Monday, December 19, 2011

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

Link to TechCrunch

Retailers Offer Last Minute Holiday Price Breaks On RIM’s PlayBook

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 08:25 AM PST

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It’s clear that the BlackBerry PlayBook is a tough sell (unless you don’t have to pay for them), but that hasn’t stopped RIM and their retail partners from going nuts with PlayBook promotions. To wit: Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot have dropped the prices of RIM’s tablet yet again, starting at $199 for the 16GB model.

RIM’s most recent financial statements still paint a grim picture for the tablet, with PlayBook sales dropping for yet another quarter. Still, RIM’s top brass still took a remarkably optimistic stance on the PlayBook’s future, essentially saying that the best was yet to come. I’ll believe it I see it — especially considering the company had to write off $485 million in sales discounts in order to get those PlayBooks moving.

By now, you’re probably aware of all the PlayBook’s shortcomings, but the closer we get to the holidays, the more enticing these things could look. If anything, I imagine that it could get some play as a last-minute present for people who forgot to order a Kindle Fire in time. I can see it now:

“Hey honey, I know you had your heart set on the Kindle Fire, but I bought you a PlayBook instead! It’s actually better than the Fire because it has a camera and more RAM! What’s that? Apps? Well, it doesn’t have a ton… oh, you can’t send email without a BlackBerry either. Wait, where are you going?”

On second thought, don’t try it — I don’t want to be held responsible for anything that happens.



Stock Up Now, Seagate And Western Digital Are Chopping Hard Drive Warranties In 2012

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 08:18 AM PST

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You better overnight Santa an addendum to your Christmas list. You’re going to want to acquire as many hard drives as possible before 2012 rolls around. Both Seagate and Western Digital are slashing hard drive warrants for hard drives shipped next year. Tell Santa, tell your mother-in-law, tell you boss. All you want for Christmas this year are hard drives.

Currently the Seagate Barracuda XT, Constellation 2, ES.2 and Momentus XT hard drives ship with a stellar 5 year warranty. However, come 2012, the warranty drops to just three years. Seagate’s other lines are also seeing warranty cuts. The SV35 Series and Pipeline HD drives will soon have a two-year promise while the Barracuda, barracuda Green and 2.5-inch Momentus will ship with only 12 months of coverage.

Western Digital is also cutting hard drive warranties. The Scorpio Blue, Caviar Blue and Green will soon only have a two year warranty rather than the current three-year note. However, the company is letting buyers extend the warranties if they don’t mind coughing up a bit more cake.

These changes come after a period of amazing hard drive deals abruptly interrupted by mother nature. Widespread flooding in Thailand forced many consumer electronic companies to close factories, which in turn, caused prices to spike. Once upon a time 2TB hard drives could be had for less than $70. Now, as 2011 is coming to a close, 2TB drives are priced around $100 and steadily increasing. Hard drive manufacturers are no doubt looking at ways to keep prices competitive. Slashes warrants no doubt helps with short-term loses by increasing the profit margin. As always, back up your data. Hard drives do not last forever.



Review: Orb Audio Booster With Super Eight Subwoofer

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 08:03 AM PST

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Orb Audio is roundly seen as being a company that produces decent to excellent mini speakers at a price that is, at the very least, acceptable to a wide strata of the speaker-buying public. We reviewed a set of Orb home theater speakers and our reviewer found them excellent for cinema playback. The company, seeing a niche, has just released the Orb Audio Booster kit, a $356 package with two basic speakers and a little amp, for computer use.

Installation is dead simple: you plug in the speaker wires into a port on the back and then connect the speakers using simple, push-type mounts. You can then add up to four inputs – two RCA and two mini-jacks – and an optional $299 Super Eight subwoofer. Orb, to their credit, screws the speaker wire to the small green connector cage out of the box.

The front has power, volume, and mute buttons along with a light to indiciate current inputs. A clipping indicator rounds out the package. It has a “large/small” switch for use with the “Mod2″ configuration (two Orb spheres on top of each other, daisy-chained).

The Good
Orbs have excellent clarity. What do I mean? Well, when gaming and watching movies over my PC I often found cheaper speaker systems – most notably a Logitech set with tiny subwoofer – to mash most of the instruments and effects into one dense miasma of sound. These on the other hand, offer extremely distinct audio reproduction, allowing for a perceived separation of sound.

Even at high volume these little balls won’t distort and coupled with a Orb’s own subwoofer they create a sound-field that is unmuddied and quite listenable. They’re solid, American-made speakers that look fun and offer excellent reproduction for the price. They are all hand-polished and finished and contain a 3-inch driver.

Because of their small size and simple mounting system you can place these nearly anywhere in a room without much fuss. I usually hate setting up home theatre gear but because the Orbs are small, light, and surprisingly configurable I had no problems with this kit.

The Bad
Without the subwoofer you had better really enjoy the high-end. These speakers offer excellent separation and high-end reproduction but absolutely no bass without a subwoofer. If you have a powered subwoofer lying around the house – perhaps from an old stereo – you can quite simply add it to this kit and experience a considerable improvement in audio.

The Super Eight I tested is a 200 Watt BASH amp with a solid 12x12x12 cabinet and 8-inch driver. This subwoofer, when not tuned correctly, can really shake the room. Thankfully Orb includes a well-written manual so that novices can set their crossover frequencies and set the volume correctly.

That said, you can survive without a sub, but $400 extra will make you much happier.

Finally, one little problem keeps bothering me: the Booster itself. While it’s a handsome device – metal-clad and clearly labelled – it looks surprisingly generic. At CES each year there is a whole hall dedicated to OEM hardware straight out of the assembly lines in China. While the audio sounds fine, it would be a shame to discover that Orb is selling a $10 audio amp at a considerable mark-up and, given the generic nature of the device, I’m sure someone will find an example of it on monoprice or alibaba.com. I’m well aware of the value proposition of commodity hardware but folks who spend nearly a thousand dollars on audio gear may take umbrage at cost-cutting.

Bottom Line
High-end audio is, arguably, a maze. “Cheap” solutions abound and every audiophile will look down with disdain on your choice, citing various nebulous forum quotes in order to salt the ground before they begin their own exegesis on the value of carbon fiber over composite and how Amp X is better than Amp Y. But most of us just want our music to sound decent.

At $356 for two speakers and a Booster you’re not paying very much for excellent sound. For example, I’m a big fan of a pair of M-Audio studio monitors that are priced at about $800 and offer a full range of audio in a fairly small package. These little Orbs, on the other hand, offer similar sound in a much smaller package and with far-superior bass reproduction, provided you go the Super Eight route.

Orb audio deserves a look – they’re a strong, small company dedicated to direct-to-consumer sales of good audio gear. They aren’t “audiophile” speakers, whatever that means, but they are a far sight better than what came out of the box that your Dell came in and they’re far superior to anything you can get from your average pair of PC speakers.

Click to view slideshow.
Product Page



Eventasaurus Raises Angel Round For One-click Events Creator

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 08:03 AM PST

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Eventasaurus, a startup still in private beta, has raised an undisclosed angel round to create a dashboard for event managers. You know all those separate events you have to create on Eventbrite, Meetup, Facebook, Plancast, Lanyrd etc? With Eventasaurus you create and manage the event on one place under one single interface. Launched in private beta earlier this year, it’s winning plaudits amongst event managers in London.



Cox Media Group Invests $6M In Content Farm Company Skyword

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 07:57 AM PST

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Fledgling content farm Skyword has raised $6 million from broadcasting and publishing company Cox Media Group.

Skyword markets a “digital content platform” that provides brands and media companies with a way to buy ‘search engine and social network friendly’ articles written by Skywriters™ (for real).

The company claims it delivers original, high-quality content designed to reach vast audiences all across the Internet, evidently at an absurdly low cost.

Which is about as plausible as AOL claiming it’s successfully transforming into a cutting-edge online media company.



Zynga Shares Down 5 Percent On Second Day Of Trading

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 07:29 AM PST

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Zynga, which debuted the largest technology IPO since Google on Friday, saw shares drop in early morning trading on the second day listed on the Nasdaq. On Friday, Zynga closed 10 percent below its opening trade of $11 per share, after pricing on Thursday evening at $10 per share. This morning, Zynga opened at $9.36 but dropped as much as 5 percent in morning trading.

Unlike some of the other tech IPOs that have listed this year, Zynga didn’t see a huge pop in the first day of trading. The company offered 100,000,000 shares of Class A common stock in the offering, raising $1 billion.

A number of recently public tech companies have dropped below their opening price over the past few months. As The New York Times cites, macroeconomic conditions and “jittery investors” are contributing to these stumbles. What makes Zynga so surprising is the that the company’s valuation is about half of where early reports were speculated it would be.

Zynga’s drop could also be influenced by the conditions of the market, which seems to be down today.

Of course, it is still only the second day of trading and the company’s shares could rebound. As Zynga chief operating officer John Schappert told our own Eric Eldon last week, Zynga is here for the long-term and its investors should be thinking that way, too.



5,000 BlackBerry PlayBooks Stolen From A Truck Stop

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 07:08 AM PST

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Wow!

They must be breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas and walking under ladders over at RIM because this is starting to get unbelievable. A big rig, carrying around $1.7 million worth of BlackBerry PlayBooks, was stolen in Indiana.

The PlayBook has been a rough product for the Waterloo-based company. While RIM did quite a bit right with the little tab, lack of native email and calendar support made it a tough sell. The price tag didn’t help either, though RIM’s done what it can to squash that issue. In fact, PlayBook sales are actually looking up compared to what they’ve been.

Of course, the truck had no tracking software included, so at this point your guess as to where it may be is as good as mine. But the FBI’s guesses are a bit more informed, and they think that the truck may be headed to Miami, a popular spot for stolen goods.

So if you happen to see about 5,000 BlackBerry Playbooks being sold in a shady store in Miami, call the cops. Not out of the moral goodness in your heart, but out of sheer sympathy for RIM. The company has already lost around $485 million due to PlayBook inventory write-offs (translation: we can’t sell ‘em), but according to Electronista, this extra $1.7 million can’t hurt that bad.

But embarrassing screw-up after embarrassing screw-up? That can sting like a b-word.



BrandMyMail Lets You Customize Gmail With Social Media Updates

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 06:40 AM PST

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BrandMyMail is launching a new web-based platform for customizing your email messages using social media. The service is designed mainly for businesses, but can be used by anyone who wants to spice up their email with real-time content, including Twitter feeds, YouTube videos, Flickr photos, blog posts from WordPress and Tumblr, Quora posts, eBay listings and more.

To use the service, you set up a customizable template to control what pieces of content appear in your email message. This content, which comes in the form of “plugins,” is added to templates via drag-and-drop from the BrandMyMail website. You can also customize the design and the layout of the message, too, using the provided templates.

Currently, BrandMyMail supports Gmail users on the Firefox or Chrome browsers, plus iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users. Support for Android and SMTP clients is in development as is support for other email providers, like Hotmail.

For what it’s worth, Gmail itself provides a bit of added functionality to email messages itself, by extracting the photos and YouTube videos mentioned in the messages and placing them at the bottom of the message for easy access. But BrandMyMail wants to go further, allowing you to include dynamic content – like Twitter updates or Facebook messages – in addition to static media, like a hosted YouTube video.

The idea of making email more interactive is something we’ve seen before, with the email startup PowerInbox, for example. That service works in a similar way to BrandMyMail, except that it’s focused on making incoming messages more interactive, not outgoing ones.

It’s somewhat incredible how relatively unchanged email has been over the years, which has allowed for some interesting integrations from outside vendors, like PowerInbox, Rapportive, Xobni, and others.

BrandMyMail was started by Shay Rojansky, Limor Schweitzer and Roberto Varela, and is based in Funchal, Portugal. It currently has €227,000+ (EUR) in angel funding.



Brick-And-Mortar Retailers Want You To Boycott Amazon

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 06:35 AM PST

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Amazon recently built a price-check app that has left many brick-and-mortar retailers frustrated. The idea isn’t revolutionary at all — many companies use price-checking as a way to beat the competition at the point of purchase — but with Amazon being an online presence, the idea becomes much more cut-throat. That said, retailers are asking customers to boycott Amazon as the new price-check app threatens their holiday sales.

You see, Amazon can already sell goods at lower prices than most retailers. Their costs of operations are simply lower. By offering a 5 percent discount on any product scanned at a retail location, Amazon is making it almost impossible for those retailers to land a sale, even though they already have the customer in the store.

At the same time, Amazon’s gotta do what Amazon’s gotta do. The only real flaw in Amazon’s business model is the fact that the customer never gets to play around with their desired product. By using brick-and-mortar stores as showrooms, Amazon effectively squashes that problem while undercutting the competition. As far as Amazon and the consumer are concerned, it’s a win-win. The only real loser are the brick-and-mortar stores who simply can’t compete with Amazon’s discounted prices.

According to a piece in the Huffington Post, there seems to be quite a bit of overreacting going down.

Store manager of Oakland-based Diesel, A Bookstore John Stich has been handing out buttons with “Occupy Amazon” emblazoned on them. (Is it just me, or are people just slapping the word occupy on anything these days?) Here’s what Stich had to say:

When we see shoppers taking pictures with their phones or using the app, we won’t go so far as to be rude or ask them to leave, but sometimes we’ll be sarcastic about it, and ask them, “Hey, what’s that app? How cool!” I think the only thing you can do is make people aware.

Yes, making people feel uncomfortable about saving money in a recession is a great way to notify them that you’re threatened by this Amazon deal. It’s not great customer service, but you win some and you lose some I guess.

Compared to some of the other responses, Stich’s is actually quite mild. America’s Bookseller Association CEO wrote an open letter to Amazon in which he stated that this offer is “the latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide, stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries.”

Um, what? I was on board with the whole “expand your market” bit, as that’s the purpose of every company in the history of Capitalism. But the bit about cities and towns nationwide being stripped of financial wherewithal, thus destroying the financial basis for schools and emergency servies? Yeah, that lost me.

Then there’s David Didriksen, president of Willow Books & Cafe in Massachusetts. He called the deal “another in a long series of predatory practices by Amazon. You would think that a company of that size would be willing to just live and let live for small retailers who can’t possibly affect them. But, no, they want it all.”

Am I the only one completely shocked by statements like this? Since when, in the history of all time, has a company ever said, “No, we’ve got plenty of market share. Let’s just chill for a bit.” That’s not how business works. If Amazon can offer to offer a discount on products and pull you out of a competitors’ store, why wouldn’t they?

Fight fire with fire is what I say, and Third Street Books in Oregon agrees with me. The book seller has offered a deal of its own, offering 15 percent off of their purchase on Saturday, along with a gift certificate valued at $5. There’s a catch, though. You must prove that you’ve cancelled your Amazon account.

It’s a strong, confident idea and one I’m sure will pay off for the small bookseller, though it’s pretty far reaching. For one, nothing stops the user from making a new account the second they walk out of the store. Secondly, Amazon sells way more items than books, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in terms of direct competition but it’s the survival of the fittest, am I right?



When Did You Tweet That? Twistory Improves Google Calendar Support

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 06:08 AM PST

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Twistory, which lets people save their tweet backlog to their favorite calendaring application, has finally come through with full support for popular Web-based calendaring service Google Calendar.

You can now subscribe to Twistory using your existing Twitter account and automatically view in Google Calendar when you’ve tweeted what. Up until now, compatibility with Google Calendar was a little flaky, but the team behind Twistory tells me it is now finally stable.

Twistory is available for free, allowing you to visualize your last month worth of tweets in your calendaring application of choice.

There’s also a paid version, Twistory Pro ($1/month), which gives you access to your entire Twitter backlog (currently limited by Twitter to 3,200 tweets) and allows you to export your entire Twitter history as a CSV file.



Video: The Interactive Angry Birds Christmas Lights Display

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 05:48 AM PST

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Eat your heart out, Clark Griswold.

This fully interactive Christmas lights display should erase any doubt that Angry Birds is an ubiqous fixture in pop culture. Rovio’s game was everywhere this year from unofficial Chinese themeparks, to a cookbooks and mooncakes. Rovio’s CMO Peter Vesterbacka’s wife even wore an Angry Birds formal gown to a state gala. But all of those appearances pale in comparison to this interactive holiday lights creation.

The builder clearly found a niche. This isn’t his first go at such a display. He ported Guitar Hero to Christmas lights in 2009, which allowed for real games thanks to the Guitar Hero controller. This time around players use a slingshot-style controller and the cord is even long enough to reach people’s cars where audio is provided over a low-power FM transmitter. But the game is the same. Pull birds back in anger and let them fly at the evil pigs.



Google Doles Out Googlicious Galaxy Nexii To Employees

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 05:39 AM PST

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‘Tis the season of giving, and who better to get in the holiday spirit than employers (hint, hint!)? Google is certainly in a generous mood, as they’ve begun hooking up employees with a special edition Galaxy Nexus. Software engineer Edu Pereda of Google’s Zurich offices posted a gallery of the phone in all its Googlified glory.

Meanwhile, Google employees in London are also receiving the special edition G-Nex, The Next Web confirms. With folks in Zurich and London nabbing the limited edition phone, it only makes sense that other Google employees across the world will get one, too.

A Galaxy Nexus is a wonderful gift in itself (again: HINT!), but this limited edition model is about as good as it gets. Drool on, my fellow phone geeks. Drool on.



Vistaprint Buys DIY Site Builder Webs.com For $117.5 Million

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 05:24 AM PST

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Digital marketing company Vistaprint is acquiring Webs, a popular DIY website creation service, for $117.5 million in cash and stock ($100 million in cash and $17.5 million in stock).

Webs, which has raised $12 million in funding from Novak Biddle Venture Partners and Columbia Capital, allows businesses to create simple websites, Facebook pages and mobile sites. Premium upgrades include personalized domain names, customer support, email addresses, and enhanced web and video storage.

Webs has helped build over 50 million sites to date and has over 100,000 paying subscribers. Over 20,000 new users register daily for Webs' suite of products. Vistaprint says that Webs’ 2011 revenues are $9 million.

Earlier this year, Webs acquired Facebook Pages creator PageModo and lightweight CRM tool ContactMe. Webs also recently debuted a new mobile site builder today that automatically keeps a smartphone-friendly website in sync with a business’ main website.

Vistaprint has also been on a bit of a buying spree. The company just bought European photobook software company Albumprinter for €60 million (~$83.3 million) in cash.



Google+ Updates: Improved Stream Controls, Photo Tagging And More

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 05:11 AM PST

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Google has just announced a number of new features and improvements for Google+, its social network, which will be rolling out over the next couple of days. The most interesting change is new controls that let users optimize the way they get updates from circles and friends in their update streams.

Google has added a slider at the top of the page when you view a stream for a particular circle, which basically enables you to adjust how those posts should appear in the main stream.

As for Google+ Pages, the company now enables business to assign up to 50 administrators, and also introduced a new notification flow that makes it easier for said admins to manage pages.

Google now also shows an aggregated count of users that have engaged with a certain page, either by +1'ing it or by adding it to a circle.

Also interesting is the improvements the company made to Google+ Photos, putting more focus on the actual photos in the design and debuting a brand new photo-tagging experience.

Finally, Google has added "sneak previews" to the notifications bar that immediately show users what’s new, more clearly. The redesigned notifications window can now also show the +1's and shares your posts have received, in realtime.



BestVendor Raises $3M For Work App Recommendation Platform

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 04:56 AM PST

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BestVendor, which aims to create an online resource where business professionals can exchange recommendations for work-related software and services, has raised $3 million in Series A funding.

The financing round was co-led by RRE Ventures and SoftBank Capital, with previous backer Lerer Ventures, Founder Collective’s David Frankel, David Tisch (who heads TechStars NYC), and Old Willow Partners participating.

Founded in January 2011 and based out of New York City, BestVendor says it aims to be for recommendations and reviews of work apps what Amazon is for books and Yelp for restaurants.

The site was launched – in beta, of course – last month and has already attracted more than 4,800 members, who’ve shared 13 work-related applications on average.

In June 2011, BestVendor secured $600,000 in seed funding from SV Angel, Peter Thiel, Lerer Ventures, and SoftBank Capital.



Appconomy Raises $10 Million To Accelerate Expansion In China

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 04:38 AM PST

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Mobile development platform company Appconomy has raised $10 million in Series A equity and debt funding to accelerate its operations in China. The round was led by Shanghai-based Qiming Ventures.

Other investors include IT services provider Neusoft Corporation (which Appconomy had previously formed a strategic alliance with) and previous backers Western Technology Investment and True Ventures.

Appconomy operates a cloud-based platform for mobile marketing and commerce that connects consumers and merchants through its AppWallet marketplace on smartphones, tablet computers, and feature phones. Basically, the platform and technology help mobile app developers integrate in-app commerce and community services for daily deals and coupons, loyalty and rewards programs, and social network & private group sharing.

In partnership with Neusoft, Appconomy plans to leverage combined customers and partners in China and the United States, which happen to be the two largest markets for apps in the world.

Qiming Ventures MD Gary Rieschel has joined Appconomy’s board of directors.

Appconomy says it will continue to operate its U.S. headquarters, product and business development in Austin, Texas and run its Chinese operations from Shanghai.



Video: Omni-Directional Spider Robot Asterisk

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 03:56 AM PST

asterisk feat

It’s not the first spider-like robot out there, but it’s almost certainly the most advance one: a team of researchers at Osaka University in Japan has developed Asterisk [JP], a six-legged insect robot that can perform a few pretty interesting moves.

Perhaps the most interesting feature is that Asterisk can pick up objects with two legs, lift them on top of its body and carry them away. Asterisk is also able to climb up stairs, lower its body to move through narrow spaces or move along a net attached to a wall.

Asterisk has been in development for about six years. Its makers are currently trying to make it cartwheel, too (which is especially awesome).

The robot weighs 4kg, is 816mm wide and 78mm high. Asterisk comes equipped with an acceleration sensor, a gyro sensor, six force sensors, three infrared sensors and six CCD cameras.

Here’s a video showing the latest version in action (courtesy of Diginfo TV):



Gadgets Week In Review: Liquid Sculpture

Posted: 19 Dec 2011 01:00 AM PST

Saudi Prince Pumps $300 Million Into Twitter

Posted: 18 Dec 2011 11:55 PM PST

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In an unexpected move, a member of the Saudi royal family has invested $300 million in social networking company Twitter. This morning, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, founder and CEO of Kingdom Holding Company and one of the wealthiest people on the planet, announced the investment, which was reported first by Bloomberg.

In a statement, Twitter’s newest equity holder says that the investment was the result of “several months of negotiations and comprehensive due diligence”.

Prince Alwaleed commented: "Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact."

Prince Alwaleed and Kingdom Holding (KHC) have stakes in many Arab and international media and entertainment companies; including a roughly 7 percent stake in News Corp.

According to Wikipedia, Kingdom Holding’s international investments include (or have included) other notable tech companies such as Apple, eBay, AOL, Motorola, Compaq and Amazon.

We’ve contacted Twitter for comment and will update when we hear back.

Update: Twitter has confirmed the investment but did not want to disclose more details.

Update 2: reportedly, KHC bought a 3 percent stake in Twitter, which means the investment values the company at $10 billion.



Building A Company In Brazil; An American Entrepreneur’s Perspective

Posted: 18 Dec 2011 11:00 PM PST

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Editor's note: Guest contributor Lee Jacobs is the founder of language learning startup Colingo.
While I may have pulled several all nighters, and slept under a few desks in my day,  I am still pretty soft compared to your typical Brazilian entrepreneur. In fact, most coddled Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are wimps compared to the Brazilian founders I know.

Brazil is the first market for my start-up, Colingo, a service that helps young professionals learn English as a second language. In the process of doing market research in Brazil,  I've gotten to know many Brazilian entrepreneurs, and a few weeks ago I traveled to Brazil for Startup Weekend Sao Paulo  during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Brazil is Latin America's largest e-commerce market .and macro-economic conditions have never been better. At $11B, it's the same size as S. Korea- and it’s growing 25% Y/Y.  Multinational corporations are rushing in to participate in the bonanza. Their timing is ripe: With the 2014 World Cup and  2016 Olympics approaching, the 200M domestic market has a rapidly growing middle class beaming with optimism.

Despite this obvious macro economic opportunity, there isn't enough focus on Brazilian startups. The climate is nowhere near as favorable as in the Valley.  No word of investors throwing money at rapping founders either.

The bubble here has provided Silicon Valley founders with a wealth of resources to help them execute on their dreams.  Need a lawyer? Great lawyers offer reduced fees.  Need some office space? VCs provide.  Seed capital? No problem.  There are a few investors here.

Brazilian entrepreneurs have produced some great companies such as Apontador, Vostu, Bucaspé, Peixe Urbano, Compra3, Fashion.me,  to name a few.  But it hasn't come easy. To be a startup entrepreneur in Brazil you need real balls (not just cod balls). Founders not only have to build great companies, which is hard enough, they have to do it in suboptimal conditions.  There is a scarcity of resources at their disposal to help them grow.

For example, Brazilian entrepreneurs have had to help create a local seed stage capital market.   Because of the lack of a robust early financing market, several accomplished  early stage entrepreneurs, with companies that are producing real revenue- something Silicon Valley entrepreneurs perpetually promise is on the horizon (wink, wink)- have had to go one by one knocking on rich peoples' doors pleading for money.  They have had to convince the country's  often very traditional elite that there is a huge opportunity in the web/mobile and that they should invest.  As a consequence, all too often, Brazilian entrepreneurs have had to resort to raising small rounds at low valuations and have had to sell their companies before they should have.

Change is Coming

Thankfully the Brazilian startup ecosystem is beginning to transform. Brazilian entrepreneur Bedy Yang, founder of Brazil Innovators, is at the heart of this effort.  For the past two years, Bedy, has organized numerous start-up events, and has worked tirelessly to afford Brazilian entrepreneurs the same opportunities bestowed on their Silicon Valley brethren.  If you are a Brazilian entrepreneur worth anything, you know Bedy.

Bedy emphasizes the huge market opportunity, saying "Everything is converging at once for the Brazilian entrepreneur. There are 76 million domestic Internet users, 210 million mobile phones, and broken business models that are ripe for disruption." Adding that "We Brazilians, love social media and as early adopters are totally willing to try new things."

Bedy, who for the past two years has split time between The Bay Area and Brazil, wants to " Empower the Brazilian entrepreneur with startup know-how by bridging Silicon Valley and Brazil and in the process creating  an environment that will enable Brazilian entrepreneurs to thrive and capture the huge opportunities in front of them."  The only thing holding Brazilians back, she quips, "is a direct flight from SFO to Sao Paulo" instead of the 16 hour schlep she takes regularly.

Several U.S VCs are starting to take notice of the opportunities in Brazil, and recently Dave Mcclure of 500 Startups has partnered with Bedy, in order to invest in Brazilian startups.  So far 500 Startups has invested in four Brazilian companies Conta Azul, Descomplica, Rota dos Concursos, Viva Real and is looking to aggressively expand that number.  As McClure told the audience at Startup Weekend, “Don’t pitch me, bro – pitch Bedy.”

Entrepreneurs at Heart

I can't be more excited to build my business in Brazil.  It's clear that something special is happening down there.  Brazilians are some of the most passionate, optimistic, and energetic people I have ever met. You have to be to party as hard as they do.  Early stage startups run on this type of passion,  and its clear to me that there will be many great startups coming out of Brazil over the next few years.

Over dinner one night in Sao Paulo, several Brazilian entrepreneurs were discussing setting up a company to buy Portugal. They argued that with Brazil's booming economy and Portugal's recent debt struggles  (and the fact that many Portuguese were coming to Brazil looking for work, reversing a major historical trend) it was time for Brazil to get a little revenge on their former colonial masters.

Now that would take some real balls.



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