Pando

May 2013

  1. For the bitcoin economy to grow, anonymity needs to die

    Yesterday was a seminal day in the maturation of the bitcoin ecosystem, as the world’s largest exchange, Mt. Gox, announced it would now require user verification – via approved photo identification – for all accounts seeking to deposit or withdraw fiat currencies (aka, government-backed currency). This is a direct response to two recent government actions against virtual currency operators accused of violating anti-money laundering regulations. It was also absolutely necessary if bitcoin were to become the legitimate, global alternative currency that many suggest it can be.

    By Michael Carney , written on

    From the News desk

  2. Same-day delivery's for suckers – now a Chinese ecommerce giant has three-hour delivery

    A couple of days ago, we flagged Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers partner Mary Meeker's presentation at the D11 conference, and looked at the special attention she paid to China. Among the many data points she had to share about the world's biggest Internet market, Meeker included a slide that showed how ecommerce giant Jingdong (formerly 360buy) offers same-day delivery in more than 25 cities. The delivery routes, she noted, could be tracked via a map, and shoppers could even make contact with the delivery people as they did the job.

    By Hamish McKenzie , written on

    From the News desk

  3. Software eats food: FarmersWeb raises $1 million brings wholesale food sales online

    A year ago I lamented the shortcomings of B2B ecommerce. What ever happened to the $7.3 trillion in business-to-business spending that we expected to come online? Why is so much business still done via paper invoices, fax machines, and obnoxious email chains? Since then I've encountered a handful of companies aiming to solve this problem. Joor, Lookboard, Handshake, Insite Software, MerchantFuse and NuORDER all attempt to solve this problem in various ways. This week I met another one that's bringing software to an industry that previously did business via cash, handshakes and faxes: wholesale food. FarmersWeb is a New York-based company with an online platform to connect buyers and sellers of wholesale food. So farmers list their inventory, which can be updated in realtime. Buyers such as restaurants, office cafeterias and schools use the platform to purchase their ingredients. The company has raised close to $1 million from private angel investors to bring wholesale food sales online. Co-founder David Ross was previously a venture capitalist at Bay Grove Capital. His co-founders worked at a distribution company focused on local food; they were shocked when they realized such a platform didn't exist. There is no special sauce to FarmersWeb's platform; it is simply an online marketplace similar to many other digital marketplaces. The difference is that no other company has really offered this service before and put in the work to build up both sides of the marketplace, Ross says. Most platforms for farmers are consumer-facing and so the sales happen on a much smaller scale, or they're focused around helping people form CSA's or only provide a database of local farms in a certain area. "The local food movement is still relatively new," Ross says. "We're solving some of the general inefficiencies you get from traditional B2B commerce," he says. It's not only convenient from a timing perspective -- chefs can place an order at any time rather than calling during business hours. Likewise, buyers have an online record of what they've purchased, as opposed to just sending someone to a farmer's market with cash. Same goes for the sell side -- farms can pull detailed transaction records to help them plan for what will be popular next season; they can also ensure their inventory lists are always up-to-date with an easy to manage back end system. FarmersWeb handles the payments and leaves the logistics to the farms, who use their own delivery trucks, rent them, or sometimes ship via Fedex where it makes sense. Currently FarmersWeb is only available in New York, with around 100 active buyers on the site including Hearst, The Met, Proskauer Rose, NoMad Hotel, Eataly and The Four Seasons using the platform. A variety of private high schools are also on board. By taking a transaction fee, the company's revenues are growing at 20 percent each month, tripling sales over the past six months. Soon the site will roll out a national platform that allows any farmer to list their goods, for which they will pay a subscription fee.

    By Erin Griffith , written on

    From the News desk

  4. Enter the Nexus: Google finally asserts some control over Android

    You could probably pick up any two Android devices and fail to notice that they are both running the same operating system. Google has allowed everyone, from Amazon and Samsung to HTC and Facebook, to obfuscate the core Android experience with their own, often-frustrating software meant to help differentiate one plastic-bodied smartphone from another. These devices are all using Android as a foundation -- and might not exist if it weren't for the operating system and Google's commitment to keeping it "open" -- but you'd never know it by looking at them.

    By Nathaniel Mott , written on

    From the News desk

  5. What is a mobile news company, and do we even want one?

    When Circa announced that it had poached Reuters’ social media boffin Anthony De Rosa to head up its editorial team, it scored a victory on two counts: Suddenly, 60,000 people – the sum total of De Rosa’s Twitter followers – had heard its name, and, finally, it got the opportunity to change perceptions about what it actually is. Since launching its news-reading app in October last year, Circa has had to endure being lumped in with news summarizing services such as Flipboard, Prismatic, and especially Summly, which has since been acquired by Yahoo for $30 million. Look, I even did it myself! By hiring De Rosa, an editorial guy from a big-deal news organization who has the respect and retweets of the media illuminati, Circa got the chance to circulate its message among an audience it would otherwise only have reached at the time of its launch. And now that everyone’s watching, the startup wants you to know this: It is not the second coming of the Huffington Post; it is the first coming of news machine built for smartphones. “We’re a mobile news company,” says co-founder and CEO Matt Galligan. “We’re not a news aggregation app or summary app.” Given the initial confusion about Circa’s mission, it shouldn’t be a surprise that much of the reporting about De Rosa’s appointment to the position of Circa’s “editor in chief” has stemmed from a profound collective insight that translates as something along the lines of: “Huh?” Circa already had a “director of news,” David Cohn, and it doesn’t do any of its own reporting. So why would it need an editor? Well, Galligan says, De Rosa will be overseeing editorial staff, as well as helping define and expand the Circa’s editorial vision. Cohn will occupy a role that sits between the developers and the editorial team. While it rejects the “summarizer” label on account of having human writers who curate, cut down, and repackage existing news stories – to which they then link in footnotes accessible only by hitting an “info” button – Circa is, at its core, a deliverer of other people’s reporting. Which kind of sounds exactly like Flipboard and Prismatic. And Summly. The difference is that Circa gets humans heavily involved in the curation and editing process. It is attempting to optimize news so that it can be read easily in the palm of your hand. That means much of it dribbles into the app in bits and pieces, with a paragraph here, a paragraph there, and updates on breaking stories as they develop. The app (iPhone only) also allows you to follow stories so you can stay on top of what’s going on in the case of a major news event, like the Boston bombing, via push notifications. This, so far, is Circa’s vision of what a “mobile news company” looks like. No reporters – just curators and editors, and the ability to keep tabs on stories as they unfold, all packaged expressly for your iPhone. De Rosa is a believer into the vision, part of which involves doing a better job than Twitter at filtering the noise from news events as they break. “I feel the role of the human editor is still so important to be able to sift through all that information, gather up what’s being reported, and make sure a lot of the stuff that’s on Twitter you can share with a wider audience,” De Rosa says. “The thing about Twitter that’s a gift and a curse is that there’s just so much information there – there’s so many sources that you can pick and choose from.” That can make it difficult to discern what’s really relevant, and what you need to know now, he says. In a Fast Company interview, De Rosa said he felt trapped in the traditional article format, which emphasizes an inverted pyramid model that puts the most important information at the top of a story and works down from there. Such an approach is not the best way to present a story that is in progress, he suggested. “We’ve been presenting news in a digital format for almost 20 years now, and we’re still really kind of stuck and tied to this inverted pyramid model, which I think is really kind of broken,” he told the publication. De Rosa sees Circa moving into tablets at a later point in its evolution and says there’s an opportunity to go after a “leanback” experience there, in which longer-form, more engrossing stories could find a home, perhaps with multimedia elements baked in. He cites the Guardian’s recent multimedia story about a Tasmanian bush fire as an example of what could work great on tablets. Once that happens, then Circa’s vision of news could essentially be characterized a two-pronged strategy: mobile phones for quick, info-heavy news and tablets for involved reads. The latter could draw on the back catalog of material Circa has built up by repackaging and updating stories from the past, De Rosa says. However, there is something just a little naive about this vision. It is clear that mobile devices will play a huge role in the future of news consumption – perhaps more important than any other platforms. But such an approach to news turns it into something that is read as if it is an activity to be conducted in the little breaks in the day when you happen to find a few spare moments. News, effectively, would be relegated to having to compete against games, text messaging, or Instagramming while you’re on the bus. And it would have to live in an app. In that way, Circa captures well the mobility and dynamism of news, but it ignores the need for it to be ubiquitous, always available on whatever device or platform the reader happens to have in front of them. For a large part of many people’s day, that device is going to be the PC that sits on their office desk. By forcing readers to consume its news only via a mobile app, Circa neglects all the bored office workers constantly checking Twitter and hitting “refresh” on their favorite news sites in desperate search of distraction. Not everyone is as earnest a reader of news as the people who feel compelled to put every app that falls into the App Store through its paces. And not everyone is going to want to receive their news via push notification. Perhaps realizing these challenges, Circa has made its stories available on the Web. But in this case the Web is clearly a second-class citizen, being lumped with the same format and design as is presented in the mobile app. Just as it’s wrong that news organizations should consider mobile platforms secondary to the Web experience, it holds that the Web shouldn’t have to wait in line after mobile. Similarly, Circa has a lot of work to do on social, which was a big reason for hiring De Rosa. So far, its main account has just 6,000 followers on Twitter, while its dedicated news feed has about 350 followers. That's not a good strike rate for an account that has sent out nearly 4,000 tweets. The challenge for De Rosa will be to build Circa’s presence to the point where it has even a fraction of Reuters’ reach. The company De Rosa is leaving behind might be bureaucratic, cumbersome, and saddled with the legacy baggage of old media, but it goes everywhere, and it tends to get there first. To get to that point, though, Circa might have to reconsider its mobile-centric viewpoint. That might end up making it a plain old news company, but there's value in that, too.

    By Hamish McKenzie , written on

    From the News desk

  6. The amount of money a startup raises shouldn't be the only metric of respect

    Not long ago, I attended a fireside chat-type of event for founders, hosted by a well-known figure in the startup world. Before the talk began, the host asked a few questions to get a feel for the room.

    By Laura Roeder , written on

    From the News desk

  7. Local Motors' latest crowdsourcing challenge takes aim at motorized bikes

    Last week Local Motors announced its latest crowdsourcing challenge: design a motorized bicycle. This challenge calls for designers of all backgrounds and abilities within the Local Motors community to submit plans for a vehicle that fits within the challenge’s parameters and lives and breathes “retro-innovation.”

    By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on

    From the News desk

  8. Marc Andreessen on A16Z's growing partnership: Great things come in clusters

    Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz have been trying to expand their partnership since the day they opened the doors at Andreessen Horowitz, or as insiders call it, A16Z. (Andreessen and fellow A16Z partners Jeff Jordan and Chris Dixon are individual investors in PandoDaily.) The theme with each addition has been that all general partners (GPs) must have proven themselves successful company builders.

    By Michael Carney , written on

    From the News desk

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