Language Learning Startup Busuu Hits 30M Users And Launches New Kids iPad App

Language Learning Startup Busuu Hits 30M Users And Launches New Kids iPad App


posted yesterday


Just this week Rosetta Stone acquired Seattle-based online language-learning communityLivemocha for $8.5 million in cash. At exit Livemocha had a 16 million member online language-learning community. It had also raised $19 million over six years. But today Busuu, a competing language-learning community based out of London, announces that it has reached 30 million users and its launched a dedicated iPad app for kids to learn Spanish.

It now reaches into 200 countries, and could lay justifiable claim to being the largest language learning community in the world. They also say they are growing at 40,000 new users a day with growth mainly coming from emerging markets like Brazil, Russia and Turkey, where clearly learning a language can help you get on. Read more of this post

China Is Finally Becoming A Lucrative Market For App Makers

China Is Finally Becoming A Lucrative Market For App Makers


posted yesterday





screen-shot-2013-04-05-at-4-19-00-pm Read more of this post

Billabong perilously close to a wipeout; In 25 years, the company has lost most of its street cred and its value has shrunk from billions to whatever is on offer

Billabong perilously close to a wipeout

April 6, 2013, Elizabeth Knight

In 25 years, the company has lost most of its street cred and its value has shrunk from billions to whatever is on offer, writes Elizabeth Knight.


Twenty-five years ago, Billabong basked in street cred. Today, as one fashion industry insider quipped, the brand has become the barbecue short for the sausage sizzle. If the 45-year-old dads are wearing boardies with elasticised or Velcro adjustable waists to accommodate a middle-aged muffin top, their 15-year-old sons are not in the market.

On Friday, the future ownership of this Australian iconic brand hung in the balance. Two American corporate sharks have been circling the bleeding Billabong carcass for a couple of months and intense talks are continuing over the weekend.

The decision by the Billabong board and its largest shareholder and founder, Gordon Merchant, to hang out the for sale sign, is the ultimate recognition the company has lost its way. Five years ago Billabong was a $5 billion company and its stock traded for $14. The prices being offered by these financial syndicates today are less than 70¢ a share – the financial equivalent of the bin out the front of the store housing the end-of-season/couldn’t-sell stock that customers rifle through. At this price the whole company is worth closer to $300 million. It is the final ignominy for the company whose financial performance has been in such steep decline that it has lost the support of many of its major investors and has been playing a dangerous game of dodgeball with its bankers. Read more of this post

India tackles entrenched culture of tax dodging; “In a country of holier than thou’s, no one thinks that it’s a blatant lie” to cheat on your taxes”

India tackles entrenched culture of tax dodging


AP, APR 6, 2013

NEW DELHI – In a country long defined by its poverty, it’s now easy to find India’s rich.

They’re at New Delhi’s Emporio mall, where herds of chauffeur-driven Jaguars and Audis disgorge shoppers heading to the high-end designer stores. They’re shopping for Lambor- ghinis in Mumbai. They’re putting elevators in their homes and showing off collections of jewel-encrusted watches, and they’re buying real estate in comfortable but unpretentious neighborhoods thought of as simply upper-middle class just a couple years ago, where apartments now regularly sell for millions of dollars.

They’re just about everywhere — unless it’s income tax time. Then, suddenly, they barely exist.

The reality is simple: “There are very few people who are paying taxes,” said Sonu Iyer, a taxation expert at Ernst & Young in New Delhi. And tax dodging is everywhere, he said: “It’s rampant — rampant.” Read more of this post

The New Bird Flu Could Be Way More Widespread Than Tests Are Showing; Even patients on their death beds are only “weakly positive”; New Bird Flu Seen Having Some Markers of Airborne Killer; “This virus really doesn’t look like a bird virus anymore; it looks like a mammalian virus.”

The New Bird Flu Could Be Way More Widespread Than Tests Are Showing

Jennifer Welsh | Apr. 5, 2013, 6:36 PM | 2,527 | 5

A new bird flu is infecting patients across China, currently 16 patients have tested positive for the virus and six have died. But some flu watchers are convinced that the test that doctors are using to detect the H9N7 virus are faulty — that they aren’t sensitive enough. Even patients on their death beds are only “weakly positive” Laurie Garrett, senior editor for the Council on Foreign Relations and flu-outbreak-follower notes on twitter: This could mean that the test is missing vital cases before they get to the seriously ill stage, so we won’t know who is infected until it gets really bad. It could also mean the virus is more widespread than tests are showing us. This is especially important for the 520 people that the WHO is monitoring for infection. These people were in close contact with people who died or became seriously ill. Reports yesterday said that one of these people showed flu-like symptoms but tests later confirmed to show negative results. If that test was faulty…. that person could still have the virus. And it would be a sign that the virus can spread between humans — a very dangerous omen. There are also reports that animals are falling ill with the disease, even birds falling out of the sky. These animals test negative for the virus, but if the tests are faulty, that could be a big problem.

New Bird Flu Seen Having Some Markers of Airborne Killer

The new bird influenza that’s killed six people in eastern China has some of the genetic hallmarks of an easily transmissible virus, according to the scientist who showed how H5N1 avian flu could become airborne.

The H7N9 strain, which is a new virus formed as a result of two others merging their genetic material, has features of viruses that are known to jump easily from birds to mammals, and a mutation that may help it attach to cells in the respiratory tract, said Ron Fouchier, a professor of molecular virology at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, in a telephone interview yesterday.

“That’s certainly not good news,” said Fouchier, who reviewed a gene sequencing of H7N9 published by Chinese health authorities. “This virus really doesn’t look like a bird virus anymore; it looks like a mammalian virus.” Read more of this post

Chronic pain common after strokes caused by clots

Chronic pain common after strokes caused by clots

Fri, Apr 5 2013

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – One in 10 people who have a stroke caused by a clot blocking blood to the brain go on to develop chronic pain, according to a new study.

Researchers found that just over 10 percent of about 16,000 study participants developed chronic pain after their strokes, and that was also linked to a greater risk of physical and mental decline.

While pain has been known to follow strokes, there has been confusion about how many people experience it and whether it causes other health problems. Read more of this post

Up close and personal with Subway’s co-founder Fred DeLuca

Saturday April 6, 2013

Up close and personal with Fred DeLuca

By Liz Lee

Star Publication (M) Bhd

WHEN he started, he had only five sandwiches on the menu, all foot-long and served cold.

Today, he heads the world’s largest food chains, beating McDonald’s in 2011 and not showing signs of giving up that position.

Subway co-founder and president, Fred DeLuca’s story is the epitome of the proverb “slow and steady wins the race”.

Even though Subway is growing at a rapid-fire pace especially in Asia, DeLuca says the main focus is to look at building the business one store at a time.

“The foundation for success is to understand what customers want, and that is good food, service and cleanliness,” he adds.

At the Asian level, Subway’s business is also undergoing strong expansion with an ambitious target of 10,000 stores by 2020. These stores would generate US$3bil (RM9.26bil) sales.

Subway’s Asia business is now worth over US$500mil (RM1.54bil), with 1,600 stores operating in the region. It enjoys a 29% year-on-year revenue growth. Read more of this post

Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math; E.O. Wilson shares a secret: Discoveries emerge from ideas, not number-crunching

April 5, 2013, 10:07 p.m. ET

Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math

E.O. Wilson shares a secret: Discoveries emerge from ideas, not number-crunching


For many young people who aspire to be scientists, the great bugbear is mathematics. Without advanced math, how can you do serious work in the sciences? Well, I have a professional secret to share: Many of the most successful scientists in the world today are mathematically no more than semiliterate.

During my decades of teaching biology at Harvard, I watched sadly as bright undergraduates turned away from the possibility of a scientific career, fearing that, without strong math skills, they would fail. This mistaken assumption has deprived science of an immeasurable amount of sorely needed talent. It has created a hemorrhage of brain power we need to stanch. Read more of this post

How the South Sea Bubble Created U.K.’s Modern Monarchy; The crisis devastated thousands of investors, including Sir Isaac Newton, and permanently changed the structure of the constitutional monarchy, allowing a prime minister to become head of the government as the monarch gradually assumed the more ceremonial role of head of state

How the South Sea Bubble Created U.K.’s Modern Monarchy

The bubble of 1720 precipitated England’s first stock-market crash. In August of that year, shares in the South Sea Company reached a peak of 1,000 pounds and dropped to 150 pounds by the end of September.

The crisis devastated thousands of investors, including Sir Isaac Newton, who reputedly said after losing 20,000 pounds, “I can calculate the movement of heavenly bodies but not the madness of men.” The crash also permanently changed the structure of the constitutional monarchy, allowing a prime minister to become head of the government as the monarch gradually assumed the more ceremonial role of head of state. Read more of this post

Appily Ever After: A Smartphone Shrink; A few bucks and a lot of squinting into my phone: that certainly beats a $300-an-hour psychiatrist, right?

April 5, 2013

Appily Ever After: A Smartphone Shrink



When I was a kid, my favorite toy was the Magic 8 Ball. There was something immensely comforting about asking this little gizmo a question (“Will I find true love?”), shaking it and then seeing the answer that would bubble to the top of the screen: “Outlook good.”

As the world became more complicated and full of anxieties, many of us traded our Magic 8 Balls for therapists and self-help gurus. (“Will I find true love?” Answer: “First, you need to learn to love yourself.”)

But now a proliferation of psychology smartphone apps — with names like BreakkUpiStress and myinstantCOACH — purports to help us live happier, less anxious lives. As Mark McGonigle, a therapist in Kansas City, Mo., who invented the app Fix a Fight, puts it: “Electronic devices don’t have to drive us apart. They can bring us together.” Which sounds so good. A few bucks and a lot of squinting into my phone: that certainly beats a $300-an-hour psychiatrist, right? Read more of this post

9 Shocking Truths about Silicon Valley – Lessons from 100 Startup Founders

9 Shocking Truths about Silicon Valley – Lessons from 100 Startup Founders (Live Blog)

April 5, 2013 by Krish Raghav

Read more of this post

Fake Twitter Followers Becomes Multimillion-Dollar Business; The average price for 1,000 fake followers is $18

APRIL 5, 2013, 6:50 PM

Fake Twitter Followers Becomes Multimillion-Dollar Business


Far from slowing, the market for fake Twitter followers seems to be taking off.

The fake Twitter follower phenomenon made headlines last summer after Mitt Romney’s Twitter following jumped by 100,000 in a matter of days. That news inspired a number of social media management companies like StatusPeople and SocialBakers to develop Web tools that try to determine what percent of a person’s Twitter followings are fake.

But those sites have hardly deterred people from dealing in the market for fake followers and fake retweets. The market is also becoming more sophisticated. In many cases, high-quality false  Twitter accounts are nearly impossible to discern from the real thing. Those that sell them claim that they can make up to a million dollars in one week.

Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, two Italian security researchers, spent the last several months investigating the underground economy for Twitter followers and said they had found a thriving market.

There are now more than two dozen services that sell fake Twitter accounts, but Mr. Stroppa and Mr. De Micheli said they limited themselves to the most popular networks, forums and Web sites, which include Fiverr, SeoClerks, InterTwitter, FanMeNow, LikedSocial, SocialPresence and Viral Media Boost. Based on the number of accounts for sale through those services — and eliminating overlapping accounts — they estimate that there are now as many as 20 million fake follower accounts.

Fake followers are typically sold in batches of one thousand to one million accounts. The average price for 1,000 fake followers is $18, according to one study by Barracuda Labs. Mr. Stroppa and Mr. De Micheli said some sellers bragged that they made $2 and $30 per fake account. A conservative estimate, they said, was that fake Twitter followers offered potential for a $40 million to $360 million business. Read more of this post

Japan’s 13 Sigma Bond Swan

Japan’s 13 Sigma Bond Swan

Tyler Durden on 04/05/2013 14:27 -0400

For six months the Japanese jawboning has seen investors front-running the BoJ, selling JPY and buying whatever risk-asset is the most correlated that day – whether it is the Nikkei 225 or the S&P 500. However, now that words have been replaced by actions, it appears that someone (cough Japanese institutions cough) has decided the 13.4-sigma swing in JGBs last night is just too much and have rotated to US Treasuries. The selling of JPY and buying of EUR (to fund peripheral bond buying) and USD (to fund Treasury buying) is very clear. That means, implicitly, thatevery ramp higher in JPY (weaker JPY) is simply more bond-buying – which leaves the algos directionless. If you were a risk-manager, what would you do? And as far as all those VaR risk models – oops!! It seems the ‘sellers’ of those JGBs have found a new place to put that capital to work (and in a non-devaluing currency)…



Lessons from America’s long history of property booms

Lessons from America’s long history of property booms

Apr 6th 2013 |From the print edition


ROBERT MORRIS would have enjoyed the recent American housing boom. A signatory of the Declaration of Independence, he profited handsomely in the 1790s by “flipping” land on the American frontier. His business, acquiring millions of acres from Native Americans and friends of the crown and then selling them on to speculators, probably made him the richest man in America until dearer credit left him bankrupt. In a new paper Edward Glaeser of Harvard University argues that America’s long history of property manias has lessons for those aiming to minimise the pain of future busts. In particular, exuberant buyers may be more rational than many assume.

Robert Shiller, a Yale University economist and prescient housing-bubble spotter, reckons that “animal spirits” animate investors during bubbles. He sees America’s recent housing boom as an especially bad case of irrationality. Yet Mr Glaeser notes that the episode fits comfortably within America’s speculative past (see table). And assumptions of irrationality may let economists off the hook too easily. In fact, he writes, booms are often consistent with reasonable beliefs about the future—an important fact for bubble diagnosticians to note.

On sensible reckoning, for example, agricultural land in Alabama was a steal in the 1810s. Cotton production on Alabama farmland was highly productive, and cotton prices were surging on demand from British textile manufacturers. In 1817 land sold at about $35 per acre (in 2012 dollars), twice the national average for unimproved land. Prices almost quadrupled to $134 per acre the next year. Even those values implied large profits at going cotton prices, suggesting land remained a good buy. Yet when recession struck in 1819, farm prices dropped and leveraged buyers went bust. A prolonged price slump followed; by 1850 land cost just $5 per acre. Optimism, though warranted, led to financial carnage. Read more of this post

Five routes to more innovative problem solving; Tricky problems must be shaped before they can be solved. To start that process, and stimulate novel thinking, leaders should look through multiple lenses.

Five routes to more innovative problem solving

Tricky problems must be shaped before they can be solved. To start that process, and stimulate novel thinking, leaders should look through multiple lenses.

April 2013 • Olivier Leclerc and Mihnea Moldoveanu

Source: Strategy Practice

Rob McEwen had a problem. The chairman and chief executive officer of Canadian mining group Goldcorp knew that its Red Lake site could be a money-spinner—a mine nearby was thriving—but no one could figure out where to find high-grade ore. The terrain was inaccessible, operating costs were high, and the unionized staff had already gone on strike. In short, McEwen was lumbered with a gold mine that wasn’t a gold mine.

Then inspiration struck. Attending a conference about recent developments in IT, McEwen was smitten with the open-source revolution. Bucking fierce internal resistance, he created the Goldcorp Challenge: the company put Red Lake’s closely guarded topographic data online and offered $575,000 in prize money to anyone who could identify rich drill sites. To the astonishment of players in the mining sector, upward of 1,400 technical experts based in 50-plus countries took up the problem. The result? Two Australian teams, working together, found locations that have made Red Lake one of the world’s richest gold mines. “From a remote site, the winners were able to analyze a database and generate targets without ever visiting the property,” McEwen said. “It’s clear that this is part of the future.”1

McEwen intuitively understood the value of taking a number of different approaches simultaneously to solving difficult problems. A decade later, we find that this mind-set is ever more critical: business leaders are operating in an era when forces such as technological change and the historic rebalancing of global economic activity from developed to emerging markets have made the problems increasingly complex, the tempo faster, the markets more volatile, and the stakes higher. The number of variables at play can be enormous, and free-flowing information encourages competition, placing an ever-greater premium on developing innovative, unique solutions.

This article presents an approach for doing just that. How? By using what we call flexible objects for generating novel solutions, or flexons, which provide a way of shaping difficult problems to reveal innovative solutions that would otherwise remain hidden. This approach can be useful in a wide range of situations and at any level of analysis, from individuals to groups to organizations to industries. To be sure, this is not a silver bullet for solving any problem whatever. But it is a fresh mechanism for representing ambiguous, complex problems in a structured way to generate better and more innovative solutions.

The flexons approach

Finding innovative solutions is hard. Precedent and experience push us toward familiar ways of seeing things, which can be inadequate for the truly tough challenges that confront senior leaders. After all, if a problem can be solved before it escalates to the C-suite, it typically is. Yet we know that teams of smart people from different backgrounds are more likely to come up with fresh ideas more quickly than individuals or like-minded groups do.2 When a diverse range of experts—game theorists to economists to psychologists—interact, their approach to problems is different from those that individuals use. The solution space becomes broader, increasing the chance that a more innovative answer will be found.

Obviously, people do not always have think tanks of PhDs trained in various approaches at their disposal. Fortunately, generating diverse solutions to a problem does not require a diverse group of problem solvers. This is where flexons come into play. While traditional problem-solving frameworks address particular problems under particular conditions—creating a compensation system, for instance, or undertaking a value-chain analysis for a vertically integrated business—they have limited applicability. They are, if you like, specialized lenses. Flexons offer languages for shaping problems, and these languages can be adapted to a much broader array of challenges. In essence, flexons substitute for the wisdom and experience of a group of diverse, highly educated experts.

To accommodate the world of business problems, we have identified five flexons, or problem-solving languages. Derived from the social and natural sciences, they help users understand the behavior of individuals, teams, groups, firms, markets, institutions, and whole societies. We arrived at these five through a lengthy process of synthesizing both formal literatures and the private knowledge systems of experts, and trial and error on real problems informed our efforts. We don’t suggest that these five flexons are exhaustive—only that we have found them sufficient, in concert, to tackle very difficult problems. While serious mental work is required to tailor the flexons to a given situation, and each retains blind spots arising from its assumptions, multiple flexons can be applied to the same problem to generate richer insights and more innovative solutions.

Networks flexon

Imagine a map of all of the people you know, ranked by their influence over you. It would show close friends and vague acquaintances, colleagues at work and college roommates, people who could affect your career dramatically and people who have no bearing on it. All of them would be connected by relationships of trust, friendship, influence, and the probabilities that they will meet. Such a map is a network that can represent anything from groups of people to interacting product parts to traffic patterns within a city—and therefore can shape a whole range of business problems.

For example, certain physicians are opinion leaders who can influence colleagues about which drugs to prescribe. To reveal relationships among physicians and help identify those best able to influence drug usage, a pharmaceutical company launching a product could create a network map of doctors who have coauthored scientific articles. By targeting clusters of physicians who share the same ideas and (one presumes) have tight interactions, the company may improve its return on investments compared with what traditional mass-marketing approaches would achieve. The network flexon helps decompose a situation into a series of linked problems of prediction (how will ties evolve?) and optimization (how can we maximize the relational advantage of a given agent?) by presenting relationships among entities. These problems are not simple, to be sure.3But they are well-defined and structured—a fundamental requirement of problem solving. Read more of this post

Exclusive: Some wealth advisers take a fee for client fund assets

Exclusive: Some wealth advisers take a fee for client fund assets

12:54pm EDT

By Jed Horowitz

(Reuters) – At least three wealth management firms that market themselves as objective financial advisers are getting payments for investing their clients’ money in certain mutual funds, a practice that even some of these firms say could create conflicts of interest.

The firms, known as registered investment advisers, are typically paid by clients with fees tied to the growth or contraction of client assets, and not to specific products. But Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab Corp are paying these financial advisers as much as 0.25 percent of the assets that their clients put into no-transaction-fee mutual funds.

Such funds are popular with ordinary investors because they don’t have to pay commissions to buy or sell them, although some advisers say they have higher expenses than funds with commissions. Brokers such as Fidelity and Schwab make hundreds of millions of dollars in fees selling funds that they and others manage. Read more of this post

In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years

April 4, 2013

In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years


Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance. The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago. Dating of those plants, using a radioactive form of carbon in the plant tissues that decays at a known rate, has given scientists an unusually precise method of determining the history of the ice sheet’s margins. Read more of this post

How P&G Presents Data to Decision-Makers: Over 50,000 P&G employees now have access to a “Decision Cockpit”

How P&G Presents Data to Decision-Makers

by Tom Davenport  |   3:00 PM April 4, 2013

Those of us who believe that managers make better decisions when key data are presented visually tend to get very excited about all the innovation going on in the graphical display of information. (For a sampling of some new and cool tools, see the popular Hans Rosling TED talk.) However, if you work in a large organization and want it to make better use of data visualization, I’d argue thatcommonality is more important than creativity. If you can establish a common visual language for data, you can radically upgrade the use of the data to drive decision-making and action. The best case I can cite for this argument is Procter & Gamble, which has institutionalized data visualization as a primary tool of management. Working with visual analytics software vendor Tibco Spotfire, P&G has put visual displays of key information on desktops — over 50,000 P&G employees now have access to a “Decision Cockpit” (shown below).

MyCockpit-thumb-580x433-3673 Read more of this post

Have a fancy navigation system? It’s probably running software built by QNX, a little-known but powerful Canadian company.

QNX: The little-known company that controls your car

April 5, 2013: 7:12 AM ET

Have a fancy navigation system? It’s probably running software built by QNX, a little-known but powerful Canadian company.

By Kurt Wagner, reporter

FORTUNE — Under the bright lights of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January, a stunning black Bentley sat with the top down on the showroom floor. The Bentley — a Continental GTC convertible starting at $191,000 — became the center of attention throughout most of the week as thousands of geeks filed through the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall. But it was not for its curvaceous sheet metal that attracted them but its futuristic dashboard inside. Developed by Ottawa-based software company QNX, this dashboard boasted 3-D maps and reverse cameras, pre-touch technology that kicks the massive 17-inch screen to life as a hand approaches, and even, per Bentley’s request: video conferencing (only functional when the car is in park, of course).

For more than a decade, QNX — the same QNX that makes BlackBerry’s (BBRY) new mobile operating system known as BlackBerry 10 — has developed software specifically tailored toward the auto industry. Ask analysts what reputation QNX carries, and you’ll get phrases like “rock solid” or “a solution for things that can’t crash,” fitting considering the potential consequences of a computer failure while traveling at freeway speeds. (In a 2003 interview, one QNX customer jokingly told Fortune, “The only way to make this software malfunction is to fire a bullet into the computer running it.”) QNX has wielded this reputation to carve out an early hold on the so-called infotainment market share, shipping more than 9 million units in 2011, over 60% of all such units sold, according to Derek Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing. Audi, Toyota (TM), BMW, Porsche, Honda (HMC), Land Rover — QNX has been in them all, and Kuhn estimates QNX software currently operates in “tens of millions” of cars around the globe. An automotive industry report from IHS pegs infotainment revenues at $6.7 billion for 2013. Read more of this post

An Introduction to the Startup Ecosystem in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam

Shell, Glencore, and Other Multinationals Dominate Their Home Economies

Shell, Glencore, and Other Multinationals Dominate Their Home Economies

By Jennifer Daniel, April 04, 2013

While corporate revenues aren’t the same as GDP, the size of these companies in relation to their home countries is remarkable.


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