Wisconsin Startup Bad Donkey Creates A New Hybrid Text Language

baddonkey,ETC,Madison Startup,startup,startups,startup interviewBad Donkey, a startup in Madison Wisconsin with a really funky name, has created a new hybrid cyber language of sorts. “Enriched Text Content” or ETC for short combines personal digital imagery with traditional alpha numeric text to create a new and fun way of sending text messages. To break it down for you, this new “Enriched Text Content”, mixes letters with emoticons and images for a fun new way to text.

Interesting is probably the first word that comes to mind when diving into Bad Donkey’s ETC cyber language. The product seems like it would appeal to the youngest set of texters. Older more affluent texters are constantly looking for the fastest and easiest way to send text messages. However, the combination of pictures, images and text may make it easier to get a point across than traditional texting.

Alongside their “ETC” cyber language, Bad Donkey has created an app and closed social network that supports the technology. BuzzMsg is a messaging platform that takes advantage of the hybrid language. The messages within BuzzMsg are called BuzzMarks and are organized in easy to read and understand lifestyle folders.

We got a chance to talk to Bad Donkey’s head jack ass Bill Towell about his new startup and cyber language. Check out the interview below.

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Madison Wisconsin Startup: SnowShoe Validates Actual Check Ins INTERVIEW

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The headline for this story about Madison Wisconsin startup SnowShoe was actually rather difficult. In some ways we wanted to say that SnowShoe brings Foursquare to real life. In essence Foursquare is already in real life and takes people to different spots for check-ins. The next idea was to say that SnowShoe brigns Foursquare off-line, again Foursquare kind of does that, but SnowShoe does it with actual offline objects.

We first met Claus Moberg founder of  SnowShoe when the sneaker-strapped nationwide startup roadtrip cruised through Madison Wisconsin. The team explained that with SnowShoe your phone actually interacts with an aluminum object at the check in establishment, to check-in and receive loyalty points and rewards.

There is definitely value in this “extra step”. When you’re actually forced to check in using, what SnowShoe calls the “SnowShoe Stamp” or if you have to scan a QR code, you get engaged with the establishment and you can’t do the infamous drive-by checkin.  I actually live near a place that has a free breakfast special with 3 check-ins. I live close enough that I can check-in there everyday without actually going, and then on the third day, voila breakfast is free. Some people call it ripping off, others call it gaming the system.

With SnowShoe though, that drive by check-in or checking in while walking by just for the glory or the special is cut out of the equation.

The SnowShoe stamp is literally a block of aluminum with no circuitry, batteries or power of any kind. It does however, have five uniquely arranged capacitive touch points which authenticate the transaction on your smartphone. It’s actually more reliable and better than a traditional QR code on a piece of paper.

Innovative huh?

We got a chance to talk with Moberg more in depth in the interview below:

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Madison Startup: SeatSwapr Facilitates That Airline Seat Swap For You

Last week, when we stopped in Madison Wisconsin as part of the Nibletz sneaker strapped, nationwide startup road trip we took office hours with 10 hungry entrepreneurs and startup founders. One of those founders was Thomas Mueller who is hoping to take something that happens on lots of airlines, streamline it and execute it through an app.

Seat swapping is nothing new. A lot of people get on an airplane and realize for some reason or another the seat that they picked or have been assigned isn’t going to work out. At that point, if the plane is full, the passenger is stuck.  Sometimes when this happens you’ll hear people trading seats or even selling their seats. In fact I’ve done this a number of times. I often select an exit row seat and then someone really tall comes along and wants the seat with the extra leg room. More often than not I’m offered between $20 and $60 to swap seats. (as long as they’re coming from an aisle seat I typically do it. I don’t do window seats, you get out of the plane quicker on the aisle).

Well Mueller is also very familiar with this practice. Every now and then you’ll see seat swap requests on major flights happen on Twitter. Typically the bi-coastal NY/SF or NY/LA flights have the most traffic on Twitter. Tweets will read “I’m on NY/LA Flight XXX and need an aisle seat $50”.

Interestingly enough the flight attendants don’t seem to care as long as you don’t delay them starting their safety instructions, and of course don’t interrupt the flow of other passengers getting to their seats.

Well Mueller realizes that websites like seatguru and seatexpert already know which seats are the best. Other sites like tripit know what flight your on and of course all the airlines offer viewable maps online of the inside of the plane so you can see where your seat is.

When you put all this information together and then tie it in with a mobile app you have the opportunity to create a seat swapping app.

Now it’s not as easy as it sounds and Mueller is ready to face the challenge. Of course with any mobile app the first thing a founder wants to do is build scale. Mueller has to build tremendous scale because for the app to work, two people need to be on the same flight.  In addition as Mueller told us “If a plane is half full there’s no market for us”.

That doesn’t seem to be a problem though because since 9/11 airlines have reduced their number of flights and have tried to fill every plane to capacity. The load factor right now is 83% full while some of the more popular flights like New York to San Francisco are 98% full. Those are the flights where people would really benefit from an app like SeatSwapr.

Mueller is hoping to partner with some of the other travel sites to implement his technology.


Check out SeatSwapr here at SeatSwapr.com

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We Talk With Madison City Councilman Scott Resnick About Open Data

By day Scott Resnick is the Vice President and partner in Hardin Design & Development in Madison Wisconsin. The company is a creative app powerhouse with a client roster that includes Mercedes, Toyota,Coleman Campers and Fedex. Hardin Design & Development continues on a trajectory of explosive growth and is currently expanding to Chicago.

After that Resnick is also an influencer in Madison’s thriving tech startup scene. There are a great bunch of people that seem to know everything going on in Madison, and that’s not because it’s a small town. They have a lot of centralized startup events and even shoulder groups that meet every month who are focused on things like health tech and hacking.

The list of resources for Madison startups would be reminiscent of a city with a million people. Madison has just a quarter of that. On our two days of office hours in Madison we learned about Capital Entrepreneurs, Madison Startup Weekend, Build Madison, Forward Technology Festival and some shoulder groups. Resnick is involved with almost all of these.

If that’s not enough to keep one man busy he’s married and he’s also a Madison Alderperson or CityCouncilman (depending on what PC hat you’re wearing today).

There are a lot of causes that Resnick supports and ran on including keeping the safety, alcohol, landlord tenant laws and open data.

The first three platforms are pretty self explanatory. As for open data, Resnick wrote the legislation for Madison to open up their public data so that developers could develop apps around it.  Resnick said that any record that can be requested by open record requests can be available via open data.

Once he was able to get the data opened Madison went to work holding a Startup Weekend event to develop startups and apps surrounded by the data.

He gave us a couple examples of projects that came out of the open data hackathon. One was a startup that wanted to do pet health records. The entrepreneur went to work using pet license data available from the city to start developing the pet health records product.

Resnick told us that vendor carts are a big part of downtown Madison. Most recently the vendor cart licensing data and location for where they’re allowed to vend is kept on note cards. They have someone interested in producing an app to locate vendor carts and if this data goes electronic they can.

Madison was the second city in the nation to have their public data opened like this. New York as the first. Resnick told us there are many municipalities who have started toying with the idea but haven’t fully adopted it yet so they don’t have to necessarily give access to all the records.

Resnick is hoping the next step for Madison is to allow city API’s to go from “pushing the data to pulling the data”. When that’s available entrepreneurs will be able to create apps and startups for things like reporting a problem to a city. Resnick says many municipalities do this wrong. Most city’s use some kind of form emailed to a city manager or engineer and then the city manager or engineer uses their internal system to communicate job tickets and distribute projects.

When Resnick’s next vision for data is set in motion developers could develop an app that would allow resident’s to add their job to the queue, all of this done of course, by third party applications.


Check out Resnicks Day Job Here

Article from Capital Entrepreneur’s on the open data initiative

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Madison Startup: My Fashion Assistant, Is Well, Your Fashion Assistant

Nibletz spent Tuesday and Wednesday holding office hours in Madison Wisconsin. The startup scene is thriving as a matter of fact, our good friend Brad at Trinker in Madison helped organize a healthy sized, last minute meet up at the beautiful Union Terrace at UW.

Wednesday we spent some time with the co-working startups at Murfie’s office in downtown Madison.

One of the startups we met with was MyFashionAssistant and co-founder Louie Penaflor. Penaflor has a lot of great stories to tell about his work life in Manhattan at magazine publishing powerhouse Conde Nast which was actually the inspiration for MyFashionAssistant.

At first glance Penaflor does not look like he would be one of the founders of a fashion app for iOS and Android that has over 50,000 users. But boy he knows his stuff. Not only that but like many of the people we met in Wisconsin he is very excited about the Madison startup scene.

As for MyFashionAssistant, it’s a three panel slider app that allows users to take pictures of their wardrobe and then mix, match and mash them up in three sections which are shoes, pants (skirts etc) and tops. Now the beauty of MyFashionAssistant is that since right now most of the content is user generated, a fashion conscious man could easily use the same app.

Penaflor told us that he came up with the idea on many of his subway rides in New York. He noticed that everyone in New York is so laser lined focused on what’s right in front of them. “No one really looks at each other, but they do look at their phones and iPads” Penaflor told us.

On more than one occasion he would see groups of friends breaking the no looking rule to hover over someone’s phone or iPad and flip through pictures.  It was that flipping through pictures that made a bell go off in Penaflor’s head and think about what if they could flip through their wardrobe.

Deciding what to wear is a major pain point for some folks. They spend hours thinking about what they’re going to wear. Colleagues of Penaflor’s at Conde Nast would bring up in conversation three days early what they might wear going out Saturday night.

Another major pain point is sometimes people forget exactly how this shirt or blouse matches that pair of pants, but not with MyFashionAssitant.

Users take pictures and catalog as much of their wardrobe as they want. Now when they’re at the mall or a new store they can easily see if something is going to look good on them. They can even open up the app while they’re flipping through magazines.

Right now MyFashionAssistant is supporting itself as it’s a paid app. Penaflor is weighing all of his funding options. He could use MyFashionAssistant’s treasure trove of data and market research as a revenue stream. He could partner with other companies, or even white label the technology for name brand stores.

Penaflor admits there are some apps that match fashion the way his does but he started MyFashionAssistant back when there were just 2000 apps in the Apple app store.  Also, most competitors are name brand manufacturers who of course only feature their clothes within the app.

MyFashionAssitant supports thousands of different brands across their user base.  Penaflor says he could see possibly doing advertising but not in the traditional way. Brands could pay to have their newest lines included in the app so that potential customers could try out the company’s new designs with the users current wardrobe.

Penaflor likes his app to a virtual fitting room. He said Steve Jobs validated the need for MyFashionAssistant by saying iPhone (smartphones) is a lifestyle device and of course fashion is all about lifestyle.


Check out MyFashionAssistant here at their webpage

Download for Android

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