The Hardware Renaissance

Paul Graham:

One advantage of Y Combinator's early, broad focus is that we see trends before most other people. And one of the most conspicuous trends in the last batch was the large number of hardware startups. Out of 84 companies, 7 were making hardware. On the whole they've done better than the companies that weren't.

They've faced resistance from investors of course. Investors have a deep-seated bias against hardware. But investors' opinions are a trailing indicator. The best founders are better at seeing the future than the best investors, because the best founders are making it.

From personal experience, hardware startups are definitely undergoing a well-deserved renaissance.

Investors are, indeed, somewhat apprehensive. Most tend to default to recommendations of Kickstart-ing a project, rather than pursuing venture capital. But, steadily over the past few months, there's been a marked transition in the typical investor's mindset.

Cautious intrigue has replaced caustic uncertainty and, as a result, there are some truly phenomenal hardware projects being undertaken all over the world. As we've seen in the software industry, startups — and the disruption they encourage — have a keen propensity for upsetting established norms and creating phenomenal new levels of competition.

For the hardware industry — a space so often characterized by monopolizing giants — I couldn't be happier that the tide is turning.

App.net

App.net

Dalton Caldwell:

If you have been considering backing App.net, but have stayed on the fence because you are afraid that App.net is “vaporware”, or because you think that backing us is a waste of time (because it will never succeed), I would encourage you to question those assumptions.

In recent weeks, Twitter has continued down a spiraling path of negativity. Broaching all manner of communal violations, the sanctitude of the real-time web service has come under stern and unflinching scrutiny.

Following the Olympic Opening Ceremony, amidst swirling Twitter-driven controversy, I finally took a moment to invest in App.net. Built upon a sturdy foundation of core values, App.net has framed itself as the would-be successor to the technologist’s Twitter.

Although I question the relevance of App.net for the average person, I tend to believe that the fledgling service represents all that the technology community has clamored for over the past few months. Boasting an outset mission statement for the longevity, viability, and accessibility of the service, App.net is a response to the precise qualms that have otherwise gone impotently unnoticed on Twitter.

Perhaps the most obvious indicator of App.net’s trajectory is its name and branding. Holding an obviously technologist-centric moniker, promoting discussions of platform sanctity, and nurturing a clear pandering toward the contemporary API developer, App.net is rapidly moving toward an existence as an isolated island of like-minded thinkers.

And that’s a truly wonderful thing.

Just as Twitter once started as such a utopia, App.net’s surprisingly competent and enjoyable Alpha is riddled with a veritable who’s who of journalists, developers, and entrepreneurs. And yet, utterly unlike Twitter’s nascent days, App.net’s paid model seems to ensure the long-term nature of the platform as such an environment.

At the time of writing, App.net is just over halfway toward its goal of $500,000 in funding. With five days remaining, the Alpha surpassing expectations, and such innovations being visible to the public, I feel optimistic for App.net’s chances at funding. For a mere $50, the backer receives a place on one of the most compelling and well-considered platforms in years, and has a chance at being a part of one of the most — perhaps the most — important developments in recent memory.

As Twitter continues to pander toward the average Internet user, the service becomes increasingly hostile to its long-standing early adopter base. Such a process is invariably on a continuing path toward disappointment and disillusionment for those of us invested in a real-time, intelligent, and thoughtful community of thinkers.

Thus, with App.net, I propose that you do not consider it as an alternative to Twitter, but rather a complement to it. Due to Twitter’s ever-increasing size and competency as a real-time news service, Twitter is an unquestionably valued — albeit misguided — element of the online experience. Reliant upon advertising revenue, Twitter will continue to be a free service for its user-base. Accordingly, as the brand power of Twitter continues to strengthen, more and more users will contribute to the ongoing collective discussion of worldwide affairs. In short, Twitter will not simply be usurped by App.net, but I imagine its relevance for our community will certainly be effectively subverted, its real-time monopoly undermined, and its aggressive stance toward third party developers hindered.

App.net provides for something altogether different. Something that, over time, may prove endlessly valuable to our community. Offering a paid road block for cruft and humorless parody accounts, App.net is poised to establish itself as a medium for measured, rational, and long-standing discussions between people. A place built upon the same tenets as Quora, but with a much more affable and enticing value proposition as a platform for real-time discussion, news, and contributions.

Spend time watching the Global Stream, read over the service’s mission statement and FAQs, and make an informed decision. I imagine that, as readers of this site, you will find the service compelling, and utterly deserving of your time.

Back App.net today. Already backed? You can find me on the service as @MattAlexander.

eBay Buys Hunch for $80 Million

Hunch.com (via Hunch PR)

Mike Arrington:

The Hunch recommendation technology will be used by Ebay to revamp their own ecommerce recommendations. Dixon will take over Ebay’s existing 50 person recommendations team, and start a new office in New York.

That New York office will eventually grow to some 200 employees, I’m told, who’ll focus on recommendations. But the team will also analyze lots of Ebay data, and perhaps productize some of it or otherwise release it. As an example, Ebay purchase and sale data may help predict inflation or a looming recession better and sooner than any data the government can get their hands on.

A good buy for eBay. Hunch has been looked at by a number of tech giants, but it has taken quite a while for one to bite.

Hunch.com will remain in operation, but now with eBay's backing.