iOS 8 Adoption At 46% After Five Days, Says Apple

Tuesday 23 September 2014 @ 12:26 am
iOS 8 update The latest official iOS 8 adoption stat comes courtesy of Apple, which has added a note to its App Store Distribution page for developers revealing that the proportion of users that had updated to iOS 8, as of September 21, stood at 46% vs 49% using the prior iOS 7 flavor, and 5% on an earlier iteration of its mobile OS. Read More

Online Survey And Form Builder Typeform Raises €1.2M

Tuesday 23 September 2014 @ 12:00 am
typeform Typeform, the Spanish startup that takes the heavy-lifting out of creating user-friendly surveys and other types of online forms, including payments, has raised a €1.2 million further round of funding, led by London­-based VC Connect Ventures. Existing backers Point Nine Capital, and RTA ventures, also participated, along with Mariusz Gralewski, CEO and founder of DocPlanner. The fresh… Read More

A Closer Look: Ways to hide, secure data on phones

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 9:04 pm

Apple got a lot of attention last week when it released a new privacy policy along with a declaration that police can't get to your password-protected data. Essentially, your photos, messages and other documents are automatically encrypted when you set up a passcode, with or without a fingerprint ID to unlock the phone.

Ray Ozzie’s New Venture Talko Launches An App For Collaborative Voice Communications

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 8:01 pm
Talko_PhoneScreen After two and a half years, former Microsoft chief architect Ray Ozzie and his team are finally ready to reveal what they’ve been working on. Called Talko, their new mobile app is designed to change the way consumers and enterprises collaborate with each other through a mix of live and asynchronous voice communications. Read More

Cribspot takes in $600,000 to help college kids find a suitable home

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 8:00 pm
Cribspot takes in $600,000 to help college kids find a suitable home

Above: An incredibly large, spacious, huge NYC apartment.

Image Credit: Stacie, Flickr

Cribspot, a startup that helps students find cool places to live while helping small landlords manage their properties, raised $600,000 in seed money in a round led by Huron River Ventures and Detroit’s First Step Fund.

Cribspot, according to chief tech guru and co-founder Tim Jones, was founded by three former University of Michigan grads who after school worked at various startups in the Bay Area and Big Apple before bailing back to still surviving Detroit and launching. The startup is now based in Ann Arbor, just down the street from UM and its 43,000 students.

This is good news for Michigan’s fledgling startup scene. Cribspot was initially launched with a $11,000 grant from Jones’ college alma mater and by winning Detroit’s TechWeek award, $40,000 to be exact, in May.

Now that they have some breathing room, the small Cribspot team will attempt to build out their business model. And to be sure, they face an already entrenched list of competitors like Wisconsin-based Abodo, which does virtually the same thing and raised $1.2 million in July. Check out my Abodo story here.

That virtual dinosaur Craigslist also offers similar services, and their user-base is massive. And real-estate heavyweights Zillow, and its newly acquired Trulia, also offer similar services.

So Cribspot, despite its killer sounding name, has its work cut out for them.

However, Cribspot is entering a very fragmented market, which could work to its advantage. The company is focusing just on college students, and their often harried searches for ideal apartments, is, at this point, not dominated by any clear leaders.

Cribspot said it has already helped nearly 60,000 college renters from UM, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Iowa attain their housing goals. But $600,000 won’t last long, so for the founders, it’s now a game of growing the company while still actively searching for venture money to keep the dream alive.




Wedding Spot raises $3M to disrupt weddings — and, soon, all events

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 7:30 pm
Wedding Spot raises $3M to disrupt weddings — and, soon, all events

Above: Here's one wedding that's about to be disrupted.

Image Credit: Screenshot from The Graduate

In case you’ve never done it, getting married is really expensive. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, so the parties involved often shell out megabucks to make it just right. The top expense on the list is usually the cost of the venue. And rounding up quotes and comparing venues can be a real hassle.

Seizing on this pain point, the wedding venue shopping site Wedding Spot allows wedding shoppers to pick out, compare and price wedding venues in an orderly fashion. A recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission states that the company has raised $1.22 million of a $3.388 million round, although the company told VentureBeat that the round is now closed and was just over $3 million.

The funding money comes in exchange for equity in the company, the filing states.

Atlas Venture and KEC Ventures led the round. Great Oaks Venture Capital, Maiden Lane, Canyon Creek Capital, Erik Blachford (of Technology Crossover Ventures), Eric Liaw, Yidrienne Lai, and David Rodnitzky also participated.

The San Francisco-based startup had previously raised a $250,000 seed funding round in December 2013.

Wedding Spot’s service is currently available in 13 states, and, CEO Tina Hoang-To tells VentureBeat, it will soon scale up to all 50 states. Hoang-To says the site has already helped more than 200,000 soon-to-be-betrothed find a venue.

That’s not the only thing that will be changing. Hoang-To says her company will soon be changing its name and will start booking venues for all kinds of events, not just weddings.

Hoang-To says she hopes Wedding Spot will soon become the “Open Table of the events industry.”

At the Wedding Spot site you enter the cities in your area that you’d consider your wedding (or reception, or whatever), select the number of guests who will be coming, then the search engine spits out a bunch of venues, with pictures and information.

Hoang-To says hers is the only wedding venue site where you can get actual price quotes and set up appointments to visit the venues.

Wedding Spot has also built an Adwords-like bidding platform where venues can pay for leads generated by Wedding Spot. They can also buy a back-end booking management platform on a subscription basis.

I did a search for wedding venues in San Francisco and most of them fell in the $40,000 to $70,000 range. The Ritz-Carlton will set you back eighty grand if you get married or have your reception there. On the more affordable side, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church is a flat $1,500. Temple Emanu-el ranges from $32K to almost $50K.

On a geekier note, I noticed that the Wedding Spot site is surprisingly responsive. Switching cities to see how venue prices compared across cities, the information showed up almost instantly.

Wedding Spot isn’t the only company trying to disrupt weddings. Weddington Way has built an interactive e-commerce space where brides can attempt to find everything they need to plan their wedding, and can get help from their bridal party and other family members. And just today, HoneyBook raised $10M for its service, which helps wedding-planning pros handle event logistics more easily.

Push notifications don’t have to be so @#$%ing annoying — here’s how

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 7:03 pm


Push notifications don’t have to be so @#$%ing annoying — here’s how

When did push notifications get such a bad rap?

There has been a fair amount of controversy lately around something that was once revolutionary for the smartphone user: the push notification. Some critics, like Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times, argue that the beeping and buzzing meant to alert you to important updates has turned into somewhat of an annoyance, and I can’t say I disagree.

It seems like every app today lights up your phone with another meaningless message, and these notifications are worse than an unhelpful email. For example, my favorite music streaming app sends me recommendations via push. But these recommendations are an annoyance in the morning when I’m tying my daughter’s shoes and my son is calling from across the house.

When overused, push notifications bother you, take up space in your taskbar and can be nothing more than a push to get you to open the app.

Users have certainly noticed the uptick in noise and have responded in a drastic way: by shutting it down entirely. One study notes that, on average, 60 percent of smartphone users are opting out of push notifications.

So it’s easy to see that today’s push notifications are part of a broken system.

However, from both a user and developer perspective, push notifications can serve as critical reminders — they’re just misused in today’s app marketplace. Yet they’re moving in the right direction, and iOS 8 will make notifications more pertinent, interactive, and useful.

So how can we redefine push notifications to make them beneficial to all parties? Here are a few recommendations:

First, push notifications should be used when something is urgent. At their core, after all, they are about interrupting your activity and demanding your immediate attention. Therefore, the only kind of notifications you should be getting are the essential ones worthy of an interruption.

Even those people who usually disable push can think of an instance when a notification saved the day, or at least made it a little bit easier. For example, the standard ten minute reminder for a meeting you had forgotten about.

Second, push should be personal. Part of the reason users are abandoning ship is not because they hate the practice entirely; it’s because they’re being spammed with mass-market notifications. App developers should focus on updates that are specific to the user.

Of course users want a notification saying that their flight time has changed, but do they really want the buzz in the middle of the night asking them to rate the new app version?

Third, push notifications should provide information in the notification. From a news headline to contact details, the notification shouldn’t be just a ploy to drive users to the app. If something is urgent enough to bother a user, the deliverable should be right up front. If the user wants more information, like to read the full story from a breaking news alert, he or she can open the app to get context.

In our eyes, the perfect push notification is a miniature brief with essential information — nothing more, nothing less. A great example is Google Now, which sends a push notification when you need to leave to make it to an event on time. By syncing with your calendar and checking traffic, it lets users skip the step of monitoring the time, checking traffic and plotting a route. All the information is at users’ fingertips when they swipe down from the top of their screens.

We try to implement this strategy to create the best possible notifications at Refresh. We send push notifications with a contact’s background and suggested talking points right before you’re scheduled to see them. People don’t even have to open the app to figure out who they’re meeting and how to connect with them.

It’s time for app developers to wise up and reexamine the way they’re using push. My advice: don’t bother your users if it’s not important, make it personal, and provide information up front. After all, the point is for companies to anticipate users’ needs and address them with the swipe of a finger. And users, it might just be time to give push notifications another chance.


Bhavin ShahBhavin Shah is the CEO and co-founder of Refresh, an iOS and web app that finds common ground with the people you meet. Bhavin has over a decade of experience building companies, and has taken companies in the education, toy and video game industries from inception to scale and from private to public. He was a co-founder and COO at Gazillion Entertainment, which grew to over 150 employees, and was the Director of Business Development at Leapfrog. He holds numerous patents on learning and incentive systems, and was the director of NASA’s EarthKam program.

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Refresh seeks to eliminate small talk by providing users with detailed information about people they’re meeting with and suggesting topics of conversation. Refresh looks at your calendar of events and creates instant dossiers of peo... read more »

ZEFR Has Acquired Social Advertising Startup Engodo

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 4:06 pm
zefr door Video monetization platform ZEFR could be looking to extend its advertising reach beyond YouTube with its acquisition of social advertising startup Engodo. Last week ZEFR entered into a purchase agreement with the Salt Lake City, Utah-based startup in what appears to be a cash-and-stock deal, according to an SEC filing. Read More

Lyft acquires carpooling competitor Hitch

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 3:57 pm
Lyft acquires carpooling competitor Hitch

Above: A mustache-adorned Lyft

Image Credit: Flickr

Lyft, the ride-sharing company that recently launched a carpooling service, has acquired a startup named Hitch.

Hitch has been offering a carpooling service since early June. That was before Lyft, Uber, and SideCar all announced they were launching their own carpooling services. Just like LyftLine, UberPool, and SideCar’s Shared Rides, Hitch’s app would match a rider with others nearby and and going in similar directions, yielding a fairly cheap price for the ride.

Hitch is joining Lyft to help beef up its carpooling service, and tomorrow, Hitch’s service will close down.

When the team got its start, the startup was named Corral Rides, and it attempted to be a hub for three ride-sharing companies. Its app was an aggregate of all the available drivers, all in one place, helping eliminate the need to hop between the apps when looking for a ride — as ride-sharing power users tend to do.

Ironically, Lyft requested to have its information taken out of Corral Rides’ app at the time, citing that it was taking away from the branding and culture that the company wanted (being in the app labeled them as just another transportation option instead of the “friend with a car” brand). Corral Rides also lost the ability for users to request Uber cars from the app, although it still showed pricing and availability.

This is Lyft’s second acquisition towards its carpooling service. The company acquired Rover, an app that calculated public transportation options, earlier this year.

So this brings up the question of whether or not Lyft is feeling the heat from Uber, which has been investing in its technology for a long time and has a lot more resources (both financially and in terms of drivers on the road). The Hitch acquisition may be an attempt to shore up its defenses.

Uber Technologies Inc is known as Everyone's Private Driver. Uber operates an on-demand car service used all over the world. With the touch of a button from your phone, you can experience your own private driver. Sign-up quickly, g... read more »

Lyft is a friendly, safe, and affordable transportation option. Just tap a button and in minutes you’ll be riding in the front seat with a new friend. Our Lyft community drivers have been background checked and personality screened t... read more »

Corral rides shows you all available transit options in one place. Lyft, Uber, Sidecar, public transport with live ETA and more... read more »

Sidecar’s smartphone app matches everyday people in their own car with people nearby for shared rides. It’s a fast, safe and fun way to get around the city, meet new people and keep extra cars off the road. Sidecar is a totally dif... read more »

Nexon reassigns its top American brass to deal with star developers

Monday 22 September 2014 @ 3:44 pm
Nexon reassigns its top American brass to deal with star developers

Above: Min Kim of Nexon America

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Asian gaming giant Nexon has reshuffled its executive staff in North America. The company announced today that it was reassigning Min Kim and Ron Moravek to  a new division of the company dubbed Nexon XP.

They will dedicate themselves to bringing externally developed games to the Nexon fold, and in doing so they will deal with Nexon’s current star external developers who are creating Western-focused content.

Kim, formerly CEO of Nexon America, and Moravek, former head of live operations, will work with developers Dirty Bomb from Splash Damage, Project BlueStreak from Boss Key Productions (headed by Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski) and an unannounced title from United Front Games.

Rich Williams, formerly senior vice president of customer experience and engagement, has been promoted to the position of president of Nexon America and will be responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations. YT Kang will become vice president of Online Game Production at nexon America.

Owen Mahoney, CEO of Nexon, said in a statement, “A key focus for Nexon going forward is to increase share in the North American and European video game markets. Nexon XP was founded to achieve this through the creation of world class games with world class development partners.”

The change reflects a lot of deal-making that Mahoney has been engaged in since he took over earlier this year as CEO. Mahoney, who spoke at our GamesBeat 2014 conference, has put a priority on publishing high-quality, fun games that are on par with some of the best Western content.

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Founded in Korea in 1994, Nexon is the worldwide leader in free-to-play games. Nexon pioneered the free-to-play business model with the concept of microtransactions, revolutionizing the online video games industry by offering users co... read more »

Owen Mahoney was appointed President & Chief Executive Officer of Nexon in March 2014. Mr. Mahoney joined Nexon in 2010 and served as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer until 2014, responsible for managing the ... read more »

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