Wednesday, January 29, 2014

BlaBlaCar Makes Traveling in Europe Affordable and Social

BlaBlaCar is a car sharing service connecting drivers with empty seats to passengers in need of a ride. The low-cost travel community is the brainchild of Frédéric Mazzella, who wanted to get home to his family in the French countryside one Christmas. He didn't have a car and couldn't get a seat on the train. He also noticed that several people were driving alone in their cars, and he thought he would try to find a driver going his way and offer to share fuel costs in exchange for a ride. When Mazzella discovered there were no websites that would allow him to do so, he decided to create one. He saw the potential of a peer-to-peer transport network – it would solve congestion problems, make travel more affordable and social, and present huge environmental and economic benefits.

After Mazzella launched a first site, he met engineer Francis Nappez, who joined the team as a co-founder. Mazzella subsequently recruited Nicolas Brusson, and the three set out to scale the business in Europe. Today, BlaBlaCar has over 5 million members in 10 countries. Each month, more than 1 million people travel with the service.

Using BlaBlaCar is easy. If you're a driver, you can offer a ride. If you're a passenger, you can look for a ride. Once you've found something that works for you, you start planning your trip with your fellow travelers. BlaBlaCar's automatic price calculator suggests a price per passenger; drivers can adjust this amount but prices are capped so they can only offset their running costs and not make a profit.

To date, BlaBlaCar users have offered 24.3 million seats, shared nearly 2 billion miles, and saved about 700,000 tons of CO2. The community's over 1 million drivers save an estimated £100 million each year.

BlaBlaCar has been featured in the London Evening Standard, Daily Mail, BBC News, All Things D, Wired, Financial Times, and more. Additionally, BlaBlaCar has won an Ecosummit Award and was named a Global Cleantech 100 company. Wired included it in its “Europe's 100 Hottest Startups” list as well.

Egnyte: Easy Enterprise File Storage and Sharing

Headquartered in Silicon Valley, Egnyte provides online file storage and sharing solutions for businesses. Egnyte is the only solution that adheres to data gravity, providing easy file sharing and accessibility while keeping data in-place. It provides deployment models that solve any enterprise use case including cloud file sharing, cross-office collaboration, private file sharing, and fast local file access.

Egnyte serves more than 40,000 businesses in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia that come from various industries including information technology, education, marketing, real estate and mortgage, entertainment, health, food and beverage, accounting, non-profit, and more. Notable customers include Fender, IKEA, The Home Depot, Lexmark, and Balfour Beatty Construction.

Egnyte's multicultural and multi-disciplined team is composed of veteran executives and engineers who come from companies such as Cisco, Oracle, RSA Security, Citrix, and VMware. The company is backed by Google Ventures, Polaris Partners, Northgate, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Floodgate Fund, Seagate, and CenturyLink.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Iversity Brings MOOCs to Europe

Headquartered in Berlin, Germany, Iversity is Europe's answer to Coursera and Udacity. Iversity started out as a course management tool for students and teachers – co-founder Jonas Liepmann was frustrated with the digital infrastructure being used at educational institutions, so he applied for an EXIST-Founder Scholarship and received a €100,000 grant from the German Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. In 2011, after raising €1.1 million in funding from Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg, the Iversity team came across massive open online courses (MOOCs). Immediately recognizing the great potential of this new form of online education, the startup pivoted and decided to bring it to Europe.

Iversity currently offers various online courses, including gamification design, contemporary architecture, political philosophy, and design basics. Anyone with an Internet connection can take these free courses, which will provide European university credit points. So far, more than 250,000 students have taken a course on Iversity.

Composed of a diverse and dynamic staff, Iversity aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning and develop world-class courses that are effective and efficient. The startup makes it clear, however, that it is not here to replace traditional educational institutions; rather, Iversity exists to empower academia. The Iversity team wants to help the best professors reach more students and enable students of all ages to take classes from the best instructors in the world.

Though Iversity is relatively new to the world of MOOCs, managing director Hannes Klöpper believes their physical location gives them an advantage. “Unlike our colleagues in Silicon Valley, we are one to two hours away by plane from most major cities in Europe,” he says. “We are seeing the tremendous value that results from close interaction of those involved in course conceptualization and course production with the developers building the platform.”

Iversity is backed by Marcus Riecke, Masoud Kamali, and T-Venture.

Wattpad Connects Readers and Writers Around the World

Based in Toronto, Canada, Wattpad is the world's largest community for discovering and sharing stories. Available for free on the web, Android, and iOS, Wattpad is home to more than 10 million stories and counting, connecting over 10,000 readers with a new story per minute. Thousands of books and stories are added to Wattpad's ever-growing library each day, and users spend more than 2 billion minutes on the platform each month.

Wattpad is a new way to read, enabling bookworms to follow authors, organize stories into reading lists, vote for their favorites, and share and comment with other users. Readers also get instant notifications when an author adds a new chapter to a story.

Writers, meanwhile, use Wattpad to connect directly with readers, build a fan base, and receive real-time feedback on their stories. In addition, writers can publish serially, collaborate with readers and other writers, and write from anywhere on a mobile device.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Happier Is a Company That Has Made Happiness Its Business

Happier is a leading happiness and wellness company whose mission is to help people be happier in their everyday lives. Founded by chief executive officer Nataly Kogan, Happier is inspired by research that shows focusing on the positive and sharing good things with loved ones makes you happier, healthier, and more productive. The company's first product is the Happier app, which combines a social gratitude journal with a positive community. Hundreds of thousands of people have used the app to keep track of the happy moments in their day, get uplifted by the Happier community, and become less stressed and more optimistic. Happier believes it is possible to find positive moments in every single day, including those when nothing seems to be going right.

Recently, Happier announced that it will be launching mobile life-improvement courses to help folks become happier in 2014. The courses will last one to three weeks, cost $20 to $50, and cover topics such as becoming better at dating and incorporating meditation into your life. Participants will learn through activities, videos, Happier merch, and other content.

The first course, Everyday Grateful, will help participants cultivate a daily gratitude habit and feel more positive and less stressed about their life in 21 days. Taught by Kogan herself, Everyday Grateful includes a simple daily gratitude activity, tips and advice, inspiring videos, and fun reads. Should participants feel stuck, they can email Kogan for some encouragement at a midpoint in the course. Everyday Grateful also comes with a physical Make Your Life Happier Kit that will be shipped to participants. The kit contains two gratitude journals, a pack of stickers, a magnet with a happiness quote, “you're awesome” cards, and wristbands. Everyday Grateful costs $50 and begins on February 15th. The course is currently available on iPhone only and will soon make its way to Android.

Get Smarter With Gibbon

The Internet is home to oodles and oodles of information. If you want to learn something new, chances are you'll find the resources you need on the web. Having so much data available at our fingertips also has its downside, however – just where the heck do you start?

Enter Gibbon, a platform that organizes useful information on the web into learning flows, so you can harness the power of the Internet to get smarter, not overwhelmed. Each learning flow contains free resources collected from around the web including articles, videos, books, and links, arranged into bite-size chapters and weekly lessons. Anyone can create a learning flow and share what they know with other users.

Gibbon is handcrafted in Leiden, The Netherlands by a team of self-proclaimed “self-taught nerds.” The group believes that we can all learn something from each other and thus created Gibbon to make it easy for everyone to learn anything. Some of the subjects you can learn on Gibbon right now are CSS3, typography, marketing, iOS development, and user experience design.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Kiwi Move: Wearable Tech for Everyone

Now available for pre-order is the Kiwi Move, a small multi-sensor gadget that can track virtually anything and everything. Developed by Toronto-based Kiwi Wearable Tech, the one-ounce Kiwi Move measures only 1.6 x 1.2 x 0.35” yet houses an ARM Cortex M4 processor, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, thermometer, and microphone, among other features. You can wear the Kiwi Move on your collar, wrist, arm, or anywhere you like, and it will monitor your actions throughout the day.

Compatible with Android and iOS phones, the Kiwi Move ships with four native apps. Kiwi Move tracks your movement and is useful for counting steps taken, stairs climbed, and other physical activity at the gym or on the soccer field or basketball court. Kiwi Insights gives you an overview of your lifestyle and behavior, while Kiwi Sound lets you take voice notes or control voice-enabled applications and appliances. With Kiwi Gesture, you can use built-in or custom gestures to control your home appliances or speak to the Internet.

In addition, attaching the Kiwi Move to your laptop, bag or bike allows you to track and secure your belongings via Kiwi Lock. There's also When Do, an app that enables you to automate activities in your daily life by setting up “if this, then that” recipes. For example, you can set up Kiwi Move to automatically update your budget when you leave the store, or load your training app once you hit the gym.

The Kiwi Move is currently priced at $99. Once the pre-order campaign ends, it will set you back more than that. Each box includes a Kiwi Move, clip, strap, key ring adapter, micro-USB cable, and manual.

Kiwi Wearable Tech consists of six entrepreneurs passionate about making a difference in the wearables space. The startup aims to bring innovative wearable computer and sensor technology to everyday people so they can live healthier and more productive lives.

Fundraise Online With Ease With Rally

Based in San Francisco, California, Rally is a storytelling/crowdfunding platform that makes it easy for individuals and organizations to fundraise online. Anyone can create a beautiful fundraising page in just a few minutes – simply upload a photo or video with your story. Next, invite supporters by email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites straight from Rally. The site also lets your supporters and donors easily share your campaign with their friends and family.

Rally comes with an online dashboard and analytics so you can stay in touch with your supporters, monitor your donations, and more. You can collect donations by credit card, debit card, and eCheck. Rally takes a 5.75 percent cut, less than other crowdfunding platforms.

Backed by Reid Hoffman of Greylock Partners, Kevin Rose of Google Ventures, Michael Birch, Eric Ries, and Vianovo Ventures, among many others, Rally has been used to raise donations for medical expenses, startups, tuition, Hurricane Sandy relief, and more.