Tag Archives: nextspace

Santa Cruz culture gives tech start ups a competitive edge

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Santa Cruz inspires Tomfoolery.

“The culture of community is Santa Cruz’s greatest export,” said Sol Lipman, one of three local entrepreneurs speaking at an event Thursday evening celebrating the growth and innovation of the local tech scene.

Sol is the founder of Tomfoolery, a start up that’s targeting the corporate sector with mobile apps that grow social networks within companies organically. He pointed out that the top three social networking platforms used for business are actually well known consumer market apps: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in that order. Their first product, Anchor, is already deployed in about twenty companies.

“Social interactions at work are broken,” he said. “People work at home, people work at places like NextSpace, people work everywhere. But people are unhappy.” The solution is to use social media to infuse corporate culture with the lifestyle values – friendship and fun – that employees often leave at the door.

It’s Sol’s sixth venture, the two most recent – 12seconds.tv and RallyUp – were also started in Santa Cruz, California, working out of the NextSpace coworking community, another successful venture that combines local lifestyle and culture with high technology talent.

Peter Koht and Shane Pearlman joined Sol. Peter is one of the two principals of OpenCounter, an open source portal that helps new businesses navigate the complex and often contradictory permits and approvals process required by local government. He started it when he was working for the City of Santa Cruz, as a Code for America project. The Knight Foundation was so impressed it gave him and his business partner, Joel Mahoney, $500,000 to take it national this summer. In just a couple of months, they’ve signed up several new cities, including Houston, Texas.

Shane has leveraged the Santa Cruz lifestyle into Modern Tribe, a digital design and development agency started with a desire to work where he wants to live, not live where he has to work. The firm now has about 35 freelancers and employees, distributed around the world, linked by technology and shared values and qualities that Shane boils down to happy, helpful, curious, accountable and good.

The forum was organised by the Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup and sponsored by Santa Cruz Tech Beat, Cruzio, NextSpace and the City of Santa Cruz. The next one is coming up on 6 November 2013, at the Cruzio & Ecology Action Green Building in downtown Santa Cruz.

What the gods would destroy they first give to corporate brand managers

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That’s a TikiTag there.

Took a first look at TikiTag. It’s perfect for Santa Cruz. It could put geeks on the beach. If we can save it from the suits.

Saw it at the Showstoppers event at CES last month, and the TikiTag people were kind enough to send me a demo kit.

Technically, it’s simple. The kit contains a USB-enabled RFID reader and ten sticky RFID tags. Download the app from the website, set up an account, plug in the reader, swipe a tag and something happens.

“Something” is defined by a web-based app on the TikiTag server. For example, one app is a “social business card”. When you swipe the tag, a browser window appears with, say, your current Twitter and Flickr feeds and links to your Facebook and Linkedin profiles. You stick a tag on the back of a business card and give it to someone while you’re networking at Rosie McCann’s. If she has a TikiTag reader too, when she gets home she’ll swipe the card and see you in all your glory.

It can also function as an alternate user interface. Put a tag on a teddy bear, then your toddler smacks the reader with the bear and something absolutely fascinating appears. You get a few minutes of peace and quiet. Combined with a USB-enabled taser, it could be a powerful pedagogic tool.

Another use is simplifying remote access. Borrow a computer at NextSpace, swipe the tag attached to your key ring, and your desktop pops up.

There’s more. Something physical moves somewhere in the world and triggers something else via the web. The TikiTag people call it “the Internet of things”.

If an ecosystem develops, it is a powerful idea. It needs to go viral for the really cool stuff to appear, though.

One promising step they’ve already taken is enabling it via a two-dimensional bar code. It’s something you can print on your card, or send via mobile phone. It’s even conceivable to hack a reader into your phone’s camera. Eliminates the need to buy a gadget.

Unfortunately, it’s starting to lean in a corporate direction. Not surprisingly, it’s owned by Alcatel-Lucent, which is about as grey-suit as it gets.

First sign of trouble is that the suits have renamed the company. It’s now called Touchatag™. TikiTag had potential. It could have become a verb. “Next time you’re in town, why don’t you TikiTag me?” But Touchatagging™ someone sounds, well, creepy.

Why did they do it? It doesn’t sing, but it does look better on the purchase order you submit to accounting. According to their Facebook page:

“We changed our name today, and we hope you love it as much as we do. Touchatag™ expresses exactly what it is about and fits our dream: make every application we use better via an easy, fast and intuitive one touch user interaction.”

Unfortunately, that’s not my dream. I want to make a living sitting on a beach wearing a Samoan shirt while listening to Radio Margaritaville. Slap a TikiTag on an umbrella drink and I’m good to go.

The sun is shining on Monterey Bay, and it’s just dipped below the yardarm. Time to go do a little product development work…