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Monthly Archives: April 2013

David Tisch Is Bored With His Smartphone's Apps



David Tisch has made quite the name for himself as an investor based in NYC. Most notably, Tisch spent years at TechStars as the Managing Director, and has since left to co-found another investment fund called BoxGroup.

We sat the man down backstage at Disrupt today to chat out his thoughts on the NY tech scene, trends he’s excited about and his transition to BoxGroup.

“If you ask anyone whether they’re bored with what’s on their phone, it will always be a unanimous yes,” said Tisch. For him, he sees streams like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are the best forms of entertainment for the average Joe taking a glance at his phone. But there’s room for more, according to Tisch.

In terms of BoxGroup, Tisch seems to enjoy finally being accelerator agnostic, and doesn’t mind companies that never go through an accelerator at all. But how do you get Tisch’s attention?

“Be yourself,” he said. “If you’re trying too hard, but it comes off genuine, that’s ok. If you’re passive and antisocial and awkward, that’s fine. Just be yourself.”

In his perspective, there’s no model to follow because entrepreneurship is about creating your own story. If you try to copy someone else’s story, it won’t ever work out.

If you’re interested in David’s feelings towards the NY tech scene, the engineering talent pool, and the future of entertainment on mobile, be sure to watch the full interview above.

Anyone Can Become A Content Curator On Wiosio



Wiosio is a Turkish company being featured at Disrupt NY’s Startup Alley this year, and it’s a little like what watching television would be like if your friends took over the programming.

At first glance, Wiosio most closely resembles an everyday television programming lineup. There are a number of predefined channels that are organized by category, each of which streams a series of 15 minute “shows” that air one after the other on a 24/7 basis.

And yet, you won’t find any programming from any of the four major TV networks on Wiosio. Nor will you be able locate any shows from any of the major cable networks. Each 15 minute show is in actuality a running playlist of YouTube videos, photo galleries, songs, or blog posts that have been curated and packaged by Wiosio’s users.

Wiosio has a number of channels called “stages”, that are defined by specific arenas of interest and location. For example, you’ll find a “Music” stage for general music related content, and a “New York Music” stage for content specific to the New York music scene. You can also subscribe to the stages that most interest you, and thus create a specific channel that is tailored to the content you’d like to consume.

But what if you want to do more than just consume? If you’re looking to get your own curated content on Wiosio, it’s a fairly simple process.

When you first sign up with Wiosio, you’re given 5,000 Wiosio points that you can use to bid for auctioned spaces of airtime. Airtime on each stage is auctioned off in 15 minute chunks, and the auction runs until the very second that slot of content is scheduled to begin streaming on the stage.

The more people upvote your shows when they air, the more Wiosio points you obtain, increasing your influence as a content curator in the Wiosio network.

“You can say that the media manufactures its own stars, news, and facts,” says Mujdat Ayoguz, founder of Woisio, “and imposes them on people.” Ayoguz believes that Woisio is a platform that truly democratizes content curation and distribution.

Wiosio launched in the United States in December, and released their iOS app last Friday in an effort to expand their user base here. According to Wiosio, they’ve already established a presence in Turkey in the “tens of thousands” of users range, and are planning to launch in Latin America very shortly.

HealthyOut Is Like A Personal Nutritionist For Healthy Food Deliveries



New York-based startup HealthyOut already has a popular iPhone and Android app for quickly finding nearby restaurants and dishes that users can order and have delivered. Today at Disrupt NY 2013, HealthyOut is unveiling a new service, which will provide users with personalized menus of food delivered to help them lose weight or just eat better overall.

Launching first in New York City, HealthyOut’s delivery service is designed to provide users with healthy options two times a day, five days a week. By combing through the menus of restaurants around the city that deliver, HealthyOut will come up with 10 meals a week that can automatically be sent to a customer’s home or office.

Now, there’s no shortage of food delivery services out there. But HealthyOut will make sure that when you’re ordering out, you’re making healthy choices. In fact, it’ll more or less make those decisions for you.

HealthyOut is designed to be “your own personal concierge and nutritionist planning out your meals,” co-founder Wendy Nguyen told me. The idea is to simplify users’ lives by planning meals out for them, and helping them discover new dishes that they might not have ordered for themselves.

“Everyone knows go-to meals around a given spot,” Nguyen told me. “But they don’t know what are the best meals” for healthy eating. HealthyOut solves that problem.

Users can personalize those deliveries based on dietary preferences or requirements. For instance, they can choose from about a dozen different types of diets — like low carb, Paleo, or vegan. They can also set preferences, like types of cuisine or foods that they want to receive (or not), as well as a price range per meal.

Once all that’s done, the program gets put on autopilot, and healthy meals from nearby restaurants will just start showing up to a customer’s home or office a couple of times a day. Users will get a menu at the beginning of the week telling them what’s coming, and a text notification as a reminder about 90 minutes before the delivery.

Customers can cancel or put a meal on hold if they plan to eat out somewhere else or *gasp* cook something themselves. In either case, HealthyOut will make suggestions for things that they can order or cook to keep with their diet plan.

HealthyOut keeps the customer’s billing information, and automatically deducts the cost of food, delivery, and tip from a customer’s account. In addition to the cost of food and delivery, HealthyOut has a subscription cost of $28 per month for managing all diets and orders and keeping people on track.

The service was built based on dish-level information that HealthyOut has collected in building out its iPhone app. So it will be able to suggest (and schedule) specific dishes from restaurants even if they’re not exactly known for being healthy.

HealthyOut has been working with restaurants themselves to build out the service and ensure a high level of quality. It also has partnered with a third-party delivery service for payments and delivery.

In a place like New York, where there are a ton of restaurants that deliver in a small area, it’s easy to find healthy choices. So it makes sense to launch there. But the team wants to take HealthyOut’s delivery service to other markets, and ultimately make it available everywhere. For other cities and even suburban markets, that could mean having a mix of takeout and delivery.

HealthyOut has raised $1.2 million from 500 Startups, Bradley Harrison Ventures, Answers.com COO Peter Horan, AOL’s former head of marketing Jan Brandt, N.Y. restaurateur Dave Kassling, Pivotal NYC managing director Josh Knowles, and other angels. The company was founded by Nguyen, who previously was the second employee of SocialChorus; as well as Dan Myers, who was previously at TSG Consumer Partners, and full-stack Rails developer Jonathan Hironaga, who was also part of the SocialChorus team.

Judge Q&A

Q: How do you gather information from the restaurants?

A: We got dish-level menu information, so we have all that data in our app. The way that these orders come through, there are special instructions. If we find a restaurant that aren’t delivering these orders, we’ll stop working with them.

Q: What about private chefs that can post meals? Are you just working with restaurants? What’s the competitive landscape?

A: We use the restaurant supply chain. To get real scale, you need to work with restaurants.

Q: User acquisition strategy?

A: We’re on track to do a million downloads. From there, we use it as a funnel when we enter a new city.

Trustev Tackles E-Commerce Identity Fraud With An Online Fingerprint Made From Social Signals And More



Trustev, a Startup Battlefield company presenting today at TC Disrupt NY 2013, has developed a product to tackle online fraud using an algorithmic system of social signals, behavioural data and transaction history to create a “digital fingerprint” that lets companies verify that you are who you say you are when you are buying something online.

The problem that Trustev — based out of Cork, Ireland — is tackling is big, and growing bigger. E-commerce is booming, with sales topping $1 trillion globally in 2012 and still on the rise. But the market also has a dark undercurrent in the form of fraud — specifically around people using other people’s identities to purchase goods online. Currently ID fraud is a $20 billion problem and growing at twice the rate of the e-commerce market.

Beyond the very obvious issue of costing companies a lot of money, and consumers a lot of pain, there is another issue: traditional methods for trying to stem the problem are based mainly around human vetting.

Pat Phelan, founder of Trustev and its CEO, says that today 27% of all transactions online are referred to contact centers for review working out to 200 man-hours ever year. “At the moment, e-commerce is only 5% of all commerce, so as it grows you will run out of human beings to process all those transactions.”

And that’s not to mention the fact that current systems are inefficient. “Verification is a major operational cost,” he adds. “You have major cost centers created out of people Googling names, and trying to figure out if people are who they say they are.”

The social networks that Trustev tracks for identity signals include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as defaults. In different regions, it plans to add others such as Orkut in Latin America, V-connect (from Vkontakte) in Russia, and Sina Weibo in China. Users check in to social networks when checking out to speed up the process.

Like other big data plays, the idea with Trustev is that it takes the mountain of data that is presented through these channels, and parses it and matches it up with other online activity associated with a person. This can also be used to help verify in a positive way, rather than simply to note when someone is not who they say they are.

A classic example is the case of a person travelling: some payment networks, when you go abroad, will automatically but bars on your payment cards, assuming that the use could be from someone who has taken your card number and is trying to use it elsewhere. A Trustev check could, however, note that you’ve recently travelled to New York because of some status updates in Twitter or Facebook, to confirm that this is really you (or not, as the case may be).

But the company also notes that it’s not just social data that is used. “Social is an option that we can use to augment the traditional tools,” he said. “But if you don’t have the social profile it doesn’t mean that Trustev doesn’t work. It will still use all the information on you that it can find.”

The company has already raised some $300,000 in angel funding from strategic investors including Telefonica, and it is already trialling its service with e-commerce companies and mobile operators as it gears up to raise money for its Series A round.

One of its latest partners, being announced today, is Magento, the eBay-owned e-commerce platform, which will mean that businesses that are built on that platform can select the Trustev service as a plug-in to provide its verification on transactions on the platform.

Pricing for how it works:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, because ID verification and fraud are very real issues online, we are already seeing a number of other companies emerging to tackle it as well.

Just today, PayPal launched a new effort to tackle verification of digital identities; and Airbnb’s launch of a new Verified ID service, to make sure that the people on its platform are not con artists, is an example of how sites themselves are also trying to move ahead to tackle this issue. Payment networks like Visa with V.me and MasterCard with PayPass are also interested in becoming the provider of secure digital identity online. And Max Levchin’s Affirm also appears to be, like Trustev, interested in using social signals to help build profiles of real people.

What other platforms besides Magento?
It’s a case of dropping in the code and can be used anywhere.

What is the process by which you do everything?
First we identify people, then we tag who needs to be reviewed (reduced by 75%), and then we will reject anyone suspicious with a message.

What besides Facebook Connect?
If someone doesn’t sign in with Facebook we have tools that we have built ourselves that work outside of that. You also see merchants that are not selling overseas because of this problem. This can help them sell abroad.

Why would the user want to do this?
We are not selling this to users, but we encourage site owners to get users to check in with Facebook to speed up the process. It’s projected that by 2015, 50% of people will be using social check-outs.

Zuckerberg's Lobby Can't Stay Silent On Secretive Conservative Political Ads Forever



Online backlash is growing against Mark Zuckerberg’s lobby’s secretive ads supporting conservative senators who encourage the creation of the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. “Immigration reform – fine. Oil expansion and pipelines? NOT fine. Where’s the transparency here, rich dudes? Or does FWD actually stand for Fine With Drilling?,” wrote one angry commenter on FWD.us Facebook page.

FWD.us is the latest A-list technology political interest group to come out swinging for high-skilled immigration reform. Partnering with many of Silicon Valley’s brightest luminaries, from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to Bill Gates, FWD.us made a very public debut last week, promising grassroots activism in support of knowledge-economy-friendly policymaking.

FWD.us strategically splits its operation into democratic and conservative outreach, directly funding ads of senators friendly to high-skilled immigration reform. The Internet rumor machine spun an ad supporting Republican Senator Lindsey Graham into a link bait headline claiming that FWD.us subsidary “Americans For A Conservative Direction,” were “Promoting Wildlife Oil Drilling.”

As Salon‘s Andrew Leonard correctly points out, Zuckerberg, as founding tech partner of FWD.us, is not actually supporting Arctic drilling by indirectly funding ads in support of certain senators. But, FWD.us has been conspicuously silent about any details related to the high-profile lobby. Yesterday at our Disrupt Conference, FWD.us’s director, Joe Green, strategically avoided any details about their lobbying strategy or the controversial conservative ads.

As I’ve written before, no one in D.C. will be surprised that FWD.us is playing political games. And if they were just holding lavish dinners and shelling out campaign donations, the negative press wouldn’t hurt.

But as an organization that’s attempting to galvanize broad grassroots support, it’s going to have a hard time appealing to the tech masses when friends will be publicly condemn each other for supporting such a stealthy political organization (on Facebook, ironically). Transparency about the realities of Washington may be the only way they can redeem their fragile reputation.

SupplyShift Helps Companies Understand The Environmental Impact Of Their Supply Chain



For large companies that have a long list of suppliers that they work with, it’s not only difficult to manage communication with all of them, but understanding the environmental impact of each supplier is next to impossible. It’s not a sexy space to work in by any means but the addressable market is comprised of Fortune 500 companies and the government itself, which is bound to mandates involving environmental sustainability when working with suppliers.

SupplyShift is a backend tool for those companies and organizations to track everything that’s going on with suppliers, which are usually scattered throughout the world. These buyers are collecting sustainability data but don’t currently have the tools to help them reduce risk exposure.

What SupplyShift really is is a network which allows them to understand their “supply chain footprint” which will make suppliers actually care more about how they present themselves, heating up competing among them. The team, led by CEO and cofounder Alexander Gershenson, has been working on these problems as a consultant and it was time to build their work out as an actual product.

Currently, Ecoshift, the consulting arm for the team, is already working with companies like Microsoft, Target and Sprint on supply chain management.

The type of risk that companies experience with suppliers are the situation that Mattel went through with lead paint, where 1M toys had to be recalled. As far as how suppliers can affect how the public thinks about your company, look no further than Apple’s relationship with Foxconn, regarding their labor practices. You get the point. SupplyShift will track all of these potential risks, sharing them among the network of companies that use it.

Why now? Gershenson told me: “The market situation changed radically in the last three years, and sustainability is becoming a key part of corporate strategy, but corporations and the government do not have the tools to address that need. SupplyShift takes care of that.”

The main component that makes SupplyShift different from its competitors is that the companies who use the service are also paying to enroll their suppliers. This is key, because suppliers either won’t, or can’t afford to enroll themselves in similar services. By putting this in the hands of the companies who are selling goods, the database of suppliers will grow at a more rapid rate.

This isn’t a social network for professionals, photo-sharing apps for tweens, but it’s a product that provides important information that could save companies millions of dollars in bad PR and lawsuits due to critical mistakes made by a supplier.

Troy Carter Says The Next Technology Disruption In Music Will Happen In Terrestrial Radio



During Disrupt, Lady Gaga’s manager and Atom Factory founder, Troy Carter, suggested that the area ripe for disruption in the music industry by technology is terrestrial radio.

For those who still get in their car to listen to music, Carter feels like there are openings for startups to build on top of the platform to bring people what they really want to hear. He shared: “I think the opening right is figuring out terrestrial radio, that’s the one space that Sirius could have done it with subscription radio, but you look at Clear Channel and CBS, it’s not what people want. People just get in a car and turn on a local station. It’s going to be interesting when you get in your car and you’re listening to a 17-year-old kid in Russia.”

While calling out Sirius as somewhat of a failure in disrupting radio the way that we thought it would, it comes as a bit of a shock that a music mogul like Carter wants to re-focus on radio.

If you’re able to empower DJs all over the world to share the music that they love, and tie it with the power of broadcasting it over the airwaves, more bands and artists can get the attention that they deserve. Currently, big radio stations control what people hear, so democratizing that system could be a massive opportunity.

A company like Slacker Radio has the type of product that could play a role in what Carter suggests.

In regards to the state of the music industry, Carter thinks that technology has always pushed things forward and is an essential part of selling albums and concert tickets: “I don’t think tech has screwed the music industry, the music industry has to adjust to change. When people in remote villages throughout the world can access music, it’s a good thing.” he said.

‘First Legal' Online Gambling Site Launches in the U.S., But Only For Nevada Residents For Now



Want the fun of losing your wallet without the free drinks and oxygen high? Now Nevada residents can legally gamble online at ultimatepoker.com, which could roll out nationwide as more states legalize the practice. Since the infamous 2011 “Black Friday” that took down PokerStars and the online gambling cottage industry, a court of appeals overturned the Federal Wire Act law that banned states from legitimizing it for their own residents. Nevada (of course) was the first to pave a legal pathway for casinos to reach residents in their own homes.

The rush to legalize gambling was so fierce that Nevada ratified the law under emergency procedures to beat out New Jersey. “As to our competitor, New Jersey, they should be accustomed to following Nevada,” joked Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. If the urgency is any indication, more and more states could bring gambling to a large swath of the American public soon.

According to The Republic, “Instead of checking a box certifying they are older than 18, players will have to endure a lengthy account setup process involving a Social Security number and a Nevada address. Only those older than 21 will be allowed to play.”

Online gambling could give the casino industry some serious competition, as gaming companies, such as Zynga, look to cash in on the digital gold rush. Expect legal gambling to grow.

Hulu Announces Adding 1 Million Paid Subscribers In Q1 2013; Streamed Over 1 Billion Videos



At today’s Hulu Upfront, the company offered an update on its online TV business, sharing that it had set records for revenue in Q1 2013, and had achieved a new milestone of having streamed over 1 billion videos in the quarter. Hulu’s paid, subscription-based business has grown as well, having doubled over the course of 2012.

As of Q1 2013, Hulu Plus, as the premium subscription business is known, passed 4 million subscribers up from 3 million in Q4 2012, and was also setting records for new subscriber additions, the company stated. A significant portion of this growth is coming from mobile, as consumers are switching away from the desktop to watch Hulu’s content on their portable devices, like smartphones and tablets.

In 2013 to 2014, Hulu estimates that mobile viewing will account for 15 percent of the video views on its network, despite having been a nonexistent business only two years ago. (Hulu was launched out of beta back in November 2010, originally on the desktop).

However, though mobile is becoming an increasingly important screen for viewing content, the company says its “living room” business is growing as well. The service currently works over a number of connected devices, including Apple TV, Roku, and game consoles like the Xbox 360, Wii, and the PS3. Today, this type of usage accounts for 29 percent of Hulu’s consumption, and around 80 percent of Hulu Plus subscribers have watched videos with someone else, the company says.

Hulu didn’t break out its advertising revenues in the new report, but stated that viewers stay with the service on average for 45 minutes per session, and this is without fast-forwarding or skipping ads, it touts. (Really? Apparently, as with recorded programs on DVRs, Hulu viewers must forget they have the option, or are distracted with other things.)

The company also took the time to highlight some of its investments in original content, an initiative which all the major video providers are pursuing today including also Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo, YouTube, and others.

Two new TV shows were announced during Hulu’s upfront: “Quick Draw,” a half-hour western comedy from writer/director Nancy Hower and writer/star John Lehr; and “East Los High,” a teen-focused drama, which may be an industry first for offering an all-Latino cast, director, writers and creators, many from East L.A. themselves.

Hulu also has nine other Original Series ready for Summer 2013, including also “The Awesomes,” “Behind the Mask,” “The Wrong Mans,” “Mother Up!,” “Pramface” (season two) “Prisoners of War” (season two), “The Only Way is Essex” (season four), “Braquo” (season two), and “Moone Boy.” It also recently picked up cancelled TV soaps “All My Children” and “One Life To Live,” which premiered on Hulu yesterday.

Ebay To Use Mobile Tech To Go Deeper Into Offline Commerce With A Touchscreen Store Window Coming This Summer



Ebay CEO John Donahoe today described how the e-commerce giant is moving further into the world of offline commerce, using mobile technology to do it: the company planning a partnership with a retailer that will create a “pop up” shop with a gigantic touchscreen store window. Donahoe says that this will take place this summer in New York and is part of a bigger push eBay is making to bring itself closer to where retailers are still doing the majority of their transactions, offline. “You will be seeing more of that,” he hinted on stage at TC Disrupt in New York this morning.

We are reaching out to find out the name of the retailer, but you can possibly come up with a shortlist by looking at existing relationships that eBay and its payment subsidiary PayPal already have with bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Not only does the company compete against Square for mobile point-of-sale transactions among small businesses with its Here product, but it is also targeting big chains, this January announcing a new raft of deals with national companies for its in-store payments technologies. These include Famous Footwear, Dollar General, Mapco Express, RadioShack, Spartan Stores, Abercrombie & Fitch, Advance Auto Parts, Aéropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, Foot Locker, Guitar Center, the Home Depot, Jamba Juice, JC Penney, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Nine West, Office Depot, Rooms To Go, Tiger Direct and Toys “R” Us. Other bricks-and-mortar initiatives have included using QR codes in shop windows and check-ins with Home Depot, McDonalds and others.

A lifesize touchscreen is just one of the ways that eBay is trying to build on the momentum the company is seeing in consumer interest in mobile, and eBay’s own investments in the space. Donahoe says that eBay is on track to see $20 billion in mobile commerce this year, based around people tapping on their devices to purchase goods through PayPal. “We bet hard on mobile,” he said. “Mobile is clearly changing how consumers shop and pay.”

This has extended into how eBay has been acquiring companies over the years (20 acquisitions since he became CEO). Most recently, eBay acqui-hired Duff Research which he says has brought on developers that will help improve its mobile and digital wallet services. These are key areas where eBay will potentially extend its position not just as a sellers’ portal but as a platform for sales everywhere.

Donahoe described eBay’s position in mobile today as the view that it has become a “mission control.”

“It’s not just to shop or make payments but the whole flow,” he noted. This will also be about multiscreen experiences across smartphones, tablets, and in-store devices. This is also where today’s news about PayPal Access, its new identity technology, will come into play. also include how people access the web, or go into stores — hence “This is just one screen but we see ppl using multiple screens. think of how many times you access the web or go to a store.

And here’s the full video of Donahoe’s interview with BusinessWeek’s Norm Pearlstine:

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