WebInno X Preview

WebInno is turning 10. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment and Dave Beisel deserves a ton of thanks for creating not just an event that has grown and thrived over the past decade but a community that has done the same. The companies that have appeared at the event over the years are truly impressive. Dropbox, Reddit, RunKeeper, CustomMade, Localytics and Fiksu are just a few of the companies for which WebInno was a step on the path to success.

I’ve been attending for eight years or so and have only missed a handful of events in that time. The big 10th Anniversary WebInno is happening tomorrow and I sure won’t be missing it.

Here are the companies that will be on hand for tomorrow’s event:

Main Dishes

Crayon – Get awesome marketing ideas. Free. – Crayon bills itself as “the most comprehensive marketing design search engine on the web.” I can’t say how many other marketing design search engines are out there but I can say Crayon has a ton of stuff in it. When you fire up the site for the first time you’ll be asked to sign in or sign up. Once you log in you’ll be greeted by a vaguely Pinterestesque experience that allows you to search, save and share literally millions of design ideas. Pretty cool.

Cymbal – music discovery powered by friends, not algorithms – Music is a big part of my life. I listen to a ton of music and play fiddle and sing in Waiting for Neil. I’m lucky because I get exposed to new music all the time – but it’s no accident. Finding new music and sharing it with friends is something I love doing. Sadly, because I’m not an iOS user I can’t test out Cymbal and the site is pretty light on details. I’ll have to wait to hear what they have to say when they demo.

Trumpit – Real time photo sharing – From iOS only to Android only we have Trumpit, a messaging app based around sharing photos. I love taking and sharing photos but boy are there a lot of options. My phone has more camera and photo apps than you can shake a stick at. I’m constantly trying to winnow down what I have to a usable core. (At the moment, that is Google Camera and Photos – got to love the free unlimited storage.)

Trumpit does have a nice feature – the photos you share with friends appear on their lock screens. This means they are for sure going to see it. I signed up and got a test photo sent to my phone. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly pop up for me as I have another lock screen app installed.

Side Dishes

Spot – Spot seems pretty cool. If you have a parking spot – a real spot that you actually own – you can rent it out to people looking to park. If you need a spot you can search and pay for one with the Spot app. There have been other apps that provide a similar service but a few of them have made it possible for people to hold and rent out public spaces (kind of a no-no). These guys are doing it right and can hopefully ease the headaches of finding parking in congested neighborhoods. Good luck!

LucyBot – APIs should be easy – those are words you don’t usually think of in the same sentence. I know that there’s a big push for more people to learn to code – and that’s a good thing. How many of the mass of coder bootcamp participants are going to take the API plunge is another story. To the extent that people do, LucyBot does seem to make sense. The site includes a gallery of APIs (including, coincidentally, Random Users, which features a bunch of my 1000faces images) and a way for you to add your own API to the site.

One bone I have to pick with the site – and this is only because I unexpectedly found some of my own images made available through it – is the fact that it doesn’t preserve or present the copyright associated with the content. My images, for example, are offered under Creative Commons attribution/non-commercial/share alike. As LucyBot is set up someone using the Random User API would be unaware of this and could easily fall afoul of my pretty easy copyright requirements. Hopefully the team will address this concern.

opportunitySPACE –  – A new marketplace for under-valued land and buildings – this appears to be a neat little site for matching those with “real estate liabilities” with those looking for “undervalued real estate.” Much of the focus seems to be on helping governments offload land or properties. I tried to check it out but it turns out there were no properties in Boston (one of the geographies included on the site).

There were other properties available in other cities though, but I’ll be honest, I am totally not the market for this site. One of the properties listed is the space under the Route 95/Braga Bridge in Fall River. It’s an infra-space program. The fact that would have to find out what an infra-space program is probably means I’m not going to be doing one any time soon. If you do know what that means then the State of Massachusetts might have (the space under) a bridge to sell you. 

JustReachOut – Find journalists. Prefect your pitch. Reach out and get press. – Maybe it’s because I’m a PR person, but I don’t really get this site. When I want to find out which reporters have written about a topic I use this free tool – Google – that does a pretty nice job. JRO offers more than a way to find reporters though; it also provides a way to reach out to them from the site. That’s cool. I’d be curious to hear how effect this approach is.

Fastcloud –  – Build and Manage Enterprise Applications in the Cloud – this reminded me a little of LucyBot – but writ large. You can build apps wicked fast, work with team members easily and have what you build run on any device. It also integrates a ton of popular sources like Salesforce, GitHub, Amazon Web Services and more. Since I’m neither an enterprise nor a cloud developer it’s tough for me to judge what Fastcloud is all about but it seems cool.

Spatterit – Leave your mark. Not your profile. – Describing itself as a “virtual billboard” Spatter lets you post and comment on the things happening around you in the real world. I installed the app and had a look at the ways people were using it. I see that there was a 5K race in the Newton Highlands on 6/14, a Free Brady Pub Run on 5/24 and a lot of posts on Newton Educators. Personally, I could find little rhyme or reason to the posts and many were promoting things long in the past. The idea of locally-based content is a good one but I found the Spatter approach confusing and not particularly engaging.

Realtime Brackets – Update your bracket all tourney – I’ve never been a big March Madness guy but I know a ton of people who are. RTB promises to help follow the tournament by keeping the brackets live and updated in real time. OK. I guess that’s cool. 

Pssst, it’s almost time for WebInno44 . . .

A new year and a host of new companies hoping to make it big at WebInno. Things kick off on January 12th with WebInno44. As usual, the festivities will begin at 6:30 at the Royal Sonnesta in comfortable Kendall Square. Here’s my preview of the companies that will be on hand.

Main Dishes

Flyp – Get Multiple Numbers on your Smartphone – There’s not much to see on the Flyp site yet, just the ability to request an invite and a link to a video about the service—which I watched. Basically, Flyp lets you set up multiple phone numbers on a single device, just like their tag line says. They offer a number of reasons you might want to do this – separate numbers for friends or work or creeps you don’t really want to hear from. I guess that makes sense. It does seem like this is something you could do on your own, with Google Voice or Skype. Of course that means having multiple accounts to manage, with different passwords, prompts, etc.

Speaking of which, it is really annoying that every phone I use – home (yeah, I still have one, much to my chagrin), cell and office – uses different keys to skip or delete or save a message; and every company I call uses some different variation of # or * or 0 to bypass voice prompts. Can’t there be a standard? What’s the value or benefit of every carrier or company using their own proprietary approach. Annoying. If Flyp helps deal with that I’m a believer.

Rocketboard – On its face Rocketboard seems like something that’s been done. Essentially it allows you to broadcast (or record) the contents of a whiteboard in real time. One might imagine being able to do this with a Webcam or smartphone and the truth is you can. In fact, Rocketboard uses your smartphone to capture the content on your whiteboard.

If you’re wondering, “why would I need this if I have a phone,” Rocketboard appears to have a couple of nice bells and whistles that take it beyond those more rudimentary approaches. Here are a few of them:

  • By drawing triangles on the corners of the board, Rocketboard is able to recognize the dimensions of the board and correct for the angle and aspect ratio. That means a viewer, instead of seeing a skewed view gets a nice clean rectangle.
  • Rocketboard is smart enough to omit the person working on the whiteboard from the video. It does this by recommending that the person step away from the board from time-to-time to allow the system to capture the changes.
  • It is able to capture still images of the board. Again, this may seem basic but Rocketboard appears to make it really easy. By blocking the camera on your phone for a moment it takes a photo.

All of the files can be made available to those participating in the meeting in real time or as a video to be watched after the fact. It is kind of cool but I’m not sure if it’s the sine qua non of cool office stuff. Maybe Monday will prove me wrong.

Upward Labs – Upward Labs makes it “easy for brands to create and manage their own brand ambassador programs.” I don’t think anyone would argue with the premise here. Brands clearly love it when customers are willing to give them positive word of mouth or social media buzz. In fact, brands have been working with partners like BzzAgent since 2001. I’m not 100 percent sure how what Upward does differs from BzzAgent. Perhaps it’s less expensive, easier to use, fundamentally better? That would be my first question to the folks at Upward Labs and hopefully I’ll have a chance to ask it on Monday night.


Side Dishes

Allclasses – Find the best online classes, or search locally – People are mad about MOOCs these days, and with good reason. You can learn so much from so many sources. Whether you’re just curious about something or are actively studying, there’s content or courseware out there somewhere. Allclasses is a terrific clearinghouse of pretty much any online course you can imagine from MIT Open Courseware to Udemy to Linda Online to a million others.

What’s even cooler is that you can find local in-person classes as well. I searched for photography and got a list of more than 3,000 classes. Overwhelming, right? It would be if Allclasses didn’t have some great filtering tools. You can sort results by online or in-person only, price, provide, category, start time and more. It’s all pretty slick and makes Allclasses feel like the top of the class for WebInno44.

BriefMe – What the World is Reading Now – I’m going to be a little snide here, but it’s because I like the idea of BriefMe. First of all, BriefMe is a news aggregator. There are plenty of them out there but this one is based on what people are posting or tweeting about all over the world. Now a bone – BriefMe claims to be the first news-ranking app “powered by people. Instead of relying on the judgment of an editorial team, our editor is an algorithm . . .” Let me just clear something up for everyone: editorial teams are made up of people, algorithms are not.

A news service that delivers “the most popular news articles” is going to miss out on less popular, but possibly more important news. The fact that Kim Kardashian’s butt broke the Internet was a popular story but not necessarily a very important one. Boko Haram’s attacks in Nigeria is important news but not necessarily popular. This is why there are editorial teams in the first place, to help identify and ensure coverage of important topics rather than just fun and popular ones.

Of course I am saying this without actually having tried the BriefMe app. I have signed up for it though and hope to have a chance to check it out.

Connections – Craft Reliable Relationships – That’s a pretty expansive claim for an app to make. What exactly is a reliable relationship? A friend that keeps their word; one that shows up on time? It seems like that’s something the other person is responsible for, how is an app meant to alter someone else’s behavior to make them more reliable? Connections isn’t that ambitious. It basically allows you to annotate and tag your contacts. That’s cool. But not that cool.

HomeBinder – A Homeowner’s Best Friend – Now this is something I can get my head around. I am a homeowner and if there’s one thing my wife and I have learned it that it’s a pain in the butt. Just the other day, it was 9 degrees out and we woke up to a furnace that wasn’t working. Nice. Fortunately, when we opened it up to figure out what was wrong there was a big red “reset” button. I pushed it and the problem was solved. Not everything is so simple and HomeBinder seems like a solid way to manage all of the headaches of homeownership.

The site allows you to set up binders for each home you own (or presumably manage I guess). Binders can include all kinds of useful information – the contractors you use, the rooms in your house, the paints on your walls, your appliances and more. That’s pretty cool. My wife is really good about keeping records of everything but sometimes finding this or that receipt or document is a challenge. HomeBinder would make the process much easier.

HomeBinder features both a free (intended for renters) and paid version ($49 per year and targeted at homeowners). The paid version has a number of additional features, including the ability to upload photos, receive recall notifications and tax reports. Pretty neat. The one thing I don’t see on the site is any mention of an app but the mobile site seems pretty nice. A big thumbs up for HomeBinder.

Legal Hero – Law Done Better – Not only am I a homeowner, but I am also someone who has had to employ the services of a lawyer on a somewhat regular basis. Years ago Wendy and I needed to write our wills and we used some software or Website that I can’t even recall anymore. Years later, when kids, special needs and more serious death planning (not that it will happen any time soon I hope) our legal needs became more complex. Legal Hero seems sit somewhere between DIY and going all in.

Basically, Legal Hero is a marketplace to connect people with legal needs with a network of lawyers. The site says participating attorneys have an average of 15 years experience and that almost all of them have attended at top 100 law school. Lawyers are able to register on the site by applying to be a part of the network. Once accepted, a lawyer will opt into the types of projects they want to work on. At that point, people like me will reach out looking for help solving a legal issue.

Now Legal Hero isn’t actually designed to help write wills or stuff like that. The site has a number of projects you can select from, most of which are related to business needs. The projects include things like starting a business, managing a team and protecting your brand. The site walks you though some simple steps to understand exactly what you need. For example, if you say you’re looking for help protecting your brand, you get additional options: trademark registration, copyright registration and confidentiality agreements. Selecting one of these branches you further to get to the specific service you’re looking for. In the case of confidentiality agreements, to have one prepared will cost you $375, which includes a consultation and customized agreement.

At this point it’s time to select your lawyer, which is done based on your location. I decided not to take this step because I don’t want to get emails but it made sense to me. As with almost any industry, the marketplace model here makes a lot of sense. It will be interesting to see how Legal Hero evolves.

JessMeetKen – Meet Great Guys Other Women Have Recommended – Hmmmm. Maybe there are situations where marketplaces don’t work. JMK is targeted to women. The idea is that if you know a guy but you’re attached or he’s not right in some way you can add him to the site and women can check him out and ask you for the skinny. I can see how this might be a good idea, you get the lowdown on someone that looks like they might be a fit, but I wonder how guys will feel about being on the site?

Skit! – My kids love making absurd videos with and about their friends, fandoms and interests. They spend a fair amount of time looking for tools to use, gathering their content and editing things together. I love it. Most of what they make makes zero sense but they’re having fun and learning skills. Skit! is an attempt to make that process easier. I guess that’s cool but part of me likes it that what they’re doing isn’t easy. I like it that it takes time and effort to come up with something. Like I said, most of it makes no sense but they made it. Skit seems to take some of the effort out of the equation and that might not be a good thing. If I had more time today I’d make a skit, sadly I don’t. Maybe tomorrow.

SplitNGo – Benefits for Restaurants – This is a neat little payment system for restaurants. When the meal is over, people pull out their phone to view their bill. They can either settle up via the phone or with a card or cash. If they pay with SplitNGo their account is cleared and the waiter notified so they can swing by to say “thanks.” The app promises to solve “guests #1 problem,” and the site explains that waiting can turn an excellent experience into a poor one. That’s true, but to be honest, the wait that’s really annoying is long before the bill comes: waiting for drinks, waiting for orders to be taken and food to be delivered are all more annoying than waiting to pay. But that’s just me.

Weft – Tracking and Control System – For the second time in recent WebInno history we have a hardware product. This one is pretty cool. Weft devices are small and are meant to be affixed to cargo so it can be tracked and monitored. Not only does Weft let you see where an item is but it also lets you know the conditions it is traveling though by monitoring things like temperature, humidity, etc. Cool.

Weft integrates with all your favorite ERP and CRM systems, which means all the data collected by Weft is automatically at your fingertips when and where you need it. That’s also pretty cool. Finally (as if everything else wasn’t enough!), Weft is able to look at real time and historical data for all shipments being tracked by the platform. Magically, Weft can use this information to identify problems and bottlenecks so shippers can update their planned routes and schedules to keep performance in tip-top shape. Weft actually makes me wish I had a few containers to ship.

Whovoo – When you want to be absolutely, positively private and secret – OK, let me just say that there is NOTHING in this digital world of ours that is positively private and secret. That being said, Whovoo is trying to make sharing a little safer. I’m not really clear on who this is intended for. If I want to send a picture of my dog I’m not that worried about who sees it. The cute look and feel of the app (which I have not tried since I am on Android) makes it seem kind of for kids, but the FAQ make it clear it’s only for people over 13.

Once I started looking at the FAQ I got a little more confused. For example, one question asks: “Does Whovoo store my private photos and messages on its servers?” The answer is “no.” A few questions later we see, “Where are Whoots [their term for an encrypted photo and message inside a Whovoo envelope] physically stored?” As it turns out, these are stored on Whoot’s servers until they expire. That seems to contradict the first answer. There’s a bit of nuance in that your stuff isn’t stored “unencrypted” but it is nevertheless stored on their servers.

There’s a ton of interesting stuff happening in the messaging space these days and Whovoo might be a neat addition to the mix. I’ll wait to see but won’t hold my breath.


So that’s it from me. There’s a ton of neat looking companies lined up for this edition of WebInno and I’m looking forward to checking them out. Hope to see you there!

WebInno43 – It’s Almost Here!

With just hours to go, I’m running out of time to share my take on the eight companies presenting at WebInno43. As usual, the event will be at the Royal Sonnesta in Kendall Square. Things kick off at 6:00PM. You can register here for an event you’re bound to enjoy.

As usual, the evening will be include main dish companies that present to the group, as well as side dish companies that will be demoing their technology. There’s a good mix.

Main Dish Companies

Dunwello. Give and receive reviews of professional experiences you have with others. Hmmm, there’s something about that description that’s confusing. I understand how I might give a review of a professional experience I’ve had but I’m not sure how I might receive a review of a professional experience I’ve had. I suppose if I were talking to myself but I don’t think that’s what Dunwello is all about.

The real idea here seems to be about rating and being rated for a service. I say, “seems” because I wasn’t actually able to do that. While I was able to register I wasn’t actually able to look anyone up. That is until I logged out of the system. Then I was able to search for and see comments. It seems like a problem that will be ironed out at some point.

The sample feedback provided on the site gives a sense of the tone they’re hoping to achieve. The posts are brief and have a personal feel. I like them and the idea and was a bit surprised that others aren’t doing this already. Maybe they are and I missed it?

Knockey. No Installation Keyless Entry System. This site is super thin on details. Here’s all it says:

No installation keyless entry
Knockey is a patent – pending keyless entry system. Securely control and share access to your home without installing anything.

That’s it. It’s pretty self-explanatory but I still had a lot of questions, like “How does it work?”. It sounds cool, that for sure, like magic. So I can unlock my house – or let someone else unlock my house – from my phone? I’ll be honest, I don’t really carry a lot of keys. Just my car key. Oh, and I have a garage door opener in my car – that’s how I get into my house. If I don’t have my car I know there’s a key stashed somewhere. If I’m in a total bind there’s a window or two I could break. I hope it doesn’t come to that. Geez, I hope Knockey works, it could save me a bundle in glass replacement costs. Please! Knockey! Tell me your secret! I promise I won’t tell. Just let me get into my house!

Villy. Find the Best Neighborhoods and Hotels for You in X. I remember years ago, Wendy and I were living in San Francisco and we decided to spend a long weekend in Monterey. This was years ago and the Web wasn’t really a thing just yet. We looked up hotels, saw photos on rudimentary sites and booked one that sounder pretty good. When we arrived we found the place was a dump. It was right on Route One and was dark, dank and stinky. We were able to cancel our stay and moved on to greener pastures. I’d say we were pretty lucky.

Imagine how much it would have sucked if that was it. If we had no choice but to stay. That kind of thing happens all the time but thankfully Villy is there to help. The site asks a few simple questions – what activities are you interested in, who you’re traveling with and how much you want to spend per night. It then spits out suggestions that seemed pretty good to me.

It isn’t just a list of hotels though; it starts with the neighborhood and then tells you how well it ranks in terms of the things you said were important. For me it recommended Marais /Beaubourg /Notre Dame de Paris based on the concentrations of restaurants, bars, museums and finally shopping. It then suggested a hotel in the neighborhood based on my price range.

The site has all kinds of tools for planning – and sharing – vacation ideas. I think it’s pretty slick and I can only wish it had been around 20 years ago so I might have avoided trouble in Monterey. It’s a cool site and definitely my favorite of the main dish companies.

Side Dish Companies

BioBright. Open Source Tools for Laboratories and Medical Devices. When I saw the name I assumed the company was involved with some kind of bioluminescence. No such luck. Instead the company creates and hardware and software for data collection and visualization. The company sounds pretty dry (“Without a seamless way to monitor the context of an experiment, biomedical experimentation is cumbersome, and scientists’ minds are too often clogged with procedural details rather than profound insights.”) but what they are working on is pretty serious and important. It’s hard to imagine how they’ll turn heads at WebInno but for the right audience this is pretty cool stuff.

Certus. Secure, password-free log-in. There’s no doubt that security is a big deal for every kind of site you can think of. I’m used to trying to remember what my passwords on a regular basis. Frankly, I’ve resorted to either writing them down or relying on formulas that let me remember them easily. (Things like the first three digits of my childhood phone number, the first initial of all my dogs’ names and the month and year I created the password.) Certus thinks they can go one better by using a person’s smartphone to enable multifactor authentication.

I’ve worked with clients in the multifactor authentication space in the past and agree that the combination of something you have and something you know if pretty strong. I sure wish Certus could make the case in clearer language. For them to describe how their technology works it takes five steps and more than 200 words. A picture (and not the one that’s there now) could go a long way toward making their case. I hope they’ll figure out how to tell their story so people get it quickly and get on board.

Elsen Trading. I visited the site the other day and found the company was doing algorithmic trading. At least that’s what I remember. When I went back to the site just now to write about it I found something pretty cryptic:

Welcome to nginx!
If you see this page, the nginx web server is successfully installed and working. Further configuration is required.
For online documentation and support please refer to nginx.org.
Commercial support is available at nginx.com.
Thank you for using nginx.

I’m assuming that message isn’t meant for people like me. Let’s get it together Elsen, people want to know what you’re all about!

Experfy. Data. Analytics. BI. Basically Experfy is a clearinghouse designed to help organizations find qualified data scientists, and for data scientists to showcase their abilities. It seems cool. Since I’m not a data scientist all I could feel was bummed out that I wasn’t a data scientist because some of the jobs and projects on the site seem pretty damn interesting.

LifeGuides. Save time, money, and stress by learning from those who have been there, done that. Somewhat reminiscent of Villy, LifeGuides extends the idea to every facet of your life. The basic idea is for people who have done something to share what they have learned with others curious about following that path. The site has only a handful of guides at this point and few of them caught my attention. I found the images associated with each guide to be bizarre. For example, the guide for “A career in consumer packaged goods” was represented by a bucolic waterfall, while “Interacting with your first boss” and “starting a career in healthcare in the US” were both adorned with an expanse of pine forest overlooking a lake and distant mountains.

These strange pairings made me feel as though I was being treated to a mysterious visual haiku. I never understood what they meant and that search for meaning distracted me from the actual service of the site. When I did manager to get beyond that I felt like this was trying to replicate the informational interview but in an overgeneralized way. The fact how you interact with your first boss is going to depend on who they are, who you are, what type of organization you’re working in, what your plans are for your position in that organization and a ton of other things that are going to be situational. It’s tough to try to make all of that information general. Check it out but I don’t see this as a replacement for actually talking to someone in person, over email or though social channels.

That’s it for me. I hope you found some of this helpful. The event should be good and you should come and check it out.

WebInno 42, Can You Believe It?

WebInno42 is coming up on Monday, June 16th at the Royal Sonesta in Kendall Square. Hard to believe these events have been going on – and getting stronger – for such a long time. It’s evidence of Boston’s great entrepreneurial community and a testament to David Beisel’s commitment to helping that community thrive. I’ve been attending WebInno since 2006 and it’s always one of my favorite events. Here’s the line-up for this month’s event and what I think of each of the main dish and side dish companies.

Main Dishes

Bedrock Data, Easily Integrate Your Business Data – Often the companies that demo at WebInno provide consumer-facing technology. Bedrock doesn’t. This is technology designed to allow businesses to better manage and synchronize their data. The website describes the company as a data management platform, and I guess technically it is; but it isn’t a DMP in the ad tech sense.

The basic idea here is that most organizations have a ton of data (from what I can tell, Bedrock is primarily designed to tap into customer data from CRM systems) and a bunch of apps (and here the focus from Bedrock is heavily tilted toward marketing, though they also support finance, customer support and ecommerce systems). It’s tough as nails to make sure you’re always working with the most current data in every situation and that’s the problem Bedrock solves.

Here’s how it works: you identify your data source (typically a CRM system) and the application you want it to synchronize with. You need to tell the system which data source would win in a conflict, which fields you want to synchronize and get it started. The system will, within minutes, update both systems and will keep them current moving forward. Change in your marketing system will be reflected in your CRM system and vise versa. It seems like a useful, if not especially, eye-popping offering.

Bridj, Better Transit. For Everyone. – Bridj is essentially privatized mass transit. The company currently has two routes, one between Coolidge Corner and Kendall Square and the other from Coolidge Corner to downtown Boston, with more on the way. Bridj has shuttles (featuring leather seats and Wi-Fi) to move people between their single start points and end points. This means no stops, which means much faster travel times than are available from public transportation. The service is currently free during its “beta” period (which started yesterday) and has just one departure time per route at this point.

As I read about Bridj it brought to mind the private shuttles that have received so much (negative) attention in the Bay Area. In that case, employers in the Valley provide the shuttles as a free service. Bridj is a little different because it is theoretically available to anyone who a) needs to get between one of the company’s start and end points and b) can afford a pass (which the company says is just a little more than a T fare). That’s what makes it private-public instead of purely private as is the case of the shuttles in SF.

Still, it does create a tiered transit system that will create distinctions between people based on location and disposable income. One could argue we already have that to the extent that some people can afford to drive or take taxis or use the Pike vs. surface roads. It will be interesting to see how Boston responds to the idea. It raises several questions for me:

Will it result in fewer cars on the road? It might, but going from Coolidge Corner, it’s more likely to result in lower ridership for the MBTA. That seems like a double-edge sword: easier commutes for those who can take advantage of Bridj but less operating revenue for the MBTA.

To what extent will Bridj tax the transportation infrastructure and how will it pay for whatever impact it has? With two routes at this point, it seems unlikely Bridj will have any measurable impact (if anything, taking cars off the road may have a positive impact). As more routes are added that could change, though it does seem unlikely.

Will Bridj serve every community? The company says they use big data to determine their routes. I’m sure that’s true – to an extent – but it’s hard for me to believe that Coolidge Corner is the point of origin for the greatest number of commuters into either downtown or Kendall Square. Will Bridj share the data used to determine its routes? Will the company look beyond Brookline, to some of the outer suburbs or other neighborhoods to help take cars off the road or shorten longer public transit commutes? The MBTA reports a travel time from Coolidge to Kendall as being 30 minutes and costing $2.50, from Ashmont the trip takes 45 minutes and costs $4.50 and from Natick (where I live) the trip takes almost an hour and costs $9.75. Only time and transparency will tell.

Squadle, The Smart Way to Manage Your Business. – Before going on about Squadle, can we all just agree that the name is really terrible? I can’t decide which it makes me think of more a) a group bathroom experience or b) a new Pokemon. Either way, it doesn’t make me think about managing a business.

That aside, what is Squadle all about? (OK, seriously, I can barely bring myself to type that word.) It’s actually pretty cool. Think of it as a silent taskmaster in the cloud. Designed for restaurants (and food trucks!), Squadle consists of two elements: the Squadle Hub, which is a “ruggedized” Google tablet, and the Squadle HQ which is essentially an analytics dashboard.

The Hub allows daily tasks and lists to be shared with employees and provides them a way to keep track of what they are meant to be doing. The HQ gives managers a way to see how well their operation is performing. It’s all wireless, apparently easy to set up and get into the field and is simple enough that even Beavis and Butthead could probably use it.

It’s interesting to see how mobile technology is making its way into more and more industries. The fact that Squadle links employees’ in-store activities with a management dashboard seems pretty cool.

Side Dishes

Animatron – HTML5 is pretty cool. It’s allowing publishers to create assets that can work online and on mobile devices. Creating those assets, now how do you do that exactly? Hell if I know, I haven’t used HTML in years. Animatron is here to help. I signed up and tried fooling around with it and it seemed pretty cool to me. I didn’t have the time (day jobs!) to do much though. It’s certainly worth checking out and giving a spin.

AppBlade, Deploy, manage and configure with ease. – As AppBlade points out, mobile devices have changed everything – including how we work. As businesses rely on apps to help their employees get things done, they’ve faced the challenge of getting purpose-build apps into the field, managing them, keeping them up-to-date, etc. That’s the problem AppBlade is designed to solve. It’s not a problem I face so I can’t really say that much about the company.

Kidnosh, Eat out. Eat well. With kids. – As a father I appreciate the challenge of finding places to eat with my kids. They’re in their teens now but that hasn’t made things any easier. When they were young, oh man, what a pain. Kidnosh is designed to make it easier for adults to find restaurants that are kid-friendly. That’s cool. I looked at a few listings and it all seemed good to me. What wasn’t so good was the apparent absence of an app. The worst – and I mean worst – thing is being out with hungry kids and trying to find a place to eat. Maybe these guys should check out Animatron?

RocketBoard), Stream your ordinary whiteboard to anyone anywhere. – There’s not much to say about RocketBoard. They were Teamboard. At the moment the site is nothing more than a field to enter your email address to get early access when it’s available. Watch this space I guess.

Zylo Media, Advertising that people choose to interact with! – For reasons that are beyond me, I’ve ended up working primarily with advertising technology clients for the past three or four years. It’s an exciting space with lots of players, all different layers of technology and issues that transcend product (things like privacy and big data). Does that mean I choose to interact with advertising? No, not really. Sometimes I do and I’m the most impressed when I find myself engaging with ads without even realizing it at first. There’s a real art to making that happen.

Zylo develops casual games that help reinforce brands and provide consumers with offers and rewards for playing. The company captures user names, contact information and demographic details. According to Zylo, the typical player will consider 50 offers before accepting one. What does that mean? It means the customer has played about 200 games and been exposed to more than 2000 ad impressions over the course of an hour. To me that seems like a lot of impressions in a short time but if Zylo says it works, who am I do judge?

Well there you have it, my preview of WebInno42. Bridj is the most interesting one, not necessarily because of what they’re offering but because of the questions it raises. I’m looking forward to th

WebInno41: Preview

Right or wrong I fell off the WebInno wagon. I haven’t been to an event in a while and it’s been even longer since I’ve written up a preview. Bad me, bad bad me. Such is life. Things get busy, distractions crop up, such is life. As it happens though, I’m planning to be in Kendall Square next Monday so I’ll be at WebInno41. And since I’m attending, why no go the extra mile and write up what I expect to see?

Here we go.

Main Dish Companies

Chimani, Enhancing the Outdoors – Long before I started in PR, I was a PR – as in park ranger. My first park was the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site in Brookline. From there I made my way west and spent a summer as a wildland fire fighter (though I didn’t get to go to any big fires) based in the Marin Headlands and then out to Alcatraz. The Park Service was great and I’ve always loved our parks. I’ve seen plenty of resources for finding and exploring National Parks and some have been pretty good.

Chimani is a great new tool for learning about and getting the most out of the National Parks experience. You’re probably not going to spend a lot of time on the site since it’s the app (or apps) that you want. Chimani offers one app that gives a general view of all 400+ National Parks. There are multiple ways to search – by Park type, via a map or by activity; and there are basic details on each site: a brief description, statistic (which are kind of light – just the area and when the Park was established) and a link to the Park’s website. The content is light but it’s well presented and of some utility.

What’s really cool are Chimani’s Park-specific apps. Right now there are 14 that cover some of the most popular Parks – from Acadia to Zion. The apps include detailed maps of the park, news, information on ranger programs, photos and more. For the Cape Cod National Seashore the app includes tide information and details on the lighthouses. These apps are clean, comprehensive and cool. If you’re into exploring the National Parks Chimani is definitely an app you’re going to want on your phone or tablet. Love it.

CO Everywhere, Be Anywhere – At the moment, CO Everywhere is iOS only so I wasn’t able to check it out. Here’s what I got from the Web site. You circle an area on a map – can be small or it can be large – and CO Everywhere pulls social content from that area for you: photos, tweets, etc. It seems like a cool idea if you want to stay connected to a place (as opposed to people or events). I can imagine using CO Everywhere to keep up with what’s going in places that matter to me and I’m looking forward to the launch of their Android app soon so I can check it out. Seems solid.

Happier, What Makes You Happier? – Who doesn’t want to be happier? I suppose there are some cynics and misanthropes that don’t want to but for most of us the pursuit of happiness is pretty important. Happier is all about sharing and celebrating happiness and they have all kinds of ways to help make that happen. On the site itself you can dive into a stream of happiness as people share tweet-like posts about what makes them happy. There’s also an iPhone app that I assume allows you to post happy thoughts on the go. And there is a 21 course on feeling happier and living a more grateful life. (The course is $25.)

I think this is a great idea. When I look at Facebook and Twitter – or the comments on YouTube videos or news stories – I see a lot of anger and negativity. Sure, the world isn’t all sunshine and ponies but it can’t be all bad. Happier is a modest attempt and reminding us that there are things in life that are awesome – and encouraging us to share those things with others. Will it make you happier? I don’t know but trying it certainly isn’t going to do you any harm. Check it out.

Side Dish Companies

BoardProspects, Join the Online Boardroom Community – Well it certainly doesn’t have the same existential zing of Happier or the back-to-nature promise of Chimani, that’s for sure; but BoardProspects it is still a cool idea. Basically, BoardProspects is an online community for board members to connect, share news and ideas and stay in touch. The company has some great people and organizations engaged with what they are doing. It’s a bit off my path to be able to say much about the value they offer but I can imagine for many this could be really useful.

EZCater, Feed a Meeting – Ever have to plan and feed a bunch of people? Me neither. But I have been in a meeting where someone should have planned to feed me but didn’t and I can tell you it sucked. Dealing with feeding people in a meeting must be a pain in the butt. EZCater is trying to fix it by making it easier to find potential caterers. Not only find them, but also see reviews of others that have used them in the past. The company has almost 40,000 caterers around the country (2,461 here in Massachusetts alone). You can search by geography and filter by all kinds of things – delivery, order size, cuisine, etc. I have to imagine that there will be office managers all across America who will come to love EZCater.

Pictual, Picture your Words – Before I get into Pictual, it struck me how many sites take the infinite scroll approach these days. I really loved the first 50,000 of them but I’m starting to get kind of tired of them. Anyone else feel the same way? But I digress. Pictual appears to instantly convert dull text messages into very snazzy graphics. Instantly. I’d like to try it but it’s only on iOS. Meh. They have a showcase on their site that shows some examples of what their messages look like and it is pretty cool. In trying to find out more about the company I clicked on the “press kit” link on the site. That resulted in my downloading an 8MB zip file. Really? For a company that’s all about design (and some of the stuff on the site is terrific) this seems like a pretty kludgy way to share information.

Prep4GMAT, It’s a Full Course in an App – There are lots of things that I imagine doing, but taking the GMAT isn’t one of them (but who knows maybe I will, dum spiro spero). For the moment, it’s not in the cards so it’s tough for me to evaluate the utility of Prep4GMAT. I’m sure there are plenty of people for whom this is a godsend and if you’re one of them I’m happy for you. Enjoy.

Quick Key Mobile – Wow. So here we have another of those scrolling sites but we also have a way to convert a smartphone (iOS only at the moment but Android and Windows coming soon) into an optical scanner that can read those “fill in the bubble” tests we all took in school. Let me repeat that now that you’ve had a chance to catch your breath. Quick Key Mobile convers your smartphone into an optical scanner that can read standardized tests. I’m going to lay down now.

Rednote, Add Emotion to your Texts – Here’s what the about page says: 1) Choose a mood, 2) find a song clip, 3) listen and send. That’s it. What does choose a mood mean? Where do these songs come from? To whom might I send them? To answer these questions I decided to download the app. (By the way, one of the things I love about Android is the ability to install apps to my phone from the Web.) Here’s my experience:

I launched the app and it suggested I find my Rednote (but what is a Rednote?). My only option is to click “More” so I do. Nothing happens. I click it again. Still nothing. Again. Nothing. As I continue pressing “More” my mood becomes one of frustration. Repeated clicks do nothing to improve the situation.

Maybe I should go back to Happier to make myself feel better?

Well, there, in a nutshell, are the nine companies that will be on hand for WebInno41. If you’re going to be in Kendall Square on Monday you should come and check it out. You can register here and I hope you will.

WebInno38 Preview

It’s just a few hours until the latest WebInno. This one is number 38 if you’re keeping score at home and it’s focused on mobile innovation. It’s also a little different from past events in there will be two special speakers in addition to the usual main dish/side dish companies.

At 7:00, Wayne Chang, the founder of Crashalytics and Micah Adler, the founder of Fiksu (which, in the spirit of transparency, is one of our clients at InkHouse) will be discussing mobile distribution. It should be interesting.

Following their remarks it will be time for the main dish presentations. Only two this time.

FlightCar – Runs on (Car)ma. Aside from having a tagline that has me scratching my head, the company seems fairly straight forward. It’s kind of AirBnB meets ZipCar. Basically, you agree to rent your car in exchange for free parking. Here’s how it works. You agree to rent your car. When you get to the airport you bring it to a FlightCar parking lot and drop it off. They’ll drive you to the terminal in one of their cars. While you’re away they may rent out your car. If they do, you get $10 a day. If they don’t, you still get free parking. When you return you just give them a call and they’ll pick you up and reunite you with your car. They do background checks on all their renters and insure every car for ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

If you want to rent, you search the site for a car and input your driver information (so your background can be checked). FlightCar will pick you up at the airport and bring you to your rental. When you’re done you return it to their facility and get a ride to the airport.

It seems like a fairly solid idea. I’m more of a taxi when travelling kind of guy but I do hate, hate, hate dealing with those huge parking fees. Sure, most of the time I can expense it but I still hate being gouged regardless of who is paying. How do I feel about letting a stranger borrow my car? I’m cool with it. Just don’t reprogram the radio . . .

Sold – Let us sell it for you. There’s so much junk in my basement it’s terrible. I know when I left home in 1984 I didn’t have that much. My wife had a trunk of stuff when we met. Now the volume of stuff is mind boggling and shows no sign of slowing down. How does it happen? I have no idea. We deal with it through freecycle for the most part because dealing with selling is such a pain.

It sounds like Sold will make it much easier. There’s a handy app (iOS only, and here I just switched to Android . . .) that allows you to photograph items for sale. Sold deals with all the work. All you have to do is put the goods in one of their three different sized shipping boxes and schedule a pick up. All of it happens right in the app. It seems very cool to me.

Where is this stuff sold? What if the buyer has an issue with their purchase? Maybe if I had the app those questions would be answered. Actually, I just read the support section and it’s filled with good info. I like Sold. As soon as it comes to Google Play I’ll sign up and start unloading some of my crap. I mean my awesome stuff I don’t use any more.

There’s a bunch of side dish companies too of course:

CarCareCheck – Never blindly pay for car repairs. I’m terrible when it comes to understanding my car. It’s a diesel so I know it doesn’t have spark plugs but when it comes to the details I quickly lose interest. It wasn’t always the case, years ago my wife and I did most of the work on our cars ourselves. Of course that was 20 years ago and the cars in question were old VWs.

Today an unscrupulous mechanic could probably convince me I need to replace the unicorn hair in wigrooter. CarCareCheck will prevent me for overpaying for this much-needed service. Essentially a dongle gets plugged into the car that transmits data to an app, which in turn sends it to a super genius mechanic who lives in a castle on a cloud.

If a problem crops up, the app lets you know what it is, what it should cost to repair it and suggests local mechanics who can do the job. It costs $20 a year for the service so you’ll need to decide if you think your mechanic rips you off by more than that in a year. If the answer is “yes” you might want to sign up.

Drizly – For the entertainer. Oh. My. God. Alcohol delivery. What a wonderful idea. I live just west of their delivery area (in Natick, are you listening Drizly?) but am so excited about this.

Just the other night I was telling a friend about this time years ago. I was in college and living in this big house on Center Street in Coolidge Corner. A bunch of us were hanging out drinking gin and tonic. We finished a bottle and two of us hopped on our bikes to get some more. We were already kinda tipsy and on the way home the bag slipped out of my hand and the bottle smashed on the street. We were bummed (but we turned around and bought another!).

If Drizly had been around it would have saved the day! Of course if was probably 1986 so if Drizly had been around it would have been pretty amazing, what with no smartphones and all. I guess they could have had a fax-based system? Thank goodness for progress. And please, make it available in Natick. Oh, and on Android.

Polar – Have fun collecting and sharing opinions. This is a simple looking app that lets you create simple little polls. It’s kind of like hot or not for anything. It looks fun. Check it out. (I would have created one but there’s no Android version at the moment.)

Postwire – Postwire seems like a very cool thing. It’s like Pinterest with a purpose. Basically you can gather content from around the Web or your computer and display it on a Postwire page. These pages can be shared very narrowly or very broadly. It’s fairly easy to use and I can think of plenty of uses for it. The only bummer I found was that when I put in a URL it didn’t pull thumbnails from the site, giving me only generic icons. Another thing that is really impressive is that within minutes of setting up an account I got an email from them asking for a quick call. If I had the time I would have done it but am trying to get this wrapped up before heading into Cambridge.

Splashscore – The idea here is to reward you for your friends’ engagement around your Facebook posts. The more likes and comments you get the bigger the “splash.” The rewards come in the form of gift cards and product. I get the idea but what’s in it for Splashscore? What information about its users are they selling?

Splitwise – Split expenses with friends. I feel like I’ve seen this at a past WebInno but realize I must be mistaken. This is a good idea. I often forget about owing or being owed and when I remember it’s usually too late or too embarrassing to say anything. I remember years ago hanging out with my wife and a friend and we’d always screw this up. If the cost of something was $25 we’d often split it in half, realizing only later that we should have done thirds. Stupid math.

This would have helped out a lot. I have a ton of expenses these days that I need to split with people and they all end up being back of the envelope calculations that get stored in the recesses of my mind. This is a better approach.

WireOver – Unlimited file sending, for free. Dealing with large files is such a pain. They’re so easy to create these days but email chokes on them. Especially when you’re dealing with video. Forget it. Dropbox works well but there are steps and you don’t always know when it’s been seen. There are also those rare people that aren’t using Dropbox and don’t want to. (I don’t understand that at all.) I wish I could report that Wireover deals with all your file transfer problems but I’m on the beta list at the moment. What they promise sounds fantastic and I’m looking forward to trying it out. I have a huge slew of photographs I’m working on that I’m going to need to send to a client, I’m waiting for a bunch of sound files from an engineer – both seem like perfect tests for Wireover.

Well that’s all I have for you. If this post is disjointed it’s because I’ve been working on it in little bits of time throughout the day. It’s time to head out now though or I’m going to be late. See you at the Sonesta!

WebInno37 Preview

Some people mark the passage of time by an annual rite of award ceremonies, others by the coming and going of sports or television seasons. Me? I measure by WebInno events and it’s hard to believe that it’s already time for another one! Hard to believe but true nevertheless. Tonight is WebInno37 and if you’re in Kendall Square you might want to stop by. You can register here.

As always, the event will feature a mix of ‘main dish’ companies, which will have five or seven minutes to present to the gathered masses and ‘side dish’ companies that will join the ‘main dish’ presenters in demoing before and after the presentations.

One of the things that stands out for me about WebInno37 is the inclusion of Timbre as a main dish company. They were a side dish back in September for WebInno35/Rocket and are the first company (that I can think of at least) that has appeared as both so quickly. Given how awesome they are, it makes sense. But here I am getting ahead of myself! Let’s get a little more organized, shall we?

Here’s my take on the companies that will be participating in WebInno37, starting with the main.

Timbre – The Band Discovery App That Lets Music Find You – Like I said above, these guys were at WebInno a few months ago. I thought they were the coolest company at the event. There’s no reason to think they’re any less cool now. What do they do and what makes them cool, you ask? They let you know what’s happening in terms of music around you. It’s an app (iOS only at the moment) that uses geolocation and a content feed (from SeatGeek) to let you know what shows are happening around you.

You can specify a radius (from one to fifty miles) and it shows you band names in a really clean interface. If you touch a band name it brings up a new screen with album art if available (or a grey weave if not). This screen tells you where the band is playing. Touching it allows you to purchase tickets, share the show with friends and listen to/download a track from iTunes. It’s all very clean, clear and intuitive.

When I spoke to these guys at WebInno Rocket I asked about the ability to filter by venue and they explained it wasn’t something they were doing. Their rationale is that people should start with the music and go from there. I totally agree. If you’re into going out and finding new bands close by Timbre is for you. It’s awesome.

ThriveHive – Small Business Marketing Made Simple – A really good friend of mine recently started a kitchen design business, Discount Cabinets in Framingham. It’s been almost two years and things are really starting to pick up. He and I have talked about marketing a few times and it’s a big challenge. The most effective approach for him is to establish relationships with builders and contractors. This can lead to more sales but also has a longer sales cycle. Working directly with homeowners is faster but it’s hard to generate leads. Almost all his business is word-of-mouth at this point and it’s not something that can scale very easily.

ThriveHive looks pretty good. It looks like it’s designed for someone just like my friend. He works day and night and doesn’t know where to start when it comes to marketing. Taking this aspect out of the small businessperson’s set of responsibilities seems like a great idea.

I can only base my opinion on what I saw on the site but to me it all makes sense. I’m sending my friend a link to ThriveHive and will see what he thinks.

Ditto – Here’s everything I know about Ditto:

  • Ditto is a Facebook app
  • Ditto joined Facebook on February 6th
  • 40 people Like Ditto
  • I initiated the app on Facebook
  • I was unable to figure out how to engage with the app
  • It seems to have something to do with associating actions with images

They did get a nice (and very informative) write up by Scott Kirsner on Boston.com. His article makes what they’re doing sound very cool. I haven’t seen that coolness in action just yet but am hoping I will soon and that I’ll get a much better sense of what they’re up to when they present.

Aside from the main dish companies, there are a whole bunch of side dishes:

ChatterMob – Want Free Stuff? Join the Mob – Survey Monkey moves to Facebook. At least it kinda looks that way to me. What I found confusing about ChatterMob is that when you go to the homepage you see messaging about getting free stuff AND the service’s ability to “ask your target demographic anything.” I get it but it feels kind of muddled to me. It also requires connecting with Facebook and maybe it’s that I’m getting older but I’m just less interested in connecting everything through Facebook than I used to be.

JunkDrawer – Where your stuff goes – Finally, a new use for barcode scanning. I use them to add books to Goodreads but that’s about it. With JunkDrawer I can use them to collect info about all the junk I have. Sitting here in my office I was able to scan the bar codes from a small pack of Chips Ahoy cookies and a Mead 3 Subject College Ruled Notebook. Great.


Yeah, I was able to scan the bar codes of those cookies. And some Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Potato Chips.

The things I used it for are silly since I don’t have that much with bar codes right on my desk, but I can see utility here. As they suggest, you can get alerts related to the products you’ve scanned. I can imagine that having utility for recalls. You can connect this with Facebook if you want but I just signed up with the app itself. While I recognize the benefit it also feels like something else to remember to do and I don’t foresee myself scanning the codes for everything I own or buy.

Good Benefits – Workplace Giving is Now a Perk – This is a site that allows you to make corporate giving a more engaging program. I am all for it. I signed up but was only given the option to share it with my employer. Apparently, if I successfully refer Good Benefits to my company’s giving program administrator I will get $50 I can give to my favorite charity.

Within seconds of signing up I did get a nice email from Ryan Selkis, the founder of Good Benefits, with additional details. Basically, Good Benefits is a charitable savings account that can increase the amount contributed to a cause or charity by allowing small recurring contributions to be made – with employers matching dollar for dollar. I’m looking forward to talking to them because I am curious. It would be good to know what size organizations they’re targeting, for example.

Kuratur – Easily curate, customized, automated content magazines. In minutes. For free. – That is one confusing run of words. I think it’s the part “automated content” that makes me stumble. Or maybe it’s “content magazines.” Aren’t magazines content by their very nature? Why use both terms? Or are these magazines that feature automated content? It’s all very unclear based on that set of words.

Things didn’t get much clearer when I signed up. When you do (which can be done using Facebook, Twitter or email) you’re presented with a screen that gives you the option of adding a title and selecting an update frequency. You can also paste in Google Analytics or Chartbeat tracking codes. There’s a video to help “get up to speed fast.”

I watched the three-minute video that was pretty helpful. Of course it was a little more confusing since it refers to the output as Web pages. Which is it? Web pages, content or magazines?

Having played with it for a little while I like Kuratur. It’s pretty cool. The way it is being described needs to be improved a bit, as does the performance. I tried setting up a page/content/magazine and found it took several minutes to process and then populate the Web page/content/magazine. I’m going to chalk that up to it being early days. Here’s the one I made, based on my 1000faces project and on the hashtag 1000faces. It’s totally rudimentary but I can imagine all different ways Kuratur could be used. Very cool.

Nyopoly – Every time there’s a fashion/style-related company at WebInno I joke about being a pretty style-neutral person. That’s true to a degree; but I do actually really like shopping. I also like trying to get deals. Whenever I shop I ask for a discount. Never a big one, but offering $120 for a pair of shoes they want $130 for, things like that. Shockingly, no one ever agrees to my suggested pricing. Nyopoly seems to offer its members the opportunity to negotiate a “personal price on the most fabulous finds in fashion.” Alas, it looks like most of these finds are not for me. Such is life.

Splitzee – Splitzee is the fastest and most secure way to collect money online – When I heard the name I thought Splitzee was a way to split up a bill and get your friends to pay their portion. It turns out it’s more for collecting money for a cause or project. Say your kid’s third grade teacher did a really awesome job and when May rolls around everyone wants to pitch in to buy him tickets to a Red Sox game. Splitzee replaces emails, phone calls and those awkward knocks on the door. It’s all pretty simple and a solid idea.

TradeGrouper – Trade with People you Trust – First there was eBay, which allowed anyone to sell anything to anybody. eBay is awesome for a lot of people in a lot of situations. But for many people it seemed rife with scams and rip-offs. So people started turning to Craigslist, which replaced the mercantilism of eBay with a kinder, gentler, community-based approach to buying and selling. Now, for those among us for whom even Craigslist is too large a pool we have TradeGrouper. It limits buying and selling to specific groups or communities. Just friends for example, or colleagues. You have to be willing to accept a much smaller pool of potential purchasers. If you’re cool with that then TradeGrouper might make sense for you.

Well, there you have it, my preview of WebInno37. I’ll be there to see what I got right and what I got wrong. Hope you’ll be there too.

WebInnoMobile – the Day After

WebInnoMobile is one for the books and it sure was fun. I think my preview was pretty spot on.

Of the Main Dish companies, Mobee was my favorite. It’s a cool idea and I can see it making money. Basically, it allows businesses (quick serve restaurants to begin) in Boston (expanding to other cities in 2013) to have their customers report on very specific elements of their in-store experience. Things like speed of service, friendliness of greeting, general upkeep of the store, etc.

Responding to the questions takes just a minute and is done from an iPhone app. You do need to photograph your receipt in some cases (some of the “missions” require a purchase – others do not). As points are earned and saved they can be used to purchase giftcards, tickets and other items. It’s solid.

Directr was great too. It was my choice going in. The quality of the videos they allow people to make is high and the process that guides people to make them is brilliant. Some of the things I wondered about (audio, control) will be addressed in future versions.

Their demo was the best of the night. They created a quick video of themselves prepping – even including the start of their onstage demo – and had a turkey wheeled out on stage as they explained how the app works. It was well done and earned them the audience choice for the night. The business model is a little less clear but one can imagine how they’ll make money.

I can’t say the same for FanCred. I was a little unclear on the concept before the demo. Afterward I was really unclear. Maybe it’s because I’m not a super sports fan but the ability to judge the credibility of other fans isn’t that important to me. There are just so many sources for sports news and opinion that I kinda feel like I can get by on my own. Likewise it’s not that important to my identity to be viewed as really credible about the teams I follow. Again, it may be that this is important for more rabid fans but not for me.

All-in-all, it was a good evening. I wasn’t in as awesome a mood as I wish I’d been in but such is life. I had a beer, chatted with some friends, checked out some cool technology and took some photos. Can’t really complain.


Astaire and Rogers, chocolate and peanut butter, Pebbles and Bam Bam. Sometimes things come together in ways that are awesome – and that’s certainly the case for tonight’s combination of WebInno and MobileMonday, which will go under the moniker WebInnoMobile. It’s happening at the Royal Sonnesta in Kendall. You can still register here and if you’re at all interested in innovation, mobile and what’s happening in the Boston tech scene you probably should sign up right away!

To help prepare you for the awesomeness that will be WebInnoMobile, I’ve put together my preview of the participating companies. There are some very cool ones this time around and I’m really looking forward to checking them out in person.

Main Dish Presentations

directr – Your Life. The Movie – Not sure why there’s a period after “Your Life” but not after “The Movie.” It’s probably a design thing and it’s probably neither here nor there. Either way, directr is cool. It’s an iPhone app (I didn’t come across any evidence of an Android version) that makes creating and sharing clean little movies from your phone a breeze. I fiddled with it a bit and checked out plenty of movies other people posted. I love the idea. A lot. It really does encourage people to think about what they’re shooting and it provides a framework for organizing and presenting ideas through video. So far, so good.

At the beginning of a project, directr presents you either with a blank project or a pre-created storyboard. The storyboards offer video ideas (party, six things, public places check ins, etc.) and then suggest shots to create it. I selected “Six Things on My Desk” and got a storyboard outlining six shots that would run 24 seconds. The suggested shots included “reading anything good,” “personal effects” and “anything pretty.”

Here’s a link to my movie. It took just a couple of minutes to make.

There are a couple of areas that were less than fantastic. The apparent lack of audio is a biggie. There is audio, but it’s not the audio from what you’ve shot. It’s generally pleasant, well produced and innocuous but that’s it. I couldn’t figure out if there was any way to control transitions or select the music. It would be nice if there were.

The bottom line is directr is a fun little app that has promise but that could be a whole lot cooler.

Fancred – Your life as a sports fan. – This is a site designed to make the sports experience all it can be. It isn’t publically available yet (though if you follow the company on Twitter you may get an early invite). The fact that it’s still tucked away means I don’t have much to say. I like sports but I’m not sure I want or need another social destination focused on sports. I already follow teams and athletes I like on Twitter and use TeamStream, Eurosport and team apps as well.

Maybe when I see it in action I’ll feel differently but right now this is a big, “meh” for me.

Mobee – Rewarding You for Reviewing Businesses – Mobee confuses me. It seems to be trying to fit a lot into a single app. There are “missions” that encourage you to visit certain business: the “ask” is that you check in and write reviews and the promise is that you’ll get points and prizes as a result. Is this the merging of Yelp, Foursquare and deal sites? Is it an opportunity for businesses to employ the masses as secret shoppers? It could be any of these things – and probably more to boot.

I played with it a bit and some of the missions are pretty interesting. For example, if I visit the Dunkin’ Donuts up the street from my office and report on the speed of service I’ll get 100 points. The points can be collected and then spent on rewards. Here are a few examples of the point totals and rewards: 200 points gets a $2 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card, 5000 points gets a $50 iTunes gift card and 100,000 points gets two Green Monster seats.

It’s an interesting idea and they seem to have some solid partnerships in place. At the moment they’re limited to Boston but have plans to expand. I think the biggest issue here is how clearly Mobee is able to explain their value to both brands and consumers. It doesn’t really come across at the moment.

Side Dish Presenters

Bare Tree Media – Engaging fan-based communities through branded interactive entertainment – Bare Tree offers a publishing platform that allows the creation of branded games, apps, etc. This doesn’t seem like a new or novel idea at this point and the site is pretty bare bones. It didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in me, that’s for sure.

iJukebox – What’s your request? – This is kind of a cool idea. iJukebox allows customers to select the music playing at a bar or restaurant. The pitch is to businesses, encouraging them to sign up for the service and then offer it to their customers. It does seem like a lot of places have jukeboxes now that stream millions of songs so clearly there’s proof that the concept works. This seems to make it easier for people to select a song without having to walk all the way to the jukebox to put on music. It does depend on their having the app – but that’s not a big deal. It seems like a novel way to get patrons to engage around music. We’ll see.

Spogo – Don’t just watch. – For me, the name is a big turn off. I don’t know why but it is. The idea is simple (and, at the moment, very narrow): predict plays in football games and get rewards. According to a handy video on the site, some of the things you might predict could include “How many times will Gronk spike the ball today?” (Unfortunately, at the moment I say zero). The more you get right, the more points you get; points can then be used for food and drinks at places like the Pour House, Remy’s, Game On, etc. It seems OK, like gambling but for food and stuff. The guys on the site sure look like they’re having fun.

Thumbs Up – Social TV Platform. – Get more live viewers. Thumbs Up is a platform for polling viewers during live television programs. It can be integrated into an existing app to provide new, real-time insights into audience interest and attitudes. Seems cool and looks good.

PhysicalApps – Active fun with mobile apps. – This appears to be associated with TheO, a soft foam ball that holds a smartphone. PhyscialApps is a platform for building apps that encourage physical fun. The ball might be one element but there could also be others. I need to see it to understand.

Well, that’s the wrap. I’m looking forward to seeing all the companies tonight – as well as my WebInno pals one last time before the end of the world. I mean year, the end of the year.

WebInno 35/WebInno Rocket

We are hours away from ignition for the latest WebInno event – WebInno Rocket. I’m not sure if this counts as WebInno35 or if it should be seen as a completely separate and distinct event. Either way, I’m writing about it! While WebInno has always been focused on startups, Rocket is taking things in a slightly different direction. The event is going to feature three founders talking about their companies – and the companies in question are among the fastest growing here in the Boston area.

Bill Simmons of DataXu, Matt Lauzon of Gemvara and Dharmesh Shah of HubSpot will take to the stage to talk about their companies, their technologies and their experiences in creating successful and growing companies. Since this isn’t about which technology is the most gee-whiz, I’m not going to handicap them the way I usually do with the main dish companies. I have done a little cheat sheet though in case you’re (somehow) not familiar with them.

DataXu is all about making marketing more effective through the application of data. Working on the demand side, DataXu helps marketers improve advertising-driven customer acquisition program around the world. I’ve seen Bill at ad tech events in the past and am looking forward to hearing him at WebInno.

I’ll be honest: Gemvara isn’t a company I was familiar with. Maybe that’s because I don’t often find myself looking for custom jewelry. Clearly a lot of people are or Gemvara wouldn’t be doing as great as they are.

Now, while I’m not often in the market doesn’t mean I don’t deal with jewelers – and let me tell you they can be a frustrating lot to deal with. A while ago I bought my wonderful wife a ring from a company that I won’t name but whose color is iconic. The ring was a beauty – rubies and diamonds in a channel setting. When one of the diamonds became loose, the repair was going to cost essentially as much as the ring did in the first place. Maybe I should have checked with Gemvara before I bought . . .

Who doesn’t know HubSpot? These guys have written the book on inbound marketing – and they keep editing it to meet the needs of a changing market. They’ve also managed to attract some of the top, top talent in social marketing and are a real resource for the industry. Like Bill, I’ve seen Dharmesh here, there and everywhere and am looking forward to what he’ll show and tell this time.

So those are the three main stage companies and if that were all that was planned for the event it would be awesome; as late night announcers are fond of saying – but wait, there’s more!

In keeping with the tradition of bringing some of the newest companies and technologies to light, WebInno Rocket will feature six startups for our collective enjoyment. Here’s my take on each.

BRIGHTdriver – Just this morning I was thinking of my commute. Sitting in traffic sucks. It’s one of the biggest wastes of time ever. Ever. Thankfully I’m easily amused and have (thanks to Spotify) as much music as I want. BRIGHTdriver is hoping to help as well. They’re goal is to make “driving fun again!” through competitions and interactive games. I don’t know how much more competitive we need to make Boston-area drivers but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ve signed up for early access (the company is still in beta) so can’t say much more than that I’m looking forward to seeing their stuff.

Go Pro Workouts – Professional Strength & Fitness Training Programs – This is a cool idea. It offers aspiring athletes the ability to train for their sport using a program created by a top athlete in that sport. It’s not just a list of exercises though; there’s a tracker, advice and tips. It sounds really great. Unfortunately, when I looked through the list of sports and athletes I didn’t see any that fit my easy-like-Sunday-morning lifestyle. Come on Go Pro, I want some tips on improving my LZ (lazy quotient), there’s gotta be someone who can help!

Handybook – This is all about finding and booking handy and helpful people to deal with all those things that need to get done but that you’re too lazy to do (see above). Do I try to do all these things myself? About 60 percent of the time. Am I successful in completing the tasks I set out to do? About 40 percent of the time. Do I enjoy these kinds of household tasks? About 10 percent of the time. I think you can see why something like Handybook would appeal to someone like me. It’s not that I can’t do these things, or even that I don’t want to do them. I just get overwhelmed sometimes and having someone tackle the ones I can’t deal with would be a real treat.

MarketMeSuite – Inbox for Social – MarketMeSuite (the name is way too long and two internal caps – yikes!) dreams of being an “end-to-end social marketing solution.” The target is small businesses, likely the ones currently using Constant Contact. Unlike Constant Contact though, they don’t have millions of customers (yet). It’s possible that people will want either an alternative to Constant Contact or will like the fact that MarketMeSuite was created from the ground up with social in mind. It’s going to be a tough path.

Saverr – Grocery Price Comparison – Showrooming comes to Stop & Shop! The site content for Saverr is pretty light, but it suggests consumers “scan a receipt, compare its price, save money . . . do good!” That’s pretty much it. I wondered, how does scanning a receipt after I’ve made a purchase help me save money? How does it help me do good? It would have been great to see answers on the site. Maybe they’ll be able to shed some light on things tonight.

Timbre – As someone who totally loves music, I’m constantly wondering who’s playing around and whether I’ll like the show. The fact is I have kids and don’t live in Allston or Somerville anymore so going out takes planning. My wife or I end up going to club sites to see what’s going on but it’s not ideal. Timbre looks like it solves the problem. I already downloaded the app and love that I can see what’s happening around me for the next few days, listen to the bands to find ones I like and buy music or tickets. How cool is that? Of the companies exhibiting tonight they’re the one I can see myself using on an ongoing basis. Color me happy.

So that’s the scoop from my perspective for WebInno Rocket. To help you get in the mood yourself, here’s a playlist of rocket-inspired songs.

Rock out, have fun and I’ll see you there!