Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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(Founder Stories) Eric Ries Tells Lean Startups: “Stop The Line So That The Line Never Stops”

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 07:30 AM PDT


In part III of Chris Dixon’s Founder Stories interview with Eric Ries, the Lean Startup author explains how Toyota’s “lean manufacturing” production model can be applied to startups.

Ries tells Dixon one of the phrases Toyota uses on the production line is “stop the line so that the line never stops.” It means “if you want to be able to sustainably have high productivity you have to stop as soon as you have a quality problem and remove it because quality problems pile up and compound… eventually you can grind your whole development organization to a halt.”

He thinks Toyota’s workflow can be applied to product development in what he calls “continuous deployment.” Relating the concept to software development Ries says teams who think they are saving time by releasing on a monthly schedule, for instance, are actually not doing so. After each rollout an inordinate amount of time is wasted fighting fires and this “takes away from your ability to do a good job on the next release.” Ries advocates for a fix it when its broke approach.

Below, Dixon asks Ries if Lean Startup principals can apply to venture capital? Ries offers that it could be advantageous for investors to make smaller, more consistent investments versus offering fewer, larger rounds—but notes the problem to this approach is “we don’t currently have any objective data about who is making progress and who is not.”

Dixon points out that large upfront rounds offer value in the sense that they provide a mental security blanket so founders can focus on building instead of continuously worrying about fundraising.

Splitting the difference, Ries thinks, “we have to figure out a way to give people that same psychological sense of comfort but still have the investors and entrepreneurs together be able to work together on creating some incentive to be able to pivot sooner.” All too often Ries say, founders build for months only to realize its too late to switch gears.

Watch the entire episode to hear to find out why Ries thinks Mark Zuckerberg defines vision. Also be sure to watch episodes I and II of this interview. Past Founder Stories episodes 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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Chris Dixon currently works as the CEO and Co-founder of Hunch. He is also a contributing writer for TechCrunch. He previously was the CEO and Co-founder of SiteAdvisor, which was acquired by McAfee. Chris is a personal investor in early-stage technology companies, including Skype, TrialPay, DocVerse, Invite Media, Gerson Lehrman Group, ScanScout, OMGPOP, BillShrink, Oddcast, Panjiva, Knewton, and a handful of other startups that are still in stealth mode. In addition to his personal investments, Chris is also a...

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Startup Japan: A Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Visits Onlab, A Young Japanese Incubator

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 06:25 AM PDT


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Brenden Mulligan, entrepreneur and creator of Onesheet, who is currently traveling around the world meeting startups with his wife and IDEO designer Elle Luna. You can follow him on Twitter here: @bmull.

Before coming to Japan, we asked everyone we knew for advice on how to connect with the startup community in Tokyo. Every recommendation pointed at the exact same place: Open Network Lab.

Open Network Lab (“Onlab”) is a Japanese startup incubator in the same vein as Y Combinator or TechStars. The incubator provides startups with mentorship, office space, and a small amount of cash in exchange for a piece of equity. This model is popular in the United States, and leading Japanese internet company Digital Garage (investors in Twitter, Path, and more) wanted to try it in Japan. Onlab is currently in its second year of operation has incubated three batches of startups. Even though it’s a young program, they are already making an noticeable impact on the Japanese startup community.

We spent our first hour talking with Hironori (Hiro) Maeda, the guy in charge of overseeing the incubator’s operations. Hiro grew up in Japan and attended an international school before going on to study computer science at Bucknell University. After college, he launched a startup of his own, and several years later was asked to return to Japan to help build and run Onlab as a way to move the Japanese entrepreneurial community forward.

But developing that community has its cultural challenges. “Launching a startup, where there is a lot of uncertainty and unsuitability, does not fit a culture where harmony and stability are strongly emphasized,” Hiro told us. “However, a lot of younger Japanese are realizing that the nation itself is at uncertainty. The employment rate of college graduates have reached the lowest point in the past decade and the Japanese earthquake has made the people in entire nation uncertain about their future. The uncertainty and the increasing interest of the success that Silicon Valley is experiencing has made more younger Japanese take bigger risks.”

This has led to a ton of interest in Onlab from both entrepreneurs and the general public. This interest doesn’t come without its hurdles, however. Even though the community is willing to take risks, Hiro says it’s just not quite ready to be as transparent as entrepreneurs in other parts of the world.

“Entrepreneurs in Japan haven’t realized the benefits of transparency and sharing information. People are afraid of sharing ideas and experiences — thinking that it is their only competitive advantage”, he said.

In more mature startup communities like Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs share their war stories on a regular basis. And they don’t hide their failures, but instead embrace them and try to help others avoid it. Hiro knows this, and is fostering the same type of communication with his startups: “We encourage failed entrepreneurs to move on to their next idea and hope that they will see their failure as an experience they can take advantage of for their next venture.”

Hiro also requires his startups to get together at least once a week to discuss ideas that have worked, tasks that they found challenging, and points in they’re development where they’re getting stuck. Although it doesn’t necessarily come naturally, it’s working. Hiro says these sessions are getting better and better and the entrepreneurs are seeing the value in openness and transparency.

And Japan is taking notice.

When we were there, national network Tokyo TV was spending the day filming the lab and talking to the startups. When they found out some people from Silicon Valley were visiting too, they asked us to sit down for an interview. Most of the questions were around whether or not Japan had the ability to compete with Silicon Valley and whether Onlab could work. Overall, my responses were that it was already working. People are learning about this community all over the world and Onlab has started to put the Japanese entrepreneurial community on the map.

We also spent a few hours talking to and mentoring the startups (listed below). Overall, the companies were on par with the types of startups you see in the Bay Area’s incubators. There was an impressive focus on design and user experience and most had well-fleshed out business models and quality prototypes. As a taste of what Onlab has been producing, here is a quick look at a few of the incubator’s current startups:

Giftee has built a platform that allows people to send each other gift certificates for physical goods. They’re responding to the gifting trend, and already have deals in place with some major brands in Japan, including Muji.

FindJPN is the AirBnB for Japanese experiences. They focus on providing a marketplace for some of the best excisions, experiences, and events that tourists to Japan can easily purchase via their website.

ABCLoop is building a language learning community that enables people help each other learn a foreign language in very short, direct interactions. The site gathers the lessons in Loops, which are conversations around a particular topic.

Pirka has built a mobile app that inspires people to help pick up litter around them, by giving users a social network to post photos of what they’ve picked up. They’ve already recorded over 20,000 pieces of trash picked up in 20 countries.

Dressful is building a social shopping network for working woman, where they are recommended new items by Dressful according to their taste profile and also by their friends through a mobile app.

Mieple is building a new way to meet people through your social connections. Think about it as LinkedIn Introductions for the entire web.

Our advice: Pay attention to what Onlab is doing and expect to see it develop and inspire a new generation of Japanese entrepreneurs.

Brenden Mulligan is a San Francisco based entrepreneur who founded ArtistData, an industry leading marketing platform that helps over 40,000 musicians syndicate content across web presences. ArtistData was acquired by Sonicbids in 2010. Currently, Brenden is working on a variety of projects, including MorningPics, PhotoPile, and several other upcoming products. He advises startups through 500Startups, ExcelerateLabs, and individually. He blogs at, and can be found on twitter @bmull. His love of travel has taken him through Southeast Asia and through...

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He Took On The Video Star, Now Kutiman Takes On Democracy

Posted: 25 Sep 2011 03:00 AM PDT


What can I say, I just dig Kutiman. I first covered the work of the Israeli-born artist back in 2009 with the release of ‘Thru You,’ a seven-track music project created by splicing and dicing YouTube clips.

It was back in March when I covered the release of a new, jazzier sounding tune of his called, ‘My Favorite Color‘.

Well, he’s back with another one of those block rockin’ beats… This time Kutiman unleashes his splice-and-dice style upon democracy. Enjoy:

If A Motorola Android Tab Leaks And It’s Just Like The Rest, Does It Really Matter?

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 09:03 PM PDT


So apparently there’s a new Xoom in the works. Big surprise, right? The old one is nearing its eight month birthday and thanks to the rapid Android aging process, it’s about as a relevant as a Handspring Visor at this point. But in all seriousness, does anyone care any more? I ask that with void of snark or sarcasm. I’m serious: Does anyone care about Honeycomb tablets anymore?

Honeycomb was supposed to be the iOS killer. It was supposed to stand-up, challenge the mighty iOS and ultimately slay the champion through a power combo of multitasking and openness. But it didn’t happen mainly because consumers don’t care about that nonsense. They want apps, which Honeycomb has very few. So here’s Android tablets now, sitting on retailers’ end-caps and shelves, huddled together, sharing the warmth of a single power brick just hoping someone will figure out how to unlock their screens.

Back to my question that’s not influenced by any nefarious bias. It was almost a given that Motorola would release a successor to the original Xoom. The original Xoom was the first Honeycomb tablet and it was supposed to be the Android faithful’s Joshua and purge the consumer landscape of the iPad insurgents. Companies don’t release a product, see what happens, and then start developing the next model. No, they map the course and what leaked today is just details about the next stop on Motorola’s Android trip.

The specs sound nice: an 8.2-inch HD IPS screen, an unnamed 1.2GHz CPU, faster RAM, Netflix HD, 1080p cam, and an IR emitter just in case you want a massive TV remote. Per ThisIsMyNext, all this comes in a casing that’s 9mm thick. That’s 0.2mm thicker than the iPad 2′s 8.8mm thickness in case that matters to you. (Hat tip to Droid-Life for the images)

But specs do not sell tablets. Most consumers are looking for a different experience than what they can get on their desktop or notebook. Without knowing it, they’re looking for lasting novelty. Sure, some consumers want multitasking, some want a tweakable interface, perhaps some out there even want a tablet with seven homescreens and an app drawer. That’s where Android tablets come in. The iPad, however, captures consumers with a slightly new paradigm in portable computing and does so with style and class.

Android tablet makers are going to steal their own revenue by following the PC notebook’s time-honored tradition of releasing new products every quarter. This upcoming Xoom model will steal sales from the original Xoom while seemingly offering nothing but a smaller casing. It will further divide the Android fanboys and ultimately dilute the appeal.

Little is really known about this next Xoom tablet. It could perhaps follow the trailblazing spirit of its predecessor by launching as the first Ice Cream Sandwich tablet, which would restart the iPad hype machine but would likely fall short again. Some commenters will no doubt cry that it’s premature declaring a product irrelevant or unwelcomed prior to its announcement, let alone release. They’ll state that we don’t have all the facts, or that this tablet could be different, or even, consumers are looking for something more than a large iPod touch. That’s what they said when I stated the BlackBerry Playbook, then called just by its codename of BlackPad, would crash and burn. (Here’s the post, but the hundreds of comments were lost when TechCrunch swallowed CrunchGear)

Look, I’m not an Android hater. I’m a very curious onlooker. I look at new Android tablets like I look at my Droid X vs the new Android phones and conclude that the new phones, say the Galaxy S II, lack any new compelling features besides the 4G radio.

Choice is good. But often, and this is coming from years of working retail, too many options overwhelm the average consumer who is just looking to get in and out of a store with the latest gadget and minimum hassle. So on one Best Buy shelve is a baker’s dozen of Android tablets, priced within a $100 of each other, all featuring nearly identical processing speeds and RAM types. Then, five feet away, is the iPad 2 advertised with its blockbuster apps where the only choice is 3G or WiFi and white or black. Apparently rather soon a new Motorola Android tablet will join its friends, but unless it features a $100 price tag, it will fail to get any attention.

Clues To Amazon’s “Prime eBooks” Loan Program Found In Kindle Code

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 04:29 PM PDT


Some forum-goers at Mobileread found evidence of something called Prime eBooks in the online Kindle code. Searching for images of the new Kindle Tablet, he instead found a variable describing something called PRIME_EBOOKS_COMPATIBLE.

There is also some text that will show up when trying to deleted a “loaned” book, specifically:

prime_active_delete = "Are you sure you want to permanently delete this loan? Doing so will return the loan and remove it from your account."

This code is distinctly different from the library loans text also found in the same app. Sadly, there was no evidence of the Kindle Tablet in the code. However, we did confirm that these loans will exist as an Amazon “Prime” subscription service, suggesting a Netflix-like method for downloading many books for a set price.

via the ebook reader

Yes, Google Drive Is Coming. For Real This Time.

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 02:51 PM PDT


About a month ago, some additions to the code in Chromium (the open source browser behind Chrome) suggested that the long-fabled “GDrive” may be on the verge of actually launching. A week later, user-facing proof started appearing. Then earlier today, sharp-eyed social media consultant, Johannes Wigand, spotted something interesting during a presentation at a Google-sponsored event: something that sure looks a lot like Google Drive.

And it is.

Over the past month, we’ve been able to dig up more information about Google Drive. First of all, it is very real. And it is being used internally at Google. Of course, it was also real back in 2007 and 2008 before it was eventually killed. But talking to employees back then who saw and used the service all agreed that it was pretty wonky and not ready for prime time. This new version is expected to be much better.

As you can see in Wigand’s picture (above, with important elements circled by me), Google Drive on the web will essentially be Google Docs rebranded. This shouldn’t be a big surprise since Google has been positioning Docs as a sort of Google Drive since early 2010. The difference is that Google specifically didn’t want to call it that at the time. Now they do.

And it makes a lot more sense. Few people are using Google Docs for online storage beyond the files they use in Docs. Most still probably don’t even realize they can. Something as simple as changing the name to Google Drive should help with that. There will also be a new “My Google Drive” area for various folders in Google Drive. There will be other Drive-specific tools as well.

But here’s the real key: there will also be native syncing software that you install on your various computers and mobile devices. Yes, like Dropbox.

This was also true back in the day with GDrive, but again, the service (codenamed: Platypus) was said to be very buggy. Now it is said to work well. If you have a document on your computer that you want to move to another one, you simply drag and drop it into this new Google Drive sync app. Or, of course, you can use the web.

We haven’t heard the timetable for the Google Drive roll-out, but we imagine it will be fairly soon. Again, Google is using this internally right now and has been for some time. One thing that Google may be waiting for is Ice Cream Sandwich, the new version of Android due next month. There may be some built-in Google Drive component to it (though that’s just me speculating). And it seems that it will be at least a part of Chrome, and more importantly, Chrome OS.

Expect Google Drive to reside at (not live yet). It’s not clear how (the current home of Docs) will be used — perhaps as the home of the word processor app or maybe it will just redirect. Also not clear is how Google will allocate storage for this service, but presumably it will be the same as they currently do for Docs/Gmail/etc. You get a certain (ever-increasing) amount for free, and if you need more, you can buy it.

Company: Google
Launch Date: July 9, 1998

Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools and platforms including: Gmail, Maps and YouTube. Most of its Web-based products are free, funded by Google’s highly integrated online advertising platforms AdWords and AdSense. Google promotes the idea that advertising should be highly targeted and relevant to users thus providing them with a rich source of information....

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Tools vs. Toys: Why The Timeline Changes Nothing

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 12:32 PM PDT

scaled.Screen Shot 2011-09-23 at 1.49.32 PM

Yesterday Erick and I had an interesting discussion about Facebook vs. Google+ and I came down on the side of G+. Why? Because tools are important, toys aren’t. Granted Facebook’s 500 million visitors a day proves me wrong in numeric terms, but in general usability and quality, I’m coming reluctantly down on the side of Google Plus.

As you well know, Facebook won the Internet with its app features and new timeline feature, a view of your data that offers a sort of time machine into the distant past. I saw pictures of my kids from years ago, their faces implike and far more natal than they are now. It was a great feeling but it lasted maybe fifteen minutes. Now Facebook is showing me a list of things that happened since I was born, a fairly impressive feat given I spent two thirds of my life without the Internet.

Google Plus, on the other hand, introduced enhanced Hang-Outs. Leave it to Google to blow its wad on productivity software. While I find the value of Google Plus dubious at best, I think hang-outs are a great tool and quite disruptive. A room that I can use to share sketches, documents, and photos? Without having to download WebEx or GotoMyPC some other garbage screen-sharing app? That’s the world I want to live in.

I like Google’s tools. They are good and strong and useful. Google Wave was great (while it lasted) and hang-outs are great for tech folks who want to work together. Their goal is the steady erosion of friction between Google’s ad product and the Internet and they do it through the release of tools that Google programmers want to use themselves.

Facebook, on the other hand, is looking for the magic trigger that will turn all those eyeballs into paying customers. Zynga seems to have solved some of the riddle by selling social games, but by releasing Timeline Facebook has clearly decided to mine the valuable content they already have – your pictures, your preferences, and your recommendations. The fact that I can now embed Rdio songs onto my timeline is very telling: add in a music feature and you’ve got a music store to rival iTunes.

This is tools vs. toys. Google gives you tools to work in the information economy while Facebook gives you the toys to play in it. I’m not sure what’s better.

I’ve come to bury Google Plus and Facebook, not to praise them. Both services are essentially time sinks designed in both cases to stroke the souls of thousands of lonely people. I use them both, to be sure, but are they changing anything with these additions? Are they improving our lot in life?

Fans of Neil Postman will recognize a bit of stridency in my voice and I feel it is justified. Just as broadcast media controlled our minds two decades ago, one-to-one media control our minds in the early 21st century. It will take a few generations for us to become immune to the siren’s call of social media and by then the technology will have moved on.

There is a certain territoriality brewing in the G+/FB wars right now and I worry that soon it will be as corrosive as the Android/iPhone fights that pit brother against brother and father against son. I’m not saying I particularly care who wins here – I could take or leave both services and neither of them has offered me anything beyond an impressive list of human beings with whom I can interact. I thank both of these services for that opportunity, certainly, but I believe I’ve talked with perhaps 100 people in my social graph online and even fewer in real life. In short, if I’m so popular why am I still lonely?

In general, however, I can see people using G+ while people simply play with Facebook. It’s an important distinction for every day men and women put away their childish things and want to get down to business. Google is there for them at least in some regard and clearly Facebook is not.

Droning On Towards A Date With Destiny?

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 11:11 AM PDT


Have you been watching the skies? I have. As the US expands its unmanned air force, and the UK plans its drone-swarm tactics, researchers are testing and demonstrating autonomous drones — ones that could “hunt, identify and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans.” (According to the author of the wonderfully-titled Army-funded study Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots, "Lethal autonomy is inevitable.") Philosophers are penning learned monographs on the ethics of drone warfare. Universities are beginning to offer degrees in unmanned autonomous vehicle design.

The US Air Force is even developing an unmanned “counter tunnel robotics.” system. Yes, that’s right, the Air Force. Which gives us this immortal quote in the linked article: “…there is perhaps also an indication here that a conceptual revolution is underway within the Air Force, where the earth itself—geological space—is seen as merely a thicker version of the sky.”

Truly, we are entering the Age of Drones. Unfortunately, the governments, militaries, and philosophers leading us there appear to be suffering from a catastrophic failure of imagination. Only nation-states wield drones as weapons right now: therefore, they seem to reason, only nation-states will ever have weaponized drones, forever and ever amen.

But in the real world, other researchers are developing hacking drones that “could build a wireless botnet or track someone via cell phone” (conceivably “even when it’s not being used to make a call.”) Meanwhile, from Chris Anderson’s DIYDrones site, I give you the awesome Dehogaflier thermal-vision pig hunter, aka: “We now have our very own predator drone”:

(This may spark memories of my previous post on the subject.)

The same university now granting UAV degrees is also perfecting drones built by 3D printers. (See also: is printing a gun the same as buying a gun?) The Parrot AR, aka the Altair 8800 of the drone world, can be controlled via a free Android or iOS app, as can Spheros. We haven’t quite gotten to hobbyist autonomous drones yet, as far as I know, but it’s only a matter of time, probably measured in months. And then it’s only a matter of time until someone packs a drone full of Semtex and a detonator, and sends it to the GPS coordinates of the home or headquarters of someone they really don’t like.

I don’t mean to be alarmist. I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone try to ban or even regulate drone technology or DIY drones. For one thing, that particular genie has long since escaped its bottle; for another, I think they’re both very cool and ultimately incredibly useful. But I’d like to see The People In Charge at least thinking about what we’re going to need to do when drone weaponry is no longer the exclusive plaything of nation-states.

UAVs, more than any technology, have the potential to entirely decouple criminals from their crimes. How do you stop mostly-3D-printed kamikaze drones from wreaking havoc? How do you even track them back to their sender(s)? I’m not pretending that I have the answers, but it worries me greatly that I hardly see anyone else asking these questions — because I think they’re going to become extremely important a lot faster than most people realize.

Gillmor Gang 9.24.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 24 Sep 2011 10:00 AM PDT

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang — John Borthwick, Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, and Steve Gillmor — talked Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, Twitter, and, oh what was that oh yes, Google+. In a post-Arrington unpaid blogger world, it seems likely the new alignments suggested by the Facebook announcements will quickly migrate across the social spectrum.

Soon we may see Spotify play the role of ABC to iCloud’s Disney, which in fact is already the case. In turn, smaller producers such as will take the role of satellite producers in much the same way Dick Wolf and the CSI producers orbit NBC and CBS respectively. Where Facebook, Twitter, and G+ stand is TBD.

@borthwick, @scobleizer, @kevinmarks, @stevegillmor

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: 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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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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