Tinsel town turns deaf ear to Kutcher’s request to plug his start-ups

Ashton Kutcher may have more clout in Silicon Valley than in Hollywood.

The star of movies like “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and now of the hit show ‘Two and a Half Men” told conference goers at TechCrunch Disrupt that he tried to get the studio to plug some of his Internet start-up investments on the show– but they wouldn’t do it without compensation.

Kutcher, who said he majored in biochemical engineering in college, has invested in some of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. His bets include check-in service Foursquare, bed-and-breakfast service Airbnb, and personalized magazine Flipboard.

He also said he invested in companies that he thought ultimately would contribute to greater happiness in the world– but won’t open his wallet unless he clicks with the entrepreneur. “At the end of the day it’s about the person who runs that company, and whether it’s a person I’d want to spend some time with,” he said.

While sometimes he likes to go stealth to avoid his name getting in the way of potential customers paying attention on the underlying business, he thinks he brings more than just star power to his start-ups.

“I have pretty good connectivity in marketing,” he said. “I have pretty good product savvy.” And when he draws on his network of contacts to call in a favor for one of his companies, “they generally will call me back.”

Taptu gets new funding, readies new social media B2B platform

Taptu, the social media mobile search start-up based out of Cambridge, England and Denver, raised another $3.5 million from its existing backers as it starts to focus on its it new TapForm platform to help media companies build their own social news aggregator.

Most users who know Taptu are probably more familiar with its  ‘DJ mixing’ news service (see video below), which reminds us of the Flipboard experience. You can aggregate and manage all your favorite news sources into an easy to read format on your chosen mobile device.

But with TapForm, Chief Executive Mitch Lazar plans to extend that capability to media partners and told Reuters he’s close to announcing the start-up’s first partner in coming weeks.

Product catalogs get an iPad makeover with Cooliris’ new Decks app

Fresh off a recent $9.6 million funding round, Cooliris is launching a new app that aims to re-invent the old-fashioned product catalog for the iPad generation.Decks

The new Decks app, available on Thursday in the iPad apps store, lets consumers create personalized catalogs of their favorite brands and products in a format that the company says is optimized for a tablet PCs’s touchscreen.

Each catalog, which the company likens to individual cards of a deck, automatically updates to showcase new deals and promotions, and can be flipped through in a slide-show-like experience – think Flipboard for shopping.

Too much of a good thing: Flipboard launch hype overwhelms service

It looked like a product launch home run.

When Flipboard, a hot new social media iPad app, made its public debut on Wednesday it had all the key pieces in place: endorsements from influential tech bloggers like Robert Scoble (who declared Flipboard “revolutionary”), a $10.5 million funding round from big-name investors including some of the co-founders Facebook and Twitter, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and even Ashton Kutcher, and a slot to demo the product at this week’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado.

But the company appears to have overlooked one key checklist item: server capacity.

FlipBoardThe hype that Flipboard created for its new product was so great that the company was quickly overwhelmed by the resulting crush of demand. As users downloaded the app and attempted to use the service’s social networking features late on Wednesday, they were greeted with a message telling them the service wasn’t available and asking for patience.