Lots of great companies have launched since my last post but Mint has really brought something amazing to the table. Basically they bring all your online finances to one place. Which is cool but they take it to the next level with the hook. They categorize all your transactions automatically but then tell you how to save money.

In my account they told me of a savings account with a better interest rate and they told me of a credit card with a better APR. Granted without the miles. The site automatically signs in to your accounts and grabs the data. The site is secure and has agreements with tons of financial institutions. (Except Scottrade, which I hope is on the way). Lots of other great features as well.

The site is still in beta but has lots of potential. The one thing my wife liked was that it showed where we stacked up against others. I highly recommend Mint.com.


This joint venture between Amazon and Tivo has been rumored for awhile but it has now come to fruition. If you have Tivo you can now purchase and rent movies from Amazon and they are downloaded directly to your Tivo. You have to first register your Tivo through Amazon then you can search through all the movies and tv shows available on Amazon. When you rent a movie you have it for thirty days. The other great thing about the service is that you can delete the show from you Tivo but Amazon will store the copy for you. Which means you can re-download the show later. This option allows you to free up space on your Tivo when needed without completely losing your shows. It says it take 30 minutes per hour of a show. I purchased my show from my computer at work and when I got home it was on my Tivo. Very convenient if you know you want to watch a movie when you get home.

Not every movie and show is available yet but I am sure they are coming. Here are some of the recent selections and prices. Oh yeah if you sign now you get $15 free.





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I happened upon this great (yet long 45min) presentation by Skinny Corp, the founders of Threadless. The presentation really breaks down the community aspect of the Web 2.0 period we are in. These guys, I think they are speaking at Stanford, lay out their thoughts on how to make money on the internet. Straightforward create something that is fun, listen to your community, reward your community etc.... For those that say this is a naive approach do some research on the revenues Threadless is making. Also checkout that these guys are self made no outside institutional investors.

I highly recommend this video if you have or are launching a web 2.0 company or trying to create a community around your company. I know I jotted down a couple ideas that apply to somethings I am doing.

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Google Toolbar for Firefox

The Google Toolbar for FireFox is truly useful. My two favorite features being AutoFill and AutoLink. AutoFill is the best tool for job seekers who always have to re-type there name, address, phone etc... every time they apply for a job. Push the AutoFill button and it does it automatically. Now you do have to setup the AutoFill by typing in your information but only once. It is also great for joining new sites or ordering goods online.

The AutoLink is another straight forward tool. You push the AutoLink button and it creates a link for any of the following information on the site you are viewing

  • Street Addresses
  • * DHL, FedEx, UPS and USPS tracking numbers
  • * Book or publication ISBN
  • * Automobile VIN

I have only used the street address AutoLink which creates a link to the location on Goolge Maps.

The toobar has a ton of other funtions but these two are my favorite so far. Both of these tools are time savers and I highly recommend it for those using FireFox.

You can download it here from Google

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Well I shouldn't say free but if you are in Chicago you can stop in Threadless.com's sweet office space (see pics taken from my phone below).  You can come into their office space at 4043 North Ravenswood, Chicago, IL and purchase shirts from their computers and they bring them right out to you.  My friend Mike, from AudioSnacks, got a hoodie and I got an amazing t-shirt

The space has a ping pong table, pool table, arcade frame with tons of games, a photo booth, big screen tv with accompanying gaming systems, offices some where, t-shirt warehouse, a small airstream RV that appears to be a DJ booth (no pic) plus they sell t-shirts. 

If you don't know about Threadless check out the wiki about them and this post reasons why Threadless Rules.  Also they announced a brick and mortar store will be opening this summer on Broadway and Diversy so stay tuned. With other cities to follow.


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windybits

WindyBits is a new Chicago blog centered on tech but feeds you stories related to Chicago that I find rather entertaining

. Uncle John Project is a great photo project with amazing photos and a great back story. I highly recommend this site if you are looking to add some great inexpensive art to your home.





DoGooder.tv has set it's sights on becoming the first niche video sharing and networking site for non-profits. You can liken it to the YouTube for non-profits but with features focused on the non-profit community. They are early in their development but the concept sounds very intriguing and the management looks top notch.

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TECH cocktail Banana-Named!

10 - Man, this reminds me of the first Internet boom!!

9 - Want a green gum ball from SingleHop?

8 - What doesn't Neuros OSD do?

7 - I heard the founder of AudioSnacks.com was served one too many green martinis.

6 - So I got his idea (fill in the idea) and with $2 million it will be the next (MySpace, Google, YouTube, Ebay etc...)

5 - I was just interviewed by BusinessPOV. I hope I didn't sound stupid.

4 - Who's paying for all this?

3 - Is that really the line for the coat check?

2 - Can I have your business card and can you say your name into this recorder?

1 - Who is the guy that keeps asking me for my business card and putting his recorder in my face?

I had a great time at TechCocktail 3 and look forward to the next one. Feel free to add what you overheard in the comments.

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Enso WordsEnso Launcher

Have you ever noticed how much time you waste switching between programs on your computer. It may appear that it only takes 4 seconds to open up Excel or Word,  but the way in which we humans use computers actually waste time and causes us to lose focus.  The example that the guys at Humanized give is that if you are in Photoshop and adding text. You can't spell check from with in Photoshop so you have to then open word, copy the text over spell check it, then copy the text back over to Photoshop. With Humanized's product Enzo Words the above problem is solved.  Their program allows you to spellcheck with a keyboard short from within almost any program.  This allows you to spellcheck on the fly as well as keep focused on what you are creating.  Other features include word count, define, and thesaurus.  All great features.

The other product they currently have is Enzo Launcher which allows you to open files or applications without digging through the layers of your computer (My Documents/My Word Files/Resume.doc).  It also allows you to open up websites on the fly with keyboard shortcuts and allows the system to learn your verbage for shortcuts.

Their website is really well done.  It is clean and has nice video tutorials to show what the products actually do, which is great.  They are currently offerring a 30 day free trial of both products and have some other products in the pipeline. 

See one of the founder give his 60 Second pitch at BusinessPOV

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Here are some interesting Chicago companies and websites I have come into contact with lately.

TechSocial - The Chicago Tech Scenes Calendar of Events

timeXchange.net - A FREE online timesheet for people and teams. Lots of potential in this product.

SavoGroup - "Sales Enablement on Demand" Lots of big clients and lots of traction.

BrainTree Financial - "A boutique payment processing firm."

Humanized - Simplify the way you interact with your computer (post coming on this)



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scanR logo

Every been in a situation where you wished you had a scanner handy.  Well you do in your cell phone.  ScanR allows you to take a picture of a document, business card or white board with your cell phone then you send it to ScanR, they convert it to a PDF and it is then emailed back to you.  The PDF is searchable because they use OCR (optical character recognition).  You can also use a digital camera.  The one requirement for your camera phone is that it is 2 mega-pixels in resolution.  Almost forgot it is Free

Here are a couple of different situations in which ScanR could be valuable:

1- You have a meeting at a coffee shop or restaraunt the other person is showing you some documents that you really need copies of pronto. Of course no copy machine is present.  You proceed to take a picture of the document with your phone and send it to ScanR.  A couple minutes later your Blackberry (or whatever device) gets a new email with the document.  You then can forward the document to your boss or include it in your file.

2- You are in a meeting doing some great brainstorming but you need to erase the white board to move the meeting forward.  Instead of losing the great work on the white board you snap a picture, send to ScanR so you can include it in the file for future reference.

3- Your at home and about to send a rebate form into for your new TV but you don't have a copy machine to make a copy for your records.  No problem, whip out the camera, take the pic, send it to ScanR and you now have a copy.

The list is endless. 


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Shelfari Logo

I am sure everyone has thought about this concept but it appears Shelfari is taking a crack at book sharing and networking. I like to share what books I am reading on my blog but boring text links, are boring, Amazon affilate links are a little better but cumbersome to share them all, but it appears Shelfari is one step closer. Here is my current shelf which I will be testing on my sidebar

It was simple to add books, you just simply search. It isn't exactly fun but does meet the ends to my needs. And as you update your shelf on Shelfari it automatically updates my list on the blog. Now if you are a big reader this site will probably interest you more. You can join discussions about the books, create a network and much more.

Now it is still beta so I am sure there are bugs. The only thing I noticed so far was the search was a little slow but it did get mentioned on LifeHacker earlier today, which can overload your site. My one wish would be to let me in on the affilate action when people buy books from my shelf. Which is exactly why Amazon should be doing something like this or acquiring Shelfari if it takes off.

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This was reported from TechCrunch, so go there for more details. But from the looks of these screen shots I am intriqued. This was known in the community as the Venice Project being headed by the founders of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis. And it appears since TechCrunch discovered the official name was going to be Joost the site has announced it officially. They are taking on beta testers now and want to launch this year. Stay tuned.






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This years online holiday sales stats are pretty impressive and companies should take note. Companies that depend on the holiday season for huge revenues need to evaluate their online marketing strategies and allign them with where their consumers are buying. The first 48 days of the holiday season approximately $20.65 billion dollars were spent online. This is an increase of 25% over last year.
Top 12 Days of 2006 Holiday E-Commerce Shopping, November 1 to December 18
RankDateE-Commerce Spending (Millions)
1Wednesday, December 13$666.9
2Monday, December 11$660.8
3Monday, December 4$647.5
4Friday, December 8$638.2
5Thursday, December 14$634.4
6Wednesday, December 6$630.06
7Thursday, December 7$629.4
8Friday, December 15$623.9
9Tuesday, December 12$619.8
10Tuesday, December 5$612.3
11Tuesday, November 28$608.2
12Monday, November 27 - "Cyber Monday"$607.6
Note: Ranked by dollars spent, non-travel retail spending, excludes auctions and large corporate purchases
Source: comScore Networks


As a company you need to either bring an SEO/SEM (search engine optimizer / search engine marketer) person in house or outsource the work. As more consumers shift their buying habits online you need to be there when they search for your products.

A larger strategy for any business would be to incorporate your PR, traditional advertising and online advertising. A prime example of this is say you sell blue widgets and you happen to get mentioned on the Oprah's show or even something smaller such as an industry magazine. With 75% penetration of broadband in US homes a consumer wanting your blue widget will at some point go online to search for your blue widget. If you competitor comes up first in the search they may click on their site first. And purchase the blue widget from them.

Now lets say the blue widget buyer finds your site first but does not buy at that time but finds out one of your resellers is in his city and goes there to purchase the blue widget. Perfect! Now this type of sale is harder to track but not impossible.

In the end you need a strategy for your online marketing or you will be missing growth and missing sales.