DebtEye announced Wednesday it is now SpringCoin, a learning-focused financial planning website that gets more intuitive as you use it.

John Sun, CEO of San Francisco-based SpringCoin, started the business under the name DebtEye in February 2011. It was one of the start-ups at the notable Y Combinator start-up incubator. SpringCoin helps customers meet financial needs and figure out how to pay off their debts by improving their financial literacy and by creating goals.

“There’s a mentality that this stuff (finance) is above them and that’s just not true,” Sun says.

The integrated features and financial education aspect of SpringCoin is what differentiates it from DebtEye.

SpringCoin features adaptive bill setting and financial budgeting plans that change the more you use it.

“Kind of like how Netflix figures out what type of movies you like to watch, the site will pick up where you spend your money,” Sun explains. “We can actually get extremely targeted and say, ‘Last week you spent $30 at Starbucks. This week we recommend you spend $20.”

This is made possible by significant improvements to the software algorithms, he says.

To create SpringCoin, Sun and his team surveyed consumers to get feedback and find out what parts of the original site worked and what could stand to change. Sun says DebtEye engaged customers, but they wanted the name to focus more on the positive aspects of managing your finances. Rather than watching debt, focus on growing your coin. Probably the most important part of SpringCoin that could make it stand out from other debt management sites is its financial education element.

Financial education is integrated into users’ financial goals — “we really put that part at the heart of SpringCoin,” he says.

Sun and his team gathered content by speaking with financial bloggers, finance experts and using their own internal knowledge — Sun and his team are credit counselors.

SpringCoin also features automated budget alerts and bill reminders that can pull information directly from users’ bank transactions.

“It uses financial forecasting methods — the same methods that Fortune 500 companies use — to project and warn customers about future cash flow problems that could occur,” he says.

When users meet financial goals they are rewarded with points that measure their progress and entered into a weekly raffle to win Amazon gift cards or other prizes.

“If you just want a place to look at all your accounts in one place, we recommend something like Mint or Ready For Zero,” notes the website FAQ’s.

SpringCoin will not be free — but don’t fret, it’s a nominal fee at $8 per month for the basic plan, which includes spending monitoring, bill reminders, basic financial education tools and rewards. However, the premium plan is $35 per month, which tacks-on negotiation tools for lower payments, automatic bill payments, a complete set of financial education tools, and round-the-clock financial advice. Sun has a noble reason for shunning advertising. He didn’t want to create a conflict of interest that might arise if financial or credit companies that Sun didn’t approve of wanted to advertise, so he decided to forgo ads entirely. Some companies he stands behind, Sun says, but rather than going down that potentially precarious path, they went with a paid price model.

Every user gets a one month free trial before the monthly fee kicks-in. As a “limited time” promotion, Sun says, if you submit the email addresses of three friends (Sun promises not to spam them) even if your friends don’t respond, you can get three months free.

Sun says they plan to release an app in the future, but probably not until next year.

What do you think about SpringCoin? Will you use it? Do you use any other debt management websites? Tell us in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kizilkayaphotos

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Since Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinsky left Columbia University to join Y Combinator, their startup, Codecademy, has attracted close to 1 million users and $2.5 million in funding from elite tech investors like Fred Wilson’s Union Square Ventures, Ron Conway’s SV Angel fund and Yuri Milner.

In our latest episode of Venture Studio, the founders talk about the Y Combinator experience and what it takes to launch a company with the huge vision of teaching the world how to code.

Follow Venture Studio, in association with Mashable, which is brought to you by Square1 Bank. The show is hosted by Dave Lerner, a 3x entrepreneur and angel investor. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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Jonathan Deutsch and Ryan Nielsen left Apple late last year to join Y Combinator’s accelerator program and help designers build animations in HTML5 as opposed to Flash. Friday, the two-man team is releasing Hype, the first product of their startup Tumult, on the Mac App Store.

Hype, which sells for $29.99, uses WebKit to render pages and has been crafted so that anyone comfortable with using Keynote or PowerPoint can start building animations in HTML5, no code required.

“It’s pretty clear that HTML5 is the future of the web,” says Deutsch. “It will, of course, run not only on desktop machines but also runs really well on any modern smartphone or tablet like the iPad. The problem is that there are no good designer apps for creating animated HTML5 like there are for Flash.”

Hype presents the user with a blank canvas with a timeline at the bottom. The user can then drag in images, video and text, arrange those elements and use keyframe-based animations to define where those pieces of content go.

“This is a very designer-friendly process,” Deutsch explains. “We we even made an intuitive recording interface, so you don’t have laboriously layout each individual keyframe. You can just hit record, move your objects and go. It’s really easy to make some powerful, beautiful animations.”

The animations, at least based on these samples, are impressive and present web designers with a viable Flash alternative for carrying their creative work over onto mobile devices. The tool is also intended to be developer-friendly and allows the user to edit raw HTML or Javascript.

As a bonus, Deutsch and Nielsen have built Dropbox integration into Hype, meaning users can publish their animations to Dropbox, as opposed to an FTP site, to solicit feedback from co-workers or clients.

Hype is targeting three primary markets: designers looking to add animations to their websites, Flash developers who need to deploy their content on the iPhone or iPad, and existing users of HTML5.

“There’s a huge wide opportunity with HTML5,” says Nielsen. “We can be the tool that everyone turns to to produce awesome and animated interactive content using the latest standards.”

Both Deutsch and Nielsen speak of a desire to push the HTML5 standard forward and will continue to iterate on the Hype product with more interactive and animation features. The pair is looking at how to weave WebGL, a technology for creating 3D content on the web, into the Hype experience.

Tumult has so far only taken Y Combinator and Start Fund financing. Deutsch and Nielsen hope to finance operations through Mac application sales.

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Real-time apps are the future of the web, and new platforms for supporting that kind of technology are sprouting up everywhere.

One such promising technology is NowJS, an out-of-the-box architecture for real-time web apps.

NowJS uses the ever-so-trendy Node.js and socket.io to make it easier to build real-time web apps. Devs can use NowJS to build chat, news feeds, web analytics, video games, dashboards and more. It’s a simple and lightweight technology for large-scale web apps.

In a chat in Mashable‘s San Francisco office, Darshan Shankar, one of the devs responsible for NowJS, said, “We’ve simplified the communication layer of really complicated web applications. The next Twitter or Facebook will use us, and they’ll be a lot better for it.”

Shankar’s startup is Flotype. Based in Berkeley, California, the fledgling company is composed of three UC Berkeley computer science dropouts chasing the Web 3.0 dream. The co-founders include Eric Zhang and Sridatta Thatipamala, whom Shankar calls “truly genius hackers.”

“Our value proposition is the technology,” said Shankar, who emphasizes that NowJS isn’t the kind of platform-as-a-service that might compete with Heroku or Joyent. “You can host your app wherever you want,” he continued, adding that competitors with the two aforementioned powerhouses are “probably doomed.”

Rather, the startup’s business model is based on enterprise sales. “We’re building a scalable, robust version of NowJS that runs on a cluster of servers,” Shankar wrote in an email, “thereby allowing our customers to deploy applications facing millions of concurrent clients.”

Flotype has raised a seed round and has a handful of clients currently.

To see how NowJS can be used to make a chat server in 12 lines of code, check out the video below:




Image based on a photo from iStockphoto user alxpin

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This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

If you’re looking to hire a web designer, you probably have dozens of questions swirling around in your head: How do I really know if this “kid” is as good as he says he is? Will a work-from-home designer slack off and overcharge me? Will my website look awful if I use a cheaper designer from overseas?

Garry Tan knows more than most do about hiring great web design talent. As the designer-in-residence for Y Combinator, a highly influential startup incubator, he’s compiling a directory of the best web design talent around the world, which means he spends a lot of time poring over portfolios, client lists and resumes.

When it comes to finding a phenomenal web designer for a small or new company — especially one with a strong web component — Tan knows how to find the right people at a good price. Here are his insights on how to hire a great web designer.

Mashable: Does the adage, “You get what you pay for” always hold true with web designers? Can you find phenomenal talent that’s less expensive by looking for remote employees or younger designers?

Tan: I think it’s really about risk. If you are willing to take on some project risk, you can reduce cost. A local designer whom you can meet and has a great track record will give you consistent output, and for some, that is worth it on its own.

That being said, you can get remarkable talent from both remote and overseas designers. Eastern Europe seems to be a source of a lot of high quality work. If you have an eye for visual design, you can pick out young designers fresh out of school based on their portfolio. All of these options are great ways to save on cost.

Mashable: For the less technically minded hiring manager, what are the tell-tale signs of a bad web designer? Are there any tell-tale signs of a good one?

Tan: This is a tough one. There’s a reason why people should be managed by people who have done the work before — they have a clear way to evaluate talent and performance. My advice would be to ask a friend or colleague whom you trust to evaluate the output and determine if it comes to fairly qualitative measures of aesthetics, fitting your brand, etc.

That’s why some managers rely so heavily on quantitative measures — if you measure it, you know if it’s working from a business perspective.

Mashable: Is there any particular advantage to having an on-site designer as opposed to one who works remotely?

Tan: There are definite advantages. So much communication happens nonverbally, and being able to whiteboard is tremendously valuable. It significantly helps you and your designer work together to find solutions faster.

Mashable: At what point does a company need to hire a full-time web designer instead of working with contractors or freelancers?

Tan: For startups on the web, design is often a fundamental differentiator. It’s important to have a design leader in the company as early as possible — and he should be given say over schedules, deadlines and product strategy.

Usually, the issue is that the founding team doesn’t have that capability and can’t hire founder-level design talent. But you do your best — freelancers and contractors can get you pretty far. A trusted design firm or good design freelancer can create the brand and set the visual language for a site with a contract at the beginning, and your team can basically use and remix those elements to great effect moving forward.

Mashable: What’s your take on outsourcing work to super-cheap designers in, for example, India?

Tan: I don’t really care where a designer is — it is more important that they do good work, and that shows in their portfolio and communication styles. All the issues with working remotely are magnified, however — be prepared to have calls very early in the morning or late at night.

Mashable: When you come across a web designer with a trendy-looking portfolio and a slew of social media profiles, does that send certain signals to you? If so, are those signals mostly positive, negative or neutral?

Tan: I focus on the portfolio and the work they’ve done. Most everything else related to how much they use social media is not really an indicator.

Mashable: Does a web designer necessarily need to be a cultural fit in order to turn out great work for an organization?

Tan: For contract work, no. For full-time work, yes. Culture fit is at the heart of any successful team. Products are created by teams, and teams are created by the personalities and motivations of their people.

Mashable: Is there a single, most important thing for hiring managers to keep in mind when looking for a great web designer?

Tan: Empathy is the most important trait a great and well-rounded designer will exhibit — an awareness of the experiences of other people.

An eye for visual design is another one, but that’s more of an innate trait — either you have it or you don’t. It’s a mix of creativity and the ability to identify great work. That’s almost unrelated to empathy, and it’s a certain craftsmanship that is necessary but not sufficient. It won’t make or break your product.

Great interaction design and product design is the core that will make or break your product. How it works influences the visceral and functional reactions of your customers or users. The only way a designer can successfully create interactions for other people is via his ability to wi
pe his own desires and context and replace it with that of one of your users.

Empathy is that editing eye, but for great interaction.

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Y Combinator‘s new designer-in-residence (DIR) Garry Tan has announced the incubator is compiling a directory of ” the best and the brightest interaction designers and visual designers” who might like to work in the world of web startups.

“One thing we hear about a lot from our companies is that great designers are hard to come by,” writes Tan. “We’re trying to make that easier by putting together a list of preferred designers.”

Y Combinator is including designers from many disciplines, including logo and branding experts, interaction designers, and visual/web designers. Designers are needed in remote, on-site, contract and full-time positions to work with Y Combinator’s constantly growing portfolio of web startups, which includes alumni companies such as Loopt, Reddit, Scribd, Disqus, Dropbox, Justin.tv, Heroku, Posterous, DailyBooth and more.

Interested parties can apply for inclusion in the directory starting now. The directory will be in use beginning in February 2011.

Especially at very early-stage companies, there is a tendency to skimp on the more subtle niceties of design when the team is frantically trying to get a product to market. And very often, hybrid designer-developer founders find themselves wearing many hats as they work on a product in relative isolation.

Tan recently left his startup, Posterous, to work with a variety of early-stage startups at Y Combinator. As the incubator’s DIR, Tan is acting as a sort of UI guru to the batches of early-stage startups and projects that come to the incubator. Launching a directory of hand-picked, top-notch designers to work with any startup in need of design help is an excellent first step.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Andresr

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Posterous co-founder Garry Tan has bid adieu to his startup and is heading to Y Combinator, where he will serve as designer-in-residence.

The move is something of a shocker for several communities, especially considering Posterous’s aggressive marketing throughout 2010 and product roadmap.

In a blog post, Tan wrote, “Effective today, I’m ending my day-to-day development with Posterous and moving into an advisory role.

“Though my day-to-day may change, my faith in the team and the product is unchanged and unwavering. Posterous is in good hands and on the right track to fulfilling its potential. I am proud of what we’ve built together and look forward to the future.”

In his new role at Y Combinator, Tan will be acting as a sort of UI guru to the batches of early-stage startups and projects that come to the incubator. As DIR, he’ll be instrumental in “the early stage of building world-changing consumer products.”

It’s a similar position to those being created at a few VC firms in Silicon Valley; similar to EIRs (entrepreneurs- or executives-in-residence), the DIR works closely with portfolio startups, giving them world-class product direction and advice. There’s some risk of burnout, as Tan and others in his position will be asked to work with a revolving door of startups year after year.

Still, we’re sure that any startups Tan coaches will benefit greatly from his experience and advice. And who knows where that kind of exposure and reach will put Tan next in his career.

However, what we’re now unsure about is Posterous’ future. In spite of its “convert or die” importing campaign, Posterous remains something of a tech scene darling that has yet to grab the mainstream adoption that some of its competitors, such as Tumblr and WordPress, have seen. And a founder leaving a startup before profitability or an exit has been achieved is rarely a good sign of the business’s overall health.

We’ll see what the future holds for Tan and for Posterous. In the meantime, let us know your opinions in the comments.

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