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In all honesty, Blake Griffin himself could start a social network that served no purpose outside of featuring his dizzying (and disgusting, if you will) array of dunks, and it'd probably go over quite well. Instead, he -- along with other superstars in the National Basketball Association -- will soon see replays of in-game highlights making waves across Twitter in more official fashion. Hot on the heels of a deal between ESPN and Twitter comes this: a partnership between the NBA and the aforesaid social network that'll get video highlights to the world while the game is still ongoing.
#NBARapidReplay will be the hashtag to watch for as the playoffs progress, and as you'd expect, short advertisements will appear alongside those clips. Twitter's foray into the television universe is hardly a new one, but it's becoming ever more obvious that the company is following the ad dollars into the homes of everyday viewers. Up next? A deal to tweet highlights from the 2014 Masters golf tournament... but only in extremely soft spoken, lowercase, predominantly pompous characters.
Filed under: Internet
Today, thanks to the maturation of the web, digital tech, and smartphones now in seemingly every pocket, startups are finding it easier than ever before to build scalable solutions to finally address the many inefficiencies in our food manufacturing, production and distribution systems.
As interest in food tech balloons, one area in particular appears to already be at the tipping point: Online and mobile food delivery. Over the last few days, we’ve hearing about a merger between two of the largest companies in the space. Rumor has it that “arch rivals” GrubHub and Seamless are in talks which could see them join forces as part of a merger. While our sources tell us that the talks are serious, the terms of the merger are not yet clear and, of course, any potential deal could fall through.
Furthermore, it’s not yet clear what kind of synergies would take place, how management of the new entity would be structured or even what the new business will be called. The two companies would not confirm on the record on any of the above. But as far as the name goes, we’re hoping for Grubless. Or Hubless GrubSeam. But they have a nice ring to them, don’t they?
If these rumors are true, the merger comes at a good time for the arch rivals, who have been seeing mounting competition of late from a laundry list of new startups entering the space, including increasingly popular alternatives like Delivery.com, ChowNow, Munchery (meals from local chefs), Campus Special, eat24 or the bigs of Europe, like Food Hero and Just-Eat.
If the online food-ordering and delivery market is roughly where daily deals were three-plus years ago, then the deal essentially creates the Groupon of food delivery. Like the daily deals market, food ordering has traditionally had a fairly low barrier to entry, which helps explain why we seem to see a new startup pop up every week.
Plus, the business model isn’t particularly complicated, making it replicable. That being said, innovation and tech adoption have been slow to come to the food industry, and, at scale, this model (taking a slice of transactions) has the potential to be able to generate a lot of cash.
This is just one part of why the “food tech” business has been so hot lately. Just ask venture capitalists who collectively poured $350 million into food startups over the last year. (Compare that to 2008, when it was less than $50 million.) Plus, when you get right down to it: People need to eat. And, as it turns out, people are pretty busy. Uh, and lazy.
Of course, for those who remember the spectacular failure of online food companies like Webvan, Kozmo and HomeRuns, this whole “tech in your kitchen” and online ordering jibber-jabber probably sounds familiar — and not in a good way. But this time it’s different. Research from Cornell University recently found, for example, that over 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have ordered food online, and 10 percent of restaurant orders now originate online — and these numbers continue to head north. GrubHub and Seamless have built successful businesses on this very idea.
Both GrubHub and Seamless have been around for some time: The New York City-based Seamless was founded in 1999, while the Chicago-based GrubHub got its start in 2004. And for the most part, the two companies have catered to two different markets geographically. While both now have fairly expansive coverage, GrubHub has naturally developed a firm foothold in the Midwest, while Seamless focused its early attention on NYC, before moving into cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. From that perspective, a merger would make sense, allowing the new, consolidated entity to gain penetration into markets where they lacked a major presence.
Writ large, the companies, while having some fundamental differences, do seem to have a lot of synergies on paper — at least “nominally,” depending on who you ask — likely why they’ve increasingly become rivals over the years. Both are of fairly comparable size, as GrubHub has more than 18,000 restaurant partners across more than 500 cities, while Seamless has over 12,000 restaurants and serves nearly 5,000 businesses and more than 2 million users. As of February, Reuters reported that Seamless was on track to generate more than $100 million in revenue this year as it expands into new cities and focuses more aggressively on mobile.
The company reportedly generated $85 million in revenue last year, growing its consumer business by 60 percent year-over-year and “will soon be processing $1 billion worth of food orders a year,” Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky told Reuters at the time. For the majority of its history, the company focused primarily on New York, but launched a major expansion effort last year, bringing its service to 10 new cities. According to the report, Seamless saw its transaction volume quadruple in Los Angeles during 2012, with transactions tripling in San Francisco.
Another interesting point to note: GrubHub was reported to be considering an IPO last fall. The company denied the rumors at the time, and if this merger is true, then they’ve been given the proper perspective. Certainly, it would seem that this wouldn’t take a potential IPO off the table, instead, likely making an opening price that much higher.
The IPO rumors for GrubHub came at a time when the company was reportedly doing about $60 million in revenue (this was in 2012) — a little less than half that of Seamless. Furthermore, Crain’s reported in December that GrubHub’s revenue has been doubling every year and, as the company reported $30 million in revenue in 2011, that revenue estimate would make sense and put the company on the path to crossing $100 million well before the end of this year.
That is all to say that, although the terms of the potential deal are unclear, these are two sizable businesses that are growing relatively fast, so any potential valuation has got to be fairly high. After all: The two companies were fairly comparably capitalized and staffed, with GrubHub growing to over 250 employees and Seamless over 300, while GrubHub raised about $84 million from a mix of venture and growth equity firms (including Benchmark) and Seamless raised $51 million, $50 million of which came from private equity firm Spectrum Equity.
While both companies have made a couple of acquisitions, this would be the second big M&A deal for Seamless, as the company was acquired by food services giant, ARAMARK, in 2006. Five years later, Spectrum bought a minority stake in Seamless from ARAMARK, and about a year later, the food services company spun-off its remaining interest in Seamless to its shareholders. Free from its corporate ownership, Seamless proceeded to go out and buy MenuPages for $15 million, showing up GrubHub, which MenuPages had initially targeted as its acquirer. When GrubHub and MenuPages couldn’t agree to a deal, and it seems that GrubHub was instead in the process of buying Dotmenu/Allmenus, Seamless swooped in — according to BetaBeat.
So, as you can see, the companies have a long history of jostling. While GrubHub had been out acquiring restaurant partners fast and furiously, Seamless stagnated a bit under ARAMARK, but since becoming an independent company (again) and with a new board/investors, the company seems to have been compounding its growth. Together, that growth could be exponentially higher.
Finally, if this deal is in fact a go, it’s worth looking at this quote from GrubHub co-founder and CEO Matt Maloney from back in 2011. In it, he shares his opinion on GrubHub’s top competitor, a little company called Seamless. He told BetaBeat:
I typically don’t talk this much about Seamless because we don’t view them as incredibly strong competition for what we’re doing … Seamless fundamentally is a corporate catering business. They were founded years and years and years ago to do just that. And they’re still best in the business for corporate. They recently got into the consumer and residential pick-up and delivery. And they do it well in New York, but they really have zero business anywhere else. We don’t even consider them competition anywhere other than Manhattan specifically.
So, there you go. A match potentially made in heaven, and one that’s sure to shake up online and mobile food ordering if it happens.
Oh HTC. You’ve produced one of the finest Android smartphones ever (seriously, just look at all these reviews), but you’ve faced more than your share of challenges when it came to actually pumping your top-tier One smartphone. As it happens, that may all soon change.
FocusTaiwan reported earlier today that HTC is preparing to pump out more of its wonderful Ones in short order — Jack Tong, the company’s North Asia president, noted that this month’s production capacity for the flagship device is twice that of April, and that surge will only continue into June.
Sounds pretty yawn-worthy, right? Normally I would spend too much time dwelling on the finer points of production capacity, but here’s a device that was launched to widespread praise by an underdog smartphone company some people have written off, and HTC has basically been getting screwed thanks to part shortages for the One’s Ultrapixel camera and a brief injunction due to the HDR microphone it uses. It’s like a perfect storm of headaches for a company that really, really doesn’t need it — one look at its Q1 financials and it’s clear that HTC needed this launch to go as smoothly as possible. It didn’t.
For what it’s worth, HTC hasn’t disclosed how many Ones it’s shipped since it launched earlier this year. Meanwhile, rival Samsung’s Galaxy S4 has become the Korean electronics giant’s fastest moving smartphone — Samsung shipped 6 million units in just over two weeks, and it hopes to cross the 10 million unit threshold by the end of this month. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that Google’s Hugo Barra showed off a version of the S4 at the company’s I/O developer conference that runs a version of Android that’s unfettered by the software bloat that many a reviewer took umbrage at. Company representatives were careful not to call it a Nexus — even though it seems to harbor many of the advantages inherent to the Nexus line like a clean Android build and access to frequent software updates.
As I noted towards the end of my HTC One review, the wireless industry isn’t a meritocracy — the well-executed device doesn’t always wind up saving the day. Hopefully now that some of these production woes have been ironed out we’ll see HTC live to fight another day, but that’s still far from a given.
Google Now Introduces Mark Up Tools For Select Partners To Flag Flights, Hotel Stays And Reservations In Emails
Google made a relatively quiet announcement today regarding how it’s pushing the developer ecosystem forward around Google Now, its intelligent personal assistant for Android devices. The company has begun extending mark up tools for emails from select partners, which help highlight flight schedules, hotel bookings and various types of reservations, to make sure that Gmail can spot that information and use it to auto-generate helpful reminders in Google Now.
The extension of the platform tools available to Now partners was announced by Google’s Baris Gultekin, who was one of the creators of Google Now, which sprung out of a project he came up with in his so-called “20 percent time.” He spoke with Google’s Louis Gray on the Developer Live video stream which ran throughout the I/O conference this year.
Gultekin was talking about ways in which Google is working to improve the quality and relevancy of the recommendations and data it surfaces. The project sounds like it’s fairly limited for now, but asking for help from the input sources of data seems like a smart way to supplement Google’s own data detection algorithms that are working to flag interesting data for Now’s use on their own data center side. Doing all the heavy lifting themselves might be more impressive, but if reaching out to partners can help improve user experience, then there’s no reason not to extend that hand.
No word yet on whether Google will eventually make those mark up tools available for different types of data or open them up for public use, but it’s easy to imagine a scenario where that happens, allowing developers and startups to provide the option of delivering all kinds of relevant information to users from their apps and services on Android. Then again, that has the potential to become overwhelming for users, so we might see a more metered, gradual approach.
During BlackBerry Live this week we got to speak with Vivek Bhardwaj, BlackBerry's Head of Software, about the future of BB10. In light of the the platform's first major software update rolling out to its devices, we asked about the plans for future releases. Bhardwaj told us that the plan is for them to come at a regular cadence of one major code update per year, with other, incremental updates for specific devices sprinkled in as needed. A particular focus is to do so while delivering devs fully realized hardware and to avoid fragmentation in the code base -- making it easier to create BB10 apps.
While he wouldn't dish details about features coming to BB10 in those updates, Bhardwaj did explain that he's working on making BB10 a platform particularly suited for use not only in cars, but also in the healthcare and financial services industries. That focus is a part of the mobile computing ethos espoused by CEO Thorsten Heins meant to have BB10 devices be users' personal, portable computing terminal that is simply plugged into a screen -- whether it's a desktop monitor, a car or somewhere else -- that delivers a uniform experience. When asked whether those screens would include TVs, Bhardwaj didn't rule it out, but he did say that home experiences weren't a priority because it's a crowded space and BB10 "is all about getting things done." As a result, the number one focus is building out a compelling automotive platform, with healthcare and financial services coming in a close second. So, folks thinking BB10 was BlackBerry betting on consumers instead of the enterprise, think again. The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same -- at least when the folks in Waterloo are involved.
Just about six months ago, Uber won a big battle with D.C. regulators to have its on-demand car service approved for operation within the nation’s capital. But new regulations from the D.C. Taxi Commission could severely hamper the company’s ability to offer low-cost services in the district.
Last December, the D.C. City Council voted to approve a legal framework that legitimized mobile e-hail applications there, as long as those applications followed certain rules. It defined a new class of for-hire vehicles (taxis and sedans) that could use mobile apps as a way to connect drivers and passengers.
The unanimous City Council vote followed a year of negotiations with local regulators to get its services approved for usage within the district. (The very public fight even included a sting operation by D.C. Taxi Commissioner Ron Linton in which he took an Uber and then handed over a variety of fines to the driver.) Still, after a whole lot of back-and-forth, it seemed like Uber was finally in the clear.
New regulations approved by the D.C. Taxi Commission last week could be a setback in the progress that Uber has made there, however. Among other things, those regulations would require mobile e-hail applications to integrate with the payment processor that is used within local taxicabs. That’s a non-starter for Uber, which currently has its own payment processor for in-app payments, and it could mean the end of UberTAXI in the city.
Another set of rules, which is being considered now, would ban cars that weighed less than 3,200 pounds. That would keep Uber from offering fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, which would affect its ability to offer its lower-cost UberX service there. With the possibility of UberTAXI and UberX being shut down, the company would only have its legacy black car and SUV businesses in the city.
Other regulations that Uber disagrees with would require Uber and other e-hail providers to hand over data related to rides that were booked using mobile applications. According to Uber, another rule could give the Taxi Commission the ability to choose whether or not apps are approved for usage in the city, and unilaterally keep Uber and other services from operating there.
For its part, Uber has tried to once again mobilize its users to reach out to D.C. officials and petition the local government. It’s asked users to email and tweet at Mayor Vincent C. Gray, and has put up a petition on Change.org. That petition has already received more than 2,500 signatures, with 5,000 needed.
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Earlier today, Yahoo sent press invites to a "product-related" event in New York City Monday afternoon and there are already two separate rumors about the company's plans. The first, from Bloomberg, concerns the event specifically and cites a "person familiar with the matter" reporting we'll hear about new updates for Yahoo's once-mighty Flickr photo service. The second is from AllThingsD which has upgraded rumors of a Tumblr purchase from possible to possibly imminent, saying the company's board will meet Sunday to decide whether it will make a $1.1 billion all-cash offer for the site. Since new CEO Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo has made a number of acquisitions with a focus on improving its homepage, content and app offerings including Flickr. That announcement is also penciled in for the 20th, but whatever actually goes down you can be sure we'll have the details as they're unveiled around 4PM ET.
Filed under: Internet
Zynga has apparently told the makers of the dating website CupidWithFriends that they need to change the site’s name, because it allegedly infringes on Zynga’s trademarks.
CupidWithFriends was built by the startup Apartment 7 (which also released the dating apps Flock and Wednesday Night). The site launched a couple of months ago, allowing users to build and edit dating profiles for their friends.
Apartment 7 co-founder Jared Tame just forwarded me a copy of the letter from Zynga’s lawyers. I’ve pasted the full letter at the end of this post, but the gist is that users are likely to think that CupidWithFriends is associated in some way with Zynga (which acquired the developer of the With Friends mobile gaming franchise, a franchise that recently expanded with the launch of Running With Friends). So the social gaming company is demanding that CupidWithFriends change its name by May 24.
Tame said he has “no plans to change the name of the product,” adding,”At the end of the day, we’re busy trying to innovate in the dating space and dealing with Zynga would be a major distraction to us. I think they should be more focused on innovating rather than targeting month-old startups like us.”
I emailed Zynga for confirmation and details, but a spokesperson declined to comment. When I ran a search on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s website (direct links to specific filings don’t seem to be working for me), I did find a trademark filing for “With Friends” in relation to computer game software and entertainment services.
Tame isn’t the only one building an app named using a “with friends” name. There’s also Bang With Friends (which has other problems, as it was recently booted from the Apple App Store) — I asked the company whether it has received a similar letter from Zynga, but it declined to comment.
Here’s the full letter to CupidWithFriends:
Dear Sir or Madam:
We serve as intellectual property counsel to Zynga Inc. (“Zynga”). Among other things, Zynga publishes and owns intellectual property rights in the ‘WITH FRIENDS™ family of social games, which includes Words With Friends®, Chess With Friends®, Scramble With Friends®, Hanging With Friends™, Matching With Friends™, Gems With Friends™ and Games With Friends®, as well as other ‘WITH FRIENDS games in various stages of development (collectively the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks). Each of Zynga’s games using the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks is published and played by millions of users on various social networking portals, including Facebook, Android and iPhone.
Zynga has consistently used and promoted the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks together as a family and, as a result of Zynga’s extensive marketing efforts and commercial success, the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks is strongly identified by consumers with Zynga’s reputation for quality.
It has come to our attention that CupidWithFriends has developed and launched an application called “Cupid With Friends”. CupidWithFriends’ use of the name “Cupid With Friends” for an online application is confusingly similar to the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks owned by Zynga, and users are likely to believe, erroneously, that CupidWithFriends’ application is published, sponsored, endorsed by or associated with Zynga. CupidWithFriends’ use of “Cupid With Friends” also dilutes the distinctiveness of Zynga’s famous ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks.
Zynga has invested substantial time and resources in developing and promoting the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks, and it vigorously protects its rights in its marks, both collectively and individually. Zynga hereby demands that CupidWithFriends immediately cease use of the name “Cupid With Friends” in connection with its online application, and refrain from further exploitation of the goodwill that Zynga has developed in its ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks.
We anticipate that you will accede to this demand, and ask that CupidWithFriends confirm by Friday, May 24, 2013 that it has ceased use of the name “Cupid With Friends” in connection with its online application. Nothing contained in this letter constitutes an express or implied waiver of any rights, remedies, or defenses of Zynga, all of which are expressly reserved.
Very truly yours,
Dennis L. Wilson
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
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From <em>S.H.I.E.L.D.</em> to <em>Downton'</em>s <em>Dracula</em>: 10 New TV Shows to Check Out This Fall
Google I/O is always full of surprises, and we came across yet another elusive bit of hardware on the show floor today: Google Glass "prescription edition". No, it's not actually called that (we made up the name), but what you're looking at is definitely Glass that's been neatly integrated with a pair of prescription glasses -- in fact, it looks a lot like the version of Glass that Google recently mentioned on its blog. We don't really know anything else about this device, but we've reached out to Google for comment. Is this a custom design built by combining Google Glass Explorer Edition with off-the shelf eyewear? Is this a Glass prototype that's designed specifically for people who wear prescription spectacles? Share your thoughts in the comments and don't forget to check out the gallery below.
Update: Google's confirmed it's a prototype the company's experimented with that uses the same software as the Explorer Edition but slightly different hardware on the outside.
Brad Molen contributed to this report.
It arrived with a bang, but it's been dead silence ever since. Lenovo's Intel Clover Trail+ smartphone, the Android-based K900, is finally ready to make its grand entrance into the consumer realm. The 5.5-inch powerhouse will ship with a dual-core Atom Z2580 CPU (2.0GHz) within, a PowerVR SGX 544MP2 GPU, a 1080p IPS panel slipped behind a coating of Gorilla Glass 2 and a 13 megapixel camera. Despite the sizable display, it weighs just 162 grams and measures 6.9 millimeters thick, and should be available across greater China right now for RMB 3,299 (around $536) -- or RMB 2,999 if you're lucky. For those outside of Lenovo's homeland, you'll need to wait until summer for it to hit an unspecified amount of "international markets."
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You might say the day is never really done in consumer technology news. Your workday, however, hopefully draws to a close at some point. This is the Daily Roundup on Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines for the past 24 hours -- all handpicked by the editors here at the site. Click on through the break, and enjoy.
Mozilla today bumped up Firefox Aurora, the pre-beta release channel of the popular browser, to version 23. With this, it is introducing a number of new tools for developers that will now slowly make their way into the stable release channel over the next few months. Sadly (or maybe not), this is also the first version of Firefox that does away with the good old <blink> element, a former staple of the horrid GeoCities websites of the 90s.
On the user-facing side of things, this Aurora release also includes support for Firefox’s Mixed Content Blocker, which should keep users a bit safer when sites contain both HTTP and HTTPs resources. For Mac users, it includes new animations for swipe navigations and — finally — support for OSX 10.7′s new scrollbar style.
The focus of this release is clearly on developers, though. Firefox Aurora now features a new network monitor that provides a standard waterfall timeline view of network activity on any given page. This data has always been available, but only through the Web Console, which wasn’t very easy to interpret.
Also new in this version is a Remote Style Editor, which allows developers to test their web apps over a remote protocol in real time. Mozilla says the Editor should be compatible with Firefox for Android 23, which is also coming to the Aurora channel soon, and the team is working on incorporating some aspects of this technology into the Firefox OS simulator.
Other new tools include a new preference menu dedicated to the developer tools, as well as a first implementation of SourceMap Support and changes to the Object Inspector.
You can find a full list of changes here.