Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Social Context Is Key to Four Disruptive Social Start-Ups: Shaker, Trippy, LocalHero and Eeve

After spending a good part of this week at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, I have a fresh shipment of social start-ups to unload for you.

(Despite our hosts’ climactic personality drama, the show did go on!)

There are some definite trends in this bunch: First: Start-ups are helping users meet new people by creating a social context that includes both existing friends and people who are nearby or have common interests. Secondly, they’re putting social context to work in order to help users find the right people to help them get things done.

The overall winner of Disrupt’s start-up competition was Shaker, a Facebook application that offers a virtual bar where users can hang out and chat with each other. After years of pseudo-social apps in the mold of FarmVille, Shaker is part of a trend toward synchronous social interactions, along with others like

Shaker is also a social discovery app that hopes to introduce users to potential new friends or romantic interests. As virtual heads wander around the room, you’re pointed to the interests and traits that you have in common. You can also sort through the people to talk to those you already know, or friends of friends.

Personally, in my hangouts on Shaker this week, the tech industry types I ran into kept mentioning previous virtual worlds it reminded them of — for instance the Palace, which dates back to 1995. For me, the experience was extremely reminiscent of a start-up called Doppelganger, which back in 2006 created a virtual nightclub for teens that integrated their AOL Instant Messenger buddy lists.

Another Disrupt competitor was Trippy, a social travel-planning app that will launch Sept. 28. Trippy plugs into your Facebook network to find people who are likely to have good advice about an upcoming trip you’re planning. When they reply with suggestions, you can plan your itinerary, view it on your phone while you’re traveling and send back pictures to the friends whose advice you’ve taken.

With a similar but broader approach, LocalHero is a service for distributing requests to people who are in one of your social networks and/or physically nearby. The way it operates on top of existing social networks makes LocalHero seem a bit like a needs-driven (the app that surfaces nearby friends, and friends of friends, from Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and now LinkedIn). LocalHero users can ask for just about anything, but some potential categories include activities to share, equipment to borrow and people to hire, said co-founder and CEO Ana Baltodano.

Lastly, Eeve is a collaborative photo-sharing iPhone app. Users can start “eeves” — a.k.a. albums dedicated to a specific time and place — that their friends and other people nearby can see and contribute to. It’s a pretty app, but the only two people who seemed to be using it at TechCrunch Disrupt were the founders of the company. To be fair, unlike the others in this story, Eeve didn’t present on stage.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work