Holiday Gift Guide: $30 Fake Girlfriend or Boyfriend Comes with Real Voicemails, Notes

Categories: Tech

geezaweezer via flickr
She doesn't, really, but she'll pretend to for $29.99.
It's the most wonderful time of the year...unless you're single and your parents/grandparents/cousins/annoying family members want to ask you a million questions about it.

Before the winter holidays start in earnest and the barrage of questions about your personal life is unleashed ("Why haven't you met someone? Is it because you dress like that? Don't you smile more?"), Daily RFT thought we'd share one of the most unique holiday gift ideas we've seen this season -- something conceived and built by a St. Louis startup.

Invisible Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend, the winners of the 2013 Startup Weekend St. Louis, are selling a "Girlfriend/Boyfriend-in-a-Box," a one-month subscription to the startup's fake love services -- including fake texts, voicemails and handwritten notes -- for $29.99. The startup partnered with Greetabl greeting card company, so every girlfriend-in-a-box comes with a special gift box and a handwritten message from the sender.

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High-Speed Fiber Internet Is Coming to the Loop

Categories: Tech

Photo by Mitch Ryals
The fiber-optic cable goes inside the blue tube, which will go under the streets.
Gigabit Internet is coming to the Loop, thanks in part to the $43 million Loop trolley line. The 1,000-megabit Internet connection should be available within the next eighteen months.

David Sandel, the program director for the Loop Media Hub, the nonprofit company that will bring one-gigabit fiber Internet to the Loop, helped implement a similar plan for the Google Fiber initiative in Kansas City. When he attended an economic impact meeting for the Loop Trolley four years ago in St. Louis, a light bulb clicked on.

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Six Things to Know About Bringing High-Speed Fiber to St. Louis

File photo
Is the sun setting on St. Louis' opportunity for ultra high-speed fiber?

Four years ago Google announced that it would test an ultra-high-speed fiber network in one United States city before exploring how to deploy similar networks across the country. With a speed of about 100 times faster than the standard Internet connection -- one gigabit per second -- Google Fiber in 2010 held the promise of revolutionizing productivity while increasing jobs and sparking an economic boom.

Naturally, St. Louis wanted a piece of that action. Mayor Francis Slay's office put together an application detailing why the Gateway City should be Google's guinea pig and even PC World backed St. Louis as a good candidate for high-speed broadband.

Alas, Google's fancy-pants network went to St. Louis' cross-state rival Kansas City, which has attracted new business to the region thanks to its newfound high-speed access. In fact, we didn't even land on Google's list of post-KC cities that would receive the fiber treatment. But that doesn't mean St. Louis has forgotten about the endeavor.

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Chicago Startup Moves to St. Louis, Helps Users "Dabble" in New Hobbies with Cheap Classes

Categories: Tech

Thanks to a $50,000 Arch Grant, Dabble is moving to St. Louis.
Ever wish you could learn a new skill, trade or hobby without shelling out the big bucks for a weeks-long class?

Or better yet, have you mastered a skill, trade or hobby so well that you think people should pay you to teach them?

Then you should know about Dabble. After three years and over 2,000 classes in Chicago, the startup that matches experts with students looking for cheap, one-time classes, has moved to St. Louis, thanks to a $50,000 Arch Grant.

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Startup Voodoo: Can a New Tech Conference Make St. Louis the Tech Hub of the Midwest?

Categories: Tech

Startup Voodoo
There's something special, a secret ingredient that separates successful startups from ideas that never get off the ground.

Aaron Perlut, founder at Elasticity, says it's more than just having a great idea or being able to share your idea with investors. Perlut calls it "special sauce," but it might as easily be called luck.

Startup Voodoo, a Midwest tech conference coming to Ballpark Village in September, is named for that special, galvanizing force that propels motivated and imaginative entrepreneurs to launch new services, products and apps.

"People think about startups like there's some sort of magic, there's some sort of juice that makes it sexy," says Edward Domain, chief executive operator at Techli and a founder of Startup VooDoo with Perlut. "With a startup, you start with nothing and you work your ass off to make something grow. You can start your own path in life, live the way you want. [Entrepreneurs] tend to reject the status quo, and I think 'voodoo' is a fun play on that."

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Want to Be an Invisible Girlfriend? St. Louis Startup Needs Selfies for Fake Relationships

Categories: Tech

The Bull Pen on Flickr
"Wouldn't you love to pretend to date us?"
Invisible Girlfriend wants your selfies.

The St. Louis startup, which made national headlines and $3,000 after winning a local startup competition in November, posted an ad on Craigslist looking for selfies for the company's database of fake-but-convincing girlfriends.

If you send in your selfie, Invisible Girlfriend will use it -- along with fake texts, gifts, voicemails and more -- to "prove" to the friends, family and coworkers of some far-away stranger that the two of you are in a relationship.

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Billionaire CEO Jack Dorsey Says He Is Totally "Still Punk"

Categories: Tech

David Shankbone/Wikimedia
Jack Dorsey is still totally punk rock.
Just because one is a billionaire CEO who lives in a mansion and loves spreadsheets and oatmeal, "especially from an oatmeal bar," St. Louis' most famous tech entrepreneur insists he is still totally punk rock.

Back in the day, Dorsey rocked blue hair and played in bands. Then he stopped and became rich. But in an example of how completely punk-rock Dorsey still is, he says the lessons he learned from his punk days are what helps drive technological innovation and improves business.

"I'm still a punk," Dorsey tells CNN Money. "What was amazing to me about the punk scene, which is why I got into it, is because there was this confidence of 'I'm not going to go off, be shy about learning how to be a musician.'"

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St. Louis' Inferiority Complex is Driving Innovation: New York Magazine

Categories: Tech

Shawn Semmler on Flickr
People should live in St. Louis, says New York Magazine.
When coastal outlets write about St. Louis, we brace ourselves for bad news.

What will it be this time? Stories about how dangerous our city is? National airings of our local dirty laundry? Even that cute Huffington Post list about hidden gems in St. Louis read like its author had never actually deigned to fly here.

But there's a change in the air. As St. Louis exponentially grows its central corridor with more tech startups, research institutions and the millennial-friendly businesses that keep those employees happy, people are seeing the Lou in a new light: as an up-and-coming urban tech hub.

Nothing makes this more evident than a recent listicle from New York Magazine's Kevin Roose, titled "5 Reasons Cities Are Getting Better, And Everywhere Else Is Getting Worse." In a time when living outside the technological advantages of a modern city is "tantamount to opting to live in the past," Roose says, St. Louis has come to perfectly embody some of the most successful habits of highly successful cities.

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Growing Plates Into Plants: Arch Grants Bring Colombian Startup's Big Idea to St. Louis

Categories: Environment, Tech

Andres Benavides and Claudia Isabel Barona, the founders of LIFEPACK.
Eco-friendly restaurants like Pi Pizzeria, Schlafly and Local Harvest Cafe pride themselves on choosing recyclable or biodegradable materials for items like to-go boxes, plasticware and cups.

But a Colombian startup is taking going green to a whole new level by manufacturing plates that act as seeds, growing new plants whether they end up buried in your back yard or in a landfill.

Now that startup, called LIFEPACK, is moving from South America to St. Louis after winning one of twenty Arch Grants, a $50,000 non-equity grant designed to attract tech talent to St. Louis.

LIFEPACK's founders, Andres Benavides and Claudia Isabel Barona, say moving from Valle del Cauca, Colombia, to St. Louis brings them one step closer to expanding their market -- and their ecological mission -- in the U.S.

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LaunchCode Brings David Malan to St. Louis for Harvard-Style Hackathon

Categories: Tech

David Malan, Harvard's rockstar computer-science lecturer.
David Malan, the Harvard professor credited with revitalizing computer-science studies at the Ivy League school, is coming to St. Louis to help budding programmers in the first hackathon outside of Cambridge.

Harvard students have been holding "hackathons," all-night, collaborative coding events complete with a 5 a.m. trip to IHOP, for years to finish year-end projects with the help of Malan, his teaching assistants and other coders.

Now, St. Louis coding students will have the same chance to learn from one of the nation's leading computer-science experts.

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