Monday, September 12, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Pixel Qi Closes Out Series B Round With Investment From 3M

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 09:16 AM PDT

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Founder and CEO Mary Lou Jepson has always had high hopes for Pixel Qi’s low-power, super-reflective LCDs. While the displays popped up in niche tablets like the Notion Ink Adam, they have yet to reach the sort of mass-market penetration Jepson has always wanted.

Jepson’s wishes may soon come true, if today’s announcement is any indication: industrial giant 3M is investing an undisclosed amount in Pixel Qi as part of the company’s Series B investment round.

Pixel Qi’s displays have generated quite a bit of buzz in recent years, due to its highly adaptable nature. When the backlight is turned on, the screen looks like any other LCD, but when the backlight powers down, the highly-reflective display takes on the appearance of an eInk screen. The end result is a screen that works just as well in the sunlight as it does in the dark, with impressive battery life to boot.

Details of the deal, which was run through 3M’s New Ventures division, are still draped in shrouds, but it should be quite the shot in the arm for Jepson’s San Bruno operation.

“In our collaboration with 3M, we have the ability to accelerate this into mass adoption,” says Jepson. 3M’s investment will allow Pixel Qi to kick production into high gear, and with good reason: while Pixel Qi will continue to work on getting their displays into more consumer-facing devices, the technology is also being looked at for usage in digital signage and “touch applications.” If all goes well, it hopefully won’t be too long before the first mass-market Pixel Qi devices start hitting the streets.



Watch TC Disrupt SF 2011 Live

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 09:03 AM PDT

There’s no more exciting place to be than TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011 this morning. I’m not kidding. In case you can’t be here because of an act of God or something just as urgent, we’ve embedding the livestream above.

Those at home can also keep up with the action by searching for #TCDisrupt hashtag on Twitter, watching the TechCrunch Disrupt backstage videos or refreshing the page continuously until something new comes up.

Stay tuned. Full agenda for today below.

Monday, September 12th

9:00am – 9:10am
TechCrunch opening remarks

9:10am – 9:40am
Fireside chat with Reid Hoffman, Greylock Partners and LinkedIn

9:40am – 10:00am
Fireside chat with Mike McCue, Flipboard

10:00am – 10:20am
Founder Stories with Andrew Stalbow, Rovio and Tom Conrad, Pandora

10:20am -10:30am
Special product announcement

10:31am – 10:50am
BREAK and BROWSE STARTUP ALLEY

10:51am – 11:00am
Special product announcement

11:00am – 11:30am
Fireside chat with Doug Leone, Sequoia Capital

11:30am – 12:10pm
Office Hours with Paul Graham, Y Combinator

12:10pm – 12:30pm
Fireside chat with Peter Thiel, Founders Fund, and Max Levchin

12:30pm – 2:00pm
LUNCH and BROWSE STARTUP ALLEY

2:00pm – 2:15pm
Founder Stories with Dustin Moskovitz, Asana

Startup Battlefield

2:15pm – 3:15pm
Session 1
Expert Judges: Tony Conrad (About.me), Brad Garlinghouse (AOL), Stephen Messer(Cross Commerce Media)

3:15pm – 3:30pm
BREAK and BROWSE STARTUP ALLEY
STARTUP ALLEY AUDIENCE CHOICE VOTING CLOSES @ 3:30 pm

3:30pm – 4:30pm
Session 2
Expert Judges: Aileen Lee (Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers), Dustin Moskovitz (Asana), Michael Parekh (MPi Capital), Joshua Schachter (Jig)

4:30pm – 4:45pm
BREAK

4:45pm – 5:45pm
Session 3
Expert Judges: Josh Felser (Freestyle Capital), April Underwood (Twitter), Jim Lanzone (CBS Interactive), Michael Marquez (CODE Advisors)

5:45-7:30pm
BROWSE STARTUP ALLEY

End of sessions at entrance to Concourse: RVIP Lounge: Sponsored by uTest

9:00pm-Midnight
After Party hosted by Bridgewater
1015 Folsom
1015 Folsom St
Conference badge required for admission


Company: TechCrunch
Website: techcrunch.com
Launch Date: November 6, 2005

TechCrunch, founded on June 11, 2005 by Michael Arrington, is a network of technology-oriented blogs and other web properties.

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“Deciding” To Move On

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 08:58 AM PDT

AOL has issued the following statement:

“The TechCrunch acquisition has been a success for AOL and for our shareholders, and we are very excited about its future. Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch has decided to move on from TechCrunch and AOL to his newly formed venture fund. Michael is a world-class entrepreneur and we look forward to supporting his new endeavor through our investment in his venture fund. Erick Schonfeld has been named the editor of TechCrunch. TechCrunch will be expanding its editorial leadership in the coming months.”


J. Michael Arrington (born March 13, 1970 in Huntington Beach, California) is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of TechCrunch, a blog covering startups and technology news. Arrington attended Claremont McKenna College (BA Economics, 1992) and Stanford Law School (JD, 1995), and practiced as a corporate and securities lawyer at two law firms: O’Melveny & Myers and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. His clients included idealab, Netscape, Pixar, Apple and a number of startups, venture funds and investment banks. He...

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TechCrunch Disrupt Live Webcast – Watch Now

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 08:46 AM PDT

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TEEWave AR1: Japan Gets New Electric Sports Car

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 08:12 AM PDT

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Tesla is getting some competition from Japan: Tokyo-based chemicals giant Toray has taken the wraps off Teewave AR1 (short for “Toray Eco Efficient Advanced Roadstar 1″), a two-seat sports car over the weekend.

The company invested a total of US$3.8 million in the development of the electric vehicle whose main selling point is its low weight: Toray used carbon fiber reinforced plastic in the floor, frame and other parts of the car to make it as light as possible.

The prototype weighs just 846kg (including the battery), which is about one third less than similar vehicles and leads to less energy consumption (11.6km/kWh), according to the company. It reaches a top speed of 147km/h and offers a travel range of 185km.

Toray cooperated with UK-based car design agency Gordon Murray in the development of the Teewave AR1. The plan is to commercialize car parts using carbon fiber reinforced plastic by 2015.

Via Sankei News [JP]



Super Mario Bros. Recreated In A Cardboard Box Complete With Realistic Side Scrolling Action!

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 08:00 AM PDT

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This is side-scrolling done right, ladies and gamers. Simple graphics, instant enjoyment, and not much of a learning curve is the classic formula for success. (see Angry Birds and Lemmings) But this time it’s done in real life — well, in a cardboard box at least.

Open the box and the game starts. A little knob on the right side allows Mario to jump over Goombas and other obstacles mounted with magnetic tape as he progresses through the world at an ever-increasing speed. If Mario happens to miss his mark and pass over one of these magnetic areas, our hero essentially dies and the game resets. Awesome. Want one. [Teagueduino via SlashGear]



ApartmentList Launches Recommendation Engine To Match You With The Right Apartment

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 07:45 AM PDT

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Searching for apartments sucks. It’s nerve-racking, frantic, and searchers often find themselves settling for less. In July, we covered the seed raise of Nestio, a young TechStars grad that allows users to save apartment listings from across a variety of sites all in one place, and collaborate with their roommates in realtime during apartment searches by sharing listings, photos and notes. Launching at TechCrunch Disrupt today in beta is another young startup looking to transform the way we find and rent apartments, making the process just a little bit less of a pain in the ass — and maybe even enjoyable.

ApartmentList is an apartment matching engine that uses social networks and its proprietary matching technology (a.k.a. some deep math) to make the apartment search a more personalized experience. Renters connect their social networks to the startup’s platform and answer a series of targeted questions, which then enables the engine to pare down thousands of apartment listings to those that fit the needs of the individual searcher, a la Netflix and Amazon.

By providing an apartment recommendation and discovery engine, ApartmentList is essentially attempting to become the Pandora of apartment searches — or in its social and matching functionality, the Match.com of apartment searches. Take your pick. The startup has already added some interesting advisors and board members, including the founders of Rent.com, Bills.com, as well as the Chairman of StumbleUpon — among others — to help guide it in a space that is ripe for innovation.

To boil it down, ApartmentList offers Facebook integration to automatically personalize apartment recommendations based on users’ activities and those of their friends, enabling users to customize their lifestyle of choice. The service also asks entertaining questions like, “what’s your favorite birthday cake?” and “do you have any money in the stock market?” — that though they may seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, actually go a long way towards refining the apartment recommendations it serves, said Founder and CEO John Kolb.

So far, the startup pulls from over 1 million apartment listings (and counting), which it provides on a map interface that allows users to see what points of interest surround the apartment, like restaurants, shopping, and public transportation options, meant to help apartment searchers make more informed decisions. The engine also provides consistent listings, along with editorial content on individual cities and neighborhoods within each listing as well as thousands of photos of apartments and locales so that users can peruse through visual data to find their apartment of choice.

Another key feature: ApartmentList offers collaborative apartment hunting with friends via Facebook so that peers can inform you if the street you’re considering has a severe shortage of accessible parking, for example.

As the U.S. rental market continues to grow, the world is badly in need to apartment search options that provide consistent and trustworthy listings and rental data — as well as a service that adds some entertainment to what is often a teeth-grinding process. The visual elements of ApartmentList’s engine, complete with interactive maps and images and easy search, add a much-needed revamp to the black-and-white listings of craiglist and other listings resources.

As many contemporary web businesses are building recommendation engines for personalized and social discovery to old models, it is only natural that apartment rental should have its own. Just like Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon before them, ApartmentList’s engine gets smarter (and serves better recommendations) the more questions you answer and the more it learns about your interests and preferences. As it stands as of beta launch, ApartmentList is already providing a great tool, but it will need to continue adding to its reservoir of apartment listings if it hopes to compete long term with the bigs already in the space. But so far, the startup is off to a great start.

For more on ApartmentList, check out the video below:



Zendesk Adds A Twilio-Powered VoIP System To Cloud-Based Customer Support Platform

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 07:30 AM PDT

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Customer support startup Zendesk is unveiling Zendesk Voice, a cloud-based call center that integrates with the startup’s popular help-desk platform. Launched in 2008, Zendesk offers a web-based, SaaS-delivered help desk/support ticketing application that gives companies a simple way to manage incoming support requests from end customers.

Powered by Twilio, Zendesk Voice is a VoIP system that adds a call center to customer support. Businesses can set up a phone number and have incoming calls available in the Zendesk interface. And similar to Google Voice, Zendesk Voice will transform voice conversations and messages into transcripts and are embedded into Zendesk tickets. Customers are also able to listen to their previous phone conversations through the system.

Currently, Zendesk Voice is available in the U.S. and Canada, with international availability late in 2011. Calls placed to the system are billed at 5 cents per minute, with no additional upfront costs.

To date, Zendesk has added more than 10,000 customers and offers both plans for small businesses and enterprise companies. To date, Zendesk has raised $26 million to date from Matrix Partners, Benchmark Capital and Charles River Ventures.



AT&T Reveals New Windows Phones, Outlines Mango Update Plans

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 07:27 AM PDT

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If their latest press release is any indication, AT&T really loves their Windows Phones. Their current lineup consists of four WP devices, with three of them having launched alongside the OS last November and the other being a network-swapped variant of an existing device.

Today’s announcement is a real shot in the arm for AT&T’s WP offerings, as three new Mango-powered handsets are waiting in the wings for a Q4 launch.

First up is the HTC Titan (pictured above), the 4.7″ inch behemoth that has been enjoying the paparazzi treatment at IFA. A quick recap: in addition to its massive screen (which AT&T perhaps erroneously calls their largest on a smartphone), the Titan packs a single-core 1.5 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera, and about 16GB of internal storage.

Samsung’s contributions come in the form of the Focus S and Focus Flash, a pair meant to capitalize on the success of the best-selling original. The Focus S is the more impressive of the two, with a 4.3-inch display Super AMOLED Plus display, 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.4 GHz processor, and a svelte 8.55 mm thick body. The Flash, on the other hand, is Samsung’s value offering: while it also has a 1.4 GHz processor (which may or may not be the same as in its more illustrious brother), it opts for a more wallet-friendly 3.7-inch screen and a 5-megapixel camera around the back.

While none of the new trio has an official launch window yet, it’s possible that AT&T could take a page out of last year’s playbook and launch all three in a Windows blitz in time for the holidays. In addition to their new handsets, AT&T has also confirmed that all of their existing Windows Phones will receive the long-awaited Mango update some time this fall. While a more specific release window is always preferable, current users can at least rest assured that they haven’t been forgotten.



If You Weren’t Using TestFlight Before, You Will Be Now With Their New SDK

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 07:00 AM PDT

Home

It was nine months ago when we first wrote about TestFlight, the super-simple over-the-air (OTA) iOS app distribution service. As we noted at the time, the service seemed perfect for developers looking for a better way to test their apps before releasing them into Apple’s App Store. Since then, many developers have found it to be the perfect solution — it seems like pretty much every developer I encounter now uses it.

Today, TestFlight version 2 is rolling out, and with it comes a full SDK that is likely to push any developer not yet using the service, over the edge. Here are the new features:

Crash Reports
Real time reports with environment snapshots, full session activity, and your NSLogs.

Check Points
Monitor tester engagement and watch as they progress through your app or take unexpected turns.

In-App Questions
Get the answers you need right when you need them. Ask multiple choice or open answer questions in real time the moment a checkpoint is reached.

Feedback
Gather more feedback with in-app forms or via tester email replies, which is all neatly organized in your dashboard and enables immediate responses.

In-App Updates
Prompt testers to install the latest version of your app and they can update instantly over-the-air.

Enterprise IPA Support
If you have an Enterprise Developer account through Apple, you get the added benefit of unlimited devices with all the TestFlight features at no charge. TestFlight fully supports Enterprise IPA’s.

In other words, the best just got a lot better.

And the key part is the that even with all the upgrades, the service remains free for developers to use. TestFlight says that while they reserve the right to charge for more premium add-ons down the road, these features are all now a part of the core functionality and will remain free.

Currently, everyone from Adobe to MTV to Tumblr to Spotify to Instagram are using TestFlight. It’s great for distribution (which used to ridiculously involve the sending and manual installing of IPA’s and provisioning files), and now it’s going to be even better for diagnostics and analytics. If there’s any service that stands out as something Apple should buy, this is it.

TestFlight notes that the SDK has been in testing with some developers for a few months. At least one of those developers notes that it’s “fucking fantastic”.

Say no more.

Click to view slideshow.


HTC’s Eyes Wander, Considers Buying Their Own OS

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 06:52 AM PDT

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HTC has produced devices running a handful of operating systems over the years, from big names like Android to lightweight options like Qualcomm’s BREW. What we’ve never seen though is a device that is HTC through and through — HTC hardware meets HTC OS.

The Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer seems to have been thinking the same thing, as company chairwoman Cher Wang has revealed that HTC is considering purchasing their own mobile operating system for use in forthcoming devices.

Though the company’s intentions have now been outed, Wang makes clear that their next steps are not set in stone. Taiwan’s Central News Agency has learned that HTC is taking the cautious approach here: while HTC brass have internally discussed their options, Wang makes it clear that their OS purchase (if it ever happens) is not going to be an impulse buy.

In spite of their commitment to taking their time, HTC seems a bit nonchalant about introducing a new operating system to their already-ambitious line up. It’s likely because they realized that whatever operating system they purchase is only going to be a template upon which the HTC experience will be built. “We can use any OS we want,” Wang said. “We are able to make things different from our rivals on the second or third layer of a platform.”

At least one of those layers refers to HTC’s near-ubiquitous Sense UI, which in one form or another has sat on top of numerous operating systems in recent years. That, coupled with the company’s new focus on delivering services like HTC Watch mean that no matter what OS they end up purchasing, the end result should be full-featured and recognizable. Whether or not it will be enough to claim any significant market share is still up in the air, but it’ll be a real treat to see them try.


Company: HTC
Website: htc.com
Launch Date: September 12, 1997

HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Phone 7 operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in late 2006, the company has introduced dozens of HTC-branded products around the world. The company recently introduced the HTC diamond to compete with Apple’s iPhone. Founded in 1997 by Cher Wang, Chairwoman, and Peter Chou, President and CEO, HTC made its name as the company behind many of the...

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Ooyala Now Allows Publishers To Sell And Rent Premium Video On Facebook

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 06:39 AM PDT

Ooyala

Video publishing platform Ooyala is adding a social component to its videos today with the launch of Ooyala Social, a new HD-quality Social TV experience that brings video sharing and and viewing to Facebook.

Ooyala specializes in hosting videos for large corporate and media clients, such as the Telegraph Media Group, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Dell, General Mills, ESPN and TechCrunch. Now these content owners can use Ooyala Social to make premium on-demand and live video available on Facebook via rentals, subscriptions, purchases, and and more.

There are a number of features of the platform, including the ability to allow for group-activated "screenings," allowing a certain number of people on Facebook to unlock a viewing experience. And users can share what they're watching “Like" a video or "loan" a show for later viewing. Viewers can also chat together through a movie or show.

Part of the Ooyala Social allows for mulit-screen and device access and users can buy or rent videos with Facebook Credits, PayPal, a credit card or their mobile phone number. Content may be rented, subscribed to, or purchased outright.

There’s no doubt that Facebook has become a major destination for discovering online video. Ooyala’s move to Facebook makes sense as more premium content publishers look to bring video to the social platform, Warner Brothers is dabbling its toes into the Facebook stream with movie rentals, and Netflix is also preparing for a deeper integration with Facebook (though there are some challenges to this).



StatSheet Changes Name To Automated Insights, Scores $4 Million

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 06:30 AM PDT

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Exclusive - StatSheet, which specializes in realtime content automation, is expanding beyond sports to apply its technology to other data-intensive verticals where the cost of creating high-quality content remains high.

The company has decided that a new name will better reflect its broadened focus, and will henceforth be known as Automated Insights. Furthermore, the startup has secured $4 million in new funding to spur growth.

The financing round was led by Court Square Ventures and OCA Ventures, with participation from IDEA Fund Partners and other existing investors. They raised $1.3m earlier.

For the record, Automated Insights will be entering new markets (think finance, weather, real estate etc.) but will maintain the StatSheet brand for its sports offerings whilst doing so.

Automated Insights' technology automatically turns raw data into narrative content and visualizations. The content that is output is written entirely by software but can subsequently be formatted as headlines, summaries, and long-form articles, and then distributed via the Web, mobile applications and through social media.

They recently applied its technology to power Major League Baseball (MLB) coverage. The company is now looking to debut team-centric sites and mobile apps for all 32 NFL and 244 NCAA Division I College Football teams (see an example).

Since November, the company says, its software has generated over 100,000 articles (covering both NCAA Basketball and MLB).

Worth noting: Automated Insights has gotten this far with only 12 employees, in less than a year, because most of what they do is completely automated.


Company: StatSheet
Website: statsheet.com
Launch Date: January 6, 2007
Funding: $1.3M

The StatSheet Network is a collection of fan-centric, sports sites designed to give sports fans the information and analysis they want when and how they want it. The network launched in November 2010, and currently consists of 345 sites that provide in-depth coverage for every Division I college basketball program in the nation. We will be adding even more sports and teams soon.

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Dive Headfirst Into The Early Adopter Pool And Pre-Order Your Sony Tablet Now

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 06:20 AM PDT

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Sony finally unveiled its upcoming tablets earlier this month and at least two retailers just put the more traditional Tablet S up for pre-order. Both Amazon and Best Buy are allowing awaiting buyers to reserve their spot in line to be one of the first buyers of the latest so-called iPad killer.

The Sony Tablet S and Tablet P bring a bit of Sony flare to the otherwise dead Android tablet party. Both run Honeycomb but along with Sony’s always stable media players and distribution suite. They also both hit with unconventional designs with the S featuring a tapered backplate and dual screens on the P.

Only the slate form factor Tablet S is available for order right now; the clamshell Tablet P should hit next month. Both Amazon and Best Buy are hawking them at its full $499/$599 MSPR. Don’t forget about the accessories either. The leather carrying sleeve gets $100 while the dock costs $40. Ouch.


Company: Sony
Website: sony.com
Launch Date: September 12, 2011
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.

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On Its One-Year Anniversary, Badgeville Launches A New Product Called Social Fabric

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 06:00 AM PDT

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It’s been a year since social rewards and analytics company, Badgeville took home the prize for Audience Choice Winner at TechCrunch Disrupt 2010. Today, Founder and CEO Kris Duggan spoke at this year’s Disrupt to talk about how far the company has come over the past 12 months. When Badgeville started, he says, it had 4 people, $300,000 in seed funding and 10 beta customers. Now it has 35 full-time employees, has raised $15 million in capital and has 85 paying customers, including big names like NBC, Discovery and Universal Music. It’s also pulling in 5 to 10 million in sales, notes Duggan. Not bad for just one year in.

But in even bigger news, Badgeville is now launching its latest product: Social Fabric, a new technology based on users’ online behavior.

This “behavior graph,” as Duggan calls it, is different from the “social graph” found on Facebook and Twitter, which is limited to a user’s network of friends. It’s also more advanced than the “interest graph” on Facebook, where the feedback loop is as simple as a list of “likes.”

Instead, the behavior graph is built by tracking users’ on-site activity, which can include virtually anything a publisher wants to track, like clicking a link, reading an article, commenting, liking, replying to another comment, or sharing, for example. But it’s not limited to only content-producing websites. Retailers can use Social Fabric, too, to track activity related to purchases, recommendations, referrals and more. Even enterprise application makers could leverage Social Fabric to track internal activity, like a closed support ticket or users who added answers to a help site’s Q&A section.

There are three main components to Social Fabric: activity streams, social notifications and alerts, and the ability to follow people and objects.

The activity stream functions as sort of like a behaviorally-based, site specific version of Facebook’s News Feed. It shows users a stream of activity related their interests, including what your friends have been doing on the site – what they’ve been reading, commenting on, liking, etc. It can show you who has responded to a comment you left, or what users seem to like the same content as you do. The options, again, are up to the publishers themselves.

Badgeville is currently working on improving the filtering algorithms for this stream, to better highlight the activity that would be most interesting to a given user. Tasked with the algorithm improvements is Tim Piatenko, a developer who knows a little something about the matter, having previously worked on analytics at social gaming company Zynga.

Another piece to the new Social Fabric system are the real-time alerts, which pop in (usually at the bottom of the page) to show you this same activity as it happens, while you’re browsing the website. The end result is a more engaging experience for users, while also providing the site’s publisher with a more detailed analysis of user behavior.

The third and final piece to Social Fabric is the “Follow” button which, unlike on social networks, can be applied to other things besides just people. Users can follow topics, videos, articles, or any object that can be tracked.

So why is a gamification company delving into social mechanics? Were badges not enough to fully engage users? As it turns out, it’s not a simple either-or situation. Adding social activity to the already-present game mechanics in Badgeville’s core product, helps to deliver better and more addictive on-site experiences, as the game-related activity becomes just another interest that can be tracked.

Duggan says Badgeville already has half a dozen companies planning to implement Social Fabric over next week or two, so stay tuned.


Company: Badgeville
Website: badgeville.com
Funding: $15M

Badgeville helps web publishers of all sizes increase audience engagement and unlock new monetization opportunities. We are based in Menlo Park, CA. Our team includes experts from Zynga, Playdom, American Express, Omniture, Google, salesforce.com, Amazon.com, WebEx, Lithium, and more. The company provides a white label social loyalty, rewards, and analytics platform. We make it easy for web publishers, media sites, communities, marketers and brands to increase user loyalty and engagement. The Badgeville Platform leverages techniques from game play to create...

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Freestyle Capital Now More Formal With $27 Million Fund

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 06:00 AM PDT

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For the past few years, longtime entrepreneurs Josh Felser and Dave Samuel have been investing in seed and early-stage startups under the name “Freestyle Capital”. Now that a few of the nearly 30 companies in their portfolio are starting to exit, they decided to make things more formal. Today at TechCrunch Disrupt, they’re officially unveiling Freestyle Capital — and they’re doing so with a new $27 million fund.

Freestyle will operate out of San Francisco and will feature Felser and Samuel as the two founding partners. Additionally, they have entrepreneurs Joe Stump, Lane Becker, and David Bill on board as advisors. The plan is to use the new fund to continue their established investment trends, investing anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 in young startups, typically.

The two hope to differentiate themselves in the VC field because of their entrepreneurial experience. The pair co-founded two companies that both had successful exits (Crackle and Spinner.com). Just as important as the money will be the advice and guidance that Felser and Samuel offer startups.

Of their 27 listed investments, three have already exited: About.me, BackType, and CoTweet. They’re also investors in Formspring, Get Satisfaction (which Becker co-founded), SimpleGeo (which Stump co-founded), Typekit, Yobongo, and others.

Felser will be on stage as both a judge today and a panelist during a VC talk on Wednesday at Disrupt. Freestyle also has one new portfolio company launching at Disrupt in a couple days.



After eBay Acquisition, GSI Commerce Founder Launches Kynetic With Rue La La And ShopRunner On Board

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 05:58 AM PDT

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When eBay bought GSI Commerce for $2.4 billion in cash and debt in March, it was somewhat surprising to lean that the e-commerce giant’s founder and CEO Michael Rubin was not staying on with eBay. Instead of joining his new parent company, Rubin announced he would form a new independent company that would include the GSI businesses that eBay didn’t want (or more kindly put, were ‘not core to the company’s long-term growth strategy’). These businesses included GSI's licensed sports merchandise business, Fanatics, ShopRunner and flash sales site Rue La La. Today, Rubin is officially announcing the new holding company, called Kynetic, which for now features the e-commerce businesses mentioned above.

Fanatics is a retailer for licensed sports merchandise for colleges, professional sports teams & leagues, conferences and media networks. Fanatics encompasses four sectors: direct-to-consumer retail, third-party eCommerce syndication, licensing and manufacturing, and fulfillment services. The company helps power the official online stores of the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and NASCAR.

ShopRunner is a members-only online shopping service that offers consumers unlimited, free two-day shipping with no minimum order size. ShopRunner aggregates shopping benefits from retailers and brands including Lord & Taylor, Toys”R”Us, Sports Authority, GNC, Domino's Pizza, PetSmart and Newegg.com.

And RueLaLa is a Gilt Groupe-competitor that offers discounts on clothes, travel, home goods and more. RueLaLa was actually part of GSI’s $350 million purchase of Retail Convergence in 2009.

As we heard in march, eBay is loaning Kynetic $467 million in total, while Rubin in investing an additional $31 million in cash in the business. You have to wonder why eBay passed on these companies (perhaps they weren’t making any money?) earlier, especially RueLaLa, considering eBay has been interested in flash sales.

But there are other factors at play. eBay CEO John Donahoe told reporters in March that Fantacis’ sports merchandise business could compete with eBay seller. As for RueLaLa and ShopRunner, he wasn’t optimistic about eBay’s ability to run the businesses, saying “I would characterize it as a near-term operating loss and a huge opportunity that if we tried to realize, we'd probably screw it up.”

It should be interesting to see if Rubin, who clearly saw success running GSI Commerce, can create a viable e-commerce company from Kynetic.



From Microsoft’s Garage: Mouse Without Borders

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 05:51 AM PDT

mouse without borders

Mouse Without Borders, much like the real world counterparts, doesn’t care about your screen’s boundaries. It doesn’t care where one OS stops and another starts. Mouse Without Borders essentially busts through these borders and creates one, massive environment controlled by a single mouse and keyboard along with providing very simple file sharing and clipboard sharing — and it was made by Microsoft Dynamics employee Truong Do on his free time and available as a free download.

Steve Clayton explains Microsoft’s The Garage as both a physical location in Building 4 at Microsoft’s Redmond HQ and a company wide program that “encourages grass roots invention, tinkering, ideas and incubation of projects.” Apparently most of the projects are never released as a stand-alone project and are either integrated into future OSs or simply used internally at Microsoft. Thankfully, Mouse Without Borders was the exception. This 1.1MB utility is awesome and just changed my workflow. (and cleaned up my desk)

Screen and input device sharing isn’t exactly new. Programs like Synergy and Input Director have allowed such functions for years. Mouse Without Borders hits with a lot more simple set-up process and several nifty tricks that might make even the most die-hard Synergy users question their software of choice.

Mouse Without Borders works over a local network and from my experience (and a note in the software), a wired environment seems to work the best. The software installs in a few seconds and then a screen pops up with a linking code. Once the computers are linked, configuration is dead simple — much more so than the aforementioned utilities. The feature list is rather impressive as well: drag and drop file support, clipboard sharing for simple copy and pasting, the ability to lock and unlock all the connected PCs, and, of course, sharing a keyboard and mouse across multiple computers.

Right now, and probably forever, Mouse Without Borders is a Windows-only utility. Teleport is a similar OS X-only program and Synergy has fantastic platform support. The Microsoft solution however seems to be the most robust and easy to use for Windows PCs right now. Where I never had success with Synergy, Mouse Without Borders was up and running within minutes and essentially cleared my desk of a second set of input devices for the little Viliv tablet mounted on my desk just for Twitter and Chartbeat. Gotta love a cleaner desk.

[thanks for the tip, Nate!]


Company: Microsoft
Website: microsoft.com
Launch Date: April 4, 1974
IPO: NASDAQ:MSFT

Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is a veteran software company, best known for its Microsoft Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. Starting in 1980 Microsoft formed a partnership with IBM allowing Microsoft to sell its software package with the computers IBM manufactured. Microsoft is widely used by professionals worldwide and largely dominates the American corporate market. Additionally, the company has ventured into hardware with consumer products such as the Zune and...

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Seedcamp Week 2011 – Meet The Finalists, The Winners And One Good Samaritan

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 05:51 AM PDT

seedcamp

As I wrote last week when Seedcamp made a flurry of announcements, including fresh funding and ambitious plans for international expansion, I spent some time in London last week to get acquainted with a bunch of interesting European startups.

Below is an overview of all 20 Seedcamp Week 2011 finalists, starting with the 3 (well, actually, 4 winners).

But first, it’s worth noting that Seedcamp, which had already financially and otherwise backed 16 of the 20 companies that presented their wares during Seedcamp Week 2011 – over and over, I might add – held interviews with the four remaining startups and decided to inject some seed capital into them, too. So, in a way, they all sorta kinda ‘won’.


Company: Seedcamp
Website: seedcamp.com
Funding: €5M

Seedcamp is an organization to jumpstart the entrepreneurial community in Europe by putting the next generation of developers and entrepreneurs in front of a network of company builders; including seed investors, serial entrepreneurs, product experts, HR specialists, marketers, lawyers, recruiters, journalists and venture capitalists. Seedcamp acts as a micro seed fund to invest in startup companies. Seedcamp invests all throughout the year, during Mini Seedcamp events that are held all over Europe. During its flagship event Seedcamp Week, which takes...

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Party Planning Platform Punchbowl Expands Beyond Invitations To Digital Greeting Cards

Posted: 12 Sep 2011 05:00 AM PDT

punchbowl

Start to finish party planning site Punchbowl is moving beyond just offering online invitations to the digital greeting card business. The company’s digital greeting cards allow you to send a thank you note, birthday card and more to contacts while still providing the look and feel of a traditional paper greeting card.

Punchbowl’s Digital Greeting Cards come with folded designs, matching envelopes, realistic postmarks, and the mailopening experience. The cards can be personalized with accents such as envelope liners, custom postage, and rubber stamps. You can choose from hundreds of free designs and will be able to write messages in carious inks and fonts.

As we’ve written in the past, Punchbowl’s platform allows users to create beautiful online invitations and track RSVPs. The startup also provides tools that let you find supplies, organize an after party and even set a date, via an algorithm that recommends the best date for your party. The site also allows you to set up gift registries, save-the-dates, message boards, integrate Google Maps' to display the location, and share comments, photos, and videos.

With a digital cards platform, Punchbowl’s real stationary-like technology is expanded to other greeting cards, which should be useful for the company’s million-plus users. Punchbowl also recently launched an iPhone app as well.

With the product expansion, Punchbowl has also unveiled DigitalGreetingCard.org, a new site that aims to declare independence from paper greeting cards



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