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Uber Looking To Raise An Uber Round Of Funding Led By TPG, At A $3.5B Valuation

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On-demand car service Uber is looking to raise another big round of funding, this time led by private equity firm Texas Pacific Group we’re hearing. And so is Dan Primack. And Liz Gannes. The round is expected to be between $150 million and $200 million, at a valuation of about $3.5 billion. The round hasn’t closed yet, but it’s close to being completed, or so our sources say.

The funding comes as Uber is growing fast, expanding into new territories and adding lower cost services. AllThingsD reports that the company is expected to pull in $125 million in revenue this year, which is higher than had been expected.

Uber is now available in more than 35 cities around the world with its on-demand black car service. But it’s quickly adding lower-cost options in many of those markets. In several cities, that means lower-cost hybrid cars taking passengers, while in others, the company is partnering with local taxi companies to use its e-hail service. With the funding, it will likely expand even more quickly.

TPG isn’t your typical tech investor, although it has held stakes in companies like SurveyMonkey and Travelocity parent company Sabre Holdings. But it has done a fair amount of investing in travel and leisure companies, including a number of airlines and hospitality businesses.

On that front, Uber seems like a good fit, as it’s not your typical tech investment. The company is looking to disrupt the urban transportation industry, which has been stifled by decades of regulation. But it’s also built a logistical framework that could be used for any number of things: in the past it’s experimented with barbecue and ice cream delivery, and it’s even been used to order canal boats in Amsterdam and water taxis in Sydney.

Google Ventures is also expected to be an investor in the round, according to Gannes and Primack, though we hadn’t heard about that.

Uber has raised $57 million since being founded in 2009. Its most recent funding round was for $37 million in late 2011, and came from investors that included Menlo Ventures, Jeff Bezos, Goldman Sachs, Benchmark, CrunchFund*, and Troy Carter. Other investors include Benchmark Capital, First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, Founder Collective, and a whole bunch of angels.

Uber, TPG, and Google Ventures all declined to comment for this story.

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* DISCLOSURE: Some time ago, Michael Arrington founded TechCrunch. Later, he founded CrunchFund. And at some point after that, CrunchFund wrote a check to invest in Uber. But that all has nothing to do with why I’m writing this story about someone else possibly writing a check to invest in Uber.


Tags: gadget tc uber

Home 3D Printers Emit Some Nasty Stuff, Researchers Find

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Home 3D printers - particularly FDM, Makerbot-like devices - are still in their infancy and, as such, are untested when it comes to safety. That’s why some researchers at the Built Environment Research Group at the Illinois Institute of Technology decided to test a popular model for ultrafine particle emissions, a measure of how much junk these things emit while in use.

The result? PLA, a starch-based material, emitted 20 billion particles per minute while ABS, a plastic, emitted 200 billion. This is similar in scale to using a gas stove, lighting a cigarette, or burning a scented candle. In short, it’s a significant bit of potential pollution in an unfiltered environment but it’s nothing we don’t do to ourselves on a daily basis already.

The study didn’t take into account what materials were being expelled, which makes it a bit more troubling. For example, according to PhysOrg, ABS is known to be toxic in lab rats but PLA, oddly enough, is used in nanotechnology for the delivery of medicines.

What’s the takeaway? Ventilate your 3D printer.

Because most of these devices are currently sold as standalone devices without any exhaust ventilation or filtration accessories, results herein suggest caution should be used when operating in inadequately ventilated or unfiltered indoor environments. Additionally, these results suggest that more controlled experiments should be conducted to more fundamentally evaluate particle emissions from a wider arrange of desktop 3D printers.

Obviously these devices are designed for home and office use and probably will never end up under a lab-grade ventilation hood. However, given the various processes used to make 3D objects, it’s important that this research is done to reduce the effects of UFPs on children who may be using these in schools as well as the teachers, designers, and makers who use them on a daily basis.

You can read the entire paper here or just turn on a fan.
via Physorg


A Year In The Making, Machine Zone Launches Game of War, An Impressively Large MMO For iOS

WorldMap-War


While iOS games started out as either simple physics or casual simulation titles when the platform launched about five years ago, the bar has gotten steadily higher and more hard-core. Midcore studios like Kabam started to rise in prominence.

Now the iOS platform might be seeing is most hardcore title to date - a very, very massive multi-player title from YC- and Menlo Ventures-backed Machine Zone.

The company, which started out doing text-based RPGs a couple years ago like iMob, is launching Game of War: Fire Age. It’s a title where players build and grow empires, train massive armies, forge alliances with other players to win kingdoms.

The game can handle hundreds of thousands of players concurrently in the same universe, which is not an easy technical feat. Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, in contrast, typically handles a few thousand players simultaneously in a single realm. All movement on the game’s map is visible to everyone else.

"We wanted to take the company to the next level and be really ambitious," said Machine Zone CEO Gabriel Leydon. "We decided to build some things that had never been done before. We had the capital to do it and the willpower."

Leydon didn’t hire just typical game designers to build the title. He also found people who had experience in scaling massive systems. The game’s user interface is in HTML5 and is rendered natively, allowing the company to handle different screen sizes.

The other really cool thing about the game’s social capabilities is that there is a mechanical turk-like translation system where the players themselves translate chat in exchange for virtual currency rewards. That helps Game of War have really interactive play with a proper critical mass of users who can talk to each other, even if they don’t speak the same language. The in-game chat system helps Game of War get manage slang and gamer speak, which a third-party translation system probably wouldn’t handle correctly. If say, 50 players translate the same words in the same way, then the game will start using that translation automatically.

"It’s like a highly structured Facebook," Leydon said. "My goal as a game designer was to create a feeling of what it would be to be a king, where you’d have a lot of people under you. You’d have to subjects, wealth and land."

Assuming say, the game grows to 1 million players, there might only be 20 kings in the game. To reach that level, players have to woo others to form alliances with them. Within those alliances, there are ranks for different officers.

"This is a very hardcore game. This is not Candy Crush," he said. "This is a complex system with a lot of potential trees of outcomes. If you’re the type of person that’s fascinated by systems like this, then this is for you."

Machine Zone used to be known as Addmired, and rebranded last year when it took $8 million in funding from Menlo Ventures. Leydon said this is what the company took the round for, even though its older titles like Original Gangstaz and iMob 2 were pretty lucrative early on.



Google Wallet For Gmail Invites Start Rolling Out To More Users

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In May, Google announced that its online and mobile payments solution Google Wallet would be integrated within Gmail in the coming months, but no exact time frame for the rollout was given. Now, it appears as if more users are gaining access to the Google Wallet in Gmail feature, as invitations are hitting Gmail inboxes.

These invites are arriving in Gmail’s new “Updates” tab. (Update: Originally, we were hearing they were arriving in the main inbox, but Google informs us this is not the case.)

Anyway, below is the example of what the invite looks like:

For those unfamiliar, Google Wallet is the company’s payments platform and answer to PayPal, which allows users to store their debit and credit cards in a secure service for easy access. Wallet can be used when shopping online, including on e-commerce websites, and within Android applications where virtual goods, in-app purchases, and even physical goods and services, are sold. On Android, an NFC-based Google Wallet mobile app allows for transactions at supported point-of-sale and other NFC-based terminals, but adoption there is limited due to mobile operators’ restrictions enacted because they invest in their own competitor called Isis. (Greed is why we can’t have nice things, folks).

With the announcement in May, Google informed us that it would soon offer another way for the payments service to be used - that is, within Gmail. A new dollar sign icon in Gmail will appear, allowing you to “attach money” to your message. The icon sits near the attachment paperclip icon and Google Drive icon for attaching files from the cloud in the new “Compose” experience in Gmail.

Since early beta testers could invite others to Google Wallet for Gmail by sending money, some came up with ingenious ways to invite others by sending small amounts - like a penny - to those who asked. But most of us simply waited for Google to send the invitation after registering our interest. These invites are arriving first to Google Wallet’s early adopters, before the feature is more broadly rolled out to all of Gmail’s user base.

After clicking on the “Get started” button in the invite, or heading directly to wallet.google.com/p2pAccess, you’ll have to confirm your identify in order to comply with U.S. financial regulations before being able to use Google Wallet in Gmail. This will involve providing your date of birth and last four of your Social Security Number, Google explains.

This verification process takes only a second or two, and then the new “attach money” icon will appear when you return to Gmail. (Note that users who have declined to upgrade to the new “Compose” interface in Gmail won’t have the option to send money until they make that switch.)

We reached out to Google to ask for more details as to the progress of the rollout itself, and the company explains that the invites arriving now are going to those who had previously signed up to receive the next version of Wallet at http://www.google.com/wallet.

It also appears that several users have been excited enough to post about their invitation’s arrival on Twitter. (I’m about to do the same.)


Google Wallet has hit some hurdles in recent months, following the departure of Google Wallet head Osama Bedier. Google also scrapped plans to launch its physical Google-branded payment card which had been tested as an alternative to NFC, but found to not be up to par by CEO Larry Page.

Wallet in Gmail gives the maligned service another way to grow - by tapping into a user base of some 425 million plus email users. However, Wallet for Gmail is only available to those over 18 and in the United States for now. Expansions to other parts of the world have yet to be announced.


Universal Women’s Wallet Wristlet Shoulder Bag Compatible with Nokia N900 Phone Case – SKY BLUE & PINK [Link Series] Reviews

Universal Women’s Wallet Wristlet Shoulder Bag Compatible with Nokia N900 Phone Case - SKY BLUE & PINK [Link Series]

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Ekatomi will process and ship items within 1-2 business day(s); from California, USA. Bonus Ekatomi’s reusable sticker, screen cleaner to help remove dust / dirt from your gadget.

Suitable for a woman for whom both fashion as well as price is important! Purse made of high quality EPI Leather like material. Attractive for the eyes and smooth on your hands.

This universal, mobile phone case / women’s wallet bag does double duty to protect and hold your pocket belongings in one s

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Mozilla Wants To Help You See A More Personalized Web Without Giving Up Your Privacy

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Mozilla is working on a project that would make the browser a central repository for a list of all of your interests. Today, the nonprofit behind Firefox argues, many websites offer personalized experiences, “but too often, users unknowingly trade their personal information for this better experience.” Instead of sharing your interest graph with lots of vendors online, Firefox could divine your hobbies and interests by simply looking at your browsing history.

The organization has played with this idea before, and today’s proposal comes at a time when Mozilla is involved in a long-standing argument with the advertising industry over how it should treat cookies and Do Not Track.

The idea behind the proposal is that users should be able to explicitly and transparently share their interests with the websites they visit. These sites then would be able to tailor your experience according to your preferences without having to create their own profile of your interests. This way, a site can be personalized even if you’re visiting for the first time.

"We want to give individuals more participation in their Web interactions so they can more easily get what they want, in a clearly defined way," Mozilla’s senior VP of business and legal affairs Harvey Anderson writes today. "Our goal with UP (User Personalization) and other innovations in this area is to increase the quality of the user experience. In order to accomplish this, interactions must provide consumers with options on how much and which types of information to disclose in order to get the most relevant content and services on the Web."

Mozilla is currently experimenting with these ideas, but it doesn’t look as if we’ll see any real implementations of them in the near future. When Mozilla first talked about this idea, however, it noted that websites would be required not to track the information you share with them (though it’s hard to see how this could be controlled) and at the time, the idea was to give users fine-grained control over how much information about themselves they want to share.

For the time being, though, Mozilla just wants to get the conversation started - something that should be pretty easy to do, given that the advertising industry is closely watching the organization’s every move.


Healthcare Crowdfunding Platform Watsi Grabs $1.2M From Tencent, Paul Graham, Vinod Khosla, Ron Conway And More

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At TechCrunch Disrupt NYC back in April, former Facebook exec-turned-venture capitalist, Chamath Palihapitiya delivered a deflating critique of the tech industry - in particular, the quality of its startups. Had he been issuing a report card, the Tech World would have gotten an “F,” with an extra side of “shame.” His frustration seemed to emanate principally from the fact that “Big Ideas” are few and far between in the industry today. Rather than aiming high, he intoned, entrepreneurs seem content to reach for low-hanging fruit despite the diminishing returns inherent to that approach.

While Big Ideas may not be at all-time high, today’s news brings some assurance that they are still alive and well in the tech industry - and that there’s even capital to support them, for-profit or not. Watsi, a Y Combinator-backed healthcare crowdfunding platform, is tackling one of the biggest: That more than one billion people can’t afford (or don’t have access to) adequate medical services. Even Chamath would likely agree that falls in the “Big Idea” camp.

Today, the non-profit crowdfunding platform announced that it has raised $1.2 million in what is its first round of financing, or “philanthropic seed round,” as the startup is calling it. Granted, if Watsi is setting its sights high, than $1.2 million will only be a drop in the bucket compared to the capital and resources it will need if it truly hopes to make a difference at scale.

A good start, to be sure, especially when considering the impressive roster of names contributing to its first financing, which includes institutional investors, like China’s largest Internet services portal, Tencent, Y Combinator partners - including personal investments from founder Paul Graham and YC Partner Geoff Ralston - along with the “godfather of angel investing” and owner of the most pristine coiffure in the Valley, Ron Conway, Sun Microsystems and Khosla Ventures co-founder, Vinod Khosla, venture philanthropy fund (and Kiva investor), The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and Flixter founder and Rotten Tomatoes CEO, Joe Greenstein - to name a few.

While the list is impressive, it’s not a group of investors one would typically find contributing to a non-profit fundraiser. Watsi founder Chase Adam explains that the reason the company opted for this approach is that the traditional mechanisms for non-profit fundraising sometimes act as a counterproductive force by undermining the social movements they’re trying to support. Instead of devoting themselves to their “Big Idea,” socially-minded entrepreneurs often spend their time entering online voting competitions and hosting banquets to raise money to support their operations.

Instead, Adams hopes that the collection of VC, angel and institutional donations represents a move toward a new future of non-profit fundraising. Granted, Watsi is in the unusual (and fortunate) position to have been the first non-profit startup to be accepted into Y Combinator and to have had the vocal support of Y Combinator’s founder, Paul Graham, who also recently accepted a seat on the startup’s board - the first time he’s done so for a YC incubation.

In reference to this question, Graham suggested to Watsi that they call this raise a “Series N” (non-profit and n=variable).

On the flip side, Adams tells us that he set a three-month deadline for fundraising, deciding to go after industry leaders and big names in the angel and venture world, regardless of whether or not the efforts proved to be successful. By doing so, the Watsi founder hopes that this might help encourage other social businesses to consider forgoing traditional sources of fundraising.

Ben Rattray, the founder and CEO of social action platform Change.org and I recently spoke on this very subject after the socially-minded for-profit company closed its own $15 million round of funding. As a for-profit business, there’s more pressure for Change.org to raise institutional or venture capital.

As a non-profit, Watsi would likely be more attractive to investors, whereas Big Idea-based, for-profit companies have traditionally found it difficult to raise money from these types of investors. However, both Adams and Rattray share similar goals, as the Change.org founder that would enable them to remain independent without having to constantly be looking for a one-time liquidity event.

"These kind of social enterprise businesses are working over the long-term, 15 to 20 year windows, which is beyond the scope of most venture capitalists," Rattray said at the time. However, he believes that it’s going to change: "I have no doubt this is going to change - that eventually more investors are going to start backing socially-conscious businesses," Rattray says. And it’s for that very reason that I think the juxtaposition of Watsi and Change.org is worthwhile. Although perhaps idealistic - and, admittedly, Watsi is a non-profit, perhaps the startup’s funding is the first sign that it is, in fact, beginning to change.

Nonetheless, for Watsi, this raise is an important validation of its own ambitious, “Big Idea” goals. Of course, eliminating poverty or fixing global healthcare and covering the uncovered, don’t happen over night and aren’t solved by one person or one founder. That’s why Watsi is leveraging the “many hands” approach of crowdfunding to let anyone contribute to the funding of low-cost, high-impact medical treatments for those in need.

Furthermore, the platform automatically creates profiles for those in search of financial support for treatments or surgeries and makes it easy to make direct donations. Furthermore, these profiles, besides providing critical transparency into how your donation will be used and actually help someone, it also works towards attaching actual, human faces to global poverty - which sounds cheesy but is critical to conditions or problems like this that are so huge that providing real faces, one-by-one, can help discourage, say, just ignoring it and hanging for a lower-hanging fruit.

To further incentivize donations, Watsi offers 100 percent of the donations it collects from the crowd to those in need. Graham also says that the startup is paying “all their operational costs from their own funding, and none from your donations,” and in turn, even stomach credit card processing fees. A noble gesture in its own right.

The startup hosts the profiles of people in need but who can’t afford them, allowing donors to peruse profiles, donate as little as $5
, Watsi hosts profiles of people in dire need of medical care, but who can’t afford it. Donors can browse the profiles and donate as little as $5 to help someone get well. 100% of donations go to the sick, and Watsi funds its operations and even pays credit card processing fees on donations out of its own pocket. We name