YouSendIt Raises $15 Million Series D

File sharing service YouSendIt has closed a $15 million Series D funding round led by Adams Street Partners, with existing investors Emergence Capital, Sigma Partners, and Alloy Ventures also participating. Robin Murray, a partner at Adams Street, will become an observer for the company’s board of directors.

YouSendIt’s core product allows users to easily send and receive files and folders as large as 2 gigabytes in size (rather than send the file itself via email, you send a link to the file that is hosted on YouSendIt’s servers). The service continues to grow, with 300,000 new registered users a month, and CTO Ranjith Kumaran says that the company is doing well at monetizing its freemium products: the site has over 215,000 paid users, all of whom are subscribed to plans that run $9.99 per month and higher.

Kumaran also says that the company is seeing success in the enterprise, which YouSendIt has worked toward with features like Outlook integration and various certifications. The company is looking at using some of the money for acquisitions, in addition to using it to boost growth and market share.

YouSendIt previously raised a $14 million Series C round in July 2008, and has raised over $53 million to date. The company recently named former Netflix VP of Finance Renee Budig as CFO.

Information provided by CrunchBase


AOL Sublets Huge Building From Google, Wants Startups To Move In

Google apparently has a lot of empty office space in Silicon Valley laying around under long term leases. One three story building – all 225,000 square feet of it – was just subleased by Google to AOL. AOL will be moving their Silicon Valley office, currently in Mountain View, to the new location at 395 Page Mill, Palo Alto, CA.

That’s just down the street from Stanford University, and just a block away from a new Chipotle. Apparently parking won’t be a problem either, based on the satellite image.

AOL only needs a third of the space they’ve leased and are moving into the third floor. But instead of leasing a smaller building, they decided to take far more than they need and sublet to startups, Brad Garlinghouse tells me. Garlinghouse is the most senior AOL exec on the west coast – see my recent video interview with him here.

SSE Labs, a Stanford affiliated organization that operates an incubator, has already signed up to move in. Other companies are moving in as well, says AOL, but they are looking for more startups. Interested? Email Trent Herren at [email protected] to get the details.

Why all the bother? Garlinghouse says he wants the energy of the startups to rub off on AOLers: “In addition to creating a new convenient space for our AOL employees – we’re all about fostering a culture around creativity and new ideas which is why we plan to sublease our space to entrepreneurs and start-ups in the valley.”

AOL says they’ve used the same architectural design firm to build out the space that Facebook, Yelp and others have tapped. More details on the sublease from Google here from a July 25 article in the San Francisco Business Times.

Information provided by CrunchBase


iPad Reader Pulse Teams Up With Posterous To Make You A News Aggregator

Alphonso Labs‘ Pulse app for the iPad provides a beautiful way to read your favorite feeds. Unfortunately, compared to the newer entry Flipboard, it’s not very socially personalized. An update tonight hopes to change that.

Pulse is teaming up with Posterous to create a simple way for users to create their own “Pulses.” What this means is that they can with one tap add any article to their own Pulse — thus making any user an aggregator of news. Posterous comes in because each of these Pulse items are transfered to a free blog which is automatically created for you. “This blog will post the articles you have picked, hence enabling you to share this even with friends who don’t have Pulse,” Alphonso Labs co-founder Akshay Kothari says.

But if your friends are using Pulse, there will be an easy way for them to subscribe to your Pulses, simply by searching for their name or username.

But the most interesting aspect of all of this may be the aggregator Alphonso Labs has created to show off the best of these Pulses: Pulsememe. It’s sort of like Techmeme (though it covers all news, not just tech news), but it relies on these Posterous-powered Pulse blogs to aggregate what’s hot. In a way, it’s actually more like Delicious or Google Reader shared items.

Pulsememe also features a sidebar list of top editors to show off who is discovering the most interesting content.

The service is pretty bare-bones at the moment — but there’s also no one really using it outside of Alphonso Labs employees. If a lot of people get into this idea of using the Pulse app as their own aggregation tool, this could be an interesting way to discover news.

Posterous, meanwhile, continues to come up with interesting ways to get people to create blogs on their network.

Last week, Pulse launched its app on the Android platform. The app also works on the iPhone and iPod touch — though this aggregator tool is only on the iPad app for the time being.

You can find the Pulse app here. It’s $3.99.


Gowalla Getting Pretty Custom Passports, Hints At Other Personalization Features

While rival Foursquare seems firmly focused on the business side of things, Gowalla continues to focus on building a beautiful product. The next step in that comes on Wednesday when the service will unveil a way to make customized Passports.

Your Gowalla Passport is essentially your profile page, but Gowalla organizes it in a way to highlight some of the core features that help them differentiate themselves — namely: pictures, comments, stamps, and pins. Beginning on Wednesday, you’ll be able to completely customize the design of this area. Gowalla will provide you with a few themes designed by their team (a heavily design-focused team), or you can build your own. Previously, these custom passports were only available as a premium feature viven to select partners such as LIVESTRONG, CNNMoney, and USA TODAY.

I’m told these will be unveiled on Wednesday (but it may take a couple of weeks for them to fully roll out the feature) alongside another announcement the service will be making — though no word on what that is. “This is part of a series of features we’ll be rolling out in the next couple of months to allow people and brands a greater level of personalization for their passport and spot places,” co-founder Josh Williams says.

As you can see in the screenshots, there also appears to be a new area of the service called “Highlights.” Williams won’t say what that is, but says it won’t be coming Wednesday.

This emphasis on beauty and customization continues Gowalla’s trend in recent months to play to its strengths in order to differentiate itself in the increasingly crowded location field.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Spotify Who? Rdio Launches In The US And Canada, Lands More Indie Music Deals

It’s been two months to the day since Rdio launched in the States – check out Erick’s review if you’re interested in learning more about the (awesome) social music service.

But until today, you needed to be invited by another user to gain access to the service.

Not that it was all that difficult – users were able to invite dozens at a time and we gave away thousands of invite codes for TechCrunch readers – but still, the doors are now open.

Update: apologies, doors will actually open 8 AM EST Tuesday morning.

That is, if you live in the United States or Canada or at least know how to pretend you are.

Users in those countries can henceforth sign up for Rdio and give it a whirl free of charge and ad-less for a period of 3 days, although users get the option to extend the free trial with another 10 days after, according to the startup, which was founded and financially backed by Skype, Kazaa and Joost founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis.

Rdio, pronounced “ar-dee-oh”, costs $9.99 per month for unlimited Web and mobile access (including the ability to listen to music and playlists offline), and $4.99 for Web-only access.

Rdio says it recently expanded its music collection through deals with independent labels and aggregators, hitting the 7 million songs milestone. Apart from the major music labels, Rdio now boasts agreements with the likes of IODA, IRIS, Finetunes, INgrooves and The Orchard.

In addition, Rdio has attracted a number of music publications and other influencers (Spin Magazine, Pitchfork and Los Angeles’ KCRW Radio, to name but a few) to set up profiles and connect users with their favorite tunes (which can now be played without interruption, thank God).

The company has also been consistently updating its iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps, as the mobile aspect of the offering is really key to their long-term strategy.

The public launch of Rdio in the US and Canada is bad news for European music startup Spotify, which hasn’t managed to make it Stateside yet, despite all its oft-expressed homes and dreams. Spotify says negotations with the labels are moving in the right direction, however, and that they’re confident they’ll be able to launch in the U.S. before year’s end.

Of course, Spotify is far from the only competition Rdio has or will have, with startups like Pandora and MOG doing very well. And let’s not forget three technology giants are plotting their own music-in-the-cloud push, too: digital music sales juggernaut Apple, Web giant Google and HP, still very much the largest information technology company in the world.

Curious to see what the future will hold for Rdio.

You please tell me what you think of it today, though.

Information provided by CrunchBase


OMG/JK Episode 5: Everything Is Dead. Kill. Kill. Kill.

Above, find the fifth installment of the show fellow writer Jason Kincaid and I do for TechCrunch TV, OMG/JK. This week, we discuss/argue Facebook Questions, the new Kindle, the Magic Trackpad, and Android’s Wallpaper of Doom.

The overall theme this week seems to be the death of everything. The Kindle is dead, the mouse is dead, Quora may be dead, and Android is dead. Okay, I’m exaggerating — for at least two of those things.

Jason calls me “The Undertaker” and I demand free bumpers for Wallpapergate. Good times.

Here are some relevant links to what we discuss:


New Site Renders Social Media Experts Obsolete

PR agencies and social media experts across the web, prepare to meet your match. This week sees the launch of WhatTheFuckIsMySocialMediaStrategy.com, a website that can tell startups to “identify relevant and compelling hooks”, “humanise the brand by driving the audience conversations”, and combine a bevy of many other pleonastic words to forge taglines that are utterly and completely devoid of meaning. Free of charge.

The site works by jumbling a few verbs (facilitate, foster, leverage) and nouns (‘word of mouth’, buzz, ‘branded utilities’) into a sentence that sounds impressive but means absolutely nothing. It’s hilarious, but it’s also eerily accurate. Thousands of pitches have left me scarred to the point that this site actually makes my stomach churn. In all seriousness, if you took a few of these phrases, added a quote or two, and threw in one sentence of actual news, you’d have a pretty convincing press release.

The site is inspired by the similarly titled WhatTheFuckShouldIMakeForDinner. And, all kidding aside, we still love you PR firms.


Exclusive: Titan Gaming Takes Xfire Off Viacom’s Hands

Xfire, the social network for gamers that was acquired by Viacom for $102 million back in 2006, has a new owner. The buyer is Titan Gaming, a small company that raised a mere $1 million in angel funding to date, so we’re making an educated guess here and going to assume that it was sold for a song compared to the price Viacom paid a couple of years ago.

In a message posted on the Xfire website very recently (via Kotaku), it looks like most of the development team is not sticking around:

August 2, 2010–Xfire has been purchased by another company. Most of the team that has brought you Xfire for the last 6 years is leaving, including me. We’ve enjoyed our time and I personally am sad that I was only able to do 127 releases. Good bye and game on!

The message comes from someone named ‘Chris’ – most probably Chris Kirmse, Xfire founder and VP of Engineering. Krimse was once Senior Engineer of Yahoo Games – said to have built the Yahoo FIFA system – before creating Xfire back in 2003.

Xfire is a free service that enables gamers to interact with each other coupled with a tool that automatically keeps track of when and where gamers are playing PC games online. It works regardless of game type, server browser, or gaming service.

The service thus eliminates the need to run multiple programs like IRC, instant messengers, or in-game friends lists to keep track of when and where a gamer’s friends are playing. It combines instant messaging, a server browser, peer-to-peer file downloads, in-game messaging, screenshot and video capture and an active gaming community.

The service has attracted some 16 million users to date.

We’ve just confirmed with Titan Gaming CEO John Maffei that they have acquired Xfire – the deal was signed just a couple of hours ago – but have not been able to pin down the exact purchase price. Here’s a brief statement from Titan:

Titan Gaming has purchased Xfire. The terms of the purchase are undisclosed. Titan will be taking on the Xfire name. The Xfire services will continue uninterrupted for its users. Xfire redefined how gamers communicate, Titan intends to build upon this tradition and utilize the Xfire platform to help gaming companies better engage and monetize their games.

Maffei adds that Titan Gaming has retained several key members of the development staff, which sounds far more positive than the statement on Xfire’s website – which reads that most of the team is leaving the company – suggests.

Titan Gaming last May announced that it had raised $1 million in funding from a slew of prominent angel investors.

You can find the full list of investors on the startup’s CrunchBase profile, but it includes people like Clearstone Venture Partners principals William Quigley and Jim Armstrong, PriceGrabber co-founder Kamran Pourzanjani and MP3.com founder Michael Robertson.


Google Earth Used To Fine People With Pools, Again


“Under the table” pools may be the catalyst of the next technology revolution in government. During last February’s economic collapse in Greece, the normally technophobic Greek government used Google Maps and Google Earth to find people who had craftily evaded taxes by failing to declare a pool.

Now Google Earth-enabled law enforcement has come to the USA. The town of Riverhead in Long Island, taking a lesson from the Greeks, is also using Google Earth to track down about 250 “unpermitted” pools. And using the satellite imaging service has proved profitable, Riverhead officials have collected over $75,000 in fines from pool owners who never filled out the required paperwork.

While Google Earth was originally intended to help people find their way around, Riverhead is one of the first incidences of what will inevitably be many more cases of the tool being used by local and national governments to catch people evading their duties as citizens, unless Google somehow intervenes. We’ve contacted Google for comment on this somewhat alarming unintended use.

“Pool safety has always been my concern,” Riverhead’s chief building inspector Barnes said regarding the fines.

Image: Tressugar

Information provided by CrunchBase


Check-In On Foursquare Without Taking Your Phone Out Of Your Pocket

Heavy Foursquare users, you have a new app to get immediately. Future Checkin is an app that allows you to check-in to your favorite Foursquare venues automatically when you’re near them. You don’t have to do a thing besides simply have your phone on you and this app will check you in while running in the background with iOS 4.

Developer Tim Sears says he was actually inspired to make this app by our posts about iOS 4 background location and check-in fatigue. Check-in fatigue in particular is a growing problem. A number of heavy users of Foursquare that I know (myself included) have been complaining in recent months that it’s getting a bit tedious to have to pull out your phone each time to check-in to a venue. Particularly venues that you frequent. Future Checkin absolutely solves that.

Here’s how it works: you sign in to the app with your Foursquare account, and it shows you a list of Foursquare venues nearby. Or you can search for your favorite venues. From this list, you choose the ones to mark as “Favorites.” You can also scan your recent check-in history and select venues from here to add to your Favorites. This Favorites list is key — these are the venues you will be automatically checked-in to when you get close enough to them (within 300 meters).

There is also an option to automatically check-in to venues you’ve been to recently (ones not explicitly marked as Favorites). In the “More” area of the app you can toggle this on and off. From here, you can also turn auto Favorites check-ins on and off. You can also turn off notifications (that send you a Push Notification when you’re automatically checked-in to a venue), and toggle the “Kill Switch” which basically turns off background location.

All of this works thanks to the new ability for third-party apps to run in the background with iOS 4. Location is one of the features that can remain on when you leave an app (a slider in the settings allows you to determine if you’d like the GPS updates to be more frequent or save some battery life by making them less frequent).

This app is really designed for people who are getting check-in fatigue, who often forget to check-in to places, or who don’t want to be rude by pulling out their phone in social settings. Who it is not designed for is people trying to cheat Foursquare, so Future Checkin will only check you in to a place once every four hours, and never the same place twice in a row,” Sears says.

As for the future of Future Checkin, Sears says that he plans to implement Gowalla integration too, as soon as their write API is ready to roll (hopefully this week). That could help solve the larger issue of check-in fatigue — checking-in across all these apps at various venues. Future Checkin’s solution would basically be check.in that runs in the background. Awesome.

With the launch of iOS 4, Loopt was the first app with the ability to run location in the background. But that doesn’t auto check you in to venues, instead it just continually shows where you are to your friends on a map. In that regard, it’s more like Google Latitude. That may actually be a better solution for many users now, as it’s not yet clear if the world is ready for these auto check-ins. But power users of Foursquare certainly are. And this app speaks to how this stuff might work in the future.

The only question may be: will Foursquare itself implement such an option soon?

Future Checkin is $0.99 — a special 50% off price for launch week. Find it in the App Store here.


Shoutworthy Lets You Endorse A Friend In 140

We’ve killed off reputation before, but it somehow refuses to die, with third party platforms like Unvarnished gaining traction in an entirely new sector of social, reputation currency. Quietly launching today out of DUMBO, Brooklyn (“the SOMA of New York City”) comes Sawhorse Media’s Shoutworthy, a social client that attempts to steal some of LinkedIn’s thunder and cash in on the unmitigated human desire to share via Facebook and Twitter.

Shoutworthy is partially angel funded and partially bootstrapped. Founder Gregory Galant’s previous Twitter-related endeavors include The Shorty AwardsListorious, Muckrack and Venture Maven. Galant wants to make it easier to give people recommendations socially, “You don’t get LinkedIn recommendations unless you get your friends to write them. Because ours are posted on Facebook and Twitter, people are forced to keep it short.”

It’s true, Shoutworthy’s “shout outs” are easier to write than LinkedIn recommendations and the service makes it easy for you to distribute them over Facebook and Twitter, using the APIs to automatically tweet them out and auto-post them to the recipient’s wall on Facebook. Unlike Unvarnished, each “shout out” is linked to your user profile, which means that everyone is held accountable for his or her reviews.

When asked whether this accountability would put the kibosh on people who wanted to post negative reviews, Galant responded, “We’re not encouraging people to [post negative reviews] … With Shoutworthy I get a testimonial page and see what my friends are recommending – If they’re shouting out five people those are five people worth paying attention to.”

While this idea of a personal testimonial page hearkens back to Friendster, aggregators of business reputation testimonials like Yelp and Google Places are currently at war over today’s SEO-obsessed landscape. I can’t see why personal reputation testimonials won’t one day be just as important; Everyone wants friends with high page rank.

There is currently a LinkedIn connect function on your Shoutworthy profile, and Galant plans on doing a deeper LinkedIn integration in order to further solve the recommender motivation problem. While the platform’s current utility is limited (Don’t people already uselessly shout at each other all day via Facebook and Twitter?), by incorporating features that post user “shout outs” directly to LinkedIn or some other site frequented by employers, Shoutworthy might actually be something to shout about.





Data Showing Android Pushing Past Apple Does Not Include iPhone 4

There is no question that Android’s share of the smartphone market is growing by lleaps and bounds. Earlier today, Nielsen came out with some more evidence that Android keeps rising. It published some very provocative numbers today suggesting that Android’s share of new smartphone subscribers surged past new iPhone subscribers in the U.S. during the second quarter, commanding 27 percent of recent smartphone purchases compared to 23 percent for the iPhone.

These figures represent new smartphone purchases over the preceding 6 months.  In terms of total smartphone subscribers in the U.S., the iPhone still has more than twice as many as Android, with 28 percent versus 13 percent.  But that number was flat for iPhone from the first quarter, while Android’s share rose from 9 percent.  (Blackberry is still bigger than both with 35 percent share of total subscribers, and 33 percent of recent subscribers).

The relative gains of Android compared to iPhone could very well signal a tipping point for Android.  Perhaps the weight of all 20+ Android phones and multiple carriers is finally collectively beating the iPhone, and there will be no looking back.  Or maybe the fight is not yet over.

According to this data, new Android subscribers passed iPhone subscribers in the second quarter, which ended on June 30.  The new iPhone 4 was announced on June 7, but not available until June 24th.

In other words, this data only includes one week of iPhone 4 sales. The flat market share line may very well be indicating nothing more than the end of the iPhone 3Gs product lifecycle. Many people who wanted a new iPhone delayed their purchase in anticipation of the iPhone 4. Yes, the iPhone 4 has some antenna issues, but those do not seem to be affecting sales.

Can Android keep on taking market share among new smartphone buyers, or will the iPhone bounce back next quarter with the full force of iPhone 4 sales behind it? Like they say, one data point does not make a trend.


Wait, So 20 Phones On 4 Carriers Outsold 1 Phone On 1 Carrier? Shocking.

Okay, I’ll admit that my headline is a bit misleading. Apple actually sells two phones: the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 (or, before the iPhone 4, they sold the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G). But they’re both iPhones. One is just better than the other.

It’s also hard to pinpoint exactly how many Android smartphones are for sale in the U.S. currently (meaning they’re not discontinued, etc), but it seems to be about 20. Could be a bit less — or it could be more. But the point is: it’s a lot more than one or two.

Seriously though, the most shocking thing about the news today that Android sales overtook iPhone sales for the first time last quarter is that it didn’t happen sooner. The sheer number of Android devices out there is one thing. But the fact that they’re available on all four major U.S. carriers is the real key here.

If you want an iPhone, you have to sign-up for AT&T. If you want an Android phone, you can choose between AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and, yes, Verizon — the largest carrier in the U.S. Was there really any question that Android phones would outsell the iPhone with that being the case? In fact, if that didn’t happen, I’d argue something was wrong.

The real interesting data would be if any single Android phone is outselling the iPhone. Based on the stats today from Nielsen, that doesn’t seem to be the case — unless one Android phone is dominating the sales figures (which isn’t the case).

Also interesting is that this data comes from the quarter before Apple released a new iPhone. No iPhone 4 sales are included here.

Android is clearly a hit. And as more and better devices keep coming, it will get even more popular. The fact that overall it still hasn’t passed Windows Mobile devices in the U.S. is a bit surprising — it should blow past those this quarter as Microsoft gears up for Windows Phone 7.

The point is: there’s a lot of room to grow for Android still. But comparing iPhone sales to Android sales is comparing an apple to a bushel of oranges.

That is, until Apple gets on another carrier in the U.S. We all know it’s going to happen, it’s just a question of when. Will it be early next year? Next Summer? Will it be Verizon, T-Mobile, both?

Apple is clearly never going to make as many phones as exist in the Android universe — they simply have a different strategy. Google is seeding their OS to OEMs to flood the market in an attempt to control mobile search. Apple is building its own devices in an attempt to control its ecosystem (and the app ecosystem). It’s quantity versus quality. It’s Windows versus Macintosh all over again. Except that Google is giving Android away for free.

OEMs love free. Customers love choice. 20 phones on 4 carriers are outselling 1 phone on 1 carrier. All of this is very surprising.

[photo: flickr/Jean-David et Anne-Laure]


Connecticut Attorney General Wants To Make Sure Amazon, Apple Aren’t Cutting Sweetheart Deals With E-Book Publishers

The Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, has opened up an investigation into whether or not the deals Amazon and Apple have cut with publishers for the sale of e-books have violated any sort of rules of regulations. The fear is that the deals Amazon and Apple have worked out with top publishers may lock out other companies from entering the e-book business.


Stanford Heats Up Solar Power With New Harnessing Technology

PETE DeviceA Stanford University research group says it found a way to more than double current solar power production efficiency. The technology uses both light and heat from the sun and is inexpensive enough that, if it pans out, it might be able to compete with oil.

Most current technology can either convert light into electricity at relatively low temperatures, or convert the sun’s heat at very high temperatures. Stanford engineers claim they developed a way to do both.

The photon enhanced thermionic emission, or PETE, works best at high temperatures, where current photovoltaics struggle. Solar panels usually use silicon to convert photons to electricity, but only from a certain portion of the light spectrum. Unused photons generate heat in the cells, making them perform poorly and losing up to 50% of the energy reaching the solar panel.

Professor Nick Melosh, who led the research group, says PETE works best at higher temperatures, making it most effective when used with solar concentrators like parabolic mirrors used in solar farms, rather than as rooftop solar panel replacements. If installed in solar farms, PETE could also pass any waste heat it can’t convert to a solar farm’s thermal conversion system. The team’s vision is to attach PETE devices to existing systems.

Solar panels are often expensive because they require a lot of silicon, but one PETE device needs only about a six-inch wafer of semiconducting material, reducing the amount of investment capital needed to get it off the ground.

According to the research team’s estimates, the devices could reach 60% efficiency on solar farms. Falling short of that goal could still have significant effects. The team said if they can boost efficiency to 30%, it could make the cost of solar power comparable to oil.

This video from Stanford explains more about the project: