ReadWrite Announces Crowdfunding at #WWC15

by Francine on May 20, 2015

You have to hand it to Redg Snodgrass of Wearable World. First he went out on a limb with Wearable Wednesdays, Now he has taken a huge, cavernous white elephant of a space in San Francisco, the Palace of FIne Arts,  and made it into an accelerator for companies involved in wearables or IOT.I can’t say he transformed it, because it retains much of its original quality: it’s a cross between a museum and a hangar. I’ve heard rumors of a partnership between Wearable World and the City of San Francisco, but don’t have the details.


The space has its share of opportunities as well as problems. The ceilings are high, the building is not new, and  it was freezing the day I visited Wearable World Congress there.  The space is also too big ever to look crowded, which made the Congress look less successful than I believe it was. However, venues like these, taken over by creatives like Redg, can eventually make a huge impact.


Wearables and their companions on the Internet of Things are somewhere in that drop after the top of the hype cycle and before mass adoption. The early adopters have already bought their fitness trackers, their Hue lights, their Sonos connected players, and the most ardent of them also have a smart watch or two in a drawer somewhere.


But everyone agrees the Internet of Things space isn’t there yet. Nor is  the smartwatch, even glamorized by Apple.. The reason people continue to use the modifier “yet,” is that deep within us is the desire for the ultimate convenience a smartphone and wearable computers could deliver — if everything worked as advertised. But little things like sensors, FDA requirements, and products that can’t talk to each other mean we wait for a future that will be plug and play.


Wearable World Congress and Expo was an ambitious combination of Demo Day for the accelerator’s own companies and  chats between pundits and journalists from ReadWrite, the tech blog Wearable World acquired last year. The most interesting demo I saw was for an augmented hearing system that combines the in-ear aspects of an old-time hearing aid with the new tech luxury of the noise cancelling bluetooth headset.


In the chat-between-a-pundit-and-a-journalist genre, the CEO of Pebble averred that he was cool with Apple’s entrance into the market because he believes in both his customers — who funded him twice on Kickstarter — and open platforms. He let me play with his new Pebble Time after the talk, and there’s a real distinction between the two products: Apple is beautiful and expensive; Pebble is functional.


But for me the best part of Day One  was an announcement that Jabil, the manufacturing services company, Wearable World and Indie GoGo were partnering to help new device startups scale. This makes perfect sense, because it takes some of the risk out of starting a hardware company.


And then the icing on the cake was a further announcement that ReadWrite, the tech blog Wearable World acquired earlier this year, will go to a crowdfunding model in partnership with IndieGoGo to make sure it maintains its journalistic integrity. I’m sure there’s some smoke and mirrors here masking a larger back story, but if it produces even a single tech journalist who is not handcuffed by corporate sponsorship or brand advertising, I’m happy to contribute. Especially since this endeavor seems to have brought the fascinating and inimitable Jolie ODell out of retirement.




Roadrunner 1-Apple 0

by Francine on May 12, 2015

Apple is the quintessential example of superb luxury brand merchandising, right? But I have just been sold $259 worth of athletic shoes (one pair) by Roadrunner Sports. Not your idea of a luxury brand. Better try-on experience than the Apple Watch, and the store actually had what I wanted to buy.

In all my years of running and now walking, this is the first time I’ve seen good technology applied to shoe fitting. It was an amazing combination of procedures that took about ten minutes and fitted me with a pair of those that have made a real difference.

I walked into the store and saw the wall of shoes at the rear, so I made my way toward it. I was doing my usual version of shopping, listening to a podcast (this was Iyaz Aktar, Sarah Lane and Tom Merritt on “The 404” and not aware of the sales help.

But I was intercepted by a woman whose first question was “have you been here before”? I had to say no. She then signed me up for the shoe fitting by simply asking my name. I was caught.

When I saw the computer monitors, I decided to turn off Iyaz and Sarah for a while and concentrate. This might be “something.”

Moments later a well-trained young man made me take off my socks and shoes. First he used the old-fashioned size fitter to determine what size I am. Even this level of service is rare in contemporary shoe sales. Then he stood me on the ‘Paw Dog,” which makes a heat map of your standing position and tells how your weight falls when you’re standing.

It all reads out on the monitor. Then he made me roll my pants above the ankle and put me on a treadmill to show how my ankles and feet moved while running. This, too, displayed on the computer in real time.

The next step was to heat up some normal insoles and then fit them to my feet. for this, I stood on the cushiony platform below, and he fit the warm insoles so they molded to my feet.

He then took me and my insoles to a salesperson, along with his recommendations for what kind of shoe I needed. No arch support (surprise) and no stablization (strong ankles). He also saved all my information in the network.

While waiting for the salesperson to bring out the boxes, he gave me a little $5.00 foot massager to try. I’ve got a few of those at home, but this one felt really great. And he supplied me with a new pair of dry-fit socks to use for the try-on.

I walked out wearing the perfect shoe, with the insoles ( added cost), 3 pairs of new socks (more added cost), and, of course, the little foot massager. At the register the salesperson told me all the information was saved so I could order my next pair online. She also gave me a $10 coupon. And she helped me take a product shot when I told her I was writing a blog post about this.

No wonder she was happy! This was the most I’ve ever spent on running shoes, and I knew all along I was being upsold and I really didn’t mind. In fact, I admired every step in the process. Let that be a lesson to retailers; it’s the service, stupid. It’s hardly ever the product.


Apple Customer Service Suffers Along With Everyone’s

May 3, 2015

Remember when the biggest complaint about customer service was the guy in the call center in India whose accent you didn’t understand? I long for those days now. Call centers all over India have been shuttered as brands push their customers to the online FAQ. You now need a Ph.D to wade through the options […]

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We Have the Education System we Deserve

April 27, 2015

This past weekend I spent the morning as a volunteer for SySTEM Schools at a job fair for teachers called the Great Arizona Teach-In. Sponsored by the Arizona Department of Education, the Teach-In is an in-person exchange where new teachers and teachers who wish to change jobs — or have to change jobs because of […]

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The MisMarketing of the Apple Watch

April 15, 2015

By the time I woke up April 14 at 5 AM PDT and logged onto the Apple Store, the delivery date for the Apple Watch Sport was June. My first clue to the mis-marketing of this product was the fact that I could even get into the store. When the phones and the IPad launched, […]

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What Can Ellen Pao Teach Us?

March 30, 2015

I mentored women this morning. Not a novel activity for me, because I’m often asked to do it and I always say yes. But this morning was different. I had the Ellen Pao trial on my mind. As you already know if you don’t live in a cave, Ellen Pao was a venture capitalist who […]

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Doesn’t Anyone Realize Silicon Valley is About Business?

February 2, 2015

The most disingenuous aspect of Silicon Valley right now, and by extension the rest of the world because the Valley is a trendsetter, is the disregard for “business” in the technology business. In all the startups that define the bro culture thepublicity goes to the guy who builds the product, forgetting that a product is […]

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Kolibree Connected Toothbrush: with Apps for Kids

January 6, 2015

The Internet of Toothbrushes is here, and just in time. In my lifetime, I’ve spent a fortune in dental care because we didn’t have adequate information about prevention when I was a kid, and I got gingivitis in college.  There are many connected devices I wouldn’t care much about, but having also paid for the […]

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Are There Tech Startups in Arizona? Yes

December 3, 2014

Some time last week, VentureBeat published a post with the title “How Arizona (yes) Arizona is Becoming a Hotbed for Technology Startups.” It was founded by Don Pierson, who has been an entrepreneur in Arizona for more than two decades. In theory, he’d be an authority. While I’m certainly no naive cheerleader for Arizona, I […]

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What Does Your Home Screen Reveal About You?

November 19, 2014

It’s time for the latest round of speculations on whether the web is dying (because of apps), or whether apps are dying because of  new interfaces. I’ll just add my uneducated view: apps are just beginning to come to the everyday world. Although everyone’s fond of saying “there’s an app for that,” the number of […]

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