22 May, 2012



Better location tools for more apps: Geoloqi is now on Appcelerator Titanium

Posted: 22 May 2012 09:00 AM PDT

Two of the more interesting companies on the mobile-development landscape are announcing a new deal for developers today, and will be making great tools for location-based apps available for free.

If you’re into mobile development, Appcelerator and Geoloqi are probably both on your radar.

Appcelerator helps developers make all kinds of mobile apps on a variety of platforms, and Geoloqi brings mobile devs powerful, simple location features, such as proximity information and geofencing.

The two companies have been cozied up for a few months already. Now, they’re giving devs a two-month trial to test drive Geoloqi on Appcelerator’s Titanium 2.0 platform. In a word, this means better location tools will be available for more kinds of apps, and they’ll be easier to use for a wider range of developers.

Titanium lets devs work quickly to get apps live on Android and iOS devices natively, as well as on the mobile web. With Geoloqi plugged in, devs will also have a complete location toolkit (including true geofencing), battery management features, and real-time data storage and analytics.

“Appcelerator customers have been asking for a true, dependable geolocation solution and location-based analytics platform, and we found one in Geoloqi,” said Jeff Haynie, CEO of Appcelerator, in a statement this morning.

"It's the first geolocation platform that enables individualized geo-triggered events within an application. This powerful toolkit is an essential addition to our app development marketplace, and we’re excited to offer Geoloqi technology to our customers.”

Geoloqi, which was founded by cyborg anthropologist Amber Case, was intended originally and primarily as a tool for large enterprises and government organizations. But Case told us earlier this year that the startup fully intended to bring its tools to the masses via partnerships such as this one.

"Appcelerator has been a fantastic partner, with a very impressive set of tools,” Case said in a release today. “We are thrilled to be enabling their developer base with the power of next-generation location services for their applications and look forward to unleashing the power of the creative commons with powerful, easy-to-use location features.”

To date, Geoloqi has raised $350,000 and is seeking future rounds of funding to continue growing its offerings, client base, and partnerships. Current clients include government and security teams.

Image courtesy of rangizzz, Shutterstock

Filed under: dev, mobile

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Siri meets KITT: Nuance unveils in-car voice dictation platform Dragon Drive

Posted: 22 May 2012 08:58 AM PDT

With Dragon Drive, you can have your own Kitt from Knight Rider

As the rise in texting-related car accidents has shown, there’s a big demand for technology that allows drivers to be connected without distracting them from the road.

Nuance, makers of Dragon Naturally Speaking, may just have that solution. Its new Dragon Drive automotive platform offers drivers the ability to do anything from send text messages and get directions, to search for music and read newspaper articles — all while keeping their eyes on the road. Think of it as Siri on wheels.

The key component is Dragon Drive’s reliance on natural language technology, which allows users to interact with it in a simple, natural way. Say “I’m looking for a chop shop” or ask “What’s the quickest way to the the border” and Dragon Drive will respond naturally with directions.

“Dragon Drive understands what you mean,” Nuance said in a release.

Not new to the car or voice technology in general, Nuance’s products have had applications in fields as varied as construction and health care.

Last June, the company announced that it had acquired SVOX, an in-car voice solutions provider. A clear precursor to today’s news, the acquisition gave Nuance access to SVOX’s stable of  tech, much of which is behind Dragon Drive.

Watch the video below for a better idea of how Dragon Drive works.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Netflix founder can’t escape the rental industry, joins Getable’s board (exclusive)

Posted: 22 May 2012 08:30 AM PDT

Blazing Saddles

Netflix founder Marc Randolph is a self-proclaimed, “Rental Guy.” He is bent on bringing the rental industry into the 21st century and today is joining Getable‘s board — a company making tablet payments a reality for rentals.

“I do a fair amount of angel investing. It’s natural I see every “Netflix of” type business,” said Randolph in an interview with VentureBeat. “I’m pretty selective about where I spend my time, and I’m comfortable that [Getable] is a long-term thing.”

There are a number of companies bringing a part of the rental industry up to technology speed. Netflix did it for movie rentals, Zipcar does it for cars, Chegg does it for textbooks, but Getable wants to do it for all of the $85 billion industry.

At launch in 2009, Getable (then RentCycle) had created a website where rental stores across the Bay Area could list inventory and join the e-commerce era. It also set up an online shopping cart for individual rental websites, a software-as-a-service back-end inventory manager, and customer relationship manager. Then, in March the company introduced its payments processor for the physical rental store. Think, a niche Square, with an iPad app that lists the business’ inventory and a dongle to accept payments.

“I think [the payments system is] actually tremendously exciting because so little happens these days behind a cash register,” said Randolph (pictured right). “We think it will change the entire flow within the store.”

Marc RandolphToday, the company is beginning to deploy the tablet payment systems into an even more niche market: bike rentals in San Francisco. Getable is starting primarily with Blazing Saddles, a company anyone knows if they’ve walked by Fisherman’s Wharf and seen cycling tourists headed in packs toward the Golden Gate bridge. Starting small is, for Hyer, a very strategic business move. He hopes that being in a such a small market will help prove the concept. Randolph says this takes discipline to not jump out into the rest of the industry.

Companies are saying, “‘We are putting our store in your hands,’ and that’s why you need to focus in and really get it right,” Randolph said. “I think they’re actually being very, very smart on being focused and disciplined on saying, ‘Let’s focus on one geography and get it right in one category.’”

Of the stores Getable has tested its tablet payments system in, 50 percent of purchases have been completed through the tablet, and numbers are expected to increase by the summer.

Randolph, who joined the company as an advisor over a year ago is playing an instrumental role in keeping Getable on track. Hyer says he and the rest of Getable’s board, which include Chuck Templeton, the founder of OpenTable and Craig Shapiro, the founder of the Collaborative Fund, gel very well. Getable positions itself as the OpenTable for the rental industry. Chief executive Tim Hyer tapped OpenTable founder Chuck Templeton as one of his first board members in 2011 and made a relationship with Jeff Jordan, former chief executive of OpenTable and current partner at Andreessen-Horowitz. The venture firm soon went on to participate in Getable’s $1.4 million seed round last August, along with Collaborative Fund, PayPal’s Max Levchin and others.

Randolph says the four board members often meet with Jordan, and Hyer says Andreessen-Horowitz is, “as good as they sound.” As for Randolph, Hyer says he has been a “fantastic advistor,” and says Randolph’s time at Netflix is invaluable to Getable’s business.

Of course, Hyer told us that Randolph is concerned he’s going to become “Rental Guy,” as he is the founder of Netflix, invested in Getaround, and is on the board of BookRenter.

The Avengers are looking for a Rental Guy, right?

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Verizon’s Viewdini lets you watch Netflix, Comcast, & Hulu videos from a single app

Posted: 22 May 2012 08:13 AM PDT


Verizon is launching a new video search platform called Viewdini that will aggregate videos from a variety of different services for use on mobile devices, the company’s CEO Dan Mead said during a panel today at The Cable Show event.

Viewdini’s purpose is to make both finding and watching video on mobile devices easier, which is made possible through Verizon’s new LTE high-speed internet network, according to Mead. Verizon customers will be able to both search for available videos across multiple platforms as well as consume them using a Viewdini app.Verizon already has a partnership in place with Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Hulu Plus, mSpot, and Netflix, according to Cnet.

Also, Mead calls the Viewdini announcement “one of our most important of the year,” and explains that his company has been working on the platform for a few years, reports The Verge.

Essentially, Viewdini sounds very similar to what streaming video search app Matcha.tv is already doing. The only difference with Verizon’s new platform is that you’ll actually be able to watch those videos through one unified application, rather than being forced to use several different apps. That said, it has the potential to be huge.

As for whether this is actually the “most important” announcements of the year, we’ll have to wait and see. Personally, I’m not expecting anything great. The majority of media efforts like this by wireless companies fall short for one main reason: usually there is a third-party service that works as good, if not better. (Also, I’m not crazy about Verizon’s bastardization of Harry Houdini’s name for the purpose of launching this new platform either.)

The service’s first app should be available for Android devices later this month via Google Play. Verizon is showing off the Viewdini platform later today at The Cable Show floor. If Verizon releases a video of the demo, we’ll be sure and update the post.

Photo of Dan Mead by Sean Ludwig

Filed under: media, mobile

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SpaceX rocket blasts off, ‘new era’ of private spaceflight begins

Posted: 22 May 2012 08:09 AM PDT


After a failed launch Saturday, SpaceX successfully launched a private unmanned spaceship early this morning on a mission to the International Space Station.

SpaceX hopes replace now-retired American Space Shuttles with missions to space. Eventually the private company hopes to send humans into space, but it's starting by sending cargo to the ISS.

The company’s Falcon 9 rocket blasted off carrying a Dragon capsule at a 3:44 a.m. launch in Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA was enthusiastic about the launch and its prospects for the future.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden reportedly said in a speech at the launch site. “And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said his 1,800 employees at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. watched the launch and were ecstatic.

"We had most of the company gathered around SpaceX Mission Control,” Musk said in a statement. “They are seeing the fruits of their labor and wondering if it is going to work. There is so much hope riding on that rocket. When it worked, and Dragon worked, and the solar arrays deployed, people saw their handiwork in space operating as it should. There was tremendous elation. For us it is like winning the Super Bowl."

Watch the full video of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasting off below:

Photo credit: SpaceX

Filed under: VentureBeat

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iPhone 5 may get a taller (but not wider) 3.95-inch display

Posted: 22 May 2012 08:01 AM PDT

How exactly will Apple fit a larger screen into its next iPhone? If the latest rumor is true, it’s by making the display (and resolution) taller.

Apple is reportedly testing prototype phones with 3.95-inch displays, which are taller, but remain just as wide as the existing iPhone’s screen, 9to5Mac reports. By elongating the screen, the next iPhone could have a resolution much closer to the 16×9 movie format, which means it’ll be even easier to watch widescreen films.

The news follows reports from the Wall Street Journal and Reuters last week practically confirming a 4-inch display in the iPhone 5.

Writes 9to5Mac’s Chuck Remington: “Apple will not just increase the size of the display and leave the current resolution, but will actually be adding pixels to the display. The new iPhone display resolution will be 640 x 1136.  That's an extra 176 pixels longer of a display.”

With that resolution, the iPhone 5 (or whatever it’s called) should still be able to boast a Retina Display. The site’s sources also say that Apple is testing builds of iOS 6 that add a fifth row of icons to the iPhone’s home screen. Additionally, the next iPhone will reportedly spot the long-rumored smaller dock connector, which should open up more room for internal hardware. 9to5Mac describes it as “between the size of a Micro-USB and Mini-USB connector.”

iPhone 5 mockup via Niilo Autio

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Google finally closes Motorola deal, picks Dennis Woodside to run company

Posted: 22 May 2012 06:33 AM PDT


Google has finally closed its much-talked-about $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Google CEO Larry Page announced today on the company’s blog.

“I’m excited to announce today that our Motorola Mobility deal has closed,” Page wrote. “Motorola is a great American tech company that has driven the mobile revolution, with a track record of over 80 years of innovation, including the creation of the first cell phone. We all remember Motorola's StarTAC, which at the time seemed tiny and showed the real potential of these devices. And as a company who made a big, early bet on Android, Motorola has become an incredibly valuable partner to Google.”

As previously rumored, Google Senior VP Dennis Woodside (pictured) has been selected to become the next CEO of Motorola Mobility, replacing long-time CEO Sanjay Jha. Woodside started at Google in October 2003 as Director of Business Operations. He has also held the role Managing Director of Emerging Markets, Managing Director and VP of Google UK, and President of Google Americas.

“I've known Dennis for nearly a decade, and he's been phenomenal at building teams and delivering on some of Google's biggest bets,” Page wrote. “One of his first jobs at Google was to put on his backpack and build our businesses across the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. More recently he helped increase our revenue in the U.S. from $10.8 billion to $17.5 billion in under three years as President of the Americas region. Dennis has always been a committed partner to our customers and I know he will be an outstanding leader of Motorola.”

We knew that the Motorola deal would close soon because Chinese antitrust authorities approved the deal Saturday. In February, both European Commission and U.S. Department of Justice cleared the deal, even though there were concerns that Motorola could be given unfair advantage when it came to the popular Android mobile OS that is developed by Google and embedded in Motorola phones and tablets.

Page’s announcement of the deal closing does not say anything about possible layoffs or how Google might reform Motorola. A Google spokesperson deflected questions we had about Motorola’s strategy going forward, saying via e-mail:

“Mobile is a huge opportunity for Google and Motorola Mobility. The world is going through a once-in-a-generation shift to mobile computing – and there are 800M smartphones in the world now, but there are 6B mobile devices in total – all of which will get smart.”

“Motorola Mobility will have a simpler, more focused strategy and focus on fewer, bigger launches.”

Filed under: deals, mobile, VentureBeat

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Olympic athletes pepper Foursquare with special tips and a new badge

Posted: 22 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

Building up to the summer games in London, the Olympics has partnered with Foursquare to bring fans and athletes closer together, almost literally.

The partnership means that fans will start to see a new badge connected to Olympics venues, as well as tips from Olympics athletes.

Visiting these venues — which include Olympic stadiums of the past, present, and future, as well as sports venues and training facilities — will net Foursquare users the new "Get Fit for Olympic Day" badge. Also, the International Olympics Committee will be giving one badge-holding Foursquare user a trip to see the games in London this summer.

The new Olympic Day badge represents a pulse as well as the River Thames’ zig-zagg route through London; it also reflects the signature colors of the Olympic rings.

The official Olympics Fourquare page will show users historical facts, including tidbits about Olympic stadiums and facilities. Soon, the page will also show locations where athletes have trained and places that have inspired them.

The IOC is making a concerted effort to bring the games fully into the social realm this year. Just a couple weeks ago, the Olympics launched a big social media hub to get fans engaged with the games and connected to athletes past and present.

“We wanted to do something fun and thank our fans who make an effort to stay fit by offering them a chance to win a trip to the Olympics,” said IOC social media chief Alex Huot.

Filed under: social

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Watch out GoPro: The Ion Air Pro is a lighter, more versatile action cam

Posted: 22 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

A new competitor has entered the action camera arena, and it just may dethrone the king of that market, GoPro’s Hero2 camera.

Ion Worldwide is today launching the Ion Air Pro, a camera for adrenaline junkies that’s lighter than the Hero2, waterproof without the need for a clunky external case, and capable of synchronizing media over Wi-Fi. The Ion Air Pro  can even output a livestream of video to other Ion Air users.

The camera is the brainchild of Giovanni Tomaselli, an industry veteran with decades of experience in the consumer camera market. After helping other companies launch cameras in the last few years, he told me that he was compelled to jump into the action camera business because he simply thought he could do it better.

The Ion Air Pro is also upgradeable with “Podz,” circular expansion modules that plug into the rear of the device and offer things like better battery life , an improved microphone, and more. With this expansion functionality, Ion can add even more upgrades to the camera down the line.

The camera comes in three bundles: the bare Ion Air Pro for $230, the Ion Air Pro Plus for $290 (which comes with CamLock bike and helmet attachments), and the Ion Air Pro Wi-Fi, which includes a Wi-Fi Podz. The Wi-Fi version of the camera can synchronize with Ion Air’s iOS app — Tomaselli showed it to me synching live with speeds around 3 megabits per second.

In addition to being lighter than the GoPro cameras, the Ion Air Pro is also more versatile: It can work up to 30 feet underwater without any additional case, sports a waterproof microphone, can be rotated into different orientations, and it’s even smart enough to flip the video if it ends up shooting upside down.

I’m not an experienced user with action cameras, but it’s clear that Tomaselli is on to something with the Ion Air Pro. I’ll be testing out one of the cameras this week, and will report back with more detailed impressions soon.

You can catch a glimpse of the Ion Air Pro in action below:

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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Trion’s Defiance is one story told in an online game and SyFy TV show (hands-on preview)

Posted: 22 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

Trion Worlds’ Defiance is one of the most ambitious transmedia projects, a story that stretches across multiple media, ever made. Debuting in April 2013, the online game world is being jointly developed in tandem with a science fiction TV show created by the SyFy entertainment network. We recently got a hands-on preview of the game where the creators described the depth of the story for the first time.

Trion is one of the most well-financed startups in gaming history, with one massively multiplayer online game world launched and several more in development. The company recently raised $85 million in equity financing and it has launched a third-party publishing platform for other MMOs.

The TV show and game are so intertwined that they share common characters who move from one media to the other. As an example, the main characters of the Defiance game cause some havoc in the futuristic city of San Francisco and they have to hightail it out of town. The TV series’ opening pilot shows the pair arriving in the remade city of St. Louis, where there is an uneasy truce between alien and human settlements.

I cannot express how excited we are after about four years of talking about the concept and developing an amazing game to be able to show it today,” said Lars Buttler, chief executive of Redwood City, Calif.-based Trion Worlds, at an event in Santa Monica, Calif. “What excites me is that it is not another sequel of a packaged-goods game. It is a revolutionary project.”

He added, “It’s a triple-A MMO shooter for the console and PC and a premium online game, a live world, and an epic TV show. In a world where people get excited about cow clickers and the fifth game in a series, Trion and SyFy are doing something that has never been done before.”

Dave Howell, president of the SyFy entertainment network, said, “We have been a top cable network for 15 years, and this is the biggest and most exciting project I have ever been involved in.”

The story of the game is epic. Seven alien races arrive on Earth because their own planet has been destroyed. Those aliens don’t get along, but their peaceful move to Earth turns hostile after a terrorist act. The attack destroys the alien “Ark” ships, which carry “terraforming” technology that is loosed upon the world. The terraforming technology destroys much of the human civilization, and a war ensues.

After decades of war, an uneasy piece ensues because two commanders — one human, one alien — defy their orders in order to prevent huge civilian deaths. As the story begins, humans and aliens live side by side in small towns on a terraformed Earth. The citizens seek to find and trade items of value, such as alien artifacts from the mother ship, dubbed the Ark.

The game combines a third-person action shooter with the persistence and scale of a massively multiplayer online game. Like Trion’s other game, Rift, Defiance will enable dynamic events, where the fabric of the game’s landscape can change during special events, such as an alien invasion of the human territory.

While the TV show is set in St. Louis, where the only recognizable structure is the famous arch, the game is set in San Francisco. The events in one town can affect what happens in the other. The story of the show and the game will influence each other and evolve over time. The artifacts, vehicles, weapons, fauna, and animal species are the same across the two media.

“The game and the TV show constantly reinforce each other,” said Mark Stern, president of content for SyFy. “It is a high stakes story of courage and survival, a sweeping action-adventure with intimacy and a character drama with heart.”

The SyFy network has recruited some big stars to be in the show, including Grant Bowler (Ugly Betty, True Blood); Julie Benz (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel); and Jaime Murray (Dexter, Spartacus).

Like in other MMOs, you can create your own custom character, dubbed an Ark Hunter because you hunt after artifacts from the Ark. You can interact with thousands of people at t he same time and level up as you fight enemies and earn rewards. You can get a bunch of weapons, armor, and special abilities over time. And you can go on missions, deal with emergencies such as surprise attacks, and explore the world.

As you arrive, your job is to establish law in a Wild West frontier town with different factions of humans and aliens. In the town, there is a new gold rush as prospectors seek the energy of the Ark. Both human architecture and alien designs exists side by side.

I was able to grab an all-terrain vehicle and drive around in the Marin Headlands, north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The game was still in an early state as I could collide with another ATV without getting damaged. I stopped at one point and began shooting a bunch of monster crabs that came charging at me in waves. Then I saw a directional icon on the screen that signified a dynamic event. I drove the ATV over there and saw a bunch of humans attacking a gigantic alien monster. We had to shoot the thing’s underarms until its arms fell off and then vanquish it for good. It was a high-adrenaline game, but it wasn’t a particularly riveting or emotional battle.

“We wanted to wait until we had something meaty to play,” said Nick Beliaeff (pictured above), head of development at Trion. “We’ve focused on having something fun to play and a good show to watch without compromising the quality of the other.”

The world of San Francisco is huge in its own right, and the game will expand to include other regions of the San Francisco Bay Area over time. If all goes as planned, the story will never end. Stern said shooting has begun for the two-hour TV pilot and “it is really coming together.” The team has worked on shows or movies such as Battlestar Galactica, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Sin city.

Check out our video interview with Nick Beliaeff of Trion below and our screenshot gallery.

The third-person shooter Defiance will debut on the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 in April 2013.

Filed under: games, media, VentureBeat

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YoYo Games unveils GameMaker: Studio for cross-platform development

Posted: 22 May 2012 06:00 AM PDT

YoYo Games has retrofitted an existing game engine to create GameMaker: Studio, a cross-platform development tool. It allows developers to create games easily and cheaply with a single programming code base. And they can publish the games to the web, Facebook, and native mobile formats such as iOS, Android and others.

Dundee, Scotland-based YoYo Games hopes to take advantage of the explosion in online, social, and mobile games by giving developers a way to quickly produce different versions of a game for all of the hot platforms without doubling or tripling their expenses. HandyGames, based in Germany, has agreed to license the new tool.

The company has historically targeted small independent developers and educators with GameMaker, a tool that has been around since 1999. But the new product is a cross-platform tool that could be appealing to larger development studios. YoYo Games estimates that it can lower the cost of publishing a game on a mobile platform to below $10,000 and the cost to develop one social game to under $50,000.

YoYo games has used GameMaker to produce its own games including They Need to be Fed, Simply Solitaire HD, and Karoshi. The company was formally created in 2007, after the startup acquired the rights to GameMaker from professor Mark Overmars. The GameMaker tools has been downloaded more than 10 million times.

YoYo Games has 20 employees. Rivals include Ansca Mobile (maker of Corona), Unity Technologies, Marmalade, PhoneGap and Zipline Games. YoYo Games says its tool requires no plug-ins and has a drag-and-drop interface and a powerful scripting language. The company has funding from Scottish Enterprise. The chief executive is Sandy Duncan, former vice president at Microsoft’s Xbox division in Europe.

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Google enters the content business: Machinima closes $35M round

Posted: 22 May 2012 05:24 AM PDT

Machinima set photo

Machinima has raised a fat $35 round of funding led by search engine giant Google, the company confirmed yesterday.

News of Machinima’s new funding first surfaced earlier this month. Google’s involvement marks the first time the company has spent money on the production of content. Previously, it had focused its money on attracting original programming for its YouTube or  promoting those programs across its network.

Machinima is one of the most popular YouTube partners. The production company focuses on making videos about video games and players, and it has done extremely well on YouTube. Its YouTube channel brings in over a billion video views per month (1.5 billion in March 2012). And while this new funding may seem like a great deal for Machinima, it make end up angering other YouTube partners that already feel like Machinima’s channels were getting preferential treatment on YouTube from Google.

The new capital will be used to expand its content, global sales operations, international expansion, grow its distribution, and more. In addition to Google, the round included participation from existing investors Redpoint Ventures and MK Capital. Founded in 2008, the Los Angeles, Calif.-based startup has raised a total of $49.6 million in funding to date.

Photo via Greg Aronowitz

Filed under: deals, games, media

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RocketFrog wants to revolutionize online gambling with real-world prizes

Posted: 22 May 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Online gaming company RocketFrog is on a mission to revitalize how people play in virtual casinos. RocketFrog CEO and founder Brett Calapp thinks the social gambling market is primed for expansion, especially after the U.S. Justice Department changed its stance on its legality last December. The company is one more startup in the hot market of social casino game companies.

“The majority of online casino players are recreational,” Calapp said in a statement. “They play to have fun with their friends, blow off some steam, and are thrilled at the prospect of real prize winnings. Most have been previously limited to winning nothing more than play chips and virtual badges which works great for traditional social gaming developers but leaves both players and marketers empty handed.”

RocketFrog’s mission is to take the traditional online casino interface and offer players the chance to win real-world items alongside in-game trinkets. Players compete for a variety of prizes including movie tickets, music, and food offers and for in-game gifts and achievements.

“We've created social tournaments where players can interact and compete to win real prizes against their friends; not just leaderboard points or status increases," said Calapp. "There's no better place to do that than Facebook because that's where your friends are at online. Who doesn't like beating their friends and winning a prize?"

RocketFrog runs several games including poker, blackjack, and slot tournaments that accommodate  hundreds of players. Its business model focuses on using these games as integrated ad space. A new company sponsors a game each day and the prizes relate back to the advertiser. So, if Taco Bell is paying for an ad, prizes might revolve around coupons and meal offers.

RocketFrog was founded in 2010 by Brett Calapp, Matthew Osborn, and Uri Kozai. Located in Los Angeles, RocketFrog is a 16 person team dedicated to blending social networking with online gambling. Tom Anderson, co-founder and former president of MySpace, joined the company’s advisory board in effort to help RocketFrog realize its vision for fully branded social game integration.

"Advertisers are always looking for something different, something that engages users and cuts through the noise. RocketFrog delivers,” said Anderson.”The entire game experience is branded by the daily advertiser and at the same time users get to play for with real world prizes.”

Offering tangible prizes to players is how RocketFrog hopes to compete with current social gambling rivals DoubleDown Casinos and Zynga’s Texas Hold ‘em.

“RocketFrog will expand our social gaming community to include many new players who could not fathom the idea of playing for nothing, but are ecstatic about the opportunity to play for gift cards from top brands, new albums from their favorite artists, or a ticket to the movies,” said Calapp.

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Plant a money tree in Farmville as Zynga and American Express launch new rewards program

Posted: 22 May 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Zynga announced today the launch of Zynga Serve Rewards, a new virtual game cash rewards program with a prepaid card that is co-branded with American Express and connected to the Serve digital wallet from the credit card company.

Customers will need to register for the Zynga Serve Rewards program to get a prepaid card in the mail, which they will need to fund via bank account, debit card, or cash. Once the Serve card is activated online or by phone, it can be used anywhere American Express cards are accepted for purchases.

Once registered with the rewards program, Farmville players will be able to plant a special “Money Tree” in their online farms, which will start to produce virtual awards, according to Jeff Karp, chief marketing and revenue officer at Zynga. The money tree will evolve or level up as players progress in the game with virtual items like colors, glow effects, butterflies and toucans. The virtual tree will also serve as a dashboard for the prepaid card service, said Karp, allowing players to check their rewards status in-game. The plan over the next year is to extend the virtual rewards for real life spending to other Zynga games as well, like CastleVille and CityVille.

At launch, only the first five purchases of $25 or more on the Zynga Serve Rewards card will earn Farm Cash rewards. The program is set to eventually provide rewards above the initial first five purchases of $25 or more.

"We’re excited to partner with American Express to invent new ways for people to experience Zynga play in more parts of their day," said Mark Pincus, chief executive and founder of Zynga. "Together we can add surprise and delight to every day shopping."


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DotLoop takes the physical paperwork out of the home-buying process, grabs funding

Posted: 22 May 2012 04:30 AM PDT

Dot Loop raises $7MBuying a house involves a slow process of sharing a lot of physical documents between several different people. Frustrated by this process, Austin Allison founded DotLoop, a startup that invites people to digital documents instead of sending them via email or fax. Tuesday, DotLoop announced a $7 million funding round.

Allison purchased his first home at the young age of 17 and found out quickly how much paperwork can complicate the process. I had a similar experience helping my mom buy a house a few years ago — paperwork was emailed, printed, signed, scanned, and emailed or faxed between at least three people. Trying to follow the paper trail would make anyone dizzy.

DotLoop tries to cut down on all physical paperwork by creating one space, called a loop, where people can collaborate on documents. Especially in the negotiation process, this cuts down on the time spent sending documents back and forth.

“A loop is a virtual workspace in real-time, [it's like] Google Docs but with more permissions and versioning,” said Allison in an interview with VentureBeat.

Real estate agents, loan officers, and home buyers can all access a document together to hammer out the details of the deal. Once everyone approves a contract or loan document, it can be printed, signed, and processed.

Document sharing is a popular feature seen in Google Docs and Zoho Writer, services used a lot in small businesses. DotLoop only serves the real estate industry and offers a secure place for sensitive document sharing. It plans to expand into other industries in the future.

“Our vision is bigger than real estate, [we want to] eliminate paperwork in all fields,” Allison noted.

With the funding, led by Trinity Ventures, DotLoop is launching a free version of its service for individual real estate agents. It’s been serving entire real estate firms until now. It is also moving west from its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio to open an office in San Francisco.

Raining paperwork image via Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, deals

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Salesforce goes real-time with IM and screensharing for the enterprise

Posted: 22 May 2012 02:00 AM PDT

Today, Salesforce is further beefing up its line of enterprise products with a new IM client and screensharing software.

The instant messaging comes via Chatter, Salesforce’s Facebook-like, Yammer-esque collaboration and task-management app. The IM client is cloud-based (so no need to download or install anything) and lets employees get down to business via one-on-one and group chats.

“People spend so much time setting up meetings,” said Salesforce SVP Kendall Collins in a phone call with VentureBeat. “You have all the people you work with in Chatter, and you’re kind of a single click away.”

The IM app lives inside Chatter, hanging out on the lower right corner of the screen, just like every other embedded IM program you’ve ever seen. It will be particularly familiar to users of Google Talk or Facebook Messenger, a fact that Collins makes no bones about.

“Facebook has shown the way,” he said. “Business apps are different, but not so different … In business, I just want to be able to ping people and ask them in-context things in the workplace every day.”

Users can also make lists for various teams or groups. For example, if Meghan, Heather, and I are working on a project called “Hazing the Intern,” I can set up a chat list and instantly draw my colleagues into a quick, no-fuss meeting.

Chat options appear in various places around Chatter, especially in the feed. Collins said relevance is key, so you’ll likely find chat options anywhere you’d see a task that might need real-time communication. For example, if Meghan posted a Hazing the Intern expense approval request in the feed, I could choose to chat with her directly about that request from that part of the interface.

“The most important thing was the context,” he said. “This is really tied into the core business.”

Chat features can also be built into other third-party apps that use Salesforce.

We asked whether end users, or “employees” as they’re known in the enterprise, would be willing to give up their current IM clients, but Collins said they don’t actually have to give anything up because they don’t have to actively adopt anything new.

“Everyone’s going to instantly have it,” he said. “They don’t have to download anything. It’s a ubiquitous, easy-to-use product. … People may have IM clients that they’re still using; for many customers, they’ll co-exist.”

And for leadership and management, Chatter IM solves the who’s-on-which-client problem. “Some of our customers are really anxious to move to this because they have some empoyees on one client and other employees on a second client,” said Collins. “They don’t have 100 percent coverage.”

Collins said the Chatter team is also spending a lot of time around archiving, discovery, and compliance. Prepare for Chatter IM compliance to launch right around Dreamforce.

As for screensharing, we’re sad to say that feature is coming as a limited pilot only starting in Q3 2012, and Collins couldn’t give us a general roll-out date. “We don’t have a target date; it’s really going to depend on the pilot,” he said. “We want to test it, get feedback, and continue to make it an amazing product.”

So far, much like the Chatter IM app, it’s comparable to other professional and consumer apps in its class, with an added focus on context. Screensharing is as simple as a drag-and-drop action inside Chatter IM.

Salesforce was founded in 1999 and went public in 2004. Currently, we’re told Chatter alone has 150,000 companies as clients.

Image courtesy of Andresr, Shutterstock

Filed under: cloud, enterprise

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Vidyo scores strategic partner in Juniper Networks, raises fifth round

Posted: 22 May 2012 12:01 AM PDT

Vidyo president, chief executive, and co-founder Ofer Shapiro
Source: Vidyo

Vidyo president, chief executive, and co-founder Ofer Shapiro

Video conferencing and telepresence company Vidyo has raised a new round of funding, the company’s fifth.

Vidyo enables video conferencing at 1080p HD quality and 60 frames per second, supporting up to nine people at once. People can access these conferences through a wide variety of platforms, including multi-screen telepresence rooms, ordinary video conferencing rooms, desktop PCs, and iOS and Android-based smartphones and tablets. It added support for the iPhone 4S in October, 2011.

It now claims more than 1,850 enterprise, healthcare, education, and government customers.

QuestMark Partners led the round, along with other existing investors: Menlo Ventures, Rho Ventures, Star Ventures, and Four Rivers Group. Additionally, Juniper Networks joined as a strategic partner, through its Junos Innovation Fund.

Vidyo did not disclose the amount of the investment, saying only that the company has raised $97 million to date. Since that’s the same total it boasted eight months ago after its $22.5 million fourth round, we can only assume that someone’s math is not adding up correctly, or the company is hiding the size of the round for its own reasons.

Vidyo says its pricing, from $40,000 and up for four screens at 720p HD quality, is lower than competing video conferencing products because it uses less bandwidth, delivering HD video at 500 kilobits per second per screen.

Juniper is a company that makes high-speed networking equipment. The fact that it is investing in Vidyo is evidence of the growing importance of top-layer services like videoconferencing to network providers. A partnership like this works because it allows one company to sell the equipment needed to provide lots of bandwidth, while another company delivers the equipment to soak up that bandwidth.

On the low end, Vidyo competes with Microsoft’s Skype as well as Apple’s Facetime, though both products are much lower resolution and support a more limited array of hardware. On the high end, it competes with video conferencing systems from Polycom, Cisco, LifeSize, and others.

Vidyo was founded in 2005 and is based in Hackensack, N.J.

Photo of Vidyo president, chief executive, and co-founder Ofer Shapiro courtesy Vidyo.

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Larry Page on Charlie Rose: “We’re still waiting” for Facebook to unlock user data

Posted: 21 May 2012 08:11 PM PDT

Google CEO Larry Page speaking on the Charlie Rose show, May 21, 2012

Google chief executive Larry Page appears on PBS show “Charlie Rose” this evening at 11 p.m. local time.

In the show, Page addresses a wide range of topics, starting with today’s surprising news that Chrome is now the most popular browser on the Internet. (“I’m really excited about that.”)

Check out a clip from the show below.

He also wishes Facebook well on its recent initial public offering, while more or less declining to comment on that company’s IPO methodology, which was a traditional, banker-driven IPO as opposed to the ostensibly more open reverse auction used by Google in 2004.

But it’s on the subject of cooperation with Facebook that Page really gets going.

“I think it’s been unfortunate that Facebook has been pretty closed with their data,” Page tells Rose.

By contrast, he says, Google generally stands on the side of openness. For instance, when you join Facebook, you can’t import your contact list from Google. Why not? Here’s Page’s take:

From a user’s perspective, you say … I’m joining Facebook. I want my contacts. In Google, we said, fine. You can get them from Google. And the issue we had is that then Facebook said, no, Google, you can’t do the reverse. And so we just said, well, users don’t understand what they’re doing. They’re putting data in, and they don’t understand they can’t take it out. So we said, well, we’ll only participate with people who have reciprocity. And we’re still waiting.

In other words, Google is willing to share its users’ contact information with Facebook, but only if Facebook is willing to do the reverse.

“You don’t want to be holding your users hostage,” Page says. “We think it’s important that you as users of Google can take your data, and take it out if you need to, or take it somewhere else.”

On other subjects, Page plays the typical, confident CEO. Regarding the company’s ongoing legal battle with Oracle over Java patents in Android, Page says “we feel pretty good about our position.” Regarding antitrust litigation, he’s happy to work with federal officials on “reasonable scrutiny,” given that Google is such a big company. And he’s really excited about those Google glasses.

Quotes courtesy of the “Charlie Rose” show. Click here to find local showings on PBS. The show will also be re-broadcast tomorrow on Bloomberg at 7pm and 10pm.

Image credit: Screenshot from the Charlie Rose show.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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Inventor of Google Voice now reinventing conference calls

Posted: 21 May 2012 07:48 PM PDT

Craig Walker, the inventor of both Google Voice and DialPad, is now reinventing conference calls with his latest venture, UberConference. Teleconferences notoriously suck, but UberConference thinks it’s fixed that, claiming to have created “the best conference calling service ever.”

The company has identified  four main problems with teleconferences. First, of course, there’s dealing with the conference number itself, and then the authentication PIN number. Then there’s the problem of determining who is on the call, and the related issue — particularly on conference calls with larger groups — of knowing who is speaking. And finally, there’s the noise that inevitably interrupts when too many people are on speakerphone, or are taking the call in a busy location.

UberConference allows teleconferencers to dial a number (no PIN required), see who is calling in, and determine who is currently talking. The organizer can instantly tell when one or more participants are causing feedback or noise, and mute them. The organizer can even cut select participants out of sections of the call (UberConference calls it “earmuffing”) if needed for confidentiality reasons.

A particularly helpful feature is the ability to click on a participant and see their social overview, taken from popular networks: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. That’s a feature I’ve wanted often enough on calls with participants from multiple divisions or companies.

Currently, UberConference is free, but in the future the company will “offer a premium version of the service with more features and different pricing options.” The interface is simple and gorgeous, although you wonder how well it would scale for very large conference calls.

Walker is a serial entrepreneur. After selling GrandCentral to Google in 2007 for around $50 million, turning that service into Google Voice, and then spending some time as entrepreneur-in-residence at Google Ventures, Walker left Google in mid-2011. He has not gone far, however; the incubator behind UberVoice, Firespotter Labs, is funded by Google Ventures.

GrandCentral was not Walker’s first internet telephony service, nor his first sale to an internet giant. Walker also ran DialPad in in the early 2000s, selling it to Yahoo in 2005. Obviously he can’t stay away from the telephony space.

Here’s a humorous look at the rational behind UberConference:

And, a more sober overview of the service itself:

Photo credit: Barnaby Kerr Photography

Filed under: cloud, social, VentureBeat

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Motorola’s DreamGallery aims to eliminate crappy TV user interfaces

Posted: 21 May 2012 05:34 PM PDT


Sadly, a great number of television sets are currently suffering from bad user interfaces, which is something Motorola plans to change.

At The Cable Show industry event in Boston today, the company showed off its DreamGallery media concept that’s powered by Motorola’s Medios cloud service. Essentially, it’s a pretty way to navigate and share stuff on your television set in a way that currently isn’t possible — assuming that all future televisions will have internet connectivity.

DreamGallery focuses on making the television a cross-platform media center that works between computers/web browser, tablets, and smartphones. It will also serve to aggregate all the content from cable TV services, the internet, and Video-on-demand services (like Neflix), into a single location.

Motorola describes the DreamGallery with edgy catch phrases like “Your media your way” in its demo video, which we’ve embedded below.

The only thing that Motorola didn’t mention? What will end up happening to DreamGallery when Google swallows the company? I say this because Google kind of already has a division in place working on the future of television with its Android-based GoogleTV platform. (Maybe you’ve heard of it?)

Let us know what you think of the video in the comments section.

Filed under: cloud, media

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Funding daily: Safely use a Wi-Fi hotspot to buy your house something pretty

Posted: 21 May 2012 05:07 PM PDT

Happy Monday funding news, aficionados! Check out who got funded today — and don’t forget to click the links in each paragraph for more details.

Note: This is just an end-of-day roundup of the funding news. For more up-to-date deal flow, you can visit our Deals channel, where we post the latest funding news as quickly as we get it, or by adding the Deals Channel feed link to your favorite reader. And as always, send funding news our way at tips@venturebeat.com.

Xfire connects you with other hardcore gamers

Xfire, a social network for gamers, has raised $3 million in funding. The company connects gamers together to share videos, screenshots, and gaming prowess. IDM Venture Capital led the round, which will be used to expand the company into Asian gaming markets. Read more on VentureBeat: Gaming social network Xfire gets funding

Video on-demand gets a big round funding

Avail-TVN, a Video serving company, just closed a $100 million funding round. Avail-TVN specializes in providing on-demand video for cable networks. Carlyle Group led the $100 million round, which will be used to acquire UK-based On Demand Group. Read more on VentureBeat: On-demand video provider Avail-TVN grabs $100M investment

AnchorFree will keep you safe on public networks, won’t peek at your browsing habits

AnchorFree has raised a whopping $52 million third round led by Goldman Sachs. AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield works by routing your web traffic through its own secure data centers. That makes your web browsing private, encrypted, and it also strips out and blocks malware sites. Read more on VentureBeat: Hotspot Shield maker AnchorFree lands $52M to protect you from the horrors of web browsing

Urbanara gets funding for its luxury goods

Urbanara raised €3.5 million in funding today. The German-based company is an online retailer of home goods and luxury textiles, sold directly from the people who make them. TA Venture led the round, with participation from Blumberg Capital and Brain-to-Ventures.

Women at coffee shop with laptop image via Shutterstock

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Entrepreneur “student fair on steroids” brings heavy hitter VCs to Stanford

Posted: 21 May 2012 04:11 PM PDT

BASES event StanfordSilicon Valley's brightest young minds will vie for $150,000 in rewards as part of a full-day entrepreneurial challenge at Stanford University this Tuesday.

The Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES), the student-run organization behind the event, has birthed a number of successful companies in its fifteen-year history, notably Kiva, CourseRank and Togetherville. BASES is a hotbed of social entrepreneurship, which is the practice of using business and business process to drive social or environmental change.

BASES events are typically well-attended by entrepreneurs and investors in search of the next big idea. This year saw an upswing in international interest with 1,000 applications pouring in from around the world. The event is supported by the who’s who of Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms, including Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

“We see the BASES Finale as a mecca for entrepreneurship, bringing together the best of Stanford with the best of the valley celebrating the next generation of entrepreneurs," said Kevin Xu, Chief Branding Officer of the BASES Finale.

Described by organizers as a "student fair on steroids", the BASES finale is split into four funding competitions: the E-Challenge, Social E-Challenge, Product Showcase and Forge Program. The winners will be announced starting at 5pm, following a keynote speech from Sequoia's Alfred Lin.

“Stanford is one of the most entrepreneurial universities in the world and BASES is at its epicenter. Many of the most important technology companies were born out of Stanford — including Cisco, Google, Network Appliance, NVIDIA, PayPal, and Yahoo,” said Lin, the former COO/ CFO of Zappos. “We look forward to partnering with many more of them in the years ahead.”

The event takes place from 10:00AM to 7:00PM at the Arrilaga Alumni Center. To view the agenda, click here. To register and secure a free ticket, go to 150kfinale.eventbrite.com.

Stanford campus image via ShutterStock

Filed under: Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

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Stephen Colbert helps Reddit organize gift exchange for U.S. troops

Posted: 21 May 2012 03:31 PM PDT

Reddit Gifts participant Stephen Colbert

Community news sharing site Reddit has decided to turn its attentions to the men and women of the armed forces by kicking off a brand new gift exchange today.

Ever the patriot, The Colbert Report’s Stephen Colbert (pictured) was among the first to sign up for the new gift giving program.

The new gift exchange is being orchestrated by the Reddit Gifts team, which Reddit acquired for an undisclosed amount in August 2011. Reddit Gifts is probably best known for its efforts in creating the largest Secret Santa exchange to date, but it’s also focused on smaller communities like craft making, book exchanges, and a random “arbitrary” summer exchange.

“The challenge we’re trying to figure out with this (exchange) is, how do we get a connection between these two people?,” Reddit Gifts Manager Dan McComas said in an interview with VentureBeat. “With the existing care-package charities, you’re essentially sending something into a black hole and assuming they’re going to get it.

“We need to do things to help these people’s morale, and a 1-one-1 connection might be the best way to do that,” he said.

The troops gift exchange is much different. Reddit users that are currently serving are asked to sign up on the Reddit Gifts’ site, where they can list shipping details as well as a few things they’d like and some things they definitely don’t want. The site is also asking them to talk a little bit about their service, e.g. how long they’ve served, and what’s been difficult to deal with about it.

Meanwhile, other Reddit users wishing to participate in the exchange can sign up (if they haven’t already) to get matched up with one of the soldiers. Ultimately, the Reddit user is the one who decides what to buy, using the list provided by the soldier as well as a quick scan of that soldier’s Reddit profile activity (if it’s listed).

McComas also pointed out that this particular exchange isn’t exclusive to soldiers in the U.S. armed forces.

“Obviously, the majority of soldiers signing up will be from the U.S., and that’s the easiest to tackle in terms of setting up,” McComas said. “But all soldiers who are currently serving are eligible.”

The gift exchange begins today and will accept new signups through June 18, with gifts going out no later than July 9.

Check out an introduction video to the new gift exchange from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian below.

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Stitch Labs integrates with BigCommerce to help small sellers track their stuff

Posted: 21 May 2012 02:35 PM PDT

Inventory management company Stitch Labs now integrates with shopping cart service BigCommerce

Inventory management is a boring term for what is actually the central question of any small business: How much stuff do I have left to sell, and where the @$%& is it?

Stitch Labs, an inventory management tool for small businesses like crafters and T-shirt printers, now integrates with BigCommerce, an e-commerce system for selling stuff, making it easier to answer that critical question.

What that means is that if you sell your goods through BigCommerce (which lets you list items for sale on Etsy as well as Facebook, the web, and mobile devices), whenever an order comes in, it will automatically show up in the Stitch dashboard, updating your inventory counts.

The integration works in multiple directions, so if you’re selling on Etsy and BigCommerce, an order placed on Etsy will also be reflected in your BigCommerce console as well as in Stitch.

BigCommerce powers 25,000 storefronts, so this adds a good number of potential customers to Stitch’s audience. The company had already completed an earlier integration with Shopify, and Stitch launched in November, 2011 with support for Etsy sellers.

Stitch was founded in 2011 and is based in San Francisco, California. It raised a $1 million seed round from True Ventures in February, 2012. See below for a couple of screenshots illustrating what it looks like.

Stitch Labs' dashboard shows inventory levels, past due orders, and the like

Stitch Labs produces graphs to show inventory and sales

Announcement from Stitch Labs: Stitch now integrates with BigCommerce

Photo: Shopping carts by code poet/Flickr

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Google ponies up $10M for fraud case patents

Posted: 21 May 2012 02:18 PM PDT

Patents may not always rise to the top of tech news, but major companies are gobbling them up every chance they get.

That’s exactly what Google just did with a $10 million IP purchase from the now out-of-business TeraHop, a Georgia-based company that offered wireless asset management solutions, such as managing and tracking locations of inventory, vehicles, personnel, and equipment without using up wireless data plans.

The IP included a massive patent portfolio, according to Geekwire. The patents appear to focus on radio frequencies and other wireless solutions, which can be used for a variety of monitoring or data-collection needs.

For example, one patent involves visually capturing the contents of shipping containers. Another patent is for an antenna used within a container. A complete list of the patents can be found via public records.

The controversy surrounding the patents stems from a Seattle-based investor named Mark Spangler, who allegedly funneled some $46 million into two companies he held interests in, including TeraHop. Spangler was indicted last week on 23 cases of fraud and money laundering.

Google is said to have secured 115 patents in total, and it looks like that might have been the company’s entire portfolio as the still-active website reads, “To date, 30+ patents have been granted to our team, and 85+ additional patent applications have been submitted.”

Image courtesy of Joseph, Shutterstock

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Spotify brings its streaming music nirvana to Australia and New Zealand

Posted: 21 May 2012 02:00 PM PDT

Spotify Family Plans

Streaming music startup Spotify has launched in Australia and New Zealand, which brings the service to 15 total countries, the company announced today.

As the company expands to new territories, we’ve heard it is seeking a new mega-round of funding that could more than triple its current valuation. The new funding could end up being as high as $220 million, pushing the music startup's valuation up to $4 billion. Because music licensing is quite costly, Spotify hopes to cut major losses over time by bringing more paid users into the fold.

Spotify has more than 3 million paying subscribers globally, but with additional countries, it hopes to continue growing that number. The company offers a catalog of more than 16 million tracks and lets users access a limited amount music for free with advertising or listen to unlimited amounts of streaming music for a fee.

Recently, the company finally brought its streaming music experience to Apple’s iPad. Competitors Rdio and MOG also have iPad apps.

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Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz steps back due to illness

Posted: 21 May 2012 01:09 PM PDT

Long-time venture capitalist Michael Moritz, a key partner in one of Silicon Valley’s biggest VC firms, Sequoia Capital, is stepping back from his management role because of an incurable, rare medical condition. He announced the news to fellow investors in an email today.

“Because he’ll remain deeply involved in Sequoia, we don’t think much will change,” said Andrew Kovacs, head of communications at Sequoia, in an interview with VentureBeat. ”For the last sixteen years he's been coordinating day-to-day practices with Doug Leone, which include IT, real estate, and compliance. Doug Leone will take on those duties full-time, and Michael will spend more time focused on young founders.”

Michael Mortiz

Moritz will no longer oversee regulatory compliance and recruiting practices, but will take more of a mentor role for younger partners at Sequoia. He will continue to manage the funds he’s been a part of, and will take a role as chairman of the firm. He’ll also have his hands in new startup investments.

The investor started his career in journalism, writing for Time Magazine. While there he published The Little Kingdom: the Private Story of Apple Computer,” a book about the beginning of Apple Computers. He left his job at Time to work at Sequoia in 1986.

In his time at Sequoia, he’s invested in Google, Yahoo, PayPal, Kayak, and LinkedIn. He sat on the board at Google from 1999 to 2007 and coaxed Larry Page and Sergey Brin to hire a more mature chief executive, Eric Schmidt.

Moritz was more of an old-school venture capitalist and his announcement comes at time when the VC industry is changing. In the late 90s and 2000s, Moritz was a heavy-hitter in the investment world. Since 2004 and the rise of technology blogs, investing has shifted to favor more transparency between startups and investors. This has given rise to angel investor success stories and startups finding new ways to raise capital.

Doug Leone will take on many of Moritz’s responsibilities at the company. The full email Moritz sent to Sequoia staff is below.

Dear …,

We have always tried to be straightforward with you and, in that spirt, I need to share something. Unfortunately, I have been diagnosed with a rare medical condition which can be managed but is incurable.  I’ve been told that in the next five to ten years the quality of my life is quite likely to decline.  Right now I feel fitter than ever and I hope that I’ll be one of the lucky ones who can live a full life and defy the statisticians.  But there is no way of predicting this with certainty and thus for me, life has assumed a different meaning and I am making some adjustments.

I am going to extract myself from the daily management of Sequoia Capital, a task that has consumed a large part of my time for the past sixteen years.  I will become Chairman of Sequoia Capital and will be deeply involved with nurturing the fresh investments, ideas and relationships that can be of significant long-term benefit for all of us.  I will also work very closely with some of our younger and newer members, will continue my role as Managing Member of existing funds and maintain all my current company responsibilities.  I will use twelve to fourteen weeks – sprinkled throughout the course of each year – for various pursuits, diversions and trivial indulgences.

Nothing about this should cause much of a change because everything that has been achieved at Sequoia Capital has resulted from the teamwork and contribution of many people.   Our overall business is in the best shape it has ever been and we are better positioned than at any time in our forty year history.  Doug Leone will assume full responsibility for coordinating the business we have gradually developed over the past couple of decades and almost everything else remains entirely the same.

Thanks for your support,

Michael Moritz

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Google gives Cornell’s NYC tech school free space in its headquarters

Posted: 21 May 2012 12:05 PM PDT

Google is donating 22,000 square feet of its New York City office to CornellNYC Tech for classes and other uses, Mayor Bloomberg and Google announced today. The science and engineering school won the bid to become a Stanford of the East back in December, and this partnership with one of the largest and most influential tech companies gives it a running start.

The first phase of construction on Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s $2 billion New York City campus won’t be completed until 2012, and the full Roosevelt Island campus (pictured above) won’t be ready for 30 years. But the school isn’t just twiddling its thumbs until then — classes are scheduled to start this year.

The city of New York is blowing up as new tech center, drawing talent and big companies which could help it compete with Silicon Valley. CornellNYC Tech will aim to encourage innovation in its classes and programs, as well as keep the talent it churns out local after they graduate with resources for startups, including legal advice, competitions, and pre-seed financing for research. Startups that go on to stay in the city for at least three years will have access to the school’s $150 million startup fund.

“The key is engagement between world class academics, companies and early-stage investors to catalyze innovation,” Cornell’s President David J. Skorton said in a statement. “That's what we'll be creating on Roosevelt Island, and thanks to Google it's what will be happening here starting this fall."

Google is donating the space free of charge for the next 5 years and 6 months, or until the first phase of construction on Roosevelt Island is completed. The school will also be able to grow over time, expanding into 58,000 square feet of Google space over the next five years.

Image of proposed Roosevelt Island campus by Skidmore Owings & Merrill

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Google’s Motorola buy closing this week, layoffs likely coming (report)

Posted: 21 May 2012 11:19 AM PDT


Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility will finally close this week and some of Moto’s staff could be axed in the process, according to a TechCrunch report.

Chinese antitrust authorities approved the $12.5 billion deal Saturday, clearing the final hurdle for the deal to go through. In February, both European Commission and U.S. Department of Justice cleared the deal, even though there were apparent concerns that Motorola could be given unfair advantage when it came to the popular Android mobile operating system that is developed by Google and embedded in Motorola phones and tablets.

Now the Motorola deal will finally (for real this time!) close in the next two business days, according to an 8-K form filed by Motorola. The company’s statement does not mention layoffs, but Google has laid off staffers from big companies it has acquired before, including DoubleClick, as noted by TechCrunch’s report.

When the deal does close later this week and Google decides to talk more about how it will fold Moto in, we will let you know. Stay tuned.

Original photo: Simon Law/Flickr

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Nasdaq responds to upset Facebook investors with a chunk of cash

Posted: 21 May 2012 11:15 AM PDT

Facebook appears on the NASDAQ's big New York billboard.One day after admitting it screwed up, Nasdaq is planning to make things right with investors who lost money over trading glitches during the Facebook IPO. Nasdaq is planning to spend $13 million to make amends for bad trades that weren’t processed, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Nasdaq took a lot of heat for computer problems that negatively affected the Facebook IPO. Trading didn’t start on Friday May 18 until 11:30 am EDT, because the computers that run the Nasdaq couldn’t process the large volume of trades.

Nasdaq chief exec Robert Greifeld told reporters Sunday that the exchange was at fault for trading problems during the IPO. The computer system backup led to traders not know if their orders went through for hours and many times, they found out too late that shares weren’t available at the price they wanted. Greifeld also said Sunday that the Nasdaq wasn’t responsible for any losses that happened due to computer errors. Now it seems the exchange is changing its tune.

Thirteen million might not be enough to fix the situation though. It’s estimated that investment firms lost $100 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Because it would take a long time to investigate each loss recorded by every investor, Nasdaq is hoping to make amends now and put this mess behind it.

Of the $13 million, $10 million will come from proceeds Nasdaq earned when it acquired and sold Facebook shares while trying to work out computer delays and glitches. Security exchange rules mandate that Nasdaq can only pay out $3 million in one calendar month. The SEC will have to approve the decision before it can move forward with its plan.

Filed under: VentureBeat

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