Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Tagattitude Launches “NFC2.0″ Technology (And No, It’s Not Actually NFC)

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 09:06 AM PDT

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Paris-based Tagattitude, an electronic transactions company, is today announcing the availability of something it calls “NFC2.0,” which is a software-based NFC-like service. Similar to the technology known as NFC, or near field communication, Tagattitude’s solution also lets you make contactless transactions over short distances. But with NFC2.0, no special hardware is required, and it will work on any major smartphone platform, including Android, iOS, RIM’s BlackBerry and Nokia’s Symbian.

The technology is not only technically different from NFC, a hardware-based technology, its use cases are different as well. In addition to point-of-sale (POS) transactions (the primary focus for NFC), NFC2.0 can be used for e-commerce transactions, person-to-person payments, in-app payments and more.

Tagattitude, to be clear, is not a consumer-facing technology provider, but a B2B company that works with telecoms, banks and other financial services providers. When integrated into their own solutions, NFC2.0 uses a combination of an app, an inaudible super-sonic signal, and software at the point-of-sale or point-of-transaction. The company currently supports all web-connected POS terminals and is working with NCR to support ATMs.

Although you may not have heard of them, Tagattitude has been involved in the financial services industry since 2005. The company was founded by CEO Yves Eonnet, an electronic banking expert, and Herve Manceron, an expert in telecom. It already has solutions deployed in over 30 countries worldwide, primarily developing markets where “bankless” customers pay for goods at point-of-sale, pay each other, or pay their bills using their mobile devices. In these cases, the company’s patented NSDT and TagPay technology is used. With NSDT, audible music, not super-sonic audio as on smartphones, is used to facilitate the transaction.

The new NFC2.0 technology has already been integrated into the company’s TagPay application (a demo client app is here on iTunes), Tagattitude’s mobile payments platform, previously only available for feature phones. Because the company’s customers are primarily banks or financial services institutions, there’s no change in terms of where financial data is stored. Unlike mobile wallets (NFC or otherwise), your credit card information isn’t being saved to your device – it’s on the banks’ own servers. NFC2.0 (or, in the case of feature phones, NSDT) simply connects your phone to that data using an audio signal.

Today, Tagattitude is also making an SDK available to mobile app developers who want to integrate the technology into their own applications, starting with iOS, and soon Android, expected by year-end. The other platforms will be supported by Q1 2012.



CEOs From Evernote, Adly, CloudFlare, Graphic.ly & More Join Advise.me Team

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

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Startup accelerator Advise.me is on a roll, having already increased its seed funding size and its advising team only a week after launch. Today, it’s adding six more high-profile executives to the team, including CEOs from notable startups like Evernote, Adly, CloudFlare, Graphic.ly and more.

Today’s new additions include the following:

Advise.me, whose "Global Startup Initiative“ program encourages companies from all parts of the world to apply, has now received more than 400 applications from interested companies. That’s 200 more than it had received by the end of September. 200 every 2 weeks? Not bad, not bad at all.

The organization will reveal its first company on Tuesday, but it’s a company Advise.me is building itself. (Hmm?) Stay tuned.


Company: Advise.me
Website: advise.me

Advise.me's program is offering a slightly different take on startup advising than some of the others in the space. Instead of a classroom approach, each startup receives one-on-one support from a team of 2 to 7 industry experts who have experience that's relevant to the startup they're paired with. That not only improves the quality of the advice the team can give, but the advisors can also help startups by connecting founders to the appropriate industry contracts.

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Former Salesforce CTO Craig Weissman Joins Benchmark As EIR; Will Focus On Big Data Opportunities

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 08:59 AM PDT

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After Accel nabbed Salesforce exec and Chatter creator Chuck Ganapathi as EIR a few months ago, another Salesforce exec is heading to the venture world. Craig Weissman, Salesforce’s former CTO, is joining Benchmark Capital as its latest Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

Weissman, whose focus on Benchmark will be in the enterprise and big data space, has been working in enterprise software for the past 16 years. For the past eight years, Weissman has been a key engineering lead for the CRM giant, joining the company when it only had 10 developers in 2002.

As CTO, Weissman oversaw the technical direction of all of Salesforce.com’s products including the enterprise Cloud Computing platform Force.com as well as the company’s other products Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Database.com, and Chatter. In fact, Weissman says he built much of Force.com.

Prior to Salesforce, Weissman worked at data warehousing and enterprise company Epiphany, He was one of the early engineers and was the architect of the company’s metadata and configuration system and a designer of its query engine. In fact, it was Weissman’s work at Epiphany that first caught Benchmark General Partner Peter Fenton’s eye.

Fenton says that for the EIR position, the firm is bullish on bringing in great technical, hungry founders and talent and providing them with the autonomy and resources to create a company of importance. For example, current Facebook CTO and former Googler Brett Taylor was an EIR at Benchmark when he began to develop FriendFeed.

Fenton says that Weissman fits this mold perfectly, brining extensive insight into the architectures of software and modern cloud-based applications. Not only will Weissman be able to create a valuable new company, he explains, but his experience and knowledge will also be immediately valuable to the majority of our portfolio companies.

As for what Weissman plans to develop, he says that as a “data guy” he’s inherently interested in exploring how companies can use data more strategically. “There’s a new class of applications based on data warehousing technology, and most enterprise software revolves around a database,” he explains. There are a number of areas where innovation is possible, says Weissman, including where this data is located and what will allow the enterprise to process massive amounts of data.

Specifically, Weissman says that he is intrigued by the vertical approach to creating a company, and is exploring ways in which these data technologies can be used in particular areas of the enterprise.



Care.com Raises $25 Million

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 08:43 AM PDT

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Exactly 12 months after announcing that it had raised $20 million in financing, Care.com this morning revealed in a filing with the SEC (via FormDs.com) that it has secured another $25 million in funding. The round of new funding brings the company’s total capital raised to about $58.5 million.

Investors in Care.com include VC firms New Enterprise Associates, Matrix Partners and Trinity Ventures, but it’s worth noting LinkedIn founder and prolific angel investor Reid Hoffman also participated in the company’s Series A round back in 2007.

Care.com is a community website for families and ‘hundreds of thousands’ of care providers to connect, share caregiving experiences, and obtain advice about topics like child care, special needs care, tutoring, senior care, pet care, housekeeping and whatnot.

Care.com provides mom-reviewed profiles, messaging, access to background checks, recorded references, and educational information on the caregiver interviewing process.

The company was founded in 2006 by female entrepreneur Sheila Lirio Marcelo.


Company: Care.com
Website: care.com
Launch Date: January 10, 2006
Funding: $33.5M

Founded in 2006, Care.com is the largest and fastest growing service used by families to find high-quality caregivers, providing a trusted place to easily connect, share caregiving experiences and get advice. The company addresses the unique lifecycle of care needs that each family goes through-child care, special needs care, tutoring and lessons, senior care, pet care, housekeeping and more. The service helps families find and select the best care available based on detailed profiles, background checks and references for...

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Lenovo Updates Its HTPC Remote, Adds Backlit Keys And Optical Trackpad

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 08:26 AM PDT

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The Lenovo Multimedia Remote was an almost instant classic. Finally, HTPC buffs thought, a remote for us. And for the most part, the remote/controller did the job and filled a huge void when it was released in 2009. The company is back with another incarnation. Don’t fret, though. Lenovo didn’t start anew. There are several notable changes that seem all for the better.

Lenovo slightly reworked the keyboard, opting for a backlit version and better looking media playback buttons. The right and left buttons are better defined and for better or worse, an optical trackpad now sits in place of the trackball. Like the previous model, wireless connectivity is handled by a USB receiver operating on a 2.4GHz signal. Two AA batteries power the remote and should provide up to 3 months of battery life.

The whole thing is packaged in the same housing as the previous model. However, gone is the glossy finish that loved fingerprints and is replaced by a pleasant matte finish with a chrome band around the keypad. The new remote should be available later this month for the same $60 price as the old version.


Company: Lenovo
Website: lenovo.com
Launch Date: October 12, 1984
IPO: LNVGY

Lenovo Group Limited, an investment holding company, engages manufacture and distribution of IT products and services. It offers laptops, desktops, workstations, servers, batteries and power, docks and port replicators, carrying cases, software, monitors, touch-screen devices, and printers. The company also provides accessories and upgrades, such as audio and video, cables and adapters, carrying cases, keyboards and mice, memory, projectors, security, storage, and wireless and networking products. In addition, it involves in the property holding and property management, procurement agency,...

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IBM Announces New SmartCloud Services, Partnership With Nirvanix

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT

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IBM has today expanded its cloud computing services for enterprise with the launch of new IBM SmartCloud services. These new offerings include SmartCloud Application Services, IBM’s new PaaS for enterprise, a portfolio of hardware and software called SmartCloud Foundation, and SmartCloud Ecosystem, which includes new services for IBM partners and ISVs.

The company plans to support around 200 million users by the end of 2012.

IBM says that it has ported SAP, ERP and all database applications to its SmartCloud platform. With its new services, it can now automate labor-intensive tasks associated with running SAP in the cloud, specifically SAP cloning, refreshes and patching. In some cases, IBM says the time savings can go from months or weeks to days or hours, depending on the task.

Also announced today is a new partnership with Nirvanix, a cloud storage company. Going forward, Nirvanix’s cloud storage technology will be integrated into IBM’s SmartCloud Enterprise storage services, allowing customers to upload files of any size, anywhere in the world, and access them from anywhere. The storage-as-a-service offering can support millions of users, billions of objects and exabytes of data.

Meanwhile, IBM’s new platform-as-a-service offering, SmartCloud Application Services (SCAS) will launch into beta this year (Q4), offering enterprise–grade security, open Java and cross-platform support with no vendor lock-in, and a comprehensive set of application infrastructure and managed services to enable development and deployment of applications to the cloud. It will run on IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise and Enterprise+ - the enterprise-class infrastructure-as-a-platform specifically designed to run enterprise workloads at committed SLAs (service level agreements). IBM SmartCloud Enterprise+ is available in the U.S., and will be deployed worldwide by the end of 2012.

Lastly, the new SmartCloud Foundation family of private cloud solutions aims to help companies quickly design and deploy private cloud environments, and includes SmartCloud Entry, prepackaged private cloud software, plus SmartCloud provisioning and monitoring software.


Company: IBM
Website: ibm.com
Launch Date: October 12, 1896
IPO: NYSE:IBMm

IBM, acronym for International Business Machines, is a multinational computer technology and consulting corporation. The company is one of the few information technology companies with a continuous history dating back to the 19th century. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and offers infrastructure services, hosting services, and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology.

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Backend Service Provider StackMob Comes To Android

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 07:58 AM PDT

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StackMob, the backend service provider for mobile developers, has big news today: it’s now available on Android. With today’s launch (still in private beta – see below for invites), StackMob will extend full access to its services to Android developers, including an open-sourced Android SDK and support for Android Push Notifications.

The platform, which MG Siegler once dubbed the “Heroku for Mobile” (before StackMob partnered with Heroku!), is a cloud-based system that aims to address all the backend needs of mobile developers, including social integration, storage, messaging, API creation, analytics, monetization and more. It’s a flexible, scalable solution that even allows developers to add complex logic to their app using custom code, if need be.

The new Android SDK offers the same features as the iOS SDK, Co-founder Ty Amell explains, meaning developers can just send push notifications to a given user by username, and not have to worry about what device they’re using at the time. StackMob will handle that part.

The push notifications feature works on Android devices running 2.2 and up with this release, which Amell says accounts for around 78% of devices on the Android platform.

Developers interested in signing up for the StackMob private beta for Android can do so from here: http://www.stackmob.com/tc-android. There are 300 slots available.

Going forward, StackMob plans to further build out its analytics system with more detailed app analytics and API analytics, we’re told. It recently overhauled its backend, changing the architecture from a proprietary system to the open source Flume, mainly because the company likes to support open source and because…well, why built your own system where there’s one you can use? The company still hasn’t publicly announced what its pricing situation will be when it exits private beta, but developers in the private beta can test the platform for free.

StackMob previously raised $7.5 million in May in a round led by Trinity Ventures, with participation from existing investors, Harrison Metal and Baseline Ventures. It now has 15 employees based in San Francisco, but is looking to hire more.


Company: StackMob
Website: stackmob.com
Funding: $7.5M

StackMob is fundamentally changing the state of mobile application development. StackMob provides a complete backend technology stack for mobile applications, enabling developers to build feature-rich mobile applications easier and faster than ever before — all on a fully hosted and managed platform. StackMob lets developers focus on creating differentiating value in their applications instead of spending valuable resources re-inventing the wheel with backend development.

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Viber Adds Photo, Location Sharing Abilities To Its Android, iPhone Apps

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 07:54 AM PDT

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Viber Media, maker of fine Android and iPhone applications that let you call and text your buddies for free, is today releasing upgraded apps for both aforementioned platforms.

Viber 2.1 comes with a fresh voice engine, providing users with HD-quality VoIP calling and improvements of call quality when calls are made over low-bandwidth networks.

Also new is the ability to share photos, enabling users to exchange picture messages by adding new or previously taken photos to texts, or sending photos by email or via Facebook. In addition, Viber is introducing location-tagged messages that allow users to identify their whereabouts to recipients.

Turning the latter feature on and off can be done simply by tapping the location icon.

Finally, Viber has made some minor changes to the app’s user interface, including the introduction of ‘landscape’ support for messages, and a new option to send a text message when a user is busy or doesn’t answer a call, among other improvements.

Viber, which first launched its iPhone app 10 months ago, says over 30 million users have registered for the service to date, and roughly 18 million users actively use its apps on a monthly basis.


Company: Viber
Website: viber.com

Viber is an application for iPhone® and Android™ phones that lets you make free phone calls and send text messages to anyone who also has the application installed.

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Company: Viber Media
Website: viber.com
Launch Date: January 2, 2010

Viber is an iPhone application (Android and Blackberry versions coming soon!) that lets you make free phone calls to other iPhone users that have Viber installed. When you use Viber, your phone calls to any other Viber user are free, and the sound quality is much better than a regular call. You can call any Viber user, anywhere in the world, for free. All Viber features are 100% FREE and do not require any additional “in application” purchase. Viber is...

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HelloFax Is On The March Towards The Paperless Office

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 07:46 AM PDT

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Raise your hand if you love your printer. For most of us, printing is a chore to be avoided at all costs. Faxing is even worse. Who even still owns a fax machine? Okay, if your hand is still raised, you can stop reading. Everyone else, rest assured that the long-promised paperless office is on its way to becoming a reality. There are still a few holdouts who keep dragging the rest of us back to printers, scanners, and fax machines for contracts, legal documents, and HR forms (hello, AOL!). At this point, whenever you have to print, scan, or fax a document, that creates friction. One startup trying to eliminate that friction is HelloFax.

Don’t let the name fool you. HelloFax is more than just about digitizing faxes. The Y Combinator company launched in February as a way to send and receive faxes via email, as well as sign documents electronically. It now stores 20,000 electronic signatures on behalf of its users, and handles tens of thousands of documents a month. Starting today, users can request electronic signatures through the service as well, which should help create more viral growth (if someone requests your signature, you have to use Hellofax to sign the document). But these are just the first of many steps.

“We are tackling the paper problem,” says CEO Joseph Walla. “If you want to go paperless you need all of this hardware and software to make it happen.” He is going after faxing first and making it easy to sign documents in the browser (HelloFax converts back and forth from 30 different file types, and delivers it as a fax if that is required on the other end). Think of it as a cross between eFax and EchoSign or DocuSign. But even if you get rid of your fax machine, sometimes you still have to print, sign, and scan documents. What if you could get rid of those as well?

In order for the paperless office to become a reality, these friction points need to be eliminated. “The next major part of the puzzle will be scanning,” says Walla. He is working on mobile apps that will turn your phone into a scanner and upload the documents to HelloFax. Document storage and search in the cloud will follow. “The big vision is that we become a repository for all of your important documents,” reveals Walla. Right now, HelloFax works with DropBox and an integration with Box.net is under way.

Already, one-third of all signed documents going through HelloFax go through email. The company charges for sending faxes (the first 20 are free) and requesting signatures. TechCrunch readers who sign up here through Friday can get a 50 percent discount on the subscription plans) which normally range from $5 to $70 a month). The company is targeting lawyers, accountants, realtors, and other small businesses, as well as internal departments in larger corporations where nothing gets done unless a half-dozen people literally “sign off” on something. Y Combinator is using the service for all of its legal documents, and partner “Paul Buchheit has stopped using a printer, scanner and fax machine all together,” reports Walla.

So why limit the name to HelloFax? For Walla, it is about awareness and customer acquisition. He says that there are 16 million searches a month for the word “fax,” versus only a few hundred thousand for “electronic signature” and 18,000 for “paperless office.” If the name turns out to be too limiting, he already owns the domains for Hello Contract, Hello Signature, and Hello Document.


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Company: EchoSign
Website: echosign.com
Funding: $8.5M

EchoSign is an Electronic Signature and contract management company helping you keep you get all your documents signed online. The company is a direct competitor to DocuSign which took a substantial round of financing in the summer of 2007. EchoSign fired back with a second round of $6 million and partnerships with CRM powerhouse Salesforce.com, NetSuite, SAP, WebEx and Zoho. Salesforce.com named EchoSign to the “Best Apps of 2010”, “Best Apps of 2009” and “Best Apps of 2008”, as...

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Company: DocuSign
Website: docusign.com
Funding: $56.4M

DocuSign, Inc. is the market leader and global standard for electronic signature. DocuSign provides the world's largest and fastest growing electronic signature platform, empowering businesses to complete transactions online quickly and securely while improving compliance and reducing costs. DocuSign is the only cloud computing-based electronic signature platform that entirely replaces slow, expensive paper transactions with a fast, efficient and completely digital solution. Accessible from any Internet-connected device, DocuSign supports virtually any document and form type in simple and complex workflows,...

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The iOS Newsstand Is Open For Business

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 07:26 AM PDT

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Folks who have upgraded to iOS 5 will note that the iOS Newsstand is now running and available as a standalone app. If you’ve already downloaded any of Apple’s official magazines – most Conde Nast titles are using Apple’s own service, for example – the magazines will now appear within the newsstand and the standalone apps will disappear from the desktop.

Non-newsstand magazines like the Economist remain as standalone apps although you willmay not be able to buy or subscribe to content through them. UPDATE – The folks at the Economist told me they are using Apple’s subscription service but have opted out of the Newsstand.

Apple announced this functionality last February with the launch of iOS 5. The move force content providers who wanted to sell content through their apps to give 30% of their revenue to Apple, leading to changes in almost every ebook and magazine app. Apps that use the subscribe feature must pay their cut while apps like Kindle and Nook have circumvented it by creating web-based purchasing systems and, in Amazon’s case, a web-based ereader.

As an emagazine convert, I love me some newsstand and I love being able to perform in-app purchases. However, I’d be more than willing to eschew them in order to get cheaper books and magazines. That said, the newsstand is clearly no walled garden as content producers can go either way and, more important, the experience is seamless to the end user.

That said, if you woke up today missing your fix of Wired’s rarely timely but always interesting tech news, now you know where your ecopy of the emagazine ewent.


Company: Apple
Website: apple.com
Launch Date: January 4, 1976
IPO: October 12, 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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Samsung Crashes Australian iPhone Line With $2 Galaxy S IIs

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 07:01 AM PDT

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Never let it be said that Samsung doesn’t know how to pull a good publicity stunt. Samsung has set up shop just two doors down from the Sydney Apple Store (and the growing iPhone 4S line) and is selling their flagship Galaxy S II handset for a scant $2.

There is, however, a catch: Samsung is only selling their ridiculously-priced phones to the first ten people through the door each morning. As you can imagine, this has caused quite a few Android fans and bargain hunters to line up in front of the pop-up store in hopes of scoring some excellent hardware on the cheap. Their motives are mixed: aome are in desperate need to upgrade their ailing handsets, while others are looking to sell their GSIIs in order to pick up some much needed cash.

One might imagine that having two diametrically-opposed lines so close to each other could get a bit dicey, but all we’re seeing so far is a bit of friendly ribbing. See? Android users and iPhone fans may be able coexist peacefully after all.

Given Samsung and Apple’s contentious relationship in Australia, it’s not exactly a surprise to see Samsung trying to steal some of Apple’s thunder there. The pop-up store is definitely a hit-and-run sort of operation, as Samsung apparently has no plans to keep the store open after this Friday. Still, credit where credit is due, Samsung has some chutzpah to pull a move like this.



The Wopad V7+ Tablet Is All About Angry Birds

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 06:38 AM PDT

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If you at all thought that the Angry Birds phenomenon was fizzling out… well, you were wrong. Rovio itself is doing plenty to make the brand “as iconic as Nintendo’s Mario or Mickey Mouse,” with cookbooks and new games and plush toys galore. But even outside of the company, Angry Birds is still a hit. Over in China, the Shenzhen Technology Co. built a tablet specifically for Angry Birds fiends: the Wopad V7+.

The limited edition Angry Birds-themed Wopads actually come in three versions: V7, V8, and V10, each representing screen size. Past that, the innards are all the same, according to McBub.

Try as you might, you won’t find one nook or cranny on this device without some Angry Birds content baked in. It comes with just about every addition of Angry Birds, including Angry Birds Rio, and offers up Angry Birds-themed wallpapers and ringtones, along with other AB-related apps.

The Wopad V7+ touts a 1GHz processor, a five-point 800×480 capacitive touchscreen, Android 2.3, 512MB of RAM with 4GB of internal storage, support for HDMI out, and 1080p video playback. All in all, it seems like the perfect toy for anyone bold enough to call themselves a Mighty Eagle.

This is definitely not an official Rovio product, but we’re still waiting to see whether or not Rovio signed off on the branding. We’ll update you as soon as we know.


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Website Translation Service Smartling Debuts New Self-Service Platform

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 06:30 AM PDT

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Realtime website translation service Smartling is debuting a new self service version of its platform that caters to small businesses as well as large companies.

Smartling offers a large, scale SEO-friendly realtime translation service for websites. The company has a hybrid model which allows you to pick between professional translators, machine translations, and crowdsourced translations.

New features in the platform include a style guide, a "learning" glossary of term for translators, SEO
compliance for all translated pages and crowdsourced management tools. Smartling also offers an enterprise plan for highly trafficked and complex sites that includes API access, SSL support, and additional training and integration services. Companies like Foursquare, IMVU, Scribd and SurveyMonkey have all used Smartling for their translations.

Smartling, which just raised $10 million in new funding, also recently partnered with CloudFlare to allow the web security startup’s users to enable translations.



Sprint To Sell The iPhone 4S With Unlocked MicroSIM Slot

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 06:13 AM PDT

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It’s beginning to look like CDMA iPhone 4S customers may have the edge when it comes to international roaming. Macworld reports that Sprint will be selling their version of the iPhone 4S with an unlocked MicroSIM card slot right out of the gate.

That’s right: no arguing with CSRs and no warranty-voiding unlock procedures. It would seem that since Sprint knows you’re bound to them for two years anyway, they’re more than happy to keep sending you bills while you’re living in up in Mallorca.

The news is sure to please seasoned international travelers, as now all it takes is a foreign MicroSIM card (or a full-sized one and a bit of ingenuity) to dodge those hefty roaming charges. Sure, tracking down a fresh SIM card whenever you touch down in a foreign airport takes a little extra work, but I like to think the savings outweigh the hassle.

The only thing that’s still up in the air is whether or not a Sprint iPhone will play nice with a domestic AT&T or T-Mobile SIM card. Macworld’s Jason Snell believes it’s solely for international roaming, and I’d be inclined to agree, but we’ll have our answer when someone inevitably tries it this Friday.

Meanwhile, Verizon has also confirmed the availability of unlocked iPhone 4Ss, albeit with a catch. Avid travelers can wait 60 days after purchasing their shiny new iPhone, after which Verizon will unlock the phone’s GSM capabilities. It’s not a huge surprise from Verizon — it’s long been part of their policy for the few CDMA/GSM phones they had — but it’s a certainly a welcome one.



Crowdsourced Learning Platform Udemy Raises $3 Million From Lightbank And Others

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 05:58 AM PDT

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Groupon investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell have led a $3 million Series A vote in Udemy, an online platform that allows anyone to host and learn from online classes. 500 Startups and MHS Capital also participated in the round.

Competing with Lynda.com, Udemy offers classes ranging from “Product Developement at Facebook” to “14-Day Total Yoga Body: Lose Weight, Detox and Tone, Fast!” to Eric Ries’ “The Lean Startup” talks and way way more. The platform presently boasts over 6,000 free and paid courses.

“We only make money if our instructors make money,” co-founder Gagan Biyani says, explaining how the company monetizes despite its numerous free offerings — by a 30% cut on top of all paid courses. “As this world of education enters online, our vision is to let anyone enter that marketplace, in the same way that blogging let anyone with a computer publish online,” Biyani asserts.

Biyani plans on using the new financing to hire new staff to primarily focus on marketing and business development. “We’re just focused on growing the user base,” he says. Good luck.


Company: Udemy
Website: udemy.com
Funding: $1M

Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, easy and free to create online courses. Udemy is an open platform, so anyone can build an online course by posting videos, presentations, writing blog posts, or hosting live virtual classroom sessions. Udemy Live is Udemy’s live virtual conferencing and classroom tool. It is entirely web-based and built on component architecture. Each component was built separately, and there...

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HP Flails Further Into Irrationality By Offering Printer Spam

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 05:58 AM PDT

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Now that HP has sufficiently disgraced the vision of Mssrs. Hewlett and Packard, they continued to gyrate wildly into odd business that no one wants. To wit: in a joint press release with Condé Nast, the company is offering two odd consumer-facing propositions. First, they’re going to charge you $5.99-$10 a month to subscribe to a replacement ink service, called Instant Ink. When your printer runs low, it will send a message to Meg Whitman who will personally ship you a new cartridge. Considering ink cartridges already contain less than $5.99 of ink and parts, it’s a bum deal all around but, also considering HP jacks the prices up on ink enormously, I suppose if you’re mad about printing this may work out. Oddly, I don’t see anyone spending $60-$120 on ink cartridges per printer per year (unless HP jacks up prices even more).

But wait! There’s more! Condé Nast, everyone’s favorite magazine producer that is fading into irrelevancy, is teaming up with HP to push magazine content to your printer whenever the publisher darn well feels like it. When you subscribe to Allure, Details, Epicurious, Glamour, Golf Digest, Self, or Wired, the C Nasty will send you pages of content that in thinks you should see. It’s like the Internet, but on paper!

Oddly this idea isn’t new. They tried it in 2008 and 2010 and also gave it a go with their Presto print service for the aged. However, this time they’ll get it right.

"Our work with Condé Nast creates a new channel for customers to access the content they want from some of their favorite publications," said Stephen Nigro, senior vice president, Inkjet and Web Solutions, Imaging and Printing Group, HP. "And, when coupled with our scheduled delivery service, allows customers to get the content they want, whenever they want it."

This is kind of like the gas station down the street offering you cheaper gas and then hopping in your car at night to drive it around the beltway a few times to keep your tank low. Condé Nast already spams the heck out of the world and wastes resources on their glossy lifestyle rags so why do we need more of their content printed on matte paper spooling out of our HP printers? And why is HP crowing this announcement in the same press release it notes that its ink is already wildly expensive? Perhaps we’ll never know.



Google’s Fruitless Attempts To Secure Goggle.com

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 05:53 AM PDT

goggle

Last August, Google filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum to finally get a hold of the domains names goggle.com, goggle.net and goggle.org (don’t visit these). Yesterday, the organization dismissed its claims.

That doesn’t mean the owner of the domain names – a shady company called Goggle.com Inc. – should break out the champagne just yet, though.

The Internet search and advertising giant’s complaint in itself is interesting. Apparently, Google isn’t merely claiming that the disputed domain names are ‘confusingly similar’ to its trademark and that they currently lead to a website that hosts a phishing scam, but also that it had previously entered into a confidential settlement agreement with the former owner of the domain names.

I’m lifting the relevant parts from the Forum’s decision (which you can also find here) and copying them below, with emphasis added. Note that the complainant is Google; the respondent is Goggle.com Inc:

Complainant states that it had previously filed a UDRP proceeding against the original registrant of the disputed domain names. Complainant states that the parties entered into a confidential settlement agreement and the proceeding was dismissed. Complainant further states that since the domain names have been subsequently transferred to a third-party with whom it has no prior dealings, the agreement was not set forth in the Complaint. Those trademark rights, in any event, predate the transfer to Respondent.

Complainant contends that the disputed domain names are confusingly similar to Complainant's GOOGLE mark. Those domain names contain a misspelled version of the GOOGLE mark where the domain names simply replace the letter "o" with the letter "g" and add a generic top-level domain ("gTLD").

Complainant contends that it has not authorized Respondent to use or register the disputed domain names. Further, Complainant argues that Respondent is not commonly known by the disputed domain names even though the WHOIS information indicates that the registrant is "Goggle.com, Inc." because an Internet search does not return any results for that company name as a legitimate business.

Complainant further argues that Respondent cannot claim to be offering legitimate goods and services through the domain names because it is diverting Internet users to a website that intends to copy the look and feel of Complainant's website and deceiving users into signing up for expensive text messaging plans. Complainant contends that such use is invariably a "phishing" scam in which Respondent receives the personal and financial information of unsuspecting Internet users, and turns around to turn a profit with such information. Further, Complainant submits screen shot evidence to show that the website resolving from the domain name looks and feels just like Complainant's official website while using a close variation of Complainant's logos.

Complainant alleges that Respondent gained possession of the disputed domain names in 2007 or early 2008. Complainant argues that Respondent acquired the domain names in order to effectuate some kind of phishing scheme in which Internet users are made offers for devices such as an "iPad 2" so long as they give personal information and sign up for text message plans for cellular phones.

Goggle Inc., meanwhile, asserts that it purchased the domain names in good faith and on reliance of a previously signed ‘Co-existence Agreement’, which would mean rights transferred to the company when they bought the domain names.

They also state that ‘goggle’ is a real word that has nothing to do with Google’s trademark, and that Google “does not have an exclusive monopoly on the term on the Internet”. They also note that Google’s possible motive in bringing this UDRP claim is “that it has recently launched a new mobile service called Google Goggles”. From the NAF decision (emphasis mine):

Respondent asserts that it purchased and registered the domain names in good faith and on reliance of the Co-existence Agreement. Respondent attaches the Co-existence Agreement (between Complainant and Knowledge Associates, the original registrant) and a Purchase and Assignment Agreement (between the original registrant and a company identified as 1158860 Alberta, Ltd).

Further, Respondent submits a letter, which was sent to Complainant before the purchase giving Complainant the right of first refusal as required under the terms of the Co-existence Agreement. Respondent states that it purchased the domain names from the original registrant based upon the Co-existence Agreement that was expressly placed within the Purchase and Assignment agreement, and that it has followed the required sections of that agreement. Lastly, Respondent states that the very terms of the Co-existence Agreement expressly and specifically contemplated such a future sale of the domain names and permitted such, so long as certain aspects of the agreement were also agreed to by the new purchaser.

Respondent argues that the domain names all contain the separate and unique term "goggle," and cannot be found to be confusingly similar to Complainant's good mark. Further, Respondent references the Co-existence Agreement that states, "the word goggle will not be considered as a misspelling of the word google."

Respondent argues that the term “goggle” of the domain names is a real and separate word from Complainant's mark, therefore permitting the Panel to find that the domain names are not confusingly similar to Complainant's mark.

Respondent also references the Complaint that states that "the manner in which Respondent is using the Domain Names" is the issue here. Respondent contends that such a statement is an admission by Complainant that the domain names are not similar to the GOOGLE mark, and that Complainant is trying to prove confusing similarity by bringing in Respondent's use of the domain name instead of an objective analysis of the mark's and the domain names' similarities.

Respondent argues that, contrary to Complainant's assertions, it is in fact known as "Goggle" because its corporate name is "Goggle.com, Inc.," and that it has carried out business under this name for nearly four years. Respondent submits its corporate registration as part of its annexes to show that it is in fact registered as a business under the "Goggle.com, Inc." name. Respondent further notes that its banking information is under the "Goggle.com Inc." name and that it receives all payments from third-party advertisers under its corporate name.

Respondent contends that it is using the disputed domain names in the same manner as the previous registrant did for advertising and marketing solicitations. Respondent argues that such uses were known, accepted, and condoned by Complainant before it signed the Co-existence Agreement with the prior registrant. Respondent notes that it is able to conduct the same type of business activity under the disputed domain names because the Co-existence Agreement that Complainant signed contemplated such use by future purchasers.

Respondent contends that Complainant's recent objection about the recent use of "an arguably similar graphic logo" does not nullify Respondent's long-standing use of the domain names for its advertising and marketing solicitations. Respondent also states that it removed the allegedly infringing logo from its website since that time, and that it has only been used for a short period of time. Respondent maintains that it has not violated the terms of the Co-existence Agreement, and that it has rights in the domain names.

Respondent also argues that the term “goggle” of the disputed domain names is common and generic, and therefore, Complainant does not have an exclusive monopoly on the term on the Internet.

Respondent alleges that Complainant has acted in bad faith and is engaging in reverse domain name hijacking by initiating this dispute. Respondent contends that Complainant is attempting to deprive Respondent, the rightful, registered holder of the disputed domain names, of its rights to use those names.

Respondent contends that Complainant buried the fact of the existence of the Co-existence Agreement. The only reference to the fact of its existence was hidden away in the only footnote to its entire 15-page Complaint.

Respondent notes that the terms of the Co-existence Agreement were all followed, and that Complainant had the right to purchase the domain names per that agreement and chose to let Respondent register them instead. Respondent further notes that Complainant's possible motive in bringing this UDRP claim is that it has recently launched a new mobile service called "Google Goggles," and wishes to use the domain names for its own gain.

Therefore, Respondent contends that Complainant knew at the time of filing this Complaint that Respondent did not register or use the domain names in bad faith.

The three-person National Arbitration Forum panel that made the decision to dismiss the case aren’t necessarily agreeing with either party. Rather, the panel says it declines jurisdiction in the matter and suggests national courts are better equipped to handle such ‘contractual or business disputes’.

I suspect Google will indeed be taking this to court next.

To be continued, sadly.


Company: Google
Website: google.com
Launch Date: July 9, 1998
IPO: NASDAQ:GOOG

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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TaskRabbit Gets A New CEO, Eric Grosse

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 05:42 AM PDT

Consumer task marketplace TaskRabbit is changing CEOs this morning, going from co-founder and IBM coder Leah Busque to former Hotwire CEO Eric Grosse.

When I visited them both earlier this week, Grosse seemed confident in the company’s (and his) new direction, "Much like travel helped turbo charge e-commerce back in early days — the late ’90s and early 2000s — I really think [that's] what TaskRabbit is up to here. The broader concept of collaborative consumption is going to be a very big part of how the next decade unfolds.”

If anyone isn’t quote clear on what Taskrabbit does, here is a pretty in-depth article #humblebrag.  The company currently is riding off of $6.85 million  in funding from First Round Capital, Shasta Ventures, among others. Best of luck to you Eric. 


Company: TaskRabbit
Website: taskrabbit.com
Launch Date: October 12, 2011
Funding: $6.85M

TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that helps people live smarter by allowing them to outsource their errands and tasks. A flexible, on-demand delivery network, TaskRabbit also partners with local businesses looking to expand their reach and revenue at no cost. Although now exclusively in the greater Boston and SF Bay area, TaskRabbit is preparing to expand into additional markets.

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DNAnexus Raises $15 Million, Teams With Google To Host Massive DNA Database

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 05:01 AM PDT

image013_narrow-fp-04092fc544b8268f8a536ab3ce619351

It was only a few years ago that 23andMe and other personal genomics companies began to fulfill the futurisitic promise of allowing consumers to test their own DNA for hundreds (rather than hundreds of thousands) of dollars. And now it won’t be long until these screens become far more exhaustive, with such tests comprising your entire genome, rather than just specific portions of it.

Society still has plenty of thinking to do when it comes to the privacy and ethical issues involved — but from a straight logistical perspective there’s another thing we need to consider: every person’s DNA sequence represents a huge chunk of data spanning hundreds of gigabytes.

Today a company called DNAnexus is announcing that it’s raised $15 million from Google Ventures and TPG Biotech to help help scientists and genome-related services host and manage this data. Also participating in the round are First Round Capital, SoftTech VC, K9 Ventures, and Felicis Ventures. As pat of the deal, Google Ventures partner Krishna Yeshwant will be joining the company’s board, as will TPG Biotech partner and managing director Geoff Duyk.

In addition to the funding, the company is also announcing a key partnership: it’s's teamed with Google to give a long-term home to the Short/Sequence Read Archive (SRA) database. This immense dataset, which spans 400 terabytes at this point, includes publically available whole-genome sequences that scientists can use for research purposes. The data has previously been housed by the government at the NCBI, but federal cuts mean that organization can no longer shoulder the burden, which is where DNA Nexus and Google are stepping in.

I spoke with CEO Andreas Sundquist for some time about the longer-term vision of DNAnexus. Sundquist says that DNAnexus wants to provide the underlying infrastructure for managing our DNA in the future. At this point it’s still unclear what that will entail — we don’t know, for example, whether our doctors are going to be managing our DNA profiles, or whether consumers will be responsible for them. But either way, DNAnexus wants to help power these databases and services.

Of course, when you’re looking to host the world’s DNA profiles, privacy is a major concern. Sundquist says that the the company has a heavy focus on maintaining both security and privacy, with an approach that uses Google’s underlying technology as a base and expands beyond it. I’m guessing that if this does take off, we’ll see further government-mandated security measures and audits.


Company: DNAnexus
Website: dnanexus.com
Funding: $1.55M

DNAnexus is a Palo Alto, California-based maker of software used to manage data gathered from DNA sequencing processes.

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Over Melting Danger: Sony Recalls 1.6 Million BRAVIA TVs

Posted: 12 Oct 2011 03:14 AM PDT

Sony-Bravia

Second bad news for Sony today: Following the hack attempts at three of their networks, the company today announced [JP] that it will recall a total of 1.6 million BRAVIA LCD TV sets sold in Japan and other regions. The problem is a backlight component inside the TVs that could overheat and make the upper casing melt.

The eight TVs in question were sold after 2007. Here are the model numbers: KDL-40D3400, KDL-40D3500, KDL-40D3550, KDL-40D3660, KDL-40V3000, KDL-40W3000, KDL-40X3000 and KDL-40X3500.

A Sony spokeswoman told Bloomberg that a total of eleven incidents were reported in Japan since 2008. In this country, Sony started selling five of the TVs affected by the recall in September 2007 (using the model numbers KDL-40X5000/40X5050/40W5000/40V5000/40V3000).

Just 189,000 of the BRAVIAs were sold within Japan, meaning most of the users affected by the recall are probably located in the US and Europe. Sony claims that outside no incidents outside Japan were reported so far but urges owners everywhere to stop using the TVs in question and to immediately contact the company.



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