The year the Valley embraced sustainable food innovation

2013 is turning out to be the year when entrepreneurs and investors are embracing using technology to create more sustainable food products, from plant-based egg, meat, and cheese replacements, to healthier candy and salt.

Peter Thiel funds tornado power: seriously

Canadian entrepreneur Louis Michaud, who has spent years trying to commercialize his “out there” technology to harness tornadoes for power, has received a small grant from PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel’s early stage lab Breakout Labs.

Meet the next generation of air energy storage players

So what if it’s geeky power grid gear. Entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators are working hard on developing the next-generation of compressed air energy storage technology. Like an air battery. And Bill Gates is a fan.

Peter Thiel close to major Airbnb investment

Reuters reports that Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel is close to investing about $150 million at a $2.5 billion valuation in vacation sharing startup Airbnb. Thiel netted $400 million this year when he cashed out his stake in Facebook.

Airbnb is gearing up for a major fight with vacation sharing competitors Wimdu and 9flats. The fight is getting intense in Europe, where Wimdu and 9flats are based, and where over half of Airbnb’s listings are.

But a recent analysis of global search volume shows that Airbnb is still far outpacing it’s European competitors, and growing in terms of users trying to track down a vacation sharing site. While the search volume for 9flats and Wimdu remains relatively flat. I believe that peer-to-peer vacation sharing will wind up a near monopoly since all the value will gravitate toward the company with a critical mass of listings, a bit how like broad social media is fairly limited to Facebook. That’s particularly true here where not much distinguishes any of these brands.

So the question for the financial backers of Wimdu and 9flats is how long do they finance their respective startups, hoping they can compete in this rough environment. If you ask Peter Thiel, he’d probably say, not much longer. Since $150 million is a ton of capital right now, money that will allow Airbnb to start locking up the market.

Meet the man who’s beating Airbnb in Europe

European vacation rentals site HouseTrip has everything going for it right now: not least fast growth and a fresh new round of funding. Co-founder Arnaud Bertrand lays out why he thinks his site can carry on winning — and reveals the scale of his ambition.