Who’s got game? Introducing the GamesBeat 2009 startup competition

Who’s got game? That’s what we’ll be asking during a special competition happening at VentureBeat’s inaugural games conference for the industry’s top players, on March 24, 2009, at the Mission Bay Conference Center on UCSF’s campus in San Francisco, CA.

VentureBeat at Sundance with Matt Marshall and Shira Lazar: the widget

[Update from Matt: We just finished our last task here at Sundance, about 24 hours after we started our first task. And we actually won the competition! Many thanks to those of you who tuned in to watch us. It was a highly rewarding experience (although frequently embarrassing; making rooster crows in the morning topped it off) and a great insight into how this festival works and the gusto with which people attend movies.

The first 100 tickets to The Crunchies 2008 are on sale!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been taking nominations for the Crunchies 2008. You have voiced your support for your favorite startups, the most impressive entrepreneurs and the coolest gadgets.

Announcing The Crunchies 2008

VentureBeat is happy to officially announce The Crunchies 2008 — the second year of this tech-startup awards ceremony.

“Downturn” roundtable event is tomorrow: What questions are on your mind?

The VentureBeat “how to manage your start-up in a downturn” roundtable event happens tomorrow. We’ll be talking to John Doerr from VC firm Kleiner Perkins, Ram Shriram — one of Google’s first investors — Max Levchin of Slide and Jason Calacanis of Mahalo, among others.

Amidst the cacophony of music start-ups, ReverbNation echoes

While grinning investment bankers, safe pension funds and good returns from tech stocks may be hard to come by for the foreseeable future, the world does not lack start-ups promising to help indie musicians. Among them, ReverbNation, which has just raised $3 million, looks like a serious contender.

LP33.tv launches the underground’s answer to MySpace Music

Today, LP33.tv, the company formerly known as MyAWOL, goes live with its intensely ambitious site for unsigned musicians. The site centers around a video player that features original music videos, short band documentaries and news clips, all produced by LP33’s team. There are rapid edits, hipster rockers, punky pop princesses, and cooler-than-thou VJs, all hearkening back to the MTV and VH1 glory days of yore.

Kampyle lets you know when no one likes your desktop software

When people think your downloadable software sucks, it’s generally hard to find out what you did wrong. Web-based analytics make it easy to track the number of downloads you get, but after that the information tends to dry up. That’s where Kampyle, an Israeli analytics startup, has found what looks like a good business opportunity. Its service will let you know if your software’s being used or immediately uninstalled. And it’ll tell you how many people even bother finishing the install process.

Crowdsourcing the future: Can alternate reality game Superstruct help save the world?

The year is 2019. Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or REDS, has appeared in Stockholm, the first city outside of the tropics to see a case. The disease is known to overwhelm local health resources everywhere it goes, and news of health insurance companies going belly up has become routine. Word is spreading that in the absence of effective governmental responses, ad hoc militias have been forming to forcibly quarantine infected populations around the globe.

Mayfield, a dot-com juggernaut without a recent home run, raises $395 million fund

As the world sits of the doorstep of the biggest financial disaster since 1931, is Silicon Valley biting its nails? Mayfield Fund doesn’t think so. The firm, once considered the peer of the biggest names in venture capital, has raised a $395 fund and says it did so within its anticipated timeline and amidst high demand.

Yotify wants to let you subscribe to everything

If BranchNext, maker of Yotify, has its way, you will one day be able to get updates on everything that matters to you on the web. Do you like that shirt you saw on CafePress but don’t want to throw down all that cash? Yotify would love to tell you when it goes on sale. Looking for a two bedroom apartment in downtown Manhattan? Yotify wants to be there for you when one opens up.

At TechStars, 12 teams show that Boulder, CO, can produce fantastic tech

“Boulder is good for engineers — if you’re into innovation in rock climbing technology,” a friend once quipped about the outdoor-loving Colorado college town. But today, 12 startups from TechStars, a Boulder-based incubator, demoed their products in Mountain View, Calif. and did a good job of building on the city’s reputation as a budding center for high-tech. Almost down to a team, each of companies that presented this morning felt strong.

CityVoter offers local media outlets city guides for their dull websites, raises $2.6 million

The hyper-local concept, which revolves around content — like business reviews — targeted to local niches, has had it rough. Over the last 18 months, two venture-backed start-ups, Judy’s Book and BackFence, have had to shut down. Another site, Insider Pages, sold to Citysearch without generating much of a return to its investors. Only Yelp seems to have gained a significant following.

Magnitude Information Systems, random ergonomics company, invests in Kiwibox, teen social network

Kiwibox.com, an online magazine aimed at teenagers, is a remnant of the dot-com days. Unheralded and mostly undifferentiated, it launched in 1999 and somehow managed to slog its way through the bubble’s pop. In August, it relaunched with a social networking component and has just raised a low-seven figure round from a public company called Magnitude Information Systems.

Fliqz and Kaltura bring video capability to the masses, make Brightcove’s prices look insane

Web video platforms like Brightcove, Move Networks and Maven have a problem: They have all built business models targeting the handful of content companies willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to push video on their sites. As a result, the platforms are angling for the same big fish in a relatively small pond; each must find ways to outdo the next by investing in new features without adding much to their price.

Vuclip mobile video search can make any video format play on your phone

Vuclip, a mobile video search service that has been operating under the radar for a year as Blueapple.mobi, has a very cool technology. In 20 seconds or less, Vuclip can take video encoded in any format and convert it on the fly, so that it can play on a very wide range of phones. Today, the company is launching with a new name, new sites and a service that lets video content companies make their videos available on the mobile web.

MOG, platform for music blogs, launches vertical ad network

Today, MOG, a blogging platform and content aggregator for music-oriented blogs, is launching the MOG Music Network, a vertical ad network that targets music-oriented sites and blogs. The company has also added legendary producer Rick Rubin to its board.

Just a touchpad and a screen: A grand unified theory of Apple’s next big move

Ever since Apple’s chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer, referred to a “future product transition” during the company’s most recent earnings call, the tech news world has been abuzz. The most frenzied speculation has centered around a revision to the MacBook line. For some, the future holds a touchscreen MacBook or an ultra-portable tablet. Others envision a MacBook with a souped-up multi-touch touchpad made of glass positioned below or next to the keyboard. Since marginally informed speculation is the name of the game, I’m going to throw in some chips and say that most of this is likely off the mark.

Stealth mode Conduit Labs’ LoudCrowd revealed

The mysterious Conduit Labs has gone through pains to keep its nature under wraps. The company’s stated goal is to create online social experiences that are as rich as those we have offline, and it has managed to raise $5.5 million from Charles River Ventures and Prism Ventureworks without even launching a product.

When TokBox talks browser-based video chat, Bain Capital and Sequoia listen

In the first years of the 1990s, the attempt to push video chat to the masses got off to an ignoble start when AT&T released its VideoPhone 2500. For the low cost of $1500, you, too, could have choppy, grainy and essentially unwatchable video conversations with other similarly-equipped clueless people around the globe.

Can Novamente’s virtual dogs make a Nintendog look dumb?

Nintendogs for the DS was a brilliant game. Its premise — pick a puppy and nurture it to adulthood — played on the digital pet theme that has driven high sales from Tamagotchi to Pikachu, and let you teach your dogs fancy tricks and skills that would improve over time, almost like it was learning.

WePlay plays with Little League, Derek Jeter and LeBron James, raises $8.6M

If you get superstar athletes to invest in your youth-sports social network, does that mean you’re onto something big? WePlay seems to think so. The company, which combines standard social network features with scheduling functionality to manage practices and games, hopes to attract young athletes and their parents and coaches, and has just raised $8.6 million in its second round of funding. While Deep Fork Capital led the round, previous investors Derek Jeter, LeBron James and Peyton Manning and FirstMark Capital came back as well. If WePlay were any other kind of start-up, we’d wonder why it would raise money from athletes who know nothing about start-ups. While Curt Schilling has a minor reputation for knowing his way around the tech game, Derek and LeBron certainly do not. But in this case, it makes good sense. WePlay is competing in two competitive markets without any major differentiators in either one. On the youth-sports social network side, it is up against the more established Takkle. On the scheduling side, there is RosterBot and TeamSnap. Having sports superstars behind it could give WePlay an edge. The company is not shy about it: The two most prominent features on the site right now are a big square banner offering a chance to meet Derek Jeter and a 15-day old “featured member” blog post from none other than LeBron James. That’s the difference, right there.