After the Storm
Last week, startups across New York City galvanized to help support the victims of Hurricane Sandy, establishing coworking spaces, volunteer groups and easy ways for users to donate to recovery efforts. But it’s a new week, one where the subways are mostly running normally and many across the city have their electricity back. As the sense of helplessness brought by Sandy fades, the internet’s penchant for irony and offensive jokes has come roaring back. The first (and undoubtedly not the last) company to fall into this tasteless trap? New York-based daily email service Thrillist.
Ebay announced two new product features today to help better position itself as a competitor to ecommerce sites like Amazon and Etsy. With Ebay Now, an iPhone app, customers are able to order things from their mobile devices and have them delivered anywhere they choose, usually within an hour. Ebay Now has been tested in San Francisco. An Ebay rep declined to elaborate on when the feature would be available in New York.
The site also announced an interface redesign to make search and browsing easier, as well as a new Pinterest-like feature called “Feed” that, as Ebay CTO Mark Carges said, “is a little like creating a newsfeed, but instead of search it offers visual shopping inspiration.” Users can follow brands, styles, bands–basically any topic aggregated on Ebay–and streamline it into a visual shopping board, a lot like Pinterest, where they can easily click through and purchase items with a seamlessly integrated Ebay-Paypal account.
There were 10.3 million tweets sent last night regarding the presidential debates–a new record for the site. [TNW]
However, between all the newly created Big Bird accounts and red tie/blue tie observations, it’s possible that Twitter went a little nuts over the presidential debates. Just a little nuts. [Politico]
Perhaps the most painful moment, though? When Mitt Romney basically classed beloved electric auto company Tesla as a “loser.” [Wired]
At least one analyst thinks ecommerce is going to have a great Christmas–because everyone has decided the economy is bad and that makes them scared of what other shoppers will do IRL. [CNET]
This morning Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook to announce the company has reached a billion monthly active users. Glad someone’s having a good day. [Facebook]
Looks like the team from review site Fondu got acqui-hired by Airbnb. [Fondu's Tumblr]
Oh You Fancy Huh?
The Fancy*, the New York City-based Pinterest competitor where users can browse and share products they love, has decided to enter the subscription box service. We thought you were too fancy for that, Fancy?
According to a press release sent to Betabeat, The Fancy has launched its first ever monthly subscription box that is curated entirely by the crowd. A $60 value for $30/month, users can pick from their favorite categories like “Art” or “Pets” and get a box filled with some of The Fancy users’ favorite products in that category.
Reddit had its biggest day ever thanks to President Obama’s AMA. No surprise there, considering the site was inaccessible for most of it. [The Verge]
RIP Microsoft Zune, can’t say anyone will really miss you. [Engadget]
Shopbop is trying to make itself into a high-end competitor to sites like Net a Porter. [New York Times]
Facebook has been cleared to officially purchase Instagram. [Wall Street Journal]
Is TechCrunch a bully? [Lane Wood]
Put a Spell on You
We were delighted to learn yesterday that it’s possible to purchase a magic spell on eBay that will merge your soul with that of a dragon. However, in the process of researching the Very Important subject of paranormal goods on the ecommerce site, we reached out to an eBay representative regarding the legality of listing these items.
For the Thrill of It
It was a very busy morning for Ben Lerer, the 30-year-old Lerer Ventures scion and CEO of men’s lifestyle brand Thrillist. The company announced yesterday that it had closed a $13 million series A, the first outside financing since Thrillist raised a $2 million seed round way back in 2005. Growing Thrillist from a Daily Candy-like daily newsletter to a men’s lifestyle empire with little venture capital in just seven years is no small feat.
“That’s the cool thing for me,” Mr. Lerer told Betabeat by phone this morning, his voice still colored with the excitement of closing a solid round. “That we were able to legit boostrap a business to 200+ people and $60 million in revenue without the money. It really gives me confidence that we have the right habits and the right discipline so that now that we have this money, we’re going to know how to spend it the right way rather than spastically run around spending it.”
Yesterday, Lot18–the members-only site for flash sales of wine–announced in a statement distributed to wine industry publications that it will permanently shutter its U.K. operations, effective at the end of the week. That includes laying off six full-time employees.
Apparently, British oenophiles are hard customers to come by these days.
The statement explains the closing: “The supermarkets’ stranglehold on the UK market proved too powerful for us to compete with and we have not experienced the anticipated growth rate.”
For those keeping score at home, this is not the first time Lot18 has dropped the axe on a significant number of employees. Back in January, the luxe startup let go of 15 percent of its staff–its first stumble following an explosive expansion. At the time, Lot18 CEO Philip James told Betabeat, “A lot of this is a natural part of the way a business grows and evolves.” Think he’s currently eating–or perhaps swigging–his words?
Apple in Your Eye
Even as we speak, you are leaving digital bread crumbs scattered all over the Internet, there for the taking by marketers. Nor do the details have to be anything particularly consequential to translate into a money-making opportunity.
For example: Orbitz has realized that customers who visit its site from a Mac tend to spend more money on hotels. The company is therefore adjusting its search results accordingly.
New York-based Usablenet is the largest provider of mobile and multiplatform services for brands, powering the mobile presences of 75 of the top 300 retailers–so why have we never heard of them?
Usablenet was founded way back in the dark ages, after the 90′s dotcom boom but far before the current one, in 2000. Its original business was focused on making websites more accessible for the visually impaired, which typically boiled down to translating complicated website designs into sleeker, simpler formats that were easier to read. But when smartphones began their prodigious rise, Usablenet wised up quick and used what they’d learned from making websites for the visually impaired to begin building simple mobile sites for clients. They began doing so as early as 2006–way before ‘mobile’ became a buzzword–with just a three person team situated in a 6th-floor walkup on the Lower East Side.