XXX in Tech
Are there not enough animals on your Internet? Do you ever open up your browser and navigate to YouTube or Twitter or Facebook and think, “Man, this Internet I’m on here could really use some more pictures of cute puppies.” BuzzFeed chairman and Huffington Post cofounder Ken Lerer has you covered.
The Huffington Post and YouGov collaborated on a very important poll of 1,000 U.S. adults meant to measure the attitudes of Americans towards robots. The results are pretty typical, except for one thing: turns out Americans aren’t really that into doing robots (or they’re lying).
Come on guys, live a little.
Back in April 2012, the HuffPo cabal-backed Soho TechLabs launched a social travel site called CasaHop that allowed users to “connect with people worldwide to trade homes for vacations and more.” Now, Soho TechLab’s CEO Paul Berry told Betabeat that the incubator is shutting down CasaHop in order to focus more on RebelMouse, a tool for building social webpages that has seen explosive growth in recent months.
“CasaHop never gained the traction it needed,” Mr. Berry told Betabeat by phone. “The timing was off. Airbnb is really in a winner takes all situation in this area. I hope one day someone is going to break out and make this an enormous idea because I love home exchanges, but too few people feel comfortable with other people staying in their place while they’re away.”
The Third Degree
NowThis News, the recently launched video news site created by ex-HuffPo founders Eric Hippeau and Ken Lerer, opted for an old-fashioned approach to deliver election results on a new-fangled platform. As the tweets poured by at an impossible-to-follow rate, NowThis News stuck out with a very web 1.0 approach: ASCII art.
The NowThis site (formerly called Planet Daily) currently pulls in newsy video clips from sites like Twitter, Facebook and–most typically–Buzzfeed, another Lerer Ventures portfolio company. The company’s Twitter handle, @NowThisNews, is run by its social editor, Drake Martinet, who’s also an adjunct professor at Stanford. Mr. Martinet said that 90 percent of the video content on the site is produced by the NowThis team.
Earlier today, Lerer Ventures revealed that the early stage investment firm–a powerful, active force in growing New York’s startup ecosystem–has raised its biggest fund yet. While raw SEC filings first indicated that Lerer Ventures was raising $30 million, the deal closed at $36 million. That’s more than $64 million combined in less than two years.
Partners Ken Lerer, Ben Lerer, Eric Hippeau, and Jordan Cooper have backed some of the most high-profile companies from New York’s new class of tech startups, like Warby Parker, MakerBot, OnSwipe, and Birchbox. Lerer Ventures has also had a number of notable exits, like GroupMe (acquired by Skype), Mr. Cooper’s startup HyperPublic (acquired by Groupon), and Venmo (acquired by Braintree). In fact, the Huffington Post mafiosos–Ken Lerer and Mr. Hippeau are both veterans–have been so busy building “the largest infrastructure in New York for entrepreneurs” that they apparently haven’t had time to move Venmo into the “Exits” list on the firm’s website.
Betabeat spoke to Mr. Hippeau this afternoon after his firm’s new fund and why we’re in “the golden age for entrepreneurs in New York.”
Hires and Fires
Good news, Silicon Alley denizens. After much demand from fellow gossip-mongers, Betabeat has decided to resurrect your favorite recurring Friday feature. Welcome back to Rumor Roundup! Overheard a juicy tidbit about impending departures or imminent acquisitions? Dying to dish about startup blunders or frothy financing? Holler at your girls: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE SUN SOMETIMES SETS ON THE AOL EMPIRE Multiple sources have told Betabeat that AOL Ventures plans on shutting down QLabs–the press-shy experimental think tank in Soho located at 670 Broadway. “The time frame must be darn near immediate,” one source told Betabeat, alluding to some urgency around winding down existing projects. “It’s dead,” said a source with indirect knowledge of the decision. “Their funding ran out,” the second source added, speculating that the initiative had a set funding size, but “nothing yielded.”
Planet Daily, the video startup from Ken Lerer, is putting some of that $5 million in venture money to work with a big hire. Poytner reports that the would-be “CNN killer” has poached the Washington Post‘s executive director of digital news, Katharine Zaleski, to serve as managing editor.
From the email that went around the Post:
After two and a half years inspiring and leading digital change here at The Post, Katharine Zaleski is returning to New York to take on a new role as managing editor of a startup media venture under the working name, “Planet Daily”. The idea is to build a 24-hour video channel for the mobile and social web. For Katharine, it’s a chance to get her old band back together: her key partners in the new project were her associates at The Huffington Post, Ken Lerer and Eric Hippeau.
Are Mr. Lerer and Mr. Hippeau indeed getting the old band back together? We reached out to Lerer Ventures, but they had no comment.
Do the guys over at Soho Tech Labs ever sleep? It would appear that the answer is no. Not only are they busy incubating social home exchange service CasaHop, which soft launches this week, but they’re also working on a video news startup aimed at the “Jon Stewart set.” Today, RebelMouse CEO and ex-HuffPo CTO Paul Berry told Business Insider that the previously-unnamed video startup has been giving a working title: Planet Daily.
Huffington Post cofounder Ken Lerer is apparently at work on a stealthy startup aimed to “attract a generation of Web natives who watch Jon Stewart but not CNN or Fox News,” reports Peter Kafka at AllThingsD. Internet locals who love Jon Stewart and loathe cable news . . . wait, is he talking about Betabeat??
The startup is so stealth it doesn’t even have a name yet, although it’s already hiring. The service will function as a joint venture between Lerer Ventures, Mr. Lerer’s seed stage VC firm, and Bedrocket Media Ventures, the video studio and incubator he cofounded shortly after selling HuffPo to AOL for a cool $315 million.
Soho TechLabs, the fledgling startup incubator formed by several Huffington Post refugees, announced via an inaugural tweet today that they’re recruiting early founders and employees. The company, backed by Lerer Ventures, was originally announced in Ad Age in January; it will be lead by a team of ex-Huffpoers, including founders Paul Berry, Jonah Peretti and Ken Lerer, as well as former Huffington Post president Greg Coleman. As we previously reported, the new incubator will be housed at 560 Broadway, the current home of Lerer Ventures.