Posts filed under ‘Venture Capital’
A number of developments in web 2.0 and gadgetry keep the market hopping. HOT NEW LAUNCHES will be published each month featuring innovations from start-ups and behemoths. It is a live list that will grow through the month so you can have a quick picture of what’s fresh in the marketplace.
1. Google launching a mobile phone – a Blackberry like device with a C++ core. Google did start a partnership with Samsung in January; so there is collaboration here. Lots of chatter here and chattering teeth from the competition. Idea rating: 3 1/2 stars
2. My.Netscape - the next generation of Netscape’s personalized home page in beta (there’s nothing at this link today-keep checking). The chatter in the market is hopeful on this one. Idea rating: 2 1/2 stars
3. Adobe Creative Suite 3.0 – due out March 27. Idea rating: TBA
4. Geni on-line family tree building already into its second round of financing with Charles River Ventures value at $100 mm. I simply love this hosted app. I am in! Idea rating: 3 1/2 stars
5- Skype Prime Beta a Skype to Skype 1-900 style i.e. paid by the caller to experts at the posted fee per minute. This is about a brand so visionary that it sees beyond its appliance. Linked in has a similar service but I do not believe for mobile and for larger fees. Idea rating: 4 stars
6- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G1 Sonys’ first wireless digicam which will send images over wi-fi networks. Standard resolution 480 X 640 at 30 frames per sec. Memory card able to hold 8 GB. No touch screen on this one. Idea rating: 3 1/2
I have reviewed all the new apps, most from start-ups, many from big players like Adobe and Seagate, and all were impressive. Kudos to all the inventors–they are defining our future. The Web 2.0 meme is alive indeed! Here is a list of what I see as the top dozen favorites in the buzz network (not prioritized):
- Zink (inkless printer that fits in your pocket!)
- Eyejot (the best of email video)
- eJamming (voip for musicians)
- Apollo (Adobe) (web apps to the desktop-not hosted!)
- Mobio Networks (mobile 2.0 mashups paltform)
- Jamman (high-def feature films from all over the world)
- Scram (Ceelox) (embeds info behind images for security)
- Sentinel (blogwerx) (tracking blog plagiarisers, sploggers)
- Zoho’s Notebook (multiple sources of content into one)
- D’Fusion (Total Immersion) ”augmented reality”
- Shipwire (affordable browser based warehousing & shipping-could launch a new legion of home-preneurs!)
- Me.dium (follows people’s web surfing)
Frankly, it’s unfair to leave any out; but, we all suffer from a collective attention-deficiency. Merit should be given to Teleflip, Vringo, DesignIn, Seagate’s Crickett, Boorah, Blinkx, Aggregate Knowledge, SplashCast and Boston-Power’s Sonata. Everyone has favorites. I tried to blend those of the pundits.
An interesting point is that few are monetized via advertising-it’s all pay-as-you-go or straight-forward buys.
Apparently, the Demo 2007 was crawling with VCs. Plexus 2007: The Web Marketing Conference & Demo will be populated with real buyers from the marketing and ad world. VCs are welcome.
The very successful “demo” event model applies to every innovation even if from Yahoo, IBM or Adobe. It moves quickly. It’s dynamic, invigorating. And you get the big picture, the value, quickly. Reportedly, attendees just love it! Chris Shipley, head of Demo 2007, has been inundated with praise for her excellent execution of this demo-styled event.
Well the moment has arrived. A few days ago Viacom demanded that YouTube remove 100,000 videos from its service, throwing down the gauntlet with 100,000 spam messages to cease and desist. For producers and artists whose revenues have been altered by digital squatting, there seems to be no end in sight. Distribution is everything right now. Just last week content producers in Hollywood threatened to hold back delivery to theatres in Canada if they could not get control over copying while movies play; apparently Canada (according to US) is mecca for this practice. Content producers are digging theirs heels deeper.
In a new clever move last January, YouTube has offered to compensate home grown video producers for their material. That will prevent claims from rising, perhaps class actions, to countless numbers.
Frankly, this is not about whether YouTube or other services have erred; it is about a new digital economy defining itself. Growing pains. There will be ambulance chasers who will enter the courts with old world patent and copyright laws for windfalls notorious of large court judgments. And it will be the Googles and the Yahoos they will pursue. Maybe even the Flickrs and Technoratis. But strangely enough this problem cuts both ways.
There is new impetus for claims against the common user via EULA (End User License Agreement), a contract between end user and producer of software. For software purchased at retail these are referred to as “shrink-wrap agreements” and on-line, “click through agreements”. Few read them following through with agreement by merely using or clicking “I agree” on-line. The agreements are ridiculously long and their meaning, difficult to comprehend. But, there is increasing debate about whether these agreements are enforceable.
Some of these agreements allow the licensors to snoop into the users’ computers and in some cases to remove existing software. In many cases the user cannot even “criticize” the product. This goes completely against the new consumer democracy all tech players purport to be purveyors of. Is this not the height of hypocrisy? Yet, EULA is now on steroids, ”overwritten” with TOS (Terms of Service ) contracts, to lock-in and control innocent users. We know the corporations (and you know who you are) who indulge. Start-ups driven by VCs (who love “lock-in” software) are no stranger to this TOS practice. The relative absence of these could be a brand building feature!
In the grander scheme of things, is this wise? EULA must be reformed. Firstly, licensors must have a good hard look at their actions and recognize that they are taking basic rights under our collective constitutions away. Ambulance chasers (patent attorneys) see an opportunity; but, truly when rights in constitutional preambles come into play what are their chances? The public will become aware, perhaps stop clicking, stop buying. It’s not inconceivable. Software producers must rely on the copyright law that protects them well enough and enjoy the benefits of their works. Et tu?
Software creators must look at their values—-publish and espouse them. In this, there is brand affection and loyalty in a sea infested with (name your predator here). Rethink.
I gave LinkedIn a tough post many moons ago but now…I am starting to see value. I came to LinkedIn in 2006 as a result of an invitation from a brainiac colleague in Massachussetts who specializes in FMRI (equipment that reads blood flow to the brain in response to stimuli). I never knew about LinkedIn ’til then. I accepted the invitation; the proviso was that LinkedIn HookedMeIn. I never liked lock-ins (not a good cue). I could not partake in his network at the time. It was all not clear to me what they were all about and I had zero time to check it out. However, last month I went and enhanced my profile vowing to leverage its value at a later date. Perhaps now I should move forward!
Just yesterday (these people work on Sundays) LinkedIn announced it raised another round of funding i.e. $12.8 million US (nice to see the investments are beginning to creep above the 2006 rounds of $3-$10 million).
Linked In declares it has 9 million users and is gaining 100,000 new members per week. Ouch! My skepticism seems to be challenged. I am still a Member but now I am paying attention.
What’s the money for? Well I suspect LinkedIn Answers was a driver to this investment. This service allows you to ask your personal network professional questions and get answers now. LinkedIn Experts launched on January 4 ’07 takes Answers a step further. A question will render the top five experts to answer a question–the answer comes from the selected expert at $500 per hour. LinkedIn keeps $250. If this model takes off, it could become the norm for the procurement of “soft” goods; however, it is not threat to enduring consulting relationships. It is rather an entry point. A chance to hasten “the pitch” process. Or at its core, get a quick answer without the consulting fees customary of think-tanks in the five figure range.
In 2006, LinkedIn generated revenues just over $10 million US; yet, it is valuated at $250 million. For bubble-mongers this does sound familiar; but it is widely accepted by pundits that business networks such at this one are faring well. Xing, its Europeean competitor, is reporting similar revenues. This is a space to watch. Business web apps were slow to get going; but now I delight in the flurry of web offerings to businesses. Just last week Big Blue (IBM) launched it own awesome web app (see post below). The growth on the web is now turning to biz.
The prototype was built and presented in early 06. Now your laptop or your mobile device can project onto any surface thanks to Jamieson Christmas, Cambridge U, inventor and patent holder. Cambridge has granted exclusive license to Alps Electric (H.O. in Japan but also here is USA). Professor Crossland known as father of LCOS (liquid crystal over silicon) is also on the inventor team, namely CAPE. I won’t get technical but it has to do with lights that bounce around within the devices; hence, a noisy over-heated clunky projector is no longer required. Web 2.0 kills another industry. Now will you all stop murmuring about the bubble; it’s as poppable as a titanium balloon. I blogged earlier on about Microsoft’s holographic computing (see September Tom Cruise apps…) called Touchlight but I believe Alps is taking it one step further removing a traditional appliance and bringing into mobile devices. Imagine what you can now also do with one small device. You can project those YouTube videos on the bathroom cubicle when you are skipping class. Or you can show the whole family photos of the Christmas (no pun) window displays at Macy’s at dessert tonight. Or project your PowerPoint on the office wall. That’s what I call convergence. Public release not known yet but I’ll keep on top of it. It boggles! Now let’s see how much is Alps trading at?
Now VCs are continuing to open their pockets to blog networks– GigaOm, PaidContent, B5 Media (founder presenting at our Plexus 2007) and PayPerPost (see yesterday’s post below). Years ago any content was perjoratively referred to as vapor! Well, vapor has condensed into a real threat to old and web news media. And these blogs can truly be monetized because the myopia of advertisers is now lifting toward 20/20 vision. No more vapor. No more bubble. Sequoia Capital of Silicon Valley fame plunked down $5mm on blog network Sugar Publishing. It’s most popular blog is PopSugar. In fact, it is rumored that this network born in Fall 2005 from scratch is in the $12-15 million range, probably more. Watch that valuation fly upward. Why? Because it caters to a large consumer audience, young, hip women. Sugar includes a number of blogs and sites catering to the same audience. Sugar reports 3 million unique visitors and 20+ million page views per month (up from 13 million monthly page views and 1.5 million unique visitors only a couple of months ago!). Sugar aims to launch four new blogs on the heels of this deal including GeekSugar (about gadgets), GiggleSugar (just fun), BuzzSugar (audio, video, reviews) and YumSugar (food and drink). I have a feeling the recent deals are going to trigger an onslaught of niche networks. For advertisers this development arrives not a moment too soon. Boy oh Boy! the landscape is changing.