Archive for October, 2006

CondeNet buys Reddit

October 31, 2006

RedditCondeNet
In another deal for the day, CondeNet has acquired Reddit. As usual, the financial details about the deals have not been disclosed. For rumors you can checkout Reddit itself.

Reddit has played the role of second option for Digg baiters. Reddit was started Steve Huffman, Alexis Ohanian, Chris Slowe, and Aaron Swartz as part of the Y Combinator incubator. Y Combinator provides seed funding to startups, which is usually not more than $20000. I think this is deal has provided a good return to Reddit founders as well as Y Combinator.

Now cameras are back to Digg to provide further action.

Links:
Reddit
Y Combinator

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Google acquires JotSpot

October 31, 2006

Google today acquired JotSpot, which provides  wiki based collaborative platform. Financial details about the deal have not been disclosed. As for the existing customers, according to JotSpot Site

Existing customers of the wiki, family site and class reunion site will continue to have uninterrupted access to their accounts and their data will not be affected.

Great part about the deal is that JotSpot applications are now free. As it happened after the Writely or MeasureMap deal, user registration for JotSpot is currently closed. You need to sign up for JotSpot waitlist, which means another 3-6 months before most of the new users will be able to register for the application.

Will be back with more details about the deal.

Links:
Google Announcement
JotSpot

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TravelPost to be acquired by Sidestep

October 31, 2006

         
SideStep.com, the travel search site, will be announcing the acquisition of TravelPost.com today. TravelPost provides user written reviews for hotels, hotel directory, and user travel blogs. The exact financial terms for the deal have not been disclosed.

SideStep, founded in 1999, searches for best travel deals across various sites including Orbitz, Continental.com, Budget.com, Sheraton.com, Avis.com. SideStep till date has raised $17M in funding from Trident Capital and private investors. TravelPost, founded in January of 2004, had raised more than $1 million in see funding last year. TravelPost investors include Amicus Capital, and Arba Seed Investment Group. Travelpost claims to have 700,000 monthly visitors which seems bit hard to believe if you go by the Alexa graph below.

I think SideStep can be better off in spending its resources to compete with upstarts like Kayak.com or Farecast.com, instead of trying to merge the Travelpost and Sidestep content. Providing RSS feeds like Farecast can add more value to Sidestep instead of this deal.

Links:
SideStep
TravelPost

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PowerReviews portal — customer reviews by keywords and ratings

October 31, 2006

PowerReviews has been working on developing a new way for organize customer reviews. Instead of using the regular search box to locate products and then checking out reviews, PowerReviews organizes information around words and phrases created by consumers. So if you want to search for digital cameras at PowerReviews sneakpeek portal, you can jump right onto the Digital Cameras category and start refining your results by the pros and best uses that suit you needs. You can quickly come up with a result set which contains digital cameras that have “Great Resolution” and are also “Rugged”. These results can further be narrowed down by sub-categories, brands, and product rating to come up with the most suitable product.

I think this is an amazing new way to research products online. Usually when we are looking for a particular product type all we have in mind is a broad set of features we need.  We don’t really have a list of products and models to choose from. To come up with that list we need to consult our family and friends, and search on Amazon or related sites for reviews of these items. PowerReviews drastically reduces the times required to come with a list which has the product, and models, having the features you require.

For each product review, PowerReviews also indicates if the reviews have been written by a verified purchaser. So how does PowerReviews know whether the reviewer really purchased the product? Well, for that PowerReviews banks on it’s original business model. PowerReviews currently provides customer reviews services to multi-channel retailers. Instead of retailers going out and building their own product review and rating  system, PowerReviews offers them its enterprise-class review service. This service, which is provided for free by PowerReviews, helps attract more customers through the PowerReviews aggregated review network. Retailers are easily able to integrate the customer reviews as a fully managed service from PowerReviews, with no downtime. Current PowerReviews customers include TicketsNow, Adorama, Abt Electronics, Sam Ash, and Mountain Gear.

While the reviews for a particular product are available to the participating retailers, they are stored at the PowerReviews severs(unless retailer chooses a PowerReviews stand-alone install). As PowerReviews works on building its retailer network, they are also working on building this customer review portal, which will take advantage of the customer review data collected.

I don’t know how quickly the idea will click with the consumers, but it does look promising. PowerReviews co-founders Andy Chen and Robert Chea, who have more than a decade of experience in building products in the web-domain, will make sure that the plan works. Andy and Robert had co-founded Fogdog.com in 1995 and went public in 1999. For this venture, PowerReviews team had raised $6.25 million in funding from Menlo Ventures and Draper Richards in February 2006.

Links:
PowerReviews Sneakpeek
PowerReviews

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MyWaves – Share videos from mobile

October 30, 2006

MyWaves, mobile & pc based video sharing site, has quietly entered into beta phase of its service. MyWaves enables users to email videos from their mobile to MyWaves accounts, which can than be shared and viewed by other MyWaves users. MyWaves had received 3.04 million in Series A funding led by Menlo Ventures last year end.

Unlike Veeker, which I had profiled last week, MyWaves service is currently open to any US and Canadian cell phone user. To get started with the service you need to submit your phone number at MyWaves site to receive the password through SMS. Once inside MyWaves, you can view video clips from the channels shared by other users in the MyWaves lounge. Lounge gives listing of videos from the newest channels, most viewed channels, and sponsored channels available at MyWaves.

To start uploading your own video to MyWaves, you will have to create you own channel. Each channel can have personalized email address, like startupsquad@mywaves.com, to which the videos can be emailed from either your mobile or your pc. For every channel you create at MyWaves, you set the sharing to be either Private or Public. Videos inside a channel marked as ‘Private’ can only be viewed by the invited users. After you are all said and done, you can grab the embed code from your channel’s preferences and paste into your MySpace profile.

As a MyWaves user you can subscribe to channels from other users which are than available under ‘My Channels’. MyWaves also provides other features including commenting, search, view, edit, flagging of videos from the site. Right now MyWaves site doesn’t indicate if it will be offering an downloadable  app to be installed on mobile phones for easier video uploading.

I am not really sure when MyWaves will be looking to launch but it does already have some catching up to do. eyeSpot and Veeker are other two players in this market, with eyeSpot looking to launch major updates to its service soon.

Related:
Veeker launches beta – Mobile videos to MySpace
eyeSpot to launch mobile video sharing soon

Links:
MyWaves



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Spot Runner gets $40 million from WPP, CBS, Interpublic

October 30, 2006

Spot Runner today closed its Series $40 million Series B round of funding. This round of investment was lead by major media companies including WPP, CBS, Interpublic. Spot Runner, located in Los Angeles, was co-founded by Nick Grouf and David Waxman in January 2006.

Spot Runner enables local businesses to advertise on TV in a easy and cost effective manner. Using Spot Runner advertising-commercial platform customers have complete control of their ad, media plan, and budget. To get started quickly, Sport Runner provides a library containing thousands of ads, organized by industry and keyword, which can be personalized by the customer. If customers have their own media plan, they can use that with the Spot Runner service. Once you have picked your ad, Spot Runner provides Starter, Standard, and Professional packages which vary in the pricing and number of options available.

Ad campaigns through Spot Runner will be aired on television broadcast through local stations and cable companies. However these ads will not be viewable by satellite dish users.

Links:
Spot Runner

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Yahoo now wants AOL

October 30, 2006

Yahoo after its dismal performance in the last quarter is looking to buy AOL. According to a news report from Fortune, Yahoo had recently approached Time Warner about buying America Online. Yahoo had previously tried this deal about a year ago, but the talks had broken down midway. Previously there were reports that Yahoo has been looking to buy Facebook, however even that deal never materialized.

It seems Yahoo management is having tough time deciding which option to choose. Also it is not clear if either of the 2 companies themselves will like to be acquired by Yahoo who itself has been facing rough times.

Personally I don’t see how Yahoo and AOL will combine to overcome the problems each of them are facing right now. AOL which was bought by Time Warner few years back never proved a good investment for the company. There were quite a few news reports indicating that Time Warner wanted to dump AOL for good. Also AOL has been heavily revamping it’s operations and shifting to newer business areas, which will take at least 2 years to show results in terms of significant revenues. On the other hand, Yahoo had launched its new advertising platform, Project Panama, which is supposed to compete with Google Adsense+Adwords. It will be another 6-12 months before the real results start showing up for advertising network.

Also it is not clear what will be Google’s take on this deal. Google and AOL had entered into a deal last year in which Google had acquired 5% stake in AOL for $1 billion. As a part of the deal Google has providing exclusive Internet search capabilities to AOL search.

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ugenie – automate your best price+coupon search

October 30, 2006

ugenie is among one of the very few ideas which plan to make it easy the way we shop. ugenie has recognized the fact that most of the shoppers think it is not worth going to 5 different stores in order to save $1 using a coupon on a $20 product. You can end up burning more gas and miles on your car and in the end you are not even guaranteed of any savings. So how does ugenie solve the problem?

Every time your search for a product at ugenie, it’s intelligent system searches on thousands on web sites instantaneously to come up with the lowest prices. This lowest price includes the shipping, taxes, and any coupons available for the product on that particular site. You might ask — Do they really search for coupons? Yup that is the problem they are looking to solve- unlock the hidden savings.  Lot of the consumers never use coupons since the amount of savings is not justified by the amount of research, and effort required to save few bucks. ugenie automates this task for you. It will dig the Internet for all the available coupons for a particular product and automatically verify and apply those to the item to come up with the best price. So no more wasting hours on Fatwallet.com or Slickdeals.net to get a $5 coupon and find out later that someone has already used it.

ugenie doesn’t stop here. Consider the case when you want to buy 2 or more items. If you shop for these items individually you might not get the best deal especially in terms of shipping or in case of coupons applicable for multiple item purchase. When you search for this combination on ugenie, it’s system will search millions of possible permutations and combinations to find the cheapest combination of products and merchants. This price will take into account the discounts, coupons, shipping, and taxes available for that combination of products. ugenie calls this search- “true price discovery”, which is so rightly said. Also, when you search for items at ugenie, you can filter items by their condition, shipping times, merchants, merchant rating, and promotions, to come up with results that suit you best.

Besides the consumers, ugenie is great for merchants too. Merchants themselves have never been able to get the ROI on their flyer’s and coupons they send out to consumers. ugenie system will automatically bring up the best merchant listings onto the top while reducing advertising cost and increasing customer base for the biggest discounters.

The part I feel the best about ugenie is that it will monetize its operations only through transactions. ugenie doesn’t have any plans for sponsored listing right now, which usually trick consumers to get into a deal which might not be the best for them. So when you view any listing on the top of the search results at ugenie, you can be sure that it is the best deal available in the market at that time.

ugenie is currently in the alpha stage, and working aggressively on building its search and crawling capabilities, while establishing partnerships with some of the biggest merchants. ugenie, located in Palo Alto, CA, is lead by Krishna Motukuri who had co-founded Amazon India. ugenie management also includes Harish Abbott(Founder & President) and Bharat Vijay(CTO). ugenie had received $5 million funding from BlueRun Ventures and Sierra Ventures in June 2006.

So, while ugenie’s genie is at work we can really save few buck this time around!!

Links:
ugenie

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StartupSquad this week

October 28, 2006

A quick rollup of all the posts this week-

SKIPI – Free Skype based call center
Zillow in trouble after API launch
Jellyfish confirms $5 million funding
Yourminis – Flash based Netvibes competitor
Twitter enables updates from Google Talk
Warner Music content on Brightcove
Web-based IM service eBuddy closes Series A
WordPress launches WordPress MU 1.0
eyeSpot to launch mobile video sharing soon
Zibb – the b2b search engine
FON offers router for free
eyeSpot gets $3.7 million in Series A
Veeker launches beta – Mobile videos to MySpace
ViTrue – branded communities enabler closes second funding round
Vangard Voice gets $3 million in Series A
Vapps adds power to Skype conferencing
Talkster enables free Mobile to IM calling
IE7 downloaded 3 million times; Firefox 2 launches today
And now online storage from BT
Google launches Custom Search Engines
zBox = local network storage + Amazon S3
free411 closes Series C – gets $30 million

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SKIPI – Free Skype based call center

October 27, 2006

SKY-click, the provider of Skype based call center launched a new product SKIPI. Skipi is aimed at small companies and communities who can take advantage of free calling service of Skype and call center type setup from SKY-click. Using Skipi you can add customized buttons to your website or blog or in your email signature to enable customers/people to contact you easily.

To get started with Skipi you need to add the Skype IDs of your users who can be contacted through Skipi. You need to keep in mind that for other users to be able to contact you, you will need to have your Skype Me mode enabled in your Skype client. After that you can choose your personalized Skipi buttons or upload your own images. Skipi gives out 2 scripts one of which can be placed at your website and another in the signature of your email and you are all set with your call center.

I didn’t try out the service myself, but as it seems Skipi system will take care of routing the incoming calls to the available person. Also Skipi has not mentioned if there is any limit on the number of users that can be added to a single account.

Overall, Skipi is great service and will be well received by the Meebome crowd who were looking for a multi-user voice option. Best part is — Skipi is a free service.

Earlier SKY-click had launched its Pro service which enables Skype based call center with reporting & analytics on Call Volume, patterns and conversion rate. SKY-click call center solution has been integrated with SalesForce.com and can be interfaced with any CRM tools through their API.

Links:
SKIPI
SKY-click

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