DokDok Launches Context.IO the Missing Email API

After raising financing from Real Ventures a couple months ago, DokDok has been accelerating their efforts in a big way. Yesterday they announced Context.IO, which they describe as “the missing email API.” In fact, DokDok is now very much a secondary interest for the company – it’s an example of what can be built with the Context.IO API, which is where they’ll be focusing from here on in. It makes sense for the company to rebrand at this point, to make it clear that they’re not focused just on email attachments, but in providing a layer of interactivity between email and web apps for everyone.

So what is Context.IO?

It’s an API that’s intended to make email integration with web applications much easier and more robust. They’re targeting web app developers, aiming to have them use the API to do email integration. And it is a pain point. Context.IO rightly points out on their site as an example that integration between email and CRM is typically done by BCC’ing a bizarre email address to put content into the CRM. It’s a manual, repetitive and error-prone process.

“Context.IO enables immediate, complete and rich email integration in collaboration and productivity apps,” says Bruno Morency, founder of Context.IO and DokDok. “Your users get instant gratification, you get increased adoption and retention.”

Developers can go to the site and request an API key to get started. The company’s business model is also clear – they’ll be charging for API usage. Pricing is not yet announced, but it will be soon when they open things up a bit more.

The company is also hiring a front end developer.

For more information about Context IO. Click here.

Assistive Technology Helps Kids with Learning Disabilities – An Interview with Andrea Prupas

I had never heard of “assistive technology” until Andrea Prupas reached out and introduced herself to NextMontreal. I looked at Andrea’s site and company, inov8 Educational Consulting and was particularly intrigued by the references there to mobile devices (including iPads). I’ve seen my own kids use an iPad and it’s an incredible experience; they instinctively get it and can dive into all kinds of apps within seconds. So it makes complete sense to me that iPads and similar touchscreen, handheld devices could be used to help children with learning disabilities. And the possibilities are quite amazing.

One of our goals with NextMontreal is to introduce everyone to a broader spectrum of technology and how it can be used. We said from the beginning, “This isn’t just about web and mobile startups.” So Andrea’s story and experience is interesting – although not a technologist, she’s actively using technology in her business, and doing so in unique ways. It’s a story worth sharing.

NextMontreal: What is assistive technology?

Andrea Prupas: Assistive technology is a broad term for any device that helps an individual bypass the challenges associated with their disability. There are multiple categories of assistive technology, designed for different populations and different purposes. The assistive technology that inov8 Educational Consulting uses can be divided into two categories: “learning and educational aids” and “augmentative communication aids.” Learning and educational aids are specifically designed to help an individual actively engage in the learning process and overcome academic difficulties. Augmentative communication aids are technologies that provide individuals with an alternative method of understanding or communicating language.

Assistive technologies must meet the specific needs of an individual that requires it, and not the other way around. Our key guiding principle with assistive technology recommendations is: person first, technology second.

NextMontreal: What does inov8 Educational Consulting do?

Andrea: inov8 Educational Consulting works with families and their children with special needs, to use assistive technology tools to educate and empower. We help these families to provide the most effective learning environment for their child. We are highly specialized and work with children with diverse learning needs. Many of our clients are children with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, language disorders and developmental delays.

We offer two types of specialized services. Our parent seminar series, called “succeed@school” is designed to inform families about specific hardware and software available in the area of special education (for example, using an iPod as a communication device or using a specialized piece of software to develop math skills). Our other service is private consultations for families. We will work one-on-one with the family and child, integrating the software/hardware into the school curriculum or into their home environment (for example, we will show the student how to produce an essay with the use of the software, or we will show the family how to customize a communication app to suit their child’s home environment).

Above all, we always take a pedagogical, personalized approach to the use of technology. The most well-designed, innovative tool might not be well suited to the needs of a specific child. That’s why it’s critical to perform a comprehensive assessment to determine which tools would be most effective.

We are proud to say that we are a consulting company specializing in mobile and portable devices such as the iPod Touch and iPad as well as standard computers. We will customize a package on these products for an individual child, based on his or her needs. These applications are research-driven, highly interactive, powerful, mobile and effective; and they can have a significant impact on learning for students with special needs.

For more information about Assistive Technology. Click here.

AlertPay Targets Affiliate Marketers and Grows Business Where PayPal Doesn’t Go

Ferhan Patel and his brother Firoz started AlertPay in 2004. The brothers found a niche and pain point with affiliate marketers and MLM businesses, many of which ran the risk of having their accounts frozen by PayPal for being in violation of PayPal’s user agreement. Whether those businesses were in violation or not, AlertPay became a friendlier, more easily accessible option. The company is now adding 5,000 new members daily and scaling aggressively. It’s been 6 years of toiling away, growing their business and meeting specific market demands.

The company is nowhere near the size of PayPal, nor is it clear whether or not they’ve got that level of scale in their sights, but it’s an impressive feat all the same to go into a space as complicated and challenging as online payments. They’re now working on adding developer tools to make AlertPay more attractive for e-commerce stores to include as a payment option. The goal overall is to expand the brand and make sure more and more people know that AlertPay is a legitimate payment processor.

NextMontreal: When and why did you start AlertPay?

Ferhan: The idea of AlertPay started in 2004, and we officially launched and went live in June 2005. Before 2004, we were in the business of developing
affiliate tracking software (referral tracking software) for 2 years and during this time, many of our clients kept running into problems with PayPal shutting down or freezing their accounts due to their business involving affiliates. It wasn’t until our own company’s PayPal account was frozen that we felt the pain of our own clients. We realized a serious need in the market for another payment platform, and AlertPay was founded.

NextMontreal: Why was PayPal shutting down so many accounts, including your own?

Ferhan: It had to do with their interpretation of Multi-Level Marketing in their user agreement. Any business that was structured in an affiliate model, or similar model, ran the risk of being in violation. When your account gets frozen and all your funds held for 6 months, it can destroy your business as it did for many of our customers. This was a consistent complaint against PayPal from numerous merchants.

NextMontreal: What’s your background, and the background of your co-founder?

Ferhan: Business has been in our blood since we were young. My family operated a grocery store when we were growing up and, at the same time, a home-based
needle trade business. My parents always ran their own business and worked countless hours to provide for us and give us a better future.

I studied Commerce at Champlain College, and went on to receive a Bachelor of Computer Science from Concordia University. I also have a certificate in Project Management from McGill University.

Firoz, (CEO) inherited his entrepreneurial spirit from our family roots and has been doing business since high school, starting off by selling comic books. From there he went on to complete a degree in Business Administration from Champlain College. His experience includes working as a technology officer for a business expense tracking software company, to sales processing.

After graduating from university, I joined Firoz in his processing business to develop our own affiliate software solution that would help e-commerce merchants track referrals and affiliate commissions.

NextMontreal: How was AlertPay originally financed? Have you ever raised external financing?

Ferhan: Believe it or not, during the R&D phase of developing the application for between 2004 and 2005, we (founders) actually had to fire
ourselves to maintain enough funds to pay for our developers. During this time, to make ends meat, I took on another job at an IT consulting company working there during the days, and putting in my nights and weekends to work on AlertPay. We’ve always been self-financed and put everything we had to get it off the ground.

NextMontreal: How is it different from PayPal? Seems like a big gamble to go after a giant like that.

Ferhan: We’re different from PayPal in quite a few ways and we’re also quite similar. We’re different in terms of our business model, the types of
businesses we support, more funding options, more withdrawal options, more currencies, and we support more countries than PayPal to receive payments.

When we first started AlertPay, we never planned to compete against PayPal. We planned to just service a market need that PayPal was neglecting or
servicing poorly.

NextMontreal: Why did PayPal ignore the affiliate market, which is where you seem to have found a niche? And are they still ignoring that market?

Ferhan: I don’t think they ignored the affiliate market, but they took a very strict approach with it due to the bad seeds in the industry. A lot of people still distrust PayPal with their funds if their business has an affiliate program or follows a MLM structure. We were fortunate enough to get involved at the time we did and fill that need, and continue to fill that need today. I doubt it hurts their bottom line in any way, and we’re happy to take on this business.

For more information about AlertPay. Click here.