Tech wrap: LinkedIn IPO values firm at over $3 billion

LinkedIn, the social site for business professionals which attracts professionals and job seekers with 100 million worldwide members, is hoping to cash in with a public debut valuing the company at more than $3 billion.

Last week’s trading debut of Renren, one of the biggest social networking companies in China, is another indicator of investor interest in social media companies. Renren’s stock surged 28.6 percent in its May 4 debut.

The tantalizing prospect of finding the next Facebook, Groupon or Twitter is driving the biggest rush of venture capital since dot-com mania first boomed and then fizzled more than a decade ago, writes Jenny Harris and Jennifer Rogers. But characteristics of the current boom do set it apart. Online advertising and e-commerce are accepted as reliable revenue sources and there are more profitable young companies today, Harris and Rogers argue.

Apple overtook Google as the world’s most valuable brand, ending a four-year reign by the Internet search leader, according to a new study by global brands agency Millward Brown. Apple’s brand is now worth $153 billion, almost half Apple’s market capitalization, says the annual BrandZ study of the world’s top 100 brands. “Apple is breaking the rules in terms of its pricing model,” Millward Brown’s Peter Walshe told Reuters. “It’s doing what luxury brands do, where the higher price the brand is, the more it seems to underpin and reinforce the desire.”

Apple and magazine publisher Conde Nast reached a deal to offer the New Yorker on the iPad in the latest sign that relationships are improving between the technology company and content owners. Conde Nast said iPad editions of other magazines will also be available by subscription through Apple’s In-App Purchase system on the popular App Store. Titles including Vanity Fair, Glamour, Golf Digest, Allure, Wired, Self and GQ will be available in coming weeks.

Tech wrap: A page from Larry’s book

Google co-founder Larry Page is seen at the Sun Valley Inn in Sun Valley, Idaho in this July 8, 2010 file photograph. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni/FilesGoogle’s Larry Page took the reins after a decade of “adult supervision” for Google under Eric Schmidt, as the outgoing CEO called it. The switch comes as mobile gadgets are redefining the way people use the Internet and Google’s main ad business is under threat from fast-growing upstarts such as Facebook and Groupon. Page has yet to make his battle plan public, but industry insiders and analysts expect he will try to shore up Google’s strength in search and mobile while breaking into a red-hot social networking market that has eluded his company.

Google bid $900 million in a “stalking horse” auction for the acquisition of bankrupt Nortel Network’s patent portfolio, in an effort to fight a growing wireless patent war against well-armed mobile superpowers. The company has pushed its Android mobile phone software to the top of the wireless heap, attracting litigation in the process.

Hackers fully cracked Apple’s latest iPhone OS update, according to Redmond Pie. The iOS 4.3.1 jailbreak supports all iOS devices except the iPad 2. Jailbreaking allows users to run apps unsanctioned by Apple and tweak their iPhones, but voids the devices’ warranty.

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.

Five marketers who better bring it big on Super Bowl Sunday

Call it the Ad Bowl. Or the Buzz Bowl. Or the BS Bowl. Doesn’t matter, it all boils down to this: Sunday’s Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for advertisers, some of which dished out $3 million for the chance to reach an audience of 100 million consumers for 30 seconds. At that price — $100,000 a second — the stakes are high. A good commercial can be a triumph, creating just the kind of water-cooler talk that propels a brand to a new level with consumers. A bad commercial? Well, those behind it better start dusting off the old resume.

Still, like anything else, the risks are greater for some more than others. So here is our list of… Five Marketers Who Better Bring It Big On Sunday.

1). General Motors. Almost the entire auto industrycould be included in this one, since Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen and Audi are among those who will help the category account for roughly a quarter of all the commercial time during the game. It’s a turnout that reflects the improving fortunes of the U.S. auto industry, which snapped a four-year sales decline in 2010. GM, however, stands out because of the sheer number of ads it bought, five in all, after a two year absence. Can it strike the right tone with consumers? Can it differentiate its lineup? Will it play it safe — flags waving, trucks pulling 100 million tons of load, some catchy tune from an All-American rocker? Or will it try to liven things up, like Audi and Volkswagen have sought to do? (see below)

For Web startups, 2011 kicks off with flood of funding

MARKETS-KOREA-FOREX/The East Coast has been buried in copious amounts of snow this winter. In Silicon Valley, the only thing falling from the sky seems to be money.

If the first couple of weeks of the new year are any indication, Web startups appear to be awash in cash, with every day bringing one or more high-profile funding announcements.

The latest company to join the fund-raising parade is Formspring, which announced Wednesday it has raised $11.5 million in a round led by Redpoint Ventures. The San Francisco online social networking service, which has garnered more than 20 million registered users since launching 14 months ago, actually raised the money late last year, but had not disclosed the round until now, CEO Ade Olonoh told Reuters.

In Google-Groupon talks, size matters

“Think small and act small, and we’ll get bigger. Think big and act big, and we’ll get smaller.”

I came across this quote recently from Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines and my namesake (but no relation). I thought of it again this weekend when reports emerged that e-coupon star Groupon had rebuffed Google’s generous $6 billion bid for an acquisition.

In the business of building the web, small companies dream of staying private, suckling the ample teats of venture capital, until a successful IPO makes everyone rich. Big companies have a ton of cash and use it to buy small companies, which then get lost inside the big company’s culture and never really realize their potential.

Is Google overpaying for Groupon?

When a company has a lot of cash and not so many new sources of revenue, it can be tempting to buy its way into new markets. But such a strategy has its risks, which are best illustrated by ill-fated acquisitions like eBay’s $3.1 billion purchase of Skype in 2005. eBay ended up taking a writedown for the deal and sold off two-thirds of the company at a $2.75 billion valuation four years after the purchase.

The eBay-Skype story comes to mind as Google is close to paying as much as $6 billion for Groupon. Like eBay, Google is a company eager to find new revenue in emerging areas of growth. Just as eBay was seeing its online marketplace business mature, Google is needing to find growth outside of its core business of search.

eBay thought Skype could easily be folded into the company, even though it could never explain why online auctions and phone calls over the Internet was a natural fit. Google’s hunger for Groupon seems twofold: Groupon has a strong local component to it, and local is a clear priority for Google. And Groupon will bring Google a steady customer base it hasn’t been able to build on its own for local and social features.

Google wants Groupon, but is the feeling mutual?

Kara Swisher at AllThingsD is hearing that Google is in talks to buy the online-deal-of-the-day startup Groupon, citing multiple “sources close to the situation.” It’s easy to imagine why Google would be interested in this acquisition. Groupon not only stands at the intersection of the social web and local commerce, two areas Google is eager to expand into. It’s also a bonafide success, with 20 million users in hundreds of U.S. cities.

What’s harder to imagine is that Groupon is just as eager to put itself on the block just yet. Two months ago, Swisher reported a similar conversation happening between Yahoo and Groupon, with the former bidding more than $2 billion for the startup. Groupon may be shopping itself around for a number of reasons—one of them could be that it’s not interested right now in an actual deal, but generating press with high valuations of $2 billion, $3 billion or more is very handy when negotiating a new round of private investment.

For successful web companies right now, it’s clearly a seller’s market. Google, Microsoft and others may be sitting on tens of billions of dollars in cash, but at the same time, private equity is so abundant that another round of venture capital always remains an option. And if you’re cash-flow positive, why deal with the scrutiny and regulation an IPO would bring, or the culture clash and loss of independence that comes with an M&A deal?

Yahoo jumps into the local deals game, partners with Groupon

YAHOO-MICROSOFT/Rumors continue to swirl that Yahoo would like to buy Groupon, the fast-growing group-buying service.

But Yahoo’s heart seems to be in partnerships these days, and the company announced on Tuesday that it had struck a deal to offer Groupon deals in its new local offers program.

Groupon is one of 20 partners in Yahoo’s local offers program, including Goldstar, ScoopSt and ValPak.

DoubleClick’s Rosenblatt in group shopping start-up

DoubleClick’s former CEO has resurfaced…in the red-hot “group-buying” space.

It’s been just over a year since David Rosenblatt punched his last time card out at Google (which bought DoubleClick for $3.1 billion in 2008).

GroupCommNow, a sparsely populated site called Group Commerce lists Rosenblatt as the Chairman of the company. Andrew Glenn, another DoubleClick-Google alumni, is listed as the CTO, while Jonty Kelt, an entrepreneur that worked for a company acquired by DoubleClick, is the Group Commerce Chief Executive.