30 January, 2012



Solera raises $20M from Intel and others for real-time network security

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:56 AM PST

Solera Networks has raised $20 million in a fourth round of funding led by Intel Capital, the investment arm of the world’s biggest chip maker.

The money will finance Solera’s business in providing real-time network security using high-speed security appliances. The large funding shows that security continues to be a hot market for investments.

Other existing investors Allegis Capital, Signal Peak Ventures and Trident Capital also participated in the deal.

The Salt Lake City company will use the money to expand global sales, marketing and product development initiatives.

"With increasingly large amounts of data crossing corporate networks, organizations must balance advanced threat prevention with an aggressive and proactive response system to be fully prepared when an inevitable breach occurs,” said Sean Cunningham, Intel Capital investment director.

When hackers strike at company web sites, there is often no easy way to figure out what happened. Solera helps companies reconstruct exactly what transpired. The value of that data is often critical to figuring out who did it, much like the evidence found at a crime scene is often most critical in the first 48 hours. It's important that network forensics be done in "real time," or instantaneously, to give companies the best situational awareness possible.

During the past year, domestic and international sales grew more than 100 percent for Solera. The company’s DeepSee platform uses “deep packet inspection,” meaning it processes traffic in real time and looks inside each internet packet to determine whether it contains any cyber threat. It can inspect cloud and mobile traffic.

"We're seeing broad adoption of our full-fidelity 'camera for your network' technology, providing CISOs and CEOs the added assurance that all breaches are contained, maintaining our customers' reputation and mitigating their financial risk,” said Steve Shillingford, president and CEO of Solera Networks.

Solera’s rivals include NetWitness, Niksun, and Endace.

Intel Capital has invested more than $104 billion in 1,212 companies in 51 countries since 1991. Of those companies, 194 have gone public and 289 were acquired or merged. In 2011, Intel Capital invested $526 million in 158 investments.

Filed under: deals

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Betaworks rewards its investors and looks to the future of real time networks

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:27 AM PST

The Chelsea based digital studio betaworks is all about the real time web, so how’s this for speed. It took the company less than a year to generate a return on the $20 million it raised last March. Over the weekend PandoDaily reported that betaworks gave back all invested capital plus a dividend with cash left over for their balance sheet.

Founder and chief executive John Borthwick used his letter to investors to lay out the four trends betaworks believes will guide the future of the internet business:

  1. Proliferation of devices that are connected to networks is accelerating the rate of innovation.
  2. Connected devices are enabling real-time services and real-time networks.
  3. Networks of people, ideas and participation matter more than networks of devices.
  4. Great design has become increasingly vital as computing has gotten less expensive.

The tools that betaworks is building are being employed by some of the masters of modern day media. Glenn Beck, for example, relies on Chartbeat to understand what his stories audience is most engaged with as he talks to them.

The three in house companies that are being built at betaworks (bit.ly, Chartbeat and SocialFlow) are all increasing their focus on generating real revenues. bit.ly hired a new CEO, Peter Stern, built out an enterprise sales team and launched an enterprise reputation management tool. The company is aiming to put out its first consumer offering by March.

Newsbeat, the high end real time analytics tool from Chartbeat, hit a million dollar run rate.The company promoted Tony Haile to CEO and recently picked up an additional $1 million inside round of funding to maintain its rapid growth as it raises a big new round of capital. And SocialFlow is growing so fast they need a new office outside the betaworks building.

betaworks lost co-founder Andy Weissman to Union Square Ventures, but has replaced him with Sam Mandel, formerly an EVP at Tweetdeck. It will be interesting to see where the company goes this year with a large part of the real-time social networking industry hitting the public markets. A big part of betaworks winning year may have come from their sale of Groupon on the public markets and their majority stake in Twitter on the private markets.

It’s tough to evaluate exactly how well betaworks investors made out. The basic rule of thumb is venture investors want a 3X return. But in this case, the investors got their capital back and then some, plus they maintained their original stake as shareholders in the company. So regardless of the return, this has to be seen as a validation and a win for betaworks model.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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British tourists detained, barred from U.S. after tweet about “destroying America”

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:23 AM PST

twitter-user-barredTwo British tourists were detained and barred from entering the U.S. after the Department of Homeland Security flagged one of them for joking to “destroy America” and to dig up Marilyn Monroe’s grave on Twitter.

British citizens Leigh Van Bryan (pictured) and his friend Emily Bunting recently flew to Los Angeles for a holiday trip and instead were interrogated for five hours and locked up over night, according to The Sun newspaper.

The incident shows how next-generation law enforcement, where government agents monitor social networks for criminal activity, can go horribly astray. Like something out of Minority Report, the government admitted last week that it planned to take its social media monitoring to another level by creating a tool that crawls Twitter, Facebook, and other networks to catch more crimes before they happen. But with the government’s over-reaction in this latest incident, perhaps it should reconsider.

Bryan told The Sun that he and his friend were treated like terrorists for quipping on social media. Showing that law enforcement has no sense of humor, in the the U.K., “destroying” is slang for partying. And Bryan’s tweet about “diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up” is a reference to the TV show Family Guy.

Bryan and his friend were detained in separate cells overnight after being questioned, and Bryan shared a cell with suspected drug dealers. The two were put on a return flight to the U.K. the next morning. In a smart move, Bryan has since switched his Twitter profile to private.

You can see Bryan’s offending tweets and the official report by Homeland Security below:


Filed under: social

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Nokia Lumia 910 headed to Europe with a 12MP camera

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:15 AM PST

nokia-lumia-900-hands-onWhile Americans eagerly await Nokia’s Lumia 900 Windows Phone, Europeans have something even better to look forward to: the Lumia 910.

The newer model will sport a 12 megapixel shooter, an upgrade over the 8MP camera on the Lumia 800 and 900, according to a product page  by Dutch retailer Typhone.

We’ve asked Nokia to comment on the new model, but we don’t really expect the company to reveal much so soon. The existence of the Lumia 910 was also hinted at by Mobile-Review’s Eldar Murtazin (someone who is well known for his sources among European carriers and phone makers), who said that the Lumia 910 will hit Europe in May.

If Typhone’s product listing is correct, the Lumia 910 will also forgo the 900′s LTE functionality. That’s not a huge deal though, since LTE isn’t yet widely deployed across Europe.

AT&T is expected to launch the Lumia 900 in the U.S. around March 19, and it may even retail for a low $99 with contract, according to a recent report. The phone was a surprise hit at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show — partially, because there weren’t many other new phones at the show, but also because it was a surprisingly sexy Windows Phone device.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Barnes & Noble working on a new Nook, finally going international

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:14 AM PST

barnes-noble-nook-tabletBarnes & Noble is reportedly working on a new e-reader device that could help the book publisher take on both Amazon and the international market.

Barnes & Noble’s line of Nook e-reader devices, which first debuted in 2009, are helping the company boost its digital sales of e-books. The Nook also helps Barnes & Noble compete against online retail giant Amazon, which has its own line of Kindle e-readers, as well as a healthy lead in the international market.

The U.S. book company is apparently “putting final touches” on a fifth e-reading device that will be released in spring of 2012, according to a recent New York Times report. The news doesn’t indicate if the new Nook e-reader device will be an e-ink device or an upgraded version of its Android OS-based tablet. But given that the company just released the Nook Tablet, its second Android slate, it’s far more likely that we’ll see a new e-ink device.

The report also indicates that Barnes and Noble is planning to announce a partnership with U.K. book retailer Waterstones, which has over 300 locations. This would line up with comments made in December by Barnes & Noble VP of Digital Content Theresa Horner, who told The BookSeller that the company would be making an international launch in the near future.

It wouldn’t be unheard of for Barnes & Noble to release a new Nook tablet this spring, but I don’t think the company would do so for the specific purpose of entering the international market. If the line of Nooks make it into Waterstone stores, it may be under the same partnership Barnes & Noble has forged with other booksellers here in the U.S. For instance, Books-a-Million sells the Nook line of e-readers without any branding from Barnes & Noble.

We’re reaching out to Barnes and Noble for further comment and will update the post with any addition information.

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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Clio manages your law firm & keeps your client’s secrets safe

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:00 AM PST

Clio, a cloud-based project management service for individual lawyers and small law practices, announced Monday it has raised $6 million in its second round of funding. Acton Capital Partners and Point Nine Capital led the series B round.

"Clio provides small and medium law firms help to run their firms, doing everything from billing to staying on top of clients' activity," Clio chief executive Jack Newton told VentureBeat in an interview, "Clio allows lawyers to securely community with their clients with having to compromise the security of the message."

Clio aims to manage entire law firms and individual practices with project management tools, secure file storage, task management tools, and billing systems. The service also puts a lot of focus on secure collaboration, meaning when lawyers and their clients need to share information they can do so with a secure connection that can't be easily hacked. By using the cloud, Clio not only keeps project management costs low for lawyers, but it can also offer file storage systems and internal networks that are more secure than small law firms could afford to implement themselves.

"We've been very proactive on educating our clients about security and implementing best in class security measures so our clients can rest assured their data safe" said Newton.

Clio plans to use the funding to further market its services to reach more law firms and individual law practices. It will also focus on global expansion into Europe and Australia.

"We'll be investing in sales and marketing to get the word out about Clio and investing heavily in product development" Newton told VentureBeat.

Clio was founded in 2007 and is based in Vancouver, Canada with 50 employees. The company has raised $7 million dollars overall from Acton Capital Partners, Point Nine Capital, and private investors.

Gavel with cash image via Shutterstock

Filed under: deals

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iBooks is not the education revolution you’ve been looking for

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 08:00 AM PST

iBooks 2 textbook on an iPad

Apple recently announced iBooks 2 for iPad, which it promises will reinvent the textbook. Some even speculate that it will ignite a revolution in education.

Why? Because iBooks are sleeker, smarter, and equipped with a seemingly endless amount of innovative features, like animation, full screen photos, and videos. It's no wonder that schools and students are jumping on the iBooks bandwagon (Apple sold nearly 350,000 textbooks in the first three days). iBooks is certainly inventive — but the improvements are evolutionary. Reinventing is a long way from revolutionizing.

The revolution is already at hand, and fortunately for the students of tomorrow, it isn't iBooks.

By definition, revolutionary ideas throw out the old standard instead of merely reinventing it. iBooks digitizes textbooks, mixing in some rich media, simple quizzes, and a nifty note-tracking system. You can even search! It's certainly a big improvement over print. But the essence of a textbook remains: a linear, monolithic body of knowledge.

Contrast this with Khan Academy, an online video library that is taking the educational world by storm. Its goal: to provide a world-class, free education to anyone, anywhere, anytime. It launched out of founder Salman Kahn's converted closet. Now, it has delivered more than 115 million lessons to students around the world via short video segments taught by "Sal" himself. While its presentation is engaging, the real impact stems from its ability to organize information into a truly individual experience where you can choose your own learning adventure.

It's a model that has proven as effective as it is unorthodox: a school without walls, without a curriculum, and without textbooks. It is education unbound. And students are flocking to it.

Khan describes his videos like this:

I teach the way that I wish I was taught. The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him… I felt like fascinating and INTUITIVE concepts were almost intentionally being butchered into pages and pages of sleep-inducing text and monotonic, scripted lectures. I saw otherwise intelligent peers memorizing steps and formulas for the next exam without any sense of the intuition or big picture, only to forget everything within a matter of weeks.

While textbooks are part of the problem, they are not the problem. It is education itself that is broken.

The prevailing system breaks the world's knowledge into linear sections and static formulas. But the way we think isn't linear—it's associative. We jump from concept to concept, our brains naturally latching onto the next most interesting idea. The path to knowledge is best approached organically, not prescriptively. Any linear, chapter-based textbook format — even one as snazzy and as engaging as iBooks — is an anachronism.

Sir Ken Robinson, well known for his famous series of TED lectures on education, is critical of what he considers to be our grossly outdated, 19th century model of education. Instead of throwing our efforts into education reform, Robinson advocates that we "disenthrall" ourselves from relics of the past. We need to stop doing things that we have always done, just because we have always done it.

"Reform is no use anymore, because that's simply improving a broken model . . . What we need is not an evolution; we need a revolution," he says.

Visionaries like Kahn and Robinson have shown the path forward: an education system that treats students like individuals. The future of education will be organic, associative, and explorative. It's distinctly un-bookish, which means it is also distinctly un-iBookish.

Apple's iBooks promises that all those "gorgeous" features will make students excited to learn about the solar system. But Apple already (as the saying goes) has an app for that: Star Walk for iPad. It’s an educational astronomy app that, like Khan Academy, promotes learning that is not segmented into parts and bound between two covers (even if they are virtual covers); it is education unbound. That's the real revolution.

Sal Khan and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia are empowering millions to learn without using a single textbook. They are promoting this learning revolution through self-service and knowledge portals, which lets users pursue the topics that most intrigue them. This sort of divergent thinking about education is the wave of the future, and more organizations should embrace a format that really facilitates long-term learning.

My company’s technical documentation software, Dozuki, is designed to teach people to do the things they want to do, when they want to do it. With iFixit (which runs on Dozuki), we don't walk people through an entire repair curriculum before we teach them how to fix an iPod. We provide just enough information at the point of need, and give inspired individuals a path to learn more.

Here's the real key to effective education: Give people the most intuitive, direct path to understanding what they really want. That approach has helped us teach 15 million amateurs to fix complex electronics, and it’s how Salman Kahn is systematically revolutionizing education.

Textbooks are a broken form of knowledge acquisition, and it's not because they're made of paper. iBooks could have been so much more. Perhaps some day it will be.

Kyle Wiens, iFixit and DozukiKyle Wiens is the cofounder of iFixit, the online repair manual. He’s currently starting a new technical documentation software company, Dozuki, with the goal of reinventing how companies make their customers awesome.

Top photo by Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat.

Filed under: media

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Analysts: THQ has taken a step in the right direction

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 07:00 AM PST

UFC Undisputed 3Many eyes in the gaming industry will be on THQ on Thursday, Feb. 2 when it releases its financial results for the third quarter of fiscal 2012. The video game publisher's future has been questioned recently after multiple layoffs, rumors of game cancellations, and poor stock performance.

THQ is one of the largest U.S. game publishers, and its financial struggles after more than two decades of making video games is a sign of big changes happening in the core video game industry.

THQ said in December it expects net sales for the third quarter will be 25 percent below its previously announced guidance of $510 million to $550 million due to weaker-than-expected sales of the uDraw GameTablet peripheral for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. uDraw's failure to catch on with consumers led to layoffs of at least 30 people at the publisher's family division, Play THQ. The publisher also confirmed to Game Informer last week it let go an unspecified number of employees after announcing it was dropping licensed properties from kids' entertainment companies like Disney/Pixar and Nickelodeon to focus on "core" franchises like Saints Row and UFC.

THQ's stock fell more than 5 percent on Wednesday to 70 cents after it announced it was shifting focus away from kids' content. The publisher's stock has fallen more than 87 percent in the last year, from $5.86 to 72 cents. Investors clearly have no confidence that there will be a turnaround, but Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) analyst Jesse Divnich thinks the realignment is a step in the right direction.

EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich"As THQ has a strong foundation of excellent developers, I believe this shift in focus was necessary for THQ and will ultimately be proven to be the right decision for the company," he said. "THQ has demonstrated this holiday season that they have the resources, talent, and capabilities of delivering a 3 million-plus tiitle (Saints Row: The Third) — something only AAA publishers can accomplish per our models."

Divnich (pictured) says as long as the publisher can continue to innovate and expand the reach of its core brands, he doesn't see any issue with its long-term viability as a AAA publisher.

Robert W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian also believes THQ's recent strategy makes sense. "We have seen casual game consumption transition very quickly over to smart devices (phones and tablets), and it is really difficult now to convince a 10-year-old or a parent to spend $40 or $50 on a kids' game when a cool app costs just 99 cents," he said. "From that point of view, the strategy makes sense. Focus on a small number of core games that can be profitable, and pursue some option value from newer digital platforms."

Ultimately, Sebastian thinks the publisher needs to focus on its strengths in order to survive through the current console cycle. If its strategy of focusing on AAA content works, he sees it potentially becoming an attractive acquisition candidate.

But THQ doesn’t have all the time in the world to turn things around. In the most recent second-fiscal quarter ended Sept. 30, THQ had non-GAAP revenues of $119.6 million and a net loss of $40.6 million. The company had cash and cash equivalents of $51.0 million on Sept. 30. Unless THQ can turn around the current rate of losses, it will be out of cash in a couple of quarters. The company might be able to borrow more money, but it already has long-term debt of $83.7 million and current liabilities of $275.3 million.

THQ is expected to turn a profit in the third fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31, with non-GAAP net income of about 65 cents a share, according to analyst estimates. That could bring another $45 million in profits into the company’s coffers, giving it more leash for perhaps a quarter or so. Clearly, THQ would have to either start generating a lot more revenues from new games or cut back on its costs.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter recently told VentureBeat that THQ will likely run out of cash by June, or even earlier, unless it takes steps to prevent it by possibly reducing overhead, canceling projects, selling assets, or raising capital. He also expects nothing surprising will come from the publisher’s earnings call on Feb. 2. “They already preannounced, and they will say that they are taking steps to cut costs and preserve cash,” he said.

Dean Takahashi contributed to this story.

Filed under: games

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iPhones accounted for a quarter of smartphones shipped in Q4, says Juniper

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 06:55 AM PST

While the success of the iPhone 4S was a big deal for Apple last quarter, it was the free (with contract) iPhone 3GS that helped Apple truly dominate the smartphone market in Q4, according to Juniper Research.

Apple’s 37 million iPhones shipped accounted for almost one-quarter of the 149 million smartphones shipped globally in the last quarter, the research firm said in its latest report.

That’s on-par with Strategy Analytics’ figures, which counted 155 million smartphones shipped worldwide in Q4. Given the variances in the way different firms count total smartphone sales, it’s safe to say that somewhere around 150 million smartphones were pushed out last quarter.

As we noted previously, Apple stole the No. 1 spot from Samsung last quarter (Samsung reported that it shipped 36.5 million smartphones, compared to Apple’s 37 million), but Juniper also points out that Samsung’s market share jumped significantly in the last quarter, up to 21.7 percent from just 4.7 percent the year prior.

Without the bump of a new iPhone release and the holiday shopping frenzy, Apple will likely see a major decline in smartphone shipments for this quarter. That means Samsung has a good chance to snatch back the No. 1 smartphone maker spot. Expect this see-saw to continue for the foreseeable future.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Glooko raises $3.5M to sync diabetes glucose meters to iPhone app

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 05:00 AM PST

Glooko has raised $3.5 million in a new round of funding that will enable it to release new versions of its solution to help people with diabetes monitor their glucose intake more easily.

The round was led by The Social+Capital Partnership along with existing investors. The company’s product is one more example of the “quantified self” trend, where people can gain self-knowledge through quantification of the things they do in life.

About 25 million people live with diabetes in the U.S. People with diabetes can’t properly process sugar their blood because their bodies can’t make enough insulin, which bonds with the sugar and turns it into fat. Patients need to inject themselves with synthetic insulin several times a day to keep their blood sugar under control. If they have too little or too much sugar in their blood, the results can be incapacitating or life threatening.

Many people use glucose meters to monitor their sugar intake. The Glooko MeterSync Cable plugs into most standard self-monitoring blood glucose meters and then syncs the data to a Glooko Logobook app on iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) devices.

With the app, diabetes patients can review a digital logbook of readings, review their daily blood sugar levels, annotate them and share the results with a doctor. The product debuted in November.

Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and managing partner of The Social+Capital Partnership, has joined Glooko’s board. Other investors include Bill Campbell, Vint Cerf, Judy Estrin, Andy Hertzfeld, Venky Harinarayan of Cambrian Ventures and Russell Hirsch of Prospect Venture Partners; and Xtreme Labs, a Canadian mobile applications development firm.

"Proactive and ongoing self-management of one's health can now be a reality using mobile devices and well-designed software," said Palihapitiya.  "Glooko has made important progress in helping individuals better manage one of the most pervasive diseases of our generation."

Glooko is also releasing a new version of the Glooko Logbook app that supports Bayer’s Breeze 2 meter. It has a real-time food database, a 30-day logbook, and availability in Canada. The app is available on the iTunes App Store and the Glooko MeterSync cable can be purchased from Amazon.com.

Yogen Dalal, Glooko co-founder and chairman, said the company was able to deliver its solution in a year with just $1 million in seed capital. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Glook was founded in 2010 by Dalal, Sunny Madra and Anita Matthew. The company has 15 employees.

Competitors are makers of software and cables from the glucose meter vendors. But Glooko says it supports seven different meters, has a good user interface, and gets rid of the manual data entry of results by replacing that with an automatic logbook.

Filed under: mobile

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Kayak gives site a new look, isn’t worried about Google competition

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 05:00 AM PST

A subject's eye-movements are tracked while testing the Kayak.com redesign.

How big of a deal is a site redesign, really? For travel-booking heavy Kayak, it’s everything. That’s why it took the company six months, one $30,000 eye-tracking device, and countless A/B tests to perfect its new website look, which is being unveiled today.

The eight-year-old flight-, hotel-, and car-reservation company recently released a new iPhone and iPad app. Inspired by the minimalist user interface of the iOS app, Kayak decided to give its website a similar pared-down look aimed at helping customers find what they’re looking for more quickly.

Online travel is projected to be a $313 billion industry in 2012, and while Kayak and other major players have voiced concern about Google’s recent foray into flight search, the relationship is more tangled than it appears on the surface. Google’s competing flight search feature is powered by ITA, a company it bought in last year. ITA still provides U.S. fight search results to Kayak, which happens to power Bing’s travel search results. (And not that they’re hanging out in the same travel-industry bars or anything, but ITA and Kayak headquarters are a 35 minute drive apart.)

Kayak co-founder and CTO Paul English told VentureBeat he’s not threatened by Google’s flight-booking tool. “Its first flight product was pretty geeky. It was a nice layout but it was focused on a technical audience.” English also said consumers aren’t yet comfortable using Google directly as an e-commerce engine, as they are with sites like Amazon. “They don’t think of it as a place to shop or buy, and travel is an important enough purchase for people that they want a site they trust.”

To hone its new site design, Kayak brought test users into its lab in Concord, Mass. The subjects were told to complete a task, such as finding a hotel or flight, while 10 to 12 engineers observed the process in an adjoining room. The engineers tracked where the subjects looked using an eye-tracking tool. By observing shopper’s facial movements and where they clicked, Kayak was able to remove distracting clutter and simplify the site layout.

Gone is the black bar across the top of the page, affectionately referred to as the “unibrow” by Kayak employees. Advanced features such as searching by code-share flights or long layovers are still available, but they’re hidden by default since the majority of visitors are mere “amateur” travel bookers. Automatic resizing has also been improved to accommodate increasingly larger screen sizes.

Kayak thinks the new design will increase conversion rates. The company will continue to tweak the look and feel of Kayak.com after today’s launch.

Here are some screens of the new, very iPad-esque site, as well as a screenshot of the very first Kayak.com design:

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Feds say MegaUpload data could be deleted by Thursday

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 04:24 AM PST

megaupload-songPop star Will.i.am endorsing Megaupload

In putting the kibosh on MegaUpload, federal prosecutors arrested seven men and froze millions in assets. With their funds in limbo, MegaUpload can’t pay the costs to the companies that store its data, and a letter from the federales says that these companies, Carpathia Hosting Inc. and Cogent Communications Group Inc., can begin deleting the files stored with them as early as this Thursday.

This can’t be welcome news to the people who claim to have uploaded important and perfectly legal files to MegaUpload, and are currently in the process of trying to sue the FBI for seizing their data. To be fair, that group of affected users is spearheaded by a pirate site, which doesn’t exactly lend credence to the idea that there was a large group of users relying on MegaUpload for legit purposes.

Beyond the collateral damage to MegaUpload users, the loss of data might have a more important impact, the destruction of evidence. MegaUpload’s attorney, Ira Rothken, argues that the files stored with these third-party companies may prove valuable in his defense and that it’s in the best interest of all parties to ensure they don’t disappear. “We’re cautiously optimistic at this point that because the United States, as well as Megaupload, should have a common desire to protect consumers, that this type of agreement will get done,” he told the AP.

The FBI copied some data during its seizure, but left the bulk untouched. The government, after seizing MegaUpload’s assets, hasn’t stepped forward yet to assume the costs of keeping this data while the trail moves forward. It’s a reminder that criminal investigations haven’t caught up with the reality of today’s data centers.

Remember that in June of last year, the FBI knocked dozens of innocent sites offline when it seized servers at a hosting facility in Reston, VA. Perhaps the big takeaway is that when it comes to policing the criminal use of data, there is a good chance of collateral damage.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Lance Armstrong joins Mobli’s board of directors

Posted: 30 Jan 2012 01:00 AM PST

Lance Armstrong Mobli

Mobli, a video sharing website, can add Lance Armstrong to its list of celebrity endorsers today. The famed cyclist is joining the company’s board and starting his own Mobli channel.

Mobli’s goal is to show you life through another person’s eyes. It does this by allowing people to set up channels, similar to YouTube, where they can post pictures and video, as well as search for image-based content through certain verticals. These verticals include food, music, fashion, cars, sports, and more. Its other purpose is to allow people access to a person who is usually inaccessible, such as celebrities and political figures. You know the behind the scenes interviews that make channels like E! so popular? Mobli is similar, only the content comes directly from the celebrity.

Celebrities have seemingly taken to Mobli. In October, the company added Leonardo DiCaprio as an investor and advisor, now Armstrong is on its board, and others such as Paris Hilton, David Arquette, and Jaime King have channels.

“When I was first introduced to Mobli, I immediately thought it was an extraordinary platform and an innovative yet accessible way for different audiences to share their stories,” said Armstrong in a statement. “I’m excited to use Mobli as a direct channel for my social media followers to get a personal look at my experiences day to day.”

It seems the entertainment industry isn’t shy to investing time or money into technology any more. Now, celebrity investors are putting their names on startups all over Silicon Valley. Ashton Kutcher is a big name in this celebrity tech ring, with investments in companies like Zaarly, Hipmunk, and Airbnb. Also on the list are singers Will.I.Am, Selena Gomez, and Lady Gaga.

We asked Mobli chief exectuive Moshiko Hogeg what exactly celebrity investors could contribute to a tech company when DiCaprio invested. He explained that it wasn’t for their tech know-how, but rather their experience in marketing. Having a celebrity on your board doesn’t hurt in terms of getting the word out either.

Armstrong will be sharing original content through his channel and plans to broadcast a special charity bike ride on the site as well. Alongside this venture, Mobli has also formed partnerships with Armstrong’s agent Bill Stapleton as well as best selling author Andrew Razeghi.


Filed under: social

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Buffalo Studios blasts Zynga for copying Bingo Blitz social game

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 10:25 PM PST

Nimblebit drew some blood last week when the developer of Tiny Tower cast a stone at Zynga, via an infographic, for copying Tiny Tower in an upcoming mobile game called Dream Heights.

Buffalo Studios is using the same tactic tonight as it calls out Zynga Bingo for being a copycat of Buffalo’s popular Facebook game Bingo Blitz. In the infographic at right, the company points out the similarities in graphics, layout, and game play between Zynga’s recently unveiled Zynga Bingo game and Bingo Blitz.

The copycat charges in social games are turning into an epidemic. Earlier today, Spry Fox announced it was suing 6waves Lolapps for copyright infringement for allegedly copying Spry Fox’s game Triple Town by creating Yeti Town.

“We wanted to alert you to the striking similarities between Zynga’s recently announced game, to our game Bingo Blitz,” said Salim Mith, vice president of product marketing and operations at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Buffalo, in an email.

Buffalo launched Bingo Blitz on Facebook a year ago and it is the No. 1 Bingo game on the social network with more than 1 million daily players.

Mith said that Zynga copies aspects of the game including the use of different themed Bingo rooms and cities, as well as updated powerups.

Buffalo was founded in 2010 and it has 45 employees. Bingo Blitz is the company’s only game. We’ve asked Zynga for comment.

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Tilera launches two new speedy cloud processors, names new CEO

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 09:01 PM PST

Tilera is announcing today it has launched new cloud computing processors with either 16 or 36 computing brains, or cores.

The company is also announcing that its founding chief executive, Devesh Garg, has rejoined the company as CEO. Garg served as CEO from 2004 to 2007. He moved back to India for personal reasons and became managing director Bessemer Venture Partners India fund. Omid Tahernia took Garg’s place in 2007 and is now stepping down and leaving the company.

Tilera is launching its Tile-Gx36 and Tile Gx-16 chips for cloud computing, networking, and multimedia applications. In contrast to Intel server chips, these chips have many more cores on a single chip (compared to two to four for most Intel chips), Tilera puts anywhere from 16 to 100 cores on a chip, all of them connected through high-speed networking. The result is a blazing-fast chip that is also power efficient.

"The strides that Tilera has made during my time abroad have been amazing; I'm returning to the helm at an excellent time and with strong tailwind," says Garg.  "Tilera has great design wins and a family of processors coming out that beats the competition by miles."

Bob Doud, director of marketing at San Jose, Calif.-based Tilera, said in an interview that Tilera has 20 wins with customers who plan to design the chip into their systems, and Tilera is engaged in discussions with as many as 80 customers altogether. Two customers that plan to use the processors are Harmonic and Mercury Computer Systems.

Shipping in small quantities since September, the new 40-nanometer chips are now available in large quantities.

In terms of networking performance, a single Tile-Gx36 can deliver more than 40 gigabits per second of L2/L3 networking while using less than 25 watts of power.

In this market, the company competes with Cavium, Broadcom and NetLogic. Intel is also a rival across Tilera’s markets. Tilera is also targeting its chips at multimedia markets such as transcoding video from one format to another. Doud said that a Tilera Gx36 single-chip video conferencing solution can deliver twice the performance at half the power and a third of the cost of prior solutions that used nine custom chips, digital signal processors and microcontrollers.

Tilera also contends that a server based on one Tile Gx360 chip can provide better performance than an Intel Xeon (Sandy Bridge quad-core) chip and still use less than one fifth of the power and one eighth of the space.

Based on those characteristics, a server with 1,037 Tilera cores could save $411,192 on electrical power costs over four years compared to an Intel Xeon server with 1,096 cores, Doud said. It would also save $608,565 on cooling and infrastructure costs, for a total savings of $1.019 million.

Dod said that a number of new customers will be announced in the coming year. He said that Tilera has been able to launch a number of versions of the chip because it has been designed to be easily tested and validated.

“We can step and repeat and stitch together cores into new chips quite well,” Doud said.

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No more paper resumes! GetHired uses video to snag your dream job

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 09:00 PM PST

Finding a new job isn't easy, but a new company is trying to give you the best advantage. GetHired is video-based job market where you can hunt for jobs and get recruited by employers. The site launched Sunday with $1.75 million in seed funding.

"The whole idea behind GetHired is that employee hiring is inefficient. Most job boards are expensive, costing around $400-$500 to post jobs; smaller businesses can't afford that. Our whole system is free for now and in the future we will only charge a small fee, around $25 for employers to post a job," said GetHired chief executive Suki Shah in an interview with VentureBeat.

Instead of wading through a sea of paper resumes, GetHire emphasizes video resumes to better highlight someone's personality. Employers can use GetHired's portal to streamline their entire hiring process by posting jobs, keeping track of applicants, screening candidates, and scheduling online interviews. When filling out a job listing, employers can ask screening questions for applicants to answer in writing, by phone, or with a voice or video recording. Once the listing is posted to GetHire, employers get a link they can use on other job search sites such as Craigslist and Monster.

Potential employees can use GetHire to post a video resume, search for jobs, and track the progress of an application. No more anxious thoughts such as "Why haven't they called me? Are they interested in me?" Instead, employees get notifications when someone has shown interest in their application or wants to schedule an interview. In addition, once you create an account with GetHired, you are added to an applicant database and can get recruited for positions by companies who use the service.

"The funding will be going towards building out engineering team and expanding our base of employers and job seekers" Shah said.

GetHire is based in Palo Alto, California and has 14 employees. The company has raised $1.75 million to date from private angel investors.

Find a job image via Shutterstock

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What tech can do for jobs a focus at the World Economic Forum

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 06:17 PM PST

Eric Schmidt Google

The World Economic Forum is a gathering of world leaders to talk about the needs and successes of society today and this year the topic of technological growth is playing a huge role.

Technology is a major player in today’s world economy, not just because of the prevalence of social media or the fact that just about every industry could benefit from having an online presence, but because of the jobs it creates. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook‘s chief operating officer, explained at CNBC’s debate during the World Economic Forum that technology is sometimes seen as a force that actually takes away jobs by simplifying processes, but can create jobs as well.

The social network, which is slated to go public this year, should represent “the kind of growth that creates jobs,” according to Sandberg. Indeed, she said that if being a public company is viewed as an opportunity for global jobs growth and change, then “that’s what we want to be a part of.”

A string of other technology IPOs including Groupon, Zynga, Jive, LinkedIn, and Pandora show that technology really is pushing money around and adding to today’s overall economy.

Facebook wasn’t the only technology company represented in Davos, Switzerland this year. Eric Schmidt, Google‘s executive chairman and former chief executive, also came to the event and has been attending for 15, according to the New York Times. He explained that there are roughly 3.5 jobs created for every one lost to technological innovations, according to a McKinsey report he sited on stage during the “Can the digital revolution help deliver jobs in the 21st century?” talk.

“This is no different than the loom when it was invented and the impact that it had,” Schmidt said. “And I don’t think any of us would want to go back and delete the loom.”

Technology has an opportunity to create jobs by creating new industries, such as the semi-conductor industry or clean technology. The air in Silicon Valley is filled with talks of new startups, venture capital and “new hires.” It is a friendly sort of pollution as entrepreneurs are inspired to join the technology ranks and set up shop along the 101. And as long as these and other entrepreneurs continue to create startups, new industries, jobs, and interest in technology will further capture the world’s attention.

hat tip the New York Times, CNBC

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96 percent of Google’s revenue is advertising, who buys it? (infographic)

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 04:38 PM PST

Rich manA whopping 96 percent of Google‘s $37.9 billion 2011 revenue came from advertising, but who is putting all that cash in Google’s wallet?

Google is best known for its web search product, which has completely overturned how we research and find answers. But the search itself is only the basis upon which its golden empire has been built. Advertising based on search, as well as banner advertising on websites touches nearly every industry. It even created the jobs of the search engine and display marketers, whose responsibilities include understanding Google AdWords and Adsense, as well as navigating the strategy behind bidding and maintaining ad campaigns.

In 2011 the industry which used Google’s advertising the most was the finance and insurance industry with $4 billion handed over to Google. State Farm topped the charts at a whopping $43.7 million spent. The most common search term in this industry with the highest cost per click was “self-employed health insurance,” which charged advertisers around $43 for every time someone clicked their advertisement.

The retail and general merchandise industry holds second place for most spent on Google ads, with Amazon leading at $55.2 million spent. You would think that number would be so high to accommodate Amazon’s recent debut of the Kindle Fire, but the most commonly search for keyword in the retail industry was actually “Zumba dance DVD.” If we learn anything from common keywords it’s that the economy is down, so people are self-employed and want to dance at home for exercise.

Travel and tourism came in third with $2.4 billion spent on Google advertising. Jobs and education came in fourth, and home and garden in fifth.

Check out the infographic below for more on who contributes to Google’s huge wealth.

Infographic via WordStream

Rich man image via Shutterstock

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Al Jazeera wesbite hacked for its “Syria Live Blog”

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 03:56 PM PST

Syrian Electronia Army FlagArabic-language news network Al Jazeera‘s website was hacked today by a Syrian hacktivist group in support of the government’s actions in the country.

Al Jazeera hosts a live blog called “Syria Live Blog,” which follows the minute-to-minute events taking place in Syria, including violence and various deaths in the region. The content for the live blog is delivered from various sources and often reads like a causality list.

The live blog’s description states:

“People continue to take to the streets across Syria, while the uprising is becoming increasingly militarised. The UN says more than 5,400 people have been killed since the uprising began in March. Meanwhile, the government blames “armed gangs” for the unrest and says more than 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed. We bring you the latest news from various sources.”

According to Ars Technica, the post that sent the hackers, who call themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, into action was provided by “activist” network Local Coordinating Committees. It tells of 62 new deaths in the region, including three children. These types of messages are what the Syrian Electronic Army sees as propaganda.

The Syrian Electronic Army is a collection of young Syrians, angry about the way the media and other sources are portraying the fighting in their country. They call it a “massive distortion of facts,” and are particularly upset by the way news of the revolution is distributed on Facebook. In their early days, the group began to spread the message that this was not a Syrian revolution but instead an “armed insurrection” on social media. They soon turned toward traditional media and decided that these trusted news sources had “political agendas.”

As Ars points out, the hacktivist group’s website is hosted on servers owned by the Syrian Computer Society, which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lead before becoming president.

The Syrian Electronic Army posted a photo of Assad super-imposed over the Syrian flag with the group’s name below it. Text on the post read, “You got hacked again by SEA. We want Bashar al-Assad.” A photo of the defaced site can be seen below.

Syrian Electronia Army hack of Al Jazeera

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Sony’s North American PlayStation Network chief departs (exclusive)

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 03:18 PM PST

Susan Panico, head of the PlayStation Network in North America, has left the company, VentureBeat has learned.

Panico headed the PlayStation Network as it grew into a huge online entertainment network over the last few years, growing beyond games into a collection of movies, TV shows and original content. Worldwide, the service has more than 77 million registered users.

But the network also faced big challenges during that time as well. In the spring of last year, the PSN suffered an unprecedented six-week outage after a hacker attack. Angry gamers couldn’t log into the network to play multiplayer gamers and Sony had to apologize and invite players back with special offers.

Patrick Seybold, spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment America, said, “We can confirm Susan has left SCEA. We thank her for her considerable contribution to our business and wish her every success in the future.”

No word yet on who is replacing Panico. But she did get a new boss back in October, when Guy Longworth was appointed senior vice president of marketing and PSN. Longworth replaced Peter Dille, who left that job in March 2011.

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New record label lets you download music for free

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 01:17 PM PST

Digital music

“Download for free” is something of a taboo in the entertainment industry as bootleg content continues to take chunks out of studios’ revenue. But one record label is branching out and giving the people what they want: free music.

“At DigSin, we believe in the amazing talent of our artists, and we want to share their music with you,” DigSin says on its Facebook page. “We are committed to delivering the best new music to fans, for free.”

DigSin, a new record label company, is offering all of its songs for free download on its site, according to The Next Web. It will still offer its music through traditional channels such as iTunes and streaming through Spotify, but DigSin owner Jay Frank says he wants to glean information about the type of person coming for his music, their interests, etc. than make sure everyone is paying up front for his label’s songs. He’s still supplementing the free downloads for ad revenue from the site, but doesn’t see that money being any bread and butter.

The word “copyright” has been in people’s mouths for the past few months give then SOPA protests as well as the shut down of file sharing website Megaupload. Websites such as BitTorrent, The Pirate Bay and even Dropbox have changed the way content is distributed. Not too long ago, content was handed out by the record labels and production studios after weeks and weeks of anticipated debuts. With the digitization of just about everything, and faster connection speeds, pirated content is the way many people watch or listen to entertainment.

But could the freemium model really reach the entertainment industry? iTunes brought down the price of music significantly when it instituted the .99 cents per song model. Now, that model is an expected price for legitimate copies of music. Streaming services such as Spotify and Rdio bring the price further down, depending on your consumption of music. But to force an industry into finding a new way of making money still seems a bit far off. Megaupload’s case — a file sharing site charged with copyright infringement and money laundering — shows music labels and production studios are still fighting back hard against copyright infringement. It also shows the government’s willingness to help.

DigSin’s first single comes out tomorrow, check out its website here and tell us if you think this is a big step for music distribution in the future.

via The Next Web, Musical image via Shutterstock

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73 percent of people say they would use social customer support (infographic)

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 11:57 AM PST

As businesses use social media to promote and protect their brands, digital help desk Zendesk is seeing customer service move to the social world as well.

The automated customer service representative annoys all of us. We have all navigated numerical menu options (press one for ‘I want to bash your product against the wall’) that make us wait for a solution until we yell, “Can’t I just speak to a human?” We’ve also dealt with customer service over e-mail, watching threads of miscommunication go on for days. Built up frustration and unsolved problems often lead a user to complain on social media – the same digital place that companies are trying to promote themselves.

According to an infographic created by Zendesk, Facebook is the top social network for people looking to interact with a specific brand. People spent 53,457,258 minutes on Facebook last May. That’s over 890,000 hours of pure social media. Facebook’s main goal is to get people to share their interactions and content across the Web. Thus, it provides tools to help people be brand promoters without even knowing it. For example, the company recently launched “actions,” which allows Facebook users to do more than just “like” something, but rather “want,” “bought,” or “ate” that item. This creates a more engagement-friendly way to say, “I want the latest Big Bang Theory DVD set more than I want proof of String Theory!”

Big name brands are using Facebook to promote through its applications interface as well. For example, Ticketmaster created an Facebook application to allow friends to share where they are seated at an event, and suggest future events that user would like.

People generally “become a fan” of a brand on Facebook to get discounts, be the first to receive news about the brand, and more. So, why wouldn’t they also air their grievances to the brand in the same place? Around 73 percent of people say that if they were supplied the right tools, they would be happy to interact with customer service on the social level. Currently, the majority of customer support requests have been in the retail sector, with telecommunications following in second place.

Check out the infographic to find out more about customer service going social.

Zendesk InfographicCustomer service image via Shutterstock, Infographic via Zendesk

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“Malicious” Android apps are just aggresive advertising, says Lookout Mobile

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 10:47 AM PST

Last week Symantec reported 13 potentially malware-carrying Android applications, that it said may make up a family of botnets. Mobile security firm Lookout Mobile, however, is now saying the apps are just an advertising network.

“We disagree with the assessment that this is malware, although we do believe that the Apperhand SDK (Android.Counterclank) is an aggressive form of ad network and should be taken seriously,” said Lookout Mobile in a blog post.

On Friday, Symantec found a number of gaming and explicit-content applications that it claimed was from the the Android.Counterclank family. Android.Counterclank bares a resemblance to Android.Tonclank, which has been defined as a botnet string. Botnets steal information from your devices and then use them to infect and control other devices in comes in contact with. At the time, however, Lookout Mobile did not agree and said while it wasn’t sure what these applications were, they were not malicious as Symantec had suggested.

“Malware is defined as software that is designed to engage in malicious behavior on a device,” Lookout said, “Apperhand doesn't appear to be malicious, and at this point in our investigation, this is an aggressive form of an ad network – not malware.”

It’s hard to tell the different between spam and the real thing. Sometimes spam can be malicious, with links that download software to your device, or steal your personal information. Some spam, however, exists only as an annoyance. It interrupts your activities, makes you pay attention to something unwanted, and can sometimes go over the top in the ways it gets your attention. That’s exactly what Lookout Mobile is defining this string of applications as: aggressive advertising.

Apperhand skates on the line of what is an accepted intrusion from an advertisement. The applications do identify your device in its servers, but it does not collect other data. It also able to send push notifications to your phone, what some call the “pop-up window of mobile.” These are annoying because, like a pop-up, they really do disturb your activity and force you to take an action. Regular advertisements usually sit at the bottom or top of an application and does not interrupt the application itself.

It is also capable of downloading an icon to your mobile desktop, which is where Apperhand skates much closer to the line. According to Lookout, this icon leads to a web search tool, which only provides safe content. It is still capable of downloading unwanted content to your phone, however, which is a form of spam. Lastly, Apperhand can download bookmarks to your mobile browser, which is over the line for Lookout. Browser bookmarks and toolbars in PCs can be very dangerous, and act as an easy gateway for malware. It seems, however, that this is not the use case for Apperhand, though it should be watched.

Both Symantec and Lookout are continuing research into these applications, especially as previous forms of Apperhand were labeled as dangerous. Some of the apps identified by Symantec have been taken down from the Android app store already, but Lookout warns that this may be for other reasons such as copyright infringement.

Spam photo via Shutterstock

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Spry Fox sues 6waves Lolapps for copying Triple Town game

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 10:27 AM PST

The issue of copycat games is rearing its head in mobile games, just as it had with social games on Facebook.

Spry Fox, a small game developer in Seattle, announced today in a blog post that it has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against 6waves Lolapps, a major social and mobile game publisher, for copying Spry Fox’s hit game Triple Town (pictured top left).

The copycat issue is turning into a big one, as it’s quite easy to copy mobile games and sometimes the copycats become even more popular than the original. In some categories such as farm games, you can find dozens of similar titles. Nimblebit, the developers of Tiny Tower, recently poked Zynga in the eye with an infographic, alleging that Zynga’s upcoming Dream Heights game copied Tiny Tower. But in this case, Spry Fox alleges extensive copying took place, beyond the graphics of the game.

While Triple Town is a Facebook title, David Edery, co-founder of Spry Fox, and Daniel Cook, co-founder, alleged that 6waves Lolapps’ Yeti Town (pictured top right) is a “blatant copy of Triple Town.”

In a statement, 6waves Lolapps said, “Lolapps is disappointed that David Edery has chosen to file a lawsuit, and believes his claims are factually inaccurate. We respect others IP and did nothing to violate any contracts our team had in place. The copyright infringement claims are unjustified.

“This was a difficult decision for (co-founder) Danc and I,” Edery said. “We are not enthusiastic about the prospect of spending our time in court as opposed to making games. And in general, we believe that only in the most extreme circumstances should a video game developer resort to legal action in order to defend their creative works — the last thing our industry needs is frivolous lawsuits. Unfortunately, it is our opinion that 6waves has behaved in a reprehensible and illegal manner, and we can not, in good conscience, ignore it.”

Edery said that Yeti Town (pictured at bottom) was a “nearly perfect copy of Triple Town.”

“We're not just talking about the game's basic mechanics here,” Edery wrote. “We're talking about tons of little details, from the language in the tutorial, to many of our (user interface) elements, to the quantities and prices of every single item in the store (how exactly did 6waves "independently" decide to price 200 turns for 950 coins, or 4 wildcards for 1500 coins each? That's quite a coincidence!) But don't take our word for it.”

Edery cited articles in the press that noted the similarities:

Gamezebo: "Unfortunately for Yeti Town, the only substantial difference between it and Facebook's Triple Town is the platform it's on. Otherwise it's the exact same game, only this time with snow."

InsideSocialGames: "Yeti Town is a matching game nearly identical to Spry Fox's Triple Town"

Games.com: "Replace "saplings" with "bushes", "tents" with "houses" and "yetis" with "bears". What do you get? Something that would look a lot like independent developer Spry Fox's Triple Town"

Edery further alleged that 6waves had signed a confidential non-disclosure agreement with Spry Fox to publish Triple Town “at the exact same time that they were actively copying Triple Town. “

Edery said, “We gave 6waves private access to Triple Town when it was still in closed beta, months before the public was exposed to the game. We believed those negotiations were ongoing, and we continued to give private information to 6waves, until 6waves' Executive Director of Business Development sent us a message via Facebook on the day Yeti Town was published in which he suddenly broke off negotiations and apologized for the nasty situation. His message can be found in its entirety in the body of our legal complaint.”

Edery wrote, “It's bad enough to rip off another company. To do so while you are pumping them for private information (first, our game design ideas, and later, after the game was launched on Facebook, our private revenue and retention numbers) is profoundly unethical by any measure.”

Filed under: games, mobile

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Meet Y Combinator’s newest partner, Geoff Ralston

Posted: 29 Jan 2012 10:10 AM PST

LinkedIn profile photo of Geoff Ralston, Y Combinator partnerThe newest member of Y Combinator’s team is angel investor and successful entrepreneur Geoff Ralston.

Y Combinator founder Paul Graham announced the addition of Ralston in a blog post yesterday, writing that Ralston is “a perfect match for YC because he’s smart and energetic, and yet informal and a super nice guy.”

Graham told VentureBeat via email that Ralston will be a full partner in Y Combinator, but will continue to be a partner in Imagine K12, the educational technology incubator Ralston founded. Like other Y Combinator partners, he won’t take any board seats in the incubator’s portfolio companies.

Y Combinator is a startup incubator and investment fund that has produced many success stories including Dropbox, Reddit, Scribd, AirBnB, and Justin.tv. The organization typically invests a small amount of money and puts the companies it selects through a three-month training program. It has been so successful that SV Angels, DST, and Andreessen Horowitz have together pledged to put a combined $150,000 into each company chosen for the program. Graham says that Y Combinator has invested in 383 companies since it started in 2005. It just started accepting applications for its summer 2012 funding cycle; applications are due March 28.

Ralston has been an angel investor for the past several years and also invested in Y Combinator’s $8.25 million fund in 2010.

Ralston has a deep history in Silicon Valley, going back to the pre-PC days. He has a degree in computer science from Dartmouth and worked for Hewlett Packard in the 1980s on the HP 2000 and HP 9000 systems. In 1994, he left HP to work on an internet startup that eventually became Four11.com. Yahoo purchased Four11 in 1997, turning its core product, RocketMail, into the foundation for Yahoo Mail. After nine years at Yahoo, Ralston left to do angel investing, then took the chief executive job at Lala.com, which eventually sold to Apple in 2009. He’s been angel investing as a “hobby” since then, typically investing an average of $50,000 in very early-stage companies.

He wrote in a 2010 interview that angel investing was more of a hobby than a vocation for him:

I'm not really trying to earn my keep doing this. I do it because I love working with entrepreneurs. I love working with people who are passionate and who have an idea and who want to change the world. And I think it's usually important for Silicon Valley and for the world and for the economy. I just really like it.

Ralston said in 2010 that he got much of his deal flow from Y Combinator events, so the move to partner is probably a natural one, and was in the works for awhile.

Also in that interview, Ralston indicated that Lala was his most lucrative exit. The Lala sale was considered a “fire sale” at the time, but apparently some investors made out okay.

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