- Former Polaris Venture Partner Michael Hirshland Debuts New Seed Fund: Resolute.VC
- ThingLink Launches Service For Third Party Apps To Tag Anything With Rich Media
- Four Stopgap Apps That Almost Fix Google TV 2.0 (And One Bonus App)
- TigerDirect Jumps On Bundle Bandwagon With $279 TouchPad Deal
- WhiteyPaint Turns Walls Into Whiteboards Without Cramping Your Wallpaper’s Style
- Groupon IPO Shares Pop 40% On First Trade, Debuts At $28 With A $17.8B Market Cap
- 2houses Makes Co-Parenting Easier
- The O’Sullivan Foundation Grants $5M To Online Learning Platform Khan Academy
- Video: This 3D Display Uses Multiple Lenses To Boost Sense Of Depth Perception
- IBM: Mobile Retail Traffic Will More Than Double This Holiday Season
- Samsung Focus Flash Review: High-End Feel At A Low Price
- Hands-On With The Samsung Focus S For AT&T
- Accel Leads $30M Round In Flash Sales Site For Wine And Gourmet Food Lot18
- Mobile Ad Serving Startup MADS Raises €1 Million Series B
- Video: Japan Gets Robotic Guide Dog
- The Past, Present And Future Of Connectivity: A Must-See Mini Film
- WooMe Acquired By Zoosk In Apparent Firesale
- DragonWave Buys Part Of Nokia Siemens Networks, Gains 360 Employees
- Groupon Vs. Zynga: Which Company Will Be More Valuable Post-IPO?
- 100Plus Raises $500K From Founders Fund And Peter Thiel To Predict Your Health
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 08:59 AM PDT
As we heard in September, VC Michael Hirshland (a.k.a. @VCMike) announced he was leaving Polaris Venture Partners, where he was a general partner, to start his own seed fund. Today, Hirshland is debuting his new fund—Resolute.vc.
Hirshland announces on his blog, I'm thrilled to announce that my new firm, resolute.vc, is incorporated, open for business, and has a live website — the name is the url. Please come learn about us! Much, much more to come.
It’s unclear how large the fund is in total, but Resolute.vc will invest as little as $50,000 and as much as $750,000 in a company's initial financing. According to the Resolute.vc’s site, the fund prefers being a lead investor in rounds and dislikes ‘"headless" seed rounds that lack a lead investor.’
As an early stage investor at Polaris Venture Partners, Hirshland led investments in Automattic (WordPress), Quantcast, Q1 Labs (acquired by IBM), Six Waves/Lolapps, KISSMetrics, Formspring, BlackArrow, Thing Labs (acquired by AOL) and Mail Bypass. Hirshland also conceived and led the San Francisco launch of Dogpatch Labs.
The fund’s entrepreneur advisory board includes Adam Bain, Ethan Beard, Keith Rabois, Ellen Levy, Tom Conrad, Jason Harinstein, Dave Goldberg, Dave Kenny, Neil Mohan, Matt Mullenweg, Chamath Palihapitiya, Kevin Rose, Nirav Tolia, Hunter Walk and Ryan Sarver.
Obviously this is just the beginning for Resolute.vc. Stay tuned.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 08:31 AM PDT
Back in June image tagging startup ThingLink launched launched Rich Media Tags for publishers, allowing anyone to interact with an image tag which might be embedded music, video, words, pictures and tags for people. But this is still a product aimed at publishers. The real power to come from image tagging is going to be setting it free. Thus today it’s launching a rich media tag creator enabling app developers to build custom ThingLink-powered applications.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 08:29 AM PDT
Google TV 2.0 launched earlier this week, finally bringing Android Market to the living room platform. But Google TV still isn’t perfect. For better or worse, the product’s dependence on apps allows 3rd party developers to stand up and fill the voids.
Hopefully Google TV will one day feature a rich app ecosystem filled with fun and glorious apps. That’s not today. Most of the launch apps are random Android apps, from LauncherPro to Twitter. Sideloading is allowed but it’s hit or miss. Some apps work, most do not. The five apps after the break mostly fill out Google TV’s features although one of them is included because of a fun drinking game.
Google TV is missing a solid local network media player. It natively supports DLNA servers, but I loath DLNA servers. They’re resource intensive requiring on-the-fly transcoding and often support just a limited amount of file types. Google TV needs the ability to browse a local network as an SMB client and play content remotely. That’s what most local network streamers have done it for years. But not Google TV.
Plex approaches local media in a similar fashion as DLNA servers. A server-side app is still required but it supports all the major file types including those wrapped in MKV containers. There’s a good chance Plex can play all your files. The app also features a swanky music and photos mode. One of the major downsides to Plex comes back to the server app, though. It requires a Core 2 Duo or better CPU, meaning most older file servers or network-attached storage devices are left out of play.
Still, Plex is a wonderful app and greatly increases the functions of Google TV. It looks great, runs smooth and as long as your files are stored on a compatible device, the app is a smart $5 purchase. Not only does it stream local media like a champ, but it provides access to Spotify, Viemo, and tons of other sources. I can’t recommend Plex enough, really.
Whenever I state that Hulu and others are blocked on Google TV, commenters always point me towards PlayOn. For the most part they’re right; PlayOn does provide all those services. However, I’m not a fan of the app. It’s built around a sloppy DLNA server, ugly in operation and worse yet, PlayOn is expensive. The server app costs $5 a month, $40 a year, or $80 through a one-time payment.
PlayOn serves an impressive amount of content though a backdoor. The app streams nearly every major streaming source including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, ESPN, CBS and many more. This is accomplished using a DLNA server. Users input their username and password on the server app and then the streams are made available through the local network to a DLNA client or web browser, effectively bypassing any blockage on Google TV. It works, but not elegantly. There’s luckily a free trial so you can give it a go without handing over your credit card.
If you want to dig deep into Google TV, you’re going to need a file manager. I found File Expert by accident but it seems to work great. It supports local network browsing so you can drop APKs and the like in a local network share for easy installation. The app even allows for easy app uninstalling. There are plenty of file managers out there but this one is free and seems to do a fine job.
Sideloading apps to Google TV is currently a fool’s affair. Most apps not found in Google TV’s Android Market force close immediately after they’re launched. But my little warning probably won’t stop you. You’re going to try it yourself and see that Angry Birds doesn’t work yet.
Alternatively, sideloading can be done through Dropbox. Installation is a bit wonky as the app throws several errors during installation but it eventually loaded for me. As more users try to exploit Google TV, Dropbox is an easy way to access remote files and install apps. Simply drop APKs into one of the shared folders and pull it up on Google TV. Easy.
However, don’t expect to read PDF files or Word documents without the right app installed on your Google TV. Even MP3s do not work without additional software installed.
AOL actually has a solid portfolio of video content. Translogic? Awesome. But TCTV’s Fly or Die featuring Erick and John is tops. It’s so good that it has an official drinking game and Google TV is the perfect device to play along.
Here it is:
Did I miss any? Drop your suggestions in the comments below.
[image via Wired]
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 07:54 AM PDT
Yep, people looking to score a TouchPad on the cheap may need to look elsewhere (good luck, by the way). There always seems to be a catch when it comes to TouchPad deals, and TigerDirect is more than happy to oblige.
For $279, you get not only a 32GB TouchPad, but a Belkin tablet case, a Belkin FlipBlade tablet stand, and a pair of Creative Lab D80 Bluetooth speakers. Oh, and who could forget the 16GB HP flash drive TigerDirect is throwing in just to sweeten the deal?
Whether or not all that extra swag is worth an extra $130 is entirely up to you, but the bundle seems much easier to stomach than Best Buy’s PC purchasing ploy. Personally, it doesn’t seem like such a bad deal — just write up a list of people you begrudgingly have to buy holiday gifts for, and divvy up the accessories accordingly. Or hell, jump on Craigslist after the fact and flip those goodies for a profit.
TigerDirect will open the floodgates on TouchPad bundles today at 2:30PM Eastern, so those of you yearning for one final taste of webOS had best be ready to go by then.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 07:54 AM PDT
The folks over at WhiteyBoard seem to have a solution: WhiteyPaint. As WhiteyPaint’s motto so clearly points out, “you’re useless without it.” While the verdict’s still out on that one, it does seem like a pretty nifty little product. It’s basically a quick-drying translucent paint that you can write on with whiteboard markers, and according to the maker, it erases well too.
WhiteyPaint can be used both indoors and outdoors, and on just about any surface you can find. Rather than laying a patch of white down over your wall paper or wooden table, WhiteyPaint will simply leave a glossy finish to those surfaces, ready to write on in just half a day. Most other paint solutions take about three days, while WhiteyPaint is ready to go in 12 hours, after just three coats.
30 square feet of paint will get set you back $75, but that’s basically a steal compared with competing products. The white board paint from WhiteyBoard is available now.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 07:47 AM PDT
After some timing drama, daily deal site Groupon finally has begun trading on the NASDAQ this morning, in the most hotly anticipated and largest Internet company IPO since Google. The company — which trades under the ticker $GRPN — priced its shares at $20 last night, but began trading at $28, an increase of 40%.
Like LinkedIn, Groupon is only floating a small amount of shares, 35 million – about 5.5% of its 637.3 million shares outstanding. The first trade would pin its market cap at 17.8 billion, with a 980 million raise.
Groupon filed its S-1 in early June and since has a had a bumpy road to today’s IPO, with negative press coverage (including) and reports of drastically decreased pricing plaguing the three-year old company.
Its revenues on its S-1 for 2010 were adjusted from $713 million to $313 million due to errors in reporting. Its total revenues for the first half of 2011 were reduced from $1.5 billion to $688 million due to the same adjustment. The company turned down a $6 billion offer from Google late last year.
The company lost $420 million last year and $117.1 million in the first quarter of 2011 mainly due to expansion and marketing costs — a fact that does not go unnoticed by potential investors and armchair Twitter pundits many of whom could not resist the “sign of a bubble/apocalypse” talk or lame deal jokes this morning.
It’ll be interesting to observe the stock’s performance today, to say the least.
Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 565 cities around the world. By promising businesses a minimum number of customers, Groupon can offer deals that aren’t available elsewhere. Groupon brings buyers and sellers together in a fun and collaborative way that offers the consumer an unbeatable deal, and businesses a large number of new customers. To date, it has saved consumers more than $300 million and claims it...
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 06:56 AM PDT
Today, 2houses launches in public beta, offering separated or divorced parents a set of digital tools to easily communicate about and make arrangements with regards to their children.
This is obviously a large – and, in my opinion, unfortunately a growing – market to tap, and what I like about 2houses is that the founder is a divorced parent himself and started the company to scratch his own itch.
I also dig the company name and logo, though that’s obviously personal.
Parents who are no longer married, living together or romantically involved, can use 2houses to organize child custody, share reports about school and medical information, and track expenses.
And let’s face it. Often, split families will avoid a lot of personal tension, stress, discussions and all-out fights when they can communicate online on a neutral platform rather than talking face-to-face or over the phone – or using the kids as messengers.
With a Web platform, 2houses aims to basically make things a lot smoother for everyone involved, including the children. You can find some screenshots below – mobile apps are the next step.
And if you’re still happily together with your significant other, you can use 2houses’ Facebook app to calculate when you’ll be separating.
While in beta, 2houses will remain free of charge to allow separated and divorced parents to test the service and share their feedback with the founders. When the full version is released – likely in February 2012 – the monthly fee will amount to 6 euros per month (with a free 2-month trial period).
2houses was founded in Belgium in May 2011, by CEO Gill Ruidant. The startup graduated from Brussels Founder Institute, and also won first place at the Spring 2011 Brussels Semester.
Full disclosure: I was a Founder Institute Brussels mentor that semester, which means I’m indirectly a minor shareholder of all graduates, including 2houses.
2houses.com is an online communication, scheduling and reporting tool for separated or divorced parents with respect to their children. 2houses.com offers: a shared calendar with the parenting schedule and any special event or appointment an expense module allowing for efficient tracking and balancing of the expenses a journal in which parents can add quick notes like the feedback of a teacher an information bank allowing to store every information about the children ranging from their shirt size to the vaccination record
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 06:13 AM PDT
Online learning platform and non-profit organization Khan Academy has been granted $5 million from The O’Sullivan Foundation. The organization has previously raised $2 million+ from Google and The Gates Foundation.
The Khan Academy is brainchild of Salman Khan, who brought the idea of educating young people, self-starters, people who learn at their own pace — online. The educational startup now counts over 2,600 videos in its library, with sessions or classes on everything from arithmetic to physics, including 211 practice exercises, to let students watch videos and learn at their own pace.
Khan just announced that the platform is seeing 39 million pageviews and 3.5 million unique users per month. That 3.5 million unique users is up 309 percent year-over-year. Khan Academy’s free lessons have been viewed more than 82 million times on YouTube.
The O’Sullivan Foundation’s support will be used to grow the faculty of the Khan Academy; extend the content to include crowd-sourced contributions; and to develop curricula for a blended physical and virtual academic experience.
“Some have wondered if it was the intent of the Khan Academy to have all these lessons to be written and performed by me,” said Salman Khan, founder and head of faculty of the Khan Academy. “The answer is a resounding no. We’re simply looking for unique voices that get traction and engage with students. As we expand our faculty, we’ll enable more teachers to share their enthusiasm with kids everywhere.”
One use of the grant from the O’Sullivan Foundation will be to expand Khan Academy’s faculty from one lesson producer to at least five full-time-equivalent teachers, extending the range of subjects taught from just science, engineering and math to the arts and humanities.
Already, the grant has been used to appoint Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris to produce content on art, history, and the humanities. Dr. Zucker was formerly Chair of Art and Design History at Pratt Institute. Dr. Harris was Director of Digital Learning at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Their videos are now available at here.
Khan Academy will also be opening a physical school, which will be run as a series of summer school camps starting in June 2012 in Northern California. The camp will be a testing ground for curricula that will, over time, develop into a complete academic experience and serve as a model for real-world schools worldwide, says Khan.
Khan Academy is an educational non-profit focused on providing high-quality education for everyone. They produce a collection of free online micro lectures on a variety of different subjects, including mathematics, history, computer science, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and economics. Khan Academy also incorporates game mechanics into their system by awarding students with badges for reaching certain skill levels. Khan Academy was founded in 2006 by Salman Khan.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 06:02 AM PDT
Naked-eye 3D displays, even large-sized models, are nothing special anymore, but they usually have a common problem: the 3D effect when viewing pictures isn’t as strong as with displays that require users to wear glasses. Professor Kakeya from Tsukuba University in Japan is trying to solve the problem.
The way his 3D display works is actually pretty simple: it uses multiple layers and lenses to boost the sense of depth perception. Professor Kakeya explains:
The resolution in the current prototype stands at just 200×200, but another cool feature is that it allows you to view pictures in 3D not only when you move your head horizontally, but also when you move it vertically.
This video, shot by Diginfo TV, provides more insight:
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 06:02 AM PDT
IBM’s Coremetrics Benchmark is releasing data around holiday shopping trends we can expect over the next few months. Big Blue says that mobile retail traffic will more than double this holiday season.
During this year's November holiday season, an unprecedented 15 percent of people in the U.S. logging onto a retailer's web site are expected to do so through a mobile device, says IBM. All online sales in November will experience a growth of 12-15 percent over the same period in 2010.
IBM reports that in October nearly 11 percent of people used a mobile device to log onto a retailer’s site, up from 4.2 percent in October 2010. Additionally, mobile sales continue to increase, reaching a high of 9.6 percent in October 2011, up from 3.4 percent in October 2010.
One of the new trends expected to take place is among Android users. And for the first time, the growing number of Android users will demonstrate similar levels of mobile shopping as iPhone users. These October 2011 numbers show iPhone accounting for 4 percent of mobile traffic and Android 3.5 percent. The iPad will also play a big role in holiday shopping this season. In October, iPad conversion rates reached 6.8 percent as compared to the overall mobile device conversion rate of 3.6 percent.
IBM also says that mobile shoppers will display a laser focus on buying this season that surpasses that of other online shoppers with a 44.2 percent bounce rate on mobile devices versus online shopping rates of 37.3 percent.
Social influence, mainly from Facebook, will also play an increased role in the buying process this holiday season. According to October conversion rates, 9.2 percent of consumers that visited a retail site from a social media site made a purchase. This compares to 5.5 percent of all direct online shopping last year.
All signs point to this holiday season being a big one for mobile shopping.
IBM, acronym for International Business Machines, is a multinational computer technology and consulting corporation. The company is one of the few information technology companies with a continuous history dating back to the 19th century. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and offers infrastructure services, hosting services, and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 05:00 AM PDT
The Samsung Focus Flash has achieved something I didn’t think it would — it managed to tear me away from my new iPhone 4S. Granted, I’ve had the 4S a bit longer than the Focus Flash, but I don’t think it was the “shiny and new” factor pulling me in; it was Mango and I heart it. As for the phone itself, it performed surprisingly well for its specs. Where other factors were downgraded from big brother the Focus S, Samsung left the processor alone, which certainly paid off.
Let’s delve deeper, yes?
What surprised me most about the Focus Flash was its price tag. AT&T and Samsung are marketing this device at an entry-level price, but it sure doesn’t feel like a beginner’s phone. It’s quick, responsive, slim, and its specs are respectable. While smartphone noobs will definitely enjoy this little guy, vets could probably enjoy it equally and at a much lower price than they would with some of the mid-range Android phones out there.
I usually don’t dedicate an entire section of a review to the setup process, but with the Focus Flash I’m making an exception. Why? Because I actually enjoyed it.
Setting up a phone is probably the worst part of a review — filtering in contacts, setting up accounts, and moving over music is all a hassle. But Windows Phone changed that for me. Everything in Mango is organized a bit differently than we’re used to on iOS and Android. What should be “Contacts” is actually “People” and it incorporates all of your social networks and ties the information together for each individual person. So when I set up my Facebook account, my phone book instantly had information from all my Facebook friends. It was pleasant.
Granted, it took me a sec to get the hang of my “setup work flow,” since navigating through Windows Phone is a different beast entirely. But once I got going, there was no stopping me.
I’ve mentioned this briefly in a few other posts, but I’d like to take a hot second to just mention Microsoft’s obsession with “delight.” In more than one interview or product briefing, Microsoft has thrown the word “delight” around like it’s what they’re paid for. I’m coming to realize, it’s exactly what they’re paid for. To Microsoft, delight is equal to control plus beauty. Even during a process as tedious as setting up the phone, I still got warm and fuzzy seeing the screen transitions, typing in bits and pieces that Facebook and Twitter didn’t have access to, and seeing the finished product — a page full of live tiles blinking and pulsing with all my stuff. “Delightful” doesn’t even do it justice.
There’s no question that the Samsung Focus Flash is a good-looking little handset. It sports a brushed finish on the back panel, a flat face, and a contoured design around back to give it a more sophisticated look. On the right side you’ll find a dedicated camera button and a lock button, while the volume rocker’s over on the left. A 3.5mm headphone jack sits up top on the left-hand side, and a microUSB port is square on the bottom for charging.
Size-wise you won’t hear me complaining about the Focus Flash. The phones coming out these days with massive 4.5-inch screens are nice and all, but unless you’re a hardcore mobile video fan, the 3.7-inch display form factor is actually much more comfortable in the hand and the pocket. I do, however, have some beef with materials. The brushed back panel has a really hard time with prints, and it took me way too long to polish this little guy up for its photo shoot.
The weight of a phone is something I tend to harp on about, but it plays an important role in not only the way the phone feels in the hand but also the way you treat your phone. I find that when a phone is ultra-light, it’s perceived as somewhat “cheap.” Then again, if it’s too heavy it then becomes cumbersome. Balance is key. Even phones like the Droid RAZR (which will retail at a cool $299) feel a bit “too light,” as does the Focus S. The Focus Flash, on the other hand, feels just right — not heavy by any stretch of the imagination, but not so light it feels like it’s worth $50 — which again makes it seem much more pricey than it actually is.
All in all, the Focus Flash seems like a well-built little machine and it looks pretty slick, too.
I’m going to have to work really hard not to ramble on here because I’m currently blinded by my love for Mango and may have trouble shutting up about it. To put it concisely, Mango is awesome. The only issue I have with the platform, in fact, is a lack of apps. When testing a phone, I can’t help but measure it against my iPhone. So with each review, I try to see if I can do everything I would do on my iPhone with the tester. Getting the apps I wanted was where Mango, and thus the Focus Flash, failed most.
Everything else about Mango left me pleased. Unified messaging is simply glorious, and is actually something I now wish for on my iPhone. Whether your chatting it up on Facebook, over texts, or some other messaging platform, Mango pulls it all into one thread based on the person you’re talking to. If you want to switch over to another platform, simply tap the switch icon within the thread and choose the platform you’d like to message on.
I also really enjoyed Mango’s social networking integration on the whole. Mango pulls all of your accounts together in a unified “People” hub, where you can create specific groups for however you tend to categorize your relationships. Then there’s the “Me” tile, which lets you post and update your own social profiles, as well as check up on any notifications. Both the “Me” tile and the “People” tile offer up a “What’s New” page with a streaming flow of what’s happening on your Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live, etc.
As far as the user interface goes, Mango leans toward convenience above all else. In almost any situation you can pull up a board of letters, whether its cutting down your options to names that start with “A” or apps that start with “J.” There are only two pages on the home screens, one filled with customizable live tiles, and the other a list of applications and settings menus. Upon first inspection I thought this was kind of stupid, since I’m simply accustomed to five or six home screens per phone. But with Mango a streamlined home screen set up is smart. When things are so well-organized and easily digestible, there’s no reason for a handful of home screens.
Yes, Mango is playing catch-up to other platforms in a lot of areas, but it’s also ahead in terms of differentiation. Android and iOS are very different beasts, but the idea behind them is very similar. Windows Phone is just… different — it’s a look and a layout we haven’t really seen that much and it’s actually really beautiful and intuitive. It is at this point that I start to beg developers to consider the platform. With apps, I have no doubt it’ll emerge as the third mobile ecosystem.
I honestly have no idea how Samsung pulled it off, but for $49.99 you can have one of the snappiest phones I’ve played with. Mango is slick on its own, but with the help of that 1.4GHz processor, the Samsung Focus Flash really steps up in the performance department.
Browsing the web with Mango’s Internet Explorer was pleasing to say the least, and I found it to load pages much faster than I had expected. In fact, I ran a couple tests between the Focus Flash and my iPhone 4S and was actually pretty bummed to see my beloved iPhone get beat every time. Built-in hardware acceleration within Mango means that IE9 is the mobile browser to beat. The Focus Flash was a great testament to that.
Battery life, however, was a pain and a half. The evening I got the phone, I played with it quite a bit. Probably around three full hours of browsing and setup, and maybe an hour of talk time/messaging. Then it died. After four hours. The next day I toggled on Mango’s Battery Saver and things got much better. The Focus Flash lasted a total of ten hours yesterday with some pretty intensive use, and it still has a little life in it yet.
The most major issue the Focus Flash and I had was making calls. The first time I tried testing out the phone I was in my apartment, which gets notoriously awful AT&T coverage. The Focus Flash placed the call, which is more than I can say for most other phones, but it sure wasn’t fun trying to decode what my friends’ were saying hearing just one of every five words.
I thought the problem would go away once I left the “dead zone,” but didn’t see much improvement. Conversations aren’t impossible by any means, and I actually had a few great chats using the little guy. But on the whole, call quality isn’t the Focus Flash’s forte. Then again, a lot depends on your location within AT&T’s network.
When all’s said and done, the Samsung Focus Flash proved me wrong. I was certainly excited for Windows Phone Mango, but wasn’t sure that $49.99 hardware could keep up. I was wrong. The Focus Flash is a delight. While the specs might not be able to compete on paper, you wouldn’t be able to tell during use. I recommend this phone for anyone who’s all about social networking, messaging, or simply wants a change from iOS and Android.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 05:00 AM PDT
If the Samsung Focus Flash had you even remotely excited, then the Focus S is sure to leave you thrilled. With almost all the same specs as baby brother, the Focus S brings a slightly larger screen and more powerful camera to an already snappy little phone.
The Samsung Focus S runs Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, and the platform’s black background really pops thanks to that Super AMOLED Plus display. Even better, Super AMOLED Plus screens are basically off on any part of the display showing black. Since Windows Phone defaults to an all-black background, I’d presume you’d get a little extra battery life out of the Focus S (at least compared with phones with similar large screens).
While we’re on the subject, the Focus S 480×800 Super AMOLED Plus display measures in at 4.3 inches diagonally, resembling the newly announced HTC Rezound in size. However, the Focus S is much, much thinner than the Rezound, with an 8.55mm waist line.
The Focus S is said to be America’s first “4G” Windows phone, yet won’t run on AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Instead, it’ll see 4G-capable speeds on AT&T’s HSPA+ network.
It sports a nice textured back panel, which I actually wish had translated over to the Focus Flash (that little guy is slippery!). The Focus S is also incredibly light, but is just a tad too large to fit as comfortably in the pocket as baby brother Focus Flash does.
Windows Phone Mango runs like a dream with the help of that 1.4GHz processor, and as I mentioned with the Focus Flash, Mango’s IE9 browser is a total power house. We also played around a bit with the 8-megapixel rear camera and found that picture quality seemed pretty great, especially when viewing on that Super AMOLED Plus display. Mango also has a pretty cool camera app, with a familiar “swipe to photo library” feature we’re seeing on iOS 5. In fact, Microsoft has the patent on that feature. Do I smell another patent war brewing?
In any case, the Focus S is certainly worth consideration thus far, but we’ll need to hit you with a proper review before we can be sure. The Focus S is available at AT&T on Sunday, November 6 with an on-contract price tag of $199.99.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 04:59 AM PDT
Lot18, the Gilt Groupe for wine, wine accessories and gourmet food, has raised $30 million in Series C financing led by Accel Partners with existing investors New Enterprise Associates and FirstMark Capital participating. Accel partner Sameer Gandhi will join Lot18's board of directors.
The members-only flash sales site launched a year ago to give consumers access to high-quality, curated wines, made available in small quantities and limited runs. Lot18 has since expanded to include wine and bar accessories (i.e. glasses, decanters), gourmet and artisanal foods, and even travel excursions.
Last month, the company launched Lot18 Experiences, which comprises wine- and gourmet-themed travel excursions, as well as local offers such as members-only wine-pairing dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants.
Since Lot18′s launch the site has grown from six to more than 80 employees and over 500,000 members, with high rates of repeat purchases among new and existing members. The company has seen 12 consecutive months of growth in gross merchandise volume, and facilitated the sales of more than 500,000 bottles of wine (I happen to be among these sales and am a fan of the site).
Having Gandhi on Lot18′s board should be extremely valuable to the e-commerce company. He previously backed Quidsi, the parent company of Diapers.com and Soap.com. which sold to Amazon for $555 million a year ago. He believes that there are a lot of parallels between Quidsi and Lot18's potential.
The startup was founded by Philip James, who founded major wine site Snooth.com, and entrepreneur Kevin Fortuna, who was formerly the CEO of Quigo, an advertising technology company that was sold to AOL Time Warner for $360 million in November 2007.
The Series C funding comes in addition to a $3 million Series A round raised in November 2010, led by FirstMark Capital, and a $10 million Series B funding raised in May, led by New Enterprise Associates. The latter round included investment by Quidsi founders Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara.
The funds will support continued growth, as well as further technological and product development, particularly the expansion of Lot18 Gourmet and Experiences, the company's food and travel verticals.
Of course, Lot18 isn’t the only flash sales site to sell wine and gourmet food. Virtually all the flash sales site sell wine and artisanal foods, including Gilt Groupe, One Kings Lane, and others. And Gilt just launched a dedicated food and wine vertical, Gilt Taste.
But what Lot18 has in its favor is the niche focus on wine and high-quality, curated foods, and that could help the site continue to be a credible source for good wine pics and deals. On many of the flash sales sites, it’s hard to tell whether I’m really getting a good deal on the wine if I don’t know the vineyard or label. The same way One Kings Lane has been able to carve out a successful, reputable business for home design and accessories, Lot18 could be the go-to, flash sales site for wine, accessories and more.
One Kings Lane has developed partnerships with celebs and well-known designers, got an endorsement from a Bravo reality TV show and more to help establish its brand. Lot18 could easily adopt a similar strategy.
Lot18 is a membership by invitation website for wine and epicurean products from coveted producers at attractive discounts. Our members have access to some of the finest wines and specialty foods, made available in small quantities at extraordinarily low prices. Lot18 evokes the auction lots of old, where savvy consumers were able to bid on fantastic products at incredible values. Lot18 is a portfolio company of [Gramercy Labs] (http://www.gramercylabs.com), founded by Kevin Fortuna and Philip James.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 04:54 AM PDT
MADS, a provider of mobile display and messaging ad serving solutions, has raised €1 million – or roughly $1.4 million – in funding in a Series B round led by OTM Investments (both the company and the investor are based in The Netherlands).
MADS says it will use the fresh capital to take its business beyond mobile ad serving and set up sales offices in the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain to support clients in their local languages.
Read more at TechCrunch Europe.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 04:48 AM PDT
Production of Sony’s AIBO, probably the world’s most famous robotic dog, may have been discontinued in 2006, but that didn’t stop other Japanese companies to keep on developing similar robots. 12 years after AIBO saw the light of day, Tokyo-based NSK took the wraps off a more advanced (nameless) robo-dog [JP].
Unlike AIBO, the NSK robot is designed to actually fulfill a purpose one day: serving as a guide dog for blind people. Work on the robot started in 2005, and the newest model is able to walk at 3.8km/h. Judging by the first videos (see below), the robot is pretty slow, so real animals still have a role for the time being.
The “dog” has four joints in each leg and is equipped with a set of cameras and sensors to help humans walk around. As robot blog Plastic Pals points out, NSK could equip their robot with GPS, web-connected maps and other bells and whistles to actually turn it into an alternative for real dogs one day.
This video shows the dog tackling stairs in more detail (the previous model can be seen on the left):
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 03:51 AM PDT
Picked up earlier by GigaOm, the 21-minute documentary features folks like David Weinberger, Caterina Fake, Ola Ahlvarsson, SoundCloud co-founder Erik Wahlforss and Wired’s David Rowan, among others.
It’s a great documentary to watch if you have some time to spare today or over the weekend. It’s going to be even more fun re-watching the mini film in about 10 years. Enjoy.
Ericsson is the world’s leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. Ericsson is the leader in 2G, 3G and 4G mobile technologies, and provides support for networks with over 2 billion subscribers and has the leading position in managed services. The company’s portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, telecom services, software, broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and the media industry. The Sony Ericsson and ST-Ericsson joint ventures provide consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices....
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 01:59 AM PDT
You may remember WooMe from when I called the company, which was a finalist in our TechCrunch40 conference, out as lowly scammers (I signed up as a horse and turned out to be phenomenally popular among young super models).
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but all signs point to a firesale. WooMe claims 10 million users, but having experienced first-hand how they lure in non-suspecting ‘members’ I can’t imagine even a small percentage of them being active on the site. The site was also abruptly shut down, apparently. According to a press statement, all Woo Media properties will be ‘merged into Zoosk’.
Woo Media was founded in 2007 and launched WooMe.com, at the inaugural TechCrunch40 event.
The company was backed by Atomico (founded by Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis), Index Ventures, Mangrove Capital Partners, Klaus Hommels and Oliver Jung.
WooMe brings the speed dating craze online and extends it to let users meet new people live in fast, fun and free speed sessions. There are no long forms or lengthy profile descriptions, simply find a session that interests you and meet 5 people in 5 minutes. Or, create your own sessions based on your interests, such as “TechCrunch Readers in San Fran.” Invite friends or strangers to play with you and immediately decide if you are woo’d by...
Zoosk.com is a social dating community with millions of singles from around the globe using the service each month. Zoosk provides a fun and social online dating experience that users can easily access from Zoosk's website, social networking applications, mobile services, and downloadable desktop application. Zoosk is available in more than 25 languages and has subscribers in more than 60 countries. The service enables users to join, browse, and send a limited number of messages for free. Zoosk users...
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 01:21 AM PDT
The move turns DragonWave into a strategic supplier of packet microwave and related products to Nokia Siemens Networks, and the companies state they will “jointly coordinate technology development activities”.
DragonWave and NSN hope the deal will allow for the birth of the next generation of backhaul products, supporting microwave solutions for mobile operators all across the globe.
The consideration paid by DragonWave on closing will include approximately 10 million euros in cash and 5 million euros worth of DragonWave common shares, although earn-out payments could raise the value of the transaction by approximately 80 million euros down the line.
DragonWave expects to finance the transaction through a combination of cash on its balance sheet and increased debt facilities.
As part of the acquisition, the companies expect approximately 360 Nokia Siemens Networks employees, mainly based in Milan (Italy) and Shanghai (China) to transfer to DragonWave.
The acquisition is expected to close in Q1 2012.
Nokia and Siemens have been trying to sell their joint venture, which was originally formed in 2007, for some time now, but it looks like it’s having a tough time convincing anyone to swallow it whole. Perhaps the new strategy is to sell it in chunks.
DragonWave Inc. (DragonWave) is a provider of high-capacity Ethernet microwave solutions for Internet protocol (IP) networks. Its carrier-grade point-to-point Ethernet microwave systems transmit broadband voice, video and data, enabling service providers, government agencies, enterprises and other organizations to meet their bandwidth requirements. The principal application of the Company's products is wireless network backhaul. Its additional solutions include leased line replacement, last mile fiber extension and enterprise networks. DragonWave has a network of distributor and reseller partners globally. Its customers...
Nokia Siemens Networks is one of the largest telecommunications solutions suppliers in the world. Nokia Siemens Networks was created as the result of a joint venture between Siemens AG’s COM division (minus its Enterprise business unit) and Nokia’s Network Business Group. The new company was announced on 19 June 2006. Nokia Siemens Networks was officially launched at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona in February 2007.
Posted: 04 Nov 2011 12:08 AM PDT
‘Tis the season of the IPO. So far, 2011 has seen companies like LinkedIn, Pandora, Yandex, Zillow, and RenRen come to market. As you’ve heard, Groupon and Zynga are next up in the IPO pipeline, with both companies arriving on public markets within weeks of each other. Groupon, barring some catastrophic event, will begin trading publicly on NASDAQ November 4th, with shares set at $20 a pop at a valuation of $12.7 billion.
Zynga, too, is expected to trade on NASDAQ beginning the week before Thanksgiving, and according to its revised S-1 filing with the SEC, a “third party” has valued the company at approximately $14 billion. In the same ballpark as Groupon.
So, the question becomes this: Notwithstanding their potential overvaluations at the time they go public, which of the two companies stands to be the most successful and the most valuable in the long run, post-IPO?
Both Zynga and Groupon have become lightning rods of late for criticism over their inflated valuations (among other things), especially as being representative of the high valuations across the industry. (Some attach the dreaded “bubble” label, some don’t, but there is anxiety brewing here no matter what you call it.) There are a lot of questions that need to be answered in short order if the public markets are to become comfortable with the $10+ billion valuations of Zynga and Groupon.
That being said, both companies have waited out the stumbling IPO market and remain (far and away) the market leaders in their respective neighborhoods. In spite of the naysayers, these companies are going to go on to make a lot of money and will be around for the foreseeable future.
The Big Picture (i.e. The Spin)
Zynga is arguably the most popular social/casual game developer in the world, with 232 million average monthly active users in 166 countries and it’s generated over $1.25 billion in cumulative revenue since its inception in 2007. Groupon is running ahead of Zynga in revenues, but not on profits.
For those bullish on group buying, Groupon owns 54 percent of the daily deal market, is the largest local commerce platform with scale effects, counts 143+ million email subscribers in its ranks, and is building on its lead in daily deals by moving into complementary markets, like events, goods, travel, and is attempting to close the redemption loop by merging daily deals, instant mobile offers, and loyalty rewards.
Of course, everything sounds picture perfect if you put a full stop there. Hell, give ‘em $30 billion! But there are some downsides. Oh yes, there are some downsides.
Who Has The Tech?
For starters, both Groupon and Zynga count themselves as technology companies. But, in the case of Groupon, if you’re in Rocky’s camp, then the company may not even be worthy of the title, in spite of CEO Andrew Mason’s repeated assertions during the roadshow to the contrary. As Agrawal points out, only 5 percent of Groupon's more than 10,000 employees are in technology. That’s probably less than some of the local merchants it “represents”.
Groupon’s growth is indeed decelerating, cutting back on marketing and sales expenses to become more profitable (or to dress up its financials for the IPO). Blodget was quick to identify a precedent in Amazon, comparing Groupon’s current status to Amazon’s painful transition from growth to profits between 1997 and 2001.
Both companies waited three years to go public, and while Groupon is generating lower revenue per employee and has been spending more on marketing than Amazon did, the e-commerce giant continued to grow over its first four years as a public company, even though its growth rate slowed. Much like Groupon in the present. As to the technology comparison, in juxtaposition today, Amazon has a far more diverse set of traditional “tech assets” with its innovation in cloud computing with EC2, S3, and other Web services, some of which support the ever-improving Kindle.
Groupon’s lofty IPO (and sale of $700 million worth of stock) brings up comparisons with Google. But Groupon is a sales and marketing (or services) company. The 5 percent of its employees involved in technology are there mostly to maintain the infrastructure. Groupon’s on the Web, but that doesn’t make it a tech company.
If you want to use Google as a comparison, the search giant spends 14 percent of its revenues on R&D. It has Google Labs. Apple’s the same way. Tech companies spend money on R&D, they hire as many engineers as possible (see Facebook), there are barriers to entry, and they develop intellectual properties. Groupon not so much.
As for Zynga, the gaming company’s R&D spend (in Q1) was up 158 percent from the same time last year, and it spends an enormous amount (proportionally) of its revenues on servers. In comparison to Groupon the “sales company” (it has over 4,800 employees in sales), Zynga proudly calls itself an “analytics company masquerading as a games company”.
What that means is that Zynga believes that it will beat traditional gaming companies by taking an alternative route to customer acquisition and retention. It releases free games on Facebook and then obsessively studies the data it collects on how users are playing the game, leveraging that data to tweak the game’s formula to make the gameplay more addictive, increase playability, etc.
Using Facebook as a sharing and marketing platform to tell friends about the game and get them to buy more virtual goods is one thing, but Facebook also provides Zynga with a more robust picture of who their users are and what they’re doing online. This allows the company to take advantage of the platform’s ready-made ability to invite new users to try the game, something offline gaming companies have to work much harder to accomplish.
Zynga just smells more like a tech company.
In spite of all that’s being said, I’m still optimistic about Groupon because of its redemption loop trifecta. The company has long been criticized for not providing merchants with the necessary tools to retain the new customers they see when offering Groupon discounts. But with Groupon Now, the mobile app that lets local merchants offer deals when business is slow to yield retention, and Groupon Rewards, the tool that will allow businesses that offer discounts to later follow-up with another reward after a customer spends a certain amount of money — Groupon is showing that it can offer valuable products to close the gap. (And, hey, with high-end deals of Groupon Reserve, discounts on electronics in Groupon Goods, these could all add up to something retailers can’t ignore.)
Considering the fact that merchants can set the spending level required to achieve the new deal with Groupon Rewards, it should put their collective minds at ease. And for the daily deal behemoth, which already has millions of credit cards on file, it enables them to essentially turn these credit cards into the buy 10 get one free punchcards, and with each visit to a local coffee shop, Groupon can push them mobile or email notifications telling them that they’re just $10 away from the reward. Its new rewards program can actually track what customers are spending at their local merchants, giving them better insight into the success of their core business, daily deals. And merchants will get a dashboard so that they, too, can track customer spending.
Zynga’s true value, on the other hand, comes from its innovation around in-game rewards. Adding virtual enhancements to its games to convince people to spend real money on virtual play money is what has turned it into a multi-billion dollar company. A few years ago, that was a far more difficult proposition than it sounds today.
If Zynga can develop full control over the virtual money supply, it can be huge. There is a bright future around virtual currency, and if Zynga could use its self-controlled platform to institute a virtual currency that is widely circulated and has real inherent value, it could be a serious game changer.
Groupon may be valued at $12.7 billion at its IPO, but Trefis currently estimates Groupon fair value at about $7.9 billion, 54 percent of which emanates from North American featured deals. Trefis arrived at this valuation by collecting the sum of the values of its divisions, plus cash, minus debt.
Blodget’s formula has similar results. Taking the fact that Groupon’s North American business had a 12% operating profit margin in Q3, he projects that it could see a 10% operating profit margin in 2012 and a 15% operating margin in 2013, with earnings of about $300 million in 2013, giving Groupon a $6 to $9 billion valuation, with an average of about $7.5 billion. Comparable to Trefis.
While I do believe Groupon will be a profitable company with a big market cap, its valuation is seriously inflated.
The fact is that Google Offers, Amazon Local, and LivingSocial all pose significant threats. Without a single patent and little to no significant barriers to entry in the space, Groupon has a ways to go before it convinces investors (and now the public) that there’s enough differentiation and value in its model to warrant a high market cap.
As for Zynga, unlike Groupon, the social games giant is already profitable. However, the company saw its net income fall to $1.4 million in the second quarter, down from $13.9 million over the same period last year. It, too, has some serious downsides. The company’s filings show that its revenues come from less than 5 percent of its users and from a small group of games. While the company is working on deploying games on other platforms, most of the company’s business is still generated on Facebook, and it still heavily relies on the social network for sales and the delivery of its major services. (Facebook also takes a significant chunk of the sale of virtual goods.)
In the land of social gaming, Zynga must continuously churn out new games to keep users interested, as casual games have the tendency to become stale quickly. As Industry Gamers points out, Zynga’s new titles are hitting peak daily active users inside of three weeks of launch and the majority aren’t sustaining that activity (with Words With Friends being the one exception). Instead, the new releases have only succeeded in cannibalizing gamers from other Zynga titles, rather than attracting new customers.
Relying on in-game purchases and rewards to encourage gamers to keep users engaged with its titles has been successful thus far, and while investors aren’t happy about its reliance on Facebook, the public perception that its fate is largely tied to Facebook isn’t all bad. Zynga has been receiving lofty valuations in part because it is basically seen as a proxy investment for Facebook. Even Zynga’s Project Z, which is supposed to be the company’s big play at cutting its umbilical cord, will require users to have a Facebook account to log on.
But I think there is huge opportunity for Zynga on mobile and tablets, and if it can keep game development costs low while drawing new users in with Project Z and some new, original titles, profit margins could grow significantly with scale. Some (optimistic) analysts have even put its long-term operating margins at 50 percent.
Zynga expects to see about $1 billion in revenue for 2011, compared to Groupon’s expected revenue of $1.6 billion for the year, but it’s profitable with net incomes north of $19 million for the first nine months of 2011. Zynga is nowhere near its original target of a $20 billion valuation with its revised S-1 and SEC scrutiny over Zyngametrics, but it deserves to be priced above Groupon.
Although EA’s market cap is currently around $7.8 billion, if one is comfortable saying that Zynga can hit $4 billion in revenues by 2014 with 40 percent operating margins, we would have to be generous to give them a 13 to 16 multiple on operating profits, but this could easily justify a $15 billion valuation.
In the end, both Groupon and Zynga are currently valued at prices that are far higher than what I think they’re reasonably worth. I have no stake in either company, but if I were buying, I would choose Zynga over Groupon. I think there’s a greater upside to Zynga and as gamification is poised to seep into everything we do, Zynga is poised to be at the forefront of this transformation. Groupon is here to stay, but there’s just way too much to be concerned about.
But I’m just one blogger. I want to know what you think. Weigh in below.
Thanks to BGN Entrepreneur for the excerpt image
Groupon features a daily deal on the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in more than 565 cities around the world. By promising businesses a minimum number of customers, Groupon can offer deals that aren’t available elsewhere. Groupon brings buyers and sellers together in a fun and collaborative way that offers the consumer an unbeatable deal, and businesses a large number of new customers. To date, it has saved consumers more than $300 million and claims it...
Zynga was founded in July 2007 by Mark Pincus and is named for his late American Bulldog, Zinga. Loyal and spirited, Zinga's name is a nod to a legendary African warrior queen. The early supporting founding team included Eric Schiermeyer, Michael Luxton, Justin Waldron, Kyle Stewart, Scott Dale, John Doerr, Steve Schoettler, Kevin Hagan, and Andrew Trader. Zynga’s mission is connecting the world through games. Everyday millions of people interact with their friends and express their unique personalities through our...
Posted: 03 Nov 2011 11:32 PM PDT
Want to predict what your personal health will look like tomorrow, or 10 years from now? Well, look no further than 100Plus a new stealthy health startup founded by Chris Hogg, a healthcare and health data research specialist and Ryan Howard the Founder and CEO of free EMR service, Practice Fusion.
Essentially, 100Plus is a personalized health prediction platform that uses data analytics and game mechanics to show just how much small changes in one’s behavior can lead to a longer and fuller life.
And for their own financial health, the startup announced this morning that it has raised a $500,000 round of seed funding from Founders Fund via its own founder and managing partner, Peter Thiel. Thiel, for those unfamiliar, is the co-founder and former CEO of Paypal and was the first investor in Facebook.
It’s no mystery why 100Plus’ mission is appealing to investors. The healthtech space is booming, and entrepreneurs and investors are looking for smarter and more effective ways to leverage the ever-growing healthcare dataset to build smart solutions that lead to healthier lifestyles and longer lives. Unanimously, we all want to be healthier, and we also want to know how our current behaviors are going to effect us down the line.
23Me is a great example of this, as it is attempting to build the largest dataset and resource for genetic information on the planet as well as offering genetic analysis to let users see if they are at risk for a number of diseases. Obviously, the possibilities are many. Like 23Me, 100Plus is building an interactive health application that leverages large clinical datasets. Using its own algorithms to parse that data, it will then show users personalized predictions of their future health as well as allow them to compare their health those with common dimensions of health and habits.
The startup then adds a bit of game mechanics to that analysis to give users a more enjoyable way to make incremental changes in their behavior to improve their health and live longer.
As to its data, 100Plus builds on the Practice Fusion Research Division's proprietary clinical dataset of 24 million de-identified records and public datasets from the CDC and HealthData.gov. The startup then uses this anonymized data to create predictive models of future health.
“When you're 80, will you be riding a wheelchair or a bicycle? How do your health decisions today impact your quality of life in 50 years?” said Founders Fund Partner Brian Singerman. “By generating predictions about health, based on enormous datasets and user behavior, 100Plus gives us life-changing insights."
100Plus is currently in stealth mode, hard at work on building these models, and is planning a beta launch to the public in mid-2012. The startup also is hiring and seeking new partners looking to incorporate additional valuable health data into its model.
100Plus is a personalized health prediction startup using data analytics and game mechanics to show how small changes in behavior can lead to a longer and better life. 100Plus is led by Chris Hogg, who has over a decade of experience in healthcare and health data analytics and co-founded by healthcare innovator Ryan Howard, Founder and CEO of Practice Fusion.
Founders Fund is a San Francisco based venture capital firm which invests at every stage in companies with revolutionary technologies. The firm's six partners, Peter Thiel, Sean Parker, Ken Howery, Luke Nosek, Bruce Gibney, and Brian Singerman have been founders of or early investors in numerous well-known companies such as Facebook, PayPal, Napster, and Palantir Technologies. Founders Fund was formed in 2005 and has launched three funds to date with more than $500 million in aggregate capital...
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