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The summer is getting into its peak, and so does the holiday season. The startup news have slowed down quite a bit, so we felt that it might be worth putting together a list of some of our favorite CEE-based services which we have been using. There are a number of worthy candidates, to be sure, but these are 5 different services which we are actually using quite often.
The services we been using are Latvian Cobook, Estonian TransferWise, Polish DailyArt, Belarusian MapsWithMe, and Bulgarian iMediaShare. We have written about these services, which originate from and maintain connections with a number of CEE countries, on a number of occasions, but it’s worth taking a look at them to see how things stand at the moment.Cobook is a HackFwd-backed contact management service which we previously covered last December. For each contact in one your iPhone the service pools together information from social media, so it is easy to get a quick overview of the contact’s activity when needed, e.g. prior to a call. The service was established in 2011 by Kaspars and Janis Dancis as a contact-management service Mac and is backed by $500,000 (379,000 Euro) in seed money from David Bizer and HackFwd. Although currently Mac and iOS-exclusive, this will not be the case for long. On April 3rd, the company posted to Facebook a link informing people about the upcoming Android version. For now, though, the service is available only to Mac and iOS users, who will soon enjoy version 3.0, which the company announced on Facebook on Monday as “waiting for review” from the AppStore.
London-based and Estonian-founded TransferWise has become our preferred of transferring money internationally. As we live in separate continents, which also means different currencies, it has always been necessary to find a service which would facilitate the money-transfer and currency exchange process and not eat up a large chunk of the amount in fees. We used Odesk for the first few months, but then decided to explore better options and eventually decided on TransferWise. We have used this service since the beginning of the year and have found that it is a very simple and effective means of transferring money. The advantage provided by TransferWise is in the small fees that that they take for processing transactions, which end up being 1 GBP or 1 Euro for payments up to 200 GBP/Euro when you convert from those currencies and then they charge 0.5% for larger payments. When converting from other currencies, they say that they try to find the closest equivalent rate. They cannot offer the same low rate when processing transactions involving funds headed to Japan, Canada, and Australia or when converting money from United States, Australian, and Canadian Dollars and Japanese Yen, but they are upfront with the reasons why they are unable to do so. The company was co-founded in 2010 by Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann and has recently generated a good deal of buzz recently in winning in the category of ‘Best Middleweight Startup’ at The Europas, receiving a plug from Richard Branson, and in raising a $6 million round from Valar Ventures (an investment firm managed in part by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Then again, we have also written about rival TransferGo, which was founded by Lithuanians and based in the U.K., so there is more than one good option in this new era of cheaply transferring money internationally.
MapsWithMe is a Switzerland-based service which was founded in 2010 by Belarusians Alexander Zolotarev, Yuri Melnichek, and Siarhei Rachytski and which offers maps which are fully functional when used offline. Although there are other mapping services out there and Google Maps is certainly quite popular (but does require Internet, which is not always available here in Europe, either because of roaming or on the trains and planes), MapsWithMe reports 1 million downloads on mobile devices (as of last January) and says that they see 20% monthly growth. On their site, they are emphatic about the coverage area of their maps (all cities in the world), the speed at which their maps can be loaded, the fact that their maps are fully-functional offline, and that they maintain a special method for compressing map data which allows them to offer small files, yet also offer highly-detailed maps.
While the first 3 services mentioned are really practical, DailyArt is more for cultural enlightenment. We originally wrote about them back in January, but thought that it would be nice now to provide on update on this service. It’s a really simple service, offering a daily piece of art and information about the piece, that arrives at the end of the working day. In the past, the service was listed as a top educational app on The Next Web, featured on VentureBeat, and was most-recently listed as a top art app on Mashable. They last updated their iOS apps (free and pro) at the beginning of June and their Android app a few days ago, so it’s worth taking a look and checking out the changes that they’ve made. These are the only 2 platforms for which DailyArt is currently supported, but they are planning to launch a Windows Phone 8 app and they’ve already launched a well-received app called HistoryDaily on that platform (basically along the same lines as the art app. You receive a daily historian-penned story about that particular day in history). These apps are developed by Moiseum, which was founded in April 2012 by Zuzanna Stanska in order to help museums to harness the power of modern technology to reach out to modern audiences.
Last but not least, iMediaShare is a LAUNCHub-backed Bulgarian service which enables users to play web-based videos on their televisions without having to install any special equipment, cables, or TV apps. The service allows users to take videos from services like YouTube, Crackle, and Vimeo and to bring them to your smart TV or game console because it discovers the digital media on your phone or tablet and all capable media players in the home. Having identified both, users can then simply click and watch the content on their televisions. We previously covered the service when it topped the Amazon AppStore, but since then it has announced that it has reached 1 million monthly active users and its free Android app has been downloaded more than 1 million times (with the paid version having been downloaded at least 100,000 times).
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