Daily Dozen – Boston-area Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Here in Boston we have an event called WebInno. It’s been going on for years and attracts a great crowd. The idea is to have local innovators and entrepreneurs talk about the companies they’re starting and demo the technology to the community. I went to my first one five or six years ago and was impressed to see 75 people at the event. Now, there are more than one thousand people attending the events. The next one is on Monday, March 5th and if you’re in the Boston-area you should definitely stop by. You can register on Eventbrite.

This is actually the first of two posts I’ll be doing on WebInno this week. This one is a set of faces of people who have been at the event over the years with their ideas and companies. I’ve added some details on each of the companies in case you’d like to learn more. The second post will be a preview of the companies that will be participating at Monday’s event. I’ve been writing these previews for a few years now. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head and sometimes I miss by a mile. Such is life. Here are links to some past previews: WebInno32, WebInno31, WebInno29, WebInno28 and WebInno23.

In the spirit of transparency, I want to say that I’ve recently started working more formally with WebInno, mostly helping generate content for their blog and social channels. It hasn’t really changed anything since I was already generating the same kind of content on my own (and will continue to). Anyway, here are 12 faces of people with bright ideas.

Face - man with glasses holding iPhone
This is Matt Cutler, co-founder of Kibits. Kibits is a nice social connection and collaboration app/platform.

Face
This is Andreas Randow of TourSphere. TourSphere really impressed me when I saw it, basically it’s a platform that allows the creation of museum or city tours. As someone who once was a ranger at Alcatraz, I appreciate a good tour.

Faces
This is Liz Zalman of MediaArmor. MediaArmor is in the mobile advertising space and basically helps advertisers port all of the things they currently do with traditional display to mobile.

Face - @sethwlieberman - CEO of Pangea Media
This is Seth Lieberman, the CEO of snapapp. It’s a really simple self-service site for creating branded polls, survey, questionnaires, etc. They have some awesome customers and it looks great.

Face - @j_peden, CEO of Crave Labs
This is Jeffrey Penden of Crave Labs. They do a platform to help local businesses – mostly restaurants – market more easily using social and mobile channels. It’s pretty cool.

Face - @royrod - cofounder of SocMetrics
This is Roy Rodenstein, the cofounder and CEO of SocMetrics. SocMetrics is a service to help you ID influencers in a ton of different categories – you name it and it’s likely they’ll be able to tell you who blogs, tweets or posts about it the most (and which of those people actually matters the most). As a PR guy it seemed like a cool tool.

Faces
This is Jennifer Fremont-Smith of Smarterer. They’ve created a platform to understand and evaluate people’s skills in all kinds of technical, social and digital skill. There’s an update on how they’re doing on the WebInno blog.

Faces 31
This is Jon Radoff. He presented his company GamerDNA at the second WebInno I attended and he’s incredibly active in the world of gaming. His current startup is Disruptor Beam. They’re still in beta.

Faces
This is Amram Shapiro, founder of Book of Odds. This is a site to help you understand the odds of things in everyday life. It’s neat.

Susan Hunt Stevens of Practically Green
Susan Hunt Stevens, founder of Practically Green, presenting at WebInno29. It’s a very cool company that helps you find ways to live a cleaner, more sustainable life. Check it out, take the quiz, register and explore.

Face - smiling man with beard
This is Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot. They’re an Internet marketing company over in Kendall Square that’s doing very well.

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WebInno32 Preview

We’re fast approaching the last WebInno of 2011. Hard to believe how fast the year has passed but what can you do? Actually, I know what I can do. I can write my preview of the companies that will be at WebInno32. And I know what you can do to. You can read it! How’s that for simple? Check it out, let me know what you think and I’ll see you Royal Sonesta on the 29th.

Here are the Main Dish companies

BestVendor – Best Vendor Helps You Discover the Work Apps You’ll Love. I don’t know about the name or the tag line but I guess there’s utility in getting recommendations for which apps might be right for me. It seems like a solid idea. The video on the site does a good job of explaining how this might be used by an advanced race of dogs and I was able to imagine how people might benefit as well. The whole idea is that they site will provide recommendations based on other people’s experience.

Conceptually I love crowdsourced solutions. Practically I’ve had mixed experiences. Waze, for example, is a navigation app I’ve had/used for years. I downloaded it because I wanted a GPS app and I loved the idea it would improve over time as more people used it. Based on my first few tries using ways it could only have improved . . . That was a few years ago though and now it’s awesome. It’s likely the learning curve for BestVendor won’t be as long and the consequences of downloading a bum project management app is way easier than getting lost for hours. I do like the overall vibe of the site and am looking forward to hearing the rap at the event.

Kibits – Kibits and you’re closer. Well the site doesn’t tell you that much about the app, just that it lets you “instantly connect with the people who matter most.” I’m interested in connecting with people so I signed up. I wish the app – which you can register with through Facebook – had let me know which of my FB pals were already using Kibits. From my phone it offered to scan my contacts but I’m not really down with that. It did let me look at my FB friends but either none of them are using Kibits yet or the app doesn’t know. My bet is that none of them are using it yet. I’m just not into spamming people with app invites. (Maybe the Kibits people should see about getting people talking about it on BestVendor?).

Once the app was installed on my phone a very helpful robot – KiBot – got in touch with me. It showed me how I could chat, share media, calendar entries, documents, etc. It all seemed very awesome. My only reservation is mastering another platform. It’s probably better than the cobbled together system I have now – but unless a ton of people I know are on here too it feels like a lot of work for little reward. As with BestVendor the site, app and feel are all very good. Hopefully someone I know will try it too so we can use it together.

TastedMenu – What? No tagline? Come on people, how am I supposed to know what this is all about? This is a service I can really sink my teeth into. Hahahahahaha. But seriously, I like this site a lot. It really does look good and it functions well. There seem to be a lot of activity. Either that means there are a lot of people already using the site or the people who are using it are really into it. It’s not really complicated. You can either enter the name of a restaurant or the name of a dish. If you enter a restaurant it will give you the basic info on the place (locations, hours, URL, payment types, etc.) and then a listing of menu items. Where applicable it also provides ratings of different dishes. You can drill down onto these to see photos of the items and individual diner’s feedback. It struck me as a deeper version of Yelp.

If you search for a specific food item you get details on the ingredients, suggested additional searches, photos and ratings for which places have the best of what you’re looking for. This seems like a great feature if you’ve got a hankering for a certain dish. Maybe someone else has this functionality (no doubt they do, there’s really nothing new anymore now is there) but I’m not aware of it. The user reviews in this case are helpful and several that I looked at included photos and fairly in-depth comments.

There are a few things I really liked on the site and a few I wish were improved. First, I like the badges. While some the badges in some apps don’t really tell you much the badges here give you a sense of how often the person writes and what they know about. That’s actually helpful information for a reader. The profile pages are also top-notch, providing good information on members. There are a few things I’d like – an iPhone app would be great. Picture being in the mood for something specific and being able to see where it was available right around you. Or being able to decide whether to walk the extra few blocks for a better experience. I have to imagine this is in the cards. I’d also like a tighter integration with Facebook.

And now for the Side Dishes

AppBlade – It’s like Adding MacGyver to your Development Team. Is that a good thing? It always seems like MacGyver is getting himself out of trouble. Wouldn’t it be better to just avoid trouble in the first place? But I digress . . .

AppBlade say they’ll “securely power mobile applications across your organization and beyond.” Huh? Does that mean they’ll make my iPhone battery last longer? That my power is insecure? Watching the video on the site was very helpful. As I’m not an app developer it’s not that interesting to me but I can imagine its utility.

Hyper3D – Again, no tagline. So you might know that I am pretty addicted to photographs. My 1000faces projects is just about one of my favorite things ever. I’m also pretty into 3D so if someone is coming along to say they can make my images 3D you can sign me up! Which is just what I did. I uploaded a recent photo and waited. Unfortunately the site provided zero feedback. Was I meant to click someplace to see my photo in 3D? Would I need glasses? What was the deal? After waiting a while without any message from the site I navigated away. I thought maybe my photo was in “My Models” but that was empty save some ads. Next I went to the “Gallery” where I could see other people’s photos but not mine.

The 3D is OK, it’s actually pretty cool but a little creepy too. And it’s not as cool as I’d hoped it would be. Maybe I’m missing something in terms of adding my own content but not seeing my stuff bummed me out. I have high hopes for seeing them at WebInno though. I am keeping my mind open and my fingers crossed.

Oh, and the video on the site that explains this isn’t very helpful.

DailyFeats – Small Change Adds Up. I get the idea but I’m not sure I understand. You do things – small things – and get points, badges, rewards, etc. What kind of small things? Organize your desk, make someone laugh, treat others with kindness. These are all great things to do and one should try to do at least one every day. I don’t know if I want to get a Starbuck’s gift card for doing good little works. There’s something that feels private in how I function in the world – at least at that small interpersonal level. It felt like an attempt to commoditize kindness and while I’m sure that isn’t the case or idea it left me little cold. I’ll check them out and maybe they’ll be able to make me feel better about things. At least that seems to be their goal.

MeetingKing – Manage your meetings. I love this idea. It can generate meetings, agendas, minutes, etc. It integrates with iCal, Outlook, Google an more. I signed up and tried using it but for some reason my meeting didn’t show up. They did have a really handy sample meeting that walked me through the capabilities. It all looks very good. The site is kind of gross looking in terms of color and layout but the promised functionality could make me overlook that. I say promised functionality because repeated attempts to create a meeting in iCal appear to have failed. A demo will help I’m sure.

PowerInbox – Rich apps inside your inbox. I’m definitely not the dumbest person I know but I can’t figure this out. I have tried getting it running a few times with no luck. How hard could it be? The instructions on the site are clear – and I followed them to the letter – until I get to step five. It says, “That’s it! Now just open a Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Groupon email and enjoy your new and improved inbox.” Well just that is confusing. Does it mean I should open one of these emails in my email client? Or on FB/Twitter/Gmail/Groupon? When I go to Gmail I see nothing new, when I go to Facebook it’s the same, when I try Twitter it looks like it always does. If I go to my mail client and try opening an email generated from these services it’s also the same. I probably just need someone to show me how this is meant to work because I can’t figure this one out on my own.

Take the Interview – No tag line. This is meant to be an easy way to screen candidates through a video interview. Maybe interview is too strong or suggestive a word. Basically you’re able to post openings – along with questions – and ask candidates to respond to the questions with a video. I guess it’s a good idea. The site looks kind of dated but who am I to hold that against someone? The idea is a good one. My only concern would be wading through lots and lots of really bad videos.

Rejoiner – Capture Pre-Submit Data from Abandoned Forms. Some things just rub me the wrong way and this is one of them. I can think of reasons someone might decide, “hey, you know what, I don’t think I want to sign up for X, Y or Z” and navigate away. It’s creepy that my decision NOT to complete a registration is seen as an opportunity to market to me. In display people can opt out of being tracked for targeting. It feels like stopping the registration process for a site should be viewed as an opt out of establishing a relationship with that site and ought to be respected.

Rocketmind – Rocketmind is an Android app developer. Their site features two apps. One is a 3D fishing game and the other is a phone dialer. Since I have an iPhone I can’t say whether these apps are good or not. They seem strange to me and I don’t really get the story.

Well that’s it from me. There are some very cool looking companies (TastedMenu is on the top of the list), a few I didn’t understand (Rocketmind) and some I couldn’t get working (PowerInBox). I’ll be there on Tuesday to check out all of them, take some photographs – and, if I’m early enough – have a free beer!