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Entries in Startups (4)

Tuesday
Jun052012

Google Buys Startups Quickoffice and Meebo

KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- In the span of 24 hours, Google has acquired two decently-sized Silicon Valley startups.

On Monday the search giant announced that it had purchased the instant messaging firm, Meebo. And now, another purchase: it has acquired Quickoffice, a company that makes mobile productivity apps for Android and Apple's iOS.

Google hasn't released the financial terms of either purchase, but in May, the technology website All Things D reported that Google was considering spending $100 million on Meebo.

So what does the company plan to do with the new purchases?

"With the Meebo team's expertise in social publisher tools, we believe they will be a great fit with the Google+ team. We look forward to closing the transaction and working with the Meebo team to create more ways for users to engage online," a Google spokesperson said.

Google+ is Google's social network or service, which it sees as central to the future of its search business. Meebo offers an instant messaging service and a bar across websites for easily sharing information.

Quickoffice, on the other hand, is all about work. It will help with Google's other core offering -- its productivity offerings, including Google Docs and Google Drive.

"Today, consumers, businesses and schools use Google Apps to get stuff done from anywhere, with anyone and on any device. Quickoffice has an established track record of enabling seamless interoperability with popular file formats, and we'll be working on bringing their powerful technology to our Apps product suite," Alan Warren, Google Engineering Director, wrote on Google's blog.

Quickoffice's apps, which are available for the iPad, Android tablets, and other devices, provide word processing and spreadsheet tools.

"The Quickoffice purchase proves that Google's cloud-only productivity strategy was a failure and they needed to incorporate traditional PC productivity to be really successful in the enterprise," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "The fact that Google realizes they need to buy instead of build is, in a sense, a refreshing sign of business maturity."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May292012

Kid Who Squatted at AOL for 2 Months Aims for $500K for Startup

ClassConnect.com(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Eric Simons, 20, had all the attributes of a passionate entrepreneur: hungry, visionary, resourceful and willing to do whatever it took to get his startup off the ground, including squatting at AOL’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

But after surviving on office catering leftovers and snacks for two months, the entrepreneur has now put his startup in motion with $50,000 from investors.

Simons moved to Silicon Valley from Illinois last year when he was 19 years old.  Accepted into the inaugural class of the Silicon Valley startup incubator, Imagine K12, he decided to pursue the dream of his startup instead of college.

He and his friends were given $20,000 for ClassConnect, which allows teachers to create and share lesson plans with students and other teachers. After the four-month program ended, his friends quit to attend college and the money ran out too. But Simons, with a working AOL badge, continued coming to the office, as first reported by CNET.

Simons showered in AOL’s gym, slept on company couches, and ate snacks and leftovers from the frequent catering that served the employees and other entrepreneurs working at the office. Because AOL allows other entrepreneurs and programs to work in its office, Simons was able to stay through October and November last year.

On the hunt for investors, he said moving back to Chicago would have meant shutting down ClassConnect.

“What we’re working on is extremely important and will have an important impact on educational system,” he said.  ”I couldn’t bring myself to pack up, which is how I got clever and figured out how I could stay out there.”

His parents and family knew he was squatting, but almost everyone he knew applauded his dedication, including his parents.

“They knew of it. It killed them to see me living on couches and eating scraps but at the end of the day they were pretty proud of me for doing that,” Simons said.

ClassConnect’s $50,000 seed investment, half of which is closing Tuesday from Ulu Ventures, may be giving Simons’ parents another reason to be proud. Simons said he received the first of the investment two weeks ago. The first thing Simons did with the money was rent a three-bedroom home in Palo Alto where he and his two partners are working. He plans to rent out the master bedroom for extra cash.

Clint Korver of Ulu said the company is helping Eric raise the remaining $500,000 from other investors.

Brett Kopf, 25, and his brother, David, were part of Simons’ Imagine K12 class, and housed Eric on their couch when he wasn’t living at AOL. The Kopf brothers launched Remind101, a service which helps teachers text homework reminders and other messages to students and parents, eight months ago.

“He’s the most energetic kid I know,” Brett said of Simons. “For a [then] 19-year old it’s just very impressive, for his tenacity, to do that.”

David Speiser, spokesman for AOL, said he the company does not encourage employees or intruders to sleep in its office, but he does applaud the spirit of Simons’ dedication.

“We did not know that Eric was sleeping in the offices and that’s obviously not something we can or want to encourage. We have to maintain a professional workplace,” Speiser said. “At the same time, as a company we’re working very hard to encourage employees to work very hard and create an environment to promote Silicon Valley dream of entrepreneurship and dedication to an idea.”

“It was always our intention to facilitate entrepreneurialism in the Palo Alto office -- we just didn’t expect it to work so well,” David Temkin, SVP of mail and mobile for AOL, said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov012011

Immigrant Creates US Jobs, Gets Boot over Visa

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Last year, Amit Aharoni, an Israeli national and a graduate of Stanford Business School, secured $1.65 million in venture capital funding with two co-founders to launch CruiseWise.com, an online cruise booking company.

Business Insider ranked the company, which is set to launch its website in just a few weeks, one of the "20 Hot Silicon Valley Startups You Need to Watch," and Aharoni has already hired nine Americans.

But this story of entrepreneurship and job creation is hitting rough waters because Aharoni is not American. On Oct. 4, Aharoni received a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denying his request for a visa and notifying him that he needed to leave the country immediately.

The government said Aharoni's job as CEO does not require someone with his high-level degree, even though he created the company.

"[The] letter is practically humiliating. It says you have to leave the country, as if I committed a crime of some sort by creating nine jobs," Aharoni said.

Immediately after receiving the letter denying his visa application, Aharoni left for Vancouver, where he now tries to guide his company from a friend's living room. He says he believes his San Francisco-headquartered business could create hundreds of jobs in the next five years, a plan that is now in jeopardy.

"I fear that I will be forced to move the center of gravity of CruiseWise to a different place where I can rely on sensible immigration policy," Aharoni told ABC News. "And that would mean that the hundreds of jobs that we'd hope to create would not be created in the U.S. but somewhere else."

A USCIS spokeswoman said the agency is "working to streamline" the visa process for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Steve Davis, CruiseWise's chief of operations, told ABC News that the USCIS's decision is incomprehensible to him.

"Amit has brought together a million and a half dollars of investment, almost two-thirds of that from outside the U.S., and invested it right here in the United States," Davis said. "[He] created nine new jobs and then at the end of this process was told that he needed to the leave the country."

While the United States forced Aharoni out, there are other countries that are eager to have entrepreneurs, enticing them with special visas and funding. According to Partnership for a New American Economy, an organization that advocates "the economic benefits of sensible immigration reform," countries including the United Kingdom, Singapore and Chile have visas for entrepreneurs. Chile even has a program that offers $40,000 in seed funding.

It is a problem politicians in America acknowledge but have not solved.

According to statistics from Partnership for a New American Economy, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

President Obama addressed the issue during a town hall in July.

"What I want to do is make sure that talented people who come to this country to study, to get degrees, and are in -- willing and interested in starting up businesses, can do so, as opposed to going back home and starting those businesses over there to compete against the United States and take away U.S. jobs," he said.

In a May op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled "A New Immigration Consensus," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg advocated for reform.

"When every other country wants the best and the brightest, we're trying to keep them out. It doesn't make a lot of sense. ... [T]he truth of the matter is we are sending the future overseas," Bloomberg told ABC News Tuesday. "We need people to start companies and create jobs. People that come from overseas are something like ... five times more likely to create jobs than people who are here....So we've got to do something about this."

Senators Mark Udall, D-Colo., John Kerry, D-Mass., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., are taking action, reintroducing the "StartUp Visa Act," a bill they originally proposed two years ago. The act would allow "immigrant entrepreneurs and foreign graduates from U.S. universities to appeal for a two-year visa on the condition that they secure financing from a qualified U.S. investor and can demonstrate the ability to create American jobs."

America has a long history of immigrant entrepreneurs. John Nordstrom immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 and eventually founded Nordstrom's. The cofounders of Pfizer, Charles Pfizer and Charles Ernhard, moved from Germany as adults to start the pharmaceutical giant. And Andy Grove, cofounder of Intel, came to the United States at the age of 20 after escaping communist Hungary.

From 1995 to 2005 immigrants helped found a quarter of all high-tech companies in America, creating 450,000 jobs, according to Partnership for a New American Economy.

Aharoni hopes he can create the next great U.S. company, but for now he waits, running his business from 900 miles away, wishing he could resume his American dream.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun032011

Yahoo 2.0: Stalwart Wrestles Startups in Internet's New Age

PRNewsFoto/Busca Corp, Inc(SUNNYVALE, Calif.) -- If one took a poll that asked ordinary Americans, "Which technology company has the most buzz?," the top responses might include Facebook, Twitter and Zynga, the company behind hot social-media games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Yahoo? Not so much.

"I think it's a bit of a perception-of-reality problem," said Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo's executive vice president for the Americas. "Sixteen years as one of the premier sites in the world: That's a story that should be told."

Sure, but that's a different story. Buzz surrounds the new. Facebook is five years old -- late adolescence in cyber-chronology -- making 16 downright ripe.

According to Levinsohn, the key to long-term success isn't the adage, "slow and steady wins the race."

"There's been great innovation here," he said. "Standing the test of time is really the hardest thing to do. So when you look around this campus and at our other offices, it's a testament to success. If we weren't successful, none of this would exist."

The big problem is that buzz isn't just about "street cred" but also Street cred -- Wall Street. Yahoo stock has been stuck in the same general place for years. One reason is that Yahoo was late to the mobile-computing game, according to analysts like  Kara Swisher, co-producer of tech conference D: All Things Digital, and a journalist who's been covering technology since 1997.

"There is a whole spate of interesting startups," she said, "all of them on mobile devices -- from Zynga to Angry Birds to Foursquare to Groupon -- and there are all sorts of things people can do now, and Yahoo doesn't have a piece in any of those."

What it has is half a billion visitors per month. Yahoo's news site is the Internet's most visited, with 85 million monthly visitors. Its sports site also is tops, with 45 million visitors per month. Yahoo Mail is first in its category, with 90 million users (Google's Gmail is number two, with 52 million). Its OMG site is first in entertainment, more popular than TMZ and People.com.

Yahoo is -- as the numbers clearly show -- well known as a portal, but it is also a content producer. Its online sports program gets up to 1.8 million views per day, bigger than the viewership of ESPN's "SportsCenter." Its fashion show has attracted the biggest celebrities, such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

Now it is getting into the journalism business, complete with a newly built, humming newsroom. The idea is to take in stories from bloggers around the world, put them out, then track who's reading what. Using this data, the site greets visitors with a selection of stories that represent Yahoo's best guess as to what would interest him or her.

In addition, Yahoo is updating the search experience, an effort led by Blake Irving, whom Yahoo hired away from Microsoft. Yahoo searchers won't get the same old list of links, rather a list of possible answers to questions their search suggests they have.

With all that, one wonders if it matters that Yahoo lacks buzz.

"I think it matters to a small subset of people," said Levinsohn. "I don't think it matters at the end of the day to consumers. I mean, Yahoo does more revenue in two weeks than Twitter will do all year, yet Twitter is the hottest thing going -- and rightfully so right now."

Levinsohn admits that Yahoo, with all its staying power and visitors, never saw Twitter -- and the social-media trend it epitomizes -- coming. Now Twitter's here, included as a clickable button on much of Yahoo's content. It makes Twitter -- not Yahoo -- look like the innovator. And that's the key to buzz -- to be seen as innovating.

So one could say Yahoo is the GE of the Internet: old, big, diverse -- and still innovative.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio