Author Archives: Leena Rao
It's no secret that many deals have been struck and key relationships formed at TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington's former house in Atherton. In case you aren't familiar, Arrington threw epic parties at his home for the tech community in the early days of TechCrunch. Police were called, booze was flowing, people passed out. I don't have enough fingers to count how many times I've spoken to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or VC who said he or she used to frequent Mike's house parties back in the day. Clearly this was the place to be for anyone looking to meet their next investor, acquirer, co-founder etc. And that's exactly what Box co-founders Dylan Smith and Aaron Levie were thinking when they showed up to Mike's house in early February 2006 for the Naked Conversations TechCrunch Party. It was in Mike's backyard where they met then Draper Fisher Jurvetson partner Emily Melton. Beers in hand (actually only Levie was of age-barely, so Smith was drinking water), the pair pitched Melton on their idea. She was so impressed and their passion for what they were building cloud storage, that she immediately introduced them to the DFJ partner covering SaaS and enterprise investments, Josh Stein, who months later led Box's first round of institutional investment.
Samsung Electronics has acquired mobile entertainment startup mSpot, according to a release issued today. Financial terms were not disclosed, but previous reports point to an acquisition price of $8.8 million. mSpot let users stream and watch full-length movies on their mobile phones and on the web. The company had struck deals with Sony, Disney, Paramount, NBC/Universal, Lionsgate, Warner, Image Entertainment, and Screen Media Ventures to stream full-length movie rentals to users’ PCs and cell phones, allowing you to switch between both devices as you pick up and leave off throughout a movie.
Chicago-based Base, a company that develops a cross-platform CRM product, has raised $6.8 million in Series B funding led by Index Ventures with Social+Capital Partnership, OCA Ventures and the I2A fund participating. The startup previously raised $1.1 million in funding. Founded in 2009 by Uzi Shmilovici, Base is a CRM product that is catered towards small businesses. Base wants to let businesses manage their customers and sales everywhere they are, and offers applications for the Android phone, the iPhone, Mac and Windows. The company also plans to release tablet and Windows Phone 7.5 apps soon.
Mobile payments processing platform Square has been used by a variety of individuals and businesses, from charities to taxis to food trucks to political campaigns. Next up—art fairs and farmers' markets. The company says that at Etsy's New York’s Spring Handmade Cavalcade last weekend in Brooklyn, over 90% of the vendors used Square to accept payments. And this weekend, Square says that many vendors at Unique LA, the largest independent fashion market in the country, will use Square to process card payments. Unique LA expects over one and a half million dollars to be spent in its market over the weekend.
Customer Loyalty And Rewards Platform For Local Businesses Belly Raises $10M From Andreessen Horowitz
Chicago-based Belly, a startup that is a fast-growing contender in the local business customer loyalty and rewards space, has raised $10 million in Series B funding from Andreessen Horowitz. The company also announced that Andreessen Horowitz partner Jeff Jordan, former chairman and CEO of OpenTable and former president of PayPal, will join the Board. This latest round of funding adds to a seven-figure round raised by the startup from Lightbank, the venture firm founded by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. Belly wants to reinvent customer loyalty rewards through gamification, digital check-ins and a iPad setup for businesses. But the startup has a slightly different take on how to achieve this. Belly offers a quick-setup, plug-and-play rewards platform to merchants. Part of this is an in-store iPad (which Belly supplies) that is used to validate paying customers right at the point of sale, and serves as a check-in point. Belly will also train employees to encourage them to participate in the program.
Exclusive: RichRelevance, a company that powers personalized shopping experience for online retailers, has raised $20 million in funding led by Crosslink Capital with Greylock Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Tugboat Ventures participating. This brings the startup's total funding to $50 million. RichRelevance aims to take consumer shopping data and help retailers leverage this information into a more personalized experience. As e-commerce heats up, and big data strategies enter the market, more retailers want to provide customized online shopping for consumers to drive sales.
Design-friendly online invitations and stationery startup Paperless Post has raised $6 million in funding from RRE Ventures, SV Angel, Tim Draper and others. This brings the startup's total funding to $12 million. Previous investors include Ram Shiram and Mousse Partners. The startup is sort of like the anti-Evite, aiming to allow consumers to create sleek, design-focused, personalized invitations that deliver the same quality as paper stationery. Users can send out invitations for any occasion and monitor as guests receive and reply to their invitations. The New York company was launched in 2009 by brother and sister team James and Alexa Hirschfeld.
Startup Personal, which aims to give consumers control over their digital data, is debuting an iPhone app today, adding to the company's existing web and Android apps. Personal is a free web and mobile service that helps you take control of all the digital information about yourself and your life, decide who gets access to it, and use it for your benefit. This information ranges from your passwords, your kids allergies, emergency contacts, credit card info, and more. Basically, any information you may not want to store in email but want to be able to share with your loved ones or friends.
Credit card giant MasterCard is debuting a new study today, called the MasterCard Mobile Payments Readiness Index, which analyzed 34 countries and their readiness to use three types of mobile payments: person to person, mobile commerce and mobile payments at the point of sale. MasterCard actually developed a proprietary algorithm that takes publicly available data as well as MasterCard-owned data to rank countries on their potential to adopt mobile payments. The study showed that while it is still early stages for mobile payments adoption, Singapore, Canada, the U.S., Kenya and South Korea are the most prepared markets to accept this technology. Additional findings include that young affluent consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 years old are the most willing to use mobile payments as they recognize the value of using mobile payments instead of cash or payment cards. While this demographic was predominantly male in most countries, women showed higher levels of interest in countries such as China, Egypt and the Philippines.
TidePool, a startup that is trying to determine consumer personality from photos, has raised $1.5 million in a seed round led by Mike Hirshland of Resolute.VC and Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal Capital. Participating investors include Jarl Mohn, Tim Draper, Peggy and Jim Davis, and Jeff Lipp. The startup's central goal is simple—Tidepool uses a proprietary technology to uncover personality and other psychological characteristics from photos. To begin your assessment on Tidepool, you are presented a number of photos. You are asked to rank photos by which ones you like best. You are also asked to pick between two images that you like, choose different interests (based on pictures) and more.