30 April, 2012



Mark Zuckerberg signs up for Viddy, prompts more Instagram comparisons

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 08:48 AM PDT


Fast-growing video sharing startup Viddy has just signed up none other than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a move that has tech watchers throwing out more comparisons to just-purchased Instagram.

After launching its own Facebook Timeline app, social video sharing startup Viddy began to grow at a startling fast rate, eventually adding 5.5 million users in 11 days. Viddy’s successful tie-in to Timeline has prompted other services to launch Timeline apps, including Magisto and Ustream. But Viddy’s success is unparalleled in user growth and with Zuckerberg’s sign up attracting attention, expect many more people to sign up.

Zuckerberg’s first and only post on Viddy is a 15-second clip of his dog Beast playing. It’s not a terribly surprising or exciting video, but when the CEO of one of the hottest companies on the planet posts a clip, people take notice. And hey, who doesn’t like cute animal videos?

Viddy is rumored to be raising a new $30 million round at a potential $300 million valuation. The comparisons to Instagram are natural, as that company focuses on photo sharing (rather than video sharing) and was just bought by Facebook for $1 billion. Since the announcement of the Facebook buy, Instagram has surpassed 40 million users.

Filed under: media, social

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Actually, Klout is a great tool for hiring digital natives

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 08:33 AM PDT

Can anyone say tempest in a teapot?

Nothing gets the interwebs’ panties in a knot like a good ranking controversy. Think of all the catfights we’ve had over Google’s PageRank, Facebook’s EdgeRank, or ComScore site metrics. But perhaps Klout beats them all. There’s something very personal about a number that grades your online importance. We are digerati — we live online. So when someone boils down our entire online existence into a single two-digit number, it’s hard not to feel judged.

So when Wired published an article about Klout featuring the VP who wasn’t hired because of his low Klout score, Twitter and the blogosphere exploded. After all, how on Earth could a company consider some arbitrary number an important factor in who to hire?

Actually, Klout does matter

Say you’re a large marketing agency in a major city. You do work for major brands, and that work is shifting (if it hasn’t shifted already) to digital. You want to hire someone who is not only conversant with the web, but who is a digital native who lives online, inhabits social networks, and groks modern marketing at a very basic level.

It actually isn’t unreasonable to expect the person you hire to be not just conversant with social media, but actively and deeply involved in it. Consequently, you’d expect that person to know important and topical components of the social landscape, such as Klout. By extension, a decent Klout score, say 40, or maybe even 50, is not an unreasonable expectation.

Note: A score of 20 is average; a score of 50 puts you in the 95th percentile. The VP who got passed over had a score of 34, and the one who did get hired had a score of 67. That’s a big difference, particularly for someone who is supposed to be conversant in digital media.

Klout doesn’t measure everything

Not everyone agrees that Klout is a good signal. Branding expert John Morgan wasn’t impressed: “If you’re a business who hires people based on their Klout score then I have zero respect for you or for your hiring process.” Others were downright vitriolic: “I hated Klout before, I do more now.”

And even those who weren’t angry had serious concerns. Damon Poeter at PCMag found making hiring decisions based on Klout score “disturbing” and “shocking.” Eric Kain at Forbes found it “troubling,” and VentureBeat’s own Ben Popper called it “terrifying.”

There is good reason for concern. After all, Klout is a somewhat arbitrary number created by an agency over which you have no control. Even if Klout score is generally accurate in measuring social influence (a fact which many dispute), there’s no guarantee of accuracy for any single person.

In addition, Klout only measures influence on a limited number of social networks: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, according to the company’s own documentation. (I’ve read elsewhere that Klout now factors in participation in other key social networks, such as Instagram, Tumblr, etc.) But if you’re big on Pinterest: good luck. The last-remaining big shot on MySpace? Sorry.

Perhaps most importantly, just like any other incentive, scoring influence encourages some to game the system. Just like some sites use white, grey, and black-hat SEO to improve ranking of mediocre content in Google, some people will use distasteful tactics to increase their Klout score, such as constantly @ messaging high-influence individuals. The result: more spam, and inaccurate numbers.

Still, Klout is a valuable ranking signal

Sure there are challenges with Klout. Yes, just like all other ranking and scoring systems (links, likes, tweets, number of followers, +1s) there are ways to game the system.

But it is a ranking signal that means something. It doesn’t mean everything, and basing hiring decisions on Klout score alone would be silly. But ignoring online influence, for which Klout score is a convenient if imperfect proxy, is not the smartest thing a recruiter or hiring manager can do. In fact, it’s downright stupid.

We all benefit from ranking signals every day. PageRank helps us find better data. EdgeRank prevents us from getting all our third cousin twice removed’s dog breeding status updates. Trending topics help surface the most interesting topics. All of these systems have issues. None of them is perfect. All of them cause problems: reality bubbles, missed trends, poorly ranked sites. But they do have their place, and they do help make signal out of noise.

Using Klout as a ranking signal helps people like Marshall Kirkpatrick find respected and influential people on Twitter. Others use it in similar ways to cut through clutter and find important content. And, interestingly, social media coach Kathi Kruse tells her clients to use Klout score to unmask social media insta-gurus who knock on their doors seeking business.

Hiring managers should dig deeper than one number. They should see how well a candidate interacts and engages online and should appropriately weigh offline factors.

But in combination with other factors, Klout score remains a valuable metric.

Photo credit: Michael Berenz/Flickr

Filed under: social

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Quasar brings the glory of windowed apps to jailbroken iPads

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 08:04 AM PDT

quasar for jailbroken ipads, windowed apps

As much as I love the new iPad, I still find it tough to multitask on the device thanks to Apple’s focus on full-screen apps. Quasar, a new app for jailbroken iPads by Pedro Franceschi, makes the tablet act more like traditional operating systems by letting you juggle multiple apps in windows.

Quasar looks particularly useful for running iPhone apps on the iPad, which don’t take advantage of the device’s larger screen. The app allows you to resize windowed apps easily, and switch between windowed and full screen mode, as the video below shows.

Traditionally, jailbreak hackers have given us a window into capabilities that Apple may eventually include in iOS. Hackers crafted the ability to use folders in iOS, and developed a unified notification system for the platform, long before Apple. But given the company’s increasing focus on a single-screen experience — something that’s now made it way to OS X apps on the desktop as well — I don’t think we’ll ever see a legit windowed app solution on the iPad. (But hopefully Apple will do something else to improve iPad multitasking.)

Quasar is now available on the Cydia jailbroken app store for $9.99.

Via The Verge

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Live-action Halo 4 web series to debut this fall

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:56 AM PDT

With Halo 4 coming in November, Microsoft is going all-out with the transmedia opportunity. The company announced today that it will release a web-based live-action animated series, Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn.

The series will run exclusively on Machinima and Microsoft’s online community Halo Waypoint. It will debut before the Nov. 6 release of the Xbox 360 video game. Halo has sold more than 40 million copies since 2001 and generated more than $2 billion in revenues.

The animated show “represents the largest investment Microsoft has made in a live-action show to date,” Microsoft told Variety.

Matt McCloskey, director of franchise management at Microsoft game studio 343 Industries, said the series is a way “to make ‘Halo’ accessible for people who haven’t played the games.”

Halo franchise head Frank O’Connor said the series will enable “people to get on board this universe without feeling intimidated.” In Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, Halo’s main character Master Chief works with a UNSC cadet who later becomes a leader on the UNSC Infinity space ship. The web series will be released in 15-minute weekly installments and offer background to the story of Halo 4.

Microsoft tried to turn Halo into a movie in 2005 — using Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson — but the effort bogged down in wrangling with movie studios. More details are coming in July at Comic-Con in San Diego.

GamesBeat 2012 is VentureBeat's fourth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. This year we’re calling on speakers from the hottest mobile, social, PC, and console companies to debate new ways to stay on pace with changing consumer tastes and platforms. Join 500+ execs, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and press as we explore the gaming industry's latest trends and newest monetization opportunities. The event takes place July 10-11 in San Francisco, and you can get your early-bird tickets here.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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Isocket brings self-service ads to MailChimp’s newsletters (exclusive)

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:32 AM PDT

isocket screen

Who says e-mail is dead? Advertising startup isocket has forged an agreement with MailChimp that lets publishers sell ads directly on e-mail newsletters, potentially turning old-school e-mail into a money maker.

Isocket simplifies the advertising process for publishers with its self-serve ad platform, which increases the number of direct ads that run on a website. For example, if Microsoft wants to buy an ad across a tech news website, they’d start with isocket’s self-serve platform, which would give them all the ad specs and rates.

Direct ads, of course, are more lucrative for publishers than ones that run through an ad network, and ultimately make them more money. Isocket’s platform also helps those publishers manage a larger number of ad clients, which enables them to spend less time keeping track of deals and more time making deals.

Now isocket’s self-serve ad functionality is available for email newsletters, as powered by email marketing client MailChimp. And while email may not seem like a powerful force in the age of social media, there are still roughly 188 billion messages sent each day from nearly 3 billion accounts.

“For us, offering publishers a way to sell direct ad through their email newsletters was a no brainer,” isocket founder and CEO John Ramey told VentureBeat.

Ramey said the email functionality will be available through all email marketing platforms, but those that use MailChimp will have a more simplified experience. That’s something that attracted lots of publishers to start using isocket in the first place.

The startup has a rather impressive list of clients already using its platform, including VentureBeat, AOL (as well as TechCrunch), Gawker, Mashable, Springwise, Break media, and the Cheezburger Network of sites. Ramey told me his company denies about 90 percent of publishers that apply to use the platform, with about 700 to 800 requests to join per month.

Founded in 2009, the Burlingame, Calif-based startup has previously raised an undisclosed round of funding from Jeff Clavier / SoftTech, Dave McClure / Founders Fund, Mike Hirshland of Resolute, Tim Draper, Blumberg Capital, David Cohen of TechStars, Quest VP, Accelerator Ventures, and Metamorphic Ventures.

Screenshot via isocket

isocket email ads

Filed under: deals, media, VentureBeat

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LG debuts cloud storage service with emphasis on media streaming

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:22 AM PDT


South Korean electronics giant LG has introduced LG Cloud, a service that lets users store and access content across Android phones, smart TVs, and PCs, the company announced today.

LG Cloud arrives in beta form on tomorrow. The company will try to differentiate its offering from just-launched Google Drive and services like Dropbox and SugarSync by placing its emphasis on storing and streaming media rather than every type of file.

With LG Cloud, you can access and stream video, music, and photo files on Android smartphones, smart TVs, and PCs. The Android app is the most interesting app here, and it will automatically sync the files on your phone with LG’s servers. The LG Cloud Android app will be available for download from Google Play or LG Smart World shortly.

"Most companies today only see the cloud as a storage device or in the case of YouTube or Flickr, only for one type of content," said Havis Kwon, CEO of LG's home entertainment division, in a statement. "LG makes the devices that millions of people watch content on so we can set a new yardstick for ease of use by setting up our own cloud service

People that own LG’s smartphones or smart TVs will get 50GB free for six months, while everyone else who signs up for the service will get 5GB free, which is the same space that Google Drive offers and more space than Dropbox’s free 2GB per user. Other paid options will be introduced when service launches out of beta.

LG Cloud photo: LG

Filed under: cloud

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Angry Birds Space hits 50M downloads in 35 days

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:12 AM PDT

Angry Birds Space has been downloaded more than 50 million times in its first 35 days on the market, according to publisher Rovio.

That makes it the fastest-growing mobile game in history. And it means that Rovio hasn’t exhausted its franchise yet, even though it has had more than 750 million downloads in the series so far.

“This has been simply amazing, and the whole Rovio team is thrilled to see such a fantastic reception for the game,” the company said in a blog post. “We extend our deepest gratitude to all fans of Angry Birds everywhere. While numbers like this certainly say something about the popularity of Angry Birds, for us the main goal is to keep creating fun new experiences that everybody can enjoy! We just launched the first free update for Angry Birds Space, with plenty more surprises in stock.”

Angry Birds Space is available on iOS (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad), Android, PC, and the Mac. Rovio just released 10 new levels for iOS and Android.

Cryptically, Rovio added, “There’s only one conclusion to draw: something even bigger is on its way! Stay tuned and keep flinging those Birds!” Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer and Might Eagle at Rovio, is one of our speakers at the upcoming GamesBeat 2012 conference.

GamesBeat 2012 is VentureBeat's fourth annual conference on disruption in the video game market. This year we’re calling on speakers from the hottest mobile, social, PC, and console companies to debate new ways to stay on pace with changing consumer tastes and platforms. Join 500+ execs, investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and press as we explore the gaming industry's latest trends and newest monetization opportunities. The event takes place July 10-11 in San Francisco, and you can get your early-bird tickets here.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, mobile

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Microsoft puts $300M in Barnes & Noble Nook subsidiary to create an e-reading titan

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 06:15 AM PDT

Nook Simple Touch - Microsoft invests in Barnes & Noble

How much is Microsoft afraid of Amazon and its surging Kindle business? Enough to invest $300 million in Barnes & Noble’s new Nook subsidiary.

The deal, announced today, will give Microsoft a significant stake in an established e-reading company, a market where it hasn’t yet made much of an impact. Barnes & Noble hasn’t yet decided on a name for the subsidiary, which will also include the company’s College business segment, but we expect it to harken back to the Nook brand somehow. Microsoft will own 17.6 percent of the new company, which is valued at $1.7 billion.

Notably, the company is valued significantly higher than B&N itself this morning, which now has a market cap of $823.4 million. Shares of B&N were up a whopping 85 percent in pre-market trading at the time of this post.

Not surprisingly, one of the first products from the deal will be a Nook application for Windows 8. That’s something B&N would have likely developed anyway, but with Microsoft’s banking it’ll be able to accelerate development and take advantage of the new tablet features of Windows 8.

The partnership also resolves an ongoing patent dispute between the two companies, according to today’s release: “Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have settled their patent litigation, and moving forward, Barnes & Noble and Newco will have a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft's patents for its NOOK eReader and Tablet products. This paves the way for both companies to collaborate and reach a broader set of customers.”

The inclusion of B&N’s higher education business also gives Microsoft a gateway into that potentially lucrative market. The subsidiary will push forward B&N’s Nook Study software to deliver digital education goods — which could potentially remove the need for expensive textbooks.

At the moment, it appears this new subsidiary will remain under Barnes & Noble. But it’s not hard to see the pieces being put in place for a larger shift down the line, which could include spinning off the subsidiary entirely, and a potential purchase by Microsoft.

Filed under: deals, media, VentureBeat

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Free Realms turns three years old with more than 20 million players (exclusive)

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT

Free Realms, the free-to-play family-friendly online world created by Sony Online Entertainment, has turned three years old. To celebrate, Sony is inviting the game’s 20 million registered users to a variety of in-game activities and new content.

Free Realms is one of the most successful Western online games. When it debuted three years ago, it was the first major Western world from an established video game company to experiment with free-to-play, where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods.

Now, a few years later, most massively multiplayer online game worlds have shifted to free-to-play or embraced the freemium business model in some way. Players have come to expect free-to-play, which started in Asia as a means to combat large-scale piracy.

The fantasy-themed game is now on the web-based PC, Mac, and PlayStation Network. Free Realms now has 59,000 in-game items such as customizable pets and unique clothing such as a Skeletal Hoodie. Players have started more than 112.8 million collection quests.

The world will feature a bunch of birthday story quests, daily birthday rewards, and an epic in-game world event featuring the return of one of Sacred Grove's favorite villains, Cakenstein.

"We've seen the community grow exponentially in the past three years, and celebrating this birthday is a great testament to the success of the game," said John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment. "Our goal at SOE has always been to keep our players engaged through new content and rich experiences. To further support this goal, in the next few weeks, we will be bringing players an opportunity to go deeper into the world of Free Realms, and I can't wait to see and hear their reactions."

Smedley unveiled Free Realms and its plan to target children and parents with the game at the GamesBeat 2009 conference in San Francisco.

All players will get a special birthday hat. They will be able to purchase unique items, such as a party PiƱata pet, birthday furniture, and more.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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PopCap opens the product licensing floodgates for the first time

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 06:00 AM PDT

PopCap Games is announcing today a number of deals in which it will license its popular video game franchises to makers of T-shirts, toys, and other merchandise. You’ll soon see many new products, including zombie wallets and Plants vs. Zombies T-shirts (pictured above).

It’s surprising that a company as large as PopCap has never had a formal licensing program, given the number of hit brands it has had in its 12-year history. Rovio, the maker of the Angry Birds series, has shown everybody how to make a game brand ubiquitous in the past year.

Of course, one thing that is different is that PopCap is now owned by Electronic Arts, which bought Seattle-based casual game publisher for $750 million-plus last year. EA has its own licensing division, and it is helping to execute the new licensing strategy with its own team of experts.

PopCap has struck licensing deals with Trends International, Bioworld Merchandising, Funko!, MjC International, Jazwares, and Walls360. The first products from PopCap's partners will begin appearing this spring and will be based on the company's Plants vs. Zombies game. Products based on Bejeweled and other franchises will appear in early 2013. The deals will make products available in North America and Europe.

Bioworld Merchandising will be creating apparel, headwear, bags, and accessories. Jazwares will make plush toys, figures, and electronic accessories including headphones, universal serial bus sticks (USBs), speakers, and device cases. Walls360 will be offering wall pictures of individual characters and exclusive bundles. Funko! will create Plants vs. Zombies versions of their distinctive Pop! vinyl figurines. MjC International is working on adult pajamas and boxer shorts. Trends International is developing calendars and posters.

“This is a deliberate move into the licensing business,” said Brennan Townley, director of brand licensing at PopCap, in an interview with GamesBeat.

Townley came aboard six months ago after the EA acquisition of PopCap, but he said that the move was something that PopCap decided to pursue. He said that the company is cutting deals with some of the highest-quality merchandise companies.

PopCap’s games have been downloaded more than 1.5 billion times and its Bejeweled game has sold more than 50 million units. Founded in 2000, PopCap has more than 600 employees.

Here’s a gallery of various licensed merchandise.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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Gap, H&M, and others welcome Wrapp’s awesome social gift cards to the U.S.

Posted: 29 Apr 2012 10:27 PM PDT

Wrapp social gift card app gap screenshots

After finding success in Sweden and across Europe for its effort to revitalize the gift card industry, Wrapp is finally launching in the U.S. today. And to prove it’s serious, the company has more than 25 retailers signed up to use the service, including Gap, H&M, and Sephora.

Wrapp’s mobile and web service allows you to buy gift cards for friends through Facebook, which can be redeemed via the Wrapp mobile app in stores. The company offers a few unique twists on the gift card paradigm: Once a gift card is purchased, your Facebook friends can easily add more funds to it, and Wrapp also offers free gift cards as part of targeted retailer campaigns. Wrapp gift cards can only be redeemed via smartphones, but that also means you’ll never really lose them either.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. has been Wrapp’s No. 1 target since it launched, CEO Hjalmar Winbladh told VentureBeat in an interview a few weeks ago. He pointed to a few unique aspects of U.S. consumer culture that makes Wrapp a perfect fit: We have the most mature Facebook market, significant smartphone penetration, and a general acceptance (and in many cases, preference) for gift cards as presents. In some European and Asian countries, gift cards can seem a bit too impersonal.

The company currently has 165,000 active users who have given out 1.6 million gift cards. Wrapp users send cards to their friends once a week on average, Winbladh said. The company also reports that participating merchants saw average sales of four to six times the value of the free gift cards sent out.

I’ve been following Wrapp for months now, but now that it has landed in the U.S., the company is also revealing itself as a sort of anti-Groupon. Unlike the daily deals service, Wrapp allows retailers to target specific consumer demographics with free gift card deals, and it also has a more personal touch than Groupons since Wrapp cards come from your friends. Groupons tend to attract dealhounds who may never visit a store again, something that irks retailers, and in some cases has also killed businesses.

Wrapp helps retailers “avoid the bottomfeeders,” Winbladh said. The service is appealing to merchants in other ways as well: they only have to pay up when a Wrapp card is redeemed, they can target exactly the sort of customer they want, and they get the added bonus of friend endorsements.

The company offered up one case study of how its service helps: European retailer Clas Ohlson used Wrapp to push traffic for a new store. The company sent out promotions for free Wrapp cards worth $15 to loyalty card members, 11 percent of which started using Wrapp, and one sixth of those customers redeemed the cards in-store within three days.

For consumers, the deal is pretty sweet as well. With Wrapp, you’ll never forget about a gift card again, and since the service hooks into your Facebook account, it can alert you of friend birthdays and easily lets you send a gift.

Stockholm, Sweden-based Wrapp has raised $10.5 million so far to bring its service to the U.S., and also saw a big legitimacy boost with the support of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who joined the company’s board in the latest round.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Nokia to dump world’s most ridiculous luxury-phone brand, Vertu, for $265M

Posted: 29 Apr 2012 06:50 PM PDT

Vertu luxury phone and old man modelTroubled phone-maker Nokia is attempting to unload its luxury mobile-phone brand, Vertu, for a reported $265 million (€200 million), the Financial Times is reporting. Nokia is being advised by Goldman Sachs on the deal and is currently in talks to sell the brand to private equity group Permira.

For the baller who has everything but an iPhone, the bespoke Vertu phones are handmade in England and are rumored to smell like Italian leather, 50-year-old whiskey, and freshly showered butlers. The phones are made from the finest materials such as stainless steel, carbon fiber, and titanium. They are tricked out with exotic leathers (calf, ostrich, and alligator), precious metals (gold, platinum), and of course, rubies and diamonds. The London Symphony Orchestra makes all the Vertu ringtones, and it takes 15 days for the company to make a single sapphire-crystal display.

Most of the brand’s handsets are woefully outdated, mimicking top-of-the-line feature phone and Blackberry design from five-years ago. Vertu’s most expensive phone was the tacky $310,000 Signature Cobra, released in 2006. The dated tech would seem to show a brand that has been largely ignored in recent years, however in 2011 it released a touchscreen phone, the $5,000 Constellation, and earlier this year it launched a series of dragon-themed phones to celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

Unsurprisingly, the technology is not what makes Vertu valuable, according to the Financial Times citing a source close to the sale. Rather, the brand’s name has cachet among the rich and fabulous, and could be used to market to the coveted group internationally. That would make the brand a good fit for Permia, which currently has high-end companies such as Hugo Boss and Valentino in its portfolio. The Financial Times estimates Vertu’s annual revenue between €200 million and €300 million.

The sale is a logical move for struggling Nokia, which posted a $1.7 billion loss in the first quarter. Last week, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Nokia’s rating to “junk.” The one potentially bright spot for the Finnish company is decent sales for its Lumia smartphones — it sold 2 million in the first quarter of 2012.

In letting go of Vertu, Nokia is selling more than just overpriced, blinged-out handsets. The company also offers luxury services such as a 24/7 concierge service, city guidebooks for the jetsetters, and extra-special technical support that includes automatic data backups, and two (two!) complimentary repairs a year. The company has been around since 1998 and has approximately 600 employees.

Check out some of the stunning phones created by Vertu:

Filed under: VentureBeat

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15 tips to get the most out of an incubator or accelerator

Posted: 29 Apr 2012 04:36 PM PDT

Startup Incubator Tips

Before signing up for your local startup accelerator or incubator, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Is your pitch perfected? Does it matter which group you join? Is there a right or wrong time to sign up? We asked these fifteen entrepreneurs for their nuggets of advice on navigating the world of startup accelerators.

Do your research to find the right fit

You should do your homework on any accelerator you’re considering. What do they offer? What are some of their success stories? What happens to companies that don’t succeed? How often do their teams get funded? Depending on the accelerator you join, you’ll get very different answers to those questions. Make sure to not only talk to the accelerator but also past companies, both successful and not.

Jason Evanish (@Evanish), Greenhorn Connect

Don’t be a perfectionist and accept the guidance

I think these groups are really important to early-stage startup attempts — the mentorship, community, and exposure they offer far outweigh any equity you might share with them in return. Don’t get caught up in trying to build something perfect; focus your efforts on customer development and proving your assumptions, so they can help you move that learning into a solid first product.

Derek Shanahan (@dshanahan ), Foodtree

Accomplish something on your own first

After having a detailed discussion with TechStars graduate and Contently.com co-founder Shane Snow, my takeaway was to have built an impressive resume of personal accomplishments to show you’re capable of actually building a real business. Incubators and accelerators want to train entrepreneurs, but they need to make sure you’re coachable and have actual potential to become a real star.

Danny Wong (@blanklabel), Blank Label Group

Be prepared to immerse yourself and go all in

You need to dedicate your time into this — it’s an endeavor that requires focus 24/7. Also, look at the opportunity as a time to find the right co-founder, strategic partners, and to be honest and upfront with the organizers about what you need. The more you give, the more you get!

Ash Kumra (@AshKumra ), DesiYou

Prove that you are committed

Demonstrate commitment and focus on results; incubators and accelerators invest in people and teams more than markets. It’s important to have a disruptive idea, but the drive and capabilities of the team are much more correlated to success than the size of the market or details of the business plan. They want to see a smart, dedicated team that is passionate about executing.

John Harthorne (@jharthorne), MassChallenge

Don’t settle for any incubator, find the best

If you are thinking of applying to an incubator or accelerator, be sure to find the best. Even if you have to give up a larger portion of your company, it will be worth it for the amount of growth it will help you with in comparison to a lesser organization. Also, look for synergy and people whom you work well with — you want to feel welcomed into your new home.

Louis Lautman (@louislautman), Young Entrepreneur Society

Make sure your goals match up

All incubators and accelerators are not created equal. Some incubators focus on landing funding, others focus more on helping you build a revenue-generating firm. Make sure your goals align with that of your program.

Doreen Bloch (@DoreenBloch), Poshly Inc.

Reach out to alums

Before applying to an accelerator program, I would talk to alums of the program to make sure they had a good experience. It also might help if you could get some time to validate your idea for a business before jumping into one of these programs. Make sure the “proof of concept” even makes sense.

Patrick Curtis (@WallStreetOasis ), WallStreetOasis.com

Perfect your pitch

Many incubators are looking for the entrepreneur to make some type of pitch, so it’s important to practice, practice, practice. The more excited that you can make them about your concept, the higher likelihood that you will get accepted to the accelerator.

Lawrence Watkins (@lawrencewatkins), Great Black Speakers

Paint a picture of success

When creating your pitch, keep in mind that you want to convince the judges that your startup is truly going places. It’s going to be so successful that they will want to attach their name to get behind it. Show them that you’re going to be successful no matter what, so it’s in their best interest to have you affiliated with their program.

Stephanie Kaplan (@stephaniekaplan), Her Campus Media

Tell a great story

Remember, people are investing in you more than your idea. Businesses are fluid in the startup stage. Which means your personality and background is what really counts. While pedigree or experience matter, your curiosity, obsession and commitment matter more. Character trumps credentials. What’s the riddle you’re trying to solve? How have you overcome failure? Make them believe in you.

Michael Margolis (@getstoried), Get Storied

Master the art of explaining your idea clearly

Good entrepreneurs know a lot about their business and their market. But can you communicate this expertise in a way that resonates with decision-makers in the incubator and accelerator programs? Start by reading “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki and learn the “business of business communication” in the startup phase.

Kent Healy (@Kent_Healy), The Uncommon Life

Timing is everything

Think about what you aim to get out of the incubator or accelerator program in mind. People tend to assume that these are great kickstarters, and they can be, but it all depends on timing. Joining one at the wrong stage of your cycle can be feedback overload, or slow your growth in other ways. Sometimes you need to collect input and test your idea, and sometimes you just need to build.

Caroline Ghosn (@carolineghosn ), The Levo League

Don’t join on your first venture

Entrepreneurs are going to make mistakes and get things wrong more often than not. I suggest getting as much accomplished in the real world before applying for incubation. The more you can do before you need the help, the better your terms will be and the more serious they will take your application.

Lucas Sommer (@audimated), Audimated

There’s life after an accelerator

These are great opportunities, but your business must happen with or without them. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and the aspiration of being accepted to a “prestigious program” — after all, it’s validation that you’re on to something! But if things don’t work out, the show must go on. Your goal is to create a company, so don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Tony Navarro (@hoostony ), Streamcal

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth.

Image via tobimcfly/Flickr

Filed under: Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

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Apple and Google potential additions to Dow Jones index

Posted: 29 Apr 2012 03:22 PM PDT

apple-cash-1The Dow Jones Industrial Average has featured the same 30, large publicly traded companies since 2009. The stock market landscape has shifted significantly in the past three years, and now big tech companies like Google and Apple could be considered for a spot on the elite list, according to business publication Barron’s.

Taking on fresh blood would mean kicking out a few other companies to make room. Barron’s says the top three candidates would be Bank of America, Alcoa, and Hewlett-Packard.

Deciding what companies are included is more complicated than picking the high-priced stock or most valuable company in the world. When choosing companies, the Dow looks at the absolute price of shares. Currenty, Apple and Google’s high share prices would throw off the index giving them a significant larger amount of weight. The solution, according to Barron’s, would be for the companies to split their stocks as much as 10-to-one. An alternative solution would be to put a limit on how much weight a single stock could have.

The Down Jones Industrial Average has been in existence since 1869.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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How low-end smartphones could democratize education in rural China

Posted: 29 Apr 2012 12:12 PM PDT

Roughly 70 percent of China's population lives in rural areas. This also means that more than 70 percent of China's students live in rural areas, making up some 160 million students of compulsory-education age. With the rapid decline of the price of smartphones to sub-$80, there is a huge opportunity to distribute and democratize education to China's poorest and largest population. Armed with an arsenal of educational applications, smartphones have the capability to be powerful learning tools.

Between 2003 and 2007, the Distance Education Project for Rural Schools (DEPRS) was implemented by the Chinese government to improve the quality of basic education in rural areas of China, especially in the poorer western provinces. It has been referred to as "the largest ICT project in the world up to now" because "it serves a larger population than any other similar projects and therefore will likely start a far-reaching information revolution in China."

If the government re-enacted or continued this project, I believe low-end smartphone's could play a central role.

I say smartphones would enhance distribution of education, due to the very literal ability to distribute them because they are small and light. As the technology improves, people are starting to use smartphones more than their laptops. Although laptops are becoming increasingly smaller and lighter, they will not be able to become smaller than smartphones. By greatly subsidizing the cost of smartphones for rural children or their families, it is almost unimaginable what they can and will do with them.

I say smartphones would democratize education because they provide access to information and learning tools anywhere and anytime. Of course, attending schools will always play a role, but why limit learning to the time they are in school. Many rural children have to travel very far just to reach school. Once they are there, there is only so much time they can effectively concentrate and absorb information. Urban children have a greater advantage in terms of access to education simply because teaching quality is higher, they can afford materials, and they can more easily get to the schools. If kids had the ability to explore a world of information and play with apps that improved their learning, the feasibility of making smartphones available in rural areas should definitely be explored.

Of course, there are a number of challenges involved in trying to adopt such a policy. Perhaps the greatest challenge is making wifi and Internet accessible in rural areas. But I don't see this as an impossible obstacle to tackle. I've been impressed with Internet coverage in the very high and rural mountains of Vietnam. A more simple challenge is educating rural children on how to use smartphones as a learning tool in the first place. What's to stop them playing Angry Birds all day?

This idea is actually very heavy and needs to be given much more thought. All of the implications and impacts have to be carefully examined, but my point is to trigger the idea of developing countries using smartphones in a more creative and impactful way.

Related posts:

  1. Kingsoft Partners with Xiaomi to Offer Chinese iCloud?
  2. Mobile Internet Accelerating With Increasing Apps Usage, says Umeng
  3. Innovation Work's Backed Start-up, Tapas Mobile, Does Social Mobile Contacts

This article originally appeared on TechNode, a VentureBeat editorial partner based in China.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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