Instructables, Assistly, Airbnb: The 1-Minute Version of Last Week’s Bay Area BizTech News

8/2/11Follow @wroush

There’s no such thing as the summer doldrums when it comes to Bay Area technology news—not this summer, anyway. Your recap of last week’s top stories starts here:

—The National Science Foundation unveiled a new “Innovation Corps” program designed to help university researchers get their innovations from the lab bench to the commercial world. 100 I-Corps teams per year will receive $50,000 grants and will go through an intensive entrepreneurship workshop based on startup guru Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad course at Stanford University.

—I profiled Instructables, an online community of “makers” and other DIY enthusiasts featuring tens of thousands of crowdsourced how-to articles. Turns out I had pretty good timing: design software giant Autodesk announced yesterday that it has acquired the San Francisco startup and that CEO Eric Wilhelm will help the company build new online communities around its consumer offerings.

—Assistly, a San Francisco startup offering cloud-based system that helps companies provide customer support via social media, scrapped its tiered pricing system and introduced a new free version of its service; we published an in-depth case study of CEO Alex Bard’s risky decision to go “freemium.”

—Innovalight, a Sunnyvale, CA, company whose “silicon ink” technology improves the efficiency of photovoltaic panels at turning sunlight into electricity, was snapped up by DuPont for an undisclosed sum.

—Vacation rental clearinghouse Airbnb said that it had collected a whopping $112 million in Series B funding. Of course, that news got somewhat buried by the storm of bad publicity around a San Francisco-based Airbnb user whose home was vandalized.

—Menlo Park, CA-based TechShop announced the impending opening of the latest branch in its chain of community fabrication studios. The new location, in Allen Park, MI, outside Detroit, is being readied as part of a partnership with Ford.

—My San Diego colleague Bruce Bigelow sent several stories my way last week. First, San Diego wireless giant Qualcomm acquired a set of gesture recognition technologies from Sunnyvale, CA-based GestureTek. The implication: devices including next-generation version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor could have gesture-recognition capabilities similar to those provided by Microsoft’s Kinect device.

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Wade Roush is Xconomy's chief correspondent and editor of Xconomy San Francisco. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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