Sunday, February 15, 2009

Laid-off tech workers get entrepreneurial for Valentine's Day

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In case you missed, the fun Christmas gift referral service started by two laid-off Seattle techies - they're back with a Valentine's version launching today. does the same sort of thing: Visitors enter the phone number of their special someone, who then gets an automated call from Saint Valentino. When they describe the gifts they'd like to receive on Feb. 14, speech-to-text software they built develops a shopping list and the site offers links to

It sounds simple, but it took some creativity and finesse by developers Matt Steckler, 32, and Andres Krogh, 25, who are now trying to build their voice-recognition-based gift system into a year-round business. Possibilities include white labeling the service or developing versions for birthdays or weddings.

They started Christmas version after being laid-off from Seattle's Haute Secure in September. The inspiration came from another Seattle startup, Web telephony tool Twilio, which they used to build in under a week.

Their first effort handled more than 15,000 phone calls in 30 days. It also drew the attention of an unnamed angel investor who gave them enough (under $20,000) to keep building their startup, dubbed

Their wish for Saint Valentino: More funding from angels or a strategic partner to help make into a full-blown company.

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