Peter Thiel launches Breakout Labs to fund bold early-stage research

Peter Thiel, the tech industry magnate known for co-founding PayPal and being an early investor in Facebook, is launching a new program called Breakout Labs aimed at funding cutting edge technology research ideas. It’s a big effort, but Thiel himself is known for bold ideas.

Zaarly goes big: $14.1M funding, Meg Whitman joins board

Peer-to-peer marketplace Zaarly has secured some major support — from some of the tech industry’s biggest names. Zaarly has closed on $14.1 million in a series A funding round. In addition, Hewlett-Packard CEO and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman has joined Zaarly’s board of directors.

At Qwiki, trouble over company’s future

Qwiki, the San Francisco-based search startup, may be going through a rough patch. Qwiki’s two top technical executives and at least one early engineer left abruptly last week, sources say, after major disagreements with the CEO over the company’s future product strategy.

Liftopia closes on $1.3M to help you hit the slopes

Liftopia, a website that sells discounted ski lift tickets and alpine resort packages, has closed on $1.3 million in new funding. The five-year-old company, which was founded by former Hotwire executives, says it plans to add deals on summertime “mountain-related activities” to make more year-round revenue.

VC funding dips, and seed investments nosedive

Although Silicon Valley has generally fared better than many other parts of the world, the venture capital industry is not immune to the macro-economic slowdown. In the third quarter of 2011, VC funding fell 12 percent in dollars and 14 percent in deals compared to Q2.

Livefyre lands $4.5M to take on Facebook comments

Livefyre, the software platform that embeds live commenting on websites, has secured $4.5 million in a new round of funding. The startup says it plans to use the money on hiring and new products — which will come in handy since it has some stiff competition: Facebook.

AwayFind closes seed funding and comes to Google Apps

AwayFind, the email productivity app that lets users get alerts when they receive important messages, is getting serious about business — its own, and others. The San Francisco startup has announced a new version specifically for businesses and the closure of its round of seed funding.

myGengo lands $5.25M for online translation that really works

myGengo, a startup that provides customized language translation services, has taken raised $5.25 million in new funding. myGengo is unique because it’s priced competitively — less than half the average price of professional translation — but its translations are made completely by humans, with no machine translation.

So you want to get into Y Combinator? Here’s how

Y Combinator is on the hunt for its next batch of startups, and the competition is stiff: The incubator generally accepts only three percent of the applications it receives. I sat down with YC partner Jessica Livingston to find out what they look for in entrepreneurs.

Wine wars: Lot18 gets new funds as Gilt debuts wine site

Lot18 has secured a small investment from some big-name backers, just as competition from Gilt Groupe heats up. The New York City-based daily deals site focused on high-end wine and complementary foods announced Wednesday it has received funding from Quidsi founders Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara.