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The Industry

Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup Report - August 6, 2008

TechStars LogoThis month at the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup here at the Law Center on the C.U. campus, it was an overflow crowd watching 6 presentations by companies, all of whom were also showing at TechStars, one from TechStars 2007 and the rest from 2008.

This was this MeetUp’s two-year anniversary. It now has a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, and they are going to start having after-meeting demos outside the auditorium in the hallway.

I am not sure I understand somethings about TechStars… for example, at what point does a start-up become not-a-start-up-anymore and no longer TechStarable? How many years old and how many registered users? Or are there just 3 states of ‘corporate being’ in the tech world: start-up, failure, and sold-to-Google? Well, here’s hoping everybody moves to the 3rd state of being.

TechStars is starting a community. It requires an invite code… and I am not sure they want me posting it on the web… so if you are interested, email me at michael@gui.net and I’ll email you back.

And August 20 is DEMO DAY. They are now open to the public but you must RSVP first.

Funny, just yesterday I watched the videos from the Startup School this Spring with David Heinemeier Hansson creator of Rails, Marc Andreessen, Mike Arrington founder of TechCrunch and Peter Norvig Director of Google Research. Summarizing: Target something reasonable and sustainable. not everybody can be Google | Be like a cruise missile, constantly course correcting and course-correctable | Be so good / different they can’t (it doesn’t pay to) ignore you - and well that is about it. Not many companies can be data-driven instead of code-driven [I don’t think - though almost all of us look at data and develop algorithms based on the data. Or I could be missing opportunities here. Needs more thought.] like Google, and if you got a great story about someone who really does not want the story told, send it to TechCrunch. [But I think David is wrong about people not being able to work productively 12-14 hour days, day after day, week after week, … at least not in a quiet supportive environment. If, however, you got a Difficult Programming Environment, well, your mileage may vary]

EventVue

Presented by Rob Johnson
They will demonstrate a new feature that lets you discover who in your LinkedIn network is attending an upcoming conference

EventVue sets up communities around conferences, so that attendees can get more bang out of their conference attending experiences. Putting horrific [;-)] amounts of pressure on this year’s TechStars, they announced that they got $250K in funding right after last years event. They also announced that they now support 28 different conferences, of which 9 signed up in the last month.

The new feature they demoed this night was a widget of their that goes on conference websites, and that, when clicked, displays all your LinkedIn associates who are also going to the conference. They will also email you whenever one of your LinkedIn associates signs up for the conference. Pretty cool. Of course, it does depend on you having some number of friends over on LinkedIn (which I personally find, how can I say this nicely… too corporate. Someone needs to make a nice, characterless social site. You know, for the rest of us - who don’t have time to chat all day and think ‘networking’ is fine when you are looking for work but as a pastime seems a little - uh - shallow?). One can only imagine that Facebook is next. Twitter seems like it would make a lot of sense as well.

They are looking for PHP developers and are interested in any feedback someone might have. They are also looking for conferences that might be interested in setting up a community around their conference. Seems like a good idea to me - and would increase the number and ’stickiness’ of the attendees.

Their business model relies on charging the conferences $4/registered attendee. Because of this approach they are not able to support communities around, say, the New Tech Meetup: Registration is iffy and the MeetUp is free. I think this is a mistake. Perhaps they can have two-tiers of product: one is free and one, with more features of some sort, is not. Then people would get used to their communities by joining a free one and then surf over to the for-pay ones to see what other cool conferences even exist [it is hard to keep track of what conferences are in the area, much less what are the cool ones coming up. An idea for another start-up? For example, how many readers know that CEDIA is in Denver Sept. 3-7 (which we will cover on Audio Federation)? Or that Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is at the Denver Tech Center Marriott this October 10-12th?].

Ignighter

Presented by Dan Osit, Adam Sachs, Kevin Owocki
They will demonstrate online dating with a twist.? You and your friends put up a profile together and look for another group to hangout with

Ignighter is a your-group-meets-with-my-group dating service with over 10,000 members. The demo went pretty fast - all these TechStars demos were perfecto mundo in terms of getting through their presentation in a clean and comprehensive manner - so it was hard to catch everything they were showing. But it looked like they have given each aspect of their service a lot of thought and the website looked clean and cared for.

Their presentation involved a fictitious walk-through of using the website to set up a rendezvous between their VC, Jason.. uh… Mendelson, and his group of friends and a gal and her group of friends. They poked a lot of fun at him last night and hopefully they still have funding today. ;-)

When asked if they had a filter for adult content, they said they were trying to build a filter that ONLY gives you adult content. There are so many ways for this joke to expand to TV and the election and ….

Their business model, which I missed some of, has them derive revenue from premium members and ads and something else.

Fluxcapacity (now Occipital)

Presented by Jeffrey Powers, Vikas Reddy
They will demonstrate a new way to navigate a digital photo stream

Occipital helps people arrange their 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of photos. The problem is getting out of hand with everyone taking lots of photos and not having to delete any because we all have such large disks.

They do this my arrange photos in 3D in various arrangements and visualizations. For example, they can arrange the photos in time order, and even cluster the photos together in clumps to reflect how most of us go on shooting sprees. If you have the right kind of camera, they can also arrange photos so that you can see WHERE you took the photos. Their example was showing how some photos were taken while they were sight-seeing along Boulder Creek.

They can also recognize characteristics of the photos themselves and link them together based on common features detected. Again, in one of their examples, they could identify all photos that had their business card in them. A little contrived, but you can see how just being able to recognize even basic things like daytime versus nighttime, or inside versus outside, would be an immense help in finding photos and enjoying our photos.

The final major feature they demoed was automatic panorama creation - where they can take your photos and position the photos next to each other, or even overlapping [and apparently smoothing some of the transitions] so that you can see a wide-angle view of what the photos were taken of.

[FireFox (2) died and I lost the first edition of this write-up. What is with WordPress (2.5.x) not automatically saving published posts, just unpublished ones? What is with them removing the Save and Continue Editing button? What is with the coming out with a new release every 6 months and yet requiring a manual install? Like we all have extra time to spend reinstalling on, well in my case, 3 active blogs plus my Dad’s - not to mention the little fixes and customizations we apply to each version so now the situation is one large multi-versioned mess… OK, back to the MeetUp].

One of the questions was about PhotoSynth 3D and how they also did automatic panoramas as well. Occipital pointed out that they do not require 1000s of photos of a location to panoramerize [:-)] it - and so are able to provide this feature to ordinary people with ordinary shooting habits.

Seems to me like these guys got the technology down pat - although their visualizations haven’t been optimized to be real-time yet [they showed a video]. They seems to be waiting until they are sure they got the right set of visualizations before they optimize and put out a product for people like us to use [we take about 10,000 photos per year, although most of them go into high-res show reports - so the fact that the rest get abandoned (but not deleted!) might be appropriate in our case].

Having been around visualization for 20 years, it seems to me that people are particularly fickle when it comes to apps like this. Some people like it, some will not. Some will love it. Many will change their minds over time. Before Google bought Picasa, they were just an oddity, and deservedly so IMHO [post Google do they even still have a treemap? Do they still leave a turd in every single damn directory on the disk?].

Businesses seem to be open to visualizations more than consumers - and an app like this that visualized documents would be cool, where versions could be tracked through time, and geographically based on location of storage server and author of document. Similar documents could be determined and clustered together….

But for Occipital - we have kind of moved away from visualization here, away from doing anything that requires users to think, especially abstract thinking. Like Zappa said - it ain’t getting any smarter out there [and he said that long, long ago :-)]. So my lame advice would be to make it simple enough for an ape, and focus on things like the user’s vanity and porn-viewing habits [perhaps allow scoring of photos so their favorites immediately come to the front, etc.]. Maybe Neli will come up with something…

People’s Software Company

Presented by Susan Mernit & Lisa Williams
They will demonstrate WhozAround? a new application that offers a better way to plan and schedule

Sorry everyone, but I do not have hardly anything in my notes, nor is there information on the website, so let’s move on to the next presentation.

Foodzie

Presented by Emily Olson, Nik Bauman, Rob LaFave
They will demonstrate an online marketplace for consumers to discover and buy food directly from small, artisan producers

FoodZie helps producers of edibles sell directly to consumers of edibles. Their focus is the producers and on making their website very easy for producers to list what they have for sale. For example, after a user uses their website to buy something, FoodZie automatically ships a the shipping labels to the producer.

They even have a widget for producers to put on their own websites, so that people can click on over to FoodZie and buy their stuff. There was some questions [I think] about the conflict the producer will have sending their consumers over to FoodZie where they might buy from the producers competitors [at a lower price, forcing downward pressure on pricing - good for the consumer, but this is supposed to be a producer-focused site]. Perhaps they could enhance their widget so that the producer’s items can be bought directly on the producer’s website?

From the demo, it looks like a well-thought out site in a clean web 2.0-ish style. FoodZie, Ignighter and Gyminee all seemed to have nicely designed websites - the latter 2 appearing to be more mature [the other 3 presenters did not demo their sites] [oh, and FoodZie is not even live yet, which accounts for the other two looking more mature - though by mature we mean what? Lots of subtle features that only a few people will want, …kind of like Rails 2.1 ;-)].

Gyminee

Presented by Andy Smith, Stephen Blankenship
They will demonstrate a web-based health and fitness tracking application and social network

Gyminee [love their name] is a fitness training social community. They have 35,000 users, 100K visitors an 1M page views per month. They have fancy widgets, fancy charts, fancy demonstration videos [which anyone can upload], they have widgets for your own website, for the iphone…

This demo went by quickly [and boy do we get a lot of demos of fitness software here at the Boulder MeetUp. Wonder why that is…. ;-)] but it looked very impressive in terms of the breadth and depth of the support for people who want to track their fitness regime [or is it regimen] online. They make money by charging $15/3 months for their premium membership - where they can get advice from real trainers and not just, potentially, their neighbor.

Some of their ads [in their presentation] were a little distressing - but probably common in today’s marketplace… Lose 44 lbs in 70 days! 216 to 160 lbs in [I forget]! Holy unsustainable and likely dangerous and permanently scaring weight loss Batman!

35K users seems pretty good to me. I mean, how many people exercise in the U.S.? 35K? And are they all in Boulder? I workout [I am in Boulder] and their website looks very attractive to me - enticing me to spend more time there even though I am not at all interested in tracking my workouts online, or telling people about them [although I do sometimes look for new exercises and how to focus on one particular muscle - and the way that Gyminee has videos instead of still photos to demo exercises is great].

My feedback would be to stick with it and maybe target the rest of the 300M Americans by putting a prominent LOSE FAT tab and have lots of walking programs: at the mall, at the ballpark, etc. Videos of basic stretches. Cleaning the garage. Using a people-powered mower [OK, that is just cruel, I know ;-)]. Things that target the slovenly but at the same time providing honest helpful support .

Another idea would be to expand into the Yoga, Pilates, etc. areas - especially since the site seems already successful with the people who actually already workout.

——–

Okeedokee. Hope you enjoyed this review and see you all next Month.

Discussion

4 comments for “Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup Report - August 6, 2008”

  1. Hi - Rob from EventVue here. Thanks for the thoughts about the widget I demo’d last night. Your feedback has been common — ie, why only linkedIn data? — and I failed to state last night that LinkedIn is only the start :) Facebook, twitter, webmail contacts, outlook, etc. are all in the plans. And thanks for pointing out those 2 conferences; we’ll definitely try to get in touch with them.

    Posted by Rob | August 6, 2008, 5:32 pm
  2. Hi Rob,

    I am sure that most feedback, like mine, is not ‘why only…’ but more like ‘that is cool, how about…’. It is so much fun to suggest features when they are obvious :-)

    And the conferences… obviously getting the CEA concession would be huge - but my point is that collecting and linking to all the conferences out there, those that no one knows about but would like to - would be a (free) service someone - even EventVue - could provide that would be of benefit to everyone. Just the ACM and IEEE conferences alone are over-whelming.

    The communities, and cross-fertilization between communities as people peek in on other conference forums, could end up being bigger and more profitable (thru targeted ads - I know, not very sustainable if things don’t work out).

    Take care,
    Mike

    Posted by Michael | August 6, 2008, 6:50 pm
  3. Thanks for the feedback on our demo. One of our biggest goals is to add great visualizations without requiring any work at all. Of course that will be a goal we may never reach, but we’ll strive for it.

    When it comes to requiring actual thought — we try to merge data in such a way that it enhances recollection. With the same level of thought you typically exercise, you should be able to get more out of your data. If we can make it enjoyable and immersive, some people may find it worthwhile to spin up their brain cells a little more than usual.

    Again, a ways to go. Thanks for your ideas and feedback, we’ll take them into consideration.

    Jeff
    Occipital

    Posted by jrpowers | August 8, 2008, 5:28 pm
  4. Hi Jeff,

    I have been thinking about what I said, and your probable interpretation of it. I am probably too cynical to be taken seriously - seen too many deserved successes [coulda, dida, buta, fuckedupa] and undeserved [the list is too long]

    But I think if you keep working at something you believe in - and become THE experts in it [and do’;t get too bored with it :-)] - along with some flexibility - that you can make a good go of it [aka a couple of Porsches in the garage are OK, but no small countries - unless, of course, you get lucky].

    I.E. more like Tom Sawyer Software [the very best but not rich AFAIK], instead of ILog [not at all the best, but who somehow went public by focusing on telecoms at just the very last minute of the bubble] or Visio [an example of being the very best] or Xrunner [who expanded a tiny X Windows test app into a giant business… WebMethods].

    Anyway, the best of luck.

    Posted by Michael | September 3, 2008, 7:22 pm

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