Friday, September 16, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Confirmed: Fred Wilson And Bijan Sabet To Leave Twitter’s Board

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 09:32 AM PDT

Fred Wilson

Two of Twitter’s earliest investors, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital, are leaving its board of directors, Twitter has just confirmed with me. Peter Kafka reported news this morning and we independently heard the same thing from sources last night. Nobody will be replacing their seats on the board.

The changing of the guard comes just as Twitter recently closed another $800 million in funding, in which preferred shareholders including Union Square and Spark are believed to have sold some shares to new investors in that transaction. As early investors, it is prudent for both to take some money off the table, but it also signals that their commitment to the company (at least financial) has also shrunk.

A Twitter spokesperson provided the following statement: “Bijan Sabet and Fred Wilson both played important and greatly appreciated roles in our success. Both saw what Twitter could become before most anyone else. We look forward to their continued input as both investors in the company and passionate users of the product.”

Wilson, in particular, has always been a key board member guiding the company from its very earliest days. This is also not the first time he’s sold shares. Last May At Disrupt NYC, when I asked him whether he had sold any of his Twitter shares, he responded that in general he likes to align himself with company founders and feels comfortable selling shares when they do.

The departures come at a time when there is a general changing of the guard at Twitter (for instance, chief scientist Abdur Chowdury is also leaving, and, of course, founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone are already gone.

Twitter’s $800 million funding is very much like a mini-IPO within the company in the sense that early employees and shareholders are able to cash out. When people cash out, they leave. It’s just as true for shareholders as for employees. Whenever you infuse that much cash into the system, things are going to change.


Company: Twitter
Website: twitter.com
Funding: $1.16B

Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006 (launched publicly in July 2006), is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to post their latest updates. An update is limited by 140 characters and can be posted through three methods: web form, text message, or instant message. The company has been busy adding features to the product like Gmail import and search. They recently launched a new site section called “Explore” for...

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Fred Wilson began his career in venture capital in 1987. He has focused exclusively on information technology investments for the past 17 years…In 1996, Fred co-founded Flatiron Partners. While at Flatiron, Fred was responsible for 14 investments including, ITXC, Patagon, Starmedia, TheStreet.com and Yoyodyne. Fred currently serves on the boards of Alacra, Comscore, iBiquity, Return Path, Instant Information and Tacoda Systems. (Source : Union Square Ventures)

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Bijan Sabet is a General Partner at Spark Capital. Bijan led Spark’s investments in Twitter, thePlatform (acquired by Comcast), Boxee, OMGPOP, Ex.fm and Tumblr. Prior to joining Spark, Bijan was Senior Vice President, Corporate Development of GameLogic after serving as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Charles River Ventures (CRV). Before his work at CRV, Bijan was Vice President, Business Development and Product Management at Moxi Digital where he was responsible for establishing and managing strategic relationships with cable and satellite operators as...

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HTC Vigor Renamed Incredible HD, Poised for October Release?

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 09:22 AM PDT

incredible-hd-release

When the first shots of the HTC Vigor started making the rounds, I offhandedly mentioned that the funky backplate and red trim made it look like a new entry in Verizon’s Incredible series. As it turns out, that hunch may have just been confirmed, as a recently leaked release indicates that a very similar device called the Incredible HD is slated for an October launch.

According to the details in the release, the Incredible HD is a new Verizon LTE device with a 4.3-inch screen, a 1.5 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, and support for Beats audio. Coincidentally, these specs match up nearly exactly to those leaked alongside the original Vigor pictures.

The release goes on to paint a very impressive portrait of the Vigor/Incredible HD: like the Runnymede, it will reportedly ship with a pair of Beats headphones, and the device will come with a whopping 48 GB of storage out of the box (16 onboard, 32 in a pre-installed microSD card).

As compelling as the image makes the Incredible HD out to be, though, some of the details just don’t add up. The release lists the Incredible HD as having a WVGA display, which comes out to a resolution of only 800×480 — hardly what one would call HD quality.

What’s worse is the fact that the spec listing contradicts itself: it mentions that the Incredible HD sports an actual “HD resolution of 1280×720″ right after it lauds the phone’s WVGA screen. While it could be a simple typo (1280×720 is occasionally referred to as WXGA, though not usually in the context of a phone), it could also be the work of a rookie forger mixing up their jargon.

The Incredible HD, if real, looks to pack a real wallop when it supposedly ships on October 13. While it would certainly spice up the holiday season’s smartphone wars, the whole package almost looks to be too good to be true.



Tethras Helps Developers Translate And Localize Their Mobile Apps

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 08:59 AM PDT

teth

Tethras is launching its mobile app localization platform in the U.S. The company, which is based in Ireland, helps developers translate their iOD and Android apps into various languages.

The company’s localization as a Service platform connects developers to a multi-region community of language translators. Tethras can help translate apps into over forty languages. And Tethras allows translators and developers to preview what a translation will look like within the app itself.

Because Tethras is based in the cloud, updating and managing translations is an easy process and the startup’s offering can integrate with the app development process. You simple upload your app to Tethras’ platform, and you’ll get quotes on how much it will cost to develop the localized version. After upload, the number of words in the app are counted, and quotes are generated for forty-plus languages. Pricing ranges from $0.10 to $0.28 per word.

As mobile app usage explodes internationally, especially in countries like China and South Korea, it makes sense for app developers to translate and localize their apps for these regions. Tethras should be able to capitalize on the mobile app explosion.


Company: Tethras
Website:

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Lyst Comes Out Of The Closet To Open Up High Fashion World

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 08:53 AM PDT

34-291673487_large_flex

While the retail or ‘high street’ fashion world has been gradually populated by startups looking to create communities of fashion lovers (such as WIWT), the more rarified world of high fashion has remained largely untouched by online. This is an anomaly, because if there is one thing to be said about high fashion it’s that it has passionate followers. Done right, that ought to translate into passionate users of online services.

Lyst, a startup founded by Chris Morton, Sebastjan Trepca and Devin Hunt, is gaining traction with high fashionistas and looking to achieve just that. It’s latest enhancement – launched to coincide with London Fashion Week – is designed to allow fashion fans to be alerted as soon as clothes on the catwalk become available to purchase, usually some weeks later.


Company: Lyst
Website:

Lyst is a social curation platform that’s changing the way people discover fashion online.

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PAS Brace-L: Yamaha Japan’s Newest Electric Sports Bike

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 08:19 AM PDT

PAS Brace-L1

We’ve covered more than one electric bike over the years, but the so-called PAS Brace-L Yamaha introduced last year on the Japanese market is probably the nicest looking. And now the company announced [JP] an improved version of its flagship sports bike (which is, for some reason, also called PAS Brace-L).

The new model’s 8.1Ah/25.2V lithium-ion battery can be charged and discharged as often as 700-900 times, twice as often as the battery used in the 2010 model. It takes four hours for a full charge and provides an assisted travel range of 36km in standard mode, 31km in power mode and 47km in auto-eco mode.

Yamaha also used its S.P.E.C.8 system in the new bike, which tracks the driver’s riding behavior (for example how they shift gears or in which intervals they accelerate) and adjusts the level of electric assistance accordingly.

The company also claims it’s the first electric bike in the world whose LCD indicates the assisted travel range, by constantly tracking the mode chosen and battery life.

The Pac-Brace L 2011 is sized at 1,760×530mm (tires: 26 inches) and weighs 23.5kg. It went on sale in Japan today and costs $1,950.



Makerbot Releases New Extruder

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 07:57 AM PDT

Makerbot_MK7-108-10

Now this is some pretty hardcore dorkitude, but our buddies at Makerbot just released a new extruder for their building devices. Why is it special? Well, the first extruders did 3mm streams while this one does 1.75mm streams, increasing the “resolution” of the objects and question and allowing you to extrude two streams of hot plastic simultaneously.

I told you it was pretty dorky. This $199 extruder is pretty badass and is available now the Makerbot store. If you don’t know what an extruder or a Makerbot are, you may need to check out this hotness and then get back to us. It’s only the future of home fabrication, guys.



Sprint’s Epic Touch 4G Officially Goes On Sale

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 07:50 AM PDT

galaxys2sp

After months of teasing, the long wait is finally over: Sprint’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S II has launched today, and is available for just shy of $200 with a new contract on Sprint.com.

Though it happens to sport an unfortunately cumbersome name, the Samsung Galaxy S II, Epic 4G Touch stands firmly in the upper echelons of Sprint’s collection. It’s surrounded by devices like the Motorola Photon 4G and the Evo 3D, but hopefully Samsung’s handset will go without the sort of launch day issues that its high-end compatriots had.

Some early Photon users, for example, faced a nasty bug in which the device muted itself every time a phone call was placed or received. Likewise, people who bought the Evo 3D around launch reported some sporadic overheating issues. While getting new hardware out the door is quite the operation, hopefully the long wait in getting the Galaxy S II means that all the bugs have been ironed out.

Still, after having played with the device at Samsung’s official unveiling, the phone seemed to be in solid shape. While we’re waiting to get our hands on one for some more in-depth fiddling, the Epic Touch 4G seems as though it could be a dream come true for ardent WiMax lovers.



Island X: A Private Niche Social Network For ‘International People’

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 07:45 AM PDT

islandx

Does the world need another social network? Arguably, nooooo, but I happen to believe there’s room for a lot more niche social networks to complement the existing social media juggernauts.

Enter Island X, an invitation-only social network for ‘international people’, i.e. people that have grown up internationally.



B&W C5 Review: Sound Great, Look Classy, And Strong Like Bull

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 07:43 AM PDT

mmmm B&W

It’s amazing that in 2011, roughly 1,000 years after the earbud was originally created, a model could come along that’s actually innovative. But Bowers & Wilkins actually did it. The C5 in-ear headphones debuted several weeks back and I’ve been testing a pair for a while. In short: I’m in love. Oh, it’s not just that they sound great; they’re made by B&W so I would expect nothing less. It’s their design that makes me smile.

Bowers & Wilkins has long made some of the very best loudspeakers on the planet. A few years ago they dove into the world of iPod docks with the Zeppelin and then a short while later, the Zeppelin Mini. This move frightened some in the snobby world of audiophiles, but B&W did fine job maintaining their trademark high-end feel with their general consumer line. Enter the C5 in-ear headphones.

These in-ears are not the company’s first attempt at headphones, as they also sell the over-the-ear P5s. Those retro cans cost $299 and more than hold their own at that price point dominated by hip-hop-endorsed headphones.

The C5 in-ear headphones are more of the same. They’re a great value at $179 and can easily rival in-ears costing north of $200. They don’t sound as good as the P5s, but they feel great and are much more versatile than the over-the-ear set.

Most in-ears either just rest in your ear canal or have a sort of hook that wraps around your ear, but not the C5s. The headphone wire expands through the earbud itself into the inner ridge of your ear’s outer cartilage, providing a secure and surprisingly comfortable hold. This causes just the slightest amount of pressure, but it’s on the outside of your ear, rather than inside the ear canal. The tungsten earbud itself is weighted more towards the tip, which helps further anchor them in place.

You can’t knock these things out. They’ll likely withstand bouncing on a pogo stick during an earthquake — not that I tested it as such. Still, they stayed put during a quick test involving jumping jacks, running in place, and eventually lots of heavy breathing. Unlike other so-called athletic earbuds, the C5s don’t look like they’re a Nike design experiment from the year 2050, and they even work well with glasses.


B&W clearly designed these in-ears for digital media: there’s an in-line controller and the cable is appropriately short. I can’t test a B&W product with just Pandora though — these are Bee and Dubyas, man — so I broke out the ol’ Pioneer turntable and The Beatles’s classic White Album. Using the much more expensive Beats Pro over-the-ear cans as a reference, the B&W C5s held their own with solid mid-range response and a full sound. The clarity is surprising and the low-end sufficient but not overpowering — at least with The Beatles.

Circle of Animals’ Destroy The Light vinyl turned out to be too much for the C5s. The little earbuds simply couldn’t reproduce the sustained low-pass tones or the extremely tight electronic static resulting in a much flatter sound than I’m used to hearing.

It was clear after a few more vinyl records that the C5s aren’t designed for audiophiles — not that I’ll ever claim to be one — so I turned to Rdio and the C5s started to shine. B&W managed to pack an incredible amount of sound into these little guys. They light up once they’re fed music compressed for portability. The C5s even sounded better than the more expensive Shure SE315 in-ears. The sound was fuller even though the bass response wasn’t as powerful, while the highs were much sharper. Plus, the C5s are so much more comfy.

The C5s are excellent mid-range earphones for the digital medium. I wish they featured active noise canceling, as the soft tip only cuts out some ambient noise. Still, at $179, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better sounding or fitting earphones. Buy these.

Product page



Latakoo Moves HD Video Fast, Works Great For Newsrooms

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 07:03 AM PDT

latakoo

Austin-based video startup latakoo has a funny name (it’s some kind of lark), but a great idea: make it easier to transfer HD video. Built by a group of journalists and technologists to solve the real-world problem of video-sharing in the newsroom environment, the company has already attracted 40 paying customers, including many TV station groups. With latakoo’s tool called Flight, videographers can quickly compress and upload large video files in a matter of minutes. Those videos are stored in latakoo’s Web-based cloud application, and can be privately shared with colleagues who can download the file on their end in a smaller, more compressed format.

The tool, a software program that runs on your computer, compresses HD video to 1.5 to 5% of the original’s video’s file size, while still maintaining the video’s quality and resolution, the company claims. The compression techniques it uses aren’t new – in fact, they’re open source techniques which have just been better optimized for the startup’s purposes. The outputted video is served up in MPEG4 format with all the audio channels intact, as is often needed for editing purposes.

Videos shared through the network are never public, but are only available to those you explicitly share them with. This makes latakoo a good fits for the newsroom environment, or for any other company needing to move large video files around in a more efficient fashion. Videos can be shared outside the network, too, using email. Non-logged in users are emailed a link that directs them to a download page.

Unbelievably, video-sharing in the newsroom is often still done through very old-fashioned methods, as latakoo’s founders knew from first-hand experience. Some of its customers were, prior to adopting the service, sharing video using tape, syncing servers over satellite connections, FTP or file-sharing services like YouSendIt. While the latter will work for sharing large files, the process of uploading an HD video to file-sharing service is painfully slow.

Latakoo had a soft launch earlier this summer, using the journalist founders’ connections in the industry to seed the product to a handful of newsrooms for testing purposes. Since then, word has spread virally, through word-of-mouth recommendations. The company’s subsequent customer base actually came to them, instead of the other way around. In addition, because latakoo is not a free service, all of its customers are already paying for the product. There are several payment tiers currently available, mostly monthly rates based on minutes of video delivered. There is one pay-per-minute plan available for the more occasional video hobbyist user.

Jon Orlin, who runs TechCrunch TV, was initially a skeptic.  But he did some beta and real world testing and was very impressed.  Orlin says “Latakoo solves a real problem for us.  We recently had some large HD video files shot for our Keen On show in Aspen.  Andrew Keen was able to use the simple compress and upload software to send the files to us for editing.  Without Latakoo, it would have taken at least 6 hours to just upload the files.  We were able to complete the transfer and start editing in less than 30 minutes.  And the quality was perfectly acceptable, even after the heavy file compression.”  Orlin adds there are other ways to transfer large video files, but most involve expensive hardware or software.

The company closed its seed round of $1.3 million just prior to this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference. The money will be used to grow the company and the product, starting with the rollout of more features and improvements over the next few weeks, including social sharing mechanisms for uploading the compressed videos to YouTube or posting to Facebook and Twitter. Latakoo has an API, too, which will allow in-house developers to build applications on top of the service for things like automating the video downloads.

Interested users can sign up to join latakoo’s waiting list here.


Company: latakoo
Website: latakoo.com
Launch Date: November 8, 2009

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Android Voice Actions Now Play Well With Accents, EU Languages

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 06:11 AM PDT

googleuk

Stateside Android fans have had over a year to put Google’s nifty Voice Actions for Android through its paces, and while it’s always technically been available to foreign users, it only ever officially supported American English. Thankfully for our friends in the EU, Google has just announced an update to their Voice Search application that adds support for a bevy of additional languages.

Though the update doesn’t seem to have gone live in the Market at time of writing, the update now lets users bark commands at their phones in British English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. The full list of voice actions is reproduced below, but the mechanics of the app remain the same: hold down the device’s search button, or tap the microphone icon in the Google Search bar widget. Be warned though: don’t expect to join in the fun unless your device runs Android 2.2 or later.

  • send text to [contact] [message]
  • call [business]
  • call [contact]
  • go to [website]
  • navigate to [location/business name]
  • directions to [location/business name]
  • map of [location]

Voice Actions was always uncannily good at interpreting input and transcribing messages, but now that it’s reached the world stage, I wonder how well it’ll do at working with dialectical nuances. It supports British English, for example, which encompasses a few neat dialects and accents — we’ll have to see if a Welsh accent or the warm Scottish brogue will throw Voice Actions for a loop. On the other hand, the new Voice Actions could be a novel way to help practice a foreign language: if your Spanish, Italian, or French pronunciation is good enough, Voice Actions should be able to accept your input, and you can give yourself a pat on the back.



Approaching 10M Unique Visitors, International Video Site ViKi Signs Deals With BBC, Netflix

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 06:00 AM PDT

viki

ViKi, an international video site for world TV series and movies translated in 100+ languages by its community, is announcing some major syndication deals and traffic numbers.

For background, ViKi is an open-source-like solution for video, and acquires the rights to TV shows and movies. The site then puts it on one of its channels and within the first 24 hours an organized, volunteer community subtitles the content using ViKi’s software.

The site has gained considerable traction in the past year. Currently, ViKi is seeing 8.5 million unique visitors and 36 million tota visits in the past month, which is four times the traffic that ViKi has seen from last year.

To date, 150 million words have been subtitled in 160 languages by the ViKi community, and the site features 5,000-plus hours of content. And in terms of content, ViKi is working on adding more premium content, including a new licensing deal with BBC Worldwide. ViKi also just launched and international TV series on Netflix  with subtitles, and is expanding content on Hulu.

What’s interesting about ViKi is that the model allows content owners to open up to new international markets. Investors have bet on ViKi’s model too—the company recently raised $4.3 million in funding from some pretty impressive investors including Saar Gur of Charles River Ventures, Reid Hoffman of Greylock, Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz, Joi Ito of Singapore’s Neoteny Labs, Rajesh Sawhney, President of Reliance Entertainment in India and Alex Zubillaga, former global head of digital entertainment for Warner Music.

The next stop for ViKi is mobile, and the company is planning to expand to the mobile platform soon.


Company: ViKi
Website: viki.com
Launch Date: September 16, 2011
Funding: $4.3M

ViKi, a play on video and wiki, is an international video site for the best of world TV series and movies, translated in 100+ languages by a community of avid fans. With over 1 billion streams and 100 million words translated into over 146 languages, ViKi uniquely brings entertainment to new audiences and unlocks markets for content owners. The company has raised $4.3 million in Series A funding from Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures and others.

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Daily Crunch: Further Downstream

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 04:00 AM PDT

955 Dreams Brings Elegance, Disruption To Music Discovery With Band Of The Day

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 03:00 AM PDT

Bod_3_iphones

955 Dreams is on a roll. They’ve released five iOS apps so far, and all five have been featured by Apple as an “App of the Week”. Band of the Day is the latest one, earning the distinction this week.

And the app earns the title. I’ve been trying it out for the past couple of weeks and it’s a great way to discover new music. Unlike Pandora which relies on algorithms, or some of the other music services that rely heavily on social, Band of the Day brings a straightforward and old-school approach to music discovery: humans pick a band to highlight each day.

But they do so in a beautiful way, custom tailoring content within the app for that band. You get music, videos, bios, and even a robust review written by 955 Dreams’ editorial team. Naturally, if you decide you love the music, buying it via iTunes is only one click away.

Just as important as the content is how it’s presented. Fans of the 955 Dreams apps On the Way to Woodstock and History of Jazz will be well aware of the team’s attention to detail. Talking with co-founders Kiran Bellubbi and T.J. Zark, it almost sounds as if they work for Apple. Bellubbi talks about the importance of “emotive” products, and feels they’ve nailed it with Band of the Day.

Rather than taking existing content and trying to shove it into an app, they thought about what a music app should look like from the ground up, Zark notes. And unlike with Way to Woodstock and History of Jazz where 955 Dreams had the luxury of designing for the iPad’s big screen, they had to fit Band of the Day onto the iPhone screen (an iPad version is in the works too).

And the goal was to keep the app under 20 MB (so you can download it over 3G) and make it so a user would never see a loading screen. “We’ve broken our backs to make that happen,” Bellubbi says.

Band of the Day is also trying to disrupt the market with a new model. While the app itself is free and comes with a free week’s worth of music, you then must pay either $0.99 a month or $9.99 a year to continue accessing new music each day. If the app is a hit, 955 Dreams should find a lot of money coming their way.

And the team absolutely expects the app to be a huge hit. Bellubbi lays out his vision for Band of the Day on one out of every three iPhones out there in the world. They hope it becomes the way for new musical acts to get discovered. And the music labels are on board with this as well — already over 50 different labels have signed on to distribute music this way.

But don’t expect to see Band of the Day (or any of 955 Dreams’ other apps) on Android any time soon — the team only has interest in designing for iOS.

You can find Band of the Day here in the App Store.

Click to view slideshow.


Apprupt Raises More Funding For Mobile In-Content Advertising Technology

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 02:33 AM PDT

apprupt

Apprupt, which operates a performance network for mobile in-content ads, this morning announced that it has raised more funding from existing backers T-Venture (a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom), Neuhaus Partners and KfW. The size of the financing round was not disclosed, although the company says it involves a “seven-digit Euro investment”.

The new funding will be used to increase the startup’s headcount in sales, international expansion and to invest in its mobile advertising technology.


Company: apprupt
Website: apprupt.com
Launch Date: September 16, 2011

apprupt is the first premium performance network for mobile in-content ads. Through our extensive network of premium publishers, apprupt provides advertising companies with specifically targeted solutions for context-driven mobile advertising and lead generation. With its Contvertising format, apprupt enables publishers such as the Financial Times Germany, stern.de, WEB.DE Mobile, n-tv and Men's Health to offer their own users relevant and topical apps and products and thereby monetize mobile traffic in a context-driven manner. apprupt is internationally represented with offices in Hamburg,...

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RePro3D: Naked-Eye 3D Display Lets You “Touch” Virtual 3D Characters (Video)

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 02:09 AM PDT

keio 3d

Here’s a 3D screen of a different kind: a research team at Japan’s Keio University has developed a display that allows users to “touch” virtual 3D characters. The way the so-called RePro3D works is that it combines a naked-eye, full-parallax 3D display with a tactile interface that lets users manipulate virtual objects in a 3D environment with their fingers.

The makers explain:

RePro3D is a full-parallax 3D display system suitable for interactive 3D applications. The approach is based on a retro-reflective projection technology in which several images from a projector array are displayed on a retro-reflective screen. When viewers look at the screen through a half mirror, they see a 3D image superimposed on the real scene without glasses.

The whole system looks a bit hacky at this point, but the plan is to further improve RePro3D and use it for interactive 3D applications (i.e. games) in the future.

Here’s a video that provides more insight (shot by DigInfo TV in Tokyo, in English):



Twitter Loses Its Chief Scientist, Summize Co-Founder Abdur Chowdhury

Posted: 16 Sep 2011 12:08 AM PDT

6bbvi

The turnover continues at Twitter. Following the exit of Biz Stone, the firing of four key product guys, and the departure of a number of early Twitter employees, we’ve learned that another big name has left the company: Chief Scientist Abdur Chowdhury.

Chowdhury actually confirmed his exit yesterday on Twitter, but everyone seemed to miss it (hopefully because everyone was watching Disrupt). He came over to the service with the Summize acquisition in 2008. He was a co-founder of that search engine alongside Greg Pass, who left his CTO position at Twitter in May. We’re told that all of the original Summize team is now gone from Twitter.

As Chief Scientist, Chowdhury led a number of important data projects at Twitter over the years. He was key in implementing Twitter Search and Recommendations. Twitter declined to comment on Chowdhury’s departure.

Chowdhury is also a co-founder of the Alta Vista School in San Francisco and at one point was the chief architect of search at AOL.

While Chowdhury’s departure is a big one, there’s quite a bit of talk out there of even bigger ones. This is all likely related to Twitter’s latest massive round of funding. We’re looking into it. Stay tuned.

[image: @sacca]


Company: Twitter
Website: twitter.com
Funding: $1.16B

Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams in March 2006 (launched publicly in July 2006), is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to post their latest updates. An update is limited by 140 characters and can be posted through three methods: web form, text message, or instant message. The company has been busy adding features to the product like Gmail import and search. They recently launched a new site section called “Explore” for...

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Facebook’s Ad Czar Envisions A Future Where Nearly All Facebook Ads Are Social

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 11:59 PM PDT

Hi this is Alexia Tsotsis from TechCrunch and I am sitting here with Facebook Head of Ad Products Gokul Rajaram and he just got done talking with Eric Schoenfeld on stage.

Okay, quick question. What is the difference between a social ad on Facebook and a sponsored story?

Very simply, a social add has a brand message in it. A sponsored story doesn't. A sponsored story is simply a user action. That's the difference. A social ad is for example if there is an ad from Toyota that is about Toyota the car, underneath it you put some social context from your friends. Like your friend like that?

Exactly. The car or Toyota. That's social app.

Compare this to a sponsored story which could simply be your friends like Toyota. So that is a story. There is no brand message. It is simply the user action.

So a brand can take a user action. Like my friend liked Toyota or my friend checks into starbucks and promote it.

Exactly, as a sponsored story.

So Facebook recently Changed the news feed, in a way where it started tagging brand fan pages into clusters of stories. Can you tell me a little about how this will work with the advertising product?

Yeah, at this point, we've started using some of those signals, but not as much. The primary goal to cluster news feed articles, was to make it more readable. We heard a lot of complaints from users that the news feed essentially you saw the same article over and over again. So this is an attempt to essentially make it more parsible or more crackable by people.

So that if ten people are sharing the same thing, because stories happen and your friends will be sharing the same story ten different times. So, the primary motivation was not really at as around, making sure the news feed experience is better for users.

So, prior to Facebook you were at Google.

Yeah.

Through the acquisition of Chai Labs.

Actually I was at Google and then I started Chai Labs which was acquired by Facebook.

Amazing, but you were the king of ad sense at Google, right? Will there ever, I know Eric asked the same question, but how are you guys at Facebook looking at your ad engagement, and will there ever be a comprehensible, because right now, it just seems like you guys are throwing stuff against the Facebook wall and seeing what sticks, right?

I think for the last year or so we've been fairly constant. So, sponsor stories are launched 6 months ago and we haven't really changed anything. I think the foundation pillars of our ads are going to be social ads and sponsor stories. Social ads are the voice of the business. Stories are the voice of the user.

And all our ad pillars are going to be built on those two things. Social ads have existed for two and a half years now new versions of brand messages, but the fact that you can pair it with social context hasn't changed. So, the responses to this are going to increase in richness as we have more types of user actions on Facebook.

So, we actually haven't changed. I think, it's just that we haven't really gone out maybe and connected all the dots together. Maybe that's the reason why people think that, but to be honest our products have remained. We haven't actually formed some of these other early consistent Well what about display ads, is that just going to sit there...

Those are essentially what we call non-social ads, and so our hope is that almost every ad on Facebook at some point hopefully, a few years down the road is going to be a social ad on [xx].

So, what are the pricing at this point?

It's an auction. It's an auction driven mechanism. So it really depends on what ads perform well. And the auction, ultimately in an auction mechanism, people bid what they value, what their value of the ad is. So ultimately, the CPC or CPM or how you price it is not as important as whether you're measuring value correctly.

Is there like a CPL, so like a cost per like or a CPM now...

No, but people extrapolate it.
Ultimately, ultimately what happens is they give us some money in the form of CPM or CPC. They see how many likes they get of that said goal, and they divide the budget by the likes and see if the cost per likes makes sense. If it does, then they increase the budget. If it doesn't, then they reduce the cost per... then they reduce the bid.

So is it an automated auction or?

It's an automated auction. In fact, we have an API through which lots of third parties put bids into the system. So, we have lots of third parties who are bidding on different segments of users and so on. It'll throw you on committed So, let's say you were around. Let's say you were in M and M's or Toyota or Doritos. Would you go for a display ad, would you go for a sponsored story, or would you go for a social ad?

You'd go for a social ad, which then generates sponsored stories because socialize themselves generate new actions that you can promote. So we basically for almost anyone our recommendations is social ads, to trigger stories, which you can then sponsor. So that's the package we increasingly want to get marketers to think about adopting, and increasingly that's what they're doing.

You brought up a statistic on stage about the virality of social App, can you repeat that?

Ya, it was not as statistic as one data point. We are still trying to quantify what exactly it is, but simply put what it means is social adds lead to user actions that can then be, that can then have downstream effects. Because each user action is seen by people in the news feed and then people act on that.

And so marketers get a lot of organic value from these ads for free without paying for it so our goal is to get marketers see the wholelistic picture don't just measure the likes or engaging you get from the ad measure all the likes you get from news feed by people liking it and their friends seeing it and sometimes you see it can be in excess of the engaging you get from the ads.

From the organic side, so you can actually have a white greater than one, in that case.

So another company that's tried to do this sort of social viral ad is Twitter. How do you think the Facebook ad's product compares to Twitter's promoted tweets?

I think the big difference between promoted, go to tweet sent sponsored stories are similar. I think the big differences is that sponsored stories rely on your friends, so you know exactly who you are connected to since you know who your friends are. We put your friends front and center. In many cases with Twitter, I believe other than the Brand Kit.

I think it's a brand oriented thing. I don't know if they have the notion of people you follow and them doing certain things. So I think the difference is the friend versus maybe the anonymous social graph. Twitter is a little more anonymous.

I mean, but aren't you, so I believe that they're announcing on stage the Facebook subscription model. I'm not quite sure How this works because it's new, and news. But how does the facebook ads product tie into that.

Well, at this point it doesn't. You still have your friends and you might have subscribers who are not your friends and so we still at this point with ads use the fact that your friends are what matter to you and really yeah you could have millions of subscribers, but ultimately what one friend recommends to you is much more powerful than someone you follow and subscribe to their content but you don't really have a personal relationship with.

So there was a recent report that facebook did 1.6 billion in revenue for 2011 and about 500 million of that was profit. Can you, or net profit. Can you talk a little bit about how much came in through the ads product. Ads account for a majority of the revenues a large majority of revenues. We have two revenues streams, ads and credits and so ads are large majority.

Credits is growing but ads is still large majority of revenues.

Awesome. Are you working on any secret projects ad wise that you should tell...

I
think it's it's not really secretive but its always three things. One is how to build awesome experiences. One of the great things, I've worked in advertising for more than a decade now and one of the great things of being on Facebook is ads are really considered a part of the core consumer product.

So really how to make ads even more part of the user experience. I mean users get delighted upon seeing ads, that's one. So we actually have a user experience around ads. The second thing is insights and metrics. How to get marketers to see the entire value of the ads not just the pay part. And the third thing is how to make ads simpler and more automated to buy because if you think about it even thinking with a bid what business owner before all of the internet things have come over even things in terms of bids.

Only sophisticated people who do marketing for a living thinks in terms of how much should I bid. What is the business results? So how do you make an ad system that they don't have to worry about how do I change my bid up and down, how do I monitor the campaigns on a daily basis? How do you make it really simple for someone who's not a full time marketer to use.

How are you making it really simple?

That's what we are trying to figure out. Algorithm. I think it's gonna be all algorithms. I figure out why what you should bid what criteria you should use.

The ins and outs of the advertising business aren’t usually that fascinating, unless of course they involve a company that is attempting, out of necessity, to revamp the entire model.

When you think about how far advertising has come since its Mad Men days, it’s a little shocking that Facebook ads will be responsible for a majority of the company’s estimated $4 billion in revenue this year, being predicated on the notion that a user is more likely to spend money on something that a friend has recommended or is otherwise engaged with than anything else.

We had the opportunity at TechCrunch Disrupt to sit down with Facebook Ads Product Director (and Godfather of Google Adsense) Gokul Rajaram and talk about the difference between Facebook’s two and a half-year old “Social Ads,” which are basically promoted messages in a brand’s voice saying something along the lines of “Three of your friends liked Pepsi,” and the six month old “Sponsored Stories,” which are organic branded updates from users that receive featured placement in the Sponsored Stories bin on the right side of your Facebook page, among other things.

So where does Rejaram see the future of Facebook advertising heading? “Our hope is that almost every ad on Facebook at some point a few years down the road will be a Social Ad or a Sponsored Story,” he says. Which makes sense, considering the two formats are already existent on a majority of the pages viewed on Facebook.

brave new world! That has such people ads in it!



Line2 Now Has 50,000 Paying Customers, Launches On iPad

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 08:10 PM PDT

line2shot

Back in September 2009, I wrote about Line2 — a startup that offers similar functionality to Google Voice, but with a focus on catering to businesses and ‘prosumers’ (it offers easily-accessible phone support among its included features). At the time, the company was getting off to a difficult start: it took Apple three months to initially approve the app, largely because of the dispute between Apple and Google over Google Voice.

But they finally made it into the store, and things have gone very well since.

Two years later, Line2 has 50,000 paying customers (plans begin at $9.95/month) and forty employees, and is very nearly cash flow positive. The app is available for both iPhone and Android, and today it’s launching for the iPad — you can find the new app right here. The iPad app looks good, in part because Line2 received input from Apple, which nudged it toward making an iPad version. From a functionality perspective it’s identical to the service’s iPhone version, but that’s not a bad thing.

To start using the service you’ll need to sign up for an account, which needs to be done via the Line2 website. You’ll be able to pick a new phone number that you’ll use as your ‘Line2′ or you can port an existing one. After you’re set up, you can place and route calls, send messages, and browse through your message history for each contact directly from your iPad. Calls are placed over VoIP when possible, or you can elect to route a call to your regular phone.

Line2 founder Peter Sisson says that the company decided to make the app after it found that the iPad was its top-converting platform, despite the fact that it only offered the 2x scaled view of its iPhone app (in other words, it looked pretty bad, but people were still using it). So they took the hint and built an HD version from the ground up to take advantage of the iPad’s larger screen real estate.


Company: Toktumi
Website: line2.com

San Francisco-based Toktumi is the company behind Line2, the popular app for Apple and Android devices that allows customers to add a new business phone line to their device. Targeting professionals, the product stands out from a sea of free services by offering business-grade features, high quality and reliability, and live customer support. Line2 is downloaded thousands of times a day and consistently ranks among the top 100 apps in the App store. Line2 has won countless...

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Person: Peter Sisson
Website:
Companies: Toktumi, Mixonic

Peter Sisson is a serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and Internet industries. He started his career at Bell Labs in 1985 and started his first company, WineShopper.com, in 1998. WineShopper, funded by Kleiner Perkins and Amazon.com, was acquired by Wine.com in 2000. Since then, he has launched two successful companies, Mixonic and Teleo (acquired by Microsoft), and is now working on another, called Toktumi, that offers an app called Line2 that lets you...

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Advertising Network Longboard Media Takes In $6 Million

Posted: 15 Sep 2011 07:25 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2011-09-15 at 7.22.23 PM

Ad network Longboard Media is announcing $6 million in Series A funding today, from Level Equity.  Managing the ad inventory for over 30 online properties including thefind.com, shop.comoverstock.combuzzillions.com and become.com, Longboard Media likens itself to a “Glam Media” for e-commerce sites.

Longboard Media has been profitable since it was founded by former eBay employees Scott Engler and Jim Barkow in 2008, and its ad network has potential to tap into an audience of over 63 million people, according to its financing release. The company is reporting that it served over 3 billion paid impressions in the 2010 holiday season and grew its publisher base more than 40% in 2011.

The formerly bootstrapped company plans on using the money to bulk up on staff and further invest in it its ad targeting technology.


Company: Longboard Media
Launch Date: August 11, 2008
Funding: $6M

Longboard Media is the leading commerce vertical ad network representing only premium shopping, product review and retail publishers. Longboard Media provides the single largest audience of shoppers reaching 48-55M+ consumers each month across sites such as Overstock, Shop.com, Become.com, Smarter.com and thefind.com.

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