20 November, 2011



Crowdfunding: Where it has been and where the new bill is taking it (infographic)

Posted: 19 Nov 2011 05:20 PM PST

computer moneyWhen marketing executives Michael Migliozzi II and Brian Flatow decided they wanted to buy Pabst Blue Ribbon, a private beer company, they created BuyaBeerCompany.com to ask the public for financial help. The idea was quickly shot down by the SEC, prompting the recent discussion on where “crowdfunding” fits into the scheme of private businesses.

Crowdfunding, the practice of private companies soliciting the public for investments, has been made popular by websites such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, ProFounder and others. These are great for individuals and small groups looking for a leg up,  but when it comes to private businesses using these as an investment tactic in exchange for shares in the company, the SEC wants everything to be nice and documented. Thus, the commission created a crowdfunding bill to officially allow private companies legal access to crowdfunding.

Currently, the SEC only allows a company to have 499 shareholders total in a private company. This makes crowdfunding difficult, as at its nature, crowdfunding is provided in small amounts by a lot more people than a regular venture or angel investment. The proposed bill, however, will allow any number of individuals to invest, but are capped by $10,000 or ten percent of their income, whichever comes first, and can only accept up to $5 million.

Check out the inforgraphic below for more details on the bill and the state of crowdfunding today:

Crowdfunding Infographic[Computer money photo via Shutterstock]

Filed under: Entrepreneur Corner

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3D printing sees more of New York with Shapeways’ new facility, $5.1M funding

Posted: 19 Nov 2011 02:24 PM PST

Shapeways3D printing company Shapeways is opening up its own production facility with a new $5.1 follow on of funding from Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures.

When I think of 3D printing, I am reminded of those old Sci-Fi shows where you entered an object of desire into a device to only moments later open a hatch and find it sitting there. 3D printing is just that, and allows anyone to choose or create a paper design of something they want, which is then computerized and sent to a printer to “print” the actual thing. Designs are executed through layering a material such as plastic or metal line-by-line until it takes the object’s shape.

The process allows you to create personalized goods for consumers, without mass productions costs on the business side.

“What we're doing is still quite new…and we're working to solve three core challenges. We want to make it easier for everyone to make anything. We want to make it more affordable. And we want to make it faster, and faster,” said Peter Weijmarshausen, chief executive officer of Shapeways in a company blog post.

Currently, Shapeways is creating around 30,000 objects and month, using a number of different materials, including ceramic or stainless steel for household goods, and sterling silver for higher end creations. You can even order glass creations in multiple colors. In order to keep up with demand, the company expects to double its employee roster by mid-2012, as well as open a New York production facility to keep costs down for shipping.

“We are thrilled to infuse the NY start-up scene with technology that truly bridges the digital and physical worlds,” he continued in the post.

The company already has a production facility in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The funding from Shapeway’s existing investors Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures will be used to help realize the production facility as well as make necessary hires.

Another New York 3D printer MakerBot recently got the “Colbert Bump” when Comedy Central comedian Stephen Colbert featured MakerBot’s printing prowess on The Colbert Show. The company created a bust of Colbert and later on sent it into space using a weather balloon and GPS tracker to watch where the bust went. Check out the video of MakerBot sending Colbert’s head into space below.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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Spotify gets canned by over 200 labels, citing detriment to music industry

Posted: 19 Nov 2011 10:41 AM PST

daniel ekOver 200 labels falling under distributor STHoldings have pulled their music loot from streaming music services believing the new business model is hurting, not helping, the industry.

The U.K. based indie label distributor confirmed the move in a statement yesterday saying, “Despite these services offering promotion to many millions of music listeners we have concerns that these services cannibalise the revenues of more traditional digital services.”

STHoldings is pulling its labels from Spotify, Rdio, Napster, and Simfy.

Streaming music services have seen themselves as the way back to a pay-for-play music industry, which has been utterly taken over by pirated music. This ironically started with Napster, now a streaming music service of its own soon to be assimilated into Rhapsody, when it debuted in the late 1990′s. Now, sites like The Pirate Bay and Bit Torrent have made it easy for people all over the globe to access and download any music content they want. The streaming model, however, has infiltrated those black market users with guilty consciences by offering reasonable prices for monthly access to most of the music they want. It plays to the people who don’t want to shell out $1-2 a song on iTunes.

Obviously, not all artists or labels agree with these new models, however.

“They provide poor revenue and have a detrimental affect on sales,” STHoldings’ statement continues, “Add to that, the feeling that their music loses its specialness by its exploitation as a low value/free commodity. Quoting one of our labels "Let's keep the music special, f*ck Spotify"

If not for money, it seems STHoldings’ labels want their art to be just that, appreciated as art and not a part of a solution to piracy. As Wired points out, there have been rumors of artists receiving tiny cuts of their music’s profit. One instance cited a $167 check to Lady Gaga for over a million plays of her songs, though this was refuted.

“Artists can — and do — receive very substantial revenues from Spotify, and as Spotify grows, these revenue streams will naturally continue to grow,” a Spotify spokesperson told Wired. “We do however hope that they will change their minds, as the Spotify model is adding, and will continue to add, huge value to the music industry. Right now we have already convinced millions of consumers to pay for music again, to move away from downloading illegally and therefore generate real revenue for the music business.”

[Daniel Ek photo via Fortune Live Media/Flickr]

Filed under: media

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Apps for occupiers make organizing, communicating and sharing easier

Posted: 19 Nov 2011 09:30 AM PST

The smartphone has been at the center of the Occupy Wall Street movement, just as it has played a pivotal role in the Arab Spring. And while the cameras in phones have recorded some of the movement’s most searing images, a growing number of apps are helping protest participants communicate and coordinate with one another.

Occupy Wall Street encampments across the U.S. have been dismantled by police actions, and as cold weather sets in, the movement will have to change its tactics if it is to survive. The smartphone apps that have been helpful in facilitating communication will play a pivotal role as protesters regroup and update their strategies.

But while some app developers welcome the attention, a throng of new users isn’t always welcome for those who would rather not be associated with a political movement. Remaining unaligned can minimize the risk of alienating users, and help to avoid the scrutiny of authority figures.

We’ve looked at three smart phone apps Occupy Wall Street protesters have been using to organize, and how the developers are reacting to their popularity.


Protest4 is a location-based app that lets you search for protests in progress or start your own. The app is tied to your Facebook and Twitter accounts so that you can see where people in your network are when the action heats up, and it makes it easy for you to share information with your networks from the scene of an event. Like other apps being used by protesters, Protest4 doesn’t require much personal information about you, just a first name.

Protest4 recently welcomed its 50,000th member, and all the attention brought about an unwelcome distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), as co-founder and chief executive officer Jim Kent told VentureBeat in an email.

Beyond the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S., Protest4 has been embraced by free speech movements and political demonstrations in Indonesia, Pakistan Egypt, and even Italy, where Prime Miniester Silvio Berlusconi recently resigned.

The team that built Protest4 has a business plan in place, even while Kent says that Protest4 will always be free to download and use. Protest4 was built on top of the back-end for the Zapon app, an open source messaging platform developed to connect fans of cricket, fashion or any related topic. The experience of developing Protest4 and seeing its growth shoot through the roof will be invaluable when customizing a Zapon-powered product for paid users.


Go HD is a free messaging app for the iPhone that officially launched last week, and was created by Los Angeles design studio Hollr. With GO, people can upload and share anonymous location-based messages, photos and videos.

The GO app is wrapped up in a gorgeous package, with three simple options for sharing: “Snap, Shoot, Speak,” to capture photos, film a video, or post a tweet. A nifty map overlay lets users track anonymous sharing activity by location, or search by hash tag.

GO has scraped away much of the social aspects of content sharing so that the message is the focus, as opposed to the messenger.

“Regardless of status, we are equals in that we share the experience and are speaking to the world, versus followers,”  Justin Dionisio, the creative behind the Go app, told VentureBeat. Speed and functionality are emphasized over any narcissistic desire for recognition.

“Something is always happening,” the company writes on its website, and celebrations, rallies, riots and other events could also be good opportunities to use GO.

The company embraces the Occupy Wall Street,  as seen by the screen shots included on the iTunes App Store, but it will be an uphill struggle to see how the company broadens its appeal.


While Occupy Wall Street protesters may be rattling the nerves of bank executives and elected officials in Washington D.C., Whatsapp likely has telecom company’s knees knocking.

The 99 cent messaging app for iPhone and Android devices was recently called “the smartphone success story that’s never been told,” according to Tim Bradshaw of the Financial Times. The app allows users to send unlimited text messages, so they can avoid paying SMS texting fees. Bradshaw speculates that Whatsapp could do to SMS on mobile phones what Skype did to international calling.

Besides the fact that the app is almost laughably cheap to download, all messages are encrypted, so sensitive communication between two users cannot not be tied to individuals if it were to be intercepted by snoops.

The app recently exceeded 1 billion messages per day, which was no doubt buoyed by protest related activity. However, the extent to which any uprising could fuel such growth is debatable. The company parsed the 1 billion messages milestone in a blog post:

Just how much is 1 billion messages? That is 41,666,667 messages an hour, 694,444 messages a minute, and 11,574 messages a second.

1 billion messages a day is a significant milestone and also a small step closer towards our goal: providing a great mobile messaging system for a global market, regardless of your handset.

Whatsapp has distanced itself from any association with the Occupy Wall Street movement, but that hasn’t stopped various media outlets from pointing out the obvious.

When contacted for this story, company representatives referred VentureBeat to the blog post mentioned above, but would not comment specifically.  Whatsapp is also available on Windows Phone, Blackberry and Symbian devices.


There are good reasons why mobile app developers might wish to align themselves with the Occupy Wall Street  protests, or inject a little distance. While GO HD and Protest4, as relatively new ventures, could use the exposure, Whatsapp is already sitting pretty with a large group of customers. The company raised $8 million from Sequoia in April, and the company and its investors clearly have their sites set on larger prizes than being popular among political agitators. And there are certain risks associated as well.

During the Tunisian uprising, Facebook discovered its servers had been hacked by an organization with ties to the Tunisian government, and user information had be compromised. Certainly in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, Facebook and other social media platforms have been instrumental as organizing tools, just as they have been for protesters in the U.S. While Twitter and Google were very vocal in their support of pro-democracy movements in the Middle East, Facebook was seen as not wanting to jeopardize potential expansion into China, the world’s largest Internet market, but also one that is notoriously censored.

While teams behind the apps popular with protesters have expressed varying levels of support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, Protest4′s Kent says that distancing your product from a social movement can only do so much. Any social media tool is, in principle, usable by activists whose agendas you may or may not be comfortable with.

“To a certain extent, all social media products have that risk,” Kent said.

Image Credit: Saint Huck/Flickr

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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