Top 10 interviews on VatorNews in 2011

Kristin Karaoglu · December 30, 2011 · Short URL:

Kiip, Gilt Groupe, Google Ventures, Airbnb make the top 10 most popular interviews in 2011

Did you make the list? Here are the top 10 most-viewed interviews on VatorNews in 2011. 

Brian Wong explains how Kiip will make money

In a continuation of my interview with Brian Wong, Wong explains that the key to Kiip's business model is how it will leverage the uniquely addictive quality of mobile gaming to keep people hooked and interacting with ads.  

In 2010, the company raised $300K to help with product development and scaling, and while Wong wouldn't say whether the company plans to raise additional funds this year, he did note that, "With the funding environment right now, it would be a mistake not to figure out what options there are."

When we discussed ideal companies to partner with, Wong explained that there are already a number of companies in the game developing world that serve both publishing needs and in-game development. Ideally, said Wong, Kiip would partner with an in-game developer that already has the power to command a large audience, as well as the publishers themselves.  "Those two bodies are very important for us to work with," he said. Read more

How does Q&A service ChaCha make money?

Q&A sites are getting a lot of attention in the past year. Last week, Formspring raised $11.5 million from Benchmark. In December, Twitter bought Q&A site Fluther. Last October, ChaCha raised $20 million, bringing total funds to date to nearly $72 million.  Last spring, Quora raised $11 million for a reported $86 million. And, at the start of last year, Google bought Aardvark. Other startups are emerging in this space, like Law Pivot, a Q&A site just for legal advice, which launched last August. Meanwhile, other lesser-known, non-VC-backed startups, such as JustAnswer, are making solid revenue by allowing experts to charge for providing answers.

In this interview, I talked to ChaCha CEO and co-founder Scott Jones, how his company is making money. Read more

Google Ventures plans on 80 seed deals a year

Google Ventures has been one of the more active Silicon Valley investment firms, having made some 50 investments since 2009. It also has a pretty good exit under its belt with ngmoco, a gaming startup that sold for $400 million at the end of 2010, months after Google Ventures invested. More recently, the VC led an $85 million investment in Kabam, a gaming company focused on hardcore gamers. Joe Kraus, who joined Google Ventures as a partner in 2010, went on the board of Kabam as well.

Recently, I sat down with Joe, whose better known for his experience on the other side of the investment table. Joe founded Excite, one of the first search engines, which also became one of the first Internet companies to go public in 1996. Joe went onto find JotSpot, which he sold to Google in 2006. After Joe's earnout was finished at Google, he decided that it was time to try his hand as an investor. Read more

Thanks to sites like Twitter, customers are more powerful than ever. As their opinions can spread like wild fire across the Web. To tap into these disparate conversations across the Web on social platforms, corporations are hiring servies, like Lithium Technologies. In this third part of my four-part series with Lyle Fong, CEO and founder of Lithium Technologies, we talk the economics of his business. In this interview, Lyle talks about how Cisco Systems saved $20 million by leveraging social media tools to tap into its customer base to act as support centers.

Lyle also talks about competitiors in the space. Lithium has raised some $45 million in venture financing to help corporations tap into social media. But other companies are starting to raise a war chest too. Last fall, Get Satisfaction raised $6 million, for a total of nearly $11 million in financing. Read more

Evernote driving $1 million a month in sales

In the old days, I used to organize my address book. But when search in email came along (years ago), I didn't bother since I could easily just search for someone's name in my inbox, and find their information. Now, I'm doing the same thing with more than just addresses.

The other day, I became one of the 26,000 people who sign up to Evernote daily. I took a photo of a menu at Hog Island Oyster Bar in San Francisco. I sent it to Evernote. I didn't even have to tag it. Because Evernote can read the menu in the photo, I can type in "oyster" and Evernote will serve up this photo. Now that's convenient. It's no wonder that in under three years, Evernote, which turns three years old this June 24, has attracted 8.2 million registered users, of which 300,000 are paying subscribers. Read more

How e-commerce evolved from search to feeds

The other day, I received Square's pocket-sized credit card reader that attaches to my iPhone. The slick gadget is one of the newer, and more sophisticated and elegant innovations I've seen around commerce in the past 15 years that I've been covering Internet trends. 

But throughout those years, many changes and developments took place for us to get to where we are. After all, consider: In 1995, cell phone (let alone smart phone) penetration was 13%; the few of us who had computers were on dial-up; the number of people using e-commerce was under a million, according to the US Department of Commerce; Amazon was just a year old; Larry Page and Sergey Brin (founders of Google) just met at a computer orientation at Stanford; and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) was just 11 years old. Read more

Bullpen Capital launches fund to bridge deals

Many startups go through a phase that tests the mettle of a founding team. I see it all the time as someone who runs a community for entrepreneurs. They raise a decent amount of initial funds, and see a little bit of early success or media attention. Then they fail to really take off for inumerable reasons. That doesn't mean, however, they're not worth investing in any longer. Often gems are found in this group. If only they had another round of funding that's not too small ($1 million), not too large ($5 million), but just enough - about $2 million.

One emerging venture fund focused solely on these startups is Bullpen Capital, named after the baseball term to indicate its place where startups can "warm" up before they get back out into the field fully refreshed. Bullpen officially launched Wednesday morning. Read more 

 Kevin Ryan on Gilt Groupe's hockey-stick growth

I recently caught up with Kevin Ryan, CEO and founder of Gilt Groupe, one of the fastest growing startups, as measured by revenue. Gilt Groupe, founded at the end of 2007, generated $500 million in revenue in its fiscal year that just ended in July. And, its full-priced businesses, now offered in its travel (Jetsetter), gourmet food (Gilt Taste) and mens' verticals (Park & Bond), are estimated to generate $100 million sales over the company's next fiscal next year, according to Kevin. Kevin also expects four or five business segments to generate close to or more than $100 million in that time period. Women's and home categories have and will continue to be the biggest revenue drivers.

But it's the overall full-price segment that appears to be the reason for the big bump in revenue growth. Consider that full-priced travel offers launched in January and now account for 25% of total travel sales. 

Has Gilt moved away from its outlet roots? Indeed. No longer should Gilt be considered a "flash sales site" or a "daily deals site for luxury goods." Gilt is a lifestyle retailer offering full price to discounted items. Read more

Danny Shader outlines PayNearMe's demographic

Danny Shader's newest project, PayNearMe, has an ambitious demographic: the quarter of the U.S. population without bank accounts or credit cards. His new cash-payment solution allows users to make remote transactions (for an Amazon purchase or Facebook credits, for example) by starting the transaction online and then taking a printed receipt to a nearby 7-11 to complete the exchange by paying in cash. The 7-11 cashier essentially acts as an ATM-like point-of-connection between the consumer and the business, and the whole exchange is handled in cash. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population is unbanked, meaning they do not have a bank account or credit card, and the payment solution is being used for everything from purchasing virtual goods and physical items to making loan repayments. Read more

Airbnb growing 30% to 50% monthly

Airbnb is quickly becoming "the" startup darling to watch, thanks to recent press coverage about its efforts to raise $100 million at a $1 billion valuation. I recently caught up with Brian Chesky, the San Francisco-based startup's confidant founder and CEO. In this interview, we talk mainly about Airbnb's business model, which has been the same since day one. Airbnb takes a 6% to 12% broker fee (on aveage 10%) on the rental charges. The more a person spends, the lower the fee. Brian says the average rental is between $70 to $200. The average reservation is a little under a week, said Brian. Already, the company has booked 1.5 million nights of reservations. Read more

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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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Joined Vator on is the “Ebay of space.” The online marketplace allows anyone from private residents to commercial properties to rent out their extra space. The reputation-based site allows for user reviews, verification, and online transactions, for which Airbnb takes a commission. As of June, 2009, the San Francisco-based company has listings in over 1062 cities in 76 countries.



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Our goal at Evernote is to give everyone the ability to easily capture any moment, idea, inspiration, or experience whenever they want using whichever device or platform they find most convenient, and then to make all of that information easy to find.

And we’ve done just that. From creating text and ink notes, to snapshots of whiteboards and wine labels, to clips of webpages, Evernote users can capture anything from their real and digital lives and find it all anytime.

Evernote is an independent, privately held company headquartered in Mountain View, California. Major investors include Sequoia CapitalMorgenthaler VenturesTroika Dialog, and DOCOMO Capital.




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PayNearMe combines a modified cash load network with an application technology platform so that consumers without credit or debit cards—or those who prefer to pay with cash—can conduct a wide range of remote transactions.  By doing so, PayNearMe enables companies in a diverse set of industries to turn millions of American households into new paying customers.  Consumers can use PayNearMe to pay for ecommerce purchases, telephone orders, loan repayments, money transfers, load funds into e-wallets and more at retail locations throughout the U.S., starting with 6,000 7-Eleven stores.

Lithium Technologies


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Your customers are everywhere. Lithium helps you find your social customers, understand their influence, and build lasting relationships. For market leaders such as Best Buy, AT&T, Research In Motion Limited (RIM), Univision, and PayPal, Lithium is the leading provider of social customer solutions that deliver real business results. The Lithium Social Customer Suite offers complete social monitoring, a comprehensive community platform, and actionable analytics across millions of blogs, forums, and social networking sites. Our technology is proven in high-volume, growth environments and provides security, open and custom APIs, and multi-language support. Founded in 2001, Lithium is privately held with headquarters in Emeryville, California. For more information, visit Or, engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, and our community – the Lithosphere.



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Kiip lets premium brands provide rewards to casual mobile gamers for in-game achievements. Their platform is designed for in-game engagement via a universal game moment: the achievement moment. Catch the user while they are the most engaged, happy, and attentive. They're the first solution to help premium brands reach the exploding casual mobile gaming market using real estate in meaningful moments. Currently the network reaches just over 20 million smartphone players worldwide.

A bit more here:




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ChaCha answers who, what, when, where and why, and has emerged as the No. 1 way for advertisers and marketers to engage their audience. Through its unique “ask-a-smart-friend” platform, ChaCha has answered nearly one billion questions since launch from more than 15 million unique users per month via SMS text (242-242™), online (, Twitter (@chacha), Facebook app, iPhone app, Android app, and voice (1-800-2-ChaCha™). Working with major brands such as Paramount, AT&T, Palm, Johnson&Johnson, P&G, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Sonic, and presidential political campaigns, is one of the fastest growing mobile and online publishers according to Nielsen and Quantcast.

ChaCha was co-founded by proven innovator and entrepreneur Scott Jones and is funded by VantagePoint Venture Partners, Rho Ventures, Bezos Expeditions; Morton Meyerson, former President and Vice Chairman of EDS as well as Chairman and CEO of Perot Systems; Rod Canion, founding CEO of Compaq Computer; the Simon family; and Jack Gill, Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

@WalmartLabs (Kosmix)


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Kosmix was acquired by Walmart in May of 2011 to create @WalmartLabs.

Through the innovative fusion of retail, social and mobile, @WalmartLabs is redefining Commerce for the largest retailer worldwide. We are a group comprised of the brightest technologists and businesspeople in the industry, excited about the limitless opportunities that this next generation of Commerce will bring to billions of people around the globe, all in an effort to help them save money and live better.

Kosmix was funded by Time Warner Investments, Accel Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Dag Ventures, private investor Ed Zander and Jeff Bezos' personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions.


WalmartLabs is hiring.


Bullpen Capital

Angel group/VC

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Bullpen Capital is second round investor who invests in companies previously seeded by the Super Angel funds.


Joe Kraus

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Venky Harinarayan

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Scott Jones

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Kevin ryan

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Lyle Fong

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Lyle is the co-founder and CEO of a stealth mobile gaming company. Prior, Lyle also co-founded Lithium and

Phil Libin

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Paul Martino

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Brian Wong

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Danny Shader

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