Sunday, December 25, 2011

Round-Up: Twelve Startups to Watch in 2012

See this piece over on the Information Space Blog...

In 2011 we saw a lot of start-ups with a lot of promise shoot up and very unremarkably flair out. As we look to 2012 it would seem more and more people are taking to their computers and breaking into mobile frameworks in hopes of becoming the next big thing. Here's 12 startups to watch for in the coming year and reasons why they are of interest:

Simple- More then just a bank. Simple looks to eliminate the fees, the hassle and the fine print induced stress that normally is associated with banking. Built on the pillars of intuitive design, technology integration and a insatiable need to ask why? I have a hunch Simple, when they launch, will disrupt banking in a big way.

Dekko- Blurring physical and digital. Have you ever been somewhere and seen something familiar but couldn't figure out what it was or where you'd seen it before? Chances are you pulled your phone and googled a vague description of it. Dekko looks to eliminate a big step in the process, Dekko is a application that allows you to see real time information on the objects around you through the use of the camera built into your mobile device. They are churning out a hugely functional and important step in Augmented Reality. Although still in stealth mode right now, expect these guys to start a revolution in AR applications.

Votizen- Taking back the education behind voting. Voting is an intensely convoluted subject, one that can make even the best of friends want to curse each other out, and yet it is also a increasing important issue (don't believe me? Time Magazine's Person of the Year was "The Protestor") Votizen looks to crowd-source and socialize debate and discussion on the issues, the candidates and the decisions all done beautifully. As campaigns for the 2012 election rev up, keep an eye on Votizen.

Facebook- I know what you are thinking "Do they really count as a startup?" but hear me out. Facebook did the unthinkable this fall, they reinvented. They jumped 10 steps ahead of Google+ and any other of their so called "competition" with the release of Timeline. They also refuse to be bought by a megaconglomerate organization like a YouTube was by Google. So ask yourself this: Has Facebook become self-satisfied? Or do they continue to innovate and change the definition of social network? I believe the later rather then the former and I think with their recent purchase of Gowalla, Facebook can be expected to do some awesome things in 2012.

Square- The PayPal we always wanted. Square is Jack Dorsey's, on of the founders of Twitter, newest project. Square is a simple and elegant credit card reader for your mobile device. With a very nominal usage charge, Square has already begun shaking up small businesses payment systems and making it easier for more and more people to launch service based businesses out of their pockets. Square has all the elegance and intuitiveness of an Apple product while making a serious disruption in a well established market. If you don't have a Square Reader yet, get out and buy one for 2012.

SoundCloud- Create, discover and share audio, intuitively. When Podcasts were first invented they created a huge stir in media distribution and creation on the internet. SoundCloud is the next big step, sound cloud allows you to effortlessly record, edit, create, publish, share and discover relevant audio right from your mobile device and does so in such a way that a 5 year-old can figure it out within moments. With services like Spotify becoming increasingly popular, SoundCloud will begin to take a serious chunk of users. Data Visualization for the masses. Although not fully launched for the public yet, has an incredible portfolio of clients. Chances are if you have seen a beautiful infographic in the last two years, they had something to do with it. In 2012 plans to launch tools that will allow the regular person to create, easily and instantaneously, beautiful and descriptive infographics. Given the popularity that infographics have garnered in the last couple years, chances are's new tools will prove incredibly popular.

Smartr- The contacts app you always dreamed of. These days I find myself telling people if they want to get ahold of me, tweet me rather then text me, I'm more likely to get back to them quicker. Smartr by xobni realizes this and with their beta launch is looking to take a step in remedying the disjointed and often times chaotic contact management "systems" we have in place. Smartr will aggregate your friends existing contact information with their social presence so there is no more scrounging through your twitter followers or Facebook friends to share something with them, it's all right there, under their name, in one app. Simplicity at it's finest.

Vocal- Siri's first step toward fulfilling her potential. Built by a private developer, Vocal lets you control your Mac using your iPhone 4S's voice to text capability, even predicting your commands before you even fully get them said. Although it is still relatively buggy, this is the first use of Siri's incredible natural speech recognition capabilities that has the potential to have a profound impact on the way we interface with our computers and technology. For a $1.99 get over to the app store and download this awesome app because from here it's only going to grow.

Miso- One of the first steps in socializing television. With rumors of Apple releasing the next big step in television technology, Miso has jumped ahead of the game and has already begun socializing television making it easy to get recommendations, share with friends and discover new content. If Apple does indeed wow us with the release of a mind blowing television, expect Miso to be there ready to ride the wave.

BitGym- Making cardio awesome. There has been an explosion in health metric related apps and devices recently with the release of the FitBit and Jawbone UP. BitGym takes your daily cardio routine and makes it awesome by providing an interactive environment when you are stuck inside in a very static environment on a treadmill or elliptical. With whispers of Global Weirding and the long winters we have been known to have, especially here in 'Cuse, app's like BitGym and their competitors will become increasingly popular amongst the winter dwelling users.

GraFighters- Bring your Drawings to LIFE. I wrote about these guys right after their private beta launch this fall and since then they have officially launched with both a android and iOS application. They might still be local right now, but these guys have an awesome product that really pushes the boundaries of what people thought possible and have a vision for their product that has some seriously cool implications on online and social gaming. If you haven't uploaded your own GraFighters yet, jump on the boat because not only is it ridiculously fun and awesome but it's only the beginning for this awesome startup.

That's all I have for now. Although, we've covered a lot of really exciting startups, ultimately, you can guarantee there will be awesome new ideas, that haven't been thought up yet, that will come to fruition and produce some really exciting new products and services. It's an exciting time in the tech world, anyone can dig in and get their arms messy up to their elbows in code and electronics, and that means there is some serious potential for some wickedly awesome technologies to emerge in the near future. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Coffee with Dennis Crowley: 3 Lessons Every Startup Should Learn

See this piece over on Info Space...
There is a reason for influencers names to be staples of our daily vocabularies, whether it's their genius, their extraordinary experiences or their ability to inspire. Although the Kardashians may not qualify under any of those categories, individuals like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Dennis Crowley most certainly do. From their stories, their experiences and their ideologies we stand to learn so much valuable and applicable information in many spheres of our lives, particularly those of us trying to build something. Very fortunately, my tech team and I were able to sit down with Dennis Crowley during a recent trip to NYC.

Planning the Trip
I'd been planning to go to the City as soon as the semester was over, knowing that there are many valuable startup resources available, as well as enthusiastic and knowledgable individuals who could impart some knowledge on my team and give us guidance in building our project. In November I started lobbying various members of the iSchool to give me any sort of contact at the foursquare headquarters, hoping to be able to sit down with some of their developers and maybe in the process be able to say a quick hello and ask a few questions of their co-founder, Dennis Crowley. After going through all the appropriate channels, we were understandably turned down given the hectic time of our arrival (a week before Christmas) and the huge time crunch the office was under. Nevertheless, we had number of other interesting and valuable meetings lined up and were headed to NYC.

Tweeting @dens
On the way down we decided to send a tweet to Dennis. It was a shot in the dark, but we figured we had nothing to lose. Shortly after, he responded with a yes, a place and a time!

Coffee with Crowley
The next day we arrived at the predetermined coffee shop to meet with Dennis. It's funny how when you have read countless articles and heard someone's name mentioned in the news so many times, you assume
they are going to be larger than life in person as well. Dennis is a very down-to-earth, humble, candid, and extraordinarily bright person who has a way of communicating that makes you feel like he could be an old college buddy. During our
talk with him (or should I say our game of 1000+ questions) we were fortunate enough to hear his story, from Dodgeball to foursquare, the current state of foursquare affairs, and a peak into his vision for foursquare's
future. We told jokes, talked coding languages, discussed privacy and transparency issues, chatted about market competition, and shared hysterical Syracuse University stories. Here are the three most important things Dennis taught us:

Lessons Every Startup Should Learn

1. Transparency Matters
As we put more and more information about ourselves, our families, and our friends on the internet and trust social platforms with intensely personal data, transparency matters. Twitter and foursquare have 100% transparent APIs, which does two things: 1) it builds a relationship of trust between the users and the company and, 2) it opens the door for people to build some awesomely brilliant products on your platform.

2. If the technology to build your product in your vision isn't there yet, build it as close as you can so you are ready when it is.
Technology moves fast, but not always as fast as our imaginations. One of the things Dennis emphasized in our discussion was, cater to your vision, the technology will be there someday, and when it is, you will be ready for it. This was very much a part of the evolution of his idea from Dodgeball to foursquare and on to foursquare's Radar feature.

3. Build first, politics later.
Roll your sleeves up, get messy in code or whatever you are building. Find like-minded people and build together. Worry about the incorporation, the equity, the market and whatever else may be involved in the 'business' end later. The building is the most important part.

So there you have it. Have an idea? Get building, dive right in and stay true to your vision because the journey is just as exciting as the result.

I'd like to say a very special thank you to Dennis Crowley for taking time out of his Sunday to sit down with us and for allowing us to be the sponges that we were and absorb as much as we could.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Break Project: Desk Modification

I've been in love with the Instructable's webpage recently. For those of you who know me, I like to take on different projects when I'm home on breaks to keep me busy and keep thecreative juices flowing. For my winter break project, I've decided to combine three of these instructables into one desk.

Here is how I plan to layout the desk:

The three instructables I plan to utilize are:

Desktop Outlet:

This USB one is the one I am most excited about doing, I ordered two new apple usb chargers from ebay for $20 shipped! (What a bargain!)

I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and keep everyone updated on my progress! As well as this I plan on building out myxsshit on ruby on rails over break so stay tuned for all of this as well as some hopefully exciting developments on Wallis

Keep your SWAG on.