Launch Party – 10 Years of Calgary Startups
Yesterday marked the 10th Annual Startup Launch Party – Hosted by Startup Calgary. For the last 10 years, Startup Calgary has been helping promote local innovators and their efforts to showcase future disruptors and give them a platform to help start their businesses and rally support from locals.
Launch Party is always a great time, but this year was something special – 10 years and they did not disappoint. Year after year, it has grown – but this year showed a staggering improvement. There were more companies, more startups, more support networks, and more attendees than any previous year I have seen. The hosts did a great job arranging the venue to promote a casual relaxed atmosphere while still focusing on what is important – networking and business promotion.
I was able to wander around, meet people both new and old and never did I feel like it was to crowded or cluttered, but more importantly I didn’t fee like it was empty either. It was bustling – much like Calgary’s entrepreneurs and startup ecosystem. I for one look forward to next year.
Tinder’s New Feature Takes A Creepy Turn
Tinder has a new feature that reveals they know a lot more about their users than they let on. The new algorithm is turned on by a toggle switch called ‘Smart Photos‘. It then begins testing photos, alternating through them, to see which one gets the best results. In testing this has ended with up to 12% more matches. But here is where it gets really interesting: If the profile picture that gets the best results is of a person wearing glasses, but a user looking through profiles usually swipes left on people in glasses, it will show them the most popular photo of that person without the glasses on.
This is a bit of a breakthrough for people wondering exactly how much data the dating app calculates on its users. Tinder has been notoriously quiet about what data it collects, and while it’s assumed they take the usual statistics into account, they have never revealed they watch and dissect what each user swipes right or left on. This new feature proves they do in fact have algorithms on every single action every one of their users makes.
So what exactly can the data Tinder is gathering be used for, beyond helping everyone find out which profile picture gets the most suitors excited? One of the easiest channels to exploit is advertising, and knowing what a target market likes and dislikes is pretty attractive to anyone wanting to spend money on the platform. Who know what other data they are collecting and what it could be used for in the future, but all signs point to it going far beyond finding the best match for your next hook-up.
Hinge Just Transferred Existing Users to Their New App
Hate your existing app but don’t want to lose your user base by developing a new one? No problem! Hinge, a Tinder-like dating app that followed the swipe left or right format has just launched Hinge 2.0 – which is completely different than the original concept. It’s now about relationships, commitment, and a paid subscription… and they are betting on users sticking around after the free trial period is up.
Hinge launched in 2013 with the then unique concept of only connecting users with common friends discovered through Facebook. It had the same swiping functions that made Tinder so popular, but narrowed the field to people that might have already crossed paths before. Soon after all the other similar dating apps followed suit, adding in the common connections feature that once made Hinge stand out. With this feature adoption Hinge just became one of many freemium dating apps in a big messy market.
Last year Vanity Fair published an article slamming the current state of dating, and while many felt the article showed a fuddy-duddy attitude towards the millennial way of hooking up, Hinge CEO Justin McLeod took note of the mentality. In December he decided something needed to change with Hinge, in a big way. McLeod rebuilt the app’s entire engineering team, and focused all the company’s efforts on the new launch, to the detriment of Hinge’s original format.
Hinge 2.0 launched today, and it plans on taking the remaining existing users along for the ride. People have been receiving notice of the change over for two weeks now, but the big test will be to see if millennials will actually pay for a dating app, something they are not used to forking out cash for. Hinge now requires a $7/month subscription for the service, a fee that the company hopes narrows the market down to people who are really serious about finding a relationship and not just having a laugh.
Hinge has also updated the complete look of the app, and the way people interact on it. They have eliminated swiping completely and instead allow for more conversation points in a persons profile, which they call a story. This new story looks similar to Instagram, where people can post photos along with generated questions and answers, and interested connections can comment on them. In beta testing Hinge says this new format has resulted in 7x more numbers being exchanged between users.
It’s an interesting model as Hinge 2.0 is really nothing like the original app users agreed to download. Of course, both are dating applications, but the similarities really stop there. It’s a gamble Hinge is willing to take, and they have the luxury of reaching thousands of people directly, so why not? It’s really a genius way to have people consume a new product without having to do the work to acquire the initial user base.
It’s yet to be seen if the users Hinge has transitioned over to this completely new format will stick around, or will be turned off by the subscription fee. The company hopes that the potential higher success rate will draw users in who are looking for a more serious relationship. One roadblock they will face in terms of growth is that apps like Tinder have a higher download rate because it’s non-committal. We will soon see if millennials are ready to spend money to find a more substantial idea of love.
Launch of Robinhood Gold Reveals Important Lesson
You do not have to monetize a mobile app immediately. In December of 2014 Robinhood, a stock trading app, launched on the market promising to never charge commissions. Nearly two years after their successful foray into the app world, and around 1 million users, they have announced a new premium feature called Robinhood Gold, which charges users $10/month for additional features. This expansion into the monetary branch of mobile apps is an excellent case study for anyone looking at launching their own app.
Robinhood gained their impressive network of users through a lot of knowledge and hard work. It was founded by two Stanford grads who had built high tech trading alternatives for big hedge funds. The basis of the app was that it should appeal to people just getting their feet wet in the stock market, because it allows users to trade stocks without paying any fees. Other companies with similar applications charge anywhere from $7-$70 per trade, depending on various charges and commission.
The sleek design and amazing user experience was also an important factor to reel in users. Having a great concept and bettering their competitors was a way to get people to download the app, but the user experience kept them there, creating loyal followers. After assessing nearly 2 years of data Robinhood discovered that anywhere between 10%-20% of their user base was more experienced traders, and they saw an opening to monetize without compromising on their founding promise of never charging commission on trades.
This past week Robinhood Gold launched. For $10/month users who upgrade to this paid subscription will get a plethora of features. Gold users have better trading hours, which include before the stock market opens and after it closes. They also get access to an additional $2000 of credit (if there is $2000 already in the account), and they get to skip the 3 day waiting period for deposits and reinvestments. This Gold membership provides more experienced traders with features they really want, for a fee that they can afford. Also, with the name being ‘Gold’, it gives the people who invest in the subscription a level of prestige, which after all, is what most stock traders are chasing.
The massive takeaway for new developers and anyone with a great app idea is that you don’t have to monetize immediately. Get it all right first. Grow a user base first. Make sure you have all the working components functioning seamlessly first. Once you have the app working and people loving it, you can then make changes. In fact, as with the Robinhood app, you may even be praised for this change as it could offer your user base something they actually want. The side effect is simply that you can get paid handsomely for that upgrade.
Location Sharing App Gets Huge Investment from Benchmark
If you think Google Maps and Facebook have the lock down on digital maps and location sharing, think again. French company Zenly just confirmed they have received $22 million in series B funding, largely in part from American angel investors Benchmark. The money is going to be used to open an office in San Francisco over the next few weeks and support product development. The investment is a big deal because it’s a departure from the usual American only investments; often forcing companies from other countries to move to the USA before receiving funding.
Location sharing has been attempted before but hasn’t caught on to the extent that companies like FourSquare had hoped. Zenly has been successful, particularly with teens, because of the ability to see where your friends are and who they are with simply by tapping on their profile. Zenly knows where the hot spots are before any other app simply because of GPS trending in your friend group. The app currently has 2 million users in 186 countries.
There are also social aspects to Zenly, which further engages the teen audience. They have added emoji’s as an update, and it’s easy to send an emoji ping to any friends on the app. Some emojis have specific purposes like telling the other person you are running late, and others are just for fun. The usefulness of the app goes beyond voyeurism when you are looking for a friends exact location at a festival or in an unfamiliar location. The location algorithm Zenly has put together is very precise and generally accurate.
One of the biggest hurdles of location sharing has been the drain on battery usage, and Zenly has worked on an effective solution over the past couple years. Location tracking is only enabled when another user or friend tracks you, so there isn’t constant battery drain on your device. Also as they expand, the map data building will be a challenge as the company is going up against the big dogs like Google, Apple, and Uber.
The big test now for Zenly is to see how they can do in North America, where people have seemed disinterested with location sharing for some time. They key to success will be with the teen demo, some of whom will have never even heard of apps like foursquare. If Zenly is successful at reaching this audience they could be the next big social media platform.
Driver’s Education App Raises $4 Million in Funding
Now more than ever people are wanting the convenience of doing what they want, whenever they want it. Online and app courses are gaining widespread popularity as people adjust to work and learn from home attitudes, and thanks to one mobile startup, this mentality now applies to driving education.
More and more drivers are relying on their phones to guide them, and with the launch of Aceable, this now extends to those learning to drive. The app initially raised $4.7 million in seed funding to develop the app in 2015, and has now delivered another $4 mil in series A funding after following through with a successful plan.
The key to the success for Aceable can be attributed to focusing on a totally new education space for technology learners. The tech-ed platform tends to be crowded, which is not saying a start up can’t improve on a targeted space. However entering an area not touched gives first in advantage.
The biggest hurdle for the app will be the approval process for states which don’t currently allow digital courses. But that list is diminishing as technology and app courses become commonplace. The company plans on expanding and developing curriculum beyond driving in the next year.
Huge Milestone for Local Alberta App
A local Calgary app has just hit a huge milestone, and we wanted to send our congratulations to the team responsible for its creation. Oilfield Lease Locator has hit ten thousand downloads. This is a huge milestone, just ask any local app developer, and one that deserves to be celebrated.
Efficiently locating leases has been an ongoing issue in the oil and gas industry, as GPS tools aren’t ideal because coordinates can’t be directly converted. Since everyone is now using Google Maps on their phones, employees were manually converting coordinates and then navigating to that general area through their mobile devices. This often lead to frustration because the location wasn’t accurate.
Oilfield Lease Locator is a simple solution as it converts LSD, NTS, UTM, and latitude/longitude inputs and then opens up in Google Maps directly on a worker’s device. The app accesses a database of over 20 million data points- essentially saving time and money. When Terraform came on-board with the team looking to develop Oilfield Lease Locator we knew it was a problem many people out in the field were experiencing, and we excited to be a part of the solution.
Companies struggling with wasted time, frustrated employees, and hard to navigate systems have saved face by using this solution based app. Available on all devices it is free to use for up to ten searches a month, or a $9.99 yearly subscription fee for unlimited searches. You can download Lease Locator on Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
Most Popular Mobile Payment Methods In Canada
A new consumer report put out by Technology Strategies International reveals the top contactless payment methods Canadians are using when making purchases through their phones, and they might surprise you.
In TSI’s study almost half of respondents didn’t have a payment app installed on their phone at all, and out of those that did many were not a mobile wallet, but rather a single branded product. Paypal came in overwhelmingly at the most installed application, with Starbucks behind by almost half.
Apple Pay comes in at the 6th most installed app, with only 5% of the people surveyed downloading it. With the Apple Pay expansion announced recently, and with more phones in the future having the capability of using the Apple Pay wallet, we are sure to see these numbers rise.
In fact, the study says that by 2020, 90% of Canadians will have a smartphone, and three quarters of those phones will have NFC technology. This means in the next 5 years we can expect to see mobile payments ramp up drastically.
In 2015 alone contactless payments doubled in Canada, accounting for around $60 billion dollars worth of transactions. With technology only getting better at an alarmingly fast rate, and companies dedicated to making shopping easier for consumers with more focused payment applications, we are sure to see payment through mobile phones become an everyday part of our lives sooner than we think.
How Mobile Apps Benefit the Restaurant Industry
Food. It is shared, photographed, raved and ranted about, and searched endlessly online. But the internet is shifting into our hands more and more every day. In North America over 89% of mobile internet usage is through apps, and 90% of a mobile user’s time in general is spent in apps! This is staggering, and a key insight as companies develop mobile marketing strategies.
So how can mobile apps benefit the restaurant industry? An obvious answer is by creating tablet applications for customers. Tablet menu applications are highly adaptable and easy to alter for fresh menu items and features, look super slick to the customer, and provide a portable interface for servers to place orders and requests. Forget clunky POS ordering, tablet apps are capable of providing an all encompassing system for your customers and staff that sends a signal to the integrated device.
Outside of the restaurant, customers are always looking for information. Think about how many times you have viewed a menu online, and it was a picture someone had took and uploaded to a third party site. With an app you can be in control of the menu your customers see – and it can be dynamic. No need to update your website every time you have a new dinner feature. Updating your app can be easy and interesting, giving customers a reason to see what your specials are for the evening.
Hours of operation, directions, reservations… there are many other reasons customers search for restaurant information. Having a dedicated space on their smartphone gives your business a leg up, because there is no searching involved. It is all at their fingertips. And with the recent expansion of Apple Pay in Canada, payment integration means customers don’t even need to bring their wallet to dinner.
Many companies utilize mobile apps for customer loyalty. Gone are the days of punch-cards for every coffee you buy. Now giving customer rewards is as easy as a bar-code scan. This makes the process easier for staff and managers as well, eliminating lengthy discount codes.
Mobile apps save time for back-end operations, eliminating duplication of tasks by having everything on one interface. Instead of having to update menus, internal systems, and your website, it can all be done with one adjustment. This saves time, confusion, and countless errors. What it all boils down to, is it saves you money.
Mobile websites are yesterday’s news. The wave of the future is mobile apps, and the restaurant industry can benefit from staying ahead of the curve and developing a mobile app now. There are many options available with a variety of prices and intricacies. If you have a restaurant and want to discuss your options, please contact Terraform today for a free consultation.
Shocking Android Marshmallow Adoption Rate
Six months after launching Android Marshmallow is still struggling to be adopted by it’s user base. In fact latest reports show a staggeringly low 7.5% of users are running the newest version of the operating system! Android notoriously has issues getting users to adopt new OS versions, and this causes many problems when planning to release new apps, because users running old versions may not be able to access certain features.
The issue is not only user interest and urgency, but also how and when the updates are being delivered to these users. Android’s hardware partners are responsible for administering the update, which leads to a plethora of release dates. In fact many devices still have not received the update, and some reports suggest devices more than a year old will actually never receive it. So basically, until you buy a new Android device, you won’t be on Marshmallow, or whatever the next operating system is.
Apple doesn’t have this problem, simply because they are responsible for their own hardware. This means when a new update is available they can push it out to all users immediately (and harass you until you download it). As of April 18th 84% of iPhone users have have adopted the latest version – iOS 9.
Back in 2015 when Marshmallow launched there was tons of hype about how it would give Android users the experience they were looking for. Some of these functions talked about were: Android pay, USB-C adaptability, and a smoother app experience. It’s all great to tout the features and get people excited about the product, but if users never receive the update, how can your message remain exciting?
Android OS adoption is absolutely an issue that needs to be addressed in the near future, especially with apps growing as a larger space in the mobile world. When 20% of users are still running a system from 2012, app developers can not plan for what functions and features every user should have. If it’s not a problem that is sorted quickly, Google Play will be affected and Apple’s App Store will reap the benefits.