19 April, 2012



Driven to make the world a bit greener

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 09:05 AM PDT

Chevrolet Volt

This post is sponsored by the Chevrolet Volt. Electric when you want it, gas when you need it. Note: The 2012 Chevy Volt offers an EPA-estimated 35 miles on a full charge based on 94 MPGe [electric] and an additional 340 miles with a full tank based on 35 city, 40 MPG highway [gas]. Actual range varies with conditions.

The Chevy Volt is unique among electric cars because it runs on two sources of energy. You have an electric source – a battery – that allows you to drive gas-free for an EPA-estimated 35 miles. And there’s also an onboard gas generator that produces electricity so you can go farther. So if you want to drive using only electricity, you can. If you want to drive using electricity and gas, you can do that, too. Feeling all charged up? Check out what this current Chevy Volt driver has to say about his unique driving lifestyle:

Adam Meltzer's life is anything but predictable. With three jobs and plenty of running around to do come the weekend, he says he relies on his Volt to keep him moving and motivated. "In Los Angeles you spend a lot of time in your car. If your car is not comfortable, it's like working in an uncomfortable desk chair with a bad computer screen," he says. Luckily, he loves his ride. "Before this car I didn’t even like driving. It was something I had to do."

Meltzer says his affinity for the Volt has everything to do with how the car appeals to his environmentally conscious side. "The Volt for me has been an opportunity to step into a luxury car, not at a luxury price, and at the same time contribute to the ongoing conversation about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in the world." In fact, Meltzer feels like he is making a statement every time he gets behind the wheel. "When I get in front of large SUVs on the road and they see the back of my car, maybe they'll think for a minute: 'Why am driving this out-of-date gas guzzler?' he says.

The Volt has definitely made the term "gas guzzler" a thing of the past for Meltzer. "I get about 175 mpg, and drive mostly electric," he says. His favorite place to charge up is at the Electric Lodge Arts and Environment Center in Venice. "It's 20 miles from my house. I top off my battery, and I can pretty much get anywhere else in Los Angeles," he says. Overall, Meltzer highly recommends the Volt to people every chance he gets. "It's modern, sleek, technologically sophisticated, and most importantly, doesn’t pollute the air [when in electric mode]."

Volt is available to order at participating dealers.

Have you become a Volt convert, too? Tell your amazing story here.

Filed under: green, VentureBeat

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Rawporter wants to give news publications a team of affordable photographers

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 09:05 AM PDT


Eager amateur photographers with the desire to practice their craft should take notice of new startup Rawporter.

Rawporter is a free camera app for both iOS and Android smartphones that helps photographers earn money by selling their photos and videos. The app sends you location-based assignments from media partners and bloggers who will pay you for getting a pretty visual to compliment whatever piece they might be working on.

Outside of people who enjoy taking pictures, the app will likely get some interest from traditional media because of the low-cost, high quality photos, Rawporter told VentureBeat.

“It's no secret that the AP and Getty Images are way outside the price range of the average blogger. So, if that blogger wanted to add photos or video to a story they were doing, they'd need to source that themselves…or hope they could find something off YouTube that fit their needs,” said Rawporter co-founder and CEO Kevin Davis. “Rawporter gives them a virtual army of cameras ready to shoot whatever footage they need, (and) by crowdsourcing (the work), we're able to provide an affordable solution for bloggers worldwide.”

Rawporter faces competition from big players such as CNN’s iReport and AP-partner Bambuser. What sets the startup apart, however, is fairly compensating and crediting the people who send publications videos and photos, as well as sending specific assignments out based on location so the photogs don’t have to guess what the news organizations are looking for.

Founded in 2010, the startup’s four employees split their time between Charlotte (N.C.), New York City, and Vancouver. Rawporter is currently in bootstrap-mode and hasn’t raised any significant funding. The startup launched a beta of its service in November that gained a decent amount of traction — thousands of videos from users across 40 different countries, according to the founders.

Check out a screenshot of the Rawporter assignment page below. (Click to enlarge)

RawPorter, Screenshot

Rawporter is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: DEMO, media, mobile, VentureBeat

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YouTube updates its audio editing tools for uploaded video

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 08:46 AM PDT


As part of its continuing effort to make video production easier, YouTube is rolling out a new set of audio editing tools, the website announced on its partners blog today.

Previously, YouTube offered an AudioSwap feature that let you replace a video’s sound with one of many tracks from the site’s own library. With today’s upgrade, YouTube has boosted the number of available tracks to over 150,000. It’s also now possible to adjust the volume level of those tracks — meaning you can overlay music on top of the video’s original audio. (Hypothetically speaking, I could see myself adding the calming “hum” of a warp drive engine to the background of all future video uploads — provided YouTube eventually adds that sound to its track library, that is.) YouTube has also given the user interface a refresh to help make it easier to navigate.

These improvements are nice for a couple of reasons. First of all, it should help cut down on copyright infringement from people who want to add audio to their videos, but don’t necessarily have many options beyond their iTunes library. And secondly, it’s giving people a way to do some decent video production without having to use expensive or complex editing software.  YouTube already launched tools to make it easier to edit the video quality of an upload (as well as its more extensive online video editing tools), so audio is the next logical step.

The new audio tools should be available to everyone in the next few days. To try them out, just navigate to the Video Manager’s edit settings.

We’ve embedded a demo video of YouTube’s updated AudioSwap functionality below.

Filed under: media, social, VentureBeat

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Amazon launches an app store for all your cloud needs

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 08:45 AM PDT


Amazon has launched a new online marketplace that Amazon Web Services customers can use to buy software from many top cloud vendors, the company announced today.

“Using the new AWS Marketplace, you can easily find, compare, and start using an array of software systems and products,” Jeff Barr, Amazon Senior Manager of Cloud Computing Solutions, wrote in a blog post. “We’ve streamlined the discovery, deployment, and billing steps to make the entire process of finding and buying software quick, painless, and worthwhile for application consumers and producers.”

As Amazon is by far the largest provider in the world of cloud computing infrastructure, it makes sense that company would offer new software and applications options for its many customers. The app store includes pay-as-you-go, free, and hosted software with varied pricing models. Amazon is winning over so many customers for infrastructure beceause of its ease of use. Deployment of software from AWS Marketplace falls in line by being easy to bring into your site. The company explains:

When you find the software you'd like to purchase, you can use AWS Marketplace's 1-Click deployment to quickly launch pre-configured server images, or deploy with familiar tools like the AWS Console. You'll be charged for what you use, by the hour or month, and software charges will appear on the same bill as your other AWS services.

Software vendors on AWS Marketplace include Canonical, Couchbase, Check Point, IBM, Microsoft, SUSE, Red Hat, SAP, and Zend. There’s also open source offerings from the likes of WordPress, Drupal, and MediaWiki.

Let us know in the comments if you like the software options available in AWS Marketplace and what other apps should be added.

Image credit: AWS Markteplace homepage

Filed under: cloud

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New York vs. Sprint: State sues for $300M over unpaid taxes

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 08:43 AM PDT

sprint store

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced this morning that the state has filed suit against Sprint Nextel for more than $300 million over tax fraud concerns.

He claimed that Sprint deliberately failed to charge customers more than $100 million in wireless service taxes over a period of seven years, Reuters reports. Schneiderman said this was the first case filed under New York’s False Claims Act.

We’ve asked Sprint for comment and will update when we hear back.

The suit, which was filed this morning in the New York State Supreme Court, calls for three times the amount underpaid by Sprint, plus additional penalties. Schneiderman claimed that the move by third-place Sprint was a way to snatch customers from rival carriers. He’ll be taking over a whistle-blower lawsuit originally filed in New York in March 2011.

Sprint just announced its first LTE 4G devices, the Evo 4G One, Galaxy Nexus, and LG Viper, ahead of the launch of its LTE network this summer. The company is moving quickly to deploy LTE to catch up with Verizon and AT&T, after spending hundreds of millions on its slower WiMax 4G network.

It’s unclear if this lawsuit will affect Sprint’s future plans, but the carrier certainly can’t afford a delay, especially since it likely won’t receive the new iPhone without an upgraded network.

Image via Consumerist on Flickr

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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eBay’s stock hits a five year high after a stellar first quarter report

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 07:20 AM PDT

Online marketplace and merchant eBay saw its stock hit a five year high this morning, as its shares rose 12 percent in early trading following a strong first quarter report late last night.

eBay reported that net income climbed 20 percent and revenue rose 29 percent, based in large part on the strength of its PayPal division and the explosion of mobile retailing.

"PayPal is the growth driver of this company," Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners, told the NY Times. "PayPal continues to be a star. Marketplaces is showing clear signs of turning around. Business is growing. And they're positioned for the future."

Another analysts were equally bullish on the company’s fundamentals. “The bottom line is that EBAY is executing,” said analyst Ben Schacter of Macquarie. ”We believe that product improvements, solid business management, and strong tailwinds from mobile are driving upside to estimates. We expect that will continue throughout 2012 and beyond.”

eBay’s traditional marketplace business grew 11 percent year over year growth. It has a renewed focus on becoming a traditional retailer, competing with the likes of Amazon, especially in mobile commerce. And PayPal is moving into offline retail with mobile card readers and PayPal systems installed in thousands of stores last year, including big chains like Home Depot.

eBay also made a smart social acquisition in the last year, picking up New York City startup Hunch and using that team to kick off an engineering office in Silicon Alley.

EBAY Chart

EBAY data by YCharts

Filed under: enterprise

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Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, James Cameron to back potential asteroid mining outfit

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 07:05 AM PDT

Aliens mech suit, Planetary Resources

Just what the heck is Planetary Resources? Set to debut next Tuesday, the new company will “overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources,” according to a media alert from yesterday.

We see plenty of startups and company ideas here at VentureBeat, and even to me that’s a pretty unique pitch. I side with Technology Review’s Christopher Mims, who points out that descriptions sounds a lot like asteroid mining. According to the news release, the company will  “add trillions of dollars to the global GDP,” and will “create a new industry and a new definition of 'natural resources'.”

Planetary Resources is backed by an impressive group of names, including Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker (and explorer) James Cameron, and Ross Perot, Jr., (?!). Whatever this company ends up being, it’s certainly going to be interesting.

The company will debut next Tuesday morning at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. It’ll be introduced by Peter H. Diamandis, the X Prize founder who previously argued for space mining in a TED talk, former NASA Mars mission head Chris Lewicki, and former astronaut and planetary scientist Tom Jones.

There will be a webcast next Tuesday at 10:30A PST, and you can be sure we’ll be watching.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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First quarter game investments and acquisitions gather steam

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT

The consolidation of companies in the social game market has begun, according to first-quarter data gathered by game-focused investment bank Digi-Capital. In the first quarter of 2012, 30 merger and acquisition deals generated $1.7 billion in transaction value at an average of $57 million, the report said.

Tim Merel, managing director at Digi-Capital, calls it ConsolidationVille. While social game companies continue to grow revenues and profits, many of them may be looking to be acquired.

“ So 2012 could be shaping up as a bumper year for games M&A. Our comparison of the top 50 Facebook companies indicates that some social game companies continue to do well in terms of revenue, profitability or both,” Merel said. “However, our analysis also indicates that many social games companies might be struggling on one or both measures, which could be the catalyst driving consolidation in the sector.”

Zynga’s $180 million purchase of OMGPOP, the maker of hit mobile game Draw Something, will likely change the investment dynamics in social games. Well-founded competitors will likely try to manufacture a hit in hopes of being acquired at a high value. That could work, but it has its risks. Other players are likely to take a more measured approach of building a strong portfolio of games. Merel said that King.com, Wooga and Peak Interactive show the latter characteristics.

Social gambling (driven by hopes of changes to U.S. laws on online gambling) has emerged as a driving force for social games mergers and acquisitions. IGT paid $500 million for Double Down Interactive, a fast-growing Facebook casino game maker with just 70 employees. Caesars-Harrah’s $90 million purchase of Playtika was another big acquisition in this category.

Last year was a record for M&A in games, with 113 transactions generating $3.4 billion in transaction value, with an average deal value of $30 million. In the first quarter, the average size of the deal is up 90 percent from the average in 2011.

Investments in games in 2011 added up to $2 billion in transaction value across 152 investments at an average investment amount of $13 million. In the first quarter, 38 transactions generated $248 million in transaction value, at an average value of $7 million. That confirms average round values have fallen, but my own interpretation is that it may confirm anecdotal evidence that valuations have fallen for game startups. In the first quarter of 2012, most of the deals were related to mobile and massively multiplayer online games.

In 2011, social and casual games were 57 percent of transaction value and 32 percent of transaction volume. But in the first quarter, it accounted for 3 percent of transaction value and 16 percent of transaction volume.

“So our view that Social Games 1.0 is in consolidation mode could continue to be an ongoing trend through 2012, as the VC market appears to have slowed down its frenetic pace of social games investment from 2011,” Merel said.

Mobile games were 30 percent of transaction value and 39 percent of transaction volume. Mobile could continue to be the driving force for investments in 2012. The success of the free-to-play model, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods, seems to be attracting more investors to MMOs, which are 43 percent of the transaction value and 21 percent of transaction volume. The strongest Chinese and South Korean companies are actively looking to acquire and invest in mobile, social-mobile, and free-to-play MMOs. The action is in both the U.S. and abroad.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Verizon starts 2012 off strong: sales and profits rise in Q1 earnings

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 05:33 AM PDT

Verizon is starting the year off in a good place with its first quarter earnings.The telecom announced today that it saw revenues increase 4.6 percent to $28.2 billion, up from $26.9 billion, with net income of $3.9 billion, an almost 20 percent jump from last year.

Verizon says it added 734,000 wireless customers (501,000 on contract) and saw low churn (users who leave) of .96 percent. Wireless revenues were up 7.7 percent at $15.4 billion and data revenues jumped 21.1 percent. Overall, Verizon now has 93 million wireless customers (88 million on contract), and 47 percent of its wireless customers use smartphones.

The company sold 6.3 million smartphones in the first quarter, and 72 percent of contract customers went for smartphones. Notably, Verizon says it sold 2.9 million 4G LTE devices this year. Its LTE network now covers more than two-thirds of the U.S. population in 230 markets.

On the wireline side, Verizon said that FiOS was 63 percent of its consumer revenue. The company now boasts 5 million FiOS Internet subscribers (up 193,000) and 4.4 million FiOS video subscribers. Speaking on Verizon’s earnings call today, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said that the company would no longer offer DSL and other high-speed Internet in markets with FiOS. (No clue what this means for existing customers.)

Shammo also said on the earnings call that Verizon would be getting out of the calling card and public phone business.

"Verizon delivered double-digit earnings growth and strong cash flow this quarter,"  said Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, in the earnings statement today. "We built momentum coming out of 2011, and our results show that we continue to execute in the key growth  areas of our business. Verizon Wireless produced both great growth and great margins, and we produced another strong quarter of Fios growth. We are confident  we will improve Wireline margins for the full year. Our repositioning of Verizon enterprise solutions has better aligned our strengths in high-growth markets, and we expect our enterprise business to contribute even more to overall Wireline revenue growth and profitability over time."

Top image via SNL’s Verizon sketch

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Nokia’s head of sales steps down after the company reports a $1.7B first quarter loss

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 05:01 AM PDT

The tough times continue for Finnish phone giant Nokia, which has struggled to keep up with Apple and Android in the smartphone era. Today the company announced its results for the first quarter of 2012. Net sales fell sharply year over year from $13.6 billion to $9.7 billion. The company took a $1.7 billion loss on those sales, and Colin Giles, the head of sales, stepped down after 20 years at the company.

CEO Stephan Elop argued that much of that loss was due to one time restructuring costs. It chalked up nearly three quarters of a billion in costs to the massive restructuring it did within its Nokia Siemens division, where it laid off 17,000 people earlier this year. Other big costs include axing 4,000 jobs as Nokia ditched it factories in Europe and South America to focus on production in Asia.

Nokia has been touting bullish sales figures for its new Lumia line, and Microsoft is also heavily invested in the company’s success. But Europe, traditionally Nokia’s stronghold, is no longer giving them a warm welcome. A recent report in Reuters quoted the major telecoms saying that Nokia’s Lumia line isn’t good enough to compete with Apple and Android.

"No one comes into the store and asks for a Windows phone," an anonymous European mobile executive told Reuters. "Nokia have given themselves a double challenge: to restore their credibility in terms of making hardware smartphones and succeed with the Microsoft Windows operating system, which lags in the market."

Filed under: mobile

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World Golf Tour, now simply WGT, launches Major League Baseball game on Facebook (exclusive)

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 05:00 AM PDT

It was inevitable that World Golf Tour would have to rebrand itself as WGT. After all, a company can’t live on golf games alone. So the company is announcing it has changed its name and is revealing a new baseball game on Facebook as part of an expansion into more sports.

WGT has been testing WGT Baseball: MLB for some time, and it already has 200,000 monthly active users. That may sound small to Zynga’s CityVille, the biggest game on Facebook with more than 42.2 million monthly active users, but WGT discovered years ago that they could make lot of money building games for hardcore sports fans.

In the short term, San Francisco, Calif.-based WGT hasn’t advertised WGT Baseball: MLB. But it has already become the largest baseball game on Facebook. It is like a fantasy sports league, where you manage a realistic professional team.

“It’s like social gaming meets the old Strat-O-Matic baseball strategy game and Moneyball,” said YuChiang Cheng (pictured below), chief executive of WGT, in an interview with GamesBeat.

“We launched World Golf Tour three years ago, and we’re finally ready to go with baseball,” Cheng said.

The title is a free-to-play game, where Facebook users can play for free and pay real money for virtual goods. It puts fans inside their favorite MLB ballparks in high-definition virtual reality. But it’s not like a 3D-animated game that you’d see on consoles.

Rather than focusing purely on action, you manage your team and try to win as many games as you can, building up the stats of your players who are also your Facebook friends. In the actual gameplay, your player stands at the plate ready to swing. You have to click on one of nine boxes that indicate where you think the rival pitcher will throw the ball. If you guess right, you get a hit or a home run. If you guess wrong, you swing and miss.

Rather, it is a game you control with a computer mouse that has limited interactivity and limited animations. It’s just enough to keep the play interesting but not so much that you have to invest hours in the game. It’s a casual Facebook experience where you can play socially with friends and compete at your own pace. The more you score and win, the more points you earn. You can use those points to buy better players.

As with World Golf Tour, WGT has figured out how to make money from the game. You can buy boosts that will increase your odds of hitting the ball, but you can’t buy your victory outright. You can play in a home-run derby, a single-inning game, or month-long seasons.

Cheng said that the company takes its time making high-quality games. It was founded in 2006 but has only launched two games, now. Part of the issue was that the team had to continuously upgrade and improve World Golf Tour as an ongoing service. They polished the game as much as they could and then finally expanded to create a new development team for the baseball title.

“There is a constant trade-off,” Cheng said. “We are a focused company and did not want to be distracted.”

Now the team has 40 employees. That’s the highest it has been since the founding in 2006.

Like hardcore game firms Kixeye and Kabam, WGT knows its hardcore audience.

“We won’t have 40 million monthly active users, but we will have passionate fans, and we hope to retain our players extremely well,” Cheng said. “I do think there is pent-up demand for sports games on Facebook.”

That means that Electronic Arts will likely one day expand into the social sports game market in a bigger way beyond its current titles. But EA has many enemies to fight, and WGT is one of the smaller ones.

The company got the MLB brand name thanks to the success of World Golf Tour. In that game, golf fans can play in foursomes and chat with each other while competing on photorealistic golf courses from around the world. The game has around five million registered users, but they’re very active. All told, they have played more than 200 million virtual rounds to date and have made World Golf Tour into the No. 1 online golf game. World Golf Tour makes money in part because players buy virtual golf equipment from sponsors such as Callaway and Ping.

Cheng said that the company hopes to expand to a full suite of sports games over time, but it is taking its time to make sure it makes each game right. WGT’s investors include Battery Ventures, Jafco Ventures, and Panorama Capital. WGT has raised $20 million to date.

Filed under: games, social, VentureBeat

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Social events marketplace Lifecrowd raises $5M from Lightbank, Bullpen, others

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 04:30 AM PDT


Social events startup Lifecrowd has raised $5 million in its first round of funding, with a goal to expand its evolving marketplace that helps connect like-minded users connect at nearby events, the company announced Thursday.

The service has come a long way since it debuted at DEMO Fall 2011 conference. In its build up from beta to its first round, the company has clearly defined its purpose. Unlike Meetup, which lets anyone create groups centered around one focus, Lifecrowd offers all kinds of singular events. It’s also different in that users create the events, but Lifecrowd’s team curates the listings to ensure only the best show up.

Lifecrowd’s first round of funding was led by Chicago-based Lightbank, with participation from Bullpen Capital, Baroda Ventures, and Prism VentureWorks. And recently, the company became the first startup to emerge from the relatively new Los Angeles accelerator MuckerLab.

"This powerful group of experienced tech investors brings an incredible collective expertise in localized online commerce to the table, as well as deep experience in marketplace development, scaling up on a domestic and international level, and a thorough understanding of what today's consumers want," Lifecrowd CEO Bong Koh said, in a statement. "This combined knowledge and broad network reach will be a tremendous asset as we expand Lifecrowd into new markets and build new platforms and products that help our users enrich their lives and discover new, fun activities."

Lightbank Partner Paul Lee seems especially enthusiastic about Lifecrowd’s potential growth due the hot social activities space enabled by social networking and the Web.

“We see a tremendous market opportunity for Lifecrowd's approach to catapult it to the head of the pack," Lee said, in a statement. "Bong and his team have created a service that resonates with people, that solves the problem of finding fun things to do in your area with an online marketplace of activities that perfectly blends the online and offline components of social networking."

Lifecrowd is currently live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, and San Diego. The site lists 10 cities where the service intends to launch next, including New York, Chicago, Seattle, and Austin.

Lifecrowd screenshot: Lifecrowd homepage

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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Tango video chat gets $40M from Qualcomm and Access, scores 45M users in 18 months

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 03:00 AM PDT

Tango video chat video message

Forget Apple’s Facetime. If there’s one app that shows the potential in the mobile video chat market, it’s Tango.

Almost one year since its last round of $42 million, the cross-platform video chat company Tango announced that it has raised another $40 million in a third round of funding from Qualcomm Ventures and Access Ventures. The startup continues to see massive growth as well, reaching 45 million users 18 months after it launched.

“The round is a license to operate with a slightly bigger vision,” said Tango CTO and co-founder Eric Setton in an interview with VentureBeat yesterday. “It's not that we're going to hire a 100 extra people… we want to be able to accelerate and deliver more on our roadmap.” That roadmap includes honing the company’s video and audio quality, and ensuring a great experience for all of its users.

Settons tells me that 44 percent of Tango’s users are active monthly (this writer included), and 10 percent of them use the app every day. There’s a snowball effect to the app, as calls increase significantly when new users jump in. Settons says daily calls almost doubled in the last four months.

Another reason for Tango’s growth is its rapid development cycle. "We're working literally 24/7 to improve the app, fix issues and add new device support every two weeks," Setton said last October at CTIA Enterprise.

Tango offers apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows PCs. Setton said the company was excited to work together with Qualcomm for funding because its chipsets are cross platform as well. The companies have already been working closely together to optimize Tango for Qualcomm’s hardware. Setton said it was a much better option than taking funding from a specific carrier or handset manufacturer, which could interfere with Tango’s platform agnosticism.

Tango is also releasing updates to its apps today that will offer quality improvements, as well as adaptive resolution support (which will allow the app to support a variety of new devices). The company launched Tango Messages and Tango Surprises (cute animations to use during video chats) back in December, both of which will get some big updates. You’ll now be able to send group video messages, and the company is also opening up a storefront for Tango Surprises, allowing you to buy new animations.

Setton says that monetization from the two new features was “incredibly strong” and helped to close the new round. All Tango users get free access to their five most recent video messages and one random Surprise. But the company charges small fees to access additional video messages and Surprises (there’s no subscription model yet).

With this latest round, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tango has raised around $87 million in funding. Additional funds for the round came from members of Setton’s family. The company’s other investors include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Michael Birch, Andy Bechtolsheim, and Bill Hambrecht.

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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E-mail backup service DropMyEmail.com grabs over 500K users in just 2 months

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 02:00 AM PDT


Brand-new e-mail backup service DropMyEmail.com has signed up more than 520,000 users only 50 days since its public launch, a feat that makes it one of the fastest growing startups by users ever.

DropMyEmail.com attracted attention at DEMO Asia when it launched on March 1 due to the simple, easy-to-convey nature of the service. The company, which operates on a freemium model, switches your emails from one email account to another backs up your e-mails in the process. Basically, it creates a new level of freedom so you don’t have to be tied to a single e-mail provider, a function that is attractive to consumers and businesses alike.

“People are using e-mail across the web and mobile more than ever,” CEO and founder John Fearon told VentureBeat. “It only takes two clicks to back up your e-mail, and people are responding to how simple it is.”

Based on current growth, Fearon believes the company is on track to hit one million users in three months. That would mean it would achieve growth faster than Twitter, Dropbox, and almost any startup you can think of that let anyone sign up from day one.

The service is available worldwide, so distribution of users is scattered globally. The largest base of users is in India, where 20 percent of users reside. No other single country has as huge a number, and the U.S. only has 2 to 3 percent of its users.

DropMyEmail.com works with most e-mail providers, including Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail. Users get 500MB of storage space for free, but if they need more, than they pay for it. Users can then purchase up to 10GB of extra storage space per year. If you need 5GB of space, that’ll run you $0.99 per month or $ 9.99 per year. If you need 10GB of storage for your precious e-mails, that’ll run you $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. Those who refer friends to the service get an additional 2GB of space for free, an aspect that is likely helping fuel growth.

“Most of our users are free so far, but about 10 percent are reaching their limit.” Fearon said.

Singapore-based DropMyEmail.com has received seed funding of around $290,000 from Crystal Horse Investments, Stanley Street Labs, and individual investors. It will soon open an office in San Francisco and pursue another round of funding, something that will likely come easy if its growth continues as is.

E-mail photo: nokhoog_buchachon/Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud

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Facebook gunning for May 17 IPO with $104B valuation, reports say

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 09:16 PM PDT

Facebook IPO

Social network giant Facebook is allegedly targeting May 17 as the potential date for its initial public offering, according to a TechCrunch report that cites unnamed sources familiar with the company.

The IPO date might be off depending on how much time federal regulators need to review Facebook’s recent $1 billion acquisition of mobile-photo-sharing startup Instagram.

And speaking of Instagram, some have speculated that the $1 billion deal was structured around the idea that Facebook shares would be worth more after they began trading publicly. On that assumption, Facebook agreed to pay 30 percent cash and 70 percent in stock. Sources from both TechCrunch and the New York Times indicate that Facebook is looking to raise around $10 billion from the stock sale, with valuation as high as $104 billion.

At that value, Facebook would be very close to trading at the same levels it was hitting while trading on the secondary market, pricing the social network at about $40 per share.

But with the alleged May 17 IPO date just under a month away, we’re bound to hear more about it between now and then. Stay tuned.

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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Workday launches mobile HTML5 apps to help HR pros on the go

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 09:00 PM PDT


Cloud-based HR software company Workday has launched the latest version of its suite with an emphasis on mobile access through HTML5 web apps, the company announced today.

Workday competes with SAP and Oracle in the professional software and services realm. With more than 280 customers ranging from medium-sized businesses to Fortune 50 companies, it is trying to come up with new ways to deliver and implement core human resources software like payroll, financial management, and human capital management. Now it will expand its already strong mobile offerings for the increasingly out-of-the-office workforce.

“So much change is happening in the mobile space right now, and we want to be part of that,” Workday CTO Stan Swete told VentureBeat. “The HTML5 app will let you do almost everything you can do in the native app. … The native apps are always improving too.”

The company plans to launch three big software updates this year, with its sixteenth overall version going live for all customers during the next week. The company will add HTML5 apps to the mix that will make its service accessible to all mobile devices, even if the user hasn’t downloaded a native Workday application. Workday notes that the updates include:

New Look and Feel: Workday 16 features significant enhancements to the mobile experience for the iPhone, iPad and other leading smartphone devices. A redesigned landing page delivers a sharper look and feel with more sophisticated navigation.
Workday for iPhone: New enhancements include Organizational Swirl, Workfeed activity stream, time-off balances, requests and approvals, and analytics.
Workday for iPad: Workday 16 delivers Anytime Feedback, time-off balances, requests, and approvals.

Pleasanton, Calif.-based Workday was founded in 2005, has more than 1,000 employees, and has raised an eye-popping $250 million to date. It last raised a staggering $85 million round led by T. Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley, Janus Capital, and Bezos Expeditions, the investment company led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The company will almost certainly go public this year.

You can see a few more of Workday’s latest HTML5 and native mobile implementations below:

Photo credit: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

Filed under: enterprise, mobile, VentureBeat

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A better, faster, cheaper way to do video subtitles — now, with added techology!

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 06:04 PM PDT

The web needs better video transcriptions. Around the world, we’re sharing more information than ever, and we’re sharing it with people with all kinds of abilities and disabilities. For the most part, video leaves a lot of people out.

Koemei is a big-thinking startup that’s working on programmatically transcribing video content.

Manual transcription, a.k.a. paying some poor schlub to schlock through every second of your content and painstakingly type out each word, is cost-prohibitive. Koemei’s solution is to first use an automated transcription program (à la Google Voice voicemail transcriptions, but far more accurate), then pull in the human intelligence to correct errors in a multi-user editing interface. Editing can be closed or public, depending on the material and the needs of the community using the video.

Best of all, the company has estimated it only takes one hour for its platform to turn around an entire hour’s worth of audio.

The transcriptions can be published to YouTube, Vimeo, and other video platforms, and (because it takes some hands-on experience before you’ll trust the impressive claims Koemei is making) the first 10 hours of transcription are free.

“The same thing Google has done for text, we’ll be able to do for videos, to let you search with text through your video libraries,” said Koemei founder Temitope Ola (pictured below) today as the company showed off its product at the DEMO conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

The startup estimates the market for video transcription at close to $16 billion annually and counts around 120,000 transcriptionists in the United States alone. Koemei also anticipates 21-percent year-over-year growth in the business, especially for corporate and educational video.

Koemei has offices in Martigny, Switzerland and San Francisco.

Koemei is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: DEMO, media

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Do more with your spreadsheets with CollateBox

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 05:37 PM PDT

For those who live inside spreadsheets, CollateBox launches today as a no-fuss way to clean house and get productive.

“Any data you would see in a spreadsheet, we are bringing into CollateBox. You’ve heard of WYSWIG, well this is “what you get is what you have seen,” and that’s the new way of working with data,” said co-founder Sunny Ghosh at DEMO Spring in Santa Clara, Calif.

CollateBox, which specifically targets the business managers who rely on Google Docs or Excel for their day-to-day operations, lets users collect data, share subsets of their spreadsheets with co-workers, receive notifications for defined actions, and generally make far better sense of the content contained in their columns and rows.

The web-based tool, which was also designed to work perfectly in mobile browsers, isn’t a replacement to the spreadsheet as we know it, but instead a productivity-boosting supplement.

“We are democratizing data and data lists,” Ghosh told VentureBeat in an interview. “Millions of business managers around the world continue living with the most basic challenge of organizing their data lists or collaborating on parts of their spreadsheet data with others. Think about your delivery list, price list, issue or sales list. If you want to act, share, and work with these data lists with team members with lesser efforts and better control, you are left with no choice. That's where CollateBox comes in.”

The application is the brain-child of Ghosh and co-founder Ralph Vaz, co-creators of Wolf Frameworks. CollateBox builds on the technology the pair developed for the web development platform-as-a-service environment.

Founded in 2011, San Jose-based CollateBox has raised $60,000 in seed funding. More than 5,000 people have requested access already to the just-launched product.

CollateBox is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: DEMO

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Project Footage helps you manage construction projects online

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 05:31 PM PDT

demo project footage

Most of us have such complicated, diverse lives that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Project Footage aims to help, with a cloud-based project management service that helps you manage your projects, collaborate with others, and stay on top of everything in your personal and professional life.

Project Footage, which launched today at the DEMO Spring 2012 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., is a one-person startup helmed and financed by Cary Gandrup, a longtime real estate and construction engineering entrepreneur from Santa Cruz, Calif.

"As the president of a general engineering firm, I know the necessity of real-time project sharing, updates, and collaboration,” Gandrup (pictured) said in a press release. “With Project Footage, people can share all the assets of a project, from photos and videos to every type of document and file format, with the capability of adding user comments and updates."

Project Footage, as you might guess from the name, has a special emphasis on supporting video content. The web-based project management tool is built in HTML5 and has an HD video player that uses either HTML5 code or Adobe Flash, as needed, making it compatible with a wide range of mobile and desktop platforms. However, it’s not just for video: Customers can also use the tool with images and documents.

“The ability to use video in project collaboration has been huge because it helps to validate jobsite conditions,” Gandrup said in an email to VentureBeat, referring to his construction business. “We later learned that this platform was very useful for contractors to use as a portfolio builder as well.”

Projects can be password-protected so they remain private, or invite-only. However, for those who want to show their projects more publicly, they can also be embedded within an existing website.

Project Footage is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Screenshots and photo courtesy Project Footage.

Filed under: DEMO

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Mash up Evernote and Pinterest, mix in beautiful layouts, and you get NotesCloud

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 05:25 PM PDT

The banner view of NotesCloud lets you see many images at a glance.

Bruce Linn was sitting on a surfboard just outside his favorite surf break in Costa Rica when the idea came to him.

He wanted a way to collect and save everything he was interested in — notes, pictures, web pages, what have you — that also made it easy to dive into different topics and share those things with other people. In other words, he wanted something like Evernote, except with better tools for sharing and topic exploration; or something like Pinterest, except with better organization and presentation tools.

He told the idea to his friend Juan Carlos, a wedding photographer. The response was positive and immediate: “Bro, my wedding clients need that!”

So when Linn returned to his home in Mountain View, Calif., he went into his garage and set to work, together with his friend (now chief technical officer and co-founder) Palak Chokshi. About a year later, they debuted their startup, NotesCloud, at the DEMO Spring 2012 conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Imagine a tool that is always at hand when you stumble upon or dream up something interesting,” Linn, the chief executive and cofounder of NotesCloud, told VentureBeat. “A tool that takes but a moment to collect, a moment to organize, and a moment to share all the these nuggets as compelling curations that can really tell the whole story.”

NotesCloud uses the metaphor of a multi-section notebook to organize snippets and notes. People can create their own hierarchies of notebooks, sections, and pages as they curate their topics. They can then organize, arrange, present, and explore these notebooks as they fill up with content. Unlike Pinterest or Evernote, NotesCloud’s structured storage metaphor encourages some organization, so it’s not just a “shoebox” full of random clippings.

It’s also easier on the eyes than Evernote, with a rectangular, content-centric approach to design that’s reminiscent of Pinterest and of some Tumblr themes, and also has some things in common with the Metro interface found in Windows 8.

To achieve that look, NoteCloud uses a dynamic layout engine that renders notebook pages in various views, including magazine style, basic grid, or cover note, depending on the content and the device used to view it. It’s accessible from tablets and smartphones as well as desktop browsers.

Notescloud web clipper toolThe tool includes browser-based clipping tools for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, so you can easily save anything that you’re looking at online with just two clicks (see screenshot to the right).

Linn acknowledges that the rapid growth of Pinterest has lapped his own startup’s efforts to get people focused on the “interest graph,” otherwise known as the a company’s ability to track and measure what people are interested in.

“When I first pitched NotesCloud ten months ago and said, ‘The interest graph is hot, look at Pinterest,’ people looked at me as if I was speaking in tongues,” Linn told VentureBeat. “Now, they hear our focus on the ‘interest graph’ and say, ‘But isn’t that what Pinterest does?’”

At DEMO, Accel Partners’ Ping Li was impressed by the service “NotesCloud has a very nice implementation of what making a very complex experience, very easy to use.” Cheif executive of Flite Will Price concured, “It’s beautiful, prettier than Evernote.”

In other words, NotesCloud is going to have a hard time competing with established players like Pinterest and Evernote. But if design matters — and the recent $1 billion acquisition of Instagram by Facebook shows that it often does — NotesCloud is off to a good start.

NotesCloud is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Screenshots courtesy NotesCloud.

Filed under: DEMO

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How to turn big data into engaging infographics with a single app

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 05:19 PM PDT

demo Knoema

Digesting big data can be migraine-inducing. Knoema wants to make it as easy as scanning a graph.

“With data, we want to do what YouTube did for video,” Vladimir Bougay, founder and CTO of startup Knoema, told VentureBeat in a recent interview. Knoema’s site lets users create their own simple infographics containing tables, charts, maps, images, and text to help them tell a story.

The process is DIY, but the end result is a slick-looking and shareable page that lets you select and display the patterns and trends you find in the data you or anyone else has uploaded. (We’ve included some sample Knoema user-created graphics below.)

That’s the other fun part about Knowma — the data itself. The startup has already collected more than 500 datasets on various topics and slapped a search engine on top to make navigation easier. You can also upload any data you have on hand. You could, if you so chose, mash up your own private data with data from public sources.

“I think it’s one of those businesses that would have increasing returns as people use it,” said Will Price, chief executive at Flite, after watching the company show off its site at the DEMO conference in Santa Clara, Calif. today. “I thought it was a very impressive product.”

Above all, said Bougay, the process is fast. “Users can build tables/charts very quickly, download data in Excel format, save data views, and share them with friends. It takes minutes, not hours,” the founder told us. “If you have a story based on data to tell, you will find all the necessary tools at Knoema.”

You can share data dashboards, complete with links, maps, charts, and graph with other users through the usual variety of social networks. You can also export them to PowerPoint or embed them on blogs or other sites.

But you know who really loves data? Educators. “We have exposed Knoema to a few universities in the U.S.,” said Bougay, “and a number of professors have decided to use Knoema as a platform for teaching.” Columbia Business School, for example, has taken advantage of Knoema for its healthcare business instruction.

Despite the attraction, there are concerns about its business model. “The go-to-market thing might be a challenge and will you have a credibility issue with the data. You know, how we criticize Wikipedia,” said John Dillon, chief executive of Engine Yard.

Bougay points out that open data and big data have been hot topics of late. “However, there is no one common understanding of what all these data issues are about and what does it practically mean for data users,” he said. “While data is all around the web, one would have to go through a number of tedious tasks to put together and share/disseminate a simple data-driven content … There are two practical problems that Knoema is meant to solve: finding relevant data and getting it in a ready-to-use format for content building.”

One of the bigger problems around exploring data is that normal search engines aren’t great at parsing requests for raw data or returning data-focused results, especially results you can immediately use or incorporated into research and story-telling. “The ultimate goal of using data is to make an argument, tell a story, or come up with an informative decision,” said Bougay.

The startup is currently working on adding more visualization options and analytics tools. Knoema is also working on a “simpler and smarter” UI with collaboration features for friends or teams to build dashboards and graphics together.

And, of course, the startup has an eye on developers. Bougay said he wants to make Knoema not just a consumer-facing product but also a platform for data-driven apps from third-party developers.

Knoema was founded in 2011 and is based in Washington, DC, with R&D and data teams located in Perm, Russia and Bangalore, India. Knoema has been bootstrapped to date and is looking for investors that share its vision.

Knoema is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Top image courtesy of alphaspirit, Shutterstock

Filed under: DEMO

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Hoiio Live gives you another option for managing phonebook data in the cloud

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 05:13 PM PDT

If you’re not satisfied with the contacts services that tech giants Apple and Google offer, rest assured that other options are out there.

For instance, Hoiio Live, which launches today at DEMO Spring, offers a comparable service that acts as a cloud-based Phonebook. Hoiio Live provides automatic updates of your phone’s contact data, regardless of the platform. The service uses any CardDAV client to update data to your phone on both Macs or Windows machines. It’s currently only available on the iPhone, but the company plans to launch an Android version in the near future.

“There are hundreds of thousands of business cards being exchanged every day. We meet people, exchange business cards, then the next thing we do is to keep the cards in our pocket,” Hoiio Live founder and COO Ong Kok Choong told VentureBeat. “After a while we struggle to look for one card, we manually encode the card to our phone book, and (half) of the time the card has outdated contact details.”

Choong said his company was looking for a free service it could offer to customers on top of the company’s Hoiio Cloud Communication Platform. The idea for Hoiio Live came after staring at a pile of business cards on his table that he hadn’t had time to clear.

“Hoiio’s compeitior is Twillio. We are better than our competitor because Hoiio has figured out Asia and comparing our costs, we are cheaper,” said Ong Kok Choong.

Hoiio Live also faces some pretty stiff competition from Apple’s iCloud contacts, Google Contacts, Cardflick, and Plaxo. The service, which officially launched a month ago, managed to nab over 3,000 active users (with a cumulative 1 million contacts) in its first week. That initial traction put the Hoiio Live iPhone app at the top of the Singapore and Kuwait App Store’s productivity category, according to the company.

“I know LinkedIn bought Chomp. I’d love to be able to open a LinkedIn app and see who is around me, [using this technology]. I’d like to see this integrated with LinkedIn,” said Will Price, chief executive of Flite at DEMO.

Founded in 2007, Hoiio is based in Singapore, with additional offices in Hong Kong and San Diego, Calif. It has 23 employees, with six of them devoted to the Hoiio Live service. The startup is self-funded through its founders as well as government-sponsored research grants.

We’ve embedded a demo video and some screenshots of the Hoiio Live service below.

Hoiio Live is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: cloud, DEMO

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Visualize your dream home and find contractors with Showoff Home Stager

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 05:01 PM PDT

demo Showoff Home Stager

Ever wanted to repaint your living room but wanted to see more than just a swatch of color on your walls before making the decision? Home improvement company VisApp has created the Showoff Home Stager, so you can see your creative genius on the screen before it goes permanently on the wall.

"The appeal of Showoff Home Stager is simple; it lets homeowners and new homebuyers see what their properties would look like after landscaping projects, major renovations, or interior decoration," said VisApp founder Bobbie Ayers. "Home improvement is a $300 billion dollar industry. It’s very tough and very competitive.”

According to Ayers the “traditional means of reaching customers just don’t work.” That is to say, the way contractors market themselves to home-renovators is changing as more digital tools appear on the market. The Showoff Home Stager hopes to give contractors, interior designers, landscapers, and more an opportunity to digitally reach customers, despite being a very off-line industry.

Showoff Home StagerIt does this by allowing customers to request quotes from contractors in the Showoff Home Stager community while playing with the visualizer. Those contractors know these requests are valuable because the homeowners, in theory, are showing an intention to buy while digitally renovating their homes.

“It reminded me in a really weird way of the Ikea closet organizer, which is totally addicting,” said Sam Boonin in the DEMO Sage Panel afterVisApp showed off its site on stage at the DEMO Spring conference today.

VisApp isn’t alone with its visualizer, however. Sherwin Williams has its “Paint Visualizer,” along with Behr. Ayer believes these aren’t enough, however.

“We offer a complete home and landscape solution displaying all suppliers’ products side by side,” she told VentureBeat in an e-mail. “And [we] believe that visualization is most important when you can see modification on your own home and walls.”

VisApp has 10 employees and is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida. Ayers and her husband have invested $250,000 into the company, which was founded in July 2010.

VisApp is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: DEMO

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Want a store inside your video player? Cinsay can do that

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 04:55 PM PDT


Undoubtedly, the 30-second (or less) video commercial is an effective way to drive a company’s revenue. That’s assuming people take the initiative to visit the company’s store, walk through 2-3 additional steps, and finally confirm payment. Each step holds the potential for consumers to change their mind, get confused, and ultimately not follow through with the sale.

Cinsay, which launched its Smart Container Software as a Service (SaaS) product today at the 2012 DEMO Spring event, wants to simplify the aforementioned process.

The Smart Container service gives clients a way to put the online store inside the video player. Consumers aren’t taken to an outside website when they want to buy something, nor do the go through several entirely new pages. The transaction takes place entirely within the video player, even if it’s being watched through a social network or third-party website. Theoretically, the results will translate into higher revenue and fewer incomplete transactions.

“Anyone who has a product or service to sell will be interested in this technology,” Cinsay told VentureBeat. “We are the only company that has developed a platform of this nature that builds commerce right inside a video player and enables it to go anywhere on the web, social media, and on mobile devices via simple embed codes.”

While Cinsay is a pioneer in terms of offering e-commerce within videos, plenty of other startups are taking advantage of the social commerce movement, including Moontoast and 8thBridge.

Founded in 2007, Cinsay has 92 employees based in Austin, Tex. and Dallas. The startup has raised a total of $50 million in funding to date from PepperWood Partners, Red McCombs, and Christian Briggs.

Cinsay is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: DEMO, media, social, VentureBeat

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Meet Hazelcast, the tiny Turkish startup that counts Cisco, Mozilla, and Ericsson as users

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 04:45 PM PDT

Hazelcast, a five person Turkish startup with an open source platform that makes it easy for companies to create cloud-friendly applications. Blue-chip companies like Cisco, Mozilla, and Ericsson are among its early clients.

Open-source solutions are all the rage for enterprise databases these days. Red Hat just booked its first billion-dollar quarter and announced a big partnership with 10Gen.

Hazelcast is an open-source clustering and highly scalable caching solution. It allows you to easily cache and share application states and partition your application data across the cluster. It is a peer-to-peer solution (there is no master node; every node is a peer), so there is no single point of failure. Applications running Hazelcast will dynamically cluster and create a single system view. Hazelcast also provides distributed executor service to parallelize the processing of distributed data.

Venture capitalist judges at DEMO said of Hazelcast, “To me, [the product is about] scaling out, and that’s the more interesting part of cloud… lashing a thousand nodes together and making an enterprise system, that’s interesting.”

Another VC chimed in, “It is middleware, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

The company was founded in 2008 and so far hasn’t raised any venture capital. The bootstrapping move makes sense, since the startup already has big clients, including some of the world biggest banks, paying for service and support. But Hazelcast is hoping to kick off a round of institutional funding at DEMO.

For anyone interested in learning more, there is a video demo on their site, which we can’t seem to embed, but which you can check out here.

Hazelcast is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: cloud, DEMO, enterprise, VentureBeat

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Finovera is making your offline bank accounts cloud-ready

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 04:34 PM PDT

Finovera cloud accounting

Bills, invoices, and bank statements are straddling the online and paper worlds, making organizing finances a messy task. Finovera is launching today in an attempt to collect these bills and make people trust accounting in the cloud.

Consumers receive more than 15 billion bills and statements every year, but fewer than 5 percent of these statements are delivered electronically, founder Purna Pareek said on stage at DEMO Spring 2012 in Santa Clara, Calif., today. “This is a massive burden for consumers.”

Finovera users are able to connect their financial and utilities accounts to the service, even if those accounts don’t have an online counterpart. Finovera is able to grab statements from the past 12 months and give you an analysis of your spending. Should one of these accounts not be connected to the Web, Finovera will contact the institution and retrieve the statements for you. The company is focused on families, who often have a number of big receipts, tuition bills, credit card balances, and mortgage payments to organize.

Finovera founder Purna Pareek

Competitors such as Manilla and Doxo do exist, but they do not aggregate offline accounts. Pareek even goes so far as to say that his service and Mint are complementary because of Finovera’s ability to access institutions that don’t have an online presence.

What Finovera is really going up against is fear, however. Many people are still uncomfortable keeping all of their financial records completely online. The concerns are simple: What if there’s a power outage? What if Finovera is hacked? These questions will stand in the way of customer adoption.

A panel of experts, in a post-demonstration discussion, said that Finovera is tackling a big enough consumer problem that it could potentially standout from competitors with a single compelling feature or a fresh user experience. Plus, the company could get some lift and distribution if it were to form partnerships with bill providers, RightScale CEO Michael Crandell said.

The company was founded in 2011 and has thus far raised an undisclosed amount from its founders as well as angel investors. Finovera is located in Milpitas, Calif. and has six employees.

Finovera is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Cloud dollar signs image via Shutterstock

Filed under: DEMO

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DocSync brings your docs to the iPad, no matter where they’re stored

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 04:27 PM PDT

docsync for ipad, remote document editingLast year at the DEMO conference, R. Paul Singh was forced to return home to find a simple document on his computer that he couldn’t access via his iPad. He couldn’t access the file over e-mail, remote desktop was too slow, and he forgot to upload it to his Dropbox account before he left in the morning.

Singh’s frustration led to the development of DocSync, a new service that lets you access your business documents on the iPad from just about anywhere, including your home PC, e-mail, cloud storage providers, or private servers. The goal, says Singh, is to free professionals from the tyranny of lugging around computers and make them more productive with the iPad.

DocSync DEMO

DocSync founder R. Paul Singh

Fittingly, DocSync is making its debut today at DEMO Spring 2012 in Santa Clara, Calif., which is co-run by VentureBeat.

"We are enhancing productivity of iPad users by offering secure one-touch remote access and search of files and content on users' computers as well as other clouds," Singh said in a statement today.

The company’s iPad app lets users easily view their files across various clouds and computers. You can search for documents and make light edits, which will synchronize with the file’s remote locations. DocSync also offers 128-bit encryption and remote wiping of iPad docs, which should appease IT employees worried about document security.

“We don’t store any of the users data in our cloud,” Singh said of the company’s attention to security. “The only thing we store is your metadata.”

DocSync competes with remote solutions like GotomyPC (which wasn’t adequate for Singh last year) and startup Cloudon, which lets you edit Microsoft Office documents on the iPad. Singh says DocSync differs by seamlessly integrating documents across public and private clouds.

But experts on a panel following the company’s DEMO presentation weren’t convinced the new application has what it takes to appeal to consumers. “The problem that they’re solving is not a problem I have,” RightScale CEO Michael Crandell said, adding that he puts important files in DropBox for universal access.

“It felt like a feature,” Bracket Computing CEO Tom Gillis said. “I’m underwhelmed.”

The company is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and has raised $100,000 so far from seed investors.

DocSync is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: cloud, DEMO, mobile, VentureBeat

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Looqiloo knows you trust friends more, sets up peer-review marketplace

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 04:22 PM PDT

Which one is more convincing: watching an infomercial for the latest juicer, or watching a guy on YouTube pulverize 12 apples into a tasty beverage?

We all know Jack LaLanne is awesome, but Looqiloo is betting that peer reviews on its user-driven video marketplace will move more product than cheesy infomercials.

“Amazon and eBay allow you to buy products and read reviews. YouTube lets you watch video reviews but not buy. And you can watch videos and buy from QVC, but the videos aren’t created by consumers,” said chief executive officer Bruce Crair in an interview with VentureBeat.

Looqiloo allows anyone to create and upload a product review video and share it with the Looqiloo community. As on YouTube, people can watch the videos; but should anyone have the urge to buy, he or she can do so right from the video page.

Looqiloo video marketplace

The company splits revenue from a sale between the product distributor, itself, and you, the video creator. Crair pointed out a Nielsen report showing people’s trust in television advertising had dropped 24 percent. People just don’t believe that buying Old Spice will give them a baritone voice and a perfect happy trail.

On the other hand, if a friend or peer suddenly smelled like the man your man could smell like, you’d be waiting in line at Walgreens right now.

The company sees its target market as all those who upload product reviews to YouTube. Crair explained that a search for “iPhone 4S review” turns up around 62,500 results. There are definitely fanboys and girls who love to walk you through every step of their beloved new gadget, but it’s a stretch to say all of those reviews are positive and aimed at selling the product. That said, Crair wants to create a community and even welcomes the negative videos.

ExpoTV.com allows you to upload similar videos and get rewards, but Looqiloo doesn’t see that site as a big competitor. Instead, it wants to compete directly with Amazon and other big retailers.

The startup made a presentation at DEMO in Santa Clara, Calif., today. Venture capitalists on a judge panel noted, “Affiliates already don’t get paid a lot, and now you’re taking a piece of that piece. It’s hard to make it work unless you have an immense amount of volume.”

Another VC said, “I liked a lot of it… There’s a bunch of cleverness here, but where is the money?”

Looqiloo was founded in 2011 and has so far been bootstraped by its founders, Crair, Wendell Brown, and Mark Klein. The company is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and has five employees.

Looqiloo is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Image courtesy of Andresr, Shutterstock

Filed under: DEMO

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Box CEO Aaron Levie dismisses Google Drive

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 04:20 PM PDT

Using humor to cover up his true feelings, Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie said that he had nearly forgotten about Google Drive, the search giant’s soon-to-launch cloud storage product that will threaten the very livelihood of Levie’s seven-year-old business.

Levie, in an on-stage interview with VentureBeat Editor-in-Chief Matt Marshall at the DEMO Spring 2012 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., eventually admitted Google Drive will probably be a “cool application” that people will download in droves. “But, I hope [Google] fails,” he said.

“Drive,” as Google’s offering is said to be called, will be a storage solution that goes head-to-head with Box (and others) by providing consumers and professionals with universal access to files and documents. Drive will have a freemium model and integrate with third-party services, we know from previous leaks.

The much-anticipated product could make its appearance any day now, but if Levie’s on-stage demeanor and jovial playfulness is taken at face value, Box isn’t afraid. “[Google's] job is to get into very big categories,” Levie said, dismissing the competition.

Google will be an “important competitor,” Levie later admitted. But Box, which has been working on cloud storage since 2005, has the focus and knowledge to offer customers a more secure and more scalable solution, he noted. “That’s our entire business,” he’s said.

Levie may not fear the unknown, but Forrester infrastructure analyst Andrew Reichman recently told us that Box and competing startup Dropbox, should be seriously worried about Google Drive.

"When Google is playing is your space, you should be worried," Reichman told VentureBeat. "Dropbox and Box are small companies by comparison, and Google has much deeper pockets."

In the one-on-one interview at DEMO, Levie also talked about how tablets, and the iPad in particular, are disrupting the enterprise, giving startups such as Box the opportunity to compete on equal footing with software veterans such as Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM.

Filed under: cloud, DEMO

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RollApp launches cloud-enabled beta of ‘Open Office on iPad’

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 04:15 PM PDT

On-demand software startup rollApp has launched a free beta of “Open Office on iPad,” its first big stab at bringing cloud-powered software to the iPad’s browser.

rollApp’s focuses on developing the technology to run any existing software app on any device that has a browser. The company specifically has the iPad in mind because that device still faces software challenges when an app isn’t built natively. So the company has decided to start by giving users access to the popular Open Office suite because they won’t have to worry about licensing costs. Additionally, rollApp includes integration with cloud storage big wigs Dropbox and Box and Google Docs, which means users also have access to their files in the cloud.

Vlad Pavlov, rollApp’s founder and CEO, is extremely confident about the product he’s created, telling VentureBeat: “We’ve developed the most advanced cloud technology in the world. We have the best team on this planet. And our channel partners are about to bring our technology to hundreds of millions of their users. At this point, we are unstoppable.”

Pavlov’s advisory team includes Bjarne Stroustrup, the author of C++; Richard Wirt, General Partner at Oxantim Ventures; Bob Iannucci, former CTO of Nokia; Richard Soley, CEO of Object Management Group; Mike Gurevich, a former Chief Architect for Bank of America; and tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa.

rollApp will compete with already established players including OnLive and CloudOn, both of which let you run Microsoft Office on the iPad. OnLive even takes it a step further by offering a full edition of Windows that can be accessed via the iPad.

Open Office on iPad will be free until the product leaves beta. User registrations may be staggered depending on demand.

Palo Alto-based rollApp was founded in 2010 and has raised $350,000 in seed funding from U.K.-based TMT Investments. It is currently looking to raise new funds.

You can see a few more screens of Open Office on iPad below:

rollApp is one of 80 companies chosen by VentureBeat to launch at the DEMO Spring 2012 event taking place this week in Silicon Valley. After we make our selections, the chosen companies pay a fee to present. Our coverage of them remains objective.

Filed under: cloud, DEMO, mobile

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now