Posts Tagged ‘FACEBOOK’

A Facebook Alum Builds an Intelligent Sales Platform

August 20th, 2013

Most people start their professional lives working fast-food jobs or retail gigs, but Darian Shirazi isn’t most people. At age 15 he began purchasing computer components in bulk from Asia and marketing them on eBay, generating such impressive sales that the online auction giant soon offered him an engineering internship. After two summers at eBay, Shirazi began exploring other opportunities, and in 2005 he became the first-ever intern hired at Facebook, then a fledgling startup whose dozen staffers worked close to Shirazi’s family home in Palo Alto, Calif.

“They were guys not that much older than me, working on something I thought was cool,” Shirazi recalls, admitting, “It wasn’t clear to me if it would become anything big or not.”

Shirazi exited Facebook after two years–his parents insisted he leave to attend college–but by that time it was clear big things were in store not only for the social network but for him, too. He dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley, within a year, and after traveling the globe returned to Silicon Valley in 2008 to launch San Francisco-based Fwix, a hyperlocal news aggregator that trawled the web to curate a range of business data encompassing everything from license registrations and Yelp reviews to Facebook likes, Twitter posts and Foursquare check-ins.

Fwix built its business by licensing information to media publishers and software developers, but Google had bigger things in mind. “Google wanted to prioritize our local business data for lead generation,” says Shirazi, now 26. “I thought, That sounds like a great idea. Why don’t we build our own business?” So he turned down Google’s $35 million acquisition offer and in spring 2012 rebranded Fwix as Radius Intelligence, leveraging his massive local database to provide real-time information optimized for sales teams targeting the U.S. small-business market.

“It was easy to walk away from [the Google offer]. I got lucky on Facebook, and it helps when you’ve had a win and don’t have to worry about money,” Shirazi says. “A lot of people haven’t been lucky enough to be part of something like Facebook. But I also believe that if you’re in a position to build something big, you have to make that happen.”

Shirazi is definitely thinking big with Radius, stating that he aims to build a sales intelligence platform for the SMB segment on par with Dun & Bradstreet’s information services for the enterprise market. Radius offers sales teams insight into more than 26 million small businesses in the U.S., compiling data from disparate web sources to identify opportunities across new and established companies, as well as delivering advanced lead-generation tools as stand-alone SaaS offerings or integrated with services.

Radius clients can assemble lead lists based on filters that include location, vertical, web activity, consumer reviews and ratings, ad spending, revenue and company size. They can also access up-to-date business information like phone numbers, e-mail addresses, owner names, employee head count and revenue. Pricing starts at $99 per month.

“What we’re offering is a huge opportunity for marketing and selling organizations to become more efficient by letting them target businesses that need their products and services,” says Shirazi, who serves as Radius’ CEO. “We’re also helping improve relationships with existing customers and reduce call spam. To me, we’re building a business, but we’re also doing a lot of good.”

Earlier this year Radius wrapped a $12.4 million funding round led by American Express. Shirazi, who would not disclose revenue, plans to triple the firm’s sales force by the end of 2013, concurrently exploring new and more effective methods for crunching data and developing, filtering and categorizing leads.

“I love building companies, and I love building ideas,” Shirazi says. “It’s what I want to continue doing for the rest of my life.”


Facebook Acquires Mobile Technologies’ Speech Recognition Software

August 14th, 2013

In what appears to be a move to make the network more accessible, Facebook announced its acquisition of Mobile Technologies, a company that specializes in speech recognition software.

A More Connected Facebook
Social networking is all about being able to reach people you might not normally connect with, but this isn’t always easy. With its purchase of Mobile Technologies, Facebook will be able to give people a different way to use the network that doesn’t involve typing on a keyboard or using a sub-par language translator.

Voice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution,” wrote Tom Stocky, the network’s director of product management.

Stocky also mentioned that Facebook doesn’t yet have any official developments or projects for this software, but encourages members to give suggestions and provide feedback if they have an idea.

It could make it easier for users of different languages to read each other’s posts, or to chat,” wrote Josh Wolford. “As of now, Facebook’s translation is powered by Bing, but this makes it seem like Facebook is at least considering bringing translation services under its own umbrella.”

Translation Tools from Mobile Technologies

Founded in 2001, Mobile Technologies is a translation tools developer with its flagship product being Jibbigo, a speech-to-speech phone translator that can work in both an offline and online mode. According to a statement on the company’s website, Jibbigo is used by anyone who is in a foreign country from the everyday traveller to humanitarians. Languages that Jibbigo supports include Arabic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Thai and Traditional Chinese.

The Jibbigo app

The company also created an “interpretation service” for lectures, so that schools and other education centers could use it in classroom settings and make sure that all those in attendance can understand what is being said.

In becoming part of the Facebook community Mobile Technologies says it will work with the social network to improve its technology as part of Facebook’s “long-term road map.”

Members of the Mobile Technologies team will also join Facebook in California, but other terms of the deal, such as the purchase price and if the Jibbigo app will continue to be updated haven’t been released.


Facebook buys speech translation software company

August 13th, 2013

Facebook is acquiring a company that specializes in speech interpretation and translation software. The move, disclosed Monday, could help Facebook better connect its users across the globe.

The deal to acquire Mobile Technologies was announced in a blog post by Facebook product management director Tom Stocky. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“We believe this acquisition is an investment in our long-term product roadmap,” he said.

Voice technology has become a critical element in how people use mobile devices and access the Web, he said, and acquiring Mobile Technologies “will help us evolve our products to match that evolution.”

Mobile Technologies’ flagship product is Jibbigo, a speech-to-speech translation mobile app. Facebook plans to continue supporting the app for the time being, a company spokesman said.

Mobile Technologies has also developed the first automatic, simultaneous interpretation service for lectures and has deployed it in educational settings, according to the company’s website.

Facebook’s larger infrastructure will allow Mobile Technologies to better build out its products, the company signaled. Facebook “provides the perfect platform to apply our technology at a truly global scale,” the company said.

Many of Mobile Technologies’ employees will be joining Facebook at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Facebook declined to specify exactly how many employees would be coming on board, or comment further on the deal.

“Although more than a billion people already use Facebook every month, we are always looking for ways to help connect the rest of the world as well,” Facebook’s Stocky did say.

One way the social network is already trying to connect more people worldwide is through its Facebook For Every Phone initiative. The program is aimed at developing markets like India, Indonesia and the Philippines, to provide a stripped-down Facebook app to people who may have a feature phone but not a more advanced smartphone. More than 100 million people use that app every month, the company announced in July.

Mobile Technologies’ services could also increase Facebook’s ability to compete against rival speech recognition and search products already offered by Google and Apple. Google, for example, offers its Google Translate app to translate languages from around the world, while Apple offers voice recognition technology through Siri on its smartphones.

Facebook is working to enhance its search offerings more broadly through Graph Search, an early stage social search engine designed to provide information to users based on their social connections. The company did not say whether it also had plans to integrate Mobile Technologies’ tools into that product.


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