Accel Backs Brazilian Social Local Reviews Site Kekanto

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Kekanto, an Yelp-like local guide and site in Brazil, has raised a undisclosed amount of Series A funding led by Accel Partners with Kaszek Ventures participating. This actually marks Accel’s fifth investment in Brazil over the past twelve months. Accel Partner Andrew Braccia will join Kekanto’s Board of Directors.

Kekanto, which translates as “In which corner?” in Portuguese, is a source of local reviews for millions of people in Brazil. The platform offers consumers the ability to quickly find information on local businesses, tourist attractions, public service offices, and other points of interest in the country.

Kekanto´s search and recommendation system blends your social network and demographic information to replicate real life word of mouth.

The startup is seeing around 3 million unique monthly visitors and Kekanto will use the new funding to expand to Argentina, Chile, Mexico and other countries in Latin America.

It’s no secret that Accel views Brazil has a huge growth market for online services. The venture firm’s recent previous investments in Brazil include Elo7, and Shoes4You.

Want to buy drinks for a bunch of Sydney entrepreneurs?

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This is now the thirteenth year that I and some friends have organized the Annual Entrepreneurs and Self-Employed Xmas Drinks in Sydney. The reality is that many who are setting up companies, working solo, or running small businesses don’t have the kinds of Christmas parties that employees of big companies do. So we celebrate together, bringing our teams along.

This year we are running the event adjacent to a launch for my new book Getting Results From Crowds. In the end it wasn’t logistically feasible to run two separate events, and it made sense to do them at the same venue. The book is in any case highly relevant to entrepreneurs.

See the event page for full details, summarized below.

When: Tuesday 13 December, 2011
Where: Civic Hotel, corner of Pitt and Goulburn Streets, Sydney – Level 1 Main Bar

* 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm – Global Book Launch of Getting Results From Crowds

* 6.30 pm – 9.30 pm – Annual Entrepreneurs and Self-Employed Xmas Drinks

Thanks to the generosity of and Kreston Dormers there will be free drinks for early arrivals.

Please come along and join us, and feel free to bring friends or pass on word to others.

Make friends with some entrepreneurs!

If your organization would like to make friends with a bunch of interesting, switched-on entrepreneurs and self-employed people, then please consider buying some drinks for those at the party, joining two great companies that are already doing so.

If you can put $500 behind the bar on the night (or even $1,000 if you’re feeling generous) we’d be happy to put up a banner, get your logo up at the event, provide material for pick up, and give you a minute to say hello to the attendees. You’ll generate some warm feelings, make people think of you, and most importantly you’ll meet some fantastic people and will have a fun, fun night.

If this is of interest, get in touch on our contact form.

In any case, hope to see you there to share a festive drink!

Robin Williams Blows Your Siri Impression Out Of The Water

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Screen Shot 2011-11-30 at 10.55.00 PM

If you’ve already seen this, watch it again. Here’s veteran comedian and Mrs. Doubtfire star Robin Williams on the Ellen Show talking about “the new future” and bringing up the technology du jour, Siri. I mean just the fact that this is happening is absurd, but then, then …

Commenter Peter Kjeldsen puts it best:

“You have the normal Robin being gentle and ordinary fun.. then he goes in to french Siri mode, gets a laugh and that is when this man starts rolling.. there is no off switch when he does that… LOOK LOOK AND THEN PAINT.”

My favorite part is “Why are you looking at a phone? LIVE YOUR LIFE …”

Priceless advice.

Via Vic Gundotra

Yahoo Stock Gets Gaslit by Bidders Dangling Phantom $20-a-Share Bid

This post is by from AllThingsD » Kara Swisher

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What an amazing coincidence.

On the very day Yahoo’s board is considering actual bids from two private equity firms interested in deals to buy close to 20 percent of the company for between $16.50 and $17.50 a share, comes a spate of eerily similar breathless media postings that there’s another bid in the making for $20!

That’s totes better, right? I mean, how can Yahoo’s directors accept a real live lesser-priced bid now when there’s a prettier one in the fog just ahead?

No, really, it’s there — if you squint really, really hard.

Except it’s not even close, when you actually check with two of the key members of the group of alleged buyers, which would apparently be Blackstone, Bain Capital and Yahoo’s Asian partners, Alibaba Group and SoftBank.

Sources close to Blackstone and Alibaba said while there have been talks, which have been previously reported weeks ago here and elsewhere, there is no bid in the offing that is close to fruition and at that price.

In an unusual public statement, in fact, Alibaba’s John Spelich said flatly: “Alibaba Group has not made a decision to be part of a whole-company bid for Yahoo.”

This from a company whose voluble CEO Jack Ma is prone to making giant and noisy speeches to signal his interest in finding a way — any way — to get back shares of the Chinese Internet giant from Yahoo.

Not this time, and several sources close to Alibaba reiterated that it was nowhere near close to any bid as yet and that a price is still up in the air. In addition, sources added, Alibaba might decide to work with another PE group, such as Providence Equity.

In addition, sources noted that if Alibaba could strike an adequate deal with private equity bidders to get a large chunk of the stake back, it would be highly preferable to a hostile takeover of Yahoo that could end in tears and little else.

“The threat of a takeover is more useful than the damage an actual takeover would cause for everyone,” said one person close to the situation. “No one wants this to be unfriendly.”

So why the rumors — doubtlessly being spread around by hopelessly cynical Wall Street types interested only in stock manipulation — surfacing today?

Simple: To get some easy-to-play media outlet to bite, report it as speculative fact and cause the stock of Yahoo to take flight tomorrow.

Hey, it could happen!

Sadly, this junior-league trick has already worked — Yahoo shares were up a dollar to $16.72 in after-hours trading tonight.

It is likely to go even higher tomorrow, which could cause the board of Yahoo to delay accepting either of the partial bids from Silver Lake or TPG Capital, even if they were the best thing for the company and its employees.

Except that the job of the Yahoo board is to evaluate what’s before them and not what is perhaps, someday, soon, wait-by-the-phone, really soon, I promise is going to be delivered.

In fact, several sources noted that it’s not clear if the Yahoo board has even asked for parties to submit whole-company bids yet.

When and if Yahoo’s board does that and if something better actually does come down the pike, with a much fatter price tag of $20 or more, then the directors can mull that over.

That would be the prudent thing to do for the company, its employees and its shareholders, even if Yahoo’s stock gets a temporary lift now.

Maybe I am just a hopeless Silicon Valley romantic and not a hardened Wall Street M&A type, but the survival of Yahoo is the real point here, rather than the lining of bankers’ already fee-stuffed pockets.

And anything other than that is just fog.

Social-Mobile Game Developer Funzio Aims Its New Title, Modern War, At iOS

This post is by Eric Eldon from TechCrunch

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Funzio has managed to make hit versions of its first game, Crime City, for both Facebook and iOS devices. That’s a rare feat for any company, especially such a small one. Now it’s trying again with a role-playing simulation called Modern War, that it’s launching first on iOS.

The game itself is closely patterned after the iOS version of Crime City. A slick graphical interface lets you move around various battle scenarios, where you click on enemy units and structures on the screen to attack them, and earn virtual cash and experience when you win. You also battle with various other players in a traditional role-playing format where you don’t actually do any battling, you just see the resulting losses and point gains. A home base lets you build structures that generate new troops and equipment.

The free game has the standard virtual goods revenue model. The virtual cash currency and gold are dual currencies that let you do things like buy new buildings that provide more powerful improvements to your troops.

Modern Wars improvements, from the quick look we got earlier today, go beyond just being a reskin of iOS Crime City. Additions include attacking options like aerial and naval bombardments, as well as more customization options for the buildings in your base. The graphics are also sharp, and designed to appeal to more traditional gamers.

The larger story here is Funzio’s strategy for going after both iOS and Facebook markets. Crime City launched on Facebook in September of last year, and had a big run — although it has matured and is falling towards the last part of its life cycle now. The iOS version launched this past August, and has been among the top 25 free as well as top grossing titles for most of its time since then.

By launching Modern War on iOS now, Funzio could piggybacking off of the current enthusiasm for the iOS version of the street-themed first title. The Facebook version is coming later, vice president of business development Jamil Moledina tells me, once the Facebook development team finishes working on the company’s third game. (Social-mobile features are fairly limited so far, although you can do things like share the game with Facebook friends.)

Large Facebook developers like Zynga have been slowly but steadily figuring out how to build mobile games. Mobile gaming startups have for the most part not been able to — or have decided not to — go after Facebook. Funzio is, along with Booyah and a few others, an exception. However, the focus on both platforms has been an increasingly common theme in game development in the last year, as the mobile virtual goods model has come into its own.

And its track record so far isn’t the only reason this company and its new title are worth keeping an eye on. Funzio is comprised of all stars from other top other social and mobile game developers. Cofounder and COO Anil Dharni was previously a cofounder at top mobile game developer Storm8. Cofounder and CEO Kenneth Chiu was a general manager at Zynga. Moledina was just recruited away from a senior business position at EA. Chairman and founder Rick Thompson had the same role at Playdom.

Modern War isn’t quite live yet, but you can keep track of it here.

MasterCard, mFoundry let banks create their own NFC mobile wallet

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MasterCard and mFoundry, a mobile banking specialist, are poised to help banks launch potentially hundreds of NFC-based mobile wallets with a new partnership. The collaboration will allow banks that use mFoundry for their mobile banking apps to add support for contactless NFC MasterCard PayPass payments, turning those mobile banking apps into digital wallet payment tools.

MFoundry counts more than 500 banks, credit unions and other financial institutions as customers including two of the biggest banks, Banks of American and PNC. More than seven million users turn to apps and services built by mFoundry. Next year, these customers will be able to make touch-and-go payments at thousands of point-of-sale terminals with their mobile phones right through the app they use regularly to check their bank statements, pay bills and transfer funds. MFoundry said it will update its mobile apps most likely in the first half of 2012 to include NFC support and it will be up to banks to turn on the capability with MasterCard. Users will be able to connect their bank-issued debit and credit cards for NFC phone payments.

The two companies are also working on a mobile application that allows mobile phone operators to offer PayPass payments from their phones. MasterCard isn’t just striking a deal with mFoundry, it’s also becoming an investor in the start-up’s latest round. Larkspur, CA-based mFoundry is set to announce its latest round on Monday.

This collaboration is important news because consumers have a trusted relationship with their banks. While Google and the carriers through their Isis joint venture are trying to become a trusted wallet provider with their NFC-based systems, they still don’t have the kind of financial trust that consumers place in their banks. So banks could be instrumental in helping NFC along by introducing the technology to their customers through their existing banking apps.

For NFC to work, “you have to get consumers to change their behavior and we think banks are in a great position to do that,” said James Anderson, SVP of Mobile for MasterCard.

This will also bring the banks into the NFC mobile wallet market, where they have not been very prominent so far. Citibank is an early partner in Google Wallet while Isis, the carrier-led joint venture has not announced any banking partners, though it hopes to have a few on-board when it launches next year. But for the most part, the banks have been largely silent. It might due to the fact that they’re not all comfortable with the terms of the Google Wallet and Isis. Now, they’re in a position to leverage NFC themselves without having to work with another provider.

Drew Sievers, CEO of mFoundry said it’s not just big banks that can jump on board. The integration with MasterCard means a lot of smaller financial institutions will be able to extend support for NFC payments through their mobile banking apps. And he said this could be a catalyst for growth for mFoundry, helping it attract even more banking customers.

“By working with MasterCard, mFoundry will be able to evolve and expand its financial services
platforms to reach more consumers through new and existing clients,” said Sievers.

It’s still unclear if all these banking apps will get direct access to the NFC secure element to enable payments. There seems to some wrangling going on as the carriers in Isis, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, are not rushing to enable other wallets like Google Wallet to work on their NFC-enabled phones. It doesn’t appear like the Galaxy Nexus, Google’s flagship Android 4.0 phone, will support Google Wallet even though it has an NFC chip. That may come down to the fact that Verizon is not a Google Wallet partner like Sprint is. But Sievers believes that phones will eventually be wallet agnostic and that will allow banking apps with NFC support to flourish.

I think this could add some confusion in the short term as we hear a lot of different competing voices urging users to get on board with their NFC wallet. In fact, the term mobile wallet is going to get abused early and often, I imagine. But ultimately, I think this could be a good thing. New technology needs advocates to help sell it to consumers and in the case of NFC, which can trigger some security concerns in consumers, having the banks their walk them through the process would be a good thing. Provided these banking apps can actually leverage existing NFC chips properly without interference, it will be another way to get NFC adopted overall.


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Synopsys buys chip design software maker Magma for $507M

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In a big strategic shift for the chip design software industry, Synopsys said today it plans to buy Magma Design Automation for $507 million.

The deal leaves two juggernauts in electronic design automation software (EDA) — Synopsys and arch rival Cadence Design Systems — to battle it out as the software of choice for engineers who design electronic chips. Synopsys is buying Magma for $7.35 a share in cash, a 29 percent premium to Magma’s closing price today of $5.72

San Jose, Calif.-based Magma Design Automation is a publicly traded company. The merged companies will compete with Cadence and Mentor Graphics for billions of dollars in revenues related to tools that can be used to automatically design and lay out chips. Chips are so complex these days that they often have billions of components known as transistors on a single piece of silicon.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Synopsys reported fiscal fourth quarter revenue today of $390.5 million, up 4 percent over a year ago, and adjusted earnings per share of 46 cents.

The combined goal of the companies is to create tools that enable more profitable chips, meaning they create chips that improve performance, have smaller sizes and costs, and lower power consumption. Rajeev Madhavan, founder and chief executive of Magma, said the combined companies would ensure that chip designers have access to advanced technology to design chips at 28 nanometers and below. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter and the automated design tools are the only way to create complex chips with such tiny dimensions. The merger is subject to closing conditions.

Filed under: VentureBeat

Startups, Investing, And Daily Deals: Five Questions With Mark Cuban

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Some think Mark Cuban is a genius, some think he’s lucky. Either way, the guy has a knack for seeing value where others may not, for locating long-term investments, and for ending up on the right side of the deal. Some may disagree with his approach, but Mark Cuban is a billionaire, and while making money is a lot easier when you have stacks of it to play with, becoming a billionaire doesn’t happen by accident. (Lotto winners not included.)

For those on the younger side who haven’t yet made their first billion, the investor’s early story should be comforting: After graduating from college, Cuban started his career (auspiciously enough) as a bartender. Next, he worked for a year as a salesman at a PC software retailer, making $18K in salary, before being fired for meeting with a new client to close a deal instead of opening the retail store.

He later founded MicroSolutions, a systems integrator and software reseller, but it wasn’t until eight years after grabbing his diploma that he sold his first business, which CompuServe acquired for $6 million in 1990. And then, a bit more famously, he founded a company based on his mutual love of college basketball and webcasting (Audionet), turned it into, and sold it to Yahoo at the height of the dotcom boom for $5.9 billion in stock.

Since then, he’s been involved in a number of projects, most notably helping build the Dallas Mavericks, a team in which he bought a majority stake back in 2000, into an annual playoff contender and Lebron-slaying NBA Champions in 2011.

He’s also become an increasingly active angel investor in tech startups over the last decade, (you can get a brief sense of the companies he’s invested in on his CrunchBase profile), and spends quite a bit of his time coaching young entrepreneurs.

So, seeing as he’s spent more than a few minutes growing businesses, investing in startups, and advising companies on how to grow, when to pivot, and how to make money (he even recently wrote a book on the subject), we took the opportunity to ask the investor a few questions on some topical issues facing the tech industry. Check out his responses below:

There’s a big debate going on about whether startups are overvalued / overfunded … is there really a series A crunch and do you think this will end badly?

It really depends on where you live. The approach to startups is far different in Silicon Valley than it is in the rest of the world. Valley startups start big. Everywhere else we take the lean, mean startup machine approach.

The former could run into cyclical financing problems because their success is dependent on exits first and operational profitability second. If the IPO market shuts again, and foreign investment dries up, the capital for Valley startups could be impacted.

As far as overfunding, it seems to me that the prevailing wisdom out West is that the only way to exit big is to start big. With that mindset there is no such thing as overfunding. But its not an approach I ever take. I’m funding multiple companies across the country every quarter. Trust me, none are overfunded. If they execute, they will get the cash they need.

Do you think Groupon is overvalued?

I like Groupon. Their valuation is whatever the market says it is. They can’t pay attention to that noise. They have to be relentless and focused on continuously adding value to their customers at the consumer and retail sides. If they can do it, they will laugh all the way to the bank.

We’ve seen the rise of Pandora and a host of interesting web radio/music services, like Spotify, take off recently. Curious how you view these players both as an investor/advisor. Do you see potential for Amazon/Google Music/Spotify etc to supplant iTunes?

It all comes down to licensing fees from the labels, both direct and statutory. One of my biggest professional mistakes at was not fighting the DMCA harder. There are so many ridiculous and arbitrary limits that every music company has this as an overhang on their business.

I also worry about patent trolls coming in and killing this business.

As a guy who understands digital video better than most, what are some of the most interesting companies and trends there that you think we should be paying attention to?

Just remember one thing: The future of TV is TV. Television is still the best alternative to boredom. If you look at all the internet video companies that try to complement TV, they are doing well. If you look at those trying to replace TV, they are sucking wind. I categorize Netflix as doing well and a complement. They made a big mistake, but they are still the big dog.

Do you think Facebook has a chance to become the OS of the Internet? Or is social/friendsourcing really just in a bubble of its own?

Right now they are the platform that counts. So yes they have a chance to be the end all, be all going forward. They have become the home page for many of us. That said, their mobile solutions as a platform suck. They are very vulnerable to someone coming along and making social built on mobile a far better and more engaging experience than Facebook currently is.

And, what’s more, as a bonus for readers, Cuban has also agreed to answer three “top” questions posted in the comment section of this post. The three that receive the most “likes” will be chosen, so ask your own questions and “like” away. Also, a word of warning: He won’t answer basketball related questions, so keep your inquiries focused on tech and business.

Part of the reason that the investor and Mavs owner has been in a question-answering mood lately is that one of the startups to which he plays both investor and advisor — JungleCents — recently launched a giveaway where the winner receives a free lunch with Cuban. Once users sign up for JungleCents’ newsletter, they can then tweet at the investor, asking him questions on whatever topics they choose, to which Cuban has been responding in kind.

The Mavs owner is a good guy, but obviously JungleCents’ model is one that Cuban sees great value in — enough so that he’s allowed the startup to leverage his own personal brand for promotional purposes. Of course, this is in his best interest, but how many investors agree to do that?

Cuban invested $1.5 million in JungleCents back October of last year and is joined by a board that includes Hollywood producer Peter Safran, Guy Kawasaki and Bill Reichert from Garage Ventures. The reason Cuban believes in this San Francisco-based startup? Aside from the fact that in less than a year the startup has gathered 2.2 million email addresses, publishers included, and the user sign-up rate has tripled over the last 3 months, the company is taking an alternative approach to daily deals.

JungleCents uses a lead generation model — similar to how airlines and travel companies like Orbitz pay sites like Kayak for bringing them new customers — to give publishers supplemental revenue streams.

To do this, JungleCents accepts gift cards from companies instead of cash, then runs those as daily deals, which it offers as discounts. (You can read our initial coverage of the startup here.) In its recent partnership with men’s lifestyle magazine, AskMen, for example, the startup partnered with men’s merchandiser Bonobos to offer discounts on their products, which it then displayed both on and

This allows readers of AskMen to take advantage of a deal that’s pertinent to the content of the magazine, without having to leave the site. Customers might pay $48 for a $100 voucher to spend at Bonobos, which users can cash in whenever they want — all at once, or over time.

When I asked the owner what it was specifically that attracted him to JungleCents, he said: “I like the idea of white label deal solutions that allow sites to leverage their own traffic. The core competency of most websites is rarely if ever going to be to source deals. Junglecents can do it for them and take a share of the profits. It’s low overhead, lots of sweat equity so not a big cash investment, but with high leverage if they can match the right deals to highly trafficked sites”.

There you have it. Fire away with your questions.

What Cash Crunch? Revolution Growth Raises $450M for Its First Fund.

This post is by from AllThingsD » Kara Swisher

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Revolution Growth, a new investment vehicle led by former AOLers Steve Case, Ted Leonsis and Donn Davis, has raised $450 million in their first investment fund.

Originally, as I reported in March, the growth fund was going to be $400 million, but more was added due to investor interest.

The figure is a large one for a new venture and includes two dozen limited partners.

According to a letter to its partners, which I posted below in its entirety, Revolution said it will make 10 to 12 investments over five years in the consumer space of about $25 million to $50 million and mostly on the East coast, where its principals live and work.

The fund will focus on the “speed-up” stage — which is apparently just past venture stage and not yet in growth.

While both Leonsis and Case have done a lot of investing in the Web 2.0 space both together (Revolution Money) and apart (the Groupon and LivingSocial social buying sites, respectively), this is the first time the pair of well-known Web pioneers are creating a more formal investment partnership.

The pair are also investing $75 million of their own money in total in the Revolution Growth fund.

Revolution’s three partners said they will also be deeply involved with entrepreneurs at its companies.

“We are not just investors, but former CEOs and business builders who have the expertise and passion to be actively involved with the companies we back,” said the letter. “By making only a few investments each year, we will have the time to really help the entrepreneurs with whom we partner.”

Well, you can read about the Revolution Growth fund yourself here:


Humble Introversion Bundle sales rising over 150,000 with 6 days left

This post is by Jacob Siegal from VentureBeat

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Humble Introversion BundleThe Humble Bundle releases have become quite an event in the world of indie gaming, and the recent Humble Introversion Bundle is certainly no exception. With six days until its completion, the Bundle has already sold over 150,000 copies, earning the developers and the supported charities over $630,000.

This edition of the Humble Bundle includes Darwinia, Multiwinia, DEFCON and Uplink, Introversion’s entire catalog, for any donation at all, but as always, there is an incentive to give more. Beating the average purchase will net buyers three more titles: Aquaria, Crayon Physics Deluxe, and the recently added Dungeons of Dredmor.

Keeping this package fresh so close on the heels of the Humble Voxatron Debut are two prototype tech demos, along with the source code to the four main games from the Bundle. Modders are now free to have their way with each of Introversion’s four releases, or as the developer’s suggest, “check out what an award-winning game looks like underneath all those pretty bitmaps, vectors, and textures!”

Keep in mind that every donated penny’s destination can be delegated by the buyer, but thankfully the folks at Humble Bundle provide a default split between the developer(s), the charities, and the Humble Bundle company itself for the indecisive among us.

These developer-specific Humble Bundles might only be asides to the main Humble Indie Bundle releases, but it’s great to see a group of deserving games from a consistently terrific developer getting their time in the spotlight, regardless of their age.

This is the seventh release from the Humble Bundle team, following the Voxatron Debut’s release by less than a month. In fact, this is the fourth Bundle in as many months. Between these consistent releases, the promise of Humble Indie Bundle #4 coming soon, and the brand new Indie Royale delivering its deals every two weeks, gamers may need to start clearing some space on their hard drives to make room for the quickly approaching flood of indie games.

Filed under: games

Saints Row: The Third stat tracker goes live – purple dildo kills 2 million

This post is by Dan Crawley from VentureBeat

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Players of Saints Row: Third, the controversial open-world game from Volition and THQ, can now accurately measure the level of carnage they have created in the game, following the release of the stats and achievements tracker at the official website.

Stat tracking websites seem to be all the rage this winter, with EA releasing its Battlelog service alongside Battlefield 3, and Activision running its Call of Duty Elite service for Modern Warfare 3 players. THQ has now weighed in with its own stat tracking service, that allows players to see their achievements, view and leave hints, and share screenshots taken in the game.

As well as stats, the website also features a map which tracks events in the game in real time, helping to show where missions and secrets are located.

THQ has taken this opportunity to reveal some rather disturbing figures from the game:

  • 2 million people have been bludgeoned to death by the purple Penetrator “d-bat”, also known as an IED (Inspirational Erotic Device)
  • 5.8 billion citizens of Steelport have met their demise at the hands of gamers around the globe while playing Saints Row: The Third. That’s 19 times the population of the United States, roughly 85 per cent of the population of the world
  • Players have spent a cumulative  two years in their birthday suits streaking the streets of Steelport
  • In Whored Mode, 44 million pimps, gimps and prostitutes have been dispatched, roughly twice the population of Texas
  • Finally, 650 hot dog mascots have been overcooked to death by players using a flamethrower

We reviewed Saints Row: The Third earlier this week, and gave it a score of 82 out of 100.

Filed under: games, VentureBeat

Zynga IPO set for Dec. 15 at $10B valuation?

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Social game maker Zynga is reportedly planning to go public on Dec. 15 at a valuation of $10 billion, according to a report by Reuters.

The valuation is much lower than the $15 billion to $20 billion that was rumored as Zynga’s expected valuation when it filed papers to go public on July 1. Reuters cited two unnamed sources close to the process.

The IPO will generate about $900 million in proceeds at a price of $8 to $10 a share and an initial float of 10 percent. Zynga declined to comment. Two weeks ago, the company said a third-party analysis had valued Zynga at $14.05 billion, which is about the same has Activision Blizzard, the largest video game publisher with four times Zynga’s revenues.

Zynga was founded in 2007 and has been riding the wave of Facebook’s growth and the popularity of lightweight social games, which are free to play. In those games such as FarmVille and CityVille, users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods.

“I think they must have realized that getting $14 billion or higher would be a tough thing in this market. We were wondering how they would pull that off,” said Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia, told Reuters.

Zynga has made money this year but its growth slowed in the September quarter. Zynga has already waited a long time for its IPO, but the market window hasn’t been right. Companies such as Groupon and Angie’s List have gone public, but the market has been volatile due to uncertainty in Europe.

Zynga’s top executives will go on an investor road show next week, according to Reuters. Another source told Reuters that Pincus will not sell shares in the offering, nor will Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are lead bookrunners on the deal, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, JP Morgan and Allen & Company also participating. Zynga reported net income of $30.7 million on revenues of $828.9 million in the nine months ended Sept. 30.

Filed under: games, social

Daily Wrap: Path is Awesome and More

This post is by Robyn Tippins from ReadWriteWeb

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dailywrap-150x150.pngJon says the version 2 do-over of the life-streaming app, Path, is like a slicker, more elegant Facebook Timeline. Is that a good or bad thing? Either way, Path is live and ready to play with, and Timeline’s launch continues to slip. This and more in today’s Daily Wrap.

Sometimes it’s difficult to catch every story that hits tech media in a day, so we wrap up some of the most talked about stories. We give you a daily recap of what you missed in the ReadWriteWeb Community, including a link to some of the most popular discussions in our offsite communities on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well. This is a new feature at ReadWriteWeb so we covet your feedback. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments below or reach out to me directly at robyn at


Path, Timeline & Worship of The Self

ReadWriteWeb writer Jon Mitchell has mixed feelings about the Timeline-esque app, Path. He explains that while the app’s design is amazing, it still has some issues, including mainstream user adoption and extreme similarities to Facebook’s Timeline. Of course, Timeline only wishes it was this elegantly done.

From Matt Albert, ReadWriteWeb commenter:

For me as a father and a son and a brother to technophobes with iphones and no facebook accounts this is exactly what I want out of a social network. Oh hell yea there is an awful lot of this “ego streaming” but isn’t that part of the fun. As a designer myself its refreshing to see something so elegant and new come onto the “scene”.

Here are a few more must read posts, chosen by your fellow community members.

Marc Benioff Live from Cloudforce Winter 2011 Keynote

Google: Tablets Are For Fun, Laptops Are For Work [study]

Spotify Launches Music App Directory, Integrates With and Rolling Stone

ReadWriteWeb reader, Baxter Tocher, wonders:

Any word from them about whether they intend to use any of this new-found energy towards bringing the user gapless playback, like every other music player on the planet has had for the last who-knows-how-many years?

Top 5 Online Music Trends in 2011

Au-to-do: Google Releases App Engine Ticket Tracker

Why Hasn’t Google Put ChromeOS Out to Pasture?

Browsers in 2011: Chrome & Mobile Safari on The Rise

Reader, Jonathan Bray, commented:

“So Safari on mobile is now almost the equivalent of IE on desktop.” Thanks to the same bundling tactics.

Blue vs. Pink: What Role Does Gender Play In Mobile Phone Usage?

Siri, You’re Never Going To Take Over Search If You Can’t Find Abortion Clinics

This was our Big Question for today, so to see reader reactions, check out Big Question (Answered): “Siri Can’t Find Abortion Clinics. Purposeful Policy or Search Oversight?”

ReadWriteWeb Community

You can find ReadWriteWeb in many places on the web, a few of which are below.


Call of Duty Elite password reminders sent out in plain text

This post is by Dan Crawley from VentureBeat

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Activision’s troubled gaming service, Call of Duty Elite, has been sending out password reminders to its users in plain text.

Activision either stores player passwords on its servers in plain text format, or in some retrievable version, which makes the information susceptible to hackers if they found their way into the servers, according to a Eurogamer report.

Activision has insisted in a statement that: “All Call of Duty Elite personal data, including passwords are saved and stored using encryption.” It went on to say that “Call of Duty Elite does not store any sensitive data in plain text. Currently, the only time passwords are sent in plain text is upon request from the registrant and only to the registered email address.”

Most companies avoid emailing passwords in plain text format, as it presents far more risks than sending a password change request. Robert Siciliano, chief executive of explains “systems where the user’s email is used to send a password change request that requires the user to enter a new password is much more effective and secure than transmitting an unencrypted plain text password via email.”

Activision has now responded to this issue, and promised to stop sending out passwords in plain text format. It is currently altering and testing its password recovery procedure to ensure passwords are no longer delivered in plain text — thus making the process more secure.

Earlier this year, Sony found itself in extremely hot water when the Playstation Network was hacked. The incident allowed hackers to steal customer passwords and credit card details because the data wasn’t not properly encrypted. This resulted in a lengthy outage for the service, and prompted Sony to beef up its network security.

Call of Duty Elite hit more than one million paid subscribers in six days following its launch on Nov. 8, but the service struggled to cope with this initial demand. Activision is now reporting that Call of Duty Elite has been stabilized, and although there are plenty of fixes still to come, users are now able to access the service and engage with it.

Filed under: games, security, VentureBeat

Wal-Mart’s new app mines Facebook data to help you buy better gifts

This post is by Jennifer Van Grove from VentureBeat

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Wal-Mart, the mega corporation known for its mega discount stores, is ready to conquer a new mega frontier. It’s a land ripe with retail opportunity; it’s the land you already know as the social web.

WalmartLabs, the company’s seven month-old internal nerve center for social and mobile retail innovation, is releasing Shopycat, a Facebook application designed to help holiday and everyday-occasion shoppers skip stressful shopping nightmares and find better gifts for friends and family members.

“We’ve been working on how to add a social layer on top of e-commerce,” Anand Rajaraman, the head of WalmartLabs, told VentureBeat. “One of the key areas where we thought we could make a difference is in gift-giving … we thought if we could take a person’s interests and ‘likes,’ that are expressed on Facebook, and tie those with a vast product catalog, then we could make gift-giving much more enjoyable.”

Shopycat starts out as your elf-like assistant by featuring the Facebook friends you interact with the most, and providing you with personalized gift recommendations for them.

The application figures out friends’ tastes by mining and analyzing “likes,” status updates and declared interests, then matches that data against the Wal-Mart product catalog, and the catalogs of partner merchants such as Barnes & Noble, NBC Universal and RedEnvelope, to offer up a selection of suitable ideas.

For example, if a friend has repeatedly expressed his adoration of the Chicago Bears or has been known to quote from the beloved syndicated sitcom Seinfeld, Shopycat will come up with gift ideas best-suited for your passionate pal. If you want to question Shopycat’s judgment, you can click on a gift idea for a detailed explanation of why it was suggested. You can even spy on and tweak the gifts that Shopycat is recommending that your friends buy you.

For all the makeshift Santas out there, Shopycat could be the perfect little helper this Christmas, but just don’t expect it to do all the hard work for you. The application currently only passes you through to websites where you’ll need to buy the gifts in question. Next year, however, Shopycat will let you buy directly on Facebook, Ravi Raj, VP of product for WalmartLabs, said.

Shopycat has the potential to permeate Facebook’s 800 million-member social network simply because it comes from a company that sees close to one billion customers walk into its stores each month.

“The most important thing about Wal-Mart is the scale of Wal-Mart,” Rajaraman said. “Its scale in terms of customers, its scale in terms of products and its scale in terms of technology.”

This means that a quest to dominate the social frontier will pit Wal-Mart’s Brobdingnagian bigness against tiny, lilliputian social commerce upstarts — Givvy, Imply Labs and a handful of others come to mind — already inhabiting the territory.

“The belief that we have is that we’re going through an inflection point in e-commerce because of two major trends: social and mobile,” Rajaraman said. “The whole of commerce is going to change, so the mission of WalmartLabs is to help reinvent the future and make sure that Wal-Mart is at the forefront.”

WalmartLabs, an 80-person group based in San Bruno, was established when Wal-Mart purchased Kosmix, a startup co-founded by Rajaraman that was working on a technology called “the social genome.” The technology, capable of mining social data to map the connections between people, activities and products, is now at the core of the Shopycat experience.

WalmartLabs also acquired social ad network OneRiot and mobile point-of-sale startup Gabble, and the group is now working on a next generation search experience for the Wal-Mart product catalog, an in-store social network (internally called “Storechat”) that will encourage customers to communicate with each other, along with additional mobile and social products.

People of Wal-Mart and the web: Prepare yourselves.

Filed under: social, VentureBeat

Walmart tackles gift-giving with Shopycat Facebook app

This post is by from GigaOM

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

WalmartLabs, the new social and mobile commerce research lab created out of Walmart’s acquisition of Kosmix, is formally launching its first product, a gift-finding Facebook app called Shopycat. The app enables Facebook users to take the likes, shares and interests of friends and turn them into intelligent gift recommendations.

This is a well-timed product release that’s good for the holidays and addresses a pain point I feel year round. I find it’s often tough to find the right gift for friends, even when I know them well. Shopycat tries to get at this by absorbing a lot of social signals from your intended gift recipient and forming some smart suggestions about what they might like. The app will see what a person has liked in the past and who they are a fan of. And it looks at things that a person has shared and not only organizes those into interest topics but applies semantic analysis to ensure that it’s something they actually like. It then uses an algorithm to lay out the best suggestions with links to buy them.

Creating a diversity of suggested products

WalmartLabs quietly pushed out an alpha of Shopycat last month and I gave it a whirl. It was underwhelming in part because there wasn’t a great diversity of suggested products. But Walmart Labs has made a lot of improvements in recent weeks. Instead of pointing to just Walmart products, it incorporates items from many  other retailers like Barnes & Noble, RedEnvelope and ThinkGeek. Shopycat also does a better job to find “giftable” items, products that make good presents, not just align with interests. That also means keeping items to around $10-50 dollars. If a user doesn’t have a lot of activity on Facebook, Shopycat defaults to suggesting gift cards.

Shopycat doesn’t just rely on algorithms. It’s got a simple tool to message friends and ask them about the appropriateness of a potential gift. And if a user knows about an interest of a intended recipient that’s not listed on Facebook, they can just search by that interest to call up a list of related gifts. Users can also help their fellow Shopycat friends out by updating their “My Info” tab with gifts and interests that they like. One cool feature is that products that are in-stock at nearby Walmart stores are also marked so users can go out and buy last minute gifts.

At least one “Wow” suggestion

Anand Rajaraman, the SVP Walmart Global eCommerce and co-head of WalmartLabs, said gifting is a tough job to tackle because people often go shopping before understanding who they’re buying for. And it will take a long time to perfect the process. But he said Shopycat is already robust enough that it should be able to produce at least one “wow” suggestion for each person.

“Gifting is hard to get right because it’s a combination of their interests and your interests,” said Rajaraman. “That’s why we try to show a diversity of gift suggestions so there’s at least one we thing that will be a good fit for a person and will fit a price range.”

How social and commerce come together

Shopycat shows where WalmartLabs is going and why it picked up Rajaraman and his fellow Kosmix co-founder Venky Harinarayan. The application builds off the work the two started at Kosmix around a “social genome” platform, which was able to parse social messages to understand trends and sentiment. Harinarayan talked at GigaOM’s Roadmap conference and explained how the challenges of mobile and social are prompting big retailers like Walmart to think about how they stay ahead of the changes in commerce as it evolves in the coming years. WalmartLabs has been gearing up for the challenge by recently acquiring OneRiot and Grabble and starting a new technology center in Bangalore India a few weeks ago.

Shopycat is only available on the desktop version of Facebook. Plans are in the works to bring the service to mobile through it’s not settled if it will be a Shopycat app or something incorporated into Walmart’s existing mobile apps.

I like where the app is going. It can definitely fill a need in my life and hopefully as it gets smarter and absorbs more signals, it will be even more of a trusted tool for gift buyers. It’s shows that social can have a big influence on commerce and when smartly processed, it can help spur on spending in a lot of ways.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
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Walmart Launches Shopycat, A Social Gift Finder Built On Top Of Facebook

This post is by from TechCrunch

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post


Retailing giant Walmart is launching its first-ever social gifting platform tonight, dubbed “Shopycat.” The service, previously in beta, is initially available as a Facebook application where it will also be promoted to the nearly 11 million Facebook users who have “liked” Walmart’s fan page. The app, which suggests gifts for friends based on their Facebook use, was built with technology Walmart acquired from social media startup Kosmix (now @WalmartLabs) earlier this year.

And here’s the interesting part: the new app won’t just point you to pages on for its gift recommendations. It also recommends products from nearly two dozen other retailers, including Barnes & Noble, ThinkGeek, RedEnvelope, NBC Universal, Hot Topic and more. (Just not, of course, Amazon).

The technology behind Walmart’s gift recommendations grew out of Kosmix’s Social Genome, a semantic technology platform that was originally used to power social media discovery services built primarily on top of Twitter. Now that Kosmix’s platform is a part of Walmart, those same algorithms are used to analyze people’s interests based on their Facebook posts, profile updates and “likes.”

The system is smart enough to understand the sentiment behind a Facebook status update, too, not just the keywords involved. So, for example, if you posted “I hate Twilight!” as a Facebook status update, Shopycat won’t recommend that your friends buy you the “Breaking Dawn” Blu-Ray. It also knows what items are more “giftable” than others, using algorithms that examine a number of signals, including recency, uniqueness (e.g., a collector’s edition over a standard edition) and the aggregate buying behavior of shoppers on

While the obvious goal is to encourage traffic and purchases via Walmart’s e-commerce website, the company has taken a unique approach by not making it a Walmart-only application. That is, if Walmart doesn’t have the perfect gift in stock, either online or at your local store, it will point you to another retailer who does. For starters, this includes a list of around 20 third parties, but the company plans to increase that number next year. This effort also includes gift cards for things like iTunes, Starbucks and Zynga.

These outside recommendations serve as a clever tactic to boost the viral nature of the Facebook app itself (i.e., it’s not Walmart only, so it’s actually kind of cool). But the design also helps Walmart take on its main online retailer: the virtually infinite online warehouse that is Amazon. Whether Walmart will then use these referrals (to which it receives no affiliate income, we’re told ), to later inform its own buying decisions has yet to be determined.

We do know that the company does plan on integrating Facebook Connect within its own e-commerce site at some point in the future, allowing users to authenticate with Facebook to see social recommendations from friends. This, of course, could serve the even more valuable purpose of associating a Facebook user’s online identity with their actual transaction data, but whether or not (or to what extent) this will occur is still unknown.

In the nearer future, the plan is to instead bring the online store to Facebook. The app currently shuffles users out of Facebook when it’s time to buy, but by mid-2012, Shopycat will function as an online store itself, allowing users to buy from Walmart without every having to leave Facebook.

Walmart isn’t the first to use Facebook’s social signals to make gift recommendations, of course. The homemade goods outlet Etsy launched its Gift Finder recently, also on top of Facebook data, and eBay’s latest acquisition, Hunch, which is known for building a “taste graph” of recommendations by asking questions, released its own Facebook app back in 2010. However, as the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, Walmart’s foray into social commerce can’t be overlooked.

For what it’s worth, Amazon has had similar technology in place since July 2010, and had experimented with Facebook apps for social gifting as far back as 2008. But Amazon’s focus lately has been more on mobile, with a plethora apps and its Kindle devices, and less on developing its Facebook recommendation technology. Its Facebook-enabled recommendations, in fact, are still listed as being in “beta” on the Amazon homepage. And frankly, their accuracy hasn’t improved much since last year’s launch. In early tests, Walmart’s Shopycat app seemed at least on par with Amazon’s recommendations, which is to say, only fair. (Do not buy me Star Wars Jedi Bath Robes, for example.) But Shopycat doesn’t let you customize the recommendations beyond “unliking” a Facebook page to adjust the signals the app uses.

Even though technology like this has existed for years, it’s still the early days for social e-commerce. Many of the kinks and problems with leveraging Facebook for recommendations, gifting and otherwise, will be overcome in time. To give Shopycat a go for yourself, visit the Facebook app here.

DIY Electronics Hacking: Bigger, Better & Smarter Than Ever

This post is by from ReadWriteWeb

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

Arduino, the open source electronics platform with the adorable name, announced the beta availability of its version 1.0 today, 6 years since it was forked from the nearly 10 year old Wiring platform. Wiring released its 1.0 just three weeks ago.

As these platforms, which turn consumers into creators, reach this important milestone, are people really using them? What’s the community around them like? What is the state of the Maker-o-Sphere, if you will? Looking from the outside, it appears that there is a thriving market of DIY electronics, that education is a high priority for the Maker community and that there’s no shortage of new developments coming to light all the time. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few examples.


As 2011 draws to a close, the DIY electronics hacking community has a culture, an economy and a campaign to grow through education of its own and other people.

Maker Holidays

It’s the holiday season and in this part of the world, these holidays are largely about stuff. That’s true among Makers too, but instead of just buying or getting stuff – they’re making stuff. Black Friday was celebrated by the desktop fabrication startup Makerbot Industries too, just a little differently than it was at Walmart.

Fab lovers gathered around the table with friends and family like so many people did for Thanksgiving, but some of them shared laser etched ham, 3D printed turkey and chocolates made in home made molds.


Above: From a holiday blog post by Ponoko, Happy Thanksgiving: A Digitally Fabricated Feast.

The unofficial publication of the Maker movement, Make Magazine, is giving away a different DIY kit to make something or another, including help getting started with Arduino, every day this holiday season.

Electronics shop Sparkfun is doing well enough that they’re upping the ante by 30% this year with $200,000 in free product giveaways in one day next month. Humans only need apply, “sometimes robots can be bad” the company notes.

New Year, New Hacks

What do people do with all this stuff? Maximum PC recently highlighted 25 relatively accessible projects that you can do with an Arduino, including making a really sophisticated, if crazy, magic mirror to put on the wall of your house. Alot of that is just novelty though.

The Arduino-friendly electronics provider Adafruit today highlighted one of its users’ hack of a Comcast universal remote, run through an Adafruit IR decoder plus Arduino, now controling a TV with Siri.

Yesterday a startup called Berg Cloud announced a new product called the Little Printer, which pulls content from websites you use into a little printer that prints out reciept-sized summaries of information of interest to you throughout the day. There’s a cloud services component, too, which other developers can use to make their devices Web connected.

We think of BERG Cloud as the nervous system for connected products. It’s built to run at scale, and could as easily operate the Web-enabled signage of a city block, as the playful home electronics of the future. Not to mention the smart product prototypes that we work with our clients on, in the other side of our design studio.

That’s getting serious.

If the maker industry is ramping up and if new platforms are becoming available to turn what used to be a hobby in the garage into a connected part of the web, will the supply of opportunities lead to more demand for capable Makers than there are in the world? That seems possible.

Education to Build the Future

Maker Faire and Make Magazine founder Dale Dougherty said on Twitter this month that he spoke to a National Science Foundation conference for more than one hundred award-winning sciene and math teachers in Washington D.C. and almost none of them had heard of Maker Faire before. Dougherty’s talk was part of a larger effort by makers to educate the world about the work that can be done.

Jaymes Dec, a Program Manager at a program called GreenFab that teaches South Bronx high school students science and math through green design and fabrication, says he’s convinced his local middle school to adopt a “one-arduino-per-child policy.”

MakerBots are being used in classrooms around the country, too. This and next week Makerbot Industries is offering an advanced course in 3D modeling to educators who have already had experience using a MakerBot in a classroom.

Community self-education is a never-ending part of the Maker movement too.

Make Magazine does a regular live video show and tonights is a tour of 5 different hackerspaces, facilities for hardware and other hacking, located all around the world.

Forbes this month highlighted wearable computer innovator Lynne Bruning, the creator of The eTextile Lounge, “a global hackerspace for wearable computing, soft circuits and electronic textiles” where interested hackers can share tips by live video.

What Could Happen

What do you get when you put it all together? A community of people who can build up the steam to do things like hack the Nike+ to turn one of the most popular consumer sensors in the world into a source of readable data for anyone who wants to build apps on top of it. That’s what Dmitry Grinberg, a man who’s been called “an enigma and a legend” in the mobile hacking community, did last month. And he posted the code for all to see. That’s a landmark momement.

Might there someday be such a vibrant community of developers innovating around a hacked Nike+ sensor that the company decides to throw its weight into supporting their work, like Microsoft quickly did with the Kinect? That seems like a possibility. It seems even more possible when you consider Nike moves like hiring Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki, to become the company’s new open data platform leader this Summer.

So that’s one picture of where the maker/hacker/DIY community is these days, as one of its best-known platforms, Arduino, reaches 1.0 status. It’s got a culture, an economy, is educating itself and others. It’s exciting to consider what that world will be doing when these platforms hit 2.0.


NewsCred offers a better kind of newswire, raises $4M round

This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

NewsCred LogoDigital newswire service NewsCred has raised a new $4 million round of funding, the startup announced today.

NewsCred is basically a reinvention of the current newswire model made famous by the Associated Press. However, NewsCred doesn’t produce its own news, but it does intend to disrupt the traditional newswire business.

“We’re not trying to bash the AP, but with technology creating new digital distribution barriers you have to evolve. And that’s where we think there’s an opportunity”, NewsCred founder and CEO Shafqat Islam told VentureBeat. Unlike the newswires of old, which basically hook you into a fire hose of content for others to sift through, NewsCred wants to make the service much more user-friendly, while making money for the entire news industry.

The service collects news content (articles, photos, videos) from over 700 high quality publications, which range from international newspapers to talented news bloggers. Some of those include The Economist, Forbes, Telegraph, The Guardian, McClatchy/ Tribune Newspapers, Bloomberg, Reuters, the LA Times and more. All content is properly attributed to the original source and each source gets paid when content is used.

Customers who wish to have a steady stream of news available to them can sign up for a monthly fee, just like you would with an AP wire subscription. And as for the type of news, NewsCred has plenty of options. In addition to an in-house editorial team curating content, NewsCred uses an API to filter articles by topic, location, language, sources and date. The company organizes content into 20 categories and over 47,000 topics. Customers are charged based on the volume of news stories as well as the sources licensed.

slam said NewsCred is already providing some of its sources with six-figures annually. And mind you, this is essentially passive income for those news publication partners. They are already producing news and making profits entirely separate from the NewsCred wire, so for a smaller, yet dedicated news organization this could be a huge source of revenue.

Founded in 2008, the New York-based startup previously raised a $750,000 seed round from Floodgate, IA Ventures and Naval Ravikant. The new $4 million round was led by FirstMark, with participation from Lerer Ventures, AOL Ventures, Advancit Capital (Shari Redstone) and other prior investors.

Filed under: deals, media, VentureBeat

The First Ice Cream Sandwich Android Tablet Surfaces In China

This post is by from TechCrunch

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ics tab

Right now the only way to officially taste Ice Cream Sandwich on a device is on the Galaxy Nexus. Google stated that it would eventually hit tablets. Well, the wait is over. Somewhere in the bowels of China the first ICS tablet has appeared. It’s a Xoom clone powered by slightly-dated hardware but it’s running 4.0.1. That’s all that counts.

The story goes that the tab shown here (and in the video after the jump) is the first 4.0.1 tablet. As Shanzhaiben and GizChina notes, the 10.1-inch tablet is a bit of a Xoom knockoff but sports respectable internal components. 1GB of RAM and a Tegra 2 chip powers the device. There’s 16GB of storage, dual cams, GPS, HDMI, a 7000mAh battery, and a 3G SIM card slot.

Looks good, right? Well, you can’t buy it yet. The company has yet to release pricing or a release date. But prepare yourself. The onslaught of Ice Cream Sandwich tablets is almost upon us. CES will be here in less than 45 days and you’re going to get fat from all the Ice Cream Sandwich’s pouring out of the Las Vegas Convention Center.