BillGuard: Consumer Protection 2.0

One of the remarkable things I learned talking to Yaron Samid, co-founder and CEO of BillGuard, is the level of credit card fraud that’s publicly reported on the Web.

Currently in beta, BillGuard has a mission to catch both unwanted and unauthorized credit transactions—there’s a difference—based on crowdsourced input from its subscribers.

As with a lot of companies that rely on the crowd, BillGuard faced a cold start problem: with few signed up to review and mark questionable charges, there’s little data.

BillGuard cleverly solved it by mining Twitter, consumer complaint forums, and other sites. For kicks, search Twitter for “credit card fraud” and prepare to be surprised

And you know what, according to Samid, they achieved a 20% hit rate matching complaints against vendors culled online with credit transactions from their existing pool of subscribers.Continue reading

Wanderfly Makes Time’s Top 10

Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt, I had a chance to see the revamped Wanderfly.

Christy Liu, Wanderfly’s co-founder and Director of Marketing, put me behind the new dashboard of this visually intensive travel recommendation site as we looked for warmer spots while shivering during an unusual late May cold spell.

The photos I looked at for Italy (Rome, Venice, Sienna) are stunning.  And for my next job, I’d like to be the house photographer for Wanderfly.

I learned from Liu yesterday that Wanderfly made Time Inc.’s list of  “10 NYC Startups to Watch” and Entrepreneur magazine’s “100 Brilliant Companies”.  Continue reading

Quixey: Applification or Bust

I like the idea of Quixey.

It has the Google-like cyclops interface —a single search box— but instead of searching the web, it’s looking for apps from the crowded shelves of mobile app stores.

I saw Quixey for the first time at TechCrunch Disrupt last week. I discovered this well funded company—cash from Eric Schmidt’s fund— around the corner from the Startup Alley area, in the more exclusive sponsored neighborhood.

After talking with the Quixey gang, I learned that instead of searching on app descriptions alone, their software culls blogs, forums, and social media to accumulate additional descriptive content.

So how does it do?Continue reading

TechCrunch Disrupt: The End

My gut told me that Getaround, the peer-to-peer car rental service, should be the Battlefield winner.

It was a crowd favorite and solved the age-old problem of finding temporary access to wheels without paying any up-front fees.

However, it seemed to me that the judges found this a messy proposition with possible regulatory issues, insurance issues, and potential customer satisfaction headaches—’the car I rented smells funny’, etc, etc.Continue reading

Tales from Startup Alley: Shoutomatic

If tweets are the short form of a blog post, then what’s the short audio equivalent for a podcast?

I found the answer at Shoutomatic’s booth talking to its co-founder and COO Michael Levy. The idea is simple: why not give give the people the power to quickly record short audio messages or shouts, and tweet out the embedded link or post it onto a FaceBook wall?

There are other, more cumbersome ways to do this kind of thing in the Web world.

Shoutomatic, though, is its owns ecosystem and social network—profiles, real-time shout stream, follow-follower model, etc.

Most intriguing to me and a powerful differentiator of this service is its celebrity shouters, which include Andy Dick, Eurythmic’s Dave Stewart, rapper Chuck D, Danny Bonaduce, and American Idol winner Bo Bice.

Celebrity and branded shouts are really the core of the for-pay business of this startup.
Continue reading

Tales from Startup Alley: Openspace

I was in the middle of getting a demo of Openspace’s app finder technology when the CEO and co-founder Robert Reich cruised up to the booth on his skateboard like he was some whiz developer.

Actually he is! He was also the founder and developer of a  mobile advertising network called OneRiot. And with his new startup, he’s continuing his mission to help the developer community.Continue reading