The shift to scale out architectures and an app-centric culture has turned out well for Docker and its lightweight open-source “container” technology designed for developers to quickly move code to the cloud.
That’s evident in today’s news that the company has raised $15 million in a Series B round led by Greylock Partners, with minority participation from Insight Venture Partners and existing investors Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures. Also participating is Yahoo! Co-Founder Jerry Yang, who has participated in previous rounds.
Docker will use the funding to push toward the general availability of the Docker environment, develop commercial services that pair with the open-source technology and build a team to support the growing community.
The technology path is similar to the one VMware followed in its early days when IT managed their corporate-owned infrastructure. These were state-of-the-art data centers that had to be optimized to run enterprise software. For these IT managers, VMware became a critical part of the equation so multiple virtual machines could run on its hypervisor and server environment. VMware is lauded for the excellent job it did in managing its technology so the end-user was not impacted and the IT manager could manage the infrastructure effectively.
The similarity to VMware in its early days and the excitement that Docker has generated made it an attractive investment, said Jerry Chen, a general partner at Greylock who joined the venture capital firm in August. It is Chen’s first investment since joining Greylock.
“One of the things we learned at VMware is be as frictionless as possible,” Chen said in a phone interview today. “Docker has that ability as well.”
Docker also can be scaled from scratch. It can grow to multiple apps or be used on public or private servers, Chen said. And it can be scaled out in seconds, moved anywhere and all done without having to re-configure all over again.
“Docker is the right tech to fit the rapid updates,” Chen said.
Docker faces the challenge of making its technology easy-to-use with features that make it effective for a developer or a DevOps professional. For this new DevOps pro, Docker has to consider the management and orchestration of apps that are continuously updated using the Docker environment. For example, Docker will develop both public and private registries for developers to store their containers. It also plans to build management and orchestration tools that are needed as people and their organizations manage more and more Docker containers.
And then there is the community, which continues to grow at scale. Docker is now one of the world’s fastest-growing, open-source efforts. There have been more than 9,000 stars given to Docker on GitHub as well as more than 1,320 forks. To manage that growing community will take investment that the company will need to manage with product development.
It’s that community that helped Docker gain acceptance with Red Hat, which is integrating it into OpenShift, its PaaS environment. It has also been adopted by Google Compute Engine. eBay, Yandex and a host of other companies are using Docker in production environments.
Docker is the result of a pivot led by Solomon Hykes, who originally launched the company as DotCloud in 2009.
Originally designed as a platform as a service (PaaS), Docker showed promise for its flexible capabilities in providing developers with a service that supported multiple programming languages. But the competition from companies like Heroku and VMware’s Cloud Foundry made for a challenging market, further exacerbated by the lack of a widespread market acceptance for the benefits that PaaS providers offered.
But developers did need a way to move their code to cloud services in a lightweight way without the tax of heavy virtual machines that were difficult to move and required a degree of manual integration. The problem stemmed from the virtualization technology itself, which sits below the operating system. It virtualizes the server, not the app. And because of that, the operating system has to move in order to run the app wherever it might be transported. Once delivered, it has to be booted up and configured to run with the database and the rest of the stack that it depends on.
With Docker, the container sits on top of the operating system. The only thing that moves is the code. The developer does not have to boot and config. Instead, the container syncs with the cloud service.
Hykes launched the open-source effort last spring and the acceptance has been almost unprecedented.
“I have never seen a technology take off as quickly as Docker and get the type of broad-based adoption that it is getting,” said Dan Scholnick of Trinity Ventures in a phone interview last week. “If you look at the absolute numbers — the number of Docker containers downloaded, the number of docker containers created — they are off the charts. What is more interesting, the adoption is not just coming from startup or certain types of companies. The adoption is across companies of all sizes and industry verticals. It is a combination of high-growth and broad-based adoption that is really amazing.”
There really are no equivalents to Docker. There are alternatives to it but as a Linux container it is the most widely used in the market. Its deepest competition will stem from VMware and virtualization providers that market to developers. And that’s not it. Cloud Foundry has its own form of a Linux container, which raises a question about how Docker fulfills its promise as a technology platform. The container is one part of the puzzle. It’s the foundation, but there are tool developers who can seize the opportunity to develop technologies that compete with Docker while also participating in its ecosystem.
HTC is said to be readying the next generation of the HTC One, which will keep the same simple moniker but offer up a larger display and a camera with a so-called “twin-sensor” rear-facing camera, according to Bloomberg (via Verge). The screen will be at least 5-inches diagonally, which is slightly larger than the existing 4.7-inch HTC One, but overall the design will resemble that of its predecessor.
I’m feeling conflicted about this new device: On the one hand, the HTC One is easily one of the top three best Android phones of 2013; on the other, it’s clear that the HTC One didn’t do much to turn around HTC’s flagging fortunes, despite the extremely positive reception it had among press and the few people who did buy one.
Still, maybe a year of positive press and hype associated with the HTC One name will help the Taiwanese company move more units this time around, paired with a bigger screen (which seems to be high on customer want lists) as well as this improved camera, which is said to offer better focus performance, improved depth of field and better image quality overall, according to Bloomberg’s source.
As sad is it to say, HTC doesn’t need another smartphone that appeals to the connoisseur crowd: It needs a runaway mass-market success. They did great work with the HTC One, but sticking close to the original design in this case does mean they run the risk of shipping another beloved but mostly ignored device.
One of OUYA’s founding members, Muffi Ghadiali, has left the company, TechCrunch has learned. Ghadiali was instrumental in helping launch the OUYA on Kickstarter and to the consumer market, and has previous experience working for Lab126 (Amazon’s hush-hush projects division, which birthed the Kindle), HP and Synaptics. A source familiar with Ghadiali’s work told us he was instrumental in the creation of OUYA as a viable consumer product, and one of the most experienced CE experts on the team.
Ghadiali led key teams at OUYA, including those involved in industrial and product design of the hardware; mechanical, electrical and RF engineering, and firmware development. In his past careers, he was responsible for products such as the HP TouchSmart and Media Center PC devices, which made him particularly well suited to his role at OUYA. At Amazon, he was a product manager for Kindle hardware.
OUYA provided the following statement to TechCrunch regarding this change in staffing:
OUYA is focusing more on the next phase of the business and product development. We’ve made some recent changes including the departure of Muffi Ghadiali who was invaluable during the launch of OUYA. As is to be expected, OUYA is an ever-changing business, and as we continue to grow our needs shift accordingly.
Another side of the story is the reportedly poor performance of the OUYA in the consumer market, however. Early developer sales numbers indicate that software isn’t faring very well on the platform, and pre-holiday sales with drastic price reductions don’t bode well for buyer interest in hardware, either. A well-placed source tells TechCrunch that the decision to leave OUYA was Ghadiali’s own, not the company’s.
OUYA definitely seems to be occupying rocky waters at the moment, but it also says it’s excited about the next phase of its “business and product development.” We’ll stay tuned to see what’s next, but it’s unfortunate to see key early talent making an exit.
See original here: OUYA Founding Team Member And VP Of Product Development Departs
In the wake of the recent Microsoft reorganization, a longtime Xbox-group executive is leaving Microsoft, according to the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by TechCrunch. Blair Westlake, a now former corporate vice president at the company, worked at the firm for nearly 10 years.
Westlake, in a statement provided to the Times, indicated that the restructuring of the company was the reason behind his departure. In that statement, he said that as “the reorganization has unfolded, it has become clear to me that the organization is moving in a direction that does not fit either my expertise or skill sets.”
At Microsoft, the rank of corporate vice president is one echelon below that of executive vice president, the title of Microsoft’s divisional leaders. Terry Myerson, for example, Microsoft’s head of operating systems, is an executive vice president.
Westlake’s prior career included an 18-year stint at Universal Television and a short interlude at Gemstar-TV Guide before he landed at Microsoft.
As the Times notes, he was in charge of the group that licensed video content for Microsoft. Given that the Xbox team continues to source video content, recently built and released a console that has expanded television capabilities, and is working to create new exclusive content, it isn’t immediately clear why Westlake no longer fit into the larger Microsoft zeitgeist.
At the same time, in every large shakeup of a company, people leave. I’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this post if I hear back.
Continue reading here: Citing The Re-Org, Xbox Exec Exits Microsoft After Nearly A Decade
Google just bought Nest for $3.2 billion cash, and that means the startup’s early investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and Shasta Ventures have struck it rich. Multiple sources say Kleiner invested $20 million in Nest and got a 20X return to pull in $400 million. [Update: Meanwhile, the deal returned "almost all" of Shasta's second $250M fund.]
Nest didn’t disclose the size of its Series A and B rounds or who invested how much. That makes it’s hard to pinpoint who earned what on the sale of the home automation startup that sells smart thermostats and smoke detectors.
Shasta and KPCB funded all of Nest’s Series A round back in September 2010, just a few months after the connected device startup was founded. Then in August 2011, they both participated in Nest’s Series B, which also included Google Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Intertrust, and Generation Investment Management.
Multiple sources say Kleiner Perkins was Nest’s biggest investor, and was able to invest $20 million in Nest across the A and B rounds. Our sources say the $3.2 billion cash price Google paid for Nest will generate a 20X return for KPCB — which matches the 20X multiple Fortune’s Dan Primack heard from a source. The money came from 2010′s $650 million KPCB XIV fund, which means Kleiner returned over 60% of the fund with just its Nest investment. The treasure should also boost the status of KPCB partner Randy Komisar, who sourced the investments and sat on Nest’s board.
The win for Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers is reminiscent of its early home runs on investments in Google, Amazon, AOL, and Intuit in the 1990s. Recently, it’s gotten a piece of huge exits like Facebook and Twitter as well as rising stars like Square and Spotify, but not until later rounds when potential returns are much lower. But with Nest, KPCB got in on the ground floor and will reap the benefits when the acquisition by Google officially closes.
As for Shasta Ventures, today is a massive win for the firm and its managing director Rob Coneybeer, who we hear fought relentlessly to get the $250 million Shasta II fund into Nest’s Series A and B rounds.[Update: A source familiar with Google's deal to acquire Nest tells us Shasta's investment will bring it enough money to return "almost all" of the $250 million Shasta II fund. That means Shasta pulled in $200 million or more from the Nest acquisition.]
The Nest deal almost surely trumps other Shasta hits like Zenprise which was bought by Citrix, and Mint which was bought by Intuit. The returns could bolster confidence in limited partners and help Shasta raise its next fund.
For the venture capital industry as a whole, the Nest acquisition may contribute to a frothy market for hardware entrepreneurs. If companies like Google are out there paying billions in cash for young startups that build devices instead of software, it may become easier for hardware tinkers to raise serious capital and move from their garage to a real laboratory.
[Additional reporting by Kim-Mai Cutler]
Click below to read the full story on Google buying Nest:
See the original post here: Who Gets Rich From Google Buying Nest? Kleiner Returns 20X On $20M, Shasta Nets ~$200M
Thanks to a series of high-profile exits and a generally frothy financing environment, it’s not unusual to see startup founders spending money lavishly these days. But the story of Motionloft and its founder Jon Mills could serve as a cautionary tale, especially for unsavvy investors drawn to a big payout.
On the surface, Mills seemed like a successful entrepreneur. His company, Motionloft, provided real-world analytics for store and property owners who needed to analyze pedestrian and vehicle traffic that passed by their respective establishments.
Mills was a first-time entrepreneur, but he had received backing from high-profile investors like Mark Cuban, and according to the Motionloft website, the company had secured clients like CVS, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Cushman & Wakefield.
Several former friends say Mills was also fun to be around and generous about inviting them to party with him at various music festivals and in places like Las Vegas.
All of which is why, when Mills started asking friends if they wanted to invest in his company, a few of them jumped at the opportunity.
They say Mills cashed checks that altogether were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, promising them a small percentage of the company. Later, when he told them an acquisition was imminent, they felt confident they had made the right decision.
Mills is no longer part of Motionloft, and the validity of the investments his friends made while he was there is being called into question by earlier investors. As a result, after months of waiting, those friends now believe that not only was there no acquisition, but that it is possible they won’t get any of their money back.
We’ve spoken with Mills, and the former CEO admits to leaving the company in November. But he also says that all money he took as investment from friends was legitimate and used for company expenses, and he denies telling friends the company was going to be acquired.
It all started in early 2013. Around the time of the Super Bowl, sources say Mills told some friends he had a couple of Motionloft “advisor points” he could use at will, enabling them to buy a small percentage of the company. For some, he also dangled the possibility of an acquisition that would make the investment pay off.
“He told me, ‘Mark Cuban said to pick two good friends who could afford [the advisor points],’” said one former friend, who we’ll call “Stephanie.” (Several of our sources have asked us not to use their real names.) “He said, ‘Give it to Motionloft, and come June you’ll get a percentage of the sale.’”
Stephanie (again, not her real name), was a friend of Mills’ girlfriend and had spent a lot of time with him over the previous two years. She trusted him enough to empty out her savings account and write a check for $20,000. Mills then promised her documents showing she was a shareholder in the company soon after, but she says that paperwork never came.
To celebrate, she was asked to join Mills and his then-girlfriend, along with some others, on a trip to Coachella that included a ride in a private jet and stay in a rented villa outside the music festival.
Mills claims that Stephanie was given a convertible promissory note in February, and his attorney has sent us a copy of the contract. It is dated February 21, 2013, the date that she made her investment.
Stephanie wasn’t alone in being asked to invest, nor was she the only friend and investor that Mills took on expensive trips. Throughout the spring and summer of 2013, Mills courted other investors to the company from his group of friends.
Another former friend, who we’ll call “Jason,” tells a similar story. In April he was asked if he wanted to invest, and was told that the money would be used as a bridge loan to cover Motionloft expenses.
Jason ended up writing a couple of checks for a total of $200,000, but unlike the earlier investor we spoke with, he received paperwork to confirm his investment.
No one seems to know exactly how much Mills collected during the period in which he was soliciting money from them. Jason and Stephanie know of a few others within their group of friends and that they were invited to events with.
But so far, most have declined to share even with each other how much they invested for the same reason everyone we talked to didn’t want their names to be used for this article — that is, they are all embarrassed that they fell for what they now believe was a series of lies by Mills.
“As far as how much money was raised, Jon is the only one who really knows,” one of them told me.
Unlike Stephanie, not everyone invested because they were told an acquisition was imminent. A couple of people we talked to believed in the Motionloft business. But in the fall, Mills began telling people who had invested that the company had been sold and they should expect a payout soon.
Jason shared with us copies of text messages that Mills had sent him, some as early as mid-October, in which Mills boasted that the company had been sold. Mills showed Jason an incoming pending transfer of $37.7 million for his share of the company, and said the friend’s stake was worth $2.9 million.
Mills denies ever telling people that the company had been acquired and claims the texts as they appear below were written by someone else.
But Jason isn’t the only person claiming Mills told them Motionloft had been acquired. Stephanie and another source, who we’ll call Matthew, confirmed that they were also told the startup had been sold.
“He told us, ‘The company has been sold, you guys are all millionaires,’” Matthew said. For those who had invested in the previous months, the deal seemed too good to be true.
It wasn’t until later that they found out it was indeed too good to be true, and that Mills had been lying about the acquisition all along. There was no big payout coming.
Mills had a habit of inviting friends to join him for opulent parties, dinners and trips. Sources say that in a strange way, his profligate spending was part of the reason they felt confident investing in his company.
After all, he wouldn’t be spending tens of thousands of dollars a night at clubs if Motionloft weren’t doing well.
But the same spendthrift behavior that once assured them when writing checks to invest in Motionloft also eventually led them to believe that something was amiss.
It all came to a head in late November 2013 when Mills invited about a dozen friends to join him and his then-girlfriend in Las Vegas for a weekend to celebrate her birthday and the acquisition, which Mills said had finally closed.
It was the third such trip that Mills had taken people on over the course of several weeks, and it was the most excessive of the bunch.
Over the course of a few days, Mills racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses that included private jets, a penthouse suite at the Palms, and extravagant dinners.
Stephanie tells us that she had reservations about going on the trip at first. She had little money in her bank account and was waiting for the long-promised sale of Motionloft to finally close.
The reason she went — besides the fact that it was to celebrate her friend’s birthday — was that she was hoping to find time to confront Mills and ask for some of her money back. But there never came a good time to approach him. Sources we spoke with who were on the Vegas trip say that Mills seemed agitated the whole time.
His behavior, especially when it came to money, also raised red flags among some of his friends. For instance, Mills had booked private charters for his friends to fly into and out of Vegas and was staying in the penthouse suite at the Palms, but guests were asked to book their own rooms.
There was also the occasion of a large, expensive dinner at Hakkasan in the MGM Grand. With two tables and plenty of drinks and dinner, the tab came out to nearly $20,000. But Mills arrived late to his own party and left early, meaning that it ended up on Jason’s credit card instead.
The reason Mills left early was so that he could prepare the suite for the coup de grâce of his expensive weekend retreat. When his guests finally arrived back at the suite, they were treated to a private performance by R&B singer Miguel.
After spending the entire trip seeming preoccupied, it wasn’t until the private concert that Mills finally cracked a smile, Stephanie told me.
“It was like he was thinking, ‘I did this. I made this happen,’” she said.
After realizing how much the previous few days had cost, the friends who had once written checks to invest in Mills’ company began to wonder when they would get their share of the proceeds.
Mills, in an effort to alleviate their fears, showed them what appeared to be the dashboard of his online bank account. It had $38 million in it. Their portion of the payout, he said, would be coming soon.
Below is a photo of the checking account balance Mills showed to others we spoke with. He denies that the phone is his, saying he never owned one with a crack in it.
That much is true: The photo is actually of a screenshot he shared with Stephanie. The reason she took a photo of her phone, she tells us, is that Mills wanted to share his good fortune with her, but told her she needed to delete the screen shot immediately after seeing it. She deleted it, but not before taking a photo of it on her screen.
Nevertheless, some on the trip began to wonder why they kept having to foot the bill if Mills was so flush with cash. After the Miguel performance, according to people who were invited, some guests began to confront Mills about money he owed them for personal expenses.
For instance, Jason, who got stuck with the previous night’s tab, confronted Mills. He said to Jon, “You just got all of this money, why did you stick me with the club bill?”
Mills promised they would get their share of the sale soon, but the wires never appeared in their bank accounts. Moreover, the group soon began to suspect that Mills wasn’t paying other bills.
Sources say the private performance by Miguel, which cost $100,000, was never paid for. That was also true of the private jet charters, which included three separate flights into Vegas and four flights out, and cost nearly $100,000 altogether.
Justin Sullivan is the CEO of Private FLITE, the private jet service Mills used to charter the flights in November. He told me that Mills promised several days in a row he would pay for those flights by wire and later told Sullivan he would FedEx a check. Neither came.
After multiple attempts to reach Mills on the phone, Sullivan confronted Mills at his house to demand payment. Mills then wrote two checks for a total of nearly $294,000, but both bounced, Sullivan told me.
He also began reaching out to other people who had been on the charters and found many of them were also owed money by Mills. Seemingly all at once, everyone began to feel like they had been duped.
With little other recourse, some of those who gave checks to Mills turned to Motionloft’s original investors who confirmed their fears: There was no acquisition pending. There was not even a conversation with an acquirer, they had been told.
In retrospect, some wonder why Mills told them the company was about to be acquired, especially those who invested, because they believed Motionloft was a solid, viable business.
Jason and Matthew both told me that they wouldn’t have realized anything was amiss if Mills hadn’t boasted that a deal had been done or took the group on the trip to Vegas.
After they figured out something was up, Mills’ friends seeking to be repaid the money they invested in the company went to Mark Cuban. According to our sources, they were told the company had no record of their investments.
Apparently Mills and co-founder Chris Garrison had created a separate checking account from the company’s main account when they began soliciting funds from outside investors. Mills has confirmed this is true, but claims this second account was only ever used for company expenses.
Not everyone who gave Mills money has documentation to prove it, except for cancelled checks written out to Motionloft. Those who do have paperwork have been told by the board that its validity is questionable. We took a look at the paperwork that was given to one investor, and passed it by an attorney to review.
We were told that the document, which is structured as a convertible promissory note, appears to be legitimate, although it was not exactly a “well-written contract.”
Our sources have been told, however, that Mills had no authority to sell any shares without the board’s approval, unless they were his own. We’ve obtained a copy of the original investment agreement between Motionloft and investor Mark Cuban, dated June 30, 2010, which states that the company cannot issue any securities or guarantee any debt without Cuban’s prior written consent.
In an email exchange obtained by TechCrunch between Jason and Motionloft investor Mark Cuban in late November, Cuban wrote:
“Motionloft can only be responsible for what Motionloft has paperwork for… Anything that Jon has done that is reckless or illegal is Jon’s responsibility. Not Motionloft’s.”
Those who received documentation had been issued convertible notes that mature a year after they were issued. Those notes come due beginning early next year and throughout the summer, but Motionloft might not be able to pay them off at that time.
Later in the email exchange we obtained, Cuban said that the company had no money to repay those who Mills received investment from. In fact, he wrote that he would likely have to recapitalize the company to keep it going.
“The company is bankrupt,” Cuban wrote. “I had to put up a credit card yesterday so they would not get kicked out of their offices for 30 days. They have no cash. I’m trying to figure out how to keep them in business.”
In that exchange about six weeks ago, Cuban also urged the person who contacted him not to go to the police until he had a chance to “figure out what is going on” and “see where i can take this.” He wrote:
“If we go right to the authorities and it becomes an issue that drains resources than it hurts our chance to do anything… I can’t handicap the odds of any of us, but my guess, and its only a guess is that if it becomes a police matter in the short term, it gets much harder.”
That’s one reason why those affected have held off on getting the authorities involved. Those I’ve spoken with recognize that contacting the police or going public with the story would reduce the likelihood of either Mills or Motionloft paying them back.
In the weeks that have passed since they first contacted Cuban, we’ve been told that communications have hit a stand-still. Whatever hope investors had a month ago that Motionloft and its earlier investors would honor Mills’ agreements have since been quashed.
Cuban declined to comment, except to confirm that Mills is no longer associated with Motionloft. Indeed, Mills’ name and bio disappeared from the company’s management team page shortly after his trip to Vegas. But for those who invested, it was already too late.
As for Mills, he categorically denies all the claims against him. When we first reached out to him on December 23, he pleaded for more time to collect documents which he claimed would prove his innocence.
In the next few days, Mills only sent a limited screenshot of an Excel spreadsheet — presumably meant to show that the investments people made went into the same bank account that Mills used for expenses — and a canceled check from that account that Mills claims was to pay for Motionloft’s rent.
On December 26, Mills began working with Los Angeles-based attorney Marty Singer, who I’ve been speaking with ever since. Singer, in case you haven’t heard of him, is the “pitbull attorney” celebrities turn to in times of crisis. He’s the guy Charlie Sheen called in his dispute against Warner Brothers, for instance, and he represented Scarlett Johansson when nude photos of her hit the Internet.
Mills’ attorney sent me a copy of Stephanie’s promissory note to show that Mills had a record of her investment, although she still claims she hasn’t received it, and her signature is not on the document. Singer also sent me a prepared statement from the following statement from Mills:
The investors’ money was all deposited into company accounts and it was used for company expenses. I never told them that the company was being acquired. I did not send the text messages as they appear in the screen shots. The text messages shown to me by you were created by another person. Also, I never had a phone with a cracked screen. I last worked for Motionloft during the last week of November.”
However, Mills’ statement came after Jason sent me a series of texts asking for more time before we published this story. He said the extra time was necessary so that his attorney could speak with Mills’ attorney. When I told him that we couldn’t guarantee that, he sent a text retracting his previous statements.
“Until the attorneys speak, I retract everything. I made it all up,” Jason wrote.
The email containing Mills’ statement, which was sent after Jason’s retraction, also contained the following note:
Also attached (below) is a text message from [Jason] sent to my client today, confirming that he made up the text that you sent to our firm earlier today. Therefore, to the extent that you are relying on any information from [him], he is an unreliable source, since he has confirmed that he created a phony text to justify your story against our client Mr. Mills.
I trust that you will not defame our client.
When I sent Jason a screenshot of the statement I received from Singer, along with the word “Thanks,” he responded: “Are you being sarcastic? His lawyer is up my ass.”
In the several weeks that I’ve been speaking with Jason, he didn’t strike me as the type to make up a story this elaborate, let alone create and backdate a series of phony text messages. It’s also not clear how Mills could have known who sent me the texts in question, if they had been written by someone else.
More importantly, however, Jason’s statements, and the documents and texts he provided, correspond with evidence we received from other sources, which is why we’ve decided to include them.
At the end of the day, Jason is just a guy who gave money to Jon Mills and wants it back. In that respect, he’s not alone.
Featured image: Floris M. Oosterveld via Compfight cc. Photo of Jon Mills and Mark Cuban from Jon Mills’ Twitter account. Photo of Jon Mills and Miguel from JonMillsFraud.com. All other photos provided by sources.
It’s the end of the year, which is always a time for reflection — auld lang syne and all that jazz. So for the next couple of weeks, CrunchWeek, the show that brings a few TechCrunch writers together to dish about the hottest tech stories of the past seven days, is actually going to be more like a CrunchYear. We’ll be talking about the biggest stories that really defined the state of the tech world in 2013.
In this first installment of our two-part year in review, Leena Rao, Ryan Lawler and I talk about the meteoric rise of Bitcoin, the digital currency based on an open source software protocol that seemed to capture the world’s attention over the course of the year as it hit staggeringly high valuations (amid lots of price volatility) and secured big-name supporters, and the revelations leaked in June by previously-unknown whistleblower Edward Snowden that the National Security Administration has been spying on the digital habits of millions of Americans — with the help of some of the tech industry’s biggest and most trusted companies.
View original post here: CrunchWeek 2013 In Review: Bitcoin’s Big Rise, Edward Snowden And The NSA
We now have more details on Facebook’s plans to acquire Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs, an Indian startup whose primary product is a software tool for analyzing Android apps’ performance. Multiple sources have told us that the two companies exchanged the term sheets few weeks ago, and that a final announcement could be made by mid-January. The deal size is expected to be in the range of $10-15 million.
Overall, the Little Eye Labs acquisition fits right into in Facebook’s mobile ambitions, an area where it has lagged rivals like Twitter, despite having some 874 million of its 1.19 billion-strong (September figures) user base logged on via mobile devices. And Facebook has been on the lookout for startups that could potentially help it gain a greater foothold on mobile devices.
As part of its aggressive mobile strategy, Facebook acquired Parse, a mobile-backend-as-a-service startup in April of this year.
A Facebook acquisition of Little Eye Labs would mean a lot for an Indian startup that’s less than one-and-a-half years old, and it would mean much more for the Indian startup ecosystem as a whole, where acquisitions of this profile have been tough to come by. While exploring potential acquirers, Little Eye Labs also pitched to Twitter, but Facebook seemed to offer a better deal, another source added.
One of the sources who shared some details about this proposed acquisition said that if the deal closes, most of the Little Eye Labs’ founding team will move to Facebook’s U.S. headquarters, and work there as part of the mobile engineering team.
Little Eye Labs caught the attention of potential acquirer(s) in Seedcamp, London, where the startup was refining its product along with 20 other companies. Gaurav Lochan, who joined Little Eye labs from India’s largest e-commerce company, Flipkart, earlier this year, had this to say about using the startup’s tool for fixing a bug in Google’s official I/Q app at the event. Flipkart, was also the first customer for Little Eye Labs.
Kumar Rangarajan, co-founder of Little Eye labs, had even acknowledged that the company was in discussions with Facebook earlier this month, after reports of the acquisition first surfaced. However, Rangarajan could not be reached at the time of publication. A Facebook spokesperson, who had earlier declined to offer any comments, has also not responded.
The Little Eye founders — Kumar Rangarajan, Satyam Kandula, Lakshman Kakkirala and Giridhar Murthy, all worked together previously at IBM. They started Little Eye Labs in August 2012 and were part of the GSF Accelerator’s batch from October to December of the same year. In March of this year, the startup raised seed funding of around $300,000 from GSF and Venture East.
A Little Eye Labs acquisition would not be the hugest deal for Facebook, especially when compared with its $85 million acquisition of Parse. But it would be an important enough piece in the social network’s overall mobile strategy. I know of several Indian startups working in the mobile space who hope acquisitions like these will raise the profile of the ecosystem.
A district court judge has declared the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata likely unconstitutional. While civil liberties groups are hailing the ruling as a victory, Judge Richard Leon has stayed his ruling pending government appeal.
The ruling is a legal setback for the NSA, and its defenders who have maintained that the program is at once legal, and an important tool for protecting national security. In his ruling, Judge Leon casts doubt on both counts.
Regarding its legality, the judge argues that past precedent used to legally support the program is outdated, rendering it obsolete in the face of modern technology and smartphone ubiquity. He also maintains that the government consistently argues that the program is needed for quick searching at a moment’s notice, but fails to back that up with real-world examples.
The summation of his argument is that the metadata program does clash with protections included in the Fourth Amendment.
Edward Snowden, the source of leaked documents that brought the program to the public eye, released a statement following the ruling:
I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts
The Department of Justice, meanwhile, claims to be “reviewing the court’s decision.”
You can read the full ruling here.
Top Image Credit: Flickr
See original here: Federal Judge Rules NSA’s Phone Metadata Program Likely Unconstitutional
Palantir, the big data company that started off with clients like the FBI and CIA before building up a large private-sector roster of customers, just added more funding to its coffers.
Last week, the company filed that it was raising $57 million with the SEC. Now that round is coming in at $107.5 million, according to a new amended filing today.
Sources close to the company told us that the round valued the company at $9 billion. This is a boost to an earlier $196.5 million round in the fall that valued the company at $6 billion.
Strong investor appetite convinced the company to bring in more capital at a 50 percent bump to their overall valuation.
Palantir, which expects to see more than $1 billion in contracts next year, sells a big data platform to private-sector and government clients. It helps them make sense from disparate silos of data and point out trends that they would otherwise not see.
For example, rescue workers operating in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy used Palantir to manage requests for water, medical supplies, and home repairs. Financial clients tend to use it to look for cybersecurity or fraud threats.
While the company was originally founded back in 2004 to take anti-fraud technologies and ideas developed at PayPal and use them to fight terrorism with government agencies, the company is now working with lots of private sector clients.
Today, government contracts make up less than 40 percent of the company’s revenues, a source familiar with the company tells me.
The company was the brainchild of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who recruited current CEO Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale (who went on to found Asia and Silicon Valley-focused investment firm Formation 8), Stephen Cohen and chief technology officer Nathan Gettings to put together an initial product.
Read the rest here: Palantir’s Latest Round Valuing It At $9B Swells To $107.8M In New Funding