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; Arik Keller, director of product at PayPal; Allen Morgan, board member at; 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 Ă–resund 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, 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.