NYC Startup Weekend: Pitches for a Rainy Afternoon

The last time I attended a NYC Startup Weekend at General Assembly I found myself wedged against the wall near the kitchen serving area with just enough elbow room to jot down a few notes.

While it was less crowded on Sunday evening during the final presentations for this August SW—maybe something to do with the monsoon rains and flooded subways—the energy levels were still very high and it was great fun watching these raw but spirited pitches.

After a careful review of my notes, I’ve come up with my list of favorites: LockeRoom, ReadBak, OinkerBox, and Sharewith911.

This time around I was in partial sync with the judges’ choices: Sharewith911 garnered a first, and ReadBak took second place.Continue reading

Searching Quora with SMS (hat tip Twilio)

So does Quora, the “continually improving” Q&A site, have a mobile app?

The answer is no: there really isn’t an official app yet.

I know because I searched Quora.

Anne Halsall, a product designer at Quora, said in response to the above question that an iPhone app is in the works, and then suggested a third-party app called Social Questions.

Dave Burkhart, who is a student and non-Quora employee and had provided another A in this thread, is the developer of this unofficial search software, which can be currently found in Apple’s store.

My journey through Quora in search of a Quora search app was started after I read a post in Twilio’s blog.Continue reading

And the winner last night was …

At New York Tech Meetup’s election day event, a bunch of young college-age upstarts stole the show from some of the slightly older incumbents.  I’m referring to student projects and hackathon winners who were up on stage at Skirball demoing their software efforts.

The evening’s theme was set by host Evan Korth, assistant professor of computer science at NYU and one of the co-founders of HackNY. Korth laid out his vision of New York City as an East Coast tech hub with NYU, Columbia, Parsons, and Rutgers acting as an educational seedbed for startup activity in this area—i.e., the Stanford University model.

And based on the demos I saw and the various entrepreneurial opportunities and programs around town, I’m becoming more of a believer.

Continue reading

NYTM 8/3/10: Shirky Rebutted, Social Shopping, and Semantic Web

My ears are still ringing from a rant by Sam Lessin, founder, as he went about trying to disprove intrinsic altruism and trust, and reclaim the commanding heights with neo-classical economics. More on this later, but it is a curious position for a tech entrepreneur whose site is based on people uploading and sharing content for a cost of bupkis.

A few of the high points for me at last night’s New York Tech Meetup: TurnTo, which lets online shoppers find out what friends have purchased; Twilio (which I’ve written about before) had a nice telephony demo for this data-centric audience, and Indaba is a great site for helping musicians monetize their craft.

Oh, and there was a startup, I think called Microsoft, showing off their Bink, or maybe it’s Bing(?) search engine. And Willow Garage, a robotics startup, gave us a glimpse into a future where we stay at home and let our mechanical avatars roam the corridors and aisles of faraway office suites.Continue reading

OnSIP: Real PBX Flavor in the Cloud

Junction Networks is a hosted PBX app provider that lets startups and small businesses pull a VoIP phone systems out of thin air or, more accurately, out of the cloud.  The company was founded in 2004, and open standards were practically written into their constitution.  In other words, they support SIP.

Their OnSIP hosted PBX service has a maturity level that will appeal to businesses—tech and otherwise—that want a phone system and not a collection of APIs with some sample apps.

I spent a  morning setting up and testing auto-attendants, hunts groups, conference bridges, and voice mailboxes on my OnSIP demo system.  It worked without a hitch.   And it was rewarding, in a telecom kind of way, to  finally use my collection of free SIP softphones (X-Lite and SIP Communicator) as true office phones and bask in the glow of emulated message waiting indicator lights.Continue reading

Phone in Your Blog Post With Twilio

WordPress just announced an interesting—let’s say somewhere between quirky and neat— addition to their hosted blog site.  You can now phone in a blog post!  With help from  Twilio’s unified communications APIs, the software will deposit an audio file attachment to the post. Now roving reporters can literally call in their stories.  Continue reading

Twilio’s OpenVBX: Open Source Attendant

I downloaded OpenVBX, Twilio’s bendable, programmable cloud-based unified communications platform, tried out a few call control flows, and then drifted off into a reverie about telecom start-ups before the crash.

When the CLECs and ASPs first came on the scene in the 90s, they were offering hosted personal attendants (or assistants)—which was the term used before “Google Voice-like”—that allowed subscribers to configure find-me/follow me schedules for cell, home, and office numbers,  set up voicemail notifications, and craft simple IVR menus. They would often  throw in  speech rec, and support virtual presence through local phone numbers.

Maybe $30 per month, with a cap on minutes. These personal auto attendants were  tasty telecom appetizers and considering what was available from incumbents at the time, practically disruptive.Continue reading

Gov 2.0: Unified Communications Meets Social Networking

Were you distracted by iPad mania and overlook this year’s Emerging Communications Conference that was held this week in San Francisco?  I did.  eComm is the successor to the short lived  O’Reilly  eTel conference. The talks and presentations all looked quite tasty, and I’m hoping videos will be made public soon.

In any case, I  stumbled across a slide deck delivered at eComm by electronic government evangelist Mark Headd. (Check out Mark’s excellent blog, Vox Populi.) In it he describes a few practical projects involving on-line government docs, cloud-based telephony, and crowdsourcing-social networking, areas that I’ve been focusing on recently.Continue reading

A Little More Fun With Twilio

I’m been trying to keep up with multiple stories (Sprint-Clearwire “4G”,  Harbinger Capital’s nationwide LTE network , iPad) while running around tending other assignments.  No, I don’t have much of a smartphone,  more of a Bronze-age artifact that came with my Verizon plan.  So how do I monitor my RSS feeds  using my basic cell phone when I’m away from desk?

My only requirement was that I won’t compromise my core philosophy of  applying minimal programming effort to the task at hand. I’m thankful to be living in the right era to help me stay true to my beliefs: they’re so many great software components and productivity  tools available that it’s possible to glue together off-the-shelf parts to produce a useful digital time-saver with minimal perspiration.

As you know from a previous post, I’m excited about Twilio’s VoiceXML-lite hosting service. I will also reveal for the first time my love for a visual-oriented RSS mashup tool from Yahoo, called Pipes.

I just needed to glue a simple Pipes workflow to a little bit of PHP that calls Twilio’s SMS service and I’d have a poor man’s news notifier. Continue reading