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"We're Not PayPal," Says New Online Payment Player, WePay

WePay’s co-founder Bill Clerico can sum up his company with a simple phrase: “We’re not PayPal.”

The online payment giant claims 94.4 million users, but if you Google the firm, above the fold search results include a link to PayPal Sucks, with horror stories of frozen accounts, scams and other bad consumer experiences.

“One of the problems is that PayPal was built back in 1998, but the world has changed a lot since then,” Clerico observes. And one of the biggest ways the world has changed is the emergence of social media, especially Facebook.

“A huge piece of the friction between financial services institutions and the customer historically has been identity verification,” says Clerico. But now, thanks to the way people share their true identity on Facebook, “it’s much easier to verify who you are and have that validated by the many people who agree you are who you say you are.”

BranchOut Challenges LinkedIn By Bringing Professional Recruiters To Facebook

Since its public launch at the beginning of the year, BranchOut has quickly grown into the largest professional network on Facebook, with three million people using its free service to find jobs, or alternatively, the talent to fill job openings.

Now, the startup is bringing recruiters into the fold as well with a new product  called Recruiter Connect. This move places BranchOut into even a more direct competition with LinkedIn.

The startup likes its odds.

“Facebook is just much bigger with its 800 million users than LinkedIn, with 100 million,” says Chris Merritt, VP of Sales. “And, people spend 164 times as much time on Facebook as on LinkedIn.”

True, but pretty close to all of those 100 million of those LinkedIn accounts, I’d wager, are devoted to professional networking of the type BranchOut is building at Facebook, which most people still consider a place to connect with family and friends.

Merritt counters that that is precisely why BranchOut’s Facebook location makes sense.

In the Social Media World, Female Millennials Hold the Upper Hand

If it sometimes seems like Facebook has taken over the world, the most recent report from Nielsen on social media usage in the U.S. provides lots of evidence for that belief.

Americans are spending over 50 billion minutes on Facebook a month, which is more than three times as many minutes as on the second leading website, Yahoo, and over four times as much as on Google.

Women dominate that usage time, accounting for 62 percent of all page views at Facebook, and Millennials (ages 18-34) have the highest concentration of visitors there and at most social media sites among all the age groups.

“Social media’s popularity continues to grow, connecting people with just about everything they watch or buy,” stated the report. “Whether it’s a brand icon inviting consumers to connect with a company on LinkedIn, a news ticker promoting an anchor’s Twitter handle, or an advertisement asking a consumer to “like” a product on Facebook, people are constantly being driven to social media.”

Giftiki Brings "Collaborative Gifting" to Facebook

Another week, another message from Facebook about which of your friends have birthdays this week. You could post a message to their wall. You could purchase a virtual gift for them -- the very essence of a symbolic act.

Or, starting today, you could join with others in their social network to make a small cash gift ($1-10) that just might add up to a tidy bundle for the recipient of your collective largess.

Meet Giftiki, a collaborative gifting engine that attempts to extend commerce into social media in ways that may just alter gift giving as we’ve known it up until now.

“Your social network is a lot bigger than your wallet,” says CEO Justin Stanislaw. "With Giftiki, you can contribute small amounts of money to a friend and it won’t break the bank. But, along with 20 or 30 others in their network, it will add up to a significant gift for the recipient.”

Zynga Partners With Enrique Iglesias to Promote CityVille, the Top Game on Facebook

Potrero Hill-based Zynga is announcing today a partnership with international popstar Enrique Iglesias that will kick off next week in its most popular game, CityVille.

Under the deal, which starts next Tuesday and runs for seven days, players will be able to build “Euphoria Arenas" for their virtual cities, collect some free branded virtual items, preview a video of his single, “I Like How It Feels,” and interact with the singer’s avatar.

The partnership comes just as Iglesias has kicked off an international concert tour, which is branded “Euphoria.” This is the third celebrity event for the large social game company, following one with Lady Gaga in May and Dr. Dre last December.

Pssst! Online Shopping is Exploding and -- Men and Women Shop Differently

Back in the early days of the web, there were some who predicted that online shopping would never take off, because, in addition to other hesitations, most people would never entrust their credit card information to a website.

Amazon started proving the critics wrong soon after it launched in 1995, and when eBay joined the party the following year, it quickly became apparent that ecommerce represented a massive new business opportunity where a lot of players were going to make (and/or lose) a lot of money.

Cut to the present tense, and ecommerce generated some $165.4 billion in sales last year, or roughly eight percent of the retail product sales in the U.S. According to Forrester Research, that figure will reach the neighborhood of $279 billion by 2015.

Meanwhile, with Groupon and Living Social, daily deals and flash sales, the sheer volume of marketing and shopping information coursing over the Internet has become deafening. Email, Facebook, Twitter are all bursting at the seams with the stuff.

Inkling 2.0 Brings Collaborative Learning Model to Textbooks on the iPad

It’s Get Back to School time, and Inkling, the leading company reinventing textbooks on the iPad, has just won Apple’s approval for its 2.0 app. CEO Matt MacInnis calls it “the single most complex iPad app out there," and he may well be right.

It combines a 3-D rendering engine, a complex reading engine, and a full social search engine all wrapped into one, which also syncs across the devices you use to access it.

From a developer’s perspective, that’s complex.

Fortunately, from a user’s perspective, Inkling is simple to use. You tap on this, pull out that, scroll down here, and dig deeper over there.

The most striking aspect of Inkling 2.0 is the interactive social layer it has integrated across its current inventory of 50 academic titles, which will grow to 100 titles by year’s end.

Barefoot Wine's Facebook Film Debut: One Beach

Isn't it refreshing when brands get off their butts and do something to help the world? Do-good local winery Barefoot Wine has launched a Facebook campaign to promote their beach rescue initiatives through a viral film called One Beach: A film about creativity, optimism, and fun, while cleaning the world's beaches. Directed by surfer and filmmaker Jason Baffa, this environmental documentary about beach preservation, is in collaboration with Surfrider and BBDO SF. Blending the world's of wine, the environment, the arts, advertising, and social media, it's a short film with a lot of gumption.

See video

SoMa-Based StumbleUpon Provides a "Forward Button" for Discovery on the Internet

One of the top tech companies in San Francisco floating just below the surface of broader consumer consciousness is StumbleUpon, the discovery engine that co-founder and CEO Garrett Camp calls the "forward button for the internet."

StumbleUpon helps you find and share great content out along The Long Tail, and the more you use it the better it becomes at finding those gems that make the web, at its best, so entertaining and informative.

It's a bit unusual among startups in that it's about ten years old, and has already been through a major acquisition (for $75 million by eBay in May 2007) followed by an even more unusual event in April 2009, when its founders, including Camp and his co-founder Geoff Smith, bought it back from eBay at a deep (though undisclosed) discount.

Ashton Kutcher Blows Up Local Start-Up Airbnb, Signs on as Advisor

The same week that industrial designers and roommates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky quit their day jobs back in 2007 to try and become entrepreneurs, the landlord of their SoMa apartment hiked their rent.

Faced with a sudden need to make some extra cash, they hit upon an idea. They knew that a major design convention was opening in town and that the hotels were fully booked.  So they contacted the attendee list to offer airbeds in their apartment for people having trouble finding a place to stay.

The response was overwhelming and they quickly booked three guests, which netted them $1,000 or so, and in the process Airbnb was born, a community marketplace for people to list and find unique places to stay around the world.

Fast-forward to today, and Airbnb (which is headquartered in SoMa) is truly global in scope and has reached what Gebbia calls a "tipping point," with over 60,000 active listings in 12,663 cities in 181 countries. And just yesterday, it was announced that  actor/tech fanatic Ashton Kutcher has invested a significant amount of money in the company and signed on as an advisor. 

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