Blog Archives

MeetMe’s Video-Centered “Charm” App Could Finally Monetize Digital Dating

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Charm, an app that has a whole new take on the typical dating app.

Charm AppApp first, monetization later. At least, that seems to be a pattern these days. And what better way to monetize than to incorporate video? Currently, video is helping a new app called Charm stand out from among the dating app crowd.

Apps such as Tinder have taken the dating world by storm. Essentially a game of “hot or not,” Tinder prompts people to swipe left (reject) or right (approve) on users’ photos in the hopes of making a match. According to TechCrunch, the app has matched more than 50 million people and about 50% of users open the app on a daily basis. But even with the high volume of usage, Tinder’s path to profit is still unclear.

But, through its utilization of video, the Charm app by MeetMe is aiming to do more than just connect local singles. Given how both Google and Facebook are enjoying a spike in mobile advertising revenue from their footage-based ventures (YouTube and Instagram, respectively), MeetMe seems poised to monetize the digital dating world.

On the surface, Charm doesn’t differ much from existing romance apps out there. Like Tinder and OkCupid, Charm identifies potential matches based on proximity, prompts users to reject or approve other users, and enables successful matches to chat with each other. But instead of choosing from among the usual selfies, however, Charm prompts users to upload short video clips of themselves.

Catherine Cook, the co-founder and vice president of brand strategy for MeetMe, believes that people are tired of the static nature of mobile dating apps.

“A major benefit of the video approach to dating is that it doesn’t reduce people to just a profile photo,” said Cook in an interview with Wired. “Apps like Tinder make it very easy to dismiss or express interest based on a profile photo, but we don’t believe you can make a first impression with just a photo–which may turn out to be five to 10 years old. A video shows personality and a realistic sense of what a person actually looks like now.”

But regardless of the video-versus-photos debate, it’s likely Cook and her co-founder/brother Geoff Cook might not be looking to reinvent matchmaker formulas like Match.com or to emulate the bar scene like Tinder. The siblings’ vision for Charm–which Geoff calls “Tinder meets Vine”–could just be a purely lucrative endeavor, as the app’s distinguishing feature (video) opens the door for a more tangible media buy.

Video has certainly paid off in the past. According to Bloomberg, YouTube’s mobile advertising revenue tripled to $350 million in a span of just six months. And Instagram (via Facebook) has similar plans to monetize its popular video feature, finally tapping into its impressive 130 million-user base.

Charm is still in its infancy (see its introductory video, here), and its monetization plans will likely be put on hold until it has gained enough of a following to implement active media buys. But, assuming Charm can eventually boast similar user numbers as its digital dating competitors, the Cooks will finally have put a price on love.

 

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Seene Enables iPhone Users to Make 3D Photos

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Seene, an app that adds a whole new dimension (pun intended) to the way users take and share photos.

Seene AppPeople have long been touting 3D (a.k.a. the third dimension) as “the future of technology.” But while 3D technology has advanced dramatically—as seen in movies such as “Avatar” and “Gravity”—it’s always had an associated exclusivity and exorbitant price that was prohibitive for the masses.

But the new Seene photo app, by Obvious Engineering, is looking to extend 3D technology to all–or, at least, to all smartphone users.

“The [Seene] team shares an interest in helping people better connect with and understand the world that they see via their mobile phone,” said Obvious Engineering founder Andrew McPhee. “With Seene, we wanted to use some of the technology we have developed to evolve what it means to visually share your life with others.”

Seene captures both image and depth information as a user moves his or her phone around a subject. The app then builds up a depth map (3D model) of what the user is looking at.

“This radically changes the viewing experience because as soon as viewers move their phone even slightly, the three-dimensional surface that supports the captured image accentuates the depth of the photo,” said McPhee. “This provides a powerful impression of occlusion through depth and movement, making it feel more like you are looking at something real instead of a 2D photo.”

Seene is hardly alone in the 3D photo app arena. Other popular 3D photo apps include Jittergram, 3D Camera and Scubo. But the big difference between Seene and its competitors is that McPhee’s app utilizes non-stereoscopic 3D photo formats. Essentially, what this means is that users don’t need any special glasses or additional hardware or server processing to view 3D pictures. The result is a format that is “instantly enjoyable and inherently shareable,” according to McPhee.

The million-dollar (at least) question for McPhee is whether Seene can eventually dethrone photo-sharing giants such as Instagram and Vine.

“We wanted to test the waters and see if people were ready to share something more than static images and video frames,” said McPhee. “The public response has been a resounding yes, and we have had more than 700,000 downloads since we launched a little over a month ago.”

The next step for Seene is to fully integrate with the likes of Twitter and Facebook, as well as with email and text. For the time being, Tweets and Facebook posts feature a 2D preview of what are called “seenes.” Tumblr has fully embraced the 3D photo format, enabling users to view seenes as they were natively intended.

Integrating with Twitter and Facebook are the next logical next steps, but McPhee has a vivid plan laid out for the future.

“We’re looking to evolve people’s expectations of how they can share their life with a new medium that is enabled by the mini-super computers that we as a generation now carry around in our pockets,” said McPhee. “Merging image, shape and interactivity is a good starting point, and we think this has the potential to succeed on a mass scale.”

Competing with Instagram and Vine is a tall order, but, as McPhee noted, “The thing that is wooing users is the ability to share the world as it actually looks—not as a flat representation.”

Download Seene for free at the App Store.

 

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Textbook Assault Looks Change How Students Buy Books

While the digital age has changed much about education, the same cannot be said about how college students buy their textbooks. Twice every school year, broke students flock to their local bookstore and inevitably overpay for required reading materials.

Greg Brooks, the founder of Textbook Assault, thinks there should be a more student-friendly alternative.

“There is an oligopoly with the textbook industry,” said Brooks. “Over the last 30 years, five major publishers have essentially bought up all the smaller companies and now control the price of books. They set the prices of textbooks sky high: the price has risen almost 750% since 1978 (compared to less than a 250% increase in inflation).”

For whatever reason, the internet hasn’t done much to corner the untapped market either. While Amazon.com is a popular outlet, it doesn’t always boast the lowest prices. And if students want to bargain hunt, they might have to search upwards of 20 textbook websites—individually—before stumbling upon that one adequately priced copy of Introduction to Organic Chemistry.

Brooks believes there’s an opportunity to change how students shop for textbooks. Textbook Assault’s approach is to become the “Kayak.com of textbooks. “Like Kayak.com does for flights, Textbook Assault instantly searches the internet for the cheapest textbooks options. The key difference, however, is that users can checkout directly from Textbook Assault—even though the company doesn’t actually possess any inventory.

Brooks also feels a sense of responsibility for the Cup Noodles-consuming generation.

“If one of our textbook partners cancels the order, we refill it for the student—often at a loss,” said Brooks. “And even if something gets lost in the mail or a student wants to return a book, we take care of that as well.”

Textbook Assault claims that the average site user saves over $3,000 as compared to either the traditional college store or inefficient internet options. Because Brooks’ site is essentially the first of its kind, the founder is equally excited about how the textbook industry could evolve.

“The textbook industry is ripe for innovation and it will come sooner than later,” said Brooks. “We know what the status quo is and it was easy enough to provide the best solution for the status quo so we quickly did that. But, the innovation is what students need and that is what we will provide in the future. What that actually is, only time will tell.”

 

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‘Outbox’ Turns Your Snail Mail into Email

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Outbox, a service takes your snail mail and digitizes it for seamless online or mobile viewing.

Even though email has long taken over as the main source of person-to-person mail communication, people still receive snail mail. A lot of it, in fact.

The United States Postal Service has hardly kept up with the times. Sure, truck and plane fleets have replaced horses as its transportation means, but the independent government agency has continued to move paper doorstep to doorstep for 238 years.

Intro to Outbox from Outbox on Vimeo.

With tangible mail coexisting with email for foreseeable future, Outbox is hoping to bring a digital solution to a very physical problem.

“On average, a person receives about 90 pieces of postal mail every month,” said Outbox co-founder Will Davis. “Granted, some of this is complete junk. But when new Outbox users are better able to manage this flow, they soon discover just how important some of these items are.”

Outbox collects and manages postal mail on a users’ behalf, enabling users to access, organize, prioritize and discard (or completely unsubscribe from) any piece of mail. Users can view their digitized mail on the internet, smartphone or tablet. And in the event you still want the original, physical copy, Outbox will return it to you.

To date, Outbox has enjoyed a successful beta phase run in Austin and San Francisco, tapping 1,200 users for the trial. According to Outbox, there are also “thousands [of prospective users] on our wait list [too].”

Even though Outbox currently relies on snail mail, the company does have a contingency plan in the event the aged service goes under.

“We are building an elegant API that will enable billers and service providers to reach our users in smarter, more efficient, and less expensive ways,” said Davis. “[The hope is that] in five years, Outbox will own the last and first mile in shipping.”

The expansion of Outbox into more cities and becoming available to additional users will occur later in the year. As it stands currently, the service costs $7.99 per month.

To find out more information about Outbox you can visit its website, follow the company on Twitter and watch the introductory video.

 

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ActiveReplay’s ‘Trace’ Looks to Take Action Sports to a Whole New Level

Trace App for Action SportsWelcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at ‘Trace,’ an app that enables users to track, motivate and share their action sports achievements.

If there’s a physical activity, odds are there’s an app to track and share your exercise achievements. ‘MapMyRun’ and ‘FitBit’ are popular smartphone apps that enable users to map routes, track activity, log diet and/or share performance with friends on Facebook.

Similarly, Nike+ Fuelband tracks every movement made by a person and creates goals to keep users on the go. The band itself has even become a fashion statement.

But while there are endless tracking, motivational and social apps for running or exercise, there are few—or none, to be exact—for action sports.

ActiveReplay’s ‘Trace’ is looking to change this.

“Trace is the product that we’ve always wanted,” said David Lokshin, co-founder of ActiveReplay. “People on the team grew up skating, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, and this is some of the data that we’ve always wanted [to have at our fingertips].”

The ‘Trace’ device is physically attached to a skateboard, surfboard or snowboard and connects to a smartphone app. The app is able to identify statistics like waves caught for surfers, runs and vert for skiers, tricks for skaters and a lot more. Like exercise apps, users can share achievements socially and set applicable action sports goals to improve skills.

The app isn’t public yet, but to the delight of Lokshin and the rest of the ActiveReplay family, ‘Trace’ surpassed its KickStarter goal by $11,260, raising a total of $161,260 over a 45-day span.

“[The fund-raising process] stretched the full gamut of emotions,” Lokshin said. “We hit our [KickStarter] goal, and we’re super excited to go back to building product full time.”

‘Trace’ is on-pace to be released during Summer 2014.

 

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‘Tile’ App Tracks the Stuff You’re Most Prone to Losing (And More)

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Tile, an app that aims to make sure you never lose anything ever again.

For many people, finding misplaced keys and wallets consumes far too much time in one’s day. In addition to it being an annoyance, losing integral personal possessions can also be extremely stressful.

“The problem of losing things has been around forever, and we felt like many people have tried to solve this without ever really being that successful,” said Nick Evans, founder and CEO of Tile. “When Bluetooth Low Energy support was released on iOS devices, we started thinking about how we could properly solve the problem [with this technology]. We invented Tile to make people’s lives easier.”

Users purchase small plastic tags — “tiles” — and attach them to anything they anticipate needing to find, whether it’s keys, wallets, remotes, or anything else. Each Tile pairs up with the accompanying iOS app, allowing users to view the location of each of his/her items on a map. Using the Tile app, one can identify the location of each misplaced item when it is within Bluetooth range (between 50-150 feet) and the last place your item was connected to the app.

For instance, if a user forgets his/her wallet at a cafe, the user can set an alarm sound on the Tile—making the lost item easy to find (if it is within Bluetooth range).

But Tile isn’t just for finding misplaced items inside your house or at a favorite coffee spot.

“One of the reasons why we used Bluetooth Low Energy for Tile, is that it allows for this sense of a Tile community,” said Evans. “The technology is able to leverage the Bluetooth connectivity of everyone in the Tile community to help you find lost items.”

If a user marks an item as “lost” on the app, other Tile users will receive an alert if your lost item is in their direct vicinity. So if someone were to steal your bike, for instance, the Tile community might be able to help you retrieve it better than the usual “missing” poster.

This sense of community also extends into how Tile was able to get up and running. Evans was able to raise $2.68 million—from almost 50,000 backers—through a crowd-funding campaign.

Some key Tile features include:

  • Never need to change or recharge a battery
  • Lasts for one year but the company will provide a new, free Tile (when you send in the old one)
  • Users can privately share Tiles with friends and family as well as find your Tiles with a friends phone by signing into your Tile account on their phone

Tile is looking to debut its app in either Winter 2013 or early 2014. Each Tile retails for $18.95 (with discounts depending on how many tiles one purchases).

You can learn more about the Tile app and pre-order tiles on its website.

 

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‘Venmo’ App at the Core of the “Future of the Wallet”

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Venmo, an app that enables users to quickly and seamlessly exchange money with each other.

Vennmo Mobile PaymentsThere have been a lot of exciting advances in mobile payment options, especially in the retail and commerce industries.

For instance, Square Wallet enables users to setup house accounts with their favorite stores. Then, using its GPS technology, users don’t even have to take out their phone to make a purchase (they just have to tell the cashier their name).

With a similar pre-setup account, Uber, a GPS tracking taxi service, removes the payment process entirely from the experience, instead focusing on locating a taxi and then (optional) rating the driver.

There are many other prime examples of advancing this credit card-free atmosphere—except for a person-to-person exchange. And that’s where Venmo comes into play. While PayPal is more tailored for interacting with people you do not know or trust (i.e. eBay sellers), Venmo enables users to quickly and seamlessly exchange money with each other.

But what is also unique about Venmo is that it makes payment social.

“Every payment includes a personal note explaining the social context behind the payment,” said Venmo co-founder Andrew Kortina. “People can share these payment notes with their friends, creating a news feed of all the things your friends are doing together when they happen to pay each other back: going to lunch with colleagues, splitting dinner or drinks, attending concerts, taking trips, or just sending friends money for their birthdays.”

The Venmo iPhone and Android apps also connect your phone with your bank, debit or credit card, and you can instantly send money to anyone for free. When you receive money, you can withdraw it to your bank account overnight.

Even though Venmo is more or less the first of its kind, that hasn’t stopped Kortina from thinking even further down the line.

“We’re continuing to improve [the person-to-person] experience, but now also expanding to other types of payments,” said Kortina. “For example, Venmo Touch allows you to pay with one touch inside different apps on your mobile device, so you don’t have to constantly re-type your credit card details.”

While Venmo replaces a lot of transactions that might previously have used cash, it also may enable new spending behaviors. For example, next time you want to send a friend who’s home sick $5 for chicken soup, your smartphone makes possible what wasn’t possible with cash.

 

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Phantom Charges: Small Ways that Tech Savvy SMBs Can Rack Up Big Savings

Phantom Charges: Small Ways that Tech Savvy SMBs Can Rack Up Big SavingsFor small-business owners, every square foot of office space and every piece of equipment is part of how money is made. But it’s also how business dollars get spent.

Overhead is a daily reality for small businesses. In fact, when it comes to utilities and human resources — it’s an hourly reality. And any way to trim that overhead is key to driving success.

One strategy, when it comes to controlling overhead, is to tackle the “phantom charge”. These are the incremental, often small, expenses — and also the missed savings —  that add up every year.

What follow are five such “phantoms”, ones that you can tackle right away with some advice from the experts at LivingPlug.

1. Stop Phantom Electrical Costs: Your printers, copiers, and other devices and appliances still draw energy, even when they’re not in use. For example, a desktop computer in sleep mode costs nearly $22 per year. Printers run at least $6 annually. Multiplied by the number of devices in your shop, storefront, or offices, this can really add up. The good news is that you can control it by simply unplugging, powering down, or implementing “smart” outlet devices that limit that passive draw.

2. Utilize Automatic Cloud Storage: The data that small businesses generate demands attention. Safe, secure, and frequent backups are key to ensuring your future — but staying on top of the tasks associated with that kind of rigorous backup takes time. And time is money. So, automate your backup to the cloud with a service that automatically grabs all user-generated content and stores it.

3. Benefit from Mileage Tax Deduction: Don’t let the money you stand to save by deducting business-related travel from your taxes pass you by. A device like CarCheckup helps business owners track mileage. Simply plug it into the onboard diagnostic port.

4. Stop Wasting Billable Staff Hours: Small businesses are often plagued by wasted time on phone calls to vendors and providers. Systems that feature endless wait times and phone trees eat up the hours you’re paying for as an owner. Implement an app such as FastCustomer. This helps eliminate that time-suck by navigating those phone trees and ringing your employee back when customer service is actually on the line.

5. Replace Store-Bought with In-House Treats: It is widely known that free food and drinks make for happy employees. But, forgo soda purchases at the grocery store and make your own lower-cost, high-quality in-house treats with a gadget like the SodaStream. The results are not only tasty and typically better for you, but your office will save about about $720 per year for a staff of four (and another feel-good benefit is that your office will also produce less waste).

Time and money, and missed savings. From the way we power our printers to the care we take when tracking business expenses, make this the year you eliminate the phantom charge — in all its incarnations.

 

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Chirpify: A Social Media Wallet

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce some of the new programs seeking the way we live and work. This week, Chirpify makes buying on social media easy.

The prestige of carrying cash is for the Baby Boomers generation. Credit cards are convenient for swiping inperson, but aren’t always the most seamless option while shopping online. And while PayPal is the most secure online payment form, the tool itself simply hasn’t kept up with the infrastructure of new social media.

A recent study by Experian indicates that Americans now spend an average of sixteen minutes per hour on social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Chirpify hopes to be the new way to click and buy on these platforms.

Chirpify has developed an integrated, in-stream technology that would enable users to buy, sell, raise money, or even donate simply. Unlike competitors Ribbon or Soldsie, with Chirpify, all users have to do to purchase an item is reply with “buy” or a “like,” and the funds are instantly withdrawn from your account (which can be linked to PayPal). There’s no email confirmation barrier or off-site voyages–it’s all streamlined.

The on-the-fly ease of Chirpify makes it an instant marriage for small business owners who actively market their products online. In fact, that’s how Chris Teso, the founder and CEO of Chirpify, found his inspiration to create the payment tool.

“The impetus for Chirpify came from spending many years in the advertising industry.,”said Teso, whose Oregon-based company currently employs just around a dozen people. “Working with big brands, I saw again and again that their advertising was limited to creating ‘awareness’ or ‘engagement’ — which they hoped would eventually lead to a conversion or transaction — but there was no way to connect the dots directly. I built Chirpify to give that advertising a way convert instantly, in the moment, wherever it lives.”

The approach is already being adopted by the billion-dollar sports and music industries.

Back in February, Tim McGraw, who has sold more than 40 million albums, began to integrate Chirpify technology onto his Facebook page to boost the sales of his latest release. To date, Chirpify has also partnered with Adidas, Green Day, Lil Wayne, and Snoop Dogg. And the Portland Trailblazers, Timbers, and Thorns–all professional sports franchises in Chirpify’s hometown–also decided to utilize Chirpify to integrate an untapped medium to interact with fans. .

“The Portland Timbers and Thorns [for instance] have been offering their fans exclusive experiences via social channels — such as VIP passes to pre-game warm-ups and post-game autographs — using Chirpify as a direct social response platform,” Teso said. “It’s mainly a way for them to thank and reward their fans, but also to establish Facebook and Twitter as a two-way channels for more than just cheering on the team.”

Chirpify is free to use for buyers, but sellers incur slight fees. For the “basic” account, sellers incur a 5% (of the purchase) plus $.30 fee. The basic account also enables sellers to place their item or product on Chirpify’s “social storefront” web site.

If you plan on using Chirpify a little more often, the site offers an “Enterprise” account too. Enterprise sellers get a discounted 2.9% (plus $.30) fee, as well as a flurry of tools. These additional tools include promo/coupon codes, giveaways, e-commerce integration, umbrella accounts, priority support, real-time data, branded registration, account direction, and promoted listings.

With Chirpify adding upwards of 300 new users every day, and boasting a 5% conversion rate, the company is steadily building a new atmosphere of e-commerce. Assuming all the security intangibles are sorted out, it wouldn’t be surprising to witness a huge influx of clothes, electronics, and other big industries jumping on the Chirpify bandwagon to make online retail that much more seamless for prospective customers.

 

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‘Felt’ App Could Revitalize Greeting Card Industry

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at ‘Felt,’ an iPad app that is breathing digital life back into the greeting card industry.

Sending greeting cards in the mail has become more of a novelty than a social standard in the modern, tech-dominated world. Most people would rather send an email or e-card than take the time to pick out a physical card, somehow find a stamp and drop it in the mailbox. In fact, I even recently received a wedding invitation via Facebook.

But ‘Felt’ is making greeting cards cool again. The iPad app enables users to browse through a variety of genres, select a greeting of choice (i.e. Happy Birthday) and write (with a finger or stylus pen) a quick note—all from the comforts of your couch. But Felt then transforms the digital into the physical. A user’s final product is properly printed and sent to your provided recipient.

Felt App - Step 1

(users can swipe through a variety of card genres)

Tomer Albert, Felt’s founder, realizes there might be some competition, but that Felt could still have the upper hand.

“There are a lot of apps that mails cards, but we’re the first app that lets you hand write the message and the address on the
envelope,” Albert said. “You’re drawing your thoughts. You’re putting yourself into the message. Your handwriting is 100% uniquely yours.”

Felt App - Step 2

(with a stylus pen, users can actually use their own handwriting on the cards and change the colors too)

Albert, who created Felt when he himself was confronted with the lack of iPad greeting card apps, wanted the app to be a quality option.

“We both curate designs and create cards ourselves,” Albert said. “The card is thick and crisp and recipients can’t tell that the handwriting is printed. The writing looks completely authentic. We use Kraft envelopes and Mohawk paper, which is regarded by paper aficionados as some of the highest quality paper in the world.”

Felt App - Step 3

(users write the return and recipient address just like a normal card, but Felt takes care of the stamp and shipment)

The price point to use Felt is pretty minimal too. The app itself is free and the card and domestic postage costs $3.99 combined. Considering quality greeting card stores like Papyrus vend their “handmade” cards for upwards of $6.95, Felt’s cost appears to be reasonable. International shipping options are also in the works.

Felt is still looking towards the future and for ways to make the app more attractive to prospective users.

“We have very exciting new features planed for this year, but we don’t want to give away all of our fun surprises just yet,” Albert said. “However, we do want everyone to know that we’re continuously adding new card designs to the app.”

Felt iPad App

(cards are printed on quality paper, turning the digital experience into a physical one)

With technology always changing, it’s inevitable that apps like Felt will have to adapt. But Albert thinks people will still feel the need to personally communicate with one another.

“In five years we’d love to be the most personal, heartfelt way people communicate with whatever smart devices we’re using.”

You can watch Felt’s introductory video here and download their free app at the Apple iTunes store.

 

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