San Francisco is not large, but it does contain multitudes. Though many have left their hearts in the spot at the tippy-top of this Pacific Ocean-lined peninsula, each and every loyal local and on-the-road vagabond who’s made his way through the beautiful Bay Area hub forms a highly personal take on the place. More »
Japan is a world away, geographically and when it comes to the technology ecosystem and culture.
KDDI, one of Japan’s largest telecom operators, is attempting to build a bridge between the U.S. and Japan, and help companies looking to penetrate the difficult Japanese market.
“Japan is a special market,” said Eiji Toyokawa, a senior manager at KDDI America in an interview at his San Francisco office. “You have to make products that Japanese people will like, and follow Japanese taste. Marketing is so important in Japan. Even if you have a very good service or product, without a good marketing or distribution channel, you won’t be successful. You need a good partner.”
KDDI has 40 million wireless subscribers in Japan and was the first carrier in the Japanese market to adopt Google search, GREE, Android, Skype, and Facebook, helping these companies gain a foothold with Japanese consumers.
Toyokawa said mobile Internet started in Japan way back in 1999 and had a large and vibrant tech ecosystem, which all ended up getting disrupted by the iPhone. People shifted to smart phones and everything changed.
Gaming is huge in Japan, and as a result JapaneseGoogle Play store is the most monetized in the world, but other sectors lag behind. However Toyokawa said that a Japanese ecosystem is arising again, and KDDI wants to be at the forefront of that movement.
It formed a $ 60 million fund, opened a San Francisco office two years ago, and has made investments in 17 companies, with a focus on games, entertainment, tools, education, and health.
Current international investments include Fuhu, a Los Angeles-base maker of tablets for children, e-hailing taxi app Hailo, and mobile collaboration company Moxtra.
“We want to become a strategic investor for startups who are very serious about bringing their service to Japan,” Toyokawa said.
Advancements in cloud-computing, mobile tech, and translation technology have created this idea that any small startup can “go global” from day one. It’s a nice fantasy, but the reality is that entering new foreign markets is hard, particularly when that market is Japan.
Japan is known for being ahead of the curve when it comes to cool technology. It has restaurants that use computers and high-speed conveyor belts to serve food, holographic pop stars, and people can pay their subway fare by tapping their phones. It is also home to some of the most important consumer electronics, automotive, and robotics companies out there.
The country has a tremendous amount of tech talent and a population that values hard work, but Toyokawa said a cultural bias against failure prevents a lot of people from founding startups.
Rather than waiting for the entrepreneurial trend to takeoff in Japan, corporations like KDDI and Sofbank are trying to get American startups interested in the Japanese market.
Wearables is another area that has not really taken off yet in Japan, but it is only a matter of time.
To get ahead of the curve on this one, KDDI formed partnerships with connected device-makers. When people buy a new phone, they can pay a little bit more a month and get a Saumsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, a Misfit fitness accessories, or a lens-only camera.
This is an interesting sales/distribution approach for device makers, who make products that connect to smartphones and are interested in a data service, subscription business model.
Yes, Japan is a tough nut to crack. The economy is strong and people there love technology, but the population is aging and people are wary of taking risks, which is one of the most necessary elements of creating and growing a startup. Entrepreneurs, investors, and customers have to be willing to try something new for anything to get off the ground.
“Who can look up your Timeline by name?” Anyone you haven’t blocked. Facebook is removing this privacy setting, notifying those who had hidden themselves that they’ll be searchable. It deleted the option from those who hadn’t used it in December, and is starting to push everyone to use privacy controls on each type of content they share. But there’s no one-click opt out of Facebook search.
To be fair, the “Who can look up your Timeline by name?” feature was likely misunderstood by lots of people. At first glance, you might assume it means that strangers can’t find your profile. But that’s incorrect. There have been lots of ways to navigate to your profile, like clicking your name on a photo you’re tagged in, finding your name in a friend’s friend list, or combing through Likes on a mutual friend’s News Feed post.
With the roll out of Graph Search, the avenues for sniffing out someone’s profile grew exponentially. Basically every piece of personal information (and soon the content you post about) could bring you up in a search. If you publicly list that you live in San Francisco, a Graph Search for “People who live in San Francisco” could lead someone to your profile.
It also led people to think search was broken in some cases. If I met someone through a Facebook Group and wanted to friend them, I might search for them and not be able to find them if they had used this privacy setting. But what’s more important are the safety implications.
Keeping this privacy option around gave people a false sense of security. For that reason, it’s wise for Facebook to remove it. But it should have provided an ever stronger universal privacy control for opting out of search, not a slew of weaker ones.
Over the new few months, users who’ve employed the privacy setting to avoid being searched by name will see a big announcement at the top of their Facebook homepage explaining what’s happening. They’ll have to confirm they understand the change before they’re put back into namesearch and the privacy setting disappears from their options.
After that, the way people can stay hidden is to manually restrict the visibility of each piece of their profile. And that is a bit of a chore. You’d have to go through every piece of personal information in your About section and set its visibility to ‘Friends’ or ‘Only me’. At least Facebook provides a quick way to restrict the visibility of all your old News Feed posts.
Serious privacy aficionados should remember that your current profile picture and cover image are always public, so you’d have to leave those blank if you didn’t want anyone to any idea of who you are beyond your name.
For people with stalkers, though, Facebook may have just gotten a bit more dangerous. Facebook tells me the way to keep a specific person from finding your profile or viewing any of your content is to block them. But what if your stalker just signs up for a fake profile with a new name? Then they could search and find you.
This is where there’s friction, as Facebook’s mission to connect the world, responsibility to make money for its investors, and its duty to keep people’s privacy safe come into conflict.
Facebook could surely offer an option to lock down all your personal information the same way it does for your old posts, but it doesn’t. It could offer a way to opt out of appearing in any type of search results, not just searches for your name, but it doesn’t. It wants your friends to be able to find you. It wants Graph Search to be a comprehensive utility. It wants the engagement and ad views your friendship and News Feed posts generate. But its protecting its access to these things by sacrificing your right to choose just how much your identity is indexed.
Last month, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced an entrepreneurship-in-residenceprogram for startups solving publicsector problems. Now there’s an actual application deadline and that deadline (this Sunday, October 6) is coming up.
In some ways, the program’s head, Rahul Mewawalla (he’s on the right of the photo with Lee and Lee’s chief innovation officer Jay Nath), embodies the idea of building a bridge between government and the tech world — his résumé includes positions at Nokia, NBC Universal, GE, and Yahoo.
Mewawalla acknowledged that EIR programs aren’t new (definitely not new at VC firms, and not entirely new on the government side either), but he said San Francisco’s is the first to have a strong “product focus.”
“We want people who have already built a product that can serve public needs and drive real, tangible benefits,” he said.
He declined to say how many applications the program has received thus far. He did say applications have covered areas like open data, health care, recruiting, and transit. He also pointed to tweets suggesting that other cities should emulate the San Franciscomodel — which is something he’s hoping for.
The 12-week EIRprogram is supposed to provide access to government officials, access to private sectors leaders, workshops and training, access to coworking space, and more. You can apply here.
Salesforce has exerted leadership in the cloud for more than a decade and shows no sign of slowing down.
That’s why we’re excited to announce that SalesforceCOOGeorge Hu will be speaking at 013, our event that showcases the leading disruptive technologies in the cloud [CloudBeat takes place September 9-10 in San Francisco; you can buy tickets here].
First, its customer relationship management (CRM) application is the biggest cloud application; it was the first to pass a billion dollars in revenues. And Salesforce is now buying up tangential businesses, including Buddy Media and Exacttarget, to make its sales and marketing software suite even more compelling. It is even partnering with other companies, including Oracle, to integrate its cloud offerings with others.
Second, Salesforce is powering a host of new (and sometimes competing) application developers with its PaaS platforms like Heroku and Force.com. Here, it’s bringing social features to other businesses with products like Chatter and beginning the long play of unlocking and monetizing data with Database.com and Data.com. It’s also pushing skunkworks projects around predictive analytics, related to its Prior Knowledge acquisition.
And here, at the platform level, Salesforce is pitting itself against Amazon, which is the leader in providing the underlying public cloud infrastructure. Amazon is attacking the platform from the ground up, extending its database services to include Relational Database Services (RDS) and DynamoDB. Meantime, Salesforce is driving from the top down. Both are trying to take their existing customers with them on this journey.
And then, or course, there are new aggressive challengers, like the $ 1 billion-dollar venture Pivotal, backed by EMC, VMware, and GE. We’ll also have Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz at CloudBeat, talking about Pivotal One for the first time — and its own vision for a future-oriented cloud platform.
There’s no one better to give us an insightful look at where Salesforce might go next than Hu. Interviewing him at CloudBeat will be Gordon Ritter, the venture capitalist at Emergence Capital Partners who was an early investor in Salesforce.com.
A local nonprofit is working to help the homeless by engaging with the tech community on social media.
Until recently, Alana was one of hundreds of disabled and elderly people living on the streets of San Francisco. When her wheelchair was stolen, Alana couldn’t move from her sleeping spot. A community advocate helped Alana secure a spot in a shelter and reached out to a San Francisco-based nonprofit called Project Homeless Connect.
Kara Zordel, the executive director of the organization, is thinking like an entrepreneur to spread the word about Alana and others in the disabled homeless woman’s situation.
Zordel tweeted (via @PHCSF) to the community asking for a wheelchair for Alana, using the hashtag #EDCDailyNeed. Despite that Project Homeless Connect has only a few thousand people on Twitter, a wheelchair appeared in less than a day.
These efforts are part of a new program dubbed EverydayConnect, which leverages social media to help the homeless in San Francisco. Project Homeless Connect’s team of staff and volunteers typically meet between 10 and 20 homeless children and adults each day with a specific, burning need. Typically, it is for something as trivial as a hair cut, pair of socks, or spare computer part.
Off the back of this success, Zordel has spent the past year reaching out to technology and civic organizations to promote EverydayConnect.
“I believe that we can use social media to create real change in the lives of our vulnerable population,” she told me. “If I were able to explain to people how the small items in their home storage bins can change a life, they would immediately want to get involved.”
Next week, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will tweet on the organization’s behalf, in an attempt to bolster its following. SF.Citi, a local nonprofit that is working to boost the technology industry involvement with civic projects, has agree to donate a dollar to Project Homeless Connect for each new Twitter follower or Facebook “like” on the page.
Zordel’s efforts are part of a larger trend of tech helping the homeless in San Francisco.
Tech entrepreneur Doniece Sandoval is working on an ambitious project, Lava Mae, to turn retired city buses into mobile showers.
Marc Roth, who lived in shelters in San Francisco for just over a year, has become a spokesperson of sorts for the homeless community. Roth mastered skills like laser cutting and 3-D printing at TechShop, a membership-based do-it-yourself workshop, and is now a funded hardware entrepreneur. Read his inspiring story in VentureBeat.
In addition, local web designer Rose Broome recently started a Homeless Innovation meetup group for the tech community to get more involved by building fundraising apps and other technology services.
One of Zordel’s more long-term goals is to support education and job placement. Project Homeless Connect is currently brainstorming ways for homeless people to develop the skills they need to compete for openings at local tech companies. “If they were just given a little training, they could apply,” she said.
Are you involved with the San Francisco tech industry and want to help the homeless?
Zordel is looking for social media experts, who are willing to volunteer to help her spread the word about Everyday Connect.
Founder and CEO Jon Crawford wants to turn Storenvy into the “Gutenberg printing press of stores.” The company shared today that it has hit a couple of major milestones including 1 million registered members, 1 million products, 50,000 active stores, and monthly sales surpassing $ 2.5 million.
Storenvy makes it easy for anyone to open an online store. It provides an e-commerce platform with tools for designing a digital storefront, displaying products, marketing, online checkout, inventory and order tracking, delivering deals, and sales tracking. Clients can either use Storenvy to power their own branded site or sell their items on Storenvy’s marketplace.
Crawford started out working as an e-commerce consultant for small businesses in Kansas City, Missouri. He saw how many small business owners struggled to set up fully featured online stores and was inspired to create a product that would “demystify” the process.
“We aim to be a place where anyone can be a kick ass online merchant, without having to think about it as e-commerce,” Crawford said in an interview at Storenvy’s office. “We look for merchants with a story behind them, and we want consumers to find unique products that can help them better express themselves.”
After gaining some traction in Missouri, Crawford moved to San Francisco and was accepted into Y Combinator, although he left the program after his cofounders decided to stay behind. He then found himself cofounder-less and accelerator-less in San Francisco, without a place to live, funding, or many local contacts. He decided to stick it out, going through what he described as the worst month of his life, and managed to build Storenvy into what it is today.
The company has since raised $ 6.5 million from Intel Capital, Spark Capital, and First Round Capital, and built out a robust two-sided marketplace. The store builder was the first step, but Crawford said that this does not solve the problems many merchants face with awareness, and distribution. Storenvy therefore created a marketplace that aggregates all the items from all of the stores on the platform, and turns it into a social shopping experience.
Storenvy’s marketplace has a mix of clothing, jewelry, home decor, art, music, books, health and beauty products, food etc… Like Etsy and Wanelo, it is a goldmine for quirky items like coffee mugs that look like camera lenses, shark bikinis, and cupcake sweatshirts. You can browse by staff picks, popular items, category, keyword, or by store owner. I personally found myself struck by the bright unisex onesies and angry unicorn tee-shirts. And highly distracted by all the other wacky things.
Users “envy” items they like and Storenvy gets over 1.5 million “envies” a month. Now with funding and traction under its belt, the company hired people from Wantful, Seamless, Yelp, and Evenbrite to build out a “killer” leadership team and continue its momentum. Its main competitor is Shopify, and there is also some overlap with Magento, Etsy, Bigcommerce, Big Cartel, Volusion, and others.
Spotsetter launched today and announced that it has raised a total of $ 1.3 million in seed funding.
The startup is attempting to capture social localsearch. It built a social search engine on top of Google Maps and makes personalized recommendations for places to go.
“The premise is that when people do search it is becoming more and more personal,” said founder and CEO Johnny Lee in an interview with VentureBeat. “We wanted to take all the rich social content out there and provide information that is more relevant and endorsements that are more meaningful.”
Spotsetter culls information from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Foursqure, as well as information from public review sites like local blogs Yelp and TripAdvisor. The mobile app presents users with localoptions based on places their friends like. You can designate your friends with tags like “foodie,” “nightlife ninja,” and “savvy shopper” and their picks will get sent to the top of your searchrankings.
“There is still not a strong social answer to the question of ‘where to go,’” Lee said. “We think we have a really unique approach,” Lee said. “This is something Google and Apple maps have not delivered to users. We are not just layering social on top of maps — this is advanced search ranking technology.”
Spotsetter was founded 2 years ago and went through the Angelpad accelerator program last year. The app has been in public beta for two months and analyzed 5 million user profiles and 40 million venues. Lee founded Spotsetter along with cofounder Stephen Tse who was an engineer at Google maps. Foursquare only presents information from Foursquare users, and they wanted to build a product that worked across multiple platforms.
Users can look up any place, category, or keyword or refer to specific friends that they know are experts in those areas. There is also a discovery element where you can zoom across a map to find where your friends have been. This is particularly useful if you are traveling somewhere unfamiliar and have no idea where to go. Rather than texting your friends for recommendations, Spotsetter can, in theory, tell you where they would recommend.
Javelin Venture Partners led this round with participation from angel investors. It is based in San Francisco.
San Francisco-based crowdsourcing platform - AchieveMint currently integrates with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Meetup, RunKeeper, MapMyFitness and Fitbit. Go for a run, tweet something "healthy," check-in to a health food store or do anything vaguely related to health that's tracked and user get rewarded with points on the free service. Once user achieve enough points, they can convert them into merchandise or cash. One thousandpoints is equivalent to $ 1.