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September 13 2011

CTRL + C Your Way to Instant Search Queries & Social Sharing


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Click.to

Quick Pitch: Click.to turns copy, pasting and sharing or searching into a single action.

Genius Idea: You’re just one CTRL + C command away from copying content to your favorite app or service.


Select, copy, open application, paste and submit. We repeat these actions on a daily basis any time we want to share links with friends and followers on Facebook or Twitter, query a search engine or ecommerce site, and grab videos or images to send to colleagues via email.

Click.to, an add-on for Windows 7, XP or Vista, packages up all these actions into the CTRL + C command. Once installed, highlight whatever video, text or image content you want to look up, post, share or save, press CTRL + C and select the app icon of your liking.

“Click.to extends the most used short cut in the world: CTRL + C,” explains co-founder Peter Oehler.

Should you want to quickly Google a few words in a text document, Click.to comes to the rescue. Instead of selecting the text, opening a browser and pasting it into Google, you can copy the text and hit the Google button in the Click.to pop-up — voilà, you just CRTL + C’d your way to instant search results. Rinse and repeat.

Click.to works in much the same for sharing content on social networks. Say you want to post a picture to Facebook. “Click.to will start your browser automatically, it will select www.facebook.com, log into your account, choose picture upload and publish it on your wall … with one click,” Oehler explains.

This simple, little convenience could certainly save you a lot of time, especially since Click.to”s quick copy-to third-party service list is quite exhaustive and includes support for Facebook, Google, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, Box.net, Wikipedia, Evernote, Amazon, Pastebin, Outlook, Word, Excel and others. You can even click to convert text into a PDF, and create your own shortcuts for the web services and programs of your choosing.

Best of all, perhaps, is that Click.to works system-wide. So what’s the catch? Click.to is PC-only for the time being. A Mac-compatible version is said to be in the works.

Click.to, released in early July, is a product from Axonic Informationssysteme GmbH, a Germany-based startup.


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, spark-of-genius, startup


September 12 2011

Posterous Swaps Blog Platform for Social Network


Simple sharing service Posterous is shedding its blog origins in favor of becoming a full-featured social network.

The startup has dramatically redesigned its website, overhauled its user dashboard and vamped up its iPhone app with a retooled focus on private sharing. The new Posterous even has a new name: Posterous Spaces.

Posterous Spaces merges the startup’s two products — sites and groups — into one unified experience with a glossy new look and a stronger emphasis on sharing, social networking and content discovery.

“The idea,” says Posterous founder and CEO Sachin Agarwal, “is that you can create as many Posterous Spaces as you want, and they can be public or private … a family space, a photo space, a club space, a work space, whatever it may be.”

As for why the startup’s rolling out these changes: “People really love using Posterous because they can control how they share and who sees what they’re sharing,” Agarwal says. Posterous Spaces, he says, is the result of an 8-month-long re-envisioning process inspired by how members were using its Groups product.

Posterous’s 15 million users will log in Monday to find a restructured dashboard, sticking them right into a Reader tab. The tab serves as a feed of all content posted and shared by individuals the user is following. Posterous users have always been able to follow one another, but the Reader view is designed to ease following shared content.

The dashboard also has Popular, Activity and Spaces tabs for access to top public content, real-time activity across the user’s Spaces and Spaces administration, respectively.

Posterous for iPhone now replicates the entire new Spaces experience on mobile. “The iPhone application is a big effort to encapsulate all of the functionality on Posterous,” says Agarwal.

While site owners and group owners can continue posting and sharing as usual (for the most part), Posterous Spaces is a pretty radical departure from the status quo.

Instead of proffering users a blogging platform or a groups product, Posterous has become its own bona fide social network — a Facebook with an emphasis on private sharing or a Google+ with Spaces instead of Circles, if you will. You may even see a strong resemblance to Tumblr, though Posterous might fight you on that comparison.

“We’re building this for normal users,” says Agarwal. “This is how normal users want to share.”

We’ll let you be the judge of that. Let us know what you think of the new Posterous in the comments.

More About: posterous, social network, startup


Make Temporary Phone Numbers With RingCentral’s New App [EXCLUSIVE]


Giving your phone number to a pushy salesman or posting it on Craigslist no longer needs to include the risk of unending unwanted calls. Cloud-based phone system company RingCentral has released a new product that generates temporary phone numbers that will forward calls to your phone for seven days before expiring.

The app, RingShuffle, doles out temporary numbers that work much like permanent phone numbers that RingCentral has set up for about 200,000 small business and that Google Voice provides for individuals. Users simply enter their real numbers into the iPhone app, Facebook app or website and choose a phone number in an area code of their choice. When someone calls that temporary number, the call is redirected to the real number.

Giving the phone numbers an expiration date, which can be shortened or extended from the seven-day standard, makes them useful for online buying or selling, online dating or other situations that require communication with strangers.

SEE ALSO: 10 Fascinating Facts About Phone Numbers

VP of Products Naveen Gupta says that the basic version will remain free to use, and that the company is considering selling premium features such as multiple temporary numbers at once.

RingCentral, which was founded in 2003, replaces small business phone systems with a more affordable cloud-based alternative. This is its first foray into consumer-facing products.

Last week, the company announced that it had raised $10 million of funding, and CEO Vlad Shmunis said that an IPO was a “viable future possibility.”

Image courtesy of Phil Campbell

More About: ringcentral, RingShuffle


September 08 2011

Ning Cofounder’s New Company Makes Step-By-Step Projects Shareable


Gina Bianchini, former CEO of Ning, is launching a new service called Mightybell Thursday that aims to translate experiences into step-by-step projects.

Bianchini, who stepped down from her position at Ning last March, says part of the motivation behind the new website and iPhone app is to take the lightweight connections on social networks and translate them into lightweight actions.

“We’ve spent the last five years defining success as how many friends, followers and fans you have,” she says. “As I was out talking to the people I know and am inspired by, almost across the board the same question was: What do I do with them?”

You can use Mightybell to break a big idea — anything from a recipe to a cross-country trip — into small, doable steps. Creating what Mightybell calls an “experience” is “as easy as writing ten tweets,” says Bianchini. After it’s finished, you can invite people to “join” and watch your progress as you work through the steps.

Mightybell provides detailed metrics like the progress of each participant, completion rate of individual steps and polls about how participants feel about each step (happy, excited, confused, bored, etc.).

The startup was built with a $2.1 million seed round led by Floodgate and First Round Capital. It hopes to become profitable by taking a 25% cut of premium experiences. You can set the price of each experience between $0 and $1,000.

It’s a similar business model to that of do-it-yourself online teaching platforms like Udemy and Learnable, which allow users to put together lesson plans that others can view.

But Bianchini says her intention isn’t to create an education or how-to platform. She can envision uses in education, activism, entertainment, food and shelter, but she’s looking to the limited beta website and iPhone app for more direction on how people will actually use the program.

“I could have never predicted how people would use products that I’ve developed in the past,” she says.


Sample Mightybell Experience Homepage





Step One of a Mightybell Experience





Step Two of a Mightybell Esperience





Mightybell Creator Dashboard





Mightybell iPhone App





Mightybell Experience Builder





Mightybell Participant Metrics





Mightybell Participant Metrics




Image courtesy of iStockphoto, TommL

More About: iPone app, startups

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Mobli’s Social Broadcasting App Is the Closest You’ll Get to Being Batman


Remember that scene in Batman where he’s able to see the whole city through people’s cellphones, Mobli CEO and founder Moshiko Hogeg asks me on a visit to his office. “That’s our vision,” he says. “Anything worth seeing has someone there with a camera.”

Mobli, a social video and photo platform, is updating its platform and adding Android and BlackBerry apps to the service it launched on the iPhone in April.

Here’s how it works: Users take photos and videos; the app automatically tags each image with a location (courtesy of Foursquare’s API) and major events in the vicinity. Users can also write tags like “sports” or “football” or “New York Giants” as they see fit. The new version leverages this feature by creating contextually aware filters based on location, date or category. A musician, for instance, could work with the team to create a filter that adds the band logo on photos taken at concerts.


The tagging system enables you to follow specific users, locations and topics. You can also search images for any keyword or place.

“I don’t see it as a photo sharing app,” Hogeg says. “I try to think of it as a place that organizes visual information.”

One day, he hopes that you, like Batman, will be able to see any place where people have smartphones from any perspective using the application. Vice President of Strategy Gil Eyal points to the account of Paris Hilton, one of several celebrities who has set up a presence on the site, as an example.

“It’s not a photo of Paris Hilton,” he says. “It’s a video from Paris Hilton holding a phone at a party. You see what she sees.”

By grouping photos by location, Mobli also works for people who are at the same event in the way that Color intended. At his wedding, for instance, Hogeg had guests take photos using Mobli that everyone could easily access under its location tag.

Mobli isn’t the first startup to group photos with tags. An app called Badger is structured around a similar tagging system but lacks two things Mobli has: unlimited video and an option to respond with a photo or video.

Both of these contribute to an effect that’s something like an interactive visual diary. And what’s more compelling than someone else’s diary?

During a demonstration at Mobli’s offices, a photo that Eyal posted to his account was viewed more than 300 times and returned more than 20 comments in about 45 minutes. Granted, Eyal has more people following his count than the average user. But the startup’s Google Analytics page backs up the idea that it’s something people want to spend time with.

Mobli gets about 100,000 unique visitors every month. About half of those users are returning visitors, and that half spends more than an hour on the site per visit.

More About: Mobli, Photos

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New iPad Rental Service Targets Travelers


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Flying Connected

Quick Pitch: iPad, smartphone, GPS and mobile broadband rentals for individuals.

Genius Idea: Catering to travelers by delivering to airports or hotels.


The Internet makes it easy to rent books, movies, high fashion, kid stuff and pretty much anything. But most iPad rental services don’t rent to individuals. Unless you own a business, it’s still easier to rent a speedboat than an iPad.

Flying Connected, an electronics rental site that launched in New York City last month, aims to make it easy for individuals to rent electronic companions for their trips.

Rental prices on the site vary depending on the renters’ choice of insurance package, accessories and pre-loaded media. The company’s most popular item, the iPad 2, can be rented for $18 to $28 per day. For a small fee, it will deliver a device to an airport or hotel in New York City.

Founder Zalmy Raskin says that he’s targeting travelers for a couple of reasons. First, traveling with mobile electronics that require a data plan, like a smartphone or an iPad when it’s not connected to the Internet, is a pain.

“Even if you have it with you, there’s always the frustration of when you turn it on you can’t using without roaming charges,” says Raskin, who moved to New York from London a few years ago. “You’re on payphones. It’s frustrating.”

Raskin thinks that domestic travelers might also find use for his service — whether they’d like to take a new device for a trial whirl, avoid lugging a laptop on a business trip, or view movies and other media on the plane.

The just-launched startup’s clientele is still small in both the national and international travel departments, but it hopes to partner with car rental companies and smaller hotel chains to grow its user base by offering a discount to their customers.

If the concept takes off, building a customer base through these partners could prove less of an issue than keeping up with one. Maintaining an inventory of expensive electronics won’t be cheap, and the startup is bootstrapping its efforts.

Raskin has devised a plan that he hopes will help it keep up. Anyone who agrees to lend their device to the company for a period can keep a percentage from rentals and keep their device after the deal ends.

Is that a deal that you would take? Would you ever rent an iPad or another electronic device for a trip? Let us know in the comments.


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: Flying Connected, iPad rental, travel

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Why Launching a Startup Is More Expensive Than You Think


Dave Rosenberg is the CEO of Nodeable, which offers a social platform for systems data.

One of the things we hear a lot about in Silicon Valley is how cheap and easy it is to launch a startup these days. After all, high-quality open source software is free, the cloud makes computer power far less expensive, and anyone with an Internet connection can learn Ruby and CSS. Throw in a few YouTube videos and a Twitter account, and you’re golden — or so we are led to believe.

While all of these factors are true to an extent, the truth of the matter is that the reduced costs of hardware and software are easily offset by the expense of engineers and experienced business people. And no matter what the latest trends indicate, you will eventually have to spend money on PR and marketing.

I’m now in my second founder/CEO role, having raised more than $18.5 million in venture financing. In the last 10 years, I’ve been through three other venture-backed startups (two were IPO’d and one was acquired), and if one thing has become clear, it’s that no matter how inexpensively you think you can build a business, your calculations will be off — usually by a lot.

“The trick is determining the exact amount of money you’ll need in the first place, and figuring out where to spend the money to extract the most impact.”

No doubt early-stage companies can be started on a shoestring by low-paid entrepreneurs, but when financing a scalable, sustainable product, a free application server won’t make much of a difference. Nearly all of your costs will be headcount, primarily in the engineering department. And in case you haven’t heard, engineers are in short supply and get paid a lot these days, especially in the valley.

This is not to suggest that you can’t succeed on a budget with a skeleton team. The trick is determining the exact amount of money you’ll need in the first place, and figuring out where to spend the money to extract the most impact. For example, my company decided early on to hire a UI designer, which has helped tremendously with our product development.

We also soon decided that we wanted to outsource as much of our operations to hosted services as we possibly could. Then we allocated the saved money into hiring the highest quality developers available — especially those who have experience working with a distributed team.

SEE ALSO: 8 Crucial Elements of Startup Success

Many first-time entrepreneurs envision getting in the door with the right venture capitalists (VCs), financial deities who will nurture their ideas and lavish cash upon them. Sometimes this is true, but generally speaking, you will hold two to four meetings with a venture firm — even when you already have amiable contacts there. And that still doesn’t guarantee they’re going to fund your vision.

Getting funded is hardly the end-all. In fact, it’s barely even the beginning for most companies in their seed stage financings. That said, to secure funding, it’s vital to craft a coherent pitch, especially if you don’t already have a prototype or working product.

Early-stage seed and angel investors all realize that a business will encounter a huge range of flux very rapidly. What they’re evaluating is the quality and compatibility of the team, the overall market size and the feasibility that you and your crew can make something big happen. That doesn’t mean you’ll receive a blank check. Venture firms put their money into your company with the expectation (not just the hope) that you’ll create a substantial return.

None of this advice is meant as a scare tactic, or a suggestion that you can’t or shouldn’t start a company. In fact, I encourage everyone — even my own employees — to target a business passion that will make them happy and wealthy.

The availability of low-cost technology is just one piece of the puzzle. The path from seed idea to successful business is a long and arduous process — one that is simultaneously painful and hugely rewarding.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, DNY59

More About: business, finance, startup

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September 07 2011

Klout Calculates Its 100 Millionth Score


Klout, the startup tracking social media users’ influence across 10 different networks, has calculated scores for more than 100 million people, the company announced Wednesday.

“One hundred million people with Klout Scores means that there are 100 million voices effectively leveraging the social web to share their opinions, hopes and dreams and shaping the decisions of the billions of people now listening to them,” Klout co-founder and CEO Joe Fernandez says of the milestone.

To be clear, Klout has yet to sign up 100 million service users. Instead the startup measures the influence of its users and their social network friends by association, as pulled in via social graphs on Twitter, Facebook and recently added networks such as Instagram, Foursquare and LinkedIn.

Still, now that Klout is tracking the scores of more than 100 million people on the web, the startup can solidify its place as the de facto measurement tool for influence online and appeal to even more brands and marketers looking to locate and leverage their most socially persuasive fans and customers.

Fernandez says Klout will begin to incorporate additional networks in the months ahead — the startup has already expressed interest in assessing users’ influence on Google+. “We intend to find influence wherever it exists,” Fernandez says.

More About: influence, klout, startup

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Catchafire Matches Professionals & Organizations for Virtual Pro Bono Work


Professionals no longer need to live in New York City to use Catchafire, a volunteer matching service that helps users donate their skills for a cause.

Catchafire, a 2-year-old startup with a name inspired by a Bob Marley album, announced Wednesday that it has activated a “virtual pro bono” aspect of its website. While 90% of the projects listed on the site can already be completed digitally, the platform had restricted its volunteers to New York City up until this point.

Earlier this week, the skills its volunteers have donated surpassed $3 million in value.

The startup has carved out a niche among online volunteering sites by targeting professionals who want to take on meaningful pro bono projects. Volunteers fill out profiles that detail their interests and skills, and Catchafire makes personal recommendations for projects — usually about 30 to 80 hours worth of work that can be completed by one person in three months — that might be a good match.

All Catchafire projects will continue being based in New York even as the site extends volunteer opportunities nationally. This, explains community manager Ruti Wajnberg, is partly because the company hasn’t set up the infrastructure to develop the same type of relationships as it has with its organizations in New York City.

Eventually the startup does hope to expand project sites, as well as the classes and events that it provides in New York City, to elsewhere in the country.

“I can’t be specific about locations,” Wajnberg says, “but we are planning on extending the organizational side to other cities.”

Image courtesy of istockphoto, BirdofPrey

More About: Catchafire, startups, volunteer

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Tagstand Wants to Make NFC Technology Simple for Businesses


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Tagstand

Quick Pitch: Tagstand is an NFC platform that simplifies the NFC stack for businesses and developers.

Genius Idea: Program and manage NFC stickers on the web.


“The way your phone interacts with the real world is going to become quite fundamental,” predicts Kulveer Tagger. Tagger is betting on the trend with Tagstand, a startup serving as a platform that businesses and developers can turn to for NFC tag procurement and management.

Customers can purchase packs of stickers, and then use the Tagstand Manager to program — and reprogram as often they see fit — how those stickers function on objects in the real world. They can also track sticker usage.

Tagstand could theoretically, depending on the whims of the tag owner, allow a consumer with an NFC-enabled device to touch his phone to a sticker to check in on Foursquare one day and view a promotional video or product page the next. The point is clearly to commodify NFC technology — to package it up, sell it to businesses and marketers, and make it consumer-friendly in the process.

One problem: consumers aren’t yet toting around NFC-enabled devices en masse. But should that change — and research firm Juniper forecasts that it will — Tagstand, says Tagger, hopes its first-mover status will solidify it as a harbinger of the NFC revolution in the states.

In the right-here and right-now, Tagstand appears to be pulling in impressive sales and traction for a three-month startup in a nascent market. “We’ve had loads of developers and businesses contact us,” Tagger says. “We’re basically finding out what we think are going to be the first applications of NFC.”

Outdoor marketing is surfacing as the most popular application, he says. A Tagstand customer in India, for instance, made a bulk purchase of 20,000 tags for $10,000. The customer plans to put tags on movie posters at malls and cinemas in India, he says.

Next on the agenda for Tagstand is to give startups access to NFC payments capabilities and release an API for its tag management system.

Tagstand is a graduate of Y Combinator’s summer of 2011 session. The startup is in the process of raising additional funding.


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, nfc, spark-of-genius, Tagstand, y combinator

For more Startups coverage:


September 05 2011

September 01 2011

August 27 2011

New Social Media Analytics Tool Compares Engagement Across Competitor Profiles


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

stethoscope imageName: SimplyMeasured

Quick Pitch: SimplyMeasured’s competitive analysis tool compares engagement across competitors’ social media profiles.

Genius Idea: Giving context to social media engagement numbers.


Most social media analytics tools will measure how a profile’s fan base has changed and what percentage of those people are actively interacting with it. Most also give some indication as to what “share of voice” a brand has among its competitors in the conversation that’s pinging around social networks.

But to invoke the Double Rainbow guy, “What does it mean?”

A new tool from startup social media analytics company SimplyMeasured attempts to add some context to the numbers by showing customers how their pages stack up to those of their competitors.

“I think a lot of agencies and brands are sending these metrics up the chain: ‘Engagement is really important and we’ve got all this engagement, we have a million fans and 10% of those engaged with us,’” CEO Adam Schoenfeld says. “And the CEO or executive is saying, what does that mean? how big is that?”

With the new tool, it’s easy to make a comparison such as “that’s twice the amount of engagement our closest competitor has.” It’s also easy to learn from competitors’ pages by looking at what type of posts have returned the most responses for them. A post-by-post breakdown comes packaged with handy charts in an excel sheet.

SimplyMeasured is giving away a Facebook-only version its product, which it calls, a “Compete for social media.” Users need only enter the URLs that they’d like to compare in order to receive a report. A more complex version of the tool that includes Twitter comparative analysis, and will soon include YouTube comparative analysis, is packaged with SimplyMeasured’s general social media analysis tool. Plans for that tool start at $500 per month.

We featured some screenshots of the freebie tool in the gallery below. Take a look and let us know in the comments whether you would find it useful for putting social media stats into perspective.





























Image courtesy of iStockphoto, morganl


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, simplymeasured, Social Media, social media analytics

For more Startups coverage:


July 19 2011

Alfred the iPhone Robot Tells You Where To Eat, Drink & Be Merry


Your mobile phone can do just about anything. Now, your iPhone, with a little help from a robot named Alfred, may finally help you answer questions such as “Where should I eat?” and “What should I do?”

Alfred the robot is a Knight Rider-inspired character who lives inside the just-released iPhone application of the same name from startup Clever Sense. Teach him a little bit about your tastes, and he acts as an omniscient being who recommends — with confidence — nearby bars, restaurants, coffee shops and night clubs that you might like.

“Wherever you go, you need other entities who know you, who know your taste and who can actually provide you with highly curated personalized recommendations, just like a friend would do,” says Clever Sense co-founder Babak Pahlavan.

“What if users had these AI elements, elements that could actually learn about the places that you like for different purposes and then have them do the work for you?,” he adds. This is Alfred, says Pahlavan, which he describes as a Pandora for the real world.

Clever Sense, founded in 2008, spent more than two years building an artificial intelligence engine that can trawl the web for place data, as well as understand and describe places the way humans would. The end result is an interest graph for places that powers Alfred’s brain.

“On average,” Pahlavan says, “for every single place in our system, we have 200 to 400 attributes already discovered, based on how people talk about them.”

For the iPhone user who turns to Alfred to discover a new place to eat, Clever Sense’s artificial intelligence engine almost guarantees several solid suggestions.

During a demonstration of the application, after telling Alfred a few places I already enjoy, he was then able to make spot-on recommendations as to where I should I grab my next drink, coffee, lunch or date night dinner.

Alfred knows the context of your situation, including time of the day and location. He can also tell you what’s good and what you’ll want to avoid — information he gleans from reading through all the available Yelp reviews and plucking out the most pertinent details — at each venue.

“It’s like having a trusted personal robot at your disposal,” Pahlavan says.

Eventually, Alfred will work with your Foursquare checkin history for more fine-tuned place recommendations, as well as work across even more verticals — hotels, spas, wine, hair salons and so forth. Then, Alfred will even start suggesting targeted daily deals, predicting deals that you may actually want.

Mountain View-based Clever Sense, a startup that focuses on combining artificial intelligence and machine learning for its “serendipity engine,” has raised $1.6 million in Angel funding.

More About: Alfred, artificial intelligence, Clever Sense, iphone app, machine learning, Seymour, startup

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July 15 2011

Learn About the People You’re Emailing, as You Email Them


Inbox social intelligence startup Rapportive is making its Gmail add-on all the more useful Friday.

The service’s omnipotent message sidebar, which includes a bevy of social data on your email contacts, now appears as you compose your email messages.

With the enhanced version of Rapportive, simply compose a message and enter an email address in the “to” field, just as you normally would, and Rapportive will look up the contact and display a host of information on the individual in the right-hand side bar.

And, should you include multiple folks in a single email, Rapportive will look up each individual as you type their names.

Rapportive’s compose view is designed to help you, the email sender, construct better messages. The tool is also intended to help jog your memory and remind you who you’re emailing, how you’ve communicated with contacts before and what they’re chatting about on social networks.

“By using Rapportive before you email, you can be more astute, personal, and effective,” Rapportive CEO Rahul Vohra says. “You can find ways to break the ice, topics to bond over and reasons to get in touch with people. You can even make small gestures such as liking Facebook posts and following on Twitter.”

The feature will be rolled out to Rapportive users gradually, but you can grab the update now at rapportive.com/compose.

More About: email, gmail, rapportive, social media

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July 14 2011

iPhone App Helps You Remember Complex Passwords


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: PasswordGear

Quick Pitch: PasswordGear turns passwords into stories.

Genius Idea: Making complex passwords easy to remember.


Using complex passwords for social networking sites, email accounts and computer logins has a become a necessary task for internet users who wish to avoid being hacked. Tools such as 1Password and LastPass exist to make the process a bit more manageable, but they’re not exactly fun or approachable for low-tech types.

“There are about two billion internet users out there,” Christopher Miller, creator of PasswordGear, a story-driven password memory aide for iPhone, says, “but about 99.9% of them have problems with passwords. They either forget them or have passwords that aren’t as strong as they should be.”

“And, there’s still so many people who don’t care about passwords,” he adds.

Released three weeks ago, PasswordGear for iPhone is meant to appeal to those of us with password-phobia. Consider yourself in this bunch if you use your dog’s name, mother’s maiden name or favorite ice cream flavor as your master password of choice.

Fire up the application and use it to generate a password between six and 20 characters that includes any combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, and numbers.

After generating an elaborate password, PasswordGear helps you memorize it with a few fun exercises. The primary exercise asks you to create a story that strings together letters and numbers. You can do so with your own imagination or use the cutesy in-app wizard to help you fill in the plot. As you go, PasswordGear will then present you with pictures as prompts for your story.

If you pass the final memory test, the app will instruct you to save your password elsewhere.

The $0.99 application is not designed to be a password manager — it’s more like a memorization tool for those looking to make their master passwords more obscure and less personal. Miller says he uses the application in conjunction with LastPass; he sees PasswordGear as perfect for creating and remembering strong passwords for the sites, programs or systems you access most frequently.

PasswordGear is both fun and clever, but does it work? You’ll have to try it for yourself to know for sure, but Miller argues that this associative approach is the most viable way to get regular people to stop using common words as their most important passwords.

“Password tools out there are tools made by geeks, and marketed through … the geek press to geeks, whereas it is real people who need this stuff even more than geeks,” he says. “I’m trying to humanize the interface and help the people who are most resistant to using strong passwords.”

App users can expect a PasswordGear browser version in the months ahead. The web tool will be capable of integrating with corporate systems and will include even more memory tools.


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, iphone app, PasswordGear, passwords, secure passwords, spark-of-genius

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July 13 2011

Are We In A Tech Bubble? Here’s The History [INFOGRAPHIC]


We’ve spent the past year wondering whether we’re currently in a tech bubble akin to the last decade’s dotcom boom.

Mashable has offered facts and opinions on both sides of the question. We’ve heard that the current boom is much different from the heyday of the late 1990s and that we have cause for confidence.

But we’ve also heard (from the likes of legendary investor Warren Buffet, no less) that the newest crop of tech darlings are highly overvalued at worst and unpredictable at best.

And we’ve even asked you, our readers, what you thought about current startup valuations and funding amounts. (Most of you responded that you were not optimistic about the future of the tech startup ecosystem.)

Now here’s a few straightforward graphs and charts to help you get some better perspective on the issue. Clearly, the dotcom era was a different beast. But looking back on that insanity should help temper our excitement about new technologies with realistic revenue expectations.

Click image to see full-size version.

Top image courtesy of iStockphoto, patrickheagney

More About: bubble, investment, startups, tech bubble, technology

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Evernote Raises $50 Million, Aims To Become a “100-Year Company”


Evernote has raised $50 million in funding in a round led by repeat investor Sequoia Capital, with participation by Morgenthaler Ventures.

Cash from the round will be used for acquisitions. It will also be taken off the table and go to long-term investors and shareholders, CEO and founder Phil Libin says.

The substantial round comes just nine months after the now 3-year-old social note-taking startup secured $20 million in a Series C round. Altogether, Evernote has raised nearly $100 million in financing. It’s shooting to become “a hundred year company,” Libin says.

Libin also says the startup has nearly all of the cash it raised in its past two rounds still on hand. “We don’t need to raise more money, but we’re always happy to take more if it opens up strategic options for us and helps us grow even faster,” says Libin. “You know the saying that the best time to raise money is when you don’t really need it? Think of this as a test.”

“We want Evernote to be the trusted second brain for all your lifetime memories,” he says, “and the best way to do that is to build a big, strong, independent company.”

Evernote is also announcing Wednesday that it has added an additional million users to its platform in the past month, which brings the grand total to more than 11 million users.

Images courtesy of Flickr, technovore and velo_city

More About: evernote, funding, Morgenthaler Ventures, sequoia capital

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Percolate Hopes to Become the Future of the Blog [INVITES]


The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Percolate

Quick Pitch: Percolate bubbles up relevant content for you to comment on.

Genius Idea: Re-imagining the blog and what it means to be a publisher.


Content creation abounds on the web, whether it be on blogs, Facebook, Twitter or via other self-publishing tools. Still, James Gross and Noah Brier, co-founders of private alpha startup Percolate, believe that the barrier to create content is too high for most people.

It’s fitting, then, that the Percolate product is designed to streamline the flow between what we consume on the web and what we produce.

The application is structured into a two-pane dashboard that presents the user with content “percolating” — or bubbling up in popularity — from sources such as Google Reader and Twitter in a right-hard pane called the “The Brew.”

The Brew is meant to be your muse, a place to peruse hot stories and get inspired to add your own commentary. Here you can tag a post as “interesting,” “win,” “awesome,” “fail” or make up a tag of your own, and add a comment in the process. In so doing, as Gross sees it, you become self-publisher with as little friction imaginable.

To the left of The Brew is the second “What’s Percolating” pane. This is where Percolate-published stories from the folks you follow will appear.

Ultimately, Gross sees Percolate as the next big evolution of the blog. Twitter first transformed blogging by shrinking the big empty box, he says. Now Percolate is taking the box away completely.

It’s an ambitious mission, no question, but Gross and Brier may be able to pull it off. For starters, Percolate in its current form is just an early-stage, 1.0 product. Its pane design hints at a not-too-distant mobile future where users will able to browse and create content with their fingers in touch-driven environments.

Percolate’s primary flaw is that the intended experience does not automatically manifest itself to new users. “Just like Twitter, until you start to follow other people, it doesn’t make any sense,” Gross admits.

Gross and team hope to address the on-boarding obstacle in the months ahead. The bootstrapped startup also plans to announce that five Fortune 500 businesses are licensing its API, at a cost, some time in August. API license fees will be the startup’s moneymaker, as Gross sees huge opportunity in helping brands figure out how to create content and become better publishers in their social channels.

Percolate is still mid-brew, but 500 Mashable readers can get private beta access to the product now.

Image courtesy of Flickr, pkhamre


Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, content creation, curation, Percolate, spark-of-genius

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July 12 2011

Evernote Releases App for Android Tablets


Social note-taking startup Evernote is adding yet another app to its mobile arsenal. The startup has released Evernote for Android Tablets, a free application available on the Android Market.

Evernote for Android Tablets offers the same note-taking functionality — such as audio recording and social note-sharing — of its other applications, but does so with a new-to-Evernote interface that emphasizes visual note browsing.

With the new interface, notes appear on the home screen in a Snippet View. Android tablet app users can then use the left-hand side bar to tab through the notebooks, tags and shared notebooks view options.

The startup is also enabling application users to create and edit rich text notes. The much-requested feature is now available to all Android users — not just tablet owners — who will see a a new bar with text editing and formatting options above the keyboard.

There’s even a second, larger Evernote Android widget now accessible from the home screen. “In addition to letting you jump to core Evernote features, you now see snippets of your recently-accessed notes. This means you no longer need to launch Evernote in order to find a recent note, just tap on the note in the widget,” Evernote’s VP of marketing Andrew Sinkov says.

Evernote for Android Tablets looks to be a slick re-skin of the Evernote experience. The fresh interface design represents the direction the startup will take with all future tablet app releases.


Home Screen





Search





Single Note View





New Note





Rich Text Note





Map View





New Android Widget




More About: android, android tablets, evernote, startup

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