Blog Post

TechStars Search-To-Phone and filtrbox Appeal Beyond SF

A bunch of venture capitalists, angel investors, and startup founders got together today for a one-day conference. A scene from San Francisco? Nope. Boulder, Colo. At the TechStars investor day, ten startup companies selected for a summer of learning, growing, and mountain beauty presented their achievements and their plans as the three-month long program came to a close.

Of the startups I saw, I liked Search-to-Phone and filtrbox best, because they reached beyond the usual WordPressing, Facebooking, and Twittering crowd. Just like it’s nice to meet somewhere other than the SF Bay Area, it’s also nice to get beyond techmeme-think.

Search-to-phoneSearch-To-Phone makes it easy to find local businesses to serve you. You don’t have to call multiple businesses only to find some don’t answer their phone and others aren’t available. You just record one voice request and Search-To-Phone handles the rest.

Using voice recognition and knowledge of your location, Search-To-Phone determines merchants or service providers who might be able to help. These businesses receive calls from Search-To-Phone and listen to your recorded job request, decide if they want to talk to you further, and place a call to you via Search-To-Phone. Your phone number remains private.

You don’t have to call multiple businesses and explain your request over and over. You don’t even have to look up anyone’s phone number, because Search-To-Phone does that for you. Search-To-Phone aims to make money via a number of avenues, including pay-per-call by the merchants. But they don’t pay if they’re not interested — and you only get calls from businesses who want to help.

filtrbox logofiltrbox, aimed mostly at individuals and small businesses, will provide a filtering and alert service covering news and blogs. Yes, you could use an RSS reader, Google Alerts, and a few hundred of your best buddies to keep you up-to-date on the topics you want to know about. But you’re probably still drowning in too much information.

The Boulder-based team behind filtrbox wants to offer an information intelligence solution in between the techie tools of the blogging crowd and the expensive enterprise-class products like Nielsen BuzzMetrics BrandPulse. filtrbox will provide a graph of activity by keyword, rank related content according to source credibility and relevance, and provide information the way you want it: on their Web page, by email, or through a custom RSS feed, for example.

If filtrbox can pull it off, this could be hugely useful for all sorts of people, techie or not, from professionals looking to gain an edge in their work to patients tracking health information to small businesses keeping on top of consumer sentiment in their field. In tech blogging, we have techmeme and the big tech blogs to look to, but it’s near impossible to find concise and summarized information about more specialized topics.

Other startups presenting at the TechStars investor day today included Intense Debate, a recently-launched threaded blog-commenting system, and J-Squared Media, the developer of the Facebook Sticky Notes application now being used by 1.7 million users.

Most impressive presentation of the day goes to the Flatirons, which made an awesome backdrop to the CU Boulder campus where the conference was held. Not surprisingly, some of the TechStars are relocating to Boulder to enjoy more of Colorado’s natural beauty and business opportunities.

15 Responses to “TechStars Search-To-Phone and filtrbox Appeal Beyond SF”

  1. Search-To-Phone’s application is not a new idea, similar applications exist. There is another like-minded startup here

    The quality of their speech rec implementation and merchant results, as well as their overall user experience will determine their success.

  2. TechDumpster: filtrbox aims to be much easier to use and more informative than reading RSS feeds, for example, so that’s why it reaches beyond the techmeme crowd. Right now, it’s not feasible for most individuals or small businesses to keep track of what’s being said online about whatever topic they’re interested in.

    I believe Search-To-Phone does some throttling of calls so that you’re not overwhelmed by them.

  3. Search-To-Phone places interested merchants in a queue, so you only speak to as many merchants as you’d like. We think of it like this: You’re the one paying the merchant… why should you wait on hold? The telephone numbers of our users are always kept hidden from merchants – so when you cancel, you really cancel.

    With regards to TechStars, I will add that the significance of such accelerators to entrepreneurs can only truly be measured by the arc. Where we are now with relationships, business opportunities and tech far exceeds where we could have been had we stayed in New York. No question… hands down.

  4. I’m unsure of how filtrbox isn’t part of the standard techmeme? Search-To-Phone seems helpful but it seems annoying to have all of those people call you at the same time. They need to be clearer about how it works.

    Overall, TechStars is still just as hype filled and disappointing as other incubator types like Y combinator.