Slifter: Shopping goes mobile!

slifter phone shotShopping convenience has reached a new level with GPShopper. Imagine you are in a new city looking searching for a last minute gift. Type in the product make and model into your cell phone, and instantly, you get back a list of locations where the product is available, along with a detailed location map.

The technology, called Slifter, rolled out on Sprint in early June of this year, appears to be a win-win situation all around. With GPS enabled phones the customer can locate the products they need with ease, wherever they go. The company (GPShopper) reaps revenue from the retailer every time someone clicks through to the product at their location.

Regular Sifter can be downloaded on to a phone, and is free to use. The search engine will find products based upon the zip code entered. Sprint provides the GPS enabled service for a subscription of $1.99/month. Furthermore, the application serves as an additional vehicle for Sprint to sell their data and other value add packages.

Of course there is the social networking aspect that seems to be bundled into most online services these days. Shoppers can share finds with their friends via mobile shopping lists.

Slifter boasts of an impressive list of brands that are listed on their search engine (with a total of 30,000 locations), such as Best Buy, CompUSA and Foot Locker. Slifter says it is working on adding smaller and more local retailers, although one can well imagine that here the challenge will be obtaining accurate real time inventory information.

Los Altos based NearbyNow got $5M in funding from Draper in April 2007, for their software that pin points the products that shoppers want, inside a mall (operated through websites maintained by shopping malls).

BrandHabit is geared towards fashion, and their search engine provides information online regarding brand name products and where they are available.

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Blinkx: Revolutionizing Video Search

blinkx logBlinkx bills itself as the world’s largest and most advanced video search engine.With the explosion of video destination sites like Utube, Google Video, Metacafe etc., the next wave of video aggregation or video search engine sites is well underway.

The Blinkx site claims to catalog 12 million hours of video. Of course, all of it is created, and hosted, on other sites. The huge library of Blinkx was generated by aggregating about 200 major video sources on the net.

The power of the technology is in its search capability. Rather than simply rely on meta data, the way other video search engines do, Blinkx uses speech recognition and video analysis to categorize its libraries.

Once you get past the eye-candy on the Blinkx home page (and there is a lot of it by way of a rapidly changing wall of video clips) you see the clever automatic embedding of video clips contextually matched to the rolling news clips on the page.

With about 12M raised from Angel investors, San Francisco based Blinkx had a spectacular IPO on AIM in May of 2007, where shares soared up by 50% on the day they launched.

The revenue model for Blinkx is not clear. It is a free site with a whopping $350M market cap! Where the site goes in terms of ad generated or other revenue remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, it is clear that the old “eyeball” metric of the last boom is back, and well entrenched. Valuation is once again being based upon page views or unique visits. One hopes the monetization is not far too behind, this time around.

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Clearmesh closes its doors

clearmesh logBuilding fiber networks in congested areas is difficult. Digging trenches and pulling the fiber between buildings is expensive and time consuming. Enter Clearmesh Networks, with an elegantly simple solution. Send data via infrared light waves from roof top to roof top, via transceivers. The main physical limitation is line of sight. Building out a network of these devices provides failure proof re-routing capabilities. Clearmesh held a lot of promise in campus type environments, like major office parks with tall buildings.

clearmesh network

Now it appears that Clearmesh, an Idea Lab spawned company is closing its doors. The company is up for sale. Idea Lab has apparently changed course, and is focusing its energies in the green tech area.

So why did Clearmesh fail? Clearly the product had received enough accolades. The optical network deployment had far less regulatory issues than RF networks.

This reminds me of Connexion, a billion dollar development of in-flight WiFi service, that was predicted to be a major revenue generator for Boeing. Early adoption from already cash strapped airlines was a problem, as was the high cost of the service.

Another company in a somewhat similar situation was Ricochet. Ricochet was wireless, way before wireless was cool. They gave you a small modem with an antenna which you plugged into your PC, and if you lived in the right places within the coverage area of their proprietary Micro Cellular Data Network, you would get get connectivity at a decent speed. I tried the model in 2000, driving up and down silicon valley, and got reception about 50% of the way.

The problem with the Ricochet network was that the usefulness was limited by the coverage, and providing coverage was, of course, expensive. After $600M poured in, in capital, the coverage was no where near the nationwide reach that was initially expected, and the company finally folded in 2001.

So it goes with grand ideas. You’ve got to respect the folks who go out on a limb to try to turn them into reality. Sure some of them crash and burn. But it is on those experienced shoulders that others need to stand on, if they are going to not only see, but also go further.

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Fix8 : How do you feel today?

fix8 logoFix8, promises VP of Sales Dinesh Bhatia, will bring a smile to your face. And just watching the team’s video intro to the user animated avatar product on the fix8 web page certainly brought one to mine!

So what does fix8 do? It allows you to pick a whacky avatar from their gallery, or just some accessories such as funny glasses or bouffant hair. Then, using a simple webcam, you superimpose your facial expressions and motions on the graphic - all in real time! The talking avatar can be embedded into your web page, or even into Yahoo IM and MSN chats. While clips from other users cannot be embedded into your site, Mashable suggests a “mashup” for those so inclined.

fix8 videoHighly entertaining. And deceptively simple. They have a gallery of user generated videos made using fix8. The avatars mimic the head movements and eyerolls with startling accuracy!

With what I know of facial recognition technologies, it could not have been easy to prefect the product. The team decided to focus the biometric technology into creating a fun, consumer oriented experience. With the interest in video sharing and video blogging for sites like Utube, the timing certainly seems right.

Fix8 has received funding from the Vickers Venture Fund based in Asia.

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