From Half.com to FirstRound Capital

When Josh Kopelman has sold his company half.com to eBay for $350M back in 2000 he most probably did not know that in few years he would manage a small VC firm called FirstRound Capital and that his young venture capital firm would be at the center of nearly every hot trend in Silicon Valley. Fortune has recently named Josh and their VC firm as one of the top 6 innovation leaps for the 2007.

Some of the more popular start-ups they have invested in are LinkedIn, del.icio.us, 1-800-FREE411, Aggregate Knowledge, Powerset, Inc., Eventful, Like.com, Mint Software, Inc., RockYou, Wikia, VideoEgg, Yapta, among others.

His new company, FirstRound, makes relatively small commitments to entrepreneurs with big ideas – usually in the $250,000 to $750,000 range, which is generally too small and risky for Sand Hill Road – and sticks with them long enough to determine which business plans will work and which should be taken out back and shot. The company is not afraid of investing in pre-revenue companies.

In fact, FirstRound may prove to be a sign of things to come. Tech startups, especially in software, don’t need as much cash to get rolling these days. Since Kopelman’s firm is relatively small, investing smaller amounts can still generate meaningful returns — something the larger firms are struggling with. More important than all that, however, is Kopelman’s knack for picking winners. FirstRound has made great exits in companies like StumbleUpon (bought by eBay for $75 million), Voicestar (phone-to-web system; Marchex; $28 million), and Snapcentric (digital security; Verisign; $12 million).

More about First Round Capital

First Round Capital is an early stage venture capital firm managed by Joshua Kopelman, Chris Fralic, Rob Hayes and Howard Morgan. We look to partner with entrepreneurs to build innovative technology companies.

We are seed stage investors, often providing a company’s first outside capital, and are not afraid of investing in pre-revenue companies. We understand the challenges of launching a new product. We look to take an active role in most of the companies we invest in. We believe our experience, insight and expertise are far more valuable than our capital — and we look for entrepreneurs who feel the same.

We recognize that time is an extremely valuable resource for an entrepreneur — and seek not to waste it. We operate as an entrepreneurial shop and are able to make quick decisions. No investment committees. No months of negotiations. If we’re going to invest, we usually decide within days.

The firm is having offices in both West Conshohocken Philadelphia and San Francisco, California.     
   
More about Josh Kopelman

Josh has been an active entrepreneur and investor in the Internet industry since its commercialization. In 1992, while he was a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Josh co-founded Infonautics Corporation – an Internet information company. In 1996, Infonautics went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

Josh founded Half.com in July of 1999, and led it to become one of the largest sellers of used books, movies and music in the world. Half.com was acquired by eBay in July 2000 — and Josh remained with eBay for three years, running the Half.com business unit and growing eBay’s Media marketplace to almost half a billion dollars in annual gross merchandise sales.

In late 2003 Josh helped to found TurnTide, an anti-spam company that created the world’s first anti-spam router. TurnTide was acquired by Symantec just six months later.

In addition to being an active angel investor, Josh has served as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Comcast Interactive Capital – a $350 million venture capital fund affiliated with Comcast Corporation.

Josh is an inventor on five U.S. Patents for his work in Internet technology. In June 2000, he was awarded Ernst and Young’s prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year” award  
for the Greater Philadelphia region. Josh has also been recognized as one of the “10 Most Influential People in Philadelphia Technology” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, one of the “76 Smartest Philadelphians” by Philadelphia Magazine and as one of forty individuals under the age of forty who have made the biggest impact on the Philadelphia region by the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Josh is often quoted in industry trade journals and national newspapers, has appeared on numerous national television shows, and is a frequent speaker at industry-wide conferences on entrepreneurship, Internet marketing and the future of Internet services.

In 2001 Josh and his wife created the Kopelman Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on angel philanthropy to provide “start-up” grants to social entrepreneurs. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Main Line Health, suburban Philadelphia’s most comprehensive healthcare resource, operating four of the region’s most-respected hospitals. He also serves on as a member of the advisory boards for Wharton Entrepreneurial Center and the Weiss Tech House at the University of Pennsylvania.

Josh earned a Bachelor of Science degree cum laude in Entrepreneurial Management and Marketing from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

More

http://www.firstround.com/
http://redeye.firstround.com/
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0712/gallery.sixleaps.fortune/5.html
http://www.linkedin.com/in/jkopelman
http://www.kopelman.org/

Behavioral Targeting is Busted; But Marketers are barking up the wrong tree!

Behavioral Targeting (BT) has been around since the first dotcom days. It got really hot again in late 2007 thanks to a few big promoters like Facebook. But what is it and does it really work as it sounds?

BT tracks a web visitor’s browser-click-streams, typically in the last six visits, to predict what he or she may want in the future, and target ads, content or products based on those “personalized” past behaviors. The hope is that BT will show the right ad or product to the right user who is most susceptible to it.  This sounds ideal to advertisers, but, put yourself in the shoes of a user and two huge problems leap out: privacy and quality.

The Privacy Issue
With such a glut of products and information online, the motivation behind behavioral targeting makes sense – it seems to be a good thing for Yahoo to get me a more relevant ad because they happen to know I checked out a Prius in my local dealership. For consumers, however, there is an obvious psychological aversion to behavioral targeting, as they feel they are being personally tracked and watched.

In this age of identity theft and mounting concerns over privacy in general, a practice that proactively profiles a user, perhaps over the scope of many websites and over a period of several months, will sound alarms even among the least conservative of us. And while BT advocates will defend their practice of storing only anonymous data —
which is the proper thing to do — knowing that your likes, dislikes, shopping history, and viewing tendencies are being tracked and possibly shared or sold to advertisers is disconcerting at the least.

In addition, with so much information about us on the web, an anonymous individual on one site can quickly become a known/named user on another site once BT starts to compare and contrast user behaviors across multiple sites. So our private information can spread out very quickly without us even knowing it.

Not surprisingly, many advocacy groups are very concerned about the issues surrounding this type of targeting.  Privacy groups have recently proposed a “Do not Track” list to limit behavioral profiling techniques similar to “Do Not Call” lists that keep pesky telemarketers away. 

Privacy concerns seem to be enough to limit the impact of BT. But there is more.

The Bigger Pitfalls of Behavioral Targeting
Beyond privacy concerns, there are accuracy and quality issues with BT that all online marketers and e-commerce managers may not be aware of.  Traditional BT struggles precisely because it tries to discern what I want now based on my past behaviors. Consider the impact of focusing on historical interests instead of current intent – if I bought a gag gift for a bachelor party, I certainly do not want to be bombarded by ads for similar “products” that might cause embarrassment or make me the butt of the joke around the office.

Another way to think of this problem is the idea of roles or personalization.  Humans have far too many roles in life – or what personalization systems might call profiles – to possibly predict what a given user wants on that day.  A woman shopping for baby clothes, a tie for her husband, and a gift for her sister may appear schizophrenic because she is acting in three different roles – mother, wife, and sister.   What do you show her next?  Tossing ads at her about strollers is not going to appeal to her now that she’s shopping for a new cocktail dress for herself.

This is the pitfall of profiles.  In a given month, an individual will have thousands of roles. Knowing my past is not necessarily a better way to predict my future. In fact, this phenomenon has been known by psychologists and other scientists for years – humans are animals of context and situations, much less so of our historical profiles or roles.

Let’s look at Facebook’s behavioral targeting practices. Alex Iskold recently wrote a good blog in ReadWriteWeb about a little myth regarding how behavioral targeting is going to help Facebook justify their $15 billion valuation. I like Alex’s summation of the myth: “because Facebook knows everything about us, it will always be able to serve perfect ads.” But the reality is very different.

Facebook does not really know much about us, especially anything about our true intent at any given moment when we are on the network.  Their user profiles are historical artifacts and not tied to current intent. In addition, the behaviors that users exhibit on Facebook are about connecting with one another – not about reading, researching, and buying like the rest of the web. And finally, when users connect they’re only acting in one of their infinite roles.

In the end, the ads we get served on Facebook today are the direct result of the lack of understanding of its users.  Those in the ad industry liken these to “Run of Network” ads which are not targeted and are simply designed to get a fraction of a percent click-through.  Unsurprisingly, most ads are about dating.

Enter Intent-based Targeting
An alternative that solves the issues with both privacy and effectiveness is one centered on understanding the user’s intent, instead of their clickpath or profile, and pairing that with specific content, product, and advertising recommendations. This approach relies exclusively on the collective wisdom of like-minded peers who have demonstrated interests or engagement with similar content and context.

The concept of profiles is completely removed in this case, and instead by understanding the user’s expressed or implied intent that user will see the content that is appropriate to their current mindset.

This is the next evolution in user targeting that gets beyond clicks and analytics, and instead rests on a proven foundation of modern social science theory.  The approach is conceptually simple and mimics how we learn and act in everyday life – making choices based on what others who are in the same current mindset as us have done.

Since humans change roles rapidly, intent-based models allow content recommendations, ads, and even search results to change instantly as users act in a new or different role.  Further, because historical actions and profiles are not needed, 100 percent of the new visitors coming to a website can be targeted with precise content before the first click.

Win/Win
Website users care about privacy and usability on the web.  Targeting visitors based on their intent, which is validated by the collective wisdom of those before them with the same intent, is a natural way for visitors to interact with your website – it’s the way humans have been programmed to work.  Most importantly it kills two birds with one stone: users get useful, accurate recommendations and ads while still avoiding the whole privacy mess. 

~~~~~~~~~

Jack is a founder and CEO of Baynote, Inc., a provider of Intent-driven Recommendation and Social Search technology for websites. Previously, Jack served as SVP & founding CTO of Interwoven Inc. with responsibilities across engineering, products, marketing, corporate vision and strategy. Prior to Interwoven, he was a founder and CEO of V-max America. Jack also led operating systems and applications development at SGI, Sun Microsystems, Stratus and NASA. He is a frequent major conference speaker and has appeared on television programs in several countries. He is a contributing author in “XML Handbook, the 4th Edition”, “Online! The Book”, “Content Management Bible”, and writes regularly about key technology issues and trends. He can be contacted at jack@baynote.com.

Can Google lead amid its ever growing infrastructure and computation expenditures?

While reading our daily dose of news, stories and events from the web sector we came across an interesting fact worth reading and mentioning further. Google seems to be processing huge amounts of data per day in their daily routines – 20 Petabytes per day (20,000 Terabytes, 20M GBs).

The average MapReduce job is said to run across a $1 million hardware cluster, not including bandwidth fees, datacenter costs, or staffing. The January 2008 MapReduce paper provides new insights into Google’s hardware and software crunching processing tens of petabytes of data per day.

In September 2007, for example, the white paper document shows Googlers have made 2217 MapReduce jobs crunching approximately 11,000 machine years in a single month. Breaking these numbers further down shows that 11,081 machine years / (2217 job.s x 395 sec = .0278 years) implies 399,000 machines. Since this is believed to double about every 6 months one may guess Google are up to about 600,000 machines by now.

Google converted its search indexing systems to the MapReduce system in 2003, and currently processes over 20 terabytes of raw web data.

Google is known to run on hundreds of thousands of servers – by one estimate, in excess of 450,000 (data as of 2006, today more likely 600,000) – racked up in thousands of clusters in dozens of data centers around the world. It has data centers in Dublin, Ireland; in Virginia; and in California, where it just acquired the million-square-foot headquarters it had been leasing. It recently opened a new center in Atlanta, and is currently building two football-field-sized centers in The Dalles, Ore.

Microsoft, by contrast, made about a $1.5 billion capital investment in server and data structure infrastructure in 2006. Google is known to have spent at least as much to maintain its lead, following a $838 million investment in 2005. We estimate 2008’s Google IT expenditures to be in the $2B range. 

Google buys, rather than leases, computer equipment for maximum control over its infrastructure. Google chief executive officer Eric Schmidt defended that strategy once in a call conference with financial analysts. “We believe we get tremendous competitive advantage by essentially building our own infrastructures,” he said.

In general, Google has a split personality when it comes to questions about its back-end systems. To the media, its answer is, “Sorry, we don’t talk about our infrastructure.” Yet, Google engineers crack the door open wider when addressing computer science audiences, such as rooms full of graduate students whom it is interested in recruiting.

Among other things, Google has developed the capability to rapidly deploy prefabricated data centers anywhere in the world by packing them into standard 20- or 40-foot shipping containers.

Interesting fact from the Google’s history can be found back in 2003 when, in a paper, Google noted that power requirements of a densely packed server rack could range from 400 to 700 watts per square foot, yet most commercial data centers could support no more than 150 watts per square foot. In response, Google was investigating more power-efficient hardware, and reportedly switched from Intel to AMD processors for this reason. Google has not confirmed the choice of AMD, which was reported two years later by Morgan Stanley analyst Mark Edelstone.

Basically Google is mainly relying on its own internally developed software for data and network management and has a reputation for being skeptical of “not invented here” technologies, so relatively few vendors can claim it as a customer.

Google is being rumored that they would eventually start to build their own servers, storage systems, Internet switches and perhaps, sometime in the future, even optical transport systems.

Other rumors claim Google to be a big buyer of dark fiber to connect its data centers, which helps explain why the company spent nearly $3.8 billion over the past seven quarters on capital expenditures.

That’s tremendous amount of information and IT operations and based on our basic calculations, as far as we are correct in our human computation, it turns out that Google is facing IT expenditures in the $2B range per year, including for their data centers and the people.

Even though Google’s completive advantage is not only because of its infrastructure but also employees (Google has what is arguable the brightest group of people ever assembled for a publicly held company), proprietary software, global brand awareness, huge market capitalization and revenues of more than $10B per year, we think $2B burn rate per year on computing needs alone is “walking on thin ice” strategy at breakneck pace. Companies like Guill, who are claiming to have invented a technology 10 times cheaper than Google’s in terms of indexing and storing the information, Powerset working in hadoop/hbase environment, IBM, Microsoft and Yahoo! could potentially take an advantage over Google as Web grows further, so the Google’s computing expenses too.

Btw, we have also found on Web that Google processes its data on a standard machine cluster node consisting two 2 GHz Intel Xeon processors with Hyper-Threading enabled, 4 GB of memory, two 160 GB IDE hard drives and a gigabit Ethernet link.

Yahoo! and Powerset are known to use Hadoop while Microsoft’s equivalent is called Dryad. Dryad and Hadoop are the competing equivalent to Google’s GFS, MapReduce and the BigTable.

More about MapReduce

MapReduce is a programming model and an associated implementation for processing and generating large data sets. Users specify a map function that processes a key/value pair to generate a set of intermediate key/value pairs, and a reduce function that merges all intermediate values associated with the same intermediate key.

Programs written in this functional style are automatically parallelized and executed on a large cluster of commodity machines. The run-time system takes care of the details of partitioning the input data, scheduling the program’s execution across a set of machines, handling machine failures, and managing the required inter-machine communication. This allows programmers without any experience with parallel and distributed systems to easily utilize the resources of a large distributed system.

Google’s implementation of MapReduce runs on a large cluster of commodity machines and is highly scalable: a typical MapReduce computation processes many terabytes of data on thousands of machines. Programmers find the system easy to use: hundreds of MapReduce programs have been implemented and upwards of one thousand MapReduce jobs are executed on Google’s clusters every day.

More about Hadoop

Hadoop is an interesting software platform that lets one easily write and run applications that process vast amounts of data. Here’s what makes Hadoop especially useful:

Scalable: Hadoop can reliably store and process petabytes.

Economical: It distributes the data and processing across clusters of commonly available computers. These clusters can number into the thousands of nodes.

Efficient: By distributing the data, Hadoop can process it in parallel on the nodes where the data is located. This makes it extremely rapid.

Reliable: Hadoop automatically maintains multiple copies of data and automatically redeploys computing tasks based on failures.

Hadoop implements MapReduce, using the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS). MapReduce divides applications into many small blocks of work. HDFS creates multiple replicas of data blocks for reliability, placing them on compute nodes around the cluster. MapReduce can then process the data where it is located. Hadoop has been demonstrated on clusters with 2000 nodes. The current design target is 10,000 node clusters. Hadoop is a Lucene sub-project that contains the distributed computing platform that was formerly a part of Nutch.

More about Dryad

Dryad is an infrastructure which allows a programmer to use the resources of a computer cluster or a data center for running data parallel programs. A Dryad programmer can use thousands of machines, each of them with multiple processors or cores, without knowing anything about concurrent programming.

The Structure of Dryad Jobs
 
A Dryad programmer writes several sequential programs and connects them using one-way channels. The computation is structured as a directed graph: programs are graph vertices, while the channels are graph edges. A Dryad job is a graph generator which can synthesize any directed acyclic graph. These graphs can even change during execution, in response to important events in the computation.

Dryad is quite expressive. It completely subsumes other computation frameworks, such as Google’s map-reduce, or the relational algebra. Moreover, Dryad handles job creation and management, resource management, job monitoring and visualization, fault tolerance, re-execution, scheduling, and accounting.

More

http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1327452.1327492
http://www.niallkennedy.com/blog/2008/01/google-mapreduce-stats.html
http://labs.google.com/papers/mapreduce.html
http://research.google.com/people/jeff/
http://research.google.com/people/sanjay/
http://research.microsoft.com/research/sv/dryad/
http://lucene.apache.org/hadoop/
http://labs.google.com/papers/gfs.html
http://labs.google.com/papers/bigtable.html
http://research.microsoft.com/research/sv/dryad/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/09/google-processing-20000-terabytes-a-day-and-growing/
http://feedblog.org/2008/01/06/mapreduce-simplified-data-processing-on-large-clusters/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MapReduce#Uses
http://open.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/hadoop/
http://www.baselinemag.com/print_article2/0,1217,a=182560,00.asp
http://www.stanford.edu/services/websearch/Google/
http://gigaom.com/2007/12/04/google-infrastructure/
http://gigaom.com/2005/09/19/google-asks-for-googlenet-bids/

Virtual television network start-up has raised $8 million in second round

The virtual television network start-up RayV Ltd. has raised $8 million in its second financing round as the money is coming from Accel Partners.

RayV describes its business as follows: “Why is everybody so hell-bent on replacing TV? We here at RayV, like TV. The only thing is, we want more of it.

Sure, we love the big networks – after all, they show us all the live Paris Hilton we can handle – and lots of other stuff too. We just want it at high quality on our TVs and on our PCs, anywhere in the world… and more…

We also want to watch live news channels from smaller, independent sources with correspondents around the world. We want channels of live performances from the newest bands at the University of Calcutta. And live coverage of rugby matches from England. And short-film channels from NYU Film School students. And coverage of local politics. And cooking channels for Vegans. And cooking channels for Carnivors. And…

Well, you get the point: TV – real, live, 24-hour TV channels – at TV quality. For the PC, for the TV. For anyone to watch… and for anyone to broadcast. At no cost. We like TV. In the next months, we’re going to give everyone the power to make more of it. Much more!”

Sounds like Joost.. or no. Too early to say whatever, still nothing is publicly available so only time will tell.

Other online sources are describing the company that it has plans to offer a new way for “consumers to find, review, and talk about local businesses. A cross between a web-based social community and an online business directory, RAYV is where people go to express their opinions on any type of local business and get recommendations from a trusted source – their peers.” And yet another description: RayV is developing “proprietary internet protocols forming a generic grid network, enabling anyone to broadcast LIVE TV to an unlimited amount of concurrent viewers at zero cost.”

Which is which? If the second one is anywhere close the truth it sounds intriguing from technological perspective, which anyone of the leading video sites on Web might be quite interested in.

Founded 20 months ago by Omer Luzzatti, Ron Zuckerman, and Oleg Levy, the company has been operating in stealth mode. Levy was previously an executive at Kagoor, which was acquired by Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq:JNPR) in 2005, and then served at Juniper’s Israeli R&D center. Zuckerman has been a well-known entrepreneur for the past 15 years. He has been an angel investor in several start-ups, including Wintegra Inc., Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd., Koolanoo Group Ltd., Attunity (Nasdaq: ATTU), Can-Fite BioPharma Ltd. (TASE:CFBI), and e-Glue Business Technologies Ltd.

The company is based in both locations Tel Aviv, Israel and New York, US.

Accel Partners was founded 24 years ago and manages $4 billion. It is one of the most active venture capital funds in Israel, and has offices in California, Europe, and China. Accel Europe manages $1 billion in two funds, both of which make investments in Israel.

Other video and TV related ventures Aceel has put money in are Brightcove and Metacafe.

Israel on the other hand seems to be pretty strong in the Internet TV arena, with some leading companies like BlogTV, Metacafe, and 5min.

No publicly available information was found about their first round of funding and who their other investors are.

More

http://www.rayv.com/
http://www.accel.com/
http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000261513&fid=942
http://archive.globes.co.il/ENGLISH/index.asp?ID=1000261513
http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2007/10/israeli_virtual.html
http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/virtual-tv-co-rayv-raises/story.aspx?guid=%7BC1A7A1B5-0344-4585-94E0-D20D1B1C5116%7D
http://israelplug.com/business/israeli-tv-startup-rayv-raises-8m/

Microsoft bets on enterprise search, offers to buy Fast.no for $1.2B

In what’s Microsoft’s second largest deal for the past 12 months the company offered to buy Fast Search & Transfer ASA, a leading provider of enterprise search solutions based in Norway. Details are as follows: Microsoft Corp. today announced that it will make an offer to acquire Fast Search & Transfer ASA (OSE: “FAST”), a leading provider of enterprise search solutions, through a cash tender offer for 19.00 Norwegian kroner (NOK) per share. This offer represents a 42 percent premium to the closing share price on Jan. 4, 2008 (the last trading day prior to this announcement), and values the fully diluted equity of FAST at 6.6 billion NOK (or approximately $1.2 billion U.S.).

FAST’s board of directors has unanimously recommended that its shareholders accept the offer. In addition, shareholders representing in aggregate 35 percent of the outstanding shares, including FAST’s two largest institutional shareholders, Orkla ASA and Hermes Focus Asset Management Europe, have irrevocably undertaken to accept the offer. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of calendar year 2008.

FAST has over 3500 enterprise clients, including heavyweights like Disney, The Washington Post, AutoTrader.com, and LexisNexis. According to Mary-Jo Foley from ZDNet, we should pay attention to how Microsoft will integrate FAST into their SharePoint Server. “Remember what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said about SharePoint last year: He characterized SharePoint as the next big operating system from Microsoft,” she writes. “More and more, it’s looking like enterprise search functionality is one of the biggest reasons why.”

“Enterprise search is becoming an indispensable tool to businesses of all sizes, helping people find, use and share critical business information quickly,” said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division. “Until now organizations have been forced to choose between powerful, high-end search technologies or more mainstream, infrastructure solutions. The combination of Microsoft and FAST gives customers a new choice: a single vendor with solutions that span the full range of customer needs.”

The companies possess a number of complementary strengths that advance a shared vision for helping businesses deliver information worker productivity and improved business results. FAST has a deep talent pool and is respected throughout the technology industry for its expertise in best-in-class, high-end search solutions. Microsoft offers worldwide customer reach and an extensive partner network, and is the recognized leader in business productivity with the popular Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, which combines search with best-in-class collaboration, business intelligence, portal and content management capabilities.

“This acquisition gives FAST an exciting way to spread our cutting-edge search technologies and innovations to more and more organizations across the world,” said John Lervik, CEO of FAST. “By joining Microsoft, we can benefit from the momentum behind the SharePoint business productivity platform to really empower a broader set of users through Microsoft’s strong sales and marketing network. It validates FAST’s momentum and leadership in enterprise search.”

In addition to bolstering Microsoft’s enterprise search efforts, this acquisition increases Microsoft’s research and development presence in Europe, complementing existing research teams in Cambridge, England, and Copenhagen, Denmark, with new and significant capabilities in Norway.

The offer will be subject to customary terms and conditions, including receipt of acceptances representing more than 90 percent of FAST shares and voting power on a fully diluted basis, and receipt of all necessary regulatory approvals on terms acceptable to Microsoft. The complete details of the offer, including all terms and conditions, will be contained in the offer document, which is expected to be sent to FAST shareholders during the week of Jan. 14, 2008. The offer will not be made in any jurisdiction in which the making of the offer would not be in compliance with the laws of such jurisdiction.

Larry Dignan, also from ZDNet, thinks this will lead the rest of the industry to consolidate the same way the advertising industry has been. “Until now organizations have been forced to choose between powerful, high-end search technologies or more mainstream, infrastructure solutions. The combination of Microsoft and FAST gives customers a new choice: a single vendor with solutions that span the full range of customer needs,” said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division.

More about FAST

FAST, which was founded in 1997, creates the real-time search and business intelligence solutions that are behind the scenes at the world’s best-known companies with the most demanding information challenges. FAST’s flexible and scalable integrated technology platform and personalized portal connects users, regardless of medium, to the relevant information they need.

FAST is headquartered in Norway and is publicly traded under the ticker symbol ‘FAST’ on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The FAST Group operates globally with presence in Europe, the United States, Asia, Australia, the Americas, and the Middle East. For further information about FAST, please visit http://www.fast.no/.

FAST’s Business is Enterprise Search. Since they have set up their company in Norway back in 1997, they have grown rapidly to become a global organization with offices across six continents. FAST is said to be the forefront of search technology and it knows how to do the heavy lifting, as they claim. 
 
Execution excellence
With over 3500 installations, many at Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies, we have an illustrious pedigree. These blue-chip companies rely on us to help them achieve their business goals and they are loyal. If you ask our customers why they remain loyal, they will probably tell you how we exceed their expectations, provide an unparalleled level of service and show a demonstrable return on their investment. In many cases we have fundamentally contributed to their success.

In 2005 independent evaluations of our support organization gave us a 98% satisfaction rating. We get tested quarterly. In 2005 we delivered more than 300 successful customer projects on schedule and within budget. We also ran over 100 Search Best Practices workshops across the world with extremely positive feedback. It helps that more than 60% of our work force are engineers and that close to 50 of our engineers have PhDs in relevant fields. They enable us to meet complex needs by delivering simplicity.

Financial strength
We are the market leader in Enterprise Search and number one in revenue growth. We have no debt. We have been profitable, exceeding our projections, for every quarter during the last 4 years. And we have made these profits while investing a quarter of our income back into R&D. Performance like this gives us the freedom to invest in innovation and win on value and financial return.

Partner power
Partners give us the ability to deliver total solutions and our FAST X 10 partner program plays a major role in our success. We have over 90 Systems Integrators and VARs on board, and over 30 OEMs embedding our search technology. We have also certified close to 1000 developers in FAST University, drawing on our best-of-breed approach to partnering. Quantity is less important than quality, of course. We only pursue a partnership if there is a mutually beneficial, lasting opportunity.

Global presence
We have been a globally minded company, with a global outlook, since our inception. Maybe it is because of our Norwegian roots. In fact, soon after we opened our doors we established an office in the United States. We now have offices in 6 continents and development centers in 4 of them. Our products support close to 80 different languages.

John M. Lervik, Ph.D., serves as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and is a co-founder of FAST. Dr. Lervik served as the Company’s Chief Technology Officer from 1997 to September 2001 overlooking all of the company research and product development activities. Dr. Lervik holds a Ph.D. from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and was awarded the best overall PhD at NTNU in 1996/97.

Other co-founders of FAST are Mr. Thomas Joseph Fussell, who was a co-founder of Fast Search & Transfer ASA and has served as Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors since June 1997 and was Managing Director in 2000 and Mr. Robert Napier Keith, co-founded Fast Search & Transfer ASA and has served as Executive Director since June 1997.

Some people think this is a brilliant acquisition for Microsoft. Gartner says that Microsoft is struggling in this (already crowded) market. FAST is recognized as an industry-leader, along with Autonomy, Endeca, ZyLab, among others. 

The other thing to keep in mind is Microsoft’s biggest bet, which is its DYNAMICS (ERP/CRM) division. Because Business Objects was acquired by SAP, Microsoft possibly became more compelled to make an acquisition. Enterprise Search is going to be an absolutely massive component of ERP in the coming years, and this is a market that is strategic for Microsoft.

Fast.no seems to have some issues with its Board of Directors. More information enclosed below.

The conduct of Fast’s directors has been the subject of much comment in Norway. In Jan 2006 a article ran in the Norwegian IT paper that claimed that one of FAST’s directors Tomas Fussel had made a 2000% markup for himself by buying a loss making company Hercules communications and selling it to the public company Fast 3 weeks later for a massive mark up.

More recently there has been controversy at the board level with one director resigning and another making public statements about other directors and major shareholders. Fast’s board member Robert Keith said in a newspaper interview, “I ought to have seen the problems in Fast earlier. And I ought to have understood that Hans Gude Gudesen is a crazy liar. Also, I ought to have shot Oystein Stray Spetalen the first time I met him. That would have helped a lot of people, says the controversial Brit to the paper [Finansavisen].” Spetalen and Hans Gude Gudesen are both major shareholders in Fast. Furthermore directors Keith and Fussel are allegedly being pursued by the Norwegian tax authorities for $50M in unpaid taxes the government says it is owed by them. In the event of non payment liability may fall on the company. I should have shot Spetalen.

The ongoing turmoil has seen 3 directors resign from the board in the last month, the latest being Johan Fredrik Odfjell who is quoted in the company’s release as saying `FAST faces many challenges and opportunities going forward’

On December the 22nd Orka FAST’s largest shareholder demanded an EGM to force Fussel and Keith off the board

Need to Restate Accounts for 2006 and 2007

On the 12th of December 2007 Oslo Bors suspended trading of FAST shares. The next morning the company announced it was reviewing the accounting utilized for the 2006 and 2007 reports with a likely outcome that this would be changed. In an article titled “Fast restates its accounts” http://www.dagensit.no stated that Fasts results for 2006 and 2007 may be restated in what it called ”another clean up round.” It also stated “The Search technology vendor Fast Search & Transfer have had several rounds with restating of accounts. Also after CFO Joseph Lacson some months ago declared that “everything is cleaned up” one has found skeletons in the closet. Wednesday afternoon trading was suspended, after what the stock exchange called “certain conditions”.

Earlier last year FAST has acquired AgentArts, a San Francisco-based technology company with a personalization and recommendation engine for music, video, games and mobile entertainment. AgentArts clients include Infospace Mobile, Telstra Big Pond, Telstra Mobile, and Unipier. FAST said will add the technology to its enterprise search products, which will allow users to see the relationships between content and get recommendations for similar content based on their search patterns. It also includes a social recommendation feature, which helps users discover similar content based on patterns of other users with similar interests.

Although Fast Search & Transfer’s core business is widely known to be enterprise search, in 2007 the company seems to have sharply turned towards online advertising and search monetization, which seems the Web’s 2007 trend anyways, everybody is trying to become an ad company, platform or network. 

Also late last year (2007) FAST, which may be a company best known for specializing in site search, has launched a product platform that is looking to socialize the ecommerce storefront search function. It’s called FAST Recommendations and it is based on offering product recommendations similar to those of Amazon.com, but with a social twist.

If some of the information above proves to be true then this is a major, and in time, exit for the FAST’s shareholders.

More

http://www.fastsearch.com/
http://www.fast.no 
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/jan08/01-08FastSearchPR.mspx
http://www.forbes.com/prnewswire/feeds/prnewswire/2008/01/08/prnewswire200801080443PR_NEWS_USPR_____AQTU104.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/08/microsoft-has-announced-a-takeover-bid-for-fast-search-transfer-priced-at-12-billion/
http://mashable.com/2008/01/08/microsoft-to-acquire-fast-search-transfer/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/microsoft_fast_takeover.php
http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1085
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=7518
http://www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch/serverproducts/searchserverexpress/default.aspx
 

After Last.fm, Wallstrip CBS has now acquired Dotspotter

Online gossip site Dotspotter has been acquired by CBS for $10 million. In Digg style Dotspotter lets users offer up celebrity news, video clips, images, articles and sightings for your leisurely enjoyment. You can vote up the ones you like and vote down the ones you hate.

After acquiring Last.fm for $280M CBS president Leslie Moonves laid out an online marketing strategy, which most likely includes the current acquisition. As Valleywag pointed out Dotspotter’s short one-year lifespan didn’t scare off serial charmer Quincy Smith, the startup-mad head of CBS Interactive. Earlier CBS has also bought the financial video blog Wallstrip. Sources also claim that one of Dotspotter’s beneficiaries is Facebook CFO Gideon Yu.

According to Quantcast the site is getting less than 600,000 American unique visitors per month. Compete is reporting for pretty much the same number of visitors. At the time the deal was announced (Oct 2006) the site had only 280,000 users a month according to Compete. This compared to the 3.6 million for TMZ and 1.5 million for PerezHilton, perhaps the most popular entertainment blog.

The company is founded by Anthony Soohoo, who is a former Yahoo exec.  It would appear that Anthony Soohoo made the right choice by leaving Yahoo back in March 2006.

The price seems pretty high for a sector which is crowded with more high profile celebrity blogs/sites like TMZ.com, PerezHilton, and others as well as the fact that the site has only been launched mid-January last year. Online sources close to the situation tell the price is not for the site itself, but the team that has built it. Structured this way the deal may also include a heavy earn-out component.

CBS has launched celebrity news before like the site Showbuzz in June 2006, but things did not go any further. CBS also produces two celebrity tabloid shows The Insider and ET.

At the end of the day it appears as a nice exit for the investors since the site is said to have only raised seed money from angels and the amount is rumored to be less than $1M. Gideon Yu is one of the investors, along with couple of other angels.

More about Dotspotter

Dotspotter is a new way to explore and enjoy pop culture. We’re the community that lets users discover, share and talk about the people, places and ideas that are defining what’s hot and happening. People use Dotspotter to find the latest scoops, gab with their friends, share celebrity sightings and cast their votes on the pop culture topics that they care about.

People join for many different reasons. Whether you want to try your skills at breaking celebrity gossip (you know, bring out your inner paparazzi!) or you just want to have fun socializing with others, Dotspotter members can do it all. And the best part is that joining Dotspotter is absolutely FREE. All that’s needed to join Dotspotter is a valid email address. Once you register, join the topics that interest you and connect with people like you who have a passion for all things pop culture!

Dotspotter is made up of many different and interesting people with a common interest centered on pop culture entertainment. Join in the discussions, participate in the community and make new friends.

About CBS Interactive

As the online extension of America’s most-watched network, CBS Interactive enhances the viewer experience with best-of-breed content from some of the biggest brands in television across multiple platforms.

CBS has partnered with a collection of leading next-generation companies to create the CBS Audience Network, the web’s first and largest professional video content network, delivering reach and targeting capabilities to our advertisers. The result… the best lineup of full-length and short-form clips from CBS, CSTV and Showtime are now available to over 140 million uniques per month reaching 89% of the Web. Some of the online brands include: CBSSports.com, NCAASports.com, CBSNews.com, TheShowbuzz.com, Wallstrip, CBS.com, STARTREK.COM, Last.fm, CBS Audience Network, CBS Games and CBS Mobile.

Oddly but Dotspotter does not appear as a stand alone online destination/brand.

More

http://www.dotspotter.com
http://www.cbs.com/
http://valleywag.com/tech/acquisitions/cbs-eyes-gossip-site-for-10-million-309047.php
http://mashable.com/2007/10/10/cbs-dotspotter/
http://www.quantcast.com/dotspotter.com
http://siteanalytics.compete.com/dotspotter.com/?metric=uv
http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2007/10/pink_pop_cultur.html
http://blogs.business2.com/startups/2007/06/thousands-of-ma.html
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-cbs-buys-a-year-old-celebrity-gossip-blog-dotspotter-price-around-10-mi/
http://www.alleyinsider.com/2007/10/cbs-buys-celeb-.html
http://www.cbscorporation.com/
http://www.cbsdigitalmedia.com/

Google bought Jaiku, instead of Twitter

Finnish short messaging and microblogging service Jaiku has been acquired by Google. 
Notable fact here is the fact that Google bought Jaiku instead of its competitor Twitter, a service founded by Blogger founder Evan Williams.

We think a possible reason of that situation could be the current overvaluation of Titter.  Jaiku may also be better on the mobile platform than Twitter.

Technology has made staying in touch with your friends and family both easier and harder: living a fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle is easier (and a lot of fun), but it’s more difficult to keep track of everyone when they’re running around at warp speed.

That’s why, Google said, we’re excited to announce that we’ve acquired Jaiku, a company that’s been hard at work developing useful and innovative applications for staying in touch with the people you care about most — regardless of whether you’re at a computer or on a mobile phone.

Google has lately been rolling out a number of very young mobile services. Interesting fact from the past of Google is yet another acquisition of very similar company called Dodgeball that went literally no where. 

RedMonk analyst James Governor, who has blogged extensively about the business value of Jaiku competitor Twitter has some interesting thoughts on the news. Governor says he’d like to see RIM buy Twitter but thinks Yahoo! is much more likely. He says the Jaiku mobile download could be a key addition to the Google Phone kernel but fears that all the leading microblogging services will be quickly overrun with commercial messages. Perhaps that is the commercial future of the microblogging services.

At the time of the deal took place Twitter was full with conversation on the acquisition, according the tracking service Twitterverse, the hottest word across Twitter in the last hour is Jaiku.

With easy group creation, RSS import and threaded conversation, amongst other features, Jaiku is probably a superior service to Twitter. Creation of new accounts have been stopped at Jaiku with news of the announcement.

More about Jaiku

Jaiku’s main goal is to bring people closer together by enabling them to share their activity streams. An activity stream is a log of everyday things as they happen: your status messages, recommendations, events you’re attending, photos you’ve taken – anything you post directly to Jaiku or add using Web feeds. We offer a way to connect with the people you care about by sharing your activities with them on the Web, IM, and SMS – as well as through a slew of cool third-party applications built by other developers using our API.

The most powerful instrument of social peripheral vision is your mobile phone. We’ve put in a special effort to create Jaiku Mobile, a live phonebook that displays the activity streams, availability, and location of your Jaiku contacts right in your phone contact list. We modestly believe it is the best solution out there for seeing what your friends are up to. Currently Jaiku Mobile is available for phones based on the Nokia S60 software platform.

To learn more about Jaiku, this video interview may be found insightful and interesting. It is done by the new European outfit Intruders.tv with company founder Jyri Engestrom, trained as a sociologist and formerly from Nokia.

Jaiku’s founders have commented on the home page of their site on the acquisition.

While it’s too soon to comment on specific plans, we look forward to working with our new friends at Google over the coming months to expand in ways we hope you’ll find interesting and useful. Our engineers are excited to be working together and enthusiastic developers lead to great innovation. We look forward to accomplishing great things together. In order to focus on innovation instead of scaling, we have decided to close new user sign-ups for now.

But fear not, all our Jaiku services will stay running the way you are used to and you will be able to invite your friends to Jaiku.

More

http://jaiku.com/
http://jaiku.com/blog
http://google.com/
http://www.jaiku.com/blog/2007/10/09/were-joining-google/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_acquires_jaiku.php
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/reach-out-and-message-someone.html
http://jaiku.com/help/google
http://us.intruders.tv/Essential-Web-07-Interview-with-Jaiku-co-founder-Jyri-Engestrom_a93.html
http://twitterverse.com/
 

Online storage sector is hot, yet another player is entering the game

Just it was a couple of days ago when we reported and analyzed the two major acquisitions within the online storage sector IBM announced it has acquired XIV, an Israeli company for what is believed to be $350M and some months ago EMC Corporation has snatched up Mozy for $76M. Today we have dug up yet another deal from the same industry.

Intronis Technologies, the parent company of eSureIt’s online storage and backup services, has raised $5 million in Series A round of funding. eSureIt claims to have about 5,000 customers. The funding comes from OpenView Venture Partners, a small Boston based investment fund. 

The sector is under no doubt overcrowded and there are many companies offering similar solutions and services yet the business has proved lucrative with recently some major exit hitting the sector. While eSuireIT has been launched in 2003, we think the real entrance for the company into the online storage and back up market is today after getting the crucial funding.

More about eSureIT

The founders of Intronis have more than 30 years of combined IT consulting, computer system and software design and network installation for small and medium sized businesses and individuals. In the late 1990’s, the founders, after talking with dozens of their clients and other IT professionals came to the realization that most small businesses were not backing up their data at all. The few companies that did backup, often did not properly rotate backup tapes, did not verify that backups were successful, and almost always stored their backup storage devices onsite, often right on top of their computers. This recognition led to the creation of Intronis Technologies and after three years of research and development, software design and testing, the launch of the eSureIT online backup service in 2003.

Essentially eSureIT is an online backup service that allows you to backup your valuable computer data over the Internet. eSureIT automates the process of backing up your data offsite.  Backups begin automatically and your data is sent to and stored in two redundant storage facilities located hundreds of miles apart.  Your data is encrypted, and always remains encrypted using a unique 256 bit encryption key that only you have.  Moreover, with this data backup solution, you can restore your files as often as you need to and at any time day or night, in as easy as a few clicks of your mouse. eSureIT has pricing plans starting at $9.95 for home users and $24.95 for businesses.  They are also offering a free 30-day software trial with no obligation whatsoever.

More about OpenView Venture Partners

OpenView is an expansion stage venture capital fund, with a focus on high-growth software, internet, and technology-enabled companies. Much of the team’s success has been driven by its active role in providing its portfolio companies with strategic value-add services and highly practical operating expertise. OpenView Venture Partners is based in Boston, MA, and invests globally. The current OpenView fund encompasses $100M in committed capital from leading institutional and private investors worldwide, as well as from the members of the OpenView team.

More

http://www.esureit.com/
http://www.intronis.com/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/10/esureit-funding/
http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2007/10/online_backups_1.html
http://www.openviewpartners.com/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/01/03/two-major-acquisition-deals-within-the-online-storage-space/

Google files patent for recognizing text in images

Google has filed a patent application in July 2007, which has just recently become public claiming methods where robots can read and understand text in images and video. The basic idea here is Google to be able to index videos and images and made them available and searchable by text or keywords located inside the image or the video. Aside Google Inc. the application was filed by Luc Vincent from Palo Alto, Calif. and Adrian Ulges from Delaware, US. The inventors are Luc Vincent and Adrian Ulges.

Digital images can include a wide variety of content. For example, digital images can illustrate landscapes, people, urban scenes, and other objects. Digital images often include text. Digital images can be captured, for example, using cameras or digital video recorders. Image text (i.e., text in an image) typically includes text of varying size, orientation, and typeface. Text in a digital image derived, for example, from an urban scene (e.g., a city street scene) often provides information about the displayed scene or location. A typical street scene includes, for example, text as part of street signs, building names, address numbers, and window signs.”

If Google manages to implement that technology the consumer search will be taken to the next level and Google would have an access to much wider array of information far beyond the text only search it already plays a leading role in.

This, of course, raises some additional privacy issues as being properly noted by InformationWeek. Gogole had already privacy issues with Google Maps Street View and if that technology starts to index and recognize textual information from millions of videos and billions of pictures around Web things might go more complicated.
 
Nonetheless if that technology bears the fruits it promises it will represent a gigantic leap forward in the progression of the general search technology.

There are open sources solutions to the problem. Perhaps not scalable and effective as it would be if Google develops it, yet they do exist.

Andrey Kucherenko from Ukraine is known to have made a very interesting project in that aspect. His classes can recognize text in monochrome graphical images after a training phase. The training phase is necessary to let the class build recognition data structures from images that have known characters. The training data structures are used during the recognition process to attempt to identify text in real images using the corner algorithm. His project is called PHPOCR and more information can be found over here.

PHPOCR have won the PHPClasses innovation awards of March 2006, and it shows the power of what could be implemented with PHP5. Certain types of applications require reading text from documents that are stored as graphical images. That is the case of scanned documents.

An OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tool can be used to recover the original text that is written in scanned documents. These are sophisticated tools that are trained to recognize text in graphical images.

This class provides a base implementation for an OCR tool. It can be trained to learn how to recognize each letter drawn in an image. Then it can be used to recognize longer texts in real documents.

Another very interesting start-up believed to be heavily deploying text recognition inside videos is CastTV. The company is based in San Francisco and over its just $3M in funding is trying to build one of the Web’s best video search engines. CastTV lets users find all their favorite online videos, from TV shows to movies to the latest celebrity, sports, news, and viral Internet videos. The company’s proprietary technology addresses two main video search challenges: finding and cataloging videos from the web and delivering relevant video results to users.

CastTV was one of the presenters at Techcrunch40 and was there noticed by Marissa Mayer from Google. She asked CastTV the following question: “Would like to know more about your matching algo for the video search engines?”. CastTV then replied: “We have been scaling as the video market grows – relevancy is a very tough problem – we are matching 3rd party sites and supplementing the meta data.”

Today we see Marissa’s question in the light of the patent application above and the context seems quite different and the answer from CastTV did not address Google’s concerns. Does CastTV work on something similar to what the patent is trying to cover for Google? We do not know but the time will tell. CastTV’s investors are Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Ron Conway. Hope they make a nice exit from CastTV.
 
Adobe has also some advances in that particular area. You can use Acrobat to recognize text in previously scanned documents that have already been converted to PDF. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) runs with header/footer/Bates number on image PDF files.

It is also interesting that Microsoft had, in fact, applied for a very similar patent (called “Visual and Multi-Dimensional Search“). Even more interesting here is the fact that MS had beaten Google to the punch by filing three days earlier – Microsoft filed on June 26, 2007, while Google filed on June 29.

Full abstract, description and claims can be read below:

More

http://google.com
http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/ia.jsp?IA=US2007072578&DISPLAY=STATUS
http://www.techmeme.com/080104/p23
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/04/google-lodges-patent-for-reading-text-in-images-and-video/
http://www.webmasterworld.com/goog/3540344.htm
http://enterprise.phpmagazine.net/2006/04/recognize_text_objects_in_grap.html
http://www.phpclasses.org/browse/package/2874.html
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/casttv
http://www.casttv.com/
http://www.google.com/corporate/execs.html
http://www.centernetworks.com/techcrunch40-search-and-discovery
http://www.setthings.com/2008/01/04/recognizing-text-in-images-patent-by-google/
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/Acrobat/8.0/Professional/help.html?content=WS2A3DD1FA-CFA5-4cf6-B993-159299574AB8.html
http://www.techcrunch40.com/
http://www.therottenword.com/2008/01/microsoft-beats-google-to-image-text.html

Two major acquisition deals within the online storage space

IBM today announced it has acquired XIV, a privately-held storage technology company based in Tel Aviv, Israel. XIV, its technologies and employees, will become part of the IBM System Storage business unit of the IBM Systems and Technology Group. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed but sources tell the price was $350M. 

XIV’s main product Nextra is a storage system based on a grid of standard hardware components. XIV will become part of the IBM System Storage business unit of the IBM Systems and Technology Group. XIV was established in 2002 by five graduates from the 14th class of the Israeli Army’s elite “Talpiot” program where the name XIV coming from. It’s the Roman numeral for 14. The company got only $3 million in backing thus far, making this deal a fairly huge exit for the founders.

“The acquisition of XIV will further strengthen the IBM infrastructure portfolio long term and put IBM in the best position to address emerging storage opportunities like Web 2.0 applications, digital archives and digital media,” said Andy Monshaw, general manager, IBM System Storage. “The ability for almost anyone to create digital content at any time has accelerated the need for a whole new way of applying infrastructure solutions to the new world of digital information.  IBM’s goal is to provide the leading technologies and solutions at every layer of the data center – storage, servers, software and services – to address these new realities IT customers face.” 

“We are pleased to become a significant part of the IBM family, allowing for our unique storage architecture, our engineers and our storage industry experience to be part of IBM’s overall storage business,” said Moshe Yanai, chairman, XIV.  “We believe the level of technological innovation achieved by our development team is unparalleled in the storage industry.  Combining our architectural advancements with IBM’s world-wide research, sales, service, manufacturing, and distribution capabilities will provide us with the ability to have these technologies tackle the emerging Web 2.0 technology needs and reach every corner of the world.”

The NEXTRA architecture has been in production for more than two years, with more than four petabytes of capacity being used by customers today. 

IBM’s acquisition of XIV supports the IBM growth strategy and capital allocation model, as part of the company’s overall objective for earnings-per-share growth through 2010.

XIV is led by Moshe Yanai, one of the key architects of data storage systems and instrumental in the development of EMC’s Symmetrix and DMX product lines throughout the 1990s.

Which brings us to the question why EMC did not buy XIV but that was done by IBM? EMC instead has acquired the online storage startup Mozy, headquartered in Utah. EMC Corporation itself is a public storage company. EMC has paid $76 million for the company, according to web sources.

“Mozy’s technology and online delivery model has proven itself to be one of the industry’s most admired offerings for customers looking to safely and cost-effectively backup and recover their digital information stored on desktops, laptops, and remote office servers,” said Tom Heiser, EMC SVP, Corporate Development and New Ventures. “The acquisition of Mozy is a natural extension of EMC’s leadership in the protection and security of personal and business information. We will continue to invest in Mozy’s full portfolio of online backup and recovery services and advance the Mozy brand in the marketplace.”

“I have been researching and developing internet-scale storage and information management solutions throughout my career,” said Josh Coates, founder and former CEO of Berkeley Data Systems. “EMC and Berkeley Data Systems are a natural fit, and I’m confident that EMC is the right organization to take Mozy to the next level. I look forward to working with EMC to continue innovating in the storage and information management industry.”

The company has basically a very simple way for users to back up their computer hard drives online. You need to download their software and the backups occur slowly over time. Mozy supports both Windows and Mac machines.

Mozy has raised just $1.9 million in venture capital, which is less than the $3M XIV has raised but the XIV’s exit sale is much larger by contrast. The round, closed in May 2005, was led by Wasatch Ventures, with participation from Tim Draper of Draper Associates and Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson and Novell co-founder Drew Major. Mozy was created by Berkeley Data Systems, which is a technology company based in Utah that specializes in large scale, parallel storage systems and software.

There were rumors circulating some time ago that Mozy was close to being acquired by Google for significantly less than this. The company eventually passed on the deal, which must have been a tough call. They clearly made the right choice in waiting.

About EMC Corporation

EMC Corporation is the world’s leading developer and provider of information infrastructure technology and solutions. We help organizations of every size around the world keep their most essential digital information protected, secure, and continuously available. We are among the 10 most valuable IT product companies in the world. We are driven to perform, to partner, to execute. We go about our jobs with a passion for delivering results that exceed our customers’ expectations for quality, service, innovation, and interaction. We pride ourselves on doing what’s right and on putting our customers’ best interests first. We lead change and change to lead. We are devoted to advancing our people, customers, industry, and community. We say what we mean and do what we say. We are EMC, where information lives. EMC Corporation has nearly $40 billion market cap. EMC is listed on the NYSE (NYSE: EMC).

About IBM System Storage business

IBM is a market leader in the storage industry. Innovative technology, open standards, excellent performance, a broad portfolio of storage proven software, hardware and solutions offerings – all backed by IBM with its recognized e-business on demand(r) leadership are just a few of the reasons why you should consider IBM storage offerings. Through its deep industry expertise, patent leadership, research and innovation, IBM has long been the leader in providing customers with technology solutions that help them deliver and utilize information effectively.  With industry recognized leadership in storage and server hardware and software, and through the recent strategic acquisitions of Softek, FileNet and NovusCG, IBM has grown its storage services offerings and presents customers with strategic solutions to deliver integrated software, hardware, services and research in standardized offerings that can be used by customers of all sizes to help them transform their businesses.  

Competition

Other online storage companies include: Amazon’s S3 (Simple Storage Service), Cnet’s All you can Upload, AllMyData, Box.neteSnips, Freepository, GoDaddy, iStorage, MofileOmnidrive, Openomy, Streamload, Strongspace, iBackup, Zingee, Xdrive and Carbonite, which is known to have raised $21 million in venture financing.

It is also rumored that Google is planning to launch gDrive. Microsoft is also jumping into the same bandwagon and more information can be found over here. Zmanda is an open source back up solution as well.

The online storage space is hugely overpopulated and crowded area. Who is next? A comparison chart over some of the companies above can be found over here: http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=93730415&size=o

Our basic conclusion is that both XIV and Mozy have made very impressive exit deals taking into consideration the small amount of funding they both have taken so far.

More

http://www.mozy.com/
http://mozy.com/blog
http://mozy.com/news/releases
http://www.xivstorage.com/
http://www.xivstorage.com/company/company_news.asp 
http://www.emc.com/
http://www.emc.com/about/
http://www.ibm.com/storage
http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/storage/index.html
http://crunchbase.com/company/mozy
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/01/31/the-online-storage-gang/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/03/ibm-acquires-storage-company-xiv-for-350-million/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/03/benchmark-europe-invests-in-uk-gambling-site/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/carbonite
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/01/31/the-online-storage-gang/
http://avc.blogs.com/a_vc/2005/12/online_backups_.html
http://jeremiahthewebprophet.blogspot.com/2006/05/online-data-storage-companies-ongoing.html
http://www.microsoft-watch.com/article2/0,1995,1951237,00.asp?kc=MWRSS02129TX1K0000535
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1934589,00.asp
http://sftechsessions.com/2006/06/june-online-storage/
http://c2web.blogspot.com/2006/01/carbonite-online-photo-backup.html
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=93730415&size=o
http://www.storagesearch.com
http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/ptech-20061214.html
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/2007-10-30-tech-backup_N.htm
http://draperandassociates.com/
http://www.dfj.com/

RockYou named one of the top innovations for 2007

RockYou is amongst the top 6 innovation leaps for 2007 according CNN. Below is what Michael V. Copeland from Fortune wrote about the company.

While the giants of social networking battle for the attention of Internet users, the guys behind RockYou are happy to sit in the middle. They make their money shipping the tiny apps known as widgets that add value to the Web sites–and generate ad revenue for RockYou. “MySpace and Facebook are like my two divorced parents,” says Shen, who launched the company with Tokuda in 2005. “And I am their child whose love they are trying to buy.”

No wonder. RockYou today is the hottest widget factory on the Web. More than 35 million people in 200 countries have used its little programs, which rack up 180 million page views per day. What do RockYou’s widgets do? The things people who populate MySpace and Facebook love to do, like post silly notes and videos on RockYou’s Super-Wall, quiz each other with RockYou’s Likeness’s trivia questions, or test their astrological waters via RockYou’s Horoscope. Look for the company’s widgets to start showing up in your e-mail, your instant messages, and, perhaps by 2009, your cellphone.

Interesting fact is that RockYou seems to be heavily relying on organic traffic despite its popularity. On its home page it is clearly visible a text link “Create SlideShow” which points to: http://www.rockyou.com/slideshow-create.php. When searched on Google that page appears #3 out of millions results returned. http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&q=Create+SlideShow.

Indeed the company looks very healthy to us. Quantcast reports for almost 7M global unique visitors while the Americans alone are slightly over 2M/mo. Compete is showing pretty much the same number of visitors – almost 6M per month, only American traffic.

The company founders are Lance Tokuda and Jia Shen and RockYou is based in San Mateo, Calif. Co-Founders Lance Tokuda and Jia Shen were sued by their former employer Iconix in 2006. Iconix claimed Tokuda and Shen were working on a slideshow application for them at the same time the pair created RockYou. A preliminary injunction favored Iconix before the intellectual property theft case was settled out of court.

The company is partnering with some of today’s webs top sites like Bebo, Friendster, Flixter, WordPress and Hi5, among others.

Slide.com is  the RockYou’s main competitor. However now RockYou!’s Super Wall app has overtaken Slide’s similar FunWall app for the #1 spot, with 3.1 million daily active users. RockYou! has recently put up a press release claiming there are more popular than Slide, with CEO Lance Tokuda calling it “a significant milestone for RockYou.”
RockYou has recently signed a deal with PlayFirst, who just got $16.5M in series C round of funding led by DCM that included original investors Mayfield Fund, Trinity Ventures and Rustic Canyon Partners. The new round brings total funding for PlayFirst to $26.5 million. Under the deal RockYou will distribute PlayFirst games through its widget and social networking service, with Wedding Dash the first title to be made available to Facebook users. PlayFirst sees the deal a way of tapping into the growing popularity of social networking sites as a gaming platform.

Most recently, the company has also launched its own Facebook-specific ad network.

More about RockYou

RockYou is a leading provider of applications and widgets on the web. RockYou widgets include photo slideshows, glitter text, customized Facebook applications and voicemail accessories that are simple to use and enable people to frequently refresh their online style. Founded in 2006, RockYou has over 35 million users, serving over 180 million widget views per day in more than 200 countries. RockYou applications are customized for easy integration across all social networks including Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Tagged and hi5. RockYou’s cost-effective, results-focused advertising platform is the largest Ad Network on Facebook and the most dynamic method for rapidly acquiring Facebook application users. New applications can reach over 100k users in 24 hours, spanning a suite of applications across multiple publishing partners.

Widgets offered are as followed:

  • Slideshows (your photos with music, captions and a theme)
  • PhotoFX (stylize your photos)
  • Glitter FXtext (add glitter and more to your text)
  • FunNotes (choose a theme, caption and effects for your note)
  • Countdown Timer (countdown to important events)
  • Group Corkboard (you and your friends can add pictures, text and more to the corkboard)
  • MySpace Layouts (make your myspace page aesthetically pleasing)
  • ShoutOuts (record your voice and send it to a friend)
  • Scratcher (scratch your picture like a lottery ticket and see what’s hidden behind)
  • VoiceMail (allows your friends to leave voice comments on your page)
  • Games (make your profile or blog more fun by adding games to it)
  • Horoscope (get daily horoscopes and find out your compatibility with friends)
  • Movies (let your friends know what your favorite movies are)
  • Avatars (create an animated version of yourself to put on your profile)

RockYou was originally named RockMySpace. RockYou is funded by Sequoia Capital, Partech International and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company took funding in two rounds where Series A was $1.50M and the VCs participating were First Round Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital and the Series B round of funing was for $15.00M and participants were the same VCs plus Partech International. The total funding is $16.5M to date.

More about the Investors

Sequoia Capital
Sequoia Capital provides startup venture capital for very smart people who want to turn ideas into companies. As the “Entrepreneurs Behind the Entrepreneurs”, Sequoia Capital’s Partners have worked with innovators such as Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Bob Swanson of Linear Technology, Sandy Lerner and Len Bozack of Cisco Systems, Dan Warmenhoven of Network Appliance, Jerry Yang and David Filo of Yahoo!, Jen-Hsun Huang of nVIDIA, Michael Marks of Flextronics, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen of YouTube, Steve Goldman and Sujal Patel of Isilon Systems and Dominic Orr and Keerti Melkote of Aruba Wireless Networks. To learn more about Sequoia Capital visit www.sequoiacap.com.

Lightspeed Venture Partners
Lightspeed Venture Partners combines extensive venture capital and operating experience to assist entrepreneurs in creating industry-leading technology companies. Lightspeed manages $1.3 billion of committed capital and focuses on seed and early-stage information technology investments in the U.S., Israel and Asia. The firm’s partners have invested in more than 100 technology companies over the past two decades and have contributed to the success of market leaders including Blue Nile, Brocade, Ciena, Galileo Technology, Informatica, Kiva Software, Metasolv, Phone.com, Quantum Effect Devices, Sirocco and Waveset. For more information, please visit our Website at www.lightspeedvp.com.

Partech International
Founded in 1982, Partech International is a leading global venture capital firm with $850M under management and offices in the U.S., Europe and Israel. Partech invests exclusively in Information Technology and the firm’s internationally integrated team of investing partners work together closely to find the most innovative companies demonstrating high return potential and disruptive technologies in the Software & Internet, Communications & Components and Healthcare IT sectors. Partech has a unique 20+ year track record assisting its portfolio companies to become global market leaders. To learn more go to www.partechvc.com.

We basically think RockYou is one of the top acquisition targets for 2008 as the price could be anything but in the “hundreds of millions” range.

More

http://www.rockyou.com/
http://www.rockyou.com/corp/about.php
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/fortune/0712/gallery.sixleaps.fortune/4.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/03/05/more-information-on-rockyou-financing/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/RockYou
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/02/rockyou-app-slides-to-top-spot-on-facebook/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/rockyou_vs_slide_facebook_app_developers.php
http://widgetygoodness.com/2007/12/03/rockyou-number-one-widget-maker/
http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/02/rockyou-climbing-past-slide-to-be-number-one-widget-maker/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/18/playfirst-takes-165-million-series-c-inks-deal-with-rockyou/
http://adage.com/article?article_id=121326&search_phrase=rockyou
http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2007-11-26-widgets_N.htm
http://internetcommunications.tmcnet.com/topics/enterprise/articles/14503-zazzle-rockyou-offer-custom-glittertext-products.htm
http://www.cio.co.uk/concern/infrastructurerefresh/features/index.cfm?articleid=551
http://mashable.com/2007/11/13/zazzle-rockyou/
http://xml.sys-con.com/read/456371.htm
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/02/AR2007110201894.html?hpid=moreheadlines
http://www.forbes.com/business/2007/11/01/facebook-rockyou-google-technology-cz_vb_1102rockyou.html
http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9805410-2.html
http://www.latimes.com/technology/la-fi-google31oct31,1,5536114.story?coll=la-headlines-technology&ctrack=1&cset=true
http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_7110470
http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119370202753875653.html
http://www.quantcast.com/rockyou.com
http://siteanalytics.compete.com/rockyou.com/?metric=uv
http://uk.intruders.tv/Jia-Shen-of-RockYou_a231.html

AOL‘s Platform-A gets the fourth ad company under its umbrella

AOL has finally completed the acquisition of online advertising company Quigo. Quigo is a provider of contextual advertising on third-party publisher Websites, much like AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network. The company offers a variety of different advertising formats including text, banners, and video, and sells them on a CPC, CPM, or “cost per time” basis. AOL had originally announced its intention to acquire Quigo on November 7, 2007.

Financial terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed, though we’ve found information on Web from different sources claiming the sale is said to be around $340 Million.

According AOL officials, Quigo will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL within its Platform-A organization, which is focused on unifying the company’s many online advertising divisions, which include Advertising.com, Tacoda, Adtech, among others. The acquisition of Quigo lets AOL expand the use of contextual advertising — which matches ads to the contents of a Web page — across AOL’s own Web pages, as well as its third-party networks, sites and publishers. Quigo is expected to bring in $100 million a year as it stands.

Now that the acquisition is final, and AOL is showing intentions to actually do something with a company it purchased, the unification strategy could actually work to make them a significant player in the online ad world in the face of the present dominant role of Google.
What Quigo basically offers is transparency and control in what can often be an opaque business: advertisers pay Yahoo and Google for contextual ad placement on a wide variety of Web pages, but get little say over where those ads run or even a list of sites where they do appear.

Quigo, by contrast, gives advertisers not only the list of specific sites where their ads have appeared but also the opportunity to buy only on specific Web sites or particular pages on those sites. It also allows media company sites like ESPN.com and FoxNews.com a chance to manage their own relationships with advertisers.

Although Quigo remains a small competitor, with less than 10 percent of the contextual ad business, its growing success has apparently persuaded Google, which is accustomed to calling the shots in all aspects of its business, that it has to change the way it sells the sponsored link ads in the future.

More about Quigo

Quigo – www.quigo.com – recently named Company of the Year by AlwaysOn Media – provides innovative performance marketing solutions for advertisers and premium publishers. Quigo’s AdSonar is a leading network of top-tier websites offering a broad range of advertising solutions. AdSonar’s content-targeted sponsored links are distributed to many of the web’s most recognized sites including CNNMoney.com, TIME.com, People.com, ESPN.com, Forbes.com, TheStreet.com, FoxNews.com, CareerBuilder.com, LonelyPlanet.com and on over 200 local, regional and national newspaper and television sites including those of ABC, Tribune Interactive, Fox, The Hearst Company, The McClatchy Company, Morris Communications, Media News Group, New York Daily News, New York Post, Scripps, Stephens Media, USA Today, and others. AdSonar offers advertisers multiple targeting options for their campaigns; including national and local targeting by vertical category, site, individual page, section, topic, and/or keyword. Quigo’s suite of search marketing solutions, including its flagship FeedPoint product, offers scalable, technology-driven services to help leading e-commerce and directory sites drive traffic, acquire new customers, and maximize revenue and profits.

Founded in 2000, Quigo’s primary venture backers include Highland Capital, Steamboat Ventures (the venture capital arm of The Walt Disney Company), and Institutional Venture Partners.

Management team

Michael Fisher: President. 

As President, Mike is responsible for all aspects of the company’s business. Prior to joining Quigo in 2005, he served as Vice President, Engineering & Architecture for PayPal, Inc. an eBay company. Prior to joining PayPal, Mike spent seven years at General Electric helping to develop the company’s technology strategy and processes. He attended the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Mike also holds a Master of Science and PhD in Information Systems and a Master of Business Administration.

Kevin Fortuna: Chief Strategy Officer. 

As CSO, Kevin leads AdSonar and PageCast, Quigo’s advertising and video content targeting platforms, as well as the Finance and Marketing teams. Prior to joining Quigo in 2005, he was the founder and Managing Partner of Dedalus Capital, a boutique M&A consultancy and venture firm. Before Dedalus, Kevin was the VP, Business Development at two IPO-track internet companies: Juno Online Services and CNET/Snap.com. He graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

David Sasson: Chief Operating Officer. 

As COO, David leads the FeedPoint division and Quigo’s Product Management team. Prior to joining Quigo in 2004, David was Vice President of Advertising Systems at Juno Online Services, where he developed new advertising technologies and managed client services. David was also co-founder & COO of Advocacy Inc., a leading interactive agency for political campaigns, congressional offices and issue advocacy. David is a Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Haverford College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Geoffrey Weber: Chief Technology Officer. 

As CTO, Geoffrey oversees the Engineering, Tech Operations, Information Technology and Quality Assurance teams. He has over 25 years of Technology experience, and previously served in several management positions at eBay including: Director of eBay Site Operations and Director of Financial Systems, PayPal. Prior to joining eBay, Geoffrey spent 10 years in an independent consulting practice building highly scalable solutions for clients such as: NEC, Sprint, Sun Microsystems, Sybase, Franklin-Templeton, and Providian Financial. He studied Mathematics and French Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

About AOL

AOL is a global Web services company that operates some of the most popular Web destinations, offers a comprehensive suite of free software and services, runs one of the largest Internet access businesses in the U.S., and provides a full set of advertising solutions. A majority-owned subsidiary of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX – News), AOL LLC and its subsidiaries have operations in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Asia. Learn more at AOL.com.

Time Warner’s AOL unit purchased four advertising companies in 2007, including Quigo Technologies Inc. Quigo is the fourth advertising company AOL has acquired during 2007. Earlier in the year, AOL acquired Third Screen Media, a leader in mobile advertising, ADTECH, a leading ad serving platform based in Frankfurt, Germany, and TACODA, a leading behavioral targeting company.

Platform-A is said to be reaching over 90% of the online audience.

In related news Quigo’s CEO Mike Yavonditte will depart the company. He’ll spend the next six months as an adviser to Curt Viebranz, president of AOL’s Platform A advertising division. Instead the Quigo CTO Michael Fisher will become president of the subsidiary.

Michael Yavonditte is a veteran of new media and technology. Prior to being named CEO of Quigo, he served as VP of Sales for USA Networks Electronic Commerce Solutions Group. He managed the e-commerce operations for CBS Sportsline, Nascar.com and the National Hockey League. In 2000, he joined AltaVista, where he negotiated and closed several large, multi-year, multi-million dollar agreements for the company. Mr. Yavonditte started his career at Ziff-Davis Publishing in NY where he held various sales and management roles. In 6 years he took Quigo from a start up to the predominant performance-driven, ad auction-based, pay-per-click advertising company in the industry.

The deal is yet another part of the major shakeout and consolidation that took place within the online ad industry through out the entire 2007 and is one of the web’s biggest deals for the 2007 we have listed and ranked yesterday. 

AOL chairman and CEO Randy Falco stated, “Quigo is an important part of our new Platform-A organization that we announced in September.”  Platform-A is, by all accounts, the future of AOL.

More

http://www.quigo.com/
http://www.quigoblog.com/
http://www.timewarner.com/corp/newsroom/pr/0,20812,1697295,00.html
http://mashable.com/2007/12/30/aols-quigo-acquisition-complete/
http://directmag.com/news/aol-122107/
http://valleywag.com/336627/quigo-ceo-departs-as-aol-completes-takeover
https://web2innovations.com/money/2007/12/31/some-of-the-web%e2%80%99s-biggest-acquisition-deals-during-2007/
http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/071220/20071220005128.html?.v=1 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/26/business/media/26adco.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
http://www.tmcnet.com/viewette.aspx?u=http%3a%2f%2fwww.tmcnet.com%2fnews%2f2007%2f12%2f21%2f3181294.htm
http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2007/12/21/aol-finishes-quigo-acquisition
http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=5572035
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=asbgoM.LLJg0&refer=us
http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/industries/media/article/aol-completes-acquisition-quigo_414972_15.html
http://www.pehub.com/article/articledetail.php?articlepostid=9529