Mint rakes in 4.7 million in an A round

Mint, whom we had profiled earlier, has raised $4.7 million A round from Shasta Ventures, First Round Capital, and several Angels, according to Techcrunch.

Mint is a financial management company. As we had noted before, it enters a field, that is extremely crowded, and has been for a while, following the likes of Yodlee, CashEdge, MSNMoney and a host of other financial aggregators.

By and large, Mint offers similar features, the ability to aggregate financial accounts in one place, track spending, view balances, set alerts etc. The Mint site also mentions the ability to “Stop overpaying and start saving”. This has to do with side by side comparison of bank and credit card transactions, making to easier to spot any errors and to reconcile the two.

Mint’s real test will be to see how it can differentiate itself in the financial aggregation field, which is populated by several heavyweights including companies that have tried offering the service through the banks such as Wells Fargo, Citibank etc. as well as direct to consumer offerings such as Yodlee has. No doubt with the amount of money raised and the backing or prominent investors like Ram Shriram, they will have all the support they need to make a go of it.

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CasualCafe: Stop by and play

Casual cafe is a casual gaming site that features card games, action games, puzzles, word games and multiplayer games. All the tried and true favorites like Bejewelled and Solitaire are there, along with several more exotic sounding titles like Peggle and Chuzzle.

Games are free to try for 60 minutes of play, and $19.95 to buy.

A word to the wise, the site is quite addictive. The graphics are simple, but quite rich. Game screens expand to full screen mode. The action is well at the level of what would be expected in the casual game arena.

CasualCafe is aimed towards the $1 billion casual gaming market on the Internet - primarily the over 30 female demographic.

Casual Cafe is currently self funded.

Michael Scholz is the CEO of Pretty Good Games, a Redondo Beach company, which operates the Casual Cafe site.

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Layoffs at AOL - Advertising gold rush continues

Some bad news at AOL - they are laying off 2000 of its 10,000 employees. CEO Randy Falco sent out a letter this morning, explaining the reasons behind the cutback. Kara Swisher at All Things Digital, published the layoff letter.

Dear AOL colleague,

Just over a year ago, AOL embarked on an incredibly complex and significant transformation as we fundamentally shifted our business model from a subscription-based ISP to an advertising-supported Web company.

We aggressively expanded our advertising capabilities, building on the strength of and our premium ad sales force.

Clearly, the big gold rush for the major online companies are the ad dollars, and shoring up the advertising networks has become priority #1. Google has a clear lead in the ad race with 56% of all searches in the US, followed by Yahoo at 23%, and Microsoft with 11%. AOL is bringing up the rear with 5%.

Google, acquired DoubleClick earlier this year, for a resounding $1.3 billion. Google is also making definite forays into the mobile advertising market.

Microsoft bought aQuantive, a digital marketing company for $6 billion, making aQuantive the largest acquisition for Microsoft. AQuantive is the parent of Razorfish, the marketing company that was the darling of the last boom, along with DRIVEpm and Atlas.

On the heels of Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick, Yahoo acquired Right media for $680 million.

AOL acquired a controlling stake in the German ad company, ADTECH AG.

From the AOL layoff letter:

We aggressively expanded our advertising capabilities, building on the strength of and our premium ad sales force. We acquired three leading-edge advertising companies–ADTECH, Third Screen Media and TACODA–and formed Platform-A. AOL now has one of the largest and most sophisticated ad networks in the world, and we’re well positioned to compete where the ad market is heading.

AOL’s current strategy will be geared towards “three core areas–Platform-A, Publishing and Access” according to CEO Randy Falco. Platform-A will enable AOL to serve ads over their own as well as third party sites. Content (publishing) sites provide the basis for the ad network, which the Access platform (AOL’s traditional and highly profitable ISP business) will provide the cash to build the other businesses.

In spite of the impending layoffs, some credit should go to AOL for building, and articulating a clear vision of where it sees itself in the future.

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Snocap music distribution company gets ready for sale

snocap logoSnocap, the Napster-turned-legit music file sharing service, has laid off 54% of its workforce. Snocap was started in 2002 by Napster founder Shawn Fanning, as an attempt to set up a legal music distribution service that charged for music downloads (the Napster label itself was later revived as a legitimate paid music service, also). Initial attempts to move other music sharing sites into their fold as paid distribution sites for Snocap, was not met with much success.

So Snocap changed strategy and set up distribution deals with major partners such as MySpace. But the unshakable Apple and its itunes music service have made it hard for the Snocap service to grow.

Now there are rumors that Snocap is polishing itself up for sale. According to WSJ, Snocap has been courted in recent times by major companies.


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