Sunday, December 16, 2012

New App Keeps Family Memories Safe and Private

Founded by Stuart Watson, Memory Jar is a newly launched app that lets you store your family memories in a beautiful digital interface. Available on the iPhone and iPod, Memory Jar not only saves your photos; you can also add dates and other information to create more detailed memories. And just like you would with a printed picture, you can flip photos in the app to view its details. You can create individual photo journals for as many family members as you like, whether you're a mom of three or a single guy with a loyal pooch. Archived memories are easily browsable via list or thumbnail view.

Unlike other apps, Memory Jar doesn't require you to create an account. Just download it and start using it right away. And because not all family memories are meant to be shared with the world, everything you record in Memory Jar stays private until you choose to share it via Facebook or Twitter. The app also integrates with Evernote for safekeeping.

Neverware Makes Old Computers New Again Without Upgrading Hardware

After receiving his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 2009, Jonathan Hefter moved back home and spent a year developing a system that would make old computers run like new. Called Neverware, Hefter's product helps schools and other organizations gain access to modern operating systems without upgrading their hardware.

“The reason schools can't afford current solutions is not because they don't have any money, but because the only solutions in the market were created for a Fortune 500 market that purchases solutions two orders of magnitude greater than what schools can afford,” says Hefter.

So how does Neverware work? Each network is powered by a server called the Juicebox, which turns old computers into “thin clients.” The Juicebox handles all the software programs, so a thin client requires very little to function properly – it can even be a decade old and missing its hard drive.

According to Hefter, schools that use Neverware will never have to buy new computers again. Clients only need to pay a subscription fee based on the number of computers on the network. The subscription also covers installation, hardware, and maintenance costs. One Juicebox can run 100 computers, making Neverware a more efficient and affordable option than buying new equipment. In addition, Neverware is built to automatically delete any unauthorized changes on every logout, thereby eliminating viruses and other possible security issues.

Neverware has been tested and implemented in various high schools throughout the northeast, one of which is the East New York Family Academy in Brooklyn. Robert Hornik, who has taught at the school for two decades, says, “The transformation was incredible. We went from having around 20 computers that performed terribly to 150 machines that run like they are brand new.”

Last year, Neverware raised $1 million in funding. Participants in the round included GRP Partners, Khosla Venures, General Catalyst Partners, Thrive Capital, Raptor Ventures, and a few angel investors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Get All the Latest Product Launch News Without Searching Via LaunchGram

If you've ever looked forward to the release of a long-awaited gadget or movie, chances are you googled it every day so you wouldn't miss a thing. Well, there's no need to do that anymore, thanks to Mountain View startup LaunchGram. Founded in January of 2012, LaunchGram is a free alert service that sends you breaking news and updates on products that have yet to launch. In the words of co-founder and CEO Andy Sparks, it “aggregates pre-release demand signals for products coming soon.”

Why go to the news when you can let the news come to you? Simply sign up for an account at the LaunchGram website and follow the things you can't wait to become available, such as the Assassin's Creed film or the Xbox 720. After you're subscribed, you will receive “LaunchGrams” via email. But don't worry about your inbox getting flooded with misleading rumors or redundant info – LaunchGram will only send curated updates such as pre-order availability, photos, video, and release dates. Sparks and his two co-founders personally do most of the work, scouring the web for the latest information about your favorite products and verifying its authenticity. According to Sparks, they employ a “healthy combination of user-generated tips coupled with [our] own internal curation.” News sent to your email shows up on the product pages at the LaunchGram website as well. SMS alerts used to be an option but were discontinued due to low usage.

LaunchGram started out focusing on movies, electronics, video games, and cars. Recently, the startup added TV shows – the most requested category by users – to its roster, as well as got accepted into the 500 Startups accelerator.

For the LaunchGram team, a good company culture is just as important as having a good product, so Sparks and his co-founders make sure they have fun every day. “We believe that people deserve to enjoy the work they do,” he says.

You're Invited... To Personalize Your Child's Birthday Invitations

Based in Toronto, Canada, PercyVites is a newly launched startup that offers personalized video invitations for your child's birthday. A lot greener and more engaging than traditional paper invites, the short video clips star licensed cartoon characters, with your kid's picture and party details integrated into the world of their favorite character. At present, you can send out PercyVites that feature Caillou, a 4-year-old boy with a big imagination. The customization process is easy, and it takes only a few minutes to input your child's name, the date and time of the party, the birthday activities, and other information. Additionally, you can track the number of invitations opened and RSVPs via the PercyVites interface. Each video invite is $0.99.

PercyVites also offers personalized thank you videos and video photo compilations that go for $0.79 and $2.99 each, respectively. The company plans to add more characters to the service down the line.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Scanning On the Go With Apparent's Doxie Go

Headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, Apparent has been making smart devices and software since 1998. With a range of award-winning products and brands for individuals and organizations, Apparent is the company behind Doxie Go, “a new kind of scanner” that you can bring anywhere with you. Featuring a built-in rechargeable battery and 512 MB of internal memory, Doxie Go is an ideal solution for people who are always on the go or those who don't want a cluttered desk. You can use it to scan virtually anything, including bills, receipts, drawings, notes, photos, reports, and business cards. Just insert your paper into the tiny powerhouse and it will scan a full color page at up to 600 dpi in seconds. Books are obviously out of the question, but Doxie Go is a must-have if you're looking for a portable scanner.

Speaking of portable, Doxie Go doesn't require a computer to work. It stores everything in its built-in memory, which can be expanded with an SD card or USB flash drive. You can transfer your scans to your computer via USB, just like a digital camera. Additionally, the included Doxie 2.0 software lets you save your documents in PDF, JPEG, and lossless PNG formats; you can even create searchable, multi-page PDFs simply by clicking the “staple” button. Then, when you're ready to back up your files, another click sends them straight to Evernote, Dropbox, or other cloud services. Doxie Go retails for $199 and was recently featured on TechCrunch's Holiday Gift Guide.

Apparent also created Barcode Producer, an award-winning barcode app for designers that has become the standard in PC and Mac barcode software; IntelliScanner, a barcode reader that organizes homes, businesses, and classrooms; and IntelliScanner Comic Edition, a barcode scanner and comic management software that organizes and inventories comic collections.

Addappt: Say Goodbye to Manually Updated Address Books

Founded by Mrinal Desai and Jorge Ferreira, Addappt is a newly launched app that eliminates the need for manually updating your address book. Described as “the up-to-date address book maintained by your friends,” Addappt needs to be updated only once. If anything changes, it automatically streamlines your mobile, desktop, iCloud, and even your contacts' address books.

Speaking of contacts, they need to use Addappt as well in order for the system to work, because the company doesn't store your information on its servers. According to Desai, “We're looking at this like the address book as a platform. When you add a contact, it's like adding a friend of Facebook.” Similarly, your approval is required before anyone can add you as a contact and see your details.

Desai says he wanted to build an address book app because it has always been his “primary social network,” even with the arrival of social media.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Over Three Decades of New York Law

A seasoned legal professional who has risen to the upper echelons of his vocation, Theodore H. Friedman completed his Juris Doctor at Harvard Law School in 1956 and moved on to establish himself as one of New York's most capable trial lawyers through his work at Philips Nizer LLP and later in private practice. Representing a wide range of individual and business clients in lawsuits involving personal injury, fraud, liability, and more, Friedman has taught and lectured extensively in conjunction with his work in the courtroom and commits a significant portion of his time toward promoting social justice initiatives in his community and overseas. A former member of the College of Trial Lawyers and the Inner Circle of Advocates, he has argued before the United States Supreme Court on two occasions, won numerous multi-million dollar settlements for his clients, and tried more than 200 jury cases over the course of his long career.  

Profiled in Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book Outliers: The Story of Success, Theodore H. Friedman was also the subject of a 1972 article written by Calvin Trillin that appeared in the U.S. Journal. Friedman's victories in court have also been chronicled in The New York Times, New York Magazine, and the New York Law Journal, among other widely read publications. Although the media attention Friedman has received speaks highly to his prominent standing in Manhattan's legal community, he prefers to eschew the limelight and divert his energy toward endeavors aligned with his strong sense of civic responsibility. To this end, Theodore H. Friedman has partnered with Ralph Nader to improve vehicle safety laws and lent his expertise to the Center for Injury Research, (CfIR), a non-profit group that develops tests to gauge how automobiles and passengers would fare in the event of a serious collision.  A longtime supporter of  The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ), Friedman has contributed a great deal towards efforts that benefit Ethiopian Jews living outside of Israel. 

You can learn more about Friedman by visiting his blog 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ESPN: Sports Entertainment In the Digital Age

A multinational sports entertainment company with a diverse portfolio of assets, ESPN, Inc. launched more than 30 years ago and continues to expand its television, audio, publishing, online, and wireless interests on a global scale. Owned by primary stakeholder ABC, Inc. in partnership with The Hearst Corporation, ESPN maintains eight cable networks in the United States, five of which function on a high-definition simulcast platform. The enterprise’s 48 international networks reach audiences on every continent in tandem with the periodicals and books released in constant stream by a thriving publishing arm. Moreover, ESPN Radio and its Spanish language equivalent ESPN Deportes Radio are currently syndicated in 11 countries around the world and present 9,000 hours of sports-related talk on an annual basis. 

ESPN’s unmatched event coverage has long set an industry standard thanks to the leadership of Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of Event Production Jed Drake. Drake’s influence at ESPN can be seen in nearly all of the network’s major broadcast properties including Major League Baseball, Monday Night Football, NASCAR, FIFA World Cup soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and golf, among others. A network veteran who holds 30-plus years of experience in his field, Jed Drake works in close collaboration with the company’s executive team to ensure that all future event programming endeavors are implemented boldly and strategically, thus surpassing viewer expectations in a time when competition is fierce and innovation occurs rapidly.   

Online specific sites such as and are extremely valuable facets of the corporation’s business holdings as well and provide consumers a wide array of sport-specific content designed for ultimate niche demographic appeal. Dominant in wireless market segments thanks to a number of pioneering initiatives undertaken in recent years, ESPN Mobile Properties offers users access to scores, headlines, video highlights, and more through a seamlessly integrated digital network on the cutting edge of wireless technology. Further information about Jed Drake and ESPN can be found at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Robot Helps You Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Developed by Intuitive Automata, Autom is a diet robot that acts as a personal weight loss coach. Originally announced in 2007, the petite tabletop golem reminds you to watch what you eat and asks  how much you exercised today, among other health goals. Only about 2 percent of people who diet lose weight and keep it off. Autom aims to help more dieters achieve their ideal body by aiding them in tracking their progress consistently. And despite the name, there's nothing automated about Autom. The more you use her, the more she learns about you and customizes her advice. It's just like having a mini personal coach in your home; no two conversations are the same, and monthly updates ensure that she always has something new to say.

Additionally, it doesn't matter which diet you follow. Choose any diet you want and Autom will provide the support and motivation you need to succeed. According to Cory Kidd, founder of Intuitive Automata and inventor of Autom, tests have shown that Autom is much more effective at helping someone stick with a diet than doing the same thing on a computer, tablet, or phone. Testers have also grown attached to the robot, talking about her like a family member or friend after just a few weeks of having a brief conversation with her daily. “Not only that, nearly everyone named her and many people even dressed her up with things like scarves, hats, or a red feather boa!” says Kidd, who based Autom on his Ph.D. work at the MIT Media Lab. There, he spent years studying the psychology of human-robot interaction and its health-related applications.

Slated to ship in May or June of 2013, Autom is produced in partnership with Chinese manufacturer PCH International. Intuitive Automata is currently running an Indiegogo campaign, where you can get  Autom without a health coach subscription for $199 or with a full year's subscription for $249. More ordering options and information are available on the Indiegogo page.

AppRedeem Offers Win-Win Situation for Advertisers and App Users

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, AppRedeem is the startup behind AppTrailers, an app that rewards users for watching videos about other apps. Founded in 2010, AppRedeem helps advertisers and mobile developers reach and engage new customers via a cost-efficient advertising platform.

With AppTrailers, users get points for watching an app trailer whether they download the app at the end of the video or not. Advertisers are only charged if a user opts to download the app. According to AppRedeem, this provides more value to advertiser because users only download the apps they really want to install. Points can be redeemed for gift cards on iTunes, Amazon, and others. Users also earn bonus points when they refer a friend to AppTrailers.

Available on iPhone, Android, and Kindle Fire, AppTrailers receives 5 million video views per day. The platform has been used by Disney, Expedia, Groupon, Expedia, Gameloft, and more. AppRedeem is backed by BlueRun Ventures and SV Angel, among others.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Voxer, the Walkie Talkie App for Your Smartphone

Founded by Tom Katis in late 2010, Voxer is an app that turns your smartphone into a walkie talkie. Additionally, it's an all-in-one messenger that allows you to send live text, audio, and photo messages to a single friend or a group of friends. Because everything is stored in the cloud, you can view or listen to messages later in case you miss them. Voxer also works with Facebook so you can talk to your Facebook buddies via the app.

Katis got the idea for Voxerwhile he was serving as a special forces communications sergeant for the US Army in Afghanistan. He found communication on the battlefield difficult, especially when he was trying to coordinate reinforcements and the medical team in the middle of an ambush. Available for free for Apple and Android devices, Voxer has been gaining users around the world since its launch and even beat Facebook and Twitter as the most downloaded social networking app in the App Store at one point.

Smart Mobile Shopping With ShopSavvy

The original barcode mobile scanning app and the leader in barcode-powered shopping, ShopSavvy was introduced in late 2008 when it was named one of the 10 winners of the Google Android Developer Challenge. Since then, the app has become one of the most popular shopping apps for Android, iPhone, and Windows, with more than 40 million downloads and 10 million active users performing 50 million scans every month.

A personal shopping companion for smartphone users, ShopSavvy lets shoppers scan the UPC, EAN, or QR barcode of a physical product and instantly discover where the item is sold locally and online, where it is in stock, and which retailer offers the best price. In addition to price comparisons, users can  utilize ShopSavvy to access special promotions, online reviews, and other helpful info as well. By aggregating the product data, ratings, reviews, and deals from retailers, partners, and users, ShopSavvy maintains the most comprehensive database of up-to-date pricing and inventory information for mobile shoppers, covering over 20 million products from more than 40,000 retailers around the world.

ShopSavvy's other features include alerts, which notifies users when a product is on sale or in stock at a particular retailer; wish lists, an easy way to organize products of interest; and history, which the app automatically keeps. This week, ShopSavvy announced the introduction of ShopSavvy 6. The latest version of the app is optimized for the iPad and equipped with some new features such as enhanced keyword search and a deals tab, where users can browse special offers and coupons on a Twitter-like stream.

“The iPad's immense popularity has created a new wave of shoppers: ones who never leave home. This year retailers are pursuing these consumers like never before... That's why we've made ShopSavvy 6 the ideal companion for iPad users,” said co-founder and CEO Alexander Muse in a press release.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Students Make Money With Their Notes on Flashnotes

Studying pays. No really, it does. Founded by David Petruziello, Steven Maggs, and Michael Matousek, Flashnotes is an online marketplace where college students can buy and sell notes. So if you've been a diligent note-taker, this is your chance to earn some extra money with what you already have. You set your own price (the average is about $8 per note) and keep up to 80 percent of every sale. If you haven't been taking notes, Flashnotes may still prove to be a valuable resource for you, as 65 percent of students who have bought materials from the site report seeing an improvement in their GPA.

Flashnotes is currently available in 75 schools across America. Recently, the Boston-based startup closed a seed round that raised $1.8 million from Softbank Capital, Atlas Venture, Michael Lazerow, and other angel investors. The funds will go into further research and rolling out the system nationwide.

Get Off Your Butt With LifeKraze

Dubbed a “Twitter with heart and high-fives” by The Next Web, LifeKraze is an iOS and web app that helps people live a more active life. Founded by three friends who played soccer in college, it asks, “What have you done?” instead of, “What are you doing?” Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LifeKraze focuses on individual, real world actions that make a difference. As team member Jonathan Yagel put it, “We're making the move from sharing experiences to facilitating action.”

Founders Michael Brooks Jr., David Nielson, and Ben Wagner started the Chattanooga-based company right after graduation to give people access to the benefits of teams. As a LifeKraze user, you're encouraged to share your accomplishments, whether big or small, in 160 characters or less, as well as give away 300 daily points to other people who post their achievements. You can award up to 50 points for each accomplishment, depending on how much you were impressed by it. The points you earn on LifeKraze can then be turned into rewards from brands such as prAna and The North Face. You can also use your points to make donations to non-profits.

According to fans, the best part about LifeKraze is the positive community. Users motivate each other with high fives and encouraging comments, and it is this support that keeps them coming back. A lot of users find that they are able to share things on LifeKraze that they wouldn't feel comfortable sharing on other social networks, where people would just laugh at or get annoyed with them. Users have praised LifeKraze for being a unique social network that uplifts the spirit, focuses on positivity, and doesn't have any of the drama found on other sites.

“People are looking for encouragement and we're proud to a place where they can consistently find it,” says Yagel.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Common Craft Explains It All

Founded by Lee LeFever in 2003, Common Craft is a video production company that began as an online community consulting firm. While helping organizations with their online community strategies, he had to explain social concepts to his clients, so Lee wrote a couple of blog posts called “RSS in Plain English” and “Wikis in Plain English.” These posts subsequently became popular and made him realize that he had a knack for explaining complex topics to beginners.

In 2006, Lee had the idea of turning his “In Plain English” posts into videos. He started by standing in front of the camera with a whiteboard behind him but “felt like a complete dork.” His wife Sachi suggested pointing the camera down onto a whiteboard on the floor and using paper cut-outs and other props instead. In April of the following year, the LeFevers published their first video, “RSS in Plain English.” The video blew up, and it wasn't long before companies approached them for custom videos.

After Common Craft made “Google Docs in Plain English” for Google, Lee and Sachi “decided to drop everything and focus on nothing but videos.” Since then, the husband and wife team has created video explanations for Dropbox, Ford, Intel, LEGO, Microsoft, and more. “We recognized that this decision was a risk,” says Lee of the company's pivot. “We had no formal experience in education or video production, but it was the right thing to do. We're big fans of taking risks based on our gut feelings for opportunities.”

Today, in addition to working on custom video projects, Common Craft offers licensable videos that members can embed, download, and use in classrooms and business presentations. The company also has a cut-out library where members can download digital images to create their own Common Craft-style videos.

Over the years, Common Craft has earned a number of awards from the Internet and business communities, including the International Association of Business Communicators' Gold Quill and International Academy of Visual Arts' Communicator Excellence Award.

PlayTell Lets Families Play Together Even When They're Apart

On their weekly “Skype dates,” Semira Rahemtulla and her nephew would try to read together by holding the book up to the camera. Doing so wasn't as easy as reading with each other in person, so Rahemtulla decided to create an app that would let families read and play together while in a video chat. Earlier this year, she and Jason DePerro founded PlayTell, a San Francisco-based startup that aims to help families get more quality time together and connect on a deeper level through technology.

Currently available on the iPad only, the PlayTell app combines video chat with a “playspace” where families can read an ebook or play a video game together. Rahemtulla says PlayTell is useful for grandparents (more than 50 percent live far away from their grandchildren), parents who travel a lot for work, military families, divorcees, and parents who are trying to adopt. Further down the line, PlayTell may expand to the education field and target teachers and tutors as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Air Pacific Flourishes Under the Supervision of David Pflieger

Fiji’s premier airline carrier, Air Pacific Ltd recently celebrated six successful decades in operation, a milestone the enterprise reached on September 1, 2011. Employing a staff of more than 800, the company transports upwards of one million passengers annually to a wide range of international destinations including the United States, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands.

Installed as Air Pacific’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer in May 2010, David Pflieger brings more than two decades of experience to a key leadership role that he continues to excel in as time goes by. Mr. Pflieger confronted a number of serious business issues when he originally joined the airline, many of which were related directly to inadequate cash reserves and increasing fuel prices. Widely credited as the primary architect of Air Pacific’s dramatic turnaround, David Pflieger cut operating losses from F$91 million (approximately $45.5 million USD) to F$3 million in less than one year, a notable achievement that garnered F$24 million in net profits for the now stable company.

Over the course of the past two years, David Pflieger has effectively streamlined Air Pacific and its regional subsidiary Pacific Sun to grow combined revenue by seven percent. Following an extensive reorganization of managerial structures and renegotiation of union contracts, Mr. Pflieger laid the foundation for Air Pacific’s future success by focusing on performance, timeliness, and customer satisfaction. His targeted approach has proved viable in numerous ways. Today, Air Pacific and Pacific Sun earn a gross revenue total of F$580 million. 

Aside from reinvigorating Air Pacific and its subsidiary financially, David Pflieger developed and implemented an innovative fuel conservation program, the first of its kind in the company’s history. Moreover, Mr. Pflieger created a Guest Service Department to ensure that every person who travels with Air Pacific enjoys their flight to the utmost degree. Further information about the airline and its customer-oriented business model can be found at

Monday, October 29, 2012

App Helps Tame Wild Inboxes

Like many modern folks, Ria Greiff had out-of-control inboxes. With her duties as a psychology professor, clinical director, model, and full-time mom, she barely had time to manage her emails while she was managing her work responsibilities and personal life. Hence, she and her husband Scott, a lead software developer, came up with the idea of creating an app that would help her and other people regain control of their inboxes. After many late nights of working on their idea, the husband and wife team launched MailTamer.

Designed to assist individuals who are drowning in excessive emails, MailTamer is a mobile app that allows you to achieve inbox zero by providing a sender-centric view of all your emails from multiple accounts. You can filter your emails by all senders, senders who are already in your contacts, or date. You also have the ability to drill down to see the details of a message, web preview messages in HTML format, and search senders and folders. MailTamer is available on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod, and a Mac version is currently in the works.

Ria says she went from 10,000 to 400 emails in half an hour using MailTamer. She now invests all of her freed up time back into the app's operations and marketing, making radio appearances to promote the “zen of a zero inbox.” Scott, meanwhile, is adding features to MailTamer. Additionally, the Greiffs will soon be releasing another app called TaskTamer.

“We're starting to realize we're more than just an app or a couple of apps,” says Ria. “What we really want is to grow into a business that helps, in general, with productivity and efficiency issues. Eventually we'll get to the point where we'll develop an actual company and the company will represent the apps themselves but right now we're just on MailTamer.”

GoBee an Entrepreneur With Affordable Business Training

Founded in 2011 by Lap-Tin Tsun, GoBee is a Sydney-based startup providing affordable, high quality, and practical business education for entrepreneurs and small business owners. At GoBee, anyone can learn about business planning, sales, marketing, accounting, funding, presentations, and more from real and successful entrepreneurs, small business owners, consultants, and experts from around the world. GoBee's modules start at less than $5 each, proving that business training need not be expensive. All presenters have been evaluated based on their qualifications, and GoBee promises only strategies that have already been tested and proven.

GoBee is free to join and you can preview modules before purchasing them. Once you've bought a module using credits, you can watch it as many times as you like for the next 90 days. If you're not sure where to start, GoBee has some featured training videos, as well as sections showing the most popular and latest materials.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weather Puppy, a Weather App That's Actually Cute

Suraj Hemnani thinks weather apps are boring, so he started Weather Puppy, a brand new weather app that has cute pooches on it. With 72 puppies and 4 themes, Weather Puppy makes checking weather conditions fun. The puppy changes along with the weather and time, so if it's bright and sunny outside, for example, the featured pup may be wearing shades. Open the app on a rainy day and you'll see a soaked puppy wrapped in a towel. Check the weather before bed and puppy may already be sleeping soundly.

The Miami-based startup has also teamed up with dog shelters and non-profits across America, allowing them to fundraise by selling their own branded themes within the app. Weather Puppy's partner charities include Paws4You, Detroit Dog Rescue, the Pennsylvania SPCA, the Austin Humane Society, the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, the Humane Society of Broward County, Animal Humane New Mexico, the San Antonio Humane Society, The Anti-Cruelty Society, the Humane Society of Utah, SPCA Tampa Bay, and Animal Haven.

Prismatic, Your Personalized Interest Network

Co-founded by Bradford Cross and Aria Haghighi in early 2012, Prismatic is an iPhone app that gives you a personal news feed based on your interests. All you have to do is sign up with Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, and Prismatic will start connecting you with the most interesting stories on the web. Featuring clean, simple layouts, the app promises to provide you with “a delightful reading experience.”

Prismatic knows how to balance all your interests, so you always get a combination of what you like and new stuff that you wouldn't find otherwise. Because the app is designed to help you explore content without any limits, it also suggests links that you might find interesting. And when you do come across something you'd like to pass on to your friends and family, you can share it with them via email, Twitter, or Facebook right from the app.

According to Cross, social networks are what inspired him and his team to launch Prismatic. While social networks have made the Internet more human by connecting a billion people in one big conversation, they have made us arrogant as well, he says. “We decided to build an 'interest network' focused on interesting content – the stuff you're not seeing on social networks. This seems to be what everybody wants and loves much more so than 'filtering the signal from the noise' in what they already see.”

Creating this “interest network” was no easy feat, as keeping people engaged can be tricky. Hence, Cross and company focused on achieving the right mix of technical research, design research, and social to make Prismatic a daily use product. So far, 20 percent of the app's weekly users are using it six or seven days per week. Prismatic recently added more social features, allowing users to follow their favorite topics, people, and publishers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

messageQube: Social Connectivity for Seniors

Like most seniors, Rob Sweeney's 83-year-old mother does not use text messaging or email. Sweeney wanted for her to easily stay connected with the rest of the family, so he invented the messageQube, a small wireless printer that receives and prints text messages and images. The 4.2-inch cube, which runs on the Sprint network, is “high-tech communication disguised as a friendly piece of paper.” Each unit has its own phone number, allowing friends, family, doctors, and other contacts to send messages to messageQube owners via cell phones and the messageQube web, iPhone, and Android apps. The machine also has a phone book feature that not only identifies the sender and prints their name and number along with their message, but prevents spam as well.

Aside from enhancing social connectivity for the older population, the messageQube can also be used for birthday and anniversary reminders, family news, and medication reminders, which users can confirm they have received by pressing a flashing green button on the printer. The messageQube, which utilizes thermal paper and does not require any ink or setting up, retails for $199.95. A monthly subscription of $19.95 includes 2,000 text messages and 100 photos sent from the apps. Because its firmware communicates via SMS, FTP, and HTTP, messageQube is ready to use straight out of the box; it only needs to be plugged in.

Sweeney's mom and aunt now use the messageQube daily. Based on the research his company has done, the device has a potential user base of 30,000 to 50,000 seniors. And that's just the consumer market. According to Sweeney, the commercial market presents more opportunities. This includes uses in health care, education, restaurants, and government. Based in Parkville, Missouri, messageQube is now working with clients and distribution partners to expand its reach. The four-person company has raised $800,000 in seed funding.

Easy Online Transactions With Stripe

Born and raised in an Irish county called Tipperary, brothers John and Patrick Collison learned to code at a young age after Patrick received a computer as a present one year. When they were in their teens, John and Patrick started Auctomatic, an auction marketplace system that focused on local users. They sold the startup within a year and subsequently left Ireland to go to college in the US. John studied physics at Harvard, while Patrick studied math at MIT. During the fall term, the brothers began working on Stripe, a simple web-based tool that allows individuals and companies to accept payments online.

Though a “fairly lightweight commitment” at first, Stripe eventually became a full-time venture for the Collisons. Today, Stripe handles the online payment processes of various Fortune 500 companies, startups, non-profits, and side projects in the US and Canada. The San Francisco startup is backed by investors such as PayPal co-founders Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Max Levchin.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alike Helps You Find Places You'll Love

You most likely know your neighborhood pretty well. You know where to find the best vegetable curry, where to find the cutest clothes, and where all the cool kids hang out on a Saturday night. But what if you visit a city you've never been to before and don't know anyone there? Sure, you could turn to online reviews, but can you really trust what complete strangers are saying? What's good for them may not work for you. This is where Alike comes in.

Recently released for the iPhone, Alike is a mobile and web app that tells you which places nearby match your tastes and preferences. Simply key in the name of your favorite spot and it will show you a list of recommendations that are most like your search query. Alike also provides venue details, menus, deals, ratings, photos, and more.

Founder Maria Zhang, a software engineer who had previously worked at Microsoft and Zillow, leads Alike's team of self-described data geeks and mobile enthusiasts who love to shop. “Our mission is to make searching on the go simple and easy so everyone will end up having wonderful experiences while out and about,” she says.

But how does Alike know just how similar two places are to each other? “We've painstakingly collected hundreds of terabytes of data and crafted complex algorithms to really understand the essence of a place,” Zhang explains. “We compare these essences to discover similar places. The great thing about this big data approach is that there is no waiting for a critical mass of 500 of your friends or 10 million other people for the service to be useful.”

So far, Alike has analyzed nearly 20 million places and over 201 million attributes. And it's continuously doing so to offer even more and even better suggestions.

Easy Nocturnal Planning With Wendr

If you're tired of sending endless texts, emails, or tweets to all of your friends just to find out what they're doing tonight, then Wendr is the perfect app for you. Founded by Sam Zises and Nick Kaye, Wendr makes it easy to discover what your friends will be up to when the sun goes down, find new and interesting stuff to do, as well as let your pals know if you're going out, open to suggestions, or staying in for the night. You can group your friends into crews and control who sees your plans. For example, if you're going to a party but don't want your co-workers to know, just set your visibility to your best buds. Wendr only focuses on your plans for tonight, so everything resets automatically at 6 am. Currently compatible with just the iPhone, the app recently won Thrillist and Samsung's Speed Dating for Startups competition.


Monday, October 1, 2012

HowAboutWe Helps Couples Decide What to Do on a Date

Brooklyn-based dating startup HowAboutWe recently launched HowAboutWe for Couples, an online members-only service designed just for couples. Every month, users receive a curated “DateBook” containing the best dates in the city, all hand-picked for their quality and originality. Couples choose their favorite and go; HowAboutWe takes care of everything else, from booking to redemption. Previous offerings include a private tour of the Museum of the Moving Image (plus cocktails), two hours at a shooting range, and a private stand-up class followed by a comedy show with dinner and drinks. Membership is $80 per couple per month and can be applied to one date in the DateBook. If nothing strikes a couple's fancy, they can pause their membership for the month. Should they decide to go on more than one date, they pay for each subsequent date booked.

HowAboutWe for Couples is still in private alpha testing but already has a monthly retention rate of 80 percent. “These are incredible experiences that you can't get anywhere else,” says HowAboutWe co-founder and co-CEO Brian Schechter. “We work closely with New York's smartest lifestyle curators and with top-tier vendors to craft the dates.” Yes, the service is only available in NYC at the moment; however, there are plans to expand to other cities such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC next year.

For those who are still looking for love, HowAboutWe's first product is a dating site that was launched in 2010. HowAboutWe (for singles) encourages people to get offline and go on actual dates based on the proposition, “How about we (insert activity here)?” The dating site sees 2,000 new users each day and has generated over 100 percent revenue growth annually.

The startup has raised $18.5 million since its inception. Investors include RRE, Khosla Ventures, High Line, LaunchTime, and NYC Seed, among others.

Karma: Instant Mobile Giving

Launched in 2011, Karma is an app that aims to revolutionize giving by letting users instantly send gifts from their phone. “We know we're not the only ones who live far from friends and family,” says co-founder Lee Linden. By pinpointing a problem they had themselves, Linden and the rest of the Karma team built a platform that allows for real-time, person-to-person mobile gifting.

To send a gift, select a product and card within the app. Karma will then notify the recipient via text, email, or Facebook. Recipients can choose their favorite colors, styles, and flavors, as well as swap the gift for another item or donate the value to charity. To receive a gift, they just need to enter their address, and Karma will wrap and send it. Additionally, Karma does all the remembering for you – birthdays, weddings, and other important dates, as well as all of the gifts you've sent in the past.

This past May, it was announced that Karma had been acquired by Facebook.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Google and the Brand Experience: New Avenues in Digital Marketing

An advertising industry veteran with more than 15 years of leadership experience, Torrence Boone joined Google Inc. in January 2010 to help the tech giant build a stronger relationship with marketing agencies in North America. Based out of New York City, Boone brings an impressive resume to his present post as Google’s Managing Director of Agency Business Development that includes productive tenures at the helm of Digitas Boston and Razorfish (formerly Avenue A/NYC). He began his career as a strategy consultant with Bain & Company after completing an M.B.A. at Harvard Business School. Prior to joining Google’s team, Torrence Boone leveraged his talents as Chief Executive Officer of Enfatico, a now shuttered enterprise that Dell formed in partnership with London’s WPP Group. 

In June 2012, Boone sat down with AdWeek to discuss Google’s annual I/O conference for developers, an event that provided the corporation with the perfect opportunity to spotlight a host of recent innovations. From the unveiling of a Google-designed streaming media device to the announcement that iPad and iPhone owners can now browse the web with Chrome, the Internet giant is catering to agencies in a decidedly bold capacity. With the introduction of platforms Nexus 7 and Nexus Q, as well the Google+ Events tool, the company hopes to provide advertisers and their clients with the technological means to optimally curry consumer interest in a brand. 

Sharing his thoughts on what makes great advertising, Torrence Boone chose to focus on the storytelling aspect of the craft and went on to explain how Google’s expanded toolkit can facilitate interactive storytelling on an advertiser’s behalf. Noting how impressed he is with the creative output generated by today’s digital marketing firms, Boone drove home an important point regarding Google’s future intentions for its scalable advertising endeavors. The Google I/O conference, said Boone, will hopefully aid agencies in their quest to promote user interactivity as a key branding approach of the future. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

LetsLunch and Network

Founded in 2010 by database engineer Syed Shuttari, LetsLunch is a professional matchmaking service that allows you to make the most out of your lunches by meeting other professionals relevant to you. Shuttari developed the idea for LetsLunch after interacting with many “smart, savvy, successful people” during his lunchtimes in Silicon Valley. You can sign up for LetsLunch with your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn account. After you've identified your interests and your profile has been set up, specify when you're available and how far you can travel. LetsLunch will send you an email two days before telling you who you'll be having lunch with as well as a list of restaurants. Confirm, go to lunch, and network. LetsLunch will ask you to give feedback about the other person later on.

Aside from the United States, LetsLunch is available in Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and most recently, the United Kingdom. The startup also just launched version 3.0 of the service.

Cheek'd: Online Dating, Sort Of

Got more online dating horror stories than you'd like to admit? Not sure how to approach that cutie at the bar without coming across as sleazy? Tired of missed connections that could have become great relationships? Cheek'd may be the answer for all you frustrated singles out there. Launched in May of 2010 by Lori Cheek, the service is like online dating in reverse, encouraging offline interaction first.

If you'd had enough of Facebook stalking, cheesy pickup lines, and awkward stares, Cheek'd can help you land dates and leave your wingman (or wingwoman) at home. Just go to the Cheek'd website and enter some information about yourself. After you've provide your nickname, favorite game, favorite song, favorite place, and email address, you'll get a month of free service and a trial deck of five cards with unique, attention-grabbing lines such as “Act natural. We can get awkward later,” “Eventually you'd ask for this,” and “I saw you checking me out.”

The cards, which also include the URL for the Cheek'd website and a code ID that leads to your profile page, are designed to pique the curiosity of your love interest, who will hopefully send you a message. If you need more cards, a standard deck of 50 costs $20. Decks with Wall Street and dog themes are also available, and you can even create a custom deck in any language if you're feeling particularly clever.

Founder and namesake Lori Cheek, who used to be an architect, got the idea for Cheek'd years ago while having dinner with another architect. Cheek's colleague scribbled “Want to have dinner?” on the back of his business card, which he handed to a woman at a nearby table as they left the restaurant. With Cheek'd, people can introduce themselves to a romantic prospect “when feeling awkward, shy, or simply desiring a new approach.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rabbi Leib Tropper: Promoting Jewish Ideals Through Scholarship

An influential figure in the Orthodox Jewish community who undertook much of his formal education at Yeshivas Torah Ore in Jerusalem, Rabbi Leib Tropper is best known as a prolific writer, educator, and speaker whose body of work focuses on the modern-day application of Jewish law and the moral facets of Halachic tradition. Connecting with a broad worldwide audience over the course of the past three decades, Tropper spent many years traveling the globe to lecture on the topics of faith, ethics, and personal character after founding Horizons, and organization he launched to help unaffiliated Jews integrate Talmudic teachings into their everyday lives. Although Rabbi Leib Tropper stepped down from his long held directorship post at Horizons in 2010 to pursue new projects, he continues to share the program’s message and vision by furthering positive religious debate through actionable instruction. 

Rabbi Leib Tropper from Leib Tropper on Vimeo.

Currently channeling much of his attention toward an Israel-based project called Character First, Rabbi Leib Tropper recently traveled to Jerusalem in observation of the first anniversary of his father’s passing. Joined by his wife, siblings, and children, the rabbi also attended a gathering organized by a group of Jewish leaders known as the Gedolei Yisroel. Along with his colleague Rabbi Lipa Yisraelzon, Tropper received a blessing in honor of his spiritual work and gave a speech about how prayer can positively impact our ability to understand and accept death. 

Rabbi Leib Tropper celebrated an important milestone regarding his scholarly writing during his stay in Israel as well. A contributing commentator to the book Taharat Yisroel (Purity of Israel), Tropper was welcomed by a consortium of senior haredi rabbis who voiced support for his educational efforts on behalf of the Orthodox Jewish faith. The rabbi’s other books include a Halachic assessment informed by the decisions of his mentor Maran Harav Chaim Pinchus Scheinberg and a dissertation on the laws of Orthodox Judaism that govern relationship dynamics between men and women. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Learn New Skills Offline With Shareknowledge

Before the Internet, people learned new things through education or experience. And while online learning is wonderful, there are just some skills that can't be acquired by watching video tutorials or reading online articles. Founded by Ankit Sehgal, Shareknowledge is New Zealand's “community marketplace to learn anything from anyone.”

Anybody who wants to share their skills or knowledge with others can add a course on the Shareknowledge website. All classes take place offline and can be held at a coffee shop, conference room, or even the teacher's home. Shareknowledge takes a 5 percent cut of the course fee, while another 2.9 percent goes to PayPal.

Sehgal, who still holds a full-time day job, says he works on Shareknowledge from 6 pm to 1 am. The startup is still in its early stages, and Sehgal hopes that in five years' time, Shareknowledge will become the go-to place for people who want to learn new skills.

FreshPlanet: Fun Games for Smart People

Brothers Mathieu and Romain Nouzareth began their entrepreneurial journeys in their early 20s. In 1995, they founded WebConcept, one of the first e-business consulting companies in their native France. Four years later, WebConcept was acquired by Swedish IconMedialab; today, it is still one of the largest Internet consultancies in the world.

In 2001, the Nouzareths started digital game distribution company, which they eventually sold to France's Nexway in 2008. With operations in more than 30 countries including the United States, China, and Japan, is among the top game distribution platforms worldwide. The brothers also founded, a social casual gaming website.

Currently, Mathieu and Romain are busy leading FreshPlanet in New York, which they established in 2009 after moving to the United States. Backed by SoftTech VC, Kima Ventures, and CapISF, among others, the young company aims to “make fun games for smart people.” Its most popular offering is SongPop, the “name that tune” music trivia game that counts Mark Zuckerberg as a fan. Since launching this past May, SongPop has amassed 25 million unique players around the globe, with 4 million logging on daily. Available on iOS, Android, and Facebook, the free game features thousands of tracks from the '50s to the present day, challenging players' musical knowledge.

When asked about the SongPop phenomenon, Mathieu says, “Honestly, you can't plan for success like this so while we were hoping for it, we tried not to have too many expectations.”

FreshPlanet is also the company behind Dreamland, a social board game inspired by dreams and nightmares, and Spa Life, a “business management” game where players run their own spa company. In 2010, FreshPlanet released the iPad-only children's educational app RedFish. The interactive game, which was a finalist in Appsfire's App Star Awards, invites kids to explore letters, numbers, music, colors, shapes, problem solving, and more.

Monday, September 10, 2012

LAGbook: Africa's Biggest Social Network

Founded in 2010 by twin brothers Chika and Chidi Nwaogu, LAGbook is Africa's largest and fastest-growing social network based in Lagos, Nigeria. Originally created as an exclusive online network for the students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), LAGbook later opened up to the rest of Nigeria, then Africa, and eventually the world. Following its expansion, the platform stylized its name as LAGbook to mean “Ladies And Gentlemen book.” From 3,000 registered UNILAG students during its second month, LAGbook now boasts over 330,000 members worldwide. According to the Nwaogu brothers, LAGbook is the second most popular social network in its hometown of Yaba, Lagos, right after Facebook. It also has users in Australia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

So what makes LAGbook different from other social networks, especially Facebook? “We're focused on expanding the social experience of our users, and not limiting them to connecting and sharing with the people in their life or the people they already know,” says Chidi. On LAGbook, sending friend requests and private messages to members you don't personally know isn't frowned upon. Rather, LAGbook encourages users to reach out to one another to find new friends or potential business partners. “We're the social network for meeting new people. A social discovery network,” Chidi adds.

LAGbook expects to have 700,000 members by the end of the year, over 1 million by March 2013, and more than 10 million in five years' time. The company makes money through online advertising and has generated over 5 million naira in revenue so far. LAGbook recently concluded an eight-week advertising campaign with Blackberry Nigeria and is currently partnered with Dropbox, which is looking to expand its reach in Africa.

BizeeBee: Membership Management For Small Business Owners

A devoted yogini for the past eight years, Poornima Vijayashanker saw how every yoga studio she visited had the same membership management problems. After consulting with local businesses that were looking to improve their management processes, the software engineer and entrepreneur started BizeeBee.

Based in Palo Alto, California, the company helps membership-based businesses grow through services such as an online store, attendance tracking, automatic reports, and monthly summary emails. Just like a personal assistant but cheaper, BizeeBee is ideal for fitness studios, dance instructors, personal trainers, writing coaches, and music teachers.

BizeeBee currently manages over 30,000 memberships for businesses in 6 countries and is free to try for up to 10 members. Subscription, which is $57 per month, allows users to import member lists, track the frequency of customer visits, monitor staff performance, see which classes are popular and profitable, and send email reminders to customers whose memberships are about to expire.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Minecraft by Mojang: A Game That Builds Neighborhoods

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Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Mojang is an indie game developer studio behind the games Scrolls, Cobalt, and Minecraft. Developed by Markus Persson, Minecraft is a hugely popular building block game played by millions of people. Last year, it was used as the foundation of the Mina Kvarter (My Blocks) project, which was initiated by Svensk ByggtjÀnst (Swedish Building Services). The objective of Mina Kvarter was to restore and modernize the housing projects of the Million Programme, i.e. the one million apartments constructed by the Swedish government from the 1960s to the 1970s in response to the country's fast growing population and housing shortage. With Minecraft, residents of the Million Programme districts were able to help rebuild their neighborhood without any architectural training. Minecraft volunteers first created replicas of the areas to be redesigned, then citizens were invited to add, remove, and modify roads, parks, and other public infrastructure.

Today, Mojang announced its latest project called Block by Block in collaboration with UN-Habitat (the United Nations Human Settlements Programme). The three-year partnership will support UN-Habitat's plans to upgrade 300 public spaces by the year 2016. Similar to Mina Kvarter, Block by Block aims to get the youth involved in urban planning by giving them the opportunity to show decision makers their future vision of their neighborhood. Once again, Minecraft will be utilized to facilitate the process.

Block by Block's pilot project is in the planning phase and will be carried out in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. The builder group FyreUK has already put together a Minecraft version of the area. Mojang will act as the primary financial sponsor for Block by Block and will work closely with the UN throughout the project. The studio is currently creating a website for Block by Block where all future updates will be posted.

A Daily Dose of Fine Art With DailyArt

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No time to visit your local museum? Can't make it all the way to Paris to drop by the Louvre? Thanks to technology, you can still brush up on your art knowledge with the DailyArt app. Developed by Polish tech consulting firm Moiseum, DailyArt invites you to “step into the fascinating world of art, one masterpiece at a time.” Every day, you'll get a push notification with a classic work of art on your iPhone or Android. Information about the piece and its artist is also included, of course.

DailyArt lets you explore the world of fine art for just a few minutes a day, making it ideal for busy professionals or those who have short attention spans. In fact, Appolicious calls DailyArt “a quick 'daily dip' type of app that's unobtrusive and easy to consume.” Should you have extra time to spare, however, you can browse the app's archive and look at the masterpieces that have been featured earlier.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tackle Your Goals Effectively With Lift

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How often do you set goals and fail to achieve them? That email inbox you were supposed to clean up the other day is still full of spam. What happened to those new healthy eating habits you had intended to adopt last week? And didn't you say you were going to start hitting the gym three times a week... last month?

Fret not, for a San Francisco-based startup wants to help you tick those goals off your list. Founded by Tony Stubblebine and Jon Crosby in August 2011, Lift Worldwide is an Obvious Corporation-backed company that launched its first app today. Described by its developers as “a simple, positive way to achieve any goal,” Lift for iPhone is a handy tool that allows users to break goals into small habits that are so doable you can't help but carry them out and eventually gain momentum. The objective of Lift is to nudge people towards their goals through incremental improvements, through several little steps that ultimately lead to big wins.

“We want to eliminate willpower as a factor in achieving goals,” writes Stubblebine on Lift's blog.

After downloading Lift, identify the good habits you want to establish. You can make your own or browse what others are already doing. Whenever you complete a habit, tap the big check button to record it. Lift will display your progress and consistency. The creators of the app toyed around with gamification options during development but dropped them in the end. According to Stubblebine, people wanted simplicity, which is exactly what you'll see when you open the app. So instead of badges and leaderboards, Lift offers feedback through visualized progress and support from other users with similar goals.

Beta testers have reported successfully using Lift to achieve goals in productivity, fitness, health, relationships, and happiness. Stubblebine says the Lift team will perfect the app first before releasing an Android version.

Lost and Found With BiKN

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Are you always losing your stuff? Treehouse Labs in Austin, Texas, has created an iPhone accessory and app to help you find your keys, bag, dog, or whatever else with your mobile device. After all, it's the one thing that's with you at all times, right?

BiKN (bee'-kin) works by combining hardware and software. The hardware part consists of the BiKN smart case, which you put on your iPhone, and thumb-sized BiKN tags, which you clip on to your things, pets, or children. After downloading the myBiKN app, you connect your iPhone to your tags, creating a wireless network for your valuables so you'll never lose anything or anyone again.

BiKN also allows you to “leash” your kids and pets. For instance, if you're in the park with your child, you can set an alarm and your phone will warn you when he/she wanders too far away. Additionally, BiKN can be used to page your tags, which is especially useful if you're in an area without a cell phone signal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

No More Missed Deliveries With BufferBox

Founded by three University of Waterloo engineering students, BufferBox is a Waterloo, Ontario-based startup with a mission to end to missed deliveries and waiting for packages. The company is currently building its network of green locker boxes across the greater Toronto area, starting with Union Station.

After you register for the service, you will receive a BufferBox shipping address, which you'll use whenever you shop online. If you order from a partner retailer (Walmart and Google have already signed on), then the merchant will shoulder the fees. Otherwise, you pay $3 for every parcel you get. Once your package arrives, BufferBox will send you an email with a unique PIN. Enter the code on the BufferBox kiosk's touchscreen and a door will pop open. Grab your parcel and you're done!

BufferBox plans to be in 100 locations by the end of the year. That includes grocery stores, convenience stores, and transit stations.

Vastrm Aims to Make Bad-Fitting Menswear a Thing of the Past

Guys, have you ever purchased clothes online, waited for your orders eagerly, then ended up being disappointed because they didn't fit as well as you had hoped? How many times have you had to return ill-fitting garments? Or perhaps, you've given up on shopping online for apparel altogether? All hope is not lost, however; there's a new company that's looking to put an end to men's online clothes shopping woes.

Fresh out of Y Combinator's summer 2012 class, Vastrm (pronounced vas' trum) is a clothing company that offers mass customization of menswear, starting with polo shirts. Vastrm, which means “cloth” in Sanskrit, was founded by Jonathan Tang, whose family has been in the fabric business for years. Tang got the idea for the company when a customer told him about a perfect shirt he had bought in Italy. The customer has never been able to find a shirt that fit as nicely and was even thinking about returning to Italy just to hunt the manufacturer down.

As a Vastrm client, you start by taking a short quiz, entering your measurements and body type to determine your Vastrm Fit ID. The company will then send you two to three sample shirts to try on for free. Afterwards, you can go back to the site and make any necessary adjustments to the sleeve length, waist, bottom hem, and so on. Once your Vastrm Fit ID has been finalized, you can begin designing your own shirt by choosing the fabric, collar, pocket, cuff, side vents, and placket types. Or you can select from the several pre-designed styles that are already available on the Vastrm website. Customized shirts will take about three weeks to arrive on your doorstep.

According to Tang, Vastrm will be adding more shirt styles to its inventory over the next 6 to 12 months.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Best Mobile Designers Under One (Virtual) Roof

Founded by engineer, designer, and programmer Kirill Zubovsky, Scoutzie is a new online community that connects mobile designers with those who need one (or more) for their projects. Headquartered in Seattle, Scoutzie is an invite-only network that currently has almost 500 professional members, including Cole Rise, who created the Instagram icon, and Brian Plemons, who redesigned the Pair app.

The idea for a curated mobile design marketplace first came to Zubovksy in August of last year after meeting with Kelly Smith, the man behind ImageKind, Inkd, and Zapd. Smith had noticed that not a lot of designers understood the challenges of designing for the mobile space and wanted to have “a unified pool of mobile designers.” Zubovsky, who was eager to start a successful company after failing to get accepted into TechStars, jumped at the chance and teamed up with Smith to build Scoutzie.

With the goal of creating a community of the best mobile designers in the world, Zubovsky went on a quest to recruit topnotch talent, browsing several design websites, portfolios, and blogs. He described the process as “a tedious exercise,” but one that was necessary to find the designers who were “worthy of Scoutzie membership.”

Indeed, Scoutzie sets itself apart from other online design communities by putting an emphasis on quality. According to Zubovsky, “Scoutzie is quite unique in that we are focused on mobile and we don't allow just anyone to post content.” He likens the network to traditional design agencies such as Happy Cog and FJORD, though Scoutzie only takes a 10 percent cut of projects instead of the usual 50 percent.

In addition, Scoutzie assigns a dedicated project consultant to every project arranged on the site. The consultant not only matches clients with the best designer(s) for their project, but also acts as the point of contact throughout the process to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

Japanese Firm 3D Prints Fetus Models

Japanese engineering company Fasotec and Parkside Hiroo Ladies Clinic in Tokyo are offering a new service for expecting parents called Tenshi no Katachi or “Shape of an Angel.” Using a special technology called BioTexture, Fasotec will create a 3D scale reproduction of the client's unborn baby based on CT or MRI scans. The final product is a 7-ounce white resin fetus model in a clear casing that represents the mother's abdomen.

According to Fasotec, three expectant mothers have already tried the service, which costs ¥100,000 or about $1,275, not including the cost of imaging. The company recommends Tenshi no Katachi for mothers who are due soon to get the most detail in their baby's 3D model. Fasotec, which already uses the BioTexture process to create medical models for the health care industry, decided to start Tenshi no Katachi as a spinoff service to “let the public know about this kind of technology.”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Senzari, a New Way to Discover New Music

Founded by serial entrepreneur Bill Hajjar, Senzari is a Miami, Florida-based tech company that develops premium digital entertainment services. Senzari first introduced itself to music lovers and radio listeners with its Music Platform, which allows users to stream music and radio on various devices such as PCs and mobile phones.

Recently, Senzari unveiled AMP3, its new recommendation engine. And unlike the recommendation features of Pandora and other competitors, AMP3 can be customized according to popularity, tempo, similarity, and discovery. AMP3, which took nine months to develop, was made possible with the help of technology developments like big data-analyzing tools and Open Graph by Facebook. According to COO Demian Bellumio, AMP3's launch makes Senzari a platform that connects the dots and goes beyond creating new experiences based on music.

Currently available in the US, UK, Brazil, and Spain, Senzari is set to arrive in Italy and certain Latin American countries next.

Phosphor Makes Watches for the Future

Founded by Fossil's former VP of technology Donald Brewer, Phosphor is a new watch brand with a focus on modern technologies and compelling design. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, it is presently the only timepiece company in the world that uses the same E Ink system found in the Amazon Kindle. Phosphor also makes a line of watches (Phosphor Appear) that features the world's first mechanical digital watch movement based on the company's Micro-Magnetic Mechanical Digital Technology.

Phosphor is currently working on its latest line of touchscreen watches called Touch Time. Designed by former Nike+ design director Stefan Andren, Touch Time is the first and only digital watch that captures the functionality of a smartphone in a nice little wrist-sized package – and according to the company, it doesn't need to be synced or charged.

With Touch Time, the self-described team of watch fanatics behind Phosphor have created “what you should expect from a digital watch in the 21st century.” Unlike mobile phones and other electronic devices, digital watches have been left behind in terms of design and development – they still look and function like they did 20 years ago. Until now, that is.

Scheduled to launch this fall, Touch Time is entirely operated via touchscreen. It has seven time displays that can be changed with a swipe of a finger, as well as built-in smartphone-like apps such as multiple alarms, a calendar, a calculator, world time, reminder applications, and a stopwatch that can track up to 99 laps. Touch Time also supports several languages including English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Phosphor is touting Touch Time not as a smartwatch, but as a “smart-er watch.” The unisex timepiece, which is powered by a replaceable coin cell battery (CR2032), is housed in a stainless steel case and comes with a silicone or stainless steel bracelet strap.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dr. Sagun Tuli: A Leading Neurosurgeon and Spine Surgeon Affiliated with MetroWest Medical Center

Comprehensively versed in all aspects of neurosurgical and spinal medicine, Sagun Tuli, M.D. accepted her current post at the Center for Advanced Brain and Spine Surgery in 2011. Located in Natick, Massachusetts, this highly regarded treatment facility partners with Boston’s MetroWest Medical Center to provide inpatient and outpatient care of the utmost caliber to individuals suffering from a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions. Prior to joining the staff at the Center for Advanced Brain and Spine Surgery, Dr. Tuli acted as an Associate Surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a role she maintained for nearly a decade. Between 2002 and 2011, Sagun Tuli also served as an Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Harvard Medical School and functioned as an Attending Physician of Neurosurgery at two other Boston-area healthcare institutions, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Faulkner Hospital.

The procedures Sagun Tuli performs on MetroWest Medical Center patients require finely tuned surgical skills and extensive knowledge of the most recent technological advancements in operative medicine. Diagnosing and treating injuries and diseases of the brain, spinal column, and peripheral nerves, Dr. Tuli and her colleagues take great pride in their ability to design actionable therapeutic plans that take a person’s overall physical and emotional wellbeing into serious consideration. With nearly 20 years of professional experience, Sagun Tuli possesses an admirable track record of success in the operating room and always strives to engage with her patients on a personal level to ensure an optimal outcome post-surgery.

Offering a full suite of innovative surgical services to compliment the top quality care extended by Sagun Tuli and her associates, MetroWest Medical Center stands apart for its forward-thinking autotransfusion, perioperative music therapy, day surgery, and pain management programs. Further information about Sagun Tuli the healthcare group is available online at

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stipple: Connecting Images and Information

Pictures tell a thousand words, but images that are posted to the Internet often become disconnected from their source and story. You see a photo of a cute dress on someone's Tumblr – but there's no information about who designed it or where you can purchase it. Stipple is a new service that turns online photos into “intelligent images” that include details about the subject, i.e. relevant links to other pictures, videos, or websites.

Going back to our example, a “Stippled” image of the dress can include a tag stating the designer's name, a link to an online retailer that sells it, or a link to the website of the photographer who snapped the picture. Tags will remain on Stipple photos that are shared and embedded. Aside from tying an image back to its source, Stipple displays analytics that let you know how many people viewed your photo and how they interacted with it.

[via TechCrunch]

Tablets and Apps for Kids From VINCI

Like many of today's children, Dan Yang's young daughter was exposed to technology at an early age, often playing with her mother's iPhone. As Yang looked into introducing her child to technology responsibly, she saw that there was very little educational technology designed for kids. In addition, smartphones and tablets are built with materials that may be hazardous to youngsters. Yang, an entrepreneur and optical engineer, therefore started VINCI Early Learning Systems using $10 million of her personal savings.

Two child-friendly tablets form the cornerstone of the system: the 7-inch VINCI Tab II, which features a protective soft-cornered handle made from food-grade material, and the 5-inch VINCI Tab II M, a more affordable and portable version of the former that can be linked to other Tab II M's for group playing. Both devices are powered by the Android platform and come with a number of pre-installed apps such as Google Play, Adobe Reader, and QuickOffice.

Yang, with the assistance of experts, also developed the VINCI Curriculum, which is divided into three levels: babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Designed to run only on the VINCI tablets, the learning materials help develop thinking skills, emotional and social skills, language and literacy, maths and logical reasoning, science, and general knowledge.

Recently, VINCI launched its app library for kids. There are currently over 500 apps and videos that are free for a limited time. Some are from noted educational content providers such as The Jim Henson Company, TVO, and Mightybooks. The VINCI Kids Library promises to be free of commercials, violence, adult content, and in-app purchases. Yang and company are also inviting developers to submit more content to the library – qualified apps get a 75 percent revenue share. The VINCI Kids Library will be making its way to other Android devices soon and is expected to have 1,000 titles by the end of the year.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Award-Winning Apps By 955 Dreams

Years ago, Kiran Bellubbi helped develop India's first handheld computer and the first apps for the Palm. In 2010, he founded 955 Dreams, the Mountain View, California-based company that brought music lovers the Band of the Day app. The runner-up for Apple's 2011 App of the Year, Band of the Day features a new music act daily, complete with artist bios, music videos, band buzz, and entire song streams.

Independent musician Kishi Bashi, who had been showcased on Band of the Day, says the app helped him grow his fan base, release an album, and go on tour with The Barr Brothers and Of Montreal.

Band of the Day, which was built especially for mobile, is, according to Bellubbi, “the world's first daily music magazine native to iOS.” 955 Dreams has also released two other music-related apps: The History of Jazz, an interactive timeline of jazz's history, and On the Way to Woodstock, which pays homage to the Woodstock generation.

A Better Way of Gifting With Wantful

Based in San Francisco and New York City, Wantful aims to put an end to “forced smiles and poorly suited gifts that never see the light of day.” According to founder and CEO John Poisson, the startup wants to create a gift-giving experience that's richer, more thoughtful, and more personalized. How?

As the gift giver, you simply head on over to the Wantful site and enter a few details about your recipient, including gender, age, relation, and occasion. You will also have to answer some questions about their sense of style and interests, as well as tell the site how much you want to spend. Wantful will then suggest some items that match all that information, but you can easily swap them out if you like. Once you've selected 16 items, Wantful will whip up a customized printed gift book to be delivered to your recipient (or you can have it sent to your own address so you can present it yourself). You get to choose the cover image of the book and include a personal message inside.

The gift book, which is hand-wrapped in Japanese rice paper and Wantful's signature black envelope, shows a gift code for all 16 items. Your recipient can enter the codes at the Wantful website to learn more about each item and then select which one they like most. Prices are not revealed to recipients. If you need a gift right away, you can skip the printed book and just opt for the email version, which includes a link to each item.

Wantful has partnered with over 200 designers, brands and producers to offer hundreds of one of a kind items ranging from $30 to $500. “We're going after really small products that are interesting, hard to find, and have a great story behind them,” says Poisson. “These are not the things you'd find if you walked into a department store or went on Amazon.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

Meetupcall Relaunches With Better, Easier Conference Calls

Officially relaunched today, UK-based Meetupcall promises to make conference calls “simpler, better, and cheaper.” Founded by Simon Moxon, the company first launched in 2009, during which the service, according to Moxon, “worked the same way conference calls did in 1995.” Now, after an overhaul, Meetupcall takes care of pretty much everything, letting users host conference calls without having to send out dial-in numbers and PINs.

To host a conference call, users simply schedule it on a calendar app and enter all participants' email addresses, including Meetupcall will then deliver the instructions on how to join the call. Participants can choose to be called when the conference is about to start or dial in themselves by clicking a link in the email invite.

In addition, Meetupcall shows the LinkedIn profile of every person on the call (name, photo, location, and job title) to avoid any confusion, especially when the participants have never met.