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Category: Angel investors

Vurve offers advertising on autopilot

Vurve For small businesses, advertising can be a nightmare. How much to spend? Where to go? Online or print? (Is that old-fashioned of us to ask?)

That's where Vurve comes in. The company, which launched Tuesday after a private beta phase, purports to offer "advertising on autopilot" to small businesses.

Here's how it works: You sign up for the service and tell Vurve how much you'd like to spend per month, from $200 to $10,000 (the upper limit the company will allow from customers per month). Then Vurve comes into play -- by creating ads, placing them on sites like Facebook and Google and steadily improving the client's ad strategy.

The company's technology analyzes which ads work and where they are placed, figuring out what recipe of search, display, social and shopping engine advertising will be most effective. If most of your widgets are sold through Facebook ads, for example, Vurve will give you the breakdown and move more ad money into the social networking site.

Founded by Amit Kumar, Yahoo's former director of product, Vurve raised $1.2 million in venture capital funding last year.

"Roughly 75% of small businesses would rather do taxes than advertising," Kumar said. "We figured that people that have that much money can get all the help they need. We want to do it for the small guy."

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-- Shan Li

'AngelGate' disrupts TechCrunch conference but no 'Jerry Springer' moment

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington kicked off the aptly named TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Monday with a bit of controversy. A furious volley of blog posts last week questioned if Silicon Valley's top angel investors were colluding to keep a lid on the rising cost of investing in technology start-ups and shut out competitors.

Bin38 Arrington fired off the initial bombshell blog post after he tried to crash a private meeting of prominent angel investors at a San Francisco restaurant called Bin 38.

Arrington said the room of investors accounted for "nearly 100% of early stage start-up deals in Silicon Valley." He left after his arrival was met with stony silence.

The next day Arrington spoke with a few of the participants to find out what was discussed. He concluded that the investors were working together to drive down valuations of start-up companies. The allegation set fire to online forums as people tried to guess who was at the meeting and what was really discussed. 

In the meantime, investors publicly defended their participation. In a colorful blog post,  PayPal veteran and angel investor Dave McClure dismissed talk of collusion and said the investors discussed innovation, acquisitions, valuations and term sheets, how to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get access to capital and the direction of the industry.

The fireworks got even louder with the godfather of angels, Ron Conway, weighing in about his reservations (and then again) and with Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital responding with deep reverence but also deep disagreement.

"Angelgate" saturated social media -- Twitter, Quora, Facebook (and spawned jokes and a  Hitler video) as heated e-mails were leaked to Arrington.

Wealthy individuals who make early investments in young start-ups are increasingly vital to Silicon Valley's ecosystem. These days they are such major players in so many hot deals that they are competing with the top venture capital firms.

Showing off his in-your-face brand of humor,  McClure showed up to the angel investing panel sporting a T-shirt: "I was at Bin 38 and all I got was this lousy valuation."

On the panel with him were Conway and Sacca.

Despite the palpable tension onstage, Sacca dismissed the episode as a "misunderstanding" that was "worth getting past."

After trying to probe further, Arrington said: "We are not going to have a Jerry Springer moment here?"

Maybe next time.

-- Jessica Guynn

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