Portable water filtration cup maker Grayl raises $800K

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Grayl’s Seattle 10 poster debuted at the GeekWire Gala in December.

Turns out people like having a way to filter their water on the go.

GRAYL 2Seattle-based startup Grayl has raised $800,000 of a $1 million round from angel investors and will use the fresh funds to continue developing its innovative water bottle.

Grayl’s “Water Filtration Cup” looks and works like a French Press. You pour water into one cup, and then use a filter — which doubles as an inner container — to “press” the H2O using Grayl’s patented system. The process takes about 15 seconds and you’re left with cleaner water that is safe to drink.

Grayl, which sells its product online and in 300 stores across the U.S., will use the new cash to expand internationally, grow its team of four, and produce enough inventory to meet demand. The company was recently featured on a new Science Channel TV show called “All American Maker” that mimics Shark Tank.

“It was a blast,” said co-founder Travis Merrigan. “We were pitted against three other companies in our episode — got some great product feedback, and some great contacts.”

Grayl was also selected as one of our Seattle 10 companies late last year, which included local tech startups developing revolutionary technologies that could one day translate into large businesses. Each company re-produced their business ideas on the massive napkins, and you can see Grayl’s above.

Apple likely sold more iPhones in China than in the U.S.

iphonefeatured121Apple will announce its financial results from the last quarter of 2014 tomorrow, and if analyst projections are right, there could be a big change afoot. The Cupertino-based tech giant is expected to reveal that it sold more iPhones in China than it did in the United States.

In the past, the U.S. has led the rest of the world in total iPhones sold, but UBS predicted that China brought in 36 percent of iPhone revenue for Apple during the quarter, according to a report by the Financial Times. By comparison, the U.S. is expected to capture 24 percent of iPhone shipments. It’s a major shift from the same period last year, when the U.S. accounted for 29 percent of iPhone revenue to China’s 22 percent.

That’s a big win for the iPhone 6, as well as Apple’s partnerships with all three of China’s major mobile carriers. It comes almost a year after the company inked a deal with China Mobile to sell the iPhone for the first time.

High iPhone sales in China would be a big payoff for the company, which is drastically expanding its retail presence there. The company is in the process of opening five new retail outlets in China in the run up to the Lunar New Year in mid-February.



Kim Kardashian to star in T-Mobile’s Super Bowl ad

Here’s another Un-carrier move for T-Mobile: Recruiting Kim Kardashian West to star in its Super Bowl commercial.

In the past, T-Mobile’s celebrity spokespeople have included Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, but now it’s tapping someone a little more edgy and mainstream. Kardashian, the reality TV star who is married to rapper Kanye West, announced the commercial this afternoon, adding that the 30-second spot will premiere tonight on “Conan.”

Update: The commercial is now live and can be watched below. In the commercial, Kardashian mocks herself, telling people that millions of gigs of data are taken back by carriers every month. “Tragic,” she says, adding that people could have used them to see her many outfits or follow along with her most recent commercial.

West’s social media presence likely appeals to T-Mobile since it heavily relies on Twitter to interact with its customers. She announced the spot on Monday afternoon to her 28.1 million followers.

In an interview with AdAge, T-Mobile confirmed the importance of her social media following, saying was more of a social media event than it was a commercial. Kardashian has also agreed to interact with customers on behalf of T-Mobile during the Super Bowl, and will post behind-the-scenes footage on Instagram, where she has another 25 million followers.

AdAge notes this is the second appearance for T-Mobile in the Super Bowl, which bought three spots last year. Publicis Seattle worked on the spot.

T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere quickly responded to Kardashian West’s tweet earlier today, saying she “rocked it!.”

T-Mobile is going big this year at the Super Bowl, piggy-backing on the Seahawks popularity in the run up to the game this weekend. Earlier today, we reported that Seahawk Richard Sherman inked an endorsement deal with Bellevue-based T-Mobile.

Sherman is also very active on Twitter with 1.2 million followers. Legere is close to breaking 1 million.

“Richard and I share the same philosophy – compete aggressively, shake up the status quo and most importantly, give it everything you’ve got … every time,” Legere said . “With that kind of alignment, this partnership just flat-out makes sense.”

Microsoft sold a record 10.5M Lumia smartphones last quarter; Surface revenue tops $1B

lumiaMicrosoft set a record for Lumia smartphone sales last financial quarter.

In its quarterly earnings report posted today, the Redmond company said it sold 10.5 million Lumia units from October to December 2014. That’s up from both the 9.3 million Lumia devices sold in the previous quarter, and the 8.2 million units sold in the year-ago quarter.

Microsoft, which acquired Nokia’s Devices and Services division last year, said the growth was driven “primarily by sales of affordable smartphones.” The company’s phone hardware revenue hit $2.3 billion.

Microsoft also saw growing sales for its tablet, as the Surface brought in a record $1.1 billion last quarter — up 24 percent from last year —  marking the first time Surface sales have eclipsed the $1 billion mark.

The Lumia sales increases come as Microsoft prepares to release Windows 10 later this year for smartphones and computers.

Twitter exec Mike Gupta joins Zulily board

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Mike Gupta

Twitter executive Mike Gupta, who serves as the senior vice president of strategic investments at the social networking giant, has joined the board of fast-growing Seattle e-commerce company Zulily. Gupta, who prior to his current role at Twitter served as the company’s CFO, will serve on the Zulily audit committee.

Zulily started by selling baby and kids products, but has since expanded into housewares and other products.

“Darrell (Cavens) and the Zulily team have built an incredible company in a very short time. Their focus on a new and different experience in e-commerce is truly unique, and I’m excited to join them in this journey,” said Gupta in a statement provided to GeekWire.

Cavens noted that Gupta’s experience at a rapid-growth company will be of value as Zulily aims to become a leading consumer e-commerce brand.

Prior to Twitter, Gupta worked as senior vice president of finance and treasurer at Zynga. Before that, he worked at Yahoo for eight years.

Shares of Zulily are now trading at $20, below the company’s Nov. 2013 IPO price.

Zulily posted revenue of $285 million in the third quarter, a 72 percent gain over the same period in the prior year. It now has 4.5 million active customers.



 

Microsoft’s commercial cloud business grows 114%

microsoftlogo1-1024x680In his public appearances discussing Microsoft’s strategy, CEO Satya Nadella has made it clear that he believes the company has to be competitive in a “mobile-first, cloud-first world.” Based on its quarterly financial results, Microsoft is doing alright in that regard.

The company announced that its commercial cloud revenue, which includes its Azure cloud platform, Dynamics CRM service and Office 365 productivity suite for the enterprise, grew 114 percent year-over-year, and is operating at a $5.5 billion annualized revenue run rate. On the consumer side of things, the Office 365 subscriber base topped 9.2 million users, up 30 percent from the prior quarter.

Microsoft says that it’s the only cloud company at its scale to consistently grow revenue by triple digits. That growth comes as the company releases new features for Azure, including powerful compute instances for high-performance workloads and a new marketplace that offers software vendors the ability to sell their wares directly to Azure users.

This is all good news for Microsoft, which is stepping up its online services game, but it’s hard to tell how it stacks up against its competitors in the overall cloud market. Amazon doesn’t break out the revenue from its Web Services cloud division, and neither does Google.

Microsoft sold 6.6M Xbox consoles during the holiday quarter, down 11% from a year ago

xboxonenokinectIn its quarterly earnings report today, Microsoft said it sold 6.6 million Xbox consoles — both Xbox One and Xbox 360 combined — from October to December, which was down from the 7.4 million units sold during the year-ago quarter.

Microsoft did not break out how many Xbox One consoles were sold. In the year-ago quarter, it sold 3.9 million Xbox One consoles and 3.5 million Xbox 360 consoles. Microsoft debuted the Xbox One in November 2013.

The company today cited a “strong holiday performance” for the 2014 peak shopping season. On Nov. 2, Microsoft started selling the Kinect-less Xbox One for $349, but then brought the price back up to $399 earlier this month. However, the company changed its mind again and began selling the console for $349 — only in the U.S. — on Jan. 16.

Microsoft says strong sales during the initial launch period in 2013 made for a tough comparison this time around, which resulted in the decline for the 2014 holiday season.

ps4Since both consoles launched in November 2013, Sony had outpaced Microsoft in sales for ten consecutive months up until this past November. In the midst of that run, Microsoft began selling a $399 version of the Xbox One without the Kinect sensor — $100 less than the Xbox One with Kinect, which had been the only buying option since launch.

In November, Microsoft again dropped the price to $349, while several retailers sold bundle deals that effectively made the console less than $300.

Those price cuts — the Xbox One debuted at $499 — attracted more customers, as Microsoft also announced earlier this month that the Xbox One outsold Sony’s PlayStation 4 in the U.S. during December for the second straight month. The Redmond company also sold more Xbox One games during the past two months than any current-generation platform, including the PS4.

However, the price cuts also caused Microsoft’s revenue to dip — it reported today that Xbox platform revenue decreased by 20 percent from one year ago.

Earlier this month, Sony announced at CES that it has sold 18.5 million PS4 consoles — which have always been $399 — to consumers worldwide since November 2013. The company said it sold 4.1 million consoles in the 2014 holiday season.

Microsoft last reported its worldwide Xbox One sales in November, when it noted 10 million consoles sold to retailers (not consumers). Sony said it sold 10 million consoles to consumers three months prior.

Microsoft reports $26.5B in revenue, up 8%, but IRS audit and restructuring cut into profits

microsoft logo

Microsoft just reported revenue of $26.5 billion for the December quarter, up 8 percent, beating Wall Street’s expectations on the top line and turning in earnings of 71 cents per share — matching the projections of analysts polled in advance, but down from 78 cents a year ago.

The company said the earnings of 71 cents per share included a 4 cent charge “related to income tax expense resulting from an IRS audit adjustment.” Microsoft has been in a dispute with the IRS over the way the company accounts for transactions between international subsidiaries.

Microsoft said earnings were also reduced by $243 million, or 2 cents a share, due restructuring charges related to previously announced layoffs and the integration of the Nokia smartphone business.

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Microsoft also said that it will complete its existing $40 billion share buyback authorization by Dec. 31 of next year.

The company said that its commercial cloud revenue, which includes its Azure cloud platform, Dynamics CRM service and Office 365 productivity suite for the enterprise, grew 114 percent year-over-year, and is operating at a $5.5 billion annualized revenue run rate.

Microsoft says that it’s the only cloud company at its scale to consistently grow revenue by triple digits.

RELATED: Microsoft’s commercial cloud business grows 114 percent

In its hardware business, Microsoft used a price cut in a bid to boost sales of Xbox One consoles for the holiday period. However, the 6.6 million Xbox One and Xbox 360 units reported by the company for the quarter was below the 7.4 units reported by the company for the holiday season a year earlier.

RELATED: Microsoft sold 6.6M Xbox consoles during the holiday quarter, down 12% from a year ago

The Redmond company said it sold 10.5 million Lumia units from October to December 2014. That’s up from both the 9.3 million Lumia devices sold in the previous quarter, and the 8.2 million units sold in the year-ago quarter.

Microsoft also saw growing sales for its tablet, as the Surface brought in a record $1.1 billion last quarter — up 24 percent from last year —  marking the first time Surface sales have eclipsed the $1 billion mark.

RELATED: Microsoft sold a record 10.5M Lumia smartphones last quarter; Surface revenue tops $1B

Analysts polled in advance by Thomson Reuters predicted revenue of almost $26.3 billion, up 7 percent, with earnings of 71 cents a share, down 9 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Investors will be listening closely for any information on the financial impact of the free Windows 10 upgrades announced by the company last week.

Worldwide PC sales stabilized in the quarter, in a positive sign for the Windows business. However, the company’s Devices and Consumer Licensing revenue, which includes Windows for consumers, fell to $4.17 billion for the quarter, from $5.5 billion a year ago. Commercial licensing revenue, which includes Windows and Officefor businesses, fell to $10.68 billion, from $10.9 billion a year ago.

Microsoft faced a tough comparable number on this front, as well, with the end of Windows XP support boosting PC sales a year ago. The company’s decision last year to offer Windows for free on small devices also had an impact on revenue this quarter.

Here are Microsoft’s divisional results, by fiscal quarter, with Q2 2015 representing the quarter reported today, ended in December 2014.

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The company’s shares are down more than 3 percent in after-hours trading, as investors apparently react to the reduced commercial and consumer licensing revenue.

Pacific Science Center toning down the lights and noise with program for autistic kids

Photo via Flickr/Pacific Science Center/camknows
Photo via Flickr/Pacific Science Center/camknows

The Pacific Science Center is opening early one Saturday every month, toning down the displays and lights, to become a friendlier place for those with autism.

According to NPR affiliate KPLU, the Center recognized the need to better serve this audience. They report that in the Seattle School District alone, about 10 percent of children have some form of ASD, or autism spectrum disorder. Loud lights and noise can be especially disturbing to this audience, making a trip to the Pacific Science Center during regular hours difficult.

For two hours, from 8-10 a.m., they open early for “Exploration for All: Autism Early Open,” and it is made possible through a grant from Safeco. The events will be held the second Saturday of every month — the next one is Feb. 14 — throughout the end of 2015.

“What we want is to be able to provide our programming, provide these experiences for children who may love them, who may be able to kind of run with them, who may become very inspired by that interaction,” Pacific Science Center’s Renee Gervais told KPLU. Sounds like a great way to kick off a Saturday to us.

NFL tests new Microsoft Surface on-field applications, says technology ‘worked well’

surfacenfl14323You may see Microsoft’s Surface tablet in use during NFL games much more frequently next season.

During Sunday’s Pro Bowl, the NFL tested a bevy of new applications with the Surface tablet, including a replay review system for referees and the ability for players and coaches to watch video of recent plays on the sideline.

The NFL said it received “positive feedback” from coaches, players, and officials who tested the technology on Sunday. A league spokesperson noted that it “was a good proving ground on how we may deploy these technologies in the future.”

The tests could lead to expanded use of the Microsoft Surface next preseason, and perhaps the regular season after that, if it’s approved by the NFL competition committee.

Thanks to Microsoft’s $400 million, five-year contract with the NFL, players and coaches this season have used a custom ruggedized Surface Pro 2 tablet with an application that lets players and coaches look at screenshots on the device. The idea is to replace the traditional paper black-and-white images of plays to review previous possessions, and instead use the waterproof tablets that allow for annotations on each photo with the Surface Pen.

On Sunday, though, players and coaches were also using two Surface Pro 2 tablets at a station that had marked video of every recent play from both endzone and sideline cameras.

As far as the replay reviews, officials used a Surface Pro 3 to watch previous plays instead of going “under the hood.” An NFL staffer wearing a backpack filled with wireless radios for communication met the referee on the field with a pair of Bose headphones (Bose is another NFL sponsor).

The league also tested a new IP-based intercom for replay reviews instead of its traditional analog system, in addition to a new wireless system and new equipment for encrypted coach-to-coach communications.

Finally, the NFL also set up a “Twitter station” that allowed players to tweet from the sideline. Given the relaxed Pro Bowl environment, players had time to tweet, but don’t expect this in a regular season or playoff game:

Check out all the new technology the NFL is testing out here.

Bill and Melinda Gates receive high award of ‘distinguished service’ from India

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Photo via Flickr/TED 2014

The Indian government honored Bill and Melinda Gates this weekend with a Padma, one of the highest civilian awards in the country.

The pair received the award for their work to improve health in developing nations, according to Reuters. The Padma is awarded yearly to Indians and foreigners for their service in several areas, including philanthropy and social work.

The distinguished award comes on the heels of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosting President Barack Obama for talks about how the two countries can better work together.

The Gates’ have also worked in India to slow the spread of HIV, and for better nutrition for women and children.

Watch NASA’s awesome video from space of that nasty Nor’easter that’s hitting New York and Boston

Photo via NASA Goddard
Photo via NASA Goddard

We hope you didn’t have plans to fly anywhere near the Northeast this week, as a massive Nor’easter is shutting down New York and Boston today and tomorrow. But this look at the storm from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is pretty cool.

The video captures what happens when the low-pressure area from the Midwest moved into the Atlantic Ocean, set to cause the blizzard that everyone is pretty much freaking out about today. The footage was captured in a NASA movie of NOAA’s GOES-East satellite imagery and spans the storm’s path from Jan. 24 through today.

Many parts of the Northeast are set to get between 1 to 3 feet of snow, according to the National Weather Service. Watch the space video, then look outside at your sunny Pacific Northwest Monday and thank the universe we don’t have to deal with stuff like this.

Oculus debuts short ‘Lost’ at Sundance, bringing virtual reality to film

Photo via Oculus Rift
Photo via Oculus Rift

It doesn’t seem that long ago that all the rage in movies was 3D. Forget that: Oculus is making headlines at Sundance with its Story Studio, which will focus on exploring virtual reality in moviemaking.

Oculus Story Studio is also debuting its first short at the film festival called Lost, a “real-time computer generated VR experience for the Crescent Bay prototype,” according to the Verge. It’s directed by former Pixar animator Saschka Unseld, who has worked on Toy Story 3, Brave and created the short The Blue Umbrella, which ran before Monsters University.

Lost is about five minutes long, but, as Unseld says, the length of the film entirely depends on the viewer’s choices in storytelling. The audience member will wear the headset to go into the film’s world, instead of watching it on a display, allowing for more “interactivity.”

“We all heard these stories of how it was like to be there at the birth of computer animation, or see films on how it was to be there at the birth of cinema,” Unseld told the Verge. “And when I tried out VR the first time, and everyone here, they realized this is that moment. This is the moment of a birth of a completely new medium…That made me just instantly jump on it.”

The official announcement comes today, according to the LA Times. Oculus Story Studio will have about 10 staffers and contractors, and is set to develop an “unspecified number of animated shorts in the VR format.”

“We felt the 360-side of filmmaking has been covered,” Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe told the LA Times. “What hasn’t been explored is the animated side.” He said the movie shorts will be made exclusively for Oculus’ VR platform. If you remember, Oculus debuted the Crescent Bay prototype for the first time to the public earlier this month at CES. It will certainly be a wild ride to see how virtual reality and Hollywood mix.

Zillow partners with Mid-Atlantic multiple listing service for sales data

Zillow will now have the most up-to-date information possible on homes for sale in the Mid-Atlantic region thanks to a new partnership with the local area multiple listings service.

The Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS), covering Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, has agreed to participate in the Zillow Partnership Platform. Going forward, the brokers in that region will have the option of sending their more than 50,000 residential listings and 80,000 rental listings to Zillow for free. 

“Our brokers retain complete control over their listings and the opportunity to market them as they see fit,” said David Charron, president and CEO of MRIS, in a release.

Zillow secured a similar partnership with the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service in October.

Drone crashes on White House grounds, causes lockdown

Photo via Flickr user Daniel Zimmerman (callmewhatever).
Photo via Flickr user Daniel Zimmerman (callmewhatever).

Drones have made their way to the White House.

The Washington Post reported this morning that a small “quad copter” with four propellers flew at a low altitude and crashed on the White House grounds early Monday morning.

While authorities say the drone did not pose any threat to the first family — President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are in India; their daughters are in Washington D.C. with their grandmother — the White House still went into immediate lockdown when the drone was spotted.

There’s no further information on a possible suspect or the drone itself.

It is illegal to fly anything in the 3-mile restricted airspace around the White House. As the Post notes, there have been three other instances in the past six months of people flying drones in that airspace. The White House has also had a recent string of security breaches.

Drones have become popular over the past few years, with analysts predicting the global market for drones to climb to at least $1 billion by 2018. The soaring market for consumer drones comes amid an uncertain regulatory environment for commercial drones in the U.S., as the Federal Aviation Administration considers draft rules that would severely limit the options for commercial drones in the country.

Update, 12:05 p.m. PT: The New York Times reports that it was a government employee who was flying his recreational drone around the White House and lost control of the device. According to a picture released by the Secret Service, it looks like the man was flying a DJI Phantom drone.

Uber will cap surge pricing during New York blizzard

uberxThose looking to get around New York during the big blizzard that is expected to drop 3 feet of snow on Monday evening can use Uber without having to worry about paying ridiculously-high prices for a ride.

As Bloomberg Businessweek notes, Uber will cap its dynamic pricing model — which jacks up the price of a ride to help encourage more drivers to work when demand is exceeding supply — in NYC during the storm. The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a State of Emergency on Monday morning.

Uber promised limit surge pricing during U.S. emergencies or disasters this past July after it inked a deal with the New York Attorney General, who started an investigation into whether the company’s practices ran afoul of his state’s price gouging law. It also came after Uber users in New York saw surge pricing of more than 8 times Uber’s normal fare during a snowstorm in December 2013. Users complained of similar price increases during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Here’s how the cap works: any surge in a region hit by a disaster will be capped below the rate charged on the three days with the highest surge prices in the 60 days leading up to the emergency. In other words, if Uber only charged at most 2.5 times its usual fare in the two months before a weather storm hit, that’s the highest its surge will go.

In a letter to users in New York City, Uber said customers won’t be paying more than 2.8X the usual fare. As part of Uber’s promise to limit surge pricing during disasters, Uber will donate 20 percent of fares with surge pricing to the American Red Cross.

Uber’s surge pricing technique has angered many critics who say the strategy is the equivalent to price gouging. It’s been a controversial topic and most recently came up in Sydney, when Uber was charging customers more than four times the normal rate during the hostage crisis in December before deciding to refund customers and offer free rides following backlash on social media.

Meanwhile, Uber is also trying to patent the act of surge pricing. Here’s the letter that Uber wrote to customers in New York:

A major nor’easter is expected to hit the City tonight bringing heavy snow and blowing wind over the next 2 days. We wanted to provide a quick update about how your Uber rides will be affected by the storm.

Due to the State of Emergency declared in New York City, prices will not exceed 2.8x the normal fare.

This reflects Uber’s national policy developed with New York Attorney General Schneiderman that balances the goal of reliable transportation options with affordability during disasters: Anytime a disaster or state of emergency strikes, dynamic pricing is capped and all Uber proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts. On your receipt, you will see a donation from Uber to the American Red Cross.

A few things to be aware of:

  • Higher than normal ETAs: Please be patient as demand for rides may be higher and wait times may be longer than usual
  • Limited destinations: We have reminded partners of the importance of driving safely in inclement weather – in areas where there is uncleared snow, driver partners may not be able to pick up or drop off riders
  • Take caution: Please monitor news sources for the most up-to-date information about the storm and follow federal, state, and local safety directives

Whatever this storm brings, we’ll ride it out together.

Uber on,
Team Uber NYC

Uber gives up on its delivery service trial for the time being

UberEssentials Logo

Uber has decided to stay out of the grocery delivery market, at least for the time being. The company revealed in a tweet today that UberEssentials, its delivery service for household items like non-perishable food, over-the-counter medicine and toiletries, has shut down for the time being.

That doesn’t mean other delivery companies like Amazon and Instacart can breathe easy. Uber said that it’s taking what it learned from the now-defunct program to put it towards future experiments. What those experiments are remains to be seen.

The program launched as “Corner Store” in August of last year, and underwent a few changes over almost six months, including a rotating seasonal selection of goods like Christmas and Halloween essentials.

Still, its selection was never anywhere close to a traditional store. The service never had perishable items like milk or meat, and usually only carried one type of a particular product. In its current incarnation, it could have never competed on features with Amazon Fresh, which has yet to expand to Washington, D.C.

If Uber chooses to get back into the grocery delivery business, it has the cash to be a serious contender. The company has raised a total of more than $4 billion, including three blockbuster rounds of funding worth more than $1 billion each starting in June of last year.



Portland International Airport’s aquamarine carpet goes viral on Instagram and Facebook with 30K-plus ‘footies’

Photo via PDX Carpet Store
Photo via PDX Carpet Store

In perhaps some of the weirdest news yet to emerge from Portland, thousands of “cult” fans of the airport’s aquamarine carpet are flocking to take selfies or “footies” before it’s gone.

The carpet has gone viral, with nearly 30,000 selfies or “footies” as they’re call them, being posted on Instagram, with the hashtag #pdxcarpet and the callout: “Outdated, unfashionable, and absolutely charming. Like your grandpa with a shoe fetish. Look down@ your feet, take a pic, and TAG me for a regram!” You can also follow the carpet on Facebook, where it has nearly 12,000 likes.

Additionally, the carpet has inspired a website of gear, and of course, its own Rogue IPA. You can even snag a piece of the carpet if you wish, as the Port of Portland is selling it in 1,000-square-foot increments.

The event is so spectacular, the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams did a segment on it. Several fans showed up to pay respects, including one woman who said she was “super-duper bummed” enough about it to get a tattoo on her back of the carpet’s pattern.

Oregon Live asked many carpet fans why it was such a big deal to them? One military man said this: “When I finally arrive in Portland and see that carpet it just means I’m home now. I get so tore up over it I feel like rolling all over the carpet because to me it’s a symbol of being where I belong.”

Watch the NBC news report below:

Julia Roberts to make ‘Batkid’ real-life story into a major Hollywood movie

Photo via YouTube
Photo via YouTube

Do you remember that epic event in 2013, when thousands of people in San Francisco made one kid’s dream to be Batkid for a day come true? Well, Julia Roberts just inked a deal to make that heartwarming event into what we’re sure will be tearjerker of a film.

If you don’t remember, here’s a quick recap: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Greater Bay Area, with the help of more than 20,000 people who packed the streets cheering him on, transformed San Francisco into Gotham City for a day. They built an adventure for then 5-year-old Miles Scott, who had leukemia, to be Batkid and save the city.

Not only was this a supercool thing to do, but it quickly went viral with users on Twitter and Facebook everywhere.

Roberts has bought the rights to the documentary Batkid Begins, and will perhaps star as “Make-a-Wish San Francisco chapter director Patricia Wilson, who organized the event,” according to io9. The documentary premiered at Sundance and it’s getting great reviews — and Scott remains in remission and is attending first grade.

Watch the trailer below of how it all came together:

‘Tinder for networking’ app Weave taps into Uber API to help professionals meet

uberweaveWeave, the Tinder-like app for professionals who want to network, today announced that it is integrating the Uber API into its service.

Weave lets users swipe through cards of nearby people that they could potentially meet up with. If two people happen to swipe “yes” with each other, Weave opens up a channel between them to help initiate an in-person meeting.

Now, the app can automatically recognize when an address is entered into a conversation between two users and an button to take an Uber will automatically pop-up. Options for different Uber services — uberX, Uber Black, etc. — will be available, as well as an estimated time of arrival.

Weave founder Brian Ma.
Weave founder Brian Ma.

Weave CEO Brian Ma, who lives in San Francisco but is a Seattle native and previously co-founded Decide.com, said he knows many Weave users who use Uber when they meet up.

“We just wanted to make it even more convenient for our users by allowing them to grab an Uber straight from the Weave app,” he said.

Weave is one of many other apps taking advantage of Uber’s API, which the on-demand transportation company made available this past August. The API can provide financial benefits for developers, as Uber allows them to sign up as an affiliate and earn money whenever one of their users takes a ride.

weave3221Weave, which raised $630,000 in seed funding led by Vulcan Capital last year, is facilitating more than 10,000 matches per month and has logged four million swipes in the system. The app pulls in data from LinkedIn and uses a simple algorithm to help users match up with people that they’re more likely to be interested in meeting.

Ma started Weave because he was frustrated with how difficult it was to meet people in the Seattle startup community. The original idea actually came from Zillow Digs, which had a “hot or not” type of app for houses. Once he saw how quickly Tinder caught on with users, Ma knew that Weave could work for entrepreneurs and other professionals that wanted an easy way to link up.

“We hear success stories about people getting hired or funded every single week,” Ma said.

The Bay Area-based startup, which employs six, also has a huge amount of data — some of which we’ve highlighted on GeekWire.

“Building a good professional network has always been a daunting task,” Ma added. “We’re here to make it a little bit easier.”

Police raid Amazon’s Japan offices, seeking evidence of child porn sales

amazon-logo-300x88Amazon’s Tokyo headquarters and a nearby distribution center were raided last week by Japanese officials investigating the possible sales of child pornography.

Amazon’s Japan office told Bloomberg it was “fully cooperating” with the police. The raids, which were conducted on Friday, were seeking evidence that Amazon’s website was used by sellers to sell child pornography, including photo books of underaged girls.

Update: In response to an inquiry by GeekWire, a spokesman from Amazon Japan, said: “We take this investigation seriously and we are cooperating fully with the authorities. We don’t permit illegal items on our site, and we have systems and processes designed to prevent and remove illegal items from being listed. We are committed to enforcing our policies and the law for items listed on our site.”

Amazon prohibits the sale of illegal products, however, it appears that the laws are a bit murky in Japan when it comes to a so-called “junior idol industry,” which includes photos and DVDs of scantily clad pre-pubescent girls. Last year, Japan banned the possession of child pornography, but the law didn’t include any mention of the “idol” industry, Bloomberg reports. This probe may suggest that this is starting to change.

Besides Amazon, other retailers found selling idol materials include Rakuten and Yahoo Japan.

T-Mobile offers steep discounts on upgrades with new $5/month ‘Score’ program

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 9.17.48 AMPeople who want free phones have been out of luck with T-Mobile ever since the carrier did away with wireless contracts in 2013. Instead of subsidizing the up-front cost of a phone and then recouping that cost through a higher-priced monthly plan, T-Mobile asks customers to pay a certain amount every month towards the full price of their device.

Now, T-Mobile is changing its tune a bit by offering people the chance to pay $5 a month and get their next phone for free or at a steep discount. The company announced a new program called Score today that will reward people for paying that monthly fee with a better price on a new handset. People who pay for Score for 6 months (for a total of $30) will get an “entry-level 4G smartphone” for free, like the Alcatel Onetouch Evolve, which usually sells for $80 to postpaid customers.

Those folks who choose to wait a full 12 months on Score (spending a total of $60 above their normal smartphone plan) can get a mid-level smartphone like the LG Optimus L90 for free (it usually retails for almost $170), or get a discount of up to $150 on a flagship phone like the Nexus 6.

Score is available for both prepaid and post-paid smartphone customers. That’s important, because the ability to pick up a free phone at the time of upgrading will likely appeal to people who are also using prepaid cell service. Today’s announcement comes less than a week after T-Mobile said that it would stop running credit checks on customers who have a longstanding record of paying their bill on time.



Marc Andreessen is retweeting a lot about weed today

marc andreessenCould Marc Andreessen be the next major investor eyeballing the burgeoning legal marijuana market?

Mayhaps. It came to our attention today that he was certainly retweeting a lot of comments about marijuana. See below:

It’s not surprising at all that Silicon Valley wants to get in on the cannabis bandwagon. After Peter Thiel’s official announcement that his Founders Fund is investing in Seattle-based Privateer Holdings, it will only a matter of time until the other big-time investment dollars start coming into legal weed.

Funnily enough, Andreessen Horowitz recently announced its “16 things” it will be focusing on in 2015, and marijuana wasn’t one of them. The firm “invests in about 1 out of every 100 deals that come its way, making decisions not based on particular themes or topics, but rather people and ideas,” according to Quartz.

Let’s see if they become the next major tech player to enter the recreational marijuana market. High times, indeed.

NFL launching Super Bowl Stadium App so fans in stands can watch commercials

Photo via Seahawks
Photo via Seahawks

If you’re one of the lucky few who will be watching the Seattle Seahawks battle the New England Patriots from the actual Super Bowl this Sunday, the NFL has a new app so you won’t miss any of the commercial action from the stands.

As Mashable reports, the NFL announced its first-ever Super Bowl app, the Super Bowl Stadium App, that will give attendees the opportunity to watch all the same fun ads that they’d catch on TV. In partnership with Verizon, it also gives ticketholders the chance to watch instant replays from four different camera angles, with zoom and pause options, too.

The app will be available for Windows, iOS and Android smartphones — and it only works within the confines of the University of Phoenix’s stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

It’s all part of the NFL’s effort to “incorporate technology into the fan experience and other parts of the game,” NFL’s chief information officer Michelle McKenna-Doyle told Mashable. The NFL considers it an extension of its year-round app, which offers live streaming, real-time scores, tweets, photos and stats. The League is also working on wiring up its stadiums. They introduced “Next Gen Stats” to 17 stadiums last year, and added the system to the University of Phoenix Stadium for the big event. Players for both teams will wear “trackers” during the game.

Here are a load of other tips from the Seahawks, too, on keeping connected to all the action, so you can get all your gear ready.

Outspoken mavericks unite: Richard Sherman inks endorsement deal with John Legere’s T-Mobile

tmobile-busThis is going to be fun to watch. Two of Seattle’s most outspoken media personalities — Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and John Legere of T-Mobile — are teaming up.

Sherman, the All-Pro cornerback who like Legere is known for trash-talking opponents, has inked an endorsement deal with Bellevue-based T-Mobile.

John Legere
John Legere at the GeekWire Summit.

“Richard and I share the same philosophy – compete aggressively, shake up the status quo and most importantly, give it everything you’ve got … every time,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “With that kind of alignment, this partnership just flat-out makes sense.”

The partnership was born out of a recent Twitter exchange between the two men. After the Seahawks’ stunning comeback victory over the Packers in the NFC Championship, Legere tweeted that Sherman was a “legend” and “a great example of how to back up your words.”

As part of the deal, T-Mobile plans to use the football star in print, digital and billboard advertising. The campaign — starting at Sunday’s Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona — also will include social media activity and three giant buses to transport fans between locations at the big game.

Legere has been shaking up the wireless industry in recent years with a bombastic approach that often unsettles competitors. He was famously kicked out of an AT&T party at CES last year in which Seattle rapper Macklemore performed, and he’s blasted rivals in an ongoing Twitter onslaught.