Crazy Startup Of The Day -Â PickyDomains.com
The next great tech startup could emerge from a classroom full of men serving double-digit sentences for offenses ranging from car-jacking to murder.
Launched in 2010, The Last Mile is a tech incubator at San Quentin State Prison. Many of the inmates in the program will spend years in prison and some may never leave, but TLM is aimed at helping them find their voice and, for those who do leave, a job.
Like many entrepreneurs, founders Chris Redlitz and his wife, Beverly Parenti, set out to fix a problem.
“In California, we spend more for prisons than for higher education,” Parenti said. “The average cost per prisoner per year is $45,000. So when many men leave San Quentin, we have already invested nearly $1 million for their incarceration.”
Two nights a week, a select group of inmates gather to learn about technology and innovation. To get into the Last Mile, inmates complete the in-prison college program. They also go through a rigorous application process and must demonstrate the ability to work well in teams. They’re mentored by Redlitz and Parenti along with tech entrepreneurs from companies like Quora and LinkedIn who drop by for guest lectures.
Throughout the six-month course, each inmate cultivates a business idea. At the end of the program, they pitch their concepts to venture capitalists and program supporters like M.C. Hammer. Past ideas have ranged from a food distribution startup connecting leftover produce with impoverished communities, to ways to combat obesity in low-income neighborhoods.
The inmates also learn about modern ways to connect: Even though San Quentin is less than an hour from tech giants like Facebook and Twitter, many of the inmates have never logged on to either service. They learn to tweet by filling out 140-character forms that are later tweeted for them; they answer questions from the outside world on Quora via volunteers in the program. For those behind bars, social media tools are a way to connect and find their voice in what can often be an extremely isolating environment.
“There’s so much more to us than the crimes we committed … Social media gave us an outlet to speak to who we really are,” former inmate Kenyatta Leal said.
For Leal, who was incarcerated nearly two decades ago when flip phones were the smartest devices on the market, the program has been invaluable. At The Last Mile, Leal pitched an idea for Coach Potato, an app that would allow fans to call plays during games. Because of his success in the program, Leal left prison with a job many college grads would envy.
The ex-con is working as an operations associate at Rocketspace, a co-working and community space for tech startups in San Francisco.
He’s not the only Last Mile grad to get a job in the startup community. After 17 years in prison, James Houston is interning at payments startup Ribbon. He connected with the company through TLM.
“I believe a lot of us, we started getting in trouble because we thought outside the box,” he told CNNMoney. “Instead of redirecting that in a positive way, we were just kinda outcasts because of it.”
Of the six TLM graduates who have been released, five are either interning or working full-time at tech startups, and the sixth started his own web consulting firm.
For many, the program is viewed as a way back into society.
“[The Last Mile is] the light at the end of the tunnel for those guys that are ultimately desiring to exit the prison and become valuable citizens again,” said Lt. Sam Robinson, the public information officer at San Quentin who tracks the progress of participating inmates.
Hercacio Harts graduated TLM and was released after eight and a half years last March. He’s now working full-time in business development at crowdfunding startup Rally.org.
“I spent many years reading books and magazines and thinking that no one’s going to hire me,” Harts said. “For my family structure, it’s been really helpful for my kids to see me not in blue, [but] as a returned citizen.”
The Last Mile’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed. L.A. County Prison adopted the same program and Redlitz said others are considering similar ones.
Inmates say their prison experience makes them uniquely suited to becoming entrepreneurs:
“Being in prison, having to survive in this type of lifestyle, that’s one thing prison does teach you, is how to be resilient and really try to win against all odds,” inmate James Cavitt said.
[Via - CNNMoney]
Crazy Startup Of The Day -Â PickyDomains.com
A new startup companyâ€™s $10 space posters come with a chance to win a ride on a suborbital space vehicle.
Called â€ťI Dream of Space,â€ť the company is selling 25,000 posters at $10 apiece, the proceeds of which should cover a $200,000 ride on Virgin Galacticâ€™s SpaceShipTwo or a $95,000 seat on XCOR Aerospaceâ€™s Lynx, plus some profit for the companyâ€™s founders.
No spaceflight company has yet made a commercial flight, and it could be years before they do, but that day is approaching.
â€śGiven the kind of progress weâ€™re seeing with these companies, and the customers lining up, itâ€™s going to happen soon. It has to happen,â€ť said company co-founder Reuben Metcalfe. â€śIf companies continue building the way they are building, and we build a robust community, itâ€™s going to pan out.â€ť
Metcalfe, a 25-year-old New Zealander, and several friends founded the company in November 2011 as part of Startup Weekend. Metcalfe said heâ€™s already discussing options with suborbital spaceflight companies, but needs to raise a $20,000 deposit before they take him seriously.
Of course, even if they do take him seriously, those companies still have to prove they can routinely fly customers to suborbital altitudes, or at least 62 miles above Earth, and safely return them to the ground.
â€śPeople need to be aware that when they enter, they should be comfortable with the fact that it will be years before they can go,â€ť Metcalfe said.
Despite Metcalfeâ€™s legal obligation to provide a ticket for something that doesnâ€™t yet exist, he isnâ€™t worried about following through. Virgin Galacticâ€™s manifest, for example, is already filling up with hundreds of customers on flights anticipated to launch over the course of several years.
Even scientists anticipate the impending success of a suborbital spaceflight industry. Many have booked flights to perform research in near-weightless environments afforded by the parabolic launches.
I Dream of Space has already attracted hundreds of poster-buying, space-flying hopefuls, and they aim to sell remaining contest entries by the yearâ€™s end. If Metcalfeâ€™s business model proves successful, he hopes to stage more in 2013 and 2014.
[Via - Wired]
Crazy Startup Of The Day -Â PickyDomains.com
The founder of Toronto-based Smoke’s Poutinerie had $400,000 to launch his fast-food chain, but not a dime of it went toward advertising.
He opened his first store in November 2008, serving variations on the dish of french fries, cheese curds and gravy. To get the word out, he turned to the one marketing medium he could use for free: Social media. He signed up with Facebook just as the first restaurant opened and took to Twitter six months later.
During the first six months, Smolkin put in nearly five hours a night sending invites to friends of friends from the company’s account. His method worked: About 500 people accepted his requests and lines soon began to form around the block of his restaurant.
Soon, customers were doing the friending themselves: Smoke’s had almost 1,000 friends by the end of 2009 and his followers kept growing.
“People started inviting their own friends,” he said. “It was completely word of mouth.”
He’d post at least once a day about things he knew his target demographic was interested in: Food, sports and bits of news from his various restaurants.
Messages that received the most traction showcased some of the company’s more off-the-wall ideas: An Eggs Benedict poutine, for instance.
Pictures of the first wedding they catered were also incredibly popular. They not only highlighted how his food could be used, but followers got a kick out of the fact that poutine was served at a wedding.
What he didn’t do then, and still refuses to do, is offer online discounts.
“It devalues my product,” he said. “People just wait for the 15%. I should just give my whole menu at a better pricepoint then.”
Today, Smoke’s Poutinerie has nearly 17,500 Facebook likes and 14,000 Twitter followers. There are 60 stores across Canada that will generate about $28 million in sales by the end of the year.
The business is doing better than Smolkin could have imagined, and he’s continuing to build up his online presence. In September, he began rolling out pages for his franchises, which are overseen by the head office. Smolkin also hired a socialÂ media coordinator to handle the majority of the posting. His goal is for 120 Facebook pages and 100,000 followers across all social media networks.
Smolkin attributes his success to the fact that he “keeps it real.” He and his team know the company’s target market, they don’t outsource the work and, most importantly, they have a ton of fun.
Smolkin plans to open several U.S. locations in 2014 — the first will likely be in Los Angeles. But this time around, he won’t have to burn the midnight oil friending American customers. He’s got an army of fans who will likely be spreading the good news themselves.
“We put up things that people care about and want to see,” he said. “We give them a reason to come back and they bring their friends when they do.”
[Via - CNNMoney]
I am often asked â€“ what the bestÂ CampfireÂ alternative. Or â€“ whatâ€™s the best freeHipChatÂ alternative. Well, not really often, I think Iâ€™ve been only asked once, but yes, in fact, there are a ton of alternatives to these two, including ones that donâ€™t cost anything. The problem with enterprise mobile and enterprise messaging (thatâ€™s the fancy word for business chat) is that there are ton of vendors who came out products that came out with very different products. Some are basically WhatsApp or GroupMe clones. Others are fully functional mobile intranets. So letâ€™s look at three best options you have when looking to replace either Atlassian HipChat or Campfire.
1.Â Â Â Bitrix24
Bitrix24 is by far the best Campfire alternative (or HipChat) in my view, both in terms of functions and price (itâ€™s free and nothing gets cheaper than free).
Hereâ€™s what you get in Bitrix24 â€“ intranet instant messaging, business chat (solo and groupchat), persistent chat (workgroups), chat history, audiocalls, videocalls, videoconferencing, screen sharing, file sharing, instant notifications (push notifications), mentions, e-mail to chat (workgroup), private or public chat options, channel encryption, extranet users (allowing non-employees participate in discussions with limited access), tasks and projects, CRM. API is available.
The actual chat is just a small part of functions available. You can use Bitrix24 as your mobile intranet for things likeÂ employee search,Â creating tasks for yourself or your subordinates,Â work reports,Â idea management,Â shared calendars,Â absentee and time off management,Â HRISÂ and so on.
The best thing about Bitrix24, other than all the functions you get for free, is that you have an option to use either free cloud services or host it on your own server in order to have 100% control over the data. Not surprisingly, the self-hosted version costs money, but itâ€™s very inexpensive - $2300. So when looking for a free alternative to HipChat or Campfire or the alternative that you host on your own servier, that would be my first stop. Chances are it has all you want and more.
Bitrix24 available as a web app (works on all browsers), desktop app (PC and Mac) orÂ iOS/AndroidÂ app. All apps are free. The chat works in all directions PC-PC, PC-Mobile, Mobile-Mobile, Mobile-PC. Linux version is being released next month (perhaps, itâ€™s already available, as we speak).
Integrations and connectors â€“ Google Docs, Google Calendar, CalDav, Gmail, Outlook, MS Exchange, SharePoint, MailChimp, LDAP, Active Directory
2.Â Â Â CoTap.com
This recommendation is based more on the founder background, rather than the product itself. CoTap is founded by Jim Paterson â€“ Microsoft Yammer product manager. Right now iPhone app is the only app available. CoTap is a GroupMe clone I was referring to. With Cotap, a customer invites one or more people who exchange messages via SMS or by email if they do not have an account. When joining the Cotap service, co-workers are added to a shared company address book so people can communicate without having to make â€śfriendsâ€ť with other co-workers.
3.Â Â Â Jaconda.im
Jaconda is my third choice for business chat or chat for a distributed team. Itâ€™s not as feature rich as Bitrix24, but it has more functions than CoTap. To be exact, with Jaconda you get web app, ACL for multiuser chat, chat history, file sharing, e-mail to chat, channel encryption, API.
Integrations is where Jaconda stands out as a great Campfire alternative â€“ GitHub, Heroku, Google Code, BitBucket, Subversion, Tender, BeanStalk, Kiln, Pivotal Tracker, RedMine, Capistrano, NewRelic, Assembla, SupportBee and others.
Currently, Jaconda is available only as online service and costs anywhere between $24 and $199 a month. Free 30 day trial is available.
Source - HipChat AlternativesÂ