Using the graphic art theme of my Bandcamp Page and Facebook Page as a guide,
Luvocracy, a recently launched, Pinterest-like social marketplace where people can buy products recommended by friends and other tastemakers, has raised $11 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Marissa Mayer, Ali Pincus, Jim Lanzone, Tony Robbins, CrunchFund*, RPM Ventures and XG Ventures. Kleiner Perkins partner Bing Gordon is joining Luvocracy’s board.
Sharing products has become mainstream thanks to Pinterest and Facebook. But Pinterest lacks the ability to actually buy many of the products curated on the site by friends, and there is too much noise on Facebook to make it a dedicated e-commerce platform for recommendations. Enter Luvocracy, a startup co-founded by Nathan Stoll and Roger Barnett.
Stoll was an early Googler who ran and expanded Google News. The last company he co-founded, social search service Aardvark, was acquired in 2010 by Google. Barnett was the founder and CEO of Beauty.com and the CEO of Arcade Marketing, the largest perfume-sampling company in the world. He is also the chairman and CEO of Shaklee Corporation, the leading natural nutrition company in the U.S.
The premise around Luvocracy is to be the social marketplace where people can buy products recommended by those they trust. At a macro level, the startup is bringing the power of recommendations, which have driven purchase decisions for centuries, into the world of online shopping. Stoll recalls the story of his grandmother, who was a longtime Avon lady, as demonstrating the power of human recommendations. Even today, nearly 90 percent of all online and offline purchases (or 8 billion transactions) start with a word of mouth recommendation.
But there hasn’t been a streamlined way to easily share, discover and buy great products recommended by the friends you trust and tastemakers whose styles you admire.
Once you register for the site, you can check the products you are interested in (i.e. home goods, men’s style, women’s style), import your Facebook friends, and more. You can filter your shown product feeds by trending (by recommendations), the people you trust for recommendations, the latest product added, and featured products and tastemakers. When I first registered for the site, I immediately made my first Luvocracy purchase, a “Shopping Is My Cardio” sweatshirt.
Luvocracy lists a maximum you will pay for the product. To make buying a recommendation dead simple, Luvocracy created a “Buy It For Me” service. When there is something you “luv” from a trusted person, it’s as simple and easy as clicking the “Buy It For Me” button, and Luvocracy takes it from there, locating and purchasing the item and even dealing with any shipping or return issues on their behalf.
The startup will manage merchant returns for you, and offers a 30-day return policy.
Similar to Pinterest, Luvocracy also lets you easily create collections of products that you adore and want to recommend, so that others can discover and purchase from you. All recommenders receive a portion of the sales in Luvocracy (and Luvocracy makes a cut from each purchase) as well.
The challenge Luvocracy will face is to create an audience in a social commerce world that is already being dominated by Pinterest and the most recent up and comer Wanelo. But my immediate impression by Luvocracy is that it could accomplish this among the design-focused audience that e-commerce standout Fab has been able to tap into. The quality of the products posted on Luvocracy is high, and I had not seen most of the items I browsed through on other e-commerce sites (and as my purchase indicates, shopping is my cardio, especially online). Even the user experience itself of Luvocracy and the presentation of products is sleek.
If Luvocracy can maintain this quality and design-focused brand even as it grows, the site could create a loyal (and high-purchasing) user base. Based on my intial purchase, the startup already has my attention.
*TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is a General Partner of CrunchFund.
Google revealed Hangouts, its unified text, video and multimedia messaging platform yesterday during its epic three-hour I/O keynote, but while the platform pulls in Google Talk, Google+ and other sources, it was apparently missing SMS integration. Incorporating texts from your carrier is on the way, however, according to Hangouts and Chat community manager Dori Storbeck, who said as much in a reply to a question (via 9to5Google)about SMS integration on Google+.
The integration will go a long way to truly unifying communications via the service, which is available on Gmail, Android, iOS and Chrome right now. SMS feeding into the Hangouts stream also means that it borrows a trick from what Facebook has added to Facebook Messenger with Chat Heads on select hardware devices, and it also provides Google with a fairly strong feature advantage over competitors including dedicated mobile messaging providers like WhatsApp and Kik, which don’t pull in content from SMS sources.
When SMS does arrive, expect it to make its way to Android only, as there’s not much developers can do to build in SMS on iOS, as those permissions are not open. Hangouts also dropped XMPP in Hangouts, which doesn’t bode well for Google IM on other platforms and in other apps, but it looks like the company is pretty open to building other protocols into its own service.
Read more from the original source: Google’s New Hangouts Chat And Messaging App To Incorporate SMS “Soon”
Google announced a number of new partner apps today on stage at Google I/O during the “Developing for Glass” session. Facebook and Twitter were the highlights of the list, which also included Evernote, Tumblr, Elle and CNN, in addition to the previously announced NYT and Path apps.
The CNN app sends video to Glass via updates, and streams news to a browsable feed. The Twitter app provides your stream, as well as posting capabilities and the power to snap photos from Glass and post them direct to your stream. On stage, Glass developer evangelist Timothy Jordan emphasized the DM capabilities on Twitter for Glass and how the messages add to a thread that becomes a bundle on Glass.
Evernote on Glass holds true to its note-taking roll, giving users the ability to have their notes shared to Glass from the web or mobile apps. Content is translated to simple text by the Glass service and displayed as simple short paginated messages.
Facebook on Glass essentially acts as a new photo sharing tool, giving users a chance to immediately post pics to their FB timeline, and to then add captions and descriptions to those images via voice input once they’re posted. The pics can be deleted immediately if added by accident, and also shared either privately or with friends and the public. Jordan described the simple sharing and annotation features as exemplary of how a Glass experience should work.
Elle provides snippets in the form of headlines to make it easy to browse through at a glance, and you can also add things to reading lists, or have articles read aloud. For Elle, Jordan said it’s a good way to funnel users to the main website later, and also a means of providing them with info about what articles are proving most interesting to users.
All the apps are available today if you’re lucky enough to be an Explorer or a developer with access to the hardware.
Mozilla on Tuesday officially launched Firefox 21 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Improvements include the addition of multiple social providers on the desktop as well as open source fonts on Android.
The new desktop version was available yesterday on the organization’s FTP servers last night, but that was just the initial release of the installers. Firefox 21 has now officially been released over on Firefox.com and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. As always, the Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play.
The Social API first arrived in Firefox 17 back in November 2012. Mozilla says it developed the feature “to enable social providers to integrate directly into Firefox to make your browsing experience more social, customizable and personal.”
In other words, the integration lets you keep up with the latest social happenings without having to switch between, or open new, tabs. This is done with a Firefox sidebar featuring your content or notification buttons directly on the browser’s toolbar.
Mozilla’s first partner in its social endeavor was Facebook, not just because it’s the world’s largest social network, but also because the company helped flesh out the API. Ever since December 2012, when the two officially flipped the switch, Firefox users have been able to send Facebook messages right from the browser, no matter what site they’re on; as my colleague Ken Yeung put it, “you could be on Twitter and still send Facebook messages.”
A quick breakdown for each of the three new providers added today follows.
Cliqz delivers a real-time stream of relevant articles, stories, and videos based on your interests directly to Firefox. In the upper left of the sidebar, you can personalize your news feed by selecting categories, keywords, websites, and specific people you want to follow. Share links across your social networks or by email; preview Twitter commentary; and save articles for later without ever leaving Firefox.
After you install Firefox 21, you can activate cliqz here.
The Mixi sidebar lets you stay in touch with your friends on the Japanese social network. It provides a real-time activity stream of all comments and photo shares directly to your Firefox browser.
Mixi for Firefox is only available to users in Japan.
msnNOW lets you stay up-to-date on the things people are talking about, searching for, and sharing the most on Web. MSN scours trends from real-time sources like Facebook, Twitter, Bing, and BreakingNews.com. You can customize the activity stream to watch for particular types of trending content from the sidebar dropdown menu.
To activate, go to the msnNOW page and click “Turn it On.”
There are naturally other Firefox 21 features worth noting; here’s the official changelog:
If you want to learn more about the fourth point, check out this post: Firefox now logs your browser’s start up time, run time, number of crashes, and sends the data to Mozilla
If you’re a Web developer, you should probably check out Firefox 21 for developers.
Firefox for Android comes with the custom open source fonts Charis and Open Sans. They will replace the default Android fonts for what Mozilla claims is “a more visually appealing and clear reading experience on the Web.”
As for the HTML5 compatibility optimizations, the beta release includes improvements to HTML5 compatibility, as tested on HTML5test.com. Mozilla boasts that Firefox for Android now scores 421 and 14 bonus points (out of a total of 500).
Here’s the full Android changelog:
If you’re having difficulty keeping track of all these updates, don’t worry. Firefox 22 will be out in June.
Top Image Credit: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images