When Mixed Media Labs raised a $5 million round last November, it raised quite a few eyebrows. After all, the money came from Andreessen Horowitz, the VC firm which had backed Instagram. To be fair, they backed Instagram when it was still known as Burbn — before it became what is now a massively popular mobile photo-sharing app. Still, there’s no question that Mixed Media Labs’ PicPlz product was a direct competitor. And Andreessen Horowitz sided with them, while Instagram found other investors.
Specifically, PicPlz has been spun off as a separate company that will be run by Ali Aydar, a former executive at Napster, imeem, and yes, Mixed Media Labs. We had been hearing for weeks that PicPlz was being shopped around for potential cash deals as Mixed Media Labs sought to focus on what’s next. But ultimately, they decided to simply spin off PicPlz as a separate company while maintaining some ownership.
Reached for comment, Caldwell confirmed the PicPlz spin-off, but declined to discuss the deal further beyond expressing his excitement about what his team is working on next.
So what is Mixed Media Labs working on next? All we know for sure is that it’s inline with the initial goal of a broad idea in the app space. Specifically, we’ve also heard that there will be a strong focus on a business model from day one, unlike PicPlz.
Meanwhile, PicPlz will live on as a service, but Caldwell and the rest of the Mixed Media Labs team will not be involved any more.
The move away from PicPlz comes at an interesting time in the mobile photo sharing space. While Instagram continues to gain users rapidly, other players like Path and Color have been preparing other products as well. Path recently launched their first “joint” — hipster/Dr. Dre lingo for “side project” — With. Color Labs, meanwhile, is said to be preparing an entirely new app after Color failed to catch on in the way they had hoped.
But first, we chat about the highlights from the All Things Digital conference. Or we started with that and then talked about how the motivation for starting companies is changing in Silicon Valley, given the soaring valuations and ease of raising money.
And Hornik explains why he’s not a fan of Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20 Program, although he admits he still hasn’t paid off his own law school education.
Ever since my first TechCrunch meetup in Berlin in 2008 and 2009 I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on this city as I travelled around Europe covering startups and explaining the scene to anyone who would listen. But since then it’s quite clear that a couple of things have happened. The whole European scene has improved massively. There are now startup events, activity and fundraising across Europe in an ongoing manner. Sure, it’s not Silicon Valley (I’m sorry, but who cares?) – in fact we should really be comparing ourselves to our own progress, not to other places. And the news is good. The ‘Valley Virus’ has spread, and Europe is now starting to boast some amazing startups.
But something else has happened too: big clusters. And the two biggest clusters right now are London (which we are pretty adept at covering) and Berlin. Yes, Paris remains significant, but it’s a close third behind those cities (hey, shoot me, it’s just my opinion). So to that end – and I’m glad Paul and Sarah agree with me – I plan to increase coverage of the Berlin/German startup scene.
I’ll be doing a couple of things to do that. I’ll be visiting more frequently (so if anyone has a spare apartment lying around let me know!) I’m also currently trying to convince Berlin Partners to bring us over more frequently than AOL’s expenses account will allow…
But to kick things off slowly I’m holding two breakfasts. This Wednesday and Thursday (1st and 2nd June) from 8am to 10am at St Oberholz, I’d love to meet anyone who wants to come and swap business cards over coffee. If you can’t make those then fear not – we have other plans…
After that I’ll try to divide my time between the two cities (in between the rest of Europe, of course) for the next few months, to get under the skin of what is going on here.
See to you there.
But is Africa’s largest market prime for foreign venture capital investment, and how does it stack up to other frontier emerging markets Sarah has been visiting? Just after she got home, we shot a Why Is This News on her takeaways: Was she crazy to visit Nigeria like some people in the Valley said, or should we all be going there?
After a brief hiatus, Why Is This News? is back! In this week’s episode, Paul checks in from his Las Vegas hotel room to discuss Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s plans to regenerate downtown Las Vegas by moving the company’s HQ into the former City Hall.
In fact, there’s far more to Hsieh’s plan than that, as Paul explained over on the Huffington Post. In the video below, Paul waxes lyrical about Hsieh’s plans, while Sarah plays devil’s advocate, asking why Hsieh and Zappos will succeed where so many bigger companies – Google, Yahoo et al – have failed.
As regular readers might already know, Paul is in Las Vegas for a month,
hanging out with strippers reaffirming his belief in the American dream. As a result, this week’s Why Is This News is even less tech-focused than usual.
Still, no matter whether you subscribe to Sarah’s view that 33 days in Vegas is 33 wasted days or Paul’s insistence that there are still stories to be found on and around the strip, you can watch the whole debate unfold below. (You can also read Paul’s daily Vegas diary on the Huffington Post, and follow his (temporary) Twitter account at @paulgoestovegas.)
And, for those of you who don’t care about Vegas either way: here’s a video of a dog mowing the lawn.
Source: WITN: Abbasso Las Vegas! [TCTV]
Hurrah! After a short hiatus while Sarah travelled around Indonesia at the behest of the State Department, Why Is This News is back!
And what better way to mark our triumphant return to your screens than with a whole show dedicated to Indonesia, and specifically the curious lack of a brain drain from the country to the US.
Apparently Indonesian students are so keen to return home after studying in the US that they’re one of the few nationalities to which the government is glad to issue visas. “They just never overstay,” one US official told Sarah.
So is Indonesians’ loyalty to home a good or bad thing for the country? Video below…