Saturday, August 31, 2013

FundingDream Aims to Reinvigorate Crowdfunding in China


Can a crowdfunding site succeed in China? If a new company can get the attention of a small percent of China's more than 1.4 billion people, the impact could be huge, and the revenue even bigger.

Still in private beta and launching in early December, FundingDream is an all-or-nothing setup resembling the Kickstarter model. Campaigns are funded and contributors charged only if they meet monetary goals

FundingDream will focus on socially conscious projects, businesses and charities, applying a 10% fee to collected funds (Kickstarter takes 5% of total raised funds when goals are met). Project creation or backing is open to anyone, as opposed to Kickstarter which just allows creators from the U.S., UK, and Canada (New Zealand and Australia are on the way). Read more...

More about China, Social Media, Business, Social Good, and Crowdfunding

from Mashable

LG announces the G Pad, an 8.3-inch, Android Jelly Bean-powered iPad rival; going worldwide Q4 2013

159136205 520x245 LG announces the G Pad, an 8.3 inch, Android Jelly Bean powered iPad rival; going worldwide Q4 2013

LG Electronics announced today the impending arrival of its G Pad 8.3 tablet, which will officially launch at IFA 2013 next week. The company revealed that the tablet will have an 8.3-inch display screen and run Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2. Unfortunately, while full specs for the device have been provided, we still do not know the price yet — that will be provided when it launches. However, we do know that it will be available worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2013.

LG G Pad 8.3 03201308302020377501 730x558 LG announces the G Pad, an 8.3 inch, Android Jelly Bean powered iPad rival; going worldwide Q4 2013

LG’s G Pad will come with a 1.7GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 Processor, 16GB worth of memory, 2GB of RAM, dual camera (5MP rear/ 1.3MP front), weigh 338 grams, and come in black or white.

The official announcement of the G Pad had been expected following the discovery of a YouTube ad on the company’s channel. It featured people talking about their experience with current tablet devices offering feedback like they want full HD picture quality, being able to connect to other devices, and that it not be a think device.

The electronic giant’s tablet is its latest G Series device that it hopes will successfully build on the launch of its G2 “superphone”. It touts four key items that it believes will entice consumers to try it out and buy one:

Smaller, thinner, better?
The G Pad has a 4600mAh battery and weighs just 338 grams. When you stack it against the iPad Mini, which boasts a somewhat comparable 7.9-inch display, the G Pad is actually heavier by 38 grams.

Full HD Display Tablet
Featuring a 1900 x 1200 display at 273 pixels per inch, consumers should find watching movies, playing games, and whatever else they do on the tablet to appear sharp and clear. LG has copied the same attribute that it included with its G Series devices. Compared to the iPad Mini, which has a 1024×768 resolution at 163 pixels per inch, LG seems to have the win in this category. But then again, this comes just days before Apple holds an event in San Francisco where some say that a new iPad is being announced (or maybe not).

Integration with QPair
LG has implemented a better integration with its QPair app. Through this unique piece of software, the company says that you can see incoming calls and messages. This is interesting in that, while you can’t actually take voice calls on the device, you could respond to them in texts:

QPair also allows the G Pad to easily connect to other manufacturers’ smartphone and tablets (Jelly Bean OS recommended). Notes created on the G Pad’s QMemo can be seamlessly saved into users’ smartphones and shared from either device.

However, one must wonder whether this is something that has already been done with services like Google Voice or even apps like TextPlus.

Better user experience for tablets
LG touts that the G Pad includes “real-life benefits” include multitasking with its “slide aside” feature (three-finger swipe), QSlide, which allows you to control up to three different apps without any interruption, and KnockOn, a feature that lets you turn the device on and off just by tapping on it twice.

LG G Pad 8.3 02201308302020377471 730x400 LG announces the G Pad, an 8.3 inch, Android Jelly Bean powered iPad rival; going worldwide Q4 2013

Okay, so here’s the important part: the tablet is not available yet — it will be sold worldwide starting in the fourth quarter in North America, Europe, and Asia, along with some other regions. It’s also still unclear whether this will be a WiFi only device or available on mobile carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, or Sprint.

Based on the specs and the information LG has provided us, does the G Pad appear to be interesting enough for people to buy? At this point, probably not — I’d rather use a Nexus 7 or a iPad Mini. But if the company demonstrates how the G Pad works with its other hardware devices to help create a connected home, then that might be worth checking out.

Photo credit: David Becker/Getty Images

from The Next Web Feed

Stealth Startup Fantex Wants To Make It Possible For Celebrities To IPO

photo (9)

If corporations can be people, why can’t people be corporations? A stealth startup called Fantex aims to allow celebrities and professional athletes to file for initial public offerings (IPOs).

The quoted text and screenshots in this article are from the Fantex app the company had launched in the iTunes app store on August 27, in what was an apparent beta test. Fantex removed the app yesterday after the company declined to comment for this story.

Fantex describes itself as “the world’s first marketplace that lets consumers invest real money in stocks linked to the value and performance of the brands of the world’s top athletes.”

And here’s the kicker: Fantex says “all tracking stocks are offered pursuant to a registration statement that has been filed with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).” A SEC filing from July shows the company was delivered a notice of effectiveness,  which is typically done when the company has filed to register for sales to the public (as Fantex is doing), but the documents that the SEC deemed effective for sale are not publicly available.

Fantex offers a disclaimer on the app that hints a bit at how the business on their end works:

“Each Fantex Inc. tracking stock is intended to track and reflect the separate economic performance of a specific brand contract that Fantex has signed with an athlete. However, holders of shares of a Fantex Inc. tracking stock will have no direct investment in that brand contract, associated brand or athlete. Rather, an investment in a tracking stock will represent an ownership interest in Fantex, Inc., as a whole. These tracking stocks are offered only through Fantex Brokerage Services (FBS). FBS cannot assure you as to the development or liquidity of any trading market for these stocks.”

This means there are two separate markets within Fantex. Fantex strikes deals with professional athletes who give up a certain percentage of their income (presumably over an allotted period of time, like the length of their active career) in exchange for the proceeds of the IPO.

Some screenshots of the app. Take numbers in these images, and the ones below, with a grain of salt, as some of them appeared to be placeholders (e.g. another player’s gross IPO Proceeds were penciled in for over $18 billion).

People can then buy shares of that player’s brand, like a stock, in the Fantex-consumer market. Presumably, if San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has a monster year and looks like he’s going to get a bigger endorsement deal or a larger contract in a few years, his stock would rise and a fan could sell their Davis stock and cash out with a real, monetary profit. People would own tracking or targeted stocks in Fantex that would depend on the specific brand that they choose; these stocks would then rise and fall based on their own performance, not on the overall performance of Fantex.

At the time of publication there were nine athletes, all NFL players, available for Fantex IPOs in the now-removed app, including high profile stars Arian Foster and Vernon Davis.

Dave Butz, the agent for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore, said he wasn’t sure if his client was working with Fantex. Representatives for the other eight players did not respond to multiple requests for comment before publication, so we’re not positive if these athletes have signed on with Fantex or if they are merely placeholders in the app. However, they would be incredibly random choices for placeholder players, as some are superstars, some are solid but unnoticeable players, and others are fighting for NFL roster spots (one is a free agent longsnapper). If they were merely placeholders, I’d assume the company would fill the app with more high profile, noticeable players.

While the app only features professional athletes right now,  we’re told the company has aspirations to expand from athletes to celebrities.

Player profiles show the performance of the brand’s stock on Fantex, as well as real world information about the player’s performance on the field, financial details, and news about them.

David Bierne, Buck French, and David Mullin founded the company. Bierne was a general partner at Benchmark Capital. French founded and served as CEO of OnLink, which sold to Siebel systems in 2000 for $609M. Mullin has been the CFO for a number of startups

The rest of the team has similarly impressive resumes, including a former CTO/COO of E*Trade, a former head of product management at Yahoo Finance, and a number of ex-Wall Street guys.

Put simply, this isn’t the pipe dream of a couple of 20-somethings who were watching the VMAs and thought, “man, wouldn’t it be cool if Miley Cyrus was a stock?”

Fantex’s board and advisors includes Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, former NBA sharpshooter (and Villanova MBA) Kerry Kittles, and Benchmark general partner Bruce Dunlevie, among others.

The startup has raised $13 million in equity funding, according to an SEC filing from February of this year. Unsurprisingly, sources say Benchmark was in on the round.

It looks like the app was put in the iTunes store as part of a semi-public beta the company is (was?) doing. While the company’s main website domain ( still points to a vague site that hints at a big project on the horizon and shows off the Fantex team, links in the app directed to

Besides being a fun place to short Amanda Bynes’ stock, Fantex will undoubtedly arouse a wide range of reactions to and questions about its implications for society.

For most athletes, joining Fantex probably isn’t a great idea. These are individuals who are already notoriously bad with their money, and they have very unique wealth management situations in which they earn massive sums of money over a very short career. Part of the reason many athletes have money problems is that they become accustomed to a lifestyle while they are earning millions per year that is unsustainable over their lifetimes. Giving up a percentage of their future earnings to get more cash even earlier is the opposite of what they should be doing.

For the buyers and sellers of the market, it may feel uncomfortable directly evaluating other humans as financial stocks. To be fair, this betting on people isn’t particularly new. Everything from the stock market to venture capital investing to sports betting relies heavily on individuals (whether they’re CEOs, founders, or quarterbacks) who have a disproportionate impact on organizations. We’ve even covered a startup, Upstart, that lets people raise capital in exchange for a share of their future income–very similar to Fantex. But the celebrities in Fantex’ app are fairly high profile – they’re stars who we already over-fetishize.

Soon, we won’t just be stalking athletes and celebrities out of our personal interests. We’ll be keeping a close eye on our business investments.

from TechCrunch

BlinkDrink App Will Turn Heads at the Bar


Looking for a new way to attract some attention at the bar? A new app called BlinkDrink can probably help — but it comes with some built-in risk

The iOS-only app lends some color to your nightlife by lighting your drink from below in neon hues, while blinking rhythmically. As the above video shows, it looks pretty sweet. There is, however, one obvious potential drawback: You, while possibly buzzed, are required to place a glass full of liquid on top of your dear old iPhone to get the desired effect

The app costs $0.99 in the App Store. Watch the video for more info, then let us know what you think in the comments Read more...

More about Apps, App, Drinks, Bar, and Alcohol

from Mashable

Because Walking Saves Lives, Mobilizer Inc. Is A Startup That's Aiming To Get Hospital Patients Moving

2b - The Solution - Mobilizer Freedom

For sedentary medical patients, one of the easiest ways to reduce the time of hospital stays and decrease the risk of complications like blood clots and pressure ulcers is simply to get up and walk around. But with medical equipment like oxygen tanks or IV drips in tow, it can take nurses up to 20 minutes to prepare a patient for ambulation, adding up to hundreds of hours of wasted time each week. This means that when patients are finally up and moving, some are only walked as far as their door before being sat back down.

Mobilizer Inc., a graduate of the ZeroTo510 medical device startup accelerator, created a six-wheeled holster for all of that medical equipment in order to make medical ambulation easier and faster. The carrier sits next to the patient’s bed so that only one attendant — rather than up to five — is needed to unplug it from the wall, release the brake, and get them moving.

Mobilizer, which launched in May, has raised $300,000 in funding from Innova Memphis and MB Venture Partners and plans to close another $400,000 in the coming year. CEO and co-founder James Bell said that so far Mass General Hospital and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center have purchased units, which cost a little under $5,000 apiece.

According to Bell’s projections, Mobilizer will be net cash flow positive by year’s end. The company has sold almost 100 units to date.

The proliferation of medical startups like Mobilizer offers an invaluable payoff: the possibility of finding ways to reduce the economic and personnel burdens on the hospital system. Medical tricorders like the Scanadu SCOUT and Teddy the Guardian, for instance, show potential to do so by putting diagnostic tools in consumers’ hands and therefore reducing the number of unnecessary visits to the doctor.

In the case of Mobilizer, getting patients’ blood flowing means turning over beds faster by speeding recovery rates, avoiding the cost of complications, and boosting staff efficiency.

Although medical tech companies often struggle to get FDA approval before they go to market, Mobilizer is a class 1 exempt service, meaning the clearance process requires proving a certain level of quality and paying a fee to register with the FDA.

Bell said that the plan is to create platforms for different hospital departments, tailoring the Mobilizers to their varying equipment needs. Outside of the hospital, it will be easy to scale into home care as well. And Mobilizer is looking to form partnerships with other medical tech companies.

“We are establishing relationships with other companies, for example with a portable ventilator company that mounts right on the Mobilizers really easily,” Bell said.

Mobilizer does have some competition in this space, but Bell pointed out that efficient solutions are not widespread in hospitals yet. He said he had heard of some centers using red Radio Flyer wagons to carry equipment, or taping oxygen tanks to walkers, which, yes, is just as risky as you might imagine.

You know what? That alone is a pretty good argument for a better equipment carrier.

from TechCrunch

3 Essential Tips for Using the Cloud


Jessica asks,

I've decided to trust the cloud for my business, but I'm still concerned about reliability. What can I do to make sure I can still access my data and applications if the cloud fails?

Great question, Jessica! In the grand scheme of things, the cloud is usually quite reliable. Still, downtime and outages do happen. Just last week, Instagram experienced downtime right before the VMAs because Amazon — which powers much of its cloud infrastructure — was having problems.

There are steps you can take to make the chances of cloud-based disaster much less likely. Read more...

More about Features, Cloud, Tech, Apps Software, and Tech Office Hours

from Mashable

Pebble Smart Watch Delivers on Kickstarter Promise and More


As companies such as Samsung prepare to enter the smart-watch space, it's time to take a look at the "original" smart watch: the Pebble.

The Pebble smart watch is the most successful Kickstarter project of all time, raising more than $10 million from 85,000 backers. Last month, the company announced that it had over 190,000 pre-orders on its website, meaning that more than 275,000 orders were placed since last April.

Pebble is also available in Best Buy stores, and the company is working to make its gadget — in the words of CEO and co-founder Eric Migicovsky — "the best wearable platform." Read more...

More about Reviews, Wearables, Tech, Gadgets, and Mobile

from Mashable

New Snowden leak claims the NSA hacked into Al Jazeera’s communication system

aj4 520x245 New Snowden leak claims the NSA hacked into Al Jazeeras communication system

There are more reports of the NSA’s international spying efforts after German newspaper Der Spiegel claimed that the US intelligence agency hacked into the internal communication system at Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera, a feat that helped it intercept dialogue with “interesting targets.”

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden provided the newspaper with internal documents, dated from 2006, that state that the accessing of Al Jazeera communications was a “notable success.” They do not, however, explain the extent to which the agency spied on Al Jazeera staff, or for how long it intercepted messages from the broadcaster.

Al Jazeera has long published audio and video messages directly from Al Qaida and its leadership, so it’s quite likely that the NSA’s efforts were aimed at getting hold of dialogue between the two parties, and obtaining new information and data about the terrorist organization and its movements.

It’s not clear what tangible success that hacking brought, but this is yet another example of the global footprint that the NSA’s cyberspying activities spanned — and, most controversially, it shows that it spied on journalists.

British spying agency GCHQ is one international organization that we know worked closely with the NSA. Snowden claims that the NSA hacked into China’s mobile operators to steal “millions” of text messages, and its footprint is thought to include countless other operations in nations across the world.

➤ Snowden Document: NSA Spied On Al Jazeera Communications [Der Spiegel] | Via The Verge

Headline image via Alex Wong/AFP/Getty Images

from The Next Web Feed

CrunchWeek: iPhone Trade-Ins, The New New Foursquare, And Twitter's Blue Lines Problem


This weekend, summer is sadly coming to a close (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least.) But all is not lost! At least we still have CrunchWeek, the show that brings a few of us TechCrunch writers together to chat about the most interesting tech news stories from the past seven days.

This time around, Leena Rao, Anthony Ha and I discussed the ins and outs of Apple’s new iPhone trade-in program, the latest big update to the Foursquare app (and the rumors of a possible Microsoft investment), and Twitter’s latest redesign with lots of controversial blue lines.

from TechCrunch

India's Visa Maze Ensnares Foreign Entrepreneurs


Carrying all the right documentation for his five-year business visa, Alex (not his real name) embarked on what he thought would be his fourth and final visit to the Indian immigration authority. He believed his wild goose chase was almost at an end. However, his awkwardly smiling assassin, the elusive office supervisor, had other ideas.

“Sorry, you can’t get your visa now, please come back in some time,” the supervisor said, fatally.

Alex’s plight shows the difficulties entrepreneurs face in trying to access the booming market of India today. This is his story.

The economics graduate moved to India about a year ago to co-found a social business with his peers. The government made them wait the best part of a year before approving their application to be incorporated as a local not-for-profit — a vital credential to navigate the country’s Catch-22 regulatory system. With incorporation certificate in hand, Alex was confident the last piece of his visa puzzle, namely attaining a five-year authorisation to work to improve the quality of life for Indians, was about to fall into place.

How wrong he was.

Stepping into the office was like entering Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Groundhog Day, endlessly waiting for a weasley little oracle to emerge from his hovel in order to deliver bad news. Alex was forced to return to the office three times because he “didn’t have the right documentation.”

On the fourth visit, the bureaucrat, ensconced in his glass bubble, again said he didn’t have the right documents and would have to come back again. At the end of his wits, Alex didn’t buy it. After failing to plead his case with the front-line worker, he asked to speak with the manager lurking in the background. The bureaucrat turned meekly, skulked over, and relayed the request to his superior who took one look at the fiery redhead on the wrong side of the counter and scurried away to his glass-walled office, deep in the bubble. The clerk returned and, as if the whole spectacle had not been witnessed, told Alex the manager was unavailable.

“The manager is right there,” he said, pointing to the anonymous office. “I just need to speak with him for two minutes. I’ve already met him before. He knows my case.”

“Sorry sir, he is not available,” the bureaucrat said, reciting a well-used line. “You’ll have to send him an email to organise an appointment.”

Email? Alex was all too familiar with India’s digital black hole, where bits may have even travelled backwards and forwards in time, even to alternate universes, because they never seemed to reach their intended destination.

He whipped out his laptop and emailed the appointment request to the teller who was sitting down before him, but also included a stern warning: “I’m not leaving until I can speak with him.”

The bureaucrat retreated to discuss the latest turn of events.

Alex briefly took a minute to survey his surroundings. The same situation was playing out at three or four adjacent counters.

“This is the fourth time you’ve asked me to come back for a five-year business visa. I have all the right documentation, I have had it all along. Why won’t you accept my application?” railed another aggrieved applicant.

Alex snapped back to attention when the manager emerged from his den. He was face-to-face with his tormentor.

“What’s the problem, sir?” the manager asked.

“You know what my problem is! We’ve already spoken about it, you told me to come back with more information and I did. I’ve come back four times with the correct documentation and you’re still telling me I won’t be approved?!” he said.

“I’m sorry sir but we can’t process this visa application now, please come back in some time,” he said, wearing a weak smile.

“Why not?”

“I’m sorry sir but we can’t do this now, please apply in some time,” he repeated, like a broken record.

No matter how he always received the same answer and result but despite the frustrating experience he plans to come back and try again. He’s chasing that sweet feeling of victory that can only be earned by simultaneously exerting extreme amounts of effort and patience to achieve ordinarily routine tasks.

The Red Tape At The Finish Line

For an entrepreneur, there’s a lot to like about India. The subcontinent’s diversity, population, and economic disparity offers near endless problems to solve, as well as the scale to make a meaningful impact and return. But if you get too far ahead of yourself, the red-tape woven noose dangling around your neck will rein you back in. The rope becomes dangerously short as you enter the government maze, where searching for the right approvals demands long wait times, repeated visits, and constant apprehension as to whether the application will even be received. It’s an exercise in humility.

Saju James, partner at Fragomen Global Immigration Services, said the visa process was straight forward — if you know the procedures. This means that you must give the consulates the right information, right down to using the correct vernacular in the application.

“If you don’t stick to the template, exactly what the consulate is looking for, the chances of getting denials are much higher,” said James, whose firm has processed close to 1,000 work permits, less than two percent of which have been rejected.

This is a legacy of the way that visa offices were run before 2009, James said, when the Indian government didn’t have direct oversight of the approval process. Previously, each visa office and consulate operated as its own fiefdom; and a single supervisor served as judge, jury, and executioner.

“It was very arbitrary and the consulate officers had the power to decide, simply based on the interview,” he said. “They would say, ‘no, I’m not convinced this candidate should go on a work permit, he needs to apply for a business visa,’ and the reverse would happen as well.”

That changed as the government took direct control of the process and released specific guidelines and processes to be followed. Most importantly, it started measuring workers on how many visa applications they actually processed, as opposed to simply documenting the number of hours they worked.

It was a vast improvement.

“The only difference is that they have not published the formats for when you apply for a visa application, so some offices still give a difficult time to applicants.”

James said it was difficult to track the efficiency because the agencies themselves did not record the rejection rates. However, he estimated that the number of unsuccessful applications previously ranged into the double-digit percentages.

This is all little comfort to Alex, who still goes to bed every night in fear of being woken up by that same Sonny and Cher song and seeing his visa application, as complete as it always was, lying unapproved on his cheap desk.

[Image via Flickr]

from TechCrunch