Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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Facebook Shareholders Suck…(Or, Why This Is Not Bubble 2.0)

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 08:34 AM PST

greedy pigs

Editor's noteJames Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest book is I Was Blind But Now I See. You can follow him@jaltucher.

Facebook shareholders suck. I know this because this past week I tried to help someone sell about 30 million shares of Facebook for $31 a share. These are weird transactions because never before in history has a private company so large ($80 billion in value) had so many random people buying and selling shares of it.

On the one side are these semi-mythical demigods called "co-founders" who hit the jackpot. On the other side are literally kings of some ancient lost kingdoms in Asia that suddenly want to own tens of millions of shares of Facebook before the IPO. In the middle are enough people to fill a small country. There are at least three lawyers (buyer lawyer, seller lawyer, random middle lawyer that keeps popping up and you never know his name but he's there somehow and nobody knows why). You have 1-3 broker dealers for the buyer, 1-3 for the seller.  (See also, “Why Facebook is Worth $100 billion”)

Then you have to figure out a spread. So the seller has to agree to $30, the buyer $31, and the dollar in the middle is split 15 ways. Its 30 million shares so that's $30 million in the middle and everyone feels this is the transaction of a lifetime and they need to get a piece. And then, all of a sudden, the secretary of the mistress of the random king wants to get at least half of the spread in the middle or will block the whole thing. So everyone needs to get on the phone again. At 11 pm at night on a Saturday. And hagggle out fees.

I introduced the buyer and the seller as a favor but I have no other involvement. But through the course of this I became an expert on everything you can possibly know about Facebook shares. All the prior transactions. Which shares are "Rofer" (i.e. "right of first refusal" for those not in the "Facebook share biz"), which shares are locked up, have they been already sold and resold, we need to see POF ("proof of funds"), we need to see "Proof of shares" (nobody says "POS", nobody even jokes like that).

Everybody's already been screwed once, twice, three times, sold, by people who claim to have shares or funds but don't. They just want to be in the middle ("we'll find the shares later," "we'll find the cash later"). There's a king somewhere on his toilet thinking about the 1% of Facebook he will soon own. There's a demigod in San Francisco or Colorado or also in Asia dreaming about all the cash he will be covered with in his gold-plated jacuzzi.

But nobody will move on price. The sellers think Facebook is going to $100 (so why are they selling?). The buyers think "we have all the cash" and won't budge. And everyone in the middle cries themselves to sleep because they are dreaming of either new houses for all of their grandkids or they assume the deal is off forever. But then new buyers show up and the old buyers disappear. And new sellers show up and the old sellers are gone. And the ongoing conversation continues but nobody knows who is real. Nobody is real. Someone is real. I need proof of funds. Well, I need proof of shares. They're in escrow. Series A has the same restrictions as Series B. No they don't.

(from the Oprah Winfrey Show)

And then: Can you also introduce me to Mark Zuckerberg?

No I can't. Nor can I introduce you to Randi Zuckerberg. Or Sheryl Sandberg. Or Jessie Eisenberg. I can't introduce you to anyone who has "berg" as their last syllable.

My wife begged me: don't write this article if you really want to help your friends. Maybe the deal won't happen. What deal? Do you think a billion dollars won't get transacted because I write a few little words? Do you think anyone cares?

But I have to write it. Because it's all a long segue into "bubble 2.0".

There's no bubble 2.0.  And while I'm at it: there was never a bubble 1.0.

Let me explain.

A bubble occurs when an asset moves up today only because it moved up yesterday. Think about it. I'm not going to define it more than that.

(fr the Hollywood Reporter - the "co-founders of Facebook")

The Internet went up in 1999 because now, 12 years later, everyone on the planet uses the Internet. And many Internet 1.0 companies: Ebay, Amazon, let's throw in Apple, lets even throw in Google although it was late to the game, and a slew of others, are at all-time highs in value and create tens of billions in earnings. Because they are real.

Why are they at all-time highs? Because everyone was right about the Internet. Everyone did eventually start using it. It did make commerce easier throughout the world. It did make corporate IT easier. It did allow companies to fire parts of their workforce because they are now replaced by easy to use technology (the real reason for the now probably permanent 8-9% unemployment we have: every corporation used 2008-9 as an excuse to fire the dead weight the Internet created in their workforce. I've had Fortune 100 CEOs admit this to me: "well, everyone was firing people. So finally we were able to.") Just like when cars appeared we were able to fire all the people who rode horses.

Internet usage went from 30 million people to 2 billion people worldwide. That's not a bubble. Groupon, no matter what you read about their stock, their moat, their people, their competition, their model ("its a coupon business"), is the fastest growing company in revenues in world history and it started in November, 2008. Zynga is another one of the fastest growing companies in world history. Facebook has 800 million users and is slowly but surely figuring out how to extract $2-$3 a year from every customer (which will give it a value of about $100 billion).

Facebook is a mini-Internet. It's an organized Internet. We've all moved our "home pages" to be our "Facebook pages". Companies flash their Facebook page on their commercials now instead of their own websites. So imagine the value of the entire Internet. Discount it just a little. That's Facebook. Or maybe Facebook + Twitter + Google. And then everyone who builds tools to service those behemoths. That's dot-com 2.0. It's not a bubble.

So why does everyone call dot-com 1.0 a bubble? Wasn't it? Wasn't there And a sock puppet?

A venture capitalist might invest in 20 companies. 10 might be zeros. 5 might be losses. 3 might be small wins. One or two might be home runs. That's different from the normal everyday investor portfolio where everyone expects all of their stocks to go up.

In 1999-2000, the public was given the chance to have a venture capitalist-style portfolio. It didn't work. And in anger it was called a "bubble" and then a "bust". Tulips! they said. Tulips don't have $80 billion of cash in the bank like Apple does. Tulips never had $43 billion in revenues like Amazon does. Venture capitalists will wait five to ten years for their payoff. The average investing public will wait five to ten minutes or it's a bubble. Again: the dream came true: the Internet actually did bloom to billions of users. That's not a tulip garden. (See, “the worst VC decision I ever made. Plus, 10 unusual things I didn’t know about Google“)

Tulips won't have a billion in earnings like Zynga will if not next year then the year after. Tulips won't have billions in earnings like Facebook will in the next several years. Twitter, Facebook, Etsy, Groupon, Zynga, Yelp, Craigslist—these are the dreams come true. We use these companies and they deliver value for us. They're real.

Now excuse me. The king of Shangri-La wants to buy more Facebook shares. And I have to get on the phone and pretend I can introduce him to Mark Zuckerberg.

Top image by DonkeyHotey

Google’s Winter Easter Egg: Let It Snow In Search

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 07:49 AM PST

let it snow -1

Google is full of fun easter eggs hidden within search queries. Remember the barrel roll? Here’s one more that’s been discovered, just in time for the holiday season.

Type ‘let it snow’ in search, and you’ll see snowflakes falling down the page. The first hit is the Christmas carol ‘let it snow’ by Dean Martin (which we’ve embedded below). Eventually your search results page will cloud over and the search button turns into a defrost button to clear out the clouds.

Here’s a list of some of our favorite easter eggs over the year. Enjoy!

Why So Many M&A Deals Fail

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 06:39 AM PST

patched tree

Editor's note: Contributor Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder and CEO of WatchMojoFollow him @ashkan.

While some M&A deals turn out to be great successes, it's no surprise that a lot of mergers and acquisitions fail.  The obvious factors explaining the failures include culture clashes or founders leaving—taking the DNA with them in the process.

But M&A is more art than science, and the reasons why so many deals fail to deliver on their 1+1=3 promise are complex.  Here are some:

The right hand isn't talking to the left hand, part 1: buy vs build

Many buyers initially seek to "build instead of buy", so a company may buy an asset that directly competes with an existing business unit, be it established or emerging.  This not only leads to culture clashes and turf battles, but it creates a lot of operational confusion.  In other words, even if everyone has the best of intentions, you either need to put an objective, arbitrary person to chaperone this initial rough process or put the heads of the respective units in a room until they determine a course of action.

Become part of the solution or remain a problem

Ideally, before the deal is consummated, the head of the unit that is buying should be brought in to become part of the discussion and process.  While initially this may bruise some egos and seem like mission impossible, it's a lot better than the alternative, which is someone trying to torpedo an expensive acquisition behind-the-scenes.  When Google acquired YouTube, the Google Video team was part of the integration while the Google founders were empowered to drive the strategy; all stakeholders understood that the future of video within Google lied with YouTube.

Lack of funding reduces velocity

Startups are scrappy and stretch every dollar.  But when a company sells, they are slowed down by the new processes and administrative realities of the buying party.  To compensate for the reduced speed requires adding more force – or resources –to maintain the same velocity, let alone add to it.  Google and Dennis Crowley's Dodgeball are a prime example.

"Skate to the where the puck is going, not where it's been", Wayne Gretzky

AOL buying Bebo is a classic textbook example of a buyer betting big on yesterday's trend.  It wasn't so much that social media had peaked by 2008, but Facebook had already won that battle against MySpace and Bebo wasn't a strong enough player to give Facebook a run for its money.  AOL sold Bebo for a reported $10M after shelling out $850M.

No safety of margin

Warren Buffett invests in businesses that i) he understands and ii) give him a safety of margin.  Unlike investing, M&A is oftentimes specifically about buying a new, foreign business that management can't build from within, so half of Buffett's mantra does not really apply.  But the second part of his philosophy does: companies that overpay – like AOL for Bebo – start so far behind the eight-ball that nothing can right the course.

The right hand isn't talking to the left hand, part 2: corporate vs business development

In an ideal scenario, the corporate and business development deals communicate effectively and work together to align their objectives against the resources available to reinforce the broader company goals in a reasonable timeline.  I stress "ideal"; more often than not, these two departments have somewhat different agendas, albeit subconsciously (and frankly, both parties are "right" given their roles).

After all, business development is seeking solutions that can help them in the short and long term, whereas corporate development is looking to justify the bandwidth a deal requires at best, and at worst is gunning the big splashy name to acquire to add to their resume, the same way an investment banker wants to put up the proverbial tombstone on their Deals page.

For example, Reddit's growth after the Conde Nast acquisition made corporate development look good, but business (and editorial) failed to do much with it, leading to its spin-off into parent Advance.


When company A buys company B, there's a hypothesis that the combined entities can get more done faster; before a deal closes, and in the early period following it, there's a theoretical framework and planned timeline to accomplish that.

But realistically, it's very possible that none of that actually holds water.  Let's face it, most venture-backed companies sell to the highest bidder and not the best dancing partner, as such, they may pitch a story and paint a picture that is less-than-realistic at best and downright false at worst.  If this is an innocent mistake, it's really best to tear up the game plan and pursue the strategy that will yield the greatest result, but sometimes that means admitting to being wrong, which human beings tend to hate doing.


As mentioned, entrepreneurs and management should sell to the company that will create the most value in the year or period that follows the deal, but management has a fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value, so there is an essential misalignment for all stakeholders.

The flip side is that buyers occasionally press the revenue pedal too aggressively early on.  There is nothing wrong with trying to maximize sales – that's the whole objective, but in some cases, a little bit of patience and tact will go a long way in not alienating the community and user base or clients.

An overly aggressive sales culture

Startups need to explore all avenues to grow sales.  But sometimes private companies pursue revenue even if it doesn't reinforce their strategic objectives or isn't profitable.  In these instances, the buyer ends up paying a multiple of revenues to acquire a business, but afterwards it may decide to discontinue those revenue streams, thinking that it will find synergies with its core business or new ways to monetize the assets it bought.  This rarely works, and combined with the higher operating costs of acquired unit, the buyer then finds itself in the unenviable situation of shutting down the unit or scaling back… effectively wasting the money it spent on the deal.

Dishonesty and lack of loyalty

Failures are not only the result of bad decisions by the buyers; sometimes the seller already has an exit strategy long before the deal closes.  In my interview with Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary, he said the responsibility to make a deal successful lies solely with the buyer, but I think that the selling CEO or founder has an obligation to make the deal work, too.


Last but not least, a company's success is rarely attributed to the founder or CEO alone, but rather, to a broader base of employees.  When a buyer is finalizing a sale, they tend to hone in on the key person, and this sometimes both alienates other key personnel and disillusions them when they see their roles and responsibilities reduced.

It takes two to tango

While departing founders are usually listed as a common challenge, the reality is that most buyers are driven to make the purchase by an internal champion on the business side.  If that person leaves, then the acquired asset runs the risk of becoming an orphan with no one willing to fight the battles on your behalf and evangelize the seller within the organization.

Ultimately, M&A is a natural part of any company's growth strategy. By knowing the common causes why some deals fail you can try to avoid them.

Image credit: Flickr/Zach Stern

Toshiba Thrive 7″ Review: Cute, But Clunky

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

Toshiba Thrive 7"

Short Version

While the 7-inch Toshiba Thrive is much more comfortable in the hand than its 10-inch counterpart, many of the best features in big brother never migrated over to the 7-incher. That said, this still may be the slate for you if gaming and web-surfing take precedence over e-reading. Otherwise, I’d point you to the Amazon Kindle Fire.


  • 7-inch 1280×800 resolution display
  • 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor
  • Android 3.2 Honeycomb
  • 5MP rear camera (720p video capture, LED flash)
  • 2MP front-facing shooter
  • MSRP: $379.99 (16GB), $429.99 (32GB)


  • Great size/comfortable in the hand
  • Brilliant screen with high pixel density
  • Very responsive


  • Lost all of its full-sized ports
  • No more removable back cover and interchangeable batteries
  • Tough price point, especially for 32GB of internal memory

Long Version


Despite less connectivity than big brother, I actually enjoy the 7-inch Thrive much more in the hand. It’s rather thin compared to the 10-inch model, with rounded corners and slightly angled edges. The charging port is placed squarely on the bottom of the slate, which makes it annoying to play around with in landscape while charging.

A 3.5mm headphone jack sits up top, with a power button, volume rocker and auto-rotate lock all along the top left side. Below that you’ll find a plastic cover protecting a microUSB, miniHDMI, and microSD card slot. If you can dig back into the corners of your memory, you’ll recognize that the 10-inch Thrive came will full-sized USB and HDMI and SD card ports.

The 10-incher also had a removable back cover and interchangeable battery, which isn’t the case on the Thrive 7″. The same rubberized, textured finish along the back panel is still present, though, and makes the tablet even more manageable. I actually let this thing sit on one leg for most of the time I used it, and it automatically gripped my pants so that it never slipped once. (Look, Mom! No hands!)

When stressed, the Thrive 7″ crackles and pops quite a bit. But I didn’t find anything so suspect that would lead me to believe this isn’t a solid build.


I’d say the Thrive’s best feature would be its display. A 1280×800 pixel resolution on a 7-inch display is pretty beautiful, and Toshiba has of course layered its Adaptive Display and Resolution+ technologies on there, as well. The display doesn’t take prints as much as some other slates I’ve dabbled with (talking to you, Sony Tablet S), but of course, there’s no such thing as an entirely print-free display.

As far as input goes, the display is super responsive. It was able to follow my finger in scrolling, even while I flicked it back and forth as fast as possible. Most Android tabs have a bit of a lag on that front, but the Thrive 7″ kept up with my pace.


The Toshiba Thrive family is special in that it runs pure Android 3.2 Honeycomb. No annoying overlays. No unfamiliar UIs. Just Honeycomb, the way you know how to use it. Toshiba did include its media player, along with a handful of other pre-loaded apps like Netflix, NFS Shift, File Manager, and Quickoffice HD, but on the whole this is a very vanilla experience.

Of course, access to Google’s apps such as Google Maps, Google Talk, and the Android Market is included.

I did have a little trouble with the Thrive’s 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. The shutter is frustratingly slow, though I was surprised to find that in camcorder mode the camera actually adjusts well between low-light and well-lit settings.


I tried to do all my work on the Thrive one day (which in retrospect was a bad choice on a 7-inch tablet), from 8am to 6pm. It made it to around 3pm before giving out, which includes the usual breaks for bathroom, food, and an occasional mission on Grand Theft Auto III for iPhone.

The good news is that it charges quickly. I was able to go from dead to 85 percent power in less than half an hour.


When it comes down to it, the 7-inch Thrive is a solid, albeit hefty, little Android tablet. Even without the full-sized ports, there’s still quite a bit of connectivity there and we saw perfectly acceptable performance the whole time. However, the price tag puts this little guy in a tough spot.

For just a couple hundred more, you can nab yourself an iPad, and anyone shopping for something a little lower on the pricing totem pole has plenty of options. Most notably, the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is just $249 from T-Mobile, though that requires a two-year agreement.

Of course, we do have the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, which certainly can’t compete with the Thrive in terms of performance or capabilities. Then again, that won’t matter to the novice user.

Daily Crunch: Low Tech

Posted: 17 Dec 2011 01:00 AM PST

Kicksend Goes Mobile With A New iPhone App For Instant, Asynchronous Sharing Of Big Files

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 11:40 PM PST


Last we covered Kicksend in November, the Y Combinator-incubated web file-sharing tool for the non-technical crowd, had just raised $1.8 million in funding from True Ventures, with participation from Digital Garage, SV Angel, Start Fund, and Milo Founder and CEO Jack Abraham. The team was heads-down fixing, tweaking, and developing some new features for their file-sharing service.

But, today, the startup is going mobile with a new iPhone app to let users take all of their photos videos they have stored on their phone and instantly send them to any friend, list of colleagues, or email address, instantly — across platforms.

For those unfamiliar with the service, Kicksend has launched web and desktop apps that connects users in realtime, enabling them to drag and drop big batches of files from their desktop and have them delivered instantly to their desktop and web apps. And now this functionality has arrived on mobile.

Kicksend’s advantage over other file sharing media is that it has no size limits, is private, and works asynchronously — unlike IM. With Kicksend, there is no need for share folders and permissions, and now with its mobile app, the startup is live on all the major platforms.

Like its desktop and web apps, Kicksend allows users to send large batches of high-res photos and videos from their phones to any friend, instantly, regardless of whether or not they’ve downloaded the Kicksend app.

Basically, Kicksend has enabled simple file-sharing on the iPhone, so if users send documents from other apps, or, say, you’re using GoodReader and you view a PDF, users can choose “Open in Kicksend”, you can share that with any other user in realtime — something that will be awesome for all those holiday photos.

Thus, documents, photos, and videos will appear instantly on the recipient’s desktops and mobile devices in realtime, or, in turn, users can view, send, and comment privately on PDFs, documents, photos, videos and more. If recipients don’t have the Kicksend app, they can receive files via email with links to download within minutes.

There are a ton of file-sharing services out there, but Kicksend has a great user interface, is extremely simple to use, and pretty much allows users to send any size file easily, instantly, to any device, across any platform, offering notifications and statistics to boot, so that users can see how many people in a group have downloaded the file. It’s a great tool. For more, check out the app here.

“Goodbye, With. Hello, Path 2.” Morin Migrates Users to New App

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 08:29 PM PST

With Winds Down

Dave Morin and Path’s secondary standalone app With “is winding down”, according to a tweet, email, and blog post from Path. “Now tweet who you’re with directly from Path”, the email explains. The encouraged migration signals the end of Path’s experiment with a stripped down, single feature experience. Details are sparse but this looks like an early warning to With users that the app will be sunsetted soon, though it still currently functions.

Path’s blog posts says “After a long and friendly coexistence, two apps have become one. And the pair has settled on a name: Path 2.” With’s end just 6 months after its launch resurfaces the standalone vs comprehensive app debate. Companies have to decide whether their apps should provide many functions but bury them in menus, or offer rapid access to one function.

Path recently released its more comprehensive 2.0 update, which has led to 30x growth of the app’s user base. Rather than force users to waste home screen space and choose what they want to do first, Path 2.0 simply integrates With’s functionality. In addition to tagging who you’re “with”, you can share your sleeping habits, music, and now standard content like photos and location.

Morin’s former employer Facebook is moving in the opposite direction. This summer it released its standalone Messenger app based off of its acquisition Beluga, and we hear it’s still working on its standalone mobile photos app that leaked in June. I see this as a slippery slope where instead of bloat you get a fractured experience.

I like comprehensive apps that let me bounce from once use case to another without having to exit to the homescreen, so I’m happy to see With go. Often times the functions split between apps are highly related, and saving one extra click through a menu doesn’t seem to warrant downloading and updating an extra app. The With wind down will also keep Path’s team focused on building a distinct experience from Facebook and Twitter where you share a lot but to only your closest friends.

Aetna Reveals It Acquired Healthagen, Developer Of The #1 Mobile Health App iTriage

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 06:58 PM PST

Aetna Acquires iTriage Done

At an investor conference yesterday, health insurance and tech giant Aetna revealed that it acquired Healthagen, the developer of mobile app iTriage, though it did not disclose the price. Aetna’s Chairmen, CEO, and President Mark Bertolini told investors “About a month and a half ago we bought at little company called iTriage…the fastest growing consumer application in healthcare today.” iTriage lets users check symptoms, find doctors, make appointments, and do medical shopping. It will be augmented with new features and become part of Aetna’s accountable care organization. Bertolini said ”We’re going to begin to change the health care industry by giving people tools they can put in the palm of their hand.”

Aetna’s goal is to get customers more engaged with their health care via iTriage, and thereby prevent them from sliding to other providers. Bertolini said iTriage will aid “retention, which is the catalyst for growth.” The app’s 3 million iTunes downloads will also bring Aetna new potential customer, and Healthagen’s digital relationships with hospitals and urgent care facilities. The privately held Lakewood, CO-based Healthagen hasn’t announced any funding, and also offers iTriage for Android tablets.

iTriage recreates the experience of popular web-based symptom checkers like WebMD, but for mobile. Not only can these apps act as portal to expensive purchases and services, they can collect valuable data on trending ailments. Considering iTriage’s early lead in app vertical, the acquisition looks like a smart move for Aetna.

MobiHealthNews‘ deep coverage of the investor conference indicates that Aetna will add cost estimation to iTriage. This will help Aetna’s customers to ”be a partner in reducing the cost of care”, according to Dr. Charles Saunders, Aetna’s Head of Strategic Diversification. This could significantly reduce Aetna’s own costs.

Additionally, Bertolini said regarding Aetna’s iNexx health care app platform, “we will give away the SDK for both the consumer platform and the provider platform to allow anyone to write apps to be sold on our platform.” This could create more opportunities in the mobile healthtech market that is projected to quadruple to $400 million by 2016.

A New Path: Path Grows Daily Users 30x Since Relaunch

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 06:37 PM PST

Screen Shot 2011-12-16 at 6.38.43 PM

There is something about waking up day after day to write about people who take risks; You end up rooting for some of them. This is the case with photo-sharing underdog Path. Almost every investor I’ve talked to loves founder Dave Morin and wants him and his talented team to succeed. Morin has managed to hold on to top talent like Nathan Folkman and Danny Trinh despite stiff competition and poaching attempts from some of the hottest startups in the Valley.

Morin famously didn’t sell Path to Google for $100 million, and at the time we broke that story, the murmurs around the tech world were that that wasn’t necessarily the smartest decision. Which is why it’s cool to stick around as a tech writer, sometimes the people you end up rooting for, win.

Path relaunched 18 days ago, changing course from photo-sharing to everything sharing, in a beautifully wrapped package with emphasis on simplicity. Many have likened the product to a better designed Facebook for your phone, which is fair and probably a compliment. But everything isn’t coming up roses, and the product still has kinks it needs to iron out.

But still, the relaunch is a success; Morin tells me that users are sharing more things on the new Path in a day then they had on the old Path in a year — at a rate of 12 moments per second. The company is seeing 30x the number of daily active users, going from 10K to 300K in two and a half weeks. Rumor has it that it’s seeing 100k downloads a day (Morin wouldn’t confirm).

Morin is most happy about the fact that over a million people have shared when they wake up and go to sleep via the app. And over a million and half people have now downloaded the new Path since its launch — it took the company a year to get to its first million.

These numbers are encouraging, miraculous even — and now the story of Path will follow its efforts in sustaining usership after this second post-launch spike. Morin says he’s dealing with scale problems now (many users are reporting too many friend requests, a “good problem to have”) and building out the next features. “It’s been delightful to see the response,” he says.

Of course.

Healthtech Accelerator Rock Health Peels Back The Curtain On Its Second Batch Of Startups

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 05:43 PM PST


As Dave Chase wrote earlier this year, the healthtech space is heating up, and a lot of serial entrepreneurs with consumer web experience are turning their focus to fixing some of the big problems inherent in the legacy health systems we have today in the U.S. and abroad. Yet, in spite of the $1 billion pool VCs have poured into startups last year, for example, healthtech startups, specifically, aren’t seeing a lot of that capital. There are a lot of challenges inherent to launching a healthtech startup that companies in the consumer web just don’t have to deal with, HIPAA-compliance, among others.

While it’s difficult for all startups, establishing B2B relationships and intricate partnerships is no simple task. That’s where health-focused accelerators like Rock Health come into the picture. (And we need more.) Rock Health has a great list of mentors (more here), and list of financial and health-related partners is growing fast as well.

Today, the company is officially pulling back the curtain on their second batch of startups. There are 15 companies in this batch, which will begin the 5-month Rock Health program beginning in January 2012. (You can read more on the accelerator’s inaugural batch here.)

Without further ado, here they are:

Agile Diagnosis is creating a web and mobile platform that provides clinicians with evidence and expert-consensus based, best practices in the form of highly actionable clinical algorithms. The startup wants to make it easier and quicker for clinicians to give their patients the best possible care.

Avva is the first, online patient-focused breast cancer management tool that allows patients to comprehensively organize, manage, and communicate important information throughout the breast cancer experience.

Cardiio empowers ordinary people with simple yet powerful tools to experiment, gain insight and take charge of their health and wellbeing.

Care at Hand is a mobile-based electronic health records and workflow automation software for home health care agencies. It also allows for new participation by family members via an online portal. With increased efficiency, agencies will be able to retain and attract new customers at a higher rate.

ChickRx is a healthy living community and marketplace for young women. Young women are preoccupied with health and wellness (diet, weight, birth control, STDs, mental health, skin, etc.), but existing health sites are clinical, target everyone or target moms.

Cognitive Health Innovations provides an online environment to help people address mental health issues and achieve personal growth goals using scientifically validated psychotherapeutic techniques and structured social interactions.

Docphin is the Bloomberg for Doctors. Docphin is a platform that personalizes medical news and research. In an environment that includes over a thousand medical journals with content that is increasingly complex and fragmented, physicians have grown tired of searching for relevant news. Docphin was created to address the "find" problem which has challenged physicians for decades. Docphin's platform enables users to easily personalize the news and research that matters most to them and their patients.

Epi.MD is creating a dynamic, social population management tool that's designed to help medical providers manage their patient population, disseminate information about new health care trends, and take immediate action to improve the health of their patients.

GetMyCare is a home health care marketplace that helps families find high quality caregivers at the lowest cost. Caregivers on our network range from non medical home care aides to physical therapist to licenced registered nurses.

HealthRally is a crowdfunding platform that lets friends and family motivate one another to achieve health goals with money and rewards. Think KickStarter for personal health motivation. (Read our coverage of HealthRally’s seed raise from Esther Dyson and more here.)

Helpful Systems is building an analytics system to predict and identify patients who are most at-risk for developing a hospital-acquired infection based on patient demographics and behavior patterns, hospital staff behavior patterns, and hospital logistics.

Nephosity shares medical images on the iPad. Doctors have access to a patient's medical images anywhere, anytime, and can collaborate with their colleagues.

Sano is developing a powerful mobile health monitoring product that will reveal new insights about stage zero care.

Senstore is a spin-out from Singularity University's Graduate Studies Program 2011. We are developing open innovation tools and a community of developers and entrepreneurs to catalyze innovation around sensor devices and applications. Our long term vision is to crowdsource the development of a medical tricorder which will enable low cost medical diagnosis to be performed by anyone, from anywhere.

Sessions aims to unlock social exercise by allowing people to share and discover exercise sessions around them. Think Meetup meets Foursquare for exercise.

SOPA Delayed – But Not For Long

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 04:45 PM PST


The extremely unpopular SOPA bill was supposed to be the last order of business today as the House Judiciary Committee prepared to break for the holidays, but a parade of objections and amendments (over 50) kept the bill in discussion and at last the committee adjourned without resolving the issues.

What was expected in this contingency was for the committee to resume work whenever the House reconvenes in January. After all, with such controversial and far-reaching legislation, it is better to take one’s time. But no: the committee has announced it will continue markup this coming Wednesday, the 21st of December.

Very few of the suggestions by opponents have been heeded, and the chairman, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), demonstrated his contempt for these concerns with the following words, which I am sorry to say make me very angry:

I am pleased that the unfounded claims of critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act have overwhelmingly been rejected by a majority of House Judiciary Committee members. The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical; none of it is based in reality. Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet. Their accusations are simply not supported by any facts.

This casual, smirking dismissal of the objections from people who are more informed than himself, and which unlike the media lobbyists and other proponents have little to gain from their advocacy, is distressing. The only place the committee seemed willing to make a change was holding off on some of the bill’s portions until a study could be made on the potential effects to DNS and other critical systems. Smith said he would consider a briefing.

It’s telling how badly the bill’s supporters want this thing to go through that they’re willing to come in right in the middle of the holidays to do work that could easily be done a few weeks from now. We’ll follow up on Wednesday, when the bill is likely to be approved and sent on to the House.

Review: Grand Theft Auto III 10th Anniversary for iOS

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 04:37 PM PST

GTA Logo

In October of 2001, Rockstar Games dropped a bomb on the gaming world. That bomb was called Grand Theft Auto III. In just one release, Rockstar shifted their flagship 2D series into a 3D world, introduced an enormous chunk of the population to the concept of massive sandbox games, and stirred up the first of many controversies that the company has since become known for.

Just over 10 years later, GTA3 is back — but now it’s mobile. As of yesterday, it’s available for iOS and Android. Same game, same grit, same campy over-the-top action… but in your pocket.

So, how has the game held up? How well did it make the jump from controller to touchscreen? Is it worth your $5?

Lets go ahead and answer those immediately: Surprisingly well, moderately okay, and probably.

For a game that’s probably older than the TV sitting in your living room, Grand Theft Auto 3 is still remarkably entertaining. I won’t wax on too much about the gameplay itself; many hundreds of reviews did that a decade ago, and it’s still the same game (save for a few little perks ported in from modern GTA games, like instant retries on failed missions) it was then. What worked well then still works well today: you run around, explore, go on a few hundred missions, then blow up everything in sight whenever all that gets boring.

It’s not what most would call “gorgeous” by today’s gaming standards (read: it’s no Infinity Blade II), but it really does still look good. The audio is also wonderful, with an absurd amount of dialog, sound, radio chatter, and music crammed into the 500 MB package. At the very least, it’s a wonderful testament of how far technology has come; what required a big ol’ dedicated gaming console just a decade ago now runs effortlessly on an itty-bitty battery-powered slab of glass.

To say it “runs effortlessly” requires a bit of a caveat, though. Rockstar claims support for all of the more recent iOS devices, including the iPhone 4, iPad 1, iPhone 4S, and iPad 2. On the latter two, it’s butter. On the iPad 1, graphic quality takes a massive hit (see the comparison shot above) — and still, framerate issues tend to rear their head. (Alas, I don’t have an iPhone 4 handy to test it on, so I can’t comment on the compatibility there.)

Look up at the screen shot above. The buttons! They’re everywhere! You can feel your hands cramping already.

It’s actually quite playable — in most cases, at least. The D-pad drops wherever you put your thumb when you’re hoofin’ it, and the other buttons are big enough that they’re not too much trouble to find (Oh: and if you think you could layout a better control scheme, you can re-arrange/re-size them in the settings screen.) Driving isn’t too bad either (though, man is it easy to flip your car now. I don’t know if they tweaked the physics engine or something, but it’s far easier to find yourself upside down and covered in flames than I remember.)

Shooting, however, is a rather terrible experience… which is unfortunate, considering how crucial it is to the game as a whole. The game has an autolock system which, even after fair amount of playtime, never seems to work the way I expect. It’s not so bad as to make the game impossible (just quite frustrating at times) but is detrimental enough that it influences my recommendation.

As for said recommendation: if you’ve never played through GTA3, I wouldn’t suggest having the mobile experience be your first. The controls, while acceptable, just take away too much of the magic. GTA3 is a great game and was far ahead of its time; if it’s going to be played by a newcomer, it deserves to be played as originally intended. If you played through the original (or started it, and never got a chance to finish before Mom slung the PS2 at a garage sale) and are just looking to swim in nostalgia, however, it’s easily worth the 5 bucks.

You can find GTA3: 10th Anniversary in the App Store here

MyYearbook Hits Half A Million Daily Mobile Users, Launches iPad App

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 04:10 PM PST


It’s hard being a social network not called Facebook, but myYearbook isn’t one of those erstwhile rivals being sold off for assets. Instead, it’s been seeing strong mobile growth and revenue growth over the last year, building on its $100 million merger with QuePasa in July. Expect both to accelerate with the launch of its new iPad app today (available here).

The company is now reaching half a million mobile users daily across major operating systems, chief operating officer and cofounder Geoff Cook tells me, with 200 million (unduplicated) monthly sessions in total. Android has grown to be the largest, beating iPhone usage by two to one. The set of mobile app developer acquisitions that the company did earlier this year seems to be paying off.

Revenue is also up. After posting revenues of $23.7 million last year, it’s grown to $36.3 million in the 12-month span through September.

The new iPad app, which you can download here, improves on the existing mobile interfaces by adding a multi-pane interface for doing things like flipping through profiles while using specific features like apps.

Look for it to get more of the main site features early next year, Cook says. MyYearbook has transitioned from its roots as a high school social network to, in its words, the place to “meet new people near you.” That obviously translates to lots of dating-oriented features. It’s been launching games and other apps in-house, powered by its own virtual currency, that are designed to bring strangers together.

The iPad app already has some of those features in place, but so far it’s been monetizing through ads. The virtual currency is coming to mobile next quarter, Cook says, along with the games, which should help mobile monetization increase considerably. Dating apps, including mobile ones, have been quiet but substantial businesses.

Cook also says that the iPad launch should be a hit with its users, a company survey recently showed that a large percentage of them are expecting iPads from Christmas. He’s aiming for a repeat of last year, when the sales of iPod Touches helped fuel the year’s growth.

Little iPads, Little Pixels, And Resolution Independence (An Apple Rumor Medley)

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 02:40 PM PST


Another crop of Apple rumors has grown up under our feet, and it seems a little reaping is in order. Two rumors are making the rounds, both of which warrant a little consideration but should, as usual, be taken lightly until more substantial evidence appears. Both have their origins in Digitimes, which prides itself on catching scraps of news from upstream suppliers but isn’t always correct in its conclusions.

Earlier this week a little bird told Digitimes that the upcoming redesign of the MacBook Pro won’t simply be thinning down the body, but will upgrade the displays to a mind-blowing 2880×1800 resolution. And then just today there has been a recurrence of the 7.85″ iPads we first heard about in October. The implications of the first rumor especially are quite serious, and while the second one seems unlikely, its resilience must be acknowledged.

Let’s talk about the little iPad first. I wrote in October that essentially these reports could easily be exaggerations of the usual testing companies like Apple do. They said smaller tablets were DOA, but that was more than a year ago, and things change. The Fire has proven that many people do indeed want a smaller tablet, and everyone would think it a fine joke if Apple went back on that and said “we waited until we could do it right.”

Supposedly this smaller iPad would retain the 1024×768 resolution, which is really the only option they had. The size is significantly smaller, but the fact that it’s 4:3 means that it’s also quite a bit larger than the Fire and other 7″ tablets. Here, I made you this chart, which may even be accurate:

Looks like a fairly comfortable size, this supposed 7.85″, like a slightly stubbier Galaxy Tab 8.9, which I think is a great size. It would naturally be extremely thin and light, much more so than the iPad 2. But it’s hard for me to believe they would simply put this thing out there without any kind of real differentiating feature. The iPod Classic, Nano, Touch, and Shuffle are all very different products, not just different sizes. It doesn’t seem likely that this rumored smaller iPad would be just that — smaller. To simply reduce the size would be to admit a design failure, and Apple would hate to do that. But from the very little info that’s out there (two reports giving the screen size and a late-2012 date) we can’t draw any conclusions.

The resolution upgrade for the MacBook Pro series is what’s really blowing my mind. Apple isn’t the only one looking into high-PPI screens (it’s something of an arms race, really), but they leapfrogged everyone with the iPhone 4 screen and hope to do the same elsewhere.

It would be an extremely powerful sales tool to have all primary Apple products be high-resolution. People see the screen of the iPhone 4 and they instantly understand how it’s better (though competition is getting tougher). They’ll see the screen of the new iPad and these high-res laptops and they’ll understand it there as well. Text will be clearer, images will be sharper, and no doubt Apple will have a few flashy features that demonstrate other benefits.

But it’s not quite that simple. With the iPhone, moving to high-res meant a bunch of upgraded art, sure, though the 2x mode saved a lot of trouble and looked just fine for the most part. But compared to the iPad and especially to OS X, the iPhone is really quite a limited ecosystem in many ways as far as the display and interface goes.

The question of resolution independence, then, again rears its head. Resolution independence, for those who have forgotten, is where an interface does not use bit-mapped graphics like, say, buttons 50 pixels wide and 15 tall, with rounded edges formed by falling off in graduated steps, producing the illusion of a curve. Instead, it uses either very high resolution versions of those graphics or scalable vector-type graphics to ensure that visual elements can be displayed at any resolution with the maximum fidelity possible. The curve on the corner of the button would not be measured in pixels but calculated geometrically and rendered in pixels as best it can be.

It’s not demonstrated perfectly (the proportions ought to be the same) but you can see how a seamlessly scaled UI might look here:

Apple has an on-again, off-again relationship with resolution independence. They’ve made some strides, such as in how icons are scaled, but creating a scalable but consistent interface is extremely tricky; PPI, DPI, scaling, filtering, and all their effects on design are a jungle few care to walk into. And at any rate screens haven’t had a high enough resolution to make the work of creating a resolution-independent interface worthwhile. Until now, that is.

For the present, 2880×1800 is big enough that current high resolution of the 15-inch MacBook Pro (1440×900) would neatly fit inside via pixel expansion, meaning that UI elements would appear the same size on this new device, but would be “rendered” at a higher resolution. For the present, I say, because it is only natural that OS X should, like iOS, be remade with the benefits of high resolution in mind. Given that there has been talk of this change for years, and that we’ve seen concrete examples here and there where it’s useful on current screens, I would say that Apple has been working on this design overhaul for quite a long time. It’s going to be their main volley against Windows 8, which, though it has a lot going for it, is very unlikely to beat Apple to the punch on this.

But they can’t introduce it with the new MacBook Pros, which will likely ship in the second quarter of 2012. Lion has, relatively speaking, just arrived, and the changes are too major to be included in anything less than a full decimal release. I don’t have a solution to this problem, and it may be that the rhythms at Apple will have to be disrupted in order to fully take advantage of this new technology.

The last thing that must be said about all this high resolution talk is that it may mark a return to the high end for Apple. For a couple years now, Apple has been focusing on cost and volume, driving down on-contract prices for the iPhone, aggressively pricing the iPad, and bringing the MacBook Air (once a luxury item and likely could have stayed there) below $1000 — to say nothing of how they’ve cooled towards professional applications like Final Cut Pro.

But this new screen not only commands a premium on its own, it will also actually be expensive. Possibly, in the first round, a major upgrade for several hundred dollars. The MacBook Pros will live up to the moniker; the Air will be the low-cost laptop and the Pro will be the high-cost one. What will accompany this turn? I don’t think desktops are ever going to be an Apple focus again; too much of their IP is in portability. I’m thinking that these MBPs will be able to be specced out to desktop levels, though, as if Apple still wants people to use their computers for serious media purposes, octa-core processors and 16 gigs of RAM will be in demand. That all is just my personal speculation, though.

One more word and then I’m done. I’ve seen a few articles crying about Digitimes as if it were deliberately trying to damage Apple by leaking these items. Let’s be realistic. Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world, and arguably the most important company in consumer electronics. It is perfectly right that Digitimes and other outlets like it should want to focus on this massive, interesting company and the devices which for a few years now have been leading the rest of the industry. They report these things because these things are what they report. And don’t forget that their Apple coverage, while it gets the most attention, is only a fraction of what they cover.

Whether these things are true will only be seen in time, but the topic of resolution independence and high-res displays is one which gives way to many other discussions and has many tangential implications, some of which I felt needed to be explored. It all starts with pixels.

TC Gadgets Weekly Webcast: The iPad Mini, CES, And A Coffeemaker

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 02:22 PM PST

This week the lads and I talk about the iPad Mini, our huge booth at CES, and my new favorite coffeemaker. We also discuss how much it’s going to cost us to interview 50 Cent at CES this year, which is pretty darn wild.

Want to hear this in audio form? I’ve extracted the audio from the video webcast and saved it to a downloadable MP3 podcast that you can subscribe to via RSS or iTunes. Hopefully you enjoy this version as well.

OkCandidate Snags OkCupid’s Approach, Tells You Who To Vote For

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 02:10 PM PST

Okay Candidate

While I wouldn’t expect it to fly with its current name for very long, check out this project that came out of NYT’s recent Open Hack Day (where it walked away as runner-up).

Called OkCandidate, it’s OkCupid… for voters. Instead of finding you the best romantic candidate to date and make beautiful love babies with, it tries to determine which presidential candidate is most compatible with your beliefs.

Like OkCupid, OkCandidate begins with a series of questions. You drop in some details about your political beliefs, acknowledge which answers you find acceptable, and mark how important you find that particular issue. In the end, OkCandidate ranks each candidate on a 0-100 scale.

To be clear: at this point, I couldn’t recommend anyone actually use this to pick their candidate. Given that it was built in ~12 hours for a hack day, it has its fair share of limitations that could be cleared up with a bit more effort. For example: it’s completely opaque as to how it’s forming its compatibility ratings and from where it’s pulling its information, so the ratings at the end lack reason or explanation. It’s also curiously missing information/ratings regarding incumbent president Barack Obama , so its ratings are currently limited to the Republican candidates.

So why write about it? Because I really like the concept, and hope the team (or someone else) builds it into something wonderful. Everyone gets a vote — but not everybody bothers to be informed. Maybe it’s because they’re too busy; maybe it’s because they’re intimidated by the mountain of information they’d need to pore over. A tool like this (albeit one with a bit more transparency and explanation behind ratings) would, at the very least, help people take the first step towards narrowing down a pick.

If something like this exists, drop a comment and let us know. I’ve done my fair share of searching, but my Google-Fu fails to turn up anything well-made and intended for use with the upcoming election.

Your Nexus S Could Taste Ice Cream Sandwich As Early As Today

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 01:38 PM PST


Nexus S owners rejoice! While your Galaxy Nexus-toting friends have been rubbing a bit of Ice Cream Sandwich in your face, the year-old Nexus S will soon get its own taste of Android 4.0. According to the Android Google+ account, the rollout to Nexus S users will begin today and will continue through “the coming month.”

Ah, but there’s a bit of a catch — from what I can tell, the update is only meant for users of the bog-standard GSM Nexus and not the slightly more flashy 4G model. Sorry Sprint folks, you’ll just have to wait a little longer for your chance to shine.

Or will you?

If waiting’s not really your thing (it certainly isn’t mine), there’s no shortage of custom ROMs to flash that will get you running Android 4.0 as fast as you can say “rooted.” Sure, it’ll take a little more effort than wailing on the “Check for updates” option on your device’s Settings screen, but for some it’ll beating waiting for who-knows how long.

Google has even offered up a list of tips for Gingerbread users who finally get to update. If you haven’t gotten a chance to play with ICS yet (or if you’re waiting for your update to install), take a look — things have changed just enough so you’ll have to reset your Android-oriented muscle memory.

Sprint “Disabling Use” Of Carrier IQ On Affected Devices

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 01:08 PM PST


Just a day after Minnesota Senator Al Franken published reports on how carriers and device vendors use Carrier IQ, Sprint seems to be taking steps to distance themselves the mobile monitoring company. According to MobileBurn, Sprint has confirmed that they will be disabling their use of Carrier IQ software on affected devices.

They’ve got a lot of them too: in response to an inquiry from Senator Franken, Sprint recently revealed that 26 million Sprint devices have made it into customers’ hands with Carrier IQ on-board.

For now, it seems as though Sprint simply won’t be “tasking” devices for diagnostic data, and that the software will remain on those devices. That may change soon though: a report from indicates that HTC and Sprint’s other hardware partners have been asked to push out over-the-air software updates that don’t include Carrier IQ. Sprint representatives offer no comment.

The one thing Sprint doesn’t make mention of is what the next step is. If this turns out to be the end of the two companies’ long-term relationship, then it stands to reason that Sprint will no longer be asking hardware partners to integrate Carrier IQ’s software going forward. That is, at least, until they can figure out another way to get that much-needed diagnostic information.

Now that a major carrier has discontinued their use of Carrier IQ (at least for now), an important question comes to mind: what does this mean for Sprint’s network? The two companies have worked together since 2006, and I doubt that their relationship would have continued for so long unless it actually resulted in improvements for the network and for customer satisfaction.

Sprint’s email mentioned “evaluating options regarding this diagnostic software as well as Sprint’s diagnostic needs,” which to me speaks to the importance they place on maintaining their network. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see how valuable Carrier IQ’s data is to carriers if/when the two companies part ways.

Gillmor Gang Live 12.16.11 (TCTV)

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 01:00 PM PST

Gillmore Gang test pattern

The Gillmor Gang – Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, John Taschek, and Steve Gillmor – are recording live today at 1pm PT.

Recording is concluded. The show will be available 10am Saturday morning Pacific time.

T-Mobile’s White Samsung Galaxy S II Is Going For $99 This Weekend Only

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 12:01 PM PST


The Samsung Galaxy S II is a very special phone. Even though it’s been on the market for quite some time now, it’s still one of the more beastly competitors on Android-flavored shelves.

Of course, it’s always had the price tag to prove it, going for between $230 and $250 just about everywhere. But T-Mobile has a pretty sweet deal going on a white Samsung Galaxy S II for this weekend only, and it could save you up to $130.

The white Galaxy S II hasn’t been available for that long, so if the new new thing is all that matters to you then fear not. The deal is only available online, so don’t go traipsing into a T-Mobile asking for your $99 Samsung Galaxy S II. After a $50 mail-in rebate and a signature on the dotted line of a two-year contract, T-Mobile is slashing $130 off one of the most popular phones of the year.

I have yet to see such a great deal on the GS II, so if you’re into white phones and are ready to sign your soul over to T-Mobile (possibly, again), head over to T-Mo’s web site and get the ball rolling.

[via Unwired View]

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