Yummly’s Semantic Search Engine Is The Ultimate Online Cookbook For Foodies

There are a number of online destinations to find recipes, including Epicurious, All Recipes, Bing and FoodNetwork.com. But a new company is trying to disrupt this arena with a powerful semantic food search portal. Yummly is launching a new food search site to find and share over 500,000 recipes on the web.

Similar to other recipe sites, Yummly aggregates recipes from around the web. But what differentiates the site is its powerful filters and search features. Not only can you filter results by type of food, course, and ingredient, but you can also break down recipes by diet, allergy, nutrition, price, cuisine, time, taste, and sources.

You can also edit and save any recipe with ingredient substitutions and adjustments based on your preferences; Yummly will recalculate the recipe to reflect the new ingredient amounts. So if you wanted to cut a recipe down to one portion, Yummly will recalculate the ingredients you need for a smaller version of a dish. And Yummly calculates the nutritional value for each recipe, showing you the breakdown of calories, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Users can also import and add their favorite recipes from other websites and save them in their Yummly recipe box. The site also ‘learns’ what users like to eat from their recipe searches and then offers them customized, taste-specific recommendations based on their preferences.

Founded in 2009 by former StumbleUpon and eBay employee David Feller, Yummly could be one of the more powerful food recipe search engines in the market. The site also has an impressive list of angel investors and advisors, including Michael Dearing, Harrison Metal Capital; Jeff Jordan, CEO of OpenTable; Bruce Shaw, President of The Harvard Common Press; Bill Cobb, former President of eBay, and a former executive of PepsiCo and Yum Brands; Brad O’Neill, CEO, TechValidate and founding investor of StumbleUpon; and Justin LaFrance and Geoff Smith, co-Founders of StumbleUpon.

The biggest challenge Yummly will have is drawing traffic to its site. But once foodies start using the powerful search portal, I have a feeling that they may never return to other recipe sites.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Five Things To Know About iOS 4.0

Welcome to the future, or at least like the first five minutes of it. iOS 4.0 should be available now for iPhone 3GS and newer (post 2009) iPod Touches. Do you have an iPhone 3G or (shudder) the first iPhone? You’re SOL, my Luddite friend. Go back to the commune, you hippie.

I kid, I kid. Why spend the money if you don’t need to and besides, we’ve been playing with iOS 4.0 for a few weeks now and here are our initial comments.

1. Multi-tasking is still in its infancy – Apple gave developers very little time to really go full-bore on the problem of multi-tasking. As a result, you’re basically dealing with a form of proto-multi-tasking that may or may not do what you want it to do. MG wrote about this last weekend:

The component that all of these apps share is the ability to do fast app switching. What you may traditionally think of as multitasking isn’t the same on iOS 4. Multiple apps aren’t running all of their functions in the background at once — obviously, this would take up resources and eat up battery life. Instead, Apple allows third-party apps to do certain functions in the background now, as well as create an easy way for all apps to save their states to enable this fast app switching.

So you’re not going to go all Minority Report on your apps. You’ll be able to switch out of one app – a game, say – to hit a GPS program, but there is no definitive guarantee that you’ll be able to swap back into the game where you left off. In fact, Backgrounder, a jailbroken app for background activity, works better than multi-tasking in iOS 4.0 right now.

Read more…


StumbleUpon Poaches A Pair Of Googlers To Fill Director Roles

Discovery engine startup StumbleUpon today announced it has hired two new directors to expand its sales and partnership teams, both previous Google employees.

Anthony Napolitano, a former key member of the sales teams for several of Google’s products, including TV Ads, Analytics, Checkout and AdWords, will be joining the company as Director of Sales.

Oliver Hsiang, until recently manager of strategic partner development at Google and former product manager at Yahoo, Microsoft and Chipshot, is StumbleUpon’s new Director of Strategic Partnerships.

In a press release, StumbleUpon founder and CEO Garrett Camp boasts about the double steal from Google and says the company has hired 15 new team members in the last three months alone.

Looks like StumbleUpon is faring well after about a year after its spin-off from eBay – the ‘social search engine’ company recently also reached 10 million registered users.


Video: Hands-on With the Motorola Droid 2

You love Motorola, don’t you? You’ve been rockin’ each of their models before even the RAZR was cool. So you’ve no doubt been excited by the upcoming sequel to the brought-moto-back-from-fiery-doom Droid: the Droid 2.

Yes, the Droid 2, not X. I know it’s getting a litle confusing remembering which Droid is which, but let me remind you: the Droid 2 has a physical QWERTY, the X doesn’t.

But anyway, Android and Me have posted the world’s first* hands-on video with the device, as well as run the device through a few benchmarks.

And what did they find?

Follow the read link to find out.

Read more…


Woops, Google Street View Cars Collected Email Passwords; French Gov Investigate

I’ve been known to give Facebook a hard time over its lax security and disregard for user privacy, but, frankly, Google’s doing a pretty good job at keeping up.

Not to be outdone by the social networking site, the search giant has already got into hot water for the overzealous nature by which it collected WiFi data when driving around towns in 30 countries creating its Google Maps Street View.

As we reported at the time, Street View cars had been “mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks” since 2006, although we didn’t see it as a major privacy issue, stating that it wasn’t likely that Google grabbed enough data about many individuals to make it a real concern. Google, of course, said pretty much the same thing.

Now it seems that they (and we) were wrong.


Barnes & Noble Confirms New $149 NOOK Wi-Fi, Drops 3G Model Price To $199

Barnes & Noble has just confirmed the NOOK Wi-Fi at $149, and a new lower price for its NOOK 3G model at $199. It can be ordered online now from Nook.com or BestBuy.com and will begin shipping this week.

Engadget had earlier today posted a screenshot sent in by a reader that effectively showed a Nook WiFi coming out on Wednesday at the now announced price point.

The new NOOK Wi-Fi offers all the features of NOOK 3G (including a 3.5” LCD color touchscreen for navigation and a 6” E-Ink display for e-reading) plus Wi-Fi connectivity.

Nice extra: with its latest software update for all NOOK devices, B&N is offering all customers complimentary access to AT&T’s Wi-Fi network, including its own book stores which have previously been available to NOOK customers.

The latest NOOK software (v1.4) also comes with a new ‘Go To Page’ feature, which allows customers to jump to a specific page number in an open eBook, an extra extra large font and performance enhancements to open digital books faster.

Barnes & Noble says it expects NOOK Wi-Fi will be in-stock in select Barnes & Noble and Best Buy stores for immediate purchase later this month and rolling out to all stores ‘later this summer’.

Full press release:

Barnes & Noble Introduces NOOK™ Wi-Fi® and Lowers NOOK 3G Price, Giving Book Lovers Greater Choice and Even Greater Value

At Only $149, Wi-Fi-Only Addition to NOOK Family is the Most Full-Featured, Low-Cost eBook Reader on the Market, Now Available Online at www.nook.com

Bestseller NOOK 3G is First Dedicated eBook Reader with Free 3G Wireless and Wi-Fi Connectivity Available at $199

Latest Software Update to Both NOOK Models Offers NOOK Customers Complimentary Access at All AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots and Improved Reading Features

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, is giving book lovers more choice and greater value in dedicated eBook Reading devices with the addition of NOOK Wi-Fi to the NOOK by Barnes & Noble family for just $149, and a new lower price for its award-winning NOOK 3G at $199. The new NOOK Wi-Fi offers all the great features of NOOK 3G – a color touch screen for navigation and best-in-class E-Ink® display for a great reading experience – plus Wi-Fi connectivity. NOOK Wi-Fi is now available to order online at www.nook.com and www.bestbuy.com.

“People who love to read will find tremendous value with the new NOOK Wi-Fi, the most full-featured, low-cost eReading device on the market, and our bestselling NOOK 3G now at an even lower price”
Barnes & Noble’s new price for NOOK 3G marks the market’s first under-$200 dedicated full-featured eBook reader that offers both free 3G wireless and Wi-Fi connectivity. And Barnes & Noble continues to enhance the eReading experience for all NOOK 3G and NOOK Wi-Fi owners through its latest 1.4 software update, now offering even more places to connect to Wi-Fi for free and faster access to the content they want to read.

NOOK Wi-Fi eBook Reader marries innovative technology and sleek minimalist design with Wi-Fi connectivity. This latest addition to the NOOK family gives customers the opportunity to take advantage of the proliferation of both in-home and public Wi-Fi hotspots, where they can browse the Web and shop the Barnes & Noble eBookstore of more than one million eBooks, periodicals and other digital content. With its latest software update for all NOOK devices (now available at www.nook.com/update), Barnes & Noble is offering all NOOK customers complimentary access to AT&T’s entire nationwide Wi-Fi network, including Barnes & Noble book stores which have previously been available to NOOK customers.

As part of the NOOK eBook Reader family, NOOK Wi-Fi features Barnes & Noble’s breakthrough LendMe™ technology, enabling customers to share eBooks with friends for up to 14 days. NOOK Wi-Fi also offers the same great in-store features like Read In Store™ to browse complete eBooks in Barnes & Noble stores at no cost, and More In Store™, offering free, exclusive content and special promotions.

“People who love to read will find tremendous value with the new NOOK Wi-Fi, the most full-featured, low-cost eReading device on the market, and our bestselling NOOK 3G now at an even lower price,” said Tony Astarita, Vice President, Digital Products, Barnes & Noble.com. “This expanded choice offers best-in-class, best-priced dedicated eBook Readers featuring eBook sharing, access to our vast eBookstore, great free and exclusive content and much more. And with expansion of fast and free Wi-Fi access beyond Barnes & Noble stores to thousands of AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots, we’re bringing additional freedom and flexibility to all NOOK 3G and NOOK Wi-Fi customers.”

Just like NOOK 3G, NOOK Wi-Fi features:

Enriched eReading: Enjoy an immersive reading experience with color book covers to browse in your library or while shopping, fast page turns, multiple font choices and sizes and more.
Dual displays: A fun, easy-to-use reading experience on the familiar paper-like 6” E-Ink display which offers great contrast with no backlight or glare even in bright sunlight, and 3.5” LCD lower color touchscreen for navigation.
Vast catalog of content: Shop the Barnes & Noble eBookstore for everything from classics to current bestsellers and download your content wirelessly in seconds. There are more than one million eBooks, magazines and newspapers available and free eBook samples.
Lend to friends: Share a wide range of eBooks with friends for 14 days using exclusive LendMe™ technology.
In-store experience: Access fast and free Wi-Fi connectivity in Barnes & Noble stores and enjoy the beta Read In Store feature to browse many complete eBooks for free, and the More In Store program, which offers free, exclusive content and special promotions.
Games, music and Web: Play Chess or Sudoku, listen to your favorite songs or browse the Web to check news and email.
Light and portable library: About the size and weight of a paperback, the 2GB device carries approximately 1,500 eBooks and offers virtually endless shelf space with expandable memory.
Your B&N personal library: With Barnes & Noble’s Lifetime Library™, Barnes & Noble digital purchases will be accessible on BN.com and can be enjoyed on the widest variety of devices. Your eBook library goes wherever you go, giving instant access to your existing Barnes & Noble digital library on your NOOK device, partners’ third-party eBook readers and hundreds of computing and mobile devices enabled with free BN eReader software including iPad™, iPhone®, iPod touch®, BlackBerry®, HTC HD2™, PC and Mac®.
Read for days: Long battery life means you won’t need to worry about recharging. With Wi-Fi turned off, enjoy reading for up to 10 days on a single battery charge.
Personalize with style: Customize NOOK Wi-Fi with one of the many stylish designer accessories available for all NOOK devices. Customers can choose from a range of classic and colorful accessories designed exclusively for NOOK devices by renowned designers kate spade new york, Jack Spade, Jonathan Adler, Tahari and others.
NOOK Wi-Fi follows NOOK 3G’s stylish design and dimensions and is lightweight (just 11.6 ounces), making it easy to carry in a handbag, briefcase, backpack or suit jacket pocket, just like NOOK 3G. NOOK Wi-Fi also comes with a removable white back cover – NOOK’s is grey – and you can personalize your device from a selection of four additional great back cover colors.

All NOOK 3G and NOOK Wi-Fi customers can also use the included USB cable to connect their device to a PC or Mac to transfer their personal files in ePub, PDF and PDB formats to their NOOK. Based on Barnes & Noble’s open platform and Adobe technology partnership, customers can transfer and read personal files that utilize Adobe’s latest digital rights management or are rights-free. Barnes & Noble’s use of Adobe technology and ePub format also allows customers to read their digital content across a growing universe of devices.

NOOK Wi-Fi Available for Order Today

Just in time for summer reading, NOOK Wi-Fi is now available for purchase online at www.nook.com for $149 and will begin shipping this week. A bookseller at a Barnes & Noble store can also help customers place an order. NOOK Wi-Fi can also be ordered at www.bestbuy.com. Barnes & Noble expects NOOK Wi-Fi will be in-stock in select Barnes & Noble and Best Buy stores for immediate purchase later this month and rolling out to all stores later this summer.

NOOK 3G continues to offer both free 3G wireless and Wi-Fi connectivity to give customers more ways to shop on-the-go. NOOK 3G is in stock at Barnes & Noble stores and at www.nook.com with its new price of $199. NOOK 3G is also available at Best Buy and www.bestbuy.com.

Visit the NOOK counter at any Barnes & Noble store to see, hold and touch NOOK and learn more about eBooks and eReading from a knowledgeable Barnes & Noble bookseller who can help determine which NOOK eBook Reader best fits a customer’s needs. Barnes & Noble offers the best opportunity to try before you buy in both Barnes & Noble and Best Buy stores.

NOOK v1.4 Update: Complimentary AT&T Wi-Fi Access and More

Barnes & Noble also announced that its latest NOOK v1.4 software gives all NOOK 3G and NOOK Wi-Fi customers complimentary high-speed access to AT&T’s entire nationwide Wi-Fi network, including restaurants, hotels and additional locations across the country which can be found at www.att.com/go. So now, in addition to Barnes & Noble stores, all NOOK customers can enjoy free-high-speed access to browse the Barnes & Noble eBookstore and the Web on their NOOKs in thousands more places.

The latest NOOK software also offers a Go To Page feature, one of the most frequent enhancements requested by NOOK users, which allows customers to jump to a specific page number in an open eBook, an extra extra large font and performance enhancements to open eBooks even faster.

NOOK v1.4 software is now available via manual download at www.nook.com/update with additional information and easy-to-follow directions. NOOKs connected to Wi-Fi will receive an automatic NOOK v1.4 update upon syncing over the next week.


Semantic Web Startup Inform Technologies Lands $4 Million, New CMO

Inform Technologies, a New York-based developer and provider of semantic web solutions, this morning announced it has secured $4 million in a Series A funding round led by previous backers Spark Capital, The Stephens Group, and The Oklahoma Publishing Company.

In addition, the startup has announced that Tony Dunaif, former SVP at Internet Broadcasting, has joined the company as Chief Marketing Officer. The news of the new hire comes about a month after the company announced that it had recruited Matt Zelesko, former CEO of Internet TV company Joost, as its new technology chief.


Windows Live Messenger For iPhone Available Now … But Not Everywhere

Noticed first by The Next Web and Redmond Pie, looks like the Windows Live Messenger app for iPhone has just hit the App Store – but it only landed in certain regions (iTunes link), just like Microsoft’s Bing for iPhone app.

Update: commenters say it’s also live in the UK, Canada and France stores.

People in Belgium (myself included) and other regions currently appear only able to download Microsoft’s two other applications, Seadragon and Tag Reader.

Considering both Windows Live Messenger and Bing are in essence targeting users all across the globe, it’s a little peculiar to find so many of them will find themselves unable to locate and download the app from the App Store at this point.

Evidently, there are lots of other apps for iPhone and iPod touch people can use to connect with their Live Messenger friends on the go, but still.

Anywhere, here’s how the app is described:

Windows Live Messenger for iPhone and iPod Touch is the best way to connect with the people that matter most and keep up with the things they are doing across the web.

Use your iPhone to instant message your friends list, view and comment on your friends’ photos and status updates from Windows Live, Facebook, and MySpace, and at a glance, see what your Messenger friends are sharing from Flickr, YouTube, and many other social and photo sharing sites.

Make sure to visit http://profile.live.com/Services today and setup Windows Live to bring in your social networks. Messenger is simply the best way to connect with your closest friends.

The app lets users chat their Windows Live Messenger and Y! Messenger and receive IM notifications even when closed. Cross-social network sharing is baked in, and you can upload photos, create albums, add captions, etc. from your device. The app also comes with integration of Hotmail, which means users can read, reply to and compose new e-mails straight from the application.

And yes, the app is fully compatible with iOS 4.


Airbnb Founder Eats His Own Dogfood, Goes ‘Homeless’ For Months

Gotta respect startup founders who know how to really eat their own dogfood: Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky last week moved out of the 3 bedroom apartment that was the driving force behind the establishment of the company back in 2007 (and still serves as its main office), and will be ‘living on Airbnb’ until at least the end of the year.

Chesky will be using Airbnb, which is a marketplace aimed to connect travelers with people who have some room for accommodation to spare, to find places in San Francisco to stay for 2-3 nights in the next couple of months.

Or as he puts it:

I am either a homeless entrepreneur, or a guy with 650 homes in San Francisco. Depends on your perspective.

It’s a brilliant idea, too: not only will Chesky get to experience the Airbnb product and added value first-hand, he’ll also get to personally know a bunch of people that make up the community driving the company forward. And the way he’s handling it, he stands to get a lot of publicity for the venture he co-founded as well: Chesky will be chronicling the whole thing on the Airbnb blog and his Twitter account.

Smart.


Updated Rdio iPhone App Makes Its Way To The App Store

It took Apple’s review team close to a month, but the update to the Rdio iPhone application is now finally available from the App Store (iTunes link).

It’s unclear why it took Apple this long, considering the update merely fixes some software bugs and adds one minor feature (remembering which song you were playing when you last closed the app). Either way, the updated app (version 0.5) is available for download right now, so speculation of blockage by Apple in light of its impending iTunes-in-the-cloud product launch can now be safely shelved.

For a full review of Rdio, read Erick Schonfeld’s detailed take on the service.


NNSFW: A Column Written In Five Minutes About Stuff That Mattered Years Ago

“Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren’t necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Slaughterhouse Five

In Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s most famous book, Billy Pilgrim is a former soldier who finds himself lost in time: forced to live and relive the periods of his life in random order. Today I know how Billy Pilgrim feels.

Sure, for Pilgrim the trigger was the trauma of war, while for me it’s the lunacy of getting ready to launch TechCrunch TV in a few days (more on that soon), but apart from that we’re basically the same. Except that I’m not American. Or a fictional character.

What I am though, is confused. I’m sitting here in the TechCrunch office, on a Sunday evening, trying to placate my editorial paymasters by bashing out something resembling a column in the five minutes I have between conference calls with TCTV contributors. To expedite the process I’m trawling the web; pinging the major technology news sites to find out what big stories I’ve missed this week. The only problem is, every time I click on a story, I discover that I’ve been transported back in time.

Click. Here’s a story on Ars Technica about Microsoft suing a spammer who tried to abuse Hotmail’s anti-spam filters. Hotmail! The defendant in the case is Boris Mizhen and, unless I’m very much mistaken (I’m not), this story is one big déjà vu. Mizhen is the same guy who Microsoft sued for spamming Hotmail back in 2003. And now they’re doing it again.  I mean seriously – if you’re still using Hotmail today, you really deserve everything you get.

But the deja vu doesn’t stop there. With every click, the news timewarp gets wider.

Click…

Bebo has just been sold. For a ridiculous price. Is this 2008?

Click…

A new paywall technology is about to launch that might save the newspaper industry. Paywalls! Seriously. Is this 2005?

Click…

The New York Times is threatening to sue Neighborhoodies for producing a tshirt showing the logo of The New York Herald Tribune. The NY Herald Tribune died in 1966.

So it goes.

Hell, even the Guardian has got in on the act; publishing – today, in 2010 – a guide to understanding the Internet (“everything you need to know”!), like it’s some totally new thing.

I can only assume that the stress of launch has got to me and I’ve lost my grip on temporal reality. Either that or the whole Internet is messing with me, ensuring that all of the big news this week is about companies or concepts that ceased to be relevant years, or even decades ago. The result: everything I might possibly write will be dated before the words even leave my fingers.

Well have it your way, temporal confusion: ironically enough, I don’t have the time to fight with you. Instead, in place of this week’s column, here’s a list of five more headlines that I fully expect to read in the coming week…

“AOL sign-up disks: can they give you cancer?”

“Is your child at risk from Friendster paedophiles?”

“DARPANET: the enemy within”

“Jennifer Ringley: the new face of Altavista”

“Laptops! Kiss your desktop goodbye – there’s a new kid in town!”

Actually, wait, while I was writing this: Slate just published that last story; a ground-breaking report – published today, in 2010 – on how laptop computers are leading to the death of the desktop. Seriously? Desktops are dead?

So it goes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my five minutes is up, my Nokia 8210 is ringing and I have to take this call. Normal service resumes last week.


Andreessen Horowitz Celebrates First Year With New General Partner John O’Farrell

Andreessen Horowitz celebrates its first birthday with a number of new hires, including its third general partner – John O’Farrell – who joins founding general partners Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. O’Farrell was most recently a vice president at Silver Spring Networks.

We covered the launch of Andreessen Horowitz a year ago here.

The company has also recently hired two partners – Margit Wennmachers to run marketing and Jeff Stump to help portfolio companies recruit executive talent.

The firm now has 24 investments, says Andreessen. In its first year they received 1,048 qualified deal referrals from 324 individuals. $150 million of the $300 million fund has been invested, and other $60 million has been earmarked for follow on investments.

That means they are nearly out of cash, and Andreessen says they will likely raise their second fund later this year. He wouldn’t comment on the potential size of that second fund, saying the decision hasn’t been made yet.

Andreessen Horowitz has certainly made a splash in its first year. They focus on what they call “computer science” – which includes both consumer tech and IT startups – but shy away from clean tech, bio tech and other types of deals. They make investments ranging from very early angel rounds, $50,000 or so, on up to $50 million in later stage deals. And Andreessen says they will likely make even larger investments in the future.

We’re tracking most of their investments on Crunchbase. Some, says Andreessen, are still confidential and haven’t been announced yet.


What Valley Companies Should Know about Tencent

Quick quiz: Who are the three largest Internet companies in the world by market capitalization?

If you guessed Google and Amazon you got two right, but I’m betting few of our American readers guessed the third. I certainly wouldn’t have a year ago. It’s not eBay or Yahoo; it’s Tencent. If you are in the Web space and haven’t heard of them, read this post, because Tencent’s cutesy penguin mascot is only going to cast a larger shadow in the global Web world in coming years.

Low-key Tencent is the largest, most profitable Internet company in China and it has just under 400 million active users–comfortably bigger than the population of the United States. Tencent recently bought 10% of Digital Sky Technology, which in turn owns huge chunks of Zynga and Facebook.

In the past, Tencent has held joint venture talks with Google and Facebook and made acquisition offers to a few smaller Valley companies that haven’t resulted in deals. But if investor pressure on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is anything like investor pressure on Wall Street, some deal will happen soon.

Tencent’s stock has more than doubled in the last year, and it has a P/E ratio more than six times Google’s, according to Yahoo Finance. You think Apple’s stock has appreciated in recent years? Check this out. Tencent has had more than double the stock appreciation of Apple over the last five years, according to Yahoo Finance. Investors itch for a company like that to go do something with that rich of a stock currency.

Even if you don’t know the name Tencent, you’ve probably heard of its core IM product QQ. Tencent started in instant messaging in 1999 and unlike nearly everyone else, figured out a way to make money from it by selling virtual goods and services to enhance your avatar. Today, the bulk of its revenue comes from online games, with meaningful amounts also coming from virtual goods sold over its social network QZone and ads over its QQ.com portal and search property.

Tencent has also made forays in online payments and ecommerce, but it has had the least success in that category. The company isn’t giving up. I met with Tencent’s CTO Jeff Xiong in Hong Kong last week and when I asked him what the company’s core strength was, he answered “patience.”

Tencent has benefited from some luck and market timing, like most Web giants. In 2005, there was a big debate within the company over whether they should develop its own search technology or partner with someone. It did both—partnering with Google but developing its own at the same time. Last September the company replaced Google’s search with its own product, in November it replaced Google’s search ad platform with its own and in February it replaced its mobile search with its own. Google started its feud with the Chinese government in March. “We were lucky,” Xiong says. “If three years ago we hadn’t made that decision, we would have been trapped.” Tencent is a small player in search now, but in a market feeling the pain of that Baidu monopoly, many people welcome Tencent getting stronger.

Then again, many others don’t want the company getting any stronger in anything. Tencent uses its near-ubiquitous QQ messaging platform to push users to its other properties, skirting the existing problem in China of sky high prices for keywords and directory listings. Having almost zero user acquisition cost is a formidable advantage. (When it’s used wisely that is. Tencent pushed users to its ecommerce marketplace prematurely, and it just convinced a lot of users to stick with Alibaba’s Taobao.)

Indeed, nearly every startup I spoke with in China was more scared of Tencent getting into their markets than anyone else—the way people in the Valley used to fear Microsoft.

“We’re not doing everything,” protests Xiong, a former Microsoft employee during the anti-trust trial years, who is visibly uncomfortable with the Microsoft analogy. For instance, after big in-house debates Tencent has decided to stay away from business software or a Chinese equivalent of Google Docs, he says. It is making small or no bets on categories like online video, a traditional ecommerce store like Amazon, a reservation engine like OpenTable or Digg-style news aggregation. (Despite Xiong’s protestations, that’s a pretty small slice of the consumer Web the company is not going after.)

I asked Xiong where he expected Tencent to be in ten years. He responded first by saying China only has about 20% Internet penetration. Just growing in China in one of the company’s verticals would grow Tencent dramatically– that’s no doubt driving the stock up. I asked him if he thought Tencent would buy a big Silicon Valley company in the future. He said yes, without blinking. (The company has an office on University Avenue, and Xiong travels here several times a year.)

Tencent is an impressive company, but it’s fair to say the stock is over-heated. It should do something with that currency while it can, the way Google used its enviable stock currency to outbid rivals for acquisitions like YouTube back in 2006. Every Internet company can tell you, that advantage doesn’t last forever.

Indeed, it’s hard to think of an Internet company Tencent’s size that hasn’t done a big, even company changing deal. EBay changed its fortunes with PayPal (and several bad acquisitions unfortunately), Yahoo got into search with Overture, and Google expanded its business with YouTube and DoubleClick. Even Amazon added to its ecommerce arsenal with its recent acquisition of Zappos.

Still, odds are any near-term deals will be modest ones. Pony Ma, Tencent’s founder and CEO, has walked away from large acquisitions in the past because of concerns that the culture’s wouldn’t mix, Xiong says. Indeed, Tencent’s staff has an average age of 26 and has that somewhat cocky but fun feel of working for the coolest company on the planet at just the right time. (I snapped the pictures in this post during a visit to the company’s Shenzhen headquarters.)

Patience is one thing, but Tencent has been cautious long enough– pretty soon it’ll need to start acting like the global Internet company it is becoming.

Information provided by CrunchBase


LinkedIn Tops 70 Million Users; Includes Over One Million Company Profiles

Professional social network LinkedIn now has 70 million members, according to the company’s home page. The company hit 60 million users in February, and has been growing fast, especially in international markets. LinkedIn’s network’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, stated in a blog post last fall that half of LinkedIn’s membership is international. The company is also listing one million company profiles, which are similar to a user profile.

Weiner tells us that the fastest growth LinkedIn is seeing is in international markets.
LinkedIn has mitigated the growth in international markets with expansion in international offices in The Netherlands, and India, two areas where LinkedIn is growing rapidly.

The network has also been adding features continuously over the past six months to broaden LinkedIn’s reach across the web, adding a deeper Twitter integration, opening up an API, providing a plugin with Microsoft Outlook and enhancing sharing options.

But while LinkedIn is looking to bring its platform to the greater web, there’s a tremendous amount of potential to use the data the network has on its side to add additional functionality to both users and companies. Weiner recently told us that data is incredibly important part of LinkedIn’s future as a network. And while we can’t reveal what those data features are at the moment, it’s safe to say that we will be seeing a number of new initiatives coming from LinkedIn leveraging the wealth of professional content on the network.

Weiner won’t comment on any plans for LinkedIn to IPO in the near future, but the company is clearly seeing growth, is profitable and working diligently to build features into the platform. It should be interesting to see what the second half of 2010 brings the professional social network.

Information provided by CrunchBase


Why Mobile Innovation Is Blowing Away PCs

Editor’s note: Guest author Steve Cheney is an entrepreneur and formerly an engineer & programmer specializing in web and mobile technologies.

On the heels of the latest Android phone, the Sprint HTC EVO, and as we approach iPhone 4, it seems like mobile devices and platforms are innovating at about five times the pace of personal computers.

Rapid advancement in mobile is often attributed to the natural disruption by which emerging industries innovate quickly, while established markets like PCs follow a slower, more sustained trajectory.

But there are deeper fundamentals driving the breathtaking pace of smartphone advancement. Component vendors supplying to smartphone OEMs have evolved a much different DNA than those supplying to PC makers. Smartphones are an evolution of embedded systems, not PCs, and embedded markets have long favored vendors who don’t simply provide the most highly integrated chipsets, but who can also partner with OEMs to drive system-level integration and software at a rapid pace.

Hardware / Chipset Integration Differences in Smartphones vs PCs:

Intel’s monopoly in PC processors and peripheral chipsets has caused PC innovation to stagnate. “Chipsets” sit alongside a CPU and integrate auxiliary functions such as wireless and peripherals. By “bundling” chipsets with processors, Intel neutralizes competition on PC motherboards. Exceptions such as graphic chips exist, but Intel essentially “decides” 90% of what will (and won’t) be included on next generation PCs.

A great example of this is the notable lack of GPS chips in laptops. The fact that I have to type in my starting address on Google Maps on my $1,500 MacBook Air serves as a constant reminder that PC innovation has plateaued (even Mac hardware is controlled by Intel). It’s no surprise people reach for their iPhone when in front of a computer—the mobile experience is often better.

GPS is just one example of the ever-widening gap between PCs and smartphones. Sure, PC makers could add a separate GPS chip to the motherboard, but why hasn’t Intel pursued location as a core piece of IP in its chipsets to drive a better mobile experience for laptops?

It’s simple – they don’t need to. Intel loves high margins, and their market monopoly allows them to pursue margin at the expense of innovation.

In contrast, smartphone vendors have traditionally competed in a much more fragmented supply chain, integrating at a breakneck pace just to survive.  Today’s 3G wireless chipsets integrate GPS, Bluetooth, and 802.11n on a single chip. And the competition between great companies like Qualcomm and Marvell not only spurs further innovation, but also drives vendors to differentiate in system integration and software.

System Level Integration and Support Differences in Smartphones vs PCs:

System integration is the term for how hardware and software combine to create a finished platform. In PCs, Intel dictates the pace of hardware releases– OEMs essentially wait for CPU updates, then differentiate through inventory control, channel / distribution and branding. Intel and Microsoft win no matter which PC makers excel – they literally don’t care if it’s Asus, Dell or HP.

In the smartphone world, it’s the opposite. Dozens of component vendors fight each other to the death to win designs at smartphone OEMs. This competitive dynamic forms an entirely different basis for how component vendors approach system integration and support.

Consider Infineon, which supplies the 3G wireless chipset in the iPhone. In order to stay in Apple’s graces, Infineon must do everything necessary to help the hardware and software play well together, including staffing permanent engineers in Cupertino or sending a team overnight from Germany. Do you think Intel does this for Dell?

This level of commitment helps smartphone OEMs to iterate platforms much more quickly than they could do so alone. If Infineon slacks off at Apple, other vendors are pushing to get inside the next iPhone. This competitive dynamic simply doesn’t exist in PCs, which is actually a fascinating side-story to why Intel and Microsoft have traditionally failed in most embedded (non-PC) markets.

Software Platform Differences in Smartphones vs PCs:

We all know Apple deserves credit for starting the first wave in smartphone OS innovation and for restructuring the wireless industry. And though we harp on Android for fragmentation issues, Google’s commitment to moving the OS forward is noble considering Microsoft has only released 3 Windows refreshes in the past 10 years, and is yet to release a smartphone OS, 30 months after buying Danger.

The competitive interplay between Apple and Google will continue to help smartphone software outpace PCs. But iOS and Android also benefit wildly from the structure of the smartphone industry. Apple and Google are pushed not just by each other, but by the symbiotic advancement in chipsets and the system integration work of component vendors that I detailed above. The entire smartphone innovation value-chain just works.

It’s this overall combination of component advancement, system integration, and software which will continue to drive unprecedented innovation in mobile. Meanwhile, the WinTel monopoly is taking PCs along a slow linear path, where features and user experience drag way behind available technology.

As we approach the next evolution in computing as ushered in by the iPad, Microsoft and Intel are under extraordinary pressure to recover in mobile. But not only do they lack the technology to succeed, they will also fall victim to the inbred structure they’ve created in the PC industry. It’s very likely that within five years, tablets, smartphones, and other “mobile devices” will have permanently left PC innovation behind. And I’d argue this is a good thing for both the progression of exciting new technologies, and for consumers.