Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

DailyWorth Grabs $2 Million To Bring Quality Financial Advice To Women — Via The Inbox

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 09:18 AM PST

Screen shot 2012-01-04 at 10.49.24 PM

In March of last year, DailyWorth, the personal finance daily email and community for women, raised an $850K seed round led by Robin Hood Ventures, with investors like Eric Schmidt's TomorrowVentures, Social Leverage, 500 Startups, Venture51, Investors' Circle, Joanne Wilson, David Cohen, Scott Becker, Peter Shankman, and Carol Chow getting in on the action.

Now, it seems that some of these investors want to more than double down on DailyWorth, as the startup announced that it has closed a $2 million series A round led by Joanne Wilson and StockTwits Co-founder and CEO Howard Lindzon‘s Social Leverage, along with contributions from former investors as well. The new round of funding brings DailyWorth’s total to just over $3 million.

BetaBeat initially broke the story yesterday, and last month blogger and angel investor Joanne Wilson told O’Reilly’s Radar what excited her about DailyWorth, saying that the startup has already “created tremendous traction and sells advertising at lightning speed” — to the point, apparently, that the startup was running low on inventory.

Investors and advertisers find the startup appealing because of the intelligent, no-nonsense way it is creating a community around financial literacy and money management — for women. It’s a targeted play by DailyWorth Founder and CEO Amanda Steinberg, already a six-time entrepreneur, who has set out to create a resource for women (already the money managers) that breaks down essential financial concepts and makes them easy to consume (on-the-go) for busy moms and female professionals.

The newsletter, which includes educational tidbits about finance as well as career advice, has already racked up over 200,000 subscribers in the U.S., and financial institutions like ING and H&R Block have joined as sponsors. Andrew Russell, formerly of Pilot Group, who has invested in email companies like Daily Candy and Thrillist, has also joined the startup as an independent board member.

The email newsletter has been making a comeback of late, and this is where DailyWorth, which has been coined the DailyCandy for women, differentiates itself from other communities like the well-funded LearnVest.

DailyWorth is attempting to go beyond simply becoming another lifestyle or deals website for women that dishes out financial advice, seeking to help women understand money in a more granular way. A newsletter delivered directly to your inbox daily is a great method, if not old school, for ensuring that this financial education gets to its target audience directly and consistently — especially when that’s supplemented with great editorial content, because, as Steinberg says, women not only want to know how to budget and save, but also how to invest, demand higher salaries, and build a financial strategy for the future.

To further this goal, DailyWorth will be launching two new editions of its model early this year with “MoreWorth”, which targets “the affluent woman”, as well as “CreateWorth” for female entrepreneurs. MP Dunleavy, a former New York Times columnist will be leading the startup’s editorial team.

For more, check out DailyWorth at home here.

Aisle50 Lands $2.6M To Save You 50% On Organic Batter Blaster (And Other Fine Foods)

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 09:10 AM PST


Don’t get too excited — the Organic Batter Blaster shown above, on sale for a mere $2.49, has already sold out. But fear not: more grocery-centric deals are on the way.

Today Y Combinator alum Aisle50, which is best described as a sort of ‘Groupon for groceries’, is announcing that it’s closed a $2.6 million funding round. The round was led by August Capital, with participation from Ron Conway, Yuri Milner (both of whom are upping their investment on top of the funding they contributed as part of StartFund), and Chicago-based New World Ventures. August Capital’s David Hornick will be joining the company’s board.

We’ve written about plenty of Groupon clones and ‘Groupon for X’ ideas before now. And while many of them have fallen by the wayside, Aisle50 has a few tricks up its sleeve that help differentiate it from the myriad clones. And, more importantly: it’s getting traction with some key brands and chains in the industry, and its early stats look solid.

As with Groupon, once you sign up, you’ll receive regular emails about food items being sold at a major discount, which you can buy at a nearby merchant. And, just like Groupon, it’s based in Chicago, which is a hotbed for the grocery industry.

But there are some key differences. For one, these deals are being offered by the item’s manufacturer, rather than the retailer. And the way customers actually go about redeeming their coupons is different as well. Here’s how the process works (I’ll use a recent deal Aisle50 had featuring Chobani yogurts as an example):

First, customers receive an email about the latest deal in their area — in this case, a six-pack of the premium yogurt at 50% off the normal price — as well as the name of the nearest partner grocery store that carries the item. If the customer is interested, they’ll pay for the item on Aisle50′s site, then ‘load’ that purchase onto their grocer’s loyalty card.

The customer then heads into the store to pick up the Chobani yogurt, along with their other groceries. The cashier rings up everything as usual, and when the customer swipes their loyalty card, the price of the yogurt (which they’ve already paid for) is deducted from the price. Unlike sites like Groupon, there are no printouts or potentially confusing interactions with the cashier involved (well, assuming the customer understands how the process works).

Of course, this also means that Aisle50 needs to integrate with the various loyalty systems used by large supermarkets. This will take plenty of legwork, but they’re already making some good progress — they landed Lowes Food in August, and say that they’ll be launching partnerships with several other ‘banner’ stores in Q1 2012.

As for the money changing hands: Aisle50 takes a small cut of the discounted item price (it’s much less than the 50% typically taken by Groupon). And the retailer gets paid the full, undiscounted, price of the item by the manufacturer, plus a small standard 8-cent fee for handling the coupon. The manufacturer’s total cost winds up being the price of the discount, plus Aisle50′s cut, plus the 8 cent handling fee.

Which sounds like a lot, but actually isn’t out of the ordinary for these food brands. Cofounder Chris Steiner says that unlike Groupon, which often deals with businesses that have never offered steep discounts (and may not know how to handle them), the grocery industry has been built around using major promotions to build consumer demand for ages. From the manufacturer’s perspective, Aisle50′s service is a lot like the coupons they frequently pay to insert in newspapers — but the site doesn’t feature ads for a competitor’s product on the next page.

The grocery stores aren’t making much money from the sale alone, but they still benefit because these deals result in a lot of foot traffic — Aisle50′s early data shows 26% of customers heading to a store to redeem their deal are shopping at the store for the first time in over a month (in other words, it’s driving traffic to stores a customer wouldn’t otherwise visit). Likewise, 50% of the purchases through Aisle50 mark a customer’s first time buying a product, so manufacturers are introducing their goods to a lot of people.

Aisle50 seems to be off to a good start, though it’s still very early days for the company. In contrast to daily deal sites like Groupon, which offer at least one (and typically several) deals per day, Aisle50 is currently only offering around one deal per week, and there aren’t yet any options to explore additional deals beyond the one you receive in your inbox. Steiner says that the company recently hired two salespeople who are working to expand the number of manufacturers on the site, so we’ll be seeing more frequent offers soon.

New Details Emerge For White Epic 4G Touch, White Galaxy Nexus

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 09:02 AM PST


Long-time readers may know that I’m a sucker for white phones, so today is something like Christmas Part Two for me. New details have surfaced about two new pearlescent phones: the white Epic 4G Touch and the white Galaxy Nexus.

Sprint’s (unfortunately named) Galaxy S II Epic Touch variant is the more imminent release, as the white model will be hitting all of the company’s sales channels on January 8 with a $199 price tag.

We’ve talked about the GSIIE4GT in-depth before, but in case you were wondering, it sports a 1.2 GHz Exynos processor, a 4.52 Super AMOLED Plus display and a heaping helping of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. Sprint’s a little late here – AT&T and T-Mobile have already rolled out their white GSII variants — but more chromatic choices are always welcome.

Meanwhile, a white Samsung Galaxy Nexus will see the light of day in Europe before this year’s Mobile World Conference kicks off on February 27 according to Pocket-Lint,. Online retailer Handtec has already opened pre-orders for the pearly handset, with the 16GB model going for £496.79 ($770). The international Galaxy Nexus comes with full support for AT&T and T-Mobile’s data networks, so I don’t expect it to be too long before people with too much money snag a white GalNex to flaunt around town.

Fan though I may be of Samsung’s Android 4.0-powered gray monolith, I’m hoping against hope that the white model will officially make its way stateside. It’s been rumored that the GSM Galaxy Nexus will soon hit AT&T, and a white Nexus S with support for AT&T’s 3G bands surfaced not too long after the original Nexus S debuted. It’s a tenuous connection at best, but hey — a guy can hope right?

Contactually Launches Lightweight CRM Tool That Works Right In Your Inbox

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 09:00 AM PST


Contactually, a 500 Startups-backed company, is today launching its lightweight CRM solution for email users. At present, the service works with any IMAP-connected account, including Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo, AOL and others, but it will support both POP3 and Microsoft Exchange in the near future.

The company also just closed an angel round totaling $165,000, which is in addition to the $50K it had in seed funding.

When you sign up for Contactually (which I did, using Gmail OAuth – it doesn’t ask for your username and password), the service adds information pulled from social services, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Klout, Quora, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr, Skype and dozens of other networks, and integrates those into your new online address book at Here, your contacts’ name, info and details are listed, in addition to links to their accounts on the 20+ supported social services. Contactually also tracks how often you’ve contacted them, when, and the contact’s priority, among other things.

In some ways, that part of the service is a bit reminiscent of Rapportive, the Gmail widget which provides contextual information about those who you’re emailing with. Contactually, too, will launch its own Gmail widget in the future, co-founder Tony Cappaert tells me, given that a good 70%-75% of its current user base is on Gmail/Google Apps. (The service has been in private beta with hundreds of testers prior to today’s launch).

But Contactually aims broader than just a widget – it’s intended as a CRM solution. To this end, the key part of its service are its “Actions” – reminders to reconnect and follow up with your contacts. These appear on the online dashboard and arrive – how else? – via email. Users can control how often (or whether) they want to receive these emails (e.g. daily, weekly) which are, by default, set to arrive once in the morning with tasks and actions, and once in the evening with details on new contacts.

What’s neat about using Contactually is that you don’t have to go to the website to perform many of the necessary actions. Instead, in the email that it sends, you can click a button next to the person’s name (the one you’re being reminded about) in order to email them directly. And in the evening summary email, you can just reply to Contactually’s email itself to provide extra info about the contacts it has discovered. For example, “follow up with Bob in a month.” Contactually can parse your text and make the necessary changes online.

That part seems a little too good to be true – can I really just write “follow up with Boby in a month” and have a service understand me? Apparently so. The updates aren’t always immediate – if it can process the note or action with its natural language processing (NLP) engine, then it’s automatic. Otherwise, it can take a few minutes to a few hours before you see the change appear on the website.

Finally – and this is also key to Contactually’s overall strategy – the service is designed not to replace, but to supplement enterprise-grade CRM systems. It comes in through the back door via its users, very much like how Google Apps sneaked in under I.T.’s nose. Users can take advantage of Contactually’s ease-of-use, while having all the data synced back to their company’s “official” CRM solution like Salesforce or Highrise.

Eventually, Contactually will charge for its (likely freemium) service, but pricing is still being ironed out. Although the service is launching publicly now, it’s metering access for the first month or so. TechCrunch readers can get in now, however, using the invite code “techcrunch.” (First 2,000 only).

Contactually was founded by Zvi Band, Tony Cappaert, and Jeff Carbonella, and is based in Washington, DC.  In addition to the $50K in seed funding from 500 Startups, Contactually’s angel round of $165K included investors Sean Glass and David Steinberg.

You can sign up for Contactually here.

Could ‘Spider-Worm’ Silk Be The Next Supermaterial?

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 08:23 AM PST


Spiderman might soon lose his dominance in harnessing spider silk superpowers. Scientists from the University of Wyoming, the University of Notre Dame and Zhejiang University in China have managed to genetically modify silkworms to spin stronger silk using spider genes. The new material could be used for everything from bulletproof vests to replacing tough plastics.

Researchers have long been fascinated with spider silk, a natural material that is stronger than steel. Harvesting the stuff can be tricky, however, since spiders are poor candidates for farming. Not only are they territorial, eating each other when confined to a tight space, but they are hard to handle and produce a very small amount of silk.

Silkworms, on the other hand, have helped clothe humans for millennia without too much trouble. Crossing their genes with those of a spider could mean stronger materials that require less energy to produce. This experiment has been tried before, but Professor Don Jarvis’ team’s success lies in the high quantity and strength of silk produced by their squirmy subjects.

This is not the first time Wyoming’s researchers have experimented with spider genes: Transgenic goats, whose milk contains spider silk proteins, are already breeding on campus.

Currently, the modified silkworms contain only one kind of spider-silk-producing gene and the team hopes to have success with more genes in the future. If it works, spider silk farms might become a new source of materials for greener textiles, plastics and medical implants.

Photo via Flickr by Stéfan

Overview: Japan’s Video Game Market In 2011 (Sales, Hardware, Software)

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 08:23 AM PST


Japan’s video game industry is the world’s second biggest (after the US), but it’s on a downward streak for the fifth consecutive year. Based on sales, the country’s video game industry has contracted by as much as 8% year-on-year, Japan’s biggest gaming magazine Famitsu is reporting [JP].

Between December 27, 2010 and December 25, 2011, Japanese game companies generated US$5.9 billion in sales. The Famitsu says that sales from hardware makers actually went up 2.4% (thanks to the launch of the 3DS and PlayStation Vita) to reach US$2.3 billion. Software revenues in Japan dropped 13.7% to US$3.6 billion last year.

This is how often the different video game systems sold in 2011 (total sales numbers in parentheses):

  1. Nintendo 3DS: 4,135,739 units
  2. Sony PSP: 1,960,177 (18,237,108)
  3. Sony PlayStation 3: 1,467,261 (7,417,148)
  4. Nintendo Wii: 937,451 (12,167,743)
  5. Nintendo DS (all models combined): 711,204 (32,835,502)
  6. PlayStation Vita: 402,794
  7. Xbox 360: 114,075 (1,520,738)

This overview shows the top selling games in Japan in 2011 (total sales numbers in parentheses):

  1. Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS): 1,082,391 units
  2. Super Mario 3D Land (Nintendo 3DS): 1,042,511
  3. Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (Nintendo 3DS): 1,021,457 (4,502,446)
  4. Monster Hunter 3G (Nintendo 3DS): 809,322
  5. Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Sony PS3): 697,146
  6. Final Fantasy Type-0 (Sony PSP): 696,428
  7. Rhythm Heaven Forever (Nintendo Wii): 633,429
  8. Tales of Xillia (Sony PS3): 632,151
  9. Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo Wii): 612,807 (2,732,655)
  10. Wii Party (Nintendo Wii): 584,545 (2,123,773)

Synchronoss Buys Mobile Social Network Maker Miyowa For Up To $59M In Cash

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 08:09 AM PST


Synchronoss, a provider of automation software, mobility management and cloud technology solutions, has acquired mobile social networking company Miyowa for $45.5 million in cash. In addition, Synchronoss may pay earn-outs of up to an additional $13.5 million in cash based on Miyowa achieving certain performance targets over the next four quarters.

Synchronoss, which is listed on NASDAQ, says it will leverage Miyowa's social networking and mobile messaging technology to boost its existing mobility platform for connected devices (dubbed ConvergenceNow Plus+).

Headquartered in Marseille, France, privately-held Miyowa provides mobile social networking software to phone manufacturers like HTC, Samsung and ZTE, and carriers like Orange.

Miyowa claims it can be found on over 100 million devices throughout North America and Europe.

Zynga Debuts Newest Word Puzzle And Social iOS Game, Scramble With Friends

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 07:59 AM PST


Zynga is starting off 2012 with a bang. After launching its newest Facebook title Hidden Chronicles yesterday, the social gaming giant is debuting its latest mobile game, ‘Scramble With Friends,’ which is an iOS game that combines word scramble and formation with the social features of the ‘With Friends’ gaming suite.

As you may know, via the Newtoy acquisition in 2010, Zynga has helped develop a suite of ‘With Friends’ mobile titles including the popular Scrabble-like game ‘Words With Friends’ and the recently launched mobile take on Hangman, ‘Hanging With Friends.’

Scramble With Friends is actually very similar to Zynga’s ‘Word Scramble’ iOS app, but packaged in a sleek new app with more interactive, and social gameplay. Basically players compete against opponents to beat the clock and find as many words as possible on a game board.

Here’s how the game works. Each match consists of three rounds of two-minutes, and the player with the highest point total at the end wins. When you open the app, you’ll see existing games in play with your friends, or you can start a new game. When the clock starts in a new game, the goal is to find and create as many words.

Using the touch interface, you simply create words via connected letters, meaning in order to form a word, the letters need to be connected diagonally, horizontally or vertically. Each letter has a point value and based on the total value of the word, you’ll receive points.

Within each match, players have 3 rounds. In round 1, you engage in what Zynga calls ‘classic play’ with standard point values for each letter. In round two, called ‘Double Down’, gameplay includes double letter and word values strewn throughout the game board. In round three (a.k.a.’Triple Crown’), you’ll encounter with triple letter and word scores.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Zynga game without virtual currency and in-app purchases. This game uses a token system to allow users to by ‘Power Ups,’ to help give them a leg up during gameplay. Players start each match with tokens that are replenished over a period of 20-minutes, and users can purchase additional tokens as well. Freeze allows you to temporarily stop the clock to find more words. Inspiration highlights up to three words you haven't found yet. And Scramble gives you a new view of the game board and can be used five times per match.

The actual gameplay and interface is most like that of Words With Friends, with similar scoring and the same dictionary and match-making engine in both apps. Users can also participate in in-game chat, connect their Scramble With Friends with their existing ‘Words With Friends’ account and use Facebook Connect to find new friends to challenge.

Zynga’s GM of Words With Friends and Scramble With Friends, Ya-Bing Chu, tells us that while the initial launch is focused on the iPhone, the gaming company will also have native iPad and Android versions coming soon.

Zynga says that the original Scramble in the App Store is still available to play for existing players who have already downloaded the game. However, first-time players will only be able to download the Scramble With Friends version going forward.

The ‘With Friends’ family of games has been one of Zynga’s most popular suite of titles on the mobile front. In fact, Words With Friends recently saw a spike in usage after actor Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight for playing the game. Baldwin Tweeted about the incident, mentioning Words With Friends, and even mocked the altercation on a Saturday Night Live episode. And it’s clear tat Zynga has high hopes for Scramble With Friends, especially as mobile is a frontier where the gaming giant is looking to make a lot of headway in 2012. Zynga launched seven mobile games in Q4 of 2010, and I’m sure we can expect this to ramp up this year.

Apptopia’s New Marketplace Will Help Broker Sales Of Mobile Apps

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 07:57 AM PST

Apptopia Logo

Remember the news from earlier this week about a mobile app developer who turned to eBay to unload his underperforming iOS app? (Update: the app is now up to $15,100+!) Well, there will soon be an alternative to eBay auctions for other developers looking to do the same.  A new marketplace called Apptopia will launch in February, allowing developers to sell their mobile apps, source code and all.

Pre-launch, Apptopia has a couple of hundred thousand in seeding funding, including $110,000 from Expansion VC. The rest is bootstrapped by the founders themselves, Jonathan Kay and Eli Sapir. Kay spent the past three years the “Ambassador of Buzz” at and Sapir was the Entrepreneur in Residence at Greatpoint Ventures and the founder of the once popular iOS app GPush. Sapir knows first hand about the difficulties of selling mobile apps – he experienced them himself when he wanted to move on from GPush.

The company has already brokered the sale of one mobile app valued at over $15,000 (no, not the one on eBay!) and have 30 more lined up for February’s launch.

The site will handle the app sale process from beginning to end, including connecting the buyer and the seller and working with app store in question to make the actual transfer.  Apptopia will take 10% of the transaction price, of which it expects to keep about 8% (the rest goes to credit card fees). Kay says that from what they’ve seen so far, their expectations are for sale prices of $5,000 to $50,000, with most apps realistically selling for $6,000 to $15,000.

In other words, it’s not for the Camera+’s and Instagram’s of the app world, but for the B-tier. ”I would expect that apps selling the $100,000 range will be more likely to want to broker the deals themselves, and involve their own legal team,” says Kay.

There will also be a listing fee, a mechanism Apptopia has put in place to help keep the so-called “bs” apps out.

“I don’t want a Frogger app with 700 users listing on the site as it will crowd the market and make it harder for serious buyers to find a profitable investment,” Kay explains. However, to kick off its launch, the first 200 developers who sign up to their apps will not have to pay the fee.

So what kind of developers want to sell their apps? Are they like Neal Schmidt, the developer who was selling his mobile game on eBay? Schmidt had said that he was tired of paying $99/year to use iTunesConnect, was tired of Apple's 30% cut of everything he generates and was tired of waiting in line for a week or more with the Apple Review Board every time he has an important update.

Kay says that the majority of the developers they expect to see at Apptopia are not necessarily like Schmidt – it’s not that they have an ax to grind with Apple, pe se, it’s just that they can’t keep up the business on their own. Maybe life gets in the way and the app is being neglected, maybe they got a full-time job they want to devote their energy to now, or maybe they built something great that’s seeing traction, but don’t have the skills or desire to take it to the next level of being a real business (e.g., answering support calls, implementing monetization strategies, etc.)

There are others already operating similar efforts in this space, like Appslit and SmartAppsters. But most efforts are focused on selling mobile app source code or bits of code, like ChupaTechCrunch Disrupt finalist Verious and Appcelerator's Open Mobile Marketplace - not on brokering the entire deal end to end.

Although Apptopia’s official public launch is not until February (likely the first or second week), the service is being opened in advance for TechCrunch readers only.

If you’re interested in connecting with the team to begin the process of selling your app offline, Apptopia will help start brokering those deals now. Just use the sign-up form here to provide your info.

Marvell’s ARM-Based Chipset Tapped For New Google TV Units

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 07:05 AM PST


Everyone has already seen what the Google TV 2.0 update looks like, but Google and their hardware partners have been pretty tight-lipped about what kind of hardware will eventually run the show. Well, that ends today — chipset vendor Marvell has just announced that their new their ARM-based Foresight platform will be providing the power for this year’s new crop of Google TV devices.

Wait, ARM-based? Yep, the Foresight platform is powered by Marvell’s Armada 1500 HD SoC, a pretty drastic shift considering that the original Google TV devices all sported Intel processors. Still, given all of the issues customers have had with the x86-based units like the Logitech Revue, it isn’t a huge surprise to see Google switch architectures.

Fortunately, the Armada chipset is no slouch — it sports a 1.2GHz dual-core processor that’s capable to decoding two 1080p video streams simultaneously. On top of that, it’s been tuned for more efficient power management, which does two important things for home theater aficionados. First, it keeps their (probably considerable) power bill from getting even worse, and it also allows for a fanless design that should cut down on ambient sound.

It’s a considerable coup for Marvell as they’re not exactly one of the big players in the semiconductor space — recent rankings from iSuppli peg them as number 18 in terms of revenue while more familiar names like Intel and TI take the number one and three spots respectively. If Google TV manages to take off in a big way and Marvell can keep up with production, we may soon see the smart TV landscape take on a distinctly Google-y slant, although Apple may have something to say about that.

Striiv Fitness Gadget Puts Personalized Challenges On The Menu

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 07:00 AM PST


With the New Year already underway, I’m sure many of you are working hard to lose the holiday weight or are otherwise engaged in some hard-core New Years Resolution-style dieting. It’s that time of year, which is likely why Striiv is making a push to add new features.

Many of you may remember Striiv from our earlier coverage, in which we decided that the little pocket-sized pedometer is “fun, cute, and entertaining.” That’s because it basically turns your everyday work-out routine into a game. Along with tracking all of your various stats (steps taken, stairs climbed, etc.), it also lets you “donate” steps to certain charity organizations. There’s also a game called Myland, in which you can buy and plant trees in various territories from the gold you collected by walking.

Striiv has today added a few new features to keep things interesting, including personalized challenges. This isn’t something you’ll have to go in and mess with on your own — the Striiv will actually handle all of the logistics on its own. Challenges will be based on your individual performance, and will adapt according to your progress.

Users will also be able to track their minutes of activity alongside stats like steps, stairs, calories and distance. And even though John prefers that we don’t delve too far into this game, Myland has been given a new island, plants and fixtures which can only be unlocked through (you guessed it) physical activity.

The Striiv costs $99 and is available in stores now.

Maxymiser Raises $12 M For Its Website Testing & Optimization Solution

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 06:52 AM PST


Maxymiser, a company that helps improve website effectiveness through the use of A/B and multivariate testing, personalization and optimizations, has raised $12 million from new investors Investor Growth Capital alongside investment from its Series A investors, Pentech Ventures.

The funding will be used to help Maxymiser expand its business, with a special emphasis on North American R&D.

Maxymiser arrived in the U.S. market in 2010 and now offers its services to several major U.S. brands including Teleflora, Finish Line, HarperCollins, Time Warner Cable, Harry & David and others. Its focus on maximizing eCommerce sites’ effectiveness is now used in the retail, travel, financial services, media and online gambling industries.

With the new funding in tow, Maxymiser plans to soon release an update to its software, which will offer a new user interface as well as a visual campaign builder tool. The tool will allow marketers to configure, set up and see the results of their testing campaigns without any coding or technical support.

The company was recently named the 2011 Online Technology Vendor of the Year by Retail Systems. It was featured by the WSJ, which detailed Harry & David’s pre-holiday website revamp. The company had wanted customers to use the search box at the top of the site, so they experimented with different iterations of it. The tests discovered the most effective search box saw 45% more use.

iMessage Bug Traps Android Converters’ Personal Conversations… But There’s A Fix!

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 06:37 AM PST


iMessage is awesome, right? Since iOS 5 came out I’ve been telling all my friends and family (who, ironically, aren’t what you’d call tech savvy) to update and start sending messages for free. It’s super fast, I tell them, and your messages will be blue! Thrilling, to say the least.

There’s just one problem:

If you switch to an Android device from an iPhone (with iMessage activated), anyone who’s previously been sending you iMessages will no longer be able to send you texts. This is because there is apparently a bug with the iMessage system that doesn’t deactivate iMessage, even after you’ve switched your phone number to another device.

We first noticed the issue when a tipster sent us this thread from the Apple support forums. Until recently the only way that users could receive texts from iMessage users was if said iMessage users deactivated the service. Hardly what I’d deem a “fix.”

However, a smart iPhowner by the handle Alphonsusjude has figured it all out. So if you’re having trouble, pay close attention.


According to a few users on the thread, this was the best fix for the issue and solved the problem for everyone who tried it (or rather, those who tried it and responded).

The larger question is why Apple is either unaware of this, or not fixing it. iMessage is a solid feature that’s been added to iOS with the introduction of the iPhone 4S, but trapping people’s personal conversations is… not cool.

Mindspeed Buys ‘Small Cells’ Maker Picochip For Up To $76.8 Million

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 06:18 AM PST


Mindspeed Technologies, a provider of semiconductor solutions for network infrastructure applications, this morning announced that it has acquired UK-based Picochip, a supplier of integrated system-on-chip (SoC) solutions for small cell base stations.

Mindspeed is paying $51.8 million for Picochip, a mix of cash and stock, and up to $25 million in earn-out payments in the first calendar quarter of 2013.

Here’s how the company pitches the move to shareholders and the press:

Together, Mindspeed and Picochip will offer the most comprehensive portfolio of base station semiconductor solutions on the market, from residential to enterprise to pico/metro applications.

Through this timely combination, Mindspeed’s enhanced product roadmap for single- and multi-mode 3G/4G solutions will enable it to capitalize on the rapid acceleration of the small cell wireless base station market, while also addressing comprehensive support for all 3G and 4G global air interface standards.

Mindspeed says it will cough up $27.5 million in cash, financed in part with bank debt, plus roughly 5.19 million in shares (approximately 15 percent of outstanding Mindspeed shares) for a total of $24.3 million. The transaction is expected to close in the first calendar quarter of 2012.

Barnes & Noble Mulls Splitting Nook Business And Selling “Dead Tree” Publishing Company

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 06:15 AM PST


Two bits of news crossed the wire this morning, neither of them good for traditional publishing. First, Barnes&Noble has reportedly put their publishing arm, Sterling Publishing, up for sale, a company it bought in 2009 for $115 million. Sterling produces puzzle, game, and crafts books for kids and adults. Not as big a deal as it sounds, but it still points to a reduced interest in paper-based sudoku.

Second, B&N is mulling the spin-off of the Nook business, a move that will shelter the burgeoning epub business and, more important, pull it out of the listing ship that is B&N proper. The company reported a loss of $6.6 million this quarter, down about half from last year, but the Nook business has thus far been quite lucrative, leading the company to “pursue strategic exploratory work to separate the NOOK business.”

The Nook generated most of B&N’s online sales for a total of $327 million in revenue, an increase of 43%. Quote a B&N press release, “This increase was driven by continued growth of the NOOK business, offset by a decline in online physical product sales.” All nook sales brought the company $448 million, with an increased potion of that coming through third-party retailers – a point that doesn’t look good for the actual book stores.

In all, they sold 70% more Nook devices over last year.

As much as I want the halcyon days of Raymond Carver sending off his ream of short stories to Gordon Lish in New York to return – the old bear-man sighing contentedly as he finishes his last bottle of gin, burping gently as his eyes caress the waning sunlight falling over the hood of his new hard-won Cadillac as the publishing industry churns in that vast belly of the East Coast Moloch – let’s be serious. The real money makers – cookbooks and crossword puzzles – are clearly not even making B&N much cash, which suggests that the other publishers who depend on fast-turnaround, low-cost content to support the grand publishing pyramid where The Corrections is supported by sales of Kim Kardashian’s tips to a better marriage, are pretty much sunk.

The long tail is curling up on itself. Books that never would have seen the light of day, full of vampires, florid prose, and covers that look like they were done by a medicated third-grader, are selling like Dickens for 99 cents a pop. Back catalogs are being decimated by digital reprints and even the dream of print on demand is reaching it’s obvious conclusion. There is no such thing as vanity publishing anymore, just writing that is good and writing that is bad. The market then decides.

Pour out a little strong coffee for B&N’s book stores, folks. The captain is disembarking ship.

Gartner Lowers 2012 IT Spending Forecast To 3.7 Percent Growth

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 06:02 AM PST


Worldwide IT spending growth is expected to grow 3.7 percent in 2012, a slowdown from the 6.9 percent growth in 2011, according to a new forecast from Gartner. The research firm lowered its 2012 forecast from its previous estimate of 4.6 percent due to global economic woes and theThailand floods which  hit the hard disc drive industry.

The good news is that global IT spending is still enormous—an estimated 3.8 trillion dollars worldwide. This number includes computer hardware, enterprise software, IT services, telecom equipment, and telecom services.

Of those segments, the fastest growing will be telecom equipment (6.9 percent) and enterprise software (6.4 percent).

The enterprise software market alone is expected to be a $285 billion market and it is the smallest segment. Enterprise software is a huge market ripe for disruption. The software that runs companies is moving from data centers to the cloud, and this presents a huge opportunity for new startups to come in under entrenched players like SAP, IBM, and Oracle.

Here is Gartner’s breakdown of IT spending in 2012:


Table 1

Worldwide IT Spending Forecast (Billions of U.S. Dollars)

2011Spending 2011Growth (%) 2012Spending 2012Growth (%)
Computing Hardware 404 7.6 424 5.1
Enterprise Software 268 9.6 285 6.4
IT Services 848 6.9 874 3.1
Telecom Equipment 444 7.7 475 6.9
Telecom Services 1,701 6.1 1,740 2.3
All IT 3,664 6.9 3,798 3.7

Lithium Raises $53.4M Fourth Round To Push For Lead In Social Brand Software

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST

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Big consumer brands generate all sorts of consumer interest and expertise, but they’ve generally struggled to capitalize on these relationships to improve themselves. Lithium has been building itself into a market leader at solving this problem over the last ten years, offering white-label community sites and related products that allow brands to let users share ideas with each other — and tell the brands what they’re doing well, or not.

The company is now doubling down on its business, raising a $53.4 million fourth round of funding on top of the $39 million that it has previously brought in.

The competition has been heating up as more brands wake up to the value of user-generated content, with relatively established competitors like Bazaarvoice, Jive Software and Get Satisfaction being joined by newer entrants that have focused on the Facebook platform, like Buddy Media and Vitrue. This additional money will help Lithium build up more of a lead, especially on Facebook where it is relatively new.

New chief executive Rob Tarkoff tells me that the additional funding will go towards doubling the employee headcount from the 200 or so it currently has through hiring and acquisitions (like Scout Labs in 2010). Its existing set of products include support sites and forums, including game mechanics and social ranking features to encourage quality participation, and analytics software to help brands understand what their consumers care about. Beyond building out sales and marketing efforts in the US and around the world, and continuing to invest in its core products, you should look for it to move into adjacent areas.

It only launched its Facebook product in May, for example, which mainly meant introducing its technology for identifying and promoting top users. But maybe it will expand the products it has available for pages — page apps, possibly, or more ways of buying Facebook ads to help page engagement? Tarkoff didn’t confirm that line of speculation, other than to say they were potential new opportunities.

Tarkoff himself has been at the company for around 100 days, having previously been an executive at Adobe, in charge of its digital enterprise solutions businesses. The new round of funding is being led by new investor NEA, with SAP Ventures also getting in, as well as all of the existing investors — Benchmark CapitalDAG VenturesEmergence CapitalGreenspring AssociatesShasta Ventures and Tenaya Capital.

Facebook Turns Your Timeline Into Moo Business Cards, First 200,000 Are Free

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 05:57 AM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-05 at 11.54.27

In a move which is likely to catapult UK startup Moo onto a new international stage, the company has become the only one to deeply integrate its ‘social business cards’ with the Facebook platform today. Taking pictures from users’ Facebook Timeline information and photography, users will now be able to create 50 personalised business cards for £10/$15. But in a promotion from today Moo is giving away cards to the first 200,000 users, equivalent to 10 million cards.

For Rapid Wireless Data Exchange: Toshiba Starts Shipping TransferJet LSI

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 05:33 AM PST


TransferJet is having a hard time going mainstream, but Toshiba hasn’t given up on the close proximity wireless transfer technology yet: after taking the wraps off a small TransferJet LSI back in September last year, the company now announced it’s ready to begin shipping the first samples to electronics manufacturers.

Visitors of the CES 2012 (which kicks off on January 10 in Las Vegas) will be able to see the LSI in action at the Toshiba booth.

Sized at just 4.0×4.0× 0.5mm, the chip is designed to enable stable, quick wireless data transfer between mobile devices in particular, i.e. smartphones, tablets, or digital cameras. (TransferJet boasts a theoretically transfer speed of 560 Mbps.)

Toshiba has priced the samples at US$5 per unit and plans to produce one million chips monthly starting in Q2 of 2012.

And The First $1 Million Domain Name Sale Of 2012 Is …

Posted: 05 Jan 2012 05:30 AM PST


Domain name marketplace operator Sedo this morning announced that it has brokered a big domain name sale before the first week of the new year is over.

The company has negotiated a sale of the domain to a Dubai-based social networking service provider called – you guessed it – DUDU Communications.

Amazingly, the domain name went for as much as $1 million, which is right up there with the sales of, and – heck, it even fetched double the purchase price of premium domains like, and

Sedo says negotiations with the former owner of, from China, took three months.

Said Alibek Issaev, chairman of DUDU:

"With the purchase of, we will be able to match our platform's brand with the exact domain name we need, and migrate from using to this shorter version.

This purchase means we don't lose important traffic, and at the same time we ensure that visitors from around the globe will remember our brand's name."

DUDU, started in 2007, is a multi-lingual social network that lets people communicate with each other online even if they don’t speak the same language.

Also read: Canadian Rock Band Wants To Cash In On Sale

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