IPad 2 Unveiled, Altius Rethinks Junior College, Hipmunk Adds Hotel Search, Thrutu Reimagines the Phone Call, & More Bay Area BizTech News

While Apple’s iPad 2 announcement was the marquee event in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley tech scene last week, there was plenty of other news, including the debut of some interesting new Web and mobile applications.

—My biggest project of the week was preparing an in-depth analysis of Altius Education, the venture-backed, San Francisco-based company working to reinvent the community college experience through an online program called Ivy Bridge College. Founder and CEO Paul Freedman told me how the company has managed to raise graduation and transfer rates at Ivy Bridge to about 60 percent, far above the national average of 20 percent for two-year colleges.

—In a bid to make phone calls more fun, a new Silicon Valley startup called Thrutu introduced an app for Android phones that lets users exchange photos, maps, and location data without interrupting a call and without switching apps. Owned by UK-based wireless equipment maker Metaswitch, the startup has plans to introduce iPhone and BlackBerry versions of the app as well.

—Google Ventures and Khosla Ventures announced that they helped put together a $42 million Series B round for WeatherBill, a San Francisco weather insurance company that sends checks to farmers automatically after extreme weather episodes. Allen & Company, Atomico, Code Advisors, First Round Capital, Index Ventures, and NEA also contributed to the round.

—Speaking of Google Ventures, it turns out one of the companies the search giant’s investment wing is incubating at the Googleplex in Mountain View isn’t even a tech startup. It’s a clearinghouse called LawPivot that brings together startups in need of legal advice and Silicon Valley attorneys aiming to build their client lists. Freelancer Elise Craig profiled the company for us.

—San Francisco-based SocialEyes launched at the Demo conference in Palm Desert, CA, last week. Chaired by RealNetworks founder and former CEO Rob Glaser, the company aims to provide social video chat services to Facebook users. Curt Woodward, Xconomy’s new editor in Seattle, had the story.

—Hipmunk, a Y Combinator-backed startup known heretofore for its innovative … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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