Archive for March, 2014


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Hey, you! On the computer! You want fame? You want glory? You want more free pizza than any human should consume in a single night? Come build with us.

We like to start off each of our conferences with a 24-hour hackathon, and we’re continuing that tradition at Disrupt SF in September. It’s going to be crazy.

I know, I know – of course we’d say our event is going to be crazy. But seriously: We’ve had people build everything from zombie-centric music games to knife-wielding robots. We’ve had hackathon projects spin out into full-fledged companies, raise funds, and get acquired for millions of dollars.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • As long as you’re building something, participating is free. Interested sponsors, give us a shout.
  • After 24 hours of building, hackers present their projects to their peers and a panel of all-star judges (we’ll announce those judges in an upcoming post).
  • Every hacker who finishes their project and presents on stage gets a free pass to the entire conference, normally valued at around $2,000. Why? Because you’re awesome and we love you.
  • The team behind the best hack of the day takes home a cool $5,000, and the top three teams all get to present their projects to the Disrupt audience. There will also be a bunch of prizes awarded by the Hackathon sponsors – more news on those in a few days.

The Disrupt SF 2013 Hackathon runs September 7 and 8, and we’ve just released the very first batch of tickets. What are you waiting for?

Our sponsors help make Disrupt happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team here sponsors@techcrunch.com.


Online event registration for Hackathon at TechCrunch Disrupt SF: Sept 7 – 8, 2013 powered by Eventbrite

gadgets-chrome-nexus-iphone4

Does the high-res Nexus 7 beat out the iPad mini? Why has Apple’s average selling price gone down? Is Google’s new Chromecast dongle an Apple TV/Airplay killer?

We discuss all this and more on this week’s TechCrunch Gadgets Podcast. The show features John Biggs, Matt Burns, Jordan Crook, Chris Velazco, Darrell Etherington, and Romain Dillet. Packed house, I know.

So sit back, relax, and listen to us make fun of each other while discussing this week’s developments in gadgetry.

Enjoy!

We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3pm Eastern and noon Pacific.

Click here to download an MP3 of this show.
You can subscribe to the show via RSS.
Subscribe in iTunes

Intro Music by Rick Barr.

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It is not a good day to be Zynga, or one of its investors if you held stock in the firm yesterday. Following a decidedly negative earnings report, investors have unloaded the firm’s shares, sending them down around 15 percent in regular trading.

That loss comes after Zynga’s stock price rose in the wake of a very strong quarterly performance by Facebook. Investors had hoped that the strength of Facebook’s earnings indicated that Zynga, too, would have reported a good set of financial and user-based metrics.

It was perhaps a decent gambit, but it was utterly wrong. A small picture of the company’s decline: Zynga’s daily active user count for the quarter totaled 39 million. However, in the preceding sequential quarter, Zynga had 52 million daily active users. A year ago, that figure was 72 million.

Revenue, to cite another statistic, was down by more than $100 million to $231 million. Zynga is a company in steep decline.

And the market docked its allowance. Comparing yesterday’s closing price of $3.50, Zynga’s current price of $3 is a just over a 14 percent decline. In dollar terms, Zynga today shed around $400 million of market capitalization. As you will recall, this is not the first time that Zynga has suffered from this sort of gut punch to its stock price.

This is not Zynga’s lowest point. The company’s 52 week low rests at $2.01 per share, at which point Zynga was worth less than $2 billion. Zynga’s stock peaked in March 2012 at a price of $14.69. At current tip, Zynga’s stock has declined around 80 percent since its all-time high.

Whether Zynga can pull out of its current slide is an open question. Its CEO change provided a large bump in its market valuation, sending the worth of Zynga up $300 million. Quickly, those gains have been erased, and more.

Zynga reported $1.53 billion in cash and marketable securities. The market is therefore valuing Zynga, post cash, at under $1 billion. Zing? Guh.

Top Image Credit: Ben Watts

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FindIt, a new mobile application offering universal search across emails and files stored in the cloud, is today making its official debut. With the FindIt app for iOS, you can quickly connect your Gmail, Dropbox and Google Drive accounts, and then proceed to search by keyword, person, time or file type. But the ability to search for items is not what makes FindIt unique – it’s how you search.

The concept of aggregating a user’s email, local file systems, and various cloud services in order to offer a single mechanism to search across data sets is not a new one. FindIt currently competes with other file aggregators on web and mobile, including, for example, CloudMagic and Younity (which, coincidentally, TechCrunch just took a look at today). But more broadly, FindIt also competes with some of the moves Google has been making in recent months to personalize search. Its opt-in Google Search “Field Trial,” for instance, combines data stored in Google’s more personal services like Drive, Calendar and Gmail, which then becomes searchable through Google.com.

However, explains FindIt co-founder and CEO Levi Belnap, the problem with search, and especially mobile search, is not in the capabilities of the back-end search technology involved. It’s the process of searching and the way that search results can be narrowed and filtered that needs a change.

“Search technology, in and of itself, is actually pretty good these days,” he says, noting that many companies, his included, likely take advantage of the same open-source technologies to power their backends. “But the process of searching on a phone is broken. There’s not enough space to open up advanced search and type in all these different variables. Plus, nobody wants to type anything on a phone,” he adds.

With FindIt, after you connect your accounts during setup, you can then search in a manner that more closely resembles how humans think about the things they’re trying to remember. For instance, if you’re trying to remember a restaurant you visited, you wouldn’t just type in “Italian,” but you may remember that you ate there a month ago, or that you went there with certain friends.

That same concept of drilling down in a more natural way is applied to FindIt’s own search interface, and to get there, you just tap. You can either kick off a search with a keyword then apply filters, or you can start off by tapping on “search by person,” “time” or “type” directly from the homescreen.

After you type in your keyword(s), you then tap on filters to narrow your results, specifying you only want emails or images or presentations, perhaps, or only want to see files from last week or 30 days ago.

This is easier than swiping through a long list of results on your phone, which is what you have to do today when using some competing apps, or even your native mail client, or the Gmail, Dropbox or Drive apps themselves.

In the version of FindIt awaiting App Store approval now, the app will support multiple accounts and will introduce an even more visual way to search through time. (Pictured below.)

Belnap says the idea came to him after having left his earlier work with a clean-tech nonprofit to attend Harvard Business School. He trained his replacement for half a year, but then found out that a month after he started school, the guy had quit. “I learned that he didn’t work with the right people and the right things,” says Belnap.”He just didn’t have the information he needed when he needed it.”

Belnap had, of course, left a wealth of this info in files and folders, but for the new hire, it was a matter of not knowing where to look to find it. This, he says, inspired him to begin thinking about whether or not there could be a technical solution to that problem.

Initially, FindIt was conceived as a web app, but user feedback soon pushed the team, which also includes co-founders Alex Pak and Ben Morrise, toward mobile.

Now participating in TechStars Chicago, the company is planning on quickly adding several more cloud services to FindIt, beginning with ones professionals would need, such as Box or Microsoft Exchange, for example. Longer-term, the plan will be to go freemium, where paid users will be able to access data from more complex, business-focused platforms, like Salesforce.

FindIt plans to move to the Bay Area following TechStars (likely Mountain View/Sunnyvale), and has a small amount of seed funding from the incubator, friends and family.

The app is a free download here in the iTunes App Store.

Gillmor Gang test pattern

Gillmor Gang – Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recording session for today has concluded.

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Starbucks is seeing impressive adoption of mobile payments in its U.S.-based store locations, the company revealed during its quarterly earnings conference call last night (via WSJ). Mobile payments crossed the 10 percent mark in the U.S. as a percentage of in-store purchases, indicating efforts like the Starbucks mobile app, Apple’s Passbook and Square Wallet are popular among users.

The coffee franchise is pushing forward with more mobile-focused initiatives, including the installation of wireless charging mats in select locations. The Powermat-supplied wireless charging initiative follows a trial of 17 locations in Boston, and will roll-out in Silicon Valley throughout August. The standard it uses is the Power Matters Alliance variety, which unfortunately doesn’t work with phones that use the Qi standard like the Google Nexus 4. Still, a growing number of companies are joining up with PMA’s standard, and Starbucks’s continued support should help it appear in more devices.

The lesson here is that Starbucks is putting a lot of weight behind its mobile digital initiatives, and those efforts are bearing fruit. Starbucks Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman said on the call that its “various digital initiatives have added demonstrable impact to our U.S. business in the third quarter” and promises to do even more for the company with continued investment.

Pay-by-app in this way kind of defies what many thought about mobile payments in the early days, that it would be enabled by one dominant provider and come in the form of a single wallet provided by a single ruling platform creator, and that it would be enabled by NFC or something similar. The Starbucks method involves a variety of different payment options and uses traditional barcode scanning to function, and yet it’s very popular. This seems to be because it’s convenient, easy to find and carries familiar branding from multiple trusted sources.

While we still mostly pay with traditional methods, the Starbucks example is a good illustration of how mobile-enabled commerce can work if the conditions are right and the source in question has the clout to push it through. But the Starbucks model is an island, which means we could see continued growth in mobile payments on a case-by-case basis instead of as a sweeping trend that trounces cards and currency in one tidal push.

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Before being acquired by Dropbox for $100 million, before its app became one of the buzzier startups of 2013, the team at Mailbox had been known for Orchestra, a simple to-do list app with tasks you could assign to others, or pull in via email. Now that app is shutting down, and will be removed from the App Store on September 6th, the company says.

The move to shut down the app shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to its users. In order to build the email management application Mailbox, development efforts on Orchestra had stopped. In fact, the company was a case study in what a well-executed pivot should look like – it realized early on that the product wasn’t breaking out to become a mainstream hit, so the team took their initial learnings and applied them to a new area. Orchestra, the App Store’s 2011 Productivity App of the Year, inspired the team to treat emails basically like to-do’s when they moved on to building what then became Mailbox.

Now at Dropbox, the work on Mailbox continues, the company explains in an announcement about the app’s impending closure, but they need to now discontinue the app and move on.

Users are advised to copy the tasks they have within Orchestra elsewhere before it shuts down, noting that while the app will still launch on your phone if installed after September 6, all cloud services, including sync, task delegation, and access to the web app and customer support, will become unavailable. These, of course, are some of the main reasons why users chose Orchestra in the first place, so there’s little need to keep the app once it’s disconnected.

Though Orchestra was certainly a well-built to-do list application, there’s certainly no lack of task list managers in the iOS App Store ready to step up and takes its place – including some of my personal favorites like AnyDO, FetchNotes, Wunderlist, Evernote, Clear and more.

The full announcement is below:

The next chapter for Orchestra

Back in September 2012 we announced that we were pausing development on Orchestra To-do to build Mailbox. Since launching Mailbox in February we’ve been thrilled and overwhelmed by the reception. By all accounts, Mailbox has been a success so far, and we continue to develop it in earnest.

To help us focus, we’ll be discontinuing Orchestra To-do and removing the app from the App Store on September 6. If you’re still using Orchestra we recommend you copy any tasks that remain on the app and save them elsewhere. After September 6 the app will still launch, but all cloud services including sync, task delegation, access to the web app and customer support will be unavailable.

There is much about Orchestra that we love, and it’s hard for us to say goodbye to it. You may feel the same way. But we believe Mailbox offers a simpler and more direct approach to our mission of solving the problem of using email as a to-do list, and it’s important that we devote all our resources to Mailbox going forward.

As always, we’re grateful to have you with us as we journey to transform how people work together. And if you haven’t yet tried Mailbox, you can grab a copy here.

Thanks so much,
Gentry and the Mailbox team

Lightspeed bipul

On this week’s Ask a VC show, Lightspeed Ventures’ Partner Bipul Sinha joined us in the studio to field reader questions and talk about enterprise investing.

Sinha, who has led investments in Nutanix and PernixData among others, talked about how the enterprise sales model has changed over time. Sinha has an interesting view on this topic, considering he advises startups now on how to structure their sales operations and has an insider experience on how incumbent sales worked while at Oracle.

Sinha also discussed what the most interesting niche is within the software defined datacenter space. Tune in above for more!

Google’s not content with being just an online digital locker for your music, it wants you buy MP3s from it, too. A New York Times report suggests Google is looking to open an online MP3 store and is negotiating with the record labels to secure the necessary licensing agreements.

Google currently has an online music service, Music Beta, that serves as an online digital locker. You can upload your music library and access it remotely, but you can’t purchase new music through the service. This limitation puts Google at a distinct disadvantage when compared to its competition.

And there’s a lot of competition. Services like Rdio and Spotify offer subscriptions that’ll let you stream music across a variety of devices. iTunes will match your music and sync it through iCloud. And then there’s Amazon’s Cloud Music which lets you upload and stream your personal library. You can also add tracks by purchasing them from Amazon’s Mp3 store, but there is no all-you-can-eat subscription.

According to the NYT report, Google’s gunning for Amazon, but it has to improve its bargaining skills. The company pursued similar negotiations with the music industry earlier this year, but the parties failed to reach an agreement. If Google can secure the licensing agreements this time around, it could give Amazon and the others a run for their money.

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, the first full year of Angry Birds having a whole separate game dedicated to seasons is done, and your question has been answered: yes, Rovio will make a new Halloween expansion each year, not just the first! For those of you out there not having followed Angry Birds since the beginning, there was originally an Angry Birds standalone game and an Angry Birds Halloween standalone game. Once the Halloween game became nearly as popular as the original, Rovio got wise and continued the holiday theme, eventually combining them all into one single collection called Angry Birds Seasons – that tradition continues here with the expansion that started the whole thing: Halloween.

What you’ll be able to see here is several of the speedy tiny blue birds dressed up in classic Halloween costumes heading for a hill that sounds like its full of monsters. They seem all freaked out at first, then laugh with one another because they know they can handle the danger, no big deal. Once they approach the hill, they find a bucket full of candy. This bucket also seems to contain a small creature which we do not get to see in the flesh.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjFmLROLrXU

What we must assume here is that the monsters the three blue birds imagine will be boss-like bad guys at the end of every set of Halloween levels, for one. For two, the thing in the bucket, whatever it is, seems like it’ll be a new character fighting on the good guys’ side. Teeny tiny little bird of some sort, what will your powers be? Will you bring candy to me? We shall see!

BONUS: the folks at AngryBirdsNest have suggested that since this expansion is likely to be released around Halloween, the same time as rumors place the classic Tim Burton stop-animation musical masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas in theaters again in 3D, that this Angry Birds expansion might be a collaboration with the folks at Disney, the current distributors of the film. Rovio did a similar thing with the movie RIO when it was released, creating an entire spin-off game for the film.

What do you think? Is that candy-cane in the bucket of Halloween candy enough of a clue for you? Jack Skellington, will you be our new Angry hero?!

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