Emotions play tricks on our memories, making our recollections of events much happier or heart-wrenching than they actually were. Smartphone app Expereal seeks to cut through those cognitive traps by allowing you to rate your day on a 10-point scale and organizing that data into easy-to-read charts.
The iOS app (Android and Web-based versions are planned) is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based digital strategist Jonathan Cohen, who was inspired by psychologist Daniel Kahneham’s 2010 TED talk “The riddle of experience vs. memory.” Kahneham argues that our memories are often distorted by cognitive biases. For example, one bad day can completely spoil someone’s memory of an otherwise pleasurable two-week vacation.
When designing Expereal, Cohen decided to stick to a 10-point scale to help users keep their ratings objective.
“I could have potentially asked people to pick a word to describe their mood, but what I like about numbers is that in order to get the full breadth and benefit you also have to enter tags and give meaning to it,” says Cohen.
Expereal’s first screen allows you to rate your day (or part of the day, depending on how often you use the app). Then you can note your location and the people you are with, add tags and snap a photo. A drop-down menu takes you to a set of charts that visualize your ratings by day, week or month, and compares your numbers to all of Expereal’s users or your Facebook friends who also use the app (data is aggregated anonymously). The “Expereotype” option is an album of your in-app photos with embedded ratings, tags and locations.
Cohen says Expereal fills the gap left by journaling apps and life-tracking wearable tech products like Jawbone UP and Nike Fuelband.
“None of these services in my mind really address the fundamental question–’how is my life going and how is it trending over time?’ I thought that by having a better understanding of this over time, it would be an interesting way to look back in order to move forward,” says Cohen.
Of course, Expereal is only as useful as the data you enter into it. The app’s notifications can be set to remind you to use it 1-5 times per day. While testing the app out, I found I was more likely to enter a rating if I was having a bad day because adding tags allowed me to vent. If my day was going okay, however, it was tempting to ignore Expereal’s prompt on my iPhone.
“It’s not immediately sticky,” Cohen admits. “But for many of us who are relatively happy in our lives, I think there is value in those moments of self-reflection.” He adds that Expereal is meant to “counterbalance to the immediate promises of contemporary best-selling self-help books and programs.”
I committed to using the app five times a day for two weeks and was surprised by my data charts. A couple days I had written off in my memory as a total waste of time (because of a headache or a task left undone) were actually rated quite high, and I realized I’m much more pessimistic than I thought I was. I already use Timehop as a scrapbook and Step Journal to keep track of my daily activities, but I like Expereal’s focus on mood tracking because it’s already motivated me to stop being so negative.
Cohen tells me he is continually working on the app’s data analysis so that the aggregate numbers aren’t skewed toward any particular part of the day or people who log onto the app more consistently than other users. He declined to give me specific numbers, but says Expereal currently has several thousand users.
Aside from being a handy life-tracking tool, Expereal is also beautiful, with minimalist graphics inspired by mid-century California design, graphic designer Reid Miles and Monocle magazine. The app was bootstrapped by Cohen, who is currently looking for investors and investigating several revenue models. Cohen envisions Expereal as part of a larger ecosystem that will eventually include books, seminars and other tools that tap into people’s desires to improve their lives.
“If you look at the world of self-help, that segment of the marketplace, there are all of these amazing books by behavioral psychologists out there,” says Cohen. “If Expereal can capture a piece of that marketplace, I think the potential is huge.”
For generations in the past, parents have carefully put together “baby books” that capture the first years of a baby’s life in photos, hand prints and more. My mother created one for me, and it’s something that I treasure. But in the world’s digital age, the photos and memories of our babies are captured most often on mobile phones. Any paper is stored in a file cabinet or thrown away. And there hasn’t been a product that is specifically tailored towards recreating the baby book online—until now. Enter Blinkbuggy, a new startup from a Googler that wants to help moms and dads create virtual baby books.
The brainchild of Google ad sales manager Emma Weisberg, Blinkbuggy is focused on mothers and helping busy moms collect and connect all the most important moments in their children’s lives. As Weisberg explains, today’s parents have 10,000 photos on a hard drive, 1,000 one-off shares on Facebook, 100 related emails and comments from family and close friends, 50 video links on YouTube, and more. You could attempt to centralize this on Flickr or another photo-sharing site, but the written memories and timeline format is missing.
With Blinkbuggy, you can upload photos, record your memories (emails, written notes, artwork, milestones) within one cloud-based service. The UI of the site makes it look like a photo album meets post-it wall. You can also create albums for multiple children within one interface.
Another key issue for parents putting these memories online is privacy. Weisberg says that you can set your privacy to be completely private, or you can add people on an email invite basis. The privacy controls are fairly simple, and you can even choose to share specific content with friends and family. If you do invite others to share in the stories, they can contribute their own memories as well and comment on photos, quotes and more.
What makes Blinkbuggy compelling is that it’s more than just an album of memories. The startup provides a super easy way to organize all the massive content that we have on our children. By uploading and then tagging these memories, you can easily find them when you search the site.
Weisberg, who is staying on at Google for now, says that next up is a mobile app, the ability to print albums and video uploads.
Menlo Ventures partner Shawn Carolan searched for over five years to find an investment tackling the problem of email overload. Carolan, who led investments in Apple-acquired Siri among others, personally faced his own productivity challenges, and after not being able to find a startup that addressed all the problems he felt needed to be solved, he decided to build it on his own. Handle, which is launching today at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013, is Carolan’s brainchild.
Carolan, along with his co-founder Jonathan McCoy, describes Handle as an operating system for your life. There are 600 million knowledge workers who spend 20 hours a week processing emails. Many get to inbox zero several times a week but Carolan says that this achieving inbox zero by deleting, archiving and starring emails doesn’t solve the fundamental problem of prioritizing your inbox with simple interactions, and creating tasks from these emails.
Handle offers a rich web app as well as a companion native iOS app that integrates with Gmail (and soon Microsoft Exchange and Yahoo) to pull in your emails. In its current state, Handle is a much better and faster way to sort through emails and create tasks at the same time.
The app allows you to capture ideas, triage your inbox, plan a schedule for the day and focus on your priorities. The centralized UX feature is the ‘Handle bar,’ which Carolan says was inspired by Siri’s ability to simplify interactions with deep capabilities of a system. The Handle bar, which is patented, allows you to annotate emails with deadlines, snooze emails, create projects, cluster emails together and more.
All of this triage takes place within the Handle bar. As Carolan explains, the Handle bar is one of the central UX elements to the application. The startup figured they could solve overload if every email you saw could be handled by expressing what you wanted done with it and it happened. Instead of dictating by voice or typing full words, Carolan and his team decided to derive intent within a few keystrokes.
And Handle creates a general list of tasks that needs to be done using this data. This ‘capture’ phase is similar to existing to-do lists, allowing rapid entry of current tasks. Handle also places your priorities on a daily working calendar, assigning tasks to time, in the proper order.
Carolan says that current email programs create a ‘blunt’ instrument for organizing our lives. Folders, mark as unread, and flag/stars/labels are as much as most people use. Handle makes it easy to add context to your tasks so you can execute on them more efficiently. For example, if there’s a task you want to do at home on the weekend, you can snooze it until Saturday to get it out of sight until then. Whenever a task is created in Handle, you just have to hit to expose all the possible metadata options and then continue typing.
Handle’s iOS app is designed as a simple way you can access your tasks and priorities, and is a pared down version of its web cousin when it comes to functionality. You can see tasks, and send notes to yourself to add to your task list. The app itself is not an inbox but eventually will become one in the future.
Currently Handle cannot replace your Gmail inbox (for example, Handle doesn’t have a search functionality yet). But in the future, it’s safe to assume that Handle will be building an arsenal of tools to allow you do much more than just triage emails and turn emails into tasks. Eventually Handle will serve as your calendar, and you’ll be able to combine your schedule of meetings with your Handle tasks. You could also envision Handle adding other types of messages into the inbox such as Twitter DMs, says Carolan.
In terms of revenue, Handle plans to implement a freemium model and will eventually roll out a pro version with enterprise features.
The startup has raised $4 million in funding from Menlo Ventures (Carolan is still advising the startups he supports at Menlo, and remains a partner but won’t be sourcing any new deals for the time being). The startup has quietly been testing the app with tech executives and have received positive responses. For example, David Fischer, VP of Advertising and Global Operations at Facebook says that Handle has made him much more efficient.
As Carolan explains, Handle is disruptive because no one has designed a solution for the full life cycle of a user’s day. While high-powered email clients want to help you get to inbox zero, many of these clients don’t allow you to also handle productivity and task management.
Handle aims to differentiate itself by focusing on the whole life cycle of email from capture, to triage, to planning, to focusing. Second, Handle spans the desktop and mobile. While mobile is valuable for triage, most of the important work still gets done at the desktop, says Carolan. Handle also natively integrates email and task functionality, without the need to forward emails to task managers.
He admits that it takes a little bit of time to get used to the shortcuts, the UI and general behavior around Handle. But he firmly believes that Handle is presenting a new way of thinking about modern work that maps to how the world’s most effective people get things done. As we mentioned above, Handle’s aim isn’t just to help you handle your professional email and tasks in a more efficient way, it’s designed to add productivity to your entire life. It’s not just for the executive, it’s also for the busy mom, or the college student.
Sam Yagan: Are there any one of these features that are a gamechanger?
SC: It’s the package of features, called the Handle Habit. You need to use the features together.
John Frankel: Is this a product for enterprises or consumer?
SC: Initial product will be free. Over time, we imagine going after enterprise features over time.
Frankel: My suggestion is get to revenue early and find out what people will pay more for.
Disrupt NY 2013′s Startup Battlefield competition is underway, and now New York native Keen Home is taking the stage to present its first-round pitch. Keen Home is a home automation startup, which aims to follow in Nest’s footsteps by building remote vents for your central air conditioning and heating systems that can be controlled from your smartphone to optimally direct air where you actually need it — and away from places you don’t. Keen just launched its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
Keen Home is the brainchild of Ryan Fant and Nayeem Hussain, both of whom have experience founding companies in the home real estate and property-management space. The two believe their startup can appeal to consumers who want both more convenience in managing their home’s HVAC systems, and who want to save money and conserve energy. Keen Home’s debut product, the Keen Vent, accomplishes both.
The idea came from Fant noticing that when vents were closed in other rooms, heating and cooling the one he was currently in became much easier. The problem is that those vents generally operate separately, and manually, in most homes. Even with some systems that provide a remote, like Activent, they aren’t centrally controlled in a way that makes them individually manageable from an existing device like a smartphone.
“We found that just by closing four vents in an average-sized home, we’ve reduced the run time of the furnace by about 30 percent,” Fant explained in an interview. “So not only were we redirecting air to rooms that were actually in use by intelligently closing vents, we were increasing efficiency, as well.”
Keen believes that the focus is always on the thermostat when it comes to home heating and cooling efficiency solutions, which is good but it ignores other parts of the problem. The Keen Vent solves that, by providing both a user-guided and automated way of opening and closing vents to change how air flows through a home. A homeowner can set a schedule for individual vents, too, and it can plug into weather data to respond intelligently to changing conditions.
Fant says the Keen Vent can provide up to 32 percent reduction in run time for HVAC systems, which means lower monthly bills and less toll on the environment. Most heating and cooling vents in households are around 60 years old, Keen Home said on stage during their Disrupt Battlefield presentation on Monday.
Individual vent covers will cost around $40 per vent, Keen predicts, with a $150 charge for the system in total. There’s also a recurring fee of around $4 per month for access to the cloud-based management platform, which also provides monthly reports. But Fant and Hussain plan to partner with utility companies and homebuilders to try to offer the tech initially at a discount price, perhaps with, say, six months of service rolled into a new construction. It’s the same model that satellite radio provider Sirius/XM uses to sell subscriptions with new cars.
Keen Home is launching its Keen Vent product on Indiegogo today, and believes that seeking crowdfunding, as well as traditional investment, will help it get the word out and prove product viability. Its biggest challenges will be proving to users that a recurring subscription around centralized vent control is worth the cost, and in making sure that legacy players like Honeywell don’t swoop in and simply build their own similar systems. The team says that being aggressive with partnerships with big utility companies, the way others like Nest and thinkeco have done in the past, will be the key to making sure it can overcome both.
Keen said on stage that the majority of its audience would be people who don’t know what a smart home is, so they tried to make sure it was as easy to install as possible. That’s why they’ve made the install process as simple as possible, and setting up the online dashboard involves only entering a code and then doing a roughly 15 question survey. In addition, they’re planning to partner with HVAC contractors to take care of more complicated installs. Battery life is expected to be around a year for the vents, so it’d be roughly equivalent to changing the power source on devices like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Today at Disrupt NY 2013, Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti took the stage to talk to the audience about how content works on the Internet: What sells, what gets shared and why. Peretti, a journalist, programmer, marketer and founding member of The Huffington Post (now owned by TechCrunch parent company AOL), has long been a student of viral media. Not surprisingly, Peretti’s latest brainchild, Buzzfeed, has turned into publication of record when it comes to Web-born viral content.
Of course, while the publication came to fame thanks to its assiduous chronicling of adorable cats doing people things, under Peretti’s direction, over time it’s transformed into a legitimate news organization, producing real, thoughtful journalism. In his talk today, Peretti started by intoning something we all know well: “People are crazy.”
Things work a little differently on the Internet, “literally” means not what it should mean, but “figuratively,” we do things and act in ways that don’t mesh with how we’d act in the real world. It’s a little like being in a car, really. Peretti says that “we like to of ourselves as having unified, rational selves” — that we have consistent interests, that our behavior can always be explained in normal, neat little ways.
Of course, we’re not really like that, Peretti argues. When we’re out with our college friends, we’re likely to act differently than we would when we’re with our colleagues, or our parents. The same is true for people’s behavior on Google and Facebook. Again, people think they act the same, but really there’s a difference.
When you look at google searches, he saysm perhaps unsurprisingly, “sex is more popular than Jesus on google.” Compare the search terms “diet pills” and “Arab spring,” diet pills win. Obviously, this isn’t what Larry and Sergey had in mind when they started Google.
We use Google to search for secret things, to investigate what other people are saying about our deepest darkest secrets, interests and curiosities. Google Image search is filled with pictures of pets doing hilarious things, while Google search serves up results on the great ocean of porn out there on the Web.
Facebook, on the other hand, is a projection of our social relationships and behavior. Together, they generally represent and are a metaphor for the two ways we use the Internet. On Facebook, the same person who is looking at stories involving nude pics, is also looking at and sharing inspiring stories about victims overcoming disabilities and so on, along with politically-motivated stories.
“On the Web, the emotional quotient is more important than IQ,” Peretti told the audience, these are things that people need to understand when making things for the Web.
Content is about identity, he continued, and capturing that conflicted identity, as well as the emotional nature of the moment.
I wrote something about being excessively tall, tall people loved it. If you’ve been raised by immigrant parents, that’s something that type of person can relate to, want to share and talk about. That’s what you need to be thinking about when creating media, creating content for the Internet.
Peretti’s talk was all over the place, much like Buzzfeed, but also eminently quotable and share-able. For those looking to make the next viral video, make enduring, sharable content, Peretti told the audience not to ignore our conflicted, fractured, sex-obsessed emotional selves.
“If you’re not crazy on the Web, then something’s wrong … Make something for our OCD, narcissistic and ADHD selves.”