This week’s News of Note from the Silicon Valley – Dec 5, 2014

News – An alternative to Skype

Using Skype isn’t always smooth sailing. But there might soon be an alternative to the decade-old system. Jonathan Christensen, a former Skype VP, just founded a new communications app called Wire, financed in part by Janus Friis, a Skype co-founder. Based in Switzerland and Germany, Wire complies with European privacy laws and lets you share text, pictures, GIFs, and obviously make calls (voice for now). And while Wire doesn’t replace Skype yet, they hope to add real-time video chat soon and be a real competitor.

Newest – Crowdfunding for lawsuits

The idea is simple. Help finance a case and get a share of the settlement. LexShares pre-vets plaintiffs and cases, and funders receive updates and follow along with the courtroom action. But while the site’s tagline is “invest in justice” the jury is still out on the morality of this one.

Next – Rethinking mass transit

San Francisco’s public transportation doesn’t have the best reputation. Subways and buses are old, dirty, and overcrowded—at least they’re cheap. Ridesharing was a welcome innovation, but that can get pretty expensive.

Loup combines the best of both. Similar to a bus route, Loup runs a circular path between neighborhoods and designated pick-up/drop-off spots using private cars and drivers. For now, there are only two routes in San Francisco, but a recent $1.5 million investment might just let it catch on.