A 1-Year-Old Magazine About Farming Is the Talk of the Media World

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Greek Startup Mageca Builds the First App Store for Interactive Apps

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What’s your startup called and what’s your big idea?

Mageca is the first app-store for interactive applications using 3D Sensors that recognize gesture, voice & vision. Our main goal is to create a web space where applications for a variety of uses can be found from the end-user. The latter can vary from a parent playing with its kids at their living room or a healthcare institute that needs a touchless solution for the sterilized environment of an operating room.

Mageca’s mission is to bring HCI technologies into people’s everyday life. We aim to become the reference point for Human Computer Interaction. We strongly feel that touchless technologies, gesture control & motion recognition enabled devices will become the next big thing regarding the way people interact with machines.

What’s the story behind your idea?

The marketplace aims to incentivize developers through offering them a space to promote their work while creating a community between sensors manufacturers, users and creators for the first time.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

We are a team of 3 enthusiastic entrepreneurs that came together 2 years ago. Antonis, is the founder of the company along with his 3 brothers that for the last 14 years have been working together for the last 14 years, building their company from scratch. It all started when they started the process of developing an application (using kinect) for their store- a virtual fitting room.Through this process we realized not only the great capabilities of the new technologies but the pain of users and developers that dont have a specific marketplace.

Galateia joined the team after she came back from London, having graduated from UCL with an Msc at TE Entrepreneurship, given her genuine interest in gesture- recognition technologies and experience working with startups at UK. Mariana, with an experience of 7 years in the retail industry and working as a costumer for the past 5 she is giving her valuable inputs regarding sales.

Our 2 great advisors: Savvas Georgiou, CTO at Daily Secret and Suneil Mishra, working with Primesense the past years are continuously helping with their contacts and deep knowledge of the industry we are operating in.

Where are you located, and what is the ecosystem like there?

Mageca is located in Greece, Athens. The start-ups scene has really exploded here over the last couple of years, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch. In 2013, Greek startups raised more than 55 million dollars in capital.

The country’s economy has been spiraling downwards for the last four years. That, has forced businesses and innovators to aim globally and think big.

Why now?

For Mageca, we believe that this is the ideal time & place to pursue our vision and embrace the opportunity arising around touchless technologies and be first movers in the industry.

What milestones have you reached?

Since we have been running the company since May 2013 we are proud to say that we have already reached significant milestones.

We have already established a network of 750 developers nationwide along with a base of registered users. Another major achievement is the support we have these 2 years from major companies operating in the industry. Microsoft, Intel, Tobii & Softkinetic are the companies providing us with developer’s kits for their new products, to review and use before their official launch.

Furthermore, we have managed to participate in worldwide events presenting our work, such is “TEDxAcademy”, “TEDxAUEB”, “Startup Turkey”, “Startup Berlin”, “Rising Ideas” and we were also sponsoring HackaNUI”. The past 3 months we were one of the winning startup companies participating in the biggest accelerator in Greece: “Cosmote Startup”.

What are your next milestones?

The goals we are aiming to achieve within the next 6 months is to secure a funding round that will enable us maintain the quality of application uploaded on site and further enhance the marketplace with new tools and services responding to the needs of our network of developers and sensors’ manufacturers. We are aiming to have 35 brand new applications uploaded on site within this period and extended customer base, including business clients such is hospitals and schools.

Our new redesigned website and appstore is about to be launched within May, with new apps and our blog with all the news and hot picks to keep an eye on around gesture recognition.

Where can people find out more?

We are always happy to get to know you!

You can reach us via

• Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mageca/566846519998879

• Twitter: @MagecaLabs

• E-mail: info@mageca.com

and of course through the website: http://www.mageca.com/

Flipoutz: The Family Aha Moment That Led to Shark Tank

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You’re on a trip. A family trip. And if you’re not a kid anymore, pretend you are one for a few minutes while reading this.

You’re sitting next to your older sister and younger brother, complaining and bickering to your parents about how the car’s too hot or that you’re hungry. The “I’m not touching you… I’m not touching you…” game is played, and it’s an all-around delightful time in the 8’ x 5’ x 4’ box that is your car.

Then Mom turns around and asks a seemingly simple question: “If you could have any toy in the entire world to play with right now [to occupy you enough to make you stop talking], what would it be?”

And so it happened that the Johnson family, in unison and more joyfully than ever, stumbled upon their first aha moment.

The oldest sister wanted self-expression. The middle sister: fashion and something to show off to friends. The youngest, the only boy of the three, something “cool” that he could trade. (For nostalgic value and anyone who remembers, he wanted something cooler than Neopets and Pokémon cards.)

The natural solution to all three: a bracelet and token-like coins, of course.

An uncle in the family, who also doubled as a patent attorney, was pitched the idea and, after a little research, gave them two distinct things:

  1. the go-ahead (that nobody else was doing what they wanted to do), and
  2. their second aha moment.

“That was it,” said the middle sister, Lachlan Johnson, now a freshman at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. “That was all we needed.”

And so they began: first, by ‘coining’ the name Flipoutz, and, before long, making appearances at every convention and trade show that would let under-18 year olds on the exhibition floor.flipoutz2

Their individually decorated coins that fit snuggly inside silicon bracelets could be traded and tracked all around the world, a feature that eventually landed them a Season 2 appearance on the ever-so-popular Shark Tank.

Shortly after Shark Tank, they sold the company, and the Johnson family children joined the ranks of minors who have experienced a feat few adults three and four times their age have.

Full-time college and high school students now, Lachlan and her little brother, Jake, have since started another company, Joxie, which was, of course, spawned from an aha moment of its own. This time it was with bow ties, though, in a brand they’re calling Beaux Up: “What if you could personalize your bow tie – however and whenever you wanted to?”

Though they don’t have a product line out yet, you should be expecting to see it in stores sometime within the next several months. In the meantime you can follow @Flipoutz and visit them online at their online store. And stay tuned for a follow up article detailing Beaux Up’s creative process.

Tyler Sondag is a startup connoisseur with a hand in anything and everything you could imagine. Hailing from the ever-developing Northwest Mississippi, an alum of Saint Louis University and currently a transplant to St. Louis, Missouri, one of his main missions in life is to get and keep young people engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Follow him on Twitter: @MrSondag.

Flashnotes Helps Students Study–And Make Money

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If you’re the smart kid in class, it’s time to stop doing everyone’s studying for free.

Flashnotes.com is a peer-to-peer marketplace for college notes and study guides. Students post their guides on the platform, and each sells for around $10.

Started by Mike Matousek during his senior year at Kent State, the company has grown quickly in the last few years.

In February they closed a $3.6 million Series A led by Stage 1 Ventures.

And, yes, you really can make money selling  your notes online. According to the leaderboard on the Flashnotes homepage, Tony2050 from Florida State has pulled in almost &12,000 so far. That’s better than your average part time job!

Check out our Q&A with Mike below:

1) What’s your startup called?

Flashnotes.com is a Boston-based startup that is becoming an influential leader in the higher ed tech space.

2) What’s your big idea and how does it work?

Flashnotes.com is the student-to-student study materials marketplace. The online platform allows college students to buy and sell course specific study materials — study guides,notes, flashcards, video tutorials, and live video help. My company is on a mission to provide college students with the two things they need most – more money & better grades. Our Pays2Study™ approach empowers smart college students to make money from their own study material, while helping other students study smarter to get better grades.

At Flashnotes.com,  we want to create an environment that allows college students to have access to the information they need to be successful in their courses. Currently, 42% of college students drop out and it’s often because they are falling behind. Flashnotes.com is on a mission to provide these students with the materials they need to get over that hump by serving content in a variety of forms.

3) What’s the story behind your idea?

I founded Flashnotes.com in 2010, when I was a senior at Kent State University. My idea for the company came when I was taking a statistics class that many of my classmates struggled with. The course came naturally to me, and it wasn’t long before students were hunting me down for my study guides and notes. Soon after, Flashnotes.com was born, and is now used by college students at universities and colleges across the country.

4) Who are the founders?

As mentioned previously, I founded Flashnotes.com while I was a senior at Kent State University.

5) Where are you located?

Flashnotes.com is located in Boston’s Faneuil Hall marketplace.

6) What’s the startup scene like there?

Boston’s innovation economy is thriving, and it really is a hub for technology startups and young entrepreneurs. In recent years, an entire Innovation District has emerged along the South Boston Waterfront, and with so many local colleges and universities, there’s no shortage of talent for the city’s burgeoning community of web and technology startups.

7) What milestones have you reached?

In the last year, Flashnotes.com has seen rapid adoption at colleges and universities across the country with a 175% growth in users. In the last two months we also raised $3.6 million in Series A venture funding and acquired Moolaguides, an online study materials marketplace with a strong user base in Florida.

8) What are your next milestones?

This year, Flashnotes.com is focused on expansion to additional colleges and universities across the U.S. We’re also looking to empower students with registered disabilities with our online marketplace and are actively looking to work with universities’ disability offices to offset program costs, increase note-taker retention throughout the semester, and enable these students to have access to critical course material. 

9) Where can people find out more?

To find out more information about Flashnotes.com, readers can visit our website at www.flashnotes.com, like us on Facebook,  or follow us on Twitter, @Flashnotes.

Chimpmint Takes on Buffer, Feedly, and All Those Other Guys

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Those of us in the tech world know all about social media marketing and finding and sharing content online. We know that it’s good for our brands and reputations, and a lot of us think carefully about how we want to handle social media.

incontent3Your average small business? Maybe, but maybe not. And without some level of social media savvy, they can get lost in the crowd.

That’s where Chimpmint comes in. They’re looking to curate and share content for small businesses who don’t necessarily have the time or motivation to learn social media marketing. There are plenty of tools that do what they do, but Chimpmint is honing in on the customers who will be overwhelmed by the more popular tools.

They face a few challenges, though. Most significantly, marketing to small businesses–and convincing them they need this–could prove difficult. The companies they’re talking about can often be averse to the Internet in general, much less social media.

Also, you know, Buffer, Feedly…

Check out Chimpmint’s Q&A below. Then hop over and let them know what you think.

What is the name of your startup?

Chimpmint Content Curating & Sharing

What’s your big idea?

If traditional marketing is land and social media is the ocean, then many startups, small businesses, and personal brands are lost at sea.
Every brand, at one point or another, has the same two core problems when it comes to social media marketing:

  1.     I don’t know what to post on social media to build my follower base and to engage with them.
  2.    I don’t have the time to post.

So how does Chimpmint help? To solve the first problem, we search, find, and present related content to that brand. Doesn’t matter what you sell, if you have a brand, then we have quality articles, images, and videos  that relates to what your brand. To solve the second problem, Chimpmint helps you share efficiently. Already in our first release, we’ve gotten great feedback on the simplicity of our scheduling feature. And like an infomercial, it gets better! Our next upgrade is coming soon and it’ll will be a game changer. We plan to make social media management as relevant to a business owner as checking an email.

What’s the story behind your idea?

Once upon a time, about 11 months ago, my partner Maurice Prosper and I were working in the web development. One of our early clients, Stacy, owned a small furniture store. To our surprise, just a month after finishing Stacy’s new website, she left us a message stating her dissatisfaction.

What was wrong? The website worked like a well oiled machine.

So we asked Stacy. She told us she feels the site isn’t worth the cost since the traffic to the site stayed the same.  So we started our search on Google for a product that can drive traffic to Stacy’s website with social media. Right away, we knew it had to be simple, because Stacy didn’t want to learn social media marketing, and preferably a ‘Smart Software’ that educated users while getting the job done. Unfortunately, we never found this magical software. That’s when we had our “aha moment”.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Maurice Prosper and Michael Tibebu. We met in Mr. Thomas’s history class in high school. Good ‘ole times.

Where are you based?

Chimpmint is based out of Austin, Texas but we service any and all businesses since we provide our services via the internet.

How are you different from the competition? Buffer comes to mind…

We simplified our software while being able to improve efficiency. Our competitors see the demand but see only one layer of the problem. As stated in Question[1], just a scheduling feature isn’t going to cut it for Stacy the store owner. Neither is a bare content aggregate. Chimpmint is the only web application that solves both those problems, while keeping simplicity of the product for our user’s learning curve and user experience.

What milestones have you reached so far?

We just celebrated our 3 month anniversary. That being said, since then we’ve gotten users on Chimpmint giving us great feedback and advice. We’ve legitimatized our online brand @Chimpmint with well over 400 followers. All of which we’ve attained by using our own product. Our blog (blog.chimpmint.com) returning readers. We also showcased at South by South West in Austin, Texas in front of thousands of tech lovers and investors.

What are your next milestones?

Chimpmint next milestone is to reach our goal of signing up our first 1000 businesses. We still have spots open. Sign up at www.chimpmint.com we wont disappoint.

Where can people find out more?

People can find out more about Chimpmint by emailing hello@chimpmint.com.

They can also reach us via our feedback button located on the bottom right corner on www.chimpmint.com

Our first 1000 businesses get a year long free subscription to Chimpmint. Don’t miss out guys, it’s a good time to register at www.chimpmint.com.

TapShield Launches New Products to Keep Everyone Safe–From College Kids to Executives

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Today Orlando-based TapShield announced the release of an enterprise-grade platform that improves safety across college campuses and for global companies. The system essentially turns your smartphone into a “personal mobile safety device,” keeping you connected with safety officials and loved ones.

Let’s take college campuses.

incontent3We’re all familiar with the blue poles placed around campus, supposedly to call campus security if you feel threatened. But, in a real emergency, who has time to run to the blue pole, dial the 10 digit number, and explain the situation–all while fending off an attacker?

No one.

Instead TapShield connects campus security with every device that downloads the app. When a someone calls in, security can immediately dispatch thanks to GPS technology and other relevant caller information. According to the company, this improves response times by as much as 47%.

TapShield has been tested at the University of Florida for the last 6 months.

“The TapShield solution is easy to use and allows our dispatchers to quickly view GPS location and key caller information so emergency reporting is fast and efficient,” said Chief Linda Stump of the University of Florida Police Department. “I believe this helps our department provide pervasive security in a way which resonates with our students.”

It’s not just for emergencies, though. Features like Entourage alerts contacts when you’ve left  one place. If you haven’t arrived to your destination in a reasonable time, contacts are alerted again so they can check on you.

My favorite feature might be Yank, which–when activated–sends a silent alarm to authorities if the headphones are pulled from your phone.

TapShield doesn’t want to only focus on personal emergencies, though. They’re thinking big.

For example, during the Boston marathon bombings last year, many people weren’t able to let their loved ones or companies know they were okay because cell service was packed.

“If CNN has breaking news about a global terror threat, TapShield lets businesses know which one of their executives or traveling employees might be in that area,” said Jordan Johnson, TapShield CEO. “TapShield facilitates a real-time, two-way communication with employees anywhere in the world using devices they already own.”

The challenge for TapShield might be the dreaded feature creep. In my interview with Johnson, the list of features was so long it was hard to keep them straight or figure out what exactly TapShield was looking to do. There was always one more thing to talk about.

Maybe this will work in TapShield’s favor. With so many use cases, the system could gain widespread adoption as people use it in different ways. Or, all the options could be overwhelming, and people could choose not to use it at all. The trick, of course, is selling it to campuses and corporations.

With more campuses on board, and corporations seeking them out, TapShield might have that one covered.

How Incorporation Can Help a Startup

stock1Startup founders face many questions during the process of turning their dreams into a viable, money-earning business. One of the most important questions that must be addressed in the process involves the legal structure of the company. Business owners need to decide whether or not to incorporate their business.

Types of Corporations

No two business models are exactly the same. For this reason, there are several types of corporation structures to accommodate every owner’s needs. The IRS allows businesses to choose to be taxed as either a “C corporation” or an “S corporation,” according to LegalZoom.  Both structures have their benefits and disadvantages.

The S corporation structure is popular with many small-business owners because it has only one level of tax. Companies in this structure pass corporate income, deductions, losses and credits to their shareholders for federal tax purposes, according to the IRS. When setting up an S corporation, business owners should check with their state to understand what the exact requirements are.

Another common type of corporate taxation structure recognized by the IRS is the C-corporation. This structure is somewhat similar to an S corporation. However, there are also some significant differences. The most important difference between the two is that C corporations are subject to double taxes. This means that not only are the company’s shareholders responsible for paying taxes, but the company is as well. In this structure, the shareholders are responsible for taxes on the company’s dividends. At the same time, a business in this structure must pay taxes on its net income. As with S corporations, business owners looking to form a C corporation should consult and understand their state’s requirements to do so.

Benefits of Corporations

Determining the legal structure of your business is an important step to take when turning your dreams into a reality. There are several types of corporations recognized by the IRS, and the benefits of setting up one of these structures are almost endless.

There are five reasons why small businesses should incorporate. Perhaps the most significant is that a corporation protects the entrepreneur’s personal assets if debts or legal judgments are claimed against the business, according to E.J. Dealy of Fox Business. In essence, becoming a corporation allows for business owners to thrive while protecting their own assets in the event of an unfortunate incident.

Another major benefit of becoming incorporated is the increased exposure. When a business is first starting out the number one task is to attract customers and stand out above the crowd. One way to do that is by incorporating your business. As an incorporated entity, it may become easier to attract the clients and vendors needed to help your company succeed.

Becoming an incorporated business not only affects the present status of the company, but it may also impact its future. Taking the steps to incorporate ensures that the business can remain open in the event of major changes.

Incorporated businesses have the opportunity to make use of tax deductions for normal business expenses. Whether the business is a flower shop or a photography studio, owners have the opportunity to deduct supplies and other necessary purchases from their taxes. There are 75 business-related expenses that companies may be able to deduct from their taxes, according to Mark J. Kohler writing for Entrepreneur.

Prior to submitting a tax return, business owners would benefit from combing through their business expenses with a certified public accountant. This should be done to ensure that no deductions are missed and that all deductions are legitimate.

The business world is constantly changing. The benefits of incorporating may be applied to a company that is currently operating under a sole proprietor status and wants to change to a corporation. They can also be applied to a corporation that is just in the process of forming for the first time.

The Next Step

Once business owners have chosen the corporation structure they wish to enter into and have considered its benefits, it is time to put their wishes on paper legally. There are many forms that need to be created, signed and filed during the process of forming a business for legal recognition. Some business owners may choose to file this paperwork on their own. If an owner prefers to have help with these documents, they may choose to use a service such as LegalZoom to complete the process for them.

Establishing the legal structure for a small business is important. The type of structure determines the types of protection afforded to business owners, both personally and professionally. Choosing to operate as either an S or C corporation can offer many benefits to both the owner of the company as well as its shareholders. These benefits can affect the company in the present and may also help preserve it for the future.

How to Enhance a Job Hunt Using Social Media

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Many job agencies are using social media for recruiters as a way of sourcing the most talented individuals. As such, it makes sense to get ahead of the game now, by following these simple steps in order to boost your online social media profile.

There are several super-smart ways in which you can enhance your job hunt through using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn:

Tell the World You’re Looking!

Start off by making announcements on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook that you are looking for a job. If possible, give details on precisely the kind of job you are after.

Network on Facebook

Carefully go through your list of friends on Facebook and don’t be afraid to reach out to people individually. That person might be able to get you work experience or even introduce you to their boss or a colleague who is hiring.

Check Your Privacy Settings

Ensure that you keep your private life private by selecting the ‘Friends only’ setting in your privacy settings on Facebook.

Check Out the Hiring Manager

Before submitting an application, look up your hiring manager on LinkedIn and try to find out as much information as possible about them. This will help you to better tailor your application to their wants and needs.

Add a Hyperlink to Your CV

In the contact details section on your CV, add in a hyperlink to both your LinkedIn profile and your Twitter handle. Doing so shows a potential employer that you are Internet savvy.

Make Connections Happen

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know! So find out the names of the people you need to be rubbing shoulders with and start following them on Twitter and retweeting their links. With any luck they should soon also be following you. Don’t forget to also add them or their company on LinkedIn.

Use Google to Your Advantage

You may wish to check what happens when you type your name into Google, as a potential employer is likely to carry out this basic check before offering you an interview. If you are less than pleased with the results, start using your LinkedIn profile as much as you possibly can. Doing so should bump your profile to the top of the search results for your name, hence an employer will look at this before anything else.

Get Involved on Twitter

Look out for chats focusing on the industry you work in and try to participate as actively as you can. Joining these conversations will help you to make contacts and to showcase your knowledge of the industry.

Ask for Advice via Social Media

Each of the networks mentioned are superb places in which to seek advice from recruitment agencies and other job-hunters. You can get loads of useful hints and tips by following career experts. By using these simple tips, you should be in a much stronger position to make the right connections online, thus greatly enhancing your chances of landing a suitable job.

Read more about networking online here.

Indiana’s Snappening Brings Event Planning to Your Phone

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Three-year-old Indianapolis company Snappening has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $20,000. The company will use money from the flexible funding campaign to develop an app to go along with their current website.

In 2011, Crystal Grave agreed to help a friend plan her wedding. With plenty of experience in corporate event planning, she expected it to be no problem.

incontent3For Crystal, the process wasn’t too troubling, but she soon realized that an average consumer would find it impossibly hard to navigate. Without something as simple as a comprehensive database of venues, someone with no knowledge of the industry could waste days in research and still not find what they needed.

In answer to the problem, Crystal created Snappening.com. Focused mainly in Indiana (for now!) the site helps you find a venue and/or an event planner for any type of event.

As the company grows, a mobile app seems the next logical step. So, in coordination with Indiegogo’s International Women’s Day initiative, Crystal launched a crowdfunding campaign.

The mobile app will bring the same search engine users experience on the website. It will also help you locate venues nearby using the GPS on your phone and allow users to connect with several potential venues at once.

Through the mobile app, Snappening also wants to expand nationally and across vendor categories.

Event planning is a $6 billion/year industry, and that doesn’t really even cover the average party planner who is looking to plan a party or wedding. While there are tons of apps to help plan and prepare, nothing quite covers the niche Crystal and Snappening are shooting for. They’ve spent 3 years slowly building their presence in Indiana and gaining revenue through premium memberships and advertisements.

Now with a proven business model and lots of experience, they’ve put themselves in a good position to grow bigger and bigger. Check out their Indiegogo campaign and see what you think.

Packback Ramps Up Before Shark Tank Debut

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Tomorrow Chicago-based Packback will face the sharks of ABC’s Shark Tank, looking for investment in their textbook rental company.

We talked about Packback last summer, after meeting them during Chicago Tech Week. The company–begun when the 3 founders were still in school at Illinois State–allows students to rent textbooks by the day, effectively cutting college costs by thousands of dollars.

incontent3What do the textbook publishers think about this? Because the system is effectively rent-to-own, the publishers are actually recouping revenue from the used textbook market, as all of Packback books are the newest version available.

The company is an active part of the Chicago tech scene. They incubated at 1871 before moving to new offices at Catapult Chicago with their growing team.

So, what does a tiny startup do to gear up for a big TV debut? In their own words:

The urgency of preparing for the episode has drawn our team closer than ever as we’ve taken our 2 month product roadmap and have condensed it into the next three weeks.  We’ve launched our new site with new features as we’re hoping to empower students to make more informed decisions when buying or selling books.  Our free sell tool allows students to compare textbook buy-back prices from popular online retailers to find the best offer and maximize their cashback.  Students use our real-time price comparison engine while buying books to ensure they find the lowest prices across the web, and of course our digital inventory of $3 to $5 digital textbook rentals has been growing every month as we continuously sign on publishers.

The recent 16 hour-straight days at the office have been taxing but it’s been awesome to see what we’ve been able to accomplish.  Our amazing cast of investors have been extremely supportive of our appearance and we’ve recently had the pleasure to have spent a lot of great time with our board of directors Mark Achler and Howard Tullman.

The frenzy is justified. According to some estimates, a spot on the show equals $4-5 million in free marketing. Products and apps on the show see a huge spike in traffic and interest any time their episode airs. It’s common for apps to hit the #1 spot in the app store within moments of their segment ending, especially if the sharks actually like the company.

And products the sharks don’t bite on? Even many of those go on to win big.

Either way, there’s no doubt Packback’s 16-hour days will be well worth it come tomorrow night.

GripeO Launches Web & Mobile App to Help You Complain Effectively

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A couple of years ago, my husband and I were planning a trip to New York City so he could run the NYC marathon. Thanks to his coaching job requiring him to be at a meet the day before the race, we didn’t get to make our normal trek 2 days early. We were going to be right up to the wire.

incontent3Then, early in the week of the race, Hurricane Sandy hit. Lots of back and forths between the mayor and New York Roadrunners Association, but the race was finally cancelled late Friday night, the day before we were supposed to leave.

“But, there was a hurricane in New York, maybe you heard about it,” my husband protested to the airlines as we asked for a refund.

I took to Twitter, complaining and hastagging the appropriate companies. Eventually, they did the right thing and refunded the cost of our flights. I’d like to say my complaints on Twitter did something to help that, but let’s be real. I was just one person complaining on Twitter that night.

New complaint platform GripeO is looking to change that.

Launched out of beta last week, GripeO lets customers post their customer service complaints on the platform, then notifies the companies that a customer has an issue. Businesses can verify with GripeO and take care of the problem right there.

Why not just continue to complain on Twitter?

“The effectiveness of complaint management on Twitter is vastly over rated for both consumer and business,” GripeO CEO Mike Klanac told me.

So, the make it better, GripeO allows customer to post their complaints on the site, but then share them socially so their friends see them, too. Customers can create a “meme” of the complaint, and the platform suggests hashtags and structure to help the complaint go viral.

No company wants that, y’all. Companies that choose to verify on the platform can avoid that awkwardness and potential PR issue by mediating with the customer right on the site.

While the company is not yet generating revenue, they plan to make money by selling leads, premium tools, and intelligent advertising. In their beta, they tested with 200 users and 4 companies, and they’ve currently signed up a few more big companies since launch.

GripeO is live now, so if you have a complaint you can check it out on their website.

Caktus Wants to Make Music Discovery Social Again

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It seems like everything’s going social these days. Just last week we wrote about Startup Bus company TrustVino, who is trying to put your friends’ favorite wine recommendations on your phone.

rsz_incontentad2The new music app Caktus launched on Sunday at SXSW, and they’re essentially doing the same thing with music.

You sign up through Facebook or Twitter (on your iPhone or iPad). In the app, pins are dropped on a map to show where your friends are listening to music. You can see the song they’re listening to by hovering over the pin, and play a sample or buy the track from iTunes. If you already have the song on your phone, you can listen to it in the app.

The company ran a 6 week beta with 50 users, mostly in the Indianapolis area. In that time, they saw 10,000 plays through the app. That kind of traction got them an invitation to launch and SXSW.

“The app came about because my brother always got to the bands first,” cofounder Dane Regnier told me when we talked at SXSW last weekend. “Once we moved away from each other, it just wasn’t easy to share what music we were listening to anymore. Caktus makes that a lot easier.”

Obviously passionate about what he’s built, Regnier was bouncing and talking fast, quick to explain features and data points from the app.

“We’re social-first,” he said when I asked about Spotify’s stream. “No one else did it that way.”

Most social apps bank on building a huge user base they can then market to. Caktus is going a different way by jumping on the Apple affliate program to bring in revenue.

Despite being “social-first” Caktus will have an uphill fight to battle other discovery methods like Spotify, Pandora, or basic word of mouth. Still, the app is beautifully designed, and like a lot of new music startups, independent artists and bands are a big focus for them. Those little guys can often get lost (or screwed) on the bigger platforms.

Check out Caktus on their website.

PlateWave Uses License Plates to Help You Find Love

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You’re driving down the street in your new car and you see heads turn. You’re not going to stop the car, get out, and talk to that person, are you?

Or, on the flip side, you’re the person on the street, and you see that car drive by. That car’s driver just happens to be a fairly good-looking person, too.

rsz_incontentad2Up until now, what did you do? In short, nothing. You gawked at either the guy or gal opening the door, climbing in, and zooming right out of your dreams.

Or, if you were the driver, you kept driving, hoping that by some magical happenstance you might someday see that same bystander on the side of the road staring at you again. Then all of the stars would align and you’d fall into each others’ arms and live happily ever after.

Marcus Ackerley, though a thoroughly happy and long-time married man, came up with a solution to each of these problems. A Brit who happens to drive a fairly nice car, Marcus got a call one day.

“Were you out driving today?” his car dealership asked. And he had been. The seed was planted.

Fast forward four years and Marc’s created PlateWave, an app that helps people find and connect to each other using registration (or license) plates. Savvy, eh?

His first aha moment came when he ran a little math through his head, though.

“What are the chances of someone knowing someone at the dealership I bought my car at? Now what are the chances of someone knowing someone at every one of the hundreds of dealers across the country? What kind of chances exist that I’m driving in my own town and not traveling across the country at the time when they see me? Altogether, they’re virtually zero.”

“What we’re talking about here is visual social discovery,” Ackerley said, “You see something or someone and you’re interested to the extent that you’d like to make some kind of comment. And if it’s easy enough for you to send them a message…it’s a whole new, easy way of contacting people.”

And that it is. It kind of reminds me of a Tinder for cars, actually.

His second aha moment came when he met his technical partners. “There is a way of doing it. It’s just a really, really big project,” the tech side of the project, Sean Wilson and James Black of Underground Creative, a UK-based web development firm, said. And though it’s been roughly four or so years in the making, they’ve done it.

Though PlateWave is only available in the UK as of now, they expect to be scaling to a country near you soon, so be sure to check out PlateWave at platewave.com and follow @PlateWave on Twitter.

Tyler Sondag is a startup connoisseur with a hand in anything and everything you could imagine. Hailing from the ever-developing Northwest Mississippi, an alum of Saint Louis University and currently a transplant to St. Louis, Missouri, one of his main missions in life is to get and keep young people engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Follow him on Twitter: @MrSondag.

Is Your Startup Considered “High Risk”?

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All startups are high risk, in a sense. But some startups fall under the formal definition of “high risk,” where finances are concerned. These are the startups that deal with travel booking, adult encounters, e-cigarettes and vaporizers, and other designated “risky” financial transactions.

Banks often do not want to do business with startups that deal in these arenas, labeling them “high risk merchant accounts.” That means that these startups have to find another way to process credit cards and accept the financial transactions that will keep their businesses going.

If you’re working on a new startup or considering launching a startup this year, you’ve probably already been thinking about what the New Year means for business. You’re thinking about increasing efficiency, expanding reach, innovating, and designing. You’re definitely thinking about earning money. But what if your high risk startup is getting in your own way?

The trouble is that many startups, especially those based around mobile technology, involve “high risk” business categories in at least one aspect. Think of all of the travel websites and apps out there, the ones that let you book flights and hotels at the tap of a button. Think about all the dating sites that require subscription payments, and all of the apps like Tinder. The line between a “low risk” idea and a “high risk” idea is often unclear, and it will be difficult to know on which side your business is going to fall until you’ve already gotten started.

If you have already started your startup, you may already be finding yourself running into banks who do not want to do business with your “high risk” company. If you haven’t started your startup, you may be surprised to learn that your big idea is considered to be “high risk.” Either way, you need to figure out a solution to help your business grow.

Luckily, there are many companies available to provide financial solutions your high risk merchant account. These companies both work with businesses in high-risk categories as well as businesses that have bad credit — after all, the only real way to get out of a credit problem is to bring in more customer revenue, which is often difficult if banks are unwilling to help you achieve that goal.

These companies provide a third party service through which you and your customers can process financial transactions, giving you the opportunity you need to earn revenue and build your business. They help high risk startups become less risky, by giving them a way through which to earn money, and by helping them establish a foothold in their respective markets.

So. Are you launching a startup this year? Are you hoping to change 2014 by making it the year of your company, or app, or website, or product? You may be high risk, and may not know it yet. But that shouldn’t be a barrier to entry, and shouldn’t be a reason for you to set your startup dreams aside. Create your business plan, hire your team, start working on your startup, and know that you have options if banks consider you too risky. Being “high risk” doesn’t mean you’re at a high risk of failing. It only means that you need to look for alternative strategies to help you achieve success.