Freshplum takes data-driven approach to online pricing

Palo Alto start-up Freshplum hopes to take the guesswork out of digital commerce by using analytics software, data science and math to help companies make decisions like how to price merchandise. 

After a month under wraps, Freshplum announced Tuesday that it has raised $1.4 million in seed funding from New Enterprise Associates, Greylock Partners, Google Ventures and Charles River Ventures, as well as a number of current and former executives from Facebook, Google and PayPal.

The company was co-founded by Sam Odio, who formerly worked at Facebook after his photo-sharing start-up Divvyshot was acquired by the social networking giant. The other co-founders are Nick Alexander and Michael Yuan.

Freshplum will target small- to medium-sized online sellers with revenue but without the time to hire an analytics team. Odio said Freshplum will be able to handle data analysis for these businesses.

“Selling goods and services online continues to be more art than science,” said Odio. “Eighty-two percent of the companies we talk to price their products on a ‘hunch’ because they lack the tools necessary to dive deep into the data.”

New name and vision at the company formerly known as Pixazza

You don’t have to twist your tongue pronouncing Pixazza anymore. The Google Ventures-backed start-up has found a new name that rolls off the tongue with less difficulty: Luminate.

The re-christened company is also making some big product changes as it works towards its goal of adding interactive features to all the photos and images on the Web.

Luminate initially offered technology that displayed a pop-up “product carousel” window alongside online photographs. A picture of a celebrity at the Oscars, for instance, could feature a pop-up window showcasing the shoes, purse and other items worn by the celebrity, along with links to various retailers selling the goods.

Google and AOL venture arms fund tool to track retail price changes

Most people wouldn’t be too pleased if they learned that the price of a digital camera suddenly dropped by $50 a few hours after they purchased it from the same online retailer.

Yet according to the creators of a new shopping tool called Shopobot, such price swings happen every week, sometimes every day, as retailers adopt more sophisticated techniques to test out different price points.

“The volatility is really being driven by these algorithmic approaches to pricing,” says Shopobot co-founder and CEO Julius Schorzman. “You have these automated systems that are trying to maximize revenue for retailers online.”

Google buys into Zynga – report

zynga-pokerGoogle has invested as much as $200 million in social gaming company Zynga, as it looks to bolster its presence in the world of online gaming, according to technology blog TechCrunch.

According to TechCrunch, the investment may have been in conjunction with Softbank Capital’s deal to purchase a stake in Zynga, which makes games for social networks including Facebook and MySpace and profits by selling virtual goods.  In June, Nikkei reported that Softbank bought a stake in Zynga for about 13.5 billion yen ($147.4 million) through a private placement.

The site said that The investment was made by Google itself, not Google Ventures and that Zynga will be “the cornerstone of a new Google Games to launch later this year.” Zynga’s revenues for the first half of 2010 will be $350 million, half of which is operating profit, and is projecting at least $1.0 billion in revenue in 2011, according to the site.

Google funds photo advertising start-up

Google may not be buying companies as often as it once did, but that’s not stopping it from doling out funds to promising start-ups.

On Wednesday, Mountain View, California-based Pixazza, a developer of photo-based online ad technology, said Google was among the group of investors that plunked down $5.75 million in Series A funding. Pixazza’s technology lets Web surfers click on portions of online images to get more information, say the brand and price of the shoes that a celebrity is wearing in a photo.

“Google’s investment underscores the innovative and promising nature of Pixazza’s new advertising technology,” Pixazza said in a statement announcing the deal.