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Category: San Francisco

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Top Startup & Tech News Today: 7 Things You Missed

CitizenTekk brings you the top startup & tech news today - August 18th, 2013

1. Ubuntu sets crowdfund pledge record for Edge smartphone.

Ubuntu Edge’s crowdfunding smartphone campaign has raised more money in pledges than any other similar venture. The London-based developer, Canonical, has raised $10,288,472 in pledge money. But, this is still far from their funding goal of $32 million. As per policy of Indiegogo, the fundraiser’s host, Ubuntu would have to return the $10 million if they do not meet their $32 million goal. If the goal is met, Ubuntu would like to deliver 40,000 phones to qualifying backers by next May.

The smartphone has received a lot of press and acclamation though, from companies and individuals alike. Last week, Bloomberg announced that it had made an $80,000 contribution, saying that the open-source initiative could benefit its clients and change the future of mobile computing. But, Mr. Shuttleworth did admit that the product might be too much of an outlier relative to current smartphones; many major telecom companies, then, would not consider backing it.

The proposed smartphone’s apps would look like standard mobile apps when the Ubuntu smartphone was used as a standalone device. But, the apps would change their user interfaces to that of a desktop application when the phone was docked with a monitor. The OS itself could support apps written in the HTML5 web language.

The crowfunding campaign ends August 21st. But, But Mr. Green says that Ubuntu’s current pricing is an “absolute bargain”. “The product was sound. I would not say it is expensive.”

2. After Jimmy Wales makes a stand against China, Wikipedia’s Chinese editor banned from leaving country

Wikipedia China editor Huang Zhisong has told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that he has been banned by authorities from leaving China until 2016. He believes this is to put pressure on him, and is a result of his frequent trips to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan on Wikpedia editorial issues. When Huang Zhisong asked a local bureau agent why he could not leave mainland China, his response was that he should know the reason. This comes a week after Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said he would not comply with any form of censorship on Wikipedia’s Chinese site.


3. Cisco announced Wednesday that it will cut 4,000 jobs, citing a difficult economic climate.

These layoffs make up 5% of Cisco’s workforce. Cisco’s shares plunged 10% in after-hours trading after initially slipping 4% when Cisco released its fourth quarter fiscal results.

CEO John Chambers says that he’s “real pleased” but Cisco is “just not growing as fast as we need.” He isn’t worried at all about Cisco’s performance against competitors though. Overall, Cisco made $2.8 billion on sales of $12.4 billion for its fourth quarter. Cisco’s focus on Internet trends (such as video, wireless, and big data) has helped propel the company. Shares have risen up by 34% so far this year. The company has also stockpiled $50.6 billion in cash, which is $3 billion more than its previous quarter.

Since Cisco touches all part of the networking process, a large part of the company’s success is tied to the world’s economy. “A lot of [sales and growth] depends on GDP and global markets growth,” Chambers said. “We’re just not seeing it.”

4. The Only Startups That Matter To Job Creation

The idea that small business runs U.S. job creation is a common one. It is also an incorrect one. The Census Bureau shows that small businesses destroys jobs at nearly the same rate as it creates them.

The Kauffman Foundation has an insightful report showing that not all small businesses are equal-opportunity job destroyers. High-tech startups, unlike small businesses in general, create net new jobs.

In 2011, high-tech companies between one and five years of age created 16,700 jobs. Other similarly aged-businesses in the private sector overall lost 513,700 jobs. What’s more, the foundation concludes that startups aren’t located just in the Silicon Valley. Some most dynamic cities for high-startups include Missoula, Montana, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. But Colorado outshines them all, with Boulder, Fort Collins-Loveland, the greater-Denver area and Colorado Springs in the top 10 metropolitan areas marked by a density of high-tech startups.

This is all good news for the U.S. economy. There is more geographic and economic diversity among high-tech formations than the private sector in general. Results of other studies show that one high-tech job results in four others. Studies also show that the process of innovation and entrepreneurship, which is generally costly in the short term, leads to productivity growth. All in all, high-tech startups are good for the U.S. economy.


5. Bridging The Gap Between Tech Startups And The Fortune 500

How can a tech startup and a Fortune 500 company team up for mutual benefits? The most common ways are through corporate venture capital arms, contests, package of benefits geared to startups, and accelerator programs.

The main advantage of taking capital from corporate venture capitalists is that they become your internal allies at the firm. However, caution must be taken, as some of these investors may restrict your ability to exit to a competitor, as well as the possibility that the corporation may create something competitive with your product. It is for these reasons that some traditional venture capitalists are highly averse to working with corporate venture capitalists.

Fortune 500 companies also use contests to attract startups to work on problems the company cannot solve in-house. They also employ freebies to build relationships with startups. This not only promotes the company’s core services to new customers, but also hopefully locks the Fortune 500 company new and permanent customers.

The accelerator model has been around for a while and has produced some prominent companies; now, some Fortune 500 companies also want to get into the game. Nike, GE, and IBM are famous examples of companies that are trying to do so.

Startups should look into these opportunities and take advantages of the resources of larger companies, if it is possible for them and to their advantage.

6. Taxi-hailing apps offer unexpected benefit to minority riders

Taxi-hailing apps have become extremely popular in cities with infamously poor taxi services. However, minorities have found unexpected success using these apps to hail cabs that would otherwise have driven past them out of fear, xenophobia, and discrimination.

These apps “remove the uncertainty that you face that a cab driver will pass you by because they’re profiling you based on how you look expecting that you will maybe want to go to the outer boroughs like Brooklyn or Queens or sort of more nefariously potentially be a criminal,” says Stacy-Marie Ishmael. Ishmael said it is common for minorities to get passed over for travelers who look relatively “less brown” than them.


7. Wearable Computing Startup InteraXon gets $6 Million To Read Your Mind.

InteraXon is making a thought-controlled headband called Muse. They have managed to raise $6 milllion in Series A funding. They expect to release Muse in early 2014.



Zendesk on "Twitter Tax Break" and Cleaning up Mid-Market, San Francisco


People don’t usually join a startup to do community service. They join to be part of something new and exciting; to build something bigger than themselves with a close-knit team of like-minded people. It’s the place where they dream of the lucrative IPO-or at the very least, of the free food, fully-stocked in-house bars, and other perks that often come along the way. That being said startups are not where most people go to revitalize their city’s skid row district or better the lives of low-income residents through sustainable community gardens.


But when Zendesk became the first tech company to take advantage of what’s known as the Central Market/Tenderloin Payroll Tax Exclusion, better known as the “Twitter tax break,” the focus of our startup quickly changed.


This tax break “exempts businesses located within the defined exclusion area from additional payroll tax as they add jobs during any six years in an eight-year period,” as stated by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. So we get to save some money. In our first year, it wasn’t a huge amount, but as we grow, the total is adding up.


Given this tax break, the city required us to draft and execute what’s known as a Community Benefits Agreement. This is essentially an obligation we have to the city and the neighborhood about how we will use our savings in the community. This document is looked after by the City Administrator, while a citizen’s advisory committee keeps tabs on the progress.


The thing is, we didn’t see this as an obligation. We saw this as an opportunity.


Sure, it was a little weird the first time we went to City Hall for a hearing. It was humbling to have an 11-person appointed body tell you what worked and what didn’t work on the Agreement we drafted. But ultimately, we knew this was an incredible opportunity for us to start building philanthropy into our company’s DNA;. It was a powerful way for us to keep a deep sense of community at the core of our culture and our brand.


For instance, without our Community Benefits Agreement, it would be hard to say whether our CEO, Mikkel Svane, would don a hairnet and sling ham at the local soup kitchen. Not just once either - but on a regular basis. It’s hard to know if our engineers would have built a mobile portal for a local non-profit to connect its clients with the most critical of services (emergency shelters, rehab centers, where they might take a shower).  Meanwhile, we find members of our support, marketing, sales, and developer teams on neighborhood walking tours together and at the local black box theater taking in a show  (long-term community relationships is what the CAC felt was most important, which essentially asks us to spend time in the neighborhood and enjoy what it offers.)


Suddenly, we were give this chance to engage our employees in ways we would have never considered. We felt tight-knit, even as we went from taking up half a floor to three floors (and as I type this, we are already outgrowing that.)


That goes for the new hires, as well. Our CBA has been incorporated into our new hire training. Once a month, new hires do a shift with veteran hires at a nearby soup kitchen.  Offsites have come to include volunteer service (and the obligatory boozing happens after). But in this way, silos have become nearly impossible.   It might sound idealistic; a little too good to be true. But isn’t idealism what got us all amped on startups in the first place? Now more than ever, our employees are really all in this together. And everyone in our company is emboldened by this sense that we can make our brand much bigger than we ever thought possible.



Top 3 Startups from Silicon Valley LAUNCH

Tesla for Wheelchairs, An Algorithm API and Crowd Sourced Security

This month, SV Forum is celebrating thirty years as a not-for-profit organization supporting innovation and startups in Silicon Valley. The organization holds a staggering 200 events per year for entrepreneurs and investors, and therefore, is well suited for naming the industry’s top tech visionaries and promising startups.

On Tuesday, SV Forum announced the 2013 visionaries, which includes Steve Blank, a highly influential serial entrepreneur, author and academician, Peter Diamandis of the XPrize Foundation, Ray Kurzweil of Google and Padmasree Warrior of Cisco. This award honors the industry’s foremost pioneers and leaders, and in the past has included Bill Gates, Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway.

In addition to announcing this year’s visionaries, SV Forum also held a LAUNCH event for startups, giving promising teams the opportunity to pitch to a panel of venture capitalists and angel investors. Members of the panel included Bill Reichert of Garage Ventures and Ron Weissman of Band of Angels.

Here are three startups not to be missed:

We all know data is important; this company takes it a step further and transforms data input into intelligent output. Their API is simple enough for developers to build applications without writing algorithms. Current clients include a semiconductor company who uses the API to decrease the strain on its sales force by automating smaller purchases. Another creative use of the API is building a predictive model for entrepreneurs. This application is currently in beta testing with a VC firm, where it helps predict the next interesting company by using a combination of graph analysis and classification.



WHILL is attempting to disrupt the $1.7B wheelchair market by introducing Electric Vehicle technology to wheelchairs. You can think of it as Tesla meets personal mobility. The actual product has a very slick appearance, having been designed by the CEO, Satoshi Sugie, formerly of the Nissan Design Center. Another feature is the unique wheel, which moves transversely with a small turning radius, optimizing the mobility of the user, and is especially helpful for daily street obstacles.



“It takes a crowd to stop a crowd.”

Simply put, Bugcrowd crowd sources security. Large corporations, such as Google, Facebook and Etsy, already do this by incentivizing researchers to exploit and test security flaws. Bugcrowd uses a similar concept, and in a recent case involving a large grocery store chain, the company crowd sourced over 250 security researchers to solve a mobile risk which had led to the grocery chain’s infrastructure. The magnitude of what Bugcrowd intends to introduce is quite impressive (perhaps prime for the elusive hockey stick?) when you consider the growing concerns in security and mobile.