March 10, 2014

Cruiseable: Cruise vacation planning reimagined

cruiseable-trio
From left, Nancy Cole, JD Lasica and Giacomo Balli of Cruiseable (taken with JD’s iPhone).

Target audience: Entrepreneurs, startup teams, angel investors, venture capitalists, cruise industry representatives, travel bloggers and podcasters, tourism boards and organizations, marketing professionals, brand managers, journalists, trend watchers.

JD LasicaIjust landed in Miami for the biggest cruise conference of the year, Cruise Shipping Miami, now in its 30th year (otherwise I would have been at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin).

The reason? We’re preparing for the launch this summer of Cruiseable, the startup that CTO/mobile app wiz Giacomo Balli and I are co-founding, with massive input from cruise and travel journalist Carrie Finley.

While other startups typically go stealth before launch, we decided to go social instead. (I gave a talk at a startup conference last June about The Social Startup.) The reasons are twofold:

• We’d like to hear from potential business partners, angel investors and team members. We already have three angels on board, including a partner in Google Ventures, so drop me a line if you’d like to see our business deck or to discuss a business collaboration. (Early seats at a great valuation are going fast!)

• We’re not afraid of other startups jumping into the fray. Lord knows, the cruise industry can use more mobile and social innovation from any and all up and comers! Continue reading

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