the startup rundown
Million Dwolla Baby
SHUTTER. Luminance is not your average photography conference. Instead of focusing on the latest gear, this two-day program will bring together experts at the forefront of the technology we use to create, manipulate and share our images. Among the speakers are Behance founder Scott Belsky, Hipstamatic cofounder Lucas Allen Buick, Google’s Chris Chabot, Pulitzer prize winning photographer Barbara Davidson, Tumblr
CEO president John Maloney, Facebook Photos engineer Srinivas Narayanan and the School of Visual Art’s David Ross. All speakers will present a 20-minute TED-style lecture.
TOE, HEEL, TOE, HEEL. What Not to Wear‘s Stacy London is the cofounder of a just-launched site that aims to connect personal stylists with the stylistically clueless. Style For Hire stylists will perform a “closet audit,” provide personal shopping services or create new outfits out of clothes a customer already has—that’s called closet shopping. Now women who aren’t lucky enough to be on the show can still have their closets—and lack of fashion sense—torn apart, but without the benefit of a judgmental, national audience.
The Third Degree
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.
Meet Your Maker
Earlier this week, 10gen, the promising AlleyCorp startup launched by DoubleClick cofounder Dwight Merriman, announced a new partnership with an eye toward helping developers who work with big data and cloud technologies. The boost in market share probably doesn’t hurt either.
10gen both develops and sponsors the open source NoSQL database MongoDB, which is used by companies as diverse as Foursquare, SecondMarket, and Bit.ly on up to MTV, Intuit, and Disney.
On Monday, 10gen revealed that Mongo will be partnering with Red Hat, a software provider focused on larger enterprise clients that crossed the billion dollar revenue mark—the first for an open source company—in March. As Seeking Alpha notes today, the Mongo connection puts Red Hat “on a collision course with the toughest guys in tech, Oracle.”
Betabeat recently talked to 10gen CTO and cofounder Eliot Horowitz, who’s been known to freestyle on tech topics for eager 10gen staffers, about the Red Hat partnership, how Mongo started attracting big name clients, and 10gen’s plans to hire 100 people this year, announced shortly after the company picked up $20 million from Sequoia and Union Square Ventures.
Things To Do When You're Drunk
Shapeways, the Dutch 3D printing startup that moved out to New York after a $5.1 million investment from Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures, has been on a steady crusade to introduce the future-facing practice of 3D-printing to the mainstream.
After a year in New York, the Esty of 3D printing, which makes it easy for people to create and sell their own designs on its open source 3D printers, got that hockey stick growth on its way to becoming the factory behind a growing maker community. (MakerBot is also a fan.)
Today, the company announced its first U.S. distribution center, a 5,000 sq. ft. facility in Long Island City in Queens with a nearby factory in the range of 15,000 sq. ft. to follow. Betabeat talked to Kegan Fisher, Shapeways’s director of industrial engineering, about the particular challenges of building out production and shipping for a company that processes hundreds of thousands of completely unique items on demand.
(We have it on good authority from one of her coworkers that in addition to being a “serious rockstar” in the office, Ms. Fisher also “wears the coolest heels” in New York.)
There are a whole lot of ways you can cultivate a great startup idea–hiring talented team members, learning to master the pivot with poise, and scoring a hefty round of funding are just a few. But what’s another popular way to hit on a moneymaking idea and embrace the fearlessness needed to pursue it? Get drunk. Really drunk.
Million Dwolla Baby
The proprietors of a major Bitcoin exchange have filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California alleging that racketeering, intentional misrepresentation, false advertising, breach of contract and other violations by payments startup Dwolla have cost them at least $2 million in damages, with the final amount to be decided by the court.
The plaintiff is TradeHill, a Bitcoin currency exchanger based in San Francisco and Chile that was at one time the second-largest processor of Bitcoin currency trades, but which recently shut down. The shutdown was largely due to losses sustained because of “chargebacks” or payments that cleared and then were rescinded by Dwolla, said TradeHill cofounder Jered Kenna, although other reasons were given at the time.
“We’ve been trying to resolve this for eight, nine months and they ignored all communication,” Pierre G. Basmaji, the Santa Monica-based attorney for TradeHill, told Betabeat by phone. “I have no idea why. I think… they don’t know how to handle it and were just hoping we would go away.”
Dwolla did not respond to requests for comment. UPDATE, 6:13 p.m.: Dwolla just released a statement.
Power to the prairie! That Union Square Ventures-led funding we reported on for investor darling Dwolla—the startup of the 700 name spreadsheet—is indeed happening. (Albeit for $5 million instead of the $10 million we expected.) Village Ventures, Thrive Capital, Marc Ecko of Artists & Instigators and angel investor Paige Craig participated.
Dwolla is doing a million dollars a day in transactions, CEO Ben Milne said in the announcement, and will use the money to build a payments network (a la Visa) that will use the power of the Internet to circumvent normal electronic payment processing fees.
Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures and Alexis Ohanian of Reddit, Breadpig, Hipmunk and Google+ are headed to Washington to testify as witnesses for an “Oversight Hearing on DNS and Search Engine Blocking” on Jan. 18 called by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a fierce opponent of the Stop Online Piracy Act and a cosponsor of the similar but completely different Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act. Of SOPA, he’s said: “Butchering the internet is not a way forward for America.”
SOPA allows for Hollywood, record labels and other intellectual property holders to cut off U.S. users’ access to the servers hosting the bad content. That happens by basically removing the DNS entry for the infringing site. The law also applies to sites that link to infringing sites, which would give search engines a primary spot on the collateral damage list.
Opponents have pinpointed DNS and search engine blocking as failure points of the legislation. We know SOPA is bad because it counteracts the protection from user-submitted content made sacred by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, a law whose protections are credited for much of the innovation on the web. But DNS—the protocol and registry that translates natural language domain names into IP addresses—is a little more technical, so Betabeat asked New York tech godfather Anil Dash who helped Betabeat out with an explanation.
BE SEEN WITH CAFFEINE
3D printing shop Shapeways’ New York production facility—Imagine that! Modern-day manufacturing right here in NYC!—won’t be open until the second quarter of next year. In the meantime, however, the Etsy of 3D printing decided to celebrate its first anniversary of working on Madison Park by showing Betabeat some go-go numbers.
Coffee Shop (Will M.
, foursquare.com) vs. Friend of a Farmer (Fred W.
The Coffee Shop in Union Square, located on the bustling corner of 17th St. and Union Square West, is famous for several things: the waitresses are models, it turns into a Brazilian dance club on the weekends, was voted Best Bar for Modelizers in the Village Voice, and New York says it boasts a “high risk of poor service and unpleasant encounters with attitudinal (but often pretty) people” but praised the crayons and puzzle place mats for kids. This noisy, WiFi-less den is famous for something else within the tight-knit community of Silicon Alley: it serves as the de facto meeting place for VCs and founders such as Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson and IA Ventures’ Roger Ehrenberg. “Pitch your startup to First Round Capital here. They’re right across the street,” says the Foursquare tip left by Charlie O’Donnell.