Yahoo gets Kickstart ‘ed

With Microsoft and Google battling it out over Facebook and other fronts, Yahoo is not exactly standing still. The latest of Yahoo’s portfolio of Brickhouse properties, Kickstart was launched earlier this month.

Kickstart is positioned in the vaccuum that has long since existed in between the spaces occupied by Facebook and LinkedIn. It is a social network that university students can use as they make their first forays into the job world. It allows schools to link their student population with alumni and fraternities, to foster sharing of job leads.

A targeted professional social network like Kickstart should become very popular. While Facebook and Myspace cater to the student demographic, the sites are rarely used for serious job related networking. On the other hand, LinkedIn provides a way of setting up professional networks, but supplies few tools if any, to foster communications within the network other than through the some what cumbersome "Ask your network a question" facility, and to some extent through the feature of providing a recommendation to someone you have worked with.

Kickstart comes out of Yahoo’s Venture fund Brickhouse which is built around the idea of quickly percolating ideas developed within Yahoo. This month, two of the companies, Kickstart and Zync - an application that allows watching of YouTube videos on Yahoo IM - have been launched.

According to Salim Ismail, head of Brickhouse, the fund sees about 8-10 ideas every month, and selects two for funding and fast tracking into the marketplace.

Crowd Sourcing : Digital Wall Calendar & Origami Folding Machine

ImageThe Digital Wall Calendar combines calendars for every member of a family, no matter what program or website they are on, into one gadget.

What a neat idea! Where can I buy it?

Well, it’s almost there, all that’s left now for this concept is the software, hardware, and design experts, as well as investors.

ImageThis is a classic example of crowd sourcing for ideas. The idea is the first finalist picked by the members of CrowdSpirit, a new gadget-by-committee project.

A pre Web 2.0 site that has been doing the crowd sourcing of ideas has been around for a long time, the Their latest suggestion- Paper Money Origami Folding Machine:

Some tourist attractions have those machines where you stick a penny and 4 quarters in and it squishes the penny into a medallion with an imprint of the Golden Gate Bridge or something as a souvenir.

I think the same idea applied to paper money would be even cooler. Have a machine that folds the dollar, pound note etc. into some location specific trinket like the Eiffel Tower or the Sidney Opera House. I’m pretty sure you can make anything out of origami. It would also be more exciting to watch than a penny being squished.

And lets not forget the cream cheese rings - Pre-packaged, preformed, cream cheese rings separated by thin plastic sheets. Just peel and toss on the bagel. (I did find at least one paper on robotic origami folding on the net and I am sure there are techniques developed for metal sheet folding which can be applied here and of course peanut butter has been available as slices for a while.)

Lets get the crowd sources and crowd chipin folks together.

Tags: crowd spirit, crowd sourcing, halfbakery, origami, crowd chipin

Via Gizmodo

YouMail Raises $4.5 Million in Funding from VantagePoint Venture Partners

youtubeWe have written about YuoMail several times (e.g., here & here) and have referred to them as one of the cleverest voice mail service providers.

Over the past few months, YouMail has been rolling out and steadily improving its innovative free cellphone voicemail service.

Today, Youmail announced a $4.5 million in series A funding from VantagePoint Venture Partners. Additionally, Craig Cooper, venture partner at VantagePoint, will join the YouMail Board of Directors. YouMail will use the proceeds to invest in further product development and marketing initiatives, and expand its management and development teams.

The Vantage Point, dubs itself as Creative Capital for transformative companies. Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail said that “We selected VantagePoint as our partner because of the firm’s deep expertise and success in helping launch and grow some of the hottest new mobile companies in the market today.�?

Prior to this A round, Irvine based YouMail has received funding of $1.9 million from the Tech Coast Angels

If you haven’t tried their free voice mail service, check them out at or your nearest mobile phone!

Whyville, edutainment and Tween marketing


Whyville is an educational virtual world for tweens and teens, ages 10-16. This world’s motto is “learning by doing.” Whyville actively engages its visitors and encourages them to participate in fun, educational events that give kids “hands-on” experience with virtual science projects

It has been around since 1999, so technically it is not a startup. Last week, it received additional funding from Pat Sajak of Wheel of Fortune fame. The amount was not disclosed but till last December, Whyville’s parent company had raised about $1.5M from 12 angles. Whyville has about 2.2M players with the demographics that the advertisers love.

getty_whyvilleAs an educator with special interest in high school education, I am ambivalent about the Whyville’s marketing strategy of “active brain advertising,” which according to Jay Goss, Whyville’s COO, “the company isn’t just focused on garnering impressions or eyeballs for brands. We care about eyeballs connected to brains.”

For 10-13 year old, I’d prefer a clear sponsored but separate advertising method, but this is not a social blog, it is a business blog, we will save that discussion for some other time. As far as business model is concerned, Whyville does deliver edutainment to tweens in a way that is conducive to building a long term brand loyalty, and Whyville are appropriately leveraging it.

The most interesting demographic statistics that I found was that the Whyville has 68% female participants. It might be related to the lack of first person shooter games on the site. The site has an eclectic and multifarious mix of features. Here are some of them:

  • NASA, the Getty Museum, CDC and University of Texas systems are using the platform to deliver educational content.
  • Toyota is a major sponsor, it allows the user to buy a customized Scion, and if they don’t have enough online virtual cash, they can go to Toyota office and get a loan.
  • The participants maintain a credit score which is dependent on the participants virtual job and spending habits, mimicking the real life example.
  • A nutritional program sponsored by school Nutrition Board.
  • Geodig is a geology game that takes members around the world in search of rocks, fossils and gems or The Art Treasure Hunt which transports members on worldwide art tour.
  • Penguin Books, after publishing a book version of Al Gore’s movie, tapped them for educational programs to teach climate change.
  • Whyville recently received $440,000 in grants from the Texas Workforce Commission to build Whyville Biotech and a virtual manufacturing center.

After the phenomenal success of High School musical 2, there is no doubt that the tweens have their own ecosystem and generate their own economic waves. Whyville is a great place to ride that wave.

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