Roundup: Solar-motorbike, Webwag, Marchex, Google Gadget Ventures, more

Here’s the latest (updated) action:The solar-powered motorbike from SunRed in Spain — Read the little story about how the company hopes to make a prototype soon, and needs venture capital to do so.

Marchex launches huge Web site — The public company said it has launched more than 100,000 local and vertical Web sites, publishing more than one billion pages of content for hoping to bait people surfing online. These are third-rate sites, originally filled with advertising, but now hosting more than 15 million business listings in sundry categories. Marchex also scrapes the Web for reviews and other content to place in these sites. The sites include www.cuisine.com, www.locksmiths.com, www.remodeling.com, and www.bayareahotels.com. Marchex paid Yun Ye of Name Development $164 million for 100,000 sites. Marchex says 30 million unique visitors monthly land on its sites by typing in domain names, willingly or unwittingly. This is very similar to the strategy of Demand Media, another opportunist land-grab company we’ve covered. (More at the NYT).

doll.jpgVenture Capitalist blasts buyout industry — Dixon Doll (left), the co-founder of venture capital firm DCM, next chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, said his group is working hard to fend of a new tax that could affect the VC industry. He blamed the buyout industry for the recent proposal in Congress for such a tax, saying it is “plain and simply because of the unbelievable egos of the guys running the PE firms like Blackstone and KKR,” he said. “They put big targets on their back … calling attention to themselves in a nonflattering way.” (We’ve reported on the lavish parties and $300 stone crab eaten by the Blackstone crowd.) They also don’t create jobs, he said: “It’s ‘Barbarians at the Gate’ all over again,” he said. (Via VentureWire.)

The slow video joint venture between News Corp. and NBC Universal — We’ve reported on this joint effort to answer YouTube. Today (Thursday), they appointed a high-level Amazon.com executive, Jason Kilar, to be chief executive of the venture. He led Amazon’s efforts in video and DVD. It is supposed to launch later this year. However, we were on the conference call today, and the date of launch seems uncertain. This is a very slow project. And each week that goes by, YouTube gets bigger. And strangely, News Corp.’s own MySpace launched MySpace TV today, which will serve to confuse. The venture has 30 employees, Kilar said. The venture — which still has no name — is reportedly trying to raise $100 million on a valuation of $1 billion (Paid Content).

Hollywood veterans launch Film Department — Mark Gill, formerly president of Warner Independent Pictures, and Neil Sacker, a former executive vice president at Miramax, said they’ve formed an independent film company with $200 million in financing from a group of unnamed private investors. (Update: We’ve been told Gill got money from Deutsche Bank). It will be called Film Department (no site yet). It will produce six films a year with budgets between $10 million and $35 million. Sounds almost retro, at a time when there’s so much Web novelty. (Details here.)

google-gadget.jpgGoogle Gadget Ventures — Google announced a pilot project to support third-party developers of gadgets, the cornucopia of items you can choose for your Google home page. It is offering (1) grants of $5,000 to developers who’ve built gadgets in for Google’s directory that already receive at least 250,000 weekly page views, and (2) seed investments of $100,000 to previous Google Gadget Ventures grant recipients who’d like to build a business around the Google Gadgets platform. More details here. This is a smart way for Google to build an active community around its platform

The exodus continues from Google — Indeed, Google may need to nurture those smart developers sooner than they think. Here’s a good summary in the WSJ about the growing stream of people leaving Google. The Silicon Valley mentality: There’s no point working for a public company, especially if it looks like the stock has hit highs for a while, and when you can go roll the dice at another start-up. By being up in Redmond, Microsoft doesn’t suffer the same walk-across-the-street problem. This will be interesting to watch.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets supports folders — Folders, that’s right. Gmail doesn’t give you folders, but Google Docs does. This, and other updates (details here).

Feedster launches disorienting “Version 2.0″ — We’re having difficulty understanding what this well-funded company does that is different. Odd. We’ll look into it.

Pageflakes turns your home page into a social networkPageflakes is one of dozens of companies offering you a home page where you can put widgets of information such as email, news, weather and sports. Next month, it launches Blizzard, which lets people subscribe to their friends’ widgets of information, or “pagecasts” as Pageflakes calls them. (Erick Schonfeld has the details).

Webwag, which is similar to Pageflakes, lets you synchronize your widgets with your phoneDetails here. We first wrote about this company here.


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