Mobclix Acquired By UK Mobile Marketing Company Velti


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Another one bites the dust. Mobile ad exchange Mobclix has been acquired by London-based mobile marketing agency Velti, we’ve heard from a source with knowledge of the transaction. We originally reported the rumors of a Mobclix deal last week. While terms of the deal have not been disclosed, we hear the size of the acquisition is north of $50 million. UPDATE: We’ve confirmed the acquisition with Mobclix; here is the release.

Mobclix’s exchange allows app developers to sign up with their ad inventory and ad networks, like Millennial Media and Jumptap, bid for the spots based on age, gender, location, and other factors. The ads being served change automatically, based on which ad network is bidding the highest to reach the users of that particular app.

The startup, which launched at TechCrunch 50 in 2008, also lets advertisers buy across a variety of apps based on demographic, geo-targeting, and behavioral characteristics. And Mobclix offers analytics via a recent acquisition of Heartbeat.

Velti, which is a public company on the London Stock Exchange, offers a SaaS technology platform that allows agencies and brands to plan, manage, and optimize mobile advertising and marketing campaigns in real time. The company says that in 2009, 2,000 mobile campaigns were run on its platform by more than 450 brands, agencies, and mobile operators in more than 35 countries. Velti has acquired a number of companies over the past year, including mobile ad technology Media Cannon and AdInfuse.

The exit is a little anticlimactic, considering that the names being bantered about with respect to Mobclix’s possible acquisition were RIM, Microsoft and other well-known technology companies. But the sell further reinforces the point that as Apple (via Quattro) and Google (via AdMob) take over mobile advertising, independent startups may not be able to compete. Acquisitions may be the best option for smaller ad networks.

Rumor has it that RIM is actively looking for a mobile ad network, and sniffing around Millennial Media. Nokia may also be eying a mobile network as well. Smaller mobile ad network mSnap just got bought by business software company Marketron. I’d expect to see more market consolidation as these independent ad networks continue to get snapped up. After all, mobile advertising is a $1 billion market and everyone wants a piece of the pie.


ScribbleLive plans to reinvent the news article


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old newspapersAs readers seem to expect more and more live news coverage, a Toronto startup called ScribbleLive has been developing a fast, collaborative way for news organizations to keep up. Cofounder and chief executive Michael De Monte said the latest version of the service, which launched today, lays the groundwork for what he’s hoping will be a new kind of news article.

ScribbleLive is already pretty cool: News organizations create a Web page or an embedded stream of content to cover a specific event or breaking news story. Then reporters can add updates in almost any way they like. They can log onto the site and post stories, pictures, and videos, of course, but they can also email their text, photos, and videos, or upload them via an iPhone application. And they can incorporate reader comments and Twitter updates into the stream.

Today’s updates add more ways to cover the story. Reporters can leave a voicemail that will be posted on the site, or send an SMS text message. There’s a new BlackBerry app. ScribbleLive offers more security on its news sites using Secure Sockets Layer technology.

This may sound like liveblogging software such as CoverItLive, but I was impressed by the wider range of features ScribbleLive offers. Plus, De Monte said liveblogging competitors only offer content in the form of a widget, while ScribbleLive lets publishers create their own branded pages. And now it’s possible to push updates to multiple pages at once — for example, a national news organization could push presidential election news to different local news pages.

ScribbleLive launched the earliest version of its service back in 2008, and it’s used by large organizations like Reuters and Hearst Television. For now, it’s mainly a supplement to traditional news articles, De Monte acknowledged — if you want to follow a news story as it happens, then it makes sense to check a ScribbleLive page for updates, but if it’s days or weeks later, then a more digestible news article is probably more attractive.

But the company’s long-term goal is to erase that boundary. In other words, De Monte wants a ScribbleLive page to become that definitive news article, not just a liveblog that’s only relevant for a few hours. We’ll begin to see that shift later that year, he said, when the company adds the ability to edit the page, dragging and dropping content wherever you please (right now everything’s presented as a stream of content in reverse chronological order, though you can “pin” specific posts to the top). So the page starts out as more of a liveblog, then news organiztaions can edit it as the story develops, polishing and consolidating the content.

ScribbleLive raised a seed round from Rogers Ventures at the end of 2009, and just raised another round from the same firm. It plans to raise a venture round in the next four to six months.
Reuters.com Bangkok protests

[top image via Flickr/ShironekoEuro]

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Why the Oracle Exalogic Cloud is Not Elastic


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Sun-Oracle-CloudSwitch-Blog.pngThe concept of the cloud in a box is breaking down as more people come to question how Oracle defines elasticity.

At Oracle Open World last week, the company repeatedly stated that its Exalogic machine is elastic as virtualization is built into the system. Each of the 360 cores can be virtualized. How many virtual machines depends on several factors.

We spoke today with John Considine, founder and CTO of CloudSwitch, which we wrote about today in a post about extending data centers to the cloud. Considine is well-qualified to talk on the topic. Prior to starting CloudSwitch, Considine served as director of the platform products group at Sun Microsystems. Much of the Exalogic system was built on Sun’s technology.

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Considine wrote about the elasticity issue on the CloudSwitch blog this past week. In it, he outlined why Exalogic is a box but not an elastic environment.

Considine makes the point that a box is a defined as a set of resources. Customers provision for the maximum size of the box. But if you use less, you have already paid for the box, so scaling back does not have the cost benefits as it does if you were scaling up and down in the cloud. He writes:

“Placing the term “Elastic” in the name of this offering is stretching the accepted definition of the term as it relates to cloud computing. The Exalogic server is a contained set of resources that is purchased, operated, and maintained as part of the enterprise infrastructure. You can scale your applications up and down within this solution, but in the end, you are limited to the number of cores, amount or RAM, and size of the storage you purchased. While you can add more racks to the solution, you are stuck paying for the whole thing independent from what you really use – not exactly elastic or pay for only what you use. “

This does not mean that the Oracle Exalogic machine is poorly suited to a virtualized data center. Considine says Exalogic represents the future of the virtualized data center. Instead of spreading out over thousands of square feet, Exalogic is an all-in-one environment.

Jake Ludington made the same point last week in a comment on our post about the poor metaphor that is cloud in a box:

“While you raise good points about Oracle’s own definition of cloud in a box, I think there is a case to be made for a bundled solution with a cloud infrastructure inside getting the label “cloud in a box”. If you think of the cloud as more fluid (or to use the popular term, elastic) allocation of resources, where those resources are typically CPU, RAM, storage, and bandwidth, something that bundles all those things in a package that allows for infinite reconfiguration of a pool of resources is in effect a cloud in a box.

EMC and HP are both making solutions that fit this description, by providing the resources on a common backplane, with a management layer that allows users to request a subset of the resources. When the use case ends, those resources are then returned to the common pool to be redeployed, just as they would be in a larger cloud infrastructure.”

Yes, we agree that HP convergence strategy has value. But, still, a system is not elastic when it is in one box. The limitations are the box itself. You will eventually have to buy more boxes. That’s fine for a data center but not the cloud where scaling works across limitless resources that do not cost $1 million when you max out the box.

It makes much more sense to think of extending the data center into the cloud, sharing virtual machines in an encrypted bridge. The data center becomes part of the cloud’s flow. The Exalogic machine serves as one component in the overall infrastructure.

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Magic Solver filters the crowded App Store to find apps that are “magical” (video)


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Magic Solver is attacking the app discovery problem head on. With more than 250,000 apps on the iPhone and iPad, it’s easy for developers’ apps to get lost and it’s hard for users to find  they really enjoy.

So Magic Solver has created the Daily Magic Cube app, which you can see in the picture and the video below in its iPad format. The company finds magical apps, or those that are delightful or surprisingly good in some way (it doesn’t refer to magic tricks). The Daily Magic Cube app presents you with just a single “magical” app each day that the company believes will knock your socks off. You can tap the screen to buy it if you want it. It also presents you with other highly filtered selections of news, videos or music. It thus reduces the complex, crowded App Store into a very simple app.

I caught up with the company today at the Plug and Play Expo in Sunnyvale, Calif. Emmanuel Carraud, chief executive of Magic Solver, was one of 40 executives that spoke about startups before a crowd of investors. His company is addressing the key issue of app discovery that we will address at our DiscoveryBeat 2010 conference on Oct. 18.

The point of the app is to save you time sorting through all of the content to find twhat you want, said Carraud, whose company is based in Cambridge, U.K. The presentation is cute as an animation reveals the app of the day to you. If you want more than just one app, you can browse through a bunch of categories such as Top Stories, Gossip, Sports, or Health. You can view the top-rated and most-watched video on YouTube. You can check out tweets, view pictures, listen to songs and find other cool stuff.

Magic Solver is getting ready to launch the app in the U.S., where the company hasn’t had much of a presence yet. It has set up an office at the Plug and Play Tech Center in order to pull off the launch.

The company was formed in 2008 by Carraud and two friends, Oliver Lamming and Leon Palm, from Cambridge University. They created a Sudoku Solver that worked by taking a photo of a Sudoku puzzle and then solving it for you. They went on to win a business competition at Cambridge and have since created a bunch of games and other apps — Daily Magic Cube is the 15th — that have been downloaded more than 2.5 million times.

DB2010Getting content noticed is a challenge for everyone making apps. Join us at DiscoveryBeat 2010 and hear secrets from top industry executives about how to break through and profit in the new cross-platform app ecosystem. From metrics to monetization, we’ll take an in depth look at the best discovery strategies and why they’re working. The conference takes place on October 18th at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco. Sponsors can contact us at sponsors@venturebeat.com. To buy tickets, click here.

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Manage Employee Training Online Using Mindflash


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Anyone who’s ever been responsible for training staff members on software or internal processes knows it’s no simple feat, especially at smaller companies with fewer resources.

It’s precisely this challenge that Mindflash aims to resolve with its online training management platform, which came out of beta earlier this week.

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Mindflash lets trainers build courses using PDFs, PowerPoint, Word docs and videos, and then invite trainees, who are later quizzed on their progress from within the platform. One of the more powerful aspects of Mindflash is its trainee progress reports, which show in real-time how each person is doing and who may need additional training.

The appeal for small businesses is two-fold: It automates many training-relating tasks, freeing up time and energy for other projects, and comes with a very affordable price tag. Mindflash is free to use for organizations with 10 or less trainees, and then ranges from $79 to $399 per month, depending on the number of trainees. The platform is currently limited to 250 trainees, so larger organizations may need to look elsewhere for their training needs.

Interested in giving Mindflash a whirl? They have a free 30-day trial and of course, it’s always free for companies with 10 or less trainees. Go ahead, give it a try.

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New Twitter Is About 50 Percent Rolled Out — Where’s The Facebook-Style Backlash?


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I’d like to believe that if Facebook changed the order of “Developers” and “Careers” in the footer of their site, it wouldn’t lead to a huge user backlash. But history suggests otherwise. Okay, maybe I’m slightly exaggerating, but I’m honestly not sure. It seems that if Facebook does anything to change their site, it’s grounds for user backlash. And yet, these past couple of weeks, Twitter has been drastically changing their site, and we’re seeing almost no backlash. Why?

I asked Twitter’s VP of Product Jason Goldman that very question backstage at TechCrunch Disrupt a couple days ago. His response? Twitter needed to execute on a new experience that was still Twitter-like, and they did that. It was about taking the core experience and extending on top of it.

That may sound incredibly obvious, but as we’ve seen time and time again (and on many more services than just Facebook), that’s not easy to do. Goldman admits that New Twitter went through a number of variations — some of which were more “app-y”, as Goldman put it. But they settled on something that at its core was similar to the Twitter website that everyone had grown to know and love.

He also noted that Twitter brought in a range of users from outside the company every week to test it out and see their reactions. That’s an interesting approach because many companies opt to “dog food” their products instead (test them with their own employees). Obviously, the downside of bringing in outsiders to test is leaks, but that didn’t happen here — well, not until the final minutes before launch.

Goldman admitted that part of the good feedback is probably luck. As in, they were lucky to make the right product choices for New Twitter.

Currently, New Twitter is available to slightly less than 50 percent of all Twitter users, so they’re not quite out of the woods just yet. But that’s a huge base using it without much complaint. I think it’s pretty safe to say that they nailed this metamorphous.

Watch Goldman talk about this and more in the video below.

[photo: flickr/fibonacciblue]


Strategy Roundtable: Investors Don’t Fund Broad Ideas


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start_chair.pngAt today’s roundtable I had a disturbing experience.

One of the entrepreneurs presented a business idea that sounded like a business-to-consumer concept, but as I peeled the onion, it turned out that the business was really a business-to-business concept. I asked why the pitch was so confusing and all over the place, to which the entrepreneur answered: “I am trying to keep a broad idea so that when I talk to investors, they can decide which way they want to go.”

I almost fell off the chair.

Then, I got very agitated.

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Here I had an entrepreneur telling me with a straight face that he was leaving the most basic business decisions for the investors to make.

Absurd, but most of all it scared me. It disturbed me no ends. I am still kind of rattled today trying to figure out how entrepreneurs can be given some basic lessons on startups and funding.

Folks, if any of you are out there with such naïve ideas, please understand that investors do NOT invest in broad ideas. And they don’t make critical business decisions on your behalf based on some nebulous concepts.

I will not go into the details of the specific discussion any further. Instead, let me talk about the other three businesses we discussed today:

Application Services International

First up was Robert Woltz with Application Services International, whose product EMPAS will provide an on-line low cost solution that benefits medical institutions searching for qualified, credentialed and verified candidates. The medical field has a very high employee turnover rate, with 5 million medical professional employees leaving current positions each year (U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics – 37.5% per-year).

To replace them, employers spend $11,500 average per healthcare employee acquisition cost (20% of the annualized salary plus hiring incentives is considered customary for acquisition cost). There is no available simple or inexpensive way for employer and employee to find each other except through Monster-type services.

Robert has come up with a solution to this problem at 20% of the cost of hiring employees through Monster, and has several hospitals signed up to pilot it as soon as the product launches next month. He has a couple of hospitals who have agreed to pay approximately $35,000 annual subscription if they like the product, and another dozen also lined up to try it. He is looking to raise money now, but I must say, his financing strategy made me cringe.

We have to work on that!

Financial Consulting Service

Then Lokesh Parakh discussed a consulting service that he and his five colleagues are trying to pull together in the pre-paid card business, helping non-banking financial institutions launch card services in South Asia. In speaking with Lokesh and discussing his and his colleague’s backgrounds, I sensed that this is a group trying to do management consulting with little or no background.

Whatever background they have is more suited to IT consulting, and I suggested that they become a value-added-reseller of a major card technology vendor and represent them in the South Asian market. Gemalto, the smart card world leader comes to mind as a possible vendor. It might be a much better alignment of skills.

Distribution Channel for Product Companies

Then Amit Gurung pitched a business plan to create a distribution channel for product companies trying to cater to the rural base-of-the-pyramid (BPO) market in India. Amit’s analysis is absolutely on the mark that there is a tremendous paucity of distribution channels for BPO products, but he did not present any information about how he was going to solve this problem. All I could assess that he is bound to face a chicken-and-egg problem – not having enough scale to attract product vendors to use their channel, versus not having products with which to build a customer base. How does he mitigate that?

Since I don’t know anything about the solution Amit has in mind, I just threw an idea out there… why not become a retailer of the same basket of products that he wants to distribute? Buy from the vendors as all retailers do, and see if the chicken-and-egg can be mitigated that way.

I’m also thinking seriously about creating a private (paid) lounge for 1M/1M entrepreneurs who, like Amit, don’t want to share their ideas in a public roundtable. I constantly get requests for feedback from such entrepreneurs, and I recognize that this is an issue. However, it hasn’t been physically possible for me to offer free consulting to such large numbers of people thus far. Nonetheless, increasingly, this private lounge is emerging as one of 1M/1M’s biggest requirements.

For those planning to pitch their business during an upcoming roundtable, please use the Clarify Your Story appendix of my Positioning book to prepare your pitches. While many entrepreneurs find it difficult to answer all the questions in the CYS framework, I strongly recommend that you address the following items in your roundtable pitch at the minimum:

  1. A validated customer value proposition
  2. Detailed segmentation analysis and target customer definition at a fairly granular level
  3. A customer acquisition strategy that is pragmatic, and
  4. We also recommend that you present a succinct summary of whatever customer validation work you have done.

Your roundtable pitch should be no more than three minutes, and consist of four slides. No more. No less.

I started doing my free Online Strategy Roundtables for entrepreneurs in the fall of 2008. These roundtables are the cornerstone programming of a global initiative that I have started called One Million by One Million (1M/1M). Its mission is to help a million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond, build $1 trillion in sustainable global GDP, and create 10 million jobs. In 1M/1M, I teach the EJ Methodology which is based on my Entrepreneur Journeys research, and emphasize bootstrapping, idea validation, and crisp positioning as some of the core principles of building strong fundamentals in early stage ventures. In addition, we are offering entrepreneurs access to investors and customers through our recently launched our 1M/1M Incubation Radar series. You can pitch to be featured on my blog following these instructions. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here. You can register for the next roundtable here. All three of today’s roundtable companies will soon be featured on Incubation Radar.

Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here. You can register for the next roundtable here.

Sramana Mitra is a technology entrepreneur and strategy consultant in Silicon Valley. She has founded three companies, writes a business blog, Sramana Mitra on Strategy, and runs the 1M/1M initiative. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her Entrepreneur Journeys book series, Entrepreneur Journeys, Bootstrapping: Weapon Of Mass Reconstruction, Positioning: How To Test, Validate, and Bring Your Idea To Market Innovation: Need Of The Hour, as well as Vision India 2020, are all available from Amazon.

Photo by designkryt

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Silver Peak Systems issues new options to grow WAN acceleration business


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Silver Peak Systems, a developer of tools to enhance the performance of wide area networks (WAN), has issued new options, according to a filing with the SEC. The software company offers its clients solutions like data backup, data recovery and centralized storage.

Based in Santa Clara, Calif., Silver Peak Systems was founded in 2004 and works with large enterprise customers like AT&T and Google.

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Rio De Janeiro Is A Landfill, At Least According To Google


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The Internet is rife with Google Translate failures, but this is the first we’ve seen on Google Maps. Apparently the Rio De Janeiro = Landfill issue on the newly launched Google Maps Brazil is known within Google and is caused by a mixup between a landfill site near Rio and a poor Portuguese to English translation, where the Portuguese is okay but the English is um, suspect.

I’ve never seen this kind of mistranslation on Maps before and from what I can glean it only affects Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Sao Paulo and other Brazilian cities are, from what I can see, immune. It is currently unclear whether Google is working on a fix.


Fuseproject founder to designers: To beat Apple, don’t be Apple


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Apple’s design focus is about as sharp as it comes, with pretty much every aspect of the company dominated by how the final product will feel in a customer’s hand. That’s the secret to Apple’s success — and that’s the strategy competing businesses have to avoid, said Fuseproject founder and industrial designer Yves Béhar.

Businesses looking to compete with Apple — though I can’t imagine who would want to take on that giant without a few billion dollars in revenue yearly behind them — need to have an incredible design focus with their own specific flair, he said.

“The reason Apple is so successful is because they found a way to fundamentally apply design principles in a way that is uniquely Apple and is very compelling in every way,” Béhar said. “The wrong attitude is to say Apple did it that way, we’re going to do it that way — you need to keep that as a top layer, a level of importance, and find design principles that are uniquely yours.”

That said, Béhar said Apple is a “shining example” of how design should be executed in a company. He said the design principles and strategies that Apple applies to its products are directly responsible for its success — especially its focus on designing products that aren’t dominated by customer feedback.

Apple’s incredible focus on design came out in a slightly sour way with the launch of its most recent iPhone. The iPhone 4 sported an external antenna band that interfered with the phone’s reception, prompting Apple CEO Steve Jobs to make his “we’re not perfect” statement and hand out free cases to cover the design flaw.

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Unity and StartTalking Win GigaOM’s Mobilize Launchpad 2010


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To conclude a great day at GigaOM’s Mobilize 2010, 10 startups competed against each other in front of our audience and a panel of VC judges. Unity Technologies won the judges’ vote, with Jiepang in second and Vive in third. StartTalking was the audience favorite followed by Netmobo and Vive.

Judging the competition were Emily Melton of Mayfield Fund, Quinn Li of Qualcomm Ventures, Robert Abbott of Norwest Venture Partners and John Occhipinti of Woodside Fund.

FeedHenry has a cloud platform for enterprise mobility that offers secure end-to-end enterprise apps. CEO Cathal McGloin called what the company offers “the Salesforce of mobile,” with a completely hosted platform to develop, integrate and deploy mobile enterprise apps. The Ireland-based startup also offers a white-label solution for telecom carriers.

Judges’ comments: Melton said, “We’ve seen a proliferation of a number of these platform applications, but this seems one of the most comprehensive.”

Scores: (left to right as listed above) 7, 7, 7, 7

Jiepang is the Foursquare of China. The company offers check-ins and badges to 280 million people online in China. The service works as both a web and native app, syncing with the top four social networks in China.

Judges’ comments: Melton: “I question the value of a standalone company (doing) check-ins.”

Scores: 6, 9, 8, 9

Micello‘s slogan is “mapping the great indoors.” The startup creates maps of the interiors of buildings, which aren’t covered by traditional solutions like Google Maps, including shopping malls, hospitals, airports and college campuses. The company says it has mapped more than 1 billion square feet of retail locations, including over 251,000 stores, and is looking for partners.

Judges’ comments: “I think the company presents extremely well, and I really like that it is data-driven model, but I question the business model from a breakout perspective,” said Occhipinti.

Scores: 8, 7, 8, 6

Netmobo is an infrastructure-as-a-service that acts as back-office platform for developers, offering them the ability to manage pricing, charging and payment activities.

Judges’ comments: Dynamic price, said Li, “seems to be a feature that the app stores could do potentially themselves… I see the value there but from a venture standpoint it looks like a challenging play.”

Scores: 6, 5, 7, 7

SpiderCloud Wireless provides a server-based solution for telecom companies to provide higher-quality cellular access inside buildings. The company installs a server on a corporate network that communicates with a series of wireless radio nodes inside a building to create a network that then transfers cell calls from the interior network to the cell carrier’s external network.

Judges’ comments: “I haven’t seen the wireless carriers deploying a lot into the enterprise, and I’d be worried about Wi-Fi taking away some of the need for having the 3G access,” said Abbott.

Scores: 8, 6, 7, 6

Spork is an easy way to find, review and share dishes at restaurants. The mobile app provides info on the best dishes nearby, what dishes to order at a restaurant, trusted reviews and a way to remember foods to try.

Judges’ comments: Melton: “When you think about moving into a national footprint, there aren’t many compelling places for check-ins.”

Scores: 5, 6, 6, 6

StartTalking from AdelaVoice provides a completely hands-free and eyes-free voice-to-web texting solution for drivers, which can also support posting to services such as Twitter and Facebook. The company’s voice-recognition device clips to a visor and is totally voice-activated. The company said that it plans a freemium model that would provide free texting but would charge for other services such as Twitter or Foursquare.

Judges’ comments: “These kinds of voice-to-text solutions are very exciting but also very fickle. In terms of the user experience, if you could nail it, you would really have something big,” said Occhipinti.

Scores: 7, 7, 7, 8

Unity Technologies is a 3D game multi-platform game engine with tools that create rich experiences on iOS, Android as well major gaming consoles. The modern software has helped large studios to hobbyists build games.

Judges’ comments: Li: “I think gaming is a huge space. I think 3D will take off on mobile.”

Scores: 9, 9, 8, 7

VISIARC provides cloud-based access to mobile documents — instead of having to download large PDF files, PowerPoint presentations, large images and other attachments, the company hosts those documents in the cloud and provides access to them via its email service. Documents can be viewed and interacted with without having to be downloaded. The startup calls its solution “cloud-boosted push mail.”

Judges’ comments: Abbott: “I definitely think it’s a problem that needs to be solved, but I’m afraid the major email platforms will eventually solve it, and that would make it hard for you to make money.”

Scores: 6, 7, 5, 6

Vive is a viral word of mouth service that allows people to share recommendations across fragmented web and mobile platforms. Vive is looking to get installed on phones and websites to encourage virality.

Judges’ comments: Occhipinti: Addresses a real problem in fragmentation.

Scores: 8, 8, 8, 7



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The Shifting Market for the Extended or Hybrid Cloud


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cloudswitch.pngOver the past few years, cloud service providers at times have had to invent its own tools to provide customers with specific requests asked for as part of its service.

During this time, the market has seen particular growth in companies that provide ways to port applications to the cloud. These include companies that automate virtual machines between the data center and the cloud.

But now the market is entering a second phase as these providers are offering new ways to move apps from the data center to the cloud.

That’s what VMware is providing with VCloud Director and its promise of the hybrid cloud. It’s also the vision shared by CloudSwitch which provides an encrypted bridge to share virtual machines in the data center and the cloud.

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But there’s a key difference that tells a story about a shifting market. We see continued signs that the cloud will continue to extend out from the data center across multiple hypervisor environments. A hypervisor runs multiple operating systems to run concurrently on a server.

That’s in contrast to VMware, which is managing customer’s virtual environment from the data center to third party cloud services companies. VCloud Director is the cornerstone of its hybrid cloud strategy:

vclouddirector.jpg

ellenrubin.jpgCloudSwitch is a startup out of Boston, co-founded by John Considine and Ellen Rubin. Considine is co-founder and CTO. Prior to CloudSwitch, he was director of the platform products group at Sun Microsystems. Rubin is former vice president of marketing at Neteza, the data warehouse storage company recently acquired by IBM. The company has $15 million in funding. Its management team includes people from BMC; EMC, Netezza, RSA, the security division of EMC and Sun Microsystems.

The CloudSwitch encrypted bridge is a virtual appliance that allows data centers to extend its security perimeter out to the cloud. This shares similarities to VMware’s core strategy to extend from virtual end to end, connecting virtualized data centers to limitless numbers of virtual machines in the cloud.

CloudSwitch takes an agnostic approach. It works on Amazon Web Services and Terremark. Amazon supports the Xen hypervisor. Terremark works on VMware’s hypervisor environment. The goal for CloudSwitch is to support multiple hypervisors.

Customers install CloudSwitch to move any virtual appliance into the cloud. The software maps resources to the cloud for what the customer wants to see. Instances are created that encrypt the connection from the data center to the cloud. Customers control the digital key in the data center where the software is installed. CloudSwitch encrypts network storage, too.

AWS provides an encryption service for creating a virtual private network. Customers, though, must buuld the bridge themselves. CloudSwitch is in some respects exploiting that lacking capability.

The challenge comes with mapping into a virtual network. The relationship between virtual machines is different. Mac addresses, the storage controller and disc drives all require configurations.

CloudSwitch automates all of that for the customer.

It makes far more sense to use a service that you do not have to build yourself. Services from companies like CloudSwitch will be further in demand as the cloud extends from the data center to the limitless environments of the cloud.

The question becomes what direction the market will take. Will VMware dominate the hybrid cloud environment or will it be more multi-facted with companies like CloudSwitch providing services across multiple hypervisor environments?

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Is it too late for a Digg comeback?


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Social news aggregator site Digg.com is trying to work its way out of the traffic hole it created with its botched redesign attempt. Today it announced the return of several popular features from its previous version.

In the last few weeks Digg has brought back a slew of old features whose absence had rankled site users. The Upcoming section returned along with the pagination feature. Pagination had been removed in favor of a feature similar to one on Twitter that allows users to expand the number of items on one page instead of clicking to another page. Digg also brought back user submission logs and unveiled new publisher buttons. Many publishers did not use the new buttons immediately, however, because of ongoing problems with the site’s Application Programming Interface (API

In the first post on the site’s blog since Kevin Rose wrote one about a month ago, community manager Jen Burton said the site “obviously has been experiencing some growing pains.” In addition to announcing the return of some version 3 features, she encouraged the site’s community to continue to report problems they find. There is concern, however, among community members that Digg is struggling too much and may not be able to reignite the interest of those who have left.

Burton’s post comes just a day after site co-founder (and former CEO) Kevin Rose said the site did, in fact, lose visitors when it attempted to move from its third design to its current fourth incarnation. Multiple publications also reported that he was feeling “burned out,” perhaps to the point where he may not be at the company in six months. Rose later commented that he was not planning on leaving but was, in fact, “in it for the long haul,” or until he could “get the community back on (Digg’s) side.” The site’s traffic has nosedived in the time since the new design emerged, and many publishers have reported lower or inconsistent referral traffic compared to before.

One of the biggest user complaints in recent weeks has been an increase in “spam” material on Digg’s front page from sites that held no interest to the community. Several sites, including “travel-online-free.blogspot.com” as well as “herbalremedies-free.blogspot.com” reached the front page partly because whoever ran the sites corralled enough votes without moderators noticing. The submissions were eventually removed from the site.

Burton said in the post, “Thank you all for reporting spam to us, and making sure we’re aware of what you’re experiencing on Digg. Some of the feedback has been tough to swallow, some has been great and all of it is vitally important to us as we continue to develop Digg.com. Please keep sending it our way.”

One publisher says the steps are a good sign, but that they don’t amount to much yet. “It’s really too early to count Digg out once and for all,” said Victor Barrera, Social Media Strategist at Village Voice Media. “Sure, the rollout of V4 wasn’t the smoothest and many people are talking about Digg’s traffic collapse and the possible departure of Kevin Rose. But we’ve got to keep everything in perspective here. Digg v4 is a little over a month old. It’s simply too early to say that Digg won’t ever bounce back. Digg is very interested in user feedback, which is impressive. They’ve added back features based on user demand, and they plan on making Digg better for the end user as time goes on.”

Whether or not the adjustments and upcoming changes will be enough to bring back some of the vibrant Digg community of old remains to be seen. More new features are likely to be rolled out, including “interests” pages, but not much is known about that or whether users will want it. Rose mentioned the return of user “leader-boards,” which had always been popular in the past. The pagination could mean an uptick in page views, which could do good things for the company’s bottom line and morale. Also, once the site’s API stabilizes, it could mean a slew of new products developed around Digg, as well as more traffic. “Publishers can reliably use Digg buttons and Digg widgets once Digg gets its API up to speed,” said Barrera. “More developers will also be able to create web experiences around Digg data, which means Digg will be able to reach a lot more people than through just their site.”

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OpenDNS secures $4.5M to protect users from phishing scams


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OpenDNS, a provider of internet security, has closed a $4.5 million round of funding, according to a filing with the SEC. Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners participated in the round.

Based in San Francisco, the free Domain Name System (DNS) service provides individuals, schools and businesses with phishing protection, parental controls and typo corrections for misspelled URLs. OpenDNS also operates a web site called the Phish Tank that allows users to submit suspected phishing sites. Earlier this month, the firm announced that it has identified more than 1 million phishing links.

Founded in 2005, OpenDNS generates revenue from ads and first raised $2.5 million from CNET founder Halsey Minor in 2005.

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Mobilize 2010: Distribution Is Pain Point for Mobile Apps


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There’s plenty of new innovation in the mobile application space, as development has become cheaper and easier than ever before. But while today’s mobile startups are finding it easier to create and release applications, venture capitalists on a panel at GigaOM’s Mobilize today said that finding an audience for their apps in an increasingly fragmented market is still a huge issue.

The rise of open platforms for mobile applications — like Apple’s App Store and the Android Marketplace — has brought down the cost and time for developing applications, which Timothy Chang, principal of Norwest Venture Partners, said has led to a lot of fast iteration.

Not just that, but innovations are being developed more cost efficiently than they have in the past. Nowadays a team of two or three developers can create interesting new applications, according to Matt Murphy, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. But beyond just the human factor in the number of developers it takes to build an app, the cost of infrastructure have been vastly reduced with the introduction of cloud services.

All of that has led to an explosion in the number of mobile apps consumers have to choose from. The problem is that with all those choices, developers are having a harder time distinguishing their products from other apps. Forget development — marketing and distribution are the big stumbling blocks for today’s mobile startups. (GigaOM Pro recently put some of the best practices together in a report.)

“I can’t wait to have someone say, we want to raise $10 million and spend it on customer acquisition,” said Scott Raney, partner at Red Point Ventures. The problem is that the solution for ensuring virality and scale in distribution hasn’t been solved yet.

Distribution is one problem, but it’s not the only one. Developers also have to determine whether they want to develop cross-platform or just for one platform, and if so, which one? Once they choose to develop for another platform, that means taking members of their team off of the core application to develop another. But in many cases there’s still not enough incentive to do so.

“We think it makes sense to invest on one or two platforms and just kill it on those platforms,” said Rob Coneybeer, managing director of Shasta Ventures.

And another big problem: Android apps still don’t have the support for monetization that Apple’s iOS and App Store have. Chang said that developers often have a simple rule for determining whether they should build for a certain application store, which is, “Can you make money on the platform? If you don’t have monetization,” he said, “you won’t see the developers there.”



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Placepop brings mobile loyalty program to Android users


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PlacePop, which allows any company to create and maintain virtual loyalty cards, today announced its free application is now available for Android devices.

The company was founded by former Friendster CEO Kent Linstrom and offers businesses a replacement to the traditional loyalty cards found in many of our wallets and purses. Consumers can check-in through the application, earn points and earn free stuff or special privileges for being a virtual card holder. The more points a user earns the higher their level, starting at bronze, then on to silver, gold and platinum. Businesses can customize their card and loyalty program on the app.

A whole host of loyalty program applications exist, and each offers consumers the ability to earn points or rewards for checking into a location. Major players like Foursquare and Gowalla are starting to add loyalty rewards to their services as well, giving brands the means to offer specials or promotions to those who check-in to a particular venue.

Foursquare continues its quest to dominate the check-in space with today’s release of version 2.0 for Android (Mashable first covered the story), giving users the ability to create to-dos and get tips from friends. The company is also working on a possible recommendation engine for its users.

Silicon Valley-based PlacePop recently launched for the iPhone and also announced an angel round of funding for $1.4 million from Affinity Labs founder Chris Michel, Bebo Founder Michael Birch, James Currier and Stan Chudnovsky, according to TechCrunch.

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The Usual Super Angel Suspects


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superangel_sep10.jpgFirst it was the heated angels vs. venture capitalists debate, and then the infamous “angelgate” Bin 38 meeting. These and other happenings are still the talk of the startup investment scene, and at the epicenter – a notorious gang of in-betweeners known as “super angels.”

Whether you agree with this nomenclature or prefer to call them “micro VCs,” as an entrepreneur or young startup, it’s important to understand these key players in the investment market. ChubbyBrain, a group of “data geeks” focused on helping entrepreneurs, has put together a handy list breaking down everything you need to know about the super angels.

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In case you’re confused about what exactly a super angel or micro VC is, it’s basically any angel investor who has become so popular and skilled at their craft as to warrant raising an outside fund themselves. They sit between traditional angels who invest their own cash and full-blown VC firms that employ partners and invest copious amounts of other people’s money.

chubbybrain.gifSo who are the super angels? That’s where ChubbyBrain’s directory comes in handy. Thursday, the self-proclaimed data geeks compiled a list of 14 super angel funds, complete with loads of information for each. Curious about the average size of Dave McClure’s 500 Startups investments? That’s in the directory. Want to know about the types of companies Howard Lindzon’s Social Leverage funds? That’s there too.

Other valuable information include the size of each fund, the geography of the investments made and the number of investments made by each super angel. For startups, approaching investors is all about developing a personal relationship and getting to know their habits and needs. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a lot like dating, and in that case, ChubbyBrain’s directory is the startup investment personals section.

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Mobilize 2010: Virtualization on the Go


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To virtualize or not, seems to be the question for most operators and handset manufactures according to the panel discussing the topic at our Mobilize 2010 event in San Francisco today. The panel appeared divided with Srinivas Krishnamurti, senior director for mobile solutions at VMware noting that there isn’t yet a use case that has led to widespread virtualization, the abstracting of hardware from the operating system, on handsets. This statement was quickly countered by Steve Subar, president and CEO of Open Kernel Labs, which has installed its virtualization software on 700 million handsets. There are 700 million use cases right there, with the primary drive so far being the ability to provide a smartphone-like experience at feature-phone like costs.

Subar explained that the Motorola Evoke was the first virtualized handset on the market two years ago. The virtualization enabled Motorola to save $40 on the cost of materials and resulted in a $200 price reduction on the handset for the end consumer. However, providing cheap handsets isn’t the only role for virtualization; the large use case will likely be centered around providing a dual-OS device for enterprise employees who want to carry a personal phone. Instead of carrying a company-supplied BlackBerry and an Android phone virtualization enables a phone that could run both.

It also can offer more security by segmenting out certain elements of the software and placing them in areas where they are not subject to attacks or eavesdropping that might interfere or infect an operating system. As a result one can create a more secure phone, or keep certain elements of the phone off of a vulnerable operating system. However, this is an emerging opportunity as noted by Yoram Salinger of Red Bend Software, calling it the second stage of mobile phone virtualization.



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The flood of new apps won’t let up any time soon, say Silicon Valley investors


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Despite a good chunk of the newest applications pulling features from existing applications, there is still an enormous amount of interest in app development that will continue for the foreseeable future, according to a number of venture capital investors. The ideas were kicked around by a panel of investors at the GigaOm Mobilize conference in San Francisco today.

Applications have evolved as a low-cost way for entrepreneurs to experiment and test the startup waters with their own company. In an age where an app developed by two or three people can turn into a $10 million exit, there’s a significant amount of interest in both standalone and derivative app development from both fresh entrepreneurs and venture capital investors, said Timothy Chang, Principal with Norwest Venture Partners and one of the panelists.

“And there’s no question it’ll keep snowballing,” said panelist Matt Murphy, a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. ”Everybody’s just so excited that one or two people can develop whatever they want.”

While returns haven’t grown — likely a result of thrifty consumers in the recession — the number of companies popping up has actually grown, Murphy said. The amount of funding hasn’t grown either, and companies are receiving less funding across the board, Murphy said.

But because apps are a hit-driven business, there will probably be a number of large companies that have distribution power emerging in the near future, Chang said. It’s difficult for smaller app developers to market their apps in the Apple App Store, Android Marketplace and other app ecosystems because of the sheer number of apps on those platforms.

“When there are new distribution landscapes, distribution of content is god almighty,” he said. “And the companies that can synthesize distribution as a muscle crop up, those are the holy grail things to fight for — when you have distribution power that’s almost impossible to replicate.”

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Chat in Multiple Languages on Your Android


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lingua_logo.pngLinguaSys has launched its TransGen Mobile app today, promising the first multilingual private mobile chat rooms for Android clients. Rather than just a personal translation service, this app will allow groups to participate in real-time chat, even if they speak multiple languages.

The Android app offers private persistent chat rooms of up to 500 users per room. The app also offers a personal translation option when not in a chat room. But as the need to communicate globally is increasingly real-time, it’s the ability to chat that makes the app useful.

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TransGen_ss.jpgThere’s also an enterprise, self-hosted version that offers more moderation and control and is available on multiple devices, including Androids, iPhones, and desktop clients.

LinguaSys is a machine translation company and the new app uses the company’s technology to “provide higher accuracy and produce superior comprehension in the translation of complex corporate short-life communications including text chat, e-mail, web pages and documents.” Initially designed as a translation tool for the military, the Android app brings this tech to the international business community.

But as machine translation can be notoriously mediocre, the pressure will be on this app to not just provide quality translation, but to do so in real-time.

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