The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Start-ups

Doxo, a Jeff Bezos-backed bill-payment service, lands AT&T deal

Doxo dashboard screenshots

Seattle-based Doxo wants to be your digital filing cabinet -- where you pay your bills and get any other sort of documentation from businesses online via web browser or mobile app.

And the company, which names Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos among its investors, recently inked a deal with AT&T to make use of the company's digital bill and documentation services which it believes will help its cause.

AT&T, the nation's second largest wireless carrier, has more than 100 million customers in the U.S., and of course Doxo sees each of them as potential customers. The company has raised more than $15-million in investor funds to date.

"It's great validation of what we're doing," said Steve Shivers, Doxo's CEO, in an interview. "We opened up Doxo to the public from a private beta on July 1. And we've seen very, very healthy growth. We have Sprint on board, accepting payments through Doxo and we have multiple utilities, our first credit union, we'll have our first government customers, healthcare and insurance customers soon too."

But AT&T so far is the biggest company, by far, to integrate into Doxo's system.

Doxo operates not by allowing its users to pay with credit or debit cards, but by withdrawing funds directly from bank accounts. The direct bank account withdrawal allows the company, its users and its integrated businesses -- such as AT&T and Sprint -- to avoid credit and debit transaction fees.

That, Shivers says, is the key as to why Doxo is a better route to go than automatic bill pay options through banks or even online payment options from companies themselves.

"I look out there and I see a lot of companies that are collecting money, mailing bills and other documents on paper and statements and they still don't even have a decent website and they aren't even offering online payment options," Shivers said. "There are lots of other companies that, if they offer online services, they're still sending a lot of valuable documents by mail. And if people go that route, they're going to have to set up a credit card or bank account with each business, and if they ever get a new credit card or switch banks, they have to go to the website of each individual business and change all the information for each autopay account."

"With Doxo, you never have to do that again. You can just change your payment information in one place and it keeps all your payments going with no interruptions."

Shivers said that Doxo can cut a business' mailing and collections cost by about 80% for each user who signs up for Doxo. On Thursday, the company also rolled out a new feature to its service that allows users to set limits on how much they pay automatically. If a bill is higher than a user's set limit, they get an alert to take a look at the bill before approving its payment or not.

Doxo makes its money when a user pays its bills through the service by collecting a fee from the business paid. Shivers wouldn't say just how much its fees are, how many users it has or how many businesses it has integrated into Doxo, but he did say that its user base is up more than 300% since opening to the public about four months ago.

However, the CEO did admit that the idea of having a person's bills coming into one place is a concept a bit foreign to many people.

"It still sometimes astounds me, the sort of 'no duh' complexity that can be eliminated by turning the payment concept around and focusing on the customer rather than the business," he said. "But I see that changing, and with every business like AT&T that we get signed up with Doxo, we can go to other businesses and say: 'Hey, your customers are probably also customers of this business or this business or this one. And Doxo will be easier for your customers, if they want to use it, and it will save you money.'

"There is a real network effect to what we're doing."


Square Card Case on iOS 5 starts a tab in your pocket

Google's Ron Gorodetzky: Making YouTube more social

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz unveils new company, Asana

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: Doxo dashboard screenshots. Credit: Doxo

Google's Ron Gorodetzky: Making YouTube more social

Ron Gorodetzky of YouTube/Google

Ron Gorodetzky didn't aspire to work at Google, or any other tech giant for that matter.

Gorodetzky was a start-up man -- having worked at the news-sharing site Digg in its early days before going on to be a co-founder of the video site Revision3 and Fflick, a company that analyzed what people were saying about movies on Twitter to build a movie recommendation site.

Google may not have been on Gorodetzky's radar -- but he and Fflick were on Google's.

Just six months after Gorodetzky and three friends from Digg founded Fflick, the start-up sold itself to YouTube, which is owned by Google.

Now Gorodetzky is on a team of engineers (along with his three buddies from Fflick) helping to integrate YouTube into the ever expanding and crucially important Google+.

"Until working at Google I had only worked at start-ups and I never really wanted to work for a big company," he said. "But Google is a big company that is good at being a big company."

Google+ is the company's bid to take Google's top existing products and make them more social, easier to share and easier to consume. The effort has also brought an end to a number of products that haven't fit in with the company's new vision.

YouTube is one of Google's top products. What will a Google+ friendly YouTube look like? Gorodetzky wouldn't go into detail. But we have seen an early step in that integration with the recent launch of Hangouts (group video chats) which can be started directly from YouTube.

"What we're doing is taking our expertise with social networking and applying it to YouTube," Gorodetzky said. "There's a little bit of ramp-up when you get into Google. There's a decade worth of technology at YouTube that you have to ramp up to. But we've been prototyping ideas and were starting to apply our technology to YouTube."

What exactly is that technology?

Continue reading »

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz unveils new company, Asana


Facebook veterans Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein on Wednesday took the wraps off their highly anticipated new company, which aims to help people work more efficiently.

Asana is a Web task manager that lets teams of people manage their work flow by breaking projects into tasks. Much the same way that Facebook helps manage how people connect with each other, Asana is designed to manage how people work with one another by becoming the one place everyone can see what their colleagues are working on and get updates on how a project is progressing.

Moskovitz and Rosenstein say they think of it as the modern way of working.

Moskovitz, a self-taught programmer, and his roommate Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to build Facebook into the world's most popular social network.

As the company grew, Moskovitz, Facebook's vice president of engineering, found himself spending more time trying to stay on top of managing hundreds of new employees. He shared his frustrations with colleague Rosenstein, a gifted programmer who was intrigued with figuring out better ways for teams to collaborate.

While at Facebook, Moskovitz created a program that helped Facebook employees build apps. Then he added more productivity tools, all of which Facebook still uses today.

In 2008, Moskovitz, at 27 the world's youngest billionaire, and Rosenstein left Facebook to tackle the project full time on their own. They began building work productivity and collaboration tools not just for Facebook but for companies, nonprofits, artistic endeavors, anyone who needed them.

"At some point we realized that this was not just a problem for Facebook and tech start-ups, this was a problem that was fundamental to all human behavior: how to keep everyone on the same page," Rosenstein said in an interview this week. "There is rich information squirreled way in people's heads and their inboxes. There is nowhere to go to see what people are working on now, what people have done recently and how far a project is from the finish line."

But Asana's founders say they are not creating Facebook for business.

"Facebook is social software that puts people at the center of the graph. Asana puts work at the center of the graph," Rosenstein said.

It's an ambitious gambit for a young start-up. Moskovitz and Rosenstein are newcomers to the competitive business of selling business software. Asana is going after the lucrative businesses of technology giants such as Microsoft that have been making productivity and collaboration software for years. Google has also been making inroads in business software with Google Docs. Other upstart rivals include, Yammer and Jive which have sprung up more recently.

But Moskovitz and Rosenstein say the cumbersome and slow software that most companies produce has not convinced people to stop relying on email and Post It notes to plan tasks and keep up with their colleagues on a project.

"Other people have tried to crack this nut before. All the solutions are fundamentally failing. We know that because no one has adopted them, even companies that pay for fancy collaboration software, it just sits on the shelf," Rosenstein said.

Asana, which has 19 employees in San Francisco's Mission District and has raised $10.2 million from investors including Benchmark Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, has been beta testing the software since last year with thousands of users at hundreds of companies. One of those companies is the sports and entertainment talent agency Wasserman Media Group, which uses it to organize its executive team.

Asana is taking an unconventional approach to promoting its business software. Usually a company's top IT manager buys productivity software. Asana is giving away its software free to groups of up to 30 people in hopes that once employees become enamored with the software, they will persuade their companies to buy a paid version with more features that Asana plans to release down the road.

"We think the best software will win," Rosenstein said.

So how does the experience of building Asana compare to Facebook?

"I feel much more experienced. I have a better network this time. I have been able to draw on the experience to more proactively shape the company I want to work at," Moskovitz said. "A lot of things are very similar, too: the ethos of the company and how we approach building products, the kind of values we have, and what it's like to work here."

"Certainly we think this is one of the very key things we could be doing in software. We think it will be as impactful on the world as Facebook was."


Tech firms try to outperk one another

Facebook co-founder leaves for start-up

Tech status symbols emphasize mind over material

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, left, and Justin Rosenstein, founders of Asana. Credit: Asana

Square Card Case on iOS 5 starts a tab in your pocket

Square Card Case tab

Square, Jack Dorsey's mobile payments start-up, was founded on the idea that it could simplify the way the world pays for goods and services.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco company took their simplifying of the transaction a step further with an update to its Card Case app.

"We want to make using Card Case so easy that you don't even have to reach for your phone or take your wallet out of your pocket to buy something," said Megan Quinn, Square's director of products, in an interview. "And we've done that. Now you can pay just by saying your name."

So how does that work?

The Card Case app, Square's take on the mobile wallet concept, currently uses location data to determine where a user is so that person can pay for things using credit or debit cards linked to their Square account. In the past, this meant tapping on a merchant's iPad or a user's iPhone to approve a purchase from within the app.

Square Card Case tabWhat's different now is that Square has updated Card Case to recognize when a user is within 100 meters of a business using iOS 5's new geofencing abilities.

That means that when a user has turned on the "auto open" tabs feature for a business within the Card Case app, a tab for purchases is opened every time they walk into a business without them ever having to open up the app itself.

When it comes time to pay, "you just give the merchant your name and if you're using the iOS 5 version of the app, your tab will automatically open and on their iPad or computer they'll just see a photo of you and your name and they simply tap your name and the payment happens in that capacity," Quinn said.

"It's similar in spirit to a bar tab, where they've already got your card and you tell them your name and they charge it. This requires no new or unusual behavior. You don't have to wave your phone, load money to anything, tap anything. You just walk in and then say your name to pay."

More than 800,000 businesses use Square's small white plastic cube credit and debit card reader, which plugs into the headphone jacks of mobile phones and tablets to perform transactions. The start-up has grown quickly, giving the Square card readers away for free, raising capital from the likes of Visa and adding heavyweights such as former Sun chief executive and investor Vinod Khosla and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to its board of directors.

Thus far, Square's card reader and apps have caught on because of the "transparency and simplicity" the company has brought to transactions for businesses, Quinn said.

"This update is about bringing that same transparency and simplicity to the consumer side as well," she said, noting that, as always, receipts show up in Card Case from all purchases made with the app.

The update to Card Case also brings in a few other new features. Merchant cards -- essentially digital business cards -- in Card Case are easier to update so businesses can change address, menu and biography information in real time, Quinn said.

And now merchant cards can also be synced with a business' Twitter stream.

Twitter feed in Square Card Case"If you're looking to see what businesses are near you that use Square, you can search within the app, then check out a merchant card to get details on the businesses," Quinn said. "And now, if one of those businesses tweets about a special discount or offer, that will show up in the app too. And if you want to tweet at a business, Card Case can launch you into Twitter to do so."

The Twitter integration makes a lot of sense for Square considering that Dorsey, its chief executive and co-founder, is the executive chairman and a co-founder of Twitter.

At eight weeks since Card Case has launched, about 20,000 merchants have opted in for the service to accept payments, Quinn said. As Card Case improves and becomes easier to use on both the merchant and consumer side, Square hopes it will see the growth that its Square card reader has seen, she said.

"We believe that meaningful customer loyalty happens organically," Quinn said. "You go back to a business because you feel comfortable there. With Card Case, we're looking to bring that feeling of being familiar to more places you shop. We want it to feel like you're known by name at the coffeeshop you always go to. And in the process, we've really removed the artifact of the merchant and the register from the payment experience."


Jack Dorsey emulates Steve Jobs, his 'mentor from afar'

Mobile payments company Square lands $100-million investment

Foursquare Radar leverages Apple iOS 5 with new discovery features

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Images: Square's Card Case app in action. Credit: Square

Nirav Tolia launches Nextdoor, private social network for neighbors


Do we need a Facebook for neighbors?

Nirav Tolia says we do.

He's the founder and chief executive of Nextdoor, a free private social network for neighborhoods across the country that launched Wednesday.

"Even though social networks are completely ubiquitous, I didn't see a social network for one of the most important communities in our lives: the neighborhood," Tolia said in an interview this week.

Tolia says neighbors have lost touch with each other. He points to a 2010 study from the Pew Research Center that found that 60% of Americans didn't know the people who lived near them.

Tolia says the new service is at the intersection of two major Internet trends: social networking and local. He has been testing the service in 175 neighborhoods in 26 states.

Nextdoor gives neighbors a Facebook-like forum to stay connected. They can get recommendations for plumbers or babysitters, find lost pets, sell or give away stuff, organize block parties or just vent about barking dogs or inconsiderate neighbors who don't pick up dog "waste."

To join, you have to prove you live in the neighborhood and you have to use your real name. Search engines are not permitted to index the information in the neighborhood networks to deter information from leaking onto the Web.

Tolia doesn't want to dish about how Nextdoor will make money but the plan is to run advertising (such as selling businesses access to certain ZIP codes) and connect people to deals with local businesses.

"We are not fans of bombarding people with pop-up ads or banner ads. And we are not going to sell people's information," Tolia said.

Other sites have tried and failed to crack the neighborhood market. People are leery of depending on a site that could disappear along with all of the information on it. They instead depend on e-mail lists or Yahoo groups.

But Tolia says the time has come for a better solution. He says a successful social network for neighbors simply could not exist before Facebook.

Bill Gurley, a venture capitalist at Benchmark Capital, which funded Nextdoor, described Nextdoor as a "pivot." Tolia's team was originally working on an online sports almanac called Fanbase.

Shortly after launching Nextdoor, "we could see latent demand for this type of network," Gurley said.

Venture capital firms Benchmark Capital and Shasta Ventures and private investors including Rich Barton, the co-founder of Expedia and Zillow have invested an undisclosed sum in Nextdoor which is in San Francisco and has 22 employees.

Tolia has some cred in Silicon Valley. He started Epinions during the dot-com boom and contributed to the wave of user-generated content that washed over the Internet. He sold Epinions to in 2003. EBay later bought in 2005.

Tolia has also had his share of controversy. He admitted to getting too creative with his resume. His former co-founders also sued him, alleging they had been cheated out of millions. EBay settled the suit.

Tolia says he has put those episodes behind him.

"That was a long time ago," he said. "I've learned some important lessons."


Silicon Valley status symbols emphasize mind over material

Tony Fadell feathers his 'nest' with thermostat for the digital age

Former Apple exec markets a thermostat for the iPhone generation

-- Jessica Guynn

Image: A screen shot of a video demoing a Nextdoor profile page. Credit: Nextdoor via YouTube

MC Hammer's WireDoo: Can it take on Google and Bing?

MC Hammer at a Oakland Raiders game

MC Hammer, the Oakland rapper/dancer/preacher/spokesman, is looking to take on Google and Bing in one of the most competitive segments of the tech industry -- online search -- with a new start-up called WireDoo.

Hammer, whose real name is Stanley Kirk Burrell, announced WireDoo at O'Reilly Media's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday. He described the project as a search engine that offers a level of "deep search" and related topics that Microsoft's Bing and Google don't offer.

So how does WireDoo, which is still in a closed pre-beta stage and nowhere near ready for the public, plan to offer deep search and challenge some of the world's largest tech firms?

Hammer explained to O'Reilly writer Alex Howard at Web 2.0 (in an interview that can be viewed in the YouTube clip below) that WireDoo would offer different results and thus a different product than current search engines.

"The engine crawls and the algorithm is designed in a way to get all of the related information to your query and then package it consistently in one environment," Hammer said. "Kind of thinking, right? The way you would think. If it's a car ... it's not just about the word 'car,' but it's about insurance, it's about the specs, it's about mileage, it's about style, it's about all these things. So that's the way it works."

Hammer told Howard that WireDoo would pull such related data from across the Web and public records, so if someone enters a search query for a ZIP Code, they'll find results that include information on the schools in that ZIP Code, education levels of the residents of that area and other results tied to public information that can give a user a better understanding of what's going on in that community.

Those interested in trying out WireDoo can submit their name and email address. Hammer's team will eventually open up the site to a select number of beta testers.

Skeptical? Well, you'd have the right to be.

Bing, which is widely considered Google's biggest threat in the search engine market, has grown, but so far it has failed to really rival Google's dominance in the space.

Google's biggest threat at this time might actually be Facebook, which is increasingly becoming a place where people consume media, play games, share photos, search for information on companies, celebrities and bands and even read, watch and listen the news.

How big a threat is Facebook to Google's business? Just look at Google+.

WireDoo clearly has some steep mountains to climb before seeing success.

Another thing you might wonder: Why is Hammer trying to get into the tech business? Well, this isn't his first attempt to crack the online world.

Hammer is a co-founder of the website DanceJam, a social network centered on sharing dance videos online. TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is listed as an investor.


Justin Bieber: tech start-up investor?

Michael Arrington has a new blog, scolds TechCrunch editor

Ashton Kutcher talks 'Two and a Half Men' and tech investing

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: MC Hammer watches warmups before an NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns at Coliseum in Oakland. Credit: Kyle Terada / US Presswire

Foursquare Radar leverages Apple iOS 5 with new discovery features

Foursquare Radar

Foursquare on Wednesday introduced Radar, a new feature built into its iPhone app that will allow the New York company to introduce capabilities it had previously only dreamed of.

Most notably, Radar will push Foursquare from not only being a check-in centric app but also toward being an app that also alerts users of places, people or things they might want to visit near wherever they are at that moment.

Radar (if a user decides to activate the new feature) does this by using the location tracking and geo-tagging features built into Apple's iOS 5 mobile operating system found on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

"We've always felt that Foursquare is about experiencing the world around you, and what's exciting about Radar is you can use Foursquare without having to actually pull your phone out of your pocket," Alex Rainert, director of product at Foursquare, said in an interview.

With Radar on, Foursquare "can remind you and say 'Hey, you're near that burger shop you wanted to try,' or 'You're near that art gallery your friend was talking about.'"

Foursquare's Radar feature hit i-devices Wednesday in an update to its iOS app.

"We think Radar is a really big step for Foursquare," Rainert said. "It's one of the things that really is at the core of where we see Foursquare heading in the future."

Among the other things Radar can do is notify a user whenever they're near a location where three or more of their Foursquare contacts have checked in.

"It's about getting you the right content at the right time without having to change your behavior," Rainert said. "You can get content to a user before they even know they want it."

Users can also use Radar to follow a list, such as U.S. Soccer's list of places around the U.S. to watch its games, or create their own lists and Foursquare will push a notification to let a user know they're near a place on the list.

Foursquare app iconsOf course, if a user doesn't want any of these features they don't have to use them, and Radar can be turned off or on whenever the need arises, Rainert said.

"It's always something you can turn on or off," he said. "We're excited to see how people respond to Radar. There will be some fine-tuning to do over the next few weeks since this is all so new and really just some things we couldn't quite do before."

Another change in the new Foursquare app, albeit a much smaller change than Radar; the ball in the app icon is now green instead of purple.


Foursquare says it grew 3,400% in 2010

Foursquare has more than 10 million users

Foursquare reaches 1 billion check-ins [Video]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: Screen shots of Foursquare's new Radar feature on an Apple iPhone. Credit: Foursquare

YouTube founders relaunch Delicious, rebuilt from the ground up

The new

Social bookmarking sites aren't as popular as they used to be, but YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen are hoping to taste success with the relaunch of

The rebooted Delicious, which rolled out Tuesday, is still focused on bookmarking and sharing among  Delicious users, but the entire website has been rebuilt from scratch.

"After acquiring the service from Yahoo in April, we realized that in order to keep innovating over the long term, the eight-year-old site needed to be rebuilt from the ground up," the team behind the new Delicious said in a blog post.

"The result is a new homepage, interface and back-end architecture designed to make Delicious easier to use. We're proud of what we built, but the process has also brought the site 'back to beta' as a work in progress. Much more work will be needed to realize our vision: keeping the essence of Delicious -- the premier social bookmarking tool -- while building upon its core functionality to create a great discovery service, too."

As to whether or not Delicious, Digg or Reddit (which has benefited from its rivals' reboots with traffic boosts) is the "premier social bookmarking tool" out there -- well, that's up for debate. But what is clear is that social bookmarking sites have declined in terms of popularity as more people share links directly via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Digg, which focuses more on social news reading than straight-up bookmarking, is trying out yet another approach with what it calls Newsrooms that bundle links around specific topics.

The new Delicious lets users curate their own list of links that it calls Stacks, which can be centered on any topic a user chooses. Links in the new Delicious are the same as bookmarks in the old version of the site, not to confuse anybody. And sorely needed features such as the ability to add a profile picture and  tag links with multiple words have been added.

Delicious described Stacks as "playlists for the Web" in a post on a blog of its parent company, AVOS.

AVOS, of course, is Hurley and Chen's San Mateo start-up that took over Delicious from Yahoo.

Users can easily create a stack by pasting in links to any topic they want at, or by way of a browser button that will add the bookmarked link to the site as well.

Users can customize their stacks by choosing not only all the links that show up, but also the title of their stack, tags to help other users find their stacks in search, and a description and comment for each link as well.

Stacks are published to the public only when a user wants them to be, so research and time can be taken to build a stack before sharing, and stacks can always be edited after going live as well.

"Our goal with stacks is to add more value to all the links being collected by the Delicious community," the team said in its post. "Each new stack presents an opportunity to introduce the rest of the world to cool Web content they haven’t seen before."

Delicious did express a bit of nervousness on Tuesday, in its blog post, using a quote from Marty McFly in "Back to the Future":

"What if they say I’m no good? What if they say, 'Get outta here, kid, you got no future?' "

"We feel a bit like Marty today as we launch the new Delicious," the post said.

And the team has good reason to feel that way. Social sharing and social networking tools are only as good the people who use them. When users go away, so does the usefulness of the service. Delicious will need to lure in new users and maybe some old users who left along the way if it's to return to the significance it once had.

What do you think of the new Delicious and social bookmarking and news reading in general? How does the new Delicious stack up to the new Digg? Does the world still need services such as these when so much is shared on Facebook, Twitter and Google+?

Sound off in the comments.


YouTube founders buy Tap11 social media analytics firm

YouTube's Chad Hurley and Steve Chen buy Delicious from Yahoo

Save our bookmarks: Yahoo's Delicious should become an aggregator

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screen shot of the new Credit: Delicious/AVOS

Kogeto Dot enables iPhone cameras to shoot in 360 degrees [VIDEO]

Screen Shot 2011-09-24 at 3.26.03 PM

The crowd-funding website Kickstarter has given rise to a number of interesting projects since its founding in 2009. One effort in particular caught my eye a few months ago, after my father suggested I take a look: the Kogeto Dot.

So what exactly is a Dot? It's a plastic lens attachment for Apple's iPhone 4 that allows users to capture video in a 360-degree panoramic shot. Once captured, the video is processed by an app from Kogeto, the New York-based maker of the Dot, called Looker and then is fully navigable upon playback (i.e., you can move your finger around on the iPhone's touchscreen, and as the video is playing, the video moves up, down, side-to-side in response. If you're watching a Dot-shot video uploaded to Kogeto's website, you can move your mouse or trackpad to move the video in the same way.

From the Looker app, Dot users can upload their videos to the aforementioned Kogeto website as well as to Facebook and Twitter. Kogeto likes to call videos uploaded to its site Dotspots, and although the Dot is still a prototype and not yet in stores, some interesting videos have already been shot.

On Kickstarter, Kogeto had a target of raising $20,000 to help fund a fully realized Dot, which could sell for $79 in stores and online. Instead, Kogeto raised $120,514.

Contributors to Kogeto's fundraising through Kickstarter should be getting their Dots in the mail soon, and in the next few weeks, the devices will arrive in online stores and at a few brick and mortar locations, said Kogeto Chief Executive Jeff Glasse, who recently stopped by the Los Angeles Times building to give us an early look at Dot. Check out the video below.


Windows 8: A first look at Microsoft's new operating system [Video]

Samsung Galaxy S II: Could be king of the Android smartphones [Video]

Motorola Droid Bionic: Top-notch smartphone isn't for everybody [Video]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Jeff Glasse, CEO of New York start-up Kogeto, holds an Apple iPhone 4 outfitted with his company's Dot lens attachment. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Michael Arrington has a new blog, scolds TechCrunch editor

Michael Arrington's Facebook profile photo

Michael Arrington may be out of TechCrunch and AOL, but that doesn't mean he'll stop blogging.

Arrington, who founded the TechCrunch blog as an angel investor in 2005, announced on Twitter on Thursday morning that he'll be going out on his own for now, tweeting:

"I'll be launching my new (personal) blog in a couple of days."

Paul Carr, a freelance writer for TechCrunch and author, responded to Arrington asking if he can get in on the new personal blog, tweeting:

"@arrington can I write the weekend posts on your tumblr?"

Arrington wrote back on Twitter, poking fun at AOL's head of online content, Arianna Huffington, and TechCrunch's new top editor, Erick Schonfeld.

"@paulcarr I'm not sure the journo police will allow that. Will ask Erick to ask Arianna if that's ok."

Carr might not be simply joking about following Arrington to his new blog eventually. The writer lashed out at AOL and its CEO Tim Armstrong, in a post on TechCrunch, for its handling of criticism that was directed toward Arrington and TechCrunch when Arrington and Armstrong announced the formation of a venture fund called CrunchFund.

It was Arrington's involvement in CrunchFund (he's running it) that cost him his job at TechCrunch as co-editor with Schonfeld. AOL had said that its tech reporters can't also be tech investors. AOL, however, is the main investor in Arrington's CrunchFund.

The back-and-forth between Carr and Arrington isn't the first time the TechCrunch founder has criticized AOL, which bought TechCrunch in Sept. 2010 for as much as $40 million, and his former co-editor Schonfeld since the break-up.

On Monday, at AOL's TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Arrington appeared on stage wearing a green T-shirt printed with the text "unpaid blogger." The T-shirt was a jab at AOL and Huffington, which after announcing he was fired from his job as TechCrunch's co-editor said he might contribute as an unpaid writer from time to time. A photo of Arrington in that T-shirt is his Facebook profile picture.

On Wednesday, Schonfeld named the finalists in a start-up competition at the Disrupt conference in a TechCrunch blog post. In naming the finalists, Schonfeld added in a few sentences trying to make clear Arrington's involvement in the process or lack there of, writing:

(In the spirit of disclosure, two of the companies, Bitcasa and Prism Skylabs, are CrunchFund investments, but we didn't hold that against them. Along with the other finalists, the judges scored them the highest. The CrunchFund is Michael Arrington's new venture fund. He was not involved in the final selection of these companies).

Arrington, in a comment on that blog post, said that Schonfeld wasn't being honest about his involvement in the process of selecting the finalists.

Erick, I'm still an Aol employee through tomorrow (15th). Also, as you know I had significant input into this list of finalists and spoke to Heather for over an hour last night about them. My final list is somewhat different from this one, though, but we agree on four of the companies.

Please be careful making statements on my behalf. And remember that reader trust is what matters. You shouldn't say "he was not involved in the final selection of these companies" just because it sounds nice. Since it isn't true, you shouldn't say it at all.

Also, going forward, I don't know if I'll be disclosing our investments to TechCrunch.

On Thursday, Barry Diller, chairman of InterActiveCorp., which owns 50% of the Newsweek/Daily Beast, said that AOL's firing of Arrington for investing in tech start-ups was a move that robbed TechCrunch of its unique voice, which was Arrington's voice.

Here's a transcript of Diller's statement, as reported by TechCrunch:

You buy it because it is absolutely the voice of a single person primarily, with some other people working for him -- but it's Michael Arrington's voice, and you know when you buy it, that that voice is biased and mean and capable of saying anything, and is playing a hundred different games. And you know that. And that's why you buy it — because it's a good voice, and you like it. This is, to me, the definition of that rocket going up and then getting underneath…

And then somebody calls you up and says, "I'm the Editor in Chief, and you can't let him do that, because he’s now in a conflict of interest."

Instead of saying, "Shut up and go back to your room"… and it's not because you don't respect journalism, it's because this has nothing to do with that. To apply that standard to something where the guy says, "I'm filled with conflicts. You don't have to listen, you don't have to read me. Take the stuff for whatever it’s worth."

It’s not a journalistic enterprise, TechCrunch. And so to have treated it as such is to destroy it. So now, he's gone, and now they own this thing, which has no voice. Congratulations. What a good piece of business.


TechCrunch writer takes on AOL CEO Tim Armstrong

Michael Arrington: Ex-TechCrunch, and now ex-AOL employee, too

TechCrunch blogger Mike Arrington starts CrunchFund venture capital firm

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: A screen shot of Michael Arrington's Facebook profile page. Credit: Michael Arrington / Facebook


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