STN: The first TV Network for Startups

startup tvStart-up Tv Network Inc. (STN) is a startup that brings together entrepreneurs and investors using online video and digital media. Here’s how it works: An entrepreneur submits his or her company to STN, at which point it is put under review. If approved, STN goes out and films the entrepreneur giving a 2 minute elevator pitch, which is uploaded and displayed on their website. From there, investors who are members of the site are able to view the pitch and choose whether they would like to invest. STN makes money on both sides of the equation: entrepreneurs are charged around $100 a month to have their video on the site, and although investors can join for free (only accredited investors are allowed membership), they have the option of paying to view other investors’ due diligence along with 3rd party research reports.

STN has filmed 50 companies to-date. The company is primarily focused on high tech startups, and is not planning on dealing with small retail or consumer product companies. In addition to membership fees and paid premium services, they plan to add revenue from advertising as well — whether ads will be embedded in the actual videos remains to be seen. Eventually, the company wants to expand to actualize its name by becoming a streaming video channel, both online and on cable.

For the past year STN has mostly remained in stealth mode. They recently raised $500k of a $1.5 million second round, with their initial seed round undisclosed.

This is an ambitious, unique idea for a startup, that if successful could eventually change the landscape for angel investors. Although many of the companies angels and VC’s invest in are dealing with the latest technology, the process of finding them remains largely offline. While this won’t replace the face-to-face pitch that investment groups are used to, it could prove to be an easy way to seed startups.

Start-Up Tv Network Inc. is located in Folsom, Calif., and is being backed by Velocity Venture Capital.

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Santa Monica video startup raises funding

LogoDeca is an online professional-video startup based in Santa Monica, Calif. that bills itself as “the first hybrid production and commercial model specifically for mainstream digital entertainment.” The company just announced it has raised $5 million in a series A round. Investors were Atomico Investments (last.fm, technorati), General Catalyst Partners, and Mayfield Fund. The site, which hasn’t launched yet, aims to provide video content on par with what comes out of Hollywood. Quite a lofty goal. The company’s services are three-tiered: Deca aims to finance, develop and distribute video. However, their actual website won’t showcase any of the content; all of the distribution is being handled by outside partners.
Deca was founded in 2007 by Michael Wayne and Chris Kimbell, both of whom have combined past experience at Sony Pictures, ABC, and Yahoo! Music. Wayne said the following:

Digital entertainment is not simply about posting something to YouTube; digital entertainment needs to be compelling, high quality, social and interactive. DECA brings the online and entertainment worlds together in a studio model that understands how new entertainment formats need to be created, funded, marketed, and distributed.

While this could seem like just another addition to the crowded online video space, the experience that the founders bring with them could prove to separate Deca from the pack. While online video appears to be saturated, people are still trying to figure out the right model to deliver “professional” content. Will big broadcast networks like NBC dominate the web market with sites like Hulu, or will startups have a shot? Big broadcasters definitely have first-mover advantage with their production studios constantly generating quality content, but that model may eventually be uprooted by companies like Deca.

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iPhotoMeasure closes seed round

Image04Yesterday, iPhotoMeasure’s CEO and founder Paul Minor announced that the company recently raised $400k in seed money. IPhotoMeasure, based in Tarzana, Calif., has software (Mac & PC) currently on the market that allows people to (according to the company) accurately scale the dimensions of a room or structure by simply taking a digital photo. Known formerly as Digicontractor, the program is geared towards contractors involved in construction projects, although it seemingly has a wider consumer application as well.

What allows the software to produce correct dimension readings (the company advertises 95.5% accuracy) are sheets of paper called DigiTargets. The targets are either 7.5″ sq (indoor measurements) or 15″ sq (outdoors). Print one of the targets and stick it to a surface, snap a digi photo (they recommend using at least a 2 megapixel camera), then load the image into iPhotoMeasure’s Flash-based software and let it do the rest.

However, it may not be exactly that easy. According to a review in February by blogger Ed Holloway, the software does not automatically locate the DigiTarget and requires you to manually draw a perfect square around it before computing dimensions. What’s more, since the square must be perfect, it appears that the software only did well with 2D objects. Also, the app only allowed saving the resulting images in the software’s own native format, with no support for JPEG or GIF. While the review is 6 months old, meaning its quite possible that there have been changes to the product, nothing on the company’s website offers evidence of such changes. Even with these flaws the product looks to be still useful, although the $100 price tag for the downloadable version seems a little steep.

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One Laptop Per Child ‘goes public’

LogoolpcNo, they aren’t launching an IPO, but the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) non-profit group has just announced that they will be selling their rugged cost-effective “$100 laptops,” named ‘XO,’ to the public. The program is called G1G1, give-one-get-one: for $399, customers will be able to purchase two of the laptops, one to keep and one to be given to a child in a developing country. Starting November 12th they will be sold online (at xogiving.org) for an initial two week period, which may be extended if the program proves successful. Previously, the laptops were only being sold to governments in batches of 250,000 units.

While they haven’t been able to hit that $100 price point yet, what OLPC has managed to accomplish in terms of the hardware alone is extremely impressive: a pivoting reversible hi-res monitor, 433 mhz processor, 256 mb DRAM, USB ports, and WiFi support all housed inside of a dirt and moisture-resistant enclosure. And that stuff isn’t even the really cool part; the laptop can be powered by its rechargable NiMH battery, an alternate power source like a car battery, or… this is it…. by hand. Using innovative techniques to shut off the processor when not in use, OLPC managed to get the XO’s power usage to under 2 watts. This allows the laptop to be powered by a hand crank, a pedal or a pull-cord… a necessity, seeing as how many of the XO’s intended owners live in areas without electricity.

OLPC was created in 2005 by faculty from the MIT Media Lab with one goal: to create a fully functional laptop can be produced cheaply enough to be put in the hands of children in developing nations. Out of these two-billion children, some receive very little education with others receiving none at all (one in three completes third grade).

From OLPC’s website:

Using the XO as both their window on the world, as well as a highly programmable tool for exploring it, children in emerging nations will be opened to both illimitable knowledge and to their own creative and problem-solving potential … [OLPC is] providing a means to an end—an end that sees children in even the most remote regions of the globe being given the opportunity to tap into their own potential, to be exposed to a whole world of ideas, and to contribute to a more productive and saner world community.

What a great example of a way to utilize information technology.

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