YCombinator Founder: “Starting a Startup Hurts”

on Monday, Feb. 24th

The founder of YCombinator is very, very happy that he’ll no longer be running that startup incubator.

That was a recurring theme of Paul Graham’s “Fireside Chat” with Launch founder Jason Calacanis, in which Graham also touched on various lessons from working with more than 600 startups, and being flamed on Twitter for comments about foreign accents and women in tech. (more…)

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Eat Your Heart Out, Snapchat: Facebook Buys Whatsapp for $16b

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

After this afternoon’s news that Facebook is purchasing messaging app Whatsapp for $16 billion, there’s a sentiment that’s swirling around in the non-tech Twitterverse: “how can an app we’ve never heard of” be worth this much? (Emphasis mine).

Sequoia Capital’s blog has a celebratory post that breaks down some of the numbers, including a key one: Whatsapp has 450 million users.

And a lot of those users are in India and the UK, where the app took off a full year before I began noticing American friends appearing in my contacts list.

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The Allure of Anonymous Confessional Apps Secret and Whisper

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

This post was also published on NPR’s All Tech Considered.

“I’m worth 83.7 million dollars and bored out of my mind.”

“My friend who is a banker just told me he’s working on Dropbox’s IPO…oooh.”

“The drug use in Silicon Valley is outrageous. So are the inflated egos. It’s like LA for smart, ugly people.”

Declarations like these — some plaintive, some fueled by professional frustration, and some just plain gossipy — tumble forth anonymously on the new app Secret, and because many of them seem to be coming from within the booming tech industry, the app has built early buzz. But if Secret, designed to maximize sharing and minimize risk, picks up traction, the whistleblower-enabling capability of the app could have implications for a broad range of industries that would prefer their workers be quiet as kept.

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Dorkiness Breakthrough! Scientists Create That Lamer-Than-Glass Look!

on Monday, Feb. 10th

For a minute there I was worried. What appeared to be the quintessentially dorky technology–Google Glass–is being spotted in the wild with alarming frequency. So much so that it is almost starting to seem normal

Scientists at Keio University in Japan have averted the “peak dork” disaster we have all been headed for by unleashing this demo video for the Neurocam. This device combines the power of the Neurosky Mind Wave Mobile brainwave reader, the computational might of an iPhone and the aesthetics of 1980s video game peripherals to create a piece of wearable technology that no human being will ever look cool using.

Sergey Brin probably has five of them already.

What does it do, besides rival the pocket protector has a badge of nerdly courage? The device uses the Mind Wave Mobile to gauge interest and automatically record videos of things the users find interesting. Like the dog butt featured in the video above.

This is, of course, just a prototype. According to Kurzweil A.I. “the researchers plan to make the device smaller, more comfortable, and fashionable to wear.”

Look: this stuff is actually fascinating… but it is exceptionally hard to take seriously when the demo video is of a girl with an iPhone strapped to the side of her head.

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California Regulators Say Coding Bootcamps “In Good Faith” Won’t Be Shut Down

on Monday, Feb. 3rd

The cease and desist letters sent to so-called “hacker schools” in California is an attempt to protect students, not entrenched educational institutions.

That, according to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), the state agency that regulates non-accredited schools (with some exceptions, like the Corinthian schools, and those that charge less than $2500 for the entire course of instruction). (more…)

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Who’s Behind the Wheel May Help Drive Attitudes on Surge Pricing

on Tuesday, Jan. 14th

The online car service marketplace is already valued in the billions of dollars. But to keep growing, its leading companies may need to get better at managing customer perceptions around variable, or “surge,” pricing — and who it benefits.

Here’s a more familiar paradigm for the issue: say that on Christmas Day, it costs you $660 to fly 400 miles from SFO to LAX. The same flight two weeks later? $58.

Is the airline price gouging? Or simply capitalizing on market demand?

In a tongue-in-cheek Tweet over the holidays, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick used the aviation industry example to point out that it’s generally accepted that flights are exorbitant during the high-demand holiday travel season.

But when it comes to Kalanick’s online car service, customers have steadily attacked its surge pricing policies since they were instituted about a year ago. And for his part, Kalanick has steadily maintained that surge pricing is simply a response to market demand. During the wee hours of New Year’s revelry, for instance, an Uber ride might cost three times the normal rate (a ride from San Francisco’s Noe Valley to the Embarcadero for $60) to incentivize more drivers to get on the road.

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SF Port Director On Google Ferry: Relax, We’re Just Floating It.

on Thursday, Jan. 9th

This is only a test.

That’s what San Francisco’s port administration is emphasizing in its announcement of the rollout this week of Google ferry service that will shuttle about 150 of the company’s SF-based workers to Redwood City each day. (more…)

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Image: Pixar

From Android to Androids? Google’s Next “Moonshot” Is Robotics

on Wednesday, Dec. 4th

The one thing that no one can accuse Google of is thinking small. Over the past year a vision of the future–one that is looking more like something from the 1950′s than the dystopian cyberpunk reality we’ve living in now–has emerged from the Silicon Valley giant.

First it was the announcement of Calico, a company that is going to take on aging-related illnesses. This was interpreted broadly, if a bit facetiously, as Google taking on Death himself.

The latest “moonshot” project? Robots. As told by the New York Times:

Over the last half-year, Google has quietly acquired seven technology companies in an effort to create a new generation of robots. And the engineer heading the effort is Andy Rubin, the man who built Google’s Android software into the world’s dominant force in smartphones.

Just don’t expect a robot butler any time soon.


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Victor Vazquez aka Kool A.D. holds up a drawing he just sold on Instagram. (Photo: Ike Sriskandarajah)

Artists Turn Social Media Into Insta-grand

on Friday, Nov. 22nd

The internet– like it has done for so many industries — has opened up the art world to everyone. Now this multi-billion dollar market is being filtered into hundreds of new sites selling original artwork. Artists with widely ranging skill-sets and talents are finding more ways to sell their work online.

Victor Vazquez is one of those artists.  On an afternoon in his home in Oakland, he was lying on his bed, drawing symbols on a blank sheet of paper. He described the picture as he moved the sharpie across the page, “I’m gonna draw a ying yang, probably a decapitated dog head, maybe a peace sign, weed leaf, money sign, and the names of one or two corporations.”

Vazquez AKA Kool A.D. started cultivating his artistic style during his last gig, fronting the rap group, Das Racist. “If you want to put it in marketplace terms,” he said, “I already developed a brand that people have come to love and trust.”

But since Das Racist broke up last year, the rap money dried up. Vazquezdescribed the day he realized he could still get paid as an artist, “I doodled on a piece of wood at a friends house and put it on the internet for a $100 and someone bought it so I kept doing that.” (more…)

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iron throne

Makers of Hit ‘Walking Dead’ Game Rumored To Be Working On ‘Game of Thrones’ Adventure

on Thursday, Nov. 21st

Telltale, the studio that specializes in the kind of adventure game that allegedly went out of style in the ’90s but managed to pick up “Game of the Year” accolades for last year’s “The Walking Dead,” are turning their attention to another page to screen to game adaptation according to IGN: “Game of Thrones.”

While there are about a jillion “Game of Thrones” games (“A Song of Ice and Fire” games for those of you who have read the books) ranging from card to board to pretty “eh” computer RPGs this new effort announced by Telltale instantly had gaming’s Twitteratti at attention.

Not that Telltale has a flawless track record. They’ve adapted “Jurassic Park”, “Back to the Future”, and the comic book hit Fables all to varying degrees of success. The critical consensus is that Telltale is on a roll since “Walking Dead,” and George R.R. Martin’s story world is a perfect fit for the studio’s signature style of narrative choice driven games.

TL;DR: Shut up and take my money.

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Tribeca’s Storyscapes Returns For An Epic Second Year

The Tribeca Film Festival leapt into the vanguard of transmedia art last year with the inaugural edition of Storyscapes, an event led by TriBeCa’s Director of Digital Initiatives Ingrid Kopp.



Simple Machine Announces Micro-Festival Grants

We’ve been keeping up with Simple Machine, the independent film curation tool for festival and art house programmers, since running across their booth at South By Southwest last year.


Transmedia Beat: Bernie Su’s “Emma Approved” Monetization Secrets

Disclosure: I’m one of the organizers of Transmedia LA, so take any excessive positivity with a grain of salt.


First Ever Crappy Awards Target SF’s Tech Industry

Inspired by the sly tradition of the Razzie Awards, which commemorate the worst of Hollywood, San Francisco fair housing advocates are kicking off “The Crappy Awards” tonight in the city’s art’s district.


Image Disruptor: Flag Looks To Upend Photo Printing Through The Magic of Free

Flag, a photo printing start-up that is holding a barnstorming 14-day Kickstarter campaign right now, turned up on my radar this week thanks to John Gruber’s Daring Fireball.