Jason Ball's TechBytes

Technology & Venture Capital. Early stage venture capital news mixed with personal views and comments

The Premium Economy

I’ve been trying out various new services lately, and have been completely blown away in most cases. It’s registered that we’re now entering the Premium Economy. And it’s going to make our lives richer, but us poorer… I don’t mean Premium accounts where you lose the banner ads; I mean Premium where you get a slick service. Let me cite a few examples:

1) Halio – You need to live in London, Dublin, Toronto, Chicago to test this one. I’ve only tested the London service; you can hail a cab from the comfort of your table at the restaurant, get notified when your cab’s outside and then pay for the fare all on account (credit card). No hassle, no waiting. I’m addicted. It’s like having a personal driver at your beck and call.

2) Uber - San Francisco, London, Paris- Same thing as Hailo, but the cars are private and *plush*. I was lucky enough to try this one in the City of Lights. Seamless experience from start to finish, all while riding in the back of a sweet BMW.

3) Hotel Tonight – Multiple US cities, London. This is not your ordinary last minute deal site. You get to choose from four boutique hotel rooms and get a 20%+ discount and book in a few clicks. Simple and efficient.

These are three examples of premium services that I simply couldn’t afford otherwise. Think of it as NetJet for normal people. They all offer 1-click purchasing (or maybe 2 clicks), no cash, no hassles and deliver a premium experience for users. This is a new class of app and service I’m seeing emerge. And I like what I see.

If you’re thinking about a new business to launch, think about upgrading to premium…

Filed under: Apps

The Invisible Internet

One area I’m thinking about these days is what I call the “Invisible Internet”, so I thought I’d put a post out there in case there are apps and products I should be looking at. Feel free to reach out if you’re building a company in this space…

Big data is gaining a lot of interest from VCs. e.g. companies that can crunch data and find patterns for large corporations. I’m interested in Big Data for the Little Guy. We invested into Worksmart Labs, who make a great product called Noom. Noom is a pedometer for your Android device. It’s fantastic because once you’ve installed it, you don’t need to do anything else to gain benefits from the app: it sits there and watches you, tracking every step you take. Of course, you probably installed it because you want to know how much exercise, walking etc you’re getting. But that’s the beauty of it – it just sits there silently tracking you. Piling up that data, zero effort from you (except the walking).

I have a withings scale at home, which works on the same principle. I weigh myself every day, but my withings account captures all the data and starts crunching. Fitbit has just announced its wifi scale as well. Strava.com is a cycling site that compares me to others, crunches my data to tell me how hard any given ride was (Strava’s Suffer Score). I love it.

Clearly, wireless healthcare is an area where I’m seeing the Invisible Internet become productized, but there are other areas as well – self writing journals that track where you go, smart home applications that monitor your energy consumption, etc.

Maybe it’s age, but more and more I’d prefer my apps just figure out what it is I’ve done, and what it is I want vs having to work on getting the information in and out of them – I want to be surprised and delighted by insights or information that I would have missed out on otherwise.

I hope to see more of these apps in the future. Or maybe not ;-)

Filed under: Android, Apple, Apps, Artificial Intelligence, Cycling, iOS, iPhone

Favorite Apps from 2011 – iOS and Android

Here they are, in no particular order…

Day One

Day One

Day One offers a well designed journal app. Twitter and Facebook are great for shouting to the world, but sometimes you’d like to keep your thoughts to yourself. Day One is a great app that lets you do that. You can set a reminder for any given period – I have it set weekly, and I type a few lines about what’s happening. Available for both iOS and Mac OS X.

Strava
I’m a cyclist. Strava is hands down the easiest to use app I’ve come across. It works on your iPhone, your Android device and also can handle data from your Garmin. If you cycle and want to track your training, and see how you compare against yourself and others- grab this now. It’s free, although if you love it, I’d recommend you upgrade to their Premium service. Available on iOSand Android.

Wikinvest
I have an account with Etrade – logging into their mobile app is a pain. Wikinvest lets me keep an eye on my portfolio and the news- all protected with an easy to use 4-digit pin code. Available on iOS and Android.

Livestrong – My Plate
Strava is a great place to track your cycling, and My Plate is a great place to track what you’re fueling yourself with. This is the best site I’ve found to get a good picture of what I’m eating – and has a large enough database to auto populate with what you’re eating – so you don’t have to enter too many details. Once you’ve used the app for a week, it understands what you normally eat, so those foods are right at your fingertips. It costs $2.99, but is worth it. Available on iOS and Android.

Money - Your sweetest accounting application

Money
Keeping a handle on your finances isn’t easy. Mint.com isn’t available in Europe, so I’ve spent a lot of time looking at – and testing- various financial applications. Money from Jumsoft is by far the best in my opinion. The apps are simple and well designed, and syncing between my iPhone and Mac desktop has been seamless. The apps aren’t cheap – but, I knowing where my money goes (I know, into these apps…). It also handles non-US currencies just fine (which is not always a given). Available on iOS and Mac OS X.

Gmail app (iOS)

I’m not 100% happy with the Gmail iPhone app, but I’ve been using it since launch and I will say I like it. A lot. A native app would be much better and more responsive, but the functionality offered by a Gmail app is fantastic. I do prefer the Gmail app over the native Mail app for managing my gmail account. Available on iOS and built into Android.

Filed under: Android, Apple, Apps, iOS, , ,

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