The online world is lousy with a multitude of social media services, RSS feeds and assorted apps with which to interact. So, it’s no surprise that many have looked for the “better mousetrap” to wrangle it all.
Some of the leaders in this space, Tweetdeck, Seesmic Desktop and Tweetie do a solid job of supplying the ability to manage some of them, but not all … in ways that are convenient, but not overly customizable. Enter local start-up Spice Apps and its first tasty offering…Clove.
I sat down with principles Tim Erickson and Craig Condon as well as Kim Garretson, a veteran of the venture capital scene in the Twin Cities, to talk about what makes Clove special.
A quick word about my interviewees …While I’m not someone who worries too much about things like age, listening to Erickson and Condon talk about their launch of Clove, their enthusiasm and obvious intelligence makes it easy to forget these recent graduates of The School of Environmental Studies, or as they call it “zoo school,” are just 19.
Both have been designing and/or programming since they were 16 and have several side jobs keeping them busy. Erickson has worked as a contract designer for Neutyp Design Studio and also practices his fair share of photography as well as DJ-ing. Condon has been contracting around the Twin Cities and developed a programmed dubbed Bridge; an extendable runtime language developed in Actionscript. Get this, he is also pursuing an interest in computational linguistics, as well as theory in cognitive computing. (Like me, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Hmmm, what am I doing today?”)
What they have done with Clove is taken the concept of interactive media management to a higher level.
“All the apps we build address a personal need,” says Erickson. Rather than look for the right tool, “Let’s just build it ourselves,” echoes Condon. Clove was developed to address three major issues they had with other applications:
• They wanted to avoid the “walled garden,” so they’re opening up the SDK to developers.
• They thought current applications offered limited social reach, so they will make it accessible to any number of services beyond Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and the like.
• Finally, they wanted a better user experience. So, Clove is totally customizable. “You control what you see and interact with.” says Erickson.
Built on Adobe Air, the user interface is very reminiscent of current applications that help organize your social media life. Columns can be added and subtracted and colors can be changed. So, on start-up, you will feel quite comfortable with it. Once inside, the fun really begins.
For example, while current platforms give you the opportunity to follow the “big” names in social media – like, say, Facebook and Twitter — Clove will allow you to follow any number of services and feeds of your choosing. The ability to follow a particular service or a custom feed is made possible by plug-ins available from the Spice Apps plugin gallery, which houses both stock and open-source-built plug-ins. As noted, developers are encouraged to make plug-ins that suit themselves or the rest of the social media community.
Ever been frustrated with the need for a different column for every search or account in your current application? Once you’ve determined what feeds you want to follow, you’re not limited to one column for Twitter, one for Facebook, one for Last.FM, etc. Clove gives you the ability to combine multiple feeds into a column. You can also set up keywords searches within those feeds to further filter what is displayed in each column. Additionally, you can push content to your various services from the app. And, according to Erickson, it does it all “crazy fast.”
Speaking of crazy fast, our conversation was moving at break-neck speed as we covered additional applications (Basil, Ginger, Saffron, etc.) in the offing, the potential for those unique plug-ins via open source, and monetization plans. Perhaps the pace had something to do with Erickson’s recent introduction to coffee, compliments of his partner Condon, who gives a sly smirk. It’s easy to see these guys really enjoy working together and play well off each other. “We’ve always had a goal of owning a company.” Erickson the designer, Condon the programmer. Goal Reached (They high-five.)
Enter the money guy. Kim Garretson is a partner in the Ovative/Group, helms Realist Ventures and Advisory Services, was recently liaison to the venture capital industry for Best Buy, headed emerging media there, and has been part of host of new media firsts. Together, these three are approaching monetization with a three-pronged attack. First, with the release of the SDK that made its debuts in private beta Saturday, they look to generate interest in building up a plug-in gallery that offers both free and paid apps. They have already built plug-ins for gdgt and Best Buy, even providing a mash-up of the two.
A second revenue plan is to offer themed versions of Clove to companies. One such theme is a Living Home version that carries the sponsorship of five different home-targeted companies. The app will come preloaded with streams specific to home, garden and DIY sources. Of course, users will be able to modify and customize the preloaded information streams to suit their needs.
Finally, they see the ability to license brand specific applications on the Clove platform.
Attacking a business with such lofty aspirations is aggressive, and one might suggest that they narrow their focus. But from all appearances, these guys have plenty of energy and are clearly taking the technologies the likes of Tweetdeck, Tweetie, and Seesmic Desktop and … BAM! … kicking them up a notch. Hence the tag line “Applications with a kick.”