Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

The Daily To Come Pre-Installed On Android Verizon Devices Starting With Samsung Galaxy

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 09:39 AM PST

The Verizon Daily

The Daily, Newscorp’s tablet news reader app, will no longer be iPad-only. A deal has been struck with Verizon to pre-install an Android version of the app on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 this month, with more Verizon Android devices to receive The Daily in the future. Verizon customers will get week’s free trial of the app before the $4 a week / $40 a year subscription cost kicks in. This distribution deal could significantly increase The Daily’s readership and sales by relieving Android users from having to go out and download it.

Existing Galaxy Tab 10.1 users will receive the app bundled with a software update this month. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 has been confirmed as one of the next devices to come with The Daily pre-installed. The Daily was the 3rd highest grossing iPad app of 2011 without being pre-installed, boding well for the Android sales from this distribution deal.

Popular Like Voxer

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 09:29 AM PST

Screen Shot 2012-01-10 at 9.22.58 AM

Back in late November I wrote about a walkie-talkie mobile app called Voxer that had looked like it was starting to break into the big leagues of mobile communication. Since then, it has, at various points passing a few competing walkie-talkie app startups… and also Facebook, Skype, and most other mobiles apps for that matter, on both iOS and Android.

It’s been among the top three top apps in the social networking category on both iOS and Android over the past month and a half or so here in the US. That’s included the #1 spot on iOS for 25 of those days and #1 on Android for 22 of them. It’s also regularly been in the top 25 overall in the app stores, only getting temporarily displaced by a rash of heavily marketed games for a few days here and there over the holidays.

Beyond app store rankings, I’ve also been hearing that downloads have been averaging around 200,000 per day. Company vice president of growth Gustaf Alstromer confirms this range, saying that the “number changes every day but that’s in the ballpark.”

What’s driving all the new growth and usage? People who want the walkie-talkie social experience like what Nextel phones used to offer, where you push a button on the interface to stream a quick message to a friend or group. Because you’re basically just recording short clips of yourself, other people can go back and listen to the recordings later on if they’re in the middle of something else. Think of it as the voice version of text messages, in a way that won’t cost you minutes on your phone plan.

The app appears to have first taken off with young people in black communities in Cleveland and other US cities, with other users around the world hearing about it and joining since then. It’s been getting a few media hits — celebrities like Soulja Boy and Kevin Durant have talked about it, and passionate users have written songs about it. CNN also aired a segment on it a few days ago, where the cable news serviced interviewed founder Tom Katis about how the app came out of his experiences as a special forces communication specialist in Afghanistan — he needed a better way to help people communicate in the heat of battle.

Voxer has since gone global, and is currently among the top 25 social networking apps in more than 60 markets, according to app tracking service App Annie.

On the backend, infrastructure service providers Joyent and Basho Technologies have also been working to support the growth, with the latter recently issuing a press release bragging about how it has helped Voxer scale up using the open-source Riak database.

Where to, now? It’s too early to say how long it’s going to be a hit. Some users on Twitter claim to be bored already, or annoyed by the spammy way it shows you any Facebook friend or phone book contact who adds it. But the company thinks it’s on the leading edge of a bigger change — Alstromer notes that seven out of the top 15 apps in the social networking category in the app store have voice functionality. “If you get the opportunity to re-invent voice communication beyond the traditional phone call,” he says, “what do you do? Removing the interuptive part of phone calls is a good place to start.”

The app is currently free but the plan is to add some premium features at some point. You can download it for iOS here and for Android here.

New “Showtime Anytime” App Brings Showtime’s Movies And Shows To The iPad

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 09:02 AM PST


Showtime is today joining HBO GO as another premium cable channel that’s bringing its content to mobile devices. Through the new iPad app Showtime Anytime, customers can now watch Showtime’s original programming, including its TV series, movies, sports and documentaries anywhere there’s an Internet connection.

The content is only available for Showtime subscribers, of course, a list which includes just AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FiOS for now. Comcast customers will be able to access Showtime’s content through the Xfinity TV service, but the Showtime Anytime app is “coming soon” for those customers, the company says.

The app provides mobile access to Showtime’s top shows, like Dexter, Weeds, Homeland, Californication, Shameless, Nurse Jackie, The Big C, Episodes, The Borglas and The Real L Word and will offer access to upcoming series like House of Lies and Inside Comedy.

The network’s movies will be available too, starting with The King’s Speech, Blue Valentine, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, I Am Number Four, The Twilight Saga: New Moon & Eclipse and others. Sports programming includes Showtime Championship Boxing, Inside NASCAR, Strikeforce Mixed Martial Arts and more.

iPad users can navigate through the app using a “My list” option that lets them create a personalized list of favorite shows and can share their viewing habits by “liking” and “following” their favorite shows on Facebook and Twitter, or posting to either social network from the app’s interface.

The app supports play shifting, too – meaning that it lets you pick up where you left off when you change devices. That will have more impact when the app arrives on the iPhone and Android platforms in early 2012.

You can grab Showtime Anytime for the iPad here on iTunes.

After Netflix, Roku’s Streaming Players Hit The UK, Ireland (Starting At £49.99)

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 08:58 AM PST


One day after Netflix made its debut in the UK and Ireland, Roku has announced that two of its streaming players, the Roku LT and the Roku 2 XS, are heading to Britain too and are already available for pre-order on Amazon.

The Roku LT, which is billed as the lowest-cost option for streaming video and music directly to a TV, over Wi-Fi and without a PC, retails at £49.99. The Roku 2 XS, which adds casual games like Angry Birds to the offering and also sports an Ethernet, a MicroSD and a USB port, costs £99.99.

Read more at TechCrunch Europe.

Why Cool Startups Are Losers In China

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 08:54 AM PST

Chinese demographics

Editor's note: Contributor Kai Lukoff is based in Beijing and is co-founder of the startup blog TechRice.

Here’s Hongyi Zhou’s advice to Chinese entrepreneurs: “Don’t try to be cool.” Zhou is CEO of Qihoo 360 (NYSE: QIHU), whose company’s core is the definition of uncool: anti-virus software. Yet Qihoo has 370 million monthly active users and a very cool $1.9 billion dollar valuation.

If you want to build a big company in China, don’t build for your iPhone-toting friends, the Chinese tech blogs, or copy the latest fad on TechCrunch. Chinese entrepreneurs must appreciate the vast chasm between white-collar elites and the rest of the country. The Silicon Valley has an echo chamber of its own, but China’s is an order of magnitude louder.

“There’s only 80 million or so white-collars in China, and not even 5 million could be considered your peers,” Zhou told a group of Chinese Stanford students visiting as part of the Stanford CEO Beijing tour over winter break. Many of the students are already running startups in China or considering returning to do so.

Hot startups that pop up on TechCrunch all have at least five Chinese versions. That’s a common route for the ‘cool kids’ among Zhongguancun’s techies: there are more Tumblr, Flipboard, Pinterest, Instagram, and What’s App clones and mashups than you can count. You may receive a mention on 36kr or Tech2IPO, China’s top startup blogs, but that does nothing for your user growth in a second-tier Chinese city, let alone in the third, fourth, or fifth tier.

Chinese blogger Simon Shen writes, “China does not have one so-called ‘national internet,’ instead there's a great divide. It encompasses the elite with ThinkPad laptops and also the grassroots with MTK Shanzhai mobile phones. Our elites are on par with America, while our grassroots are on par with Vietnam.”

In ”The Story of W&L”, Shen tells the tale of two Chinese entrepreneurs: W, who always adopts the latest coming out of the Silicon Valley, and L, who mingles with migrant workers to learn what simple games they want on their Shanzhai feature phones. It’s L who’s making the real money: “in China, you target elites to make noise, but you target the grassroots to make money.”

The Four With Reach

Only four companies have achieved mass market reach among China’s 500-million plus netizens: Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, and Qihoo. The first three are China’s reigning Internet emperors. Qihoo is a scrappy newcomer with the user numbers and decent revenues, though its business model is still a work in progress. All four feature products that foreigners—and highly-educated Chinese returnees—may scorn, but are beloved by local users.

Qihoo 360 started in 2006 with anti-virus software, a product so prosaic that it even flew under the radar of China’s existing Internet giants for the first three years of the company’s existence. In 2009, Qihoo made a daring decision to give away its anti-virus software for free. Anti-virus may not be flashy, but it’s a basic essential for all Chinese netizens, who face a daily barrage of viruses and malware. It quickly became the default for Chinese Internet users.

Leveraging that trust and brand recognition, Qihoo then rolled out a suite of security-related products. In China, the Qihoo 360 Safe Browser is second only to Internet Explorer in market share. The browser directs massive traffic to a start page (hao.360.cn) full of paid links to popular Chinese websites, with a layout like Yahoo’s circa 1996. It won’t win any awards for web design, but selling links and search traffic on that one page generated 60% of Qihoo’s $47.5 million in Q3 2011 revenue (see also Red Tech Advisors’ superb deep dive on Qihoo’s innovative business model).

Building a billion dollar company and solving a real problem for hundreds of millions of users, that’s pretty cool.

Tech CEOs Invest $1.1 Million In ‘Enterprise Tag Management’ Company Tealium

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 08:34 AM PST


Tealium, which specializes in enterprise tag management solutions (more on that below), has raised $1.1 million in Series A funding from a bunch of digital marketing CEOs – and former CEOs – including Limelight Networks’ Jeff Lunsford, Collective’s JoeApprendi, eValue Group’s Thomas Falks and EyeWonder’s John Vincent.

Jim MacIntyre, founder of Visual Sciences (acquired by WebSideStory) and former chief of e-commerce technology for GSI Commerce, participated as well, and also joined Tealium’s board.

Founded in 2008, Tealium provides page tag management solutions that do not require customers to run application servers to load digital marketing vendor tags onto Web pages, relying instead on a ‘client-side’ methodology and a combination of browser caching, CDNs and proprietary tag management techniques.

The company’s tag management system, Tealium iQ, lets digital marketers and Web analytics professionals use a fairly simple drag-and-drop interface to manage all their page tags (analytics, advertising, affiliate, PPC search and whatnot) without taxing their IT departments.

Clients include Citrix, Big Fish Games, TracyLocke and US Auto Parts.

Twitter Now Distributes Tweets From Artists’ Verified Accounts To Music Data Services

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 08:25 AM PST

Lady Gaga

Twitter has just announced a new partnership with three music data services, The Echo Nest, Gracenote, and Rovi are, to help scale the distribution of Twitter account data for musicians for integration in consumer-facing apps. Via the pilot program, Twitter developers can now work with partners to integrate Verified Account @handles from thousands of musicians and Tweets into their music and entertainment services.

For example, the Echo Nest will connect Twitter Verified Accounts to its Rosetta Stone service to allow developers to integrate Tweets from musicians directly into their apps. The Rosetta Stone service helps music services “speak the same language” on a data level by translating unique identifiers across various services. The Echo Nest’s music intelligence platform offers over 5 billion data points on over 30 million songs and over 2 million artists. Over 220 music applications have been built on its platform to date. The startup actually powers Spotify Radio.

Gracenote, which powers music data for Apple iTunes, HTC smart phones, Ford SYNC and Sony BRAVIA TVs, will integrate Twitter Verified Accounts for musicians, actors and other artists into its database of music and video information, which includes metadata for millions of artists, albums and movies. .

Via the partnership, Rovi, whose database also includes reviews, artist bios and music clips, and is used by manufacturers and services providers, will allow home entertainment companies a way to add Tweets directly from Verified Accounts into their services.

We can expect to see Twitter announce similar partnerships in the entertainment space. Twitter’s Jason Costa writes that the company plans to add more partnerships to the pilot program, which will extend the Twitter experience to a new set of devices and applications. Clearly, there are a number of potential ways that Twitter could expand this partnership to actors and actresses, as well as visual artists and more.

iHeartRadio Launches Developer API

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 08:05 AM PST


Clear Channel’s streaming radio service, iHeartRadio, is launching its developer program today, which includes an API that allows third parties to integrate iHeartRadio’s content and services into their own products, websites and applications.

iHeartRadio now offers over 850 radio stations across the U.S. from 150 cities. With the new API, developers can access several of the service’s features, including its live broadcast and digital-only stations, its “custom stations” feature and social media integration.

With the custom radio option, users can make their own stations in a similar fashion to Pandora. In iHeartRadio’s case, stations are customized based on favorite songs, artists or genres. 11 million songs are available on the service along with a “discovery slider,” which lets users opt for more discovery or more familiar tunes, depending on their mood.

In the brand showcase, now live on the iHeartRadio developer site, the company lists big names like Xbox 360, Toyota Entune, Yahoo TV and Grace Digital as partners who are already using the iHeartRadio API in their own products and services.

iHeartRadio isn’t the only streaming service attempting to build a music platform – everyone is. MOG’s API is now allowing auto and consumer electronics makers to integrate the service into their products, Pandora is notably found everywhere from cars to refrigerators, Spotify has a newly-launched app platform, and Rdio has an API, just to name a few.

Do We Need Doctors Or Algorithms?

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 07:58 AM PST


Editor’s note: This is Part II of a guest series written by legendary Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures. In Part I, he laid the groundwork by describing how artificial intelligence is a combination of human and computer capabilities. In Part III, he will talk about how technology will sweep through education.

I was asked about a year ago at a talk about energy what I was doing about the other large social problems, namely health care and education. Surprised, I flippantly responded that the best solution was to get rid of doctors and teachers and let your computers do the work, 24/7 and with consistent quality.

Later, I got to cogitating about what I had said and why, and how embarrassingly wrong that might be. But the more I think about it the more I feel my gut reaction was probably right. The beginnings of "Doctor Algorithm" or Dr. A for short, most likely (and that does not mean "certainly" or "maybe") will be much criticized. We'll see all sorts of press wisdom decrying "they don't work" or "look at all the silly things they come up with." But Dr A. will get better and better and will go from providing "bionic assistance" to second opinions to assisting doctors to providing first opinions and as referral computers (with complete and accurate synopses and all possible hypotheses of the hardest cases) to the best 20% of the human breed doctors. And who knows what will happen beyond that?

Assessing Current Healthcare

Let's start with healthcare (or sickcare, as many knowledgeable people call it). Think about what happens when you visit a doctor. You have to physically go to the hospital or some office, where you wait (with no real predictability for how long), and then the nurse probably takes you in and checks your vitals. Only after all this does the doctor show up and, after some friendly banter, asks you to describe your own symptoms. The doctor assesses them and hunts around (probably in your throat or lungs) for clues as to their source, provides the diagnosis, writes a prescription, and sends you off.

The entire encounter should take no more than 15 minutes and usually takes probably less than that. Sometimes a test or two may be ordered, if you can afford it. And, as we all know, most of the time, it turns out to be some routine diagnosis with a standard treatment . . . something a computer algorithm could do if the treatment involved no harm, or at least do as well as the median doctor (I am not talking about the top 20% of doctors here—80% of doctors are below the "top 20%" but that is hard for people to intuit!).

So what's wrong with this situation? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it sets up a nice springboard:

  • Physically having to go to your doctor's office makes sense for the most part, except that a lot of the basic tests are either visual (tongue and throat check) or auditory (listening to the breath and vibrations in the abdomen). Time plus cost will often discourage people from taking that first step to visit a doctor. Most of the time a Dr. A could at least advise you when it is worth visiting based on your normal body functions, your current indications, and your locality's current infections and other symptom trends.
  • A lot of the vitals being tested for (e.g. blood pressure, pulse) can now be routinely done at home or even with the help of an iPhone and an explosion of additional possibilities will emerge in the next decade.
  • You are the one telling the doctor your symptoms.
  • The doctor has to inquire (probably every time) into any possible history of each symptom, test results, and illnesses, except when he does not have time for you in that village in India.
  • The prescriptions are still done on paper, requiring you to, again, physically go to a pharmacy and pick up what you need there. So compliance is an issue.

Looking at this, I cannot help but think that this is a completely antiquated system (regardless of whether it is healthcare or not)!

Going down the list, we find a pretty negative assessment. The vital signs could all be determined with the help of mobile devices, the operation of which do not require years of training and a certification. You will be able to do this by yourself—Philips already is using the iPhone camera to try to measure vital indicators, others will be even more innovative and as an insurance company it would be cost-effective to give them to every insured person for free.  Skin Scan  is measuring your risk of skin cancer from a photograph of a skin lesion. Telemedicine is accelerating and a Qualcomm company is measuring heart rates using an iPhone. Cell phones that display your vital signs and take ultrasound images of your heart or abdomen are in the offing as well as genetic scans of malignant cells that match your cancer to the most effective treatment. Ear infection and skin rash pictures and more will all be mobile phone based, often supplemented by the kind of (fractal) analysis that Skin Scan does, and more than what the doctors naked eye could usually see.

The history of symptoms, illnesses, and test results could be accessed, processed, and assessed by a computer to see any correlation or trends with the patient's past. You are the one providing the doctor with the symptoms anyway after all!

Any follow-up hunts for clues could again be done with mobile devices. The prescriptions—along with the medical records—could relocate to electronic and digital methods, saving paper, reducing bureaucracy, and easing the healing process. If 90% of the time the doctor knows exactly the right kind of diagnosis from these very few and superficial inputs (we haven't even considered genetics yet!), does it really require 10+ years of intense education for every diagnostician?

The fault is not entirely with the doctors, though. Most of us don't know what set of symptoms warrant the full-scale attention of medical personnel, so we either go all the time or we do not go at all (save for emergencies). We also cannot realistically expect any (even our family) doctor to remember every single symptom and test result over the years, definitely not in a government hospital in China. Similarly, we cannot expect our doctor to be able to remember everything from medical school twenty years ago or memorize the whole Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) and to know everything from the latest research, and so on and so forth. This is why, every time I visit the doctor, I like to get a second opinion. I do my Internet research and feel much better.

Identifying Emerging Trends In Healthcare

But I always wonder why I cannot input my specific test numbers and have a system offer me a "second opinion" on the diagnosis since it has all the data that the doctor has and can use all my current and historical data effectively. In fact, it is not hard to imagine it having more data than the doctor has since my full patient record would be at the tip of its digital brain, unlike the average doctor who probably doesn't remember my blood glucose levels or my ferritin from two years ago. He does not remember all the complex correlations from med school in which ferritin matters—there are three thousand or more metabolic pathways, I was once told, in the human body and they impact each other in very complex ways. These tasks are perfect for a computer to model as "systems biology" researchers are trying to do.

Add to it my baseline numbers from when I was not sick, which most doctors don’t have and if they did 80% of physicians would be too lazy to use or not know how to use. Applied Proteomics can extract tens of gigabytes of proteomics—what my genes are actually doing instead of what they can do—baseline data from one drop of blood. Oh, by the way I have my 23andMe data to add my genetic propensities (howsoever imprecise today, but improving rapidly with time and more data). The doctor uses a lot of imprecise judgments too as most good doctors will readily admit. My very good doctor did not check that I have relative insensitivity, genetically, to Metformin, a diabetes drug. It is easy to input the PDR (the Physicians Desk Reference), the massively thick, small-font book that all physicians are supposed to know backwards and forwards. They often don’t remember everything they read, in med school but it is a piece of cake for computers. The book on your typical doctor's desk is probably not current on the leading-edge science either. Confirmed science and emerging science are different things and each has a role. Doctors mostly use confirmed science, the average doctor not understanding and pros and cons of each or the expected value of a treatment (benefit and harm). And our 18th century tradition of "first do no harm" dictates that if a treatment hurts ten patients a year but saves a thousand lives we reject it.

With enough examples, today's techniques for language translation (or newer techniques) can translate from human lingo for symptoms ("I feel itchy” or “buzzy” or “reddish bubbly rash with pimples" or "less energy in the morning" or "sort of a stretch in my tendon" and the myriad of imprecise ways symptoms are described and results interpreted  — these are highly amenable to big data analysis) into medical lingo matching the PDR. With easy input of real medical results into a computer and long-standing historical data per patient and per population, which a human cannot possibly handle, and patient and population genetics, I suspect getting a second opinion of my diagnosis from Dr. A is a reasonable expectation, and it should certainly be better than a middling physician's (especially in less developed countries like India, where there is a dire shortage of trained physicians).

I may still need a surgeon (though robotic surgeons like those from Intuitive Surgical are on the way too) or other specialists for some tasks for a little while and the software may move from "second opinion" (in three years? Or seven?) to "bionic software" for the physicians (in five or ten years, with enough patient data?).  Bionic software, again, defined here as software which augments and amplifies human understanding.

But I doubt very much if within 10-15 years (given continued investment and innovation and keeping the AMA from quashing such efforts politically) I won't be able to ask Siri's great great grandchild (Version 9.0?) for an opinion far more accurate than the one I get today from the average physician. Instead of asking Siri 9.0, "I feel like sushi" or "where can I dispose a body" (try it…it's fairly accurate!) and with your iPhone X or Android Y with all the power of IBM's current Watson computer in the mobile phone and an even more powerful "Nvidia times 10-100" server which will cost far less than med school with terabytes or petabytes of data on hundreds of millions (billions?) of patients, including their complete genomics and proteomics (each sample costing about the same as a typical blood test).

IBM's Watson computer, I understand, is now being applied to medical diagnosis after handling imprecise and vague tasks like winning at Jeopardy, which experts a few years ago would have said could not be done. “Computers cannot match the judgment of humans on these kinds of tasks!” And with enough data, medical diagnosis or 90% of it is an easier task than Jeopardy.

Already Kaiser Permanent already has 10 million real-time medical records with details of 30,000,000 e-visits last year with caregivers and computer modeling of key diseases per individual that data scientists would love to get their hand on. Already, according to IDC 14% of the US population is using their phones for medical help and 200 million health and fitness related mobile applications have been downloaded according to pyramid research. Fun stuff, though early. They are probably two generations away from systems that are actually useful.

A more elaborate vision, one that is not very useful today because of lack of enough data and enough science, is defined in Experimental Man and websites like Quantified Self. Though they feel like toys today, they are much further along than the mobile phone was pre-iPhone in January of 2007. And data, the key ingredient to useful analysis, and diagnosis, is starting to explode exponentially—be it genetic data, proteomic data or physical data about my steps, my exercises, my stress levels or my normal heart and respiration rates.

My UP wristband or something like it (disclosure: I am an investor in Jawbone)) will know all my sleep patterns when I am healthy and how many steps I take each day and may have more data on my mobility if I ever get depressed than any psychiatrist ever will know what to do with. Within a few years, my band will know my heart rate at all times, my respiration rate, my galvanic skin resistance (one parameter among multiple ones used to measure my stress level), my metabolic rate (should cost about $10 to add to the band by measuring my CO2 in my breath and may detect changes in my body chemistry too like when I get a certain type of cancer and traces of it show up in my breath).

All my "health data" as well as my "sick data" and my "activity data" will be accessible to Dr. A (and location when I was stressed or breathing hard or getting the allergic reaction and what chemicals were nearby or in the air—did toluene exposure cause me to break out in a rash from that new carpet or trigger a systemic reaction from my body?). I doubt I will be prescribed an arthritis medicine without Dr. A knowing my genetics and the genetics of my autoimmune disease. Or a cancer medicine without the genetics of my cancer when the genetic sequence (once per life) costs far less than a single dose of medicine. In fact all my infectious disease treatments may be based on analysis of my full genome and my history of exposure to viruses, bacteria and toxic chemicals.

Constant everyday health data from non-medical devices will swamp the "sickness tests" used in most medical diagnosis and be supplemented by detailed genetic, proteomic and sick data with bionic software and machine learning systems. Siri might even remind me one day that my heart rate while sleeping has gone up abnormally over the last year, so I should go run some heart sickness cardiograms or imaging tests. Obviously, Siri's children and its server friends will be able to keep up with the latest research and decide on optimal strategies based on patient preference ("I prefer to live longer even if it means all the fancy treatments" or "I want to live a normal life and die. I prefer to spend more of my time with my children than at the hospital" or "I like taking risky treatments"). They will take into account known research, early pioneering approaches, very complex interrelationships and much more.

My best guess is that today a physician’s bias makes all these personal decisions for patients in a majority of the cases without the patient (or sometimes even the physician) realizing what "preferences " are being incorporated into their recommendations. The situation gets worse the less educated or economically less well-off the patient is, such as in developing countries, in my estimation.

Envisioning Future Healthcare

Eventually, we won't need the average doctor and will have much better and cheaper care for 90-99% of our medical needs. We will still need to leverage the top 10 or 20% of doctors (at least for the next two decades) to help that bionic software get better at diagnosis. So a world mostly without doctors (at least average ones) is not only not reasonable, but also more likely than not. There will be exceptions, and plenty of stories around these exceptions, but what I am talking about will most likely be the rule and doctors may be the exception rather than the other way around.

However fictionalized, we will be aiming to produce doctors like Gregory House who solve biomedical puzzles beyond our best input ability. And India, China and other countries may not have to worry about the investment in massive healthcare or massive inequalities in the type of physicians they might have access to. And hopefully our bionic software (or independent software someday) will be free of the influence of heavily marketed but only minimally effective drugs or treatment regimes or branding campaigns against generics or lower-cost and equally effective, more affordable drugs and treatments. Dr. A will be able to do a cost optimization too both at the patient level and at the policy level (but we may choose, at least for a decade or two, to reject its recommendations—we will still be free to be stupid or political).

What is important to realize is how medical education and the medical profession will change toward the better as a result of these trends. The vision I am proposing here, though, is one in which those decades of learning and experience are used where they actually matter. We consider doctors some of the most learned people in our society. We should aim to use their time and knowledge in the most efficient manner possible. And everybody should have access to the skills of the very best ones instead of only having access to the average doctor. And the not so "Dr. House' doctors will help us with better patient skills, bedside manners, empathy, advice and caring, and they will have more time for that too. If computers can drive cars and deal with all the knowledge in jeopardy, surely their next to next to next…generation can do diagnosis, treatment and teaching in these far less uncertain domains and with a lot more data. Further the equalizing impact of both electronic doctors and teaching environments has hugely positive social implications. Besides, who wants to be treated by an "average" doctor? And who does not want to be an empowered patient?

The best way to predict this future is not to extrapolate the past and what has or has not worked, but to invent the future we want, the one we believe possible!

Image credit: Shutterstock/koya979

Peel Launches New Social TV App For iOS

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 07:50 AM PST


You may remember Peel as the maker of the pear-shaped hardware device which sits in between your smartphone an TV, turning your phone into a universal remote control. Today, as promised, the company has updated its companion mobile application with more social features that allow you to share the shows you’re viewing, see what your friends and family are watching, post recommendations and comment on others’ posts.

Dubbed “Peel 2.0,” the newly refreshed app works as a standalone interface for social TV viewing or it can be paired with the Peel Smart Remote Device, sold separately. Upon first launch, the new Peel app asks you to help configure its recommendations, by telling it your zip code, TV provider, as well as your preferred genres of TV programming (e.g., sports, news, soaps, thrillers, comedy, drama, etc.), then ranking them in the proper order via drag-and-drop. You can also optionally include your age range and gender for more targeted recommendations.

Once set up, the app’s “Top Picks” section will feature Peel’s personalized suggestions. And the more you interact with the app, the better these recommendations will become. In addition to the Top Picks, buttons at the bottom let you switch between TV shows, movies and sports. The last button takes you to the Social section, where you can view the activity feed of your friends’ activity.

You can connect to Facebook to find your friends, and then view their favorite shows, within the app, too. Your activity is not shared out to social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, unless you explicitly tap the “Recommend” button for the show in question. That will make users a bit more careful about sharing outside of the app, as a “recommendation” holds more weight than something like “I’m watching….”, which is what competitor GetGlue does, for example.

Others in this increasing crowded social TV space include  IntoNowyap.TV and Comcast's Tunerfish, to name a few, which gives Peel a lot of competition. But Peel’s interface is pretty nice – you can flip through shows with a swipe and scroll through each section’s filters with a little wheel at the top – so the app is fun to use.

You can grab Peel 2.0 for free here on iTunes.

With The Clicky Value-Wheel, Groupon Puts The “No” In Innovation

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 07:35 AM PST


You can say a lot of things about Groupon, but not that they lack a great sense of humor over there. This morning, the company distributed a press release touting a new invention called Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel (make sure you watch the behind-the-scenes video below too).

The company invites players to sign in with their Facebook account and then spin the wheel to potentially score a discount on select Groupons ($5, $10, $50 or $100).

According to the Clicky terms, only US residents are allowed to spin the wheel.

From the amusing press release:

Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel was designed to provide momentary distraction and meet the minimum threshold of amusement necessary for users to share Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel through social media channels, thereby virally spreading Groupon and increasing its number of active customers.

"The chances of winning are slim, but not impossible," said Mike Bennett, Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel lead developer. "We designed the wheel to spin in a way that appears random – like you could potentially win on any given spin – but it's not actually random, it's programmatically predestined to 'win' 1 out of 1,000 times."

As with many online computer games, the win ratio was determined to ensure that the lifetime value of the new customers attracted to Groupon by Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel will be greater than the total cost of the program, thus making the program a practical and sustainable investment for Groupon.

And since spinning is moderately enjoyable, every user of Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel is a winner – metaphorically. Literally, most people will not win anything.

Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel, is one of several potential marketing instruments Groupon has and will continue to test over time, some of which will be successful while others will not. Continuously experimenting with new marketing mechanisms is an important part of the growth of any company. The "win wheel" is not in itself a new concept.

Groupon will begin promoting Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel gradually over the next several months throughout Groupon’s more than 170 North American markets. The exact speed of deployment is dependent on the accuracy of ROI assumptions as determined by actual data gathered from Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel usage.

“Seeing Clicky spin for the first time, was like watching your newborn baby take his first steps. It was like an orphan who’d never seen the ocean, getting to see the ocean, while he’s getting adopted”.

Well played, Groupon, well played.

Meet Your New Reality TV Stars: Start Engine Announces Its First Class Of Startups

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 07:29 AM PST


Today, Start Engine, the L.A.-based accelerator that’s the focus of a new reality TV show, is announcing its first round of startups. The show, which comes from Cameron Casey, producer of the TechStars reality program on Bloomberg TV, will again film entrepreneurs in a documentary-style format as they make their way through a tech accelerator program.

Start Engine, the incubator founded by Howard Marks, co-founder of Activision, and investor Paul Kessler, founder of the Los Angeles Film School, partnered with the show’s producers in the hopes that the new series will bring increased visibility to the participating companies. The rapid accelerator offers four 90-day cycles per year, each culminating in the nerve-wracking Demo Day events, where the founders pitch a roomful of top angel investors and VCs.

As before on TechStars, Demo Day is where each season will wrap. However, the new show plans to become a multi-season series, and plans to revisit the founders again after some time in a “where are they now?” type of segment.

Startups accepted into the program, which include anything from mobile apps to social discovery sites, will receive up to $20,000 in funding, space in Start Engine’s Westwood offices, educational seminars, mentoring sessions and access to investors.

Before, the TechStars companies may not have known they were defining a new genre of reality TV programming, but those inducted into Start Engine’s first class knew exactly what they were getting into. Though participation in the filming is optional, many have signed on precisely because of the exposure such a program will provide.

The new class includes the following companies:

  • BrandStand – Born at a BlackBerry hackathon in Boston, Co-founder Jason Hitchcock was motivated to join Start Engine after working in a Y-Combinator company and moved to L.A. the day before the program began. The app is a comparison voting service that measures consumer sentiment and allows users to promote their brand preferences. Players earn awards and prizes for their engagement by participating in location-based focus groups with their friends.
  • GonnaBe – This company is comprised of three advertising professionals who worked at national agencies including Made by Many (UK), DDB, McKinney, and Team One in El Segundo (where they met) on brands such as Lexus, Nationwide Insurance, Anheuser-Busch, Travelocity, Skype, AOL, Sherwin-Williams, Coldwell Banker, and Ritz-Carlton. GonnaBe is a social app connecting like-minded people based on interests, location and time. Users simply enter what they’re looking to do, when and where, and GonnaBe will show others looking for similar things, as well as deals that match their interests.
  • Hypemarks – Social discovery site that helps users find the best sites to check out, recommended by friends or people with similar interests. Users simply connect their social services at sign-up and Hypemarks will automatically curate activity and create recommendations through a stunning visual display for each user.
  • Outlisten – From three musicians founders, including one, Jeff Ponchick, who’s an ex-reality show editor, Outlisten is a mobile app and website for live concerts that creates a media memory of user recordings taken from their smartphones or digital cameras. Outlisten syncs multiple videos via waveform, creating an entirely new online concert experience.
  • PageWoo – This one comes from Co-founder Jason Crilly, an F-16 Crewchief for the Air Force who taught himself to code so he could build a social network for pickup basketball games in his neighborhood. His Co-founder, Holden, is also his wife, which should make for some interesting TV. PageWoo allows any user to create a marketing page for their product or service online without having to hire a developer or designer. Through PageWoo's simple, streamlined interface, users can brand their pages with logos, upload files, add pictures, link all their social media and contact info, and then track visits, clicks and social sharing activity.
  • PROnoise – Community for independent musicians that helps them acquire fans, promote themselves, and sell their music. By establishing a highly interactive musical community that encourages viral sharing, PROnoise provides tools for emerging artists to make money and get attention.
  • Sandalbay Life – Founder Neil Malhotra was formerly Co-founder and CTO of Acclaim Games with Howard Marks, previously designed interplanetary trajectories at NASA JPL, and studied as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at Caltech. SandalBay Life is a personal health and fitness platform that empowers consumers to know and manage their health through intelligent smartphone, tablet and web applications. The open interface integrates bio-sensor data from multiple sources, including wearable smart phone-connected devices, through Sandalbay's API.
  • StretchE – Discount directory that publishes Groupon-like deals in the form of coupons for local merchants. StretchE.com provides businesses a sustainable way to attract local customers by offering coupons close to home and a loyalty program to foster customer retention.
  • thrdPlace – Web and mobile platform that enables members to create and support community projects. thrdPlace matches member needs with their community's resources, helping them crowdsource funds, materials and labor and empowering them to impact their community.

One additional startup, which is currently in stealth mode, is creating a mobile platform that lets users instantly connect with everyone in their immediate vicinity.

The TV series will appear on a network first, then online afterwards, starting sometime in early 2012.

Eyeview Raises $5.2 Million For Personalized Video Ads (And They’re Pretty Nifty)

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 07:06 AM PST


Personalized video ads sound like one of those visions of that future — like holographic sharks — that are always a ways off. But a company called Eyeview is already making them. Their technology is impressive, and they’ve worked with brands including AT&T, T-Mobile, and McDonalds.

Today, the company is announcing that it’s raised $5.2 million in Series B funding, in a round led by Nauta Capital (Nauta general partner Dominic Endicott will be joining the company’s board). Also participating in the round are existing investors Gemini Israel Funds, Lightspeed Ventures, and Innovation Endeavors — which is best known for being longtime former Google CEO Eric Schmidt's firm.

Eyeview’s technology is best demonstrated by looking at one of their actual ads — which you can see in the video embedded below. The gist is that the company can generate high-quality ads, complete with the splashy effects and 3D rendering we’re accustomed to, and customize the text depending on where the ad is being shown. There are ways to do this using Flash overlays and the like, but Eyeview’s technology is much more advanced (and better looking) than that.

The company says it will be using the money to continue growing its reach — both in terms of audience size and the formats it appears on. In the long term, CEO Oren Harnevo envisions a scenario where IP-enabled televisions would be able to display this sort of ad, personalized to each user. That’s still a ways off, though — for the time being, all of Eyeview’s ads are appearing online.

Return Path Expands To Austin, Acquires TC50 Finalist OtherInbox

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 06:43 AM PST


Email certification and reputation monitoring company Return Path this morning announced that it has acquired OtherInbox, which helps users regain control over their email inbox. OtherInbox is and will remain based in Austin, Texas, as a wholly-owned Return Path subsidiary with CEO Joshua Baer still at the helm.

We’re very familiar with OtherInbox around here – the company was a finalist in the TechCrunch 50 conference we organized back in 2008.

OtherInbox works with email providers like Yahoo and Google (Gmail) and helps user take back control over their inbox by automatically organizing emails from ecommerce sites, social networking services and whatnot, thus significantly reducing unwanted email.

The company says it has helped organize more than 2 million mailboxes and billions of email messages to date.

Part of the reason Return Path acquired OtherInbox is to enhance its Sender Score reputation scoring system, which companies use to make better blocking and filtering decisions, and also to boost its Certification program based on OtherInbox data.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed; all OtherInbox employees will be making the move to Return Path but their office will remain in Austin, Texas.

The company had raised nearly $4 million in funding from 500 Startups and angel investors.

Ampush Media Acquires One Of Bill Gates’ Favorite Education Startups, Academic Earth

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 06:40 AM PST

Academic Earth

Ampush Media, an online marketing startup, has acquired Academic Earth, an online education video site that’s sort of like a "Hulu for Education" and a Bill Gates-favorite. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

As we’ve written in the past, Academic Earth is a user-friendly, curated platform for educational videos that allows anyone to freely access instruction from the scholars and guest lecturers at the leading academic universities. The site offers 350 full courses and over 5,000 total lectures from Yale, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Princeton that can be browsed by subject, university, or instructor through a user-friendly interface.

Additionally, editors have compiled lectures from different speakers into Playlists such as "Understanding the Financial Crisis" and "First Day Of Freshman Year." Since the site’s launch in 2008, Academic Earth has grown to attract 400,000 unique visitors per month, primarily through word of mouth.

Gates is a big fan of Academic Earth, and even mentioned the startup in his newsletter from the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation, in 2010 as an idea that could help revolutionize online education.

Ampush Media also works in the online education space, developing a technology platform that helps students identify higher education options that fit their interests. The company says it plans to invest heavily in building out social and interactive user features to Academic Earth and adding new lecture material to the site.

Google Fuses Google+ Into Search — And There Are Bigger Changes Afoot

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 06:32 AM PST

Personal Results 2-1

Since the launch of Google+, Google has been putting a lot of muscle behind promoting and integrating the service into its core products. Fire up a new Android 4.0 device, and you’ll be prompted to create a Google+ account if you haven’t already. They’ve given it TV ads, not to mention a priceless promotion on its homepage.

And today, Google is launching an update to its core search engine at Google.com that continues this trend — and then some. They’re calling it ‘Search plus Your World’.

The short version is that Google search results are going to be automatically personalized (to a greater degree than they were already) for each user, with signals drawn from your Google+ Circles being used to highlight things your friends — or you, yourself — have shared. Any of these personalized matches will appear alongside ‘normal’ search results. And Google will also pull in photos shared on Picasa or Google+ (they’ll even show up if you’ve marked them private, but they’ll still only be visible to you).

This is probably easiest to understand with an example, so here goes. Say I was to run a query for the term ‘Harry Potter’, as I am wont to do.

For most people, this would probably pull up links to the books, the films, and a variety of fansites. For this intrepid reporter, though, the results would also include my Picasa album shot at a Harry Potter premiere a few years back (and labeled as such). These images would pop up both in the main search results page, and in Google Images results. Likewise, any blog posts my friends had shared on Google+ about the boy wizard would show up in my results too.

This may not sound like a huge deal, but it’s foreshadowing a bigger change to come: Google is going to increasingly become a search engine for all of your stuff.

It’s starting small, with Google+ and Picasa integration. But over time we’ll likely see results from Google Docs, Gmail, Contacts, Music, Voice, Wallet, and so on. You’ll go to Google.com, type in whatever it is you’re looking for, and you’ll see both your own content alongside web results. It’ll be an Omnibox for everything, and if it figures out a way to incorporate third-party data as well (be it through partnerships or APIs), it could be very powerful.

Of course, Google isn’t confirming any of that yet (they don’t comment on future releases, etc.). But when I posed the scenario to Jack Menzel, Product Management Director of Search at Google, he seemed to indicate that I was on the right track.

Anyway, that broader search functionality is still likely a ways off. So let’s get back to the things that are being introduced now.

Today’s launch also uses Google+ data for another purpose: helping you search for information about people whose names typically make that a difficult task. Say you wanted to run a query for someone named Roger Smith on Google. This would typically be pretty tough, as there are a bunch of people named Roger Smith. But with this launch, Google is making things potentially easier.

Type in a name in the new version of Google, and an autocomplete box will pop down that includes results from Google+. You may see several Roger Smiths, but you’ll also see their profile photo, current city, and a link to their Google+ profile. Click the one you’re looking for, and Google will try to serve up results pertaining to that particular Roger Smith.

Which is both cool, and, to some people, potentially frustrating. There are plenty of people who, for whatever reason, have photos or blog posts online that they’d rather not have other people find. Some of them are fortunate enough to have a common name (or to share a name with a celebrity) that ensures these stories don’t get surfaced very often. This could change that.

Google is also going to start promoting certain Google+ users within search results. Search for ‘music’, for example, and you may see a handful of prominent musicians on Google+ (say, Britney Spears), along with some handy ‘Add to Circles’ buttons. This could be interesting as a sort of topic-specific suggested user feature (particularly if it works on niche topics), and it’s also obviously a way to promote Google+ to users who have yet to sign up or have stopped visiting.

Finally, the launch includes a few options for managing the new features. A new tab will let you select either the ‘Search plus Your World’ results, or you can toggle back to the old-fashioned, unpersonalized results. There’s also an option in Google settings that will let you opt out of the experience entirely. Google also points out that SSL is now turned on by default for all signed-in users, which is even more important now that it’s personalizing results.

To be clear, this is far from the first time Google has personalized results. It’s been doing so for years, with products like its ‘Social Circles’. Even the now-defunct Google Desktop Search would incorporate files stored on your hard drive into your web-based search results. And the idea of integration social with search isn’t unique to Google, either — Bing has had a longstanding partnership to use Facebook data in its results, and it will also serve up posts your friends have shared alongside its search results.

The key, Menzel says, is that Google is getting a lot better at figuring out when to incorporate this socially relevant data. They’re focusing on showing content not simply because your friend shared it — but because it might actually be helpful. And, as I said earlier, this is really just a taste of things to come. Expect to see Google+ integration go even deeper soon, and for more of Google’s other services to be accessible via one single, universal search.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Marketing: Zmags Raises $7M, ThinkVine Lands $8M

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 06:22 AM PST


Zmags, a provider of rich media mobile and social merchandising solutions, has secured $7 million in financing from Square 1 Bank and from existing backers OpenView Venture Partners and Northcap Partners.

Zmags offers a SaaS platform called CommercePro, enabling e-retailers to benefit from commerce transaction capability integrated directly into their digital merchandising and catalog environments.

The company says it plans to raise more growth equity from a unnamed private equity firm later this year, to bankroll further expansion and ‘strategic acquisitions’.

Marketing optimization software company ThinkVine this morning announced that it has raised $8 million in Series C funding from Northwater Capital Management and existing investors, including Draper Triangle, DFJ Portage, CincyTech and Ft. Washington Capital Partners.

ThinkVine offers an SaaS solution to business-to-consumer marketers looking to optimize their marketing ROI across the board, based on the company’s ThinkAhead Technology, which can simulate how consumers respond to different marketing plans in real-time.

Also read: Neolane Lands $27 Million For 'Conversational Marketing' Tech

BetterWorks Adds Catering To Office Perks Platform

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 06:00 AM PST


BetterWorks, a company that gives small companies an easy way to reward and incentivize employees, is adding a new feature to the mix—catering.

As we’ve reported previously, BetterWorks, which was co-founded by Paige Craig, George Ishii and co-creator of Farmville Sizhao Yang, launched to help small businesses manage company perks and rewards. The startup gives small businesses, startups and companies access to corporate rates on things like gyms and salons, which those businesses can then offer to their employees as perks.

With a catering component, employers can now use the BetterWorks Perks Platform to manage large food orders for employees, eliminating the need for third-party catering systems. Restaurants and menus are in the system, and meals can be quickly scheduled up to a month in advance for delivery or pick-up from a wide variety of local restaurants. The Real Time Order Estimator displays a dynamic count of how many people each order will feed.

For startups, catering food for employees can make sense from both a perks and productivity perspective. The standard catering order on BetterWorks costs $8-10 per person, and companies that cater a meal generally average at least an hour in additional productivity from each employee they serve.

Already companies like Tesla, Klout, Adaptly and Docstoc are using BetterWorks to cater office meals. And a catering feature makes it easy for any administrator to order food without having to take individual orders, or call a restaurant.

BetterWorks Catering is available Los Angeles, San Diego, Austin, San Francisco, and select parts of New York.

Medialets Turns On Private Marketplace For Mobile Ads

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 05:54 AM PST

Medialets Private Marketplace

Buying mobile ads across different apps and mobile sites is a highly inefficient process today. There are dozens of ad formats, about 85 percent of mobile ad inventory goes unsold, and it is difficult for advertisers to reach the scale they require. Mobile ads are ripe for a marketplace to make it more efficient, but publishers are wary of ad marketplaces, having seen how they pushed down average prices per impression on the desktop web. Today, Medialets is launching a private marketplace for mobile ads which attempts to address the problems of both mobile publishers and advertisers in a unique way.

To protect app and mobile web publishers from the brutal commoditization marketplaces tend to impose on prices, Medialets allows publishers to set pricing floors and even price their inventory differently for different advertisers. They can add whitelists of advertisers who can buy their mobile ad inventory and adjust those permissions per campaign. This allows them to block Chevy ads if they are running an exclusive Toyota sponsorship, for instance, or more generally control the quality of the advertisements which appear on their apps and mobile sites.

For advertisers and media buyers, they can manage their own whitelist of premium apps and mobile sites, pushing out their campaigns to multiple mobile publishers. The marketplace supports direct buys, guaranteed pricing, reserved pricing, and real time bidding. They can keep their mobile ad units in a central repository, deploy them to the mobile publishers on the marketplace, and measure their effectiveness.

The private marketplace is invite-only, and today launches with 40 publishers and top brands.

Oracle Taps Cloudera For Hadoop Distribution Of Big Data Appliance

Posted: 10 Jan 2012 05:00 AM PST


Oracle has tapped Cloudera, the startup that commercially distributes and services Apache Hadoop based data management software and services, to provide an Apache Hadoop distribution and tools for Oracle’s newly announced Big Data Appliance.

Hadoop is a Java software framework born out of an open-source implementation of Google's published computing infrastructure which is fostered within the Apache Software Foundation. Hadoop supports distributed applications running on large clusters of commodity computers processing enormous amounts of data. Cloudera helps distribute Hadoop, and provides practical services around the technology, similar to what Red Hat does for the Linux framework.

Oracle has integrated Cloudera’s distribution including Apache Hadoop and Cloudera Manager software into its Big Data Appliance, a just launched engineered system designed to provide high performance and scalable data processing environments for Big Data. The appliance aims to help companies acquire, organize and to analyze massive amounts of enterprise data.

The appliance is a mixture of both hardware and software that leveraging Apache Hadoop and includes Cloudera Manager, an open source distribution of R, Oracle NoSQL Database Community Edition, Oracle HotSpot Java Virtual Machine and Oracle Linux running on Oracle Sun servers.

In 2010, Cloudera partnered with Quest Software to produce and distribute an Oracle connector for Hadoop. The partnership is interesting considering that some think that an Oracle acquisition of Cloudera makes sense for the enterprise giant.

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