The best of NY Tech Day, a showcase of startups
More than 200 New York-based startups come out today to show off their wares. The offerings are a bit uneven, but CNET is on the job to call out the best of the best.
NEW YORK -- Today, more than 200 startups, most from the Big Apple, came together for the first NY Tech Day, their chance to show off their wares to a gathering of more than 1,000 press, investors, and members of the public.
While the companies' offerings were diverse and rather uneven, there were some that stood out, and CNET did its best to pull together a list of the best that were on display:
FoundIt is a useful service with an analog approach. The idea is to help you recover lost belongings. By signing up, you receive a sheet of stickers, each with an ID number assigned to your FoundIt account. Affix a sticker to your phone, your wallet, or anything worth recovering, and the finder can contact FoundIt via a phone number or by entering your code number on FoundIt's Web site. FoundIt then notifies the owner via text message or e-mail that the item has been located.
The service starts at $9.99 for 12 stickers and a year of access to the FoundIt Web site. Depending on the preferences of the owner and the finder, FoundIt will either put both parties in touch directly, or it allows for anonymous exchanges, where the finder can direct the owner of a lost item to retrieve it at an intermediate site.
FoundIt says its stickers can survive a trip through the dishwasher or the washing machine. They also come in various sizes, as well as QR codes. You might not love the idea of a label marring the aesthetics of your iPhone, but you'd probably also rather increase the odds that it will be returned to you if you ever misplace it.
A service for content creators, Voicebunny is a spinoff of Voice 123, a Web-based voice-over booking service. By relying on Voice123's network of more than 100,00 vocal talents, Voicebunny can turn around custom voice work in under five minutes.
Unlike Voice123, Voicebunny isn't necessarily meant to disrupt the prevailing voice-over booking model. Rather, its aim is to make spoken content readily available to anyone that might want it, be it a blog, an informal video, or otherwise. Pricing is also variable. Enter a big bid to attract top talent and a fast turn-around time, or go low if you're not too concerned with speed or quality.
As a quick test, this sample cost me $15 and it took about five minutes to show up in my in-box.
And if you're unhappy with the results, you can always reject the first take and try again.
TheMutual seems like the one discounting site that doesn't smack of a sketchy business model or uninspired me-too-ism. Where TheMutual sets itself apart is through its charitable giving. Of your $10 monthly subscription fee, $8 goes to charity. You can choose to send your money to a single cause, or distribute it between a number of causes, all focused on environmental and sustainability issues.
In exchange for your fee, not only do you get that warm, altruistic glow, you also get to chose from TheMutual's list of discounts, which it calls perks. Options include discounted material goods, but also discounted services, and admission to local events. TheMutual says because vendors can offer you deals from month to month, they will avoid the crush of entitled, one-time customers who can overwhelm businesses that use other discount promotions.
Solidoodle founder Sam Cervantes worked for General Electric for four years before lending his engineering services to MakerGear, where he helped design the Mosiac 3D printer this year. After a stint at MakerBot, Sam started his own 3D printer shop, Solidoodle.
Solidoodle is aiming for the budget niche of the 3D printer market. Where MakerBot's Replicator sells for around $2,000, and a Mosaic build-it-yourself kit from MakerGear costs about $1,000, the Solidoodle sells pre-assembled for $499.
The Solidoodle has a smaller build area than the Replicator, and it can't print in multiple colors. It also requires you to use the Skeinforge and Prongerface software, which offers a not insubstantial learning curve (note to 3D printer vendors: software usability should be high on your to-do list). Regardless, at $499, the Solidoodle is the most accessible 3D printer to date, pre-built or otherwise. I expect 3D Systems, which has mass market dreams for its, will take note.
These days, it seems just about everyone has built a mobile app. But while that's not really true, Yapp wants to bring that perception to life.
Yapp is a mobile app development platform for the masses. The company's idea is that anyone can -- and should -- be able to build their own app, and its tools are designed to make it possible.
In the early going -- Yapp is in private beta right now -- it is focusing on apps built around events. So users can create new apps for things like weddings, conferences, birthday parties, and the like. And Yapp thinks that most people will be able to build their new tool in about 10 minutes.
To be sure, these are not apps ready for the masses, but neither are they supposed to be. They're not, for example, meant to be publicly available through Apple's App Store or the Android Market. Rather, these are apps that users will make available to their friends and family through e-mail invites, Web-based short URLs, or QR codes. Then, those people will run their new event app inside Yapp's so-called "Yapp Box."
With a wedding app, a bride and groom could give their guests a tool that lists any related events, like a bachelor party or rehearsal dinner, and their date, time, and address. At the same time, there could be a guestbook, where people can share their photos from the wedding, and a curated photo gallery where the bride and groom can post specific photos they want to share.
App designers have a series of themes to choose from and some stock design choices. Ultimately, Yapp apps will probably all share a common look and feel, but users probably won't care.
Most people get less sleep than they need. That's something that the folks behind Sleep Bot think they can help with.
Currently available for Android, Sleep Bot is a sleep management platform designed to help people track their daily sleep and come up with insight into their rest patterns.
Users start by "punching in" when they go to sleep, and punching out and rating their night's sleep when they wake up. Essentially, the app keeps track of users sleep performance, letting them see things like how much they sleep from night to night, what time they go to sleep, and the hours they're generally asleep.
The company is "working on" a motion tracking tool that integrates an accelerometer to gauge users' tossing and turning during the night. Ultimately, the idea behind the app is that knowing their sleep patterns can help people sleep better, and be more productive.
My Stream is an interesting take on music sharing. Essentially, it's a digital, wireless version of headphone splitters, an iPhone app that lets people stream their audio files to nearby friends over a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.
At any given time, users can share their music with up to five people over Bluetooth and up to 30 people over Wi-Fi. And in addition to sharing individual songs with friends, users can also share playlists from their iPhone. The app allows any combination of individual song plays and playlist plays, up to the limits of the wireless connection.
Artists and record companies may well like My Stream because all songs that stream through the service come with a Buy Now button, meaning that instead of getting no benefit when someone uses a headphone splitter, artists now have a way to make a little money off of users sharing their music.
If you like music, there's a good chance you'll like Songza, a personalized streaming service that has been around for awhile, but which has just launched a new concierge feature.
The idea behind Songza, which is available for
With its new concierge service (for iPhone only), Songza is hoping to attract users looking for good music to come to them. Essentially, the tool takes the time of day into consideration and serves up suggestions for playlists that are deemed appropriate for certain kinds of situations, like dinner parties, working or studying, and even "between the sheets."
Songza draws its playlists from a legal library of 18 million songs using the same license as Pandora, meaning that users can enjoy the music without worrying that the RIAA is going to kick down their door.