Tech Coast Review
The startup and tech news weblog for Southern California
Showing posts with label San Diego. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Diego. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

San Diego based mTracks, today received another 500k in funding from angel investors, making their total funding up to 1M. Not too shabby of a start without getting VCs involved. Though to be honest until I saw their press release, I hadn't heard of them. And looking at their traffic, not too many people have either.

So what is mtrack, well is basically a music social network, combined with a music storefront. Sort of like a combination of imeem and the itunes store. Its got all the usual groovy social features that meld well with music, as well as storefront that has a whole bunch of basically indie music. They don't have the major labels, but it doesn't seem like thats what they are going for.

They have quite a few things going for it, particularly a really really good interface. I also like that their music is all encoded in 192k DRM free mp3s (which would have been a huge thing a year ago, but is now becoming sort of a norm). Businesswise I also think they have a good thing going building a site that basically musicians can circumvent labels and in the long run self sell (ala cdbaby). This is definetly good for the artists, giving them more control financially as well as allow them to market better with the social network.

I did have some problems though, first the site was occasionally slow, though its hard to say if it was a basic hiccup on their end or a larger problem. The other thing was that although they say they have about 800,000 I (and I'm assuming most 'common' music listeners) weren't entirely familiar with much of the library. Thats cool, and part of the indie music discovery process, but a couple of things need to be tweaked a little to help people like me find my way. First, I really like that if you put in the name of a common band, if mTraks doesnt have the band, it will suggest similar sounding artists in the library. This is exactly what is needed, however my experience is that the suggestions weren't all that close. The premise is good, they just need to tweak the algorithm more. The other thing, is that while I don't mind 30 second clips on Itunes that much, I find that I have a feel for the band better, so its not much of a problem. Here, since I was discovering a lot of new bands for the first time, I really wanted to hear more of the song. Of course I realize a lot of that is up to the negotiations with labels and artists, but for indie stuff, 45 or 60 seconds would have been a lot more helpful.

Overall, though I really like the site, the question is just how to make it stand out. These guys need traffic in a serious way. They've done pretty well on the tech side and really now its a matter of figuring out how to standout in a very crowded space. This is no easy task, and I'm assuming thats in large part what this next chunk of funding will go towards. Maybe some kind of killer facebook or myspace app might do them some good.




Thursday, March 13, 2008

Los Angeles Based Myspace is finally trying to catch back up on the innovation curve by releasing their apps platform today. These apps, much like the Facebook, apps, allow social widgets on your myspace profile. And while Facebook has beaten Myspace by almost a year with this functionality, there are some things to applaud Myspace over. Most of important of which is that they are the first container to go live with the much touted OpenSocial specs.

There are a number of apps that are live today (well over a hundred with more being added every moment). Here are a list of some of the cooler ones I played with:

    Social Music Playlist that help you discover new music and broadcast it to your friends on your profile.
  • Flixter Movies
    Helps you discover movies by showing you what your friends thought.
  • Where I've Traveled
    Create an interactive world map, to show off all of the cities, states, and countries you've traveled to.
    (Incidentally this app is made by San Diego based, a travel 2.0 company we'll probably review in the next couple of weeks).
  • Twitter Sync
    Sync your myspace mood status or other updates with twitter.
Overall, while I'm usually a Myspace hater, I'm actually impressed with how they came out of the gates here. While theres been pleanty of opensocial hype, myspace didn't send out big press releases about launching soon like some other containers, they just built the development community, got the apps working with opensocial and then just launched. Thats the way to do it. And at least for the moment, the apps not only work pretty well, they seem free of the facebook spam. Now thats a change, Myspace being solid, and better at spam then Facebook. We'll see how long this lasts.




Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Last week one of the bigger web 2.0ish conferences was in Southern California: The Oreilly Graphing Social Patterns, held in San Diego. I had some passing involvement there and after digesting it a bit, one of the things that I came across thinking was that it never ceeses to amaze me how traditional companies are clueless to what the social web is all about.

So many companies are not sure that they "get" social, but are being told by people in the know that they "need" social. What this often means to them seems to be two extremes: either you must be a company knee deep in community by becoming some up and coming niche social networking site (enter pitch for online community of garbage men here) or that social should just be haphazardly bolted onto the top of your existing product (your chair company makes a vampire biting facebook app that eats chairs). But clearly neither extreme is a way to add value to your product/service. And maybe even more importantly, social on its own, doesn't necessarily monitize.

What does add value AND monetizes, is the notion that social is the new and obvious enabler, of existing markets. Most business are not likely to fundamentally change by being social, they just become better at the business of connecting with and between customers. Movie sites like Blockbuster or Netflix are great examples of this. The companies are still fundamentally about movies, but social takes the customer experience to a different level because you can show off the movies you're watching, connect with friends who have similar taste in movies, review what you've seen so you get better suggestions for new movies, etc. Regardless of whether you are on one of their facebook or opensocial apps, or you are in the community section of their own site, the social graph has become a core enabler of movie watching. These activities enhance the entire video business because you now are not just watching the movie, but you also are stay engaged before and after. In this way community doesn't change the business, but instead drastically creates more value to the lifecyle of the business.

In this way as we move forward, social to me becomes less about being the next cornerstone block of a company, and more about being a fundamental component entrenched in nearly all online activity.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

PreCYdent is a legal research tool that I am very excited was submitted for review. The idea behind the site is to enable everyone (not just the legal community) to search and find both case law and statutes for all matters. They are headquartered in San Diego, CA and have recently opened up the early alpha version of their software. Funding for the company is undisclosed.

The current state of legal research has two major players Westlaw and LexisNexis, Westlaw being the dominant force. It is practically necessary to have access to one of these two software programs to do useful legal research and both of these services individually license their product using heavy price discrimination which is downright exorbitant at times (often). Furthermore while the traditional software of Westlaw and LexisNexus is great at looking up cases which you have the citation to (a citation is generally how you find a case) as well as following the cases subsequent history (was the ruling upheld?, overruled?, is there conflicting law?) it is borderline useless in a generic word search (i.e. it is difficult to type in "lemon vehicle private party" and find out cases or statutes pertaining to lemon laws and private sellers of automobiles). In summary most lay people could not afford or efficiently use the major tools for legal research.

PreCYdent seems to be running on 2 main platforms, making their service able to effectively understand searches for words and to be free for all. These are both lofty targets to set your site on for this industry, with that said they both need to be accomplished ASAP. To make their word search tool understand what you are looking for they use a combination of an algorithm and user response (almost like Mahalo but with a defined niche for legal cases and statutes). In the few searches I ran I had significantly better search results with PerCYdent than that of Westlaw or LexusNexis, however my results were far from perfect. This can probably be attributed to PreCYdent only having indexed U.S. Supreme Court cases, and Court of Appeals cases.

There are other features offered on the site such as "finding lawyers," and "answering legal questions," but the community does not appear to be developed enough to make this useful, yet (they are still in Alpha mode so I will give them time). In short PreCYdent offers a very innovative idea and a useful tool which could enable all people to find the law and use it themselves. However if they are to become a dominant player in the market they have a lot of hard work ahead of them (including the active indexing of ALL cases). If PreCYdent can make legal searching both better and free they will have the ability to revolutionize legal search as we know it not to mention monetize their search traffic rapidly. All in all they have a great concept the only question will be if they can pull it off.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

San Diego based, Divx, best known for the popular mpeg4 licensing business, today announced that they are shutting down their Stage6 video sharing website. This has rightly gotten a good bit of play in the blog technosphere (see Techcrunch, Gizmodo, GigaOM, Webware, Mashable, Etc), as Stage6 was a pretty popular service. I personally used Stage6 all the time as it was a good source of content (both original and piratted), and felt quite superior to your typical Youtube knockoff, both in terms quality and speed.

According to their official blog response the reason for the shutdown was "that the continued operation of Stage6 is a very expensive enterprise that requires an enormous amount of attention and resources that [they]are not in a position to continue to provide." Of course as Techcrunch and some of the other blogs have dug into, when they passingly mention that "there are a lot of other details involved" what they really mean is that a rediculously stupid power trip originating from the Divx board over how to properly spin off the new company was a huge problem.

As Arrington put it, "throwing the baby out with the bath water" was certainly the case here. Stage6 had impressive funding to branch off and a business model that was actually working. Throwing out the revenue that Stage6 was making, as well the positive consumer impact it had on the Divx brand because they didnt have the resources to devote to it or the stomach to pound through the internal politics is amazingly short cited on their own. Even just considering Stage6 as its own entity its pretty easy to see that they come out of the gates with great traction and a semi niche, both of which any one of the new video sharing sites we see pop up daily would kill to have.

Overall on the business end this whole thing just exemplifies bad leadership and decision making. Plus as a consumer, I have just got to say I'll be sad to see Stage6 go.


Monday, February 4, 2008

San Diego based Goowy is a virtual desktop for office productivity as well as widgets. They were founded in 2004 so they've been at it a while and it shows. Originally funded by Mark Cuban in a seed round, today they announced that they have been purchased by and will become a wholly owned subsidirary of AOL.

From the start Goowy, has delivered a great experience and received sold feedback from the users and press alike (Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, etc). Their widget platform is similar and useful to the mac widgets (though flash based) and the virtual desktop suite (also flash based) which includes email, calendaring, and more is surprisingly good. For a web app thats based on flash its impressive both how fast Goowy performs and also how good the UI is (it reminds me a bit of a cross-up of Outlook, mac Mail and iCal).

So what does AOL want with them? Well Goowy already provides widgets via the myAOL portal and as AOL continues to shift from a subscription based business model, to a media channel with revenue mainly from advertising, Goowy becomes a nice delivery platform. By using Goowy's technology, AOL can create a form of widget based advertising, that becomes more interactive (but hopefully not more annoying as well), as well as extend the myAOL services. How much, AOL guts the technology, versus lets Goowy continue on building what their virtual office productivity desktop out will remain to be seen, but regardless I'm sure this is great news for the Goowy folks who have ran a impressively lean operation.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

San Diego based startup company ProQuo today announced 8M in Series B funding (after receiving a $5M round last year) by Mission Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurveston.  So what are they doing with all this funding, dealing with email spam?  Nope, actually they are using the Internet to kill snail mail spam.

The Good
Their getting rid of junk mail, thats about as good as it gets!  
Basically you get presented a bunch of things that you get put on mailing lists for (coupons, credit cards, catalogs, etc.), and mostly all you have to do is click on the ones you dont want sent to you anymore and ProQuo handles the rest. In a few cases, ProQuo, can't automate it, so they give you instructions on what you need to do manually.  But either way, at the end of ProQuo session, you are pretty much guaranteed to get rid of a lot of that junk in you mailbox.

The Bad
Well there isn't a whole lot of bad things to talk about with ProQuo, they are free and they are providing a great service for consumers.  The one thing to point out is maybe the irony of their revenue model.  Like many free Internet services they are advertisement driven, which is kind of funny considering their company is about getting rid of advertisements in you mail.  Frankly though I'd rather see a few ads on the side of a website then a bunch of crap in my mailbox thats not only annoying me, but also killing trees for no good reason.

Only good things to come for ProQuo.  With the added capital, it will be interesting to see how they continue to expand their service.  They have already been well covered in the press and high profile blogs and they are picking up traffic and customers fast, so now its just a matter of sitting back and watching these guys grow.  


Monday, January 14, 2008

San Diego based, Mindtouch is a wiki software maker focused on the enterprise.   They originally launched in 2005 and have had a steady stream of new features and new high profile customers (including heavy weights like Microsoft, Fujitsu, British Petroleum, Stanford University, and Mozilla).

Business wikis are a huge and growing market, and Mindtouch is definitely leading the way.  Mediawiki (the most popular wiki engine that powers Wikipedia, as well as many other sites) is a huge and complicated beast and not exactly well suited for businesses who just want to plug and go.  Mindtouch's DekiWiki product has 100k installations, focused on the enterprise, with a much easier deployment than MediaWiki.  Meaning that as a business DekiWiki is probably your top choice.  For those who care about open source companies, DekiWiki is an open source platform,  just like MediaWiki, so if your dev team is really up to snuff, you can probably modify just about anything.

As mentioned, Mindtouch has been really aggressive with their release cycles and are really moving DekiWiki from just a standard wiki to a full on service application platform.  The big thing they've released just recently, is the ability to include mashups in their wikis.  While at first this may seem like an unusual match, wikis are the most deployed web 2.0 technology in the enterprise and its probably a great way to introduce businesses to another hot web 2.0 tech: mashups.  Of course while mashups in the enterprise are less deployed and arguably less useful then consumer facing counterparts, there are still plenty of reasons a business may be interested in mashups.  Combining internal wiki data with Google Mapping or Flickr photo streams are just two useful way I could see the mashups being useful in enterprise applications, and I'm sure there many others.  In reality the question, to me is not a matter of whether or not mashups and wikis are a good match in the enterprise (they are), but rather can and will customers that use Dekiwiki have the resources to take advantage of it.  I would guess that given Mindtouch's main market are businesses who are looking for somewhat of a turn-key solutions, I would say the answer is probably no.  But regardless, its nice to see that Mindtouch is continuing to trying to innovate in the enterprise wiki space.  



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Following on the heals of last weeks article about San Diego based Veoh adding NBC and FOX content via Hulu, to become a sort of hyper aggregator of Video Content, Veoh has now also announced that they are adding MTV content (including Comedy Central, Nickelodean, VH1, CMT, Spike TV, as well as MTV proper).  Of course two things are different about this deal then the Veoh/Hulu deal: 1st there was no "official" Hulu deal, so kudus to MTV for trying to work with Veoh to distribute more of their content.  Unfortunately the second difference is that this is only an announcement, none of the official content is live yet :-(


Saturday, January 5, 2008

A lot of startups we've been reviewing are new companys that are still looking to break out, and haven't received a lot of mainstream coverage, so we have to do a bit of research first.  Veoh, is a San Diego based video sharing site that I actually use.  Although Veoh has been out for nearly 2 years, they just added video content from Hulu (who we reviewed here) and are beginning to really show their strategy of going beyond Youtube.

Veoh is fast turning into one of the best video site out there because they hyperaggregate official content from the networks as well rely on user generated content (and all the grey areas that that implies).  They have legitimate TV shows from their CBS deal as well as now having semi official shows from Fox and NBC via Hulu. They also are more liberal with taking down unofficial user uploaded content from networks that they don't have agreements with (like the way youtube USED to be), so if your savvy, your likely to find shows from the rest of the networks.  While I'm sure that this strategy is largely unspoken, it's incredibly smart, because it gives the consumers what their looking for until dumb TV lawyers finally begin to wizen up with how they handle Internet distribution.   A great example is that I used to watch 'unofficial' episodes of 24 on Veoh, last year, because it was one of better places to get it on the Internet.  Now I can officially watch 24 via Hulu/Veoh.  I don't care that there are ads now through the official channel, because it was never about not wanting the networks to get paid, I just wanted to watch 24 on the Internet, freely, on my own time.  Its basically a win-win-win, I benefit from getting the content I wanted, Veoh gets another user, and the networks now get the revenue they deserve from making the content.  

Veoh has high level of funding (24M to date from big names like Michael Eisner and Time Warner) giving them great flexibility to work out official deals with content providers, so I'm sure CBS, FOX, and NBC are just the first of even more official content we'll see on Veoh.  Then couple that thought with a track record that shows that Veoh in general gets what consumers want, and you'll see why Veoh is proving that Youtube is not the only new video distribution platform that can shake up the industry.



Monday, December 24, 2007

A little holiday note for those in the Southern California startup and investing world, people are starting to recognize what you already know: the Tech Coast is Hot. The LA Times covered a story a couple weeks ago about the thriving tech scene in LA. They quoted some strong stats from E&Y:

  • Venture Capatilists invested $1.3 billion in Southern California tech companies in the first three quarters of this year, compared to $4.4 billion in the Bay Area over the same period.

Which in a lot of ways, shows that while Southern California does not yet rival The Valley, it is a highly emerging area that needs to be watched. Entrepeneur magazine picked up the story in their blog as well. In fact people often forget that, Entrepeneur, one of the biggest magazines in the country that tracks startup founders is located in Orange County (Irvine).

Another point of relevance is that recently covered that Dealmaker is expanding into LA. This is another good sign because it helps address, probably the biggest problem that the tech industry faces here: we are just not connected like the boys up in the valley. The more, we can get established tech companies mixing with startup entrepeneurs, mixing with new media, mixing with investors, the better. Feeding a more cohesive industry here will help produce more creative energy, better oppurtunities, and obviously stronger economic growth. Twiist-Up and Lunch 2.0 have been a good start in 2007 and hopefully the Dealmaker events will help as well.

It will be interesting to see if 2008 brings the Southern California web startup world more major success stories, beyond the ever lame Myspace.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

San Diego Based Nirvanix recently closed their second round of funding through Intel Capital for an undisclosed amount. Their first round produced 12 million through investments from Mission Ventures, Valhalla Partners and Windward Ventures.

If you are like me and were unfamiliar with Nirvanix you may be excused for thinking that the name is from some villan in Matrix 5 re re reloaded. In fact Nirvanix, is actually a massively scalable online storage platform. And while this may seem mundane compared to the oh so glamorous web 2.0 gloss, Nirvanix has a solid business on their hands. As one of the only alternatives to Amazon's popular S3 service, Nirvanix has a competitive offering with a simpler interface and surprise, surprise, an actual SLA. As great as S3 is, Amazon has taken pleanty of flack for building a great B2B type service with a poor SLA, and Nirvanix basically fills that gap.

Until Google comes out with their rumored ultimate GDrive with an extra helping of space with less cost and more amazing APIs, Nirvanix continues to be one of the most attractive options for those who need cloud type storage.


Monday, December 3, 2007

San Diego based startup has recently lanched as the "raddest sports social network ever".  Yes the tag line is lame, but we've got a bit of a soft spot for this startup.  Social Network me-toos are popping up everywhere, but Loopd has the potential to carve out a nice little niche.  The action sports industry has been experiencing rapid growth and while southern california may not be the tech powerhouse the valley is, it is the action sports hub.  Loopd is well located to bring in some great clients, and they have already brought in a respectable list that includes: Surfer Mag Hot100, PacSun, Oakley, and Monster Energy Drinks.  

Although Loopd isn't opened for anyone to create an action sports network (ala Ning, Flux, or Kickapps), they have much in common with these traditional whitelabel social networks.  When you create a user account, it is shared across the different Loopd Networks.  Meaning that their is a seamless transition between say the Surfer Hot100 Network and the PacSun Network.  This also means that each community can gain traction by the shared ecosystem; a general win-win for community building.  And while the shared base can be problematic for unrelated communities on Ning, it actually works real well within the related mix of action sports communities in Loopd.

From a user perspective, the Loopd experience is mostly quite nice.  It has an attractive and clean interface, that merges a good web2.0 social look with a "rad" action sports theme.  Creating an account was problematic at first when using Safari, but after another try, it was smooth sailing.  Loopd also performed quite fast, which was a nice change from some social networks (cough * myspace * cough).  
All that said, Loopd will have stiff competition from much bigger social networking platforms like Flux or Ning.  Particularly with the weight of Viacom behind Flux, one has to wonder if building a semi walled garden of action sports social communities, will be enough to keep Loopd's partners from moving to a larger, more general social network platform.  I for one hope not, but I wonder what Loopd will be able to offer it's content partners to keep them onboard.  

At the end of the day, if Loopd can successfully carve out a niche of bringing web 2.0 type social networking capabilities to the rapidly growing action sports industry, they might be one of those startups that end up being in the right place at the right time.



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The web 2.0 company that proclaims itself as MySpace meets the yellow pages. Mojo Pages is based out of North County San Diego and have had more hype than Crystal Clear Pepsi. So lets get down to it and take a look at MojoPages.
The Good:
Lets face it user generated reviews are in and for good reason, user generated reviews offer the most reliable information to users (yeah I know it is redundant but it also makes sense)...Moreover MojoPages are adding some benefits that companies might consider as a serious benefit, for example adding a wide range of categories to review on (Value, Service, and Quality), and video reviews.

Its also hard to forget that they have millions in funding and some pretty big name people involved in the company - such as an early level employee from Zillow.

The Cons:
They are the late comer here, Insiderpages and Yelp already have a big command on the user review industry. Given that, it seems highly unlikely that many locally owned stores will want to pay for premium placement on MojoPages, with relatively low unique traffic.  Of course the biggest gripe is that it is hard for me to see what the added value of this site is, compared to any other user based review site. The most unique feature is the ability to upload video reviews, but how many people are really going to do that (not many), and even if they did how useful would the video be?

There is a huge barrier that MojoPages needs to surpass and the first is to convince their potential users that their added value features make it a better or more useful place for their reviews.  As of now I am not convinced!


Friday, November 16, 2007

TechCoastReview is a new weblog dedicated to tracking newly launched tech startups located in Southern California. In addition to new companies, we will profile existing southern California based companies that are sufficiently innovating in the areas of Internet and Technology.

Tech Coast Review is a response to the "Bubble 2.0" phenomena. A notion that the Internet and Technology Industry is in a rebirth of sorts; a gradual return to the highs and lows of the Internet bubble of the late 90's. New companies are forming everywhere, and many are touting the "power of web 2.0". While the definition of Web 2.0 continues to be fuzzy (Wikipedia entry on web 2.0), the excitement of leveraging, wikis, blogs, social networks, mashups, etc, through application frameworks like AJAX and Ruby on Rails, and open APIs such as Google, Yahoo, Flickr, et all. is palatable.

New companies are emerging at a rapid pace, and the venture capital and angel community have once again began bullishly investing in the online tech market. None of this, is "new" news to anyone who has been following the industry for the last 2 years or so. It is all well covered in the "valley".

But apart from Silicon Valley, areas such as Seattle, New York, and Southern California are hotbeds for innovation and investment. Despite the relatively small geographic distance between Socal and the Valley, cultural differences abound. In many ways the net result is that technology companies in Southern California tend to get underrepresented. Yet companies that have the potential to make a profound impact are emerging from areas like Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. This collective region, known as the "Tech Coast", has some of the greatest concentration of R&D efforts in the world, and its high time that someone was profiling it. So welcome to Tech Coast Review.

If you’d like to contact us with suggestions, comments, corrections, errors or announcements, feel free to email us at


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