01 May, 2012



Funzio scores big with third million-plus hit on the iPhone

Posted: 01 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

Funzio is three for three on the iPhone. The social-mobile game maker’s latest game, Kingdom Age, had more than 1 million downloads in its first five days on the Apple iTunes App Store.

The mobile game is a “high fantasy” title where you can battle monsters and beef up your skills in a single-player game. Or you can compete against your friends in multiplayer combat.

Since the game launched on April 19, more than 5 million troops have been trained by players. And more than 20 million battles have been fought, said Jamil Moledina, vice president of business development at San Francisco-based Funzio.

“In five days, more than 93 years of total time was spent playing the game,” Moledina said.”The amount of time people spend in the game is much higher than our previous games.”

Modern Combat, for instance, had 50 years of game play in its first five days. Funzio’s Crime City game also hit the top ranks of the App Store. And right now, all three of Funzio’s games were ranked in the top 25 grossing apps on the App Store during the past weekend.

“We can’t recall another example of this happening,” Moledina said.

It is exceedingly hard to do, considering that mobile games have to spread either via word of mouth or relatively expensive advertising.

This is one reason why Funzio may be raising a lot of money right now, possibly raising $50 million at a $350 million valuation.

Moledina said the mobile game market is starting to mature and ad costs are going up.

“To play by the rules, you have to spend money on advertising,” he said. “You also have to make a game that is really fun to play. That’s a key part of how our games have wide appeal.”

Moledina said all three of the games are rated at least 4.5 out of 5 stars. And each game has also had good promotion. Apple featured Kingdom Age as “new and noteworthy” and on the “hot” section. While the first two games were definitely male-oriented hardcore games, the Kingdom Age title has wider demographic appeal, Moledina said.


Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, mobile, VentureBeat

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

Tween girls doubled their game usage in the past year

Posted: 01 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

Tween girls, or those ages 8 to 12, doubled their game playing time per month in the past year, from 38 minutes a month to 78 minutes, according to a new report from Spil Games.

The report sheds new light on a key demographic group that has become more and more engaged with games with the rise of mobile devices and casual web sites.Tween girls control about $260 billion in spending in the U.S.

The three most popular games on Spil’s girl-related site are cooking, dress-up, and quiz titles. Android phones are becoming increasingly popular among tween girls, accounting for 46 percent of mobile sessions.

Hilversum, Netherlands-based Spil Games has 170 million worldwide users across three major brands. Its U.S. tween site, GirlsgoGames, has more than 7.6 million monthly active users and it was the source of the data. Girls enjoy interacting with the community and they create more than 88,000 pieces of content a day.

For girls, gaming is inherently social, said Floris Jan Cuypers, vice president of corporate development and external communications at Spil Games, in an interview with GamesBeat. They enjoy creating avatars and dress-up outfits. Girls focus on being creative, cultivating friendships and engaging with a community of fans. They play most often on Friday through Sunday, between the hours of 3 pm and 7 pm.

The main sites for girls in the U.S. are GirlsgoGames, Club Penguin, Barbie.com, Kizi.com, and Stardoll.com. The top celebrities for girls are Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Angelina Jolie, Miley Cyrus, and Jennifer Lawrence. On GirlsgoGames, the most popular game is Pet Party.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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

Berkeley student uses tech to create the coolest dorm room ever (video)

Posted: 01 May 2012 08:35 AM PDT


At UC Berkley, it seems students will do anything to get their peers to take notice. Freshman Derek Low, showing his gusto, has created what might be the coolest dorm room ever with automation, motion detection, and room interaction with iOS apps.

Low debuted his B.R.A.D. (Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm) dorm room system to the world via YouTube yesterday, and the results are spectacular. The system opens his curtains at 7 a.m., lets him command lights and music using his voice, and he controls various aspects of the room using custom-made iPhone and iPad apps.

“During my freshman year at UC Berkeley, I set out to create the most ridiculously automated dorm room in the school ever,” Low wrote on YouTube. “Three months and several hundred dollars later, BRAD has been completed!”

You can read more about Low’s process of creating B.R.A.D. here.

Watch the amazing video below:

Hat tip to Gizmodo

Filed under: offBeat

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

Crocodoc’s new cloud-based document service abolishes the need for desktop apps

Posted: 01 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Crocodoc, team

Downloading a PDF or Microsoft Office file from the web is easily one of the more antiquated practices still begin used. It’s also something cloud document startup Crocodoc wants to abolish with its new HTML5 document embedding service, which launches today.

If you’ve ever viewed a document in Dropbox, Yammer, or LinkedIn, then you’re using Crocodoc’s product. The startup’s service takes PDF and Microsoft office document files and replicates them online for wider consumption. While this functionality is also available in Google Docs, Crocodoc’s service preserves the document in a way that’s very similar to how it looks and functions within native desktop software. With Google, I can technically see the document, but often times a documents style, images, and other formatting is altered.

“You’re essentially getting something that’s on par with Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word, but within a web app, ” Crocodoc founder and CEO Ryan Damico told VentureBeat. “When you view a document in Google Docs, its much slower to load in the browser, everything is blurry when you try to zoom in, and there’s kind of faked text selection that doesn’t really look right.” He adds that while Google Docs is a consumer-focused product, its main focus isn’t in translating documents perfectly, which is necessary for many people.

Crocodoc’s new service can be embedded into a variety of third-party apps by using iFrame or JavaScript, and without the need for plugins or additional software. Customers can customize the doc experience to fit specific branding, and offer commenting and markup tools for collaboration with others.

The startup charges by the document, so its service will probably be most useful for businesses, or organizations that produce a heavy flow of documents that need to be shared among a large group. The startup’s first product, Crocodoc Personal, is targeted at consumers and still available. Its new product is already powering the document viewing experience within Yammer, SAP, LinkedIn, Edmodo, and Dropbox.

Founded in 2010, the San Francisco, Calif.-based startup has raised about $1 million to date. Its funding comes from Y Combinator, SV Angel, and top Silicon Valley investors including Dave McClure, Joshua Schachter, Paul Buchheit, and Steve Chen. Crocodoc has four employees, but has plans to double or triple its staff within a year, Damico said.

Photo of the Crocodoc team (above) and screenshots via Crocodoc


Filed under: cloud, enterprise, VentureBeat

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

Intel’s tiny prototype computer will fit in your hand, run Quake

Posted: 01 May 2012 07:22 AM PDT

Intel's NUC motherboard is small enough to fit in your hand

You thought a $35, palm-sized computer was pretty good? Take a look at Intel’s response to the Raspberry Pi: a palm-sized computer running its own Sandy Bridge processor.

Extremetech has a nice overview of Intel’s compact computing platform, called the Intel Next Unit of Computing, or NUC for short, and we’ve got a gallery of photos below, courtesy SWEClockers.com, a Swedish overclockers’ site.

Although we haven’t seen any proof of this yet, it’s a good bet that this computer, with a Core i3/i5 slot, will be able to run Quake. Yes, the Ivy Bridge processor family that Intel unveiled last week will have more powerful integrated graphics processing, but compared to the Raspberry Pi’s 700MHz ARM processor, Intel’s offering will be like a racecar next to a recumbent bicycle.

Intel’s platform is just a prototype at this point, whereas the Raspberry Pi is shipping now (finally). But let’s just compare the two platforms, shall we?

Raspberry Pi Intel NUC
Processor 700MHz Broadcom ARM Almost any Core i3/i5
RAM 256MB Unknown
Size 8.6cm x 5.4cm 10cm x 10cm
Ports Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2.0, audio Thunderbolt, HDMI, USB 3.0
SD Card slot Yes No
OS Linux Unknown
Price $35 $100 (estimate)
Availability Now Unknown

Intel’s NUC is meant for use in kiosks and digital signage, but we can already hear the sound of enthusiasts rubbing their hands over the many other uses for a tiny, powerful computer like this: set-top boxes, home media servers, car stereo computing system, Barbie dollhouse-sized server racks, surveillance systems, robots, UAVs, and more.

Do we want one? Is Steve Wozniak a geek?

Via Extremetech

Photos courtesy of SWEClockers.com

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

Facebook debuts ‘life-saving’ option to add organ donation to Timeline

Posted: 01 May 2012 07:09 AM PDT


After teasing a new “life-saving” feature yesterday, Facebook has announced the ability to add organ donation status to a person’s Facebook Timeline.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on Good Morning America early today to talk about the feature, saying that the idea of it came from having dinner with his girlfriend Priscilla Chan. As Chan is in med school, she has seen the power that organ donation can have on someone’s life. So, Zuckerberg decided to implement the feature on Facebook to better connect friends and families with critical details that could save a life.

"Facebook is really about communicating and telling stories," Zuckerberg told ABC. “We think that people can really help spread awareness of organ donation and that they want to participate in this to their friends. And that can be a big part of helping solve the crisis that's out there.”

To add your organ donation status, start by going to your Facebook Timeline.  Then, click the “life event” button followed by “Heath & Wellness,” which will present you with a new option for “organ donor.” As you can see above, you can fill out when and why you became an organ donor. And if you’re not an organ donor, you can find the appropriate registry to become one.

As much as I’m tempted to be cynical about Facebook’s efforts to polish its image before its upcoming IPO, this is a commendable move. With Facebook’s more than 900 million users, it opens up the possibility to get more people interested in organ donation.

Facebook notes that “more than 114,000 people in the United States, and millions more around the globe, are waiting for the heart, kidney or liver transplant that will save their lives. Many of those people – an average of 18 people per day – will die waiting, because there simply aren't enough organ donors to meet the need.”

Filed under: social

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

Get money for your crappy old phones

Posted: 01 May 2012 07:00 AM PDT

EcoATM raises $17MBrush off those dusty old electronics and broken phones sitting in a drawer. EcoATM has raised $17 million for its electronics recycling “ATM” kiosks, which give you money for handing over old phones, MP3 players, and even laptops.

The other day I was walking through San Francisco’s Westfield Mall when I came across an EcoATM. I had never seen one before, but after figuring out what the ATM did, I wished I had been carrying around one of my many old dumb phones that will never see the light of day again. The kiosk prompted me to insert a defunct electronic device into its deposit slot. The screen said it would scan my old hunk of plastic and metal, tell me its second-market value, and ask if I wanted money in exchange for saying a final goodbye to my old device.

“We read a report from Nokia that three percent of cell phones were being recycled and felt that needed to change. So we thought, how can we make it really easy and rewarding?” said EcoATM chief executive Tom Tullie in an interview with VentureBeat.

EcoATM knows that most people want to keep e-waste out of landfills but also don’t want to part with their $500 phone and get nothing in return. In order to get more people to recycle their electronics, the company will make it worth your while to part with your old device by giving you money or discounts on new phones. If you feel really, really nice, you can donate the cash to charity.

The idea of device-recycling ATMs has gained a lot of attention from investors. Coinstar even dropped some cash into EcoATM’s bucket with an investment two years ago. EcoATM also won the Best Clean Tech Startup Crunchies Award for 2011. Investor Randy Hawks of Claremont Creek Ventures is clearly impressed.

“They’ve got a great business model, [with the] idea of having kiosks that are convenient for consumers. They are constantly updating their price estimates for devices, so you know you are getting the best pricing for your 18 month-old Android phone,” said Hawks during a phone call with VentureBeat. “They have a stellar management team and have a great way to monetize the value of old devices.”

Claremont Creek Ventures, Coinstar, and TAO Ventures led the $17 million second-round funding, with PI Holdings, Moore Venture Partners, AKS Capital, and angel investor Koh Boon Hwee participating. The money will go towards a national rollout of EcoATM kiosks.

“[There are] 50 units in the field now, and we plan to deploy nationwide. We will be buying kiosks to deploy and building our infrastructure of sales and marketing,” said Tullie about how the company will use the funding.

EcoATM unveiled its kiosks at DEMO Spring in 2011 and has since raised a disclosed total of $31.4 million in funding. The company is based in San Diego, Calif.

Filed under: deals, green, VentureBeat

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

Six tips for creating a killer brand for your company

Posted: 01 May 2012 07:00 AM PDT

This post is sponsored by Volvo. As always, VentureBeat is adamant about maintaining editorial objectivity.

There are misconceptions about how important branding it is to success, how much work it takes, and the best ways to approach it. But every company, from a fresh-faced tech-startup to Apple, knows good branding can make a product or service.

Branding is how you present your company — your name, imagery, reputation — to the world through logos, ads, marketing materials, websites, apps, and social media. Left-brained business types may see it as simple graphic design, like choosing a logo color, or as a mysterious art. But experts know successful branding is hard and the best results are based on research, facts, and a well thought-out road-map.

We talked to Chris Mayfield, head of the Austin-based company Crispy Design, about how companies of all sizes can get the most out of working with branding professionals. Here are his guidelines for success:

Do your research

The most important work for successful branding takes place before a designer or agency is even hired: research, planning, introspection, and difficult decision making by the client. The worst thing a company can do is go to a design agency without having collected key pieces of information and expect the designers to fill in the blanks.

First, decide exactly what you want to communicate and who you want to communicate to — who is most likely to buy your product? Then, break down what your company does and identify its strengths and weaknesses so you can develop an approach that promotes its former and diminishes its latter.

If you don't have this level of understanding of your own company, you won’t be able to engage with the agency enough to have their work be beneficial.

Pick a specific goal

Once you’ve done the advanced research, settle on a specific, actionable goal. Instead of saying, “We want to make more money,” try “We want to increase our market share with rural females between 18- and 25-years-old.” A scattershot approach will be less effective than a tightly focused strategy and will make it harder for you to gauge your success.

You can ask your branding agency to suggest a direction, but Mayfield says this is ill-advised. The third-party team you’ve hired to work on branding has only known your company for a short period of time, but you’ve been living and breathing it for years. You have the best understanding of your company and what it is trying to accomplish.

Communicate to your agency exactly what you're trying to do over the next six months or a year. That way it can completely optimize what it’s trying to do for you.

Don’t be a copycat

A common first instinct it to replicate what a successful company, like Apple, has already done, which is short-sighted and not to anyone’s benefit. Blindly imitating another company’s branding strategy never works out.

“Many small and medium business think it’s like divinity if it was done before,” said Mayfield. “They think Facebook was built by Moses and was without fault.” Just because another company has already “perfected” an approach, doesn’t mean doing the same thing will work again for a different product or service.

Just as ill-advised as copying the big companies is emulating your competitors. Mayfield says this is the antithesis of branding. You want to set yourself apart from competitors. Branding should explain, in tone and visuals, how you're different from them, not how you're similar. This is a hard leap for many people.

“For small companies, a risk is exactly what they have to take,” said Mayfield. “This is generally their one chance to do something incredible.”

Embrace technology

Today, there's no limit to how you can promote a product or service. Technology offers companies incredible opportunities to do things in a whole new way, such as using Facebook to target a very specific demographic. But you must understand the technology (or hire an agency that does) and be willing to go in unexpected directions.

Traditionally, ad agencies just want to make print ads and TV spots, and marketers want to put logos on frisbees and swag. But the landscape is changing; interactive and social media agencies are being added to the mix, and everyone is starting to use technology creatively to reach potential customers.

Take Sweat Leaf Tea. The company believed two things: that anyone who tried its iced tea would try it again, and that people are more likely to want a nice cold drink when it’s hot out. The agencies working on the project decided to geolocate people using an IP sniffer, and cross-reference that info with the average temperature where they were located. If it was above a certain degree, they would offer them free tea.

Social media is the technology that gets all the attention, and while it is an incredibly important part of branding, it’s also not the most complicated. The key to social media is putting in the work and being active in a space. The best social media plans are often the domain of content directors, as they're the best at promoting their company’s own intellectual prowess.

Keep it simple

Vacuum-company Dyson explains a complicated product clearly. As technologically innovative as the company is, it’s able to communicate quickly and succinctly what its products can do. That simplicity is the cornerstone of a good brand, but can also be applied to the branding process itself.

It’s possible to overwork brands. Take logo design: a smartly designed logo doesn’t try to convey every aspect of a company, just give an impression. Attractive design should come ahead of cramming in literal representations of what the product does, or hunting for the perfect color to make someone want to spend money.

“Colors communicate things like fear, hunger, cold, and danger. They don't communicate something like trust,” says Mayfield. Symbolism is another equally over-thought element of logo design. Sometimes it works, like when banks try to communicate stability with Grecian pillars. But don’t believe an agency that shows you a shiny object and tells you it communicates synergy. They are just trying to sell you on their design, and that’s a disservice to your company. The focus should be on making the design look contemporary.

Step back and let the agency do its work

If you have done all of the research and strategy work, step back and let the people at the design agency do what you have hired them to do. Don’t try to micro-manage the process. If they don't do a good job, don't hire them again. But if you're constantly derailing their work, you'll never get the best out of them or the experience.

Image via rishibando/Flickr

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

BlackBerry 10 revealed: RIM finally brings the PlayBook’s magic to phones

Posted: 01 May 2012 06:47 AM PDT

thorsten heins unveils blackberry 10

It’s been a long time coming — today we finally got our first glimpse at Research in Motion’s next-generation platform, BlackBerry 10, which aims to breathe new life into the company’s aging smartphones.

New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins hit the stage at BlackBerry World in Orlando, Florida today to show off the new platform. “We’re taking our time to make sure we get this right,” he said, perhaps hoping to squash criticisms of the long run-up to the availability of BB10 devices (expected later this year).

BlackBerry 10 is based on the QNX operating system used in RIM’s PlayBook’s tablet. Today, Heins showed off an early build of the OS, BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, running on developer preview hardware. (It actually looks a lot like the PlayBook OS squeezed down to a smaller screen.) Developers attending BlackBerry World will receive one of the prototype BB10 devices, which will help them begin to develop new apps for the platform.

The BB10 interface seems refreshingly simple: the home screen consists of four widgets (weather, calendar, music, and photos, in the demo today), as well as phone, camera, and search buttons on the bottom of the screen. Notifications come in on the right side of the screen, and you can also swipe right to move into the app that the notification came from.

Surprisingly, Heins declared that BlackBerry 10 apps never stop running, which will allow you to easy juggle multiple apps without a sweat. It’s unclear how RIM is managing to do this without killing battery life though — something that BlackBerry users take seriously.

BB10′s software keyboard looks a lot like a typical hardware BlackBerry keyboard, but RIM also personalizes the keyboard to your typing style to remove latency. You can access numbers and symbols by gesturing from the keyboard, and RIM has also included some predictive text capabilities for one-handed typing.

RIM also briefly showed off the BB10 camera, which allows you to tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo. It also gives you the ability to step back or forward slightly from the moment you took a picture — so if someone blinks, you can save the picture pretty easily.

Heins described BlackBerry 10 as a “mobile computing engine.” He showed off a single BB10 device power several screens in a connected car (don’t expect to see this in your Accord anytime soon though). He reiterated that BB10 will launch sometime later this year.

RIM partners also showed off their BB10 wares: PixelMags is working on a magazine app, Fish Labs showed off the game Galaxy on Fire HD, and Mippin is working on the BlackBerry App Generator, which lets anyone easily create BlackBerry apps.

Photo via The Verge

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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

Is Digg done? Site in acquisition talks with Washington Post, CNN

Posted: 01 May 2012 06:10 AM PDT

nComment's War

Community news sharing site Digg is rumored to be in acquisition talks with the Washington Post and possibly others, sources familiar with the matter told VentureBeat.

Serious negotiations with the Washington Post have been going on almost a month, but Digg may have been seeking a potential buyer for the last three months, according to our sources.

Digg is also shopping itself to others, including CNN, sources say. Digg landing at CNN does make more sense, considering that the company is a bit more modern in its approach to online news sharing. CNN is no stranger to social news aggregation startups, as the company purchased mobile news magazine startup Zite back in August.

For those who aren’t familiar with Digg, it’s essentially a news aggregator that’s powered by users who both submit and vote on links to determine what’s the most popular. The site made a name for itself because of its ability to drive massive traffic to smaller, less publicized sites with good content, but no marketing budget.

However, Digg took a turn for the worse in August 2010, due in part to a rushed site revamp that angered many of its long-time active users, sending them rushing to Reddit for refuge. Digg’s traffic (as well as its ability to send traffic) never quite recovered from its peak, despite a handful of new and improved features.

Earlier this year the company launched a Facebook Timeline app, which gave Digg its highest traffic boost since 2010. Curiously, Digg also decided to kill off some of its publicly displayed tracking features for submitted posts — most notably the number of “eyeballs” a submission had. This could indicate that the site’s Facebook boost has peaked, or even started to disappear — neither of which is good when in the middle of acquisition talks.

TechCrunch is reporting that the sale to WaPo only includes Digg’s staff, but not the company’s technology or branding, which theoretically could still be purchased in a separate sale. I’m not really sure how much sense that would make though, considering that if you take Digg’s staff, who will be left to run the site? And as its been proven in the past, Digg’s strongest asset is its community — although less so today than four years ago. Why not just buy all of Digg at the same rate you’d be getting just the employees.

The rumor’s of Digg’s potential sale was first reported by The Next Web, which notes that the Washington Post is staying silent. We plan on following up with CNN and Digg for further comment about the situation, and will update the post with any new info.

Image via nComment

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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

Investor newbies, here’s another app to make you rich

Posted: 01 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

SigFig financial dashboardMeet the latest app to help you smartly invest the money you’ve been saving under your mattress, SigFig. Instead of letting your hundreds accumulate dust, SigFig helps you accrue capital gains by giving you investment advice.

The foreign language skills needed to read a stock ticker aren’t necessary with SigFig, the company says. The portfolio management system is is aimed at investment newbies who don’t want to pay a financial adviser and is sprinkled with colorful graphs to help even the most financially uneducated understand how their stocks are doing.

Unlike services such as ShareBuilder, ETrade, or Mint, you can’t move your money around with SigFig. Instead you view insights from your portfolio investments — either stocks or retirement accounts — and get advice on how to turn those thousands you’ve invested into hundreds of thousands. Personal finance service and SigFig competitor Personal Capital gives you similar investment insights with colorful graphs. Hong Kong based 8 Securities bridges the gap between the two types of services by allowing investments transactions and providing investment insights.

The team behind the investment portfolio tracker Wikivest is also responsible for SigFig. The company found that people wanted more features within Wikivest, so instead of adding them to its existing service, it decided to build a whole new product. SigFig boasts that its members are collectively managing $30 billion in investments, but that number is partially attributed to people using Wikivest.

SigFig is free and available with a browser and will eventually be accessible through iOS and Android apps. The company makes money by sending new customers to brokerage firms, which in turn compensate SigFig for referring new business.

SigFig has been in beta since early February 2012 and is now a full-featured invite-only service.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

SEO startup SEOmoz won over Disney and FedEx; now it wants you

Posted: 01 May 2012 04:00 AM PDT

pretty girl with computer SEOSEOmoz, a company that tackles search engine optimization for businesses, has raised $18 million in funding.

Every website that wants attention on Google uses search engine optimization. It’s an ever-evolving set of tactics to get search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, to connect keywords to your website, so when someone searches for “lol cats” they end up at I Can Haz a Cheezburger. But anyone who’s ever been on the Internet can tell you that it’s so much more than that.

Instead of trying to constantly game the system by injecting posts with the tag “boobs,” SEOmoz is hoping you’ll hand it the reigns to get your website properly optimized.

The company’s product, called SEOmoz Pro, crawls your site every week to figure out if your SEO tactics are doing anything at all. It will also give your insights on the performance of specific keywords with advice on how to shift your SEO approach. One of its most important tools, Open Site Explorer, measures how many inbound links your competition gets. Inbound links refer to when someone links back to a website, which gives the site credibility and higher page ranks.

Competitors in this space include SEO.com, Mainstreethost, and MessageForce, all of which provide search engine optimization services for marketers and businesses. There are many more as well, and SEOmoz counts on its passionate community of marketers to set it apart from the competition.

“It’s been painful and challenging to build the backend of Google on a one million investment. We are planning to build a larger fresher web index, do development on the backend, and work on the code. We’re also hiring new employees,” said SEOmoz chief executive Rand Fishkin in an interview with VentureBeat.

Foundry Group led the round, with an additional investment from Ignition Partners. Despite a long struggle to secure an investment, the business seems to be doing well. SEOmoz’s revenue was $11.4 million in 2011, and the company predicts it will see between $18 million and $20 million in 2012.

SEOmoz also plans to make a few acquisitions of SEO and social media companies with its new funding, according to Fishkin. Its current clients include big names such as Disney, FedEx, Yelp, and Sun.

SEOmoz was founded in 2007 and is based in Seattle, Washington. The company has raised $19.25 million in total funding and has 60 employees.

Pretty girl with computer image via Shutterstock

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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

GrubHub is bringing restaurant ordering into the 21st century

Posted: 01 May 2012 03:00 AM PDT

Delivery and takeout order service GrubHub is testing its OrderHub service  in more than 400 restaurants in Chicago. I’ve complimented GrubHub before for adapting to how restaurants do business — by sending orders to them by fax. Now it’s helping some of its higher volume restaurants in Chicago automate the process with OrderHub, a tablet that alerts restaurants to new orders and allows them to confirm the order.

I visited GrubHub’s Chicago headquarters last week and the device I saw being used was the re-branded Kindle Fire pictured above.

The company says it has tested a variety of tablets, but using the Kindle Fire for small businesses is a great idea: It’s cheap and portable. GrubHub provides the tablets to restaurants at no cost, eliminating a key barrier in adopting new technologies. The company says that its surveys have shown that 80-92% of restaurants already have Internet access, eliminating another potential barrier. (GrubHub makes its money by taking a percentage of each order — typically 10%-30%.)

The tablet solution should ease the order fulfillment process for GrubHub restaurants and make GrubHub’s job easier too. GrubHub currently serves more than 300,000 diners each month. Currently, the way it works is that restaurants receive a fax followed by an automated phone call. The restaurant then has to enter the order number to confirm the order. If the restaurant doesn’t respond to a call, GrubHub customer service manually calls.

Although this can work well for low-volume restaurants, it can be a challenge for those with higher volumes.

With OrderHub, orders can be confirmed instantly on the tablet’s screen. The application is beautifully designed and simple to use. OrderHub has reduced confirmation times by 80% and has resulted in an 85% reduction in phone calls from diners asking where their food is, due to more accurate estimates, according to co-founder Mike Evans.

Steven Lou has been using OrderHub at Sushi X in Chicago. He said the restaurant typically gets 5 to 6 GrubHub orders and, on busy days, will get twice that.

In addition to speeding up order confirmation, Lou found another benefit: In the small dining room, the fax and phone ringing were distracting to diners. The tablet eliminates that racket, creating a better dining experience.

For GrubHub, it improves operational efficiency and provides an important foothold into restaurants that could eventually be used to provide other services, including loyalty programs and entering new menu items and nightly specials. It could also help restaurants monitor social media mentions, enabling more responsive service to influential diners.

Getting restaurants better connected with the Web is something I’d rate four stars.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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

Jawbone’s Big Jambox may be the only speaker you’ll ever need (review)

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 09:01 PM PDT

Jawbone Big Jambox

It’s big. It’s boxy. And it can power tunes cordlessly for 15 hours.

Jawbone unveiled the Big Jambox today, a large wireless speaker that improves upon its popular and smaller older sibling in practically every way. With the Big Jambox, Jawbone continues to cement itself as an innovator in the oft-forgotten realm of audio devices, and it has crafted a device that’s even more useful than the original Jambox.

It’s funny how much companies can change in the span of a year. In 2010, Jawbone was only known for its Bluetooth headsets, but it changed things up last year with the Jambox wireless speaker — which quickly turned into a runaway success — and the Up fitness wristband. Unfortunately, a widespread defect forced Jawbone to offer full refunds for the Up shortly after it launched (sales still haven’t resumed), but that’s not slowing the company down.

I had a chance to jam out with the $299 Big Jambox over the weekend. And after testing it with plenty of tunes from Air, Gorillaz, Screaming Females, and a plethora of bombastic movie scores, I think it’s safe to call it another potential hit for Jawbone.

The Big Jambox sounds so good that it could end up being the only speaker many consumers need for music and movies. And since it’s portable — weighing in at 2.7 pounds with a built-in battery that lasts for up to 15 hours of music playback — it’s also one of the most useful speakers on the market.

(Of course, the Big Jambox doesn’t fully replace the need for a real home theater system, or a fancy bookshelf setup for music. But it’s ideal for consumers who don’t want to deal with the complicated setup and exorbitant expense of other solutions.)

The Good: Great sound, looks, and utility

Jawbone Big JamboxWhile the original Jambox did a fine job of filling a small room with sound, its diminutive stature limited its capabilities in large living rooms and outdoors. You can have a cute dorm room jam session with the original Jambox, but with the Big Jambox, you can hold a party that will truly annoy your neighbors.

At first glance, the Big Jambox merely looks like Jawbone’s first speaker made larger. It has the same boxy Yves Behar design and steel mesh grill. But under the hood, things are dramatically different. The Big Jambox sports two active neodymium drivers and two bass radiators (in the front and rear). The device’s enclosure is also entirely sealed, which increases power and volume efficiency.

The Big Jambox also sports a decent amount of computing power, which drives a multiband compression feature that removes distortion, and a loudness compensation algorithm. All of this means that you can play the Big Jambox at high volumes without any distortion — something that even more expensive speaker setups can’t offer.

Just like the first Jambox, the new version can play audio from any Bluetooth-enabled device with a range of 33 feet. Of course, there’s also a 3.5 millimeter line input for non-wireless devices. The Big Jambox also adds some very useful on-board buttons, including a dedicated Bluetooth pairing button, as well as buttons for controlling music playback. And after countless reports of the original Jambox dancing itself off of tables, Jawbone has wisely decided to add rubber feet to the Big Jambox.

Unlike the original, this Jambox can support multiple Bluetooth devices as once, so you and your friends can all take turns DJing at parties.

Jawbone Big JamboxI threw practically every musical genre at the Big Jambox and still came away impressed. It excelled at mid- and high-range notes, which made it ideal for Air’s unique soundscape and most electronic music. The Big Jambox had some trouble with extremely low-frequency notes, which are typically handled by external subwoofers, but it was nothing deal-breaking.

LiveAudio, Jawbone’s 3D audio technology, comes pre-installed on the Big Jambox, and it does a surprisingly great job of making audio sound more expansive. The software emulates left- and right-channel separation, so music that takes advantage of stereo positioning sounds especially good. I tested out LiveAudio on the original Jambox, but the Big Jambox can do a lot more with the technology thanks to its larger size.

The device is also well-suited for movies and TV — at least, if you’re not willing to set up a decent surround sound system. Unsurprisingly, the Big Jambox pumped out sound richer and louder than the built-in speakers in my plasma TV. Sound quality in HDTVs has actually gotten worse as sets have become thinner, so practically any external speaker setup would be an improvement.

Jawbone also touts Big Jambox’s “Type-1″ speakerphone compliancy, which means it passes a certain baseline of quality for enterprise use. I still use the original Jambox as a speakerphone today, and the Big Jambox improves upon it by allowing for group conference calls. Its omnidirectional microphone is positioned on top of the speaker, which makes it perfect for placing in the center of a table for group calls.

While the Big Jambox sounds great, its best feature is the ability to continue sounding great pretty much anywhere. Unlike traditional speakers that rarely ever move, the Big Jambox’s large battery and light weight makes it the perfect speaker for any room. It can move with you from the living room, to the kitchen, and even outdoors, without being chained down by wires.

The Bad: No Airplay, Wi-Fi, price may be tough to stomach

The original Jambox atop the Big Jambox

For some reason, consumers always seem to skimp on audio technology. Far too many people live with the iPod’s crummy white headphones, and only certain audiophiles (like this writer) will invest in a killer home theater setup. At $299, the Big Jambox may be too expensive for the typical consumer — though I’d wager that once they see how useful it can be, they won’t mind the cost.

Jawbone is also holding steady with the original Jambox’s $199 price, which means the Big Jambox is a pretty great deal considering how much better it sounds for $100 more.

It’s also surprising that Jawbone didn’t upgrade the device with Airplay (for potentially better sound quality from iOS devices) and Wi-Fi functionality, though I honestly didn’t miss either since Bluetooth worked well enough. Both of those technologies also could have cut into the Big Jambox’s playback time — Bluetooth was always designed as something for low-power devices.

The Lowdown: A surprisingly killer wireless speaker

I’ve been testing out several wireless audio products over the last few weeks, and the Big Jambox ranks among the leaders. It’s gorgeously designed, sounds fantastic, and is one of the most useful devices I’ve reviewed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to test out the Sonos Play:3, which is the Big Jambox’s direct competitor at $299. But it stood up well against my Audioengine 2 computer speakers, as well as my home theater setup (a Harmon Kardon receiver with Onkyo speakers + sub). That alone tells me that Jawbone has crafted something special.

The Big Jambox will be available on May 15 for $299, with pre-orders starting today.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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

Incubators matter: The average Y Combinator company is worth $45.2M

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 07:11 PM PDT

Y Combinator startups are excited about all the value the incubator is creating

Does it matter whether your fledgling company spends a stint in an incubator? Does it ever! Forbes‘ recent ranking of incubators around the country found that the average Y Combinator company is worth $45.2 million. Just try doing that on your own.

That’s the average across 172 companies, mind you: The total value of all Y Combinator companies is $7.8 billion. “The data is of course skewed by certain large companies,” Forbes admits, among them Dropbox and Airbnb, although Mountain View, Calif.-based Y Combinator didn’t spell out how much each of its alumni are worth.

As the article notes, Sequoia Captial, Andreessen Horowitz, Yuri Milner, and Ron Conway together have provided a guarantee of $150,000 in funding for every company accepted to the prestigious club. But the real value is in the other entrepreneurs as well as investors who are plugged in to Y Combinator’s now-potent network.

The number-two incubator 0n the list is TechStars, which started in Boulder, Colo., and now has spaces in New York, Seattle, Boston, and San Antonio, Texas. TechStars has hosted 114 companies to date, and while the Forbes story doesn’t say what their total worth is, it does note that 73 of the companies have raised a total of $134 million in venture capital so far.

"It's become a new college for entrepreneurs because we're so selective on front end,” said TechStars founder David Cohen, of the incubator model. Sure: If colleges paid you six figures instead of the other way around, and if you came out of college owning a significant chunk of a multimillion-dollar company instead of owning a ZipCar membership and a handful of maxed-out credit cards, then the analogy is a good one.

DreamIt Ventures (Philadelphia, New York, and Israel), AngelPad (San Francisco), and LaunchPad LA round out the top 5 in Forbes’ list.

Via Forbes

Photo credit: Al Abut/Flickr

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

Microsoft’s HomeOS brings smarter homes, blue hallway of death

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 05:17 PM PDT

House of Tomorrow, Disney

Microsoft’s research division comes up with some pretty cool stuff, like its Holoflector augmented reality mirror, but its latest project is much more homely.

To be more precise, the company debuted HomeOS today, an operating system designed to make all your devices work in conjunction with how you live at home.

“It is no secret that homes are ever-increasing hotbeds of new technology such as set-top boxes, game consoles, wireless routers, home automation devices, tablets, smart phones, and security cameras. This innovation is breeding heterogeneity and complexity that frustrates even technically-savvy users' attempts to improve day-to-day life by implementing functionality that uses these devices in combination,” Microsoft writes in a post announcing HomeOS.

The operating system works in conjunction with a “HomeStore” app market, where you can buy apps to orchestrate activities around the house. The basic idea is to have device makers make their home appliances compatible with HomeOS, and then let developers take over.

Microsoft is testing the current prototype in over a dozen homes, with researchers from universities across the globe experimenting with the technology. The OS is free for non-commercial use.

We’ve embedded a demo of what the OS can do below, with a slightly longer video available on Microsoft’s website. And having watched  some of the videos, I can say this is probably the closest we’ve come to recreating the “House of the Future” attraction in Disney theme parks’ Tomorrowland.

Photo courtesy of Disney via Yesterdayland

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

Over 403M malware strings found in 2011, says Symantec

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 05:04 PM PDT

Symantec map

There’s a reason 2011 was called the year of the hack. We saw an 81 percent increase in cyber attacks, according to Symantec, which says it stopped 5.5 billion malicious attacks last year alone.

“It’s really the automation and tool-kits that these folks are using,” said Symantec project manager John Harrison in an interview with VentureBeat. “I think we’re finding we’re not just up against a couple individuals — it’s more and more folks who are doing this. And they’re doing it primarily for financial reasons.”

Harrison explained that hackers from everywhere are able to quickly create malware due to automated tools. In 2011, over 403 million unique malware variants were found, according to a report by Symantec. That’s 41 percent higher than the year prior. Of those 403 million malware variants, many were just slight tweaks on a previous type of malware. For instance, if you have a piece of malware that entered a system through a vulnerability that was recently closed, the malware writer can change the virus using automation to exploit a new hole.

The recent Mac Flashback Trojan is a good example of this. Within a few weeks of the Trojan being discovered, two new variants — Flashback.N and Flashback. S — were found infecting Macs after Apple had patched up its hole in Java.

“It’s definitely becoming wider scale,” said Harrison. “With web attack tool-kits, anyone with $100 and very little knowledge [can create malware]. We call it the consumerization of malware attack kits.”

Symantec warns that it’s not just big businesses and executives who are being targeted by cyber criminals. Any size company and any level of employee can attract a hack. Most hackers seem to be looking for personally identifiable and financial information to be sold on the black market. In 2011, 1.1 million identities were stolen per large breach, small breaches add up as well.

Another reason a small business might be hacked is the opportunity to gain access to a bigger fish through that company. “What’s [a] better [way] to attack the U.S. government than attacking it from inside a company in the U.S.?” said Harrison.

He predicts that 2012 is going to be the year of the mobile hack, as the devices become a part of who we are, and carry much of our sensitive data. Rogue applications are infiltrating app marketplaces like Google Play every day. In addition to mobile, it’s time for Apple computers to watch out. Harrison says now is the time to buy Mac antivirus software.

Mac viruses will increase as hackers gain the tools to create cross-platform viruses that can travel from mobile to Mac to PC without needing new variants.

Map image via Symantec

Filed under: security, VentureBeat

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

Violin Memory extends funding round to $80M

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 04:55 PM PDT

Flash memory is hot because it runs cooler than other kinds of storage in the data center. It’s also faster and more efficient at storing frequently used data. Violin Memory is one of the companies that is benefiting from this trend in the data center.

And the trend has helped Violin boost its latest funding round from $50 million to $80 million, according to AllThingsD. Previously, Mountain View, Calif.-based Violin had raised a fourth round at an $800 million valuation. Investors in that deal included Toshiba, Juniper Networks, SAP VEntures, and Highland Capital.

But the round was oversubscribed and it reached $80 million, with the addition of new investors GE Capital Management. Violin chief executive Don Basile said that the funding is the latest step toward an initial public offering. Four banks are involved in that: J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill-Lynch, and Barclay's. The IPO could happen by Oct. 27.

Last June, flash memory company Fusion-io went public in an offering that valued the company above $2 billion.

Violin Memory makes flash memory arrays like the one pictured above. Those are used as primary storage for servers in enterprise data centers. The arrays replace slower disk drives.

The main storage for data in servers has traditionally been the hard-disk drive. Flash memory devices — which are solid-state semiconductor chips — have been much faster than the spinning magnetic disks. But the reliability and the storage density used to be too low for flash memory. Improvements on that front have enabled flash to be used as primary data storage. Violin says it can improve the performance of Oracle databases by ten times. The addressable market of hard drive arrays is $20 billion, as measured by Gartner. That market is vulnerable to replacement by smaller servers with incredible amounts of input-output performance, Basile told VentureBeat.

Customers include AOL, Revlon, Tagged.com, Juniper, and Hewlett-Packard. Violin has now raised $182 million since a recapitalization in 2009. The company was founded in 2005, launched its first memory arrays in 2009, and has since deployed multiple product generations using RAID protection for reliability. In June 2010, Violin acquired Gear6.

Fusion-io does server caching, but direct rivals include makers of arrays of hard disks. Those direct rivals include EMC, Network Appliance, IBM, Hitachi, and Dell. There are perhaps dozens of startups trying to do flash array. The company has grown from 100 employees a year ago to more than 320.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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

Funding daily: Microsoft invests in the Nook

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 04:48 PM PDT

NookAt VentureBeat, we come across a lot of funding news every day. In order to bring you the most information possible, we're rounding up the quick-and-dirty details about the funding deals of the day and serving them up here in our "Funding daily" column.

Microsoft puts $300M in Barnes & Noble Nook subsidiary

Hoping to fight off the Amazon Kindle, Microsoft invested $300 million in Barnes & Noble's new Nook subsidiary. The deal gives Microsoft significant stake in the ebooks market.

Custom Made raises $4 million

Custom Made, an online marketplace for hand-made goods, has raised $4 million. The website connects you with artisans-for-hire that will make you custom jewelry, furniture, clothing, and art. Google Ventures led the round.

Simulmedia grabs $6M

Advertising analytics for television company Simulmedia has raised $6 million. Using data from set-top boxes, such as a Roku Box or an Apple TV, to create targeted ads for TV watchers. Existing investors Avalon Ventures, Union Square Ventures and Time Warner Investments led the round.

SaaS Capital launches $22.5 million fund

Saas Capital, a debt financing venture capital firm for cloud companies, has launched a new $22.5 million fund. The fund will be used to provide senior debt loan to SaaS companies with more than $3 million in revenue.

Filed under: deals

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

After insane development cycle, online game TERA finally poised for launch

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 04:31 PM PDT

Taking on World of Warcraft is no small task. Just ask the folks who made TERA, the massively multiplayer online world that launches in North America for the first time tomorrow, May 1.

TERA is in a rare category of fantasy online gaming worlds that take forever to create because they have to debut with a massive amount of content — enough for fans to stay busy for a long time, not just a week or so, as with many single-player games. Work on Tera began in March 2007, and a total of 280 developers worked on the game between developer Bluehole Studio in South Korea and En Masse Entertainment in Seattle.

That’s what it takes to challenge Blizzard Entertainment’s dominant multiplayer game World of Warcraft, which has 10.2 million subscribers nearly eight years after it first launched.

TERA launched in South Korea in the third quarter in 2011, but the developers had to remake the game for the North American market.

During the time it took to make the game, the MMO market changed. Most new titles are coming out as free-to-play games, where users can start playing for free and later pay real money for virtual goods such as customized weaponry and clothing. Tera will have 30 days of free play. But the downloadable and packaged-goods game will sell for $49.99. Players will also have to pay a subscription fee of $15 a month.

Only the big-budget games can charge such fees. TERA has been developed by Bluehole Studio. It is co-produced and published by En Masse Entertainment in North America, and distributed at retail by Atari. All of these companies are betting that TERA’s time hasn’t passed it by.

The company bills the game as an action-MMO, where players have to pay attention in fights with giant bosses. They have to use the right tactics and pay attention to the location and timing of their strikes during combat. That’s a contrast to existing MMOs where the fighting is a lot more repetitive. Tera promises the “depth of a traditional MMO and the visceral gratification of an action game,” En Masse says.

"TERA ushers in a new era of true action MMO gameplay that advances the online roleplaying genre," said Chris Lee, vice president of publishing at En Masse Entertainment. "It's time to move past yesterday's repetitive combat mechanics and embrace a more intense and deeply immersive approach to MMO gaming, where every player is actively engaged in skill-based combat and the most savvy players rise to the top through an innovative political system."

One of the obstacles that stood in the way of TERA was a lawsuit by NCsoft, which sought to prevent the North American launch. NCsoft alleged that former employees stole code and art assets from NCsoft’s Lineage 3 game and used it in TERA. Some former NCsoft employees were convicted of stealing trade secrets in 2009. En Masse denied the allegations and said the suit isn’t stopping the launch. The litigation is still pending.

The game is getting some praise, including some kind words from GameBeat’s Sebastian Haley, for its great character design and action. But official reviews have not yet been released. In the meantime, check out our comprehensive gallery of Tera characters and gear.

Players can choose a character from seven races and eight classes. They can join an alliance of all races to save their homelands from ravaging armies that may destroy the gods who hold the world together. The game has a political system in which players wield power in a province.

A Digital Collector’s Edition will sell for $59.99 and it will grant players in-game items including the Regal Frostlion mount for in-game travel, along with two valuable necklaces: the level 15 Velik's Bloodstone necklace and the level 40 Shakan's Bloodstone necklace.

The physical Limited Collector’s Edition has all the digital edition items and collectibles such as a Letter of Marque, a canvas world map, a field guide, a Valkyon Federation-issued compass and a game soundtrack. The Limited Edition costs $79.99.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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

Google being sued by retirement board for stock split

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 04:20 PM PDT

The Brockton Retirement Board is suing Google co-founder Larry Page and other executives today for its recently proposed stock split.

Google announced it would be splitting its stock in its first quarter 2012 earnings call. Page explained on a conference call regarding the split that for every class A common share, Google would match it with another, non-voting share. This would make a class C of common stock and Page put the emphasis on non-voting. Preventing this new class of stock from having any voting rights means Google co-founders Page and Sergey Brin get to maintain control of the company, and not dilute their own voting power.

This is where the Brockton Retirement Board balked.  The Massachusetts pension believes that Page and Brin are not acting in the best interest of its shareholders, and that this is just a way for the two co-founders to rake in billions of dollars, without doing much for it. Additionally, it believes Google did not have the stock split fairly reviewed before approval.

“[The co-founders] wish to retain this power, while selling off large amounts of their stockholdings, and reaping billions of dollars in proceeds,” Brockton Retirement Board explained in its complaint. “The reclassification effort is a thinly veiled attempt to entrench [the co-founders] as dominant shareholders of Google by creating a non-voting class of Google stock in order to preserve their voting power into perpetuity."

The complaint was filed in a Wilmington, Delaware court today. The case is Brockton Retirement Board v Larry Page et al, No. 7469.

hat tip Reuters, Bloomberg; Photoshop by Jolie O’Dell

Filed under: deals

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

Groupon’s board plays musical chairs as stock drops

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 04:06 PM PDT

Groupon’s board of directors is playing musical chairs as the downtrodden daily deals company attempts to address fallout from an accounting restatement that sent its stock price plummeting.

The company, now trading at more than 60 percent off its initial offering, announced Monday that American Express CFO Daniel Henry and Deloitte vice chairman Robert Bass are joining Groupon’s board.

Henry is replacing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who stepped down from Groupon’s board of directors on April 24. Bass will replace Kevin Efrusy of Accel Partners, who will leave his post as of Groupon’s shareholder meeting on June 19.

The swap-a-roo is Groupon’s attempt to self-correct after a revised fourth quarter earnings report that did more than raise a few eyebrows.

One month ago, Groupon informed shareholders that, due to yet another accounting snafu, revenue for Q4 2011 was $14.3 million less than it initially indicated. The restatement was not received well and shareholders who felt misled responded in turn with both a class action lawsuit and a derivative complaint. The latter suit specifically named both Schultz and Efrusy, along with other board members, as defendants in breach of their fiduciary duty to Groupon and its shareholders.

Henry and Bass add financial credibility to Groupon’s board. Bass, who will retire from Deloitte before his appointment, is said to have specialized in one area where the deals company could certainly use some help: SEC filings. Henry, meanwhile, has worked at American Express since 1990 and has served as the company’s CFO for more than four years. He was previously a partner at Ernst & Young.

“With their deep financial, accounting and operational experience, Dan and Bob will provide invaluable expertise to the Board going forward,” Groupon chairman Eric Lefkofsky said in a statement.

Groupon closed at $10.71 per share Monday afternoon, but its stock price is trading up roughly 2 percent in after-hours trading following news of the board shakeup. Valued as high as $17.8 billion on its first day of trading, Groupon’s market capitalization now stands at $6.83 billion.

Filed under: deals

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

Indeed becomes No. 1 jobs site in the UK, after doing the same in the U.S.

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 03:39 PM PDT


Job search site Indeed, already a long-standing powerhouse in the U.S., has overtaken TotalJobs to become the top job search site in the U.K. based on unique visitors, the company revealed today.

Indeed overtook Monster in the U.S. in Nov. 2010, a sign that its formula of showing job listings from tons of job-related sites worked pretty darn well. As of March, Indeed has attracted more than 67 million unique visitors worldwide monthly, with 32 million or so of those being from the U.S., according to Google Analytics data.

Even before the Stamford, Conn.-based company became number one jobs site in the U.S., it had its sights on the rest of the world. David Rudick, Indeed’s Vice President of International Markets, told me that while the company introduced Indeed in the U.K. in 2007, it didn’t start picking up real steam until 2011 when it introduced a slew of new products that were tested in the U.S. first.

“Our traffic from this past March was actually 50 percent higher than what it was a year ago,” Rudick said. “We’re always looking for new ways to give job seekers a better experience and that is paying off.”

Besides the U.S. and U.K., Indeed also has localized versions in about 50 other counties. Success has been mixed from country to country, but Rudick said Indeed is now the no. 1 job site by unique visitors in France and the Netherlands. Both of those milestones were reached in 2011.

To ensure that Indeed maintains strong international growth, the company opened a new Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) office this March in Dublin. Rudick said it is considering other countries to add to its list, but the company’s immediate priority is to roll out new features and products to markets it has already launched in.

Fast-growing Indeed stands in stark contrast to competitor Simply Hired, which laid off 20 percent of its 100-person staff in early January. Indeed, on the flip side, now has 450 employees, with 105 of those hires happening this year.

On the financial side, Indeed raised a $5 million first round from Allen & Company, The New York Times, and Union Square Ventures back in 2005 and has coasted on that ever since, generating revenue almost exclusively through on-site advertising.

Here’s a chart Indeed provided showing its global growth since its 2004 launch to March 2012:


Apply Here illustration: ra2 studio/Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

YogiPlay unveils learning app service for children (exclusive)

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 02:02 PM PDT

The iPad and other smart devices are becoming an ideal platform for entertaining children. But the problem with content for kids on the App Store is that it is just too hard to find.

So YogiPlay is announcing today it is creating a mobile learning app service for children. Its purpose is to curate great apps for kids and give parents a single destination to find content that is age-appropriate for their children.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based YogiPlay is the brainchild of Cedric and Michal Sellin (pictured), a husband-and-wife team that aims to address the growing frustration of parents who are struggling to find the right learning apps for their kids. The platform is a destination web site dubbed YogiWorld. Parents can sign up for free to get access to a YogiPlay Parent Center account. More than 35,000 parents have already signed up during a quiet beta period. YogiPlay-boosted apps have been downloaded 100,000 times.

“We are parents ourselves and we have had frustrations finding the right apps for our children,” said Michal, chief technology officer of the company, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We can see that tablets are perfect learning devices for children, particularly in the age 3 to 8 category. But it’s just really hard to find the 5 percent of the apps that have been created for kids.”

The app has already launched, and it has had more than 100,000 downloads and 20,000 active customers. YogiPlay invites developers of high-quality kids apps to be part of the platform. Those developers integrate YogiPlay’s software development kit (SDK) into their apps.

Parents can sign up for the service and download recommended apps for their kids. Once the kids play, YogiPlay collects analytics information. It can then build a personalized recommendation for that child which suggests other apps that the child is likely to enjoy. Right now, the parent center is accessible via the web. In a few weeks, the parent center will be optimized for HTML5 so both the apps and the parent center will be accessible via mobile browsers on the iOS, Android, Kindle, and Nook platforms.

Every app is curated to be age-appropriate by a panel of educational experts. They rate each app for learning value and quality. Parents can offer their own insights into their child’s learning and play progress in the parent center.

"YogiPlay has been an incredible resource for myself and my family," said Alexandre Bayen, father of a four-year old girl. "Before using YogiPlay, we spent hours online searching for apps guided by generally unhelpful, generic reviews.  The problem we kept running into was that on the surface most apps sounded good, but when our daughter started to play with them, the apps were either low in learning value or not very fun.  Now, all we have to do is let our daughter play with YogiPlay boosted-apps and then we get customized recommendations for other apps that are perfect for her. YogiPlay makes finding the right apps for your kids super easy. And as a busy parent, I love that."

The Sellins are alumni of Stanford University and are engineers with entrepreneurial backgrounds. Cedric was a founding team member of Aruba Wireless Networks and Michal was one of the first engineers at Google. They decided to apply their search and data analytics background to the problem of finding and recommending apps for kids. Michal said that when kid-appropriate content accounts for only 5 percent of the titles on the App Store, it becomes impossible to find considering there are 624,000 active apps.

“The alternative to this is reading through endless reviews,” Cedric said.

The Sellins have recruited a mix of parents, engineers, game designers, and early childhood learning experts. The team has experience working at firms including LeapFrog, Sony Network Entertainment, Imagini, Landor, GapKids, and Industrious Kid. For now, the company is more interested in amassing a large number of users rather than making money at the outset.

The available YogiPlay-boosted apps today include Goldilocks and the Three Bears (by KwiqApps), Juno’s Piano and Juno Jr. The Day The Music Stopped (by The Juno Company), Fun St. Intl (by Basho & Friends), DoReMi 1-2-3 on Android (by Creativity Inc.), and BingAnimal & Bibi’s Nest (by Decamages). Though it created a couple of games early on just to test the platform,YogiPlay has decided not to produce its own content, Michal said.

The company has 10 employees, and it has raised $1 million from DN Capital and Richmond Park Partners. YogiPlay was founded in 2011. Competitors include Fingerprint Digital, KinderTown, Famigo, Callaway, Ocean Media, and TocoBoco. YogiPlay is trying to outdo the rivals by making better recommendations based on the data that it collects on each child’s learning needs and usage.

“We know that play is the best way to learn,” Michal said.

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, social, VentureBeat

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

A retail revolution: How tablets are transforming brick-and-mortar commerce

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 01:37 PM PDT

This story is brought to you by Sourcebits, a Global leader in Strategy, User Experience & Engineering for Mobile & Cloud. Follow Sourcebits on Twitter for recent news and updates.


Most business owners are already aware of the benefits of having a user-friendly website that is easily viewed and accessed by smartphones and tablets. Now, many of these same companies are finding fresh and unexpected ways to use tablets in stores, while helping to broaden the boundaries of what a brick-and-mortar store is capable of. Yes, the tablet revolution has finally reached retail, proving itself to be an essential tool in a new way of doing business.

Recent research indicates that by 2014, more than one in three American Internet users will have a tablet device, and that 52 percent of tablet owners prefer to shop online using their tablets. However, this data isn’t discouraging retail-store owners, who more and more are seeing the advantages of working with tablets to enhance their brick-and-mortar businesses.

For example, at the ‘Gas Station of the Future” in Rio de Janeiro, a Cisco Cius tablet is available to connect customers to specialists in real-time, and can also use videoconferencing to gather information on maintenance specials offered by the station, as well as show addresses across the city. Over at the the Shanghai Lotus Supermarket in China, SK Telecom has started a trial of its Smart Cart — a WiFi-enabled tablet PC mounted to a shopping cart (pictured above). While walking through the aisles, the customers can use Smart Cart to find product and discount information linked to their current location. It can even be synched to a companion smartphone app.

A recent survey of retailers done by RISNews.comRISNews.com showed 31 percent had plans to begin testing tablets in stores this year, 22 percent had already begun such testing and six percent had fully deployed tablets within stores. Tablets have already proven themselves to be extraordinarily adaptable and flexible at a variety of uses.

With the adaptation of Square and VeriFone point-of-sale (POS) services, there is an emergence of the concept of ‘t-commerce’ or tablet-commerce. And indeed, retail-business owners are beginning to understand the advantages of having a tablet with POS capabilities.

NYC-based Saturdays Surf uses the iPad with LightSpeed software to show merchandise to customers, order out-of-stock products, and complete sales. Putting tablets into the hands of sales associates is a smart move for a variety of reasons; using a tablet as an additional POS device helps free up floor space for merchandise, and customers no longer need to wait long check out lines for a cash register. Not only that, but studies show consumers who have been to stores where tables are being used feel that those stores are more innovative. Sixty four percent of businesses with tablets found their employees to be more helpful when assisting customers if they had a tablet.

An employee with a tablet in hand is at an advantage to help the average customers, who are more and more likely to have access to information on their smartphone or have researched their purchase on a tablet before entering a store.

Likewise, more and more retailers are catching on to the trend of using tablets. Here are some other great examples:

  • Disney Stores and Urban Outfitters allow employees to ring up a customers purchase (and email their receipts) from an iPod Touch.
  • Sears, Converse, Puma and Burberry have all rolled out tests of in-store tablets.
  • Gucci and JC Penny are experimenting with ways to incorporate tablets into their stores.
  • Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s both have tablet devices available at specific store locations to assist customers in researching a product, or to shop from a variety of styles.
  • Nordstrom is rolling out 5,000 mobile checkout devices at 116 full-line stores in preparation for its Anniversary Sale in July.

With so much potential, and such quick adaptation, don't be surprised to see tablets start showing up in stores near you.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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

Verizon debuts $80 prepaid plan with unlimited talk and text; 1GB of 3G data

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 01:35 PM PDT


Verizon Wireless will target prepaid customers with a new 1GB plan that gives you unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of 3G data, the company announced today.

Verizon’s new plan, as much as it seems like a solid all-around deal, does have two snags: You have to buy a Samsung Illusion for $170, and the Illusion only works with 3G networks. It’s a decent offering, but it might not be as appealing to budget customers as similarly-styled plans from MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Cricket.

Verizon also announced that it will offer new prepaid data plan options that you can use if you buy a Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L. The new plans are as follows:

• $15 for 250 MB of data weekly
• $60 for 3 GB of data monthly
• $90 for 10 GB of data monthly

Verizon shopping image: Verizon video

Filed under: mobile

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

Apple supplier Foxconn sees profits drop due to higher employee costs

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 01:20 PM PDT

Score one for human rights, zero for an Apple supplier’s bottom line. Foxconn parent company Hon Hai Precision Industry posted lower profits than usual in the first quarter of 2012 due to higher employee costs.

These costs are directly related to fair labor audits prompted by Apple. The manufacturer’s profit margin, while still robust, slid from 7.25 percent in 2011 to 4 percent in 2012.

At the beginning of the year, a bombshell report revealed Apple’s suppliers were engaging in wildly unfair labor practices, up to and including child labor and even slave labor. Other issues included non-payment or late payment of workers, environmental hazards, and worse.

At that time, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email to all Apple employees, saying, "We are taking a big step today toward greater transparency and independent oversight of our supply chain by joining the Fair Labor Association… We are the first technology company they've approved for membership. The FLA's auditing team will have direct access to our supply chain and they will report their findings independently."

In those follow-up audits, the FLA found Foxconn workers were putting in an illegal number of hours at various factories. Also, many workers were not being paid enough to meet their basic needs, even though they were working 60 hours per week.

As a result of increasing workers’ pay, reducing their hours, and hiring new workers to handle the constant demand from Apple and Apple-buying consumers, Foxconn’s parent company took a small but significant ding this quarter.

While iPad, iPhone, and iPod fans are eager to protest these inhumane working conditions, we wonder how many of them would relish a higher pricetag on Apple’s iconic devices — the obvious endgame when workers must be paid fairly around the globe.

via Cnet

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

GamesBeat 2012 panel will feature Kickstarter crowdfunding lessons

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 01:00 PM PDT

We’re pleased to announce that we’ll have a panel on crowdfunding, one of the biggest changes to the funding of video game production that we’ve seen in a long time, at our annual GamesBeat 2012 conference on July 10-11 in San Francisco.

Kickstarter has become a new source of alternative funding for mid-size game publishers and indie developers, who previously had to rely on funding from game publishers or venture capitalists. But with the passage of the JOBS Act, Kickstarter is not going to remain the only crowdfunding option for long.

The panel will feature some of the most interesting experts on the topic today:

Tim Schafer (pictured at top), chief executive and founder of Double Fine Productions. Schafer broke game crowdfunding wide open with a campaign that raised $3.3 million in 30 days from more than 87,000 Kickstarter backers last month. The company will use the money to create a new adventure game and a documentary that chronicles the game’s creation. Schafer founded Double Fine in 2000 after spending a decade at LucasArts. He is known for zany and critically acclaimed games such as Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and Brutal Legend.

Brian Fargo (pictured above), chief executive of InXile Entertainment. Fargo has been making games since 1982 and his hits include The Bard’s Tale, MDK 2, Messiah, Tanktics, Redneck Rampage, and many more. Fargo recently raised nearly $3 million on Kickstarter for a sequel to his 1988 post-apocalyptic game, Wasteland. Before Kickstarter, Fargo was unable to convince publishers that Wasteland 2 would be a worthwhile project. But now he has enough funding to build the turn-based role-playing part game set in a post-apocalpyse landscape.

Cindy Au, director of community at Kickstarter. In a short time, Kickstarter has become the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects by tapping the enthusiasm of the fans. She works closely with users and has spent a lot of time building relationships with the games and comics communities.

The theme of the conference is “crossover strategies.” The game industry as we know it is changing. We're seeing established companies cross over from one market to another, where once they faced barriers. As companies adapt to change, we are witnessing disruption, change, consolidation, innovation, and the arrival of big money. We're talking billions of dollars that are at stake.

Our previously announced speakers are Will Wright of Stupid Fun Club; Atul Bagga of Lazard Capital Markets; Bing Gordon of Kleiner Perkins; David Perry of Gaikai; Mitch Lasky of Benchmark Capital; Peter Relan of YouWeb; Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio; Seamus Blackley of Innovative Leisure; Tim Chang of Mayfield Fund; Will Harbin of Kixeye; Tim Merel of Digi-Capital; Chris Petrovic, general manager of GameStop Digital Ventures; Riccardo Zacconi, CEO of King.com; and Kristian Segerstrale, executive vice president for digital at Electronic Arts.

We're inviting 500 movers and shakers from throughout the game industry — social, mobile, online, and console. Please join us.

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

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

Citing weak sales, LG backs away from Windows Phone (updated)

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 12:15 PM PDT


Updated at 7:31 a.m. on 5/1/12 with additional LG comment.

South Korea’s LG says it has no immediate plans to manufacture new Windows Phone devices, and instead it will focus all its mobile firepower on Android.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 operating system hasn’t exactly taken off in terms of sales, but with Nokia, Samsung, and HTC all playing in that game, LG likely sees slim pickings in terms of what it can accomplish with Windows Phone. LG reportedly told the Korea Herald that "the total units of Windows Phone sold in the global market is not a meaningful figure."

It also doesn’t help that LG didn’t put much effort into its Windows Phone devices. Many reviewers weren’t impressed by the LG Quantum (pictured above) on AT&T, mostly because it wasn’t powerful, the screen was small, and it was heavy. Without strong hardware behind it, like what Nokia has manufactured with the Lumia 900, Windows Phone is an especially hard sell to users when compared with Android and iOS.

Regarding LG and Windows Phone’s future, a Microsoft spokesperson told the Herald that it will "continue research and development efforts" on Windows Phone. To us, that sounds like the company’s finished and won’t come back until Windows Phone gains traction in the marketplace.

Android also has a highly competitive landscape with Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and more fighting for market share. However, Android is an overall easier sell to general consumers, and it’s the dominant smartphone OS. Perhaps LG figures it has the best chance of denting the marketplace by flooding it with Android devices. After all, even a small slice of a big pie is better than a tiny slice of a tiny pie.

Update: LG clarified its position further on the issue of Windows Phone, saying that is still will support the OS but it will simply focus on Android for now. “We are still on board with Windows Phone, but right now, we’re focusing on Android because that’s where the demand is,” a company spokesperson told Pocket-lint.

Filed under: mobile

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

Facebook will unveil new tool to “save lives” tomorrow

Posted: 30 Apr 2012 12:13 PM PDT

What happens when you add life-saving capabilities to the world’s largest social network? We’re all about to find out — that is if an interview between ABC News’ reporter Robin Roberts and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg lives up to the hype.

Zuckerberg will appear on tomorrow’s broadcast of “Good Morning America” to unveil a brand new tool that “has the power to save lives,” ABC News said in a press release issued Monday.

What might this new tool do? We pinged Facebook for insight, but the social network is keeping its lips sealed for now. But we do know that Facebook has previously taken an active interest in using social media to help people in crisis. The company partnered with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in November to encourage its users to confidentially report suicidal comments posted to the site.

Tuesday’s big reveal could be something along those lines, and we suspect the new tool will be tied to preventing bullying. The Bully Project and accompanying activist documentary film “Bully,” released in late March, have made bullying a hot topic of public and media discourse in recent weeks.

Of course, ABC News isn’t wasting a golden opportunity to play up its exclusive get. The news network is not only heavily promoting its tech celebrity GMA guest via Facebook (check out the new Timeline cover photo) and other channels, but also running follow-up segments, including a “World News with Diane Sawyer” interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Photo credit: ABC News

Filed under: social

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