Here’s the latest action:
1) Google facing employee overload
2) Verizon Wireless abandons legal challenge of FCC rules
3) Qualcomm comes up with competition for WiMAX
4) Could Yahoo finally be giving up social networking?
5) Google’s PageRank changes injure startups, again
And a handful of fundings:
6) Linkstorm raises $4.2 million from 60 angels
7) JibJab takes a further $3 million from Polaris
8) Zoji receives $1.5 million in seed funding
9) Socialthing raises $300,000 for profile aggregation
Google facing employee overload — Google may be overstocking itself with new employees. Jordan Rohan, an RBC Capital Markets analyst, told News.com, “Half the company has been hired in the last 12 months. That’s chaotic. The new employees find it difficult to figure out how to get things done.” Facing an employee glut, Google may not have the corporate expertise to structure the next for their new worker bees.
Simultaneously, Google is undergoing a talent drain, with some of its best and brightest striking out on their own. (The most recent: Salman Ullah.) Even John Doerr, an original Google investor and board member, is worried that the company’s culture may not survive the changes. Larger, more lumbering and less talented by the day: Is Google finally ready to become a regular corporation?
Verizon Wireless abandons legal challenge of FCC spectrum rules — Verizon’s appeal to the courts to force the Federal Communications Commission to abandon the rule structure it set up for the 700mhz wireless spectrum auction has been dropped by the company. It’s unclear why the telecom giant decided to stop trying to force the issue, but it was probably simple a matter of good sense; the courts have historically declined to interfere with the FCC’s authority.
The auctions, set for January 2008, aren’t likely to run into any more obstacles at this point. Verizon had taken issue with the controversial “open access” requirement that will allow any device to work on the network, regardless of who owns it.
Qualcomm may have a better plan for wireless access — The vaunted WiMAX technology that companies like Intel, Motorola and Sprint are pouring money into may face a strong challenger. Qualcomm has announced a new line of chips, called Gobi, that are capable of accessing multiple types of networks — for example, both EV-DO and HSPA.
Building cellular access chips into laptops has long been a problem, because each type of chip can usually only process the signal from one carrier network. (The Gobi probably uses a technology called software radio, which is designed to eliminate the need for multiple chips.) Depending on how much Qualcomm charges, its new chips may be preferable until the more efficient WiMAX networks are fully built out.
Yahoo giving up on social networking? — “I don’t think Yahoo can be Facebook tomorrow. I don’t think we want to be Facebook,” said Jerry Yang to reporters at an advertising conference yesterday. That’s news to everyone who has watched Yahoo torturously modify its failed Yahoo 360 social network into the new Yahoo Mash, which has been compared to Facebook more than any other social networking site it may be trying to emulate.
Mash is still in private beta. The question now is whether Yahoo, under the new leadership of Yang, will drop the me-too project and focus on something that might actually succeed, or try to differentiate itself with some unusual features. (Via the Mercury.)
Google undergoes sweeping change in PageRank algorithms — The search giant periodically changes the automated rules that determine how sites rank in its search results. The latest shift, noticed today by bloggers, will have a serious effect on a number of blog networks and some startups. Major sites affected include Engadget and DownloadSquad; both will likely to lose a large amount of traffic due to their lower ranking. Google’s changes appear to have been made to combat paid links and in-text advertisement.
Linkstorm raises $4.2 million from 60 angel investors — Linkstorm offers a method for turning a single link into multiple links. When a mouse pointer touches the link, it opens up into a interactive box showing subject lines and other links, much like drop-down menus. It also offers a banner tool that expands the size of an advertisement on a mouse roll-over. Both products are marketed to advertisers; several have already been deployed from companies including Hyundai and Cisco. The company’s total funding is up to $13.2 million; Linkstorm had already taken $9 million from 150 individuals, and a few of them re-invested in this third round. Funding news via VentureWire (subscription required).
JibJab takes a further $3 million from Polaris Ventures — peHUB dug up the funding amount, initially undisclosed in the company’s press release today. Together with the previous round, JibJab has taken about $6.4 million, all from Polaris. The company makes annoying-but-amusing videos and greeting cards (today’s announcement was for new e-cards); to see what we mean, check out Starring You.
Zoji receives $1.5 million in seed funding — Yet another online invitations site wanting to take down Evite, the grandfather of them all. Zoji is betting on a full set of social features, including messaging, chatting and photos; it will also save invitations and event details over time, leaving a sort of event scrapbook behind. Like another site we’ve profiled in the past, MyPunchBowl, Zoji also has a feature for reaching consensus for a date among the invitees.
Socialthing raises $300,000 for yet another social network profile aggregator — Boulder, Colo. based Socialthing, yet to launch publicly, consolidates social networks into a single dashboard. It will let you track contacts, blogs, photos and music across multiple social networks. But there are already a host of other companies that do something very similar, including ProfileBuilder, meeCard, FindMeOn.com, OtherEgo.com, ProfileMat.com. There are also ways to track activities on various networks, using Friendfeed, to stay on top of friends’ activities on various platforms. So we’re not certain why we need another company to do this, but we’ll wait and see. EonBusiness provided the funding, as part of a seed round totaling $500,000.