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, 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.