Funding

Exclusive: Jake Lodwick Raises $1-2 M. To Build Elepath, a Software Studio

Who dreams of electric sheep

Vimeo co-founder and internet eccentric Jake Lodwick has just raised around $1.5 million from a gaggle of big name New York tech types including Chris Dixon, Lerer Ventures, David Karp, Bre Pettis and David Tisch. The interesting part is, he doesn’t have an idea for a product, at least not yet.

“I just don’t think it makes sense to have a product idea, THEN raise money, THEN build a team,” Mr. Lodwick told Betabeat over Gchat last night. “People need to trust each other and build up momentum as a team and once we have that, we can drop everything and focus on a great product idea.” Read More

Pivot Patrol

Billy Chasen Talks About the Decision to Shut Down Stickybits and Start Turntable.fm

The glory days. (Photo: Turntable.fm)

Betabeat covered the rise of Turntable.fm this summer and the pivot/restart founder Billy Chasen made from his previous company Stickybits. During the most recent episode of Founder Stories, he told Chris Dixon about how he came to make this hard decision and break the news to his investors and employees.

“I was looking at the health of the company, just a dozen different metrics, how are users liking it, where is the product at, and everything was just kind of a mediocre success. So I wasn’t as excited going in, I was like, can I really see myself doing this for another year.” Read More

Acquisitions

First Interview: Chris Dixon Talks eBay’s Purchase of Hunch

If you like these glasses, you may enjoy my blog

When it comes to big data and personal recommendations, Hunch and eBay are a match made in heaven. Both work with mountains of unstructured data and hope to improve user recommendations through social signals.

At least, that is what Chris Dixon and eBay CTO Mark Carges had to say in a phone call with Betabeat this morning, following news of the acquisition. But the pair laid out a compelling case for why the purchase makes sense.

“eBay is a very unique retailer,” Mr. Dixon said. “When grandma posts a sweater for sale, it doesn’t have a metadata to help sort and identify it. In working to understand user’s taste on the open web, this is the challenge we have been solving at Hunch.”

Something like 70% of items on eBay don’t have traditional metadata like product IDs. “We have been working with our own data on consumer behavior to power recommendations,” said eBay CTO Mark Carges. “Hunch brings in some really complimentary work that they have been doing with social signals.”  Read More

Seed Stage Slaughter

Fund Em’? I Barely Know Em’!

Reap what you sow

Betabeat has been writing about the crunch for seed stage startups looking to raise series A since August of this year. The debate over this trend is now in full flower, with VCs divided over whether or not there is a reckoning in the works.

Regardless of what position you take on the series A situation, it’s clear that 2010 saw a surge in seed stage investments. Pulling data from crunch base, Alexia Tsotsis found seed investments grew substantially while A rounds stayed flat.

As Josh Koppelman of First Round Capital writes on his blog today, this is reflected in the amount of time his firm spent evaluating new deals before deciding to invest. Over the last four years, the amount of time it took for a Read More

The Real TechStars of New York

Tisch Out of Water: David Tisch Navigates Startupland and Comes Out a TechStar

(via We Are NY Tech)

On a warm October afternoon, before the weather turned, Betabeat was following David Tisch’s lead up and down University Place in search of an empty-ish coffee shop. Mr. Tisch, the bright-eyed, foul-mouthed managing director of TechStars New York, an incubator for young startups, shuffled along in his standard get-up: jeans, a hoodie, and a backwards baseball hat. His unruly black hair flipped out from underneath.

It’s a fitting uniform for Mr. Tisch, who in person can come across much like the founders he invests in. The grandson of self-made billionaire Laurence Tisch, his speech is peppered with the words “fuck” and “cool,” he burrows his fists in his hoodie, and, once we find a place to sit, jostles the glasses on the table when he crosses and uncrosses his long legs. “I’m pretty shy in groups. I don’t like big crowds. So being on TV is weird for me,” he said, referring to the Bloomberg TV cameras that followed him around for months to document the TechStars New York’s inaugural class.

Just 48 hours earlier, clean-shaven and in shirtsleeves this time, Mr. Tisch stood in front of the Cedar Lake auditorium in Chelsea, rearranging the paper nametags on reserved seats like an anxious dinner party host, albeit to maximize the free flow of funding rather than conversation.

By the time he introduced Mayor Bloomberg to the packed house of more than 500, including the haut monde of investors and entrepreneurs who make up TechStars’ list of mentors and backers, Mr. Tisch had a hard time wiping off his grin.

“David, thank you. Good morning, it’s good to be here at Demo Day!” the Mayor said, before glancing at the iPad-cum-teleprompter he placed on the podium. “I also wanted to welcome all the VCs and angel investors who have flown in here from around the country. I think you’re proof positive that the TechStars is going to change this world and certainly change America and this city.”

Two years ago, Mr. Tisch, would have been lucky to get a ticket to such an affair, much less license to arrange the wedding table. While his last name may be synonymous with New York industry, aside from a handful of angel investments, Mr. Tisch was a relative unknown in tech circles before his appointment at TechStars. Read More

Summer Jamz

Turntable.fm and the Siren Song of the Start-up Pivot

Pivot Prof. Billy Chasen

There is no more overused and reviled word in the world of tech start-ups than pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Pivot.

It seems to capture the manic energy of the current tech industry, in which an idea can get millions in funding before building a product and, if the users never materialize, or the business model never emerges amidst all hype, simply change their direction and try something new.

No company better epitomizes this idea of second chances than Turntable.fm, a social music site, born out of the ashes of a failed venture called Stickybits. Founders Billy Chasen and Seth Goldstein raised almost $2 million for Stickybits and worked on the project for about a year. The idea was to leave little stickers on physical objects that contained links to stories, photos and video on the web. Big brands like Pepsi thought it was a great idea. Users, not so much.

With little momentum and cash running low, they decided to pull a monster pivot. Turntable.fm, which launched a little over one month ago, has already attracted over 300,000 users and the interest of top tier investors on the east and west coast. Suddenly a team that was running low on funds is being courted for a fresh infusion of $5-10 million at a $40 million valuation, Betabeat has learned from multiple sources. Read More