Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Showstreet Is The New Way To Show Street Maps

Showstreet is a joint project between two companies in Korea and New Zeland (Rain.D and WebConcept, respectively.) Showstreet is a new way of displaying street maps on your browser: Showstreet incorporates maps, street views and databases of business information all into one package. On Showstreet, user can see street views of retail venues along one continuous image, representing the street in question; Those street views are displayed along with online map information.

The goal is to let users virtually visit a destination and browse all aspects of their destination through Showstreet before leaving, so that they can make the most out of their time. Retailers can also attract consumers by registering their business information into Showstreet’s database, including information like menus or specials. Showstreet also offers a panorama feature, which displays the full interior layout of premises. Showstreet hopes the service will change the way local businesses promote themselves. Industries that can make most use of Showstreet include shopping, tourism and real estate, the company says.

Of course when it comes to online mapping, the 800-lb gorilla is Google. Showstreet claims that "no one (including Google) is directly providing what Showstreet does in terms of the in store panography, and fish-hooks that can be set at that level. Also, Showstreet is driven from the ground up as a community based, parochial system, not decomposed from the top down as a global tool."

Userstory Lab Builds Object-Oriented Social Networks

Userstory Lab builds "object-oriented social networks." The company aims to create social network around "objects", whether they be book titles or Twitter topics. By doing so, Userstory Lab hopes to build an effective collaborative filtering platform and help curing information overflow. Through its services, users will be able to "organize and share their experience", Userstory Lab hopes.

Image from Userstory Lab

Userstory Lab’s first object-oriented SNS project is a book readers' social community called Userstory Book (currently in beta). Users can build their own personal book libraries and discussion communities, sharing their favorite books and bringing together other interested readers in dialogue. Userstory Book allows people to curate their libraries by easily adding books either by ISBN importation or using a bar-code reader on their smart phones. We will have intelligent recommendation services and location-based services for impromptu meet-ups among our users.

The company also has a second project in its pipeline: Tweetmix, a social filtering Twitter mash-up service that aggregates Korean tweets/links and brings value-added information to the users. Also under development is a flexible SNS framework and memory caching project called Kooo.

So obviously the company doesn't want to settle with only one service. They plan to "expand into a large number of other offshoot services", but also will bring these multiple service under a single umbrella, with disparate services being interconnected through a universal login (think Google Apps.)

Says Userstory Lab: "At this point we are pushing the boundaries of object-oriented social networks related to books and Twitter social filtering, sharing and memory caching. But our beta services are only the start of our plans for new and innovative services that revolve around organizing and sharing experience, both online and offline. These have not yet been seen in domestic Korean web applications."

Yuno Jung, Userstory Lab founder and CEO, worked at NHN and Ohmynews. Over the course of his five years working with content providers and portal business models, he saw the need for a rearrangement of traditional syndication channels to personalize and provide value-added information to fit individual needs. Jung started Userstory Lab to build these essential services.

The company also has hired a foreign product manager "to advise the team on how developments in overseas tech companies and trends could be used for novel domestic approaches to web services" -- a rarity among Korean small startups.

Zimly Dreams To Build the "iTunes for Android"

Zimly's mission is to create an awesome mobile media experience. Today Zimly, in a nutshell, is a media player for Android devices. Its homepage introduces Zimly as:
Zimly was designed and crafted for your Android device. Zimly is an easy to use, feature rich media player, wrapped in a beautiful custom interface. The idea for Zimly was born out of a need for a better media experience on these devices we love.

But in the long term, Zimly aims much higher: Build an iTunes-like service for mobile devices, with focus on openness and social (i.e. media sharing experience). Andre Deutmeyer, an American expat who joined the two initial founders (Thomas Jung and Ryan Eee) to build Zimly, says "I would guess iTunes.com service would remain confined to the Apple platform, so our freedom to build for multiple platforms is an advantage."

The company behind Zimly is called Nomad Connection. The company has actually been around for 5 years. Nomad Connection initially set out to build an Open Source video client called Chameleo, but the company was boostrapping and had to branch off to other efforts to make ends meet. It's been a long road, but Nomad Connection is now back to its first passion, namely building a killer media software.

Zimly's first target platform is Android and it seems to be a good choice: Recent figures show Android is fast catching up on iPhone in terms of number of devices shipped, and unlike the iPhone, Android has more open developer environment. And yet, as Andre says, "Android is a little lacking in the media player department," which means a good opportunity to create something useful.

Fanatic.fm is The New Ads Platform For Musicians

Fanatic.fm provides a new way for musicians to make money online by allowing fans to directly sponsor artists. The company's mission is to "find the right match between music and advertising." Ian Kwon, fanatic's co-founder, says this is how the system works:

  • Musicians upload songs
  • Fans and Brands select a musician and create an Ad campaign 
  • Whenever the selected band's music is played through web/mobile player, sponsorship Ad will be displayed together 
  • Music fans send feedbacks on the match, which is reflected in fanatic's Ad exposure algorithm

60% of the sponsorship revenue goes directly to musicians, and 5% gets donated to charities (under the name of the musician).

Fanatic.fm was co-founded by Peter Baek, former Chief Strategy Officer at Bugs Music, the leading music streaming service in Korea with more than 20M users (which is roughly 40% of the country's total population) and by Ian Kwon, who worked at Bain and Company, NHN (Korea's biggest internet company that runs Naver.com and Hangame), and at First Snow (the search company that had been acquired by NHN at $35M.)

Though both founders are Koreans, Fanatic is vying to be a global company. Also the company is a virtual organization, running on Google Docs and Skype by people all around the world. Competitors include YouLicense.com, and in a larger sense, Myspace combined with Google Adwords.

Paprika Lab: MMORPG Meets Social Gaming

Paprika Lab is a social gaming company that wants to create a new genre of social gaming by bringing traditional MMORPG and social gaming together. Founder John Kim says the company's mantra is to "Democratize the Future" and the first goal to achieve that vision is to "democratize the social gaming experience."

Paprika's game, to be beta-launched on Facebook soon, will be "social MMORPG" -- think Final Fantasy meets Farmville, or the marriage between content-rich MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) and easy-to-try social games. Kim claims their game will be just as easy to play as other casual social games from the likes of Zynga and Playfish, but will feature far richer content, graphics, storyline and game mechanics. Unlike traditional MMORPGs, Paprika's "social MMORPG" will not require any software installation, meaning better accesibility to non-gamers.

Paprika's first game has already landed a publishing deal with a US (Silicon Valley) based social gaming company. The company was founded by John Kim in 2007. John worked at NCSoft, the leading online gaming company in Korea. John also had founded a Web consulting agency called EdgeThinker. In addition to John, Paprika has a roster of talented people with much experience in online game industry, from companies like Nexon, NHN, Daum, and GameHi.

Paprika Lab has 20 employees and has raised $1.2M in funding. The company has also been quite extensively covered (link in Korean) by the Korean media, Kim says.

Flyfan is the Korean Pioneer of "Commerce 2.0"

Founded in 2009 by Korean web veterans, Flyfan is an e-commerce startup whose mission is to "innovate e-commerce using the social web."

Flyfan's first service is 1forME. (See the review by Web 2.0 Asia.) 1forME in its current form is largely the Etsy of Korea -- marketplace for artist handmade goods. But the company plans to differentiate itself from Etsy by building what it calls the "eBay for Custom Goods."

The idea is to build a reverse-auction marketplace for custom goods. Suppose a user wants to order custom-designed furniture. The user goes to Flyfan's marketplace site, and specificies what he wants. Then individual artists or small businesses interested in building that particular piece of furniture enter the bidding and win the order. Flyfan also says the company plans to "apply the concept of group buying to the custom production, helping custom production adopted by the mass."

Flyfan's founders come a long way: Three years ago, there was a starup study group called "Me2camp" (deriving its name from Me2day, Korea's Twitter-like microblogging service, through which the study group members have met each other). The study group, which had 11 people at some point, turned out to be the origin of five startups, including Flyfan. They want to be the "Paypal Mafia" of Korea.

Flyfan's co-founders and the first employee each come from the three biggest internet companies of Korea: Naver, Daum, and NC Soft (the online gaming company). CEO Jiwoong Chung has 5+ years of experience as a web developer and his personal mission is to "make the world better through collective efforts of individuals."

Here is Flyfan's English website.

Wetoku: The Easiest Way to Produce Multi-party Video Content

Wetoku is an internet video service that helps users easily communicate with one another and embed the video in blogs. Using Wetoku, user can record video chats between two people and broadcast the video chat. There is no software to install.

Here's a sample Wetoku video, an interview with FlyFan (another Geeks on a Plane Seoul participant):

Also check out the interview with John Kim of Paprika Lab:

With Wetoku, anyone with a webcam can have a video interview with another person and either livecast the video to many people or embed the video in blogs or other websites for later viewing. See previous reviews on Wetoku by Read/Write Web and Web 2.0 Asia.

Asked who might be the competitors, David Lee (a.k.a. "Wetoku Dave") said Livestream, Ustream, Justin.tv and Skype can all be their competitors, but Wetoku stands out in several ways. Video broadcasting sites like Livestream, Ustream, and Justin.tv cater mainly to broadcasting from a single point to many people, with a strong emphasis on realtime viewing; While Wetoku also provides realtime broadcasting for its users, its main focus is on "enabling users to create lasting, premium video content that can be embedded into a blog or any website." And while the video broadcasting sites offer a broad range of features, Wetoku strives to keep its features simple and focused on what it does best.

David also says even Skype, a great communication tool, comes short at producing video content -- it's cumbersome, requires both parties to install the Skype software, and further requires additional 3rd party software to produce recordings, which then need to be separately uploaded before being embedded into a blog or website.

Wetoku's mission is "to smash and bash technical barriers to creating compelling video content." David initially created Wetoku as a pet project to "make it easier to be a featured video guest on blogs."