18 February, 2012



8 tips for entrepreneurs from a founder-turned-VC

Posted: 18 Feb 2012 08:00 AM PST

A friend of mine recently asked me a simple question: “After four years as a VC, knowing what you know now, what basic tips do you have for guys like me who are growing venture-backed businesses?” It got me thinking about what I've learned being on the other side of the fence – and though I don't profess to be an expert on how to be the perfect entrepreneur, I thought my own experiences might help some founders out in the trenches today.

1) Keep your options open. The smartest second- and third-time entrepreneurs I see raise capital in a very focused and efficient manner. They preserve option value at each stage of the company's growth and make conscious decisions about how to proceed in each funding round. I learned this the hard way in my first company, where we raised capital at a $250M valuation and essentially priced ourselves out of an attractive M&A opportunity. I can’t tell you how many companies I see that would be terrific $50M-100M acquisition targets, but lose that option because they’ve raised too much capital.

2) Hire the best talent you can find.  I really can’t say enough about this. The bottom line is A players may cost 50% more than B players, but will add 10X the value. Talent wins. Be proactive and always on the lookout for impact players.

3) Take advantage of the moment, and run like hell. Great entrepreneurs don’t wait. When they're onto something, they move aggressively, and don't spend time thinking about Plan B. They realize they have a window of opportunity, and they jump through it. I meet with many companies who are the number two or three player in their space, and the CEO often can't figure out why the number one player is kicking his/her butt. If I'm doing my job as a VC, I will have also met with the number one player. The leader is aggressive, maniacally focused on growth, moving fast, and delivering for customers. The followers are often bogged down by customer/product/board/funding issues. In short, #1 sees speed bumps and jumps them, whereas #2 and #3 see roadblocks and spend time trying to figure out how to go around them.

4) Work with great investors. This doesn’t necessarily mean the headline-grabbing VCs you read about on TechCrunch. Ever heard of Dave Strohm, David Cowan, or Jim Goetz? They’re three of the most successful early-stage VCs you’ll ever meet, but you won’t typically read about them on today’s hot tech gossip blog. Don't get caught up in the hype. Focus on VCs who have built winners in your space and reference well with entrepreneurs and CEOs. They'll make a difference.

5) Play bigger than you are. Create a market impression that is greater than reality. This has to be done carefully – history is littered with companies that failed to live up to the hype – but done well it can really boost your company's prospects. Artfully tooting your own horn is part marketing, part PR, and part an aggressive approach to today's social platforms. Done right, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook can serve as powerful platforms to amplify you company's position. The key is to not just talk about how amazing your company is, but to show how you're succeeding with key customers, business milestones, analyst and media coverage, and key new hires. Examples of companies that have done a great job building this kind of buzz include Buddy Media, Yammer, Zuora, Betterworks, Square, and Appirio (my firm is an investor in Buddy Media, Square, and Appirio).

6) Find and leverage mentors. There are many amazing CEOs in Silicon Valley who love nothing more than to help young entrepreneurs build great companies – you just have to ask for their help. It's one of the truly unique aspects of Silicon Valley. Ask your investors for introductions. And don’t just reach out to a mentor in times of crisis; build an ongoing relationship with him or her. You’ll be amazed and the nuggets of wisdom you pick up from CEOs who have "been there, done that."

7) Be honest and transparent. The most successful entrepreneurs I know are transparent with their team and with their board. They stay in regular communication with their board members and treat board meetings as an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion around core issues – not as a sales pitch. Your board and investors are "in the boat" with you, and fully invested in helping you build a winning company. If you have to constantly "sell" your company to your board members, you've got the wrong board members. Brad Feld and Fred Wilson have covered the topic of board meetings well.

8) Enjoy the ride. I started my first company when I was 25, and by the time I was 30 we had raised more than $100M and hired 400 employees. It was awesome, but I was immensely stressed. The second time around, I surrounded myself with better talent, raised less capital, and had a lot more fun (and a better outcome). Great entrepreneurs have that unique DNA that makes them relentlessly focused on building something great, and it’s a 24×7 thought process. However, the difference I see between first-time entrepreneurs and second-time entrepreneurs is that veterans are typically enjoying the ride. They've figured out how to make time to have fun, spend time with family and friends, and still build a great company.

I look forward to hearing from entrepreneurs in the trenches. What did I miss? What kind of advice have you valued from your mentors and investors?

Jeff Richards is a partner with venture capital firm GGV Capital and the former co-founder of two companies, R4GS and Quantum Shift.  Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jrichlive.

Filed under: Entrepreneur Corner, VentureBeat

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Investors: A new way to invest in startups

Posted: 18 Feb 2012 04:00 AM PST

MicroVenturesThis sponsored post is produced by MicroVentures.

Startup investing used to be only for the rich, only if you knew the right people, and only in deals in your city. Those factors left many interested investors on the sidelines.

But today, it's a lot easier to become an angel investor due to crowdfunding, micro lending and investment sites like MicroVentures which allows you to invest smaller sums alongside others and to invest in deals stretching from Boston to Silicon Valley.

Gone are the days where you have to risk $50,000 or more, receive a personal invitation to invest from a friend and only see a limited number of deals from the few available in your area.

MicroVenture helps investors learn about companies they may never have heard of, and to invest smaller sums, which is virtually unheard of with traditional investing.

The service matches companies seeking money with investors looking to invest anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 or more. MicroVentures helps investors with the initial due diligence process by filtering startups and then providing documents to help investors conduct their own due diligence prior to making a final investment decision.

The key to winning at angel investing, of course, is to invest in the right startups. To get there, you need:

1) Good deal flow, allowing you to spot potential winners from many potential options.
2) The ability to invest in multiple deals so you gain experience.
3) A knack for spotting potentially successful companies, and more importantly, management teams and entrepreneurs that will succeed.

Getting good deal flow is often the stumbling block for the average person looking to get started in angel investing. And it's one of the reasons Bill Clark launched MicroVentures. He wanted to begin investing, but didn't have access to good deals.

Like others thinking about becoming angels, Clark wanted to invest smaller sums in more companies, allowing him to spread his risk and also increase his chances of picking a winner. And he wanted access to great companies outside of Austin, his hometown.

Today, Clark invests alongside the more than 1,900 investors from 20 states that have joined MicroVentures. To date, investors have put more than $2 million into 13 companies.

If you'd like to join the more than 1,900 angel investors getting in on new deals via the MicroVentures platform, be sure to put "VentureBeat" in the referral code when you sign up and we will send you a $100 gift card after you make your first investment.

Filed under: Entrepreneur Corner, VentureBeat

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Facebook hacker sentenced to 8 months jail time

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 05:41 PM PST

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/8708392/Student-hacker-penetrated-Facebook.html

Glenn Mangham

Twenty-six year-old British software development student Glenn Mangham has been sentenced to eight months of jail time for hacking into Facebook servers several times last year.

The sentence marks an astonishing conclusion to a costly joint investigation by Facebook, the FBI, and Scotland Yard.

Between April 27 and May 9 of 2011, Mangham repeatedly hacked into various Facebook servers. Mangham was arrested in June 2011 and officially charged in August with five counts of computer hacking. The youngster from York later admitted his guilt, but said his actions were intended to help Facebook improve security.

The social network has maintained that members’ personal data was not comprised during the breaches. Ruling Judge Alistair McCreath determined, however, that Mangham’s actions could have been “utterly disastrous” for Facebook.

“You and others who are tempted to act as you did really must understand how serious this is,” McCreath told Mangham, Reuters reported.

When reached for comment, Facebook said that it is pleased with the outcome of the trial.

“We applaud the efforts of the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in this case, which did not involve any compromise of personal user data,” a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat. “We take any attempt to gain unauthorized access to our network very seriously, and we work closely with law enforcement authorities to ensure that offenders are brought to justice.”

The case was said to be one of the first of its kind in Britain.

Photo credit: Nicholas Razzell/Telegraph

Filed under: security, social, VentureBeat

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Congress passes bill paving the way for more wireless spectrum (kind of)

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 04:43 PM PST

Both houses of Congress passed a bill today that could give Americans access to more of the wireless spectrum; however, this access will cost us some free broadcast TV stations.

If you search for some kind of appropriately named piece of legislation like the “Open up more wireless spectrum so my iPhone browser will load faster act”, you won’t find it. That’s because the bill Congress passed was actually an extension of the payroll tax, which essentially lets people keep more of their paycheck by removing some of the standard taxes.

To pay for this extension, Congress needed a new source of income. That’s where the TV spectrum comes in.

The bill is setting up a voluntary auction for the block of spectrum currently reserved for television broadcasts. Many of the owners originally granted a license for their part of the spectrum are getting a pretty good deal; they paid very little money compared to what it’s now worth on the open market.

To give you some kind of understanding of the spectrum’s value, the 2008 auction for wireless spectrum ended up bringing $19.6 billion, with more than $16 billion of that coming from AT&T and Verizon. Verizon is also poised to pick up a large chunk of wireless spectrum from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks for a cool $3.6 billion (pending approval by the Department of Justice).

So clearly, we’re talking about a lot of money here, of which the U.S. government will get a hefty cut.

Despite the FCC’s countless pleas to make more spectrum available, Congress has mostly neglected to address the issue directly. The payroll tax extension is more or less seen as a way to kill two bird with one stone. And that’s both a good and a bad thing.

The good thing about this auction is wireless carriers will be able to speed up their networks, expand coverage area of high-speed internet to rural areas of the country, and (in turn) create more jobs.

The bad part about this legislation is that it has the potential to sacrifice some the broadcast TV channels that are barely starting to get used by tech companies as a valuable public resource.

For instance, Boxee just launched a Live TV stick, which feeds the HD TV broadcast signal into the company’s Boxee Box set-top box, thus providing owners with a way to both cut the cord and still get some live content like local news and sports. There’s also recent Barry Diller startup Aereo, which uses tiny HD antennas (one per user) to stream the broadcast TV content thru a variety of connected devices.

While I welcome the additional spectrum availability, part of me wonders whether it would have been better for Congress to directly address the issue rather than issuing a voluntary auction to pay an immediate bill like the payroll tax cut extension.

[Via the Washington Post; Gavel photo via ShutterStock]

Filed under: media, mobile, VentureBeat

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More evidence that iPad 3 will have hi-res Retina display

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 04:29 PM PST

iPad Displays

Rumors have been swirling around that Apple‘s iPad 3 will be outfitted with a coveted high-resolution Retina display.

One of these displays for an iPad 3 unit may have made it into hands outside Apple’s supply chain.

MacRumors allegedly has a Retina display (shown on right) that belongs to the iPad 3, which is still in production. The display measures 9.7 inches, which falls in line with the first and second iPad models.

After inspecting it with a microscope, MacRumors determined that the screen has a resolution twice as good as the current 2048 x 1536-pixel resolution seen on the iPad and iPad 2. The resolution was calculated by looking at pixel swatches taken from the iPad 2 and purported iPad 3 screens. Four pixels from the iPad 2 screen fit inside the swatch, whereas 16 pixels from the new display fit into a swatch of the samesize (shown below).

ipad_2_ipad_3_pixelsThe iPad 3 is rumored to be released on March 7. It’s also thought to sport a faster processor and graphics chip.

It’s hard to hang your hat on many Apple rumors, particularly after the October iPhone 5 miss, when Apple actually launched the iPhone 4S to many Apple fans’ chagrin. However, the idea that the iPad 3 would have a screen upgrade is not a far-fetched assumption.

Filed under: mobile

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Groupon snatches up local-data startup Hyperpublic for better deal targeting

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 04:15 PM PST

The Hyperpublic team

In what could be the deal of the year, Groupon has snatched up a little-known startup to help it do the dirty work of targeting deals to subscribers.

The newly public deals behemoth has bought two-year-old, New York-based Hyperpublic for an undisclosed sum, the companies announced Friday. Hyperpublic aggregates place and deal data and provides developers with a way to monetize their applications. More attractive to Groupon, however, is the company’s growing pool of data that connects people to places.

“We set out to change the way people interacted with the local environment, and are pumped to continue that mission as a part of one of the fastest growing and most disruptive companies in the world,” Hyperpublic said in a note posted to its website Friday.

Hyperpublic amasses publicly available local data, gathered from a variety of sources such as social networks, and spits that data back out to developers who want specialized local data. The startup’s Data on Demand product, for instance, purports to give developers access to whatever local data they desire.

“We have everything. Need Twitter handles of vegans in the East Village? Done. Millions of display ads referencing places in Chicago? Done,” the product description explains.

Hyperpublic co-founder Jordan Cooper insinuated in an interview with the New York Times Bits blog that this type of data is of especial interest to Groupon. While Cooper was unable to go into great detail about HyperPublic’s future, he did say that Groupon, like most companies these days, is trying to mine publicly available social data and relate that data to real-world commercial decisions.

“The better Groupon understands the people and local environment that they are trying to drive traffic to, the better they will do,” Cooper said.

Hyperpublic previously raised $1.5 million in seed funding.

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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Thanks for the get-out-of-jail-free card, Google (video)

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 03:03 PM PST

And now, it’s time for a few tasteful jokes (and at least one tasteless one) about the week’s tech headlines.

Here are the stories we highlighted this week:

Filed under: video

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Microsoft’s new Windows 8 logo looks like it was created in MS Paint

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 01:27 PM PST


The Microsoft team has created a new logo for its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, and the results aren’t pretty.

You might say this is Microsoft’s Gap moment, that uncomfortable situation in which a company chooses a new logo that takes away from its history and chooses blandness over anything striking.

Windows 8 will be one the most important products this year, so it makes sense that it will take on new branding to help separate itself from the Windows 7 operating system. Microsoft's new OS will attempt to bridge the gap between desktop and mobile devices and experiences with the ability to support touch screens and switch between traditional apps and touch-friendly Metro apps.

Sam Moreau, Principal Director of User Experience for Windows, said today on the Windows Team Blog that Windows 8 is a “complete reimagination” of the Windows OS. With that in mind, the company thought it was time for a new logo.

“The Windows logo is a strong and widely recognized mark; but when we stepped back and analyzed it, we realized an evolution of our logo would better reflect our Metro-style design principles. And we also felt there was an opportunity to reconnect with some of the powerful characteristics of previous incarnations,” Moreau wrote.

Ultimately, Microsoft chose Pentagram to redesign its logo. While Pentagram has a history of creating compelling work, what the firm has created for Windows 8 looks like it was sketched in MS Paint. It’s a simple one-color logo that emphasizes Windows 8′s simple design, but it’s so bland that it doesn’t convey anything important about the new OS.

Windows 8 is lively and exciting, and it merges the traditional desktop past with the incredibly mobile future. It deserves better.

Graphic designer Armin Vit of UnderConsideration opined that the logotype with the window design is a “real loser”:

It's a fine font, but pretty it is not. It's a kind of middle-of-the-road sans serif without any memorable attributes and with a very peculiar "Default" aesthetic to it. It works best as a user interface ingredient, but as the typography on a logo, it's extremely underwhelming — pair it with the worst rendition yet of the Windows window and you have a real loser. I'm not saying the previous Windows icons were good, but they had enough abstraction (and gradients and shadows and highlights) to at least look techie and Microsoft-ey. But this "minimal" approach looks like, well, a window. A window in a $400-a-month studio apartment rental with beige carpeting and plastic drapes.

And here’s another thing: I actually quite liked the logo that was used for Vista and Windows 7. It was an upgrade that emphasized the new “Aero” concept and it had different colors, giving it it more life. Look at this logo and then look at that bland monstrosity above:


And now we turn to you, our awesome readers. Can you design a better Windows 8 logo? If so, please post them below in the comments and we can show Microsoft how lame this is by comparison.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Netflix stops hating on physical media, DVD-only plans are back

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 12:44 PM PST

Netflix Sleeve

Despite nearly a year of mostly ignoring its DVD-by-mail rental side of the business, Netflix has decided to start allowing people to choose a DVD-only subscription option, the company announced on its blog today.

The option to choose a subscription package that included only DVD rentals disappeared last year as part of the company’s push toward a streaming future, and it was the first in a series of wrong turns the company made. In July, the video rental company decided to raise subscription rates by 60 percent on its combo streaming and physical DVD plans, which caused a huge uproar among its 25 million monthly subscribers. Then in September, CEO Reed Hastings announced that the company was spinning off its DVD-by-mail business into a separate company called Qwikster — a move that caused an even bigger customer backlash. After plenty of negative criticism and a significant dip to its stock price, Netflix decided to cancel its plans for Qwikster.

Netflix’s argument for wanting to get away from DVDs is mostly logical from a business perspective. The cost to ship DVDs continues to rise as does the price of the DVDs and Blu-ray discs over time due to wear and tear. Streaming, on the other hand, doesn’t have shipping costs and will eventually become the dominant form of how people watch movies and TV shows.

Of course, there are plenty of Netflix customers who don’t have access to high-speed internet, and plenty of others that actually enjoy getting DVDs due to extras like audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and more. That said, it’s incredible Netflix waited this long to give people back their DVD-only subscription option.

[Photo via Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar]

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Americans spend 100K years on Facebook each month (infographic)

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 12:43 PM PST

From posting status updates to consuming news, the collective time Americans spend on Facebook amounts to more than 100,000 years each month.

The eye-popping figure comes by way of statistics portal Statista. The company pulled data from comScore, Compete, and Google Ad Planner on social network usage in the United States. The infographic included below, made exclusively for VentureBeat, vividly depicts how Facebook is by far the most dominant social network stateside.

Facebook attracts 167 million unique U.S. visitors per month. These users spend an average of 6 hours and 33 minutes on the social network each month. Twitter, Tumblr, and the up-and-coming digital pin-board site Pinterest, may all be growing in popularity, but they clearly can’t compete with Facebook in terms of attention and engagement.

Ignoring Facebook for a second, Pinterest and Tumblr are standouts when it comes to average time spent on site. Tumblr is the second-most engaging social site; its members spend an average of 1 hour and 38 minutes using the community-centric blogging tool each moth. And Pinterest isn’t far behind; users average 1 hour and 17 minutes of Pinterest activity per month. No other social network — Twitter and LinkedIn included — comes close to approaching these striking engagement figures.

A look at the graphic also shows that nascent Google+ already commands a commendable 18 million unique U.S. visitors per month. The traffic figure seems impressive until you notice that the average American visitor spends a total of 6 minutes on the social network each month. In fact, in terms of engagement, Google+ trails all the social networks depicted, including the forlorn (but possibly recovering?) MySpace.

For some additional perspective, consider the time Americans spend on Facebook each month is more than 600 times the time they spend on Google+, according to Statista’s calculations.

Photo credit: Michell Zappa/Flickr

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Leaked emails call Groupon’s European CEO a “slavedriver”, echoing complaints in U.S.

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 11:03 AM PST

Galley slave from Wikicommmons

Groupon employees have alleged abusive working conditions, breach of contract, and a boss (Groupon’s Eastern European CEO Daniel Glasner) whom they described as a “slavedriver”.

Before we dive into the specifics, it should be noted that these emails were excerpted, not printed in full, and translated from German on the Berlin-based tech blog Village Ventures.

The first email reads:

I must remain anonymous, otherwise I will face serious issues. Here I send you something that has bothered us for days, weeks, months, on a regular daily basis at Groupon. Strong pressure, breaches of contractually agreed bonuses with subsequent penalties. Now our titles are supposed to be changed — we will be degraded — if we do not acquire our Dreamlist partners.

“Dreamlist partners” refers to high-end restaurants and spas that Groupon is hoping to provide deals for. CEO Daniel Glaser responded with  a statement denying the accusation.

We don’t have any insight or connections in Berlin, so let’s leave the he said she said alone for now and examine the historical context.

In September 2011, Groupon employees in the U.S. filed a class action lawsuit. Like their German counterparts, they were owed money for unpaid overtime and bonuses, in that case reaching into the millions of dollars.

Leading up to that lawsuit, a series of increasingly negative testimonials appeared on the website Glass Door, where employees can post anonymously about their bosses and company.

• Immense pressure to hit unrealistic sales goals.
• Management out of touch with what's going on during phone calls (it's getting harder and harder to close deals as more and more people don't want to work with Groupon)
• Used to be a fun culture. Now it's all about the bottom line and feels like your typical call center
• Sales staff are worked to the bone
• Everyone is miserable and they treat the customers ( merchants) as well as employees with little respect. All they care about is how much money groupon makes. They also created a "boiler" room environment and micromange to the 100th degree. They suffocate you and you can barely breath or go to the bathroom with out feeling guilty.
• They make you feel guilty to take a Saturday off to go to a wedding.
• Sales staff cries all the time.

The issues of unrealistic sales goals, demanding hours, and brutal managment mirrors the complaints coming out of Berlin.

Groupon has been called the fastest growing company in history. It achieved an IPO that valued it in the billions of dollars. A brutal sales culture may be the obvious byproduct of that aggressive expansion.

Filed under: deals

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Bummer: Many older Macs can’t run OS X Mountain Lion

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 10:18 AM PST


With each new release of Apple’s operating system, several older Mac models get left out in the cold when it comes to support. The just-announced Mountain Lion OS is no exception, and thanks to TUAW we now we have a list of several machines that won’t run it when it comes out late Summer 2012.

Much like the jump from Leopard to Snow Leopard, the upgrade to the new Mountain Lion OS will act as a minor update to last year’s Lion OS. The Mountain Lion update will mostly look just like Lion, except it will add in iOS-like features. It will offer deeper integration with iCloud (even though iCloud is still mostly a failure), and it will offer a Notification Center and Game Center for staying better connected. It will also add in iMessage, Reminders, and Notes from iOS.

TUAW dug into the system requirements to find out which Mac models will be to run Mountain Lion. According to TUAW’s list, the following models will support the new OS:

• iMac (mid 2007 or newer)
• MacBook aluminum edition: (13 inch 2008 or newer)
• MacBook plastic edition: (early 2009 or newer)
• Macbook Pro (2009, or late 2007 if you had a 17-inch version or newer)
• MacBook Air (2008 or newer)
• Mac Mini (early 2009 or newer)
• Mac Pro (early 2008 or newer)
• Xserve (early 2009 or newer)

And of course, this means that the following older models will not run Mountain Lion:

• Late 2006 iMacs (iMac5,1, iMac5,2, iMac6,1)
• All plastic MacBooks that pre-date the aluminum unibody redesign (MacBook2,1, MacBook3,1, MacBook4,1)
• MacBook Pros released prior to June 2007 (MacBookPro2,1, MacBookPro2,2)
• The original MacBook Air (MacBookAir1,1)
• The Mid-2007 Mac mini (Macmini2,1)
• The original Mac Pro and its 8-core 2007 refresh (MacPro1,1, MacPro2,1)
• Late 2006 and Early 2008 Xserves (Xserve1,1, Xserve2,1)

Did your machine make the cut or will you stuck with Lion?

Mountain lion photo: Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Coming March 22: Angry Birds Space

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 10:00 AM PST

It seems that planet Earth isn’t big enough for Angry Birds anymore. The cute cartoon characters are headed into the void with the upcoming Angry Birds Space game from Rovio.

Angry Birds has been the major success story of mobile games in the past couple of years with more than 700 million downloads for the game.

For the three people unfamiliar with how the game works, you shoot cute Angry Bird characters via slingshot at some big green pigs who hide in structures that can be crushed by the birds. The game has made its way into emerging markets in a big way and debuted on Facebook this week. No game has grown so quickly and so broadly in the mass market, and Rovio is milking the success as much as it can with everything from movie appearances to plush toys.

The company says Angry Birds Space is “the biggest game launch since the original Angry Birds.” It will include simultaneous launches in mobile gaming, animation, retail, and publishing.

Angry Birds was the fifty-second game created by Rovio. The new space game will have numerous new characters, and players can expect the physics part of the game to be accurate (Vint Cerf would be so pleased). The only exception, of course, is that pigs and birds can’t breathe in space. On top of launching birds at pigs in zero gravity, the game will have a variety of other gameplay elements, including slow-motion, light-speed destruction, and other new features.

Angry Birds seems ready to enhance its worldwide presence even further this year, with this growth across the Facebook community. As it does so, Rovio chief marketing officer Peter Vesterbacka's dream of building an "integrated entertainment franchise" akin to Disney looks to be getting one step closer.

Here is the teaser trailer:

Filed under: games, mobile

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Music-loving hackers make the ultimate mashups between big data & sound

Posted: 17 Feb 2012 09:30 AM PST

“Big data” is everywhere you look these days.

As digital information continues to expand exponentially, this affects everything — how much we pay for health insurance, how we predict the weather, how we play the stock market.

The music industry is no exception. Big data is making music a more meaningful and connected part of our lives.

That might sound insane at first. "Music" and "data" feel like polar opposites. Music is intimate, soulful, and organic. Data is cold and impersonal.

But where music and data come together is in understanding the vast and always-growing world of music: new artists, new influences, technology mashups, and discoveries. All of this music ultimately forges common connections between us all.

Big data, in a musical context, forms the backbone of the Music Hack Day series, where music is not only represented as literal data (good old ones and zeroes), but each song, artist, and album is also surrounded by all kinds of context and understanding that open up mind-blowing new ways for us to discover, interact with, and share music.

Music Hack Days bring together APIs from The Echo Nest, Spotify, SoundCloud, and other digital music platforms so that hundreds of software and hardware hackers can build functional music apps and demonstrate them to each other over the course of a single weekend, in cities around the world.

My company, The Echo Nest, has spent seven years building the world’s largest music database, which contains more than five billion individual data points about 30 million songs and more than 2 million artists.

Half of The Echo Nest’s “musical brain” is dedicated to understanding music content — analyzing audio with software to understand it the way a musician does (tempo, key, song structure, etc.). The other half parses what people are saying about music everywhere online (blogs, reviews, news, social media).

Together, this understanding of music allows independent developers to build scalable music apps with major labels and create all sorts of stuff they wouldn’t otherwise be able to build.

Imagine what you could make if you knew the tempo and song structure of every song in the world; if you knew what everyone on the Internet is saying about every artist in the world right now; if you knew the musical collaborations and influences of everyone to ever pick up a guitar.

At Music Hack Day, hundreds of developers have all of this data and millions of songs sitting right in front of them. At the San Francisco Music Hack Day just last week, more than two hundred participants built a total of 62 working music hacks. That is a ridiculous rate of productivity, and the apps show why big data matters to any music fan.

Here are some of the highlights from San Francisco Music Hack Day (in alphabetical order — and keep in mind, these are rough, time-limited hackathon projects that will likely be acquiring several layers of polish before a public release):

  • Automello takes any group of audio samples and groups them by pitch so digital music makers can play them like a piano.
  • Buddhafy lets you build a Spotify playlist with your brain, based on its mood.
  • Coming to Town Rdio lists concerts coming to your area and lets you hear what those bands sound like.
  • Echo Tunes takes a look at your iTunes library, then lets you build playlists with all sorts of smart sliders Apple never thought of including.
  • Frankie’s Organ translates any song into a pipe organ version, played by a virtual Frankenstein.
  • GenRedio makes radio stations based on a combination of moods and musical styles.
  • Hide That Tune is a new twist on the familiar “name that tune” game. One player select an arcane section of a well-known song and challenges the others to identify it.
  • Lyrics Cloud builds “word clouds” based on any song, so you can see which terms pop up most in the lyric.
  • Make Up Recs lets non-techies import playlists from Pandora into the unfamiliar world of the powerful Tomahawk music app, without skipping a beat.
  • Paul vs. Billboard predicted 6 of 13 Grammy Award winners with artificial intelligence.
  • PlayHead plays customized radio stations based on the cities and bands you like.
  • SideTrack, strictly for the geeks, is like a digital Rube Goldberg contraption whose point is to find music through incredibly circuitous routes.
  • SocialSongQ lets people send tweets to the artificially-intelligent “DJ Fail Whale” creating a queue of songs to hear at any event.
  • Sonos+Spotify++ adds smart playlisting and the ability to buy tickets to Sonos’ digital music system for the home.
  • WetheDJ lets you invite friends to build party playlists together.

Music Hack Day is meant to be fun. It's essentially a jam session for developers held over a weekend. The fact that these talented hackers can put together so many functional apps in 24 hours using The Echo Nest, Soundcloud, Last.fm, and dozens of other great music APIs has major implications for businesses and consumers, for how we will all discover, play, and share music in the future.

Jim Lucchese is CEO of The Echo Nest and has worked in digital music strategy and corporate development for about 10 years. Before The Echo Nest, Jim was a music lawyer at Greenberg Traurig, specializing in music and digital media deals. Jim holds a B.A. from Boston College and a J.D., Magna Cum Laude, from the Georgetown University Law Center. When he's not at the Nest, Jim plays drums and still represents a few indie artists pro bono for fun.

Image courtesy of Yuri Arcurs, Shutterstock

Filed under: dev

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