Apple No Longer Rejecting Calculator Widgets From The App Store

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 8:35 am
pcalc-widget The maker of a popular iOS app and widget, PCalc, which took advantage of iOS 8’s support for Notification Center Widgets, was recently told by Apple that his handy app would be pulled from the App Store due to the fact that “widgets on iOS cannot perform any calculations.” The app’s creator, James Thomson, took to Twitter to inform users and respond to inquiries about… Read More

Robot car toy maker Anki hires Skylanders and EA veterans as key executives

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 7:00 am
Robot car toy maker Anki hires Skylanders and EA veterans as key executives

Above: Anki Drive

Image Credit: Anki

Anki has hired two new executives with loads of gaming experience to take its battle-car racing games to the next level.

San Francisco-based Anki has hired Joby Otero, former creative director for Activision’s Skylanders franchise, as its chief creative officer. And it has hired Craig Rechenmacher, an Electronic Arts veteran, as its chief markteing officer.

With Anki Drive, you use your smartphone to control a car racing around a track against robotic cars with sophisticated artificial intelligence. The latest upgrade shows how it’s possible to launch a digital hybrid toy and upgrade it over time.

In the game, you roll out a mat on the ground that serves as a race track. You can place two cars down on the track that will start driving around on their own. Then those vehicles will adapt and learn how to compete better. You can then control the game through the iOS app, which enables you to steer your own car and fire vehicle weapons. While the cars can keep themselves racing around the track, you can make them do tight or wide turns. Founded by robotics experts at Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley startup Anki has worked on the technology for six years and has raised $50 million.

With the new hires, Anki is strengthening its gaming foundation and creative vision to bring a completely new dynamic to the interactive toy space. Activision’s Skylanders toy-game products help bring “toys to life,” where you set a toy character on a platform to insert that character into a video game. Then you can play that game and save your progress on physical memory on the toy.

“Anki DRIVE delivers an intense racing videogame experience in the real world as players battle against their friends and robot racers,” said Boris Sofman, Anki founder and CEO. “Only with the power of robotics can we help usher in a new way of interactive play, one that exists in both the physical and virtual world. The team of videogame veterans we’ve assembled at Anki will help usher in richer gameplay environments, new character and story developments, and unique gameplay features that will only make the Anki DRIVE experience that much more exciting and unique.”

Otero has 23 years of experience in games, and he was mostly recently vice president of art and technology at Activision where he was a key leader driving the creation of the billion dollar Skylanders franchise – combining toys and videogames. Rechenmacher has 17 years of experience driving brand, product, digital marketing and business development at leading global interactive entertainment and gaming companies. He most recently held a position as chief marketing officer of Slacker Radio. Before that, he was vice president of marketing and business development for Origin, EA’s direct-to-consumer digital distribution platform.

Anki Drive is currently available on iOS and Android devices, with a starter kit available for $150. Expansion cars cost $50.


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Minted gets $38M more for its designer stationary and home goods marketplace

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 6:46 am
Minted gets $38M more for its designer stationary and home goods marketplace
Image Credit: Minted/Facebook

Asking his wife where she buys items for the family is turning out to be Norwest Venture Partners’ Jeff Crowe’s new strategy.

When he first heard about Minted, an online marketplace for curated stationary, decor, and art, Crowe found out that his wife had been shopping from the site for the past couple of years. Norwest led Minted’s new round of $38 million, which the company is using to expand into the home textile vertical.

Minted, founded by Mariam Naficy and Melissa Kim in 2007, is an online marketplace that sources its designs through contests. Winning designers get to have their entries manufactured, marketed, and sold through Minted’s website, which is certainly a boon for independent designers for whom handling all of these operations can be overwhelming, inefficient, and likely very costly.

“I think the artisan community is segmented, and a lot of people don’t have time to make and ship product. They spend 50 percent of their day negotiating with vendors and manufacturers,” Naficy told VentureBeat in an interview.

Because Minted has been able to establish manufacturing and all the necessary processes, it’s now able to expand into home textiles. For now, Minted will simply sell fabric designed by its community of designers, but eventually it will expand into fabric-based products like aprons, tablecloths, and so on, Naficy said.

“We’re treating that as a stepping stone into the home line,” she said.

But Minted is expanding its product in another important way too: It’s giving many of the winners of its design contests mini-boutiques within its marketplace and will manufacture and sell anything they submit. You could say that they’ve earned Minted’s trust and are now given freer rein to develop its inventory.

The curation aspect of the site is an important strength for Minted, Crowe said. “It’s not just like Craigslist where you can go in and find anything,” he told VentureBeat.

Minted has already created about 1,000 designer boutiques since soft-launching a couple of weeks ago.

This idea is not exactly novel, and other companies such as BloomNation, for example, also provide online mini-storefronts to their independent florists, giving them the advantages of the parent label’s marketing, customer base, and operational tools. BloomNation, however, lets its florists white label these tools and sell their wares under their own brands.

But that’s not a perk Minted’s designers are looking for, according to Naficy. They like being associated with Minted’s brand, Naficy said.

Crowe also sees these mini-storefronts, and more broadly Minted’s ability to add new services, as one of the company’s three growth opportunities. The two others are adding new products and international expansion, both of which Minted is already doing. It’s currently available in 40 countries.

Crowe and his firm, Norwest Venture Partners, led this round as first-time Minted investors, with Technology Crossover Ventures also joining. Toby Lenk, formerly at Gap and other retail brands, is also joining the company’s board.

Minted was founded in 2007 by Kim and Naficy and is based in San Francisco. The company previously raised $51.1 million in funding.

Minted is a global community of independent graphic designers and an online store that prints and sells the best of their designs in the form of paper goods. We believe that great design lives and thrives in the hands of indie desi... read more »

IDC: Tablets shipments grew 11.5% in Q3 2014, but leaders Apple, Samsung, and Asus all lost market share

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 5:42 am

The tablet market continues to grow, albeit slowly. Q4 2013 saw 53.8 million units ship worldwide, up from 47.6 million the same quarter last year.

The top three tablet-makers maintained their positions: Apple was first, Samsung took second, and Asus settled for third. Nevertheless, all three market leaders lost share of the overall pie:


More to follow

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Q3 Tablet Shipments Up 11% to 54M, Samsung Closing In On Apple’s iPads

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 5:40 am
ipad-glare-compare Tablets — once thought of as the great disruptor to PC sales with their lighter form factor and cheaper price — continue to grow in sales, but at a far slower pace than in quarters past. IDC today published its Q3 numbers for tablet sales, and estimate that globally there were just under 54 million tablets shipped — 53.8 million to be exact — working out to a rise… Read More

Funding Daily: Today’s tech funding news, in one place

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 5:10 am
Funding Daily: Today’s tech funding news, in one place
Image Credit: Flickr

Get all the tech funding news of the day delivered straight to your mailbox! Sign up for Funding Daily and never miss a deal.

Here’s a list of today’s biggest funding stories, updated as the day unfolds. Tip us here if you have a deal to share.

Gogoro sweeps up $100M to do energy-something

Gogoro announced today that it has raised a whopping $100 million in Series B funding to “transform energy distribution and management in the world’s cities.” This is in addition to an earlier $50 million Series A.

But what will they do with the funding? The company, founded in 2011, has been coy about how this transformation might be implemented. It promises new product launches at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. In addition to the size of the funding, expectations are also raised by the presence of tech veterans in its leadership, including CEO Horace Luke, HTC’s ex-Chief Innovation Officer.

Read more: Press release

Instant messaging app Jongla raises $4.3M

London and Helsinki-based messaging app Jongla today announced an approximately $4.3 million (€3.4 million) funding round led by “a group of top private investors including JSH Capital Oy, Ingman Finance Oy, Kontino Invest Oy and Holdington Ltd Oy.” The new capital will be used towards growing the company’s team and “scaling the business globally.”

Read more: Press release

Capriza, your ticket to mobilizing desktop business apps, raises $27M

Apparently it pays to provide tools to simplify enterprise software for mobile consumption. That’s how things look today, with startup Capriza announcing a $27 million funding round.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Capriza started in 2011 and employs 75 people.

Read more

This list will be updated with breaking funding news all day. Check back for more.

In heartfelt Businessweek essay, Apple CEO Tim Cook says: “I’m proud to be gay.”

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 4:34 am

After years of speculation, Apple chief executive Tim Cook published an essay today in which he proudly declared: “I’m gay.”

More to come.

JuiceBox Games hits 4M downloads for HonorBound and takes the mobile game to new markets

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 4:00 am
JuiceBox Games hits 4M downloads for HonorBound and takes the mobile game to new markets

Above: From left to right: JuiceBox game founders Michael Martinez, Jason McGuirk, and Zak Pytlak.

Image Credit: JuiceBox Games

JuiceBox Games, a game studio with good funding and former Zynga developers, has had a hit with its first mobile game. JuiceBox’s HonorBound has hit four million downloads in the last few months, and the company is adding seven new languages to it.

HonorBound, a cartoon-style fantasy role-playing game, is available on Android and iOS, and it is one of many titles that are bringing hardcore gameplay to larger audiences on smartphones and tablets. JuiceBox is one of the “midcore” companies, or those that make hardcore-style games for shorter game times as befits mobile. They hope that midcore will become a larger part of mobile games, which could hit $20 billion worldwide this year.

“With HonorBound in 2013, one of the game publishers asked us why we were making such a ‘complicated game’ and why we weren’t making a clone like everyone else,” said Michael Martinez, the chief executive of JuiceBox Games, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It was eye-opening. And it made me more confident in our direction, and a little terrified. But our approach has been borne out. We want to build new and exciting games.”

JuiceBox Games revealed a few months ago that it raised $2.5 million in seed funding. Investment group Initial Capital led the funding round with additional participation from General Catalyst, Index Ventures, and Maveron as well as individuals including former EA chief executive John Riccitiello and Zynga cofounder Scott Dale.


Above: HonorBound, a midcore fantasy-RPG.

Image Credit: JuiceBox Games

The studio is using that cash to fund user acquisition as well as its entrance into some major territories. HonorBound will now be available in French, German, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Russian. By November, the company will launch a Japanese version. And China isn’t that far off.

“We focus on games that we want to play and what we are excited about,” Martinez said. “Our core value is passion for our games.”

JuiceBox has just 20 employees. But it has been adding new content every couple of weeks.

“When we released it, it wasn’t finished,” Martinez said.”We’ve added guilds, 500 new heroes, loads of levels and new event types. We’ll add raids and bosses. We have a lot left to build.”

Martinez once worked at a company making the social virtual world Zookazoo. That didn’t work out, and then he wound up at Zynga. He started JuiceBox in San Francisco in 2012 with Jason McGuirk, its chief technology officer, and Zak Pytlak, the creative director. They met while working at Zynga on Zynga Poker in 2009, when Zynga had just 150 people. Martinez also worked on FarmVille and FarmVille 2.

Martinez looks at hardcore games through the lens of casual game companies such as Zynga, which has been very good about expanding the audience for games. The rivals are plentiful, but JuiceBox has a lot of veterans from those rivals working for it. The company uses the Unity Technologies cross-platform game engine as well as its own proprietary framework, the Bound game engine. This enables JuiceBox to release game content quickly to iOS, Android, and the Amazon Kindle without requiring players to do an update.

HonorBound has hit the No. 1 ranks on the top-grossing role-playing/card games charts in 28 countries on iOS. Rival games include Blood Brothers and Rage of Bahamut. Martinez said his team’s take on those Asian titles was to give them a more Western look and user interface, animations of cool action figures coming to life, the ability for the player to invest heavily in an academy research system.

“We’ve been inspired by companies like Nintendo and Supercell, and empowered by mobile device proliferation, which is putting truly immersive gaming power into everyone’s hands,” said Martinez. “With HonorBound, we’ve fused high-quality production, engaging themes and polished functions in a game that’s incredibly intuitive and fun. Our players recognize our vision and have entered the world we’ve created enthusiastically. It has been a humbling experience, but deeply gratifying at the same time as people embrace HonorBound by the millions.”

Martinez said the company has just started working on its second title as well. As for the competition in mobile, Martinez said, “It is quite daunting. But there will be more players, and they will spend money on more games. We know there will be winners, and we want to create the best game that we would want to spend our time and dollars on. We have a leg up in knowing how to build a free-to-play game with HonorBound. We’ve learned a lot and want to apply that to our future titles.”


Above: HonorBound

Image Credit: JuiceBox Games

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Tim Cook: “I’m Proud To Be Gay,” And Helping Others Is Worth Trading Personal Privacy

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 3:47 am
ipad-mac-event0246 Apple CEO Tim Cook took to Businessweek with an essay he penned himself acknowledging that he is gay, saying that despite valuing personal privacy, he has decided to openly state his sexual preference in order to hopefully help others who might be struggling with their own identity, or with discrimination based on their sexual orientation. I don’t consider myself an activist, but I… Read More

Techmanity launches big in Silicon Valley

Thursday 30 October 2014 @ 3:00 am


Techmanity launches big in Silicon Valley

This sponsored post is produced by Techmanity.

Silicon Valley was the site of the first-ever Techmanity, and now with a successful inaugural year behind them, the organizers are looking to go bigger yet in 2015.

Silicon Valley may be the center of the tech universe, but historically it hasn’t done a tremendous amount to welcome the world to its door. Through a new signature event co-produced by Live Nation, Fast Company and IDG World Expo, Silicon Valley has entered the fray in a big way.

Plans for next year’s event are already percolating. But in the meantime, Techamanity can look back at a great launch earlier this month (October 1-2) which featured industry elites such as Biz Stone, Tim Draper, Adi Tatarko of Houzz, and Sonny Vu of Misfit. California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom spoke, as did young civic entrepreneur Vivienne Harr.

Celebrities came, too, like actor-musician-turned-tech-entrepreneur Jared Leto, Kellan Lutz (Twilight), David Harewood (Homeland, Selfie), and Robert Patrick and Scooter Braun from the new CBS hit show, Scorpion.  And there were after-parties and music from acts like Weezer, Kongos, Thievery Corporation, and Dash Berlin.

The event also saw the first annual Techmanitarian Awards presented to Participant Media, the movie studio founded by former eBay president Jeff Skoll; Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop Per Child; and posthumously to programming whiz kid and Internet freedom fighter, Aaron Swartz. The Award to the late Swartz was movingly presented to his parents, Susan and Roberts, by Aaron’s mentor, Larry Lessig.

A big feature and crowd draw was the Starlandia exhibit area at the San Jose Convention Center featuring 58 hot new start-ups in spaces ranging from Bit Coins to health care and social media.

Techmanity was backed by Samsung, Cisco, PayPal, Adobe, and Silicon Valley Bank among others, and was attended by virtually every major Valley company, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, LinkedIn, Box, and SpaceX in addition to myriad start-ups.

Drawing more than 2,000 registrants its first year, Techmanity’s successful launch signals the arrival of an important new tech conclave inviting the world to hear about the future directly from those who are inventing it. Expect the date and location of the Techmanity summit 2015 to be announced shortly. More to come at:

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact [email protected].

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