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Diffbot, the "Visual Learning Robot," Helps Web Content Go Mobile

Diffbot is one of those applications (and companies) you probably are not even aware of when you use it, but that's not necessarily a problem for the company's co-founder and CEO Michael Tung.

That's because his product is a "visual learning robot," that hundreds of developers are using to translate web content into better mobile apps, and as such it stays pretty much under the hood.

"We've invented this visual ID algorithm," says Tung. One of our core insights is that the entire web can be classified down to 30 page types. There are product pages, event pages, news pages -- we can identify them visually with 99.999 accuracy."

Diffbot technology identifies each page's components, such as nav bars, footers, etc., as part of its identification process. Design standards are such that there is a high degree of similarity between the various page types grouped by category.

One customer using Diffbot at present is AOL's recently launched Editions, which is a personalized daily magazine for the tablet.

ZeroCater Takes the Pain Out of Ordering Your Company Lunch

A few years ago, Arram Sabeti was working for the startup Justin.tv, where one of his daily duties was ordering lunch. The company was hiring at the time, and went from nine people to thirty.

Looking back on that experience now, he recalls that dealing with everyone’s food preferences (from the carnivores to vegetarians to vegans) became “the biggest pain, the most draining thing I’d ever had to do.”

It may come as a surprise, therefore, to find out that today Sabeti is doing pretty much the same work, albeit on a far larger scale.

He’s running his own startup, ZeroCater, which arranges for some 14,000 meals a month to be delivered from 80 leading local restaurants to companies all over the Bay Area.

But the difference between how he did had to do this work back then and how his company does it now says a lot about how technology can turn formerly painful tasks into profitable new businesses.

And, it also helps explain why consumer-oriented startups are disrupting virtually every aspect of our lives here in the Bay Area and beyond.

Q&A With Algenist: The Bay Area Biofuel Startup Turned Anti-Aging Skincare Superhero

Skincare can get a bit overwhelming, but we're finding refuge in the latest anti-aging craze: algae, from the local skincare line, Algenist

Harrison Dillon and Jonathan Wolfson, Algenist co-founders, are anything but beauty buffs. Seven years ago, they set out to create renewable energy from algae, in their garage in Palo Alto. After studying thousands of strains of microalgae, they unexpectedly discovered a protective, regenerating compound called alguronic acid. When they took this to algae expert and Stanford professor Arthur Grossman, he basically told them they may have struck skincare gold.

Art, Science, and Story-Telling in the Age of Entrepreneurship

You know that the number of startups has reached a critical mass of sorts when academic studies start appearing in an attempt to document the "science" of entrepreneurship, as opposed to its "art."

Another way to put it might be "data replacing anecdotes."

Which brings us to the recent study called the Startup Genome Report: Cracking the Code of Innovation, coauthored by a team of professors from Stanford and UC Berkeley.

The report was based on surveys of over 650 Internet startups and identified at least 14 key factors that help determine success, including the finding that balanced teams of one business founder and one technical founder raise 30 percent more money, experience almost three times greater user growth, and are less likely to scale "prematurely" than unbalanced teams.

Knight Fellows on "Re-Engineering Journalism"

One of the hottest debates inside newsrooms and media studies programs the past few years is whether journalism itself has any real future left, given the widespread disruptions sweeping through the traditional media industry, including the massive layoffs of newspaper reporters.

In light of this, the 45-year-old Knight Fellowship Program at Stanford has transformed itself from a mid-career sabbatical opportunity into an incubator of entrepreneurial ideas that just might help journalism better adapt and survive.

The current 20 Knight Fellows, 12 of whom come from overseas, presented their visions late last week at an event called "Re-Engineering Journalism."

Jigar Mehta, a video journalist affiliated with The New York Times, created a crowd-sourced, interactive documentary called "18 Days in Egypt," which encouraged Egyptians to contibute videos, photos, e-mails and tweets from their cellphones during their historic uprising earlier this year.

Are You Ready for the Biggest Fashion Show on the West Coast?

The Bay Area may not have a fashion week of its own these days, but one event taking place on the Peninsula this weekend hopes to pull off something close to it in the span of one evening.

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