Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Weekly Wrist Watch Round Up

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 08:10 AM PDT


How does Switzerland do US patriotism? With a watch of course. Like it or not, Perrelet has just released this spinning stars and stripes version of their Turbine watch called the Turbine XL America.

We don’t care that this watch is made for a Dutch soccer team – what we do care about is that this highly limited edition Netherlands-made Pellikaan Timing FC Utrecht timepiece is great looking with a sweet mix of classic, modern, and sport.

If you don’t have the right watch to wear while assembling your new computer rig – you know, to really get you in the mood- Click Watches’ DIP Switch or Turn Switch watch look like circuit board parts and are probably your best bet.

New from Porsche Design is the pretty neat looking P’6620 Chronograph Dashboard watch. We like the case the best, and with it you’ll have that comfy feeling knowing you are wearing something “designer.”

Sober and presentable is often how you want to go with a nice watch. No one is better at that than the British. English watch brand Bremont gets their new BC Solo watch reviewed here.

Since when to high-end timepieces and obscure comic strip character go together? They don’t, well save for this one-of-a-kind Reverso Zep watch from Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The best part of these “Sea-God” watches is that the guys who made them take them seriously. In reality they are an actually nice looking high-end joke. If you are a Rolex fan you’ll understand.

Book Excerpt: Bloggers Boot Camp By Our Own John Biggs

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 06:20 AM PDT

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Our own John Biggs and his former Gizmodo co-worker, Charlie White, have just released a book about blogging called Bloggers Boot Camp . These gents produced tens of thousands of posts between them, written for some of the biggest names in blogging, and are generally good blokes. Their goal in this to teach how to write for blogs. This isn’t a book on starting a Tumblr or a It’s about thinking about your blog posts in terms of content, value, and sharing and it discusses search optimization not through dirty tricks but through good, hard work.

Here is an excerpt of the book and they’d love you to pop over to their website to pick it up or check out the 12-week virtual writing course they’re running with the help of Simversity.

The Two Rules

Ignore these two rules at your peril. Understand that blogs take on a life of their own, and if your goal is to blog to make money, or you are blogging as an extension of your interests or job, these two rules – part of what we would call a “blogging plan” – are absolutely paramount. Blogging is a job. It may be your second job but it is a process that takes hard work and discipline. We have been blogging for almost a decade, and it's a constant struggle as well as a source of constant reward. Our days begin at 8 a.m. and end whenever the last news item flickers across our screens.

Rule 1. Always Be Blogging

The best blogs are updated daily, if not hourly. There is nothing worse than a ghost blog, a site that seems to be updated sporadically at best. Readers are becoming experts at sensing the freshness of content. If you leave your blog sitting for weeks at a time with no new posts, they’ll catch on quickly and your audience will migrate elsewhere.

Keep posting! What do you mean, there’s nothing to write about today? Of course there is! There’s always something going on that would interest your readers every day. Your goal is to be the person “in the know” about all things involved in your topic. If you truly love what you’re writing about, you won’t have any problem writing something at least daily. If you find you’re having trouble, you may be facing a serious problem in your choice of topic. There is no topic too mundane that you can't pull a post out of it. Can't find news? Post some pictures from a recent activity related to your topic. Talk about what other bloggers in your niche are doing. Prepare a round-up of news from other sources.

Your posts don’t always have to be news. They can be a personal story, a reaction to the news of the day, or a simple link to another site with information you enjoyed. However, if you find yourself getting lazy and failing to post, you’ve broken the first cardinal rule of your blogging plan.

However, don't fall into the "personal blog post" trap. Don't tell the story of your problems at the DMV or your relationship issues. Don’t tell us what you had for dinner last night (unless you’re a food critic), or fill us in on every detail of that dream you had last night. Don't spring your heartfelt musings on your unsuspecting audience. But if you can somehow creatively weave some personal experience into your posts, that could be the very thing that makes the story yours.

Lacking inspiration? Create a calendar for yourself and a to-do list. Add items to the to-do list as you think of them and then add them to the calendar. These “evergreen” post ideas can be published at any time. If you find yourself frustrated or facing the dreaded writer’s block, simply go to this list of items you haven’t gotten around to yet and do one.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to sit in front of your computer 24 hours a day. A lot of blogging is thinking, observing, and discovering a fresh angle on a topic that’s already been covered elsewhere. If you keep your blog top-of-mind, you’ll find yourself coming up with ideas wherever you go. Who knows where you’ll find inspiration? Beethoven went for daily walks, and heard a bird singing the first four notes of his Fifth Symphony. Occurrences, people, objects and new experiences that have great potential to be turned into blog posts are everywhere, and it’s up to you to tease them out, write about them, make them interesting and grab your readers with them.

Rule 2. Post Consistently

What sort of voice will your blog have? You want readers to become familiar with the way you do things, the way you express yourself, and the way your blog is laid out. Do you want to do long posts, daily? Many short posts each day? Digests of news with simple links? Videos? There’s a variety of ways to build a blog and most of us would choose a scattershot approach to posting daily. However, if you find you enjoy writing longer posts, you may want to stick with that style. It gives your readers plenty to chew on on a regular basis, and you can still add shorter posts in between. Establish your style at the beginning, and keep it consistent.

Having a style doesn't mean you have to be snarky, mean, or silly. It means you need to be clear, concise, and you need to stand out in a vast sea of "me-too" content. Be the person people link to when they want to prove a point. Be the expert other experts trust when it comes to matters of technical accuracy. Pride yourself on a consistent and readable style. And make it sound like you.

However long your posts will be, it’s most important to decide on a writing style. Will you embrace vulgarity with your site, cussing like a sailor in every sentence, or will you be prim and proper? Will you attack your topics with sarcasm and snark, or will you play it straight? Will you have a happy, carefree and uplifting approach, or will you incite your readers to share your anger? Will you find a way to be different, standing out from the crowd of blogs blanketing the earth with your dazzling insights?

Maybe you’re funny. However, comedy, as they say, is hard. One of the pitfalls we’ve seen in new bloggers attempting a snarky style is the descent into meanness for meanness’s sake. When you focus on a topic with any intensity, you “go native” and allow things to affect you more than they should. The antidote to this is to write everything in a hard news style or a more conversational style. Also avoid lashing out at figures and major players in your niche. And remember, a bit of self-deprecating humor and personality goes a long way.

Don't forget to make it personal. The one thing the "big newsrooms" can't do is inject personality into their work. Sure, there are some exceptions, but on the aggregate many news sites are stale and boring by dint of their mission. Will this be a log of your experiences and opinions? Unless you’re going to be simply rewriting news stories, or doing straight reporting, you’ll probably insert many of your experiences and opinions into your writing. In the early days of blogging, much of the writing was a lot like the early days of Twitter, where writers would talk about everyday trivialities such as what they just ate for breakfast. Now, writers have taken it way beyond that level, by orders of magnitude. If you’re a solo act, let the readers inside, bare your soul. That’s entertainment!

If you’re writing a blog with a group of colleagues, your blog style will need to reflect the fact that there is a group of people working together. Referring to yourself as “we” is probably the best idea here, but that’s not to say you can’t use the proverbial “we” when you’re writing a solo blog, either. This is an important element of your blog style: Will you write is a group or as a collection of individuals? You can choose whether each post will reflect the separate opinions and attitudes of individual writers, where all the writers in your group strive to set themselves apart. Or, you can work as an editorial team, akin to how newspapers editorial boards write, and speak as a group.

We’ve asked you a lot of questions in this first chapter, and we would suggest you carefully contemplate each one and come up with solid answers for yourself. Be honest. If you do this, you’ll be on a sturdy foundation for starting up a successful enterprise. After you’ve gone through that period of self-examination, you might be thinking this sounds like a lot of work. You would be right. In fact, writing might seem easy to you, but the daily dedication needed for a successful blog is hard. You must summon all your energy and enthusiasm, applying a steady and dedicated work ethic to this venture. Set yourself realistic goals, and meet them every day, and you’d be surprised how even a small amount of work – applied consistently – will turn a series of seemingly small efforts into a monumental achievement.

John is giving away ten copies of the book to ten random commenters who explain, succinctly, why they do or don’t need his help blogging. If you’re interested in the course, please follow and Tweet @johnbiggs to request a discount code with hashtag #bootcampme.

You can buy Nook and Kindle versions of the book here and check out the course here.

(Founder Stories) Eric Ries: On “Vanity Metrics” And “Success Theater”

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 06:00 AM PDT

Ries 4-tc_upload.mp4

Resuming their conversation from episode I, Chris Dixon asks Lean Startup author Eric Ries to offer evidence of uber successful “internet/software companies that have adopted or used the lean startup movement.”

Ries has worked with companies such as Dropbox, Groupon, and Intuit, but he doesn’t claim any credit for their success. He notes though that the larger point is this: “How do you know just because someone claims to have followed this model and that it made them rich and successful how do you know that is actually true? How do you know there is any causal link between the two?” He tells Dixon, “I want The Lean Startup to be a scientific theory that is itself falsifiable.”

Ries encourages leaders to test The Lean Startup’s concepts, at least on a small scale, and decide for themselves if it improves performance.

Below, the topic turns to “vanity metrics,” which Ries thinks are bogus. He says when companies roll out stats like number of users or hits they offer a “good strategic weapon” but really represent a whole lot of nothing. “The reason companies like to talk about vanity metrics is they both make your competitors feel bad about themselves and also reveal nothing about your business.”

Vanity metrics devolve into what Ries calls “success theater” which is the action of “making people think that you are being successful rather than energy you could put into serving customers.” Reis says “if you look at the accounting metrics, ROI, profitability, everything we get trained to do as a corporate CFO or VC, those metrics cannot tell the difference between the team that is on the brink of success or a team that spent that year goofing off.”

Hammering home the point he says “the current metrics paradigm literally can’t tell the difference between absolute success and total disaster.”

Prime example?  Twitter. Watch the video to find out why—and to find out what data Ries claims companies should focus on.

Past episodes of Founder Stories are here.

Eric Ries is the author of the forthcoming book, [The Lean Startup] ( Previously, he co-founded and served as Chief Technology Officer of IMVU. He is the co-author of several books including The Black Art of Java Game Programming (Waite Group Press, 1996). While an undergraduate at Yale Unviersity, he co-founded Catalyst Recruiting. Although Catalyst folded with the dot-com crash, Ries continued his entrepreneurial career as a Senior Software Engineer at, leading efforts in agile software development and...

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Daily Crunch: Sabre Rattling

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 01:00 AM PDT

Go Beyond Ticker, Use Facebook Music Dashboard To See What Your Friends Listen To

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 11:00 PM PDT

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After yesterday’s announcement of its expanded Open Graph capabilities, Facebook has been sharing your music listening activity over its News Ticker, allowing for music discovery and the realization that as TechCrunch co-founder Michael Arrington put it, “A lot of you have just really terrible taste in music.”

Well, in case you want to further delve into your friends’ terrible music taste, Facebook has just launched its Music Dashboard as a permanent bookmark in your profile’s left side bar.  Inside Facebook’s Josh Constine points out that you can access it and dock it on your sidebar by clicking through to a friend’s Playlist or through this direct link here.

Right now the Music Dashboard shows you what songs your friends are listening to — aggregating friend listening patterns by band–  as well as Top Songs and something called Featured Music Services which for me at least is currently advertising Earbits and Spotify.

While it seems like you must have at least one music playing partner app to listen to music through Dashboard, one of its coolest and most seamless features is that if you click on a song from a music player you don’t currently have Facebook gives you the, albiet mitigated, option to listen to it in your preferred player.

Of course because it’s Facebook you can like or comment on user music listening activity, and also judge your friends on their song selections because, as we all know, Dave Matthews is lame. But, before you judge too harshly, please keep in mind the serious serious issue with all this music integration …

As Philip Kaplan notes, “The problem with this Spotify integration is that I end up clicking a lot of friends’ terrible selections (out of curiosity) and then it looks like they’re *my* pics .”

So, yeah, be care before you click on your old college roommate’s update that they’re listening to the Divinyls ”I touch myself.” Openness is a double-edged sword.

Company: Facebook
Launch Date: January 2, 2004
Funding: $2.34B

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 500 million users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original idea for the term...

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Motor City Mojo: The Startup Renaissance In Detroit

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 09:32 PM PDT


Editor's note: This post is authored by guest contributor Jon Bischke. Jon is a founder of RG Labs and is an advisor to several startups. You can follow Jon on Twitter here.

I heard them say they're shutting Detroit down.
But I won't leave 'cause this is my hometown.

– Kid Rock, "Times Like These"

San Francisco. Palo Alto. New York. Cambridge. Austin. Boulder. Detroit. One of those doesn't seem to fit in there right? After all, Detroit's a mess isn't it? The median house price in Detroit is $6,000. Half of the adults in the city are functionally illiterate. 48% of children live below the poverty line. Some people would say that Detroit epitomizes what is wrong with America.

But for a group of talented and motivated entrepreneurs in Detroit it's something else. It's a chance to show what's right about America. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with a dozen of Detroit's top founders to discuss what it's like to start a company in what's probably the most economically depressed city in the country. While their businesses were different and they didn't agree on everything, they all shared one thing: a strong feeling that the Detroit of the future will be better than the Detroit of the present.

The meetup came together in large part due to the efforts of Ben Bator, the founder of Texts from Last Night, a somewhat random idea that spawned a website with four million monthly unique visitors, a book and a development deal with Sony Television. Ben is the kind of the guy who could start a company anywhere but instead has chosen to grow his company in Detroit and help to provide jobs in the community that he grew up in.

If that attitude sounds familiar it might be because of a guy named Dan Gilbert. Gilbert, a Detroit native, founded Rock Financial back in the 80s and the company was acquired in 2000 by Intuit and rebranded as Quicken Loans. In 2010, Quicken Loans moved its headquarters and 1,700 employees to downtown Detroit and plans to move an additional 2,000 people downtown by the end of this year. Estimates of Gilbert's wealth have exceeded a billion dollars, plenty of money for him to buy the Cleveland Cavaliers and perhaps more importantly plow some of his cash back into the Detroit startup scene through Detroit Venture Partners (DVP).

Jake Cohen, who joined DVP in November, feels that Detroit is on the verge of a startup renaissance. "There are a number of advantages to starting a company in Detroit including lower costs, strong talent at the local schools like the University of Michigan, Michigan State and the College for Creative Studies at Wayne State and an an opportunity to fill a local hiring void left by the downsizing of the auto industry." DVP has written checks for 10 companies in the last year alone and the company's roster of investors includes impressive guys including Josh Linkner, DVP's CEO and founder of the ePrize and, most recently, Michigan's favorite son, Magic Johnson, who joined as a General Partner in July.

The renaissance in Detroit is one that spans generations. It includes guys like Andrew Rauh, a guy who Peter Thiel should be actively recruiting for his 20 Under 20 program. Andrew, a freshman at the University of Michigan, has already started one company and been featured by Fast Company. Andrew's resume is one of the most impressive of any teenager I've encountered and includes being published by Johns Hopkins University, finishing 3rd in an International Science Fair and raising money for Haiti after the earthquake.

But it's not just young guys starting companies in Detroit. Hossein Nivi might be a bit older than your average tech entrepreneur but he's no less visionary. Hossein is attempting to disrupt education and training through Pendaran. Imagine a cross between a flight simulator, a boot camp and a business school and you have a highly effective training model that's been used within a number of corporations. And if Hossein's surname is recognizable, it's likely because you've seen the work of his sons out in San Francisco, Babak ("Nivi"), the founder of AngelList, and Farbood, the founder of Grockit.

So while it's easy to look at Detroit and feel discouraged by what's going on, spend an hour with one of Detroit's entrepreneurs and your mindset will change. Raji Bedi, the founder of doingtonight (think Plancast for where you're going out tonight), put it well with an emphatic statement. "We don't want your pity or to be someone's charity project. We want Detroit's startup companies to stand on their own."

After spending time with the founders of other innovative companies like Are You a Human (game-based CAPTCHA), Gumshoe (a social game best described as "Clue meets The Amazing Race"), HealPay (disruptive play in the collections space) and Own Point of Sale (social point of sale) and with the people behind incubators like Detroit Labs and Tech Town I was left with a strong sense of hope for Detroit. The numbers are pretty clear. Job growth comes from startups. So if Detroit is to come back it'll be the founders that assembled last week (and hopefully many more who will follow in their footsteps) who will be part of driving that job growth.

No pity here. The kids in Detroit are definitely alright.

Excerpt image courtesy of Detroit Cash Flow Properties

Netflix’s Pain Is Blockbuster’s Gain

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 07:43 PM PDT


Editor’s note: Guest author Tien Tzuo is the CEO of Zuora, a subscription billing company. Previously, he was chief strategy officer and employee No. 11 at

For years, I've pointed to Netflix as one of the shining examples of the Subscription Economy. But in two painfully long weeks, Netflix has taken a huge misstep, violated the trust of its customers and even opened the door to its supposedly long-vanquished elder, Blockbuster!

Few remember this. Netflix started out as DVD by mail, but with the same restrictions as a retail Blockbuster experience (e.g. late fees, etc.). Then Netflix realized something important that changed the company forever. Success wasn't tied to the number of DVDs it shipped. It was the number of customers they had and could hold onto. Rabid customer loyalty was key to its success then and it still is today.

That's what the Subscription Economy is all about: building and monetizing long term customer relationships. And customers need to feel as though they are in control of the relationship, not the provider. If the provider makes unilateral changes to the relationship, and pricing is a big one, you have violated that relationship and violated the customer's trust. If you don't give me a choice, then it's not a relationship.

Netflix knew this price increase and division of streaming and DVD-by-mail was going to be disastrous. As a provider, you cannot take the customer relationship for granted, and that's just what Netflix did.

Netflix's move also has opened the door for Lazarus (i.e., Blockbuster) to jump back in as a legitimate player. Streaming and DVD-by-mail for $10/month for Dish subscribers? Looks like Blockbuster just taught Netflix the power of packaging and pricing in the Subscription Economy. They just gave Netflix's 24 million customers another choice.

Sure, Blockbuster is nowhere near Netflix in terms of a library of titles, devices and availability. But Amazon Prime is. While everyone is writing that Netflix dodged a bullet, the clock is ticking. Choice is a click away and Netflix better be concerned with how to rebuild trust with its customers.

Company: Netflix
Launch Date: September 24, 1997

With more than 23.3 million members in the United States and Canada, Netflix, Inc. is the world's leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows. For $7.99 a month, Netflix members in the U.S. can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streaming right to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. In Canada, streaming unlimited movies and TV shows from Netflix is available for $7.99 a month. There are...

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Person: Tien Tzuo
Companies: Zuora

Tien Tzuo, widely recognized as one of the thought leaders in the software-as-a-service industry, founded Zuora in 2008 and serves as Chief Executive Officer. Before joining Zuora, Tzuo had witnessed a shift to a new business model where both consumers and businesses favored a subscription model verses a one time transaction. It was clear that this shift was going to drastically change the way companies do business and a need would evolve for a service to enable these companies to...

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TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington Launches A New Blog, Uncrunched

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 06:15 PM PDT


TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who recently left the company he founded over six years ago, is back in action. Or at least, he has proven that he still knows how to set up a WordPress blog.

Arrington just tweeted a link to Uncrunched, which will be his personal blog from here on out. There isn’t really much there yet, save for his first post titled, ‘Here I Am’. That’s it — the post consists of just the title — but presumably his later posts will be a little more content-heavy (fingers crossed that this new role as General Partner at CrunchFund is just a ploy to unearth all of Silicon Valley’s dark secrets).

Which brings us to the comments.

Arrington has apparently decided to use the basic WordPress commenting system. It’s a brave move (you may remember the TechCrunch comments of yore), but the trolls haven’t overwhelmed the blog just yet.

In keeping with time-honored Internet tradition, the first comment on the blog is “omg. first.” — congratulations to former TC developer and Cake Health cofounder Andy Brett for claiming the top spot. And an ‘A’ for effort to Philip Kaplan, who wrote “first” despite being the blog’s twelfth comment. The remainder of the comments are generally positive, though there are a few outliers, like the one embedded below.

Disclosure: Arrington was my boss for a long time and I ate a lot of his cereal when TC was still based out of his house.

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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HTC Vigor Packs Beats Audio, LTE, But No DROID Branding?

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 03:31 PM PDT


Here’s a noodle-scratcher to ponder over the weekend: the HTC Vigor was supposedly going to hit Verizon as the Droid Incredible HD, but files leaked from the forthcoming device hint that the phone may not carry the Droid distinction after all.

Someone who was lucky enough to have a Vigor in their possession managed to rip the device’s boot sequence, wallpapers, and sound files, and shared their findings with AndroidPolice.

When the Vigor is fired up, it runs through the HTC, Beats, and Verizon LTE logos in quick succession, but something is strangely absent. The animation lacks the traditional giant red eye that has graced all of Verizon’s Droid series phones. Considering that the eye has been a strong part of Verizon’s Droid branding efforts, it doesn’t make sense to ditch it so unceremoniously. On top of that, the phone’s notification sounds were also released, and to my dismay there was no “DRROOOOOOID” sound to be found.

It’s possible that the eye is to be added to the boot sequence later, and the sounds weren’t properly dumped, but it looks at this stage that the Bionic will rule the Droid roost for the time being.

Though the boot sequence manages to raise a question or two, the wallpapers that come with the phone manage to answer one. The wallpapers are all 1440×1280 in size, meaning that it’s quite possible the Vigor’s display will run at the reported 1280×720, making it one of the first 720p Android phones.

Unless something gets changed between now and the phone’s release, these files cast quite a bit of doubt on last week’s leaked Verizon document. I’m still holding out hope that it’s real though, if only because I do so love the idea of an October launch.

Groupon Loses Second COO This Year — And Restates Revenue

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 03:24 PM PDT


Groupon has lost its second COO in six months.

Back in March of this year, Rob Solomon, who joined the company in March 2010, announced that he would be leaving the company. A month later, Groupon hired former Google VP Margo Georgiadis to replace him.

And today, just five months after she joined the executive team, Groupon is announcing that Georgiadis is leaving the company to re-join Google as President, Americas. Given that Groupon is currently in the process of going public, this doesn’t seem to bode well for the company. In the blog post announcing the news, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason vaguely attributes the departure to the fact that Groupon added 8 members to its executive team since the beginning of the year, and says that it’s rare for any company to “bat 1000%”.

In addition to announcing Georgiadis’s departure, Groupon has also filed an amended S-1, which includes revised revenue numbers based on a change in accounting. In its previous filing, Groupon reported that it had $1.5B in revenue for the six months ended in June — it now reports $688M for the same time period. The key difference: before now, Groupon has included the full value of a purchased Groupon as part of its revenue figures, and now it’s only considering the portion of the Groupon that they actually keep (a significant percentage of each Groupon goes back to the merchant).

Finally, the revised S-1 also discusses Andrew Mason’s internal memo that leaked last month.

Here’s the Groupon blog post announcing Georgiadis’s departure:

As a fast-growing company, we've done a lot of hiring this year, including on our senior executive team. Since the beginning of this year, we've made a total of 8 additions – that's 57% of the total executive team. It would have been great if I could say that we batted 1,000%, but that's rarely the case; after five months at Groupon, Margo Georgiadis, our COO, has decided to return to Google (her former employer) in a new role as President, Americas.

We've built a fantastic team that has proven itself highly capable, so this change won't have an impact on operations. In fact, we are using it as an opportunity to reorganize in a way that reflects our evolving strategic priorities. Sales, Channels, International, and Marketing will now report directly to me.

Here's a note from Margo: "Groupon is a great company and I feel privileged to have worked there even for a short time. It was a hard decision to leave as the company is on a terrific path. I have complete confidence in the team's ability to realize its mission." We wish her well.

Company: Groupon
Launch Date: November 11, 2008
Funding: $1.14B

Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 565 cities around the world. By promising businesses a minimum number of customers, Groupon can offer deals that aren’t available elsewhere. Groupon brings buyers and sellers together in a fun and collaborative way that offers the consumer an unbeatable deal, and businesses a large number of new customers. To date, it has saved consumers more than $300 million and claims it...

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Imagine K12′s 2011 Startup Class Aims To Invigorate Education With Technology

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 02:40 PM PDT


One of my favorite bits from Disrupt SF was the set of rapid-fire presentations from Imagine K12, an incubator for education-related startups. We heard in June that some 200 applicants had been narrowed down to 10 companies, and those 10 made brief presentations in front of the audience at Disrupt. We couldn’t write them up at the time, so here is a belated rundown of these interesting new companies and services.

I urge our readers to watch the video or at least skim our summaries and evaluations. Startups too seldom directly address social issues like this, and one of these services might be something that can really benefit you or your kids.

I’ll go through these in the order they gave presentations, and I’ll give timecodes for each so you can skip directly to them if you like.

Hmm. It doesn't work. Hi everyone, I'm Geoff Ralston from Imagine K12. I'm the co-founder of Imagine K12, which is an educational technology incubator, and I'm going to be very, very brief, but first I wanted to thank Mike Arrington and Disrupt for giving us this incredible opportunity for this time and space.

So I was thinking it's almost exactly thirty years ago today that Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education created a national committee on excellence in education to assess the quality of education in America at the time. Two years later, about two years later, the committee came out with this report and they called it "A Nation at Risk", and the chairman concluded that, if an unfriendly power had imposed on America, the level of education mediocrity that exists today, we might have viewed that as an act of war.

So, one thing that's pretty much agreed upon within the education space today is that the situation today that that statement is as true today as it was 30 years ago. The, you've all seen the statistics. Our children are falling behind, compared to other nations, in math, in science and even in reading.

If you look at the recent drop out in our schools or even when kids complete, the, uh, the schools, they're hopefully unprepared to contribute to the world today. In the intervening 30 years since that date, amazing things had happened. We've created the world wide web, extraordinary technologies have been developed, and we as a country have failed to in any way deal with the risks pointed out 30 years ago.

In fact, we failed so many children, too many children. My co-founders Allen Louie, Tim Brady, and I at Imagine K12 don't believe we have another 30 years to waste. We also believe that the application of technology and Silicon Valley innovation to the problem of education has to be part of the solution.

So it's with a lot of real pride and hope we present you these 10 companies, the first graduating class from Imagine K12, all of whom are working to improve education in America to improve the lives of teachers and parents and above all, to improve the outcomes for our children. Hi, I'm Daniel, and I built Goalbook.

Goalbook is making it possible for the very first time in education to allow every student to have their own personal learning plan. Before coming to Imagine K12, I was a special education teacher and a district administrator. I saw the powerful impact it could have on a student's life when a group of caring adults personalized the education for that student and really knew them as an individual.

And this has been a trend in education. Education is no longer an individual effort. is a team sport, a team of specialists collaborating to try to meet a variety of different students needs and learning styles but there's a problem. The problem is that there's no efficient way for these teams of educators to collaborate around individual students.

Right now, their only solutions are having a face-to-face meeting around a conference table, or passing around packets of information with student data. If you've been to a parent conference, parent-teacher conference recently, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Goalbook changes that. This is Goalbook, it's different.

It's a private social network centered around individual students. Now students are no longer packets of papers or a row in the teacher's gradebook. They have a living profile that is updated continuously with their personal information and progress. This is Brandon, a student in Goalbook. This is his personal learning team, the group of educators And his parents, who are working together to help him achieve his personal learning goals.

This is the activity stream for Brandon's profile, where different members of team can update each other synchronously without having to have a face to face meeting. And all those packets of papers are gone. Because this is a personal learning goal for Brandon in Goalbook that his team has developed with him together.

They can come together, update progress, with the latest information about how Brandon is achieving his personal goals. We're on our way to build the largest repository of personalized learning goals in education and building a recommendation engine to drive these goals and connect them to the products, services, and curriculum that are gonna help Brandon and his teams be successful.

We've launched, with 7 institutional customers in the Bay area, ranging from large public schools to small private schools. All were innovative who want to personalize education for their students. Also, we're excited by the fact that managing personalized learning plans and personalized services is a huge opportunity, in many other large markets, beyond education, and we think Goalbook can go here next.

I'm Daniel, I built Goalbook, and we're personalizing education for all students. Thank you.

Hello my name's Jason Lang. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Formative Learning. Research shows that teacher quality is the single greatest driver for student achievement in the classroom, yet developing great teachers is actually really hard, cause there's no formula for it. Every teacher's different and therefore every teacher needs individualized support.

But the system we've used to develop teachers is fundamentally broken. It's a one size fits all seminar-based model that rarely leads to teacher improvement. Yet because it's a system that's credit hour driven, thirteen billion dollars is spent annually in this manner. but the problem isn't that the content's bad, it's rather the tools that administrators use to determine which teachers shouldshould get which training, is actually broken.

You see, the current process is a paper-based one, and what you see here is actually a magnetic whiteboard application that's meant to provide, and put this entire process, and support this entire process, for one school. But the promise, there's actually huge promise is for a really effective teacher developer, development and support system.

All you have to do to see this is look at the five billion dollars the race to the top wouldn't play to support this process. And it really fundamentally outlines the main drivers that this system needs to look like. Number one, we need to provide teachers with high-quality feedback on their actual practice, and we need to track data on their effectiveness and actually see monitor their improvement overtime, and number 2 we needed to confirm, number 2, we need to use that data, not against teachers in a punitive way, but rather in support of teachers, to provide individualized recommendations to help them improve.

And that's what we do at informative learning. We worked with some of the absolute thought leaders in the market to build an observation system that allows that takes this entire mandated, paper-based process and puts it online, and we make it as easy as a checklist, and then we use that data and we actually make the entire process free, which means we don't actually have to sell to schools, and we can avoid the long sales cycle associated with that.

We then take that data and use it to inform an Amazon-like marketplace, where we can provide hosting abilities for content providers and provide a distribution channel for content providers which we can then monetize, by providing individualized recommendations for teachers, as to what support and what training would help the most.

We've been really fortunate, and I'm really honored to have worked with so amazing customers in the process of developing what we could what we have, and our customers are actually so excited and passionate about what we're doing that they've already committed, or they've committed, more than three hundred and fifty thousand dollars in contracts even before we launch with a single user.

And I'm excited that we're gonna be able to drive that to north of $750,000 by the the time we launch next year. Thank you very much. My name's Jason Lang. We're Formative Learning. Hi. My name is Brett Kauff, and I co-founded a company called Remind 101. with my brother David. A good way to think of us is Twitter for teachers, but the difference is, we're private and safe.

Teachers don't have have a good way to communicate with their students and parents after school. Let me explain why. They can't use Twitter, because Twitter's not safe. The whole world can't know what's going on in their classroom. The state of Missouri just banned the use of social media between teachers and students.

So you're probably wondering here, okay Brett, what's the big deal? Why can't the teacher just email the student? Well, cause an email is ineffective; it has a 22 percent open rate and we all know that kids don't check email. A text message, however, has a 98 percent open rate. It's the signal that gets through the noise.

So this is great. We've covered that text messaging is effective, it's quick, and students love it, right? But there's a problem. It is a bad idea for a teacher to use their personal cell phone to communicate with a student. What a teacher really wants is a product that's private, effective, and safe, where they don't have to share their personal phone number.

And that's precisely what we've built at Remind 101. Let me show you. This is Remind 101. On the top-left of the screen you'll see that teachers can easily manage their classes, and on the bottom-left, they can see any students, or parents subscribed. And notice, that we don't list any phone numbers.

This is a big deal to teachers. We made it ridiculously simple for a teacher to send a message. All they have to do is type in their message, hit the send button, and it instantly delivers to any students, or parents subscribing. via text message, it's that simple. Teachers love this product, and it shows, because we are growing fast.

Since launching three weeks ago, we've had over 1500 teachers, more than 15,000 students and parents, and I'm really excited to say that we have sent over 100,000 messages. Thank you, thank you! Actually, it's a 130,000 as two days ago, I couldn't update the slide. We're going to remove this wall.

When a teacher, a student and a parent communicate after school, it will be over their Remind 101 platform. Thank you so much. I'm Chris. I'm a co-founder of Tutor Cloud and we are disrupting the eight billion dollar private tutoring industry. When Brent and I were students at Stanford we started tutoring agency to connect our class classmates with students in the area.

And we saw two interested things, students really liked working with college tutors because they were more relatable and our classmates would rather tutor than work at the bookstore for nine dollars an hour. So we looked around, and we saw an army of bright, capable tutors, not just at Stanford, but at colleges across the country.

And we thought, if we could take this resource that is currently inaccessible and make it widely available by putting it online we could reinvent tutoring. So far, no one has gotten the experience for online tutoring right. For online tutoring to take off, there needs to be a company with the same insane focus on customer experience that allowed Amazon to change the market for books, or Zappos to change the market for shoes.

Let's take a look at the Tutor Cloud experience. Tammy is looking for a chemistry tutor for her son. She goes to Tutor Cloud, searches for chemistry, and Owen here is the top result. Now it's no mistake that Owen's at the the top, he's a chemical engineering major at Stanford, and he has twelve reviews from parents, saying he's a great chemistry tutor.

So he knows his stuff. But tutoring is 60% more effective When students have something in common with their tutor. So we're building personality profiles for all of our tutors using data we collect from the Facebook Connect API. So that means that very soon we'll be able to find you not just a great Chemistry tutor but a great Chemistry tutor that shares your interest in Xbox or soccer or dance.

Now, once we've found you that perfect tutor, we make it really easy to connect. Just send on a message, and our software goes to work and tracks them down. Gets him on the phone with you within 15 minutes. All the communication happens through our system so nobody has to exchange the personal contact information.

And we can track how long it takes tutors to respond, and adjust their search ranking accordingly. One of the coolest things about TutorCloud is that students can meet for as long as they want, whether that be for an hour or for 15 minutes. We're TutorCloud and we are reinventing tutoring. Thank you!

Hi. My name is Api, and I'm the founder of Brain Nook. Brain Nook is an educational game that's changing the way kids spend their time online. This is Meg. Meg is eight years old, and, like the typical child in the US, Meg spends over an hour every day playing games across platforms like PCs, tablets, and mobile devices.

Now, this worries her mom and her teacher because they see that she isn't really learning anything from these games. In fact 59 percent of US parents think that games don't teach kids critical thinking skills. At Brain Nook, we think this is a huge problem and it's something we want to fix. Brain Nook is a new kind of learning game kids, parents, and teachers together.

In Brain Nook, Meg gets a great game experience just like in all of the online games that she plays. But she's learning at the same time. And her mom and her teacher get the kinds of tools they need to understand and to improve her performance. In Brain Nook, Meg can explore dozens of colorful virtual worlds, she can interact safely with her friends, and we make sure that these interactions online are safe.

And she can complete missions, win badges, customize her character, level up, play games in real time against kids from around the world. All of these great activities that kids know and love from all of the games that they play. And in addition to all of that, we've added in over a hundred standards aligned math and language games that help make the reinforce the concepts that she's learning in school.

These are things like addition, visualization, spelling, word building. All of these great topics that are absolutely essential for any elementary school child. And because all of the content in Brain Nook is standard and aligned, we can give Meg's mom and her teacher just the tools they need to understand how she's doing.

So her mom can see progress reports and her teacher can give her assignments right through BrainNook, that keep her engaged at home with what she's been doing in the classroom. Now kids games are both very engaging and very profitable. Moshi monster this year will generate over a hundred million dollars in gross sales revenue and in Pop Tropica which has one hundred and seventy million users.

The average child spends almost half an hour each time they come to the site. An amazing level of engagement. Of course, these are all fun games, so, can we really make an educational game that's this much fun? Well, the good news is, that in Brain Nook we've done just that because in Brain Nook the average child spends twenty-eight minutes each time they come to the site compared to twenty-nine minutes for Pop Shop and it's thirteen minutes for Moshi Monsters.

So, with Brain Nook we have an educational game that kids love playing just as much as the leading non-educational kids games. Brain Nook is the new generation of learning games for young kids. My name is Api, and you can check us out on the web at Hi, I'm Stuart Frye, CEO and co-founder of Eduvant.

At Eduvant we're transforming the way schools use data.

You see, schools are squandering one of the most valuable resources they have, data they already collect. There is a reason for that.

School data systems were designed mainly for compliance, or administrative functions. So we ended up with student, employee, financial, outcome measures sitting in unlinked silos, just for databases. To link those up, and to derive decision making value from those systems schools had two options.

The first was to hire a bunch of statisticians and build a research department. the second was to build a multi-million dollar data warehouse. These solutions have their strengths but they have three really important problems. The first is they are outdated. It could be 1980 or 1990, and I could be talking to you about research departments and data warehouses.

And the usability and effectiveness of these solutions reflects that twenty year time lag. The second is access. The people that need this data to make decisions every day, principals, teachers, counselors, simply don't have timely access to it. And the third is an economics problem, a vast majority of Irish nations, 16,000 school districts simply don't have the dollars or the shooting capital to pull either one of these off.

So they're not doing anything anything with that data. That's why Edge Avant has developed a third solution. We have a lightweight, open development platform. It sits in the cloud and extracts the twenty percent of data that drives eighty percent of the analytical value for school leaders and educators.

Now that platform a countless number of Apps. At edge Avant, we have a core sweep we've developed. But because our platform is open, any developer can build integrated data solution for schools. Now to give you a better sense for the Apps that we're developing I want to show you our principal dashboard.

This is a tool we developed because research shows principals on average have two minutes a day for data use. So, we put operational, student, and intelligence, all in one screen. With communicative data visualizations that help them make the most of that two minutes. But our platform is not just about chopping up information you already have.

It allows you to create new Apps with new analytics that integrates seamlessly within information, you're already collecting. Like this tool we built for counselors. They can create new referrals, integrate with their list of student names, auto populate with important demographic information. It has their schedule, their teachers.

It makes it insanely easy to create a new referral, and because behavior is such a important tracking tool we have a reporting interface that let's them see trends in their school across schools and across districts. People want what we're building. We've got pilots in two districts, with reach to thousand students and the educators that teach them.

Just since we've launched we've got a 130k in revenue and we've got the right team to pull this off. Twelve years start-up experience with our co-founders. Remember, we're Edge Avant. Schools deserve accessible, innovative tools for their data. Hi, I'm Eric Simons and I am the founder of Class Connect.

When I was in high school, which was about a year ago, I wasn't the most engaged, organized student. My teachers tried really hard keep me interested in their classes and help me stay organized. But with budget cuts class sizes are getting bigger and bigger, which means that this problem is just getting worse.

And I was just one of many students that needed their assistance. So the problem is that teachers simply don't have enough time to teach and engage their students as well as manage and organize their classroom. Because teachers are expected to do a lot. And the tech savvy teachers have turned to technology to help them be more productive and they use a ton of different services to do this.

Now, although these teachers can put this together and make it work, it's actually very painful to do this. Because none of these services were built to work together. For example, if I add an assignment into my class calendar saying my students have to complete a quiz, I can't actually directly link to the quiz on KIA.

And actually to better illustrate this, this is what the desktop looks like of a productive tech savvy teacher. Or maybe counter productive. So although the tech savvy teachers are able to figure this out and make these services work together, most teachers just give up. and so I thought there has to be a better way where teachers can complete everything that they need to do in one simple package that's so easy to use that any teacher can use it.

And at ClassConnect that's what we do; we build tools that make teachers more productive. And we started by streamlining classroom management. On ClassConnect teachers can take all their course content and put it into one place whether it be files, videos, Google docs, websites and more. And they can share this with their classes with just a click, and our grey book attendance and calendar system are seamlessly integrated with our other tools.

So if I put an assignment into my calendar I can actually directly link to any of the files that are associated with it, right. These are seamlessly connected, but we didn't stop with streamlining classroom management because we feel that there's a lot of potential to enhance the way that teachers spend instructional time.

And so we looked at the way that teachers give lectures and we realized they are very boring. They're just PowerPoints and bullet points on a slide and the teachers talking. So we thought, let's make it really easy to create engaging lectures that will actually captivate students. And that's what we did.

We created a brand new presentation tool. And with it you can put interactive content directly into your slides. And while a teacher moves to the lecture the students follow along in real time they can actually explore the content that their teacher's talking about. This is adding an entire new dimension into the way that we teach and the way that we learn, and we're not the only ones who think that.

In the past months, we're now powering over thousand classrooms on Class Connect and the feedback we've received has just been remarkable. These teachers don't just want to use Class Connect, they need to use Class Connect to do their jobs effectively. And this quote from one of the teachers that uses Class Connect, summarizes our company better than anything I've ever seen.

Because this is Class Connect and this is what we do. Thank you! Hi I'm Wade Roberts, CEO and co-founder of Educ Creations. You know every so often a product is introduced that makes it really simple for all of us to create and share online in an entirely new way. And every now and then when this happens the companies that create these products, become tremendously valuable.

Because when it's really easy for all of us to create and share online. The online crowd creates an unbelievable amount of great content, and entire industries are changed forever. We think teaching and learning are next, and we've created the software platform that's going to make this happen. Websites like Khan Academy have shown us all the incredible potential of using short video tutorials to engage students and let them all learn at their own pace.

And we talked to a lot of teachers who would love to provide their own students with any kind of access to their own lessons on the web. But the truth is, today this is too complicated and time consuming. You've got to use a lot of different applications and it would take most teachers and hour just to create just a 5 minute lesson doing it this way.

We've solved this problem, we think creating a great 5 minute lesson should take you 5 minutes and it should be as simple as visiting a website are picking up an iPad, pressing a record button and then you just start to teach, this is what we've built at Edu Creations. Everything a teacher needs to create and share a great lesson on the web is right here in a single application.

She's got a great image or a power point she'd like to use, she can really easily pull that in and she can draw on top of everything as she explains her main point. Everything she says, everything she writes, every interaction she has on the program is recorded. And it is automatically posted in, which has been a to where all of our teachers, all of our students can watch it at any time.

Now it's really important to us that anybody can do this, so we have created a web app that runs in any web browser. As well as an Ipad app . And on top of that, our software is fully compatible with all of the interactive white boards that are already installed in over 30% of U.S. classrooms. We've designed this enclosed collaboration with teachers.

It's really important to us that we solve a problem that they really have, and the teachers that have used this love it. In fact, four teachers from Los Altos were the first teachers last year in the country, to pilot Khan Academy in their classrooms. This year all four of those teachers are using Educreations in their classrooms, cause they and their students want to create their own videos.

And we've got the right team to pull this off. Chris and I have a deep background in building user generated content applications at massive scale. I recently created a Facebook application called Pieces of Flair. This grew to over 20 million users who created over 15 million items of content. Rocky acquired this company in 2008.

And Rocky on that Chris who's a rock star engineer. He was an essential member of the back end team, and scaled Rocky's databases to over a hundred million users across all their social properties. Today we're working really hard to make it simple for anybody to teach what they know, and learn what they don't, anytime, anyplace, on any device.

Come check us out at Thanks! Good morning. We at Eleven Learning believe that the textbook industry is fundamentally broken. And it's not time to fix it, it is time to blow it up. Between K to twelve and higher ed, this is a thirteen billion dollar business, and the reason it's so big is because textbooks are breathtakingly expensive.

and their also breathtakingly inadequate. Today's textbooks are not what the students want to read, they're not what schools want to buy and they're not even what authors want to write. And all these problems stem from the way that textbooks are made. The big publishers have a slow, expensive system that can only produce giant, expensive books.

They spend three years and over a million dollars on each title that they publish. And that's where we come in. We have built a platform that makes textbook publishing scalable. Start to finish it takes us six months and our fixed cost earned her five thousand dollars per title. Essentially every book is like a lean start up.

The heart of our platform is our crowdsourced editing system. Let's take a look at the recent activity for one of our computer science books. We have 15 professors who are reading through the entire book. They're investing dozens of hours and making hundreds of improvements and they're doing this because they want this textbook in their classroom.

Essentially we have taken the academic peer view process, we made it social, and then we applied it to textbooks. So it's familiar to academics and it's far more effective than what the legacy publishers do. Authors are flocking to us, because they know that we are not going to make them write some giant milquetoast textbook.

They control what goes in their book. Authors are lining up and we are filling huge pent up demand. This chart shows what we've done just this summer with one guy spreading the word about us. Each one of these books is worth between 40 and $100,000 in revenue. The books that we've signed so far are worth over a half million dollars.

And we are not forgetting about the students either. using our online rating app, they can read socially and share their notes with classmates. And our content is interactive and designed to take advantage of the web. We're offering both print and online editions. The print book is 75% less expensive than traditional text books.

Soon we're going to introduce our "freemium" online edition but we will always have a fully free version. The team that we have assembled knows how to grow this business. Dev and I lost a social network with over 3 million monthly uniques and Steven spent 15 years with Legacy Publishers before he came over from the dark side.

Textbooks are a huge industry. It is being disrupted right now and we are th ecompany that's doing it. Thank you. Hi everyone. I'm Sam the co-founder of Class Dojo. We're making software that fixes bad behavior in class. and we're using real time feedback to do it. In the 4 weeks since we've launched, we're being used in 3 1/2 thousand classrooms with more then 70,000 students.

I'm gonna talk more about this but I'm gonna start with the problem. Behavior management. Behavior management is one of the most difficult things that new teachers do. I was a former teacher and something that I struggled with and I am not a learner. It turns out there's very few tools that help teachers do this well, every teacher has at their own way, but the really terrifying thing is that this problem wastes up to 50% of class time so they show this.

That's half a school year gone with no teaching, and no learning taking place. We need a solution to this problem. And the Class Dojo is that solution. It's the first scalable behavior management tool that actually improves behavior in real time. Let me show you how it works, teachers can customize the behaviors they want to reward.

So for example participation or teamwork or creativity and then in class, this is what gets displayed on a whiteboard or a projector. And a teacher can award a student for a specific behavior or accomplishment using just one click of a smart phone or a laptop, so that Allen knows he's one step closer to his participation badge, or Jeff knows that disruption isn't always a good thing, as you'll see.

Feedback, real-time feedback, actually improves behavior over time. And the basic game dynamics we've built in, make this engaging for the students as well. But the really cool thing about ClassDojo is that while the teacher is using it to teach, it's generating, it's analyzing all the data that the teacher is generating, so it automatically produces reports and analytics for each student without any additional data entry needed by the teacher.

And these reports are already being shared the parents at home. So for the first time we are getting real time data out of the classroom on something that was really difficult to measure, and we're making teachers lives easier by doing it. And teachers love this.

In the four weeks since we've launched, we're being used in three and a half thousand classrooms, with more than 70,000 students. And I'm proud to say that as of this morning, two Class Dojo points are being awarded every second.

It turns out there's a huge market for this, because behavior isn't just a problem at school, It's a problem at home as well, and that's where Class Dojo's going next.

So, that's Class Dojo in three minutes.

Remember we're fixing bad behavior in class, one of the biggest barriers to learning. We're seeing incredible traction, and we're going off to a huge market.

Come and check us out,

Thank you.

Good . Well, listen, thanks so much again to Jeff and the K-12 team for giving us their demos this morning. Terrific initiative.

For the first time all week we are actually running a few minutes ahead of schedule, so we're actually gonna take a five minute break, don't go too far.


(4:33) The disconnect between group-based teaching and individual learning is addressed by Goalbook, which hopes to produce for every student a single, shared learning plan. The alternative, parent-teacher conferences and counselor meetings, is totally out of date, and simple social networking tools can improve the situation significantly, in their opinion. Instead of a file in a cabinet somewhere and a few notes jotted on attendance sheets or classwork, every student is a node in a network of educators, administrators, and parents. A database of goals, strategies, and so on will be used to create a recommendation engine for helping students. They’re launching in a number of Bay Area districts and private schools.

The question for me is whether teachers will in fact have the time or inclination to do much more than rubber stamp this profile when homework is or isn’t put in, when they do or don’t attend, and so on. Rich data is a good thing, but someone has to create it, and teachers are already hard up for time.

Formative Learning

(7:45) Training of teachers, while an expensive and highly necessary process, is stuck in the past, with paper-based tracking and feedback, and irregular goals and recommendations. Formative learning hopes to put all this teacher training in a single location, where everything is done in a universally-understood way and that data is used to recommend courses, videos, and so on to improve teaching.

Naturally this is only one part of the training process, and the most important bit is still attracting and retaining motivated teachers. And no matter how right-on your recommendations are for this or that skill, hands-on learning and a supportive, happy staff is going to be more key. Of course, that’s a whole other problem.


(11:03) There are a number of reasons why the means of communication between teacher, student, and parent are limited. There are questions of authority, privilege, and so on. Yet effective and timely communication is an important part of education, and something that’s far more likely to be found in small class sizes and private schools. Remind101 wants to provide a safe and effective tool for this using a form of communication kids seem to prefer over face-to-face interaction anyway: text messages. The founder describes it as “Twitter for teachers,” but with careful controls to make it secure and private. Instead of having teachers use personal cell phone numbers and so on, Remind101 acts as an middle man between teachers, their students, and the parents of those students.

I honestly can’t think of any drawbacks to this. It’s safe, it’s simple, and it uses existing infrastructure. It can be integrated with school databases in a day and engagement level is up to the participants. We did a follow-up interview with Remind101′s founder here.


(13:30) Crowdsourcing tutoring, who’d have thunk? TutorCloud thinks that they’re going to be the ones who make the $8 billion tutoring market a little more modern and accessible. Their service works as a marketplace for college students hoping to shop themselves out as tutors to younger kids or peers who can’t quite get the hang of organic chemistry. They use the Facebook Connect API to make personality matches as well as subject and pricing. All the communication happens within the system so personal information remains secure, and more responsive tutors get higher rankings. The actual tutoring occurs via video chat with a shared whiteboard space.

The marketplace for tutors sounds fine, but to be honest, I don’t think video-based tutoring is going to engage enough to make people want it over a real-life person, the advantages of which are many. I’m afraid parents would rather pay for a tutor’s gas or drive their kid to the library for a meetup. Perhaps as online collaboration tools become richer and more accepted this will seem more of a viable option.


(17:05) Kids these days don’t play Carmen Sandiego or Mavis Beacon, and that’s a tragedy, but they do like to play games online. Why shouldn’t these games be interesting, social, competitive, and educational? BrainNook is putting together a lot of new games and experiences aimed at elementary-level kids that hopes to be engaging while providing some standard lessons in arithmetic, spelling, and so on. The information from these games would be available to kids’ parents and teachers.

I have to admit here that I’m a bit disconnected from the world of online kids’ games. But BrainNook sounds like a great thing to have available to teachers for extra credit. Miss a homework assignment? Get to level 3 in the math game. Home sick? Sign in and talk to your friends in the virtual classroom. Whether they can actually make the games fun is a question yet to be answered, however. Kids are fickle creatures. What BrainNook needs is personality.


(20:09) Schools collect a ton of data just in order to be compliant with various laws and regulations: keep this many years of counselor records, teacher evaluations, etc. on file in case they need to be checked. But all these years of data, from which something meaningful might be gleaned or trends detected, are sitting in drawers or stuck in separate databases. Few schools really organize this information well or provide access to people like teachers and administrators. Eduvant integrates all this data into a single platform. You can put all kinds of data and analytics in one place with quick, browser-based access. There are tools for creating new data as well — referrals for counseling and such.

Again, my issue is that producing this data may be more work that teachers and others in the system can’t handle. The principal dashboard they showed would be handy, but how live is it? Who is generating that data? Who’s scanning in paper reports? Expecting a quick changeover to this online system is optimistic in my opinion, as useful as it could be. But whether it’s Eduvant or one of its descendants, I definitely see systems like this in place a few years from now when these hurdles have been cleared.


(24:20) There are a number of services available to teachers for various in-class tasks like putting together quizzes, distributing work and resources, and receiving homework online. Unfortunately, they lack connectivity, and one useful tool may not communicate to another, or it may require extra work on the part of the teacher. ClassConnect wants to offer a one-size-fits-all package that lets teachers create lectures, test and assess students, and manage class content. They also made a rich lecture presentation tool that lets students interact with the content.

The trouble here is that it requires a certain level of savvy on the part of students as well as teachers. Students who aren’t motivated will take the path of least resistance, and that will likely be the old tools: paper, pencil, and excuses. And underprivileged kids and districts are going to be left out of this, so it’s going to be hard to make it a standard tool. That said, the easy creation and sharing of class data could shave precious minutes off teachers’ schedules and leave more time for the all-important in-person interactions.


(27:47) The creation and distribution of rich educational media is a space Educreations feels is going to blow up, but the tools required to effectively make content are disconnected and not aimed at beginners. They’ve created a simple online service where you can draw, type, and bring in external content that gets automatically encoded and shared in a single place. It’s like an Open Khan Academy.

I have no doubt of the company’s ability to deliver what they’re describing, but is it really that valuable? This form of visual aid (essentially a whiteboard recording) may or may not be a good match for the content teachers are presenting. I feel like they’re hitching their wagon to the nearest star, and not looking forward far enough. Also, writing with a mouse sucks.

11 Learning

(30:55) The $13 billion textbook industry is ripe for disruption, says 11 Learning’s founder. The existing system of working for perhaps years on a single large volume is inefficient and expensive. They’ve put together a platform on which authors can create and edit textbooks and publish them for minimal cost.

If I’m not mistaken, this whole startup is essentially valuing the contributions of authors and professors at zero. A few professors may be okay with donating some of their time to editing a textbook, but are the 40 or 50 overworked profs, copy editors, and artists really going to continue giving away their work with the promise of some rev share later on? 11 Learning’s $5000 “fixed cost” figure is meaningless. Producing high-quality content is time-consuming and expensive because the people who create that content value their time. Furthermore, many subjects simply do not lend themselves to “crowdsourced” editing and content creation. And the way teaching is moving, centralizing content is on its way out anyway. This is like making improvements to steam engine production lines when the automobile is about to make its debut.


(33:55) Managing student behavior is a major problem in our school systems, wasting tons of class time and monopolizing the attention of new teachers in particular. In ClassDojo, students in classes are publicly awarded points and badges via a web or smartphone app, and that data (+1 for answering, -1 for passing notes) is automatically tracked and shared with parents.

From the moment this guy said “we’re making software that fixes bad behavior in class,” I was skeptical. And when he said it “improves behavior in real time,” my alarms went off. This is just gold star stickers in a web app. It’s a huge overpromise that relies on way too many assumptions and ignores the realities of bad behavior. If students behave poorly because they don’t respect the teacher or value their time in school, that’s not something that will be fixed by a simplistic virtual point system — it will be either ignored or resented by the majority of students. Real behavior problems and real behavior management require time and work. There’s no way around that, especially not with something as flimsy as this.

The test for many of these startups is whether they last beyond the trial phase, which all of them are clearly in. The big numbers they’re seeing are like the initial bump in any new service. You hear about it (in this case Imagine K12 certainly pitched the local districts), you give it a try, and then, organically, you either continue or stop using it.

Some I can see truly picking up. Remind101, Eduvant, and ClassConnect I give a good chance of being picked up, if at first only for a fraction of what they do. I think some of these may be forced to fold or pivot when confronted with non-theoretical use scenarios. And of course every teacher and school is different, and has different requirements, so support is going to be a full-time job.

Also, and I recognize this is an industry-wide problem with young startups, but it would help to have a little more proving time under their belts. Sure, a few weeks or months in however many districts is good, but what these guys really need is to pick two or three very different classrooms and work very closely with them for an entire school year, or failing that, at least half of one. What they need isn’t skyrocketing user counts, which often fall under the cooked numbers category, but real-life case studies. No principal is going to care that you have 10,000 classrooms being tracked by your tools. They will, however, care when you tell them about one classroom that dramatically improved engagement, or showed a 50% increase in parent involvement, or what have you. Too many of these startups are under the impression that a burst of momentum in the beginning means their service is effective. Not true. The service is effective if it is effective, and education isn’t a sprint, it’s a long haul.

Even though I don’t agree with the ideas or execution of all the companies in this first “class” of Imagine K12 companies, I’m all admiration at the fact that they are being attempted at all. Too much of startup culture is focused on bleeding-edge consumption, totally ignoring areas where even minimal applications of the tech we take for granted could improve conditions significantly in education, social services, and so on. I look forward to the next generation of Imagine K12 startups.

KISSmetrics Helps You Hone In On Stats That Actually Matter With Cohort Reports

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 02:00 PM PDT


Kissmetrics, an analytics startup that helps you keep tabs on how your users are using your website, is adding a new tool to its suite of products today: Cohort Analysis.

Cohorts, for those that aren’t familiar with them, are groups of users who sign up during a given time period (say, everyone who signed up between January 1 and 7, 2011). And analyzing them can offer some valuable insight into how people are using (or have stopped using) your service. Kissmetrics cofounder Neil Patel explains that the vanity metrics we often see being discussed in the press, like total user count, can be misleading. For example, your site might have growing overall usage each month, but that growth may be fueled entirely by a rise in new signups — who could mask the fact that your older users are fading away.

That’s where cohort reports come in handy: they’ll let you break your overall user base into different groups, then see how each of those groups use the service during, say, the following six months. This can be helpful both to gauge the lifetime value of users, and to see how much of an impact new features are having on each group of users. Kissmetrics will also let you further break your users out into cohorts based on how they were referred to your site.

Patel acknowledges that there are other services that have set out to offer Cohort Reports as well, including Mixpanel and RJMetrics, but says that their products, at least as far as cohorts are concerned, give users less flexibility (he also believes Kissmetrics is easier to use). Patel says one key feature offered by Kissmetrics that the others don’t have is the ability to ‘zoom in’ on each cohort down to the individual user level.

Kissmetrics is available for free for a 30 day free trial, with premium plans available after that beginning at $29/month (prices increase depending on the size of your size and how many datapoints you’re tracking).

If you’re interested in learning more about cohorts, Evernote CEO Phil Libin has previously spoken in detail about how his company uses this kind of data.


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350Green To Add 400 More EV Charging Stations Across U.S.

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:12 PM PDT

350Green logo

California-based electric vehicle charging station developer 350Green will purchase and install over 400 charging stations from manufacturer Coulomb Technologies, the company has announced. The new additions will be rolled out across the U.S. to help build out 350Green’s network to over 1,000 stations. In addition, the stations will be powered by the ChargePoint Network, Coloumb’s EV-charging infrastructure which also includes online portals for use by hosts, fleet managers, drivers and utilities.

350Green currently has projects in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and California. It’s in the process of installing Level 2 and DC Fast chargers in various consumer-friendly locations like Walgreens drug stores and at properties owned by real estate developers like the Simon Property Group, which owns hundreds of malls, outlets and stores across the U.S.

Walgreens had previously awarded a contract to Miami-based Car Charging Group, a move which could indicate that a single EV charging station provider can’t handle an entire nationwide rollout on its own. (Car Charging Group’s stations will also support the ChargePoint Network).

Meanwhile, Coulomb, which charges over 26,000 vehicles in 14 countries worldwide, will be providing its ChargePoint Network services to 350Green’s new stations. The ChargePoint Network will allow 350Green to track revenues, fees, costs, utilization and other EV services. Drivers will be able to use ChargePoint’s 24/7 support, billing options and mobile apps (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry) that offer charging status, plus station location, availability and navigation.

According to a recent report, anywhere from 13 to 40 million plug-in electric vehicles will be on the road by 2030, including models like the Nissan LEAF, GM Chevrolet Volt, Fisker Karma, Tesla Model S, Ford Focus EV and others. Station rollouts like this will be critical to help make the transition more feasible for drivers.

Fly or Die: How Long Is Qwikster For This World?

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:02 PM PDT

If you get your DVDs from Netflix, soon the name on the familiar red envelope will be Qwikster. But how long is Qwikster for this world? In this episode of Fly or Die, John Biggs and I dig into the pros and cons of the service.

Earlier this week, Netflix announced it will be separating its DVD-by-mail service from its streaming movie service. The DVD-by-mail business will be renamed Qwikster and include videogames. The streaming business will keep the Netflix brand. Customers can still subscribe to both, but in my mind Netflix is effectively hastening the death of its DVD business by making it inconvenient to manage both services. Instead of one site and one queue of movies and TV shows, the two services will require different accounts. Netflix is really forcing customers to choose which service they want and it is hoping that they choose the streaming one.

All of this is going on while Dish Network is trying to revive Blockbuster, which now will offer its own streaming-plus-DVD service to Dish subscribers called BlockBuster Movie Pass. (Which brand do you think is stronger? Take our poll).

Company: Netflix
Launch Date: September 24, 1997

With more than 23.3 million members in the United States and Canada, Netflix, Inc. is the world's leading Internet subscription service for enjoying movies and TV shows. For $7.99 a month, Netflix members in the U.S. can instantly watch unlimited movies and TV episodes streaming right to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. In Canada, streaming unlimited movies and TV shows from Netflix is available for $7.99 a month. There are...

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Gillmor Gang Live (TCTV)

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:02 PM PDT

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang – Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, John Borthwick, and Steve Gillmor – recording concluded at 2pm PST.

Robert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. He is best known for his popular blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist at Microsoft. Scoble joined Microsoft in 2003, and although he often promoted Microsoft products like Tablet PCs and Windows Vista, he also frequently criticized his own employer and praised its competitors like Apple and Google. Scoble is the author of Naked Conversations, a book on how blogs are changing...

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Person: Kevin Marks

Kevin Marks is a software engineer. Kevin served as an evangelist for OpenSocial and as a software engineer at Google. In June 2009 he announced his resignation. From September 2003 to January 2007 he was Principal Engineer at Technorati responsible for the spiders that make sense of the web and track millions of blogs daily. He has been inventing and innovating for over 17 years in emerging technologies where people, media and computers meet. Before joining Technorati,...

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Steve Gillmor is a technology commentator, editor, and producer in the enterprise technology space. He is Head of Technical Media Strategy at and a TechCrunch contributing editor. Gillmor previously worked with leading musical artists including Paul Butterfield, David Sanborn, and members of The Band after an early career as a record producer and filmmaker with Columbia Records’ Firesign Theatre. As personal computers emerged in video and music production tools, Gillmor started contributing to various publications, most notably Byte Magazine,...

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Person: John Borthwick
Companies: Daylife, betaworks

John Borthwick is CEO of betaworks. betaworks is new form of internet media company. Prior to betaworks John was Senior Vice President of Alliances and Technology Strategy for Time Warner Inc. John’s company, WP-Studio, founded in 1994, was one of the first content studios in New York’s Silicon Alley. John holds an MBA from Wharton (1994) and an undergraduate degree BA in Economics from Wesleyan University (1987).

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TechCrunch Giveaway: DROID Bionic #TechCrunch

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 12:27 PM PDT

After Nine Months Of Revisions, The Verizon Droid Bionic Is Finally Available | TechCrunch

After being teased for months and months, nine months to be exact, of when Verizon and Motorola would release the DROID Bionic, the wait is finally over. The DROID Bionic is now out in stores and the reviews have been nothing but positive. In fact, people are so in awe of the phone, some even believe it will be the only phone to compete with the up-and-coming iPhone 5. So, since this is Friday, and we like to give things away on Friday, we are going to give one DROID Bionic away to one lucky reader.

Thanks to Verizon, this giveaway is going to last for one whole week. To enter, all you have to do is follow the steps below.

1) Click on this link to sign up.

2) Then do one of the following:

- Retweet this post (making sure to include the #TechCrunch hashtag)
- Leave us a comment below telling us why you want it

The contest starts now and ends September 28th at 12:00pm PST.

We will pick one lucky reader at random next week and contact them via email. Anyone in the U.S. is eligible.

Good luck!

Deal Decor To Launch A Groupon For Furniture

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 11:44 AM PDT


I’m not often the fan of startups that are “the this, for that,” but I think I could get into something like Deal Décor: it’s the Groupon for furniture. This San Francisco-based startup is using the group-buying model made popular by Groupon to connect customers with factory-direct deals from overseas furniture manufacturers.

The company is launching on Monday in San Francisco, which will serve as the pilot program for the service for 6 months. Afterwards, the plan is to launch in one new city every month, scaling up to reach the 20 largest metro areas in the U.S.

Although consumers might not realize it, Deal Décor isn’t exactly a direct rip of the Groupon model. Where Groupon uses group-buying to promote coupons, Deal Décor uses group-buying to get better prices on furniture orders from manufacturers. Savings range anywhere from 30% to 70%, the company says.

A closer competitor would be something like home goods-focused flash sales site One Kings Lane, or others in the space like Gilt Groupe or Ideeli. But those sites are offering steep discounts on high margin retail items, they’re not getting factory-direct deals.

The first deal being offered to San Francisco shoppers is a 3-piece sectional sofa that comes from Vietnam. Here it is on for $949. Amazon has it here for $706. Walmart lists it at $829. Deal Décor’s price? $399. Items are selected through the founders’ relationships with factories – they find out the top-selling items, and tack on their extra volume to the end of the production run, which keeps costs down.

Further discounts are possible, too, because typical gross margins for furniture retailers tend to run 50% (sometimes even 100%) over wholesale pricing. But because Deal Décor is purchasing directly from the manufacturers, not the importer or wholesaler, its gross margins can be lower. As is its overhead. However, its net margins are closer to what furniture retailers make.

In addition to Vietnam, the company’s founders, Craig Sakuma and Gregory Lok, have built up a network of over 100 factories in Asia, including China, Malaysia and Indonesia.  The network was developed over the past decade or so through their experience at furniture retailers and companies like Home Depot, Target, Home Decorators Collection, William Sonoma and Hamilton Spill Furniture Group, where they worked in management, consulting and hands-on roles throughout the supply chain.

Of course, with Deal Décor, you might not have the plethora of options that a furniture retail store would offer in terms of customizations to the furniture itself, value-added services like leather or fabrication protection, in-store warranties, financing options and more.

But like some brick-and-mortars, Deal Décor operates locally, allowing the company to able to handle customer deliveries and returns locally, too. In San Francisco, the company partnered with a third-party logistics firm (also a FedEx partner), to handle warehousing, delivery and customer notifications. On top of the sofa’s purchase price, customers pay $6 to pick it up at the warehouse or $33 for home delivery. Deal Décor says it’s not making delivery a profit center for the business, though.

For those wanting to see the sofa in real life first, it will be on display in local venues like the Treasure Island Flea Market, for example. The same model involving third-party logistics and local venues for showcasing the items will be used as Deal Décor moves into other regions. (To see if Deal Décor is coming to your area in the future, check out the sign up form at the bottom of the company homepage.)

Eventually, the company hopes to offer more than one item at a time on its website per region, so there’s always a bedroom, dining and living room item available at all times.

Deal Décor is funded by Sakuma and Lok at present, but is in talks with several Bay area VCs and angels.

Samsung Asks To Ban iPads, iPhones In The Netherlands

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 11:12 AM PDT


So remember that one time I said that Samsung was planning on stepping up its game against Apple? That was no joke. In the same court that granted an EU-wide injunction against three of its Galaxy smartphones, the Hague Court in the Netherlands, Samsung has asked that the iPhone and iPad get pulled from shelves.

Rather than being based on design (like Apple’s GalTab injunction request), this complaint is based solely on 3G technology patents held by Samsung and is aimed specifically at the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and both generations of the iPad. Within the request, as seen by Webwereld, Samsung claims that all four of those products infringe on four different Samsung patents. The preliminary injunction request asks that Apple be banned from trading, importing or selling these devices within the Netherlands. Past that, Samsung also wants all current iPhone and iPad models pulled from store shelves.

The four patents in question are the same ones that Samsung has brought against Apple across much of the globe, including the U.S., France, Japan, the U.K. South Korea, and Germany. They are essentials patents, which means that they cover technology necessary to the industry as a whole. With essentials patents, the right holder must license the patents to third parties without discrimination — this is known as FRAND terms.

Samsung has recently said that Apple was “freeriding” with regards to Samsung patents, and this may very well be the point at which Samsung cashes in. Obviously, a few bucks here and there from Apple would be nice, but what Samsung really needs is an injunction of some sort on any iProduct. As I mentioned in my earlier post, there’s very little chance of a settlement unless Samsung can prove to Apple that it won’t be knocked around. A ban on the iPhone or iPad would be ideal, whereas a licensing agreement is really just a continuation of this whole dramatic mess.

Apple’s lawyers have set up a hearing in which both companies can discuss the FRAND licensing issues. This would allow for talk of an injunction to fall by the wayside, as Apple and Samsung would merely have to negotiate licensing fees. Of course if Apple refuses to take the licenses (which would be a shocking decision), then Samsung can move forward with its injunction request.

Company: Apple
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: September 24, 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, Inc. to Apple, Inc. in January 2007. Among the key offerings from Apple’s product line are: Pro line laptops (MacBook Pro) and desktops (Mac Pro), consumer line laptops (MacBook) and desktops (iMac), servers (Xserve), Apple TV, the Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server operating systems, the iPod (offered with...

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Launch Date: September 24, 1969

Samsung is one of the largest super-multinational companies in the world. It’s possibly best known for it’s subsidiary, Samsung Electronics, the largest electronics company in the world.

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Keen On… Yossi Vardi: Cow’s-Manure-Over-IP (CMOI)

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 11:07 AM PDT

Welcome to TechCrunch TV. We're with longtime TechCrunch TV idol Yossi Vardi, the well-known Israeli start-up investor. But Yossi had another life, another career before investing in technology start ups. Yossi was an expert in green energy. So Yossi, how did you get into green energy and why did you leave it?

While I leave it, you will know when I tell you my experience in energy, but many years ago, I used to run the ministry of energy in Israel, and after I finished my term in the ministry of energy, I was asked to come to the World Bank. This was early 80's when the World Bank created it's energy department and when I came they asked me to write the report on non-commercial, non-conventional, indigenous, renewable, traditional, alternative energy resources.

So, I asked them What is non-commercial non-conventional indigenous renewable traditional alternative energy resources. And they told me that they want me to write a report on rice husks.

Rice husks?

Rice husks and I didn't know what is rice husks. Rice husks are the stem, I would call it the stem of the rice, and this is being used as a source of energy in some developing countries. I told them I don't know anything about rice husk. We don't have it in Israel. So, they ask me to write a report on bagasse.

Do you know what is bagasse?


Bagasse. Bagasse is the substance which is being left after you squeeze the sugar from the sugar cane, and you burn it, and it's another source of energy but I didn't know anything about this. So then asked me, "Well, if you don't know about bagasse and about rice husks, then maybe you can write for us report about cow's manure."

Cow's manure? You knew that one.

Yeah. Cow's manure. I thought that that's good cause when I was a kid I had lot of encounters. Is this energy resource as in Tel Aviv fields? And What were you doing as a youngster in Tel Aviv? I was encountering cow's manure. And I like the topic. I immediately embraced it and dived into it.

The cow manure? The cow manure, and for one month I was the world expert on cow's manure. I studied what you do with cow's manure, how you collect it. By the way, do you know what is the difference between bullshit and cow's manure? Cow's manure doesn't have the human touch that bullshit has, but that belongs to another thing.

So By the way, if you have a cow's manure, Jewish mother joke?

No, but it goes separately, nevertheless you are disturbing my flow of cow's manure folks. So, I spent the whole month studying how peasants are using cow's manure,and then I found they are using it for four purposes: For cooking, for heating, for fertilizing, and for reinforcing mud bricks, because of the fiber.

And immediately I realized this is a problem of operation research, how you do an optimal location of cow's manure? I wrote big report to the World Bank; whereby, I suggested that every peasant in the world will be given a scale and a satellite terminal because at that time there was no Internet.

And the World Bank will create a big computer in it's basement. And every night every peasant will transmit to the World Bank how many cow's manure they collected. And they will create linear programming calculation, and tell him how to allocate separately. Give the report to the World Bank, and they read it.

And they told me that they are going to ship me to Israel. They didn't see the reason and how.

Shipped back, send me back home. Fire me.

You have been paid for this, right? Yeah, sure. I was paid for it to help the world resolve the, and this was very green. This is the source of green energy. So for one month, I was the foremost expert on cow's manure and now is the internet, etcetera. I think if you merge internet into cow's manure, because it's also come in packets, you can create cow's manure over IP.

And there is a lot of opportunities to merge the two things, and to use the Internet in order to resolve the world's shortage of the cow's manure. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

Along with being one of the world's leading seed investors in technology start-ups, Israeli entrepreneur Yossi Vardi is also an acknowledged expert in renewable energy. He once ran the Israeli Ministry of Energy and was involved in a number of pioneering projects to develop non-commercial, indigenous and alternative energy resources for oil-poor Israel.

One of these projects involved an attempt to make cow manure the engine of the Israeli energy economy. And at his recent Stream unconference in Athens, Yossi revealed – for the first time ever on camera – the details of how he became the world's leading authority on cow's manure and how this World Bank funded green energy project could have powered the Internet.

As always with Yossi, there might be a slight exaggeration here. But beneath all his bullshit, there is clearly a massive opportunity to develop a cows-manure-over-IP (CMOI) protocol for the Internet. Perhaps this could even be a future business model for AOL.

Person: Yossi Vardi

Yossi Vardi is an Israeli investor most famous for being the original investor in ICQ - the first Internet-wide instant messaging system. Vardi has invested in over 50 tech companies in diverse areas of software, energy, Internet, mobile, cleantech, and others. Vardi has been an active civil servant in Israel through projects involving energy and infrastructure. He also co-founded Alon, an Israeli oil company. Vardi acted as an advisor to the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program on...

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Person: Andrew Keen
Companies:, TechCrunch

Andrew Keen is an Anglo-American entrepreneur, writer, broadcaster and public speaker. He is the author of the international hit “Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is Killing our Culture” which has been published in 17 different languages and was short-listed for the Higham's Business Technology Book of the Year award. As a pioneering Silicon Valley based Internet entrepreneur, Andrew founded in 1995 and built it into a popular first generation Internet music company. He is currently the...

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eBay To Announce Something Big With Facebook In Two Weeks

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 10:49 AM PDT

Send Money, Pay Online or Set Up a Merchant Account with PayPal

At 500 Startups’ Smash Summit in New York today, Robert Scoble revealed that PayPal is launching something big with Facebook in two weeks, and that it would be a more expansive partnership than the existing PayPal-Facebook integrations. This announcement is coming at eBay and PayPal’s X.commerce Innovate conference in two weeks, we’ve confirmed with the payments giant, and Katie Burke Mitic, who leads Platform Marketing for Facebook will be making an announcement. We hear the announcement will be relate of PayPal parent company eBay Inc.’s new developer platform X.commerce.

Last year, PayPal announced its new micropayments product, which Facebook integrated. In early 2010, Facebook announced that you could use PayPal to purchase Credits.

So what could the new deal or integration be? A likely possibility is a Facebook partnership on the new X.Commerce platform, which is a division of eBay, Inc. and is expected to bring together elements from eBay, PayPal, Magento and GSI Commerce. According to PayPal, X.commerce will feature a "fabric" that stitches the platform together to create new experiences for retailers and their customers. A number of partners will be announced (already Adobe and Kenshoo have been revealed as partners), so Facebook could be part of this group.

eBay and PayPal wouldn’t reveal exact details of the integration but did give us this comment from Naveed Anwar, head of X.commerce Community: “We’ve been talking for a while about how the four megatrends of mobile, social, local and digital will change commerce. Yesterday at f8, Facebook made some great announcements that will change social networking. When social and commerce join together great things will be possible and developers will be able to monetize these new developments very quickly.”

PayPal could also announce a deal similar to the one American Express formed with Facebook, which links your credit card account with Facebook to offer users special exclusive deals. If you buy the deal item with your AmEx card, you will be credited the deal amount. The deals you see are influenced by what you and your friends "like" on the Web using the Facebook like button. PayPal already offers deals but a deeper integration with the social network would help close the redemption loop.

With more retailers flocking to Facebook, and as more money is passing through the network via games, apps and others experiences, there is a huge potential for many integrations with online payments giant PayPal. Another announcement we can expect PayPal to make soon—a new payments platform for merchants and in-store payments integrations with retailers.

TechCrunch readers can receive $200 off the registration price for X.commerce Innovate Developers Conference 2011 if they register by Friday, September 30, 2011. You can register here using the code INN2011TC.

Company: PayPal
Launch Date: January 12, 1998
Funding: $197M

PayPal is an online payments and money transfer service that allows you to send money via email, phone, text message or Skype. They offer products to both individuals and businesses alike, including online vendors, auction sites and corporate users. PayPal connects effortlessly to bank accounts and credit cards. PayPal Mobile is one of PayPal’s newest products. It allows you to send payments by text message or by using PayPal’s mobile browser. PayPal created the Gausebeck-Levchin test, which is that blurry...

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Company: Facebook
Launch Date: January 2, 2004
Funding: $2.34B

Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with over 500 million users. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students. It was a huge hit: in 2 weeks, half of the schools in the Boston area began demanding a Facebook network. Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook added 30 more college networks. The original idea for the term...

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