The latest start-up and tech news here in raging Silicon Valley:

Yahoo Messenger — As mentioned earlier, new Yahoo Messenger is out, with PC-to-phone calls. With music and other cool doodads. Though TechDirt mentions this is largely a launch that was already announced in December, in case you are wondering why it sounds familiar, and we agree that the promise of cheap pricing shouldn’t really be the point. One little new nugget by Yahoo is its move on the music front. Om notices a little music icon. While separately, Yahoo says it has a Gadget where you can now listen to music right from your desktop, via widgets and sidebars.

Yahoo Music

Firefox II — Early version of next generation Firefox browser is out. Check it out here.

Claria’s change — Silicon Valley’s Claria getting out of ad-ware? Really? Proof will be in the pudding. So much has been written in the past about this company and how it is finally changing its stripes that this time we will just wait and see. Being a valley company, and offering a service that tracks your Web surfing behavior so that advertisements can be served to you, is a tough business to be in — because tech people here will look at you askance. Even now, after tracking has become a little more accepted lately. We think it would be more sensible for a company that does this to be located outside of Silicon Valley.

An auction for patents — Here’s an EETimes story about a first major auction for patents, planned in San Francisco in April, but with no details. Anyone know what they’re talking about? (Update: Thx to an anonymous reader, here it is.)

Child blogging — It is getting younger and younger. Industrious Kid, of San Francisco, has raised $6M to go after elementary schoolers with its new site, imbee.com, planned for launch in May. There is controversy surrounding sites like MySpace, where parents are worried about not having control over what their kids are seeing. So Jeanette Symons conceived of the idea for Imbee after her 8-year-old son wanted to start his own blog. “The first thought I had was…when he goes to get a job or something, they’ll pull up whatever bizarre thoughts he had as an 8-year-old,” she told VentureWire in this piece (sub required). So this designed to be a safe place and has “rigorous screening.” There is surely a market for this. It will be a closed site, not accessible from the wider Web. Question: How do you make money off of 8 or 9 year olds? ;-)

Feel good about your car’s emissions — For all you folks who haven’t been able to buy a Prius, and feel a pang of guilt for driving around a car that pollutes a little more than it should. Check out TerraPass, a Menlo Park start-up that you can pay $50 to, and which will use that money to fund projects that will off-set your car emissions (free registration). Great idea. We’ll try it out. By the way, this is another team that got started in the old-energy region back East, but now the company is based in Silicon Valley. More proof of the clean-tech cluster building here.

Latest Silicon Valley fight — over 802.11n — Netgear, Airgo and Broadcom (based in Irvine, but has offices here in San Jose) are the antagonists in the competition over the latest wireless protocol.

Things getting bubbly in China — We’ve said this before. But signs are increasing: Here’s an interesting blurb in VentureWire (sub required) about how Gobi, a venture fund in China run by some former Silicon Valley times invested in digital-mapping company Beijing Lingtu Software. The company has found so many other options for raising cash that its cutting into Gobi’s hopes for a big payoff from an eventual stock sale. In 2003, when Gobi made its investment founder…

…Li Zhongliang was so desperate for money that he drove 14 hours to be at Gobi’s office the next morning. A few weeks laterGobi bought a 20% stake.


…At least 20 venture-capital firms have visited Beijing Lingtu in recent months, with rosy valuations and firm offers to invest before an IPO next year. (Gobi’s) Tsao worries that too much money now could hurt some of the financial ratios investment bankers consider important and limit the potential profit on a stock offering.

Correction: Please note correction on the Benjamin item re Highland Capital, if you haven’t already.

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