MediaFile

Online education site raises $3 mil in a round led by Groupon founders

Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell have invested in online educational site (with one complicate name) Udemy through their venture capital fund Lightbank. Udemy just announced a $3 million Series A round of financing led by Lightbank that also includes funding from MHS Capital and 500 Startups.

Udemy plans to use the money for hiring and marketing and biz development.

Udemy “the academy of you” offers 6,000 courses covering all sorts of hobby-related subjects like social marketing, how to build a iPhone app, and Art 100 in addition to more traditional topics like intro to psychology. About 90 percent of Udemy’s courses are free.

Online education is a pretty hot sector now — just go ask the Washington Post and its Kaplan division which for the most part has been the driver of growth behind the company synoumous with Watergate and newspapers . Even News Corp is getting in on the act and set up an education unit focused on technology last year.

The $3 million round follows $1 million in funding from MHS Capital, 500 Startups, and several other individual investors.

 

Tech wrap: Samsung closing in on Apple?

It’s no secret that Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones are leading the Android-powered pack of handsets. What may be less obvious is just how quickly the company is closing in on Apple’s title of world’s biggest smartphone vendor in unit terms. Samsung announced on Friday it expects its third-quarter profit to top even the most bullish market forecasts, driven in large part by booming smartphone sales. “The Galaxy S II probably played a key role in boosting the company’s earnings and it will continue to do so pretty much unchallenged, until Apple unveils a better new version of iPhone,” said Kyung Woo-hyun, a fund manager at Daishin Asset Management.

Sprint had a rough start to the week and an even rougher end to it. The No.3 U.S. wireless carrier signaled on Friday that it could spend more money than it brings in over the next few years, even without accounting for the high costs of selling the Apple iPhone, sending its shares down 13 percent. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sprint would likely lose money on its deal to sell the iPhone until 2014.  Sprint outlined a plan on Friday to spend $7 billion on a network upgrade, which it said it would pay for with cash from its balance sheet and by raising capital. The company refused to address the cost of selling the iPhone.

If you were one of the keeners waiting for the clock to strike 12:01 a.m. PT so you could pre-order your Apple iPhone 4S, there was a good chance you may have had a bit of trouble. CNet reports that pre-orders of Apple’s latest smartphone were beset by a slew of problems. For starters, Apple, AT&T and Sprint were late opening their digital doors to customers looking to buy the new device. On top of that, both Apple and AT&T’s sites were having trouble processing orders from customers looking to upgrade, presenting them with error messages. Perhaps it’s no surprise: both Apple and carriers ran into similar issues last year with the release of the iPhone 4.

Tech wrap: Not a pretty picture for Kodak

Eastman Kodak Co shares fell almost 70 percent on Friday afternoon on concerns the photography pioneer could file for bankruptcy.

Kodak’s stock had already hit a 38-year low earlier this week as investors worried about its cash position after the company tapped a credit line for $160 million.

Amazon.com Inc’s new tablet computer costs $209.63 to make, IHS iSuppli estimated on Friday, highlighting how the e-commerce giant is taking a financial hit upfront to get the device into as many hands as possible. Amazon’s billionaire Chief Executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a lower-than-expected $199 price on Wednesday.

Tech wrap: Amazon fights iPad with Fire

Amazon.com Inc introduced its eagerly awaited tablet computer on Wednesday with a price tag that could make it the first strong competitor in a tablet market that has been dominated by Apple Inc’s iPad. The new device, priced at $199, may have the biggest impact on other makers of tablets and e-readers, such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Barnes & Noble Inc, maker of the Nook.

“It’s a Nook killer,” said Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor, which helps merchants sell more on websites including Amazon.com. “And it’s a very compelling offering if you’re not in the Apple ecosystem already.”

See how Amazon’s Fire stacks up to Apple’s iPad 2. Also a cool graphic breaking down the top 4 tablets.

Tech wrap: Blockbuster 2.0 – now streaming movies

There’s a new video streaming service on the block and it comes courtesy of an old, familiar name – Blockbuster. Blockbuster unveiled the video streaming service to subscribers of satellite provider Dish Network, which now owns Blockbuster, in a move to better compete against video rental giant Netflix and to lure customers from rival cable and satellite TV providers. Non-Dish subscribers will have to wait until Blockbuster launches a broader online streaming plan later this year, the company’s president told Reuters.

Called Blockbuster Movie Pass, the subscription service will start at $10 a month and includes DVD rentals by mail and at the company’s more than 1,500 stores. The service will offer up a selection of more than 3,000 movies streamed to televisions and 4,000 movies streamed to computers. The mail and store rentals include video games. Mail plus streaming with Netflix starts at about $16 a month. Will Blockbuster’s service be enough to threaten Netflix? Not a chance, argues CNET’s Roger Cheng. “Essentially, it’s a souped up Dish package,” writes Cheng. ” We were looking for something radically different from Dish, but we got an incremental new service plan instead.”

Amazon’s long-awaited tablet could be on its way soon. At least that’s the speculation that began floating around tech circles on Friday after the company announced plans to hold a press conference next Wednesday. Amazon declined to provide further details, but analysts were confident that the world’s largest Internet retailer will introduce its long-awaited tablet computer this year to expand in mobile commerce and sell more digital goods and services.

Tech wrap: Groupon rethinks IPO

Groupon called off an IPO roadshow slated for next week because of market volatility, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Internet coupons site is reassessing the timing for an offering on a week-by-week basis, the newspaper added, citing an unidentified source. Some on Wall Street have questioned Groupon’s financial disclosures, while others are concerned the company’s rapid growth is starting to slow in North America. Groupon CEO Andrew Mason sent a memo to employees recently that was widely reported in the media, in which he blasted critics in the press and on Wall Street.

Sprint filed a lawsuit to stop AT&T’s $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA in the same federal court that is to hear the Department of Justice’s case opposing the buyout. Sprint said the combination would lead to higher prices for consumers and create a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon Communications. Also, Sprint argued that if the deal goes through, a combined AT&T and T-Mobile would have the ability to use its control over roaming and spectrum, and its increased market position to exclude competitors.

Dell and China’s top search engine Baidu plan to jointly develop tablet computers and mobile phones, targeting the Chinese market dominated by Apple and Lenovo. Dell declined to give a timeline for the launch of the devices, but local media quoted sources saying that it may be as early as November. Baidu launched a new mobile application platform last week and offered a glimpse of its upcoming mobile operating system, which it hopes will serve a growing number of users accessing the Internet from smartphones and tablet computers.

Tech wrap: iPhone 5 coming to Sprint in mid-October?

Loyal Sprint customers keen to finally hop on the iPhone bandwagon could be in luck come this fall. The third-largest U.S. wireless carrier will begin offering the iPhone 5 to customers in mid-October, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. It will be the first version of the popular Apple smartphone to be sold by the company. AT&T and Verizon, already iPhone vedors, will also start selling the new model around the same time, according to the story.

In other iPhone news, Reuters correspondents Kelvin Soh and Clare Jim report that Apple is planning a cheaper version of its current iPhone 4 model to offer to the masses in developing markets such as China as it seeks to gain lower-end customers from rivals such as Nokia. Apple’s Asian suppliers have already begun production of a new lower-cost version of the handset that will come with a smaller, 8-GB flash drive, as opposed to the the 16-GB and 32-GB versions that were released in June 2010, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. So, just how much cheaper will the discount version be? That’s not entirely clear yet, but Yuanta Securities analyst Bonnie Chang had this to say: “Apple may want to push into the emerging market segment, where customers want to switch to low- to mid-end smartphones from high-end feature phones, which usually cost $150 to $200.”

Facebook unveiled a far-reaching overhaul to its privacy controls on Tuesday that will make it easier for users to control who sees their information and what pictures they are tagged in on the social network. Under the new changes, Facebook users will have the option of modifying and changing their privacy settings each time they post something instead being required to browse through to separate sections of the site.

Tech wrap: Cisco beats “low bar”

Cisco Systems Inc’s quarterly results edged past Wall Street’s scaled-back expectations as IT spending held up despite fears of a severe pullback, buoying its shares in extended trading. The world’s largest networking equipment maker reported sales of $11.2 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter, surpassing expectations for under $11 billion.

“They beat a low bar. A lot of it is coming from cost cutting, which we anticipated. In that sense it’s a relief,” Joanna Makris of Mizuho Securities USA told Reuters.

Groupon Inc’s plans for an initial public offering have been dented by the stock market slump and new financial disclosures that suggest the daily deal company’s business is slowing in North America, analysts said on Wednesday.

Tech wrap: Is Groupon’s IPO window closing?

As the Nasdaq Composite index continued its week-long tailspin, tech investors and analysts are wondering what the stock plunge could mean for the pending IPOs of companies like Groupon and Zynga.

The coming week, which has about a dozen IPOs scheduled to price, will be a good test of the severity of the selloff, according to Nick Einhorn, an analyst at Connecticut-based IPO research house Renaissance Capital. “Less mature, less profitable companies could have a tougher time going public,” Einhorn told Reuters.

If there was to be another recession, writes Investor Place’s Tom Taulli, “the IPO market will freeze up. It will mostly be only standout companies – such as Zynga and Facebook – that will get traction. A company like Groupon, which has substantial losses, may have to delay its offering or cut the valuation.”

Tech wrap: Apple ousts Nokia as top smartphone vendor

Apple jumped to the top of the global smartphone sales rankings in the second quarter, ending Nokia’s 15-year run as the lead smartphone vendor, according to new research from Strategy Analytics. Apple sold a record 20.3 million iPhones during the quarter, which amounts to about a fifth of the global smartphone market. Impressive considering its iPhone 4 model was released more than a year ago. Samsung also surpassed Nokia to claim second spot, with 17.5 percent of market share. Nokia fell to third place as its market share tumbled to 15.2 from 38.1 percent a year ago.

As if Apple’s new royalty status isn’t enough, the gadget maker can also lay claim to being the most profitable in the smartphone business. According to a chart on Business Insider, Apple pulled in two-thirds of all profits in the mobile phone sector last quarter. That’s twice as much as Samsung, RIM and HTC combined.

Did Yahoo get a raw deal when it signed a pact with Alibaba and SofBank to resovle a dispute over online payment service Alipay? That’s the case being made by some analysts. The trio announced it had struck an agreement after months of wrangling over the lucrative asset, under which Alibaba gets up to $6 billion if the mobile payments firm goes public or gets sold. But investors are bothered by the deal, saying it reaffirms perceptions on Wall Street that Yahoo has little say in Alibaba, the e-commerce company founded by Jack Ma and which is 43 percent-owned by Yahoo.