It was just two weeks ago that fast-growing enterprise cloud storage company, Box, went out and acquired document embedding service and Y Combinator grad, Crocodoc. Apparently Aaron Levie sees what Yahoo is doing and he wants to show that Box is ready to do a little acquiring of its own.
Today, Box followed up with its second acquisition in as many weeks, scooping up the tech behind French mobile app and Box, Dropbox and Google Drive client for iOS, Folders. Developed by Martin Destagnol, Folders and its tech will be integrated into Box’s new iOS app, which is currently in development (now with support from Destagnol).
Again, Box already has a version of its storage service on the App Store, but like many other companies of its ilk, the service hasn’t necessarily been putting its best foot forward on mobile, so to speak. Folders, on the other hand, was developed by Destagnol exclusively for mobile and to simplify file-sharing and complementary functionality for users on the go. And it shows: Folders is a good-looking, elegant app. I say that in the creepiest way possible, obviously.
In its announcement today, Box revealed that it’s planning to release a new version of its iOS app “later this year,” and Folders’ design and optimizations appear to be a big part of the mobile revamp. Furthermore, the motivation behind the Folders (and Crocodoc) acquisitions is not only to upgrade mobile, but the big “impact they can have” on the overall “Box user experience.”
VP of Engineering Sam Schillace explains:
I’m a firm believer that even applications developed primarily for the enterprise, like Box, need to be pushing the leading edge for user experience and design. They have to be ‘consumer-grade’ in terms of their usability, simplicity, speed and performance. This definitely raises the bar for enterprise software design and engineering, but there’s no doubt that the higher standards are a big win for users and a massive opportunity for Box.
With the service now used by 15 million people at 150,000 businesses across healthcare, financial services and retail, the company is at a key point in its growth cycle. (Though who isn’t, let’s be honest.) Thanks to building enterprise software “that doesn’t suck” (it’s a low bar in enterprise, people), the company is moving across industries and will probably show up on the public markets in the next year or so.
Box has established itself, but in doing so, it’s now competing with the big boys, and although innovation in enterprise tends to move at the pace of a speeding glacier, the company has to keep pushing forward if it wants to take that next step. The consumerization of enterprise is nothing new at this point; companies and, more importantly, end users expect applications and services that are easy to use. That look familiar and “social.” Whatever that means.
Levie is a champion of this new generation of usable, consumer-friendly enterprise tech, so Box needs to lead there. And, at this point, there’s nothing that embodies the consumerization movement better than mobile and the BYOD trend. Box has to work (and look) better on mobile than the old set of Enterprise leaders.
Read More →
When we saw Folders we saw a beautiful experience and set of design patterns that we had to bring to Box’s users. Adding the Folders technology and Martin’s expertise to Box will help us to continue to improve how people collaborate and engage with their content on Post-PC devices. In the near term, Box for iOS will become cleaner, faster and more beautiful throughout 2013.
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 →
Editor’s Note: The following comes to us from Sarah Timms, founder and CEO of the new crowdfunding platform LoveAnimals.org. Timms discusses crowdfunding in non-tech sectors, and how to make the new way of fundraising appealing to those who are not technologically savvy. For the latest news on LoveAnimals.org, make sure to follow the platform on Twitter @LoveAnimalsOrg.
Crowdfunding is the buzzword of 2013 – asking many people to give small donations or loans to collectively fund entire projects is a fast growing and successful way of raising money.
Crowdfunding platforms, mine included, are pitched as tech startups or companies. We use technology to harness the power of the crowd to create change. Tech industries and sectors that are comfortable using cutting edge technology (entrepreneurial start-ups, the gaming industry, the film industry) are able to work within the parameters of the new crowdfunding age. But how does one ensure that industries not traditionally used to embracing technology don’t get left behind?
Multiple sectors, particularly in the nonprofit world, are facing this issue. For me, the spotlight falls on the animal welfare and wildlife conservation sector. Animal nonprofits (and environmental nonprofits combined), receive only 2 percent (1) of all giving in the U.S. Yet it is estimated that some 72.9 million (2) U.S. households own pets. We are a nation of animal lovers, and yet we choose to direct our giving elsewhere.
Crowdfunding presents animal nonprofits with the unique opportunity to advertise their cause to a broader audience and make giving easier than ever to tilt the needle toward a bigger portion of annual giving. The animal nonprofit sector operates in a vicious cycle – receiving so few donations ensures that groups continually struggle to operate, let alone focus on adopting new technologies. In the past, this sector has simply not had the resources or opportunities to embrace the technologies that could help them fulfill their missions.
For any organization struggling to raise money, it seems impossible to have the time to do anything other than focus on their immediate goals or missions. For these groups, the age-old belief that “if you build it they will come”, is no longer enough. How do you encourage the animal nonprofit sector (or any other struggling sector) to embrace the technology they don’t have the time to learn, but that can liberate them and open up a whole new world of donors to support their mission?
The answer, it turns out, is simple. You build a platform exclusively for that sector, which reflects the nuances of that specific community or “crowd”. Every part of the platform must be designed with the knowledge that the groups who will use it often don’t have the time or resources to immediately learn it. You not only have to build it, you have to make it affordable, understandable, and easy. You have to take the time to educate the groups about the concept itself and show them concrete results that will encourage them to embrace the new technology. By offering a platform created exclusively for a specific community, we can give that community the unique support it needs.
And the great news? The nonprofits are excited. They are embracing it. Even better? The animal-loving public is excited too.
Crowdfunding has already begun to disrupt the current philanthropic landscape. By making crowdfunding accessible to the animal nonprofit sector, we’ll ensure that these groups will be able to compete for and claim a larger share of total giving. Crowdfunding offers a way for every animal lover across the globe to easily give a few bucks to make a big difference. Because of this, I predict that this sector, which has traditionally operated with only 2 percent of all giving, will see an explosion in charitable giving.
Crowdfunding opens up a whole new world of donors that can enable any drastically underfunded sector not commonly associated with technology to move out from the shadows. Crowdfunding represents the future of philanthropy and our mission at LoveAnimals.org is to help animal organizations access that future.
(1) Giving USA Foundation 2010 Giving Report(2) 2011/2012 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey
Sarah Timms is Founder and CEO of LoveAnimals.org, a new nonprofit crowdfunding platform for animal welfare and wildlife conservation charities working to improve the lives of animals around the globe.Read More →
EdgeSpring, an enterprise business intelligence and analytics startup, is emerging from stealth and announcing $11 million in Series A funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Lightspeed Ventures.
The EdgeSpring platform accelerates the building of analytics applications that parse business intelligence data like sales, financials and more. The company wants to allow businesses to derive insights from data of any size or structure. Edspring says that it enables applications to answer first and second order questions across structured and semi-structured data.
CEO and co-founder Vijay Chakravarthy explains that part of EdgeSpring’s secret sauce is in its patent-pending technology. The core of the platform is build around the EdgeMart, a powerful data store and the Lens Framework, a dynamic visualization engine.
The company is also releasing a new application using CrunchBase data to demonstrate the power behind its visualization platform by releasing. Called CrunchEdge, the app is an interactive and multi-layered chart “playground” which maps startup funding data in CrunchBase.
“As enterprises face an explosion of new types of data and as business leaders strive to go from raw data to informed decisions, Big Data Analytics creates tremendous value,” said Ted Schlein, general partner at KPCB. “EdgeSpring is poised to capture a large slice of the Big Data Analytics market with its powerful platform.”
Despite being in stealth, the company has been able to accumulate a number of high-profile customers including AppSense, Demandbase, Docusign, EllieMae, Equinix, Hara, HighWire, Intacct, Lithium, Neustar, Pandora, SpruceMedia, and Xactly.
As companies move towards business applications in the cloud, and generate more data in the cloud, we’re going to see the rise of startups like EdgeSpring who are trying to actually make sense of all of this data.Read More →
Hyperfund is an equity crowdfunding platform that’s slated to open up to the public later this year. Unlike some of its competitors that are looking to enter the crowdfund investing space, hyperfund will focus on unaccredited investors. The platform is getting ready to open to the crowd, and we emailed a few questions over to David Schmelke, VP of business development at hyperfund, to find out a little more about the platform and what its goals are for the future. Here’s what he had to say about his platform and the crowdfunding space in general.
Anton Root, Crowdsourcing.org: How did you come up with the idea for hyperfund?
David Schmelke, VP of Business Development: The original idea occurred to me while attempting to raise capital from the Angel Investor and Venture Capital community back in 2006. I knew there had to be a better way and was frustrated by the limitations around working exclusively with VC’s and Accredited Angels. Since then, I have been researching the micro-finance and peer-to-peer lending markets looking for an opportunity to help startup businesses raise capital and, just as importantly, empower everyone, not just the accredited, with the ability to get in on the ground floor of the next great business. I truly feel passionate about making startup equity investing available to everyone, providing the upside opportunity while spreading the risk across a larger group of people. The definition of the term hyperfund is “Equity Crowdfunding”. I thought it was the perfect name for the business.
When are you looking to open to the public?We expect to be ready to launch in 4th quarter of this year. We are being very deliberate in our development of the platform and are of course waiting patiently for the SEC to release the guidelines around equity crowdfunding. In the meantime, anyone can sign up on hyperfund.com for up to date news on our progress.
What gap in the market are you looking to fill?
Unlike many of our competitors, we will equally address the needs of both funders and fundraisers. We are unwavering in our commitment to the security and prosperity of all our members, providing them the tools needed to create strong investment partnerships.
What will separate you from other companies offering similar services?
Our proprietary system is what will differentiate us in that it will allow members to… (secret sauce). Hyperfund makes the inefficient startup equity fundraising market efficient by providing an online destination where anyone can easily connect with, exchange information with and invest into startup businesses. Small businesses can, in turn, reach several thousand potential investors in a cost effective and time efficient manner.
Are you looking at specific kinds of businesses to fund?
While our platform will not be focused on any single niche, our members will benefit from the hyper-localization and niche-friendly design of the platform. Hyperfund functionality allows funder members to prioritize a range of criteria, then provides a portal tailored to each individual member’s preferences. Whether their interests lie in supporting local businesses, startups in the fashion industry, or are more interested in management experience, hyperfund is custom-made for them. We will also support both interstate and intrastate focused campaigns.
Will you be open to both accredited and unaccredited investors? Are you looking at operating in the U.S., or overseas, too?
Though we welcome accredited investors and active angel investors to the hyperfund platform we are focused on the non-accredited investor segment. For the foreseeable future, we will be operating strictly domestically in the United States.
How do you plan to monetize your services?
We plan on offering our services in a fixed-menu pricing model. Prices vary by member segment and service level but fees are very reasonable and we will not be taking a percentage of the funds raised, so more money goes directly to the fundraiser. Basic membership for funder members is free of charge.
What are some challenges you foresee for equity crowdfunding?
The single greatest challenge is the regulatory environment. If the rules are too onerous, such as requiring audited financials, it would be cost and time prohibitive and the equity crowdfunding model simply won’t work.
What are some things you’d like to see the SEC address as it’s finalizing rules around equity crowdfunding?
I would submit to the SEC that while finding middle ground from the many recommendations may be tempting, it will not work in the end. I would ask that they put a higher emphasis on the more reasonable recommendations and error on the side of job creation. I believe the nature of the platform will reduce fraud and overly burdensome regulations will simply kill the creation of jobs.
What are some of your short- and long-term plans?
All our focus is on the development of the hyperfund platform and positioning hyperfund for a Series A round of financing.
We’d like to thank David Schmelke, VP of business development at hyperfund, for talking to us.Read More →
At I/O, Google Will Be Tracking Things Like Noise Level And Air Quality With Hundreds Of Arduino-Based Sensors
If you’re attending Google I/O this week, you will be a part of an experiment from the Google Cloud Platform Developer Relations team. On its blog today, the team outlined its plan to gather a bunch of environmental information happening around you as you meander around the Moscone Center.
In the blog post, Michael Manoochehri, Developer Programs Engineer, outlines his team’s plan to place hundreds of Arduino-based environmental sensors around the conference space to track things like temperature, noise levels, humidity and air quality in real-time. This was spawned due to a fascination with wanting to know which areas of the conference were the most popular, so it will be interesting to see what the information the team gathers actually tells us.
At first glance, this seems a little bit creepy, but it’s no different than a venue adjusting the cooling system based on the temperature inside at any given moment. As with anything that Google does, this could have implications for tracking indoor events or businesses in the future, as Manoochehri shared:
Networked sensor technology is in the early stages of revolutionizing business logistics, city planning, and consumer products. We are looking forward to sharing the Data Sensing Lab with Google I/O attendees, because we want to show how using open hardware together with the Google Cloud Platform can make this technology accessible to anyone.
Notice the wrap-up of wanting to show people how open hardware combined with Google’s Cloud Platform benefits everyone. Ok, sure. What could data like this mean for businesses, though? Well, a clothing store would be able to track how many people came in and browsed, which areas of the store were hot-spots for interest and then figure out how their displays converted. It’s like real-world ad-tracking. It makes sense, but still seems a long way off.
What will be interesting is not each dataset that is collected, but what all of them tied together tell us about our surroundings:
Our motes will be able to detect fluctuations in noise level, and some will be attached to footstep counters, to understand collective movement around the conference floor.
Of course, none of this information is personally identifiable, but the thought of our collective steps, movements and other ambient output being turned into something usable by Google is intriguing to say the least…and yes, kind of creepy.
If this particular team can share all of the data it collects in an easy to digest way, then businesses will be clamoring to toss sensors all over their stores and drop the data on whatever cloud platform that will host it the cheapest. Google would like to be that platform.
During the event, the team will hold a workshop on what it calls the “Data Sensing Lab,” so if you’re interested on learning more about what the team is gathering as you walk around, this would be the place to go. You’ll also be able to see some of the real-time visualizations on screens set up throughout the conference floor.
We’ll be covering all of the action as we’re being covered by Google.Read More →
Ohio-Based Entrepreneur’s SketchParty TV Shows AirPlay’s Gaming Power, But The Tech Needs A Spotlight
SketchParty TV is a game that essentially allows a group of people to play a version of Draw Something on a big screen in a party setting, usually with between four and six players. The AirPlay component works by allowing AirPlay Mirroring to turn your Apple TV-connected television or display into the easel for the game. A player gets the word they’re supposed to draw on their iPhone or iPad, and as they draw on the screen, that image appears (without the clue words) on the TV, allowing others to join in and guess.
The app earned high praise from tech bloggers including Federico Viticci and Jim Dalrymple of the Loop nearer to its original launch back in July last year, but overall the response from the general public has been more muted. SketchParty TV’s Braun explained in an interview that to date, SketchParty TV has seen only around 5,000 total downloads, which he says still has probably put the game in front of between 20,000 and 30,000 people, given that it’s meant to be used in a group setting.
Those “aren’t breathtaking numbers,” admits Braun, but the reviews have been positive and this seems to be more an issue of consumer education and getting the feature out there than any limitation of the AirPlay tech itself, Braun suggests.
“Apple has a lot of technology in their platform to encourage developers to support, and AirPlay Mirroring is a smaller piece of the equation than something like, say, iCloud,” he explained. “There’s also a consumer education component involved – right now it seems to be up to the savvy to disseminate the wonders of AirPlay to their friends by word of mouth. Or by showing off games like SketchParty TV.”
Others like Real Racing have embraced the two-screen Mirroring experience, but even the support of a major publisher like EA hasn’t pushed it into the spotlight, and Apple isn’t exactly crowing about the feature either. They advertised that AirPlay Mirroring made it possible to see the same thing on your TV as you’re watching on the iPhone or iPad, but there’s been no formal campaign to promote the fact that gamers can get a true, Wii U style dual-screen gaming experience from current apps with the tools available now.
“It’s been surprising to me that there are many people who have an Apple TV and an iOS device and are aware of the ability to send a video stream over AirPlay, or mirror the device display, but not of the ability to do second-screen to the television and show different content on each,” Braun said about the conspicuous absence of hype around the feature. “Personally, I’d love for Apple to give more love to the Apple TV – whether that means improvements to the current offering or some bold new direction like an actual HDTV set.”
Rumors still prevail that Apple is planning its own HDTV set, despite the fact that this has been rumored for years now. But if it does come true, that would provide a big reason for Apple to push more of its features. The other big question mark that remains centers around whether Apple might just open the Apple TV platform to third-party apps, which might minimize, though not eliminate, the benefits of having an AirPlay-connected game.
Braun says that the addressable market is large for this type of experience, ranging between 10 to 12 million by his calculations, and with plenty of growth potential thanks to the more than 300 million strong iOS user pool. It’s a bigger potential market than that represented by the current combined sales of all major home gaming consoles, in fact, with the provision that Apple needs to blanket more of those with the AirPlay component. One way or another, that’s a market that won’t go ignored for long.Read More →
Crowdcube, the U.K.-based equity crowdfunding platform, raised £1.5 million ($2.3 million) in a self-run funding campaign, the company announced last Thursday.
The raise took just three days, and involved a total of 259 investors. The team first went to its existing investor network to raise £250,000 (a goal met within five hours), and then opened up the opportunity to the public at large, raising a further £1.25 million.
“The response from our members was truly overwhelming and really demonstrates the power of equity crowdfunding to provide platforms for people to support businesses they think are worthy of investment,” commented Daren Westlake, Crowdcube’s cofounder and CEO in a press release announcing the raise. “To raise £1.5 million in only three days is an astonishing achievement and it puts us in a strong position to realize our growth ambitions on behalf of our new investors.”
The £1.5 million raise was offered for a 21 percent stake in Crowdcube, valuing the company at roughly £7.1 million ($11 million). The largest single investment was £250,000 ($384,000), and the average amount invested was £5,792 ($8,900). This is the second crowdfunding round the platform has run for itself. In late 2011, Crowdcube raised £320,000 ($490,000) from 162 investors.
Earlier this year, Crowdcube was authorized by the Financial Services Authority, which has since split into the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Since its founding in 2011, the platform has raised £8.2 million ($12.6 million) for 47 businesses and attracted over 34,000 registered investors.
Crowdcube plans to use the money to grow staff, ramp up marketing efforts, and expand overseas. Initially, the platform is looking at Sweden, Brazil, and the U.S.Read More →