Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twin Harvard graduates who famously sparred with Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook and are now working as tech investors through Winklevoss Capital, are part of the growing group of venture capitalists who have taken a keen interest in Bitcoins. Last month, it was revealed that they personally own roughly one percent of the currency, a stake worth the equivalent of some $11 million. And now, the Winklevosses tell TechCrunch they have invested in Bitcoin in another meaningful way — by leading a funding round for a startup in the space.
BitInstant, a New York City based startup that operates an online platform for buying and selling Bitcoins, has raised $1.5 million in a seed funding round led by Winklevoss Capital with the participation of other strategic investors including money services veteran David Azar. The investment was closed this past fall, but the Winklevosses are just now publicly announcing it in the lead-up to the Bitcoin Foundation’s 2013 Conference being held in Silicon Valley this weekend.
BitInstant, which has a full-time staff of 16 led by CEO Charlie Shrem, has emerged as a key player in the nascent Bitcoin market: The company already processes approximately 30 percent of the money going into and out of Bitcoin, and last month alone facilitated 30,000 transactions, the Winklevosses said in a phone call this week. The funding is meant to allow the company to further scale up its staff and product as it angles to become the go-to site for Bitcoin transfers.
The Winklevosses say they were attracted to invest in BitInstant in large part because of its leadership. CEO Shrem is the vice chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, and CIO Alex Waters previously worked with the core developers on the original Satoshi Bitcoin client. “Charlie has been in the space for a very long time, and he has an impeccable reputation among Bitcoiners. He knows everyone in the space and everyone in the space knows him,” Cameron Winklevoss said. “One of the most exciting things about people who are into Bitcoin it’s that they’re a really passionate community, and Charlie is a passionate entrepreneur. He would be in that category of someone who lives, breathes, and sleeps Bitcoin.”
Speaking of that community, the world of Bitcoiners does indeed have an interesting edge to it: There’s an underground vibe that seems like it would contrast with the more traditional East Coast prep style of the Winklevosses. In our phone call, Cameron and Tyler said that they’re intrigued by the current feel of the Bitcoin space — and its potential for becoming a bit more structured in the coming years.
“We’re definitely pretty fascinated by it. The classic issue with Bitcoin is that it’s very early days,” Tyler said. “The entrepreneurs in the space are very impressive, but it takes really two areas of expertise: One is technology, and the second is understanding money services and regulation and all those things that are important for sustainability. Most entrepreneurs and companies we see in the space have the tech down, and they’re super strong there, but in terms of being buttoned up and looking like an average bank, it’s hard to couple both of them together. We think that BitInstant and Charlie do a fantastic job of doing both.”
This marks the third big-name funding news for Bitcoin startups in just a few days. Earlier this week Adam Draper announced that half of the companies in his next Boost.vc accelerator program will be focused on bitcoin, and yesterday Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund led a $2 million investment in Bitcoin processing startup BitPay. It will be interesting to see how the Bitcoin space in general evolves as even more buttoned-up types and traditional money managers get involved.
The app’s basic functionality is pretty straightforward. You can create lists of movies that you’ve watched (rating them between 0 and 5 stars) and that you want to watch. You can also browse lists of highly rated or popular movies in the app, as well as lists created by other users. (You can follow those users, too.) The ultimate goal, Cameron said, is to help users “organize your movie library” (library might not exactly be the right word for it, since it’s not necessarily a list of movies that you own — but I think it conveys the basic idea) and find new titles to watch.
A lot of this functionality is already available in other services. Netflix is famous for its algorithmically driven movie recommendations, and another one of my mainstays, IMDb, also has user ratings and a “watchlist” feature. But in those cases, those features are mixed in with a larger service, whereas Limelight has pared things down and is all about ratings and recommendations.
Plus, there’s a nice social component — something that Netflix, for one, is still struggling with. Similar to Amazon-acquired social reading service Goodreads, seeing your friends’ history in Limelight can be useful for finding new movies, and can also just be amusing. For example, I was appalled to discover that Verge writer Ellis Hamburger gave a five-star rating to Armageddon.
The app was built by 9:42AM, which is basically the team of Cameron and designer Marcelo Marfil. Cameron said the company’s goal is to “build simple products that work beautifully and have a defined need.” He described 9:42 (which is named after the exact time when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone) as a side project until he starts his next company. But he said this doesn’t mean he isn’t serious about these apps: “Making apps is a huge passion for me, so it’s a good way to keep creative before I start the next thing.”
As for Everyme, the startup doesn’t seem to have gotten much buzz since its big launch last year, and it launched a new service called Origami in the fall. (Everyme co-founder Vibhu Norby recently published a blog post recommending that startups avoid the big launch and instead focus on building a community, which is what he said he’s doing with Origami.) Cameron told me that he left because he was looking for a new challenge.
“I had been working on practically the same product for nearly three years, so it was time for a change up,” he said.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Vooza, “the world’s most unbelievable tech startup.”
Design is emotion. A good UX designer must ask, “Does this radio button make you feel happy or sad?” In this video, Vooza designer Sarah Ebersol explains how to be a user interface artist and when to express emotions inside web forms. Watch her turn tragedy into beauty, via a web pulldown menu.
About Vooza: Vooza is a video comic strip that pokes fun at the startup world. It’s been buzzed about by David Karp, Dennis Crowley, Jason Fried, and other tech bigwigs. Join Vooza’s email list for exclusive VIP access to more Vooza.
Read the original: Design is emotion, and Vooza’s designer is certainly emotional [Video]
There are lots of ways to finance your latest business venture, but one of the funnest ones remains offering a product or service in exchange for money, and people paying for it.
You should totally employ that strategy for your startup!
We kid, we kid, but not really. It’s no secret monetizing a digital service can be tough, but all too often ‘advertising’ – rather than charging users – is the answer to the vital question “so what’s your business plan?”.
And yet it’s almost never the right answer. But then, what is?
Or in other words, what could you charge for? What can you offer that could make people want to open up their wallets?
The folks over at Board Of Innovation have put together a slide deck with a collection of useful money-making techniques and tips (which will be continuously updated based on feedback from the global startup community), and it may just answer those questions for you.
It’s been getting a ton of views on SlideShare (you can also download the PDF), but it hasn’t really started making the rounds outside of it yet.
It’s filled to the brim with examples, so don’t miss it:
Top image credit: Thinkstock
It’s only been a few weeks since the folks behind music-charting app We Are Hunted confirmed that it was acquired by Twitter, and it seems that Twitter isn’t done snapping up startups just yet. Ubalo CEO Jacob Mattingly and CTO Ian Downes announced earlier today via blog post that the folks at Twitter have agreed to acquire the scalable computing technology they’ve been working on for the past two years, and that the four-person Ubalo team would officially join the Twitter flock.
I can’t blame you if you haven’t heard of Ubalo — it first launched back in 2011 (complete with funding from Harrison Metal Capital) and seemed to hide behind a very vague landing page that claimed that Ubalo was an “early-stage numerical computing startup.” That vision seemed to change somewhat over time, as the team was most recently working on a simplified way for users to run their code across large computing environments. As the team put it, the mission was to “hide the details of the computers, environments, and messaging, so our users can worry much less about integration and scaling and instead write just the code they need for their analysis or processing.”
The Ubalo team is no stranger to fiddling with Twitter’s data either — one of their case studies dealt with collecting tweets and clustering them based on their topics. The amount of time needed to complete the task? Just over 21 seconds. Yet another case study saw the team processing 25,000 tweets and analyzing them for sentiment, which took roughly 19 seconds.
As you might guess, Twitter has declined to officially comment on the deal or where the Ubalo team would end up, but the team pointed to one particular meeting that set this whole thing into motion.
When we met the infrastructure folks at Twitter, we realized that it’s a company with brilliant people, strong momentum, exciting challenges and a promising future. We quickly became enthusiastic about the possibility of collaborating with them and the impact we could have there.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that Mattingly and Downes have joined Twitter’s engineering team to help refine the incredibly popular service’s infrastructure, but for now we’ll have to wait and see — neither founder would shed any additional light on the deal.