Tripshare, an iPad application for travel planning, is joining a crowded space. But its CEO knows a little something about the industry – Bob Dana was the former employee No. 1 and first CFO of Virgin America. He once wrote the business plan and feasibility study for Sir Richard Branson in 2003. And now he’s doing a travel startup.
Dana tells us the inspiration for Tripshare was based on a personal experience he had years ago. As CFO, he spent 10 hours on a plane each week flying back and forth from New York to California. In 2006, Dana was trying to convince his family to come out to California for a vacation, so he put together a proposed itinerary to help sell the idea.
“I ended up preparing this 10-page Word document that included text and photos I cut and pasted from various websites. It was intended to be persuasive in nature, and collaborative, too,” he explains. “I thought afterwards, that collaborative travel planning was something that was rather difficult to do.”
But not only was it difficult to plan, it was also hard to move from the point of inspiration and discovery to actually booking the trip. This idea later formed the basis for Tripshare, which he founded two years ago.
The app was originally built in conjunction with then co-founder and CTO Ken Goto, a former director of engineering at Apple. Goto has since moved on but his ex-Apple development team, including acting CTO Eric Kapke, now continues the work.
The app itself has actually been live in the iTunes App Store as unpublicized beta since August 2012. However, though that app was functionally similar, it drew some criticisms from early users because of its user interface. Today’s version is an overhaul and much improved.
Still, despite having done no publicity or marketing, Tripshare has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times while still a work in progress. In other words, today’s release is technically a version 2.0, but for all intents and purposes, this is the big debut.
Designed for those planning vacations or other complex trips with multiple destinations or activities, Tripshare allows you to browse, collect and share information with others before booking. Using the iPad’s big screen, you can flip through photos of destinations and lodgings, create itineraries and discover flights, hotels, restaurants, activities and more.
Today, the app allows you to explore more than 20,000 cities worldwide, plus 500,000+ lodging options, thousands of flights, and more than 200,000 tours, activities and restaurants.
After creating a sample itinerary, you can then share it to other Tripshare iPad users, or via email, Facebook, and Twitter. For those not using the iPad application, the shared trip displays in the web browser. These trips can include all the details, too – photos, descriptions, reviews and prices – so your family and/or friends won’t have to redo the work on their end before giving you their feedback. Pricing and availability also update in real time, something another new planning app, Pintrips, offers as well, but on the web.
Users can also communicate with the trip organizer within the application using an IM-like chatting function, or leave suggestions if the trip’s planner is offline.
While there are quite a few trip planning applications and services on the market (and that’s an understatement ) what makes Tripshare stand out is not the uniqueness of the idea, but the overall package. The app’s user interface is easy to use, which is critical when planning complicated trips where you’re trying to pack in a lot of activities and outings.
At first glance, Tripshare seems inspired by Khosla-backed social travel app Jetpac, which uses smart technology to index photos from social networks, allowing you to see where friends have traveled in order to find inspiration for trip-planning purposes. It has the same general layout, and it shares some common features, such as the idea of making a list of places you want to go.
But Tripshare’s photos don’t come from Facebook. They’re high-resolution images from its travel partners, including HomeAway, Fly.com, the Expedia Affiliate Network, and Viator.com. Plus, the overall vision for the application is not one of just inspiration, but converting that inspiration into an actionable itinerary by actually allowing you to book the trip, including the flights, hotels, outings and more, directly in the app.
Dana says the company plans to integrate content from more travel aggregators and services into the app in time, including things like vacation rentals from Flipkey, car rentals, restaurant reservations, cruises, safaris, and even travel insurance. By year end, the plan is to have many of these live, as well as an iPhone-optimized application. Afterwards, the goal will be to further build up the social community.
Tripshare is backed by $1.47 million in angel funding; some of that is founder money, and the other part comes mainly from the New York angels community, including David S. Rose.
The app itself is free to users, as it will earn revenue via a percentage of the bookings users make. Tripshare is live here on iTunes.
Continue reading here: Social Trip Planning App Tripshare Converts Travel Inspiration To Bookings
BonitaSoft, a provider of an open source business process management (BPM) solution, has raised a $13 million Series C round led by the FSN PME Fund, a French government initiative to invest in technology companies to help them scale globally. Also joining the round are previous investors Ventech, Auriga Partners, and Serena Capital. The new funding round brings the total raised by the company to just over $28 million since being founded in 2009, and follows an $11m Series B in late 2011.
BonitaSoft is headquartered in Grenoble, France — hence the French government’s backing — although it also has a U.S. office in San Francisco where I’m told CEO Miguel Valdes Faura spends half his time, as well an another office in Paris. It operates in the BPM space, competing with the likes of Pegasystems, Appian, LongJump, and a number of other open source players.
Companies use BPM software to automate their processes, particularly where these operate at the intersection of machines and people. For example, insurance companies might employ a BPM suite to design software to automate the claims process when a customer is involved in a car accident. Or to streamline and make accountable any business process where without systems in place things would otherwise fall through the cracks, especially at scale.
To that end, BonitaSoft’s solution includes a design studio to model business processes, a BPM engine that adapts to various information systems architectures, and an end-user interface for managing and interacting with processes. It also has support for a range of internal and external systems via a library of hundreds of ‘Connectors’ and a strong developer community (due to its open source nature) who contribute connectors, business processes and other extensions.
BonitaSoft says that it serves more than 600 companies and governments worldwide, claiming customers such as Accenture, DirectTV, Old Dominion University, Trane, Teach For America and Michelin. Its software has seen more than 2 million downloads, while the open source community is said to be 60,000 member-strong.
Like other open source business models, BonitaSoft makes money by charging for additional add-ons and support. It plans to use the new capital to “fuel its global expansion plans in the USA, Europe, and Latin America”, specifically increasing its marketshare of mid and large-sized businesses who currently rely on proprietary and aging BPM solutions. It also plans to plough some of that cash into developing next-generation BPM technologies.
Amazon has just announced a new content deal with NBCUniversal, bringing a host of new television series to the video streaming platform.
Some of those titles include Covert Affairs, Defiance, Grimm, Hannibal, and Suits. And what’s more, the company is pulling content from NBCUniversal’s children series such as Curious George and Land Before Time, which will be available with Kindle FreeTime Unlimited.
With platforms like Hulu and Netflix growing rapidly, and moreover making strides to offer the biggest libraries of content that include original programming, Amazon too has been working tirelessly to build out its offerings. According to the company, Amazon now offers more than 40,000 movies and TV episodes to Prime members, which can be watched across a wide variety of platforms including iOS, Kindles, Roku, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii (U).
In terms of availability, Covert Affairs and Grimm will both be available today, while Hannibal will not be ready until later this year, and Defiance will be out early next year. Amazon is also bringing SyFy series such as Alphas, Eureka and Warehouse 13 to the platform, along with Smash, featuring Debra Messing.
Here’s what Brad Beale, director of digital video content acquisition for Amazon, had to say:
We listen carefully to our customers to find out which TV shows and movies they find the most entertaining. Our expanded agreement with NBCUniversal gives Prime members access to even more exclusive content that they can stream instantly, at no additional cost. Compelling shows like Covert Affairs, Defiance, Grimm, Hannibal and Suits are big wins for our customers and we look forward to adding more titles soon.
Alongside expanding its library offerings, Amazon is also boosting its original programming efforts. Most recently, the company released eight comedy pilots and six children’s series pilots to get feedback from customers. After they make their decision, they’ll buy out the remaining episodes of the series which people seem to love.
View original post here: Amazon Taps NBCUniversal To Bring Covert Affairs, Grimm, Suits, And More To Prime Instant Video
Bitcoin exchange service Mt. Gox is experiencing some issues with U.S. authorities. The Department of Homeland Security issued a seizure warrant to Dwolla for the money in Mt. Gox’s Dwolla account. Mt. Gox users can’t use Dwolla as a funding option anymore even though it was one of the most popular options. The Japanese startup failed to register in the U.S. as a money transmitting company — president and CEO Mark Karpeles now faces up to five years in prison.
Dwolla had no choice but to proceed with the request. IDG News obtained a copy of the warrant through the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigation team of the Department of Homeland Security.
In order to accept funds in dollars, Mt. Gox opened a Wells Fargo business account for Mutum Sigillum LLC (Mt. Gox’s American subsidiary). The company had to complete a document that states whether it provides money services or not. The warrant reads: “That document was completed on May 20, 2011, and identified Mutum Sigillum LLC as a business not engaged in money services.”
In particular, Karpeles answered no to two important questions: “Do you deal in or exchange currency for your customer?” and “Does your business accept funds from customers and send the funds based on customers’ instructions (Money Transmitter)?” If the ICE feels the need to emphasize those questions, it means that the DHS probably believes that Mt. Gox is both a money transmitter and a currency exchange service.
Mt. Gox should have registered with FinCEN to limit fraudulent activity — it is a requirement for money services in the U.S. As Bitcoin is an independent and anonymous currency, many observers believe that it is used for money laundering and paying for illegal drugs. It could be the DHS’s main concern.
The exchange service is still working fine. So far, Mt. Gox wrote the following statement on its Facebook page:
Like many who have contacted us, MtGox has read on the Internet that the United States Department of Homeland Security had a court order and/or warrant issued from the United States District Court in Maryland which it served upon the Dwolla mobile payment service with respect to accounts used for trading with MtGox. We take this information seriously. However, as of this time we have not been provided with a copy of the court order and/or warrant, and do not know its scope and/or the reasons for its issuance. MtGox is investigating and will provide further reports when additional information becomes known.
Bloglovin, a site where readers can follow blogs about fashion and other lifestyle topics, is getting what CEO and co-founder Mattias Swenson said is its first major redesign.
Until now, Swenson said Bloglovin has been adding new features in a more incremental way. This time it’s getting a new look and new social capabilities that the Bloglovin team hopes will please both the hardcore users and more casual visitors.
Bloglovin raised a Series A from New York City-based incubator betaworks and others last summer, and at the time, Swenson emphasized the devotion of the Bloglovin community. For example, he said that the average Bloglovin user follows 37 blogs. He told me yesterday, however, that the team has become aware of a more casual audience, one that doesn’t follow any particular blog or author, but instead is looking for the latest content on topics that interest them.
To improve the experience for those users, Bloglovin has redesigned the page featuring “popular” posts on a given subject. Looking at the old and new pages, I wouldn’t say that it’s a dramatic change, but it allows Bloglovin to pack more stories onto the page without making things feel crowded — I’d say it looks more magazine-y. (It will probably remind some people of Pinterest, and while I think that description gets a little overused nowadays, Swenson doesn’t back away from the comparison.)
Each post on those redesigned pages also displays how many Bloglovin users have “liked” it. Visitors can expand that number into a full list of users. For bloggers, that can provide a much better sense of who likes their content, and for readers, it’s an opportunity to identify users with similar tastes, who they can then follow to find more interesting content: “So we’re turning our users into curators.”
Swenson also compared Bloglovin to Tumblr, where many users don’t produce original content but simply re-post photos that were taken and shared by others. That kind of sharing becomes a way to “express yourself,” he said, and “Bloglovin is going to be the ultimate platform for doing that,” in part because users aren’t limited to following publications on a specific platform (like they are on Tumblr).
“In the beginning, some of our investors were skeptics [about the redesign], but then they showed it to their wives and daughters, and they said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this tomorrow,” he said. I asked why they were skeptical, and he replied, “I think it was more in connection with Google Reader shutting down. … But they realized now is the right time to do these big changes.”
Swenson added that after Google Reader’s demise, the other RSS reading apps are going to be stuck in a “feature war” as they go after the tech-centric audience, whereas Bloglovin could eventually encompass everything and everyone else. For one thing, even though Bloglovin allows users to follow the RSS feeds of their favorite blogs, it doesn’t really market itself as an RSS reader. And the increased emphasis on “discovering the best content” should push the site further in this direction, Swenson said.
Ultimately, he predicted that Bloglovin’s audience, which has grown to 4.7 million monthly active users, will consist of 10 percent “heavy-duty users” and 90 percent visitors “who just have interests that they’re passionate about, like fashion, and they just want to know what’s popular.”