Looking Back at 2012: The Big Winners

Looking back at 2012, there have been a number of startups that have stepped it up. This is my list of 5 big winners from 2012, many of which started off the year as obscure little companies but have since become household names.

Spotify: Music streaming service that provides access to millions of songs. Several things set Spotify apart from its competitors (like Pandora). First, the service is consistently good across a range of platforms including: computer, mobile, tablet and home entertainment system. It is even possible to download songs for when you are offline. Second, Spotify connects you with facebook friends allowing music selection and discovery to be a more social process. Third, Spotify offers different services and prices for different segments of customers allowing flexibility in the choice of a product line. Importantly, I have also found the search feature on Spotify to be far quicker and more accurate than that of its competitors.

Instagram: Since its acquisition by facebook, Instagram continues to be (in my mind) the best photo-sharing application out there. Instagram actually makes taking and sharing photos fun because it is easy to 1) take the photos 2) transform the photos into “works of art” and then 3) share the photos across a range of social platforms including facebook, twitter and tumblr. Instagram is also a case study on how to do mobile the right way.

Flipboard: Flipboard is one of my favorite news source apps because it lets me to read about things that I care about the most. The application aggregates news stories from various sources (everything from major news publications to twitter) and then provides a customized magazine-style interface from which to consume that news. I love how the app allows you to feel like you’re actually reading a physical magazine through its primary design feature—the ability to “flip” to the next page. The app also makes the internet-less subway ride to work everyday more enjoyable.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a fun way to view and share photos and videos from around the Internet in a social setting. The ability to share content via online pinboards also allows people to show their creativity and originality. I run an education-focused nonprofit on the side and while writing entries on our blog is certainly useful, I find collections of photos to be far more effective in communicating the vision behind what we’re doing.

Shazam: Shazam is a great tool for discovering new music. All you have to do is hold your phone up to the music or TV source and within seconds you’ll get more information about the song that is playing, like the name of the track and artist, streaming lyrics, videos and special offers. It’s a really great way to learn about new music, and I use the app all the time while on the go.

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