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startup

China Techies Unleash an Army of Pinterest Clones

You know you’ve arrived when you’re being cloned in China. Pinterest has, of course, arrived — here and in China. Yesterday, Chinese tech company Taobao launched a photo-sharing, social media site that is modeled almost exactly after Pinterest.

The name of the new social network is Wantu (translation: mischievous rabbit). The site can be accessed through Taoboa’s website at: wantu.taobao.com.

Hardly the first in the Pinterest-cloning market in China, another tech company named Mogojie also launched a Pinterest clone (they’re actually considered to be the “biggest indie Pinterest clone”).  And two months ago, tech powerhouse Renren launched their own version of Pinterest. To date, China has 18 Pinterest clones.  Here’s a list of 16 Chinese Pinterest clones by accumulated by Idea-Stackhttp://idea-stack.blogspot.com/2012/02/16-pinterest-clones-in-china-and-mores.html

Clearly, China takes its Pinterest-cloning seriously.

 

 

 

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The Best Mobile Start-up in Africa (VIDEO)

Mobile technology is booming in emerging markets in Africa and Asia (even moreso than here in North America). In terms of demand for usage, they have us beat by sheer necessity. Mobile phones and apps are being used in emerging markets to provide much-needed services and convenience that we take for granted in the West (like access to medicine, money and even condoms that save lives in regions of the world where HIV/Aids is rampant).

Mobile Transactions Zambia (an 18-month old startup specializing in mobile payments) is one of hundreds of new startups seeking to solve basic problems with good, inexpensive technology. But it is the only startup that won “Best Mobile Money Start-Up in Africa” at an award ceremony held in Nigeria by Mobile Money Africa.

Mobile Transactions Zambian wants to make Africa cashless by creating a network of organizations that will be accessible to a mass market via mobile technology (is that all?).  To date, they provide money transfers, electronic vouchers for subsidy distribution, supplier payments, microfinance loan disbursements, and salary payments via mobile phones.

In looking at the incredible technology and startups coming out of the emerging markets (especially Africa), I think the next big disrupter in mobile technology will likely be birthed in one of the emerging markets instead of here in America. The playing field is being leveled. It’s anyone’s game now.

Congrats to Mobile Transactions (fierce idea, well-timed)!  Below is a short, 8-minute, documentary on how Mobile Transaction’s mobile voucher service (an incentive system) is being used by farmers. Truly inspiring.

Mobile Transactions website:  http://www.mtzl.net/
Twitter: @mobiletransact
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Mobile-Transactions-Zambia/1164798

 

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Online Startup Quirky.com Receives $6 Million in Funding

Quirky can be innovative. Just ask the founders of Quirky.com (a startup that literally crowdsources innovation by asking users to submit design ideas and then using the wisdom of the crowd to refine and market the new product).

Being Quirky puts entrepreneur Ben Kaufman on the map.

According to Fast Company (@fastcompany), Quirky (@quirkyinc) (though initially consider a bit too “quirky” to be relevant by the business publication) has been awarded $6 million in Series A investment funding. Not bad for the oddball company that had to prove its relevance and, even more challenging, prove that being different is still worth gambling on.

Their company, service and website is so compelling that I’ve included the pitch and description of what Quirky actually does from their website:

“Everyone has a product idea…

Chances are, you do too. Several years ago, our entrepreneur-in-chief, Ben, launched two successful businesses based on this premise: mophie, an iPod/iPhone accessories line, and kluster, an online group decision-making platform.

While running these companies, he received literally thousands of emails from people all over the world asking the same question: I have an idea for a product and think you can help me get it out of my head and into the marketplace. How do I start?

The truth is, neither mophie nor kluster were created to answer that question. They did, however, uncover the solution to bringing virtually any product idea to life. Part platform, part process, Quirky is rapidly changing the way people think about product development by using a unique method to harness the power of creativity.”

Fast Company calls Quirky “the most interesting experiment in how products are designed and produce in recent memory.” It’s not only a social experiment, it’s the brainchild of an entrepreneur who had not even graduated college yet when the company was launched.

Quirky’s founder (23 year old Ben Kaufman@benkaufman) founded and launched Quirky in June 2009 with $1.6 million donated from friends and family (a cushion most entrepreneurs can only dream of). Now, with 20,000 users on its website and 12 products manufactured from its crowdsourcing design factory, the company is ready to move into the major leagues with funding from several VC firms (including RRE Ventures, Village Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, and Lowercase Capital) and unnamed angel investors. The Fast Company article can be found here.

Score one for the scrappy and quirky one-year old startup.

Betsy Shulman
The Elephant Entrepreneur
646.306.4721