Archive for April 13, 2012

JOB OF THE WEEK: SVP at CafeMom

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Check out the Business Insider Jobs section

As part of our new partnership with SimplyHired.com, each week we’ll feature one of the awesome jobs advertised on the Business Insider jobs board.

SVP

CafeMom

New York, NY

Why it’s cool: CafeMom is a major meeting place for new and expecting mothers.  The vibrant online community helps women by connecting them to a dynamic network of information and ideas.

What they need: A proven consumer internet visionary and leader to take the consumer side of CafeMom to the next level.  They need someone who will drive the company’s efforts to grow traffic and maintain a great web and mobile experience for the millions of mothers that visit every day.

What you need: You’ll need 5-10+ years in consumer web product, community, marketing and communications as a background.  You should be an active user of community sites and social media, with a deep understanding of how they work.  A knowledge of women’s lifestyle and parenting topics is helpful, as is a background in delivering mobile products to consumers.  

To learn more about this opportunity click here

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How Long Will Apple Shareholders Have To Endure This Humiliating Embarrassment? (AAPL)

Investors have felt tormented over the past few days as Apple shares have fallen nearly six percent from a record high set on April 9.

Although that’s not a terrible decline, what’s weird is that Apple is actually under-performing the broader stock market.

As you can see from this chart of Apple vs. the SP 500, this is a very rare occurrence. Apple has crushed the SP for years.

Chart

Eric Platt/Business Insider, Data: Bloomberg

So the question is: When will Apple go back to beating the SP?

Below we present a slightly unusual chart.

When the purple line is at 1 that means that Apple is equal to or setting a brand new all-time high against the SP 500. As long as Apple beats the SP 500 day in and day out, the line stays right at the top: At 1.

It’s when Apple underperforms the SP 500, and drops below its relative all time high that the purple line dips.

Chart

Eric Platt/Business Insider, Data: Bloomberg

Since Apple started hitting new highs in early 2005, it took on average 8.52 trading days for the company’s shares to erase its dips.

But there were a number of times it took longer than that. Dips that began in 2005, 2007 and 2008 took 11.5, 4.5 and 9 months, before Apple fully recovered, respectively

Bottom line: Most of the time Apple recovers to new relative all-time highs very fast. But there were times when Apple investors had to wait nearly a year or at least several months before returning to their former relative glory.

You Have To Check Out This Gorgeous iPad Mini Concept Design (AAPL)

ipad mini 7 inch

Federico Ciccarese, Ciccarese Design

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus


It seems more an more likely Apple is leaning towards releasing a smaller version of the iPad.

In fact, Apple evangelist John Gruber says he knows the company has an iPad prototype with a 7.85-inch display.

The question is whether or not Apple decides to pull the trigger and launch the device.

If it does happen, it’ll probably be another year or so before the “iPad Mini” launches. In the meantime, designer Federico Ciccarese put together a few concept images of what a 7.85-inch iPad would look like. He also included the current 9.7-inch iPad and 3.5-inch iPhone to give you an idea how the rumored device will measure up.

Peter Thiel Is Teaching A Class At Stanford About Startups, And We’ve Got Notes

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Famed investor Peter Thiel is teaching a startup class in the computer science department at Stanford University.

Students in Peter Thiel’s CS183 class can expect to learn about the following, according to the class description:

Inner accounts from the early days of startups including PayPal, Google and Facebook will be used as case studies. The class will be taught by entrepreneurs who have started companies worth over $1B and VCs who have invested in startups including Facebook and Spotify. Students can expect to be proficient in the core skills critical to the founding and growing of a tech company upon completion of this course.

Not a Stanford student? Couldn’t get into the class?

Fortunately, Stanford law student Blake Masters is doing a good job of blogging about the class. Masters had a short stint at The Founders Fund, the firm Thiel started, during August 2011 and October 2011.

If you want to see the notes, go to Masters’ blog or click here for the first classsecond class, and third class notes.

Looking at Masters’ notes, we highlighted some of the most interesting parts. (The quotes are from Masters, not Thiel directly.)

  • Why Thiel is teaching:  ”Humanities majors may well learn a great deal about the world. But they don’t really learn career skills through their studies. Engineering majors, conversely, learn in great technical detail. But they might not learn why, how, or where they should apply their skills in the workforce. The best students, workers, and thinkers will integrate these questions into a cohesive narrative. This course aims to facilitate that process.”
  • The computer industry is the only industry to live up to the hope that technological progress would advance: “Computers have been the happy exception to recent tech deceleration. Moore’s/Kryder’s/Wirth’s laws have largely held up, and forecast continued growth. Computer tech, with ever-improving hardware and agile development, is something of a model for other industries.”
  • You can’t understand startups until you understand what it was like in the 90s: “There is a keen analogue between the cultural intensity of the ‘60s and the technological intensity of the 1990s. But today’s college and perhaps even graduate students, like the toddler in 1969, may have been too young to have viscerally experienced what was going on back in 1999. To participate in the dinner table conversation—to be able to think and talk about businesses and startups today in 2012—we must get a handle on the history of the ‘90s. It is questionable whether one can really understand startups without, say, knowing about Webvan or recognizing the Pets.com mascot.”
  • No… most of the 90s wasn’t part of the dot com bubble.
  • There were a lot of sketchy people during that time though: “All the parties, money, and IPO success stories made for lots of sketchy businesses. Those businesses were funded by sketchy VCs and run by sketchy entrepreneur-salespeople. Since everybody was running around saying pretty crazy things, it became increasingly hard to tell who was too sketchy and who wasn’t. To avoid being drawn in by slick salesmen, Max Levchin developed what he called the aura test: you listen to someone for 15 seconds and then decide if he has a good aura. If so, you continue to listen. If not, you walk away. It’s not hard to imagine that companies who employed some version of the aura test were more likely to survive the mania than those who didn’t.”
  • So if you’re starting a startup in 2012, Thiel gives this advice: “To understand businesses and startups in 2012, you have to do the truly contrarian thing: you have to think for yourself. The question of what is valuable is a much better question than debating bubble or no bubble. The value question gets better as it gets more specific: is company X valuable? Why? How should we figure that out? Those are the questions we need to ask.”
  • Being first doesn’t mean you will win: “Grandmaster José Raúl Capablanca put it well: to succeed, ‘you must study the endgame before everything else.’”
  • Oh, on valuations. Take PayPal, for example: ”PayPal is illustrative. 27 months in, its growth rate was 100%. Everybody knew that rate would decelerate, but figured that it would still be higher than the discount rate. The plan was that most of the value would come around 2011. Even that long-term thinking turned out to undershoot; the discount rate has been lower than expected, and the growth rate is still at a healthy 15%. Now, it looks like most of PayPal’s value won’t come until in 2020.”

PRO: Startup growth and the new recruiting ecosystem

Supporting startup growth with the new recruiting ecosystem

Summary:

The recruiting ecosystem is changing, led by professional social networks like LinkedIn and Viadeo and companies like Jobvite and BranchOut, which are building Facebook apps for hiring and career development. This report examines that new ecosystem and how the above and more companies are changing the way businesses find and retain their employees. Small- and medium-sized businesses can benefit from innovative technology that will help their recruiting efforts, and the cost for doing so is reasonable (and decreasing). The bottom line is that technology enables the recruiting process to be more streamlined, scientific and democratic. This report provides examples and recommendations for employers.

Braintree quietly making sure startups get paid

Besides being some of the hottest start-ups around, Rovio, Uber, Fab.com, Airbnb share a common thread: their payments are powered by Chicago-based Braintree, a payment provider that has quietly become a force in the online commerce world. The company, which raised $34 million from Accel Partners last year, is now processing $4 billion annually and is on pace to break $1 billion for mobile in the next month.

Braintree’s services still trail PayPal and Visa, but the traction it’s getting from start-ups as well as bigger companies is showing that its developer-focused approach is paying off with customers. Braintree provides a full set of payment services from credit card processing, payment gateway and merchant accounts, to recurring bills and credit card storage.

Founded in 2007, Braintree provides APIs in seven languages and full support for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It looks to abstract the payment pieces away from the developer workload, so companies can just plug in Braintree and get going quickly. The system pushes much of the back-end work to the cloud and allows developers to focus more on their products. And it stores the customer credit card data, reducing the risk for merchants and making it easier to be PCI compliant. Earlier today, it announced that it was allowing developers to create test transactions to try out the service prior to being approved as a payments operator.

“Our whole focus is we want to make the developer’s lives around payments very easy, whatever the environment,” Bill Ready, Braintree’s CEO told me in an interview.

Ready said Braintree tries to provide a “white-glove” level of service, even pointing out code that needs to be fixed before a customer knows about it. That mix has helped Braintree not just appeal to new startups but bigger names like OpenTable, LivingSocial, 37Signals, GitHub and many others. It has more than 2,000 merchants and is taking on 100 new customers a month, winning 30-50 percent of its business from competitors. Design store Fab.com has been a customer of Braintree and its CEO Jason Goldberg told me he’s quite happy with the choice.

 

“Braintree is more developer friendly. They put it all out there and then make their team available for calls to help support it. Also, they engaged with us from day 1 of our going live to make sure we could scale our payments with the volume of orders we were seeing. “This is not a trivial thing as the credit card companies only enable small volumes until they trust a merchant,” Goldberg said.

Braintree is also growing by partnering with commerce platforms, including Magento, which announced last month it was making Braintree’s service available to its 110,000 merchants. It’s also signed deals with services like Shopify, Goodsie and others.

While online commerce has largely powered Braintree’s growth up to now, mobile commerce is growing faster. Ready said that ultimately, there will be more payment transactions handled over mobile devices than traditional computers, just as Web traffic increasingly goes mobile. Braintree has tried to make handling mobile payments easier for developers by reducing the number of roundtrips to its back-end servers to just one which helps speed up transactions. And it’s optimized for one-click checkouts by storing cards on file.

Subway, Coldstone and Five Guys are some of the customers turning to Braintree to process mobile payments. And start-up LevelUp, which created its own payment system for its mobile loyalty app, has also leaned on Braintree to get up and running.

Braintree’s rise pits it against established companies like PayPal and start-ups like Stripe, which is also taking a developer-centric approach to payments. Braintree is trying to set itself apart by providing a scalable product that can work for all sizes of businesses. And Ready said the company is quite happy to stay in the background, unlike PayPal which is also a consumer-facing brand. He said Braintree could ultimately grow to be a PayPal-sized business.

“We want to provide solutions that stack up against (Visa’s) Authorize.net, PayPal, Cybersource, any size company,” Ready said. “This is a space that’s amazingly underserved. There hasn’t been a player that’s focused on commerce companies.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user foforix

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Microsoft Spins Off Open Source, Hopes to "Build Bridges"

Building a Bridge

In an interview with ReadWriteWeb this afternoon, Paoli characterized the creation of the new Microsoft subsidiary not so much as a reorganization but a confirmation of the evolving role of open source development at Microsoft. Some will continue to regard “Microsoft” and “open source” as opposite sides of a coin. But Paoli described his new subsidiary as a liaison between Microsoft’s corporate entities and the open source community, and more than the masked voice of a commercial developer.

120413 Jean Paoli - Microsoft.jpg“The business case is literally around enabling scenarios for our customers that bridge Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies,” the new president told RWW. “That’s basically the business goal.”

One example Paoli cited was MongoDB, the open source NoSQL database system. While MongoDB is already effectively promoting the database, Microsoft Open Technologies is positioned to promote the use of MongoDB in conjunction with Microsoft technologies, especially the Windows Azure cloud service.

“That’s an example of a non-Microsoft technology that originated with a brilliant open source community who understands a lot about big data, and we’re very interested to start working with them to see how MongoDB can work on Windows Azure,” Paoli said. “It’s always going to be a bridge between a Microsoft technology and a non-Microsoft technology. Those are the use cases that we will really be working on.”

Microsoft Can Now Speak With Two Voices

In many cases, Microsoft will have interests as both a commercial developer and an open source participant. The creation of the spinoff gives it a little wiggle room with respect to its open source positions. Microsoft Open Technologies can effectively stand for public and open standards if it so wishes, while Microsoft corporate continues to be the actual liaison for standards.

“Let me be frank: There are a number of differences between the process of developing proprietary software and the processes of the open source community,” explained Paoli. “So in some cases, it is important to keep those processes separate. And in other cases, there is really room for great collaboration, interaction. Sometimes we want to keep things separate, and sometimes we need to have greater collaboration. This needs to be properly managed.”

He cited a circumstance where a new community is developing around an open source product or technology – one with a deep technical brain trust and mixture of talents. Microsoft needs to be able to volunteer its participation, including helping to fix bugs and add features. “We need to be able to have it turn over very quickly, in the next 24 hours.”

But as Paoli’s response implies, the liaison with the community must not appear bound to corporate interests. That, too, will help expedite simple fixes and feature additions, and help Microsoft become perceived as an equal player in the open source community.

“All our customers expect the software they use will work in a heterogeneous environment. Customers expect their phone to connect to any cloud device; if you cannot receive your email on your phone, well, that’s not good, irrespective of which phone or which cloud or which operating system they are connected to,” Paoli said. “We live in a mixed IT world, and the goal is to provide customers with even more choice to bridge Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies, because that’s what customers expect.”

Spotify readies to roll out mega-brand apps, starting with AT&T, Intel and more

As Spotify continues to ramp up its revenue efforts by launching its first branded advertiser page across Europe, the music-streaming platform is now readying to take things to the next level by introducing branded apps from big companies such as ATT, McDonald’s, Intel and Reebok.

As AdAge reports, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek is set to introduce the branded apps at the magazine’s Digital Conference in New York next week, and they will be rolled out over the next few months.

Since it launched in 2008, Spotify has been monetizing through subscriptions and advertising (on the free accounts), and as we’ve seen with the recent move towards Facebook and Twitter’s model of launching fully-fledged brand pages, it’s looking at ways to increase its revenue streams to offset the huge costs of licensing 16 million songs.

Indeed, it emerged today that Spotify is hoping to hit $1bn in revenue this year, and getting big brands on board in any capacity can only help it achieve this.

Spotify finally launched in the US last summer, and it’s there that the branded apps will hit first. The music streaming service started morphing into a platform in November, integrating apps inside Spotify, beginning with the likes of Songkick, Pitchfork  and Billboard. It has been gradually rolling out more apps since then.

AdAge notes that the first brand apps will include ATT’s ‘Surround Sounds’, which plots songs on key locations relating to the track, for example where they were written, recorded or performed. This means you’ll be able to create playlists based on regions – perhaps in the neighborhood where you live. SpotifyApp Spotify readies to roll out mega brand apps, starting with ATT, Intel and more

Reebok’s app, on the other hand, creates playlists to work out to, whilst Intel’s ‘Sifter’ will recommend songs and artists based on what a user’s Facebook friends are listening to.

Earlier this week, Spotify launched its embeddable Play Button, letting bloggers and online publishers embed any Spotify song, album or playlist directly on their website. We later noted that whilst it was an awesome idea, it could’ve been a lot better, given that it still relies on the listener to have Spotify installed on their machine.

However, it’s indicative of how Spotify is really making the push to hit the mainstream and build a more profitable business as it continues to shell out millions of dollars each year to record labels. And it’s still taking on investment too, recently securing more than $100m, which only adds more pressure to start bringing in the big bucks.

my1login Targets Lastpass With Easier Password Service, Raises $1m

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Last year universal password browser extension Last Pass was the target of an alleged hacking attempt and ended up having to ask users to… change their passwords. While Lastpass relies on a browser plug-in to do its work, it competes with Roboform which uses software and a USB key. Now a new company aims to take these guys on but without any hardware or software installation and no browser plug-ins needed (which will become a problem since IE10 within Windows 8 (Metro) will not support plug-ins).

my1login can sign users into their sites with one click, without the need for any 3rd party site integration. iPhone, iPad and Android apps are also in the pipeline. It’s now raised $1 million in funding for the service which launched at the beginning of last month, based out of a former autopsy room within the University of Glasgow.

When they set up their account, users create a secure phrase that encrypts all their logins within their browser before being sent over the internet and stored, and since their secure phrase is not stored, even my1login is unable to read these details.

Users can create complex unique passwords for each site (my1login does the hard work of remembering them) and don’t have to type passwords to log into sites, bypassing rogue key-loggers.

my1login also provides users with a dashboard view of information and messages from email and social networking sites.

The startup hopes to go viral by allowing users that refer the service to get an an upgrade to the ‘pro’ version of the product.


  • MY1LOGIN

my1login is a FREE solution that resolves the problem of remembering multiple logins, passwords and PINS by providing a safe way of accessing them via a highly secure personal portal.

There’s no need to install software and the users personal portal can be accessed from any web device, signing them into sites with one click.

When they set up their account, users create a secure phrase that encrypts all their logins within their browser before being sent over the internet and…

Learn more

Apple Releases Mac Flashback Trojan Removal Tool

Apple-Further-Explores-Possibility-of-Telephonic-MacBooks-2

Apple has now released a tool that removes the Flashback Trojan from infected Mac computers, according to a security update posted to Apple.com on Thursday. The malicious software, which some have casually referred to as the “Mac virus,” (even though, yes, we know, a trojan is not a virus), had previously infected some 650,000 Mac laptops, making it one of the largest infections the Mac install base has ever seen.

The company had announced earlier in the week that it would deploy software to detect and remove the Flashback malware from users’ computers, which first began appearing on Mac computers back in September. It wasn’t until recently that the trojan, which created a botnet consisting of infected Macs, returned with a vengeance. By early April, security firms were reporting that as many as half a million Macs could be infected and the number was growing still.

To address the malware, which was exploiting a security flaw in Java in order to install itself on Macs, Apple had been releasing Java updates through its Software Update feature. Apple had been advising users to disable Java in their browser to better protect themselves from attack.

With the new removal tool, Apple is now able to disable Java applets by default (on some versions of OS X) and can now remove the Flashback Trojan from infected Macs.

Explains Apple on its website:

This Java security update removes the most common variants of the Flashback malware.

This update also configures the Java web plug-in to disable the automatic execution of Java applets. Users may re-enable automatic execution of Java applets using the Java Preferences application. If the Java web plug-in detects that no applets have been run for an extended period of time it will again disable Java applets.

Java for OS X Lion 2012-003 delivers Java SE 6 version 1.6.0_31 and supersedes all previous versions of Java for OS X Lion.

This update is recommended for all Mac users with Java installed.

As you may notice, the above tool is only available for OS X Lion. Snow Leopard users are pointed to another removal tool here, but this one is unable to automatically disable Java in the browser. That will still need to be done manually.

Both updates, however, ship with the patched version of Java which was released via the Java security updates that went out earlier in the week.

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