- Jailbreaking the Degree
- HTC Won’t Hook Up One X Owners With Bootloader Unlock
- ZocDoc Rolls Out In Tampa Bay; Says Gen Y Is Clueless About Health Care
- Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Xobot
- Wappwolf’s Automator Now Connects/Syncs Google Drive, Dropbox And Others
- New Orleans’ First Tech Incubator, Launch Pad Ignition, Debuts Its Second Batch Of Startups
- New Start Up CodeNow.Com Lets You Build And Test Code In Real Time, In Your Browser
- The Rise of Big Data Apps And The Fall of SaaS
- Facebook Likes Just Got Cray Cray
- Facebook Buys Location-Based Discovery App Glancee
- Want A Free Desk In SF? i/o Ventures Is Offering Space For Three Startups
- ChoicePass Launches Android App: Think Yelp App For Corporate Perks
- Meet Our TC NYC Meet-Up Volunteers
- Gillmor Gang Live 05.04.12
- Skullcandy Supreme Sound Hesh Headphone Review: Like Vs. Love
- Facebook Messenger Apps Get More Life-Like, Now Show If Someone’s Read Your Message
- Some Guys Have All The Luck: HTC One X Hitting Doorsteps Ahead Of Schedule
- Techlandia: Portland 100 Wants To Help Local Startups Grow To $100 Million
- YC Price Guide Startup Priceonomics Raises $1.5M Seed From Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel
- Twitter Says Farewell To Adam “MCA” Yauch
Posted: 05 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT
Editor’s note: David Blake is the Founder of Degreed, the new degree for the new world. Previously, he helped launch New Charter University and was a founding member of Zinch, since acquired by Chegg.
Jailbreak verb. 1 To get out of a restricted mode of operation. 2 To enable use of a product not intended by the manufacturer.
Currently, the degree is the only meaningful "unit" of education to which employers give any credence. Of this dependency, TIME magazine writes, "The tight connection between college degrees and economic success may be a nearly unquestioned part of our social order. Future generations may look back and shudder at the cruelty of it… It is inefficient, both because it wastes a lot of money and because it locks people who would have done good work out of some jobs."
The traditional degree, with its four-year time commitment and steep price tag, made sense when the university centrally aggregated top academic minds with residency-based students. Education required extensive logistics, demanding deep commitment from students worthy of being rewarded with the all-or-nothing degree.
But education isn't all-or-nothing. College and its primary credential, the degree, needn't be either. The benefit of modern, online education is that the burden of logistics and infrastructure are greatly reduced, allowing for the potential of a fluid, lifelong education model. The problem, to date, is that formal, online education is still being packaged in all-or-nothing degree programs, falsely constraining education innovation. The New Republic writes, "Online for-profit colleges haven't disrupted the industry because while their business methods are different, their product—traditional credentials in the form of a degree—is not."
Technology creates efficiencies by decreasing unit size while increasing utility. To falsely constrain anything to historically larger canons is to render technology impotent to do what it does best.
Clayton Christensen predicts, "I bet what happens as [higher education] becomes more modular is that accreditation occurs at the level of the course, not the university; so they can then offer degrees as collection of the best courses taught in the world. A barrier that historically kept people out of university [is] blown away by the modularization and the change in [course-by-course] accreditation."
With education, there is a particularly strong analog to what iTunes and the digital single did to the album:
Why buy a whole album when I only value a few songs enough to purchase? Why am I required to finance an entire degree only to be forced to take courses that I do not value? By bundling education into its most popular format, the four-year degree, we are inevitably adding low-utility courses that the consumer should be enabled to avoid.
Seth Godin writes, "Transparency in… school might destroy it. If we told the truth about the irrelevance of various courses, about the relative quality of some teachers, about the power of choice… could the school as we know it survive?"
To be explicit, in seeking to evolve beyond the four-year degree we need not be anti-college. iTunes didn't render the musician irrelevant just the album. But just as Napster, YouTube, iTunes and Spotify evolved the paths, careers, and distribution of musicians and their music, the role that the university plays will evolve dramatically.
It is easy to imagine a few years from now looking at a chart similar to the one above, only seeing the numbers of people taking individual courses exploding as the complete-degree programs careen towards zero.
Posted: 05 May 2012 08:49 AM PDT
HTC won over some hearts a while back when it released its bootloader unlock tool for a good number of devices. It basically allows owners of Android phones to load custom ROMs onto their phones in exchange for any warranty rights they may have been enjoying.
It’s a fair trade considering a solid percentage of Android power users prefer Android based mostly on the fact that they have this option, but without solid hardware the ability to load different versions of Androids becomes less and less appealing.
And so is the case with the HTC One X. It’s an excellent handset, and possibly the best HTC has ever made. But unfortunately, the company won’t be offering the bootloader unlock tool for this particular handset.
Here’s the official word from HTC, according to MoDaCo:
HTC is right to point out the number of handsets it has offered this functionality with, and it certainly seems a bit odd that its current flagship device wouldn’t receive the same treatment. MobileBurn suspects that AT&T may have something to do with this restriction, and I’m inclined to agree.
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve seen carriers tamper with a handset’s functionality for their own, sometimes unexplained, reasons. Remember when Verizon blocked Google Wallet on the GalNex based on what was most certainly the carrier’s support for a rival NFC payment system called ISIS?
We’ve reached out to AT&T to figure out whether or not the big blue carrier is, in fact, responsible for this unfortunate turn of events. We’ll keep you posted once we know more.
Posted: 05 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT
ZocDoc, the professional booking platform for doctors, is rolling out to another market as of this week: Tampa, Florida – and incidentally, company CEO Cyrus Massoumi also happens to be a Florida native. But that’s not why Tampa was chosen as the next major metro area to join the lineup of ZocDoc’s regions served – the company says that it chooses new markets based on demand from both patients and doctors alike.
In conjunction with the launch, ZocDoc also released the findings from a new survey it commissioned which highlights why ZocDoc happens to be in such demand: it’s solving the frustrating problem of finding a doctor and booking an appointment – something which the youngest generation of patients is apparently the most ill-equipped to handle, at least according to the findings.
For those unfamiliar with the company, ZocDoc, which has now raised $95 million in funding, is solving a very real world problem of finding a doctor, dentist or health care professional in your area and then setting an appointment with them. It’s typicallly a frustrating process, especially for digitally connected folks annoyed at having to navigate phone menus, then wait on hold, only to find out the doctor isn’t even available for weeks on out. With ZocDoc, patients can instead just go online to book appointments – even same-day appointments – and they can see the real-time availability of doctors in their area, confirm who accepts their insurance, and read the feedback and reviews of doctors from other patients.
For doctors, ZocDoc integrates with their calendaring systems in real-time while also helping them tap into the 10% to 20% of appointments that are cancelled or rescheduled at the last minute.
In a Harris Interactive survey conducted on ZocDoc’s behalf, the company found that the digitally connected group known as Gen Y (in this case, those aged 18-34) generally finds the whole process of dealing with health care frustrating (54%), feels at the mercy of the doctors’ office staff (63%), and are often so put off by the process (over half said), that they actually delay getting their health care needs dealt with. Ouch.
Plus, even though this group is only 23% of the population, they’re the largest group of smartphone and tablet owners. In fact, they’re so comfortable with using technology to do things, that they find pretty much everything else easier to do than book a doctor’s appointment. 79% said they can evaluate a new gadget easier than finding a doc, for example, and 76% said they can find a hotel room easier than finding a doc. Meanwhile, 64% said they have no clue how to pick out a doctor and 79% admitted they picked a doctor based on whether or not they accept their insurance.
Tampa now joins ZocDoc’s ever-growing lineup of U.S. metro areas, which also includes Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami-Palm Beach, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Founded in 2007, today more than 1.2 million people use the service each month to book a doctor or dentist. Currently, there are over 7 million appointments available on the site.
I totally just remembered that I have this thing I need looked at. I think it’s some sort of blogger’s cramp? Thanks for hitting my hometown, ZocDoc.
Posted: 05 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT
Poor old Android is having a bad year. (Especially compared to last year.) Apple’s iPhone is soaring in China, and apparently overtaking Android in the crucial American market. Oracle’s lawsuit against Google has led to several rather awkward claims, eg that the word ‘license’ in the phrase “we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need” referred to “not a license from anybody”, a kind of license with which I was previously entirely unfamiliar. CEO Larry Page’s own testimony was labelled as evasive: “His denial of knowledge and recollection contrasts with evidence,” wrote Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents.
What a headache. Way back in 2005, Android head honcho Andy Rubin wrote in a prescient email:
Just imagine if they’d taken the first road. It’s not widely understood in the industry that Microsoft’s .NET infrastructure is more open than Java in many ways; it and its flagship language C# are ISO and ECMA standards, available to anyone and everyone, legally bulletproofed by the Microsoft Community Promise. Imagine if the Android OS ran on an entirely different technical architecture.
Wait, no. Don’t imagine it: examine it. Like a vision from a parallel universe, it now exists.
Way back in 2001, Miguel de Icaza realized that if he ported .NET to Linux, he would open Linux up to a huge new developer community — and vice versa. The Mono Project was born. it wound up in Novell’s hands, where it continued to mature. Last year much of the Mono team founded a company called Xamarin, whose MonoTouch software lets developers write native Android/iOS apps using .NET technologies.
Android apps run on Google’s Dalvik virtual machine. “Dalvik’s fairly immature, and Mono vastly outperforms it,” says Xamarin’s CEO Nat Friedman. “So we started thinking: hey, what if we translated the entire Android OS to C#? It would run faster, and it wouldn’t have any legal problems.”
First it was just a thought experiment. Then it became more of a science project. And then the Xamarin team actually did it, by adopting and improving a tool named Sharpen that translates Java to C#, and using it to translate the entire Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) codebase. They did get a few side benefits — that improved tool, and better graphics handling — but mostly they did it for fun, aka the love of making something better. Oh, and they’ve now open-sourced the whole thing, under the name of XobotOS.
What does this mean? Good question. Maybe it’s an impressive technical achievement that’s ultimately inconsequential except as a bright feather in Xamarin’s cap. (If the idea was to get developers’ attention, they’ve certainly succeeded.) Maybe it’s Plan B for Google, in case there is some (unlikely) legal catastrophe.
And maybe the next company that thinks about forking Android for their own use — as Amazon did with the Kindle Fire, and as RIM had to have at least considered last year — will decide to go the Xobot route, for better performance, for legal cover, as a major differentiator, and to appeal to the huge and thriving .NET developer community. On the other hand, existing apps would either have to run on the IKVM virtual machine atop Mono (after tweaking it to handle Dalvik .dex files) which would mean a performance hit, or be Sharpened to C# and recompiled.
Still, at the very least, it’s a technically impressive and interesting feat. And who knows? Watch this space. It just might turn out to be a genuinely disruptive one as well.
Posted: 05 May 2012 04:32 AM PDT
Previously we’ve covered Dropbox Automator, a sort of IFTTT for Dropbox. (IFTTT, if you haven’t heard, automates tasks to trigger when a particular action has occurred, e.g. if a Facebook profile picture changes, then update a Twitter profile, etc). Like IFTTT, Dropbox Automator is capable of triggering a similar series of actions, based on what kind of files have been added to your Dropbox folders. Now, the startup that makes Dropbox Automator, Wappwolf, has produced Google Drive Automator.
This connects to your Google Drive account and monitors folders of your choice, performing
There are a few programs that do syncing between Docs/Drive and other services. The Docs API hasn’t changed, so whoever is doing this for Docs can easily do it for Drive as well. Handily, Wappwolf supports quite a lot more services. (Wappwolf is backed with $1 million by private investors with offices in the SanFrancisco and Vienna).
Wappwolf says Automator has processed 1 million files since it started connecting clouds, like Dropbox, Evernote and Attachments.me. Last month over 170,000 photos were automatically synced between Dropbox and Picasa accounts. That’s over 5,500 photos in one day.
With all of these cloud solutions, Dropbox, Box, GDrive, Evernote etc it’s interesting to see that companies are building additional functionality on top of these and allowing you to share across and sync files across. It’s clear from the numbers that plenty of people are using it, and actually do want something to sit above all these cloud storage solutions.
That’s probably going to create exit opportunities for startups playing in this space.
Posted: 04 May 2012 11:22 PM PDT
Launch Pad Ignition, the first tech incubator to make its home in the Big Easy, today officially unveiled the seven companies that participated in its second annual session.
The accelerator’s 12-week program began the second week of February and culminated yesterday with its own New Orleans rendition of the patented “Demo Day,” appropriately called “Launch Fest,” which we’ve been told is “Jazz Fest plus startups, on steroids.” Launch Pad’s model is a bit different than that of the traditional accelerator, in that Co-founder Chris Schultz tells us it’s geared towards building traction, not offering big early funding.
It’s actually a bit of a spin on Founder Institute’s approach. Launch Pad has done away with the “fixed funding” model and instead chooses to engage startups on more flexible terms that “don’t impact their valuation.” The accelerator seeks to offer value from its mentor network, which includes investors, executives, and founders of Particle Code, Microsoft, Aol Ventures, BetterWorks, Ning, Whole Foods, Skillshare, Lerer Ventures, AudioSocket, etc., as well as a lean startup curriculum, and connections to New York and Silicon Valley.
Rather than putting up capital up front in exchange for equity, Launch Pad offers founding teams a 3 percent stock warrant grant with 1 percent of that going into a “founder’s collective” so that each company has a shared stake in other members of its class. The team and mentors then follow that up by actively fundraising for the companies at the end of the program, at Launch Fest and beyond.
In relation to Jazz Fest, the accelerator actually does host its demo day right before the famed festival begins, so that investors have reason to visit New Orleans, and it gives startups a chance to blow off some steam, New Orleans-style.
Of course, some people may be rolling their eyes, calling this another example of a growing accelerator bubble. Or maybe blubble. But given New Orleans’ recent history, building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem has special value to a city that’s struggled to get back on its feet. The accelerator recently hosted an “Angel 101″ lunch, led by 500 Startups’ Paul Singh, who is on a mission to familiarize angels with early-stage tech investing in New Orleans, the idea being that seeding local angels with national early-stage capital will be the key to driving deals in New Orleans.
Dave Parham, the founder of Neighborland, which just raised $1.2M from local and national investors, has also been talking to startups about the value of incubating a company in New Orleans and remaining engaged, even as he builds his company in San Francisco.
Launch Pad’s demo days are increasingly becoming attractions to investors, as more than 60 angels and VCs showed up at this year’s event, including those from Union Square, 500 Startups, and True Ventures. And apparently, it’s more than just for show or for charity, as local venture firm Abstraction Ventures provided seed funding for three of the seven companies. While one more is announcing a separate seed round, and VoteIt, has already raised an $800K round. (Read our coverage here.)
Today, six of Launch Pad’s seven companies launched products in beta, and Kinobi, the odd-man-out, plans to launch within 90 days. The accelerator is attempting to go for the “stage agnostic” approach, offering its services to both very early-stage companies as well as those that are a little further along. VoteIt being a good example of the latter.
For more, check out Launch Pag Ignition at home here. Without further ado, here’s a brief, lightly edited intro to the seven companies:
Red Ticket Games is a social gaming company that is attempting to replicate the experience of family game night. Its launch title Expert Trivia, which debuted on the App Store today, is designed to do for Trivial Pursuit what Words with Friends did for Scrabble, and Draw Something did for Pictionary. Participants invite a group of friends to play a game around a topic they all have fun competing around. The secret sauce is that this interaction will help develop an inventory of trivia questions on a wide variety of topics that the company then plans to monetize.
Lawyerfy is building a CRM solution for lawyers. The key value proposition and differentiation for the startup’s product is that it bills on a per-case basis so that lawyers don’t have to shoulder the costs themselves, they can add it to what they charge clients. In turn, for clients, it adds a significant boost in the level of transparency that typically sucks between lawyers and their clients. Plus, it keeps their lawyers more organized, as it’s easy to use, not unlike a better Basecamp with Gaant charts. Lawerfy’s founders hail from Silicon Valley.
Giftmeo is a group gifting app that leverages the comment thread that collects around people’s birthdays on their Facebook profiles to shift from gifts of the virtual variety to actual gift cards. In other words, real gifts, so that instead of buying $50 worth of beer icons and roses, groups of people can all pitch in to buy their friends and loved ones a $50 Amazon gift card. While gift cards are a good place to start, hopefully they’re expanding beyond, because buying your mom or your girlfriend, for example, a gift card for their birthday will likely put you in the dog house.
VoteIt is a service that helps groups make all kinds of decisions with realtime, social voting tools. These decisions can revolve around everything from helping doctors get a more efficient form of intercommunication and pulse-taking to giving a company the ability to poll its users when deciding on a logo. VoteIt wants to pick up where Facebook and Twitter left off in their ability to mobilize civil engagement during events, while turning that engagement into action.
Kinobi went from winning Startup Weekend EDU in New York based on its learning platform to a demo-able product built on the Microsoft Kinect platform yet runs in any browser. Kinobi’s new app provides motion capture feedback via Kinect so anyone can teach physical interaction movements. Kinobi aims to be a platform by which physical trainers, for example, can teach and educate students, measuring their success through gestural feedback from Kinect. Kinobi is still in stealth, but is planning to launch its beta in the next few months.
Unawkward is providing social introductions in ways that — you guessed it — aren’t awkward. When people move to new cities or are traveling for business or conventions, they often want to meet new people or go to events but don’t know where to find people with similar interests. Unawkward connects people around fun activities.
Connect for a Cause is an application that allows people to auction off access to people of note and more to benefit charities. Not unlike this charity auction for blood cancer TechCrunch recently covered, for example. Imagine if Brad Feld were traveling to New Orleans and could log in with twitter and tweet out “who wants to go to lunch today?” and would then go out lunch with the highest bidder with the proceeds of the auction going to Brad’s charity of choice. That’s Connect for a Cause in a nutshell.
Posted: 04 May 2012 11:21 PM PDT
Trying new APIs is tricky. You can spend hours setting things up, gaining permissions, and learning syntax before you even get to write one line of code. That’s why CodeNow.com is cool. In short, it allows you to try APIs before you invest too much time into them and, as an added bonus, it acts as a code repository.
The site is currently in private beta but it’s accepting users tonight.
Take a look at this screen:
In the left pane you have the code and in the right pane you have the results. This is a very basic piece Facebook call that returns a list of users. Once it’s part of CodeNow, however, you can run this code in a virtual machine or share it with one link.
Without having to do very much, you can change the code on the fly:
In short, you can basically experiment with almost any API, including services like Dropbox, Twilio, and Facebook. Then, if you’ve created something cool you can simply share it with others or keep it for yourself.
Founder Yash Kumar was a former Amazon employee and found the impetus to build the site when his boss came to him with a problem.
“A Product Manager came up to me complaining it took her 2 days to get a make a basic API call to Facebook. She had taken a programming class in college, but struggled with getting a basic app up and running. There are tens of millions of code literate users that struggle to overcome the basic barriers of setting up code and project environments. We plan to empower millions of such users to create, build and play with code,” he said.
CodeNow is the first AngelPad company to launch this year. They plan to monetize by offering API discovery by charging providers to take part. They are currently supporting Facebook, Twilio, and Dropbox and there are many partners on the wait-list for inclusion. They also include the API’s own sample code to ease entry.
Kumar used his experience at Amazon to build a system of virtual machines using AWS. They also sandbox code so developers can test apps without having to create official accounts. “Users don’t need to authorize and setup app keys or OAuth to run apps,” he said.
“CodeNow runs completely in the browser. There is nothing to set up. No software package, no Amazon EC2 server instance. Just type and hit run,” said Kumar. “We plan to empower millions of such users to create, build and play with code.”
Posted: 04 May 2012 10:00 PM PDT
Editor’s note: This guest column is from Raj De Datta, the CEO and co-founder of BloomReach. Follow @BloomReachInc on Twitter.
With the influx of information flooding the web – 90% of the web having been created in the last two years alone – web businesses are looking for ways to understand and use big data to drive their business. Just as SaaS and the cloud completely revolutionized the way businesses operate, so will Big Data applications (BDAs). BDAs are web-based applications that interpret and use massive amounts of enterprise and web-scale data to deliver more intelligent results for their subscribers. BDAs leverage the best of the cloud; they're web-hosted, multi-tenant and use Hadoop, noSQL and a range of recommendation and machine learning technologies.
But the real question is – so what? So what if the underlying data structures use Hadoop or noSQL? No CEO of a major business gets excited about a value proposition around more scalable data structures. That's where BDAs come in. BDAs don't just repackage your data in a cool interface or offer productivity improvements in data scalability, they harness the world's data to deliver you a better outcome – like more revenue.
SaaS was a different delivery model for enterprise software: available for immediate sign-up, it dramatically reduced integration costs, enabling try-before-buy, scalability and shared tenancy with meter-driven pricing. Salesforce.com started the cloud revolution by transforming the CRM industry and was quickly followed by the SaaS-ification of every category of enterprise software (Taleo/Successfactors for HR, Netsuite for ERP, Omniture for web analytics). SaaS both increased the market size for business software (by enabling mid-size companies to buy at a lower cost of entry) and delivering a better ROI for bigger businesses. But it did not do one important thing–it didn't change the functional capabilities of the core application. Salesforce didn't add CRM features for businesses vis-a-vis Siebel – it simply made it easier to adopt and cheaper to maintain.
Big data on the consumer side of software is well-understood – Google, Amazon.com, Facebook. In a recent keynote speech at Cebit, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels noted that when mistakes have been made, it’s because there isn’t enough data to back up a recommendation. All of these are applications that get stickier, smarter and more valuable as more users and data pour into their core engines. Now, we are seeing the beginning of enterprise BDAs, and they are the future:
BDAs are inherently better than their SaaS equivalents because they have all the delivery model benefits of SaaS, plus a network effect in the data being collected. Unique data, put to work for each customer, is an asset that creates network effects over time for both subscribers and for the application provider. These days, there is so much more data outside the enterprise than within it, that the notion of re-packaging an enterprise's own data for analysis and workflow seems quaint.
BDA companies create value differently than SaaS companies. BDA companies are built by teams of people with a strong background in large-scale systems and machine learning / data mining (like my co-founder Ashutosh Garg). They will also be valued differently than SaaS companies. While both sell into enterprises, BDAs deliver much more value per dollar spent, because each acquired customer adds data to the engine, which in turn improves the service for all its customers. Markets typically value SaaS companies on three basic metrics: Customer Lifetime Value (higher LTV is better), Cost of Customer Acquisition (lower CCA is better) and Rate of Growth (higher is better). Certainly, most SaaS companies have a great growth rate. But BDAs will have higher LTVs (because value/customer is higher and churn will be lower) and lower CCA (because of network effects; consider the CCA for LinkedIn to acquire a new recruiter now, versus five years ago).
The BDA revolution is just beginning. If we were building CRM again, we wouldn't just track sales force productivity; we'd recommend how you're doing versus your competitors based on data across the industry. If we were building marketing automation software (Marketo, Eloqua), we wouldn't just capture and nurture leads generated by our clients, we'd find and attract more leads for them from across the web. If we were building a financial application, it wouldn't just track the financials of your company, it would compare them to public filings in your category so you could benchmark yourself and act on best practices. Every category of software will have a BDA leader (some may be current SaaS companies that adapt or acquire).
Like anything in technology, the next new thing doesn't mean the old things go away. Oracle and SAP are still big companies but Salesforce.com is the newest $20 billion behemoth. The new kids on the block will be BDAs.
Hello BDAs, Goodbye SaaS.
Posted: 04 May 2012 09:02 PM PDT
In light of its impending multi-billion-dollar IPO, its user base of 900 million and its increasingly sprawling design and user experience, some people have come to believe that Facebook has gone crazy. Excuse me, “cray cray.”
What’s more, even though it’s only two-odd years old, Facebook’s “Like” button is now ubiquitous on the Webs. But with how quickly these young people are picking up new technology these days, let’s be honest, “Liking” things is for old people. Everyone else has moved on.
That’s why Ben Schaechter, Sam Grossberg, and Paul Kompfner have coded up a new Chrome extension, which went live this evening, called CrayBook. (Check it out in the Chrome Web Store here.) Watching a FB photo montage of your former classmates having kids, and your brother’s cat traveling in nicer clothes than yours across Europe, can be depressing. So the three engineers have designed an extension that turns every instance of the “Like” button on your Facebook account into “Dat Sh*t Cray.”
Sometimes liking something just isn’t good enough. We need more accurate ways to express ourselves in this cray world we’re livin’ in. And, if anything, hipsters have taught us that emotions, which include but are not limited to “liking” and “loving,” are pretty lame.
As for the masterminds behind CrayBook, they’re better known as the guys responsible for GoPollGo, the venture-backed realtime polling tool that lets individuals, brands and companies get feedback from their followers. Schaechter, for one, was an engineer at TechCrunch, before heeding the Entrepreneurial Call.
Now, because CrayBook is a free extension, we’re all pretty worried about how the team is going to be monetizing this brick of gold. Luckily, Schaechter jokes that the team is “seeking a seed round of greater than or equal to 40 million,” (watch out Color, deez guyz be cray), so that they can bring the extension to Firefox and Safari. And maybe one day IE, but that just sounds, well, supa cray.
It also appears that there’s been a huge spike in search volume for “dat sh*t cray,” which may be emanating purely from my IP, or it could mean there are others out there who aren’t afraid to throw open their shades, open their windows, and shout to the world, “I’m a human being, goddammit, and I’m cray cray as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Hopefully, next we’ll see CrayBook move to Twitter (“TwitCray”?) to take on the “Favorite” button. After all, Favorite-ing is really just a way of saying “like hey these tweets make me ROFL,” and really how useful is that? It’s not, it’s cray.
CrayBook is stepping up to the plate, and it should be exciting to see who’s next. Or whether Facebook throws a C&D at them. But, even if they do, it’s a risk worth taking, Schaechter says. “The market was there, and all we had to do was capitalize on it.” The biggest problem? It doesn’t change “Like” buttons on other sites. If it’s possible, hopefully it will be in the works.
True dat. Find CrayBook/Github here.
Posted: 04 May 2012 06:27 PM PDT
A little under one month after its acquisition of Instagram, Facebook has acquired Highlight competitor and ambient location app Glancee.
The social network has already shut down the developer's passive location app and all three co-founders, Glancee's only full-time employees, will join Facebook, which now owns its technology. Eric Eldon described Glancee as, "A nice-guy ambient social location app for normal people,” so its ideas and founders should fit in well building for Facebook's mainstream user base.
Facebook said in a statement "We are thrilled to confirm that Facebook has acquired Glancee. The acquisition closed today. We can't wait for co-founders Andrea, Alberto and Gabriel to join the Facebook team to work on products that help people discover new places and share them with friends."
Like competitor app Highlight, Glancee went beyond the checkin and attempted to help users discover other users around them with similar interests.
The instant armchair analysis is that the company couldn’t buy Highlight so they got the next best thing in the ambient location space to compete early. According to AppData, Highlight is probably 3 times larger than Glancee. On AppData, Highlight has 9K daily active users tied to Facebook (which in this case means that about 9,000 users join Highlight per day since the app only touches the Facebook platform during the sign-up process). Glancee has 3K daily active users. Moral of the story: Don’t let an Instagram grow under your nose again.
Posted: 04 May 2012 03:57 PM PDT
I don’t want to become the publicity arm for every tech organization throwing a contest or giveaway, but once in a while, something comes along that seems like a perfect fit for TechCrunch readers. For example: i/o Ventures, the co-working space and startup incubator based in the Mission District (that’s San Francisco’s best neighborhood, for those of you not in the know), is offering free desk space to three startups.
If you’re interested, it’s pretty easy to apply. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with a description of your product or company, follow @bragiel (that’s i/o partner and Lefora co-founder Paul Bragiel’s account) and @io on Twitter, then watch out for a few promotional tweets from those accounts that you’ll need to retweet. After that, Bragiel and his team will choose three companies who get free desks in i/o Ventures for a month.
Here’s how Bragiel explains the contest in a blog post:
i/o Ventures is run by Bragiel, Aber Whitcomb (former CTO of MySpace), Ashwin Navin (co-founder of Flingo), and Dan Bragiel.
Posted: 04 May 2012 03:21 PM PDT
CEO Kyle Lui says his goal is to “make HR sexy again.” Specifically that means helping small companies participate in perks programs that they couldn’t afford on their own, while moving larger companies’ perks into the cloud, freeing them from corporate intranet pages that no one knows about or uses. It’s a similar in a lot of ways to what BetterWorks is trying to accomplish, but Lui says that since BetterWorks doesn’t have mobile apps (yet), this is a big differentiator.
With the new app, employees can now open up a map showing nearby perks, divided into categories like “eat”, “shop”, “entertainment”, and “fitness”. So instead of whipping out Yelp’s mobile app every time you want to find someplace to eat or shop nearby, you could start with the ChoicePass app and find locations where you’ll actually get a deal or reward.
Lui says there are plans to release iPhone and iPad apps too, and also to incorporate geofencing, where users get push notifications when someone approaches a location offering discounts or other deals.
ChoicePass’ investors include Yammer CEO David Sacks, Badoo COO Ben Ling, ShopCo CEO Ben Smith, and PowerSet founder Lorenzo Thione. Lui says the company has more than 250 customers.
Posted: 04 May 2012 02:40 PM PDT
The people I’m about to describe are the most awesome of all the awesome people as they have volunteered to help out (free of charge) with our massive meet-up here in NYC next week. It’ll be amazing.
Let me paint you a little word picture: Imagine a sweet girl named Gail welcoming you to Bar 13 with a few drink tickets. As you walk up the stairs, you find two floors and a roof deck filled with guys in jeans, startup t-shirts and blazers. They graze the room like a herd of lean, brilliant cattle in search of the nearest TC editor and/or VC, beers in hands. (They aren’t real cows, so they can hold beers.)
From the dark corner on the second floor, a girl named Zhila appears. She’s holding a box of pizza, offering it up freely to hundreds of hungry hands as she gracefully crosses the room. Meanwhile, Nathaniel and David (more badass volunteers) are re-hanging our sponsor banner after a giveaway kerfuffle brought it to the ground.
A floor above, John Biggs is firing Nerf discs into the crowd out of sheer jadedness, as I sing Cher’s “Turn Back Time” at the top of my lungs courtesy of our sponsor TouchTunes’ Virtuo karaoke machine. On the other side of the room, Matt Burns and Chris Velazco are posing for a photostrip in our TC-flavored photo booth, as volunteer Kevin (at a hearty 6’2″) keeps a rowdy group of developers from accosting Peter Ha.
Honestly, how can you resist a night like this?
So get yourself familiar with our volunteers:
Full disclosure: I realize that all five of our volunteers are particularly beautiful people. I promise, however, that I was unaware of their attractiveness until after they were selected.
And another look at our sponsors:
Posted: 04 May 2012 01:09 PM PDT
Posted: 04 May 2012 01:08 PM PDT
There’s a huge difference between like and love. I like cheese, but I love Gruyere. I like beef, but I love filet mignon. I like phones, but I love my iPhone. You get the gist.
Long story short, I really like Skullcandy’s latest pair of over-ear mid-range headphones, the Hesh.
But do I love them?
Skullcandy has been revamping its roster over the past year, including re-engineering their popular over-ear mid-range headphones. They promise “attacking bass, natural voice, and precision highs.”
Where voice and highs are concerned, Skullcandy nailed it. But “attacking bass” is an overstatement. There’s no true thud, no tangible feeling that comes along with the bass on these things. Just a low note, like any other low note.
Truth be told, I don’t feel transported to a higher plane of audio ecstasy with these things on my head, but sound quality isn’t bad by any means. I’ve been running around with an older set of Bose over-the-ears for the past few weeks and it’s hard to compete with those noise-cancelling beasts. When I put the Bose cans over my ears, all the excess sound instantly disappears. I’m in my own little suction cup of silence, until I turn on the tunes, at which point I can feel the bass buzzing through my brain.
On the other hand, the Hesh headphones are certainly loud enough for just about any setting, including a subway platform, but passersby won’t have any line of defense from your tune choices. I made the mistake of listening to “Superman” by Eminem on the crowded elevator in AOL HQ this morning at full volume — I’m sure I’m only more popular now.
I don’t get the same kind of satisfaction from the Skullcandy Hesh as I do with my Bose cans, but I also don’t pay as much. The Skullcandy Hesh headphones only cost $69.99 with a mic, and $59.99 without, as opposed to the $250+ set of Bose. That said, sound quality is perfectly acceptable at this price point.
Comfort-wise, I’m pretty pleased. I wish the headphones cupped my ears a bit more tightly — feels like there is a little pocket of space that sound escapes through. The leather pillow cups are nice, weight isn’t an issue at 180g, and the soft-touch headband is properly flexible.
The Skullcandy Hesh headphones come in a variety of color flavors, a few of which you can see below. Availability begins May 7 on Skullcandy.com.Click to view slideshow.
Posted: 04 May 2012 01:01 PM PDT
Facebook thinks mobile messaging should feel like you’re having a face-to-face conversation, so today it updates its Messenger for iOS and Android apps with the ability to see if someone’s read your message, and easier ways to tell if someone’s typing and where they’re messaging from. Facebook Messenger “read receipts” are even easier to understand than those long-found on BlackBerry Messenger, and they work for group messaging too. The apps now display “Seen by Peter, Josh, Justin” right under a sent message.
Director of Product Peter Deng tells “SMS has been around for 20 years, built it was for these T9 phones. We’re focused on leveraging all the capabilities of today’s devices to create a new messaging experience.” He also says these are just the start of app updates designed to make mobile conversations feel more real, as if you had body language cues and more to go by. The read receipts definitely accomplish this, as you won’t have to send any “did you get that?” messages or wonder if someone missed you message, or read it but just didn’t respond.
Today’s updates are “mobile first”. They’ll start by appearing in the standalone Messenger apps, and slowly roll out to Facebook’s primary mobile apps and the web interface. This underlines Facebook’s goal of a smooth transition away from being a web-focused company. Nimbler competitors in mobile are something critics see as a big risk to Facebook’s future. Two big mobile acquisitions, Beluga last year which was reformed as Facebook Messenger, and most recently Instagram, may both prove key to getting Facebook to travel with you everywhere.
Beyond read receipts, you’ll now see the name of town or city from which a message was sent in-line if your conversation partners have location enabled. This improves on the old colored blue arrow next to geo-tagged messages that had to be tapped to actually show location. And Facebook has replaced the ambiguous “three dots” real-time typing indicator by showing in-line the name of who’s currently typing a message to you.
It’s easy imagine how useful these improvements could be. If you message someone “I’m outside your apartment to pick you up”, you’ll know whether they read it and are just on their way down, or if you should ping them again. And if you’re coordinating a meetup and get the message “We’re on our way” you’ll be able to instantly tell where from.
My biggest gripe with texting and group messaging is the awkward exchanges that arise because you can’t see how people are reacting. Send someone flirty and after a few minutes of no response you start to worry “Oh no, am I creepy? Did they read that and get weirded out?” when really they just didn’t see it yet. Interrupting one-another and having to constantly ask someone’s whereabouts are other annoyances.
Some may worry it will be harder to ignore people now. They’re right. A subtle mantra coded into Facebook is that you should be authentic and own your actions. There’s no way to turn off read receipts, but Facebook does let you click the location icon on messages to hide your location if that’s the kind of privacy you want.
Facebook wouldn’t comment on leaked screenshots indicating it may soon add video chat to its Messenger apps. That would certainly be another way to make conversations feel more face-to-face, because, well, they would be. It’d also fit with Facebook’s grander social design mission. Deng concludes “We’re building tech modeled after how people have been wired to behave for thousands of years.”
Posted: 04 May 2012 12:58 PM PDT
Sure, AT&T’s One X will officially hit store shelves this Sunday, but you may be in for an early weekend treat if you’ve taken it upon yourself to pre-order the thing.
It’s a common story, really — just about every time a hotly-awaited phone nears launch, it seems like some lucky son-of-a-gun manages to score one thanks to an overeager delivery person. Take another glance at your device’s order status (most likely though UPS if you ordered from AT&T) if you haven’t yet to see if your One X is set to land on your doorstep today.
Those first few moments with the One X could be a little rough, if these early reports are any indication — some unlucky AT&T customers are reporting longer-than-usual activation times. C’est la vie.
Of course, I get the feeling some of you may be rueing your decision to pre-order — if you’re always on the lookout for new and shiny hardware (and since you’re reading TechCrunch, there’s a good chance you fall into that category), Samsung’s newly-revealed Galaxy S III may be more up your alley. It may not have been the monumental leap forward some were hoping for — the expectations game is a real pain to manage — but it’s certainly going to be a real contender going forward.
Samsung Mobile head JK Shin remarked at the device’s launch event in London yesterday that the LTE version of the device would land in U.S. over the summer, and The Verge managed to lock that launch date down to sometime this June. Like HTC’s flagship, Samsung’s new smartphone is expected to land on multiple carriers’ sales channels in one form or another, so it’s a great time for customers to prowl for potential upgrades.
Posted: 04 May 2012 12:45 PM PDT
Portland, OR isn’t just a place where young people go to retire and hang out at urban wineries. The city also plays host to a fair number of prominent startups, including companies like Urban Airship, JanRain, Simple and Puppet Labs, as well as outposts of established players like Intel, Microsoft, IBM and eBay. To keep this momentum going, the Software Association of Oregon (SAO) launched two new initiatives this week: Portland 100 – a pilot program that will help select tech startups with finding mentors, talent and resources – and Techlandia.org. The idea behind these programs is to help the region’s most promising startups scale their businesses and attract talent.
Portland 100 is looking for companies with ambitious founders and plans to focus its resources on startups that are looking to exit or achieve a certain revenue threshold in five years. As SAO’s president Skip Newberry told me earlier today, the plan here is rather ambitious: as the name implies, Portland 100 is looking for companies that can either get to a $100 million or more liquidity event or achieve $100 million or more in sales within five years. The program isn’t focusing on specific areas, but Newberry assumes that it will likely concentrate on markets like mobile and location that Portland is already known for. It’s worth noting that Portland 100 isn’t just inward focused. The program also aims to work with investors from outside of the state.
With this program, SAO wants to bring together organizations from the private, public and educational sectors. As Newberry pointed out, Portland 100 and Techlandia are good examples for the kind of collaborative initiatives that Portland’s startup scene often fosters.
Techlandia is both the public face of this initiative, as well as a new hub for local industry news and data. The site is meant to showcase Portland as a city that has a critical mass of startups to attract talent and investors to the city and as “a great place to grow early-stage startups.”
As for the Portland startup scene in general, Newberry noted that finding engineers in the city isn’t necessarily the biggest problem, but that attracting executive talent for marketing and sales positions, for example, can often be hard. This, of course, is one of the problems that Portland 100 is trying to solve.
One advantage for local startups, though, is that the war for talent in Portland isn’t quite as bad as in Silicon Valley. Hence, employees generally don’t change employers quite as often. While salaries in the city may be lower than in the Valley, the cost of living also tends to be significantly lower.
It’s worth noting that there are a number of other startup initiatives happening in Portland as well. Wieden+Kennedy’s Portland Incubator Experiment, for example, graduated its first class this January. Portland Seed Fund is about to graduate its second class of startups and newcomer Upstarts Labs – which just launched late last year – is taking a Milk-like labs approach to developing new products.
Posted: 04 May 2012 12:23 PM PDT
How much should you pay for a used iPhone, TV, or bicycle? Spark Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel and more think you need to know, so they’ve invested $1.5 million into Priceonomics, a Y Combinator winter 2012 startup. The seed round that shall be announced later today (Update: here it is) will go towards hiring front-end developers and back-end engineers to make the site beautiful but simple and beef up its machine learning technology.
The site saw 250,000 page views in March and is still growing traffic by a brisk 65% every month. Investors see gold in possible business models built around the data Priceonomics crawls and ads shown to people about to make a purchase. Co-founder Rohin Dhar says the startup aims to beat general search engines by immediately knowing you’re looking to buy when you type in the name or maker of a laptop, appliance, camera, or stereo.
Priceonomics is building a smart, curated catalog of all the products ever made, as I wrote when I broke the news of the startup’s launch in December. It identifies an item, and then crawls the web looking for every price it’s being sold at second-hand. It then gives you a suggested price you should be willing to pay, plus an acceptable range and how the price has changed over time. It then links to eBay, Craigslist, and other places where you can buy the product.
Once Priceonomics pitched at Y Combinator Demo Day a month ago and we named it one of the best of the class, it only took 10 days to close the round. Andreessen Horowitz and SV Angel helped power the $150,000 start fund that Y Combinator companies get, and are now doubling down on Priceonomics. Other new institutional investors beyond Spark Capital are CrunchFund (ran by former TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington), Crosslink Capital, Blazer Ventures, Open Network Lab, Ace & Company, Start Fund, and Y Combinator.
YC partners Sam Altman, Garry Tan, Harj Taggar, and Alexis Ohanian as well as early Google engineers Vijay Boyapati, Mike Curtiss, Steve Baker, and Brian Larson are in on the round. Finally, angels Joshua Schachter (founder of delicious.com), Irene Pedraza / David Villeger (founders of CheetahMail), Matt Humphrey (cofounder of homerun.com) Michael Ovitz (founder of CAA), Erik Moore, Tim Fong, Klaus Wittgenstein, and father/son pair Rick Merrill & Rick Merrill are investing. Dhar says “YC worked so hard to make sure all the investors were at Demo Day, and helped us connect with them in a fundraising environment” — a much less awkward experience than startups and investors cold-emailing each other.
Competitors it will have to fight off include Worth Monkey, but that tool’s just a search engine. It doesn’t offer intelligently organized price guides. Priceonomics may also end up butting heads with Carsabi, a fellow YC company that specializes in used car discovery.
While indexing first-hand products “is on our radar” Dhar tells me, “right now we’re focused just on second-hand stuff because there doesn’t exist any fair pricing there.” It’s true. Trying to Google for a “used iPhone” brings up a jumble of links to different models and prices, and you can’t be sure if you’re missing a deal. Priceonomics makes you confident you’re not going to get ripped off.
Check out the unique blog post Priceonomics put up about the funding, which includes a call for engineers to apply for jobs, and advice for other startups trying to raise money.
Posted: 04 May 2012 12:15 PM PDT
Earlier today, GlobalGrind broke the news that Adam “MCA” Yauch, a founding member of New York’s pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, had died of cancer at the age of 47.
While the loss of Yauch will be felt for decades to come, the outpouring on Twitter shows just how big an impact the Beastie Boys and Yauch have had on social consciousness. Both Twitter’s global and local trends are currently dominated by tributes to the boys from Brooklyn.
He is survived by his wife and daughter.
H/T to Gizmodo for the image.
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