” but never thinks “Oh, I can’t go past, someone tell me what to do next.”

Y Combinator and others have found a way to attract these types of people, and then give them everything then need to succeed or fail (and then try again). It was one of those moments that really made an impression on me. Everything is just getting started. We are still at the beginning. We’re in for the ride of our lives.

Image credit: George L Smyth


Company:
Y COMBINATOR
Launch Date:
1/4/2005
Funding:
$10.3M

Y Combinator is a venture fund which focuses on seed investments to startup companies. It offers financing as well as business consulting along with other opportunities to 2-4 person...

Learn more


One More Thing…

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 01:53 AM PDT

One-more-thing..

I sat down last night to write about Steve Jobs’ resignation as Apple CEO and something funny happened: I had nothing to say. This is not normal for me. I don’t get writer’s block. I often write thousands of words about what many would consider the minutia of tech. And yet, when it came to writing about one of the biggest stories we’re ever likely to see in this space, a story that far transcends tech, I was quite literally at a loss for words.

So instead I read what everyone else had to say. Some articles were excellent, many were very good, others read far too much like obituaries. More came today. I kept reading. Slowly, two things struck me. First, I’ve never seen anything quite like the outpouring of emotion that people are showing in response to this news. Second, what we’re witnessing right now is Jobs’ final masterstroke.

In tech hubs like the San Francisco Bay Area, it can be easy to get wrapped up in companies, services, and stories that no one in the larger world really cares much about. It’s what some refer to as the “bubble”. But this “bubble” works both ways. It can also be easy to forget that there are many people out there who care just as much about technology as we do. The reaction to Jobs’ resignation is a great reminder of this.

Yesterday, TechCrunch saw record traffic thanks to a few stories on Jobs. These posts brought in more readers than any scoop we’ve ever had, any major product review we’ve ever posted, even more than any Apple keynote we’ve ever covered. And our stories were just a few of the thousands upon thousands out there. People could not get enough.

Why is that? Again, this is a CEO stepping down. When Eric Schmidt did the same thing earlier this year at Google, it got a lot of press. But it was nothing like this. When Bill Gates left Microsoft, a lot of people took notice. And many wrote tributes. But it was nothing like this.

Yes, Steve Jobs is sick. He has technically been on medical leave since January — his third such leave. And it does not sound good when he himself writes, “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”

But he is staying on as Chairman of the Board, and as an Apple employee. And sympathy for sickness alone does not come anywhere close to explaining the reaction we’re seeing to the news. This goes much deeper.

The root of this lies in the emotional ties that people have with Apple products. And that fact that we’re shifting towards a world where having contact with at least one Apple product on a daily basis is the norm. It may be an iPod, it may be a Mac, it may be an iPhone, it may be an iPad. It may even be an Apple TV.

Apple is no longer a small player in the personal computer space, they’re a massive player in the consumer electronics space. In fact, you might say they’re the massive player in the consumer electronics space. And they’ve built this empire not by going after the lower-common-denominator with cheap products. They’ve brought the markets to them. They’ve created new markets. But they have never sacrificed on quality.

Apple is a testament to the idea that “little things matter”. Users may not consciously notice all the tiny bits of attention to detail they encounter in Apple products throughout a day, but it is what endears them to these products. It’s why when you pick up a competing product, it just doesn’t feel right even though the specs may be the same, and it may even look the same.

It’s also why people who don’t use Apple products don’t understand what all the fuss is about. The fuss is about all of the fuss put into making sure every pixel is exactly where it should be on every screen, in every program, all the time.

And Steve Jobs is a personification of all of this. He is a personification of Apple products. Ultimately, that’s why we’re seeing the reaction we’re seeing to his resignation.

And it’s an even stronger bond because it goes both ways. Jobs has poured all of his heart and soul into Apple and these products — each and every one of them.

I truly believe that passion, while unseen, also translates. It’s like when you meet a good kid and you just know that he has good parents. We appreciate Jobs because he has been such a good parent of these products.

He’s a good father in the same way that Walt Disney and Jim Henson were good fathers. Both of those men instilled passion and emotion in people through their products as well.

Jobs is also the best salesman of his own products. Apple keynotes without him on stage are still good because the products are usually great. But no one would argue those keynotes are anywhere near as good as the ones in which Jobs is in command.

It’s his mixture of charisma, enthusiasm, and authenticity. We want to see Jobs on stage showing off the new products because we know that if he feels good enough about them to present them, that they’re going to be good. As a salesman, no one comes close to the track record Jobs has. We trust his judgement as a result. We’re going to miss that.

And we appreciate how stubborn Jobs was in building Apple. It’s a quality that normally carries negative connotations, but it has served Apple well. Jobs’ unwillingness to compromise on his vision and his demand of nothing less than the best has given us the Apple we know and love today.

Most companies would never survive such rigidness. And most leaders, no matter how strong, do not either. Somewhere along the line they compromise. They realize they have to when their neck in on the line. And if they don’t compromise, they often get tossed.

In fact, this happened to Jobs.

In mid-1980s, after a fast start, sales of the original Mac were dwindling. Jobs wanted to hold firm. In fact, most accounts from the time suggest that the thought of doing anything else never even crossed his mind. The Mac was the future. You can’t stop the future from happening.

The board saw things another way. Jobs was booted from Apple. Maybe it was arrogance, or maybe it was simply bad timing. Either way, Jobs was never going to compromise.

The years that followed made Apple’s maneuver look foolish. Without Jobs, the people in charge nearly destroyed the company that Jobs had built. Maybe the same would have been true if Jobs had remained, but what happened next certainly suggests otherwise.

At the 25th hour, Jobs returned. He quickly re-installed his vision. And this time, the timing was exactly right. His vision seemed perfectly in line with the world at large. The result was a 14-year run that took Apple from near-death to the most valuable company on the planet. It wasn’t just hit after hit after hit. It was homerun after homerun after homerun.

That’s another thing that hurts about Jobs stepping back. While his age and health suggest that his time running Apple should be near an end or over, his track record in recent years suggests the opposite. Jobs is retiring in his prime.

Apple just had its best quarter ever. The iPhone, released just four years ago, is now their most important product. The iPad, released just last year, is a bigger business than the Mac. Earlier this month, Apple pushed past Exxon as the most valuable company in the world. This is Sandy Koufax retiring. This is Barry Sanders retiring. This is John Elway hanging it up after winning two Super Bowls in a row. This is Rocky Marciano walking away undefeated.

In his resignation letter, Jobs says that he believes “Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.” And maybe that will indeed be true. But if it is true, it will be in spite of his departure.

But those words are also why I think this resignation may be Jobs’ final masterstroke.

First of all, when the news hit, the only thing about it that I couldn’t make sense of was the timing. Nearly everything Apple does is meticulously calculated. A late afternoon resignation on a seemingly random Wednesday in August doesn’t seem to fit that mold.

But as Peter Burrows and Josh Tyrangiel reported for Bloomberg Businessweek this morning, Jobs spent yesterday at work and attended Apple’s board meeting. It would seem that the timing of this resignation may simply be based around this regularly scheduled board meeting. Jobs undoubtedly wanted to resign in person, and ensure that Tim Cook was installed as the next CEO of Apple. And he did both.

Other reports have him being no more or less sick than he has been in recent months. Maybe Jobs picked this seemingly random board meeting in August to formally step down because, why not? Remember, Tim Cook has been serving as CEO for the past eight months. In that time, Apple has remained the hottest company on the planet. In fact, they’ve gotten even hotter.

The truth is that from a pure logistical standpoint, Jobs doesn’t need to come back to the CEO role. Perhaps his letter is a simple acknowledgement of that.

Or perhaps it’s part of a broader plan. We’re approaching the fall. All indications are that it’s going to be a massive one for Apple. Maybe Jobs wanted to make this move — a formality given the past several months, really — in the relative calm before the storm.

The market rewarded this decision. For years, all we’ve heard is about how when Steve Jobs was no longer head of Apple, the stock would be destroyed. The actual result? A 0.65 percent loss for the day. The broader Nasdaq index actually did much worse: a 1.95 percent loss. Had the market risen today, Apple probably would have closed up.

Think about that for a second: the day after Steve Jobs steps down as CEO of Apple, Apple’s stock could have easily risen.

With the appointment of Cook out of the way, perhaps now it’s on to phase two of Jobs’ last plan: that killer fall.

We’ve been hearing since early this year that Apple was planning something special this fall. Until recently, that seemed to be another new iPad. However, the latest talk indicates that component shortages may have pushed that product to early next year. And the truth is that Apple really may not need it.

We know the iOS 5 is coming, and very likely alongside the iPhone 5. There will also likely be a cheaper “iPhone 4S”, perhaps sold contract-free. Apple will also undoubtedly refresh the iPod lineup as they always do around this time. And there is talk of the company having some tricks up its sleeve when it comes to new content for iTunes.

Oh, and there are also whispers of Apple completely re-doing iTunes itself. Not just the 64-bit re-write we got with iTunes 10. But a total re-working.

This fall is shaping up to be a great first act for Cook. All set up by the timing of Jobs’ resignation. The only real question is: is it Cook or Jobs that takes the stage at their event next month to announce these things? Will it be a “hello” or a “goodbye”?

But only thinking about the fall is thinking small. It’s the longer roadmap that should really be the grand finale in the Jobs’ fireworks show.

Talking to sources in recent months, there has been one common refrain: that the things Apple is working on right now are the best things the company has ever done. These are things that will “blow your mind”, I’ve been told.

What type of things? That I don’t know. There is a lot of talk about the entire Mac brand itself being completely re-imagined. We’ll see. What about Apple televisions? We’ll see.

The fact that Apple has big plans for the post-Jobs future shouldn’t be too surprising. Product roadmaps are set years in advance. Internally, Apple is undoubtedly already starting to test what will become the iPhone 6. And they probably have the beginnings of the iPhone 7 ready to go too. That’s just how these things work.

It’s a bit odd to think about the day after Steve Jobs retires as CEO of Apple, but what if when he says “Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it”, it’s not just a platitude? What if he’s saying it because, like other Apple employees, he knows what’s coming?

And what’s coming is Jobs’ final “one more thing…”, as it were. It may not be him on stage to present these things, but I have faith that the products won’t be any less great. We’ll just have to see for ourselves instead of instinctively trusting Jobs’ sales pitch.

Yesterday, John Gruber wrote that “Jobs's greatest creation isn't any Apple product. It is Apple itself.” I’d like to believe the timing and execution of this resignation is meant to showcase exactly that. Jobs has spent decades shaping Apple into what it has become. He’s spent years training Apple’s employees on how to sustain the system in his absence. Now the training wheels come off (with Jobs behind the bicycle just in case, for now).

Steve Jobs is a remarkable person. He’ll go down as perhaps the greatest business leader and one of the greatest innovators of not just our time, but of any time. But he is just a man. What he’s built in Apple is much bigger. We’re emotionally tied to Jobs because of the belief that Apple is tied to him. His last act is to show us that it’s not. That would be truly amazing.


Company:
APPLE
Launch Date:
1/4/1976
IPO:
1980, NASDAQ:AAPL

Started by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, Apple has expanded from computers to consumer electronics over the last 30 years, officially changing their name from Apple Computer,...

Learn more

Person:
STEVE JOBS
Website:
Companies
Apple, Pixar, NeXT

Steve Jobs is the co-founder and CEO of Apple and formerly Pixar. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” -Steve Jobs Steve Jobs regularly makes most rosters of the rich...

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Daily Crunch: About Face

Posted: 26 Aug 2011 01:00 AM PDT

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