Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

(Founder Stories)’s Billy Chasen On Closing Stickybits: “None Of Us Used The App”

Posted: 11 Dec 2011 08:25 AM PST

Founder Stories Turntable

When we first invited Billy Chasen to join us on Founder Stories he was working hard to make his startup, Stickybits a success. Turns out it never took off. But like many founders, Chasen bounced back and found better luck elsewhere. In this case it’s with – a platform where people play DJ online and share music with others in virtual rooms.

Having recently raised $7-million from investors that include Union Square Ventures and First Round Capital, we thought it would be interesting to catch-up with Chasen and hear how it all went down.

Chasen tells Founder Stories host, Chris Dixon that when 2010 was drawing to a close, he reviewed “the health” of Stickybits and recognized it was mired in mediocrity. He says he didn’t have the passion to continue with the project and it seems his team wasn’t much more enthusiastic. “We were all building the app and none of us used the app.”

Chasen continues, “there were two choices to make, there was either let’s just shut down the company and say Stickybits isn’t working and we all go off on our own, or we drastically change the company.” Option two won out and investors were on board, but Chasen admits he stumbled a bit when delivering the news to his staff. “One of the mistakes I made was I didn’t message it as well as I could have to my team. I basically came to them one day and was really just kind of like, we are going to do this now.”

Having previously convinced others that Stickybits was the way to go, Chasen readily admits aspects of the transition were “terrifying.” He tells Dixon, “I thought Turntable was an amazing idea and I thought it could get the traction that it has gotten, but you don’t know at the time, it is not built, it is just a concept in your head and the worst thing that can happen is you say trust me again and you build that up and then… nobody likes it.”

Make sure to watch the entire video to hear additional insights, including how Chasen came up with the idea for Past episodes of Founder Stories featuring Drew Houston, Kevin Ryan, Mayor Bloomberg and many other leaders here.

Episode II of this interview is coming up.

Google’s 3 Top Executives Have 8 Private Jets

Posted: 11 Dec 2011 07:00 AM PST

air google

A surprising piece of news was buried in an article this week. Friday, The Mercury News reported the three top executives at Google, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, are offering to pay $33 million to finish the restoration of the historic airship hangar at Moffett Field. The giant structure, built in the 1930s and called Hangar One, sits a few miles from the Googleplex and it’s well known the Google executives have special permission from NASA to park their jets at Moffett.

The jets are not owned or operated by the Google. Instead, the 3 Google leaders operate the fleet through an LLC called H211. Google has no official relation with H211. Ken Ambrose, the Director of Operations for H211, announced the funding offer at a public meeting this week. He also complained that NASA, which owns Hanger One, has taken too long to respond to the offer.

On first glance, it sounds like a purely noble gesture by the Google trio. The building is in the middle of a project to strip toxic materials in its siding. Lack of taxpayer funding to complete the project has raised fears that could lead to the demolition of one of the world’s largest freestanding structures.

But, as the Mercury News reported, “There’s a catch: They want to use up to two-thirds of the floor space of the hangar to house their fleet of eight private jets.” Most of the members on the Hangar One committee, along with the local congresswoman, support the idea, although there is some concern about the public-private partnership.

But whoa. Wait a minute. The Google execs own eight jets? 2.6 jets per person, for the 2 co-founders and the executive chairman?

In 2007, TechCrunch reported on the Google execs first jumbo jet, a modified Boeing 767 and the controversy it created. (See Search Engine Land’s Guide To The Google Jet for more info.) In addition to the Boeing 767-200, they own two Gulfstream Vs.

Later, in 2007, the team picked up another Boeing, a 757 this time. A NASA lease document with tenant H211 lists those four planes. (PDF: see Exhibit C) Images of the Google jets can be seen here. Despite some fake images appearing around the web, there’s no Google logo on the planes.

In 2008, the New York Times reported they appear to have added a Dornier Alpha fighter jet to their fleet.

But, counting the fighter jet, that’s only 5 jets. What about the other 3? Perhaps, the Merc got the number wrong?

Thanks to a “Google Search,” two more articles came up confirming Ken Ambrose said “8″ planes at the meeting. One in the Mountain View Voice, and another with detailed notes of the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board subcommittee meeting on a Moffett Users website. At the meeting, a member of “Save Hangar One” said they don’t want to see “Google” in 200-foot letters on the hangar as part of the deal. Ambrose said the Google team didn’t want that either.

TechCrunch is trying to contact Mr. Ambrose for more information about the additional three jets.

The Google leaders and their friends are not the only ones using the jets. NASA conducts flights on the planes with its own researchers and equipment to gain scientific data. That deal was part of the unusual agreement with NASA allowing the Google team the use of Moffett Field, an airport closed to private aircraft. When that deal was announced, it raised concerns from the local community leaders opposed to expansion at Moffett. Other Silicon Valley private jet owners and users, who are not allowed to use the airport, couldn’t have been pleased either.

The Google jet fleet has been a source of fighting and controversy over the years. The Wall Street Journal reported on the lawsuits with its contractors and the famous dispute, settled by Schmidt, over what size beds the co-founders would have on the plane.

Of course, lots of CEOs and executives own or lease private jets. On one hand, the Google leaders can spend their money any way they please. Their time is valuable, and using the jets makes them more efficient. On the other hand, using private jets is not very environmentally friendly for leaders of a company that prides itself being green. See Google Green.

Speaking of private jets, Michael Arrington posted this photo of the TechCrunch jet on his posterous page in 2010. It hasn’t been seen since our AOL buyout.

Stop Telling Women To Do Startups

Posted: 11 Dec 2011 06:45 AM PST


Editor's note: The following is a guest post by Penelope Trunk, writer and founder of Brazen Careerist. Her opinions are her own.

We need to get more guys who are running tech startups instead decide to be stay-at-home dads.

What do you think of that? Stupid, right? That's what it sounds like when anyone suggests that we need to get more women doing startups.

If you are worried that women don't feel capable of doing whatever they want, you can stop worrying. Women outperform men in school at such a huge rate that it's easier to get into college as a male than a female. And women take that to the bank by earning more than men in their 20s. Women would probably continue out-earning men except that when men and women have kids, women choose to downshift way more often than men do.

Clearly, women have a choice. There are plenty of opportunities out there for women if the women would just continue working in their 30s the same way they did in their 20s. So clearly, women don't want to. Women are choosing children over startups.

So it seems that women are making decisions for themselves just fine. It's just that they are not the decisions that men make. This should not surprise anyone. Men and women are different. So what?

On top of that there is evidence that the members of the VC community go out of their way to attract women. Of course, this makes sense. VCs look for underserved markets. Women are likely to address different markets than men, and since there are so few women founders compared to men founders, it's likely that women are addressing an underserved market. So VCs want to talk to women.

So VCs are definitely giving women a fair shake, it's just that women don't pitch. And women are definitely feeling that they can do whatever they want, it's just that women aren't choosing to create tech startups.

So what?

Let's look at all the women writing articles saying that we need women to do startups. Here's an article by Jean Bittingham. She says the world needs women entrepreneurs now more than ever. But what has she done? She's an author and an academic. Of course. She has no idea what life is like running a startup, so she thinks it's a good idea to tell other women to do that while she writes books. I've done both startups and book writing, and book writing is like a vacation compared to a startup.

Here's a post by Tara Brown wondering why women don't comment on VC blogs. Here's the answer: Because women don't care. Is that okay? I actually wonder why Tara cares, because she's a web site producer. I don't think she has ever raised money for a startup. But I can tell that all three times I've done it, raising money for a startup has been hell, so I think we should really be asking why anyone would want to try to convince someone to do it.

Really, how is it making any woman's life better to say that women should be doing startups? And hey, if startup life is so great then how about trading in the writer's life for a founder's life? It's really different. Try that for a few years, and then tell all the other women you know, who are out-earning the men they know, or taking care of kids, to trade their life for startup life.

The people trying to give solutions are as lame as the people pointing to a problem.

Whoever started the TED Women's conference is pathetic. Which would you rather say you spoke at? TED? Or the TED Ghetto?

Fred Wilson says there aren't enough women running startups. What does this mean, exactly? He acknowledges that women don't want to do startups in their 30s. And he himself points out that by the time women are 40 and they want to go back to work full-time, these women are not going to relocate to Silicon Valley.  But the truth is that if there were really a problem with there not being enough women running startups, then people like Fred would fund startups in suburbia. He'd fund startups that run at half-speed to accommodate carpools. He'd fund startups that have part-time ambitions. He's not doing that, though. So clearly there is not that big a problem that women are not running startups: The market for funding has spoken, and it is still funding mostly men.

Peter Thiel recommends that women start companies from age 20-25 so they have one under their belt before they have kids.  But why? Is he noticing that women who are 20- 25 are sad about where their life is going? Peter, here's some news for you: Women are most happy, in their whole lives, at age 28. So I don't think you are identifying a problem here. I don't think women are lamenting at age 28 that they did not found a startup at age 20-25. (Something to think about: Men are most unhappy at age 28. Maybe it is because they are so obsessed with launching a startup.)

Sheryl Sandberg says that women need to "lean into their careers." Sandberg runs Facebook. She's doing a great job. She also has two young kids, and a husband who works at a startup. I think you'd be really hard-pressed to find many moms with two young kids who wants Sandberg's life. Which is why women are not "leaning into their careers" like Sandberg says they need to in order to get to the top.

Pew Research shows that most women who have kids would rather have a part-time job than either work full-time or stay at home with kids full time. This sheds a lot of light on why there are so few female founders, doesn't it?

But now I have an idea: How about giving some respect to women who grew up in the 1970s, with feminist revolution baby boomer moms, and are still brave enough to say "I don't want to work full time. I can work full time. But I don't want to. "

Here is a Blueprint for a Woman's Life which I published. It is full of recommendations for how to make choices based on what we know women really want for themselves. It does not involve getting VC funding.

Because women are earning more money than men in their 20s and underrepresented in the startup world in their 30s and 40s.  And I don't hear a clamoring of women in the US who are saying "I want to do a startup and no one is letting me!" In fact, women are starting small businesses without VC help, at a very high rate.

For the most part, women are not complaining about the lack of VC funding in the world. They are complaining about the lack of jobs with flexible hours. And I don't see anyone on TechCrunch addressing that when they address women.

Men could change the world by staying home with their kids and parenting them. Men would provide a totally different perspective as the lunchroom parent. They would ask for totally different after-school programming. Men would hire different babysitters and different SAT tutors. Because men are different than women.

This is the same argument people use for why more women should do startups: They will have a different perspective, think of different models, lend a different sensibility to the industry.

The problem is that people do not need to be told what they should choose. People are pretty good at making choices for themselves. Men can stay home. Women can do startups. The thing is, most don't want to. And that's okay.


How Can Local Businesses Avoid The Horror And Structure More Effective Daily Deals?

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 08:46 PM PST


Couponing has been around forever, but the popularity of digital offers, daily deals, and group buying is fairly new. We’ve gone through the honeymoon period, watched the meteoric rise of Groupon, its overvaluation, IPO — and thankfully, through it all, we’ve seen increasing scrutiny on the space, especially over just how profitable daily deals actually are for local businesses.

The debate has raged over the daily deal model’s clever repackaging of old ideas and just how valuable the Groupon model is as an advertising mechanism for local merchants. Rocky was probably a little overzealous in saying that Groupon is poised for collapse, but there is no doubt that there are holes in its business model, just as there is no doubt that there are upsides to the model as a whole, both as an advertising channel and a tool for customer acquisition and retention.

In the end the scrutiny is essential, just as it is to find a middle ground — falling into the extremes of “daily deals are the best!” or “the daily deal industry needs to die!” misses the point that offers and daily deals can work, but only if they’re structured correctly. Otherwise, they can go wrong and go wrong quickly.

As Arash pointed out in his post this summer, the horror stories over daily deals often come from merchants who negotiate poor deal terms, don’t track redemption or customer spend, and don’t understand the economics of running a daily deal. Dr. Dholakia’s thorough analysis puts some numbers to the current flux in the daily deal industry, pointing out that 72.8 percent of merchants indicated openness to considering a different daily deal site.

Merchants are open to trying your site’s model if you can prove that you have their best interest in mind and can structure deals that can help them retain customers and offer them more than a simple 50/50 split of profits. That’s how they can differentiate their value propositions.

There may not be a cure-all model, but for the space to remain healthy going forward, it’s important to pose some prescriptions for merchants on how to structure daily deals so that they can get the most out of them. It’s an important conversation to have, and I hope you’ll weigh in.

The Dealmix, a new daily deal aggregator and deal map founded by former Googlers to bring “a bit of organization and simplicity to the wild and wooly deal market”, has created an infographic for local businesses on how to design profitable deals and make them work.

Check it out and let us hear your feedback. Let’s make this industry better.

Backed By Tandem, UpOut Launches A ‘Realtime Yelp’ For Spontaneous Local Event Discovery

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 06:34 PM PST


This summer, Tandem Entrepreneurs raised a $40 million fund to continue investing in its incubator and capital fund, both focused exclusively on startups building solutions for the mobile space. One of the four companies (which includes JungleApps, GimmieWorld, and Flit) funded in Tandem’s most recent batch is coming out of private beta today to get young people off the couch and into the fray.

UpOut, as its name implies, is an online event discovery service that wants to get you involved in fun activities that are happening right now, in realtime. Founded by two young Babson College entrepreneurs, Martin Shen and William King, UpOut is intending to do for local events what Yelp has done for the local restaurant market, showing what’s nearby, what’s inexpensive, and what people like you are recommending.

Co-founder Martin Shen says that the local events space is still largely dominated by traditional print media, like TimeOut and other hyperlocal weekly print (and online) publications. But he thinks that those traditional media outlets that have made the jump to the Web are outdated, inaccurate, and fail to offer simple ways to identify the most interesting events, especially those that pertinent to young people.

The issue is that many young people, whether they’re in college, working at startups or big companies, are busy defining their careers, studying — in essence, they’re work a lot and they’re busy. But the younger working stiffs of the world are often forced to be spontaneous in their leisure or nightlife activities. Shen says that few young people plan a night’s activity much before they actually leave their apartments.

That’s why UpOut is focusing on the spontaneity aspect of planning a night out, as the startup seeks to offer an event-centric, location-enabled solution that people can use while they’re on the go. Rather than combing through a list of events that may be expired, static or irrelevant, UpOut has created a service that is designed to recommend events and activities based on location, interests, social media signals, and your favorite venues — all based on what’s happening around you right now.

Along with AOL and Yahoo, and hundreds of newsweeklies, there umpteen services that are trying (or have tried) to address local events, but both Tandem and UpOut believe that the “spontaneous” element has really been lacking in the many approaches taken to local event recommendations. Both King and Shen and had been running a web design business out of their dorm room at Babson, but Shen told us that he’s not a big planner, nor are most young people, and they were having trouble discovering cool events when they had opportunities to take a break from coding and designing.

Shen said that he was tired of wheeling through event listings to find events that seemed appealing, only to show up and discover that the price of admission wasn’t exactly conducive to a founder — or college student’s — budget. So, he says that the partnerships that the team has forged, and the events database they’ve built, are focused on non-ticketed events. And when the events they showcase are ticketed, most tend to be under $40 — that’s where they see the most demand.

UpOut is adding 1,000 entertainment events, happy hours, and specials a week (in categories like Arts, Music, Touristy, Relax, etc) — all of which are happening right now. Users can mark events they’re interested in as “awesome”, which can be saved for later viewing, or follow their favorite categories. The service also uses your event preferences to serve you more relevant results as you go.

Unfortunately for those not currently located in the Bay Area, UpOut’s event listings are SF-only at this point, but Shen says that the team is working on launching its service in new cities beginning in early 2012 — as well as launching a mobile app. The startup is using the infusion of capital from its Tandem investment to hire programmers.

For more, check out UpOut at home here, and let us know what you think.

Louis CK Sells Latest Film, DRM-Free, For $5 Per Download

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 06:14 PM PST

Screen Shot 2011-12-10 at 9.10.19 PM

Following Radiohead into the wild world of micropayments, comedian Louis CK is offering his latest concert film, Live At The Beacon Theatre, as a DRM-free download or stream for $5.

Once payment is tendered, downloaders can both stream and download the movie twice. Once those four chances are used up you have to pay again, although because the MP4 file is DRM-free there is nothing stopping you from watching again and again, projecting it on a building across the street, or making a tiny flip book of Louis CK excerpts. However, Louis does ask that you not “torrent” his film:

To those who might wish to “torrent” this video: look, I don’t really get the whole “torrent” thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without “corporate” restrictions.
Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

While I’m sure this is already available on the pirate boards, it’s a bold step for a comedian to break with the traditional models of distribution and it’s a testament to CK’s understanding of his young, plugged-in audience. Given that his eponymous television show is probably the best thing on TV since Freaks & Geeks and that his comedy is top notch, it behooves you to check it out.

A Modest Proposal For Immigration: The $100,000 Green Card

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 03:10 PM PST

green card lottery

Editor’s note: Guest contributor Scott Banister is an American serial entrepreneur and investor. He most recently co-founded Zivity with his wife, Cyan Banister, who is also a TechCrunch columnist.

Permanent residence in the USA is a valuable asset that is enjoyed by most of you reading this article. Many potential immigrants from around the world want to acquire that asset and become valuable members of American society alongside us.

Why don’t we let more of them join us? There are two common objections: they will drive down wages, or they will be a drain on tax-funded programs. Some existing immigration paths, like the H1B visa-to-green card route, are based on the idea that for some immigrants, the benefits will outweigh these potential costs.

But the H1B path is a bureaucratic nightmare. Small startups don’t even bother with it. And for the immigrant, the H1B path puts them in the awkward position of having their visa status tied to their job until their green card is approved. You think having to leave your health insurance plan when you lose your job is bad? Try having to leave the country.

If being defined as “highly-skilled” outweighs the potential costs of immigration, wouldn’t the payment of an entrance tax deliver the same margin of safety? Let anyone under age 50 pay a $100,000 fee toward the retirement of the US public debt, satisfy the usual anti-criminal criteria, and get their green card. No quotas and no requirements to prove that their skills are “special” and “needed”.

Think the existing immigration paths are already providing enough green cards? The queue for Filipino siblings of US Citizens to get green cards stretches back to requests from 1988. The queue for H1B workers from India to get green cards stretches back to 2002. An Indian H1B visa holder who has been working in the US since before the Google IPO likely still doesn’t have their green card. Why not give them the option to pay this tax and end the wait?

Consider that 40 percent of the advanced science and engineering degrees granted in the US go to foreign-born students. There are endless discussions about "stapling" green cards to those degrees. It truly is a tragedy when these students are forced to return home—for our tax base, our economy, our diversity, our technological and military edge, and for that individual. But while that debate continues, why not offer a paid stapler? As a college dropout, I would argue that many talented entrepreneurs are more likely to save for and buy a green card anyway rather than stick it out for an advanced degree.

Are you grossed out by the idea of selling residency? The potential buyers certainly won't thank you for your "generosity" in making it free, but impossible, to get a green card by current methods. And given that the Senate recently passed a bill to raise what I estimate could be over $60 million from a fee on an annual green card lottery, do we really think being in the business of selling raffle tickets is somehow more legit than selling the prize itself?

Don’t think $100,000 is enough to compensate the American public for the potential risk to wages and welfare programs posed by this proposal? Don’t think 50 is young enough to prevent Medicare immigration? Feel free to propose a different amount or a different age. We can keep our current alphabet soup, but there should be some reasonable price at which we are willing to sell green cards on an unlimited basis to non-elderly adults as an alternate path to all the regulatory mumbo jumbo that surrounds H1Bs and EB-5s and O-1s.

Just 100,000 new residents per year at $100,000 each would generate $10 billion for the public treasury. That would be quite a meaningful contribution to our country, not including the likely economic growth and increased tax revenues from adding these new workers. People capable of saving up $100,000 to invest in a green card are likely to be productive.

Immigrants make American society and American businesses stronger. For those that can also help pay down our debts on their way in, what is our excuse for denying them the American dream?

Photo credit: Shawn Honnick

Microsoft Ends Another Vertical Market Dalliance—This Time In Healthcare

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 01:00 PM PST


Editor's note: This guest post was written by Dave Chase, the CEO of, a patient relationship management company that was a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist. Previously he was a management consultant for Accenture's healthcare practice and was the founder of Microsoft's Health platform business. You can follow him on Twitter @chasedave.

While Microsoft has been the most successful platform company in history, it periodically has flirted with vertical market-specific businesses with only mixed success. In virtually all cases, it ends up exiting the vertical business. At times, this has been with great financial success, like Expedia, for example. In other cases, not so much. The latest exit is in healthcare. Microsoft is folding its Health Solutions Group into a JV with GE (see release here).

The overriding decision in each case was to ensure the core platform business wasn’t threatened. Given the dynamics in healthcare, the threat to Microsoft's platform business in healthcare is greater than ever. The last major platform shift in healthcare was from host-based computing to client-server. When Microsoft entered healthcare, the market was clearly shifting to Unix-based client-server systems but it was able to redirect the shift towards Windows back-end systems. That platform dominance persists 15 years later.

Today, there's a similar story. This time, however, the shift is from client-server to the cloud and mobile OS' such as iOS and Android. With Amazon and iOS being the default platforms at the moment, Microsoft needs to put all its focus towards redirecting that shift. By removing any real or perceived threat to their 3rd party ISV partners, Microsoft is in a better position to win platform decisions.

At the same time as the platform shift is happening, there's tremendous disruption within the healthcare ecosystem itself as I wrote about in the earlier series on disruption in healthcare (see links below). While there's lots of consolidation taking place with traditional healthcare providers, there's a huge cohort of disruptive innovators popping up all over (e.g., MedLion and One Medical Group have been profiled here earlier). Not a week goes by where I don't hear from some executive at an insurance company or healthcare provider who is going to launch his or her own startup.

Typically they are either becoming a new kind of provider or they are developing services to support new providers. For example, this week I heard from the regional President of a major insurance company frustrated with the pace of internal innovation. These individuals see tectonic shifts and healthcare incumbents making the same mistakes newspaper companies made 10+ years ago that they are paying for now. With Microsoft's investment in the Health Solutions Group, they've paid little attention to the disruptive innovators which is another major opportunity that they are freed to pursue now.

Microsoft has had parallel forays in healthcare. One has been Microsoft's most successful vertical market platform business – i.e., being the underlying platform for the vast majority of HealthIT systems. The other healthcare business is doing vertical-market specific software in healthcare with their Microsoft Amalga and HealthVault projects.

Amalga has had limited success and they already acknowledged that with their earlier sale of a component of Amalga. As John Moore of Chilmark Research pointed out in his analysis:

While Microsoft tried to quell EHR vendor fears in the US that this HIS solution suite, later rebranded as Amalga HIS, would only be sold overseas and not it the US, most EHR partners chose to put some distance between themselves and Microsoft. Needless to say, this created far more challenges for Microsoft and its still budding healthcare sector initiatives and the company decided to discontinue further investment in Amalga HIS in July 2010, effectively putting it on the market.

Third party ISV or customer fears have often been a driver for Microsoft exiting a vertical market product area. For example, one of the key reasons Rich Barton was able to successfully position Bill and Steve for Expedia to spin out of Microsoft was that Expedia was pissing off important travel customers. At the same time they were selling millions of dollars of software to the likes of American and United Airlines, Expedia was disrupting their business model. This caused those sales teams a great deal of angst, so it was cleaner to let Expedia spin out.

Here's a recap of some of Microsoft's past vertical market exits:

  • Expedia: Started as a business unit inside of Microsoft. It was spun out and sold to IAC and became a stand-alone public company.
  • HomeAdvisor Technologies Inc. This was to be the next business to spin out of Microsoft after Expedia but missed the window before the dotcom bust. It not only had Microsoft's backing but JP Morgan Chase and GMAC-RFC had put in $100 million. It had a few divisions. One consumer-facing that was a similar to Zillow and and two B2B divisions. The consumer facing part became MSN's Real Estate channel while the CRM business folded into Microsoft's CRM business while the mortgage platform business was sold off to Freddie Mac.
  • Sidewalk was Microsoft's local play that was sold to CitySearch. Ballmer was quoted years later regretting that move. As the International Herald Tribune reported, It seemed a wayward foray outside Microsoft's software business at the time. "But Sidewalk was really aimed at what we now call local search," Mr. Ballmer says. "Sidewalk is one we should not have gotten out of."
  • Softimage: This was software for the movie industry that powered films such as Jurassic Park and Titanic. It was sold wholesale after a handful of years
  • Transpoint was a bill presentment and payment solution that was a JV with First Data and Citibank that was merged into CheckFree in a deal valued at $1B.

I'm confident that the Health team focused on supporting 3rd party ISV at Microsoft is very happy about this announcement as it removes one of their toughest objections from developers. The remaining vertical-specific product is the Personal Health Record, HealthVault, which remains with Microsoft.

This poses little concern for most Microsoft's ISV partners so I suspect it will remain at Microsoft but go into stasis. For Microsoft shareholders, the exit from doing vertical-specific products in healthcare is further evidence that Microsoft is focusing on its biggest opportunities.

Catching Up With IntoNow Before The Republican Debate (Video)

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 12:59 PM PST

Social TV these days usually means a companion app on your iPad that lets you Tweet along with your friends and fellow fans while you are watching TV. These apps work best for live events (the one remaining time in the age of the DVR when a large mass of people actually watch an event at the same time). IntoNow, which was bought by Yahoo and launched its iPad app last month, is partnering with ABC News to provide live audience polling during the Republican debate tonight for people who “tag” the debate inside the app.

If you are not familiar with IntoNow, it is like Shazam for TV shows. With one click, it gathers an audio profile from the iPad’s microphone and figures out what show you are watching. Then you can see related Tweets, and chime in. Adam Cahan, the founder of IntoNow who still leads the product at Yahoo, came by our office in New York to give us a demo of the new iPad app. The video is above.

Double Hubble Bubble Trouble

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 11:11 AM PST


OK, now I’m worried. Here’s why:

Lo these many years ago, in the long-gone spring of 1996, I set out to San Francisco to make my software fortune, armed with a freshly minted degree from Canada’s finest technical university. The second of the interviews I’d arranged via email — a radical notion, then — consisted mostly of playing Doom with my potential employers, but during the little time devoted to talk, I asked them: “Do you think this whole Internet boom is getting a little overhyped?”

The company’s CEO looked shocked, and said: “No way. First, my grandparents in Florida have still never heard of the Internet. Second, when they do, that’s when things are really going to boom.” He leaned closer, with the wide, wild eyes of a true believer. “Because the Internet changes everything, for everyone.”

They didn’t hire me. (I’ve never been good at first-person shooters.) Instead I wound up doing consulting work at the investment bank that led Netscape’s IPO, and rode the subsequent boom several times around the world. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was a giddy crazy time a lot like now. Because, you see –

Every tech bubble needs a narrative. A guiding myth, if you will. A tale that gives otherwise intelligent people good reason to be irrationally exuberant. The dot-com bubble had “The Internet Changes Everything, For Everyone!” Well, this burgeoning new bubble now has a myth of its own: Marc Andreessen’s “Software Is Eating The World.”

Consider these surreal quotes from The Rise of Developeronomics by Venkatesh Rao at Forbes: “The one absolutely solid place to store your capital today … is in software developers' wallets,” “if you have money and you happen to find a talented developer who seems to like you and wants to work with you, you should give him/her your money to build something, anything … if you don't have money, you should offer up whatever other kind of surplus you do have,” “software is now the core function of every company, no matter what it makes or what service it actually provides.” If that isn’t a bubble mentality, I don’t know what is.

Now, as quite a good software engineer myself, I’d certainly like this to be true. And Rao isn’t the only one saying it: even slightly less starry-eyed media are beginning to sound like the choir to his solo. The New York Times refers to “the steady march of that most protean of technologies — computing — as it makes further inroads into every scientific discipline and industry.” The Wall Street Journal says “computer programming continues to gain allure and relevance amid the rise of mainstream tech companies like Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. and almost every industry going digital.”

I want to make it clear that I am not actually disagreeing with any of those statements. Software is eating the world. The Internet is changing everything, for everyone.

But these sea changes don’t happen anywhere near as fast as true believers think. “Tech bubble” has two meanings: ‘excessive valuation waiting to be popped,’ yes, but also ‘the distorting membrane inside which the tech world lives.’ Within it we surf exponentially ever faster, fuelled by Moore’s Law (while it lasts), but we also suffer from what I call “Moore’s Lens”: like the first, flawed Hubble Telescope, our perspective is skewed. In particular, we tend to think the rest of the world can and will change as fast as the the tech world does. It ain’t so.

Even when those changes do come, they never happen the way the believers expect. If in 1999 you had told a dot-commer that a tech company would be the most valuable publicly traded company in the world twelve years hence, they would have nodded of-course–but if you had told them it would be Apple, they would have laughed at you pityingly.

Furthermore, it’s weird and disconcerting to think of software-eating-the-world as some kind of endgame. On the contrary: as Neal Stephenson says, “Let's get back to work doing interesting and useful things … We can't Facebook our way out of the current economic status quo.” Shades of Peter Thiel and Max Levchin decrying the current state of innovation in the world today at Disrupt SF. Software won’t eat the world tomorrow, and even if it does, that won’t automatically make anything better. Anyone who tells you differently is living in a bubble.

Image credit: NASA Goddard, Flickr.

Get Your Nominations In Now For The 2011 Crunchies Awards

Posted: 10 Dec 2011 11:07 AM PST


There are only a couple days left to nominate your favorites for this year’s 2011 Crunchies Awards. Already, we’ve received over 150,000 nominations from the tech community, with hundreds more trickling in every couple hours. Coming this January 31st at 7:30pm PT, we will be hosting the 5th Annual Crunchies Awards with GigaOM and VentureBeat. The ceremony is taking place at the gorgeous and huge Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, with an incredible after party following the ceremony. We have some really big surprise announcements coming soon, all of which we will share with you in the coming weeks.

Now is the time to nominate. Nominations close to the public this December 13th, at 11:59pm PT. That gives all of you only three more days to nominate who you believe is the most deserving. We have 20 categories this year, with topics ranging from: Best Social Application, VC of the Year, Best Time Sink, Best Mobile Application, CEO of the Year, Best New Startup of 2011, all the way to Best Overall Startup of 2011. Some winners from last year include: DailyBooth, Yuri Milner, Cityville, Google Mobile Maps for Android, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, Quora, and Twitter who took Best Overall Startup for 2010. You can view the full list of winners from last year here.

Tickets to the 2011 Crunchies Awards will go on sale next week and they go extremely fast, so be sure to keep your eyes out for them.

So, who do you think deserves a Crunchie Award this year? Square maybe? What about the iPad 2 for Best New Device? Or do you think Best New Device should go to the Kindle Fire? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and go nominate!

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