Here’s a list of recent stories, and we’ll probably have more next week!
If he’s not already a mad scientist, perhaps he will be? — Stanford neuroscientist Bill Newsome wants to implant an electrode in his brain to better understand human consciousness, according to this piece in Technology Review.
How does brain activity translate into consciousness — a person’s self-awareness and perception of the world around them? Bill Newsome, a neuroscientist at Stanford was able to change the way a monkey responded to its environment by sending electric jolts to parts of its brain. But Newsome wants to do it to himself. Here’s the last question from Technology Review:
TR: Do you really want to do this?
BN: Well, I’ve thought about it very carefully. I’ve talked to neurosurgeons, both in the United States and outside the country where the regulatory environment is less strict, about how practical and risky it is. If the risk of serious postsurgical complications was one in one hundred, I wouldn’t do it. If it was one in one thousand, I would seriously consider doing it. To my chagrin, most surgeons estimate the risk to be somewhere in between my benchmarks.
Prosper raises cash — Prosper, the San Francisco social networking start-up that lets borrowers and lenders bid on loans and cut out the middleman, has raised about $12 million in a second round of funding.
By the way, this isn’t the only company trying to do this. There’s Duck9 in Palo Alto, which also offers “peer-to-peer” lending. But there is little info about the company on the site, and doesn’t look venture backed.
Prosper’s funding comes after a $7.5 million first round a year ago. Fidelity Ventures led round, which included existing investors Accel Partners and Benchmark Capital. Omidyar Network also came in as a new investor.
Good Technology shows good timing — The Palo Alto company, which sells software for mobile email services, has raised another $20 million in its fifth round of funding. It brings the total round up to $95 million, giving it a treasure trove to wage battle at a time when competitor RIM (maker of the Blackberry) is battling patent issues with NTP in court. Other Silicon Valley players circling in the tank are Visto and Seven Networks, which have raised $241 million and $95 million, respectively, according to VentureOne.
ValueAct Capital led the round, which included existing investors Kleiner Perkins, Benchmark and others.
Elon still working on his rocket — We’ve talked before about the prolificacy of the founders of the online payments service PayPal. We listed a bunch of them, and the companies they went off to found. But we forgot one, Elon Musk, who has been working on a space rocket idea for quite some time. Here’s the latest; he’s been quiet lately, but he’s not giving up.
Paul Graham’s Y Combinator hatchery — The NYT has a story (registration required) about the 41-year-old “dimple-cheeked entrepreneur” who sold his company, Viaweb, to Yahoo in 1998. We’ve pointed to some of his popular essays in the past, including How to Start a Startup.
Now he has established Y Combinator which is basically a camp for start-ups, and is run both here in Mountain View and in Cambridge, Mass. He apparently had more than 200 teams, with two to four people a team, apply for the first workshop — even though it had just eight slots. Here’s a blurb about one participant, 26 year-old Phil Yuen, who came up with a service called TextPayME, which sends cash payments via text messaging:
Last month, Mr. Yuen was in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley, demonstrating his product to venture capitalists and other tech entrepreneurs. At a Y Combinator dinner, he asked Evan Williams, a co-founder of Blogger, who was a guest speaker at the event, for his cellphone number and then sent him $2 using TextPayMe. (Mr. Yuen, incidentally, has now accumulated a trove of cellphone numbers of Silicon Valley heavyweights and offers from three venture capital firms.)
What’s up with Firefox? — They’re at a crucial juncture; hope they don’t blow it (piece cites people complaining about its memory usage, etc).
With PARC, Silicon Valley now officially a ‘green’ hub — The Palo Alto Research Center, the Xerox subsidiary, has launched a green technology initiative, focused on solar, energy distribution, energy conservation and efficiency, clean water, air quality, and some paper-reduction technologies.
The initiative evolved over the past year as a grassroots initiative based on “the instincts and interests of PARC’s research community,” Jennifer Ernst, PARC’s communication manager, told Joel Makower. We mentioned (scroll down) the new solar start-up, SolFocus, as one product of this. But that’s apparently just the beginning.
Ernst sees great potential for PARC to become one of the leading hubs of clean and sustainable technologies. “We see this as an area that’s growing not only from the needs of the world but the needs of regulatory pressures, market trends, and consumer demand for more green products…
…Those competencies are not insignificant. After all, PARC is the birthplace of the Ethernet, laser printers, computer windows, WYSISYG editing, bit-mapped displays, and the first commercial use of the computer mouse, among other things we now take for granted.
Savi wins $425M from Department of Defense — Many of us are preoccupied with geek-festing over new Web 2.0 products. Niall Kennedy, formerly at Technorati has just kicked off something called SF Tech Sessions, and had the first one last night. But there’s lots of other stuff going on. Savi Technology, for one, has just won a $424.5 million contract from the DoD for use of its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) products and services, which will help in tracking supplies of material for the Iraqi war. Just caught our attention; you don’t hear people talking much about contributing to the Iraq campaign. Half a bill’ is a lot of cash.