500px launches a Roku app that brings its photo catalog to your television


500px has launched an app for the Roku platform that will bring its entire photo catalog right to your television, but there’s a catch: you’re going to need the latest version of the Roku operating system. With it, users can view any of their photos right on the largest screen in their home. But if you’re not a user, don’t worry because the company says the app will let them view “general community photos” found on 500px.

Last month, Roku announced that it was going to release Roku OS 7, an updated version of its operating system for existing current-generation media streamers. Updates were supposed to be rolling out starting mid-October and includes some new features.

This is the latest foray by 500px into the larger screen market, adding to its Chromecast integration. But unlike with its Chromecast, the Roku integration lets users make changes to the catalog of images that are selected.

So for those enabling 500px on their television screens, it’s going to create a digital picture frame where you’ll be able to cycle through some top-notch photographs to make your life feel a little bit more cultured.

Right now, the company is only targeting Roku, but if you’re looking for it to come to the Apple TV, you’re going to be disappointed as a 500px spokesperson tells VentureBeat that “there’s nothing immediate” for the platform.

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HotelTonight Cuts 20 Percent Of Its Workforce

sam-shank12 HotelTonight CEO Sam Shank (pictured above) said he laid off 37 employees today, 20 percent of the hotel booking startup’s total workforce. Shank described the cuts as “a strategic movement that will enable us to reach our growth and revenue targets” and said they will result in “a more streamlined and focused company.” At the same time, he was quick to add… Read More

Google will retire Chrome support for Windows XP, Vista, OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 in April 2016


Google today announced it is extending Chrome support for Windows XP until April 2016.

In October 2013, Google originally announced it would retire Chrome support for Windows XP in April 2015. The company then pushed the date back until December 2015. Now it’s being pushed back yet again.

More to follow

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Apple Music is now available on Android

Apple Music: Android

The Apple Music subscription service is now available for Android devices.

The new Android app is free at the Google Play store as of today. It will work on devices running Android 4.3 or higher.

Android users can do the same 3-month trial period the iPhone people got, then decide whether or or not to pay the $9.99 monthly subscription fee.

Apple’s music service directly competes with Google Play Music, which also costs $9.99 per month, but Google apparently wants Android users to have the option.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, recently said his company’s music service now has 6.5 million paying customers, with 8.5 million users in a trial period.

For Apple, launching an Android app is a bit of a no-brainer. Android, the most popular mobile operating system in the world, represents an opportunity for Apple to dramatically increase the subscriber count for its music service.

Apple needs its new music-streaming service on Android in the same way it needed iTunes on Windows PCs. There is too much profit to be made, and too many cross-platform competitors such as Spotify — Apple simply can’t ignore Android.

Fork Lift: A movement that’s rewriting how, why, and what we eat  


This sponsored post is produced by Panasonic Lab 1.0.

Noah Karesh and his girlfriend were traveling in Guatemala, longing for authentic Guatemalan cuisine — and couldn’t find a place that served it. In a last ditch effort, they asked an avocado seller, “Do you know where we can find real Guatemalan food?” Smiling broadly, he responded, “At my Mom’s house!” They followed him back to his mother’s house, “and there she was, preparing this epic meal,” and when the smells hit my nose I said, ‘Wow, this is magic!'” Karesh relates.

That was the genesis of what Feastly has become: a platform where chefs can prepare and serve meals all over the world, regardless of their culinary cred. Feastly is bringing the authenticity and adventure home.

Quantum shifts in far-flung kitchens — or your own backyard 

The Feastly model allows any chef to offer meals as pop-up events that may take place in supper clubs, underutilized restaurant space, or in the chef’s own home, thus reimagining the whole concept of what it means to dine out. “Whether you’re in Boston or Bangkok or Bangalore, anyone can visit Feastly and find interesting, dynamic meals happening,” says Karesh, co-founder of the company.

Feastly is part of a movement that’s redefining how food is consumed — and the industry is morphing to adapt. Technology is a game changer for grocery delivery, he notes. Ease of consumption and the expansion of meaningful food experiences will be paramount.

Join Feastly founder Noah Karesh along with food author Eve Turow and Alex Yancher from Pantry for Grocery-a-Go-Go – a spirited live discussion about the ways grocery innovation is changing our relationship with food. Part of Panasonic’s Lab 1.0, the event takes place Thursday, November 12th from 6 to 8 p.m. in San Francisco. Register now to secure your spot.

“People are purchasing items that might not be at the grocery store, such as Feastly meals, or healthy meal replacements such as Soylent. Services like direct delivery, or Instacart and Whole Foods, speak to the convenience people want now. I personally love going to the supermarket, but a lot of people trust that those who are doing the shopping and delivery are going to be able to bring them what they want, specifically around produce and other perishables.

“We’re going to see a lot of restaurants turning into more of a delivery system than sit-down dining, and I think we’re going to see services like Feastly almost replacing the traditional restaurant experience.”

Paradoxically, technology also heralds a back-to-the-future focus. “We’re going to start growing more food through systems that make it easy to do that without having to put too much work into it,” forecasts Karesh. “Perhaps grocery stores will begin carrying a line of smart planters, where people can just grow their own food and the grocery store is helping to supply some of those elements, whether it’s the seeds, or for the harvesting.

“Buying and selling produce will start to change, too, with more barter happening, because, for example, you grow tomatoes and I grow peppers, and we can trade. The technology is there to allow the change to be simple.”

Once the realm of science fiction, like the Star Trek replicator, 3D- printed food and food pills that serve as meal replacements are now reality — and completely shift how and when we can access food. The ability to pack nutrients into a dense, easily deliverable, bioavailable form also signals a sea change for emergency situations, such as natural disasters or mass malnutrition. Additionally, meal pills can be used for specific body areas needing attunement, such as building muscle or better brain capacity.

Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

What do these evolving food delivery systems say about changing consumer attitudes? Karesh sees a braid of factors in play:

  • Disconnection from our food
  • Lack of food knowledge: how or where it was produced
  • Disinterest in the spiritual dimension of food

“I believe the purpose of eating goes beyond just nourishing your body, to nourishing your soul,” he says fervently. His passion rebrands the term, “soul food.”

The new trends are bucking these old beliefs. The notion of connection is the biggest one. “We want to know where our food’s coming from, who’s making it. Millennials are driving the trend, with all these chefs who are becoming rock stars, because we want to know the story behind our food. It’s another reason you see services outside the traditional bricks-and-mortar dining establishments becoming very popular, whether that’s food trucks or pop-ups,” says Karesh.

Connection also means having someone to enjoy your meals with. Citing our technological propensity to have “Friends” we don’t really know, he adds, “Someone can have 5,000 Facebook friends but they’re still eating alone — how rich of a life are they living? People are gravitating to dining events because we’re the sum of our experiences, and Feastly is bridging this gap between the online and offline experience. We’re bringing people back to the original social network, which is across the dining room table. The table is a gathering spot for family, friends, community.”

And Karesh is happily operating the “fork lift” designed to nourish both body and soul.

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].

Spiro is serious about its R-rated, joke-laden sales assistant app


It isn’t every day you come across a completely new idea in sales enablement, but today is one of those days.

Along with $1.5 million in seed funding, Spiro has announced today the launch of its new sales assistant app.

But there’s a twist. One that even M. Night Shyamalan couldn’t have conceived.

Spiro — which is available on the Apple App Store today — works as a personal sales assistant. It recommends the tasks salespeople should do every moment of the day. Spiro was designed on top of a custom-built machine learning engine that leverages existing data in Salesforce, email, and calendars to tell salespeople who to call, email, or meet with, helping them stay on top of their open opportunities.

From VentureBeat
Do you personalize your marketing emails? Take our survey on email personalization and we’ll share the results!

Because Spiro integrates with Salesforce, it understands what each salesperson has in their personal pipeline. Usefully, salespeople can capture actions and engagement with prospects in Spiro, such as completing a follow-up call or sending an email. With every action that moves a deal forward, Spiro automatically updates Salesforce with all of the details. Since CRM systems carry — by far — the highest total cost of ownership of any marketing technology, automating mundane data entry is a big plus point.

So what’s the twist?

Spiro isn’t your average sales app. Firstly, there are the assistant personalities that you can choose from, which include the Jewish Mother, “R-rated,” Surfer Dude, Gossip Girl, and Coach.

Spiro Personalities

Then, there’s the 2,500 jokes that have been embedded in the app to provide humor, motivation, and a little spice.

So why the big focus on humor within the app?

“The majority of salespeople we know are outgoing, engaging personalities who love humor almost as much as they love making money,” Adam Honig, co-founder and CEO at Spiro told me. “In our beta testing of the Spiro app, we’ve seen our users enjoy the jokes and humor so much they’ve been tweeting and texting screenshots.”

And does the choice of personality have any correlation to the type of salesperson?

“The highest performing sales reps use the ‘R-Rated’ personality in Spiro,” Honig said.

For the makers of Spiro, what sounds like a joke is actually a deadly serious business.

“Salespeople are being forced by their companies to use these really boring enterprise applications, which have never told them a joke or shown them a picture of a Victoria’s Secret model,” Honig said. “We find that a little humor goes a long way in motivating salespeople to push past the many obstacles in their way of making more money.”

Of course, that answer made me immediately wonder if Spiro also shows Abercrombie and Fitch male models to female salespeople.

“We want to show salespeople the image that will motivate them to make the next call,” Honig said. “When a salesperson completes an action in Spiro — a call, an email, etc. — they see a motivational image from a variety of public Instagram accounts, including the Travel Channel, Fitness Magazine and Vogue, which do also include male models!”

So while the jokes, and the multiple personalities, help to motivate the sales team, there’s still an engine behind the scenes that needs to choose the right thing to do, to the right prospect, at the right time. How does Spiro work out what the salesperson should be doing next?

“The founding team of Spiro has built applications which have been used by over 300,000 sales professionals,” Honig said. “We used this knowledge, plus six months of discussion with sales leaders, to develop the algorithms that power Spiro. Spiro analyzes data from the salesperson’s behavior — who he or she has called, emailed, met with — combined with the customer’s response. This is all factored in along with information pulled from Salesforce to make the right recommendation about what he or she should be doing next to make more money.”

The app is available for iOS users now, but what does the future hold?

“We’ve heard from a lot of our beta users that they would like a desktop version of Spiro, which is why we’re developing a Chrome extension,” Honig said. “The Chrome extension will work very much like the iPhone app, except of course it will be harder to hold up to your ear to make a phone call. We are currently in a private beta for the Chrome extension and will be expanding that over the next month. Our engineering team is working hard on the Android version of Spiro and we will be starting a beta program in December. We’ll have more to announce about other editions in the near future.”

So what is Honig’s favorite joke so far?

Call Detail Screen Screen Shot

“I use Spiro’s ‘R-Rated’ personality, which is very funny, but often unprintable. The humor is always in the context of a recommendation that Spiro is making to a salesperson. Instead of saying something boring like ‘Call Mike,’ Spiro’s R-Rated personality would say ‘Call Mike and be personable – you know, act like someone other than your sucky self.’ Our comedy writer has written over 2,500 unique messages and jokes across the seven built in personalities.”

Spiro is available today on the Apple App Store.

5 startups compete for millions’ worth of media exposure

SevenVentures Pitch Day 2014

This sponsored post is produced in association with ProSiebenSat.1.

One of the biggest hurdles startup companies face in today’s competitive market is exposure. Or, to put it more bluntly, the lack of it. When competing with hundreds of companies within the same niche, the need to make a name for yourself is great. However, it would take a miracle to get the necessary funding needed to become a mass market brand early on.

For many European startup companies, SevenVentures has acted as their fairy godmother. The venture firm turned them into leading household names by giving them massive media exposure. How much media exposure? About several million euros worth! Yes, thanks to the annual televised competition called the “SevenVentures Pitch Day,” European startup companies have a chance to win several million euros worth of TV marketing power provided by the stations of ProSiebenSat.1, Germany’s largest televised network.

Taking place for the fourth time at the Noah Conference in London, the SevenVentures Pitch Day will see five founders pitch their business ideas this year to become “The Venture of Europe.” In addition to the nifty title and all the media exposure that comes with it, the winner will also receive further support in creating advertising campaigns and ongoing optimization through the use of media analytics. It’s the once-in-the-lifetime opportunity for startups to get their brands out of the shadows and into the public spotlight.

“Our platform gives young growth companies the chance to turbocharge the internationalization of their business.” says SevenVentures CEO Sascha van Holt. “We have entered into partnerships in several European countries to help the companies quickly attain high-reach exposure across the continent.”

But these aren’t your everyday pitches. In these “Blind Pitches,” the selected panel of judges are only able to hear the founders’ pitch and nothing more. Meaning they can’t see who they are, what they look like or any flashy slides. The only thing that matters is if the judges like what they hear. And if they do like what they hear, they can vote for the founder with the press of a buzzer.

Win or lose, the SevenVentures pitch contest serves as valuable learning experience for the contestants. Besides being able to pitch on a big stage it’s also a fantastic way to get media exposure they wouldn’t get anywhere else. Not to mention, a compelling piece of entertainment for the home viewer.

The event will broadcast live on November 12th, at 2:55pm (time zone UK).

If you can’t wait that long, last year’s competition is available to view right here.

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].

How Logitech’s betting on bold design to ditch its ‘mice and keyboards’ legacy

Circle Camera (Logitech)

Logitech is a brand synonymous with PC peripherals and accessories, but the Swiss company has been delving into an increasing number of categories in recent times as it looks to remain relevant in the post-PC age.

Earlier this year, Logitech announced a new sub-brand that will be attached to many of its new products. So far, “Logi” has found its way onto a handful of iPad accessories and a life-logging, home-monitoring camera. But “Logitech” is still being used on other products, such as keyboards, mice, headphones, and even steering wheels for gamers.

Founded in 1981, Logitech has built a solid reputation in the tech realm, but if it’s to survive another 35 years, it has to evolve. And this is exactly what it’s doing, underpinned by a fresh four-letter brand name and suite of new products.

VentureBeat caught up with Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell at Dublin Web Summit last week to get his thoughts on where the company’s at, and where things are heading from here on in.

Bracken Darrell

Above: Bracken Darrell

Image Credit: Photo Gaetan Bally

Home automation

The global home automation market is set to hit more than $20 billion by 2020, with Apple embracing the trend, Google-owned Nest making waves, and countless startups popping up globally. It’s a potentially lucrative market, one that Logitech has been edging into with smart remote controls, cameras, and more. But Logitech isn’t a company you would associate with the “smart home,” and this is something Logitech wants to change.

“A lot of people don’t understand us really,” said Darrell. “They look at us and say, ‘Oh, you make mice and keyboards’ — but fundamentally, we’re a technology company. We can make tablets or PCs or smartphones. We have that capability.”

Wait, so could Logitech be branching out into the super-competitive mobile and PC hardware realm? “No, I don’t really want to play in those spaces, I want to play in places where we can be the big fish,” Darrell demurred.

From VentureBeat
Personalization gets you in the door. Mobile personalization gets you in their hearts. Find out more in this free interactive web event.

By referring to “tablets or PCs or smartphones,” Darrell was simply trying to highlight the company’s technology credentials. It has the resources and manpower, but the company is ultimately too late and would be playing catchup for the most part. “I could never imagine trying to compete with Apple and its Mac,” said Darrell. “It doesn’t seem like a smart move for us. We want to focus on things where we can be number one, number two, or number three.”

One of Logitech’s chosen verticals is cameras — security cameras, conference cameras, webcams and, as of September, a Nest-style smartphone-connected camera that lets you keep tabs on everything that’s going on in your home.

The Logi Circle was Logitech’s second product line to sport the Logi nomenclature, and this will be used on all new category lines moving forward. The new name signals the rebirth of a company that could have become a legacy PC brand.

Despite some reports at the time suggesting that Logitech may eventually switch its name entirely to Logi, that isn’t the case. Darrell confirmed to VentureBeat that “Logitech” will always be the company name.

Looking beyond rebrands and rebirths, there could also be some practical reasons for shaving four letters off the Logitech name. As devices get smaller, it’s easier to splash four letters across the surface of a product. But Darrell reckons that shrinking the name is symbolic of a shift in internal culture at the company.

“We really want to be a ‘small’ company,” he said. “Less bureaucracy, less hierarchy, more informal. Nobody has an office — you won’t see a single office in (our) Silicon Valley (base).”

Darrell pointed to the open-plan layout of the large auditorium — where VentureBeat was conducting the interview, people sat side-by-side, almost touching elbows — as an example of how Logitech is trying to shape its internal philosophy. Even Darrell doesn’t have his own office.

A design for life

Today, Logitech has around 600 engineers globally, and it has research and development (R&D) hubs in Lausanne, in Logitech’s native Switzerland; one in Silicon Valley; and — perhaps surprising to some — one in the tiny Irish city of Cork. “It began as a manufacturing site 25 years ago, and we’ve just kept it,” said Darrell.

Logitech puts around 6 percent of its budget directly towards R&D, which is “disproportionately large on the new stuff,” said Darrell. “We’ve reduced investment on the mice and keyboards, and a bunch more on the other stuff. We were totally PC dependent three years ago, but we’ve really moved the company’s centre of gravity into new design-led products.”

And this is the future for Logitech. The company sensed the consumer shift away from laptops and desktops, and has sought to invest in categories it thinks it can carve a sizable niche in.

To help drive this push, Logitech capitalized on Nokia’s downwards turn and hired its former design chief, Alastair Curtis, in 2013. Curtis has been charged with helping to reinvent the Logitech brand with bold colors and a more distinctive look-and-feel.

Before Curtis jumped on board, Logitech worked with external design firms. And although it still does this to some degree, having a large in-house design team should help the firm double-down on slicker products that adhere to a cogent brand.

“When he came in, we didn’t have a single trained designer,” explained Darrell. “Now we have a huge design team all over the world. One of the first things we (Darrell and Curtis) did, was we worked on a set of design principles. Then the next we thing did, we started building this out into the organization.”

So has Curtis brought in a ton of former Nokia design personnel? Not really, as it happens. “It’s been a real mix, we’ve got Nike people, Ideo people, and others,” said Darrell.

Though Logitech does have some former Apple folks in the company, they don’t work in the design team.

The future, according to Logitech

Logitech is working on “six or seven” new product lines and will enter “multiple spaces,” though Darrell wouldn’t divulge what those are. “We could really go into such a huge range of categories, we look at a lot of things,” he said. When probed on whether the company would consider entering the automobile realm, Darrell gave a coy “no comment,” though he later reaffirmed that he saw opportunities everywhere, “including the car.”

“Here’s the thing, this is an amazing moment for a company like us,” said Darrell. “On one end of the spectrum, there are big companies going after the really big categories. You’ve got tens of thousands of startups building hardware niches. Then there’s us sitting in the middle. We’re really good at hardware, we’re getting very good at software and analytics. So that opens up such a range of possibilities that I can’t even describe it and do it justice. What we need to do is pick our battles.”

From speaking to Darrell, it seems there are a number of companies it could emulate, consciously or otherwise. I couldn’t help but think of Dyson when speaking with the Logitech CEO. To many, Dyson is just a company that builds vacuum cleaners, but it has set itself apart with other iconic products, including hand-driers and quirky air purifiers. Last year, Dyson set aside $2.3 billion to invest in “future technologies,” as it looks to bring 100 machines in four new portfolios to market over the next four years, and is pushing into solid-state battery technology to help power part of this.

And then there’s Apple, a company that’s difficult to ignore when discussing design and hardware.

“Inasmuch as Apple is the best at it (design), I think we all take design cues from Apple,” said Darrell. “Apple raised the standard of excellence in hardware products. But our target is different, and our goal is different. Do we take cues from Apple? Everybody does. But we really run our own program.”

Logitech has a long way to go to match Dyson or Apple’s footprint, but with R&D hubs, a design-focused approach, and all-hands-on-deck for the future, Logitech is working hard to ditch the “mice and keyboards” legacy it has built over 30 years.

“Our goal is to create an iconic product every time we launch one,” said Darrell. “We’re going to be where we think we can create an amazing experience, create a platform that can grow over time, one that we can be the leader in.”

Gmail now searches your spam folder for missing emails

Google's new Gmail app in action

If you’ve ever “misplaced” an email in Gmail, it could be quite an ordeal to find it, especially if you don’t know where to start looking. You could try and run a search for it using the service’s search engine, but that’s not really reliable.

Did you know that besides your inbox (and your myriad of folders), the only other part that’s really indexed is your trash? But what about your spam folder? Starting today, Gmail is offering a comprehensive search feature.

When you want to hunt down a missing email, just run a search like normal and Gmail will provide results from throughout your entire account, including your spam folder. Why it didn’t do that right away is unknown because we’ve all had emails errantly wind up there only to curse the wind for it being there after many minutes searching for it and claims it was never received.


Users will see a footer at the bottom of their search results if a match is found in the trash or spam folder.

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