Exit This Way
The Future of the Ebook
Earlier today, serial entrepreneur and investor Chris Dixon made it official. The cofounder of SiteAdvisor (acquired by McAfee) and Hunch (acquired by eBay), who invests both personally and through Founder Collective, will be decamping our fair city for sunnier shores to join Andreessen Horowitz as the Sand Hill Road powerhouse’s seventh general partner. We spoke with Mr. Dixon by phone shortly after the announcement was made to find out what it means for the many ventures he’s involved in here (like eBay’s massive new Flatiron R&D lab, which is slated to house 200 developers and data scientists).
Don’t hold your breath for an East Coast outpost, as cofounder Marc Andreessen emphasized earlier, his is a “single office firm.” In fact, based on the tenor of our questions, Amy Grady, a representative from Andreessen Horowitz who was also on the call, wanted to assure us Mr. Dixon’s hire was about more than just geography. “We didn’t hire Chris just because of New York. It’s a huge bonus, he’s obviously really tapped in, but if we find an entrepreneur with a great idea in Idaho, we’ll invest!”
Silicon Prairie, start your pitch decks.
An under-the-radar local startup named Oyster has raised a $3 million seed round, GigaOm reports, led by Founders Fund. Other backers include SV Angel, Founder Collective, Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital, Chris Dixon, Sam Altman and others. But despite the foodie-friendly name, the company has other designs–namely, to feed you books to read on your iPhone.
As cofounder Eric Stromberg explained to Betabeat via email, “Simply put, we are building the best way to read books on your phone, and we think we accomplish that through the subscription model,” he added.
Location Location Location
A few weeks ago, The Observer first broke the news that eBay closed a deal for the entire third floor of 625 Avenue of the Americas at 18th Street to use it as an outpost for Hunch, the recommendation engine that eBay purchased last November. The company finally made the announcement official today and the Read More
Last June, Flickr and Hunch cofounder Caterina Fake announced that she had raised $2 million from investors like New York’s Founder Collective, True Ventures and SV Angel with an emphasis on consumers and social. If you’ll recall, in November of 2010, Ms. Fake left Hunch, a New York City-based startup she cofounded with Chris Dixon to build a “taste graph” of the Internet, rather abruptly. Speculation was that Hunch’s pivot—away from a consumer destination site towards a platform to power other sites (it was acquired by eBay last November)—was too far out of Ms. Fake’s wheelhouse. “The things I’m good at are building communities, participatory media, places where people contribute things of their own making,” she blogged at the time. Mr. Dixon chalked it up to a “founder-market fit;” other people had other ideas.
Regardless new startup Pinwheel, which launched out of private beta last night, seems to fit her comfort zone. The app lets users “find and leave notes all around the world.” The notes, which are pinned on a specific location on a map, can be both private or shared with an individual or group, as well as organized into sets.
For example, “Every place that you told me that you loved me, circa 2008″ (one of the potential sets Ms. Fake offers) you might want to keep private. Whereas “Find me a Nearby Toilet NOW,” (another example from Ms. Fake) might be a question you pose to a group. There is, of course, a social networking element, with the opportunity to follow both friends and sets:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a shortcoming more embarrassing: startups in New York City have trouble getting a reliable high speed internet connection. Major parts of Manhattan are served by only one provider, and for most startups that is Time Warner–the company described by comedian Eugene Mirman as “managed like an ill-run Soviet factory.”
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.”
Know Me Know Me
After raising just shy of $20 million in venture funding, Hunch will now reportedly be purchased by Ebay for $80 million. Ebay will use Hunch to power its recommendations. Hunch cofounder Chris Dixon will take over the 50-person recommendations team and start a new office in New York that is expected to quadruple in size.
Apples and Androids
One of Netflix’s big selling points over the years has been its ability to recommend films its users will like, to the point where the company gave away a $1 million prize to the team of scientists who could improve its taste graph by 10 percent.
But let’s say you’re one of the 810,000 people who quit Netflix over the last quarter. You could always go back to your local video store (just kidding! It’s closed). Or rebuild your taste graph by spending years watching films on a new service, like you did with Netflix, coming to know one another like trusting lovers, finally able to admit to yourself that yes, you love romantic foreign dramas with a comedic touch.
Tech Talent Crunch
The taste ninjas at Hunch sent over this snazzy infographic laying out some of the differences they found between folks who own smarphones with Google’s Android operating system and those who prefer Apple’s flagship phones and tablets running iOS. As the proud owner of the original Motorola Droid (Read More
Its hard to attract great coding talent in Silicon Alley. Hunch threw together this rocking video. Devs give testimonials about how everyone is so cool and laid back. Hunch’s VP of Engineering Tom Pickney explains that if they weren’t getting paid to come program at Hunch, staffers would probably just be kicking back in a Read More