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Is your city mobile-savvy? Houston tops list

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Houston, TXIs your city one of the most mobile savvy in the United States? As numerous reports say up to a quarter of shoppers will use mobile devices this year, Houston has claimed the top spot for the second year in a row  on the  Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence “Mobile Shoppers” study.

Houston’s number one ranking, driven by its mobile shopping versatility and dexterity, is closely followed by Seattle-Tacoma, which catapulted to the second spot from its number ten perch in 2011, followed by San Francisco, which is new to the top ten list. Among other notable changes, Boston made its debut in the top ten, while New York and Atlanta both saw slight declines. In comparison, Los Angeles and Chicago held steady in their rankings between this year and last.

The complete “2012 IAB U.S. Mobile Shopping Savvy Cities Index” is:

1. Houston 9. Boston
2. Seattle-Tacoma 10. Philadelphia
3. San Francisco 11. Washington, D.C.
4. Los Angeles 12. Detroit
5. New York City 13. Tampa-St. Petersburg
6. Atlanta 14. Phoenix
7. Chicago 15. Minneapolis-St. Paul
8. Dallas-Ft. Worth

The rankings were determined by reviewing data about mobile usage patterns, as well as the frequency of usage among mobile-savvy shoppers across major U.S. cities. For research and survey purposes, “mobile shopping” refers both to completing purchases via a phone or tablet, as well as to using a phone or tablet to research or shop for products that are later purchased in physical retail locations or online.

“Mobile is a growing digital retail platform that provides consumers with incredibly valuable, timely and convenient information touchpoints for product research and purchasing,” said Anna Bager, vice president and general manager, Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, IAB.

“Identifying mobile shoppers and delivering relevant consumer messages to them on the go, as they shop, represents a key opportunity for brand marketers.”

“Determining which cities are more receptive to mobile can be a critical component in driving successful campaigns that reach audiences in the palms of their hands,” said Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director, Prosper Mobile Insights. “Whether planning for a last-minute holiday push or looking to mobile platforms for other advertising opportunities, this sort of regional intelligence can make or break a marketer’s efforts.”

Some of the other findings explored in this report include:

  • More than 80 percent of smartphone owners have accessed retailer websites or apps on their device
  • Sixty-eight percent of Americans owned a smart mobile device (smartphone, tablet, or eReader) in 2012, up strongly from 57 percent in 2011
  • Nearly half of U.S. consumers say they have a QR code (barcode) reader app on their mobile device
  • Smartphone shoppers are evenly split between males and females and tend to be younger than users who are desktop-based retail shoppers
  • Over half of smartphone owners, and nearly 30 percent of tablet owners, have used their devices in a store in the past three months

To download this years “Mobile Shoppers” study, please visit www.iab.net/mobileshoppers2012.

To view the 2011 top “Mobile Shopping Savvy Cities” list, please visit www.iab.net/mobileshoppers2011.

Atlanta, Miami startups have bright outlook despite tough economy

Monday, June 4th, 2012
Atlanta skyline

Atlanta startups are optimistic about their local economy.

Research released today by Dell and Intel reveals a bright local outlook for Atlanta and Miami startups and small businesses despite the tough broader economic environment.

The optimistic picture shows a favorable view of the local economy and local organizations supporting businesses as well as healthy expectations for growth.

“We must look past doom-and-gloom headlines and remain focused on strengthening local entrepreneurial ecosystems to support startups and small businesses.”

“The confidence of entrepreneurs gives us good reason for optimism, even while everyone worries about the national economy,” said Jonathan Ortmans, senior fellow at Kauffman Foundation and president of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

“We must look past doom-and-gloom headlines and remain focused on strengthening local entrepreneurial ecosystems to support startups and small businesses.”

The release of the Dell-Intel survey findings kicks off a nine-city Small Business Think Tank tour aimed at understanding the state of small business at the local level.

Through listening and dialogue, the research and tour will examine the prospects, perceptions and priorities of startup and small business owners in Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin over the coming months and help inform recommendations for the tools and resources they need to grow both at home, nationally and globally.

The events are hosted in collaboration with local chambers of commerce and national partners including Global Entrepreneurship Week and Startup America Partnership.

At the conclusion of the tour, Dell and Intel will publish a comprehensive report on the state of U.S. small business based on the quantitative and qualitative data gathered from the nine cities.

MIAMI AND ATLANTA SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Growth remains the focus in the face of the tough economy. Nearly all startups and small businesses plan to grow (97 percent, Miami; 91 percent, Atlanta) and say growth is important (96 percent, Miami; 91 percent, Atlanta). Despite reporting challenges of growing a small business in today’s economic environment and worries about sustaining the success of their businesses, more than half plan to grow in the near-term (53 percent, Miami; 52 percent, Atlanta).
  • Views of the outlook and support for small business generate greater optimism in the local economy. Most respondents are optimistic about their companies’ financial situations; they expect a better year (63 percent, Miami; 60 percent, Atlanta), sales outlook (74 percent, Miami; 84 percent, Atlanta) and growth opportunities (66 percent, Miami; 67 percent, Atlanta) next year. Compared with a 14.6 percent aggregate national approval rating for Congressional job performance reported by RealClearPolitics, they rate local elected officials much higher (49 percent, Miami, 64 percent, Atlanta).
  • Limited hiring shifts the focus to technology as a growth driver, but the priority placed on talent suggests hiring on the horizon. Nearly half of small businesses stayed the same size over the past three years (44 percent, Miami; 45 percent, Atlanta), most are neither hiring nor firing (73 percent, Miami; 71 percent, Atlanta), and in the face of limited hiring, more than half expect growth will come by investing in technology (50 percent, Miami; 57 percent, Atlanta).

“We know small businesses are doing more with less and employing technology to be more productive, and this enables them to grow their businesses profitably,” said Mel Parker, vice president and general manager of Consumer, Small Office and Member Loyalty at Dell.

“The growth technology fuels promises to improve future hiring, especially since technology-savvy small businesses create more jobs than their counterparts.”

Which cities have the most social media savvy businesses?

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

FriscoTopping the list of most social small business cities in the U.S. on the just released Radius Social Small Business Report: San Francisco and Los Angeles, as West Coast cities overall ranked higher than their East Coast counterparts. New York ranked #7, while other major East Coast cities, such as Boston, and NC Research Triangle cities did not make the top 20.

Some of the other findings are surprising.

The results are the findings of the first annual Radius Social Small Business Report, which tracks SMBs in the top 85 U.S. cities and ranks them via the Radius Social Index, a score compromised of social media presence and daily deal activity.

Radius’s technology collects and monitors information from more than 15 million SMBs in the U.S. and can measure social media presence by the number of SMBs with company websites, social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter, check-ins on Foursquare and Yelp reviews.

It can also measure daily deal activity based on the number of SMBs that have issued a daily deal.

“This report shows how small business owners in large metropolitan areas are embracing social media,” said Darian Shirazi, Founder & CEO of Radius.

“With our data on small businesses, we can extract valuable insights that are not only a competitive advantage for SMBs and large enterprises, but also an economic asset for a variety of civic institutions.”

Radius’ innovative, cloud-based technology collects and monitors information from hundreds of thousands of sources via multiple channels including social, news and government sites. Radius provides the most accurate online and social data available on the SMB market.

The top 10 cities with the most socially savvy SMBs, based on the Radius Index:
City Radius Social Index Score (out of 10)
San Francisco, CA 8.84
Los Angeles, CA 7.61
Washington, DC 7.31
Seattle, WA 6.37
San Diego, CA 6.28
Chicago, IL 6.03
New York, NY 5.67
Dallas, TX 5.57
Phoenix, AZ 5.52
Tampa, FL 5.44

Other notable findings from the Social Small Business Report include:

  • Grand Rapids, MI (29%) and Oklahoma, OK (28%) have the highest percentage of SMBs with Facebook pages.
  • Metropolitan cities that serve as home to major daily deal companies such as Living Social (Washington, DC – .5%) and Groupon (Chicago, IL – .4%) have the highest percentage of SMBs that have done at least one daily deal. However, both cities are less than 1 percent.
  • Buffalo, NY (20%) and Rochester, MN (20%) have the highest percentage of SMBs with Foursquare check-ins.
  • Charleston, WV ranked last amongst the top 85 U.S. social small business cities with a score of 1.8.

 

Which wireless carriers have the fastest 3G-4G service?

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

At&tWhich 3G and 4G wireless services are fastest in your city and overall? PCWorld found out.

Mobile internet service is a major monthly expense for most American consumers, and a very big business for U.S. wireless companies.

The marketing machines of those companies are now in high gear, touting their services as the industry transitions from 3G service to the much faster 4G. Problem is, everybody’s service is “4G”, “most reliable”, “biggest”, “fastest” and “best,” if you believe all the names and claims flying about on TV, radio, print media and the Web.

“The big surprise in this year’s study is T-Mobile’s performance”

That’s why PCWorld has once again hit the road to measure the real-world performance of the four major wireless services on America’s streets and in its coffee shops. During February and March of this year, PCWorld measured the speeds of the major U.S. carriers’ 3G and 4G wireless services from 130 locations in 13 major U.S. cities.

wireless chart

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE STUDY

  • AT&T had the fastest download speeds of any 4G service, along with an HSPA+ service that’s very competitive with 3G services–a compelling service combination for AT&T dual-mode phones.
  • T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 21 service proved faster overall than comparable 3G services in our study, and the carrier’s high-end HSPA+ 42 service held its own with the 4G services of its larger competitors. Those services, and the array of flexible and affordable plans it offers, make T-Mobile a good choice for many wireless users.
  • Verizon has 4G service in many more locations than other providers, but in most localities the download speed of its 4G service doesn’t match AT&T’s (though its upload speeds are faster, more often than not). And Verizon’s 3G speeds have not improved much, especially when compared to the competition.
  • Sprint is a consistent laggard in the wireless speed races. The company appears to have virtually stopped developing its network while looking for a way to transition from its outdated WiMAX 4G technology to LTE.

“The big surprise in this year’s study is T-Mobile’s performance,” says PCWorld Senior Editor Mark Sullivan, who designed and managed the study.

“By offering data speeds that are very competitive with AT&T and Verizon along with its affordable data plans, T-Mobile is proving why its proposed acquisition by AT&T last year would have been bad news for US consumers.”

“The other (rather sobering) surprise in this year’s data is Sprint’s poor performance, both in 3G and 4G service. The carrier’s speeds suggest that both the Sprint CDMA and WiMAX networks have seen very little investment and upgrade over the past year—in a mobile data market where the rule is ‘grow faster or perish.’”

“While a majority of wireless consumers still use slower 3G devices today, most will transition to faster 4G devices over the next five years as carriers push them to upgrade to newer 4G devices when their contracts expire,” Sullivan says. Meanwhile wireless companies will continue to increase their networks’ data transfer speeds to compete for new customers and retain old ones.

FASTEST 3G AND 4G SERVICES BY CITY:

Atlanta – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Boston – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Chicago – 3G: AT&T 4G: AT&T
Dallas – 3G: AT&T 4G: AT&T
Denver – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
Los Angeles – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Las Vegas – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
New Orleans – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
New York – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
San Jose – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
San Francisco – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T
Seattle – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: Verizon
Washington DC – 3G: T-Mobile; 4G: AT&T

“Our annual speed study is an important part of what we do at PCWorld,” explains VP, Editorial Director, Steve Fox. “Many consumers look to us for an unbiased, independent, empirical assessment of the wireless technology and services being offered in the U.S. today.”

“It’s exciting to see the data speed wars heating up as the wireless providers move from 3G to 4G technology in their networks and devices,” Fox says. “We only hope that the competition eventually translates into better performance and better value for consumers.”

Read the complete article with detailed results and data at: http://pcwrld.us/HILktj

Downtrodden but not whipped, Sunbelt economies are resurging

Friday, March 16th, 2012
John Sikaitis

John Sikaitis, SVP of Research, Jones Lang Lasalle

Recent economic and real estate factors indicate that most of the Sunbelt geographies have already hit their cyclical lows and during the next six to 12 months are likely to surpass national growth rates, according to a special office report issued by Jones Lang LaSalle.

Many of these areas are also hotspots for the digital economy, particularly San Diego, LA, and South Florida. This is also more evidence for something we have pointed out repeatedly at the TechJournal – the resilient U.S. economy is climbing out of its recessionary doldrums.

Although nearly all areas of the U.S. were negatively impacted by the recession, some of the hardest hit were the Sunbelt markets of Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orange County, Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, Tampa and West Palm Beach.

“The Sunbelt markets witnessed substantial drops in their overall economies in 2007-2009 with relatively no recovery in 2010-2011. However, despite ongoing negative perceptions, most of these markets are undergoing a resurgence and poised for dramatic changes in 2012 and beyond,” said John Sikaitis, Senior Vice President of Research at Jones Lang LaSalle.

“These economic upswings bring much optimism for future office and employment levels, as well as investor interest for the capital markets.”

Sunbelt office recovery indicates future gains to surpass national levels
Currently nearly all Sunbelt markets posted substantial upticks in occupancy, experienced declines in vacancy and moved closer to seeing office rents and concession levels hit bottom.

In 2011, occupancy gains in these beaten-down housing economies totaled nearly 6.0 million square feet and provided evidence that, as we move forward in 2012, most of these geographies will start to outpace the national recovery.

This resurgence is due to strengthening employment, migration and housing market shifts with absorption rates in the 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent range across most the Sunbelt geographies.

Sunbelt-wide employment gains outperforming national averages of late and picking up speed month by month
Markets such as Jacksonville, Miami, Orange County, San Diego, Tampa and West Palm Beach have surpassed the national average in total non-farm, private and professional and business services (PBS) job growth.

Floridian markets have dominated the jobs recovery of late: Jacksonville’s 5.9 percent annual increase in PBS jobs is among the largest in the nation, whileTampa’s 2.5+ percent annual growth in all measures shows signs of revival and diversification. Miami also surpasses both national expectations, increasing at around 1.9 percent overall annually.

Sunbelt migration trends starting to turn positive
In terms of domestic migration, the majority of Sunbelt cities display a common pattern: a net loss of residents in 2007, shifting to an inflow of residents in 2008 or 2009 and then stable, yet increasing, population growth in 2010 and through 2011.

Nearly 75 percent of the Sunbelt markets are now, once again, showing significant positive migration with Florida reporting the largest increase of at least 20 percent. As the hub to Latin America, Miami and Fort Lauderdale are leading the charge due to strong immigration trends from Latin America that drive population, business and economic growth.

Sunbelt’s housing crunch on the verge of stabilizing
Since their pre-recession peaks, housing markets within the Sunbelt have experienced drastic reductions in price and sale volume, far greater than any other region of the United States. In most cases, these housing markets have yet to begin recovery.

However, as a result of positive office demand growth, employment and migration indicators, there is a strong chance that most of these geographies are hitting their market low and will soon begin to recover, if this has not begun already.

Since employment and other indicators point to recovery while housing prices are only beginning to stabilize or in some cases are still decreasing, continued economic, employment and office sector growth will lead to gradual, but steady, gains in the housing sector moving forward.

2007 levels far off but future gains are on the horizon
Vital to the continued improvement of most Sunbelt geographies in 2012 will be consistent gains in employment across multiple sectors with emphasis on diversifying economies.

Since job performance has remained either constant or accelerating in these metropolitan areas not only among themselves, but also outpacing national results, it is probable that most Sunbelt markets will recover faster than the U.S. as a whole in 2012 and 2013.  They will see rebounds in their housing markets as well, driving even further office demand from the housing-sectors (i.e. homebuilding, mortgage companies, etc.)

Sikaitis added, “Whereas migratory patterns drove the Sunbelt to unprecedented growth in the pre-recession years, those patterns will now be reflective of recent strong office recovery in these markets, being more economically sustainable and diverse than before with the potential to surpass the rest of the country.

“Even with these positive shifts, most of these geographies are two to three years away from returning to pre-2007 levels; so, while we are upbeat about the recovery for these markets, we remain realistic and guarded in the fact that we are not yet back to 2006 territory and likely will not be until the 2014-2015 timeframe.”

Where to get a green job (infographic)

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Where are the most green jobs? Believe it or not, Los Angeles and New York City hire the most workers in environmentally friendly jobs.

MastersDegree.net offers this infographic to help you scout the landscape for green jobs and where to get one:

Home Solar Power Discounts – One Block Off the Grid

DC, LA, Seattle, Chicago, Texas, closing in on venture hot spots

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

mapOver the past few years, research from Pricewaterhouse Coopers has indicated that three areas of the US – Boston, New York, and Silicon Valley – dominate the venture capital scene, but Los Angeles, Northwest/Seattle, Midwest/Chicago, Texas, and the D.C. Metro area are closing in as new hot spots, according to new research.

Last week, Boston venture capital firm OpenView Partners released its latest research report on geographical and sector trends for technology companies in the expansion stage. The research conducted by OpenView Labs focused on identifying areas outside of the big three that have secured venture capital in the first half of 2011.

According to the team’s research Los Angeles, Northwest/Seattle, Midwest/Chicago, Texas, and D.C. Metro area are all on the verge of becoming hot spots for receiving venture capital. As young companies continue to secure funding away from the traditional hot spots, each of these areas has worked to carve their own niche in the investment landscape.

The report features commentary from venture capitalists including Howard Morgan of First Round Capital, Chris Girgenti of New World Ventures, Greg Gottesman of Madrona Venture Partners, and George Roberts of OpenView Partners.

“Recently a CEO told me he was turned down for capital because he company isn’t location in Silicon Valley. That story saddened me because OpenView would never make such a statement; we go to them, rather than telling a company to come to us,” said George Roberts.

The research revealed the following: 

  •     50 deals in the D.C Metro area totaling $189.3 million in investment
  •     75 deals in the Midwest totaling $455.3 million in venture capital (all data current through Q2 201)
  •     Investments total $479.9 million in the software sector and $376.5 million in media and entertainment sector across the 5 areas analyzed in the study

The full report.

Mid-Atlantic and DC area entrepreneurs looking for a way to connect with top venture capitalists might want to consider attending the upcoming Southeast Venture Conference at Tysons Corner, VA, Feb. 29-March 1.

Online prices for electronics up to 44 percent lower than in-store

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

DecideIt’s no wonder many people are turning to online retailers for deals. Data from Decide.comover Cyber Monday revealed that electronics prices can be up to 44 percent lower online and beat in-store prices 94 percent of the time for popular products like TVs, laptops, tablets, cameras, video game consoles and GPS devices.

Average online savings were 16%, with individual products up to 44% cheaper online.

While online prices were generally lower than in-store prices, Decide.com research shows that some markets fare better than others for in-store shopping.

Cities like New York, Boston and Miami offered better pricing than Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. Here at the TechJournal, we noticed that electronics prices listed in the Sunday New York Times Dec. 4 were generally higher than online prices for the same items. We also find the lowest in-store prices, with some exceptions, come from Tiger Direct (also called Comp USA) and for some items, WalMart.

Where did you find the best deals?

Decide found there were also differences by category: the worst products to shop for in stores were GPS devices, where prices averaged 24% lower online. The best products to shop for in stores were video game consoles, where prices were only 7% lower online.

There were a few notable exceptions: some prices were substantially lower in physical stores than online. These included video game consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Dsi XL, Playstation 3, three popular Samsung LED TVs and a Canon Powershot camera.

“Skip the mobs and the freezing weather this holiday season,” said Mike Fridgen, CEO of Decide.com. “Shop online and save money – up to 44% on some items. If you do head out, arm yourself with the Decide.com App to make price volatility work in your favor.”

Decide analysis shows that most popular electronics hit their lowest prices between Cyber Monday and December 13. Decide plans to publish product price drops on their blog to help holiday shoppers save money.

These results are based on Cyber Monday prices on 130 popular electronics products in six categories across eleven metro areas and popular online retailers. Prices are aggregated from multiple sources, and may not include all retailers.

Decide sells an iPhone and iPod Touch app that predicts the best time to buy popular electronics.

Wadhwa: Jobs as Gandhi; Pandora eliminates free limit; iPhone 4S sales start

Friday, October 7th, 2011
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Among the many comments from the tech world mourning the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs, one of the more unusual comes from Vivek Wadhwa, the former Research Triangle entrepreneur and executive who is now a university academic who examines work force issues for Duke University and writes for the Washington Post Innovations section and other media.

Wadhwa issued this statement on Jobs’ death:

teve left a deeper mark on an entire generation than anyone in recent memory. He has changed the way we work and, in the tech world, the way we think. He taught us the importance of design, elegance, and quality. He defied the conventional wisdom about price being the key motivator for technology. He proved that people will pay premium prices for easy to use, elegant products.

He is to Silicon Valley what Gandhi was to India.

Speaking of the Washington Post, the newspaper created this slide show on Jobs’ more than 300 patents.

Pandora eliminates limits on free listening

PandoraWith Spotify now in the U.S. and a host of other competing free music streaming services online, Pandora has eliminated its limit on free listening. Previously, free users who listened for 40 hours would have to either sign up for the firm’s premium, ad-free, service with better sound. I once paid .99 cents to finish out a month of the service after hitting its 40 hour limit.

I have to say, this is one move I applaud. I still like Pandora as much if not more than any of the other music streaming services, perhaps because I’ve used it longest. But it has an easy-to-use interface that has never given me the first bit of trouble, not something I can say for Spotify. I’m a fairly sophisticated user of digital media, but the first time I used Spotify, it felt like the first time I picked up a smartphone and pecked away at the buttons learning to navigate it.

We’re still not sure how Pandora’s business model is working out, but if they’re relying on add revenue and a piece of music sales via the site, making listening free without limits should increase its traffic. I know I would use it relatively sparingly to avoid going over that 40 hour limit, even though I can also access it on my Squeezebox Internet radio.

iPhone 4S sales begin

AppleWill Apple fans line-up for the iPhone 4S the way they have for previous versions of the coveted smartphone?

The Internet has been critical of the iPhone 4S. It was expecting seas to part and other miracles from Apple, while the new iPhone 4S is not a completely new phone. It does boast the fast dual-core A5 processor and an 8-megapixil camera and run the iOS5 software that has 200 new features.

The new iPhone 4S is available for pre-order from Apple.com (it will run on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon).

So what do you think, Apple fanactics? Are you headed off to buy the new iPhone? If so you might want to review these tips first. Ten Tips for buying the Apple iPhone4S.

 

Xfire lights up with $4M round led by Intel Capital for gaming social service

xFireXfire , a social service for gamers with more than 19 million users, has received $4 million in funding led by Intel Capital and several prominent angel investors. The company is based in Los Angeles.

Xfire has also strengthened the executive team by adding Mark Donovan as president, Juston Brommel as chief marketing officer and Autumn Radtke as director of Business Development.

The new additions to the team and funding are the first of several major announcements expected this fall from the company. As part of this investment, Xfire has been split from Titan Gaming so both businesses can operate independently.

“Xfire is already the most advanced social service for gamers with group chat, group voice, and user generated content sharing tools like live game broadcasting. Think of Xfire as Facebook meets Skype for gamers,” says Mark Donovan, president of Xfire. “This round of capital is allowing us to make many enhancements starting with an entirely new look for the Xfire website and chat application.

He adds, “Our users have already created tens of millions of game videos, screenshots and live broadcasts which they’re sharing every minute on Xfire. Soon they will be able to useXfire to share them to other social networks and numerous top-tier websites.

 

Funded: Charlotte’s Adaptivity; Austin’s Whaleshark; LA’s BetterWorks; FirstRain, Twitter

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Whale Shark MediaWe’re seeing an uptick in venture funding rounds for Internet-centric companies in the third quarter, although it’s still too early to tell if it will continue in the face of an economy still in the doldrums. Investors are still looking favorably on deal-focused startups, with Google Ventures taking a stake in WhaleShark, and angels backing Choozon, which was started by former Yahoo execs.

WhaleShark Media, Inc., a marketplace for coupons and deals named Brian Sharples, CEO and co-founder of HomeAway, to the company’s board. In addition, the company announced an investment in an undisclosed amount from Google Ventures.

WhaleShark continues to demonstrate strong progress. The company’s websites worldwide, which include RetailMeNot.com in the United States, connect consumers with discounts from more than 100,000 top merchants, stores and retailers. More than 230 million visitors come to shop its sites every year.

The WhaleShark Media portfolio of coupon and deal websites includes www.RetailMeNot.com, the largest online coupon site in the United States, www.Deals.comwww.Deals2Buy.comwww.CheapStingyBargains.com, www.CouponSeven.com and www.CouponShare.com.

ChoozOn closes on $3.2M funding for deal discovery

Bellevue, WA - ChoozOn, the world’s first personalized service for deal discovery and social shopping for deals, has closed a $3.2 million Series A round of funding.

Leading this round and joining ChoozOn Corp’s Board are Michael Orsak of Worldview Technology Partners and James Brown of AVG Ventures.

Founded by former Yahoo! executives and led by a team of digital marketing experts, ChoozOn will use the resources to ramp up the development of its innovative service, which allows consumers to create customized “personal deal networks” comprising their favorite stores, brands, product categories, loyalty programs, deal clubs, daily deal services, and shopping pals. The company also revealed that, in the three months since ChoozOn’s founding was announced, over 1,000 leading brands have signed on to be “chozen” by consumers for inclusion in their personal deal networks.

FirstRain grabs $6.4M for business monitoring engine

SAN MATEO, CA.- FirstRain, the innovative Business Monitoring Engine used by global business professionals to track the critical developments impacting their business has raised $6.4 Million in new funding led by global technology venture capital firm Oak Investment Partners.

FirstRain had previously raised a total of $41 Million since FirstRain President & CEO, Penny Herscher reset the product strategy in 2006 and brought in Oak Investment Partners as the new majority owner. “This new capital will be used to help maintain our growth trajectory, grow the sales team and invest in the product development that keeps us in the forefront of the B2B digital information industry.”  www.firstrain.com

Charlotte-based Adaptivity nails half of planned $6M round

Adaptivity Inc., a computer services company, has raised $3 million of a targeted $6 million rais according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

BetterWorks nabs $8M for employee engagement tech

Los Angeles-based BetterWorks, a company focused on helping small and medium-sized businesses recognize, reward and engage employees, has raised an $8 million Series A round from Redpoint Ventures. Funding will be used for hiring, expansion and continued development of the BetterWorks Perks platform, a simple online solution for employers to create, manage and measure employee perks programs. Total raise, including an early angel-backed round, brings investments to $10 million. www.betterworks.com

Campusbookrentals.com shelves $20M 2nd round

Utah-based CampusBookRentals.com has raised $20 million in a second funding round led by Level Equity, Five Elms Capital, and Cherokee & Walker. The company serves college students on more than 5,600 U.S. campuses and also buys back textbooks.

Twitter gets “significant” funding

DST Global has invested a “significant” but undisclosed amount of funding in Twitter. The company said on its blog that several existing investors participated.

Twitter says it will use the funds – which some online sources say is worth at least $400 million and may also include $400 million in secondary funding.

The funding, which values the company at $8 billion, reports say, would be a record for a venture round, includes backing from Russia’s DST Global, which also made a large investment in Facebook.

LA-based game developer wefiends added to Joystick Labs 2011 underground program

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Joystick LabsDURHAM, NC - Joystick Labs  has named the first team who will participate in its 2011 Summer Underground program.

wefiends, a Los Angeles based developer founded by brothers Nick and Kevin Barrios, develop fun, creative, and original games that anyone can enjoy.  They have just completed Sushi Boy Thunder, a free to play, lightning-fast arcade dodger  for iPhone and iPad that features incredible action and fun at supersonic speed, unlockable  outfits and characters, tilt and tap control, and an original soundtrack, and Game Center Leaderboards so players can compete with friends.

As part of Joystick Labs, wefiends will develop “We Make Movies”, an iOS game that places gamers in the role of Hollywood producer working against the deadline and budget to create the best movies.  Players  create their movie poster,  use their time management skills to create the best movie, see the audience reaction – and share their results and compete against their friends.

Joystick Labs, founded in 2010, provides startup video game entrepreneurs a unique mix of early-stage seed funding, mentorship, services, and networking.  Teams that participated in the Fall 2010 program will begin shipping their titles this summer.

“We were looking to become part of an accelerator program and were excited to find a program specifically for game studios,” said Nick Barrios, wefiends founder, “The opportunities and resources that Joystick provides will accelerate the development of our studio and our next title.”

Joystick has also announced that applications are once again open. Game developers can apply online now, and selected teams receive funding, mentorship and access to technology, office space and networking opportunities.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and Joystick Labs looks for teams who possess an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for their game idea. The best game concepts will be innovative and present an opportunity for commercial success.

For more information or to apply, please visit www.joysticklabs.com.

LA-based OpenX digital ad firm raises $20M, kicks total up to 50M

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

OpenXLOS ANGELES – OpenX Technologies Inc., which sells digital ad technology, has closed on a $20 million D round of financing led by SAP Ventures, with the participation of other new investors, AOL Ventures, Mitsui & Co. Global Investment, Inc., and Presidio Ventures, the wholly owned investment vehicle of Sumitomo Corporation. Existing investors Accel Partners, Index Ventures and DAG Ventures also participated in the round.

This funding brings the total venture financing invested in the company to $50 million. The company will use the new funds to expand globally, make acquisitions and further develop its technology.

OpenX Enterprise combines an ad server and an ad exchange to enable publishers to manage exclusive, guaranteed, non-guaranteed and real-time revenue sources all in one unified platform. As a result, the company says,, for the first time publishers can maximize yield across all their ad revenue channels in real-time.

OpenX customers include Groupon, Excite Japan and Business Insider. Over the past year, OpenX Market revenue has grown nearly 600 percent. The company has struck international partnerships for the exchange with Dentsu-cci in Japan and Orange-France Telecom in Europe.

“The online advertising technology space has needed a robust alternative for many years and we believe OpenX, with its innovative technology, provides a platform that is both an alternative and a paradigm shift for the industry,” said Hiro Yoshikawa, principal, Mitsui Global Investment.

Tim Cadogan, CEO, OpenX, said, “Having new investors representing one of the world’s largest enterprise companies (SAP), one of the world’s largest internet pure-plays (AOL) and two of the most important global Asian trading firms (Mitsui and Sumitomo) all coming together to invest in the global technology platform company we are creating is – we believe – a compelling and powerful mix.”

With online advertising continuing to grab market share, we suspect established companies in the space are likely to do well unless some innovation displaces them.

Nino Marakovic, managing director, SAP Ventures., said, “We see digital advertising rapidly becoming an integral part of the enterprise ecosystem as it becomes more and more core to businesses. We believe that OpenX will become an industry-defining platform in this rapidly growing sector.”