Parents and Families
The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, Kevin Marks, Keith Teare, John Taschek, and Steve Gillmor — neatly sidestepped the Yahoo Tumblr acquisition and segued into the wonderful world of messaging. As Facebook Home settles into a cot at the homeless shelter, Google is revving up for an all-out assault on the service suite. Google Glass is just the tip of the iceberg; below the waterline, the search giant is sucking image, location, traffic, and advertising data in realtime.
It may seem like the Gang is tilting over into Google love, but scratch the surface (no pun intended) and you’ll find just as much Apple love lurking beneath. The consensus is not so much a two-horse race as a widening duopoly that makes it very hard for Yahoo or Microsoft or Amazon or any new player to break the hold these two giants maintain. Of course, that’s what they said about Microsoft, which in reality was the duopoly of Windows and Office.
@stevegillmor, @scobleizer, @kteare, @jtaschek, @kevinmarks
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
Reminder: Google Buzz Is Still Dead, Your Data Will Be Moved To Drive, And They Thank You For Using It
Google Buzz, the social service that Google launched way back in 2010 and then killed in 2011, reminded former users that their data still lives in and will be moved over to your Google Drive accounts in July. That’s lovely.
The email describes exactly what will happen with your data, which won’t count against your Drive storage limits, thankfully.
If you don’t delete the data and let Google move your stuff to Drive, it says that the public Buzz posts you shared in the past “may appear in search results and on your Google Profile.” OK, then.
Here’s the entire email in case you’ve filtered out Buzz communication to go directly to Spam or Trash:
In October 2011 we announced Google Buzz was shutting down. On or after July 17th, 2013, Google will take the last step in the shutdown and will save a copy of your Buzz posts to your Google Drive, a service for storing files online. Google will store two (2) types of files to your Google Drive, and the newly-created files will not count against your storage limits. If you’d like to wipe Buzz from your online world completelly, go here and delete the data now: https://profiles.google.com/me/deletebuzz
1. The first type of file will be private, only accessible to you, containing a snapshot of the Google Buzz public and private posts you authored.
2. The second type of file will contain a copy of only your Google Buzz public posts. By default it will be viewable by anyone with the link, and may appear in search results and on your Google Profile (if you’ve linked to your Buzz posts). Note, any existing links to your Google Buzz content will redirect users to this file.
3. Any comments you made on other users’ posts will only be saved to those users’ files and not to yours. Once the change described in this email is final, only that user will be able to change the sharing settings of those files. This means that if you have commented on another author’s private post, that author could choose to make that post and its comments public. If you would like to avoid that possibility, delete all your Buzz content now.
4. The new Google Drive files will only contain comments from users that previously enabled Google Buzz, and the files will not contain comments that were deleted prior to moving the data to your Google Drive.
Once the files are created, they will be treated the same as any other Drive file. They are yours to do with as you please. This includes downloading them, updating who can access them, or deleting them.
Before these files are created, you can view the Google Buzz posts you have authored here. If you do not want any of your Buzz posts or comments saved to Google Drive files, you can immediately delete your Google Buzz account and data.
Thank you for using Google Buzz.
Since Google mentions that you can delete your data not once, but twice, in the email, that’s the course of action that I’ll be taking.
Buzz never took off, and Google went on to focus all of its efforts on Google+. There were a slew of reasons why Buzz didn’t work, mostly centered around privacy. The close integration with Gmail made the entire experience a mess, blurring the lines between what should be personal and what should be public.
This is clearly the last step for Google to completely rid itself of the product, and all of the privacy concerns and issues that cropped up around the product. Oh, and just in case you missed that delete link, here it is again.
Thank you, Google.
Although 3D printing technology has existed for some time, it’s only now beginning to cross over into mainstream awareness, thanks to increasingly affordable access to the printers themselves, as well as attention-grabbing headlines about 3D printed guns and life-saving medical applications. While less eye-catching, perhaps, the innovation is also powering a new class of creatives, who are using 3D printers to produce art instead. Their “handmade” goods, including jewelry, home decor, gifts and more, appear on sites like the marketplace for crafters, Etsy, and the 3D printing resource center and online shop, Shapeways.
These modern-day artists don’t always fit the traditional mold – or stereotype, rather – of what an artist should be. They don’t necessarily have a studio or workshop, nor do they always have an art background or related experience. Sometimes, they’re drawn in because of the technology and science involved, only then discovering their more artistic side.
And sometimes, they’re just everyday people working day jobs in unrelated fields who have discovered 3D printing as a new way to express themselves creatively, communicating their visions and ideas to a wider audience than they had ever thought possible.
These are their stories.
This is part two of an ongoing series which will showcase some of the art that’s being fueled by the ever more accessible 3D printing technology, and the artists behind the work. In part one, we profiled a formally trained artist who was inspired to use 3D printing for her work, after first coming across the technology years ago.
Part Two: The Self-Taught Learner
When Dutch designer Maaike van der Horn wanted to learn how to use 3D modeling software, she turned to YouTube. The site, she says, is filled with several tutorials that walk you through the basics, and sometimes she would watch these over and over while trying to find her way.
“If you have an idea in your head, and you spend a little bit of time – well, a lot of time, actually – you can actually get pretty far,” she says with a chuckle.
Hoping to make a career change, van der Horn has been training part-time at a school for goldsmiths in the Netherlands in order to learn the trade.
“But I got frustrated because I had all these ideas in my head about things I wanted to make, but I realized that with the traditional goldsmithing techniques and practices, I wouldn’t be able to make those, or would only be able to make those after 20 years of experience, maybe,” she says.
Even if she became an expert in goldsmithing, the soldering and welding techniques wouldn’t have allowed her to make some of the jewelry that’s she’s able to make today using 3D printing, and whatever she had ended up producing because of those limitations wouldn’t have been her original vision — only some watered-down version instead.
“You wouldn’t be able to make such complex and very geometric objects,” she explains. “You wouldn’t be able to be so precise.”
3D printing offered a better alternative.
Van der Horn first heard about the technology after spotting an article in her local newspaper, which talked about the website Shapeways – a site offering printing services as well as tools and help to guide those who are new to using the technology, and which just closed on $30 million in Series C funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. The website soon became a valuable source of information for van der Horn.
She then began teaching herself how to use free software like SketchUp and Blender - a feat that’s even more impressive considering that she never had formal training, nor does she have any sort of technical background that would lend her to being able to quickly pick up and adapt to new software programs. In college, in fact, she had studied Psychology, and even at her day job, she only uses basic Office software.
But YouTube tutorials and 3D modelers’ forums have gotten her a long way. Once, when she really got stuck, she hired a fellow modeler to help, paying him $50 to solve a particular problem.
Van der Horn heaps praise on Shapeways, saying that the site made it so easy for her to learn and the prices for materials and printing costs were affordable. Although her initial efforts were a bit rocky – her first printed object was a 2D item – she’s now able to produce interesting, unique and complex shapes.
Although she’s always been crafty – van der Horn has filled her house with homemade furniture – her real love has always been jewelry. So that’s what she’s making today via Shapeways, where she tends to prefer working with metals. Stainless steel powder, printed, then fixated by being placed in a gold bath or bronze bath becomes modern, wearable jewelry like rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
“It really stays close to the essence of what I’m trying to do. But I love gold and silver, and right now it’s not possible to directly print in silver or gold at Shapeways,” van der Horn explains. So sometimes, she prints the jewelry in plastic, then has it cast locally. “It’s a mix of traditional techniques (the casting), plus modern techniques (the printing of plastic models). It’s interesting to explore how those two worlds can mix together,” she adds.
Today, most of her jewelry designing is done from the kitchen table or couch, from a beat up old laptop she wants to replace soon. In comparison, her goldsmith training takes place in a joint workshop where several artists pay to share the tools and equipment and split the cost of any repairs.
Does 3D Art Have A Soul?
Like many of the early 3D artists, van der Horn’s jewelry reflects its technical underpinnings with geometric shapes and sharp lines. In time, as people become more familiar with the techniques, that might change. Meanwhile, though van der Horn has always been drawn to geometric shapes herself, she’s still trying to make sure her customers see that her jewelry is coming from her – an artist – not a machine.
“Many people place a lot of value on something that’s handmade and has a direct connection to the artist. The challenge is to show that I put a little bit of myself into my designs,” van der Horn explains. “You can do that by making things that are not so geometrical, or making every branch just off of where it should be. And maybe you can convey a sense that something comes from the heart of the artist,” she says.
Now her shop is around a year old, and she sells her items both online and in local markets in Amsterdam. These days, she ships around 30 or 40 items per month, though that differs depending on the fairs and markets she attends.
Given the recent interest (some may even claim hype) around 3D printing, we asked van der Horn whether or not she thought the technology could produce items of long-lasting value, the way that her goldsmithing skills may do.
“It’s more than hype,” van der Horn asserts. “I do like to think we’re at the beginning of development and we’re only just exploring what anyone – people like you or me – can do with those techniques. For me, it feels like the new industrial revolution. Before, we were all more or less dependent on factories or multinationals who had production capabilities.”
“Now,” she adds, “production methods are opening up to anyone.”
Your government is worried. The world is “going dark.” Once upon a time, telephones were the only way to talk to someone far away, and the authorities could wiretap any phone they wanted. Nowadays, though, suspects might be communicating via Facebook, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Skype, Viber. And so, inevitably: “Today, if you’re a tech company that’s created a new and popular way to communicate, it’s only a matter of time before the FBI shows up with a court order to read or hear some conversation.”
But some of those providers have no interest in spying on their users. The FBI is not amused. “A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Facebook and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur,” according to the Washington Post, by fining them increasing sums until they build government-accessible back doors into their systems.
Which invites the titular question of this post.
The FBI may be looking back with dewy-eyed nostalgia on the phone wiretaps of yore, but I think we can all agree that those would have been ridiculously ineffective if anyone with anything to hide had been able to easily acquire and attach tiny devices that made wiretapping impossible. That’s exactly the case today: anyone even remotely au fait with technology can securely encrypt their digital communications themselves, via eg RedPhone.
So the FBI would only be able to wiretap suspects who are either too dumb to use encryption — in which case they ought to be easy enough to catch without wiretaps — or who think they have nothing to hide. Meanwhile, they’d be setting a terrible precedent for other, more draconian governments. Critics say “We’ll look a lot more like China than America after this” … but the Obama administration, which not coincidentally appears to hate whistleblowers above all else, still seems poised to support this initiative.
But wait, it gets worse. In order to claim this empty chalice, the powers that be will require a surveillance system that could be abused by the very kind of people it’s supposed to be used against. Could, and almost certainly would: if you build a tool that can be used malevolently, then inevitably it one day will be. Consider how Google was hacked in 2010 by adversaries who used the intercept facilities built into GMail – at the government’s insistence – to access the private email of Chinese dissidents, and:
Put another way:
Is the FBI actually too stupid to realize that this is a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good idea? Or — get your tinfoil hats on — is the pretext of hunting criminals and terrorists merely a smokescreen for requiring what in effect will be a gargantuan cross-platform surveillance system that will let them spy on anyone’s conversation at any time for their own ulterior motives?
Probably not. (At least, he said paranoiacally, not yet.) But that is exactly what’s happening in other countries. Witness this post by legendary security guru Moxie Marlinspike, the creator of RedPhone among other tools, who was approached by the Saudi Arabian government to help monitor and block tools like Twitter, Viber, Line and WhatsApp. When he declined, they suggested:
If you are not interested than maybe you are on indirectly helping those who curb the freedom with their brutal activities.
That’s right, folks: if you’re not helping the government of Saudi Arabia secretly spy on all of its residents, then you’re on the side of the terrorists! Good to know. I vastly prefer Moxie’s take:
While this email is obviously absurd, it’s the same general logic that we will be confronted with over and over again: choose your team. Which would you prefer? Bombs or exploits. Terrorism or security. Us or them. As transparent as this logic might be, sometimes it doesn’t take much when confirming to oneself that the profitable choice is also the right choice.
If I absolutely have to frame my choices as an either-or, I’ll choose power vs. people.
Similarly, a recent Citizen Lab report indicates that the FinFisher surveillance software is now being used in 36 countries, including those well-known pillars of enlightened human rights Bahrain, Ethiopia, and Turkmenistan, and the Syrian government has an entire electronic army targeting dissidents (who, unfortunately, continue to use Skype even though it’s not secure and Microsoft can and does tap into Skype chats.)
So we’re left with the last option: the FBI is simply technically incompetent. Unable to come to terms with the new world of technology, and take advantage of the many ways in which new technology can aid their investigations in new ways without turning America into a panopticon, they’re instead still thinking inside the box of 20th-century wiretapping, and insisting that tech companies implement a counterproductive, expensive, and ultimately pointless toolkit…purely to satisfy their own blinkered lack of imagination.
It’s sad, depressing, and dangerous. Let’s hope clearer heads and more farsighted visions prevail before this pathetically bad and dumb idea is actually implemented — but alas, I see no reason to believe that we can expect anything but more of the same high-level cluelessness for the foreseeable future.
Editor’s note: Jon Gottfried is a Developer Evangelist at Twilio, Co-Founder of the Hacker Union, and a StartupBus Conductor. Follow him on Twitter @jonmarkgo.
Being one of the first cyborgs in the world, I have been privy to a unique set of bizarre experiences that have led to some early observations and theories about the future of Google Glass and wearable technology.
At Glass Foundry SF, among the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, the New York Times and Hearst, was a rag-tag group of independent developers building Ice Breaker: myself, Song Zheng, and Rajiv Makhijani. When I pitched the idea of creating a Google Glass version of the dorm-room game Assassins, I thought it would be an interesting tongue-in-cheek jab at the Terminator-esque form of this new piece of technology. I could not have imagined it would turn into a six-month secret project slated to launch at one of the largest tech conferences of the year. We were building the first (and only) game for Google Glass. We had a six-month head start, early access to the Google Glass Mirror API and Glass devices as early as they were available.Developing applications for Glass is actually more similar to building a website than it is to building an Android application.
Let’s start off by talking about the reality of what it is like to develop applications for Google Glass. Like many of you, I expected it to be very similar to building mobile applications for Android. In fact, I began learning to build Android applications in preparation. My efforts were for naught, because the Mirror API is a RESTful web service. This means that developing applications for Glass is actually more similar to building a website than it is to building an Android application.
Once a user logs in to your application, they grant you permission to push “cards” to their Glass devices and to receive responses from it. It is purely asynchronous, and is not designed for real-time applications, such as an augmented-reality game or a Call of Duty-style, heads-up display. This will likely change with the upcoming release of the GDK, but for the moment you are restricted to building asynchronous applications. No problem for Twitter or Tumblr, where there is no need for instantaneous interactions. However, it certainly puts a damper on many of the science-fiction-esque predictions for Glass.
But there are still many reasons why I am excited about Glass and will continue to develop applications for it:
1. It gives us all a “nerdgasm.”
Developers love technology for the sake of technology. People flock to line up for product launches with the same excitement that a tween feels when they spot Bieber for the first time. Glass is exclusive, mysterious and futuristic. As the first wearable-computing platform to have even a hint of mass availability, it makes us feel as if we are truly living in the future. You could meet a thousand Valley founders all creating the “next big social network,” but no amount of SoLoMo innovation can match the excitement or fear that we will all soon be addicted to The Game, only to be saved by a young Wil Wheaton.We have the opportunity to create the canonical user experience for wearable computers.
2. We are defining the future.
As developers, we have the unique opportunity to quite literally define the experiences that consumers have with technology. The first third-party applications for the iPhone set the stage for all mobile apps to follow. The same rings true for Glass. Whether or not the product itself is successful, we have the opportunity to create the canonical user experience for wearable computers. In the future, when there are both iGlass and Microsoft Senior Professional Heads-Up™ Displays for Business, they will all be modeled off of these initial applications for Glass – consciously or not.
3. There is money to be made.
While it is unclear whether there will be mass consumer adoption of Glass, it is obvious that this will be a valuable platform. Imagine being a real estate agent walking down the block and seeing information on all of the homes for sale without having to shuffle around with folders and papers. Imagine being a doctor who can immediately see the medical history for an unconscious ER patient without having to manually look it up on a computer and waste precious life-saving seconds. We are not yet comfortable interacting with these new cyborgs in social situations, but I have no doubt that there are an immense number of professional uses that will prove to be more valuable than the potentially awkward social stigmas surrounding them.
4. It is exclusive and attractive.
We are nerds. We have traditionally been at the bottom of the social pyramid. Sure, nerds might be the new rock stars in some circles. But the only thing cooler than a rock star nerd is a rock star nerd wearing a $1,500 pair of glasses that very few people in the world have even heard of, let alone seen in person. A friend of mine described it as the Air Jordans of the 21st century. Whether you are trying to network or get a date, Google Glass is truly one of the best conversation starters I have ever seen. And I promise you, the Glass Explorers are doing both.This is a new frontier and we are still defining the social norms involved with wearing a computer on your face.
5. There is hype.
The press loves Glass. For now at least, every application is the first X for Glass. My app GlassTweet was the first Twitter client for Glass. Ice Breaker was the first game for Glass. And what reporter doesn’t want to be first? It is a perfect opportunity for a developer to build a reputation as a Glass expert, and I have already met many developers attempting to do exactly this.
There are always skeptics. And they would be right to be skeptical – this is a new frontier and we are still defining the social norms involved with wearing a computer on your face. Some have even proposed that providing developers with Glass before the general public will make it seem too nerdy or awkward – what average person concerned about their appearance wants to be associated with a naked geek in the shower?
I would argue that Google took the only option available to them. The only truly scalable products of the future will be developer platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Twilio, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Arduino – all of these products have been successful in large part by embracing and empowering their developer communities. No company is omniscient enough to imagine every potential use of their products.
This gives developers an immense amount of power to define the success or failure of an entire product line. If they innovate and create amazing experiences, it can pave the way for mass consumer adoption of a product, and if they fail or are mistreated by their platform providers, they can create a product wasteland. It is a symbiotic relationship, and ultimately these developers in the Explorer program will define the consumer success of Glass. People will forget about Showergate if the applications on Glass are useful or fun enough to outweigh the initial awkwardness associated with any new product.
All concerns aside, the hard truth that skeptics must face is that this is an inevitable evolution of computing. We will continue to debate the pros and cons of wearable technology for decades to come, but one thing is crystal clear: wearable technology is coming, it is inevitable, and Google is steamrolling a path to this unavoidable future.
Will you join me in defining this future or will you be defined by it?
Digital dating is nothing to scoff at; it’s a big business, and it’s changed a lot of lives — mostly for the better. Yet, while dating has seen enormous progress during the Digital Era, there’s still a lot garbage out there, and the space is still mostly dominated by a handful of old names. A gaggle of dating sites and apps have appeared over the past five years, but few have had real staying power, and many have gone the way of the dinosaur.
While it’s still too early to make any pronouncements, it’s looking more and more like Tinder could buck the trend. Created by Hatch Labs — an LA-based startup backed by IAC, the same Barry Diller-led digital media giant that owns Match.com and OKCupid — Tinder has grown like a weed since it launched in October. A crazy, dating weed.
In part, that’s due to timing, and in part because Tinder is based on a familiar, throwback model, drawing on the same addictive formula behind Hot or Not. Essentially, it’s Hot or Not made mobile, casual and connected to Facebook, but rather than promising to introduce people to their one true soul partner/life mate, Tinder just wants to make it easier to flirt — and get you off your ass to meet people. In the real world.
By focusing on reducing the “creepiness” factor (always a relative term in dating, mind you), reducing spam and by targeting young people, Tinder has been able to find that elusive, exponential growth curve. (Unsurprisingly, it’s initial growth spike came from college campuses, and the average age of its users is still 23.)
It’s also fairly easy to use: It’s free, it doesn’t focus on building traditional profiles, instead pulling basic info from Facebook, is location-enabled, and matches users to other people nearby based on similar behavior, interests and so on. If you’re not interested, you can pass. If you are, it connects you with the other person, allowing you to chat and arrange a meeting offline.
Thanks to the above, the app has been seeing the same kind of growth that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter saw in the early days, Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad tells us. But what does that mean, exactly? When we wrote about Tinder in early January, it had served one million matches and users had made 35 million profile ratings. Today, Rad says, Tinder has served 50 million matches and users have made 4.5 billion ratings.
So, while the team is keeping a tight lid on the number of downloads and users it’s attracted to date, from what we do know (and what we’ve been hearing from other sources), it’s safe to assume that both number well into the millions. And keep in mind: The app was released in late October.
Tinder also seems to be avoiding a common trend among popular mobile apps: High number of downloads, but comparatively low engagement. In Tinder’s case, Rad tells us that around 50 percent of users open the app once a day, while approximately 75 percent open the app once a week and around 85 percent use the app every month.
Based on this growth, rumors have been circulating for months now that claim Tinder is in the proces of raising a big round of outside funding, or is in the process of being acquired. At this point, the founder says, neither of those are true. While the company isn’t sharing how much it’s raised to date, we do know that IAC is it’s primary investor, and owns a minority stake in the business, having been the sole investor in its seed and series A rounds (which we hear total in the millions). And the startup was incubated within IAC.
IAC would likely love to own Tinder outright, as would others, but at this point the startup is resolved to stay independent, and go public rather than sell. Of course, there’s a long road ahead, and these things have a habit of changing. Furthermore, while Tinder has opted not to raise outside capital, our sources tell us that this hasn’t stopped venture capitalists from courting Tinder in every way possible.
With plenty of runway ahead and initial growth and scalability snags behind, Tinder has begun to focus more on product development as well as an area that will be key to its future: International markets. To date, 15 percent of Tinder users hail from outside the U.S., the CEO tells us, with the highest adoption coming from Canada, Australia, Brazil and Ireland. (In recent weeks, Rad says, Tinder was seeing 2,000 downloads/day in Brazil.)
Going forward, the team of 13 will begin its international growth efforts in the UK, Australia, Latin America, Germany, France and China, in particular. To do that, the company is working on additional language support, targeted marketing and hiring local reps in each of these countries. Rad also sees big opportunity for growth in Asia, thanks to the explosion of mobile adoption, and is currently working on partnerships that will help it move into Asian markets and localize the Tinder experience to native languages, networks and so on. (Like how to leverage the biggest Chinese and Asian social networks for authentication, as opposed to relying on Facebook, for example.)
Tinder has also been busy building tools that will help it follow through with its mission to solve social, discovery and networking problems outside the confines of dating. Today, for example, the startup is releasing a new feature called “Matchmaker,” which allows users to create matches between any two Facebook friends — for any purpose.
Once users establish that connection, the two friends can chat within Tinder without sharing their contact information. The idea is to create a casual, simple way to make an introduction, whether you want to set two friends up on a date or make professional connections. Rad tells us that Matchmaker is anonymous and solves the awkward problem of introducing people and then being included on the resulting thread — an annoyance often experienced in email and Facebook intros.
With Matchmaker, the introducer doesn’t have to be removed from the thread, they can send the message to the two people they want to connect, and that’s it. If the recipient isn’t on Tinder, they’ll see that they get a message on Facebook, and they can then quickly create a Tinder login if they want to see the post.
Another cool feature of Matchmaker is that the person who makes the introduction can see if the match is active and they can get a sense of their success rate. Rad assures me that this feature is intended to be high level so that it’s not creepy, allowing users to get just enough of a sense of the activity level of the intros they curate so that they can check back in (or send a reminder) if the conversation goes silent.
Again, the idea is that, while there are plenty of media through which people can make digital introductions, those connections tend to carry more weight if they’re friend-approved. If that intro comes from a close friend, you’re more likely to follow through on it than if not. Of course, there’s the question of whether or not people will want to make introductions in a professional context through a networking that’s primarily associated with dating. For this reason, the startup is launching the feature in beta to test it out and to see if it catches on.
As part of this new release, Tinder is also making some improvements in the areas where its user experience has been less-than-impressive. In particular, many users have complained that the app’s sorting algorithm has matched them with teenage or underage users. (Not cool, Tinder, not cool.) So, in this release, Tinder now includes age filtering, so that users can select their preferred age range, along with making some general improvements to the accuracy of its matching algorithm and improving the speed of chat within the app.
As of now, Tinder remains exclusively an iPhone app, but the CEO tells us that the team is working on an Android version, which will be ready “within the next few months.” The team also has plans to develop tablet apps, but don’t expect Tinder to show up on the Web anytime soon. Tinder is going to remain mobile-centric for the foreseeable future.
In a crowded space, Tinder has, so far, managed to buck the trend and find that elusive, exponential growth curve. Of course, the next year will be critical. As growth inevitably levels out a bit, Tinder will have to keep evolving if it wants to avoid being another flash in the pan. International could hold the key to sustaining that growth, but it remains to be seen whether users will be willing to think of Tinder as more than a casual flirting and dating tool. That could be a tough sell, but if they get there, expect Tinder to stick around for awhile — and be on the receiving end of calls from every VC on the block.
For more, Find Tinder here.
Google Now's “Topics” Page Returns And Shows You How Much Google Knows About You, But It Only Works On Android
A few weeks ago, Google briefly made a “Google Now” topics page available on the web and then took it down again. The page showed a list of topics Google believed you were interested in, based on your search history. Now this feature is back, but it’s a bit different from the leaked page. A few days ago, it seems, the company quietly (re-)launched this feature with the latest Google Now update. The leaked page was also visible on the desktop, but it looks like Google has plugged this hole the cards are now only available on Android – and only by going through Google Now‘s research cards.
On this page, you can still see many (but not all) of the topics that Google thinks you are interested in. The feature will now pop up at the bottom of Google’s research cards, which often appear after Google realizes that you’ve been researching a certain topic in depth. One of the reasons for this card to pop up, for example, would be when Google detects you are planning a trip.
To see this information, Google Now offers a link will appear underneath these cards (“Explore now,” then look for the “More of your topics” links in the top right) that allows you to delve a bit deeper into the topics you recently looked for and to get a different view of your search history. Indeed, besides powering the research cards, they mostly offer you a richer view of your search history.
Unlike Google’s search history page, however, this feature shows you an aggregate view of what Google believes you are interested in, not just a list of all of your searches.
In my case, for example, Google knew that I was looking for a hotel last weekend and had been looking at hotels in New York a few weeks ago, too. It also knows that I was looking for restaurants in Portland, did some research on web browsers, smartphones and Sim City.
For now, this feature is only available on Android, as the Google Now research cards haven’t launched on iOS yet (where they would be available trough the Google Search app).
Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a way to just surf to this page without having a research card available through Google Now.
Google Now has always been about anticipating your needs and performing searches for you before you. The research cards clearly fit into this pattern and so does the ability to delve a little bit deeper into what Google thinks it knows about you.
This, of course, shows you how much Google really knows about you – which is either really cool or creepy, depending on your overall thoughts about Google and privacy.
When Google mistakenly leaked the topics page earlier this year, it looked like this would be another step in bringing Google Now to the desktop. Sadly, it looks like that isn’t quite the case and that we’ll still have to wait a bit before Now makes it debut on Chrome for the desktop, but with the new notifications system and a flag to enable Now in Chrome, it’s just a matter of time before Google will launch this feature.
On this week’s Ask A VC episode, Index Ventures partner Danny Rimer joined us in the studio. Rimer has been in the venture industry for over 11 years so he had plenty to share on how VC has changed, and the differences in the venture world in Europe and the U.S.
Rimer, who has led the firm’s investments in Etsy, Nastygal and many others, also talked to us about the future of e-commerce and how the industry is changing for startups.
Check out the video above for more!
Once a upon a time, Microsoft saw fit to put together a YouTube app for Windows Phone and it was actually pretty great — it let users download videos straight from the app and there was nary an ad to be found. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Google wasn’t too pleased: after all, the features that made the app so appealing didn’t exactly jibe with YouTube’s terms of service, and the search giant demanded the offending app be removed.
Well, after a bit of back and forth (and a conciliatory update), it seems the two companies have finally come to an agreement. Microsoft and YouTube released a statement today affirming that the two companies will work together on crafting yet another YouTube app for Windows Phone that doesn’t fly in the face of Google’s and YouTube’s rules.
Here’s the (admittedly brief) statement in full:
Microsoft and YouTube are working together to update the new YouTube for Windows Phone app to enable compliance with YouTube’s API terms of service, including enabling ads, in the coming weeks. Microsoft will replace the existing YouTube app in Windows Phone Store with the previous version during this time.
So there you have it. Frankly, the news doesn’t come as much of a shock — Microsoft was seemingly caught off-guard when Google’s ire first became known and was willing to make things right by adding those ads should Google give the company access to “the necessary APIs.” Then again, a Google representative points out things like YouTube’s the iFrame API have been open to the masses for a while now, so it’s unclear why Microsoft didn’t just go that route in the first place. While it’s refreshing to see these two work out their differences here for once (mostly because Microsoft has been poking at Google with its Scroogled campaign for months now), the real loser here is the consumer.
In just a few weeks a new, ad-laden version of the app will trickle into the Windows Marketplace and Windows Phone users who have downloaded the app will soon find themselves faced with the prospect of embracing a much different YouTube experience. Granted, it’s only one app that’s being bowdlerized, but Windows Phone has been making significant strides when it comes to app quality lately and it’s a bummer to see such a prominent app lose its charm.
In the event you’re a Windows Phone user who hasn’t yet updated your YouTube app to the latest version, you may want to wait before taking the plunge. Microsoft recently pushed a tweaked version of the app into the Windows Marketplace that removed the ability to download videos on the fly, though you still won’t be subjected to in-stream ads.
In lieu of a formal review, Matt Burns and I sat down to take a look at the Samsung 700T AKA ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T, a convertible tablet that has a small button on the keyboard that pops out the Windows 8 tablet that forms the brains of the machine. The device is a bit chintzy – more pressed metal and injected plastic than I like to see on a laptop – but at about $1,000 retail it’s an acceptable compromise for Win8 users who are looking for a nicer tablet.
I gave this device a Fly simply because I like the idea – a laptop that turns into a tablet with much fuss – but Matt was unimpressed. A little treat for you: this thing was so hard to describe that I had to read the name off of my phone and I still mispronounced it.
The laptop hit about 6 hours of battery life and a Geekbench score of about 4,000, on par with the i5 tablets we tested. The lower price – especially at this late in the game for this laptop, make it an interesting choice for a fleet laptop but I think the fit, finish, and power could detract from its overall appeal. It’s an interesting laptop, to be sure, but not the best of the bunch.
Google Needs To Bring Emerging Markets Online To Grow Its Business Opportunities In The Next 10 years
The WSJ has reported that Google is participating in discussions with emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and Africa about setting up wireless network infrastructure in cities and towns. A source told the WSJ that: “The wireless networks would be available to dwellers outside of major cities where wired Internet connections aren’t available and could be used to improve Internet speeds in urban centers.”
This aligns with Google’s goals of surrounding the world with technology that fits into our daily lives. That’s a “don’t be evil,” touchy-feely notion, but it comes from a need to set up Google’s future business opportunities globally.
Remember, all of Google’s products require one thing: The Internet.
According to Internet World Stats, Africa’s “Internet penetration rate” was a paltry 15.6 percent as of June 2012. Compare that to 78.6 percent in the United States, and it’s clear that Google needs to move outside of the U.S. to go after its next group of “customers.”
That’s a lot of business opportunity.
Google Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt talks about Internet penetration a lot, projecting that by the end of the decade, everyone will be online: “For every person online, there are two who are not. By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected.” That’s lofty, but it’s essential for Google to grow.
Mobile phones prevail in areas that don’t have proper Internet connectivity, but smartphones are still limited. People still use laptops and desktops at work, and would possibly use them at home, if they had proper connectivity. When looking at the chart above, Google sees all of the possible business opportunities that would come into play once those penetration numbers start jumping up. With more people online, there would be more eyeballs, more ad clicks, more shoppers, more…everything. If Google can push a few of these projects through in Africa and Southeast Asia, it will attract support of governments in other locales, as well.
Google is working on rolling out connected Internet with its Fiber product in places like Kansas City, Austin and Utah. A quarter of Kansas City area residents don’t have Internet connectivity in the home, with 17 percent of them not using the Internet at all. These findings were unearthed during Google’s due diligence for setting up Fiber, of course. When I visited the area this month, Fiber hadn’t reached the homes that need it the most, the ones that would take advantage of the “free option.” That’s where things will get interesting for Google, as it will bring them engagement that they haven’t had and could lead them to building new products that they haven’t been thinking about yet.
If you take those learnings and the Fiber rollout in Kansas City and apply it to emerging markets, then Google’s intentions become clear: More people online, more people using Google products. It’s simple. What’s not simple is getting these markets to realize that it would not only be good for Google to have more people online, it would be great for local businesses as well.
While Google isn’t commenting, either for the WSJ story or this one, it’s clear that Schmidt is on a worldwide friend-making expedition, attempting to get as many global government officials on the “Internet For All” train that he can.
Sure, setting up these emerging markets will help Google’s potential bottom line, but it could also help the entire technology ecosystem. More opportunities for Google will open up more opportunities for those building apps and services. If Google wants to do all of the research and foot the bill to get things rolling, then everyone wins.
[Photo Credit: Flickr]
The folks over on Android Police must have spent some of their time rewatching I/O videos. While they were doing that, they spotted a potential leak during the “Structure in Android App Design” session. In it, it seems, Google quietly leaked screenshots of what looks to be a revamped interface for the Gmail app.
If this turns out to be a real product, and the presentation sure made it look like that, the app could soon get a new navigation drawer that should make using it quite a bit easier – especially for those of us who like to use lots of labels in Gmail.
Currently, Google uses what it calls a “spinner,” the drop-down menu at the top of the screen you’ve probably seen in numerous Android apps. Instead, as Google’s Jens Nagel showed during his presentation, the new design would use a navigation drawer that users can pop out from the left side of the screen.
Here is what this would look like:
It’s worth noting that Google showed a lot of mock-ups during this presentation. The Gmail screenshot looks pretty real, however. Google does typically vet these presentations ahead of time, so we will just have to wait and see if this is really a leak or just an example of what the Android team could do with navigation drawers in Gmail.
During the presentation, Google also showed a mock-up of what the Calendar app would look like with the new navigation drawer, but Jens Nagel explicitly noted that while they could use this as the main interface for Calendar, the sidebar does “look a bit underpopulated,” especially on a tablet. It would be odd for Google to use one interface paradigm for one of its main native Android apps and go with another one in the rest of its apps.
Here is the full presentation. The discussion about the new Gmail interface starts about 23 minutes into the video.
In this episode, John Biggs, Matt Burns and Darrell Etherington discuss Microsoft’s just-announced Xbox One, complete with voice commands, a brand new Kinect, a slew of new entertainment/social features, and the best specs yet.
We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3pm Eastern and noon Pacific.
Intro Music by Rick Barr.
- Ships with Chrome OS (generally requires an update to get to latest build)
- 2560 x 1700, 239 PPI display
- 32GB SSD
- 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 Processor
- MSRP: $1,299
- Hardware is incredibly well-designed
- Fast boot, right into Chrome-based workflow
- Touch is nice when actually needed
- Seems to leech battery quickly in sleep mode
- Still just Chrome
- Battery life could be better
The Chromebook Pixel is the Chromebook I’d pick as my personal Chromebook – if money was no option, and if I felt I really needed a Chromebook. It’s an impressive beast, like a Bird of Paradise, but in the end a trained falcon would be a way better winged thing to own, since it could catch you some wild game, instead of just prancing around with its mesmerizing but fairly useless mating displays.Aspirational
While not comparable to a bird of prey, the Chromebook Pixel is a very impressive piece of hardware. The construction, which includes an anodized aluminum shell that has a dark slate finish, corners that are just slightly rounded for a more angular look than say a MacBook Pro, and clear attention to detail paid to the overall fit and finish that results in a final product you feel like putting on display in your home. The computer is solid, and it bears a pleasing weight to remind you, tipping the scales at 3.35 lbs (which is actually lighter than the 13.3-inch Retina MacBook Pro but feels more substantial somehow, perhaps owing to the smaller screen size.
The Chromebook Pixel also has a touch-sensitive, high-resolution display that beats the Retina MacBooks in terms of pixel density (which may have something to do with Google’s naming choice here). The screen is admittedly gorgeous in ideal conditions, but ideal conditions are fewer and farther between for the Pixel’s screen than for the Apple one. The color spectrum was skewed slightly yellow on my unit, and viewed at lower brightness legibility suffers. Also, if you think glare is a problem on your MacBook Pro or iMac, you’re going to be amazed at how much worse it can get with the Pixel in bright lighting.
The touch aspect works well, and surprisingly I haven’t had trouble with greasy mitts mucking up the screen so far. That’s probably because I seldom actually reach out and touch it though. The movement is awkward from a typing position, and of limited use value in my opinion. But for those few times you do get the impulse to tap something, it’s a very nice-to-have feature, if not a killer one. Speaking of touch, the Chromebook Pixel has one of the best trackpads currently available on a laptop, on par with Apple’s extremely solid input pads.
Hardware aside, the Chromebook Pixel’s main attribute is that it runs Google’s Chrome OS. If you’ve not used Chrome OS before, you’re probably not alone. But you also don’t need to worry about a learning curve; this is just like using the Chrome browser on your Mac or Windows computer. Web apps are treated a little more like proper desktop apps, perhaps, but the extensions, the experience and pretty much everything else about it is just like using Chrome. Which is both a good and a bad thing.
It’s good because it’s simple, easy, and for a good chunk of people, it probably actually satisfies the majority of their needs. If you’re a light computer user, making the browser the focus of an OS experience makes sense. But unfortunately for Chrome OS, tablets make almost as much, if not more sense for those users. Once you start requiring more than a tablet demands, your needs likely ramp up quickly, and then you’ll feel the lack of dedicated apps like Skype and Adobe’s Creative Suite products on the Chromebook pretty quickly. In other words, the Chromebook Pixel occupies a very thin sliver in terms of potential buyer needs, and there’s likely massive demand on either side.
Google didn’t make a mass market device with the Pixel, in the end. It made something that can stand as a shining example of what a Chromebook can be. That means that the Pixel is, in the end, something of a precious beauty, an exotic shape that won’t likely fit either a round, square or triangle-shaped hole.Who is it for? Designers
No. If you’re a designer and you’re using a Chromebook Pixel, you must be not very good at your job… or so good that I’m mystified at your abilities and you’ve evolved beyond the limitations of any physical tool. There are photo editing tools available for Chrome OS, and there’s even an SD card slot (but don’t try using ultra-high capacity ones like the 128GB I use as one of part of my go-to photography kit, it can’t read those), but if you’re a serious designer you’ll sorely feel the lack of better, more mature tools. It can output to other screens, too with a Mini DisplayPort, but that just gives you double the browser space, and still limits you in terms of design software.
A lot of effort seems to be going into putting more design tools in the hands of web-based editors and creators, but we’re not there yet. Maybe that’s next after Adobe has moved to its Creative Cloud subscription-based model, but for right now, designers steer clear.Founders
No. The Chromebook Pixel might be perfect for a founder who’s building products based on the Google ecosystem and wants to kiss some extra ass, but really it isn’t a great tool for an entrepreneur on the move. The main reason being that some absolutely crucial conferencing tools like Skype are still not in place on Chrome OS.
The other conceivable situation where this might work is if you’re a web startup that’s betting big on HTML5 and you want to really eat your own dogfood. But other laptops also offer Chrome, and a lot more besides, so why not have your dogfood and eat it, too? Not sure that metaphor actually works here but it reads well, so go with it.Programmers
No. This is a situation where it probably depends on what exactly it is you’re programming. If you’re building IFTTT recipes, for instance, a Chromebook Pixel is pretty exceptional. And if you’re working on tweaking WordPress themes, then you can do everything you want to on the Pixel. But for anything beyond straightforward and simple text-based coding, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. I wouldn’t, for instance, recommend coding iOS apps on a Chromebook Pixel. I probably wouldn’t even recommend developing Chrome OS apps on a Chromebook, though you can apparently hack the computer to make it operate better as an everyday coding device.Bottom Line
This is a very good Chromebook. But the fact remains that it still feels like devices running Google’s still-nascent Chrome OS need to be considered separately from other notebooks running OS X, Windows and even Ubuntu. The Pixel puts on an excellent show, has dazzling good looks and a stunning mating display, but it’s far from an apex predator.
Erply, the startup that makes iPad-oriented and cloud-based point of sale and inventory management software for retailers, has raised $2.15 million in new funding, co-founder CEO Kristian Hiiemaa tells TechCrunch.
The round, which is Erply’s Series B, was led by Redpoint Ventures with the participation of Index Ventures and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups. This brings the total venture capital investment into Erply to $4.2 million.
The decision to take on just $2.15 million was a definite choice, Hiiemaa said, noting that Erply had offers from investors keen to pitch in on a $10 million Series B. But Hiiemaa decided to keep the round small because his company, which has a staff of 45, is profitable. “There’s no need [for a larger round] now,” he said.
One way that Erply has achieved the strong financial position to be choosy with investors is by having its technology development in Hiiemaa’s native Estonia, where he has the know-how to employ top tier engineering talent. An Erply competitor with engineering operations in the United States “would need to raise $20 million to get the same team and speed,” Hiiemaa said.
Still, Erply, which has been kicking into high gear of late and currently has 45 million SKUs in 115,000 stores on board, has no shortage of ways that the new funding will come in handy — especially since its competitors include deep-pocketed tech giants such as Microsoft, Oracle, and RetailPro. The company just signed a lease on a new sales floor in New York City and plans to double its staff in the months ahead. Going forward, Hiiemaa said, Erply is focusing on big enterprise sales efforts, targeting more Fortune 500 companies with more than 200 store locations to use its platform. Also in the works at Erply is an iPad compatible RFID, NFC, and Bluetooth-enabled hardware device to manage inventory that should be making its debut later this year.
As Hiiemaa told me earlier this spring, Erply’s larger vision is a big one — to help brick and mortar shops stay in business and keep our neighborhoods vibrant. “The most important thing for me is helping retailers to survive and be successful,” Hiiemaa said at the time. “They have stores, locations, inventory, but they lack web knowledge and algorithmic-powered tools to understand retention. Otherwise, online eats the stores.” Now Erply has a bit more firepower to fight that good fight, and let technology help traditional businesses rather than hurt them.
Continuing to grow its suite of services aimed at mobile app developers, Amazon today announced App Engagement Reports, free app usage reports that are now a part of the company’s Mobile App Distribution Portal. The reports are designed for Amazon Appstore developers in need of information about app performance and revenue.
Specifically, the reports include daily and monthly active devices, installs, sessions, average revenue per device, and retention metrics, and they can be filtered by marketplace, viewed in chart form, or downloaded as a CSV, the company explains in this afternoon’s official announcement. Developers will also be able to change the data range on the reports in order to see historical trends.
There are six Engagement Reports now being provided:
- Overview: A summary of key usage data for your app or game
- Average Revenue: Daily and Monthly Average Revenue per Device (ARPD) and Average Revenue per Paid User (ARPPU) for In-App Items
- Retention: Daily Retention for days 1-3-7 and Weekly Retention for weeks 1-2-3
- Active Devices: Daily Active Devices (DAD), Monthly Active Devices (MAD), and Sticky Factor (DAD/MAD)
- Sessions: Total Daily Sessions and Average Sessions Per Device
- App Installs: Daily Installs and Uninstalls
At launch, the reports are only available for those apps that were submitted and published after October 25, 2012. For developers who haven’t updated their apps since then, they’ll need to either republish the app or submit an update in order to activate the reporting feature. However, there’s no need to make any other changes to the app’s code or integrate any additional software.
The report will include data for apps running on Amazon devices like the Kindle Fire and Fire HD, as well as any other Android devices running the latest version of the Amazon Appstore mobile app.
App analytics and sales figures are crucial to making Amazon’s Appstore a more complete service – these things have long been standard features of competing stores like Google Play or Apple’s iTunes, for example. Though many developers still integrate third-party SDKs to allow for increased capabilities and more detailed reporting beyond what comes out-of-the-box, it’s expected for the Appstore itself to at least provide some sort of basic insight into an app’s traction and sales. Amazon says that reports have been a “popular request from developers,” and that’s likely an understatement.
The addition of the new Engagement Reports comes on the heels of several other changes Amazon has introduced in recent months to beef up its Appstore offerings for developers. Not only has it been expanding its footprint globally, the company has also added features like in-app payments, subscriptions, and even its own virtual currency, Amazon Coins, in order to give developers more revenue generation possibilities.
Now that developers have had a little time to experiment with those new offerings, it only makes sense that they should be able to track how well those features are performing, and whether or not they have an effect on key metrics like ARPU (average revenue per user) and retention.
Additional information about the various parts of the reports and how to access them are explained here. Meanwhile, an Engagement Reports FAQ offers the answers to even more specific questions about the new reports.
TechCrunch Disrupt SF is back! We’re very excited to announce tickets are on sale and stealth companies can now apply for Startup Battlefield.
This September 7-11, we’re bringing Disrupt back to San Francisco to welcome an all new slate of outstanding startups, influential speakers, guests and more to the stage. It marks the seventh time we’ve set up shop here in SF and once again all the action — starting with our 24 hour Hackathon — happens at The Concourse at San Francisco Design Center.
Last month, at Disrupt NY 2013, Enigma bested a very impressive batch of startups including HAN:DLE, SupplyShift, and Zenefits. The very best startups showed up in New York this year, and we’re stoked to keep the magic alive in San Francisco once September rolls around.
So are you ready to launch your company on the biggest startup launch stage? Tell us about it.
As in years past we’re looking for the very best startups to compete in the Startup Battlefield and walk away with the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 cash, and gobs of attention. For the first two days, 30 companies will present their product to a panel of judges.
But first you have to apply. Applications are due June 17. Click here for the application and full list of rules.
Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis — and the last two Disrupts had record numbers of applicants — so it’s to your advantage to submit as soon as you are ready. Due to strong demand, we are unable to review applications more than once, so please do not submit a draft application before you are ready for final consideration.
PowerPoint slides and video demos are optional but highly encouraged. We reserve the right not to review applications without video demos based on application volume. We look forward to reviewing your application.
All submissions are confidential unless otherwise permitted by applicants on the application form.
More Disrupt SF 2013 details will be announced in the coming weeks. Tickets are currently on sale at a significant discount. We have a stellar line up of speakers and panels on the docket. But we need your help. Apply for Startup Battlefield and help us make Disrupt SF 2013 the best yet.
Our sponsors help make events happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our sponsorship team at email@example.com.
Know what probably won’t help? Botching the key detail of an email sent to many of your most tech-savvy users.
Tumblr just sent out a big ol’ mass email to all of the users who host a Tumblr blog through their own, independently owned domain. In other words, to the folks who know enough about these bleepy-bloopy electronic space typewriters we use to be able to get a bit fancy with their Tumblr blogs.
It warned users of an impending change they’d need to make to their settings — a new IP address they needed to point their domain at — unless they wanted their blog to suddenly “no longer work“.
The catch: they, uh, kinda forgot the most important part. They’d put in a placeholder for the IP, and… it never got replaced. “Please point your custom domain to [IP Address],” it directed. Wherps.
For many of these users, this was among the first emails they’d received since the Yahoo acqusition. Within about 30 seconds, the tweets lampooning the email started going up.
Moral of the story: If you work at a lil’ company and manage to botch a mass email, don’t worry too much. You’re in good company. Billion dollar company.
A block from the Mariposa on-ramp and in the eye-line of 90,000 cars whizzing by on 280 sits an old warehouse that was home to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt weekly, and Digg. Most of the building is gutted, and inside they are working on the “greatest enabler of hardware on the planet,” according to PCH International head Liam Casey. It will be the new home of Lime Lab, a hush-hush design consultancy that Casey bought in 2012 for an undisclosed amount and, most important, the U.S. gateway to Asian PCH’s manufacturing might that allows hardware startups to access stem-to-stern services in design, coding, manufacturing, packaging and shipping.
Casey, dubbed “Mr. China” in a James Fallows article that outlined the rising importance of Shenzhen as a manufacturing giant, is one of the biggest machers in Asia. A teetotaling Irishman, the inexhaustible Casey ostensibly lives in a hotel in downtown Shenzhen but is nearly always in the air. He and his cross-cultural team make nearly all the accessories you can imagine for multiple vendors. You couldn’t point a finger in a Best Buy without hitting a product PCH builds.
He envisions his new building as a gateway to China and a way to help clients – and the public – understand the vagaries of mass manufacturing. The space will contain a public foyer and cafe where visitors can learn about materials, design and manufacturing. C-Level training will go on in a large anteroom on the first floor with a huge video screen suspended on epoxy-sealed walls.
In short, it’s the Apple Store if the focus was all the trouble that went into products before they ever reached the consumer.
“We want it to be the most photographed building in San Francisco,” said Andre Yousefi, co-founder of Lime Lab. The company, which started in the doldrums of the recession, consisted of Yousefi and his partner Kurt Dammermann until Casey bought them and expanded the team to 25. They expect to hire 15 more engineers by October and hope to fill 80 seats in their new HQ by 2014. Not bad for a tiny, two-man shop in a run-down district of San Francisco.
Yousefi is the buttoned-down member of the group, clean-shaven and more dedicated to design than manufacturing. Dammermann is the scruffy mechanic who has seen factory floors and is at home with drill presses and band saws.
The Lime Lab vision is born of the needs of hardware startups and companies that need a full-service consultancy to help their products move from idea to packaged product in a few short months.
“What we don’t do is the high-volume accessories work,” said Yousefi. “We’re doing more up-front product development, end-to-end.” Using PCH’s retail distribution platform, TNS Distribution in Dublin, Ireland, coupled with the company’s extensive contacts in China’s manufacturing centers, Lime Lab can take a sketch of a product and bring it to fruition at a speed unimaginable for most strategic design houses.
Yousefi and Dammermann were former IDEO designers and CAD jockeys who wanted to build their own consultancy.
“You come to us with either a napkin sketch or just an idea and we do the detail design and development to flesh it out,” said Dammermann. “One we have the idea fleshed out with the design team, we work with the team in Shenzhen to take it to the finish line.”
The team was reticent to mention their clients or current employees although they have hired ex-Apple, Intel, and IDEO engineers and designers who were looking for something more rewarding. They are working on everything from audio products to mini-computers and their current offices, though small, hold CNC machines, 3D printers, and a small testing facility. The new lab on Mississippi Street will contain far more gear, as well as a situation room for describing the retail shipping patterns laid out by PCH and the design decisions made for each product – all in a building that is bathed in natural light thanks to a long bank of leadlights windows.
“A lot of engineers in the Bay Area have become more strategic. We’re trying to close that loop and create engineers that are really good at manufacturing,” said Dammermann.
“The physical-making aspect of engineering is slipping away,” said Yousefi. Lime Lab hopes to change that.
Like proud parents, the pair was excited to show off their new baby. The building is not nearly finished but already they talk about the epoxy-sealed floors as if they’ve been walking on them for weeks and the banquette style wooden stairs as if they’re getting ready to present to a group of schoolkids the next day. The space is huge and outside there is a definite whiff of marijuana in the air, as if the neighbors were enjoying the relative quietude of the neighborhood to run a grow house. One of the previous tenants left a Diego Rivera-style mural of mightily straining migrant workers on the stairs up to the second floor, an addition that the partners haven’t yet decided what to do with. The walls have been stripped down to studs and you can see the thick joists peeking out from between whiffs of insulation. In short, it’s a great place to start again.Before
Brady Forrest, formerly of Khosla Ventures, will run PCH’s Incubator program from the third floor of the building where two rows of desks will house ten small- to mid-level startups. These companies will have a direct line to Asia. Most Lime Labs employees will also spend three months in Shenzhen to become accustomed to working with a bi-continental team.
“People are always talking about how manufacturing expertise has moved to China. The best thing is that we’re bringing it back,” said Dammermann.
The “after” renders the team shared with me show a building that is half factory and half Prada store. The exposed brick is mostly hidden and the space is all light and air. Gone are the remnants of industrial San Francisco, replaced with a shape as form-fitting and beautiful as an iPad box.“We never gave up on hardware. I’ve never started a web company.”
“It took us a little while to look for buildings. When we first started, Liam was like ‘Nope.’ He wouldn’t even get out of the car,” said Dammermann. They settled on the biggest building they could find, signing a 10-year lease on the space. There is enough room to invite groups to hold meet-ups at the space and there are plans to offer engineering seminars to incubated companies as well as executives who may be interested in starting up using Lime Labs expertise. While they are looking for larger clients in the Valley – the company is also looking to help Kickstarter projects join the ranks of successful business. “Hardware makes software sticky,” said Dammermann. It’s this ethos that drives the pair to make their lab accessible to all comers.
The last floor of the new space is a roof deck dedicated to the incubator participants and engineers. From here you can see the iron belt of the highway girding the edge of the Bay. It’s windy up there, a problem the pair will have to solve down the line. Until that time comes, probably sometime in mid-2014, the team can simply focus on hiring and building.
“The junior guys are awesome. Their network is immense. They’re like pigs in shit. We send them out to China and they come back with smiles on their face. One trip alone gives you two years of experience,” said Yousefi.
“We never gave up on hardware. I’ve never started a web company,” said Dammermann with obvious pride as the sun set over downtown SF.(Soon-To-Be) After