Remember the conference call? ShoePhone doesn’t.

ShoeMost probably read that title and said, “What’s he talking about? Conference calling is a frequent part of my business.” What if there was something better?

That’s where TalkShoe comes in. The Pittsburgh-based company, which was founded in 2005, recently came out with a new piece of software named ShoePhone. Although its branded as a VoIP service, you only use VoIP to create the connection; your actual calls take place over a “telco-grade conferencing system.” In fact, ShoePhone is able to facilitate calls between virtually any device out there: participants can connect using land lines, mobile phones, Skype, or other 3rd party VoIP clients like Gizmo.

The beauty of ShoePhone is in how it both simplifies conference calling while also adding new features to make calls more useful and efficient. First, when someone is speaking their name is clearly displayed on the screen, immediately clearing up confusion as to who is talking. Also, If the request-to-talk queing feature is turned and you wish to say something, you press a button to insert yourself in the speaking que which is ran through on a first-come-first-serve basis. Another feature that reduces cross-chatter is private messaging: you are able to initiate a secret IM chat with anyone else on the call that takes place completely in the background. To top it off, ShoePhone records the call and puts it online for anyone with a PIN number to replay the call in its entirety or download it to their hard drive.

ShoePhone supports up to 250 participants in one conference call, in addition to thousands more that are able to listen to the call live (but can’t speak).

While we’ve been focusing on the private conference call capabilities of ShoePhone, a lot of the emphasis the company places on the software focuses on its more public podcasting capability. Any recorded call automatically becomes a “Talkcast” which can then be distributed and played as an MP3 or embedded into a website/blog/Facebook page using a player widget. The embeddable widget lets people listen to your latest call as well as any previous recordings, in addition to listing scheduled upcoming calls. TalkShoe offers monetization options to anyone who can draw 20 live participants and average 1,000 downloads per week.

The software is currently free to download (you have to register first). Whether its used for conference calling or podcasting, this is another great software addition to the Web 2.0 sphere.

In March, a podcast host utilized TalkShoe’s infrastructure to put on a live 24 hour “Kiva Talkathon” designed to bring the microlending site to the attention of podcast listeners everywhere. TalkShoe agreed to transfer any revenue generated by the internationally-broadcast show to Kiva itself, helping entrepreneurs in developing countries. Our recent post about Kiva can be found here.
ShoePhone site

ShoePhone announcement


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A startup that gets paid to read your mail

LogoOne of the reasons that profiling startups never gets boring is because of the constant stream of creative ideas and concepts that they come up with. Some create never-before-seen products, while others take ordinary, mundane processes and make them more interesting. Earth Class Mail, based out of Seattle, falls into the latter category.

The company deals with one of the common problem people face when they go out of town: their mail. And I’m talking about actual mail… you know, the kind that comes to your house. In the past, if you wanted to keep up on your snail mail while you were away from home, you would need to make an agreement with someone ahead of time to collect your mail and forward it to you.

Earth Class Mail changes that. By becoming their customer, you can arrange to have all of your mail (business, personal or both) forwarded to their massive warehouse located in Oregon. From there, they scan it all and put it online for your eyes only.

As a customer, you have the option of telling them what to do with each individual piece of mail. First, they scan each unopened envelope and display it to you. From there, you can tell them to open it and scan the contents into a PDF, shred it, or forward it to another location. The company is also planning to have a check-cashing feature up and running soon.

The company’s pricing plans run as low as $14.95 a month or $155 a year.

Earth Class Mail, which is being profiled on a new HD reality show called “Startup Junkies” on the MOJO network in January ‘08, is taking one step closer towards a paperless society. They just received $7.4 million in funding during a series A round.

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Future dating: 23andme and Illumina

Future dating: 23andme and Illumina
Here is a new algorithm parameter for eHarmony - use genomes for matching! 23andme, the secret personal genomics company founded by Google founder Sergey Brin’s wife, Anne Wojcicki, is partnering with Illumina a company that does gene typing for clients and puts it on their web page so people can map their own genomes. Illumina CEO Jay Flatley carries around his gene code on his iphone! From Venture Beat.

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Hulu acquires video startup

TechCrunch reports that Hulu, an online video site that is a joint venture between News Corp. and NBC, just acquired Mojiti, another video platform based in Beijing. Rumored price? $10 million.

From Mojito’s website: Mojiti allows you to tell the story your way with any online video. Whether or not you created the video, you can now do more than just watch- you can dive into the experience and tell everyone what you really think. Moment by moment, Mojiti makes it easy to annotate scenes, highlight objects or add shapes, Flash art, audio or video on the screen to share your unique take on the video with everyone.

Basically, the site allows you to overlay custom objects onto already existing videos and then share the new product, either via email or embedding onto your own site. Arrington points out that “the annotation feature is somewhat similar to another startup,, which is rumored to have been acquired by Cisco.” They have other competitors as well: Veotag, BubblyPLY, Rakugaki, and Viddler all have the video annotation function.

Previously we wrote about Hulu, which will stream many of NBC’s popular television shows, possibly playing into NBC’s decision to pull their shows from Apple’s iTunes store.


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