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Archive for April, 2011

Article from SFGate.

“Yahoo sold its bookmarking service Delicious to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, part of a plan to offload underperforming sites.

The service will become part of Avos, a new Internet company, Hurley and Chen said Wednesday in a statement. Hurley is the chief executive officer of the new business.

“We’re excited to work with this fantastic community and take Delicious to the next level,” Hurley said. “We see a tremendous opportunity to simplify the way users save and share content they discover anywhere on the Web.”

Sunnyvale’s Yahoo, more than two years into a turnaround by CEO Carol Bartz, is selling off businesses and trimming staff to generate more profit. Earlier this year, it announced plans to cut about 1 percent of its staff, after a decision to eliminate about 4 percent, or about 600 jobs, in December. The strategy helped first-quarter earnings top analysts’ estimates this month.

“As we have said, part of our product strategy involves shifting our investment with off-strategy products to put better focus on our core strengths and fund new innovation,” Yahoo said in an e-mailed statement. “We believe this is the right move for the service, our users and our shareholders and look forward to watching the Delicious technology develop.”

The YouTube founders plan to “aggressively hire” to improve the service, making it easier to use. Hurley and Chen are relocating Delicious to San Mateo, near where they started YouTube.”
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Article from GigaOM.

Android has been outselling the iPhone recently but Apple’s iPhone was still the most desired smartphone in the U.S., according to the Nielsen Co. Not anymore. Nielsen said 31.1 percent of respondents in March said they want their next smartphone to be an Android device, while 30 percent said they wanted an iPhone. Nielsen said consumers planning on buying an Android in the next year increased from 25.5 percent in July to September while people planning on buying an iPhone slipped from 32.7 percent during the same period. That’s not terribly surprising considering the growing momentum behind Android. But it shows that Android’s appeal is continuing to grow even despite the broader availability of the iPhone on Verizon .

Before, Android’s rise could have been chalked up to the fact that iPhone was limited to just one carrier. But it’s increasingly showing that it is attractive by itself, not just as a more accessible alternative to the iPhone. The iPhone is still limited in distribution and opening up availability to Sprint and T-Mobile could shift things somewhat. But at this point, it seems like Android appeal is rock solid while the iPhone is cooling off somewhat with consumers. The smartphone race looks more and more like a two-horse competition, according to Nielsen. Only 10.5 percent of consumers said they planned on buying a BlackBerry device, down from 12.6 percent in July through September. Interest in Windows devices also slipped from 6.8 percent last year to 6.4 percent this year, even with the launch of Windows Phone 7 in November. Android continues to rule the smartphone marketshare battle with 37 percent, compared to 27 percent for the iPhone and 22 percent for BlackBerry.

Recent statistics show how much momentum is behind Android. Fifty percent of people who purchased a smartphone in the past six months said they had chosen an Android device while 25 percent said they had bought an iPhone and 15 percent said they got a BlackBerry device. Now Apple is still sucking down the biggest profits, and has become the largest phone vendor by revenue. And it still has a lead when you consider all iOS devices compared to Android. But Android’s momentum, especially in smartphones, is just getting stronger. If it can replicate that success in tablets, it won’t be long before it has a greater overall ecosystem reach soon.

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A Soldier Died Today__

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Soldier died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Soldier
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Soldier,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a Soldier–
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Soldier,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Soldier,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A SOLDIER DIED TODAY.”

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Article from GigaOm.

“A year and a half ago, I spent a few hours at the offices of Hunch, a New York-based startup, learning about their decision engine. By asking you seemingly random questions, the engine helped you make decisions. Hunch’s engine was a nice way to aggregate what you liked, then help you find information based on that assumption. For me, the real potential of this decision engine was commerce, and that’s why I thought perhaps Amazon should buy Hunch. It could use the decision engine to help customers sift through the ever-expanding array of offerings and make purchasing decisions. That little kernel of an idea still looms large in my thinking, especially as I wonder what the future of media and e-commerce looks like.

Social Spending

Last week, I was chatting with Lightspeed VC’s Jeremy Liew, who has invested in companies such as Bonobos, ShoeDazzle and LivingSocial. He pointed out that the first phase of e-commerce was about shopping for staples. It was utilitarian, and he pointed to the success of companies such as Diapers.com, Amazon and Zappos. The next phase of e-commerce is about recreational shopping, and as a result, it needs to be a more fun and social experience.

No wonder there seems to be a growing obsession with companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial, part of an amorphous category called “social commerce,” which means different things to different people. Elizabeth Yin, co-founder of the wedding apparel shopping service Shiny Orb, wrote in a guest column: “the social shopping space is comprised of e-commerce sites that facilitate interaction among customers as part of a shopping experience.”

If that is indeed the case, I have to say today’s social commerce companies need to build deeper social experiences. But how? And where does social commerce go from here?

Enter the “Interest Graph”

In July 2010, Chris Dixon — co-founder of Hunch — noted we would soon enter a phase where “one graph to rule them all” will give way to more-focused, social graphs built around concepts such as taste, location and trust. In other words, these concepts could become the underpinning of what is now generically known as the interest graph.

At its very core, the interest graph is a way to organize a social network based on people’s interests. For instance, if you’re a fan of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, it’s clear self-destructive Hollywood stars and their lives are what you’re interested in. The interest graphs are built through various mechanisms: by following people whom you deem as experts, through your likes and shares, etc. In the middle part of the last decade, we tried to do this through tags.

These interest graphs are more like mini-Twitters. Just as you can follow someone — Will Ferrell, for example — without being his friend, you can have an asymmetrical relationship with someone who has similar musical interests or taste in watches. As a blogger for Asset Map, a San Francisco-based startup, noted:

Music, movies, books, articles — these are all things where people have tastes that aren’t always influenced by friends — or at least not a big group of your friends. It’s no surprise to me that the most successful music services so far are things like Last.fm and Pandora that are far more organized around your musical interest graph than your musical social graph (AssetMap Blog)

Interest Graph + Commerce = Transactions

Interest graph, for me, is the underpinning of a new kind of e-commerce experience. Think of it as a new kind of social commerce experience that goes beyond the notion of group shopping (Gilt Groupe, Groupon), shopping communities and recommendation engines. When Apple launched Ping, its music-oriented social network last year, to me it represented a template for social commerce.

Since Ping’s launch, I’ve downloaded songs based on the likes and recommendations of people who are not necessarily my friends, but who I follow because they have good taste in music. Sure, I have friends who are good at picking tracks, but Ping’s social layer has helped me discover new artists.

A few years back, I met Jeff Bezos and asked him why he was buying up content sites. I suspected the Amazon founder wanted to eliminate the “advertising” between commerce and content. If you remember, in 2007, Amazon bought DPreview, a digital camera community, and later acquired IMDB, a movie database.

As always, Bezos was a little ahead of the curve. In the post-Facebook, post-Groupon world, one can see a new kind of symbiotic relationship emerge between the interest graph and the “sellers.”

The concept is no different from enthusiast magazines of the past, such as Stereo Review, except there are “network effects” at play. Network effect, according to the Wikipedia definition is, “the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people.”

While enthusiast magazines were limited by the geographic boundaries and dollars publishers could spend on attracting new customers, in the Internet age, the network allows us to spread the word at a rapid clip, especially amongst people with similar interests. More importantly, since sellers can target the exact interest graph they want, they can skip advertising entirely. Instead, they can come up with an actual offer that leads to a transaction.

For entrepreneurs, I believe there are opportunities to create unique experiences around the concept of “interest graphs” that can be built off the backs of uber-networks such as Facebook and Twitter. These networks can help find the right kind of audience to build a viable channel for new commerce experience.”

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Gerbsman Partners, a crisis management and private investment banking firm, announces a strategic alliance with Foundation Ventures, a New York City based life science boutique investment bank focused on biotechnology, medical device, and healthcare services companies seeking to raise institutional venture capital or growth capital. Foundation Ventures also provides M&A, strategic partnering and fairness opinion advisory services. Through its affiliate, Prelude Ventures, Foundation Ventures also invests in biotechnology and medical device companies; including bridge financing and syndicate participation opportunities.

Steven R. Gerbsman, Managing Principal of Gerbsman Partners, “This strategic alliance with Foundation Ventures will provide Gerbsman Partners life science and medical device clients with access to early stage and expansion capital. It will also provide the capability for Foundation Ventures to assist potential clients that are in the restructuring and/or distressed stages.”

Philip Taub, Managing Partner of Foundation Ventures, “We see the restructuring and distressed company market as an additional business opportunity in 2011. With our current focus on early stage and expansion capital funding for life science, medical device, and healthcare services companies, this alliance will allow us to concentrate on our core business, while providing us access to the expertise of Gerbsman Partners in maximizing value for companies that are restructuring or distressed.”

About Gerbsman Partners

Gerbsman Partners focuses on maximizing enterprise value for stakeholders and shareholders in under-performing, under-capitalized and under-valued companies and their Intellectual Property. Since 2001, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in maximizing value for 68 technology, life science and medical device companies and their Intellectual Property and has restructured/terminated over $795 million of real estate executory contracts and equipment lease/sub-debt obligations. Since inception in 1980, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in over $2.3 billion of financings, restructurings and M&A Transactions.

Gerbsman Partners has offices and strategic alliances in San Francisco, Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Alexandria, VA, Europe and Israel.

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Article from GigaOm.

“Facebook is planning to roll out a new version of its Groupon-style Deals feature over the next few weeks, starting with a number of cities such as Atlanta, Dallas and San Diego, according to the company’s director of local. Not surprisingly, the new version of these digital coupons plays on the social nature of Facebook and its ability to influence a user’s social graph. While the social network may be late to this particular party, doing that is going to focus attention on one big hole in the Groupon model: namely, the fact that it isn’t really social.

Emily White, a former Google ad exec in charge of the effort, describes in an interview with Internet Retailer how the site will highlight in a user’s news feed if they have indicated interest in a particular deal, and also if they have actually purchased one. Presumably, users will also be able to opt out of this feature, given Facebook’s experiences in the past with ventures such as Beacon — which publicized purchases users made at other websites and was eventually shut down after a firestorm of criticism from privacy advocates. According to White:

The fact that every step of the process — from interacting with the deal, booking the deal and experiencing the deal — is tied to friends makes it more likely that you’ll have a positive experience.

Obviously, a lot of that is Facebook’s spin on why its new service is going to be competitive with Groupon, which has become the 800-pound gorilla of email marketing by expanding rapidly over the past two years into more than 500 markets. The company’s revenues are estimated to be in the $2-billion range on an annualized basis, and it’s said to be planning a public share offering that could value the company at more than $25 billion. What Facebook is to social networking, Groupon has become to email discounting.

That clearly poses some challenges for Facebook, as my colleague Ryan noted recently. But Facebook’s view of its strengths compared to Groupon isn’t just spin. It reinforces that deals from Groupon — and even from competitors such as LivingSocial, which is also valued in the billions of dollars on the private market — aren’t that social. I wrote about one of the drivers behind Google’s reported $6-billion offer for Groupon being the fact that advertising is becoming social, and that is true. And when it comes to being social, Facebook is light years ahead of Groupon or LivingSocial.

It’s true that you can see how many other people have signed up for a deal when you go to the website from the email Groupon sends you, and there are some standard web-sharing buttons that let you post to Twitter or say that you “liked” the deal on Facebook. But that’s still not terribly social. What if you could see these deals — and which of your friends signed up for them — right in your Facebook news feed? The immediacy of that, mixed in with the other social signals and activity you are already looking at, could make you more likely to click on a deal, or even to be aware that one is available. Add the ability to comment on a deal, and it becomes something much more social that anything Groupon offers.

The news feed — the same thing that made Beacon so appealing, but at the same time so disturbing to some — is Facebook’s not-so-secret weapon, and the new version of Deals is clearly going to take advantage of that in a way it hasn’t before. Competing with a $2-billion monster is not going to be easy, even for Facebook, and signing deals with retailers is one area where the size and scale of Groupon represents a fairly compelling competitive advantage. But Facebook has the news feed and the social graph, and if advertising really is becoming social, that is a very powerful force indeed.”

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Article from GigaOm.

“Cisco is giving up on its barely two-year-old $590 million purchase of Pure Digital Technologies, announcing today that it is closing its Flip business unit and cutting 550 employees as part of a larger restructuring. The move comes after clear signs that the outsized deal was not paying off for the technology giant, which is in the midst of refocusing its business on its core networking business.

Cisco said it will close the Flip business, but will continue to support current Flipshare customers who upload and share media to the web. Cisco said it will also refocus its Home Networking business to make it more profitable and connected to the company’s networking infrastructure. It will also move Umi, its consumer Telepresence, into the business Telepresence line and sell it through an enterprise and service provider go-to-market model.

“We are making key, targeted moves as we align operations in support of our network-centric platform strategy,” CEO John Chambers said in a statement. “As we move forward, our consumer efforts will focus on how we help our enterprise and service provider customers optimize and expand their offerings for consumers, and help ensure the network’s ability to deliver on those offerings.”

The closure of the Flip unit comes a couple months after former Pure Digital CEO Jonathan Kaplan left Cisco, prompting questions about the direction of the Flip line of video cameras. Cisco bought Pure in March of 2009, saying the purchase was about extending its presence into the consumer electronics business. The company was also looking to use Pure’s smarts in simple consumer electronics design to rework its home networking business. While the deal has helped Cisco create a new line of more consumer friendly home routers, it didn’t really change the company much, a task that Om mentioned recently is incredibly hard for large companies. And it hasn’t resulted in a big revenue driver in video cam sales.

That’s because while Flip grew fast with its single purpose design, which managed to move millions of units, its continued growth was checked by the rise of smartphones that can increasingly shoot HD video while offering more wireless sharing options, something Flip’s camera’s never included, an irony for a networking company. Another new consumer business, Umi, a home video conferencing product, has also failed to capture a lot of buzz, in part because of its high price. With Kaplan headed toward the door, we speculated that the deal for Pure had turned into a flop.

Now it appears that Cisco is making that conclusion official. CEO John Chambers earlier this month laid out a major reorganization for the company in a memo to employees outlining how the company would refocus on five areas: core routing, switching and services; collaboration; architectures; and video. While Chambers said Cisco would still focus on video, it appears he was not referring to Flip. This deals a major blow to the idea of a single-purpose simple video cam, which may still have a niche place in the market. But while Cisco jettisons Flip, and admits defeat, the move shows the company is clearly serious about retrenching and getting back to basics.”

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