TechCrunch Disrupt NYC: Day One
TechCrunch Disrupt NYC kicked off yesterday in Brooklyn. Companies were launched, business tactics were discussed, and lots of faded jeans were worn.
Overall, pretty cool event. Not as cool as Hustle Con (happening this Friday), but cool enough for us to at least touch on some of the highlights. Here are our four favorite startups that debuted:
Viv: Siri’s younger, more attractive sister
Apple users’ mostly frustrating “assistant”, Siri, will soon have a lot more competition…and it’s going to come from the same people who first created “her” in 2007. Get it? “Her?”
Viv is a next-generation assistant that writes dynamic programs in real time, giving it the capability to respond to far more complex questions than Siri ever could.
So instead of simply asking what the weather is, users can ask whether it’ll be warmer than 70° near the Golden Gate Bridge the day after tomorrow, or if it rained in L.A. four Fridays ago (y’know, the important stuff in life). It also connects to third-party services like Uber and Hotels.com, so you can rest your weary thumbs.
Viv doesn’t have a launch date yet, but it might be worth giving Siri a heads up if you’re considering moving on.
“Siri, we need to talk.”
“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
Ephemeral: When you want to impress a girl but aren’t 100% convinced yet
You can get a flash tattoo that’ll last you the entirety of Coachella. Or you can get a real tattoo that’ll last your entire life. But how about somewhere in between?
Harlem-based Ephemeral is a two-part system: Ink designed to break down after a year and a separate, easy removal solution. Basically, their ink comes with the option of getting removed by the body’s immune system instead of just sitting there forever.
The company hopes to have their product available around the fall of 2017.
Scoutible: Trick yourself into getting a job
Playing games? Awesome. Trying to find a job? Not awesome. Playing games to find a job? Somewhere in the middle.
That’s the idea behind Scoutible, an SF-based startup that wants to improve the hiring process by building “science-based mobile games to identify talent and match perfect fit candidates to jobs.”
The company works with psychologists to develop algorithms that identify strengths and test for qualities like risk tolerance, emotional intelligence, and mental processing speed.
Botify: We’ll handle a lot of stuff you probably don’t understand
Google uses an automated software script called Googlebot to “crawl” every website on the Internet and ultimately decide where your site appears in its search rankings. But since nobody really knows how it works, it’s nearly impossible for companies to effectively optimize for SEO.
That’s where Botify comes in. It’s a cloud-based crawler that can examine a website and create a detailed SEO analysis with actionable feedback. This includes how to better organize internal links, direct Google to crawl specific pages over others, and optimize pages to decrease load times. Thrilling, we know, but that sh*t’s important.
Speaking of Google…
They’re testing a different color font on the search results page. Most users still see blue links, but others are reporting that those links are now black. Go on, test it out. We’ll wait.
Why you messing with us, Google?
They haven’t said publicly, but chances are this is part of a giant A / B test to track click rates.
Back in 2009, they tested 41 different colors of blue for Gmail ads and search result links. It paid off, with the change ultimately earning them an additional $200m a year in ad revenue.
So if it turns out that we strongly prefer clicking on black links as opposed to blue links, say hello to even more millions – and a fresh new order of tandem bicycles – for the folks over in Mountain View.
The true cost of a meeting
Employees spend 15% of their time in meetings. And most are not only a waste of time but also a waste of money. Paid employees, on the clock, swiveling in their chairs while they die of boredom is not the key to success. So how can we stop this madness?
Enter Phillip Cohen…
Last week, the Dropbox engineer built a Chrome extension that is essentially a “meeting cost calculator.” It takes each participant’s rough hourly rate and multiplies it by the total scheduled meeting time.
The overall “cost” is shown to everyone on the invite, so you can really see if it’s worth getting the fun committee together to talk about how to celebrate National Cheese Day.
Here’s a link to join the waitlist.
Social network or news network?
According to a former Facebook “news curator,” conservative news stories are routinely censored from appearing in the social network’s Trending Topics section.
Managers also reportedly instructed curators to artificially “inject” stories they viewed as important, rather than allowing them to surface on their own.
“We would get yelled at if it was all over Twitter and not on Facebook,” one former curator said.
Why this is significant
If true, this means that Facebook’s news section operates much more like a newsroom, where human bias and Facebook’s own values are reflected, than an algorithm-driven curation machine.
Considering the Trending Topics section determines what Facebook’s 1.6 billion users potentially do and do not see every month, that’s a huge deal. Think Google deliberately messing with search results. Not chill.
But Facebook’s rejecting the report
Because of course they are. Late last night, Tom Stocky (great name), the man in charge of the news curation unit, wrote a post claiming none of this was true.
He said all topics are surfaced via an algorithm and that human editors are used exclusively to sift through those topics to ensure their relevance and “disregard junk or duplicate topics, hoaxes, or subjects with insufficient sources.”
Facebook also said that the company guidelines don’t allow curators to discriminate based on political perspectives or the news outlet doing the reporting.
For what it’s worth, this whole “Facebook is corrupt” story was in the Trending Topics section yesterday. So there’s that.
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