Unirac, Canadian Solar To Build 30 Megawatts Of Renewable Energy In Ontario

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Unirac — a company that makes racks that are used to install and hold solar panels in place within power generating systems of any size — today revealed a new partnership with massive solar tech manufacturers, Canadian Solar Inc. (nasdaq: CSIQ).

Through the partnership, the companies will install 30 MW of solar projects in Canada, starting with a 10.9 MW solar park in Napanee, Ontario. According to a Unirac press statement, Canadian Solar will serve as the engineering, procurement and construction entity on these projects, and Unirac will provide the racking infrastructure.

In May 2010, Albuquerque, N.M.-based Unirac sold to Hilti Group, a massive construction sector business. Before it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Hilti, Unirac’s sales increased 100% from 2009 to 2010 said the chief executive of Unirac, Doug May.

He sees tremendous growth ahead for U.S. based solar companies, especially those serving domestic power companies with made-in-America products, yet have capacity to export:

“The U.S. [solar market] was around 800 megawatts this year, and could grow to 2.5 gigawatts. We’re slated for massive growth, near-term. The utility market alone next year, could be the same size as the entire U.S. market was this past year,” May said.

Today, 90 percent of Unirac’s supply chain is in the U.S. — most of its aluminum, for example, is extruded in California — but it gets 10 percent of its supplies from Canada, Europe and Asia.

Since 2009, the company also began building manufacturing, assembly and shipping operations outside of New Mexico, to be closer to customers and take advantage of government incentives in other states and countries, when possible.

Unirac specifically established manufacturing operations in Canada, anticipating a boom in solar project building thanks to the country’s feed-in-tariffs and other incentives.

Subsidized or not, May believes that Unirac’s products can solve problems for those who hesitated to build solar power generating systems due to labor costs, before. He explained:

“Solar projects for large utilities take a long time to get approved, with so many transmission and environmental challenges to be dealt with. They are all massive construction projects.

When it comes to the cost of solar power, people always want to talk about module efficiency. That is important. But the racking has to last for twenty years, too.

If you have workers who have to put a bolt in, or who have to go back down to the ground over and over again to build these massive scale projects, it’s going to drive up the costs of solar overall. We think about that.

We put a huge amount of testing into understanding code, snow loads, wind loads, what the ground is doing, and all the factors that influence the racking and ultimately the solar [power generating] systems. Even though we’re not making the panels, it’s highly technical.

Ultimately, it’s about taking the cost out of solar projects at any scale and making renewable energy competitive.”

Unirac was backed by the Maryland-based, private equity group Global Environment Fund prior to its acquisition by Hilti. Competing manufacturers of racking equipment for the solar industry include Zep Solar, also a partner of Canadian Solar, and Sollega, which offers one rack made of recycled materials.

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

No "Actors" for The Social Network

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Awards season has been kind to The Social Network. At the Golden Globes, the film won Best Director (David Fincher), Best Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), Best Score (Trent Reznor), and Best Picure, Drama. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield had been nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for their roles as Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin respectively.

Then, The Social Network was nominated for 8 academy awards, including: Best Picture, Best Direction, Actor in a Leading Role, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, and Music (Original Score).  

The film missed out on any wins at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards last night, however. Eisenberg, Garfield, and co-stars Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer were all in attendance, and presented the film’s nomination for Outstanding Performance By A Cast In A Motion Picture. It was also nominated for Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor In A Leading Role (Eisenberg).

Eisenberg hosted Saturday Night Live over the weekend, and was met during his monologue by SNL’s Andy Samberg portraying Mark Zuckerberg. Then he was met by the real Mark Zuckerberg:

By the way, the awards given out at the SAG awards are called "Actors" – hence, the title of this article. I would not imply that the actors in the film should be called actors. 

You can read my review of The Social Network here.

January 31st 2011 Facebook, Social Media

What We Use: Kevin Purdy Edition

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All this week, Lifehacker’s editors will be sharing the hardware, software and tips and tricks they use to do their jobs here. I’m kicking things off with a heavy dose of Chrome/Android utilities, plus some writer’s tools and productivity basics. (more…)

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

DOJ Exploring “Search Fairness” With Google As Rivals Protest Potential ITA Licensing Deal

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On Friday Reuters reported that Google and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) are exploring licensing guarantees as part of a potential “settlement” that would avoid litigation to block Google’s intended purchase of online travel software provider ITA. In addition the report says…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Exclusive: KIT digital Acquires KickApps, Kewego AND Kyte For $77.2 Million

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TechCrunch exclusive – If you’d never heard about KIT digital before, you will after today.

The provider of cloud-based video asset management solutions has acquired not one, not two but three social software and video companies.

The company has acquired New York City-based KickApps, Paris-based Kewego, and San Francisco-based Kyte, for aggregate consideration of approximately $77.2 million.

In conjunction with the acquisitions, KickApps CEO Alex Blum has been appointed to the new position of Global COO of KIT digital, while KickApps CFO David Lapter will assume the role of SVP Finance and Administration within KIT digital.

KIT digital, which delivers video asset management solutions for multi-screen delivery, says the acquisitions are meant to enhance its existing product offering while “growing market share across geographies and client verticals”.

KIT digital’s chairman and CEO, Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, comments:

“We are committed to ensuring that our ‘VX-one’ video management platform has market-leading functionality that helps clients realize value across the video distribution value chain, from securing and capturing the right content to delivering it across multiple channels and via social communities.

We are intent on becoming the one-stop shop for medium and large-sized corporations’ video needs, delivering IP video management services from the eyes behind the camera shooting the video to the person watching it on any device—from ‘lens-to-lens’.”

Alex Blum, CEO of social software startup KickApps, will become KIT digital’s worldwide chief operating officer. Blum was an early pioneer of online video and interactive TV as VP of products at AOL, and was previously president and COO of JumpTV.

Blum will be responsible for the overall business operations of the company, including product management, R&D, client operations, and business administration. He will be based in KIT digital’s headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, will apparently also spend significant time at the company’s newly acquired R&D centers in New York and San Francisco.

So why KickApps, Kewego and Kyte – apart from the fact their names all start with a ‘k’?

According to KIT digital executives, KickApps adds significant technology and product synergies to the company, its Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) App Studio in particular.

The latter product will serve as a unification point for all publishing-layer technologies across KIT digital’s family of products and enable its clients to leverage KIT’s infrastructure to deliver Flash and HTML5 deployments no matter which module of the VX-one platform they have currently deployed.

KickApps 450+ clients include NBC Universal, American Express, Hearst, Live Nation, Liverpool Football, Phoenix Suns, Scripps Network, Simon & Schuster and Viacom. KickApps is said to derive in excess of $12 million in annualized revenues, with the large majority derived from recurring software license fees from its software solutions.

KickApps has approximately 60 staff members, and raised $32 million in venture funding.

As for Kewego, this French company was founded in 2003 and – much like KIT digital – provides IP-based, multi-screen video asset management solutions for managing, broadcasting and monetizing videos on PCs, mobile phones, iPads, connected TVs, gaming consoles and other Internet-connected devices.

Kewego is also said to enhance KIT’s enterprise offering through onsite, digital signage deployments.

Kewego reported fiscal 2010 revenues of $10.2 million, the large majority also derived from recurring software license fees.

The company adds more than 400 clients across 16 countries, including Atos Origin, L’Equipe, Microsoft, Pages Jaunes and Volkswagen.

Michel Meyer, co-founder and CEO of Kewego, will assume the role of senior vice president, product management, and Olivier Heckman, general director and co-founder of Kewego, will become VP sales for Western and Southern Europe at KIT digital (including coverage of France, Benelux, Spain, Portugal and Italy).

Paris, Grenoble (France) and Madrid will continue to be home to Kewego’s approximately 60 employees, with Paris becoming an integral part of KIT digital’s existing Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) sales and account management operations.

Kewego raised $19.4 million in funding.

As for Kyte, this company has been around since 2006 and offers a cloud-based publishing platform that enables companies to deliver live and on-demand video experiences to websites, mobile devices and connected TVs. Kyte was acquired as KIT digital plans to leverage Kyte’s proprietary platform and application frameworks to serve KIT’s global client base.

KIT digital says Kyte also brings key additions to the KIT digital’s management team as well, including Erik Abair, CTO and co-founder of Kyte, and Gannon Hall, Kyte’s COO.

Abair will join KIT’s product development team as senior director of software development, while Hall will become KIT’s senior vice president of global marketing, where he will oversee the company’s outbound marketing, communications and demand generation efforts. Abair will remain based in San Francisco, while Hall will relocate to KIT’s Prague headquarters.

Kyte reported fiscal 2010 revenues of $3.7 million, derived primarily from SaaS platform fees. Kyte adds nearly 100 clients, including CBS, Clear Channel, FOX News, MTV, Walt Disney Company, Nokia, Publicis, Swatch, Oprah Winfrey, and ESPN Europe.

Kyte raised $23.4 million in funding.

We’re still digesting all the news and plan to talk to some key players shortly to gain more insight. Stay tuned.

One thing I want to note straight away, though: Kyte, Kewego and KickApps raised over $74 million in venture funding combined, so a $77.2 million aggregate acquisition price seems terribly low. We’ll update when we learn more.

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Blekko Launches Mobile Apps For iPhone, Android

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I’ll expose my bias up front: I’m a fan of Blekko and its audacious project to make search better. Now the site that bought you the “spam clock,” has launched mobile apps for the iPhone and Android. It’s a logical and even necessary step for Blekko, given the strategic…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

An Open Letter To All Companies Who Grew Revenue By 200% Last Year

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I loathe press releases like this one from Ooyala, who I must say is our trusted video platform provider in the interest of full disclosure. I’m singling the company out today, because I’m quite fed up, but this is an honest plea for every company that loves to tout growth without saying anything substantial to, please, stop doing that.

So apparently Ooyala “grew revenue by nearly 200%, its customer base by over 50%, and delivered a record number of video technology innovations”.

Sounds impressive, except the statement says absolutely nothing about its revenues, the size of its customer base or what the company has done to innovate video technology.

Listen, we understand, you’re a privately held company and can’t disclose revenues at this time. We get that. But please stop touting your revenue growth in percentages in an effort to gain some exposure with regards to your income if you don’t feel like talking numbers.

For all we know, Ooyala made $1 in 2009, and $2.9 in 2010. That would mean they grew revenues by nearly 200% last year. Except it wouldn’t be all that impressive, right?

We get emails about this sort of stuff all. the. time.

Hey TechCrunch, we figured you and your readers would be interested to know that we managed to triple our revenues in 2010! What those revenues were, then? Sorry, can’t say, we’re privately held as I’m sure you know, so we can’t disclose revenues at this point.

Wait, why did you get in touch again?

Excuse the rant, but it annoys me to no end. We’re a blog that loves sharing information about the technology business, and primarily Internet startups, with readers, preferably before anyone else does. Numbers are terrific: they provide context, enable readers and industry watchers to gauge trends and startup valuations, allow for honest comparisons to be made between companies across various industries and for us to monitor their growth.

You do not have to report numbers if you don’t want to. That’s fine, no time wasted on either end, and perhaps one day you’ll be a public company and you won’t have any choice but to disclose revenues for the last quarter. Trust us, then we’ll really pay attention.

But until that day, feel free to share numbers we can work with – we appreciate it when you’re straightforward. But if you choose not to, then, sorry, just don’t bother.

Don’t pretend to share information about your revenues when that’s really not what you’re doing at all. It’s obnoxious, misleading and a huge time sink for everyone involved.

Oh, and by the way, have you heard? Ooyala saw a 10x increase in hours of video viewed and a 2x increase in active unique users in 2010! Champagne for everyone!

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

AOL Europe Acquires Branded Video Network goviral For $96.7 Million

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AOL Europe has lead an acquision of video distribution network Goviral today, to the tune of $96.7 million. Goviral distributes branded video content for mainstream brands, as well as content producers and advertising agencies. Originally out of Copenhagen, the company now has offices across Europe. The initial purchase is for $74.1 million and $22.6 million in a two year earn out. It joins others AOL acquisitions in the last year including, StudioNow, 5min Media, Thing Labs, Pictela, about.me and, er, TechCrunch.

We’re hearing this deal was lead directly by Kate Burns, head of Europe for AOL.

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

How To Grow The Engagement On Your Blog

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This week we decided to dedicate the entire show to helping you bootstrap your blog! Just because something is free doesn’t mean people are going to want it, so we delve into some of the top tactics and tools for drawing in those readers, and get to the bottom of what really matters.

The big issues:

  1. How to boost subscribers to your blog
  2. How to increase the number of comments on your posts
  3. How to turn your blog into a real community
  • Who do we recognise as subscribers? There is a huge array of subscribers, from those that use RSS feeds, to newsletter subscribers, commenters, regular site visitors, and not least those who ‘like’ your Facebook fan page or follow your brand profile.
  • Two vital ways of pulling return visitors to your site: RSS and email
  • In terms of cultivating subscribers and followers to your content, what are the key steps you need to go through?
  • We talk about how your blog post could act like as forum for great discussions by making the most of threaded comments.
  • Facebook plugins: The pros and cons of using plugins such as Disqus, Intense Debate & Facebook Comments. We analyse the SEO issues they come with and debate their value in terms of providing leverage for your blog.
  • So, what are the high profile bloggers doing? We debate the increasingly popular Lightbox popups, and plugins such as Popup Domination. Do they add value?
  • To grow your reach and subscribers you should be commenting elsewhere too. We talk through how, where and why you should be doing so.
  • Create evergreen content with great comments! We get to the bottom of how to master producing content like this and reap all the benefits.
  • If you are not so hot with creating great content, there are some useful tools you can use to pull in the subscribers
  • Once you have built momentum and amassed a handful of subscribers, what are the next steps and how can you make money?
  • WordPress 3.1 is around the corner, but what should you be looking out for? Check out all the updates on codex.wordpress.org/Version_3.1

We want to hear your ideas on what topics you would like us to talk about, and which guests you would love to hear from! Leave a comment with your suggestions below.

Useful links:

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Plentyoffish CEO: We Were Hacked, Almost Extorted – So I Emailed The Hacker’s Mom

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The title of strangest WTF story of my morning is Plentyoffish CEO Markus Frind recounting how his online dating site got hacked, he and his wife were harassed and someone clumsily attempted to extort his company in the aftermath of the events. If that is in fact what happened …

First up, Frind points out that the site has indeed been hacked last week in a “well planned and sophisticated attack”.

Apparently, POF users’ email addresses, usernames and passwords were downloaded, although Frind does not say how many. Plentyoffish has already reset the passwords for all users and claims to have plugged the security hole that allowed the hackers to enter.

An official statement will apparently be published tomorrow, but Frind’s personal, sleep-deprived recount of what happened – “what it feels like to be hacked /extorted and the intense pressure and stress you are put under” – is well worth a read – for starters.

According to Frind, an Argentinian hacker named Chris Russo – who recently hacked The Pirate Bay – broke into Plentyoffish after two days of sleuthing, under his real name.

Then, this happened (still, according to Frind):

At midnight Miami time my wife gets a call from Chris Russo that plentyoffish has been hacked into and that Russians have taken over his computer and are trying to kill him, and his life is in extreme danger and they are currently downloading plentyoffish’s database. Chris is trying to create a sense of panic.

I listened in the background and I closed the breach if indeed there was one while my wife was on the phone and then I immediately ordered an investigation. Over the next 24 hours we got a lot of voice mails from Chris Russo frantically wanting to talk to us.

It gets much more complicated (and confusing) but you can read Frind’s blog post for more details on his side of the story.

Meanwhile, Russo, who describes himself as a bona fide security researcher, says he and his team only discovered a security vulnerability in the online dating site, that hackers were already exploiting the hole, and that he merely reported it to Frind and co in good faith.

Russo says the hole exposed usernames, addresses, phone numbers, real names, email addresses, passwords in plain text and PayPal accounts of more than 28 million users. According to Russo, he simply tried to make an arrangement with Plentyoffish to analyze the security issues in return for compensation. Frind says Russo and his team were attempting to extort him.

Russo also alleges that Frind is the one that went ballistic and threatened to “destroy his life” and making sure “no one is ever going to hire him for anything again” (see email).

Frind, instead, reports that the following happened:

They then say we should find a way to work together as they are a security company. In exchange for complete access to all of our source code and SQL servers they can make sure we aren’t attacked again. Now they want us to Sign NDA’s Contracts etc.

They also claim they know the locations of where the Russians dumped our data and they can delete it.

They then start talking about money because they need to incorporate a company that can deal with companies outside of Argentina and that will cost $15,000. They also needed to know if they were going to make over $100k/year or 500k/year as that would require different registrations…

Frind concludes his blog post by publishing pictures of the two persons who tried to extort him (Russo and his business partner “Luca”) and acknowledges that he went on a counter-offensive, threatening to sue both men and even emailing Russo’s mother.

Russo is actively posting comments on the blog post in response to Frind’s allegations, if you’re interested in watching the back and forth some more.

We’re awaiting the company’s official statement on the security breach. Accusations abound, but if personal data from Plentyoffish users was really as vulnerable to malicious attacks as Russo claims, then that’s what everyone should be focusing on first and foremost.

(Thanks to Miguel Hernandez for the tip)

January 31st 2011 Uncategorized