Congratulations to Joomag, Our Hottest Company of the Month!

Joomag, Plug and Play’s Hottest Company of the Month, offers an incredibly easy way for publishers to digitize their content. With Joomag’s free service, publishers are able to create and distribute interactive digital magazines, photo albums, catalogs, and ebooks by simple uploading a PDF file. Their solution streamlines the process of digitization, enabling users to polish and publish their work in mere minutes.

With Joomag’s platform, users can upload any PDF file to be customized with interactive content and then converted into a digital publication. Customers who do not have a file prepared in advance can choose from a selection of predesigned templates that can be fully customized. Once a format has been selected, users can take advantage of Joomag’s professional online editor to enhance their production with interactive content such as music and video.

Joomag’s platform supports a broad range of interactive content from video and audio to chat boxes and feedback forms. Music can be added to any publication and Video can either be uploaded directly to Joomag or embedded from websites like YouTube and Vimeo. Users are also able to include space for readers to leave feedback and subscribe to their publication.


According to founder and CEO Ruben Vardanyan, Joomag was founded in 2009 to “introduce new tools into the emerging industry of digital publishing.” Recognizing the rising popularity of blogs in addition to other forms of digital media, Joomag’s team set out to take advantage of this inevitable shift in the publishing industry.

Joomag’s team became acquainted with Plug and Play last November as they were exploring ways to establish a presence for their company in Silicon Valley. According to Ruben, “We moved last November, and we have been very happy. The staff, the atmosphere, and the other startups are extremely friendly and there has been a lot to learn from from them. It has been very interesting, and we hope to stay here for a long period of time.”

As of yesterday, over 200,000 publishers have used Joomag to reach over 3.5 million readers. This number has grown from 10,000 publishers since July of 2012, and the company has plans to establish a satellite office in Munich within the next month.

Plug and Play works closely with major publishing companies such as Axel Springer as they work towards digitization. Launched in 2013, the Axel Springer Plug and Play accelerator has been working closely with startups in Germany to provide them with coaching, workshops, and networking. We expect to see companies like Joomag gain even more traction as we continue to see traditional publications going digital.

To try Joomag, click here. To learn more about Plug and Play’s Axel Springer initiative, click here.

10/27/14: Last Week in Tech, in Tweets

1. Major controversy over Hungary’s planned internet-tax.

2. The internet has joined the fight against Ebola.

3. Foursquare may not survive its controversial relaunch.

4. Amazon joins the fray with its own streaming service.

5. Retailers in the US are blocking NFC cell-phone transactions.

6. Logitech releases the ‘fastest’ gaming mouse of all time.

7. Today is the 110th anniversary of America’s first subway ride!

8. Roger Ver advocates the use of Purse.io for 20% discount on any order from Amazon!

9. This quarter’s results are in, and Microsoft is alive and kicking.

Innovative Protestors Using Technology to Support Their Cause

The Chinese Government’s controversial decision to disallow civil nominations for Hong Kong’s government has been the focal point of recent protests in the region. Allegations of their involvement in a recent iCloud-based man-in-the middle attack have exacerbated the situation, and technology has played a central role throughout the course of this conflict.

When Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1997, the PRC officially resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong. With this declaration China agreed to preserve the region’s capitalist economy and democratic government for a minimum of 50 years. The Joint Declaration stipulates that the government will be composed of local inhabitants elected by the citizens of Hong Kong.

The head of Hong Kong’s government is known as the Chief Executive, a title created by the Chinese government to replace the title that was employed under Britain’s governance. When the sovereignty changed hands, China agreed to run the country under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle under which Hong Kong would have “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs.”

The Chinese government also promised to facilitate democratic elections for the position of Chief Executive before the year 2017. The PRC Government has since gone back on its word following their decision this past month to implement a nominating committee in place of a direct election. Where Hong Kong’s citizens expected to participate in a democratic selection process, their choices have been reduced to a list of a few candidates selected by a government-appointed committee. Naturally, this controversial decision made the city of Hong Kong ground zero for a massive conflict with protests following almost immediately after.


This unfortunate conflict has been the impetus for some interesting innovation, primarily surrounding cell-phone communication. The app FireChat takes advantage of the small bluetooth radios in modern smartphones to enable users to circumvent the necessity of a cellular network or internet connection. FireChat has risen to popularity immediately following the onset of the Hong Kong protests where tech-savvy demonstrators might need a way to communicate should cell-phone networks get shut down. By connecting smartphones directly to one another using bluetooth, they are also able to work around issues related to cellular data bandwidth.

While it would be an extreme form of censorship for the Chinese government to shut down Hong Kong’s cell phone network, it would not be a major surprise considering recent allegations. GreatFire, a group monitoring censorship in China, maintains that the Chinese government has been wiretapping Apple’s iCloud. According to GreatFire, the government has been intercepting users attempting to connect to iCloud using a fake digital certificate. When users type their login information into the fake certificate, they are intercepted and their information is logged by the PRC government. This is known as a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack, and it is suspected to be connected to the spread of media related to the Hong Kong protests.

If the PRC Government continues on this course of action, it will be interesting to see the way Hong Kong’s protestors coordinate their cause. Apps like FireChat provide alternative avenues of communication that the PRC Government will not be able to regulate. To learn more about FireChat, click here.

Money 20/20 is Coming to Las Vegas!

 

 

Home

Money 20/20 will be traveling to Las Vegas on November 6 for a four-day conference at Aria Hotel and Casino. The conference, known as “the world’s largest and best for innovators in payments and financial services”, will host more than 7,000 attendees representing over 2,250 companies from more than 60 different countries. There will be approximately 500 speakers gathered to discuss emerging trends in innovation as they relate to the manner in which consumers and businesses manage, spend, and borrow money.

Money 20/20′s thought leaders will analyze topics such as the rise of non-banks, the growth of digital banking, new value chains, and real-time payments. This year’s conference comes at a particularly exciting time for the payment industry following in the wake of credit card breaches recently confirmed at Home Depot, Target, and Goodwill among other major retailers.

A few of the industry experts scheduled to lead the conference also serve as mentors to Plug and Play’s accelerators:

David A. Johnston

 

David A. Johnston Board Member, Mastercoin Foundation and Managing Director, BitAngels

 

Roger Ver

 

Roger Ver Investor, Blockchain

 

 

 

Brock Pierce Co-Founder, GoCoin

 

Plug and play is also host to the Silicon Valley Bitcoin Meetup every Tuesday. Meeting since May 2011, the group has provided an weekly opportunity for entrepreneurs and developers to gather and hear from thought leaders of the bitcoin community. One of the meetup’s past guest speakers will also be featured at Money 20/20:

Charlie Lee

 

Charlie Lee Founder, Litecoin & Software Engineer, Coinbase

 

Plug and Play has also recently launched a Fintech & Security accelerator to supplement our most recent batch of Bitcoin startups. The Fintech and Security accelerator is focused on connecting corporations with early stage companies in the areas of mobile payments, consumer engagement, data analytics, and cloud & security.

Plug and Play Bitcoin provides seed-funding, mentorship and acceleration to startups and first-time entrepreneurs to help them bring to market the next disruptive solution for the growing worldwide economy. Our global network of advisors & mentors help startups further their product development & prepare them to present to Silicon Valley’s top investors.

To register for Money 20/20, click here. To apply to Plug and Play’s Bitcoin Accelerator, click here.

10/21/14: Last Week in Tech, in Tweets

1. Techcrunch kicks off this year’s Disrupt London Hackathon.


2. There will be a meteor shower this upcoming Tuesday morning.

3. Marc Andreessen is leaving eBay.

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4. ApplePay is live with the latest iOS update.

5. The latest model from controversial Chinese handset manufacturer OnePlus is available for pre-order.

6. The ‘Gamergate’ controversy continues to unravel.

7. The umbrella of the future!

8. China has been accused of hacking the cloud.

Understanding Technological Trends in Africa Could be the Key to Ebola Containment

With almost 9,000 cases resulting in over 4,500 fatalities across three countries since December of 2013, West Africa has fallen victim to an unprecedented Ebola epidemic. The main countries affected have neither the resources nor the infrastructure necessary to account for the rapid spread of the virus, and healthcare organizations are turning to emerging technologies in an effort to find an innovative way to contain this outbreak. There is no known cure for Ebola, but there are a number of ways that we can prevent this dire situation from causing global panic.

The Ebola outbreak is believed to have started eleven months ago following the fatal illness of a two year old boy in Guinea. His death was attributed to what was an unknown form of hemorrhagic fever at the time, and his immediate family members soon became sick with identical symptoms. The boy’s family is assumed to have spread the disease to neighboring villages soon after, establishing Guinea as ground zero for a viral epidemic.

While Ebola has been considered a major public health threat in Sub-Saharan Africa for decades, there was not a single case reported in the western part of the continent prior to this most recent outbreak. For this reason, the Guinean Ministry of Health was hesitant to attribute these initial fatalities to the Ebola Virus. The Ebola epidemic was not declared until March 23, inciting an emergency response from the French humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres who immediately set up an isolation center in Gueckedou.


According to the World Health Organization, Ebola is a severe form of hemorrhagic fever that can be easily transmitted from human to human. The disease is spread through direct contact with the contaminated bodily fluids of an infected individual, and the onset of symptoms occurs within 2 to 21 days. While Ebola is extremely contagious, it is not airborne. As such, efforts to isolate confirmed cases of the disease should be effective in preventing its widespread transmission.

As was previously mentioned, Western African nations do not have access to the resources required to effectively isolate and treat Ebola victims. Without the infrastructure in place to coordinate their relief efforts, governments and health organizations have recognized the need for an innovative solution.


According to an statement released by The Lancet, “The ongoing West African Ebola outbreak serves as a call to ensure access to needed diagnostic technologies and health-care resources, to accelerate the implementation of smartphone-based health applications in developing countries, and to improve regional and global surveillance and health communication.”

A study released by the mobile company Ericsson states that there will be over 635 million subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2014. Mobile phones are similarly ubiquitous in Western Africa, and a potential solution to the Ebola Epidemic involves leveraging this widespread cellular adoption.

TERA, which stands for Trilogy Emergency Relief Application, was developed to aid relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake disaster in Haiti. Since then, they have partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help expand their presence. The platform is designed to be operated remotely with a connection that is hosted by GSM-based mobile network operators. TERA’s software consults the mobile network to determine which cell phones are connected to the towers in a specific disaster affected region, and broadcasts a message to them via SMS. TERA’s platform also manages inbound communication from the affected community, implementing keyword recognition to automatically respond to common questions. According to the IFRC website, “The TERA system helps us to save more lives by delivering timely, targeted advice to disaster affected communities that makes our aid effort more efficient.”

Another potential solution involves the potential for smartphone-based syndromic surveillance to improve early detection of outbreaks. Syndromic surveillance systems analyze health-related data across multiple networks to help anticipate disease outbreaks. The tracking of certain metrics can be handled via smartphone to help detect an outbreak before it reaches epidemic proportions. For example, an increase in over the counter drug sales at a given pharmacy coinciding with influx of activity at a nearby medical clinic could be indicative of an emerging problem in that particular region.

With improved syndromic surveillance, Guinea’s Ministry of Health might have been able to identify the onset of the Ebola Epidemic before its spread to neighboring countries. According to the Lancet, “Our laboratory and others in the region have shown that routine syndromic surveillance systems can be designed to rely on mobile phones, which have become ubiquitous in West Africa.” This type of technology could become instrumental in the prevention of future outbreaks, and syndromic surveillance represents an excellent opportunity to circumvent the region’s lack of infrastructure.

Understanding the technological trends in Western Africa has the potential to provide us with the insight necessary to get the Ebola epidemic under control.  The implementation of TERA in Western Africa is an excellent start, and hopefully emerging technologies will provide supplemental support in these critical upcoming months.

Capshare Media: Share Your Story!


Capshare Media is the most creative and interactive way to share your world with the people you care about. Their social media platform gives users the ability to create, edit, and upload music videos in the same place with a simple-to-use smartphone app.

Like many of us, Capshare Founder and CEO Brad Kashani has been an ‘amateur photographer’ his entire life. He came up with the idea for his product just over two years ago when he became frustrated with the process of creating a music video. Brad loved creating videos to share with his friends, but he could not understand why it was such a labor-intensive process that required the use of a computer. Understanding that video can be recorded and edited on a smartphone, he founded Capshare Media to build a solution. According to Kashani, the timing seemed perfect with the rise of social media and he realized “If you have the ability to do this quickly, you will be able to capture your entire life.”

According to Brad, there are a few distinctive features that set Capshare apart from other social media platforms. First, the app features a powerful editor that is designed to “make ordinary people into producers.” Capshare’s editor is an open platform that allows users to pull media from any other app on their phone to be included in their video snippet. Once a set of photos and video clips has been compiled, users are able to choose music and add different video effects before posting their production to social media.

Additionally, Capshare distinguishes itself as a standalone social media app that is supported by integration with popular platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. With this feature, the app works as a hub through which users are able to manage all of their photos and videos across multiple social networks in one place.

To help illustrate this application, consider this example: Suppose that a group of young friends takes a vacation to Hawaii, returning with lots of pictures and videos. While they may want to share videos they took in a nightclub with their followers on Instagram, they might want to upload photos of themselves at the beach to share with their families on Facebook. With Capshare, both of these things can be done at the same time using a single app. According to Brad, “this flexibility that comes from capturing the experience once and being able to share it multiple different ways with different audiences is a key differentiator for Capshare Media.”

Capshare’s platform also features a video player that goes above and beyond the limitations imposed by apps like Instagram and Facebook. As stated by Brad, “When you share content on other platforms, you are basically limited to two things: silent pictures or a video. Our player technology is adaptive and interactive, which creates a very different video experience.” Capshare facilitates increased engagement by giving users the ability to add music to and interact with others’ productions.

Plug and Play has served as an advisor to Capshare’s team since they joined the program shortly after forming a few years ago. According to Brad, their time at Plug and Play has been integral to their development: “I have known Saeed Amidi for a long time, and I have been amazed with what he has created at Plug and Play. It is much more than just a building, it is an infrastructure for connecting with other entrepreneurs. With all the phenomenal support that Plug and Play gives a startup company to get off the ground, it is really an incubation center for innovation.”

Capshare’s team will continue to operate out of Plug and Play’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, and we look forward to fostering their growth as work to establish their presence in the world of social media.  To learn more about Capshare, click here.  To learn more about Plug and Play’s accelerator programs, click here.

10/13/2014: This Last Week in Tech, in Tweets!

1. A Million people signed up to test Windows 10.

2. Snapchat has been confirmed as the most recent leak, third party app takes responsibility.

3. Apple announces…some more products.

4. Reddit’s long-time General Manager is leaving the company.

5. Things aren’t getting easier for Uber.

6. Diamond nano-threads might be the key to successfully building a space elevator.

7. Voice biometrics could be the future of security.

8. Drones will have a major commercial presence in the near future.

9. A ‘Swiss-Army’ charger for smartphones!

Congratulations to Playkids, Our Hottest Company of the Month!

PlayKids, Plug and Play’s Hottest Company of the Month, is a perfect way for parents to engage, entertain, and educate their young children. The Playkids App provides on-the-go entertainment to kids by streaming games, videos, and books directly to parents’ devices. Their product is free to download, with additional content offered via a $7.99 monthly subscription. The platform is marketed towards children under the age of five, employing a kid-friendly interface that is intuitive to developing minds.

According to Distimo and AppAnnie, PlayKids is the #1 top grossing app for kids in more than 30 countries, as well as the #1 grossing app in the world for children under 5.

PlayKids’ UI presents a selection of different cartoon series, games, and exercises as cars that are connected to one another on an animated train.  The child simply selects a car to begin streaming. With a subscription, users are able to choose choose from a number of other themes such as a submarine.  All content can also be downloaded and saved within the app to be accessed at any time without connectivity.  The app’s content selection boasts all of the most popular series for the under-five demographic including Caillou, Pajanimals, Dinosaur Train, Daniel Tiger, and Sid the Science Kid.


PlayKids was founded in Brasil a few years ago, and the company’s headquarters still maintains their tech operations there. They have been a member of the Plug and Play community since 2013 when they first started leasing space at our location in Sunnyvale.  As stated by PlayKids’ Head of Global Expansion Eduardo Henrique: “It is good to be at Plug and Play because we are close to other startups as well as big companies that come here to build innovation.  We are close to a lot of intelligent people, and it’s great to be around all the events to exchange ideas.”

According to Henrique, their move to Silicon Valley is part of the natural progression for any successful global tech company: “We consider it mandatory that, to be a global tech company, you must be in Silicon Valley. It’s why we came here, it’s important to learn from Silicon Valley.”


Having established a solid presence in Latin and North America, PlayKids will look to bring their product to Asian markets. Silicon Valley has been a perfect launchpad for the company as they continue to establish a global presence.

To learn more about Playkids, check out their website. To learn more about Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, check out our website.

ProductPlay, A Better Way to Shop Online!

ProductPlay, one of Plug and Play‘s portfolio companies, is using video to bring the in-store experience directly to the consumer. Their platform employs algorithms to find the most relevant content on a given product, enabling online shoppers to make better informed purchases without leaving home.

According to the retail consultancy Kurt Salmon, as much as one third of all internet sales are immediately returned. Recognizing this, ProductPlay’s team set out to account for the factors that contribute to customer dissatisfaction specifically when shopping online.

According to ProductPlay’s founder Aahlada Chennupati, “the number one reason for an online shopper to lose interest in a product is a lack of information.” When retailers decided to integrate video into their online marketplaces, they recognized a significant increase in sales in conjunction with a 25 percent reduction in returns.

While videos have proven to be an effective marketing tool for vendors, it is often difficult for the consumer to sift through the large amount of available content on a popular product to locate the information that they need.

When researching a particular product, the first place most consumers look is YouTube. YouTube’s network is saturated with a massive range of user generated video, and finding informative content can be a convoluted and time consuming process.
ProductPlay’s platform circumvents this problem by using affiliate networks to compile a database of consumer products in collaboration with Youtube’s API to aggregate the most relevant content. The final product streamlines the search process, providing a one-stop solution with curated content for consumers.

ProductPlay’s iOS app is supplemented by a platform that is offered to retailers. Online vendors can sign up for the service to source user-generated video endorsing their products. By citing third-party promotion, retailers are able to provide external validation to their products without spending money.

ProductPlay’s team joined Plug and Play’s Brand and Retail accelerator just three months ago. Since then, they have developed from an idea for an iOS app into a successfully launched product with multiple pilots in progress.

The Plug and Play Brand and Retail Accelerator was founded to bring together an ecosystem of brands, retailers, and retail solution providers to help accelerate the growth of early stage startups in the industry. The program specializes in investing in and curating companies like ProductPlay for exposure to our corporate partners such as Home Depot, Yum! Brands, and Proctor & Gamble.

To download ProductPlay in the iOS App Store, click here.  To learn more about Plug and Play’s Brand and Retail Accelerator, click here.