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Mayans Shmayans. 2012—It’s Simply Time to Move with the Cheese! Q&A with David Siemer on M&A, Venture Cap Trends & the LA Tech Scene in 2012.

Mayans Shmayans. 2012—It’s Simply Time to Move with the Cheese! Q&A with David Siemer on M&A, Venture Cap Trends & the LA Tech Scene in 2012.

by Kathleen Blackwell

Welcome, 2012. I, for one, am happy 2012 is underway and look forward to a year of opportunity and change, even amidst global uncertainty. On my holiday reading list was a pay-it-forward book passed to me by a friend: Who Moved My Cheese, a New York Times business bestseller since it’s release. The book describes change in one’s career and life and the four typical reactions to change by two mice—Sniff and Scurry—and two “littlepeople”—Hem and Haw—during their hunt for cheese. Cheese is a metaphor for what we want to have in life, such as a job, a relationship, money or a big house. Cheese can even be an activity, like jogging or golf—or starting a business, or investing in one with traction.

2011 brought widespread disruption across the globe on all levels, from the Occupy movement in the U.S., to the tsunami devastation in Japan, to the Grecian fallout, and the ending of the U.S. invasion in Iraq—this list barely touches the surface and left many people wondering what 2012 would bring against the backdrop of events that will undoubtedly lead us into a new future—yes, change. When the only constant is change, how you manage change can make all the difference in the world. How do you handle change? How do you lead your business into a new year and navigate the high seas amidst uncertainty? Do you “sniff and scurry” or do you “hem and haw”?

David Siemer – Siemer & Associates LLC / Siemer Ventures

Let’s check in with David Siemer, Managing Director of Siemer & Associates LLC, a global boutique merchant bank, and Managing Partner of Siemer Ventures, its early-stage investment arm and an active investment fund in Southern California, to see how he handles change with some Q&A on the global M&A market, 2012 venture capital trends, the LA tech startup scene, plus Siemer’s golden nugget advice for success as an entrepreneur.

Prior to the mad-dash holiday rush, I had an opportunity to interview David Siemer, and while it’s common knowledge the Mayans predicted the end of the world as we know it in 2012, Siemer and company have another perspective. Siemer sees ample opportunity in the right places, in the right sectors, and at the right time. Pursued with excitement and armed with data—moving with the cheese is Siemer’s golden ticket to success in 2012. While Europe is in a funk, Southeast Asia is wide open, brimming with momentum for investments and growth, and the LA tech scene is stamping its mark. Change is your ally—welcome to the future. Now let’s get cozy with Dave Siemer:

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Startup Spotlight: IgnitionDeck Looks to Ignite Crowdfunding by Empowering Creators with a DIY Twist—Funding On Your Terms (#WordPress)

Startup Spotlight: IgnitionDeck Looks to Ignite Crowdfunding by Empowering Creators with a DIY Twist—Funding On Your Terms (#WordPress)

Hallelujah—it’s here! Finally, an intelligent twist within the crowdfunding platform that speaks to creators (musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, etc.), and aims to put the “$-kaching” back into the hands of developers, versus middlemen. IgnitionDeck is a newly launched WordPress plugin allowing artists to self-fund their projects without asking for permission, or giving away more money than they have to when using a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or IndieGogo.

Last week I ran across a post on Facebook talking about IgnitionDeck and instantly became smitten with the “take charge, empowering concept,” so I reached out for a quick “Startup Spotlight Q&A” with the IgnitionDeck Founders—Nathan Hangen and Shawn Christenson. Super smart guys, awesome concept twist—enjoy the Q&A!

1. What is the IgnitionDeck app? Who is the intended, or target audience?

Here. We. Go. IgnitionDeck is a DIY crowdfunding platform for WordPress that installs as a plugin and allows creators to raise money without the restrictions of other platforms. The problem we see with Kickstarter and similar platforms is that if your campaign fails to raise, you end up with zero investment despite the fact that you’ve worked your tail off trying to drive traffic to the Kickstarter site. We’re building IgnitionDeck for those people, and anyone else that wants to crowdfund on their own terms, rather than the terms of the middle man. It’s perfect for musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, and anyone else that has something cool to sell.

2. How is IgnitionDeck different from Kickstarter, or other crowdfunding platforms, like IndieGogo?

For starters, it’s the only product of its kind that empowers the creator, rather than the middle man. With ID, the creator is in complete control—they get to drive traffic to their site instead of another platform, get to keep the SEO benefit of linking/sharing, and get to keep all of the money (outside of Paypal’s fees). Another big benefit is that it works outside of the U.S., so anywhere you can use Paypal, you can use IgnitionDeck.

3. Are you the sole Founder/Creator of IgnitionDeck?  If not, who are the other team members?  Backgrounds?

The team is made of two co-founders, Nathan Hangen & Shawn Christenson, who live in Florida and Alberta, respectively. We both do a little bit of everything, but Shawn, being the better designer by far, does much of the product design, while Nathan focuses heavily on development and product management.

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Gamification—What Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

Gamification—What Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

Gamification. It has become one the top buzz words in tech advertising. Every agency that makes websites or apps for non-gaming products have started looking at the advantages and disadvantages of this new concept.

New Concept?

Yes, for those outside of gaming, this concept of gamification is BRAND new. The idea of game concepts in a serious business doesn’t seem to be a normal leap. First, let’s examine the concept of gamification.

Definition: Gamification is the integration of game theory or concept to non-gaming environments to increase engagement, loyalty, and entertainment values. Simply, engage users in a better way. This can be applied to any industry from health and fitness to education and transportation.

How to apply this to your needs. First a basic understanding of your customers is key. People want to feel accomplished and recognized. Then they like to share within their social circles. Games are the epitome of the Risk/ Reward system. To apply these to your business will most likely yield great results. So let’s take imaginary company X and apply this:

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Cap the Net…Spoil the Competition? Super Wi-Fi, Broadband Co-Op’s, and Mesh Networks? And Could Google Become the New Word for ‘Internet Service Provider’?

Cap the Net…Spoil the Competition? Super Wi-Fi, Broadband Co-Op’s, and Mesh Networks? And Could Google Become the New Word for ‘Internet Service Provider’?

So AT&T is about to join Comcast and a few others by imposing limits on how much wired broadband subscribers can download per month. While 150-250 gigabytes a month isn’t as extreme as smaller caps in other parts of the world, never mind the caps imposed on many wireless broadband subscribers, it renders the idea of unlimited broadband service all but irrelevant here in the U.S. And that’s on top of the fact that U.S. broadband customers pay more for slower broadband than most other industrialized nations.

These same companies also provide cable TV service that isn’t subject to the imposition of limits on how much a subscriber can watch.

When another cable concern, Time Warner, which hasn’t imposed any downloading limits as of yet, is said to have made, from its revenues, 30 times what it spent on providing broadband service to its customers, then on the surface it could be suggested that the caps that service providers are imposing on Internet downloads is a money grab.

True, AT&T suggested that only 2% of its subscribers will be affected by the caps, and the average consumer downloads 18 gigabytes a month. But when everything from cloud computing and storage to Netflix is either already happening or in the process of happening online, that means more gigabytes to download, and more people at risk of breaking the cap and having to pay more, if not get their service cut off.

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Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Apple Tracking: Who Would Have Thought They Would Become Big Brother?

Yesterday, O’Reilly Media researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden released an article exposing a hidden file that records every movement  of an iPhone. All iPhones store location data in a file called consolidated.db. Warden released an OS X application to show users the significance of their discovery. The application shows each user where they have been since last July. Not only is the data stored on your phone but also your computer.

This database of your locations is stored on your iPhone as well as in any of the automatic backups that are made when you sync it with iTunes.

This isn’t the first time we have heard of the file. In fact in February 2011, Sean Morrissey and Alex Levinson previewed Lantern 2.0 at a Cyber Crimes Conference in Washington DC.  Lantern 2.0 however is a commercial forensics product that retails from $600-700. And before that, Alex Levinson began work on the vulenerabilities of iPhone and iPad. Check that out by clicking here.

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From the Developers Notebook: Game Making—the Largest of the Entertainment Industries

From the Developers Notebook: Game Making—the Largest of the Entertainment Industries

Game makers around the world have been trying to entertain us for years. At current the Games industry is somewhere around a $50 billion worldwide industry. Certainly the largest of the entertainment industries. But how are they made? We are familiar with movies and music but so often no one addresses the game development process. We are here to show a high level view of what goes on behind the doors of a game studio.

All games are produced by a team of very smart and talented people:

  • Game Designer—The principle person who designs the game from beginning to end, this would include story, characters, goals, and game play.
  • Executive Producer—Oversees the development of the game (timelines, resources, planning).
  • Producer—Oversees part/s of the game development under instruction from EP  (Engine Programmer).
  • Artist—Draws all graphical elements of the game.
  • Game Programmer—Responsible for coding the game, there may be one or several coders.
  • Engine Programmer—Creates and programs the game engine. If the engine is created by someone else, this person may be used for game engine integration
  • Level Programmer—Creates the different levels of a game.

There can be more people involved, but this is the basic crew. Now that we have the team in place, let’s make a game!

Part 1: Game Design Basics

I have been asked several times on how games are made. What are the processes and activities that go into a game? Well to start, games can be very simple or very complex, but there are some overarching rules that most game designers use. Games are made of a set of simple rules that allow the player to advance through the game, but sometimes these rules become complex for the designer. Without getting into too much detail I will go over a few things to keep in mind.

First off, games are not puzzles. They are experiences that take players through an interactive journey. Games are different in that they change with the decisions of the player. Puzzles never change.

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Reality is Broken: Gaming Makes the World Better!

Reality is Broken: Gaming Makes the World Better!

Gaming has always made me happy. But now, I have proof that I NEED to play. Last year, relatively unknown game designer, Jane McGonigal gave a speech at TED that began a movement by which a new term, and industry would evolve. Jane postulated that playing games, makes us better people. And now, she is launching a book that describes in detail that theory. To be honest, this is something I already knew being an avid gamer, but what makes her “studies” more poignant is the fact that we are starting to believe the science behind Gamification.

Jane said some, at the time, outrageous thing like: “If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week, by the end of the next decade.”

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From the Developers Notebook: Zipline Games Looking to Take Mobile and Cloud Development to New Levels

From the Developers Notebook: Zipline Games Looking to Take Mobile and Cloud Development to New Levels

From the Developers Notebook:

Seattle startup Zipline Games looks to make mobile development a speedy process with its new platform. The new platform will allow developers of mobile, social and web-based games and applications to easily get started—up-and-running the same day. It promises to remove the difficulty of cross platform development.

“I wanted to make it possible for game developers and designers to go have a crazy conversation at lunch, then come back and get those new ideas working in the game by the end of the day,” said founder and CTO Patrick Meehan in an interview on Zipline’s website.

The Mobile Platform For Pro Game Developers

Zipline has released the beta version of its development platform MOAI which allows mobile game developers to write the games in Lua rather than writing for each device. Then once the games are completely developed, Zipline offers cloud hosting and royalty free distribution. This is a stand out for smaller developers.  The Moai SDK can handle graphics, animation, input, physics, collisions, and more. Moai Cloud hosts your game logic, databases and additional game content.

“There’s a lot of interesting challenges in the market,” said Zipline co-founder Todd Hooper. “People want to be on board with IOS and Android and you need a solution that lets you get on board with those.”

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Zynga on Wall Street with Sheep—Yes, Sheep.

Zynga on Wall Street with Sheep—Yes, Sheep.

CityVille, FarmVille, and Mafia Wars are part of Zynga’s portfolio. Zynga is considered one of the fastest growing startups with no end in sight. To be realistic Zynga is doing great, but at a big cost. Games like FarmVille do very well in the first 6 months. After that, the numbers fall drastically, in fact so much so that CityVille peaked in one month, then showed decline by the three month mark. But that doesn’t deter a company like Zynga. They reinvent the games, at the latest outing by the company, does just that.

Zynga showed up on Wall Street with a few sheep. Yes, sheep. The company was promoting FarmVille English Countryside, the expansion to its popular FarmVille. With Zynga being valued at around $10 Billion, it’s easy to see how they can march sheep around the Big Apple.

Zynga continues to add gaming talent to its ranks, it evolved with the gameplay from FarmVille, its first breakout hit, into CityVille, an even more successful game in terms of user ramp and monthly active users. CityVille reached 100 million users in just 43 days. However, CityVille has peaked after its initial growth, and lost almost 5 million monthly active users in February alone, just three months after launch. CityVille is still increasing daily active users, but the writing is on the wall: CityVille will follow FarmVille’s decline, only faster. Now the next iteration of FarmVille, is destined for the same cycle. Rapid growth and even faster decline.

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Geocaching: A SmartPhone Adventure

Geocaching: A SmartPhone Adventure

As much as I love being indoors playing on some computing device, there are times when I want to be out playing in the sun. I am fortunate that I live in Southern California. I spend weekends exploring the many things to do from Ventura to San Diego. But something caught my eye recently. Geocaching.

What is this thing might you ask? Let me tell you.

Geocaching Hide-and-Seek Container

Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, or other navigational techniques, to hunt hide-and-seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches,” anywhere in the world. Simply: It’s a treasure hunting game that requires some sort of GPS. Think pirate maps where “X” marks the spot, but then add technology.

Geocaching is more similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embed into stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from GPS on May 1, 2000, because the improved accuracy of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.

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Social Media to the Rescue: Helps with Network Congestion

Social Media to the Rescue: Helps with Network Congestion

The state of the mobile network during and after Japan’s earthquake was in shambles. The emergency services and local authorities used what was left of the badly damaged network. But fear not my little social media peeps; during such emergencies, it seems Twitter, Facebook, and in Japan’s case Mixi all remained untouched by the natural disaster.

Ok kids, let’s explore what happens and how social networks are the best source of communication during major catastrophes.

  1. The primary objective of any network provider during an emergency is to immediately limit the cell phone (voice) usage on the network. It needs to be maintained for emergency purposes only. Having everyone on the network is usually not a good thing in normal circumstances, but especially in emergency situations. And the gut reaction, we all have them, is to make a phone call to hear the voice of a friend or loved one.
  2. The second objective of the network provider is that it needs to control its sms (text) service. As with all techie nations Japan uses text as a viable form of communication, not just to find which bar the friends are headed to. But communication with all circles in their lives.

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Developer Notebook: Watch Out!! They Want To Ruin Your Creation!

Developer Notebook: Watch Out!! They Want To Ruin Your Creation!

Every developer of mobile applications faces the same issues: discovery, monetization, and security. Well, security wasn’t at the forefront until something happened that changed the industry. As seen recently, the mobile world for the first “real” time has been under attack. Last week’s attack on Android has shown there are serious flaws in security. Experts in security have predicted that smartphones will be targeted heavily as more users migrate from computers to smartphones in 2011. Moreover, the attack is even new to the world of computing. For the first time hackers can send malware packets and it costs the user real money.

While Google has reportedly expunged over 50 apps on the Android Market, it is very clear that malware and piracy on mobile devices are at the forefront of the new generation of hackers. It is important for mobile developers to begin a paradigm shift in the business and technology models in maintaining a healthy marketplace for mobile users. And more importantly, for the business. In the meantime Google and the likes will have to battle quickly to change the mindset of the community. After last week’s attack Google responded with some vague notions of their plans to help in the cyber war.

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Mobile Gaming On The Rise?

Mobile Gaming On The Rise?

Mobile gaming isn’t new, in fact for the last ten years there have been many that have tried and failed to succeed in the industry. The statistics, however, have been astonishing. A few myths have been busted and some unexpected results have surfaced. Whether you are a casual gamer of play to win, mobile gaming has somehow entered your life in a big way. Myths about mobile gaming are a time-tested activity in mobile gaming, from the idea that mobile carriers actually understand the gaming community to how many people play and where they play. This year’s DICE shed some light on a couple of interesting myths.

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LTE – Long Term Evolution: The New, Faster, Stronger Network For Mobile

LTE – Long Term Evolution: The New, Faster, Stronger Network For Mobile

The world is changing at a rapid pace in the mobile industry. With the onslaught of smartphones, the need for higher network speeds is becoming more crucial than ever. Every carrier is marketing the next generation in speed. First there was GSM and CDMA (3G is how it is typically marketed). Now 4G has all but taken over the marketing of every carrier—reminds me of the latest Best Buy commercial; Outdated World. Funny! True. (Best Buy Buy Back Program: Outdated World.) So, what does that mean for us? Let’s start with some basics. Here is a breakdown of the current speeds and how they relate to us:

CDMA: Allowing for a maximum speed of about 3.1mbps (about 600kbps in practice), which is similar to what a DSL line has to offer and 1mbps upload (about 300kbps in practice).

GSM: 3G networks typically have a maximum speed of 7.2mbps (around 2mbps in practice) download and 1.4mbps upload (more around the 700kbps in practice). Similar to cable speeds.

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