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Three guys from Provo, Utah set out on a mission to make QR codes, those boring pixellated, black-and-white squares come alive — in other words, to extend their functionality by turning them into realworld “like,” “follow,” and “buy” buttons. And it’s been working. In February, Scan announced a seed funding round from Shervin Pishevar, Google Ventures, CRV, Start Fund, Social + Capital, Ludlow Ventures, and more. The company moved their operations from Utah to San Francisco, and is currently sitting at just over 12 million downloads across iOS devices.
How did it become one of the top downloaded QR code scanner in just over a year? Because, beyond the basic scanning functionality offered by a host of iOS and Android apps, Scan offers a variety of services and features that let SMBs and enterprise companies create mobile optimized QR code, NFC, and other tech experiences to let users can QR codes with their phone and immediately “like” products or businesses on Facebook, follow on Twitter, check in on Foursquare, etc. Check out how businesses are using it here.
As Scan is in the business of creating apps that extend the potential application of QR code tech, Scan is today leveraging the buzz around Instagram to let businesses, organizations, etc. build their Instagram user base via QR codes. The new app, appropriately called Scan-to-gram, lets users scan QR codes and instantly follow a company and its employees.
The company has already lined up a bunch of notable Instagrammers to be part of its initial launch, including Warby Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Nike, Marc Jacobs, GQ, Vevo, Audi, Nat Geo, and the L.A. Lakers — to name a few.
With Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook, the platform is becoming increasingly appealing — beyond what it already had. Brands are excited because it provides early adopter-types and mobile enthusiasts with a simple way to boost their followers, which gives them access to another social media channel and potential branding opportunities.
On top of that… Leer más “With 12M+ Downloads, Scan Launches Scan-to-gram, A New Way To Follow People On Instagram”
Fifth, there’s Y Combinator: While there seems to be an incubator popping up weekly nowadays, the system, network, and brand built by the partners at Y Combinator has, in a relatively short period of time, captured significant power in the early-stage ecosystem by attracting, vetting, and training technical entrepreneurs on the ins and outs of how to start technology companies. Each class in Y Combinator prepares for their Demo Day, and each company has the option to accept $150,000 in convertible debt — and not just from anyone (more on this below). Having this cash on hand affords these companies a bit more time and runway should they need it, and gives them some negotiating leverage when talking to larger investors who are keen to invest, sometimes resulting in higher valuations that venture capitalists have to compete against.
Sixth, is “New” Venture Capital: The money given to these YC companies isn’t just normal money — it’s in part from a new style of venture capital pioneered by firms like Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) and DST. While DST has made big bets and partnered with YC, A16Z has also raised large funds with a relatively small partnership, choosing instead to challenge the traditional venture capital personnel structure by operationalizing services across functional areas such as business development, recruiting, public relations, and sales. For a founder, the services offered in this model are strong, and this has motivated some other venture capital firms to change their own structures in an effort to provide more services to their companies. Additionally, the A16Z investment thesis, which seems to be designed around a belief that this is a particularly unique period of opportunity for transformation both on the web and in mobile and that a small share of winners in these categories will produce outsized returns. As a result, they seem to be willing to pay higher prices, which either forces traditional venture to compete or wait for the next thing.
And, finally, seventh are secondary markets: Now that early-stage shareholders (investors, founders, employees) of certain companies can sell their shares on these secondary markets, such as SecondMarket or SharesPost, they are able to access liquidity much earlier in the past. On the flip side, larger venture capital funds that may have missed out on the next big thing because the new company was incubated, or crowdfunded, or funded via a social network or small or large angel investors may have a chance to own a piece of the entity through these markets. In some cases, venture capital firms have been quite opportunistic to buy and sell shares of larger web companies in a short period of time, making a quick flip and marketing to the world that they, too, have invested in a particular company. While these markets provide venture capital with access, they also have to compete with a larger number of firms for these deals, a factor that could drive up prices and thereby affect returns.
All of these forces combined, and each individually in their own way, have altered the landscape for traditional venture capital in software. It is on average significantly more difficult to for traditional firms to find early-stage opportunities because there is more competition for those investments, and once a company does breakout and require more institutional funding, the prices for those rounds may not look like they have in the past. Some of this is reflective of the competitive forces that set market prices for private companies, or, depending on where you sit, is simply the new price to pay in order to own a piece of these coveted assets.
And while we’re able to analyze what has happened so far, I have no clue what the next few years will hold. Will the next big breakout originate from an incubator, will it be funded by software platforms, or will it be discovered by a small set of angels and venture capitalists, as it has for so many years to date? In the great race to find incredible talent before others, and the great race to own shares in private companies, there are more questions here than answers, but there’s no denying that it will be fascinating to see unfold.
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Editor’s Note: TechCrunch columnist Semil Shah currently works at Votizen and is based in Palo Alto. You can follow him on Twitter @semil
For the past few years, I have read over what seems like hundreds of blogs and thousands of tweets that either directly claim or indirectly hint at a disruption of traditional venture capital. For some, the factors relate to the economy, that limited partners and institutional investors were reviewing their investment approaches. For others, it seemed as if there was too much money in the asset class, that there was too much money chasing too few real opportunities. There seemed to be a long laundry list of why venture capital was undergoing this shift, but never any thread that could lay out all the factors and synthesize just how each factor contributed to shift, until now…
(Note: 1. Since “venture capital” is applied to many different industries with vastly different economic structures, this post will focus on software startups. 2. I am not going to list examples below because there are too many and I don’t want to exclude any particular companies.)
First, we have Amazon: It’s cheap to build, host, test, and optimize software. Amazon Web Services, for instance, reduce operational costs for young companies, directly impacting a startups’ burn rate. Whereas in the past a not insignificant part of an investment may be allocated to hosting, Amazon’s innovation has helped entrepreneurs better manage costs and dampened the need for venture capital investors to help out early with operational expenses.
Secondly, Angel Investors: Once a products gets to some proof of concept, an entrepreneur can raise seed funding from an incredibly wide range of sources. Those that are either connected or lucky can solicit checks from family, friends, former bosses and colleagues, or they join incubators (more on this below), or reach out to relatively obscure or more well-known angel investors, all the way up to small institutional funds, what some people refer to as “Super Angels” or “MicroVCs,” or websites dedicated to pairing investors with investment opportunities (more on this below). The flood of early-stage capital has triggered some venture capital firms to also invest in the seed stage, where they have to compete directly with smaller funds or vehicles, though a small handful of firms have resisted and focused on Series A-style investments. Leer más “TechCrunch | The Seven Forces Disrupting Venture Capital”
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Editor’s note: This guest post was written by Richard Price, founder and CEO of Academia.edu — a site that serves as a platform for academics to share their research papers and to interact with each other.
Almost every technological and medical innovation in the world has its roots in a scientific paper. Science drives much of the world’s innovation. The faster science moves, the faster the world moves.
Progress in science right now is being held back by two key inefficiencies:
The time-lag problem: there is a time-lag of, on average, 12 months between finishing a paper, and it being published.
The single mode of publication problem: scientists share their ideas only via one format, the scientific paper, and don’t take advantage of the full range of media that the web makes possible.
The stakes are high. If these inefficiencies can be removed, science would accelerate tremendously. A faster science would lead to faster innovation in medicine and technology. Cancer could be cured 2-3 years sooner than it otherwise would be, which would save millions of lives. Leer más “TechCrunch | The Future of Science”