Startups at TechCrunch Disrupt: Seeking Money to Help You Spend Yours

<b class="credit">Will Lipman, AOL</b>
Will Lipman, AOL

SAN FRANCISCO -- Working for a living is hard enough. So why should everyday errands like stocking up on groceries or making sure your schoolchild always has lunch money be so cumbersome? At TechCrunch Disrupt Tuesday, industry luminaries spoke of virtual currencies and of making better products, and those themes carried through among the finance and e-commerce startups on the show floor.

Let's imagine you're leaving work, looking forward to as much of a relaxing evening as you can expect. Then you remember that there isn't any food at home. You fight rush-hour traffic on the roads and crowds in the supermarket aisles, but you don't have time to comparison-shop -- and you also forgot that your spouse asked you to pick up some paper towels. Even the most dedicated practitioner of Transcendental Meditation could, at some point, get a little frustrated with this process.

The co-founders of The Grocery Exchange, a mobile app currently in beta, want to take some of that pain away. "We both hate grocery shopping," says CTO Anatoliy Babayev about himself and CEO Tim Sears. Grocery Exchange can not only build a list of grocery items comparing real-time prices from your local stores of choice, it also can synchronize your shopping list with those of other household members.

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The app's users build on an existing database of products by taking pictures of price tags or UPC codes; as an incentive, users who do that are awarded points that can be redeemed for cash. The grocery list then signals with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down that a certain brand of, say, cola at a certain size is cheaper or pricier right where you are. You cross off items by swiping as you go.

Most important, there's no frantic calling home or texting to make sure you have everything: Everyone's must-have list is synced. "No shopping app will be successful if they don't do" what Grocery Exchange has done, adds Babayev. The app is rolling out first in the Bay Area and then in other national markets later this year.

Don't Lose Your Lunch Money

For millions of parents, September means, (among many other things) getting back in the routine of figuring out their kids' school lunches -- whether that means packing them or by having the youngsters buy them at the cafeteria. (You did remember to stop and get cash from the ATM, right?) Operating in the United Kingdom, mySmartPhoneMoney handles payments via mobile device or by near-field communications at retailers, catering operations and of course, schools. "We're looking for an investor" to help us roll out in the United States, says co-founder Douglas Bellworthy.

Users can scan a QR code to pay by phone, simple enough, but the service also allows for a payment account to be associated with a key card or ID card. All a student or employee would need to do to pay is tap a reader with their ID, and the account is automatically debited.

All activity can be monitored by smartphone, so parents, for example, can see what's being bought when, and for how much. So no more fishing around for small bills every day, or wondering if your student is only eating pizza and fries. Don't you feel more relaxed already?

For more from the conference, visit the TechCrunch Disrupt website.

Anthony Lazarus is a contributing editor for DailyFinance. Follow him on Twitter @Sr_Lazarus.