16 May, 2012



Path CEO Dave Morin to join Eventbrite’s board of directors

Posted: 16 May 2012 09:02 AM PDT


Path CEO Dave Morin has joined ticketing startup Eventbrite‘s board of the directors, a move Eventbrite claims will help it continue innovating on the social front.

While Path was involved with a major privacy blowup early this year, the company has carried on with its head high by raising a new $30 milllion funding round. Eventbrite doesn’t talk about Path much in their announcement, however, and instead lauds Morin’s role as a former head of Facebook’s platform group.

"Eventbrite has long been a believer in the impact of the social graph, and the work that Dave did while at Facebook has had a profound impact on our business,” Eventbrite CEO Kevin Hartz said, in a statement. “Our integration with Facebook Connect in 2008 predicated an exponential increase in traffic and engagement among event attendees. We are thrilled to welcome Dave to our board and believe his expertise and guidance will be an incredible asset to Eventbrite as we continue to grow."

Eventbrite is arguably the hottest startup today with an emphasis on ticketing and events. In February, the company said it had issued more than 50 million tickets and today the company says it has issued nearly 60 million tickets. Eventbrite also recently launched its first hardware product with an "at the door" credit card reader.

"Eventbrite is fundamentally changing the way people create, promote and find events and gatherings in their local communities," Morin said, in a statement. "I've been more than impressed by their level of innovation, their commitment to their users, and by their long term focus. The decision to join the board as they forge into making event discovery more mobile and social was an easy one. At the end of the day, we all live for great events."

Morin joins former Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy, former Ticketmaster CEO Sean Moriarty, Sequoia Capital Partner Roelof Botha, and others on Eventbrite’s board.

Dave Morin photo: Flickr/Joi Ito

Filed under: social

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

Microsoft Kinect’s NUads is what the TV industry needs to survive the future

Posted: 16 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT


Microsoft is set to debut its new motion-sensitive advertising project NUads next month, which the company says will revamp the TV ad industry.

The company’s natural user-interface ads, or NUads, uses Xbox Kinect’s motion sensing technology to transform TV commercials into something you can actively participate in with minimal effort. For instance, people can vote in real-time for a product or service by waving their hand, schedule a calendar reminder for an upcoming TV show, or say "Xbox Near Me" to see a map of locations for whatever retail store just advertised to them. Microsoft first showed off its NUads project at the Cannes International Advertising Festival last June.

“During the Super Bowl, you’re watching TV, some great ads pop up,” said Microsoft manager Lyn Watts in a recent Cnet report. “You say something like, ‘Xbox share,’ it’ll share automatically, on Facebook or Twitter, whatever you like. Advertisers are really impressed by this.”

Essentially, the NUads platform wants to start producing commercials that “watch you” while your watching them. In doing so, Microsoft thinks it can lure people away from DVR devices that permit skipping through the commercial breaks that play throughout a TV show. Satellite television service provider Dish Network is even making new DVR boxes (the appropriately named “Hopper” box)  that automatically “hops” through those commercials.

The NUads launch couldn’t have come at a better time for the broadcast television industry, which has recently spoken out about how traditional advertising is failing to keep up with audience behavior.

Monday, Chairman of NBC Broadcasting Ted Harbert said “we can no longer ignore time-shifting” within its business model to drive ad revenue. The problem with “time-shifted” (a.k.a. DVR) devices is that the industry doesn’t have enough control to ensure that those commercials will play for an audience the way they do for live broadcasting. With NUads, there might be a compelling reason for people to watch commercials willingly and prevent them from skipping through.

Harbert also criticized the industry’s standard for content ratings through Nielsen, saying  “We're participating in many initiatives to try and crack the measurement code because we just can't wait — and wait some more — for Nielsen to do it.” This puts Microsoft as well as its new NUads platform in the perfect position to step up.

Using the Kinect device, NUads have a far greater means of measuring how people react to a piece of content as well as advertising. It can detect a person’s facial expressions, record/sense audio reactions, and even transmit pieces of video. If done right, Microsoft developers could anonymize this kind of data through the Kinect SDK, and give them an incentive to make sense of this information for advertisers. Basically, I mean that a person’s unique private data wouldn’t be shared, but their collective reactions could be turned into important analytics. For example, a laundry detergent commercial that evokes an emotional response in the form of “aww” along with positive facial expressions — not, “Sally from 505 Nowhere st., laughed and cooed obnoxiously at the puppy.”

Microsoft’s Watts did, however, warn all developers to stay mindful of potential privacy intrusion features by adding disclosure statements when appropriate as well as knowing what you’ll do with the data before its collected.

Cnet’s report indicated that the NUads interactive advertising platform will launch in late Spring. My guess is that Microsoft will probably coincide the launch with its Xbox announcements at the E3 event in June.

Image via Microsoft

Filed under: media

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

iSwifter launches full-featured mobile Facebook app — with social games included — on iPad

Posted: 16 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

The problem with Facebook’s mobile app is that it doesn’t run games. The web-based site is built with Adobe Flash, but that runs poorly on mobile devices. As a result, Facebook can display its news feed and photos on its mobile app, but not the social games that are played by more than half of the social network’s users.

iSwifter plans to fix that with its own Facebook app that runs on tablets such as the iPad. iSwifter has created a game streaming technology that converts Flash games to video in a data center and then streams that video to the iPad. That enables users to play Flash games on the iPad. Now iSwifter is using Facebook’s own OpenGraph applications programming interface to create an app, TheWorx for Facebook, that duplicates the functions of the web-based Facebook on mobile, iSwifter chief executive Rajat Gupta told GamesBeat.

Facebook might not like being upstaged by Burlingame, Calif.-based iSwifter, but Gupta says the social network should be happy because iSwifter’s app enables ads that run on the right-hand side of a Facebook page to be visible on the iPad. It can thus generate money for Facebook, which doesn’t yet have mobile ads on its own app.

It isn’t clear if Facebook will appreciate another company creating a Facebook app, but Gupta says that TheWorx for Facebook is really just another iPad application based on the OpenGraph API. In the video below, you can see that Zynga’s Slingo game, which doesn’t ordinarily run on the iPad, runs just fine in the iSwifter application. It will be interesting to see the reaction of Facebook, Zynga, and Apple. Gupta says that the app is a win for all of the companies involved.

When you activate TheWorx for Facebook app, you see what appears to be a normal Facebook page. But in the left-hand menu, there is an app hub tab. If you tap it with your finger, you’ll see all of the games you play on Facebook. If you tap on a game icon, the game will load and you’ll be able to play it with your fingers.

TheWorx for Facebook will debut in June. Gupta notes that Facebook’s recent filing to go public says that 4 percent of Facebook’s revenue comes from ads shown next to Zynga games.

"It's clear that Facebook users are moving to mobile faster than even Facebook predicted," says Gupta. “TheWorx is intended to benefit Facebook users who can’t play games on the Facebook iPad app or on the mobile Facebook site, as well as Facebook itself who doesn’t display their ads to these gaming users on mobile. And of course game developers should be happy too because their Facebook Flash games now come to the iPad with no porting required.”

iSwifter is funded by the incubator YouWeb and generated more than $10 million in revenue in the past year.

Filed under: cloud, games, gbunfiltered, social, VentureBeat

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

TechStars alum Mocavo grabs $4M to help you find your ancestors

Posted: 16 May 2012 08:12 AM PDT


TechStars 2011 alum Mocavo has raised $4 million in its first round of funding in a bid to help people find their ancestors through its search engine, the company announced today.

Mocavo started getting notice when it become part of the TechStars Boulder program in summer 2011. Its goals fall somewhat in line with major site Ancestry.com and it uses a powerful search engine to help people connect the dots about their genealogy.

“Since our launch in March 2011, we have focused on creating the most engaging and social experience in the research of family history,” COO Ryan Hunter wrote on the Mocavo blog this morning. “We’ve already created a custom search engine focused in genealogy, an automated system to send undiscovered content to users, and mobile/web apps to self-publish documents and photos.”

The coveted first round of funding comes from Foundry Group. Seth Levine, Foundry Group’s Managing Director, will join Mocavo’s board.

“We’ve had a great first year, and we’re excited that Foundry shares our passion and vision on the direction of the industry,” Hunter wrote.

Boulder, Colo.-based Mocavo previously raised $1 million in seed funds from a long roster of angel investors (most of them named Dave) including Dave McClure, David Cohen, David Bonderman, David Calone, Dave Carlson, and others.

Ancestry photo: Kateryna Larina/Shutterstock

Filed under: deals

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

HTC One X, Evo 4G LTE shipments delayed over Apple patent investigation

Posted: 16 May 2012 07:55 AM PDT

HTC’s One X and and Evo 4G LTE may have been praised for their decidedly un-iPhone-esque designs, but the differences are apparently not enough for U.S. Customs.

The two devices have fallen victim to a surprising U.S. Customs ability to ban the importation of products that it suspects infringe on patents, The Wall Street Journal reports. In this case, the patent in question is Apple’s #5,946,647 patent, which has nothing to do with the phones themselves but rather the software running on them: The patent simply covers the ability to, for example, convert a phone number into a link that can launch a phone’s dialer. HTC calls the feature minor, but it’s clearly significant enough to draw lots of unwanted attention.

The delay and investigation are a result of a December International Trade Commission ruling that ordered a ban on the importation of any devices that infringe on the aforementioned patent. To avoid the ban, HTC was supposed to strip the functionality from its phones, but that apparently didn’t happen with the Evo 4G LTE and One series.

In a statement, HTC says it “believes” that its devices comply with the ITC ruling and that it’s working with customs to get the ball rolling on shipments. “The HTC One X and HTC Evo 4G LTE have been received enthusiastically by customers and we appreciate their patience as we work to get these products into their hands as soon as possible,” the company said.

“Soon as possible,” however might not be good enough for Sprint and its customers. The biggest Sprint device of the year so far, the EVO 4G LTE is scheduled for a May 18th release. Given today’s news, the device clearly likely won’t be able to make that time frame. Even Sprint has removed any mention of the release date from its website. Instead, the device is simply “coming soon.”

The One S, in contrast, was released on AT&T in April. The device is listed as “out of stock” on AT&T’s website.

We’ve reached out to Sprint and AT&T for comments on the situation and will update this space when the companies respond.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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

Wave Accounting gets funding to easily keep your company’s books in check

Posted: 16 May 2012 07:32 AM PDT

Small business startup Wave Accounting has raised $12 million in its second round of funding, the company announced today.

Wave, which offers free accounting software for small companies,  feels that managing “the books” is a complicated and dreaded task that isn’t any easier thanks to desktop accounting software.

“I experienced the pain first hand of trying to run your books and I really despise all those back office tasks,” said co-founder Kirk Simpson in an interview with VentureBeat. “[I wanted to] simplify the administrative tasks that small businesses despise.”

Simpson thinks high-end accounting software is so complicated that most business owners need to spend far too much time learning how to use it. He created Wave as a simpler solution that clueless business owners could use to manage their accounting.

“There’s a disconnect between small businesses owners who hate doing this and yet they are being asked to pay hundreds of dollars to pay for desktop and cloud [accounting] software,” said Simpson.

Competition in this space ranges from high-end offerings like Salesforce, Zoho, and NetSuite, to cheaper and free services from Kashoo and Outright. Wave bets on its completely free offering and super-simple design to help it stand out. Wave makes it money solely from advertising services to its customers.

Social+Capital Partnership led the $12 million round. Charles River Ventures and OMERS Ventures also contributed.

Wave Accounting is based in Toronto, Canada. The two-year old company has raised $19 million in funding in the last 18 months, since its launch.

Man with financial chart image via Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

iPhone 5 will have at least a 4-inch screen, says WSJ

Posted: 16 May 2012 07:04 AM PDT


We’ve heard it before, and we’re going to hear it again. The next version of the iPhone will replace its long-standing 3.5-inch screen with one that measures at least 4 inches.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, claims that production will begin next month on screens for the new iPhone (likely called “iPhone 5″) in Asian factories.

While it has drastically improved screen resolution, Apple has not changed the size of its 3.5-inch iPhone screen since it launched in 2007. But since that time Android phone screens have gotten much bigger. Two relatively new flagship devices, the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III, feature 4.7- and 4.8-inch screens, respectively.

Personally, I’ve been clamoring for a 4-inch iPhone ever since Samsung launched the first line of Galaxy S Android smartphones, which had 4-inch screens. It’s the perfect size for reaching your thumbs across the screen and still lets you view content. If the endless rumors of the 4-inch screen for the iPhone 5 are true, I’ll be happy.

China Mobile deal

Also in the iPhone rumor pot today is word that China Mobile is in talks with Apple to finally carry the iPhone. China Mobile is the world's largest carrier by customers, but the iPhone hasn’t landed on that network due to network incompatibilities. It has, however, signed with competitors China Telecom and China Unicom to offer the iPhone.

China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua said at a shareholder meeting in that he wasn’t sure if the carrier and Apple would be able to finish up an agreement before the end of 2012. That said, with China Mobile’s 667 million subscribers, there’s a lot of incentive for both companies to hash out a deal.

iPhone 5 mockup photo: Fuse Chicken

Filed under: mobile

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

Facebook IPO size increases by 25%, may reach $16B

Posted: 16 May 2012 06:29 AM PDT

Facebook’s initial public offering just keeps growing. The social network announced this morning via an amended S-1 filing that it will add around 84 million shares to its IPO, an increase of around 25 percent.

Come Friday, when the company is scheduled to begin trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol “FB,” Facebook will be floating around 421 million shares. The company’s stock is expected to receive its official pricing on Thursday, and Facebook says it will be in the $35 to $38 per share range.

If Facebook’s stock gets priced at the $38 high-end, its IPO would raise more than $16 billion and would make it the largest technology public offering ever, Fortune points out. AT&T Wireless, the current technology IPO leader, raised more than $10 billion in 2010.

The additional shares are coming from current Facebook investors Peter Thiel, Tiger Global Management, and James Breyer from Accel Partners, and not from Facebook itself. For that reason, the added shares won’t increase Facebook’s valuation.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s voting power will be reduced from around 57.3 percent to about 55.8 percent due to the new shares. That’s not ideal news for Zuck, but as long as he maintains his majority voting power, he’ll still be able to rule the company as he sees fit. The additional shares likely were a bid to appease the company’s existing investors.

Facebook yesterday added an additional $50 million shares to its IPO, with the caveat that they were part of an “over-allotment” option. We also heard yesterday that General Motors is planning to stop running ads on Facebook, after determining that they were ineffective.

Filed under: deals, social, VentureBeat

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

Fab.com relaunches, and it buries other social shopping experiences

Posted: 16 May 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Today, Fab.com is launching its third and most ambitious version of the site, and CEO Jason Goldberg said it’s going to remind you of window-shopping with your best friends.

“Imagine you’re shopping with your friends, and one of them picks up a shirt and says, ‘Oh, that’s cute!’ We think we can replicate that online,” the founder told VentureBeat in a recent phone call.

Fab is accomplishing this not just with a few dinky plug-ins or add-ons, but with a wholesale redesign that will “really get the experience of shopping with friends — not just what they bought, but what they’re tweeting, what their pinning, what they’re liking,” Goldberg said.

Fab.com 3.0

The relaunched Fab homepage will feature algorithmically derived featured products based on real-time activity from Fab members. It will also show you a ticker for what’s being bought at any given moment.

Starting today, members can see what their friends from various social networks are noticing and buying in real time. They can also choose to pin items on Pinterest or even make a purchase directly from this live feed.

And Fab is bringing a much-needed search module to the site, so you can drill down for specific products, designers, and categories.

The new Fab.com will also feature Smile pages to give members in-depth profiles and stories about the designers behind Fab’s product inventory.

“It’s about making people smile,” said Goldberg. “We’re showing them that e-commerce can be fun. … We care more about that, about the long-term relationship, than just about making money.”

Here’s a sneak peek at the new designs:

Getting social shopping right

“We want to take the fab product and design up another level … we want to reimagine social shopping.”

As a longtime Fab fan myself, I cringe at the thought of bringing more noise and clutter to the clean, lean shopping experience I’ve grown to appreciate. But Goldberg and the rest of the Fab team, ever focused on great design, are several steps ahead of me, natch.

“Everything we do has to be well-designed,” the CEO said. “Social can’t be a bolt-on; it has to be part of the core experience and designed really, really well. I personally design everything that goes on the screen … a virtual product doesn’t get on Fab unless I think it’s a great product.”

Last year, Fab brought its members a live feed feature to show Fab members’ buying, fave-ing, and liking activity in real time. The decision to focus on the social side was a direct result of Fab’s organic social activity: More than half its members as of last December had come to the site through social channels.

“It has to be authentic,” Goldberg told us. “Up to 40 percent of our traffic comes from social feeds. You can’t force that. Social isn’t just a way to get something from the user; it’s a way to give value to the user. The traffic will come when you deliver a great experience.”

In the end, the live feed turned out to be a huge success, with 15 percent of visits to the feed resulting in an actual purchase. That metric proved to the Fab team that a more social direction could also be more profitable.

The growth continues

As previously mentioned, Fab’s growth has been a bit legendary in the tech startup scene.

One of its more recent success stories involved integrating with Facebook’s Timeline. The startup saw a 50 percent increase in traffic from Facebook since its Actions integration) at the beginning of 2012.

As a result of that and other factors, Fab more than doubled its membership in the first quarter of 2012 (from 1.2 million at the end of 2011 to a whopping 3 million members in March 2012.

“Now, we’re at 3.25 million users in the U.S., nearly 4.25 million worldwide, and we’re a couple weeks shy of our first birthday,” said Goldberg.

One area of growth that’s still a bit mysterious is Pinterest. “We get about 2 percent of our traffic from Pinterest today,” said Goldberg. “That number came out of nowhere in February, and it’s held steady since then.”

But Fab users have expressed a deep and abiding love for Pinterest, and the Fab team is making pinning more integral to the Fab.com experience. That 2 percent might see a bit of an increase as a result.

Combating feature creep

Fab’s new-feature rollout schedule is unrelenting, but Goldberg said he and the rest of the team have an eye on feature creep and will always aim to maintain Fab’s simplicity — one of the things that makes the site such a pleasure to use in the first place.

“Keep it simple. The best design gets out of users’ way and lets them do what they want to get done,” he told us.

“A lot of sites end up building silos of features. If you go to Fab.com today, in our top navigation, there are eight different items. We’re simplifying that to four in the new release.”

He concluded, “Even when you add, you make it simpler.”

Fab.com launched in June 2011 and has received $51.3 million in funding to date. Its most recent cash infusion was a stunning $40 million Series B last December.

Image courtesy of Robbi, Shutterstock

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

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

LinkedIn Co-founder joins Berlin-based EarlyBird Ventures

Posted: 15 May 2012 09:00 PM PDT

Have cash? Looking for tech talent? Go to Europe. So says Konstantin Geurike, co-founder of LinkedIn and newly minted venture partner in Berlin’s EarlyBird Ventures. EarlyBird recently raised $100 million for its fourth fund, focusing on European, and in particular German startups.

“I think given the amount of money available, the shortage in Silicon Valley is in technical talent,” says Geurike, “I have no doubt that some European startups with strong talent and the right startup know-how will be able to out-execute Silicon Valley companies.” One of Geurike’s new tasks at EarlyBird will be to help European companies break into the U.S. market.

Geurike, who is German but studied engineering at Stanford and is based in Palo Alto, wants to support other European founders who could make a global impact. “My goal is to help portfolio companies to become a success on a global scale,” he explains.”I will probably end up working most closely with one or two founders who decide their best opportunities for global impact come from leading their business from Silicon Valley, while keeping most of the staff in Germany, where it is easier to attract and retain technical talent.”

I asked Geurike how European startups compare to their Silicon Valley counterparts. “European founders tend to think more about revenue early on. That can be an asset, but also somewhat limiting. However, given the greater impact you can have these days with modest or no funding, I think European entrepreneurs can break free of these constraints, and smart money will find them.”

Berlin has long been a startup hotspot and pulls in founders from all over Europe drawn by the cheap living costs, vibrant culture, and expanding startup scene. The founders of audiophile social network SoundCloud, for example, which recently raised $50 million, are Swedish. Ashton Kutcher’s latest Berlin investment Gidsy was started by a couple of brothers from Amsterdam. Kutcher, at least, makes following the smart money to Berlin look like fun.

Filed under: deals, VentureBeat

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

Tech darling Twilio cozies up to Android with new client

Posted: 15 May 2012 09:00 PM PDT

Twilio has finally released its Android client with a new native software development kit that will allow Android developers to add VoIP features to any Android app.

The startup’s iOS client has been around since February, and today, Android developers are basically getting the same set of tools — tools that allow you to easily make voice calls a feature, if not necessarily the main event, of your application. You can use the Twilio client on any existing Android app, or you can use it to build a new app from scratch.

(And yes — we can smell the Twilio Android/mobile hackathon coming already. These days, you can’t throw a rock in San Francisco on a weekend and not hit a hackathon, and Twilio’s last hackathon went pretty well. Stay tuned for more on that this fall, when the startup will host its second conference.)

Features for the Android version of the client include voice calling on any Android device with a data connection, tap-to-call capabilities, analytics, and feedback from voice calls.

Twilio first introduced this concept (voice features with minimal code) almost one year ago for web developers. At that time, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson told VentureBeat, "The existing telephony network is a big dumb audiopipe. … Skype is obviously amazing and transformed the way people interact, but Skype is only one client. We want to make that available for millions of developers."

Since then, the company has been earning rave reviews from developers and has leveraged its hacker street cred into $17 million from Silicon Valley’s finest VCs.

Filed under: dev, mobile

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

Flipboard turns up the volume and adds audio content, SoundCloud support

Posted: 15 May 2012 08:38 PM PDT

Flipboard adds SoundCloud The problem with most magazines is that they’re just too quiet. Flipboard, the gorgeous iPad and iPhone reading app, is teaming up with SoundCloud to add audio content to its mix of news, photos, and social media.

The partnership kicks off with some impressive additions: You can listen to NPR and Public Radio International shows on Flipboard, even while reading other content on the graphics-heavy aggregator. You can find these programs in the content guide under a new Audio category. To play or pause your current audio track from anywhere in Flipboard, tap the music icon on the top of the screen (iPhone) or lower corner (iPad).

In another great use of sound, Flipboard has added VoiceOver features that let visually impaired users listen to articles on the app.

If you already use SoundCloud, just add your login on Flipboard’s Accounts screen and SoundCloud will appear as a new tile on your main Flipboard page, alongside your other topics such as photography, tech, or fashion. Tap, and you’ll be taken to a SoundCloud landing page where you can navigate to your stream and see what sounds friends and family have shared, as well as your SoundCloud Likes, Sounds, Sets, and Groups.

Just last week, SoundCloud unveiled the beta version of its new web app, Next, which featured continuous play and improved social features. The move towards social makes the company a natural fit for Flipboard, which already lets you add accounts for 10 other popular social services, including Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Instagram, Tumblr, 500px, and Sina Weibo.

Flipboard has also added support for Readability and Pocket to make it easier to enjoy content in-depth later. There is also a new Japanese version of the app, released today.

Filed under: media, mobile, social, VentureBeat

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

Third Point buys stake in 3 new tech companies: Apple, Google, Cisco

Posted: 15 May 2012 07:11 PM PDT

Third Point buys stock

Dan Loeb’s Third Point is bulking up its stake in a few other technology companies besides Yahoo, according to an SEC filing. The firm, which edged Yahoo chief executive Scott Thompson out of office earlier this week, are now gobbling up shares of Apple, Cisco, and Google.

According to the filing, Third Point now has 360,000 shares of Apple stock, amounting to $217 million, 5 million shares of Cisco, and 280,000 shares of Google. The company also snapped up a couple more Yahoo shares, totaling its stake to 70.5 million (or a little more than $1 billion).

Third Point’s Loeb has been the driving force behind Yahoo’s recent CEO debacle in which Thompson was found padding his resume. The story unfolded after Yahoo publicly told Loeb that he was too inexperienced to sit on the board as a director. Loeb had suggested himself and three others be tapped for the positions and did not accept a compromise Yahoo executives extended because it didn’t include bringing him on.

After a couple weeks of investigation, Thompson stepped down from his CEO role and soon thereafter revealed he has cancer. Yahoo director Patti Hart also stepped down, as she was the one who vetted Thompson and failed to look into a falsified computer science degree, which later made its way to Thompson’s Yahoo bio.

With Loeb on a spending spree, companies may be concerned with the pressures that he and his firm are seemingly happy to apply.

via Bloomberg; Stock ticker image via Shutterstock

Filed under: deals

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

The new Bing is here, start peppering your friends with questions

Posted: 15 May 2012 06:34 PM PDT

A week after previewing the revamped Bing, Microsoft has released the latest version of its search engine to people in the U.S. Head over to Bing.com/new to test out the new social features as well as annoy your friends with questions in the process. It doesn’t have all of the new bells and whistles announced last week, and you can only sign in with a Facebook or Windows Live account — though Quora, LinkedIn, and Twitter support should be coming soon.

New Bing has a gray sidebar on the right that, once you login with Facebook, shows all the new social features. When you search a topic, new Bing will list friends who might be able to answer your question and help with the search based on whether they’ve “liked” or mentioned something with that keyword in it. It even shows any relevant images they’ve posted.

You can then post a question directly to Facebook or specific friends in the know from the sidebar. If you find something useful while searching or want to answer a buddy’s question with a link, you can post the URL directly to Facebook from the sidebar. Relevant Twitter results from random people are also sometimes shown at the bottom of the box under “People Who Know”.

Most of my test searches showed no “Search With Friends” results, even for things I know my friends love and post about often such as cats, cheese, Dollywood, robots, or the Maker Faire.

Earlier this year when rival company Google first attempt to mashup your social graph and search habits via “Search Plus Your World,” the results seemed invasive and annoying. Second-place Bing seems to have learned a bit from Google’s stumbles, cordoning off the social element on the far right side of your screen.

However, even if the social/search feature was more helpful, I’m not sure there’s a big need for this kind of integration. Most people have mastered searching for things themselves, or posing questions to Facebook. If they haven’t, I usually send them to lmgtfy.com.

via Search Engine Land

Filed under: search, social, VentureBeat

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

McAfee says Pinterest scammers are getting automated

Posted: 15 May 2012 06:14 PM PDT

Pinterest scam

We’ve known for a while that spam was jumping on the Pinterest train. Now, security software service McAfee is sending out an official warning to keep an eye out for fraudulent pins.

According to McAfee, hackers have created entire toolkits that make it fast and easy to deploy new spam campaigns on the social network. Pinterest displays “pins,” or images taken from around the Web, to a “board.” These images are outbound links to various websites, and are ripe for exploitation.

“These tools are so easy that many require only the attacker or scammer to change a couple of lines of code in the available kit,” said McAfee senior research engineer Hardik Shah in a blog post. “They can literally start a new Pinterest scam within minutes!”

The toolkits come with software that has the ability to “mass-like” pins, add an account creator, mass-follow people, automate fake commenting activity, and more. These toolkits have been behind much of the malware distribution in 2011. They allow hackers/scammers to automate the process of creating unwanted content (see: Internet-crap & spam), and then distribute it.

We found a scam on Pinterest in early March that showed a picture of a Cheesecake Factory coupon, promising free gift cards to all users. Scams are often touted as a “Pinterest special,” available only for users of this special, new social site. And because it is a special, new social site, people believe the fake offer. Many of these scams also ask a user to “re-pin” the image first (broadening the circle of lies), and will then prompt that user to take a survey. This kind of activity falls in line with phishing scams, as opposed to malware attacks.

McAfee warns that if a website asks you to re-pin before delivering the content, it’s most likely a scam. The security firm also makes the point that Pinterest users should beware of affiliate link spam, which is when scammers lure bystanders to an Amazon page that is associated with the scammer’s account. When that person subsequently buys something on Amazon, the company pays a commission to the scammer.

Beware of pins that lead you to website that masquerade as Pinterest as well. These will try to push the same, “You won this contest!” type of pin, and they are generally fake.

Filed under: security

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

Funding daily: Use your social clout to boost your credit score

Posted: 15 May 2012 05:50 PM PDT

We've got a few stories for you today for your funding news enthusiasts. Click each link below to learn more about each story.

If you're hankering more funding news throughout the day, you can subscribe to our Deals Channel RSS feed by either clicking the red RSS icon at the top of this page or adding the Deals Channel feed link to your favorite reader. And as always, send funding news our way at tips@venturebeat.com.

Qualtrics says your research is wrong, raises funding to fix it

Qualtrics received $70 million in its first round of funding from Accel Partners and Sequoia Capital today. The company's main product allows customers to survey anyone on the Internet, asking for any kind of data that isn't restricted by a certain database's parameters.

Lenddo uses social influence to bump up your credit score

Lenddo raised an $8 million first round of funding Tuesday. The company helps people around the world build credit with small loans and a social-based Klout-like scoring system. Accel Partners, Blumberg Capital, Omidyar Network, iNovia Capital and Metamorphic Ventures participated in this round of funding, as did angel investors Geoff Judge, David Kidder, Scott Heiferman, and Barry Silbert.

Solar company Solexel raised $25 million

Solexel has closed a $25 million round of funding from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, according to a form D filed with the SEC. The Silicon Valley based company produces high-efficiency solar panels.

Simplee manages your healthcare costs

Health care cost management startup Simplee has raised $6 million in funding. Simplee works with insurance companies to manage health care costs and insurance claims. The Social+Capital Partnership led the round, with participation from Greylock Partners.

SoMoLend closes $1.17M seed round

Social and mobile lending company SoMoLend has raised $1.17 million in seed money. Instead of borrowing from a bank, SoMoLend facilitates borrowing from friends, but you’ve got to pay the money back. CincyTech led the round, which participation from Queen City Angels, the North Coast Angel Fund, Blue Chip Partners, Shaker LaunchHouse, Eldar Investment LLC, Clarion Direct Investment LLC, Clifford Holekamp, Elizabeth Crowell, Bruce Terry, Bob Baron, Cheryl & Carlin Stamm, and many others.

Teen texting on bench image via Flickr user Ming Xia / Sarah Mitroff

Filed under: deals

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

Bieber joins Viddy, posts hot, topless video… of himself

Posted: 15 May 2012 04:48 PM PDT

Oh, boyfriend. Pop superstar Justin Bieber has joined video-sharing sensation Viddy.

The “Boyfriend” singer took a mini break from promoting his coming-soon album “Believe” on Twitter to solicit a little Viddy love from his almost 22 million Twitter followers — and give back a little something with footage of himself shirtless at a photo shoot.

Viddy is the Los Angeles-based startup that makes an iPhone application for shooting 15-second clips that can be enhanced through “production packs,” otherwise known as video effects. The service, which has more than 27 million users, is often likened to Instagram for its ease of use and simple sharing tools. The company just announced a massive $30 million funding round.

“Photoshoot was….well u will see. #viddy #abouttogoIN,” Bieber tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Follow me on @viddy – @justinbieber,” he added.

Just a few minutes later, the teen heart-throb posted his first Viddy — an update of himself shirtless (we’ve confirmed that “justinbieber” is his official account). Clearly, the Biebs knows what the ladies like. The account added more than 3,000 followers in the first few minutes following Bieber’s tweets, and the viddy is racking up comments and likes as we speak.

The Biebs joins a growing cadre of celebrity Viddy users — some of whom have actually decided to invest — sharing stylized quickie vids with their fans. Viddy celeb members include Bill Cosby, Rihanna, Snoop Dog, Terrell Owens, and newbie Katie Couric. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently got in on the Viddy action.

Viddy has more than 27 million registered users, and is adding 500,000 new users per day. It feels like it wasn’t that long ago when the startup first announced hitting 10 million users — oh wait, it wasn’t. In fact, just a little over two weeks ago the service touted the 10 million milestone. Today, that seems like small potatoes.

With Bieber on board, who knows what crazy member-milestone the company will surpass next.

Photo credit: Justin Bieber/Instagram

Filed under: social

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

Google Chrome update lets you share tabs across devices

Posted: 15 May 2012 04:12 PM PDT

A month after Google introduced its multi-browser tab opening functionality for Chrome Beta, the new feature already set to make its debut in the stable release of the browser.

The new feature lets you manage open tabs across different computers and mobile devices running Android OS 4.0 and higher.

Tab sharing works by connecting all the open tabs in Chrome on several different computers. So long as you’re signed into Google via Chrome on each computer, a new menu — aptly named "Other devices" –  lets you view all the tabs open on every install of the browser across multiple platforms. It’s a small, albeit useful, update that will be helpful if you find something you want to read later while at work, such as a Yelp review while your on the way to a a restaurant.

Sharing tabs between computers will work with the latest Chrome update, which is due out in the next few days. To use the feature on your Android phone, it needs have Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher and the Chrome Beta mobile browser installed. Those that don’t have Ice Cream Sandwich on their Android phone can use Chrome to Phone, an extension that sends Chrome tabs to the default browser on Android 2.2 or higher.

Somewhat coinciding with the news, Macquarie analyst Ben Schacter asserted Tuesday that Chrome for iOS is on its way, according to a Business Insider report. Schacter says that we can expect Chrome for iPads and iPhones by the second quarter of 2012, or slightly thereafter.

The news is almost completely bunk since Apple doesn’t allow third-party browsers on iOS, which is why you don’t see a full Firefox browser on the iPad or iPhone. Google uses its own version of WebKit to build Chrome, as opposed to Apple’s version. For this reason, Apple won’t allow it on iOS. While Google stands to gain some cash from getting its browser on iOS, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Expect the Chrome update to roll out in the next few days. As for the functionality once you do get the multi-tab feature, Google says to be patient because it will take time for the tabs to sync.

Filed under: mobile

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

AppFog gives developers an easier way to deploy cloud apps (interview)

Posted: 15 May 2012 04:08 PM PDT

Lucas Carlson, the CEO of AppFog, which provides developers with an application platform-as-a-service

For a small Portland, Ore.-based startup, AppFog has managed to build a huge fan base.

AppFog offers a platform-as-a-service for developers building web applications. What that means in simple terms is that if you’ve got a program you want to write, AppFog will take care of setting up a virtual server, installing all the services you need, and getting everything ready so that all you have to do is drop in your code and get it running.

AppFog uses cloud-based services, primarily Amazon Web Services, under the hood, but provides a more straightforward, managed environment than cloud services offer. Its pricing is radically simpler, too.

And AppFog’s tens of thousands of customers are clearly passionate about the company. VentureBeat held an (admittedly unscientific) reader poll in the weeks leading up to Under the Radar, an event produced by DealMaker Media in Silicon Valley. There were 32 startups presenting at Under the Radar, and we asked readers to vote on their favorite.

We collected thousands of votes, and AppFog was neck-and-neck with cloud-based enterprise storage startup Zadara until the final hours. But in the end, AppFog won the contest.

The startup’s prize: A profile on VentureBeat. I interviewed AppFog founder and chief executive Lucas Carlson at the event, and after some delays, I’m posting it here. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here is your reader’s choice winner:

VentureBeat: What is it that you guys do?

Lucas Carlson: We make developers lives easier. That’s our mission and our focus, it’s what we’re good at. We do that by creating a platform as a service that connects developers with infrastructure and services in seconds.

VB: What kinds of services?

Carlson: MySQL, Mongo, Reddis, memCache, anything new and cool that you’ve heard about. Instead of figuring out how to compile it and get it up and running and managing it if it crashes, we do all that for you, and we hook it all together and make it seamless.

VB: Isn’t that the premise of existing cloud-based services, like Amazon, where they get everything together and spin up a server for you and run whatever you want on it?

Carlson: Yes, and there’s a big difference between what Amazon’s doing and what we’re doing. Amazon thinks of it like resources and services, and you have to figure out how to tie it all together and keep track of everything. And once you do that, you’re bound to it — you can’t move off the platform and you have no choice.

Instead of thinking of it as resources, we’re thinking of it holistically, like applications. So we can understand from an application downwards, the entire stack, the entire status of the program, and how it’s running, and what services it needs. That gives us a unique ability to do things like snapshot an entire app with its services, keep backups of it, and transfer it to other cloud providers in order to do disaster recovery and other services.

VB: So my apps will still be running on Amazon, or Rackspace, or HP Cloud, but you’re just giving me the ability to manage that and make it easier to create what I need and deploy the apps that I want?

Carlson: And not only that, we’ve incorporated Cloud Foundry, which is an open-source library that you can actually contribute to, so you have a say, for the first time, in the application life cycle that it runs in.

VB: Who’s using this?

Carlson: Tens of thousands of developers. Developers are our customers, they’re our bread and butter. We built something for developers, by developers. We’re not looking to switch that focus — we just want to make sure that we help. Developers live everywhere. We have developers that live in enterprises, in small businesses, in startups, even individual developers.

VB: Is there a particular platform or language that your customer base uses?

Carlson: Our company has specialized in PHP, and that was the first language that we supported. So we have a strong following in the PHP community.

VB: Still used for many, many websites.

Carlson: About a third of all websites run PHP. But since then we have actually, through Cloud Foundry, expanded to support Java, Ruby, Node, .NET, and others.

VB: So what does it cost?

Carlson: It starts out completely free, and from there it scales up with their needs. You can go as cheap as $29 a month. Unlike other cloud providers, scaling up is a linear process, instead of jumping to become very expensive as you go.

VB: As a proportion of what I’m spending on Amazon Web Services, or Rackspace, what would I pay?

Carlson: It’s very difficult to say, because the way that those services charge is by the hour of server time. That makes sense if you’re analyzing DNA, but most mobile and web applications live for a very long time. So charging hourly, it’s very hard to calculate. Our system is charged monthly, pro rata, so if you need to add capacity, you just add it for the part of the month that you need it.

VB: How big are you as a company and how are you funded?

Carlson: We’ve raised $10 million in funding from Ignition and Madrona and First Round Capital in two rounds. We’re about 28 people and still growing very quickly. We’re based in Portland, Oregon.

VB: There are a bunch of people here from Portland.

Carlson: Portland is heating up. It’s actually a great place for building a company. It’s a lot cheaper and the talent is really high quality.

AppFog took the most votes in our Under the Radar "reader's choice" poll (chart)VB: So you guys won the reader’s choice award in our poll. I was sort of surprised to see all these people piling into the comments saying, “Vote for these guys.” How did you do it?

Carlson: Our mission is to make developers’ lives easier, and if developers are saying these things, I guess we’re doing a pretty good job with that.

VB: So you’re saying this is purely grass roots? You didn’t send out a tweet saying “Vote for us”?

Carlson: No, we did send out tweets. But the love we did not ask for, that was purely their own doing.

Photo by Dylan Tweney/VentureBeat

Filed under: cloud, dev

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

A Nexus free-for-all: Google may tap more partners for flagship Android 5.0 devices

Posted: 15 May 2012 02:47 PM PDT

Galaxy Nexus

Expect plenty more Nexus Android smartphones and tablets on the horizon from multiple manufacturers, as Google will reportedly expand its partnerships to squash fears surrounding its Motorola Mobility purchase.

Historically, Google has tapped a single device partner for its Nexus line (HTC for the Nexus One, Samsung for the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus). But sources tell Bloomberg that the search giant is looking to add many more Nexus partners, and will also sell the devices directly to consumers. The Nexus devices are expected to run Android 5.0 “Jelly Bean.”

Google’s Nexus partners get access to early releases of Android before other manufacturers, which gives them a leg-up when designing their new products. And since they work directly with Google, Nexus devices aren’t riddled with carrier junkware apps, or clunky interface tweaks like HTC’s Sense.

Google may work with up to five Nexus partners, and the devices are also expected to be sold unlocked (a.k.a. not tied to any carrier).

Having more Nexus devices would give Google more control over the Android ecosystem, Bloomberg’s sources said. It would also allay fears that Google would play favorites with Motorola Mobility, which it’s currently in the process of purchasing for $12.5 billion.

While the move raises more questions about what Google will actually do with Motorola, it makes sense for the search giant to want more control over Android’s direction. Apple has complete control over the iPhone — carriers be damned — and Microsoft has also been strict about how both carriers and device makers treat Windows Phone devices.

If Google really wants to compete with the quality of its operating system — not just the number of units shipped — it needs to work with partners to make sure flagship Android devices aren’t hobbled by carriers, or anyone else for that matter.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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

SNL hooks up with Color to broadcast from backstage

Posted: 15 May 2012 01:57 PM PDT

The first fruits of a multi-year deal with Verizon are starting to pay off for live video-broadcasting startup Color. Thanks to Verizon’s match-making skills, sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live will be using Color to broadcast unscripted, backstage footage to show fans.

Color is the unproven $41 million-backed Palo Alto company betting the house on live video clips broadcast from mobile devices. The startup makes iPhone and Android applications, hooked into Facebook’s Open Graph, that stream 30-second video clips live to friends. Last week, the company connected with Verizon to release a special, Verizon 4G LTE network-optimized version of the application with higher quality video and audio.

Saturday Night Live will use the new-and-improved Verizon-Color technology to broadcast live clips (using a Verizon Wireless phone, of course) from this week’s rehearsals. The show will also put Color to use backstage during its May 19 season finale episode, which features host Mick Jagger and musical guests Foo Fighters and Arcade Fire.

Color users who are either fans of Verizon Wireless or SNL on Facebook will receive automatic notifications each time SNL starts shooting live video. We’re told this is the first time SNL, which has 2.5 million fans on Facebook, has used a mobile application to provide show fans with backstage access.

The backstage deal, which promises fans exclusive behind-the-scenes access, could go a long way in attracting new users to Color — the startup has roughly 1 million active users. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Verizon is also running an ad (seen below) to promote the three-way, late-night hookup.

Filed under: mobile, social

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

Understand the ‘local consumer,’ and you’ll understand how to serve SMBs

Posted: 15 May 2012 01:52 PM PDT

This sponsored post is produced by Street Fight.

It's fair to say we're entering hyperlocal marketing 2.0. After a much-hyped explosion, the daily deal industry is now in the process of consolidating; smaller players are falling off while the bigger players are looking beyond the deal to create customer loyalty and 360-degree merchant marketing. Meanwhile, LBS "check-in" pioneer Foursquare is looking for ways to monetize by becoming an engine of local discovery. Hyperlocal publishers are still selling banner ads, but they're also looking to new revenue streams to expand their reach.

One thing that unites the way that these companies are evolving is that they are all becoming more and more focused on the local consumer — and on helping small businesses understand how they can reach the right person, in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.

Who are today's "local consumers?" What are the unique characteristics of their habits, and how can they be best engaged on digital platforms? They are a new demographic born out of an explosion of new technologies that provide new ways to discover local options for food, apparel, hobbies, events and more; they are wired, focused on their immediate surroundings in the present moment, and expecting discounts and loyalty features to boot. New research on this group will debut at Street Fight Summit West.

Tech and media startups are getting closer and closer to unlocking the secret to delivering better targeting and stronger marketer-consumer relationships than traditional media. But they have a ways to go.

At Street Fight Summit West, which is taking place on June 5 in San Francisco, the research and other insights into the motivations and characteristics of local consumers will be front and center. In conjunction with Dr. Phil Hendrix of immr, we'll debut original data about local consumer habits, with a special call-out on local search. VentureBeat readers can attend the event for 20% off (which go up on May 22) using the discount code VENTUREBEAT20.

As well, Google's Nitin Mangtani will talk about the way the search giant is combining offers and location to create a way for merchants to target, market and retain local consumers. Street Fight's Alex Salkever will grill Foursquare's business development chief Holger Luedorf about the company's plans for monetization. Cir.ca founding editor David Cohn will take a deep dive into the evolution of digital media and look at how banner advertising will combine with other elements to ultimately create a sustainable business model for hyperlocal news.

Cloudera's Omer Trajman, Locu's Rene Reisenberg and PlaceIQ's Duncan McCall will look at how big local data is transforming the way that consumers can be targeted with relevant content and offers. Additional topics throughout the day will keep a sharp eye on this demographic, including mobile targeting, 360-degree marketing, hyperlocal content, customer-loyalty programs, and more.

Architect Partners will also present data on M&A activity taking place in hyperlocal tech — which has seen a 63% uptick in deals year over year.

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company, which is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact garrett@venturebeat.com.

Filed under: enterprise, VentureBeat

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

Twitvid buys music video curation site Cull TV for its rockin’ tech

Posted: 15 May 2012 01:48 PM PDT

Cull.tv screenshot

Cull TV, a site that features curated playlists of music videos from indie artists, has been acquired by social video network Twitvid, the companies announced today.

Cull TV is sort of what the internet version of Mtv would probably look like if it was still about music instead of godawful teen reality shows staring quasi-famous celebrities. The site’s user interface is focused on a full “lean back and watch” experience, similar to watching a TV channel. Videos are curated by members of the community as well as an in-house team, but  you can also create your own music video channel stream by adding videos that you’ve watched on the site or elsewhere. The site has over 2 million videos in its library and features 25 standard channels. Cull TV is primarily for discovering new content, which is why its a perfect fit for Twitvid.

“Cull TV is an intelligent, connected social service that can curate content in a different way than what we’re doing on Twitvid,” said Twitvid founder Mo Al Adham in an interview with VentureBeat.”We plan on adding that technology and know-how from (Cull’s) team into the site over the next few months.”

Twitvid relaunched from a complimentary video site for Twitter into a completely new social video network back in December 2011, as VentureBeat previously reported. Users can check their stream of video content from sites like YouTube, Vimeo and others that are shared by friends on various social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook. Twitvid users can also create their own custom channel of content that others can tune in to watch. The site currently brings in over 15 million unique visitors per month.

As part of the acquisition deal, Cull.tv will remain in operation for now, but its future hasn’t been determined, Al Adham said. And while Twitvid will gain a strong community of music video watchers from the new acquisition, it’ll also get Cull TV’s underlying curation technology. Twitvid’s stream is already optimized for video content, but it’ll probably gain a greater degree of sharing and discovery functionality.

Founded in 2009, the San Francisco, Calif.-based startup previously raised a $7 million round of funding from Azure Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson in September 2011. Financial terms of the Cull TV deal were not disclosed.

Filed under: deals, media, social

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

General Motors unfriends Facebook, says report

Posted: 15 May 2012 01:06 PM PDT


General Motors plans to stop running ads on Facebook after the company assessed its social ads were not effective, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

While GM did not outright confirm the news, GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick told the Journal that GM “is definitely reassessing our advertising on Facebook, although the content is effective and important.” GM will continue marketing on Facebook, but its display ads will be going away.

With Facebook’s IPO happening this Friday, this isn’t the kind of news the social networking titan wanted coming out just prior to going public. Facebook’s IPO could end up pushing the company’s valuation to more than $100 billion.

Just yesterday, Forrester analyst Nate Elliott wrote about the challenges of marketers on Facebook and how it has not provided enough tools for measurable marketing and advertising.

“Marketing on Facebook doesn't work very well, and marketers can't count on things improving anytime soon,” Elliott wrote in a blog post. “We wish we could predict this IPO would serve as a new beginning for Facebook's marketing offering, and that a new focus on becoming a grown-up business would inspire the company to put even half the energy into serving advertisers that it does into serving users.”

GM reportedly spends about $40 million annually to maintain its Facebook presence, but only a fourth of that goes directly into Facebook’s pocket for ads. The rest of that cash is for content and maintenance of GM Facebook pages (see above).

Filed under: media, social

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

Dylan’s Desk: On eve of Facebook IPO, Silicon Valley’s gap with the rest of America widens

Posted: 15 May 2012 01:02 PM PDT

like this little bug, Silicon Valley startups are facing a widening gap with the rest of the world

People often say Silicon Valley is not like the rest of the world. We’re more tolerant of failure, embrace risk-taking more eagerly, get more enthusiastic about technical solutions, and have a huge, deep pool of engineering and marketing talent to draw from.

As a result, the region has produced some of the most disruptive, world-changing ideas: The semiconductor, the integrated circuit, the PC, the Internet, and the search engine, to name a few.

Then there’s Facebook. The company has transformed interpersonal networking online and has captured a huge portion of the world’s internet users. Facebook’s initial public offering later this week is about to produce a new crop of billionaires and millionaires, who will go on to become the Valley’s next crop of entrepreneurs and angel investors. That cash will help fuel the next round of innovation.

But does the Silicon Valley model still work? Or is it possible that living in a world of its own could come back to bite the Valley’s tech community? I think we’re already seeing the beginnings of a dangerous disconnect.

For instance, Facebook’s aggressive moves to control all the information it possibly can about its users has made many people a little nervous — no surprise there.

A bigger issue: Silicon Valley is dominated by men and tends to favor products targeted at men. That might make a certain sort of sense in the realm of enterprise technology, where most executives still are male and, therefore, so are most IT decision-makers. But it’s just crazy for any consumer-oriented product (outside of inflatable dolls and men’s razors). Women are the primary purchasers of almost everything. They make 85 percent of all consumer purchases, if we believe that 0ft-cited figure. Even with computers, which you might think are a guy’s domain, women are responsible for 66 percent of the purchases, and ladies are spending more than ever on consumer electronics, almost as much now as men.

Last week I was speaking with Mariam Naficy, founder and chief executive of Minted, and she drove the point home. Minted, a stationery and art sales site, is a female-centric company with an all-female executive team and a customer base that’s primarily women. I asked her what it was like running a company like that in the midst of Silicon Valley.

“It is a little disconcerting when you go outside your peer group,” Naficy said. “In Silicon Valley — unlike most of the country — companies are marketing to a different demographic, a more male demographic. … It can be a little bit of a lonely endeavor.”

While Minted eventually found backing from the A-list of Silicon Valley investors (its $5.5 million second round in November, 2011 was led by Benchmark Capital), other companies have struggled.

Naficy told the story of Pinterest, of which she was an early fan. She recalled introducing the company to seven or eight investors, all male, who just couldn’t see how it could be a serious business. (My initial reaction to the site was bewilderment, too. I mean, I’ve already got Pinboard, why do I need Pinterest? Shows how clueless I was.)

Fortunately, smarter heads prevailed in the end. Pinterest went on to raise $27 million in October, 2011, led by Andreessen Horowitz, and the company is now worth an estimated $500 million, a reflection of the rocketlike growth that has made it, by some estimates, the third-largest social network. Eventually, even the boys have to pay attention.

Silicon Valley has other blinders working against it. Geography, for instance: If you’re not in San Francisco’s backyard, you might not as well exist as far as venture capital is concerned.

As Rod Turner noted earlier today on VentureBeat, according to the National Venture Capital Association, the VC industry invested $3,945 per person living in Silicon Valley in 2010, compared to a nationwide average of $43 per person — and just $15 per person in Detroit.

No surprise, then, that while the recession grinds painfully on in the rest of the country, Silicon Valley seems to be in the middle of a boom. Not only are we seeing no recession here, we’re hearing talk of a bubble. While VCs might deny the bubble talk, the fact that Facebook just paid $1 billion for a photo-sharing app suggests that, yes, pricing might be a little out of whack. A lot of money is just sloshing around these days.

All this contributes to a climate where everyone thinks they should start a company and believes they have the ability to do so. One early-stage startup CEO I spoke with last week talked about the difficulty of hanging onto engineering talent, because engineers keep leaving to start their own companies. Unfortunately, he noted that most of these engineers lack real business sense. There’s a disconnect between their technical skills and their ability to create products that people actually want.

For a similar take on this problem, read VentureBeat columnist Penelope Trunk’s story on Browsemob and the dangers of building a product before you know what your customers actually want.

The most successful companies to emerge from the region in the past decade have understood that they’re selling to Main Street, not El Camino Real, and have been willing to alienate their core audience of geeks if necessary to reach a wider market. Apple’s the classic example. Facebook, to its credit, understands this too, and is used by 900 million people, 57 percent of whom are women and most of whom are not in Silicon Valley.

My advice to startups and investors? Get outside the Valley and talk to people. Come here for the funding but keep roots somewhere else in the world. Read Zikria Syed’s take on the importance of startup culture, because your company’s culture will have a big impact on the market you wind up reaching. And keep it real: Hire people outside your peer group, because otherwise, you’ll have no chance of recognizing when you’ve got blinders on.

Is Silicon Valley losing touch? Let me know what you think.

Bug photo: Raul Lieberwirth/Flickr

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

YouSendIt lands new CEO with Brad Garlinghouse

Posted: 15 May 2012 12:47 PM PDT


Former AOL executive Brad Garlinghouse will join cloud storage and file-sharing company YouSendIt as the new CEO, the company announced today.

Garlinghouse will replace Ivan Koon, who has previously served as YouSendIt’s CEO for six years. Garlinghouse was formerly AOL’s head of AOL's Silicon Valley division and before that served as CEO of DialPad, which was acquired by Yahoo.

YouSendIt wants to be a major cloud storage player for businesses. But to do so, it will have to slug it out with Box, Egnyte, Accellion, and now Google with its Drive cloud storage product.

“YouSendIt is a rare gem — it has quietly built the leading business in this space by focusing on execution,” Garlinghouse said in a statement. “Used within a whopping 98 percent of the Fortune 500 and with more than 30 million registered users — the company is well positioned to continue its dramatic growth. YouSendIt has already demonstrated a track record of solid financial growth. I’m proud to lead YouSendIt into this next phase.”

Campbell, Calif.-based YouSendIt currently has 585,000 paid subscribers out of its 30 million users. The company says it generated a record revenue in 2011, and that it was up 61 percent year-over-year.

Filed under: cloud

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

The year of the Retina display: New MacBook Airs, iMacs may get it too

Posted: 15 May 2012 12:15 PM PDT

MacBook Air

It seems like 2012 will become the year when utra-high resolution computer displays become the norm — at least on Apple’s devices.

Following up on Monday’s news about Retina displays (among other upgrades) in new MacBook Pros, 9to5Mac is reporting that Apple is also working on bringing higher-res screens to its new (and still unannounced) MacBook Airs and iMacs.

To be clear, Apple’s current laptops and desktops already feature impressive screen resolutions for their respective sizes — especially when measured against Windows PC competitors. But by bumping up those specs further, Apple’s next machines will be able to make just about anything look better. It won’t be as dramatic as the difference between the iPad 2 and new iPad’s screens, but it will allow Apple to keep pushing the boundaries in screen technology.

Sources tell 9to5Mac that Apple’s next MacBook Airs won’t see a major redesign, but they’ll receive hardware upgrades to run Retina displays smoothly. The new computers will likely run Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors — which are more power efficient than last year’s Core i5 –  and feature improved graphics capabilities. Additionally, the Air’s battery will also be improved to support the higher resolution screen.

While I don’t doubt that Apple has its heart set on bringing Retina displays to all of its machines, the company will likely have a hard time finding suppliers for screens larger than 15 inches. For that reason, I suspect we’ll see Retina displays in the new iMacs long after they hit Apple’s laptops.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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

Nvidia poised to change gaming with cloud graphics chips

Posted: 15 May 2012 12:01 PM PDT

Nvidia announced today that it has created unique features in its Kepler-based graphics chips that could make cloud-based gaming much more practical. The company has also formed partnerships with companies such as Gaikai to make cloud games much cheaper and more appealing to gamers and maybe even eliminate the need to create a new generation of consoles.

That latter possibility may be a remote one for now, but the fact that it is possible suggests the potential disruption that could occur if Nvidia executes its vision for cloud gaming: Multi-brained graphics chips in data centers will be able to handle computing tasks for home players.

Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive of graphics chip maker Nvidia, made the announcement today in his keynote speech today at the GPU Technology conference in San Jose, Calif. The cloud graphics announcement was one of several that Huang made today.

In an interview with GamesBeat, Nvidia senior vice president Dan Vivoli said Kepler-based graphics chips will be able to handle four times as many server-based games at the same time while using half the power and running at half the cost.

“The beauty of this approach is that GPUs will continue to improve all of the time,” said Vivoli. “Your hardware stays the same, but the data center hardware can be upgraded to handle better games.”

Game streaming companies such as OnLive, Gaikai, and Otoy have introduced cloud infrastructures in the past few years that enable users to play high-end games on low-end hardware. The serious computing is handled in the data center, and video is streamed to the user’s computer, where only a display is needed to view the game. Servers in the data centers can use high-end graphics cards to handle high-end games, but it usually takes one expensive graphics card to process one game being played by one user.

But with improved multitasking on Nvidia’s Kepler-based graphics chips, each data center server can handle multiple users at a lower cost. That makes cloud gaming more economical, Vivoli said.

The Kepler-based chips have also been designed to reduce the latency, or time it takes for an interaction between computers, for cloud gaming. That means that there won’t be a perceptible delay in playing cloud games.

“You might play a game in the cloud and have a better response time than the console,” Vivoli said. “Our architecture is so fast we can hide the latency of the network.”

Nvidia is partnering with Gaikai, which has 24 data centers in the U.S., to help reduce network latency. Nvidia is building a grid-based computing platform, dubbed Nvidia GeForce Grid, for Kepler-based machines to access. Together with cloud graphics software, the Nvidia GeForce Grid will be enable cloud-gaming companies to operate with lower operating costs, said Phil Eisler, general manager of cloud graphics at Nvidia.

At the conference, Nvidia and Gaikai demonstrated a virtual game console, consisting of an LG Cinema 3D Smart TV running a Gaikai application connected to a GeForce Grid GPU in a server 10 miles away. The demo showed it was possible to create instant, lag-free play on a highly complex PC game, with only an Ethernet cable and wireless universal serial bus game pad connected to the TV. The partners said they could stream a game to a user in less than 10 milliseconds. That means a user wouldn’t notice delays.

Time Sweeney, chief executive of Epic Games and a well-known graphics expert, said, "Cloud has the potential to deliver an even more powerful experience in the future by enabling ultra-high-end GPUs like the GeForce GTX 680 to stream ultra-high-quality graphics such as those made possible by Unreal Engine 4 to a huge range of devices, well beyond console capabilities. The result will be that more people can enjoy Epic’s games on more devices at higher quality."

Cloud-based games have other benefits. Users can log into a game on one computer and continue playing on another.

“You will have the access to the latest and greatest GPUs (graphics processing units),” Vivoli said. “The question is what consoles will be in a few years. It becomes a lot easier to deal with piracy with cloud gaming.”

Vivoli said that the cloud-based graphics will create more disruption in the game industry, and they could enable new business models for game companies and console makers. You could, for instance, play high-end games on a TV that has no console hardware. Or you could play high-end games on an iPad that might not ordinarily be able to run them. Vivoli said this is the biggest change in graphics chips since Nvidia introduced the GeForce 256 graphics chip a decade ago and since the 2006 introduction of CUDA, which enabled graphics chips to perform general-purpose computing tasks.

Nvidia’s partners in the effort include Gaikai, OnLive, G-Cluster, Ubitus, and Playcast. Among server makers, Nvidia’s partners include HP, IBM, Amazon, Dell, Cisco, and Supermicro.

In addition to cloud graphics, Nvidia is announcing some other changes that will get more performance out of each GPU. With Hyper Q technology, Kepler-based GPUs will be able to handle 32 tasks at a time, compared to one task for the previous generation of Fermi graphics chips. Now it will be much easier to keep a GPU’s different cores busy.

Nvidia will also launch a feature called dynamic parallelism, which divides processing tasks into bite-sized chores that improve the efficiency of the processing. It enables better utilization of the GPU.

Nvidia will also release two new Tesla graphics cards (the K10 and K20) for high-end workstations. One of those, the K20, will go into the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Nvidia-based supercomputer.

The makers of virtualization software have been able to modify their software to virtualize graphics technology. Now, using Nvidia’s enterprise-focused Nvidia VGX platform, enterprise servers can use high-end graphics processing and allow enterprise clients to tap into that graphics power. Using virtualization software such as Citrix or Xen, the user can now access high-end graphics software using a low-end client. That enables a new kind of remote computing, where an engineer could access complex engineering drawings using an iPad.

“We’re now able to create enterprise level graphics or virtual graphics,” Vivoli said. “You can access enterprise software with your iMac at home, and it will run as if your machine was a Tesla workstation.”

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered, VentureBeat

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

Flickr releases new “liquid” layout featuring hi-res images

Posted: 15 May 2012 11:48 AM PDT

Yahoo’s Flickr photo-sharing community has been in makeover mode of late and is getting incrementally better with subtle upgrades. Tuesday, Flickr released a reworked photo page layout with a new look that’s nearly impossible to miss — especially on large displays.

Flickr’s “liquid” layout, as it’s called, is a dynamic format for each photo page that now features newly supported hi-res images on the main photo page. The layout also automatically adjusts the photo page and image size based on the user’s browser window size to feature the biggest photo size appropriate for each photo viewer.

“Flickr is known for its outstanding image quality that enables people to showcase the amazing details of their photographs,” Flickr’s head of product Markus Spiering told VentureBeat. “With our new, larger hi-resolution images and liquid design each photo page on Flickr comes alive.”

The new liquid layout is powered by an algorithm that accounts for browser width and height size, and displays content at a width that will best showcase the most common 4:3 photo ratio while also ensuring the photo title and sidebar are visible on the page, engineer Ross Harmes explained in a blog post on the technology behind the update. The algorithm also favors native photo sizes, never upscales images, and should allow for faster page load times.

The layout ultimately makes for an enriched new way to browse photos on Flickr, especially on large displays, and represents Yahoo’s renewed commitment to the photo property it let languish for far too long (we’ll have to wait and see how Flickr fits into interim CEO Ross Levinsohn’s plan for beleaguered Yahoo). But it might be too little, too late to win back or attract photo-sharers who’ve migrated to Facebook and mobile apps such as Instagram. For consideration: Flickr members upload 3.5 million photos per day; Facebook members upload 300 million photos per day.

The liquid layout featuring hi-res images has been pushed live for all Flickr users. The new photo sizes have also been added to Flickr’s API and now appear in the “All Sizes” menu.

Filed under: social

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

Watch out T-Mobile employees: CEO announces further cuts, corporate restructuring

Posted: 15 May 2012 11:30 AM PDT

T-Mobile CEO Philipp Humm said there were going to be more layoffs when he axed 1,900 call center workers in March, and it looks like the day of reckoning is near.

Humm said the carrier will be going through a major restructuring that involved some “difficult decisions” when it comes to staffing, according to a memo sent to employees that was republished by the Verge. Employees and teams affected by the restructuring will be notified this week.

“We are announcing a new structure that further aligns our costs with our revenue realities, enables teams who support our field organization to act and react with greater speed and effectiveness to customer and market opportunities, and better positions us to return to growth,” Humm wrote in the memo.

It’s unclear how many employees are being let go, but Humm says they’ll receive “generous transition support.” (I’m sure that makes T-Mobile workers sleep easier this week.) He clarified that workers in T-Mobile’s remaining 17 call centers and corporate retail stores, as well as technicians in engineering, won’t be affected.

T-Mobile has been steadily losing subscribers over the last several quarters — mainly due to its lack of the iPhone, as well as fallout from the AT&T acquisition that went up in flames. After its February earnings report, the carrier announced a $4 billion "Challenger Strategy" to roll out 4G LTE in 2013 — which seemed too little, too late for the struggling company.

“Our rebuilt structure enables T-Mobile to realize significant savings, allowing us to invest in future growth — in particular modernizing our network to LTE, repositioning the T-Mobile brand, and aggressively pursuing the B2B segment where we plan to add 1,000 positions over the next few years,” Humm wrote in the memo. “We gain the agility to put resources where the current opportunities are, grow in areas where potential is greatest, and act on emerging opportunities quickly and rationally.”

A leaner, meaner T-Mobile may be able to survive another few years, though none of that matters if the company can’t stop bleeding subscribers.

Photo: Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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