Geek Beat: Grumbling, Replying, Traveling Apps
Want to complain? Send repetitive messages faster? Expand your travel plans? There are apps for that being built right here in Honolulu.
This morning's "Geek Beat" segment on the Sunrise morning news show on Hawaii News Now featured three apps being nurtured into businesses at Blue Startups. They are members of the sixth cohort of Blue Startups (of which I am also a proud member), and represent both local and international teams.
Here's a fun piece of trivia: A group of pugs is called a "grumble." Hence the logo of this locally grown startup, which got its start on the stage at the Startup Weekend Honolulu event in June, placing second. We then featured Grumble along with the other top teams on Hawaii Public Radio. The team decided to forge ahead with their idea and form a startup company, which got accepted into Blue Startups.
The initial pitch was for a "Twitter of despair," a social network that eschews the carefully curated illusion of the perfect, happy life and instead embraces the moments that are less than great. While there's no shortage of complaining on established social networks, Grumble is being custom built for exasperation. Of course there are "love" buttons and comments and hashtags to theme your posts about work or relationships or food. And you can specifically see grumbles from your friends or a feed of the most popular posts.
Grumble is also supposed to match users with other users with similar opinions, and allow them to chat with each other. "Misery loves company," as the saying goes, and the interaction can foster cameraderie, empathy, and maybe even friendship. And for now, at least, Grumble allows anonymous posts (something that's been the downfall of a few other social apps). It's now in an open beta, which you can try at Grumble.space.
The Grumble team includes Constantin Dumba (developer), Dana Arakawa (research and psychology), and Keahi Selhorst (sales, marketing, and business development).
If you find yourself sending the same message to people over and over again, especially from your smartphone (where typing and texting can be especially hard on your fingers), KeyReply is for you.
KeyReply reminded me initially of the popular Mac app TextExpander: Type 'ttaddress' and your full mailing address appears. Type 'ttrsvp' and you get, "We'd love to see you, so please let us know if you'll be able to join us so we can save you a seat." But many email and messaging apps, let alone operating systems themselves, now have similar shortcut and form letter functionality built in.
KeyReply takes a few unusual approaches to what it does, though. First of all, it's built as an alternative keyboard (which you can select the same way you might switch to the ever popular 'emoji' keyboard), so it can work in any app, from Gmail to Facebook Messenger. There's also an online desktop component, allowing you to categorize and edit your different messages at a computer rather than trying to manage things on a smartphone screen.
But most importantly, KeyReply is pitched as a "team keyboard," which means that you and other members of your company or organization can share the same set of standard messages. So your customer service team can have a standard template for responding to feedback or providing directions to your office. You can have a whole set of answers to frequently asked questions shared across your staff so everyone is on the same page.
KeyReply launched in beta over the summer, and already has version 1.1 live in the App Store. The team includes Spencer Yang, Carylyne Chan, and Max Xu MengXiang. The three previously built GraphPaper.
When taking a long trip, a layover doesn't have to mean wasted hours in an airport hotel. "Add a destination and pay less," declares the QuestOrganizer website. "Turn your flight into a quest!"
The creators of QuestOrganizer found their inspiration while backpacking across South America last year, when they found the cheapest flights were sometimes to the most interesting destinations on lesser-known airlines. While they were able to make their way around the continent, they knew there must be a way to make it easier to build flexible itineraries.
Their flight search engine goes further than most of the mainstream players, disregarding tightly integrated airline alliances and including independent and low-cost airlines. More importantly, QuestOrganizer encourages travelers to visit extra destinations on their way from Point A to Point B, finding some unexpected adventures along the way. And as people use the site (and QuestOrganizer already has a growing user base), the self-learning algorithm gets better on making recommendations. On your way from Seattle to London? Why not spend a few days in Boston, or Norway, or Denmark?
And when you combine separate one-way flights on different airlines, and visit multiple cities, you might still end up spending about the same or even less than you would have by just going point to point. QuestOrganizer is definitely a great new tool in the arsenal of travel hackers.
QuestOrganizer comes to Blue Startups after participating in the Bolt Accelerator in Spain. The team includes Ela Bader, Douglas Deming, and Leon Kananowicz.
Of course, there are seven other teams in the current Blue Startups cohort (including ag-tech startup Smart Yields). You can check out the whole family on the Blue Startups website.