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Archive for March, 2011

Bessemer raises $1.6B fund — enough to own 3% of Facebook

March 31st, 2011 No comments

Bessemer Venture Partners has raised a $1.6 billion fund, according to the New York Times. That’s a hefty amount that puts the venture fund in the big leagues alongside other premier VCs.

But to put that in perspective, that amount is only enough to buy a 3.2 percent stake in Facebook at its last known valuation of $50 billion. Luckily for the Larchmont, N.Y.-based fund, its strategy is to avoid the big deals in overheated sectors. Instead, the company plans to put its money in early-stage companies around the world. Rob Chandra, a partner at Bessemer, told the New York Times that the fund invests in “road-map” areas before they become really hot, not markets that are already crowded.

About a quarter of the money is intended for companies based in India. Bessemer added several new limited partners with the new fund, including large endowments and corporations. Others that have moved into the billion-dollar fund game include late-stage investors Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Others include Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Accel Partners. Accel closed a $1.3 billion fund today with its Chinese partner, International Data Group (IDG).

Bessemer is about 100 years old and is one of the oldest funds in the country. It is an offshoot of Bessemer Securities, created by steel tycoon Henry Phipps, a co-founder of Carnegie Steel. One of its investments, the LinkedIn business social network, is poised to go public soon.

Since 2000, Bessemer has made investments in emerging markets such as India, Israel, Latin America and Europe. Bessemer’s office in Mumbai, India, now almost as many people as its sizable office in Menlo Park, Calif., in the midst of Silicon Valley. The fund has made 31 investments in India, including Shriram EPC, an engineering services company that has grown to $400 million in revenues.

[image credit: cpcml.ca]

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Super Crate Box updated to fix scoring error

March 31st, 2011 No comments

Super Crate Box updated to fix scoring error screenshot

Dutch developer Vlambeer has released an updated version of their IGF award-nominated game Super Crate Box. Version 1.04 fixes an "error" which was causing points to be awarded for collecting the game's titular crates and not for killing enemies. Additionally, the Disc Gun has been rendered unable to harm the player after significant outcry against the weapon from fans.

Rami Ismail of Vlambeer has said that they are, "terribly ashamed." The team has temporarily suspended development on their turn-based RPG, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, to focus on updating the WINNITRON-exclusive Super Crate Box Versus to fix its scoring discrepancy also.

You can download version 1.04 of Super Crate Box at the game's website now. View the full post and check out a screenshot of the updated version.

Scoring bugfix for Super Crate Box [Vlambeer]

SuperCrateBox104

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Irem’s Bumpy Trot 2 (Steambot Chronicles 2) also canceled

March 31st, 2011 No comments
Irem's Bumpy Trot, an action game about steam-powered walking mechs, was released here on PS2 as Steambot Chronicles. A PS3 sequel was announced at TGS 2006, with few announcements since then, until today's really unfortunate one: It's been canceled.

In a brief letter on the Bumpy Trot site, Irem apologized to fans and plead with them to support Irem's future titles. That lineup, after the cancellation of Disaster Report 4, currently includes Doki Doki Suikoden and Pachipara Slot, both for PSP and neither likely to leave Japan.

JoystiqIrem's Bumpy Trot 2 (Steambot Chronicles 2) also canceled originally appeared on Joystiq on Fri, 01 Apr 2011 01:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Square gets in on AR with Dissidia [duodecim] iOS app

March 31st, 2011 No comments
Feeling just a little bit jealous of your 3DS-owning friends and their fancy new AR games? Well, if you've got an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can enter the augmented reality of Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy with a (pricey) $5 app that lets you put its character models in real-world settings.

[Thanks, Ben]

JoystiqSquare gets in on AR with Dissidia [duodecim] iOS app originally appeared on Joystiq on Thu, 31 Mar 2011 23:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Fizwoz creates a legion of cellphone-armed citizen photojournalists

March 31st, 2011 No comments

Those seemingly boring pictures and videos on your cellphone from concerts and sporting events may be worth something to media buyers — or at least, that’s the premise San Francisco-based Fizwoz is running with.

The company may be on to something. Since its launch at the end of January 2010, Fizwoz has landed 78,000 users from 161 countries who upload their cellphone media to the site in hopes of earning some cash. And it’s growing steadily — Fizwoz tells me that it’s adding between 300 and 500 new users every day.

It’s practically impossible to buy a cellphone without a camera these days, even in many international markets. It’s also clear that cellphone photo sharing is one of the most exciting areas in the mobile arena at the moment — just look at the success of Instagram and Color’s massive $41 million in funding. Fizwoz represents the next logical step for cellphone media — now instead of sharing photos and video on the web for free, you can also make a quick buck by licensing them to media companies.

The site offers three ways for trigger-happy cellphone shooters to make money: through putting their media up for auction, fulfilling assignments posted by media companies, and entering contests sponsored by big brands, publishers, sports teams and charities.   CEO Andy Sheldon tells me that the company has paid out $18,000 since its first sale in June 2010. Typical sales can be between $5 and $500 (I assume mostly on the lower end of that spectrum). Sheldon says that it’s only a matter of time before someone manages to sell their media for six figures.

Strangely enough, it was a tragedy that inspired Sheldon to create Fizwoz with co-founder Ian Smith. He was fascinated by how many media organizations were relying on cellphone video shot by amateurs during the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. With cellphone cameras getting steadily better, he figured that the opportunity was ripe to create a way for media companies to get access to amateur cellphone media.

Sheldon says that over 70 percent of Fizwoz users are outside of the US — primarily because of its support for Nokia phones (which are also generally known for their high-quality cameras). The company has also made iPhone, Android and BlackBerry apps available. They’ve also recently added support for multiple languages, including Spanish, French, German and simplified Chinese.

Fizwoz has raised $400,000 in angel funding and it’s currently seeking first round investors.

VB Mobile SummitCalling all mobile executives: This April 25-26, VentureBeat is hosting its inaugural VentureBeat Mobile Summit, where we’ll debate the five key business and policy challenges facing the mobile industry today. Participants will develop concrete, actionable solutions that will shape the future of the mobile industry. The invitation-only event, located at the scenic and relaxing Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif., is limited to 180 mobile executives, investors and policymakers. We’ve pretty much finalized the invite list, but have a few spots left. Request an invitation.

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Google’s Eric Schmidt beats Apple’s Steve Jobs in employee approval ratings

March 31st, 2011 No comments

Even as Eric Schmidt steps down as chief executive at Google on Monday, he can leave with the satisfaction that his employee approval rating is at an all-time high. There’s an art to quitting when you’re on top.

Schmidt has an approval rating of 96 percent, up 3 percentage points from a year ago, according to employee approval surveys by Glassdoor.com. Schmidt barely edged out Steve Jobs, whose rating fell 3 points to 95 percent. Glassdoor.com says that its latest survey of employee approval at the top 12 large technology companies yields some insights that aren’t normally measured with the daily ebb and flow of a company’s stock price.

But the top bosses at Yahoo and Microsoft aren’t so lucky, as might be predicted by the companies’ recent performance.
Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo, saw her employee approval rating drop the farthest among the tech giants, with her approval rating coming in at 50 percent, 27 percentage points below a year ago. Still, Bartz’s approval rating is still higher than the 34 percent that Jerry Yang had as CEO of Yahoo at the time he stepped down.

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft saw a drop from 46 percent a year ago to 40 percent this year. Jeff Bezos of Amazon saw his rating drop to 83 percent from 87 percent a year ago. Larry Ellison of Oracle dropped 4 points to 73 percent. eBay’s John Donahoe rose 22 percentage points to 46 percent, while Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen fell 1 point to 57 percent. Intuit’s Brad Smith rose from 69 percent approval to 87 percent, and Michael Dell rose from 36 percent to 48 percent. Paul Otellini rose 9 points to 90 percent and Sam Palmisano rose 10 points to 57 percent.

Overall, six gained and six lost. That’s predictable in one sense, since tech companies are recovering from the recession but not everyone is benefiting equally from the recovery. Glassdoor CEO approval ratings are calculated similarly to presidential approval ratings. Employees are asked: “Do you approve of the way your CEO is leading the company?”

Glassdoor said it also looked at the company ratings for the 12 tech giants and found only slight changes in their average ratings from employees. eBay saw the biggest increase, while Amazon saw the biggest decrease. The only top exec missing is Leo Apotheker, CEO of HP, but he has been on the job a short time.

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Gamers Heart Japan aid special airs April 3 online and on G4

March 31st, 2011 No comments
Gamers Heart Japan, a 60-minute special airing on April 3 online (read: Joystiq, etc) and on G4, will see several notable industry presences talking about Japan and its impact on our industry, soliciting donations to the American Red Cross for the relief effort. In fact, our own Richard Mitchell will be making an appearance, so you'll definitely want to tune in for that!

For a video promo and the full press release describing how Gamers Heart Japan will fill 60 minutes, including the list of speakers, hit the jump!

Continue reading Gamers Heart Japan aid special airs April 3 online and on G4

JoystiqGamers Heart Japan aid special airs April 3 online and on G4 originally appeared on Joystiq on Thu, 31 Mar 2011 23:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Why Wisconsin’s ham-handed crusade against wind power blows

March 31st, 2011 No comments

Regulatory snafus have halted the production of two wind farms in Wisconsin that would have generated more than 98 megawatts of power from a renewable energy source. It’s an unnecessary jab against the wind power industry, which has been viewed as one of the most attractive options for renewable energy — and it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Wisconsin legislators are arguing that current laws that dictate how far a wind turbine can be placed from someone’s property are not strict enough — that companies can place them too close to the homes of everyday citizens. The legislators argue that the turbines will affect local property and home sale values because they are an eyesore. They are also arguing that there is a chance of injury in having a massive piece of machinery nearby — though they don’t specify how they can cause injury.

The claim that planting wind farms near a home can decrease its sale value is completely bogus. The reasons for trying to alter the regulations and force wind companies to build wind farms further from homes are not well-supported and are an unnecessary obstacle to the progress of wind energy. Any change in regulations after a turbine is built could prove to be disastrous. The injury argument makes sense — but that’s because a massive machine with many moving parts of any kind nearby can be a hazard. This comes after another company dropped plans to build wind energy farms in an area in Wisconsin over concerns about the regulatory environment.

But a study initiated by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 debunked the claim that wind turbines would have a meaningful impact on local property values. The report indicated that — while there was a chance that individual homes would be impacted — as a whole, home sale prices were not impacted by the placement of wind turbines in the area. On top of that, the land that wind turbines occupy can also be used for agricultural purposes, such as for crops or grazing land. That might indicate that wind turbines are actually aesthetically pleasing — after all, they are an iconic image of renewable energy.

The largest concerns typically come from a “not-in-my-backyard” (NIMBY) mentality, said Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech analysis and consulting firm. Some residents view wind turbines as an eyesore, and there’s a chance that the construction of wind farms will have an unexpected impact on indigenous wildlife and the environment. Some projects in California have even been scuttled because of unexpected environmental impacts, he said.

“It’s not a no brainer that every jurisdiction will want wind power,” he said. “There are complicated regulatory, emotional and environmental variables.”

There might be concerns about noise, safety and aesthetics. But I can’t think of a single person I’ve spoken to that has ever complained about the presence of a wind farm. This is purely anecdotal evidence on my part, yes, but many companies typically don’t run into resistance across the board when building wind farms, said John Lamontage, director of corporate communications at First Wind.

“While we do run into resistance in some locations, we often find that many people in a community embrace the possibility of a wind project,” Lamontage said in an email message. “They recognize the economic benefits they bring, along with the clean energy they’ll deliver.”

Wind turbines typically carry large capital costs — meaning the upfront cost of building and operating a turbine will take a long time to break even with the money saved by using wind power. Most wind turbines generate anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 megawatts of power, and the costs vary from state to state. For example, First Wind has a 30-megawatt wind farm in Hawaii that cost $125 million to build and a 57-megawatt wind farm in Maine that cost $140 million to make.

The uncertain regulatory atmosphere cost Wisconsin a pair of wind power projects that would have brought more than 98 megawatts of power to the state. That’s particularly troubling given that the argument does not have significant life outside of a NIMBY-style debate — and that isn’t even what the legislators focused on, according to the report. Wind power still serves as one of the strongest renewable energy sources — along with solar power — that can scale to the size of an economy.

“You wouldn’t see wind being developed in the way it is today if it wasn’t economical in terms of cost per kilowatt-hour,” Kachan said. “They’re continuing downward in price per kilowatt-hour with economies of scale and offshore manufacturing.”

There are 40,810 megawatts worth of wind farms constructed in the United States as of 2010, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Construction of wind farms has been ramping up for the past several years as well — 10,010 megawatts worth of wind turbines were built in 2009, up 19.6 percent from 8,366 megawatts in 2008. Most of that is in Texas, where a whopping 10,085 megawatts worth of wind farms are installed. To put things in perspective, the average household consumes around 920 kilowatt-hours of electricity every month.

Innovation is very far along in the wind power sector, Kachan said. That’s different from solar power, where the field is still somewhat nascent and there are a lot of ways to improve the technology, he said. Most photovoltaic cells — 6-inch-long wafers that capture sunlight and convert it to electricity — capture around 30 percent of the light shining on them and generate one watt of energy. Flexible panels that can be placed anywhere are even less efficient, capturing around 15 to 20 percent of sunlight. That means it would take around 1 million wafers — in the technology’s current form — to come close to the amount of power a wind turbine can operate.

Solar power might be more efficient than wind energy a few decades from now. There might even be some new way of generating electricity that’s more efficient and has less of an environmental impact than both solar and wind energy. But for the time being — as the cost of electricity wind power continues to decrease — wind power should be viewed as a large priority for legislators as a way to generate reliable, clean energy. Now is not the time to stall projects like the one in Wisconsin — now is the time to push them even further.

[Photo: chaunceydavis818]

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Shopping and apps rule the day at Plug and Play event

March 31st, 2011 No comments

Three startups came out on top today in a bake-off at the Plug and Play International Expo event in Sunnyvale, where companies gave 2-minute pitches to a crowd of investors and entrepreneurs.

If there was a theme today among the 34 international startups that made the elevator pitches, it was that e-commerce is hot. In particular, a number of the startups focused on shopping, apps, and payments.

The first place winner was Accedo, second was TapMap and third was Super Compare It.

Accedo provides apps and an app store for connected televisions and internet protocol TV (IPTV). These are apps users can access while watching TV. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Accedo was founded in 2004 and has shown consistent growth since 2007 and profitability since 2009. Accedo provides app stores in more than 30 countries to TV platform owners such as LG, Panasonic, and Philips. It also provides app stores to Deutsche Telekom, PCCW, Telstra, Viacom, NBC Universal and Time Warner.

But the market is in its early stages and is fragmented across incompatible platforms. It is costly for service providers and media companies to roll out an app across all of those different platforms. So Accedo does that for them. Its business includes making and licensing its own apps as well as distributing them through an app store. Michael Lantz, chief executive (pictured at top) said the company is raising about $10 million in order to expand worldwide.

TapMap of Galway, Ireland, helps physical retailers sell more products by publishing the retailers’ real-time in-stock inventory list on a variety of web-enabled devices. This lets consumers know if a product they want is in stock at the moment when they’re shopping for it.

Philip McNamara (pictured left), chief executive of TapMap, said the company doesn’t scrape data. It gets it directly from a retailer’s electronic inventory system in real-time. Right now, it displays that inventory for consumers. In the future, it will provide demand analysis trends and forecasts for retailers.

TapMap makes money from retailers, marketing agencies, and ad agencies. It charges them a fee to access analytics on live product demand. The market potential is big, since TapMap reduces the need for advertising. And retailers spend $60 billion on advertising in the U.S. alone. Partners include Wal-Mart, PC World, Microsoft, Oracle and others. The data gets published through partnership with app developers such as Red Laser and Shop Savvy. The company is raising $1.5 million.

Super Compare It compares grocery store prices and tells you where to shop, both online and offline. The aim is to save consumers time and money and help retailers and brands check their local competitors’ prices and consumers’ behavior in real time. In Italy, the company snagged more than 20,000 users in three months. It can now compare prices for 37 national retailers, or 70 percent of the grocery market, and it has a database of more than 1 million records.

The company is looking for $500,000 in funding to build a functioning web site and hire developers. The San Francisco company with Italian roots is headed by Barbara Labate (pictured right) and her partner Zion Nahum.

The Plug and Play Tech Center incubates startups in its Sunnyvale headquarters and various satellite locations. Its mission is to immerse startups in entrepreneurial culture and accelerate them by giving them space and access to other entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors and high-tech executives. There are more than 300 startups in the Plug and Play Tech Center’s buildings (that’s 50 more startups overall than we counted last August). About 60 of them are international companies that were founded elsewhere.

The international focus started a few years ago, amid the onset of the recession. It was a way to fill space in the buildings, but it was also a way of going full circle for Saeed Amidi, chief executive of the Plug and Play Tech Center. Amidi is an immigrant himself who moved to Silicon Valley from Iran in 1979, after the Iranian Revolution. His family started a Persian rug store in Palo Alto, Calif., and then moved into real estate.

With Rahim Amidi and Pejman Nozad, Saeed Amidi started Amidzad Partners to invest in startups that moved into family-owned buildings; they scored big with investments in Google and PayPal. They started Plug and Play Tech Center almost five years ago, and now Amidzad invests in many of its startups. (Disclosure: Amidzad is an investor in VentureBeat).

Plug and Play has partnered with 160 institutional venture capital firms, 50 corporate venture arms, 300 angels, and a number of foreign governments. Since its founding in 2006, companies in the Plug and Play centers have raised more than $750 million in funding.

Also noteworthy today is Plug and Play opened its first startup accelerator for the Egyptian market. The accelerator will focus on fostering Egypt’s next generation of tech startups with events and other ecosystem assistance.

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Fable 3 PC system requirements revealed, your highness

March 31st, 2011 No comments
Revolution doesn't come free, as any, uh, revolter (revolutioneer?) will tell you. On May 17, Fable 3 will launch on the Windows and bring with it a tale of two royal siblings vying for the crown -- but will you be able to cast off the shackles of oppression and fight for freedom? Probably not. I mean, have you ever tried to throw a shackle? They're heavy!

Anyway, Lionhead's passed along the system requirements for Fable 3, which aren't too heavy, and you can check them out past the break. Remember, it'll also run in 3D, which is kind of revolutionary for the series. That's it: revolutionary!

Continue reading Fable 3 PC system requirements revealed, your highness

JoystiqFable 3 PC system requirements revealed, your highness originally appeared on Joystiq on Thu, 31 Mar 2011 22:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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