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Archive for the ‘Wireless 2.0’ Category

Article from GigaOm.

Zscaler a four-year-old startup that has bootstrapped its business by providing a new form of security designed for a mobile and cloud-dependent workforce, has raised $38 million in first-time financing. The round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and an unnamed strategic investor.

Zscaler has been fairly successful in its four years building a significant base of clients including Crutchfield Corporation, La-Z-Boy and Telefonica. The company’s software as a service is hosted in more than 100 data centers around the world and essentially protects a company’s web traffic. It does this by routing requests through Zscaler’s software. But there’s no software for users to download on their clients and there’s also no appliance for corporate IT to worry about.

As the cloud and mobility do away with the perimeter model of security where a firewall may prevent harmful traffic from getting in and corporate secrets from getting out, Zscaler is one of several new companies trying to adapt security to a world where there is no perimeter. And even if the corporate IT thought it had a perimeter, the corporation may not own it or have a say in what runs on it. A perfect example of this might be the CEO’s iPad (a aapl).

Zscaler doesn’t solve all problems, but it’s certainly ahead of the pack in thinking about security in a forward-looking way. Other companies trying to address the changes in security required by BYOD and corporate access to the cloud applications are Bromium and CloudPassage. And by waiting to take on venture capital Zscaler’s CEO Jay Chaudhry has joined a select group of established companies who are finally succumbing to the lure of VC cash. For example Qualtrics, a ten-year-old company this year raised $70 million in its first round of outside investment. Another company, Code 42, avoided VC dollars for 11 years before this year raising $52.5 million.

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Article from GigaOm.

Apigee, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based API management platform and services company is buying San Francisco-based Usergrid, as part of its increasing focus on the mobile app business.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Companies such as Netflix and AT&T have been using Apigee to offer their application programming interfaces to developers. While most of Apigee’s initial efforts were focused on web and enterprise applications, the company (which was started under the name Sonoa Systems) has seen most of the developer focus shift to mobile.

When I asked Chet Kapoor, Apigee CEO if this acquisition was a change in direction for the company, he said that Apigee had been dealing with the shift to mobile for nearly a month. He said developers (including those in enterprises) are thinking about mobile apps before web apps.

Apigee, Kapoor says will offer the Usergrid and its own API management platform as a cloud-based service. With this acquisition, Kapoor says, Apigee will now be able to give enterprises and developers a simple, easy and scalable way to access the full range of APIs — enterprise APIs, public APIs, and, now with Usergrid, the core APIs that all mobile applications need.

Usergrid was started by serial entrepreneur Ed Anuff who most recently worked for Six Apart. Previously, he was co-founder of Widgetbox, a popular marketplace for widgets, and he was also co-founder of enterprise software company Epicentric, an enterprise portal software company. He left Six Apart to start Usergrid, a mobile app cloud platform with focus on user management. As part of the deal, Anuff will join the new company as a vice president.

Anuff started Usergrid to collapse the complex mobile-app development stack and allow developers to focus all their energies on client side presentation and application logic – aka what sits on the phone. He wanted to hide all the complexity – hosting, databases, storage, server-side application logic, API services and user provisioning – and offer it as a cloud service. The cloud-based mobile app development platforms are a hotly contested category and recent entrants like Parse have drawn a lot of attention.

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Article from TechCrunch.

“$41 million. From Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank. Pre-launch.

That’s how much a brand new startup called Color has to work with. Your eyebrows should already be raised, and here’s something to keep them fixed there: this is the most money Sequoia has ever invested in a pre-launch startup. Or, as the Color team put it, “That’s more than they gave Google.”

But the founding team goes a long way toward explaining it. Headed by Bill Nguyen — who sold Lala to Apple in late 2009 — the company has attracted a wealth of talent. It has seven founders including Nguyen and company president Peter Pham, who previously founded BillShrink. And its chief of product is DJ Patil, who was previously LinkedIn’s chief scientist.

So what exactly is Color?

Update: The application is now available for the iPhone at Color.com. Android is coming.

At first glance, it looks like another mobile photo app, like Path, Instagram, or PicPlz. You take snapshots with your mobile phone (the app supports both Android and iOS at launch) and they appear in a stream of photos. And there aren’t even any of those trendy lenses to spruce up your images. Sounds pretty basic, right?

But the beauty of Color stems from what it’s doing differently. Unlike Instagram and Path, there isn’t an explicit friend or following system — you don’t browse through lists of contacts and start following their photo stream. Instead, all social connections in the application are dynamic and established on-the-fly depending on whom you’re hanging out with. And your photos are shared with everyone in the vicinity. In some senses this is the Twitter of photo apps — it’s all public, all the time (I’m ignoring Twitter’s protected tweets, since most people don’t use them). Another way to look at it: it’s almost the complete opposite of Path, which is built around sharing photos with an intimate group of friends.

It’s difficult to explain what Color does with a bullet list of features, so I’ll try painting an example that hopefully demonstrates how it works.

Say you walk into a restaurant with twenty people in it. You sit down at a table with four friends, and start chatting. Then one of your friends pulls out their phone, fires up Color, and takes a snapshot of you and your buddies.

That photo is now public to anyone within around 100 feet of the place it was taken. So if anyone else in the restaurant fires up Color, they’ll see the photograph listed in a stream alongside other photos that have recently been taken in the vicinity.

In a crowded area these streams of photos will get noisy, so Color also has some grouping features. Tell it which four people you’re eating with, and Color will create a temporal group with a stream of just the photos you and your buddies have taken. But here’s the twist: because everything on the service is public, you can also swipe to view other groups, to see what the tables next to you are snapping photos of. And you can always jump to the main stream, which shows a mishmash of photos taken by everyone.

It takes some time to wrap your head around, and my time with the app was limited, so I can’t really vouch for how well it works. But there’s some very interesting technology that’s working behind the scenes to make Color more than just a simple group photo app.

First are the social connections, called your Elastic Network. All of your contacts are presented in a list of thumbnails ordered by how strong your connection is to that user. Whenever Color detects that you’re physically near another user (in other words, that you’re hanging out), your bond on the app gets a little stronger. So when you fire up the app and jump to your list of contacts, you’ll probably see your close friends and family members listed first. But if you don’t see a friend for a long time, they’ll gradually flow down the list, and eventually their photos will fade from color to black-and-white.

These social connections are important because they’re the only way to view a stream of photos beyond those have been taken near you. If you fired up Color in that restaurant example from earlier, you’d only be able to see photos that had been taken by friends and strangers within 100 feet of that restaurant. That is, unless you jump to your social connections. Tap on your best friend’s profile photo, and you’ll then be able to see all of the photos that have recently been taken within 100 feet of them. In other words, Color is trying to give you a way to see everything that’s going on around you, and everything that’s going on around the people you care about.

The Groups feature also makes use of this elastic network. In the restaurant example above, the application would likely already know who your friends were based on your previous interactions and would automatically place them in the same group — you wouldn’t have to manually do it yourself.

Color is also making use of every phone sensor it can access. The application was demoed to me in the basement of Color’s office — where there was no cell signal or GPS reception. But the app still managed to work normally, automatically placing the people who were sitting around me in the same group. It does this using a variety of tricks: it uses the camera to check for lighting conditions, and even uses the phone’s microphone to ‘listen’ to the ambient surroundings. If two phones are capturing similar audio, then they’re probably close to each other.

So far I’ve described a compelling and unique photo app with some neat tricks. But how exactly is Color going to make “wheelbarrows of cash”, as Nguyen says?

At this point the company is still very early on, but it eventually plans to offer businesses a self-serve platform for running deals and ads as part of the Color experience (you fire up the app to see the photos being taken around you, and you also see the special of the day, for example).

But that’s just the start. Nguyen has visions of fundamentally changing some aspects of social interaction and local discovery with the app, which he considers part of the so-called Post-PC movement. Using all of the data being collected (remember, the app is taking advantage of all of your phone’s sensors), Color hopes to eventually start recommending nearby points of interest, and maybe even interesting people.

There are still plenty of questions, even about the existing service. This kind of voyeurism — you’re sharing photos with the world and looking at photos from strangers — could take a while to get used to. People may reject it entirely. Or it may be completely addictive. There’s really no way to tell until people start using the app in the wild.

The future is unclear, but promising. And with this much money in the bank and a staff of 27, Color has plenty of time to hone in on what works.”

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Article from GigaOm.

“A few years ago, Jeff Jarvis, a good friend of mine, published a book called What Would Google Do? When he wrote that book, Google had an aura of invincibility. Fast forward to today: Thanks to Facebook, it doesn’t seem so invincible. The new social web has passed it by. So, the question today is: What should Google do?

I’ve always maintained Google has to play to its strengths – that is, tap into its DNA of being an engineering-driven culture that can leverage its immense infrastructure. It also needs to leverage its existing assets even more, instead of chasing rainbows. In other words, it needs to look at Android and see if it can build a layer of services that get to the very essence of social experience: communication.

However, instead of getting bogged down by the old-fashioned notion of communication – phone calls, emails, instant messages and text messages – it needs to think about interactions. In other words, Google needs to think of a world beyond Google Talk, Google Chat and Google Voice.

To me, interactions are synchronous, are highly personal, are location-aware and allow the sharing of experiences, whether it’s photographs, video streams or simply smiley faces. Interactions are supposed to mimic the feeling of actually being there. Interactions are about enmeshing the virtual with the physical.

In a post earlier, I outlined that with the introduction of its unified Inbox, the constantly changing Facebook had shifted its core value proposition from being a plain vanilla social network to a communication company. Here’s a relevant bit from that post.

Facebook imagined email only as a subset of what is in reality communication. SMS, Chat, Facebook messages, status updates and email is how Zuckerberg sees the world. With the address book under its control, Facebook is now looking to become the “interaction hub” of our post-broadband, always-on lives. Having trained nearly 350 million people to use its stream-based, simple inbox, Facebook has reinvented the “communication” experience. …. Facebook as a service is amazingly effective when it focuses all its attention on what is the second order of friends – people you would like to stay in touch with, but just don’t have enough bandwidth (time) to stay in touch with. Those who matter to you the most are infinitely intimate, and as a result you communicate with them via SMS, IM Chat and voice. So far, this intimate communication has eluded Facebook. The launch of the new social inbox is a first step by Facebook to get a grip on this real world intimacy.

In 2007, I had argued that the real social network in our lives was the address book on our mobile phone. Google has access to real-world intimacy – the mobile phone address book – thanks to Android OS. All it has to do is use that as a lever to facilitate interactions.

In order to understand Google’s interaction-driven social future, one doesn’t have to look far: no further than Apple’s iTunes app store.  As you know, I have switched from BlackBerry to the iPhone, and as a result, I’ve been looking for a BBM replacement, and have been playing around with a score of apps.

In the process of searching for this app, I came across an app called Beluga, which essentially allows me to connect to my friends. And then I can create Pods (essentially Groups) with one or more of my friends. Sort of like what I did on BBM. Except, there’s more to Beluga.

It taps into my social graph (Facebook); it leverages my location, and it allows me to share photos as part of the messaging process. It’s a beautifully designed application that’s very inviting – and the experience is less communication, more interaction.

What’s beautiful about Beluga is it’s as personal and private as you want it to be. It’s just ironic that Beluga was co-founded by three Google engineers — Ben Davenport, Lucy Zhang and Jonathan Perlow — and if you see their bios, it is hardly a surprise that they ended up with an interaction-centric product like Beluga.

Yesterday, I was introduced to a new app called Yobongo, and it comes from a San Francisco startup co-founded by alumni of Justin.tv. It’s a good-looking application that leverages your location, allowing you to find people around you and to chat with them. It is at the extreme opposite of Beluga: It’s open, and you can chat with anyone. It is very real-time in nature. Of course, there are other apps like Yobongo: MessageParty, for example!

What’s common between these two apps is their ability for synchronous messaging. This messaging can, in turn, become the under-pinning of what I earlier called interactions.

Ability to interact on an ongoing basis anywhere, any time and sharing everything, from moments to emotions – is what social is all about. From my vantage point, this is what Google should focus on. If not — you know it very well — Facebook will.”

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By Tony Fish – member of Gerbsman Partners Board of Intellectual and principal at AMF Ventures. Visit his blog at: http://blog.mydigitalfootprint.com

Summary

Virtually unlimited mobile usage tariffs means that advertising is perceived as free from the users perspective, as there is no additional cost of bandwidth to the user.  These tariffs have lead to an unprecedented growth in mobile applications and the emergence of  a new eco-system. However,  “all you can eat” pricing models for mobile have become increasingly risky with the advent of new devices and operating systems from Apple and Google.  With the prospect of a return to a pay per something, users may change their view of “free” advertising and this could lead to a change in behaviour, as they will be un-willing to pay for the bandwidth for the advert.  Whilst this may seam ridiculous to anyone who understands, explaining to the user they have the wrong perception or that this is not the reason for a significant monthly bill, could be difficult.  This viewpoint therefore opens the debate; “Could some selfish business decisions be destroying the mobile eco-system that has just been created and what scenarios are worth considering?”

Unlimited Growth

We have all benefitted from the introduction of unlimited mobile tariffs.  Voice, SMS and data usage has exploded.  Economically it made sense to the operator as they had spare capacity and in reality “unlimited” has caps but these caps are set so high that a user was unlikely to reach them.

Mobiles (smart phones) have evolved and today, web site and applications (inc games) for mobile are now built with an advertising model in mind and with this has come the download requirements of, in some simple cases, banner ads to some thing complex such as video and multimedia.  With network improvement, the ability to deliver a near web experience, advances in connection management and now the iPad, users can find it easy to get close to, or pass their “unlimited” data caps.

Mobile applications driven by adverts work and the application method of delivery made up for a number of early shortfalls in network constraints and mobile web browser capability. However, due to the improved experience and performance of the mobile there are now less reasons for a Brand to have a specific mobile version.  However, in this move adverts are also served in full form from the web to the mobile.  This transition will become more important as Apple looks to force applications to use their own iAd serving technology and analytics.  These forced change are likely to speed up the migration from mobile specific application to webapp – just adding a web address and icon to the mobile desktop and also removes the dependence on apps stores as the controlling point.

So what has changed?

Apple launched OS4 with a 7th temple, which is the ability to deliver a fabulous advertising experience as “most of it sucks”.  The move is to deliver emotion and interactivity as this will help the developer community who want to build advertising revenues in exchange for free apps.  This advertising experience does come at a cost – bandwidth. OS4 also introduces background processing (multitasking), “yippee!” says the developer. However this means that the phone can hack thought the battery really quickly and chat to the network constantly.  Pushed updates become streaming.

Changes to the OS and how much data phones require for a great experience mean that the unlimited data package become very attractive to the user and advertiser as they don’t care about bandwidth, developers love it as they can deliver the real time applications and services they want for mobile. However, for the operators who are already struggling with capacity, this becomes a real headache and introduces value chain conflicts.

Implications

If the operators choose, and the evidence is currently pointing to this fact, to remove from the market unlimited packages, or such a high cap it is perceived as unlimited and lean back towards some form of pay-by-how-much-you-eat model then there could be some significant changes to the market as the users, device and applications guys try to reduce a swing to a doom loop scenario.

Here’s the crunch.  For those reading this we can find arguments why all of the above is not a concern, however, the issue may not be the reality of the situation we find ourselves in, but from the user perception, it could be very real.  If the user believes that there is a cost, irrespective of reality; they may change behaviour!

The simple newspaper headline that reads “Your paying for advertising” is difficult to counter with the argument that informs a user how big an advert is in bytes and that there is a trade for free services.  If the reason for adverts is interactivity and engagement then a technical explanation may not be that useful or that someone is exploiting your data to sell you more.

Behavioural or targeted adverting depends at some level on understanding the user which is an output from the analysis their data – My Digital Footprint.  If users find that the real monetary cost of sharing that data is too high, it kills the input.  If users find that the real monetary cost of engaging with ads is too high, it kills the value.

Given that eco-systems require trusted players who can balance risk and reward together and be reliant on complex inter-dependences; mobile is no different.  However, it would appear that some of the players are trying to play for themselves rather than the community.

Scenarios to ponder over coffee

  1. Restrictive – in this scenario the user decides to restrict their use and applications to focus on a few that are a priority and will not experiment or discover.  This could have a significant impact on social media tools and applications.
  2. Blockers – in this scenario the user decides that they are unwilling to pay for the bandwidth and introduces a blocker service to prevent their costly bandwidth being used.  This in turn destroys the fee advertising model and an outcome could be that the user ends up paying for applications.
  3. Selective – in this scenario the operator decides to become selective about which handsets can have unlimited (capped) data plans and which handsets are forced to have a PAYG data pricing model.  This forces users into a choice and device manufactures start to work with the operators to produce devices in tune with the network to gain a competitive advantage.
  4. Side-Load – in this scenario PAYG could lead to more applications being downloaded by sideloading on the PC or by WiFi. If so, developers could be affected in ways that are hard to predict. But it may affect apps being advertised on the device.
  5. Doom loop – in this scenario the operator changes the pricing and this in turn creates all the dis-benefits for the advertisers, device guys, applications developers and users.  Mobile slows and mobile operator valuations dive.
  6. Intelligence – in this scenario the middleware and platform companies work with the operators and seek out methods and processes to compress, reduce, focus, profile and select data and services that should use the limited wireless network, that is expensive.  Can data/ ads be cashed locally on the device and selected as needed or side load them using wifi or other alternative networks, or put on hold until bandwidth cost is not an issue.
  7. Advertising pays for the bandwidth – a somewhat difficult scenario to comprehend, but in this scenario the advertiser takes on the cost of the bandwidth.  However this is full of complex conflicts such as – I want to deliver the best ad, but it costs to much.
  8. No change – in reality – this is not a scenario.

Reality check

Those reading this know that ‘most’ mobile advertising is very bandwidth lean, as it a blend of:-

i)  an invitation with the consumer to interact, normally in the form of a banner. The reality being that for most consumers most of the time, this is likely to be negligible in terms of cost across a month.

ii)  a landing page, which they land on if they click on a banner – again negligible.

iii)  call to action at the landing page, which unless it involves rich media (eg video), is also likely to be small in terms of bandwidth

We know that users respond differently to ads and services on a mobile to the web but it is possible that the Apple OS4 interruption of advertising will be heavier on bandwidth, however, over 50% of iPhone ads are viewed over WiFi (2010) probably driven by speed as opposed to cost reasons. One could postulate that this trend would therefore be accelerated with the re-introduction of pay-as-you-go pricing!

All that said, users are users and their perception is how we need to live our business life – from their view point not ours.  Reflecting on the original question; “could consumer ignorance hurt mobile advertising?”, one could say this is the wrong question and it should be “is the mobile eco-system strong enough to defend itself against selfish desires of certain key players?”

If you would like to chat about the opportunities that digital footprint data brings, especially from the perspective of mobile and real time feedback, please contact me at tony.fish@amfventures.com. The book is free on line at http://www.mydigitalfootprint.com/ or you can buy it direct from the publisher at the web site. There is also a summary and a eReader/ Kindle version.

We hope that our Viewpoint improves awareness, raises questions and promotes deliberation over coffee. We will respond to e-mail, text, twitter or blog comments. http://blog.mydigitalfootprint.com

Kind regards,

Tony Fish

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Here is a good Techcrunch article about Foursquare.

“A months long fundraising process for Foursquare is in its last stages, we’ve heard from multiple sources, and Andreessen Horowitz looks to be preparing to check-in to Foursquare to take an investor badge.

The company has delayed committing to new venture capital as they considered buyout offers – negotiations went deep with both Yahoo and Facebook, and possibly Microsoft. The Yahoo discussions ended weeks ago, and Facebook passed on an acquisition earlier this week, we’ve heard.

That means the company is raising that big new round of financing. And a slew of venture capitalists, including Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Spark Capital and First Round Capital were all rumored to competing heavily for inclusion despite the $80 million or so valuation, say our sources.

Andreessen Horowitz, despite rumors that they were pulling out of discussions with the company weeks ago over concerns that too much information was leaking to the press, is the last venture capitalist standing. The fact that founding partner Marc Andreessen is on the board of directors of Facebook, a key partner or competitor of Foursquare, may be the factor that put them over the top.

Existing investors OATV and Union Square Ventures will also participate heavily in the new round, we’ve heard. In the meantime they’ve likely already loaned additional capital to the company.”

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Here is a SF gate story that talks about high-tech growth.

“The technology industry is playing the white knight of San Francisco’s struggling office market, as startups and growing companies ink deals and scour the market for space emptied out by the financial meltdown.

Many of the tenants are swelling homegrown businesses like Twitter, while others are relocating from Silicon Valley or outside the Bay Area. As of June 15, 83 technology companies were in the market, seeking 1.5 million square feet of space, up 51 percent since the financial crash in fall 2008, according to brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle, which regularly tracks the market.

To be sure, that demand alone won’t turn around a market facing more than 13 million square feet of total vacancy, according to a first-quarter research report from Cassidy Turley BT Commercial. But it’s a big step in the right direction for San Francisco’s office market and employment.

“The greatest areas of job growth in San Francisco and the drivers for economic activity across a whole host of related sectors will come from those innovative industries,” said Michael Cohen, director of the mayor’s office of economic development.

One of the largest potential deals in the market is Zynga, the maker of popular social-networking games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. The company is looking for anywhere from 150,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet of space, according to various industry sources, who asked to remain anonymous because disclosure of such information could affect their business.

Zynga was on the verge of signing a lease for approximately 140,000 square feet last fall, but that deal fell apart.

“Zynga doesn’t have an update on our expansion plans right now,” a spokeswoman said in an e-mail response to a Chronicle inquiry.

Expansion

Twitter, the popular microblogging service, expanded its San Francisco space by nearly six times in the past year. It had been looking for still more space, as much as an additional 100,000 square feet, but that effort seems to have gone quiet, sources say.

An especially encouraging trend for San Francisco business boosters, who have long lamented the exodus of companies to surrounding regions, is the relocation of a handful of Silicon Valley firms to the city in recent months.

Industry blog TechCrunch and video-streaming site MetaCafe moved up from Palo Alto, while Webcasting service Ustream and tech-consulting firm Encover Inc. arrived from Mountain View. Mobile application company Booyah Inc., also of Palo Alto, recently signed a lease to shift its headquarters to San Francisco.

In addition, gaming companies like Playdom Inc. and Playfish opened satellite offices in San Francisco, and Yammer Inc. moved to the city from Los Angeles. Meanwhile, there are a handful of out-of-state, and even out-of-country, companies touring space in the market right now, sources say.

Real estate and technology observers believe San Francisco is becoming a more attractive place to start a company or move to for a variety of reasons, including: South of Market rents that are about half of Palo Alto’s right now, the desire to cluster near success stories like Zynga and Twitter and the broader shift to the Web 2.0 world.

As Internet companies become as focused on social media and entertainment as they are on underlying technology, they want to locate near a different set of partners, customers and talent pools, several executives said.

It’s all about layering

“Tech is still the core of what we do, but you’ve got to add layers on top of this,” said David Rice, chief operating officer of MetaCafe Inc.

The company’s new address, at 128 King St., with exposed brick and a view of AT&T Park that puts their previous business-park space to shame, made it easier to tap into marketing, media and advertising expertise in the city, he said.

Other companies’ leaders say they opted for San Francisco because that’s where today’s engineering talent wants to be as well.

When David Sacks, chief executive of Yammer, asked his developers whether they should relocate the microblogging service for businesses to Palo Alto or San Francisco, the latter won hands down. This represents a distinct shift from a decade earlier when he was chief operating officer of PayPal in Palo Alto.

“There’s a lot more engineering talent living in San Francisco now,” he said. “The balance of power may have shifted.”

Web 2.0 firms also don’t need the massive research and development facilities required by the computer manufacturers and chipmakers that gave rise to Silicon Valley.

“Companies like Twitter can have incredible reach with a relatively small workforce,” said Kelly Pretzer, director of new media for the mayor’s office of economic development. “San Francisco has been able to complement that development in the industry nicely.”

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