Gather raises $2.5 million to help restaurants and venues manage their events

gather team

Gather announced that it has raised $2.5 million in new funding to help restaurants and venues manage their events. Led by Storm Ventures, the investment will be used to not only improve the product, but also accelerate development of certain “top-secret projects.”

Founded in 2013 by Nicholas Miller, Alex Lassiter, and Tom Merrihew, Gather is targeting the private event space, where it acts as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. With Gather, customers can manage their entire event business, doing things like managing leads, tracking inventory, submitting proposals, collecting payments, and coordinating personnel. It’s geared toward the businesses themselves, rather than event planners.

“The majority of our customers were using separate documents, spreadsheets and emails prior to Gather, which meant sub-par organization internally and a lack of polish and ease in working with customers,” Miller told VentureBeat in an email. “We’re simplifying our customers’ interactions with their clients by bringing offline processes online.”

Customers that are using its product include Alamo Drafthouse, Strategic Hospitality, Michael Mina, and Il Fornaio.

In addition to Storm Ventures, Gather’s funding round received participation from Ludlow Ventures and SignUp4 founder and CEO Nick Romano.

The company has stated that’s its been profitable for some time, so the new funding will be used to enhance its product, making it simpler and more user-friendly.










HP takes Sprout creativity PC to classrooms and enterprises

HP Sprout Pro

Hewlett-Packard said it is taking its consumer creativity PC, the Sprout by HP, into the educational and enterprise markets under the name Sprout Pro by HP.

The move is part of HP’s strategy of differentiating its computers through innovative “immersive” technologies, such as the ability to capture images of 3D objects and print them out. And on the education side, the new Sprout Pro is an incursion on the turf held by Apple, which has long had a firm foothold in classrooms with its Mac computers.

HP calls the technology behind the all-in-one Sprout — with an overhead camera that can project images on the desk or scan objects — “blended reality.” It is particularly good for capturing images of objects and turning them into digital form.

Such tasks are precisely what schools and workplaces often need to do, said Louis Kim, general manager of immersive computing at HP, in a press briefing. The new product is aimed at creative professionals, students, and teachers who can take advantage of its 2D/3D scanning, augmented reality, immersive dual screen, and added security, he said.

It’s a very unique platform that was several years in the making,” Kim explained. “We brought it all into a sleek product that enables fluid interaction and seamless collaboration. We got a lot of interest from consumers, and also got a lot of pull from professionals and education. Sprout Pro is the response.”

HP Sprout Pro is targeted at education and enterprise.

Above: HP Sprout Pro is targeted at education and enterprise.

Image Credit: HP

For education, Sprout Pro consolidates the PC, document camera, and 2D and 3D scanners into an all-in-one solution that reinvents the way students learn, create, collaborate, and share. It gives kids a way to engage in a tactile, visual, and audio experience, and provides teachers with new ways to make lessons immersive and engaging. But at $2,200, it’s not cheap.

“Sprout is like a learning broadcast station,” said Gus Schmedlen, vice president of education at HP.

He said the problem with a lot of schools is that they teach a “one-size-fits-all curriculum.” With something like Sprout, cloud-based assessment systems support adaptive learning, or learning where the level of difficulty is adjusted based on what the student knows.

Sprout has 18 hours of battery life and high-end wireless networking.

HP is placing Sprout Pro computers in 60 leading schools as part of a research program.

In the enterprise, there’s a lot of interest from healthcare, retail, and manufacturing, including from companies that bought the consumer version of Sprout and modified it for their uses. Here, too, Sprout Pro can make it easier to collaborate on creative projects, Kim said.

Software includes the Sprout Companion for Skype for Business, which works with the Sprout pen and map; the HP External Display Mixer, which allows users to share to other screens what’s on the Sprout dual screen; HP Scan, which provides added professional-level document scanning and optical character recognition; and the HP Magnifier, which replaces a document camera and allows users to share live physical objects or documents and zoom in on them.

“You can share something on a desk and see the person sharing it at the same time in a video call,” Kim said. “Phygital is the term for the seamlessness of physical and digital with Sprout.”

The machine runs Microsoft Windows 10 and has an Intel Core i7 processor with DDR4 main memory and integrated graphics. Autodesk has adapted its 3D tool for Sprout. The new machine is shipping in February.

Kim didn’t say how many of the original Sprout have sold, but he did say that sales met expectations, which is one reason HP is now launching the Sprout into new markets.

HP Sprout Pro lets you digitize 3D objects quickly.

Above: HP Sprout Pro lets you digitize 3D objects quickly.

Image Credit: HP

 

 

 

 

 

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Trello hits 12M users, launches Power-Ups Platform with partners Giphy, Join.me, SurveyMonkey, and Zendesk

The new SurveyMonkey Power-Up for Trello.

Task management startup Trello is today launching a new Power-Ups Platform to make its app more powerful and useful through the integration of third-party tools.

Meanwhile, the company also announced in a blog post that it now has more than 12 million users, up from 10 million in September.

A chart of Trello's user growth, based on publicly available data.

Above: A chart of Trello’s user growth, based on publicly available data.

Image Credit: Jordan Novet/VentureBeat

But the platform has strategic importance, as well. It’s aimed at making Trello the central part of an ecosystem, instead of just another tool that’s open while you’re working. Slack and Atlassian’s HipChat have also been pursuing this area in recent months.

In this case, Trello is showing off new Power-Ups, or optional integrations, for users to turn on: Zendesk, SurveyMonkey, Giphy, Join.me, Harvest, Corrello, Elegantt, Publicate, and FogBugz (from Fog Creek Software, which first developed Trello in 2011 before spinning it out as its own company in 2014).

Trello has had a working application programming interface (API) for more than four years, and Power-Ups have been available for almost three years. But there’s definitely space for a wider selection of third-party integrations.

In September, Trello showed off Power-Up integrations with Evernote, GitHub, Salesforce, and Slack for its Business Class premium tier of service.

Trello's new Giphy Power-Up.

Above: Trello’s new Giphy Power-Up.

Image Credit: Trello

Those being featured today are important, if for no other reason than that they give Trello a couple of Slack’s most compelling features: native video conferencing (Slack picked up that technology by way of the Screenhero acquisition) and a fun animated GIF search widget (messaging app Telegram recently announced a Giphy-powered bot that can do something similar).

Companies using Trello include Adobe, Conde Nast, Instacart, and Lonely Planet.

Developers interested in building apps for the Power-Ups Platform — which are all listed on a dedicated page — can start by asking for access to Trello’s API.

Disclosure: I am one of Trello’s users. Pretty much my entire life lives in Trello.

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Hero’s Song RPG is the first game from ex-Sony Online chief John Smedley’s startup

Hero's Song is the first game from John Smedley's PixelImage studio.

John Smedley, the former head of Sony Online Entertainment, has unveiled Hero’s Song, the first game from his new studio PixelImage Games.

Smedley served at Sony Online Entertainment for 20 years and was its leader for 15. He spun the maker of massively multiplayer online games such as PlanetSide 2 out of its Japanese parent company in February, 2015. He became the CEO of the renamed business, Daybreak Game Company, but stepped down from that role in July 2015. By October, he started his new company, PixelImage of San Diego, Calif., and started work on a title that was announced today. Smedley is launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise $800,000 for the title.

Smedley told GamesBeat that he had already raised $1 million for the 2D pixel-art game Hero’s Song from private sources. But he wants to test the idea’s potential to be a hit with fans through the Kickstarter campaign.

“The last time I did a startup was 1999, with EverQuest,” Smedley said. “For a long time, I have wanted to start a company that made super-deep games, versus superficial things.”

John Smedley, founder of PixelImage Games, was also a co-creator of EverQuest.

Above: John Smedley, the founder of PixelImage Games, was also a co-creator of EverQuest.

Image Credit: Jeff Grubb/GamesBeat

Smedley has assembled a group of developers that includes Bill Trost, who was the lead designer and co-creator of the EverQuest franchise, and Patrick Rothfuss, The New York Times No. 1-best-selling author of The Name of The Wind fantasy novels. The core team is already 13 employees, and it will grow as production ramps up in the coming months.

One of the inspirations for Hero’s Song is Dwarf Fortress, a pixel-art game that is procedurally generated and was originally released by a two-person team in 2006. It was praised for its complex, emergent gameplay despite its text-based graphics.

“Dwarf Fortress is the model, a hyper-deep game,” Smedley said. “I think of [Hero’s Song] as a combination of Dwarf Fortress, Diablo III, and Ultima Online. We are focusing on very deep gameplay, and not so much on high-end graphics. We all love pixel graphics.”

A village in Hero's Song

Above: A village in Hero’s Song

Image Credit: PixelImage Games

Pixellmage Games has been in stealth mode since October. It has developed the core elements and prototype for Hero’s Song. Pixellmage Games intends to deliver the game in October 2016, just nine months from now.

Smedley said he chose to partner with Rothfuss — not to license the author’s works — to create a new backstory for the fantasy universe of the game.

“I love Pat’s books,” he said. “I have more own stories I want to tell, and my own worlds to build. There’s a point you reach in your life where you don’t want to make someone else’s dreams.”

Smedley said Hero’s Song will have 2D pixel art, and it will have role-playing gameplay with an action-combat feel.

The swiftness of the company’s formation, initial funding, and recruitment of the staff speaks volumes about Smedley’s ability to recruit talent. Back in 1995, he led the team that created EverQuest, a ground-breaking MMO that enabled millions of people to play a living game inside a virtual world.

EverQuest debuted in 1999, and the teams that Smedley built went on to create titles like PlanetSide, Star Wars Galaxies, DC Universe Online, Shadowrun, Untold Legends, Free Realms, Magic: The Gathering — Tactics, Clone Wars Adventures, and H1Z1. Smedley said his time at SOE and Daybreak was the “most wonderful time of my life.”

One of the gods in Hero's Song.

Above: One of the gods in Hero’s Song.

Image Credit: PixelImage Games

“Our goal with Pixelmage Games is to make extremely deep and hardcore games in a beautiful pixel art style with an incredibly deep multiplayer experience” said Smedley. “We’re calling on the community to be a part of this project as we create a really unique game that we’re sure fantasy RPG fans will really enjoy.”

The single-player campaign has a unique twist. Smedley said that the player will choose which of the gods will be the predominant forces in the world. Based on that choice, different races such as elves or dwarves will be the dominant shapers of the world. The game automatically generates a simulated history for the world with thousands of years of events. The player becomes a legendary hero in this procedurally-generated world. The player then explores the endless dungeons and ancient cities in the land in the single-player version. The game will also have a multiplayer version. Smedley said the single-player game will be very replayable, thanks to the ability to customize it.

“When John approached me to join the project, I knew this was going to be an opportunity to bring my experience with telling stories to gamers in a really unique way and work with some fun people,” said Rothfuss, in a statement. “I’ve never done world building as part of a team before, and it’s a lot more fun than I’d anticipated. I’m excited to be able to show people what we’ve come up with.”

A landscape in Hero's Song

Above: A landscape in Hero’s Song

Image Credit: PixelImage Games

Smedley isn’t your usual corporate executive. On his way out of Daybreak, Smedley raged on social media about the failure of authorities to jail a convicted hacker who was responsible for a bomb threat that grounded a plane that Smedley was flying on. Outraged by the perceived lack of punishment, Smedley took to Twitter to tell the hacker that he was “coming for” him. That, in turn, led hackers to lead their own attack on Daybreak’s servers.

Smedley said that the game will be a $20 title with no microtransactions.

“I decided I wanted to get out of the free-to-play business,” he said. “I’m willing to try different things, and not be tied down by the dogma of a previous life. At Daybreak, I was stuck on free-to-play games. I was tired of that model. I always felt I was arguing with players. I just wanted to talk about the game, not the price of the items.”

If the game is successful, Smedley said the team will move on to new games. But for now, it will focus on making just one game.

A scene from Hero's Song.

Above: A scene from Hero’s Song.

Image Credit: PixelImage Games

 










Wireless Microsoft HoloLens To Have Up to 5.5 Hours of Battery Life

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Former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo joins Index Ventures as partner, co-founds new fitness startup

Dick Costolo, former CEO of Twitter, onstage at the Code Conference in May 2015.

Six months after stepping down as CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo has revealed his next moves after handing control of the social network back to Jack Dorsey.

In a couple of tweets this morning, Dorsey announced he’s co-founding a new fitness-focused startup with Bryan Oki, a man who was formerly a co-founder and CEO of another fitness platform called Fitify.

The new startup is a “software platform that reimagines the path to personal fitness,” and will be aimed at health professionals, coaches, and therapists working in the fitness realm.

At the same time, Costolo also revealed that he’s joining as a partner at venture capital (VC) firm Index Ventures, which has bases in San Francisco and Europe.

It’s perhaps interesting to note the medium used by Costolo to announce his news. While he did so on Twitter, he essentially used screenshots of an app that contained the full details of the news. This helps highlight one of the problems identified by Twitter’s current CEO Dorsey — the long-standing 140-character restriction. This will likely be removed to some degree in the coming months.

Costolo joined Twitter as chief operating officer (COO) in 2009, before going on to replace Ev Williams as CEO a year later. Prior to Twitter, Costolo was a product manager at Google after the Internet giant acquired his company, FeedBurner, in 2007.

 










Paul Smith Steps Down As CEO Of U.K. Accelerator Ignite

Paul Smith In what seems like an end of an era, Paul Smith is stepping down as CEO of Ignite, the U.K.-based accelerator he founded almost five years ago. He’ll be replaced by Tristan Watson, current Ignite MD. In that time, Ignite has run 7 programs, raised several funding rounds, seen a number of its alumni exit, and most recently expanded beyond its Newcastle base in the North East of England to… Read More

Adobe adds history-aware remarketing so retailers can stop annoying existing customers

adobe

There are no two ways about it. Adobe is killing it in marketing clouds. We know: We did the research at VB Insight and produce what is perhaps the most data-driven and comprehensive report on marketing clouds ever created.

But that isn’t stopping Adobe from adding to its marketing cloud offering.

Today, at Retail’s BIG Show, the National Retail Federation’s 105th annual convention and expo, Adobe is introducing several additions to its marketing cloud and retail offerings. The one that stands out: Data-driven, history-aware remarketing.

Withing Adobe’s marketing cloud, retailers can connect both consumers’ behavior online and contextual data to create, and send a user-defined remarketing trigger, such as an email, push notification or SMS message, to increase the likelihood of purchase.

How does it work?

The data is captured from Adobe Analytics, and then monitored and delivered in Adobe Campaign. So for example, if a consumer views a product for several minutes on your website, or watches a video about that product, you can have the solution send an email highlighting that product, maybe incentivizing the customer to buy with a money-off coupon.

All of this happens in real-time, straight after a consumer stops a session. That means your promotional message could be triggered after they move on to another page, abandon their cart, or exit their browser — either straight away, or after a pre-determined time delay.

But Adobe’s take on remarketing goes further than that. If you know a winter storm is on the horizon through contextual data, you could use that to send an in-app push notification that highlights portable power generator offers, for example.

It is the combination of remarketing and historical data that makes this an attractive proposition. The ability to remarket to customers in real-time with personalized messages, across many messaging channels, and based on past behavior, gives retailers — in particular —  some exciting new approaches to help increase sales or improve customer retention.

That historical data also allows users to avoid the scourge of remarketing — pushing consumers toward products they have already purchased. For example, push notifications that promote a pair of boots could be sent to any customer that is in the boot-buying segment, but who hasn’t yet purchased a pair.

Adobe is announcing other enhancements and improvements to its Experience Manager and Target solutions at the event, all of which are designed to extend the shopper’s experience by connecting consumers’ online research with in-store personalization.

Adobe’s new marketing cloud additions will be on demonstration at Retail’s BIG Show at Adobe Booth #3679, just in time for what is expected to be the busiest retail period of 2016 so far — the week ahead of Valentine’s Day.