February 1, 2012

Facebook files for IPO, seeks to raise $5 billion

At 4:47 p.m. today, Facebook Inc. filed its S-1 registration statement as it seeks to go public and raise $5 billion.

Some key facts: from the filing:

* The Web 2.0 company has 845 million monthly active users. It had revenues last year of $3.7 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in 2010.

* It had a profit last year of $1 billion last year, compared to $606 million in 2010.

* Facebook has $3.9 billion in cash in the bank.

* Founder Mark Zuckerberg controls 36 percent of Class A shares. Baltimore's T. Rowe Price Group, a mutual funds investor, holds 5.2 percent of shares.

* Here's a monster number: 483 million daily active users (DAUs) on average in December 2011, an increase of 48% as compared to 327 million DAUs in December 2010.

* Zyngaville! Facebook says its relationship with Zynga accounted for 12 percent of its revenues. A healthy amount, but not surprising.

* The filing says Facebook plans to list its stock either on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange (You mean they haven't decided yet?)

* VERY interesting: Because Zuckerberg controls so many shares, the company is "not required to have a majority of our board of directors be independent, nor are we required to have a compensation committee or an independent nominating function."

* Total cost and expenses for running Facebook quadrupled to nearly $2 billion in 2011, from $515 million in 2009.

* Here's a chart of Facebook's history, from the filing:


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:54 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast

November 23, 2011

Facebook buys Baltimore company that sued it: report


Sometimes the surest way to get noticed by a giant is to just sue them.

A small Baltimore company that sued Facebook two years ago was reportedly acquired by the mega-social-networking company earlier this month.

WhoGlue Inc., a company owned and operated by Jason Hardebeck (that's him above), said in an interview this morning that he sold his company for an undisclosed amount to Facebook in early November. The lawsuit that he had filed against Facebook -- for infringing on a patent titled "distributed personal relationship information management system and methods" -- was settled last year in a "very positive" way, Hardebeck said, and he and Facebook execs kept in touch.

"It's not typically how you introduce yourself to someone, to serve them with papers," Hardebeck said. "My experience with Facebook was very positive, very surprising, given its perception in the press and certainly from the movie [The Social Network]. It turns out that they are really good guys."

Facebook has bought several companies over the years. The WhoGlue acquisition appears to be the first acquisition by Facebook in Baltimore. [List of Facebook acquisitions.]

WhoGlue specializes in designing private social networks, for member groups, such as alumni associations. Hardebeck sees a future where public social networks interact with private networks more seamlessly.

He declined to comment on what exactly Facebook acquired from WhoGlue Inc. As part of the deal, Hardebeck ended up buying back some assets, trademarks and customer relationships from Facebook, and formed a new company, WhoGlue LLC, that can continue to operate the same business. WhoGlue had about a dozen shareholders, including the big tech company Siemens, which created the technology in the patent that WhoGlue held.

Hardebeck declined to say if the patent was sold as part of the Facebook deal. But he made clear that his company's sale didn't mean an early retirement for him. He intended to keep working in the same industry.

"Where we intend to go is where the world is going," Hardebeck said. "Eventually, public social networks will need to interact with private social networks."

"What we've beeen working on for 12 years just gets accelerated," Hardebeck said. "There's a very good chance now that we go out and get big fast."

WhoGlue consists of just two full-time employees, Hardebeck and a developer in Berlin. The company also works with contractors, he said.

I have a request for comment into Facebook. The deal was first reported by the Baltimore Business Journal.

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October 24, 2011

A Baltimorean in Silicon Valley

The Economic Alliance of Baltimore took 30 business and community leaders on a field trip to Silicon Valley recently. Local entrepreneur and tech-scene advocate Mike Brenner put together a thoughtful post describing Silicon Valley's startup ecosystem -- and how it compares to Baltimore.

Here's the post, over at the Startup Baltimore website.

Some key takeaways that Mike covers:

* Investors are less risk averse in Silicon Valley.... and

* Mentorship is everywhere.

Read the post for more of Mike's observations.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, East Coast, West Coast

Steve Jobs: A complex man who made simple stuff

That's what I gathered from the 20 or so minutes watching the 60 Minutes episode last night, where Steve Kroft interviewed Steve Jobs' biographer, Walter Isaacson. (The book debuts today.)

Steve Jobs was adopted. He was a bit of a dirty hippie in his youth, but really geeky and driven in his belief of the power of computing. He was both mean and seductive to people, demanded perfection, and didn't suffer fools.

He didn't actually know a lick of computer programming. And many techies often mock him for that supposed failing in his skill set. But Jobs knew something more critical: the passions, desires and tastes of people who want to feel satisfaction, even pleasure, when they interact with technology.

It's not hard to find engineers who can build stuff. It is harder to find someone with a clarity of vision for products that give people what they want, even when they don't realize yet they want it. That's a really special talent, and one that Jobs was handsomely rewarded for over his career.

He also had a false belief that he could cancer his illness with non-surgical remedies. And he ended up regretting that choice as his cancer ate away at him.

In case you missed it, below is the 60 Minutes video:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:18 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Big Ideas, Geeks, West Coast

May 27, 2011

Tech boom hits New York -- can Baltimore feel the aftershock?

The headline reads "New York startups ride tech boom."

It's the Wall Street Journal, and it's declaring that New York is experiencing boom times in its startup scene. Some may automatically -- and skeptically -- wonder that when a newspaper declares a boom, you know a bust isn't too far behind. I'm not ready to be that skeptical, yet.

As the article points out, there are a couple of different pieces in play in New York right now that's working in Silicon Alley's favor. There's talent, a mix of relative success stories, and a community of eager entrepreneurs fueling the ecosystem. Just as importantly, investors from Silicon Valley and elsewhere are now checking into the New York scene to grab on to any shooting stars that fly out of there, according to the article.

If there's a boom going on in New York, here in Baltimore, the startup scene is hoping for some positive aftershocks. There's still a fair amount of investment dollars flowing into the Washington-Baltimore region, but most of the money is going to that Northern Va./Washington corridor.

Many in Baltimore's tech scene were looking forward to the Startup City -- a business accelerator -- acting as a sparkplug for entrepreneurs and investors. But alas, that program has been postponed because enough investors couldn't be lined up, and the organizers are going back to the drawing board.

My rough sense about Baltimore is that investments are being made in biotech, cybersecurity and other targeted areas where there's money to be made, i.e. health care. Local angel investors seem to be less inclined to invest in popular consumer-facing apps and tech that captivate the general public, such as "the next Facebook" or "the next Twitter" or "the next Foursquare." The scene here is more B2B than B2C, which is fine, because there's money to be made in B2B -- it's just not as sexy to the average joe.

When you look at the latest stats from the National Venture Capital Association, the reality is that investments in New York and the DC-Metroplex (that includes us) were actually down in the first quarter this year.

You know who's up? Silicon Valley. And Texas (Austin, anyone?). And Philadelphia (kudos to our neighbor's startup scene). And the U.S. southwest.

Here are investment numbers for the 1st quarter of 2010, from the National Venture Capital Association:


Now here are similar stats for this year's first quarter:


These numbers make me wonder if venture capital is just heating up in Silicon Valley, driving valuations ever northward, and forcing VC's and angels to go looking for smart companies and smarter deals in other tech hotbeds.

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April 19, 2011

410Labs: Baltimore startup attracting outside investors

We've seen Dave Troy roll up his sleeves and help coordinate and promote Baltimore's tech scene over the last couple years, helping pull off such events as TedXMidAtlantic and BarCamp Baltimore.

He's also dabbled in politics lately, with a public endorsement of Otis Rolley, who's running for mayor in Baltimore.

But the local entrepreneur, who founded and sold ToadNet, an ISP, is coming on strong this year with a new startup venture. It's called 410Labs. The company is all about building nimble communication tools that make managing your flow of digital information better, whether its with Twitter or email.

A new tool that Troy and his colleagues demo'ed at the Baltimore Startup Weekend event is called Mailstrom, which helps people analyze and manage their email inboxes.

Last week, Troy tweeted that his company was receiving some investments to keep doing its thing. So far, 410Labs is about halfway through a $500,000-plus angel round of investing. And its attracted investors from San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC and possibly even New York.

Here's a short Q&A I did with Dave recently:

Q) Who are the principals in 410Labs?

A) David Troy, CEO; Matt Koll, Chairman (sold two companies to AOL). We also have two full-time developers and one part-time employee who have a stake in the company.

Q) What do you build?

A) We're building products that add value to people's lives using technology. So that's pretty broad. Our first product, Replyz, helps people find answers to questions. Our second product, Shortmail, is experimenting with innovations in email, which hasn't seen much innovation in a very long time. We anticipate having about four products in our portfolio by the end of the year.

Q) Why take investment?

A) We're not taking much, and the investments are strategic in nature. We want to build support within our industry, both in San Francisco and here in Baltimore. So it's really more about relationships, but this will also allow us to hire people and move faster than we have been. We also appreciate the vote of confidence and insights that we gain by working with outside investors.

Q) How much currently raised and how much targeted?

A) We are raising $500-$600K in this current round and are about half done. As I said, the investments we have secured so far are firmly in the "Angel" category.

Q) Who are your investors? (Is it Twitter and Living Social, per se, or individual executives from those companies?)

A) I can't speak to it in full before we close the round, but individuals at both Twitter and Living Social have committed to angel investments in the company. It's going to be a nice mix of people in San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC, and probably New York.

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April 15, 2011

Lessons learned? Twitter's original angel investors who sold out early

oops-image.jpgThe Business Insider published a really interesting look at how a bunch of original Twitter investors feel about cashing out of the hot social media startup at its really early stages.

They sold out for $5 million five years ago, and now Twitter has reportedly received valuations of up to $10 billion. Yikes!

Here's the link:

As you might expect, some of the investors have gone with the flow and seem to have accepted how life and startups work out. Others seem more bitter about missing out on a crazy growth opportunity.

Twitter is a funny beast. Unlike Facebook, which seems like everyone introduced to it early on knew it would be a huge success, Twitter seemed to skyrocket thanks to the early, passionate adoption by users, especially by journalists and civic-minded folks who started using it as a breaking news tool.

It gained momentum that completely surprised Twitter management.

So really, if you're to believe the narrative the tech press is currently spinning about Twitter, then it may be safe to say that Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey are not only smart, they're also pretty darn lucky that they somehow managed to create a product that really resonates with people.

Smart AND lucky is a great combination for startups!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Startups, West Coast

April 27, 2010

Gizmodo editor's house raided as part of "stolen" iPhone probe


 It's the geeky, Silicon Valley version of "COPS." Sadly, however, to our inappropriate amusement, no Tasers were used.

The drama deepened yesterday when Gizmodo reported that its editor's house was recently raided by California authorities investigating the case of the missing 4th generation iPhone.

In case you've been unplugged for the past week, Gizmodo was approached by a dude who claimed he may or may not have had a missing iPhone prototype. So Gizmodo decided to pay him $5,000 to see if what he had was indeed an iPhone prototype.

After taking the phone apart and writing numerous posts about it, Gizmodo returned the phone to Apple. All along the tech blog has claimed it didn't know it was Apple's until they pretty much confirmed it was, and then promptly made moves to return it.

That's Gizmodo's story and I'm sure they'll be sticking to it. Everyone's watching this case and wondering if Gizmodo and its owner, Gawker Media, will successfully protect themselves under the journalist shield law. But John Gruber, of Daring Fireball, puts it succinctly when he says the state of California's argument might be: "Hey, you committed a felony."

Now, some have raised questions about the validity of the search of the editor's home. Wired has a story that points out journalists must be subpoenaed, and that they're not subject to unannounced searches.

Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder if Gizmodo routinely pays thousands of dollars for gadgets that may or may not be authentic. If that's part of their normal business practice, then I could see their defense holding water.

But really -- who pays thousands of dollars for a "prototype" if they're not sure it's the real thing? And if they're sure it's the real thing, then they probably shouldn't be buying it in the first place. "News" orgs shouldn't be buying things that are known to belong to someone else.

This whole thing is a mess and, right now, I don't really feel sorry for Gizmodo. What do you think?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:55 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: *NEWS*, Geeks, Smartphones, West Coast

January 27, 2010

LIVE Apple iPad coverage today

For updates via Twitter, follow @gussent.

Apple-media-invitation-2010-01-27-580x393.jpgHit refresh every minute or so!

Whenever possible, BaltTech will be featuring live reports from the Web to participate in covering Apple's big event today, where the company is expected to unveil a new "tablet" computer. Other sources of info include Engadget and Gizmodo.

PLEASE HELP: I will be looking to feature (and embed) live streaming video OR audio of the Apple event in this blog, so you can watch it in real-time. So if you find such a feed, please shoot me a Tweet with the link at @gussent or leave in the comments. In the meantime, check out The Sun's Read Street blog for a live Twitter feed!Many thanks!

IF a tablet is announced today, here are some questions I'll have about it:

* How much will it cost?
* How does it interact with existing iPhone apps? (And does it run a version of the iPhone operating system?)
* What kind of e-book experience does it offer?
* What kind of gaming experience does it offer?
* Does it do live video-conferencing?
* How will the iTunes store change to accommodate it?

What other questions do you have about the device? Drop a note below.

Live blog updates:

1:00 pm... Huge applause
1:03 pm ... Steve Jobs... we have over 140 apps on app store and 3 billion downloads from users.
1:04 pm ... Jobs talks about huge revenue gains for apple in last quarter....
1:04pm... revenue from ipods, iphones, macbooks... "apple is a mobile devices company... that's what we do." Jobs.
1:05pm Jobs: Apple, by revenue is the largest mobile device maker in the world... (when you talk about mobile/portable in total)
1:06: Now let's get to the main event (jobs teasing the crowd... instead, takes crowd back to 1991 and the first powerbook, as the first modern laptop computer)
1:07 Is there room for another category of devices? Of course we thought of this question for years as well (brief outage
1:09: third category of device have to be better at gaming, e-media than a laptop or a smart phone... some people say 'that's a netbook.' the problem is that netbooks aren't better at anything... they're just cheap laptops. (big laughs)
1:10: We call it the iPad
1:11... it's the best browsing experience you've ever had... (it looks like a big fat iPhone, folks)
1:12: describes how to email... almost lifesize keyboard.. "it's a dream to type on."
1:12: iPad is an awesome way to enjoy your music collection... (Jobs running through the various applications...i.e. YouTube in high-def...)
1:13: Jobs making lots of comparisons and saying it's better navigation experience than a smaller smartphone (Leo Laporte's feed just fuzzed out)
1:14 Jobs shows how easy to easy to buy movie tickets with iPad ("grab the tablet that's in the kitchen...")
1:18: Jobs shows off closeup of the virtual keyboard
1:19: shows off how to manage photos on the iPad
1:20 (Editorial: So far, folks, I think we're about par for the course here. .. No huge surprises if you've been following the tablet rumor mill the last few weeks)
1:21: Built in ipod in the iPad... no surprise there. (Leo Laporte's audio feed is glitchy again)
1:22: Jobs showing off the calendar function
1:24: Jobs showing off Google Streetview and how to find restaurants (sushi in San Francisco, for example)
1:24: Showing off video now, i.e. Youtube in HD.
1:27: movies, tv shows, music videos [so far, this device is heavy on pushing iTunes and YouTube content]
1:28: ipad is half an inch thin and weighs 1.5 pounds. 9.7 inch display ("super high quality", Jobs says)
1:29: Jobs going over tech specs of the iPad [appears to be around same size as Amazon's Kindle DX]
1:30: wireless networking
1:30 Ten hours of battery life [commentator asks, are those Apple hours or real hours?]
1:31 Now talking about the Apps and the Apple Apps Store
1:32 New apple exec explains how the iPad can automatically increase the size of apps originally designed for iPhone so they can be used on the iPad
1:35 Editorial: will this iPad be an ergonomic nightmare for people who try to type with it?
1:40: [Experiencing some technical problems on the live feed]
1:40: Showing off the gaming experience on the iPad.
1:41 [Editorial: Listening to Leo Laporte's feed... I have to say, if Apple prices this at $999, I don't think it'll be a winner. Just my 2 cents]
1:42 NYTimes content looks really nice on the iPad.
1:44: Electronic Arts about to show off games on the iPad
1:48 Very cool racing game being demo'ed... [Game console makers may have something to fear from this portable device]
1:49 Now Major League Baseball will show off what it has to offer on the iPad
1:52... here we go: the ebook reader. Jobs makes direct comparison to Amazon Kindle ... new app is called iBooks. ("we're going to stand on their shoulders," Jobs said of Amazon.)
1:53: will have five of the largest publishers in the world supporting iBooks... "and we'll open up the floodgates for the rest of the publishers this afternoon."
1:55 Jobs explains how to navigate on the ebook pages...
1:56 "And that is iBooks..."
1:57 [FYI: Gizmodo has some good, clear photos of the iPad over at:]
1:57: Jobs introduces updated iWork software productivity suite for the iPad
1:59 New versions of Keynote, Pages and Numbers software....
2:02 [Editorial: I'm not sure anyone was expecting Apple to configure iWork to work on the iPad....pleasant surprise? This device can also be used to do some productive work, too.]
2:06 Showing off how to use Pages to make spreadsheets.. [Aside: Imagine that: making spreadsheets with your fingers!]
2:10 $9.99 for each of the three iWork software apps... [Cheaper than I thought -gus]
2:12 Back to Jobs: syncing with iTunes.... 3G wireless data built in... Now what's it cost for data: U.S. Telecom typically charges $60 a month ... we 've got two awesome plans... first gives u 250 MB per month: just $14.99, or an unlimited plan for $29.99... AT&T providing the data .... No contract. you can cancel anytime....
2:23: Okay, folks, I'm stepping away from second-by-second blogging of the event... what do you think so far of the iPad?? Drop comments below!!

Leo LaPorte's live broadcast from the Apple event:
Live Broadcast by Ustream.TV

Live Videos by Ustream

First-person iPhone footage of the Apple event today:
Free video chat by Ustream

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:23 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Gamers, Geeks, Media, West Coast, Wireless

January 21, 2010

Apple working on parking app for mobile devices

One of the Apple patent applications made public today details the company's efforts to create a useful parking application that mashes up a user's geo-location data with information about parking garages and parking regulations.


The methods described in the application include using GPS and triangulation to help users locate themselves on a map. Then, using a computer algorithm, the application could send you automatic alerts to warn you if you're about to violate the parking regulations.

It's interesting to note that this isn't just about making your iPhone or whatever other Internet-connected portable device more useful. It's also about creating a venue for potential advertising revenue.

The patent filing states about the invention: "It has been considered to provide advertisements and other information pertaining to a present location of a mobile device. For example, detecting a present location of a mobile device, and providing information, including advertisements, about restaurants in that vicinity is an application that has generated interest."

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones, West Coast

January 15, 2010

Twitter to launch Facebook Connect copycat?

Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch says that Twitter will soon debut a set of tools that will allow web developers to tightly integrate the service into their websites -- much like Facebook now offers through Facebook Connect.

The new Twitter product will allow sites to authenticate users, pull data and then publish back to Twitter, we’ve heard. All of these features exist today via the Twitter API, but the slick Facebook Connect-like packaging and easy-to-use widgets don’t exist yet.

Arrington notes that Facebook says 80,000 websites have added Facebook Connect, and 60 million Facebook users engage with Facebook connect on these third party websites each month.

Generally, I think I would be much more inclined to connect to a site via a "Twitter connect" feature than Facebook Connect. I have far less personal information associated with my Twitter account than with my Facebook account.

I know we're all supposed to be living in a post-privacy Internet (according to Facebook), but I still think a lot of people want a way to connect with others without sharing all sorts of private information with third parties.

Will Websites be as willing to integrate Twitter as they are with Facebook?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:18 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Social Media, West Coast

January 4, 2010

The 3D tech behind the rumored Apple "iSlate" tablet?

Welcome! Follow BaltTech on Twitter at @GusSent!


Some of the recent reports that predict Apple will launch some type of "tablet PC" next month have mentioned that the long-rumored device will have 3D graphics.

So what does "3D graphics" really mean and how could it be implemented? I found a recently-released patent filing which I traced back to Apple (#20090303231, Dec. 10, 2009) and which discusses in great detail a "touch screen device, method and graphical user interface for manipulating three-dimensional virtual objects." If Apple chooses to incorporate some of the features it outlines in this patent filing, it could essentially mean that that user-interaction experience for the iPhone or a potential "Tablet" will be markedly different in some respects than the iPhone interface we're currently using. (The image above is taken from Apple's patent filing.)

According to documents filed with the USPTO, Apple obtained the rights to this patent application from three French citizens: Fabrice Robinet, Thomas Goossens, and Alexandre Moha. The inventors assigned the patent to Apple on Sept. 29, 2008. It's not clear if those citizens are Apple employees, per se. (Update: Actually, Mr. Moha is a product and engineering manager at Apple, per his LinkedIn profile; Mr. Robinet is a software engineer at Apple, again, per LinkedIn, and Mr. Goossens is an Apple software engineer (thanks to Baltimore's Bill Mill for digging up Goossens!) Regardless, searches under Apple's name in the patents database doesn't retrieve this patent, because the names of the original French inventors are still on it. (I wonder why that is? Hmmm. :-)

In patent filings, companies typically lay out a current problem or hurdle in a field of technology which they then propose, to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, that their new innovation will address.

In this case, the patent application states: "...[T]here is a need for electronic devices with touch screen displays that provide more transparent and intuitive user interfaces for navigating in three dimensional virtual spaces and manipulating three dimensional objects in these virtual spaces."

So, what is the essence of this patent filing and Apple's interest in it? Let me try and distill it for you:

*) This patent filing is meant to cover the implementation of three-dimensional image-handling on different types of devices, including multi-touch sensitive tablets.

*) The 3D images, or "virtual objects," that can be generated include an icon, a virtual game object or a virtual game character. Basically, your icons and characters on this device will have a three-dimensional quality in a two-dimensional space, which could lead to novel ways of interacting with the device.

Perhaps this - 3D graphics -- is the future of Apple's interfaces for its portable multi-function devices. What do you think?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:11 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, West Coast

October 30, 2009

Los Angeles moving to Gmail and cloud computing

Could this be the beginning of a trend?

NPR reports that the City of Los Angeles has voted to overhaul its email system, converting it from a Microsoft-based software system, to a Google Gmail system where the data will be kept private on Google's servers across the U.S.

With so many municipal and state governments strapped for cash these days, you've gotta wonder if this is gonna catch on. If L.A. is serious about doing it, shouldn't others take a hard look at it, too? Politicians eager to bring home some tax savings to their constituents may not be able to resist the urge to review their local government's spending on I.T., and figure out what they could push into the Google cloud.

For those looking for some more detail on the possible rationale behind this deal, take a look at this InformationWeek column, which gives four possible reasons that L.A. chose Google over Microsoft.

Hey Mayor Sheila Dixon -- is somebody in your office gonna take a closer look at this?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:03 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Big Ideas, Government Tech, West Coast

September 4, 2009

Innovation in Maryland -- through the eyes of Johns Hopkins business dean

If you haven't read it yet, then run -- don't walk -- to Jay Hancock's latest, most excellent column where he talks with Yash Gupta, dean of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. yashgupta.jpg In it, Gupta (left) talks about the difference in the innovation economies and cultures of Baltimore and Southern California's Silicon Valley.

He makes some interesting points. And, it seems there's a call to action somewhere in there for our business and political leaders to wake up and smell the Old Bay right under their noses.

I may be oversimplifying it, but Gupta seems to say that entrepreneurs are overly dependent around these parts on the federal government as a cash cow for contracts. Such dependence can be both financially and professionally rewarding, but stultifying -- partly because the government market is a different animal than the consumer and business market.

It was also refreshing for Gupta to point out that California has high taxes and a tough regulatory environment, and yet its Silicon Valley is still synonymous with business innovation -- so the excuse that Maryland isn't tax-friendly to businesses may be just that: an excuse.

Yet, the other side is hard to ignore, when billions of federal dollars are staring your local/regional economy in the face.

In an interview I did awhile back with Christian Johansson, the state's secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development, he essentially noted that the federal government is the big gorilla in the room that businesses around here can't ignore.

If the Maryland companies don't take advantage of the steady spigot of contracts that are made available each year, than other companies in other states most certainly will.

What do you think?


(photo credit: JHU)

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August 27, 2009

Should Facebook be allowed to patent "community translation"?

My blog post on Tuesday about Facebook trying to patent their "community translation" process, which they've been using to crowd-source the translation of their site around the world, really did end up going around the world, thanks to tons of retweets.

The issue even got picked up yesterday by TechCrunch, in a thoughtful post by Jason Kincaid who noted some other sites that have used crowd-sourcing in this way.

Which brings me to the poll of the day below. [Note: The first five people who vote and leave a comment will get a free "BaltTech" magnet for their fridge!]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps, West Coast

August 24, 2009

Facebook applies for patent for community translation tool

My latest hobby is scouring the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's website for innovative ideas. One that stood out to me today: Facebook's patent application for what it called "community translation on a social network."

Below is a diagram I pulled from the patent application (filed in December), which can be found here.

Basically, in layman's terms (if I'm reading the patent app correctly), Facebook users will be able to submit text they seek translated to the Facebook community, with responses that can then be rated. Voila! Near-instant community translation.


Are the implications of such a service pretty big -- especially if the tool is designed in such a way that Facebookers can use it quickly and seamlessly? I have to think so. 

I tried getting a comment from Facebook on their patent application, but I received a generic response from their press email contact. I'll keep trying.

In the meantime, would you use such a tool on Facebook? My own take on it is that such a translation tool could potentially be a novel item, since most tools right now on the Web are algorithm based and far from perfect.

But if you can get the big crowd to translate for you quickly, and with better results, that could be something special for Facebook. No?

UPDATE: I got a response tonight from Elizabeth Linder, a Facebook spokeswoman, who clarified to me that this patent applies to their existing Translation tool, which they've been successfully using over the past year to get the site translated around the world.  Here's a link to the application.

Says Linder:

The translation app has been available on our site since we first introduced Spanish, and has been instrumental in enabling us to translate Facebook quickly and efficiently: it calls on the collective expertise of our users around the world to translate Facebook, so that the site feels comfortable for everyone, no matter what language they speak.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:20 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Big Ideas, Social Media, West Coast

June 30, 2009

Big online gaming co. Zynga opening 1st East Coast office in Baltimore area

brianreynolds.jpg Some of you have been seeing the job ads posted locally for a couple weeks now and wondered what Zynga Inc. was doing recruiting in the Baltimore area.

I'll tell you what they're doing: they're opening their first East Coast office, here in the Baltimore/Timonium area, hiring 12-15 people, and calling it Zynga East.

One of the biggest companies in the booming field of online social gaming, Zynga has come to the East Coast -- and chosen Baltimore (er, maybe Timonium) to plant their flag. If you've ever played Mafia Wars or Texas Hold'Em or Pirates or Scramble on Facebook or MySpace, you've played a Zynga game.

To lead Zynga East, Zynga hired Brian Reynolds, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore-area gaming scene who co-founded Firaxis Games (Hunt Valley) and Big Huge Games (Timonium), which was bought last month by Curt Schilling's (yes, the retired Major League Baseball pitcher) 38 Studios.

(That's Brian Reynolds to the left, in a pic taken Feb. 17, 1999 by a Sun photographer, when he was VP of software development at Firaxis Games, and designed the game Alpha Centauri. Sorry Brian, couldn't find a more recent pic in our archives.)

A Zynga spokeswoman told me in an email last night that Reynolds will be bringing some of his "key associates" to work with him.

Zynga East will be working on a new online game, but the company wouldn't say what it was about.

Reynolds has a deep background in building strategy games, so maybe that's what we can expect to see more of?

The Baltimore area has become a bit of a game developer's haven.

Zynga's presence here will add a new competitive dimension to the game development scene, with online gaming being white-hot right now. And Zynga itself is a buzz machine.

They've attracted something like $40 million in investment capital and they're reportedly cash flow positive, with around 250 employees. It reportedly has sales of around $100 million and is profitable, but it's privately held, so we don't know how profitable.

BusinessWeek's Valley Girl has the good lowdown on the company and how -- you ask -- it's actually supposedly making all this money. Basically, it seems people are willing to pony up a few bucks here and there to play their games. They've got 12 million daily users and 50 million monthly users, the company reports.

For a quick rundown of Zynga in the news, check this out. And my online news story is here. Good news for Baltimore area game developers? Let me know what you think.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:50 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: East Coast, Gamers, Jobs & Recruiting, Social Media, West Coast
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

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