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Facebook’s Pages Manager for iOS now lets you create and edit events on iPad, pin posts to the top

Facebook is making things easier for marketers by updating its Pages Manager app for iOS app with a few useful features. One of the biggest changes introduced is that you can finally create and edit events in the app on your iPad.

Version 3.0 of the also app lets you pin and unpin posts to the top of your page’s Timeline, so admins can conveniently select which posts they want to highlight. They can also turn photos on their page’s timeline and photo albums into profile pictures with just a tap of the button.

FB Pages App 730x651 Facebooks Pages Manager for iOS now lets you create and edit events on iPad, pin posts to the top

Interestingly enough, the changelog for the updated app also claims to let page admins send feedback and report problems simply by shaking your mobile device — but no matter how I shook my iPhone, nothing happened. Even if the feature may be a tad gimmicky, it could be a useful shortcut for marketers in urgent situations when they experience problems with Facebook Pages. Here’s hoping Facebook addresses this soon.

➤ Facebook Pages Manager for iOS

Thumbnail image via West McGowan / Flickr

USA Today

Facebook paid 330 security researchers $1.5 million in 2013 as part of its Bug Bounty program

The rest is here: Facebook’s Pages Manager for iOS now lets you create and edit events on iPad, pin posts to the top

Mobile Platforms, Smartwatches, And Golden Handcuffs

Editor’s Note: Semil Shah works on product for Swell, is a TechCrunch columnist, and an investor at Haystack. He blogs at Haywire, and you can follow him on Twitter at @semil

Ask three different smart, knowledgeable people in tech about their views on smartwatches, and you’re bound to receive at least four plausible opinions on the matter. As someone hilariously snarked on Twitter, “even a broken smartwatch opinion will be write twice a day.” Jokes aside, I’ve been getting more excited about smartwatches with the news dribbling out over the past few months and speculation rising. As Google and potentially Apple join the popular Pebble, along with companies like Jawbone, FitBit (which already claim wrist real estate), Runkeeper, and others, the looming, high-level question for consumers may not just be platform-specific apps and functionality, but the effects (and potential handcuffs) of mobile platform and ecosystem lock-in.

Here’s how think about the choices consumers may face, assuming they want technology on their wrists — which, depending who you talk to, isn’t a foregone conclusion. “If” Apple does eventually develop a device for the wrist, we’d expect it to run on iOS, to seamlessly set up and pair with the iPhone, and to interoperate with other iOS systems and some suite of apps. Based on Google’s initial tip of the hand regarding “Android Wear,” they may view the wrist as a new interaction frontier to extend the power of its anticipatory computing service, Google Now. For those who would rather not feel locked in by a mobile platform, a range of existing and new platforms will be on the market in different shapes and forms.

Despite all the speculation about what could adorn our wrists – and it is fun to speculate – there’s just no way to know what the big players will do, how good these new experiences will be (out of the gate), and whether even early adopters and fanatics will buy these new devices at the same pace at which we’ve been accustomed to buying cell phones. (I won’t try to reconstruct the countless posts on the matter here, though for reference, I’d encourage people to read Mark Gurman’s excellent post on Healthbook (for iOS, which should be noted, isn’t about a watch), The Verge’s piece on Android Wear (by Dante D’Orazio) and Benedict Evans’ great piece analyzing both experiences. Instead, I’ll try to run through what choices consumers may make based on the evidence today, though its based on hearsay and not matters of fact, yet._

In such an unknown world, having vibrant third-party platforms is not only healthy, it may also be what consumers want to escape the handcuffs of any mobile platform lock-in. In this scenario, outfits such as Jawbone, Fitbit, Runkeeper, and others may have enough institutional expertise (and focus and passion!) to make this transition and/or morph into new interfaces with the advent of new motion sensors. And then, there’s Pebble, the already-popular independent smartwatch-maker, headquartered right in Silicon Valley, composed of a team which has built and shipped newer versions of its watches to rabid fans. On Pebble, which already has partnerships with other third-party apps, users interact on their phones through a Pebble app that helps setup and control the watch. This allows users the option to switch mobile platforms and keep their smartwatch, with less of a lock-in effect. Whether mobile platforms will slap users on the wrist with their lock-in techniques, no one knows — but what is certain is that those in the market for smartwatches and/or sensor-based wearables (or even connected jewelry) won’t handcuffed nor left without plenty of choice. And that is a very exciting thing.

Photo Credit: Kim Carpenter / Creative Commons Flickr

See original here: Mobile Platforms, Smartwatches, And Golden Handcuffs

Twitter Goes Down For Almost An Hour

Twitter is down. I repeat, Twitter is down.

Twitter says that “most users are experiencing issues accessing Twitter on web and mobile apps. We’re looking into it.”

According to the API status page, Downforeveryoneorjustme.com, and tests within the TechCrunch staff, the service is experiencing some serious performance issues.

And it’s not just the desktop website that’s failing — Twitter for iPhone is down, as well as TweetDeck. We’ve confirmed that most activity out of Twitter, including the API and streams to third-party apps shut down right around 11am PST/2pm EST.

Users are experiencing issues with loading their timelines and posting tweets (which, it turns out, is more difficult to track without the help of Twitter). Unlike partial outages where certain features go down one at a time, Twitter currently shows no signs of life.

Screenshot 2014-03-11 14.19.33

We just noticed the outage as of 2:00pm ET, and are reaching out to Twitter for more information.

Update 2:34pm: Things are working off and on.

Update 3:03pm: We seem to be back on track, but don’t be shocked to see things lag a bit.

Update 3:34pm: Twitter has posted the following statement on the matter:

During a planned deploy in one of our core services, we experienced unexpected complications that made Twitter unavailable for many users starting at 11:01am. We rolled back the change as soon as we identified the issue and began a controlled recovery to ensure stability of other parts of the service. The site was fully recovered by 11:47am PDT. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Developing…

View post: Twitter Goes Down For Almost An Hour

Facebook “Paper” May Beat Trademark Complaint As Drawing App Is Registered As “Paper By FiftyThree”

There’s a whole stack of apps named “Paper” in the App Store, but Facebook’s new one may come out on top despite a requested name change from drawing app maker FiftyThree. One problem is that FiftyThree registered its app’s trademark as “Paper By FiftyThree” not “Paper”, and while it’s a lame legal loophole, it may be enough to let Facebook keep the name.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.48.35 AMThis morning, the $15 million-funded developer FiftyThree published a blog post about its app that launched in March 2012, explaining:

“It came as a surprise when we learned on January 30th [2014] with everyone else that Facebook was announcing an app with the same name—Paper…We reached out to Facebook about the confusion their app was creating, and they apologized for not contacting us sooner. But an earnest apology should come with a remedy…Facebook should stop using our brand name…What will Facebook’s story be? Will they be the corporate giant who bullies their developers? Or be agile, recognize a mistake, and fix it?”

It’s a reasonable take on the issue. FiftyThree’s app is well-known and loved. It won Apple’s 2012 iPad App Of The Year award. And it was in the App Store first. Yet today, Facebook launched a content reader and beautified Facebook client called “Paper”.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.44.20 AM

The argument conveniently ignores fellow drawing app Paper, released in October 2011 by studio Contradictory which has 25 other apps in the store. There’s also another drawing app called Paper released in September 2012 by miSoft. Plus there’s more than 50 other apps with Paper in their name. Paper Doll, Paper Camera, Paper Ninja.

Still, FiftyThree’s accusation that Facebook uses its size to bully developers rings true. But it might not matter because of the name FiftyThree registered its trademark under. I asked Facebook if it had a statement regarding FiftyThree’s complaint and was given a “no comment”. But if the complaint was elevated into a formal lawsuit, Facebook could likely tell the court “We didn’t release an app called ‘Paper By FiftyThree.’”

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 11.19.27 AM

Though that position could hold weight legally, it’s not exactly honorable. Especially considering Facebook asserted its trademark on the word “book” to force other companies to change the names of products like Lamebook and Placebook. Though in those cases, third-parties were directly piggybacking on how Facebook used “book” to popularize their own brands.

Here, it’s more of a coincidence that Facebook wants to use a name already employed by FiftyThree rather than it trying to coin off the existing mindshare of the word. But it still feels like Facebook is trying to muscle in.

In the case of a legal battle, the court would be deciding if Facebook’s Paper is confusingly similar to Paper By FiftyThree. Since they’re distinct apps with distinct icons, Facebook’s has no drawing element, Paper is a common name other apps use, and the names are techncially different, Facebook may escape being forced into a change.

Mark Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to become the modern newspaper, offering high-quality content no matter what your area of interest. Though colloquially used by another developer, FiftyThree doesn’t have the legal rights to the name, so “Paper” may have just been too juicy for Facebook to pass up.

Read this article: Facebook “Paper” May Beat Trademark Complaint As Drawing App Is Registered As “Paper By FiftyThree”

The Alternative Commerce Recipe

Editor’s note: Neil Sequeira is a general partner and managing director at General Catalyst Partners. He invests in alternative commerce, SaaS, online/mobile marketplaces and digital media.  He previously was with TimeWarner, AOL, CMGI, GoldmanSachs, Accenture and Goldenvoice. Follow him on Twitter @neil_sequeira.

Alternative Commerce is a piece of cake, right? After all, while big box retailers are suffering, fun things like “the Internet” and “mobile phones” make it easier to sell stuff to customers without the expense of stores and make a bunch of money. Just ask WebVan, Kozmo, eToys.com, or Pets.com. Okay maybe it isn’t that easy.

At the end of the day, even in the alternative commerce world, you still have to create, market, sell and deliver an actual product to consumers and make money in the process. That’s the rub. If you build a product, make sure your customers come and make sure it makes money.

Don’t fret and refocus your attention on the next “app” or creating the next “SaaS business.” Follow your alternative commerce dream, but also follow a few simple rules — many of which come down to business fundamentals — and you, too, can create a great company that doesn’t just ship products but focuses on creative business models, alternative distribution channels, brand and loving your customer. With the right recipe, it can indeed be a piece of cake.

1) Preheat the oven 

Bottom line, it’s all about the team. Our firm has been early investors in RueLaLa (GSI/eBay), Kayak (Priceline), Warby ParkerTheFancy and many other great companies. I am an early investor in The Honest Company (next-generation consumer products for babies/kids/families), NatureBox (subscription healthy snack product delivered to your door), Listia (the largest barter marketplace), StyleSaint (an online fashion brand that creates product based on social interaction/input) and Plum District (deals for moms).

The reason we invested in these companies is simple: the teams. The basic tenet of a successful alternative commerce company (or any early-stage business) is to start with great people. Get your key chefs in place before you preheat your oven and get cooking.

2) Mix Together Your Product and Customer

This is the part of the recipe where you can really get your creative juices flowing. Here are a few of the key ingredients.

Net Promoter Score. First introduced by Fred Reichheld in a 2003 Harvard Business Review piece, this can’t be more simple. The basic idea is to ask, How likely are you to recommend this product, company or service to your friends or colleagues? That’s it. This basic and fundamental idea is all that really matters. When this became clear to our firm a few years ago, it made clear why we believed in companies like Honest, Warby Parker, etc. – people loved what they were doing. When it comes to product, nothing else matters. Nothing.

Solving a Problem. Are you solving a problem or making something easier, e.g. not having to go to a store? Google Express, eBay Now and Amazon are making logistics and visits to the store easier (and getting a lot of information in the process!). You can compete with them and get blown out of the water or actually solve a problem they can’t. Create healthier products, deliver a differentiated service, build something special, delight your customers. If you don’t, they win.

Brand. Building a brand is hard. There are folks like Michael Kors and LuLulemon who have built amazing brands in the last few years (Kors has been a fashion icon for 20+ years) in the public markets. If you don’t want to build a brand, don’t try alternative commerce. Don’t. Walk away. People need to know you, need to love you, need to want you and have a personal connection to the brand. The only way to increase margins and grow a business is to own a brand. If you are selling someone else’s brand, you are dead.

3) Bake in business model and financials

No matter how delicious the ingredients are, the cake will not come out right unless you have the right temperature, cooking time, etc. Some key metrics to consider:

Business Model. The reason I call this alternative commerce and not e-commerce is that if you sell things online that exist in the offline/online world, you are dead. The margins will continue to drop until you can’t be profitable. Sure, you can try to get a better deal with UPS or FedEx but it won’t matter. You can try to get more margin from the manufacturer but someone will do better. If you’re not Amazon, you will lose. We all learned this with Pets.com in the first version of the web but people don’t remember. If you keep selling widgets that are available at Target or on Amazon you will lose.

Margins. When it comes to new alternative commerce ventures, if you sell product that has low margins, you will fail. Over time, other entrants will enter and your margins will drop even lower. Sell high-margin products (build a brand, have unique channels, offer high margin product). It’s that simple.

Customer acquisition. If you need Google and Facebook to acquire customers you are in a heap of trouble. The “crack” seems really great for a while because of the economics but over time those economics will change. In fact, we have seen they usually flip. If you pay for your traffic, other people will fast follow and that’s a problem.

Customer acquisition cost/lifetime value. When we started investing in alternative commerce 14 years ago, we thought it was a metrics-driven business. It is not – you need a team, killer product and brand. The numbers change the longer you stay in the business. That said, the cost to acquire a customer and the lifetime value of a customer are important.

If your CAC to LTV is 2-4X (i.e. it costs $10 to acquire and it pays back 20-40 before folks churn) don’t keep going. One issue is you need to acquire. The other issue is that you are too close to the sun when acquisition increases. We tend to focus on 5X+ businesses. We may be wrong but I would rather be wrong here.

These are the basic building blocks of my favorite recipe – no secret sauce here. In fact, all of the ingredients for success in alternative commerce are really the same fundamentals that have held true for years when building a business. The good news for new entrants is that the big box retailers are dead or dying. If you want to disrupt them, build an amazing product and brand that solves a real problem for your consumers and reaches them in a creative way. It’s a piece of cake, right?

[Image via Shutterstock]

See the rest here: The Alternative Commerce Recipe

Most Americans Are Unaware Of [Insert Issue Here]

Let’s face it: a disturbingly large portion of the American electorate are not-so-knowledgable about their world. As of 2008, 30% still maintain that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and 18% think the sun revolves around the earth. So, when our friends in the press ran headlines about how most Americans had heard “nothing at all” about President Obama’s recent surveillance reforms, I would have been surprised by exactly the opposite.

Let’s take a trip down the rabbit hole of America’s civic knowledge and whether it matters to a functioning democratic state.

Most Americans Haven’t Heard Of [Insert Issue Here]

Pew surveys released fresh stats about the number of Americans who approve of the National Security Agency’s dragnet program, along with a pie chart showing that 50% had heard “nothing at all” about President Obama’s proposed reforms.

Pew_NSA1

To political pollsters, results like this would be a regular Tuesday. Indeed, it was almost embarrassingly easy to find the exact same results for any given issue.

–Fewer than 25% of Californians knew “much at all” about the massive healthcare overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, that impacts every single American.

Fewer than half of parents with children in public schools knew anything about the Common Core Standards, arguably one of the most radical overhauls of education in at least 50 years.

A measly 39% of Republicans who think the 2012 attacks on an embassy in Benghazi was the “biggest political scandal in American history” could identify that event took place in a country called Libya.

–For kicks, 41% of Americans cannot ID their folksy deputy commander-in-chief, Vice President Joe Biden

Polls Get More Disturbing/Hilarious

In truth, polls may be radically overestimating Americans’ knowledge. Respondents are known to offer strong feelings for policies that do not actually exist. To test the extremes of this fact in the most disturbing/hilarious possible fashion, I conducted a national poll to see how Americans thought about military intervention in an imaginary country. This was around the time when the president was debating forceful humanitarian intervention in Syria.

A whopping 63% of Americans polled had an opinion, either for or against, helping out the good people of “Guavastan”. Guavastan, not yet an actual place, is a luxury island I hope to inhabit after striking it rich in the field of journalism.

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 12.24.03 PM

Some folks got our little joke. One respondent quipped, “guavastan…is that near papaya ville”. Others just had a knee-jerk reaction, “who can prove if they used biological weapons some news sources say pictures are a hoax?” The results were dispiriting to say the least.

Here’s the point: mathematically speaking, Americans are bigger fans of believing things than knowing things.

Does It Matter?

It’s nice rhetorical fodder to call for greater American civil involvement, but it’s not entirely clear that an informed America is a different America. In 1998, two Political Scientists, Arthur Lupia and Mathew McCubbins found the beliefs of politically ignorant Americans correlate nicely with their more informed counterparts. Indeed, this is exactly how a representative democracy is supposed to function.

They write:

“The assumption is that people can make reliable predictions about the consequences of their actions only if they know a detailed set of facts about these actions. If this assumption is true, then it must also be true that reasoned choices can be made only by ambulatory encyclopedias–people who can store and quickly retrieve a detailed set of facts about every decision they make. If, however, the assumption is false, then even individuals who cannot answer simple survey questions or explain the details of proposed legislation may nevertheless be capable of reasoned choice.”

Experimental evidence seems to (partly) corroborate this finding. One of my favorite Political Scientists, Alan Gerber, randomly assigned a group of citizens to receive a free subscription to the Washington Post. In the depressingly titled paper “Does The Media Matter”, his team found no effect of either paper on political knowledge, stated opinions, or turnout in post-election survey and voter data.”

Gerber and others [PDF] have found that informed people tend to shift their favor towards the Democratic Party, which may lead to increased to support for laws focusing on lower socioeconomic status individuals.

To be sure, other democracies around the world are more engaged and civil, but it’s largely because they either have a multi-party system or a robust informal civil society. No country on earth is an informed Utopia–or anything close.

That said, I’m more optimistic that information does matter. So, TechCrunch is also conducting its own experiment, partnering with Reframe.it and the Knight Foundation on a so-called “deliberative poll.” Deliberative polls are a snapshot of what Americans would think about an issue if they were educated. A random, representative sample of the population is intensively educated about an issue and then we record how opinions shift.

In previous deliberative polls conducted by Stanford, there have been some shifts in opinion which suggest that yes, information does matter.

When it comes to tech issues, TechCrunch will find out, hopefully soon.

Continue reading here: Most Americans Are Unaware Of [Insert Issue Here]

Why Silicon Valley Can’t Find Europe

Editor’s note: Sten Tamkivi has been a software entrepreneur for 16 years and spent the recent half of his career as an early executive at Skype in Tallinn, Estonia. Sten is now an Entrepreneur in Residence at Andreessen Horowitz. Follow him on his blog and on Twitter @seikatsu.

Go to Europe these days – to Berlin, London, Helsinki – drop in on any of the regional tech confabs and you will quickly see that the European startup scene is in the most bustling, vibrant shape it’s ever been. The potential is everywhere, and the energy is undeniable. Then you return Stateside, in my case to Palo Alto, and Europe isn’t just irrelevant among the tech industry power-set. It has virtually ceased to exist.

That is a mistake. Blame for the ruptured relationship lies on both sides of the Atlantic, but it is Europeans that have the power, and should have the motivation, to mend things.

I’m proud to be Estonian and European, but recently realized that very soon I will have been living in California for 10 percent of my life. I had a front-row seat to the first Internet boom as an exchange student at the super-wired Monta Vista High School in Apple’s backyard. I returned to the U.S. with some frequency initially as an executive with Skype, and later to pursue a business degree at Stanford. My latest perch in Silicon Valley today is as an entrepreneur-in-residence with venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Let me give you a small taste of the way Europe was woven into the discussion at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Over the course of four quarters I heard one professor make one joke about short-term macroeconomic troubles in Greece. We also had a visit from a well-dressed and charming British banker in our private equity class. That’s it. No European startups, no cases of European success stories or failures. A joke and a banker.

Important Places

I’m not blaming Stanford. In talking to many people about my growing realization that the place of my birth simply didn’t matter to most people in the Valley, I began to understand that there is a mental hierarchy of “important places” for people building, investing in and studying tech companies in Silicon Valley. They exist in the following order:

1. Silicon Valley. Practically considered, the opportunity cost of venturing out of the bustling 30-mile radius of Sand Hill Road, whether you are an entrepreneur, investor or academic, is usually just too high.

2. The U.S. East Coast. Yes, stuff is happening in Boston and New York, but not so much that a once-a-month trip can’t cover most of it.

3. China. Massive tech companies do rise in China and go public in the United States, and Chinese investors have gobs of cash to invest in the Valley. There is a constant back and forth between both Pacific coasts. But it’s not just geography, and the historic manufacturing relationship that is stimulating this cozy dynamic. The Valley is looking more and more towards China for the next tech trends and expansion opportunities.

4. The rest of Asia. India’s diaspora links to the U.S. are strong. Southeast Asia’s growth is hard to miss, and there is interesting mobile stuff happening in Korea and Japan.

5. Latin America/South America. Markets in Mexico and Brazil are increasingly ripe for Silicon Valley tech, but the region is still a distant gleam for most companies.

6. Europe. Here is what I mostly hear about Europe: “I took my wife/husband to Paris last year for our anniversary, and we dropped by Rome. Great food, so much history, Europe is wonderful!” For vacation.

Rather than relying solely on my anecdotal examples of “important places,” I turned to LinkedIn. Mapping my network through the lens of the topic at hand, I can confirm that, while Estonia, the Nordics and Europe in general comprise a tightly knit blue blob, and Skype in Estonia (orange) and internationally (green) is an organism in itself, the Silicon Valley venture capital and serial entrepreneurship circles float as a distant burgundy cloud. And the international graduate student and teacher body of Stanford is even further out on the right.

Sten Tamkivi Europe map

Those familiar with Granovetter’s theory about the strength of weak ties should feel a wave of joy here. Sure, there are benefits of weak ties, but then again, there are virtues to tight-knit communities talking to each other frequently, sharing the successes and learning from each other’s mistakes.

And that is exactly what is missing between the U.S. and Europe — a real bridge. So how do we build one, and what can both partners in constructing this connection hope to gain?

Let’s start with Europe.

Why the Hell Are You in Silicon Valley? And Don’t Say It’s the Money

Raising money tends to be the No. 1 rationale from founders when asked why they’re in the Valley. It’s also the No. 1 mistake people make. You will be far more successful raising seed and early-stage VC financing close to home, on whichever side of the Atlantic it may be.

Yes, the internationalization of the venture capital industry is well on its way, and one can draw quite pretty graphs of the increasing money flow across the globe. Bollocks. Here’s why you, European entrepreneur, aren’t going to get that money.

Looking at closed early-stage deals listings in Pitchbook, it is very clear that U.S.-based VCs invest in U.S. companies, and European VCs invest in Europe.

Tamkivi chart

In my experience, this mindset applies to institutional investors in a clearly structured way, but is a notable behavior even for private angels in AngelList. Investors believe that there is much more that they bring to the table than just money – but that ineffable “value” is hard to bring across long distances and multiple time zones. No matter how much the video calling has improved, board seats, hiring networks, corporate development efforts and just quick (unscheduled!) calls work much better in proximity. Raise your money at home.

Part of building a solid bridge with the U.S. is having a solid reason for being here, other than money. Selfies at Infinite Loop Drive and group pictures in front of Facebook and Google headquarters don’t count.

One good reason for touching down at SFO might be that it’s because the companies that matter in your space – the ones you want to compete with, learn from, partner with or steal bored employees from – are in Silicon Valley. Ditto for customers.

That said, you need to honestly evaluate decamping from Europe against your own personal strengths and networks. I am in the thick of things on Sand Hill Road. Yet that relative advantage doesn’t change the fact that I have been building software companies for 16 years in Estonia and worked mostly with teams around Scandinavia and in Prague or London. This is where the best engineers I know are. This is the core of my network. This is my actual unfair home-court advantage.

If anything makes me stay Stateside, it must far outweigh the strongholds I’m leaving behind. That applies to every European (indeed everyone wherever they are from) pondering a move to Silicon Valley.

Why Silicon Valley Should Love Europe Back

So if exchanging money for equity isn’t the way to create tighter bonds between Europe and the Valley, the question becomes: how can we build more non-financial ties between our scenes?

When building high-value ties in any network, the question should never be what you get, but rather what can you give to the other party? What can you help with? What can you teach? What can you spare? This tends to be true with your friends, your community, and your country –  and how you ought to think about transatlantic relationships.

If we Europeans can muster the confidence, and the U.S. can tone down its arrogance, Europe actually has a lot to give to Silicon Valley. Here are just a few examples.

Talent. Silicon Valley’s weakest spot today is finding enough good engineers and designers. The European contribution here in the simplest case is talent. The next level of complexity, but more sustainable for both sides, are development outposts across the pond. This could also take the form of M&A targets that Europe could offer – something that Meg Whitman in her eBay CEO days used to call “off-balance-sheet R&D” when buying up another innovative marketplace team in the Netherlands or Sweden.

What about making this a two-way street, and providing interesting-timed job adventures for early-career Valley experts? Why be the 3,481st guy in Facebook, when during a three-year stint in a cool European city you can be No.1 in the entire country in what you do? Yes, moving American hotshots to Europe can be a tough sell, but we did it successfully at Skype, and companies like Soundcloud are doing it again.

Sharing new models. For any European who has spent an extended time here, Silicon Valley can often feel surprisingly backwards. When it comes to online and mobile applications truly embedded in how people go about their daily chores, how they sign and exchange legal documents, how they interact with the government, how they do their consumer banking, how they receive services from their doctors and so forth, many places in Europe are light years ahead of what is widely available in the U.S. We can share those ideas and expertise.

400 million customers. For most successful entrepreneurial ventures, there comes a day when growth needs to be found outside of the home market. And no matter how much the mobile handset makers talk about the next billion people coming online in Africa, and how lucrative the already-online billions of users in Asia are, the most common scenario for the Groupons and Airbnbs and Ubers of the foreseeable future is still to figure out their expansion strategy for the U.K., Germany and France.

Europe is still the rational next market for most U.S. rocket ships who are looking to find customers with above-average incomes and access to credit cards who live on infrastructure you can deliver your products and services to. Who better to help U.S. entrepreneurs crack Europe than Europeans?

Global skills. The value of understanding foreign markets does not stop with Europe, though. Far too much of U.S.-originated innovation is born in the form of English-language, iOS-only apps with hard-coded dollar signs. European entrepreneurs, especially those from the smallest countries, are much better trained at operating globally in multi-currency, multi-cultural markets. As a proof point, look at how the likes of Finnish Rovio (Angry Birds) and Supercell (Clash of Clans) or Skypers in London or Tallinn and Evernoters in Zürich or Moscow have conquered the astonishingly tough Chinese and Japanese markets.

Security and privacy. In the post-Snowden days we’re living in, there is a new set of questions around the physical and legal location of users’ data and the regulations governing its privacy. Although the rules and behaviors driving this have been evolving in a U.S.-centric way thanks to U.S.-based Internet giants, if you look at where the users of the Internet live today, less than 10 percent of them are in the United States. And that share is declining.

It is obvious that nations other than the U.S. will have an increasing say in the governance mechanisms and regulation of the system with Europe at the forefront. And this is not just a government thing. The European tech scene can help its U.S. peers figure things out as private entities first.

If we Europeans can follow through with an approach of giving something unique and valuable, as opposed to just trying to get funding from the other side, I believe the European and Silicon Valley tech scenes have a shot at moving closer together. For U.S. players, this would presume paying a little bit more attention to the world outside. For Europeans, it’s mustering a bit more confidence in ourselves.

I am sure more non-financial bridges can be built. And as it has been shown by some VC investment-related research: Cold hard cash will eventually follow the international corridors where smart people are already on the move.

[Image: Shutterstock]

See the original post: Why Silicon Valley Can’t Find Europe

Medium Considering Raising $20 Million

Medium, Evan Williams’ clean and beautiful attempt at revamping the way people write and read online, is considering raising a venture round according to the rumor mill. We’re hearing that the company, which has been subsisting on angel money apparently, is thinking about finally taking money from VCs.

One number we’ve heard tossed out is a $20 million raise, and one venerable firm name that’s also been tossed around is Greylock Partners, though it’s unclear whether Williams, who became a billionaire in the Twitter IPO, needs to raise money to support his fledgling company.

Nothing is set in stone quite yet.

Newly anointed Greylock general partner Josh Elman was a Williams loyalist amid the executive tumult between Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and current CEO Dick Costolo. So it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Elman reel in a deal like this. I have reached out to Elman, Williams and others at Greylock for comment, and have not heard back from anyone.

Like Blogger and Twitter, Medium has ambitious goals. And it might be Williams’ third home run in a row, aiming to be the place on the web where thought leadership and high quality content thrives. It’s getting there, despite quite a few ill-advised posts from a couple of tech founders.

Raising a venture round would make sense for the company, which has grand plans and may need to make even bolder acquisitions to succeed. The company acquired Matter in April, and continues to iterate on its product, with its latest redesign coming right before the holidays.

It would also mean a continuation of the fat-content movement, where innovative new media companies like Vox and Buzzfeed require hefty amounts of venture capital in order to support more in depth, curated content.

Yahoo’s Tumblr buy has made Medium a tempting bet for VCs — if Medium will have them.

See the article here: Medium Considering Raising $20 Million

Reason #152 Virtual Reality Is Awesome: Personal Movie Theaters Without The Awful Other People

I love going to the movie theater. Seriously, I love it.

I just hate all the other people that go.

Quite early on, my parents taught me that there was but one rule for going to the theater: silence is golden. If the theater was a moviegoer’s church, talking or otherwise ruining the experience for others was sin. If I talked, we’d leave. Simple as that.

Sometime in the past few years, though, it’s like people have forgotten how to do the movie theater.

I’ve tried going at different times. I’ve tried going to different theaters. No matter what I do, no matter where I go, the shitty moviegoers follow. They talk. They crack jokes that only their friends laugh at. They muck with their phones, blinding everyone in the rows behind them so they can blast out a Facebook update about being at the movies that literally no one will care about.

I went to 10 movies this year; 9 out of 10 had at least one person who happily paid their $12 just to go in and crap on the movie for everyone else. I’ve given up.

But this… this gives me hope. Hope for a next-best-thing. And man does it make me want an HD Oculus Rift like right now.

VR Cinema 3D is a movie theater… simulator. Built with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset in mind, it’s a simulated movie theater without the lines, the massively inflated concession prices, or the crappy people. It’s a full-sized movie theater in the comfort of your own home, beamed straight to your eyeballs.

You strap on the Rift, load up your favorite movie (by naming it “movie.avi”, regardless of what sort of video file it actually is. Hurray, beta software!), pick any seat in the house, and kick back. The “in-theater” lights dim, and the projector starts rolling — complete with a bit of ambient light reflecting off the screen and back into the room.

Don’t like your seat? Walk to another, or bring up the UI to instantly warp across the room.

It may seem silly, at first glance. Why simulate the environment? Why not just play the video directly onto the Rift’s display?

Once you try it, though, it all makes sense. The familiar environment helps it all feel very, very real, allowing you to quickly lose yourself in the movie. Meanwhile, simulating the screen at a realistic distance gives it all a massive sense of scale.

cinema 3d

Just imagine this with a bit of networking magic added in. You and your friends could catch the latest flicks while sitting side-by-side, even when you’re thousands of miles apart. And if one of them starts talking a bit too much? Boop! Muted.

Of all the Oculus Rift demos I’ve tried, this one might actually be my favorite. They hooked me initially with the promise of immersive games, but they sold me forever with the promise of private theaters.

If you have a Rift, you can find the early (and occasionally buggy) build of VR Cinema here. Sorry, Mac users – it’s Windows only, for now.

Still not getting it? Here’s a slightly longer video of the app in use by Youtuber/Rifter emart:

(If you’re not familiar with the Rift: these videos show two of the same thing because one image is in front of each eye. When you’ve got the Rift on, your brain combines the images into one seamless view.)

See original here: Reason #152 Virtual Reality Is Awesome: Personal Movie Theaters Without The Awful Other People

BuzzFeed is outsourcing its translation work to Duolingo as it seeks to conquer more markets

BuzzFeed wants to conquer more markets with its viral list posts (among other content), up till now only available entirely in English. Free language learning platform Duolingo recently announced it is using crowdsourcing to solve the problem of adding more languages to its service.

Combine the two of them together, and a win-win solution is born: BuzzFeed gets to export its content in more languages to convert more readers to its list posts (cute cat alert!), while Duolingo will get to monetize its services and language learners will be able to see popular BuzzFeed stories in their lessons.

This arrangement is set to kick in soon, the Wall Street Journal reports, as BuzzFeed will launch versions in French, Spanish and Brazilian Portugese this month. The stories on these sites will be BuzzFeed posts that appeared in English at first, but which have been translated by Duolingo’s services. In theory, the crowdsourcing method at Duolingo will ensure that a BuzzFeed post gets translated in hours — and apparently tests say this is doable.

Duolingo previously said its move to crowdsource languages “will enable the inclusion of every language in the world, including fictional languages such as Dothraki and Elvish” — though whether anyone actually knows these languages is another matter entirely. This means that BuzzFeed will likely be able to spread to a whole lot of other markets — fast and furious.

One of the co-founders of Duolingo is Luis von Ahn, who is far from a newcomer when it comes to leveraging the power of the crowd, being one of the creators of the CAPTCHA method of verification. He tells WSJ that BuzzFeed is only the first of many clients paying Duolingo for its translation services, and predicts that the app could earn ”tens of millions of dollars” a year from its translations.

Headline image via Shutterstock

Here is the original post: BuzzFeed is outsourcing its translation work to Duolingo as it seeks to conquer more markets