Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Jamie Conyngham, co-founder and CEO of NFC specialist Tapit. More »
The SilkRoad is still claiming victims, today taking down BitInstantCEO Charlie Shrem and Robert M. Faiella, a BTC broker, known as BTCKing or BTC-KinG. Police arrested the Shrem, 24, yesterday at JFK airport and Faiella, 54, in Cape Coral, Florida. According to a release, the pair are charged with “conspiring to commit money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.”
The DEA, IRS, and Manhattan U.S. Attorney stated that the pair were instrumental in selling about $ 1 million worth of BTC to SilkRoad users which, according to the complaint, was used by SilkRoad users to buy and sell drugs. “Hiding behind their computers, both defendants are charged with knowingly contributing to and facilitating anonymous drug sales, earning substantial profits along the way,” said DEA Acting Special-Agent-in-Charge James J. Hunt. From the release:
Authorities also noted that Shrem bought drugs from the SilkRoad and was aware of its use as an illicit marketplace. The authorities made it clear that it was Shrem and Faiella’s interactions on the SilkRoad was most interesting to the DEA and IRS. However, there is no way to tell at this point what this means for the legitimate BTC markets and where BitInstant exists in the grey area between legal and illicit exchanges. Shrem’s site, BitInstant, is currently down.
WePay, an online payments startup, is announcing $ 15 million in Series C financing, led by Phil Purcell of Continental Investors, who us the co-founder of the Discover Card and former CEO of Morgan Stanley. Others who participated include Max Levchin, Maynard Webb (WIN Investment Network) and Raymond Tonsing. This brings WePay’s total funding to $ 35 million.
The Y Combinator-backed startup originally formed to make it easier for groups to collect money and make payments together. The startup then pivoted slightly to become simple platform for businesses to collect and manage payments online. The startup added support for event registration and ticketing, custom invoicing, donations, mobile payments and e-commerce.
As founder and CEO Bill Clerico tells us, now WePay’s entire business is its payments API, which focuses specifically around on infrastructure needed for payments for platform businesses. Specifically, WePay specializes in coordinating payments for marketplace or crowd funding platforms, basically enabling individuals to transact and process payments at scale between a lot of individuals. For example, Care.com uses WePay for payments. And marketplace for artisan goods CustomeMade is also a customers.
Another area where WePay has aimed to differentiate from others in the space like PayPal, Stripe and Balanced, is in fraud and compliance risk.
The startup’s proprietary Veda social risk engine uses data as a way to underwrite merchants and make sure they are actually verified sellers. Sort of like a ‘WePay credit score,’ the engine uses data from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp coupled with proprietary algorithms to mine and analyze a merchant’s social signals to gain a more accurate picture of risk. Veda also uses pattern recognition, integrated support data, and automatic cross-referencing to analyze risk. Veda needs five pieces of information (versus the 21 some payment companies require) to get started: first name, last name, name of business, email address, and phone number. Merchants can be approved within minutes.
Despite the slight pivot from group payments, the new bet seems to be paying off from a growth standpoint. Revenue from WePay’s payment API has grown over 600% in the last year, and the company has over 300 platform partners.
Clerico says that the new funds will be used for product development and international expansion.
An investigation by Western Australia's Corruption and CrimeCommissioninvestigation has found that more than $ 1.2 million of ITsoftware was purchased by a formercouncilCEO without going to tender or getting quotes -- over a period in which they received gifts and benefits from the supplier. Delimiter Renai LeMay
You probably already know that John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, likes big numbers. Today in a keynote at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, he may have picked his biggest number ever.
He pegged the value of the evolving Internet of Things (IoT) — or Internet of Everything, as Cisco calls it — at $ 19 trillion.
In collaboration with GigaOm and TechCrunch, VentureBeat is excited to announce the finalists for the 2013 Crunchies awards!
We combed through thousands of your submissions and put them together with the vast expertise of our three sites’ editors to come up with this list. The nominees on this list are some of the most impressive companies and people the tech world had to offer in the past year.
Check out our finalists in all 20 categories below, ranging from FastestRising Startup to CEO of the Year. And congratulations to every one of them for making it to this exclusive list.
Now we need you to vote on the finalists! Head over to the 2013Crunchiesvoting page and tell us which is your favorite in each category. Keep in mind that you may only vote once per day per award category until voting closes on Sunday, January 26, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. PST.
Winners will be announced onstage at the 7th Annual Crunchies.
The award show will take place on Monday, February 10, at 7:30 p.m. followed by the after party from 9:00pm to 11:30 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. You can purchase tickets here. Be sure to act fast!
Amy likes to remind me that when I was an entrepreneur, I used to regularly give talks at MIT about entrepreneurship. I’d say — very bluntly — “Stay away from VCs.” I bootstrapped my first company and, while we did a lot of work for VCs, I liked taking money from them as “revenue” (where they paid Feld Technologies for our services) rather than as investment.
Feld Technologies was acquired in November 1993. Over the next two years, I made 40 angel investments with the money I made from the sale of the company. At one point in the process, I was down to under $ 100,000 in the bank, with the vast majority of our net worth tied up in these angel investments and a house that we bought in Boulder. Fortunately, Amy was mellow about this. We had enough current income to live the way we wanted, we were young (30), and generally weren’t anxious about how much liquid cash we had.
Along the way, a number of the companies I had invested in as an angel investor raised money from VCs. Some were tough experiences for me, like NetGenesis, which was the first angel investment I made. I was chairman from inception until shortly after the $ 4m VC round the company raised two years into its life. Shortly after that VC investment, the VCs hired a new “professional” CEO who lasted less than a year before being replaced by a CEO who then did a great job building the company. During this period, the founding CEO left, and I decided to resign from the board because I didn’t support the process of replacing this CEO and felt like I no longer had any influence on the company — and I wasn’t having any fun.
But I still wasn’t a VC at this point. I was making angel investments with my own money and working my ass off helping get a few companies that I’d co-founded, like Interliant and Email Publishing, off the ground. I was living in Boulder at this point, but traveling continuously to Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, where I was making most of my investments. During this time, I started to get pulled into more conversations with VCs, helping a few do some diligence on new investments, encouraging some to look at my angel investments, and investing small amounts in some VC funds whenever I was invited to invest in their “side funds for entrepreneurs.”
One of the VCs I overlapped with while in Boston was Charley Lax. Charley was a partner at a firm called VIMAC and was looking at some Internet stuff. I was one of the most prolific Internet angel investors in Boston at this point (1994 to 1995), so our paths crossed periodically. We never invested in anything together, but after I moved to Boulder, I got a call from Charley one day in early 1996. It went something like:
“Hey, I just joined this Japanese company called SoftBank, and we are going to invest $ 500 million in Internetcompanies in the next year. Do you want to help out?”
Um, ok, sure. I didn’t really know what help out meant, but on my next trip to San Francisco I had a breakfast meeting with Gary Rieschel and Jerry Yang. SoftBank had recently invested in Yahoo, and presumably the breakfast was to vet me. I remember it being pleasant and ending with Gary saying something like “welcome to the team.”
I still didn’t really have any idea what was going on, but I was making angel investments and having fun. Charley proposed being a “SOFTBANK Affiliate” which had a small monthly retainer, a deal fee for anything I brought in, and a carry on the performance of any investments I sourced. Informal enough for me to play around with it for a while.
I was in Boston the following week so Charley emailed me and said, “Can you go check out this company Yoyodyne and tell me what you think?” I went to a generic office park near Boston and met with two people who would become close friends to this day. The first was Fred Wilson, who had just started Flatiron Partners (SoftBank was an investor in Fred’s fund), and the other was Seth Godin, the CEO of Yoyodyne. I vaguely remember a fun, energetic chat as we met a few people at Yoyodyne, ran through the products, and talked about how amazing the Internet and email were going to be as marketing tools.
My formal report back to Charley was short — something like “Seth’s cool; the business is neat; I like it.” SoftBank and Flatiron closed an investment in Yoyodyne a few weeks later.
Suddenly I was a VC. An accidental one. And it’s been very interesting since that point back in 1996.
Entrepreneurs are the artists of the business world — captivated by ideas and the never ending pursuit of the potential—the what if. If 2013 has taught entrepreneurs one thing, it’s to focus on the passion behind the art and leave the menial tasks up to technology. Here are 10 apps from 2013 that have helped lighten the load of the business minded and allowed them to focus on what really matters, the creation.
1. Evernote Business
With the business Evernote app users can automatically share their latest content with team members in order to create team effort and collaboration. The best part about Evernote Business? In just one click, users can transform Evernote content into an immediate presentation. So, whether users need to present to a large group or a small group, a presentation is just one click away.
For the entrepreneur who is always looking for new innovations and wants to stay up on the latest news in their industry, Digg is the perfect app to download on phones, tablets, and e-readers. Digg allows users to find, read, and share the top trending stories on the internet all in one place.
3. Smartr Contacts
Every business owner and developer understands that having strong contacts is one of the most fundamental parts of the field. Smartr Contacts allows users to find their most important business contacts instantly. By delving into social network contacts, phone contacts, and email accounts, Smart Contacts instantly searches for the contact the user is looking for.
Stay on top of business finances and send invoices in just minutes with Invoice2go. Once users have created an invoice, Invoice2Go will send a prompt to mark the invoice as either paid or unpaid. Create instant reports to show unpaid balances, and send reminders to debtors immediately from your phone of tablet.
The days of the filing cabinet are long gone, but somehow people still manage to get their files mixed up and confused. Dropbox is a service that allows users to store all of their files in a cloud and access them anywhere or at anytime. With quick uploading time and a simple interface, Dropbox will leave users headache free and ready to feel organized.
Clickyallowsentrepreneurs and business owners to analyze their website stats on the go and stay up to date with the latest Google trends and algorithms. Clicky allows users to monitor every action taken on their website, while providing the ability to personalize relationships with users by inputting custom data such as usernames or email addresses. Onsite analytics and Google Search Ratings have never been more accessible.
Entrepreneurs can update their team on the latest updates in their industry with the Prismatic app. Catered to user’s interests, Prismatic displays articles on a one-page news feed. The perk to Prismatic? Upon liking or disliking an article in the news feed, an algorithm is created to attract the users content and what they are more inclined to like.
Producteev is the perfect app to helpentrepreneurs delegate and complete tasks with their teams. Assign tasks, add due dates, track progress, and measure the end results with this app. The best part about Producteev? It allows users to manage projects and tasks at an organizational pace that is catered to the users needs and wants.
9. Easy Projects
Easy Projects is a management software app that allows users to make online planning the solution to all of their organizational needs. Export and import from MS Project and MS Excell. Easy project is the solution to management tasks by allowing users to manage and plan tasks, use interactive Gantt charts, and incorporate a time-management module to ensure that every time spent on certain projects is being billed and accounted for.
Entrepreneurs would agree that note taking and jotting down ideas is one of the greatest vessels of inspiration. Vesper is one of the most intuitive note taking apps. Users can write text, add images and text, and with Vespers easy navigation sidebar, users can easily find all of their notes later on.
From planning meetings to organizing funding—the life of an entrepreneur is taxing. From note taking to tracking productivity, these 10 apps will allow entrepreneurs and business owners to focus on their most pressing project, and leave the smaller tasks to smartphones and tablets.
Edward Lakatis is CEO of Zapporoo, an app design company. He is passionate about all things related to app design and concepts. He loves to help entrepreneurs bring their apps to market.
Vkontakte, a social networking site known as the “Facebook of Russia”, is facing legal action from nine music labels including EMI, Sony and Warner over what they claim is the unlawful distribution of some 6,000 tracks of licensed music on the site from artists like Madonna, Linkin Park, Metallica and Beyonce. The lawsuits are being prepared for filing after the holidays, according to the Russian newspaper Izvestia.
Pavel Durov, the founder and CEO of Vkontakte, says the site is prepared to negotiate with them, as it has with video rightsholders. “If some musiccompanies wish their content to be deleted from VK, we, as always, are willing to comply with their wish,” he told TechCrunch. “On the other hand, we are also ready to seek mutually beneficial ways to monetize their content. This year we managed to find such a solution for video content and we are optimistic about the audio section of VK as well.
“Of course, if no agreement with large record companies is reached, their content will be deleted and VKmusic service will rely mostly on independent artists.”
If the suits go ahead, they look like they may be some of the first big moves from music rightsholders to go after a major site in the wake of a new anti-piracy law in the country designed to protect copyright better.
That law originally was aimed to focus more on video content but there are some who hope to extend it to include music. The law enforces improved communication by requiring site owners to provide easy-to-find contact details, including real-world addresses, and forms for rightsholders to file complaints faster. If a site fails to comply with an infringement complaint, it faces a block at the ISP level.
Leonid Agronov, the head of Russia’s National Federation of the Music Industry (Russia’s RIAA), told Izvestia that his organization has long been trying to negotiate with Vkontakte over music distributed through its site. The NFMI claims that Vkontakte does not pay for streamed plays, neither by charging users directly nor by paying the licensing fee directly. But that does not mean that the social network is not profiting.
“[Vkontakte] shows ads while people listen to music. So they make money on it,” he said.
In the case of removing these tracks, it puts Vkontakte in a double bind, where it’s damned if it doesn’t and damned if it does: on the one hand, it risks legal action from larger companies and potential ISP blockage; on the other, it faces backlash from its users, who look to it as a content portal.
This is not Vkontakte’s first brush with copyright holders. Izvestia notes that in June of this year, the site — which has become a go-to place for users in Russia for music and other digital content sharing (including a lot of legal content) — took down some 7,000 music tracks. Then in August, Vkontakte signed a deal with UK monitoring company Muso to track and remove illegal music from the site. Muso’s CTO and co-founder James Mason tells me that it continues to work with Vkontakte to take down free music that infringes the copyright rightsholders that Muso represents.
“Over the years VK has become the principal tool for music discovery among Russian-speaking population,” Durvo says. “As a result, there are plenty of artists and musiccompanies that use VK as the main way to promote their work. We hope that more and more talented artists will get exposure with the use of our music service.”
In January 2012, Vkontakte lost a case against Russian label Gala, which said the site was allowing users to upload and share tracks by Russianartists in breach of copyright law. It was fined $ 7,000. It has won other cases, such as a case against Russian label Soyuz this past October, again over copyright.
It is also not Vkontakte’s first brush with Russian legal forces. In May this year, the Russian regulator Roskomnadzor blocked the site. Although it claimed to have done this by mistake, the move was a bit close to the bone, considering that the site has been a strong advocate of free speech, including content critical of the government. One of the social network’s investors, United Capital Partners, has ties to the Kremlin. It picked up its stake in Vkontakte in a secondary sale.
Russia is Europe’s biggest internet market with over 61 million users. But it also has the more dubious distinction of being one of the worst repeat offenders globally when it comes to digital content copyright infringement. That has been one of the big gating factors for legit services to enter the market — not least because those businesses may actually find it hard to find paying users, when free (but illegal) content is so easy to get.
But with companies like Apple finally launching iTunes in the country, the tides are slowly shifting — something regulators have been hoping to encourage with anti-piracy legislation.
According to analysts at TNS, Vkontakte is one of the most visited sites in Russia, overall coming in third after portals like Mail.ru and Yandex (which each account for some 30 aggregated URLs). Looking specifically at Moscow, Russia’s biggest and pace-setting market, Vkontakte is the leader among under-24s and third in the 25-34 age bracket:
In this particular case, which will be filed in court in St Petersburg (where Vkontakte is based), the plaintiff group includes a mix of international and Russian labels: Sony, Universal Music, Warner Music, EMI, Gala, Navigator, Studio Soyuz and Nikitin Media. The case could last between a couple of months and two years, Izvestia writes.
Updated with comment from Vkontakte CEO Pavel Durov and Muso CTO James Mason.