UK broadcaster Sky has announced details of a new Buy and Keep service as part of its Sky Store, which will allow customers to purchase digital copies of hundreds of movie titles.
However, unlike a straightforward digital download service, buyers will also receive a DVD version that will be sent out three to five days later. It forms sort of an insurance policy for people with unreliable or metered internet connections, or perhaps you just like collecting physical media still.
Sky tells TNW that the service will be available “in a few weeks”, and while it’s initially only available to Sky customers with a Sky+ HD box, it will also be available to non-Sky customers in the future via Sky Store.
French startup Creads raised $4.1 million (€3 million) from CM-CIC Capital Privé. Creads is an advertising agency powered by a marketplace of advertising jobs. As a company, you can submit your ad brief to the platform and set your requirements. As a creative freelancer or agency, you can work on those tasks. Eventually, Creads wants to become the dominant professional social network for creative people, a sort of Behance of advertising.
Today’s round is the first funding round for the company. Started in 2008, Creads now has 25 employees in three countries — France, Spain and Japan. It works with 50,000 creative people.
One of the company’s main strength is its hybrid model. Clients don’t have to deal with community members. Creads itself hires project managers who can foster the connection between Creads and its community. Clients only have to deal with Creads, as if it were a traditional creative agency. In fact, many creative people in the community are traditional advertising agencies. In that case, Creads is just a way to reach new clients.
The next step for the company is to open an office in the U.S. and gain market share on the American market. Creads just created a new English-first vertical in order to get English-speaking clients. Clients already come from 50 different countries.
Thanks to Creads’ large community, the company is able to work on a wide range of projects, from a new brand name, to a new logo, a website, a video and more. And with today’s funding round, the company will be able to handle even more projects at the same time.
Follow this link: Creads Raises $4.1 Million To Fuel International Growth
Hike, a cross-platform messaging app based in India, announced that it has received $14 million in new funding from BSB, a joint venture between Hike’s founder and SoftBank Corp. Hike first launched in December 2012 and received $7 million in its initial round of funding one year ago.
In a statement, Kavin Bharti Mittal, Hike’s founder, said that the new capital will be spent on accelerating user acquisition and hiring. Mittal is the son of Sunil Mittal, the founder of Airtel, India’s biggest carrier and the world’s second largest telecommunications company by subscribers. Hike is currently available worldwide on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, S40, and S60.
Hike says its app reached 15 million users earlier this year, mostly in India. That number represents a growth rate of three times over the prior nine months.
With the worldwide glut of mobile messaging services and the recent acquisitions of WhatsApp and Viber, it might seem as if there is no more room for yet another small competitor. But Hike believes it still has room for massive growth within just its domestic market.
In a statement, Mittal said, “There are still less than 100 million active mobile Internet users in India, out of a population of 1.2 billion people. India remains a very large, untapped and extremely diverse market and that’s what we’re building for.”
Features created to help Hike reach users in India include Hike2SMS, or free SMS credits each month, for featurephone users. Other things like status updates, stickers, and chat themes were created to appeal to younger people. Hike says that over 80% of its current users are under age 25.
Hike is not just focusing on India. The company previously told TechCrunch that it plans to aggressively expand its language support each month as it competes with Line and other messaging apps in markets like Europe and LatAm.
ClearStory Data, a company that wants to bring data intelligence to the masses, has raised $21 million in Series B funding led by DAG Ventures with Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers participating. The round brings ClearStory Data’s total funding to $31.5 million.
ClearStory Data wants to make it easy to gather and explore diverse, dispersed sets of data from internal data sources, corporate data sources, Hadoop and the Web to help business users to gain insights and discover new business opportunities. ClearStory analyzes data from a number of sources, both public and private, to uncover new trends and patterns. The result of this is the discovery of new business opportunities and deeper intelligence around what’s is and isn’t working.
The company’s platform integrates internal and external data using an in-memory database technology. This can be relational or NoSQL data, point-of-sale information or demographic statistics from external sources. ClearStory maintains that it gives companies an advantage by processing multiple types of data on the fly with a modern, visual user interface that people can access.
For example, Yogurt-maker Dannon is using ClearStory to bring together data to collaborate on the analysis of the company’s supply chain.
The company was co-founded by Aster Data (acquired by Teradata) alums John Cieslewicz and Vaibhav Nivargi. Fellow founder and CEO Sharmila Mulligan worked previously at Netscape, Kiva Software, Opsware (acquired by HP) and Aster Data. ClearStory also announced that former Google SVP, Shona Brown, who was instrumental in building Google’s business and people operations, joins the company’s Board of Directors.
In terms of competition, ClearStory
Ari Meisel is a serial entrepreneur and the author of ”Less Doing, More Living: Make Everything in Life Easier.”
No matter how technologically efficient you become, if you aren’t sleeping or eating well, and you have too much stress, there is a limit to how effective you can be.
That’s why wellness is the cornerstone of my productivity system, Less Doing. I see optimal health as a triangle with sleep, nutrition, and fitness at the points and supplements in the middle. You need all of these elements and in you have to apply limited resources to the entire triangle.
For example, if you get a bad night of sleep for one reason or another, you have to make the conscious decision to avoid working out the next day because you’ll only be doing harm to your body. By that same token if you are eating lots of wild caught fish and getting adequate sunlight, you make be able to skip out on a fish oil and vitamin D supplement.
Your food should fuel your life for whatever you want to do, whether that’s having the energy to play with your kids or do Crossfit. The best way I know to fuel the body and mind is with good fats.
Things like avocados, olive oil, grass fed butter, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, coconut oil, and raw nuts and seeds provide you with satisfying, mental clarity providing, and delicious fats. Most of the cells in our bodies can run on glucose from sugar and ketones from fats.
Ketones provide a fuel that doesn’t cause inflammation and provides a more sustainable burn. And in case I wasn’t clear, you will feel smarter when your brain is getting adequate fats.
It’s the first place I start with people when they are looking to change the way they eat. This is not Atkins or paleo, this is high fat, low sugar. You will naturally cut back on carbs and protein (which also turns to sugar in your liver by the way) because you will be so satiated.
In terms of efficiency, becoming fat adapted means you can skip a meal if things get busy and you won’t even bat an eye. I personally eat between 11 am and 8 pm every day, which means the morning rush to get my three kids out of the house, dressed (hopefully), and with proper lunches, is much less stressful because I don’t have to stop and have breakfast or even get distracted thinking about it.
Generally, there are three supplements I highly recommend for full productivity. Most people are vitamin D deficient because we work indoors, wear clothes, and avoid the sun as much as possible. Couple that with that fact that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and most people don’t consume adequate fats and you’ve got a pretty good case to start taking 5,000 IU of D3 every day.
Start taking a good probiotic with at least 50 billion units of a variety of strains in it. You have to do some experimentation to see which ones work best for you because everyone’s microbiome is different and thus different strains will interact differently with your internal ecosystem.
The third supplement is Krill Oil, which comes from tiny little shrimp and provides more bioavailable Omega 3 fatty acids than your typical fish oil. Krill is anti inflammatory, can help manage blood sugar and will fuel a healthy brain.
- Thryve Food Tracker: a food tracker that helps make you aware of how your food makes you feel
- Inside Tracker: Blood test tracker that recommends food according to nutrients you lack
- Food Sense: a free app that uses heart rate measures to show you foods that cause you to have negative reactions
- Activated Charcoal: filter out toxins after a night of drinking or bad food, you’ll thank me
Learn your cycle and then use that to figure out the best time to go to sleep and wake up. Most people have an average sleep cycle of 90 minutes where they go from light sleep to deep sleep and eventually REM sleep before coming back up through the phases to light sleep again.
You want to wake up at the lightest point in your sleep and you can use your sleep tracker info along with a website like Sleepyti.me to figure out the best time to hit the hay so you wake up refreshed and ready for the day.
The easiest sleep hack there is has to do with blue lights. Blue lights come from your iPad, TV, computer screen, and most modern lighting. Blue light tells your body it’s day time, raises your cortisol levels (stress hormone) and decreases your melatonin (sleep hormone).
While I could tell you to avoid all of those things for an hour before bed, that’s crazy to me since you could use that hour very effectively. Get a $8 pair of wayfarer blue blocking sunglasses on Amazon and put those on. Then you can look at all of those screens and still have a great nights rest.
If you want to take it a step further you can go with my office setup, but that’s a little too geeky for most.
- Sleepyti.me: figure out the best times to go to sleep and wake up
- Sleep Cycle: iPhone-based sleep tracker app that relies on the phone’s accelerometer
- Blue blocking sunglasses: protect your melatonin
- f.Lux: free download that automatically adjusts the color temperature of your computer screen to reduce blue light exposure
- Philips Hue Bulbs: app-controlled LED light bulbs that can emit every color of the rainbow, red will help you be more productive
When it comes to fitness, everyone has different needs.
When I talk about about fitness I want people to get the movement they need to feel energized and vibrant. Less is definitely more and for me, optimal fitness comes in three parts.
You need one part that is a strength/skill which can be olympic weightlifting, martial arts, or a specific sport. Basically something that gets you moving but is really about reshaping new neural pathways because you are learning and perfecting physical action.
The second part is High Intensity Interval Training. The best version is the Tabata Interval: you basically work as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then take 10 seconds rest. You repeat that eight times for a total of four minutes.
Now the work can be anything you want, sprinting, swimming, push ups, jump rope, whatever you want but you have to red line. It has to burn and it will never get easier. However, the metabolic, fat loss, and even meditative effects of this short burst workout can rival that of an hour spent in a spin class.
The final and most essential part is mobility where you really take care of the joints and muscles that will carry you into old age. Yoga, tai chi, foam rolling, even a massage are great ways to keep your parts well oiled and functioning properly.
- Basis Watch: an incredibly advanced activity tracker that will even give you skin temperature readings
- Stress Check: a free app that measures heart rate variability to determine the state of your nervous system and give you a barometer for deciding how hard to train that day
- CNS Tap Test; a different kind of nervous system check that has you tap the screen as many times as possible in a set amount of time
These are some of my favorite resources for living healthfully in our technological world. What are some of your favorite gadgets and apps to optimize wellness?
Go here to see the original: The wellness trifecta: Tech resources to optimize your diet, sleep, and fitness
Historically, creating an accurate 3D model of a physical space has been a time-consuming and expensive process that cost tens of thousands of dollars and required teams of people and days, if not weeks, to complete. But a startup called Matterport has dramatically changed that, with a $4500 camera that the company says can capture fully immersive 3D models of physical objects and spaces in a matter of minutes. And according to Matterport, the device can be operated by pretty much anyone who knows how to use an iPad — making 3D modeling more accessible than ever.
It’s a pretty impressive claim, so we invited Matterport to stop by TechCrunch headquarters to show us just how the camera works by creating a 3D map of our TechCrunch TV green room. You can see that in the video embedded above.
In an interview, Matterport’s CEO Bill Brown told me that there are three categories of people who they expect will most benefit from the product: Customers who want to document spaces, such as people managing construction projects or setting up remote factories; people who want to promote a space such as real estate agents or entertainment venue owners; and people who want to modify and redesign spaces by changing out flooring or furniture.
And while Matterport’s current camera is impressive in its form factor and ease of use, Brown says that this is just the beginning — and that very soon, Matterport’s system could be something that fits into your smartphone. “Matterport was started with the vision that eventually everybody is going to have a 3D sensor in their pocket. When we get to that day, you are no longer going to take 2D pictures,” he said.
He went on to note that with projects like Google’s Project Tango (with which Matterport has collaborated), this technology is being pushed forward even faster than they had initially expected. “We’re not going to be surprised if you start to see the first [mobile 3D imaging] devices toward the end of this year, and within a couple years, it will be pretty commonplace.”
Matterport’s latest camera might not be quite small enough to fit in your pocket, but for now it definitely lived up to the hype. The entire process of capturing the image took less than 20 minutes, and Matterport sent over the completed 3D map that could be navigated through within just a couple of hours. We included the footage of that model in the video above, and you can also see a video of a fly through of the model here:
Read the rest here: Watch How Matterport’s Camera Captured A 3D Model Of TechCrunch HQ
Less than two years ago, Oculus raised 2.5 million dollars on Kickstarter.
Yesterday, they were acquired by Facebook for $2 billion.
To write the words “A Brief History Of Oculus” is a bit funny — because really, the company’s very existence has been brief. From the launch of their Kickstarter campaign to their massive acquisition, just 601 days had passed.
The company has definitely generated its fair share of buzz in its short lifespan — and yet, many, many people are hearing about the team for the very first time this week.
For those people, and for everyone who might’ve missed some details along the way, here’s their story so far.
Around the age of 15, Palmer Luckey started to fall in love with the concept of virtual reality.
By day, he attended classes at the local community college. By night, he was the founder and admin of ModRetro, a community dedicated to modifying vintage gaming consoles. Taking a N64 and making it portable; contorting an Xbox into a package half its original size — that sort of thing.
If there’s anything that videogames have taught gamers to love, it’s collecting things — the rarer, the better. Palmer’s favorite thing to pick up? Early attempts at virtual reality headsets.
Throughout the late 80s and 90s, dozens of companies tried to turn VR headsets into commercial success. All of them failed — hard. Some were too expensive; most just didn’t work worth a damn. All of them were far too ahead of their time (with components being far too expensive to source, and most home computers being far too weak to power anything worth playing.)
Sourcing his collection everywhere from industry liquidation sales to government auctions and carting himself out to the seller to avoid paying for shipping, he’d get his hands on headsets that once cost nearly $100,000 for less than $100. By his own estimates, Palmer has the largest private collection of virtual reality headsets in the world.
Around the age of 16, Palmer took on a new hobby: building headsets of his own. Unhappy with the performance of everything he’d obtained, he set out to build something better. Some of the prototypes were pieced together from his collection; others were modified versions of displays other enthusiasts had put together; others were built entirely from off-the-shelf pieces.
Even then, though, it wasn’t entirely clear that there was a company in the making. He was attending classes at Cal State Long Beach, pursuing a journalism degree. Meanwhile, he worked as an engineer at USC’s Mixed Reality lab, experimenting with VR and head-mounted displays.
You never know who you’re going to meet wandering around the Internet.
In Palmer’s case, a random crossing of digital paths made a connection that would very quickly define the company, raising it from “some crazy smart dudes building VR goggles in a garage” to something that just about everyone in the industry was keeping an eye on.
Lurking around yet another forum, Palmer found himself chatting with John Carmack — the John Carmack. As in, co-founder of id Software; the lead programmer of Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Quake. When it comes to gaming giants, most of’em sit comfortably within Carmack’s shadow.
As luck had it, Carmack had been playing with the idea of whipping up some VR goggles of his own, modifying a headset he had on hand. Palmer mentioned the prototypes he’d built.
As he told Eurogamer last year:
“… He ended up seeing my head-mounted display work and asked me, ‘Hey, what you have looks interesting – is there any chance I could buy one?’ He’s John Carmack,” Luckey snorts, “I just gave him one instead – you can’t turn him down.”
That was, perhaps, the best decision Luckey could have made. A few months later, Carmack was at E3 demonstrating one of Luckey’s prototypes — a hulk of duct tape and whatever components were convenient — to anybody who would watch.
Suddenly, this thing wasn’t just a passion project anymore. The Internet was suddenly on fire with talk of “Carmack’s new virtual reality project” — though Carmack wouldn’t officially join the company for over a year.
Something was happening. Almost overnight, it had become shockingly clear: if there was a time for Palmer to do this, to really do this, it was now.
Within weeks, just past halfway to his journalism degree, Palmer dropped out of college to start a company. In June of 2012, Palmer formed OculusVR.
When Palmer first started thinking about Kickstarting a virtual reality headset — long before he met Carmack, long before he ever formed a company — he hoped he’d get 100 or so enthusiasts to back his project.
“I won’t make a penny of profit off this project, the goal is to pay for the costs of parts, manufacturing, shipping, and credit card/Kickstarter fees with about $10 left over for a celebratory pizza and beer.” wrote Palmer in early 2012.
Then came the endorsements from Carmack. Other industry titans, like Gabe Newell of Valve, threw their support behind the project. Thoughts of selling just 100 headsets went out the window.
On August 1st of 2012, Oculus launched their Kickstarter campaign. For a company with such ambitious (if newfound) plans — to revive an entire genre, to succeed where so many had failed only a decade ago — they had a rather modest campaign goal: $250,000. That’s less than some of those 90′s VR headsets from Palmer’s collection cost when they flopped onto the market.
Within 24 hours, they’d raised $670,000 from 2,750 people.
Within three days, they’d broken a million dollars.
(For reference: Around the time the Kickstarter ended, Oculus had 10 employees. By the time they sold to Facebook, they were at 100.)
Now, they weren’t using Kickstarter to pitch some incredibly polished, perfectly refined virtual reality headset that they’d somehow conjured out of thin air.
This was something… else. Something rougher. It was much, much prettier than that old duct-tape-tastic E3 prototype, mind you — but, with relatively weak specs and a chunky design, it wasn’t something they meant to sit on store shelves.
Instead, this first release was meant for developers and early adopters to get their feet wet with VR. To cleanse the palate of any bad taste left by the headsets of yesteryear. To get people building things in VR.
This dev kit (or Oculus Rift DK1, as it came to be known) gave most people their first glimpse at Oculus’ potential, and it made one thing clear: this little $350 dollar headset was already better than everything that came before it. But it wasn’t perfect.
Its low resolution screen (combined with magnification lenses that helped wrap the image around your view) made even the most beautifully rendered 3D environment look dated. It was like you were sitting too close to an old TV, or staring at the display through a screen door (aptly, this shortcoming quickly came to be known as “the screen door effect”)
This initial headset also lacked a feature that only really seems important once you notice it’s not there: positional tracking. While the headset’s sensors could keep tabs of how your head was angled (are you looking up? Down? Turned to the left?), it had absolutely no idea where your head was from moment to moment. You could look down at an object — but if you tried to lean in for a closer view, your in-game character did nothing. Bam! Immersion shattered.
Meanwhile, complaints of the headset causing motion sickness weren’t rare. That low-res screen, the early software, the lack of positional tracking — it all swirled together into something that managed to make some people’s inner-ears flip out and their stomaches turn.
Despite the flaws, Oculus managed to sell every last one of these headsets that they could make. They’d sourced enough components to make around 65,000 units of this first iteration — on February 21st of 2014, they officially sold out.
Could they have made more? Yes. But that would mean taking the time to source components for a now out-of-date product, as they were just weeks away from the debut of…
On the morning of March 19th (just one week before the Facebook acquisition) Oculus began accepting pre-orders for their second hardware release.
It still isn’t the exact product that Oculus intends to ship to consumers, but it’s close.
Based on a prototype that Oculus had started showing a few months prior, Developer Kit 2 (or DK2) fixed or improved upon many of the original headset’s flaws.
That old low-res display? They bumped it up considerably, from 640×800 in each eye to 960×1080 — increasing the overall pixel count by over 100%. That “screen door” effect isn’t completely gone, but it’s much, much less noticeable.
As for the motion sickness? Oculus figured out that much of it was triggered by the display’s tendency to blur motion. They countered this in three ways:
Most significantly, they introduced an entirely new piece of hardware to the mix: an external camera. By using this camera to track an array of cleverly hidden infrared LEDs built into the DK2 headset, they were now able to detect not just how your head was angled, but where it was. Things like leaning in and out to read text, or to peek around a corner, or over a ledge, were suddenly possible for developers to support.
Barely one year passed between Oculus shipping their first developer kits (March 29th, 2013) and the start of pre-orders for version 2 (March 19th, 2014), but a ton happened in that time.
Before the acquisition, Oculus had two big checkboxes left on their to-do list: to ship all of those pre-orders they got for the second development kit, and, eventually, to finalize and ship the consumer product.
With yesterday’s news that Facebook has bought them, however, they’ve given themselves a huge new challenge: to keep people on their side.
One of Oculus’ biggest strengths has always been in the way that people perceived it. You just wanted to root for them — and how could you not? It’s the tech world’s favorite tale: a brilliant whiz-kid turns his garage project into a company, makes millions.
Add in the fact that the company launched on Kickstarter, and Oculus had seemingly locked in its cred as something “homegrown”. Something “indie” — even when they went on to raise nearly $100M from traditional venture capitalists.
So of course, them being acquired by Facebook was met with backlash from some of their biggest fans. To them, Oculus was like their favorite band — and this was them “selling out”.
Within hours of the announcement, the top post on reddit was a drawing of reddit’s mascot laying flowers on Oculus’ grave. Many pledged to cancel their DK2 orders, and instructed others on how to do the same. Notch, the creator of Minecraft, immediately (and quite publicly) killed the company’s plans to build an Oculus version.
Oculus insists that they’ll remain absolutely independent at Facebook, publishing not one, not two, but three posts saying as much. When I sent the company an email with a few questions for this article, I (in haste) used the word “exit” to describe the acquisition, and they immediately took issue with the term. “This is not an exit,” they wrote back. “Oculus stays independent.”
Their challenge now is to somehow convince the world of this.
The best thing Facebook could do here? Keep their hands off of it for a (long) while. Throw money at it, but keep their branding and influence at bay (No one, and I mean no one, wants a Facebook-branded VR headset.) Let them ship the hardware they’ve promised, and to make what they ship better than anything they’ve promised so far. If this is a long term play, Facebook’s short term strategy should be to stay the hell away.
Intel has just announced its acquisition of Basis Science, the hot wearable technology company based in San Francisco. As TechCrunch first reported, the startup went to the chipmaker for around $100 million. The startup will be part of Intel’s new devices group.
As today’s announcement stresses, this move accelerates Intel’s move into the wearable space. At the company’s CES press conference, Intel unveiled a wide range of devices and ambitions. Acquiring Basis puts this dream of embedded chips closer to reality.
The Basis band will continue to be sold and supported.
The Basis team will join Intel’s new device’s group. Founded in May of 2013, this is the division within Intel that focuses on wearable computing and connected devices. Apparently Basis is happy with the arrangement.
Basis notes on its blog that its momentum would be amplified by Intel’s “technical, manufacturing, global reach and support resources.”
“The acquisition of BASIS Science provides immediate entry into the market with a leader in health tracking for wearable devices,” Mike Bell, Intel vice president and general manager of the company’s New Devices Group, said in a released statement. “As we accelerate our position in wearables, we will build upon this foundation to deliver products that bring people greater utility and value. I’m confident that our collective resources and expertise positions us well for the future.”
In early February, TechCrunch had heard that Basis was shopping itself around the Valley for some time and ended up at Intel. Apparently Basis had talked to Google, Apple and possibly Samsung and Microsoft about a potential sale. If it had not sold, sources told TechCrunch that the company would have to close a C round of funding.
Basis was founded by Nadeem Kassam, Bharat Vasan, and Marco Della Torre in early 2011, receiving $32.3 million in funding, including a Series B round of $11.8 million that included funding from Intel Capital.
Today’s Y Combinator Demo Day started a little differently. Co-founder Jessica Livingston presented YC’s former leader and her husband Paul Graham with a pair of his own shorts signed by all of this batch’s companies to commemorate Graham passing the torch on to new YC president Sam Altman. And then the pitching began.
68 companies will have presented by the end of today’s Demo Day to a crowd of salivating investors. Check out our review of batch one; below is a look at the second batch of 17 startups:
Zesty – Healthy Food Delivery
Zesty wants to beat Seamless GrubHub and other food-delivery services by trimming the fat. Literally. The service lets businesses and individuals order only the healthiest menu items from well-rated local restaurants. Users can see photos and calorie counts for everything Zesty sells. Its in-house dieticians even work with restaurants to make their cooking practices healthier.
Zesty will have to beat established incumbents, as well as new food startups like SpoonRocket, Munchery, and Sprig, but its revenue grew 25X this year to a $2.5 million a year run rate. Here’s how the business model works. It costs Zesty about $500 to sign up a large business customer, who will then spend $100,000 a year, netting Zesty $15,000 from its 15 percent commission. That means it pays back its customer acquisition cost in just 12 days. As businesses compete for talent, having healthy, tasty food like Google is a huge talking point. Plus, healthy foods leads to productive employees. Read more from TechCrunch about Zesty.
42: Understand offline POS data
Analytical software for online purchases isn’t hard to find. 42 wants to build similar tools for offline sales, which make up 93 percent of total retail sales.
The company has already locked down a few high-profile clients. 42 charges per store per month, with a $10,000 price tag quoted by the company. Essentially, 42 is bringing sales-facing analytics SaaS to the rest of the world that hasn’t yet moved online.
Vidpresso – Replacing TV Station Hardware With Software
TV broadcasters currently use racks of expensive, single-purpose hardware to run their on-screen graphics, tickers and ads. That’s because software was too unreliable. But Vidpresso’s $500 a month software can run off a cheap Mac Mini, saving stations tons of money. CNN already used Vidpresso to power its social media ticker during its New Year’s Eve broadcast, has other clients around the world, and is growing 26 percent per month. Vidpresso sees software eating hardware and wants to do the same for the television industry. Read more from TechCrunch about Vidpresso.
StyleLend: Lend and borrow fashion items with other locals
Fashion is expensive, so StyleLend wants to make it affordable. The company helps local people lend and borrow dresses from each other. It calls this monetizing the closet.
In the company’s estimation, there is $50 billion worth of fashion items in closets in the U.S. The service has grown 26 percent per week recently, though, only in San Francisco. Unlike Rent The Runway, StyleLend leans on an extant supply of items, limiting its cost structure.
The Dating Ring – Matchmaker-Assisted Online Dating
“Dating should work like Uber, and with The Dating Ring, it does,” says the startup’s co-founder. Currently, dating online is a big hassle. You sift through profiles or Tinder cards, approve some people, wait for a match, and make chit chat. If you’re lucky, it progresses to a real date, but then your partner might look nothing like your partner.
With The Dating Ring, you apply to join. Pass the first bar and you’ll meet in-person with a Dating Ring matchmaker for five minutes. They’ll assess your style and open the ability to go on group dates with three men and three women (or a group of four for gay users). But unlike Grouper, a matchmaker has ensured you’re more likely to fall for one of your date mates. Users pay $25 for the initial matchmaker meeting and $20 per date. The Dating Ring certainly made a stir when it announced plans to crowdfund planes full of women to be delivered from New York City to lonely San Francisco guys.
The Dating Ring’s revenue is growing 60 percent per month for the last six months, it’s profitable, and 70 percent of users go on a second date. While only $2 billion a year is spent in the space, The Dating Ring wants to grow the pie. It seems reasonable that people would be willing to pay for love…or at least to go on real, match-made dates instead of endlessly browsing profiles online. Read more from TechCrunch about The Dating Ring.
Unbabel: Human-cleaned machine translation
Unbabel offers a fusion of machine and human translation that it claims can offer similar quality to human translation for 2 cents per word. That price point is five times lower than the industry standard, according to the company.
Unbabel translators — there are 4,400 so far — are five times as fast as human translators working without technological help. According to the company, translation is a $34 billion market, a figure that it thinks will grow now that translation is both cheaper and better.
Pushbullet – Synced Cross-Web And Mobile Push Notifications
It’s crazy that when you’re at your computer, you still have to open your phone to look at push notifications. Pushbullet syncs them so you can respond on the device you’re currently using, including the web thanks to a Chrome/Firefox extension. You can even send files back and forth between your phone and computer. But Pushbullet also lets you turn changes on websites and more into push notifications, even if a site doesn’t have a mobile app. For example, you could ask to get an alert the next time Nike puts a new line of shoe on sale.
Pushbullet is now handling 10 million notifications a day for 100,000 weekly users and 60,000 daily users. Push is quickly becoming the most powerful way to reach people and is eating email’s lunch. Pushbullet could hit the bullseye by enhancing the standard and bringing it to more devices and sites. Read more from TechCrunch about Pushbullet.
CodeCombat - A Multiplayer Game That Teaches Programming
Wit.ai – Voice Interface API
Voice is how we’ll control devices too small for a keyboard, like watches, earbuds, and much of the “Internet Of Things.” But it’s a ton of work for a developer to build their own voice system, with natural language processing, speech recognition, and other engineering requirements. So Wit.ai has created a voice interface API, and developers can pipe into their app to enable voice command. That could let them offer in-app voice search, hardware control without buttons, and more. The co-founder sold his last company to speech tech giant Nuance, and now Wit.ai has 3,000 developer-users like Pebble and Samsung and is growing 29 percent per week. Every app will soon need speech tech, and any startup that can offer an alternative to big providers like Nuance or (maybe) Google will be in a great position for traction or acquisition. Read more from TechCrunch about Wit.ai.
AirHelp: Stick it to the airline
AirHelp wants to help fliers get compensation that they are legally entitled to after an airline screws up and is late, or cancels their flight. The total dollar amount this sums to each year is $16 billion. And you can go back three years, meaning that there is another $48 billion potentially sitting there.
AirHelp handles the details. You put in your flight number, and if you can get paid, they’ll handle it. The company takes a one-fourth cut if it gets you money back. Not a bad business model unless you are an airline.
MadeSolid: Builds the stuff that goes into 3D printers
MadeSolid wants to make the materials that go into your 3D printer better. In its view, the better the stuff that you put in, the better the stuff will come out.
The market is reacting well to its products, with its revenue growing at 16 percent per week on products that can have margins up to 80 percent. The company has shipped to more than 20 countries. 3D printing is a growing revolution that is not going away, so making the stuff that the people behind the dials will use isn’t a bad idea.
BellaBeat: Watch the heartbeat of your unborn kid
BellaBeat is a sensor and app that lets mothers of unborn children track the heartbeat of their child to be and keep an eye on its development. BellaBeat also includes a community for moms to interact and share their kids’ progress.
The device, which costs $129, has margins of a high enough level that the presenting founder was too “ashamed” to admit them. The company sold “thousands” in Europe, and in its first three weeks here in the United States has sold 3,000 units and signed 12 distribution deals. Quantified baby. It’s going to be big.
OneDegree: Yelp For Social Services
This is a nonprofit organization that is seeking to revolutionize the way that people reach social services. It helps low-income families get the help they need by pointing them to the right resources. There are more than 46 million people living under the poverty line today, so this is a big problem seeking a big solution.
The problem for many of these families is that there are too many social services to choose from. There are 6,000 local resources in San Francisco alone, but they all live on paper and are difficult to find on the web or on mobile. One Degree, in contrast, can provide personalized recommendations for services that they’re trying to reach.
Learn more about One Degree on TechCrunch.
Povio: The Polite Photo Messaging App
This is a messaging app that has already taken over the Slovenian market, and now the team behind it wants to take over the U.S. Unlike other photo messaging apps, which are push-based, Povio requires users to connect via text before they start sending photos.
After becoming bigger than Snapchat in Slovenia, the team came to the U.S. and did a test with students at the University of Santa Clara. It got 1,200 students to sign up, half of which use the app every single day. Now it’s looking to grow that user base on other campuses.
Read more about Povio here.
Rickshaw: An API For Deliveries
This startup offers same-day delivery as a service, helping other companies to launch on-demand services without having to deal with all the headaches of running a logistics business. No hiring drivers, scheduling routes, or dealing with customers.
Instead, Rickshaw turns deliveries into an API call. It makes deliveries on behalf of its customers, allowing them to focus on their core business. As it gets more customers, it can be scaled up and offer even better services based on economies of scale. In short, it hopes to do for the offline world what Amazon Web Services did for online services.
Zidisha: Kiva For Now
Zidisha is a micro-lending platform for developing nations that takes advantage of advances in online marketplaces and the ability to reach small businesses that are seeking funding. Unlike Kiva, which charges high interest rates due to partnering with banks, Zidisha hopes to reach borrowers directly.
As a result, the platform is able to offer an interest rate of 10 percent versus the 30 percent to 80 percent for other services. It’s already signed up $1.8 million in loans to 5,000 small businesses in Africa and hopes to sign up more.
Read more about Zidisha on TechCrunch.
Rocketrip: Rewarding Employees For Saving Money On Business Travel
Rocketrip is a company that helps businesses to save money on business travel that their employees book. To do so, it provides a platform that estimates the amount of money that employees should spend. It then rewards them by giving gift cards and other perks that are 50 percent of the money they saved.
By doing so, Rocketrip is saving companies that use its platform 24 percent off the travel bills that they would otherwise spend. Customers pay Rocketrip 10 percent of the savings, but it actually makes more money processing rewards for third-party partners.
You can read more on TechCrunch here.
Read more from the original source: Y Combinator Demo Day Winter 2014, Batch 2 – The Dating Ring, Unbabel, Pushbullet, AirHelp, And More
The tech press can make it seem like the most important people in the industry are those with “founder” or “chief” in their job titles. The stories of companies such as Facebook and Twitter are almost exclusively told by focusing on the Mark Zuckerbergs and Dick Costolos of the world.
But the truth is, the people who really make the tech industry tick aren’t the CEOs. They’re the backend engineers, data scientists, product managers, UX designers, marketers, and others. Companies scramble to hire top-tier people in these roles, and will do just about anything to retain them once they’re there. Insiders know that these people are the real VIPs. They just don’t often show up in TechCrunch headlines.
That is, until now.
TechCrunch TV is thrilled to launch a new series called Inside Jobs dedicated to giving in-depth looks at the key people beyond the C-suite, to find out who they are, what they do, and how they got there.
We had such a positive response to our Inside Jobs pilot that aired back in November, which profiled Pinterest’s then-director of engineering Jon Jenkins, that we’re bringing it back for a special 12 week run. For the next dozen Mondays starting today, Inside Jobs will profile the men and women who do some of tech’s most critical jobs.
If you ask anyone at Medium who the company’s key employees are, Pete Davies’ name will likely crop up near the top of the list. But “product scientist” is one of those classic tech company job titles that usually elicits a blank stare and polite nod when it’s the answer to the “What do you do?” question at a party. So it was fascinating to meet Pete Davies in person and find out what exactly it is that he does, and why he’s so good at doing it.
All shooting, editing, sound, and lighting for Inside Jobs is done by John Murillo. Production coordination and creative direction is done by Felicia Williams. Original logo design by Bryce Durbin. Motion graphics and graphic design by Eden Soto.
Read the rest here: Inside Jobs: How Medium’s Product Scientist Brings Data To Life