All posts in “Events”

Soon’s event-finding app is a social calendar for the mobile generation


Facebook’s Events feature is fairly good at recommending the sort of real-world meetups and activities you may be interested in, but there’s a whole host of other “events” you could be missing out on — like TV show premieres, live broadcasts, pre-orders for a hotly anticipated device, Twitch streams and more. A new app called Soon, from Lowercase Capital managing director Matt Mazzeo and friends, aims to help.

Explains Mazzeo, the idea for Soon was inspired by a feature the live streaming app Meerkat once offered — that is, the idea that you could subscribe to virtual events. That’s an area that Facebook Events generally overlooks.

He worked on Soon with Jackson Dahl and Laz Alberto, also of Lowercase, and girlfriend Jessica Ahlberg. Patrick Mandia and Brian Wagner coded Soon, but everyone on the team served as a product manager, says Mazzeo.

Mazzeo also clarifies that Soon is just an experiment, not an attempt at starting a new business.

“Everybody has real jobs,” he says. “I’m running Lowercase; Jess is an interior designer. Both the front-end and backend engineers are employed and very talented… This is one of those things where we enjoyed building it. The goal was to build it, get it out, and not sit on ideas that we love.”

While a number of event finders have launched over the years, Soon takes a different approach than most.

Instead of ingesting feeds, everything featured in the app is user-generated content — meaning it’s an event someone felt the need to share. The app supports any kind of event, from those taking place in the real world to those that are occurring online, like a live stream or an AMA on Reddit. You can even deep link to another mobile application so it launches the right page in the app where the event takes place.

Events can also be private — like a birthday party among friends — and you can share and discuss events over Soon’s built-in messaging system and group chats.

Soon (not to be confused with the bucket list app by the same name) also focuses on the social aspect of events by highlighting those that are popular with friends. And it points you to people worth following through the app’s leaderboard, which is refreshed regularly to not give preference to early adopters.

Soon’s biggest disadvantage is that it needs to grow its network from the ground up.

Facebook’s Event, by comparison, benefits from Facebook’s vast social network, its numerous Facebook Pages from brands and businesses each with their own events feeds and its understanding of user’s real-world social graphs.

To overcome its “cold start” problem, Soon suggests some users to follow.

Of course, this is both a good and bad thing, as it turns out. While it’s helpful to seed the app with content, following a bunch of people you don’t know means you’re not being shown events your “real” friends are attending, and you may be pointed to events that are taking place far from your current physical location.

That said, the app’s launch is poised to take advantage of SXSW to gain an initial following. Users attending SXSW can follow a “Best of SXSW” account in the app to keep informed of some of the better events taking place in Austin this month.

However, if you’re of a certain age (ahem), Soon can feel a little busy.

Events are displayed in card-style format that shows a title, time, location- and an image — or, often, a GIF. Other visual cues show you who posted it and who’s attending, while buttons let you tap to favorite it, save it, share it, tweet it, grab a link or see a map.

Events are also hashtagged for search and discovery purposes. The app is bright, colorful and animated, and is a lot to take in at first.

Plus, when you tap into an event, the event’s “soundtrack” — a song of the creator’s choosing — starts playing. (Yes, be warned, olds!)

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But if Soon has staying power beyond SXSW, it’s because it could work as a modern-day calendar for younger people who don’t tend to use traditional calendaring applications.

“A feed just feels natural to the mobile-first gen[eration]. Why shouldn’t your calendar be in that feed mechanic?… It felt like the calendar version of Instagram,” explains Mazzeo.

“Nobody has ever gotten a calendar invite and said ‘yeah, that’s really fun,’” he says, laughing. “So much of social is self-expression, but events always felt so tactical, static and formal. This is an attempt to be way lighter weight and way more fun,” Mazzeo adds.

Soon is available as a free download on the iTunes App Store.

The 8 virtual reality films I can’t wait to experience at Tribeca Film Fest 2017

With virtual reality, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have never been more closely aligned in their desire to push the boundaries of how people emotionally interact with technology. Video games may be drawing in a huge deal of interest but there are also an army of filmmakers and creatives looking at how they can use VR to draw viewers in and experience something breath-taking.

Today, Tribeca Film Festival shared the list of films and experiences that will be showcased at its Virtual Arcade and Storyscapes exhibitions. There are 29 virtual reality and “innovative exhibitions” in this year’s batch of immersive filmmaking, including a whole lot of experiences that are being shown off for the first time ever. I’m hoping to check out each and every one of these at Tribeca Film Fest later next month, but here are the eight films and experiences that are going to be the toughest for me to wait for.

TechCrunch Takes Manhattan 2017

Crunch Report | Intel Acquires Mobileye

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Flyr launches an app for rapid creation of Snapchat Discover-style stories

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MIT lab’s smart boots could keep astronauts on their feet

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New study notes that it’s a driverless future, not a people-less future

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Identity management software provider Okta files for today’s second $100M IPO

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee warns of the threats to today’s web

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New York-based Yext files for IPO

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Swiss researchers are developing edible robots made of gelatin

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With PlayStation Now, you’ll soon be able to play PS4 games on your PC

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Apple releases new ad with real-life iMessage stickers

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Viva Technology is coming back to Paris with its ginormous tech conference


If there’s one word that can describe Viva Technology (or “VivaTech” for short), it’s that it’s a ginormous conference. While it was just the first edition last year, 45,000 people made their way to Paris to talk about all things tech. VivaTech is back again this year, June 15-17.

Last year, Mike and I didn’t know what to expect. But I think it’s fair to say that it was a good conference. As Mike wrote last year, “VivaTech is somewhat akin to a TechCrunch Disrupt, but with a broader mix of corporate and government involvement.”

VivaTech is co-organized by the advertising company Publicis and major newspaper Les Échos. Last year, 5,000 startups, 6,000 CEOs, 250 investors and 5,000 students were there at some point during the three days of the conference. There were a ton of startup booths, as well as eight stages.

And the team behind VivaTech plans to do just that once again. Everything will be refined, as the conference was organized quite quickly last year. So this time, they have more time to prepare and line up their speakers and startups.

Today at the Élysée Palace, French president François Hollande, French digital minister Axelle Lemaire, Publicis, Les Échos and a bunch of other people introduced the event. It was a big splashy event with around 200 people from the tech ecosystem.

“The first time I heard about VivaTech, I thought ‘oh no, not yet another big thing,’” Axelle Lemaire said. But she then said that France needed a major tech event to compete with other countries.

“Today, VivaTech is clearly a success. That’s why they want to do it again, but this time, they’ll pay attention to details to turn it into a community venture so that it can become a major innovation event in France and across the world,” she said.

She then listed many of her initiatives as digital minister. I’ve covered many of them on TechCrunch — La French Tech, the French Tech Ticket, the French Tech Visa, the Digital Republic bill, the gender diversity initiative and more.

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French president François Hollande spent most of his speech making jokes — he only has a couple of months left as the French president after all. “Maurice Lévy is good when it comes to communication, and I should have talked with him more often,” he said.

“France is the second European country for startup funding rounds,” Hollande said. “And we’ve been first for the number of transactions since January.”

“Five years ago, when I heard about [the CES conference] in Las Vegas, there were very few French startups. Today, we’re the second biggest country. And we hope that we can become the first one in a few years — the president of the U.S. is helping us.”

It’s weird that French politicians have been fascinated with CES like it’s the ultimate tech event. There are many tech events out there, but somehow CES is the gold standard for ministers, political candidates and French presidents.

Hollande also listed all the reasons why France has become more favorable for startups. Arguably, it has never been easier to create a startup in France, and he hopes that the next French president is going to follow the same path.

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Other speakers included VivaTech’s co-directors Julie Ranty-Déchelette and Maxime Baffert. They announced the first partners of Viva Technology. Maurice Lévy announced some of the first speakers, such as Peter Fenton from Benchmark, Eric Schmidt from Alphabet, Daniel Zhang from Alibaba and Dan Schulman from PayPal.

In short, VivaTech 2017 is going to be like VivaTech 2016, but more polished. There will be fewer stages, so the content should be more focused. There will be big companies like AccorHotels, Air France KLM, Carrefour, LVMH, TF1 Group and more. And finally, there will be thousands of entrepreneurs.

Les Échos CEO Francis Morel was also on stage to talk about the event. And LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault was also at the event. At first I didn’t really understand what Arnault was doing there, but then I remembered that Arnault is the main investor in Les Échos.

At least it was a good opportunity for a family photo with Lévy, Hollande and Arnault:

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Meetup + Pitch-Off: Tel Aviv 2017

Confirmed: UK challenger bank Monzo raises £19.5M with another £2.5M in crowdfunding planned

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Indonesia’s Kejora announces first close of $80M fund for Southeast Asia

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India’s top mobile operator Airtel is buying smaller rival Telenor

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Crunch Report | Apple’s New Campus Will Open in April

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Airbnb finalizes deal to buy social payments startup Tilt

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Heal plans nationwide expansion for doctor house calls on demand

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Research heralds better and bidirectional brain-computer interfaces

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The great app roll-up is coming and Maple Media is leading the charge

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Singtel’s digital ad division Amobee acquires Turn for $310M

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Tech coalition slams Homeland Security proposal to collect social media passwords

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