New internet-related products, services, and ideas hit the web constantly, although very few become more than another plot in the graveyard of concepts that never took off – or worse, fell flat. To be fair, it’s tough to find a solution to a universal problem that is not only streamlined enough that a range of people can easily use it, but is also effective in solving an issue. After that hurdle, there’s the need to market the product successfully so that consumers are aware of the product or software. Factoring in staying power and that small percentage of successful startups becomes even smaller. For every “Google,” there are ten “Pets.com”s.
That doesn’t stop people from trying to figure out solutions to problems some of us didn’t even realize we had, and thankfully 2014 is no exception. While it can be difficult to imagine that anything truly new can be thought up and successfully brought to the marketplace, especially when it comes to how we interact with something so fundamental as the internet, there are a few startups poised to do just that. Some are new, like Hukkster, and others have been around for a while.
Each of the companies profiled here are on their way to change the way we shop, access the internet and protect ourselves from data security breaches. Some of these products and companies are impacting people’s lives more drastically than others (such as the BRCK, which brings the web to where there is no electricity) but all are well on their way to alter how we go about our daily lives.
5 Sweet Labs/Pokki
Sweet Labs is the creator of Pokki, which crosses the bridge between apps and the PC, bringing single-use applications to the user’s desk or laptop. In other words, if a Pokki user wants to make a quick Twitter update or check a Yelp review, there’s no longer a need to wait for a browser to load and then going through the hassle of typing in the URL . Instead, one mouse button click on the user’s desktop, and all the essentials are right there. Especially helpful for multitaskers – which is everyone these days - the set up on the Windows 8 platform looks not much different from one’s phone, and is intuitive to use.
While the app store is small compared to the marketplace Android or iPhone users are accustomed to, (apps need to be made specifically for the Pokki platform), the essentials are available (including Farmville and Netflix). With well over two million active monthly users, Pokki is becoming a clear leader in the crossover between apps and PCs, poised to become standard as touch screens take over the marketplace.
CloudFlare first gained exposure three years ago when it provided internet security for the hacker group LulzSec (known for its attacks on Sony and for briefly taking down the CIA site). Instead of destroying the company’s reputation, however, CloudFlare’s involvement with LulzSec led to an explosion in popularity, and a month later, they received $20 million in funding, ten times their earlier raised amount.
Only a few months after that, CloudFlare started winning awards given by such notables as Wall Street Journal and the World Economic Forum, which commented that LulzSec’s reliance on CloudFlare software was a substantial comment on the software’s utility and reliability.
Recently included on the Wall Street Journal’s list of billion dollar start-ups after only three rounds of investment, CloudFlare software protects customer’s websites from DDoS attacks, and is also useful for other issues, such as page loading and optimization. As data and cyber attacks become more common, CloudFlare is working to stay one step ahead. It will be interesting to see if they are able.
BRCK is in a category all of its own, because it’s rare to see a successful physical internet innovation. Originally created to connect parts of Africa (or any other parts of the world) that were previously unreached by the internet or electricity, the founders are expanding the product’s uses to reach a broader market. Made to be able to access the internet from remote areas, the BRCK’s creators have evolved the product into a portable battery, cloud, port, and hard drive for up to 20 devices.
Funded originally as a Kickstarter campaign for an internet generator “even when you don’t have electricity,” it is committed to manufacturing in Nairobi, keeping much needed employment in the area. BRCK is one of the most innovative products on this list as it has already brought together those who were previously unconnected to the web, truly connecting the world, and opens up the possibilities for innovation from parts of the world previously ignored.
2 Hello Society
Hello Society is one start up that you may not even realize affects you, the consumer, unless you’re in marketing or pay attention to the first marketing and analytics firm focused solely on Pinterest and using the social media platform only to connect brands to users. Starting as a single program, HelloInsights, which was purely a marketing analytics tool for advertisers to track users interested in their brand, Hello Society has spread into a five-part, full service suite of products.
These tools have driven $30 million in sales across 350 brands to advertisers through Pinterest, using programs that include optimization and their PR arm, which relies on introducing brands to “tastemakers.” While Hello Society runs the risk of falling into a niche, as it only works on one platform that hasn’t exactly been around long itself, it also has the potential to change the way advertisers utilize the internet and how brands focus future campaigns.
Historically, searching for a specific item on sale took time, research skills, and remembering to check on an item’s price periodically and cross their fingers that they’d log onto the site selling the item at the correct time. Instead, Hukkster has taken out all the work in finding that discount the user has had his or her eye on.
It’s a simple program for the user, who installs a tracking tool onto their computer, and whose software tracks the prices on inventory for over 1,000 retailers. The user sees an item they want to purchase and when the item goes on sale, the user gets notified. No more guessing and sifting through deal sites or bulk emails, with Hukkster’s comparison tool, which makes searching for bargains as easy as clicking a few buttons.
Partially funded by the famous Winklevoss Twins, Hukkster is predicting over a million users over this coming year. It will be interesting to see how retailers react as this site gains popularity.
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