Twitter worth $1 billion. Yup, you read right. The little company that can't seem to nail down how exactly it's going to make money and that employed just 14 people when Inc. wrote about it last year, is raising $50 million at a $1 billion valuation. It may be time for Twitter's critics to concede that cofounders Evan Williams and Biz Stone have a real business on their hands. AllThingsD says the fund-raising round is evidence that Twitter is trying to be the next Google, not sell itself to the current one.
Google buys Carnegie Mellon start-up. Speaking of which, Google has acquired ReCaptcha, a Carnegie Mellon University start-up whose innovative service helps deter spamming bots from infiltrating websites, while simultaneously digitizing books, the Associated Press reports. So how does the service do both things at once? It first identifies snippets of old books that cannot be digitized automatically because digitization-helping software cannot recognize the old text. It then breaks the snippet into single words, and sends them to subscribing websites to be used as the squiggly test images users need to identify to access given parts of sites. When enough web users decipher a given word correctly, it is sent back to ReCaptcha, which is then able to digitize the word. Cool, right? (Via the New York Times.)
Why you need more than a good idea. Panelists like Netscape founder and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh had some salient advice for start-ups in search of VC-backing this week at the TechCrunch50 conference, reports GigaOm. "There's been a lack of focus on distribution," Andreessen said after hearing the start-ups' demos. "The typical path a lot of start-ups take is they launch their product and no one finds out about it." Hsieh was similarly underwhelmed. "I didn't see anything where I thought, 'Oh wow, I think this will change the world," he said. A tall order, perhaps, but winning big with VCs means convincing them that your product or service will shake up whatever industry you're in. For more on Hsieh's philosophy, check out this story on Zappos, the most blissed-out businesses in America.
Skype founders suing eBay. You have to appreciate the deal-making savvy of Skype founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom. Not only did they manage to sell their online phone company to eBay for $2.6 billion, but they managed to retain control of the core technology behind the phone service, a company called Joltid. Now, with a majority interest in Skype slated to be sold to a collection of private investors, they're using their stake in Joltid to try to block the sale and recover millions of dollars in what they say are lost profits. The Wall Street Journal has the news. EBay says the suit is without merit and promises that the sale will go through.
How to get your money's worth at conferences. No, that doesn't mean stuffing your swag bag with all the free pens and stress-relief balls you can carry. Fresh from TechCrunch50, tech entrepreneur and blogger Neil Patel has posted his Beginner's Guide to Attending Conferences. Good news for party animals, Patel says the biggest value of a conference is the after parties. According to him, "When people are loose (have a bit of alcohol in them) they'll end up talking and sharing almost anything." For the teetotalers, Patel also has a number of good tips for making the most of your time during the conference's daylight hours as well. Perfect timing for anyone planning on attending our Inc. 500|5000 Conference next week.
M&A an "empty exercise"? Disney and Marvel. Kraft and Cadbury. Adobe and Omniture. The business press, of late, has been dripping with new M&A deals, but it's a fat farce according to David Weidner at the Wall Street Journal. He says, "Companies almost always overpay for their targets, hurting their shareholders and enriching few except the CEOs who do deals and the investment bankers who goad them into the next must-have merger." But if you're still considering a merger or acquisition, here are some elementary mistakes to avoid, or perhaps you'd rather go IPO.