Archive for the ‘Techcrunch’ tag
Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?
My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".
Check out these six links that we’re recommending to one another:
- Nikola Tesla’s Amazing Predictions for the 21st Century – Smithsonian. "Some of these were spot on (the EPA, robotics); others were just plain weird or evil (eugenics, forced sterilization.) But given that most of Tesla‘s life looks like that of a displaced time-traveler from the 21st century, it might be worth thinking about, anyway." (Alistair for Hugh).
- The Matrix Retold by Mom – Pixels Per Second. "One of the most challenging things in marketing and product design is cognitive overhead, which Bump‘s Davie Lieb has written eloquently about recently. Each of us approaches something with a lot of context, and when we try to market it to others, we fail to see the world as our customers do when they lack that context. Here’s a good example: A guy watches The Matrix with his mom, then tries to get her to explain it, then animates the results. Every product designer and copywriter needs to watch this." (Alistair for Mitch).
- Allowing Knives on Planes? Yes, It’s a Good Idea – Bloomberg. "As a relatively frequent traveler, I have seen my fair share of security line stupidity, but I’ve never really seen objections to security policies articulated as clearly as this: every dollar and minute you spend on security stupidity is a dollar and minute you don’t spend on doing security right. Security done right can be counterintuitive, and confiscating knives is probably a big waste of time, says Bloomberg." (Hugh for Alistair).
- Every page is your homepage: Reuters, untied to print metaphor, builds a modern river of news – Nieman Journalism Lab. "Something I’ve noticed over the past year: a whole lot of very good, very interesting design thinking going into (some) news/magazine sites. Here’s a preview of Reuters‘ new look. The ‘homepage’ isn’t so exciting, but I love what they’ve done with individual articles, turning them each into a home page in a very clever way." (Hugh for Mitch).
- The Money Shot – Vanity Fair. "Facebook buys Instagram for about one billion dollars in the same month that Kodak files for Chapter Eleven protection. Just that part of the story alone is enough to send you on a long, strange trip through the world of innovation, digitization, technology and the new economy, but what really happened? How did a deal like this go down? What can other startup learn from Instagram’s meteoric rise and how deals in Silicon Valley get done. This Vanity Fair piece deconstructs Instagram’s 18-month journey from idea to sale, and it’s one of the most compelling stories about our brave new world that I have read in a long time. Keep a notebook handy for this one." (Mitch for Alistair).
- How a First-Time Author Got a 7-Figure Book Deal – The Blog of Tim Ferriss. "This one should take you about an hour to read (if you take it seriously). Maybe longer is you really want to score a major book deal. Not a week goes by that someone, somewhere doesn’t contact me for counsel on how to score a book deal, but I think that this blog post offers more insight, wisdom and knowledge than anything I have been through personally (or have read in a book, magazine article or online). The always-amazing Tim Ferriss hands the reigns of his blog over to John Romaniello to tell his amazing story of how he conquered the book publishing industry, but what takes this post from amazing to extraordinary and ‘must-read’ is Ferriss’ additional commentary and links (of which you should click on and read as well). Not to be outdone by Ferriss, the one hundred-plus comments from his community also contributes tremendous color and depth to this topic. So, before you head on out and self-publish your book, you may want to take a read of this." (Mitch for Hugh).
Now it’s your turn: in the comment section below pick one thing that you saw this week that inspired you and share it.
After June 30th Google is removing all tiered pricing programs and going with its full suite option (Social Marketing Suite) only. Let’s just say that many people are not too happy about this.
When Google wanted to get into the game of selling social ads across all platforms, it decided to acquire Wildfire, a company that had the market on lockdown. Since the acquisition last July, little has changed as far as what Wildfire offered, how it offered it and there was little to no impact for current customers.
Today, the Wildfire team has announced that its first major shift is upon us, cutting off standalone campaigns that were a hallmark of its tiered offerings.
The post on the Wildfire blog tells us
We want to do all we can to poise our customers for success when they begin using Wildfire. So that we can better focus on doing that, we’ve decided that we’ll be retiring our Basic, Standard, and Premium promotions after June 30th. We’ll continue to offer promotions as part of our Social Marketing Suite. We understand that some of you will still want to run standalone promotions, so we’re glad to know that there are other companies dedicated to helping you do this. But we’ll be sad to see you go. Of course, we’d love for you to stay in the Wildfire and Google family, so if you want to learn more about the Wildfire Suite, then please give us a call at 888-274-0929.
You liked our various promotions levels. That was cute. We don’t want to bother with you small players so leave if you have to, it’s no skin off our nose. Oh and if you want us to pitch you on why you should stick around and spend way above your capabilities give us a call and we’ll be happy to close you.
Should this come as a surprise? On some levels yes but on others not at all. If there is not enough money in a Google backed service or any part of that service these days, Google is going to jettison it. From a profitability standpoint it makes perfect sense. From a ‘we’re here for everyone’ standpoint it pretty well sucks.
There are plenty of other options in the marketplace and all you need to do is read the comment section of the TechCrunch post as every small player in the industry is pimping their wares.
What the bigger takeaway here is that if you are married to, or even dating, some Google product that is not making Google money you need to ween yourself off the relationship pronto. I would have to guess that Google Alerts will be something that will be cut loose (resource hog and probably generates next to nothing in revenue). There will be more and the net/net from Google is “While we hate to see you go we know you won’t completely, so stick around and buy stuff from us because the free ride is coming to an end.”
Hey, it’s their company and more power to them. Also, more power to those that can fill the gaps because there may be some serious opportunity on the horizon.
Editor’s Note: Semil Shah is currently an EIR with Javelin Venture Partners and has been a columnist at TechCrunch since January 2011. He hosts a weekly TCTV show In the Studio and pens a weekly column, Iterations. Follow him on Twitter @semil.
“In the Studio” rolls into the dog days of summer by welcoming a guest who, originally trained in computer science, went on to found a large consumer website, worked in venture capital on Sand Hill Road, and after helping out his would-be business partner learn the ropes of “hacking” the fundraising process, set out on a journey to build what a platform for startup investing and other related activities that has been gaining momentum and strength over the past few years.
Naval Ravikant, the CEO and co-founder of AngelList, originally began helping his current co-founder, Babak Nivi, navigate the funding process years ago. Nivi began writing down the ideas, and their blog, “Venture Hacks,” born. Since then, the duo has known they’re committed to doing something meaningful at scale, but had to take many attempts. What first started out as a social network (“Dealflow”) morphed into a Google Group, then a Yammer setup, and then in 2010, AngelList was born with an email list. The initial response was so positive, Naval and Nivi realized that they may had found the initial product their market craved.
Since that point, AngelList’s influence has compounded. More and more companies, investors, and other startup ecosystem players began not only creating official profiles, but also searching for and discovering information on the site. Companies began not only being able to raise small seed rounds via introductions channeled by the site, but also closing larger financings, sometimes even with institutional players participating in the rounds. As more and more information about fundraising has come online, and as more and more companies are being founded, and as people look to the web to help create and maintain a reputation, AngelList has been a key force in the current overall reinvention of venture capital, though it has not occurred without differences in opinion among some of the web’s savviest investors, as well.
I invited Naval in for a discussion because most people think of AngelList as “a place to get funding,” but when you start to peel back the layers, what he and his team are building is really a full-blown product, a powerful platform with an API already in use by some of the largest venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road. In this video, Naval also shares more nitty-gritty details about how he and his team think about product features, their hopes for their API, and examples of the vertical and horizontal features they are playing with. AngelList feels poised to be *the* startup ecosystem identity platform, and while Naval concedes some limitations about how much of the process can be facilitated online, this discussion brings to light just how much AngelList is doing to create more transparency and efficiency within the process.
Everyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty obsessed with this website and the unique set of circumstances that brought it to where it is today, because I talk about it constantly.
In fact, if I ever write a book it will most likely be about TechCrunch, and the jumble of psychologies that went into its founding, rise to power, acquisition as well as its prevailing renaissance that I am very fortunate to be a part of — A renaissance that owes so much to the perseverance of my co-editor Eric Eldon and our young, badass team.
So when my neighbor and Revision3 co-founder David Prager, who just survived a pretty famous acquisition himself, asked me to come on his new show ‘Toasted Donut’ a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk even more about TechCrunch. So I went. And now that I’ve posted said interview onto TechCrunch, the circle is now complete.
Editor’s Note: Sales Marketing Manager Leslie Hitchcock is a non-editorial TechCrunch employee. In addition to working at TechCrunch and being super fashionable, she reviews startups and tech products occasionally on her personal blog, Leslie Just Joined.
“Marketing is the name we use to describe the promise a company makes, the story it tells, the authentic way it delivers on that promise.” –Seth Godin
Venture capital is certainly a changing landscape, especially as of late. With the chattering classes abuzz about the current state of VC, the tech industry seems to be taking the recent visibility of local investors personally. Traditionally a quiet industry, firms are now actively touting themselves and it is making some people uncomfortable.
Brooklyn Bridge Ventures’ Charlie O’Donnell explains,”A lot of the VCs are feeling the need to explain to the market what you get by going with us versus the other guy.”
Not all VCs appreciate marketing but a few are currently to breaking into the forefront by establishing their differentiating factors aggressively. So which firms are in the lead? Well lets take a look at the big player’s efforts, and what they means from a marketing perspective.
Andreessen Horowitz: The Partners
Brash. Larger than life. Successful. Philanthropic. When news comes out about Andreessen Horowitz, it is about Andreessen and Horowitz themselves. Interchangeable, they are the fund, the fund is them and it captivates the Valley. Prolific bloggers, both Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz are open about what they look for in startups and founders, how they invest and the influence they command. And let’s not forget standing on their pedigree (or as some see it, star power) as founders with substantial exits themselves.
In my experience, the only problem with linking the brand with people is that people are fallible. If they fall, the fund can fall. But clearly that is a risk they’re willing to take, and at this point it is working well for them. As Andreessen himself has said about being so open: “We wanted to tell our story. Venture capital has traditionally been behind the scenes. How does Sequoia or Kleiner Perkins build a company? I don’t know.”
Greylock Partners: The Portfolio
Attempting to take a page out of the Andreessen’s playbook, Greylock brought on Reid Hoffman and immediately increased its visibility in doing so. But the firm appears to have no interest in putting all of its eggs in one basket, if you take a look at its marketing exposure. Above all, the firm appears to stand on the shoulders of their investments, letting them speak for themselves, enterprise and consumer alike. Cloudera, Pandora, Instagram, OpenDNS, Tumblr — Greylock wants you to know that they are reputable, disruptive, entrepreneur-friendly and ultimately stable.
This is a more subtle marketing tactic, but has less potential to trigger the collapse of a firm unless we see a gigantic shift in the financial market. A fall-off is always possible, as those of us who lived through the dotcom bust of the early 2000s are all too aware of, but a steadiness through volatile times stands for something as the industry rebuilds.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers: The Services
A panel held during the TechCrunch Disrupt NYC conference in May featured some of the best known VC’s in the industry, including Kleiner Perkins partner Mike Abbott. What was particularly interesting to me when I attended the session was the topic of what value a VC adds to the startup they’re backing. KPCB specifically led the charge on this a decade ago. They take this mandate seriously, going well beyond writing a check to offer services like recruiting, perspective, market analysis and advice, as Abbott pointed out.
VCs adding marketing/communications advice to their already established service offerings is a logical step. KPCB specifically states that their marketing efforts are not for the firm but are in the best interests of the startups they fund, a brilliant distinction. “Who cares about us? We care about you!”
As an aside, with the recent legal debacle the firm has found itself ensnared, in it will be fascinating to watch the effort to help it regain its reputation — And if that effort will succeed.
Sequoia Captial: The Success
Shepherding a startup from seed to exit is a hard job, but Sequoia makes it clear that they’re up to the task if their dizzying homepage is any indication. Palo Alto Networks, Kayak and ServiceNow were all funded by Sequoia in early stages, and are all successfully listed companies today.
An entrepreneur’s dream is leading a startup from idea to IPO and the backing of a proven VC quantity is one way to get there. Sequoia’s branding all but says “If we anoint you, you will exit.” Heady stuff for a young startup looking for backing and guidance.
As far as guidance is concerned, Sequoia gets an honorable mention for including a “How to write a business plan” link on their site.
All of this already established discussion around positioning begs the question, “Why damn investors for differentiating and branding themselves, if everyone else is already doing it?”
Well, the entrepreneurial “Change or Die” becomes “Innovate or Die” which becomes “Differentiate or Die” as competitors crop up. Investors know this and the fact that they’re branching out and hiring marketing/PR staff means that they see the need to stand apart in the saturated market.
Incubators, angels and smaller venture firms are poised to position themselves in a different way, and succeeding. It make sense that the big guns would take a page from their playbook.
App Analytics Firm Xyologic Goes Consumer With New Search Engine, Gets Backing From Gaming, Music Heavies
A big step up for Xyologic, the app analytics firm out of Berlin: it’s announcing a significant round of funding from Signia Venture Partners, the investment vehicle led by gaming entrepreneur Rick Thompson (Playdom); Klaas Kersting (Gameforge), and Soundcloud founder Eric Wahlforss; and it is setting its sights on the consumer market with the beta launch of a new app search engine — the first, it claims, aimed at mainstream users and specifically at searching for mobile games across the whole of an app store.
The beta launch of the Xyo app store today covers only Android apps, which a user accesses through a browser, but Matthaus Krzykowski, co-founder of Xyologic, says that the plan is to use some of the new funding to extend that to iOS and other platforms in the very near future, as well as launch mobile apps with the same functionality. He will not comment on the amount of the funding, but it’s the first significant investment in Xyologic after a bootstrapped launch. TechCrunch understands from a separate source that it is in the range of seven figures.
With its search engine, Xyologic is entering an increasingly crowded market, but one that is becoming more and more useful as the world of apps continues to grow into the millions. (And it’s an area that got a big vote of endorsement earlier this year when Apple acquired one of the earliest movers in the space, Chomp, to help it improve navigability in its own, very large App Store).
Xyologic’s own approach to the space was borne out of research it has been collating for the last 1.5 years around how users search for apps, covering areas like the queries they type and other search behavior. Consumers are not always very specific (imagine that!), so Xyologic’s unique selling point is that it will be able to parse their vagarities into actionable and effective results.
The result, the company says, is a directory that effectively divides up the world of mobile apps into 700 categories, along with 100 for games alone.
The 100 categories for games was part of the attraction for new investor Klaas Kerting, who noted in a statement: “Xyologic’s app search is the first search designed from the ground up for mobile games.”
The idea behind this will be not to provide links through to the most popular apps but those that are perhaps less well-known but more accurate for what a user really wants and what others have really rated highly, which it organises not just by apps but by categories that users can select to navigate the store (see screenshot below).
“What users love about mobile apps differs from what they love about desktop apps, with games being the most important among them,” Matthaus Krzykowski, Xyologic co-founder, told me earlier. (Other co-founders include Zoe Adamovicz and Marcin Rudolf.)
Krzykowski sees the problem as this: “The mainstream user gets a smartphone and then does not know what options he has. Xyo is built in such a way that she gets recommendations and alternatives that let her know what ‘most people search for’ or ‘other people downloaded.’” He claims that these are features that have not existed before now.
He also points out that today less than 5% of mobile app searches include searches for app brands like Zynga or Angry Birds, and that over 80% of all users put app and game genres like ‘puzzle games’ or ‘music’ into the search box. The search engine tries to match this up to what might actually be interesting takes on those ideas. The result is discovery for thousands of apps rather than simply the hundreds that tend to rise to the top with other search engines. That should prove attractive to developers, too.
It’s expected that the next-gen iPhone will launch in September, which means that Apple has approximately two more months to keep the specs, design, and availability a mystery. But that seems to be proving difficult, as a brand new video has just hit the web courtesy of Macotakara.
There is also an obviously smaller mini-port not unlike the 19-pin mini connector we’ve confirmed here at TechCrunch, and a new speaker grill down at the bottom.
Along with the video came a full gallery of photos from iLab, which seems to reaffirm that centered Facetime camera up front that we’d heard about. Interestingly enough, Macotakara also seems to have additional pieces of the phone that they show off in the video.
Check out the video and images after the break.
If you’re like me, you never real got into spectator sports. Maybe it was the jock-induced swirlies or maybe it was the pointlessness of ball-based games, but I couldn’t give two shot puts about the Olympics. Thankfully, there’s the Olwinpics Blocker from FFFFF.at.
This plugin turns all mentions of the Olympics into soothing, bright primary colors. It works on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari and works a treat. For example, the image above is how I see this post: Olympics, olympics. Olympics!
The project took two hours to build but will save you days of olympic overdose pain. Olympics!
Editor’s Note: Rob Saurini is a hard working developer at TechCrunch, except for today. Today, he just wants to watch the Olympics, like a true patriot.
So I’ve been sitting here for the past couple of hours searching for a way to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremonies when I should probably be doing actual work.
Nada. Zilch. Zip. The best I could do was a live blog here or there. Well, that and the spammed links in Google as well as questionable sites that try to manipulate you into downloading a shitty plugin or answer a bogus survey.
NBC, in its infinite wisdom, has chosen to air the coverage at 7:30pm EST in the US. I think this sends a clear message to the rest of the world. “You can wait while we get as many advertisements as we can with what amounts to the largest pre-game show in the history of ever. Also, fuck you.”
Don’t worry, you can still watch the events live, right? Not a fucking chance. You need to have a subscription to a cable or satellite TV service. If you have one of those you can watch at the official NBC Olympics website as well as on your smartphone or tablet.
Since I only have Netflix, I guess I’ll just have to continue my X-Files marathon and absorb the Olympics in text form later. Or you know, do some work.
When my oldest daughter started high school last year I had to buy a calculator for her. It wasn’t my idea, it was mandated by the school district. If Google had in place what it has today, I would’ve saved some cash and probably made my daughter more efficient (since she has to lug yet another ‘losable’ device around with her).
Yesterday, Google announced that it offers a 34 button scientific calculator that is voice enabled to its search when people are looking to do some “cipherin’”. Take a look for yourself
The full functionality shows up on a smartphone if you search in landscape mode as well. TechCrunch tells a bit more about the voice capabilities
This calculator even works with Desktop Voice Search. Simply click the little mic icon and state the equation; it works with both “what is the square root of 30?” and “square root of 30.” Or, to launch the calculator itself, say “calculator”. It seems to stumble on long, complex equations (or maybe I’m saying them wrong), but in the right situation, this voice-powered calculator could be rather valuable.
For all of the yammering about how Google screws up this and that and how they can’t get social right etc it’s important to note the little things it does that can make life much easier for folks. Oh, and it does most of it for free.
Google hate all you want but remember where its bread is buttered and that is search. As the specter of a third search competitor (Yahoo minus Bing anyone?) looms as a possibility, I would suspect that Google will be doing more and more enhancements moving forward that will give us some ‘aha moments’ like this ability to do simple or complex math wherever and whenever.