Roundup: Slim Devices, ChaCha, Digg, eBay ibank of Web 2.0, more

slimdevices.jpgSlimDevices to release latest Squeezebox — The come-out-of-nowhere Mountain View start-up sells a device that lets you play your music anywhere in the house, and hooks up with all kinds of services, from Pandora to Rhapsody. Its latest one will sell for $2,000 device; the NYT has the scoop. This scrappy company is run by 20-somthing Sean Adams, and to our knowledge he has made do with a mere $330,000 from angels (though he may have raised more without us knowing).

ChaCha a new search engine, with guides — That’s right. This company is just like Google, only it pays its employees or contractors to help you refine your search. On the good side, this a really useful service, and we hope ChaCha will stay in business. But that is the mind-boggling part for us. Read the story in the Mercury News. Maybe we’re missing something, but if this service is really for free, how is the company going to make money? Yes, there may be search result advertising (including vidoes while you wait), but we don’t see how that will cover the costs. We tried it out, but got tired waiting for a response (ChaCha is supposed to average about a minute, but we gave up after five minutes waiting for answer we posed about how much venture money start-up Rojo had raised; it was listed on both VentureBeat and Gigaom, but ChaCha didn’t find it). And we were annoyed by the site, which made regular “swooshing” sounds, though don’t understand why (was it the ads?). Don’t want to be quick to criticize; we’re just raising these questions given the prominent coverage in media articles where the cost question isn’t really dealt with.

Band of Angels for India — The Band of Angels in Silicon Valley, a network of individuals who band together to invest in start-ups, has been fixture for years. They told us a few years ago they had no plans to go international. So now there is a Band of Angels in India, led by the same guy Alok Mittal, who also happens to run the new office in India for Silicon Valley venture firm Canaan Partners. See more at Gigaom.

Digg to respond to criticism about clique influence — Responding to criticism that a small group of influential “Diggers” are controlling what news gets to the site’s home page, Digg chief exec Kevin Rose says he’s found a way to counterbalance their influence. He said a new algorithm will “look at the unique digging diversity of the individuals digging the story. Users that follow a gaming pattern will have less promotion weight. This doesn’t mean that the story won’t be promoted, it just means that a more diverse pool of individuals will be [needed] to deem the story homepage-worthy.”

Has eBay become the investment bank for Web 2.0? — With Web calendar company Kiko being bought on eBay for $250,000 by another company Tucows, this is a question being posed lately about eBay being posed lately. Om first joked about eBay setting a new floor on investment banking fees about a few days ago. Now Techcrunch is talking about it as a serious way for Web 2.0 companies to be bought. There are more showing up. Indeed, why don’t companies place a permanent listing at eBay, disclosing the lowest price they’d agree to be sold for — even if they aren’t desperate for a sale yet? They can keep changing the offer price, depending on their own assessment of their promise. In Kiko’s case, of course, the company had run out of steam, and wanted to make whatever it could from a sale of its assets. And Tucows, which wanted a basic calendar company for its own use, made the move. Tucows probably wouldn’t have found out about Kiko without eBay. Conclusion: The risks associated with starting a Web company, already reduced because of the very low costs involved, have just gotten even lower. Maybe that’s why you see even more Web calendars still launching (the company hassome differentiating features such as voice-enabled entries, and new ways of synching.)

Woz’s book, and Steve Jobs’ change of heartValleyway runs with some news that it concedes might be a tad old; but we hadn’t seen it. It is about Woz’s book, and why the Apple co-founder couldn’t get his former colleague, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, to write a foreward. Perhaps no one saw news about the book until now because the latest, from the DailyNews, has a much more colorful quote from Wozniak:

“We wanted him to do a foreword, but he declined,” Wozniak tells Jacob Bernstein this week in WWDScoop, the new magazine from Women’s Wear Daily. “He felt the book sort of portrayed me as a good guy and him as an a-hole.”

Among other anti-Jobs anecdotes, Wozniak recalls in the book that when he invented a universal remote control and sent it to Jobs, he threw it against a wall, stuck it in a box, and mailed it back. “Steve had a fit about it,” Wozniak tells Bernstein. “He was under the impression that I’d left Apple in a very negative mode.”