07 May, 2012



Five secrets of successful selling (over video!)

Posted: 07 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

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

Every salesperson has his or her own list of tips, tricks, and techniques that have helped to make them a success in a very competitive industry. Fine-tuned over decades, many of these now seem antiquated in light of today's fast-paced and tech-based business environment. However, that’s actually far from the case as quite a few sales secrets can be successfully adapted to work with new advancements.

Nowhere is this quite as apparent as with video chat and video conferencing which are increasingly being used to assist sales people in reaching clients, demonstrating products, and sharing video testimonials. Here are five secrets of successful selling, and how to incorporate them into video.

Have the Knowledge: A good salesperson knows their product or service backwards and forwards. Customers expect salespeople to be knowledgeable about what they sell, and what better way to highlight your products advantages than with a video demonstration? Not only can you show off your products features and services, but using video you can also show video testimonials and endorsements from past clients, give how-tos and FAQs — all of which offer added value. Incorporating video in these ways is also an excellent lesson in recognizing the opportunity to learn a new skill; many salespeople already understand how important it is to never stop learning their craft, and video should be another aspect of this.

Listen to Your Customer. Then, Listen Some More: It’s been said that a good salesperson talks 40 percent of the time and listens 60 percent of the time (this is also known as the "Keep your mouth shut and your ears open" rule). However, its importance cannot be understated – listening is by far the most important part of the communication process; it helps the people you are selling to feel comfortable and more inclined to have an unguarded rapport with you. A video chat not only shows the other parties that you are listening to their needs (instead of multitasking while on a conference call), but being face to face also helps establish trust, moving customers to a position of saying "yes" more quickly. You also have the added bonus of being able to confirm all the details to everyone in the room at one time – instead of them getting lost in one of many email threads back-and-forth.

Manage Your Time Efficiently: Most people who work in sales have irregular hours and long work days, putting in more than the standard 40 hours a week. This means putting a high priority on efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. Wasting time doesn’t just increase your work load, it also hurts your bottom line. With video conferencing, there’s no need to take a three-day trip to fly to the person’s location. You can all simply hop onto a video chat for a discussion about what your product or service can do for them. No airlines, no security checks, no delayed departures. Video chat can also help when you need to hold meetings with sales staff, but have to work from home in order to wait for a repairman. There’s a great deal of potential here.

Be Responsive to Your Clients: You're not just selling to your clients, you’re serving them by providing them with solutions. And it's a lot easier to be responsive to their needs when you are readily available via video chat. Good salespeople go the extra mile to win over leads, and video conferencing provides them with yet another way to reach out to you and access any information they may require. It also makes it easier to establish a personal connection, so that you can get to know potential clients, ask them questions related to your service, and ask for suggestions on what can be improved upon.

Keep in Touch with Your Clients: Sales is a contact sport – the more contacts you make and the more appointments you have, the more sales you'll make. No email or phone call is ever going to provide quite the same personal touch as a video chat, where you can see someone face-to-face. Many salespeople will keep contact with their clients by sending birthday cards or thank you notes, making phone calls or having lunch meetings. Some send out links to online articles of value or newsletters — all great ways to keep your name in the customer’s mind. Putting a face to your name personalizes all your interactions with your leads, and helps keep you fresh in mind when someone they know is looking for a recommendation or referral.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Get ready for your close-up: Google+ Hangouts on Air live streaming open to all

Posted: 07 May 2012 08:37 AM PDT

Google+ Hangouts Video

Google’s Hangouts group video chat on Google+ continues to be the social network’s most compelling feature. Today, Google is opening up the Hangouts On Air feature to all users, allowing them to broadcast their video chat sessions for the world to see.

Google first debuted the live streaming feature last year, but it was only available to select performers and celebrities. President Obama and the Dalai Lama both used the feature to stream live video chats, which proved that Google+ Hangouts was robust enough to take on live streaming mainstays like Ustream and Livestream.

You can make any Google+ Hangouts live by clicking the “Enable Hangouts On Air” button, and it will then be accessible from your Google+ stream, your YouTube page, or your website (if you’ve embedded the stream). You’ll be able to see how many people are tuning into your live broadcast, and Google will also place a copy of your live Hangout session in your YouTube account for posterity.

Google says the feature will be rolled out over the next few weeks (I currently don’t see it in my Hangouts options). The company recently rolled out a slew of new Hangouts apps and games, including Google Effects, which lets you add wacky accessories to your video like fake glasses and facial hair.

Filed under: media, social, VentureBeat

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Can you hear me now? Color goes live with multi-year Verizon deal

Posted: 07 May 2012 08:22 AM PDT


Color me crazy, but serial entrepreneur and quixotic Silicon Valley character Bill Nguyen could be on to something big. A partnership announced today between his flagging startup Color and prominent wireless career Verizon is, at the very least, no small feat.

Color is the seemingly cursed, $41 million-backed Palo Alto company that makes an iPhone and Android app for broadcasting 30-second live clips to friends on Facebook. The app is yoked to Facebook’s Open Graph, but Color is reaping none of the member and engagement benefits counterparts Viddy and Socialcam are getting from the relationship. In fact, with roughly one million users, Color looks like a dud.

But counting out Nguyen would be a million dollar mistake. Nguyen was previously the founder of Lala, the before-its-time cloud music-streaming service that sold to Apple for around $80 million, and Onebox, which was acquired for $850 million in 1999 by Phone.com.

Today’s multi-year Verizon deal is the start of a comeback story arc for Color, as Nguyen sees it. Verizon, which touts the largest 4G LTE network in the U.S. and has 93 million retail customers, is breaking out the crayons, betting big on the application by making it a native part of all the mobile devices it sells.

Starting Monday, Verizon customers will get access to a special version of the application that allows higher quality video recording and live streaming over the carrier’s 4G network, and adds audio into the mix for the first time.

The partnership means that the Color app can rely on a Verizon device’s hardware and the carrier’s network for encoding a higher quality video at double the frame rate. For the user, that translates to live videos that are closer to being as rich in color as they are in real life. For Nguyen, it means he’s one step closer to building the live video app of the future.

The quality is now high enough that a Color video is good enough to rival a status update or a tweet in terms of content, Nguyen said. “You used to have to sacrifice quality to have a shared moment … but you don’t have to make compromises any more. You don’t have to sacrifice video quality for a live experience.”

Nguyen is a quirky idea man with just the right mix of genius and eccentricity needed to believe that he can see the future. In his corner of the world, the future is live, high-quality, unedited video experienced in the moment, and enjoyed in a variety of formats after the fact.

“Once you have HD, you don’t go back,” Nguyen said, likening the new Color app and its future iterations to high-definition television sets. Eventually, Color will win over people with an experience so great that they’ll say, “I can’t believe I’ve lived without this,” Nguyen added.

Vision and pedigree aside, you would be right to be skeptical, to second guess Nguyen, Color, and the notion of live video as the future in mobile. Color version one, the iPhone-only, photo proximity version of the app, flopped so forcefully you could nearly feel the impact of the crash. Round two has faired a little better. Members share, on average, four to eight videos per month, Nguyen said — that’s not the home run his investors are still anxiously awaiting.

“Investors … would want to see more success from us at this point. That’s understandable. They put a lot of capital in; they want to see momentum,” Nguyen admitted. “But I don’t think I’ll ever try to do something just to get adoption — versus trying to do something that I think is cool and hard.”

And what about all that cash, you ask? Fair question. Color raised $41 million in funding prior to its launch, a sizable sum of money that put a giant target on the startup’s back. Now, even after releasing one poorly received app, spending months working to perfect one unproven app, hiring aggressively (Color has a 50-person staff that will soon double in size), and living large in an expansive Palo Alto office, Color has plenty of time to find its identify and an audience. The startup has five to six years of runway left, Nguyen told me.

Let’s not forget the competition. Viddy and Soicalcam, two apps for uploading recorded video clips, are performing remarkably well after hooking into Facebook’s Open Graph. Nguyen had colorful words to describe their recent successes and why his app is better.

“A lot of those guys gave up 20 percent of their companies for celebrity endorsements,” he said. “I’m never going to pay someone to use a product … we’ll beat [their] numbers, but we’re going to do it with technology they can’t touch.”

Those are fighting words. Here are some more: “I get to the big numbers,” Nguyen said with unabashed confidence, “but they usually happen over night.”

Investors, naysayers, and yours truly will all be watching for that night.

Filed under: mobile, social

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Awesome! Raptr will give you targeted rewards just for playing games

Posted: 07 May 2012 08:00 AM PDT

Raptr, the gamer social network with 12 million hardcore users, is unveiling a novel rewards program today that gives targeted bonuses to gamers just for playing their favorite titles. Judging by sponsors such as Microsoft and Blizzard jumping on board the program, being a gamer is about to get a lot more awesome.

The Raptr Rewards program has already begun giving away free games, in-game content (such as virtual goods), discounts on merchandise that is relevant to the gamer’s tastes, and a variety of other prizes to people who play games. Raptr knows exactly how much you play because, when you join, it can measure your game playing on platforms such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC. It anonymizes the data and reports interesting details to game publishers about play habits.

But such data is also very useful for targeting rewards to gamers, said Dennis Fong, chief executive of Mountain View, Calif.-based Raptr, in an interview with GamesBeat. Raptr recently launched a reputation system that ranks players based on the actual data of their play time, which can’t be so easily faked. It then separates gamers on titles such as Battlefield 3 into six categories from Newbie to Elite. Essentially, it sets up a bragging system for gamers that is backed up with data.

Sponsors and advertisers can trust that data as a reflection of a gamer’s real interests. For instance, Raptr cut a deal with Logitech, which sent emails that gave thousands of discounts to players who had reached a certain level of achievement in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The discount was for 60 percent off of Logitech’s line of Call of Duty accessories. The deal turned out to be so lucrative for Logitech that it released even more discount codes. This kind of deal works much better for the sponsor because it is targeted at someone who is a proven player of a particular kind of game.

“It’s a high-value rewards program,” Fong said. “Gamers can earn rewards simply by playing games and ranking up.”

This could turn out to be a good way to monetize users for Raptr, which hadn’t made any money from its 12 million users. Raptr doesn’t have any subscription fees or advertising on its site. Rather, like Facebook (which shares a common investor, Accel), Raptr is trying to amass a lot of users first. Then it will figure out how to make money from them.

And this rewards program looks very promising in that respect. It fits in with a notion raised by Bing Gordon, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers: that game companies should actually pay money to people to play games. And it also fits with the broader idea of The Intention Economy, a brand new book by Internet marketing pioneer Doc Searles, who argues that marketers can get a lot more personal in targeting users. Dynamics, a credit-card innovator, also allows merchants to target rewards at consumers.

But unlike Dynamics, Raptr doesn’t require gamers to make a purchase in order to shower them with rewards, Fong said. The system isn’t a sweepstakes, either, where one person among many will win something. Marketers can target many users with rewards in this case. The marketers can also target players with unique goods that are of no value to most people. You could, for instance, give a digital item such as a unique callsign identifier to a Battlefield 3 fan. While it has no monetary value, it has exclusivity.

Fong said that the rewards program is a natural evolution of the service. The gaming reputation system gives players something to be proud of, and in a community of gamers, that amounts to currency.

“There are many different forms of currency in gaming,” Fong said.

Now, like mobile rewards firm Kiip, Raptr can reward players who have good reputations with multiple kinds of currency. That will make users more loyal to Raptr, and it will enable them to get a direct benefit from all of the hours they put into playing. Companies can directly reward players for all of the attention they give the companies’ games. That is a system that can feed on itself.

Raptr Rewards is already live in beta testing, with rewards exceeding $1 million in total value. In May alone, Raptr will offer more than 350,000 new reward items from top partner companies. Players will get redemption codes for free games, downloadable content, beta codes, major discounts, and access to industry events.

Not every player gets a reward. A sponsor may have enough prizes for perhaps the first 1,000 players who redeem a code. That motivates players to try to cash in on their winnings quickly before they expire. The rewards will be directly tied to a player’s rank, the games played, and geographical location.

“It’s on a first come, first serve basis,” Fong said. “But we will be giving away tens of thousands of games. This is a loyalty program that the entire industry can use.”

Fong said that the targeting system is relatively simple to configure for a sponsor, and that Raptr is prepared to scale it up as needed.

Companies that are participating include Atlus (which gave exclusive in-game items and currency), BioWare (which gave free in-game items and collectibles for Mass Effect 3 fans), Blizzard (which gave early access to the Diablo III beta), Gunnar (which gave major discounts for gaming eyewear), Logitech (which gave major discounts of Call of Duty and G Series branded peripherals), Microsoft (which is giving Gold subscriptions for Xbox Live and free Xbox Live Arcade games), Microsoft and Mojang (which are giving something away related to Minecraft in the near future), Perfect World (which gave away free in-game items for Blacklight: Retribution), Trion (which will soon have a giveaway related to Rift), and Ubisoft (which gave away early access to Ghost Recon Future Soldier to 30,000 fans).

Since 2007, Raptr has raised more than $27 million in funding from investors Accel Partners, Founder's Fund, DAG Ventures, and Tenaya Capital.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, VentureBeat

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Google may move Motorola Mobility back home to Chicago

Posted: 07 May 2012 07:44 AM PDT

Chicago Merchandise Mart: One potential home for Motorola after Google's acquisition

Motorola Mobility, say hello to the Windy City.

Google could be taking its ongoing acquisition to Chicago, if a report by Chicago Business is true. According to sources, Google has been looking into a few separate locations, the sizes of which suggest that the company aims to squeeze 3,000 or so employees into the new space.

One potential location is the Chicago Merchandise Mart (pictured), a massive building currently home to luxury boutiques, show rooms, and restaurants — not to mention office space.

A move to Chicago would be a bit of a homecoming for Motorola, which was founded there as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation in 1928.

Motorola Mobility, however, won’t be moving all that far: Its current headquarters are in Libertyville, a rich suburb forty minutes north of the Windy City. That’s good news for the company’s current employees, who won’t have to go very far to get to the new location.

It’s also good news for Google, which is more likely to attract and retain talent in Chicago than it would be able to elsewhere.

Of course, all of this assumes that Google’s ongoing acquisition of Motorola actually goes through. The deal, which VentureBeats’s own Devindra Hardawar noted still doesn’t make sense, is still being held up in China, though it could see approval by the end of the month.

But the move is evidence that Google has some sort of plan for Motorola, even if no one else is confident that that’s actually the case.

Photo: Flickr user Proxy Indian

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Groupon CEO Andrew Mason: We want to be “the OS for local commerce”

Posted: 07 May 2012 07:33 AM PDT

Groupon logo: Wants to beocme the OS for local commerce

After a rocky showing in its first earnings report, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason revealed his grand ambitions for the company in a letter to stockholders today. It’s not just about daily deals anymore — Mason wants Groupon to become the “operating system for local commerce.”

“We are building an integrated suite of tools and services that we believe will profoundly change the way we shop locally,” Mason wrote. “Today, Groupon is a marketing tool that connects consumers and merchants. Tomorrow, we aim to move upstream and serve as the entry point for local transactions.”

In the letter, Mason reiterated the company’s progress in 2011, with more than 170 million Groupons sold to more than 33 million active customers. The company helped drive “well over” $2 billion to local businesses during the year (and yet, it only managed to earn $14.3 million in the fourth quarter).

“Why Groupon? Aren't we a daily deals company? A glorified mailing list?” Mason wrote. “What our competitors have learned is that success in local commerce requires an unusual combination of skills—a proficiency in both technology and people-driven operations. With a world-class engineering team—built quietly over the last several years in Chicago, Silicon Valley, and Berlin—and with thousands of salespeople who have cultivated relationships with hundreds of thousands of small-business owners, we believe that we are uniquely in possession of both sides of the equation.”

Within just three-and-a-half years, Groupon blew up to have more than 11,000 employees in 48 countries. The company moved fast to capitalize the seemingly hot daily deals sector, but now that the daily deals hype is cooling off, Mason is making it clear to investors that there’s still room for the company to evolve. (Or so he hopes, at least.)

How will Groupon end up powering local commerce? Mason says the seeds have been planted for this move for some time. Its SmartDeals personalization algorithm, for example, has doubled in efficacy, and has led to 50 percent higher purchase rates in dense markets like Chicago.

Mobile is also becoming increasingly important for Groupon, with 30 percent of its North American transactions occuring on mobile devices in April (compared to 25 percent four months ago). Mason says Groupon’s mobile customers spend “well over 50 percent more” than those who’ve never purchased a deal on mobile devices. He also points to growth in Groupon Rewards, the company’s loyalty rewards program, and Groupon Scheduler, which will offer local businesses a bookings management system.

Of course, all of this assumes that local businesses continue to use and trust Groupon. The rise of mobile wallets and other payments platforms could allow retailers to offer their customers plenty of deals without the need for Groupon, which could put a dent in Mason’s vision.

Photo via Seth Anderson/Flickr

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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Yahoo’s Scott Thompson keeping mum about bio to top staffers

Posted: 07 May 2012 07:31 AM PDT

Yahoo Layoffs

It seems that Yahoo’s new chief executive Scott Thompson is staying quiet about his falsified biography situation to top executives at the company — a move that could paint him as guilty.

Last week, Thompson was outed by an activist Yahoo shareholder for claiming he had a computer science degree, which he doesn’t have. Falsifying information on a resume is a fireable offense for most employees, and Yahoo’s board is now meeting to discuss how they missed this fake detail.

Thompson is said to have declined to give much of an explanation to his staffers, other than an initial letter asking them to concentrate on work instead of his situation. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher has reportedly interviewed dozen’s of Yahoo staffers who are doing exactly the opposite. And that reaction is pretty predictable.

Last month, Thompson announced massive layoffs to every potion of the company as part of a restructuring effort to get Yahoo back on track. But that restructuring plan lacked details, and now these employees find out Thompson has either lied or overlooked something as huge as listing a fake degree on his bio. That’s simply unacceptable to many, including one who commented “Resume padding is one thing, but lying about something that is so easy to check is puzzling.”

Would you support your CEO if he just fired a handful of friends and lied on his resume?

Image illustration by Tom Cheredar

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Evernote acquires Penultimate, works on its handwriting skills

Posted: 07 May 2012 07:00 AM PDT

evernote acquires penultimateDigital notebook Evernote has acquired digital handwriting notebook app Penultimate, a move that will bring more handwritten notes to Evernote.

Penultimate was developed not long after the first iPad was released and has become the fourth best-selling iPad app of all time. The app, which costs 99 cents, is meant to resemble a real paper notebook. You can use a stylus or your finger tip to create handwritten notes, drawings, and diagrams using images on the iPad. The first time Evernote chief executive Phil Libin laid his eyes on it, he was impressed.

“Penultimate is an app I’ve been in love with on the iPad for several years. When I saw the app, I thought this is exactly what digital ink should look like for Evernote. I reached out to Ben (Penulitmate’s creator) about two years ago about the product, telling him how much I liked it,” Libin said in an interview with VentureBeat.

As much as Libin admired Penultimate, founder Ben Zotto wasn’t in a hurry to sell his product. However, once Penultimate added Evernote integration in January 2012, it seemed only natural that the two services would blend together.

“Our integration with Evernote was well received and now we are thrilled to have access to Evernote’s handwriting technology,” said Zotto in an interview with VentureBeat.

Evernote has had a lot of money to play with lately, making it easy to grab Penultimate and add Zotto to its team. The company recently raised $70 million at a one billion dollar valuation, and has $166 million in total funding, Evernote IPO chatter has sprung up.

Unsurprisingly, Libin wouldn’t divulge how much money changed hands to acquire Penultimate. He did say that’s its a combination of cash and stock. Zotto, who has pretty much run Penultimate as a one-man show, will join Evernote’s team.

“Penultimate has been a progression from the beginning of the iPad and it’s evolved to something more powerful. Our integration with Evernote was well received and now we are thrilled to have access to Evernote’s handwriting technology,” said Zotto.

For those who love Penultimate, don’t worry — your app isn’t going anywhere for now.

“The app will exist separately, but gain powerful functionality from Evernote,” said Libin. “We will also take the technology and add it to Evernote, doubling down on the existing handwriting technology that our Evernote engineers have been working on [and] to see what else we can do with it, especially on tablets.”

The look and feel of the iOS app will mostly stay the same. It’s important for Evernote to keep the feeling of writing in a real notebook that users have come to love, Libin told me.

Evernote will soon include more handwritten note features, if Zotto and rest of the team have their way. Also be on the look out for a completely revamped Evernote iPad app, Libin says a major redesign is coming soon.

Image: Sarah Mitroff/VentureBeat

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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LG’s Google TV set debuts this month — but will anyone care?

Posted: 07 May 2012 06:42 AM PDT

Google TV 2.0 update -- new sets coming from LG

After announcing that it’s jumping into the Google TV fray at CES in January, an LG executive said today that it will begin building and shipping the sets later this month. But, with Google TV’s lukewarm welcome by consumers, and a non-existent Apple television set grabbing headlines, will LG fare better than Google’s first round of partners?

Ro Seogho, an executive vice president in LG’s TV business, told Reuters that the company will start building the Google TV sets on May 17, and that consumers will be able to buy the sets starting the week of May 21.

Google TV launched in late 2010 as Google’s attempt to bring web video to TVs. The Android powered-platform brings Google search, web browsing, and most recently apps, to your television screen. But despite plenty of promise, it failed to take off initially due to sluggish speeds and lack of support from TV networks. Logitech famously gave up on Google TV last year after blaming it for a $100 million loss.

LG isn’t offering up any other details, like screen size or pricing. But from the report, I gather that Seogho isn’t referring to the “Nexus” Google TV set LG was rumored to be working on (which would run a much newer version of Google TV than existing devices). Without that Nexus designation, though, there doesn’t seem to be much to differentiate LG’s sets from Google TV products already available from Sony and Logitech.

I’m also not sure why LG is in such a rush to bring GTV sets to market. Google TV hasn’t been updated since last Fall (though that update offered some significant improvements), and it doesn’t give LG much time to promote the new sets. Wouldn’t the No. 2 television maker in the world have something to say about a significant new product line?

It could be that Google has a big Google TV update that it’s going to debut with LG’s sets, or LG is just bringing the sets to market without much effort to fulfill a contractual obligation.

At CES,  we also learned that new Google TV sets would be coming from Samsung, Vizio, and Sony.

Filed under: media, VentureBeat

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Blueseed startup ship of dreams has hundreds knocking at its door

Posted: 06 May 2012 05:48 PM PDT

Blueseed Startup Ship

Blueseed, the startup-ship making Pirates of Silicon Valley an actual thing, has already gained interest from hundreds of entrepreneurs looking to start a company on the open sea.

Blueseed is a conceptual floating island-ship intended to house technology startup founders and employees only 30 minutes from California’s northern coast. The founders, who include an ex-Yahoo software engineer, plan to open the ship to inhabitants by the third fiscal quarter of 2013. Because the ship will be located 12 miles outside California in international waters, a visa is not needed, hopefully drawing in international entrepreneurs.

According to a survey done by BlueSeed, 133 startups are already gearing up for the maritime experience. Twenty percent of those startups come from the United States, followed by India at 10 percent and Australia with six percent. Of those 133 ready startups, 35 percent say they would be ready to move in now, if the ship was complete. Most of the startups would be ready move at least within the next six months. On average, each startup would move around four people to the ship to begin building their company.

The biggest draw is seemingly not the fact that you do not need a visa to live and work on the ship, but rather entrepreneurs are coming for the “awesome startup and technology-oriented space.” The second most critical element for startups was the close proximity to Silicon Valley’s venture capital scene.

Rent to live on the ship is about as much as a single person living in San Francisco has to pay: around $1600 a month. That is, if you’re willing to bunk up. The price includes both living and office space, but will range from $1200 for a shared cabin, and runs up to $3000 for a “top-tier single” cabin. Ferries will shuttle entrepreneurs from the ship to Silicon Valley daily, and Blueseed says it will help those from outside the US enter. Blueseed is also looking for incubators who are interested in helping the startups. Can anyone say Y Combinator study abroad?

hat tip The Register; images via Blueseed

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Scalify raises $2M to build networking for better online game worlds

Posted: 06 May 2012 04:00 PM PDT

Australian start-up Scalify has raised $2 million in venture funding so that it can create networking technology that enables the fast and efficient creation of online games and virtual worlds.

Australian venture firm Starfish Ventures led the investment in Melbourne, Australia-based Scalify, which has created Badumna, a technology that uses a peer-to-peer user network to deliver functions normally handled by large server farms. The result is games that look better, perform better, and cost less to operate. That’s important since driving down online costs is key to making game companies more profitable.

Scalify says that rapid growth can cause a lot infrastructure headaches for game publishers. Traditional client-server online games rely on centralized communication. That slows gameplay, is difficult to scale quickly, and reduces the number of players who can be online at any given time.

Badumna allows traffic to communicate via peer-to-peer in a decentralized network. The company argues that this approach enables multiplayer apps that were not possible before. It does so by forming a secondary network of trusted nodes that are used for services such as authentication, third-party arbitration, and others tasks. These tasks are executed in the peer-to-peer network, and so, that network offloads work from the servers.

“As each player joins the game, they automatically contribute additional capacity to the network, making the approach inherently more scalable than any client-server approach,” Steve Telburn, chief executive of Scalify, said in an email. “This is obviously important because publishers do not know if their games will be a success or not, so they need to plan their infrastructure based on the ‘best case’ scenario.”

That’s true even if the infrastructure is outsourced as they still need to secure dedicated servers. Testing shows improvements to latency, Telburn said. “There is only one hop peer-to-peer rather than two hops via a server.”

He contends the approach can reduce server and bandwidth costs by up to 75 percent, depending on the design of the game. Those costs are usualy the third-highest expense for an online game — after development and advertising. In addition, the game design can be better, Telburn said. Designers can create un-sharded worlds with lots of synchronous (simultaneous) action.

Past peer-to-peer gaming attempts haven’t succeeded well on a large scale. But Telburn said Badumna is different as it was created after a huge four-year research effort. His team has addressed things such as dealing with cheaters through a “distributed validation” technology.

The first version of Badumna debuted last year, and it is now being used to power games in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The new funds will be used to expand the company’s sales and marketing capability and increase the range of game development platforms supported.

Starfish investment director Anthony Glenning, who will join Scalify’s board, said, “The online gaming market is large and is growing quickly, but is hindered by the traditional client-server model which is expensive and limits scalability. We recognized Scalify's unique solution for peer-to-peer games, especially in terms of scalability and reducing traffic to the server."

Telburn said, "We always get a great reaction to our product from customers, so we've always been very keen to expand its reach. We're thrilled that this investment will now enable us to show Badumna's full potential."

The core technology came from NICTA, Australia’s Information and Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence. That entity worked on the technology for four years as a research project. Scalify was formed in 2010, and it has four employees. Rivals include networking middleware companies such as Exit Games, but their solutions are based on client-server designs.

Scalify has also gotten a small grant from the Australian government. Game trials are now under way with major publishers. In addition to Telburn, another founder is Santosh Kulkarni, chief technology officer.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

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Judge won’t allow Samsung to defend itself fully in Apple infringement trial

Posted: 06 May 2012 03:58 PM PDT

Apple Samsung Lawsuit

A judge has harshly penalized Samsung today, barring the latter company from using specific code in its defense against Apple’s infringement case.

Judge Paul S. Grewal, who has had recent issues with Samsung violating court orders, ordered Samsung to delivers bits of its source code to Apple in December, which Samsung instead decided to put off. Apple issued a complaint to the court, saying it wouldn’t be able to use the code now, and that Samsung was unnecessarily taking its time. Grewel released this order Friday, in response to Apple’s motion:

“In accordance with the foregoing, the court grants Apple’s Motion for Snactions, and finds that Samsung’s faiure to adequately produce source code to Apple violated the court’s December 22 Order. Samsung shall be precluded from offering any evidence of its design-around efforts for the ’381, ’891, and ’163 patents, and shall not argue that the design-arounds are in any way distinct from those versions of code produced in accordance with the court’s order. Samsung must instead rely solely on the version of code that were produced on or before December 31, 2011.”

The mentioned code included Samsung’s “design-around,” or change in code so as to not infringe on patents, called a “blue glow.” Blue glow was an effort to move away from Apple’s “over-scrolling rubber band effect” patent that the iOS creator says Samsung was willfully infringing upon. Apple users will recognize this “over-scrolling” as the bouncing of a page when you’ve pulled on it too far with the swipe of a finger.

This “blue glow” code could have corrected Samsung’s alleged patent infringement and would have helped Samsung defend itself saying the code had been altered and the infringement no longer existed. But now Samsung will have to rely on code dating earlier than December 31, 2011, when the “design-around” had not yet been released.

The issues for Samsung are greater, however. According to Foss Patents, the court now sees Samsung as a continued violator of discovery orders and will more than likely be harsher on the company in future trials. And looking back on Samsung’s history with patent disputes, there will certainly be more trials.

via Foss Patents; Little boy image via Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile

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Apple files claim to “iPhone5.com” with World Intellectual Property Organization

Posted: 06 May 2012 02:11 PM PDT

Apple is attempting to take control of the iPhone5.com domain, according to a claim filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Fusible spotted the domain claim today under case number D2012-0951. The decision on the case remains “active.” Currently, iPhone5.com sports a forum on the impending Apple smartphone, a topic that has been ripe with rumors since before the launch of the iPhone 4S. Some are speculating that the iPhone 5 could debut in this fiscal quarter (Apple’s third fiscal quarter), but VentureBeat’s Sean Ludwig says not to count on a launch at the company’s developer conference, WWDC. The conference is being held June 11-15  in San Francisco where Apple says it will “share the latest news about iOS and OS X Mountain Lion.” The latter was recently announced and slated to launch this summer.

It is more likely that we get a sneak peek at iOS 6 than a whole new phone. The latest version of iOS 5 was launched in October 2011.

As MacRumors notes, Apple has generally been slow to grab the domain names for its smartphones. It waited almost a year to take over iPhone4.com, and a few weeks for iPhone4s.com (though, the later was being used to push porn sites to visitors). Perhaps this shows Apple has learned to claim its domains early, despite the potential downside of revealing a product name before debut. The term “iPhone 5,” however, has been so widely used, it’s less of a nod to the product itself, and more likely a company simply trying to control its associations.

via Fusible

Filed under: mobile

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Brazil retailer using Facebook likes… on its clothing hangers

Posted: 06 May 2012 12:46 PM PDT

Facebook is constantly absorbing our real-life data that we contribute to the social network, but one Brazilian clothing store is taking Facebook’s data and throwing it back into the physical world.

The store, C&A, is putting ” real-time Likes” counters on its hangers in retail locations around Brazil. The Like data is taken from C&A’s Facebook page, where the company has listed its various wares for people to interact with. When a person Likes an item, that Like shows up on the hanger. It is meant to help customers with purchasing decisions. If they are unsure of one item, they can see how many people online think the product is a good buy.

The problem is, so much of online shopping is based on a picture. An image online says nothing about the fit, fabric, or quality of the clothing. If you’ve got a poorly made, ill-fitting shirt, you’re probably not going to be swayed into buying the piece just because it has 482 likes on Facebook. Similarly, if the item has only two likes, but makes you look like you’ve done nothing but get massaged on a beach in Bora Bora, you’re probably going to buy it regardless of its online popularity.

The Verge notes that C&A is not doing well in its European establishments, but hopes the Facebook integration in its Brazil stores will help it keep up with the times. It’s a funny way to integrate social, but it shows how stores are finding new opportunities to use Facebook’s data in marketing outside of the digital world.

via The Verge; image via C&A’s Facebook Page

Filed under: social

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Apple dominating Android with 84 percent of mobile gaming revenue

Posted: 06 May 2012 11:35 AM PDT

Apple iPhone Gaming

There’s a reason why so many developers feels iOS users are more valuable than Android: Apple is killing it in mobile gaming with 84 percent of all mobile gaming revenue in the US.

“When analyzing Apple's successful monetization, there is one dominant factor outside of differences in audience demographics and preferences: Apple requires users to connect their credit card information directly to their account, thus creating a seamless purchase experience,” said Newzoo chief executive Peter Warman in a statement.

Newzoo surveyed 17,000 individuals and took revenue data from the top 200 grossing games in the iOS and Android marketplaces. In the United States, mobile gaming overall grew from 75 million to 101 million players across all platforms. That is broken down into 69 percent of people playing on smartphones and 21 percent on tablets. While more people are introducing games to their daily train commute, playing to procrastinate, or adding a new device into their gaming repertoire, the more important fact is that paying players on the rise. Indeed, Newzoo predicts mobile gaming will see another double-digit revenue year in 2012.

Newzoo Mobile Gaming 2012 USAPaying players have grown 35 percent to 37 million players, and those individuals play 5 times more money in iOS games, than they do on Android. As Warman noted before, this is probably because of how easy it is to actually buy the game — or in app purchases. Once you’ve set up your Apple ID on your iPad or iPhone, you simply need to put in a password to buy games. There’s no entering billing information or credit card numbers. It’s so easy, Apple has had to make it harder (i.e. more password check points) to protect parents from having children rack up in-app purchase bills.

According to Newzoo, in-app purchases are where developers are really seeing the money. Ninety-one percent of mobile gaming revenue comes from money spent inside the game on both Android and iOS.

Newzoo attributes the overall growth to tablets and smartphones getting better screens (see: the Retina display on the new iPad) and processing power. The company says 62 percent of “core console and PC gamers” are also playing games on smartphones or tablets — a noteworthy number as mobile games were once seen as a way to pass the time, as opposed to a place for serious gamers to practice their skills.

hat tip Forbes

Filed under: games, mobile

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