L010: Ten Launches with Our Trademark Brutal Analysis -- and Now Your Votes!

1. Google: Blocking domains goes prime time.

2. Path: Linking to Facebook and making lenses for video, BOOM!
3. foursquare 3.0: Check-in data now has a purpose.
4. Bespokeable.com: Bring on the tailors.
5. LiquidSpace: Been there, done that.
6. Lifelapse: The latest take on lifecasting (no solution to the battery problem though).
7. Zaarly: If you'd pay for someone to bring you a beer...
8. ER Accelerator: TechStars and DreamIT have company in NYC.
9. Churn Labs: A new Idealab.
10. EightBit: Looks like the 80s, feels like fun.

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1. Google Domain Blocker for Search
[ http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/hide-sites-to-find-more-of-what-you.html ]
LAUNCHERS:  Amay Champaneria and Beverly Yang, search quality engineers

WHAT: Block certain domains (like ehow.com or answers.yahoo.com) from being included in your search results -- for obvious reasons -- without having to install the Google Chrome Browser extension.

WHEN/WHERE: Last Wednesday in Mountain View.

WHY: The magical algorithm, while built by people, doesn't always know what the people want. Case in point: Yahoo Answers seems to come up in every search result even though it reads like teenagers smoking salvia divinorum wrote the answers.

Matt Cutts, principal engineer and head of Google's webspam team, tells LAUNCH: "Anecdotally, we've had many people writing in to thank us and tell us about the sites they've always wanted to block. We're also hearing about sites that are thinking more about how to improve their quality because they're realizing that users may block them."

LAUNCH Analysis: Google never wants to admit it has people manually edit its SERPs (search engine result pages) despite long-standing rumors that it does. Leaving that debate aside, letting users take control of their results by blocking domains that suck is not only virtuous, it gives Google the plausible deniability it will need when the U.S. Department of Justice finally launches its investigation to catch up with the European Commission's inquiry.

ONE MORE THING: We're not saying we think Google should be investigated by the E.U. or Justice Department, or that the company is doing anything wrong with its earned monopoly.*

A term we just coined to describe a monopoly based on merit as opposed to sinister business practices. For example, while Apple's iTunes store and iPod have clearly benefited from heavy-handed, monopolistic practices in our opinion (e.g., proprietary players, DRM and plugs), their tablet win seems to -- at this point -- have been based on merit and a lack of competition.  

2. Path.com
[ http://blog.path.com/post/3786446317/path-1-5-getting-more-personal ]
LAUNCHER: Dave Morin

WHAT: Sharing photos on Facebook; creative filters ("lenses") to jazz up your videos.

WHEN/WHERE: Friday in San Francisco.

WHY: Instagram has been getting far too much credit for simple photo filters, so why not get the jump on them with filters for video that heretofore were limited to your Sony Handicam.

LAUNCH Analysis: Back in L001, we pointed out that Path's virtue was in its private-by-default feature set. However, opt-in syndication only enhances the value of the platform. By allowing users to selectively share their waypoints via a sexy new feature -- deliciously modified videos and photos -- Dave has created the perfect viral hook for the social networker's social network.

ONE MORE THING: The hardest party to get into at SXSW was Path's -- 'nuf said.

RATE THIS LAUNCH (AND SEE INSTANT RESULTS): http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/L010_Path

3. foursquare 3.0
[ http://blog.foursquare.com/2011/03/08/foursquare-3/ ]
LAUNCHER:  Dennis Crowley

WHAT: What didn't foursquare do --
* New features: recommendations based on past check-ins and the time of day; souped-up leaderboard to bring back the gaming feel.
* Business model experimentation: Amex deal in which card holders get rewards for checking in with participating merchants; easier setup for local merchants looking to offer deals (finally you don't have to be mayor to get one).

WHEN/WHERE: Last Tuesday in New York.

WHY: The local check-in space was getting stale, and foursquare wanted to get closer to its "every check-in counts" philosophy.

LAUNCH Analysis: Check-in fatigue is setting in, leaving foursquare in the worst place a technology startup can be: plateaued. Desperate for a raison d'etre beyond knowing where your friends are -- something that becomes much less important once you graduate college and get married, we're told -- foursquare has done the expected: entered the deal space.

ONE MORE THING: We're wondering what has more value to a local business: hosting a Groupon or LivingSocial deal every six to 12 months, or providing your most loyal customers a never-ending, customizable array of coupons up to 365 days a year?

AND ONE MORE THING: It's becoming clear that Groupon and LivingSocial are not on a crash course with Yelp and CitySearch but rather foursquare and Gowalla.

RATE THIS LAUNCH (AND SEE INSTANT RESULTS): http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/L010_foursquare

4. Bespokeable
[ http://bespokeable.com/ ]
LAUNCHER: Nicholas Marx

WHAT: A marketplace for expert designers to tell you what looks good on you and sell you custom clothing (Bespokeable gets a cut -- see what we just did there?). Right now only men's shirts are on offer.

WHEN/WHERE: Still in private beta in Chicago. Public launch is planned for late summer/early fall 2011.

WHY: People perceive they look better in custom-made duds; haberdashers are largely offline.

Nicholas tells LAUNCH: "Long story short, I wanted something like it selfishly for myself. I tried to design my own shirt on one of the many do-it-yourself sites, but had no idea what I should get."

LAUNCH Analysis: We love what Bonobos has done for custom-made (and reasonably priced) men's clothing, as well as Blank Label's custom shirt widget (worth checking out). Only suckers will buy retail in the future, and Zappos has primed the pump for returnable boxes of clothing. You can get exposure to the trend now by buying UPS stock.

ONE MORE THING: Who's going to own the custom-made wedding dress market?  


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#9: If you don't take the shot, you can't win the game.