New Zealand’s Sir Ray Avery has a simple method for getting the most out of his life. The 65-year old Kiwi scientist and inventor accomplishes what he does by keeping tabs on the days he has left to live, and by setting and tracking daily goals to best take advantage of them.
“I’ve got about 5,625 days to live,” Avery told a group of American entrepreneurs, investors, and journalists visiting the country as part of 500 Startups’ latest Geeks On A Plane event. “When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.”
Avery compared his philosophy around living to the way some people approach entrepreneurship — that is, building something of an exit strategy. The only problem? “In real life, your exit strategy is going to look a lot like mine. But for most of you, it’s going to be a big surprise.
“For me, I can reverse engineer my life to achieve much more than you guys. Every day I do a chart on what I’ve achieved and where I want to be. And it makes you scary-as-shit clever,” Avery said. “So think about that. You’ve got 30,000 days and the clock is ticking.” (Avery admits to trying to turn his remaining 5,625 days into something more like 10,000 days by multi-tasking.)
Avery also talked about some of the problems Kiwi entrepreneurs face as they seek to compete on the global stage. One of those issues is a certain degree of humility that results in their achievements sometimes going unrecognized. Avery isn’t immune to this: He only considers himself slightly famous (which he says is terrible), despite being awarded the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year in 2010 and knighted in 2011.
His biggest accomplishment is probably introducing low-cost intraocular lens manufacturing facilities in developing markets that made cataract surgery affordable. Since then, he’s worked to make quality healthcare and equipment accessible to some of the world’s poorest nations. His autobiography, Rebel With A Cause, charts his life from a childhood in orphanages and foster homes in the U.K. to becoming one of New Zealand’s most notable scientists.
But he’s far from the only Kiwi you may not have ever heard of. Avery talked about folks like Colin Murdoch, the inventor of the disposable hypodermic plastic syringe. “What we’re not good at is telling people we’re good at stuff. If you look back at the past 50 years, most people in the world have been touched by [this] invention, and no one knows anything about it. It’s touched more people than the iPhone, television, radio,” Avery said.
In an effort to correct this, Avery recently published a book entitled “The Power of Us,” which highlights notable Kiwi artists, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders — basically people making a difference who might otherwise go unrecognized. A lot of that innovation comes from using common materials in a more innovative manner — the so-called “number 8 wire” approach to solving problems with unconventional materials. Or a bit of an irreverent attitude toward rules and regulations that are common in other cultures. Either way, it’s Avery’s way of highlighting Kiwis who “dare to dream big.”
It’s about a cultural state of mind, but it’s also about the ability to try out new things. “Stay in New Zealand long enough,” Avery said, “and you get dangerous.”
Kickstarter has seen enormous success with its crowdfunding model for creative projects, but would something similar work for building communities? That’s what one new project, appropriately called “Brickstarter,” wants to achieve.
While it doesn’t provide a service — at least, not yet — Brickstarter says it is “sketching out a system that would enable everyday people, using everyday technology and culture, to articulate and progress sustainable ideas about their community.”
In other words, Brickstarter is a prototype for a web-based service that provides citizens with a platform to turn ideas into projects, and encourages them to debate about different proposals. Ultimately, the ser…
Trustpilot, the online customer reviews service with nearly 7 million reviews on its platform covering 100,000 merchants to date — and a partner in Google’s Adwords business – is today announcing another €10 million ($13 million) in funding. The investment is led by new investor Index Ventures, with participation also from existing backers SEED Capital Denmark and Northzone, the Scandinavian VC that is also an investor in Spotify.
The Danish company says that it will be using the funds to continue its global expansion with the aim to become the go-to place for people to rate their online shopping experiences. With €5 million in backing prior to this current round, Trustpilot says it is already active in its home country of Denmark, as well as the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands and Italy and is working on extending its reach in the U.S.
The world of online reviews has had a bad rap, with one main issue being that reviews can be gamed fairly easily with fake complimentary (or critical) posts; another issue is reviews can simply be edited to suit the goals of the company asking for reviews in the first place.
But even with those credibility gaps, online reviews have come to be seen by many as an important part both of how consumers make decisions online and stay engaged on a site — review forums being a little like proto-social networks of a sort.
On top of that, there are already a lot of go-to places for reviews. Peter Mühlmann, the founder and CEO of the company, says that Trustpilot is different from the likes of Yelp or eBay-owned Epinions because of its singular focus on e-commerce sites. “Whereas a site like Epinions and others focus on reviews of many different things, we solely focus on reviews of companies that are selling goods or services over the web,” he told me in an interview.
Trustpilot’s business model is to not only create a primary site of its own where all reviews live — you can search past reviews on Trustpilot.com by searching on company name, and add yours as well — but its business model is based around also offering a set of APIs to integrate their reviews platform on to the e-commerce sites themselves, which companies can run white-label, customized to look like the rest of their sites.
“Utilizing reviews in ads and on their website boosts companyes’ core KPI’s like click through rates, conversion rates and basket size, which translates directly into improvements on the bottom line,” he notes.
He says that the company has also now started to see its widgets also getting integrated on to price comparison sites and other third-party platforms. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Google, with whom Trustpilot has a licensing relationship that covers Seller Rating Extensions — customer reviews — which link up with Adwords purchases. Google uses these to drive Adwords purchases, and says that “on average, ads with Seller Ratings get a 17% higher CTR than the same ads without ratings.” Trustpilot says that at this time Google licenses Trustpilot’s reviews for Seller Ratings Extensions on Google.de Google.co.uk, Google.com, Google.fr and Google.nl.
It may be the dual relationship that Trustpilot is bridging — first between itself and merchants, and then between itself and the likes of Google — which is what makes the company attractive to investors.
“The Trustpilot concept is a brilliant one which creates substantial value both for merchants who wish to highlight their service credentials and for consumers who want to identify trustworthy service providers in an increasingly crowded online world,” said Ben Holmes, partner at Index Ventures, in a statement. “The Company has executed the vision excellently and established a strong position in multiple geographies.”
The Google relationship is not an exclusive one, meaning that if, say, another portal wanted to incorporate Trustpilot reviews to improve their effectiveness in doing business with merchants, or providing more information to their consumers, they could.
As for the bad rap for reviews, Trustpilot is trying to tackle that, too — starting first with its actual name, but also extending to its business model.
Essentially, it’s only customers who are contacted to leave reviews — meaning you have to have made a transaction on the site. “As we offer companies a solution to invite all their customers to leave a review of their service, we know there is an actual transaction behind the majority of the reviews,” he notes. That minimizes the chance for random posting, and also means that Trustpilot is gradually building up a strong database of the most engaged consumers.
Going forward, Mühlmann says he wants to add more gamification and loyalty elements into the service, and to put more focus on authenticity and real identities. It plans to do this by linking up the service more closely with other platforms, like Facebook’s, which consumers have started to trust already with their real identities:
“I would like it to be more engaging/rewarding to participate on the site,” he says. “I also think that in the reviews space (and in the world of consumer generated content in general), trust in anonymous contributions is declining, so we are working on making it easier for reviewers to validate themselves (for example by connecting their profile on Trustpilot with various social networks).”
This military-inspired case is crushproof, waterproof, shockproof and dirtproof. It will pretty much protect your laptop through an apocalypse or if you just feel like running your computer over with a car.
The Vivax case features titanium pins and an external polymer that is similar to the material found in crash helmets.
Check out the video to see the case being put to the test.
Would you purchase one of these cases? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Notification on Timeline
The first vist to a friend’s timeline prompts us to give a gift, and that “Gifts” button will exist next to “Post” and “Photos” from now on.
For those who want to send physical gifts to Facebook friends for birthdays, holidays or other special occasions, it’s a very simple process. Facebook has created a large library of presents to choose from, including gourmet food, household items and novelty gifts. It seems perfectly timed with the holiday season, even if your giftee knows what you’re buying them before they receive the package.
We’ve compiled a guide on how to give and receive Facebook gifts, taking you step by step through the process above.
Moxie Software has announced the ability for customers to tap into the Facebook social graph to determine the best time to engage with people on a brand’s Facebook page.
Moxie is a customer facing and internal collaboration service that provides a knowledge engine that defines profiles and business rules. It is a crowdsourcing platform that the company refers to as “social knowledge” that it markets to customers for better engagement on brand web sites and now Facebook.
Here’s how it works: Moxie uses the social chat Facebook API. Its Engage+ App gives companies the ability to access a consumer’s Facebook profile to deliver personalized offers. The customer, usually a mass consumer brand, provides its social data to Moxie, which it then adds to the customer’s knowledge base. The brand gets notified when a Facebook visitor comes to the page who may be interested in the company’s products.
Moxie Vice President of Products Nikhil Govindaraj said in an interview that the company has learned with experience in following the footprint of users on websites. A customer may have gone to a company web page and looked at an ad, subscribed to a newsletter or meet the demographics that the brand is trying to target. Predictiveness gets better over time as more data is collected. On Facebook, it’s a relatively new game compared to branded web sites. But as with traditional websites, the rules of engagement are defined by the customer’s online behavior with the brand.
Facebook provides the brand with another channel, but it only works after the social knowledge is acquired.
The ways in which to collect, analyze, maintain and act upon that data will become a key factor in how the collaboration market grows over the next five to 10 years. It’s data that sits at the heart of this kind of strategy that goes beyond chatting with customers on a Facebook page. It means a rethinking in infrastructure, the meaning of IT and how companies perceive customer experience. The data helps tell the story, but it’s meaningless if the people and processes are not in place. It all has to come together.
Moxie is in a good place. The company, founded in 2006, has $75 million in funding. It now has an integrated platform that combines its customer-facing technology with its internal collaboration tool.
General collaboration tools have settled into the market but their impact has been relatively light. In 2006, the market viewed general collaboration as the best way to gain traction. Six years later, adoption is still relatively low. Jive Software and Salesforce.com started their services by offering customers general collaboration tools and have only recently started offering tools that are more oriented to specific channels.
Moxie is the opposite. It started as a service for specific channels and only later offered a general collaboration tool.
The Moxie service is robust, but customers are getting more picky about what they decide to adopt. Moxie needs to find more ways to use data analytics to truly differentiate in the crowded collaboration market.
Genetics service 23andMe announced some new cash in the bank today with a $50 million raise from Yuri Milner, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, Google’s Sergey Brin (who also happens to be Wojcicki’s husband), New Enterprise Associates, MPM Capital, and Google Ventures.
With today’s new funding also comes the reduction of the price of its genome analysis service to 99 smackers. This isn’t special holiday pricing (as 23andMe has run repeatedly in the past) the company tells me, but rather what its normal pricing will be from now on.
This move is overdue, at least as far as 23andMe’s business model is concerned. Just yesterday TechCrunch Conference Chair Susan Hobbs told me she was waiting for another $99 pricing deal to buy the Personal Genome Analysis product. Sure 23andMe has experimented with various pricing models, including subscription, since its founding in 2007, but had been at an official and prohibitive $299 price point until today. It’s also apparently been rigorously beta-testing various price points in the past couple of weeks, at some point experimenting with some lower than $99.
For comparison, the company’s original pricing began at $999 and offered subscribers just 14 health and trait reports versus today’s 244 reports, as well as genetic ancestry information. Natera, Counsyl and Pathway Genomics are also in the genomics space, but they work by offering their services through doctors rather than direct to consumer.
Since the company’s launch five years ago, it’s had 180K civilians profile their DNA, and representative Catherine Afarian tells us that, post-price drop and funding, its goal is to reach a million customrs in 2013. This is a supremely ambitious goal considering it wants to turn an average user acquisition rate of 36K per year into one of 820K in one year alone.
But Afarian isn’t fazed and brings up how the company once sold out 20k in $99 account inventory on something called “DNA Day.” “Once we can offer the service at $99 it means the average American will buy in,” she said.
That $299 was too pricey, according to Hobbs, but $99 might be just right. She said the $99 price point, which yes, is less than an iPhone, was the main factor in her decision to buy in. “23andMe is more ‘nice-to-know’ information rather than ‘need-to-know’ information. It’s nice to know your ancestry. It’s more of a need to know that you are predisposed genetically for a type of cancer, so that you may take precautionary measures,” she said, implying that the data given by 23andMe isn’t necessarily vital medical information, or actionable when it is. While 23andMe can give you indicators about certain disease risks, it doesn’t close the loop, as in tell you what to do to prevent these diseases.
“Its [utility] depends on your genetic data,” said Afarian when I asked her about the usefulness of the product. “If you’ve got a Factor 5 that puts you at risk for clotting, you might want to invest in anti-clotting shots. [And] there’s always something about themselves that people didn’t know.”
Hobbs said eventually that she wouldn’t buy it, but only because she was looking into more exact lineage information for her little girl, and you need a Y chromosome in all DNA tests to show paternal lineage. Afarian also countered this hesitation, saying that what makes 23andMe unique is that it’s not only looking at only your Y or your mitochondrial DNA, but also your autosomal DNA, which does show some patrilineal information for females who lack that precious Y.
While still sort of a novelty, the potential for 23andMe goes beyond lineage and hopefully that extra $50 million will go further than keeping the price low and into research. The company hopes that a million users will result in a giant database of 23andWe genetic info that can be used to spot trends, like which genes mean a higher risk of diabetes/cancer, etc. Which is great if it happens but for now remains a pipe dream for 23andMe/We.
However, beyond Hobbs’ rejection, I’ve already got four TechCrunch staffers either on it already or planning to buy it. “I would use this at its new price point, and I’m a fucking cheapo,” our health and education expert Rip Empson told me on Skype.
Bruce Gibney, the Founders Fund partner who criss-crossed the country raising its fourth fund of $625 million, has left the firm, multiple industry sources confirm. Details of why he departed are unavailable at this time, but we understand he’ll be going to work at a holding company or a portfolio company. Gibney championed the Founders Fund philosophy that startups should change the world, not just build a business.
Sources say that Gibney’s exit has been in the works for weeks, and he’s no longer with Founders Fund despite still being listed as a partner on its website. Gibney hung back from much of the firm’s investment activity, and was brought in specifically to help it raise its last fund. He also put together Founders Fund’s participation in TaskRabbit’s $13 million Series C in July of this year.
Gibney was an early investor in PayPal, which is how he got close to Founders Fund’s eventual head honcho Peter Thiel, the payment company’s co-founder. After PayPal was acquired by eBay, Thiel offered Gibney a job at his new hedge fund Clarium Capital. There Gibney advised Thiel in support of his early $500,000 investment in Facebook, which turned into a massive windfall. You can learn more about the relationship between the two in this profile by Asian Venture Capital Journal.
In the valley, Gibney was known as extremely smart and in possession of keen marketing skills. A year ago he told our editor Alexia Tsotsis that “the complexity of the problems we face as a species may exceed our ability to solve them.” By pushing startups towards big ideas, and pushing Founders Fund to bank roll them, Gibney hoped to solve them and etch his name in the history books.
Gibney once told AVCJ that “At the end of my career, I’d like to point to five or six companies where the CEO believes I contributed something more than just capital – even if it’s just one terrific piece of advice. That’s what would make me happy.”
You can watch Gibney’s talk with Alexia about Founders Fund’s philosophy below.
You may recall Jibe from 2008 — when it was offering a mobile app for sharing content on social networking sites. Since then the company has changed shape — morphing from app maker to platform creator. It’s also been working with carriers to build out IP-based network interconnectedness (aka the Joyn initiative). Right now, Jibe describes itself as a cloud-based global communications provider. Or at least, that’s its ambition — and that grand plan is where the new funding comes in.
Today’s funding announcement is Jibe’s only external funding to-date (not counting an $800,000 angel investment in its earlier business). In recent years the company had been producing revenues so did not need to seek other funds, the CEO tells me. But its new business has an extremely ambitious scope — firm emphasis on the words ‘global’ and ‘cloud’ here — so the financial resources required to both get it up and running and ensure it can scale as demand grows are an order of magnitude greater than its earlier app effort.
A Platform For Apps To Call Each Other
In a nutshell Jibe is building a cloud platform for app developers to more easily (and cheaply) incorporate rich, real-time comms/connected features into their apps — such as VoIP calls, video chatting and over-the-top multiplayer social gaming features. Using its SDK and APIs, Jibe says developers can add a Skype-style video calling feature to their app in a matter of minutes, for instance, by dropping in a few lines of code.
“In the case of video for example, with four lines of Android code they can make video work inside their app,” says CEO Amir Sarhangi. “They don’t have to know anything about SIP, IMS, any of the technologies that’s used in doing for example video chat – codecs – they don’t need to know any of that.
“As far as the infrastructure’s concerned, they’re leveraging our infrastructure – we have datacenters in multiple locations in the world and then we have proxy servers stationed in many, many different parts to make the experience really good.”
As well as having lots of datacenters to shuttle all the bits and bytes around — Jibe has offices in Mountain View, London, Düsseldorf and Tokyo — it is working with carriers to optimise its platform for their individual networks. “Underneath it all, wherever we have relationships with mobile carriers we can deliver a better experience so as an example if you happen to be a Vodafone user you’re just going to get an even better experience because we are tied into their network.
“But nothing is dependent on carriers so from a developer and a consumer perspective it works everywhere,” he adds. “As we turn on additional carrier relationships, our network gets better and the quality we can deliver gets better.”
“What we see is a vision of the future where all applications are connected — and by that we mean applications that essentially have things like video chat inside of them, VoIP, the ability to do things like multiplayer gaming with each other – so you’ve got two apps where you can play a game over the mobile network. Something that traditionally has been very very difficult for app developers to do just because of the nature of mobile networks and the complication of being able to deliver on various mobile platforms.”
From One App To Another
If you’re still scratching your head at the “cloud-based global communications provider” moniker, here’s a video demonstrating one use-case of Jibe’s platform — showing how an Air Hockey game app is able to incorporate a social gaming multiplayer mode, that allows the user to identify which of their contacts has the app and also has connectivity to play at that particular moment and then send a ‘gaming challenge’ to ask their buddy to play. (“It’s almost like two applications calling each other” is how Sarhangi describes it.)
Jibe’s cloud platform does the real-time data transfer that links the two apps so the two players can play against each other from their respective phones and locations — with low enough latency levels to ensure decent gameplay. The best performance is on 4G networks (40 to 60ms latency in that instance), but Sarhangi says Jibe’s platform also works on HSPA and 3G networks — although some types of very time-sensitive games may suffer a bit of a performance knock at those slower network speeds.
Another feature of the platform is the ability to support multitasking real-time applications — so a video call window can be popped out so that other phone features can be accessed by the user while they carry on chatting, for example. The platform isn’t just for game developers either — Sarhangi flags up an e-learning use-case where a developer incorporated a digital white board into the mix to share video from a mobile e-learning app to a classroom screen. Many types of app developers could benefit from catching a ride on Jibe’s cloud, he says.
Jibe Before The Pivot: Joyn-ing Forces
This latest Jibe pivot grew out of work it did for Vodafone to help build Joyn – a carrier initiative aimed at ensuring interoperability of IP services (such as IM and picture messaging) across different networks and geographies. Joyn does this through the use of a new, single communications standard — but has yet to get more than a handful of carriers signed up so it remains a work in progress.
One part of Jibe’s business is to act as a stop-gap for Joyn — to make good on the technology’s interoperability promise before mass carrier adoption achieves the same end (this part of its business is called JoynNet). But while working on Joyn, Sarhangi says Jibe also realised there was space to build a new business that sits between developers and carriers — to help the two groups help each other.
“We had a lot to do with Joyn to begin with and one of the main passions we have as a company is the fact that in helping create Joyn we realised that it’s extremely difficult for developers to do this stuff,” says Sarhangi. “So how do we make it really simple and, on the other hand, having been with carriers and worked with carriers it is difficult to work with carriers as a small developer, because they’re such a big company, so how do you make that also simple so that you bring the two sides together and break the barriers down.”
In future, as the Jibe cloud platform develops, Sarhangi envisages being able to support four-way video calls, or modify voice or video calls with an overlay. “What you see now is the base, the foundation,” he says, adding that the company intends to be led by its developer community to incorporate the features they request. “When the developers themselves are successful that makes us successful so, for us, it’s not a race for as many features in the world, it’s a race to make them successful.”
Jibe’s platform, which includes support for Joyn so it’s ‘futureproofed’ for carrier network evolution, currently supports Android apps but the company is working on iOS support (Sarhangi says it will “probably” be making an announcement on iOS availability in early Q1). It is also planning a WebRTC version.
The platform recently came out of private beta — and has more than 500 developers signed up. While it’s currently free for developers to use, Jibe’s business model involves charging developers in future — although it says it will only charge “once they are successful” – i.e. once their app has exceeded a certain number of concurrent video calls or voice calls made through Jibe’s platform.
The funding round announced today will be used for “product side” work — such as completing iOS support. It will also be used to scale the platform to cope with increased demand. “Clearly we’re running a global cloud so we need a team to make sure that we can support a truly [global] experience,” says Sarhangi. “We need to be able to deliver [low latency performance] everywhere. And, as we have more of the demand it is pretty resource intensive to work with developers and carriers – two groups that are somewhat fragmented and require a lot of attention.”
The Carriers’ Cut: A Gamer-Proof Tariff?
So what’s in it for the carriers to work with Jibe? The chance to “re-innovate around their core services in an all-IP world” — and a world of flat/declining voice and text revenues, says Sarhangi. Jibe’s platform should end up driving data revenues for carriers but more importantly it’s offering them the chance to investigate new business models fit for an age of over-the-top, all-IP services.
“Traditionally carriers haven’t been very good at doing something for the sake of it, and getting everybody excited about it and then figuring out how to generate the revenues. They’ve always been very financially driven. I worked for Vodafone for almost seven years running products and services for Vodafone Japan and we never did anything unless it was fully fully thought out and financially feasible,” says Sarhangi.
“I think now they’re taking a different approach a little bit – they’re trying to take a page out of the internet book of how you do services and this scenario is not just about driving data revenue, it’s about in the future can there be a day where we can sell a plan where game developers can have this ultra high speed experience guaranteed to them for a fee?
“So it’s about segmenting their packaging and making their networks a lot more smart about how it’s packaged for both developers but also at the end consumers. I’ll pay the extra $5 if you can guarantee me that I’m always going to have a really awesome experience with my friends, playing these multiplayer games.”
Self-hosted WordPress users, fire up your update engines. WordPress 3.5 is now available for download.
WordPress 3.5 brings in lots of under the hood enhancements, as well as a few new user-facing features.
Other sites have done a great job of breaking down the new features, but here are some of the highlights:
A New Default Theme Dubbed Twenty Twelve that is both responsive and clean
The Dashboard supports HiDPI — aka Retina — displays
Users can once again import content from Tumblr. Thanks Andrew Nacin for the clarification
A totally rewritten and reworked Media Manager that makes adding and finding images much better
Support for Instagram, SoundCloud and Slideshar…
More About: WordPress