startup rundown

Startup News: Ev Williams Hires a Literary Darling and Branch Finally Lets You Bro Out

Mr. Williams (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

Power Literary Hire: Twitter cofounder Ev Williams’s new publishing tool, Medium, just added an impressive member to its team. Kate Lee, a former literary agent from International Creative Management (ICM), has joined Mr. Williams’s startup as the director of content. Ms. Lee was responsible for plucking several bloggers out of obscurity and giving them book deals. The Observer announced her leave from ICM back in April. In a blog post on the site, Mr. Williams described her job as “encouraging, soliciting, commissioning, and contextualizing interesting ideas, authors, and institutions” and noted that she would be building a small team in New York to help her do that.

Branch Finally Lets You Hang Out With Your Friends: Branch, the social conversations site, just launched a groups feature yesterday. In an email to Betabeat, Branch cofounder Josh Miller described it as “Branch’s equivalent of a Follow button.” The idea was inspired by the conversations that people have at dinner parties, in which smaller groups form to discuss topics that they care about. On Branch, these groups can be added into a conversation. Branch’s example site includes a group featuring Mr. Miller, Medium’s Ev Williams, John Borthwick from Betaworks, Michael Sippey from Twitter and Facebook’s Sam Lessin. These groups have a possibility to create Bloods and Crips-like warfare in tech. Choose sides wisely. Read More

After the Storm

Techie Do-Gooders: How NYC Startups are Helping the Sandy Relief Effort

Screenshot_2012-11-01-22-35-41

Given recent events, Betabeat decided to forego our Rumor Roundup this week for a roundup of all the things startups are doing to help get New York back to normal following Hurricane Sandy.

It didn’t take long for New York startups and techies to spring into action after Hurricane Sandy left parts of our fine city without power, water, shelter, or Wifi.

On Tuesday, we pointed you to New York Tech Meetup and New Work City’s attempts to mobilize tech-savvy volunteers to help local businesses and organizations get networks and websites up and running. Today, NYTM put out an official call to its 28,000 members, asking for more volunteers and taking requests (online or by phone/text 646-392-7353) from government agencies, small businesses, non-profits, and schools that need help anything from data recovery to Internet connectivity to getting servers back online.

Noel Hidalgo, one of the lead volunteers of that effort, has been manning an uber-useful Sandy Coworking map of offices space for displaced techies. And New Work City founder Tony Bacigalupo, has pretty much morphed into Silicon Alley’s Cory BookerRead More

Do It For Me

Zaarly Showcases Skills for Hire with the Launch of Zaarly Storefronts

Has baby, will conference. (Photo: BoFishback.com)

When Bo Fishback dropped by the Betabeat offices last December, the 9 million foot tall Zaarly cofounder told us how he had just added 1,250 New York-based small businesses to his burgeoning peer-to-peer local marketplace. That way, service providers like graphic designers and fitness instructors could use Zaarly almost as a lead generation engine for new opportunities nearby.

But from a consumer’s perspective, it wasn’t necessarily obvious whether a trained chef, say, would be responding to your request for a home cooked dinner, or just a neighbor with a beat up copy of the Momofuku cook book. Read More

Smooth Criminals

Records Point to Credit Card Fraud by Silicon Swindler Shirley Hornstein

Ms. Hornstein (Photo: Facebook)

This week, the world was introduced to Shirley Hornstein: an ersatz entrepreneur who Photoshopped and name-dropped her way through Silicon Valley. For at least a year and a half, Ms. Hornstein has been trading on flimsily fabricated connections to powerful tech investors, startups, and celebrities–always depending, as TechCrunch first reported, on the optimism of strangers.

“She told people she had the authority to approve up to a $1 million investment from Founders Fund. That was her line,” an investor from Los Angeles who recently moved to San Francisco told Betabeat, recounting the time Ms. Hornstein cajoled a pair of young entrepreneurs into pitching her on a Saturday, convincing them on Sunday that she had already heard back from the board with good news.

The fact that Ms. Hornstein’s roommate was TechCrunch community manager Elin Blesener also helped “legitimize her,” the same investor added. Read More

startup rundown

Startup News: Shop ‘Local’ Edition

(flickr.com/nataliemaynor)

Shop ‘til you drop Shopkick—a location-based shopping app which rewards shoppers for walking into stores and interacting with products—has just announced a partnership with Macy’s. As of last week, customers at Macy’s more than 800 brick-and-mortar U.S. locations can now earn rewards and receive exclusive offers whenever they walk into a store, which was made possible through a technology partnership with Mood Media. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.

Shopping, continued Local startups Local Response and ShopLocal are teaming up to combine the former’s real-time intent monitoring system and the latter’s SmartCircular API—which will generate mobile-based incentives for in-store customers, including coupons, loyalty rewards and discounts. (Which sounds a lot like Shopkick, if you ask us.) ShopLocal’s promotional services are already used by retailers like Target, Best Buy, Home Depot, Staples, CVS and Searswhich isn’t exactly what we’d expect from such a seemingly obvious name, but there you have it. Read More

Do It For Me

Zaarly Moves Its NYC Office to San Francisco, CEO Says It’s ‘Mostly Just Temporary’ [UPDATED]

Back in December, Bo Fishback, CEO of the peer-to-peer marketplace Zaarly, which lets you buy and sell products and services from the people around you, told Betabeat that Zaarly planned to grow its presence in New York City from two full-time employees up to 10 or possibly 30 new staffers.

For the Kansas City-based company, which has raised $15.1 million in a little over a year since it launched, it was a signal of how important New York was both as a market and testing ground. “We hope to learn what we need to know from the New York community to help us go to scale in other cities,” Mr. Fishback told us at the time, along with the news that local staff would be moving into Marc Ecko’s building at 40 West 23rd Street. Mr. Ecko is an investor, along with Ashton Kutcher, Michael Arrington, Crunchfund, and Kleiner Perkins.

But earlier today Betabeat was informed that Zaarly was closing down its New York office. “I’ve heard it’s gone,” said a source. Mr. Fishback confirmed the news, but said it was, “not really intended to be a big deal, and mostly just temporary moves,” he responded by email. Read More

Do It For Me

TaskRabbit Acquires SkillSlate For an Undisclosed Sum [Updated]

Sorry, Chad, we're now using your photo for all TaskRabbit news.

Once upon a time in a real-time peer-to-peer marketplace, an auction-based website for local skills met an auction-based platform for local tasks, fell in love and got acquired! At least that’s how TaskRabbit and SkillSlate might tell it to their grandkids. That is if this outsourcing your dirty work business catches on.

This morning, TaskRabbit, the San Francisco-based company that helps users find nearby “Rabbits” to do unwanted tasks officially announced that it had acquired SkillSlate, a New York-based company that helps users find people with skills they need, such as fire breathing and personal chefery. Combined they hope to form a national “service network.”

Neither startup is currently disclosing the acquisition price. But reached by email earlier this morning, SkillSlate co-founder and CEO Bartek Ringwelski told us: “Let’s just say the last few months have been busy.  I think I may even have hinted about consolidation in the market when we talked a couple months ago :-)” Read More

the startup rundown

Startup News: Startup Crawl and CES

makerbot industries

STARTUP CRAWL. Hosted by out-of-towner Zaarly, Adaptly, Spotify, Unigo and Vayner Media are on the agenda. “It’s like a bar crawl, but with startup offices instead of bars.  Each startup will host our group of developers, designers, entrepreneurs and other startups in their office for 45 minutes or so until we move on to the next stop.” Tomorrow starting at 5:45 p.m.

WINNING. Skillshare is giving away a year’s TED Live membership ($995)! “You get… Virtual seats at both TED and TED Global conferences. Year-round online community access. TED Books yearlong subscription & a new Kindle Fire,” says Skillshare. “This is the warmup for all the stuff coming out over the next couple of months,” said CEO Mike Karnjanaprakorn, a 2012 TED fellow.

VEGAS BABY. New York is headed to CES, and Makerbot, at least, is going to be alllll over it. “MakerBot Industries, creator of the Thing-O-Matic 3D printer and Thingiverse.com will be there showing off something extra awesome, and we’d love for you to stop by our booth and check it out!” MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis is scheduling interviews now for the full-court press; the 3D printing startup is also hosting a party on Jan. 11. Read More

Do It For Me

TaskRabbit Picks Up a $17.8 M. Series B—and a Vote of Confidence for the Do-It-For-Me Economy

Chad Miller, actor, writer, Rabbit

At midnight on Tuesday, TaskRabbit, the real time peer-to-peer marketplace that lets you outsource your dirty work to nearby “Rabbits,” announced that it raised a eye-popping $17.8 million series B round led by LightSpeed Ventures, the Sand Hill Road firm that also backed DoubleClick.

How thoughtful of TaskRabbit! Now Zaarly doesn’t have to be the only player in the do-it-for-me market with funding in the tens of millions. (In October, Zaarly announced a $14 million round led by Kleiner Perkins.) Betabeat recently profiled both firms in a feature about the rise of the convenience economy. Read More

Do It For Me

Meet Shpoonkle, The Online Marketplace for Unemployed Lawyers

Time to weigh your options

Besides having the most amazingly made-up name we have seen in a while, Shpoonkle is an interesting addition to the new crop of startups focused on creating a peer to peer online marketplace. Betabeat’s Nitasha Tiku just did a big report on the convenience economy fueled by companies like TaskRabbit and Zaarly. Schpoonkle is also looking to match supply and demand, but with a focus on the growing number of unemployed law school graduates. Read More