Ben Jackson, whose résumé includes work at Vice Media and The New York Times, is launching a startup advisory firm called For The Win. Jackson was most recently Vice’s director of mobile apps, where he said he created a team that built nine apps during his tenure, as well as the company’s first unified content API. He’s also worked at the iOS lead at Longform and as a… Read More
It’s a strange thing to hear from the co-founder and CEO of a photo startup, but DMD Panorama‘s Elie-Gregoire Khoury tells me that panoramic photos will become “a commodity at the end of the day.” That doesn’t mean it’s time to get out of the photo business — instead, Khoury wants to see panoramas become a standard feature in a wide range of websites and apps, the way that regular photos are now.
And if Khoury has his way, that will all happen through DMD’s new API.
Since launching in June 2011 on the iPhone, DMD Panorama has been downloaded 4.5 million times, Khoury says. His aim was to build the fastest, easiest way to take panoramic photos, and he may have succeeded — this Wall Street Journal article, for example, describes the app as “the easiest-to-use panoramic picture app on the iPhone.”
I was definitely impressed when I tried the app out for myself. To take a panoramic picture, you just activate the camera and move the phone sideways, bringing together the yin and yang signs on your screen. The process is only slightly more complicated and time-consuming than taking a normal photo.
DMD Panorama was built by a five-person team in Lebanon. Khoury says the country’s infrastructure presented a few challenges — like only six hours of electricity per day and a 2 gigabyte monthly download cap on the office Internet connection — but the company succeeded in making hit app, and it raised angel funding from investors including early Googler Georges Harik and the Berytech Fund.
Now Khoury is hoping to enlist app developers to use DMD’s free API. Ultimately, Khoury wants DMD to power the photo-taking experience in any app where panoramic photos might be useful — for example, Khoury suggests that DMD could bring panoramic photos into a postcard app, or it could help people take panoramic pictures to show off their homes in rental apps like Airbnb.
Users will need to have DMD Panorama installed in order to take advantage of the integration, but once they do, the goal is to create a seamless experience between DMD and integrated apps. So when using another app, users could hit a “panorama” button (or whatever) at the appropriate moment, which would either open DMD Panorama or prompt them to install it. They take the photo in DMD, then they’re returned to the original app.
Khoury says he’s testing the API out with a few partners before opening it up more broadly, so interested developers should email api (at) DerManDar (dot) com.
For many, the appeal of realtime, local commerce platforms like Zaarly is evident almost immediately. For those unfamiliar, the mobile-centric reverse craigslist allows users to post requests to Zaarly’s app — for anything from data entry to a fancy Starbucks mocha frappuccino and how much you would be willing to pay for it. Then users can kick back and wait for their coffee to arrive — or so the idea goes. It’s a great idea, and it works. For a good example, look no further than Greg’s experience.
The initial concept immediately caught the attention of Ashton Kutcher, Felicis Ventures, Paul Buchheit, Bill Lee and Naval Ravikant — to name a few — who put $1 million into Zaarly less than a month after it appeared at LA Startup Weekend.
As appealing as the idea is, however, I must admit that, personally, I was skeptical at first. What about trust? Wouldn’t people just prefer using TaskRabbit and craigslist? How would it scale? The team launched Zaarly 2.0 in March, which began to address the trust issue in particular, removing the anonymity component, allowing users to create profiles along with the opportunity to recommend and review both buyers and sellers.
Of course, Zaarly’s initial model leaves it up to users to discover the app themselves, or by word of mouth, which means that, development-wise, the Zaarly experience is somewhat limited. But, today, the startup took a big step forward in its evolution, launching its “Zaarly Anywhere” API, which boasts seven top content publishers as launch partners, including Everyday Health, The Fancy, LA Times, Cookstr and IKEA Hackers.
As Paul Graham has noted, APIs have become increasingly popular among startups as a tool that enables “self-serve” — or instant — “business development.” Thousands have caught onto this, as have some of the alternative craigslist marketplaces. TaskRabbit, for example, launched an API in February that allowed third-party apps to integrate with the startup’s API to allow their users to outsource their to-do workflows.
Astrid and Producteev were among two early startups to sign on, enabling their users to outsource tasks directly from their apps or portals to the TaskRabbit community with one click. Facebook has grown to a behemoth for myriad reasons, but one of the bigger contributing factors was Facebook Connect and its “Like” button, which worked Facebook into third-party apps and into the fabric of the Web, allowing businesses and sites to port their social graphs and login to various sites using their Facebook info.
Zaarly Anywhere is a natural next-step for the service, borrowing from these previous examples to help expose the service to new users and extend its functionality beyond its native app. Now, through Zaarly integration, visitors can, say, post a request in the Zaarly marketplace and have their requests responded to with a click of a button without having to leave the site they were browsing.
Zaarly co-founder and CEO Bo Fishback also sees the startup’s new API as creating a new revenue stream for its publishing partners by offering them another way to connect their online content with offline commerce.
While its launch partners include impressive names (and user bases), the scope is still somewhat small. But eventually, at least so their thinking goes, you could be browsing any type of online content — like, for example, a review of a new video game. You might check Amazon or other sites to find that it’s not available, but integration with Zaarly’s marketplace allows you to put up a figure to be able to buy or rent the game immediately.
Fishback believes that, in this way, Zaarly can help build a new type of commerce, or at least a new way to buy local. Read about a delicious dinner on a Cookstr, and immediately be able to connect with the Zaarly marketplace to ask a local chef to make it happen. It’s a potentially appealing option for publishers who, with shrinking ad revenues and bottom lines, are nearly all looking for better, non-intrusive yet effective ways to monetize content and increase engagement.
It’s a great way to begin building the Zaarly experience into other websites and through partner channels, leveraging the open web to create dedicated services that encourage people to spend money in their local communities (while creating additional revenue streams). For publishers, Everyday Health’s David Siegel, for example, calls this a great way to pair “inspiration with action.”
But how does it work? While on partner sites, users create Zaarly requests by clicking a button that will be integrated into content, like articles, social media buttons, and photos. The Zaarly API then populates the request with the title, description and location details from the partner’s site, enabling people to receive offers from users in their own community, who can choose the best response and pay through Zaarly’s platform.
Fishback says that the startup’s initial partners fall in line with the most active requests they’ve seen to date in the Zaarly marketplace, namely food, health, wellness, design and home improvement. Going forward, the startup will be looking to incorporate additional partners fast and furiously, while it continues to maintain its open marketplace, which has seen more than $30 million in requests posted since launching in May of last year.
It also represents a positive step forward towards future monetization for Zaarly, which is currently resting on laurels that include a $14.1 million series A raise from Kleiner Perkins, Sands Capital Ventures in October (on top of its initial $1 million), as well as the addition of HP CEO (and former eBay CEO) Meg Whitman to its board of directors.
Zaarly Anywhere opens the startup to a customized experience within dedicated platforms without pushing purchasing or sales in a way that would make most consumers balk. It just gives readers and surfers an opportunity to make the content they enjoy come to life while supporting the kind of skilled, local labor that can help make that happen. Could be a win-win.
The Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) is breaking up after Apigee announced today that it has acquired the initiative’s technology assets to deliver a unified network API service for operators, as well as a cross-device mobile app development platform.
Apigee Acquires WAC API Platform, Partners with GSMA
MapMyFitness is a veteran of the online health and fitness space, with the first iteration of its website appearing back in the summer of 2005. Since then, the startup has developed a suite of fitness-oriented websites (like MapMyRUN.com, MapMyRIDE.com, MapMyWALK.com, et al) to let users track and store their running, cycling, walking and hiking endeavors, along with accessing a database of international routes, fitness calculators, nutrition tracking, events listings and more. MapMyFitness has long had a stable community of committed users, but over the last year, things have been moving steadily north.
CEO Richard Jalichandra (who joined the startup from Technorati last year) tells us that MapMyFitness recently passed 9 million registered users, and that, collectively, its mobile apps have amassed over 30 million downloads, making it one of the biggest players in the fitness tracking space.
The good news for MapMyFitness, however, has been the recent telescoping growth in registrations (not downloads), with the latest 1 million registrations occurring over the last 40 days. That’s an increase from the 54 days it took for the site to go from 6 million to 7 million users, and the 47 days it took to pass 8 million users. All in all, that’s 3 million new users in the last 5 months, and the CEO says the company is today seeing 25K new registrations a day, significant when viewed against its nearly 7-year history.
It’s based on this recent uptick in activity that MapMyFitness is today launching one of the biggest feature updates the platform has seen since rebranding in 2007. The startup has completely rebuilt its portfolio of websites, and is now beta testing three big new features: Updated routes, personal challenges, and courses, with the main attraction, Jalichandra says, being the latter.
The CEO claims that the introduction of its new feature makes MapMyFitness the only online fitness service to have integrated Google Maps API v3.9 (the latest version of its API) and leverage its full functionality.
What does that mean? While MapMyFitness users could already plan, track, and share their routes, Jalichandra says that Courses adds a notable difference in performance and user experience, enabling users to go beyond the actual route. By incorporating realtime info on traffic, weather, safe routes, directions, realtime elevation, and custom markers, now users can go beyond the route, planning the best Segway route home from work, for example..
Really, the feature is intended to bring MapMyFitness into the gamification/Foursquare era, as it provides both hardcore and casual athletes with both leaderboards and check-ins. Courses offers an automatic “check-in activity” for every exercise logged to track the speed, distance, consistency, and intensity of workouts, ranking users by gender, age, and weigh on the platform’s new leaderboard.
There’s also a group segmenting feature that allows users to compare themselves, leaderboard-style, against specific groups, be they local clubs, friends, or fierce cycling rivals, backed by a points system that incorporates personal best times and monthly consistency, awarding badges to the users with the most overall points on climbing courses, those with the most completions of a course, the fastest time, etc., etc.
Courses will span MapMyFitness’ five primary categories, including cycling, running, walking, hiking and winter sports, as well as hundreds of subcategory specialties (like unicycling) and enables users to create new Courses directly from their iPhones, BlackBerrys, Androids, Windows Mobile phones and iPads.
It also helps that Courses leverages the startup’s database of more than 50 million routes, 1 million climbs, and 30K event courses through realtime processing, allowing users to measure fitness and track progress in realtime or over time.
With RunKeeper on a laudable mission to build “the health graph,” alongside an API that’s already attracted 50+ integrations, big funding, and a platform that’s quickly becoming one of the top destinations for tracking and sharing fitness routines, incumbents are feeling a little bit of pressure.
But, as its name implies, MapMyFitness does maps better than most, especially now that it is powering its new features with Google’s latest mapping technology. According to the startup’s CEO, other than Strava, MapMyFitness is the only platform that offers realtime GPS activity leaderboards, and he thinks that components of the service, like route mapping, the ability to send a route to your phone to route with directions, along with the ability to choose from over 40 sports give its service a leg up on the competition.
MapMyFitness also capitalizes on three revenue streams: Media, digital commerce and subscriptions, and enterprise software, with this diversity resulting in the startup’s revenue doubling each of the last four years, the CEO says, and is projected to triple in 2012. This has allowed the startup to avoid raising outside investment beyond its Series A in 2010 and to grow, under its own volition, to a team of 78, giving it an advantage over its competition in terms of good old human capital.
With its deep database of courses, routes and trails, some added stickiness thanks to leaderboards and check-ins, and some big data collection and storage capabilities on the back-end using postGIS, it wouldn’t be surprising to see MapMyFitness continue in its accelerating growth trajectory. And maybe even find a little funding waiting in the wings.
Also, don’t be surprised if MapMyFitness ends up being featured by Google at some point. My guess would be here.
Courses will be available initially through a private beta test for first 100,000 users
who sign up here. iPhone and Android MMF users will only see superficial changes reflected in its new site — now available to one and all — at new.mapmyfitness.com. Widespread access to Courses et al will be offered later this summer.
What do you think?