Tinkerers

Inside the Press-Shy QLabs, AOL’s Great White Hope

AOL hopes to plant seeds with hip companies coming out of QLabs and AOL Ventures.

On Wednesday afternoon, Betabeat arrived at the arty brick headquarters where AOL’s startup alter egos, QLabs and AOL Ventures, take up an entire floor at Broadway and Great Jones in Soho. We were greeted by QLabs founder and hacker Chris Danzig, QLabs hacker Eric Skiff, and hacker-biz developer Michael E. Gruen. Everyone’s title is “hacker,” we were told. “We’re extremely flat,” Mr. Danzig said.

The hackers were having trouble controlling the temperature on what was a very humid day. The QLabs space is like the underbelly of the Titanic, with myriad chambers divided by arches and doors. “We have the AC, the heat on, and the windows open,” Mr. Danzig apologized, as we settled into a small conference room around a table made of reclaimed wood.

QLabs is an experimental think tank for the rapid prototyping of ideas on the web, one or more of which will hopefully become the next big AOL property. There are only seven hackers on the QLabs team, with about three more in support staff—but the corporation rented the entire floor with the foresight that it may one day be filled with thriving companies spun out of QLabs projects. Read More

5 Minute Pitches

New Web Series Spotlights New York Startups

Mr. Skiff (ericskiff.com)

Unless your company is driven by big-name investors, it can be difficult to get press coverage for your fledgling startup until you’ve raised a significant amount of funding or kicked up some controversy. At least that’s the theory behind 5in5NYC, a new web series from entrepreneurs Eric Skiff and Kunal Shah that spotlights some of New York’s most compelling budding companies. Read More

shameless rumormongering

Rumors & Acquisitions: Aol and the Labs, Turntable and the Labels, and Which Aviary Co-Founder Needs Your A/S/L?

rumormonger

LAME. The evil music labels are considering a lawsuit against Turntable.fm, according to a high-level source on the West Coast, but haven’t decided how to proceed. Meanwhile, Turntable lookalike Rolling.fm is knee deep in lawyers trying to figure out how to keep the service up outside the U.S.

MIXED MESSAGES. A couple weeks ago, Betabeat noticed that Skillshare founder Mike Karnjanaprakorn was out in San Francisco for the launch of Skillshare in that city. Had he picked up some cash while he was out there, we wondered? Skillshare raised $550,000 in January, which was made public in May, so the company certainly could have sustained its five employees on that–especially with MK’s militant lean start-up mindset and the bit of cash it’s getting from the website. So when Mr. Karnj said he hadn’t raised a new round, we said ‘Oh okay.’ But then we kept hearing, over the transom, that Skillshare has raised a fresh round. And they’re trying to fill up their sweet Soho office with a backend developer, community team and founder apprentice. Any insights? Drop us a tip. Read More