Headcast, A Mobile Broadcast Platform For Celebrities’ & Brands’ Avatars To Talk To Fans, Launches On iOS, Backed By Stephen Fry
There’s no shortage of channels for brands and celebrities to stay in touch with their customers, followers and fans in these socially connected times — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, you name it. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for something more. Today’s addition to the mix is the launch of a broadcasting and animation platform for smartphones called Headcast which lets brands and celebrities record and push out short voice messages to their audience — accompanied by an animated, virtual avatar which lipsyncs with the voice recording and can also mimic hand gestures and facial expressions.
The company behind the tech, HeadcastLab, describes these broadcasts as “visual tweets” since they are limited in duration to 60 seconds, so have the same bite-sized character as a tweet, but are also designed to be watched, thanks to the avatar component. There’s no getting away from the uncanny valley phenomenon here, but presumably in an effort to make that effect comic rather than sinister, the avatars have a cartoonish air, rather than going after exact photo-realism.
The cartoonish air can also be explained by HeadcastLab’s CEO’s background as a designer and builder of puppets and characters. Chris Chapman also ran the animatronics team at Spitting Image Projects and went on to join the creative team. HeadcastLab was founded in 2011, after Chapman had also co-founded smart interface business ElekSen.
British actor and tech lover Stephen Fry is the first to launch a Headcast-powered app, called Fry, on iOS. Fry is also a small investor in Headcast, holding a sub-one per cent stake in the company. Other investors are David Gilbert, former chief operating officer of Dixons, and Charles McGregor, founder of Fibernet, along with CEO Chris Chapman. Headcast’s total funding to date is £340,000, through two separate funding rounds.
Here’s how the technology works from the presenter side:
Headcast performers, such as Stephen Fry, simply speak into their tablet device in ‘self-animator’ mode to record the audio, their character auto-lipsyncs and the in-built technology then animates the character, faster than sending a Tweet. Extra animations, such as trademark gestures, shrugs and topical images within the background, add extra life to the Headcast and can be included at the touch of a button. The followers receive the Headcast within a minute and can interact through the use of polls to gauge fan opinion, tapping the character, and adding sequences into the Headcasts.
Following its iOS launch, with Fry as the first celebrity on board, Headcast’s platform is due to launch on Android in July.
Headcast CEO Chapman said Fry is “just the first of many” brands and celebrities that will be launching on the Headcast platform. “We are looking forward to shortly revealing many other global stars, in particular from the sport and music industries,” he said in a statement.Read More →
There is a misperception about the new Google Cloud Platform that the company put into general availability last week at Google I/O. It’s not a brand new platform. It’s what Google has used for years. It is Google’s foundation. It is what makes Google, Google. And now it’s open for the first time to developers and businesses.
Google Platform is new in the sense that anyone can now use it. But until now only a relative few number of people have had access to the platform.
Google Cloud Platform officially launched at last year’s Google I/O. So it still has a lot of hype that comes with a new Google service, especially at an event like Google I/O. It does not have the full set of features that comes with Amazon Web Services (AWS). A customer can get a much deeper service level agreement (SLA) from Windows Azure. Customers can use a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) like Openshift and leverage the Red Hat infrastructure. OpenStack is an option for companies that want to build out their own open cloud environment. Go that route and a customer has a host of vendors to choose from. Red Hat, IBM and HP are just a few to choose from for any number of software and services.
The Power Is In The Network
But there is one thing in particular that sets the Google Cloud Platform apart. And that’s the network that connects the company’s data centers so questions can be answered in milliseconds. It’s what makes it possible for Google to offer 3D maps, translation APIs and Google Glass.
“It is blazing fast,” said Will Shulman, co-founder of MongoLab about the network in a panel at Google I/O about distributed databases. “The other thing – it has a private distributed backbone between all the data centers.You are talking over Google’s backbone, not over the Internet.”
The network speed makes a difference in a few ways. The compute and storage in Google Compute Engine are separated but for the user it appears as if it is all together because it is so fast. It’s like having one giant, programmable super computer that in reality is distributed across thousands of servers.
The network speed also helps make a difference in cost. With the speed, comes the ability to process more data in less time.
Google factors its network into its pricing, much like cloud provider ProfitBricks does. ProfitBricks uses InfniBand, which offers more bandwidth capably than Google’s 10 gigabyte network. Regardless, Google’s fiber network and data center optimization provides the opportunity to offer sub-hour pricing, down to the minute.
On the Google platform, a customer can double the cores and do a data job in 30 minutes at the cost that it would normally take an hour to do.
Google views data centers as living things. They are not islands but exist in a connected world, connected to devices, other services and other data centers.
It’s this view that shows why Google has to be so considerate of its own network. The world is becoming a vast data fabric. But networking is expensive. Compute and storage costs continue to decrease but networking has not gone down at the same pace as CPU and storage, said Google Product Maanger Amit Argawal in a presentation at the Open Network Summit last June.
What it costs to connect a 10 gigabyte pipe between two regions in the United States is different from connecting different countries in Asia, where the markets are emerging fastest, In the video, Argawal says in the video. Devices are ubiquitous and disposable. Someone can lose a smartphone, buy a new one and be back up in a half-hour. The data is in the cloud not on the device. The services in turn are populating across the network. Put together it’s a virtuous circle. The network needs to be fast and interactive. If not, user engagement will slow. High availability needs to be built into all layers of the stack.
Why Developers Play A Crucial Role
To allay networking and other costs, Google has to continually keep its operations running optimally. The Internet business model means services have to be free or for a small fee. That means Google has to make sure developers are building apps on services that will help Google extend its advertising products and low-cost cost subscription services such as Google Apps.
And that’s why Google Cloud Platform plays an important role in attracting more developers, who in turn help extend Google’s properties.
For example, Google talked at Google I/O about how it offers tools to help developers integrate into the Google back-end. Google Maps, Chrome. Android and BigQuery all have these integrations. Google Glass will get integrated but for now it is not the number one focus.
AWS has a rich developer ecosystem and has a deep selection of services to offer. But Amazon is not an identity and services provider like Google is. Google has more data to offer developers so that will also be a strong selling point going forward for the company with developers.
For Cloudant, a distributed database company, it’s the fact that there is now another community outside AWS that it can tap. “There are a large and growing number of developers on Google,” said Co-Founder and Chief Scientist Mike Miller, who also sat on the distributed database panel.
Google App Engine symbolizes some of the differences that may attract developers. Google announced at Google I/O that PHP would be offered on Google AppEngine. This will make Google available to the scores of web developers who have built their web sites with the programming language. In March Google acquired Taleria, showing its continued emphasis on building out support for dynamic programming languages and need for systems that scale out efficiently. From Frederic Lardinois post about the acquisition:
The company claimed that its technology allowed developers to “handle more users with fewer boxes, without changing a line of code.” Talaria also claimed its ” server lets you keep your favorite high-productivity languages, but with the scalability and performance you’d expect from a compiled language.”
And then there is the ease of use that Google is trying to offer with Google App Engine. These include back-end as a service tools and more management features that allow developers to focus more on the code then the back-end.
That’s important for companies such as OrangeScape, a “visual PaaS,” for non-developers to build apps. CEO Suresh Sambandam said that means the company can keep its IT team relatively tight.
Google has a network that makes it arguably one of the largest carriers in the world. But it’s the cost of these data centers that will be its biggest challenge going forward. It’s almost as if Google had to open its infrastructure to extend its distributed network as efficiently as possible while continually attracting developers to scale its business model.Read More →
Lucky Sort, a Portland, Oregon-based startup behind a visualization and navigation engine called TopicWatch that helped to discover patterns in live data streams, has been acquired by Twitter. Terms of the deal were not immediately available, but the company has announced via its website that it will be shuttering its service in the coming months, and several members of the team will now be relocating to Twitter’s San Francisco offices to join the company’s “revenue engineering department.”
The startup had operated somewhat stealthily until early 2012, when word came out that it has raised a half-million seed round from Neu Venture Capital, Invite Investments (founders of Invite Media) and several angel investors, including Adam Riggs (Shutterstock.com), BankSimple co-founder Alex Payne, plus chaos theory physicist, quantitative trading pioneer, and roulette wheel hacker Norman Packard, Ph.D., who became the Chief Science Officer at the firm.
With the company’s first product, TopicWatch, users could sift through social media, government filings, news and commentary in real time to find, summarize and analyze any text-based content. It was more than a “social listening” or “sentiment analysis” firm – those were only subsets of its overall capabilities.
Analysis of Twitter data was also only part of what this platform could accomplish, as well.
In effect, Lucky Sort was a big data play – it used NLP (natural language processing) techniques to discover information from huge, unstructured data sets. What made it unique was its ability to derive structure without having to first define a database of nouns, verbs, etc. as traditionally would be the case with NLP. Instead, Lucky Sort was moved towards data mining through statistics rather than input ontologies.
Last November, the engine was put to practical use through a partnership with the social network for traders, StockTwits. The relationship offered the entire historical database of StockTwits (everything that had been tweeted or shared within the community), as well as a real-time feed coming into its service. These data sets were made available in Lucky Sort’s analysis interface, allowing investors to come in and examine how chatter in the StockTwits community has correlated with price action.
This could produce visualizations (like the one below), which could be operated via touch – including on the iPad.
Today, Lucky Sort says that three of its team members are headed to Twitter, and a plan to transition customers off of its platform is underway. Asked what he meant by Twitter’s “revenue engineering department,” Pepper would only say, “it’s where we’ll be shoveling coal into the money printing machine.”
However he did say that as far as he knew, Twitter is not interested in getting into the finance vertical itself. “They wanted our technology and expertise for other things,” he says.
Lucky Sort had raised a total of $600,000 before the acquisition, with $100,000 coming from Howard Lindzon, StockTwits CEO and co-founder.
The startup joins other recent Twitter acquisitions, including another previously data-focused service called Ubalo, as well as others like We Are Hunted (which led to Twitter Music), Vine, Crashlytics, Bluefin Labs, and more.
The company’s official announcement is below:
Lucky Sort acquired by Twitter!
Two years ago I started Lucky Sort with several friends. Our goal was to make huge document sets easier to analyze, summarize and visualize by building elegant and user friendly tools for text analysis.
Today I’m very excited to announce that our journey has entered a new phase: Lucky Sort has been acquired by Twitter!
Several of us will be moving to San Francisco to join Twitter’s revenue engineering department, so if you’re in the neighborhood and want to talk about text mining or data visualization give us a shout.
We’ll be helping current customers transition off our system in the coming months such that we can focus fully on our future at Twitter.
In building Lucky Sort we had an enormous amount of support from friends, employees, advisors and investors. It has been uplifting to have so many people help us and it highlighted just how much business is a social endeavour.
Chief Executive Officer
This story is developing….
Correction: An earlier version of this post said Packard was joining Twitter. He is not.Read More →
AOL Q1 Beats The Street On Revenues Of $539M But Misses On EPS Of $0.32, As Global Display Inches Up To $140M
AOL (owner of TechCrunch) has just reported its Q1 results for the quarter, and it’s a mixed bag, with sales of $539 million, up 2%, beating Wall Street estimates, but with diluted earnings per share coming in at $0.32. Analysts were expecting EPS of $0.35 on revenues of $537.15 million. Still, Q1′s EPS number is up 45% on the same period a year ago. Net income was up 23% to $25.9 million.
Here’s how revenues and profit break down over the last several quarters:
This quarter, it looks like AOL’s global display revenues are finally in an upswing, rising 8% over a year ago to $140 million. Subscription revenues, the legacy part of AOL’s business that still includes (yes) revenues from dial-up customers, is still coming in as a bigger part of AOL’s revenues, at $165.8 million. They are slowly on the decline, though, down 9% on a year ago.
Last quarter was a notable one for AOL in that it was the first one in eight years where the company had posted revenue growth, with revenues of $600 million for the three-month period. As with many other online, advertising-based companies, AOL’s revenues for this most recent, post-holiday quarter will be seasonally lower.
More interestingly, the company has been working to reposition itself around a couple of key strengths where it can still gain ground, even as Google continues to dominate the online advertising market overall.
The first of these involves innovations around ad tech. That has included grouping together all of the company’s online advertising sales and technology assets into a single group, AOL Networks. And last week the strategy got another boost when AOL signed a deal with FreeWheel and Mediaocean so that AOL’s online inventory, and specifically its video inventory, can be bundled together with TV ad buys in a multiscreen strategy.
The second is a stronger emphasis on rich-media advertising, specifically against premium content that AOL owns itself or has deals to provide advertising for. AOL’s portfolio got a boost early in the quarter with the acquisition of gdgt, started by two former Engadgeteers (founder Peter Rojas and ex-editor-in-chief Ryan Block).
And last week, AOL expanded the amount of content against which it can sell online ads even further with the news that it would be releasing 15 new original video programs, created in a factual, unscripted format that fits with the rest of AOL’s newsy portfolio. However, as it grows in these areas, it’s also continuing to whittle down assets in others, such as its nearly-concurrent decision to shut down AOL Music.
AOL’s own branded content is still lagging behind the company’s subscription revenues (again, these relate mainly to the company’s legacy services) but they are also showing the strongest growth in terms of revenues over a year ago. But if you look at operating income before depreciation and amortization, collectively the Brand Group, along with AOL Networks, are still loss-making, if coming very close to break-even:
The third-party advertising business continues to grow for AOL. This quarter revenues for ads distributed on sites not owned by AOL were up 10% to $120.7 million.Read More →
CircleUp, a startup that connects investors with retail and consumer companies that wouldn’t attract traditional venture funding, has raised a $7.5 million Series A.
The round was led by Union Square Ventures. New backer Google Ventures also participated, as did previous investors Rose Park Advisors, Maveron, and David Topper. Union Square’s Andy Weissman is joining the CircleUp board, while Google’s David Krane is becoming a board observer.
The company launched about a year ago, and since then it says 12 companies have used the platform to raise more than $10 million in total. Those companies include 18 Rabbits granola bars, baby food maker NurturMe, and Willa Skincare.
What links these companies, according to CEO and co-founder Ryan Caldbeck, is the fact that they’re “too small for private equity” and “aren’t the right industry to pitch Sand Hill Road.” Nonetheless, they’re real, growing businesses, usually with more than $1 million in annual revenue and growing more than 70 percent, and they want access to more funding to fuel their growth.
When CircleUp first launched, we described the model as “AngelList with a crowdfunding twist” — like AngelList, it connects accredited investors with businesses, but it also serves as the broker-dealer, allowing the actual transactions to take place through the CircleUp site.
I asked if the company might look at expanding to a broader audience of investors once the JOBS Act is fully implemented. Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Rory Eakin said CircleUp is taking a “wait and see” approach, but that it’s “not optimistic” because of the additional requirements on businesses that want to raise money this way. On the other hand, he said he’s excited about the JOBS Act’s loosening of restrictions around general advertising, which creates an opportunity “for small businesses in particular to reach out to customers and supporters and inform them of a potential capital raise.”
CircleUp previously raised $1.5 million.Read More →
McAfee, the Intel-owned security specialist, has just announced that it is buying Stonesoft Oyj,a Finland-based specialist in firewall protection products, for $389 million in cash. The move will let McAfee expand its product line specifically in cloud-based networked security products, to complement the antivirus services for which McAfee is best known.
Stonesoft, a publicly-traded company in Finland, says in a statement to the market that it is publicly recommending the offer.
It notes that the price offered for each share tendered in the offer will be €4.50 in cash ($5.90), a premium of around 142% compared to the volume-weighted average trading price of the Stonesoft shares on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki over the last 12 months; 106% above the average trading price in the last three months; and a 128% premium on the closing price last Friday.
It comes at a time when PCs are sitting side by side with other kinds of devices like tablets and smartphones on networks, and more information is moving off devices and on to cloud-based systems. Stonesoft, which has around 6,500 customers, has made a name for itself in working at the cutting edge of networked-security solutions, offering coverage for areas where hackers are learning to bypass traditional security walls, something Stonesoft refers to as Advanced Evasion Techniques. Its customers include governments, retailers, financial services companies and more.
“With the pending addition of Stonesoft’s products and services, McAfee is making a significant investment in next-generation firewall technology. These solutions anticipate emerging customer needs in a continually evolving threat landscape,” said Michael DeCesare, McAfee President, in a statement. “Stonesoft is a leading innovator in this important market segment.” He added that McAfee will integrate Stonesoft’s products into McAfee’s cloud-based Security Connected strategy. This will include McAfee’s IPS Network Security Platform, McAfee’s Firewall Enterprise for the high assurance market segment, and now Stonesoft’s next-generation firewall.
All the same, Stonesoft may represent the future of IT security, but presently its results are more mixed. For the first quarter of 2013, net sales for Stonesoft were 9.2 million euros ($12 million), up 12% over last year, but it also posted a loss per share of 0.03 euro cents ($0.04) down by 0.02 euro cents on a year ago.
There is a strong business argument for McAfee buying into more expertise and products in the area of networked security.
On one hand, security attacks on cloud-based systems are on the rise, and that is affecting both consumers and enterprises.
On the other, the bedrock of McAfee’s security portfolio is eroding away: according to figures from IDC out last month, PC devices saw their biggest single-quarter decline in Q1, with shipments down 14% to 76.3 million units. That, in effect, is a decline in the sector that McAfee traditionally counted as its biggest, as consumers and businesses opt instead for devices like tablets and smartphones, which rely much more on cloud-based storage and computing, to replace how PCs would have traditionally been used.
Read More →
SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 6, 2013 – McAfee today announced the execution of a definitive agreement to initiate a conditional tender offer for the acquisition of Stonesoft Oyj (NASDAQ OMX Helsinki: SFT1V), a leading innovator in next-generation network firewall products, for an aggregate equity value of approximately $389 million in cash.
Stonesoft delivers software-based, dynamic, customer-driven, cyber security solutions to secure information flow and simplify security management. Stonesoft’s product portfolio of next-generation firewalls, evasion prevention systems, and SSL VPN solutions addresses businesses of all sizes. Through the pending acquisition of Stonesoft, McAfee expects to extend its leadership position in network security.
“With the pending addition of Stonesoft’s products and services, McAfee is making a significant investment in next-generation firewall technology. These solutions anticipate emerging customer needs in a continually evolving threat landscape,” said Michael DeCesare, McAfee President. “Stonesoft is a leading innovator in this important market segment. We plan to integrate Stonesoft’s offerings with other McAfee products to realize the power of McAfee’s Security Connected strategy. Stonesoft products will benefit from the collective expertise of more than 7,200 McAfee employees. Leveraging McAfee’s cloud-based Global Threat Intelligence service will provide our combined customers with unparalleled security.”
The rationale for the proposed acquisition is as follows:
Network security is a vital component of a comprehensive security solution. Next-generation firewalls solve critical customer needs and represent one of the fastest growing market segments in network security.
Stonesoft is a leading innovator in the next-generation firewall segment. Gartner positioned the company as “visionary” in the 2013 Network Security Firewall Magic Quadrant. Stonesoft achieved “Recommend” status in NSS Labs’ latest 2013 firewall tests.
With Stonesoft, McAfee expects to grow its network security business by delivering the industry’s most complete network security solution with three leading platforms: McAfee’s IPS Network Security Platform, McAfee’s Firewall Enterprise for the high assurance market segment, and Stonesoft’s next-generation firewall.
Based in Helsinki, Finland, Stonesoft is trusted by more than 6,500 customers across the globe. Stonesoft’s customer base can now benefit from an integrated, comprehensive security solution through McAfee. Similarly, McAfee’s extensive, global customer base will benefit from access to a highly-innovative next-generation firewall. Stonesoft’s innovative next-generation firewall, when combined with McAfee’s market leading IPS and high assurance firewall, provides customers with one of the most complete network security portfolios in the industry.
“The combination of the two companies allows Stonesoft to benefit from McAfee’s global presence and sales organization of over 2,200 employees, best-in-class threat research and technology synergies” said Ilkka Hiidenheimo, Chief Executive Officer of Stonesoft. “Combined, we believe we can offer our customers a world-class product portfolio with world-class support – all backed by Intel.”
McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC), empowers businesses, the public sector, and home users to safely experience the benefits of the Internet. The company delivers proactive and proven security solutions and services for systems, networks, and mobile devices around the world. With its Security Connected strategy, innovative approach to hardware-enhanced security, and unique Global Threat Intelligence network, McAfee is relentlessly focused on keeping its customers safe. http://www.mcafee.com.
Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) is a world leader in computing innovation. The company designs and builds the essential technologies that serve as the foundation for the world’s computing devices. Additional information about Intel is available at newsroom.intel.com and blogs.intel.com.
Intel and the Intel logo are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the United States and other countries.
About Stonesoft Corporation
Stonesoft Corporation delivers software based, dynamic, customer-driven cyber security solutions that secure information flow and simplify security management. Stonesoft serves private and public sector organizations that require high availability, ease-of-management, compliance, dynamic security, protection of critical digital assets, and business continuity against today’s rapidly evolving cyber threats. The company leads research into advanced cyber threats and the advanced evasion techniques (AETs) used in stealth, targeted cyber attacks. For more information visit. http://www.stonesoft.com.
This document contains forward-looking statements based on current expectations or beliefs, as well as a number of assumptions about future events, and these statements are subject to factors and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. The reader is cautioned not to put undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which are not a guarantee of future performance and are subject to a number of uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside the control of McAfee or Intel.
It’s hard to get much bigger than the big names that are now backing crowdfinancing platform Lending Club.
This week it was announced that Google has taken a minority stake in the company through its participation in a $125 million secondary round of investment.
“Lending Club is using the Internet to reshape the financial system and profoundly transform the way people think of credit and investment,” said Google’s David Lawee.
Lawee will also be taking an observer seat on Lending Club’s board, which already includes influential names like Mary Meeker, John Mack and Larry Summers.
According to Lending Club Chief Executive Renaud Laplanche, his company was approached by Google about investing in the platform.
The move is further verification of the growth of crowd lending, which was recently shown in massolution’s 2013CF Crowdfunding Industry Report to be one of the quickest growing segments of crowdfunding globally.
“This is a defining moment for the entire crowdfinancing industry,” said NowStreet founder Dara Albright.
Since launching in 2007, Lending Club has facilitated more than $1.65 billion in loans, including over $350 million in the last quarter alone, powered in part by the platform’s focus on borrowers with high credit quality.
The company’s wholly-owned subsidiary LC Advisors, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, has launched several funds in the last 2 years and now has more than $450 million in assets under management.
According to Laplanche, the transaction values the company at over $1.5 billion. Laplanche also said a 2014 public offering is in the cards for Lending Club.Read More →
The champagne bottles are empty. The startups are packing up. TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 is a wrap, and it was a hell of a show.
Enigma won the Startup Battlefield, taking home $50,000 and the Disrupt Cup. Ryan Lawler’s Urban Transportation panel was somehow more rowdy than Josh Constine’s talk with Rap Genius. Ashton Kutcher showed up and proved yet again his value as a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. There was even a special screening of Alex Winter’s upcoming film about the rise and fall of Napster, “Downloaded”.
It just wasn’t the door-busting attendance that proved this was the best Disrupt yet. The show featured the best startups, the best speakers, all at the beautiful Manhattan Center in New York City. I know we say this after each Disrupt — this is, after all, the eighth Disrupt show — but this really was the best show yet.
They say New York is the city that never sleeps — a point of trivia proven true by the thousands of Disrupt attendees, volunteers and staff over the last five days.
Saturday, April 27
The show unofficially started with the Hackathon on Saturday, April 27. We had record attendance. Over a thousand hackers filled the lower floors of the Manhattan center, occupying every usable inch of the facility to pound out their applications over the following 24 hours. Nerf guns, energy gum and a midnight dodge ball session kept the attendees going. Rambler eventually bested 164 other projects to win the top prize.
Monday, April 29
Disrupt NY 2013 started with a fireside chat with Chris Dixon and Eric Eldon where the Andreessen Horowitz partner explained his take on Bitcoin startups and how 3D printing could transform manufacturing.
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington took the stage next with Benchmark’s Bill Gurley to talk New York City startups. Gurley also revealed that he sees Uber growing faster than eBay did. A rather shocking claim seeing how eBay was worth $5 billion just two years after Benchmark’s $6.7 million investment in 1997.
The first day of Disrupt NY 2013 wasn’t entirely heavenly rays of sunshine. Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and founder of investment firm The Social+Capital Partnership, explained that the tech world should be “utterly ashamed,” because “we are at an absolute minimum in terms of things that are being started.” Yep, Palihapitiya calls it as he sees it.
When Dennis Crowley took the stage, he explained to TechCrunch’s Colleen Taylor that Foursquare’s API is currently underutilized. Location apps will get smarter, he promised. Oh, and Foursquare is still growing — at least that’s what Crowley said.
Jim Bankoff’s Vox Media is stepping up its ad game with the launch of Vox Creative. With this, Bankoff stated that the company will be profitable in 2013.
Betaworks’ John Borthwick took the stage with TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis and talked about the acquisition of Instapaper and, although briefly, Digg’s upcoming RSS reader — a product that was apparently in the works well before Google killed Reader.
Big things are coming down the pike with Gilt Chairman Kevin Ryan and 10gen Founder Dwight Merriman who announced on stage that they were looking to launch one or two startups in the coming months.
Flipboard is huge. With 56M users, CEO Mike McCue explained to TechCrunch’s Eric Eldon that they aim to make the mobile app the home of brand advertising for mobile publishers.
Tuesday, April 28
The day kicked off with a talk between noted New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who recently became a VC himself. The two talked Bitcoins and traded VC stories with Wilson giving tips for pitching a venture capitalist. “Leave your backstory at home,” Wilson pleaded. Arrington quickly nodded and agreed.
Mike Abbott then took the stage with Mailbox CEO and co-founder Gentry Underwood. The two talked about the surprising pains in scaling Underwood’s hot iOS email application. It took engineers 24 hours a day for several weeks to keep up with the initial demand. And then Dropbox scooped up the company.
Google’s Seth Sternberg, Director of Product Management for Google +, and Ardan Arac, Product Manager at Google, used the Disrupt stage to announce new Google + features. Simply put, Google +’s visibility is now supersized in Google Search.
eBay chief John Donahoe explained to Bloomberg’s chief content editor Norm Pearlstine about how the company screens its acquisitions and how he keeps founders from leaving after the acquisition — a trick that many companies fail to execute after buying a startup.
Troy Carter is disrupting the music industry from within. And today he spoke with TechCrunch’s Josh Constine about his secrets regarding managing Lady Gaga’s online presence (she doesn’t use Facebook personally), where celebrities go overboard online, and why he thinks terrestrial radio will be the home of the next big disruption.
When should an entrepreneur raise money, who should they raise from… and, well, should they even raise? These were some of the questions discussed on a panel with TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis, which included participation from Mike Abbott of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Aaref Hilaly of Sequoia Capital, AngelList’s Naval Ravikant, and BoxGroup’s David Tisch.
Display Advertising Products at Google, Neal Mohan, Facebook Ad Products Director Gokul Rajaram and Twitter Senior Director of Product Revenue Kevin Weil took the stage to talk about the state of digital advertising — and they each had a unique take on the subject.
In a chat with TechCrunch’s Leena Rao, representatives from PayPal, Stripe and Gumroad gave thoughts on the currency that has VCs emptying their bank accounts to invest afresh — Bitcoins, a very popular topic at Disrupt NY 2013.
The afternoon kicked off with a talk between serial-investor Ron Conway, filmmaker/actor Alex Winter and CrunchFund’s MG Siegler to talk about the documentary “Downloaded” about the rise and fall of Napster. Conway said even in 2013, Internet sharing has yet to be solved and that is one of the most disappointing parts of the whole affair.
TechCrunch COO Ned Desmond and CrunchBase’s Matt Kaufman used the TechCrunch Disrupt stage to launch a big expansion of CrunchBase, TechCrunch’s own robust free wiki-style directory of people, technology companies and investors. The new feature, the CrunchBase Venture Program, is to appeal to venture firms that want to improve CrunchBase’s data set.
Wednesday, May 1
The last day of Disrupt started with a rather unruly talk with TechCrunch’s Josh Constine and the boisterous founders of Rap Genius, the collaborative annotation startup the founders proclaimed on stage will be bigger than Facebook. The site is also looking to get into breaking news with News Genius.
But Rap Genius wasn’t the loud point of the morning. That happened when SideCar’s co-founder, Hailo’s CEO/founder, took the stage with the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) Deputy commissioner of Policy and Programs Ashwini Chhabra. TechCrunch’s Ryan Lawler proceeded to manage the rowdy bunch as tempers flared. The talk peaked when it was finally revealed that the City of New York had just came down on two SideCar drivers giving free rides in a sting operation.
Ken and Ben Lerer spoke with Caroline McCarthy about the duo’s take on everything from venture investing, to starting a media companie, to StopTheNRA.com, which the two plan on launching in the coming weeks.
Ashton Kutcher took the Disrupt stage for the third time in as many years. Since first speaking at Disrupt NY 2011, he’s made large strides in Silicon Valley, with his VC firm now fundraising at a $100M valuation.
Disrupt isn’t all about web startups proven equally but Hardware Alley’s marketplace of hardware company and TechCrunch’s talk with Limor Fried of Adafruit. The NYC-based startup is attempting to make learning about coding and building fun. Plush electronic components are just part of the company’s secret sauce. Fried also explained to John why the company keeps all of its manufacturing within North America — it’s not always cheaper in the long run to outsource to China, she explained.
The afternoon season resumed with a talk between TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington and noted Silicon Valley investors, Ron Conway, David Lee, and Brian Pokorny. The four VCs, when including Arrington, discussed in length Chamath Palipitiya’s comments on Monday that startup quality is at an “all time low.” They disagree. “Innovation is not dead,” David Lee concluded.
Dave Gilboa, co-founder at Warby Parker, one of the e-commerce startups that has “made it” so to speak, shared some stories from the startup’s early days on an afternoon panel, where he was joined by Everlane’s Michael Preysman, Nasty Gal’s Deborah Benton, Wanelo’s Deena Varshavkaya. The panel was moderated by TechCrunch co-editor Alexia Tsotsis. Oh and about those rumors concerning the hot NYC startup and Google Glass? “No comment” was official comment.
As one of the top NYC startups, Tumblr Founder David Karp had a lot to say about his city. He was joined with Sequoia partner Roelof Botha and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington. Simply put, he vastly prefers walking down a New York City street than one in Silicon Valley.
Thirty startups took the Disrupt Battlefield stage. Seven were eventually chosen as finalists: Enigma, Floored, Glide, Handle, HealthyOut, SupplyShift And Zenefits.
After an intense afternoon of judging, Enigma won $50,000, the Disrupt Cup and the title as of the winner of Disrupt NY 2013. Congratulations, Enigma.
New York City turned out in droves for Disrupt NY this year. Over 1,800 people attended and 180 companies exhibited in Startup Alley and Hardware Alley. And 1,100 coders and designers hacked together 164 projects in just 24 hours. It was truly a fantastic Disrupt.
We’re tired, New York City.
But we’re not resting for long. TechCrunch is about to hit the road for a massive meetup and pitch-off in Austin, Texas on May 30. More events will be held throughout the summer until Disrupt SF hits in September and Disrupt Europe: Berlin 2013.
See you soon.Read More →
Facebook Q1 Earnings Beats With $1.46B In Revenue, Up 38%, But Misses With Flat EPS Of $0.12 Non-GAAP
Facebook has just posted its earnings for the quarter that ended March 31, 2013. Facebook hit $1.46 billion in revenue up 38% from Q1 2012, beating Wall Street estimates of sales of $1.44 billion. Facebook reported earnings of $1.06 billion for the same quarter a year ago. Earnings per shared missed estimates, staying flat at $0.12 (analysts had expected earnings per share of $0.13.
Net income was up 7% to $219 million, versus $205 million a year ago (GAAP figures).
While revenue only grew slightly, the amount of its 1.11 billion monthly users that returned daily, 665 million, was slightly better than last quarter. For more details on user growth, read our post by Drew Olanoff.
Facebook also noted in an SEC filing issued today that Chief Accounting Officer David Spillane is leaving the company. Spillane had been the company’s revenue controller since 2008, overseeing growth and IPO. He is getting replaced by Jas Athwal effective May 10.
Initial reactions from the stock market were mildly positive, with the Facebook’s share price increasing slightly in after-hours trading just after the earnings were released, though the price had fallen 1.22% and closed at $27.43.
The percentage of Facebook’s total ad revenue that came from mobile surged to 30%, up from 23% last quarter. Read more on Facebook’s mobile progress from Kim-Mai Cutler.
Last quarter, Facebook posted earnings of $1.59 billion, a rise of 40% year-over-year. Last quarter the company had 1.1 billion monthly users, 618 million daily users, and 680 mobile monthly million, up 57% year-over-year.
User numbers. As noted in the WSJ, one area where Facebook will be scrutinized will be in its proportion of daily to monthly active users. In Q4 the figure was 58.5% globally. Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital Markets told the newspaper that he expects that to go up to 59% but “anything less than 58% would be a negative for Facebook.” Elsewhere, there have been some reports of user attrition. However, Facebook hit a 60% daily to monthly users, showing slightly better engagement.
The fact that Facebook saw a higher DAU/MAU ratio means that Facebook was more engaging this quarter than last, a strong sign rebuking critics who claim people are using the site less. However, Facebook’s user growth is currently coming predominantly from developing markets that don’t earn it nearly as much money as users in first-world markets like the United States.
Advertising and payments. Last quarter Facebook’s ad revenue was $1.33 billion, up 41% on the year before, and payments revenue came in at $256 million. Facebook’s payments revenue in Q1 fell to $213 million, indicating a shift of game developers and users to mobile where Facebook doesn’t earn the 30% cut it’s used to on the web.
Mobile. Last quarter mobile revenues revenues grew to make up 23 percent of the company’s total sales. Mobile revenues effectively equals mobile advertising, since gifts, also sold on mobile, are negligible. Next quarter, however, Facebook will start making another revenue stream in mobile by way of Parse, the mobile development platform. Parse has around 60,000 developers, and offers a freemium model based on usage, with the cheapest paid version priced at around $199 per month. This was still a relatively small business when it was acquired last month for a price believed to be around $85 million so it’s not likely to grow and become a significant revenue source for another couple of years. Another specific area proving to be a significant driver within Facebook’s mobile ads business are app install ads, where app publishers pay a fee for an add to appear in a person’s mobile news feed.
Facebook Home; Graph Search. This past quarter saw the launch of two major initiatives for the company, Facebook Home on mobile and Graph Search, the “third pillar” after News Feed and Timeline, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook Home saw a little surge of interest with 500,000 downloads in its first five days across a limited amount of devices that currently support it.
The earnings call is at 2pm PT; we’ll be listening in and reporting on that.Read More →