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Disney to acquire Maker Studios? IPO watch & LAUNCH of the Week | This Week in Startups

3/17/2014

Disney is in talks to acquire Maker Studios for $500m, according to Recode’s Peter Kafka. The entertainment giant’s recent acquisitions focused on IP: Marvel, Lucasfilm. Maker represents YouTube stars like PewDiePie and iJustine, which could dovetail nicely with Disney’s youth-focused TV programming. For Maker and its investors, the time is ripe for sale, with so much traffic reliant on YouTube and little distribution of its own outside of Google.

It’s going to be a big year for tech IPOs. Add to the list of companies expected to start public trading: Eventbrite, King Games (maker of Candy Crush), and China’s multibillion internet giant Alibaba, which could raise $15B. That will also be a big boon to Yahoo which has ~20% stake.

Bing LAUNCH of the Week: Imitone software turns your humming into electronic music, a Boston hospital built a Google Glass app to read patient data through QR codes, and Omaze wants to raise money by raffling off experiences with celebrities. This week: enter to win time with Arnold Schwarzenegger, crushing stuff in his tank.

Plus, are diversity problems specific to journalism and tech? And how valuable is the SXSW conference for techies?

Sarah Lacy of Pando Daily and Rafe Needleman of Yahoo Tech sat down with me for the This Week in Startups news roundtable.

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Highlights:

5:06 – Disney might acquire Maker Studios.
6:05 – RN: It shows how media is shifting. Smart move for Disney; I’m glad to see them do it. It’s great for independent media producers as well. A new outlet. You don’t have to be a major studio to build a major following.
7:10 – JC: Am I cynical to think this might be investors leaking?
7:25 – SL: If it were someone other than Kafka, I’d say maybe, but I think it’s just really good intel. It would be a good play for LA, Mark Suster. Machinima. I always like to see companies go long but this is a rare time where I think is great
8:36 – JC: Machinima laying of 25% of staff. When it comes to video, only one ecosystem at scale. When you build inside someone else’s ecosystem, there’s a conflict when that system decides that they want your business.
9:15 – SL: but what does it mean for Disney? They don’t have a great track record of buying tech companies. Is this where Maker goes to die?
9:32 – JC: I bet this is a deal for Disney where they want to learn a little. iJustine, etc. feels a lot like the Disney Channel, but if they learned how to create the next new star, it would probably be worth it. They’re interesting – they don’t seem to buy tech startups and build great stuff w/ 3rd parties, based on their original IP…Star Wars, Marvel, etc.
11:00 – SL: well Sheryl Sandberg is on their board and Facebook is buying up a ton.
11:38 – Thank you @Mailchimp for supporting the show!
13:35 – IPOs galore: now Eventbrite, King Games, Alibaba.
14:42 – SL: Why would anyone buy King in an IPO? They’re candy – you fly through them and then get bored of them.
15:54 – JC: why can’t someone put together a string of hits in the way that Disney et. al can create multiple hits?
16:15 – SL: Disney was born in a different era. They’ll always have that back catalog.
17:15 – RN: I don’t know what the secret sauce is, but when you upset the applecart, bad things happen. Draw Something, Zynga. Rovio has been able to exploit their catalog of characters and ideas. It works on XBox and Playstation games but on mobile games…when it collapses….stock is almost worthless
18:32 – JC: no one has played a casual mobile gaming company. Angry Birds, etc.
XX:XX – SL: …at some point, there are laws of gravity.
19:27 – JC: Eventbrite
1938 – SL: Eventbrite is an uninspiring IPO. It’s not a company I get super excited about. We use it all the time… it’s doing well but missed the boat to what it could be.
20:34 – RN: They’re building on the planning and building space. If they can successfully [do discovery], there’s value. It’s not sexy, but there’s value.
21:35 – JC: map tickets to your seats. You can actually make reserved seats in your auditorium. We’ve used Ticketleap, but to sell specific seats is disruptive.
22:22 – JC: Alibaba
24:00 – RN: I love Alibaba. Considering that I work here, that’s all I can say.
24:19 – JC: It must make everyone at Yahoo! feel a sense of security.
24:35 – SL: I did a show for Yahoo! Finance a few years ago, and I have to say, if you have worked in traditional journalism, it is a plush, great job.
25:05 – RN: I will say that I have never worked as many hours in my life.
25:20 – Thank you @ScottEdWalker for supporting entrepreneurs and the show!
XX: XX – Launch of the Week
XX:XX – Glass app for Boston doctors
28:22 – Imitone – turn your humming into song
29:00 – Omaze.
30:35 – JC: favorites?
31:02 – RN: As a business, the one that touches money is probably best. However, the latter two don’t excite me at all. The glass app may help save lives and help doctors do good work. Socially acceptable context. This is where this tech lives. I love that and if it could make doctors better, that’s the one I like.
31:50 – JC: Glass sucks for consumers but good for enterprise?
32:00 – RN: SXSW panels about how not to be a Glasshole. I want to punch people in the face when I talk to them trying to talk me.
32:25 – JC: Woman at bar. Everyone I know doesn’t want you talk to talk to them with it.
33:00 – RN: If I’m nearly dead, that’s what I want.
33:15 – SL: How does it make it any better? I think doctors aren’t going to do it.
33:35 – JC: I could see if you’re doing surgery, if you could see the metrics, that would be useful.
34:55 – JC: I told you that people were going to be punched in the face for wearing glass. I told a glass exec that he was killing the vibe on the dance floor.
36:05 – JC favorites?
36:40 – SL: I’m going to say Imitone. It’s not super exciting but I think the doctor thing is ridiculous – a gimmick no one will adopt. Omaze is interesting but any business that is predicated on celebrities is hard to sustain.
37:35 – JC: The glass app, as presented, is meaningless. Pick up the damn chart. An iPad would probably be better. I see the potential, but not in current application. I think Imitone could inspire people to pick up an instrument, but I hate music startups, they don’t go anywhere. But Omaze – there’s something there with crowdfunding and people love raffles. There you have it, first split decision.
39:08 – JC: Whistleblowers at SXSW. Everyone knows I hate panels: nothing occurs on them. I’m never going again. Boondoggle. They did have 3 pretty good keynotes: Lady Gaga, Snowden, Assange. The sad thing: auto accident.
40:55 – RN: The car event was a terrible tragedy. As far as overall, I was there 4 days, but I didn’t go to a single panel. Great event for Yahoo! The people who are there to meet other people and to party and learn, it’s a great event. If you can afford it, I love going.
42:19 – JC: SXSW so huge and spilling into streets, any connection to be made to the tragedy?
42:30 – SL: No, no connection. This is the first highly violent thing we’ve seen at SXSW. This is a bunch of drunk people. I’m glad that we haven’t seen this earlier. I hate the conference. This event has nothing to do w/ why it’s awful… it’s a good conference for people under the director level, and for people who want to be entrepreneurs. Mid-level people in the career to go make contacts. I would never go, it’s awful.
43:55 – RN: People could say that if you want to stay up with what’s happening there, go to SXSW.
45:45 – SL: I’ve seen more cool and up and coming stuff at Jason’s conference than I’ve ever heard at SxSW. Talking about privacy, etc., good for them. I don’t hear about any good companies. Up and comers are working their asses off, building shit. Not paying $600 / night. There’s huge business done at CES.
46:45 – JC: I go to CES for 48 hours, to go to one dinner.
47:20 – RL: You guys are elitist.
47:36 – JC: Guardian decries lack of diversity in journalism startups.
48:40 – SL: Diversity problem in any industry. This is reality, let’s stop being shocked by it. The point is that she’s complaining about it, but ignoring some of the bigger one. People expect better of Emily Bell. Not well thought-out.
50:40 – RN: Without running the numbers, I don’t think diversity has changed much, but not substantially greater number than when I started.
51:40 – JC: Do female founders hire more females?
51:54 – SL: Talent is talent. I don’t put extra care into hiring, but I do spend extra time mentoring. I wish we had more racial diversity. The biggest problem for us is that we’re all white.
52:37 – SL: [biggest hurdle] – if you get a scoop and someone doesn’t, people say “you got it because you’re a girl.” I think it’s hard if you’re a single girl. How do you date as a tech journalist in SF?
53:35 – JC: People disclose who they’re married to. What’s the best practice for dating?
53:50 – SL: yeah, where’s the line on this? Recusing yourself out of fashion. Making sure you’re not getting used, etc. It’s a harder world. I think it’s harder for women. Because it’s what your haters will say about you.
55:10 – JC: There’s a violence against women that’s not expressed toward men.
55:20 – SL: People are more likely to assume a woman is stupid and doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
56:00 – JC: Any rule about dating and reporting?
46:19 – Rafe close: Follow @rafe. http://Yahoo.com/tech! David Pogue’s reviews here. Send your mom to Yahoo.com/tech
58:22 – JC: Follow @sarahcuda. Feisty.
59:00 – JC: Be thoughtful. Don’t be cavalier with certain words.

Hacking funding with AngelList cofounder Naval Ravikant

11/19/2013

If you’ve never heard of AngelList or my friend Naval Ravikant, you’ll never forget the man or the platform after this interview. The online community lets potential investors and startups mingle, meet, and get deals flowing. And now with the addition of syndicates, smaller investors can join in on the deals of angel investors they back. As Naval put it, “it’s like Kickstarter, but for equity.” When he sat down with me at LAUNCH Hackathon, we cut to some core questions early-stage entrepreneurs have. Should I join an accelerator? Which one? How do I get through my Series A crunch? When do I stay lean, and when do I try to scale? All these questions and more answered in this great episode.

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Rafe from Evernote puts me on the spot

11/6/2013

Rafe Needleman is a long-time technology journalist and frequent guest on my show.  He runs developer relations and the accelerator at Evernote. When I stopped by their HQ, Rafe turned the tables and interviewed me. We talked about everything from how an entrepreneur’s goals change over time, to my original career path (FBI agent), to how the startup ecosystem has been helped — and hurt — by low costs and big capital. Plus, when an accelerator is worth your time.

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Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian: the internet will make you more awesome

10/30/2013

If you’ve never heard of Alexis Ohanian, where have you been? Seriously though, you know the company he started, Reddit.

The ‘social news’ community that people dismissed as a ‘digg knockoff’ (incorrectly) has 80 million unique monthly visitors worldwide. Or, as Alexis put it, “a third of Twitter or ten New York Cities.”

Domestically, it beats CNN and the New York Times, according to Quantcast.

Celebrities, book authors, even President Obama are hosting Ask Me Anything threads to reach that massive audience.

Alexis founded Reddit with Steve Huffman in 2005. Just 18 months later they sold it to Condé Nast. Neither Alexis nor Steve have said for how much, but I understand it to be in the $30-40 million range.

When we sat down in New York, he told me how they got started as college seniors. A Spring Break trip to Boston to hear Paul Graham speak landed them a meeting. And they applied to be in the inaugural YCombinator class.

Their application for My Mobile Menu, or MMM (get it? ‘mmmmmmm… ‘), was rejected. At the time the most advanced mobile phone was a Treo, and Graham said it was too soon (smart cat that PG). But he called them back in and offered a spot if they were willing to start from scratch.

“The zeitgeist of the time was social bookmarking through sites like Delicious.” But, Alexis said, “it was only a zeitgeist for reference material, not for what was new.”

“We needed to be something else, that was a place where people could go to find the more ephemeral news of the day. And that’s how we got started with Reddit.”

Keep in mind, this was not the YC of today. Facebook was just over a year old and Twitter didn’t exist yet. And YC was based in…. wait for it… Boston.

“The Demo Day, which today is one of the most contested in the world,” Alexis said, “had like 12 of Paul’s rich friends who were like, ‘what the f*ck are we doing here?’ ”

Read the rest of this post at LinkedIn.

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iOS 7 mixed reactions, Tesla’s autopilot car and Launch of the Week – TWiST News Roundtable

9/20/2013

Apple’s latest mobile software is out, just ahead of the iPhone 5c and 5s, and it’s getting mixed reviews. Fast, with more features, it also has veteran iPhone users hunting for standard features. And while the flat, bright color scheme may win design awards, not everyone is convinced of its beauty and power. Meanwhile, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has another Tony Stark move up his sleeve: autopilot, a feature that would allow cars to drive themselves 90% of the time. And for Launch of the Week, Plaid wants to make it easier for developers to use financial data to build amazing apps; typically demure Sequoia Capital unveiled its content site, Grove; and after less than a week on Kickstarter, Occipital’s 3D sensor that clips onto an iPad has raised nearly $600k. Plus, crowdfunding a bounty to crack Apple’s TouchID and Uber and Lyft are legit in California.

Register for LAUNCH Mobile, Sept 30 & Oct 1 in San Francisco: mobile.launch.co

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Education Startup Seeks Managing/Executive Editor

4/29/2012
Anyone out there interesting changing the world, or at least trying to put a dent in it? :-)  
best @jason

Education Startup Seeks Managing/Executive Editor

Hey, I'm the founder and CEO of a startup named Mahalo. My name is Jason Calacanis.

I've built some solid brand in the past, like Engadget, Silicon Alley Reporter, TechCrunch50, LAUNCH, Cinematical, Open Angel Forum and TVSquad. You might have heard of one or two of them. Or not. They're kind of niche products.

Anyway, we're a venture-backed startup with really cool offices in Culver City. Our mission is to help people "learn anything," and we do that by providing courses primarily in the form of apps on iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

Additionally we publish our content on YouTube, the web and Apple's iBook platform.

Here's our “Learn Guitar” iBook, which has been getting amazing reviews:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/learn-guitar/id515889856?mt=11

It's also available as an app for iPhone, iPad and Android:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/learn-guitar/id457093781?mt=8
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mahalo&hl=en

And you can see this course on the web:
http://www.mahalo.com/courses/learn-guitar/course-introduction/welcome-to-the-guitar-course/

Finally, here's a video on YouTube where our guitar instructor, Jen Trani, teaches you how to play an A minor chord:


Yes, the same course available in five different place. Someday we'll probably have these courses on Samsung, Apple and Sony TVs. Right about now you're probably saying, "Wow, this is a really neat idea: Mahalo makes awesome courses available everywhere, and they only charge a couple of bucks for the app while providing it free with advertising. Genius!"

Yes, it's a good idea, and it's working. But we're just getting started.  

In the past six months alone we've had 950,000+ downloads of our apps and 200M views on YouTube. In fact, we've probably broken 1M app downloads while you were reading this.

The big opportunities right now are mobile, social, education and video. We're three of those four, and we're going to try to figure out the "social" part of education next year.

Our courses have grown from "7s and 8s" on my internal scoring system to "9s and 10s." This awesome leap has occurred thanks to a really hard-working team that regularly puts in 50- and 60-hour weeks.

We have an awesome team right now. Just smart, creative and fun people who really bring it every day. We have no bozos at the company. Zero.

We've become absurdly obsessed with quality, and in the last month, Apple has featured our products three times—without us asking. They just did it. We think that means we're ready to scale our business and make many, many more courses.

Right now I'm the CEO of the company, and I'm running all of the product department (both features of apps and the content within them). I could really use the help of a  managing/executive editor type (to use a magazine term). This will allow me to focus more on CEO-type activities.

So, I'm looking for a hard-working, passionate individual who can manage and improve the following functions:

a) managing a team of 15 internal writers, producers, video editors and group leaders, as well as 25 freelancers.
b) managing the production process from start to finish. This means idea generation, casting, pre-production, shooting, post-production and product release.  
c) researching what courses we should produce next.
d) maintaining our "8 or better" rule, and over the coming months, helping to develop a "9 or better" benchmark.
e) hiring awesome video editors, writers and producers—most of which will have under five years of experience and need to be developed.

From my perspective, getting featured in the App Store and having almost a million downloads in four months means we're doing something right. We're ready for your talents!

I recently wrote an article on the subject of excellence, and I think it would be a good idea to read it if you're thinking of working with me: http://www.launch.co/blog/the-age-of-excellence.html

Since what we're doing is a new product (interactive video books) for a new medium (tablets and smartphones), there is little chance you'll have five years experience making "interactive vooks." Well, maybe if you worked for Voyager back in the 1990s, but I think there are about 12 people who worked there and most are retired. Who knows, maybe you worked on the Blender or LAUNCH interactive CD-ROMs.

The proverbial "ideal candidate" for this job is someone who has managed a team of 15 creatives producing dozens of products a year. Those products might have been magazines, books or DVDs.

You should have a superhuman ability to tell the difference between a good and great product.

You should be able to communicate exactly what would make a product that's an eight, nine or 10—and lead a team to execute your advice.

You should know what makes one photo brilliant and another. Why one illustration is instructive and another is banal. Why one blurb is clever and another is trying too hard. Why one video is brilliantly entertaining and another is cheesy.

Bottom line: you should want to do great work with a great team—no matter the cost.

If you want to change the world, innovate, make a dent in the universe, get rich and build a huge company, email me. Worst case scenario we die trying!

@jason

Send a cover letter, resume and what you think of the Apps listed above. Thoughts on where education, mobile and content are going are awesome as well.

jason@mahalo.com

Learn Pilates App iPhone & iPad free today!

4/13/2012
Learn Pilates App iPhone & iPad free today! please help us get to the top 10!

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id473456615?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 

Thanks everyone for making Learn Pilates #6 in ipad!

2/14/2012
Learn_pilates_crushing_it

Thanks for making Learn Pilates #6 in the iPad store…. 

This Week In Startups with Greg Tseng of @Tagged

2/11/2012
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jason Calacanis and the This Week In Team <team@thisweekin.com>
Date: Fri, Feb 10, 2012 at 5:01 PM
Subject: This Week In Startups–Greg Tseng of Tagged
To: Jason <jason@calacanis.com>

On This Week in Startups, Jason sat down with Tagged (http://tagged.com) co-founder Greg Tseng (http://twitter.com/gregtseng), an entrepreneur wise beyond his years. Greg not only has a great mentor in LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, but also works with an executive coach and has a whole team of people that he relies on for support. Listen as Greg shares his founding philosophy and what he believes is the core of entrepreneurship.

If you missed the live show, get your fix here: http://goo.gl/8WSgX

Or, you can jump straight to some of the best moments:
       • 19 minutes in: Establishing Tagged's culture. Watch: http://goo.gl/wSv7a
       • 31 minutes in: What's the role of an executive coach? Watch: http://goo.gl/sbXZv
       • 47 minutes in: How Greg defines an entrepreneur. Watch: http://goo.gl/JMfHP

To spread the word about this insightful episode, just tweet this: "Watch @Tagged co-founder @GregTseng discuss executive coaching, establishing culture & relentless iteration on #TWiST. http://goo.gl/8WSgX"

Coming up this Tuesday, Feb. 14, we're celebrating our love for the work of i/o ventures (http://ventures.io/) founder Paul Bragiel (http://twitter.com/bragiel) by interviewing him. Check it out at 1pm PT to watch and discuss in the chat: http://thisweekin.com/live

We couldn't bring you episodes like today's without our incredible sponsors Sourcebits (http://sourcebits.com) and MailChimp (http://mailchimp.com). Show them you appreciate their support by thanking them @Sourcebits and @MailChimp.

Thanks for your viewership and support!
Carolyn, TWiST Producer
@cbedgood

[Just hit 'reply' to reach our whole team.]

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=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
TWiST #231 Greg Tseng of Tagged

0:00-2:15 Welcome everyone, we’re here today with Tagged founder Greg Tseng.
2:15-3:00 Special thanks to our friends at CNET and CBS Interactive for hosting TWiST on the road.
3:00-5:00 Thank you to our friends at MailChimp for their generous support. Everyone thank @mailchimp!
5:00-5:30 Welcome, Greg. How many monthly unique impressions is Tagged getting now?
5:30-7:30 What exactly is Tagged?
7:30-9:15 What did you think you could bring to social networking that Facebook couldn’t?
9:15-11:00 What is the sunk/cost fallacy?
11:00-12:30 What is social discovery? If I’m on Netflix and I liked this movie, then I might like that movie?
12:30-14:30 How does Tagged insert someone new into my network?
14:30-17:00 And you have your own game library, right?
17:00-18:15 Do you make money for the dating service of Tagged?
18:15-19:15 How much do you charge?
19:15-21:00 How did you establish the culture of Tagged?
21:00-22:45 Why do you think you’ve never had any leaks?
22:45-23:30 Greg: “A startup is like a roller coaster that goes up and to the right.”
23:30-25:30 Thank you to Sourcebits for sponsoring the show! Don’t get left behind–check out their amazing mobile apps at sourcebits.com.
25:30-28:00 Why are mobile apps so hot?
28:00-30:00 Think about the fact that the iPad didn’t even exist two years ago.
30:00-31:30 It’s very easy to forget about your personal health as a founder, isn’t it?
31:30-34:00 Tell me a little about the executive coaching. What is their role?
34:00-37:45 Does she actually give you language to use?
37:45-41:00 What were some of the roughest times at Tagged?
41:00-42:00 How much of the time did the legal issues take that year?
42:00-44:00 Another lesson learned: Controlling your public message.
44:00-45:15 Reid Hoffman: “If you’re not embarrassed by version 1 of your product, you took too long to release it.”
45:15-47:30 How do you keep daily releases from getting too manic or out of control?
47:30-50:30 You’ve been an entrepreneur for how long, about a decade? At its core, what do you think entrepreneurship is all about?
50:30-51:45 What do you do when you find out that you suck at something?
51:45-53:00 What’s the secret to hiring? Is it the toughest thing?
53:00-54:30 How have you been profitable for so long? Why aren’t you raising more money?
54:30-57:00 What do you think is going to happen in the next five years?
57:00-58:00 What inning is the Internet business in right now, do you think?
58:00-58:30 Do you consider Taiwan part of China?
58:30-59:00 If you’re an amazing developer, email your resume to greg@tagged.com.
59:00-1:00:00 We wish you continued success, Greg. Thank you for joining us.

Mahalo’s next iPad app: Learn Pilates (4th app!)

10/22/2011
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/how-to-draw!/id470318355?ls=1&mt=8Our fourth iPad app is out….. "Learn Pilates." 

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/learn-pilates/id473456615?mt=8


These apps are part "for dummies" text and images, combined with videos you would see in a DVD series.

We're testing the $1.99 price right now, but it seems that folks will easily pay $4.99 to $9.99 for these type of quality, HD apps since they are used to paying $25 for a book and $40-100 for a DVD set. 

The other three apps are Walkthrough for Angry Birds (you know, like those really well selling strategy books for video games), Learn Guitar and How to Draw app!

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/how-to-draw!/id470318355?ls=1&mt=8

This is the beta of our platform–our minimal viable product–but it's actually better than 99% of stuff in the app store so we're happy with that. 

However, the next three or four months of development will really be much more innovative in terms of "made for the tablet" features. I'm sooo excited about the iPad, education and tablet computing. 

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English Bulldog

Hello, my name is Jason. Welcome to my blog on the interwebs. You can reach me on twitter @jason and by email at jason@inside.com. My Skype is jasoncalacanis, and my mobile phone is 310-456-4900.

I only pick up numbers I recognize, and in terms of emailing me, the best strategy is to write short, blunt and to the point requests. I can quickly respond to short messages, and many times I simply don't have the time to read five page pitches. In terms of taking meetings, I only do that after reviewing an actual product (not a business plan). So, the best time to ping me is when you have mockups or an alpha site. I don't read business plans, and I've never written one.

Other twitter accounts you can follow: Inside.com, Ticker, This Week in Startups and LAUNCH Festival

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