If Facebook has its way, soon its mobile apps will be able to tell you when your friends and connections are nearby. According to Bloomberg, the social network is in the process of developing a smartphone application that will track the location of users. Supposedly scheduled for release by mid-March, it will help users find nearby friends — basically competing against Apple’s Find My Friends service, along with others, including Highlight, Banjo, and perhaps even Foursquare.
Facebook’s mobile app already pinpoints what’s near you through its Nearby tab, although it’s only about venues and locations, not people. As the social network has been working to find a way to master the mobile space, apparently it’s next step is to have its users stalk their friends. And this isn’t anything revolutionary — it’s simply combining its Nearby feature with its Places service.
Sure, this service has shades of Apple’s Find My Friends service, but Facebook’s could make things a bit interesting. With Apple, the service allows iPhone users to locate their friends using the device’s Contacts and Maps program. Granted, Facebook has a greater reach — not every one of your friends are probably entered into your phone’s address book, but you’ll probably have more of them as your Facebook friend. It looks like the social network is working on really getting people to meet not only online but offline as well.
Last week, Facebook announced that for the first time ever, mobile usage of its app surpassed those on desktop computers. Just in its fourth quarter, there were 680 million mobile monthly active users, 76 million more from the previous quarter and a little less than 250 million from the year prior. 157 million monthly active users accessed Facebook just through mobile devices. That gives incredible incentive for Facebook to pick up its game in the space.
If you look at Facebook’s ecosystem, it has released a few applications that mimic the desktop experience — naturally, of course, is its main app, but what about its Camera, Messenger, and (who could forget?) the Poke app? Facebook really wants you to interact with friends anywhere you are.
Should this development hold true, this could hold additional promise especially when you think about targeted advertisements, its effect on Graph Search, events, and much more.
Bloomberg reports that a Facebook spokesperson declined to comment about this development.
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Go here to see the original: Facebook may soon launch an app to compete against Apple’s Find My Friends
Editor’s note: Norman Winarsky is the Vice President of Ventures at research and technology development organization SRI International, and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He is co-founder of Siri, and more than 30 other ventures.
I am frequently asked what SRI International thinks about the explosion of incubators in the United States and abroad and how our approach to creating new ventures compares.
SRI has one of the longest and best track records creating new technologies and innovations, and we have formed more than 50 new ventures in the last 20 years. But we’re also known for taking a contrarian position on some of the ideas about incubation, commercialization and innovation. Our greatest successes, such as the founding of companies Nuance, Intuitive Surgical, Orchid Biosciences, and Siri prove our mettle. We’ve had our share of failures, too.
What have we learned over more than 65 years of invention and commercialization? How can one create the greatest amount of value possible in a new company? There are several specific ways in which our venture processes stand in contrast to what is in vogue today. These are lessons that anyone in the business of innovation should consider.
A few key traits identify a great venture in the making. SRI does not restrict the markets it considers for ventures, having created successful ventures in information technologies, biotechnologies, health, materials, clean tech, green tech, education, and more. Our process, however, is similar for all these ventures.
To even consider a venture, we require a strong value proposition that starts with a large and growing market, a disruptive technology solution, and an outstanding team. Usually we look to create a venture with a potential market capitalization of $500 million to $1 billion or more.
Ventures are all about a product or service’s ultimate success in the market. That’s simple enough, right? Technology is seldom a product or service in and of itself. I cannot emphasize that enough. Creating a company based on technology is very risky. Don’t be tempted by pure technology and forget to make it accountable to market dynamics.
The allure of absolute value invention is still strong in Silicon Valley and beyond. It takes an enormous amount of discipline to hold steadfastly to a notion of technology as valuable only in the proper context, outside of which it loses purpose. Hitting home runs too often results in a narrow focus on the technological.
So, if we don’t start with technology, how do we come up with the venture concept in the first place? In truth, there’s no set formula, and that’s okay. Ideas can come from technologists, business teams, or entrepreneurs.
Regardless of the point of origin, we develop a specific hypothesis about a market opportunity and seek a disruptive technology solution. Siri is a good example: We were looking for a way for consumers to access web services with zero clicks, because we knew that web services were losing 20 percent of their customers with every click. Reducing clicks become our mantra. How could we reduce mobile clicks to zero?
Siri’s natural language understanding technology was one piece of a solution to that well-defined and clearly stated goal.
Sometimes we do have a breakthrough technology on our hands and seek to find a market pain point for which the technology might help create a solution. That approach however, only succeeds if we are very careful not to think of technology alone as sufficient to start a venture. We have to put blinders on and invoke the same discipline described above. It is essential that we determine and validate a market opportunity for a product or service before proceeding, no matter how exciting the breakthrough.
Regardless, as the pace of technological change quickens, certain things are still timeless. This venture-formation rubric is one of them.
SRI forms only three to four startups a year, whereas the typical incubator might create dozens of companies or more. But our hit rate has been sufficient to return tremendous value to SRI and our partners.
This is a different model from incubators that use large numbers to try to meet their return on investment. Many of the ventures that graduate from incubators are innovative only in their marketing or time-to-market. Some have disruptive business models, but very few of the graduates are based on breakthrough technology. Without breakthrough technology, you have to cast wide nets and play the numbers.
At SRI, we do have one particular advantage worth noting. Often the underlying technology behind our ventures at SRI has been developed over decades, with hundreds of millions of dollars of government funding. This is the source of our core technology. The government is often willing to invest in the kinds of projects whose speculative nature and long duration wouldn’t typically make sense for corporate or venture capitalist investment. DARPA is a superb example of a government organization dedicated to creating breakthrough technology.
And because of the Bayh-Dole Act, non-profit government contractors such as SRI retain all commercial rights to the work done for the government. This role of the government in R&D is crucial to the success of the venture. It provides non-dilutive funding and advances the venture to the point at which venture funding is possible.
Of course it’s also immensely beneficial to the government, because it leads to companies and industries from which the government can purchase products at costs that are orders of magnitude less than if the government attempted to fund them alone. And it’s important to innovation in the U.S.
When SRI begins to create a venture, we almost always recruit an executive team from outside SRI – entrepreneurs-in-residence, because we seek teams that are proven leaders, have deep market domain expertise, and have the skill to recruit and lead teams in the commercial marketplace.
We first form a venture concept or hypothesis ourselves, though we’re open to ideas from all sources – inside and outside SRI. Once that concept reaches a level of internal validation, we engage with one or more EIRs, whether they found us or we found them, who have proven experience and leadership in that market and technology domain. We recognize that SRI may have leading technologists, but they have usually spent their lives in research and development – not in a commercial environment.
Other EIR programs are often more open-ended. They are essentially a free office, a modest salary, and first-dibs for the sponsoring party on whatever new venture might emerge. Those individuals are encouraged to explore different ideas and modify them if and whenever needed.
Incubators on the other hand develop both entrepreneurs and their concepts simultaneously. Very often it is said that an incubator is investing in the team above all else. SRI is unique in that we focus on creating and validating venture concepts, and then build teams around those concepts.
Paul Graham actually does a version of what I’m describing with his Requests For Startups, which makes great reading. Paul is brilliant.
One cannot assume that some of the youngest (if some of the brightest) minds in tech will naturally arrive at the best or most interesting market opportunities on their own. Directives like Graham’s “Kill Hollywood” are not venture concepts per se, but they’re inspiring, and they point towards a methodology we employ at SRI.
Most new ventures from incubators are incubated from three to six months. This might be a good timeframe for ventures that are light on technology, but if a venture is to disrupt an industry and have deep technology solutions, it will need more time, which will ultimately provide an advantage. Usually it takes 9 to 12 months to build the team and the value proposition, and to draw upon the resources of SRI to create at least a demonstrable version of the technology.
In fact, we don’t consider our concepts to be a “venture” at all until they officially spin out (which means they also have VC funding). Along the way, we look for a lot of reasons to say no. We think a decision not to proceed is a virtue. And we’re willing to spend considerable time and money to find out if a venture concept is well founded.
We don’t have a mandate to cycle companies through at any particular pace, or in any particular quantity. Also, if we determine that a concept is not venturable, it is very likely that it can be licensed to established corporations.
Investment is another area in which we cut against the grain. SRI limits what we will fund. We are a nonprofit research institute whose purpose is making the world a better place through scientific discovery and the application of technology. While this can mean that we miss opportunities, we understand and play to our strengths, and we prefer bigger bets on a smaller number of ventures.
The typical incubator invests $20K to $50K of seed funding. Follow-on investment from angels and seed funds at or after a demo presentation is therefore critical. This small amount of initial funding is only enough to get started, parlaying a good idea into something discussable.
We often invest $200K to $400K in SRI spinoffs, to take them that last mile of commercialization. We fund the 9 to 12 months that we expect the venture will need before raising additional funds at an attractive valuation. This funding is not for continued research and development of the technology. It is for EIR salaries, value proposition development, market validation, and demos and prototypes.
Almost all SRI ventures develop a demo or prototype to demonstrate that we indeed have developed a technology solution and have mitigated the technology risk.
To be clear, many ventures then develop their market-ready software or hardware entirely from scratch, only using the SRI software or hardware as a guide. This is because SRI technologists and scientists have largely focused their efforts on research and development (algorithms, for example) – not on prototypes or production-ready products robust enough for end users.
Some R&D organizations spend a great deal on continued R&D for their ventures. SRI’s principle is that since tens to hundreds of millions of dollars (usually of government funding) have already been spent on developing the technology, our own internal funding would be a drop in the bucket. So if additional R&D is needed, no venture is considered.
We believe that having different, simultaneous approaches to new-company formation will continue to contribute to innovation and a robust economy nationwide. Our model has allowed us to also bring technology breakthroughs to the marketplace, rather than have them conclude as R&D projects.
As we strive to create great value from technology, we hope that others may learn from our successes and failures alike. We don’t propose to know all of the answers, but we do think that certain methods and principles increase your chances significantly. It is absolutely possible to greatly increase the probability of creating successful new ventures if you have the requisite clarity and discipline.
Glow Digital Media, a social advertising technology platform that sells services to Facebook advertisers to grow their marketing ROI, has closed a $1.3 million seed funding round. Investors in the round include Project A Ventures and Avonmore Developments.
The U.K. startup, founded back in 2009, said it has used the funding to expand into the U.S. — opening a new regional HQ in Los Angeles and hiring four new senior execs, including David Wamsley who will lead the new office as VP, Sales & Strategic Partnerships, US. The other new senior hires cover ”key positions overseeing data science, business development, product management”, according to Glow.
In September last year the company was named one of 12 Facebook Strategic Preferred Marketing Developers (PMD) — along with 77Agency, Adobe, AdParlor, Alchemy Social, Brand Networks, Kenshoo, Nanigans, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, SHIFT (GraphEffect), SocialCode and Spruce Media – something which Glow says has helped spur its growth. Facebook describes the Strategic PMD category as “a designation reserved for a small group of PMDs that are driving outstanding positive impact in our marketing developer ecosystem”.
Glow’s flagship product is called Glow Machine — which gives advertises tools to create and optimise multi-format ad campaigns, track and build engagement, and view data dashboards and analytics. The company’s client-base has included Best Buy, Bacardi, Kraft, Honda and Mercedes-Benz — currently Glow says it has “over 80 sophisticated performance customers and global agencies around the world”.
Founder Damian Routley attributes the business’ ability to attract “massive advertisers” — name-checking the likes of Groupon, King.com and Mercedes-Benz — to being able to offer a highly customisable ad creation and tracking service.
“Their requirements are about ultimate flexibility, ultimate granularity. They don’t want a very rigid system where they have to do a step process… they need a very flexible system where they can track it in the way they want to track it,” he tells TechCrunch, noting that Glow integrates with third party tracking systems such as DoubleClick. “They want a system where they can create custom bid rules and optimise it using the approach that makes sense to their business.”
On the ad engagement component of its offering, Routley describes this is a relatively new area for Glow but says Glow is building tools to help brands reach and engage with their target demographic via the Facebook newsfeed.
“The majority of the interactions that people have with brands happens within the newsfeed environment — whether that’s desktop or mobile — and we’re building some really cool stuff that helps those brands reach the type of people they want to reach within that environment and then understand the differences between an organic distribution of those messages vs the paid distribution of those messages,” he says.
Glow’s full release follows below.
Glow Digital Media closes $1.3M seed round of financing; investors include Project A Ventures GmbH And Avonmore Developments Ltd.
New funding allows Glow to accelerate its growth, further develop its social advertising platform for Facebook, and rapidly expand into the U.S. market.
London, UK – 31st January, 2013 - Glow Digital Media, a provider of Facebook ad technology solutions to marketers, announced today that it has received $1.3M in seed funding.
Glow’s latest funding has enabled it to hire four new senior executives and expand into the U.S. marketplace by opening a new regional headquarters in Los Angeles, California. David Wamsley, an ad tech pioneer and 15-year veteran in the high-tech start-up world will lead the new office.
Glow’s proprietary social ads platform, Glow Machine, helps direct response advertisers build and manage their Facebook advertising campaigns to reach their target audiences more effectively.
Founded in 2009, Glow has experienced rapid growth, most recently spurred on by the announcement in September 2012 that the firm has been named one of only twelve Facebook Strategic Preferred Marketing Developers (SPMD) worldwide, the highest accreditation Facebook gives to marketing developers.
According to Damian Routley, CEO of Glow, “Our status as one of Facebook’s strategic preferred marketing developers is testament to the nimble and innovative team at Glow and will be one of the key drivers of growth for us in 2013.”
Glow has bolstered its senior team with hires in key positions overseeing data science, business development, product management as well as David Wamsley in the role of VP, Sales & Strategic Partnerships, US.
After over three years of continuous development, the Glow Machine has become a leading platform for large direct response advertisers, as well as the digital agencies who serve that clientele.
About Glow Digital Media
Glow sells a self-serve license for its Facebook advertising platform, or is available as a fully-managed solution. Currently it provides services to over 80 sophisticated performance customers and global agencies around the world, including King.com, Omnicom, Blue Ant Media, Bacardi, Kraft, and Mercedes Benz. Glow is a privately owned and independent company with industry expertise in Gaming, eCommerce, Financial Services, Travel, and Automotive.
Early on in the Netflix original series House of Cards, you see Kevin Spacey get his hands dirty. As Representative Francis Underwood, he doesn’t suffer fools and he doesn’t tolerate weakness. The opening scene shows Spacey performing a mercy killing of sorts, removing the pain of a beast not fit to continue living. It’s an apt metaphor for Underwood’s upcoming crusade against a presidential administration that has turned its back on him.
But the scene could also be read as a metaphor for the show itself: Just as Underwood seeks to show up the incumbent powers that be, so too is Netflix attempting to shake up the TV distribution model. And in both cases, you’re rooting for the underdog.
Spacey’s Underwood is the House Majority Whip and already has a tremendous amount of power. But when spurned for the position of Secretary of State, he puts a plan in motion to not only unseat the person chosen instead of him, but to cause further headaches for the administration that passed him over. The first two episodes are an unraveling series of events that have Underwood stealthily undermining the new president during his first several days in office.
He’s helped in this pursuit by aide Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), as well as young Washington Herald reporter Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). Meanwhile, Corey Stoll plays Representative Peter Russo, a hard-partying Congressman who ends up owing his loyalty to Underwood, and Robin Wright plays Underwood’s wife, an equally ruthless businesswoman undergoing her own professional upheaval.
Altogether, the ensemble and script makes for really good TV, even if you’ll never watch the show on any broadcast or cable network. That’s because Netflix cut a reported $100 million check for exclusive rights to stream the program to its subscribers. Like HBO, which has spent the last two decades winning over subscribers with really high-quality original content that can only be seen on its network (or, if you’re willing to wait, packaged for DVD and Blu-ray sale), Netflix is hoping that it too will soon be defined by shows that users can only see by paying $8 a month for its streaming service.
House of Cards wasn’t the first exclusive series Netflix put on its streaming service, and it won’t be the last: There are at least three others in development, including the reboot of Arrested Development, Eli Roth’s horror series Hemlock Grove, and Weeds creator Jenji Kohan’s prison comedy Orange Is The New Black.
But House of Cards is probably the most significant original release that Netflix will see over the next year. Unlike Lillyhammer, the goofy fish-out-of-water comedy that planted a New York mobster in Norway, this series was created exclusively for Netflix and features serious star power in Spacey and Fincher. And while viewers are no doubt waiting for the coming Arrested Development revival, most have some idea of what to expect from that project.
House of Cards, though, bears the burden of being the first real serious piece of original programming that the online streaming company has licensed exclusively. It is, one might say, a defining moment for the company.
Ever since it was announced, critics have questioned whether Netflix would be able to pull off an original show with HBO-like quality. While everything looked good on paper, including the involvement producer/director David Fincher and actor Kevin Spacey, there are no shortage of announced series that had viewers salivating, only to be let down once they were actually able to see the end result. Even HBO has had a few blunders of this sort — just check out the network’s horse racing extravaganza Luck, which combined the talents of David Milch and Michael Mann, and starred Dustin Hoffman. It was cancelled after just one season.
At the same time, Netflix famously stepped back during the production of House of Cards, something that few traditional networks are willing to do. The common belief among those in the TV business was that Netflix was making a big, risky bet by paying upfront for two seasons of a show that didn’t even have a pilot, and then letting the production studio do its job with little interference.
But if the first two episodes are any indication, Netflix’s bet on House of Cards should pay off handsomely. The show not only lives up to the production quality that we’ve come to expect from cable TV — in writing, acting, and directing — but it will probably surpass the expectations of many.
That’s not to say that the show is perfect: Kevin Spacey as a Southerner is a tough sell, and his affected drawl can be grating. The fictional Washington Herald isn’t a great representation of the modern news room, and the balance between the print reporters and the online ambitions of newcomer Barnes seems a little off. In the initial few episodes, the motivations driving certain characters are a little over-simplified. But overlooking those issues — which, frankly, are present in most TV pilots seeking to get a viewer up to speed in the fictional world they weave — House of Cards is very good. At least, the first two episodes were.
All 13 episodes of the show will be made available soon enough, as the series premieres February 1. And when it does, viewers will be able to make up their own minds about whether or not House of Cards lives up to the hype.
See the article here: Netflix’s House Of Cards Could Be The Best Show You Won’t See On TV
Swipp, a Mountain View-based startup taking the wraps off of its products and platform today after two years of development and with $3.5 million in funding from Old Willow Partners. The startup has been cagey about what exactly it was building until now, but co-founders Don Thorson and Charlie Costantini provided me with a demo of the Swipp’s “global social intelligence platform, commercial and consumer apps” ahead of today’s official launch.
Thorson (Swipp’s CEO) and Costantini are no strangers to innovation and product development. Thorson was once a creative director at Apple, as well as a top marketing executive at both Jajah and Ribbit. Costantini was also at Ribbit, and also held an executive position at Talenthouse, a creative social agency for celebrities and brands. Both saw the value in existing social media channels for delivering consumer insight to brands about products, content and campaigns, but they also believed that things like Facebook and Twitter just weren’t going far enough.
“Swiff is a new type of social intelligence platform, and on that platform we’ve built a new class of social intelligence apps,” Thorson explained in an interview. “What we have with Swipp is a fundamentally new approach to merging data types, and create what we think of as a new social data category.”
To accomplish that, Swipp is taking a three-pronged approach, featuring consumer-focused apps, commercial-focused software, and a platform that can be integrated into other products by developers via a public API. All of these are built with the same end-goal in mind: to capture consumer sentiment on anything on the web where polling user opinion can be beneficial.
In the consumer app, which has iPhone, web and mobile web versions, this takes the form of asking users to instantly rate and comment on items and topics in real-time. The consumer app is a bit like a Thumb or an Oink, allowing users to browse categories and share their opinions along with others on the network via a 5 point scale that’s visually represented by the Swipp logo expressing varying degrees of either a smile or a frown. Users can also upload pics of what they’re rating, and view the opinions of others, optionally filtered by whether or not they’re connected to you via social media, location, age and gender.
That definitely sounds like the kind of general opinion sharing network Kevin Rose and company were trying to get off the ground with Oink, but Thorson says there’s a reason they won’t share the same fate, and that has to do with the fact that they’re not putting too many eggs in any one basket. Hence the simultaneous development of the commercial platform, and also the API for third-party devs.
“We’re going to watch and see what happens on the consumer level, but it’s what we call a multi-sided market,” Thorson said. “We’re very careful to launch the consumer component, because while it could be you get millions of uptake, that’s an unknown. But then you do the business component because you need them to push it into reality, and then we’re doing the API to see what the developers and integrators do with it.”
The business component has Swipp building apps tailored to specific verticals or events; for instance, they’re creating a Superbowl-themed one that will talk about the ads, players, performers and more while the event itself is on, providing an interactive second-screen experience. The idea is that any business or brand can have Swipp build a similar app, pulling in data from the broader network while also allowing for laser focus to target particular consumer or viewer segments to gather more relevant data. Swipp Plus is the branding of the business angle, and Swipp Plus widgets will allow businesses to build Swipp polling right into their product, much like you see Twitter and Facebook share buttons now, but with a completely on-site experience.
Finally, Swipp will launch an API, which will be opening up for third-party access later this year, to allow outside developers to build products around Swipp’s interest graphing. In other words, Swipp wants to unlock the data that Facebook keeps guarded when it comes to consumer taste. The API may be something a lot of businesses want to get their hands on, but I’m sure they’ll wait and see how the first two components work out in terms of attracting user attention before jumping on board, because in the end, Swipp needs people willing to share sentiment to make the whole thing work.
Swipp has been in development for two years, and the effort shows: a broad global launch (with international localization and people on the ground in different countries), complete with a consumer and commercial product, and an API to follow soon represents a considerable achievement in itself. But taking on existing, entrenched networks where users share their opinions like Facebook and Twitter is arguably a Sisyphean task, so Thorson, Costantini and company definitely have their work cut out for them.
Read the original here: Swipp Launches Social Interest Graph Platform To Go Beyond The Facebook Like