Can Ghostbusters copy Pokémon Go’s success with its own AR mobile game?

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You’ll soon be able to trap Ghostbusters ghosts in augmented reality à la Pokémon Go.

A short demo of the game Ghostbusters World was showcased at Google’s MWC booth, highlighting functionality made possible by the public release of Google’s ARCore augmented reality platform. Details are pretty slim for a wide release date other than it’s “coming 2018”.

The title will call on ghosts from the franchise’s “films, TV shows, comic books, theme parks, and video games” according to a press release. Ghostbusters is obviously no Pokémon when it comes to the cult following behind it, but the game does seem like it could have some pretty similar gameplay to Pokeémon Go when it launches.

The studio behind the title, South Korea-based publisher FourThirtyThree Inc. has launched a number of popular games including Blade for Kakao, Monster Super League and Seven Guardians. The studio primarily seems to dabble in RPG style video games, and early footage makes it seem as though this mechanic will be present in Ghostbusters World. The title was also developed in conjunction with Sony Pictures Entertainment Consumer Products and Ghost Corps.

For what it’s worth from the short video they’ve shown it does really showcase what AR can add to the game, and how much more integrated with the environment the game is than past AR titles. Whether the title will embrace the location-based community style which made Pokémon Go a bit of a cultural phenomenon is unclear.

Though the announcement was made in conjunction with Google, the game will also be coming to iOS. The developers will be making more announcements about the game at next month’s Game Developers Conference.

Jeremy Fiance, the 26-year-old founder of House Fund, ups his VC ambitions


A little less than two years ago, we reported on Jeremy Fiance, a then 24-year-old recent UC Berkeley graduate who’d just taken the wraps off his new firm, The House Fund. It had secured $6 million in capital commitments from an array of individual investors, many of them venture capitalists, to fund startups coming out of UC Berkeley.

At the time, Fiance argued persuasively that the school — known for its academic rigor —  has largely and unwisely been overlooked by angel investors and VCs alike, sometimes owing simply to proximity. (Many investors live in communities that are closer to Stanford, roughly 40 miles away.)

He further sold himself on his own unique abilities to spot talent at UC Berkeley, including because as a freshman, in 2010, he’d brought to campus Kairos Society, a now 11-year-old organization that encourages budding entrepreneurs to tackle global-scale social challenges.

His salesmanship may be paying off. According to a three-month-old SEC filing spied earlier today by Axios, Fiance’s ambitions have grown eightfold. At least, according to the filing, the House Fund is now raising upwards of $50 million for its second fund. (We’ve reached out Fiance for more information and will update this post if we hear more.)

Whether he can gather as much in capital commitments remains to be seen, but the diverse portfolio he has assembled suggests that Fiance — who counts VC and Cal alum Jeff Brody of Redpoint Ventures among his advisors — has made connections across the startup industry. Among House Fund’s bets is Gradescope, a four-year-old, Berkeley, Ca.-based cloud-based educational grading platform that raised $2.6 million in seed funding in 2016, including  from Freestyle Capital, Bloomberg Beta, Reach Capital, and K9 Ventures.

House Fund also invested more recently in Superhuman, an ostensibly much faster email service created three years ago by the founder of Rapportive, a Gmail add-on that LinkedIn acquired in 2012. (Superhuman has disclosed its backers but not how much it has raised.)

Yet House Fund’s most promising bet to date may be Flexport, a five-year-old global freight forwarder and logistics platform that has raised at least $204 million to date, according to Crunchbase. (Founder Ryan Petersen graduated from UC Berkeley in 2002.)

That amount of funding suggests that House Fund’s stake in Flexport is likely quite small at this point. Early investors are typically diluted in subsequent funding rounds unless they can pay to maintain their percentage of ownership, and it’s doubtful that House Fund could do this given the size of its debut fund. Still, the deal could conceivably persuade investors that Fiance has an eye for talent.

That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing all the way. As with any venture firm, the outfit is already seeing its ups and downs.

House Fund lists eight startups at its website, and says it has funded “dozens of other unannounced companies.” One of those featured companies is Essential, which was founded by star entrepreneur Andy Rubin but is reportedly struggling to sell its smartphones.

When we’d talked with Fiance in April 2016, he was also understandably proud of an early investment in Lily Robotics, a camera drone startup that had started out in a UC Berkeley robotics lab and gone on to raise $15 million in funding, including from Spark Capital. Six months later, unable to raise a subsequent round, the company shut down.

Google needs to give the AirPods better competition


In the race for in-ear AI, Apple has the clear advantage despite the fact that their intelligent assistant is one of the dumbest of the bunch.

Yesterday, reports emerged that Apple was working on a pair of follow-ups to its Airpods headphones that could bring them always-on Siri functionality as well as a splash-proof design. As we think about all the things that Apple could do right with its next set of wireless earbuds, it’s easy to reflect on all that Google did wrong with its Pixel Buds and how much of an opportunity they still have.

Google Assistant lends so much potential to a pair of smart wireless earbuds from Google. The fact is that Siri doesn’t hold a candle to Google Assistant in many ways, and while the functionality of voice control on the AirPods is largely focused on music and calls, the superior intelligence of Google Assistant should make them a much clearer companion for a set of earbuds.

Hardware is still very much a side project for Google, but as the company prioritizes home assistant hardware, it really doesn’t make sense that they’re not putting more resources into a pair of wireless headphones. The Pixel Buds need a more purposeful design that minimizes friction and delivers Assistant insights more effortlessly in a package that feels like more than just a follow-on.

The AirPods are an engineering marvel, and while some of the functionality of the Pixel Buds was interesting — mainly their ability to interface with the Pixel 2 for language translation — they fell flat on design. Google needs to rethink its wireless earbuds from the ground-up and focus more on creating something with the sleekness of the Pixel phones rather than the fabric-obsessed friendliness of their Home devices. Cutting the woven cord and moving to a truly wireless form factor is a necessary step, as is shrinking down the size of the Bud part of the product. It’s really not about the sound quality as much as it is about the connectivity and the lack of friction. While FastPair has been a great step in simplifying the bluetooth pairing, there are still some quirks that aren’t present with Apple’s W1 chip.

While Siri is always quick to refer you to search results when it doesn’t have an answer (a frequent occurrence), Assistant’s optimization for its display-free Home devices has led it to order functionality around the assumption that there’s not always a screen available to default to. Today, Google announced that it was bringing location-based notifications and voice-optimized routine functionality to its Home devices so it could complete regular custom tasks without you having to pepper it with commands, stuff like this would be ideal for earbuds that are always-listening, something that Google could do much more with than Apple.

Even as features take months to roll out, Google has still shown a degree of nimbleness on the voice assistant front that Apple can’t match in annual WWDC keynotes. While Amazon is just as quick with Alexa, Google Assistant’s deepening integration with Android establishes an arena where they should be the clear champion.

AirPods are clearly the best wireless earbud that an Apple user can own and even with the reduced functionality that still might be true of Android phones. People are building tools to bring iOS-only feature sets to Android and that fact alone should suggest Google take a more serious look at its own hardware and the opportunity that it’s losing out on.

Eden acquires OrgOrg, a social network for office managers


Eden, the office management and tech support platform, has today announced the acquisition of OrgOrg, a social network for office managers to recommend, discuss, and review vendors and products.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Eden founder and CEO Joe DuBey explained to TechCrunch that a growing number of on-boarding clients said that they had originally heard about Eden from other office managers on the OrgOrg platform. In fact, DuBey recalled that Eden’s first enterprise client mentioned OrgOrg.

“Back when we were still a consumer tech support platform, we signed on Tilt as our first enterprise client,” said DuBey. “And I asked the office manager where he hangs out and where to find other people like him and OrgOrg came up again.”

Since, Eden has seen its own growth index against the growth of OrgOrg and the company felt that the acquisition made sense for growing its clientele.

Right now, OrgOrg has around 2,600 members and is run on a Google Group, self-supported by an ad product.

DuBey says that OrgOrg CEO Kim Rohrer will continue on as CEO, with OrgOrg operating independently as its own brand. DuBey still hasn’t decided whether or not OrgOrg’s ad product will continue to operate, but he is certain that Eden isn’t looking to generate revenue from OrgOrg, but rather grow clientele.

From the release:

OrgOrg’s strength is in its grassroots community, and it will continue to run as a private, sacred space for its members under Kim’s leadership. Nothing will change about the day to day community — the things we hope to incorporate over time are technology resources to help OrgOrg grow members, create a robust library and curate deep relationships within one’s city.

In fact, DuBey said that even posts that shed a bad light on Eden will remain up.

Eden is operating in 7 markets, and has raised a total of $15 million according to Crunchbase.

Do people agree with Kylie Jenner on the Snapchat update?

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Do people agree with Kylie Jenner on the Snapchat update?

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Public media will resurrect Gothamist, LAist and DCist


Local news sites Gothamist, LAist and DCist are coming back from the dead. Their assets (including story archives) have been acquired by three public radio companies — WNYC in New York, KPCC in Southern California and WAMU in Washington, D.C.

According to the acquisition announcement, the deal comes after a competitive sale process, and it was funded by “generous philanthropic donations from two anonymous donors.”

Gothamist and its sister sites were acquired by DNAinfo last year. Both Gothamist and DNAinfo were shut down in November, shortly after the editorial teams unionized. (At the time, a DNAinfo spokesperson said the unionization was “simply another competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful.”)

Executives at all three stations describe the acquisitions as a commitment to local journalism, as well as a way to increase their presence online. The announcement also includes some praise for DNAinfo owner Joe Ricketts, who was widely criticized after the shutdown.

“For more than a decade, Gothamist served as a source of trusted local news,” said New York Public Radio President and CEO Laura Walker in a statement. “That resonates with us at WNYC, where we are committed to telling stories rooted in New York and that matter to New Yorkers. As we’ve seen a decline in local journalism in even the largest metropolitan areas across the country, even at a time when it’s so vital, we remain committed to strong, independent reporting that fills the void.”

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