10 tech startups to watch in 2014
By: Jeff Barrett
Never pay for text messaging again. It's only a matter of time until consumers replace SMS altogether. It's an easy proposition. Pay $1 a year for WhatsApp or way too much a month to a carrier. Even better it's free to message back and forth overseas with WhatsApp. There is tough competition emerging from Facebook, Skype, Google and Apple but WhatsApp is the first and the best right now.
The private messaging application allows users to create images and video, no longer than 10 seconds, that self-destructs after friends view the content. In a world where everything becomes increasingly public and permanent Snapchat has pushed back. The young company appeals to teenagers and processes 200 million images each day, has a valuation close to $1B, and is one of the most popular applications today. Anthony Weiner wishes he had known about it.
Last year, Pheed was #1 in the App Store. Creating a new social network among juggernauts like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is not an easy task. However timing is everything. When launched last year, Instagram's new user agreement sent people to Pheed in masses. They stayed. Especially popular with high-schoolers, it allows users to create audio and live broadcasts on top of standard social network features. The shift to multimedia is popular with young users looking to get away from Facebook and express themselves in a different way.
The recipe search site has one of the best looking and simplest interfaces today. It's food porn. Finding recipes online is not new. Getting feedback, discovering new things and collaborating with friends is. Foodily has brought a social element that, much like Pinterest, has yielded rapid interaction. The site is fast becoming the standard for those looking to whip out something delicious, be inspired or look at tasty pictures while trying to stay on a diet.
Pinterest with a business model. Fab with better interaction. Wanelo, a combination of want, need and love boasts 10 million users and a valuation over $100M. More interesting is that they seem to have the attention and wallets of young women - a group clothing companies and advertisers are desperate to attract. Wanelo is building leverage and will continue to grow rapidly.
Tinder and other similar apps are tapping in to Facebook's sprawling network to connect strangers for romantic encounters. The app detects your location, finds single people in your area through your extended Facebook network and allows you to flip through short profiles and "like" them. People are then only notified if the person likes them in return. It's a blind system that eliminates rejection and awkwardness. Plus, the connection to Facebook profiles creates trust. Growing internationally they have dipped in to the online dating market as a free alternative with an easy interface. 58 million matches and counting, expect Tinder and similar apps to become more popular and random hookups to skyrocket.
Transportation is expensive. Lyft crowdsources the process by pairing travelers or those in need of a ride with a local person willing to give them one. Everyone can fulfill their dream of hearing a taxi cab confession or getting one of those beaded seatbacks that look super comfortable. Jokes aside, Lyft is poised to grow more than any other startups on this list. In only a handful of cities, they organize 30,000 rides each week. Availability will be nationwide by the end of 2014.
QR codes are no longer sexy. What is sexy is over 50 million users, an appearance on Shark Tank and the #1 App Store spot among paid utility apps. Google Ventures has invested $7 million in the service that is fast becoming the standard in code scanning. If the industry picks up again, or they adapt, Scan will hit it big.
2. Oculus VR
This is the wildcard. Not released commercially until 2014, the Oculus Rift headset may be the first virtual reality gaming experience that sticks. It has been attempted before. Nintendo tried it with Virtual Boy more than a generation ago. Yet, the technology is at a point where it more than makes sense and Oculus is the first to receive rave reviews at E3 - the gaming industry's annual convention.
Advertised as hassle-free home security, Scout delivers. Aesthetically pleasing, easy to hookup and significantly cheaper the company has the opportunity to take a large piece of the home security market. With its portability and easy assembly, look for renters to be a key market.