MediaFile

How about Hightail-ing it?

Silicon Valley startup YouSendIt, which began as a file sharing and storage company, is getting a corporate makeover. YouSendIt comes off, and Hightail gets papered on.  

 And that’s not the only change Chief Executive Brad Garlinghouse is making as he competes more directly with larger startups Dropbox and Box. Hightail will now offer unlimited storage for its paying customers, 90 percent of which are corporations and small businesses.

Garlinghouse decided to get a jump on competition with the new offer as he feels storage is fast becoming a commodity. Also, the former Yahoo executive  had seen this game played in the email space year ago when Google’s gmail robbed Yahoo mail of its momentum – by offering far more storage.

Hightail is also considering partnering with some of the larger companies — many of which have reached out to him –to expand its reach. Garlinghouse, however, would not name any of them. 

With 43 million users and $57 million in revenue, the rebranding better reflects the firm’s expanded suite of products that goes well beyond  just filesharing and storage. said Garlinghouse, who has overseen a 35 percent to 40 percent growth in users since he joined Hightail just over a year ago.

After Aaron Swartz

Brilliant young hackers, striving to build tools to change the world, are killing themselves. Just last week: Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit and fierce open access activist, took his life at 26. There have been other high-profile suicides in the tech world in recent years: Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the distributed social network Diaspora, dead at 22. Len Sassaman, a highly-regarded cypherpunk who believed in cryptography and privacy as tools of freedom, dead at 31. Dan Haubert, co-founder of the Y-Combinator funded startup Ticketstumbler, dead at 25. If these young men were like the 100 people who kill themselves in this country every day, the biggest factor contributing to their deaths was likely under-treated depression.

We can readily come up with hypotheses as to why depression is a problem in the tech world. It’s a culture defined by ruthless pressure, high stakes, and risky gambles. Often hiding behind pseudo-anonymity, lightning fast criticisms are released online with bullet speed. Then there’s the “thrashing duck” syndrome: to survive in the startup ecosystem you have to puff up your chest and show only how smoothly you’re gliding through the water; you don’t show how furiously your legs are kicking and struggling underneath. There’s also the hero archetype of the lone hacker: he’s coding through the night, living on red bulls, sleeping on a couch at AOL to save money, not thinking about short-term wealth, and surely not thinking about health, be it physical or mental.

As a clinical psychologist married to a hacker, I do not find this to be okay. On a human level, there is widespread pain and suffering lying silent and unaddressed. On a societal level, we are losing brilliant young minds, activists and role models with so much left to contribute to the world.

Facebook, the most cynical tech giant ever

For all its vaunted idealism, Silicon Valley can be just as cynical as any other area of commerce. The tech companies set up to profit from spam and search-engine trickery are too numerous to count. But Facebook’s short history makes one thing clear: There has never been a tech company that built so much fortune from the exploitation of ordinary people while giving so little in return.

Yes, Microsoft was vilified – and rightly so – for crushing competitors and forcing customers into an inferior operating-system software, but its iron-fisted dominance helped shape an immature and inchoate computer-software industry into a single standard that made PCs everyday devices in offices and homes. Microsoft’s brutal strong-arm tactics were directed at rivals. Its sin against its customers was that its software, for decades, just wasn’t that good.

Facebook, by contrast, built the best social network of its time, so good it left rivals like MySpace in the dust. And that should have been enough to make Facebook a Silicon Valley success story. Once it came time to make money, Facebook exploited its users’ personal data to a degree that no company had ever achieved before.

Shoes, glorious shoes (even in footloose Silicon Valley)

Silicon Valley is known for being more fleece than Ferragamo. But former Google executive Sukhinder Singh Cassidy is working on giving the place a makeover via her new shopping site, Joyus.com. Unlike other high-end shopping sites such as Gilt Groupe and Rue La La that are based in the fashion hub of New York, Joyus calls the dress-down Bay Area home.

That means she raises lots of eyebrows with her wardrobe. The picture below, snapped by a friend in the audience and uncropped, shows Singh onstage at tech confab AllThingsD Asia last month with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg. No prize for guessing which shoes are hers.

Ironically, given her love for shoes, she says they are one of the toughest sells on her site, which features products ranging from cosmetics to baby presents to clothing in limited-time sales.

Do tech giants really need a tax holiday?

By Kevin Kelleher
The views expressed are his own.

I want a new MacBook Pro. And I’d really love to buy one. But Apple won’t let me.

It’s not that I can’t afford it – the cash is just sitting there in my account. And it’s not that I don’t want Apple to have the money. I’d love to do my share to create jobs at One Infinite Loop or to reward Apple shareholders for their faith in the company’s impressive profit growth. No, Apple won’t let me buy a Macbook Pro because it expects me to pay $2,500. And I simply don’t want to pay that much, so I’m asking Apple to lower the price. And they should accept that; after all, $500 is better than $0.

I even went into an Apple store and asked the blue-shirted genius who greeted me if Apple would part with a 17-inch Macbook Pro for $500. He looked at me like I was crazy. Which is pretty much what I expected, but I figured I had a shot. Because I was simply following the example set by Apple and other big-cap, cash-rich tech giants who have done an end-run around tax laws. If Apple can ask for a tax holiday to bring its overseas profits home, why can’t I ask for a Macbook holiday so I can bring a new laptop home?

Tech wrap: Google fined over drug ads

Google has agreed to pay $500 million to settle a probe into ads it accepted for online Canadian pharmacies selling drugs in the United States, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday. The forfeiture is one of the largest ever in the United States, according to the DOJ. It represents Google’s revenue from Canadian pharmacy advertisements to U.S. customers through Google’s AdWords program and Canadian pharmacies’ revenue from U.S. sales.

Apple won another battle in the mobile tech patent wars on Wednesday when a Dutch court ruled that Samsung Electronics must stop marketing three of its smartphone models in some European countries. Apple, which has conquered the high end of the phone market with its iPhone, argued that Samsung had infringed on three of its patents. The court ruled that Samsung smartphones Galaxy S, S II and Ace breached just one of Apple’s patents.

BlackBerry users tired of the narrow selection of apps available to them should welcome news that models expected next year will be able to run apps designed for Google’s Android mobile platform. According to a Bloomberg report, which cites three unnamed sources, Research in Motion plans to make its forthcoming BlackBerry models Android-compatible in an attempt to boost sales of its smartphone models and win back consumers. The Android Market currently offers more than 250,000 apps, nearly six times as many as RIM’s own app store, the article notes.

from The Great Debate:

Can sleeping giant Skype reinvent itself?

eric_auchard_thumbnail2.jpg -- Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Do once-hot Internet start-ups who miss a date with destiny ever truly get a second chance? History says no, even for once-great names like Netscape, AOL and MySpace.

Skype hopes to be the exception. On Tuesday, a group led by top Internet financiers in Silicon Valley and Europe agreed to pay eBay $1.9 billion in cash for a 65 percent stake in the one-time web calling sensation.

The deal values Skype at a face-saving $2.75 billion, well above the $1.7 billion at which it has been valued on the ecommerce giant's books. Ebay also stands to keep a 35 per cent stake in the company.

from DealZone:

Stirrings from Silicon Valley

As centers of innovation go, there are worse places to place a bet on the past repeating itself than California's technology hub. Looking beyond the Internet, housing and credit bubbles, it's still the preferred playground of such leading financial weathervanes as venture capitalists, gizmo nerds and software studs.

Perhaps Wall Street, searching for reasons to remain optimistic about the market's summer rally, should take heart from the spate of articles painting pictures of green shoots all over Silicon Valley. The Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal notes that tech IPOs are staging a comeback, and asks if its time to party like it's 1999?

Our reporting shows that investors, encouraged by a growing number of acquisitions and public stock flotations in the past few months, are keeping a close eye on a coterie of promising startups in Silicon Valley. David Lawsky identified six privately held companies as the ripest for acquisition or readiness to go public, out of 34 cited in industries ranging from alternative energy to social networking.

from Commentaries:

Q2 VC investment rebound as health overtakes IT

One sure place you'd expect to find green-shoots thinking would be in venture capital precincts. Figures released over the weekend show the industry staging a minor rebound during the second quarter, only not in the usual ways.

2009 Q2 VC investments

U.S. venture capital investments grew by nearly 32 percent during the second quarter to $5.27 billion, rebounding off the lowest quarterly levels in 11 years earlier this year, according to data from Dow Jones VentureSource.

IT VC investments

 

 

 

 

 

Investors have cut the amounts they invest in any particular deal, while diversifying out of biotech and software into area like medical devices and information services. It was the first time in memory that healthcare investments outpaced information technology in terms of the value of venture capital investments ($2.60 billion, or 184 deals in healthcare versus $1.88 billion or 248 deals.

Google’s Mayer on how to write online news

Just about everyone has thrown a thought or two by now into the great bubbling pot of stew that is the future of journalism. Latest in line is Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience.Mayer, one of Google’s earliest employees who gets reams of newsprint in Silicon Valley for her cupcake spreadsheets and love of Oscar de la Renta, spoke before a Senate subcommittee on a future of journalism hearing on Wednesday.Apart from defending Google, which has come under attack from the news industry — most notably the Associated Press — for profiting from content, Mayer gave some tips on how journalists should write their stories.Mayer talked about something she called the “atomic unit of consumption” — a news article rather than an entire newspaper, much like one song downloaded digitally instead of buying an entire album. Here’s an excerpt from her prepared testimony:

The atomic unit of consumption for existing media is almost always disrupted by emerging media. For example, digital music caused consumers to think about their purchases as individual songs rather than as full albums. Digital and on-demand video has caused people to view variable-length clips when it is convenient for them, rather than fixed-length programs on a fixed broadcast schedule.Similarly, the structure of the Web has caused the atomic unit of consumption for news to migrate from the full newspaper to the individual article. As with music and video, many people still consume physical newspapers in their original full-length format. But with online news, a reader is much more likely to arrive at a single article. While these individual articles could be accessed from a newspaper’s homepage, readers often click directly to a particular article via a search engine or another Website.

Mayer then went on to suggest that reporters and editors need to think differently about how they write for online:

Treating the article as the atomic unit of consumption online has several powerful consequences. When producing an article for online news, the publisher must assume that a reader may be viewing this article on its own, independent of the rest of the publication.To make an article effective in a standalone setting requires providing sufficient context for first-time readers, while clearly calling out the latest information for those following a story over time. It also requires a different approach to monetization: each individual article should be self-sustaining. These types of changes will require innovation and experimentation in how news is delivered online, and how advertising can support it.

So wait, now the big bad wolf is counseling Little Red Riding Hood before gobbling her up for dinner? Maybe Google and news publishers can be friends… or at least frenemies. Read Mayer’s full testimony here.Keep an eye on:

    Online video site Hulu signs its first international TV content deals. (Financial Times) Former CNBC host lands at MSNBC. (Associated Press) Hear it once and for all: Twitter is not for sale. (Reuters)

(Photo: Actress Brooke Shields portrays Little Red Riding Hood at a charity fundraiser/Reuters)