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Can a drone find Bigfoot?

Marissa Mayer and David Karp
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Marissa Mayer and David Karp

A weekly recap of the latest news on the CNBC Disruptor 50 companies upending the status quo in the markets.

Tumblr tumbles

Any time a start-up is acquired by a large corporation the speculation ensues: killing the start-up's culture and alienating its "hip" audience are inevitable. When Yahoo acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion, the chatter was no different, but now, some say there are data to support the speculation, or at least foster debate.

Recent data from Quantcast and a report from BuzzFeed argue that Tumblr's popularity is no longer growing, but in fact, shrinking. Truth be told, Tumblr's tumble began before Yahoo acquired the start-up, after it peaked traffic-wise last November.

Tumblr argues that the arguments based on isolated data are incomplete. Tumblr says third-party metrics don't provide a full picture, leaving out mobile app usage, for example.

(Read more: Google's $35 Chromecast bites Apple)

Jeff Bezos to crush Pinterest next?

What online field will Amazon seek to dominate next? Amazon has launched a feature called Amazon Collections, which lets users categorize shopping wish lists into different categories.

The press immediately pinned down Amazon's latest interest as looking to steal some of Pinterest's success.

"Collections are a way to gather and share things you like, want, or recommend," the Amazon site reads. "Start a Collection to show off your unique style, or see what others have Collected on Amazon."

Opening Spotify's books

A few weeks ago Spotify came under fire from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke for giving musicians what Yorke believes is a raw deal, making itself much more money than musicians will ever see from it. How much money exactly?

That was answered this week, when Spotify filed financial results for 2012 with regulators in its home country of Sweden. Spotify generated $578 million in revenue in 2012, an increase of 128 percent from 2011, according to the filings. Lots of revenue, but like many popular start-ups, no profits to speak of: Spotify lost $78 million in 2012, widening from a loss of $60 million in 2011.

Spotify previously said in response to Yorke's claims that it has already paid out more than $500 million in royalties and will reach $1 billion in royalties paid by year-end.

(Read more: Here's the software that stops 3-D gun printing)

Kickstarter vs. "Final Fantasy"

If you are thinking about raising money on Kickstarter to produce your own film version of a popular video game, say "Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies," you may want to think twice. The would-be producers of a live-action Web series to be based on "Final Fantasy VII" and funded via Kickstarter were sued for copyright infringement by the game's maker, Square Enix.

Square Enix said of the series, which was seeking $400,000 to finance five to six episodes lasting around 15 minutes: "The project itself is in infringement of our copyrights and should be removed in its entirety from Kickstarter."

Square Enix sent a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice to Kickstarter, and the project has been taken offline pending a permanent resolution.

Uber looking for big fare

One of these days, mobile car service start-up Uber is likely to pick up a big fare, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in new financing to fund its expansion to cities in China, according to an interview given by its CEO, Travis Kalanick, this week.

Recently, it was reported in the press that TPG Capital and Google Ventures are interested in investing in the firm at a valuation of more than $3 billion, though the Uber CEO was not specific about investors.

(Read more: It's too late—Malware has already won)

HotelTonight's last-minute competitor?

One more start-up has stepped into the last-minute hotel reservation market pioneered by HotelTonight. Travel start-up Hipmunk has released a mobile app for booking last-minute hotel deals, and it didn't stray very far from HotelTonight's brand-name two-word lexicon. Hipmunk's "Tonight Only" app offers up to 60 percent discounted same-day bookings.

It can be argued it's a last-minute effort by Hipmunk to get in on the traffic. Kayak, Priceline, Expedia, Blink, Hotels Now and HotelQuickly, all followed HotelTonight into the niche after its initial success.

Airbnb to kill Spanish economy?

Spaniards may be struggling with high unemployment and a broken European Union financial model, but that's only made Spain an even better place for wealthy tourists from abroad. Tourism has contributed $32 billion to the country so far in 2013, according to Spain's Ministry of Tourism. The interesting part of the story, though, is the role start-up travel sites like Airbnb are playing in the Spanish economy.

The number of visitors choosing not to stay in hotels jumped by 17.6 percent in June, and is up more than 10 percent since the start of the year, according to the Spanish data.

(Read more: Killing the big electric bill)

Spain is Airbnb's third most popular market and the country's tax coffers are feeling a pinch as a result of its success within the booming tourism industry. Spanish bank La Caixa estimates two-thirds of the company's 1.1 billion overnight stays in Spain were with unregistered property owners, representing a drain on tax receipts that is starting to bite—and that the government may seek to take action to reverse, according to a Barcelona tourism news site.

Airbnb told another Spanish news service, "We operate in 192 counties and can't concern ourselves with 192 different legislative frameworks."

CBS' Moonves to Aereo: You got nuthin

Don't think that because the big television broadcasters have spent a great deal of time and energy fighting Aereo in court that they are really worried about the Internet television service. At least, not if you place more weight on the words of CBS President Les Moonves than in the war his lawyers are waging.

On CBS' earnings call, Moonves said, "We think it's a lot more wind than reality." Moonves added: "It's an illegal service that's stealing our content. We don't think it's catching on at all."

On Friday afternoon, Time Warner Cable said it had dropped CBS in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and several other markets after a deadline expired to resolve a contract dispute the two companies have been locked in over the past several weeks.

"We deeply regret this ill-advised action, which is injurious not only to our many affected viewers, but also to Time Warner Cable itself," CBS said in a statement.

Since last week, Time Warner has been advising its subscribers to use Aereo to watch CBS shows in the event the companies didn't reach a permanent deal.

Twitter's increasing role in the surveillance state

Twitter is under increasing pressure from governments around the world to release user's private information, with requests rising 40 percent in the first six months of the year, according to the company's semiannual transparency report, released on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Twitter's role in fostering bad behavior has caught the attention of the U.K. government.

Twitter "trolling"—anonymous bullies on the Internet—resulted in representatives from Twitter being summoned by a U.K. Parliament committee, after threats of rape and violence were made against women and a Guardian journalist on the social media website.

There is talk in the market that trolling could be worse than just a public relations nightmare for Twitter, and impact its plans to go public, according to a CNBC report.

And in the latest news of interest to the CNBC Disruptor 50 companies upending the status quo in the markets:

Edible Airbnb

Airbnb is helping to kill Spanish tax gains from its booming tourism industry. Are New York City restaurant sales tax receipts next? EatWith, a two-year old Israeli-based start-up that lets you eat with local families while traveling has expanded into the U.S., starting in New York City.

New Yorkers can now have their kitchens judged by EatWith representatives for potential inclusion on their list of brunch, lunch and dinner venues. Travelers can search EatWith for gatherings—hosts reserve the right to choose their guests based on profiles that guests must include on the website.

EatWith takes a 15 percent cut of each transaction.

Can a drone find Bigfoot?

3D Robotics recently demoed a $700 drone at a drone conference that can do some handy things, for example, allow a wedding photographer to get angles never before possible without climbing trees. But can a drone find Bigfoot?

Idaho State University's Jeffrey Meldrum thinks so. Meldrum and the University of Idaho are collaborating with William Barnes on a venture called "The Falcon Project"—a camera attached to a 45-foot-long drone to look for evidence of Sasquatch. Interest in Bigfoot has spiked (again) since video surfaced last week that claims to show a bipedal ape in the Canadian wilderness.

—By Eric Rosenbaum

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