Entrepreneurial

Startup Toovio offers “Minority Report”-type ad service for retailers

Big Brother has the capability to watch – and respond to – your every spending move. That’s the premise behind Toovio, a startup that has created technology to help retailers and other consumer-facing companies market personalized offers to their customers in real time.

Think of the scene in the film “Minority Report”, when Tom Cruise’s character is walking through a mall while his eyes are getting scanned and he is being bombarded by a slew of personalized 3D ads.

“We call it offer orchestration,” said Toovio’s CEO Josh Smith, 31, of the capabilities that allow companies to communicate custom offers over a range of channels that include checkout, website, kiosk and customer-service call centers.

“We have visibility into their (customers’) previous behavior,” he said. “There’s learning, based on whatever interaction is happening, and we’re getting smarter – hopefully driving revenue.”

Toovio, which already has a number of small to mid-sized companies in the U.S. and Europe using its technology, will next month test a service that takes advantage of mobile apps that consumers download on their smart phones.

Is Airbnb growing too fast?

– Connie Loizos is a contributor to PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This story originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

Airbnb is on a tear. Three years after the San Francisco-based company began inviting real people to list for rent their homes and apartments, castles and houseboats, users have booked 1.9 million nights in more than 184 countries; bookings are growing an astonishing 40 percent month over month; and roughly 1,000 new properties are entered into its system each day.

The company is growing so fast, in fact, that it’s reportedly raising $100 million at a whopping $1 billion valuation — a mighty addition to the $8 million in capital it has previously raised from Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners, and numerous individuals.

Banjo mobile app keeps travelers in touch

A missed opportunity to connect with friends at an airport was the impetus behind a new social discovery service targeted at smartphone users.

The free service, Banjo, is the brainchild of 38-year-old tech entrepreneur Damien Patton. It launched this week and is available for iPhone and Android owners.

“It was started because I missed out on a personal connection,” Patton said. “It brings all the social information together into one convenient place on the mobile device.”

Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement assists startup

– Connie Loizos is a contributor to PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This story originally appeared here. –

When the manager of basketball star Shaquille O’Neal called Michael Downing one month ago out of the blue, the San Francisco entrepreneur was overcome with elation – and dread.

O’Neal is a savvy social media adopter with nearly 4 million Twitter followers and more than 2 million Facebook fans. He also reads tech press, and he’d noticed a short piece about Downing’s 10-month-old company, Tout. The maker of an iPhone application that will be available on Android phones next month, Tout allows users to film 15-second-long videos, then blast them over Facebook or Twitter accounts, email or SMS with the click of a button.

Entrepreneur’s tweet sparks fight with angels

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Last month, entrepreneur Matt Mireles published a tweet, asking: “Why is TechStars NYC run by a non-entrepreneur?”

The “non-entrepreneur” in question is 29-year-old David Tisch, whose grandfather built Loews into a Fortune 100 company that operates hotel chains, and whose family’s largess has helped bankroll numerous institutions, including the Tisch Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Since 2007, the young Tisch has been seed-funding startups with his brothers. According to his LinkedIn profile, he has also started two Internet companies, both of which were shuttered in less than a year’s time.

Startup sees boost after Japan quake

A heat map displaying downloads of MiserWare software in Japan since the earthquake hit on March 11, 2011. Graphic shows downloads as of April 7, 2011. REUTERS/HO/MiserWare

A heat map displaying downloads of MiserWare software in Japan since the earthquake hit on March 11, 2011. Graphic shows downloads as of April 7, 2011. REUTERS/HO/MiserWare

Blacksburg, Virginia is far from the epicenter of the earthquakes that have rocked Japan over the last six weeks, but resident Kirk Cameron has felt the virtual aftershocks.

Days after the magnitude 9.0 shaker hit, Cameron’s startup MiserWare tripled the number of downloads for its proprietary Granola energy-saving software.

The cloud is not just about storage

cindy bates– Cindy Bates is vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. SMB organization where she is responsible for the company’s end-to-end SMB sales and marketing efforts. The views expressed are her own. –

Have you ever owned something that you didn’t use to its full potential? Perhaps you have a four-wheel drive vehicle that you’ve never taken off the city streets or a digital camera you didn’t know had video capabilities.

The same phenomenon can occur with technology. Take cloud computing, for instance. By now, most small and mid-sized business (SMB) decision makers know they can use the cloud for storage. Hosts of online service providers offer space in the cloud to safely backup business data, and scores of SMBs are taking advantage of this cost-effective way to store data.

An entrepreneur’s view of the Japan quake

– Matthew Romaine is Co-Founder and CTO of myGengo, a crowd-sourced translation platform launched from Tokyo, Japan. Born in Boston to an American father and Japanese mother, Matt has lived in Tokyo for a total of 17 years. The views expressed are his own. –

As I write this entry traveling 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour) on a bullet train bound for Tokyo, I’m anxiously curious to catch up with my colleagues in person. One returns from Hong Kong today, another from Taiwan. A third is returning from a remote island south of Kobe, and three are making plans to return from Melbourne. Just last week we were all in the same room focused – or at least attempting to focus – on growing our crowd-sourced translation platform myGengo, from Tokyo.

We are a startup that gathers translators from around the world, qualifies them, then unleashes a sea of bite-size content – from emails, tweets, and iPhone app descriptions – for translators to work through. Users enjoy the convenience; translators like the work-flexibility. Our team is small and international, representing 8 nationalities, and our system relies on a stellar 2,000-member strong translator pool from every timezone.

Energy grid startup says not enough electric cars

Carbon Day Automotive, a distributor of electric vehicle charging stations in the Midwest, said interest in its products has been rising along with the high price of gas at the pump. The problem is automakers aren’t keeping pace by delivering enough cars.

“The Midwest has been overlooked,” said Brian Levin, Carbon Day vice president and partner. “We’re definitely the chicken before the egg.”

Cars like the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf are being rolled out initially in more concentrated urban areas such as the coastal regions. That’s because the cars have a limited range that make them somewhat inconvenient in areas where consumers tend to travel longer distances, said John O’Dell, editor of Edmund Green Car Advisor, which tracks the industry.

Realtime search engine Topsy raises $15 million

– Alastair Goldfisher is the Editor-in-Chief of the Venture Capital Journal and contributor for PE Hub, both Thomson Reuters publications. This article originally appeared on PE Hub. –

BlueRun Ventures, Ignition Partners, Founders Fund and angel investor Scott Banister (co-founder of Zivity) joined a $15 million Series C round for Topsy, the San Francisco, California-based company announced today.

Western Technology Investments joined the round, which brings to $30 million the amount of equity and debt that Topsy, a provider of real-time search engine services, has raised since 2008.

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