Tech + Gadgets
Silicon Valley NewTech, the Bay Area's largest and oldest tech meetup group, gets together every month inside a conference room at DLA Piper in Palo Alto to eat pizza, drink some beers and listen to presentations from startups. At nearly 7,000 members strong, SVNewTech chooses four startups every month to showcase their product through a 15-minute demo and presentation, followed by a rapid-fire question and answer period from the audience. Joe Robinson, the organizer of Silicon Valley NewTech, will be bringing us the highlights from these meetups, reporting on some of the most promising ideas presented. Below are his notes from last night.
Most businesses and organizations have websites, but very few have any idea what's working and what's not. Optimizely wants to change all of that through their incredibly simple A/B testing platform. The service is easy enough for anyone to use, and coding is limited to copying & pasting one line of code to the page you want to test.
The Optimizely co-founders, Pete Kooman and Dan Siroker, are great examples of how persistence and experimentation are key ingredients to startup success. They worked together at Google as Product Managers, co-founded a previous company together called CarrotSticks, and are now applying their learnings to Optimizely.
One way to breathe new life into an old brand is to aggressively leverage social media technology, and that's exactly what Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, a startup launched (at a tech conference) in San Francisco three years ago is doing.
The company, which is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, licensed the right to use the household name of the magazine founded in 1922 from media giant Meredith. The license runs for 100 years.
"On the one hand we had to overcome the stigma of 'that's a magazine my grandma used to read,' " explains BHGRE's president and CEO Sherry Chris. "But on the other, it's got 97% brand recognition. Now we're building it out on a social platform to reach out to the next generation of buyers, sellers, agents and brokers."
As of two weeks ago, the company became the only real estate franchise whose content appears on Flipboard, the fast-growing Palo Alto "social magazine" that aggregates content (without ads) on the iPad.
Anyone who's ventured through Golden Gate Park and into the gorgeous de Young knows it sports world-class art, artifacts and exhibits of the mind-blowing caliber. The savvy museum has revealed a glittering new app for iPhones and iPads that takes viewers through the museum using world-renowned artists as guides to the collections, the museum's history and even the building itself.
Depressing fact: the average San Franciscan wastes almost a full work week and $1,100 worth of gas in "idle time" — meaning in traffic or circling for parking — every year. But before you get too down, look forward to this: a new arsenal of car technology, demo-ed by Ford this week at AT&T Park, is working to alleviate parking woes and the road rage associated with sitting in traffic.
Sometimes it's scary to ponder the fact that, at least on Amazon.com, eBooks surpassed the sales of physical books this year. Not to mention how many people I notice staring down at their ereaders on the way to work. But San Francisco, as always, is a city full of dichotomies, where the newest waves of technology and innovation clash with tradition all the time.
In the midst of a recession that seems to never end, there are plenty of people who need to find new ways to put some cash in their pockets.
Meanwhile, those lucky enough to have jobs often feel like they have to work so hard just to stay employed that they no longer have enough time or energy to take care of the routine tasks of daily life outside of the workplace.
To Michael Peggs, those two economic realities describe an online marketplace waiting to be born.
Meet Peggsit, a startup so young that you if you move quickly enough you could be one of the first 50 people to use it.
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.
The same week that industrial designers and roommates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky quit their day jobs back in 2007 to try and become entrepreneurs, the landlord of their SoMa apartment hiked their rent.
Faced with a sudden need to make some extra cash, they hit upon an idea. They knew that a major design convention was opening in town and that the hotels were fully booked. So they contacted the attendee list to offer airbeds in their apartment for people having trouble finding a place to stay.
The response was overwhelming and they quickly booked three guests, which netted them $1,000 or so, and in the process Airbnb was born, a community marketplace for people to list and find unique places to stay around the world.
Fast-forward to today, and Airbnb (which is headquartered in SoMa) is truly global in scope and has reached what Gebbia calls a "tipping point," with over 60,000 active listings in 12,663 cities in 181 countries. And just yesterday, it was announced that actor/tech fanatic Ashton Kutcher has invested a significant amount of money in the company and signed on as an advisor.
Fed up with how long it takes to get a doctor's appointment? With long waits in a room filled with sick people? With brief checkups resulting in a prescription for a marginally effective drug?
One Medical Group says there is a better way.
Founded in San Francisco by Dr. Tom X. Lee in 2007, One Medical is a radically different kind of health service, completely digital and interactive in ways that take much of the pain out of the entire experience for both doctors and patients.
"The way we look at it," says Lee, "is that we are trying to redesign the primary health care environment from the old model centered around the doctor's office to one where we work with patients in the digital realm, allowing the office to becomes simply an extension of our relationship with the patient."