500 Startups Batch 19 Demo Day

500 Startups Batch 19

The theme for 500 Startups Batch 19 Demo Day was Valentine’s Day (although it technically was on February 15) and accordingly Founder, Dave McClure, kicked it off dressed as the Queen of Hearts.  Batch 19 had 44 companies participated in two tracks, B2B and Fashion and Beauty.  I’m always impressed with the diversity of 500’s startups.   Almost half of the startups are international and over half the founders are woman and minorities.  I wish I had the time to write about each startup but alas, I only have time to mention my personal favorites.  So in no particular order…

 

Park Evergreen

Check Please

The startup that I would personally invest is Park Evergreen.  They have developed a parking management software that makes it easy to find and pay for parking.  Oddly enough, on my drive to Demo Day, I was listening to a Freakonmics podcast called Parking is Hell which describes the high cost of parking.  It made me think of the times when parking is a challenge and how much I would pay to not have to drive in circles to find parking.  Their platform allows a driver to pay and reserve a parking space.  In my mind, if it solves this problem effectively, it will be a unicorn.

 

o6

I’d Buy That!

O6 makes a little widget that can be mounted on the steering wheel.  In conjunction with their companion app, you can navigate through your iPhone while you’re driving without taking your hands off the steering wheel and it allows you to keep y our eyes on the road.  Interestingly enough, as I was getting a demo of the product, Silicon Valley icon, Tim Draper, was waiting in line behind me wanting to buy one (I don’t  know if actually was interested in investing in them also).

 

claimcompass

Free Money!

ClaimCompass declaration of free money caught my attention.   If your flight gets delayed or cancelled, their platform will automatically check if you are eligible for compensation and if you are; they will make a claim on your behalf.   They can get you compensated up to $650 and take a 25% commission if successful.  I’ve bookmarked their site just in case I have to go to battle with an airline in the future.

 

pawprint

Sign Ruby Up!

PawPrint allows you to move and maintain your pet records on their platform.  If you have a pet, you know what a hassle it is to manage their shot records.  Mental note:  sign Ruby (she’s our dog) up.

 

gymhit

Shameless Plug for the Sacramento Region

This is a shameless plug for Sacramento based startup, GymHit.  GymHit has developed a business management software for the fitness industry.   (I also gave them a warm referral to 500 Startups).

 

sickweather

Clever Use of Social Media Data

Sickweather has developed an innovative method to track the spread of disease using social media.  You can track the spread of illness on a map like a meteorologist tracks weather.  The data they’ve gleamed has outperformed data provided by the CDC.

 

kompyte

That’s Original

This is original idea I haven’t seen before.  Kompyte has developed a platform that allows their users to automatically track and analyze their competitors.    At my last company, we had a full time employee that performed this function.    I can see this platform being extremely useful for any company that actively tracks their competitors.

 

Join Batch 21

How well the Batch 19 companies do remains to be seen, but 500 Startups does have an excellent track record. Producing 3 Unicorn startups (with a 4th possibly on the way), 37 Centaurs (valued $100-999 M), and over 300 Ponies ($10-99 M), you might be wondering how to get into 500 Startups. Well, first you’ve got to apply!

If I piqued your interest in 500 Startups, they are currently looking for applicants for Batch 21. Good candidates should have:

 

  • Balanced Team

 

  • Product Launched

 

  • Traction with Good Metrics

 

If your startup is interested in applying for Batch 21, find the application here.

After applying, be sure to ask your local Startup Grind director for a warm referral!

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire App

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) fights over 5600 calfireiconwildfires that plague California annually.  CAL FIRE has a new weapon in their arsenal to combat wildfires, it’s their new mobile app called CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire.  The app is currently available on both the iPhone and Android platforms.  The app has three primary functions:

  • Providing Educational Content on how to prepare for wildfires
  • Notifying citizens of wildfires
  • Providing Information on California wildfires

Education

The main purpose of the app is to help educate the population in high risk areas on how to prepare for wildfires.  The app has a series of checklists that is broken down as follows:

  • Ready (Maintain Defensible Space and Hardening Homes)
    • Create Defensible Space
    • Harden Home
    • Prepare for Bark Beetles
  • Set (Create a Wildfire Action Plan)
    • Wildfire Action Plan
    • Emergency Supply Kit
    • Design a Family Communication Plan
  • Go! (Evacuation Guide)
    • Pre-Evacuation Guilde
    • When to evacuate
    • What to do when trapped

Cal Fire education

The app has 9 separate check-off lists that also provide educational material in the form of articles and videos.  The videos can be viewed as part of the check list or in the video library.

Notifications

The user can sign up to receive wildfire notifications via push notifications and/or SMS messages in their profile.   The notifications can be based on zip code or counties.

Push Notifications

Push Notifications require the user to have the app.  What’s interesting about the push notification is that in addition to sending out a notification based on the user’s profile, it can also be triggered by the user’s geographic location.  So for example, if the user is in a location where CAL Fire has identified a fire, the user will get a push notification that there’s a fire in the location even if it’s not identified in their profile.   The push notifications are generated using integration with Urban Airship.

SMS

The user can also opt to receive text messages about latest wildfires.  The advantage of using this option is that the user doesn’t need the app to receive the notification.   The SMS messages are generated through integration with Twilio.

CAL Fire alerts

 

Information

Basic information from CAL FIRE can also be found on the app.  The app has embedded CAL FIRE’s mobile website and there’s a feed from CAL FIRE’s Twitter account.  In addition, there’s a Google Map that displays all the active wildfires in California.

Cal Fire Info

CAL FIRE plans to promote the app in February in advance of the 2017 wild season through a sweepstakes administered by iHeartRadio.  The CAL FIRE app was developed through a partnership with Sagent Marketing and Apptology.

Apptology CTO Gary Dalal Speaks at TEDx 2015

 

On December 6, 2015, Apptology CTO, Gary Dalal, spoke at TEDxWalledCity in New Delhi. His talk was about the importance and power of peoples’ contacts. He describes a person’s contacts as that person’s treasury.  Gary developed LinkLadder to help users tap into the power of people’s contacts and their contacts’ network. LinkLadder can help the user to both search for contacts and get discovered.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

“The Future of TV is Apps.”

timcooktv

Source: Getty Images

Admittedly, I had low expectations for this year’s recent Apple keynote.  As I listened to the list of Apple’s new product announcements I was unimpressed: iPad ProApple WatchiPhone 6sApple Pencil.  Yawn.  However, what blew me away was the Apple TV.

Although introduced in 2007, Apple TV seemed unremarkable.  It seemed like it was their forgotten red-headed step child and I wouldn’t have been surprised if they decided to end support for it.  However, Apple CEO Tim Cook brought new life and vision to Apple TV by declaring, “The Future of Televison is Apps.”  As I watched Apple’s product demo, my jaw dropped with all the different possibilities.  Right off the bat, I can see Apple TV replacing the DVR, cable TV, large room video conferencing, and console gaming.

The interface leverages Siri which seems light years ahead of the clumsy interface that I use with my cable box.  But that’s not the secret sauce; it’s the fact that Apple has opened up its SDK and has created tvOS (based on iOS 9).  This will allow developers to develop apps for Apple TV and to be distributed by the Apple TV App Store.

Apple introduced their new controller which uses Siri and could be used like a Wiiwireless controller.  Interesting enough, the iPhone and iPod touch could also be used as a controller.  Couple this with developer’s porting their games to Apple TV, and we could be seeing the demise of Xbox and the PlayStation.

I can see network television and local television stations providing live streaming and on-demand content through their own branded app.  By doing so, they can provide targeted interactive advertising where they will know the demographics of the individual user.   For example, based on my user profile, I would see interactive trailers for Sci Fi movies and subscription offers for Fast Company(which I can instantly buy with my credit card on file).  Best of all, unlike the DVR, the user won’t be able to fast forward the ads.  Once a critical mass of TV stations and networks begin developing their own apps, it will lead to the end of the DVR and Cable TV.

In addition, I can see Apple TV becoming a standard for conference room.  Third party apps will replace large video conferencing systems like Cisco Telepresence.  Presentations will be delivered by an app, controlled by an iPhone.   And when the screen’s idle, it will display creative and useful digital signage.

One can argue that the mobile app market was first started when Apple opened up their SDK for the iPhone.  Amazing new applications have been developed that many did not foresee (for example, when the iPhone was created, I don’t think anyone could imagine Uber developing a $50 B company by delivering car service from an app).  In a similar fashion, I expect amazing innovations will be developed on the Apple TV.

By Rich Foreman, CEOApptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento.Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Arm Yourself by Setting Your iPhone on Stun

I used to joke with friends that I will be impressed with an iPhone Release that shot “Frickin Laser Beams.”    Well now, I’m impressed.  Louisiana based, Yellow Jacket LLC, has a product that acts as a battery backup (ho hum) and a stun gun that 650,000 volt stun gun that retails ay $139.99.  And similar to the iPhone 5c, it comes in a variety of 5 colors including pink.  Unfortunately, they currently only support the iPhone 4/4s (they have a sign up list for the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4).

Shooting Pepper Spray From an iPhone

Shooting Pepper Spray From an iPhone

You do have other options if you’re in the market to weapon-ize your smartphone.  Sprytect offers a smartphone case that allows you to shoot pepper spray.   At a retail price of $39.95, it comes in 4 colors but as in the case with Yellow Jacket, it only supports the iPhone 4/4s (support is pending for other phones).

As a gadget guy, I think I would be inclined to get the Yellow Jacket.  Not because I fear for my safety.  Mostly because it’s cool and maybe I can test it out on friend at a party.  But alas I have kids, and I would hate for them to find that hidden achievement on my iPhone when they’re playing Angry Birds.

The other reason that I probably wouldn’t get it is that I would probably forget about it on my next flight and it would get confiscated by the TSA.   With that said, if I felt I needed to arm myself, concealing it on my smartphone is an ideal solution since I don’t leave home without it.

State of Mobile 2013 Infographic

This is a great Infographic on Mobile from the folks at supermonitoring.com.  I love Infographics.  There’s a hodgepodge  of stats on this.  Notable is the dominance of Android and the rapid adoption of Mobile  (I always tell our clients that the population has already adopted mobile.  It’s businesses, governments, and organizations that need to  adapt).

State of Mobile 2013 Infographic

State of Mobile 2013 Infographic

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Apptology is the leading mobile application development and mobile marketing company located in Sacramento, California. We offer a comprehensive suite of iPhone, iPad, Android app development solutions for the mobile applications industry. Create a mobile app for your business today! Contact us today! www.apptology.com

Will iBeacon, the iOS7 stealth feature, lead to the demise of NFC?

I was looking for Apple to announce the support Near Field Communication (NFC) with their keynote announcement of iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s.   After all, Android has supported NFC since 2010  (NFC can be used with Google  Wallet, reading NFC tags, and exchanging info between phones).  But alas, there was no mention of NFC.

I believe that many have not adopted NFC and have been waiting on the side lines, waiting for Apple to support it.  With the appearance of iBeacons in iOS 7, it is unlikely that Apple will support NFC.

WWDC iOS7 Keynote Slide

WWDC iOS7 Keynote Slide

What is iBeacon?

What’s iBeacon? Doesn’t ring a bell?  Well, it wasn’t mentioned in Apple’s recent announcement of the iPhone 5c and 5s. In fact, the only mention of it was on one slide in the WWDC keynote last June.  The only other place I found it mentioned is on Apple’s Developer’s page on iOS7 under Accessories.  However, it doesn’t explain what iBeacon is, it just points to the Bluetooth programming guide.

iBeacon uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate with small wireless sensors (or as Apple calls it, Beacons).  So in theory, if  you go into Target, and you have the Target App, the beacon can transmit specials  and coupons to the Target App.  Right now, the prominent manufacturer of the Beacons  is Estimote.

What’s the Big Deal?

One of the Holy Grails of  smartphone’s is  the ability to use your phone to pay for things.  NFC was seen as one technology that can do this.    However, without Apple supporting  NFC, retailers really couldn’t adopt it (well they could but only Android phones would be able to use it).

BLE does offer advantages over NFC.  It has a range of 50 meters compared to NFC very short range of 20 centimeter (yes, centimeters).

Because Apple has been really quiet on iBeacon, it’s safe to say that it’s not ready for prime time and is  still beta.   However, I believe that when Apple formally touts iBeacon, BLE will become the underlying technology for mobile commerce.  Why?  Android already supports BLE with Android 4.3.  So, put yourself in a retailer’s shoes.   You’re looking at adopting a technology ; you’ll want to go with one that is supported by the broadest population.  That leaves NFC out in the cold.

 

Apple’s Debut of The iPhone 5c and 5s. Seriously? That’s it?

In huge anticipation, I watched  Apple’s Keynote where they announced the long awaited iPhone 5s and  5c.  My first impression is wow, they are really padding this  presentation.  Tim Cook started off about talking the iTunes Music Festival and the new Apple Store at Stanford Mall.  Really?  Then we get a recap of iOS7 (which was announced in June).  Finally, about 20 minutes in, they presented the iPhone 5c and  5s.

The glorious colors of the iPhone 5c.

The glorious colors of the iPhone 5c.

The iPhone 5c

In a nutshell, the iPhone 5c is the iPhone 5 with different color options (white, green, blue, pink and yellow) with a price point starting at $99 (with contract).  I’m not sure if the “c” is either for color or cheap.   This addresses Apple’s need for a low  end product to compete with the huge number  of cheap Android phones on the market.

The iPhone 5s

Here’s what’s new in the iPhone 5s:

*Their  64 bit A7 Chip which Apple touts as desktop class architecture that’s twice the speed of the A6 Chip.  They did a demo of a graphic intensive game and remarked how quick the performance is.  It’s an  interesting use of a fast processor but I’m not so sure if high end gaming on a phone is a killer feature.

*The  M7 coprocessor which measures the data from the iPhone’s accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass.  Apple explains this as an advantage for fitness apps because of a decrease in power usage.

*Upgrade iSight capabilities.  It seemed like Apple put a lot of emphasis on improving their camera.  I’m more of a point and click kind of a guy and the new features are probably more than I’ll use  but here they are:

-Larger Sensor

-Larger Pixels

-Larger Aperture

-Continuous Burst Mode

-True Tone Flash

-Auto image stabilization

-Slow Motion Video

-Live video zoom

-Square photos

-Panorama photos

-Photo filters

*Touch ID:  of the new iPhone 5s features, I actually found this the most interesting.  With touch ID, for device security, it replaces entering a numeric password with authenticating a finger print on the home button.  According to Apple, the authentication can be used for iTunes purchases.  Okay, initially, when I first heard about this feature, I was  ho-hum.  However, the way it is implemented is brilliant and seamless.  It’s security without having to think about it…and apparently it can be extended to other applications.

Apple’s Keynote ended with a little more filler from Elvis Costello.  Overall, I found the new features rather meh especially when compared to the features seen in the Galaxy 4.  I really was expecting a lot more.  Going forward, I  feel the Galaxy will be  the phone to beat and Apple will be playing catch up.

Using Smartphone Apps for Marketing and Building Your Brand

Smartphone apps are the third pillar of developing a mobile strategy.  It is perhaps the most expensive of the three options and really needs to be thought out.

In using Smartphone apps for promoting your business, I see two primary reasons:

1)       Apps used for  marketing and  branding your business

2)      Apps become part of your business  process (more on this in the next blog)

And of course there are apps that do both.    This blog will discuss apps used for marketing and branding.  I’ll discuss Apps that become part of the business process in my next blog.

If you do a search for “Coca-Cola” in the Apple App Store, there are more than 60 apps.  They range from gag apps like their version of the Magic 8 Ball to a virtual Coca-Cola Yo Yo.  They have apps with movie tie ins including” Cowboys  and Aliens” and “Happy Feet.”  One of their most popular apps is “Spin the Coke” which is a mobile version of Spin the Bottle.  (I dread the day when my kids become teenagers).

Promoting the Walking Dead with the Dead Yourself App

Promoting the Walking Dead with the Dead Yourself App

For apps that are used for branding, a key component for success is to get it to go viral via social media.   A great example is the Walking Dead’s “Dead Yourself” app.  Dead Yourself is a great app where the user can “zombify” a picture of themself.  The app allows the user to quickly share their zombie self on social media.   I usually don’t like to promote products on my social media account but I found myself posting my zombie picture on Facebook where a few of my friends downloaded the app and quickly followed suite.

In general, only larger companies can afford to develop an app for just branding purposes.    To develop an effective marketing app, the developer needs to work intimately with the client’s marketing firm.  Also, it  should be a piece of a larger marketing plan.

 

 

iOS 7 is coming! iOS 7 is coming! iOS 7 is…

Like a modern day Paul Revere (or Chicken  Little  depending on how you view it), I would like to remind you that iOS 7 is coming sometime this month.  I’ve heard  rumors that the  launch will coincide with their big announcement on September 10, 2013 which we all believe will be the  debut of the next iPhone.

So what’s the  big deal?  Well in general, we find that that with any major upgrade with iOS, things tend to break with existing apps.  From personal experience, the very first app  that I worked on, the upgrade from iOS 2 to 3 broke half my audio files in the app.  Our development team had to work overtime to fix the problem and resubmit the app to  Apple.  We’ve done some testing on the apps  we developed against  iOS 7 beta and we found that the upgrade has caused some problems.

First order of business is insuring functionality.  So, if you already have an iOS app developed,  to be proactive, contact  your developer and ask them to test against iOS 7.  If they find any issues, have them fix it.  In terms of timing, you also have to remember that Apple typically takes  2 weeks to review an app (even upgrades to an existing app).

Skeuomorphic vs. Minalimist

Skeuomorphic vs. Minimalist

Longer term, you may want to consider redesigning  your app to match iOS 7’s minimalist design.  Currently, iOS 6 uses a Skeuomorphic design (where functions mimic real world objects) .  iOS 7, on the other hand,  will embrace a minimalist design.

More  importantly, in redesigning your app for iOS 7, you should consider leveraging some of the new iOS 7 features.

If you have an app  on the Apple App Store, hopefully, you’ve been aware of the debut of iOS 7 and have already prepared for it.  If you haven’t, I  recommend contacting your developer and ask them to test your app against iOS 7.

Cheers,

Rich Foreman

CEO / Apptology