Drawbridge’s $14M Round Valued The Cross-Device Ad Targeting Startup At $99M

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Drawbridge, a Kleiner Perkins- and Sequoia-backed startup aiming to improve mobile and cross-device ad targeting, has raised $14 million in Series B funding. AdAge actually broke the news earlier this week, but a source with knowledge of the deal told me that the story got one crucial detail wrong — the new funding actually valued Drawbridge at $99 million, more than double the $45 million that AdAge reported.

I trust my source more than I trust AdAge’s unidentified “executive familiar with the deal,” but then I would, wouldn’t I? For those of you following along at home, this might seem like a classic he-said she-said situation. I will point out, however, that $45 million seems like a pretty low valuation for a company that has raised a total of $20.5 million in funding. Plus, raising $14 million at that valuation would mean giving away a lot of the company. Since Drawbridge is a young startup that only raised its Series A and launched its first products last year, it probably isn’t so cash-strapped that it needs to take money on such unfavorable terms.

Drawbridge isn’t commenting on the valuation, but it did note that it’s now working with advertisers, including HotelTonight, Square, Groupon, Kabam, and PocketGems.

The company’s approach to ad targeting focuses on trying to identify cases where multiple devices are being used by a single user, so that mobile ads, in particular, can be targeted using the richer data collected from cookies on the desktop web. Drawbridge says that it has now matched 450 million devices.

Drawbridge was founded Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, formerly a scientist at Google-acquired mobile ad network AdMob. The new round was led by Northgate Capital, with participation from previous investors Kleiner and Sequoia.

The Console Wars, Begun They Have: Microsoft May Announce New Xbox At April Event

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A number of solid reports, including a new domain name, XboxEvent.com registered to Microsoft, are pointing to an Xbox event in April. While most console reveals happen at E3, as evidenced by Sony’s mystery-filled conference, Microsoft will probably announce specs and some launch titles and leave the money shot for Los Angeles in June.

Computer & Video Games reported the rumor today and VG247 corroborated it. Considering the timing of Sony’s PS4 announcement, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to join in the hoopla surrounding next-gen consoles.

The next Xbox, code-named Durango, will require an improved, included Kinect sensor to play and will support game “sections” that allow you to play one portion of the game while the rest loads or downloads. It will support 1080p 3D video and run on 8GB of RAM.

Flickr’s iOS App Is Still Playing Catch-Up

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A blog post from Flickr about new updates to its iOS application went relatively unnoticed yesterday. The post announced a series of incremental improvements to an app which has so far barely managed to catch up to the competition after months of abandonment, but has yet to really impress. The latest build brings a few now-standard features like the ability to save photos to your Camera Roll, communicate with @ replies, and more.

It’s nothing to write home about, so to speak, which is why the majority of the news-hungry tech blogs didn’t prioritize it on a day when Google was announcing new hardware (a high-end Chrome OS laptop called the Pixel, which actually does impress).

That being said, Flickr is still an important network to watch, especially because it has managed to maintain a foothold and consumer brand, even as Facebook has triumphed as the de facto place where users now go to upload and share photos with family and friends. Flickr, had it not been starved for innovation inside the machinery of a floundering Yahoo, could have even competed with Facebook, given its head start, once highly engaged user base, and massive collection of some 8 billion+ photos.

The tech blogosphere is now rooting for new Flickr and new Yahoo, given that we all like new CEO Marissa Mayer just so darned much. But if the company waited a year before the app update that arrived in December introducing the world to Yahoo’s new vision for Flickr, maybe it should have waited a little longer until it really had something radical and new to show us.

Don’t get me wrong.

Flickr is no longer a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad app, as it was pre-December revamp. The older version was a slow, buggy destroyer of image quality. And worse, it forced you to upload photos one-by-one. Yes, in 2012.

Meanwhile, the new Flickr for iOS is an entirely different application. It’s fast, solid and well-built with a smart and attractive user interface, and even some trendier features like filters.

Yes, filters are trendy. Ten years from now, I imagine we’ll look back on them and giggle a little about the hipster-fied 2010′s, with our skinny jeans and insta-aged photos. Filters, after all, are a way to evoke nostalgia in an age where everything moves a bit too quickly, and no one has time to pause and reflect. When the coldness of digital photography and the ease and ubiquity of camera phones means we now have 50 pictures of a moment when we used to have one. Filters are a way of saying to ourselves: stop, this moment is important. I’m selecting it specifically. I’m differentiating it from the stream.

Filters are solving the problem of too much/too fast, but that’s a problem that will eventually be solved by smarter technology. And Flickr would have done well to launch an app that was, at the very least, heading in that direction when it re-birthed itself over the holidays.

As it stands today, the app is instead seemingly working on a list of checkboxes of what a photo-sharing, social mobile application should be about. Does it have filters? CHECK. Can you @ reply to friends? CHECK. Share to the social web? CHECK. Post to Tumblr? CHECK. Save photos locally? CHECK. Multi-upload? CHECK.

What it hasn’t done yet is really surprise us.

A number of startups have tried, failed and are continuing to try to make sense of our fragmented, vast and exponentially growing photo collections. Facebook, too, is quietly experimenting in this area, following Google+ and Dropbox’s lead by introducing automatic, background-enabled photo uploads. The feature is always optional, however, as today, users worry about privacy and bandwidth issues. These concerns will reduce in time, especially as micro-networks like Snapchat pop up to provide outlets for private sharing at the same time as bandwidth costs decrease.

Flickr not only needs automatic uploads – that’s just another box to check – it needs to really innovate on the next step. That is, what to do with those photos once they’re in the cloud. A basic first move is automatically creating date and time-stamped photo albums (in Flickr’s parlance, ”sets”). But there are many steps that would have to come afterwards. For example:

  • Automatically recognizing, identifying, tagging and indexing the people, places and things in your photos
  • Making not just faces and places searchable – making anything searchable in your photo collection. Show me photos of my house when it was being built; those new skiis I bought last year; that garden I visited on our last vacation; the photo of my grandparents at my kid’s 3rd birthday party; my friend Joe doing a keg stand; photos of mom and dad smiling; Whatever! 
  • Automatically grouping and tagging related images, as well as those from your friends who have shared with you, or who have shared publicly to the web.
  • Hiding (but not deleting) the blurry or out-of-focus uploads.
  • Offering a scrollable timeline of your photo-sharing history.
  • Helping you find photo groups that match your interests through intelligent recommendation technology.

This is off the top of my head, so I’m sure Yahoo has these things in its sights at least.

What’s odd to me is that it didn’t come running out of the gate really nailing at least one of the above, when each item listed is currently in development by a photo-sharing startup somewhere. Everpix, for example, is tackling the problem of filtering the bad photos from the good and building object-recognition algorithms. Tracks helps you find photo streams that match your interests. Flock, Moment.me, Flayvr, new arrival Albumatic, and others group photos from you and friends (or strangers) based on time and place. Timehop and just-acquired Memolane let you delve into photos of days past.

The technology is out there, it’s just a matter of finding everyone’s price tag. And Flickr should because the time to catch up with other photo apps was over two years ago. Now is the time to out-innovate them or die trying.

Because the story we want to hear is not how Yahoo killed Flickr; we want to hear how Yahoo saved it.

Image credits: flickr, Minnesota public radio (I think)

Director Of Product Blake Ross Is Leaving Facebook

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Facebook Director of Product Blake Ross is leaving the company, he announced in a Facebook post yesterday afternoon.

For those of you who weren’t reading TechCrunch in 2007, Firefox co-founder Ross and Joe Hewitt came to Facebook through its acquisition of Parakey, a web OS that was still in stealth at the time. Parakey was Facebook’s first acquisition. Hewitt, who spearheaded many Facebook Mobile projects including iOS, left the company in 2011.

We hear that Ross worked on many projects at Facebook in his six years there, starting out as an engineer, founding the growth team with Chamath Palihapitiya and others, and even cycling through Facebook Questions. He started out as an engineer and moved his way up to a Product Manager and then Director of Product role.

From Ross’ eloquent ‘Goodbye’ note (we’ve heard he’s not actually leaving until next month):

Hey everyone, I’ve decided to leave Facebook. I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from and grow with you.

I’m leaving because a Forbes writer asked his son’s best friend Todd if Facebook was still cool and the friend said no, and plus none of HIS friends think so either, even Leila who used to love it, and this journalism made me reconsider the long-term viability of the company.

Also because, after scaling a website in a dorm room to a platform connecting a billion people in 196 countries through revolutionary high-efficiency auto-cooling datacenters, you guys will probably never figure out how to sell a Quiznos turkey club on a phone.

In all seriousness, even after switching to part-time at Facebook, it’s just time for me to try new things. I was 14 when I came to the Bay Area to work at Netscape (socially stunted badge pic below). That’s half my life building software in a 10-mile area of Northern California—a rather long stretch considering I spent the first half of my life learning disciplines as varied as standing up, eating, and getting Bar Mitzvahed.

My parting advice: Cherish the launch days. To be surrounded by such bright people, brimming with optimism, forgetting to eat, is a blessing. It’s the kind of manic hopefulness that adulthood is supposed to drain out of you, and I will miss it most.

Launch day is also a great day for Legal to find out what you’re launching.

Guys, thanks for everything. You’ve all brought a lot of joy to this stone cold heart.”

 We’ve reached out to both Facebook and Ross for official confirmation, and will update this post when we hear back. There’s also no word on what “new things” Ross will be trying after his stint at the social network. Also, if anyone is wondering why there’s a “Blade” at the bottom of his Facebook badge, it’s a pretty funny inside joke.

Instagram’s Kevin Systrom To Join Us For Disrupt NY 2013

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In case you’re not vigorously refreshing our Disrupt NY events page like we are, TechCrunch Disrupt is coming up. We’re receiving a record number of Startup Battlefield applications and watching the last batch pour in before the deadline on Monday. We’ve also started to announce some amazing special guests and speakers. Tickets for this year’s show can be found here.

From pivot to iconic acquisition, there is perhaps no recent Valley success story more symbolic than that of Instagram and its cofounder Kevin Systrom. His saga, and the fact that he’s a sharp cookie, are why we’re delighted to have this Crunchies 2013 Founder Of The Year join us on the Disrupt NY stage.

Systrom will be headlining along with previously announced speakers Fred Wilson, Ken Lerer, Ben Lerer, Roelof Botha, Ron Conway, David Lee, and Kevin Ryan.

Stay tuned for more updates, and remember, if you want to apply for Startup Battlefield, do so before Monday, February 25th. More info on applying can be found here.

Our sponsors help make Disrupt happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact our amazing sponsorship team here sponsors@techcrunch.com.


Kevin Systrom

Co-founder, Instagram

Kevin Systrom is a co-founder of Instagram, a photo sharing application for the iPhone. He also founded Burbn, an HTML5-based location sharing service. Kevin graduated from Stanford University in 2006 with a BS in Management Science & Engineering—he got his first taste of the startup world when he was an intern at Odeo that later became Twitter.

He spent two years at Google—the first of which was working on Gmail, Google Reader, and other products and the latter where he worked on the Corporate Development team. Kevin has always had a passion for social products that enable people to communicate more easily, and combined with his passion for photography, Instagram is a natural fit.

Google I/O Registration Date Leaks, Be Ready To Sign Up On March 13 (Update: It’s Official)

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A tipster has sent in a screen grab of what appears to be a landing page announcing registration dates for Google’s massive I/O developers conference in May.

Update: Google’s made it official. Registration opens on March 13th at 7am PDT (10am ET). Google+ accounts and Google Wallets are required to sign up.

The page has been pulled, so the link no longer works. However, the screen grab says that registration for Google I/O will open up on March 13, at 7am PDT (10am ET).

Historically, the rush for Google I/O tickets is wild. Around 5,000 developers attended the last year’s conference, yet somehow tickets sold out in less than an hour. Demand is so high, in fact, that Google toyed with the idea of turning registrations into a sort of hacking contest, testing devs coding skills before giving them a seat at the show.

However, it appears that idea was scrapped as I/O 2012 was simply a free-for-all registration, just like 2011.

I/O 2013 is slated for May 15 – May 17 in good old San Francisco, and Google has already hinted that registrations would open up in early 2013. Based on this screen grab, early 2013 is looking a lot like a Wednesday in March.

Then again, it’s pretty easy for someone to throw together this image in photo shop. Still, the timing seems to match up well, and with the speed at which these tickets sell out, it never hurts to have the date marked down on your calendar just in case.

Google’s I/O conference is growing to be one of the most important tech events of the year, as the search giant often unveils new products, platforms, and introduces new tools to help developers make the most out of “open.”

If America Was A Startup We’d All Quit

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So I was chatting with my dad yesterday. We had a long drive home after the Department of Homeland Security seized and impounded my boat. The mood was somber.

We were talking about how awful America has become. We are a nation that has been split into groups that absolutely hate each other. Debt is rising, taxes are rising and freedom is being demolished. Meanwhile our elected officials are doing little more than stoking the drama fire while fiddling with the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Whatever your politics, you must see it too. Just pick a political story at random and read the comments. There is no logic or reason on either side, only hypocrisy and hate.

I’m a creature of startups. For example, I don’t want government interference in the startup ecosystem.

And more importantly, as someone immersed in startup culture, I am a big fan of just walking away from stuff that can’t be fixed. In my post “Always Swim Downstream” I talk about focusing on what you’re good at and just walking away from unsolvable problems.

America is an unsolvable problem, a nation divided and deeply in hate with itself. If it was a startup we’d understand how unfixable the situation is, most of us would leave for a fresh start and the company would fall apart.

America is MySpace.

But leaving America means renouncing your citizenship, moving out of the country and leaving family and friends behind. You can retain your citizenship if you like, but you’ll still be away from loved ones and still be paying taxes. You lose all the good stuff about America and have to keep all the bad stuff.

I love this country but we have a management team that’s both evil and incompetent. And the way “stockholder rights” are implemented there’s absolutely no way to stop or even slow down the rush to misery. I wish people had the choice of voting with their feet. This tends to keep the individual states somewhat honest in their dealings with citizens because they have to compete against 49 other states. But there’s no escaping the fed. It’s like a startup where everyone is miserable but no one is allowed to quit.

NYPD And Apple Team Up To Stop iThing Theft In NYC

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The number of gadget-related thefts in major metropolitan areas has only continued to rise, and the number of resolved cases simply can’t keep up. However, it would appear that Apple is now working directly with the NYPD to help return iThings into the hands of their rightful owners.

The NYPD has formed an official team which will work directly with Apple to track down stolen iThings, mostly iPhones and iPads.

Devices are tracked in the same way they always have been: with the help of tracking number (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity). Once the tracking number has been relayed to Apple, Cupertino can locate the device and send police to retrieve it.

According to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, the team hopes to uncover a pattern that will lead police closer to the more organized side of the thefts, involving resale on the black market to unsuspecting buyers.

In New York, 74 percent of all stolen Apple products remain within the five boroughs. But some venture quite a ways away — the NY Post reports that Apple helped police track down an iPad that had ended up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

According to the Huffington Post, the NYPD reported that over 40 percent of all robberies in the city now involve cell phones.

The wireless industry has been working hard to integrate with law enforcement on a number of levels. Along with Apple’s direct work with the NYPD, the wireless industry as a whole has been working to form a database of tracking numbers to help keep theft down, or at the very least, return as many stolen devices as possible. However, that won’t launch until November of 2013.

Additionally, carriers are working with officials to developer a next-generation 911 system that includes texting, MMS, as well as calls.