MicroEval: Modern Performance Reviews

MicroEval is a web-based app offering an interactive and painless way of doing performance reviews based on the idea of shortening the periods of time when the feedback is gathered.

Traditionally, corporations do performance reviews twice a year, which causes people to get late visibility in their performance. The feedback is overwhelming to produce or read for the persons involved in the process. By gathering short pieces of information periodically, MicroEval offers a painless way to collect the data and periodic visibility in the actual performance.

The company was founded by Ernie Park, Ryan Jackson and Sam O’Keefe. In the summer of 2012 the company secured a seed investment from YCombinator.

The site has been featured on TechCrunch and discussed in the Hacker News community.

RainyMood – Listen to rain online

RainyMood.com is a web app that provides free online streaming for the sound of the rain, from within the browser, without requiring any download or plugin.

In addition to the sound of rain, the app suggests each day a different Youtube music video which can be played on top of the rain for a better immersion in the ‘virtual’ world of the nature.

The rain music is played in a loop, it’s 30 minutes long and it has a high level of quality, being on par with the type of recordings one could find on CDs with nature-sound themes.

The site belongs to Tailored Music, Inc and receives around 100’000 unique monthly visitors. Sites providing similar services include raining.fm and naturesoundsfor.me.

AnkiWeb.net – Review Decks Online

Ankiweb: Review decks onlineAnkiWeb.net is a system for spaced repetition, which displays flash cards based on how often they’re successfully remembered. The stand-alone desktop program, called Anki, was the starting point: a simple free flashcard program. Nowadays it runs on smartphones and most computer platforms, or on the Internet via AnkiWeb.net.

The underlying technique, spaced repetition, can do wonders for people wanting to learn a set of facts or a new language. In fact, Anki got recommended as the ideal tool to learn the vocabulary of a new language in a LifeHacker featured article.

The Fool’s Workshop also reviewed Anki: they mention that Anki’s strongest areas are in the statistics it provides, its tagging abilities, its strong interval study centered approach and its “card model”.

Despite running mostly on mobile phones or desktop computers, AnkiWeb managed to attract a significant online presence, averaging over 3’000 unique monthly visitors in the last 12 months.

ScreenLeap – Share Your Screen

ScreenLeap is an Y-Combinator backed company that aims to “make screen sharing sexy”. With just one click, the app enables users to share their screen to any device with a browser, instead of 15 steps that are required for the most popular alternative available nowadays, Cisco WebEx.

Despite being launched in February 2012, the app already had 10’000 unique monthly visitors in March according to Compete. The media coverage is partly responsible for this, as the app was featured in TheNextWeb and TechCrunch; it will be interesting to see if they can keep and grow this traffic level once the media coverage wears off.

ScreenLeap was founded by Tuyen Truong, a serial entrepreneur whose previous attempts include TeamWork Live, a productivity suite that failed to achieve critical mass.

The BetaKit article hints about potential revenue streams in the near future: while the screensharing services will remain free, there are plans to introduce additional features later on, including voice integration, branded pages and integration with enterprise client sales and support systems.

Coursera – Education, Everywhere

Coursera - Education, EverywhereCoursera is a new e-learning platform offering courses from the top universities, for free. Quality lectures are streamlined using hi-resolution videos; participating students can achieve mastery via interactive assignments and collaborate with a global community of peers. At the end of the course, qualifying participants get a certificate of achievement signed by the professors.

Coursera was founded by professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University. Initially the platform has been used internally inside Stanford and then opened to the public via Andrew Ng’s ml-class.org site. The first course available as part of the Coursera platform was Model Thinking, taught by Scott E. Page from University of Michigan; it officially launched to the public in February 2012.

The project faces difficult competition: almost at the same time, Stanford faculty member Sebastian Thurn teamed up with David Stavens (also at Stanford) and researcher Michael Sokolsky to start Udacity. Their aim is to provide high quality, university-level education at a low cost.

Currently the site has around 10’000 unique visitors in February 2012, but numbers are expected to evolve as the learning platform completes its first set of course offerings in late April / early May 2012.

Trello – Organize Anything, Together

Trello - Organize Anything, Together

Trello is a collaboration tool for teams which organizes pending tasks and keeps a big-picture overview on a project’s remaining tasks.

The service is innovative due to its special use of configurable lists (that can be named at the discretion of the user). Each list contains cards describing the tasks required to be performed; these cards can be dragged from one list to another, have people added or assigned, and the changes made to them are automatically synchronized everywhere if there are other opened browsers displaying them.

According to the Compete.com data, the site gets at least 10’000 unique visitors per month.

Trello was launched in September 2011 by Joel Spolsky. Joel is a rather popular figure whose beginnings can be traced back in 2000 when he founded Fogcreek together with Michael Pryor. Since then he has launched a range of successful services, including FogBugz and StackOverflow. In September 2011 the Wired magazine named Trello as one of “The 7 Coolest Startups You Haven’t Heard of Yet”.

SimpleNote – Sync Notes Across Devices

SimpleNote App

SimpleNoteApp is an app for keeping notes and synchronizing their content across different devices and the web. On the app’s website there are 10 reasons mentioned for using the app, including universal access to the notes’ content, instant search, secure transfers as well as good publishing and organizational tools.

There are ads, however they’re unobtrusive and barely noticeable. For a $20 annual premium account the user can disable the ads and gain the ability to sync memos to Dropbox.

According to Compete, the app consistently received around 10’000 unique visitors each month during the last year.

The app is produced by Simperium, a startup based in San Francisco. The company was founded by Mike Johnston and Fred Cheng and received funding from the Y Combinator startup accelerator program in the summer of 2010.

Asana – Task Management for Teams

Asana - Task Management

Asana is an online task management solution for teams, founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and former engineering manager Justin Rosenstein. During their tenure at Facebook they’ve noticed a huge overhead in trying to keep teams organized and on the same page; as a result they’ve left Facebook together to pursue the opportunity of building a web-based tool which addresses this problem.

In trying to avoid what they call “work about work” they’ve build a webapp aiming to be:

  • responsive – just like a desktop app;
  • intuitive – to the degree where it can replace pencil and paper to-dos without causing inconveniences;
  • collaborative – to allow users to get big picture overviews on the current state of the project without having bits and pieces spread over in each employee’s notebook.

During 2011, Asana tested what they’ve created with real customers via a private beta-testing program. The results have been encouraging; on 2nd of November 2011 they’ve announced the general availability of their app to the public.

In November 2009 the company managed to raise an initial $9 million series A funding round from Benchmark Capital and Andreessen-Horowitz, which supported the 2-year development efforts leading to the public launch. Their traffic during the beta program generated around 10’000 monthly unique visitors to their site, but this number is expected to rise as anyone interested in using Asana in their teams can now sign-up for free.

Zoho – Business Productivity Tools

Zoho

Zoho is a productivity suite that offers online collaborative apps similar to the traditional Microsoft Office programs; due to this, Zoho is often seen as a Google Apps competitor. Recently the company expanded its suite to include administration tools for invoicing, recruitment and user support, aimed at increasing productivity for small business owners.

Zoho receives hundreds of thousands of visitors to its website every month, according to Quantcast. The site offers more than 25 apps designed for online collaboration and business productivity, such as Chat, Docs, Meetings, Wiki, BugTracker, CRM, Invoice, Recruits, Reports, Calendar or Writer. The company said that it had registered more than 5 million user accounts until now.

Zoho has been founded in 1996; currently it is headquartered in Pleasanton, California, USA. The key person behind Zoho’s success is its founder and CEO, Sridhar Vembu. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras but he also holds a PhD. in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University. Sridhar became famous for its unique staffing practices at Zoho: he created ZOHO University, a two-year training program for disadvantaged Indian high school graduates, with a strong focus on technical competence; graduates of this program make up for 10% of the company’s workforce.

Zoho did not receive any external capital or bank loans. Sridhar insisted on the company’s independence by following a boot-strap model where the company’s profits are used to grow the service organically. Acquisition offers from external investors, including Marc Benioff from Salesforce.com, have been refused consistently despite their aggressive bidding.

Freshbooks – Manage Invoices Online

FreshBooks

FreshBooks is an online invoicing service that allows freelancers and small business owners to create, send and track online invoices and estimates for their customers.

FreshBooks also offers the ability to purchase stamps in order to physically deliver the invoices for those users that want to save time and avoid interactions with the post office. Nowadays the company claims to send more invoices each month than the number of hairs on one person’s head (which is around 100’000).

The service sees more than 100’000 unique visitors each month. In addition to the free plan the site offers 3 paid plans, starting at $19.95 per month; the paid plans offer additional number of clients that can be tracked as well as the ability to add multiple staff users to the same account.

The company was founded in 2003 by Mike McDerment and Joe Sawada. Mike acts nowadays as the company’s CEO; its headquarters are located in Toronto, Canada. The company’s team currently includes more than 50 full-timers, including positions such as recruiters, web developers, art directors and software developers.

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