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New Knight Report Maps Growing Civic Tech Ecosystem

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, December 4 2013

Investor networks in civic tech, per Knight Foundation report

The Knight Foundation has released a fascinating and valuable, if incomplete, report on "The Emergence of Civic Tech: Investments in a Growing Field." It's the first major effort I've seen to define and map this growing space, and covers 209 companies that have received funding since 2011 in its purview. Read More

How to Lose Funds and Infuriate Users: Couchsurfing, a Cautionary Tale From the "Sharing Economy"

BY Sam Roudman | Thursday, November 7 2013

Embroidered Couchsurfing SpongeBob, by Courtney Leigh, 2010 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/courtney-leigh/5136501557/)

Couchsurfing is a global travel network founded in 2004. It claims six million adventurous travelers and hospitable hosts, together envisioning “a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection.” But on October 10, the company cut that connection with 40 percent of its staff, and its CEO Tony Espinoza, who just took over the company 18 months ago, announced he was stepping down. Adding to its trouble, according to TechCrunch, is the fact that the company, which has raised over $22 million since becoming a for-profit more than two years ago, is burning through $800,000 a month. How did the once-successful community platform go south? Read More

First POST: Longform

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 16 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: Steven Johnson responds to Henry Farrell's critique of the "Tech Intellectuals"; Twitter's Evan Williams lays out his vision of the future of media; Freshman Rep. Justin Amash gets some respect for his NSA fight; and much, much more. Read More

Tom Slee and the Omidyar Network: Six Degrees of Skepticism

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, September 16 2013

Is the Omidyar Network the new Standard Oil?

Tom Slee has penned a tough critique of the Omidyar Network's philanthropy, titled "Six Degrees of Omidyar," arguing that its venture capital investments "time and time again" have damaged "commons-based sharing" projects, pointing to investees like microfinance fund Unitus, Global Giving, CouchSurfing, Code for America and Change.org. As with all of Slee's writing, the piece is worth reading. But I think he's painting with far too broad a brush and has cherry-picked his evidence. Read More