Curisma Beckons Consumers to Find Cool Tech, Go Gadget Shopping

12/12/11Follow @gthuang

Gadget girl walks in carrying a red umbrella. It’s not just any red umbrella, though. This one is a “blunt” umbrella. It has round tips, instead of pointy ones, so you don’t poke people in the eye as you walk down a crowded street. It also has what looks like a special tensioning system along the underside of its edges, to withstand high winds and keep the thing from blowing inside-out.

Gadget girl also has touchscreen gloves with her. These are fashionable-looking items with special conductive fingertips—it’s all in the threading—so you can use your iPhone, iPad, or other capacitive touchscreen device in cold weather. (Plus, with the gloves, you can save on your home heating bill so you can afford more gadgets.)

Gadget girl is Fatma Yalcin, a recent MIT Sloan School grad and startup CEO. She found both of the above items on Curisma, the gadget-discovery site she started with Eugene Gorelik earlier this year.

The idea is to provide a social platform for finding and sharing new technologies and products. Users can sign in and post gadgets they like—everything from inkless pens to a “magic cube” that projects a keyboard onto any surface—and others can follow them, recommend products, see the most popular items, and sign up for a personalized feed. The site sends users to other retailers if they want to buy a gadget, but Curisma plans to make money by working with brands and eventually enabling people to make purchases through the site itself.

“It’s the power of community meets personalization, and it’s all determined by you,” Yalcin says. “Within a year, we’d like to reach half a million users.”

Curisma, which operates out of Dogpatch Labs in Cambridge, MA, has some features in common with personalized product sites like Pinterest, Daily Grommet, Krush, and Stylefeeder (acquired by Time), as well as private sales and deals sites. But its niche is gadgets. And as you can see, it’s not just iPhone accessories or highfalutin electronics, but real-world stuff.

I sat down with Yalcin recently to hear about trends she’s seeing in consumer gadgets this holiday shopping season. Basically, what’s hot out there, besides the usual video games and big-ticket electronics? And what’s special about Curisma’s products?

“People love gadgets as gifts,” Yalcin says. “You can use them anywhere, anytime. They are universal.” (As opposed to buying clothes or books as gifts, say, which can be more subtle matters of taste.)

Yalcin says popular items—at least the ones she likes—tend to involve “some unique technology that hasn’t been done [before], or something very simple with a smart system or material that makes your life easier.” An example of the former would be a Lytro camera, which captures the light field in all directions so you can refocus a digital photo after you’ve taken it. An example of the latter would be Bedphones, which are thin, comfortable headphones you can wear to sleep.

One gadget Yalcin would like to see: an interactive printer that shows you on a touchscreen what you’re printing out, so you can preview a document and change the size and so forth just by swiping.

Yalcin, a native of Turkey, has previous experience in financial consulting and business development. She wasn’t a gadget freak as a kid, she says, though she does remember having a remote-control dog toy that would bark (her first gadget). Yalcin says being in the MIT environment made her get into gadgets more, and she realized they can make daily life “smarter, more efficient, and more fun.”

Curisma is bootstrapped and is not raising money at the moment, Yalcin says; it is busy iterating and improving the site as it acquires more users. But the startup will be looking to raise a seed round in the not-too-distant future. “We’ve already got a few VCs and angels interested,” she says.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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