I'm on vacation, check out these cool tech startups

I’m on vacation until June 20th. Say hi if you see me on a beach in Santa Monica or Laguna, which is where we’ll be hanging out.

In the meantime, last night I uploaded a bunch of videos for you to enjoy while I’m gone. I will make a best attempt to really stay off the Internet (I know I’ll fail, but I am going to try).

Twenty Feet lets you know more about your social media stats; I love Twenty Feet. Every morning it sends me an email and lets me know if something weird happened in my stats for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other places. For instance, did more of my videos get favorited than usual? Did more people subscribe or unsubscribe than usual?

Twimbow brings color to social media; Twimbow looks a bit like TweetDeck, but look again and you’ll see a colorfully different approach! By using colors you can uncover tweets and status messages from people and brands you care about. Here Luca Filigheddu, CEO of Twimbo, shows me what it does and what his philosophy is behind social media clients.

Intuit opens up platform to outside developers; Alex Barnett, group manager for developer relations at Intuit, shows me their new platform for developers to build functionality into Intuit’s products. ZDnet wrote more about it here. This is called “Intuit Anywhere,” a series of widgets and data services that connect QuickBooks Online data to applications outside of the company’s marketplace.

ShopKeep brings an iPad-based Cash Register to life (and Web, and Mac and PC); Are you a small retail store? Do you need a better cash register? Well, ShopKeep.com visited me yesterday and showed me their new system and explained why it works better than other PC-based cash registers. Plus, they have one that works on your favorite devices. Learn more at http://shopkeep.com/

Microsoft Business Intelligence “Power Pivot” tool for looking at Tweet data; Bruno Aziza of Microsoft’s Microsoft’s Business Intelligence group recently filmed me for BI TV at http://www.microsoft.com/bi/en-us/Community/Pages/BITV.aspx Here I turned the camera on him and he is showing off a free tool for looking at data from Tweets and business meetings inside Excel. Get it at http://www.powerpivot.com/

In-depth look: Genwi app creator for iPhone, Android, and iPad; Do you want to easily create apps for iPhone, Android, and iPad all at once without much coding experience? Lots of businesses do. Here I get an in-depth look at a very useful tool, Genwi with CEO PJ Gurumohan. Learn more at http://isites.us/ and follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/GENWI_iSites

Trend Spottr finds trends in your tweets; A real-time analytics service that identifies & curates the top trending content from Twitter and Facebook for any search term or topic of interest. Here Mark Zohar, CEO, shows it off to me. Really useful for Twitter freaks like me! Follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/trendspottr

Big Live: fostering real-time interactions around content; Producers of online video content are always looking for ways to get their audience more involved and more engaged beyond just leaving comments. By leveraging the social network, Big Live is providing a solution that fosters real-time discussion among audiences.

Why Nokia's Elop is wrong about mobile sales: users aren't idiots

Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, still isn’t quite understanding why Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 isn’t selling. He thinks it’s about hardware.

“Windows Phone scores better than Android and iPhone with consumers, but OEMs are doing their best work for Android. For Nokia our best work will be for Windows Phone. You will see waves of families of devices that deliver on the promise of Windows Phone 7,” Elop said in a keynote at the Open Mobile Summit in London today.

Here’s the deal. It isn’t about hardware. It’s about apps and the professional VC-backed app developers are actively ignoring Windows Phone 7. Not to mention that even the apps I’ve tested that are on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 generally aren’t as good on Windows Phone 7.

Users are not idiots. They buy use cases, not hardware.

Now, lots of people love to argue with me saying apps don’t matter. But they do. And if you say they don’t then you are betting that there’s a huge market of idiots out there who don’t care about apps. Hint: that market is shrinking all the time.

Think about it. If you buy a phone and then you sit next to someone with an Android or iPhone, and they show you all the apps they are using that you don’t have, won’t you feel like an idiot? Of course you will.

Now, to the point. I’m going on vacation. I’m testing out a Windows Phone 7 device (a Samsung model) and an Android device (a new Verizon Droid X2). First thing up, who has the best Disneyland apps? iOS, of course with Android coming in strong too. Who has the best restaurant apps, like Foodspotting or Chewsy? iOS of course with Android coming in strong too. Windows Phone 7? Not even in the same ballpark. Shall I go on?

So, until Microsoft figures out how to get professional app developers (hint: they are mostly venture funded because that’s what it takes now to hire a team of six developers, like what Instagram has) excited about its platform it will continue not selling, no matter how shiny the hardware is (and, hint, Android’s hardware is pretty damn good, that’s not my problem with that platform).

Here is a hint. Recently Finland’s “Y Combinator” came and visited me. They call it Startup Sauna. Not a single one of those companies showed me a Windows Phone 7 app. Not a single one, and these are Europe’s best developers from Nokia’s backyard. You should have heard what they said off camera. It was stunning. They are betting their companies on iOS and Android and if you care about the apps these startups are showing off, that’s the platforms consumers will bet on too. Unless you think they are idiots.

Don’t believe the Finnish developers? Visit my YouTube Channel. I have more than 700 videos up there. Count how many professional developers show me Windows Phone 7 apps. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I did, three. Out of 783 videos. And that’s not counting the additional 245 videos we’ve uploaded to Building43′s YouTube account (not a single Windows Phone 7 app over there).

Here’s the Startup Sauna videos:

1. Here founder Kristo Ovaska explains the program and what they are doing in California. You can follow Kristo on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/KristoOvaska

2. This company is Fund Friends which is a game that helps you with your investments http://www.fundfriends.se/ and here the founder Mikael Andersson shows it to me.

3. FutureFul shows me a new kind of way to discover news and information about topics you care about.

4. http://www.campalyst.com/ is a social media analytics software that measures conversions and ROI for your company’s social media campaigns. Here’s how it works.

5. Guntis Smaukstelis, CEO, of Mighty Fingers, shows off his new real-time game engine, which builds HTML5 games. Pretty cool stuff. Learn more at http://mightyfingers.com/

6. What’s better than Red Laser? Scandit, which is one of the companies that visited me with Startup Sauna, a Finnish startup incubator. Here Samuel Muller, CEO, shows me the app and explains how it competes with other barcode scanners on iPhone, Android, Symbian, and PhoneGap platforms.

If you were an angel investor, which startup would you invest in, and why?

I started quite a thread over on Quora. I asked which early-stage startup should I show Ashton Kutcher, moviestar and tech startup investor, when I have lunch with him on June 17th.

But now I have a tough job. I have to pick, say, three startups to talk with him about out of the hundreds listed. It gives you an insight into how hard it is to be, say, Ron Conway, Jeff Clavier, Dave McClure, or Ashton. You can’t pick them all, you’ve gotta pick just a handful that you can help grow into big companies.

I’ll come back with my answers closer to the 17th, but I’m interested in your answer. If you had $200,000 to invest in one startup, which one would you pick and why?

Oh, and if you are interested in seeing what else I’m doing on vacation, I wrote a little note on Facebook.

Adam Bosworth's new big game: making us healthier with Keas

You might know Adam Bosworth. He worked at Microsoft and really pushed a ton of developer initiatives there, like XML. He also has done a bunch of other things in his career and launched Google Health at Google. But he learned from that experience that just giving people access to their health info isn’t enough to change their behaviors.

At Keas he’s discovered a good gaming system where you compete against your coworkers. He explains why this works in our interview.

Some things he’s learned:

1. You can not show negative info about health. People turn off. So, saying “Scoble you are 50 lbs overweight” isn’t going to happen here.
2. The perfect team size is six or fewer people. Bigger teams don’t work.
3. Social pressure is important. Why? Because you can’t game your coworkers. They can see whether you are doing the work.

Anyway, I find talking with Adam really interesting. You can tell he’s a guy who looks at the world differently than most of us and has had experiences that most of us haven’t had.

Ford demonstrates how Wi-Fi could save your life

Ford, today, showed off a new set of technologies that will enable cars to talk to each other, helping to reduce crashes and maybe help with other things, like help with fuel economy. Here Michael Shulman, technical leader in Ford’s Active Safety Research and Innovation gives us a demo of the tech in a different kind of press conference than I usually attend. GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher gives you the details behind the technology.

The tech uses standard Wi-Fi and GPS technology, so should be able to be built into cars for far less than the radar systems I’ve previously talked about.

Unfortunately we won’t be able to purchase this technology for several years, probably until around 2015 model years, because it needs to be further tested, standardized, and then offered in cars. Really cool stuff, though, and you can see just how it could be used to save your life by helping you avoid accidents. In the demo we run through scenarios like coming up on a stopped car, trying to pass into a dangerous lane, and seeing cars around a truck or other obstruction.

A new kind of "Hot or Not:" Swayable

This article and video reprinted with permission from Rackspace’s Building43.

Before starting Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg created FaceMash, which allowed Harvard students to rate the photos of other students. FaceMash was preceded by sites such as RateMyFace, AmIHot.com and perhaps most famously, Hot or Not. Today, Swayable is taking this side-by-side ratings concept and expanding it well beyond its origins to allow you to express an opinion on virtually anything.

“About 50% of my visitors are return [visitors],” explains Lindsey Harper, Founder of Swayable, “and the site’s pretty sticky so they’re spending time now creating things like ‘how should I wear my hair’, ‘what should I use for a profile picture’, ‘which shoes should I get at the store’. I’m seeing a lot of people play around with the app. They’re having fun creating different types of content, and I’m getting a lot of, so far, pretty good feedback.”

Swayable is currently available for the iPhone and on the web and will soon be available for Android devices. “With Swayable, you can be out and about with the iPhone app and maybe you see something funny you thought might be fun to share with your friends,” says Harper. “Traditionally, you’d take and picture and share it or maybe post it to Facebook. With Swayable, you can actually take a picture of two items and share that in what’s a Swayable Voting Unit. I have one-click share on the app so it’s literally take a picture, take a picture, [write a] quick description and you just share it out immediately to Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email. You can choose to share it to one person if it’s more personal, or you can choose to share it with everybody including the Swayable.com audience, and those votes come back real-time.”

Harper is a sole founder whose background is in marketing and project management rather than technology, so she took a somewhat unconventional path to getting her app developed and tested. After building a spec document, she posted a series of questions on Mechanical Turk to test the viability of the concept. “What I found from that,” says Harper, “was where my minimum viable product was. I found from that feedback what people would use it for…so it helped in validating the concept.”

Next, she put the development work up for bid on oDesk but soon realized that might not be the best fit for her project. She switched to beyondsoft.com to complete the work. Then Harper went back to Mechanical Turk to hire approximately 250 testers to complete registration, use the site and provide feedback.

She constantly monitors user patterns on the site to optimize the experience, and it seems to be working. The number of visitors and page views doubled and tripled respectively the first two months the site was operational, and average page views per visit is increasing 1 to 2 pages per month. “Forth to fifty percent [of users] are bringing their friends,” says Harper, “so that growth is just naturally happening because [users] are coming back.”

More info:

Swayable web site: http://www.swayable.com/
Swayable profile on CrunchBase: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/swayable
Swayable on Twitter: http://twitter.com/swayable
Lindsey Harper on Twitter: http://twitter.com/harperlindsey

Exclusive CEO First Look: Klout's +K influence vouching

Klout, today, introduced +K, which is way for you to verify your friends’ influence on social media services like Twitter.

For many companies Klout is the way they verify the influence of a user on social media systems. It isn’t perfect, but it’s the best one I’ve found out there so far, so I wanted to talk with Joe Fernandez, CEO/co-founder, about the service and how it works and the new +K system. Here’s the video.

He covers why important people in the real world, like Warren Buffett, don’t get high Klout scores and what they are doing to rectify that.

My Klout score? 80 (in the interview I cover why that’s douchbaggy to brag about). What’s yours? Do you think it’s accurate or do you think it’s all bulls**t?