Entrepreneurial

Startup pays consumers for old iPhones

Apple CEO Steve Jobs discusses the new iPhone 4 during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California June 7, 2010. REUTERS/Robert GalraithRather than throwing out their old iPhone or recycling it, people wanting to upgrade to Apple’s latest iPhone 4 have another option in Gazelle.

“It’s almost early Christmas at Gazelle with the introduction of a new generation of iPhone,” said Israel Ganot, CEO and founder of the Brookline, Massachusetts-based company.

Gazelle, launched in 2008, buys electronics ranging from camcorders to LCD monitors. Ganot started the company after he tried to recycle some old cell phones, but was told by a store he would have to pay for doing so. He got the idea for Gazelle (its motto is “don’t just sell it, Gazelle it”) after realizing his phones still have value in them.

The company bills itself as an easy, fast and environmentally responsible way for people to sell or recycle their phones. Sellers search for their model on the website, answer four questions about the item’s condition and then get a price for it. Gazelle provides the packaging and free shipping for the item.

iPhones are a popular item to sell these days. Gazelle saw a surge in “trades” of the phones on the same day Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the newest model.

Does Posterous have staying power?

posterousSachin Agarwal created Posterous as a way for his parents to be able to see what he posted online. Two years later the blog publishing tool has more than 15 million monthly users, but experts still wonder whether its ultra simple functionality can catapult it into the rarefied air of Facebook or Twitter.

“No one has solved the problem of how does my 60-year-old dad see my photos,” said Agarwal, who launched his San Francisco, California-based technology startup two years ago with friend and former Stanford University alum Garry Tan. He said it was important for him that Posterous appealed to people who may be intimidated by the terms “blogging” and “social media.” “We don’t want to be thought of as a tech toy for Silicon Valley geeks. We’re surrounded by a lot of crazy tech, but our goal is to be so much more universal and applicable to normal people.”

Agarwal said Posterous gets around the need for having users register accounts by getting them to post their content – text, photos and video – directly via email to a central Posterous email address, which is then immediately published online in the form of a blog.

Mobile drug authentication app needs work

Ghanaian entrepreneur Ashifi Gogo has developed a mobile-based technology he believes can help consumers and pharmaceutical companies fight back against drug counterfeiters in developing nations. But experts said his solution needs work.

Gogo, a 28-year-old Dartmouth College engineering graduate, co-founded Sproxil Inc. to end the “menace” of counterfeit drugs in West African countries such as Nigeria, where he said up to 80 percent of the over-the-counter medication bought by consumers is fake.

Gogo said when consumers purchase a drug protected by his trademarked Mobile Product Authentication technology, it comes with a scratch code that provides them with a number they can enter into their cellphone as a text and get an immediate text response back on whether the product they just bought was real or fake (read original story here).

App is crap

- Mark Suster is a partner at Los Angeles-based venture capital firm GRP Partners and the author of the blog “Both Sides of the Table”. The opinions expressed are his own. -

I recently wrote a blog post entitled App is Crap: Why Apple is bad for your health, in which the thrust of the argument is that the technology ecosystem will be better served by applications on mobile devices that work inside your browser, rather than applications you download onto your device.

The downloaded world is a hugely costly proposition for software developers and also makes it harder for new phone manufacturers to produce products. Neither is good for innovation in the long run.

Getting word out, scale are obstacles for software startup

A couple years ago, while working for a large engineering consulting firm, Kristen Carney was hired to complete what she thought was a straightforward analysis: directly connect two roads that were currently joined by an intermediary road. More than 100 hours later and thousands of dollars over budget, a frustrated Carney felt there had to be an easier solution.

The Austin, Texas entrepreneur complained about her ordeal to friend and software whiz Anthony Morales, who offered to design a program that could drastically reduce the time it took her to gather and format her data. Morales’s software worked so well, they founded Cubit Planning, a Web-based platform that provides cut-and-paste ready environmental data.

“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, you’ve lived my nightmare,’” said Carney, who launched Cubit last year with just $2,000. She said their open-source technology operates in similar fashion to that used by stock websites. “They go out and they grab information from a bunch of different resources and they compile it nicely for you, so you can make a decision based on that data. That’s what we do, but for environmental engineers.”

High-end water filters a tough sell

Manuel Desrochers and his sister, Noemie, are the founders of Aquaovo, a Montreal, Canada-based startup that designs unique water filters, aimed at reducing the environmental hazard from billions of plastic water bottles filling up landfills (see original story here).

Their trademarked Ovopur unit is a 23-pound ceramic egg-shaped apparatus that holds 11 liters (2.9 gallons) of water and uses the combination of gravity and a glass filter cartridge to purify ordinary tap water.

“Our target market is really 30-50-year-old young professionals, who really like the design of it and they’re thrilled to hear that it’s actually functional,” said Noemie (read her journal here), who added they raised the price for the filters from $560 to $660 after their first six months in business. “We really came to this price thinking this clientele is willing to pay for quality, so they’ll spend around $700 for the Ovopur.”

Pet startup needs to get more social (media)

Entrepreneurs Tina Cannon and Christi Scovel have developed a great way to connect pet owners with veterinarians, but they need to get much more involved in social media in order to get people flocking to their website (PetsMD.com), said experts.

Cannon, an accountant by trade, got the idea for their website a couple years ago (see original story here) while witnessing friend Scovel, a veterinarian, answer phone calls around the clock from desperate pet owners trying to book appointments, or just seeking information about their pets’ maladies. Cannon jokingly suggested there should be a website to handle this, freeing up vets like Scovel to enjoy an evening out.

Cannon said 175 million vet appointments are made annually in the U.S. and “they’re all done by the telephone,” she said, adding: “nobody is offering online integrated booking. We’re the first and we’re either crazy or smart.”

Startup faces tough odds in crowded New York rental market

Lee Lin had a full-time job, three rental properties and a problem: he had no time to find tenants to live in them. He tried advertising on free-listing websites like Craigslist, but found it too time consuming, so he created an alternative.

Lin and co-founder Lawrence Zhou, both former programmers, spent nine months and $20,000 in personal savings to build RentHop.com. The website showcases available apartments in New York, predominantly ones that don’t charge renters expensive broker fees.

“Landlords and property managers are very desperate now,” said Lin, who added that when the rental market tanked it forced landlords to absorb broker fees as a way to try to entice renters. These “no-fee” apartment listings have become extremely popular with New Yorkers. “The bottom line is the recession is driving landlords and brokers to work harder to find tenants and that makes room for a new site and a newer business model, such as RentHop to come along.” (Read full article here)

Experts weigh in on Twitter-based shopping site

IMshopping's Twitter pageYesterday we presented entrepreneur Prashant Nedungadi (read his entrepreneur journal) and his startup website IMshopping.com, which offers a platform whereby consumers can ask specific retail-related questions, through the website directly or via Twitter, and have them answered by an online community of retail experts. (click here to read Nedungadi’s pitch)

Nedungadi launched his website last April and has already received $4.7 million in venture capital investment from SK Telecom, but now needs to find retailers willing to pay to utilize his virtual sales force instead of going the traditional route and hiring their own sales people.

Our panel of experts have watched Nedungadi’s pitch video and gave us their reaction to IMshopping and Nedungadi’s business model.

Seattle startup looks for customers in the cloud

newlineWhat would happen if your laptop was lost, stolen or accidentally dropped in a pool? Would you be able to easily retrieve all the megabytes of precious content housed in its memory banks?

These are the questions that drove Seattle software developer Kory Gill to leave an almost 20-year career at Microsoft and start his own online data-storage company. For years, Gill has sought a Web-based storage solution that would safeguard his priceless family photos, home movies and other important digital data, but never found a single solution that addressed all his specific needs.

“If these are irreplaceable files, you need to have the same type of insurance for your data as you would of any other asset, like your home or car,” said Gill, who often shared his frustrations with friend and fellow Microsoft programmer Marius Nita.

  •