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The latest news on Startups from Business Insider

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    Kelsey Falter

    After beating out more than 1,600 applicants and three months of hard work, 13 startups debuted this morning on stage at TechStars Demo Day NY.

    The early-stage companies presented before a room of 500 investors and press at Webster Hall.

    We met most of the founders last week and got the back stories on their startups.

    SmallKnot lets the neighborhood crowdfund local businesses

    Idea: Invest in local businesses. A different take on crowdsourcing, Smallknot allows users to fund neighborhood businesses in exchange for goods and services.

    Founders: Ben Rossen, Jay Lee, and Jason Punzalan. Two of the cofounders met in law school. Rossen went on to do financial litigation and Lee was a securities lawyer. Punzalan has a digital agency and startup background and serves as the startup's CTO.

    The story behind the startup: Rossen and Lee started working together in 2008, just after Lehman Brothers collapsed.  "All these local businesses shut down and there was no way to invest locally," says Rossen. The idea for SmallKnot blossomed from there.

    "There's a coffee shop in Park Slope that's doing awesome on our platform" Rossen tells us.  "It wants to build a retractable awning, and in turn they're offering classes on how to roast coffee and hosting dinners for the investors."

    Rossen sees his business very differently than Kickstarter.  "For one, it's only for businesses, especially ones that may not fall into a Kickstarter category. The long term vision is to drive community optimization and give people a real stake in their neighborhoods."

    The startup has been working with cash mobs—locals who show up at businesses and all agree to spend a set amount there that day. "We see ourselves as a virtual cash mob," says Rossen.

    The team says it's tapping into a $22.7 billion market. It's raising a $750,000 seed round.

    Website: SmallKnot

    10Sheet has taught a computer to do a bookkeeper's job.

    Idea: 10Sheet is tapping into the $65 billion dollar bookkeeping industry with its web-enabled bookkeeping service for small businesses. Send it your receipts via mobile pictures or have FedEx deliver them, link up your financial statements, and 10Sheet does the organizational work on its platform. It says it automates 95 percent of bookkeeping labor.

    Founders: Ian Crosby, Jordan Menashy, Pavel Rodionov, and Adam Saint all moved from other countries to participate in TechStars NY—one from Russia and the rest from Canada.

    The story behind the startup: Crosby and his team have been working on 10Sheet for two years. He was formerly a bookkeeper at a video game company, and he realized how horribly inefficient the process was.  "He was actually able to automate the whole process to the point that the other bookkeepers were shuffled into different departments," Menashy tells us. "We thought, what if we take a central corporate bookkeeping department and have small businesses plug into it?"

    That's essentially what the team has created with 10Sheet, which lets small businesses bulk upload receipts and pull in credit card statements to shave loads of time off their legally-required bookkeeping reports.  10Sheet is able to offer the product for $69 per month with an 80 percent margin. Traditional bookkeepers cost about $250 per month.

    10Sheet is raising $2 million. We overheard Alan Patricof saying he was impressed by 10Sheet.

    Website: 10Sheet

    Bondsy lets users share, sell and barter items on mobile devices, but it doesn't require a cash exchange. Instead, the interested party can simply answer this to get the item: "I'm willing to ..."

    Idea:  Share, sell, and barter items with your social network on your mobile device. It's not a cash-only system. If you're interested in an item, say "I'm willing to [fill in the blank]" on the Bondsy item. The person who posted it will determine the best offer and make the trade.

    Founder: Diego Zambrano. Five years ago, Zambrano didn't speak any English. The Brazil native moved to New York and became the creative director for Ikea North America. Now he's founded Bondsy.

    The story behind the startup: When Zambrano moved to the states, he didn't want to bring anything with him. Instead, he wanted to give everything to friends. He posted photos of his items on Flickr, sent the page out to his connections, and sold almost everything to his social network.

    Zambrano met most of the people he sold things to, even people he hadn't known before. The final item he gave away was a camera he used to take photos of all his things. The camera was exchanged for a dinner on the buyer.

    "The dinner was more expensive than my asking price for the camera," says Zambrano.  When it's social and interesting it's not about the money. The personal experience is more rewarding."

    Zambrano created Bondsy to recreate his social selling experience for others.

    Website: Bondsy

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Path party lights

    There's a bubble in parties. The Party-O-Meter is pegged at 11.

    Personally, we're exhausted from all the mobile-themed events held in conjunction with Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference this week.

    And they're still going on.

    Off the top of our head, tonight there's Path's big recruiting event at the Great American Music Hall (the place to find mobile developers and UI experts); the OutCast Agency's summer party (lots of hacks, lots of flacks); and photo-sharing app Hipstamatic's shindig at its SoMa office, with a DJ set by the Limousines (to be attended by people who secretly wish they were at an Instagram party).

    Oh, and don't forget Yammer CEO David Sacks's "Let him eat cake" 40th birthday party in LA this weekend.

    If you have to pick which party you're going to (or crashing), that's a pretty good indicator of the tech sector's level of ebullient confidence. The fallout from the Facebook IPO hasn't slowed anything down.

    It's still hard to find office space. It's still hard to hire engineers and designers. Everyone's on the make and the move.

    So is this the peak of some kind of tech boomlet? We've seen so many up-and-down cycles in the Valley, we're reluctant to say.

    We just know we're getting exhausted writing thanks-but-no-thanks notes.

    Now go see what mobile social app Path's last party looked like >

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    samsung galaxy nexus youtube video

    Watching online videos can be a social experience, in the same way sharing any story, slideshow, or Internet curio is social. It can be a link swapped among friends, and yes, from time to time we gather around a monitor to watch theBedroom Intruder or Double Rainbow. But for the most part, we see these things alone, swaddled in headphones.

    But if you step inside the confines of Upload Cinema, those same videos — the time wasters, the mind blowers, the utterly incomprehensible performances — become a true shared experience. Since 2008, Upload Cinema has been gathering audiences in movie theaters in Europe to sit down for a night of, well, communal YouTube. It’s the Internet transferred from private terminal to the big screen, with each event featuring a curated, themed selection of online videos. Look, there’sStar Wars as told by a three-year-old, and our old friend Nyan Cat. Here’s someRebecca Black in full stereo, and, yes, the Leave Britney Alone guy.

    The scale’s key here: seeing these videos on a screen that far exceeds our laptops, phones, or tablets. But Upload Cinema is really an exercise in collective entertainment that bridges digital bits and celluloid and tries, one night at a time, to find a shared experience in the fractured niches of the web.

    “Besides music, film is the most dominant art form of our time,” Dagan Cohen, co-creator of Upload Cinema, told me. “What you see happening is that all of a sudden, that medium became so accessible for everyone that, all of a sudden, everyone became a filmmaker.” Of course, many probably didn’t set out to be filmmakers; online video is a hodgepodge of the personal and the bizarre, and that, says Cohen, is part of its beauty. “Everyone is gravitating towards video as a form of self-expression,” he told me.

    In 2008, Cohen and Barbara de Wijn started gathering friends together at a failing art house movie theater in Amsterdam for informal video nights. The events quickly grew and they created a formal process for Upload Cinema. Each event has a theme decided by Cohen, de Wijn, and a small editorial team. Once the theme is set, the doors are thrown open for people to submit videos — either their own or, more commonly, others culled from the Internet. Upload Cinema has now expanded to 12 cities in the Netherlands as well as Madrid, Istanbul, and Antwerp; Cohen said he’s looking for partners to start a series in a U.S. city (hint, hint).

    What’s curious about the growth of Upload Cinema is that many in the audience may already be familiar with some of the videos. (Cohen said they ask video auteurs for permission to show their work as part of Upload Cinema; they don’t pay, but he said they haven’t been turned down yet.) If you’re a YouTube or Vimeo connoisseur — the type of person not only aware of the latest memes but likely to vote on which videos get selected — it’s the equivalent of paying to sit in a theater and watch reruns.

    And yet they never have a shortage of people coming to shows. (It originally started out one night a month before switching to two.) Cohen said it’s the theater environment, something far removed from sitting at your desk staring at a computer, that helps drive audiences. “It does create a strange bond because there is this kind of knowledge — people know. You have people who are really Internet savvy and know half of the videos, and then you have, really, laggards,” he said.

    But the universal reason we go to theaters is the same, regardless of whether we’re watching “Prometheus” or a clip from Italian Spiderman. We can watch almost anything in our homes now. But we choose to go to the theater to be with a crowd, some whom we know, most we don’t. “By choosing themes that are broad, we combine stuff that is inspiring and makes you think, stuff that is hilariously funny, or shocking, or just beautiful,” he said. “We go through a lot of emotions in one show. That is the thing that is shared.”

    Upload Cinema is experimenting with new ways to increase the community feel of its events. For example, at a recent event in London, the audience was asked to give feedback on its favorite videos by smartphone; these talking twin babies took the top prize:

    Of course, one of the problems with online video is that sometimes the quality of the video — not necessarily the subject matter — can be less than perfect, thanks sometimes to the not-exactly high def nature of some camera phones. Blowing that up into theater-sized proportions doesn’t sound optimal. But Cohen said one truism of web video carries over to the movie screen: If a video is captivating, it doesn’t matter if the picture quality is poor. “If the quality if rough but the ideas are fresh and there’s a sense of urgency behind it, all of a sudden the quality of execution becomes less important,” he said.

    Splicing together close to two hours of the Internet’s greatest hits is a fun challenge. Having a theme helps focus the process, but Cohen and the rest of his team are still left with ample submissions each month. When your raw materials are two-minute videos, it takes a good editor to install order and some kind of narrative structure. The videos are a constant juxtaposition, new finds alongside older “classic” videos; it’s like putting together chapters of a really abstract book. Alternately, Cohen said it can be like making music. “Start well, then let it dip in slightly, then go up and try to end with a crescendo,” he said. “I think it’s more closer to composing music, in a way, than real drama.”

    Cohen believes all the things we relish about online videos only gets amplified in the theater environment. “We do like to see people who completely and utterly lose themselves and are not as restricted as we are in daily life,” he said.

    It makes sense that online videos would find life in other media. The language of online video is a kind of pidgin derived from TV, movies, and real life, a low-rent cinema vérité. It shouldn’t be surprising these videos bleed over into offline life atROFLcon or on TV on Tosh.0. In that way, it also becomes more participatory: not just people making videos, but people watching videos of people who made videos. “I think it’s also a window on the world, it’s not just a bunch of funny videos,” Cohen said. “It is a reflection on society and culture via online video.”

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    Startup Genome analyzed 3,200 high-growth technology startups to answer this daunting question:

    Why do startups fail?

    It came away with this beautiful, informative infographic:

    And don't miss: Why Some Startups Fail And Others Succeed: 10 Fascinating Harvard Findings >

    startups fail

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    laura sacharInvestor Laura Sachar says she can spot entrepreneurs who have ideas, but don't know how to execute them.

    Sachar, general partner and founder of StarVest Partners, has been involved in early stage companies since the mid-'90s. She shared her insights on a panel at Business Insider's Startup 2012 conference:

    Sachar focuses on people in the early stage, because it's about the belief that the person can figure out what to do with the business to make it successful.

    "Often, the initial idea is not how the company succeeds and drives revenue," says Sachar. "Focusing on the people first, and a belief that they can develop attractive ideas and move from there, makes sense."

    There needs to be a clear path that shows that the person can turn the idea into something real.

    "If you can't execute, you don't have a company," she says. "A lot of people have ideas."

    Nowadays, companies don't need as much money to get momentum. She suggests that you take more money than you think you need (if it's available), because so many investors are looking for the companies that are gaining tons of velocity in the early going. By having that money, you have more resources to pull that off.

    NOW SEE: 10 VCs And Founders Give Their Best Advice For Raising Money >

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    mightytext maneesh arora

    Maneesh Arora has worked for two companies pre-IPO: Google and Zynga.

    He joined Google in 2003 and met his current cofounder, Amit Sangani, there in 2005.

    Now the pair have founded MightyText.  Their mission: Free text messages from the phone. Read and answer them on any Internet-connected device.

    Arora and Sangani have raised $640,000 from First Round Capital, Charles River Ventures and angel investors to seed their startup. Today it is launching publicly.

    MightyText makes text messages and phone calls available across multiple platforms. Phone messages can be read on its site and accessed via iPad, computer, mobile phone, or on any other device with an Internet connection. Eventually, Arora wants text messages and missed calls to appear on your TV while you're watching sports, or on your car's dashboard when you're driving.

    mightytext traffic"We're freeing your texts from your phone," he tells us.  "Texts are trapped there. Messages are stored in your phone but not anywhere else." He says 8 trillion SMS messages are sent every year, double that of emails. 

    Arora and Sangani know how hard it is to get users to adopt new products -- Arora cited Google+ and Google Wave as prime examples. So they launched MightyText's first beta last May to see if there was a market for their product. "We thought, 'What's the fastest way for us to test something useful at scale? Let's build a Chrome extension and see what happens,'" says Arora.

    To their surprise, Lifehacker wrote about MightyText and the article received 90,000 page views. From there, despite only having a Chrome extension and a private beta, MightyText took off. It's launching publicly today with 250,000 users; about 1 billion text messages are being sent via MightyText per year, says Arora (see chart).

    But MightyText already has one looming problem: Apple.

    While MightyText can pull messages from Android devices, Apple has prevented it from working on iPhones.

    "We'd love to build this for iPhone users, but Apple wants to keep users in the Apple world," says Arora.  He isn't worried though; the Android market is big enough to keep his team of three busy for a while.

    We also asked about the cost of text messages, but Arora says 80% of MightyText's users have unlimited texting. 

    "Carriers are fearful of Facebook and Google, so they dropped pricing on texting to keep customers," Arora says. "AT&T wants you to use their network, and that's what MightyText is doing, so the product is actually carrier-friendly."

    Here's what the app looks like.


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    Jim Estill

    Before you schedule a meeting with investors, Jim Estill says you should ask yourself a couple of questions:

    1. Do you need it?
    2. Is it the best use of your time?
    3. Are you truly an R&D company and doing real R&D?
    4. Do you need to scale quickly so that no one else steals the market?

    Estill says that R&D companies should raise money because they have to hire engineers and designers.

    For example, it makes sense for a company like RIMM to raise money. Or if your company needs to gain a massive audience quickly — such as Facebook or Twitter —  before leaving an opening for anyone else to come in and steal the market.

    "There's nothing wrong with going out and selling a product, but the problem is that most people don’t go out and ask the questions. For many of the companies I see, it's a disaster to have investors. You’re using up equity, you've been diluted down and now you only own 10 percent of the company."

    When Estill first started his own business selling technology parts out of the trunk of his car, he was able to secure a $200,000 investment from his father.

    But he never received money from any investors, which he tells us "gave [him] more discipline."

    Fifteen years after starting his company, Estill was bringing in $68 million in sales and decided to go public. 

    "Being public allowed me to borrow more from the bank and allowed me more leverage. It's strange but people were always like 'Oh, you’re more legitimate now because you’re public.' That said, I wouldn't recommend it to everyone."

    Today, he's invested in more than 100 companies as an Angel investor, but still believes that entrepreneurs should seriously consider what's best for their companies before trying to raise money. 

    "I was able to grow my company as much as I did because I was able to grow it slowly," he says. "But in this day in age, people are in love with raising money."

    Now see the other 9 VCs and founders give us their best advice for raising money >

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    james proud

    Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20 fellowship, which pays teenage entrepreneurs $100,000 to drop out of school and pursue startups, just scored its first exit from the 2011 class.

    British founder James Proud has sold GigLocator, a service that allows users to find tickets to shows based on their interests. It is being acquired by Brooklyn Bowl, a music venue located in the Williamsburg area.

    Even though Proud did not disclose the selling price, he did tell Tech Crunch he was satisfied with the end result.

    “I’m very happy with it. The Thiel fellowship has enabled me to sustain myself for the past year and this will allow me to sustain myself for awhile,” he said.



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    empty minimal alone

    This week we met with a former investor, Jordan Elpern-Waxman. He recently left his position at Genacast Ventures, a seed stage firm that partners with Comcast Ventures.

    We asked him why he resigned. He said he did so for a startup.

    In particular, Waxman said he wants to be on the "right side of the market."

    "It's a seller's market (meaning the startup equity market), and you want to be on the right side of it," he said.

    Lately, entrepreneurs have had the upper hand. Instead of pitching investors, investors are pitching them, trying to push their way into hot deals. They're sending catered lunches and coming with term sheets in hand to startup Demo Days. One founder, Josh Miller of Branch, received an investment offer of $500,000 after a 15-minute coffee meeting.

    We reminded Waxman that startups won't always have the upper hand; the market will change. He replied with a quote from Comcast's founder, Julian Brodsky, about the 90's:

    "We didn't know when the market would peak, but we knew there was no time to lose."

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    Playfish, at one point a social gaming juggernaut next to Zynga, is losing key personnel and hasn't made a big hit that can truly compete with Zynga's other big hits like CityVille after its sale to Electronic Arts.

    But PopCap, EA's other gigantic next-generation gaming acquisition that it paid $1.3 billion for, remains in a protective bubble in Seattle, a source close to the company tells us.

    PopCap is a darling in the mobile gaming industry, and is considered one of the best mobile developers in the world among industry professionals.

    PopCap is still working on its own franchises, the most important staff is still there, and it's working on the next generation of PopCap games, this source said. It actually has access to some more resources and some more talent now, the source said.

    (Mind you, that's how most gaming acquisitions are supposed to happen.)

    There's some cross-pollination between the big teams at EA, like mega-hit developer BioWare and some of EA's partner studios, and PopCap. But for the most part, PopCap is being left to its own.

    PopCap develops big-hit mobile games. It has popular franchises like Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies and Peggle. It even has its own line of merchandise to go with those games.

    PopCap does also spend a lot of time developing Facebook-connected, social games. Around half of its team is geared toward Facebook games, a source tells us, while the other half is geared toward mobile.

    But it doesn't appear that PopCap will suffer the same fate as Playfish, which felt the brunt of EA's management.

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    mark zuckerberg, facebook, getty

    Who are the richest Internet entrepreneurs of all time?

    The Internet has made a lot of insanely smart/lucky/dedicated people, insanely wealthy. Since the dawn of the web, anyone with the right idea and a willingness to work hard has been able create a massive personal fortune.

    Billion dollar companies have been born and built out of bedrooms, dorm rooms, cars, garages and pretty much every location imaginable. Internet entrepreneurs have come up with digital solutions for services in nearly every single brick-and-mortar industry.

    Whether it’s new and innovative ways for people to connect with friends, share content, find results or market products, the richest Internet entrepreneurs have profited hugely from connecting consumers to the World Wide Web. These geeks have literally revolutionized the way business is carried out around the globe, or have changed the way we interact with each other on a daily basis. 

    In the process, the richest Internet entrepreneurs have earned billions of dollars, and the powers they wield socially, politically, and economically are astonishing.

    #30: Jim Clark

    Net Worth, $1 Billion

    What do you get for being the founder of Netscape, Silicon Graphics and several other high profile internet companies? A billion dollar net worth and a wife who is 36 years younger and a former Victoria's Secret model. That's exactly the life that Jim Clark gets to live every day as the 30th richest internet entrepreneur in the world with wife Kristy Hinze.

    #29: Yuri Milner

    Net Worth, $1 Billion

    Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner is the 29th richest internet entrepreneur with a net worth of $1 billion. Milner has successfully invested in dozens of companies, the two biggest being Facebook and

    #28: Jerry Yang

    Net Worth, $1.15 Billion

    Jerry Yang co-founded the search engine Yahoo! with David Filo while both were students at Stanford. The company went public and the two became instant billionaires. At the peak of Yahoo's stock price, both Yang and Filo were worth well over $10 billion. Today, Yahoo has lost ground and value to Google, leaving the founders with just over a billion dollars in net worth each.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    In honor of Take Your Dog To Work Day we've asked our friends at The Daily Muse, experts in recruiting and company culture, to get the real scoop on who's running the show at some of our favorite companies.

    They found doggy swag, social-media lovin' pups, and a whole lot of canine love, not to mention some major pooch personalities!

    Check out what a (corporate) dog's life really looks like.

    Tumblr’s cutest intern—Tommy the Pomeranian, poses for his own personal Tumblr page.

    Lore’s Executive Chairman, Maude, makes sure Lore stays at the forefront of reshaping online learning.

    Dixon is all about company pride, sporting his GlobalGiving tee every chance he gets. You can tweet him later to let him know how stylish he looks.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Eugene Marinelli and Quinn Slack

    We don't know much about Eugene Marinelli and Quinn Slack, or their new startup, Blend Labs.

    But we have heard this much: It has just raised $2.5 million from Facebook investor Peter Thiel and venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, according to a source.

    It makes total sense, given that Slack and Marinelli are both former software engineers at Palantir, a secretive Thiel-backed company which processes massive amounts of data for corporate clients and government agencies.

    We couldn't find an SEC filing showing the investment, though there are ways for companies that want to stay stealthy to avoid such filings (by, for example, filing with state regulators).

    From what we can see, Marinelli and Slack are interested in the following hot areas:

    • Big data. They just gave a presentation at Stanford about using technologies like Hadoop, HBase, and Scala to handle huge quantities of information. Or as they put it, "you have a ton of data, need to handle a lot of users, and want to perform heavy computation over the data."
    • The social graph. They posted code to GitHub, an open software repository, for "Facebook social data modeling." And their Stanford presentation shows an example of handling data about individuals including email addresses and groups they belong to.
    • Mobile platforms. Slack has contributed some code to the Play 2.0 platform, which is used for mobile applications.

    Okay, so that doesn't give us many clues to what Blend Labs is doing. But big-data applications for social and mobile platforms seems like it hits just about every investing buzzword.

    Andreessen Horowitz, Slack, and Marinelli did not respond to emailed inquiries about the investment.

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    Marc Benioff

    Thinkfuse is the latest startup to happily close its doors after a big guy swooped in with some cash. In this case, it was doing the buying for undisclosed terms.

    The Thinkfuse team will head to and shut down its service on July 25, according to a post from the Thinkfuse founders. It offered a Web service that let team members file status reports to their project manager via e-mail.

    Thinkfuse was a Seattle TechStars startup founded by some former employees from Myspace, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. It landed a $500,000 angel round just by showing up to Silicon Valley a week before Y Combinator's demo day in 2011, reported Michael Arrington on TechCrunch at the time. The next week, 40-some startups seeking seed money would be revealed, so they smartly snagged theirs when the angels were hungry.

    There's been a rash of this way of going out of business lately. Google bought some tech from KikScore and it closed its doors -- though Google didn't acquire the KikScore team. Then Facebook hired the team from Pieceable and it shut its doors.

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    There have never been so many high-value startups in New York.

    Three startups have had $100 million+ exits this year, including Buddy Media which was acquired for $800 million. 

    At least 11 others are currently worth more than $500 million. A few have topped $1 billion valuations.

    It's worth noting that 4 years ago, there was only one New York startup with a valuation that high -- Kayak.

    Check out the 11 companies that are making the New York startup scene the best it has ever been.

    Indeed is a job search and listing site that's valued at $550 million

    What it is: Indeed is a pay-per-click job listing and search site. It is one of the largest career sites on the web, boasting 1 billion monthly job searches. It works with 25,000 partnering sites and is profitable.

    Estimated Value: $550 million

    Total funding: $5 million

    Location: New York, NY and Stamford, CT

    More Info: About Indeed

    CEO: Paul Forster

    Investors: Allen & Company and Union Square Ventures; New York Times sold its stake in the company in May 2011.

    10gen develops an open source database, MongoDB, that's used by Fortune 500 companies; it's valued at $550 million

    What it is: 10gen is the developer of MongoDB, an open source database used by many Fortune 500 companies. 10gen also offers support and training for MongoDB clients.

    Estimated Value: $550 million

    Total funding: $73.4 million

    Location: New York, NY

    More Info: About 10gen

    CEO: Dwight Merriman*

    Investors: Union Square Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, Sequoia Capital, New Enterprise Associates

    *Full disclosure: Dwight Merriman is a co-founder of Business Insider

    Foursquare is a location-based mobile app that's valued at $600 million

    What it is: Foursquare is a location-based social networking mobile service. While it's still struggling to generate revenue, the location and personal data it has on users is very valuable. And if any startup is positioned to own the location space, it's Foursquare.

    Estimated Value: $600 million

    Total funding: $71.4 million

    Location: New York, New York 

    More Info: About Foursquare

    CEO: Dennis Crowley 

    Investors: Union Square Ventures, O’Reiley Alpha Tech Ventures, Jack Dorsey, Kevin Rose, Alex Rainert, Ron Conway, Joshua Schachter Chad Stoller, Sergio Salvatore, Andreessen Horowitz.  The most recent round of funding occurred in June of 2011.  The company raised $50 million.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    There are mobile apps for hailing black cars and taxis.

    Now there's an app for hitchhiking.

    Sidecar is an Android app that launched today in San Francisco. It lets users flag down nearby strangers for rides; they can offer to donate money to the driver at the end of the trip.

    The potential cash exchange is what makes Sidecar a legal service, unlike hitchhiking.

    CEO Sunil Paul has secured funding from some impressive investors including Zynga's Mark Pincus and SV Angel.

    The app operates a lot like Uber. It shows a Google map of their person's location and pulls up Sidecar drivers who are in the vicinity. Pick up and drop off locations can be selected. The app also shows the driver's average going rate, their ratings from other riders, and which model car they're driving.

    Paul realizes that sharing a ride with a stranger may not be the safest idea. He tells TechCrunch, "I want to build a service that I could put my sister into, my girlfriend into, my kids into, and not have to worry about it."

    To do that, Paul says all SideCar drivers go through background checks, license and insurance verification processes.

    There's also a mutual driver/rider rating service. He's already kicked out a few drivers and passengers from his service.

    For an additional precaution, both the the driver and rider can send the car's location to friends who can watch them approach the destination safely.

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    Krish Ramakrishnan Blue Jeans CEO

    Blue Jeans Networks is absolutely kicking butt in the enterprise video-conferencing scene.

    Today it announced a third round of financing for $25 million from its previous VC investors, NEA, Accel and Norwest Venture Partners. That brings its total to $48.5 million.

    Blue Jeans solves a big problem with videoconferencing. It's a cloud service that let's everybody talk to each no matter what videoconferencing service they use. So someone using Skype can talk to someone in a Google Hangout. It bridges services from Microsoft, Cisco, Polycom, Lifesize, or what have you.

    Here's what's new: Blue Jeans is lauching its own browser-based videoconferencing service.  So someone without any of those services can fire up a browser and still join in.

    Blue Jeans customers include Facebook, Gawker Media,, Stanford University and the Sierra Club.

    This company is doing so well, we recently named it one of 17 enterprise startups to bet your career on.

    Don't miss: This Guy Sold Two Startups To Cisco. Now He's Taking Them On With The Ultimate Video Startup

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    Email exchange from Picnik

    In 2010, Google bought a Web-based photo-editing startup called Picnik for $50 million. Picnik's three cofounders made $16 million each.

    Privco, "the private company financial data authority," (subscribe here) has obtained a copy of the email thread that launched Picnik in 2005.

    Everyone in the startup space likes to say that ideas are cheap, but clearly, these guys had a pretty fleshed out set that put them on their way toward huge riches.


    From: Massena, Darrin
    Sent: Sat 12/10/2005 8:47 AM
    To: Harrington, Mike S
    Subject: Picnik

    What do you think of Picnik as a code name? I really like it. Maybe even as a product name? is for sale. After sleeping on it I think it is really important to get and use the product's domain name. is just so much a better handle than Especially for a first product, why confuse things by emphasizing your company over your product?

    From: Harrington, Mike

    Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005 9:42 AM
    To: Massena, Darrin Subject:
    RE: Picnik

    awesome. get it!

    From: Darrin Massena
    Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2005 10:56 PM
    To: Harrington, Mike; Massena, Darrin
    Subject: Internet Photo Editing

    OK, OK, this is it man. Our long term business goal: OWN THE INTERNET PHOTO

    EDITING MARKET. I think we can do this.

    THE MARKET What is the internet photo editing market? Any site/service that people upload images to. Any site that hosts photos. Photo storage/sharing/management sites (Flickr et al), social networks, blogs, personal web sites, personal gallery sites, forums and groups for starters. More and more people are uploading unedited photos from their camera phones directly to the internet. Wifi-enabled cameras also allow direct-to-service uploads. New sites and services that make use of photos are popping up all over the place. Photos are becoming an internet data type as common as text.

    THE PROBLEM There is no ability to manipulate photos once they are online. People have to download them, bring them into a photo editor (which they must buy/maintain/upgrade), and somehow upload them again. That sucks. Especially for little tweaks like to sharpen an image, or crop it, or to zoom in on part of it. The overhead is so high that most people just don‟t bother even though they know the photos they‟re printing/sharing could look better and wish they did. To some degree this must be hindering photo sharing sites, amongst others, because their user satisfaction levels aren‟t as high as they could be.

    OUR SOLUTION A wholly-online photo editor, provided in (at least) two forms. Standalone, as an online application we provide direct to end-users. And integrated, as a seamless part of any site whose users benefit from being able to manipulate images. Our standalone photo editing service is so complete and powerful that people will pay to use it. They‟ll prefer it over the offline tools they have today. The integrated service will work so seamlessly and be integrated so easily that any photo-using site/service will be happy to pay for the value it adds to their site/service; they‟ll attract additional users who will spend more time on the site and be happier with their results.

    THE COMPETITION Established companies with photo editing products. Established companies have to overcome two major hurdles to address this market (in addition to realizing it is a market!). First they must write an online photo editing application. There will be no quick ports of existing applications; most code will have to be from scratch. Second, they must implement their code to work as a seamlessly integrated service in a 3rd party site. Not only is this more work, but it is a new mindset for the established players. Their present mindset is more about how they can create a vertically integrated application and service of their own, not how can they add value to a 3rd party.

    Upstarts like ourselves, possibly as outgrowths of photo sharing sites. Competition against an independent startup comes down to our ability to execute on our standalone and integrated services as well as our marketing of them. As far as I can see nobody has any kind of lead on us so it is a good bet we will be first and even if we are not first we will be best!

    Each photo sharing site that develops an adequate photo editing solution in-house might mean one less customer for our integrated service but a) our standalone service might still make customers out of some of their customers due to its superior interface and capabilities, and b) if even one major photo sharing site adds significant editing capability (presumably proprietary) they‟ll fuel their competitor‟s desire for our integrated service.

    GETTING THERE There are many avenues we can take. Here‟s one possibility that appeals to me.

    1. create v1 of the standalone service w/ a minimal devil-horn level of features (i.e. not a serious photo editing tool) 2. launch it using the viral marketing strategy (“Make funny pictures of your friends!”). Build an audience, build credibility.

    3. start implementing more serious photo editing features and the ability for the photo editor to be seamlessly integrated into 3rd party sites 4. send our biz-dev folks out to make deals with sites that can be satisfied with basic set of photo editing features

    5. launch our v2 standalone service when we have a credible set of photo editing features 6. add features and customers forever and rake in the dough

    THOUGHTS This could be really BIG ($-wise). Our timing is right. We‟re at the intersection of demand (mass use of online photos) and capability (Flash 8 supports the first level of functionality we need). Flash 8.5/9 will take us to the next level. If Canvas becomes widespread and is hardware accelerated we can move to that. If WPF becomes widespread we can move to that and boost our functionality/performance even further.

    One thing I like about this is the RAD Games Tools-like approach of providing a service for other sites. This is an angle not every Flash bitmap-editing tool author will consider or be able to execute on. In addition to the revenue stream we will be building relationships that will make us harder to displace.

    Another service we can provide to 3rd parties: photo processing (both user-directed and automated). Shaula mentioned a service she‟s used that provides photos of race participants after a race like the Seattle Marathon. They take pictures of everyone during the race. You pick your photo from their site then they send you prints in the sizes you‟ve chosen. They also allow you to choose whether the race‟s logo will be printed on the photo. Problem is, they don‟t preview what the result will look like with the logo overlaid nor do they let you choose its positioning or which race logo to use. Such a site could insert our service after the photos have been selected and pass us the various logo options. We‟d take over and let the user choose/place/size the logo, maybe add a caption, crop the photo, zoom in on a particular group of runners, draw an arrow pointing themselves out in a crowd, etc. We‟d pass the composited result back to the host site and they‟d take it from there. This is one small usage but I suspect if we look we can find a lot of opportunities like this.

    I specifically didn‟t mention above the potential inherent in allowing people to „upgrade‟ their images to include animation, sound, and interactive elements (e.g. hover your mouse over each person in a photo to see their name) because I don‟t think it is necessary to add these abilities to make serious headway toward owning this market. They would be really cool though and might break us through into something completely new.

    Cool, right? Go get more insights from PrivCo here >

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    Mark Zuckerberg Facebook

    Jared Morgenstern is one of Facebook's top product designers, working on the e-commerce team after previously building the friend finder.

    Before Facebook, he was running a startup that was bought up by, but was interested in getting into the social space, and spoke frequently with Mark Zuckerberg to bounce off ideas, he said on Quora today.

    Eventually, he reached out to Zuckerberg, asking if there was a role at Facebook for someone like himself.

    A month later, Zuckerberg responded. Here's the full email:

    zuckerberg email


    After that, Morgenstern went in for an interview with co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, top designer Soleio and Aaron Sittig. Here was his experience:

    Mark said, you should come here, and here's our recruiter. My interviews included Dustin MoskovitzAaron Sittig, and Soleio. Dustin and I talked about mobile, his desk side by side with Zuck's in the corner of 156. Aaron wore a very intimidating asymmetric sweater and was very hard to read. Soleio had standing desk and made me draw wireframes on photocopied outlines of the main components of the site. I received 2 homework assignments that night, and I stayed up late - powering through the start of a cold - to make sure they had it by 2:00am... I later learned they never looked at it.

    Morgenstern joined Facebook shortly after that in 2006, and has been with the company since then — a six year, five month career.

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    Reid Hoffman LinkedIn

    Atomic PR has sent me at least three emails about a new startup,

    I didn't open any of them until I saw the news -- which was actually interesting -- up on other sites.

    The startup they were representing, raised a big $7.9 million Series A from some amazing investors: Mike Maples, Reid Hoffman, Kevin Rose, and Scott Belsky, to name a few.

    Anything those people are interested in is something I'm interested in covering. And Rally is actually a decent-sounding startup.  It's a social fundraising platform that helps anyone with a cause raise money and share their stories.

    Here's what Atomic did wrong.

    Due to an absurd amount of startup pitches that infiltrate my inbox, I've learned to manage emails by scanning for three things:

    • The sender
    • The subject title
    • The first sentence

    I use Gmail, so those are the three things I can see without clicking to open the message.

    The three emails I received from Atomic were titled:

    • The Trouble with Pebble: Kickstarter competitor Sheds Some Light
    • Embargoed News: secures unique round of funding from superstar investors
    • Social fundraising platform raises $7.9 million in Series A funding online

    Here's why I didn't open them:

    • I had never met or heard of the people sending me the news, and it was clear they didn't know me either
    • I had never heard of, so using the startup's name in the subject title wasn't alluring
    • "Embargoed news" isn't particularly compelling either. No reporter wants news every other publication will be receiving. They want exclusives!
    • The most interesting part of the news, the investors (which help give unknown startups credibility) were never mentioned up front
    • The most compelling (final) email arrived in my inbox after the news was already out (it was a short email followed by a press release). It still didn't list any of the impressive investors up front.

    So, I missed the boat, and so did Atomic/Rally.

    For more specific tips on what I look for in email pitches, read: 10 Dead-Honest Reasons Reporters Delete Your Emails >

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