Archive for the 'Start-ups' Category

DEMOfall09: Six Picks

The other day I blogged about some of the really passionate entrepreneurs I met at DEMOfall09 and I referenced the products that caught my eye. While I did not get to dig into all 70 or so companies while I was there, here are a few that I found worth noting:

Waze – This is a way cool, and I think much-needed, application that brings real-time traffic intelligence/information to the masses via the masses (crowd sourcing). The app works on GPS-enabled Smartphones and sends back GPS points as you drive.  The idea is that through the Waze community, traffic, road changes and other information is collected automatically and anonymously. Drivers can also take a more active role by reporting on new situations from their mobile device.   I need this for my suddenly hellish morning commutes and can’t wait to find out when it will work on my Windows Smartphone (they’ve promised Symbian and Win support as of this week). It also supports iPhone and Android.

WhoDoYouKnowAt, LLC – Think of this enterprise app as LinkedIn on Steroids or perhaps more aptly, LinkedIn With Security Layer.  It is a free and private (note: NOT social networking) networking application that allows you to leverage relationships for personal, business or civic gain in a confidential and tiered manner. CEO Lee Blaylock is a guy I’d bet on or want with me in a foxhole.  He developed the application after years working at Oracle, and I think he’s onto something. After all, how many introductions have you ever made or been asked to make via LinkedIn? What makes this app different is a “Levels of Trust” system that allows your online relationships to more accurately reflect those in the real world. With each connection, you can set their “Level of Trust” to reflect your real-life relationship. For example, when sharing a contact’s information with certain contacts, you can choose to remain anonymous. With your more trusted relationships, however, you can choose to share all of your network information.

Traackr – This is a Web 2.0 application for brand marketers, PR and marketing firms and in-house communications professionals. It allows users to harness the gold mine of information in social networks, blogs and Twitter. The application is called “A-list” or “Authority List,” and it helps you identify the people with the most clout so that you can target and track them. The company claims it can provide you a list of the most influential people online for any given subject as measured by the three “Rs” – reach, relevance and resonance. I plan to check it out in more detail soon.

MoLo Rewards, Inc. – This company has developed a wireless coupon application that allows users – via a cell phone – to scan items at the point of sale to instantly redeem coupons or loyalty rewards using either Near Field Communication (NFC) or RFID. MoLo Rewards also will allow consumers to link and join participating retail loyalty programs and earn points for every purchase by simply waving their cell phone in front of the cash register at the time of purchase.  These guys need to lock up some of the top pharmacy chains and then try to tackle the grocery giants. If they succeed, the coupon book goes the way of the daily paper or weekly shopper. CEO Robert Sprogis brought his “A” game to the DEMO stage, which further impressed me.

 

Enthusem – Can direct mail make a comeback? Enthusem is betting it can with a little Web 2.0 assistance. The company has set up an elegant approach to sending very high quality, personalized post cards through an online greeting card site that lets users send personal printed greeting cards that include a URL and a pickup code, which the recipient can type in online to see a custom video, read an extended note, or listen to an mp3 that you uploaded. This is CEO Steve Tingiris’ third company and maybe it will be the charm.

POWR – Believe it or not, these guys are bringing a new hardware solution to market. POWR (Point of Wealth Register) is a kiosk with an ATM-like interface that helps “unbanked” or hourly employees like bartenders, waiters, blackjack dealers, etc. make fast and easy deposits to personal accounts (think 401K or 529)or to make money transfers, pay bills, etc. These guys had a lot of spunk. CEO Doug Lindstrom is a veteran bartender so you know what his “light bulb” moment for his company must have been – many a morning waking up wondering where all of his tips went.  If POWR doesn’t end up getting bought by CoinStar or Western Union, I think they just might succeed on their own.

DotSyntax’s Digsby – If you have not tried it out (I have been using it for about a year), Digsby is an easy-to-use desktop application that helps people save time by managing their IM, email and social network accounts all from one location. DotSyntax unveiled the latest version of its social-media management tool at DEMO, and the new version is geared specifically towards helping solve the Twitter clutter and chaos problem. One of the key new features is a reversal from the Twitter client standard, in which tweet streams are displayed newest first. Digsby shows the oldest first with the logic being that it is easier to read threads from the beginning. I am not sure I agree, and I have yet to check out the new features yet. That’s what weekends are for …

— Posted by Tim Hurley

60 seconds or less…

Breaking down hot topics in technology, media and marketing for your reading pleasure… in 60 seconds or less.

  • File under, “Really?!”  A charity auction for an internship at the Huffington Post has collected bids as high as $13,000. What’s worse…college grads so desperate for a job that they’ll pay five figures for one, or media companies trying to make their margins by selling internships?
  • Entrepreneurs, fear not! After meeting with more than a dozen Boston-area VCs, Tech Journal South reports that venture funds have available cash to invest, are actively looking for new deals and don’t expect the rest of the year to be as bad as the first quarter.  
  • The Wall Street Journal issues “Social Media Rules of Conduct” for its staffers. Among the rules? Editor approval is required before “friending” sources in Facebook or twitter.  Check out the entire list here.
  • What did you do by the time you were 25? Did you start a company that has generated 200 million users? Were you named one of the The World’s Most Influential People by Time Magazine? Were you ranked one of the richest people in America by Forbes, with a net worth of $1.5 billion? Had you made $240 million off of Microsoft? Well Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who turned 25 yesterday, has checked all those times of his list. I know, it hurts.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

60 seconds or less…

A new weekly feature breaking down technology, b2b and general marketing news for your reading pleasure… in 60 seconds or less.

  • Twitter has rolled out a new update to its website that includes real-time search, trending topics and a slightly improved user interface. Will Twitter 2.0 be less buggy than the original? Magic 8 Ball says, “Reply hazy, try again.”  
  • According to a recent study, personality may be a more effective prediction tool for media usage than demographics. For instance, sarcastic folks who balk at rules are 60% more likely to be high consumers of media. Can’t wait to see those direct mail/email lists – “Sarcasm & Rule Breaker List, $425 CPM”.
  • Hot or not? Forecasts for mobile ad growth have been reduced, thanks to the current economic climate. But it’s still one of the faster growing ad segments, expected to grow 36% year over year.
  • A slew of recent surveys indicate that the slump’s not as bad as we might think in the tech sector. Among the data, Mass High Tech says 44% off the nearly 700 New England tech companies surveyed  have no plans for staffing changes (up from 35.4% in Q4).
  • First, TheFunded shook up the VC world with its blatantly honest reviews of firms. Now it’s changing the model for start-up incubators with TheFunded Founder Institute, free from on-site meetings and alternative stock compensation plans.
  • Looks like we’re safe, at least for one more Sunday. Does anyone else find it ridiculous that the Boston Globe union was so unwilling to compromise on the lifetime job guarantee issue? Talk about an antiquated mentality.

— Posted by Melissa Coyle

Social Butterflies

Last night, BluePoint in conjunction with North Bridge Venture Partners hosted an intimate round-table discussion with experts and up-and-comers in the social media and social networking space to discuss what’s worked and what challenges they are having trouble overcoming. The event was held at Tavern in the Square in Cambridge.

Sam Clemens, VP of Audience Retention from BzzAgent, and Dries Buytaert, original creator of open source social publishing system Drupal and co-founder/CTO of a Drupal professional services vendor Acquia, headed up the panel.

In attendance were BluePoint clients PeopleAhead – an intelligent career advancement network – and soon-to-be launched Currensee – a global decision making platform and community for foreign exchange (FX) traders. Also in attendance were folks from:

  • HubSpot – An inbound marketing system to increase traffic
  • InnoCentive – An online think-tank for R&D collaboration
  • Mobicious – Mobile content, services and applications
  • MyPerfectGig – Recruiting and career tools for engineers
  • Sermo – Online community created for physicians
  • SpringPartners – Launching an online notepad organizational system
  • StyleFeeder – Personal shopping engine and social shopping community

Some common challenges that were discussed included:

  • Getting pass the gatekeepers – whether that’s parents, administrators, etc. – and getting them to endorse the community to their constituents
  • Figuring out what the right incentive/motivational system is
  • Keeping members engaged and active on the site after they join

Some best practices and tips that emerged included:

  • Community members are motivated by competition
  • Focus on one core niche first; if it takes off, then explore other areas
  • Highlight exciting things that are already happening in the community, and communicate that out to prospects or inactive users to increase engagement
  • Don’t be surprised if your “power” user ends up being someone totally different than you originally thought
  • Build the community piece by piece, keeping the big goals in mind but testing and revising all along the way

While there was an ongoing conversation about where and how to start, whether PR drives more traffic than direct marketing, just how much trial and error is normal (answer: a lot!) – one common theme kept emerging. For those that have lived – and struggled – through launching a successful online community, it’s all about that magic mix of transparency, waiting and luck. Each had a similar piece of advice: don’t force it – get out of the way and let the community flourish at the rate it’s meant to. As long as you’re “feeding” the audience the kind of “food” they want, the site should and will grow organically.

BladeLogic Soars


Here’s a company that got funded just days prior to September 11, 2001. In someone else’s abandoned office space just off 128, a team of entrepreneurs began an unbelievable journey. These guys were excited, optimistic, energetic and passionate. The Internet bubble had already burst, but severs were quietly proliferating in enterprises around the world and this team held the keys to helping IT people manage those servers. The goal was to deliver results, one customer at a time, and create steady, real value in the company.

And then September 11 hit. The rules had changed overnight. In fact, our entire way of life had changed overnight and there were no rules. What did remain was a strong desire to move ahead in spite of constant reminders from the roar of aircraft from nearby Hanscom Field.

Building on the mantra of delivering results and creating real value, BladeLogic got going, one customer at a time. As the momentum grew, this management team kept its composure. They never compromised on the standards they had created at the outset. They never stopped believing in the superiority of their technology. They never sacrificed real value for “buzz” or hype.

Yesterday, BladeLogic’s IPO debuted. The stock price closed at $25. Sometimes the good guys really do win.

DEMO 2007 Profile: Eyejot, Inc.

Okay so who among us has never sent an email that was misconstrued, misinterpreted or misunderstood? How many of us – either as a sender or receiver of an email message has caused or witnessed some fairly serious communication problems because the tone or main premise of the message was not clear? Well, if you fall into either camp, eyejot might be for you. Eyejot is the namesake service debuted by EyeJot, Inc., a Seattle-area company. It allows users to instantaneously send video-emails to other individuals or to groups – with no client software needed. It works on any PC or laptop with flash and to use eyejot all you’ll need is a web camera and five minutes to sign up. The company says the service combines the best of email and video chat and bills the service as “the first comprehensive, client-free video-messaging platform” and is targeting both personal and business users. To that end, of course, it works with social network sites, like MySpace and it can handle “genuine business applications” such as BlackBerry or any phone that can play video files.

EyeJot got some really good press in the past week – a Wall Street Journal mention and photo, a “Top Five Innovations” award from CNET and the estimable Larry Magid included them in his CBS News.com report from DEMO.

I can see some practical applications or uses for the road warriors out there. For one there is the time zone and language barrier that could be overcome with eyejot. Here’s another idea: I for one, hate calling my wife when I am on the road while she’s back at the ranch, minding our three kids, cooking, cleaning, shopping and otherwise, as she did while I was in Palm Desert, braving 10 degree weather back here in New England. I dread those phone calls and sometimes hope I get voicemail in these situations. However, I’d also pretty much never email her from the road – too impersonal. EyeJot is a great solution for this “problem” – the recipient gets to hear your voice, see you smile, etc. and that’s a whole lot better than an email. So, will these ideas support a business model? If I am a betting man, I’d say I doubt it.

DEMO Profile: jyngle

Brevient Technologies is a Milwaukee-based tech company that offers CRM, web and audio conferencing products. Hardly unique right? Well, at DEMO, Brevient went in a different (consumer) direction as it unveiled jyngle, a free voice and SMS service that allows users to create, send and receive messages from large groups via the web or their mobile phones. Jyngle is the brainchild of CEO (and youth soccer coach) Matt Lautz, whose “light bulb” moment came when he was frustrated by trying to keep his soccer teams’ players (or more likely their moms) informed – via email or multiple phone calls — of last minute field changes, rain outs, etc. With jyngle, Lautz, and quite possibly, many other coaches around the U.S. will be able to update their teams, co-workers, clients, classmates, friends, etc. of last minute itinerary, game, meeting or social gathering changes or other important news in near real-time. It is an interesting concept and I’ll be trying it out with my son’s baseball team this spring for sure. Lautz told me that scaling Brevient’s business to support jyngle was a “no brainer” – they already had the infrastructure in terms of hardware and software engineers in place to support jyngle. He also said he’s gotten some interest from VCs attending DEMO and he thinks jyngle could represent a third of his company’s revenue over time.


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