“WE WANT TO BUILD SOFTWARE THAT CHANGES THE WAY PEOPLE NAVIGATE IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD” — In Barcelona, we talk with Dennis Crowley about Foursquare beyond check-ins, how it all started and why kids should get coding.
“WE FINNS ARE NOT AFRAID OF TECHNOLOGY” — Live from the FinnMob “La Fiesta Hackathon” at #mwc with Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka
Finland has always been known for home-grown mobile talent, fuelled by the engines of NOKIA and more recently the overwhelming success of ROVIO’s Angry Birds. When we step into the booth of the Finish Mobile Association (aka FinnMob) during the Mobile World Congress, we encounter a new breed of Finish companies that show how a healthy combination of Entrepreneurship and Engineering is continuing to create mobile innovation made in Finland. Many of them are off-springs from the Aalto Centre for Entrepreneurship (ACE), and as Will Cardwell, Head of the ACE, tells us in an interview, the ambition is to “become the Stanford or MIT of the Finish region” and help form T-shaped people with deep expertise in areas like engineering or product design mixed with entrepreneurial spirit. See below for interviews with BLAAST (a Java-based app platform and ecosystem that brings the iPhone experience to feature phones), WISHBHONE (a super smart little device to untangle your headphone cord mess, they managed to get Kickstarter funding) and SENSEG (a technology that turns touch screens into haptical feel screens). We also come across PADLETTE - a secure handle for tablets that let’s you play Angry Birds with one hand!
Apropos Angry Birds — Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka announced the winners of The La Fiesta Hackathon. The first prize went to Aaltovation (Windows Phone), who created a 9-month pregnancy guide, including diet tips, exercise tips, etc., emergency calling facility; the 2nd prize was scored by Teamsports - a sports team marketing app, which used Finnish hockey as its first application; and the second runner-up prize went to EasyTouch an application, which combines near-field communication (NFC) and cloud technology.
We spoke with the Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka himself just before the winner announcement - and also got a glimpse of the much anticipated Angry Birds Space (out March 22).
“MY NAME IS FRED” — Swarovski-loving Android robot wins over audiences
This was clearly one of the highlights at the Android booth: Although only for demonstration purposes, FRED, the dual-armed robot aka BLINGBOT, was Google’s booth mascot and embodied the company’s super high-tech playfulness. We speak with Fred’s master & commander while he’s getting ready to craft Swarovski stones onto vanity covers. Adorable!
INTERVIEW: Dave Mathews talks ToothTag in Barcelona
At the TechCrunch Lunch during MWC we run into Dave Mathews, Founder and CEO of US-based technology company NeuAer. Together with his team, Mathews has figured out “how to put the smarts into smartphones”. They built an almost science fictional (yet very real) proximity platform that uses radio signals (Bluetooth, WiFi, NFC) and takes automated control over things in your digital life - according to the parameters you programme. So no more being glued to your phone – it’s all ‘in the air’: whether it’s an automatic check-in to places, alerting you when a friend (or foe) is nearby, or playing music when you enter the house – you get the idea. ToothTag, however is more a ‘candy’ app to present some hands-on showcases of just how awesome the technology is. The long-term goal is to get more developers onto the NeuAer platform and deploy their own apps that take advantage of the proximity technology.
Mathews has the audience captured pretty much every time he presents - NeuAer also won the Best Technology Award at Jason Calacanis’ inaugural LAUNCH conference in 2011 and was our favourite in last year’s mlove startup pitch session. This is also not the first invention by the always tinkering Dave Mathews - infact he has 70+ U.S. patents under his belt. But - as he tells Calancanis on this must watch TWiST show - he did learn some lessons the very hard way during the dot-com boom and crash with the rather funny looking CueCat barscanner. But as Calacanis said, Mathews is simply the master of ‘deliciously, crazy ideas” - and the NeuAer platform is surely one of those.
TechCrunch x Heroes of the Mobile Fringe — Barcelona
Helen Keegan and Mike Butcher teamed up during the Mobile World Congress to present a power-filled lunch session including a Mobile Disruptor Panel (with Vox.io, SoundCloud, DN Capital, Get Taxi & Inveready Capital; a Startups & Corporations Panel (with Telesocial, DFJ Esprit, Alcatel Lucent, Waze) and a Mobile Dragon’s Den Finale (Pitching: PressMatrix, Appromoter, Aurasma).