Archive for April 17, 2012

Groupon Makes An Acquisition To ‘Build Something New’ (GRPN)

Andrew Mason

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Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon

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groupon girl

Groupon missing in the app store

Katia Beauchamp


Groupon has acquired Ditto.me, a service that helps you find restaurants, movies, and other things to do using your phone.

In order to give the acquisition “100%,” Ditto.me is winding down its service as of April 30th and removing the app from the Apple and Nokia app stores.

The company is unable to reveal the specific details of what it’ll be working on with Groupon, but a tweet from Ditto founder Jyri Engeström says they’ll be working together to “build something new.”

Shared Online Paywall Service Piano Media Secures Euro 2 million from 3TS

Screen Shot 2012-04-17 at 11.11.18

Slovak startup Piano Media, which has challenged the online media industry with an aggregated paywall concept, has raised 2 million Euros from 3TS, one of the leading private equity funds in Central and Eastern Europe.

Piano Media, launched in May 2011, enables online publications to offer their readers premium content on a subscription basis. In July 2011 it raised 300,000 Euros from MONOGRAM Ventures, Etarget and NextBig.

In the two test markets, Slovakia and Slovenia, readers pay monthly subscription of 3.90 Euros (Slovakia) †††and 4.89 Euros (Slovenia) which enables access to the premium content of the all participating online media ñ a total of †60 websites and 20 publishers.

The publishers receive a share of the revenue based on the traffic generated, while Piano Media keeps a commission. In the first month of the launch in Slovenia, a Central European country with a population of only 2 million people, Piano generated Euro 26,000 for the participating publishers.

The new round of funding will be used to fuel international expansion and improve software, according to Tom·ö Bella, the company founder and CEO.

One of the earlier high profile investments of 3TS in Central and Eastern Europe is Hungarian LogMeIn, a cloud-based, remote-connectivity and collaboration tool that went public on NASDAQ and generated over $100 million in 2009.

This post is by our regular contributor Natasha Starkell, the CEO of GoalEurope, the outsourcing advisory firm and a publication about outsourcing, innovation and startups in Central and Eastern Europe. Twitter @NatashaStarkell. Gplus.to/natashastarkell.

Menswear Startup American Giant Gets Into The T-Shirt Business

american giant tshirt

American Giant, a startup offering affordable, American-made apparel for men, is expanding into T-shirt sales today.

The company launched at the beginning of February. CEO Bayard Winthrop has decades of experience in the apparel industry, including a stint as the CEO of Chrome, the preferred laptop bag-maker for hipsters. Winthrop says he started to realize that even though manufacturing has largely moved overseas, ostensibly to save money, the real cost is in distribution. So by selling direct to the consumer through its website, American Giant can manufacture its clothing in the United States (specifically in a facility just a few miles south of San Francisco) and still compete with other brands on price.

The company started off with a line of sweatshirts, and thanks to positive word-of-mouth, Winthrop says the first shipment sold out in about a week. American Giant will be adding new types of apparel to its lineup every six to eight weeks, he says, and T-shirts are an obvious next step. Pricing for the shirts starts at $24.50.

Since launching, American Giant has also opened a showroom in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s downstairs from the company office, and was created as a place for American Giant to show off its wares to vendors, designers and other partners. Consumers can buy clothing there too, but don’t expect to see any more stores: “We have a reflexive aversion to the traditional store model,” Winthrop says.

This is a pretty crazy time in e-commerce, with lots of new business models emerging, some of them aimed primarily at men. American Giant, however, keeps things pretty straightforward — you go to the site and buy the shirts and sweatshirts that you want, no flash sales or subscriptions in sight.

“There’s lots of stuff that we think is fascinating and exhilarating on the e-commerce side, but you’re going to see us turn slightly a way from it,” Winthrop says. Instead, he wants to focus on delivering a high-quality product and experience.

American Giant, a startup affordable, American-made apparel through the web is expanding into T-shirt sales today; the company launched in February, the idea was to cut out the middleman; it launched in February with sweatshirts totally sold out; T-shirt details; also launched a showroom; e-commerce?


  • AMERICAN GIANT CLOTHING

American Giant is eliminating the stores and selling direct to the consumer.

American Giant is a startup with 10 people and less than $5 million in funding. They are going after the Gap, J.Crew, and Old Navy. They are starting out with very good quality sweatshirts.

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Hollywood Tech: Beachmint’s newest vertical launches with Justin Timberlake’s HomeMint

Earlier this year, we wrote about LA’s tech scene, which includes Science Inc., a new “technology studio” and notable startups like ShoeDazzle, BetterWorks, Gravity and GumGum, most of which are in a 5-10 block radius around the 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica.

One of LA’s premiere startups is BeachMint, an ecommerce company that lets customers subscribe to products hand-picked by celebrities each month. In January, the company, led by MySpace co-founder Josh Berman and Diego Berdakin, raised a $35 million funding round led by Accel Partners, with participation from New World Ventures, Goldman Sachs, NYC-based and Millennium Technology Value Partners, bringing BeachMint’s total funding to $75 million.

beachmint seal 220x220 Hollywood Tech: Beachmints newest vertical launches with Justin Timberlakes HomeMint Under the BeachMint umbrella, you’ll find JewelMint, a jewelry line started in October 2010 with actress Kate Bosworth with her stylist Cher Coulter; StyleMint, a T-shirt company backed by Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen; BeautyMint, which launched in November 2011 with Jessica Simpson; and ShoeMint, which launched a few weeks later with Rachel Bilson, Nicole Chavez and Steve Madden.

Announced today, BeachMint will enter its 5th vertical with the launch of HomeMint, with musician and actor Justin Timberlake and his long-time friend and interior designer, Estee Stanley. Available exclusively online, HomeMint will offer a curated selection of home goods and accessories, art and photography from both established and up-and-coming artists.

In the press release, Timberlake commented, “HomeMint combines my love of interior design with my passion for technology and innovation to create a brand that not only offers quality products, but also a personalized shopping experience.”

PRN4 BEACHMINT STANLEY TIMBERLAKE 1yHigh 520x390 Hollywood Tech: Beachmints newest vertical launches with Justin Timberlakes HomeMint

BeachMint CEO Josh Berman commented, “We’re excited to bring an affordable luxury home collection to our customers that combines Estee’s extraordinary portfolio of work and design experience with Justin’s impeccable aesthetic and sense of style.”

We’ve seen quite a few celebs jumping on the tech scene bandwagon, following the footsteps of actor Ashton Kutcher, now a prolific angel investor who has funded over 25 startups and even plans to star in the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic. There’s also Lady Gaga, who collaborated with Polaroid last year for her Grey Label collection, creating a portable photo printer and Polaroid camera sunglasses.

But this isn’t Timberlake’s first foray into the tech space. Last year, Timberlake joined a group of investors to buy Myspace and has been working to revive the social networking site since.

In a recent interview with the LA Times, Sean Rad, founder of Ad.ly, a marketing platform that helps influencers including Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg andCharlie Sheen get paid for endorsing brands and products on Twitter and other sites said: ”The Internet is becoming increasingly mainstream and a bigger part of our daily lives, and as capitalists I think a lot of celebrities are looking for ways to make money there.”

Want to learn more about the crossover of Hollywood and tech? Don’t misst NYC media pundit Rex Sorgatz‘s December article titled, “LA is the Future (Kill Me Now).”

Telefónica brings Electronic Arts on board to offer more mobile games to the masses

Telefónica Digital, the global business unit announced by Telefónica back in September to spearhead the telecom company’s digital growth, has launched the latest move in its global gaming strategy by teaming up with Electronic Arts’ (EA) mobile division.

The tie-up with EA Mobile will let the telecommunications giant’s customers access a broad selection of games on their mobiles, and it will first launch through its UK brand O2, followed by Telefónica’s other key markets.

Telefónica’s main customer bases are located across Europe and the Americas, and with 300 million customers, the Spanish telecoms giant will be looking to gain a large slice of the mobile gaming pie with this latest deal.

The partnership will allow Telefónica to create gaming promotions using titles from the EA roster of well known titles, such as The Sims, FIFA and Monopoly. The company says that the objective is to make it easy for customers to find the games that they are familiar with and to drive the uptake of mobile gaming, particularly amongst feature phone users.

In the UK, O2 will offer its customers three months of free access to all EA Mobile games following their first download. It will then look at a number of promotions or gaming subscription services to offer customers.

“Our relationship with EA Mobile puts us as the epicentre of mobile gaming – which accounts for the highest percentage of downloaded apps and is the largest paid mobile content market today,” says Matthew Key, Chairman CEO of Telefónica Digital. “By making a differentiated play in this most emotive and immersive entertainment medium we are fostering a much deeper connection with our customers – another significant step in becoming a true aggregator of experiences.”

Operating in 75 countries, Electronic Arts is one of the world’s biggest video game developers, marketers, publishers and distributors, and has more than 100 million registered players. EA Mobile is its wireless entertainment publishing division, producing titles for multiple mobile platforms including feature phones, smartphones and tablets.

“Our mission is to deliver games that consumers love – anywhere, anytime, and on any platform they want to play,” says Bernard Kim, Senior Vice President, Global Social and Mobile Publishing at EA Mobile. “We know that at least a quarter of mobile users in Europe are playing games on their phones. Our relationship with Telefónica helps more people discover our games, and removes barriers for subscribers to enjoy an entire library of our most beloved titles.”

Although Telefónica is headquarterd in Madrid, Spain, earlier this year we reported that it would be housing its Digital Division’s global HQ in London’s prestigious Regent Street. The new space is designed to place Telefónica at the heart of London’s growing creative and media industry scene, and from here it will drive many of its digital initiatives around the world.

Repinly gives you insight into the most popular content on Pinterest

As Pinterest’s growth show no signs of slowing down, a whole slew of third party applications and sites built around the social network are vying for ‘pinners’ attention, and Repinly is the latest one to make it on to our radar.

Repinly is a Pinterest directory which makes it easy to find interesting people to follow, and get insight into what the most popular pins, boards and topics are, and see what’s trending.

The site provides a ton of interesting stats, useful for the casual Pinterest user looking to gain a bigger following, as well as for brands looking for a little bit of insight on how to reach their target audience.

The most popular category on Pinterest happens to be Food Drink, making up well over a quarter of the most popular pins, followed by DIY Crafts, with Women’s Apparel making it into the third spot. The top categories don’t come as much of a surprise, considering the fact that Pinterest’s userbase weighs heavily on the female side, with some estimates, courtesy of comScore, putting it as high as 80%.

popular pins Repinly gives you insight into the most popular content on Pinterest

When it comes to the most popular boards, it’s interesting to find that the statistics change quite significantly. Almost one quarter of the boards belong to a variety of categories, with Home Decor appearing at the top of the list, as the first named category, making up 11% of Pinterest’s popular boards.

popular boards Repinly gives you insight into the most popular content on Pinterest

The site also gives us a bit of insight into the average Pinterest user. The average activity of popular ‘Pinners’ consists of over 2,600 pins, 33 boards, and they follow around 400 users.

It’s no surprise to find that the majority of time spent on Pinterest is spent pinning. The exact breakdown can be seen below:

Time spent Repinly gives you insight into the most popular content on Pinterest

While Pinterest does offer users a way to view the most popular pins, as well as drill down by category, Repinly takes this one step further. You can view the most popular pins by categories, and sort them either by the number of repins, likes, comments or by the date. You can view the most popular pins in the last 7 days, last 30 days, or the most popular pins of all time.

popular Repinly gives you insight into the most popular content on Pinterest

By being able to see the most popular pins of all time, marketeers can really get a sense of what kind of content is a hit on Pinterest, and has the potential to go viral.

In case you were wondering, the most popular pin of all time on Pinterest is a recipe for cheesy garlic bread, with over 91,000 pins and 12,000 likes.

When it comes to the most popular boards, you can sort the list either by the number of pins or followers. The most followed board has just 7 pins and over 3 million followers, but it also belongs to the most followed user on Pinterest, Jane Wang.

Repinly can also be useful on a personal level, since adding yourself to the directory gives you a Klout-like score for your account. Rami Madi, Repinly’s co-founder explains how the score is calculated:

“Once users add themselves to the directory, they get a score based on their number of followers, pins, and activity, which indicates their influence on Pinterest in comparison with other pinners.”

Explaining the inspiration behind creating Repinly, Madi said that he and his partners were looking for a way to measure the popularity of their own product pins. “When we couldn’t find this, we decided to build it,” Madi said.

Repinly isn’t the only service that has emerged, aiming to give Pinterest users a little more insight into their activity on the site. Pinerly, which we recently reviewed, gives users insight into the kind of traffic their Pinterest accounts are generating. By using sites like Pinerly and Repinly side-by-side, brands and power users can get a better sense of what kind of content works, and why.

➤ Repinly

Are You Ready to Rally to Fix Young America?

Gerber decided to take action, and together with The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), the largest honor society organization in the country, MTV Act, which celebrates young people taking action to make things better, and mtvU, MTV’s college network, #FixYoung America rallies will be held on more than 300 college campuses this Thursday, April 19, reaching more than 1 million Americans.

The problem is profound. Even as the nation’s unemployment rate edges down toward 8%, the youth unemployment rate still clocks in at about 23%! Gerber says he believes entrepreneurship is one important solution, and he predicts more Millennials will have to embrace some form of business ownership going forward. “The ‘free agent’ economy is a reality,” Gerber says, “and the educational system needs to prepare for that.”

Gerber is attacking the Gen Y workforce problem with 21st-century solutions. The #FixYoungAmerica campaign was launched with a crowdfunding initiative on Indiegogo. And one of the goals of Thursday’s 50-state, 300-campuses, 1 million-person rally is to recruit faux TV pundit and comedian Stephen Colbert to their cause.

Gerber, who calls Colbert the “Oprah of Gen Y” because “his voice resonates with us, and he’s a hero to many Millennials,” hopes Colbert Nation will take on the youth un- and under-employment crisis, much the way he brought attention to problems with presidential campaign fundraising (the Super PACs).

“We’re not trying to change the world overnight,” Geber says, “we know we’re in for a long slog.” But we need to “spotlight the proven solutions already working to propel young workers, including young unemployed veterans,” because these “solutions [are] rarely talked about in the public square, the political arena or the American mainstream media.”

Gerber was even more energized by watching the Occupy Wall Street movement spread across the country last year. He wants to “take the frustration of the [Occupiers], and turn it into tangible action.” People are listening; on Wednesday, Gerber will testify before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The Great Recession took a lot out of all of us, both financially and psychologically. But Gerber says he believes America’s youth are particularly affected by the “new harsh realities.” He cites a recent survey commissioned by Junior Achievement and Allstate Insurance, which shows barely half (56 percent) of American teenagers think they’ll be as financially well-off or better off than their parents, a huge 37 percent decline in confidence from 2011.

Will this work? Can our inherent entrepreneurial spirit save the day? Gerber certainly thinks so – but not without help. Sure the stated goal of Thursday’s rally is “to give our nation’s students and recent graduates a much-needed ‘Colbert Bump.’ ” But it’s also to get your attention. So what do you think? Can we fix America?

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Infographic courtesy of YEC and InfographicWorld.com

Colbert baby image courtesy of FixYoungAmerica.com

3 Reasons Why Everyone Needs to Learn Markdown

Wait… What Is Markdown Again?

If you don’t know what Markdown is, here’s the introduction from the Markdown project page:

“Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).

Thus, ‘Markdown’ is two things: (1) a plain-text formatting syntax; and (2) a software tool, written in Perl, that converts the plain text formatting to HTML.”

We’re here to discuss No. 1, using Markdown whenever you’re typing to format your text – whether or not you plan to post that text on the Web. Installing it allows you to directly post Markdown documents as blog posts or Web pages, but that’s up to you.

One of its key strengths is that you can use HTML in Markdown. If there’s something you can’t do in Markdown, or if you can’t remember the Markdown syntax, you can switch back and forth freely between HTML and Markdown within one document. It understands both.

You don’t have to have Markdown installed on your site in order to use it. It’s amazingly useful just as a writing language. Even if you don’t have to convert to HTML at all, it’s still an appealing way to format plain text without having to deal with Microsoft Word or another goofy rich-text editor.

But if you write for the Web, or you work with people who do, you just have to try it. Here’s why.

Easy On The Eyes

“The overriding design goal for Markdown’s formatting syntax is to make it as readable as possible,” writes John Gruber of Daring Fireball, creator of Markdown. “The idea is that a Markdown-formatted document should be publishable as-is, as plain text, without looking like it’s been marked up with tags or formatting instructions.”

HTML tags add lots of in-line noise. They make a document hard to read. For people unfamiliar with HTML, it could be impossible. Reading a Markdown document should make plain sense to anyone.

Here’s an example of the difference:

HTML

h1Why emyou/em should use Markdown to write your next blog post/h1

pa href=”http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/”Markdown/a is just so dang legible, it will make your emwhole life/em easier. strongI promise./strong/p

Markdown

# Why *you* should use Markdown to write your next blog post

[Markdown][1] is just so dang legible, it will make your *whole life* easier. **I promise.**

[1]: http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/basics

Not only is Markdown easier to type and read, it’s accessible to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about HTML. There are no extra words or letters, the link looks like a footnote readers are used to seeing, and asterisks around a word convey emphasis even if you don’t know which is italics and which is bold.

For Web developers and designers, this clarity will make life easier for nontechnical members of your team. For people not used to writing in hypertext, the Markdown characters are far more intuitive and easier to remember.

Fewer Errors

HTML just begs for typos. Even the smallest, one-letter tags require three characters to open them and four characters to close. If you forget a slash or accidentally type an apostrophe instead of a quotation mark, your whole page could be screwed up. And especially if you’re in a hurry, the errors can be hard to spot.

Plenty of tools assist with HTML writing by highlighting errors on the fly, but why rely on those? Markdown’s simplicity and flexibility helps you make fewer mistakes, and errors are much easier to find.

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Kill Your CMS

Writing straight into a browser window is a dangerous game. It’s so easy to accidentally lose or save over data. Furthermore, most content management systems offer the temptation to use WYSIWYG tools, and those tend to create awful HTML code that could make your page display in funky ways.

Markdown can be written anywhere there’s a blinking cursor and shared in any format. It’s just plain text. You don’t need any WYSIWYG controls, because the Markdown characters actually look like the formatted results you’ll get.

Markdown syntax is intuitive and, in many cases, it allows for multiple options, so writers can choose the formatting characters that make the most sense for them.

Plus, thanks to the Markdown renaissance, there are tons of new text apps that help Markdown writers on Mac, Windows, iOS and the Web. The good ones can even preview and export your Markdown writing as HTML, which you can then paste or upload into your CMS once you’re done.

Markdown is so easy to learn. Don’t let inertia stop you. Just download a Markdown text editor or use Gruber’s browser-based dingus and start writing. You’ll get it under your fingers in no time.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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