Google's Second Brain and How to Succeed on Kickstarter

Time for the final update of 2012 about the stuff I've been covering here at Xconomy San Francisco.

--Google gave me access to three of their top search engineers, who filled me in on the Knowledge Graph, the "second brain" that promises to change everything about search. Technically, it's a semantic graph containing information about more than 570 million entities and the relationships between them. In practical terms, it means Google now knows a lot more about the world and the things in it -- which means that it's getting a lot better at answering your search queries on the first try.

--Our "Power of the Pivot" event on December 4 was a big success, thanks to our amazing speakers, all of whom have faced that critical moment when they had to rethink their companies' products or business models. I published a primer for attendees summing up some of the best wisdom from startup gurus about how to pull off a successful pivot.

--Back in November I wrote a column highlighting 10 Kickstarter projects that illustrated how the advent of crowdfunding is giving a boost to creative entrepreneurs. I set up a "World Wide Wade Kickstarter Fund" and pledged $10 to each of the 10 (ultimately 13) projects, including everything from an animated digital sci-fi film to impossible-to-steal bike lights. Well, this month it was time to check back in on the projects to see how they did. In the end, seven out of the 13 projects in my fund reached their fundraising goals. I talked with several of the creators behind the projects and gathered some insights about how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.

--I covered the debut of Matter Ventures, a new San Francisco-based startup accelerator that plans to invest in participatory media companies. Funded by KQED and the Knight Foundation, the accelerator is the brainchild of Public Radio Exchange executive director Jake Shapiro (more on PRX in this 2009 Q&A) and will be led by former Frontline producer Corey Ford.

--Speaking of accelerators, Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale probably has the highest density of early stage startups anywhere in Silicon Valley. Much more than just a place for startups to rent a desk, it's a busy hive of business development and investing activity. I interviewed founder and CEO Saeed Amidi about how Plug and Play fits into his larger business empire, and we published our profile and Q&A on Dec. 13.

--I wrote a tutorial on IFTTT (If This, Then That), the free online tool that helps you connect the online services you use everyday and make cool stuff happen. For example, I've set up IFTTT to save my favorite tweets to Evernote, and to send interesting YouTube videos to Pocket, where I can view them at my leisure. Don't let yourself slip into digital irrelevance -- give IFTTT a try.

--If you're a video game fan, you'll be interested in a piece coming out Monday December 17 about Green Throttle Games. Check out the site after about 9:30 a.m. Pacific.

Wade Roush

Science and technology journalist