Monthly Archives: April 2013

Walk The Floor With Us At TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013′s Startup Alley



Today at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013, there was a brand new batch of startups on display in Startup Alley, and we hit the floor this morning to check them out. There was a healthy mix, including the Italian pavilion  as well as a number of mobile and media startups and companies concerning themselves with privacy.

We saw a way to create an animated storybook with Toon Hero, a crowdsourced bounty-setting platform for lost items with CrowdFind, a way to motivate group action around an issue with Crowdshout and a museum and culture recommendation and reservation tool with Musement. Overall, it was a varied and extremely interesting mix of companies from around the world.

Social Commerce / Photo Sharing Network Lockerz Launching Ador, A New Fashion Site?



Looks like Lockerz, the social commerce and photo sharing service, may be moving on to yet another chapter in its life. After laying off 30% of its Seattle HQ staff, closing down its San Diego office, and shutting down its Plixi photo sharing API earlier this year, the company is now launching a new fashion site, Ador. A tipster tells us that Lockerz is shutting down altogether and relaunching, but as of right now, the Lockerz site looks like it is still operational. We have reached out to the company to confirm what is going on.

The launch of Ador, in any case, is one more sign of how Lockerz continues to search for new ways of bringing in more users and scale to its service. Lockerz was founded in 2009 and built an early reputation as a place to post photos to share on sites like Twitter — a service that may have proven popular, but perhaps difficult to monetize. That operation picked up extra challenges after other photo sharing services like Instagram emerged, and Twitter took photo sharing into its own hands. Indeed, Lockerz claimed that it was Twitter’s changing terms of service that led it to close down its Plixi API. A second source tells us that the Plixi API had driven “90% of the traffic to Lockerz.com and its mobile site.”

Lockerz has to date raised $43.5 million in funding. Investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Liberty Media, DAG Ventures and Live Nation, with the most recent round, a $7.5 million venture round, coming in October 2012.

While we can’t confirm whether or not Lockerz is pivoting or rebranding, what we can see more certainly is that Lockerz has registered a trademark for “Ador,” along with “A Ador” and (bizarrely) “A”. “A ADOR is a product and service created by Lockerz, Inc.,” the Trademarkia entry reads. Ador is also currently hiring an iOS developer in Seattle.

An about page on Ador.com, meanwhile, describes a fashion-focused site where people can collect images that they like and share them with others, as well as use the site to purchase the items, and track when tagged items go on sale.

In other words, Ador’s services are very similar to those being offered on Lockerz, which has been transforming itself from a photo sharing service into a photo sharing service with a fashion/celebrity/e-commerce angle to it. “Discover the latest in fashion, beauty and entertainment,” the site reads. “Get rewarded for sharing what you love with our community of stylish shoppers.” In February 2012, the site updated its look with a Pinterest-style grid layout and infinte scrolling.

When we covered the layoffs in January, we noted that some key staff, such as head of mobile Daniel Marshalian, was still working at the company. According to his LinkedIn profile, he has now left. Mark Stabingas — who took over as CEO of Lockerz after founder Kathy Savitt the role left to become CMO of Yahoo — is still there. (Savitt remains chairperson.)

Webydo Makes It Easier For Designers To Build Websites By Creating The Code For Them



Webydo is a cloud-based SaaS for designers who want to be able to sell their website design services without having to get their own hands dirty doing any coding  or hire a developer to do it for them. The system offers a custom CMS where designers can build the website. Once they’re happy with the design, Webydo’s software converts it into web code for them. The company also hosts the published website.

“We can bring any design into life without writing one line of code,” says founder and CEO Shmulik Grizim. ”We have a sophisticated code generator that actually replaces the developer in the equation. You don’t need to manually write the code. You can create any kind of website for your customer’s business.”

Designs, photos, media and other assets can be imported into Webydo’s “online canvas” where the various elements are assembled via a drag and drop interface to create the finished website.

“You just drag and drop your elements to create your own unique design, exactly as you planned it, pixel by pixel. You can insert sophisticated features such as blogs, and forms, and Google maps,” says Grizim. “Whatever you want to create any kind of website. Hundreds of pages, dozens of pages, it doesn’t really matter. We are the only platform on the web that enables the designer full freedom for creating.”

When the designer hits publish, the code is assembled by Webydo’s code generator — which Grizim says is patent-pending. This is also where the payment kicks in: the tools are free at the point of use, but published websites cost $10 per month. The startup says it is hosting more than 50,000 websites created with its tools so far during its closed beta. It opened this up yesterday to the U.S. market — prior to that it was mostly operating in Israel and Europe.

The main competitor he cites when asked about rivals in the space is Adobe Muse. But whereas that’s a desktop application, Webydo is a cloud SaaS offering — and that’s it’s “main advantage”, says Grizim. As well as offering the design studio free at the point of use to designers, Webydo’s CMS is also free for the designer’s customer to use to edit their website.

“In Adobe Muse you only have the editor tool for the designer. But once the business owner wants to edit the content on his website he needs a developer to connect it to a content management system. With Webydo we have a fully integrated content management system on the fly — you don’t need to do anything, everything is included.”

“We are offering our designer partners to build their own business — they get a full business ready to use, and they can create the websites for their customers,” says Grizim. Websites can be created in a few hours “from scratch”, he adds.

The company has raised $1.8 million in seed and Series A funding, from investors in the U.S. and Israel, and has raised $2.6m so far of a $5m target for its Series B.

Poutsch Is An Opinion-Gathering Platform For Tracking What The World Thinks



Here’s a startup hoping to fill the gap left by the demise of Facebook Questions: French-Belgian startup Poutsch, now based in New York and exhibiting here at TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s Startup Alley, has built a platform for tracking opinion data by crowdsourcing market research, which is incentivised through a free-to-use-and-browse social opinion network.

The startup describes itself as a “question & opinion” platform — rather than a Q&A play like Quora. “The difference is we’re not looking for one answer,” says co-founder Felix Winckler. Poutsch’s platform takes the temperature of whatever its users are curious enough to ask about — so everything from ‘what’s your favourite fruit pastille?’ to ‘are you still using Mailbox?’.

Poutsch’s platform lets users ask, answer and view questions, read opinions and look at charts displaying how the data breaks down by variables, such as location, gender and age. They can also follow other users and share their questions to their own network to keep the opinions flowing in. As you’d expect for a site that needs user-generated content to function, Poutsch is free to use, as well as for third-party sites to use its widget to embed polls. The ultimate aim is to monetise the platform by selling opinion data to advertisers, marketers, product manufacturers and so on, says Winckler.

Poutsch launched a public beta back in January. An iOS app is due soon. It says it’s acquired “thousands” of users — both individuals and organisations — to date but won’t be more specific. It’s currently live across 160+ countries.

The big challenge for Poutsch will clearly be acquiring enough users to generate the volumes of data it will need to monetise its platform. The most answered questions on the site mostly have only a few hundred responses apiece, while many trending questions have just tens of responses, so there’s clearly some work to do there. But it’s still in beta — with a “hard launch” due in about a month.

The 7 Disrupt NY Finalists: Enigma, Floored, Glide, Handle, HealthyOut, SupplyShift And Zenefits



More than 2,000 people have filled up the historic Manhattan Center with our biggest hackathon and Startup Alley yet, and a set of incisive discussions with tech leaders. Now it’s time for the battlefield finals, and we have our seven finalists picked out.

But first, tomorrow will feature Ashton Kutcher, Joe Lonsdale, a big panel on transportation, an interview with hardware startup leader Limor Fried, the Rap Genius guys, and more.

Finals judges include Nancy Peretsman (Allen & Company), Roelof Botha (Sequoia Capital), Chris Dixon (Founder Collective), David Lee (SV Angel), Michael Arrington (CrunchFund), and Chi-Hua Chien (Kleiner Perkins).

Enigma.io makes it easy to analyze data from more than 100,000 data sources, and is already being used by journalists to break stories and financial firms and companies to make smarter business decisions.

Floored scans office spaces, apartments and houses using 3D camera technology and proprietary software to build customizable 3D models for real estate purposes.

Glide lets you enjoy video chat on your own schedule, and has made it into the finals round from our Startup Alley.

Handle helps you manage your email overload via a rich web app as well as a companion native iOS app that integrates with Gmail (and soon Microsoft Exchange and Yahoo).

HealthyOut provides users with personalized menus of food from local restaurants, set up as a subscription delivery service to help them lose weight or just eat better overall.

SupplyShift is an enterprise tool that lets companies and organizations track everything that’s going on with suppliers around world, collecting sustainability data to help them reduce risk exposure.

Zenefits helps small businesses manage payroll, health care and other human-resources services for employees.

Save The Mom Puts A Family-Only Social Network On Your iPhone



Italian company and TechCrunch Startup Alley participant at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 Save The Mom has created an iPhone app that’s designed to bring families closer together, with social networking tools designed specifically for private use. It’s not only about being social, however, as it includes shared productivity and task management tools to make managing a family easier, too.

The Save The Mom app is a little sexist in its naming, but the tools it offers are pretty useful. It provides tools like grocery and to-do list collaboration within the family, private photo sharing, post appointments and commitments that you have in your own calendar and more. You can even poll family members, maybe to make a meal choice, and record audio notes, which co-founder Davide Dattoli says is especially useful for children that are too young to be able to communicate with written language.



Save The Mom is a free app for iPhone owners, and will be coming to Android within the next few weeks. There’s also an iPad version in the works for late on, too. The free app is supported by in-app advertisement, which has already enabled Save The Mom to make some key partnerships.

“The business model is based on advertising,” Dattoli explained. “We’re partnered with Condé Nast in Italy, and we’re integrated with Style.it and we’re developing other partnerships around awards. We know what people buy, and we know what they do and where they do it. Advertisers are very interested in that.”

Asked about privacy concerns, Dattoli said that the company is very careful with client privacy, and doesn’t pass on any kind of identifying information about its users to its advertising partners. That doesn’t mean that customers won’t still be made nervous by the idea of an app designed around private sharing transmitting any kind of information to third parties, but it’s possible the benefits of targeted, relevant deals will outweigh those concerns.

App Install Ads Could Be The Growing Cash Calf Of Facebook's Earnings



How do you get hundreds of millions of people to consider downloading your app? One of the only answers is Facebook’s app install ads. With the app stores overrun and every company going mobile, app install ads are Facebook’s big chance to monetize mobile. Companies like 1-800-Flowers and Poshmark say the ads are already a hit, and I think they could be the star of Facebook’s earnings tomorrow.

Putting Needles Atop The Haystack

If you’re unfamiliar, Facebook launched app install ads in October 2012 to let developers pay to promote their apps in the mobile news feed of Facebook’s apps. The ads show the app’s name, a short description, the category of app (i.e. adventure game, ecommerce app), a big image of the app, and an obvious “Install Now” button that opens the app’s page in the Apple App Store or Google Play so it can be quickly downloaded. On iOS, the App Store can even be opened in an overlaid window so users don’t feel like they’ve ditched their friends on Facebook.

Why are these so important? Because app discovery is a mess right now, yet mobile is becoming critical to nearly every business — web giants, mobile-first startups, game developers, name-brand retailers, and with time, even smaller businesses.

Beyond word of mouth, the only reliable way to get an app discovered for free is to climb onto the frequently browsed app store charts…which requires tens of thousands of downloads in the first place. That leads developers to try to buy installs however they can, but often they end up with users that never really use their app. It doesn’t matter how cheap they are to acquire if they don’t generate any return on investment.

A Big Bang That Gets Your Bucks Back

What app makers need are legitimate downloads. Downloads from users that will engage, share with their friends, and pay. Lots and lots of downloads. Few channels are big enough to deliver app discovery at a massive scale. There’s the existing favorite, Google AdWords, which are popular and making Google a ton of money. But increasingly, developers are turning to Facebook’s app install ads. In its last earnings call, Facebook said that since the launch of app install ads, 20% of the top 100 grossing iOS apps are using them.

Today after his talk at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, I asked Facebook’s product director of advertising Gokul Rajaram how mobile install ads are doing. He candidly told me “They’re performing well, and we’re seeing them deliver really high quality users that take actions.”

Facebook’s clients agree. 1-800-Flowers.com’s VP of Mobile and Social Amit Shah tells me  ”Our ability to reach hundreds of millions of US users who are accessing Facebook every day on their mobile devices is phenomenal. Other than Google search ads, there’s not another discovery medium at scale if you want to drive a large number of downloads.”

Mobile-only fashion marketplace app Poshmark’s CEO Manish Chandra concurs, ”We’ve been using mobile install ads since their beta and they’ve been incredibly cost effective. We’ve found no difference in the acquired users, whether from Facebook’s organic shares or mobile install ads, in terms of their engagement and overall behavior, so we’ve been using them as one of the largest sources of user acquisition for Poshmark.” Meanwhile, Canadian ecommerce discounts app Checkout 51 was able to pull in 10,000 installs over two days using app install ads. The cost per install came in at just $0.60.

That low cost, and the quality of users Facebook’s app install ads deliver is crucial because buying installs only makes sense if you earn more on each user you acquire them it cost to rope them in. Facebook’s wealth of targeting data means it can show the ads to people who’ll actually want them and have the device the apps are designed for, so people actually become users with high lifetime value. That’s a big improvement over incentivized install ad networks that give people virtual goods or currency in their favorite games in exchange for downloading new apps. Downloaders often immediately delete these apps despite the developer getting charged for the ads.

1-800-Flowers President Chris McCann tells me “Facebook is putting us into the right context. [The ads] show friends who have Liked or used our app. We think it’s a great discovery/distribution mechanism.” The company is planning a big Facebook mobile app install ad buy this week before Mother’s Day to get people installing the 1-800-Flowers app that lets them easily buy gifts. Instead of using ads to drive people to a one-time purchase, McCann says “If we can get them to download an app, we’re a long term player to them”, and the company might get additional ROI beyond the initial purchase when future holidays roll around.

Tall Money On The Small Screen

Becoming the paid gateway to app install ads is a lucrative business. App stores already have users’ credit card information, and the gratification of a download is instant. That makes conversions easy, and attributing those installs to ads simple. That’s why Twitter recently launched its own app install cards, which makes it quick to download apps people talk about. By using Promoted Tweets to amplify tweets that include links to the app stores, advertisers can essentially run Twitter app install ads.

Competition from other channels recognizing the opportunity, and Facebook’s rates increasing as more developers run install ads are risks. Still, the business is already humming for Facebook, and it’s poised for serious growth as the app ecosystem keeps getting larger and more competitive

That’s great news for Facebook, which needs more ways to monetize its 680 million daily mobile users. In Q4 2012, 23% of the social network’s advertising revenue came from mobile, but at that point mobile app install ads had only just launched.

When Facebook announces its Q1 2013 earnings tomorrow, I expect mobile will have grown to around 32% of ad revenue with app install ads playing a central role to that increase. While brand advertising was the rock of Facebook’s desktop ads business, app install ads could form the base of the mobile ad business it depends on.

Check back tomorrow at 2pm PST for our coverage of Facebook’s Q1 2013 earnings

Viddy Co-Founder Chris Ovitz Lands At Mobile Gaming Startup Scopely



Viddy co-founder Chris Ovitz has landed at another buzzed-about Los Angeles startup, the mobile gaming platform Scopely. He used to head up business development at the mobile video startup Viddy, which shot up like a star on the Facebook platform and iOS charts only to later to come back down just as dramatically.

At Scopely, he’ll be a vice president of business development, where he’ll work on external opportunities (presumably deals with third-party game makers) to grow the network and the business. Scopely is pursuing a playbook that many other mobile game developers are following. They’re trying to grow the biggest network of gamers possible using apps built both in-house and by outside studios.

With an eight-figure number of monthly actives, Scopely is still smaller than other larger competitors that have publishing programs like Zynga and Sequoia-backed Pocket Gems and the Japanese giants like DeNA and GREE. But they say they’ve been able to get all of their games into the top five free apps on the iOS charts.

After Ovitz left Viddy a few months ago, he and Driver started talking about what was next.

“I’ve had the privilege of watching his entrepreneurial career,” said Scopely CEO Walter Driver. “Honestly, I never thought we’d have a chance to join forces, but we recently started having casual conversations about his future and thought there might be a potential fit.”

Ovitz declined to go into a lot of detail about what happened at Viddy, except to say that the company has to be inward-focused right now.

“I obviously got to see the entire spectrum of a startup’s life. It was an incredible learning experience,” he said. “They really need to focus internally on product and technology, so there’s not a lot of business development for me to do there.”

Viddy skyrocketed up the charts as a short video-sharing app last year in the wake of Instagram’s massive $1 billion buy from Facebook. On that momentum and Instagram’s buzz, the startup raised $30 million at a $370 million valuation.

But it and its direct competitor Socialcam started hemorrhaging users after Facebook cut off the viral fuel that was helping both apps up the charts. Socialcam, in contrast to Viddy, took a more conservative route with venture capital, instead leaning on friends and family from Y Combinator for a giant party round. They parlayed that and their momentum into a $60 million sale to Autodesk.

Meanwhile, Viddy’s level of funding has complicated its options. The company recently had layoffs and saw another co-founder and CEO Brett O’Brien leave.

“I’ve been a gamer my whole life,” Ovitz said. “I grew up interning at Activision and tried to started my own gaming company in business school. I’ve always admired Walter as an entrepreneur and I wanted to hop on this rocket ship.”

Scopely has $8.5 million in seed funding from firms like NEA, Anthem Venture Partners, The Chernin Group, Greycroft Partners, Lerer Ventures, The Collaborative Fund, Yahoo’s former CEO Terry Semel, Felicis Ventures’ Aydin Senkut, ShoeDazzle co-founder Brian Lee, Auren Hoffman, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow, TechStars’ David Cohen and David Tisch.

ValueClick Founder Brian Coryat Raises $1.5M For Business Listings Startup ‘Local Market Launch'



Local Market Launch, a startup that helps companies manage the online presence of local stores, is announcing that it has raised $1.5 million in Series A funding.

The company was founded by Brian Coryat, who previously founded ValueClick, an online ad company that went public in 2000. Coryat told me that he spent much of the past decade working with small businesses, and that Local Market Launch was created to address one of the big issues that he saw during that time — the need to manage the presence of these businesses on the web, both through their own websites and their listings on other properties.

“Our charge is to make businesses findable on all locations, apps, and devices,” he said.

There are three main pieces to the startup’s offerings for multi-lcoation businesses. First, it creates a landing page for each location, and each page is optimized for local search, Coryat said. Second, it promotes those pages by pushing out the information to a number of search portals and channel partners. Third, it offers monitoring tools so businesses can track social media buzz and reviews.

The company launched in 2012, and Coryat said it doesn’t usually work with these businesses directly — instead, its customers are print directories who can sell Local Market Launch as part of their services, as well as certified marketing representatives (basically, agencies who work with these types of businesses).

As for the funding, it comes from Rincon Venture Partners. Combined with seed funding provided by Coryat himself, Local Market Launch has raised a total of $2.7 million.

Rincon general partner John Greathouse told me that his firm likes to work with “serial entrepreneurs in an adjacent space” — in this case, Coryat actually tackled a similar problem with his first company, AAA Internet Promotions. Greathouse also emphasized that Local Market Launch is trying to drive real-world sales: “If you boil it all down, the goal of Local Market Launch is to generate door swings and phone rings.”

I asked Coryat about the competitive landscape, particularly Yext, a company that helps local businesses update their listings across a range of websites. He replied that Yext has “kind of a neat platform,” but he said that for most small businesses, the real-time updating that Yext emphasizes just isn’t as important, and that Yext doesn’t have Local Market Launch’s focus on optimizing for Google.

Disrupt NY 2013 Barrels Along For A Second Day



And with the conclusion of the last Battlefield Startup presentation, the second day of TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 has come to a close.

The day kicked off with a talk between noted New York City venture capitalist Fred Wilson and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who recently become a VC himself. The two talked Bitcoins and traded VC stories with Wilson giving tips for pitching a venture capitalist. “Leave your backstory at home,” Wilson pleaded. Arrington quickly nodded and agreed.

Mike Abbott then took the stage with Mailbox CEO and co-founder, Gentry Underwood. The two talked about the surprising pains in scaling Underwood’s hot iOS email application. It took engineers 24 hours a day for several weeks to keep up with the initial demand. And then Dropbox scooped up the company.

Google’s Seth Sternberg, Director of Product Management for Google+, and Ardan Arac, Product Manager at Google, used the Disrupt stage to announce new Google + features. Simply put, Google +’s visibility is now supersized in Google Search.

eBay chief John Donahoe explained to Bloomberg’s chief content editor Norm Pearlstine about how the company screens its acquisitions and how he keeps founders from leaving after the acquisition — a trick that many companies fail to execute after buying a startup.

Troy Carter is disrupting the music industry from within. And today he spoke with TechCrunch’s Josh Constine about his secrets regarding managing Lady Gaga’s online presence (she doesn’t use Facebook personally), where celebrities go overboard online, and why he thinks terrestrial radio will be the home of the next big disruption.

When should an entrepreneur raise money, who should they raise from… and, well, should they even raise? These were some of the questions discussed on a panel with TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis at Disrupt NY 2013, which included participation from Mike Abbott of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Aaref Hilaly of Sequoia Capital, AngelList’s Naval Ravikant, and Box Group’s David Tisch.

At TechCrunch Disrupt NY today, VP of Display Advertising Products at Google, Neal Mohan, Facebook Ad Products Director Gokul Rajaram and Twitter Senior Director of Product Revenue Kevin Weil took the stage to talk about the state of digital advertising — and they each had a unique take on the subject.

In a chat with TechCrunch’s Leena Rao, representatives from PayPal, Stripe and Gumroad gave thoughts on the currency that has VCs emptying their bank accounts to invest afresh — Bitcoins, a very popular topic at Disrupt NY 2013.

The afternoon kicked off with a talk between serial-investor Ron Conway, filmmaker/actor Alex Winter and CrunchFund’s MG Siegler to talk about the documentary “Downloaded” about the rise and fall of Napster. Conway said even in 2013, Internet sharing has yet to be solved and that is one of the most disappointing parts of the whole affair.

TechCrunch COO Ned Desmond and CrunchBase’s Matt Kaufman used the TechCrunch Disrupt stage to launch a big expansion of CrunchBase, TechCrunch’s own robust free wiki-style directory of people, technology companies, and investors. The new feature, the CrunchBase Venture Program, is to appeal to venture firms that want to improve CrunchBase’s data set.

The day wrapped with 15 startups launching on the TechCrunch stage. In the Startup Battlefield, thirty companies are competing for the TechCrunch Disrupt Cup and $50,000 in cash — along with a boatload of press attention.

Disrupt NY 2013 oncludes tomorrow with an all-star speaker lineup with the boisterous Rap Genius kicking the day off with a loud start. Then, after a morning of fireside chats and conversations, a Startup Battlefield winner will take home a gigantic check.

Here are the video highlights of the day.

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