Flipboard Goes Big, Launches Support For 10-Inch Android Tablets

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Flipboard has just launched its social magazine app to support Android tablets, including the Nexus 10, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Tab line.

Flipboard is an app that aggregates your RSS info, social networks, etc. to create a beautiful, flippable magazine. In fact, the app won Best Touch Interface at the 2011 Crunchies. But making sure that interface creates the same experience across all platforms has proven tough, as Flipboard didn’t migrate over to Android at all until June of this year.

Since then, the app’s been available across the entire iOS ecosystem and Android smartphones, and the Kindle Fire and Nook tablets. But today marks a complete expansion into Android.

This is as big as Flipboard’s ever had to go in terms of optimization. But according to the release, Flipboard worked directly with Samsung to optimize page layouts for the wider screen of some Android devices. Users of these larger Android tablets will see larger story excerpts.

It’s unclear whether or not Flipboard will head to Windows Phone next. That seems the logical next step in terms of platform expansion, though there’s no indication that the company has any such plans. Then again, anything can happen. Flipboard may even throw a curve ball and hit BB10 when it finally launches.

Luxury Envoy Wants To Handle The Lofty Requests That Exec And TaskRabbit Can’t

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Let’s face it — we’ve all wanted to farm tasks onto someone else when we didn’t have the time or the mental resources to devote to them, but some things are too sensitive or too peculiar to trust to just anyone. As it happens, a stealthy Tulsa, OK-based startup called Luxury Envoy wants to handle those more exotic tasks when you can’t, and soon all you’ll have to do is ask.

I’ll admit, the service (which has been in private beta for the past few months) doesn’t sound all that novel at first — after all, startups like Exec and TaskRabbit have been tapping the bored and underemployed to act as faux personal assistants for some time now. Where Luxury Envoy differs is the scope of what its specially-culled, well-connected staff (the titular “envoys”) can fulfill. TaskRabbit may be great when you need someone to pick up your dry cleaning on Thursday, but the poor sap you ask to plan you a unique vacation in the South Seas on a $10,000 budget probably wouldn’t fare so well.

But let’s back up for a moment. The first seeds of what would become Luxury Envoy took root in founder Brent Lollis while he was running another company, a membership-only service called CEO Collective that specializes in finding unique items and offering “once-in-a-lifetime experiences” for high-level executive types. Lollis and his colleagues did so by building relationships with luxury brands and tour operators, and offering those curated packages to the service’s clients.

“The bulk of what we’ve done for them is get to know them and what they like,” Lollis told me. “If they don’t have the time or inclination to do something, we’re in a good position to handle it for them.”

About six months ago though, Lollis was struck with a curious notion — people other than executives with fat wallets could find value in this service too. Despite what the venture’s name may suggest, Lollis was adamant that Luxury Envoy isn’t just meant for the well off. “CEO Collective focuses on the luxury stuff,” Lollis said. “But Luxury Envoy can really be about anything.”

luxury-envoy

With the shift in audience also comes a shift in the business model. Unlike its sister CEO Collective, Luxury Envoy completely axes the membership model, so any user can submit a “mission” without having to pay a thing upfront. Money only changes hands when a user and the Envoy tasked with their mission come together and say “hey, this will work.” From there, Luxury Envoy takes a cut of the product’s markup, though users can also pay LE extra to expedite the execution of their mission.

Intrigued, I took the service for a spin with probably one of the dorkiest missions I could come up with. My objective: to find a new-in-box copy of the Sakura Taisen Complete Box, an extravagant collection of four steampunk dating sim/turn-based strategy games released only in Japan for the Sega Dreamcast in 2002. About half an hour after submitting my request (with my budget set to “under $1,000,” the lowest setting), an Envoy named Darrell emailed me to confirm that was what I really wanted.

Less than an hour later, I got another email from Darrell expressing a little confusion at my choice of mission (“Most of our missions related to collectible games involve rare board games, unique chess sets, etc…”), but revealed that one of the service’s partners was able to locate the box set in question. After a false start with a $700 copy somewhere in Hong Kong, Darrell managed to track down much less expensive copy in the U.S. The grand total? $485, plus $25 in shipping charges.

Whether or not the games seem worth it is questionable (full disclosure: I actually already own a copy of the box set), but it speaks to the lengths that the service’s Envoys are capable (and willing) to go to. So far, the other requests submitted to Luxury Envoy really run the gamut. The vacation example I used above was an actual request (one that ultimately involved a yacht, and a cycling day trip), and someone has asked for help finding a particular watch for $500. Lollis said that the service’s team of Envoys would do their damnedest to complete any mission given to them, so long as they are both legal and not morally questionable. Talk about shutting out a lucrative market.

Interested in checking it out for yourself? In the event you’ve got a mission of your own that needs some dealing with, feel free to mosey over to the Luxury Envoy website and use the code “prelaunchmission” to have a look around.

Clothing Startup Everlane Opens A Pop-Up Store In New York, Now Has 400,000 Active Members (TCTV)

Clothing startup Everlane has opened a pop-up store in New York for the holidays. We jumped on the opportunity to talk with founder and CEO Michael Preysman right in the middle of Everlane’s clothes. With 400,000 active members, the company is certainly catching the attention of many fashion aficionados.

Everlane isn’t simply an online clothing shop selling the clothes you already know. The startup has raised $1.1 million in order to control everything. It designs its own clothes and carefully picks partner manufacturers to strive for quality while keeping prices affordable.

The result is t-shirts made in the U.S. for $15, wool scarves made in Scotland for $65, or beautiful cashmere sweaters for $120 — the cashmere to make the sweaters is sourced directly from Mongolia. Brick-and-mortar stores cannot achieve this quality at those prices, because the startup cut out the middleman.

Moreover, Everlane wants to create a personal experience: The company considers its members a community and, as such, collects feedback to help it determine which clothes to design and sell. You can read Leslie Hitchcock’s review to understand how they treat customers differently and why services like Everlane will soon matter in the fashion world.

The pop-up store is only open for two weeks at 74 Gansevoort and will close forever on December 16. You can see clothes, try them on, make custom ties and belts, and get patches put on your cashmere sweaters. As you can’t buy most of the stuff in store, Everlane shows once again its competitive advantage: it remains an online-only company.

Which Types Of Mobile Games Are In The Engagement Sweet Spot?

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With the mobile gaming industry growing up on Android and iOS, developers focused on different genres are following diverging trajectories. Many casual developers are chugging along profitably even if their valuations have been readjusted by Zynga’s performance on public markets. Midcore developers are enjoying a Renaissance of sorts, and casino gaming is attracting new interest on the possibility that U.S. domestic laws around online gambling may relax a bit.

San Francisco-based Flurry took a look at different genres of games to see how they retain and engage users over 90 days. With rising marketing costs, it’s becoming ever more important to be thoughtful about the types of audiences you attract and how you retain them. Ideally, a mobile app that monetizes well maximizes engagement (or the number of times a user interacts with a game on a weekly basis). The more they interact with an app, the more opportunities there are for in-app purchases or other transactions.

In the graph above, Flurry divides games into four types. Quadrant 1 is the “sweet spot,” where games not only retain users well, but keep them actively engaged on a weekly basis. Social turn-based games, slots and casual simulation titles (like the familiar farming or zoo games) do well in this category. Game mechanics that set “appointments” like the need to water plants every nine hours, get users back into games. That said, these are more casual titles that don’t necessarily attract higher-paying players. The quality bar has also become a lot higher for these types of games over the last 18 to 24 months, so barriers to entry are higher for new competitors.

The second quadrant just has room for strategy games, which have a shorter lifecycle because users churn through content very quickly. With these types of games, developers have to drive monetization through player vs. player mechanics. While the 90-day retention is not as strong as in Quadrant 1, these types of games are part of the trend toward midcore gaming, which happens to attract a more select, but more lucrative audience.

The third quadrant includes card-gaming titles, which started out being popular in Japanese markets but have since crossed over into the West with titles like Mobage’s Rage of Bahamut. Publishers behind these titles have to be strategic about how they acquire users, since many of them drop off. The mechanics in these games are sometimes too complicated for newer users to follow.

The fourth quadrant has older types of familiar games like casino titles, solitaire and poker. Aside from poker games, solitaire and casino games might not offer that many opportunities for in-app purchases, but they do have inventory for advertising impressions. Flurry says even though these games might be harder to monetize, they can be good for cross-promoting more lucrative titles.

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Flurry also took a look at gender balances in these titles. These stats aren’t really all that surprising. Casual sim games, social turn-based games, slots and solitaire tend to attract female players while strategy and card-battle games attract male players.

Big Idea 2013: Unbundling Media

My big idea for 2013 is actually very small. Much smaller than this article.

You see, while the sharing of news stories on social media has boomed in recent years, I often find myself wanting to share just one part of an article. For instance, if I see a quote I like, I’d like to share that to my Twitter account. Or if I see an image within an article, I sometimes want to share just that picture to my Pinterest page. Sometimes I want to share just the video embedded in a news story, not the news story itself.

That’s why my prediction for 2013 is the rise of “microcontent sharing”.

Media is increasingly becoming unbundled, with news stories being consumed separately from the magazine, newspaper or blog that created them. For instance, news stories from multiple sources are reassembled based on social shares by mobile aggregators like Flipboard. Personalized news readers – like Zite – aggregate stories based on your interests. And localized news readers, like the new iPhone app Spun, aggregate news stories specific to your location. In every instance, the news is “unbundled” from its source, then reassembled for the reader based on his or her social networking connections or personal interests.

This unbundling is often good for readers because it allows for a more tailored experience.

Microcontent sharing takes this to the next level: What if you could break down an article into its constituent parts and share them independently? Perhaps one day aggregators could reassemble not just articles into a personalized newspaper, but also individual quotes, images and videos?

I’m so excited about microcontent sharing that we’ve implemented it into the new Mashable.com. If you visit an article on the site and hover over an image or quote, we provide options to share that piece of content to your social networks. We hope to take this idea even further in future iterations, but it’s a start.

So that’s my little prediction: In 2013, the “next big thing” will be small.

Why Tech Startups Love Berlin? 

Silicon Valley Mobile Accelerator, Tandem, Unveils Next Batch; Incubations To Generate $100M+ In Revenue For 2012

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Tandem, the Silicon Valley accelerator that focuses exclusively on early-stage investments in mobile startups, is today revealing its fourth and final batch of 2012. The seed fund and accelerator raised its second fund back in June, $32 million, which it uses to seed its startups with $200K convertible notes in exchange for 10 percent equity.

Similar to other accelerators, like Y Combinator and TechStars, for example, Tandem works closely with its founders on everything from design to public relations, offering free work space, daily meetings and business development opportunities. Unlike others of its ilk (beyond only seeding mobile-focused companies), Tandem keeps its batches small — generally two to six teams — in the belief smaller class sizes means better returns and higher success rates and its program is open-ended, meaning that the program “officially” ends after six months but startups can stay on as long as they’d like.

The accelerator has largely flown under the radar, because its companies haven’t raised big, honking follow-on rounds. Nonetheless, its incubations have done fairly well in spite of this. And Tandem co-founder Doug Renert says he hopes that Tandem can be a representation of the new world order in venture capital — less money raised, more direct involvement, bigger returns.

Tandem’s first fund has seen half of its companies gain liquidity, while the six companies that have graduated from Tandem II (the second fund it raised earlier this year) have all raised more money. Its companies have raised $12 million at an enterprise value of $75 million. Tandem II is newer and hasn’t yet had any liquidity events, but BitRhymes (a social game developer which was part of its April batch) alone has passed the $50 million revenue mark at the recent first year anniversary of its initial investment — after raising less than $1 million. In 2012, altogether Tandem incubations are generating over $100 million in annual revenue.

“This is exactly what we like to see,” Renert tells us. “Big venture rounds are not necessary in many cases to reach the knee of the hockey stick. BitRhymes does more in revenue in its first year than most would raise for their series C rounds.” Prepared for the Series A crunch? Sounds like it.

Today, Tandem is adding its newest companies to its six-month accelerator program, starting with Goodo, Light of Hand and one other company still in stealth. The deadline for Tandem’s first class of 2013 is January 2nd. [Those interested can apply here.] This year’s fall class is also the first to be entirely composed of international candidates. For more on Tandem’s most recent (September) batch, find them here.

But without further ado, here’s a look at the accelerator’s final batch of the year:

Goodo is on a mission to transform the mobile calendar, which it believes is in need of a UX facelift. The core team consists of a group of experienced entrepreneurs from Beijing, with the founder and CEO having sold his last company, Sunzip, to China Mobile. Goodo is unique to Tandem in that the incubator co-invested in the company with Unity Ventures, China’s leading early stage startup fund. Goodo is also the first Chinese team to join Tandem’s acceleration program.

Goodo is attempting to reinvent the typical mobile calendar interface, with clean design, stream view, speedy event creation, online/offline functionality, cloud backup and GCal sync, among other things.

Light of Hand is building a next-generation card-collecting game platform, following on the success of its fantasy card collecting game, The Warlords, which attracted four million total users, one million monthly active users and 200,000 daily active users across Facebook and Myspace. Light of Hand hails from Pune, India and brings an eight-person team to Silicon Valley.

Tandem’s third incubation for the fall class still remains in stealth and will be officially announced in the coming weeks.

These three teams were selected from “hundreds of applicants, based on their product execution capability, entrepreneurial drive and the size of the business opportunity,” Renert says, and each continues with product tests and tweaks, “officially” releasing their apps in early 2013.

Financial-organization: Tandem Entrepreneurs
Website: tandemcap.com
Launch Date: July 2007

Tandem is made up of a few entrepreneurs who have founded companies and taken them to liquidity. They now invest their time and money in others’ early stage software and Internet startups through Tandem. The Tandem team does not consider itself a VC firm. They refer to three primary types of capital that are required to make a startup successful – Financial Capital (money), Human Capital (sweat) and Social Capital (friends). Tandem explains that VCs bring mainly financial capital, some…

So It’s Like Color? Evertale Pivots, Launches Real-Time Photo Sharing App Wink

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Evertale, a Copenhagen-based startup originally focused on creating an automatic log of your life, including everything from phone calls to checkins to photos taken, is pivoting. Or more accurately, it’s today launching a product born out of Evertale’s best feature – shared photo albums.  The new app, called Wink, joins the now fairly crowded space involving social photo albums built on the fly.

This new breed of apps are all themselves a variation on Color, the social photo album app maker, which spectacularly folded after raising $40 million in funding without gaining user traction. Today’s apps playing in this same space are more modestly funded, to say the least. Some of the top players include Flock, Tracks, Flayvr, and Moment.me, to name just of few of the “auto-magical” album makers out now.

02For the most part, these apps rely on things like smartphone sensors, algorithms and the user’s social graph to determine where you were when photos were taken. They then combine those with other photos your friends and family took at the same venue. Flock, from the makers of Bump, is probably the better known of the current group, offering grouped albums which can also be shared out to Facebook, or via SMS or email.

Wink, however, has a different take. Instead of focusing on shared albums, the startup is thinking about shared, private albums. That is, the decision to share out to other networks isn’t included within Wink’s app by design.

But more importantly, the way you interact with Wink is also different. While other album building apps allow you to upload photos you took in the past, matching them up with those from others’ albums, Wink faces a (familiar) cold start problem. Launch the app when there’s no one around, and you’re shown a list of recommended friends based on your social graph which you can invite to Wink. You can also tap on the “radar” feature on the bottom of the screen to see which friends are on Wink, but who are not nearby. Helpful?

03If no one is nearby or registered on Wink, then there’s no way to start taking photos. CEO Francsco Patarnello says that this will be changed in a later version. In the few months of testing, he says that users found it easier to understand the instant sharing experience when someone was around, so the team optimized for that.

The company is targeting those ages 18 to 24, in high school and college, so the idea is that a group of friends would have to collectively agree to install Wink in order for it to gain traction. Hmm. Color had $41 million dollars and the same idea, pivoted away from that, then failed. Wink has an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Mangrove Capital– early backers of Skype, and shopping sites Brands4Friends and KupiVIP. It also clearly has the powers of positive thinking on its side.

If you manage to convince your friends to use Wink, it then offers real-time private photo sharing, as well as import of other photos you may have taken with different camera apps. And it will also tag the photos of your nearby friends automatically. But at the end of the day, Wink seems a big bet that Color was too early and mismanaged, not that it was a bad idea to begin with.

The company didn’t offer a current beta build of the app for testing beforehand, and much changed between the build in the App Store (a month old) and the one now launching, so we’re refraining from a hands-on review at this point in time.

Wink is available for download here, but the updated version won’t arrive until later on today, so be aware.