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While there are thousands of small, independently-owned bike shops across the country and in bike-friendly cities like San Francisco, it’s still a pain to bring your bike in for a tune-up. There’s scheduling, and then there’s the hassle of not having a bike for several days.
That’s why Peter Buhl, a former longtime partner at BlueRun Ventures who served on the boards of companies like PayPal, had been thinking about a way to address this problem for the past 15 years.
He started Beeline Bikes, which is kind of like an Uber or Homejoy for bike tune-ups. They have mobile vans, outfitted with all kinds of parts (see below) and trained mechanics that can fix up many bikes over the course of a day.
The nine-person startup has three initial vans and the plan is to cater to startups and tech companies up and down the peninsula and in San Francisco. They’ll also do housecalls to families as well.
The price for a basic tune-up is $80, but they’ll discount it to $65 with multiple bikes. Each tune-up takes about 30 to 45 minutes and they have concierge levels of service for higher-end bikes. They’ll also do other services like bike fittings and overhauls.
“Our goal is to be the virtual bike shop for all the tech companies here,” Buhl said. “This works in cycling dense areas down on the peninsula and in the Bay Area.”
He estimates that the local Bay Area market alone is worth about $6 to 10 million per year, but if you expanded the concept nationally, it could be worth $100 million.
Beeline becomes yet another services or logistics startup like Uber, Homejoy, Exec, Postmates, Instacart and others, that use mobile devices and the web to coordinate large networks of service providers. Unlike some of these other companies, Beeline does not rely on contractors. It wholly owns its vans and the mechanics are full-time employees, although they would be open to exploring a franchising model if they expanded nationally.
The company has raised a half-million dollars in seed funding from 15 angels including IronPort founder Scott Banister, Canaan Partner Deepak Kamra, Like.com founder Munjal Shah, BlueRun Ventures partners Jonathan Ebinger and John Malloy and Brian Nesmith.
Wisely Helps You Find Where To Shop Or Eat Based On Real Consumer Spending Patterns, Not User Reviews
When looking for a new place to eat, drink or shop, most people turn to local recommendations services like Yelp, Google Places, or Foursquare, for example. A new mobile application called Wisely, launching today, has a different idea. Instead of user reviews, Wisely taps into actual transaction data, allowing you to filter searches by things like popularity or average bill size.
The app is the latest from a company called Glyph, which pivoted from its earlier efforts launched last year which had been focused on helping you determine which credit card to use in order to earn better rewards. Explains CEO Mike Vichich, the company found that it was difficult to get people engaged with Glyph for a number of reasons. People use their credit cards for a number of things, he says.
“But we always felt like transaction data was really important, and told a story about the world we live in,” he explains. “If you’re able to view a map of how people swipe their cards, it’s a map of the economy – it tells you which places are quality, which places are popular, how expensive places are, which places are for locals versus tourists.We thought that was something valuable that didn’t exist,” Vichich says.
In the new app Wisely, you can search for things like restaurants, shops or bars, for example, and see search results based on transaction data, not social mechanisms like check-ins or user rankings and reviews.
However, the app isn’t only focused on the “before” side of consumer spending – it also lets you store your loyalty and membership cards for easy access during your visits, and helps you understand your spending behavior afterwards, too, similar to something like Mint. Like Mint and other mobile money management apps, Wisely lets you set a budget and then analyze your spending over time, examining the categories of your past purchases and even where they’re located on a map – the latter an easy way to spot a possible fraudulent transaction, Vichich claims.
At launch, Wisely only supports American Express cardholders, but it will include support for Chase and Bank of America by mid-February, and hopes to include support for 95% of transactions (credit or debit) in a year’s time.
The challenge here is that for each credit or debit card brought on board, the company has to write programs to clean up the merchant data, which takes some time, the CEO tells us. The end result, Wisely hopes, will be a platform for both mobile and web where anyone can access this kind of data.
“The mountain that we’re climbing is data democratization,” says Vichich. “One of our foundational beliefs is that payment data is really valuable to consumers and merchants.”
Future: Competitive Intelligence For Merchants
For consumers, the data can help them shop, travel, and dine “wisely” (get it?), but the real business model for the service is about providing this data to merchants, which the company plans to do in time as a SaaS platform. Here, Wisely would help merchants analyze what kind of spending takes place where, and even how their own sales look like when compared with those of competitors.
In addition, merchants would be able to track their own customers’ loyalty in an anonymized way, and then offer their best customers some sort of reward via the Wisely platform. The merchant side of the business is something Wisely will begin to work on a bit further down the road, however.
In the meantime, the small, Ann Arbor-based company has added an undisclosed amount of funding on top of its earlier $500,000 angel round. They’re expecting to close on a seed round in Q1 2014.
Wisely is currently featured in the App Store under finance, and is a free download here.
More food is consumed during the holiday season than any other time. But that’s the thing with food; you can’t stay full forever. And so these gadgets, services and tools should serve your food-friendly loved ones quite handily. We’ll cover a range of products, including a ingredient delivery service, a magical scale that measures the nutrition of your food, and one very special ice cube.
Everyone from a master chef to a home cook should have a blast with this gift guide, so let’s waste no more time and crack some eggs.Prep Pad from The Orange Chef ($150)
If you know or love a health nut, the Prep Pad is an easy, thoughtful gift. It’s a bluetooth-equipped scale that measures the weight of your food as well as it’s nutritional value, which is then relayed to the user through an app. Simply input the type of food you’re weighing, or scan the barcode, and see a pie chart of the nutrition you’ll be consuming.
With an aluminum frame and a paper composite surface, which can be hygienically wiped down, the Prep Pad can handle any mess in any kitchen, and is accurate with the weight measurement to boot. It’s got a heavy little price-tag attached, at $150, and it doesn’t ship until February, but it is worth the wait (ha) and the cash for a chef obsessed with health.
You can pick up the Orange Chef Prep Pad here.Impress Coffee Brewer ($39.95)
Budding caffeine addicts are just one gadget away from a full-blown addiction. Meet the Impress single-cup Coffee Brewer from Gamila. \
Single-cup coffee makers are becoming more popular, but those machines cost a pretty penny and take up a lot of space in the kitchen. But what if you could combine the single cup coffee maker with French press coffee-making techniques and a thermos to transport the coffee in? That would be a pretty amazing, right?
Well, that’s the Impress. It’s kind of a pain to clean, as you need to scoop out the grounds and such, but it manages to keep 14 ounces of coffee warm for hours.Plated ($15/plate)
Grocery shopping, to some, is the worst part of cooking. Plated takes the guess work and leg work out of grocery shopping and cooking a nice meal. After a visit to the Plated website, you can shop around between various meals, ranging from things like Garlic-Herb Pork Chops with Roasted Sweet Potato Mash, Korean-Style Short Ribs with Asian Slaw and Sushi Rice, or vegetarian classics like Autumn Root Vegetable Chili with Cornbread Croutons.
Users are given everything they need, including ingredients and directions (but not cookware), to make an excellent meal and a fun experience. For $10/month, you can buy a membership that brings the price of a meal down to $12/plate, with a minimum of four plates per week. Otherwise meals are $15/plate with a minimum of four plates in one week.Pucs ($19 for 3)
Anyone who enjoys a nice glass of whiskey on the rocks or simply hates a watered down drink should enjoy these stainless steel ice cubes. They stay at the bottom of the glass and hold temperature pretty well, without watering down the drink. They even come with a handsome case you can slip into the freezer.
They’re also able to bring down the temperature of hot beverages more quickly, and then be removed. They’re a nice conversation starter to have around the house, and come at a reasonable price. Worth considering for a boss.Egg Minder
The Egg Minder is a product out of Quirky and GE that brings a little intelligence into the dairy section of your fridge. Bad Eggs are the worst, but the Egg Minder aims to make sure you never experience them again. The smart tray indicates which egg in the tray is the oldest via LED lights, while a wireless connection to your smartphone keeps you in the loop on expiration dates. If you’re running low, you’ll get a push notification. Even better, you can check how many eggs you have and when they go bad from the grocery store.
The Egg Minder costs $69.99 and is available now.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Bitcoin is acting up at the moment. Following a steep decline that saw the currency trade at prices not seen since late November, trading of Bitcoin on the Mt.Gox exchange has gone crackerdog.
It has fallen into a pattern of very rapid rises and falls that end and begin in a very tight, specific trading range. The following is a chart using one-minute ticks to track the price of Bitcoin on the Mt.Gox exchange for today:
Trading on Mt.Gox is also seeing massive delays, with the current lag listed as almost 40 minutes. So, I doubt that anyone has an idea about what is going on.
Other Bitcoin exchanges, such as Btc-e are displaying similar prices for the currency, so the trading price on Mt.Gox isn’t itself too batty. Instead, current trading patterns themselves are inscrutable, unless we presume some sort of algorithmic allergic reaction to current trading lag. In the meantime, if you can get your trades through, there is likely a decent arbitrage possibility at play, though trading lag times could make any such activity incredibly risky.
Coinbase has Bitcoin at $848, and Btc-e at $865. The currency was over the $1,000 mark yesterday. Bitcoin: Still not that mature.China
While Bitcoin works through whatever bug or issue is causing its current trading pattern, we need to keep in mind the broader context of the current market position of the currency. A recent decision by the Chinese government to ban financial institutions from trading in the currency cut at its potential to become a global repository for value outside of the control of nation states.
Today, news that Baidu has ceased to accept Bitcoin is pushing the currency’s value down. To lose a company like Baidu at once lowers the inherent utility of Bitcoin, and also directly contravenes the narrative that Bitcoin was starting to find wide integration into the world of e-commerce, thus granting it legitimacy, and perhaps improved stability.
Chinese demand has been a key supplier of recently robust demand for Bitcoin, comprising an increasing percentage of Bitcoin’s trading volume. If that driver slips, so too could the value, and market interest in Bitcoin.
Bitcoin has fallen from over $1,200 since the Chinese news cycle broke. That’s a steep decline — about 30 percent — in a few days. The question now becomes what will bring upside back to Bitcoin?
Top Image Credit: Flickr
Gillmor Gang – John Borthwick, Robert Scoble, Doc Searls, Dan Farber, and Steve Gillmor. Live recording session today at 1pm Pacific. Like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/GillmorGang
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
About a week after posting its first anti-Chromebook “Scroogled” video, which features the cast of “Pawn Stars,” Microsoft is now back with a second video. But instead of revisiting the humorous approach of the first one, the company has brought back its regular man-on-the-street routine for the second.
In this video, Microsoft Evangelist Ben Rudolph is tasked with walking the streets of Venice, Calif., to ask people if they would rather have a Chromebook or a Windows laptop. No surprise — nobody wants the Chromebook. Obviously, everybody he asks either needs Photoshop, Illustrator or a Microsoft Office app. None of these run on a Chromebook (assuming you leave out Microsoft’s Office Web Apps. “If that doesn’t have the capability to run Microsoft Office, it’s kind of useless to me,” one lady tells Rudolph.
As in the first ad, Microsoft also plays up the fact that ChromeOS is meant to be online most of the time, conveniently forgetting that there are plenty of offline ChromeOS apps available by now.
Instead of a cheap Chromebook, the ad tells viewers, they should rather buy an Asus T100, 10.1-inch Windows 8 machine with a detachable touchscreen. “This one is the same price, about $300 bucks,” Rudolph says. Actually, try more like $400. And running Photoshop and Illustrator on it won’t bring you much joy either. The people on the street are obviously wowed that they can detach the screen and turn it into a tablet, though people haven’t exactly been lining up to buy convertible laptops so far.
Given that Chromebooks make up about 1 percent of the PC market, Microsoft is mostly increasing mainstream awareness of these devices with its ads, as The Verge’s Tom Warren pointed out earlier today. Despite this low market share, Microsoft clearly sees Chromebooks as a threat, though, and chances are we’ll see a few more of these videos over time.
David Byttow, the former technical lead for Square Wallet, and Chrys Bader-Wechseler, a former Google product manager at Google+, Photovine and YouTube, are raising $1.2 million for a new stealth startup called Secret.
“Nothing is a secret these days,” Bader-Wechseler said, declining to comment on his startup or the round.
Byttow designed the infrastructure for Square’s partnership with Starbucks, and was a previous technical lead at Google+. Bader-Wechseler was brought into Google after creating a photo app called Treehouse and a video service laced around Twitter called Vidly.
He released Google’s competitive entrant into the photo-sharing space called Photovine, before it got folded and he joined the Google+ effort.
We hear the seed round includes investors like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Google Ventures and KPCB, but Bader-Wechseler declined to comment or confirm any of that.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Startup founders, especially those up to their necks in product development, don’t always have the head for building the kinds of customer bases required to keep their business afloat.
That’s where Y Combinator alum MobileWorks comes in. It first raised funding for its approach to building a virtual, on-demand workforce, and now it’s trying to bring that distributed team to bear on another weighty problem: building up a user base. Long story short, MobileWorks CEO Anand Kulkarni is trying to offer user acquisition as a service with a feature called LeadGenius (though I think we can all agree that UAaaS doesn’t have a great ring to it).
If you’re a company looking to drum up some new users, the process seems simple enough — you shell out your monthly fee depending on the level of support you need and let the LeadGenius team do its thing. That “thing” naturally involves plenty of conversations.
“They’ll come to us and talk about where they found their first users and what they look like,” Kulkarni explained. “From there we discuss where to find reproducible sources of users.” Once that team has dug into the meat of a business, they’ll start trawling sources like LinkedIn, Kickstarter, and even CrunchBase in search of leads that could stand to benefit from a client’s offerings. Of course, much of that legwork can be invisible to the company that requested it — LeadGenius handles some of the initial outreach and qualification so in the end that client company gets leads to try to seal the deal with.
Kulkarni says a “good number” of LeadGenius customers are startups like Firebase and Zenefits; considering MobileWorks’ background, it comes as little surprise that many of its users are fellow Y Combinator companies. There are some key larger clients in the mix too, though thanks to some pesky NDAs I can’t name names — one is a notable player in payments and the other is a prominent e-commerce entity.
But there’s a fine line between reaching out to a third party for assistance and dumping the job on them entirely, and MobileWorks isn’t ready to cross into that new frontier just yet. For now, the onus of actually making those crucial sales still falls on the client. “We’re one step short of sales as service,” Kulkarni noted.
He added that a more sales-centric push may not be completely out of the question, but at this point it’s more a question of feasibility than ambition. After all, how much work does it take to make a virtual salesperson as fluent and engaging as an in-house one? Too much to make it worth MobileWorks’ time right now, but there are other startups trying to bridge that very gap. The folks at SwipeGood took a stab at baking small, frictionless donations to charity into every credit card transaction before pivoting last year to offer tools and on-demand sales teams to young companies.
Happy Friday, lovers.
Gift Guide season is upon us, which is why we spend a good chunk of this podcast discussing smart gifts to buy your friends and loved ones. But that didn’t stop us from chatting up the Cyber Monday drama over at Motorola during the Moto X promotion, or the SkyJack drone hack that turns one drone into the leader of an aerial army.
Intro Music by Rick Barr.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
YouTube may be a popular destination for kids, but parents know that it’s not a kid-friendly one. One innocent video of Elmo singing leads to others of him cursing and slinging racial slurs. That’s why two Nickelodeon vets have created batteryPOP – an online and mobile destination where children ages six to eleven can safely browse through cartoons, comedy, music videos and more, sending their favorites to the top of the heap by “popping” them – a mechanism which could one day pave the way to make batteryPOP a farm league for the major networks, like Nick or the Cartoon Channel, for example.
The idea for batteryPOP comes from Greg Alkalay and Taso Mastorakis, who spent years at Nickelodeon on a variety of projects, including writing on-air promos, handling creative advertising, and working with content creators, among other things. The two met several years ago, when they were both tasked with “Nick Extras,” a team that worked to fill breaks in between shows with “bumpers” – original content like animations or other low-budget videos with real kids, or kids and graphics combined.
“What we were seeing is that there was a lot of interest from viewers to watch these little bumpers. They were getting a lot of buzz on messages boards. We were seeing retention over commercial breaks go up,” says Alkalay. “Our taste for short-form content started there, and when Nickelodeon stopped doing them, we wanted to do more.”
The two discussed the idea for some time, earnestly beginning in 2011. By the next year, Alkalay was ready to take the leap. The two had gotten to the point where there were so many ideas, so many content creators struggling to find traction on YouTube, and so many who were stuck in the development process with networks, that it made sense to help them by building a service that could connect an audience of children with that unseen content. An audience which they understand very well, in fact. Alkalay spent 12 years at Nick, and Mastorakis was at Nick owner Viacom for seven.
On batteryPOP’s website, which launched a little over a month ago, kids are the arbiters of what’s good, says Alkalay. As they browse through the various channels and shows – most content is short-form, under five minutes – they have the ability to “pop” the videos they like, which is the equivalent of a “thumbs up” recommendation. These “pops” show on a kid’s profile page, where their friends can see them, too.
There are currently around 30 creators on batteryPOP, and 50 or 60 hours’ worth of content.
Kids can also “charge” a video which will allow them to follow that show, in order to receive updates on their profile, and even interact with the show’s creators, in terms of giving feedback.
On mobile, the company has partnered with Weeblets on a pair of mobile apps for iOS and Android, but these, the founders explain, don’t offer the full experience of the batteryPOP website. They do, however, plan to release their own mobile and tablet apps in early 2014, built in-house.
Unlike some other “curated” video collections aimed at children, like Happly or Totlol, only around half of batteryPOP’s content is sourced from sites like YouTube or VEVO. The other half is original content batteryPOP hosts itself, and sourced through the founders’ long-established industry connections.
“Through popping – sharing [videos] on their personal page – we hope to help creators build an audience around their content, so we can kind of act like a minor league for the networks,” explains Alkalay. “You saw it happen with that web series Fred that got popular on YouTube, and then Nickelodeon picked it up. I think that’s really just the beginning of what’s going to start happening,” he says.
Longer-term, batteryPOP would like to take a small percentage of any deals they help establish between TV networks and videos that “pop” on its network. But in the immediate future, the company is working on production projects for brands to generate revenue. These videos will also be added to batteryPOP’s site, and marked as sponsored. They may also later activate advertising, after reaching a certain level of users.
BatteryPOP won’t be the only online network of sorts competing for projects that aren’t making it to TV for whatever reason, though. Other “networks” like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Instant Video are also moving into original programming, some of it aimed at children – like Netflix with its new Marvel superhero deal, or Amazon with its own kids’ pilots, greenlit by viewers. But batteryPOP’s advantage is not only its singular focus and content pipeline – it’s also free.
New York-based BatteryPOP is currently bootstrapped, with some friends and family funding in tow. Next year, the company may raise a round of outside funding.