Startup Series Articles

Shoebox App Review: Photo Storage for People Who Love Organization

07.8.14

I have children and I’m pretty sure they are the most beautiful children in the world therefore I take photos incessantly. In fact I have taken so many photos of poor Alexander that the most recent ones look a lot like this.

Which is probably normal but still disappointing.

In addition to the photos I take with a DSLR, I’m taking photos with my phone, a backup phone and a point and shoot. Those photos are often shared on facebook and I’ll never see them again. Which is often fine but sometimes there’s a gem I’d really like to print or save. Further, I’m unorganized. I don’t tag photos or save them by date. I just take photos and then hope for the best.

In my search for cloud based photo storage I found Shoebox. It offers features that I didn’t know I wanted and now I think I can’t live without. It’s like when you hire the professional organizer and they show up with their trash bags and their label maker and you just know that really great things are going to happen and you couldn’t have done it on your own. That’s the feeling I get every time Shoebox syncs with my computer or phone.

Now you’re like, “Uh, okay Jessica, back away from the computer. You’re nerding out over photo storage.”

Well, I am nerding out over photo storage a little but the excitement is in the organization. With Shoebox App I get one album for all my photos from all my devices. This means that photos from the laptop, the desktop and the iPhone are all together in one place. Photos are organized by date, by location and by the camera used.

shoebox app review home

My favorite feature is Time Travel

shoebox app time travel

This is an absolute must for anyone who loves to travel. Having photos sorted by location is a complete nightmare when you do it by hand. Well, it’s not so much a nightmare as it is unlikely to ever happen. Shoebox takes your geotagged photos and sorts them for you so that your trips are easily searchable.

That Time Travel tab is really fun. It’ll show you how many months you’ve used each of your cameras, what time of day you’re taking the bulk of your photos and there’s a pie chart for the months too.

You can build galleries to share photos, which would be great for family photos that you don’t want on Facebook or photos friends might want to print.

Shoebox defaults to a slideshow that’s simple. Click the < to see the photo you just passed and the > to continue scrolling through. There’s a download icon so you can instantly download a saved photo and a delete because even I know that 300 photos of a one eyed dog are too much.

There’s nothing confusing about Shoebox. It’s got all the features a blogger needs and the simplicity required by a luddite. Photos are sorted by year, by month and even as little images on a calendar if you’re looking for a specific day.

Because the default setting on Shoebox is private moms like me can feel comfortable using it as an automatic download for our family photos. Shoebox uses the same encryption methods as banks do so I’m confident that my photos will be there when I need them.

It’s really easy to use Shoebox. Just go to shoeboxapp.com and click on the big green box where it says download. Use the default settings to install the app (takes less than 2 minutes) and then start uploading your photos. Here’s where I think Shoebox could lose you, don’t let it lose you. The first download may take hours. Plural. Don’t freak out, it’s not a slow app, it’s just that if you’re like me you probably have several years worth of photos on your computer.

My deskop has more than 4,500 photos on it. This will take several hours to upload to the app. It’s a lot of space. If you’re like me you might want to think about dumping all those photos on an external hard drive in addition to the app and taking them off your computer in it’s entirety, freeing up space for more important things. Like minecraft or shopping.

You can let Shoebox run in the background and do something else or (and I recommend this) you can walk away from the computer and come back to it when the upload is complete. I’m impatient and things like this are a challenge for me.

Although shoebox is private you can still share your photos with twitter, facebook, pinterest or email.

shoebox app on pinterest

Since many of us are using Pinterest for our travel this is a really helpful feature.

Shoebox is free forever if you’re using web sized photos. Meaning the Shoebox App will compress your photos to 1024 pixels on the longest side and store them for a lifetime. If you are open to paying for storage, Shoebox App’s Pro Plan is $5 a month or $48 a year and you are limited only to 20MB per photo. This is pretty standard and within a dollar of Flickr’s annual price.

Most importantly Shoebox works on all the devices: Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android, making sharing with the entire extended family simple and efficient.

If you download the app I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments. How many photos are on your computer? I was shocked by volume on mine.

This post is sponsored by Shoebox App but I went ahead and spent my own money on the Pro Plan. I’m a convert. 

 

Opoli App: Limousines On Call, No Pricing Surprises

06.29.14

opoli logo Last week I went to a launch for Opoli. It’s an interesting app and it’s taken everything that’s right about Uber and made it just a little bit friendlier for both consumer and driver. Here’s the gist of the Opoli app (and website too).

Drivers pay a monthly fee to be included in the Opoli fleet. I am unclear on just how much this fee is because I’m not licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission so I can’t be your driver anyhow.

Opoli is an app that you use basically to hail a car service. It might be a Tesla, a towncar or an SUV. The app required no instruction for me. You click to request a car, it could be that you’re looking for one right now (as you would with Uber) or that you’d like to schedule an airport pickup (hello real live convenience!).

In any event you put in your pickup address, the time and day you’d like to be picked up and the number of passengers and then (this is where the app is really different) you enter your drop off location. The app then suggests the amount of money you should pay and you can either accept this or modify it. Your request is then sent out to cars in the area and they can either accept your price or counter with another price. You can accept or keep going. With my second ride on Opoli I was looking for a ride from an event to my house and the app suggested $35, apparently there was a driver in the area who wanted to be doubly sure he got the gig and countered with $30. Fine by me!

Once you agree to the price your credit card is charged. I am madly in love with apps that keep me from having to find cash. Currently tipping is cash only but I’m told that tipping within the app is a feature that is coming soon. I love that while the ride is active you can see where the car is. Hello safety for kids in cars.

Of course the added layer of protection includes that you’re only dealing with professionally licensed drivers who are required to carry commercial insurance. It looks like Opoli has it’s eye on the hotel industry next and I’m curious to see what they’re planning there.

In the interim I have 19 coupon codes to give away for Opoli. Each code is good for $50 of fares. You’re welcome. There was supposed to be 20 of them but I gave one away to my husband’s assistant because she has become one of the most important women in life. In fact I was tempted to give her 19 of them and do a giveaway for one but I thought the folks at Opoli might notice and that would suck. It wouldn’t suck if I gave her $950 worth of Opoli credit, it would suck if we got caught and I always get caught. So, I have 19 codes to give away.

You’ll need to be in Los Angeles to use this so be sure to only enter if you live in LA or if you’ll be here within the next month or so. Then you can use your car service to take me out for cocktails or something.

Update: I’ve been notified by Opoli that it’s not a limousine service as not all vehicles are limousines, you may get a Tesla or a Town Car, some kind of SUV or Black Car service. I’m pretty sure you won’t get a Batmobile but I’m also thinking that if you get the Batmobile that will be pretty awesome. All drivers are licensed through the Taxi and Limousine Commission so even if you aren’t in a limousine you can totally pretend you are. Caphiche?

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Zorbit’s Math Endorsement

09.17.13

Sometimes it’s hard for bloggers to know what to do when we fall in love with a product, app or locale that isn’t an exact match for the things we talk about every day but is still something we want to share with our readers. Recently I had that conundrum with Zorbits Math.

zorbits math counting games

You see I’m moving away from blogging every day and concentrating on blogger outreach for brands like Zorbit’s, Shopetti, Brighter and Sprint. In fact I’ve even launched a little site for my new business.

Here’s where things get sticky. After playing with Zorbit’s Math (pre-launch) I knew that I was looking at a great application. One of the things I did in my 30’s was go back to school and get a Master’s Degree in Education. It didn’t serve me well career-wise because I quickly found that the only children I am interested in educating are my own. However, I do have this body of knowledge that’s helped me teach my own children essential reading and math skills, it’s helped me find good schools for them and guide extracurricular activities as well. When my kids were learning math our go to games involved matching, pairing, colors, drawing, manipulatives and a few games on PBS Kids or possibly something I’d found on Yahooligans. That otherwise not-very-useful Master’s Degree drew me to Zorbit’s as it was (is) clear to me that this is a game which is rich in teaching.

Since my kids are more Algebra than Adding I don’t have a test group to review Zorbit’s Math Adventure. With that being said if you have a child who is right for this app they don’t get to choose their games, you do and I’d encourage any parent of a pre-reader or early reader to download Zorbit’s Math Adventure for their kids.

Math isn’t 1+1. Pre-math skills are about counting and sorting, knowing shapes and classifying objects. Pre-Math is really fun and if you have a cast of characters who are zooming around space solving puzzles (that require no reading) it’s all the better. Currently Zorbit’s Math Adventure is an iPad only game.

It’s ideal for a four year old but certainly three year old’s will enjoy “popping bubbles” and “collecting stickers” and older kids really enjoy it too.

I loved the Zorbit’s App and I really enjoyed the team who built it. Having them as one of Word of Mouth Women’s first clients demonstrated to me that I’m in the right business. I can’t write about every great app I come across, I don’t want to endorse every brand but when there’s something special like Zorbit’s I get to share it with you and other bloggers as well.

I’ve spent about an hour playing with Zorbit’s Math (this is a very long time for someone who is approximately 39 years older than the intended audience) and I emphatically want to state that it’s an example of the best edutainment has to offer. To download Zorbit’s go to the iTunes store.

Shopetti: A New Gig

08.16.13

Okay it’s not so much a “gig” as it is a massive gamble and even larger expenditure of time and energy. I’ve recently accepted a position on Shopetti’s advisory board.

Shopetti is a site (and an add on at the chrome store) which enables you to shop at a bunch of different stores and then pay for it in all one cart.

The pink S on the right is the shopetti plugin

The pink S on the right is the shopetti plugin

I love this. I shop for four people, a cat and dog. Being able to dump crap…. I mean treasures into one cart and then to pay once is incredibly helpful particularly around holidays and back to school. You know how you’re like “I’m only going over by $12 on her..” and then all of a sudden you’re $100 over budget because it was a bunch of little things that you bought at different stores and are redundant? Yeah, that.

One of the newest features (and everything is new because Shopetti is a very young company) is that when you leave things in your shopping basket and they go on sale you’ll get an email. Like this one.

shopetti sale alert

I’ve actually decided that as cute as the Manii shoes are they’re probably not going to do my RA any good…

There’s a quick and easy sign up with Shopetti, you can link it to Facebook or G+ in one click. The site is fun, if pinterest appeals to you, you’ll love Shopetti.

You should also know that it’s in an early beta and because of that new features will be rolling out pretty regularly.

If you want to give Shopetti a try I’ve got an added incentive for you. Money. Here’s a giveaway of $125 shopping spree. Someone is going to get  a $125 AMEX gift card (they should totally use it on shopetti). Enter the contest, refer a friend…. show me some love because I’m putting heart and soul into this new venture and I want to bring y’all there with me.

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How to Fund a Wedding You Cannot Afford

01.16.13

Celebrate Plus crowdfunding for weddings

I noticed that I had a new twitter follower the other day, CelebratePlus. I then clicked on the profile and saw that Celebrate Plus is a fundraising site for celebrations, most specifically weddings.

No really. You invite people to your wedding and ask them to help pay for it.

Yes, I realize that I’m judgy and mean and that there’s no way that anyone will ever read this post without understanding full well that I do not want to be invited to a wedding where I’m asked to chip in for my chicken buffet dinner. I know that people will think that I’m selfish and rude and that I’m here to be sanctimonious and remind you that it’s not good to start a life together in debt. The wedding was the best day of my life up until that day in 1997 but now in 2013. I can’t say there haven’t been better days and I also can’t say it was the most important day of married life. The moments of devotion when everything was crazy wonderful or incredibly challenging brought us closer than a party ever could.

With that being said I know that these services exist because people want or feel like they need them and I asked Nelson Olavarrieta (the founder of CelebratePlus.com) for a quick interview and he happily complied.

Here’s Nelson’s story:

Almost two years ago I was out with my wife having dinner. We were through a difficult economic situation, at least comparable to a few years before when we both were working and with no kids. We remembered how our wedding was a great celebration, how we received not only the company and love of our friends and family, but also how we didn’t spend a dime in the party, how our family stood behind us, and all the gifts we received. Wow, we were so lucky.

That made me think what we would have done with all the money that was spent on the celebration and the gifts. I remembered an episode of the TV series “Friends”, when Chandler is having cold feet the night before the wedding and his pals Joey and Ross ask him to have dinner with them. “Well I invited 200 people to have dinner with me tomorrow, so I don’t want to spend on dinner tonight” or something like that Chandler said.

My wife and I agreed that it was a waste of resources to spend that much money on a “party”. It isn’t more reasonable that all the people, friends and family, who care about you, “invite” the marrying couple to have ‘dinner’? 200 paying the dinner of 2 is better math than 2 paying the dinner of 200.

Or worst, what if your personal or family’s current economic situation doesn’t allow you to spent that money and not be able to have a marvelous time sharing one of the most magnificent times of your life? What if instead of spending on a party people can give money down on their house, pay their honeymoon, buy a needed car or save to pay for the expenses of a new family. What if people can save that money and put it in a college fund for their future kids?

If you don’t have money for health care, are you supposed to wait for your death? If you don’t have money for a wedding are you supposed to not have a good time in that special moment in your life? Everybody can have a shot at that if we built a friendly platform to invite and raise funds.

“Something needs to change, somebody needs to do something about it”, I said, and instantly hit me back. I NEED to do something about it. I’m a lawyer and have experience in a couple of previous Internet startups, so I said: Let’s start again! In the next days and months I came to the concept of CelebratePlus.com, something like Evite plus Kickstarter, a platform where any person who is having any kind of personal event can easily invite their friends and family and with the new etiquette that internet gives you, be able to ask for funds and raise them automatically.

CelebratePlus.com is now a reality and it has been live since December 2012. We are available in the US but soon we will be available for the rest of the world. We partnered with PayPal because they are the most used and trusted online platform for payments and people can trust their name to handle their money.

We have received an amazing response and people are organizing events as varied as weddings, quinceañeras, retirement parties, dances, slumber parties, pizza night with friends, game watching parties, you name it. People are creating their accounts, creating events and raising funds. The lack of funds will not stop anybody to share a great moment of their lives.

We have built a platform for friends and family to share their support to the ones they love and we love what we do.

I’m dying to hear how y’all feel about this. I also must say that it doesn’t really matter how you feel about it because soon enough we’ll all be invited to a crowdfunded event. It makes sense in a lot of ways even if it makes me bristle. Let’s face it, I’m bristly.

Also, if I attend a crowdfunded wedding do I get to deduct that from the gift check that I write at the end of the party? What would Miss Manners say?

Q&A with Sitizens.com Founder and CTO Tim Linden

09.26.12

A few weeks ago I started noticing that Sitizens.com was referring a little traffic to my site. It seemed to come in bursts and it piqued my curiosity so I went over to the site and found that Sitizens is an online game where you try to become the King (or Queen) of a domain by visiting it and clicking a little bookmarklet.

When I signed up for Sitizens I noticed they asked for a paypal email address in case they had to send me money. I haven’t seen that since iwon.com used to pay you to surf the web.

I’m pretty sure that Sitizens has huge value for bloggers and I’m trying to wrap my head around how ultimately I’ll use it. I had a bunch of questions for the guys over there and Tim Linden (founder and CTO) was kind enough to answer them all. I hope you enjoy this interview.

 

I just discovered sitizens.com and I’m not sure I understand exactly what it is. It is a game? A community? A marketing platform?

Sitizens is an online social game. For the end user it’s about having fun, taking control of domains you love, and finding new domains. We come from a marketing background so we see huge opportunities for those savvy enough to utilize Sitizens for their website.

Are bloggers using sitizens? I know that your users are reading blogs (waving to my readers and really grateful that you found me) but I’m not sure how a blogger uses sitizens. Can you provide an example?

So far I’m not aware of a blogger specifically using Sitizens to help them in blogging. It’s mostly been bloggers who find Sitizens is sending traffic to their site and they come by curiosity. The way I see Sitizens helping bloggers is repeat visitors. Everyone who blogs wants people to read their content, I sometimes get frustrated having thousands of people subscribe via email only to get a few comments. Sitizens is literally about coming back to your favorite sites every day. I personally would use Sitizens by having a new blog post every day and putting an ad into the Sitizens ad center. The new content would keep people who come back reading, and the ad center would get more people finding your site while exploring. Then it’s up to you to have valuable enough content that the people exploring decide they want to arrive at your site every day. We’ve got way more to come in the pipeline to allow any site owner to leverage Sitizens however they see fit ;-)

Whose idea was Sitizens? Can you tell me where it came from?

I came up with the idea. I’ve always liked playing a variety of social games online so creating a social game was always something I’ve wanted to do. As a Dad I’ve also had the joy of having two daughters want to be the Queen and fight over who is Queen or who isn’t. I wanted to come up with a game that anyone could play, but they would play because they really really want to hold their turf. What better way than being able to be King or Queen of anything? And when you play with friends there is nothing more enjoyable than calling them up on Skype right after you took their precious domain!

Y’all hang out on G+ a lot talking about your work, do you worry about sharing trade secrets or is it all coding and fart jokes?

We’ve always been a very open company. We learn from others and are OK with others learning from us. People have stolen ideas from us years before we started doing hangouts so hiding behind closed doors doesn’t help anyone. On top of that we’ve had some really fantastic ideas come from people who are watching and chatting with us. So really our trade secret is getting free ingenious ideas from your loyal fans.

What’s the current demographic?

The demographic has actually been the most surprising part. We’ve got women who love shopping, we’ve got men who love gaming, we even have some old people playing. That’s been the most fun, finding all the different types of people out there. For instance, I found one guy who was really into wood working and was King of a ton of wood working sites. I think that’s why it’s so addicting.. You are fighting for the sites you actually like!

Are we all destined to be gamers even if we think we aren’t?

We’re all gamers! Whether we like to admit it or not we all love achieving things and winning things and proving we are better than each other. The only thing that separates us is the ways in which we game. Some people like the nerdy guilds and want to buy items in the store and get their friends together and plan raids on domains. Others like casually playing with their friends and finding neat crests. We try to incorporate social gaming in some aspect or another in all our sites. It’s what makes it fun to come back!

 

As a complete aside I recommend calling their toll free number at 877-244-3581 and listening to the outgoing message. It’s what made me realize that these guys are nutty enough to actually make something that works. 

Startup Series: Wittlebee A Clothing Club for Well Dressed Kids

02.13.12

wittlebee logo sean percival

Wittlebee is the second startup to come out of Science and it’s another good one. Every parent knows that the first half dozen years will have you shopping for clothes endlessly. Some mothers enjoy this. Some fathers enjoy this… I like to call them the other 1%.

You see I loved buying my daughter clothing, before she was born, with gift cards… but once the baby is on the scene buying a carton of milk is as much of a shopping adventure as anyone needs. By the time my son came around I was like, “Mooooommmmmm…. please buy the kids clothes because shopping makes me cry.” And she did. Bless her and bless the Cabazon outlets.

Don’t get me wrong, buying a party dress or a little suit is fun, but buying a stack of onesies, leggings or long sleeved shirts… not so fun.

Enter Wittlebee. They will send you a box of essentials every month. Every. Single. Month.

wittlebee

Ooh, and guess what? It’s really high quality stuff. If you look on their facebook page you’ll see posts from their customers like this one.

i’m loving Wittlebee! Anyone with kids from new to 5yrs HAS to check i out!! 8 articles of clothing for $39/month.(your first box is $19.99) One onsie costs $16 so its totally worth it!! USA made Brands like Cotton Seed & American Apparel. Also Baby Gap & Gymboree…Only the best brands!!! Plus if you have multiple kids you can mix and match sizes in your boxes….Im super excited about this idea!!

I’ve heard about Wittlebee for a while now because Sean Percival is the founder and he’s a friend of ours. What sort of cinches the deal is that Sean’s wife Laurie is known around Los Angeles for her impeccable taste. I knew all along that with Laurie as the woman behind the scenes those boxes would be top notch.

Wittlebee is truly personalized, when you sign up for a subscription they ask a ton of questions.

Boy or girl?
Age?
What size do they currently wear?
What colors do you like?
What style items do you need the most?
What’s a shopping trip like?
What’s your child’s style?
What’s your child’s personality?

The first box may take a while, up to two weeks and then they arrive monthly thereafter.

A Wittlebee subscription is a fabulous gift, particularly since new parents are often showered with gifts the first months and then scramble to find time, energy and money to buy new clothes after the newborn stage is over.

There’s a robust community over at the Wittlebee Facebook Page, and if you’re looking to try it out here’s a coupon that will give you 50% off your first order.

[UPDATE: The coupon code is now worth $10 off the first month]

Startup Series: EventUp

02.7.12

Since incubators like Science are now calling Los Angeles home I figure it’s time to start a series of posts to show off some of our finest startups.

Eventup caught my eye because it starts in the geek space but ends up in the mom space (even if they don’t realize it yet). Eventup is a site that allows you to search for a location for your event big or small in and around Los Angeles with other cities soon to launch. If I search New York I find one garden apartment, I’m assuming there will be more fabulous locations soon.

Everyone who watches the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills knows that everyone in and around Los Angeles spends $60,000 for a child’s birthday party. No? Okay maybe not $60k but I swear sometimes it’s hard to keep it under a thousand even when they’re tiny.

Let’s say you want to have a party where four year olds run around and scream their heads off but your back yard is a disaster area. Go browse eventup and you’ll find locations like this house in Beverly Hills that sits on a one acre lot. How’s this for a back yard?

rodeo_drive_villa

Or if you’re like my friend Emily you could use Eventup to find the perfect spot for a Midnight Brunch. Yes really, brunch at midnight…

I’m excited to watch eventup launch here in Los Angeles and even more excited to see how it will expand and which cities will embrace it first.