It’s the most reflective and introspective time of the year, so this week on the TechCrunch Gadgets Podcast we take a look back at the year that was and offer up our favorite gadgets.
John likes a lot of stuff, including the treadmill desk that has become a permanent fixture on the Gadgets cast, and some more broadly transformative gadgets, too. Predictably, I like Apple stuff, and also predictably, Matt Burns likes some kind of reciprocating saw or tool or whatever.
We now have more details on Facebook’s plans to acquire Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs, an Indian startup whose primary product is a software tool for analyzing Android apps’ performance. Multiple sources have told us that the two companies exchanged the term sheets few weeks ago, and that a final announcement could be made by mid-January. The deal size is expected to be in the range of $10-15 million.
Overall, the Little Eye Labs acquisition fits right into in Facebook’s mobile ambitions, an area where it has lagged rivals like Twitter, despite having some 874 million of its 1.19 billion-strong (September figures) user base logged on via mobile devices. And Facebook has been on the lookout for startups that could potentially help it gain a greater foothold on mobile devices.
As part of its aggressive mobile strategy, Facebook acquired Parse, a mobile-backend-as-a-service startup in April of this year.
A Facebook acquisition of Little Eye Labs would mean a lot for an Indian startup that’s less than one-and-a-half years old, and it would mean much more for the Indian startup ecosystem as a whole, where acquisitions of this profile have been tough to come by. While exploring potential acquirers, Little Eye Labs also pitched to Twitter, but Facebook seemed to offer a better deal, another source added.
One of the sources who shared some details about this proposed acquisition said that if the deal closes, most of the Little Eye Labs’ founding team will move to Facebook’s U.S. headquarters, and work there as part of the mobile engineering team.
Little Eye Labs caught the attention of potential acquirer(s) in Seedcamp, London, where the startup was refining its product along with 20 other companies. Gaurav Lochan, who joined Little Eye labs from India’s largest e-commerce company, Flipkart, earlier this year, had this to say about using the startup’s tool for fixing a bug in Google’s official I/Q app at the event. Flipkart, was also the first customer for Little Eye Labs.
Kumar Rangarajan, co-founder of Little Eye labs, had even acknowledged that the company was in discussions with Facebook earlier this month, after reports of the acquisition first surfaced. However, Rangarajan could not be reached at the time of publication. A Facebook spokesperson, who had earlier declined to offer any comments, has also not responded.
The Little Eye founders — Kumar Rangarajan, Satyam Kandula, Lakshman Kakkirala and Giridhar Murthy, all worked together previously at IBM. They started Little Eye Labs in August 2012 and were part of the GSF Accelerator’s batch from October to December of the same year. In March of this year, the startup raised seed funding of around $300,000 from GSF and Venture East.
A Little Eye Labs acquisition would not be the hugest deal for Facebook, especially when compared with its $85 million acquisition of Parse. But it would be an important enough piece in the social network’s overall mobile strategy. I know of several Indian startups working in the mobile space who hope acquisitions like these will raise the profile of the ecosystem.
I’ve wanted to do something like this, which combines the Great Wave of Kanagawa with gaming, and I was super excited when the artists at shirt.woot helped take the idea I had in my head and make it a thing you can wear.
It’s currently #16 in The Reckoning at shirt.woot. This means that it’s likely going to go live on a farm upstate where it can play in a field with other T-shirts.
Unless it sells more before Monday, and climbs back up the pack to a single digit ranking, where it’ll be safe for at least a few weeks.
If you’re interested in having this design on a t-shirt, a hoodie, or a tote bag, this may be your last chance to get it, before it is swept away by a great wave of reckoning.
THANK YOU THAT IS ALL.
I’m not sure why I thought I needed to do bold slug lines in this post. It probably has something to do with the coffee in my otherwise empty stomach.
Three years ago, a team of researchers, entrepreneurs and data geeks set out on an ambitious mission: To put the world’s technology startups under the microscope in an effort to better understand why some succeed and why 90 percent eventually go the way of the dinosaur.
Fast forward to today, and The Startup Genome (as it’s now called) has analyzed data from over 100,000 startups around the globe and has conducted hundreds of in-depth, qualitative interviews with entrepreneurs and investors. The results provide an exciting look into not only what characteristics and qualities make for a successful formula, but how different startup ecosystems stack up with each other.
The team behind the project has also begun to leverage its unique data sets to create a benchmarking tool to enable entrepreneurs to evaluate their progress compared to their peers and help them make more informed product and business decisions. This month, after more than a year of testing and tweaking, the team finally released Compass into the wild.
Compared to prior iterations, Compass founder and CEO Bjoern Herrmann (who is also one of the co-founders of The Startup Genome Project) tells us, the now fully-baked startup benchmarking tool offers automated data collection from a host of tools and services popular among SMBs, including services like Salesforce.com, MailChimp, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, PayPal, Quickbooks and Stripe.
Using data derived from the sources, Compass then funnels your startup’s business metrics into its revamped dashboard, allowing them to view company benchmarks across a range of categories, configure an alert system to stay up to date on company revenue, churn rate, user growth rate, acquisition costs and so on, while offering visualizations of that data in correlation charts, graphs and via tailored, supplemental analysis.
But the real key to the new Compass product, Herrmann says, its the new dynamic system its team developed to generate benchmarks based on large data sets. Up until today, most benchmarking solutions have relied on 50-year-old methodologies to collect and analyze data, so, the team has instead developed a methodology designed specifically for Big Data analysis.
For example, prior iterations of Compass only grouped companies in to two categories — B2B or B2C — which, of course, is a fairly limited taxonomy given the diversity of startups out there. The new product, however, places companies along a continuous spectrum based on the “complexity of customer interaction,” Herrmann explains. On one end of the spectrum, for example, will be Google Search and businesses that rely on less complex customer interactions, while, on the others side would be, say, Oracle.
The spectrum for “complexity of customer interaction,” the founder explains, is defined by looking at the interplay between a business’ transaction and traffic history. The founder compares the methodology to Google’s first dynamic ranking system for indexing and search results, except, in this case, it’s the methodology used to determine the best benchmarks to use for your company. It’s also the technology that allows Compass to provide a similar level of benchmarking accuracy to a wide range of businesses — from restaurants to retail.
As of now, Compass is free to use and the CEO says that this will remain true for the forseeable future. However, Herrmann did says that the team has begun to test premium features, which will likely include full customization, additional filters, data segmentation and so on.
Up until now, the Compass team has made most of its money via R&D for governments and consulting firms and by offering sponsored versions of its “Startup Genome Reports.” Moving forward, Compass will also begin piloting a handful of potential revenue channels, including matching companies to value-add products and services, providing automated audits of startups for investors or bye working specifically B2B transactions, or companies within large organizations. The other option, Herrmann said, is to allow financial customers, for example, to manage their relationships with their tech customers.
Going forward, in support of its launch and the continuing experimentation with new revenue channels, Compass’ team has raised a total of $700K from, you guess it, a flock of Angels. Those angels include Amir Banifatemi, Anil Sethi, Ben Congleton, Christopher Grey, Clemente Germanetti
Daniel Recanati, Erik Jansen and more.
With its new money in tow, and 1,400 new businesses joining its platform over the last 10 days, Herrmann said that the team plans to put its capital to work hiring data scientists for its research project and engineers for Compass.
1. So I already wrote this entry once, and it was long and chatty and fun, and then I hit a button I didn't even realize existed and it all went away. I am thus suddenly grumpy, and my original tone may have changed a bit. Stupid buttons.
3. If you don't have a budget line item for Amy's art (which, let's face it, is a weird line item to have in a budget, and yet), take a look at Renee Nault's incredible watercolor mermaids. She has prints and calendars for sale, and has an incredibly diverse undersea world waiting for you to dive in. So pretty. So cool.
4. Starting Christmas Day, and continuing all the way through my birthday festivities, I will be doing a chain of twelve giveaways, for everything from ARCs and printed books to cover flats, posters, and special surprises. Each giveaway will have its own rules; watch this space for details.
6. Alice and I did the Macarena this morning. I enjoyed it more than she did.
7. The year is almost over, but there are still some fun surprises to come: watch this space for details, and watch the sky for alien invasions. Darn those alien invasions.
8. Zombies are love.
9. I will be making my last pre-Christmas stop at Borderlands Books this afternoon. At this point, anything ordered won't reach you before the holidays, but you can still get signed and personalized books if you contact them before 2pm PST. After that, I don't guarantee another swing-through until sometime in January.
10. Finally for right now, Jill is still accepting donations to fund her surgery. As I said when she first started this campaign, we could buy her a future for Christmas, and that's amazing. If you've been looking for a tip jar to shove a couple of dollars into as a karmic investment for the year to come, please swing by and take a look at her plea.
I hope that you're all having the merriest holiday possible; I hope you're warm and safe and content, even if you're not in a place where you can be happy; I hope you're taking care of yourselves.
Hackathon and online technology challenge contest provider ChallengePost (disclosure: ChallengePost is the current service provider for TC Disrupt hackathon events) is pretty proud of its 2013 – the company awarded $7.5 million in prizes to developers and software creators this past year, topped 400,000 registered users on its platform, and hosted 130 hackathons and online competitions. That represents 100 percent growth in business compared to 2012, but already the company is turning its attention to something new: supporting the kind of innovation that happens within a confined time frame at hackathons, but on a continuing basis.
“The future of every industry is a battle to create an ecosystem that has a platform for developers, and the developers and designers themselves,” ChallengePost founder and CEO Brandon Kessler explained in an interview. “That to me is a hugely important aspect of the future and it’s already coming true, and ChallengePost sees ourself as the only platform that excels at developer marketing.”
Currently, ChallengePost powers both the kind of 24-hour in-person hackathon that we host at our Disrupt Events, as well as longer format online events they call “challenges” that could span weeks, and that generally produce much more polished and usable software. Embark, the transit app acquired by Apple earlier this year, was first built at a ChallengePost online challenge event, for example, as was Movil, the video startup acquired by Samsung to boost its smart TV platform.
“The thing I am most focused on is allowing software makers to submit their software outside of a challenge, as well as inside of a challenge, so developers can showcase their work any time,” Kessler said. “In order to best inspire developers to build and showcase software, we want to do it beyond just challenges and hackathons and allow them to do it any time. The time-constrained nature of challenges has limited our ability to respond to the intense demand to showcase software.”
“No customer has ever said ‘we only want to engage developers between the months of March and April,’ and no software maker has said ‘We only want to show our software to the world between the months of January and April,’” Kessler added. “They want to do it all year round, and that’s where we as a company are at right now.”
Of course, ChallengePost will continue to offer its platform for contests, hackathons and challenges, but the sense I get from Kessler is that they see a lot of opportunity for revenue and platform engagement left on the table dealing only with time-constrained competitions. The need to build a platform with a rich developer ecosystem doesn’t ever go away, and while a high-stakes, high profile hackathon draws a brief spike in attention from software builders, having that fizzle away after the fact because there’s no easy support system in place once the contest closes makes little sense.
Kessler is keeping mum on the specifics around how a ChallengePost product that isn’t time-constrained will work exactly, and when it’ll go live for users, but he says they’ll be back with more information soon. For now, with the company at the peak of its popularity, all that’s certain is that this is a good time for ChallengePost to capitalize on is customer interest and user engagement to take its platform to the next level.
InVision, a prototyping tool for thousands of web developers and designers, has recently closed an $11.6 million Series A round from FirstMark Capital and Tiger Global.
The company launched in 2011 out of New York with a mission to make it easy for designers to share, interact with, and get feedback on their prototypes. Users can easily upload Photoshop files to the web and add interactions to form a simulation, all within a normal web browser under a single link (which can be password protected).
In February 2012, InVision raised a $1.5 million seed round with FirstMark. The startup has since focused on facilitating the conversation around these prototypes, which can now happen with a much wider range of people.
Founder Clark Valberg explained that traditionally, the communication between designers and coders about the final look and feel of a project was limited to an inner circle of people. With InVision, a wide range of people across the company can consult on the design and give their feedback asynchronously.
That might sound like data overflow, but one might also consider it a less risky alternative to launching a real product before the design department is ready. That is, after all, the argument. Some startups believe that design, in multiple drafts, should come before coding out the product, while others believe that you should push a real product out as quickly as possible to get users (and ultimately receive their feedback).
Valberg has told TechCrunch before that he isn’t opposed to iterating based on user feedback, but believes that it’s better to get much of that initial iteration process out of the way before you “lose a lot of control” by making your product publicly available.
The new funding will allow InVision to continue picking up new customers, which currently range from small startups to huge corporations. The company is also working on “some interesting partnerships”, as well as some enhanced marketing and new features.
Online eyeglasses company Warby Parker just raised a $60 million Series C round from its existing investors, with Tiger Global Management leading. General Catalyst Partners, Spark Capital, Thrive Capital and First Round Capital also reinvested. Fortune reported the news first.
It is likely that the company wasn’t short on cash before raising this round. But the momentum was right for the company as receiving new cash from existing investors is a great vote of confidence. Warby Parker plans to increase its customer support team. As Zappos showed everyone, having a great support team is an important asset when it comes to large-scale specialized e-commerce companies.
The startup first started as a way to get cheaper glasses. Instead of selling traditional brands, Warby Parker chose to go directly to the manufacturers in China and work with them. By removing the middleman and selling exclusively on its website, the startup became very competitive while maintaining healthy margins. Recently, the company put a toe in the water by opening a bricks-and-mortar store in New York. But the website remains the main retail location.
As a reminder, the company raised $41.5 million in January. Warby Parker now has enough cash to do small acquisitions. But it’s still unclear whether an IPO is in the works.
As the last round up of the year, over the past month we’ve seen the launch of KuvakaZim, we’ve almost completed a Pombola site for South Africa and Alaveteli for Uganda (Launch is due for both of these sites in January). There are also versions of Alaveteli being worked on in Italy, Macedonia, Croatia and Bulgaria which are working towards launch in the first half of next year, so it’s been pretty busy.
In FixMyStreet news, the team from DATAuy are also working with the local government in Montevideo on a FixMyStreet for Uruguay. We’re really excited to see this working because they’re also looking at mobilising the local offline communities. It will be a really interesting experiment and I can’t wait to see the site up and running.
Finally I wanted to say Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Frohliche Weihnachten, Sretan Bozic, Buon Natale and
أتمنى لكم عيد ميلاد مجيد
Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you get to spend some time with the people you love this holiday season! Happy Holidays!
Late last month I gave you a sneak peak at our newest EC2 instance type, the I2. These instance types are available today, in four sizes across seven AWS regions.
The I2 instance type was designed to host I/O intensive workloads typically generated by relational databases, NoSQL databases, and transactional systems. The largest I2 instance type can deliver over 365K random reads per second and over 315K random writes per second, both measured with a block size of 4 KB. With four instance sizes, you can start small and scale up as your storage and I/O needs grow.
This is our second generation High I/O instance type, picking up where the HI1 instance left off. In comparison to the HI1 instance type, members of the I2 family offer faster processors, three additional instance sizes, a doubling of the amount of memory per vCPU, and 56% more SSD-based instance storage.
The Specs Here are the instance sizes and the associated specs:
Instance Storage (SSD)
1 x 800 GB
2 x 800 GB
4 x 800 GB
8 x 800 GB
The prices shown above are for On-Demand instances in the US East (Northern Virginia) and US West (Oregon) regions; see the EC2 pricing page for full information.
The instances are available in On-Demand and Reserved form in the US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon), US West (Northern California), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), and Asia Pacific (Sydney) regions.
I2 instances support Hardware Virtualization (HVM) AMIs only. In order to obtain the best I/O performance from these instances, you should use the Amazon Linux AMI2013.09.02 or any Linux AMI with a version 3.8 or newer kernel. Older versions of the kernel will exhibit lower I/O performance when used with I2 instances.
CPU Power Each vCPU (Virtual CPU) is a hardware hyperthread on an Intel E5-2670 v2 (Ivy Bridge) processor. The processor supports the AVX (Advanced Vector Extensions), along with Turbo Boost and NUMA.
NUMA (Non-Uniform Memory Access) speeds access to main memory by optimizing for workloads where the majority of requests for a particular block of memory come from a single processor. By enabling processor affinity (asking the scheduler to tie a particular thread to one of the processors) and taking care to manage memory allocation according to prescribed rules, substantial performance gains are possible.
Enhanced Networking All four sizes of the I2 instance type benefit from our new Enhanced Networking feature. When you launch these instances inside of a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), you will enjoy low latency, low jitter, and the ability to move a very large number of packets per second (PPS). In order to take advantage of this important feature, you will need to use an HVM AMI with the proper drivers installed (read our documentation on Enabling Enhanced Networking to learn more).
The three smallest instance types also support EBS Optimization, with dedicated network throughput from the instance to Amazon EBS.
SSD Storage As you can see from the table above, the I2 instances include a copious amount of SSD storage, ranging from 800 gigabytes on the i2.xlarge all the way up to 6.4 terabytes on the i2.8xlarge.
The SSD storage now supports TRIM functionality, which improves performance when the SSD handles a series of successive write operations.
Go For Launch As I mentioned earlier, these instance types are available now in seven AWS regions and you can start to use them right now.