Commerce

Sailthru, a start up that is trying to make “smart data” out of “big data,” has raised $19m in a Series B investment round led by Benchmark Capital.

This is the second investment to close in as many days for Benchmark, which led a $13.5m Series A fundraising round for Snapchat, the ephemeral social networking service that lets people post photos or messages that self-delete after 10 seconds or less. That company is valued between $60m and $70m. Read more

As Silicon Valley has boomed, there has been a flurry of public scrutiny of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook. But one company has stayed strangely out of the spotlight: Amazon.

In a new Financial Times ebook, on sale globally today, Barney Jopson and other FT writers lift the lid on a company which has grown from online book business into overlord of a corporate eco-system over which it wields extraordinary power. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Jonathan Kaplan, founder of the Flip video camera business and now a chain of toasted-cheese-sandwich restaurants, is putting his foot on the accelerator with his expansion plans this weekend – driving away the first of an intended fleet of more than 100 food trucks to supplement his store openings.

The move will bring The Melt, backed by top Silicon Valley VC firms Sequoia Capital and Benchmark Capital, closer to its goal of opening 500 outlets nationwide over five years. Read more

Apple’s $1bn win over Samsung in California should give inventors cautious optimism, writes James Dyson, founder and chief engineer of Dyson. It was an overwhelming victory in spite of a vacillating process that puts the onus on the patent’s owner to prove it has been copied, rather than the infringer to prove it has not.

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Tim Bradshaw

Rakuten has led a $100m funding round into Pinterest, which values the online “curation” community at around $1.5bn.

The Japanese ecommerce giant won out over major US venture capital firms who were vying for a piece of Silicon Valley’s new sweetheart, which lets users clip images to a virtual pinboard.

The FT spoke to Hiroshi Mikitani, chief executive of Rakuten, about how social discovery can boost ecommerce and the growing importance of images over text on the web. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

One of the more innovative approaches in the plethora of efforts to persuade more people to pay for more content online is “social micropayment” firm Flattr.

Acting something like an online tip jar, Flattr reverses the usual payment process by giving people a way to pay for content after they’ve consumed it, rather than before they know what they are getting. Read more

Tim Bradshaw

Investment continues to pour into the soaring Russian internet market, which recently overtook Germany as Europe’s largest by users.

The latest mega-deal sees Avito.ru, a Russian online classified site along the lines of Craigslist, raising $75m from local private equity firm Baring Vostok and global venture capitalists Accel Partners, alongside existing investors Kinnevik and Northzone. Read more

BNP Paribas has launched an iPad app in the hope that hedge fund managers will want to check out their stock holdings on the move, writes Dan McCrum.

“You can get off an airplane and in one minute see everything that’s happening in your portfolio,” says Sam Hocking, head of prime brokerage sales for the French Bank. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Apple has finally named a successor to Ron Johnson as head of its retail store operation, choosing John Browett, chief executive of the British electronics retailer Dixons.

Mr Browett (pictured left) will join in April as senior vice president of Retail, reporting to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Mr Johnson was named last June as the new chief executive of JC Penney, the US department store chain. Read more

facebook generic

Even as US Christmas shoppers have spent record sums online this year, one of the biggest disappointments for some internet entrepreneurs has been a company that is otherwise hot property: Facebook.

Retail executives and consultants say Facebook has yet to take off as a retail platform, defying excited predictions that “social commerce” – jargon for shopping via social media sites – would be the next big thing.

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