Archive for June, 2012

Article from NYTimes.


Institutional Venture Partners has another billion to play with.

The venture capital firm, an investor in Twitter, Zynga and LivingSocial, has raised $1 billion for I.V.P. XIV, its 14th and largest fund to date.

According to a partner, Sandy Miller, the firm initially set a $750 million target but increased it on robust demand. The fund, which was raised over four months, relied mainly on capital from previous investors.

Unlike some of its peers, Institutional Venture Partners does not write a lot of checks, usually not more than a dozen a year. As a later-stage investment firm, it invests $10 million to $100 million in seasoned start-ups in three main buckets: Internet, enterprise technology and mobile.

“I hate to sound dull but we’re doing the same strategy,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller, a longtime technology investor and co-founder of Thomas Weisel Partners, is optimistic despite recent setbacks in the technology sector.

Skepticism in the public markets, most recently highlighted by Facebook‘s underwhelming initial public offering, has damped enthusiasm for some late-stage start-ups. Zynga, for instance, an Institutional Venture Partners portfolio company, has tumbled more than 44 percent since its debut last year. And plenty of experts question whether another start-up it has backed, LivingSocial, is worth such a high valuation after Groupon, its far bigger rival, has fallen about 50 percent since its I.P.O.

Mr. Miller acknowledges that some valuations may pull back, but he says he invests for the long term.

“I’ve watched the technology market over a 30-year period,” he said. “There’s more interesting, high quality companies today than there has ever been and by a very wide margin.”

He added, “In every market, most deals don’t make sense, and that’s true now, but that’s always been true.”

Read more here.

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Article from GigaOm.

Microsoft announced Monday that the company has officially acquired social software startup Yammer for $1.2 billion in cash. The purchase was widely reported more than a week ago, but Microsoft confirmed the deal Monday in a press release.

As we noted earlier this month, the purchase could give Microsoft a social dimension to its popular corporate software products. Yammer creates a Facebook-like experience for business clients.

Yammer will join the Microsoft Office division after the acquisition, but CEO David Sacks will continue to lead the group, Microsoft said in the release. Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office group, offered some thoughts on how Yammer might fit into the Microsoft world in a blog post that accompanied the formal press release:

The combination of Yammer, SharePoint and Office 365 will provide the most comprehensive and flexible solutions for enterprise social networking. Over time, I see opportunity for exciting new scenarios by adding Yammer’s stand-alone service alongside and integrated into our collaboration offerings with SharePoint, Office 365, Dynamics and Skype. I picture people being able to use Yammer to manage and expand their professional relationships, share and collaborate on Office documents, stay informed about content updates, and to seamlessly move from status updates and feeds into voice and video conversations.

Yammer most recently raised $85 million in a February funding round, which brought it to $142 million in total funding. The company currently has more than 5 million corporate users, including customers at 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies, Microsoft and Yammer announced along with the acquisition today.

“We think that Microsoft is a great partner for us,” Sacks said in a conference call Monday with DelBene and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “I think it’s really the best possible partner in terms of its reach and resources, and its ability to help us scale.”

Ballmer said Yammer’s emphasis on cloud computing fits perfectly with Microsoft’s expansion into that area, and Yammer’s popularity with corporate clients makes it a natural partner:

“What we love about Yammer is that it was built on the notion that things can grow virally,” Ballmer said.

They noted that Yammer will remain in the San Francisco area even after the acquisition with Microsoft, which is headquartered near Seattle.

“When most people thought social networking was for kids, we had a vision for how it could change the way we work,” Sacks wrote in a blog post Monday. “Four years ago, we started paddling out to catch the wave that we’re riding today.”

Read more here.

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Article from GigaOm.

It was a busy week around our offices. You might have heard that we hosted our Structure 2012 conference. Nevertheless, between all the talk of clouds, software-defined networks and giant data sets, I did manage to read some good articles and wanted to share those with you.

Read original article here.

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Spotflux Guards Your Privacy for Free

A new startup’s free app anonymizes and encrypts your connection, and scans for malware, while you browse.

By Alex Wawro, PCWorld

Keeping your data private while you’re browsing the Web can be time-consuming if you want to stop malware, IP-address snoopers, and malicious ads. Spotflux, a New York startup, is aiming to change that with a no-cost, easy-to-use program that encrypts your Internet connection, anonymizes your IP address, and reduces your risk of infection while you surf. Did I mention that it’s free?

Spotflux Guards Your Online Privacy for FreeSpotflux works sort of like a faster, simpler version of the Tor Network, though it’s not nearly as stringent about ensuring your anonymity. You download the application for Windows or Mac OS X from the Spotflux website (iOS and Android apps are in development), and run it. Installation is easy, and you can set the app to access a proxy server for added safety (or to ensure that you can reach region-restricted sites after your IP address becomes anonymous). When you access the Net while the app is running, all data moving into or out of your PC shuttles through Spotflux servers by way of a 128-bit SSL encrypted connection; software on the servers scans the data for malware (including malicious ads), and eliminates it.

This requires a certain level of trust, since the Spotflux servers are privy to everything you do. The payoff is the assurance that your activities are anonymized and protected. While Spotflux is cagey about what it looks for when filtering traffic (lest the bad guys learn how to circumvent the filters), we do know that it regularly updates its servers to scan for widespread malware such as DNSChanger. “We scour the Web for major offenders, and listen to the users on Facebook and Twitter to find and eliminate major sources of malware,” claims Chris Naegelin, who cofounded Spotflux in Brooklyn, New York, along with Dean Mekkawy. And since Spotflux’s staff operates the Spotflux servers, the service can reasonably promise that no­­body outside the company can use it to snoop on you.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Since your traffic goes through the Spotflux servers twice (first when your browser sends a request, and again when a site responds), you will see a slight performance hit. I ran speed tests, and my download speed consistently degraded by roughly 20 percent while the app was running. The upside: I never saw an irritating ad during several days of browsing, and my antivirus scans came up clean despite my rampant downloading. Plus, according to AT&T, my bandwidth usage was lower than ever during my weekend with Spotflux, which may be an unintended but wonderful consequence of filtering out unwanted ads.

Spotflux is still a relatively new privacy service, so it’s tough to anticipate how the company might respond to government or law enforcement requests for user data (see its stringent privacy policy for more information), but you should try Spotflux if you want a simple tool that increases your online privacy. Once you’re ready for more-comprehensive privacy-protection methods, check out our updated security guides.


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The Fashion Whip: Paging Michelle Obama Favorite, Isabel Toledo
Fashion Whip is a political style column in The Huffington Post by fashion stylist Lauren A. Rothman and HuffPost DC reporter Christina Wilkie inspired by Lauren’s experience at Styleauteur, the firm she founded. Follow on Twitter at @Styleauteur.
Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christina-wilkie/michelle-obama-favorite-i_b_1609074.html?utm_hp_ref=style

Web: http://www.styleauteur.com
Twitter: twitter.com/styleauteur
Facebook: facebook.com/styleauteur
TV Clips: styleauteur.com/press/?tubepress_page

WASHINGTON — It’s a tough time to be a political optimist. On TV, the anemic presidential race shifts into second gear, fueled by unlimited corporate cash. In Congress, the perpetual deadlock seems poised to continue indefinitely.

These days, fashion here is equally serious. First Lady Michelle Obama traded in her usual jewel tones and luscious prints last week in favor of a simple one-shouldered black dress at a formal White House Dinner. The next night in New York City, the typically bold first lady again went with a stern color, choosing a navy blue cocktail dress with a high neckline and matching cardigan for a fundraiser hosted by stylish “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The ensembles were a far cry from the lemongrass inauguration dress and coat that Obama wore on her first day in the White House in 2009, three-and-a-half long years ago.

The somber state of affairs has even made an impression upon the designer of Obama’s now-iconic inauguration dress and coat, Cuban-born Isabel Toledo. “We need an injection of optimism,” Toledo told Fashion Whip in a recent interview. “I loved that color because it was organic and you could almost taste it and smell it. For me, it really represented so much of the optimism of that day and this couple.”

As for what Toledo hoped the newly minted first lady would feel in Toledo’s design, she said, “I wanted her to feel charming, and I wanted her to charm America.”

Not surprisingly, Toledo’s career took a different course after January 20, 2009. “I went from being a best-kept secret to being a household name,” she said. Soon after, Toledo formed partnerships with Target and Payless shoes, which both released Toledo-designed collections. She also penned a memoir, “Roots of Style,” out this month. Her husband, famed fashion illustrator Ruben Toledo, did the illustrations, which appear every couple of pages.

Despite achieving worldwide name recognition overnight, Toledo said her daily life hasn’t changed much since 2009. “I love the process, I love the fabric and the stitching and the design — every step. Clothing for me is very much about the process.” It’s also a highly collaborative project for Toledo’s staff of seamstresses and pattern cutters, a group she said resembles “the United Nations,” but who all work together in her 28th Street studio in Manhattan. There, on the wall behind each seamstress’s chair, hangs a photo of Michelle Obama wearing that particular craftswoman’s creation. “Mrs. Obama wore our clothes for years before she moved to Washington,” Toledo explained “and it’s a great source of pride for us that she still does.”

Toledo’s love for the process of creating clothes, combined with her emphasis on making her entire team feel invested in that process, goes a long way towards explaining her unflappable optimism.

But it might also offer a clue into the malaise currently floating over Washington. Running for national office, unlike designing dresses, is a brutal process. No one in his or her right mind could love it, and most of Washington can’t wait for this cycle to be over.


What the city needs now is a strong dose of Toledo’s lemongrass-green optimism. Unfortunately, neither bipartisan collaboration, nor a more loveable electoral process, are likely to manifest this year.

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Article from NYTimes.

Locating a tower in San Francisco using Apple’s Maps app.

For many people, phones have become an important way to navigate the world, and mobile maps are at the core of the journey. They are often the critical element in commerce, socializing and search. So far, Google has reigned supreme in the mobile map world, with its maps on every iPhone sold so far — and, of course, on every phone based on its own Android operating system.

Last week, though, Apple gave notice it would enter the battle, announcing that in the fall, its phones would no longer carry Google maps, but instead would have Apple’s own map service built in, part of its new mobile operating system. Maps are simply too important to be left to a rival.

The question is: Can Apple build a map service that does as good a job, or a better one, than Google has?

If Apple slips up, consumers in the highly competitive smartphone market may have a good reason to turn to Android phones. If Apple succeeds, Google will be under pressure at a time when it already has to deal with other competitors in map services.

“It makes Apple more valuable and denies Google a lot of user data, and a brand presence, on the iPhone,” said Ben Bajarin, an analyst with the technology research firm Creative Strategies. If Apple cannot meet or exceed Google’s maps, he added, “it will irk their power users,” who are the most valuable customers.

Apple’s move into maps was not exactly a surprise. It has bought a few companies that make mapping features, like three-dimensional visualizations, and has secured rights to data like the names and layouts of streets in over 100 countries from TomTom, a big digital map company based in the Netherlands.

But making digital maps is not easy. Google has spent years working on its services, pouring all kinds of resources into the effort, including its Street View project to photograph and map the world. It will be hard to duplicate that depth and breadth.

“Apple has gotten into a place that is very technical, quite a challenge, and like nothing they’ve done before,” said Noam Bardin, chief executive of Waze, a mapping service that provides real-time traffic information by tracking the movement of phones.

Still, it would be foolish to underestimate Apple, said John Musser, editor of ProgrammableWeb, an online service that follows mobile application development.

“Apple so far has close to nothing in maps, because they never had a product before,” Mr. Musser said. “But they are hardly empty-handed.”

Mapping technology is a growing field that draws on everything from aerial photography to the movement of the continents, to individual comments on Web sites about a favorite hiking trail or a bad dining experience. ProgrammableWeb counts 240 mapping-related services that people building mobile map applications can draw from. That is up 73 percent from a year ago, and 243 percent from 2009.

Apple has offered few details about its plans for the map service, which is part of the new operating system, iOS 6, that was unveiled at the company’s annual developer conference in San Francisco. Some of the features may come from companies that it now owns. Apple may buy other features — like store locations and hours, and information about walking paths, landmarks and public transportation — from data companies, independent developers and consumer information services like Yelp.

Apple can expect to pay a lot of money for this information. Google declined to comment on what it spends on its map business, but others in the industry estimate that the figure is $500 million to perhaps $1 billion annually, equal to a fifth of its budget for research and development.

For consumers, an important part of the Apple service is likely to be the apps that support and enhance it. This week, Apple is set to widely release its instructions, known as a software development kit, to guide developers in designing these apps.

Those instructions are important to hundreds of independent software developers like Scott Rafer, whose start-up is making user-friendly walking directions for maps, based on things like landmarks and street views. He hopes to produce an app that is a hit in the app store, or even wins Apple’s eye as it looks for more partners.

“We’re all trying to figure out the next 100 days” before Apple releases the operating system to consumers, Mr. Rafer said. “Does Apple want gorgeous features, or do they want ubiquity?”

Read more here.

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