Tag Archives: tomfoolery

Santa Cruz culture gives tech start ups a competitive edge

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.

Blackberry is as good as ever, but no better

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

None of this Tomfoolery for Blackberry!

What RIM, excuse me, Blackberry showed this morning was solid technology that’s ahead in some regards and more or less keeping up with the pack in others. The new Blackberry 10 operating system is consistent with what they demonstrated and described last October at MobileCon.

They have a full touchscreen phone and they’re keeping a keyboard model in play. That’s probably a good idea given that their best short term hope is to re-energize their legacy institutional customers. Not the kind of buyers who stray far from their comfort zones. The improvements they’ve made to keyboard and touchscreen interfaces will be a big help.

The new user interface doesn’t break any radically new ground. It follows a tile based design that’s reminiscent of Windows 8. It’s a nice enough approach. I like the look and feel of using the Windows 8 interface, and I’m sure Blackberry has done well in that regard too.

However, Windows 8 is faltering. A nice interface is not enough to entice the truly creative developers who prefer, by a large margin, to work on iOS and Android platforms. Blackberry might have solid in-house software and standard apps and content from the usual suspects, but that appeals to aging IT managers who want to limit the scope of their network management problems.

The apps they showed this morning are pretty ordinary. Nothing would particularly appeal to the average consumer, let alone the young people who set the pace for everybody else. “Me too” doesn’t get you very far and, boiled down, that’s Blackberry’s message this morning.

Blackberry also has a problem with distribution. It isn’t a force in the mainstream consumer-facing distribution channels. It gets some help from carriers and sells to insititutional buyers, but it is completely swamped by the marketing efforts of Apple, Samsung and the other big manufacturers.

Silicon Valley money is starting to focus on the consumer market as the point of entry to the corporate and government agency space. The other big announcement this morning came from a start-up called Tomfoolery. It’s a big deal to me anyway. I might be biased because I know Sol Lipman, one of the principals, but he has a solid record of 1. fast failures and 2. multimillion dollar successes. When you have both you have huge credibility in Silicon Valley.

Tomfoolery’s play is to focus directly on building enterprise grade mobile apps that are targeted aggressively at consumers. They’ll sell one by one to employees and then turn them loose on corporate IT departments. Disruptive, darn it.

I think Blackberry did what it needed to do this morning to keep the doors open for a few more months. But that’s all the time they’ve bought themselves. If they don’t start reporting significant sales growth immediately – February and, maybe, March – they’re cooked.