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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Carlo Trinchero and Josh Phelps, co-founders of Taken Wine Company, have deep roots in the wine industry because of their families’ businesses. Trinchero belongs to the notable Trinchero Family, the Napa Valley vintners that created the Sutter Home White Zinfandel and changed American wine preferences. Phelps is the son of Chris Phelps, a well-respected winemaker whose career in the wine industry resulted in several award-winning Bordeaux and Napa wines.

The two childhood friends were then drawn to the wine industry and, thus, the duo decided to launch the Taken Wine Company in 2010. The company’s tagline reflected their goals and origins – “great wine made by great friends”.

During its launch, Taken introduced its line including Available and Complicated, which are names taken from the popularity of relationship status on social media. Even the company’s name – Taken – is inspired by the status as well as their difficulty in finding a name for their wines that were not already in the market (“taken”).

The business partners even use digital media to tell their story mainly through Taken Wine Company’s social-media driven, user-interactive website. Here, the company’s target audience – the millennial cohort – has ample opportunities to share and use information the way that they see fit.

Trinchero and Phelps have been praised for their creativity, passion and determination to produce quality wines that will appeal to the new generation of wine drinkers. In the process, the duo continues to reap the rewards of their hard work including their wines’ inclusion in the Trinchero Family Estates’ wine portfolio. The inclusion resulted in wider exposure in the wine market considering that the Trinchero Family Estates is the fourth-largest wine company in the United States.

Among Taken Wines Company’s notable wines are the 2010 Taken Red Wine, a blend of Cabernet and Merlot (60-40); the 2011 Complicated Red Wine (California Central Coast), a combination of Syrah (50%), Grenache (43%), and Carignane (7%); and the 2012 Complicated, a 100% Sonoma Valley Chardonnay.

Tejas Shastry, Alex Smith and Mike Geier, the co-founders of Ampy, are all students in the doctoral degree program in engineering at the Northwestern University. All of them have technical backgrounds in batteries, energy harvesting, and circuitry design, which are essential in their invention.

Ampy is a wearable lithium-ion battery designed to harness kinetic energy while the wearer is on the move. Sufficient energy can be generated for three hours of smartphone use after a day of walking, a charging device with unlimited applications in a mobile world especially in situations where electric outlet charging may be impossible or impractical.

For now, the co-founders have funded its operations including its research and development through prizes from business competitions and Kickstarter campaign; in its Kickstarter campaign, the group has raised $250,000 so far. The company is also looking for angel investors for financial backing.

The three entrepreneurs are also looking at better opportunities than just hardware unit sales. In the future, Ampy will be licensed to manufacturers of wearable technology.

In 2009, David Smith co-created LiquiGlide with fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Kripa Varanasi. In 2012, the duo co-founded LiquiGlide, a start-up that will commercialize the specialized coating, after their entry won the MIT’s $100,000 Entrepreneurship Competition. With assistance from MIT, LiquiGlide is set to conquer the world of manufacturing.

LiquiGlide is a liquid-impregnated coating that creates permanently wet and slippery surfaces by acting as slippery barrier between a viscous liquid and a surface. The coating has several possible applications, such as in consumer products from toothpastes to condiment and ketchup bottles as well as clean energy products like wind turbines. With LiquiGlide, consumers can now get the most out of these products since the fluid will glide off completely (i.e., no residues left in the bottle).

Orkla, a major Norwegian consumer goods producer, has signed a licensing agreement with the start-up. LiquiGlide’s coating will be used on mayonnaise products sold in several European nations including Germany and Scandinavia.

The company also has a licensing agreement with Elmer’s.

But these licensing agreements with consumer goods companies are just the beginning for LiquiGlide. The start-up is also working on deals with producers of beauty supplies, food items, and household products, thanks to the versatile nature of the coating. The company can customize each type of coating to meet the specific requirements for each application.

Convenience is not the only benefit that can be gained from LiquiGlide. It also has the potential of reducing the quantity of wasted products particularly food items, such as condiments that stick to the container’s side and then tossed. Keeping the bottles clean of residues, too, results in reduced costs in water and energy associated with reusing and recycling these items.

In the future, the start-up wants to tackle the build-up of residues in oil and gas pipelines since these can speed up corrosion and clogs resulting in reduced flow. Other applications being predicted for the coating are medical devices, airplane wings, and deice roofs, among others. Or as the start-up’s founders say it – LiquiGlide should be everywhere.

Mehdi Samadi, a co-founder of Solvvy, has several degrees to his name including bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Shiraz University, University of Alberta, and Carnegie Mellon University. But it is his co-founding of Solvvy that has earned him widespread recognition including his inclusion in the Forbes 30 Under 30 for Enterprise Technology.

Along with his classmate at the computer science degree doctoral program of Carnegie Mellon University, Justin Betteridge, Samadi uses artificial intelligence in generating smarter search engine results than Google. Basically, Solvvy is an artificial intelligence-based problem-solving assistant designed to enhance a user’s ability to locate the appropriate web content. The virtual assistant uses sophisticated text analysis technology, which automatically extracts the most relevant information from the most relevant websites, for this purpose.

Solvvy has gained $15,000 in investment capital as a result of its second-place finish in Carnegie Mellon’s McGinnis Venture Competition. The company has also received seed funding although the amount remains undisclosed.

Junyu Wang, who previously worked as a user-experience designer at Google, is on the right track toward market dominance of China’s apps and entertainment market. He is the founder and current CEO of Wandoujia, a Beijing-based company considered as China’s largest online retailers for a comprehensive selection of apps and entertainment. Based on current estimates, Wandoujia has over 350 million installs and 300 million users.

In 2014, Wandoujia raised an impressive $120 million in funding in an investment round led by SoftBank Corporation with existing investors, such as DCM and Innovation Works Development Fund, also participating in the round. Wang announced that the funding will be used in the acceleration of Wandoujia’s growth as well as in the development of technology in mobile search.

China has an exceptionally lucrative app market with over 200 app stores; Google Play is not widely available in the country. Wang’s Wandoujia continues to dominate the market because of its smart decision to differentiate itself from its competitors. According to Wang, Wandoujia is China’s first mobile gateway that integrates contents, among other content, across several verticals including apps, videos, music, and games, among others.

Instead of a mobile app, Wandoujia began with an Android desktop manager known as SnapPea in 2012, in contrast with its competitors. The company is also known for its focus on establishing an app search engine, not an app store per se, as well as the publication of its monthly China App Index.

Many of its investors have been attracted to Wandoujia because of its unique business model and app search model. The company’s entry into the mobile content verticals market via its search product has strengthened its position in the competitive Chinese market.

Wang is on track with his goal in becoming the leader in China’s mobile Internet industry, an impressive feat for a 29-year old entrepreneur.

Zach Perret and William Hockey, co-founders of Plaid, started their company with no clients and no money, just a strong vision and their experience working at Bain. At Bain, they created an API to simplify banking data for developers.

But when the duo finally finished their product, many people loved it and thus Plaid as it is nowwas born. Plaid has also raised over $2.8 million in funding as well as persuaded many of the top financial companies to use its services; Robinhood, PayPal, and Venmo are among its users.

Hockey, Plaid’s current president, describes Plaid as a computer software company that takes the financial transaction records of financing institutions (e.g., banks and credit card issuers) and then allows other to use the data in building disruptive companies. Plaid specializes in taking archaic systems and then allowing smart young people to use these systems in innovative ways suitable for the modern market.

Such is the efficacy of Plaid’s software that American Express, Chase, and Bank of America, among others, have established partnership with the company for its use.

Calvin French-Owen, Ian Storm Taylor, llya Volodarsky and Peter Reinhardt, the co-founders of Segment, are the rising stars in the technology industry. Their company assists companies in using servers, applications, and plug-ins in the collection and analysis of customer data. Their determined drive coupled with their growing management skills have steered Segment.io from just its four co-founders with no revenue to speak of to its current 30-member staff and its $17.6 million in funding – and growing.

Segment.io develops tools designed to assist companies in connecting their websites to advertising and analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics, Chartbeat, and Omniture. The four co-founders focused on making their product an open source tool after observing that an early version was getting more GitHub stars, an indication that an increased number of people were bookmarking the code.

After making most of the code an open source, Segment.io has been improved in ways that the developers did not foresee. The customers who came across Segment.io via GitHub contributed to the improvements, which made the tools more productive. According to French-Owen, the open source decision encouraged them to make Readmes and test the module’s individual functionality.

Since its decision, Segment.io continues to make as much of its products as open source as possible. In return, it frequently receives cod contributions from its users including analytics providers, a move that also benefits the contributors since Segment’s products will have better integration with their preferred analytics tools.

Basically, the company’s platform captures data from its web and mobile users. The captured data is then sent to one of its over 100 analytics services, which makes it possible to turn on and off the different analytics services. The turning on and off steps are done through a web dashboard without the need for deploying a new web code or waiting for the publication of a new mobile app version.

Hard cider is not exactly the champagne of the beverage industry. But three entrepreneurs are making hard cider fashionable to drink once again among the adults, even among older children. Matt Brockman, Tyler Mosher, and Ross Brockman co-founded Downeast Cider House to address the consumers’ demand for hard cider that address their nostalgia for the good old times of their childhood and for new flavors for their modern lifestyle.

Downeast Cider House is becoming a fast favorite among old and new hard cider fans because of its wide range of choices as well as for the excellent flavors. Its hand-crafted hard cider products are made from selected fresh apples that combine sweet and tart flavors, a must for the best hard cider in town. It uses Cortland, Red Delicious, McIntosh, and Gala, among others, for its products.

Downeast Cider House’s hard cider is sold in cans and kegs across the East Coast.

Borahm Cho, the Kitchensurfing co-founder, is among the people changing the perception that personal chefs are only for rich individuals and their families. With Kitchensurfing’s services, he makes it easier for everybody to find the best personal chef for their needs, as based on factors like budget, schedule and desired dishes, among others.

Kitchensurfing is a web-based, on-demand marketplace for people whose time or talents in the kitchen are limited yet must prepare dishes, desserts and snacks for various occasions for their family and friends. Clients who use the online service find their potential chefs and choose from several options on the website while the professional chefs work within a specific budget and menu.

Clients have the opportunity to choose from several types of culinary engagements ranging from elaborate multi-course dinners for special occasions with a large guest list to intimate dinners for couples. Cooking lessons and friend chicken parties are also available.

Kitchensurfing has been recognised for its innovative concept, which continues to re-define the dining experience for everybody concerned. The direct connections between the clients and chefs from planning the menu to serving the dishes result in a more fulfilling experience.

Contrary to popular notion, the service fees for the professional chefs on the Kitchensurfing network are relatively affordable especially when the fact that the dishes and desserts served are of restaurant quality. For example, a $25/person meal can be enjoyed by a family of four with the meals cooked and served in their own home. An increasing number of individuals are willing to pay for the convenience of enjoying home-cooked yet restaurant-quality healthy meals at home –truly, a better alternative than ordering bland fast-food items.

Kitchensurfing requires all of its chefs to use locally-grown vegetables, fruits and other food ingredients for their dishes and desserts, whenever possible. Cho and his team know the value of supporting the local economy.