Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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New Screen Technology, TapSense, Can Distinguish Between Different Parts Of Your Hand

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 09:06 AM PDT

And you thought multitouch gestures were annoying – how about mashing your whole hand on your screen to close an app or rapping on it with your knuckle to summon Siri (or Iris?). A new technology from Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Institute allows your device to distinguish between different types of taps using a microphone and touchscreen.

Created by Chris Harrison, the same guy who brought us Omnitouch, the technology “doubles the bandwidth” when it comes to touch interaction.

By attaching a microphone to a touchscreen, the CMU scientists showed they can tell the difference between the tap of a fingertip, the pad of the finger, a fingernail and a knuckle. This technology, called TapSense, enables richer touchscreen interactions. While typing on a virtual keyboard, for instance, users might capitalize letters simply by tapping with a fingernail instead of a finger tip, or might switch to numerals by using the pad of a finger, rather toggling to a different set of keys.

The system can also sense different tools including foam, multiple pens types, and brushes. The system could sense who was using which pen, allowing for collaborative drawing.

You can check out the project page here. The project is obviously in its research stage but I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up in real world applications in the next year or so.

How DropBox Started As A Minimal Viable Product

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 09:05 AM PDT

dropbox comic

Editor's note: Guest contributor Eric Ries is a consultant and the author of The Lean Startup.

Drew Houston is featured on the cover of Forbes magazine as the entrepreneur who out-Steve Jobs'ed Steve Jobs. He just raised $250 million for DropBox (as he explains in this TCTV interview). His success is well-earned, as Dropbox continues to earn its reputation as one of Silicon Valley's hottest companies.

But what these stories tend to leave out is that Drew has spent years doing the unglamorous work building not just a great product, but a great company. I've been happy to host him at the past two Startup Lessons Learned conferences, where he's shared candidly the lessons he's learned along the way. One of the techniques he used to validate the concept for Dropbox is so powerful – and so simple – that most entrepreneurs overlook it. It's an example of building a minimum viable product (MVP). I call it the Dropbox MVP, in Drew's honor, and I devoted a section of my new book to it, which is excerpted below.

 I've also included links to slides & video below  to Drew's two presentations at sllconf 2010 and 2011. They are both a must-watch for any aspiring tech entrepreneur.

The following is an excerpt from The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses published by Crown Business.

A minimum viable product (MVP) helps entrepreneurs start the process of learning as quickly as possible. It is not necessarily the smallest product imaginable, though; it is simply the fastest way to start learning how to build a sustainable business with the minimum amount of effort.

Contrary to traditional product development, which usually involves a long, thoughtful incubation period and strives for product perfection, the goal of the MVP is to begin the process of learning, not end it. Unlike a prototype or concept test, an MVP is designed not just to answer product design or technical questions. Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses.

The lesson of the MVP is that any additional work beyond what was required to start learning is waste, no matter how important it might have seemed at the time.

The Dropbox MVP

Drew Houston is the CEO of Dropbox, a Silicon Valley company that makes an extremely easy-to-use file-sharing tool. Install its application, and a Dropbox folder appears on your computer desktop. Anything you drag into that folder is uploaded automatically to the Dropbox service and then instantly replicated across all your computers and devices.

The founding team was made up of engineers, as the product demanded significant technical expertise to build. It required, for example, integration with a variety of computer platforms and operating systems: Windows, Macintosh, iPhone, Android, and so on. Each of these implementations happens at a deep level of the system and requires specialized know- how to make the user experience exceptional. In fact, one of Dropbox's biggest competitive advantages is that the product works in such a seamless way that the competition struggles to emulate it.

These are not the kind of people one would think of as marketing geniuses. In fact, none of them had ever worked in a marketing job. They had prominent venture capital backers and could have been expected to apply the standard engineering thinking to building the business: build it and they will come. But Dropbox did something different.

In parallel with their product development efforts, the founders wanted feedback from customers about what really mattered to them. In particular, Dropbox needed to test its leap- of- faith question: if we can provide a superior customer experience, will people give our product a try? They believed—rightly, as it turned out—that file synchronization was a problem that most people didn't know they had. Once you experience the solution, you can't imagine how you ever lived without it.

This is not the kind of entrepreneurial question you can ask or expect an answer to in a focus group. Customers often don't know what they want, and they often had a hard time understanding Dropbox when the concept was explained. Houston learned this the hard way when he tried to raise venture capital. In meeting after meeting, investors would explain that this "market space" was crowded with existing products, none of them had made very much money, and the problem wasn't a very important one. Drew would ask: "Have you personally tried those other products?" When they would say yes, he'd ask: "Did they work seamlessly for you?" The answer was almost always no. Yet in meeting after meeting, the venture capitalists could not imagine a world in line with Drew's vision. Drew, in contrast, believed that if the software "just worked like magic," customers would flock to it.

The challenge was that it was impossible to demonstrate the working software in a prototype form. The product required that they overcome significant technical hurdles; it also had an online service component that required high reliability and availability. To avoid the risk of waking up after years of development with a product nobody wanted, Drew did something  unexpectedly easy: he made a video.

The video is banal, a simple three- minute demonstration of the technology as it is meant to work, but it was targeted at a community of technology early adopters. Drew narrates the video personally, and as he's narrating, the viewer is watching his screen. As he describes the kinds of files he'd like to synchronize, the viewer can watch his mouse manipulate his computer. Of course, if you're paying attention, you start to notice that the files he's moving around are full of in- jokes and humorous references that were appreciated by this community of early adopters.

Drew recounted, "It drove hundreds of thousands of people to the website. Our beta waiting list went from 5,000 people to 75,000 people literally overnight. It totally blew us away."

"To the casual observer, the Dropbox demo video looked like a normal product demonstration," Drew says, "but we put in about a dozen Easter eggs that were tailored for the Digg audience. References to Tay Zonday and 'Chocolate Rain' and allusions to Office Space and XKCD. It was a tongue- in- cheek nod to that crowd, and it kicked off a chain reaction. Within 24 hours, the video had more than 10,000 Diggs."

(You can watch the original video here: and see the original reaction from the Digg community here:

In this case, the video was the minimum viable product. The MVP validated Drew's leap- of- faith assumption that customers wanted the product he was developing not because they said so in a focus group or because of a hopeful analogy to another business, but because they actually signed up.

At Startup Lessons Learned 2010, Drew summed up his experience with this single slide:

And here are both of Drew’s presentations:

Company: Dropbox
Funding: $257M

Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi. Frustrated by working from multiple computers, Drew was inspired to create a service that would let people bring all their files anywhere, with no need to email around attachments. Drew created a demo of Dropbox and showed it to fellow MIT student Arash Ferdowsi, who dropped out with only one semester left to help make Dropbox a reality. Guiding their decisions was a relentless focus on crafting a...

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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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A Restaurant, Dive Shop, And Bakery Share Their Groupon Experience (TCTV)

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:59 AM PDT


With Groupon reportedly set to begin its IPO road show early next week, it’s a good time to revisit the deal site. Is Groupon a great, lucrative deal for its merchants, a swindle or something even worse?

Rather than talk to analysts or observers, we decided to go directly to three Groupon merchants to find out if selling Groupons is a good deal.

We picked 3 business in the San Francisco Bay Area that ran Groupons. A restaurant, a dive shop, and a bakery. We asked each of them to tell us how it went and whether or not they would sign-up again. It’s an important question for Groupon, as their amended S-1 filing says “If we fail to retain existing merchants or add new merchants, our revenue and business will be harmed.” (See risks on page 12).

While Groupon appears ready to get its IPO back on track, its had some recent troubles. Last month, Groupon lost its second COO in 6 months and amended its S-1 to report lower revenue based on a more accurate way of counting Groupons. It had also cancelled an earlier investor road show but now it may be on again. The company is expected go public after pricing by bankers, following the road show according to AllThingsD.

For more information about these businesses, here are links to Brennan’s Restaurant, Mission Minnis, and All About Scuba.

Thanks to TCTV shooter and editor John Murillo who produced this video.

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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Sony Opens Up The PlayStation Store To Tablet S Owners

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:51 AM PDT


Owners of the Tablet S from Sony: listen up because your Android-powered slab of glass just became that much more fun. The PlayStation Store for PS-certified devices has officially gone live, with 10 PS1 titles available at launch.

The Store is now accessible in nine countries, the U.S. and Canada included. Sony says that most of the Tablet S-optimized titles will cost $5.99 to download. The company hasn’t mentioned anything about PS Store availability for the Tablet P, but it’ll likely take longer to optimize games for the dual-screen Sony tab.

Game titles currently available in the store include:

  • Cool Boarders
  • Destruction Derby
  • Hot Shots Golf 2
  • Jet Moto and Jet Moto 2
  • Jumping Flash!
  • MediEvil
  • Motor Toon Grand Prix
  • Rally Cross
  • Wild Arms

Obviously the selection here is a bit measly, but “Sony is working closely with developers around the globe to expand the variety of PlayStation games and content accessible on the Sony Tablet S and future PlayStation Certified devices.”

Owners of the Tablet S should receive a notification (if they haven’t already) informing them of the availability of the PlayStation Store. To get yourself gaming, simply follow the direction on the screen that direct you to download the PS Store App, at which point you can start downloading games.

Company: Sony
Launch Date: October 19, 2011

Sony is one of the leading manufacturers of electronics, video, communications, video game consoles, and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets.

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TechCrunch TV Launches On Your TV

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:43 AM PDT


TechCrunch TV is now really TechCrunch TV. When TCTV launched last year, the focus was on viewing our videos on the computer. Not on TV. Ok, we called it “TechCrunch TV” because it sounded a lot better than “TechCrunch Video”. But today, we are launching on the AOL HD platform and you can find us on your connected TV set.

Our videos are live on Roku, Boxee, Divx and Yahoo Connected TV platforms. Together, these platforms reach over 12 million devices. And that number is growing. A new report by Strategy Analytics says 42 million homes in the US and Europe are now using Connected TV devices. Don’t be surprised if more platforms get added to AOL HD as well. (AOL, the owner of TechCrunch, didn’t want me to say anything about that. Oh well.)

You can find these shows on the channel:

We are working to get other shows like TC Cribs on the channel, but AOL HD plays only HD content and Cribs is shot in SD. We’ll be changing that soon.

Both on-stage and backstage videos from our Disrupt conferences are available, so you can watch those events from your living room.

The TechCrunch videos appear under AOL HD’s Technology channel, along with other videos from Engadget and Translogic. Robert DelaCruz, General Manager for AOL HD, says “I'm very pleased to include TechCrunch to the channel lineup. TechCrunch further strengthens AOL HD's technology offering with the latest in technology, from breaking news to startups to gadgets."

If you want to learn more or get installation instructions, head over to Otherwise, lean back and start watching us on your TV. Of course, you can continue to watch on your computer, mobile phone or tablet as well. Those hackers out there who were already using Airplay, or Apple TV, or other means to view our content on TV, will now be joined by a much larger group who can see TechCrunch TV on TV.

Company: AOL

AOL is a global advertising-supported Web company, with display advertising network in the U.S., a substantial worldwide audience, and a suite of popular Web brands and products. The company's strategy focuses on increasing the scale and sophistication of its advertising platform and growing the size and engagement of its global online audience through leading products and programming. On March 13, 2008, AOL Internet division announced their plans to buy social network Bebo for $850 million in cash. History of Aol: AOL was...

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Company: TechCrunch
Launch Date: November 6, 2005

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

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Company: Yahoo!
Launch Date: January 1, 1994
IPO: December 4, 1996, Nasdaq:YHOO

Yahoo was founded in 1994 by Stanford Ph.D. students David Filo and Jerry Yang. It has since evolved into a major internet brand with search, content verticals, and other web services. Yahoo! Inc. (Yahoo!), incorporated in 1995, is a global Internet brand. To users, the Company provides owned and operated online properties and services (Yahoo! Properties, Offerings, or Owned and Operated sites). Yahoo! also extends its marketing platform and access to Internet users beyond Yahoo! Properties through its distribution network...

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Company: Roku
Funding: $22.4M

Roku is a consumer electronics firm which specializes in home digital media products. They’re best known for creating the first set-top streaming box for Netflix. The company was founded by ReplayTV founder Anthony Wood. “Roku” means “six” in Japanese, a reference to the six companies Wood has launched.

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Company: Boxee
Funding: $26.5M

Boxee is a partially open-source freeware media player software platform that integrates personal locally stored media with Internet streaming media along with social networking features. Boxee’s social networking component allows users to share information about what they are watching or listening to with other boxee users or friends on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, etc. Since it is partially open source, users can create their own apps, plug-ins, and skins for it. The framework for Boxee is based on source...

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Company: DivX

DivX provides the popular DivX codec, which allows for high quality videos and minimal file sizes. DivX, LLC, (NASDAQ: SNIC) a division of Sonic Solutions, enables consumers to enjoy a high-quality video experience across any kind of device. We create, distribute and license digital video technologies that span the “three screens” comprising today’s consumer media environment — the PC, the television and mobile devices. Over 350 million DivX devices have shipped into the market from leading consumer electronics manufacturers. We...

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A Child’s-Eye View Of Microsoft’s Kinect For Kids

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:37 AM PDT


I took my six-year-old son Kasper to Microsoft’s Kinect For Kids event yesterday in hopes of better understanding Microsoft’s efforts at grabbing the younger demographic. While he’s already an avid weekend gamer, I wondered if Microsoft’s latest immersive play solutions would stir him in anyway. I discovered two things: that the Kinect for Kids initiative, as evidenced by the image above, is a sometimes sad but immersive Kinect playspace and that Microsoft has a very narrow age window into which they release most of their games.

First, the good stuff. I’m pleased to report that the Kinect version of Puss In Boots is the winner this season with a protagonist that allows for some fun, immersive play. You’re Puss (he of the boots), late of Shrek fame, and you’re outfitted with a sword, hat, and a pair of botas of Spanish leather. You slash, kick, and punch your way through the game, occasionally jumping from rope to rope as you make your way through the slums of Far Far Away. It’s one of the more immersive adventure games we saw and Kasper loved it. A close second was Kinect Star Wars although the interactions and gameplay are still too wonky for my liking. The on-screen Jedi flail around and it feels more like a rails shooter than anything else.

Another winner was Kinect Sports 2. This adds skiing and tennis to the mix and it worked as well as the original Sports which is to say that the faux sports were realistic enough to simulate actual sports.

Then we degenerate into the interactive “little kids” games, Once Upon A Monster, an interactive Sesame Street and National Geographic “show,” and the Disneyland Adventures. These games simulate, in order, being a monster, Sesame Street, and Disneyland. For example, in Once Upon a Monster you become Elmo or Cookie Monster and run around in the woods and balance on stuff. In Disneyland Adventures you go to Disneyland. In the National Geographic interactive television program you pretend to be a bear eating moths. This is Microsoft’s checkbook development writ large. By paying for the hearts, minds, and trust of parents wholesale through these brands, they don’t have to generate it themselves.

To recap, my own six-year-old test subject, then, found Puss In Boots quite fun, Star Wars Kinect pretty rocking, and the Disney and Elmo stuff pretty juvenile, even for, well, a juvenile. He also enjoyed Kinect Sports 2 because he’s an avid (if reckless) skier.

The games are truly interactive and immersive, that much is true. You can actually play as one of your favorite Sesame Street characters and, as we reference above, you can “hug” princesses at Disney World. But these are video games. There is some basic reading and counting involved for the wee ones, but these games are aimed at the youngest kids and will quickly bore children who have already left the Sesame Street demographic. Microsoft is caught in the traditional trap of so-called “educational” gaming: either the educational portion is too preachy or the game is too thin. Games that got it right – Mavis Beacon, Math Blaster, Oregon Trail – are classics because teachers and parents treated them as treats given once the regular work was done.

The question I have as a parent is where is the value in simulating Disneyland? In creating mini-games based on Sesame Street characters? In dumping an interactive portion into a show about a man who tamed a grizzly bear? I don’t want to be a wet blanket, but how are these games teaching anything? The anti-marketer in me, for example, find Disneyland Adventures cynically mercenary, an attempt to give pressure kids into wanting to go to Disneyland. No harm in that, I agree, but why else does it exist? The image of a child hugging the air is the saddest I’ve ever seen and to suggest that a digital simulacrum of Snow White will please a child is wildly off-base. It’s this image that my ire returns to, like my tongue probing a sort spot in my mouth: that Disney and Microsoft think you can hug nothingness.

As I said before, Microsoft has a very narrow window into which it must inject its kids’ content. Children under 2 shouldn’t watch TV at all while pre-schoolers and first graders are already forming some very strong attachments to Pokemon, Bratz, and other brands. Microsoft hasn’t yet cracked the Nintendo code which, as I noted before, is essentially the creation of umami for the heart. Xbox hasn’t quite reached that family demographic in a way that makes sense for them and, like Sony, they’ve depended on marquee mature titles to keep them afloat. Kinect is clearly for kids – adults flailing around in a living room is an invitation to spill the scotch but, as of yet, Kinect Adventures and maybe the dancing game have grabbed any traction.

But what happens in the year or two between Sesame Street and early literacy? Does Elmo look as appealing to a kid who is familiar with more mature fare? While I know these games aren’t in it for long-term enjoyment, isn’t it a little cynical to hope that kids will pester their parents to buy the game (“It’s educational! It’s Disney!”) only to have them abandon it once they realize Cookie Monster is for babies?

My son enjoyed the adventure games and I’m certain my daughter will enjoy some of the Disney games although, at 3, she lacks the coordination to actually play with the Kinect. The helicopter parent in me wants Microsoft to keep its nose out of my kids childhood whereas the neophile wants to see where this immersive gameplay is headed. In the end, neither will win and Kasper will start to play New Super Mario Brothers for a few minutes ever weekend, abandoning Digi-Minnie and Mickey to their soulless kingdom while we, if forced, will walk the streets of the real Disneyland as a family.

Backupify Snapshot Exits Beta, Adds More Features For Exporting Google Apps Accounts

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:25 AM PDT


Backupify, the startup that provides online data backup, archiving and export, is today releasing a new version of its Backupify Snapshot tool with additional features for Google Apps admins. The tool, for those unfamiliar, allows Google Apps administrators to extract and download the complete Google Apps account for a departing company employ and save the data locally.

Previously, Snapshot was in public beta – it’s now being commercially released to all.

Traditionally, when an employee left an organization, the I.T. department would backup their files and folders, disable their Exchange mailbox and export their mailbox .PST file. Now, as companies of all sizes are transitioning to the cloud, termination procedures on the I.T. side have also changed. Unfortunately, because there’s not a simple process for exporting and archiving a user’s Google Apps data, companies will often just keep the account open but unused. That, however, can lead to an additional expense, as Google charges by seat.

With Backupify Snapshot, the idea is to recreate the same sort of account termination procedures companies are used to, but for cloud-based services. The tool compresses a user’s Google Apps account data (Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Contacts and Sites) into a Zip file that can then be downloaded to a local machine or server. The Google Apps account can then be safely deleted.

The killer feature in today’s release is the added support for multi-user and batch downloading – that will be a huge timesaver for I.T. during those times when there’s more than one employee account to export. (Layoffs, anyone?)

Snapshot also improved support for large organizations via better search, introduced a referral functionality that will dole out free downloads for those who refer their friends and added Google Checkout as a payment option. (Snapshot users get only 5 free downloads, then have to pay $10 per download).

Backupify Snapshot is available both as a standalone service and as a part of Backupify’s Google Apps Backup service. It has been used by over 500 organizations since its release last month.

Company: Backupify
Funding: $10.5M

Backupify uses “Cloud” to secure online accounts through backup and archiving services. Backuipfy offers backup to social web applications such as Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress.

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Moonfruit Makes Play For Shop Identity With Killer Facebook Integration

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:15 AM PDT

Facebook shop page

Up until now Moonfruit has been known as a nice and easy web site builder. Although a long time player in the game (this company is 12 – count ‘em – years old) they’ve done very well at iterating their products onto other platforms, raised decent funding, got some serious names involved, some (like 500 Startups) from Silicon Valley, and seen their user base hit some serious traction of late. But today they enter a new realm which ultimately, in my opinion, makes them a player in the realm of owning what I call the “shop identity” for tomorrow’s “sellsumers“.

Crowdpark Raises $6 Million To Bring Legal, ‘Social Betting’ Games To Facebook (And Soon Android & iOS)

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 08:00 AM PDT

Screen shot 2011-10-19 at 2.27.53 AM

Crowdpark, a Berlin-headquartered game developer, announced today that it has raised $6 million in series B financing from top German venture capital firms, Target Partners and existing investor, Earlybird Venture Capital. Waldemar Jantz, partner at Target Partners, will be joining the startup’s board as a result of the investment. The new round of funding brings Crowdpark’s total to $8 million.

Why should you care? Well, Crowdpark is aiming to give gamers their fix of legal gambling, er, betting. Using its patented “dynamic betting” technology, Crowdpark enables forecasting in realtime for social gaming in much the same way the brave among us play the stock market. Unlike its social gaming competitors, the German startup allows gamers to compete against each other in betting events using virtual currency. This includes the opportunity to bet on real world events taking place in everything from sports and entertainment to news and technology.

Other developers in the larger category of casino games have mostly focused on slot machines and carg games (read: Poker, Blackjack), bingo, or roulette. Unlike, say, Zynga Poker, Crowdpark’s “Bet Tycoon” brings live betting to Facebook, allowing you to challenge your friends to bet on a wide range of realtime events, with each bet becoming an opportunity to move up the rankings, show off to friends via social networks, and rack up virtual currency. Generally speaking, betting is a one-time only event (as you have to wait until the event expires to reap what rewards may come), but Crowdpark lets users bet throughout the lifecycle of a sporting event, for example.

And since the winnings are all based on virtual currency, no real money changes hands, it’s all legal — and avoids that shady “gambling” moniker. Crowdpark also thinks that it can offer a great value proposition for its users by building a cross-platform social betting service. While online gambling and betting companies are eager to move into Facebook, Crowdpark is already there with Bet Tycoon (as well as the Web), and will soon be offering a mobile game for Android and iOS where bets can be made instantly on your smartphones and tablets.

Crowdpark plans to use its new round of funding to speed up the development of its cross-platform functionality, develop new games, and ramp up hiring to build on the early success of Bet Tycoon, which is currently seeing around 500K monthly active users on Facebook.

As for a sneak peak at the kind of games Crowdpark plans to release on mobile? A game called Fanatical, which is currently in development, targets sports fans in such a way as to combine Foursquare with with realtime, location-enabled betting. This means that users will be able to check in wherever they are, through their platform of choice, placing bets, collecting badges, joining in on friends’ bets, and issuing challenges to everyone else using the app at TGIFriday’s.

From betting on who will win (or score the most goals) in a FC Barcelona/Real Madrid match to what Obama’s approval rating will be by the end of the week, to who will get voted off American Idol, the topics are diverse — and users can cash out at any point to redeem their points for virtual currency. The platform will also include a “Social Betting Index”, updated weekly, to reveal insights on top-trending bets, and who’s raking in the most cash.

For more on Crowdstar and its social betting platform, check out the video below:

Company: CrowdStar
Launch Date: October 19, 2011
Funding: $23M

CrowdStar is a global leader in social gaming attracting tens of millions of users every month to play hits like It Girl, Mighty Pirates, Happy Aquarium, Happy Pets, Happy Island and Top Girl.

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HTC Unveils First World Phone In The EVO Family: The EVO Design 4G

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 07:55 AM PDT

HTC EVO Design 4G

HTC has just added another phone to its line of EVO handsets, the HTC EVO Design 4G. While it can’t necessarily match the specs of its EVO 3D cousin, the EVO Design 4G does have a trick up it’s sleeve — compatibility with CDMA, HSPA and GSM networks, making it the first global phone in the EVO family.

Along with global network support, the EVO Design 4G also sports a 4-inch WVGA 960×540 touchscreen, which is just a tad smaller than the EVO 4G and EVO 3D. The phone runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread powered by a Qualcomm 1.2GHz processor, though we won’t be seeing the same dual-core snappiness we did on the 3D.

HTC’s Sense 3.0 UI is also alive and well on the new handset, along with a 5-megapixel rear shooter and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chat.

Sprint is offering the EVO Design 4G for $99 on-contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. Availability begins October 23.

Company: HTC
Launch Date: October 19, 1997

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

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Company: Sprint Nextel
Launch Date: October 19, 1999

Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including two wireless networks serving almost 49 million customers at the end of the second quarter of 2009; industry-leading mobile data services; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone.

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The Facebook Hack That Wasn’t? Facebook Says The 10,000 Hacked Accounts Aren’t Ours

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 07:24 AM PDT


A hacking group calling themselves “Team Swastika” posted what they claimed was over 10,000 comprised Facebook accounts to Pastebin, a service that serves as an online clipboard. However, according to statements from Facebook PR, these email and password combinations don’t actually represent live Facebook accounts. Instead, it appears that the hackers obtained the accounts using common phishing techniques, where users were tricked into giving away their personal information.

The development was first discovered by Rik Ferguson of Trend Micro, who notes that this hacking group had previously drawn attention to itself by publishing database tables and user credentials from the websites of the Indian Embassy in Nepal and the Government of Bhutan.

He was able to look at the list of supposed Facebook accounts before it was taken down, and found that they came from all over the world, and the majority of the users were not using complex passwords. Many of the passwords were simply a derivation of the user name, a favorite sports team or a short numerical password.

There was no indication as to how this account data was stolen, said Ferguson.

Says Facebook:

This does not represent a hack of Facebook or anyone’s Facebook profiles. Our security experts have reviewed this data and found it to be a set of email and password combinations that are not associated with any live Facebook accounts.

In reality these emails/passwords are the result of standard phishing activities where people were tricked into giving away their credentials.

Although the accounts may not have been actual Facebook logins, assuming they are indeed legitimate email/password combos, they could represent a comprise of numerous other services. Because users often reuse their same password around the Web, the logins may open up access to other accounts that were not the intended target of the phishing scheme. Good thing they’ve been taken down from Pastebin then.

Update: Ferguson now has new info on the compromised accounts. He says that the two lists the hacking group posted have previously been seen online. One list has been around for the better part of a year, while the second, which may actually be the work of another hacking group, was posted 19 days ago. More details are here.   

Image: Countermeasures

Droid Razr To Taste Ice Cream Sandwich Update In Q1 2012

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 07:02 AM PDT


Motorola’s Droid Razr made quite the splash yesterday thanks in part to its impressive hardware, but the Android build that it runs seems bit quaint now thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich. No worries, though: if you pick up a Droid Razr when it ships in November, you should be getting the Android 4.0 update in early 2012.

News of the Ice Cream Sandwich release window came courtesy of Alain Mutricy, Motorola Mobility’s SVP of Portfolio and Product Management. He seemed to be very forthcoming while speaking at a Berlin press conference, mentioning that Droid Razr users will receive the update sometime in Q1 2012, and that Motorola is working to get the Droid Razr’s hallmark features working in Ice Cream Sandwich.

Among those features is Motocast, a nifty way to directly stream media and content from your PC to your Droid Razr. And who could forget Smart Actions, the context-sensitive app that manages device settings according to user-defined situations? The Droid Razr wouldn’t be the Droid Razr without them, so a little extra time to get things working is to be expected.

It’s a bummer for those who wanted (or hoped) to see Motorola’s hardware combined with Google’s latest-and-greatest OS, but at least the Droid faithful have something to look forward to.

Social Loyalty Platform PunchTab Releases New iOS App PunchBowl

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:59 AM PDT


PunchTab, a startup that offers a social loyalty platform for consumers, publishers, and businesses, is debuting PunchBowl, a free mobile application that provides local merchants with a way to offer in-store giveaways and possibly help drive in-store traffic.

For background, PunchTab allows publishers to give reward points to users who check in to a site or blog every day. Visitors, which authenticate via Facebook Connect, can earn points for Facebook comments, WordPress comments and Facebook likes. Once a publisher rewards a user, the visitor can redeem the reward through the PunchTab rewards catalog.

Launching with more than 30 stores across the Bay Area, the companion ‘PunchBowl’mobile app (not to be confused with the online stationary and digital card platform PunchBowl) takes more of a local angle allows businesses to create and publish giveaways. The name is derived from the act of dropping business cards in a fish bowl at a local business to win a free lunch, or other service.

Similar to PunchTab, PunchBowl gives consumers opportunities to enter local business giveaways by
taking social actions. So customers receive one entry when they "like" a business' Facebook page, Tweet, or email links to the giveaway. The mobile app is free for both customers and merchants. The incentive for consumers to download the app, says the startup, is that they get access to free goods like cupcakes, meals and more.

PunchTab, which was founded by YouSendIt founder Ranjith Kumaran, has raised $850,000 in seed funding from Mohr Davidow Ventures, Embarcadero Ventures, and angels Venky Harinarayan, Anand Rajaraman, and Nick Sturiale.


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GramercyOne Raises $14.5M From Revolution, Others For Cloud-based Business Management Software

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:58 AM PDT


GramercyOne, a New York City-based provider of cloud-based business management and marketing software, has secured $14.5 million in Series A financing.

The funding round was led by Revolution Ventures (which is chaired by AOL founder Steve Case) with participation from Grotech Ventures, TDF and Jubilee Investments.

Launched in 2010, GramercyOne offers a product called Booker Platform, a swiss army knife of software tools that enable companies to attract and reach out to customers through social commerce, group buying services, mobile and local advertising and social booking solutions.

The company says it currently provides cloud services to over 2,500 companies across the globe (56 countries and counting, with eight languages supported so far).

Its customers range from small-sized service companies like local spas, fitness centers, beauty salons and whatnot to big organizations such as Hilton Worldwide.

GramercyOne claims its Booker Platform is currently used to process over 700,000 transactions – averaging $1 million in value – every day.

Says Revolution Ventures’ president, Tige Savage:

“GramercyOne allows the e-commerce revolution to move from the sale of products to
the sale of services.

The company's leading applications finally make it as easy to purchase and schedule a service appointment online as it is to purchase a song or a book online."

Savage will be joining GramercyOne’s board of directors together with Grotech’s Don Rainey; the two also serve on the board of LivingSocial.

Interestingly, GramercyOne was started after its SpaBooker platform was carved out as a business division within SpaFinder, a major spa media and marketing company.

According to the company, the functionality required to enable online scheduling of spa appointments was starting to gain traction outside of the spa industry, and thus the SpaBooker division was spun out in to what is now GramercyOne.

Company: GramercyOne
Launch Date: January 10, 2010

GramercyOne is a provider of cloud-based business management and marketing solutions to service businesses around the world. Their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform enables businesses to manage operations while promoting their services and capturing customers through new marketing channels including social commerce, group buying, mobile and local advertising. GramercyOne helps its clients’ businesses by integrating innovative technology with the latest marketing practices. This combination is designed to help stimulate new business, enhance customer retention, manage internal operations, drive retail sales and become...

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HTC Remains Coy About Ice Cream Sandwich Update Schedule

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:48 AM PDT


Google and Samsung finally unveiled Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich last night, along with its hardware counterpart the Galaxy Nexus. Since the duo pulled a fast one and announced the new goodies in Hong Kong, news made its way State side at a rather awkward hour, meaning that you are likely waking up in a new era — the era of Android 4.0. If that’s the case, well then good morning and happy Ice Cream Sandwich day!

Alright, so now that you’re done celebrating, let’s talk business. I’m sure there’s one question on many of your minds right now: when will I get the ICS update? A couple handsets have already been promised Android 4.0, including the Samsung Nexus S and the freshly announced Droid RAZR. But all of you HTC phone owners out there also have an answer, albeit an incredibly vague one.

According to Pocket-Lint, HTC has made the following statement regarding updates to ICS on existing handsets:

We are excited about the latest update for Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, and are currently reviewing its features and functionality to determine our upgrade plans. Our goal for Android updates is to give every customer an improved user experience, which means balancing each phone’s unique hardware, HTC Sense experience and the Android kernel. While our goal is to upgrade as many of our recent devices as possible, we are committed to maintaining every phone’s performance and usability first. Please stay tuned for more updates on specific device upgrade plans.

In other words, “we have no idea how long it’s going to take us to lay Sense over Android 4.0, so bear with us.” You see, one of the great downfalls of Android, as well as one of its greatest strengths, is its openness. Because any handset maker in the world can use it, and customize it with its own UI, it takes that much longer to get the OS ready for each individual handset.

While some would say that HTC’s Sense interface is worth the wait, there’s a solid group of Android fans who much prefer the pure Google experience over any form of a custom UI, including MotoBlur and TouchWiz. Whether you’re from one school of thought or the other, prepare yourself for a wait. If the rate at which manufacturers released Gingerbread to existing handsets is any indication, ICS updates won’t be headed our way anytime soon.

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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Company: HTC
Launch Date: October 19, 1997

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

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NYC Startup Accelerator Blueprint Health Now Accepting Applications

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:44 AM PDT

Blueprint Health

NYC-based Blueprint Health, a health-focused member of the TechStars Network, has just opened applications for its inaugural program starting on January 9th, 2012. This accelerator program is the only TechStars member to exclusively concentrate on healthcare.

The program plans to offer access to a large network of healthcare entrepreneurs, VCs and innovators. Its current mentors include those who have founded and helped lead companies like Amicas, Eliza, Everyday Health, Generation Health, Healthination, HelloHealth, Keas, Kryuus, Livestrong, MedCommons, Medivo, PatientsLikeMe, Phreesia, ShapeUp and ZocDoc.

Blueprint also has employees from CVS, Johns Hopkins, Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente, Lockheed Martin, McKinsey Hospital Institute, Take Care Health Systems, Pfizer and WebMD on board. Its investment partners are Aberdare Ventures, ATV, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, HLM Venture Partners, Milestone Venture Partners, Physic Ventures, Psilos and Radius Ventures and Windham Venture Partners.

Startups interested in participating in Blueprint’s program will be focused on technology products for patients, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, health plans or employers. However, it will not be as focused on consumer-facing apps looking to gain traction.

The group says its not opposed to helping first-time entrepreneurs or those without healthcare experience, given the right vision. It’s also not opposed to single founders, but having a strong team increases a company’s chances of getting selected.

Those accepted into the program receive $20,000 in cash and will be provided with office space in New York during the 3-month program. Free legal support, financial counseling, HR support and, of course, mentorship is also provided. In exchange, Blueprint takes a 6% equity stake in the company.

More details and the online application form are available on the Blueprint Health website.

Asus Teases The Transformer 2 Android Tablet, Hints At The Next Transformation

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:05 AM PDT

asus transformer 2

Gasp! A new Asus Transformer tablet is in the works. This of course calls for a YouTube teaser trailer that doesn’t show a damn thing. The Next Transformation hints at the future of Asus’ convertible tablet. Giving Asus’ recent marketing strategies, prepare yourself for a healthy dose of viral campaigns until this thing is officially announced. But chances are the likely upcoming videos and teaser pics won’t hint at the only thing I care about: Does this tablet run Ice Cream Sandwich?

Company: Asus

ASUS is well known for high-quality and innovative technology. ASUS offers a complete product portfolio to compete in the new millennium.

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Accel EIR Steps In As CEO Of Online Payments Platform Braintree

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 06:03 AM PDT


Braintree, an Accel-backed online payments provider, is announcing a new CEO today—payments exec Bill Ready. In July, Ready joined Accel as an Executive in Residence to bring his payments expertise to the firm’s portfolio companies and investment strategy.

Braintree, which just raised $34 million from Accel Partners, essentially powers and automates online payments for merchants and companies online. The company provides a merchant account, payment gateway, recurring billing, credit card storage, support for mobile and international payments, and PCI Compliance solutions.

BrainTree has become a one-stop-shop for all the services a business needs to receive payments from anywhere in the world. The company’s clients include Airbnb, LivingSocial, OpenTable, Animoto, Lookout, Shopify, Brightcove, Hotel Tonight, GoMobo, 37Signals, and GitHub.

Ready joined Accel from electronic bill pay provider iPay Technologies, where he served as President, and helped manage the company's sale to Jack Henry for $300 million last year. Previously, Ready served as iPay's Chief Financial Officer and worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. where he focused specifically on advising companies in the payments and financial technology sector

Braintree founder Bryan Johnson will remain chairman of the company.

Braintree is growing like a weed, and Ready’s expertise should help the company continue that pattern. Over the past year, the company has grown 4,200 percent, is processing more than $8 million in online credit card payments daily, and is on track to process more than $3 billion in 2011.

TagMan Raises $5 Million To Track Online Ad Campaigns

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 05:31 AM PDT


TagMan, a company that allows marketers and advertisers to track online ad campaigns, has raised $5 million in new funding led by Greycroft Partners and iNovia Capital. This brings the startup’s total funding to over $10 million.

TagMan allows advertisers to manage online marketing tags/pixels (these are pieces of code used by the online advertising industry to track the performance of online campaigns) as well as the data these tags provide (i.e. where are visitors coming from and other browsing data).

For example, many e-commerce businesses rely on tag management systems to quickly implement marketing campaigns and to track customers’ entire path to conversion in real-time.

TagMan users, which include Subaru and Virgin Atlantic, simple embed a small piece of JavaScript code on a page that needs tracking. All tags and the data they provide can then be viewed and managed directly by the advertiser or agency through TagMan’s web-based interface.

The company says that its revenues have more than tripled over the last year and its client base has more than doubled. The new funding will be used to open new sales and support offices over the next year in Europe and North America and towards product development.


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Hybrid Wisdom Labs Launches A Speedy, Scalable Engine For Visualizing Customer Insight

Posted: 19 Oct 2011 02:07 AM PDT


Ken Goldberg, a professor of New Media, Robotics, and Industrial Engineering at UC Berkeley, launched an interesting new startup from the stage of The Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco today, called Hybrid Wisdom Labs.

The startup, according to its founder, has emerged from “more than a decade of robotics and social media research at UC Berkeley”, resulting in today’s launch of its patented “Collaborative Discovery Engine”, a scalable way for companies to rapidly generate realtime insight from their customers and employees. To date, the technology has been used by General Motors, Unilever, Humana, and the US State Department, Goldberg said.

The idea for this new collaborative engine stems from the fact that most tools companies are using to gain intelligence from social media end up being list-based discussion interfaces that don’t scale well and quickly grow to unmanageable proportions, the founder said.

To combat this problem, the discovery engine combines thousands of ideas from brainstorming, social media, and robotics, runs them through a variety of analytic algorithms, before presenting them in a dynamic visualization format that allows companies to easily discover which ideas are important — and what they should be focusing their resources on.

The value proposition: Scale and speed. According to Goldberg, the engine can scale to support thousands of users without sacrificing the speed required to quickly find the best solutions to a company’s problems.

As one can see from the image above, each visualization is focused on a key topic, or question that a company has about its product or strategy, for example. Circles, or really, “blooms”, emerge in the visual rendering (i.e. graphical map), which represent a new idea or response proposed by participants. The positions of the blooms in relation to each other are based on the relevance of the opinion (or idea) to like-minded ones, and the color and size of the bloom represents the number of “likes” or positive responses the idea is generating.

Using sliders that represent two dimensions (how much they agree with AND how insightful they find the response), users then evaluate the responses, presumably resulting in a more robust analysis than the simple “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” pervasive to social media’s evaluation of preference.

As the reputation algorithm processes further responses, the least important ideas fade into the background, and the more popular (or commonly occurring) ones take visual precedence, leading to a deeper look into collective customer intelligence.

As to how beta testers have responded? According to a company statement, released via its website: “In January 2010, Hybrid Wisdom partnered with a leading Fortune 50 manufacturer to find insightful solutions into how they could improve their brand and reputation. The Collaborative Discovery Engine engaged 1,200 of their most valued customers. After a few weeks, the most valuable insights were reported back to the company, including users' desires around extending warranties to convey confidence in quality and stability. Both the company and the participants were extremely pleased. In a follow up survey, 95% of users indicated that they would be "Extremely Likely" to participate again”.

For more, check out the company at home here. Let us know what you think.

1 comment:

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