Posts Tagged ‘silicon-valley’

Yahoo Paid $60M to $70M for Rockmelt — Will Dump Browser and Use Tech to Better Deliver Its Media and Mobile Properties

August 2, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

According to sources close to the situation, Yahoo paid $60 million to $70 million for social browser startup Rockmelt , with an aim of using its technology to turbocharge its myriad of media and mobile properties. The ambitious startup had not gained as much traction with its desktop browser as had been hoped since it launched several years ago to much attention, but it is hoped a link with the Silicon Valley Internet giant will give it a new energy. Sources said that Rockmelt has been focusing its attention of late on its mobile efforts and this engineering will become part of Yahoo’s own efforts in the area. The deal is not exactly a win for investors, who pumped close to $40 million into what was essentially a moonshot effort to compete via differentiation with browser powerhouses, including Google Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Rockmelt’s funders included a panoply of big names in venture and also angel investing, such as Accel Partners, Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Bill Campbell, First Round Capital and Ron Conway. But the acquisition does land a very gifted tech team at Yahoo, which is in need of more such talent. In the deal, its founders — ex-Netscape team member Tim Howes and former OpsWare employee Eric Vishria — will become key execs in the effort, with Howes running engineering for all its mobile products and Vishria becoming a VP for media products across Yahoo. As Mike Isaac just reported , Yahoo announced that it had acquired Rockmelt, a startup which aimed to reinvent the way users browse the Web through a host of social features. “The parallels between Yahoo! and Rockmelt are obvious: we share a common goal to help people discover the best personalized content from around the web,” said Yahoo product heads Mike Kerns and Adam Cahan in a company blog post. Rockmelt was created by Howes and Vishria and was originally launched an entirely new desktop browser back in 2010 , a standalone app to combat the likes of Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox, among others. As Isaac noted, “the fledgling browser company seemed to face almost too many hurdles on all fronts, and failed to gain as widespread adoption in the browser market as it had hoped to.” Rockmelt plans to shut down its existing apps at the end of August, the company said. That’s a far cry from Rockmelt’s once-lofty ambitions.

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Yahoo Plans Splashy New San Francisco Digs (and Dreams of Neon Billboard’s Return)

July 26, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images News According to multiple sources close to the situation, Yahoo is close to signing a lease for a splashy new San Francisco outpost to keep up with the fast growth of other Web companies that have opened high-profile offices here. Yahoo’s Mayer apparently is hoping for a big PR announcement of the space in San Francisco, much as she did with a recent news that the company was opening new digs in Times Square in Manhattan recently, in the former offices of the New York Times. Mayer apparently likes old media locations. While the company has been looking at a number of locations in an increasingly tight office real estate market in San Francisco, it has zeroed in on a large amount of space in the famed San Francisco Chronicle building at 5th and Mission Streets. That is now the location of Square, the high-profile online payments company which did a handsome redo of its office there. It is expected to vacate and move to an even swankier new space nearby by the end of September. It’s not clear if Yahoo has actually signed the lease there or how many floors it will take, but sources said that the deal is in advanced stages. Yahoo, whose main headquarters are in Sunnyvale, Calif. in the heart of Silicon Valley, already has a large location in San Francisco that houses several hundred sales, engineering and other employees over three floors. But it is located in a nondescript office tower in the duller financial district of the city and not in the more hip environs south of Market Street, which has seen a major renaissance over the last two years due to the opening of numerous Internet companies. That’s where companies like Twitter, Airbnb, Square and also many Sand Hill Road venture firms have built dramatic and highly designed offices. In addition, companies with existing big Silicon Valley campuses, such have Google, have also located fast-forward spaces in San Francisco. In fact, the search giant is apparently now dramatically expanding its footprint at its SF HQ in Morgan Stanley’s Hills Plaza building, which is right at the foot of the Bay Bridge on the city’s waterfront. As does Google, so copies Yahoo these days — from free food to trendy offices. In fact, sources said Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — who was a longtime Google exec — has been eager to up the company’s attractiveness to younger entrepreneurs, which includes providing appropriate urban digs within a stone’s throw to twee coffee roasters and ironic donut purveyors. There are, obviously, no molasses, Guinness-soaked pear donuts easily found in Sunnyvale.

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Trade Journalism

July 19, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Instead of trying to shame tech blogs into covering Silicon Valley more critically, let’s stop holding them to the standards of traditional journalism and start thinking of them instead as trade publications. [-- From a story in NYMag by Kevin Roose largely about TechCrunch and PandoDaily]

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With Sprint Deal Nearly Sealed, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son Is Getting Down to Business

July 8, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

With its deal to acquire control of Sprint and Clearwire almost complete, SoftBank head Masayoshi Son is looking forward to delivering on the promises he has made to shareholders. SoftBank says it now expects to close its investment in Sprint on Wednesday after receiving the last needed approvals from government regulators and shareholders. The move, which follows an intense battle with Dish Network , paves the way for the real work to begin. Clearwire shareholders approved that company’s deal to be swallowed up by Sprint, essentially putting both companies under SoftBank’s control. SoftBank will own 78 percent of Sprint — enough to put the carrier firmly in its control. The Japanese company plans to invest billions in the next two years to rapidly build Sprint’s high-speed LTE network as it seeks to catch up to larger rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. In an interview with Nikkei , Son also said that SoftBank and Sprint will open a joint research and development center in California, perhaps before the end of the year. SoftBank initially planned to give less to Sprint shareholders and invest a greater amount in the wireless operations, but rejiggered its bid last month as part of its effort to defeat the rival offer from Dish. It will “give birth to new technology in Silicon Valley, the center of Internet technology,” Son told the Japanese news agency. However, all of those billions will mean added debt for SoftBank, a concern that prompted Standard and Poor’s to cut SoftBank’s debt ratings on Monday to junk bond levels.

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Yahoo Acquires Xobni for Upward of $30 Million (Like ATD Said, Part 2)

July 3, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Yahoo said it has bought Xobni, as AllThingsD had previously reported it was planning to do. According to numerous sources close to the company, Yahoo paid $30 million to $40 million for the maker of address book apps and plugins. It is the second purchase this week by the Silicon Valley Internet giant of once-promising startups that have struggled to grow and could use a big boost. As ATD had also previously said it would, Yahoo bought Apple iPhone video app maker Qwiki earlier this week for about $50 million. In a blog post titled “Oohay,” which included a trying-hard-to-be-adorkable photo of the Xobni staff with Yahoo-branded stuff, the company said, “Did you ever meet someone who truly ‘gets’ you? That’s how we feel about Yahoo!.” Interestingly (and perhaps oddly), Qwiki’s acquisition announcement also had a romantic relationship meme, with big hearts. (By the by, Oohay is Yahoo spelled backward, keeping with the forced fun theme, while Xobni is inbox spelled backward. Apropos of nothing, Arak is Kara spelled backward.) Xobni said that support for its products would not be shuttered for one year , although “new purchases of premium products are no longer being accepted.” It also noted that it had moved its San Francisco staff to Yahoo’s Sunnyvale HQ. Obviously, the price Yahoo paid is below the more than $40 million raised by the startup from a variety of venture capitalists, including First Round Capital, Baseline Ventures and Khosla Ventures. Launched in 2008, Xobni received its initial round of funding in 2006 from Y Combinator.

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Mark Zuckerberg Leads 700 Facebook Employees in SF Gay Pride

June 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Two years ago, Facebook employees marched in San Francisco’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration with a contingent of about 70 employees and one jeep with a broken stereo. For this Sunday’s Pride parade, the company geared up to bring a team of 700 — more than 15% of its staff — a decorated trolley, and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, who is expected to march alongside his employees for the first time, the company said. Facebook’s bolstered presence at this year’s Pride reflects a larger push by some in Silicon Valley to champion gay rights in hiring practices, and even in their products Google is sending about 1,400 employees marching in San Francisco on Sunday, about 40% more than last year, according to a company spokeswoman. An Apple spokeswoman said a large group of employees will participate, though declined to provide specific details. Read the rest of this post on the original site »

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Washington Post Reveals New Details, Slides on PRISM Data Collection Program

June 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

The Washington Post has revealed a new set of slides regarding PRISM, the government program aimed at collecting information such as emails, photos, messages and voice call data from nine of the world’s largest Internet companies. The new set of slides — which come nearly one month after the original disclosure of the top-secret program by ex-N.S.A employee, whistleblower and now fugitive Edward Snowden — give greater insight into the inner workings of how the PRISM program operates. The slides include details on how an NSA analyst requests information from a particular company, the number of active surveillance targets in PRISM’s database, as well as the dates the Internet companies began participating in the project. Microsoft was the first company to participate with the PRISM program, according to the slides, beginning in September of 2007. In subsequent years, other Silicon Valley mainstays such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo joined as well. The slides come as technology companies over the past few weeks have scrambled to reassure the public that their compliance with the government were only in response to reasonable requests for specific users, reviewed and occasionally challenged by internal corporate legal counsel. As a result of being unable to defend themselves from an initial wave of public outcry and misinformation, companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft have pushed the government to allow for greater transparency in disclosures of governmental requests for user data. Read the full Washington Post report, complete with new slides, here .

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Kleiner, Pao Attorneys Continue Battle Over Discrimination Claims

June 19, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

The gender discrimination case against Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers continued to wend its way through the legal system Wednesday as attorneys for both sides argued over whether the case should be tried in open court. Former Kleiner Perkins Partner Ellen Pao sued Kleiner in May 2012 in San Francisco Superior Court over alleged multiple instances of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Read the rest of this post on the original site »

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Facebook Reaches Agreement With Feds to Allow Data Request Disclosures

June 15, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

After intense discussions and at the urging of Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley giants, the U.S. Government will allow Facebook and other tech companies to disclose some data on information requests made under national security laws, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), to the public, according to a release from Facebook on Friday evening. As a result, tech companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo and others will also be able to disclose numbers of government requests, sources said. Update 8:22 pm PST: Just a few hours later, Microsoft has also released aggregate numbers of data requests for the six months ending December 31st, 2012. The development comes on the heels of a massive week of privacy and security scandals surrounding former NSA employee Edward Snowden, who has released documents suggesting that the Silicon Valley giants had given the Federal Government access to their large, treasure troves of data via a formerly classified NSA program called PRISM. The levels of access and cooperation between tech giants and the government have been in dispute since the news first broke last week. But companies like Facebook and Google were somewhat hamstrung to defend themselves by existing legislation, which bars companies from even discussing whether or not they have been served with FISA requests in the first place

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Zynga’s Pincus: "None of Us Ever Expected to Face a Day Like Today"

June 3, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Here’s the tough-to-write blog post that Zynga CEO Mark Pincus just put up and also sent to the San Francisco gaming giant’s staff. The company just announced layoffs of 18 percent of the company and also lowered its second-quarter guidance. In it, the founder of what was once a rocket ship of a startup in Silicon Valley, Pincus appropriately began on a somber note: “Today is a hard day for Zynga and an emotional one for every employee of our company … None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth.” Indeed, the fall has been fast and hard for Zynga, as it struggles to cope with a massive consumer migration to mobile that happened faster than its management — or, to be fair, anyone in the Internet business — could cope with. Until now, its fast growth has been based on its Web business and flagship franchises such as FarmVille. But, as several sources noted and Pincus addressed in this note, Zynga must now get smaller again to get larger, doing little things really well rather than a lot of things at scale. “The scale that served us so well in building and delivering the leading social gaming service on the Web is now making it hard to successfully lead across mobile and multiplatform, which is where social games are going to be played,” he wrote. Zynga had made smaller cuts of five percent last fall, but the fall-off of its Web business — especially on the Facebook platform — was faster than anticipated, sources said. That business has been, as one person close to the situation, been “brittle,” and it broke more easily than expected. That is not to say there has not been some promise, in games such as Running With Friends and even at its flagship FarmVille, which is still a strong title. And Zynga now has 65 million mobile users. Pincus had been signaling more changes to come of late, trying to keep the company cash-flow positive, as he sought to rationalize costs. In the company’s last earnings call, he stressed that 2013 would be “transitional” for Zynga and has rejiggered its top management to better focus the efforts on mobile. Sources said that severance benefits will extend for several months and include some acceleration of stock options. Still, it is not a pretty day for Pincus, or for the staff of Zynga, showing a lot of hard-charging entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley the very steep downside of being a public company CEO in a much tougher and fast-changing environment. Here’s the full Pincus post and memo: To our Zynga Community, Today is a hard day for Zynga and an emotional one for every employee of our company. We are saying painful goodbyes to about 18% of our Zynga brothers and sisters. The impact of these layoffs will be felt across every group in the company. None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth. But I think we all know this is necessary to move forward.

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