Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow Joins SavingStar Board of Directors


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SavingStar, the national paperless grocery coupon service, announced today that Michael Lazerow, the founder and CEO of Buddy Media, has joined the company’s board of directors. Launched in April 2011, SavingStar provides digital coupons to more than 24,000 stores and over 100 supermarket and drugstore chains across the U.S.

SavingStar’s eCoupons are available on the web and through the company’s iPhone and Android apps, and are linked to users’ registered loyalty cards. Rather than applying coupons at the register when checking out, the coupon’s savings are automatically deposited into users’ SavingStar accounts, where they can choose from several different payout options: Payout from a deposit into a bank account or PayPal account, an Amazon gift card, or a donation to charity. Nearly 500,000 users have signed up for SavingStar in the two months since the service went live.

In 2007, Lazerow co-founded Buddy Media, a management system that allows global advertisers and brands to manage their Facebook pages. With scalable architecture and nifty administrative tools, Buddy Media’s solution gives brands an all-in-one social media management system that enables them to launch, maintain and measure their Facebook presence in any country and in any language. As Leena wrote back in October, one of Buddy Media’s biggest selling points i that “users don’t need to have any prior FBML knowledge to create pages on Facebook and can create sleek and interactive pages” with ease.

Prior to Buddy Media, Lazerow founded Golf.com, which was sold to Time Warner in 2006. Before Golf.com, Lazerow founded University Wire, a network of more than 700 student-run newspapers, which he sold to Student Advantage, helping it grow into a service that is now powered by student journalists at more than 800 colleges and universities across the U.S.

Last week, The Buddy Media CEO also joined the board of directors of Savored, formerly known as Village Vines, which offers high-end dining discounts at top-rated Zagat restaurants. The startup raised $3 million back in January.

Lazerow joins SavingStar’s current outside board members, which include Jeff Bussbang of Flybridge Capital Partners, Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, and David Coppins of Upromise. The company announced a $7 Million Series B funding in April, bringing total investment to $10.7 million.


Search Results on Google Now Highlight Content Authors


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Author Pictures Are Now In Google Search Results

There’s a small chance you might have bumped into my omnipresent avatar in some new places lately – including search results, assuming you use Google. The company on Tuesday, which turned out to be an extremely busy day for them, introduced a nice feature that lets content authors claim ownership of their work and display their photo next to the appropriate search results when they match a query. This brings more personality to Google’s content results, and if you are aware of the author’s other work, may be yet another draw to why you would select one link over another.

My Picture Alongside Zillow Price History Results

The initiative is an extension of the authorship markup code released by the company a few weeks ago. It works by the author selecting a page on their Web site as their “About Me” page, like I have here, listing it on their Google Profile, and designating it through the appropriate HTML code in their site template.

My Picture Alongside Searches for the CR-48 Experience

Results with authors’ mugs such as mine went live on Google.com today, meaning that when you search on topics like Youtify or Zillow home prices or anything else I’ve covered in the past, my photo from my Google Profile is next to the link. The same goes for the dozens of other blog authors who were part of the initial launch program, and more are coming. The team promises simple guides on how you too can be listed shortly, but for now, watch for photos in your results, and promise the quality of my photo won’t make you click less. See also Frederic Lardinois of SiliconFilter’s take.

Deal of the Day: 25% off Samsung PN43D490 43-Inch 3D HDTV with 2 pairs 3D glasses


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samsung pn43d490 sale

Our  today brings you 25% off the Samsing PN43D490 43-inch 3D HDTV. These are the 2011 models of the 720p plasma televisions, and they usually sell for $799. WIth the 25% discount, the price comes down to $599, saving you a whopping $200. However, you also get a $100 Dell gift card, and two free pairs of 3D glasses as well. Free shipping makes this a super deal:

Samsung PN43D490 for $599

Don’t forget, if you’re looking for other deals, be sure to check out our Newegg Promo Code thread. Oh, and if you're on Twitter, be sure to follow @TechPromos for the latest deals, or you can Like TechPromos on Facebook.


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Deal of the Day: 25% off Samsung PN43D490 43-Inch 3D HDTV with 2 pairs 3D glasses originally appeared on Gear Live on Thu, June 30, 2011 – 9:31:32


Turn Google+ Into Facebook


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The social networking wars have dialed it up to 11 this week, with Google unleashing its highly anticipated (and highly leaked) Google+ social initiative upon the world on Tuesday — to not a bad response, to be honest. So it’s not that surprising that today Facebook countered the + hubbub with its own “we’ve got something awesome” unveiling planned for next week. You crazy kids!

The resemblance between the two social networks is uncanny — my Tweet-length opinion is that Google+ is like Facebook with a more usable, streamlined Photos and Groups interface (and that might be enough to win). Only time will tell.

In the meantime, for those of you who have the decidedly middle class problem of social network fatigue, there is a solution. Thanks to the unlimited creativity of  humans, you can now actually make your Google+ look like Facebook, with the Google+ : Facebook Stylish extension or this CSS code.

I love this.


Google+ could make Twitter the next Myspace


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Google+ projectThere are numerous comparisons between Google’s new Google+ social offering and Facebook, but most of them miss the mark. Google knows the social train has left the station and there is a very slim chance of catching up with Facebook’s 750 million active users. However, Twitter’s position as a broadcast platform for 21 million active publishers is a much more achievable goal for Google to reach.

There are two different types of social networks, private and public — each defined by its default privacy setting. Facebook is by default private and meant to connect actual friends. Twitter by default is public and anyone can follow anyone else. Google+ is decidedly in the Twitter camp — meaning you can follow anyone, including Google CEO Larry Page. Google+ lets you see Page’s posts and “like” his photos of kite surfing in Alaska. When posting on Google+, it forces users to select specific social circles they are posting to, which includes “everyone” as an option that mimics a Twitter-style broadcast. If not for the lawsuits and FTC settlement about Google Buzz automatically broadcasting posts, it is likely that Google+’s default setting would be public posts.

Although Twitter is growing (having just hit 200 million tweets a day), Twitter has left itself open to be displaced with a slow pace of adding features. Even newly returned founder Jack Dorsey has said that it was too difficult for “normal” people to use Twitter.

So, how can Google go after the 21 million people who are actively publishing on Twitter, and, more importantly, the few thousands that own the majority of Twitter followers? These types of posters are generally publishers, and Google’s core competence is serving publishers. Publishers pay a lot of attention to Google, from search engine optimization to increase the ranking on Google searches, search engine marketing keyword ads to drive traffic, and on-site advertising solutions ranging from AdSense to DoubleClick.

Publishers are interested in increasing their search rankings and improving their reach. Posting content to Google+1 increases search rankings. The black toolbar across the top of all Google services (other than YouTube), which integrates both Google+ and Google+ notifications, definitely provides reach and is now in front of as many user minutes as Facebook commands. Users commenting or liking on items from publishers will show up in their friends’ toolbars. Even if they only have a few friends, the overall traffic bump will be significant. The Google+ bar has not yet been activated on YouTube, a key publisher and celebrity channel, and likely will broadcast YouTube likes, comments and shares.

Peter YaredWhile Facebook is not sweating about Google+, the threat to Twitter is significant. Google has the opportunity to displace Twitter if it gets publishers and celebrities to encourage Google+ follows on their websites as well as pushing posts to the legions of Google users while they are in Search, Gmail and YouTube. Google was turned down when it tried to buy Twitter for $10 billion, and now it is going to try to replicate it. With Google+, the company actually has a shot.

Peter Yared is the vice president of apps at Webtrends, which acquired Transpond, a social-apps developer he founded. You can  follow him on Twitter.

Filed under: Business and Technology, social, Social Media, VentureBeat


Why Microsoft’s Office 365 will clobber Google Apps


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Office 365Yes, Microsoft is a slow, lumbering giant. It has been working on cloud for years, with numerous iterations, that took so long cloud proponent Ray Ozzie got fed up and left. Microsoft had to work through cannibalizing reseller arrangements, reconciling how to reach consumers versus businesses and a host of other issues. With Office 365, Microsoft has finally delivered an end-to-end cloud platform for businesses that encompass not only its desktop Office software, but also its server software, such as Exchange and SharePoint.

Contrary to Google’s narrative, cloud based office software is still a wide open market. The three million businesses that have “Gone Google” — proclaimed on billboards in San Francisco airport’s new Terminal 2 — are for the most part Gmail users, who are still happily using Microsoft Office and even Microsoft Outlook. Gmail is a fast, cheap, spam-free and great solution for business email, especially relative to the expensive, lumbering email service providers. Google Apps has definitely found a niche for online collaboration, but generally for low-end project management types of spreadsheets and small documents. The presentation and drawing Google Apps are barely used.

Yes, there are definitely Google Apps wins, since it seems cheap. On implementation, businesses find that switching to Gmail is one thing, but switching their entire business infrastructure to Google Apps is a completely different animal that goes far beyond simply changing how employees are writing memos.

Imagine you are a 25-person law firm in Kansas City running Microsoft Office, Microsoft Exchange for email and calendaring, Windows Server for file sharing, SharePoint for wiki/collaboration, and have a custom billing application written in .Net and running on Microsoft SQL Server. Like the majority of small to medium-sized businesses, you are an all-Microsoft shop.

Google comes in and presents: Google Apps looks primitive and doesn’t have all the features of Word and especially Excel and PowerPoint. It also doesn’t work offline. Email and calendar is sort of the same, but you should really use a browser instead of Outlook to get full functionality. Plus, you have to manually move all of your SharePoint content over to Google Sites, the file server isn’t integrated with the Windows or Mac desktops, and you have to keep your .Net app the way it is or rewrite it into Google AppEngine.

Compare this experience to the Microsoft value prop: go home on Friday, and on Monday when you come back everything will look the same, except now we are hosting it all and you can lay off your IT staff. There’s no training required. Employees can run apps on the desktop or in the browser, whichever they like, and the browser version looks like the desktop version, only cheaper. For a regular business where technology really is just a pain and an expense item — not a mission in life —  it’s really a no-brainer. In addition, Microsoft has historically been very smart about seeding nonprofits and educational institutions with copies of software that are virtually free, which it will likely also do with Office 365.

The thing about Microsoft Office 365 is that it looks really good, and look and act just like the well-known native Office apps. The ribbon interface is intuitive and the apps are fast and responsive. Google Apps, conversely, looks like it was made by college students from a weekend project. I don’t understand how Marissa Mayer loves fashion like Oscar de la Renta at night, but goes to work during the day and insists on data-driven web sites that look like crap. Google hasn’t shipped a good user interface since Google Maps. The different between Office 365 and Google Apps is glaring.

Microsoft definitely has a few issues to work out. As Google pointed out, collaboration is not very simple, since you have to be a Microsoft Office 365 subscriber in order to collaborate. However, Microsoft already launched Docs.com, a free Office offering with free collaboration. Microsoft will likely integrate Skype into Office 365, which will offer chat, audio and video conferencing, screen sharing and (probably) free document collaboration based on Docs.com.

Google’s claim that Office 365 doesn’t support many platforms is moot. It works fine on my Mac OS X with Chrome, and officially supports Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox. Office definitely has numerous pricing tiers. The lowest tier is on par with Google Apps and the higher tiers include subscriptions to the desktop software, which help to transition Microsoft from feature-driven bloatware to subscriptions —  a model that has worked for Adobe.

Peter Yared

Google Apps will definitely have a place for new businesses and small businesses with younger employees that aren’t tied to the Office user interface. Google App Engine is a hidden jewel within Google Apps and its hands down the fastest solution for programmers to create and deploy a comprehensive web app. However, with Office 365, Microsoft is clearly on a trajectory to continue its Office hegemony. Microsoft is much more concerned about Apple than Google at this point, and insuring that it monetizes Apple devices like it used to make more per Mac than Apple did in the early 1990s. Conversely, Google should be much more concerned about Microsoft, which now has almost 30% marketshare in search.

Peter Yared is the vice president of apps at Webtrends, which acquired Transpond, a social-apps developer he founded. You can  follow him on Twitter.

Filed under: Business and Technology, dev, DevBeat, enterprise, VentureBeat


How Comcast makes its Skype integration look seamless


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When Comcast announced that it would be partnering with Skype  to bring video chat to the living room of its subscribers, there was some question about whether or not it would succeed where other home-video-chat services failed. For the service to really take off, it would need to be drop-dead simple: After all, Mom and Pop aren’t going to sign up if it’s not as easy to make a video call as it is to make a phone call.

On the Comcast Voices blog on Thursday, the company showed off a couple of videos demoing exactly how it will do just that. The good news, not just for Skype but for Comcast subscribers, is that it looks like the companies succeeded in creating a service that virtually anyone can use.

The key to the service, from a user-experience perspective, is that it doesn’t try to do too much. In fact, it’s the lack of user distractions that really stands out. With a totally stripped-down user interface, the service is really just about making voice and video calls to other users. Meanwhile, even while viewers are making calls, or trying to, they’re still able to see TV that is playing in the background.

“We didn’t want to decorate the screen with elements that weren’t relevant,” Comcast Interactive Media user-experience guru Susan Oppelt said in one video.

Another key is in giving users other people to talk to. The application taps users’ existing Skype buddy lists, and it also connects with the Comcast Connect address book. So users can connect with any of Skype’s existing 660 million users, whether they are on the desktop or mobile apps. By connecting with Comcast Connect, the app also becomes presence-aware on any and every device, Michael Connelly, the VP of Product Development and Management said in another video demo.

The Skype integration goes beyond just bringing the video-chat experience to the TV, however. Connelly says in the video that Comcast is also blending Skype functionality into its Xfinity Mobile applications. By doing so, Comcast will enable its users to make and receive Skype calls on whatever device is best for them, he said.

While Comcast’s implementation of Skype video calling looks cool and seems to be pretty easy to use, its adoption will ultimately depend on the price at which it’s made available to users. So far, Comcast hasn’t mentioned how much it will cost. But the good news is that users won’t have to buy any new hardware to get up and running: Comcast plans to lease equipment to subscribers in the same way it leases DVRs and set-top boxes.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):




Behold: Path Comes To Android In Public Beta


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Well, well, well. It looks like everybody’s favorite limited social networking and photo-sharing app has finally come to Android. That’s right, Path announced via its blog that Path for Android will be available in the Android Market beginning today. And sure it enough, it is. Check it out. But this is by no means a finished product. Path considers Version 1.0 of its Android app to be a public beta, using it to test the waters and learn what works and doesn’t work as it ports to a new mobile OS.

This maiden voyage for Android has quite a few of the familiar features that Path fans have come to enjoy, but according to Path Co-founder Dave Morin, there’s much more to come.

For those unfamiliar with Path, the startup was founded in 2010 by Dave Morin and Dustin Mierau as an alternative approach to the idea of broadly sharable social information, targeting sharing among a smaller group of close friends and family. With a 50 friend limit, Path chose to offer no outside sharing features, Facebook, or Twitter. The team later amended this by adding a complementary app for Twitter photo sharing called With and has added a host of features, like Stacks, and more.

Since its inception, the startup has grown in fits and starts, but has been on a kick this year, turning down a $100 million acquisition offer from Google and raising an $8.5 million round from Kleiner, Index, and more.

Though the app got its start on iOS and has grown its feature set on Apple’s platform, today proves that there’s no OS bias over at Path. After all, it seems par for the course today for app developers to start with Apple before moving to Android. As is such, Path’s Android v1.0 doesn’t quite offer the full suite of features available on iOS, but it does include quite a few of the components Path is known for.

Users capture and share photos with the same 50-friend limit, tag moments with people, places, and things, view friends’ moments, and make use Path emoticons to let friends and family know how you feel about their pictures and moments. Users can also take advantage of chat, see when friends have viewed their moments, and even publish a few moments to Facebook.

It’s a great start for an Android public beta, and there’s more to come. As Path’s blog entry indicates, the startup will “continue to iterate and release updates with more features frequently”, and uses can expect things to improve rapidly as Path continues through beta.

Path is currently available for users of Eclair version 2.1 and up.


Bing Gordon: Every Startup CEO Should Understand Gamification


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Former EA executive, KPCB sFund lead and all around inspiring person Bing Gordon led a talk today at the sFund Gamification Summit. In his talk Gordon broke down platitudes like “gamification is important” into key actionable takeaways on how succeed with gamification, takeaways that could be reformatted and applied to any company.

When asked why he went through the trouble of putting his guide to how to successfully gamify together for entrepreneurs, Bing told me, “Every startup CEO should understand gamification, because the gaming is the new normal,” referring to the fact that every one who had a Nintendo at 16 also has a brain that works in a way that’s more receptive to game elements. “We are overdeveloping the visual cortex of our customers,” he said.

Gamification is as important as social and mobile Gordon told me, which makes sense, as elements like rewarding people for behavior are pure human psychology. His talk was separated into a three-pronged approach, Acquire, Engage and Retain, “All your experiences are three part experiences,” he said.

The best way to acquire customers was to eliminate bounce, by creating a pleasant experience at first entry way, being said. “If you create cognitive dissonance in the first 5 seconds they bounce,” he said.  Designers should aim for creating a “touchable box” or something that people want to touch. He then referred to the game’s interface as being an engine, saying that a great UX/UI guy could save a company from having to throw out thousands of lines of code and could replace five engineers.

Baked in virality was also emphasized as a huge part of customer acquisition, and Gordon said that addition of Facebook profiles were responsible for 15 million versus 1 million monthly active users on Zynga Poker. Adding a friend bar meant 70 million MAUs versus two million on Farmville according to Gordon. “People come back more often when they have a date,” he said.

In terms of user engagement, Gordon advised CEOs that first impressions matter, “Your job is to create a “Wow” within the first session … The value of gamification is the mechanics second and the mind of gamers first.”

Things like virtual goods, showing numbers and giving badges are ways to positively reinforce users for playing your game. Letting them own part of the game by generating and submitting their own content was another way to solidify this emotional bond between creator and user.

Bing also emphasized the value of avatars in games, “Any kind of avatar that people buy into can dramatically change engagement.” It makes sense, people love things that give them a sense of identity. If a game, service or anything really can give them that, then they’re hooked.

Constraints, pre-announcements, and engendering social obligations to play a game were other things Gordon touched on that can contribute to customer retention. He said that the number one question on a game designer’s mind regarding a user should be “Will she come back?” and then “When?”

“We’re in an era where we can have billion dollar audiences,” he closed out the talk saying. There’s no harm in using a few tried and true devices to keep people coming back.


Want To See Which Ads Perform Best? YC-Backed MixRank Is A Spy Tool For AdSense


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Online advertising is growing, and much of that growth is happening in display advertising. While search ads still make up 46 percent of the total over display’s 38 percent, display grew twice as fast as search in 2010. Many online businesses rely on advertising as a supplemental revenue stream in support of their business model — if not the sole source — especially from AdSense. As such, companies and startups spend a lot of time testing out different ad iterations, looks, and copy in an effort to find the most clickable ad content and the most lucrative campaigns. And, interestingly, relatively tiny tweaks to wording and content in ads can have a fairly dramatic effect on clickthrough rates, increasing them as much as tenfold.

A lot of businesses end up losing valuable time and money trying out different wordings and approaches, which is why MixRank, a startup out of the latest class of Y Combinator companies, is today launching a competitive intelligence service that clues businesses into how successful the AdSense display and contextual advertising of other companies (read: their competitors) has been. If, for example, your business is advertising a similar product to another company in the space, MixRank allows users to skip past the some 80 percent of ads that lose money, and view the methods of attack that are working for their competitors. Users can also view the sites that are directing the most traffic to their competitors.

To make this possible, MixRank has effectively created a search engine for AdSense that crawls pages running Google ads, and since Google sorts these ads by effectiveness, MixRank indexes this data and estimates ad performance. After crawling these pages, MixRank takes into account Google’s sorting of the ads by effectiveness, then uses this data to serve essential performance analytics.

As you can get a sense from the image above, MixRank’s service yields a ton of interesting data for advertisers. Using MixRank’s dashboard, users can see that, of the different wordings WooMe is testing for their Google ads, the top phrasing has been far more successful than the other pilots. As advertisers employ different calls to action in their advertising, these businesses can now get a better sense of whether using immediacy, scarcity, or time limits, etc will be more effective in selling their products. Users can quickly test these different calls and easily see what’s working.

As one can see in this example of Gillette advertising, the most successful ads don’t target sites that have the same theme as the product they’re hawking, but instead using common cases, problems, and questions to address their potential customers. The top Gillette ad for deodorant is “Interview with confidence”, for example.

Mixrank Co-founders Ilya Lichtenstein, whose background is in affiliate marketing, told me that many of the seemingly pervasive daily deals sites out there all essentially play “follow the leader” when it comes to advertising (as they seem to do with business models and more). Many of the smaller sites can’t compete with the leaders like Groupon and LivingSocial, because they don’t have the resources to build a large team of salespeople, researchers, and copywriters, so they find the easiest ways to mimic the leaders.

So, because it’s true that, in any highly competitive market with thin margins, there are usually only a few ads or traffic sources that resonate with customers and get big CTRs, MixRank levels the playing field. It allows smaller businesses access to the same copy, content, testing and comparative analysis that the big boys utilize; smaller operations can see where their competitors are buying ad real estate and view what type of ad copy is working best. (

Thanks to Cofounder Scott Milliken, who built most of MixRank’s architecture, the service currently indexes 93,000 sites using Google AdSense, and that number continues to grow every day. One might, of course, assume that a caveat to MixRank’s business might be intrinsic to scaling and adoption, but even as more and more businesses sign up to use the service, it seems that ads will only become more efficient at a faster rate, as each team learns from another’s experiments. And, in the end, that could be better for consumers, too.

MixRank is completely free at this point, as it tests the market to see what kind of adoption it will see, but Lichtenstein told me he has plans to eventually implement a subscription model (an affordable monthly one) to monetize. And big picture plans include building a model of the whole display market, which may eventually include machine learning to work towards building a prediction engine that can tell users which particular version of a campaign might be the most successful.

It’s a deceptively simple concept, but a very interesting one, so check it out, and let us know what you think.


Strategy Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Continued International Participation


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roundtable1.pngTrue to the international dynamic of 1M/1M, during today’s roundtable we had entrepreneurs from the U.S., India and Israel pitch their businesses. And in the audience, there were people from at least 30 different corners of the world.

directdialogs

First, Senthil Natchimuthu from Coimbatire, India, discussed directdialogs. Senthil is doing a small business marketing solution that combines loyalty programs with email marketing and campaign management. The product roadmap is quite ambitious, and I was concerned about the viability of a minimum viable product with such a large scope. It turns out that the product has been built over the last two years, and a MVP is already in place. Now, Senthil is working on the positioning and go-to-market strategy for the business.

Sponsor

tapTank

Next, Yael Greenberg from Tel Aviv, Israel, pitched tapTank, a concept stage business where Yael wants to help consumers barter, collaborate, and compete on specific tasks. She gave a series of use cases from group travel to competing in marathons, and the one that resonated with me was barter. Each of her use cases is potentially a separate business and I advised her to focus on fleshing out the barter concept.

PinkVilla

Then Jeu George from Redmond, Washington, presented PinkVilla, one of the largest user-generated content-driven portals for Bollywood aficionados. The site has 11 million page views a month, and Jeu expects 2011 revenues to be about $250k. The site’s unique visitors are at about 600,000 per month.

Jeu is trying to figure out his financing options, and the majority of the discussion today was around target market, product roadmap, and monetization models, which are the factors that would drive investment strategy.

The product has been validated on campaigns by a dozen major Indian brands and agencies, and has shown great metrics.

This is a promising business, but clearly under-monetized. The revenue models need to be revisited, and the customer acquisition strategy as well. Their penetration in India seems relatively low, given that Bollywood is really an Indian phenomenon, its international following notwithstanding.

Reach360

Finally, Kiran Nagarajappa and Rajesh Agarwal from Bangalore, India, pitched Reach360, a neat advertising optimization solution to help agencies, advertisers and publishers get better eyeballs and click-throughs out of their current campaigns. The product has been validated on campaigns by a dozen major Indian brands and agencies, and has shown great metrics. Now, Kiran and Rajesh are looking to take this to the next level. Last week, they won Microsoft’s Indian Startup Challenge grant of $40k.

Very interesting company with lots of great possibilities of working with major display advertising players, ad networks, and of course, advertisers and agencies.

You can select the business you like best of those discussed today through a poll on the 1M/1M Facebook page.

The recording of today’s roundtable can be found here. Recordings of previous roundtables are all available here. We will be holding future roundtables at 8 a.m. PDT on the following dates:

Thursday, June 23, 2011: Register Here

Thursday, June 30, 2011: Register Here

Thursday, July 21, 2011: Register Here

Thursday, July 28, 2011: Register Here

And you can sign up for the 1M/1M premium program here.

Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, an educational, business development and incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka and Uuma. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Roundtable photo by Shinichi Sugiyama
Discuss


How TouchPad Stacks Up to iPad (Video)


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On digits today, Walt spoke with Lauren Goode and Julia Angwin about his review of the HP TouchPad. While the strongest point of the TouchPad is webOS, its poor battery life relative to the iPad, paucity of apps, and numerous bugs are the primary reasons why he’s not recommending the TouchPad over the iPad for most consumers.

During his D9 session, HP CEO Léo Apotheker stated that the company would not release a product that wasn’t perfect. Walt mentioned that this comment might come back to haunt Apotheker as HP tries to penetrate the market dominance of the iPad with the TouchPad.


[ See post to watch video ]

Microsoft Says It Will Give Your Data to the U.S. Government, Even If It’s Not in the U.S.


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Microsoft logo 150x150 Microsoft has admitted that it will hand over data to the U.S. government, if properly requested, even if that data is stored somewhere other than the U.S.

The issue, according to ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker, is that because Microsoft is a U.S. company it has to comply with the Patriot Act, and that means handing over data that may be offshore. The same rules would apply to Amazon Web Services and any other U.S. based cloud provider that has servers overseas.

Sponsor

The admission came during the Office 365 launch. According to Whittaker, Managing Director of Microsoft UK fielded a question about whether Microsoft could guarantee that data stored in the European Union would stay in the EU, even if it was requested by the U.S. government under the Patriot Act. Whittaker said Microsoft could not make that guarantee.

“Any data which is housed, stored or processed by a company, which is a U.S. based company or is wholly owned by a U.S. parent company, is vulnerable to interception and inspection by U.S. authorities,” writes Whittaker. “While it has been suspected for some time, this is the first time Microsoft, or any other company, has given this answer.”

Last week the FBI seized a server from Instapaper during an unrelated raid on colocation provider DigitalOne. Now Microsoft has made it clear that data housed in other countries might be subject to the same treatment.

Discuss


What’s Facebook Releasing Next Week? Not Project Spartan.


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Apparently, Facebook is gearing up to show off something “awesome” next week. At least, that’s what CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters while he was visting the Seattle Facebook offices yesterday. Reuters reports that whatever it is, it has been developed by the 40-person team based in Seattle. And they think it might be in the mobile or tablet space.

All we know for sure is that it won’t be Project Spartan, the HTML5-based app platform that Facebook has been working on with a small group of outside developers in secret for months. Spartan will not be ready to go before the middle of July at the earliest, we’re told — nor is it based in Seattle.

What is based in Seattle are teams with deep ties to mobile. Earlier this year, the team up there put a lot of work into merging the m.facebook.com and touch.facebook.com sites together. Given that part of what we’ve seen in the leaked Facebook mobile photos app closely resembles a part of the new photo experience on m.facebook.com, it’s possible Facebook will unveil their new mobile photos offering from Seattle. All we’ve heard recently is that the pictures we leaked were somewhat old (but very real). We also believe that there will not be a stand-alone app when it’s released, but rather, it will be a part of the current Facebook app experience.

We also know that the Facebook team in Seattle has been trying to build up a desktop software team. But the hiring is ongoing for that, so don’t expect any news out of that department for quite some time.

The wildcard is the iPad app. We know it’s coming soon, and have spoken with multiple people who have seen it now. It’s not clear if the Seattle team built it or not, but it’s certainly possible.

Update: One source says it “highly unlikely” that Facebook’s announcement next week is the iPad app.


Total Immersion’s augmented reality makes loyal fans out of tweens


This post is by Meghan Kelly from VentureBeat


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This article is part of a series of posts where we write about DEMO alumni and news of their progress. Total Immersion launched at DEMO in 2004 and returned to launch a separate product in 2007. Check out their 2007 video here and more at DEMO.

Crowdsourcing has taken a turn for the tweens with MyFlipbook, a Facebook application from augmented reality company Total Immersion. The app was launched this week by Hollywood Records in support of recording artist Selena Gomez’s new album.

To Total Immersion, MyFlipbook provides a unique outlet for users to have customizable experiences with their technology and social media. There’s a lot more here, though. The broad reach of social media in tandem with personalized interactions can develop sincere brand loyalty.

In order to be a part of your own music video, Total Immersion’s technology provides a randomly selected word for the user to hold up in a photo of themselves. The photo is then spliced in with other crowdsourced photos taken by your friends and timed with the words to Gomez’s song, “Who Says”.

Around 9:30am PT yesterday, Gomez announced MyFlipbook on her Facebook fan page. Since then, the post has received 9,440 likes and 2,123 comments. To give this perspective, most of her posts receive this kind of attention. But with hundreds of people already participating in the MyFlipbooks found on YouTube, it shows fans are listening and acting.

This isn’t Total Immersion’s first go with the tween demographic. In 2010, the company paired up with the Disney popstar to create My Interview with Selena Gomez. This time, Total Immersion provided questions for fans to answer and then timed them with Gomez’s pre-recorded answers in a “web cam interview” scenario.

Engaging consumers in a customizable way yields rich interactions and fosters repeat user relationships. Social media in general has s dynamic engagement that makes people feel unique and part of the conversation. Saying Twitter and Facebook simply have repeat users is a major understatement, which is why Total Immersion is targeting social media for their latest augmented reality initiatives.

“Total Immersion understands the importance and influence of social networks on individuals’ lives, and we have the ability to create dynamic, unique and customized experiences for our customers based on those networks,” said Bruno Uzzan, chief executive of Total Immersion.

Total Immersion is best known for their augmented reality software, D’Fusion, which integrates 3D imaging in real time onto a live video stream. The company raised $5.5 million in funding last March to expand the software and its global operations.

Got six minutes to launch your game changer? We’re finding top shelf thinkers from around the world ready to showcase their products at DEMO Fall, on the same stage where companies like Netscape, TiVo, E-Trade, and Java got their start. After you sweat out your six minutes of fame, head off the the DEMO pavilion to chat with potential investors, partners and show off the goods.  Apply for your spot here. Demo Fall 2011 is located at the Hyatt Regency in Silicon Valley, September 12-14.

Filed under: DEMO, VentureBeat


Kleiner’s Bing Gordon: gamers should make $3 an hour while playing


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Online gamers should on average generate $3 of value per hour, regardless of the game they are playing — and game designers should aim for that target, according to Bing Gordon, partner with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

That’s the sweet spot for creating a level of satisfaction for gamers when they play an online game, Gordon said. For example, the amount of gold a player earns in online game World of Warcraft should sell for around $3 on secondary or black markets. In games like FarmVille, players should generate $3′s worth of gifts or coins per hour.

Similar to achieving something in real life, gamers want to generate some kind of real value out of the game — even if the game is just meant to pass the time. Players are much more likely to continue playing a game if there’s an illusion they’re creating value, Gordon said.

The lines between games and the real world are blurring now that the world is becoming “gamified.” Many games give players rewards for just about anything, and apps like Foursquare have jumped on the trend by rewarding players for doing everyday things in the real world — like visiting a gym or announcing they are watching a TV show.

The latest generation of gamers that actively use apps like Foursquare demand more value out of the games they are playing. In a game like World of Warcraft, gamers want to wear the best armor or have the fastest mounts as a way to signify that they are “winning” the game. Games have to make sure they deliver rewards at just the right pace that makes the experience of getting a powerful item rewarding, but not too easy — amounting to around $3 an hour, he said.

Social games like FarmVille and Empires & Allies, both developed by social gaming company Zynga, are credited for starting the “gamification” craze by giving players a reason to constantly return to the game for incremental rewards. Zynga has since become a Facebook distribution powerhouse like no other game company. That makes it a lot easier for Zynga to generate revenue, since a percentage of users usually pays for items in otherwise free games. The company has delivered hit after hit to Facebook, including FarmVille and CityVille.

Zynga’s latest social game, Empires & Allies, is another hit for the company. It attracted more players than Farmville, the company’s first breakout hit, in just 25 days. Empires & Allies is gaining new users at a rate of a million a day and 8 million a week now, according to AppData.

Gordon is sitting pretty himself as the backer of Kleiner’s investments in mobile gaming firm Ngmoco, which was bought by DeNA for $403 million. Kleiner also invested in Zynga, which might file for an initial public offering in the not-too-distant future at a valuation between $10 billion and $20 billion, according to a number of reports. The company is looking to raise up to $2 billion, according to the reports.

Filed under: games