Spiral Hopes To Nail Location-Based Communities

cover3-lightnologo (1) A new app called Spiral could change the way we connect with the people and places around us. The idea is pretty straightforward: users see a newsfeed of posts near them, and can add their own updates, and comment on other people’s posts. Users can adjust their geographic filters to see posts from a larger or smaller radius. Read More

Hired Now Helps Tech Companies Find Executives

HiredHQ-0067 Hired, a startup working to make recruiting more efficient, has expanded to include a category for VPs of engineering and chief technical officers (CTOs). Just months after raising its $15 million Series A round, Hired seems to be growing at a healthy rate. Read More

Meet HelloWorld, An Easier Way To Share Your Location With Friends

photo1 (1) Three years ago, Ernestine Fu was sitting at the iconic Philz coffee shop in Palo Alto studying for her Stanford exams. She tweeted about it, wondering if any of her friends were studying nearby. A few minutes later a stranger who had seen the tweet interrupted her to pitch his company. Talking about it years later, it’s clear this interruption was a turning point for Fu, as she explains… Read More

A Tale Of Two Patents: Why Facebook Can’t Clone Snapchat

snapchat-slingshot Facebook released Slingshot, its second attempt at an impermanent sharing app, last Tuesday. The app borrows heavily, in concept and features, from Snapchat, as well as smaller startups like Frontback and Look. There’s just one problem: Facebook may be violating Snapchat’s patent, “Single mode visual media capture” that was approved over a year ago. Read More

Yahoo News Digest Comes To Android

marissa-mayer16 Yahoo’s popular News Digest app is now available on Android, and offers two new editions of content: International and Canada. Previously, the app, which gives readers twice-daily digests of news aggregated from other outlets, had only curated news around United States and United Kingdom interests. Read More

Marissa Mayer Explains Yahoo’s New Video Strategy

marissa-mayer Speaking on stage at Disrupt New York, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer explained the strategy behind the company's new foray into producing original television content. "Can you tell me what Yahoo is?" TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington asked, bringing up the old question of whether Yahoo is a tech or media company. Read More

Codeanywhere, The Google Docs For Developers, Rocks Startup Alley At Disrupt NY

codeanywhere3 Codeanywhere, a self-proclaimed Google Docs for coders, wants to become the defacto standard for code development on the go. Co-founders Ivan Burazin and Vedran Jukic presented on stage at Disrupt NY today after the audience voted them the best company in Startup Alley. Jukic came up with the idea when he worked as a freelance developer; he didn’t want to have to take his laptop with him… Read More

Sedicii Aims To Better Protect Your Passwords And Information

sedicii3 How many times did you enter a username, password or other details about yourself into a website today? Sedicii, which just launched onstage at Disrupt NY, aims to keep that information safer and more secure. Sedicii uses a mathematical algorithm to verify your information or password without actually sending it to a website for verification. Read More

Comcast CEO Neil Smit Says Improving Customer Service Is His Top Priority

neil-smit3 Comcast Cable President and CEO Neil Smit spoke at Disrupt New York today, discussing his company's recent deal with Netflix, his thoughts on Aereo, and more. "I think if there's one thing to disrupt in our business, it's customer service," Smit said in response to TechCrunch writer Ryan Lawler mentioning that Comcast was recently voted the worst company in America. Read More

Tom Hadfield Is Trying To Make Fetch Happen To Improve Mobile Shopping

fetch3 Fetch, a mobile app that connects users with personal shopping assistants, launched today onstage at Disrupt New York. Users can simply open Fetch and type what you want, record yourself saying what you want, or take a picture. Fetch has trained assistants on the other end who will look at your request, find the best price for the product you want, and order it for you. Read More

Hired Raises $15M Series A At Valuation Around $60M

Hired, a startup aiming to make hiring employees and finding a job easier and more efficient, has raised a $15 million Series A led by Crosslink and Sierra Ventures with participation from SoftTech and Sherpa Ventures. Crosslink’s Eric Chin and Sierra Ventures’ Tim Guleri will be joining the Hired board Read More

Apply Now To Write For TechCrunch This Summer As A Paid Intern

Are you obsessed with the startup world? Do you read TechCrunch all the time? Good news! We’re hiring paid interns for this summer. What will you do? Blog, blog, blog away. We’re looking for independent, driven reporters who will kick ass and chase after big startup stories: Interns who will work on everything from short blog posts to long form, investigative stories to video pieces. Read More

Facebook’s WhatsApp Acquisition Leaves Snapchat Hanging

img_9916With Facebook’s massive $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp earlier today, any possible marriage between Facebook and Snapchat appears to be dead. After spending $20 billion on a photo sharing company (Instagram) and messaging company (WhatsApp), can Facebook really justify spending billions more to acquire an ephemeral photo messaging company? CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted Snapchat very badly; from blatantly cloning the app in December 2012 to making multiple acquisition offers, Zuckerberg saw an obvious fit between the ephemeral app and his social network giant. WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, Jan Koum, will join Facebook’s Board of Directors as part of today’s acquisition deal. WhatsApp’s other co-founder, Brian Acton, spoke very harshly about Snapchat to Wired earlier today:
“It’s not 100 per cent clear to me what’s working about Snapchat,” he says. “Great, teenagers can use it to get laid all day long. I don’t care. I’m 42, essentially married with a kid. I don’t give a shit about this. I’m not sexting with random strangers. I send the ‘I love you’s in text. She’s sending me photos of our baby. These are memories. It’s not clear to me that being goofy with Snapchat necessarily creates that level of intimacy. Clearly [Snapchat cofounder] Evan Spiegel only has his pulse on one part of the world. We have a whole wall of stories about people who got to know each other long distance and eventually got married. You’re not going to do this over Snapchat. And people want chat histories. They’re a permanent testimony of a relationship.”

< p>At first glance, it seems like Acton doesn’t really understand Snapchat’s appeal or value proposition, which is very, very strange given that he has created one of the world’s most successful messaging companies. What’s far more likely is that Acton understands Snapchat perfectly well, and is throwing a few jabs at one of his main competitors. But are these barbs just competitiveness, or does Acton actually think so little of Snapchat? And how will Acton’s and Koum’s feelings toward Snapchat affect a potential future acqusition now that Koum sits on Facebook’s Board? Snapchat rejected Facebook’s over $3 billion acquisition offer in 2013. The hot startup has lured Emily White away from Instagram to become COO. Most importantly, it competes more than ever with Instagram and Facebook with its 24-hour ephemeral timeline, Snapchat Stories. While the earliest versions of Snapchat competed primarily with messaging apps, the Stories feature has people posting and consuming photos and videos in a strikingly similar manner to Facebook and Instagram. Zuckerberg tried once to directly clone Snapchat and failed. If he isn’t able to purchase Snapchat, or no longer wants to at the price, perhaps Facebook will try to develop its own take on ephemerality. Apps like Whisper and Secret have taken off by allowing users to post anonymously, just as Snapchat is making content ephemeral. People clearly want a different way to share content besides merely posting on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook needs to find a way to provide that to its users. Meanwhile, Snapchat is now left with very few options if co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy choose to sell. Google, which reportedly offered up to $4 billion for Snapchat, would still make a ton of sense for both companies. And Tencent, which sources say has already invested in Snapchat, would also be an interesting match. That’s about it. Snapchat doesn’t seem keen on selling any time soon (although neither did WhatsApp). The company would likely have to struggle with growth or monetization, or have repeated issues with security or lawsuits to seriously consider accepting an acquisition offer. Based on its trajectory to this point, and its substantial pile of cash, it seems unlikely that Snapchat would sell until at least 2015. The company could continue its insane growth and eventually go public. It could falter, lose popularity, and flame out or sell for an unremarkable sum. But the third route, a top dollar acquisition to a major company, just became a lot less clear.

Daric, A New Peer To Peer Lending Platform, Will Go Live Next Week

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Daric, a new peer to peer lending platform, will launch next week as a place for individuals and small businesses to obtain loans, and a place for lenders to see up to 9-10% returns on their investments. Individuals will be able to apply for a loan up to $35,000 and small businesses can apply for a loan up to $50,000 on Daric. According to an SEC filing, the company will offer up to $10 million on the platform, which will compete with Lending Club and other peer to peer lending services.

The company was co-founded by Greg Ryan, Vasant Ramachandran, and Cooper Dawson. Dawson notes that Daric hopes to differentiate itself with a great user experience, as other financial services companies haven't focused on design much. He explains that users don't have to upload any documents to Daric, and can make an account, apply, and (if approved) receive a loan in just a few hours, instead of weeks.

Ramachandran tells me the company wants to focus on the positives of a person's accounts: the income, cash flows, and the ability to pay back a loan, instead of looking at traditional frameworks like credit lines, delinquencies, and credit scores.

Daric raised an angel round of funding in January 2012 from Goldcrest Investments; Dick Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo; Jennifer Johnson, COO of Franklin Templeton Investments; and others.

Ryan, whose father was an early employee at Goldman Sachs, says his "fundamentally different approach is that this is a technology
play." He believes Daric can leverage big data and be much more efficient and cost effective than a traditional bank by using
computer algorithms.

Daric will go live on Wednesday, November 27, barring any unforeseen regulatory issues.


DoorDash Raises $2.4M To Improve Food Delivery

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DoorDash has raised a $2.4 million round led by Khosla Ventures’ Keith Rabois and Charles River Ventures’ Saar Gur. SV Angel’s David Lee, YC partner Paul Buchheit, Benchmark co-founder Andy Rachleff, angel investor Russell Siegelman, and Pejman Nozad‘s new fund Pejman Mar Ventures were also in on the round. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The company, which was in Y Combinator’s summer 2013 batch, delivers food from 70 restaurants in Palo Alto and Mountain View to nearby towns for $6.

The DoorDash team tells me they will use the capital to grow the engineering and operations teams.

The space is very crowded, even just in Palo Alto and Mountain View. Fluc, another startup that delivers food in the area for a $6 charge, announced last week that it is expanding to 140 restaurants, including service in San Francisco. Fluc told TechCrunch that its order volume and revenue were growing by 20 percent weekly.

While declining to get into specific numbers, DoorDash co-founder Andy Fang claims that DoorDash’s order volume and revenue are growing faster on a weekly basis.

He explains that by partnering with restaurants, DoorDash can shave up to 20% off delivery time and keep prices low for the customer (although he admitted that some prices on DoorDash are higher than those in the actual restaurant).

“We view ourselves as a logistics company,” Fang tells me. “Our goal is to deliver faster than any service out there.”

Fang argued that DoorDash’s biggest competitor isn’t Fluc or another food delivery startup, but non-consumption, or potential customers who don’t know about DoorDash and are just cooking or ordering Pizza. However, the company isn’t worried much about marketing and is relying a lot on word of mouth growth.

This past Saturday, a friend of mine was trying to order food as we watched a glorious day of college football, and we started talking about DoorDash and Fluc. He went to download the app to try it out, and got Door Dash, “a fun running game full of adrenaline rush that tickles the confused nerve of your brain.” He did not enjoy the game.

The DoorDash team says they plan to roll out an iOS app, pictured above, soon.


NFL MVP Adrian Peterson Launches Fitness Training App

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NFL running back Adrian Peterson has teamed with Driven Apps to release a new fitness and sports training app for aspiring athletes. This is the third time that Driven has paired with a professional athlete to release a branded app; earlier this year, the company produced apps with NBA star Dwayne Wade and pro golfer Ernie Els.

Eight years ago, Don and Joe Saladino opened a personal training gym called Drive 495 in Manhattan, and quickly attracted A-list celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Gosling. These busy clients started asking the brothers for a way to take their workouts with them when they were traveling, so they created an app to upload individual workout programs.

A year and a half ago, they realized the app could have a much broader appeal, and created Driven Apps. The company works with top-tier athletes to produce a branded sport-specific training app for the masses. The apps offer users daily workout routines, content from the professional athletes, and a way to track your progress; the workouts update with the user’s progress, so the Adrian Peterson workouts would get harder as you get stronger and faster.

Peterson tells me he wanted to make the app to “show people the kind of work that I put in to come back stronger from the ACL injury.” He said making the app was “intense” and noted that he hopes to inspire people with it.

On December 24, 2011, Peterson tore his ACL in a game. Eight months later, he started in the Minnesota Vikings season opener, and won the 2012 most valuable player award after he came just nine yards shy of breaking the single-season NFL rushing record and powered the Vikings to a playoff berth.

Peterson says having faith was the biggest factor that helped him recover from the ACL injury so quickly and effectively. He said he hopes to show people, especially students hoping to improve their football games, the right “direction into how to approach each exercise and the mindset you should have.”

I’m not usually one for celebrity-endorsed apps, but Driven’s method makes sense to me. If I’m trying to improve my golf game, which currently consists of whacking the ball from one sandtrap to the next, spending a few dollars on the Ernie Els-branded app is well worth it.

Driven Apps CEO Jake Edwards says the company aims to release apps across all major sports, and wants to integrate the apps with wearable devices so that users can track their progress more accurately. The Els, Peterson, and Wade apps are available in the app store for $5, $3, and $4, respectively.