Here’s the latest tech goings-on in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, minus the Google stuff.

Hoovers’ assault on LinkedIn — We recently mentioned Spock, the people search engine that is challenging LinkedIn to become the largest provider of profile pages. Now LinkedIn is getting charged from its rear. Hoovers is going after its contacts business. Joining with Silicon Valley start-up, Visible Path, Hoovers is providing something (see NYT) called Hoovers Connect. It lets users mine their personal networks to find people who might help them while researching a topic. You download the Connect software, and its searches your email contacts for people you’ve emailed, along with frequency. So when you search for say, Microsoft, you’re greeted with a box saying: “Connect to Microsoft through someone you know.”

Venture capitalists not so well off — We may have implied too strongly that most venture firms are doing well. In fact, only a very few firms are doing well; the top ones are pulling up the average. One investor sent in some math to Dan Primack: The return for all VC money raised during years 1999-2006 and then invested is negative 4.2 percent internal rate of return. The top-quartile of performers saw 0.2 percent returns. In other words, the overall industry has seen overall negative returns since 1998. For funds raised that year, the pooled return becomes 0.1 percent, and the top quartile is 2.8 percent. To get double-digit returns for the last 10 vintage years in aggregate, you have to be in the 81st percentile.

The beauty of Vonage’s terrible IPO — Jeffrey Citron, chairman and founder of Vonage, just has to wait until Nov. 21 — less than three weeks away — to cash in on his 47.67 million shares. That’s when the 180-day lockup expires on the company’s IPO. He got his shares at $1.71 each, so at $6.90 per share, as Vonage is currently trading, he’ll have a net $247 million. Not bad for a company still losing lots of money, whose stock that has declined steadily from $17 a share since its IPO, and customer churn is increasing. Public investors got killed, but Citron makes out big.

Joanna Rees Gallanter giving away Fon routers — Gallanter, who once ran the SF venture firm VSP Partners, before it imploded, is now chief executive in charge of U.S operations of FON, now that Juergen Urbanski has left.

What do Pluggd, Gabbr, Blufr, Plurn, Qoosa, Wufoo, Talkr and Faqqly have in common? — Their domain names cost about $8.99. See Forbes story on this: The leader of Pluggd said it would have cost him $10,000 to buy the extra vowel, and get Plugged. Problem is, have you heard of any of these? Would you trust them?

Yahoo is trying to patent “interestingness”Bizarre.

Compete offers a better measurement tool, it says — New company Compete says it offers a better traffic measurement tool than the unreliable Alexa. Let us know what you think of this one; we haven’t kicked the tires. The tool is called Snapshot. This FAQ is helpful:

Compete estimates site traffic and engagement metrics based on the daily browsing activity of over 2,000,000 U.S. Internet users. Compete applies a rigorous normalization methodology, leveraging scientific multi-dimensional scaling (by age, income, gender and geography) to ensure metrics are representative of the U.S. Internet population. Compete members are recruited through multiple sources, including ISPs, the Compete Toolbar and additional opt-in panels to ensure a diverse distribution of user types and to facilitate de-biasing across the data sources.

Alexa provides site rankings which are based on people who use the Alexa Toolbar. Alexa does not disclose the number of active users within its panel and recruits its users disproportionately from all over the world.

Alexa shows Adultfriendfinder trailing Facebook, as we noted yesterday. Compete, however, shows Adultfriendfinder way ahead of Facebook. Porn wins every time, remember.

Speaking of which, here’s news about how advertisers are starting to demand more proof from publishers about their real traffic rates.

Note on Charles River seed funding project — Lots of commentary on our CRV piece yesterday, including some private emails. One source cautions it’s hard to find examples of companies that get funding from another firm once a branded firm decides to not put in more money: Every experience I’ve had is that it scares off other investors who think that the insider knows more than they do. The other big problem is that even if the seeding firm puts in more money, it scares off other people from putting in a bid because they assume that they will be used as a stalking horse. So, the net effect is lower pricing on future rounds, if any, from other firms.

Pluck is shutting down its RSS reader — The company is turning its attention toward business clients, so can’t afford to offer the free RSS reader. After all, Silicon Valley investor Allen Morgan of Mayfield did say that he wanted it to gun for an IPO.

Apple’s new Shuffle, and new book — Apple has a new iPod Shuffle out, beginning tomorrow. One gigabyte for $79. There’s also a new book out, by Newsweek’s Steven Levy, called “The Perfect Thing,” about the Shuffle.

Baidu’s profit is finally soaring — Chinese search engine Baidu is finally showing profit growth. Profit rose ten-fold to $10.8 million in the third quarter. It has 44 percent share of the market, according to research firm Analysys. Yahoo has 21 percent, Google 13 percent.

AT&T has launched Homezone in Bay AreaThis is its Internet over TV offering, in conjunction with Echostar’s Dish Networks

Cingular launches cellphone music service
— Lets you download music files from Yahoo, Napster and eMusic to your phone.

(Update: Corrected reference to Allen Morgan)


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