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Samsung Announces A Galaxy Tab Just For Kids

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Sarah Perez

August 27th

Gadgets

Mac OS Spotted “Running” On A Jailbroken Microsoft Surface RT

large_DSC01355

Well that didn’t take long. Here’s Mac OS running (well, it’s emulated) on a Microsoft Surface. Blasphemy? Awesome? Hard to say. Now that a jailbreak tool for Microsoft’s Windows Surface RT is out in the wild, allowing users to install unsigned ARM desktop applications on these otherwise oddball devices, hackers are having a field day figuring out what apps they can get to work. The latest and greatest of these efforts? Developer Steve Troughton-Smith shows off his Microsoft Surface RT running an old build of Mac OS.

Don’t get too excited, though. The Surface is running Rhapsody, an experimental OS build that Apple demonstrated back in 1997, Geek.com reports. Troughton-Smith is using Bochs, a free, open source virtualization app to make this (magic/horror, depending on your perspective) happen.

In order for apps to run on a jailbroken Microsoft Surface RT computer, users must first run the Windows RT jailbreak tool, which takes advantage of an exploit discovered by C.L. Rokr (@clrokr). The automated tool for jailbreaking the Surface was posted on the XDA Developers forums, which also provide the installation instructions and a FAQ. The tool essentially automates the jailbreak for you, so it’s not as complex as perhaps hacking into an Android phone can be.

Like “tethered” jailbreaks on iOS devices, however, this jailbreak also has to be run each time the Surface boots – it’s not permanent. Microsoft may or may not choose to release a security patch that closes the hole in the future, the company told reporters earlier this week.

Already, a number of apps have been recompiled to run on the Surface, including TightVNC, Notepad++, IP Messenger, a Nintendo game emulator called CrystalBoy, and others. Bochs, an x86 emulator, was also one of the first on this early list.


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Sarah Perez

January 11th

Gadgets

Mac OS Spotted “Running” On A Jailbroken Microsoft Surface RT

large_DSC01355

Well that didn’t take long. Here’s Mac OS running (well, it’s emulated) on a Microsoft Surface. Blasphemy? Awesome? Hard to say. Now that a jailbreak tool for Microsoft’s Windows Surface RT is out in the wild, allowing users to install unsigned ARM desktop applications on these otherwise oddball devices, hackers are having a field day figuring out what apps they can get to work. The latest and greatest of these efforts? Developer Steve Troughton-Smith shows off his Microsoft Surface RT running an old build of Mac OS.

Don’t get too excited, though. The Surface is running Rhapsody, an experimental OS build that Apple demonstrated back in 1997, Geek.com reports. Troughton-Smith is using Bochs, a free, open source virtualization app to make this (magic/horror, depending on your perspective) happen.

In order for apps to run on a jailbroken Microsoft Surface RT computer, users must first run the Windows RT jailbreak tool, which takes advantage of an exploit discovered by C.L. Rokr (@clrokr). The automated tool for jailbreaking the Surface was posted on the XDA Developers forums, which also provide the installation instructions and a FAQ. The tool essentially automates the jailbreak for you, so it’s not as complex as perhaps hacking into an Android phone can be.

Like “tethered” jailbreaks on iOS devices, however, this jailbreak also has to be run each time the Surface boots – it’s not permanent. Microsoft may or may not choose to release a security patch that closes the hole in the future, the company told reporters earlier this week.

Already, a number of apps have been recompiled to run on the Surface, including TightVNC, Notepad++, IP Messenger, a Nintendo game emulator called CrystalBoy, and others. Bochs, an x86 emulator, was also one of the first on this early list.


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Sarah Perez

January 11th

Gadgets

Mobile Accessories Maker TYLT Partners With YC-Backed Tagstand On Trio Of NFC-Enabled Products

TUNZ-pkg-back

Tagstand, the Y Combinator-backed startup intent on taking NFC mainstream, is announcing a partnership with mobile accessories maker TYLT in advance of this year’s CES in Las Vegas. The deal involves three new products, manufactured by TYLT, which use Tagstand’s NFC technology: TUNZ, a portable Bluetooth speaker; CAPIO, a universal smartphone mount for the car; and TAGZ, which are the NFC stickers you can program and place anywhere.

The products are designed to work with Tagstand’s Android application, NFC Task Launcher, which previously was made to work with NFC tags, like those Tagstand offers in its tag store. Users configure their NFC tags to perform particular tasks when tapped – like automatically activating Bluetooth, launching their navigation app or music app on their phone, connect to Wi-Fi networks, change ringer volumes, check-in on social networks, and more. The Task Launcher app has now been downloaded over 250,000 times, according to Tagstand co-founder Kulveer Taggar.

With the new products from TYLT, however, some of those use cases are now available built into the hardware devices themselves. For example, the CAPIO phone dock can now be configured to turn on your Bluetooth connection to sync with your car, launch your favorite mapping app or start playing music just by placing the phone in the mount.

The TUNZ speaker can be tapped to start playing music, and perform other tasks, like connecting to Wi-Fi, for example. So hopefully, a better alternative to the poorly received Nexus Q? (At least it looks like a speaker, not a ball.) The speaker includes a built-in noise canceling microphone that lets you switch from music to hands-free calling, and offers up to 20 hours of battery life. You can get 30 hours if you play the volume at half status, the company claims.

Although NFC doesn’t have widespread adoption in the U.S. at this point in terms of mobile payments – the technology it is often most associated with – Tagstand has been betting big that its integration into new Android phones will pave the way for startups that take advantage of the technology in other ways. TYLT is also investing in NFC, with plans to ship at least 100,000 NFC chips in six products in 2013. (In addition to the speaker and smartphone dock, they have four others on the roadmap. Some of the products were previously announced, but Tagstand’s partnership was not.)

Taggar adds that Tagstand’s NFC Task Launcher app has now seen over 10 million actions executed, which is up from the 1 million it was reporting back in June 2012. At the time, the company had just transitioned the app from a $2 paid version to a free offering, so the drop in price (to zero), has likely helped increase adoption.

As have Samsung’s spicy and snarky marketing of its own NFC implementation, S-Beam, I might add.

The new NFC-enabled products will debut at CES, and TUNZ will be available for purchase immediately. CAPIO and TAGZ will launch next month.


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Sarah Perez

January 4th

Gadgets

Mobile

4moms Raises $20 Million For Its Gadgetized Baby Gear

4moms-origami-stroller

4moms, the small Pittsburgh-based company that’s re-imagining the baby products industry by incorporating robotics, electronics, and innovative engineering into things like strollers, infant seats and playpens, has raised $20 million from Bain Capital Ventures. The firm’s sister fund Bain Capital also has investments in Toys R’ Us (Babies R’ Us) and Gymboree, so there’s the opportunity for some knowledge-sharing and marketing opportunities here, it seems.

As for the 4moms products, in case you haven’t seen them – well, they’re pretty crazy. TechCrunch’s gadgets team has been going hands-on with these things for years, and doling out compliments like “the coolest gadget I have ever seen since the original TiVo…and it’s just a damn stroller.” Seriously, these things almost make you want to pump out babies (or more babies) just to try them out. Well, almost.

What makes the 4moms products so different? For starters, they’re not your typical baby products – they’re basically gadgets. This Origami stroller opens and closes with the tap of a button, for example.

This playpen works with one firm push.

If you don’t have kids, you may not realize exactly how impressive some of this technology is. True story: my husband and I had to google “how to set up a playpen” on our first attempt. We had to watch a YouTube video to figure it out, I’m embarrassed to admit. Another time, we forgot to set it up for the sitters (ahem, grandparents) in advance, and later found out they just let the kid stay up until 1 AM because she had nowhere she could get comfortable sleeping. Let me just tell you, the fallout from her sleep deprivation is not something I’d wish on anyone. Ever. So, yay: someone is working on building better versions of all this stuff, and making products that anyone could use.

That being said, there are some downsides to the 4moms products. The stroller is still a bit hefty, for example. But the bigger concern for some parents will be the price. These products are seriously high-end. A good chunk of the baby-making demographic can’t afford to spend nearly $900 on a stroller. But then again, maybe the grandparents owe us one?


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Sarah Perez

August 9th

Gadgets

Pintics’ Founders Create ShopInterest, A “Shopify For Pinterest”

shopinterest

The same guys who built the Pinterest analytics service Pintics spent the weekend at the AngelHack Hackathon in Palo Alto working on another Pinterest-related project. This time around, the result is ShopInterest, a DIY service that lets anyone turn their Pinterest boards into an online store. Inspired by the burgeoning social shopping trend found on sites like Fab.com, for example, ShopInterest turns your curated pin collections into web shops that include an integrated shopping cart experience. It’s “Shopify for Pinterest,” the company explains.

According to Francisco Guerrero, Pintics’ CEO, ShopInterest isn’t a “pivot” for Pintics – that other service is still doing well, he says, and is now tracking the analytics associated with 750,000 pins. Instead, the two services, Pintics and ShopInterest, are aimed at different audiences. “Our Pinterest analytics service targets large e-commerce companies,” Guerrero says, “but after we saw the large volume of sales generated via Pinterest, we decided to help regular users join in the fun and profits.”

To get started, users will just sign in, select the boards where their products are shown, add a description, price and shipping charges, and then select how they want to get paid (PayPal or Dwolla). The rest of the setup is handled by ShopInterest itself. And it doesn’t look too shabby, either – especially considering how quickly it was built. “We’re tired, we’re hungry, we haven’t slept in the last 36 hours, but we are very happy that this side project came out looking really well,” Guerrero said on Sunday.

The project, a team effort between Pintics’ co-founders Francisco Guerrero and Liang Huang, along with designer Tom Hodgins, Yisha Peng and Jianqing Sun, is not the first time a third-party has been used in an attempt to extract dollars from all the social image sharing on the site, now the third most popular social network behind Facebook and Twitter. Most notably, in February of this year, it was revealed that Pinterest itself had experimented with SkimLinks’s content monetization platform for web publishers, pulling in maybe $10,000-$20,000 per year. But word was Pinterest was less interested in the income than it was in the analytics SkimLinks provided.

But the fact that Pinterest hasn’t spawned a million other efforts like this one via ShopInterest has more to do with the fact that the service still lacks a public API. (The documentation was briefly published online – details are archived here – so we know one exists, however.) To work around this issue, the Pintics team had to get a little creative. “The RSS feed is parsable and contains the basic info we need,” Guerrero notes, referring to one of the hacks involved. But, he adds, “just like everyone else, we are waiting for the full API to be made available by Pinterest to do even more features already planned.”

Currently, ShopInterest is sitting behind a LaunchRock sign-up page, but you can see it in action in the video below.



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Sarah Perez

June 25th

Uncategorized

Pintics’ Founders Create ShopInterest, A “Shopify For Pinterest”

shopinterest

The same guys who built the Pinterest analytics service Pintics spent the weekend at the AngelHack Hackathon in Palo Alto working on another Pinterest-related project. This time around, the result is ShopInterest, a DIY service that lets anyone turn their Pinterest boards into an online store. Inspired by the burgeoning social shopping trend found on sites like Fab.com, for example, ShopInterest turns your curated pin collections into web shops that include an integrated shopping cart experience. It’s “Shopify for Pinterest,” the company explains.

According to Francisco Guerrero, Pintics’ CEO, ShopInterest isn’t a “pivot” for Pintics – that other service is still doing well, he says, and is now tracking the analytics associated with 750,000 pins. Instead, the two services, Pintics and ShopInterest, are aimed at different audiences. “Our Pinterest analytics service targets large e-commerce companies,” Guerrero says, “but after we saw the large volume of sales generated via Pinterest, we decided to help regular users join in the fun and profits.”

To get started, users will just sign in, select the boards where their products are shown, add a description, price and shipping charges, and then select how they want to get paid (PayPal or Dwolla). The rest of the setup is handled by ShopInterest itself. And it doesn’t look too shabby, either – especially considering how quickly it was built. “We’re tired, we’re hungry, we haven’t slept in the last 36 hours, but we are very happy that this side project came out looking really well,” Guerrero said on Sunday.

The project, a team effort between Pintics’ co-founders Francisco Guerrero and Liang Huang, along with designer Tom Hodgins, Yisha Peng and Jianqing Sun, is not the first time a third-party has been used in an attempt to extract dollars from all the social image sharing on the site, now the third most popular social network behind Facebook and Twitter. Most notably, in February of this year, it was revealed that Pinterest itself had experimented with SkimLinks’s content monetization platform for web publishers, pulling in maybe $10,000-$20,000 per year. But word was Pinterest was less interested in the income than it was in the analytics SkimLinks provided.

But the fact that Pinterest hasn’t spawned a million other efforts like this one via ShopInterest has more to do with the fact that the service still lacks a public API. (The documentation was briefly published online – details are archived here – so we know one exists, however.) To work around this issue, the Pintics team had to get a little creative. “The RSS feed is parsable and contains the basic info we need,” Guerrero notes, referring to one of the hacks involved. But, he adds, “just like everyone else, we are waiting for the full API to be made available by Pinterest to do even more features already planned.”

Currently, ShopInterest is sitting behind a LaunchRock sign-up page, but you can see it in action in the video below.



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Sarah Perez

June 25th

Uncategorized

HeyWire Launches BNDWGN, A Private Social Messaging App Built Around Your Interests

HomeScreen_Android

BNDWGN, a new app from the makers of free texting service HeyWire, is launching what’s being called a “content messenger” service. The app is a combination of private friend-to-friend(s) chat and social media aggregation. Using BNDWGN, you can combine various streams from sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram into an interest-focused group which can be as narrowly defined as “Lady Gaga” or as broadly defined as “Tech.” And because you’re the creator of these content channels called “BNDWGNs” (say: “bandwagons”), the streams you include can extend beyond the official social media presences for the topic at hand. You can include any other things you want in these streams, like Facebook fan pages, Twitter users who share your interests, Instagram hashtags, and more.

According to HeyWire CEO Meredith Flynn-Ripley, the idea for BNDWGN sprung from watching how people were using HeyWire, the company’s social communication utility. For those unfamiliar, HeyWire’s free SMS service launched back in September 2010, and allows users to text, tweet, and Facebook chat from within one app. It now has over 3 million active users monthly who spend 10 hours in the app per month, and recently hit its 2 billionth message sent.

“It really was created out of the activity that we saw in HeyWire from the group messaging,” says Flynn-Ripley of BNDWGN’s creation. “We saw that groups would form around a particular topic or event, they’d talk and then the group would go away. It wouldn’t be this ongoing stream.” Another inspiration for the service was what she described as a feeling of being in “social network overload mode.” She was looking for a way to get the info she wanted by organizing it around topics. Some topics may be temporary – for example, news from a conference you want to track (like TechCrunch Disrupt, e.g.) – while others may represent longer-term interests.

While its ability to aggregate from social media isn’t necessarily a new invention, BNDWGN has added an additional element to its service: private conversations. In each BNDWGN created, users can add friends who can then all message each other about the content contained within. Users can only message Facebook friends running the app, however, but content stays private unless explicitly shared to Facebook.

You can also join other, public BNDWGNs submitted by the community if you’re just looking for topics to follow. The ability to publish your own BNDWGNs in this way won’t arrive until a future update, though.

As new content arrives in the BNDWGNs you’re in, you’re notified via push messaging. But, as Flynn-Ripley points out, how often you receive these messages is up to you. “You can basically say ‘notify me when new content comes into the streams:  never, every hour, or once a day,” she explains, “but more importantly, you can also just set it on ‘notify me when friends are chatting,’ that is, sending messages in the BNDWGN. That’s going alert me to ‘oh, something interesting is happening because a friend of mine is commenting on it,’” she says. A future release will allow you to configure the notification settings on per-BNDWGN basis.

The company is now reaching out to major media brands, music, celebrities, and other companies with a large number of social media fan followers in order to create partnerships that would allow the brands to create their own official BNDWGN streams. HeyWire would then share aggregate, anonymized data with their partners detailing the trends around the content in BNDWGN – e.g., what was shared, how did people react, etc. “We see this as a new level of sentiment analysis,” says Flynn-Ripley. “When brands are in social media they know how many people like them, how many people are following them, they see what people are posting publicly on their walls…but they understand that people are consuming their media and sharing it with friends privately, and they have no insight into that.”

Although HeyWire is backed by investor Lauder Partners, its founding is a little atypical in terms of tech startups. The company was founded by a merger and is now run by MediaFriends, which has $10 million in funding. But HeyWire is planning to raise funding for BNDWGN separately, and is now in the process of having conversations about a Series A.

The new app is initially available for Android only. The iOS app will arrive in July.



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Sarah Perez

June 25th

Mobile

HeyWire Launches BNDWGN, A Private Social Messaging App Built Around Your Interests

HomeScreen_Android

BNDWGN, a new app from the makers of free texting service HeyWire, is launching what’s being called a “content messenger” service. The app is a combination of private friend-to-friend(s) chat and social media aggregation. Using BNDWGN, you can combine various streams from sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram into an interest-focused group which can be as narrowly defined as “Lady Gaga” or as broadly defined as “Tech.” And because you’re the creator of these content channels called “BNDWGNs” (say: “bandwagons”), the streams you include can extend beyond the official social media presences for the topic at hand. You can include any other things you want in these streams, like Facebook fan pages, Twitter users who share your interests, Instagram hashtags, and more.

According to HeyWire CEO Meredith Flynn-Ripley, the idea for BNDWGN sprung from watching how people were using HeyWire, the company’s social communication utility. For those unfamiliar, HeyWire’s free SMS service launched back in September 2010, and allows users to text, tweet, and Facebook chat from within one app. It now has over 3 million active users monthly who spend 10 hours in the app per month, and recently hit its 2 billionth message sent.

“It really was created out of the activity that we saw in HeyWire from the group messaging,” says Flynn-Ripley of BNDWGN’s creation. “We saw that groups would form around a particular topic or event, they’d talk and then the group would go away. It wouldn’t be this ongoing stream.” Another inspiration for the service was what she described as a feeling of being in “social network overload mode.” She was looking for a way to get the info she wanted by organizing it around topics. Some topics may be temporary – for example, news from a conference you want to track (like TechCrunch Disrupt, e.g.) – while others may represent longer-term interests.

While its ability to aggregate from social media isn’t necessarily a new invention, BNDWGN has added an additional element to its service: private conversations. In each BNDWGN created, users can add friends who can then all message each other about the content contained within. Users can only message Facebook friends running the app, however, but content stays private unless explicitly shared to Facebook.

You can also join other, public BNDWGNs submitted by the community if you’re just looking for topics to follow. The ability to publish your own BNDWGNs in this way won’t arrive until a future update, though.

As new content arrives in the BNDWGNs you’re in, you’re notified via push messaging. But, as Flynn-Ripley points out, how often you receive these messages is up to you. “You can basically say ‘notify me when new content comes into the streams:  never, every hour, or once a day,” she explains, “but more importantly, you can also just set it on ‘notify me when friends are chatting,’ that is, sending messages in the BNDWGN. That’s going alert me to ‘oh, something interesting is happening because a friend of mine is commenting on it,’” she says. A future release will allow you to configure the notification settings on per-BNDWGN basis.

The company is now reaching out to major media brands, music, celebrities, and other companies with a large number of social media fan followers in order to create partnerships that would allow the brands to create their own official BNDWGN streams. HeyWire would then share aggregate, anonymized data with their partners detailing the trends around the content in BNDWGN – e.g., what was shared, how did people react, etc. “We see this as a new level of sentiment analysis,” says Flynn-Ripley. “When brands are in social media they know how many people like them, how many people are following them, they see what people are posting publicly on their walls…but they understand that people are consuming their media and sharing it with friends privately, and they have no insight into that.”

Although HeyWire is backed by investor Lauder Partners, its founding is a little atypical in terms of tech startups. The company was founded by a merger and is now run by MediaFriends, which has $10 million in funding. But HeyWire is planning to raise funding for BNDWGN separately, and is now in the process of having conversations about a Series A.

The new app is initially available for Android only. The iOS app will arrive in July.



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Sarah Perez

June 25th

Mobile

Chicago’s Impact Engine Accelerator Is Looking For Environmentally & Socially Minded Startups

impact-engine-1

Impact Engine is a newly launched venture accelerator in Chicago designed to attract both environmentally and socially-minded businesses that want to – well, you know — make an impact on today’s world. The belief is that you don’t have to be a non-profit business to make this happen, but that it’s possible to create self-sustaining businesses that are working to improve the human condition.

The program is being run by OpenTable founder Chuck Templeton, who will work with the participating startups out of Chicago’s 1871 entrepreneurial hub – that’s the same place where Chicago-based Excelerate Labs has its class of ’12 startups working, in fact.

Impact Engine’s founding was thanks to the efforts of professors Jamie Jones, assistant director of social enterprise at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, and Linda Darragh, director of entrepreneurship and clinical associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Templeton, meanwhile, said his interest in the space stretches back seven years to when his first child was born. “I started to wonder what the world would look like when she grew up,” he says, “and I got concerned about the trajectory of the planet.” He feels that the massive challenges we’re facing won’t be able to be solved by government or NGO’s alone.

Startups accepted into Impact Engine will participate in a 12-week program, and receive $20,000 in seed funding, as well as mentorship, training, customer introductions, legal advice, tax consulting, feedback on pro-forma models, marketing, sales strategies, and, as noted above, workspace at 1871. Templeton, who’s also a mentor at Excelerate, says that working right next to the other, three year-old incubator offers the potential for knowledge-sharing as Impact Engine gets off the ground.

In addition to Templeton, Arun Sivashankaran, co-founder of OhSoWe, and co-founder and director of Technology and Solutions for Entessa Inc., will also work with companies on a day-to-day basis.

Impact Engine’s mentorship network currently includes:

  • Dennis Barsema (Instructor, Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance at Northern Illinois University)
  • Linda Darragh (Executive Director of the Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice and the Heizer Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital)
  • Jamie Jones (Assistant Director of the Social Enterprise at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management)
  • Tasha Seitz (Partner at JK&B Capital), Bruce Boyd (Principal and Managing Director at Arabella Advisors)
  • Patty Huber (Manager at Groupon Grassroots), Colleen Mitchell (President at VENTURE3PHILANTHROPY, Ltd.)
  • Thania Panopoulos (Principal of The Perissos Group)
  • Mark Roth (co-founder of Centerstage Media)
  • Sharon Schneider (CEO of Good Karma Clothing for Kids)

However, the program will also be bringing on what it’s calling “super mentors,” who will be with each company throughout the 12-week program. Details of who these will be are yet to be finalized because each company will have their own areas they’ll need to improve. This is a different philosophy from some accelerators, Templeton explains. Instead of having startups meet with dozens of potential advisors in their first month, the idea is to find two to three who will be willing to work with the founders throughout the program and beyond.

Impact Engine will conclude with a Demo Day on December 5th at Chase Auditorium in downtown Chicago where they’re promising an audience of roughly 200 investors.

Currently, Impact Engine has raised approximately $500,000 from investors Templeton, Cary Chessick (former CEO of Restaurant.com), Nick Rosa (co-founder/managing director of Sandbox Industries), J.B. Pritzker (co-founder and managing partner of The Pritzker Group), Matt McCall (partner at New World Ventures), Scott Kluth (founder of Coupon Cabin), among others.

In return for their investment in the new startups, the accelerator is taking a 7% stake in the companies they fund. As for the type of companies they’re interested in, Templeton says that the number one key component involved in whether or not a startup is selected is a belief that Impact Engine can help them. The second thing they’re looking for are companies where the societal or environmental benefit they’re addressing is intertwined with the business model. But as for the size and scope, that’s of less concern. Templeton says they’re reviewing apps from companies where it’s just one guy with an idea all the way up to a six-person team doing almost a million in revenue. Citing one example of the ideal type of business they would like to find, he mentions Sanergy, the makers of a new kind of sustainable sanitation system (yes, they reinvented the toilet). But the toilet not only allows people to produce energy, live healthier and grow food via the fertilizer it produces, it can also be sold through various business models, bringing the company to profitability.

Impact Engine is about to hit its application deadline, which closes on June 30th. Applications are here for those interested.



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Sarah Perez

June 22nd

Uncategorized
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