Archive for the ‘First Look’ Category


Twilio – The GrandCentral Killer?

By Chris in First Look, Launched with 2 Comments

Twilio launched in private beta last week (and is now available for all), and is promising to bring some radical changes to web telephony services by enabling web developers through its simple REST API, and a simple pay as you go billing philosophy.

Thanks to Twilio you no longer have to deal with complex infrastructures, telecom programming languages, and stacks of PBX software to implement inbound and outbound phone applications.

Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson says that while many other web telephony services already exist (like Asterisk, an open source project), these technologies tend to be very complex and difficult to use, even for experienced developers. Lawson says that Twilio is looking to commoditize these phone services by making them much more accessible to developers, by introducing a set of very intuitive commands.

The Twilio REST API primarily consists of 5 commonly used phone actions:

  • Say
  • Play
  • Record
  • Dial
  • Gather a phone number

Thanks to these, its very easy to replicate some of GrandCentral’s core functionality in only around 15 lines of code!

Twilio is adopting the cloud service model, where no contracts are required and where you are charged flat fees for calls depending on the number of minutes used and the number of phone numbers needed.

We really like Twilio, as it has comoditized what used to be a dark art which usually involved a lot of hardware, software and lines of complex code to achieve. Plus its a perfect example of a really attractive startup prime for an aquisition, featuring a great idea, great packaging, a talented team, and some great team experience (CEO Jeff Lawson was a Product Manager for AWS).

Check it out at

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23Nov – Sorting The Good Companies From The Bad

trustpilot uk startup

As internet users become more and more cautious of where they spend their cash in light of the economic downturn, the bigger the impact of website and product review websites in the purchase process. Who will you trust Dell, or some smaller firm selling desktop PC’s online?

Well we’ve had a look at Trustpilot, and this decision might become a whole lot easier. This innovative UK startup have launched a reputation monitoring service based on user comments and reviews, which are then presented to users through their website and their browser app which overlays a trust rating on top of Google results.

Checking out user reviews for a website becomes as easy as reading the colour of an icon that changes from red to green will give you an indication of how trustworthy a given company is, and by placing your pointer over that icon where additional information is displayed.

trustpilot in action

The information provided includes the percentage of approval the company has, the actual number of reviews as well as a “TrustScore”

Check it out at

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Stop arguements with your flatmates with expensure

If only I knew about this web app when I was flatting it would have made my life a whole lot easier. Expensure is a awesome little application that helps you (and your flatmates) keep track of all living costs and works out how much each person owes.

For a more detailed description of the websites features you can take a look at the tour page.

I caught up with Andrew, one of the founders and he told me a bit more about the idea and how he came up with it.

We were sitting around one day trying to work out who owed who money after about three months of bills and expenses had been accumulated. We had each paid for loads of shared stuff, and owed money for many different bills. In the middle of trying to work it all out for the tenth time we thought, why don’t we just make an app that does it all for you?

I also asked him about his marketing strategy and his reply was so great I’m going to post it here as I’m sure it will benefit a lot of people.

I think this is a very interesting question because you are in a tough position to start with because you don’t have the budget to engineer a mass media promotion, nor do you have the public profile to engineer some free promotion off the back of who you are (see twitter).

The trick is to use your wit and skill to create a 3rd approach that makes use of the emerging social media landscape of bloggers, the social grap(h)evine and making contact with a few niche publications who have ownership of the social/business area that your app will attempt to make its home.

I did find the following blog posts to contain some pretty good practical advice, that is relevant to anyone launching a web app or business:





Thanks for the great information Andrew! This application definitely solves a problem that I’m sure most of the readers of this blog have experienced. Go and give it some love.



Create crazy animated .gifs at

Recently launched BlingEasy lets you “pimp out” and animate your photos and share them with your friends.

The system is surprisingly solid and is very easy to use. It’s one of those sites that you can happily mess around with for ages.

You can view the epic .gif I created here.

Joe Daley, the sites founder, filled me in with a bit more info.

I started the site around nine months ago, I hired a guy to help with the part of the code that saves the .gif, I knew this was an important piece of the project, the first version took a minute to save the photos, 2nd version 30 secs, still not good enough so we worked another 2 months and finally now it takes only 2 to 5 secs to save a photo.

I always tried to keep these things in mind when building blingeasy.

1. clean interface
2. easy to use and understand.
3. make it fast, fast, fast!

The flash editor was a huge challenge also, we had to optimize gifs as they are loaded so they load fast inside the editor and are not to big once they are placed on the photo.
really the whole project was a huge challenge mentally and physically, I basically had my mind made up I would not stop until it was done right. We went back to the drawing board many times to redo functions and code.

Duncan Riley covered BlingEasy with a blog post entitled “BlingEasy: So bad It’s Actually Good” and I’d have to agree with him. This website certainly isn’t for everyone but for the select few that this does appeal to I’m sure it’s a godsend.



Easily Download Songs From MuxTape.

I made a post recently that showed a way of downloading songs from popular mixtape sharing website, muxtape.

After reading the article and looking at the number of tricky hoops people needed to jump though, programmer James Rose took it upon himself to make the process much quicker and easier. Simplicater was born.

It’s a very simple application. All you need to do is enter the url of the muxtape you would like to download and hit “fetch”. You’re then presented with a list of download links for all the .mp3s for that mixtape.

Simple, effective and very useful.