October 2, 2013

Photos of Launch conference for mobile startups

pablo-sandoval
Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants, former World Series MVP, demonstrated Zepp at Launch Mobile.

JD LasicaIspent the past two days at Launch Mobile & Wearables, a gathering of several hundred entrepreneurs, technologists and startup staffers in San Francisco organized by entrepreneur/VC Jason Calacanis and his team.

As usual, I did more tweeting than blogging, but I also captured more than 60 photos of the event, seen in the Flickr set above. (I still love you, Flickr!)

The grand prize winners were three startups:

SoundHound, a brilliant bit of software that helps users identify songs, summon up song lyrics on the spot, conduct voice search (including identifying radio segments) and much more.

Zepp Labs, which trotted out Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants and former Giants star JT Snow to show off a multi-sport training system, tiny sensors — and big crack of the bat.

MyTime, which lets you book appointments online with top-rated merchants, such as massage therapists, dentists, hair stylists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other services.

I agree with the judges — terrific selections, all worth a look.

March 13, 2013

Startup turns a smartphone into a smart toy

Unveiled at Launch, Ubooly shows power of sensor technology (and hugs)

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, technologists, designers, marketing professionals, businesses, toy manufacturers, parents.

JD LasicaAt last week’s Launch Festival in San Francisco, I spent a few minutes talking with Carly Gloge, the founder and CEO of a new startup called Ubooly. They make cuddly plush toys that you can personalize and interact with through your iPhone or iPod Touch. (You stick the device inside the toy.) It’s for kids ages 4 to 9.

Carly gave one of the more dynamic presentations on stage at Launch, so I caught up with her after her demo. Ubooly is out “to make toys smart,” she said. Smart devices, starting with the iPhone and iPod Touch, have become “so powerful compared to anything else that has been put in toys. So we thought, let’s merge the two.”

Voilà! The Ubooly (pronounced OO-buh-lee, which I finally pronounced right by the end of the video). What’s cool about this is:

• Children form an emotional bond with these toys that they’ll carry with them for years;

• Parents get to program the toy via the online Ubooly Lab, starting with setting up their child’s favorite color, animal and sports. From there, the parents can activate educational packs that seem best suited to their little one.

Ubooly launched with six packs — written by elementary school teachers and comedy writers — and will expand to 20 by the end of the month, Carly says.

Watch, download or embed the 4-minute video on Vimeo Continue reading

March 7, 2013

Launch Festival: ‘We live in the future now’

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The panel of judges/venture capitalists at the Launch Festival (Photo by JD Lasica).

Conference brims with innovative tech startups

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startups, businesses, tech sector executives and employees, anyone interested in innovation.

JD LasicaAfter three days of the Launch Festival, where 5,000 attendees jammed into San Francisco’s sprawling Design Concourse, one can be forgiven for believing that, through some cosmic event involving gamma rays and worm holes, participants were given an exclusive glimpse of what’s just around the corner. (So this is what tomorrow looks like!)

There’s no longer any doubt: Launch and TechCrunch Disrupt are now unquestionably the top startup conferences on the planet. They used to be one event, under the banner TechCrunch 40 (which launched Mint) and TechCrunch 50 (which launched Yammer), before the co-founders went their separate ways. This week I overheard more than a few attendees say that Launch — which has a mega-personality in founder Jason Calacanis where TechCrunch Disrupt now lacks one — has become the most essential gathering of its kind. Continue reading