member-spotlight

Tablelist founder merges nightlife and tech

Reserving table service at a popular nightclub on a bustling Saturday night can seem impossible. Boston-based startup Tablelist, however, aims to make that process easier by giving everyone the chance to get VIP treatment at a click of a button through the app. They’re getting rid of the archaic system of booking tables with promoters or club owners.

Tablelist launched back in December in Boston with plans to grow in other nightclub centric cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, D.C. and internationally. This past week, they announced their expansion into New York with a soft launch.

“We want our users to get the same level of service you get in the city you currently live in at any other location around the world,” says Tablelist founder Julian Jung.

Here’s how it works: Tablelist allows you to book tables on demand by pulling up nightclubs and lounges that are near you. Users can pick their own tables (with a minimum spend depending on locations) and favorite liquors and mixers. Best of all, users can bypass the line, avoid cover, and pay for bottles in advance.

We recently sat down with Jung for this member spotlight series – a series that showcases the individuals behind startups and small businesses. Here’s what he shared:

I grew up in Belmont, a nearby suburb in Massachusetts, and recently graduated from Northeastern University last year. When I was 19, I started getting into real estate and helped students find $500 to $1000 apartments around campus. But it was really tedious work because I was only getting paid a small broker’s fee. After a while, I got fed up and decided to find a niche market – the international students. It was great because a lot of them wanted to pay $3,000 to $6,000 for apartments.

In order to increase my client base, I started clubbing a lot. I found out that a group of them would migrate to the clubs on the weekends and spend anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 a night, so it was the perfect place to find new clients. Eventually I got close with the club owners and bouncers around the Boston area and became pretty addicted to the nightlife world. So Boston is a small fish compared to other metropolitan cities, but that’s what led me to visiting New York, Vegas and other places all around the world.

The inspiration for Tablelist was born after a New Year’s trip to Brazil, and I couldn’t get into a nightclub. I thought, “In a world where we can easily rent cars through an app, why isn’t there technology to solve this? Why can’t I get the same level of service I get in New York City or Vegas in Brazil?”

tabelist

To me, being an entrepreneur means having the freedom do what you love. You have the ability to sculpt and build something completely from scratch and really call it your own. I never worked a corporate job in my life because I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart.

I think our company is incredibly special because we’re the first to enter this space. Table service is an $8 billion a year industry and it’s usually handled primarily off-line. We’re making it accessible to everyone. Not only is this app great for the consumer, it’s also awesome for the venue owners as well. We’re doing some data mining and providing analytics about user profiles. At the end of the day, I look at this as a tech company, not a nightlife company.

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work

Learning on the Go with the Latest Generations of Apps

Education has reached the mobile device, and in a big way. Learning on the go has begun to establish itself in a world where everyone is busy and no one has time to do anything.

“We believe smartphones bring education to people’s hands and pockets instead of requiring them to find a specific time and place to learn,” says Gina Gotthilf, head of communications for mobile language-learning app Duolingo. “Now, people who are too busy to dedicate long periods of time to take a class regularly, or who can’t afford it, can learn by dedicating short spurts of time when it is most convenient to them.”

According to Gotthilf, over 72 million users spend time learning languages on Duolingo through mobile devices—a number that represents 85% of the program’s traffic.

“Learning can take place during your commute, at a doctor’s office, or at home—moments that could otherwise be dedicated to mindless games to pass the time,” Gotthilf says.

The free app offers lessons in Spanish, French, German, and many other languages. On Duolingo.com, the company touts its apps as ways to “make your breaks and commutes more productive.”

When using Duolingo, students will not only tap their screens to choose the correct answers, but repeat words after the program to ensure correct pronunciation. If the student mispronounces a word, the program will ask that student to try again. And again. And again.

Apple’s iTunes U offers courses in a broader variety of subjects, calling itself “the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content from top schools and prominent organizations.” The app offers upwards of 750,000 learning materials, and content downloads had exceeded 1.3 billion by the middle of 2014.

Coursera, whose website promotes online education, offers free courses through partnerships with educational institutions. Coursera’s partners include such prestigious universities as Yale, Stanford, and Emory.

When choosing classes, students can look at the course length—some are as short as four weeks, others are as long as 10—as well as when they are offered and what teachers will be lending their knowledge. While some Coursera classes start on specific dates, others allow you to “go at your own pace.”

In a general sense, education based in the virtual world has become standard. Stony Brook University’s online education options are traveling in the direction of mobile compatibility, said Associate Provost for Online Education Wendy Tang.

“The idea [behind online education] is to improve [students’] learning experience; and being able to do it on a mobile device . . . is becoming important,” Tang says.

While not all SBU courses are available on a mobile device—an option that is often dependent upon a device’s memory and model—most of them are, Tang says.

Online education is another method of university outreach, says Tang.

“We’re not trying to replace meaningful face-to-face interaction with online,” she explains. “For me, that doesn’t make sense. We are trying to use online to . . . reach a population that otherwise would not be on campus.”

Many students in the university’s online electrical engineering program, for example, are working professionals. And for students who are also learning on campus, Tang says, the online component can be used for class preparation.

In classes whose rosters include 100 or more students, Tang feels it is difficult for faculty to know each student.

“You can hide in a large, face-to-face…classroom instruction structure; but you cannot hide online,” says Tang. “Online, if they’re not actively responding…they can be identified very easily from a statistical and data point of view.”

The virtual world is open, but it has its own obstacles. Chemical engineering students cannot safely mix chemicals at home, and nursing students cannot graduate having only drawn blood from a dummy.

“You don’t want a nurse to practice on a dummy and try it on you for the first time,” Tang says.

The clinical component, which requires students to visit a training site, brings the class into the physical world.

 

 

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techcrunchdisrupt

Taking the Guesswork Out of Investing with Estimize

When Leigh Drogen was working as a quantitative trader, he realized that there had to be a better way to predict which stocks would be profitable. The estimates from bank analysts, he knew, weren’t always accurate.

So Drogen decided that he wanted to provide traders and investors, whether they did it as a hobby or a full-time job, with more accurate data so they could make better decisions.

In 2012 he launched Estimize, a community that today includes 100,000 users per quarter. According to its website, the company’s data from 6,885 financial analysts “has proven more accurate than comparable sell side data sets over 69 percent of the time.” Its data is frequently referenced in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN Money.

“The whole point of Estimize is that if you collect all of this estimate data from a much wider population of individuals who are not just at banks, a couple of things should happen,” says Drogen. “First of all, you should get a wider dispersion of estimates and a more accurate consensus based on the wisdom of crowds. When you collect the data in this manner, you get a data set that better represents the truer expectations of the market.”

At the moment the website is free, but Estimize will soon be rolling out a premium platform.

“We’re building all sorts of premium analytics, and screening and filtering derivative data,” says Drogen. “This will provide a lot of insight into the data that’s contributed to the platform.”

For now, anyone can continue to utilize the free platform and contribute their knowledge about the financial world. It doesn’t matter whether a person is a first-year student studying finance or a seasoned trader with decades of experience. What really counts is the accuracy of their predictions.

“You can validate the quality of the data not through identity of the person but through statistics,” said Drogen. “We run algorithms to see who knows what they’re talking about. We see user behavior, including how long they spent on the pages and how many times they changed their estimates, and through all of this data we build behavioral models and decide, ‘Do we trust this analyst?’ It gets rid of the need for identity.”

Photo credit: Lauren Kallen

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techcrunchdisrupt

In a World of Selfies, Discover Alluring Photography on Skotch

Facebook and Instagram are full of selfies, photos of people’s pets, and highly shared memes. For photography connoisseurs, there is not much value in these static, mostly homogeneous newsfeeds.

Josh Abrams and Chase Sorgel, who worked at PayPal together, craved more out of their feeds. They wanted to create a space where photographers, like themselves, could view beautiful, original images and curate their own content. So they came up with an app, Skotch, which entered its beta launch the first week of May, 2015.

Before coming up with the idea of Skotch, Abrams says he and his co-founder “went through all the photo apps and catalogued what we liked and didn’t like about them. We found what we think is a pretty big hole in photo sharing.”

Unlike the current apps out there, Skotch offers a way for users to view the photos they really want. It allows them to see photos, and swipe right if they like them, and left if they don’t. The users’ votes, which stay anonymous, increase or decrease the photos’ scores. When users swipe right, the photos go into their personal collections so they can see them again if they’d like. However, the app is built so that users will never see the same photo twice unless they want to look at it in their collections.

Tech Crunch Skotch Chase Field“It’s for people who really appreciate photography, as well as hobbyist photographers, which is a lot of people now,” says Abrams.

Photos on Skotch are captioned, but cannot be hashtagged. If a user wants to upload a photo, it must be original and contain metadata that can reveal where and when the photo was shot, who was behind the lens, and on which device it was taken. The app itself also contains a free camera for iPhone users.

On sites like Facebook and Instagram, the content that people see is limited to their own networks. Abrams says that he wanted Skotch to be different when it came to photo sharing.

“I’ve traveled a lot, and I love seeing photos from Japan,” Abrams says. “It’s hard for me to log on to Instagram and do that, though, because nobody in Japan is in my network. One of the things people like about our app is that it’s not network first. It’s photo first.”

The two co-founders hope their app reminds people of scotch itself. They want people to collect and treasure their favorite photos the way they might collect the alcohol. In other words, they’re trying to create a more refined way of experiencing photography.

“Right now, we are completely focused on making something that people love,” Abrams says. “That’s goal number one.”

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techcrunchdisrupt

Designing a Toothbrush That’s Sleeker and Smarter

When the first dentist Simon Enever went to in the United States suggested he purchase a cheap electric toothbrush rather than a more expensive model, he decided to look into his options more carefully. As he began shopping around, he wasn’t pleased with the selection he found on the shelves.

“As a designer, I saw an area [in the market] that was ugly and kind of old-fashioned looking, so it felt right to do something about it,” says Enever, an industrial designer from Bristol, England.

So Enever and Bill May, a product designer he worked closely with at the Hearst Corporation, began working evenings and weekends to redesign the toothbrush. Together, they became co-founders of Quip.

After consultations with multiple dentists, they quickly realized that many consumers don’t even have the brushing fundamentals down—brushing for two whole minutes, twice a day, and changing brushes every three months.

“We noticed that big brands were focusing more on selling you their products and not about daily habits,” says Enever, who’s worked on projects for Panasonic, Lenovo, and Herman Miller at other design agencies. “It made sense for us to come together because we both had design sensibilities and we wanted change the mindset of oral care.”

TechCrunch Quip 3It took them about a year-and-a-half to produce an actual workable toothbrush. Quip’s lightweight and beautifully designed toothbrush has an internal smart electric motor that allows the bristles to vibrate for two minutes (every 30 seconds the toothbrush pulses, reminding you to switch to a different quadrant of your mouth). The best part is that you don’t need to charge your toothbrush, since you can easily insert a AAA battery.

They tested their first iteration on Indiegogo, and they were pleased about the positive reactions from organizations that wanted to be involved with a company focused on promoting oral care. New York University’s College of Dentistry has officially endorsed the product.

When it comes to pricing, Enever looked to brands like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, which are selling simple bathroom products to millennials. Starting at $20 for a manual brush ($40 for an electric one), the subscription pricing includes a case and a tube of toothpaste. You’ll get replacement packs that include a new bristle head and toothpaste for an additional $10 every three months.

As of now, the Quip team isn’t looking to focus its efforts on converting Philips or Sonicare users. They’re enthusiastic about tapping the market of manual toothbrush users and showing them the benefits of simple electronic devices.

“If we can make you more attached to your toothbrush,” says Enever, “then we’re doing the biggest job of all.”

Photo credit: Lauren Kallen

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