A Rival for the iTunes App Store, a Data-Driven Dating Service for Facebook, a Pair of Social Gaming Deals, & More Bay Area BizTech News

8/2/10Follow @wroush

What summer doldrums? The startup launches, venture financings, and M&A deals were flying about as fast as they come last week.

—I got the inside story on OpenAppMkt, a new marketplace for Web apps for the Apple iPhone, from co-founder Teck Chia. The service, which went live on Friday, is similar to the iTunes App Store for native apps, but is designed to help iPhone owners find free and paid apps that run inside the phone’s Safari Web browser.

—We profiled Triangulate, a Palo Alto, CA-based startup that recently raised $750,000 to work on its Facebook dating app for singles. The app, called Wings, makes matches based on personal details drawn from users’ social media streams, including Facebook, sparing them from having to fill out lengthy eHarmony-style questionnaires.

—I took a close look at LearnBoost, a startup at San Francisco’s Pier 38 that will soon release an online gradebook and other Web-based tools for teachers. The startup, which just raised $975,000 in venture and angel funding, hopes its software’s clean and easy-to-use interfaces will help it take market share away from big incumbent suppliers of student information systems like Blackboard and Pearson Education.

—There were two giant deals last week in the social gaming sector. Disney (NYSE: DISsaid it would acquire Mountain View, CA-based Playdom, maker of top MySpace and Facebook games like Social City and Sorority Life, for as much as $763 million. And Japan’s SoftBank invested $150 million in San Francisco-based Zynga, which makes the even more popular Facebook games FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Zynga and SoftBank plan to launch a new joint social gaming venture in Japan.

—I got a realistic, reasonably upbeat assessment of the venture industry’s near-term prospects from Scale Venture Partners co-founder and National Venture Capital Association chairperson Kate Mitchell and SVP general partner Rory O’Driscoll. Mitchell says venture funds will continue to shrink in resources over the next two to three years, but that it’s still a great time to invest.

—Xconomy founder Bob Buderi published a two-parter based on his interview with Henry McCance, chairman emeritus of San Mateo, CA-based Greylock Partners. Part 1 looked at why Greylock relocated its main office from Waltham, MA, to Silicon Valley, and Part 2 focused on McCance’s thoughts about the personality traits that go into being a great venture investor.

—At O’Reilly Media’s Maker Faire in Detroit, Menlo Park-based TechShop, a network of open-access hackerspaces, announced that it would work with Ford to open a TechShop branch in the Detroit area, as our Detroit correspondent Howard Lovy reported.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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