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

January 23, 2013

Lean Startup’s Eric Ries on building accountability into your startup

Learn to measure what’s truly valuable to business development

Target audience: Businesses, entrepreneurs, startups.

David SparkWhether it’s the minimum viable product (MVP), pivots or continuous deployment, entrepreneurs love quoting the tenets of The Lean Startup movement.

leanstartupconf_logo“The Lean Startup is more than just the parts that fit on a bumper sticker,” said Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup and co-host of the third annual Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. Continue reading

January 14, 2013

Best advice on starting a new business

Target audience: Businesses, entrepreneurs, startups.

David SparkIf you’ve ever tried to start a business, you know that you get thrown into a world of unknowns. Most of us are dependent on mentors and others to guide us through a realm where we’re bound to make tons of mistakes.

At The Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco, I asked attendees and presenters, “What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you about starting a business?” We edited down our favorite answers to create a video of the best crowdsourced advice on starting a business. Continue reading

November 14, 2012

Snoox: Recommendations from friends, not strangers

New social utility lets you pull high-quality recommendations on most topics

Target audience: Start-ups, recommendation sites, travelers, diners, shoppers, Facebook users, businesses, educators, journalists, general public.

JD LasicaToday a new social recommendations engine launches and tries to answer the fascinating question: Are we ready to usher in an era when friends’ recommendations matter more than those of experts and strangers?

The answer is far from clear. But I like the concept behind Snoox quite a bit.

Earlier this month I sat down with CEO Eyal Rivlin and founder Guy Poreh (pictured below) at a cafe in San Francisco to talk about the new start-up, which has offices in Tel Aviv and New York, and the future of the social Web. Snoox aspires to be a social application that helps users to share recommendations for the things they love and to find the best of everything from the people they trust most: their friends.

It’s a promising concept, given that studies now routinely show that people trust their friends and peers more than experts and established institutions. And as much as I admire Yelp, the site has a pretty high noise level, with lots of recommendations from people with awful taste and other reviews penned by dodgy charlatans. And besides, Rivlin adds, Yelp is mostly known in New York and San Francisco and hasn’t crested yet in middle America. (Europe’s counterpart to Yelp is Qype.) Continue reading

September 16, 2009

Photos from TechCrunch 50

Healthy Wage

JD LasicaCouldn’t be at TechCrunch 50, one of the biggest tech conferences of the year, the past two days? Here’s a 70-photo Flickr set to make you feel as if you were there (almost).

One of the startups that may not have a great business model but makes a very cool Web 2.0 tool is Duffel at With Duffel, you can clip bits and pieces of your “travel adventure” from any website and then visually plot out your travel plans for a city, ranging from details on your flight to hotels, meals and sight-seeing, all done with an interface that resembles a sticky note on a corkboard. It’s free — and very swift.