In an interview at TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing today, YouTube co-founder Steven Chen reminisced about selling his company to Google. “Was there any way you could not have sold?” Sarah Lacy asked? Hindsight is 20/20 Chen replied.
Chen revealed that the entire $1.65 billion YouTube acquisition was completed in one week’s time. Chen met with executives from both Google and Yahoo, including Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, at a Denny’s in Palo Alto, “We didn’t want to meet at offices, so we were like, ‘Where’s a place that none of us would go?’”
Chen said he ordered the Mozzarella sticks.
The deal was set to be announced at the closing of markets on Monday, so Chen and company were up until the last-minute completing paperwork at Wilson Sosini’s offices. In a historic moment for TechCrunch, our own Mike Arrington ended up breaking that news.
Chen said that his meeting with then Google CEO Eric Schmidt was instrumental in the decision to go with Google. Schmidt basically promised the founders unlimited resources in return for an “infinite amount of happy users” and an “infinite amount” of good content; “Here are all the resources that Google has around the world, and you can pick and choose”
“For twelve months, whatever we wanted to do, we were allowed to do,” Chen said “It was tremendous courage from Eric, allowing this group of 20 year-olds to run the company.”
YouTube was founded in 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. YouTube is the leader in online video, sharing original videos worldwide through a Web experience. YouTube allows people to easily upload and share video clips across the Internet through websites, mobile devices, blogs, and email.
Everyone can watch videos on YouTube. People can see first-hand accounts of current events, find videos about their hobbies and interests, and discover the quirky…
In a moment as historic as Alexander Bell’s call to his assistant, an iPhone hacker wrote on Twitter that he had successfully ported Siri to the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch. He wrote “Actually, it just worked,” informing the world that he had completely ported Siri to the iPhone 4 and that more versions are on the way.
The hack requires a jailbroken device. By copying the app onto the device, the iPhone 4 can call up Siri and, more important, connect to the Siri servers. You can follow these instructions to install the app yourself and it seems to currently also work with the iPod Touch 4G although those instructions are forthcoming.
Mark: Do you ever see Siri showing up in Cydia (or another jailbreak store) for non natively supported devices?
Steven: No, I could not be a part of that. I have no doubts that others will package this up and distribute it quasi-illegally, or try and sell it to people. I am only interested in the technology and making it work; proving that it works and works well on the iPhone 4 and other devices
Mark: So, you also got Siri working on the fourth-generation iPod touch, how is that working out?
Steven: We got chpwn’s iPod touch up and running with Siri after proving it works on my iPhone 4. Unfortunately the microphone on the iPod is nowhere near as good as the iPhone – you will notice that the Siri level meter hardly moves when you talk to it. While it does work, you have to speak loudly and clearly to the iPod
Back in March, we posted a demo of C3 Technology’s extremely cool 3D maps. The reconstructions of landmarks and buildings are created by a technique (as I understand it) similar to the Kinect hack we posted that uses compiled depth and parallax data to continually build and refine a 3D model of whatever it’s looking at. C3′s version obviously works on a larger scale and thus has different strengths and requirements, but it’s almost completely automated as long as you can afford to send a plane or copter up with the equipment.
They were bought earlier this year, but the purchaser was not known at the time. 9to5Mac has been informed that the buyer was none other than Apple. It makes sense: Apple has bought two other mapping companies, Placebase in 2009 and Poly9 in 2010. It seems beyond a doubt that they are deep into a skunk works operation to revamp their maps.
The use of Google maps has always struck me as a bit incongruous with the rest of iOS — not that it doesn’t work well and look good, otherwise Apple would never have used it. But with the rivalry between Apple and Google growing more intense every year, having such a primary function of the iPhone essentially outsourced must have started to really rankle Apple.
Google actually fired the first shot: the latest version of Google Maps and Google Navigation, the ones with 3D buildings and so on, was unapologetically offered only on Android devices. I speculated at the time that this was Google beginning to turn the screws on Apple and differentiate by discriminating with their essential services. Apple, of course, was already planning for this, knowing they couldn’t have as good of a product at launch but also knowing that a few years of work might produce something even better.
The addition of C3′s technology puts a powerful tool in Apple’s hands, and of course takes that tool out of others’. Photorealistic 3D maps, likely with local business and deal overlays and traffic data (all areas where Apple has been buying companies, patenting ideas, or developing products), may be the major feature of the next release of iOS.
“Sputnik” is the name of the new team, and is based in Sweden, as C3 was originally. The reference to the early lead the commies (as we might have said at the time) had on the US during the space race is pretty clear.
The purchase amount was not revealed. The original report put the value of the company at a billion dollars, but based on Saab’s 57.8% stake being valued at $150 million, the total value of the company looks to be more like a quarter of a billion.
I went down to the demonstration today, to get my fair share of bemusement. Occupy Wall Street seemed drizzly, dejected, and oddly disconnected from the world around it. I approve of their goals, and I think their message is very clear indeed, but I’m not so sure their methods are effective. We’ll see. But they did spur me to go back and reread, of all things, some Mark Cuban.
I don’t usually have much time for Cuban, but in a post last year he made a really interesting point: “Wall Street is a platform. It’s a platform to be exploited by every technological and intellectual means possible. The best analogy for traders? They are hackers. Just as hackers search for and exploit operating system and application shortcomings, traders do the same thing.” Matt Taibbi, in a recent Rolling Stone piece, is far more adversarial — “Wall Street Isn’t Really Winning, It’s Cheating” — but he makes essentially the same point. Most of the “cheats” he cites are examples of hacking the system, rather than breaking the law. (The big exception being the now-infamous Abacus case, but intelligent people have argued otherwise.)
It’s worth noting that the tech world’s attitude towards hacking the system, any system, generally ranges from “grudging respect” to “outright approval.” Steve Jobs was a phone phreak. MIT memorializes its finest hacks. Mark Zuckerberg’s famous FaceMash hack was the precursor to Facebook.
I suspect a similar sensibility is behind the anti-Occupy “We Are The 53%” movement; we played the cards we could scrounge up the best we can, within the system, that’s the way it’s supposed to work! Why can’t you? But what Occupy is actually saying is that the system itself has been corrupted to benefit the hackers, in such a way that there is no longer any way for the non-hackers to effect meaningful change. That’s why they’re camping in the rain in Zuccotti Park rather than writing letters to Congress and getting out the vote for the candidate of their choice.
Steve Jobs, phone phreak — that’s pretty cool. High-frequency trading; also kinda cool, despite its dubious benefits. Steve Jobs corrupting Ma Bell’s management so that he and his cronies keep siphoning a percentage of everyone else’s skyrocketing bills, with no oversight or recourse: that, I think you will agree, would decidedly not have been cool. It’s that kind of perceived corruption that Occupy is protesting. Extending the hacker analogy, the problem they see is worse than black-hats taking over Amazon, Google, and Microsoft’s server farms; it’s more like black-hats taking over Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, full stop. Will Occupy really make a difference? Do Wall Street’s system-hackers care about shame or public outcry? I have my doubts. But I do believe the damp campers in Zuccotti Park have good reason to be angry.
Image: “Eye and nose of the Wall Street Bull”, by Alex E. Proimos, Flickr.
Mobile advertising as you’ve likely heard, is hott right now. (With two “t’s”, yes.) According to comScore, mobile advertising spend is projected to hit $2.5 billion by 2014, with $2.7 billion projected in mobile ad revenues for this year and $6.6 billion by 2016.
In Europe, the numbers for smartphone usage are very similar to the U.S.: As of July 2011, comScore reports, 88.4 million mobile subscribers (in the EU5) were using smartphones. Of the top smartphone platforms in Europe, Symbian led the way with 37.8 percent market share, with Android grabbing the second spot at 22.3 percent over iOS at 20.3 percent.
But what about the other players? Until Apple overtook it back in June of this year, Nokia was the largest manufacturer of smartphone devices by volume in the world. Earlier this year, Nokia loudly announced plans to replace Symbian and MeeGo with Windows Phone on most of its high end devices. The Finnish manufacturer has always had a wide array of products, but it’s struggled to find a foothold in the U.S. And, what’s more, it’s taken its fair share of heat in the press over the last 6 months.
The company’s new Windows phones won’t be hitting U.S. stores for at least a few more months, but as Chris pointed out earlier today, “these Windows Phones will be the first high-profile Nokia launches in years”, and no one is more aware of this than Nokia, which is struggling to maintain its relevance. As U.S. President of Nokia Operations Chris Weber said earlier this year about the company’s renewed focus on the U.S. market: “The reality is if we are not successful with Windows Phone, it doesn’t matter what we do elsewhere.”
But, there is some hope. As Johnny Biggs wrote a few days ago, with Windows Phone, Nokia just may be poised to make a big comeback. Taking Apple’s table scraps and pushing RIM down may prove to be a good strategy for Nokia going forward, especially (as John points out) two familiar brands — Microsoft and Nokia — are better than one — RIM.
Nokia has been successful in Europe because its phones, stores, and service were local, useable, and cheap. If they can capitalize on brand recognition and first-time smartphone buyers, it just may work.
What’s more, thanks to a nifty infographic from inneractive, the mobile ad mediation platform, we have evidence of more good news for Nokia, and it comes in the form of mobile advertising.
As you’ll see below, Nokia’s absolute ad requests (which are what makes mobile advertising tick) continue to grow month-to-month, and when it comes to click-through-rates (CTR), Nokia has been consistently outperforming the rest of the industry (abroad), which includes the likes Android, iOS, and RIM.
As the infographic astutely reveals, with high ad requests and CTRs, this makes for a lot of happy Nokia developers and advertisers. Whether this trend can continue has Nokia moves its Windows Phone-powered devices into the U.S. remains to be seen, but, at the very least, it’s certainly a silver lining.
Without further ado, a look at global Nokia ad requests, CTR, distribution, and top countries:
(We’ll be updating with comparable fill rates and eCPM on Android and iOS for top European companies soon.)
Here’s one to file under “completely unexpected” — remember HP’s long-dead TouchPad? Well, apparently it’s got some life it in yet, as Best Buy will be allowing their customers to purchase a 32GB model for $149 so long as they buy an HP computer at the same time.
The deal starts on November 1, and I suspect Best Buy and HP will be hyping it like crazy next week. This whole thing begs a far bigger question though: where the hell are these things coming from?
It’s been a few months since the TouchPad Fire Sale of 2011, so shouldn’t supply channels have dried up already? Even HP’s own employees had to go through the wringer to get their hands on one, and now they’re back in circulation? As it turns out, these leftover TouchPads may be the result of a last minute production run meant to clear supply channels out of end-of-life components. Estimates put the number of TouchPads ready to sell at between 100,000 and 200,000, but it’s unknown whether or not Best Buy will be getting all of them.
I get that it’s probably part of some pre-holiday promotion to drive computer sales, but the whole thing just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I can’t really blame HP and Best Buy for trying to make a few bucks off of a loss leader like the TouchPad, but it seems unfair considering some early bargain-hunters had their orders abruptly cancelled.
For those of you thinking of jumping on the deal and returning the computer later, be warned that your mileage may vary. While I’m sure some stores won’t have any problem tweaking your transaction, others are likely to shut you down as soon as you walk up to customer service.
Editor’s note: Guest contributor Peter D’Amato was recently laid off as a copywriter at daily deals site BuyWithMe, which cut half its staff and is trying to sell itself to Gilt Groupe. Below is his account of that day.
October 19 was a rainy Wednesday afternoon, and the remaining employees of BuyWithMe poured out cups of whiskey and wine from bottles purchased by the CEO. An untouched bottle of Prosecco sat ignored on another table. The mood was gloomy. The group had already torn through the half dozen boxes of pizza that had been ordered—it had maybe been enough pizza for the fraction of the company that would still be employed at the end of the day, but it was uncomfortably clear that it had not been ordered to feed all of the more than 200 employees waiting to find out if they were being terminated due to BuyWithMe’s failure to “identify sufficient funding to sustain [its] business current employment levels” (as my termination letter so ungrammatically put it).
The suspense on the day of the layoffs was a continuation of a pattern at BuyWithMe. Employees were often kept in the dark about changes affecting the entire livelihood of the company. Most assumed the company was healthy. In September, our new Chief Marketing Officer was talking about Superbowl ads, and shares in the company were meted out to employees. Just three weeks ago, a new copywriter was hired, leaving a job in publishing. Though there were signs that BuyWithMe was not as competitive in the group-buying “deal space” as it would have liked, the company emphasized that it maintained a strong position—claiming the number three position behind Groupon and LivingSocial.
But the scale tipped suddenly two Mondays ago. An email, accidentally delivered to a team of developers instead of the executive team, leaked a spreadsheet with names, titles, and proposed termination dates, as well as individual salaries, of a large number of employees within the company. Rumors gathered momentum in between the leak and the announcement of layoffs, but the company waited an entire day to say anything officially.
The meeting finally took place Tuesday evening, and confirmed that the company lacked the capital to continue paying its staff. Layoffs would be necessary, so the wave of hiring that had brought in new personnel only weeks before was reversed. Terminated employees would not receive severance. During the meeting, an employee asked whether the person responsible for the leaked spreadsheet would be held accountable for the release of sensitive information, but this was answered with a vague “no” (as of Wednesday afternoon, the employee in question was still employed at the company).
I waited until noon the next day to learn that my copywriter position was identified in the layoffs. My department was halved, while others were eliminated almost entirely. There was no advanced notice given—terminations were effective end of day—so most of those fired said their goodbyes and walked. The company stated that it would retain 85 employees, but many employees spared the termination resigned. Email accounts were deactivated almost immediately, security cards were collected, and the remaining members of the sales team quickly returned to the floor to contact merchants.
BuyWithMe was and still is a young company. Most copywriters, developers, account managers and sales managers were in their twenties, and for many this was their first job out of college. After a few months of working there, many felt the company failed to deliver on its promise to bridge the connection between small businesses and area customers. Up until the end, the company asserted that BuyWithMes took business from the old guard of traditional media, that we in fact nurtured small businesses better than competitors. But as one account manager put it to me: “We say it’s going to bring in new customers but a lot of the time people want to come in once. And the merchants say, ‘No one’s come back,’ or ‘We didn’t make any money.’ They don’t make any money.”
A few employees felt guilty about their job, one remarked that after the layoff, they wanted to “do something that will benefit other people.” While the company blamed a capital market that had “dried up” for the layoffs, many within the company complained about the aggressive acquisitions made – an old message written on a dry-erase board that read, “You don’t buy Edhance, Edhance buys you,” took on a menacing tone.
Staff reductions is keeping the ship from sinking completely, but the company recently announced there was only enough capital to continue running through October, after which, the remaining staff would be let go and the company shuttered. Gilt is supposedly interested in the company, but no agreement has of yet been reached. Gilt, which owns the upscale deals site Gilt City was rumored to be interested in purchasing BuyWithMe before the layoffs, but those earlier rumblings failed to materialize. Now it looks like the layoffs may in fact have been in preparation for that sale. I guess I was just a cost that needed to be eliminated.
BuyWithMe is the premier group buying website where leading local merchants offer exclusive limited time offers to members of the BuyWithMe community.
Through the power of its numbers, BuyWithMe negotiates handpicked group discounts for its customers to access at spas, restaurants, health clubs, bars and other local activities in their city. BuyWithMe currently publishes daily deals in 12 major DMAs, including Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, New York, and San Diego.
Google just announced the major refresh of Google TV. It adds a bunch of new features to the platform including Android Market and a TV & Movies. I’m not entirely sure this new coat of paint will help sell the house per se, but it will certainly make the current owners happy.
The update will slowly hit existing Google TV units starting with the Sony models on Sunday with the Logitech boxes getting it shortly thereafter. As with most mass roll outs, you might be waiting in line awhile until a spot opens on the server. Thankfully Google released these demo videos that show off a bunch of the new features to pass the time.