Start-Ups in the Sun
Although I was pretty tardy about getting pre-registered for the DEMO Fall 09 conference in my home town of San Diego, I was able to check out the start-ups presenting there with the help of some friends (thanks Dan and Jami!).Â There’s been quite a bit of press from the show already, but there were a few stand-out companies for me that deserve a bit more attention.Â It was an impressive show, generally, both in how it was run and in what was presented, although with so many start-ups on one place it’s hard not to be a bit overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of ideas.Â Most of the concepts were great, some of them were down right stupid, but I have to give credit to all the entrepreneurs there for having the gumption to have even gotten as far as they have.Â I found it pretty inspiring actually, that so many people were willing to take a risk on a good idea and the chance to do their own thing.
From just the “that’s a great idea” stand point, Micello took high honors from me.Â Promising to create “Google Maps inside a building,” Micello brings GPS mapping to public spaces (airports, malls, hotels, etc.).Â Simple, but incredibly useful, especially for anyone who has found themselves utterly lost in an airport or some other massive building.Â They told me that Google itself is not interested in doing it, so I’m glad to see someone recognizes the utility of this internal mapping, not to mention the business potential.
Lunchster is a fun product that I could see being really useful in certain specific contexts.Â It automatically creates lunch dates for you with people already in your social networking circle.Â Sounds easy, but if it can really foster relationships by taking the hassle out of lunch dates, and can get enough critical mass to make it a popular thing to do,Lunchster could actually be a great thing.Â If I was working in a dense office-rich area like the Financial District in San Francisco, or in Lower Manhattan, I could see using something likeLunchster a lot.Â [Total disclosure: the Lunchster team are friends of friends]
I also liked Radioweave very much, although it is currently only available for the iPhone, leaving us Android users out in the cold.Â Similar to other audio streaming solutions such as Pandora, Last.fm, Slacker, etc. (and the not available in the U.S. but super awesome Spotify), Radioweave allows you to bring music to your smart phone, but it also integrates other audio sources including podcasts, tweets, news updates, messages from friends, etc.Â Radioweave essentially brings one’s entire social network to their mobile device in an audio format.Â As someone who spends a good deal of time in my car, and loves to listen to both .mp3′s andpodcasts but would love to get other more dynamic content as well, Radioweave seems to be a great solution..Â As good as Radioweave is, however, it does share some negative aspects with a number of the more disappointing start-ups at DEMOfall 09.Â That is, there were a number of companies whose entire value proposition seemed to be providing a slight improvement to, or nice but minor tweak to already established services and sites.Â I would think thatSpotify could, without too much difficulty, add the base Radioweave functionality to their service if they wanted to.Â I hope they do, but that does make me question somewhat the value of many start-ups I saw atDEMOfall09, that seemed to be essentially interface extenders for Facebook or Twitter, when you really boil them down.
One product did really intrigue me, although I have yet to actually decide if it’s truly genius or flat-out stupid.Â A-List from Traackr is very slick and impressive, and absolutely fills a major need right now.Â A-List promises to aid marketers and PR professionals in reaching the trulyimpactful social media “influencers ,” while also numerically measuring outreach.Â One the one hand, what the CEO showed me was quite good, both in how A-List searched and indexedinfluencers from a variety of perspectives.Â On the other hand, as a PR professional, I would have to think long and hard how much I would be willing to pay for something like A-List, as, theoretically, I should be able on my own to create media lists that are as good, if not better, than whatTraackr could provide.Â After all, I live in and breathe the stuff of my particular industry, and bring an experience and nuanced touch (hopefully) thatTraackr’s algorithms could never automatically replicate.Â From a business perspective however, I think Traackr probably has a very bright future, as the enormous hunger for finding and targeting those elusive “influencers ,” not to mention the demand for tools that can demonstrate some kind of PR “ROI” likely ensures a very steady stream of customers toTraackr’s doors.