Urturn, the social expressions platform that soft-launched as stealthily as possible last year by intentionally hiding under a really boring name, is getting ready to turn the volume up to 11 to start seriously recruiting teens and trend-setters to its meme-stuffed, fashion-friendly, music-loving platform. Today it has announced a $13.4 million Series A funding round, led by Balderton Capital with a $10.7 million investment. The private equity arm of Debiopharm Group invested the remaining $2.7 million. As part of the investment, Balderton founding partner Barry Maloney will join the Urturn board. The London-based startup, which also has an office in the Valley, is also launching an iOS app today, funded by its Series A, to extend its web-based platform to mobile. An Android app is also in the works, due later this year. Prior to the Series A, Urturn had raised around $500,000 in friends/family funding. So what exactly is a social expression platform? Urturn — pronounced ‘your turn’ — is best described as a viral meme-generator. It offers both a social toolbox for creating and sharing ‘expressions’ with other users, with support for sharing these out to other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and also a space to hang your creations and browse others (and/or follow celebrity users or your friends). It also has its own bookmarklet browser button to make grabbing source material for meme-making purposes even easier, as Pinterest does. Expressions is Urturn’s term for the visual composites that are its social currency. These often start with a photo but can also include multimedia elements like video and audio, which are then augmented with text or doodles or other graphical elements, by a user selecting the relevant template. So, instead of having to go to Google to copy and paste the meme du jour to post to Facebook or Twitter, Urturn gives its users the tools to make their own version of that meme. Or something else entirely. The image at the top of this post is a basic example of an expression created with Urturn — by first uploading a photo and then adding a series of pointers to the image. Other templates currently available on the site include doodles, collages, quotes, speech bubbles, hashtag tags, cartoon elements (such as the Bunnify expression, below right) and more. There are also templates that support interactions, such as love it/leave or this/that which ask other users to vote on whether they like
Australian startup, Airtasker, is keen to expand out of its home country into Southeast Asia, which it says hasn’t been touched by large competitors yet. The year-old startup provides job matching for freelancers and employers, similar to what oDesk and Elance do. For its first steps outside of Australia, its first port of call will be Singapore, where it wants to hire two country managers. Airtasker joins a scene that already has a few huge competitors. oDesk, for example, has been around since 2005. Last year, the company raised $15 million, making its total funding $45 million to date. The site processes $300 million in jobs on an annual basis. Some early oDesk employees also founded Rev.com, which in March announced $4.5 million in Series A funding. Another big competitor, Elance, raised $16 million in funding early last year as well, as its business has continued to grow in the past two years. 650,000 new job postings were listed on the site in 2011, it said. But big as these sites are, they don’t seem to have made a huge impact on freelancers in Southeast Asia. A quick search for freelancers in Singapore on oDesk showed 248 listings out of 742,113. Hong Kong showed a dismal 84, Kuala Lumpur 7 and Bangkok 31. While it appears indeed untouched by the large sites, it could just mean that the freelancing scene is a lot less vibrant in Asia, with the majority of workers preferring full-time jobs. It could also be that fewer freelancers rely on online matching sites to get their jobs, as well. Airtasker’s founder and CEO, Tim Fung, said temp jobs in the region are less organized into verticals. He said some common jobs in Asia include handing out flyers at a train station, or a one-day PA. These can’t really be categorized by industry, and Airtasker has organized its job ads and job seeker profiles in a broader fashion, so that more matches can be made by both sides. The bulk of Airtasker’s workers, for now, are based in Australia, and its upward trajectory does indicate some sort of pent-up demand on the freelancing scene. Airtasker now processes about $120,000 worth of jobs per month. Fung hinted that Airtasker will announce a partnership with a global jobs network soon. “I think that’s an indication that the larger ‘mainstream’ job scene is taking part-time job listings more seriously,” he
SumUp, one of the myriad European Square-style mobile card reader startups, has expanded its coverage footprint by rolling into an 11th European market: Russia. SumUp is now operational in the U.K., Germany, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Belgium and Russia, giving it a larger geographical footprint than other European rivals including iZettle and Payleven.
Chalk this up as one to watch closely in the world of consumer fintech. Numbrs, a mobile-first banking app founded out of Swiss company builder Centralway, has raised 7.5 million Swiss francs (~$7.7 million) from its parent, capital it will use to build on its pending German launch, with the UK and Swiss markets up next, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong.
Rando only launched in March but the anti-social photo-sharing app that deliberately eschews the standard social network clutter of likes and comments and connections -- simply letting users share random photos with random strangers and get random snaps in return -- has blasted past 5M photo shares after a little over two months in the wild. It is now averaging around 200,000 shares per day.
One of the early pioneers in the Quantified Self movement has quietly gone out of business. Zeo, a leading maker of hardware and software used by consumers to track sleep and improve their health, has not been operating since the end of last year. A trustee has nearly completed the sale of all company assets. Zeo has been very quiet about the news up until now. In fact, Zeo's website is still up and doesn't mention the news.
Zalora, a Zappos-style fashion e-commerce site in South East Asia backed by the Samwer brothers' Rocket Internet incubator in Germany, is today announcing its latest investment -- $100 million, led by Rocket Internet itself, along with regular Samwer investing partners Summit Partners, Investment AB Kinnevik, Verlinvest and Tengelmann Group. The is the largest investment in Zalora to date, and one of the biggest in an e-commerce startup in the region.
The New York Times has a lovely interview up with Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the illustrious GIF file. Wilhite wants you to know that the White House is wrong: He is proud of the GIF, but remains annoyed that there is still any debate over the pronunciation of the format. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite said. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.” Gizmodo’s Casey Chan pretty much sums up my view on this, in an article so elaborately ridiculous it brings joy, “He’s saying we, the people of America, are wrong. It is a soft ‘G’, pronounced ‘jif’. Sir, why did you not name it JIF like the peanut butter then! End of story. I have long thought the story was over too, but I’m guessing we’re reading different books.” Chan and I and the US President are just going to ignore Wilhite and just continue pronounce it with a hard ‘G,’ like ‘gift’ without the ‘T.’ Because no one on the planet pronounces it ‘jif.’ End of story.
Now in its fourth year, tech conference Echelon will gather 52 of the Asia Pacific's most promising startups from June 4 to 5 in Singapore. The event will also feature more than 50 speakers and judges, including 500 Startups' Dave McClure and Sahil Lavingia, who raised $8.1 million for his startup Gumroad when he was just 20 years old, and was an early employee at Pinterest.
Like you and a lot of other people in the Valley, I read the blogs snarking on the Valley, because nothing is funnier than making fun of people just like us, technology elite who download hot apps, ringtones and backgrounds all day and all night -- all on our separate phones reserved for daytime and nighttime.
The New York Times spent months and had an entire team working on the creation of Snow Fall, and it shows. But what if I told you that you could recreate the same interactive experience in just about an hour? You'd like that, wouldn't you? Well, the New York Times wouldn't.
The Saturday Evening Post has a prominent spot in the history of American magazines. It's where artist Norman Rockwell made a name for himself, and it has published classic American authors like Edgar Allan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But if you had no idea that it was still around, you're not alone — the magazine's technology director Steve Harman said that many people "are surprised we're still publishing." Yes, it is still putting out a magazine every two months, with a circulation of about 350,000. Subscribers are mostly in their 50s, but The Post is trying to reach younger readers and adapt to the digital world, as recounted in a couple of stories earlier this year. Now it's taking the next step in that direction with the release of its iPad and iPhone app, which was built by digital publishing company Yudu.
Basho Co-Founder Antony Falco has raised $3 million for Orchestrate.io, a database API similar to Twilio in its capability to ease the complexity of adding features to mobile and web applications. True Ventures led this initial round joined by Frontline Ventures and Resonant Venture Partners. Falco, who left Basho a few months ago, said Orchestrate.io solves the problems that developers face when building feature-rich applications. Often it means adding multiple databases for geo-spatial, time series or any number of other features. The database problem has been ongoing. It in part stems from the limits of scale with relational databases. Over the years, companies like Amazon and Google reached their own ceilings and were forced to develop new kinds of databases for high-volume queries. The result is a lot of time spent babysitting databases so the applications run well. Orchestrate.io acts as a service on a service, abstracting the database layer. Twilio successfully simplified the way developers accessed services, such as SMS and voice. Falco sees a service that also allows developers to add features by pulling the data through an API . “The comparison with Twilio and Sendgrid is not around the problem we solve but the pattern,” Falco said in an email interview. “We are taking a complex and burdensome task — running lots of databases — and putting it behind an API that programmers can use to more quickly build apps. Twilio and Sendgrid both do a similar thing, vastly simplifying the complex, for telecom and email infrastructure, respectively. Orchestrate.io uses in-memory technology for its service. “Memory — storing indexes and hot data in memory — will be critical to performance,” Falco said. “There are three tiers – the active data and indexes in memory, disk storage for durability and data less often accessed, and as data ages and becomes inactive, a cheaper tier of fault-tolerant storage. The more we serve reads out of the memory, the better our performance will be and, without a lot of latency, users will be able to execute relatively rich queries that might require three or four queries, made sequentially, to separate databases.” Orchestrate.io is using open source databases to build the service. “We aren’t going to build databases,” Falco said. “The databases themselves can change; we are not tied to any one database. Riak (a Basho service) is of course ideal for this use case — for forming part of the
Editor's note: Kakul Srivastava is CEO and co-founder of Tomfoolery, Inc. She was General Manager for Flickr from 2004 - 2009 and helped the product grow from 37,000 users to over 60 million. Simon Batistoni is VP of Platform and co-founder of Tomfoolery, Inc. He joined Flickr in 2006 as the engineering lead for internationalization.
OK Go (the band behind hit music videos like "This Too Shall Pass" and "Here It Goes Again") launched its very own game for iOS and Android earlier this month. Titled Say The Same Thing, you play the game with one of your friends or with a randomly chosen player. (If you sign up now, you can also participate in a temporary promotion where people are randomly selected to play with a band member) Each player types in a word, then you see what the other player said, and you use that as prompt for another word. As the game's title implies, you win when each of you enters the same word.
In November, Jive Software acquired Bay Area cloud-based, collaborative task manager, Producteev, to boost its social business platform. Going forward, as Alex wrote at the time, Salesforce.com and Jive will increasingly butt heads as they compete for mindshare in the enterprise. With Producteev's multi-platform task-management system, which allows users to create tasks from emails and collaborate around projects in teams, Jive acquired a service that was already beginning to compete with Asana and Salesforce.com's Do.com.
Wall Street apparently wanted something more revolutionary out of the Xbox One that launched today, as Microsoft's stock is down 0.66 percent. In turn, investors on news of a potential spin off, pushed Sony shares up 9 percent, coincidentally just after Microsoft announced its answer to the Sony Playstation.
As edtech startups continue to challenge the current state of higher education, and various niche startups focus on educating people through digital means, yet another company is getting a boost when it comes to helping people learn. PopExpert, a learning marketplace that lets students connect with experts in one-on-one video chats, has just raised a $2 million seed round led by Learn Capital, with participation by Jeff Skoll, Ken Howery, Michael Chasen, and Expansion VC.