The Third Degree

The Third Degree

Q&A with Avner Ronen About Boxee’s New Live TV Feature and Why, For the First Time, It’s a Real ‘Alternative to Cable’

Can you hear that? The sound of a thousand cords cut.

About a week ago, a GigaOm writer Janko Roettgers stumbled across something big: an integration that would allow anyone who owns a Boxee Box to watch live broadcast TV over the device without having to switch back-and-forth between inputs.

Now, Boxee is finally prepared to speak about the feature. In January, the company will start selling a USB dongle that transforms the antenna on the Boxee Box into a tuner to capture free over-the-air HD TV signals from channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. The dongle is a one-time cost of $49 and the company is currently taking pre-orders.

So that’s a little more expensive than your typical digital converter box, which also lets you get free live broadcast TV. But you get some special social juice with Boxee, plus everything in one unit with one remote control.

Betabeat spoke to Boxee founder and CEO Avner Ronen yesterday about why he thinks this could be a tipping point in getting consumers to cut–or at least shave–the cord. Read More

The Third Degree

White-House-Approved Gen Y Seed Fund Helps Entrepreneurs from the 99 Percent With Student Loans

Mr. Gerber

Yesterday a new $10 million early stage seed investment fund called Gen Y Capital Partners launched out of its home base in New York City.

Its no coincidence that the White House’s announcement about easing student loan burdens for entrepreneurs came on the same day. After all part of Gen Y Capital’s business plan, which gets name-checked in the White House release, leverages the recently-reformed Income-Based Repayment plan to help startup founders pay off their student loans. Yup, you read that right. Pay off, not defer.

Betabeat talked to Gen Y founder Scott Gerber, author of Never Get a “Real” Job and founder of the non-profit Young Entrepreneur Council, about how student loans play into entrepreneurship and why Gen Y can help the 99 percent. Read More

The Third Degree

David Liu on Knewton’s $33 M. Round From Founder’s Fund: ‘We’re Taking All the Dirty Work Out of Teaching’

Mr. Liu

Yesterday Knewton, the Union Square-based online education startup, announced a $33 million Series D round led by Founder’s Fund, the VC firm co-founded by Peter Thiel. That might explain why Betabeat heard Mr. Thiel’s fellow co-founders Ken Howery and Luke Nosek were throwing a pre-game party Friday night in New York.

Existing investors Accel, Bessemer and FirstMark also participated in the round, along with Pearson, an education publisher, putting Knewton’s valuation higher than $150 million, according to TechCrunch. Another New York City-based education startup, 2Tor (get it??), raised $32.5 million earlier this year. But what sets Knewton apart is the adaptive learning algorithm the company developed, which figures out student’s weakness and can be applied to any type of curriculum.

Indeed, after trying its platform out in test prep, Knewton is now being used by all 10,000 incoming freshman at Arizona State for an online math readiness course.

Betabeat talked to COO David Liu about why Knewton isn’t making teachers obsolete, how its adaptive learning algorithm works, why Mr. Thiel would invest in an education startup and why Mr. Liu thinks Knewton is, basically, going to take over the world of personalized education. Read More

The Third Degree

Exclusive: Shake Up and Resignations at Uber’s New York Office, CEO Travis Kalanick Explains

Lone Ranger? Image via NextGen

Betabeat just learned that Uber’s three-person New York office, which opened four months ago, has already weathered a couple big staffing shake-ups. Both New York general manager Matthew Kochman and New York community manager James Aviaz have resigned. The San Francisco startup, which has picked up a total of $12.5 million in in financing, lets users request car service (in the case of New York, a black towncar) by texting your pickup location or inputting it into an iPhone or Android app. On the eve of Uber’s launch in Chicago tomorrow, we talked to CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick about the state of Uber’s rollout in New York and how these resignations will affect its efforts. Read More

The Third Degree

Quidsi Co-Founder Marc Lore on What Happens After Amazon Buys Your Company and His New Site

Mr. Bharara and Mr. Lore (right) via

If you’ve seen the ads for (cosmetics) and (pet care). sends you stuff you don’t have time to pick up from the drug store.

It’s e-commerce play in an app economy that may be more closely associated with the dotcom era, except, you know, with much better margins. Quidsi, launched by friends Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara, is also known for its Zappos-rivaling customer service and rapid-fire delivery times, a particular obsession of Mr. Lore’s. That might be why Amazon, which owns Zappos, purchased Quidsi for $545 million last November. Read More

The Third Degree

Brooklyn’s Own Sweetens Its SoundCloud Deal for Members Like Weezer and T-Pain


Dumbo-based startup was already a few months into its partnership with SoundCloud, the white-hot Berlin-based music storage startup, when Tumblr decided to jump on the SoundCloud love train apparently rolling through New York. But at the SF Music Summit today, co-founder Mike More announced he was sweetening the deal on his app, currently one of the most popular offerings in SoundCloud’s App Gallery.

For the uninitiated, is a social media recommendation tool that helps acts like Diddy, Akon, and Maroon 5, all of which have signed up for its service, to connect to new fans with a simple proposition: letting one artist recommend another to its fans on Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace (yeah, yeah, we know, but music was the only thing it was ever good for). Read More

The Third Degree

Percolate: ‘A Curation Engine That Tells You What to Blog [Or Talk!] About’


Yesterday, Betabeat friend and neighbor Kat Stoeffel told you about, a new Reuters blog that, in short, teaches you “to read like Felix Salmon.” The site, which features the most relevant and talked about articles from Mr. Salmon’s Twitter and Google Reader, is powered by Percolate, a seven-person East Village startup co-founded by Noah Brier, former head of strategic planning at Barbarian Group, and Federated Media vet James Gross.

Betabeat talked to Mr. Brier about why Percolate hasn’t tapped the local froth in the venture market, whether the Barbarian offices are coming down with startup fever, and why no one looks at Twitter anymore. Read More

The Third Degree

4 Chan Vet ‘Chelsea M.’ Says Author Cole Stryker Glossed Over Child Porn

Seriously Cole. Why?

Shortly after publishing our interview with author Cole Stryker about his upcoming book, Epic Win for Anonymous: How 4chan’s Army Conquered the Web, Betabeat received messages — via Twitter, Facebook, our work email, our personal email, and in the comments — from a man who claimed to be part of the hacker group Anonymous requesting to speak on the phone.

The source, who goes by the pseudonym Chelsea M. and tweets under the handle IJournalismBlog, emailed us both the home address of Mr. Stryker and this reporter. “No threat to you, just a demonstration,” he wrote.

In our interview, Mr. Stryker mentioned being unsettled that IBJ tweeted out his apartment number. After our interview went live, Mr. M tweeted Mr. Stryker’s full home address.

We spoke to Mr. M., on the phone yesterday afternoon about his qualms with Mr. Stryker’s book, which won’t be released until next week, and why he believes it will not accurately reflect Anonymous or 4chan. After we got off the phone, we asked Mr. M. to demonstrate his Anonymous bona fides by tweeting from an established account, he emailed back, “Anon twitter accounts do not represent the views of Anonymous any more than a man chalking his inane ramblings on the street.”

If nothing else, our conversation will make you rethink your Facebook settings.

Nitasha Tiku: Before we get started, can I ask how you got my address? Read More

The Third Degree

Author of New 4Chan Book Talks About Moot, the Memesphere, and What Happens When They Find Your Apartment Number


When Betabeat first met Cole Stryker on the roof of the Barbarian Group this summer, the very tall, very blond young man was recounting the story of how he and ex-Valleywager Nick Douglas used to try to out-gross each other with images from 4chan’s /b/ board. But it wasn’t just for the lulz, Mr. Stryker’s fixation with 4chan and Anonymous also carried into the workplace, where he amassed a collection of posts on the community’s mayhem and malwebolence for Urlesque.

The publishing world took note and next week, the 27-year-old Mr. Stryker will release his first book: Epic Win for Anonymous: How 4chan’s Army Conquered the Web. Naturally Betabeat wanted to know more. But before we could ask him a question, Mr. Stryker had something to report …

“They found out where I live. He tweeted me my apartment number!”

Are you serious?

I’m like freeeeeeeaking out. [laughs] Read More