Posts Tagged ‘Palm Springs’

iPhone 4S Features: Exhaustive List Of Phrases Siri Can Understand

October 5th, 2011 10:38 admin View Comments

iPhone 4S

One of the biggest selling points of Apple’s new iPhone 4S is Siri – the intelligent personal assistant feature.

Using Siri, you can use voice commands to compose and dictate emails, schedule meetings, place phone calls, it can also find answers for you from the web through sources like Wikipedia, Yelp and WolframAlpha and do lots more.

Erica Sadun of TUAW has just published an exhaustive list of phrases that the new Siri voice assistant is capable of understanding, which she has broken down into various categories. Here’s the impressive list of phrases under the relevant categories:

Address Book

Querying Contacts

  • What’s Michael’s address?
  • What is Susan Park’s phone number?
  • When is my wife’s birthday?
  • Show Jennifer’s home email address

Finding Contacts

  • Show Jason Russell
  • Find people named Park
  • Who is Michael Manning?


  • My mom is Susan Park
  • Michael Manning is my brother
  • Call my brother at work


Adding Events

  • Set up a meeting at 9
  • Set up a meeting with Michael at 9
  • Meet with Lisa at noon
  • Set up a meeting about hiring tomorrow at 9am
  • New appointment with Susan Park Friday at 3
  • Schedule a planning meeting at 8:30 today in the boardroom

Changing events

  • Move my 3pm meeting to 4:30
  • Reschedule my appointment with Dr. Manning to next Monday at 9am
  • Add Lisa to my meeting with Jason
  • Cancel the budget review meeting

Asking about events

  • What does the rest of my day look like?
  • What’s on my calendar for Friday?
  • When is my next appointment?
  • When am I meeting with Michael?
  • Where is my next meeting?


Setting Alarms

  • Wake me up tomorrow at 7am
  • Set an alarm for 6:30am
  • Wake me up in 8 hours
  • Change my 6:30 alarm to 6:45
  • Turn off my 6:30 alarm
  • Delete my 7:30 alarm

Checking the Clock

  • What time is it?
  • What time is it in Berlin?
  • What is today’s date?
  • What’s the date this Saturday?

Using a Timer

  • Set the timer for ten minutes
  • Show the timer
  • Pause the timer
  • Resume
  • Reset the timer
  • Stop it


Sending Messages

  • Email Lisa about the trip
  • Email Jennifer about the change in plans
  • New email to Susan Park
  • Mail Dad about the rent check
  • Email Dr. Manning and say I got the forms, thanks
  • Mail Lisa and Jason about the party and say I had a great time

Checking Messages

  • Check email
  • Any new email from Michael today?
  • Show new mail about the lease
  • Show the email from Lisa yesterday

Responding to Messages

  • Reply Dear Susan sorry about the late payment
  • Call him at work


Checking Up on Friends

  • Where’s Jason?
  • Where is my sister?
  • Is my wife at home?
  • Where are all my friends?
  • Who is here?
  • Who is near me?



  • How do I get home?
  • Show 1 Infinite Loop Cupertino California
  • Directions to my dad’s work

Local Businesses

  • Find coffee near me
  • Where is Starbucks?
  • Find some burger joints in Baltimore
  • Find a gas station within walking distance
  • Good Mexican restaurants around here


Sending Texts

  • Tell Susan I’ll be right there
  • Send a message to Jason Russell
  • Send a message to Lisa saying how about tomorrow
  • Tell Jennifer the show was great
  • Send a message to Susan on her mobile saying I’ll be late
  • Send a message to 408 555 1212
  • Text Jason and Lisa where are you?

Reading Texts

  • Read my new messages
  • Read it again

Replying to Texts

  • Reply that’s great news
  • Tell him I’ll be there in 10 minutes
  • Call her



  • Play The Light of the Sun
  • Play Trouble
  • Play Taking Back Sunday shuffled
  • Play Alicia Keys
  • Play some blues
  • Play my party mix
  • Shuffle my roadtrip playlist
  • Play
  • Pause
  • Skip


Creating and finding notes

  • Note that I spent $12 on lunch
  • Note: check out that new Alicia Keys album
  • Find my restaurant note
  • Create a reading list note
  • Add Tom Sawyer to my reading list note


Phone calls

  • Call Jason
  • Call Jennifer Wright mobile
  • Call Susan on her work phone
  • Call 408 555 1212
  • Call home
  • FaceTime Lisa


Requesting reminders

  • Remind me to call mom
  • Remind me to call my mom when I get home
  • Remember to take an umbrella
  • Remind me take my medicine at 6am tomorrow
  • Remind me to pick up flowers when I leave here
  • Remind me when I leave to call Jason
  • Remind me to finish the report by 6


Checking Stocks

  • What’s Apple’s stock price?
  • What is Apple’s PE ratio?
  • What did Yahoo close at today?
  • How is the Nikkei doing?
  • How are the markets doing?
  • What is the Dow at?


Checking the Forecast

  • What’s the weather for today?
  • What’s the weather for tomorrow?
  • Will it rain in Cupertino this week?
  • Check next week’s forecast for Burlington
  • What’s the forecast for this evening?
  • How’s the weather in Tampa right now?
  • How hot will it be in Palm Springs this weekend?
  • What’s the high for Anchorage on Thursday?
  • What’s the temperature outside?
  • How windy is it out there?
  • When is sunrise in Paris?


Looking up information

  • Search the web for Bora Bora
  • Search for vegetarian pasta recipes
  • Search the web for best cable plans
  • Google the war of 1812
  • Search Wikipedia for Abraham Lincoln
  • Search for news about the World Cup
  • Bing Alicia Keys

 Using Wolfram Alpha

  • How many calories in a bagel?
  • What is an 18% tip on $86.74 for four people?
  • Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?
  • How long do dogs live?
  • What is the Gossamer Condor?
  • What’s the square root of 128?
  • How many dollars is €45?
  • What was the Best Picture of 1983?
  • How many days until Christmas?
  • How far away is the Sun?
  • When is the next solar eclipse?
  • Show me the Orion constellation
  • What’s the population of Jamaica?
  • How high is Mt. Everest?
  • How deep is the Atlantic ocean?
  • What’s the price of gasoline in Chicago?

In case you didn’t notice, it looks like Siri brings the much needed search feature for notes.

Checkout the video of how it works:

You can also checkout the live demo of Siri on a Sprint iPhone 4S:

As we mentioned yesterday, we believe that the specs bump and Siri makes iPhone 4S a great incremental upgrade.

[via TUAW]

Source: iPhone 4S Features: Exhaustive List Of Phrases Siri Can Understand

Is Publicly Sharing Your Location Creepy? This App Thinks So

March 31st, 2011 03:41 admin View Comments

You might want to file this under the “perhaps this was obvious, but we needed another app to show us” category, but if you check in, Tweet your location and otherwise publicly broadcast your GPS coordinates for all the world to see on the Internet, other people can see where you are.

Creepy is a desktop app for Windows and Linux and it’s a stalker’s dream come true. The big question, though, is should you stop sharing? And is it really all that creepy?

Last year, all the talk was about PleaseRobMe, a website that simply showed where people were checked in. It did nothing more than a Twitter search for the Foursquare domain, but it brought to attention the idea that whenever you publicly broadcast your location, you also publicly broadcast your absence from home. You know, the place with the valuables.

Creepy takes this idea a step further. It takes a couple minutes to gather all the data – which it searches for according to Twitter or Flickr username – before showing a very detailed map of every Tweet, check-in and geo-tagged picture that person has posted to the Internet for months on end. And depending on how a particular piece of information was sent, such as from a smartphone with an accurate GPS signal, the results can be, well…creepy. We’re talking “Yep, I was next to that oak tree in the park when I took that picture” creepy.


So, should you stop broadcasting your location? I vote no. (And not because I want to stalk you, I swear.) I share my location all the time and for a number of reasons. It enables random and serendipitous connections to occur. I can look back and have all sorts of contextual information as I weave my way through the world. I can plug it all in to services like MemoLane and get a time-ordered snapshot of my own life, as I share it online. And in turn, it gets fed through algorithms and stuffed into features like Foursquare’s latest recommendation service, which looks at where I’ve been and suggests where I may want to go next. And that’s just the first step for what can be done with all of this location information.

I also get second hand value from all this public location sharing. I see people’s check-ins on Twitter and can figure out that the coffee shop down the street is the place to be. Tweets can help with a host of scenarios, from public health issues to mysterious explosions in Portland.

Of course, I may be a bit overzealous in my location sharing. It’s on, by default, for everything – pictures, check-in services (which are public) and Tweets. Go ahead – download Creepy and enter @rwwmike and you’ll see my recent trips to Palm Springs, CA and Austin, TX. You’ll see my bike ride across town to Golden Gate Park. You’ll see snapshots of food and beer and bikes.

This isn’t for everyone. If you have bad relationships with your exes or lawyers coming after you for bills, you might not want to live so publicly. And are we that far off from insurance companies gathering check-in information and using it to calculate your premiums? But that’s what Creepy is about, right? It’s saying “Look, you’re sharing your life on the Internet and really, everyone can see.” The question is, do you care? (And perhaps, far more importantly, should you care?)

Creepy is available for Windows and Linux with a Mac version on the way.

Source: Is Publicly Sharing Your Location Creepy? This App Thinks So

DEMO Wrap Up: 7 New Social Startups to Watch

March 3rd, 2011 03:40 admin View Comments

The DEMO Spring 2011 conference wrapped up yesterday in Palm Springs, and echoing the current climate in the Valley, day two of the conference belonged to startups focused on social technologies. From social CRM platforms, photo sharing, and social networks to aggregation and reader engagement tools to video and group chat, the day’s startups showed that the interest in the “social” Web only continues to blossom.

Here, in no particular order, is a look at seven new interesting startups worth keeping an eye on:

  1. Marginize: Marginize is a browser add-on that allows you to annotate Websites and to leave comments, adding a social layer to every site you visit. The user can add or join an existing “margin” layer to browse and discover what others have said about the site you’re visiting. You can leave a comment or browse those left by others.

    The widget is similar to other real-time commenting platforms (like, say, Disqus), except that Marginize puts interaction and commentary back into the hands of the individual user, rather than allowing the owner of the Web site to control and moderate what’s said. In a way, Marginize is akin to a private Twitter feed for Yelp, because the widget creates this pop-out tab (or “margin”) on the side of every Website, where users can provide supplementary information about the site, write reviews, or discuss the site’s credibility.

    Though the company launched six months ago (and was mentioned even before that on TC by Don Dodge), yesterday at DEMO they announced an amendment to their product strategy, now offering publishers and content creators a chance to enter the game. The company added a “publisher widget”, which allows publishers to seamlessly insert the feature on any Website so that the tab is visible to both publishers and users. The idea behind Marginize itself may not be new, but the product has an eminent usability and interface that sets it apart from those that came before it.

  2. Gut Check: In today’s digital world, the traditional methods of market research have become too cumbersome, expensive, and too much of a drain on manpower. Gut Check, the winner of DEMO’s “People’s Choice Award” (and 1 million bucks) is a DIY research tool that allows companies to conduct qualitative research, like focus groups, over the Web.

    Users define the type of audience they want to canvass from an exhaustive list of categories, and Gut Check then uses the profile to select a targeted group from their bullpen of 5 million research participants. Following that, the service allows you to perform interactive interviews with individual participants through its portal while sharing images and asking questions.

    At $40-per-session, I can see this relatively cheap tool coming in handy for both big and small companies that make frequent updates to their products or services and want to gather feedback from a targeted consumer in near real-time.

  3. Enterproid: Divide by Enterproid, Qualcomm’s QPrize winner, is software that allows busy professionals to finally start using their personal phone for business needs. Unfortunately, many of the Web 2.0 tools people use on their personal phones are not backed by corporate IT, and security compliances prohibit the use of many apps and features you would like to use in a professional setting. To resolve this issue, Enterproid adds an entire, separate enterprise section to your phone, which contains its own email, calendar, contacts, messaging and browser apps that encrypts — and can securely access — all your corporate data.

    The Enterproid apps appear as a separate home screen, yet enables both your enterprise and personal homescreens to be aware of each other, alerting you if you receive a personal email while in the enterprise section, for example. Enterproid also offers a set of rules that can be accessed by the corporate IT department, allowing IT to change security setting and shut off access to a particular app when worried about security issues. Though VMWare is planning a virtualization platform that allows a user to have two profiles on an Android phone, Enterproid’s platform is likely to be very appealing for small businesses, especially in terms of cost optimization, as employees can now keep their personal phones for business.

  4. Television is, by nature, a social experience, often enjoyed in the company of friends and family. However, social television technologies have by-and-large failed to take off, seemingly launching before the average TV viewer is ready for them. eLive Entertainment applies social technology to the Web with a free site that allows you to show videos from YouTube and other video sites to your friends, while encouraging interaction and commenting on what you’re watching.

    Users can pull in videos and annotate them with voice-overs, drawing mark-ups, or add typed comments in a dialogue box. Videos can be slowed down to enable this annotation, made into links that can later be shared, stored on-demand, watched simultaneously, and synced with Facebook, Twitter, and Google. While it may still be too early for a social TV solution to gain mainstream adoption, enabling an interactive and social viewing experience on the Web is a very appealing idea.

  5. HeyStaks: Many in the tech industry and beyond have become disillusioned with the current state of search. Content farms litter search with annoying links, with seemingly little being done to disrupt search as Google did when it first hit the Web. Heystaks, a new search startup, hopes to be a part of the evolution by making search social — and not simply by searching social data, like Tweets and photos, as others have done, but by using your social community to drive better results.

    HeyStaks uses a comprehensive back-end social search algorithm to drive highly relevant community filtered recommendations. The idea was developed over a number of years by group of scientists in Ireland and is now teamed up with Jonathan Dillon, former VP of M&A/Integration at Yahoo!. Dillon was part of the team that acquired Delicious, which offered a scaled-down (and relatively unsuccessful) version of Heystaks beginning in 2005. Part of the reason it didn’t take off, according to Dillon, was that social graphs and networks were not yet as pervasive as they are today.

    HeyStaks hopes to leverage the now more mature social graphs and collaboration technologies not by becoming a search engine, but by improving your Google and Bing results through the addition of community-sourced content to the top of those pages. To target those with a common goal or shared interests to better parse results, users can create “search staks”, or collections of the best Web pages from a group of users on a particular topic. These “staks” can be made public and easily shared with colleagues and friends via email, Twitter, or kept private or shared on an invite-only basis. Heystaks currently offers an iPhone app, a Firefox plug-in, and a Chrome extension still in alpha. I’m not positive that this can work, but the presentation was intriguing. Check it out here.

    With the growing influence of Facebook’s social graph, several DEMO startups became advocates for the value of incorporating the social network into both our personal and professional circles. So, for good measure, I’m including a bonus: Two startups that caught my attention for how they’re attempting to improve upon the Facebook experience — both at home and at work.

  6. FetchFans is a social media design engine that allows businesses to create custom-branded pages on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media in an effort to make them look more professional. FetchFans targets companies with multiple holdings in, say, the form local branches. Specific customer demographics can vary regionally (think real estate companies), so FetchFans offers ten specially designed Facebook page templates branded to the parent company, which localized representatives can choose from and modify according to their particular needs. Targeted at social e-commerce with add-ons like chat, photos, video, and real-time lead generation, this service looks like a great way to improve upon the somewhat underwhelming state of business profiles on today’s social networks.
  7. Pixable’s Photofeed is a free application for the iPad that provides curated, personalized streams of photos, like “top photos of the day”, displaying them in a full-size, one-touch, swipe-through format. During their demo, the startup said that there are 60 billion photos on Facebook and 5 billion photos are added each month, making it difficult to sort through them all to find what you’re looking for.

    Pixable’s WonderRank technology, which reminds me of Pandora’s Music Genome, takes your friends’ photos and analyzes the metadata associated with the photos (think “likes” and comments) to create combined and categorized viewing, as well as an easier way to rank and discover new photos. The app also allows you to like, comment, or tag photos, follow your closest friends, and receive alerts when they upload new photos. Knowing the importance of photos to Facebook’s overall success (and evolution), I wonder if Pixable could become a potential target for acquisition? We’ll see.

Check out Day 1 coverage here.

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Pena

Source: DEMO Wrap Up: 7 New Social Startups to Watch

Angel-Turned-VC Mike Maples: Yes, There’s a Bubble

March 1st, 2011 03:38 admin View Comments

The dreaded “B” word is on the tip of many tongues these days. Are we or aren’t we in a bubble? Everybody has an opinion.

Yes, Facebook’s valuation lingers around $50 billion, Zynga’s is close to $10 billion, and Twitter is valued at $4.5 billion with comparatively tiny revenues. But do these soaring valuations a bubble make? A couple of weeks ago, Eric Schmidt weighed in on the great overblown bubble debate to say that the high rate of valuations do, in fact, mark a clear sign of a growing bubble.

While, in contrast, Paul Graham said last week that, compared to late ’90s when every company even remotely associated with this hot, newfangled “Web” was valued higher simply by being associated with it, today’s high valuations are more localized and the companies more deserving. Yet, perhaps the question is not whether this is a bubble exactly like that of the dotcom era, but whether or not it is, simply, a bubble.

Fellow TechCruncher MG Siegler weighed in on the issue to say that, while smaller angel investors do seem to be getting squeezed out of deals because early stage valuations are (in some cases) getting ridiculously high, there’s really no sure sign that a Web 2.0 bubble exists. And Paul Carr and Sarah Lacy would likely fight you for hinting that there’s anything remotely bubbly going on in the Valley.

In particular, there’s also been a lot of talk recently about a tech IPO bubble. Back in the late ’90s many companies rushed into public markets even when they knew they might not become profitable for as long as two years after an IPO. Yes, Groupon is likely to IPO soon, and yes Pandora and LinkedIn recently filed to go public, but these are healthy companies that need capital for expansion and have a good chance at profitability in the next year or so. What’s more, Facebook even pushed the Securities and Exchange Commission for an exemption that would allow it to stay private. Not something you do if you’re in a bubbling rush, right?

Yet, even so, the tech press can’t seem to help itself when it comes to bubble mania. If one is able to pin down an Angel for a conversation, inevitably the “B” word is raised — especially when that Angel was party to the infamous Angelgate.

Today, at the DEMO Conference in Palm Springs, Co-founder and Partner of Floodgate Funds Mike Maples gave the audience his own personal view: “Is there a tech bubble? Rounded off to the nearest yes, yes”, he said. Echoing Schmidt’s sentiments, Maples said that the super-sized valuations of Facebook, Zynga, and Twitter have spawned a host of imitators and that, as a result, there is now a huge crowding effect (read: bubble). “It’s like a soccer game for 9-year-olds, where everyone crowds around the ball,” he said.

Like Paul Graham, Maples hinted that the big companies leading the charge (those he calls “Thunder Lizards”) are deserving of high valuations, while the clones, who are not trying to solve big problems or disrupt an entire space and are instead simply copying these companies and pasting their business models into the same space, are the real problem.

Because of this, while Silicon Valley may not currently be in a bubble, he said, it’s well on its way. So, if the bubble is indeed growing, what can we do to counteract it? Instead of adding to crowded spaces (and the bubble), Maples encouraged startups to build wacky, unusual ideas, even if at first they don’t seem to have obvious application. “When I first invested in Twitter, before they were Twitter, people thought I was crazy” and that it was a “rinky-dink business”. Not so much. The Angel-turned-VC is known for investing in early-stage, potentially “risky” startups, and much of the time, he said, it doesn’t work out. But when it does, these ideas can change the world.

When there’s not a lot of obvious competition in a particular space, and the startup hoping to take advantage sees a big “potential” market, those can often become the true disruptors. And when it comes to looking for the right VC, he advised entrepreneurs to look for someone who knows when to pivot and how not to panic when that time comes. Look for those who are familiar with (and comfortable in) the near-death experience, he said, which you will definitely have “because you’re a startup”.

Source: Angel-Turned-VC Mike Maples: Yes, There’s a Bubble

Meet the Winners of DEMO 2011

March 1st, 2011 03:20 admin View Comments

Over the past two days at the DEMO conference in Palm Springs, California, 52 companies have stood on stage and presented their company in a short presentation. There are just a couple of rules – the presentation must be live, finished in under six minutes and absolutely (thank you!) no PowerPoint.

At the end of each conference, six “DEMOgods” are chosen by DEMO’s producers and one more company is chosen by popular vote to walk away from the conference with a cool million bucks. Here are the six DEMOgods and one crowd favorite of 2011.

As VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall said when he kicked off DEMO yesterday, this show has been “all about social.” From social CRM systems to photo sharing to video and group chat, DEMO 2011 has evidenced the continuing power of the idea of a “social” Web. At the same time, we saw a number of futuristic devices cross the stage, from an altitude simulating pod to virtual dressing room software and brainwave reading headbands.

In the end, only six can win, and here they are. Descriptions are taken from the DEMO website.

“The Webcam Social Shopper is an advanced apparel visualization and social media engagement product that’s licensed to online retailers. The product enables online apparel shoppers to visualize if an item’s style is right for them by replicating the in-store experience of taking an item off the rack, holding it up to themselves, and asking a friend (or the mirror) ‘What do you think?’ All the shopper needs is a computer and a webcam.”

“Nimble is the world’s first Social Relationship Manager. It easily connects all of your Contacts, Calendars, Communications plus Social Listening and Engagement into a simple, affordable Web-based platform for individuals and teams. Nimble integrates LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google & Email into one seamless environment. Nimble empowers small businesses in today’s socially connected world to collaborate more efficiently, to listen and engage with their community to attract and retain the right customers.”

“The ecoATM is an automated self-serve eCycling kiosk that uses patented machine vision, electronic diagnostics, and artificial intelligence to evaluate and buy-back used electronics directly from consumers for cash or store credit. ecoATM kiosks provide a convenient trade-in solution that electronically and visually inspects any consumer electronic device, pays consumers immediately in cash and/or store credit, and automatically administers trade-in / trade-up promotions for retailers and manufacturers.”

“Stratosphere supports up to 400 virtual desktops in a 2U server. These virtual desktops are faster than traditional desktops, use 1/30th the power and cost significantly less than other virtual and traditional desktop solutions.”

“Manilla is a free personal account management service that helps consumers manage all of their household accounts including bills, finances, travel rewards programs and subscriptions in one place online. Manilla gives customers an automated, organized view of all their account information, reminders to pay bills and lifetime storage of all their statements, notices, offers and bills.”

“‘Why should that guy get paid so much for using my content? – He shouldn’t.’ gives back 75% of our search engine’s advertising profit to content providers. Our patented profit sharing formula uses visits by Ecobe search engine users to a domain, as the basis for calculating a monthly profit share. In essence, Ecobe charges a 25% commission for allowing content creators to leverage a search engine’s profits to monetize their content.”

  • People’s Choice Award (and the cool million bucks): GutCheck

“GutCheck is an innovative do-it-yourself Web application for conducting qualitative research, which enables one-on-one chat interviews with target market consumers, at 10% of the cost of other traditional methods. In a matter of minutes you can be connected with a specific target consumer (ie. Females, aged 24-36, HHI of $45k-$65k and drives a mini-van) and obtain feedback and insights for your marketing, advertising or product development.”

Source: Meet the Winners of DEMO 2011

Demo 2011 Roundup: The Seven Best Startups of Day 1

March 1st, 2011 03:01 admin View Comments

The DEMO Spring 2011 conference kicked off yesterday in Palm Springs, featuring 27 startups in the consumer, enterprise, and cloud sectors. Each company was allowed six minutes to make their presentation and try to wow the audience with their product launches.


Some let their products do the talking, while others added humor to their pitches. For example, Dr. Shamus Husheer, inventor of the technology behind DuoFertility — a monitor that helps couples struggling to conceive — began by saying, “my name is Shamus, and my job is to get millions of women pregnant”.

From mind-reading headbands and Coinstar receptacles for your old electronic devices to applications that protect your Facebook page from spam, here (in no particular order) are introductions to 7 of the most interesting companies from Day 1.

AboutOne: AboutOne is a secure online family management system that makes it easier to organize your family life. Targeting valuables like household information and memories, the platform enables you to store digitized pictures, video, and text, and access this information anytime from any web-enabled device. The service also allows you to store digital scans of children’s artwork, create photo albums from your family pictures, store insurance contracts, as well as keep track of anniversary dates, birthdays, and post instructions to the family baby sitter. Connecting with other services via API, AboutOne takes away the need to input all of this information manually. Enter your car’s VIN number, for example, and AboutOne is able to automatically import the model, make, year, etc. into its system. Founder & CEO Joanne Lang was previously on the cloud team at SAP, and though the demo wandered a bit, AboutOne seems to be assembling features that you would otherwise have to go to multiple different services to employ, so the future may be bright for AboutOne.

Manilla: Manilla is a free online account management service, which gathers your household bills, financial accounts, travel rewards, and subscriptions all in one place. Sign on once and access all of your accounts, and view your bills the way they look in hard copy. Manilla recently announced partnerships with Comcast and Citibank, yet, as there are quite a few automated payment platforms already up and running, Manilla’s success will depend on its UI and how quickly it can bring all of the big banks and utility companies into the fold.

ecoATM: If the folks at ecoATM are correct in saying that 500 million electronic gadgets are purchased yearly — and that this number will only continue to grow — the market for recycling these devices is enormous. Enter ecoATM, the Coinstar for electronic devices. ecoATM is a self-serve recycling kiosk that buys back consumer electronics. Using its “patented machine vision, electronic diagnostics, and artificial intelligence”, ecoATM assesses the pristine or crappy condition, maker, and year of your device. It then ascribes a price and offers you the chance for instant cash back or store credit. The large device manufacturers have the infrastructure and manpower to potentially win this race in the long haul (take Verizon’s Trade-In Program, for example), but cash-back and a quick-to-market strategy could build gain ecoATM some serious traction.

NeuroSky: NeuroSky are the makers of a futuristic brain and attention-scanning device that looks, in practice, like a BlueTooth headset for your noggin. NeuroSky calls their device “exercise equipment for children’s minds”, as it works by monitoring electrical EEG brainwaves from the forehead, which then pass through algorithmic functions to determine the intensity of mental states like “relaxation” and “attention.” The company has said that the technology will be used in a number of different products that target ADD and ADHD. (A large reason this one is so close to my heart. Well, brain.) NeuroSky then allows the user to connect to one of ten educational, neuroscience apps, designed to help kids learn math and to improve their focus — all by playing games. Will this help fight the shrinking modern attention span? I hope so.

CVAC Systems, Inc: Straight out of “2001: A Space Odyssey” comes this newfangled pod that simulates high-altitude living. The so-called Cyclic Variations in Altitude Conditioning (CVAC) process apparently improves your fitness by applying “precisely composed rhythm-based changes to pressure, temperature and density of air” to your body as you sit in the egg-shaped pod. According to CVAC, its technology promotes longevity (adding years to your life), especially for those with diabetes. Supposedly, the combination of exercise and high altitude conditioning offers an array of health benefits. To their credit, CVAC cited numerous scientific studies to support their claims, but for now, it still requires a leap of faith.

Ajax Cloud9 IDE: Ajax’s Cloud9 IDE is a cloud-based integrated development environment (IDE) for JavaScript developers that supports HTML5, Python, Ruby, and PHP. The environment will allow developers to build apps and create projects that can be accessed, edited or shared anytime, anywhere. Thanks to the cloud, all you need to operate the environment is a browser and a computer, removing the burden of managing and maintaining large developer infrastructures. During their demo, Cloud9 said that Mozilla would be merging its Skywriter project with their technology and that they are in negotiations with IBM over integrating Eclipse into its platform. If these claims are true, HTML5 developers might soon be on Cloud9. Ey-oh!

Websense’s Defensio for Facebook: Defensio for Facebook is an app that provides companies with active Facebook and other social network accounts added security measures for preventing unwanted content, spam, and spyware. Thanks to the ease and low cost of creating fake applications for Facebook, many brands and companies watch as their pages suffer from an overload of spam. Using Websense’s monitoring and analytics technology, Defensio offers the user a host of cloud-based configuration tools, allowing you to moderate the comments on your page, Facebook Wall, news stream, photos, and block the content you don’t want. You can also choose from, or input, a list of sites you don’t want your page to link to or language you may not want to appear — and you can have Defensio monitor multiple pages. Very cool.

Nimble: Nimble is a social relationship manager, which you can use to easily connect your contacts, calendars, and communications. The platform integrates with your mail, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, bringing them into one environment and allowing you to see all of your connections with a particular person across all of those media. If, for example, someone sends you an email, it can pull up any previous conversations with them from any platform, or if you aren’t familiar with the person, you can pull their info from social networks. Nimble is free for individuals, but requires a small fee for the paid features that come with company plans and small groups. The company is aiming to make it easier for brands to interact and converse with their customers. With a seamless UI and deep integration with all social networks, Nimble could become a highly usable platform. I’m excited to test it.

Photo credit: Rodrigo Peña

Source: Demo 2011 Roundup: The Seven Best Startups of Day 1

Bump Founder Talks Rapid Growth, Push Notifications

February 28th, 2011 02:17 admin View Comments

The two-year trajectory of Bump Technologies, the designers of the app that makes it easy to swap contact information, music, and other data between mobile devices,is a somewhat interesting case study in the evolution of early-stage app startups.

Speaking from the DEMO Conference today in Palm Springs, Founder Jake Mintz told the audience that Bump started as a “nights and weekends project” among close friends. Co-founders Mintz, David Lieb, and Andy Huibers launched Bump in March of 2009, and a month-and-a-half later, their nights and weekend project had already pulled in 1 million users.

The founders then decided to move their operations to San Francisco, where they began couch hopping in earnest. Mintz said that between May 2009 and February 2010, even though Bump raised nearly $3.5 million in Series A in November 2009 from Sequoia, they slept on couches, devoting all waking hours to their project.

Originally, Mintz said, Bump was conceived as a “replacement for business cards” and had more “serious” contexts in mind, but when they began to see that Bump was being used to share more than just CV data, they began adapting. Contact sharing remains at the core of Bump’s business, but Mintz said that, in the last year, many users have come to Bump as a way to share photos, and maximizing the value of both aspects of their mobile business has been “a delicate balance”.

Somewhat serendipitously, Bump went to Marc Andreesen, Ben Horowitz, and John O’Farrell for advice on how to grow the business, although they were not looking for investment at the time. Mintz said that the partners later came to them saying they would like to invest in spite of Bump’s reluctancy to raise additional funding. So, in January, Andreessen Horrowitz invested a sizable $16.5 million in Bump, with Andreessen joining Bump’s board.

When asked what they wanted to do with so much money, Mintz said that it would be used primarily to hire designers and developers, indicating that, as Andreessen had said to him, there will be multiple social networks in the future — beyond Facebook — and the team wants to build a social technology that “interfaces with the real world.”

It remains to be seen, he said, whether Facebook would eventually become a competitor for Bump, but today they continue to collaborate and make strides in areas that Facebook does not yet control.

Part of this growth, Mintz said, is from recognizing the important element of user experience. Bump remains determined not fall victim to spamming its users with notifications: “We all know apps can also be used as a tool for evil — an app that will send you a push notification every 15 minutes,” he said. “Some apps have used that mechanic and grown very quickly, and you have this really powerful opportunity to be a part of someone’s life — but in the long-term you have to focus on the user experience.”

Early Bump incarnations essentially allowed customers to download and begin using immediately without having to register or specify user settings. And while this approach worked initially and avoided breakage, a few core features went unused, because the app didn’t guide its users through a setup process, Mintz said.

The Bump team is now looking to add a short registration process and tutorial that will offer detailed instructions and walk users through how to optimize the niche features that will be arriving later this year. As to what to expect from Bump’s future additions, Mintz added, “if your vision involves finding the best and easiest ways to use a smartphone in the real world, we know that our users might walk into store and want to interact with a brand, or interact with a product, and we want to ask ‘how do we facilitate our growth around that?’”

Keeping an eye on customer experience has worked so far for Bump, as Mintz said that the application has become the eighth-most downloaded app on the Apple App store, attracting 8 million active monthly users, and 27 million downloads. Not too shabby.

Source: Bump Founder Talks Rapid Growth, Push Notifications

As Profits Dip, Salesforce Exec Talks Up Chatter

February 28th, 2011 02:00 admin View Comments

Today, at the DEMO Conference in Palm Springs, Salesforce VP of Platform and Marketing George Hu remained markedly confident over Salesforce’s future, smiling broadly in the face of rising costs and dipping profits.

Hu has good reason to be smiling. Salesforce is the talk of the town these days, and one of the preeminent cloud companies in the market. It had a big fourth quarter, with sales growing 29 percent to $457 million. “It was a monster quarter, and the deal flow in the fourth quarter was just awesome,” CEO Marc Benioff gushed in a recent earnings call.

In addition to its customer gains, Salesforce has also been in an acquisitions tear. The company acquired Heroku, the Ruby application platform-as-a-service for $212 million in December and DimDim, a web conferencing service for $31 million, in January — on top of the addition of GroupSwim, a SaaS cloud enterprise service, back in December 2009.

While sales grew 29 percent in Q4, Salesforce’s total operating expenses tipped past 40 percent to $365 million, resulting in a $391,000 loss in operations. The company also made a measly $97 million at the operating income level, compared to its $1.55 billion in sales.

Yet, in spite of these lackluster numbers, back at DEMO, Hu’s expectations remain positive, largely thanks to Salesforce’s enterprise social messaging application, Chatter. Though you may only know Chatter from unpopular Super Bowl ads, Hu said that their team has “cracked the distribution code”, as 80,000 of Salesforce’s 92,000 customers are currently using Chatter. He remained unfazed over competition from other enterprise social networks like Yammer, which claims to have over 100,000 users.

“Today, we are seeing a confluence of cloud, social and mobile, and the best sales person in today’s world is not properly armed unless they’re combining those three key features,” Hu said. He continued on to say that the market in social enterprise, for those who can combine these three components successfully, remains a green field. This is why the company continues to build their human sales force, which the Salesforce (ha) executive said remains a high priority for the company going forward.

Hu’s conclusion, seen in the big picture, shows that 2011 may well be the year of the expanding sales force. Two weeks ago, I attended an “Online Local” panel at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, where representatives from Foursquare, Yodle, Living Social, and Angie’s List said that they are in the process of drastically expanding their own sales staffs in 2011 due to their impression that local merchants lack the technology prowess to buy through self service models. Living Social, for example, has a sales staff of over 450.

In business-to-business decisions, where there are multiple stakeholders, and huge strategic decisions are on the line, Hu said, it takes a real person — those customer-facing sales employees — to explain the details of how the service works, to work through obstacles, and help the customer see the bigger picture.

In light of Salesforce’s flurry of M&A activity and rapid growth, Hu said that what is keeping him up at nights is the education of this massive sales force. As the company has grown from a single application (Salesforce Automation) to a CRM platform, collaboration through social enterprise, and Data-as-a-Service, it has become increasingly difficult to train each new employee to manage their products.

Going forward, Hu said, he would like to see Saleforce become less reliant on their Website or app and become, instead, an invisible and pervasive service. He referred to David Kirkpatrick’s conception of the future of Facebook, in which the social networking giant will look nothing like its current form, but instead its social graph will be inherent to the very plumbing of the Web.

“We have a smiliar view,” Hu said. “Yes, people may still go to salesforce via a browser and login, but we think that collaborative data should be ubiquitous, not just through our app, but through whatever reader you use … We want to be pervasive and invisible, to be embedded in everything that you do.”

Though Hu’s lofty visions of the future may hold weight, you can check out a more dour financial perspective in the WSJ’s coverage of the Salesforce stock run up here.

Source: As Profits Dip, Salesforce Exec Talks Up Chatter

FlyRuby Aims to Be the Kayak of Private Air Travel

February 28th, 2011 02:52 admin View Comments

Launching today at the Demo Conference in Palm Springs is flyRuby, a platform that enables you to search, compare, and book private air charters online. There is something to be said for startups that identify successful services and business models and apply those to under-served niche markets. Through its website, flyRuby hopes to deliver a quick and efficient way to book private air charter that is comparable to the instantaneous search, booking, and competitive pricing of commercial airline sites, like Orbitz, Kayak and Expedia.

The project of founder and CEO Michael Leek, flyRuby owes its technology to CTO Dr. Stephen Smith, who, working in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon University, developed the algorithms as part of a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) research initiative to assist the U.S. Air Force. Operating in a similar manner to the technology behind commercial airline booking sites, flyRuby’s artificial intelligence instantly scans thousands of flight routes and seating charts for private flights across the country, finding available seating, and streamlining the booking process.

There are several private jet booking sites already online, like OneSky, Blue Star,, and hundreds of other one-off fly charter brokers, for example, but many of them require the user to enter an email address for further information, or a booking agent will call you back a day later. Although we all tend to prefer human interaction in our customer service experience, flyRuby hopes that the time saved by automating this process, by allowing instantaneous search and results, will be enough to beat other private jet services at their own game.

Virgin Charter tried the same thing beginning in 2007, providing customers with an online booking tool, but by 2009, it had folded. Granted, considering the price of oil and the soaring heights of the recession, it could have simply been an issue of timing.

flyRuby hopes to pick up where operations like Virgin Charter stumbled by allowing you to bypass the middle man, skip the travel agency, saving you — or your assistant — from wasting time on the phone searching and booking private flights. For those lucky enough to spend significant time traveling on private jets, check out this service — and save some money.

Source: FlyRuby Aims to Be the Kayak of Private Air Travel

For California, an Earthquake Early Warning System Is Up and Running

February 24th, 2011 02:44 admin View Comments


autospa writes “In California’s Coachella Valley around Palm Springs, a state-of-the-art, first-in-the-world earthquake early warning system in now installed and operational. Twelve locations are now in place with 120 sites planned, all meant to detect an earthquake and give people a chance to get under a table, or in the case of a fire station, get the engines outside of the building.”

Source: For California, an Earthquake Early Warning System Is Up and Running