Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Storyful: The World's First Social Newsroom

Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Storyful is the world's first social news agency, helping journalists and newsrooms sift through social media to discover breaking news and valuable content. Storyful was founded by Mark Little, a former foreign correspondent and news anchor who realized that social media could make him a better journalist. While watching the Arab Spring unfold on YouTube, Little saw an authenticity rarely shown on TV news, as well as the potential to get closer to the story faster. He believes that social media hasn't killed journalism, but rather given it a new lease of life.

Little founded Storyful, the first truly social newsroom, in 2010 to better equip newsrooms for the social media age. The company has perfected its tools, techniques, and services since then, and aims to help every news organization build their own social newsroom. Storyful has already partnered with some of the world's biggest news brands, including Reuters, ABC News, the New York Times, BBC, France 24, and ITN.

Storyful's newswire dashboard enables media organizations to monitor breaking alerts, trending content, and video from around the world 24/7. Each update is verified by the Storyful team and includes detailed context on the background, location, uploader, and story's provenance. The dashboard also features a searchable archive of 70,000 stories and a daily curated list of trending stories. Meanwhile, Storyful's contacts database provides journalists with phone numbers, addresses, and social media details so they can contact on-the-ground sources for further information.

Led by Little, who serves as chief executive officer, Storyful comprises a team of technologists and journalists scattered across Asia, Europe, and the United States. Members include writers, broadcasters, producers, reporters, designers, and coders, some of whom are veterans of CNN, BBC, Reuters, and the International Herald Tribune, among others. Storyful is committed to helping news professionals everywhere separate the truth from the noise on the social web.

Save Your Children's Artwork With Keepy

Keepy is an interactive keepsake box that lets you preserve your kids' artwork forever and share them with loved ones. Founded by Offir Gutelzon and Yaniv Solnik, the Android and iOS compatible app allows you to keep offline creations such as drawings, sculptures, beaded jewelry, birthday cards, and letters online. Simply snap a photo of your child's artwork, and crop and enhance the image using Keepy's easy-to-use tools. Add the child's name, location, and date, and the app will organize your “keepies” for you. You can also include a voice recording to describe the photo.

To share keepies with grandparents, friends, and other loved ones, invite them to be your kid's fans. Fans can leave video comments on keepies, which will be preserved alongside each photo. Individual keepies may also be shared via email, Facebook, and Twitter.

Keepy is free for 31 keepies each month. If you upload more than that, subscription plans start at $1.99 per month.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Metail Is the Future of Online Clothes Shopping

Called a “fashion revolution” by Look magazine, Metail is a UK startup that takes the guesswork out of online shopping. As convenient as it is to shop for clothes from the comfort of your own home, it can also be an off-putting and frustrating process. Since you can't touch the garments and try them on, it's easy to end up buying the wrong size or receiving something that looks different in real life. Metail is an online fitting room that enables anyone to shop with confidence – it lets you create a virtual model of yourself, so you can see how clothes look on your body even if you don't physically try them on first.

To get started on Metail, simply upload a couple of photos of yourself and input some of your measurements. Using actual 3D body scans from its database, the service will build an accurate representation of your body. With your virtual model or MeModel, you can discover how clothes fit, right down to the way the fabric drapes on your body shape. Moreover, Metail's size advice algorithm will recommend a size for each garment, helping you pick clothes that will fit well and look great on you. What's even more fun is that you can also use Metail to put outfits together and experiment with new styles.

Metail is the brainchild of CEO Tom Adeyoola, who wanted to help his girlfriend (now wife) find clothes that would fit her shape. He had an idea to find a way to obtain body measurements digitally quickly and easily and provide consumers with a personalized shopping experience. In 2008, breakthroughs in computer vision technology at Cambridge encouraged Adeyoola to create a solution with co-founder Dr. Duncan Robertson. After three years in stealth, Metail launched with its first commercial partner, Tesco, in early 2012. The startup has been featured in TechCrunch, Entrepreneur, and Mail Online.

It's On Me: App Lets You Send Drinks Across Cities

Did your best friend, who lives in another city, just land a new job? Is your favorite aunt, who resides halfway across the country, about to have her birthday? With It's On Me, you can still send drinks to congratulate them even if you're not physically there. Previously known as Drinkboard, It's On Me is an iPhone and Android app that lets you gift a drink or a bite anytime, anywhere. The app is more than just a high-tech, long-distance way to celebrate special occasions, though. It's On Me's mission is to support local businesses by allowing people to discover and purchase from a curated group of merchants. But ultimately, everybody wins – users get an easy way to thank or congratulate someone, recipients get a cool gift, and local establishments get new business.

Headquartered in Las Vegas with satellite offices in San Francisco and New York City, It's On Me comprises a diverse group of entrepreneurs with a passion for food, cocktails, events, and travel.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Catchbox Is a Mic You Can Throw to Audience Members

The Q&A portion of lectures and conferences is often awkward – sometimes, audience members are hesitant to ask questions; other times, there's a long, uncomfortable silence as the mic is passed around, especially if the person who raised their hand is sitting in the back of the room. Timo Kauppila, Pyry Taanila, and Mikelis Studers have seen their share of such situations. So about a year ago, the former Aalto University students set out to make events more fun and engaging. Their solution? Catchbox, the world's first throwable microphone.

Catchbox is a professional wireless microphone in the form of a soft, padded cube. Unlike traditional mics that need to be handled carefully, Catchbox is designed to be thrown around. And don't worry about any ugly sounds it might make if it is accidentally dropped – the device has internal electronics that automatically turn off the audio when it is in motion.

Within each Catchbox is a foam capsule that houses the transmitter and other electronic components. It is in this enclosure that one can turn Catchbox on and off, change the batteries, and pair the capsule to the receiver. The capsule is secured by a magnet and can be taken out of the cover easily. The third part of Catchbox is the receiver which receives the audio signal and connects it to a sound system. It has a 6.3mm audio jack that is compatible with the mic and line inputs of computers, stereos, and sound mixers.

The Catchbox team sees many uses for the throwable mic, including lectures, meetings, workshops, and even Skype calls. Currently available for pre-order, Catchbox underwent numerous iterations and early prototypes were tested at more than 100 events before the design was finalized. A Catchbox will set you back $549 and can be customized with your company name, website, or other custom text.

Discover Designers and Explore Trends With Purely Fashion

Purely Fashion is an iPhone app that lets fashionistas get the latest from their favorite designers. Users can browse current fashion collections, preview upcoming ones, and discover emerging designers. They can also buy looks from participating designers straight from the app.

Purely is more than just a fashion discovery platform, though. For designers and retailers, it is a tool that lets them know their customers better. Through users' likes and lookbooks, Purely is able to identify trends in real time. As a result, retailers do not need to guess which looks will sell and which ones will not. In addition, Purely is committed to paying designers who sell on the platform promptly, as opposed to the industry norm which takes months.

The Purely Fashion team is currently developing a notification feature that will alert users when something in their lookbook goes on sale. The company is also hosting a five-week fashion event in Chicago called Purely PopUp.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mallzee Is a Pocket-Sized Personal Shopper

Here to help consumers “discover personal and blissfully effortless online shopping” is Mallzee, an app that acts as your very own personal shopper. One that you can carry around in your pocket, at that. Headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mallzee aims to make clothes shopping simple and fun. Use the app to browse over 200 brands, including Asos, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Miss Selfridge, 18 and East, Betsey Johnson, and French Connection. Choose the category of clothing you want to look at, then specify the color, price range, store, and other details. Swipe right to save the item if you like what you see, and swipe left to discard something that's not your style. Mallzee gets smarter the more you use it, filtering through more than half a million products to recommend those that you are most likely to love.

Mallzee also has a unique feature that puts the social into online shopping with a twist. If you need a second opinion, you can share your find with your friends. However, if they don't like it, the buy button will be disabled and you'll actually be prevented from making a purchase. You can try to convince your friends to change their vote, though, and a draw will be enough to lift the ban.

According to Mallzee founder and CEO Cally Russell, social isn't about following strangers or broadcasting your life to the world. “To us social is about enabling people to have meaningful conversations with the people that matter. That's why our users can share clothes only with friends using the app and have conversations with people they know,” he says.

Available for free on the App Store, Mallzee is initially targeting the UK and Ireland. The startup earns affiliate revenue every time a user makes a purchase through the app.

ZowPow Makes Plush Toys That Control Games

Before there were smartphones and tablets, kids played with physical toys and games. ZowPow, a new startup based in San Francisco, is looking to combine the good old days with modern times by creating plush toys that can control gameplay. The two-person company currently has two offerings – Tiny Plane, a controller for Chillingo's mobile game of the same name, and Redford, for Get Set Games' Mega Jump and Mega Run.

ZowPow's controllers contain built-in sensors and accelerometers. When a child moves the toy up and down or side to side, the character on screen does the same thing. ZowPow's plush toy game controllers provide a fun new way to play mobile games – kids will no longer be glued to a smartphone or tablet, but can get out of their seat and move around. The plush toys connect to iOS devices wirelessly and automatically and can also connect to TVs if an HDMI adapter or AirPlay is used.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eliza Brock: High-Quality Software From Nashville

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Eliza Brock Software offers software development, training, and consulting services. The company was started as a one-woman operation by software engineer Eliza Brock in 2010, after she job-hopped for a few years and realized that being an employee wasn't for her. As her clientele grew, Brock couldn't keep up with the amount of work she was getting and brought in former colleagues from college and previous jobs. Today, Eliza Brock Software has eight employees.

Eliza Brock Software moved into its first office in early 2013 and is currently based out of a “full-size grown-up leased office” in Nashville's Melrose/Berry Hill neighborhood. With production experience with HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, Java, XML, MySQL, and more, Brock and her team have built websites, developed web and mobile apps, taught individuals and teams through one-on-one mentoring and classes, and provided technical advice for clients.

According to Brock, running her own company gives her the opportunity to write high-quality software and treat clients with honesty, as they should be.

Totlol Is YouTube for Kids

According to a study, kids are only three clicks away from adult content on YouTube. To remedy this problem, Ron Ilan founded Totlol in 2008 to offer parents a child-friendly alternative to the popular video-sharing website. Totlol pulled kid-safe videos from YouTube and gathered them in one place. The one-man company eventually shut down, however, due to a YouTube terms of service change that disallowed the sale of advertising on sites that only offered YouTube videos and nothing else.

But last week, Totlol came back with new founders, Michael Avni and Tiffany Stelman, who decided to revive the business some months ago. Avni, a father of three, saw how easy it was for his children to find adult content on YouTube. When he couldn't find a solution, he set out to create it.

The new Totlol enlists the help of a community of parents who screen and moderate the videos. Site members watch YouTube videos, share the URL, and categorize it. They also keep an eye out for any inappropriate content. When a video is flagged, Totlol's “Parent Editors” group will review it and contact the member who uploaded it. Totlol currently has more than a thousand kid-friendly videos targeting infants, toddler, preschoolers, kindergarteners, young children, and even tweens.

Totlol plans to add content from other sources later on, as well as features like a visual search engine and time limit settings. Right now, Totlol is available on the web and iOS. The Parent's Dashboard, which members use to share videos, is only accessible via the web, with the mobile app being mostly a video viewer.

Based in Israel, Totlol is run by four entrepreneurs who “know a thing or two about technology.” The company is currently being bootstrapped; revenue will come from in-app purchases such as video playlists instead of ads.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wooga: Cool, Award-Winning Social Games

One of the leading social game developers in the world, Wooga makes games for Facebook, smartphones, and tablets. Based in Berlin, Germany, Wooga believes it's more fun to play games with friends than alone or with strangers; hence, it focuses on creating high-quality games that can be enjoyed with friends. Founded in early 2009, the studio is currently comprised of 250 employees from over 40 countries.

Wooga's signature approach to game design highlights usability, localization, and emotional character development. Every month, about 50 million people around the world play the studio's games, which include Diamond Dash, Kingsbridge, Pearl's Peril, Fantastic Forest, Monster World, and Bubble Island. The recently launched Jelly Splash was downloaded a million times over the course of five days, making it the fastest Wooga game to reach the milestone.

Backed by Balderton Capital, Tenaya Capital, Highland Capital Partners, and Holtzbrinck Ventures, Wooga has won the Gruenderszene Startup of the Decade honor and the European Games Awards for Publisher of the Year and Best Social Game.

Coin Replaces All the Cards in Your Wallet

Coming soon to bloated wallets everywhere is Coin, a connected device that holds and behaves like your credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, membership cards, and loyalty cards. If you've been carrying around multiple cards, Coin can lighten the load and help your wallet slim down. The same size as a typical credit card, it can store up to eight cards. To add card information to your Coin, simply open the accompanying mobile app, swipe the card through a small provided device, and take a picture of it. The Coin mobile app works on iOS and Android, while a Windows version is being considered and will be created if there's enough demand.

Coin can be used wherever cards are accepted, including ATMs and dip-style card readers. Just tap a button on Coin to select the card you want to use – there's a screen on the device that displays each card's last four digits, expiration date, CVV, and the name you've assigned to it.

What about security? Using a low-energy Bluetooth signal, Coin knows when it's near or far from your phone. So in case you accidentally leave your Coin behind, you'll get a notification. If for some reason you failed to see the alert and didn't go back for your Coin, it will automatically deactivate itself after a certain period of time, which you can configure in the mobile app.

Headed by founder and CEO Kanishk Parashar, the Coin team consists of software engineers, designers, consumer electronics experts, and a former NASA engineer. Their mission is to build products that “simplify, improve, and fit seamlessly into your life.” Coin is currently available for pre-order and will start shipping in the summer of 2014. A Coin will set you back $100, but if you're early, you can get one for $50.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Children's App Maker TabTale Continues to Grow

Founded in 2010, TabTale is an Israel-based startup that makes interactive books, games, and educational apps for children. TabTale's first product was a storybook app that the founders created in response to their own kids' needs. Since then, the company has been committed to producing innovative learning experiences for kids all over the world. Today, TabTale's catalog comprises more than 80 apps in multiple languages, including Wedding Salon, My Vehicle Universe, Baby Dream House, Doctor X, Design It!, Fairy Princess Fashion, Smoothie Master, Pirate Rush, Toy Tangram, and Puppy's Birthday Party. Many of the company's offerings sit at the top of the children's app charts on both iOS and Android. All in all, TabTale's apps have been downloaded over 220 million times.

Aiming to inspire kids' creativity and imagination, TabTale takes a multidisciplinary approach that involves psychology, creative technology, and user experience when creating apps. Recently, the startup raised $12 million in Series B financing, bringing its total funding to $13.5 million. The latest round was led by Magma Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures. Vintage Investment Ventures and existing investors participated as well. TabTale will use the new capital to expand its team and make acquisitions. In March, the company purchased Kids Games Club, the educational mobile app publisher that made Paint Sparkles.

TabTale also recently reached profitability. Currently, its apps see over 20 million active users per month. In September, app analytics platform App Annie named TabTale the eighth largest publisher by download value, placing it alongside names like Rovio, EA, and Disney. A large chunk of TabTale's downloads come from Design It!, a makeover and dress-up app where kids can design their own dresses and makeup styles. The company's next release will be a game called Enchanted Spa Salon, where players have to help cursed princesses become beautiful again.

Lingua.ly: Browse Online, Learn a New Language

If you already spend several hours a day browsing the web, why not make the most out of it by learning a new language? Lingua.ly, a free extension for Google Chrome, lets you do just that. Simply visit any website in the language you're learning and click on the words you want to study. Lingua.ly will automatically add them to your word collection so you can review them later. You can listen to the correct pronunciation of each word, as well as select a picture that will help you remember it. To build your vocabulary, Lingua.ly will remind you to practice the words you've learned so far. Additionally, it will recommend articles that match your language level and interests. Your personalized reading suggestions are constantly updated to keep you learning.

Lingua.ly is currently available in English, French, Spanish, Hebrew, and Arabic. This useful tool has been featured in TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and Lifehacker, among others.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Complete Your Projects, One Step at a Time, With Stepsie

Is your project management a mess? Or worse, non-existent? Enter Stepsie, a cloud-based platform for idea collaboration and action planning. The service promises to be “more organised than your mum,” so you know it means business. Ideal for group projects, Stepsie makes sharing your ideas and collaborating with your team easy by grouping related tasks, files, and discussions into digestible steps. So instead of looking at a project and seeing one huge, daunting task before you, you have a logical structure you can follow. And before you know it, you're done!

Used and loved by companies such as Uber London, IDEO, Fraktal, AndViceVersa, and GoDynamo, Stepsie breaks down your projects into small steps that contain related discussions and tasks. Team members can create, assign, and comment on tasks to move the project towards completion, as well as share ideas, gain feedback, and send files to come up with awesome solutions. A live activity feed and notifications keeps everyone in the loop with the status of each project. Looking for a particular file or discussion? Search by keyword and use filters to find it fast. And because Stepsie is entirely web-based, users can access their dashboard and collaborate with their team, wherever they are.

Stepsie was founded by Jono Chatterton, who was actually working on a different project when he thought of making the platform. Not content with existing project management tools, he decided o build a better one, and Stepsie was born. Chatterton and his team provide customer support themselves, as they believe they're the best people to answer users' questions, not an outsourced staff.

Anybody who wants to see how Stepsie works can sign up for a free 30-day trial. After that, monthly plans start at $19 per month. Students can use the service for free; all they need is a student email address.

Solar Bright Lights Up New Zealand With Solar Energy and LED Technology

Based in Christchurch, Solar Bright is New Zealand's leading provider of innovative and cost-effective solar lighting products. Since 2006, the company has created progressive lighting solutions for business applications by combining the use of solar energy and LED technology.

Designed to solve a variety of specific industry-related challenges, Solar Bright's projects include installing solar street lighting in remote islands, developing a solution to minimize the impact of mosquitoes on residential areas near sewerage ponds, and safety lighting for the heavy transport sector. Solar Bright is also the creator of the world's first commercially available solar-powered ice detection road stud, the PATeye. Ideal for roads, airport runways, and railway lines in cold climates, the PATeye is triggered when the temperature drops to a preset mark, lighting up its surroundings and revealing hidden patches of “black ice.”

Solar Bright is dedicated to developing products that are well-designed, high-quality, well-engineered, and built to last.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

MailLift Brings Back Handwritten Marketing Letters

Entrepreneur Brian Curliss used to rent homes by the night. He would handwrite a note for each guest prior to their check-in. Guests not only loved the gesture, but also loved Curliss for it. When Curliss left the company, a mentor asked him what he would have paid for to save him time and/or make him more money. That question led him to start his next venture, MailLift.

Based in Austin, Texas, MailLift is a handwritten letter service for marketers and sales professionals. A tool to build customer relations through emotion connection, MailLift helps boost sales and make life a little more simple. “A handwritten letter is impactful, it has emotion, and it's not spam,” says Curliss.

Each letter is handwritten by a real person in the United States – most of them are retired teachers and artists. Customers create the template message, select the recipients, and customize other details such as the return address and stationery. Small orders typically take one to two business days to complete, while big orders usually require seven business days of lead time. Curliss has every letter and envelope scanned at 300 dpi and verified by at least three sets of eyes before it is sent out. Customers can also opt to see the scan of their letter first. For business accounts, letters cost $8.29 per piece and are written on high-quality stationery.

In an early trial of the service, Granite MedSystems sent handwritten correspondence to potential customers who had ignored all previous sales campaigns. The MailLift letters saw a 35 percent response rate, eight times the average for direct mail.

Recently, MailLift joined the 500 Startups accelerator. The company received $50,000 in funding, and Curliss and CTO Daniel Jurek will be working alongside experts in design, distribution, and business during the four-month program.

Mygola: 15-Minute Travel Planning

Mygola is a web and mobile travel planner that lets travelers put together their next adventure in just 15 minutes. Powered by patent-pending technology, Mygola offers a curated collection of inspiring trips, which users can customize as much as they like. Founded by Anshuman Bapna, a former member of Google's Strategic Partnerships team, Mygola boasts the world's largest collection of curated itineraries, sourced from real travelers and respected publications and covering 20,000 destinations around the world. Additionally, stunning photos, informative videos, and useful tips help travelers prepare for their trip and experience their destination before they get there. Users can also book their flights and hotels within Mygola.

Since its inception, Mygola has assisted more than 2 million travelers in planning amazing trips quickly and easily. Committed to bringing authentic experiences to travelers, Mygola has been nominated twice for the Top Innovator award at PhoCusWright's Travel Innovation Summit. The startup has offices in the US and India.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Craftsman Kevin Craffey Founded and Leads Several Companies

Third generation Boston carpenter Kevin Craffey founded his first company, K&J Interiors, Inc., in 1988. From its base in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the company provides finish carpentry, framing, and drywall throughout New England. Within five years, the journeyman carpenter had orchestrated project completion totaling nearly $80 million, and he has employed as many as 350 at the firm over the years. Kevin Craffey’s early success with K&J led him to become a full-service general contractor. In 1995, he established Craffey & Co. Builders Inc. in Plymouth, which has long since become a national business focusing on the retail industry.

Craffey & Co. specializes on large projects such as the renovation of big-box stores and additions to shopping malls. With as many as 150 employees at any given time, the general contracting firm has fulfilled projects in more than 45 states. Kevin Craffey also acquired and completely renovated the Mountain View Grand Hotel in New Hampshire, a property listed in the National Register of Historic Places of the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service. For this project, the skilled craftsman oversaw a restoration that included a clubhouse, tennis course, a spa, and other amenities.

In another business venture, Kevin Craffey founded KJ Realty Trust Corporation/Court Street Trust Corporation in 1990. This entity develops residential, retail, and office properties in Plymouth, Avon, and Hanover, Massachusetts, including Plymouth’s historic Buttner Building. Craffey began his career as an apprentice at Cape Cod Lathing and Plastering, Inc., in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in 1976, quickly working his way up to foreman. He also served as a superintendent and carpenter steward at Quinn Construction in Brockton, Massachusetts, before striking out on his own as proprietor and president of K&J Interiors.  He trained at the Massachusetts Carpenters Training Center and The Associated General Contractors of America and studied business administration at Massasoit Community College.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ketchuppp Promotes More Real-Life Interaction Among Friends

One Dutch startup believes that social media is killing real-life relationships. Do you remember the time when maintaining relationships did not involve accepting friend requests on social networks and having conversations through screens? Created to encourage friends to meet up and spend time together more often in the real world, Ketchuppp is a mobile app that notifies you whenever a friend is nearby so you can “Ketchuppp.” Get it?

Available on the App Store and Google Play for free for a limited time, Ketchuppp helps you meet up with people you actually know and like. It's not an app for making new friends or business connections; it can only be used with the people who are already in your phone's contact list. Ketchuppp works by running GPS tracking in the background. You get an alert when a buddy is nearby, but your actual location is never broadcast to anyone. When both people agree to meet up, the app suggests a list of cafes and restaurants within the vicinity where you can catch up.

You can also control the distance setting, so how close a friend needs to be before the app shoots out a notification is up to you. In addition, there are three visibility settings that let you socialize or lurk as much as you want. Online, the default setting, means your buddies will be alerted if you're within the same area. In hidden mode, you'll still be notified about your friends' locations but not the other way around. If you're offline, no notifications will be sent or received.

Since launching this past August, Ketchuppp has attracted about 3,500 to 4,000 active users. And according to the startup, that figure is increasing daily. Ketchuppp is self-funded by its founders, who also own a social media consulting and concept development company, and DayLike, the app's developer.

Briggo Uses Advanced Technology to Make the Perfect Coffee

Founded in 2008 by a team of execs who are passionate about coffee, Briggo combines the best coffee ingredients and robotic technology to empower people to create their perfect cup of joe. The first Briggo Coffee Haus is located at the University of Texas at Austin's Flawn Academic Center. It's actually more of a kiosk than a coffee house, in the sense that there are no baristas, tables, or chairs. Designed by award-winning industrial designer Yves Behar, the self-service kiosk features fake wood paneling and a touchscreen where customers place their orders. Orders can also be made via mobile or the web.

Briggo CEO Kevin Nater says the Briggo Coffee Haus provides a solution for coffee lovers who are frustrated with an “inconsistent experience.” “Trained” by champion barista Patrick Pierce, the kiosk is able to make the perfect cup of coffee each and every time. Briggo plans to install more kiosks in universities, airports, hospitals, and other strategic locations.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Green Toys: 100 Percent Recycled Children's Products

Founded in 2007 by Robert von Goeben and Laurie Hyman, Green Toys Inc. manufactures classic children's toys made from recycled plastic and other eco-friendly materials. Specifically, recycled milk jugs are the main ingredient in Green Toys products, all of which are 100 percent made in the USA. From milk container recycling to toy production to final assembly, everything is done locally in California, where the company is headquartered. Because nothing is shipped from overseas, Green Toys products require less transportation and less energy to make. On average, each pound of recycled milk jugs used in the Green Toys manufacturing process saves energy equivalent to 3,000 AAA batteries and enough electricity to power a TV set for three weeks and a laptop for a month. To date, the company has recycled more than 18 million plastic milk containers.

Green Toys products are unique in the toy industry as they are the only toys on the market made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials and packaged exclusively in 100 percent recycled and recyclable cardboard. Furthermore, Green Toys uses as little packaging material as possible and does not use plastics, cellophane, or twist ties that have to be thrown away.

The leader in environmentally friendly and socially responsible children's products, Green Toys has received a number of awards for its toys, including the Fat Brain Toy Award, Dr. Toy's “Green Toy Company of the Year” and “Best Classic Toy” honors, the Parents' Choice Gold Award, the B. EcoChic Seal of Approval, the Right Start Baby Essentials Award, the Creative Child Toy of the Year Award, and more. Tested by nationally recognized, independent labs, Green Toys products have passed several tests, including the Consumer Products Safety Standard Specification, FDA regulations for food contact, voluntary testing for no BPA, and international standards EN71 and ISO 8124.

Strikingly: Beautiful, One-Page Websites in Minutes

Need a one-page, mobile-optimized website and fast? Whether it's for your business, personal branding, or a project, Strikingly lets you create one in mere minutes, no code or design experience required. Whip up a beautiful website from Strikingly's dashboard and publish it instantly. The best part is, you don't have to make different sites for different devices; Strikingly's responsive templates can be properly viewed on any device, be it a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Aside from being attractive and accessible, Strikingly sites are search engine optimized and connect easily to your social media accounts. Additionally, the page analytics feature allows you to keep track of your visitors.

Strikingly is free for single sites that do not exceed a monthly bandwidth of 5GB. If you have more than one site, want to use a custom domain, and need more bandwidth, paid plans start at $8 per month. Strikingly offers discounts for students and non-profits.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Aisle Planner Connects Brides-to-Be With Wedding Professionals

Based in Cardiff, California, Aisle Planner is a startup that aims to make planning a wedding less overwhelming for brides-to-be. On Aisle Planner, users can not only find advice and inspiration for their big day, but also connect and collaborate with vendors, venues, and other wedding professionals in their area. In addition, Aisle Planner serves as an all-in-one publishing platform for wedding photographers, planners, bridal designers, caterers, and any professional in the wedding industry.

According to Aisle Planner president and CEO Rob Farrow, the company wants to end the media perception of the “bridezilla” and the animosity towards wedding planners. “There is no way that anyone can truly do a wedding by yourself,” he says.

Even DIYers need help, and this is where Aisle Planner comes in. “We want to make it easy to work with and collaborate with planners,” says Farrow. “Here it is 'we/us/and' – there is no 'them/either/or.'”

Guardian: Wearable Device Prevents Children From Going Missing

Every year, about 8 million children are reported missing around the globe. In an effort to decrease the number of missing children worldwide, Taiwanese startup BeLuvv has created Guardian, a small accessory that helps parents and other trusted adults keep track of little ones.

Described as “a parent's virtual babysitter” by Mashable, Guardian is a wearable device that can be placed on virtually any part of a child's body as a buckle or bracelet. The Guardian device works with an app that is used to set a safety perimeter and co-guardians for each child. You will get an alert if your child is about to go beyond the safety perimeter. If your kid disappears, you can activate a search immediately from within the app, and everyone who has downloaded the Guardian app will receive an emergency notification. Moreover, you can see which areas have already been searched and will be informed when someone finds your child.

Right now, the Guardian app is compatible with iOS only, but an Android version is being developed. The device is comfortable to wear and waterproof, so it can stay on while swimming or showering. Guardian uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) technology, which is smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient than GPS. The Guardian device's battery can last for 4 to 12 months, while most GPS trackers have a battery life of 24 hours. Guardian is currently available for pre-order for $24.95; after that, it will cost $29.95 apiece.

BeLuvv CEO Johnny Fong got the idea for Guardian after briefly losing his son in a department store. “I'm always concerned that my children will get lost in a public space,” he says. “I've been thinking about this for a long time.” Fong believes now is the right time to launch Guardian as Bluetooth technology is already ripe.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Deka: The World's First Customizable Bluetooth Headset

Bulky and boring. That's how Bluetooth headsets have been since – well, forever. Entrepreneur Erik Adams wanted to make Bluetooth headsets more stylish and personal, so he founded Deka.

The world's first customizable Bluetooth headset, Deka is on a mission to disrupt the Bluetooh industry. With swappable faceplates, Deka lets you change the look of your Bluetooth headset to match any setting, occasion, and even your outfit. Some of the designs that Deka has created so far include a skull, a daisy, and a basketball, but the possibilities are endless with 3D printing. Moreover, you can send the company your very own design for a faceplate that's uniquely yours.

Deka is more than just a cool-looking gadget, though. Adams and his team are serious about quality and comfort, so they've sought the best hardware and software engineers to build a topnotch product. Deka headsets are equipped with Bluetooth 3.0, a microphone, an HD speaker, a multi-color light visualizer, a sound sensor, and the latest noise cancellation technology. Deka is also coated with Liquipel to protect it from sweat, rain, and accidental drops of water.

To make Deka one of the smartest Bluetooth headsets on the market, Adams and company created an accompanying mobile app to let users get the most out of the product. With the Smart Mobile App, users can find their misplaced Deka headset with the touch of a button; change the light color of the headset base; and set color alert notifications for text messages, voice calls, and emails. In addition, the app allows for hands-free voice activation, so users can answer or ignore calls and carry out other actions without lifting a finger, literally.

Deka is now raising funds on Indiegogo and has raised $13,356 of its $100,000 goal as of this writing. Early birds can get their own Deka Bluetooth headset for $48.

New App Makes Creating Great Video a Cinch

Thanks to modern technology, it's now easier than ever to film all of the exciting and wonderful moments in our lives. But have you ever recorded a special occasion or a fun experience only to discover later that a lot of your footage is shaky and unwatchable? That's what happened to Alexandra Kinloch while she was on holiday. Unable to share her experiences with her friends and family, she founded Cinch with Ben Rashleigh to help everyday people make remarkable video.

Currently available on the App Store for free for a limited time, Cinch makes fantastic video easy for everyone by providing onscreen guides and tips that help you get that perfect shot. You can then edit your footage by trimming and rearranging clips. Once you're done, you can share your video instantly to YouTube and Facebook or via email, all from within the app.

Kinloch, Rashleigh, and the rest of the Cinch team believe that everyone is capable of making great film.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sold: The App That Makes Online Selling Really, Really, Really Easy

We all have items that we no longer want or need. Stuff that we've only used a few times and other people will still find useful. Fortunately, it's easy to find new homes for our things these days, with sites such as eBay and Craigslist. But if you're too lazy or busy to sell your stuff online, there's now an app for that. Enter Sold, which sells your things for you. From pricing your items to finding a buyer to getting you paid, Sold takes care of pretty much everything.

Founded by Matthew Blackshaw, David Lakatos, and Tony DeVincenzi, Sold launched on iOS in April and recently arrived on Android. The co-founders believe that trying to outdo established e-commerce sites wouldn't add value to the marketplace. Instead, they decided to focus on simplifying the online selling process.

So how does Sold work? Post an item (for free) and Sold's pricing engine will generate “the perfect price” right away or within a day. There are no shipping costs or extra fees, and once you accept the price, the Sold team will start looking for a buyer. According to the startup, selling an item can take up to a few days, but really popular items can be sold in an hour.

Once you sell your item, Sold will send you a free, pre-paid, pre-insured, and tracked box filled with bubble wrap. Pack up your item, schedule a pickup or drop it off, then get paid via bank transfer or mail.

Sold says it currently has over 2,000 unique products in its marketplace. The average purchase price of items is about $260, and the most expensive item it has sold so far was an $8,000 watch. Sold focuses on “things of value” such as electronics (tablets, smartphones, laptops, cameras, headphones) and accessories (sunglasses, handbags, watches, shoes).

Find Online Courses and Learn New Skills With SkilledUp

These days, you can learn just about anything from the Internet. However, searching the web for online courses and tutorials can be a tedious process, and you often get different and contradicting views on how to do something. Enter SkilledUp, a website that aims to make it easy to find the best online courses. Run by a small team in NYC with members across the world, SkilledUp lets anyone search over 70,000 courses from more than 300 providers, including Treehouse, Lynda, and Udemy, just to name a few. You can find courses about blogging, marketing, HTML, SEO, graphic design, and more, and filter search results according to course type and price.

SkilledUp also has a Learning Hubs section where experts review courses, offer tips, interview professionals, and round up the best online classes and courses out there. The SkilledUp team believes that online courses can help anyone gain and improve their skills and provide more tangible results than degree-focused options.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Turn Your Dream Dress Into Reality With DressMyWay

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, DressMyWay is a personalized dress design and production company dedicated to helping girls and women create one-of-a-kind dresses for their special occasions. Ladies often have dream dresses in mind, whether it's for their quinceañera, prom, or wedding. The problem is, they won't always find what they want in stores. And while having a dress custom-made is an option, it can be expensive. Enter DressMyWay, which aims to revolutionize the custom dress creation process.

With DressMyWay, clients retain full creative control and are paired with a professional fashion designer to help them bring their vision and ideas into reality. The company involves the end customer in every step of the design process, from sketching to fitting. DressMyWay also keeps its frocks affordable by cutting out the middlemen and relinquishing rush charges and alteration fees. Prices start at $299 to $1,099, depending on the type of dress. Clients will know up front how much their one-of-a-kind dress will cost.

“People tend to think that personalization and customization is time-consuming and costly, but we show them the experience is not so overwhelming and actually quite affordable,” says founder Jay Wang, who's originally from China.

DressMyWay is not only inexpensive, it's fast, too. Custom-made dresses usually take five to eight months to create, but DressMyWay has developed a streamlined process that reduces turnaround times to three months. The results are just as professional, though – the company promises flawless fit and beautiful construction for each dress.

DressMyWay has partnered with several Art Institute locations around the US to provide new growth opportunities for up-and-coming designers. According to Wang, “We want both our designers and customers to be able to pursue their dreams, and when we are able to successfully empower somebody, they bring that passion right back to empower us in return.”

Startup Treats Book Lovers to Unlimited Reads

Founded in 2012, Oyster is a New York startup that seeks to “evolve the way people read.” With a belief that a well-rounded, well-read life is a richer one, Oyster offers unlimited access to more than 100,000 books for $9.95 a month, with new titles being added regularly. Currently available by invitation only for iPhone and iPod Touch, the app gives bookworms one-tap access to infinite ebooks and lets users share their favorite reads and explore their friends' recommendations. Oyster also promises a better reading experience with attractive design and typography.

Based in New York's NoMad neighborhood, the Oyster team is composed of avid readers with technology backgrounds who have all contributed to products used by millions of people every day. Their mission is to build a reading experience that is both communal and personal and can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. Oyster is backed by some of the best in technology today, including Founder Collective, SV Angel, Founders Fund, Sam Altman, and Chris Dixon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ansa Enables Off-the-Record Messaging

Ansa is a new messaging app that lets you communicate like you do in person – that is, without leaving a trace. With Ansa, you can go “off the record” and every message will be automatically deleted 60 seconds after it's been read. The app also has a self-destruct timer that lets you send photos, drawings, and videos that disappear seconds after delivery. Messages and media that are deleted from you and your recipient's phones are deleted from Ansa's servers at the same time. Meanwhile, on-the-record conversations are stored on the startup's servers, allowing you to view your conversation history.

But messages that you've already sent days or months ago can still be deleted, if you wish. Called synced deletion, the feature not only removes old messages from your phone, it also deletes them from your recipient's phone.

Ansa is now available on Android and iOS. The eight-person company is based in San Francisco, California.

KidZui Makes the Internet Safer for Children

The Internet is an excellent resource, but it can also be a scary and unsafe place, especially for children. Parents who are concerned about their kids stumbling across inappropriate YouTube videos or chatting with strangers online may want to check out the KidZui browser, a free, award-winning Internet browser for little ones.

With the KidZui browser, parents can relax while their children have fun and explore the Internet safely. The KidZui browser only features content that have been pre-screened and approved by KidZui's editorial staff and advisory board of parents and teachers. The millions of YouTube videos, games, and websites accessible via the KidZui browser are all child-friendly, and hundreds more are added each month to keep the content fresh and engaging. In addition, parents receive weekly activity reports so they can keep tabs on their child's evolving interests. Today, the KidZui community is composed of over a million kids and parents, with tens of thousands of new users downloading the browser each month.

Based in San Diego, California, KidZui was founded in 2006 by Cliff Boro and Thomas Broadhead on the belief that the Internet should be “big, fun, and safe” for children. The company also developed the kid-friendly websites ZuiTube.com and ZuiGames.com. ZuiTube is where children can watch and discover child-friendly YouTube videos, while ZuiGames hosts online games that young ones can play without registering or downloading anything. KidZui has released the ZuiTube app for iPhone as well, allowing kids and parents to watch videos anywhere.

KidZui has been featured in TechCrunch, USA Today, CNET, The Wall Street Journal, and more. The company has won the NAPPA Gold Award for Best Children's Software, the Parents' Choice Award for Best Website, and the Editor's Choice Award from Children's Technology Review. KidZui is backed by several investment groups, including Scholastic, Emergence Capital Partners, Maveron, Mission Ventures, and First Round Capital.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Adly: Sparking Branded Conversations Between Celebs and Fans

Thanks to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more, fans are now able to get closer to their favorite celebrities and learn what they're wearing, where they're going, and what's going on in their daily lives. In short, celebrities have become more accessible. Adly, a startup based in Los Angeles, realized the potential of working with celebrities through social media to spark engaging, branded conversations.

Adly helps brands find the right celebrities that speak to their target audience and start authentic online conversations between celebs and their fans. The company claims to have the largest network of celebrity publishers in the digital world. Adly has relationships with 75,000 influencers, 2,000 of whom are celebrities in the traditional sense – that is, those you would recognize if you saw them on the street. Though, the other 73,000 have influence that's useful to advertisers.

“We are a very good mechanism for raising awareness,” says chief executive officer Walter Delph. According to him, Adly's services are similar to that of TV commercials. The average celebrity on Adly has over 1.5 million followers, which is about the same reach as a mid-sized cable network.

Unlike television commercials, however, Adly doesn't just place a brand in front of an audience, but also generates conversation and engagement. Adly tracks these conversations and identifies the factors that make content go viral as well, measuring the reactions and behaviors of consumers for optimization. Depending on the level, an Adly campaign can cost between $25,000 and $500,000.

“We try to market that we are a technology company that provides this consumer insight about celebrities,” says Delph.

This past May, Adly raised $2 million from GRP Partners and Siemer Ventures, bringing its total funding to $7.5 million. The funding will go towards adding more engineers and sales staff to the Adly team.

PriceGrabber.com: Online Comparison Shopping Made Easy

The industry pioneer in online comparison shopping, PriceGrabber.com provides free and unbiased information about products, services, and merchants to millions of consumers every month. Over the years, the company has established itself as the most trusted and most effective destination for online comparison shopping through constant innovation and a focus on providing the best user experience.

Shoppers use PriceGrabber.com to find and compare millions of products and services in a number of categories, including clothing, books, babies and kids, computers, electronics, home improvement, flowers and gifts, furniture, and more. The website connects consumers to merchants of all sizes, from large companies to smaller local sellers, enabling them to quickly find the right product from the right merchant at the best price.

Specifically, PriceGrabber.com's services include comprehensive price calculations, product information and reviews, merchant ratings and reviews, side-by-side product comparisons, email notifications, and a storefronts marketplace, where individuals without a website can sell their products.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

ShopPad Turns Online Stores Into Tablet-Optimized Experiences Instantly

A couple of years ago, Aaron Wadler became an online shopper and recognized the iPad's potential to change computing. He discovered that online retailers “weren't doing anything exciting” on the iPad, however, despite the rise of tablet adoption among consumers.

“A lot of them had broken sites, and it really seemed like a mess,” says Wadler. “It got me thinking – if the really big guys can't get this figured out, it's going to be a huge problem for everyone else down.”

Thus, he started ShopPad, an e-commerce plug-in that instantly turns an online store into a rich, tablet-optimized experience, last year. Now used by over 10,000 online merchants, ShopPad takes advantage of all the things that make tablets unique. The plug-in recognizes gestures such as touching and swiping, is designed for speed so customers can check out faster, and automatically displays products as high-definition “retina” images.

The best part is, retailers never have to write a single line of code. According to Wadler, “It's all a WYSIWYG interface. We go in through the store's API and we mirror and sync to our servers their categories, product, and store information.”

ShopPad integrates with Shopify and Magento and the basic plan is free. Options such as adding a logo, customizing fonts and colors, and having an unlimited number of content pages are available in ShopPad's paid plans, which start at $6 per month.

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, ShopPad currently has four employees who are working on bringing the technology to smartphones and in-store. The startup announced $500,000 in seed funding recently. Participants in the round include Scott Rafer, co-founder of Mashery and CEO of Lookery, MyBlogLog, and Lumatic; Peter Horan, president of Answers.com; Arik Keller, director of product at PayPal; Allen Morgan, board member at Fab.com; and more.

Easy, Painless Parking Worldwide With ParkMe

The leading provider of parking information in the world, ParkMe is a Santa Monica, California-based company on a mission to make parking easier. Founded by Alex Israel and Sam Friedman, ParkMe has built the world's most comprehensive parking database, covering more than 28,000 parking locations across 1,823 cities in 32 countries on 7 continents.

With ParkMe's web and mobile apps, users can find the best place to park before leaving home or while on the go. ParkMe works with operators and full-time researchers to collect parking data and ensure that it's accurate. The company doesn't merely provide the location of parking spots, but also offers important details such as entrance points, photos, payment types, event rates, and amenities. Is the entrance on the same street as the lot address? Does the garage take credit cards? Does the lot have a car wash? With ParkMe, drivers will know what to expect when they arrive.

ParkMe is backed by Fontinalis Partners and IDG Ventures, among other investors.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Virtusize Ensures Online Shoppers Find the Right Fit Every Time

Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Virtusize is a virtual fitting solution that helps online retailers illustrate the size and fit of clothes online. The startup was founded in 2011 by a group of friends who shared a passion for the digital and fashion worlds. Like many online shoppers, they had trouble finding clothes that were the right size or fit and often had to return items. They figured other people must have the same problem, so they decided to create a solution.

With Virtusize, consumers can compare a garment they want to buy with something they already own. The service is currently available at more than 20 online retailers across Europe, including ASOS, Stylebop, WeSC, and Nelly. Virtusize aims to reduce the number of fit-related returns, increase sales, and improve the shopping experience.

Backed by Swedish investment company Öresund and several angel investors, Virtusize seeks to become a global standard for illustrating the size and fit of apparel sold online.

Digital Detox: A Retreat for People Who Are Addicted to Technology

The average American spends 8 to 12 hours per day interacting with a screen, sends or receives about 400 texts a month, and uses 30 percent of their leisure time on the web. Most people can't remember the last time they went for more than 24 hours sans technology, and research has found that the majority of us feel tied down by the very tools that were created to make our lives more efficient. Instead, our reliance and addiction to technology has led to a decrease in our productivity levels and an increase in our stress levels.

Levi Felix, who used to work at corporate philanthropy platform Causecast.com, has experienced firsthand the potentially devastating effects of living in the modern world. After working long hours and eating poorly, he ended up in the hospital and was forced to re-evaluate his priorities. Felix subsequently sold his car and clothes and trekked off to Southeast Asia, where he stayed for two and a half years. When he came back to America, he came back with a mission: “to show people how to connect, how to shed these rules and unwritten codes we bought into.”

In 2012, Felix founded Digital Detox with Brooke Dean. The Oakland, California-based group leads intimate, tech-free personal wellness retreats where participants “give up their smartphones and gadgets in exchange for four days of serenity and bliss.” The retreats are designed to help attendees disconnect with technology and reconnect with themselves. Activities include yoga, meditation, hiking, hot tub soaking, healthy eating, and creative workshops.

“My goal now is to connect people,” says Felix. “There's always going to be more media, more to do outside of where you are. The only moment that matters is right now.”

Digital Detox aims to help participants gain a refreshed approach, energy, and creative inspiration after a few days off the grid.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

LocalOn: Simple Web Marketing for Small Businesses

These days, running a business requires having an online presence as well. Maintaining a website and social media accounts can be overwhelming and expensive, but San Francisco Bay Area startup LocalOn offers a simple and painless solution to web marketing. The only website and online marketing platform built especially for small businesses, LocalOn lets entrepreneurs manage their business' web presence from one place. Through LocalOn's dashboard, business owners can edit their website, post events and deals, manage their Twitter and Facebook pages, and publish to local newspapers and associations, among others.

Believing that web marketing should be easy and manageable, LocalOn develops tools that not only produce results, but also enrich communities. LocalOn's WYSIWYG site editor enables anyone to build and modify a custom website sans a web programmer, with changes going live right away. In addition, social marketing tools are built in, allowing users to post events, news, and deals directly to their website and social media accounts. Users can advertise through local newspapers and merchants associations, send invoices, and collect payments from the LocalOn dashboard. There's also an ecommerce tool for those who would like to market and sell their products online. Customers get access to unlimited phone and email support as well.

Co-founded by Shahbano Imran and David Tolioupov, LocalOn is part of Y Combinator's current class of startups. To reach businesses that could use its web marketing suite, LocalOn has partnered with 2 newspapers and 40 merchants associations in the Bay Area. Prior to this, the company went door-to-door to sell its product, which Imran describes as “a complete failure,” as small businesses were receiving pitches from 20 startups per day and nobody was interested in hearing another one. Now that some local businesses have signed on, LocalOn plans to target those outside of the Bay Area.

CDNify: Easy and Affordable CDN Implementation

Based in Manchester, United Kingdom, CDNify is a content delivery network (CDN) that specifically caters to startups, developers, and digital agencies. Implementing a CDN is usually a frustrating and potentially expensive process; the company's goal is to change all of that by making CDN as flexible, accessible, affordable, and easy-to-use to as many businesses and people as possible.

CDNify takes a website's static files and distributes them across its global network of cloud servers. Every time a user visits a website, CDNify delivers the content via the POP location closest to them to provide a lightning fast experience. A faster loading site leads to increased user engagement, more repeat visits, higher conversion rates, and better search engine rankings.

Compatible with various content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Magento, CDNify offers a “pay as you grow” model. There are no monthly payments or subscription fees; users only pay for what they consume. Bandwidth blocks range from 500GB ($14.50) to 10TB ($222.50).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

BioBeats: Adaptive Media for Better Health

Founded by Nadeem Kassam, BioBeats is a healthtech startup that merges entertainment and healthcare. Believing that our devices and media should interact with us, BioBeats develops adaptive media technologies, which reacts to the human body's environment and vital signs in real time. The startup hopes to help people live healthier, more engaging lives by monitoring themselves with biometrics.

BioBeats' first product, Pulse, launched at SXSW 2012. Holding your finger over your iPhone's camera prompts the app to play music according to your heartbeat. Recently, Biobeats partnered with hip hop group the Far East Movement to create an event powered by more than 1.5 million heartbeats from around the world. Pulse went on to win the Spotify Hackathon Echonest Prize at SXSW.

BioBeats will soon be releasing BioMuse, which builds playlists based on your heart rate, breathing, and other physiological factors. In other words, BioMuse automatically searches for music to fit your mood. BioBeats plans to eventually create a suite of products that “use entertainment to facilitate the wellness process,” including an app that generates custom music from a group of samples. The company is working on a clinical app for hospitals as well.

BioBeats recently raised $650,000 in seed funding from actor Will Smith, music manager Scooter Braun, entertainment lawyer Ken Hertz, actor Damon Wayans, artist management exec Mark Beaven, musician Justin Boreta, record label Cantora Records, Zhen Fund, ENIAC Ventures, and angel investors Kevin Colleran and Gotham Chopra. According to Kassam, he secured more than his target amount due to “the deep interest from all these partners.”

BioBeats was founded in 2012 after David Plans (VP product) and Davide Morelli (VP engineering) pitched to Kassam their program to visualize and sonify brain waves using just an iPhone and a custom-built headset. Kassam immediately saw the opportunity to use heart data to create experiential music, as well as fulfill his dream of uniting healthcare and entertainment.

Snaptee: A Custom T-Shirt Design App

Snaptee is a Hong Kong-based startup that believes a T-shirt is not only an article of clothing, but also a blank canvas for expression. Its iOS app (Android version coming soon) lets anyone design and order their own custom T-shirt with just a few taps on their smartphone. Simply link your photo or Instagram albums to Snaptee and create a cool design by applying a filter and adding some text. You can also use the Remix function to modify other users' designs, if you're feeling lazy. Snaptee uses 100 percent organic cotton garments and ships to anywhere in the world for as little as $5.

Snaptee launched earlier this year and has since amassed 130,000 users in 45 countries. So far, the app has been used to create over 160,000 unique designs. With key markets in Japan, Germany, and the US, the startup plans to target Australia, South Korea, the UK, and Southeast Asia next.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jifiti Makes You a Better Gifter

Nobody wants to be a bad gifter, but who has time to learn and remember the shirt size, favorite color, or personal style of every single person in their life? Besides, those things change. To take the guessing and awkwardness out of the gifting process, a team of entrepreneurs and developers has created Jifiti, a free app that makes gift-giving easy and worry-free.

Next time you're shopping in-store or online, you can use Jifiti to “teleport” a gift to a friend or family member. Just scan an item, buy it, and send it off to the recipient's mobile phone. They'll then get a notification that they have a gift, which they can redeem online or in-store. With Jifiti, you don't have to worry about shipping or picking out the right size, color, or style. And if your recipient doesn't like what you got them, they can always select a different product from the store.

As a giftee, you can use Jifiti to create wish lists of items you want, so your loved ones will know not to get you another pair of socks or more gift cards. Scan products to add them to your list and share them with your friends and family. You'll get notifications if someone chipped in for your gift or purchased something for you.

To deliver a one-stop gifting experience, Jifiti has partnered with dozens of well-known retailers, including Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Toys “R” Us, Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, Build-a-Bear Workshop, The Body Shop, GameStop, and more. The startup has just raised $2.5 million in seed funding from Simon Property Group, Schottenstein Stores Corp., and the Jesselson Group. Simon Property Group, which operates more than 300 malls in the US and Asia, will be promoting Jifiti in over 100 more of its malls by this holiday season.

Postcards App Helps Seniors Join the Digital Age

These days, we share everything via the web and mobile, be it photos, videos, stories, or memories. In our modern, tech-driven world, it's easy for elders to feel intimidated by new technology. Rich Lowenberg and Danielle Narveson believe that our parents and grandparents don't have to be left behind, and that we can bring them with us into the digital age with ease. Along with a few friends, the duo built Postcards, a free iPad app that allows seniors to receive photos and videos from loved ones effortlessly.

Made with seniors in mind, Postcards requires no computer experience or user interaction on the part of the receiver. If grandpa doesn't want to interact with the app, he can simply leave the iPad on the mantle and still receive photos, videos, and messages from loved ones. Using their computer or smartphone, family members can send content from any site and control the app's settings from the dashboard. Basically, all grandpa has to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the photos and videos of his kids and grandkids.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Swell News Radio Learns What You Like and Don't Like

Swell is to news radio as Pandora is to music radio. Designed with the belief that your time is valuable and should be maximized, Swell only brings you content that you want to listen to. And you don't even have to set up or manage any playlists, as the app will do that for you. The more you use Swell, the more it learns about your preferences. For instance, if you listen to TED Talks, it delivers more TED Talks. If you skip the Sports Update, you get less of that.

Swell's advanced algorithm evaluates content based on a variety of factors, including the amount of time you and other similar users spend listening to episodes of a program, the rating and metadata assigned by a human curator, how closely the content and topic matches your interests, and the rating provided by the Swell user community.

Swell promises to offer “a continuous stream of good stuff,” presented in a user interface that's minimalist, beautiful, and easy to use.

Memorability Encourages a Snap Happy Generation to Transform Photos Into Memories

In our modern world of smartphones, tablets, and digital cameras, there's no shortage of photos, that's for sure. We take more photos in a day now than we did in a week or a month some years ago. However, more photos doesn't mean more memories. With life moving at such a fast pace, it's easy for our photos to get pushed to the bottom of our hard drives, where they'll remain forgotten until we unintentionally stumble upon them again in another few years or so. But one husband and wife team is on a mission to help us revive and keep the human connection that turns our photos into memories.

Tom and Anne Clark from Chapel Hill, North Carolina are the co-founders of Memorability, an app that lets you create beautiful, narrated photo books for your iPad so you can see, hear, and share your memories anytime, anywhere. Like many of us, the couple had countless family photos that ended up being neglected.

“I wanted something that was more like a physical photo album,” says Anne. “When I didn't find anything like that, I decided we needed to do it.” She handled the wireframes and interaction design, while Tom coded the app.

Unlike other offerings in the App Store that provide printing services, Memorability is exclusively designed for tablets and is intended to replace physical photo books. Your albums are saved locally on your iPad, and those that you choose to share with family and friends are kept on the company's servers for 30 days.

With Memorability, it's easy to make photo albums. Just choose a pre-designed album theme and drag and drop your images. You can then customize your album with text and audio captions. Memorability photo books can be shared privately within the app, on Facebook, or via email. To celebrate Memorability's launch, the app is currently free for a limited time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

DuckDuckGo Lets You Search the Web Anonymously

Headquartered in Paoli, Pennsylvania, DuckDuckGo is a search engine that doesn't track or filter bubble users. Named one of the “Top 50 Best Websites” by TIME magazine a couple of years ago, the 20-person company was founded by Gabriel Weinberg, who actually did not set out to build a search engine initially.

In 2006, after selling his startup, Opobox, to Classmates.com, Weinberg found himself with time on his hands, so he took a class in stained glass making. When he saw that the “useful web links” included in his teacher's handout didn't match Google's results, he realized there were “millions of people who knew the right list of search terms and would make a better engine than Google.”

Weinberg believes that search data is “arguably the most personal data,” which is why he decided to make DuckDuckGo an anonymous search engine. “You're typing in your problems, your desires. It's not the same as things you post publicly on a social network,” he told The Guardian.

Bitstrips Makes You the Star of Your Own Comic Strips

Text status updates on Facebook are so yesterday. Why not snazz them up with some comic strips? Don't worry if you're not artistically inclined, you don't even have to know how to draw – Bitstrips has already done most of the work for you.

Based in Toronto, Canada, Bitstrips lets you create comics and e-cards starring yourself and your friends. You may have already seen these custom cartoons on Facebook. If you haven't, you probably will soon. Since launching its Facebook app about seven months ago, Bitstrips has seen its user base grow from zilch to 10 million strong.

“We've done zero advertising, and our acquisition cost so far has been nothing. We attribute it to striking a chord with people, and providing a visual element to online communication that has been missing,” vice president of marketing Shahan Panth told VentureBeat.

Bitstrips believes that online communication is “frustratingly flat” and is therefore here to shake things up. Through the Bitstrips website and Facebook app, you can create cartoon versions of yourself and your friends and put them in hilarious comic situations that illustrate your feelings, day, misadventures, and whatnot.

According to CEO Jacob Blackstock, Bitstrips isn't inventing a new way to communicate. Rather, the company is helping users communicate online as they would offline. Emotions and facial expressions, which are critical to communication, are what Bitstrips bring to the table. You can choose from over 1,000 customizable templates, with more being added daily by the company's professional cartoonists. Once you've created your Bitstrip, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and email.

So far, 10 million users have made unique Bitstrips and over 50 million unique cartoons have been shared. “We see it as the next step in the evolution of social media,” said Panth. “Making it more like real life.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wedding Photo Sharing App Wedding Snap Becomes Eversnap

With virtually everyone toting a smartphone or digital camera these days, it's now easier than ever to capture an event and see it from several different perspectives. To help couples who are tying the knot easily collect all the photos and videos taken by their guests in one place, Sasha Eslami and Davide Pluda created Wedding Snap.

Available on iPhone and Android, Wedding Snap is a “dead simple” app that ensures every moment of a couple's big day is recorded. After signing up for a package, couples can create as many albums as they want for all their wedding occasions, e.g., bridal shower, bachelor party, and the wedding day itself. They'll also get free customized business cards with instructions for their guests on how to download the Wedding Snap app and where to upload digital camera captures. At the event, guests use the app to take photos and videos, which are automatically organized into albums.

Today, Wedding Snap announced that it is expanding beyond weddings and has changed its name to Eversnap. Under its new branding, the app still serves basically the same purpose, but now it will also cater to other occasions such as reunions, parties, trips, conferences, and more. According to Eslami, Wedding Snap actually did fairly well, but the startup “needed a bigger product.” He says that several couples and guests wanted to continue to use the app after the wedding, but it wasn't really built for that.

With Eversnap, users can privately share photos and videos of family barbecues, baby showers, and the like. Eslami is aware that group photo sharing apps aren't new, but notes that “there isn't really a good product out there that solves everyone's needs.” Eversnap is available on iPhone, Android, and the web and is designed to be simple enough for regular, tech-unsavvy users.

Exitround: A Private Marketplace for Founders and Acquirers

While working as a venture capital investor in San Francisco, Jacob Mullins spotted “a crucial disconnect” across the startup landscape. On one side are a myriad startups with incredibly talented teams who are struggling to raise funding and find product-market fit, and on the other side are flourishing startups and established tech companies that desperately need talent. Thus, Mullins and co-founder Greg Dean started Exitround, a private and anonymous marketplace that helps founders connect with acquirers.

Created especially for founders who are looking to explore strategic acquisition opportunities and those who are interested in potentially acquiring companies, Exitround is an independent entity that is not affiliated with any investment group, association, or accelerator. Startup founders list their business and its specific characteristics on the site anonymously, and all buyers are vetted to ensure they're legit. Exitround earns a nominal fee, paid by the buyer, when an M&A transaction or talent-acquisition is completed.

Monday, July 1, 2013

WESAWIT: See Events Through the Audience's Eyes

Founded by Morgan Rostagnat, Thibault Mathieu, and Christopher Elwell, WESAWIT is a web and mobile app that lets venues, artists, and promoters display fan-generated photos and videos from a show on their website, Facebook page, or mobile app in real time. WESAWIT aggregates, manages, and curates pics and vids that are captured by the audience and shared on social media, bringing “show life” to an artist or venue's website or mobile app right when it happens. “The idea for the app is to see events through the eyes of the audience,” says Mathieu.

WESAWIT started out with a different purpose, though. Originally a news-oriented app, it aggregated current events such as protests and natural disasters and sought to educate people about what was going on in the world. But since it was difficult to keep up with the news, the co-founders decided to focus on local events in Los Angeles instead, covering sports events and art festivals. Now, WESAWIT aims to engage fans with photos and videos from the crowd at concerts and other events. “Really, in one sentence we want to take fan engagement to the next level through social media,” says Mathieu.

Artists, promoters, and venues can use the WESAWIT widget to display fan-generated visual content on their site or mobile app, or they can go for a fully customizable white-label option. WESAWIT can display fan-generated content on big screens live during shows as well. The WESAWIT dashboard enables users to curate fan pictures and videos, select and highlight the best content, create custom hashtag campaigns, identify and reward their most active fans, and receive weekly analytics reports.

WESAWIT differentiates itself by emphasizing quality over quantity; the team continues to work with new technology to further optimize the content they receive. WESAWIT has already secured partnerships with Troubadour, The Roxy Theater, and Exchange LA.

Thankful Registry: A More Thoughtful and Personal Wedding Registry

Launched in early 2013, Thankful Registry is an online wedding registry that aims to make wedding gifts more personal, meaningful, and memorable. The service is the brainchild of Kathy Cheng, who was disappointed with conventional wedding registries. She found them impersonal and felt that couples felt obligated to add items to their registries.

Cheng began developing the idea for Thankful Registry three years ago. Featuring a modern, visually-rich layout, the website lets couples create their own personal registry. Users can upload a full-width cover image, write a personal message to friends and family, and customize their URL. Best of all, couples aren't limited to a single retailer. They can add items from any online store and organize them into non-traditional categories like “play,” “delicious,” and “why not.”

To Cheng's surprise, couples from outside the US are using Thankful Registry as well, so she intends to make the site more international. She also plans to launch registries for baby gifts, birthdays, and graduations.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cody: A Fun and Non-Intimidating Fitness App

Founded by former Microsoft product managers Paul Javid and Pejman Pour-Moezzi, Cody is a “fun, light way to share workouts” with others and celebrate your fitness accomplishments. But before you groan, roll your eyes, and say, “Oh great, another fitness app!,” let it be known that Cody isn't merely jumping on the mobile fitness bandwagon. In fact, Javid and Pour-Moezzi built Cody to offer an experience other fitness apps don't. While most apps are aimed at hardcore fitness enthusiasts, Cody, on the other hand, focuses on casual fitness enthusiasts by emphasizing sharing instead of data tracking. Think of it as more Vine and Instagram than RunKeeper and Nike+.

Available on iPhone and iPod Touch, Cody lets you log your workouts with not just the conventional measurements of time and distance, but also with visual photos, notes, and locations. Additionally, you can share your workouts to your followers and receive motivation via likes and comments. Workouts can be logged and shared in various activities such as Crossfit, Barre, yoga, weightlifting, walking, running, and cycling. According to the co-founders, 70 percent of the workouts logged on Cody are outside of running and cycling, and 85 percent of user sessions don't even include a workout. Which is actually good news, since Pour-Moezzi and Javid are looking to tap into the fast-growing group fitness movement and build a social fitness experience.

Cody is also a virtual fitness coach that suggests workouts, friends, advice, and other information based on your interests and activity. You can discover workouts and people on your own with the new “Explore” feature or hashtags as well. Because users are grouped into categories, it's easy to find and follow fellow yogis or Crossfitters, for example. And if you're in the mood for something new, Cody has hundreds of workout routines that you can try.

MobiZebra: Product Reviews in the Palm of Your Hand

With so many products, services, and businesses out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed and worse, end up disappointed with what you purchased. Prior to the Internet, we turned to our friends and family for their opinions before we bought something. We still do that today, but also check out review sites for additional information. Now an upcoming mobile app aims to make the modern shopping process even more convenient.

Launching soon on Google Play and the Apple App Store, MobiZebra helps you decide what to buy or what not to buy right in the store. Just scan the barcode of any item to see what other people have to say about it, and whether the general public loves, likes, or dislikes the product. Contributing your opinion to MobiZebra is easy as pie as well. Simply scan the barcode of the product you'd like to review and vote with a tap of a button.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Squrl: All Your Favorite Videos in One App

“Effortless video” app Squrl is a powerful video search and recommendation engine for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. With Squrl, you can watch online videos from all over the web in one place. The app integrates both free and premium video platforms, including YouTube, Netflix, TED, Vimeo, Hulu, Aol, Blip.tv, and more. Aside from providing access to these aggregators, Squrl makes video recommendations based on your interests, what's trending, and what your friends are watching.

Squrl recently got an upgrade, and the new version comes with a more simplified design and improved social features. The revamped easy-to-navigate home screen shows nine options, including recommended and featured videos, your activity, as well as videos you've watched, liked, and added to you queue. Squrl has previously allowed for sharing to Facebook and Twitter, but now you can also share content and send private messages to your friends within the app itself.

Fancy Hands: Personal Assistants for All

Headquartered in New York City, Fancy Hands is a team of personal assistants serving clients around the world. Clients who are normal people like you and I. The startup believes that anyone can benefit from having someone else do small yet necessary jobs for them, such as scheduling an appointment with the dentist or finding a list of reasonably priced places to eat in a certain area. You don't have to be a corporate hotshot or a Hollywood star to have a personal assistant. The idea behind Fancy Hands is that we don't have time to do it all and don't even want to do some of the tasks on our to-do lists. With Fancy Hands, you can free up some time to focus on the things that matter to you the most. Have someone else schedule your meetings, book your reservations, do your research, and more.

Fancy Hands was founded by developer Ted Roden, who got the idea for the startup when he was sitting in a maternity ward with his wife and newborn. He was working for the New York Times and writing a book at the time. With his personal and professional lives fully booked, he wondered when he would ever have time again to do tasks like paying the electric bill or making a dinner reservation. According to Roden, “The idea came totally out of a need. Rather than make a simple phone call to take my wife out to dinner, I built an elaborate platform.”

For the first six months of its launch in 2010, Roden was that elaborate platform's only user. These days, Fancy Hands' thousands of US-based personal assistants work for clients across the globe. Plans start at $25 per month, which will get you five requests. Fancy Hands has been featured in several media outlets, including Lifehacker, Forbes, TIME, The New York Times, and Slate.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Giggem: Matchmaking for Musicians

Headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey, Giggem is a new matchmaking service for the music industry. Founded by Emir Turan in mid-2012, Giggem automatically matches musicians, bands, songwriters, and industry professionals, as well as provides them with the tools they need to promote their music and roster.

Once you sign up and input your background, interests, and other relevant info, Giggem's advanced algorithms will recommend people you should connect with. Bands can find members and managers, musicians can find a band to join and meet labels, songwriters can connect with musicians, and industry professionals can discover new talent and promote their roster. In addition, fans can use the site to find new music.

Giggem's algorithms doesn't take into account if you will get along with your matches, but Turan says it helps people find the most likely candidates that they wouldn't have found otherwise. Anyway, users can always search the site manually.

Piccolo Automatically Prints Your Facebook and Instagram Photos for Posterity

If you have a mobile device and social media accounts, then chances are you take a lot of pictures and share them with friends and family online. A newly closed beta launched subscription photo printing service called Piccolo believes that if a picture's worth sharing, then it's also worth keeping – which is why the startup is offering to send prints of your Facebook and Instagram photos to you every month. Starting at $10 per month, Piccolo “prints pictures the same way you share them,” automatically printing the most popular pictures you've shared for the month. You can always choose which photos get printed, though – on the first of each month, Piccolo will send you an email showing the pictures that are about to get printed. You have two days to edit the selection if you're not entirely happy with it. The startup will then send your prints via snail mail.

Piccolo's prints are printed by a professional lab on archival quality paper that will last for generations. After all, isn't that the point of having your photos printed in the first place? You can also have your prints sent to family and friends automatically – just buy them a subscription and all they have to do is confirm their address.

Piccolo was founded by Nicholas Hall and Kate Oppenheim, who came up with the idea for the startup. Oppenheim had been using an IFTTT recipe to automatically save her Facebook and Instagram photos to Dropbox. However, when it came time for her to locate the pictures she wanted to print, she found it “very frustrating” to sort through thousands of files. In addition, existing photo printing sites required her to download her photos and upload them again. With Piccolo, everything is more or less automated. Hall and Oppenheim plan to roll out support for Flickr, Picasa, Tumblr, and other services next.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wix: Easy, Beautiful Websites for Free

In 2006, Avishai Abrahami, Nadav Abrahami, and Giora Kaplan launched Wix.com to help people without any design or coding knowledge build beautiful and professional websites. Now the world's leading DIY web publishing platform, Wix boasts more than 35 million users worldwide, with 1.3 million new users joining every month. To date, over 31 million websites have been created by Wix users for their businesses, hobbies, causes, passions, and more. Wix is available in nine different languages and has users in North America, Europe, and Australia, among others.

Easy to use and customize, Wix is the only drag-and-drop website editor that utilizes HTML5 technology. With hundreds of designer templates available, users can literally build a website overnight without designing a graphic or writing a line of code. They're not limited to websites, though, as they can also create mobile sites, Facebook pages, and blogs. In addition, Wix provides reliable, top-grade hosting for free. The Wix team believes that everyone deserves to have their own stunning website at no cost.

The Israeli-American company operates on a freemium business model, earning profit through premium upgrades such as increased storage and bandwidth, e-commerce capabilities, Google Analytics, removal of Wix branding, and more. Last October, Wix launched a new app market and SDK, allowing third-party developers to integrate their apps into the platform and distribute them to Wix's user base.

Employing a team of nearly 400 professionals, Wix is headquartered in Tel Aviv, with offices in New York, San Francisco, and Dnepropetrovsk. The company is backed by Bessemer Venture Partners, Mangrove Capital Partners, Benchmark Capital, DAG Ventures, and Insight Venture Partners. Wix recently announced that it has submitted a draft registration statement to the US Securities and Exchange Commission for a possible IPO, which will most likely begin after the SEC completes the review process.