Monday, December 5, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Gowalla Confirms It Will Shut Down As Founders and Team Members Join Facebook

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 09:13 AM PST

Screen shot 2011-12-05 at 9.07.16 AM

Following reports that the company as a whole had been acquired, Gowalla today announced that its founders and several team members have joined Facebook and will move to it’s Palo Alto headquarters. The Gowalla service “will be winding down at the end of January”, and options will be made available for users to export their data. Gowalla CEO Josh Williams says his company was impressed by what Facebook revealed at f8, and soon after he and other team members were asked to join the social network’s team.

The Gowalla talent could help Facebook create compelling content for the profile Timeline based on the Places checkins of users. This was Gowalla’s core strength — badges, tips, notes, and other visual secondary content based off of checkins. When Timeline finally launches publicly, users could have the option to show which are their most checked in Places.

We’ll have more analysis in a few minutes.

Sony Ericsson To Rebrand In 2012, Aims For Top Of The Android Pack

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 08:58 AM PST


Sony and Ericsson have made no secret of their impending split-up, but at the time of the announcement, the two didn’t have much to say about when the companies would officially go their separate ways.

That is, of course, until now: an executive source from within Sony told the Times of India that the mobile phone company will begin to fly solely under Sony’s banner by the middle of 2012.

The joint venture, which celebrated it’s 10th anniversary this past October, made waves earlier in the decade thanks to their scores of multimedia-friendly devices and successes in the burgeoning smartphone market. To say that their position has changed in recent years is putting it lightly — Sony-Ericsson is now the sixth-largest handset manufacturer in the world, and they’re preparing to put all of their eggs in a single proverbial basket.

Now, as the company has stated in their Q3 financials, it’s going to be all Android smartphones all the time. Killing off their feature phone portfolio going forward is a bold move, considering that companies like Nokia successfully milk developing markets while bolstering their smartphone lineup. Still, Sony Ericsson EVP Kristian Tear has high hopes for their Android-only push. He says that the company’s target is to become the number one Android player in the smartphone segment — a lofty goal, but will Sony actually make able to make good on their word?

Samsung currently occupies the seat that Sony wants to claim for themselves; the Korean company became the biggest smartphone vendor in the world in Q3 2011 for shipping 24 million smartphones. Sony Ericsson, on the other hand, shipped a relatively paltry 9.5 million units in total, and CEO/President Bert Nordberg stated that the company shipped 22 million Xperia smartphones through the end of October 2011. That’s right — Samsung shipped more smartphones in one quarter than Sony Ericsson’s flagship Xperia line has since it was released. Talk about David taking on Goliath.

Of course, having the full backing of Sony’s consumer electronics empire could help even the playing field. Once the buyout transaction is approved, one of the first things Sony’s mobile division will do is refocus on their advertising and marketing campaigns in an attempt to harness the power of the Sony brand. It’s a step in the right direction, but Tear feels that’s just the beginning:

“Sony is the world’s biggest entertainment company. We were earlier a 50-50 JV, but now that we are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Corp, we expect to gain from its assets on the content, technology and brand side.”

This Red MacBook Is Real, But It’s Not What You Think

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 08:49 AM PST


Gizchina has the scoop on a fake MacBook clad in red alloy, a look that I wouldn’t kick out of bed for eating crackers but, obviously, is marred by not being a real MacBook.

This is a 1.8GHz Atom device with 2GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive and they couldn’t stick an optical disk in there without making it huge. It’s slightly thinner than a real MacBook and it has a delightful Apple logo right on the front there so everyone can enjoy your refusal to fall for Apple’s high prices but your desire to mimic Apple’s cool. I mean at $275 how can you go wrong?

No, this will never reach our shores, but it’s fun to look at.

Don’t Do It! New Siri Port H1Siri Is Illegal, Breaks Your iPhone

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 08:30 AM PST


iPhone jailbreakers should probably stay away from the latest Siri port, dubbed H1Siri, which brings Apple’s digital assistant to the iPhone 4. The new hack comes from a group of Chinese hackers calling themselves the “CD-Dev Team.” According to the team’s account on Weibo (a Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter), the hackers had originally wanted to just run a small test, but the code was leaked. Now their servers can’t keep up with the demand.

But beyond server unresponsiveness, there are several other good reasons to skip this hack, including the fact that it seems to break people’s phones and involves running illegal code.

H1Siri (aka, Hi Siri!), for those of you tracking the Siri-hacking space, is a different hack from the one that emerged in October and the other arriving last month.

According to iDownloadBlog, which wisely advises readers to be wary of this new port after its own tests with H1Siri failed, the new port involves the use of copyrighted binaries from the iPhone 4S. Simply put, it works because it uses illegal code. Notable iPhone hacker @chpwn (Grant Paul), confirms this.

He also points out another good reason to think carefully before installing H1Siri on your iPhone 4: it gives the software’s creators access to your personal data:

Grant Paul
Please note: if you use a proxy to access Siri, you may be sending your Email, SMS, Calendar, Contacts, Location, etc though that server.

Grant Paul
(It's up to you if you want to accept that risk. It's also your choice if you want to violate copyright law to obtain the needed files.)

Those are all very good reasons to avoid H1Siri, but if your Siri lust can’t be assuaged, maybe this last bit of info will: the darned thing doesn’t really work.

Numerous posts from brave (crazy) early adopters report various complaints after installing. For example, it has been said to cause random rebootsbreak the camera, brick the phone, mess up the Settings app, cause the phone to get stuck at the Apple logo and other such things.

Guys, seriously…Siri is cool, but it’s definitely not worth all this. Teams Up With HP To Include Cloud Storage Accounts On Business PCs

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST


Cloud storage platform is announcing a major partnership with HP today to bring the startup’s offerings to select HP desktops.

Box, which has 8 million users and stores over 300 million documents, is a cloud storage platform for the enterprise that comes with collaboration, social and mobile functionality. Box has evolved into more than just a file storage platform, and has become a full-fledged collaborative application where businesses can actually communicate about document updates, sync files remotely, and even add features from Salesforce, Google Apps, NetSuite, Yammer and others.

Starting today, select HP Elite and HP Pro desktop business PCs users will have access to special offers from Box that include increased storage capacity and enterprise sync for enhanced collaboration and content management in the cloud.

For example, users that purchase a new HP Compaq Pro 6500 or 6200 Series PC will receive a free Box account with 10 GB of storage (that’s double the size of a typical Box account), with the option to upgrade to additional capacities at a reduced annual rates. Users that purchase a new HP Elite 8200 Series PC will receive a Box account with unlimited storage and sync at no cost for one year.

Of course for Box, this is another way to help add new customers is the business world. Currently, Box provides storage solutions for 77% of the Fortune 500 with 100,000 businesses using Box’s service (250,000 new users are joining each month). Box just raised $81 million in funding from Salesforce, SAP Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, NEA, Andreessen Horowitz and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Insidr Brings ‘Insider’ Customer Service Expertise To The Masses

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST


Customer service at companies like AT&T, Comcast, Bank of America and others can be an incredibly frustrating experience. And I’m willing to guess that most of you have had a poor experience with a customer service agent at a cellphone carrier, bank, or cable company. Today, Insidr, an independent customer service marketplace that connects you to people and customer service agents who have worked in big companies, is launching to help consumers handle these situations.

Insidr lets you post an online question and, optionally, offer a reward for insider information from a big company. Insidr has a group of insiders, who are former or current customer service agents, engineers, and other employees from AT&T, DirectTV, Verizon, Bank of America, that can help answer your question. Clearly these insiders are better at cutting through red tape and getting answers.

The startup says that because insiders are working independently to earn your reward, you can reach people you wouldn’t normally get on the phone, the insiders can be candid and they’re motivated to help you (with the possibility of the reward). The “insiders” offer help, and you release the reward to the insiders only if satisfied.

Insidr has been in private testing mode for 10 months. At public beta launch, 1,280 insiders offer support for nine companies: AT&T Wireless, Bank of America, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Sprint Network, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, United Airlines and Verizon.

During private beta period, roughly 4,810 people asked 1,280 insiders for help. Today, 100% of questions get answered in an average of 30 minutes. The average reward is $8.00 and 85% of people who offer rewards release them to insiders. Insidr splits rewards fifty-fifty with insiders.

For example, a T-Mobile insider helped a customer get a full refund instead of an account credit. A Dish Network insider helped a customer avoid early termination fee.

“We started Insidr because we felt frustrated and helpless when we had to call customer support. We decided to find a better way,” said Antony Brydon, CEO and co-founder of Insidr.

Brydon, and co-founders Jeff Patterson and Jean Tessier formerly launched ShopWell out of IDEO in 2010. Insidr is backed by $500,000 in seed funding from True Ventures, Gil Penchina, Karl Jacob, Brian Witlin and Samer Hamadeh.

Do you have a customer service question for a company that currently doesn’t have an ‘insider’ on Insidr. TechCrunch readers can request coverage for a new company here, and Insidr will add the company that readers request the most in the next week.

If Insidr can scale to include insiders at a variety of companies, the startup could build a really useful business to consumers. Inside information to navigating some of the more complex customer service situations, such as billing issues, is worth a premium considering how frustrating it can be to go directly to the companies, themselves.

Virtualization Data Management Startup Raises $33.5M From Andreessen Horowitz, Others

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 07:58 AM PST


Virtualization data management software maker Actifio has raised $33.5 million in a Series C financing round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with previous backers North Bridge Venture Partners, Greylock Partners and Advanced Technology Ventures participating.

Founded in 2010, the startup has secured a total of $57.5 million in venture capital funding to date.

Actifio bills itself as a ‘Protection and Availability Storage’ platform company, offering data management solutions to small to medium-sized businesses, large enterprises and managed service and cloud service providers.

This is what the formal pitch sounds like:

Actifio's mission is to virtualize management of data and consumerize the operations to enable transformation of the data center into an SLA-driven services organization.

Beginning with addressing IT's most frustrating challenges (backup, disaster recovery and business continuity), the Actifio PAS platform is expanding to address test and development, analytics, compliance, e-discovery and other business-critical requirements, creating a new category of storage that efficiently virtualizes and manages copies of production data.

Peter Levine, a veteran enterprise IT exec (Veritas, XenSource, Citrix) and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, has joined Actifio's board.

Actifio is led by CEO Ash Ashutosh (formerly VP & chief technologist of HP's StorageWorks division), president Jim Sullivan (previously VP, Worldwide Sales at IBM System Storage) and David Chang (formerly founder and VP of Product Management at AppIQ – acquired by HP).

The BBC’s Entire Hour-Long Facebook Special Is Pulled From YouTube

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 07:56 AM PST

Zuck BBC

The BBC did an hour-long special on Facebook, including interviews with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, as well as cameos by Ron Conway, David Kirkpatrick, and others. The entire video is now on Youtube. Update: Well, that was fast. One version’s been pulled down, but more are popping up. I suspect they will all be pulled soon, unless the BBC realizes what great marketing this is for its brand in the U.S. People in the UK can watch it here on BBC’s iPlayer.

It’s kind of funny to watch. “Even the Queen is on Facebook,” the British reporter marvels. My favorite bit shows a Facebook vending machine that dispenses computer keyboards. The show goes over well-worn territory, but is worth watching if you can find an episode online. Zuckerberg throws out mind-benders like:

We are not trying to make it so that people spend more time on Facebook. We are trying to make it so that the time that you spend on Facebook is so valuable that you want to come back every day.

Isn’t that the same thing?

The BBC also asks about the privacy implications of all this over-sharing Facebook encourages.

BBC: Do you believe people will become more open, that they will regard privacy with less concern?

Zuck: No, it's not that people won't care about privacy. Privacy is a fundamental thing and everyone cares about it.
I think the big cultural change is that now more and more people are finding that they can build their reputation, they can disseminate interesting information, they can help people discover stuff, they get credit for that, they can be a part of discovering other people's stuff. I just think that people are seeing every day that that's awesome. And that is why I think the world is moving in that direction

But people every day also wake up and I think are like, what stuff do I want to have out there and what don't I, and that is not going to change.

New USB Rocket Launcher Matches Your Scorched-Earth Management Style

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 07:46 AM PST


These USB rocket launchers are nothing new, but this model now supports direct control via an iPhone or iPad, allowing you to remotely aim and rain down hellfire upon unsuspecting office mates from outside of the room. Casual Body Armor Friday will never be the same.

With a 270°horizontal rotation, a vertical flexibility of more than 40° and a shooting distance of around 25 feet, the iLaunch Thunder will cover more than 1,400 square feet of your workspace. That definitely gives you more than enough coverage to declare some serious office warfare!

The launcher connects to your phone via Bluetooth and you can aim remotely. Sadly, there is no built-in camera for aiming more precisely and at $82 it’s a bit expensive, but it may be just the thing you need to unleash hell on accounting.

Product Page

EyeEm App Picks Up The Pace As Startups Fight For The Photo Crown

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 07:30 AM PST


Pretender to the Instagram throne, EyeEm, a camera and photo discovery app startup, has launched a big update across its Android and iOS apps and the supporting web platform. It’s now even even more about visual, location-based search and has also introduced more social features.

For the last couple of years one of the main battles around smartphone apps has been around photo apps. One of the main ones to beat in this reach has been Instagram which recently reached around 14 million users, but there’s a battle going on in Europe for users which is perhaps less known but equally as fierce.

Is Dell Finally Walking Away From The Android Tablet Game?

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 07:30 AM PST


Nearly one year ago at CES 2011, Dell introduced the Streak 7 Android tablet. The 7-inch tab was an oversized brother to the older Streak 5 tabletphone. Much like the Streak 5, the Streak 7 featured a mobile radio, making it a versatile tablet. Plus, costing only $200 on-contract at T-Mobile, the Streak 7 was actually affordable. But it doesn’t matter anymore. Dell just killed its last Android tablet dead.

The Dell Streak tablets always felt like a “me too” product. Dell never threw its weight behind the devices. They simply tossed them out into the market and let mother nature work. The EVO 4G completely overshadowed the Streak 5 back in the summer of 2010, and despite the Streak 7′s attractive price and feature set, it’s hard for consumers to buy something they didn’t know exist. The company quietly discontinued the original Streak 5 over the summer. Then, just yesterday, Dell halted online sales of the Streak 7 even though it’s still available in select markets.

Dell of late is slow to react to trends. The company’s Windows Phone 7 offering has received the same lack of attention as the Android tablets. The Dell Venue Pro was the very last WinPhone 7 on the market to receive the much-praised Mango system update. Dell doesn’t seem to know how to handle the fast moving mobile scene — or maybe it doesn’t care.

The company is reportedly still committed to mobile per a statement they provided to Engadget. That said, recent moves, or rather, lack thereof, seems to say something entirely different.

Dell remains committed to the mobility market and continues to sell products here and in other parts of the world. Streak 7 delivered a unique experience for customers who wanted a larger screen-size yet the freedom of staying connected to their personal and professional content while on the-go. It continues to be available in many markets through retail, distributors and carrier partners such as Optus in Australia. A 10-inch version of the tablet, Streak 10 Pro, is currently offered in China, offering the ultimate digital divide between work and life. The Venue and Venue Pro devices, as well, continue to earn accolades for performance, design and functionality around the world. We also recently launched the Latitude ST, a 10-inch Windows 7-based touch-screen tablet designed for vertical markets such as education, finance and healthcare in November of this year. We remain committed to expanding our reach beyond PCs with a targeted set of open, standards-based mobility solutions and services designed for commercial and mobile professional customers.

Dell has never strayed far from its original mission of building PCs. Dell is a PC company first and everything else seems to be just a hobby. They stick to what they know: boring, yet capible personal computers. Even when the company entered the gaming market by buying Alienware, they have seemingly left the new division alone. Alienware today has the same anti-establishment appeal as the Alienware of old.

However, the company has always dabbled in the latest short-term trends. The Axim line competed with Palm and Windows Mobile PDAs like the iPAQ. The short-lived Adamo XPS demonstrated that the company had competent designers. And then, just recently, the Streak line of Android tablets allowed Dell to compete but only in a limited capacity. That said, Dell has always remained on its main story arc and didn’t let trendy items dictate the company’s path.

If the Streak 7 is indeed Dell’s last Android tablet, this event will be just a blip on Android’s story line. Dell has never been a major player in the field and probably for good reason. Android tablets haven’t managed to break into the mainstream despite major efforts from Samsung, Motorola, LG, Asus, Acer, and Toshiba. Maybe this was Dell’s plan all along: let other companies exert great effort in chipping away a foothold in the iPad mountain. If they were successful, Dell would be ready with its established Streak line, but if not, their small offering could be killed quietly.

CES 2012 is less than a month away. If Dell isn’t done with Android tablets in the short term, the company will likely use the massive trade show to launch its latest and greatest. Dell has never had a huge presence at CES, but they haven’t been shy about introducing hot products in Vegas — that’s where the Streak 7 was announced. Don’t count Dell out entirely here. If anything, the Streak experiment has shown that Dell doesn’t waste much time or money on products without a profitable future.

DIY Printable Strandbeest

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 07:22 AM PST

Theo Jansen is an artist who makes wild animated, wind-powered robots that seem to have a life of their own. Once you set them up on a beach and let them go, they undulate, slide, and coil across the sand like some sort of steampunk gazelle.

3D printing service Shapeways is now offering two Jansen designs for sale, including a propellor-powered motor for getting your beest to move.

You can purchased the pre-printed beests for about $100 and the propeller add-on for $40. They are about six inches long. Jansen will update the designs as he perfects his larger beests and upload them as they change.

You can pick up your own beest here but sadly I can’t find a 3D file so you can print your own at home.

Retailers Aren’t Ready For iPad Shopping Trend

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 07:05 AM PST


New data from Compuware finds conclusive proof of the popularity of iPads as a shopping device. The firm took a look at the website traffic for 70 U.S. retailers’ delivered to an iPhone or iPad over the start of the holiday shopping season (November 14th through Cyber Monday). On Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, specifically, there were peaks in traffic with a high of 6,475,354 iPad pageviews on Black Friday alone, based on a statistical sample of more than 140 million pageviews.

To be clear, because this data was pulled from a sampling of tests, it does not indicate the total number of pageviews delivered to these 70 retailers’ sites. But because the sample is large enough to be statistically significant (140 million pageviews), it does show the impact of iPad traffic on e-commerce websites. In addition, the second chart (below) shows how the sites’ response times are impacted when the influx of iPad users hit.

Now for the bad news. Despite the increases in tablet traffic, many retailers are not prepared to accommodate these new mobile shoppers. Compuware also prepared a chart showing the top retailers’ sites, and whether or not they offered an iPad-optimized website. Surprisingly, none of them do, not even What’s worse, Apple is also among the retailers who don’t offer a native iPad application. (The iPhone Apple Store app runs on the iPad, of course, but it’s not a universal app). For shame!

Apple is not alone though. Around half of the 30 top retailers Compuware looked didn’t have an iPad application, either.

Want to see what a missed opportunity looks like? Check out the chart below:

The Top Twitter Hashtags Of 2011

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 06:56 AM PST

Twitter year in review

It’s that time of year again, when everyone puts out their year in review lists. Twitter does this on a rolling basis with multiple lists on its Year in Review page, which includes notable people who joined Twitter in 2011 (Charlie Sheen, Sean Parker, and Howard Stern) and its just-added lists of hot topics. The hot topics are broken into categories such as Movies (Thor is No.1, really?), Actors (Charlie Sheen), World News (Mubarak’s resignation, Raid on Osama bin Laden), and hashtags.

The hashtags are the most interesting part of the list. They reflect a mixture of the topics that spiked in realtime across the world (#egypt, #jan25, #japan), enduring pop culture memes (Charlie Sheen’s #tigerblood), as well as quirky Twitter-only memes (#threewordstoliveby).

Here are the top hashtags of the year, according to Twitter:

  1. egypt
  2. tigerblood
  3. threewordstoliveby
  4. idontunderstandwhy
  5. japan
  6. improudtosay
  7. superbowl
  8. jan25

Compare these to the top searches of the year on Yahoo. You won’t find Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, or American Idol on the Twitter lists. Is that because Twitter users are more sophisticated, or is it an indication that Twitter is not yet as mainstream as search?

Top 10 Searches

  1. iPhone
  2. Casey Anthony
  3. Kim Kardashian
  4. Katy Perry
  5. Jennifer Lopez
  6. Lindsay Lohan
  7. "American Idol"
  8. Jennifer Aniston
  9. Japan Earthquake
  10. Osama bin Laden

Siemens Buys eMeter To Bolster Its Smart Grid Division

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 06:27 AM PST


Siemens this morning announced that it will acquire all of the stock of eMeter in an effort to enhance its smart grid offering. The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. eMeter will be part of the Smart Grid Division of the Siemens Infrastructure & Cities Sector, which is housed within Siemens.

All eMeter employees will be transitioned to Siemens (US) as a result of the transaction.

eMeter will become a global business segment and center of competence for Meter Data Management (MDM), and will continue to operate from its San Mateo, California headquarters.

eMeter delivers platform and MDM application software for the smart grid market, enabling electric, gas and water utilities to reduce operational costs and drive energy efficiency.

Intuit Now Allows Businesses To Create E-Commerce Storefronts On Facebook

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 06:01 AM PST


Intuit is the latest company to enable e-commerce on Facebook, announcing today that businesses using the company’s Websites software can create a store on the social network.

Intuit SimpleStore for Facebook will automatically sync the merchant's website and Facebook page, loading inventory and enabling payments. Business owners can accept credit or debit card payments directly on Facebook, via Intuit, with no added log-ins required for the customer. All transactions are powered by Intuit’s payments back-end.

Intuit SimpleStore for Facebook is available through Intuit Websites, a service that allows merchants and businesses to set up a website and payments platform.

While a Facebook e-commerce product makes sense, Intuit is pretty late to the game on this. Payvment, ShopIgniter, BigCommerce, and many others have been offering this technology to merchants for years.

Enflick Launches Mobile Messaging App For Close Contacts, Touch

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 06:00 AM PST


Enflick, the developer who created free text messaging app TextNow and IM application PingChat, has released a new app, called ‘Touch,’ which aims to make messaging your closest friends and family easier.

Enflick, which was co-founded by Derek Ting and Jon Lerner, has seen success with messaging apps in the past. Over 300 million text messages are sent each month using TextNow, which is a simple, free text messaging app at absolutely no cost to the user.

PingChat is a cross-platform instant messaging app that supports real-time conversations, group chat, and media sharing. TextNow and PingChat combined serve more than a billion impressions per month with 21.5 million users worldwide.

The startup launched Touch because many users have a massive amount of contacts in their phone and it can be touch to filter just your closest friends and family that you want to text with the most.

With Touch, you can add your important contacts and text them from the app. You can also send photos, see typing indicators when connections , create group chat, see when messages are delivered and read and more. Of course, Touch will face competition from the growing number of messaging apps on the market.

Enflick recently raised $1 million in seed funding from Freestyle Capital, Menlo Ventures Talent Fund, Lady Gaga’s talent manager Troy Carter and Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun.

Eat Smarter: Debuts Personalized Grocery Shopping Platform

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 05:47 AM PST


This week at the Le Web conference in Paris, will be formally launching its personalized social shopping platform for groceries. The Finnish startup basically aims to better inform shoppers about the food they buy, and help retailers communicate directly about the groceries they sell.

At the core of is a recommendation system, which the company says relies on patent-pending technology, that learns from a user’s eating and purchasing habits, and suggests recipes and groceries that match his or her ‘taste profile’. The system takes into account personal preferences – think food allergies or intolerance, budgetary restrictions and predilections.

Read more at TechCrunch Europe.

Intel, MasterCard, Motorola Mobility Put $18M In Mobile Banking Platform mFoundry

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 05:16 AM PST


mFoundry, a company that powers mobile banking solutions for more than 500 banks and credit unions nationwide, is announcing a new round of funding, to the tun of $18 million, from MasterCard (which led the investment), Intel Capital, FIS, and Motorola Mobility. This bring’s mFoundry’s total funding to $40 million.

MFoundry’s SaaS allows banks and other providers to give their customers mobile banking options, including payments. For example, mFoundry powers Starbucks’ Card Mobile.

The investors in this round of funding will also work with the mobile banking startup on developing tailored products as well. mFoundry already has an existing partnership with banking software company FIS, but will also expand the company's focus to include additional payments opportunities with MasterCard, Motorola Mobility, and Intel.

As we wrote last week, mFoundry will allow banks to be able to offer MasterCard mobile banking options, including the use of the credit card company’s mobile payments technology PayPass and the NFC technology.

The new funding will be used to fund the development of new payments-related mobile products and services targeted at financial institutions and mobile network operators.

Clearly, the company has capitalized on the recent growth in mobile banking. comScore recently reported that 32.5 million Americans accessed mobile banking information on their mobile devices, a 21% increase from the fourth quarter of 2010. And, almost 14 percent of all U.S. mobile subscribers now access banking information through their devices. And partnerships with financial institutions and mobile technology companies should help mFoundry continue to grow.

Late Nite Labs Raises $1.1 Million To Bring Virtual Science Education To Campuses

Posted: 05 Dec 2011 04:57 AM PST

LNL Logo

Some readers may be familiar with Khan Academy, an awesome eLearning platform that offers students, self-starters and everyone in between the opportunity to learn at their own pace by watching instructive videos on subjects that range from arithmetic to physics. The non-profit startup has been growing like gangbusters of late, and now has more than 2,600 videos in its library. To date, Khan Academy has largely focused on math and science learning, but the startup plans to use new funding to expand into the humanities, and develop curricula for a blended physical and virtual academic experience.

Supplemental learning resources like Khan Academy’s stand to play a significant role in the changing educational landscape. The fact of the matter is that, while we might be in a higher education bubble, colleges and universities (public institutions, especially) face a challenging economic climate, which has led to budget cutbacks across the board. This is exacerbated by the increase in student enrollment, along with dwindling resources available to students and teachers, chief among them the limit of physical space within classrooms.

There is also (thankfully) a growing pressure to ramp up science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education on campuses across the country, but many instituions are struggling to keep pace while maintaining student engagement and quality of their courses.

One startup, like Khan Academy, has built an online platform that can become part of the solution, allowing universities to continue providing engaging curricula even when resources may not be available. Late Night Labs, a New York City-based startup, offers an web-based educational platform for distance and hybrid learning settings that lets students take biology and chemistry labs, for example, without the real-life explosions.

The startup’s virtual lab platform contains more than 150 experiment simulations, which come equipped with all the compounds, chemicals, containers, and instruments one would typically find in wet labs. Many state schools, community colleges, and public universities have had to shut down wet labs — or never had them in the first place — where students learn to master beakers and Bunsen burners and take part in those complex mad science experiments.

So, Late Nite Labs has digitized this setting to allow professors to serve their lessons over the Web, without requiring additional text or materials. Educators can create and manage their courses using virtualized labs and assignments, each of which has a digital lab notebook, media player, and supporting images and video for the experiments.

The platform comes with (150+) standardized courses that meet national science requirements, or teachers can use the platform to create their own customized classes. It’s also drag and drop and completely interactive, so universities can save on that wet lab overhead of buying expensive and dangerous materials, with the added benefit of not having to worry about student injury due to mischievous (or accidental) chemical mixing.

And, instead of selling their platform directly to universities of high schools, Late Nite Labs offers its virtual coursework through its website or in campus bookstores, so students can purchase it directly. Schools, therefore, pay nothing. Now, this sounds like a big burden for students, who are, by and large, already financially burdened, but at an average of $50 for access to the virtual labs, it’s really equivalent to what students would be paying for physical textbooks and course materials (and lab fees) anyway.

Plus, students have the benefit of being able to use the virtual labs from anywhere, to practice, learn, and move at their own pace — something that will hopefully be a critical part of educational systems and edtech solutions moving forward.

And so far, institutions are buying in, as Late Nite Labs is now being used by more than 150 schools across the country, including 56 of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, New Mexico State, and Arizona State, to name a few.

Today, Late Night Labs is announcing that it has raised $1.1 million in seed funding from a number of angel investors, including Harold Levy, the former Chancellor of New York City’s public school system and EVP of Kaplan, as well as Don Burton, former head of Business Development for Disney Education.

Late Night Labs’ VP of Business Development Harris Goodman tells us that the startup will be using the new capital to expand its team from five to 12, including hiring engineers and sales and marketing staff.

For now, Late Nite Labs is exclusively offered through universities and high schools, but the team plans to build a consumer product down the road as well as work its way into K-12 curricula. It currently offers Chemistry and Biology classes, with Microbiology and forensics labs on the way.

For more, check Late Nite Labs out at home here.

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