Hip to Be Square
Kohort, a social network for groups, launched last month jam-packed with friends of founder and former venture capitalist Mark Peter Davis.
But less than a month after launch, Mr. Davis took to the company’s blog to announce that they have decided to “decided to run Kohort with a smaller team, a leaner approach.”
AllThingsD‘s Peter Kafka expects the company to lay off almost all of its 15 employees. Dwolla founder Ben Milne announced yesterday via Twitter that Kohort builder Shane Reisner has already started working at Dwolla.
Visa and Mastercard have long dominated the retail payment business (after all, when was the last time you saw someone flaunting a Discover card?). But now, Dwolla*–which recently launched an NYC office–and the San Francisco-based Square may be collaborating to knock the two legacy institutions off their pedestal.
Quartz reports that there may be a deal in the works between the two–one that would benefit both merchants and customers. Square provides a way for businesses to process credit card payments without clunky POS systems; Dwolla allows users to instantaneously transfer money with a flat fee of $.25. By teaming up, the two could really give the dominant credit card processing companies a run for their money.
XXX in Tech
Game Over? There seems to be a mass exodus at Zynga. It was reported yesterday that Wilson Kriegel, the former chief revenue officer of Omgpop, has now left the company. In the last 30 days, the company has lost its COO, CCO, and two vice presidents. Maybe it’s time for them to “draw something” different, like a new management plan.
A New Hope? In much better Zynga news, the company has partnered with Food Network’s Robert Irvine to help beef up its Chefville game. Mr. Irvine has introduced a series of challenges to help improve the game where you run your own restaurant. “I couldn’t be more honored to have an avatar of myself and Restaurant: Impossible be a part of ChefVille,” Robert Irvine said in a press release. “As we lend insight to players on what it takes to create their dream restaurant while earning my approval.”
“Porn is homogenizing sex,” Cindy Gallop proclaimed on a recent rainy Wednesday, her blond bob swinging with emphasis. The result, according to Ms. Gallop: A generation of young men, all too many of whom think the most natural landing place for their ejaculate is a woman’s face, and a generation of young women, all too many of whom think they’re required not just to participate, but wholly enjoy such an act.
This isn’t an academic notion for Ms. Gallop, a veteran advertising executive-turned-social theorist-turned-entrepreneur, or a societal ill stumbled across while perusing The Atlantic. “This is me going, ‘I fuck 22-year-olds,’” she said. “I know how this plays out in the real world. And that’s why I’m very motivated to do something about it.”
To that end, Ms. Gallop is launching—in barest beta form, strictly invite-only—MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, a startup she hopes will reverse the porn problem that she has dubbed the “single biggest impact that technology is having on human behavior today” in a manner befitting the internet: paying people to post videos of themselves having real sex.
And the gold medal goes to . . . MissNev! No, we’re not talking another Olympic gold for Team USA, but rather prizes for this weekend’s first-ever New York City “Ecommerce Hack Day,” hosted by Dwolla and Etsy. The event was held at AlleyNYC–formerly known as The Hatchery–a coworking-space for early and growth-stage startups located in the Fashion District. More than 225 people showed up over the course of the hackathon, which started at 10 a.m. on Saturday and didn’t shut down until 5 p.m. on Sunday–amidst a pile of pizza boxes, empty gallons of coffee, and discarded bottles of 5-Hour Energy, of course.
In the end, developers presented 37 hacks and won over $10,000 in prizes from high-profile startups like Foursquare, Constant Contact, WePay, and Zappos.
DIY marketplace Etsy and Dwolla*, a payments company, are co-organizing an Ecommerce Hack Day at The Hatchery in New York City in August featuring an impressive array of participants like Zappos, Constant Contact, Ordr.in, Sincerely, Twilio, Stripe, Gumroad, Kiip, and Busted Tees.
But to raise the bar for participants, the startups have thrown down a (mini) gauntlet.
Nathan Hecht figures there were about 200 early adopters and potential investors in the room at Northside Festival when he demo’ed Kurrenci, a new digital money—”with a ‘k’ and an ‘i,’ as the perky demo video explains—that can be bought with a credit card, unused gift card or cash, and eventually, its creators hope, with airline miles and credit card rewards points.
Million Dwolla Baby
Earlier this week, Betabeat shlepped out to LaGuardia and took a plane and then another plane to Nebraska. We could tell things were gonna be different when the view from the window seat was tract after tract of pastoral green and brown instead of the Lite Brites that usually greet us descending into Queens. Then our shuttle driver from the airport invited us over for a home-cooked meal. We could get used to Central Time!
We are here, of course, for Big Omaha, an intimate startup conference that people like to describe as “how SXSW used to be,” i.e. before the marketers descended, Jay-Z showed up, and the suits started ruining everything. Attendance is capped at 650 and batches of tickets sell out within minutes.
Dang, looks like we missed a couple prime candidate from our spring Poachables list.
Alex Taub, head of business development and partnerships at Aviary–and a familiar face to anyone in the New York startup scene–just announced that he will be starting a new post in a similar role at Dwolla, the online payments company that has investors swooning for its ability to reduce costly credit card interchange fees. After much speculation, Dwolla finally announced a $5 million round in February led by Union Square Ventures, with participation from Thrive Capital* and Marc Ecko of Artists & Instigators.
The fact that Mr. Taub will be setting up a Dwolla outpost right here in New York City should settle any feathers ruffled over Silicon Prairie poaching etiquette.
The climate for Internet startups is heating up. Startups are closing rounds faster, getting popular more quickly, scoring higher valuations and getting acquired with increasing greediness. As local luminary and angel investor Chris Dixon notes, the preponderance of hockey stick growth among the top tier of startups is creating a heavy set of expectations that weighs upon the littler startups. These A-list startups are like the impossibly pretty cheerleaders or the improbably studly jocks who discourage the rest of the high school with their sheer existence. They’re the “it” startups, and they can do no wrong. In other words: they’re hot.