Cloudability to Graduate from TechStars Cloud with 2k+ Customers

[ Cloudability founders Jon Frisby, Mat Ellis and J.R. Storment at the TechStars Cloud office in San Antonio. Photo courtesy of Cloudability. ]

From startups to Fortune 500 behemoths, everybody is using cloud-based services like Google Apps and Dropbox, Amazon Web Services and Rackspace.

But does any organization actually know how much it spends on the cloud across the board (since employees often sign up for services and expense them) and how to keep costs under control?

Manually entering data into a spreadsheet is one less-than-attractive option for avoiding a "who forgot to turn off the extra servers before the weekend" situation. Or you could sign up with -- what else -- a freemium SaaS company like Portland, Oregon-based Cloudability, which bills itself
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WOW: TechStars to Accept a LAUNCH Festival Startup!


TechStars is the most established multicity accelerator with the best leaders everywhere it operates -- Boulder, Seattle, Boston, New York and Texas -- and clearly one of the best things to happen for startups in a long, long time.

We're huge fans of David Cohen and his team which includes Andy Sack in Seattle, David Tisch in NYC, Katie Rae in Boston, Nicole Glaros in Boulder and Jason Seats in Texas, and the awesome startups they've guided to massive success in the past five years.

We're thrilled to announce that TechStars will accept one of the 40 companies at the LAUNCH Festival in San Francisco March 7 & 8!

You read that right: a LAUNCH company will ...

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Kinvey Holiday Video "12 Days of TechStars" Proves Tech Parodies Can Be Funny

We love getting in the holiday spirit as much as the next exhausted and caffeine-dependent startup, but if you're going to make a parody video, you better do it well [ see Gizmodo's blistering review of First Round Capital's "Friday" rendition ].

Cambridge-based Kinvey, part of the 2011 TechStars Boston class, managed to put together a clever parody of "12 Days of Christmas" featuring lines like "three sexless months," "five sleepless weeks," and "11 piping pizzas" in about three days -- most of the footage was shot on Tuesday according to Kinvey's blog post, which also has the complete lyrics. The video was up by this afternoon.

[ See a list of the 12 items and cameos/highlights plus screen shots after the jump ].

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Gowalla Users: TouristEye Wants You to Migrate Your Data to Its Service

Gary Arndt is a Gowalla user who migrated his data to TouristEye.

When Gowalla officially announced earlier this month that Facebook was acquiring the check-in service and shutting it down, most people focused on whether Gowalla and Facebook had screwed Gowalla's investors.

But what about Gowalla's 2M or so users? TouristEye, a check-in and discovery app for travelers founded in Madrid in early 2010, clearly saw an opportunity to bring them to its service.

We first learned of TouristEye's migration campaign when we received the following email from a Gowalla contact:
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White House Gets #40dollars to Trend on Twitter as Payroll Tax Cut Deadline Looms

President Barack Obama has used Twitter to fight political battles before -- he tweet-spammed over the summer as the deadline for raising the country's debt ceiling closed in.

Today his staff is encouraging people to use the hashtag #40dollars and tweet what $40 a paycheck means to them, the amount the average American stands to lose if Congress does not renew the current payroll tax cut by Jan. 1, 2012. By late this afternoon, #40dollars became a trending topic on Twitter.

House Speaker John Boehner is using #payroll in his tweets about renewing the tax cut -- but that term is most definitely not trending.
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Google Offers Selling Zagat Guides Three Months after Acquisition

Groupon and LivingSocial don't own the businesses they offer deals on, which just might make Google the first to do so with its deal today for 56% off Zagat print restaurant guides for eight U.S. cities plus its America's Top Restaurants book -- a deal clearly intended for holiday gift-buyers with foodie friends and family.

Google announced its acquisition of restaurant-review publisher Zagat in September for an undisclosed amount, and Google sources told LAUNCH at that time that it would keep the Zagat brand and its subscription model for online content. In 2009, Google failed to buy Yelp, which filed its IPO paperwork last month.
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Can't Tweet News Stories Found through Twitter's New App--Huh?

Twitter's newly redesigned iPhone app makes it delightfully easy to find hot news stories with its "discover" section. In fact, you can read the news story within the app -- no jumping to a browser page -- which we love.

We were puzzled, though, why we couldn't tweet the story we're reading in the app from the app itself by simply going to the tweet button embedded in the news article page.

[ See screen shots after the jump. ]

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WTF PayPal? Zivity Account Shut Down and Reinstated, CEO "Uneasy" about Service Husband Helped Create

Ebay-owned PayPal gets far more attention for shutting down accounts and reinstating them following media/blogger coverage than it does for its actual product, a trend that sadly continued this week with the shutdown/reinstatement of Regretsy's Secret Santa campaign.

Although Zivity's content -- mainly artsy photos of semi-nude and nude models -- is for mature audiences, the company just experienced the same cycle. Its subscriber-driven site used PayPal for four years with no issues until its account was frozen Monday for no apparent reason as the site's content had not changed and PayPal's acceptable use policy (AUP) had not either, CEO Cyan Banister told LAUNCH. PayPal, however, claimed Zivity "could be considered obscene."

Beyond the fact that PayPal does not explain how it dtermines "obscene," the situation was all the more ironic because Cyan's husband and Zivity co-founder is Scott Banister, who invented the PayPal payment over email process.
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Sick of Facebook Connect? Trove Promises Less Pain for Developers and More Control for Consumers

You know the drill: try out a new service or app these days and you're confronted with a Facebook or Twitter authorization. Like us, you may cringe at how much is being asked for or mutter "fine" under your breath before hitting "accept." At that point, you hope the company doesn't misuse your info.

Now imagine if all your data, including photos, appeared on the device or new app where you wanted them, almost magically. And if you bought a new smartphone or tablet, you'd only have to download your favorite apps and they'd be ready to rock, no configuring necessary. Plus you wouldn't have to worry about privacy or security because you could easily control which apps saw/got which data.

Sound too good to be true? Trove is betting this scenario will become normal eventually, and it could happen even sooner if it succeeds at courting both developers and consumers.

Since launching its API in August, Trove has focused on developers. Their pitch: spend more time building products instead of solving "plumbing" problems. [ The founders first got attention for their developer survey of which APIs were worst to work with -- the overwhelming answer was Facebook. ]

Taking a page from the Twilio playbook, Trove is...

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Superangel Dave McClure Takes on Incubator "Haters" Following WSJ Report

It's safe to say PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and 500 Startups accelerator founder Dave McClure are probably not friends. Levchin told the Wall Street Journal in an article out last night that there's a glut of accelerators and me-too startups coming out of them.

Levchin said the current crop -- including Y Combinator and TechStars -- are "designed to reduce risk, while I plan to actively increase risk." Levchin is about to launch a company that works on what the WSJ described as "ambitious ideas" that most existing incubators don't encourage.

McClure's first response to the article came in a colorful tweet last night in which he rewrote the article headline: "RT @WSJ: Some Pussies Fear Glut in Tech Incubators, Others Say "Fuck That Noise" & Write Checks. cc @500 @Ycombinator."
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New Path App Automatically Opts You into Sharing Your Location -- But Why?

Editor's note [ 11/30/11 at 4:46pm ]: We've clarified and updated the story based on information from Path CEO Dave Morin.

While everyone has good reason to ooh and aah over the 2.0 Path app for its sharing-of-everything features and elegant design, we noticed something that others have glossed over: the app will start sharing your location as part of its new "Automatic" feature if you don't read the permission pop-up carefully.

When you start the 2.0 app, you're prompted to allow it to use your location. That's nothing unusual, right? Lots of apps ask to use your location -- that doesn't mean sharing it. Of course, we tapped "allow." But we didn't read the second line, which says Path wants to "save" location info to your path. It turns out this is Path's way of getting your permission to share your location, as co-founder and CEO Dave Morin confirmed to LAUNCH.
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Did You Know Spotify Uses Peer-to-Peer Networking?

[ Illustration of how Spotify streams songs from The Pansentient League. ]

Spotify just hit 2.5M paying subscribers and is poised to announce a "new direction" on Wednesday, four months after launching in the United States. But few people probably give much consideration to how the U.K.-based music streaming service that started in Sweden actually works.

That's why a post on the Spotify-tracking blog The Pansentient League -- based on a 2010 academic paper by Gunnar Kreitz and Fredrik Niemela of Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology and Spotify -- caught our attention.

Unlike Pandora and Spotify's competitors, Spotify's desktop app for Windows and Mac uses a peer-to-peer network combined with server-based streaming. Why use P2P? Quite simply, to make the service more scalable and lighten the load on Spotify's servers.

Spotify manages to do this without

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Websites and Apps to Be Thankful for

Thanksgiving means spending time with family you either love or hate, eating ridiculous amounts of food, watching parades and football...not celebrating tech companies and gadgets, right?

Well, we hope you'll indulge us as we take a moment to share the websites and apps we and LAUNCH readers are thankful for. They make our work lives easier and our personal lives richer. And of course we are grateful for the people who build, improve, tweak and debug them every day.
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Obama 2012 Campaign Now on Google+ -- When's the First Hangout?

President Barack Obama, the politician who mastered social media in 2008, is a little late to the Google+ party, as Republican candidate +Herman Cain launched his page Oct. 27 and has 23K+ followers. But the +Obama 2012 campaign quietly made its first post this morning -- a welcome message -- followed by two more, one on a new law and one with a behind-the-scenes video.

Obama's verified profile also includes nine photos but no videos (yet). Although the number of people following the profile is not disclosed [ we find that lame ], the page has over 1K +1s and counting.

The welcome post, which already has 59 shares, 176 +1s and 129 comments, notes, "We're still kicking the tires and figuring this out, so let us know what you'd like to see here and your ideas for how we can use this space to help you stay connected to the campaign."
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The 65 Stories TechCrunch Didn't Cover in November (But LAUNCH Did)

You already know LAUNCH is obsessed with great startups, accelerator demo days and new products from companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Amazon. We also find different angles on the big stories and highlight cool/fun projects we know you'll appreciate.

We think it's worth noting the articles you'll find on LAUNCH but not TechCrunch [ here's our previous list of 50+ startups TechCrunch didn't cover ]. If you only read TechCrunch, in fact, you would have missed these 65 stories published since Nov. 1 -- what a shame, eh?

If you know a great startup, a cool project, or a story that hasn't been reported, email
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Microsoft Confirms It Will Make Kinect Hardware for Windows

Since Microsoft released the Kinect for Xbox 360 a year ago, people have hacked the device to do things like make you appear invisible and create a tool to help the visually impaired navigate.

Microsoft is clearly paying attention to all these "unconventional" uses, and earlier this month announced it would launch a Kinect for Windows commercial SDK in early 2012 to do things like help doctors perform surgery and musicians perform and record music [ see the video ]. Now Microsoft confirms that it is making a PC-friendly version of the Kinect hardware although it has not said when it will become available.

"...we’ve been asked whether there will also be new Kinect hardware especially for Windows," writes Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows, on the MSDN blog. "The answer is yes; building on the existing Kinect for Xbox 360 device, we have optimized certain hardware components and made firmware adjustments which better enable PC-centric scenarios."

Among the hardware changes Microsoft is promising are...
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Spark Capital Leads $10M Investment in RunKeeper

RunKeeper parent company FitnessKeeper has grown from a simple run-tracking app in 2008 to a visionary company that launched a Health Graph for connecting all health-related devices and apps this summer -- all without touching any of the $1.5M it had raised, co-founder and CEO Jason Jacobs told LAUNCH in August.

Now the Boston-based startup has raised $10M in a Series B round led by Spark Capital so that it can hire more people, improve its core app and grow the Health Graph. Other participants are existing investor OATV, the venture arm of O’Reilly Media, and new investor Revolution Ventures, founded by AOL co-founder Steve Case.

Spark Capital has invested in Twitter, Tumblr and foursquare; OATV in foursquare, Chartbeat, Bitly and Tripit; and Revolution in Zipcar and LivingSocial. Jason confirmed they are working with
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Interesting Nuggets from Yelp's S-1 about Google, Mobile, International, Deals Revenue

[ Yelp's S-1 includes this infographic showing its active presence in 43 U.S. markets and 22 markets abroad. ]

We love reading through IPO filings for information a company has not previously revealed, especially things other news stories leave out or gloss over.

Beyond the fact that Yelp is not profitable -- it had a net loss of $7.6M on net revenue of $58.4M in the first nine months of 2011 -- and that it received an average of 61M unique visitors per month in that same period, its S-1 most certainly has a few nuggets worth noting.

Yelp reported that more than half of its visits for the first nine months of  2011 came from Google. The S-1 included similar points about Google that CEO Jeremy Stoppelman made in
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Kazakh Hacks Twitter's 140-Character Limit with Post Mocking That Limit

Twitter really wants you to stick to its 140-character limit, having removed the long-tweet feature from TweetDeck in September. No wonder developers scratched their heads when they saw this 930-character tweet from Anatoly [ @LeeA_09 ] in Almaty, Kazakhstan, dated Nov. 8.

Granted, the tweet itself is unreadable: sets of three numbers separated by backslashes. But the Russian-language message in the middle is a nice dig at Twitter: "Twitty and do not limit lyudiii !!!!!! 140 no limit" according to Google Translate.

LAUNCH has not found
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Google+ Too Slow to Release Full API, So Developer Hacks and Shares One for Circles, Followers and Profiles

Developers excited about Google+ have been waiting patiently for the full API since the social network launched in late June, but so far Google has only released chunks. The first was
for retrieving public posts (Sept. 15), quickly followed by the Hangouts API (Sept. 20)  and most recently search and the ability to track engagement with public posts (e.g., reshares, comments and +1s -- Oct. 4).

Google Qualified Developer Mohamed Mansour, who's already made numerous Chrome extensions for Google+ and is part of the Hangout Academy team, got tired of waiting for Google to release the APIs he wanted for his already highly rated Circle Management extension (in beta). So he hacked his own "unofficial" version  for Circles, Followers and Profiles and posted to Google+ saying the code was on GitHub.

Mohamed tells LAUNCH he has not received an official response from Google, only that
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