Gendai Games Raises Over $1 Million For iPhone And iPad Game Creation Tool

Gendai Games, a startup that offers a simple game creation tool, has raised over $1 million in Series A funding led by DFJ Mercury with Steamboat Ventures, DFJ Frontier and ff Asset Management as well as angel investors Paul Bricault, Paige Craig, Tom McInerney, Josh Resnick and and Mark Suster participating in the round.

The game creation tool, called GameSalad, is allows non-programmers to build, develop and publish 2D casual games games for the iPhone and iPad. GameSalad has been downloaded more than 70,000 times and in the nine months since the launch of its iPhone publishing service, GameSalad has powered over 800 titles in the iTunes App Store including Asplosion! HD and Doodle Cannon.

The new funding will be used for product development and to hire additional talent. The startup faces competition from a number of other companies who also have democratized game development, including Playcrafter, and WIldpockets.


Jajah Now Powers Low-Cost Long Distance For German O2 Subscribers

Less then seven months after it was acquired by Telefónica Europe (aka O2), for $207 million, VoIP service Jajah is launching its first integration with the large European carrier. O2 subscribers in Germany will now be able to designate up to five friends abroad as their Global Friends; Jajah will assign each of those friends local numbers, allowing you to call internationally from your mobile phone at local rates. The product will be powered by Jajah, but customers will be seeing the O2 brand.

This is interesting for a few reasons. First, it’s obviously a fairly speedy integration given the size of O2. Jajah CEO Trevor Healy also says that this marks the first time that a global carrier is offering a VoIP-powered service to its subscribers — he explains that O2 is willing to embrace the ‘Silicon Valley approach’ to digital communications, as opposed to holding steadfast to tradional voice services. Here’s to hoping the US carriers follow suit.

O2 says it will be rolling out further Jajah-powered features in the next few months (presumably including a rollout of Global Friends to countries outside of Germany). O2 has 54 million subscribers across Europe.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Chatroulette Rolls Out Local And Custom Channels. Top Channel: “Sex”


Chatroulette, the Internet phenomenon that allows users to jump into video chats with random, anonymous strangers (and all too frequently, their genitalia), has launched some new features that give users a bit more control over the kinds of fellow Chatrouletters they’re paired up with.

As first noticed by NewTeeVee, Chatroulette has launched a feature called Localroulette that will use your IP address to direct you to a channel with other users from your region. A second, related feature is Channelroulette, which lets you start or join a channel with a custom title/theme.


Unsurprisingly, the top user-created channels are primarily focused on sex. That may change as more users become aware of the feature, but don’t count on it.

However, even for users who aren’t eager to engage in XXX-rated chitchat, there are a few pluses. First off, it’s really easy to create your own custom channel by simply appending a subdomain to the normal Chatroulette URL in the format example.Chatroulette.com, which has plenty of potential uses. And, as NewTeeVee points out, it’s possible that more lewd users will congregate in the sex-themed channels, leaving everyone else alone (again, don’t count on it).

Look for more changes from Chatroulette in the near future. We previously reported that its young founder Andrey Ternovskiy has enlisted Napster founder Shawn Fanning as an advisor, and the site may start using filters and reputation systems to help weed out users who have a habit of spontaneously displaying their genitals.


France Launches Multi-Lingual Tourist Website. It Goes Down And Stays Down.

Far be it from me to criticize the French. But yesterday France launched France.fr with a middling amount of press attention. But the site went down almost immediately after launching. This morning we gave it a pass, but tonight it’s still down. And we’re not sure anyone is working very hard to get it back up – it is just an information website, after all.

From The Connexion on the launch:

A NEW official website providing information about France in English has been launched by the French government.

France.fr went live this morning to coincide with the fête nationale and is available in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish.

The site aims to promote the country to tourists but also to provide residents with practical information about all elements of life in France – including studying, working, setting up a business and day-to-day living.

The prime minister’s office, which is managing the new online project, said the site would grow in the coming months and it will contain some 12,000 links to other online resources including Météo France and tourist offices.

And France’s senior government official overseeing the Internet, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, even took the time to tweet “Lancement aujourd’hui du portail officiel de la France dans le monde” (“Today’s launch of official website of France in the world”).

A French friend says of the site (when it was live) “It just does not work, full of bugs, and the english translation is hilariously bad.” He won’t let me attribute his quote though, saying he’d like to remain in good standing with the French community.

For now France.fr has a landing page saying the site is unavailable in a variety of languages. In French it goes into more detail, noting that the site is a victim of its own success.

There’s the joke about how the only people France can beat at anything are the French themselves, usually noting the French Revolution. But I won’t repeat that here. Instead I’ll just say –

Vive la France!


In Five Months, FreshBooks Crosses $1 Billion In Transactions


Toronto-based invoice startup FreshBooks has crossed $1 billion in billings that wer paid worldwide over the FreshBooks ecosystem between January and May of this year. FreshBooks lets you create and share invoices, time sheets and estimates within a web application. The application is largely popular amongst freelancers, consultants and small businesses. With both free and paid plans, Freshbooks has served 1.6 million users since May 2004.

In addition to announcing the $1 billion milestone, FreshBooks released other findings about usage on its system during the same period. The average invoice size on FreshBooks was $1,677. Users in Mexico and Sweden saw the largest invoice sizes with $4,669 and $4,423 respectively. India and Malaysia were the lowest with $414 and $406. Average invoice size for the U.S. was $919. The average time to pay an invoice on Freshbooks was 22.8 days
China saw the shortest time to pay with 11.9 days, while India saw the largest at 31.7 days. The average time to pay for the U.S. was 20 days.

FreshBooks says that its billings did not reach the $1 billion threshold last year until August. Launched in 2004, the startup has steadily added useful features to its billing service over the past few years, including benchmark reports on aggregated business data, an open API, and data mining from users. Competitors in the online billing space include BillMyClients and Blinksale.

Information provided by CrunchBase


HomeAway Ramps Towards IPO With Two Key Hires And $200 Million/Year In Revenue

HomeAway, the massive vacation home rental service rollup, is ramping towards an IPO, likely in 2011, say sources close to the company. And that shouldn’t be any surprise, given the two key executive hires the company announced today – new chief product officer Tom Hale (previously CPO at Linden Labs) and chief operating officer Brett Bellm (previously PayPal, and in need of a vowel for his last name).

A year and a half ago the company was valued at $1.4 billion after a $250 million round of financing. Revenue at the time was around $150 million, we heard. Now revenue is more like $200 million/year, with $70 million or so in pure profit. This thing, in short, is throwing off cash, and lots of it.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Apple Calls A Special Press Conference For Friday, Antenna Issue Likely The Subject

Word is breaking that Apple is calling a special press conference on this coming Friday to talk about the iPhone 4. Yes, you can probably guess what this is about.

Apple blog The Loop has the (basically non-existent) details right now — that it will be in California on Friday morning and about iPhone 4. A small group of press are reportedly getting the invites right now. Update: We just got the call, we’ll be there at 10 AM PT on Friday to cover it live.

The big question that everyone must be wondering is if Apple will announce a recall of the iPhone 4 based on the antenna problems — which are very real. We still believe that’s pretty unlikely. That said, it’s very, very, very rare (in fact, I don’t think it has ever happened) that Apple would call a special press conference at the last second. If they didn’t have something very major to say, they’d much more likely issue a release.

But with all the talk and speculation flying around out there, perhaps Apple (and CEO Steve Jobs in particular) just wants to sit people down to talk about the issue. Apple has been widely criticized for saying basically nothing about the issue beyond Jobs’ quotes that users should buy a case or hold the phone different.

Apple released the first beta of the iOS 4.1 software today. As our sister site MobileCrunch noted, it does not fix the antenna issue. Instead, it simply does what Apple said it was going to do: make the signal strength indicator more accurate.


SolarCity Wins $21.5 Million Funding Round from Mayfield

SolarCity today announced that it is taking a $21.5 million round of funding led by Mayfield Fund, and the company’s previous investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DBL Investors and Generation Capital. The company’s prior funding totaled approximately $134 million, and included investors First Solar, JP Morgan and Elon Musk.

SolarCity helps businesses, home owners and government agencies adopt solar power and save money using clean energy versus electricity generated from non-renewables. It designs, installs and provides finance options for the development of solar projects. In 2008, it provided and installed the thousands of solar panels that grace the roof of eBay Inc.’s green building (pictured) in San Jose.

Earlier this week, SolarCity signed a new partnership deal with Rabobank, the international private bank with a triple A credit rating. The bank has agreed to provide solar project financing for its commercial clients via SolarCity. Rabobank N.A. in California also installed solar power generating rooftops at six of its retail locations.

The shiny new Rabobank-SolarCity rooftops provide power not just for the banks themselves, but for customers of another Elon Musk concern — Tesla Motors. AutoBlogGreen gushes that any of Tesla’s electric vehicles making a pit stop along California’s “clean corridor,” or Highway 101 Rabobank locations can get recharged renewably.

SolarCity plans to use its latest round of venture funding to expand into new geographic markets, and entertain acquisitions. Its solar projects, so far, are in five states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Texas.

In California and Arizona, SolarCity faces direct competition from SunRun, another venture-backed firm with investments totaling about $140 million, with its most recent round led by Sequoia Capital.

Information provided by CrunchBase

Information provided by CrunchBase


As Long As Reviewing Is A Race, Death Grips Will Always Go Unnoticed

The question that is on many people’s minds as the iPhone 4 antenna drama plays itself out is “why didn’t any of the reviewers notice this?” After all, we had reviews of the iPhone from the heavy hitters quite a bit ahead of time — seasoned tech journalists who were ostensibly on the lookout for issues like this. Yet I don’t recall reading a single word about sudden signal drops, proximity sensor issues, screen discoloration, or any of the other launch issues. This may be explained by the fact that a sample size of a dozen or two may easily have avoided the launch issues, which clearly do not affect all units.

But it’s also worth considering that a phone, or media player, or game console, or operating system, really isn’t something you can review over a week or two. A restaurant you can review after a meal. A movie you can review after a viewing. A blog post, apparently, you can review just from the headline. But a device that’s going to be a part of your life for a year, two years, or more? Any review posted before, at, or within a few days of launch should properly be considered a first impression.

Flagship devices like mobile phones and media players remain on sale for such a long time, and are used by so many people, that a serious, comprehensive, real-life review really is necessary.

Continue reading…


Enphase Energy’s Thermostat Lets You Control Your Home’s Temperature From Afar

Green data geeks now have another tool for controlling their energy consumption. Enphase Energy‘s new Environ Smart Thermostat lets you control your home’s temperature and monitor your solar installations remotely.

The company is known for its microinverter system, which turns solar-generated DC power into home energy friendly AC power. A microinverter is attached to every solar module, and the unit also monitors the module’s performance and sends out an alert if there is a problem with the module, be it debris or a tree branch that grew large enough to shade the solar panel.

All of the data is transmitted to a website where you can analyze your energy consumption and, with the new thermostat, control your home’s temperature from afar. Want to turn on the AC before your commute home so you can step into a cold house? No problem. You can also turn over control to Enphase, which can help you program your thermostat to meet your energy goals, like letting the temperature rise a few degrees during peak times to save on your energy bill.

“What we want to do is plug a hole on the energy consumption side,” says CEO Paul Nahi.

The thermostat works with Enphase installations and sells for $349. The company began selling solar installations in 2008, and currently has customers in 49 states and all Canadian provinces. Enphase has raised $100 million in funding and although the company won’t release specific figures, Nahi said the company is “financially sound.”

Information provided by CrunchBase


Hey Brian (Guy Behind iPhone Vs. EVO Videos), Paramount Wants To Talk!

Remember those awesome iPhone 4 versus EVO 4G videos? Hopefully you do, it has only been a few weeks since we posted both of them. You know, the ones that almost got the Best Buy employee fired? The ones that made him rethink his career path? Yeah, those videos. Well, they just got potentially a lot more interesting.

Paramount Pictures has just contacted us, asking if we can put them in contact with the creator of the videos, Brian Maupin. Indeed we can. We’ve been talking to him since the videos went up. Sure, we could email him, but this post just seems easier.

So Brian Maupin of Kansas City, Missouri, come on down! It may be time for your close-up. Here’s the email from Paramount:

Hi!

Do you have contact info for Brian Maupin who did the EVO vs iPhone bit?  Ever since we saw it on TechCrunch, we at Paramount are obsessed with it – and wanted to get in touch.

Thanks so much in advance.
Alison

When Maupin is directing Mission: Impossible 5, I just hope he remembers how it all began…


Power Assure Gets $11.25 million Jolt of Funding

Power Assure, a Santa Clara green IT company, today announced that it scored $11.25 million in venture funding. The round was led by energy efficiency-focused investors Good Energies, and joined by Point Judith Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Power Assure’s chief technology officer Clemens Pfeiffer said the company will use this capital to take its technology to a broader market. Its software cuts data centers’ power consumption by half, on average, the company claims.

Palo Alto Research Center (formerly known as Xerox PARC) uses Power Assure, but Pfeiffer declined to name other major customers.

Founded in 2007, Power Assure took a $2.5 million series A round from DFJ in 2009. It also previously won non-dilutive grant funding including a $5 million grant from the Department of Energy, and a $50,000 cash prize at the 2008 California Clean Tech Open. (In total, the company has raised $18.75 million.)

Power Assure’s software works like “automatic lights out” in homes, Pfeiffer says. “If you have a lot of traffic on your site or a lot of users on your app, then you need to keep a lot of servers in your data center running. During low utilization times  you don’t need them all running. You can use them for other purposes, or in an extreme case sleep or shut them down to save energy and money. That’s just as long as you can adjust the capacity dynamically.”

Companies that have expressed the most interest in using Power Assure’s solutions in 2010 have been government organizations “trying to follow the mandates of the Obama administration,” financial services companies “because of the pressure that they are under to cut costs,” and companies that operate “data centers in the ten- to two-hundred-thousand square feet range,” but may not have achieved the efficiencies of an Amazon or Google yet, according to Pfeiffer.

Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor at Stanford University whose research focuses in part on the growth and environmental impact of data centers, said it’s a good time to be in the business of green IT services:

“Climate change is becoming a bigger more important part of companies’ risk profiles and planning. And the cost of IT has gone up a lot in the last five years. Computers have gotten cheaper, but things like cooling and power distribution have gotten more expensive to the point where the cost of buying the cooling and backup power is comparable to the cost of a data center’s IT equipment itself. Companies like [Power Assure] can save a lot of money for businesses that use data centers while reducing emissions. That’s a good thing, and a reminder that the net effect of using data centers in a rational, sustainable way — moving bits not atoms — is actually a positive for the environment.”

Information provided by CrunchBase


Foursquare Founders Pull Out $4.6 Million For Themselves From Last $20 Million Round

Dennis Crowley didn’t get the big personal payday he would have if he had sold Foursquare to Facebook, which he almost did. But Crowley and co-founder Naveen Selvadurai did okay with the $20 million Series B funding they raised from Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square, and O’Reilly AlphaTech. According to an SEC filing (first spotted by Dan Frommer at SAI), the two founders personally took home $4,636,688 from that round, or 23 percent of the total amount raised.

Under a part of the filing titled “Use of Proceeds,” the company had to disclose “the amount of the gross proceeds of the offering that has been or is proposed to be used for payments to any of the persons required to be named as executive officers, directors or promoters in response to Item 3 above.” There are only three people listed as “executive officers, directors or promoters”: Crowley, Selvadurai, and board director Albert Wenger of Union Square. It would be highly unusual for one of the VCs on the board to take personal liquidity out of a deal before his firm does. And Union Square put more money into this round.

No wonder Crowley flew to South Africa to watch some of the World Cup games right after the round closed. (To be fair, it was also his first vacation after 18 months “of straight up hustling,” he says. Might as well do it in style).

With the IPO markets not as attractive as they once were and companies staying private longer, it is becoming increasingly common for founders to take some money off the table during later venture rounds. (Other recent venture rounds saw much bigger sums going to founders). As long as the company does well, nobody will blame them. But if the company hits on hard times when that cash could be helpful, well . . . then a different story will be told.

Update: Foursquare says the founders sold shares essentially so that investors could buy more. Spokesperson Erin Gleason sent me the following statement:

As is common in Series B financings, Dennis and Naveen sold a small portion of their personal equity as a secondary offering to allow our investors to achieve their ownership objectives.


Shopkick Takes $15 Million From Greylock Partners – Reid Hoffman Loves This Company

Shopkick, a startup that’s focused on bridging the real world shopping experience with mobile, just closed a rather large $15 million round of funding from Greylock Partners. Partner Reid Hoffman, who is also an individual investor in the company, is already on the board of directors.

The company had previously raised $5 million from Hoffman and Kleiner Perkins Kaufield & Byers. Kleiner participated in this round of financing as well.

We first covered Shopkick a year ago when it was deep in stealth. In December 2009 they launched a mobile application that let people check in to certain retailers for points that could be used for donations to worthy causes.

But the “real” product of the company is yet to launch, says CEO Cyriac Roeding. It’s been promised sometime this summer.

I spoke to Hoffman about the company earlier today. He’s been a big believer in the team since it was in its earliest idea stage. This large financing round will let the company move through launch to, hopefully, its inflection point of growth without needed to raise more money.

This is a crowded space, but no one has won it yet. And now Shopkick has $15 million more to go for the win.