Docstoc closure, Greycroft’s new fund and FutureFly among week’s L.A. tech highlights

Giftagram app

The newly launched Giftagram app seeks to eliminate gift-giving hassles by requiring users to have just the phone number or email of the recipient.


Intuit has shut down Docstoc two years after acquiring the Santa Monica-based file-sharing company for about $50 million. The closure last week, which had been announced in September, affected about 70 employees.

Docstoc had launched eight years ago seeking to be the YouTube for documents, such as “Property Sale Agreement” and “Napping at Work Policy.” Users shared and sold documents, and Docstoc drew revenue through fees and subscriptions. Co-founder Jason Nazar said on Facebook that more than 1 billion people visited Docstoc’s website over its history and that it had hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers.

But Intuit is scaling back to focus on QuickBooks, leaving Docstoc and several other services out of the picture. Nazar, who left as chief executive in February to pursue a new venture, said he spent months “trying everything I could” to re-acquire Docstoc with his own wealth. He made increasingly larger offers and assured that Docstoc would not seek to compete with any other potential Intuit services, but Intuit wasn’t interested, and he’s not sure why. Intuit didn’t immediately comment.

Nazar said most Docstoc employees have found new jobs, and that Intuit has treated everyone fairly. But he remains perplexed at why Intuit made a “shortsighted decision” to shut Docstoc down.


“Maybe, it just was an easier path than to go through with a simple transaction,” he said by phone.

Now, Nazar is a co-founder of Crew32 Inc., a human resources start-up that has raised at least $5.2 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week.

In other news, venture capital firm Greycroft Partners announced a new $200-million fund to invest in startups, mostly in Los Angeles and New York City. The new fund, the company’s fourth since its founding in 2006, will expand a special investment approach. Compared to most firms, Greycroft is more willing to own a smaller percentage of a company.

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The firm specializes in helping startups connect with big players in media and advertising. Current L.A. investments include All Def Digital, Makers Kit and Scopely. Greycroft’s newest investment came Monday. It joined Nordstrom and other investors in a $15.5-million financing of Shoes of Prey. The custom footwear maker moved this year to Santa Monica from Australia.

Finnish startup Futurefly visited with entertainment industry executives in Los Angeles last week to show off a chat app it plans to launch early next year. Most big-name chat apps, including Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, are trying to become platforms where users can do far more than just chat. But Futurefly Chief Executive Oskari Häkkinen said he wants to tackle what he thinks others aren’t paying enough attention to: Improving the actual chat experience.

His small team’s app uses real-time computer analysis of what people are talking about to animate their personalized avatars (kind of like full-bodied emojis that can kick, kiss and even play games with each other). The goal is to have the avatars accurately reflect your attire, location, actions and emotions.

Hakkinen aims for an emotionally engaging experience that gets brands and celebrities wanting to design and sell animations and virtual accessories. Already, digital entertainment investors in Los Angeles and New York City are on board. Futurefly has raised about $3 million from “Saturday Night Live” executive producer Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video Ventures, former Fox Television Entertainment Chairman Sandy Grushow, Nokia Chairman Risto Siilasmaa and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, Arielle. Increased usage of video chat could present a challenge.

Meantime, an iOS app aiming to reduce some of the hassles around gift-giving, like hunting down addresses, was launched by Santa Monica-based Giftagram. It lets users order Fitbits, cookies, handbags and more from more than 40 brands. Users just need to provide a recipient’s phone number or email. The gift-receiver enters where they want something shipped. Users don’t pay for the service; Giftagram generates revenue by sharing revenue  with the brands.

Elsewhere on the Web:

Jessica Alba tells Vanity Fair about how the “fear and anxiety” she endured growing up sick inspired her to start Honest Co. Her company, which sells home and beauty products that are free of toxins, is expected to generate $150 million in sales this year. Alba also responded to a recent class-action lawsuit over an allegedly ineffective sunblock, saying, “We learned we need to get in front of our product with education.” Honest is now a big part of Alba’s life, and the actress was on hand networking at Greycroft Partners’ holiday party last week.

File-sync service Younity raised $8 million in venture capital, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Without storing anything online, Younity links up all a user’s computing devices so they can access the same content on all of them.  The startup moved to Encinitas from Los Angeles early this year.


In case you missed it: Super Evil Megacorp took over eSports Arena in Santa Ana over the weekend for the largest live tournament for a mobile game in the U.S. The San Bernardino shooting showed off Snapchat’s quirks as a news source. And YouTube is seeking to license movies and TV shows to attract subscribers to Red, the video app’s new $9.99-a-month offering. Apparently, YouTube stars alone aren’t commanding many subscribers, analysts say.

Coming up: Competitive video-gaming, or eSports, has championships, coaches, teams, player contracts and many other trappings of major professional sports. Here’s another one: an All-Star Game. Los Angeles game developer Riot Games is hosting the best “League of Legends” players for a series of All-Star events Thursday through Sunday. Tickets cost up to $30.

Chat with me on Twitter @peard33


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