Posted: March 2nd, 2011 | Author: Jolie O'Dell | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: smb, Startup, tech, technology, telephony, tellfi, Web Apps, y combinator | Comments Off
We’ve been playing with TellFi
, a freshly launched startup from Y Combinator
that makes SMB
-style telephony a breeze — even for remote teams with multiple phone lines.
It lets you handle call forwarding, voicemail, extensions and even call analysis with ease and from a super simple web interface that business owners or administrators can understand.
We can see it working for the average Joe or Jane, too; however, the people who’d likely get the most utility out of the app are small and medium-sized businesses, including freelancers.
Here’s how TellFi works: You choose a U.S. or Canadian area code, then choose a phone number from a drop-down menu. This is your TellFi number. You can then configure your TellFi number to do a few interesting and useful things.
For example, you can set up your number just to take voicemails and to e-mail you an MP3 of each message. The voicemail can also be transcribed; TellFi co-founder Jason Corwin says the transcription is roughly on the level of what you’d get from Google Voice, but “we’re currently working with providers to find a solution for the best transcription quality possible.”
Alternatively, you can configure your TellFi account to do call forwarding. In that case, when callers dial your TellFi number, the service will ring one or multiple phone lines — perhaps multiple cell phones for a distributed team, or your personal phone line and home line — and, if desired, take a voicemail if no one picks up. Again, the voicemail would be e-mailed to you as an MP3.
Finally, the service offers a sophisticated extensions feature, which lets you set up a greeting (either recorded or read in a “robot voice”) and let your callers decide what they want to do. Extensions can be set up to record voicemail and ring other phones, either around the clock or within a given time frame.
For example, I set up a Mashable San Francisco office TellFi number with extensions. Callers could press 1 to leave a message, press 2 for the bureau chief, 3 for the startups reporter, etc. Choosing options 2 or 3 would ring our bureau chief’s or startup reporter’s phone between the hours of noon and 5 p.m. (You know what they say: The early bird gets tired!), and take a voicemail message during the remaining hours of the day.
Not only does TellFi offer convenient call handling on the front end, it also gives users a very handy dashboard for analyzing call volume and the breakdown of wireless versus landline calls. And we love the web interface for quickly listening to voicemail messages, also available in the dashboard.
So, what does all this telephony cost? For you, dear Mashable readers, it’s free for the first month. You can try out the service with one local line and 50 minutes; and you don’t need a credit card to sign up.
Otherwise, it’s a very simple fee structure: Pay a monthly rate, with no taxes or sign-up/cancellation fees. For $10 per month, you can get one local number and 100 minutes. An additional $14 per month adds an extra 350 minutes and a toll-free number to the package. And at the Pro level, users pay $70 per month for 1,000 minutes, two local numbers and a toll-free number.
Future features will include private and customizable conference lines, which Corwin says is “one of our most requested features. Just today, we added local Canadian numbers to TellFi, which Google Voice doesn’t offer. We’re also currently testing international calling with a limited number of customers.”
Corwin says he and co-founder Conor Lee found that traditional SMB telephony solutions were typically “painful and expensive” and that non-traditional options, such as Google Voice, didn’t offer decent features for businesses. About 100 early customers — including freelancers and other small businesses — indicated to the TellFi team that “there were many people in a similar situation that were looking for a quick and easy system for setting up their phones.”
If you try TellFi, let us know how it works out for you.
Image courtesy of Flickr, Seattle Municipal Archives.
More About: smb, telephony, tellfi, y combinator
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Posted: March 2nd, 2011 | Author: Jolie O'Dell | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: joyent, node.js, ryan dahl, Web Apps, Web Development | Comments Off
Joyent, which literally sponsors Node.js
by, among other things, employing Node creator Ryan Dahl, has just launched No.de, a new hub for the company’s Node.js-specific hosting services.
Joyent’s No.de hosting service uses Git revision control and is backed by Joyent SmartMachines.
Joyent is placing particular emphasis on these Node SmartMachines, which the company says “are what virtual machines would be if they were optimized for software applications instead of being designed to replicate hardware.” SmartMachines are particularly designed with real-time web apps in mind, and they are intended to give better performance and better utilization of hardware resources than traditional server options.
And since Node was built from the ground up for real-time communication, the company figures its SmartMachines are a good fit.
We wrote about open-source Node hosting platform Nodester back when it was NodeFu. Nodester competes with No.de somewhat, but it’s hard to make an apples-and-oranges comparison between a slick, corporation-backed project and a relatively scrappy one from three developers.
If you’re building Node apps of your own, we’re particularly interested to know what you think of Joyent’s latest offering.
As an added bonus, here’s Dahl talking at Joyent’s Node Camp in December:
More About: joyent, node.js, ryan dahl
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Posted: March 2nd, 2011 | Author: Jennifer Van Grove | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: democon, ecommerce, Fashion, Microsoft Kinect, online shopping, Startup, Swivel, technology, Web Apps, Web2.0 Startups, zugara | Comments Off
Modern women dream of the day when they can buy a super cute dress or practical pair of pants online that will fit perfectly on arrival.
That day is not yet here, but two new products from Zugara and FaceCake Marketing, presented at the DEMO Spring conference, combine augmented reality with online shopping, hoping to take womankind one giant visual leap forward. Regrettably, they also fall short of that mission.
Swivel, from FaceCake Marketing, taps into Microsoft Kinect’s motion-sensing technology to offer a virtual at-home dressing room. Users grab an item of clothing or accessory, and get to see how it could look in real life. Shoppers can select a background to see how items translate to settings, say a ski slope.
In demonstrations, Swivel feels more like a game than a shopping tool. Clothes shopping, more than any most areas of commerce, is a matter of precision. Will the clothes fit in a flattering way? Will the real-world fabric or color, which may be a shade different from its on-screen counterpart, still compliment your skin? Is that pair of shades just the right shape for your face? Swivel could make online shopping more entertaining, but won’t solve many of your real e-commerce challenges. At least for now.
Zugara’s solution is the Webcam Social Shopper. It is equally appealing in principle, and disappointing in practice. It will work for anyone with a webcam-enabled PC. Visit a partner retailer’s website, hit a button to try on apparel and see first-hand if a style is right for you. You can also snap a photo and share it on social networks to solicit feedback from friends.
Despite the delight of experiencing something avant garde and high-tech, I found trying on several dresses to be terribly disappointing. Not one came close to fitting the on-screen me. If augmented reality cannot help me envision the real thing, there’s nothing real about the experience at all.
Neither Zugara or Swivel will be a panacea for marketers, brands or retailers, who are looking to lower the rate of returns. Swivel’s virtual shopping experience creates a false sense of hope, while Zugara layers items in a way that could discourage sales, not improve them.
For now, women (and men) are still best served with a more practical product like Polyvore for creating new looks.
Image courtesy of Flickr, doublebug
More About: democon, ecommerce, fashion, Microsoft Kinect, online shopping, Swivel, zugara
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Posted: March 2nd, 2011 | Author: Jennifer Van Grove | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: democon, focus groups, GutCheck, market research, News, qualitative research, Startup, Web Apps, Web2.0 Startups | Comments Off
In a class of 53 startups presenting at DEMO’s Spring 2011 conference in Palm Springs, GutCheck stood tallest. The do-it-yourself qualitative research company took home the People’s Choice award and $1 million in winnings.
The Denver-based company was voted best in show by conference attendees. The startup’s mission: to make focus groups more accessible and affordable.
GutCheck customers draw from the service’s pool of five million participants for targeted questioning. Then they interview respondents in a traditional question-and-answer survey format, or something more free-form. Interview transcripts are stored and can be shared with co-workers.
DEMO’s focus this time around: apps for mobile and the social sector. Several startups offered me-too services for social media management, news curation, mobile application development and group communication. The show was not without its standout ideas — ecoATM, for instance, is a hardware company with a futuristic solution to electronics recycling.
So, all competitors considered, is GutCheck the next big idea? Given that it has no groundbreaking or remarkable technology, this respondent would have to answer no. But, GutCheck does have the makings of a revenue-generating hit, perhaps following in the footsteps of Groupon’s low-tech success. Its low price point — $40 per qualified 30 minute interview — makes it affordable for even the smallest of businesses and startups.
Prior to its official DEMO debut, GutCheck had raised $2 million. Now, as the People’s Choice winner, GutCheck is the beneficiary of $1 million worth of complimentary advertising from IDG publications.
Six other startups were recognized by DEMO organizers for the quality of their products and demonstrations Tuesday. Webcam Social Shopper from Zugara, Nimble, ecoATM, Stratosphere by V3, Manilla and ecobe all received recognition for ideas ranging from augmented reality e-commerce and social CRM to a drop-in virtual desktop appliance.
Images courtesy of Flickr, The DEMO Conference
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Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: Sarah Kessler | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Startup, startups, videos, Web Apps | Comments Off
The web is a big, constantly changing place that — for many — requires instructions. Startup Grovo launched a site in October that offers these instructions with high-quality, free videos about popular web apps like Mint, Amazon and Twitter.
On Tuesday, the site announced a redesign that will put its focus on quality content to the test. The new site is launching with Grovo Premium, a business lesson section that will require a subscription of either $19 per month or $190 per year to access. Users will still be able to access 50% of Grovo content for free, but the other 50% will now live behind a paywall.
With competition from free content on YouTube and sites like eHow, paid content could be a hard sell. CEO Jeff Fernandez, who hired an in-house professional team to create the 500 videos currently in the site’s library, is banking on a niche expertise and high video quality to persuade users that the content is worth the bill.
“We are hyper-focused,” he explains. “We only cover the Internet. And everything we do is written from scratch, professionally produced and voiced over by a professional.”
Obviously, this strategy is a departure from most user-generated YouTube content. Similarly, sites like eHow don’t rely on an in-house team, but rather a large pool of freelancers, to create videos on just about anything that a search engine will send traffic to.
Grovo’s one- to two- minute videos come with study tools like quizzes, takeaway points, and glossary terms. The site also recommends appropriate lessons based on what a user has already explored, and logs user activity for future reference. For people who want to use the web better, it’s clear Grovo is a valuable education tool. But whether they’ll pay for it is another question (note, for instance, the news media’s lack of success with paywalls).
But even if the paywall doesn’t pay off, it won’t necessarily be the end of the road for Grovo. The privately funded company is already negotiating partnerships with other websites that are interested in developing how-to guides to offer their users, which could help foot the bill for the quality content and add to Grovo’s free library at the same time.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Vladru
More About: how-to guide, startups, videos, web apps
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