Monday, May 27, 2013

Olapic Puts Customer Product Photos on Brands' Websites

Founded in 2010 by a group of engineers who met at Columbia Business School, Olapic is a social photo crowdsourcing service that allows e-tailers, brands, and publishers to put customer photos on their site. People post photos of products they're using on social networks all the time; however, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram aren't the best places to share such content, as friends and family don't always have the same interests or brand preferences. This is where Olapic comes in – rather than being ignored on social networks, user-generated product photos have a chance to shine on the business's website.

Brands define hashtags and ask customers to send in their photos. Olapic automatically collects the photos from Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and its algorithms help brands curate large amounts of submissions. Businesses have full control over what appears on their site and can see how effective their photo-sharing strategy is via Olapic's analytics dashboard.

Companies that use Olapic include Nasty Gal, Threadless, and Design Within Reach.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sifteo: Re-Imagining the Building Block

Growing up playing building blocks, board games, and Nintendo, David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi longed for the days when playing games did not mean burying your head in a touchscreen. Seeing their own children engrossed in tablets and smartphones and sometimes shutting out the rest of the world, the pair wondered if there was a better way for technology and play to come together. So as graduate students at the MIT Media Lab, they set out to design new physical interfaces that would rethink human-computer interaction. One day they imagined going through a pile of digital data as if it were Legos, and this led to the idea for Sifteo Cubes, the award-winning tactile game system that makes classic play interactive.

In 2009, Merrill was invited to present Sifteo on the main stage at the TED conference. The video of the talk went viral, going on to become one of the “top 5 most engaging TED talks” of all time. Realizing that Sifteo was “more than just a cool research project,” Merrill and Kalanithi seized the opportunity to turn their idea into an actual product. Within months, they had moved to San Francisco and were building a company.

Sifteo Cubes are interactive blocks built on the play patterns of Legos, domino tiles, and building blocks. Ready to play out of the box, they communicate wirelessly with each other and respond to your gestures. As Merrill explains, “It's taking the wooden blocks you grew up playing with and giving them this digital life.”

Sifteo comes with three cubes and four pre-installed games, but you can add more cubes and download additional games for more fun. Sifteo's growing game library currently includes Chroma Splash, Word Caravan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Slide, and Code Cracker. The system is available at select e-tailers, retailers, and New York's MoMA Store. According to Merrill, “We really care about building play experiences that are beneficial to kids, that parents can feel good about.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

AltaMed Health Services Corporation Flourishes

When Castulo de la Rocha became one of only 3 paid employees of La Clinica Familiar del Barrio in East Los Angeles in 1977, he brought with him a social conscience informed by his immigration to the United States as a child and his experience witnessing the turbulent 1960s. The free clinic served a mostly Latino population with little or no access to good health care. After three months in his temporary position, the attorney and skilled leader accepted the roles of President and Chief Executive Officer. The company changed its name to AltaMed Health Services Corporation a few years later and has flourished under C├ístulo de la Rocha’s direction.

From three employees, the staff has grown to more than 1,200 receiving half a million visits annually at more than 40 clinics and senior-care facilities. AltaMed has become California’s largest FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center) and one of the nation’s top five. The medical professionals and social workers take a holistic approach to community health, addressing substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, health education, disease management, youth services, and other areas in addition to medical and dental care. In its efforts to reduce the disparities in health care and minimize costs, the AltaMed medical staff emphasizes nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and prevention.

Several years ago, AltaMed volunteers and friends came up with a win-win fundraising event called East L.A. Meets Napa. The annual gala pairs great Los Angeles Mexican restaurants with wines produced by Napa Valley Latino vintners. In its first year, 2006, the gala attracted 200 people and raised more than $12,000. In 2010, 23 restaurants and 30 wineries participated, drawing more than 1,400 attendees and raising $207,000 to support the nonprofit AltaMed’s services and programs. One of the nation’s most influential Latinos, Castulo de la Rocha also has brought esteem to the organization through his multiple professional leadership roles and national recognition, such as his 2011 induction into the Grassroots Hall of Fame of the National Association of Community Health Centers.

You can follow Castulo on Twitter here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learn from an Expert, One-to-One, on PopExpert

There's a new startup that promises to help you get better at life, work, and play. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, PopExpert is an online learning marketplace that makes it easy for students to find experts in whatever they want to learn and learn from them over live, one-to-one video. Whether it's nutrition, meditation, music, or language, PopExpert has more than 1,000 experts who are ready to teach a wide gamut of topics. Search for an expert by subject, price, and availability, and schedule a session at the most convenient time for you. PopExpert also handles the payment process, taking a small cut from every transaction.

According to founder and CEO Ingrid Sanders, “We are focused on areas that relate more to EQ development than IQ development, for example meditation vs. Excel training and personalized style vs. photography techniques.” This calls for one-to-one personalized interaction with an expert, which is “by far the most efficient” method.

PopExpert is currently available by invitation, which can be requested on the startup's website.

Save Your Child's Artwork on the Cloud With Artkive

Your kid's artwork. So precious yet cluttering at the same time. What's a parent to do? Throw the artwork in the trash and feel bad about it? Or keep everything... but where? Fortunately, there's now an app for that. An easy and tidy way to save and enjoy your child's artwork, Artkive lets you store your kid's masterpieces in the cloud and even turn them into a printed book and other products. Artkive was created by Jedd Gold, who was inspired to build the app after seeing the inconvenience his wife went through trying to save their children's artwork – she would take pictures of everything, transfer them to her computer, and then upload them to a photo website. But by that time she wouldn't remember who made what or when, resulting in a different but equally frustrating mess. Gold thought there had to be an app for the problem. But there wasn't, so he whipped one up.

Artkive lets you tag photos of your child's artwork with their name, grade, date, and title. After you've saved the photos, you can share them with your family and friends, as well as order a printed book of your kid's creations. Gold initially tested this option last December, adding a print button to the app without any details or explanation. A couple hundred users ordered printed books during the test period, so the feature stayed. Users can choose from two book sizes, 8x8” and 8.5x11”, and prices start at $25 for 20 pages (images). Later this year, users will also be able to turn their kid's artwork into calendars, mugs, and other gifts.

Originally available on iOS only, Artkive recently launched an Android version, though it doesn't have all the features of its iOS counterpart due to the company's limited resources. Artkive currently has 105,000 users, nearly all of whom are moms.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Carlton Hobbs: Well Appointed British and European Furniture and Artworks From the 17th to 19th Centuries

Situated in a well-appointed former Vanderbilt mansion on East 93rd Street in Manhattan, Carlton Hobbs LLC, Antiques and Fine Art features a wealth of decorative European and British furniture, paintings, object d’art, and sculpture from the 17th to 19th century. A particular focus is on works created on royal or aristocratic commission by leading artisans of the era.

Carlton Hobbs maintains a dedicated research department that undertakes intensive efforts in determining provenance and maker, as well as defining the artistic and historic attributes of pieces. The catalogue features a number of distinct items, ranging from furniture to mirrors and marble creations. One of the most unique items is a pair of ebony obelisks that are inlaid with silver and shaped hardstones including amber, Tulyakov jasper, amber, and lapis lazuli. Crafted in Rome in the late 17th century, the obelisks sit on a plain plinth base, and are raised by four ball feet off of a front-paneled rectangular plinth.

Carlton Hobbs and his partner Stefanie Rinza maintain a full exhibition calendar that includes seasonal shows at Grosvenor House in London and the Art and Antique Dealers League of America’s (AADLA) Spring Show NYC. Held annually in early May at the Park Avenue Armory for the past three years, this premier fine and decorative art show showcases a wide range of pieces spanning centuries, styles, and eras. The AADLA is fully vetted, with a panel of experts scrutinizing every piece displayed for accurate labeling and authenticity. Carlton Hobbs also regularly exhibits at the well attended Paris Biennale event.

For news and updates on Carlton Hobbs, follow the official Twitter here

Monday, May 13, 2013

Turn Your Favorite Online Content Into Beautiful Magazines With Flipboard

Based in Palo Alto, California, Flipboard is a personal magazine maker app that aims to let people find and share content in simple, beautiful, and meaningful ways. Available on iOS and Android, Flipboard allows you to save anything from the web (photos, audio, video, stories, and more) and turn your favorite content into digital magazines that you can browse through later or share with friends. With Flipboard, you can discover cool things on the Internet, catch up on the news, and stay connected to your social networks in one place. You can also browse other users' magazines and Flipboard's curated staff picks for interesting content on a myriad of topics such as news, business, art, sports, food, technology, and music. Housed in a simple and elegant interface, Flipboard sections can be arranged to your liking for easy navigation.

With a user base of 56 million strong, Flipboard recently launched a new web-based magazine editor for curators and publishers. Here, users can create, edit, and share magazines just as they could on mobile, as well as set covers and rearrange and delete items, which are web-only features. Initially a mobile-only company, Flipboard is now expanding to the web with the new editor and more offerings down the line. Right now, clicking a link to a Flipboard magazine from a non-mobile device only leads to a landing page that prompts you to download the mobile app so you can view the content. Flipboard is currently working on this issue and is planning to “do more on the web over time.”

Led by former Tellme CEO Mike McCue and former Apple senior iPhone engineer Evan Doll, Flipboard is backed by Insight Venture Partners, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer, The Chernin Group, Jack Dorsey, Dustin Moskovitz, and Ashton Kutcher. Major publications that have launched on Flipboard include The New York Times and The Financial Times.

Singspiel Seeks to Make Music Practice More Fun

Founded in 2012 by University of Waterloo alums Arian Rahbari and Ivan Cheung, Singspiel is a learning platform and tablet app for beginning music students. An avid musician himself, Cheung has seen how many people who pick up an instrument end up quitting within a short period. Singspiel aims to change this by turning the typically tedious activity of music practice into a more fun and engaging experience.

After signing up for a free trial, users can select a song to play from Singspiel's music library. Real-time feedback is provided on every note played, so musicians know right away if and where they made mistakes. Singspiel records every performance and scores every attempt, enabling users to learn from their mistakes, track their progress, and share their performance with others. Singspiel also has a social networking feature that connects users who play the same songs. The platform uses standard music notation and supports piano, guitar, violin, and voice.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tapestry Lets Seniors Connect to Their Friends and Family Using a Simple App

Tapestry is an Australian startup whose mission is to “enrich the lives of older users” by offering a product suite especially designed for them. The Tapestry app for Android tablets makes it easy for seniors to connect to the people they love without having to sign up for a host of social networks. Whether family members share via Facebook, Google+, or email, users will receive everything via Tapestry. All photos are automatically backed up online as well.

Tapestry's home screen is fuss-free and easy to use. Aside from the family photo album, there's weather and email. The latter, which is specifically created for Tapestry users, is full-featured but super simple. Built from the ground up with privacy and security in mind, Tapestry is 100 percent ad-free. Pricing begins at $0 for two family members. For more family members, paid plans start at $10 per month.

Tapestry is the brainchild of Andrew Dowling, an innovator in Australia's technology industry. He got the idea for Tapestry in 2010 when he was studying population demographics for his master's degree in China. He realized that China's next biggest challenge will be the same one faced by all developed nations worldwide – the aging population. That was also the year he first discovered the emerging field of social entrepreneurship.

Months after obtaining his master's degree, Dowling founded Tapestry, and today, the tech startup is pursuing its “grand vision of enriching the lives of people of all ages across the world” by helping them stay connected to their friends, families, and communities.

Tapestry recently received a $400,000 grant from Commercialisation Australia. The company will use the funds to expand to iOS and other devices, add more community features, and launch in the US. Tapestry had previously raised $600,000 from Sydney Angels in November – investors included Su-Ming Wong, Brand Hoff, and David Greatorex.

FlyerFlo Connects Retailers With Shoppers on Paperless, Mobile Platform

Founded by University of Waterloo engineering students Clayton Tso, Mark Hopson, and Joannes Chan, FlyerFlo is a digital platform that connects retailers with consumers through mobile devices. A greener way for companies to promote their business, FlyerFlo lets retailers distribute their flyers and catalogs on smartphones and tablets. Currently available on iPhone and iPad with an Android version coming soon, FlyerFlo displays electronic flyers and catalogs on a simple and easy-to-navigate interface, allowing shoppers to quickly scan the latest deals in their area. For retailers, FlyerFlo does more than just getting their business in front of their audience via mobile; the app also tracks individual shoppers and aggregated trends in real time.

Based in Toronto, FlyerFlo aims to help retailers deliver engaging digital ads to their audience as well as provide consumers with the best e-flyer browsing experience. Now live in selected areas in Canada, FlyerFlo is continuously expanding to new stores and neighborhoods.