Yahoo’s Former Director Of Geo Lands At Nokia, Finds Yahoo Waiting

Earlier this month, we reported that Yahoo’s Director of Geo Engineering, Gary Gale, was the latest to leave the company. He declined to say where he was going at the time (except to say that it wasn’t Google), but how he has. In a blog post today, Gale has announced that he’ll be the Director of Ovi Places for Nokia.

What’s interesting about this is that Yahoo just announced a deal a week ago that aligns them with Nokia in the mobile space — which will obviously include geolocation. Gale notes this coincidence, but says he’s been talking to Nokia long before Yahoo was. Regardless, even though Gale is leaving Yahoo, it appears he’ll be working closely with his old co-workers on some projects.

Gale also used his post to say a few things about Yahoo. Having spent nearly 4 years at the company, Gale writes that “you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the media about working at Yahoo! It’s been an amazing experience and one I would willingly repeat if I had the opportunity to go back and do it all again.” Of course, he also notes some of the negative things about the experience — 3 of his “lows”:

  • People leaving the company as a result of the Microsoft bid; the unsuccessful Microsoft bid, something that never actually happened.
  • Reorganisations and new VPs; far too many of them. Six reorganisations in the space of twelve months and six VPs in the space of four years is too many by my reckoning and meant you sent more time rewriting your strategy than you do actually delivering and shipping product.
  • Teams that ship successful products in spite of the company not because of the company.

The second point in particular seems to go along with our recent post wondering what exactly Yahoo is now? Judging from the various answers from the top over the years, it’s a very fluid thing. That also seems to show in the fact that Yahoo was one of the early players thinking about the now red-hot location space, but doesn’t have much to show for it (at least from a front-end user perspective).

Following the news Gale was leaving Yahoo, another key player in Yahoo’s location plan, Tom Coates, announced he was leaving as well.

Hopefully Gale won’t experience the same sort of top level confusion and frustration at Nokia — even working with Yahoo again.

[photo: flickr/vicchi]


BUZZMEDIA Signs Up 6 Major Music Sites, Including The Hype Machine And RCRD LBL

Entertainment media company BUZZMEDIA (formerly known as Buzznet) has just announced the addition of 6 music sites to its ever-growing list of properties, namely PureVolume, PopMatters, Gorilla vs. Bear, The Hype Machine, Concrete Loop and RCRD LBL.

The news was just released, but it looks like industry blog Hypebot.com jumped the gun, deeming the addition of the 6 sites an outright acquisition of the lot.

After contacting BUZZMEDIA we’ve learned that in reality, the deals with The Hypemachine, RCRD LBL and PopMatters are advertising partnerships while the others are straight-up purchases. Update: in the case of Gorilla vs. Bear, it concerns an acquisition in the form of an investment, with right to buy the remainder. All sites will retain editorial control, we were also told.

Digging a bit deeper, it looks like the acquisition of The Hype Machine for one had been rumored for a while, based on the mentioning of BUZZMEDIA in the site’s footer. But the site’s founder, Anthony Volodkin, responded to blog posts spreading that rumor in comments, saying they needed to be corrected because BUZZMEDIA does not in any way own but merely sells advertising on The Hype Machine.

From what we can gather, there are similar arrangements in place with PopMatters and RCRD LBL, the site that was started as a joint venture between Downtown Music and Peter Rojas of Engadget, Gizmodo and GDGT Web fame.

BUZZMEDIA’s current music properties include Lyrics.com, Stereogum, Buzznet, Idolator, Absolute Punk and the official websites for Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities such as Nicole Richie.

Together, these Web publications are said to reach more than 50 million pop culture, music and celebrity enthusiasts worldwide on a monthly basis, according to BUZZMEDIA’s website.

Here’s how they pitch the portfolio on there:

Its influential and authentic social media properties afford brand advertisers unique access to impassioned and engaged audiences through a blend of professional editorial, expert opinion, user contributions and customized marketing solutions.

Reads like a “targeted content at large scale” play to me (think Glam for entertainment).

BUZZMEDIA says the addition of the aforementioned music sites cements its Music division as the largest independent publisher of music content on the Web, as measured by comScore Media Metrix last month.

The company provides a surprisingly low amount of details about its business on its corporate website, but from what we can gather they’ve raised over $35 million in four rounds, from investors like Focus Ventures, Anthem Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Redpoint Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures. Earlier this month, the company put out a press release announcing the recruitment of four sales & advertising people, all relatively notable people with backgrounds at Yahoo, MySpace, Fanscape, Time Inc. and other familiar names.

Earlier press releases tout the appointments of former founding general manager of TMZ Alan Citron as President, Mike Porath, former AOL News Editor-in-Chief as SVP of Programming and Alex Blagg, founding editor of MSN Wonderwall and Best Week Ever as Executive Editor of portfolio site Celebuzz.

This is a company steadily building a financial foundation while continuously adding experienced and savvy staff to its most important divisions as well as new sites to its publisher portfolio either through acquisition, joint-venture or advertising agreements.

In other words, one to keep a close eye on.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Why UJAM Didn’t Win TechCrunch Disrupt

Something that I loved about TechCrunch Disrupt last week is that the top two startups that launched in the competition weren’t from the U.S. – winner Soluto is based in Israel, and runner up UJAM is a German startup. In our previous events we had lots of non-U.S. startups, too, but the winners have always been U.S. based teams. So to have startups from Israel and Germany win was a real treat for me personally.

The judges selected Soluto, which is software to make your computer run better, as the clear winner. The company has a proven team, lots of funding and has been working on the product for two years, they say. We take audience voting into account as well, and we will also put in our vote. But at the end of the tallying there just wasn’t much of a discussion. You can never tell how a startup will do until it actually launches (see, for example, Cuil, which had massive funding and a killer team but flopped on launch), but everything we saw suggests that Soluto is likely to go on to do amazing things. And they have a terrific business model. They deserved to win the Disrupt Cup.

But a lot of people watching from the audience and the livestream thought UJAM, which lets anyone create music, was much more exciting, and potentially very disruptive to the music creation process. If you haven’t seen their demo yet, which had a number of spontaneous breakouts of applause and yelling, you should. I’ve embedded it above.

At one point judge Chris Sacca even got up and tried it himself, and the audience loved it.

The judges also liked UJAM and there was some discussion about them winning. But the product is just so early, not even in public beta. And they haven’t quite nailed down their business model yet. There are lots of ways for UJAM to still blow it, however unlikely that is.

The whole Soluto v. UJAM situation reminds me of our TechCrunch50 event in 2008. Yammer, which gives businesses a private twitter-like service within the company, took the top prize. And a startup called Swype, with launched a new way to do text input on tiny mobile touchscreens, took a runner-up spot.

Yammer, like Soluto, isn’t a company that is all that exciting to talk about. But both startups provide a much needed service, and Yammer is ramping up their business nicely with revenue doubling every quarter. They’re likely to have a really nice liquidity event.

And like UJAM, Swype stole everyone’s hearts. People wanted to try Swype themselves, and you can see all the judges getting up from their seats after the demo to try it themselves. People were jumping up and down in the audience. Etc. Watch it all here.

Swype also had amazing founders, and since TechCrunch50 has gone on to do amazing things. Their software is now being built into tens of millions of mobile handsets a year, and they collect a fee for every install.

But at the time they just weren’t far enough along to win the show. Their first big licensing deals were ahead of them, and the judges felt more comfortable with Yammer as the winner. And like UJAM, a lot of audience members were really angry that Swype didn’t win it all.

The real frustration some people have at TechCrunch Disrupt is that there are startups with two years of development and $10 million in funding competing head to head with startups with no funding and less development time. Some people have asked that we limit the amount of funding or put in other rules to level the playing field.

We’re not going to do that.

The real win for companies is to simply launch at the event in front of so many people. TechCrunch Disrupt had 1,700 attendees in person, and another 100,000 people watched on the livestream. There’s just no other place in the world that can give a startup so much mainstream attention so fast.

The fact is that people are watching, and all the press is there, because of the way we hold the event. They want to see hot startups that are well funded and a little more full baked. Take those away and fewer people are interesting. There are separate discussions with popular technology leaders and investors, for example, which draw in the crowds and press. They stay to watch the startups launch. If we mess with that formula too much, or add too many more filters to the types of companies that can launch there, that careful balancing act could be thrown off whack.

So we do other things to help really young startups get going. Like holding the hack day before the event which lets people get stage time for their projects and get into the event for free. There were 300 engineers at the event that almost certainly wouldn’t have been there otherwise because of the Hack Day. And some of those engineers are going to be launching their startups in future TechCrunch Disrupt events.

Also, the awards are more of an audience pleaser than anything else. The audience seems to be uncomfortable if you don’t name someone the winner, even if, really, it’s just too early to be calling any of these companies winners and losers. So we ask the judges to do their best, and make a call. Sometimes the company that got everyone out of their seats doesn’t win.

But in the end, they really do.


Yoono Nows Plays Nice With YouTube, Chrome Extension On The Way

Yoono, a nifty browser plug-in and desktop application that serves as both a social network aggregator and media hub, is upgrading its offering today with YouTube integration, additional language support, and further Twitter functionality. Yoono aggregates and centralizes your online profiles, including IM tools like Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk and AIM as well as a wide variety of social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, and more. The app also includes real-time search capabilities powered by OneRiot.

The new YouTube integration allows you to see all of your YouTube updates (new videos, comments) in your stream; access your Channels (subscriptions, playlists, favorites, uploads); search YouTube videos; playlists and channels directly from Yoono; and share, favorite, comment on and even download videos directly from either the plugin or desktop application. And Yoono now allows you to favorite tweets and reply all from the application.

Via a crowdsourced translation project, Yoono now has versions in Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Swedish and Polish in addition to English and French. Yoono says that 22 additional languages are actively being worked on by the community.

Yoono, which has seen 4.5 million downloads, has also launched an alpha version of Yoono for Google Chrome, and is expecting the beta version of the browser plugin to hit the Chrome extensions gallery very soon. Given the popularity of Yoono on Firefox (the plugin is the most downloaded social networking add-on for Firefox), the extension should be popular among Chrome users. Yoono says that the next step is entering the mobile market with iPhone, iPad and Android apps in the works. And the startup plans to add more services to its hub, including Google Buzz, Foursquare, and Yammer.

Information provided by CrunchBase


US Fund To Invest $250 Million In Skolkovo, The “Russian Silicon Valley”

Siguler Guff & Company, a US-based private equity firm with over $8.5 billion of assets under management, is investing $250 million in a high-tech hub outside Moscow that is often referred to as Russia’s ‘answer to Silicon Valley’, according to various reports.

Siguler Guff, owner of a subsidiary called Russia Partners, has made the investment public right after a visit to innovation center Skolkovo.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently invited a group of US venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to visit the high-tech hub, which is located in Moscow’s woody suburbs, in an effort to convince them of his plans to spur economic modernization and reduce its dependence on oil and gas by giving birth to a local ‘Silicon Valley’.

Siguler Guff will be pumping a quarter billion dollars in digital infrastructure and IT services for Skolkovo.

The private equity firm this becomes the first foreign investor in Skolkovo, but according to Russian business newspaper Vedomosti, there are currently talks with a number of companies in the United States, Asia and Europe – some names that are dropped include Cisco and Nokia.

Thanks for the heads up, Yakov.

(Images are sketches only, more are available here)


SimilarWeb Changes Name To SimilarGroup, Raises More Funding

SimilarWeb, which will henceforth be known as SimilarGroup, has raised more funding, bringing the total of capital injected into the company to $1.1 million.

The fresh funding is considered to be the company’s Series A round and will be used to expand its line of products, based on the core technology we previously wrote about:

The backbone of SimilarWeb’s technology is based on multiphase analysis, which in plain English means that there are several engines running in the background, analyzing websites based on different mechanics, metrics and workflows. These include: user browsing trends, user ratings, tag analysis, ecosphere analysis, semantic breakdowns, and automated background research.

The company claims to have mapped millions of sites, and adding tens of thousands daily. This means that it will always suggest other sites, regardless of whether the site the user is currently on is a popular one, or one much further down the tail.

The change of the company’s name to SimilarGroup is meant to package all three web plays it now operates: SimilarSites.com, which the company claims to have millions of unique monthly users, SimilarWeb.com, a Firefox add-on, and TopSite.com, a search engine that’s still in beta.

Investors in the new round include Docor, Naftali Investments, Dr. Yossi Vardi, Omer Kaplan & Liron Rose (founders of AfterDownload.com), and a number of private investors.


UK Student Fined By College For Flirting Site — The Zuckerberg Story This Is Not

It looks like Mark Zuckerberg would not have got Facebook going if he’d started it at a British University. The founder of a UK site integrated with Facebook and Twitter allowing students to flirt has been fined £300 for bringing his university into disrepute. FitFinder only started last month but rapidly expanded to universities across the country.

But founder Rich Martell, 21, a final-year computer sciences student at University College London, has been forced to take the site down. UCL said it had been contacted by a number of other universities unhappy about FitFinder. It’s fined Martell £300 under UCL’s “Disciplinary Code of Bringing the College into Disrepute” and told him that failure to pay the fine would put his degree at risk.


Are Questions The “Future Of Facebook”?

About a week ago, word started getting out that Facebook is beta testing a new “killer app” called Facebook Questions. For beta testers, the Questions feature appears in the left-hand column just below Events and Photos. It lets you ask and answer questions to and from your extended circle of friends.

A few days ago, Facebook opened up the private beta further and is now taking applications for anyone who wants to enter the beta. Facebook is taking its Questions product very seriously. “Help us build the future of Facebook,” reads the title of the page.

It puts the Questions product on par with Photos and Events.

As a beta tester, your job will be to ask great questions and provide great answers about your favorite topics. Economics? Skydiving? Relationships? Mexican Restaurants? It’s up to you. You’ll be the first person outside of Facebook to use this product. Your expert writing will be seen by tens of millions of people — including job recruiters. And we’ll bring our best beta testers out to California to tour Facebook headquarters and meet the team.

All you have to do to become a beta tester is submit three sample questions, such as

  • What are the main differences between Google Chrome and Internet Explorer?
  • What are women looking for in a relationship?
  • What methods has BP tried to clean up the oil spill?

In one fell swoop, Facebook is about to take on Yahoo Answers, Google (via recently acquired Aardvark), LinkedIn (notice the reference to job recruiters?), and Quora.  Q&A sites drive massive pageviews. It is an area Facebook can no longer ignore.  People already use Facebook informally to ask questions across their social network from time to time.  It is a type of status update, if you think about it.  The Questions feature will bucket all of these together, spread them across your friends and their friends, and make them searchable.

The advantage Facebook could have in the Q&A space is that to the extent that you find answers from your extended social network, questions can become the start of deeper conversations and spur new relationships. But breaking it out as a separate feature raises some new questions. Will every major type of status update now become its own feature on Facebook (like Photo and Event updates do)? And, if so, what’s next?

Information provided by CrunchBase


Apple Sold 2 Million iPads In 59 Days

Apple has just announced that sales of its tablet computer iPad have now topped two million in less than 60 days since its launch on April 3. That’s a whole lot of iPads in under two months, and the company only started shipping units to customers in countries outside the United States last weekend.

The news comes almost a month after Apple announced that it had sold 1 million units.

As previously announced, the iPad will be available in nine more – but still unnamed – countries in July and additional countries later this year.

And they’re still clinging on to the ‘magic’ rhetoric, apparently:

“Customers around the world are experiencing the magic of iPad, and seem to be loving it as much as we do,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We appreciate their patience, and are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone.”

Apple in a statement said developers have created over 5,000 new apps for iPad to date.

In a week, Jobs will be front and center at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco – the man’s keynote starts on Monday 7 June at 10 AM PST.

Information provided by CrunchBase


We Love You Too: 250+ TechCrunch Anniversary Meetups And Counting

On June 11, it will be exactly five years since Michael Arrington hit the ‘Publish’ button and introduced the Interwebz to the very first TechCrunch post (which was a brief profile of blog search engine Technorati, which Mike apparently labeled a real-time search engine at the time – what’s old is new again, right?).

We want to celebrate our fifth anniversary with as many people as we can, across the globe. So we are using the new Meetup Everywhere platform that Scott Heiferman announced on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt last week to organize TechCrunch Meetups on June 11 all around the world.

We’re not only celebrating TechCrunch, but the last five years of the Web in general. A lot has happened since June 2005, but the wheel keeps on turning, faster than ever. Sometimes, it’s good to take a breather, look back and celebrate, and then move on.

Either way, we were pleasantly surprised to see how many people jumped on this. On May 28, we counted nearly 150 meetups planned in places like New York City, San Francisco, London, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Seoul, Tel Aviv, Jakarta and Sophia.

Just three days later, another 100 were organized by readers and fans all over the world, so we’re at 252 and counting. We see meetups are being organized from ad Dasma’, Kuwait to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and St. Petersburg, Russia. Amazing, and humbling.

Yes, we realize you probably just needed yet another excuse to party, but we’re all in awe that you’re willing to do under our banner anyway.

Have fun on our fifth birthday bash for us, will you? And don’t forget to send in pictures.


Stanford Graduates Release Pulse, A Must-Have News App For The iPad

Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta, two Stanford grads who signed up for the Launch Pad class at the University’s Institute of Design (aka d.school), could have hardly chosen a better path to try their hands at startup life. The pair has gone from idea to a (very cool) digital news app for the iPad in just 5 weeks, and they’re just getting started.

The application, called Pulse, is essentially a visually attractive RSS-based news aggregator. On sale for $3.99 (iTunes link), the app is aimed to please both hardcore RSS reader users and people who are willing to pay top dollars for single publication apps.

Pulse’s home screen renders stories from multiple sources on a dynamic mosaic interface. Swipe up and down to see headlines from various sources, and right and left to browse stories from a particular source (thanks for featuring TechCrunch in the demo video, guys).

Tapping on a story takes you to a text view of the article, and lets you switch to a Web view simply by toggling the appropriate button. You can also easily share articles with your friends on Facebook and Twitter or by e-mailing a link to the article. As you can tell from the video embedded below, Pulse works well in both Portrait and Landscape view.

We should note that streaming video in-app is not yet supported due to stability issues, but the makers promise that the next update will come with support for embedded video playing.

Big plus: Pulse can integrate feeds from your Google Reader.

Big minus: you can only add 20 RSS feeds to the reader (up from 10 at launch).

Nevertheless, a must-have (or at the very least, a must-try) app if you have an iPad.

Do not despair if you do not: Kothari and Gupta will expand Pulse to other platforms ‘very soon’, starting with the iPhone.

Information provided by CrunchBase


The Disappearing #flotilla Hashtag May Have A Simple Explanation


As we know from breaking news right now over 10 people have died after Israeli commandos boarded a convoy of ships carrying aid to Gaza, sparking an international controvery. But we’re not going to get into the politics of that situation. What we’re interested in is what happened on Twitter today. Because although the convoy has been dubbed a “flotilla” by Twitter users and a large number of people were using the #flotilla hashtag, this disappeared from after trending briefly. The only remaining related trend topic was Israil, the Turkish word for Israel.

As a result, a large number of of people are calling out Twitter for “censoring” the #flotilla hashtag.

In addition #flotilla was not appearing on Twitter’s trending list despite the fact that it is pretty prominent on Google trends. It’s causing a huge wave of controversy right now.

So what can be found out about what happened to the #flotilla hashtag?


Is Print Media Doomed Worldwide or Just In The US?

As I walked in the headquarters of the Jawa Pos—the flagship newspaper of one of South East Asia’s largest print media empires—I was wondering just how screwed my profession is; globally I mean.

Is the death of print a world-wide certainty or merely an American reality? After all a lot of “old economy” businesses are thriving in emerging markets thanks to Greenfield advantages and rising middle class economics. Spoiler alert: I walked out a few hours later not hugely convinced print is the future but willing to believe that in some places the death-blow of digital might be limited to a mere-crippling. How’s that for bullish?

Language difference and a preponderance of statues aside, the Jawa Pos felt like any other newsroom of a large daily. It was almost 9 pm and there was a still a buzzing, frenzied office full of people —some of whom had been there since 5 am, and some of whom would be there until midnight. I sat down with the chief editor, Leak Kustiya (below, second from right), and his deputy at a large, circular table in the middle of the newsroom—the hub of all the department spokes and the spot where the editors make their daily decisions. It could have been a scene out of an Indonesian version of “All the President’s Men.”

But when I asked how the paper was responding to the digital age, I was disappointed in the answer: We’re protecting print revenues as long as we can. Wow, I thought. Have you learned nothing from the West? Web revenues will never equal print revenues, per ad. But guess what? Future competitors don’t care. They are happy to build a business off of ads that are 20% of what you charge, because they are building a digital business without printing presses from the ground up. It’s New York Times v. TechCrunch all over again.

Or is it? Every local paper claims superior coverage of local news will save it, but that takes having a young, aggressive staff of reporters—and most of those people were the first to leave when newspapers started their inevitable decline in revenues and death in morale by a million small rounds of layoffs.  I came away from the Jawa Pos thinking they might have a shot largely because of one factor: Hiring practices. In fact, the US media—including blogs like TechCrunch—could learn something from them. The company’s network of more than 150 publications and television stations is designed to avoid the exact problem that plagues old-school media: An overpaid preponderance of senior staff that doesn’t do much.

The Jawa Pos will only hire someone if they are under 25 and you must retire when you hit 50—no matter what your seniority. And those slots are coveted positions. Some 400 people apply twice a year, and 100 get interviews. Fifteen are selected, and they enter a rigorous six month training period where they learn all aspects of the reporting trade and editors get plenty of time to see how they can work a beat, generate story ideas, break news and work under pressure. Typically only five get a permanent slot. The logic here, simply put, is that news is a young person’s business. It’s like American Idol for journalists. In some senses, it’s precisely the opposite of the unions most US newsrooms have.

With 15-years experience mostly in old media, I’ve personally enjoyed the spoils of seniority and years spent paying my dues, although not nearly as much as someone who has been in the business 30 or 40 years. And guess what? There are just some things I did for a story in my youth that come harder to me now.

Dinners three-to-four nights a week, endless 6 a.m. breakfasts with sources, trolling the halls at the largest trade show conferences for a quote or a tip these are all things that give an advantage to younger, hungrier reporters without spouses or families the same way a 20-something entrepreneur has energy and a fresh look on an industry that a grey-haired veteran can’t match. Hell, after spending 40-weeks on planes, lost on back-alley streets and dining on mini-bar Pringles around the world, I’m not even sure I’d sign up to write my current book-in-progress again.

Does experience and seniority have advantages in the work place? Of course. That’s why the Jawa Pos lets you work there until you are fifty.

Given how many other countries err on the side of being too protective of workers, the somewhat draconian, Logan’s Run approach was a surprise to me. But the Jawa Pos’s policy ensures that only the best reporters are allowed on staff because getting a job isn’t a simple as showing some clips or faking an interview and it ensures that despite clinging to a graying medium of print, the staff itself is always staying young, and hence, in touch with younger readers. It’ll be interesting to watch and see if that’s enough to beat a broader market certainty that print is dead and digital is the future. And if not? At the least the task of righting the ship will be left to younger blood.

It may sound cruel, but I’d argue it’s not nearly as cruel as daily papers going out of business en masse and taking good reporters and editors with them. Maybe the Jawa Pos should look more closely at the mistakes our profession made ten years ago, but this is one big fail safe against complacency already in place.


Wireless Analyst Predicts Mobile LBS Revenues To Reach €420M In Europe By 2015

According to a new research report from Sweden-based wireless analyst Berg Insight, mobile location-based service revenues in Europe are forecasted to grow from €220 million in 2009 to €420 million in 2015.

Berg Insight adds that local search, navigation services and social networking are poised to become the top applications in terms of number of users, which is sort of a give-away as those categories have already proven to be the most popular and fastest-growing among smartphone users worldwide.

Berg Insight, which offers business intelligence to the telecom industry and provides analysis to companies such as AT&T, Microsoft, France Telecom, IBM, KPN Mobile, NTT Docomo, Nokia, Telefonica O2, Vodafone Group, Alcatel and Motorola, estimates that one third of all mobile subscribers in Europe will use “some kind of location-enhanced application” on a regular basis by 2015.