Dell has decided not to build out its public cloud and will instead rely on partners such as Joyent to provide infrastructure services. A source close to the matter said layoff notices at the company went out on Friday. The group had more than 300 people in it. It is not known who was laid off or offered other jobs in the company. A spokesperson said Dell would not comment about personnel issues.
In a press release today, Dell said its current public cloud service would be discontinued in favor of offerings from other partners. The original intent had been to use OpenStack, the open cloud infrastructure, to build out a public cloud that would compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS), HP and Google. A spokesperson said Dell will work with OpenStack partners to help customers develop the right solution. Joyent is not an OpenStack company but fits with Dell’s partner focus.
The internal forces at Dell and the pressures of the company going private have caused company executives to rethink the public cloud route. Dell will still develop a private cloud story based on its own technology, which makes sense for the company as it is focusing more deeply on enterprise solutions. It’s in this that the Enstratius acquisition has value. The startup provides cloud-management capabilities that Dell can also use when working with customers that want to use a public cloud service. Dell customers can leverage their own data center investments in some form of infrastructure that allows a degree of scaling beyond what they can do now with what they have.
The news follows several weeks of shifts in the market. After dropping its own public cloud pricing, Rackspace’s earnings came in lower than expected. The stock then dropped about 25 percent. Last week, Google made its own public cloud generally available. And then there is AWS, the big giant, which companies like Dell cannot currently compete with effectively due to the expense and resources required. It’s the kind of project only the larger vendors can afford.
The name of this game is scale and having plenty of resources to build out a cloud infrastructure. It’s a market that seems difficult for Dell to compete in considering its own financial issues.Read More →
Sensopia, a company which actually uncovered a practical application for augmented reality, has raised a $1.2 million Series A round for its floor plan capturing application called “MagicPlan.” The app allows users to hold up their phone and then scan the dimensions of the room around them in order to create an instant floor plan that can be exported to various formats, including DXF, PDF, JPEG and HTML, the latter for viewing the plan on the web.
To perform the scan, the app “sees” the room in the camera’s viewfinder, and then you tap on the screen to label things like corners and doors.
Participating in the new round were Partech International, Tekton Ventures, Normandy Ventures, and other private investors. The company says it will use the funding to accelerate growth and further develop the application, making the software easier to use and allowing for the capture of rooms in three dimensions.
The startup had released an updated version of the MagicPlan app around a year ago, which at the time had introduced an upgraded user interface, a full HD iPad version, and improvements to the “MagicPlan Cloud” service – a web service that allows for data-sharing with partners. Although consumers are, of course, welcome to use the app themselves for free (for non-commercial use), Sensopia’s revenue comes from its subscription plans and enterprise adoption.
The company had previously formed agreements with Seloger (France’s Zillow), RTV (Real Tour Vision – a provider of real estate tours in the U.S.), Moobz (the Century 21 technology provider), and Cocontest (a crowd-sourced platform for interior design).
This March, it rolled out version 3.0 of the MagicPlan software, and announced a key partnership with Home Depot. Through this agreement, users could share their floor plan with Home Depot and make an appointment with an associate who would then use the plan to better assist the customer while in the store.
To reach its preferred market (i.e., paying customers), Sensopia is also releasing its MagicPlan software development kit today, which will allow MagicPlan’s technology to be integrated into other applications. The first customer to launch using this SDK is Symbility, a software company that makes claims processing applications for insurance companies.
Symbility will allow its inspectors to create floor plans while on site, while completing a claims adjustment using their iPad.
“It would not be a stretch to imagine that, in the future, claim management data for smaller cases could be generated by consumers, rather than the adjusters, and sent to the insurance company directly,” says Richard Adair, President and COO of Symbility. ”This would, of course, lead to significant savings in both time and money,” he adds.
Until now, Sensopia had been operating as a bootstrapped company. CEO Pierre Gaubil explains, “we wanted to reach real traction before raising money.” Today, he thinks it’s there. The app now has over 4 million downloads and over 20,000 floor plans created per day, Gaubil also notes – up from a million when version 2.0 was released last April. He declined to provide revenue figures, but says growth is at 20 percent month-over-month.
MagicPlan is available in the App Store here.Read More →
Apple has a good deal of cash. And, in the Valley, the startup ecosystem — for many reasons — wants to see Apple spend that cash. As their cash pile continued to grow as their stock price and market cap soared, Apple’s inability to provide robust software services combined with opportunities to expand their reach through acquisitions has become a fancy parlor game which includes every stripe of public and private investor imaginable. On top of this, pumping even a small percentage of cash pile into acquisitions could provide another pool of much-needed liquidity for founders and investors alike. While it all makes sense on paper, part of what makes Apple “Apple” is that they operate how they want to — not how the market wants them to. Recently, in response to a variety of pressures to do something, to do anything, Apple announced a two-part share buyback. There are many explanations for this financial strategy, and while the Valley may have their own armchair financial analysts with a Twitter account, I reached out to some friends who actually work in technology banking or at techonology-focused hedge funds and asked them to send me a paragraph on their perception of the move. Because of the world these folks work in, I’ve reproduced their answers below anonymously, as they are not permitted to publicly share their opinions on such matters:
Technology Investment Banker: With the amount of cash stock piled by Apple, and mainly overseas, it was only a matter of time until the water would break, especially with activist investor David Einhorn ruffling feathers. Apple did something very standard and not uncommon, but on a large scale the way Apple likes to do things. At the end of the day I feel Apple’s actions represent the following four points: (1) Increased Shareholder Value: There are many ways to value a profitable company but the most common measurement is Earnings Per Share (EPS). If earnings are flat but the number of outstanding shares decreases. . Voila! . . A magical increase in period-to-period EPS will result; (2) Higher Stock Prices: An increase in EPS will often alert investors that a stock is undervalued or has the potential for increasing in value. The most common result is an increase in demand and an upward movement in the price of a stock; (3) Increased Float – As the number of outstanding shares decreases, the shares remaining represent a larger percentage of the float. If demand increases and there is less supply, then fuel is added to a potential upward movement in the price of a stock; and (4) Excess Cash: Companies usually buy back their stock with excess cash. If a company has excess cash, then at a minimum you can bank that it doesn’t have a cash flow problem. More importantly, it signals that executives feel that cash re-invested in the corporation will get a better return than alternative investments. This is definitely a positive sign for the company going forward. Customers and investors should feel confident with these events transpiring that Apple will continue to deliver value to both parties respectively.
Technology Hedge Fund Principal: Since Apple has around $150B cash on the books (70% of which is foreign), it’s clear they need to do something with this cash because it’s just wasted sitting on the balance sheet earning low interest rates. People have assumed the market would respond well to Apple making acquisitions, especially in software and services, particularly in cloud and mobile software. While they have reaped the benefits of profits in mobile hardware, the value going forward is at the application and services layer. Other hardware manufacturers are catching up, if they haven’t caught up already. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to have an appetite for these types of acquisitions. Another option is to buy back shares, a proven way to deploy cash, though doing so sends a signal that they are a mature (read: not growth) company. Tactically, buybacks can decouple EPS growth from new product lines, and Apple could see 2x its buyback investment in earnings growth as a result. Ultimately, Apple has withstood significant pressure from the investment community to do something with the cash, especially as growth has slowed. (Venture arms, since you asked, are not an effective use of capital for a corporate player; I see the share repurchase as a much more responsible use of proceeds.
Hedge Fund Partner #2: Apple had four basic choices of what to do with their cash, remembering that apple has a duty to its shareholders: (1) Do nothing (status quo), which makes zero sense. given that they have ~$145Bn in cash and are adding ~ $40Bn in cash annually assuming zero growth earnings earning; (2) Strategic acquisition or expansion, though Apple will be hard pushed to effectively put either their cash hoard or future cash flows to use to do this; (3) a one-time special dividend and increased annual dividend; or (4) a share buyback (or various form of it). Only options #3 or #4 made any sense to me and I assumed it was only a matter of time before they did something. #1 is out as they are would not be meeting their shareholder responsibility and #2 is out simply because of scale.
I see the share buyback as positive for three key reasons: (1) Apple stock is currently very cheap. My back of the envelope calculations conservatively value them at $500-$550/share, so they are effectively leveraging and creating additional shareholder value here until the multiple recovers to fair value. What’s more is that management knows a lot more than what we all do, so they should be able to calculate their own value in two to three years fairly well, and I assume they saw this as a positive. (2) Because Apple issued bonds to finance the deal rather than using cash, this way they will not need to repatriate taxable offshore cash to perform the buyback and they will likely get a bond rate the crazy low prices. Bottom line, they are saving shareholders cash, although at some point they will need to find a way to address the offshore cash, so perhaps they are waiting for another tax holiday. And (3), assuming the market reacts rationally, a buy back signals that managements believes in stock and the story and believes that this will generate returns that will outperform for long-term investors, something that a cash hoard did not address at any level and effectively generate returns far in excess of what could be achieved in any other safe manner.
More often than not I do not like share buybacks. often management does this to boost their own salary bonuses (EPS biased etc) or simply follow bad advice and follow the investment banking herd, but this time I liked Apple’s share buyback at this share price and multiple and applaud the debt financing way of doing it, I would have applauded it more if they had also issued a $40 special dividend.
Hedge Fund Partner #3: The view is Apple has stopped being an innovator. While they were at the forefront of technology, people bugged them to use their cash for a dividend or buyback and they could say “no” because the stock price was going up on leading edge innovation. Once Jobs passed away, Tim Cook hasn’t been able to keep that going, and if anything they are now playing catch-up to Samsung or even Google. When you aren’t innovating and you have $150B in cash, a board has to find ways to keep investors happy and one tactic is to conduct a massive buyback. Showing they are returning money to shareholders, creating a new base if “capital return” investors rather than growth investors. It’s all a game to prop up the stock price, money is cheap because of Bernanke, so it’s an easy way for them to please shareholders without much cost to the business. In general, I think that Apple is falling behind and trying to figure out how to regain their lead, and I’m not sure if its possible any time soon.
Technology Stock Investor: They’re doing the buyback because: 1) they have an unprecedented amount of cash ($140+ billion) that’s earning nearly nothing; 2) the stock is down nearly 40% from its high and shareholders are angry; 3) the stock is cheap on every financial metric, signaling that buying shares is a good use of cash if you believe in the long-term growth of the company. The company does not appear to want to do a large acquisition or massively increase its capital expenditures. They don’t “need” to hold that much cash. So the company had a very inefficient capital structure ($140+ billion of cash and no debt). Equity investors (who, in the end, own the company) sooner or later demand to get returns on their companies’ cash. Capital markets are competitive, and if management doesn’t give investors great reasons to own their stock, investors will go somewhere else. AAPL is facing slowing revenue growth, margin pressure, and uncertainty about their next major product line. A management team that is perceived as unfriendly to shareholders is another reason for investors to sell the stock. The buyback is a big gesture by management that they understand their shareholders’ concerns, in addition to likely being a good investment.
Photo Credit: Eddi 07 / Flickr Creative CommonsRead More →
Editor’s note: Richard Bennett is a Senior Fellow with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and co-author of ITIF’s 2013 report, “The Whole Picture: Where America’s Broadband Networks Really Stand.” Follow him on Twitter @iPolicy.
We’ve all heard the story: America’s broadband networks are second-rate. We pay exorbitant prices for shoddy service because broadband providers print money and hold innovation in a death grip. While America languishes, our competitors in Europe and Asia are racing ahead to a user-generated content utopia. The only way forward is a government takeover, or, failing that, a massive dose of regulation.
So go a number of recent treatises such as Susan Crawford’s “Captive Audience”; works by like-minded Internet aficionados Tim Wu, Lawrence Lessig, and Yochai Benkler; reports by public interest advocacy groups Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the Open Technology Institute; as well as numerous tech bloggers.
The only problem with this story is that it’s almost completely untrue.
Granted, as recently as the late aughts, the story was plausible: In those dark days, our rankings in terms of both broadband subscription growth and speeds were falling. Increased demand for data capacity and a technology lull combined to push our average Internet connection speed down to 22nd in the world at the end of 2009, according to Akamai’s measurement of “Average Connection Speed.” Since then, the speeds of such shared connections have nearly doubled from 3.9Mbps to 7.2 Mbps, raising the U.S. to eighth place.
Akamai’s Average Connection Speed measures individual TCP streams over IP addresses that are often shared — and doesn’t sum simultaneous streams — so it’s more a measure of usage than of network capacity, however. To see the capacity of the underlying broadband network, it’s best to look at Akamai’s “Average Peak Connection Speed” metric.
The distinction between these two metrics flummoxed Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar, who maintains that the shared-connection measurement is the more meaningful indication of “user experience.” Farivar is clearly wrong about that, and Akamai’s “Average Peak Connection Speed” is the better indicator of network improvement.
The Average Peak measurement shows performance in the U.S. tripling over the past five years, up to 31.5Mbps in Q4 2012. We don’t know where the U.S. ranked on this scale before mid-2010, but it’s currently 13th. The tripling of network capacity combined with a doubling of “shared speed” says that networks are getting faster, as the U.S. is simultaneously using them more heavily
America’s broadband speeds are improving for two reasons: first, broadband providers have installed newer technologies, such as Verizon FiOS, DOCSIS 3 cable modems, and AT&T U-verse that are four or more times faster than the technologies they replaced; and second, users have begun to demonstrate a preference for higher-speed broadband by opting into higher-speed upgrades. Some upgrades are costly and others are not; Comcast recently doubled the speeds of most of their Bay Area broadband plans for free.
While our networks are improving, we’re retaining low prices for entry-level broadband plans first noticed by the Berkman Center’s “Next Generation Connectivity” report: the U.S. is currently second in the price of broadband for entry-level users. The nation is also third in network-based competition, second in the fiber-optic installation rate, first in the adoption of next-generation LTE, ahead of Europe in broadband adoption, and doing quite well in Internet-based services.
While U.S. cable TV companies still lead telcos in new broadband subscriptions, fiber-based telco broadband is gaining subscribers at a faster rate than cable. U.S. broadband providers are profitable, but much less so than Europe’s or Korea’s, where applications like YouTube must pay ISPs for access to residential customers. Significantly, we’ve gained ground on competitors despite an enormous disadvantage stemming from America’s very low urban population densities, which make U.S. broadband networks much more expensive to build and maintain than those in most nations.
Amazingly, the European Commission’s top telecom regulator, Vice President Neelie Kroes, tells a story much like the tales of woe we hear from American broadband critics, but with the roles reversed: Kroes laments Europe’s declining standing relative to the U. S., where “high-speed networks now pass more than 80 percent of homes; a figure that quadrupled in three years.” To facilitate private investment in networks, Europe has developed a “Ten Step Plan” for a single, cross-border market for broadband that mimics our interstate, facilities-based broadband market.
But these facts are glossed over by the critics of U.S. broadband policy in large part because they directly contradict their neo-populist narrative of rapacious, profit-hungry broadband monopolists gouging consumers. The long tradition of American populism distrusts private provision of “essential” services and refuses to believe that competition can ever be brought to bear on infrastructure markets. Crawford in particular relies too heavily on a strained analogy with electricity, a genuine natural monopoly that is as different from the competing information networks we have in the broadband space as any network can possibly be: Can you get electric service over the air?
Critics also come up short on research, generally refusing to consult updated primary sources in favor of blog posts and news articles from inside the echo chamber that simply reinforce the traditional narrative. “Confirmation bias” is rampant in broadband criticism.
Broadband advocates would do better to focus their efforts on real problems, such as our dismally low level of interest in the Internet, the primary reason non-subscribers give for refusing to go online. Ideally, these efforts would be combined with initiatives to increase computer ownership among the poor — the second reason so few Americans use the Internet. The world’s high-subscription nations, such as Korea and Singapore, aren’t the price leaders for entry-level Internet services as we are, but they’ve led successful outreach efforts to spread computer ownership, digital literacy, and Internet awareness across their entire populations.
Getting all of America online is a goal that all Americans can support regardless of party creed or ideological doctrine. If we can make as much progress with online participation as we’ve made with speed, Europe will have a second Internet crisis on its hands.Read More →
“Los Angeles is an underachieving city,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in its 2013 mayoral endorsement. ”The candidate with the most potential to rise to the occasion and lead Los Angeles out of its current malaise and into a more sustainable and confident future is Eric Garcetti.”
An overwhelming number of startup founders seem to agree that Garcetti is the best candidate to bring out the best in Silicon Valley’s sister city to the south.
“Eric is by far the best candidate for Los Angeles, and has demonstrated a clear plan to grow jobs & our local economy. The proof is in his record, he spearheaded an innovative partnership with our company to provide LA business owners/operators the simplest way to get business licenses,” Jason Nazar, founder and CEO of Docstoc, told us in an email. “He has the overwhelming endorsement of our tech community, and he’s someone I know will work tirelessly to make this the best city for every small business.”
Given the strong desire by L.A.’s startup community to see Garcetti in office, and his impressively geeky record as a city councilman, I’m compelled to endorse his candidacy and urge Angelenos to elect him as its next mayor on May 21st.
Government’s have an undeniable impact on technology entrepreneurs: burdensome taxes and regulations can strangle innovation in the cradle, while funding for education and research are foundational to emerging stars.
Mayors can be powerful allies if they care enough about startups. If San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee hadn’t personally gone out to petition for local proposition E, it might never have passed and saved nascent startups thousands in payroll costs.
Most importantly, we likely won’t know the biggest challenges of the industry in the near future. A few years ago, the sharing economy barely existed, let alone faced the aggressive targeting of government regulators. In Garcetti’s (hopefully) eight years as L.A. mayor, the only thing we have to go on in whether he will prioritize startups on unknown issues against established interests is how he has treated startups in the past.
Nearly every startup we spoke to not only knew of Garcetti, but knew him personally. We cannot think of a policymaker in L.A. who has dedicated more of his time to our readers. But don’t take it from me, take it from the flood of endorsements we received on his behalf (below).
Our mission with TechCrunch’s policy channel, CrunchGov, is to keep our readers informed about laws and policymakers that affect your ability to build amazing things. As mayor, Garcetti will no doubt help you all do that.
Tara Tiger Brown, Represent.LA/ LA Makerspace
Eric Garcetti understands the importance of startups and technology to the future of the Los Angeles economy. He wants high school students to learn how to code, he understands that small tech firms are key to retaining engineering talent, and he’s dedicated to working closely with our research universities to ensure we benefit fully from our innovation leadership.
Sam Friedman & Alexander Israel, ParkMe co-founders
Eric Garcetti has the right policies to foster innovation and growth for our tech industry. His stewardship will drive collaboration among the private sector and local government to help create solutions and increase efficiencies to issues such as traffic and parking.
Jason Lehmbeck, Datapop
Garcetti would be the first real tech champion in the LA mayor’s office. His track record on the council in leveraging tech to make Angelenos lives better speaks for itself including launching the first 311 app in his district years ago. His specific plans as mayor point to LA taking its rightful place as a global center of innovation. These aren’t just campaign talking points, they are real initiatives that will have a big impact on city life including appointing a city CTO as well as setting up an office to work with LA’s great universities to encourage all those talented engineers and scientists to stay in LA. As a tech entrepreneur in LA, he has my vote.
Greg Cohn, Co-Founder & CEO, Ad Hoc Labs (makers of Burner)
Eric understands the impact the tech economy is having on LA today, and as an ideas person, the long-term transformative potential inherent in fostering a startup ecosystem. He also gets tech culture — both at the level of what needs to be done to support & enable it, and at the level of what the city could learn from it to be more efficient and effective.
Adam Lilling Managing Director – Plus Capital and Founding Director – LaunchpadLA
Too many politicians make decisions based on personal experience. It’s very limiting. Eric uses data to inform and drive his decisions and he uses it to help others see the way forward. From the first time I met him (he knew the lease terms on my Chevy volt by heart) to the last time I heard him speak (he used historical data and a trend line to make a point) he has the substance to support his charming ways
Marc Mitchell, CEO and co-Founder, Lootsie
Eric has consistently shown that he understands how technology can be used effectively, efficiently and at a low cost to address LA’s everyday problems. In his district, the Garcetti311 app has been used to fill potholes and to identify and remove graffiti in a quick, cost-effective manner that puts citizens directly in touch with their elected leaders. Solutions like these are replicable and scalable and will benefit all of LA when Eric is mayor.
Jason Rapp, Managing Director, Science-Inc.
“Eric Garcetti has actively supported the tech community in LA for years. He understands that the tech industry is a powerful job engine and community builder. He listens carefully and he takes action swiftly — two important ingredients whether you’re running a startup or a city.”
Salesforce Acquires Evernote-Like Web Clipping Service Clipboard For Double-Digit Millions, Service Shut Down In June
Clipboard, the web clipping service which operated as something of a cross between Evernote and Pinterest, has been acquired by Salesforce. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but we’re hearing that it was mostly cash, and that the final figure was in the “double digit millions.” The startup had previously raised $2.5 million from a “who’s who” of high-profile investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, CrunchFund, SV Angel, Betaworks, DFJ, First Round and others.
Founded in 2011 by Gary Flake, Clipboard’s vision was to help users snip and save web content using simple online tools. That content could then be organized into “boards,” where those items could be annotated and shared, or collaborated on with others. Given the similarities to existing services like Pinterest and Evernote, both with huge traction themselves, Clipboard had yet to find a substantially sized audience for its service.
Prior to the acquisition, the company had grown to around 100,000 users, and was seeing growth rates of 40 percent month-over-month. In January, it reported having reached 1.7 million+ clips since it had opened its private beta, back in October 2011.
The company had some interest in the education space, however. At the beginning of the year, it received a strategic investment from ed-tech company Scientia. But following the Salesforce buyout, the product itself will be shut down and discontinued on June 30th, 2013, so those earlier plans to further develop the product for use in the education space will be discontinued as well.
Today, Clipboard is offering users an exportable zip file of their clips, and has alerted its customers via email.
Though pictured in the blog post announcing the acquisition are seven team members, two had left on their own prior to the Salesforce deal. Most of the remaining members will continue on to Salesforce, where the plan is to integrate the technology into that company’s existing line up of productivity tools.
The deal was not just an acqui-hire situation, as Salesforce was interested in the team, product, and related IP. That being said, Salesforce has offered incentives to Clipboard’s team, including Clipboard CEO Flake, to remain on with the company after the deal closes. The staff, previously based in Bellevue, will relocate to Salesforce’s Seattle offices going forward.
We have confirmed that Clipboard’s Product Management lead, Shalendra Chhabra, will not be one of those joining Salesforce, though. Now with two successful startups (the other being Swype) behind him, he says he ready to do something new, and already has a company in stealth mode which will be his focus now.
The final blog post from Flake, simply titled “Farewell,” is below, and includes a full investor lineup:
Read More →
As you may have already read on our landing page or FAQ, Clipboard is a different company today than it was yesterday. Those two links are your primary resources for learning the “how” and “why” behind the transition that we are making, and they should answer most of your questions about how these changes impact you.
Here, in this blog post, I simply want to thank everyone that made Clipboard possible. As a founder, I can’t imagine a better team, in or out of a startup. Thank you Shalendra Chhabra, Steve Courtney, Mark Dawson, Brandon Hall, Tommy Montgomery, Greg Pascale, and Ken Perkins, not just for being along for the ride, but for making both the highs and the lows better in every way.
Our company advisors helped this first-time CEO avoid numerous pitfalls. Matt Jubelirer, Fritz Lanman, Tom Rubin, David Vaskevitch and Hank Vigil, thank you for your invaluable guidance and advice
Our murderers’ row of investors bet on us, opened numerous doors, and cheered us on the whole time. Thank you to Acequia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Atlas Accelerator, Betaworks, Blake Krikorian, Code Holding, Crunch Fund, DFJ, First Round Capital, Founders Co-op, Index Ventures, Kevin Johnson, Scientia LTD, SV Angel, Ted Meisel, Tentpole Ventures, Vast Ventures and Vivi Nevo.
We were unreasonably fortunate in being selected by Apple, Google, and Microsoft at different times for different marketing campaigns. Thank you to those companies for making us look better if just by association.
Thank you also to the bloggers and press that covered us from launch to exit.
And finally, thank you, most of all, to our users. Your suggestions, content and overall engagement were the oxygen to our flame. You inspired us and we hope that in some small way we made your online life a little better, a littler more productive and a little more fun.
A new startup launching today called Everwise is looking to help. The San Francisco and New York-based startup, which was co-founded by tech industry veteran and current Yahoo board chairman Maynard Webb and former Audium founder and Cisco executive Mike Bergelson, has built a tech-powered platform for matching “protégés” with the right mentors and shepherding them through a six-month-long advisory relationship.
In an interview this week, Bergelson, who serves as Everwise’s CEO, said the service plugs data from a participant’s LinkedIn profile as well as a personalized questionnaire into its matching algorithm (which is based on Everwise’s studies of some 60,000 mentoring partnerships) to pair him or her with a volunteer executive from another company in the same industry to serve as a mentor. The idea is that sometimes people aren’t always the best at choosing the right mentor on their own.
“Mentor marketplaces as they exist today aren’t always working, because the people with most compelling titles and sexiest businesses get all the attention, even if they aren’t the right fit,” Bergelson said. “Everwise is like the eHarmony for mentoring… Our aim is to build longer lasting relationships that span with interactions over months.”
In addition to the software, Everwise provides a human element here too. The company has contracted live “relationship managers” who help shepherd the mentoring relationships from day one, checking in with phone calls and surveys to gather feedback and provide guidance.
There’s a price to this. Everwise charges each protégé $150 per month to use the site, and mentors, which are heavily vetted by the site, participate as volunteers. That might seem expensive, but at an enterprise level it’s been received well: Over the past year in Everwise’s private beta, companies such as Hewlett Packard, Direct Energy, and Sigma Aldrich have paid for their employees to find mentors through the program. “When we talk to companies about the pricing, our monthly price costs about the same as one day of management training,” Bergelson said.
Bergelson said that Everwise is different from other services in the mentoring space such as Clarity, since it is focused more on people in the corporate world than on entrepreneurs. Looking ahead, though, the company could look to scale out its technology and service beyond the white-collar sphere. Bergelson explained the vision like this:
“If we can figure out a way to provide a service that’s really valuable for really senior, swtiched-on, engaged Silicon Valley people at the HPs and the eBays of the world, and do that in a scalable way, then the platform and the technology could be used in lots of different contexts. Nowadays people have 11 jobs on average by time they’re in mid-thirties. Careers are ending up in places in infinite numbers of ways. The role of the mentor, the role of guidance, is even more important now than it has been.”
Everwise, which has raised just under $1 million in seed funding, has a full-time staff of 14.Read More →
Box Acquires Crocodoc To Add HTML5 Document Converter And Sleek Content Viewing Experience To Cloud Storage Platform
Cloud storage company Box has acquired HTML5 document embedding service and Y Combinator alum Crocodoc, both companies announced in a press briefing today. Financial terms of the deal, which was a cash and stock transaction, were not disclosed; however, Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie said that it was a successful exit for investors. Crocodoc has raised a little over $1 million in funding from Y Combinator, SV Angel, Paul Buchheit, Joshua Schachter, Dave McClure, Steve Chen and XG Ventures.
What Is Crocodoc?
Crocodoc was founded in 2007 by four MIT engineers, but eventually pivoted in 2010 to kill off Acrobat. The startup’s initial Flash-based technology allowed you to upload a PDF, and receive a version of the same document in your browser, which you could then share with coworkers and annotate with notes, highlighting, text, and a pen tool, with changes that show up to other users in real time. In 2011, Crocodoc launched this technology in HTML5 for mobile embedding.
More than 100 companies, including Dropbox, LinkedIn, Yammer, Facebook and SAP, license (and pay for) the startup’s document-embedding technology, and Levie says the company has been able to build a “strong business model.”
For example, Dropbox has used Crocodoc’s HTML5 document viewing solution to allow their users to view documents in their web browsers and mobile devices without having to download large files or use desktop software (you can see an example here). Via LinkedIn’s Recruiter product, Crocodoc enables recruiters to upload candidates’ resumes in Word and PDF formats without having to download files and open them using desktop software.
Customers can also customize the appearance and behavior of Crocodoc’s viewer and access built-in commenting, annotations, highlighting and drawing tools. Crocodoc, which now has seven employees, says that it has powered 189 million document previews and 14 million document annotations.
Also worth noting — earlier this year, Crocodoc launched a new version of its converter, which uses both HTML5 and scalable vector graphics (SVG). With the last version of the player, text was overlaid on top of the image using HTML web fonts. The newer version displays everything in the document as HTML5 and SVG, making for crisper lines and shapes in the converted documents. Documents also load significantly faster, as the browser won’t have to load a large image to display.
As Levie explained today, Box acquired Crocodoc because the company wants to reimagine what documents look like in the cloud. “We’re focused on building the simplest way to let businesses store and manage documents anywhere, and were looking for ways to change how users interact with content,” he says.
We’re told that Crocodoc will continue to be operated and licensed to existing and new users, but Box will integrate Crocodoc’s technology into its own cloud storage platform to allow customers to have a seamless use of the embedder and viewer. And there’s much more that Box and Crocodoc CEO Ryan Damico want to do with the product within the Box family. Damico, who will become Box’s director of platform, will be running content services for the company, and the entire Crocodoc team will be joining Box.
Next up for the product? Damico explains that more secure documents viewing, mobile collaboration, real-time presentation, form-filing and document authoring will all be added in the coming year. Levie says there will also be a new version launching later this year with new viewers like a flip-book-like technology, as well as a carousel experience for documents. There will also be new branding around the Box Platform, he added.
Sam Schillace, Box’s VP of engineering who was also one of the founders of Google Docs, explains that Crocodoc’s technology doesn’t look or feel like enterprise software. “It looks so beautiful and polished, and it is a standard all have to shoot for when viewing documents,” he says.
With 15 million users, and 150,000 businesses across retail, health care, financial services and more, Box is growing fast as it eyes a potential public offering in the next year. Part of growing further will be around adding compelling experiences to the user experience. Levie says that 2 billion content events happened in Q1 alone, so thinking about new ways to improve content experiences makes sense. And Crocodoc is an interesting move considering that its technology is used by one of Box’s main competitors, Dropbox.
It’s no secret that Dropbox has its own ambitions around content, as explained by AllThingsD earlier this year.
But Box believes that they, along with Crocodoc’s technology, can be the leader in improving every experience you have with documents on the Internet. Similar to the way that YouTube remade the online video experience and Facebook and Flickr reimagined the photo experience, Box wants to make embedding documents less clunky.
You can check out Crocodoc’s experience below:Read More →
Politicians are increasingly getting used to talking to their constituents online, especially during election season. They’re doing Reddit AMAs and virtual town halls to answer questions and enter debates with others. But until recently, there haven’t been many good platforms for doing so. CrowdHall hopes to provide a platform that anyone can use for these types of communications.
CrowdHall was created as a way to enable politicians, public figures, and organizations to hold town hall or question and answer sessions online. Unlike other options out there, the CrowdHall platform can be used to curate and moderate questions as they come in, allowing the respondent only to respond to the themes or queries that are most important to them.
That helps to solve the Reddit Ask Me Anything problem, where a large group of vocal users have their questions bubble up to the top — but they might not always be the most relevant to the discussion at hand. It also has a more refined look than some of the other discussion platforms out there. Oh, and CrowdHall also has the added bonus of letting users respond to questions not just via text, but also with other media, such as photos and video.
While those who create discussions won’t have the benefit of a huge engaged audience like on Reddit, there are plenty of tools to reach the people who are most likely to participate. CrowdFund co-founder Jordan Menzel told me that those who set up discussions can add them to newsletters and other communications, and also use social sharing features to distribute out to Facebook or Twitter.
CrowdHall is in beta now, but hopes to offer up a freemium model for users who wish to take advantage of higher-end features in the future. Right now CrowdHall sessions happen on its own page, but the company will enable them to customize pages with their own branding, as well as to embed the discussions in their own websites. One other feature that could be enabled is the ability to create private chats, which would be perfect for internal discussions of topics within companies.
The platform has been leveraged to host town halls and discussion forums for agencies, politicians, and public figures such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Senator Boozeman, Senator Brown, and economist Jeffrey Sachs. It’s also been used by organizations such as LivingSocial, People Water, SparkPeople, Teach for America, United Way, and Columbia University.
CrowdHall was founded by former Assistant to Secretary Albright Jordan Menzel, med school dropout Austin Hackett, and designer and developer Nick Wientge. The startup has raised $700,000 from investors including the Las Vegas Tech Fund, The Brandery, Vine Street Ventures, Calvin Soh, Greg Kidd, Social Starts, John Tan, Northwestern Capital, as well as assorted friends and family.Read More →
A new federal database of hospital prices shows a massive disparity in medical costs. “Average inpatient charges for services a hospital may provide in connection with a joint replacement range from a low of $5,300 at a hospital in Ada, Oklahoma, to a high of $223,000 at a hospital in Monterey Park, California. Even within the same geographic area,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who spearheaded a new transparency initiative to reveal traditionally secretive hospital bills.
The Center for Medicare and Medicade Services released a public spreadsheet for the top 100 most frequently billed procedures in more than 3,000 hospitals around the country.
As compiled by the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff and Dan Keating:
Ventilator: $115,00 George Washington University vs. $53,000 at Providence (5.4 miles distance)
Lower limb replacement: $117,000 at Richmond CJW Medical Center vs. 25,600 at Winchester Medical Center
Pneumonia: $124,051 in Philadelphia vs. $5,093 in Water Valley, Mississippi.
(Note: for more data fun, the Washington Post has a great (non-embeddable) graphic comparing the average costs from different states)
There is some debate about how much patients, insurance providers and the government actually end up paying. “It’s true that Medicare and a lot of private insurers never pay the full charge,” said assistant professor at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School, Renee Hsia, “But you have a lot of private insurance companies where the consumer pays a portion of the charge. For uninsured patients, they face the full bill. In that sense, the price matters.”
Another possible explanation of price variation is quality: some patients might be perfectly willing to shell out an extra $100K for a better hip replacement. But, it’s not clear whether that’s the case, because we don’t have data correlating patient outcomes with price.
The technology startup community has attempted to generate their own national rankings of medical quality. Healthtap, for instance, allows patients to anonymously seek free public medical advice, which is rated up or down by a community of doctors who are active on its forums. The more likes a doctor gets, the better he is viewed among his peers.
Still much more transparency is needed to accurately assess the cost vs. benefit ratio. This is one small step in the right direction. Kudos to Secretary Sebelius.Read More →